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Title: Unicorns
Author: Huneker, James, 1857-1921
Language: English
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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.

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BOOKS BY JAMES HUNEKER

PUBLISHED BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS


     UNICORNS. 12mo, _net_, $1.75

     IVORY APES AND PEACOCKS. 12mo, _net_, $1.50

     NEW COSMOPOLIS. 12mo, _net_, $1.50

     THE PATHOS OF DISTANCE. 12mo, _net_, $2.00

     FRANZ LISZT. Illustrated. 12mo, _net_, $2.00

     PROMENADES OF AN IMPRESSIONIST. 12mo, _net_, $1.50

     EGOISTS: A BOOK OF SUPERMEN. 12mo, _net_, $1.50

     ICONOCLASTS: A BOOK OF DRAMATISTS. 12mo, _net_, $1.50

     OVERTONES: A BOOK OF TEMPERAMENTS. 12mo, _net_, $1.50

     MEZZOTINTS IN MODERN MUSIC. 12mo, _net_, $1.50

     CHOPIN: THE MAN AND HIS MUSIC. With Portrait. 12mo, _net_, $2.00

     VISIONARIES. 12mo, _net_, $1.50

     MELOMANIACS. 12mo, _net_, $1.50



                UNICORNS



                UNICORNS

                   BY

             JAMES HUNEKER


    "I would write on the lintels
      of the door-post, 'Whim.'"
                          --_Emerson_


                NEW YORK

        CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

                  1917



  COPYRIGHT, 1917, by
  CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS


  Published September, 1917


  COPYRIGHT, 1906, BY THE NEW YORK HERALD COMPANY
  COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY THE RIDGEWAY COMPANY
  COPYRIGHT, 1909, 1911, 1916, 1917, BY THE SUN PRINTING AND
        PUBLISHING CO.
  COPYRIGHT, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, BY THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY
  COPYRIGHT, 1915, 1916, BY PUCK PUBLISHING CO.
  COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY NORTH AMERICAN
  COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY THE NEW YORK EVENING MAIL



  THIS BOOK
  OF SPLEEN AND GOSSIP IS INSCRIBED
  TO MY FRIEND
  EDWARD ZIEGLER


                            "Come! let us lay a crazy lance in rest
                            And tilt at windmills under a wild sky."
                                                  --_John Galsworthy._


    "He is a fribble, a sonsy faddle, whose conceits veer with the
    breeze like a creaking weather-vane. As the sterile moon hath
    her librations, so must he boast of his oscillations, thinking
    them eternal verities. A very cockatoo in his perched-up vanity
    and prodigious clatter...."
                                [_From "The Velvet Cactus." Anonymous.
                                  Printed at the Sign of the Cat and
                                  Cameo, Threadneedle Street, London.
                                  A.D. 1723. Rare._]



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                         PAGE

      I. IN PRAISE OF UNICORNS                                       1

     II. AN AMERICAN COMPOSER: THE PASSING OF EDWARD MACDOWELL       6

    III. REMY DE GOURMONT: HIS IDEAS. THE COLOUR OF HIS MIND        18

     IV. ARTZIBASHEF                                                33

      V. A NOTE ON HENRY JAMES                                      53

     VI. GEORGE SAND                                                67

    VII. THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL                                   82

   VIII. THE CASE OF PAUL CÉZANNE                                   96

     IX. BRAHMSODY                                                 106

      X. THE OPINIONS OF J.-K. HUYSMANS                            111

     XI. STYLE AND RHYTHM IN ENGLISH PROSE                         121

    XII. THE QUEEREST YARN IN THE WORLD                            139

   XIII. ON REREADING MALLOCK                                      151

    XIV. THE LOST MASTER                                           161

     XV. THE GRAND MANNER IN PIANOFORTE PLAYING                    171

     XVI. JAMES JOYCE                                              187

    XVII. CREATIVE INVOLUTION                                      195

   XVIII. FOUR DIMENSIONAL VISTAS                                  203

     XIX. O. W.                                                    212

      XX. A SYNTHESIS OF THE SEVEN ARTS                            218

     XXI. THE CLASSIC CHOPIN                                       228

    XXII. LITTLE MIRRORS OF SINCERITY                              241

   XXIII. THE REFORMATION OF GEORGE MOORE                          261

    XXIV. PILLOWLAND                                               277

     XXV. CROSS-CURRENTS IN MODERN FRENCH LITERATURE               283

    XXVI. MORE ABOUT RICHARD WAGNER                                300

   XXVII. MY FIRST MUSICAL ADVENTURE                               317

  XXVIII. VIOLINISTS NOW AND YESTERYEAR                            323

    XXIX. RIDING THE WHIRLWIND                                     339

     XXX. PRAYERS FOR THE LIVING                                   353



UNICORNS



CHAPTER I

IN PRAISE OF UNICORNS

    "The Lion and the Unicorn were fighting for the crown:
    The Lion beat the Unicorn all round the town." ...


In the golden book of wit and wisdom, Through the Looking-Glass, the
Unicorn rather disdainfully remarks that he had believed children to
be fabulous monsters. Alice smilingly retorts: "Do you know, I
always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too? I never saw one
alive before!" "Well, now that we _have_ seen each other," said the
Unicorn, "if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a
bargain?" "Yes, if you like," said Alice. No such ambiguous bargains
are needed to demonstrate the existence of Unicorns. That is, not
for imaginative people. A mythical monster, a heraldic animal, he
figures in the dictionary as the Monoceros, habitat, India; and he
is the biblical Urus, sporting one horn, a goat beard and a lion's
tail. He may be all these things for practical persons; no man is a
genius to his wife. But maugre that he is something more for
dreamers of dreams; though not the Hippogriff, with its liberating
wings, volplaning through the Fourth Dimension of Space; nor yet is
he tender Undine, spirit of fountains, of whom the Unicorn asked:
"By the waters of what valley has jealous mankind hidden the source
of your secrets?" (Cousin german to the Centaur of Maurice de
Guérin, he can speak in like cadence.)

Alice with her "dreaming eyes of wonder" was, after the manner of
little girls, somewhat pragmatic. She believed in Unicorns only when
she saw one. Yet we must believe without such proof. Has not the
Book of Job put this question: "Canst thou bind the Unicorn with his
band in the furrow?" As if a harnessed Unicorn would be credible. We
prefer placing the charming monster, with the prancing tiny hoofs of
ivory (surely Chopin set him to musical notation in his capricious
second Etude in F; Chopin who, if man were soulless, would have
endowed him with one) in the same category as the Chimera of "The
Temptation of St. Antony," which thus taunted the Sphinx: "I am
light and joyous! I offer to the eyes of men dazzling perspectives
with Paradise in the clouds above.... I seek for new perfumes, for
vaster flowers, for pleasures never felt before...."

With Unicorns we feel the nostalgia of the infinite, the sorcery of
dolls, the salt of sex, the vertigo of them that skirt the edge of
perilous ravines, or straddle the rim of finer issues. He dwells in
equivocal twilights; and he can stare the sun out of countenance.
The enchanting Unicorn boasts no favoured zone. He runs around the
globe. He is of all ages and climes. He knows that fantastic land of
Gautier, which contains all the divine lost landscapes ever painted,
and whose inhabitants are the lovely figures created by art in
granite, marble, or wood, on walls, canvas, or crystal. Betimes he
flashes by the nymph in the brake, and dazzled, she sighs with
desire. Mallarmé set him to cryptic harmonies, and placed him in a
dim rich forest (though he called him a faun; a faun in retorsion).
Like the apocryphal Sadhuzag in Flaubert's cosmical drama of dreams,
which bore seventy-four hollow antlers from which issued music of
ineffable sweetness, our Unicorn sings ravishing melodies for those
who possess the inner ear of mystics and poets. When angered he
echoes the Seven Thunders of the Apocalypse, and we hear of
desperate rumours of fire, flood, and disaster. And he haunts those
ivory gates of sleep whence come ineffable dreams to mortals.

He has always fought with the Lion for the crown, and he is always
defeated, but invariably claims the victory. The crown is Art, and
the Lion, being a realist born, is only attracted by its glitter,
not the symbol. The Unicorn, an idealist, divines the inner meaning
of this precious fillet of gold. Art is the modern philosopher's
stone, and the most brilliant jewel in this much-contested crown.
Eternal is the conflict of the Real and the Ideal; Aristotle and
Plato; Alice and the Unicorn; the practical and the poetic;
butterflies and geese; and rare roast-beef versus the impossible
blue rose. And neither the Lion nor the Unicorn has yet fought the
battle decisive. Perhaps the day may come when, weariness invading
their very bones, they may realise that they are as different sides
of the same coveted shield; matter and spirit, the multitude and the
individual. Then unlock the ivory tower, abolish the tyrannies of
superannuated superstitions, and give the people vision, without
which they perish. The divine rights of humanity, no longer of
kingly cabbages.

The dusk of the future is washed with the silver of hope. The Lion
and the Unicorn in single yoke. Strength and Beauty should represent
the fusion of the Ideal and the Real. There should be no anarchy, no
socialism, no Brotherhood or Sisterhood of mankind, just the
millennium of sense and sentiment. What title shall we give that
far-away time, that longed-for Utopia? With Alice and the Faun we
forget names, so let us follow her method when in doubt, and
exclaim: "Here then! Here then!" Morose and disillusioned souls may
cry aloud: "Ah! to see behind us no longer, on the Lake of Eternity,
the implacable Wake of Time!" nevertheless, we must believe in the
reality of our Unicorn. He is Pan. He is Puck. He is Shelley. He is
Ariel. He is Whim. He is Irony. And he can boast with Emerson:

    "I am owner of the sphere,
    Of the seven stars and the solar year,
    Of Cæsar's hand and Plato's brain,
    Of Lord Christ's heart and Shakespeare's strain."



CHAPTER II

AN AMERICAN COMPOSER

THE PASSING OF EDWARD MACDOWELL


Whom the gods love----!

Admirers of Edward MacDowell's Sonata Tragica may recall the last
movement, in which, after a triumphant climax, the curtain falls on
tragic misery. It was the very Greek-like belief of MacDowell that
nothing is more sublimely awful than "to heighten the darkness of
tragedy by making it follow closely on the heels of triumph." This
he accomplished in his first sonata, and fate has ironically
transposed to the life of its composer the cruel and tragic drama of
his own music. Despite occasional days brightened by a flitting
hope, the passing of Edward MacDowell has begun. He is no longer an
earth-dweller. His body is here, but his brain elsewhere. Not mad,
not melancholy, not sunken in the stupor of indifference, his mind
is translated to a region where serenity, even happiness, dwells.
It is doubtless the temporary arrest of the dread mental malady
before it plunges its victims into darkness. Luckily, with the
advent of that last phase, the body will also succumb, and the most
poetic composer of music in America be for us but a fragrant memory.

Irony is a much-abused word, yet does it not seem the very summit of
pitiless irony for a man of MacDowell's musical and intellectual
equipment and physical health to be stricken down at the moment
when, after the hard study of twenty-five years, he has, as the
expression goes, found himself? And the gods were good to him--too
good.

At his cradle poetry and music presided. He was a born tone-poet. He
had also the painter's eye and the interior vision of the seer. A
mystic and a realist. The practical side of his nature was shown by
his easy grasp of the technics of pianoforte-playing. He had a
large, muscular hand, with a formidable grip on the keyboard. Much
has been said of the idealist MacDowell, but this young man, who had
in his veins Scotch, Irish, and English blood, loved athletic
sports; loved, like Hazlitt, a fast and furious boxing-match. The
call of his soul won him for music and poetry. Otherwise he could
have been a sea-captain, a soldier, or an explorer in far-away
countries. He had the physique; he had the big, manly spirit. We are
grateful, selfishly grateful, considering his life's tragedy, that
he became a composer.

Here, again, in all this abounding vitality, the irony of the skies
is manifest. Never a dissipated man, without a touch of the
improvidence we ascribe to genius, a practical moralist--rare in any
social condition--moderate in his tastes, though not a Puritan, he
nevertheless has been mowed down by the ruthless reaper of souls as
if his were negligible clay. But he was reckless of the most
precious part of him, his brain. He killed that organ by overwork.
Not for gain--the money-getting ideal and this man were widely
asunder--but for the love of teaching, for the love of sharing with
others the treasures in his overflowing storehouse, and primarily
for the love of music. He, American as he was--it is sad to speak of
him in the past tense--and in these piping days of the pursuit of
the gold piece, held steadfast to his art. He attempted to do what
others have failed in, he attempted to lead, here in our huge, noisy
city, antipathetic to æsthetic creation, the double existence of a
composer and a pedagogue. He burned away the delicate neurons of the
cortical cells, and to-day he cannot say "pianoforte" without a
trial. He suffers from aphasia, and locomotor ataxia has begun to
manifest itself. It would be tragedy in the household of any man; it
is doubly so in the case of Edward MacDowell.

He has just passed forty-five years and there are to his credit some
sixty works, about one hundred and thirty-two compositions in all.
These include essays in every form, except music-drama--symphonic
and lyric, concertos and sonatas for piano, little piano pieces of
delicate workmanship, charged with poetic meanings, suites for
orchestra and a romance for violoncello, with orchestral
accompaniment. As a boy of fifteen MacDowell went to the Paris
Conservatoire, there entering the piano classes of Marmontel. It was
in 1876. Two years later I saw him at the same institution and later
in comparing notes we discovered that we had both attended a concert
at the Trocadero, wherein Nicholas Rubinstein, the brilliant brother
of Anton, played the B flat minor concerto of a youthful and unknown
composer, Peter Illyitch Tschaikovsky by name. This same concerto
had been introduced to America in 1876 by Hans von Bülow, to whom it
is dedicated. Rubinstein's playing took hold of young MacDowell's
imagination. He saw there was no chance of mastering such a
torrential style in Paris, or, for that matter, in Germany. He had
enjoyed lessons from Teresa Carreño, but the beautiful Venezuelan
was not then the virtuosa of to-day.

So MacDowell, who was accompanied by his mother, a sage woman and
deeply in sympathy with her son's aims, went to Frankfort, where he
had the benefit of Karl Heymann's tuition. He was the only pianist I
ever heard who could be compared to our Rafael Joseffy. But his
influences, while marked in the development of his American pupil,
did not weaken MacDowell's individuality. Studies in composition
under Joachim Raff followed, and then he journeyed to Weimar for his
baptism of fire at the hands of Liszt. That genial Prospero had
broken his wand of virtuoso and devoted himself to the culture of
youthful genius and his own compositions. He was pleased by the
force, the surety, the brilliancy and the poetic qualities of
MacDowell's playing, and he laughingly warned Eugen d'Albert to look
to his laurels. But music was in the very bones of MacDowell, and a
purely virtuoso career had no attraction for him. He married in 1884
Marian Nevins, of New York, herself a pianist and a devoted
propagandist of his music. The pair settled in Wiesbaden, and it was
the happiest period of MacDowell's career. He taught; he played as
"guest" in various German cities; above all, he composed. His entire
evolution is surveyed in Mr. Lawrence Gilman's sympathetic
monograph. It was in Wiesbaden that he laid the foundation of his
solid technique as a composer.

I once asked him during one of our meetings how he had summoned the
courage to leave such congenial surroundings. In that half-smiling,
half-shy way of his, so full of charm and naïveté, he told me his
house had burned down and he had resolved to return home and make
enough money to build another. He came to America in 1888 and found
himself, if not famous, at least well known. To Frank van der
Stucken belongs the glory of having launched the young composer, and
so long ago as 1886 in the old Chickering Hall. Some would like to
point to the fact that America was MacDowell's artistic undoing, but
the truth is against them. As a matter of musical history he
accomplished his best work in the United States, principally on his
farm at Peterboro, N. H.--hardly, one would imagine, artistic soil
for such a dreamer in tones. But life has a way of contradicting our
theories. Teaching, I have learned, was not pursued to excess by
MacDowell, who had settled in Boston. Yet I wish there were
sumptuary legislation for such cases. Why should an artist like
MacDowell have been forced into the shafts of dull routine? It is
the larger selfishness, all this, but I cling to it. MacDowell
belonged to the public. Joseffy belongs to the public. They
doubtless did and do much good as teachers, but the public is the
loser. Besides, if MacDowell, who was a virtuoso had confined
himself to recitals he might not----

Alas! all this is bootless imagining. He launched himself with his
usual unselfishness into the advancement of his scholars, and when
in 1896 he was called to the chair of music at Columbia the
remaining seven years of his incumbency he gave up absolutely to his
classes. A sabbatical year intervened. He went to Switzerland for a
rest. Then he made a tour of the West, a triumphal tour; and later
followed the regrettable difference with Columbia. He resigned in
1904, and I doubt if he had had a happy day since--that is, until
the wave of forgetfulness came over him and blotted out all
recollections.

As a pianist I may only quote what Rafael Joseffy once said to me
after a performance of the MacDowell D minor concerto by its
composer: "What's the use of a poor pianist trying to compete with a
fellow who writes his own music and then plays it the way MacDowell
does?" It was said jestingly, but, as usual, when Joseffy opens his
mouth there is a grain of wisdom in the speech. MacDowell's French
training showed in his "pianism" in the velocity, clarity, and
pearly quality of his scales and trills. He had the elegance of the
salon player; he knew the traditions. But he was modern, German and
Slavic in his combined musical interpretation and fiery attack. His
tone was large; at times it was brutal. This pianist did not shine
in a small hall. He needed space, as do his later compositions.
There was something both noble and elemental in the performance of
his own sonatas. At his instrument his air of preoccupation, his
fine poetic head, the lines of which were admirably salient on the
concert stage, and his passion in execution were notable details in
the harmonious picture. Like Liszt, MacDowell and his Steinway were
as the rider and his steed. They seemed inseparable. Under the
batons of Nikisch, Gericke, Paur, and Seidl we heard him, and for
once at least the critics were unanimous.

When I first studied the MacDowell music I called the composer "a
belated Romantic." A Romantic he is by temperament, while his
training under Raff further accentuated that tendency. It is a
dangerous matter to make predictions of a contemporary composer, yet
a danger critically courted in these times of rapid-fire judgments.
I have been a sinner myself, and am still unregenerate, for if it be
sinful to judge hastily in the affirmative, by the same token it is
quite as grave an error to judge hastily in the negative. So I shall
dare the possible contempt of the succeeding critical generation,
which I expect--and hope--will not calmly reverse our dearest
predictions, and range myself on the side of MacDowell. And with
this reservation; I called him the most poetic composer of America.
He would be a poetic composer in any land; yet it seems to me that
his greatest, because his most individual, work is to be found in
his four piano sonatas. I am always subdued by the charm of his
songs; but he did not find his fullest expression in his lyrics.

The words seemed to hamper the bold wing strokes of his inspiration.
He did not go far enough in his orchestral work to warrant our
saying: "Here is something new!" He shows the influence of Wagner
slightly, of Grieg, of Raff, of Liszt, in his first Orchestral
Suite, his Hamlet and Ophelia, Launcelot and Elaine; The Saracens
and Lovely Alda, the Indian Suite, and in the two concertos. The
form is still struggling to emerge from the bonds of the
Romantics--of classic influence there is little trace. But the
general effect is fragmentary. It is not the real MacDowell,
notwithstanding the mastery of technical material, the genuine
feeling for orchestral colour, which is natural, not studied. There
are poetic moods--MacDowell is always a poet--yet no path-breaker.
Indeed, he seemed as if hesitating. I remember how we discussed
Brahms, Tschaikovsky, and Richard Strauss. The former he admired as
a master builder; the latter piqued his curiosity tremendously,
particularly Also Sprach Zarathustra. I think that Tschaikovsky made
the deepest appeal, though he said that the Russian's music sounded
better than it was. Grieg he admired, but Grieg could never have
drawn the long musical line we find in the MacDowell sonatas.

The fate of intermediate types is inevitable. Music is an art of
specialisation: the Wagner music-drama, Chopin piano music, Schubert
songs, Beethoven symphony, Liszt symphonic poems, and Richard
Strauss tone-poems, all these are unique. MacDowell has invented
many lovely melodies. That the Indian duet for orchestra, the
Woodland Sketches, New England Idyls, the Sea Pieces--To the Sea is
a wonderful transcription of the mystery, and the salt and savour of
the ocean--will have a long life, but not as long as the piano
sonatas. By them he will stand or fall. MacDowell never goes
chromatically mad on his harmonic tripod, nor does he tear passion
to tatters in his search of the dramatic. If he recalls any English
poet it is Keats, and like Keats he is simple and sensuous in his
imagery, and a lover of true romance; not the sham ecstasies of mock
mediæval romance, but that deep and tender sentiment which we
encounter in the poetry of Keats--in the magic of a moon half veiled
by flying clouds; in the mystery and scent of old and tangled
gardens. I should call MacDowell a landscape-painter had I not heard
his sonata music. Those sonatas, the Tragica, Eroica, Norse, and
Keltic, with their broad, coloured narrative, ballad-like tone,
their heroic and chivalric accents, epic passion, and feminine
tenderness. The psychology is simple if you set this music against
that of Strauss, of Loeffler, or of Debussy.

But it is noble, noble as the soul of the man who conceived it.
Elastic in form, orchestral in idea, these sonatas--which are looser
spun in the web than Liszt's--will keep alive the name of MacDowell.
This statement must not be considered as evidence that I fail to
enjoy his other work. I do enjoy much of it, especially the Indian
Orchestral Suite; but the sonatas stir the blood, above all the
imagination. When the Tragica appeared I did not dream of three such
successors. Now I like best the Keltic, with its dark magic and its
tales of Deirdré and the "great Cuchullin." This fourth sonata is as
Keltic as the combined poetic forces of the neo-Celtic renascence in
Ireland.

I believe MacDowell, when so sorely stricken, was at the parting of
the ways. He spoke vaguely to me of studies for new symphonic works,
presumably in the symphonic-poem form of Liszt. He would have always
remained the poet, and perhaps have pushed to newer scenes, but,
like Schumann, Donizetti, Smetana and Hugo Wolf, his brain gave way
under the strain of intense study. The composition of music involves
and taxes all the higher cerebral centres.

The privilege was accorded me of visiting the sick man at his hotel
several weeks ago, and I am glad I saw him, for his appearance
dissipated the painful impression I had conjured up. Our interview,
brief as it was, became the reverse of morbid or unpleasant before
it terminated. With his mental disintegration sunny youth has
returned to the composer. In snowy white, he looks not more than
twenty-five years old, until you note the grey in his thick,
rebellious locks. There is still gold in his moustache and his eyes
are luminously blue. His expression suggests a spirit purged of all
grossness waiting for the summons. He smiles, but not as a madman;
he talks hesitatingly, but never babbles. There is continuity in his
ideas for minutes. Sometimes the word fits the idea; oftener he uses
one foreign to his meaning. His wife, of whose devotion, almost
poignant in its earnestness, it would be too sad to dwell upon, is
his faithful interpreter. He moves with difficulty. He plays
dominoes, but seldom goes to the keyboard. He reads slowly and, like
the unfortunate Friedrich Nietzsche, he rereads one page many times.
I could not help recalling what Mrs. Elizabeth Foerster-Nietzsche
told me in Weimar of her brother. One day, noticing that she
silently wept, the poet-philosopher exclaimed:

"But why do you weep, little sister? Are we not very happy?"

MacDowell is very happy and his wife is braver than Nietzsche's
sister. One fragment of his conversation I recall. With glowing
countenance he spoke of the thunderbolt in his wonderfully realistic
piano poem, The Eagle. There had been a lightning-storm during the
afternoon. Then he told me how he had found water by means of the
hazel wand on his New Hampshire farm--a real happening. As I went
away I could not help remembering that the final words I should ever
hear uttered by this friend were of bright fire and running water
and dream-music.

    [The above appeared in the New York _Herald_, June 24, 1906,
    and is reprinted by request. Edward MacDowell died January 23,
    1908.]



CHAPTER III

REMY DE GOURMONT

HIS IDEAS. THE COLOUR OF HIS MIND

     "Je dis ce que je pense"--R. DE G.


I

Those were days marked by a white stone when arrived in the familiar
yellow cover a new book, with card enclosed from "Remy de Gourmont,
71, rue des Saints-Pères, Paris." Sometimes I received as many as
two in a year. But they always found me eager and grateful, did
those precious little volumes bearing the imprint of the _Mercure de
France_, with whose history the name of De Gourmont is so happily
linked. And there were post-cards too in his delicate handwriting on
which were traced sense and sentiment; yes, this man of genius
possessed sentiment, but abhorred sentimentality. His personal charm
transpired in a friendly salutation hastily pencilled. He played
exquisitely upon his intellectual instrument, and knew the value of
time and space. So his post-cards are souvenirs of his courtesy, and
it was through one, which unexpectedly fell from the sky in 1897, I
began my friendship with this distinguished French critic. His
sudden death in 1915 at Paris (he was born 1858), caused by
apoplexy, was the heroic ending of a man of letters. Like Flaubert
he was stricken while at his desk. I can conceive no more fitting
end for a valiant soldier of literature. He was a moral hero and the
victim of his prolonged technical heroism.

De Gourmont was incomparable. Thought, not action, was his chosen
sphere, but ranging up and down the vague and vast territory of
ideas he encountered countless cerebral adventures; the most
dangerous of all. An aristocrat born, he was, nevertheless, a
convinced democrat. The latch was always lifted on the front door of
his ivory tower. He did live in a certain sense a cloistered
existence, a Benedictine of arts and letters; but he was not, as has
been said, a sour hermit nursing morose fancies in solitude. De
Gourmont, true pagan, enjoyed the gifts the gods provide, and had,
despite the dualism of his nature, an epicurean soul. But of a
complexity. He never sympathised with the disproportionate fuss
raised by the metaphysicians about Instinct and Intelligence, yet
his own magnificent cerebral apparatus was a battle-field over which
swept the opposing hosts of Instinct and Intelligence, and in a
half-hundred volumes the history of this conflict is faithfully set
down. As personal as Maurice Barrès, without his egoism, as subtle
as Anatole France, De Gourmont saw life steadier and broader than
either of these two contemporaries. He was one who said "vast things
simply." He was the profoundest philosopher of the three, and never,
after his beginnings, exhibited a trace of the dilettante. Life soon
became something more than a mere spectacle for him. He was a
meliorist in theory and practice, though he asserted that
Christianity, an Oriental-born religion, has not become spiritually
acclimated among Occidental peoples. But he missed its consoling
function; religion, the poetry of the poor, never had for him the
prime significance that it had for William James; a legend, vague,
vast, and delicious.

Old frontiers have disappeared in science and art and literature. We
have Maeterlinck, a poet writing of bees, Poincaré, a mathematician
opening our eyes to the mystic gulfs of space; solid matters
resolved into mist, and the law of gravitation questioned. The new
horizons beckon ardent youth bent on conquering the secrets of life.
And there are more false beacon-lights than true. But if this is an
age of specialists a man occasionally emerges who contradicts the
formula. De Gourmont was at base a poet; also a dramatist, novelist,
raconteur, man of science, critic, moralist of erudition, and,
lastly, a philosopher. Both formidable and bewildering were his
accomplishments. He is a poet in his Hieroglyphes, Oraisons
mauvaises, Le Livre des Litanies, Les Saintes du Paradis, Simone,
Divertissements--his last appearance in singing robes (1914); he is
a raconteur--and such tales--in Histoires magiques, Prose moroses,
Le Pèlerin du silence, D'un Pays lointain, Couleurs; a novelist in
Merlette--his first book--Sixtine, Le Fantôme, les Chevaux de
Diomède, Le Songe d'une Femme, Une Nuit au Luxembourg, Un C[oe]ur
virginal; dramatist in Théodat, Phénissa, Le vieux Roi, Lilith; as
master critic of the æsthetics of the French language his supremacy
is indisputable; it is hardly necessary to refer here to Le Livre
des Masques, in two volumes, the five volumes of Promenades
littéraires, the three of Promenades philosophiques; as moralist he
has signed such works as l'Idealisme, La Culture des Idées, Le
Chemin de Velours; historian and humanist, he has given us Le Latin
mystique; grammarian and philologist, he displays his learning in Le
Problème du Style, and Esthétique de la Langue française, and
incidentally flays an unhappy pedagogue who proposed to impart the
secret of style in twenty lessons. He edited many classics of French
literature.

His chief contribution to science, apart from his botanical and
entomological researches, is Physique de l'Amour, in which he
reveals himself as a patient, thorough observer in an almost new
country. And what shall we say to his incursions into the actual,
into the field of politics, sociology and hourly happenings of Paris
life; his Epilogues (three volumes), Dialogues des Amateurs, the
collected pages from his monthly contributions to _Mercure de
France_? Nothing human was alien to him, nor inhuman, for he
rejected as quite meaningless the latter vocable, as he rejected
such clichés as "organic and inorganic." Years before we heard of a
pluralistic universe De Gourmont was a pragmatist, though an
idealist in his conception of the world as a personal picture.
Intensely interested in ideas, as he was in words, he might have
fulfilled Lord Acton's wish that some one would write a History of
Ideas. At the time of his death the French thinker was composing a
work entitled La Physique des M[oe]urs, in which he contemplated a
demonstration of his law of intellectual constancy.

A spiritual cosmopolitan, he was like most Frenchmen an ardent
patriot. The little squabble in the early eighties over a skit of
his, Le Jou-jou--patriotisme (1883), cost him his post at the
National Library in Paris. As a philosopher he deprecated war; as a
man, though too old to fight, he urged his countrymen to victory, as
may be noted in his last book, Pendant l'Orage (1916). But the
philosopher persists in such a sorrowful sentence as: "In the
tragedy of man peace is but an entr'acte." To show his mental
balance at a time when literary men, artists, and even philosophers,
indulged in unseemly abuse, we read in Jugements his calm admission
that the war has not destroyed for him the intellectual values of
Goethe, Schopenhauer, or Nietzsche. He owes much to their thought as
they owed much to French thought; Goethe has said as much; and of
Voltaire and Chamfort, Schopenhauer was a disciple. Without being a
practical musician, De Gourmont was a lover of Beethoven and Wagner.
He paid his compliments to Romain Rolland, whose style, both chalky
and mucilaginous, he dislikes in that overrated and spun-out series
Jean-Christophe. Another little volume, La Belgique littéraire, was
published in 1915, which, while it contains nothing particularly new
about Georges Rodenbach, Emile Verhaeren, Van Lerberghe, Camille
Lemonnier, and Maurice Maeterlinck, is excellent reading. The French
critic was also editor of the _Revue des Idées_, and judging from
the bibliography compiled by Pierre de Querlon as long ago as 1903,
he was a collaborator of numerous magazines. He wrote on Emerson,
English humour, or Thomas à Kempis with the same facility as he
dissected the mystic Latin writers of the early centuries after
Christ. Indeed, such versatility was viewed askance by the plodding
crowd of college professors, his general adversaries. But his
erudition could not be challenged; only two other men matched his
scholarship, Anatole France and the late Marcel Schwob. And we have
only skimmed the surface of his accomplishments. Remy de Gourmont is
the Admirable Crichton of French letters.


II

Prodigious incoherence might be reasonably expected from this
diversity of interests, yet the result is quite the reverse. The
artist in this complicated man banished confusion. He has told us
that because of the diversity of his aptitudes man is distinguished
from his fellow animals, and the variety in his labours is a proof
positive of his superiority to such fellow critics as the mentally
constipated Brunetière, the impressionistic Anatole France, the
agile and graceful Lemaître, and the pedantic philistine Faguet. But
if De Gourmont always attains clarity with no loss of depth, he
sometimes mixes his genres; that is, the poet peeps out in his
reports of the psychic life of insects, as the philosopher lords it
over the pages of his fiction. A mystic betimes, he is a
crystal-clear thinker. And consider the catholicity evinced in Le
Livre des Masques. He wrote of such widely diverging talents as
Maeterlinck, Mallarmé, Villiers de l'Isle Adam, and Paul Adam; of
Henri de Régnier and Jules Renard; of Huysmans and Jules Laforgue;
the mysticism of Francis Poictevin's style and the imagery of
Saint-Pol-Roux he defined, and he displays an understanding of the
first symbolist poet, Arthur Rimbaud, while disliking the
personality of that abnormal youth. But why recite this litany of
new talent literally made visible and vocal by our critic? It is a
pleasure to record the fact that most of his swans remained swans
and did not degenerate into tame geese. In this book he shows
himself a profound psychologist.

Insatiably curious, he yet contrived to drive his chimeras in double
harness and safely. His best fiction is Sixtine and Une Nuit au
Luxembourg, if fiction they may be called. Never will their author
be registered among best-sellers. Sixtine deals with the adventures
of a masculine brain. Ideas are the hero. In Un C[oe]ur virginal we
touch earth, fleshly and spiritually. This story shocked its
readers. It may be considered as a sequel to Physique de l'Amour. It
shows mankind as a gigantic insect indulging in the same apparently
blind pursuit of sex sensation as a beetle, and also shows us the
"female of our species" endowed with less capacity for modesty than
the lady mole, the most chaste of all animals. Disconcerting, too,
is the psychology of the heroine's virginal soul, not, however,
cynical; cynicism is the irony of vice, and De Gourmont is never
cynical. But a master of irony.

Une Nuit au Luxembourg has been done into English. It handles with
delicacy and frankness themes that in the hands of a lesser artist
would be banished as brutal and blasphemous. The author knows that
all our felicity is founded on a compromise between the dream and
reality, and for that reason while he signals the illusion he never
mocks it; he is too much an idealist. In the elaborately carved
cups of his tales, foaming over with exquisite perfumes and nectar,
there lurks the bitter drop of truth. He could never have said with
Proudhon that woman is the desolation of the just; for him woman is
often an obsession. Yet, captain of his instincts, he sees her
justly; he is not subdued by sex. With a gesture he destroys the
sentimental scaffolding of the sensualist and marches on to new
intellectual conquests.

In Lilith, an Adamitic Morality, he reveals his Talmudic lore. The
first wife of our common ancestor is a beautiful hell-hag, the
accomplice of Satan in the corruption of the human race. Thus
mediæval play is epical in its Rabelaisian plainness of speech.
Perhaps the Manichean in De Gourmont fabricated its revolting
images. He had traversed the Baudelairian steppes of blasphemy and
black pessimism; Baudelaire, a poet who was a great critic. Odi
profanum vulgus! was De Gourmont's motto, but his soul was
responsive to so many contacts that he emerged, as Barrès emerged, a
citizen of the world. Anarchy as a working philosophy did not long
content him, although he never relinquished his detached attitude of
proud individualism. He saw through the sentimental equality of J.J.
Rousseau. Rousseau it was who said that thinking man was a depraved
animal. Perhaps he was not far from the truth. Man is an affective
animal more interested in the immediate testimony of his senses than
in his intellectual processes. His metaphysic may be but the
reverberation of his sensations on the shore of his subliminal self,
the echo of the sounding shell he calls his soul. And our critic had
his scientific studies to console him for the inevitable sterility
of soul that follows egoism and a barren debauch of the sensations.
He did not tarry long in the valley of excess. His artistic
sensibility was his saviour.

Without being a dogmatist, De Gourmont was an antagonist of
absolutism. A determinist, (which may be dogmatism à rebours), a
relativist, he holds that mankind is not a specially favoured
species of the animal scale; thought is only an accident, possibly
the result of rich nutrition. An automaton, man has no free will,
but it is better for him to imagine that he has; it is a sounder
working hypothesis for the average human. The universe had no
beginning, it will have no end. There is no first link or last in
the chain of causality. Everything must submit to the law of
causality; to explain a blade of grass we must dismount the stars.
Nevertheless, De Gourmont no more than Renan, had the mania of
certitude. Humbly he interrogates the sphinx. There are no isolated
phenomena in time or space. The mass of matter is eternal. Man is an
animal submitting to the same laws that govern crystals or brutes.
He is the expression of matter in physique and chemistry. Repetition
is the law of life. Thought is a physiological product;
intelligence the secretion of matter and is amenable to the law of
causality. (This sounds like Taine's famous definition of virtue and
vice.) And who shall deny it all in the psychochemical laboratories?
It is not the rigid old-fashioned materialism, but a return to the
more plastic theories of Lamarck and the transformism of the Dutch
botanist, Hugo de Vries. For De Gourmont the Darwinian notion that
man is at the topmost notch of creation is as antique and absurd as
most cosmogonies; indeed, it is the Asiatic egocentric idea of
creation. Jacob's ladder repainted in Darwinian symbols. Voilà
l'ennemi! said De Gourmont and put on his controversial armour. What
blows, what sudden deadly attacks were his!

Quinton has demonstrated to the satisfaction of many scientists that
bird life came later on our globe than the primates from whom we
stem. The law of thermal constancy proves it by the interior
temperature of birds. Man preceded the carnivorous and ruminating
animals, of whom the bodily temperature is lower than that of birds.
The ants and bees and beavers are not a whit more automatic than
mankind. Automatism, says Ribot, is the rule. Thought is not free,
wrote William James, when to it an affirmation is added; then it is
but the affirmation of a preference. "L'homme," asserts De Gourmont,
"varie à l'infini sa mimique. Sa supériorité, c'est la diversité
immense de ses aptitudes." He welcomed Jules de Gaultier and his
theory of Bovaryisme; of the vital lie, because of which we pretend
to be what we are not. That way spells security, if not progress.
The idea of progress is another necessary illusion, for it provokes
a multiplicity of activities. Our so-called free will is naught but
the faculty of making a decision determined by a great and varied
number of motives. As for morality, it is the outcome of tribal
taboos; the insect and animal world shows deepest-dyed immorality,
revolting cruelty, and sex perversity. Rabbits and earthworms
through no fault of their own suffer from horrible maladies. From
all of which our critic deduces his law of intellectual constancy.
The human brain since prehistoric times has been neither diminished
nor augmented; it has remained like a sponge, which can be dry or
saturated, but still remains itself. It is a constant. In a
favourable environment it is enriched. The greatest moment in the
history of the human family was the discovery of fire by an
anthropoid of genius. Prometheus then should be our god. Without him
we should have remained more or less simian, and probably of
arboreal habits.


III

A synthetic brain is De Gourmont's, a sower of doubts, though not a
No-Sayer to the universe. He delights in challenging accepted
"truths." Of all modern thinkers a master of Vues d'ensembles, he
smiles at the pretensions, usually a mask for poverty of ideas, of
so-called "general ideas." He dissociates such conventional grouping
of ideas as Glory, Justice, Decadence. The shining ribs of
disillusion shine through his psychology; a psychology of nuance and
finesse. Disillusioning reflections, these. Not to be put in any
philosophical pigeonhole, he is as far removed from the eclecticism
of Victor Cousin as from the verbal jugglery and metaphysical
murmurings of Henri Bergson. The world is his dream; but it is a
tangible dream, charged with meaning, order, logic. The truest
reality is thought. Action spoils. (Goethe said: "Thought expands,
action narrows.") Our abstract ideas are metaphysical idols, says
Jules de Gaultier. The image of the concrete is De Gourmont's
touchstone. Théophile Gautier declared that he was a man for whom
the visible world existed. He misjudged his capacity for
apprehending reality. The human brain, excellent instrument in a
priori combinations is inept at perceiving realities. The "Sultan of
the Epithet," as De Goncourt nicknamed "le bon Théo," was not the
"Emperor of Thought," according to Henry James, and for him it was a
romantic fiction spun in the rich web of his fancy. A vaster, greyer
world is adumbrated in the books of De Gourmont. He never allowed
symbolism to deform his representation of sober, every-day life. He
pictured the future domain of art and ideas as a fair and shining
landscape no longer a series of little gardens with high walls. A
hater of formulas, sects, schools, he teaches that the capital crime
of the artist, the writer, the thinker, is conformity. (Yet how
serenely this critic swims in classic currents!) The artist's work
should reflect his personality, a magnified reflection. He must
create his own æsthetic. There are no schools, only individuals. And
of consistency he might have said that it is oftener a mule than a
jewel.

Sceptical in all matters, though never the fascinating sophist that
is Anatole France, De Gourmont criticised the thirty-six dramatic
situations, reducing the number to four. Man as centre in relation
to himself; in relation to other men; in relation to the other sex;
in relation to God, or Nature. His ecclesiastical _fond_ may be
recognised in Le Chemin de Velours with its sympathetic exposition
of Jesuit doctrine, and the acuity of its judgments on Pascal and
the Jansenists. The latter section is as an illuminating foot-note
to the history of Port-Royal by Sainte-Beuve. The younger critic has
the supple intellect of the supplest-minded Jesuit. His bias toward
the order is unmistakable. There are few books I reread with more
pleasure than this Path of Velvet. Certain passages in it are as
silky and sonorous as the sound of Eugène Ysaye's violin.

The colour of De Gourmont's mind is stained by his artistic
sensibility. A maker of images, his vocabulary astounding as befits
both a poet and philologist, one avid of beautiful words, has
variety. The temper of his mind is tolerant, a quality that has
informed the finer intellects of France since Montaigne. His
literary equipment is unusual. A style as brilliant, sinuous, and
personal as his thought; flexible or massive, continent or coloured,
he discourses at ease in all the gamuts and modes major, minor, and
mixed. A swift, weighty style, the style of a Latinist; a classic,
not a romantic style. His formal sense is admirable. The tenderness
of Anatole France is absent, except in his verse, which is less
spontaneous than volitional. A pioneer in new æsthetic pastures, De
Gourmont is a poet for poets. He has virtuosity, though the gift of
tears nature--possibly jealous because of her prodigality--has
denied him. But in the curves of his overarching intellect there may
be found wit, gaiety, humour, the Gallic attributes, allied with
poetic fancy, profundity of thought, and a many-sided comprehension
of life, art, and letters. He is in the best tradition of French
criticism only more versatile than either Sainte-Beuve or Taine; as
versatile as Doctor Brandes or Arthur Symons, and that is saying
much. With Anatole France he could have exclaimed: "The longer I
contemplate human life, the more I believe that we must give it, for
witnesses and judges, Irony and Pity...."



CHAPTER IV

ARTZIBASHEF


I

Once upon a time Maurice Maeterlinck wrote: "Whereas, it is far away
from bloodshed, battle-cry, and sword-thrust that the lives of most
of us flow on, and the tears of men are silent to-day, and
invisible, and almost spiritual...." This is a plea for his own
spiritualised art, in which sensations are attenuated, and emotions
within emotions, the shadow of the primal emotions, are spun into
crepuscular shapes. But literature refused to follow the example of
the Belgian dreamer, and since the advent of the new century there
has been a recrudescence of violence, a melodramatic violence, that
must be disconcerting to Maeterlinck.

It is particularly the case with Russian poetry, drama, and fiction.
That vast land of promise and disillusionment is become a trying-out
place for the theories and speculations of western Europe; no other
nation responds so sensitively to the vibrations of the Time-Spirit,
no other literature reflects with such clearness the fluctuations of
contemporary thought and sensibility. The Slav is the most
emotional among living peoples.

Not that mysticism is missing; indeed, it is the key-note of much
Russian literature; but it was the clash of events; the march of
ideas which precipitated young Russia into the expression of revolt,
pessimism, and its usual concomitant, materialism. There were
bloodshed, battle-cries, and sword-thrusts, and tears, tangible, not
invisible, in the uprising of ten years ago. The four great masters,
Gogol, Dostoievsky, Turgenev, and Tolstoy, still ruled the minds of
the intellectuals, but a younger element was the yeast in the new
fermentation.

Tchekov, with his epical ennui, with his tales of mean, colourless
lives, Gorky and his disinherited barefoot brigade, the dramatic
Andreiev, the mystic Sologub, and Kuprin, Zensky, Kusmin, Ivanov,
Ropshin, Zaitzeff, Chapygin, Serafimovitch (I select a few of the
romancers)--not to mention such poets as Block, Reminsov, and
Ivanov--are the men who are fighting under various banners but
always for complete freedom.

Little more than a decade has passed since the appearance of a young
man named Michael Artzibashef who, without any preliminary blaring
of trumpets, has taken the centre of the stage and still holds it.
He is as Slavic as Dostoievsky, more pessimistic than Tolstoy,
though not the supreme artist that was Turgenev. Of Gogol's
overwhelming humour he has not a trace; instead, a corroding irony
which eats into the very vitals of faith in all things human. Gorky,
despite his "bitter" nickname, is an incorrigible optimist compared
with Artzibashef. One sports with Nietzsche, the other not only
swears by Max Stirner, but some of his characters are Stirnerism
incarnate. His chosen field in society is the portrayal of the
middle-class and proletarian.

To André Villard, his friend and one of his translators, the new
Russian novelist told something of his life, a life colourless,
dreary, bare of dramatic events. Born in a small town in southern
Russia (1878), Michael Artzibashef is of Tatar, French, Georgian,
and Polish blood. His great-grandfather on the maternal side was the
Polish patriot Kosciusko. His father, a retired officer, was a small
landowner. In the lad there developed the seeds of tuberculosis. His
youth was a wretched one. At school he was unhappy because of its
horrors--he has written of them in his first story, Pasha
Tumanow--and he drifted from one thing to another till he wrote for
a literary weekly in the provinces founded by a certain Miroliuboff,
to whom he ascribes his first lift in life. Fellow contributors at
the time were Maxim Gorky, Leonid Andreiev, Kuprin, and other young
men who, like Artzibashef, have since "arrived."

His first successful tale was Ivan Lande. It brought him
recognition. This was in 1904. But the year before he had finished
Sanine, his masterpiece, though it did not see publication till
1908. This was three years after the revolution of 1905, so that
those critics were astray who spoke of the book as a naturally
pessimistic reaction from the fruitless uprising. Pessimism was born
in the bones of the author and he needed no external stimulus to
provoke such a realistic study as Sanine. Whether he is happier,
healthier, whether he has married and raised a family, we know not.
Personal as his stories are said to be, their art renders them
objective.

The world over Sanine has been translated. It is a significant book,
and incorporates the aspirations of many young men and women in the
Russian Empire. It was not printed at first because of the
censorship, and in Germany it had to battle for its life.

It is not only written from the standpoint of a professed
immoralist, but the Russian censor declared it pernicious because of
its "defamation of youth," its suicidal doctrine, its depressing
atmosphere. The sex element, too, has aroused indignant protests
from the clergy, from the press, from society itself.

In reply to his critics Artzibashef has denied libelling the younger
generation. "Sanine," he says, "is the apology for individualism:
the hero of the novel is a type. In its pure form this type is still
new and rare, but its spirit is in every frank, bold, and strong
representative of the new Russia." And then he adds his own protest
against the imitators of Sanine, who "flooded the literary world
with pornographic writings." Now, whatever else it may be, Sanine is
not pornographic, though I shall not pretend to say that its
influence has been harmless. We should not forget Werther and the
trail of sentimental suicides that followed its publication. But
Sanine is fashioned of sterner stuff than Goethe's romance, and if
it be "dangerous," then all the better.

Test all things, and remember that living itself is a dangerous
affair. Never has the world needed precepts of daring, courage,
individualism more than in this age of cowardly self-seeking, and
the sleek promises of altruism and its soulless well-being. Sanine
is a call to arms for individualists. And recall the Russian saying:
Self-conceit is the salt of life.


II

That Artzibashef denies the influence of Nietzsche while admitting
his indebtedness to Nietzsche's forerunner, Max Stirner, need not
particularly concern us. There are evidences scattered throughout
the pages of Sanine that prove a close study of Nietzsche and his
idealistic superman. Artist as is Artzibashef, he has densely spun
into the fabric of his work the ideas that control his characters,
and whether these ideas are called moral or immoral does not
matter. The chief thing is whether they are propulsive forces in the
destiny of his puppets.

That he paints directly from life is evident: he tells us that in
him is the débris of a painter compelled by poverty to relinquish
his ambitions because he had not money enough to buy paper, pencil,
colour. Such a realistic brush has seldom been wielded as the brush
of Artzibashef. I may make one exception, that of J.-K. Huysmans.
The Frenchman is the greater artist, the greater master of his
material, and, as Havelock Ellis puts it, the master of "the
intensest vision of the modern world"; but Huysmans lacks the
all-embracing sympathy, the tremulous pity, the love of suffering
mankind that distinguishes the young Russian novelist, a love that
is blended with an appalling distrust, nay, hatred of life. Both men
prefer the sordid, disagreeable, even the vilest aspects of life.

The general ideas of Artzibashef are few and profound. The leading
motive of his symphony is as old as Ecclesiastes: "The thing that
hath been, it is that which shall be." It is not original, this
theme, and it is as eternal as mediocrity; but it has been
orchestrated anew by Artzibashef, who, like his fellow countrymen,
Tschaikovsky and Moussorgsky, contrives to reveal to us, if no
hidden angles of the truth, at least its illusion in terms of
terror, anguish, and deadly nausea produced by mere existence. With
such poisoned roots Artzibashef's tree of life must soon be blasted.
His intellectual indifferentism to all that constitutes the solace
and bravery of our daily experience is almost pathological. The aura
of sadism hovers about some of his men. After reading Artzibashef
you wonder that the question, "Is life worth living?" will ever be
answered in the affirmative among these humans, who, as old Homer
says, hasten hellward from their birth.

The corollary to this leading motive is the absolute futility of
action. A paralysis of the will overtakes his characters, the
penalty of their torturing introspection. It was Turgenev, in an
essay on Hamlet, who declared that the Russian character is composed
of Hamlet-like traits. Man is the only animal that cannot live in
the present; a Norwegian philosopher, Sören Kierkegaard, has said
that he lives forward, thinks backward; he aspires to the future.
An idealist, even when close to the gorilla, is doomed to
disillusionment. He discounts to-morrow.

Russian youth has not always the courage of its chimera, though it
fraternises with the phantasmagoria of its soul. Its Golden Street
soon becomes choked with fog. The political and social conditions of
the country must stifle individualism, else why should Artzibashef
write with such savage intensity? His pen is the pendulum that has
swung away from the sentimental brotherhood of man as exemplified
in Dostoievsky, and from the religious mania of Tolstoy to the
opposite extreme, individual anarchy. Where there is repression
there is rebellion. Max Stirner represents the individualism which
found its vent in the Prussia of 1848; Nietzsche the reaction from
the Prussia of 1870; Artzibashef forestalled the result of the 1905
insurrection in Russia.

His prophetic soul needed no proof; he knew that his people, the
students and intellectuals, would be crushed. The desire of the clod
for the cloud was extinguished. Happiness is an eternal hoax. Only
children believe in life. The last call of the devil's dinner-bell
has sounded. In the scenery of the sky there is only mirage. The
moonlit air is a ruse of that wily old serpent, nature, to arouse
romance in the breast of youth and urge a repetition of the life
processes. We graze Schopenhauer, overhear Leopardi, but the
Preacher has the mightiest voice. Naturally, the novelist says none
of these things outright. The phrases are mine, but he points the
moral in a way that is all his own.

What, then, is the remedy for the ills of this life? Is its misery
irremediable? Why must mankind go on living if the burden is so
great? Even with wealth comes ennui or disease, and no matter how
brilliant we may live, we must all die alone. Pascal said this
better. In several of his death-bed scenes the dying men of
Artzibashef curse their parents, mock at religion, and--here is a
novel nuance--abuse their intellectual leaders. Semenow the student,
who appears in several of the stories, abuses Marx and Nietzsche. Of
what use are these thinkers to a man about to depart from the world?
It is the revolt of stark humanity from the illusions of brotherly
love, from the chiefest illusion--self.

Artzibashef offers no magic draft of oblivion to his sufferers. With
a vivid style that recalls the Tolstoy of The Death of Ivan Illitch
he shows us old and young wrestling with the destroyer, their souls
emptied of all earthly hopes save one. Shall I live? Not God's will
be done, not the roseate dream of a future life, only--why must I
die? though the poor devil is submerged in the very swamp of life.
But life, life, even a horrible hell for eternity, rather than
annihilation! In the portrayal of these damned creatures Artzibashef
is elemental. He recalls both Dante and Dostoievsky.

He has told us that he owes much to Tolstoy (also to Goethe, Hugo,
Dostoievsky, and much to Tchekov), but his characters are usually
failures when following the tenets of Tolstoy, the great moralist
and expounder of "non-resistance." He simply explodes the torpedo of
truth under the ark of socialism. This may be noted in Ivan
Lande--now in the English volume entitled The Millionaire--where we
see step by step the decadence of a beautiful soul obsessed by the
love of his fellows.

It is in the key of Tolstoy, but the moral is startling. Not thus
can you save your soul. Max Stirner is to the fore. Don't turn your
other cheek if one has been smitten, but smite the smiter, and
heartily. However, naught avails, you must die, and die like a dog,
a star, or a flower. Better universal suicide. Success comes only to
the unfortunate. And so we swing back to Eduard von Hartmann, who,
in his philosophy of the unconscious, counsels the same thing. (A
ferocious advocate of pessimism and a disciple of Arthur
Schopenhauer, by name Mainlander, preached world destruction through
race suicide.)

But all these pessimists seem well fed and happy when compared to
the nihilists of Artzibashef. He portrays every stage of
disillusionment with a glacial calmness. Not even annihilation is
worth the trouble of a despairing gesture. Cui bono? Revolutionist
or royalist--your career is, if you but dare break the conspiracy of
silence--a burden or a sorrow. Happiness is only a word. Love a
brief sensation. Death a certainty. For such nihilism we must go to
the jungles of Asia, where in a lifelong silence, some fanatic
fatidically stares at his navel, the circular symbol of eternity.


III

But if there is no philosophical balm in Gilead, there is the world
of the five senses, and a glorious world it may prove if you have
only the health, courage, and contempt for the Chinese wall with
which man has surrounded his instincts. There are no laws, except to
be broken, no conventions that cannot be shattered. There is the
blue sky, brother, and the air on the heath, brother! Drop the
impedimenta and lead a free, roving life. How the world would wag
without work no one tells us. Not didactic, the novelist disdains to
draw a moral.

There is much Stirner, some Nietzsche in Sanine, who is a handsome
young chap, a giant, and a "blond barbarian." It is the story of the
return of the native to his home in a small town. He finds his
mother as he left her, older, but as narrow as ever, and his sister
Lydia, one of the most charming girls in Russian fiction. Sanine is
surprised to note her development. He admires her--too much so for
our Western taste. However, there is something monstrous in the
moral and mental make-up of this hero, who is no hero. He may be a
type, but I don't believe in types; there are only humans. His motto
might be: What's the difference? He is passive, not with the
fatalism of Oblomov, Gontcharov's hero; not with the apathy of
Charles Bovary, or the timid passivity of Frederic Moreau; he
displays an indifference to the trivial things of life that makes
him seem an idler on the scene.

When the time arrives for action he is no skulker. His sister
has been ruined by a frivolous officer in garrison, and she
attempts suicide. Her brother rescues her, not heroically, but
philosophically, and shows her the folly of believing in words.
Ruined! Very well, marry and forget! However, he drives the officer
to suicide by publicly disgracing him. He refuses a duel, punches
his head, and the silly soldier with his silly code of honour blows
out his brains. A passive rôle is Sanine's in the composition of
this elaborate canvas, the surface simplicity of which deceives us
as to its polyphonic complexity. He remains in the background while
about him play the little destinies of little souls. Yet he is
always the fulcrum for a climax. I have not yet made up my mind
whether Sanine is a great man or a thorough scoundrel. Perhaps both.

A temperamental and imaginative writer is Artzibashef. I first read
him (1911) in French, the translation of Jacques Povolozky, and his
style recalled, at times, that of Turgenev, possibly because of the
language. In the German translation he is not so appealing; again
perhaps of the difference in the tongues. As I can't read Russian, I
am forced to fall back on translations, and they seldom give an idea
of personal rhythm, unless it be a Turgenev translating into
Russian the Three Tales of his friend Flaubert.

Nevertheless, through the veil of a foreign speech the genius of
Artzibashef shines like a crimson sun in a mist. Of course, we miss
the caressing cadence and rich sonorousness of the organ-toned
Russian language: The English versions are excellent, though,
naturally enough, occasionally chastened and abbreviated. I must
protest here against the omission of a chapter in Breaking Point
which is a key to the ending of the book. I mean the chapter in
which is related the reason why the wealthy drunkard goes to the
monastery, there to end his days. Years ago Mr. Howells said that we
could never write of America as Dostoievsky did of Russia, and it
was true enough at the time; nor, would we ever tolerate the
nudities of certain Gallic novelists. Well, we have, and I am fain
to believe that the tragic issues of American life should be given
fuller expression, and with the same sincerity as Artzibashef's,
whose strength is his sincerity, whose sincerity is a form of his
genius.

The very air of America makes for optimism; our land of milk and
honey may never produce such prophets of pessimism as Artzibashef,
unless conditions change. But the lesson for our novelists is the
courageous manner--and artistic, too--with which the Russian pursues
the naked soul of mankind and dissects it. He notes, being a
psychologist as well as a painter, the exquisite recoil of the
cerebral cells upon themselves which we call consciousness.
Profoundly human in his sympathies, without being, in the least
sentimental, he paints full-length portraits of men and women with a
flowing brush and a fine sense of character values. But he will
never bend the bow of Balzac.

Vladimir Sanine is not his only successful portrait. In the book
there are several persons: the disgraced student Yourii, who is
self-complacent to the point of morbidity; his lovely sister, and
her betrothed. The officers are excellently delineated and
differentiated, while the girls, Sina Karsavina and her friend the
teacher, are extremely attractive.

Karsavina is a veracious personality. The poor little homeless
Hebrew who desires light on the mystery of life could not be
bettered by Dostoievsky; for that matter Artzibashef is partially
indebted to Dostoievsky for certain traits of Ivan Lande--who is
evidently patterned from Prince Myshkin in The Idiot. Wherever
Sanine passes, trouble follows. He is looked on as possessing the
evil eye, yet he does little but lounge about, drink hard, and make
love to pretty girls. But as he goes he snuffs out ideals like
candles.

As Artzibashef is a born story-teller, it must not be supposed that
the book is unrelieved in its gloom. There are plenty of gay
episodes, sensational, even shocking; a picnic, a shooting-party,
and pastorals done in a way which would have extorted the
admiration of Turgenev. Thomas Hardy has done no better in his
peasant life. There are various gatherings, chiefly convivial, a
meeting of would-be intellectuals for self-improvement--related with
blasting irony--and drinking festivals which are masterly in their
sense of reality; add to these pages of nature descriptions,
landscapes, pictures of the earth in all seasons and guises,
revealing a passionate love of the soil which is truly Russian. You
fairly smell the frosty air of his Winter days.

Little cause for astonishment that Sanine at its appearance provoked
as much controversy, as much admiration and hatred as did Fathers
and Sons of Turgenev. Vladimir Sanine is not as powerful as Bazarov
the anarchist, but he is a pendant, he is an anarch of the new
order, neither a propagandist by the act, but a philosophical anarch
who lazily mutters: "Let the world wag; I don't care so that it
minds its own business and lets me alone." With few exceptions most
latter-day fiction is thin, papery, artificial, compared with
Artzibashef's rich, red-blooded genius.

I have devoted so much attention to Sanine that little space is left
for the other books, though they are all significant. Revolutionary
Tales contains a strong companion picture to Sanine, the portrait of
the metal-worker Schevyrjoy, who is a revolutionist in the literal
sense. His hunted life and death arouse a terrific impression. The
end is almost operatic. A captivating little working girl figures in
one episode. It may be remarked in passing that Artzibashef does not
paint for our delectation the dear dead drabs of yesteryear, nor yet
the girl of the street who heroically brings bread to her starving
family (as does Sonia in Crime and Punishment). Few outcasts of this
sort are to be found in his pages, and those few are unflinchingly
etched, as, for example, the ladies in The Millionaire.

This story, which is affiliated in ideas with Sanine, is Tolstoyian
in the main issue, yet disconcertingly different in its
interpretation. Wealth, too, may become an incitement to
self-slaughter from sheer disgust. The story of Pasha Tumanow is
autobiographical, and registers his hatred of the Russian grammar
schools where suicides among the scholars are anything but
infrequent. Morning Shadows relates the adventures of several young
people who go to Petrograd to seek fame, but with tragic
conclusions. The two girl students end badly, one a suicide, the
other a prisoner of the police as an anarchist caught red-handed. A
stupefying narrative in its horrid realism and sympathetic handling.
The doctor gives us a picture of a pogrom in a tiny Russian province
town. You simply shudder at the details of the wretched Jews shot
down, ripped open, maltreated, and driven into the wilderness. It is
a time for tears; though I cannot quite believe in this doctor,
who, while not a Jew, so sympathises with them that he lets die the
Chief of Police that ordered the massacre. Another story of similar
intensity, called Nina in the English translation, fills us with
wonder that such outrages can go unpunished. But I am only
interested in the art of the novelist, not in political conditions
or their causes.

Perhaps the most touching story in Revolutionary Tales is The Blood
Stain, confessedly beloved by its author. Again we are confronted by
the uselessness of all attempts to right injustice. Might is right,
ever was, ever will be. Again the victims of lying propagandists and
the cruel law lie "on stretchers, with white eyes staring upward. In
these eyes there was a look, a sad, questioning look of horror and
despair." Always despair, in life or death, is the portion of these
poor. [This was written in 1915, before the New Russia was born.
Since the beginning of the war Artzibashef has served in the field
and hospitals. He has written several plays, one of which, War, has
been translated. It is a terrific arraignment of war. His latest
story, The Woman Standing in the Midst, has not yet appeared here.]

Without suggesting a rigid schematology, there is a composition plan
in his larger work that may be detected if the reader is not
confused by the elliptical patterns and the massive mounds of minor
details in his novel Breaking Point. The canvas is large and
crowded, the motivation subtly managed. As is the case with his
novels, the drama plays in a provincial town, this time on the
steppes, where the inhabitants would certainly commit suicide if the
place were half as dreary as depicted. Some of them do so, and you
are reminded of that curious, nervous disease, indigenous to
Siberia, named by psychiatrists "myriachit," or the epidemic of
imitation. A man, a sinister rascal, Naumow, preaches the greyness
and folly of living, and this "Naumowism" sets by the ears three or
four impressionable young men who make their exit with a bare bodkin
or its equivalent. Naumow recalls a character in The Possessed, also
the sinister hero of The Synagogue of Satan by the dramatic Polish
writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski. To give us a central point the
"chorus" of the novel is a little student who resembles a goldfinch,
and has a birdlike way of piping about matters philosophical.

There are oceans of talk throughout the novels, talks about death.
Really, you wonder how the Russians contrive to live at all till you
meet them and discover what normal people they are. (It should not
be forgotten that art must contain as an element of success a slight
deformation of facts.) The student watches the comedy and tragedy of
the town, his brain flaming with noble ideas for the regeneration of
mankind! Alas! Naumow bids him reflect on the uselessness of
suffering from self-privation so that some proletarian family may
eat roast larks in the thirtieth century. Eventually he succumbs to
the contagion of resemblance, takes to drink, and hangs himself to a
nail in the wall, his torn gum shoes, clinging to his feet, faithful
to the last--they, Dickens-like, are shown from the start.

There is a nihilistic doctor--the most viable character of all about
whose head hovers the aura of apoplexy--a particularly fascinating
actress, an interesting consumptive, two wretched girls betrayed by
a young painter (a Sanine type, _i. e._, Max Stirnerism in action),
while the officers of the garrison and club life are cunningly
pictured. A wealthy manufacturer, with the hallmarks of Mr. Rogozhin
in Dostoievsky's The Idiot, makes an awful noise till he luckily
vanishes in a monastery. Suicide, rapine, disorder, drunkenness, and
boredom permeate nearly every page. Breaking Point is the most
poignant and intolerable book I ever read. It is the prose
complement of Tschaikovsky's so-called Suicide Symphony. Browning is
reversed. Here the devil is in heaven. All's wrong in the world! Yet
it compels reflection and rereading. Why?

Because, like all of his writings, it is inevitable, and granting
the exaggeration inherent in the nature of the subject, it is
lifelike, though its philosophy is dangerously depressing. The
little city of the steppes is the cemetery of the Seven Sorrows.
However, in it, as in Sanine, there is many an oasis of consolation
where sanity and cheerfulness and normal humans may be enjoyed. But
I am loath to believe that young Russia, Holy Russia, as the
mystagogues call her, has lost her central grip on the things that
most count; above all, on religious faith. Then needs must she pray
as prayed Des Esseintes in Huysmans's novel A Rebours: "Take pity, O
Lord, on the Christian who doubts, on the sceptic who desires to
believe, on the convict of life who embarks alone, in the night,
beneath a sky no longer lit by the consoling beacons of ancient
faith."



CHAPTER V

A NOTE ON HENRY JAMES


I

In company with other distinguished men who have passed away during
the progress of the war, the loss of Henry James was passably
chronicled. News from the various battle-fields took precedence over
the death of a mere man of literary genius. This was to be expected.
Nor need the fact be disguised that his secession from American
citizenship may have increased the coolness which prevailed, still
prevails, when the name of Mr. James is mentioned in print. More
English than the English, he only practised what he preached, though
tardily in the matter of his British naturalisation. That he did not
find all the perfections in his native land is a personal matter;
but that he should be neglected in favour of mediocrity is simply
the penalty a great artist pays for his devotion to art. There is no
need of indignation in the matter. Time rights such critical wrongs.
Consider the case of Stendhal. The fiction of Henry James is for the
future.

James seceded years ago from the English traditions, from Fielding,
Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot. The Wings of a Dove, The
Ambassadors, The Golden Bowl are fictions that will influence future
novelists. In our own days we see what a power James has been; a
subtle breath on the waters of creation; Paul Bourget, Edith
Wharton, even Joseph Conrad, and many minor English novelists. His
later work, say, beginning with The Tragic Muse, is the prose
equivalent of the seven arts in a revolutionary ferment. A marked
tendency in the new movements is to throw overboard superfluous
technical baggage. The James novel is one of grand simplifications.

As the symphony was modified by Liszt into the symphonic poem and
later emerged in the shape of the tone-poem by Richard Strauss, so
the novel of manners evolved from Flaubert's Sentimental Education,
which, despite its "heavenly length," contains in solution all that
the newer men have accomplished. Zola patterned after it in the
prodigious Rougon-Macquart series; Daudet found therein the
impressionism of his Sapho anticipated; Maupassant and Huysmans
delved patiently and practised characteristic variations. Flaubert
is the father of realism as he is part parent of symbolism. His
excessive preoccupation with style and his attaching esoteric
significance to words sound the note of symbolism. Now Henry James
disliked Sentimental Education--like other great critics he had his
blind side--yet he did not fail to benefit by the radical formal
changes introduced by Flaubert, changes as revolutionary as those of
Wagner in the music-drama. I call the later James novel a
simplification. All the conventional chapter endings are dispensed
with; many are suspended cadences. The accustomed and thrice-barren
modulations from event to event are swept away; unprepared
dissonances are of continual occurrence. There is no descriptive
padding--that bane of second-class writers; nor are we informed at
every speech of the name of a character. This elliptical method
James absorbed from Flaubert, while his sometime oblique psychology
is partly derived from Stendhal; indeed, without Stendhal both
Meredith and James would have been sadly shorn of their
psychological splendour. Nor is the shadow of Turgenev missing, not
to mention that of Jane Austen.

Possibly the famous "third manner" of James was the result of his
resorting to dictation; the pen inhibits where speech does not.
These things make difficult reading for a public accustomed to the
hypnotic passes of successful fiction-mongers. In James nothing is
forestalled, nothing is obvious, one is for ever turning the curve
of the unexpected. The actual story may be discouraging in its
bareness, yet the situations are seldom fantastic. (The Turn of the
Screw is an exception.) You rub your eyes as you finish; for with
all your credulity, painful in its intensity, you have assisted at a
pictorial evocation; both picture and evocation reveal magic in
their misty attenuations. And there is ever the triumph of poetic
feeling over banal sentiment. The portraiture in Milly Theale
and Maggie Verver is clairvoyant. Milly's life is a miracle, her
ending, art superlative. The Wings of a Dove is filled with the
faintly audible tread of destiny behind the arras of life. The
reverberations are almost microphonic with here and there a
crescendo or a climax. The spiritual string music of Henry James is
more thrilling to the educated ear than the sound of the big drum
and the blaring of trumpets. The implacable curiosity of the
novelist concerning causes that do not seem final has been amply
dealt with by Mr. Brownell. The question whether his story is worth
the telling is a critical impertinence too often uttered; what most
concerns us now in the James case is his manner, not his matter. All
the rest is life.

As far as his middle period his manner is limpidity itself; the
later style is a jungle of inversions, suspensions, elisions,
repetitions, echoes, transpositions, transformations, neologisms, in
which the heads of young adjectives despairingly gaze from afar at
the verbs which come thundering at the close of sentences leagues
long. It is bewildering, but more bewildering is this peculiarly
individual style when draughted into smooth journalistic prose.
Nothing remains. Henry James has not spoken. His dissonances cannot
be resolved except in the terms of his own matchless art. His
meanings evaporate when phrased in our vernacular. This may prove a
lot of negating things, or it may not. Why prose should lag behind
its sister arts I can't say; possibly because every pothouse
politician is supposed to speak it. For that matter any one who has
dipped into the well of English undefiled, seventeenth-century
literature, must realise that nowadays we write a parlous prose.
However, it is not a stately prose that James essayed. The son of a
metaphysician and moralist--the writings of Henry James, the elder,
are far from negligible--the brother of the greatest American
psychologist, the late William James of brilliant memory, it need
hardly be added that character problems are of more interest to this
novelist than the external qualities of rhetorical sonority, or the
fascination of glowing surfaces. You can no more read aloud a page
of James than you can read aloud De Goncourt. For Flaubert, who
modelled his magnificent prose harmonies on the Old Testament,
Shakespeare, Bossuet, and Châteaubriand, the final test of noble
prose is the audible reading thereof. Flaubert called it "spouting."
The James prose appeals rather to the inner ear. Nuance and
overtones not dazzling tropical hues or rhythmical variety. Henry
James is a law unto himself. His novels may be a precursor of the
books our grandchildren will enjoy when the hurly-burly of noisy
adventure, cheap historical vapidities, and still cheaper
drawing-room struttings shall have vanished. (But, like the poor,
the stupid reader we shall always have with us.) In the fiction of
the future a more complete synthesis will be attained. An
illuminating essay by Arthur Symons places George Meredith among the
decadents, the murderers of their mother tongue, the men who shatter
syntax to serve their artistic ends. Henry James belonged to this
group for a longer time than the majority of his critics suspected.
In his ruthless disregard of the niceties and conventionalities of
sentence-structure I see the outcome of his dictation. Yet no matter
how crabbed and involved is his page, a character always emerges
from the smoke of his muttered enchantments. The chief fault is not
his obscurity (his prose, like the prose in Browning's Sordello, is
packed with too many meanings), but that his character always speaks
in purest Jacobean. So do the people in Balzac's crowded, electric
world. So the men and women of Dickens and Meredith. It is the
fault--or virtue--of all subjective genius; however, not a fault or
virtue of Flaubert or Turgenev or Tolstoy. All in all, Henry James
is a distinctly American novelist, a psychologist of extraordinary
power and divination. He has pinned to paper the soul of the
cosmopolitan. The obsession of the moral problem that we feel in
Hawthorne is not missing. Be his manner never so cryptic, his
deep-veined humanity may be felt by those who read him aright. His
Americans abroad suffer a deep-sea change; a complete gamut of
achieved sensibility divides Daisy Miller from Maggie Verver. Henry
James is a faithful Secretary to Society--the phrase is Balzac's--to
the American afloat from his native mooring as well as at home. And
his exquisite notations are the glory of English fiction.


II

Before me lies an autograph letter from Henry James to his friend
Doctor Rice. It is dated December 26, 1904, and the address 21 East
Eleventh Street. It thus concludes: "I am not one of 'The
Bostonians,' but was born in this city April 15, 1843. Believe me,
truly yours, Henry James." Although he died a naturalised
Englishman, there seems to be some confusion as to his birthplace in
the minds of his English critics. In Ford Madox Hueffer's critical
study, Henry James, we read on page 95 that the life of James "began
in New England in 1843." He was born in America in 1843, then a land
where culture was rare! That delightful condescension in foreigners
is still extant. Now this isn't such a serious matter, for Henry
James was a citizen of the world; but the imputation of a New
England birthplace does matter, because it allows the English
critic--and how many others?--to perform variations on the theme of
Puritanism, the Puritanism of his art. James as a temperamental
Puritan--one is forced to capitalise the unhappy word! Apart from
the fact that there is less Puritanism in New England than in the
Middle West, James is not a Puritan. He does not possess the famous
New England conscience. He would have been the first to repudiate
the notion. For him the Puritan temperament has a "faintly acrid
perfume." To ascribe to Puritanism the seven deadly virtues and
refinement, sensibility, intellectuality, is a common enough
mistake. James never made that mistake. He knew that all the good
things of life are not in the exclusive possession of the Puritans.
He must not be identified with the case he studies. Strictly
speaking, while he was on the side of the angels, like all great
artists, he is not a moralist; indeed, he is our first great
"immoralist," a term that has supplanted the old-fashioned
amoralist. And he wrote the most unmoral short story in the English
language, one that also sets the spine trilling because of its
supernatural element as never did Poe, or De Maupassant.

Another venerable witticism, which has achieved the pathos of
distance, was made a quarter of a century ago by George Moore. Mr.
Moore said: "Henry James went to France and read Turgenev. W. D.
Howells stayed at home and read Henry James." To lend poignancy to
this mild epigram Mr. Hueffer misquotes it, substituting the name of
De Maupassant for Turgenev's. A rather uncanny combination--Henry
and Guy. A still more aged "wheeze" bobs up in the pages of Mr.
Hueffer. Need we say that it recites the ancient saw about William
James, the fictionist, and his brother Henry, the psychologist. None
of these things is in the least true. With the prudishness and
peanut piety of puritanism Henry James has nothing in common. He did
not alone read Turgenev, he met him and wrote of him with more
sympathy and understanding than he did of Flaubert or Baudelaire;
and Mr. Howells never wrote a page that resembled either the
Russian's or the American's fiction. Furthermore, James is a
masterly psychologist and a tale-teller. To the credit of his latest
English critics this is acknowledged, and generously.

Mr. Hueffer is an accomplished craftsman in many literary fields, he
writes with authority, though too often in a superlative key. But
how James would have winced when he read in Mr. Hueffer's book that
he is or was "the greatest of living men." This surely is a
planet-struck phrase. The Hueffer study is stuffed with startling
things. He bangs Balzac over the head. He tells the truth about
Flaubert, whose Sentimental Education is an entire Human Comedy. He
thinks ill of "big business," that "business and whatever takes
place 'down-town' or in the city is simply not worth the attention
of any intelligent being. It is a manner of dirty little affairs
incompetently handled by men of the lowest class of intelligence."
But all this in a volume about the most serene and luminous
intelligence of our times. Mr. Hueffer also "goes for" James as
critic. He once dared to couple the name of the "odious" George
Eliot with Flaubert's. It does rather take the breath away, but,
after all, didn't the tolerant and catholic critic who was Henry
James say that no one is constrained to like any particular kind of
writing? As to the "cats and monkeys, monkeys and cats--all human
life is there," of The Madonna of the Future, we need not take the
words as a final message; nor are the other phrases quoted: "The
soul is immortal certainly--if you've got one, but most people
haven't! Pleasure would be right if it were pleasure right through,
but it never is." Mr. Hueffer says that James "found English people
who were just people singularly nasty," and who can say him nay
after reading The Sacred Fount? But he ends on the right note: "And
for a man to have attained to international rank with phrases
intimately national is the supreme achievement of writers--a glory
that is reserved only for the Dantes, the Goethes, and the
Shakespeares, who none the less remain supremely national." Neither
Mr. Hueffer nor Miss West is in doubt as to the essential
Americanism of Henry James. He is almost as American as Howells, who
is our Anthony Trollope, plus style and vision. And Trollope, by the
way, will loom larger in the future despite his impersonality and
microscopic manner.

The James art is Cerebral Comedy, par excellence. To alter his own
words, he plays his intellectual instrument to perfection. He is a
portraitist doubled by a psychologist. His soul is not a solitary
pool in a midnight forest, but an unruffled lake, sun-smitten or
cloud-shadowed; yet in whose depths there is a moving mass of
exquisite living things. His pages reverberate with the under hum of
humanity. We may not exactly say of him as Hazlitt said of Walter
Scott: "His works, taken altogether, are almost like a new edition
of human nature." But we can follow with the coda of that same
dictum: "This is indeed to be an author." Many more than the dozen
superior persons mentioned by Huysmans enjoy the James novels. His
swans are not always immaculate, but they are not "swans of the
cesspool," to quote Landor. There is never an odour of leaking gas
in his premises, as he once remarked of the D'Annunzio fiction. He
has the cosmopolitan soul. There is no slouch in his spiritual gait.
Like Renan, he abhorred the "horrible mania of certitude" to be
found in the writing of his realistic contemporaries. He does not
always dot the "i's" of his irony, a subrisive irony. But the
spiritual antennæ which he puts forth so tentatively always touch
real things, not conjectural. And what tactile sense he boasts. He
peeps into the glowing core of emotion, but seldom describes it.
His ears are for overtones, not the brassy harmonies of the obvious,
of truths, flat and flexible. Yet what novelist has kept his ear so
close to quotidian happenings, and with what dignity and charm in
his crumbling cadences? Not even that virtuoso of the ugly,
Huysmans, than whom no writer of the past century ever "rendered"
surfaces into such impeccable truth, with such implacable ferocity,
is as clairvoyant as James.

Fustian and thunder form no part of the James stories, which are
like a vast whispering gallery, the dim reverberations of which fill
the listening ear. He is an "auditive" as well as a "visualist," to
employ the precious classification of the psychiatrists. His astute
senses tell him of a world which we are only beginning to
comprehend. He is never obscure, never recondite; but, like
Browning, he sends a veritable multiplex of ideas along a single
wire. Mr. Howells has rightly said of him that it is not well to
pursue the meanings of an author to the very heart of darkness.
However, readers as a rule like their fiction served on a shiny
plate; above all, they don't like a story to begin in one key and
end in another. If it's to be pork and molasses or "hog and hominy"
(George Meredith's words), then let it be these delectable dishes
through every course. But James is ever in modulation. He tosses his
theme ballwise in the air, and while its spirals spin and bathe in
the blue he weaves a web of gold and lace, and it is marvellously
spun. He is more atmospheric than linear. His theme is shown from a
variety of angles, but the result is synthetic. Elizabeth Luther
Cary has pointed out that he is not a remorseless analyst. He does
not take the mechanism of his marionette apart, but lets us examine
it in completeness. As a psychologist he stands midway between
Stendhal and Turgenev. He interprets feeling, rather than fact.

Like our sister planet, the moon, he has his rhythmic moments of
libration; he then reveals his other side, a profoundly human,
emotional one. He is not all frosty intellect. But he holds in
horror the facile expression of the sentiments. It's only too easy
to write for those avid of sentimentalism, or to express what Thomas
Huxley calls "sensualistic caterwauling." In the large, generous
curve of his temperament there is room for all life, but not for a
lean or lush statement of life. You may read him in a state of
mellow exasperation, but you cannot deny his ultimate sincerity.
There is no lack of substance in his densely woven patterns, for
patterns there are, though the figure be difficult to piece out. His
route of emerald is elliptical; follow him who dare! A "wingy
mystery." He is all vision. He does not always avoid naked issues.
His thousand and one characters are significantly vital. His is not
"the shadow land of American fiction"; simply his supreme tact of
omission has dispensed with the entire banal apparatus of fiction
as commonly practised. To use a musical example: his prose is like
the complicated score of some latter-day composer, and his art, like
music, is a solvent. He discards lumbering descriptions, antique
melodramatics, set developments and dénouements, mastodonic
structures. The sharp savour of character is omnipresent. His very
pauses are eloquent. He evokes. His harmonic tissue melts into
remoter harmonic perspectives. He composes in every tonality.
Continuity of impression is unfailing. When reading him
sympathetically one recalls the saying of Maurice Barrès: "For an
accomplished spirit there is but one dialogue, that between our two
egos--the momentary ego that we are and the ideal one toward which
we strive." For Jacobeans this interior dialogue, with its
"secondary intention" marches like muted music through the pages of
the latter period. Henry James will always be a touchstone for the
tasteless.



CHAPTER VI

GEORGE SAND

     Thou large-brained woman and large-hearted man, self-called
     George Sand!
                                                --MRS. BROWNING.


I

Who reads George Sand nowadays? was asked at the time of her
centenary (she was born, 1804; died, 1876). Paris responded in
gallant phrases. She was declared one of the glories of French
literature. Nevertheless, we are more interested in the woman, in
her psychology, than in her interminable novels. The reason is
simple; her books were built for her day, not to endure. She never
created a vital character. Her men and women are bundles of
attributes, neither flesh nor blood nor good red melodrama. She was
a wonderful journalist, one is tempted to say the first of her sex,
and the first feminist. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was a shriller
propagandist, yet she accomplished no more for the cause than her
French neighbour, not alone because she didn't smoke big cigars or
wear trousers, but on general principles. In a word, Mrs. Godwin
didn't exactly practise what she preached and George Sand did. For
her there was no talk of getting the vote; her feminism was a
romantic revolt, not economic or political rebellion. George Sand
should be enshrined as the patron saint of female suffragism. By no
means a deep thinker, for she reflected as in a mirror the ideas of
the intellectual men she met, she had an enormous vogue. Her
reputation was worldwide.

We know more about her now, thanks to the three volumes recently
published by Vladimir Karénine (the pen-name of a Russian lady, Mme.
Komaroff, the daughter of Dmitri Stassow). This writer has brought
her imposing work (thus far over 1,700 pages) down to 1848, and, as
much happened in the life of her heroine after that, we may expect
at least two more fat volumes. Her curiosity has been insatiable.
She has read all the historical and critical literature dealing with
Sand. She has at first-hand from friends and relatives facts
hitherto unpublished, and she is armed with a library of documents.
More, she has read and digested the hundred-odd stories of the
fecund writer, and actually analyses their plots, writes at length
of the characters, and incidentally throws light on her own
intellectual processes.

Mme. Karénine is not a broad critic. She is a painstaking
historian. While some tales of Sand are worth reading--The Devil's
Pool, Letters of a Voyager, even Consuelo, above all, her
autobiography--the rest is a burden to the spirit. Her facility
astounds, and also discourages. She confesses that with her writing
was like the turning on of a water-tap, the stream always flowed, a
literary hydrant. Awaken her in the night and she could resume her
task. She was of the centrifugal temperament, hence the resultant
shallowness of her work. She had charm. She had style, serene,
flowing, also tepid and fatuous, the style detested by Charles
Baudelaire, and admired by Turgenev and Renan and Lamennais.
Baudelaire remarked of this "best seller" that she wrote her chefs
d'[oe]uvre as if they were letters, and posted them. The "style
coulant," praised by bourgeois critics, he abhorred, as it lacked
accent, relief, individuality. "She is the Prudhomme of immorality,"
he said--not a bad definition--and "she is stupid, heavy, and a
chatterer." She loves the proletarian, and her sentiment is adapted
to the intelligent wife of the concierge and the sentimental harlot.
Which shows that even such a versatile critic as Baudelaire had his
prejudices. The sweetness and nobility of her nature were recognised
by all her associates.

Nietzsche is no less impolite. She derives from Rousseau--he might
have added Byron, also--she is false, artificial, inflated,
exaggerated; ... her style is of a variegated wall-paper pattern.
She betrays her vulgarity in her ambition to expose her generous
feelings. She is, like all the Romantics, a cold, insufferable
artist. She wound herself up like a timepiece and--wrote. Nietzsche,
like his great master, Schopenhauer, was never a worshipper of the
irresponsible sex. And her immorality? Père Didon said that her
books are more immoral than Zola's, because more insidious, tinted
as they are with false ideas and sentiments. George Sand immoral?
What bathos! How futile her fist-shakings at conventional morality.
As well say Marie Corelli or Ouida is immoral. This literature of
gush and gabble is as dangerous to the morals of our time as the
Ibsen plays or Æsop's fables.

Unreality, cheap socialism, and sentiment of the downtrodden shop
girl are the stigmata of the Sand school. She has written many
memorable pages, many beautiful pages; such masters as Sainte-Beuve,
Balzac, Delacroix, Flaubert, Ballanche, Heine, Dostoievsky, and
Turgenev have told us so. Her idyllic stories are of an indubitable
charm. But her immorality, like her style, is old-fashioned--there
is a dating mark even in immorality, for if, as Ibsen maintained,
all truths stale and die after two decades, how much less life may
be allowed a lie? Your eternal verities, then, may be as evanescent
as last year's mist.

Mme. Karénine does not belong to the School of Moral Rehabilitation,
so prevalent here and in England. She does not spare her subject;
indeed, makes out a worse case than we had supposed. She is not a
prude and, if critically she is given to discovering a masterpiece
under every bush planted by that indefatigable gardener, George
Sand, she is quite aware of George's flagrant behaviour. The list of
lovers is a longer one than given by earlier biographers. Dumas
fils, a close observer of the novelist, asserts that she had no
temperament at all, thus corroborating the earlier testimony of
Heine. This further complicates the problem. She was not, then, a
perverse pursuer of young genius, going about seeking whom she could
devour, and indulging in what Mother Church calls morose
delectation! A "cold devil"--à la Félicien Rops. I doubt this.
Maternal she was. I once described her as a maternal nymphomaniac, a
metaphysical Messalina. She presided at numerous artistic
accouchements; she was, pre-eminently, the critical midwife to many
poets, pianists, painters, composers, and thinkers. If she made some
of them unhappy, she brought into the life of others much happiness.
Matthew Arnold believed in her, so did the Brownings, Elizabeth and
Robert; George Eliot admired her; she, too, was rowing in the same
kind of a moral galley, but with heavier oars and through the
Sargossian seas of British prudery.

In contact with the finest minds of her times, George Sand was
neither a moral monster nor yet the arrant Bohemian that legend has
fashioned of her. She was a fond mother, and a delightful
grandmother. She had the featherbed temperament, and soothed
masculine nerves exacerbated by the cruel exigencies of art. Jules
Laforgue would have said of her: Stability, thy name is Woman! She
died in the odour of domestic sanctity, mourned by her friends, and
the idol of the literary world.

How account for her uprightness of character, her abundant
virtues--save one? She was as true as the compass to her friends, to
her family. Either she has been slandered or else she is an anomaly
in the moral world. In either case we need a new transvaluation of
morals. She was not made of the stuff of courtesans, she refused to
go to the devil. Like Aspasia, she was an immoralist. As an artist
she could have had social position. But she didn't crave it; she
didn't crave notoriety; paradoxical as it may sound, notoriety was
thrust upon her. At Nohant, her château in Berri, there was usually
a conglomeration of queer people: Socialists, reformers, crazy
dreamers, artists, and poets, occasionally working men in their
blouses. Of that mystic crew Matthew Arnold could have repeated his
famous "What a set!" which he despairingly uttered about the
Shelley-Godwin gatherings.


II

George Sand was a normal woman. She preferred the society of men;
with women she was always on her guard, a cat sleeping with one eye
open. Her friendship with Mme. D'Agoult, the elective affinity of
Liszt, soon ended. She never summered in soft Sapphic seas, nor
hankered after poetic Leucadian promontories. She never did
approvingly quote the verse of Baudelaire beginning: "Lo! the
Lesbians their sterile sex advancing." She was a woman from top to
toe. Nor did she indulge often in casual gallant adventures. Her
affairs were romantic. With the author of Carmen her spiritual
thermometer registered at its lowest. She endured him just eight
days, and Mérimée is responsible for the tasteless anecdote which he
tells as his reason for leaving her. He saw her of a cold morning
making the fire, her head in curl-papers, and attired in an old
dressing-gown. No passion could survive that shock, and selfish
Prosper at once grew frigid.

A French expression may suit George: She always had her heart "en
compote." And she was incorrigibly naïve--they called it "Idealism"
in those days--witness her affair with Doctor Pagello in Venice. The
first handsome Italian she met she fell in love with and allowed
poor sick Alfred de Musset to return to Paris alone, although she
had promised his mother to guard him carefully. He was suffering
from an attack of delirium tremens in Venice. He had said of
himself: "I am not tender, I am excessive." He was. His name, unlike
Keats's, is writ in absinthe, not water. Nevertheless, you can
reread him.

But the separation didn't kill him. He was twenty-two, George six
years older. Their affair struggled along about six months. Alfred
consoled himself with Rachel and many others. He was more poet than
artist, more artist than man; and a pretty poor specimen of a man.
He wrote the history of his love for George. She followed suit. This
sphinx of the ink-well was a journalist born. She used her lovers
for "copy"; and for that matter Byron and Goethe did the same.
George always discoursed of her thirst for the "infinite." It was
only a species of moral indigestion. Every romance ended in
disillusionment. The one with Chopin lasted the longest, nearly ten
years. She first met the Pole in 1836, not in 1837, as the
Chopinists believe. Liszt introduced them. Later Chopin quarrelled
with Liszt about her. Chopin did not like her at first; blue
stockings were not to the taste of this conventional man of the
world. Yet he succumbed. He died of the liaison itself, rather than
from the separation in 1847. Sand divined the genius of Chopin
before many of his critical contemporaries. She had the courage--and
the wisdom--to write that one of his Tiny Preludes contained more
genuine music than much of Meyerbeer's mighty Trumpetings. And
Meyerbeer ruled the world of music when she said this.

The immediate cause of this separation I hinted at in my early study
of Chopin. Solange Sand, the daughter of George, was a thoroughly
perverse girl. She not only flirted with Chopin, seeking to lure him
from her mother--truly a Gallic triangle--but she so contrived
matters that her mother was forced to allow the intriguing girl to
marry her lover, Clésinger, the sculptor. The knowledge of this Mme.
Sand kept from Chopin for a while because she feared that he would
side with Solange. He promptly did so, being furious at the
deception. He it was who broke with George, possibly aided thereto
by her nagging. He saw much of Solange, and pecuniarily helped her
young and unhappy household. He announced by letter to George the
news that she was a grandmother; they occasionally corresponded.

Clésinger did not get on with his mother-in-law. She once boxed his
ears. He drank, gambled, and brutally treated Solange. George Sand
suffered the agony of seeing in her daughter's life a duplicate of
her own. Her husband, François-Casimir Dudevant, a debauched country
squire, drank, was unfaithful, and beat her betimes. He treated his
dogs better. No wonder she ran away to Paris, there to live with
Jules Sandeau. (She had married in 1822, and brought her husband
five hundred thousand francs.)

But, rain or shine, joy or sorrow, she did her daily stunt at her
desk. She was a journalist and wrote by the sweat of her copious
soul. She was the rare possessor of the Will-to-Sit-Still, as
metaphysicians would say. She thought with her nerves and felt with
her brain. She was, morally speaking, magnificently disorganised.
She was a subtle mixer of praise and poison, and her autobiography
is stuffed with falsehoods. She couldn't help falsifying facts, for
she was an incurable sentimentalist. Heine has cruelly said that
women writers write with one eye on the paper, the other on some
man; all except the Countess Hahn-Hahn, who had one eye. George Sand
wrote with both eyes fixed on a man, or men. Charity should cover a
multitude of her missteps. In her case we don't know all. We know
too much. Still, I believe she was more sinned against than sinning.


III

Since the fatal day when our earliest ancestors left the Garden of
Eden, when Adam digged and Eve span, there have been a million
things that women were told they shouldn't attempt, that is, not
without the penalty of losing their "womanliness," or interfering
with their family duties. But they continued, did these same
refractory females, to overcome obstacles, leap social hurdles, make
mock of antique taboos, and otherwise disport themselves as if they
were free individuals, and not petticoated with absurd prejudices.
They loved. They married. They became mothers. George Sand was in
the vanguard of this small army of protestants against the
prevailing moral code (for woman only). Her unhappy marriage was a
blazing bonfire of revolt. The misunderstood woman at last had her
innings. Sand stood for all that was wicked and hateful in the eyes
of law and order. Yet, compared with the feminine fiction of our
days, Sand's is positively idyllic. She is one parent of the Woman
movement, unpalatable as her morals may prove to churchgoers. She
acted in life what so many of our belligerent ladies urge others to
do--and never attempt on their own account. George was brave. And
George was polyandrous. If she hadn't much temperament, she had the
courage to throw her bonnet over the windmill when she saw the man
she liked, and if she suffered later, she, being an artist, made a
literary asset of these sufferings. She is the true ancestor of the
New Woman. Her books were considered so immoral by her generation
that to be seen reading them was enough to damn a man. Other males,
other tales.

She dared "to live her own life," as the Ibsenites say, and she was
the original Ibsen girl, proof-before-all-letters. I haven't the
slightest doubt that to-day she would speak to street crowds, urging
the vote for woman. Why shouldn't woman vote? she might be supposed
to argue. There will be less dyspepsia in America when women desert
the kitchen for the halls of legislation. Men, perforce, are better
cooks. So, by all means, let woman vote. Will it not be an acid test
applied to our alleged democratic institutions? George Sand believed
herself to be a social-democrat. She trusted in Pierre Leroux's
mysticism, trusted in the phalanstery of Fourier, in the doctrines
of Saint-Simon, the latter especially because of her intimacy with
Franz Liszt; nevertheless, she might shudder at the emancipation of
ideas in our century, and, as she had a sensitive soul, modern
democracy might prove for her a very delirium of ugliness. She was
always æsthetic. She could portray with a tender pen the stammering
litany of young caresses, but she couldn't face a fact in her
fiction. Her Indianas, Lélias, and the other romantic insurgents
against society are Byronic, Laras in petticoats. All rose-water and
rage, they are as rare in life as black lightning on a blue sky. Her
stories are as sad and as ridiculous as a nightcap.


IV

George Sand was not beautiful. Edouard Grenier declares that she was
short and stout. "Her eyes were wonderful, but a little too close
together." Do you recall Heine's phrase, "Femme avec l'[oe]il
sombre"? Black they were, those eyes, and they reminded Grenier at
once of unpolished marble and velvet. "Her nose was thick and not
overshapely. She spoke with great simplicity and her manner was very
quiet." With these rather negative physical attractions she
conquered men like Napoleon. Even prim President Thiers tried to
kiss her and her indignation was epical. He is said to have giggled
in a silly way when reproved. It seems incredible. (Did you ever see
the Bonnat portrait of this philistine statesman?) Liszt never
wholly yielded to her. Mérimée despised her in his chilly fashion.
Michel de Bourges treated her rudely. Poor Alfred de Musset--who,
when he was short of money, would dine in an obscure tavern, and,
with a toothpick in his mouth, would stand at the entrance of some
fashionable boulevard café--seems to have loved her romantically,
the sort of love she craved. What was her attraction? She had brains
and magnetism, but that she could have loved all the lovers she is
credited with is impossible.

There is, to begin at the beginning, Jules Sandeau, who was followed
by De Musset; after him the deluge: Doctor Pagello--who was jilted
when he followed her to Paris; Michel de Bourges, Pierre Leroux,
Félicien Mallefille, Chopin, Mérimée, Manceau, and the platonic
friendship with Flaubert. This was her sanest friendship; the
correspondence proves it. She went to the Magny dinners with
Flaubert, Goncourt, Renan, Zola, Turgenev, and Daudet. Her influence
on the grumbling giant of Croisset was tonic. It was she who should
have written Sentimental Education. But where is that sly old
voluptuary, Sainte-Beuve, or the elder Dumas (the Pasha of many
tales), or Liszt, who was her adorer for a brief period,
notwithstanding Mme. Karénine's denial? She denies the Leroux
affair, too. Are these all? Who dare say?

Dumas fils carried a bundle of Chopin's letters from Warsaw and Sand
buried them at Nohant. This story, doubted by Doctor Niecks, has
been corroborated since by Mme. Karénine. What a loss for
inquisitive critics! George was named Lucile Aurore Dupin, and she
was descended from a choice chain of rowdy and remotely royal
ancestors. In her mature years she became optimistic, proper,
matronly. She was a cheerful milch cow for her two children. It is
delicious comedy to read the warnings to her son Maurice against
actresses. Solange she gave up as hopelessly selfish, wicked for the
sheer sake of wickedness, a sort of inverted and evil art-for-art.

Nearly all the facts of the quarrel with Solange are to be found in
Samuel Rocheblave's George Sand et Sa Fille. After Solange left
Clésinger she formed a literary partnership with the Marquis
Alfieri, nephew of the great Italian poet. "Soli" opened a salon in
Paris, to which came Gambetta, Jules Ferry, Floquet, Taine, Hervé,
Henry Fouquier, and Weiss, the critic who describes her as having
the "curved Hebraic nose of her mother and hair cold black." She,
too, must write novels. She died at Nohant, her mother's old home,
in 1899. Maurice Sand, her brother, died ten years earlier.

Jules Claretie tells an amusing story about Sand. In 1870, when she
was old and full of honours, she went one day to visit the Minister
of Instruction. There, being detained in the antechamber, she fell
into a pleasant conversation with a well-groomed, decorated old
gentleman. After ten minutes' chat the unknown consulted his watch,
arose, and bowed to Mme. Sand. "If I could always find such a
charming companion I would visit the Ministry often," he gallantly
said, and went away. The novelist called an attendant. "Who is that
amiable gentleman?" she asked. "Ah, that is M. Jules Sandeau of the
French Academy." And he, her first flame in Paris, inquired the name
of the lady. What a lot of head-shaking and moralising must have
ensued! The story is pretty enough to have been written in the
candied thunder of Sand herself.

De Lenz, author of several rather neglected volumes about musicians,
did not like Sand because she was rude to him when introduced by
Chopin. He asked her concierge, "What is Madame properly
called--Dudevant?" "Ah, Monsieur, she has many names," was the
reply. But it is her various names, and not her novels, that
interest us, and will intrigue the attention of posterity.



CHAPTER VII

THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL


I

When the supreme master of the historical novel modestly confessed
that he could do the "big bow-wow strain," but to Jane Austen must
be accorded the palm of exquisite craftsmanship, there was then no
question upon the critical map of the so-called "great American
novel." Sir Walter Scott--to whom such authors of historical novels
as Châteaubriand and his Martyrs, the Salammbô of Flaubert, and that
well-nigh perfect fiction, The History of Henry Esmond, by
Thackeray, yield precedence--might have achieved the impossible: the
writing of a library, epitomising the social history of "These
States"--as Walt Whitman would say. After Scott no name but Balzac's
occurs to the memory; Balzac, who laid all France under his
microscope (and France is all of a piece, not the checker-board of
nationalities we call America). Even the mighty Tolstoy would have
balked the job. And if these giants would have failed, what may be
said of their successors? The idea of a great American novel is an
"absolute," and nature abhors an absolute, despite the belief of
some metaphysicians to the contrary. Yet the notion still obtains
and inquests are held from time to time, and the opinions of
contemporary novelists are taken toll of; as if each man and woman
could give aught else but their own side of the matter, that side
which is rightfully enough personal and provincial. The question is,
after all, an affair for critics, and the great American novel will
be in the plural; thousands perhaps. America is a chord of many
nations, and to find the key-note we must play much and varied
music.

While a novelist may be cosmopolitan at his own risk, a critic
should be ever so. Consider the names of such widely contrasted
critical temperaments as Sainte-Beuve, Taine, De Gourmont, Matthew
Arnold, Brandes, Swinburne, Arthur Symons, Havelock Ellis, Henry
James, Gosse, and W. C. Brownell; all cosmopolitan as well as
national. The sublime tenuities of Henry James, like the black music
of Michael Artzibashef, are questions largely temperamental. But the
Russian is all Slavic, and no one would maintain that Mr. James
shows a like ingrained nationalism. Nevertheless, he is American,
though dealing only with a certain side of American life, the
cosmopolitan phase. At his peril an American novelist sails eastward
to describe the history of his countrymen abroad. With the critic we
come upon a different territory. He may go gadding after new
mud-gods (the newest god invented by man is always the greatest),
for the time being, and return to his native heath mentally
refreshed and broadened by his foreign outing. Not so the maker of
fiction. Once he cuts loose his balloon he is in danger of not
getting home again.

Mr. James is a splendid case for us; he began in America and landed
in England, there to stay. Our other felicitous example of
cosmopolitanism is Henry Blake Fuller, the author of The Chevalier
Pensieri Vani and The Châtelaine de la Trinité, who was so widely
read in the nineties. After those charming excursions into a rapidly
vanishing Europe Mr. Fuller reversed the proceeding of James; he
returned to America and composed two novels of high artistic
significance, The Cliff Dwellers and With the Procession, which,
while they continued the realistic tradition of William Dean
Howells, were also the forerunners of a new movement in America. It
is not necessary to dwell now on The Last Refuge, or on that
masterly book of spiritual parodies, The Puppet-Booth. But Mr.
Fuller did not write the great American novel. Neither did Mr.
Howells, nor Mr. James. Who has? No one. Is there such a thing?
Without existing it might be described in Celtic fashion, this
mythical work, as pure fiction. Let us admit for the sake of
argument that if it were written by some unknown monster of genius,
it would, like Lewis Carroll's Snark, turn into a Boojum.

Henry James has said that no one is compelled to admire any
particular sort of writing; that the province of fiction is all
life, and he has also wisely remarked that "when you have no taste
you have no discretion, which is the conscience of taste," and may
we add, when you have no discretion you perpetrate the shocking
fiction with which America is deluged at this hour. We are told that
the new writers have altered the old canons of bad taste, but "plus
ça change, plus c'est la même chose." A liquorish sentimentality is
the ever-threatening rock upon which the bark of young American
novelists goes to pieces. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.) Be
sentimental and you will succeed! We agree with Dostoievsky that in
fiction, as well as in life, there are no general principles, only
special cases. But these cases, could they not be typical? even if
there are not types, only individuals. And are men and women so
inthralled by the molasses of sentimentalism in life? Have the
motion-pictures hopelessly deranged our critical values? I know that
in America charity covers a multitude of mediocrities, nevertheless,
I am loath to believe that all one reads in praise of wretched
contemporary fiction is meant in earnest.

Well, chacun à ses dégoûts! The "thrilling" detective story, the
romantic sonorities of the ice cream-soda woman novelist?--with a
triple-barrelled name, as Rudyard Kipling put it once upon a
time--or that church of Heavenly Ennui, the historical novel--what
a cemetery of ideas, all of them! An outsider must be puzzle-pated
by this tumult of tasteless writing and worse observation. However,
history in fiction may be a cavalcade of shining shadows, brilliant,
lugubrious, dull, or joyful happenings; but where Thackeray
succeeded multitudes have failed. Who shall bend the bow of that
Ulysses? Native talent, subtle and robust, we possess in abundance;
thus far it has cultivated with success its own parochial
garden--which is as it should be. The United States of Fiction.
America is Cosmopolis.


II

As to the Puritanism of our present novels one may dare to say in
the teeth of youthful protestants that it is non-existent. The
pendulum has swung too far the other way. And as literary artists
are rare, the result has not been reassuring. Zola seems prudish
after some experiments of the younger crowd. How badly they pull off
the trick. How coarse and hard and heavy their touch. Most of these
productions read like stupid translations from a dull French
original. They are not immoral, only vulgar. As old Flaubert used to
say: such books are false, nature is not like that. How keenly he
saw through the humbug of "free love"--a romantic tradition of
George Sand's epoch--may be noted in his comment that Emma Bovary
found in adultery all the platitudes of marriage. Ah! that
much-despised, stupid, venerable institution, marriage! How it has
been flouted since the days of Rousseau--the father of false
romanticism and that stupefying legend, the "equality" of mankind.
(O! the beautiful word, "equality," invented for the delectation of
rudimentary minds.) A century and more fiction has played with the
theme of concubinage. If the Nacquet divorce bill had been
introduced a decade or so before it was in France, what would have
become of the theatre of Dumas fils, or later, of the misunderstood
woman in Ibsen's plays? All such tribal taboos make or unmake
literature.

So, merely as a suggestion to ambitious youngsters, let the novelist
of the future in search of a novelty describe a happy marriage,
children, a husband who doesn't drink or gamble, a wife who votes,
yet loves her home, her family, and knows how to cook. What a
realistic bombshell he would hurl into the camp of sentimental
socialists and them that believe a wedding certificate is like
Balzac's La Peau de Chagrin--a document daily shrinking in
happiness. Absurdities make martyrs, but of all the absurd and
ineffectual martyrdoms that of running off with another's wife is
usually the crowning one. "I don't call this very popular pie," said
the little boy in Richard Grant White's story; and the man in the
case is usually the first to complain of his bargain in pastry.

However, categories are virtually an avowal of mental impuissance,
and all marriages are not made in heaven. In the kingdom of morality
there are many mansions. When too late you may sport with the
shade--not in the shade--of Amaryllis, and perhaps elbow epigrams as
a lean consolation. That is your own affair. Paul Verlaine has told
us that "j'ai vécu énormément," though his living enormously did not
prove that he was happy. Far from it. But he had at least the
courage to relate his terrors. American novelists may agree with
Dostoievsky that "everything in the world always ends in meanness";
or with Doctor Pangloss that all is for the best in the best of
possible worlds. An affair of temperament. But don't mix the values.
Don't confuse intellectual substances. Don't smear a fact with
treacle and call it truth. Above all, don't preach. Impiety is an
indiscretion, yet, don't be afraid to tell the truth. From Jane
Austen and Walter Scott, the parents of the modern English novel, to
many modern instances, fiction has thrived best on naked truth. All
the rest is sawdust, tripe-selling, and sentimentalism. Didn't Mr.
Roundabout declare in one of his famous papers that "Figs are sweet,
but fictions are sweeter"? In our land we can't get the latter sweet
enough. Altruism, Brotherhood of Man Uplifting. These are the
shibboleths of the "nouvelles couches sociales." Prodigious!


III

J.-K. Huysmans declared that in the land of books there are no
schools; no idealism, realism, symbolism; only good writers and bad.
Whistler said the same about painting and painters. Setting aside
the technical viewpoint of such dicta, we fancy that our "best
sellers" do not preoccupy themselves with the "mere writing" of
their fictions, but they have developed a formidable faculty of
preaching. Old-fashioned fiction that discloses personal charm, that
delineates manners, or stirs the pulse of tragedy--not melodrama, is
vanishing from publishers' lists. Are there not as many charming men
and women perambulating the rind of the planet as there were in the
days when Jane Austen, or Howells, or Turgenev wrote? We refuse to
believe there are not; but there is little opportunity, in a word,
no market, for the display of these qualities. The novel with a
purpose, generally an unpleasant purpose, has usurped the rule of
the novel of character and manners. Boanerges, not Balzac, now
occupies the pasteboard pulpit of fiction.

I quoted Henry James to the effect that all life is the province of
the novelist. Nevertheless, the still small garden wherein is reared
the tender solitary flower does but ill represent the vaster,
complicated forest of common humanity. The ivory tower of the
cultivated egoist is not to be unduly admired; rather Zola's La
Terre with its foul facts than a palace of morbid art. Withal, the
didactic side of our fiction is overdone. I set it down to the
humbug about the "masses" being opposed to the "classes." Truly a
false antithesis. As if the French bourgeois were not a product of
the revolution (poor bourgeois, always abused by the novelist). As
if a poor man suddenly enriched didn't prove, as a rule, the hardest
taskmaster to his own class. Consider the new-rich. What a study
they afford the students of manners. A new generation has arisen.
Its taste, intelligence, and culture; its canned manners, canned
music--preferably pseudo-African--canned art, canned food, canned
literature; its devotion to the mediocre--what a field for our
aspiring young "secretaries to society."

Cheap prophylactics, political and religious--for religion is fast
being butchered to make the sensational evangelists' holiday--are in
vogue. They affect our fiction-mongers, who burn to avenge wrongs,
write novels about the "downtrodden masses," and sermons on social
evils--evils that have always existed, always will exist. Like the
knife-grinder, story they have none to tell. Why write fiction, or
what they are pleased to call fiction? Why not join the brave
brigade of agitators and pamphleteers? The lay preachers are
carrying off the sweepstakes. For them Mr. Howells is a
superannuated writer. Would there were more like him in continence
of speech, wholesomeness of judgment, nobility of ideals, and in the
shrewd perception of character.

Fiction, too, is a fine art, though this patent fact has escaped the
juvenile Paul Prys, who are mainly endeavouring to arouse class
against mass. It's an old dodge, this equality theory, as old as
Beelzebub, Lord of Flies. When all fruit fails, welcome envy and
malicious slandering. When you have nothing else to write about,
attack your neighbour, especially if he hath a much-coveted
vineyard. Max Stirner, least understood of social philosophers,
wrote, "Mind your own business," and he forged on the anvil of
experience a mighty leading motive for the conduct of life. But our
busy little penmen don't see in this golden motto a sufficient
sentimental appeal. It doesn't flatter the "masses." Mr. Bryan a few
years ago told us that we were all middle class. What is middle
class? In Carlyle's day it was a "gig-man"; in ours is it the owner
of a "flivver"? But in the case of Snob vs. Mob, Snob always wins.

This twaddle about "democratic art" is the bane of our literature.
There is only good art. Whether it deals with such "democratic"
subjects as L'Assommoir or Germinie Lacerteux, or such "aristocratic"
themes as those of D'Annunzio and Paul Bourget, it is the art
thereof that determines the product. I hold no brief for the
sterile fiction that is enrolled under the banner of "Art for Art."
I go so far as to believe that a novelist with a beautiful style
often allows that style to get in the way of human nature.
Stained-glass windows have their use, but they falsify the daylight.
A decorative style may suit pseudo-mediæval romances, but for
twentieth-century realism it is sadly amiss. Nor is the
arterio-sclerotic school of psychological analysis to be altogether
commended. It has been well-nigh done to death by Stendhal,
Meredith, James, and Bourget; and it is as cold as a star. Flaubert
urged as an objection to writing a novel, proving something that the
other fellow can prove precisely the opposite. In either case
selection plays the rôle.

The chief argument against the novel "with a purpose"--as the jargon
goes--is its lack of validity either as a document or as art. A
novel may be anything, but it must not be polemical. Zola has been,
still is, the evil genius of many talented chaps who "sling ink,"
not to make a genuine book, but to create a sensation. Such writers
lack patience, art, and direction. They always keep one eye on the
box-office. Indeed, the young men and women of the day, who are
squandering upon paper their golden genius, painfully resemble in
their productions the dime novels once published by the lamented
Beadle or the lucubrations in the Saturday weeklies of long ago.
But in those publications there was more virility. The heroes then
were not well-dressed namby-pambies; the villains were villainous;
the detectives detected real crimes, and were not weavers of
metaphysical abstractions like your latter-day miracle-workers of an
impossible Scotland Yard; and the girls were girls, neither
neurasthenic, nor did they outgolf all creation. The "new" novelists
still deal with the same raw material of melodrama. Their handling
of love-episodes has much of the blaring-brass quality of
old-fashioned Italian opera. They loudly twang the strings of sloppy
sentiment, which evoke not music, but mush and moonshine. And these
are our "motion-masters" to-day.


IV

There can be no objection to literature and life coming to grips.
Letters should touch reality. Many a sturdy blow has been struck at
abuses by penmen masquerading behind fiction. No need to summon
examples. As for realism--I deny there are commonplace people. Only
those writers are commonplace that believe in the phrase. It is one
of the paradoxes of art that the commonplace folk of Thackeray,
Flaubert, or Anthony Trollope who delight us between covers would in
life greatly bore us. The ennui is artistically suggested, though
not experienced by the reader. It is the magic of the novelist, his
style and philosophy, that make his creations vital.

Dostoievsky says there are no old women--to be sure he puts the
expression in the mouth of the sensualist Karamazov--and as a
corollary I maintain that nothing is uninteresting if painted by a
master hand, from carrots to Chopin. As for the historical novel,
there is Sentimental Education as a model, if you desire something
epical in scale and charged with the modern ironic spirit. A
Flaubertian masterpiece, this book, with its daylight atmosphere;
the inimitable sound, shape, gait, and varied prose rhythms of its
sentences, its marvellous gallery of portraits executed in the Dutch
manner of Hals and Vermeer, its nearness to its environment, and its
fidelity to the pattern of life. It is a true "historical" novel,
for it is real--to employ the admirable simile of Mr. Howells.

No need to transpose the tragic gloom of Artzibashef to America; we
are an optimistic people, thanks to our air and sky, political
conditions, and the immigration of sturdy peasant folk. Yet we, too,
have our own peculiar gloom and misery and social problems to solve.
We are far from being the "shadow-land" of fiction, as a certain
English critic said. When I praise the dissonantal art of Michael
Artzibashef it is not with the idea that either his style or his
pessimism should be aped. That way unoriginality lies. But I do
contend that in the practice of his art, its sincerity, its
profundity, he might be profitably patterned after by the younger
generation. Art should elevate as well as amuse. Must fiction always
be silly and shallow? It need be neither sordid nor didactic.

William James put the matter in a nutshell when he wrote that "the
whole atmosphere of present-day Utopian literature tastes mawkish
and dish-watery to people who still keep a sense of life's more
bitter flavours." And on this fundamentally sound note I must end my
little sermon--for I find that I have been practising the very
preaching against which I warned embryo novelists. But, then, isn't
every critic a lay preacher?



CHAPTER VIII

THE CASE OF PAUL CÉZANNE


The case of painter Paul Cézanne. Is he a stupendous nobody or a
surpassing genius? The critical doctors disagree, an excellent omen
for the reputation of the man from Provence. We do not discuss a
corpse, and though Cézanne died in 1906 he is still a living issue
among artists and writers. Every exhibition calls forth comment:
fair, unfair, ignorant, and seldom just. Yet the Cézanne question,
is it so difficult to resolve? Like Brahms, the Frenchman is often
misrepresented; Brahms, known now as a Romantic writing within the
walls of accepted forms, neither a pedant nor a revolutionist;
Cézanne, not a revolutionist, not an innovator, vastly interested in
certain problems, has been made "chef d'école" and fathered with a
lot of theories which would send him into one of his famous rages if
he could hear them. Either a revolutionist or a plagiarist! cried
Paul Gauguin--whose work was heartily detested by Cézanne; but truth
is ever mediocre, whether it resides at the bottom of a well or
swings on the cusps of the new moon. What is the truth about
Cézanne? The question bobs up every season. His so-called followers
raise a clamour over the banality of "representation" in art, and
their master is the one man in the history of art who squandered on
canvas startling evocations of actuality, whose nose was closest to
the soil. Huysmans was called an "eye" by Remy de Gourmont. Paul
Cézanne is also an eye.

In 1901 I saw at the Champs de Mars Salon a picture by Maurice Denis
entitled Hommage à Cézanne, the idea of which was manifestly
inspired by Manet's Hommage à Fantin-Latour. The canvas depicted a
still life by Cézanne on a chevalet and surrounded by Bonnard,
Denis, Redon, Roussel, Serusier, Vuillard, Mellerio, and Vollard.
Himself (as they say in Irish) is shown standing and apparently
unhappy, embarrassed. Then came the brusque apotheosis of 1904 at
the Autumn Salon, the most revelatory of his unique gift thus far
made. Puvis de Chavannes had a special Salle, so had Eugène
Carrière; Cézanne held the place of honour. The critical press was
hostile or half-hearted. Poor Cézanne, with his naïve vanity, seemed
dazzled by the uproarious championship of "les jeunes," and, to give
him credit for a peasant-like astuteness, he was rather suspicious
and always on his guard. He stolidly accepted the frantic homage of
the youngsters, looking all the while like a bourgeois Buddha. In
The Sun of 1901, 1904, and 1906 (the latter the year of his death)
appeared my articles on Cézanne, among the first, if not the first,
that were printed in this country. Since then he has been hoisted to
the stars by his admirers, and with him have mounted his prices. Why
not? When juxtaposed with most painters his pictures make the others
look like linoleum or papier-mâché.

He did not occupy himself, as did Manet, with the manners, ideas,
and aspects of his generation. In the classic retort of Manet he
could have replied to those who taunted him with not "finishing" his
pictures: "Sir, I am not a historical painter." Nor need we be
disconcerted, in any estimate of him, by the depressing snobbery of
collectors who don't know B from a bull's foot, but who go off at
half-trigger when a hint is dropped about the possibilities of a
painter appreciating in a pecuniary sense. Cézanne is the painting
idol of the hour, as were Manet and Monet a decade ago. These
fluctuations must not distract us, because Cabanel, Bouguereau and
Henner, too, were idolised once upon a time, and served to make a
millionaire's holiday by hanging in his marble bathroom. It is the
undeniable truth that Cézanne has become a tower of strength in the
eyes of the younger generation of artists which intrigues critical
fancy. Sincerity is strength; Cézanne is sincere to the core; but
even stark sincerity does not necessarily imply the putting forth of
masterpieces. Before he attained his original, synthetic power he
patiently studied Delacroix, Courbet, and several others. He
achieved at times the foundational structure of Courbet, but his
pictures, so say his enemies, are sans composition, sans linear
pattern, sans personal charm. But "Popularity is for dolls," cried
Emerson.

Cézanne's was a twilight soul. And a humourless one. His early
modelling in paint was quasi-structural. Always the architectural
sense, though his rhythms are elliptical at times and he betrays a
predilection for the asymmetrical. Nevertheless, a man who has given
to an art in two dimensions the illusion of a third; tactile values
are here raised to the _n_th degree. His colour is personal and
rhythmic. Huysmans was clairvoyant when, nearly a half-century ago,
he spoke of Cézanne's work as containing the prodromes of a new art.
He was absorbed in the handling of his material, not in the lyric,
dramatic, anecdotic, or rhetorical elements. His portraits are vital
and charged with character. And he often thinks profoundly on
unimportant matters.

When you are young your foreground is huddled: it is the desire for
more space that begets revolutionists; not unlike a big man elbowing
his way in a crowd. Laudable then are all these sporadic outbursts;
and while a creative talent may remain provincial, even parochial,
as was the case with Cézanne, a critic must be cosmopolitan or
nothing. An artist may stay rooted in his own bailiwick his life
long, yet paint like an angel; but a provincial critic is a
contradiction in terms. He reminds one of a razor so dull that it
can't cut butter. Let us therefore be hospitable to new ideas; even
Cabanel has his good points.

The tang of the town is not in Cézanne's portraits of places. His
leaden landscapes do not arouse to spontaneous activity a jaded
retina fed on Fortuny, Monticelli, or Monet. As for the groups of
bathing women, how they must wound the sensibility of George Moore,
Professor of Energy at the University of Erotica. There is no sex
appeal. Merely women in their natural pelt. It is related of the
Empress Eugénie that in front of Courbet's Les Baigneuses (Salon,
1853) she asked: "Est-ce aussi une percheronne?" Of the
heavy-flanked Percheron breed of horse are the ladies on the
canvases of Cézanne. The remark of the Empress appealed to the
truculent vanity of Courbet. It might not have pleased Cézanne. With
beauty, academic or operatic, he had no traffic. If you don't care
for his graceless nudes you may console yourself that there is no
disputing tastes--with the tasteless. They are uglier than the
females of Degas, and twice as truthful.

We have seen some of his still-life pieces so acid in tonal quality
as to suggest that divine dissonance produced on the palate by a
slightly stale oyster, or akin to the rancid note of an oboe in a
score by Stravinski. But what thrice-subtle sonorities, what colour
chords are in his best work. I once wrote in the Promenades of an
Impressionist that his fruits and vegetables savour of the earth.
Chardin interprets still-life with realistic beauty; when he painted
an onion it revealed a certain grace. Vollon would have dramatised
it. When Cézanne painted one you smelt it. A feeble witticism, to be
sure, but it registered the reaction on the sounding-board of my
sensibility.

The supreme technical qualities in Cézanne are volume,
ponderability, and an entrancing colour scheme. What's the use of
asking whether he is a "sound" draughtsman? He is a master of edges
and a magician of tonalities. Huysmans spoke of his defective
eyesight; but disease boasts its discoveries, as well as health. The
abnormal vision of Cézanne gave him glimpses of a "reality" denied
to other painters. He advised Emile Bernard to look for the
contrasts and correspondences of tones. He practised what he
preached. No painter was so little affected by personal moods, by
those variations of temperament dear to the artist. Had Cézanne the
"temperament" that he was always talking about? If so it was not
decorative in the accepted sense. An unwearying experimenter, he
seldom "finished" a picture. His morose landscapes were usually
painted from one scene near his home at Aix. I visited the spot. The
pictures do not resemble it; which simply means that Cézanne had the
vision and I had not. A few themes with polyphonic variations
filled his simple life. Art submerged by the apparatus. And he had
the centripetal, not the centrifugal temperament.

In his rigid, intense ignorance there was no room for climate,
personal charm, not even for sunshine. Think of the blazing blue sky
and sun of Provence; the romantic, semitropical riot of its
vegetation, its gamuts of green and scarlet, and search for this
mellow richness and misty golden air in the pictures of our master.
You won't find them, though a mystic light permeates the entire
series. The sallow-sublime. He did not paint portraits of Provence,
as did Daudet in Numa Roumestan, or Bizet in L'Arlésienne. He sought
for profounder meanings. The superficial, the facile, the staccato,
and the brilliant repelled him. Not that he was an "abstract"
painter--as the jargon goes. He was eminently concrete. He plays a
legitimate trompe-l'[oe]il on the optic nerve. His is not a
pictorial illustration of Provence, but the slow, patient
delineation by a geologist of art of a certain hill on old Mother
Earth, shamelessly exposing her bare torso, bald rocky pate, and
gravelled feet. The illusion is not to be escaped. As drab as the
orchestration of Brahms, and as austere in linear economy; and as
analytical as Stendhal or Ibsen, Cézanne never becomes truly lyrical
except in his still-life. Upon an apple he lavishes his palette of
smothered jewels. And, as all things are relative, an onion for him
is as beautiful as a naked woman. And he possesses a positive
genius for the tasteless.

The chiefest misconception of Cézanne is that of the theoretical
fanatics who not only proclaim him their chief of school, which may
be true, but also declare him to be the greatest painter that ever
wielded a brush since the Byzantines. The nervous, shrinking man I
saw at Paris would have been astounded at some of the things printed
since his death; while he yearned for the publicity of the official
Salon (as did Zola for a seat in the Academy) he disliked notoriety.
He loved work; above all, solitude. He took with him a fresh batch
of canvases every morning and trudged to his pet landscapes, the
Motive he called it, and it was there that he slaved away with
technical heroism, though he didn't kill himself with his labours as
some of his fervent disciples have asserted. He died of unromantic
diabetes. When I first saw him he was a queer, sardonic old
gentleman in ill-fitting clothes, with the shrewd, suspicious gaze
of a provincial notary, A rare impersonality, I should say.

There is a lot of inutile talk about "significant form" by
propagandists of the New Æsthetic. As if form had not always been
significant. No one can deny Cézanne's preoccupation with form; nor
Courbet's either. Consider the Ornans landscapes, with their sombre
flux of forest, by the crassest realist among French painters (he
seems hopelessly romantic to our sharper and more petulant modern
mode of envisaging the world); there is "significant form," and a
solid structural sense. But Cézanne quite o'ercrows Courbet in his
feeling for the massive. Sometimes you can't see the ribs because of
the skeleton.

Goethe has told us that because of his limitations we may recognise
a master. The limitations of Paul Cézanne are patent to all. He is a
profound investigator, and if he did not deem it wise to stray far
from the territory he called his own then we should not complain,
for therein he was monarch of all he surveyed. His non-conformism
defines his genius. Imagine reversing musical history and finding
Johann Sebastian Bach following Richard Strauss! The idea seems
monstrous. Yet this, figuratively speaking, constitutes the case of
Cézanne. He arrived after the classic, romantic, impressionistic,
symbolic schools. He is a primitive, not made, like Puvis, but one
born to a crabbed simplicity. His veiled, cool harmonies sometimes
recall the throb of a deep-bass organ-pipe. Oppositional splendour
is there, and the stained radiance of a Bachian chorale. The music
flows as if from a secret spring.

What poet asked: "When we drive out from the cloud of steam
majestical white horses, are we greater than the first men, who led
black ones by the mane?" Why can't we be truly catholic in our
taste? The heaven of art contains many mansions, and the rainbow
more colours than one. Paul Cézanne will be remembered as a painter
who respected his material, and as a painter, pure and complex. No
man who wields a brush need wish a more enduring epitaph.



CHAPTER IX

BRAHMSODY


After Wagner the deluge? No, Johannes Brahms. Wagner, the high
priest of the music-drama; a great scene-painter in tones. Brahms, a
wrestler with the Dwellers on the Threshold of the Infinite; a
musical philosopher, but ever a poet. "Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms,"
cried Von Bülow; but he forgot Schumann. The molten tide of passion
and extravagance that swept over intellectual Europe threescore
years ago bore on its foaming crest Robert Schumann. He was first
cousin to the prince of romancists, Heinrich Heine; Heine, who
dipped his pen in honey and gall and sneered and wept in the same
couplet. In the tangled, rich underwood of Schumann the young Brahms
wandered. There he heard the moon sing silvery, and the leaves
rustle rhythms to the heart-beats of lovers. All German romance,
fantasy, passion was in Schumann, the Schumann of the Papillons and
the Carneval. Brahms walked as did Dante, with the Shades. Bach
guided his footsteps; Beethoven bade him glance aloft at the stars.
And Brahms had for his legacy polyphony, form, and masterful
harmonies. In his music the formulist finds perfect things.
Structurally he is as great as Beethoven, perhaps greater. His
architectonic is superb. His melodic content is his own as he
strides in stately pomp in the fugued Alexandrines of Bach. Brahms
and Browning. Brahms and Freedom. Brahms and Now.

The romantic infant of 1832 died of intellectual anæmia, leaving the
world as a legacy one of the most marvellous groupings of genius
since Athens's sky carolled azure glances to Pericles. Then came the
revolution of 1848, and later a race of sewermen sprang up from the
mud. Flaubert, his face turned to the past, his feet to the future,
gazed sorrowfully at Carthage and wrote an epic of the bourgeois.
Zola and his gang delved into moral cesspools, and the world grew
aweary of the malodor. Chopin and Schumann, faint, fading flowers of
romanticism, were put in albums where their purple harmonies and
subtle sayings are pressed into sweet twilight forgetfulness. Even
Berlioz, whose orchestral ozone revivified the scores of Wagner and
Liszt; even mad Hector, with the flaming locks, sounded garishly
empty, brilliantly superficial. The New Man had arrived. A short,
stocky youth played his sonata in C, his Opus I, for Liszt, and the
Magyar of Weimar returned the compliment by singing in archangelic
tones his own fantasy in B minor, which he fondly and futilely
believed a sonata. Brahms fell asleep, and Liszt was enraged. But
how symbolical of Brahms to fall asleep at the very onset of his
career, fall asleep before Liszt's music. It is the new wearied of
the old, the young fatigued by the garrulities of age. It is sad. It
is wonderful. Brahms is of to-day. He is the scientist turned
philosopher, the philosopher turned musician. If he were not a great
composer he would be a great biologist, a great metaphysician. There
are passages in his music in which I detect the philosopher in
omphalic meditation.

Brahms dreams of pure white staircases that scale the Infinite. A
dazzling, dry light floods his mind, and you hear the rustling of
wings--wings of great, terrifying monsters; hippogriffs of horrid
mien; hieroglyphic faces, faces with stony stare, menace your
imagination. He can bring down within the compass of the octave
moods that are outside the pale of mortals. He is a magician,
spectral at times, yet his songs have the homely lyric fervour and
concision of Robert Burns. A groper after the untoward, shudders at
certain bars in his F sharp minor sonata and weeps with the moonlit
tranquillity in the slow movement of the F minor sonata. He is often
dull, muddy-pated, obscure, and maddeningly slow. Then a rift of
lovely music wells out of the mist; you are enchanted and cry:
"Brahms, master, anoint again with thy precious melodic chrism our
thirsty eyelids!"

Brahms is an inexorable formulist. His four symphonies, his three
piano sonatas, the choral works and chamber music--are they not all
living testimony to his admirable management of masses? He is not a
great colourist. For him the pigments of Makart, Wagner, and
Théophile Gautier are as naught. Like Puvis de Chavannes, he is a
Primitive. Simple, flat tints, primary and cool, are superimposed
upon rhythmic versatility and strenuousness of thought. Ideas,
noble, profundity-embracing ideas he has. He says great things in a
great manner, but it is not the smart, epigrammatic, scarlet,
flashing style of your little man. He disdains racial allusions. He
is German, but a planetary Teuton. You seek in vain for the
geographical hints, hintings that chain Grieg to the map of Norway.
Brahms's melodies are world-typical, not cabined and confined to his
native Hamburg. This largeness of utterance, lack of polish, and a
disregard for the politesse of his art do not endear him to the
unthinking. Yet, what a master miniaturist he is in his little piano
pieces, his Intermezzi. There he catches the tender sigh of
childhood or the intimate flutterings of the heart stirred by
desire. Feminine he is as no woman composer; and virile as are few
men. The sinister fury, the mocking, drastic fury of his first
rhapsodies--true soul-tragedies--how they unearthed the core of
pessimism in our age. Pessimist? Yes, but yet believer; a believer
in himself, thus a believer in men and women.

He reminds me more of Browning than does Schumann. The full-pulsed
humanity, the dramatic--yes, Brahms is dramatic, not theatric--modes
of analysis, the flow, glow, and relentless tracking to their
ultimate lair of motives is Browning; but the composer never loses
his grip on the actualities of structure. After Chopin, Brahms? He
gives us a cooling, deep draught in exchange for the sugared
wormwood, the sweet, exasperated poison of the Polish charmer. A
great sea is his music, and it sings about the base of that mighty
mount we call Beethoven. Brahms takes us to subterrane depths;
Beethoven is for the heights. Strong lungs are needed for the
company of both giants.

Brahms, the surgeon whose scalpel pierces the aches of modern
soul-maladies. Bard and healer. Beethoven and Brahms.



CHAPTER X

THE OPINIONS OF J.-K. HUYSMANS


A monument should be erected to the memory of the inventor of
playing-cards because he did something toward suppressing the free
exchange of human imbecility! The Frenchman Huysmans, who wrote this
charming sentiment, was not necessarily companionable. He was the
most unpleasant among the world's great writers; for as a great
master of prose he ranks high in the literature of his country. His
detestation of the mediocre became a tormenting fixed idea. Like
Flaubert, a neurotic, his digestive organs in a dyspeptic condition,
Huysmans pursued the disagreeable with the ardour of a sportsman
tracking game. Why precisely such subjects appealed to him must be
left to the truffle-hunters of degeneration. Swift is in the same
class, but Swift enjoyed scarifying his Yahoos. Huysmans did not.
Nor for that matter did Flaubert. The De Goncourts have told us in
their copious confidences the agony they endured when digging for
documents. Germinie Lacerteux was painful travail, not alone because
of the tortuous style it demanded, but also because of the author's
natural repugnance to such vulgar material. They were aristocrats.
Huysmans came of a solid bourgeois family; Dutch on the paternal
side, his father hailed from Breda, and Parisian on the distaff.
Therefore he might have described his modest surroundings with less
acerbity than the irritable De Goncourts. Such was not the case. He
loathed his themes. He was unhappy while developing them. Perhaps
the clairvoyance of hatred, which may be a powerful incentive,
forced his pen to the task. But the fact remains that, art and
religion aside, Huysmans did not love what he transposed from life
to his marvellously written pages. His was a veritable Æsthetic of
the Ugly and Hateful. Yet he possessed a nature sensitive to the
pathological point. And, like Schopenhauer, he masked this undue
sensibility with a repelling misanthropy.

In a study of him by his disciple, Gustave Coquiot, Le Vrai J.-K.
Huysmans, with an etched portrait by Raffaelli, we are shown some
intimate characteristics. Huysmans never beat about the social
ambush, but freely expressed his opinions concerning contemporaries;
indeed, a phrase of the Goncourts might have been his, "Je vomis mes
contemporains." He has been called an "exasperated Goncourt," which
is putting it mildly. However, it must not be supposed that he was a
roaring egoist, hitting out blindly. He seems, according to the
account of Coquiot and Remy de Gourmont, to have been an unassuming
and industrious functionary in the Ministry of the Interior, and
even when aroused not so truculent as sarcastic. The Dutch and
Flemish base to his temperament endowed him with considerable
phlegm; he was never demonstrative, disliked effusiveness in life
and literature, and only in his ironical speech lurked the distilled
bitterness of his prejudices. He had many. Yet, fearful of a
literary career, with its poverty and disillusionments, he endured
the ennui and fatigues of thirty-two years of office work, and, a
model clerk, he was decorated when he left his bureau in the
Ministry. That is, decorated for his zeal and punctuality, not for
his books. Numberless are the jokes made about the Legion of Honour,
yet none contain such subacid irony as this one. Huysmans the
irascible among decorated philistines!

"Perhaps it is only a stupid book that some one has mentioned, or a
stupid woman; as he speaks the book looms up before one, becomes
monstrous in its dulness, a masterpiece and a miracle of imbecility;
the unimportant little woman grows into a slow horror before your
eyes. It is always the unpleasant aspect of things that he seizes,
but the intensity of his revolt from that unpleasantness brings a
touch of the sublime into the very expression of his disgust. Every
sentence is an epigram, and every epigram slaughters a reputation or
an idea. He speaks with an accent as of pained surprise, and amused
look of contempt, so profound that it becomes almost pity, for
human imbecility." This tiny etched portrait is by Mr. Arthur
Symons, who practically introduced Huysmans to English-speaking
letters.

Pitiless he was, as pitiless to himself as to others. Yet Coquiot
found him entertaining betimes, while De Gourmont scoffs at his
tales of stomachic woe. Huysmans, he says, ate heartily in the very
restaurants he so viciously abuses throughout that Iliad of
indigestion, A Vau-l'Eau. He was the M. Folantin, the unheroic hero;
as he was the unpatriotic hero of The Knapsack--published in Zola's
collection, Les Soirées de Medan. In all his books he figures. Jules
Lemaître describes them collectively as: a young man with the
dysentery; a young man who disliked single blessedness--the critic
used a stronger expression; a man who couldn't get a beefsteak in
Paris cooked as he wanted it, and a man who liked to read the chaste
chronicle of Gilles de Rais, otherwise known as the sadistic
Bluebeard--these comprise the characters of Huysmans. After his
conversion he made amends, though he was always the atrabilious
faultfinder.

No matter. One of the most notable of art critics in a city
abundantly supplied with criticism was this same Huysmans. His
critical achievement may outlive his fiction and his religious
confessions. He preferred Certains to his other books. It is written
in his most astounding and captivating style. The portraits of
certain artists in this unique volume recite the history of the
critic's acuity and clairvoyance. He first announced Edgar Degas as
the "greatest artist we possess to-day in France." He discovered
Odilon Redon, Raffaelli, Forain, and wrote of Gustave Moreau in
enamelled prose. Whistler, Chéret, Pissarro, Gauguin were praised by
him before they had attracted the pontifical disdain of academic
criticism. To Rops he consecrated some extraordinary pages, for
Huysmans was a verbal virtuoso superior to any of the artists he
praised and later he cynically confessed to Coquiot that he didn't
highly estimate the Belgian etcher, but found in him excellent
pasture for his own picture-making pen. In a word, the erotic Rops
attracted him more than Rops the every-day craftsman, and rightly
enough. With the Japanese this erotic side of Rops is only for the
connoisseur.

Huysmans said some just things of Whistler, and he was the first
critic to salute the rising star of Paul Cézanne, who, he asserts,
contributed more to the impressionist movement than Manet; and one
who also discovered the prodromes of a new art. (This was as early
as 1877.) He found the Cézanne still-life brutally real; above all,
a preoccupation with forms and "edges," that betrayed this painter's
tendency toward a novel synthesis. But according to Coquiot,
Huysmans saw through the hole in the Cézanne millstone. The
Provençal was a rusé, an intrigant, and a money-grubber in his old
age, and proved his plebeian ancestry. His father began barber,
ended banker, shaved faces as well as notes, bled his clientèle in
both professions.

American collectors of art Huysmans treated as brigands. In the
matter of the classical painters and sculptors he manifested himself
intransigent. He adored the Flemish primitives, the School of
Cologne and a few of the Italian primitives, but with the exception
of Fra Angelico found their types detestingly androgynous. (He
employed a more pungent term.) In the Low Countries are the true
primitives, he declared, as the only mysticism is that of John of
the Cross and Saint Teresa. Matthias Grünewald's Crucifixion is his
idol. Huysmans's opinion of Puvis de Chavannes in Certains is
stimulating though inconclusive. For him Puvis tries to dance a
rigaudon at a Requiem mass! But as a descendant of Cornelis
Huysmans, the Parisian sees with almost an abnormal vision, and in
prose paints like a veritable Fleming. Little wonder De Gourmont
called him an "eye." His prose is addressed to the eye, rather than
to the ear. Sumptuous in colouring, its rhythmic movement is
pompous, its tone hieratic; and he so manipulated it that it was a
perfect medium to depict the Paris of his time.

Huysmans did not think too highly of his brothers under the same
literary yoke. His opinions are concise. Coquiot prints them.
Despite his affiliations with Zola and the naturalistic group,
Huysmans soon tired of his chief, tired of his theories, his crude
notions of art and life. He definitely broke away from him in his
famous preface to Là Bas. And it should not be forgotten that he was
the first to celebrate in fiction, if celebration it may be called,
the prostitute of modern Paris. Marthe appeared a year earlier than
either Nana or La Fille Elise, the latter by Edmond de Goncourt. But
he sickened of the sewer fiction only to dive deeper in the mediæval
vileness of Là Bas. He met Goncourt through the offices of Léon
Cladel, a writer little known to our generation. Huysmans was a
friend in need to Villiers de l'Isle Adam, and frequented the
eccentric company of Barbey d'Aurévilly, in whose apartment he said
that Paul Bourget was apt to pop out of a closet or a cloak. He did
not care for that "Cherubin of the Duchesses of the Faubourg
Saint-Antoine."

Of Corneille, Racine, Molière, Dante, Schiller, and Goethe he spoke
with ill-concealed contempt. Raseurs, all these "solemn pontiffs."
His major detestation was Voltaire. Balzac, the prodigious novelist,
left him unstirred. "Not an artistic epithet" in his edition, fifty
volumes long, and not a novelist easy to reread. Théophile Gautier
did not attract him; he found the impeccable master cold and
diluted; so many pages published to say nothing! Huysmans believed
in "saying something," and for him it usually meant something
disagreeable, or else contrary to accepted belief. He hated the
theatre and his opinions of Scribe, Augier, Dumas fils, Sardou,
Feuillet, and of the "old pedant" Sarcey, are savage. He had no
feeling for the footlights, and not possessing much imagination and
deficient in what are called "general ideas" (that is, the
stereotyped commonplaces of journalism and tenth-rate "thinkers"),
he revolted at the lean or hysterical stuff manufactured by
dramatists; plays that are neither life nor literature, nor even
theatrical.

Baudelaire, the profoundest of soul-explorers in the poetical
Parnassus of that period, appealed to Huysmans. He admired, as
well he might, Flaubert, but found his company intolerable. That
giant from Normandy was too healthy for the slender overwrought
Parisian. He had, so said Huysmans, the manners of a traveling
salesman--Balzac's Gaudissart--and would play his own Homais, being
addicted to punning and disconcerting joking. Poor Flaubert! Poorer
Huysmans! Such sensibility as his must have been a daily torture.
Victor Hugo was "an incomparable trumpet, an epic of the garde
nationale."

From Edmond de Goncourt with his condescending airs of "un vieux
maître," he escaped by flight; and Turgenev, most amiable of great
men, was a tedious Russian, "a spigot of tepid water always
flowing." If Verlaine had been penned up in hospital or prison it
would have been for the greater glory of French poetry. Jules
Laforgue, "Quelle joie!" Remy de Gourmont: "I wrote a preface to one
of his books" (Le Latin mystique). "That says enough." Marcel
Provost: "Le jeune premier des romans de Georges Ohnet," which isn't
bad. He rather evades a definite judgment of Anatole France: "Il s'y
connaît, le gaillard; mais ce qu'il se défile!" The style and
thought of these two remarkable artists is antipodal. He calls
Maurice Barrès "Lord Beaconsfield," a high compliment to that
exquisite writer's political attainments. He sums up Ferdinand
Brunetière as "constipé," a sound definition of a shrewd,
unsympathetic critic. Naturally women writers, "little geese," are
not spared by this waspish misogynist, whose intense, pessimistic
vision deformed ideas as well as objects.

In A Rebours there is the account of a trip to London by the anæmic
hero, Des Esseintes. He gets no further than one of the English
taverns opposite the Gare Saint-Lazare. It is risible, this episode;
Huysmans could display verve and a sort of grim humour when he
wished. Brunetière, who was serious to solemnity, and lacked a funny
bone, declared that Huysmans borrowed the incident from a popular
vaudeville, Le Voyage à Dieppe, by Fulgence and Wafflard. He need
not have gone so far afield, for in the life of Baudelaire by the
Crépets (Eugène and Jacques) there is the genesis of the story. To
become better acquainted with English speech and manners, Baudelaire
frequented an English tavern in the Rue de Rivoli, where he drank
whisky, read _Punch_, and also sought the company of English grooms
in the Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Huysmans loved Baudelaire as much as
Brunetière detested him. There is no doubt he knew this thoroughly
Baudelairian anecdote. A perverse comet in the firmament of French
literature, Joris-Karl Huysmans will always be more admired than
loved.



CHAPTER XI

STYLE AND RHYTHM IN ENGLISH PROSE


I

Stylists in prose are privileged persons. They may write nonsense
and escape the castigation of prudish pedants; or, dealing with
cryptic subjects, they can win the favour of the unthinking;
witness, in the brain-carpentry of metaphysics, say, the verbal
man[oe]uvres of three such lucid though disparate thinkers as
Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and William James. The names of these three
writers are adduced as evidence that it is not necessary to be foggy
of style even when dealing with abstract ideas. And Germany has long
been the Nibelheim of philosophy; need we mention Hegel, whose
commentators have made his meanings thrice-confounded? Style in
literature is an antiseptic. It may embalm foolish flies in its
amber, and it is a brevet of immortality--that is, as immortality
goes; a brief thing, but a man's boast. When the shoeblack part of
the affair is over and done with, the grammar, which was made for
schoolmarms in male garb, and the shining rhetoric, what remains?
The answer is eternal: Style cannot be taught. A good style is
direct, plain, and simple. The writer's keyboard is that humble
camel the dictionary. Style, being concerned with the process of
movement, has nothing to do with results, says one authority. And an
impertinent collusion on the part of the writer with his own
individuality does not always constitute style; for individual
opinion is virtually private opinion, notwithstanding its appearance
in editions half a hundred long; Sainte-Beuve and De Quincey here
occur to the memory. Men change; mankind never.

Too close imitation of the masters has its dangers for the novice.
Apes and peacocks beset the way. Stevenson's prose style is highly
synthesised and a mosaic of dead men's manner. He has no esoteric
message beyond the expression of his sprite-like, whimsical
personality, and this expression is, in the main, consummate. The
lion in his pathway is the thinness of his intellectual processes;
as in De Quincey's case, a master of the English language beyond
compare, who in the region of pure speculation often goes sadly
limping; his criticism of Kant proves it. But a music-maker in our
written speech, Robert Louis Stevenson is the supreme mocking-bird
in English literature. He overplayed the sedulous imitator. John Jay
Chapman in a brilliant essay has traced the progress of this prose
pilgrim, a professional stylist as well as a professional invalid.
The American critic registers the variations in style and
sensibility of the Scotsman, who did not always demonstrate in his
writing the fundamental idea that the sole exponent of sensibility
is analytic power. He drew freely on all his predecessors, and his
personal charm exhibits the "glue of unanimity," as old Boëthius
would say. Mr. Chapman quotes a passage supposedly from Sir Thomas
Browne, beginning, "Time sadly overcometh all things," which is not
to be found in his collected writings. Yet it is apropos because,
like Stevenson's prose, it is from the crucible of an alchemist,
though at the time Mr. Chapman quoted it was not known to be a
clever Liverpudlian forgery. Since then, after considerable
controversy, the paragraph in question has been shown as the
fabrication of a Liverpool man of letters, whose name we have
forgotten. But it suggests, does this false Browne, that good prose
may be successfully simulated, though essentials be missing.

If style cannot be imparted, what, then, is the next best thing to
do, after a close study of the masters? We should say, go in a
chastened mood to the nearest newspaper office and apply for a
humble position on its staff. Then one will come to grips with life,
the pacemaker of style. There is a lot of pompous advice emitted by
the college professor--the Eternal Sophomore--about fleeing
"journalese"; whereas it is in the daily press, whether New York,
Paris, Vienna, or London, that one may find the soundest, most
succinct prose, prose stripped of superfluous ornament, prose bare
to the bone, and in fighting trim. But not elevated prose,
"numerous" prose, as Quintilian hath it. For the supreme harmony of
English prose we must go to the Bible (the Authorised, not the
Revised, the latter manufactured by "the persons called revisers,"
as George Saintsbury bluntly describes them); to Shakespeare, Jeremy
Taylor, Sir Thomas Browne, Walter Raleigh, Milton, De Quincey,
Ruskin, Swinburne, Cardinal Newman, Pater, and Arthur Symons. And
not forgetting the sweet intimacy of Charles Lamb, the sly charm of
Max Beerbohm, or the harmonious and imaginative prose of W. H.
Hudson, whose Green Mansions recalls the Châteaubriand of Atala,
without its hateful note of morbid egotism.

Nor are the exponents of the grand manner, of an ornate style, to be
patterned after. If elevation of theme is not present, then the
peril of "fine writing" is scarcely to be avoided. Better follow
such writers as Bacon, Bunyan, Hobbes, Swift in preference. Or the
Augustan group, Dryden, Addison, Shaftesbury, and Temple. But Doctor
Johnson, Burke and Gibbon are not models for the beginner, any more
than the orotund prose of Bossuet, the musical utterance of
Châteaubriand, or the dramatic prose of Hugo are safe models for
French students. The rich continence of Flaubert, the stippled
concision of Mérimée or the dry-sherry wit of Voltaire are surer
guides. And the urbane ease and flowing rhythms of Thackeray are
preferable to the baphometic verbal baptisms of Carlyle the
Boanerges.

Yet what sweet temptations are to be found in the golden age of
English prose, beginning with the evocation of Sir Walter Raleigh,
"O eloquent, just, and mighty death; whom none could advise, thou
hast persuaded"; surely not far beneath the magnificent prose of the
sixtieth chapter of Isaiah in the Authorised, "Arise, shine; for thy
light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen unto thee," which
is so mighty in rhythm that even those "dolefullest of creatures ...
utterly ignorant of English literature, the Revisers of 1870-85,
hardly dared to touch at all," blandly remarks Professor Saintsbury.
And to balance the famous "Now since these dead bones" of Sir
Thomas, there is the tender coda to Sir William Temple's Use of
Poetry and Music, "When all is done, human life is at the greatest
and best." Those long, sweeping phrases, drumming with melody and
cadences, like the humming of slow, uplifting walls of water
tumbling on sullen strands, composed by the masters of that "other
harmony of prose," are not mere "purple panels" but music made by
immortals. (And I am convinced that if R. L. S. were alive and
condemned to read this last sentence of mine, with its monotonous
"run" of M's, he would condemn it.) Consider Milton and his
majestic evocation: "Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant
nation arousing herself, ... an eagle mewing her mighty youth ..."
and then fall down and worship, for we are in the holy of holies.
Stevenson preferred the passage, "I cannot praise a fugitive and
cloistered virtue," and who shall gainsay him? And Stevenson has
written a most inspiring study of the Technical Elements of Style in
Literature, to be found in the Biographical Edition. In it he calls
the Macaulay "an incomparable dauber" for running the letter "k"
through a paragraph, and in it he sets forth in his chastened and
classic style the ineluctable (Henry James revived this pretty word)
perils of prose. Also its fascinations. "The prose writer," he says,
"must keep his phrases large, rhythmical, comely, without letting
them fall into the strictly metrical; harmonious in diversity,
musical in the mouth, in texture woven into committed phrases and
rounded periods." The stylist may vault airily into the saddle of
logic, or in the delicate reticulation of his silver-fire paragraphs
he may take, as an exemplar, John Henry Newman.

Stevenson is a perfectionist, and that way lies madness for all save
a few valiant spirits. Sir Walter Raleigh, formerly Professor
Raleigh, has written a crystal-clear study on Style, an essay of
moment because in the writing thereof he preaches what he practises.
He confesses that "inanity dogs the footsteps of the classic
tradition," and that "words must change to live, and a word once
fixed becomes useless.... This is the error of the classical creed,
to imagine that in a fleeting world, where the quickest eye can
never see the same thing twice, and a deed once done can never be
repeated, language alone should be capable of fixity and finality."
The Flaubertian crux. Nevertheless, Flaubert could write of style in
a fluid, impressionistic way: "A style ... which will be as rhythmic
as verse, as precise as the language of science, which will have
undulations, modulations, like those of a violoncello, flashes of
fire. A style which would enter into the idea like the stroke of a
stiletto, ... all the combinations of prosody have been made, those
of prose are still to make." Flaubert was not obsessed by the
"unique word," but by a style which is merged in the idea; as the
melodic and harmonic phrases of Richard Wagner were born
simultaneously and clothed in the appropriate orchestral colours.
Perhaps the cadenced prose of Pater, with its multiple resonance and
languorous rhythms, may be a sort of sublimated chess-game, as
Saintsbury more than hints; yet, what a fair field for his carved
ivory pieces. His undulating and iridescent periods are like the
solemn sound of organ music accompanied from afar by a symphony of
flutes, peacocks, and pomegranates.

No wonder Stevenson pronounces French prose a finer art than
English, though admitting that in the richer, denser harmonies of
English its native writers find at first hand the very quality so
eagerly sought for by Flaubert. French is a logical language, one of
distinction and clarity, and one in which metre never intrudes, but
it lacks the overtones of our mother speech. The English shares in
common with the Russian the art of awakening feelings and thoughts
by the resonance of words, which seem to be written not in length
but in depth, and then are lost in faint reverberations.

But artistic prose, chiselled prose, is a negligible quantity
nowadays. It was all very well in the more spacious times of
linkboys, sedan-chairs, and bag-wigs, but with the typist cutting
one's phrases into angular fragments, with the soil at our heels
saturated in slang, what hope is there for assonance, variety in
rhythm, and the sonorous cadences of prose? Write "naturally," we
are told. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as a "natural
style." Even Newman, master of the pellucid, effortless phrase,
confesses to laborious days of correction, and he wrote with the
idea uppermost and with no thought of style, so-called. Abraham
Lincoln nourished his lonely soul on the Bible and Bunyan. He is a
writer of simple yet elevated prose, without parallel in our native
literature other than Emerson. Hawthorne and Poe wrote in the key of
classic prose; while Walt Whitman's jigsaw jingle is the ultimate
deliquescence of prose form. For practical every-day needs the
eighteenth-century prose men are the best to follow. But the Bible
is the Golden Book of English prose.

Quintilian wrote: "We cannot even speak except in longs and shorts,
and longs and shorts are the material of feet." All personal prose
should go to a tune of its own. The curious are recommended to the
monumental work of George Saintsbury, A History of English Prose
Rhythm. Prose may be anything else, but it must not be bad blank
verse. "Numerous" as to rhythms, but with no hint of balance, in the
metrical sense; without rhythm it is not prose at all. Professor
Oliver Elton has set this forth with admirable lucidity in his
English Prose Numbers. He also analyses a page from The Golden Bowl
of Henry James, discovering new beauties of phrasing and subtle
cadences in the prose of this writer. Professor Saintsbury's study
is the authoritative one among its fellows. Walter Pater's essay on
Style is honeycombed with involutions and preciosity. When On the
Art of Writing, by Arthur Quiller-Couch, appeared we followed
Hazlitt's advice and reread an old book, English Composition, by
Professor Barrett Wendell, and with more pleasure and profit than
followed the later perusal of the Cornish novelist's lectures.

He warns against jargon. But the seven arts, science, society,
medicine, politics, religion, have each their jargon. Not
music-criticism, not baseball, are so painfully "jargonised" as
metaphysics. Jargon is the fly in the ointment of every critic. Even
the worthy fellow of Jesus College, Sir Arthur himself, does not
altogether escape it. On page 23 of his Inaugural Address he speaks
of "loose, discinct talk." "Discinct" is good, but "ungirded" is
better because it is not obsolete, and it is more sonorous and
Saxon. On page 42 we stumble against "suppeditate" and gnash our
teeth. After finishing the book the timid neophyte will be apt to
lay the flattering unction to his soul that he is a born stylist,
like the surprised Mr. Jourdain, who spoke prose so many years
without knowing it.


II

Fancy a tall, imposing man, in the middle years, standing before a
music-desk, humming and beating time. His grey, lion-like mane is in
disorder; his large eyes, pools of blue light, gleam with
excitement. The colour of his face is reddish, the blood mounts
easily to his head, a prophetic sign of his death by apoplexy. It is
Gustave Flaubert in his study at Croisset, a few miles down the
Seine below Rouen. He is chanting a newly composed piece of prose,
marking time as if he were conducting a music-drama. "What are you
doing there?" asked his friend. "Scanning these words, because they
don't sound well," he replied. Flaubert would spend a day over a
sentence and practically tested it by declaiming--spouting, he
called it--for as he wisely remarked: "A well-constructed phrase
adapts itself to the rhythm of respiration." His delight in prose
assonance and cadence manifested itself in his predilection for such
a phrase as Châteaubriand's in Atala: "Elle répand dans le bois ce
grand secret de mélancholie qu'elle aime à raconter aux vieux chênes
et aux rivages antiques des mers." There's a "mouther" for you! as
George Saintsbury would say. But in this age of uninflected speech
the louder the click of the type-machine the better the style.

If modern prose were written for the ear as well as the eye, chanted
and scanned, it might prove more sonorous and rhythmic than it does,
and more artistic. Curiously enough, Professor Saintsbury in his
magisterial work writes: "I rather doubt myself whether the very
finest and most elaborate prose is not better read than heard." That
is, it must be overheard by the inner ear, which statement rather
puts a damper on Flaubert's contention. What saith the worthy
Aristotle? "All things are determined by number." Prose should have
rhythm but should not be metrical ("Rhetoric"); which Robert Louis
Stevenson thus paraphrased in his Technical Elements of Style in
Literature: "The rule of scansion in verse is to suggest no measure
but the one in hand; in prose to suggest no measure at all. Prose
must be rhythmical, and it may be as much so as you will; but it
must not be metrical. It may be anything, but it must not be verse."
(Probably if he had read the amorphous stuff by courtesy named "vers
libre" Stevenson would have written a stronger word than
"anything.") Or, again, Saintsbury: "The Rhythm of Prose, like the
Metre of Verse, can, in English as well as the classical languages,
be best expressed by the foot system, or system of mathematical
combinations of 'long' and 'short' syllables." A fig for your
"ancient trumpery of skeleton scanning," cries Professor William
Morrison Patterson in his The Rhythm of Prose: "Amphibrachs,
bacchics, antibacchics, antipasts, molossi, dochmiacs, and
proceleusmatics, which heretofore have been brandished before our
eyes, as if they were anything more than, as stress-patterns, merely
half the story."

The Columbia University professor would be far more likely to
indorse the axiom of Remy de Gourmont that style is physiological,
which Flaubert well knew. And now, having deployed my heaviest
artillery of quotation, let me begin by saying that Professor
Patterson's study is a remarkable contribution to the critical
literature of a much-debated theme, Prose Rhythms, and this without
minifying the admirable labours of Saintsbury, Shelley, Oliver
Elton, Ker, or Professor Bouton of the New York University. One of
the reasons that interest the present writer in the monograph is its
strong musical bias. Professor Patterson is evidently the possessor
of a highly organised musical ear, even if he be not a practical
musician. He no doubt agrees with Disraeli's dictum that the key to
literature is music; _i. e._, number, cadence, rhythm. I recall Miss
Dabney's study, The Musical Basis of Verse, dealing as it does with
a certain side of the subject. But the Patterson procedure is
different. It is less "literary" than psychological, less
psychological than physiological. He experiments with the Remy de
Gourmont idea, though he probably never saw it in print. "Rhythm,"
he writes in his preface, "is thus regarded as first of all an
experience, established, as a rule, by motor performance of however
rudimentary a nature." Here is the man of science at work.

He speaks of the "lost art of rhythm," adduces syncopation so easily
mastered by those born "timers," the Indians and Negroes,
pertinently remarks that "no two individuals ever react exactly
alike. The term 'type' is in many ways a highly misleading fiction."
Prose Rhythm, he continues, "must be classed as subjective
organisation of irregular, virtually haphazard arrangement of
sounds.... The ultimate basis of all rhythmic experience, however,
is the same. To be clear-cut it must rest upon a series of definite
temporal units."

Professor Patterson experimented in two rooms: "one the regular
sound-room belonging to the department of psychology at Columbia;
the other an expressly constructed, fairly sound-proof cabinet built
into one end of an underground room belonging to the department of
physics."

It has a slightly sinister ring, all this, has it not? Padded cells
and aural finger-prints!--to make an Irish bull. Max Nordau called
John Ruskin a Torquemada of Æsthetics. Professor Patterson might be
styled a Tonal Torturer. But the experimentings were painless. "The
first object," he informs us, "was to find out, as far as possible,
how a group of twelve people, ten men and two women, differed with
respect to the complex of mental processes usually designated
roughly as the 'sense of rhythm.' After they had been ranked
according to the nature of their reactions and achievements in
various tests, one of the group, who had evinced a measure of ease
in rapid tapping, was chosen to make drum-beat records on a
phonograph. A sentence from Walter Pater, a sentence from Henry
James, a passage of music from Chopin, a haphazard arrangement of
words and a haphazard arrangement of musical notes, were tapped upon
a small metal drum and the beats recorded by the phonograph. The
words were tapped according to the syllables as felt, a tap for each
syllable. 'Hours,' for instance, was given two beats. The notes
were tapped according to their designated time-values. Observer No.
1, having had long training as a musician, found no technical
difficulty in the task. The remaining eleven observers, without
being told the source of the records, heard the five series of
drumbeats and passed judgment upon them. The most significant
judgment made was that of Observer No. 7, who declared that all five
records gave him the impression of regular musical themes. A large
number of the observers, especially on the first hearing, found all
of the records, including even the passage from Chopin, elusive and
more or less irregular. An attempt was then made, by means of
accompanying schedules, to find out how much or how little
organisation each observer could be brought to feel in the beats
corresponding to the passage from Walter Pater and the passage of
haphazard musical notes." All the data are carefully set down in the
Appendices.

The sentence by Walter Pater was chosen from his essay on Leonardo
da Vinci, in The Renaissance. "It is the landscape, not of dreams or
of fancy, but of places far withdrawn, and hours selected from a
thousand with a miracle of finesse"; subtly rhythmic, too much so
for any but trained ears. Some simpler excerpt from Sir Thomas
Browne or John Ruskin might have been selected, such as, in the
former case, the coda from the Urn Burial, or even that
chest-expanding phrase, "To subsist in bones, and to be pyramidally
extant is a fallacy in duration." Or, best of all, because of its
tremendous intensity, the passage from Saint Paul: "For I am
persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to
separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our
Lord." The drum-beat is felt throughout, but the pulsation is not
marked as in the pages of Macaulay; nor has it the monotony found in
Lohengrin on account of the prevalence of common or four-four time,
and also the coincidence of the metrical and rhythmic beat, a
coincidence that Chopin usually avoids, and all latter-day composers
flee as dulness-breeding. The base-rhythm of English prose is, so
Professor Saintsbury writes, "the pæon, or four-syllabled foot,"
and, he could have added, provocative of ennui for delicate ears.
Variety in rhythms is the ideal. Our author appositely quotes from
Puffer's Studies in Symmetry: "A picture composed in substitutional
symmetry is more rich in its suggestions of motor impulse, and thus
more beautiful, than an example of geometrical symmetry." And this
applies to prose and music as well as to pictures. It is the very
kernel of the art of Paul Cézanne; rhythmic irregularity,
syncopation, asymmetry.

De Quincey's Our Lady of Darkness and a sentence from Cardinal
Newman's Grammar of Assent were included among the tests. Also one
from Henry James; in the preface to The Golden Bowl: "For I have
nowhere found vindicated the queer thesis that the right values of
interesting prose depend all on withheld tests." If, according to
lovers of the old rhetoric, of the resounding "purple panels" of
Bossuet, Châteaubriand, Flaubert, Raleigh, Browne, and Ruskin, the
cooler prose of Mr. James cannot be "spouted"; nevertheless, the
interior rhythmic life is finer and more complex. The Chopin
nocturne played was the familiar one in G minor, Opus 37, No. 1,
simple in rhythmic structure though less interesting than its sister
nocturne in G, Opus 37, No. 2 (the first is in common, the second in
six-eighths time). Professor Patterson knows Riemann and his "agogic
accent," which, according to that editor of the Chopin Etudes, is a
slight expansion in the value of the note; not a dynamic accent.

In his treatment of vers libre our author is not too sympathetic. He
thinks that "in their productions"--free-verse poets--"the
disquieting experience of attempting to dance up the side of a
mountain" is suggested. "For those who find this task exhilarating
vers libre, as a form, is without rival. With regard to subtle
cadence, however, which has been claimed as the chief distinction of
the new poets, it is still a question as to how far they have
surpassed the refinement of balance that quickens the prose of
Walter Pater." They have not, despite the verbal ingenuity,
banished the impression of dislocation, of the epileptic. In French,
in the hands of Rimbaud, Verlaine, Verhaeren, Gustave Kahn, Régnier,
Stuart Merrill, Vielé Griffin, and Jules Laforgue, the rhythms are
supple, the assonances grateful to the ear, the irregular patterns
not offensive to the eye; in a word, a form, or a deviation from
form, more happily adapted to the genius of the French or Italian
language than to the English. Most of our native vers libre sounds
like a ton of coal falling through too small an aperture in the
sidewalk. However, "it's not the gilt that makes a god, but the
worshipper."

For musicians and writers the interesting if abstruse study of
Professor Patterson will prove valuable. After reading of the
results in his laboratory at Columbia we feel that we have been, all
of us, talking rhythmic prose our life long.



CHAPTER XII

THE QUEEREST YARN IN THE WORLD


The way the story leaked out was this: A young Irishman from Sligo,
as he blushingly admitted, whose face was a passport of honesty
stamped by nature herself, had served two customers over the bar of
the old chop-house across the street from the opera-house. To him
they were just two throats athirst; nothing more. They ordered
drinks, and this first attracted his attention, for they agreed on
cognac. Now, brandy after dinner is not an unusual drink, but this
pair had asked for a large glass. Old brandy was given them, and
such huge swallows followed that the bartender was compelled by his
conscience to ring up one dollar for the two drinks. It was paid,
and another round commanded, as if the two men were hurried, as
indeed they were, for it was during an entr'acte at the opera that
they had slipped out for liquid refreshments. Against the bar of the
establishment a dozen or more humans were ranged, and the noise was
deafening, but not so great as to prevent the Irishman from catching
scraps of the conversation dropped by the brandy-drinkers. Their
talk went something like this, and, although Michael had little
schooling, his memory was excellent, and, being a decent chap, there
is no need to impeach the veracity of his report.

The taller man, neither young, neither old, and, like his friend,
without a grey hair, burst out laughing after the disappearance of
the second cognac. "I say, old pal, who was it wrote that brandy was
for heroes? Kipling? What?" The other man, stockily built,
foreign-looking, answered in a contemptuous tone ("sneering-like,"
as my informant put it):

"Where's your memory? Gone to rack and ruin like your ideals, I
suppose! Kipling! What do such youngsters know? Doctor Johnson or
Walter Savage Landor was the originator of the lying epigram; after
them Byron gobbled it up, as he gobbled up most of the good things
of his generation, and after him, the deluge of this mediocre
century. When I told Byron this, at Milan, I think it was, he vowed
me an ass. Now, it was Doctor Johnson."

"Cheer up, it's not so bad. I remember once at Paris, or was it
Vienna, you said the same thing about----" and here followed a
strange name.

"And, anyhow, you are mixing dates; Landor followed Byron, please,
but I suppose he said it first. I told Metternich of your bon-mot,
and, egad! he laughed, did that old parchment face. As for
Bonaparte, upstart and charlatan, he was too selfish to smile at
anybody's wit but his own, and little he had. Do you remember the
Congress of Vienna?"

"Do I--1815?"

"Some such year. Or was it in 1750 when we saw Casanova at Venice?
Well--" At this point the alarm-signal went off, and the mob went
over to the opera. The young bartender's heart was beating so fast
that it "leapt up in his bosom," as he described it. Two middle-aged
men talking of a century ago as calmly as if they had spoken of
yesterday flustered him a bit. He heard the dates. He noticed the
perfectly natural manner in which events were mentioned. There was
no mystification. For the first time in his life Michael was sorry
the between-act pause was so short, and he longed for the next one,
though fatigued from the labours of the last. Would these gentlemen
return for more cognac? In an hour they came back with the crowd,
again drank old five-star brandy, and gossiped about a lot of
incomprehensible things that had evidently taken place in the
sixteenth or seventeenth century; at least, Michael overheard them
disputing dates, and one of them bet the other that the big fire in
London occurred in 1666, and referred the question to Mr. Peppers,
or Peps--some such name.

"Ah, poor old Pepys," sighed the dark man; "if he had only taken
better care of himself he might have been with us to-day instead of
mouldering in his grave."

"Oh, well! you can't expect every one to believe in your Struldbrug
cure," replied his friend dreamily. "Even Her Majesty, Queen Anne,
would not take your advice, though Mrs. Masham and Mr. Harley begged
her to."

"Yes, about the only thing they ever agreed upon in their life.
Where is Harley to-day?"

"Oh, I suppose in London," carelessly replied the other. "For a
young bird of several centuries he's looking as fit as a fiddle; but
see here, Swift, old boy, your bogy-tales are worrying our young
friend," and with that Michael says they pointed to him, heartily
laughed, and went away.

He crossed himself, and for a moment the electric lights burned dim,
so it seemed to the superstitious laddie-buck. But he had had a good
chance to study the odd pair. They were not, as he repeated, old
men, neither were they youthful. Say thirty-five or forty years, and
he noticed this time the freshness of their complexions, the
brilliancy of their eyes. They were just gentlemen in evening
clothes and had run across Broadway without overcoats, a
reprehensible act even for a young man. But they were healthy,
self-contained, and hard-headed--they took, according to the
statistician behind the bar, about a quart of brandy between them,
and were as fresh as daisies after the fiery stuff. Who were they?
"Blagueurs," said I, after I had carefully deciphered the runic
inscriptions in Michael's mind. (This was a week later.) Two
fellows out on a lark, bent on scaring a poor Irish boy. But what
was Swift, or Queen Anne, or Metternich, or Mr. Harley to him? Just
words. Bonaparte he might be expected to remember. It was curious
all the same that he could reel off the unusual names of Mrs. Masham
and Casanova. The deuce! was there something in the horrid tale? Two
immortals stalking the globe when their very bones should have been
dissolved into everlasting dust! Two wraiths revisiting the glimpses
of the moon--hold on! Struldbrug! Who was Struldbrug? What his cure?
I tried to summon from the vasty deep all the worthies of the
eighteenth century. Struldbrug. Swift. Struldbrug. Sir William
Temple. Struldbrug--ah! by the great horn spoon! The Struldbrugs of
the Island of Laputa! Gulliver's hideous immortals--and then the
horror of the story enveloped me, but, despite my aversion to
meeting the dead, I determined to live in the chop-house till I saw
face to face these ghosts from a vanished past. My curiosity was
soon gratified, as the sequel will show.

Just one week after the appearance of this pair I stood talking to
the Irish barman, when I saw him start and pale. Ha! I thought, here
are my men. I was not mistaken. Two well-built and well-groomed
gentlemen asked for brandy, and swallowed it in silence. They were
polite enough to avoid my rather rude stare. No wonder I stared.
They recalled familiar faces, yet I couldn't at once place the
owners. Presently they went over to a table and seated themselves.
Loudly calling for a mug of musty ale, I boldly put myself at an
adjacent spot, and continued my spying tactics. The friends were
soon in hot dispute. It concerned the literary reputation of Balzac.
I sat with my mouth wide open.

The elder of the pair, the one called Swift, snapped at his friend:
"Zounds, sir! you and your Balzac. Hogwash and roosters in
rut--that's about his capacity. Of course, when your own dull stuff
appeared he praised you for the sake of the paradox. You moderns!
Balzac the father of French fiction! You the father, or is it
grandfather, of psychology--a nice crew! That boy Maupassant had
more stuff in him than a wilderness of Zolas, Goncourts, and the
rest. He is almost as amusing as Paul de Kock--" The other, the
little man, bristled with rage.

"Because you wrote a popular boy's book, full of filth and
pessimism, you think you know all literature. And didn't you copy
Cyrano de Bergerac's Voyagers, and Defoe? You satirise every one
except God, whom you spare because you don't know him. I don't care
much for Balzac, though I'm free to confess he did treat me
handsomely in praising my Chartreuse----"

"Good God!" I groaned, "it's Stendhal, otherwise Henry Beyle, laying
down the law to the tremendous author of Gulliver's Travels." And
yet neither man looked the accepted portrait of himself. Above all,
no Struldbrug moles were in view. I forgot my former fear, being
interested in the dispute of these two giant writers who are more
akin artistically than ever taken cognisance of by criticism. Dead?
What did I care! They were surely alive now, and I was not dreaming.
I didn't need to pinch myself, for my eyes and ears reported the
occurrence. A miracle? Why not. Miracles are daily, if we but knew
it. Living is the most wonderful of all miracles. The discussion
proceeded. Swift spoke tersely, just as he wrote:

"Enough, friend Beyle. You are a charlatan. Your knowledge of the
human heart is on a par with your taste in literature. You abominate
Flaubert because his prose is more rhythmic than yours."

"I vow I protest," interrupted Stendhal.

"No matter. I'm right. Mérimée, your pupil, is your master at every
point."

I could no longer contain myself, and, bursting with curiosity, I
cried:

"Pardon me, dear masters, for interrupting such a luminous
altercation, but, notwithstanding the queerness of the situation,
may I not say that I meet in the flesh, Jonathan Swift and Henry
Beyle-Stendhal?"

"Discovered, by the eternal Jehovah!" roared Swift, adding an
obscene phrase, which I discreetly omit. Stendhal took the incident
coolly.

"As I am rediscovered about every decade by ambitious young critics
anxious to achieve reputations, I am not disturbed by our young
friend here. Your apology, monsieur, is accepted. Pray, join us in a
fresh drink and conversation." But I was only thirsty for more talk,
oceans of talk. I eagerly asked Stendhal, who regarded me with
cynical eyes, all the while fingering his little whisker: "Did you
ever hear Chopin play?"

"Who," he solemnly asked in turn, "is Chopin?"

"He was at his best in the forties, and as you didn't die till----"

"Pardon me, monsieur. I never died. Your Chopin may have died, but I
am immortal."

"You venerable Struldbrug," giggled Swift. I was disagreeably
impressed, yet held my ground:

"You must have met him. He was a friend of Balzac--his music was
then in vogue at Paris--" I stumbled in my speech.

"He probably means that little Polish piano-player who dangled at
the petticoats of George Sand," interpolated Swift.

"I knew Cimarosa, Rossini I saw, but I never heard of Chopin. As for
the Sand woman, that cow who chewed and rechewed her literary
cud--don't mention her name to me, please. She is the village pump
of fiction; water, wet water. Balzac was bad enough." My heart
sank. Chopin not even remembered by a contemporary! This then is
fame. But the immortality of Stendhal, of Swift--what of
that? Its reality was patent to me. Perhaps Balzac, Sand, Flaubert
were still alive. I propounded the question. Swift answered it.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Yes, they are alive. My Struldbrugs are meant to symbolise the
immortality of genius. Only stupid people die. Sand is a barmaid in
London. Balzac is on the road selling knit-goods, and a mighty good
drummer he is sure to be; but poor Flaubert has had hard luck. He
was the reader to a publishing house, and forced to pass judgment on
the novels of the day--favourable judgment, mind you, on the popular
stuff. He nearly burst a blood-vessel when they gave him a Marie
Corelli manuscript to correct--to correct the style, mind you, he,
Flaubert! The gods are certainly capricious. Now the old chap--he
has aged since 1880--is in New York reading proof at a daily
newspaper office. He sits at the same desk with Ben de Casseres, and
every time he mutters over the rhythm of a sentence Ben raps him on
the knuckles, and says:

"'You are an old-fashioned bourgeois, Pop Flaubert! Some night I'll
take you over to Jack's and recite my Sermon on Suicide, to teach
you what brilliance and Bovarysme really mean.'" I was shocked at
this blasphemy, and said so. Stendhal calmly bade me to keep my
temper.

"But isn't Mr. Swift joking?"

"Mr. Swift is always joking," was the far from reassuring reply. To
fill in the interval I called for the waiter. The ghosts again
demanded cognac. Stendhal looked like the caricature by Félicien
Rops, in which his little pot-bellied figure, broad face, snub nose,
and protuberant eyes are shown dominating some strange Cosmopolis of
1932. In life--or death--he seemed supremely self-satisfied. He
glowered at the name of Flaubert, rejoicing in the sad existence of
the mighty prose master, but he smiled superciliously when I
reproached him with not knowing Chopin. Heine's poetic fantasy of
the gods of Greece, alive, and still in hiding, was not precisely
convincing in the present reincarnation. A feeling of repulsion
ensued, and finally I arose and said good night to my very new and
very old friends. Swift's picture of the Struldbrugs was realised,
and it was an unpleasant one. Men of genius should never be seen; in
their works alone they live. Swift, with his nasty, sly, constipated
humour; Stendhal, with his overwhelming air of arrogance and
superiority, did not win my sympathy. They evidently noted my
dismay.

"You're disappointed. So sorry!" said Swift ironically. "At first I
was vastly intrigued at the opportunity of talking with one of you
modern persons, but I see I'm mistaken--ha! Beyle, what d'ye say?"

Stendhal pondered. "Cimarosa, Rossini, and Haydn I knew. Correggio I
admire, but who was Chopin?"

Stung to anger, I retorted: "Yours is the loss, not Chopin's."
Whereat Michael, the bartender, merrily laughed, and the company
joined him. I was the sacrificial goat. My head was on the
chopping-block, and Stendhal was the executioner. Forgetting the
respect due to such illustrious shades, I shook my finger under
Stendhal's upturned nostrils: "You may be a couple of impostors for
all I know, but even if you are not, I wish to tell you how heartily
I dislike your petty carping criticisms. Better oblivion than
immortality for your lean and sinister souls." Again hysterical
laughter. As I left I overheard Swift say in reproachful accents, as
if his vanity had been wounded:

"This saucy Yahoo reads our books and believes in them, but when we
talk he doubts us. As Sam Johnson used to say, 'The reciprocal
civility of authors is one of the most risible scenes in the farce
of life.'"

Stendhal boomed out: "He is dead himself but doesn't know it yet.
All critics are stillborn. But _we_ live on for ever. Garçon! some
more brandy."

Out on crowded, expressive Broadway I stood, dazed and irritated.
After all the palaver of authors, it is the critic who has the last
word, like a woman. Rejoicing over the originality of the idea, I
went my wooden way.



CHAPTER XIII

ON REREADING MALLOCK


It seems the "dark backward and abysm of time" when writing the name
of William Hurrell Mallock, yet not forty years ago he was the most
discussed author of his day. The old conundrum, Is Life Worth
Living? he revived, and newly orchestrated with particular reference
to the spiritual needs of the hour. And A Romance of the Nineteenth
Century was denounced as immoral as Mademoiselle de Maupin. Gautier
was read then and Swinburne's lilting paganism quite filled the
lyric sky. Mr. Mallock's rôle was that of a philosophical novelist
and essayist who reproved the golden materialism of his age, not
with fuliginous menace, as did Carlyle, nor with melodious
indignation, like Ruskin, but with a more subtle instrument of
castigation, irony. He laughed at the gods of the new scientific
dispensation, Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, Tyndall, Clifford, and he put
them in the pages of his New Republic for the delectation of the
world, and most appealing foolery it was; this and the sheer
burlesque of The New Paul and Virginia. Mr. Mallock was an
individualist. The influence of John Stuart Mill had not yet waned
in the seventies--he occupied then a place midway between Bentham
and Spencer. His birth, breeding, and temperament made Mallock a foe
to socialism, to the promiscuous in politics, religion, society,
therefore an apostle of culture, not missing its precious side;
witness Mr. Rose in The New Republic, and one who abhorred the crass
and the irreverent in the New Learning. He enjoyed vogue. His ideas
were boldly seized and transformed by the men of the nineties, yet
to-day it is difficult to get a book of his. They are mostly out of
print--which is equivalent to saying, out of mind.

With what personal charm he invested his romances! He is the
literary progenitor of a long line of young men, artistic in taste,
a trifle sceptical as to final causes, wealthy, worldly, widely
cultured, and aristocratic. The staler art of Oscar Wilde gives the
individual of Mallock petrified into a rather unpleasant type.
Walter Pater's fear that the word "hedonist" would be suspected as
immoral came true in Wilde's books. The heroes of A Romance of the
Nineteenth Century, Tristram Lacy and The New Republic have a strong
family resemblance. They were supermen before Nietzsche was
discovered. They are prepossessed by theological problems, they love
the seven arts, and are a trifle decadent; though when action is
demanded they do not fail to respond. As stories go, A Romance is
the best of Mallock's; the canvas of Tristram Lacy is larger, the
intrigue less intense, and the characterisation more human. The
unhappy girl, Cynthia Walters, who so shocked our mothers, is not
duplicated in Tristram. Mr. Mallock wrote a preface to the second
edition of A Romance, a superfluous one, for the book needs no
apology. It never did. It is as moral as Madame Bovary, though not
as pleasant. The Triangle is a revered convention in French fiction,
but the naturalistic photographs in A Romance are not agreeable, and
Cynthia's epitaph, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall
see God," leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. It is in the mode
ironical almost projected to the key of cynicism. No doubt the
leisurely gait of these fictions would be old-fashioned to the
present generation, with its preference for staccato English, morbid
sensationalism, and lack of grace and scholarship. Mr. Mallock is a
scholar and a gentleman who writes a prose of distinction, and he is
also a thinker, reactionary, to be sure, but a tilter at sham
philosophies and sham religions. Last, but not least, he has
abundant humour and a most engaging wit. Possibly all these
qualities would make him unpopular in our present century.

What a gathering of choice spirits in The New Republic: Matthew
Arnold, Professor Jowett--a fine character etching--Huxley, Tyndall,
Carlyle, Pater--rather cruelly treated--Ruskin, Doctor Pusey, Mrs.
Mark Pattison, W. K. Clifford, Violet Fane--how the author juggles
with their personalities, with their ideas. It's the cleverest
parody of its kind. Otho Laurence and Robert Leslie are closely
related in aspirations to Ralph Vernon, Alie Campbell, and the
priest Stanley of A Romance. As portraits, those of the Premier Lord
Runcorn in Tristram Lacy, and the faded dandy, poet, and man about
town, Lord Surbiton, of A Romance, are difficult to match outside of
Disraeli. Epigrams drop like snowflakes. The décor is always
gorgeous--Monte Carlo, Provence, Cap de Juan, countries flowing with
milk and honey, marble ruins, the ilex, cypress, and palm. Palaces
there are, and inhabited by languid, fascinating young men who
anxiously examine in the glass their expressive countenances, asking
the Lord whether He is pleased with them. And lovely girls,
charming, and in Cynthia Walters's case a lily with a cankered
calyx. Then there are the Price-Bousefields and the inimitable Mrs.
Norham, "celebrated authoress and upholder of the people." One of
the notable blackguards in fiction is Colonel Stapleton; and the
Poodle and the new-rich Helbecksteins--a complete picture-gallery
may be found in these interesting novels. Romance rules; poetry,
tenderness in the appreciation of the eternal feminine, and a pity
for living things. Poor Cynthia Walters, the "dear, dead woman,"
lingers in the memory, as modern as yesterday, and as effaced as a
daguerreotype.

But if his heroes sow their oats tamely Mr. Mallock as an antagonist
is most vigorous. He went at the scientific men with all the weapons
in his armoury. To-day there no longer exists the need of such
polemics. In the moral world there are analogies to the physical,
and particularly in geology, with its prehistoric stratifications,
its vast herbarium, its quarries and petrifications, its ossuaries,
the bones of vanished forms, ranging from the shadow of a leaf to
the flying crocodile, the horrid pterodactyl--now reduced to the
exquisite and iridescent dragon-fly; from the monstrous mammoth to
the tiny forerunner of the horse. Philosophy and Religion, too, have
their mighty dead, their immemorial tombs wherein repose the bones
of the buried dead skeletons of obsolete systems. And on the sands
of time lie the arch-images of antique thought awaiting the condign
catastrophe. There are Kant and his followers, and near the
idealists are the materialists; next to Hegel is Büchner, and at the
base of the vast structure so patiently reared by Herbert Spencer
the mists are already dense, though not as obscuring as the clouds
about the mausoleum of Comte. That great charmless woman, George
Eliot, smiles a smile of sombre ennui before the Spencer tomb, and
the invisible voice of Ernest Haeckel is heard whispering: Where is
your Positivism? Where is your Rationalism? What has become of your
gaseous invertebrate god? Surely there is sadly required in the
cynical universities of the world a Chair of Irony with subtle Edgar
Saltus as its first incumbent.

Now, Mr. Mallock knows that religion and philosophy may travel on
parallel lines, therefore never collide. He took the catch-word "the
bankruptcy of science" too seriously. Notwithstanding the persuasive
rhetoric of that silken sophist Henri Bergson, a belated visionary
metaphysician in a world of realities, the trend of latter-day
thought is toward the veritable victories of science. A new world
has come into being. And what discoveries: spectral analysis, the
modes of force, matter displaced by energy, the relations of atoms
in molecules--a renewed geology, astronomy, palæontology, biology,
embryology, wireless telegraphy, the conquest of the air, and, last
but not least, the discovery of radium. The slightly war-worn
evolution theory is now confronted by the Transformism of Hugo de
Vries, who has shown in a most original manner that nature also
proceeds by sudden leaps as well as in slow, orderly progress. And
the brain, that telephonic centre, according to Bergson, is become
another organ. Ramon y Cajal, the Spanish biologist, with his
neurons--little erectile bodies in the cells of the cortex, stirred
to motor impulses when a message is sent them from the sensory
nerves--has done more for positive knowledge than a wilderness of
metaphysicians.

That famous interrogation, "Is life worth living?"
may be viewed to-day from a different angle. Mr. Mallock
acknowledged that the question must be answered in the terms of the
individual only. Here we encounter a new crux. What is the
individual? The family is the unit of society, not the individual.
And the autonomous "I" exists no longer, except as a unit in the
colony of cells which are "We." Man is a being afloat in an ocean of
vibrations. Society demands the co-operation of its component cells,
else relegates to solitude the individual who cannot adapt himself
to play a humble part in the cosmical orchestra. That protean theory
Socialism has changed its chameleonic hues many times since Mr.
Mallock wrote Is Life Worth Living? His idea is worked out with
great clearness in the apprehension of details, but with little
feeling for their relations to each other. Sadly considered, we may
take it for granted that life has a definite aim. We live, as a
modern thinker puts it, because we stand like the rest of cognisable
nature under the universal law of causality; this idea is founded
not on a metaphysical but a biological basis. Metaphysics is a
pleasing diversion, though it doesn't get us to finalities.
Happiness is an absolute. Therefore it has no existence. There never
was, there never will be an earthly paradise, no matter what the
socialists say. Content is the summum bonum of mankind; the content
that comes with sound health and a clear conscience. The wrangling
over Free Will is now considered a sign of ghost-worship.

Schopenhauer and his mystic Will-to-Live are both rather amusing
survivals of antique animism. The problem is not whether we can do
what we want to do, but whether we can will what we want to will.
But the illusion of individual freedom of will is the last illusion
to be dissipated in this most deterministic of worlds and most
pluralistic of universes. It's a poor conception of eternity that
doesn't work both ways. As there will be no end to things, there
never was a beginning. Eternity is now. Professor Hugh S. R. Elliott
wrote in his brilliant refutation of Bergson that "the feeling we
have of a necessity for such an explanation [the attempt to explain
the universe] arises from the conformation of our brains, which
think by associating disjoined ideas; ... no last explanation is
possible or perhaps even exists," which will please the relativists
and pain the absolutists. But deprive mankind of its dreams and it
is like the naughty child in Hans Christian Andersen's fable. A
fairy punished this child by giving him dreamless slumber. Without
vision, old as well as young limp through life.

Pessimism as a philosophy, it has been pointed out, is the last
superstition of primordial times. It is a form of egomania. From
Byron to D'Annunzio pessimism filled poetry; from Werther to Sanine
it has ruled fiction. It is less a philosophy than a matter of
temperament. It was the mode during the last century, and as an
issue is as dead as the humanitarianism that followed. Is life worth
living? was properly, if somewhat cynically, answered: It depends on
the liver. Pessimism is the pathetic fallacy reduced to medicinal
formula. It is now merely in our stock of mental attitudes, usually
a pose; when it is not, it's bound to be pathological. Yet Bossuet
has spoken of "the inexorable ennui which forms the basis of life."
Mr. Mallock was once accused of dilettanteism, æsthetic and ethical;
nevertheless, there is no mistaking his moral earnestness at the
close of Is Life Worth Living? Furthermore, he foresaw the muddle
the world is making to-day in the conduct of life. All the
self-complacent chatter about self-annihilation during the Buddhist
upheaval some decades ago has been translated into a veritable
annihilation. The holy name of Altruism--social emotion made
functional--has vanished into the intense inane. The higher forms of
discontent have modulated into the debasing superstition of
universal slaughter. With Bergson the divinity of diving into the
subconscious--what else is his intuition?--is set before the lovers
of the mystic to worship. Years ago the Sufi doctrine declared that
the judging faculty should be abandoned for the intuitive. Don't
reason! Just dream! The poet Rogers replied to a lady who asked his
religion that his was the religion of all sensible men. "And what is
that?" she persisted. "That no sensible men ever tell." But Mr.
Mallock has told, and four decades after his confession he is still
worth rereading.



CHAPTER XIV

THE LOST MASTER


"What's become of Waring since he gave us all the slip?" was quoted
by a man at the Painters' Club the other night. What made him think
of Browning, he blandly explained to the two or three chaps sitting
at his table on the terrace, was not the terrific heat, but the line
swam across his memory when he recalled the name of Albertus Magnus
as a green meteor seen for a moment far out at sea drops into the
watery void. "Who, in the name of Apollo, is Albertus Magnus?" was
asked. The painter sat up. "There you are, you fellows!" he roared.
"You all paint or write or spoil marble, but for the history of your
art you don't care a rap." "Yes, but what has your Albertus
Thingamajig to do with Browning's Waring?" "Only this," was the
grumbling reply; "it is a similar case." "A story, a story!" we all
cried, and settled down for a yarn; but no yarn was spun. The
painter relapsed into silence, and the group gradually dissolved. We
sat still, hoping against hope.

"See here," we expostulated, "really you should not arouse
expectations, and then evade the logical conclusions. It's not
fair." "I didn't care to explain to those other fellows," was the
reply. "They are too cynical for my taste. They go to the holy of
holies of art to pray, and come away to scoff. Materialism, rather
realism, as you call it, is the canker of modern art. Suppose I told
you that here, now, in this noisy Tophet of New York, there lives
a man of genius, who paints like a belated painter of the
Renaissance? Suppose I said that I could show you his work, would
you think I was crazy?" He paused. "A young genius, poor, unknown?
Oh, lead us to him, Sir Painter, and we shall call you blest!" "He
is not young, and, while the great public and the little dealers
have not heard of him, he has a band of admirers, rich men leagued
in a conspiracy of silence, who buy his pictures, though they don't
show them to the critics." We reiterated our request: "Lead us to
him!" Without noticing our importunities, he continued: "He paints
for the sake of beautiful paint; he paints as did Hokusai, the
Old-Man-Mad-for-Painting, or like Frenhofer, the hero in Balzac's
story, The Unknown Masterpiece! He is more like Balzac's
Frenhofer--is that the chap's name?--than Browning's Waring. He is
the lost master, a Frenhofer who has conquered, for he has a hundred
masterpieces stored away in his studio." "Lost master?" we
stuttered; "a hundred masterpieces that have never been shown to
critic or public? Oh! 'Never star was lost here but it rose afar.'"
"Yes, and he quotes Browning by the yard, for he was a close friend
of the poet, and of his best critic, Nettleship, the animal painter,
now dead." "Won't you tell his story connectedly, and put us out of
our agony?" we pleaded. "No," he answered; "I'll do better. I'll
take you to his studio." The evening ended in a blaze of fireworks.

The afternoon following we found ourselves in Greenwich Village, in
front of a row of old-fashioned cottages covered with honeysuckle.
You may recall the avenue and this particular block that has thus
far resisted the temptation to become either lofty apartment or
business palace. But the painter met us here, and conducted us
westward until we reached a warehouse--gloomy, in need of repair,
yet solid, despite the teeth of time. We entered the wagonway,
traversed a dirty court, mounted a dark staircase, and paused before
a low door. "Do you knock," we were admonished, and at once did so.
Approaching footsteps. A rattling and grating of rusty bolts and
keys. The door was slowly opened. A big hairy head appeared. The
eyes set in this halo of white hair were positively the most
magnificent I had ever seen sparkle and glow in a human countenance.
If a lion were capable of being at once poet and prophet and exalted
animal, his eyes would have possessed something of the glance of
this stranger. We turned anxiously to to our friend. He had
disappeared. What a trick to play at such a moment. "Who do you
wish?" rumbled a mellow voice. "Albertus Magnus?" we timidly
inquired, expecting to be pitched down the stairs the next minute.
"Ah!" was the reply. Silence. Then, "Come in, please; don't stumble
over the canvases." We followed the old man, whose stature was not
as heroic as his head; and we did not fail to stumble, for the way
was obscure, and paved with empty frames, canvases, and a litter of
bottles, paint-tubes, easels, rugs, carpets, wretched furniture, and
all the other flotsam and jetsam of an old-style studio. We were not
sorry when we came into open space and light. We were in the room
that doubtless concealed the lost masterpieces, and there, blithely
smoking a cigarette, sat our guide, the painter. He had entered by
another door, he explained; and, without noticing our discontented
air, he introduced us to the man of the house. In sheer daylight he
looked younger, though his years must have bordered upon the
biblical threescore and ten. But the soul, the brain that came out
of his wonderful eyes, were as young as to-morrow.

"Isn't he a corker?" irreverently demanded our friend. "He is not
even as old as he looks. He doesn't eat vegetables, when thirsty he
drinks anything he can get, and smokes day and night. And yet he
calls himself an idealist." The old painter smiled. "I suppose I
have been described as Waring to you, because I knew Robert
Browning. I did vanish from the sight of my friends for years, but
only in the attempt to conquer paint, not to achieve money or
kingship, like the original Alfred Domett, called Waring in the
poem. But when I returned from Italy I was a stranger in a strange
land. No one remembered me. I had last seen Elihu Vedder at Capri.
Worst of all, I had forgotten that with time fashions change in art
as in dress, and nowadays no one understands me, and, with the
exception of Arthur Davies, I understand no one. I come from the
Venetians, Davies from the early Florentines; his line is as
beautiful as Pollajuolo. I love gold more than did Facino Cane of
Balzac. Gold, ah! luscious gold, the lost secret of the masters.
Tell me, do you love Titian?" We swore allegiance to the memory of
Titian. The artist seemed pleased. "You younger men are devoted to
Velasquez and Hals--too much so. Great as painters, possibly
greatest among painters, their souls never broke away from the soil
like runaway balloons. They miss height and depth. Their colour
never sings like Titian's. They surprise secrets in the eyes of
their sitters, but never the secret surprised by the Italian. I sat
at his feet, before his canvases, fifty years, and I'm further away
than ever--" Our friend interrupted this rhapsody.

"Look here, Albertus, you man with a name out of Thomas Aquinas,
don't you think you are playing on your visitors' nerves, just to
set them on edge with expectancy? I've heard this choral service for
the glorification of Titian more than once, and I've inevitably
noticed that you had a trump of your own up your sleeve. You love
Titian. Well, admit it. You don't paint like him, your colour scheme
is something else, and what you are after you only know yourself.
Come! trot out your Phantom Ship or The Cascade of Gold, or, better
still, that landscape with a river-bank and shepherds." The old man
gravely bowed. Then he manipulated the light, placed a big easel in
proper position, fumbled among the canvases that made the room
smaller, secured one and placed it before us. We drew a long breath.
"Richard Wagner, not Captain Maryatt, was the inspiration," murmured
the master.

The tormented vessel stormed down the picture, every inch of sail
bellying out in a wind that blew a gale infernal beneath the rays,
so it seemed to us, of a poisonous golden moon. The water was
massive and rhythmic. In the first plane a smaller ship does not
even attempt to tack. You anticipate the speedy crackling and
smashing when the Flying Dutchman rides over her; but it never
happens. Like the moonshine, the phantom ship may melt into
air-bubbles before it reaches the other boat. No figures are shown.
Nevertheless, as we studied the picture we fancied that we discerned
the restless soul of Vanderdecken pacing his quarter-deck, cursing
the elements, or longing for some far-away Senta. A poetic
composition handled with masterly evasiveness, the colour was the
strangest part of it. Where had Albertus caught the secret of that
flowing gold, potable gold; gold that threateningly blazed in the
storm wrack, gold as lyric as sunshine in spring! And why such
sinister gold in a moonlit sea? We suspected illusion. My friend,
the painter, laughed: "Aha! you are looking for the sun, and is it
only a moon overhead? Our conjurer here has a few tricks. Know then,
credulous one, that the moon yonder is really the sun. Seek the
reason for that suffused back sky, realise that the solar
photosphere in a mist is precisely the breeder of all this magic
gold you so envy." "Yes," we exclaimed, "but the motion of it all,
the grip! Only Turner--" We were interrupted by a friendly slap on
the back. "Now, you are talking sense," said our friend. "Turner, a
new Turner, who has heard the music of Wagner and read the magic
prose of Joseph Conrad." What followed we shall not pretend to
describe. Landscapes of old ivory and pearly greys; portraits, in
which varnish modulated with colours of a gamut of intensity that
set tingling the eyeballs, and played a series of tonal variations
in the thick of which the theme was lost, hinted at, emerged
triumphantly, and at the end vanished in the glorious arabesque;
then followed apocalyptic visions, in which the solid earth
staggered through the empyrean after a black sun--a magnetic disk
doomed by a mighty voice that cried aloud: "It is accomplished."
Pastorals as ravishing as Giorgione's, with nuances of gold
undreamed of since the yellow flecks in the robes of Rembrandt,
faced us. Our very souls centred in our eyes; but, uncritical as was
our mood in the presence of all this imaginative art, we could not
help noting that it was without a single trait of the modern. Both
in theme and treatment these pictures might have been painted at the
time of the Renaissance. The varnish was as wonderful as that on the
belly of a Stradivarius fiddle. The blues were of a celestial
quality to be found in Titian or Vermeer; the resonant browns, the
whites--ah! such exquisite whites, "plus blanche que la plus blanche
hermine"--the rich blacks, sonorous reds and yellows--what were all
these but secrets recovered from the old masters. The subjects were
mainly legendary or mythological; no discordant note of "modernity"
obtruded its ugly self. We were in the presence of something as rare
as a lyric by Shelley or the playing of Frédéric Chopin.

What! Why! How! we felt like asking all at once, but Albertus Magnus
only smiled, and we choked our emotion. Why had he never exhibited
at the Academy or at a special show? Our friend saw our
embarrassment, and shielded us by blurting out: "No! he never
exhibited, this obstinate Albertus. He never will. He makes more
money than he needs, and will leave it to some cat asylum, for he is
a hardened bachelor. Women do not interest him. You won't find one
female head in all this amazing collection. Nor has the dear old
Diogenes suffered from a love-affair. His only love is his paint.
His one weakness is a selfish, a miserly desire to keep all this
beautiful paint for himself. Balzac would have delighted to analyse
such a peculiar mania. Degas is amiability itself compared with this
curmudgeon of genius. Now, don't stop me, Albertus--" "But I must,"
expostulated the painter. "I am always glad to receive visitors here
if they are not dealers or persons ignorant of art, or those who
think the moderns can paint. Yet no one comes to see me. My
chattering friend here occasionally asks them, and he is a hoaxer.
While I go nowhere--I haven't been east of Ninth Avenue for years.
What shall I do?" "Paint!" was the curt answer of our friend, as we
took our leave. In New York, now, a painter of genius who is known
to few! Extraordinary! Is his name really Albertus Magnus, or is
that only Latin for Albert Ryder? Our friend shrugged his shoulders
and smiled mysteriously. We hate tomfoolery. "Be frank!" we adjured
him. He hummed: "In Vishnu land what avatar?" "More Browning!" we
sneered.

Then we crossed over to the club and talked art far into the night.
Also wet our clay. And Albertus Magnus, will he never come from his
paint cave and reveal to the world his masterpieces? Perhaps. Who
knows? As the Russians say--_Avos!_



CHAPTER XV

THE GRAND MANNER IN PIANOFORTE PLAYING


Here lies one whose name is writ on ivory! might be the epigraph of
every great pianist's life, and the ivory is about as perdurable
stuff as the water in which is written the epitaph of John Keats.
Despite cunning reproductive contrivances the executive musician has
no more chance of lasting fame than the actor. The career of both is
brief, but brilliant. Glory, then, is largely a question of memory,
and when the contemporaries of a tonal artist pass away then he has
no existence except in the biographical dictionaries. Creative, not
interpretative, art endures. Better be "immortal" while you are
alive, which wish may account for the number of young men who write
their memoirs while their cheeks are still virginal of beards, while
the pianist or violinist plays his autobiography, and this may be
some compensation for the eternal injustice manifested in matters
mundane.

Whosoever heard the lion-like velvet paws of Anton Rubinstein caress
the keyboard shall never forget the music. He is the greatest
pianist in my long and varied list. Think of his delivery of the
theme at the opening of Beethoven's G major concerto; or in that
last page of Chopin's Barcarolle. It was no longer the piano tone,
but the sound of distant waters and horns from elf-land. A mountain
of fire blown skyward, when the elemental in his profoundly
passionate temperament broke loose, he could roar betimes as gently
as a dove. Yet, when I last heard him in Paris, the few remaining
pupils of Chopin declared that he was brutal in his treatment of
their master. He played Rubinstein, not Chopin, said Georges Mathias
to me. Mathias knew, for he had heard the divine Frédéric play.
Nevertheless, Rubinstein played Chopin, the greater and the
miniature, as no one before or since.

To each generation its music-making. The "grand manner" in
piano-playing has almost vanished. A few artists still live who
illustrate this manner; you may count them on the fingers of one
hand. Rosenthal, D'Albert, Carreño, Friedheim--Reisenaur had the
gift, too--how many others? Paderewski I heard play in Leipsic in
1912 at a Gewandhaus concert under the baton of the greatest living
conductor, Arthur Nikisch, and I can vouch for the plangent tone
quality and the poetic reading he displayed in his performance of
that old war-horse, the F minor concerto of Chopin. Furthermore, my
admiration of Paderewski's gift as a composer was considerably
increased after hearing his Polish symphony interpreted by Nikisch.
How far away we were from Manru. Joseffy, who looked upon
Paderewski, as a rare personality, told me that the Polish Fantasy
for piano and orchestra puzzled him because of its seeming
simplicity in figuration. "Only the composer," enthusiastically
exclaimed Joseffy, "could have made it so wonderful."

But the grand manner, has it become too artificial, too rhetorical?
It has gone out of fashion with the eloquence of the old histrions,
probably because of the rarity of its exponents; also because it no
longer appeals to a matter-of-fact public. Liszt was the first. He
was dithyrambic. He was a volcano; Thalberg--his one-time
rival--possessed all the smooth and icy perfections of Nesselrode
pudding. Liszt in reality never had but two rivals close to his
throne; Karl Tausig, the Pole, and Anton Rubinstein, the Russian.
Von Bülow was all intellect; his Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Brahms
were cerebral, not emotional. He had the temperament of the pedant.
I first heard him in Philadelphia in 1876 at the Academy of Music.
He introduced the Tschaikovsky B flat minor concerto, with B. J.
Lang directing the orchestra, a quite superfluous proceeding, as Von
Bülow gave the cues from the keyboard and distinctly cursed the
conductor, the band, the composition, and his own existence, as
befitted a disciple of Schopenhauer. Oh! he could be fiery enough,
though in his playing of the Romantics the fervent note was absent;
but his rhythmic attack was crisp and irresistible. You need only
recall the pungency of his reading of Beethoven's Scherzo in the
Sonata Opus 31, No. 3. It was staccato as a hail-storm. Two years
later, in Paris, I heard the same concerto played by Nicholas
Rubinstein at the Trocadéro (Exposition, 1878), the very man who had
first flouted the work so rudely that Tschaikovsky, deeply offended,
changed the dedication to Von Bülow.

Anton Rubinstein displayed the grand manner. His style was a
compound of tiger's blood and honey. Notwithstanding the gossip
about his "false notes" (he wrote a Study on False Notes, as if in
derision), he was, with Tausig and Liszt, a supreme stylist. He was
not always in practice and most of the music he wrote for his
numerous tours was composed in haste and repented of at leisure. It
is now almost negligible. The D minor concerto reminds one of a
much-traversed railroad-station. But Rubinstein the virtuoso! It was
in 1873 I heard him, but I was too young to understand him. Fifteen
years later, or thereabouts, he gave his Seven Historical Recitals
in Paris and I attended the series, not once, but twice. He played
many composers, but for me he seemed to be playing the Book of Job,
the Apocalypse, and the Scarlet Sarafan. He had a ductile tone like
a golden French horn--Joseffy's comparison--and the power and
passion of the man have never been equalled. Neither Tausig nor
Liszt did I hear, worse luck, but there were plenty of witnesses to
tell me of the differences. Liszt, it seems, when at his best, was
both Rubinstein and Tausig combined, with Von Bülow thrown in. Anton
Rubinstein played every school with consummate skill, from the iron
certitudes of Bach's polyphony to the magic murmurs of Chopin and
the romantic rustling in the moonlit garden of Schumann. Beethoven,
too, he interpreted with intellectual and emotional vigour. Yet this
magnificent Calmuck--he wasn't of course, though he had Asiatic
features--grew weary of his instrument, as did Liszt, and fought the
stars in their courses by composing. But his name is writ in ivory,
and not in enduring music.

Scudo said that when Sigismund Thalberg played, his scales were like
perfectly strung pearls falling on scarlet velvet; with Liszt the
pearls had become red hot. This extravagant image is of value. We
have gone back to the Thalbergian pearls, for too much passion in
piano-playing is voted bad taste to-day. Nuance, then colour, and
ripe conception. Technique for technique's sake is no longer a
desideratum; furthermore, as Felix Leifels wittily remarked: "No one
plays the piano badly"; just as no one acts Hamlet disreputably. Mr.
Leifels, as a veteran contrabassist and at present manager of the
Philharmonic Society, ought to be an authority on the subject; the
old Philharmonic has had all the pianists, from H. C. Timm, in
1844--a Hummel concerto--to Thalberg and Rubinstein, Joseffy,
Paderewski, and Josef Hofmann. Truly the standard of virtuosity is
higher than it was a quarter of a century ago. Girls give recitals
with programmes that are staggering. The Chopin concertos now occupy
the position, technically speaking, of the Hummel and Mendelssohn
concertos. Every one plays Chopin as a matter of course, and, with a
few exceptions horribly. Yes, Mr. Leifels is right; no one plays the
piano badly, yet new Rubinsteins do not materialise.

The year of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, 1876, was a
memorable one for visiting pianists. I heard not only Hans von
Bülow, but also two beautiful women, one at the apex of her artistic
career, Annette Essipoff (or Essipowa) and Teresa Carreño, just
starting on her triumphal road to fame. Essipowa was later the wife
of Leschetizky--maybe she was married then--and she was the most
poetic of all women pianists that I have heard. Clara Schumann was
as musical, but she was aged when I listened to her. Essipowa played
Chopin as only a Russian can. They are all Slavs, these Poles and
Russians, and no other nation, except the Hungarian, interpret
Chopin. Probably the greatest German virtuoso was Adolf Henselt,
Bavarian-born, though a resident of Petrograd. He had a Chopin-like
temperament and played that master's music so well that Schumann
called him the "German Chopin." Essipowa, I need hardly tell you,
communicated no little of her gracious charm to Paderewski. He
learned more from her plastic style than from all the precepts of
Leschetizky.

On a hot night in 1876, and in old Association Hall, I first saw and
heard Teresa (then Teresita) Carreño. I say "saw" advisedly, for she
was a blooming girl, and at the time shared the distinction with
Adelaide Neilson and Mrs. Scott-Siddons of being one of the three
most beautiful women on the stage. Carreño, still vital, still
handsome, and still the conquering artist, till her death last
spring, was in that far-away day fresh from Venezuela, a pupil of
Gottschalk and Anton Rubinstein. She wore a scarlet gown, as fiery
as her playing, and when I wish to recall her I close my eyes and
straightway as if in a scarlet mist I see her, hear her; for her
playing has always been scarlet to me, as Rubinstein's is golden,
and Joseffy's silvery.

The French group I have heard, beginning with Theodore Ritter, who
came to New York in company with Carlotta Patti; Planté--still
living and over eighty, so I have been told by M. Phillipp;
Saint-Saëns, whom I first saw and heard at the Trocadéro, Paris,
with his pupil, Montigny-Remaury; Clotilde Kleeberg, Diémer, Risler;
the venerable Georges Mathias, a pupil of Chopin; Raoul Pugno, who
was veritably a pugnacious pianist, Cécile Chaminade, Marie Jaell,
and her corpulent husband, Alfred Jaell.

Eugen d'Albert, surely the greatest of Scotch pianists--he was born
at Glasgow, though musically educated in London--is another
heaven-stormer. I heard him at Berlin some years ago, in
Philharmonic Hall, and people stood up in their excitement--Liszt
redivivus!

It was the grand manner in its most chaotic form. A musical volcano
belching up lava, scoriæ, rocks, hunks of Beethoven--the
Appassionata Sonata it happened to be--while the infuriated little
Vulcan threw emotional fuel into his furnace. The unfortunate
instrument must have been a mass of splintered steel, wood, and wire
after the musical giant had finished. It was a magnificent
spectacle, and the music glorious. Eugen d'Albert, whether he is or
isn't the son of Karl Tausig--as Weimar gossip had it; Weimar, when
in the palmy days every other pianist you met was a natural son of
Liszt--or else pretended to be one--has more than a moiety of that
virtuoso's genius. He is a great artist, and occasionally the magic
fire flares and lights up the firmament of music.

I think it was in 1879 that Rafael Joseffy visited us for the first
time; but I didn't hear him till 1880. The reason I remember the
date is that this greatly beloved Hungarian made his début at old
Chickering Hall (then at Fifth Avenue and Eighteenth Street); but I
saw him in Steinway Hall. Another magician with a peculiarly
personal style. In the beginning you thought of the aurora borealis,
shooting-stars, and exquisite meteors; a beautiful style, though not
a classic interpreter then. With the years Joseffy deepened and
broadened. The iridescent shimmer was never absent. No one played
the E minor Concerto of Chopin as did Joseffy. He had the tradition
from his beloved master, Tausig, as Tausig had it from Chopin by way
of Liszt. (Tausig always regretted that he had never heard Chopin
play.) Joseffy, in turn, transmitted the tradition to his early
pupil, Moriz Rosenthal, in whose répertoire it is the most
Chopinesque of all his performances.

And do you remember the Chevalier de Kontski, Carl Baermann, Franz
Rummel, S. B. Mills--who introduced here so many modern
concertos--the huge Norwegian Edmund Neupert, who lived at the Hotel
Liszt, next door to Steinway Hall, Constantin von Sternberg, and Max
Vogrich, the Hungarian with the Chopin-like profile?

In the same school as Joseffy is the capricious De Pachmann; with
Joseffy I sat at the first recital of this extraordinary Russian in
Chickering Hall (1890). Joseffy, with his accustomed generosity of
spirit--he was the most sympathetic and human of great virtuosi--at
once recognised the artistic worth of Vladimir de Pachmann. This
last representative of a school that included the names of Hummel,
Cramer, Field, Thalberg, Chopin, the little De Pachmann (he was then
bearded like a pirate) captivated us. It was all miniature, without
passion or pathos or the grand manner, but in its genre his playing
was perfection; the polished perfection of an intricately carved
ivory ornament. De Pachmann played certain sides of Chopin
incomparably; capriciously, even perversely. In a small hall,
sitting on a chair that precisely suited his fidgety spirit, then,
if in the mood, a recital by him was something unforgettable.

After De Pachmann--Paderewski. Paderewski, the master-colourist, the
grand visionary, whose art is often strained, morbid, fantastic. And
after Paderewski? Why, Leopold Godowsky, of course. He belongs to
the Joseffy-De Pachmann, not to the Rubinstein-Josef Hofmann, group.
I once called him the superman of piano-playing. Nothing like him,
as far as I know, is to be found in the history of piano-playing
since Chopin. He is an apparition. A Chopin doubled by a
contrapuntalist. Bach and Chopin. The spirit of the German cantor
and the Polish tone-poet in curious conjunction. His playing is
transcendental; his piano compositions the transcendentalism of the
future. That way, else retrogression! All has been accomplished in
ideas and figuration. A new synthesis--the combination of seemingly
disparate elements and styles--with innumerable permutations, he has
accomplished. He is a miracle-worker. The Violet Ray. Dramatic
passion, flame, and fury are not present; they would be intruders on
his map of music. The piano tone is always legitimate, never forced.
But every other attribute he boasts. His ten digits are ten
independent voices recreating the ancient polyphonic art of the
Flemings. He is like a Brahma at the piano. Before his serene and
all-embracing vision every school appears and disappears in the
void. The beauty of his touch and tone are only matched by the
delicate adjustment of his phrasing to the larger curve of the
composition. Nothing musical is foreign to him. He is a pianist for
pianists, and I am glad to say that the majority of them gladly
recognise this fact.

One evening Godowsky was playing his piano sonata with its subtle
intimations of Brahms, Chopin, and Liszt, and its altogether
Godowskian colour and rhythmic life--he is the greatest creator of
rhythmic values since Liszt, and that is a "large order"--when he
was interrupted by the entrance of Josef Hofmann. Godowsky and
Hofmann are as inseparable as were Chopin and Liszt. Heine called
the latter pair the Dioscurii of music. In the Godowsky apartment
stood several concert grands. Hofmann nonchalantly removed his coat
and, making an apology for disturbing us, he went into another room
and soon we heard him slowly practising. What do you suppose? Some
new concerto with new-fangled bedevilments? O Sancta Simplicitas!
This giant, if ever there was one, played at a funereal tempo the
octave passages in the left hand of the Heroic Polonaise of Chopin
(Opus 53). Every schoolgirl rattles them off as "easy," but, with
the humility of a great artist, Hofmann practised the section as if
it were still a stumbling-block. De Lenz records that Tausig did the
same.

Later, Conductor Artur Bodanzky of the Metropolitan Opera dropped
in, and several pianists and critics followed, and soon the Polish
pianist was playing for us all some well-known compositions by a
certain Dvorsky; also an extremely brilliant and effective concert
study in C minor by Constantin von Sternberg. From 1888, when he was
a wonder-child here, Jozio Hofmann's artistic development has been
logical and continuous. His mellow muscularity evokes Rubinstein. No
one plays Rubinstein as does this Harmonious Blacksmith--and with
the piety of Rubinstein's pet pupil. I once compared him to a
steam-hammer, whose marvellous sensitivity enables it to crack an
egg-shell or crush iron. Hofmann's range of tonal dynamics is
unequalled, even in this age of perfected piano technique. He is at
home in all schools, and his knowledge is enormous. At moments his
touch is as rich as a Kneisel Quartet accord.

At the famous Rudolph Schirmer dinner, given in 1915, among other
distinguished guests there were nearly a score of piano virtuosi.
The newspapers humorously commented upon the fact that there was
not a squabble, though with so many nationalities one row, at
least, might have been expected. As a matter of fact, if any
discussion had arisen it would not have been over politics, but
about the fingering of the Double-Note Study in G sharp minor of
Chopin, so difficult to play slowly--the most formidable of
argument-breeding questions among pianists. A parterre of pianists,
indeed, some in New York because of the war, while Paderewski and
Rosenthal were conspicuous by their absence. Think of a few names:
Joseffy--he died several months later, Gabrilowitsch, Hofmann,
Godowsky, Carl Friedberg, Mark Hambourg--a heaven-stormer in the
Rubinstein-Hercules manner--Leonard Borwick, Alexander Lambert,
Ernest Schelling, Stojowski, Percy Grainger--the young Siegfried of
the Antipodes--August Fraemcke, Cornelius Ruebner, and--another
apparition in the world of piano-playing--Ferruccio Busoni.

This Italian, the greatest of Italian piano virtuosi--the history of
which can claim such names as Domenico Scarlatti, Clementi,
Fumigalli, Martucci, Sgambati--is also a composer who has set agog
conservative critics by the boldness of his imagination. As an
artist he may be said to embody the intellectuality of Von Bülow,
the technical brilliancy of the Liszt group. Busoni is eminently a
musical thinker.

America probably will never again harbour such a constellation of
piano talent. I sometimes wonder if the vanished generation of piano
artists played much better than those men. Godowsky, Hofmann, the
lyric and most musical Harold Bauer; the many-sided, richly endowed,
and charming Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Hambourg, Busoni, and Paderewski
are not often matched. Heine called Thalberg a king, Liszt a
prophet, Chopin a poet, Herz an advocate, Kalkbrenner a minstrel
(not a negro minstrel, for a chalk-burner is necessarily white),
Mme. Pleyel a sibyl, and Doehler--a pianist! The contemporary piano
hierarchy might be thus classed: Josef Hofmann, a king; Paderewski,
a poet; Godowsky, a prophet; Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler, a sibyl;
D'Albert, a titan; Busoni, a philosopher; Rosenthal, a hero, and
Alexander Lambert--a pianist. Well, Mr. Lambert may be congratulated
on such an ascription; Doehler was a great technician in his day,
and when the "friend of pianists" (Lambert could pattern after
Schindler, whose visiting-card read: "l'Ami de Beethoven") masters
his modesty an admirable piano virtuoso is revealed. So let him be
satisfied with the honourable appellation of "pianist." He is in
good company.

And the ladies! I am sorry I can't say, "place aux dames!" Space
forbids. I've heard them all, from Arabella Goddard to Mme.
Montigny-Remaury (in Paris, 1878, with her master, Camille
Saint-Saëns); from Alide Topp, Marie Krebs, Anna Mehlig, Pauline
Fichtner, Vera Timinoff, Ingeborg Bronsart, Madeline Schiller, to
Julia Rivé-King; from Cecilia Gaul and Svarvady-Clauss to Anna
Bock; from the Amazon, Sofie Menter, the most masculine of Liszt
players, to Adèle Margulies, Yoland Maero, and Antoinette
Szumowska-Adamowska; from Ilonka von Ravacsz to Ethel Leginska--who
plays like a house afire; from Helen Hopekirk to Katharine Goodson;
from Clara Schumann to Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler, Olga Samaroff, and
the newly come Brazilian Guiomar Novaes--the list might be unduly
prolonged.

I heard Paderewski play last spring. Surely he has now the "grand
manner" in all its dramatic splendour, and without its old-fashioned
pretentious rhetoric. Nor has he lost the lusciousness of his
touch--a Caruso voice on the keyboard--or the poetic intensity of
his Chopin and Schumann interpretations. He is still Prince
Charming.

Not only do I fear prolixity, but the confusing of critical values,
for I write from memory, and I admit that I've had more pleasure
from the "intimate" pianists than from the forgers of tonal
thunderbolts; that is--Rubinstein excepted--from such masters in
miniature as Joseffy, Godowsky, Carl Heyman, De Pachmann, and
Paderewski. I find in the fresh, sparkling playing of Mischa
Levitski, Benno Moiseivich, and Guiomar Novaes high promise for
their future. The latter came here unheralded and as the pupil of
that sterling virtuoso and pedagogue, Isidor Phillipp of the Paris
Conservatory.

It is noteworthy that only Chopin, Liszt, and Von Bülow were
Christian born among the supreme masters of the keyboard; the rest
(with a few exceptions) were and are members of that race whose
religious tenets specifically incline them to the love and practice
of music.



CHAPTER XVI

JAMES JOYCE


Who is James Joyce? is a question that was answered by John Quinn,
who told us that the new writer was from Dublin and at present
residing in Switzerland; that he is not in good health--his eyes
trouble him--and that he was once a student in theology, but soon
gave up the idea of becoming a priest. He is evidently a member of
the new group of young Irish writers who see their country and
countrymen in anything but a flattering light. Ireland, surely the
most beautiful and most melancholy island on the globe, is not the
Isle of Saints for those iconoclasts. George Moore is a poet who
happens to write English, though he often thinks in French; Bernard
Shaw, notwithstanding his native wit, is of London and the
Londoners; while Yeats and Synge are essentially Celtic, and both
poets. Yes, and there is the delightful James Stephen, who mingles
angels' pin-feathers with rainbow gold; a magic decoction of which
we never weary. But James Joyce, potentially a poet, and a realist
of the De Maupassant breed, envisages Dublin and the Dubliners with
a cruel scrutinising gaze. He is as truthful as Tchekov, and as
grey--that Tchekov compared with whose the "realism" of De
Maupassant is romantic bric-à-brac, gilded with a fine style. Joyce
is as implacably naturalistic as the Russian in his vision of the
sombre, mean, petty, dusty commonplaces of middle-class life, and he
sometimes suggests the Frenchman in his clear, concise, technical
methods. The man is indubitably a fresh talent.

Emerson, after his experiences in Europe, became an armchair
traveller. He positively despised the idea of voyaging across the
water to see what is just as good at home. He calls Europe a
tapeworm in the brain of his countrymen. "The stuff of all countries
is just the same." So Ralph Waldo sat in his chair and enjoyed
thinking about Europe, thus evading the worries of going there too
often. It has its merit, this Emersonian way, particularly for souls
easily disillusioned. To anticipate too much of a foreign city may
result in disappointment. We have all had this experience. Paris
resembles Chicago, or Vienna is a second Philadelphia at times; it
depends on the colour of your mood. Few countries have been so
persistently misrepresented as Ireland. It is lauded to the eleventh
heaven of the Burmese or it is a place full of fighting devils in a
hell of crazy politics. Of course, it is neither, nor is it the land
of Lover and Lever; Handy Andy and Harry Lorrequer are there, but
you never encounter them in Dublin. John Synge got nearer to the
heart of the peasantry, and Yeats and Lady Gregory brought back
from the hidden spaces fairies and heroes.

Is Father Ralph by Gerald O'Donovan a veracious picture of Irish
priesthood and college life? Is the fiction of Mr. Joyce
representative of the middle class and of the Jesuits? A cloud of
contradictory witnesses passes across the sky. What is the Celtic
character? Dion Boucicault's The Shaughraun? Or isn't the
pessimistic dreamer with the soul of a "wild goose," depicted in
George Moore's story, the real man? Celtic magic, cried Matthew
Arnold. He should have said, Irish magic, for while the Irishman is
a Celt, he is unlike his brethren across the Channel. Perhaps he is
nearer to the Sarmatian than the continental Celt. Ireland and
Poland! The Irish and the Polish! Dissatisfied no matter under which
king! Not Playboys of the Western World, but martyrs to their
unhappy temperaments.

The Dublin of Mr. Joyce shows another variation of this always
interesting theme. It is a rather depressing picture, his, of the
daily doings of his contemporaries. His novel is called A Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Man, a title quite original and expressive
of what follows; also a title that seems to have emerged from the
catalogue of an art-collector. It is a veritable portrait of the
artist as a boy, a youth and a young man. From school to college,
from the brothel to the confessional, from his mother's
apron-strings to coarse revelry, the hero is put to the torture by
art and relates the story of his blotched yet striving soul. We do
not recall a book like this since the autobiography En Route of
J.-K. Huysmans. This Parisian of Dutch extraction is in the company
of James Joyce. Neither writer stops at the half-way house of
reticence. It's the House of Flesh in its most sordid aspects, and
the human soul is occasionally illuminated by gleams from the grace
of God. With both men the love of Rabelaisian speech is marked.
This, if you please, is a Celtic trait. Not even the Elizabethans so
joyed in "green" words, as the French say, as do some Irish. Of
richest hue are his curses, and the Prince of Obliquity himself must
chuckle when he overhears one Irishman consign another to
everlasting damnation by the turn of his tongue.

Stephen, the hero of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, tells
his student friend about his father. These were his attributes: "A
medical student, an oarsman, a tenor, an amateur actor, a shouting
politician, a small landlord, a small investor, a drinker, a good
fellow, a story-teller, somebody's secretary, something in a
distillery, a tax-gatherer, a bankrupt, at present a praiser of his
own past." He could talk the devil out of the liver-wing of a
turkey--as they say up Cork way. The portrait is well-nigh perfect.
The wild goose over again, and ever on the wing. Stephen became
violently pious after a retreat at the Jesuits. From the extreme of
riotous living he was transformed into a militant Catholic. The
reverend fathers had hopes of him. He was an excellent Latinist, but
his mind was too speculative; later it proved his spiritual undoing.
To analyse the sensibility of a soul mounting on flaming pinions to
God is easier than to describe the modulations of a moral
recidivist. Stephen fell away from his faith, though he did not
again sink into the slough of Dublin low life. Cranly, the student,
saw through the hole in his sceptical millstone. "It is a curious
thing, do you know," Cranly said dispassionately, "how your mind is
supersaturated with the religion in which you say you disbelieve." A
profound remark. Once a Roman Catholic always a Roman Catholic,
particularly if you are born in Ireland.

Mr. Joyce holds the scales evenly. He neither abuses nor praises. He
is evidently out of key with religious life; yet he speaks of the
Jesuits with affection and admiration. The sermons preached by them
during the retreat are models. They are printed in full--strange
material for a novel. And he can show us the black hatred caused by
the clash of political and religious opinions. There is a scene of
this sort in the house of Stephen's parents that simply blazes with
verity. At a Christmas dinner the argument between Dante (a certain
Mrs. Riordan) and Mr. Casey spoils the affair. Stephen's father
carves the turkey and tries to stop the mouths of the angry man and
woman with food. The mother implores. Stephen stolidly gobbles,
watching the row, which culminates with Mr. Casey losing his
temper--he has had several tumblers of mountain dew and is a little
"how come you so?" He bursts forth: "No God in Ireland! We have had
too much God in Ireland! Away with God!" "Blasphemer! Devil!"
screamed Dante, starting to her feet and almost spitting in his
face. "Devil out of hell! We won! We crushed him to death! Fiend!"
The door slammed behind her. Mr. Casey suddenly bowed his head on
his hands with a sob of pain. "Poor Parnell!" he cried loudly. "My
dead King." Naturally the dinner was not a success. Stephen noted
that there were tears in his father's eyes at the mention of
Parnell, but that he seemed debonair enough when the old woman
unpacked her heart of vile words like a drab.

There is no denying that the novel is as a whole hardly cheerful.
Its grip on life, its intensity, its evident truth, and unflinching
acceptance of facts will make A Portrait disagreeable to the average
reader. There is relief in the Trinity College episodes; humour of a
saturnine kind in the artistic armoury of Mr. Joyce. There is no
ironist like an Irishman. The book is undoubtedly written from a
full heart, but the author must have sighed with relief when he
wrote the last line. No one may tell the truth with impunity, and
the portrait of Stephen in its objective frigidity--as an artistic
performance--and its passionate personal note, is bound to give
offence in every quarter. It is too Irish to be liked by the Irish;
not an infrequent paradox. The volume of tales entitled Dubliners
reveals a wider range, a practised technical hand, and a gift for
etching character that may be compared with De Maupassant's. A big
comparison, but read such masterpieces in pity and irony as The
Dead, A Painful Case, The Boarding-House or Two Gallants, and be
convinced that we do not exaggerate.

Dublin, we have said elsewhere, is a huge whispering gallery.
Scandal of the most insignificant order never lacks multiple echoes.
From Merrion Square, from the Shelbourne, to Dalkey or Drumcondra;
from the Monument to Chapelizod, the repercussion of spoken gossip
is unfailing. The book Dubliners is filled with Dublinesque
anecdotes. It is charged with the sights and scents and gestures of
the town. The slackers who pester servant-girls for their shillings
to spend on whisky; the young man in the boarding-house who succumbs
to the "planted" charms of the landlady's daughter to fall into the
matrimonial trap--only De Maupassant could better the telling of
this too commonplace story; the middle-aged man, parsimonious as to
his emotions and the tragic ending of a love-affair that had hardly
begun; and the wonderfully etched plate called The Dead with its
hundred fine touches of comedy and satire--these but prove the claim
of James Joyce's admirers that he is a writer signally gifted. A
malevolent fairy seemingly made him a misanthrope. With Spinoza he
could say--oh, terrifying irony!--that "mankind is not necessary" in
the eternal scheme. We hope that with the years he may become
mellower, but that he will never lose the appreciation of "life's
more bitter flavours." Insipid novelists are legion. He is
Huysmans's little brother in his flair for disintegrating character.
But yet an Irishman, who sees the shining vision in the sky, a
vision that too often vanishes before he can pin its beauty on
canvas. But yet an Irishman in his sense of the murderous humour of
such a story as Ivy Day in the Committee-Room, which would bring to
a Tammany heeler what Henry James called "the emotion of
recognition." Ah! the wild goose. The flying dream.



CHAPTER XVII

CREATIVE INVOLUTION


Israel Zangwill, in the papers he contributed once upon a time to
the _Strand Magazine_ and later reunited in a book bearing the
happy title Without Prejudice, spoke of women writers as being
significant chiefly in their self-revelation. What they tell of
themselves is of more value than what they write about. Whether
Mr. Zangwill now believes this matters little in the discussion of
an unusual book by a woman. Perhaps to-day he would open both eyes
widely after reading Creative Involution, by Cora L. Williams,
M. S., with an apposite introduction by Edwin Markham. Miss Williams
deals with no less a bagatelle than the Fourth Dimension of Space
(what we do not know we fear, and fear is always capitalised).
Speculative as is her work, she is not a New-Thoughter, a Christian
Scientist, or a member of any of the other queer rag-tag and bobtail
beliefs and superstitions--fortune-telling, astrology, selling
"futures" in the next life, table-rapping, and such like. Cora
Lenore Williams is an authority in mathematics, as was the
brilliant, unhappy Sonya Kovalevska. Her ideas, then, are not
verbal wind-pudding, but have a basis of mathematics and the
investigations of the laboratory, where "chemists and physicists
are finding that the conduct of certain molecules and crystals
is best explained as a fourth-dimensional activity."

We have always enjoyed the idea of the Fourth Spatial Dimension. The
fact that it is an _x_ in the plotting of mathematicians in general
does not hinder it from being a fascinating theme. J. K. F.
Zoellner, of Leipsic, proved to his own satisfaction the existence
of a Fourth Dimension when he turned an india-rubber ball inside out
without tearing it. Later he became a victim to incurable
melancholy. No wonder. If you have read Cayley, or Abbot's Flatland,
or the ingenious speculations of Simon Newcomb and W. K. Clifford,
you will learn the attractions of the subject. Perpetual motion,
squaring the circle, are only variants of the alchemical pursuit of
the philosopher's stone, the transmutation of the baser metals, the
cabalistic Abracadabra, the quest of the absolute. Man can't live on
machinery alone, and the underfed soul of the past period of
positivism craves more spiritual nourishment to-day. Hasn't the
remarkable mathematician Henri Poincaré (author of Science and
Hypothesis, The Value of Science, Science and Method) declared that
between the construction of the spirit and the absolute of truth
there is an abysm caused by free choice and the voluntary
elimination which have necessitated such inferences? Note the word
"free"; free-will is restored to its old and honourable estate in
the hierarchy of thought. The cast-iron determinism of the seventies
and eighties has gone to join the materialistic ideas of Büchner and
Clifford. It is a pluralistic world now, and lordly Intuition--a
dangerous vocable--rules over mere mental processes. (There is, as
George Henry Lewes asserted, profound truth in the Cullen paradox:
_i. e._, there are more false facts than false theories current.)
Science only attains the knowledge of the correspondence and
relativity of things--no mean intellectual feat, by the way--but not
of the things themselves; one must join, adds Poincaré, to the
faculty of reasoning the gift of direct sympathy. In a word,
Intuition. Even mathematics as an exact science is not immutable,
and the geometries of Lebatchevsky and Riemann are as legitimate as
Euclid's. And at this point the earth beneath us begins to tremble
and the stars to totter in their spheres. Is the age of miracles
now?

Perhaps music is in the Fourth Dimension. Time may be in two
dimensions. Heraclitus before Bergson compared Time to a river
always flowing, yet a permanent river: if we emerged from this
stream at a certain moment and entered it an hour later, would it
not signify that Time has two dimensions. And where does music stand
in the eternal scheme of things? Are not harmony with its vertical
structure and melody with its horizontal flow proof that music is
another dimension in Time? Miss Williams's notion of the Fourth
Spatial Dimension is a spiritual one. Creative Involution is to
supersede the Darwinian evolution. Again, the interior revolution
described for our salvation in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. All
roads lead to religion. Expel religion forcibly and it returns under
strange disguises, usually as debasing superstitions. Yet religion
without dogma is like a body without a skeleton--it can't be made to
stand upright.

Mathematicians are poets, and religion is the poetry of the poor,
just as philosophy is the diversion of professors. Modern science,
said Mallock, put out the footlights of life's stage when it denied
religion. But matter, in the light of recent experiment, is become
spirit, energy, anything but gross matter. Tyndall might have to
revise the conclusions of his once famous Belfast address in the
presence of radium. Remy de Gourmont said that the essential thing
is to search the eternal in the diverse and fleeting movements of
form. From a macrocosmic monster our gods are become microcosmic;
god may be a molecule, a cell. A god to put in a phial; thus far has
the zigzag caprice of theory attained. And religion is "a sum of
scruples which impede the free exercise of our faculties," says
Salomon Reinach in Orpheus. Bossuet did not write his Variations in
vain. All is vanity, even doctrinal fluctuations. Goethe has warned
us that "Man is not born to solve the mystery of Existence; but he
must nevertheless attempt it, in order that he may learn how to keep
within the limits of the Knowable." Goethe detested all "thinking
about thought." Spinoza was his only philosophical recreation.

Man must no longer be egocentric. The collective soul is born. The
psychology of the mob, according to Professor Le Bon, is different
from the psychology of the individual. We know this from the mental
workings of a jury. Twelve otherwise intelligent men put in a
jury-box contaminate each other's will so that their united judgment
is, as a rule, that of a full-fledged imbecile. Mark Twain noted
this in his accustomed humorous (a mordant humour) fashion, adding
that trial by jury was all very well in the time of Alfred the
Great, candle-clocks, and small communities. Miss Williams, who sees
salvation for the single soul in the collective soul--not
necessarily socialistic--nevertheless warns parents against the
dangers in our public-school system, where the individuality of the
child is so often disturbed, if not destroyed, by class teaching.
Mob psychology is always false psychology. The crowd obliterates the
ego. Yet to collective consciousness may belong the future. It is
all very well for Mallock to call war the glorification, the result,
and the prop of limited class interests. (This was years ago.)
Stately, sedate, stable is the class that won't tolerate war; a
class of moral lollipops. War we must have; it is one of the prime
conditions of struggling existence. As belief in some totem, fetich,
taboo is the basis of all superstitions, so the superstition of
yesterday builds the cathedrals of faith to-day. (Read Frazer's
Golden Bough--James Frazer, who is the Darwin of Social
Anthropology.) Happiness requires limitations, as a wine needs a
glass to hold it; and if patriotism is a crime of lèse-majesty
against mankind, then be it so. But like the poor, war and
patriotism are precious essences in the scheme of life, and we shall
always have them with us. However, the warning of Miss Williams is a
timely one. At school our children's souls are clogged with bricks
and mortar, instead of being buoyant and individual.

She quotes--and her little volume contains a mosaic of apt
quotations--with evident approbation from Some Neglected Factors in
Evolution, by the late H. M. Bernard, an English thinker: "Organic
life is thus seen advancing out of the dim past upon a series of
waves, each of which can be scanned in detail until we come to that
one on which we ourselves, the organisms of to-day, and the human
societies to which we belong, are swept onward. Here we must
necessarily pause, but can we doubt that the great organic rhythm
which has brought life so far will carry it on to still greater
heights in the unknown future?" Rhythm, measured flow, is the
shibboleth. Zarathustra tells us that man is a discord and hybrid of
plant and ghost. "I teach you Beyond-Man (superman); Man is
something that will be surpassed ... once man was ape, and is ape in
a higher degree than any ape.... Man is a rope connecting animal and
Beyond-Man." "Believe that which thou seest not," cries Flaubert in
his marvellous masque of mythologies ancient and modern, The
Temptation of St. Anthony. Tertullian said the same centuries before
the Frenchman: Believe what is impossible. We all do. Perhaps it is
the price we pay for cognition.

Miss Williams is not a Bergsonian, though she appreciates his
plastic theories. She has a receptive mind. Henri Bergson is a
mystagogue, and all mystagogues are mythomaniacs. He has yet to
answer Professor Hugh S. R. Elliott's three questions: "1. Bergson
says, 'Time is a stuff both resistant and substantial.' Where is the
specimen on which this allegation is founded? 2. Consciousness is to
some extent independent of cerebral structure. Professor Bergson
thinks he is disproving a crude theory of localisation of mental
qualities. Will he furnish evidence of its existence apart from
local structure? 3. Instinct leads us to a comprehension of life
that intellect can never give. Will Professor Bergson furnish
instances of the successes of instinct in biological inquiries where
intellect has failed?" (From Modern Science and the Illusions of
Professor Bergson, 1912.) These "metaphysical curiosities," as they
are rather contemptuously called by Sir Ray Lankester in his preface
to this solidly reasoned confutation, are the pabulum of numerous
persons, dilettantes, with a craving for an embellished theory of
the Grand Perhaps. Miss Williams is not the dupe of such silken
sophistries, and while her divagations are sometimes in the
air--which, like the earth, hath bubbles, as was observed by the
greatest of poets--she plants her feet on tangible affirmations. And
to have faith we must admit the Illative sense of John Henry Newman.
Thus "the wheel is come full circle." Creative Involution will
please mystics and mathematicians alike. The author somersaults in
the vasty blue, but safely volplanes to mother earth.



CHAPTER XVIII

FOUR DIMENSIONAL VISTAS


Hamlet, sometime Prince of Denmark, warned his friend that there
were more things in heaven and earth than dreamed of in his
philosophy. Now, both Hamlet and Horatio had absorbed the
contemporary wisdom of Wittenberg. And let it be said in passing
that their knowledge did not lag behind ours, metaphysically
speaking. Nevertheless, Hamlet, if he had lived longer, might have
said that no philosophy would ever solve the riddle of the sphinx;
that we never know, only name, things. Noah is the supreme symbol of
science, he the first namer of the animals in the ark. The world of
sensation is our ark and we are one branch of the animal family. We
come whence we know not and go where we shall never guess. Standing
on this tiny Isle of Error we call the present, we think backward
and live forward. Hamlet the sceptical would now demand something
more tangible than the Grand Perhaps. My kingdom for a fulcrum! he
might cry to Horatio--on which I may rest my lever and pry this too
too solid earth up to the starry skies! What the implement?
Religion? Remember Hamlet was a Catholic, too sensitive to send
unshrived to hell's fire the soul of his uncle. Philosophy? Read
Jules Laforgue's Hamlet and realise that if he were alive to-day the
melancholy Prince might be a delicate scoffer at all fables. A
Hamlet who had read Schopenhauer. What then the escape? We all need
more elbow-room in the infinite. The answer is--the Fourth Dimension
in Higher Space. Eureka!

After studying Saint Teresa, John of the Cross, Saint Ignatius, or
the selections in Vaughan's Hours with the Mystics, even the
doubting Thomas is forced to admit that here is no trace of rambling
discourse, fugitive ideation, half-stammered enigmas; on the
contrary, the true mystic abhors the cloudy, and his vision pierces
with crystalline clearness the veil of the visible world. As
literary style we find sharp contours and affirmations. Mysticism is
not all cobweb lace and opal fire. Remember that we are not
stressing the validity of either the vision or its consequent
judgments; we only wish to emphasise the absence of muddy thinking
in these writings. This quality of precision, allied to an eloquent,
persuasive style, we encounter in Claude Bragdon's Four Dimensional
Vistas. The author is an architect and has written much of his art
and of projective ornament. (He was a Scammon lecturer at the
Chicago Art Institute in 1915.) He is a mystic. He is also eminently
practical. His contribution to æsthetics in The Beautiful Necessity
is suggestive, and on the purely technical side valuable. But Mr.
Bragdon, being both a mathematician and a poet, does not stop at
three-dimensional existence. Like the profound English mystic
William Blake, he could ask: "How do you know but every bird that
cuts the airy way is an immense world of delight, closed by your
senses five?"

What is the Fourth Dimension? A subtle transposition of precious
essences from the earthly to the spiritual plane. We live in a world
of three dimensions, the symbols of which are length, breadth,
thickness. A species of triangular world, a prison for certain souls
who see in the category of Time an escape from that other
imperative, Space (however, not the Categorical Imperative of Kant
and its acid moral convention). Helmholtz and many mathematicians
employed the "n" dimension as a working hypothesis. It is useful in
some analytical problems, but it is not apprehended by the grosser
senses. Pascal, great thinker and mathematician, had his "Abyss"; it
was his Fourth Dimension, and he never walked abroad without the
consciousness of it at his side. This illusion or obsession was the
result of a severe mental shock early in his life. Many of us are
like the French philosopher. We have our "abyss," mystic or real.
Mr. Bragdon quotes from the mathematician Bolyai, who in 1823
"declared with regard to Euclid's so-called axiom of parallels, 'I
will draw two lines through a given point both of which will be
parallel to a given line.'" Space, then, may be curved in another
dimension. Mr. Bragdon believes that it is, though he does not
attempt to prove it, as that would be impossible; but he gives his
readers the chief points in the hypothesis. The "n" dimension may be
employed as a lever to the imagination. Even revealed religion
demands our faith, and imagination is the prime agent in the
interpretation of the universe, according to the gospel of mystic
mathematics.

Nature geometrises, said Emerson, and it is interesting to note the
imagery of transcendentalism through the ages. It is invariably
geometrical. Spheres, planes, cones, circles, spirals, tetragrams,
pentagrams, ellipses, and what-not. A cubistic universe. Xenophanes
said that God is a sphere. And then there are the geometrical
patterns made by birds on the wing. Heaven in any religion is
another sphere. Swedenborg offers a series of planes, many mansions
for the soul at its various stages of existence. The Bible, the
mystical teachings of Mother Church--why evoke familiar witnesses?
We are hemmed in by riddles, and the magnificent and mysterious
tumult of life asks for the eye of imagination, which is also the
eye of faith. The cold fire and dark light of the mystics must not
repel us by their strangeness. Not knowledge but perception is
power, and the psychic is the sign-post of the future. What do all
these words mean: matter, energy, spirit, cells, molecules,
electrons, but the same old thing? I am a colony of cells, yet that
fact does not get me closer to the core of the soul. What will? A
fourth spatial dimension, answers Claude Bragdon. Truly a poetic
concept.

He calls man a space-eater. Human ambition is to annihilate space.
Wars are fought for space, and every step in knowledge is based upon
its mastery. What miracles are wireless telegraphy, flying-machines,
the Roentgen ray! Astronomy--what ghastly gulfs it shows us in
space! Time and space were abolished as sense illusions by the
worthy Bishop of Cloyne, George Berkeley; but as we are up to our
eyes in quotidian life, which grows over and about us like grass, we
cannot shake off the oppression. First thought, and then realised,
these marvels are now accepted as matter of fact because mankind has
been told the technique of them; as if any explanation can be more
than nominal. We shall never know the real nature of the phenomena
that crowd in on us from lust to dust. Not even that synthesis of
the five senses, the sixth, or sex sense, with its evanescent
ecstasy, cuts deeply into the darkness. There may be a seventh
sense, a new dimension, intimations of which are setting advanced
thinkers on fresh trails. But there is as yet no tangible proof.
Philosophers, who, like some singers, bray their brainless
convictions to a gaping auditory, ask of us much more credence, and
little or no imagination. As that "old mole," working in the ground,
gravitation, is defied by aeroplanes, then we should not despair of
any hypothesis which permits us a peep through the partly opened
door. Plato's cavern and the shadows. Who knows but in this universe
there may be a crevice through which filters the light of another
life? Emerson, who shed systems yet never organised one, hints at
aerial perspectives. A flight through the sky with the sun bathing
in the blue jolts one's conception of a rigid finite world. In such
perilous altitudes I have enjoyed this experience and felt a
liberation of the spirit which has no parallel; not even when
listening to Bach or Beethoven or Chopin. Music, indeed, is the
nearest approach to psychic freedom.

Mr. Bragdon approvingly quotes Goethe's expression "frozen music,"
applied to Gothic architecture. (Stendhal appropriated this phrase.)
For us the flying buttress is aspiring, and the pointed arch is a
fugue. Our author is rich in his analogies, and like Sir Thomas
Browne sees "quincunxes" in everything; his particular "quincunx"
being Higher Space. The precise patterns in our brain, like those of
the ant, bee, and beaver, which enable us to perceive and build the
universe (otherwise called innate ideas) are geometrical. Space is
the first and final illusion. Time--which is not "a stuff both
resistant and substantial," as Henri Bergson declares--is perhaps
the Fourth Dimension in the guise of a sequence of states, and not
grasped simultaneously, as is the idea of Space. That Time can
shrink and expand, opium-eaters, who are not always totally drugged
by their dreams, assure us. A second becomes an æon. And space
curvature? Is it any wonder that "Lewis Carroll," who wrote those
extraordinary parables for little folk, Through the Looking-Glass
and Alice in Wonderland, was a mathematician? A topsy-turvy world;
it is even upside down as an optical image. The other side of good
and evil may be around the corner. Eternity can lurk in a molecule
too tiny to harbour Queen Mab. And we may all live to see the back
of our own heads without peering in mirrors. That "astral trunk"
once so fervently believed in may prove a reality; it is situated
behind the ear and is a long tube that ascends to the planet Saturn,
and by its aid we should be enabled to converse with spirits! The
pineal gland is the seat of the soul, and miracles fence us in at
every step. We fill our belly with the east wind of vain desires. We
eat the air promise-crammed. This world is but a point in the
universe, and our universe only one of an infinite series. There was
no beginning, there is no end. Eternity is now; though death and the
tax-gatherer never cease their importunings.

All this Mr. Bragdon does not say, though he leans heavily on the
arcana of the ancient wisdom. The truth is that the majority of
humans are mentally considered vegetables, living in two dimensions.
To keep us responsive to spiritual issues, as people were awaked in
Swift's Laputa by flappers, is the service performed by such
transcendentalists as C. Howard Hinton, author of The Fourth
Dimension; Claude Bragdon and Cora Lenore Williams. Their thought is
not new; it was hoary with age when the Greeks went to old Egypt for
fresh learning; Noah conversed with his wives in the same
terminology. But its application is novel, as are the personal
nuances. The idea of a fourth spatial dimension may be likened to
a fresh lens in the telescope or microscope of speculation. For the
present writer the hypothesis is just one more incursion into the
fairyland of metaphysics. Without fairies the heart grows old and
dusty.

The seven arts are fairy-tales in fascinating shapes. As for the
paradise problem, it is horribly sublime for me, this idea of an
eternity to be spent in a place which, with its silver, gold, plush,
and diamonds, seems like the dream of a retired pawnbroker. The
Eternal Recurrence is more consoling. The only excuse for life is
its brevity. Why, then, do we yearn for that unending corridor
through which in processional rhythms we move, our shoulders bowed
by the burden of our chimera--our ego? I confess that I prefer to
watch on the edge of some vast promontory the swift approach of
a dark sun rushing out from the primordial depths of interstellar
spaces to the celestial assignation made at the beginning of Time
for our little solar system, whose provinciality, remote from the
populous path of the Milky Way, has hitherto escaped colliding
with a segment of the infinite. Perhaps in that apocalyptic
flare-up--surely a more cosmical and heroic death than stewing
in greasy bliss--Higher Space may be manifested and Time and
Tri-Dimensional Space be no more. The rest is silence.



CHAPTER XIX

O. W.


It is an enormous advertisement nowadays to win a reputation as a
martyr--whether to an idea, a vice, or a scolding wife. You have a
label by which a careless public is able to identify you. Oscar
Wilde was a born advertiser. From the sunflower days to Holloway
Gaol, and from the gaol to the Virgins of Dieppe, he kept himself in
the public eye. Since his death the number of volumes dealing with
his glittering personality, negligible verse and more or less
insincere prose, have been steadily accumulating; why, I'm at a loss
to understand. If he was a victim to British "middle-class
morality," then have done with it, while regretting the affair. If
he was not, all the more reason to maintain silence. But no, the
clamour increases, with the result that there are many young people
who believe that Oscar was a great man, a great writer, when in
reality he was neither. Here is Alfred Douglas slamming the memory
of his old chum in a not particularly edifying manner, though he
tells some truths, wholesome and unwholesome. Henley paid an
unpleasant tribute to his dead friend, Robert Louis Stevenson, but
the note of hatred was absent; evidently literary depreciation was
the object. However, there are many to whom the truth will be more
welcome than the spectacle of broken friendship. Another, and far
more welcome book, is that written by Martin Birnbaum, a slender
volume of "fragments and memories." His Oscar Wilde is the Oscar of
the first visit to New York, and there are lots of anecdotes and
facts that are sure to please collectors of Wildiana--or
Oscariana--which is it? Pictures, too. I confess that his early
portraits flatter the Irish writer. "He looked like an old maid in a
boarding-house" said a well-known Philadelphia portrait-painter. He
was ugly, not a "beautiful Greek god," as his fervent admirers
think. His mouth was loose, ill-shaped, his eyes dull and "draggy,"
his forehead narrow, the cheeks flabby, his teeth protruding and
"horsy," his head and face was pear-shaped. He was a big fellow, as
was his brother Willie Wilde, who once lived in New York, but he
gave no impression of muscular strength or manliness; on the other
hand, he was not a "Sissy," as so many have said. Indeed, to know
him was to like him; he was the "real stuff," as the slang goes, and
if he had only kept away from a pestilential group of flatterers and
spongers, his end might have been different.

I've heard many eloquent talkers in my time, best of them all was
Barbey d'Aurévilly, of Paris, after whom Oscar palpably
modelled--lace cuffs, clouded cane, and other minor affectations.
But when Oscar was in the vein, which was usually once every
twenty-four hours, he was inimitable. Edgar Saltus will bear me out
in this. For copiousness, sustained wit, and verbal brilliancy the
man had few equals. It was amazing, his conversation. I met him when
he came here, and once again much later. Possibly that is why I care
so little for his verse, a pasticcio of Swinburne--(in the wholly
admirable biography of this poet by Mr. Gosse, reference is made to
O. W. by the irascible hermit of Putney: "I thought he seemed a
harmless young nobody.... I should think you in America must be as
tired of his name as we are in London of Mr. Barnum's and his
Jumbos")--Milton, Tennyson, or for his prose, a dilution of Walter
Pater and Flaubert. His Dorian Grey, apart from the inversion
element, is poor Huysmans's--just look into that masterpiece, A
Rebours; not to mention Poe's tale, The Oval Portrait; while Salomé
is Flaubert in operetta form--his gorgeous Herodias watered down for
uncritical public consumption. It is safe to say the piece--which
limps dramatically--would never have been seriously considered if
not for the Richard Strauss musical setting. As for the vaunted
essay on Socialism, I may only call attention to one fact, _i. e._,
it does not deal with socialism at all, but with philosophical
anarchism; besides, it is not remarkable in any particular. His
Intentions is his best, because his most "spoken" prose. The
fairy-tales are graceful exercises by a versatile writer, with an
excellent memory, but if I had children I'd give them the Alice in
Wonderland books, through which sweeps a bracing air, and not the
hothouse atmosphere of Wilde. The plays are fascinating as
fireworks, and as remote from human interest. Perhaps I'm in error,
yet, after reading Pater, Swinburne, Rossetti, Huysmans, I prefer
them to the Wilde imitations, strained as they are through his very
gay fancy.

He wasn't an evil-minded man; he posed à la Byron and Baudelaire;
but to hear his jolly laughter was to rout any notion of the morbid
or the sinister. He was materialistic, he loved good cookery, old
wines, and strong tobacco. Positively the best book Wilde ever
inspired was The Green Carnation, by Robert Hichens, which book
gossip avers set the ball rolling that fetched up behind
prison-bars. In every-day life he was a charming, companionable, and
very human chap, and, as Frederick James Gregg says, dropped more
witty epigrams in an hour than Whistler did annually. The best thing
Whistler ever said to Wilde was his claiming in advance as his own
anything Oscar might utter; and here Whistler was himself borrowing
an epigram of Baudelaire, as he borrowed from the same source and
amplified the idea that nature is monotonous, nature is a
plagiarist from art, and all the rest of such paradoxical chatter
and inconsequent humour. Both Whistler and Wilde have been taken too
seriously--I mean on this side. Whistler was a great artist. Wilde
was not. Whistler discoursed wittily, waspishly, but he wasn't
knee-high to a grasshopper when confronted with Wilde. As for the
tragic dénouement that has been thrashed to death by those who
know, suffice to add that William Butler Yeats told me that he
called at the Wilde home after the scandal had broken, and saw
Willie Wilde, who roundly denounced his brother for his truly brave
attitude--always attitudes with Oscar. He would not be persuaded to
leave London, and perhaps it was the wisest act of his life, though
neither the Ballad of Reading Gaol nor De Profundis carry
conviction. Need I say that my judgment is personal? I have read in
cold type that Pater was a "forerunner" of Wilde; that Wilde is a
second Jesus Christ--which latter statement stuns one. (The
Whitmaniacs are fond of claiming the same for Walt, who is not
unlike that silly and sinister monster described by Rabelais as
quite overshadowing the earth with its gigantic wings, and after
dropping vast quantities of mustard-seed on the embattled hosts
below flew away yawping: "Carnival, Carnival, Carnival!") For me,
he simply turned into superior "journalism" the ideas of Swinburne,
Pater, Flaubert, Huysmans, De Quincey, and others. If his readers
would only take the trouble to study the originals there might be
less talk of his "originality." I say all this without any
disparagements of his genuine gifts; he was a born newspaper man.
Henry James calls attention to the fact that the so-called æsthetic
movement in England never flowered into anything so artistically
perfect as the novels of Gabriel d'Annunzio. Which is true;
but he could have joined to the name of the Italian poet and
playwright that of Aubrey Beardsley, the one "genius" of the
"Eighteen-Nineties." Beardsley gave us something distinctly
individual. Wilde, a veritable cabotin, did not--nothing but his
astounding conversation, and that, alas! is a fast fading memory.



CHAPTER XX

A SYNTHESIS OF THE SEVEN ARTS


Nothing new in all this talk about a fusion of the Seven Arts; it
has been tried for centuries. Richard Wagner's attempt just grazed
success, though the æsthetic principle at the base of his theory is
eminently unsound. Pictures, sculpture, tone, acting, poetry, and
the rest are to be found in the Wagnerian music-drama; but the very
titles are significant--a hybrid art is there. With Wagner music is
the master. His poetry, his drama, are not so important, though his
scenic sense is unfailing. Every one of his works delights the eye;
truly moving pictures. Yet if the lips of the young man of Urbino
had opened to music, they would have sung the melodies of the young
man of Salzburg. Years ago Sadikichi Hartmann, the Japanese poet
from Hamburg, made a bold attempt in this direction, adding to other
ingredients of the sensuous stew, perfume. The affair came off at
Carnegie Hall, and we were wafted on the wings of song and smell to
Japan--only I detected the familiar odour of old shoes and the scent
of armpits--of the latter Walt Whitman has triumphantly sung. A New
York audience is not as pleasant to the nostrils as a Japanese
crowd. That Mr. Finck has assured us. In the Théâtre d'art, Paris,
and in the last decade of the last century, experiments were made
with all the arts--except the art of the palate. Recently, Mary
Hallock, a Philadelphia pianist, has invented a mixture of music,
lights, and costumes; for instance, in a certain Debussy piece, the
stage assumes a deep violet hue, which glides into a light purple.
The Turkish March of Mozart is depicted in deep "reds, yellows, and
greens." Philip Hale, the Boston music-critic, has written learnedly
on the relation of tones and colours, and that astonishing poet,
Arthur Rimbaud, in his Alchimie du Verbe, tells us: "I believe in
all the enchantments. I invented the colour of the vowels: A, black;
E, white; I, red; O, blue; U, green." This scheme he set forth in
his famous sonnet, Voyelles, which was only a mystification to catch
the ears of credulous ones. René de Ghil invented an entirely new
system of prosody, which no one understood; least of all, the poet.
I wrote a story, The Piper of Dreams (in Melomaniacs), to prove that
music and the violet rays combined might prove deadly in the hands
of an anarch composer like Illowski--or Richard Strauss. And now New
York has enjoyed its first Light Symphony, by Alexander Scriabine.
It was played by the Russian Symphony Orchestra under the suave
conductorship of Modeste Altschuler (who is so Jacobean), while his
brother Jacob (who is so modest) sat at the keyboard and pressed
down the keys which regulated the various tintings on a screen; a
wholly superfluous proceeding, as the colours did not mollify the
truculence of the score; indeed, were quite meaningless, though not
optically unpleasant. I admired this Russian, Scriabine, ever since
I heard Josef Hofmann play a piano of his étude in D sharp minor.
Chopinesque, very, but a decided personality was also shown in it.
I've heard few of his larger orchestral works. Nevertheless, I did
not find Prometheus as difficult of comprehension as either
Schoenberg or Ornstein. Judged purely on the scheme set by its
composer, I confess I enjoyed its chaotic beauties and passionate
twaddle, and singular to relate, the music was best when it recalled
Wagner and Chopin (a piano part occasionally sounded bilious
premonitions of Chopin). But, for such a mighty theme as Prometheus,
the Light-Bringer (a prehistoric Ben Franklin without his
electrified kite), the leading motives of this new music were often
undersized. The dissociation of conventional keys was rigorously
practised, and at times we were in the profoundest gulfs of
cacophony. But the scoring evoked many novel effects; principally,
Berlioz and vodka. I still think Scriabine a remarkable composer, if
not much addicted to the languishing Lydian mode. But his Light
Symphony proved to be only a partial solution of the problem. In
Paris the poet Haraucourt and Ernest Eckstein invented puppet-shows
with perfume symphonies.

A quarter of a century ago I visited the Théâtre d'art, in Paris;
that is, my astral soul did, for in those times I was a confirmed
theosophist. The day had been a stupid one in Gotham, and I hadn't
enough temperament to light a cigarette, so I simply pressed the
nombril button, took my Rig-Veda--a sacred buggy--projected my
astral being, and sailed through space to the French capital, there
to enjoy a bath in the new art, or synthesis of the seven arts,
eating included. As it was a first performance, even the police were
deprived of their press-tickets, and the deepest mystery was
maintained by the experimenters. I found the theatre, soon after my
arrival, plunged into an orange gloom, punctured by tiny balls of
violet light, which daintily and intermittently blinked. The
dominant odour of the atmosphere was Cologne-water, with a florid
counterpoint that recalled bacon and eggs, a mélange that appealed
to my nostrils; and, though at first it seems hardly possible that
the two dissimilar odours could even be made to modulate and merge,
yet I had not been indoors ten minutes before the subtlety of the
duet was apparent. Bacon has a delicious smell, and, like a freshly
cut lemon, it causes a premonitory tickling of the palate and little
rills of hunger in one's stomach. "Aha!" I cried (astrally, of
course), "this is a concatenation of the senses never dreamed of by
Plato when he conceived the plan of his Republic."

The lanquid lisp of those assembled in the theatre drifted into
little sighs, and then a low, long-drawn-out chord in B flat minor,
scored for octoroons, octopuses, shofars, tympani, and piccolo,
sounded. Immediately a chorus of male soprani blended with this
chord, though they sang the common chord of A major. The effect was
one of vividity (we say "avidity," why can't we say "vividity"?); it
was a dissonance, pianissimo, and it jarred my ears in a way that
made their drums warble. Then a low burbling sound ascended. "The
bacon frying," I cried, but I was mistaken. It was caused by the
hissing of a sheet of carmilion (that is carmine and vermilion)
smoke which slowly upraised on the stage; as it melted away the
lights in the auditorium turned green and topaz, and an odour of
jasmine and stewed tomatoes encircled us. My immediate neighbours
seemed to be swooning; they were nearly prostrate, with their lips
glued to the rod that ran around the seats. I grasped it, and
received a most delicious thrill, probably electrical in origin,
though it was velvety pleasure merely to touch it, and the palms of
my hands exquisitely ached. "The tactile motive," I said. As I
touched the rod I noted a small mouthpiece, and thinking I might
hear something, I applied my ear; it instantly became wet. So
evidently it was not the use to which it should be put. Again
inspecting this mouthpiece, I put my finger to it and cautiously
raised the moist end to my lips. "Heavenly!" I murmured. What sort
of an earthly paradise was I in? And then losing no time, I placed
my astral lips to the orifice, and took a long pull. Gorgeous was
the result. Gumbo soup, as sure as I ever ate it, not your
pusillanimous New York variety, but the genuine okra soup that one
can't find outside of Louisiana, where old negro mammies used to
make it to perfection. "The soup motive," I exclaimed.

Just as I gurgled the gumbo nocturne down my thirsty throat, a
shrill burst of brazen clangour (this is not tautological) in the
orchestra roused me from my dream, and I gazed on the stage. The
steam had cleared away, and now showed a rocky and wooded scene, the
trees sky-blue, the rocks a Nile-green. The band was playing
something that sounded like a strabismic version of the prelude to
Tristan. But strange odour-harmonies disturbed my enjoyment of the
music, for so subtly allied were the senses in this new temple of
art that a separate smell, taste, touch, vision, or sound jarred the
ensemble. This uncanny interfusion of the arts took my breath away,
but, full of gumbo soup as I was--and you have no idea how soup
discommodes the astral stomach--I was anchored to my seat, and
bravely determined not to leave till I had some clew to the riddle
of the new evangel of the seven--or seventeen--arts. The stage
remained bare, though the rocks, trees, and shrubbery changed their
hues about every twenty seconds. At last, as a blazing colour hit my
tired eyeballs, and when the odour had shifted to decayed fish,
dried grapefruit, and new-mown hay, I could stand it no longer, and,
turning to my neighbour, I tapped him on the shoulder, and politely
asked: "Monsieur, will you please tell me the title of this play,
piece, drama, morceau, stueck, sonata, odour, picture, symphony,
cooking-comedy, or whatever they call it?" The young man to whom I
had appealed looked fearfully about him--I had foolishly forgotten
that I was invisible in my astral shape--then clutched at his
windpipe, beat his silly skull, and screamed aloud: "Mon Dieu! still
another kind of aural pleasure," and was carried out in a superbly
vertiginous fit. Fright had made him mad. The spectators were too
absorbed, or drugged, to pay attention to the incident. Followed a
slow, putrid silence.

Realising the folly of addressing humans in my astral garb, I sat
down in my corner and again watched the stage. Still no trace of
actors. The scenery had faded into a dullish dun hue, while the
orchestra played a Bach fugue for oboe, lamp-post (transposed to E
flat and two policemen) accordions in F and stopped-strumpets.
Suddenly the lights went out, and we were plunged into a blackness
that actually pinched the sight, so drear, void, and dead was it. A
smell of garlic made us cough, and by a sweep of some current we
were saturated with the odours of white violets, the lights were
tuned in three keys: yellow of eggs, marron glacé, and orchids, and
the soup supply shifted to whisky-sours. "How delicate these
contrasts!" hiccoughed my neighbour, and I astrally acquiesced.
Then, at last, the stage became peopled by one person, a very tall
old man with three eyes, high heels, and a deep voice. Brandishing
aloft his whiskers, he curiously muttered: "And hast thou slain the
Jabberwock? Come to my arms my beamish boy." Alice in Wonderland,
was the mystery-play, and I had arrived too late to witness the
slaying of the monster in its many-buttoned waistcoat. How gallantly
the "beamish boy" must have dealt the death-stroke to the queer
brute as the orchestra sounded the Siegfried and the Dragon motives,
and the air all the while redolent with heliotrope. I couldn't help
wondering what the particular potage was at this crucial moment. My
cogitation was interrupted by the appearance of a gallant-appearing
young knight in luminous armour, who dragged after him a huge
carcass, half-dragon and two-thirds pig (the other three-thirds must
have been suffering from stage fright). The orchestra proclaimed the
Abattoir motive, and instantly rose-odours penetrated the air, the
electric shocks ceased, and subtle little kicks were administered to
the audience, which, by this time, was well-nigh swooning with these
composite pleasures. The scenery had begun to dance gravely to an
odd Russian rhythm, and the young hero monotonously intoned a verse,
making the vowel sounds sizzle with his teeth, and almost swallowing
the consonants: "And as in uffish thought he stood, the Jabberwock,
with eyes of flame, came whiffling through the tulgey wood, and
burbled as it came." "This beats Gertrude Stein," I thought, as the
orchestra played the Galumphing motive from The Ride of the Valkyrs,
and the lights were transposed to a shivering purple. Then lilac
steam ascended, the orchestra gasped in C-D flat major (for corno di
bassetto and three yelping poodles), a smell of cigarettes and
coffee permeated the atmosphere, and I knew that this magical
banquet of the senses was concluded. I was not sorry, as every nerve
was sore from the strain imposed. Talk about faculty of attention!
When you are forced to taste, see, hear, touch, and smell
simultaneously, then you yearn for a less alembicated art. Synthesis
of the arts? Synthesis of rubbish! One at a time, and not too much
time at that. I pressed my astral button, and flew homeward,
wearily, slowly; I was full of soup and tone, and my ears and
nostrils quivered from exhaustion. When I landed at the Battery it
was exactly five o'clock. It had stopped snowing, and an angry sun
was preparing to bathe for the night in the wet of the western sky.
New Jersey was etched against a cold hard background, and as an old
hand-organ struck up It's a Long, Long Way to Retrograd, I threw my
cap in the air and joined in (astrally, but joyfully) the group of
ragged children who danced around the venerable organist with jeers
and shouting. After all, life is greater than the Seven Arts.



CHAPTER XXI

THE CLASSIC CHOPIN


That Chopin is a classic need not be unduly insisted upon; he is
classic in the sense of representing the best in musical literature;
but that he is of a classical complexion as a composer from the
beginning of his career may seem in the nature of a paradox.
Nevertheless, it is a thesis that can be successfully maintained
now, since old party lines have been effaced. To battle seriously
for such words as Classic or Romantic or Realism is no longer
possible. Cultured Europe did so for a century, as it once
wrangled over doctrinal points; as if the salvation of mankind
depended upon the respective verbal merits of transubstantiation
or consubstantiation. Only yesterday that ugly word "degeneracy,"
thanks to quack critics and charlatan "psychiatrists," figured as
a means of estimating genius. This method has quite vanished
among reputable thinkers, though it has left behind it another
misunderstood vocable--decadence. Wagner is called decadent. So is
Chopin. While Richard Strauss is held up as the prime exponent of
musical decadence. What precisely is decadent? Says Havelock Ellis:

"Technically, a decadent style is only such in relation to a
classic style. It is simply a further development of a classic
style, a further specialisation, the homogeneous, in Spencerian
phraseology, having become heterogeneous. The first is beautiful
because the parts are subordinated to the whole; the second is
beautiful because the whole is subordinated to the parts.... Swift's
prose is classic, Pater's decadent.... Roman architecture is
classic, to become in its Byzantine developments completely
decadent, and Saint Mark's is the perfected type of decadence in
art; pure early Gothic, again, is strictly classic in the highest
degree because it shows an absolute subordination of detail to the
bold harmonies of structure, while the later Gothic ... is
decadent.... All art is the rising and falling of the slopes of a
rhythmic curve between these two classic and decadent extremes."

I make this quotation for it clearly sets forth a profound but not
widely appreciated fact. In art, as in life, there is no absolute.
Perhaps the most illuminating statement concerning the romantic
style was uttered by Théophile Gautier. Of it he wrote (in his essay
on Baudelaire): "Unlike the classic style it admits shadow." We need
not bother ourselves about the spirit of romanticism; that has been
done to the death by hundreds of critics. And it is a sign of the
times that the old-fashioned Chopin is fading, while we are now
vitally interested in him as a formalist. Indeed, Chopin the
romantic, poetic, patriotic, sultry, sensuous, morbid, and Chopin
the pianist, need not enter into our present scheme. He has appeared
to popular fancy as everything from Thaddeus of Warsaw to an exotic
drawing-room hero; from the sentimental consumptive consoled by
countesses to the accredited slave of George Sand. All this is truly
the romantic Chopin. It is the obverse of the medal that piques
curiosity. Why the classic quality of his compositions, their
clarity, concision, purity, structural balance, were largely missed
by so many of his contemporaries is a mystery. Because of his
obviously romantic melodies he was definitely ranged with the most
extravagant of the romantics, with Berlioz, Schumann, Liszt; but, as
a matter of fact, he is formally closer to Mendelssohn. His original
manner of distributing his thematic material deceived the critics.
He refused to join the revolutionists; later in the case of Flaubert
we come upon an analogous condition. Hailed as chief of the
realists, the author of Madame Bovary took an ironic delight in
publishing Salammbô, which was romantic enough to please that prince
of romanticists, Victor Hugo. Chopin has been reproached for his
tepid attitude toward romanticism, and also because of his rather
caustic criticisms of certain leaders. He, a musical aristocrat _pur
sang_, held aloof, though he permitted himself to make some sharp
commentaries on Schubert, Schumann, and Berlioz. Decidedly not a
romantic despite his romantic externalism. Decidedly a classic
despite his romantic "content." Of him Stendhal might have written:
a classic is a dead romantic. (Heine left no epic, yet he is an
indubitable classic.) Wise Goethe said: "The point is for a work to
be thoroughly good and then it is sure to be classical."

But it is not because of the classicism achieved by the pathos of
distance that Chopin's special case makes an appeal. It is Chopin as
a consummate master of music that interests us. In his admirable
Chopin the Composer, Edgar Stillman Kelley considers Chopin and puts
out of court the familiar "gifted amateur," "improvisatore of
genius," and the rest of the theatrical stock description by proving
beyond peradventure of a doubt that Frédéric François Chopin was not
only a creator of new harmonies, inventor of novel figuration, but
also a musician skilled in the handling of formal problems, one
grounded in the schools of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven; furthermore,
that if he did not employ the sonata form in its severest sense, he
literally built on it as a foundation. He managed the rondo with
ease and grace, and if he did not write fugues it was because the
fugue form did not attract him. Perhaps the divination of his own
limitations is a further manifestation of his extraordinary genius.
This does not imply that Chopin had any particular genius in
counterpoint, but to deny his mastery of polyphony is a grave
error. And it is still denied with the very evidence staring his
critics in the face. Beethoven in his sonatas demonstrated his
individuality, though coming after Mozart's perfect specimens in
that form. Chopin did not try to bend the bow of Ulysses, though
more than a word might be said of his two last Sonatas--the first is
boyishly pedantic, and monotonous in key-contrast, while the 'cello
and piano sonata hardly can be ranked as an exemplar of classic
form.

Of the Etudes Kelley says:

"In this group of masterpieces we find the more desirable features
of the classical school--diatonic melodies, well-balanced phrase and
period-building--together with the richness afforded by chromatic
harmonies and modulatory devices heretofore unknown."

Indeed, a new system of music that changed the entire current of the
art. It was not without cause that I once called Chopin the "open
door"; through his door the East entered and whether for good or for
ill certainly revolutionised Western music. Mr. Hadow is right in
declaring that "Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, are not as far from
each other as the music of 1880 from that of 1914." And Chopin was
the most potent influence, in company with Beethoven and Wagner, in
bringing about that change. I say in company with Beethoven and
Wagner, for I heartily agree with Frederick Niecks in his recent
judgment:

"I consider Chopin to be one of the three most powerful factors in
the development of nineteenth-century music, the other two being, of
course, Beethoven and Wagner. The absolute originality of Chopin's
personality, and that of its expression through novel harmony,
chromaticism, figuration justifies the assertion. And none will deny
the fact who takes the trouble to trace the Polish master's
influence on his contemporaries and successors. The greatest and
most powerful composers came under this influence, to a large
extent, by the process of infiltration."

Kelley gives us chapter and verse in the particular case of Wagner
and his absorption of the harmonic schemes of Chopin, as did the
late Anton Seidl many times for my particular benefit.

However, this only brings us to Chopin the innovator, whereas it is
the aspect of the classic Chopin which has been neglected. "As far
back as 1840 Chopin was employing half-tones with a freedom that
brought upon him the wrath of conservative critics," writes Hadow,
who admires the Pole with reservations, not placing him in such
august company as has Kelley and Niecks. True, Chopin was a pioneer
in several departments of his art, yet how few recognised or
recognise to-day that Schumann is the more romantic composer of the
pair; his music is a very jungle of romantic formlessness; his
Carneval the epitome of romantic musical portraiture--with its
"Chopin" more Chopin than the original. Contrast the noble Fantasy
in C, Opus 17 of Schumann, with the equally noble Fantasy in F
minor, Opus 49 of Chopin, and ask which is the more romantic in
spirit, structure, and technique. Unquestionably to Schumann would
be awarded the quality of romanticism. He is more fantastic, though
his fantasy is less decorative; he strays into the most delightful
and umbrageous paths and never falters in the preservation of
romantic atmosphere. Now look on the other picture. There is Chopin,
who, no matter his potentialities, never experimented in the larger
symphonic mould, and as fully imbued with the poetic spirit as
Schumann; nevertheless a master of his patterns, whether in
figuration or general structure. His Mazourkas are sonnets, and this
Fantasy in F minor is, as Kelley points out, a highly complex rondo;
as are the Ballades and Scherzos. Beethoven, doubtless, would have
developed the eloquent main theme more significantly; strictly
speaking, Chopin introduces so much new melodic material that the
rondo form is greatly modified, yet never quite banished. The
architectonics of the composition are more magnificent than in
Schumann, although I do not propose to make invidious comparisons.
Both works are classics in the accepted sense of the term. But
Chopin's Fantasy is more classic in structure and sentiment.

The Sonatas in B flat minor and B minor are "awful examples" for
academic theorists. They are not faultless as to form and do sadly
lack organic unity. Schumann particularly criticises the Sonata Opus
35 because of the inclusion of the Funeral March and the homophonic,
"invertebrate" finale. But the two first movements are distinct
contributions to Sonata literature, even if in the first movement
the opening theme is not recapitulated. I confess that I am glad it
is not, though the solemn title "Sonata" becomes thereby a mockery.
The composer adequately treats this first motive in the development
section so that its absence later is not annoyingly felt. There are,
I agree with Mr. Kelley, some bars that are surprisingly like a
certain page of Die Götterdämmerung, as the Feuerzauber music may be
noted in the flickering chromaticism of the E minor Concerto; or as
the first phrase of the C minor Etude, Opus 10, No. 12, is to be
found in Tristan and Isolde--Isolde's opening measure, "Wer wagt
mich zu höhnen." (The orchestra plays the identical Chopin phrase.)
This first movement of the B flat minor Sonata--with four bars of
introduction, evidently suggested by the sublime opening of
Beethoven's C minor Sonata, Opus 111, does not furnish us with as
concrete an example as the succeeding Scherzo in E flat minor, (for
me) one of the most perfect examples of Chopin's exquisite formal
sense. While it is not as long-breathed as the C sharp minor
Scherzo, its concision makes it more tempting to the student. In
character stormier than the Scherzo, Opus 39, its thematic economy
and development--by close parallelism of phraseology, as Hadow
points out--reveal not only a powerful creative impulse, but
erudition of the highest order. No doubt Chopin did improvise
freely, did come easily by his melodies, but the travail of a giant
in patience--again you think of Flaubert--is shown in the polishing
of his periods. He is a poet who wrote perfect pages.

The third Scherzo, less popular but of deeper import than the one
in B flat minor, is in spirit splenetic, ironical, and passionate,
yet with what antithetic precision and balance the various and
antagonistic moods are grasped and portrayed. And every measure
is logically accounted for. The automatism inherent in all passage
work he almost eliminated, and he spiritualised ornament and
arabesque. It is the triumph of art over temperament. No one has
ever accused Chopin of lacking warmth; indeed, thanks to a total
misconception of his music, he is tortured into a roaring tornado by
sentimentalists and virtuosi. But if he is carefully studied it will
be seen that he is greatly preoccupied with form--his own form, be
it understood--and that the linear in nearly all of his compositions
takes precedence over colour. I know this sounds heretical. But
while I do not yield an iota in my belief that Chopin is the most
poetic among composers (as Shelley is among poets, and Vermeer is
the painter's painter) it is high time that he be viewed from a
different angle. The versatility of the man, his genius as composer
and pianist, the novelty of his figuration and form dazzled his
contemporaries or else blinded them to his true import. Individual
as are the six Scherzos--two of them are in the Sonatas--they
nevertheless stem from classic soil; the scherzo is not new with
him, nor are its rhythms. But the Ballades are Chopinesque to the
last degree, with their embellished thematic cadenzas, modulatory
motives, richly decorated harmonic designs, and their incomparable
"content"; above all, in their amplification of the coda, a striking
extension of the postlude, making it as pregnant with meaning as the
main themes. The lordly flowing narration of the G minor Ballade;
the fantastic wavering outlines of the second Ballade--which on
close examination exhibits the firm burin of a masterful etcher; the
beloved third Ballade, a formal masterpiece; and the F minor
Ballade, most elaborate and decorative of the set--are there, I ask,
in all piano literature such original compositions? The four
Impromptus are mood pictures, highly finished, not lacking boldness
of design, and in the second, F sharp major, there are fertile
figurative devices and rare harmonic treatment. The melodic
organ-point is original. Polyphonic complexity is to be found in
some of the Mazourkas. Ehlert mentions a "perfect canon in the
octave" in one of them (C sharp minor, Opus 63).

Of the Concertos there is less to be said, for the conventional form
was imposed by the title. Here Chopin is not the Greater Chopin,
notwithstanding the beautiful music for the solo instrument. The
sonata form is not desperately evaded, and in the rondo of the E
minor Concerto he overtops Hummel on his native heath. As to the
instrumentation I do not believe Chopin had much to do with it; it
is the average colourless scoring of his day. Nor do I believe with
some of his admirers that he will bear transposition to the
orchestra, or even to the violin. It does not attenuate the power
and originality of his themes that they are essentially of the
piano. A song is for the voice and is not bettered by orchestral
arrangement. The same may be said of the classic concertos for
violin. With all due respect for those who talk about the Beethoven
Sonatas being "orchestral," I only ask, Why is it they sound so
"unorchestral" when scored for the full battery of instruments? The
Sonata Pathétique loses its character thus treated. So does the A
flat Polonaise of Chopin, heroic as are its themes. Render unto the
keyboard that which is composed for it. The Appassionata Sonata in
its proper medium is as thrilling as the Eroica Symphony. The
so-called "orchestral test" is no test at all; only a confusion of
terms and of artistic substances. Chopin thought for the piano; he
is the greatest composer for the piano; by the piano he stands or
falls. The theme of the grandiose A minor Etude (Opus 25, No. 11) is
a perfect specimen of his invention; yet it sounds elegiac and
feminine when compared with the first tragic theme of Beethoven's C
minor Symphony.

The Allegro de Concert, Opus 46, is not his most distinguished work,
truncated concerto as it is, but it proves that he could fill a
larger canvas than the Valse. In the Mazourkas and Etudes he is
closer to Bach than elsewhere. His early training under Elsner was
sound and classical. But he is the real Chopin when he goes his own
way, a fiery poet, a bold musician, but also a refined, tactful
temperament, despising the facile, the exaggerated, and bent upon
achieving a harmonious synthesis. Truly a classic composer in his
solicitude for contour, and chastity of style. The Slav was tempered
by the Gallic strain. Insatiable in his dreams, he fashioned them
into shapes of enduring beauty.

You would take from us the old Chopin, the greater Chopin, the
dramatic, impassioned poet-improvisatore, I hear some cry! Not in
the least. Chopin is Chopin. He sings, even under the fingers of
pedants, and to-day is butchered in the classroom to make a holiday
for theorists. Nevertheless, he remains unique. Sometimes the whole
in his work is subordinated to the parts, sometimes the parts are
subordinated to the whole. The romantic "shadow" is there, also the
classic structure. Again let me call your attention to the fact that
if he had not juggled so mystifyingly with the sacrosanct tonic and
dominant, had not distributed his thematic material in a different
manner from the prescribed methods of the schools, he would have
been cheerfully, even enthusiastically, saluted by his generation.
But, then, we should have lost the real Chopin.



CHAPTER XXII

LITTLE MIRRORS OF SINCERITY


BARNEY IN THE BOX-OFFICE

_First Scene._ It is snowing on the Strand. Not an American actor is
in sight, though voices are wafted occasionally from the bar of the
Savoy (remember this is a play, and the unusual is bound to happen).
In front of the newly built Theatre of Arts, Shaw, and Science, two
figures stand as if gazing at the brilliantly lighted façade. The
doors are wide open, a thin and bearded man sits smiling and talking
to himself in the box-office. His whiskers are as sandy as his wit.
The pair outside regard him suspiciously. Both are tiny fellows, one
clean-shaven, the other wearing elaborately arranged hair on his
face. They are the two Maxes--Nordau and Birnbaum. Says Nordau:

"Isn't that Bernard in the booking-office?" "By jove, it is, let's
go in." "Hasn't he a new play on?" "I can't say. I'm only a critic
of the drayma." "No cynicism, Maxixe," urges Nordau. They approach.
In unanimous flakes the snow falls. It is very cold. Cries Bernard
on recognising them:

"Hi there, skip! To-night free list is suspended. I'm giving my
annual feast in the Cave of Culture of the modern idols, in one
scene. No one may enter, least of all you, Nordau, or you, Sir
Critic." "Why, what's up, George?" asks in a pleading mid-Victorian
timbre the little Maxixe. "Back to the woods, both of you!" commands
George, who has read both Mark Twain and Oliver Herford. "Besides,"
he confidentially adds, "you surely don't wish to go to a play in
which your old friends Ibsen and Nietzsche are to be on view." "On
view!" quoth the author of Degeneration. "Yes, visible on a short
furlough from Sheol, for one night only. My benefit. Step up, ladies
and gentlemen. A few seats left. The greatest show on earth. I'm in
it. Lively, please!" A mob rushes in. The two Maxes fade into the
snow, but in the eyes of one there is a malicious glitter. "I'm no
Maxixe," he murmurs, "if I can't get into a theatre without paying."
Nordau doesn't heed him. They part. The night closes in, and only
the musical rattle of bangles on a naughty wrist is heard.

_Second Scene._ On the stage of the theatre there are two long
tables. The scene is set as if for a banquet. The curtain is down.
Some men walk about conversing--some calmly, some feverishly.
Several are sitting. The lighting is feeble. However, may be
discerned familiar figures; Victor Hugo solemnly speaking to Charles
Baudelaire--who shivers (un nouveau frisson); Flaubert in a corner
roaring at Sainte-Beuve--the old row over Salammbô is on again.
Richard Strauss is pulling at the velvet coat-tails of Richard
Wagner, without attracting his attention. The Master, in company
with nearly all the others, is staring at a large clock against the
back drop. "Listen for the Parsifal chimes," he says, delight
playing over his rugged features. "Ape of the ideal," booms a deep
voice hard by. It is that of Nietzsche, whose moustaches droop in
Polish cavalier style.

"Batiushka! If those two Dutchmen quarrel over the virility of
Parsifal I'm going away." The speaker is Tolstoy, attired in his
newest Moujik costume, top-boots and all. In his left hand he holds
a spade. "To table, gentlemen!" It is the jolly voice of the Irish
Ibsen, G. B. S. Lights flare up. Without is heard the brumming of
the audience, an orchestra softly plays motives from Pelléas et
Mélisande. Wagner wipes his spectacles, and Maurice Maeterlinck
crushes a block of Belgian oaths between his powerful teeth. But
Debussy doesn't appear to notice either man. He languidly strikes
his soup-spoon on a silver salt-cellar and immediately jots down
musical notation. "The correspondences of nuances," he sings to his
neighbour, who happens to be Whistler. "The correspondence of
fudge," retorts James. "D'ye think I'm interested in wall-paper
music? Oh, Lil'libulero!" All are now seated. With his accustomed
lingual dexterity Mr. Shaw says grace, calling down a blessing upon
the papier-mâché fowls and the pink stage-tea, from what he
describes as a gaseous invertebrate god--he has read Haeckel--and
winds up with a few brilliant heartless remarks:

"I wish you gentlemen, ghosts, idols, gods, and demigods, alive or
dead, to remember that you are assembled here this evening to honour
me. Without me, and my books and plays, you would, all of you, be
dead in earnest--dead literature as well as dead bones. As for the
living, I'll have a shy at you some day. I'm not fond of
Maeterlinck. ["Hear, hear!" comes from Debussy's mystic beard.] As
for you, Maurice, I can beat you hands down at bettering
Shakespeare, and, for Richard Strauss--well, I've never tried
orchestration, but I'm sure I'd succeed as well as you----"

"Oh, please, won't some one give me a roast-beef sandwich? In Russia
I daren't eat meat on account of my disciples there and in
England--" It is Tolstoy who speaks. Shaw fixes him with an
indignant look, he, the prince of vegetarians: "Give him some salt,
he needs salting." In tears, Tolstoy resumes his reading of the
confessions of Huysmans. The band, on the other side of the curtain,
swings into the Kaisermarch. "Stop them! Stop it!" screams Wagner.
"I'm a Social-Democrat now. I wrote that march when I was a
Monarchist." This was the chance for Nietzsche. Drawing up his
tall, lanky figure, he began: "You mean, Herr Geyer--to give you
your real name--you wrote it for money. You mean, Richard Geyer,
that you cut your musical coat to suit your snobbish cloth. You
mean, the Wagner you never were, that you wrote your various
operas--which you call music-dramas--to flatter your various
patrons. Parsifal for the decadent King Ludwig----"

"Pardieu! this is too much." Manet's blond beard wagged with rage.
"Have we assembled this night to fight over ancient treacheries, or
are we met to do honour to the only man in England, and an Irishman
at that, who, in his plays, has kept alive the ideas of Ibsen,
Nietzsche, Wagner? As for me, I don't need such booming. I'm a
modest man. I'm a painter." "Hein! You a painter!" Sitting alone,
Gérôme discloses spiteful intonations in his voice. "Yes, a
painter," hotly replies Manet. "And I'm in the Louvre, my Olympe--"
"All the worse for the Louvre," sneers Gérôme. The two men would
have been at each other's throats if some one from the Land of the
Midnight Whiskers hadn't intervened. It was Henrik Ibsen.

"Children," he remarks, in a strong Norwegian brogue, "please to
remember my dignity if not your own. Long before Max Stirner--"
Nietzsche interrupted: "There never was such a person." Ibsen calmly
continued, "I wrote that 'my truth is the truth.' And when I see
such so-called great men acting like children, I regret having left
my cool tomb in Norway. But where are the English dramatists, our
confrères? Ask the master of the revels." Ibsen sat down. Shaw pops
in his head at a practicable door.

"Who calls?"

"We wish to know why our brethren, the English playwrights, are not
bidden to meet us?" said Maeterlinck, after gravely bowing to Ibsen.
Smiling beatifically, Saint Bernard replied:

"Because there ain't no such thing as an English dramatist. The only
English dramatist is Irish." He disappears. Ensues a lively
argument. "He may be right," exclaims Maeterlinck, "yet I seem to
have heard of Pinero, Henry Arthur Jones, Barrie--well, I'll have to
ask the trusty A. B. C. Z. Walkley." "And the Americans?" cries
Ibsen, who is annoyed because Richard Strauss persists in asking for
a symphonic scenario of Peer Gynt. "I'm sure," the composer
complains, "Grieg will be forgotten if I write new incidental music
for you." Ibsen looks at him sourly.

"American dramatists, or do you mean American millionaires?" Manet
interpolated. "No, I fancy he means the American painters who
imitate my pictures, making them better than the originals, and also
getting better prices than I did."

"What envy! what slandering! what envious feelings!" sighs
Nietzsche. "If my doctrine of the Eternal Recurrence of all things
sublunary is a reality, then I shall be sitting with these venomous
spiders, shall be in this identical spot a trillion of years hence.
Oh, horrors! Why was I born?"

"Divided tones," argues Manet, clutching Whistler by his carmilion
necktie, "are the only--" Suddenly Shaw leaps on the stage.

"Gentlemen, gods, ghosts, idols, I've bad news for you. Max Nordau
is in the audience." "Nordau!" wails every one. Before the lights
could be extinguished the guests were under the table. "No taking
chances," whispers Nietzsche. "Quoi donc! who is this Nordau--a spy
of Napoleon's?" demands Hugo, in bewildered accents. For answer,
Baudelaire shivers and intones: "O Poe, Poe! O Edgar Poe." Silence
so profound that one hears the perspiration drop from Wagner's
massive brow.

_Third Scene._ It still snows without. Max, the only Nordau, stands
in silent pride. He is alone. The erstwhile illuminated theatre is
as dark as the Hall of Eblis. "Gone the idols! All. I need but crack
that old whip of Decadence and they crumble. So much for a mere
word. And now to work. I'll write the unique tale of Shaw's Cave of
Idols, for I alone witnessed the dénouement." He spoke aloud. Judge
his chagrin when he heard the other Max give him this cheery leading
motive: "I saw it all--what a story for my weekly review." "How
like a yellow pear-tree!" exclaims the disgusted theorist of mad
genius. Nordau speeds his way, as from the box-office comes the
chink of silver. It is G. B. S. counting the cash. Who says a poet
can't be a pragmatist? The little Maxixe calls out: "Me, too,
Blarney! Remember I'm the only living replica of Charles Lamb." "You
mean dead mutton," tartly replied Bernard. The other giggled. "The
same dear old whimsical cactus," he cries; "but with all your faults
we love you still--I said still, if that's possible for your tongue,
George, quite still!" Curtain.


THE WOMAN WHO BUYS

She (entering art gallery): "I wish to buy a Titian for my
bridge-whist this evening. Is it possible for you to send me one to
the hotel in time?" He (nervously elated): "Impossible. I sent the
last Titian we had in stock to Mrs. Groats's Déjeuner Féroce." She
(making a face): "That woman again. Oh, dear, how tiresome!" He
(eagerly): "But I can give you a Raphael." She (dubiously):
"Raphael--who?" He (magisterially): "There are three Raphaels,
Madame--the archangel of that name, Raphael Sanzio, the painter, and
Raphael Joseffy. It is to the second one I allude. Perhaps you would
like to see--" She (hurriedly): "Oh! not at all. I fancy it's all
right. Send it up this afternoon, or hadn't I better take it along
in my car?" (A shrill hurry-up booing is heard without. It is the
voice of the siren on a new one hundred horse-power Cubist machine,
1918 pattern.) She (guiltily): "Tiens! That is my chauffeur,
Constant. The poor fellow. He is always so hungry about this time.
By the way, Mr. Frame, how much do you ask for that Raphael? My
husband is so--yes, really, stingy this winter. He says I buy too
much, forgetting we are all beggars, anyhow. And what is the
subject? I want something cheerful for the game, you know. It
consoles the kickers who lose to look at a pretty picture." He
(joyfully): "Oh, the price! The subject! A half-million is the
price--surely not too much. The picture is called The Wooing of Eve.
It has been engraved by Bartolozzi. Oh, oh, it is a genuine Raphael.
There are no more imitation old masters, only modern art is forged
nowadays." She (interrupting, proudly): "Bartolozzi, the man who
paints skinny women in Florence, something like Boldini, only in
old-fashioned costumes?" He (resignedly): "No, Madame. Possibly you
allude to Botticelli. The Bartolozzi I mention was a school friend
of Raphael or a cousin to Michael Angelo--I've forgotten which.
That's why he engraved Raphael's paintings." (He colours as he
recalls conflicting dates.) She (in a hurry): "It doesn't much
matter, Mr. Frame, I hate all this affectation over a lot of musty,
fusty pictures. Send it up with the bill. I ought to win at least
half the money from Mrs. Stonerich." (She rushes away. An odour of
violets and stale cigarette smoke floats through the hallway. The
siren screams, and a rumbling is heard in the middle distance.) He
(waking, as if from a sweet dream, vigorously shouts): "George,
George, fetch down that canvas Schmiere painted for us last summer,
and stencil it Raphael Sanzio. Yes--S-a-n-z-i-o--got it? Hurry up!
I'm off for the day. If any one 'phones, I'm over at Sherry's, in
the Cafe." (Saunters out, swinging his stick, and repeating the old
Russian proverb, "A dark forest is the heart of a woman.")


SCHOOLS IN ART

"Yes," said the venerable auctioneer, as he shook his white head,
"yes, I watch them coming and going, coming and going. One year it's
light pictures, another it's dark. The public is a woman. What
fashion dictates to a woman she scrupulously follows. She sports
bonnets one decade, big picture hats the next. So, the public that
loves art--or thinks it loves art. It used to be the Hudson River
school. And then Chase and those landscape fellows came over from
Europe, where they got a lot of new-fangled notions. Do you remember
Eastman Johnson? He was my man for years. Do you remember the
Fortuny craze? His Gamblers, some figures sitting on the grass?
Well, sir, seventeen thousand dollars that canvas fetched. Big price
for forty-odd years ago. Bang up? Of course. Meissonier, Bouguereau,
and Detaille came in. We couldn't sell them fast enough. I guess the
picture counterfeiters' factories up on Montmartre were kept busy
those times. It was after our Civil War. There were a lot of
mushroom millionaires who couldn't tell a chromo from a Gérôme.
Those were the chaps we liked. I often began with: 'Ten thousand
dollars--who offers me ten thousand dollars for this magnificent
Munkaczy?' Nowadays I couldn't give away Munkaczy as a present. He
is too black. Our people ask for flashing colours. Rainbows.
Fireworks. The new school? Yes, I'm free to admit that the Barbizon
men have had their day. Mind you, I don't claim they are falling
off. A few seasons ago a Troyon held its own against any Manet you
put up. But the 1830 chaps are scarcer in the market, and the
picture cranks are beginning to tire of the dull greys, soft blues,
and sober skies. The Barbizons drove out Meissonier and his crowd.
Then Monet and the Impressionists sent the Barbizons to the wall. I
tell you the public is a woman. It craves novelty. What's that?
Interested in the greater truth of Post-Impressionism? Excuse me, my
dear sir, but that's pure rot. The public doesn't give a hang for
technique. It wants a change. Indeed? Really? They have made a
success, those young whippersnappers, the Cubists. Such cubs! Well,
I'm not surprised. Perhaps our public is tiring of the Academy.
Perhaps young American painters may get their dues--some day. We may
even export them. I've been an art auctioneer man and boy over fifty
years, and I tell you again the public is a woman. One year it's
dark paint, another it's light. Bonnets or hats. Silks or satins.
Lean or stout. All right. Coming--coming!" Clearing his throat, the
old auctioneer slowly moves away.


THE JOY OF STARING

Watch the mob. Watch it staring. Like cattle behind the rails which
bar a fat green field they pass at leisure, ruminating, or its
equivalent, gum-chewing, passing masterpiece after masterpiece, only
to let their gaze joyfully light upon some silly canvas depicting a
thrice-stupid anecdote. The socialists assure us that the herd is
the ideal of the future. We must think, see, feel with the People.
Our brethren! Mighty idea--but a stale one before Noah entered the
ark. "Let us go to the people," cried Tolstoy. But we are the
people. How can we go to a place when we are already there? And the
people surge before a picture which represents an old woman kissing
her cow. Or, standing with eyeballs agog, they count the metal
buttons on the coat of the Meissonier Cuirassier. It is great art.
Let the public be educated. Down with the new realism--which only
recalls to us the bitterness and meanness of our mediocre existence.
(Are we not all middle-class?) How, then, can art be aristocratic?
Why art at all? Give us the cinematograph--pictures that act.
Squeaking records. Canned vocally, Caruso is worth a wilderness of
Wagner monkeys. Or self-playing unmusical machines. Or chromos.
Therefore, let us joyfully stare. Instead of your "step," watch the
mob.


A DILETTANTE

He is a little old fellow, with a slight glaze over the pupils of
his eyes. He is never dressed in the height of the fashion, yet,
when he enters a gallery, salesmen make an involuntary step in his
direction; then they get to cover as speedily as possible,
grumbling: "Look out! it's only the old bird again." But one of them
is always nailed; there is no escaping the Barmecide. He thinks he
knows more about etchings than Kennedy or Keppel, and when Montross
and Macbeth tell him of American art, he violently contradicts them.
He is the embittered dilettante; embittered, because with his
moderate means he can never hope to own even the most insignificant
of the treasures exposed under his eyes every day, week, and month
in the year. So he rails at the dealers, inveighs against the
artists, and haunts auction-rooms. He never bids, but is extremely
solicitous about the purchases of other people. He has been known to
sit for hours on a small print, until, in despair, the owner leaves.
Then, with infinite precautions, our amateur arises, so contriving
matters that his hard-won victory is not discovered by profane and
prying eyes. Once at home, he gloats over his prize, showing it to a
favoured few. He bought it. He selected it. It is a tribute to his
exquisite taste. And the listeners are beaten into dismayed silence
by his vociferations, by his agile, ape-like skippings and parrot
ejaculations. Withal, he is not a criminal, only a monomaniac of
art. He sometimes mistakes a Whistler for a Dürer; but he puts the
blame upon his defective eyesight.


THE CITY OF BROTHERLY NOISE

Philadelphia is the noisiest city in North America. If you walk
about any of the narrow streets of this cold-storage abode of
Brotherly Love you will soon see tottering on its legs the
venerable New York joke concerning the cemetery-like stillness of
the abode of brotherly love. Over there the nerve shock is
ultra-dynamic. As for sleep, it is out of the question. Why, then,
will ask the puzzled student of national life, does the venerable
witticism persist in living? The answer is that in the United
States a truth promulgated a century ago never dies. We are a race
of humourists. Noise-breeding trolley-cars, constricted streets that
vibrate with the clangour of the loosely jointed machinery, an army
of carts and the cries of vegetable venders, a multitude of jostling
people making for the ferries on the Delaware or the bridges on the
Schuylkill rivers, together with the hum of vast manufactories, all
these and a thousand other things place New York in a more modest
category; in reality our own city emits few pipes in comparison with
the City of Brotherly Noise which sprawls over the map of
Pennsylvania. Yet it is called dead and moss-grown. The antique joke
flourishes the world over; in Philadelphia it is stunned by the
welter and crush of life and politics. Oscar Hammerstein first
crossed the Rubicon of Market Street. The mountain of "society" was
forced to go northward to this Mahomet of operatic music; else
forego Richard Strauss, Debussy, Massenet, Mary Garden, and Oscar's
famous head-tile. What a feat to boast of! For hundreds of years
Market Street had been the balking-line of supernice Philadelphians.
Above the delectable region north of the City Hall and Penn's statue
was Cimmerian darkness. Hammerstein, with his opera company,
accomplished the miracle. Perfectly proper persons now say "Girard
Avenue" or "Spring Garden" without blushing, because of their
increased knowledge of municipal topography. Society trooped
northward. Motor-cars from Rittenhouse Square were seen near Poplar
Street. Philadelphia boasts a much superior culture in the
crustacean line. The best fried oysters in the world are to be found
there. Terrapin is the local god. And Dennis McGowan of Sansom
Street hangs his banners on the outer walls; within, red-snapper
soup and deviled crabs make the heart grow fonder.

The difference in the handling of the social "hammer" between
Philadelphia and New York, or Boston and Philadelphia, may be thus
illustrated: At the clubs in Philadelphia they say: "Dabs is going
fast. Pity he drinks. Did you see the seven cocktails he got away
with before dinner last night?" In Boston they say: "Dabs is quite
hopeless. This afternoon he mixed up Botticelli with Botticini. Of
course, after that--!" Now, in New York, we usually dismiss the case
in this fashion: "Dabs went smash this morning. The limit! Serves
the idiot right. He never would take proper tips." Here are certain
social characteristics of three cities set forth by kindly disposed
clubmen. As the Chinese say: An image-maker never worships his
idols. We prefer the Cambodian sage who remarked: "In hell, it's bad
form to harp on the heat."


THE SOCIALIST

The socialist is not always sociable. Nor is there any reason why he
should be. He usually brings into whatever company he frequents his
little pailful of theories and dumps them willy-nilly on the carpet
of conversation. He enacts the eternal farce of equality for all,
justice for none. The mob, not the individual, is his shibboleth.
Yet he is the first to resent any tap on his shoulder in the way of
personal criticism. He has been in existence since the coral atoll
was constructed by that tiny, busy, gregarious creature, and in the
final cosmic flare-up he will vanish in company with his fellow man.
He is nothing if not collective. His books, written in his own
tongue, are translated into every living language except sound
English, which is inimical to jargon. If his communal dreams could
come true he would charge his neighbour with cheating above his
position; being a reformer, the fire of envy brightly burns in his
belly--a sinister conflagration akin to that of Ram Dass (see
Carlyle). In the thick twilight of his reason he vaguely wanders,
reading every new book about socialism till his confusion grows
apace and is thrice confounded. From ignorance to arrogance is but a
step. At the rich table of life, groaning with good things, he turns
away, preferring to chew the dry cud of self-satisfaction. He would
commit Barmecide rather than surrender his theory of the "unearned
increment." He calls Shaw and Wells traitors because they see the
humorous side of their doctrines and, occasionally, make mock of
them. The varieties of lady socialists are too numerous to study.
It may be said of them, without fear of being polite, that females
rush in where fools fear to tread. But, then, the woman who
hesitates--usually gets married.


THE CRITIC WHO GOSSIPS

He has a soul like a Persian rug. Many-coloured are his ways, his
speech. He delights in alliteration of colours, and avails himself
of it when he dips pen into ink. He is fond of confusing the
technical terms of the Seven Arts, writing that "stuffing the
ballot-box is no greater crime than constipated harmonics." But what
he doesn't know is that such expressions as gamut of colours,
scales, harmonies, tonal values belong to the art of painting, and
not alone to music. He is fonder of anecdote and gossip than of
history. But what's the use! You can't carve rotten wood. Our critic
will quote for you, with his gimlet eye of a specialist boring into
your own, the story which was whispered to Anthony Trollope (in
1857, please don't forget) if he would be so kind (it was at the
Uffizi Galleries, Florence) as to show him the way to the Medical
Venus. This is marvellous humour, and worth a ton of critical
comment (which, by Apollo! it be). But, as Baudelaire puts it:
"Nations, like families, produce great men against their will"; and
our critic is "produced," not made. In the realm of the blind, the
cock-eyed is king. The critic is said to be the most necessary
nuisance--after women--in this "movie" world of ours. But all human
beings are critics, aren't they?


THE MOCK PSYCHIATRIST

If for the dog the world is a smell, for the eagle a picture,
for the politician a Nibelung hoard, then for the psychiatrist
life is a huge, throbbing nerve. He dislikes, naturally, the
antivivisectionists, but enjoys the moral vivisection of his fellow
creatures. It's a mad world for him, my masters! And if your ears
taper at the top, beware! You have the morals of a faun; or, if your
arms be lengthy, you are a reversion to a prehistoric type. The only
things that are never too long, for our friend the "expert" of rare
phobias, are his bills and the length of his notice in the
newspapers. If he agrees with Charles Lamb that Adam and Eve in
Milton's Paradise behave too much like married people, he quickly
resents any tracing of a religion to an instinct or a perception. He
maintains that religious feeling is only "a mode of reaction," and
our conscience but a readjusting apparatus. His trump-card is the
abnormal case, and if he can catch tripping a musician, a poet, a
painter, he is professionally happy. Homer nodded. Shakespeare
plagiarised. Beethoven drank. Mozart liked his wife's sister. Chopin
coughed. Turner was immoral. Wagner, a little how-come-ye-so!
Hurray! Cracked souls, and a Donnybrook Fair of the emotions. The
psychiatrist can diagnose anything from rum-thirst to sudden death.
Nevertheless, in his endeavour to assume the outward appearance of a
veritable man of science, the psychiatrist reminds one of the
hermit-crab as described in E. H. Banfield's Confessions of a Beach
Comber (p. 132). "The disinterested spectator," remarks Professor
Banfield, "may smile at the vain, yet frantically anxious efforts of
the hermit-crab to coax his flabby rear into a shell obviously a
flattering misfit; but it is not a smiling matter to him. Not until
he has exhausted a programme of ingenious attitudes and comic
contortions is the attempt to stow away a No. 8 tail in a No. 5
shell abandoned." The mock psychiatrist is the hermit-crab of
psychology. And of the living he has never been known to speak a
word of praise.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE REFORMATION OF GEORGE MOORE


I

Dear naughty George Moore--sad, bad, mad--has reformed. He tells us
why in his book, Vale, the English edition of which I was lucky
enough to read; for, the American edition is expurgated, nay,
fumigated, as was the Memoirs of My Dead Life by the same Celtic
Casanova. Vale completes the trilogy; Hail and Farewell, Ave and
Salve being the titles of the preceding two. In the first, Moore is
sufficiently vitriolic, and in Salve he serves up George Russell,
the poet and painter, better known as "Æ." in a more sympathetic
fashion. When Vale was announced several years ago as on the brink
of completion I was moved to write: "I suppose when the final book
appears it means that George Moore has put up the shutters of his
soul, not to say, his shop. But I have my serious doubts." After
reading Vale I still had them. Only death will end the streaming
confessions of this writer. He who lives by the pen shall perish by
the pen. (This latter sentence is not a quotation from the sacred
books of any creed, merely the conviction of a slave chained to the
ink-well.)

I said that Vale is expurgated for American consumption. Certainly.
We are so averse to racy, forcible English in America--thanks to the
mean, narrow spirit in our arts and letters--that a hearty oath
scares us into the Brooklyn backyard of our timid conscience. George
calls a spade a spade, and he delights on stirring up rank
malodorous soil with his war-worn agricultural implement. When he
returned some years ago to Dublin, there to help in the national
literary and artistic movement, he found a devoted band of brethren:
William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, Douglas Hyde, John M. Synge,
Edward Martyn, Russell, and others.

I shan't attempt even a brief mention of the neo-Celtic awakening.
Yeats was the prime instigator, also the storm-centre. He literally
discovered Synge, the dramatist--in reality the only strong man of
the group, the only dramatist of originality--and, with his
exquisite lyric gift, he, also discovered a new Ireland, a fabulous,
beautiful Erin, unsuspected by Tom Moore, Samuel Lover, Carleton,
Mangan, Lever, and the too busy Boucicault.

As I soon found out, when there, Dublin is a vast whispering
gallery. Delightful, hospitable Dublin is also a provincial town,
given to gossip and backbiting. Say something about somebody in the
smoking-room of the Shelbourne, and a few hours later the clubs
will be repeating it. Mr. Moore said things every hour in the day,
and in less than six days he had sown for himself a fine crop of
enemies. To "get even" he conceived the idea of writing a series of
novels, with real people bearing their own names. That he hasn't
been shot at, horsewhipped, or sued for libel thus far is just his
usual good luck. Vale is largely a book of capricious insults.

But then the facts it sets down in cruel type! When the years have
removed the actors therein from the earthly scene, our grandchildren
will chuckle over Moore's unconscious humour and Pepys-like
chronicling of small-beer. For the social historian this trilogy
will prove a mine of gossip, rich veracious gossip. It throws a
calcium glare on the soul of the author, who, self-confessed, is now
old, and no longer a dangerous Don Juan. In real life he was, as far
as I can make out, not particularly a monster of iniquity; but, oh!
in his Confessions and Memoirs what a rake was he. How the
"lascivious lute" did sound. Some of the pages of the new volume
(see pp. 274-278, English edition), in which he describes his
tactics to avoid a kiss (kissing gives him a headache in these
lonesome latter years, though he was only born in 1857), is to set
you wondering over the frankness of the man. Walter Pater once
called him "audacious George Moore," and audacious he is with pen
and ink. Otherwise, like Bernard Shaw, he is not looking for
physical quarrels.

He once spoke of Shaw as "the funny man in a boarding-house," though
he never mentions his name in his memoirs. He doesn't like Yeats;
what's more, he prints the news as often and as elaborately as
possible. In the present book he doesn't exactly compare Yeats to a
crane or a pelican, but he calls attention to the fact that the poet
belonged to the "lower middle-class." It seems that Yeats had been
thundering away at the artistic indifference of the Dublin
bourgeoisie. Now, looking at Yeats the night when John Quinn gave
him a dinner at Delmonico's, you could not note any resemblance to
exotic birds, though he might recall a penguin. He was very solemn,
very bored, very fatigued, his eyes deep sunken from fatigue. Posing
as a tame parlour poet for six weeks had tired the man to his very
bones. But catch him in private with his waistcoat unbuttoned--I
speak figuratively--and you will enjoy a born raconteur, one who
slowly distils witty poison at the tip of every anecdote, till,
bursting with glee, you cry: "How these literary men do love each
other! How one Irishman dotes on another!" Yeats may be an exception
to the rule that a poet is as vain and as irritable as a tenor. I
didn't notice the irritability, finding him taking himself
seriously, as should all apostles of culture and Celtic twilight.

He "got even" with George Moore's virulent attacks by telling a
capital story, which he confessed was invented, one that went all
over Dublin and London. When George felt the call of a Protestant
conversion he was in Dublin. He has told us of his difficulties,
mental and temperamental. One day some question of dogma presented
itself and he hurried to the Cathedral for advice. He sent in his
name to the Archbishop, and that forgetful dignitary exclaimed:
"Moore, Moore, oh, that man again! Well, give him another pair of
blankets." In later versions, coals, candles, even shillings, were
added to the apocryphal anecdote--which, by the way, set smiling the
usually impassive Moore, who can see a joke every now and then.

Better still is the true tale of George, who boasts much in Vale of
his riding dangerous mounts; and when challenged at an English
country house did get on the back of a vicious animal and ride to
hounds the better part of a day. He wouldn't, quite properly, take
the "dare," although when he reached his room he found his boots
full of blood. So there is sporting temper in him. Any one reading
his Esther Waters may note that he knows the racing stable by heart.
In Vale he describes his father's stable at Castle Moore, County
Mayo.

Of course, this is not the time to attempt an estimate of his
complete work, for who may say what fresh outbursts, what new
imprudences in black and white, we may expect? He has paid his
respects to his fellow countrymen, and is heartily despised by all
camps, political, religious, artistic. He has belittled the work of
Lady Gregory, Yeats, and Edwin Martyn, and has rather patronised
John M. Synge; the latter, possibly, because Synge was "discovered"
by Yeats, not Moore. Yet do we enjoy the vagaries of George Moore. I
only saw him once, a long time ago, to be precise in 1901, at
Bayreuth. He looked more like a bird than Yeats, though his beak is
not so predaceous as Yeats's; a golden-crested bird, with a chin as
diffident as a poached egg, and with melancholy pale-blue eyes, and
an undecided gait. He talked of the Irish language as if it were the
only redemption for poor unhappy Ireland. In Vale there is not the
same enthusiasm. He dwells with more delight on his early Parisian
experiences--it is the best part of the book--and to my way of
thinking the essential George Moore is to be found only in Paris;
London is an afterthought. The Paris of Manet, Monet, Degas,
Whistler, Huysmans, Zola, Verlaine, and all the "new" men of
1880--what an unexplored vein he did work for the profit and
delectation of the English-speaking world. True critical yeoman's
work, for to preach impressionism twenty-five years ago in London
was to court a rumpus. What hard names were rained upon the yellow
head of George Moore--that colour so admired by Manet and so
wonderfully painted by him--in the academic camp. He replied with
all the vivacity of vocabulary which your true Celt usually has on
tap. He even "went for" the Pre-Raphaelites, a band of overrated
mediocrities--on the pictorial side, at least--though John Millais
was a talent--and for years was as a solitary prophet in a city of
Philistines. The world caught up with Moore, and to-day the shoe
pinches on the other foot--it is George who is a belated critic of
the "New Art" (most of it as stale as the Medes and Persians), and
many are the wordy battles waged at the Café Royal, London, when
Augustus John happens in of an evening and finds the author of
Modern Painting denouncing Debussy in company with Matisse and other
Post-Imitators. Manet, like Moore, is "old hat" (vieux chapeau) for
modern youth. It's well to go to bed not too late in life, else some
impertinent youngster may cry aloud: "What's that venerable
granddaddy doing up at this time of night?" To each generation its
critics.


II

In one of his fulminations against Christianity Nietzsche said that
the first and only Christian died on the cross. George Moore thinks
otherwise, at least he gives a novel version of the narrative in the
synoptic Gospels. The Brook Kerith is a fiction dealing with the
life of Christ. It is a book that will offend the faithful, and one
that will not convince the heterodox. In it George Moore sets forth
his ideas concerning the Christ "myth," evoking, as does Flaubert in
Salammbô, a vanished land, a vanished civilisation, and in a style
that is artistically beautiful. Never has he written with such
sustained power, intensity and nobility of phrasing, such finely
tempered, modulated prose. It is a rhythmed prose which first peeped
forth in some pages of Mr. Moore's Evelyn Innes when the theme
bordered on the mystical. Yet it is of an essentially Celtic
character. Mysticism and Moore do not seem bedfellows. Nevertheless,
Mr. Moore has been haunted from his first elaborate novel, A Drama
in Muslin, by mystic and theological questions. A pagan by
temperament, his soul is the soul of an Irish Roman Catholic. He can
no more escape the fascinating ideas of faith and salvation than did
Huysmans. (He has taken exception to this statement in an open
letter.) A realist at the beginning, he has leaned of late years
heavily on the side of the spirit. But like Baudelaire, Barbey
d'Aurévilly, Villiers de L'Isle Adam, Paul Verlaine, and Huysmans,
Mr. Moore is one of those sons of Mother Church who give anxious
pause to his former coreligionists. The Brook Kerith will prove a
formidable rock of offence, and it may be said that it was on the
Index before it was written. And yet we find in it George Moore
among the prophets.

Perhaps Mr. Moore has read the critical work of Professor Arthur
Drews, The Christ Myth. It is a masterpiece of destruction. There
are many books in which Jesus Christ figures. Ernest Renan's Life,
written in his silky and sophisticated style, is no more admired by
Christians than the cruder study by Strauss. After these the deluge,
ending with the dream by the late Remy de Gourmont, Une Nuit au
Luxembourg. And there is the brilliant and poetic study of Edgar
Saltus, his Mary Magdalen. Anatole France has distilled into his The
Revolt of the Angels some of his acid hatred of all religions, with
blasphemous and obscene notes not missing. It may be remembered that
M. France also wrote that pastel of irony The Procurator of Judea,
in which Pontius Pilate is shown in his old age, rich, ennuied,
sick. He has quite forgotten, when asked, about the Jewish agitator
who fancied himself the son of God and was given over to the Temple
authorities in Jerusalem and crucified. Rising from the tomb on the
third day he became the Christ of the Christian dispensation, aided
by the religious genius of one Paul, formerly known as Saul the
Tent-maker of Tarsus. Now Mr. Moore does in a larger mould and in
the grand manner what Anatole France accomplished in his miniature.
The ironic method, a tragic irony, suffuses every page of The Brook
Kerith, and the story of the four Gospels is twisted into something
perverse, and for Christians altogether shocking. It will be called
"blasphemous," but we must remember that our national Constitution
makes no allowance for so-called "blasphemers"; that the mythologies
of the Greeks and Romans, Jews and Christians, Mohammedans and
Mormons may be criticised, yet the criticism is not inherently
"blasphemous." America is no more a Christian than a Jewish nation
or a nation of freethinkers. It is free to all races and religions,
and thus one man's spiritual meat may be another's emetic.

Having cleared our mind of cant, let us investigate The Brook
Kerith. The title is applied to a tiny community of Jewish mystics,
the Essenes, who lived near this stream; perhaps the Scriptural
Kedron? This brotherhood had separated from the materialistic
Pharisees and Sadducees, not approving of burnt sacrifices or Temple
worship; furthermore, they practised celibacy till a schism within
their ranks drove the minority away from the parent body to shift
for themselves. A young shepherd, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph,
a carpenter in Galilee, and of Miriam, his mother--they have other
sons--is a member of this community. But too much meditation on the
prophecies of Daniel and the meeting with a wandering prophet, John
the Baptist, the precursor of the long-foretold Messiah, lead him
astray. Baptised in the waters of Jordan, Jesus becomes a
theomaniac--he believes himself to be the son of God, appointed by
the heavenly father to save mankind; especially his fellow Jews.
Filled with a fanatical fire, he leads away a dozen disciples, poor,
ignorant fishermen. He also attracts the curiosity of Joseph, the
only son of a rich merchant of Arimathea. Two-thirds of the novel
are devoted to the psychology of this youthful philosopher, who,
inducted into the wisdom of the Greek sophists, is, notwithstanding,
a fervent Jew, a rigid upholder of the Law and the Prophets. The
dialogues between father and son rather recall Erin, hardly Syria.
Joseph becomes interested in Jesus, follows him about, and the fatal
day of the crucifixion he beseeches his friend Pilate to let him
have the body of his Lord for a worthy interment. Pilate demurs,
then accedes. Joseph, with the aid of the two holy women Mary and
Martha, places the corpse of the dead divinity in a sepulchre.

If Joseph hadn't been killed by the zealots of Jerusalem (heated to
this murder by the High Priest) the title of the book might have
been "Joseph of Arimathea." He is easily the most viable figure.
Jesus is too much of the god from the machine; but he serves the
author for the development of his ingenious theory. Finding the
Christ still alive, Joseph carries him secretly and after dark to
the house of his father, hides him and listens unmoved to the
fantastic tales of a resurrection. But the spies of Caiaphas are
everywhere, Jesus is in danger of a second crucifixion, so Joseph
takes him back to the Essenes, where he resumes his old occupation
of herding sheep. Feeble in mind and body, he gradually wins back
health and spiritual peace. He regrets his former arrogance and
blasphemy and ascribes the aberration to the insidious temptings of
the demon. It seems that in those troubled days the cities and
countryside were infested by madmen, messiahs, redeemers, preaching
the speedy destruction of the world. For a period Jesus called
himself a son of God and threatened his fellow men with fire and the
sword.

Till he was five and fifty years Jesus lived with his flocks. The
idyllic pictures are in Mr. Moore's most charming vein; sober, as
befits the dignity of the theme. He has fashioned an undulating
prose, each paragraph a page long, which flows with some of the
clarity and music of a style once derided by him, the style coulant
of that master of harmonies, Cardinal Newman. He is a great
landscape-painter.

Jesus is aging. He gives up his shepherd's crook to his successor
and contemplates a retreat where he may meditate the thrilling
events of his youth. Then Paul of Tarsus intervenes. He is
vigorously painted. A refugee from Jerusalem, with Timothy lost
somewhere in Galilee, he invades the Essenian monastery. Eloquent
pages follow. Paul relates his adventures under the banner of Jesus
Christ. A disputatious man, full of the Lord, yet not making it any
easier for his disciples. You catch a glimpse of Pauline
Christianity, differing from the tender message of Jesus; that Jesus
of whom Havelock Ellis wrote: "Jesus found no successor. Over the
stage of those gracious and radiant scenes swiftly fell a fireproof
curtain, wrought of systematic theology and formal metaphysics,
which even the divine flames of that wonderful personality were
unable to melt."

If this be the case then Paul was, if not the founder, the
foster-father of the new creed. A seer of epileptic visions--Edgar
Saltus has said of the "sacred disease" that all founders of
religions have been epileptics--Paul, with the intractable
temperament of a stubborn Pharisee, was softened by some Greek
blood, yet as Renan wrote of Amiel: "He speaks of sin, of salvation,
of redemption and conversion, and other theological bric-a-brac, as
if these things were realities." For Paul and those who followed him
they were and are realities; from them is spun the web of our modern
civilisation. The dismay of Paul on learning from the lips of Jesus
that he it was who, crucified, came back to life may be fancy. The
sturdy Apostle, who recalled the reproachful words of Jesus issuing
from the blinding light on the road to Damascus: "Paul, Paul, why
persecutest thou me?" naturally enough denounced Jesus as a madman,
but accepted his services as a guide to Cæsarea, where, in company
with Timothy, he hoped to embark for Rome, there to spread the glad
tidings, there to preach the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified.

On the way he cautiously extracts from Jesus, whose memory of his
cruel tormentors is halting, parts of his story. He believes him a
half-crazy fanatic, deluded with the notion that he is the original
Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus gently expounds his theories, though George
Moore pulls the wires. A pantheism that ends in Nirvana, Néant,
Nada, Nothing! Despairing of ever forcing the world to see the
light, he is become a Quietist, almost a Buddhist. He might have
quoted the mystic Joachim Flora--of the Third Kingdom--who said that
the true ascetic counts nothing his own save only his harp. ("Qui
vere monachus est nihil reputat esse suum nisi citharam.") When a
man's cross becomes too heavy a burden to carry then let him cast it
away. Jesus cast his cross away--his spiritual ambition--believing
that too great love of God leads to propagation of the belief, then
to hatred and persecution of them that won't believe.

The Jews, says Jesus, are an intolerant, stiff-necked people; they
love God, yet they hate men. Horrified at all this, Paul parts
company with the Son of Man, secretly relieved to hear that he is
not going, as he had contemplated, to give himself up to Hanan, the
High Priest in Jerusalem, to denounce the falseness of the heretical
sect named after him. Paul, without crediting the story, saw in
Jesus a dangerous rival. The last we hear of the divine shepherd is
a rumour that he may join a roving band of East Indians and go to
the source of all beliefs, to Asia, impure, mysterious Asia; the
mother of mystic cults. Paul too disappears, and on the little coda:
"The rest of his story is unknown." We are fain to believe that the
"rest of his story" is very well known in the wide world. The book
is another milestone along Mr. Moore's road to Damascus.

If, as Charles Baudelaire has said, "Superstition is the reservoir
of all truths," then, we have lost our spiritual bearings in the
dark forest of modern rationalism. To be sure, we have a Yankee Pope
Joan, a Messiah in petticoats who has uttered the illuminating
phrase, "My first and for ever message is one and eternal," which is
no more a parody of Holy Writ than The Brook Kerith, a book which
while it must have given its author pains to write--so full of
Talmudic and Oriental lore and the lore of the apocryphal gospels is
it--must have been also a joy to him as a literary artist. The
poignant irony of Paul's disbelief in the real Jesus is
understandable, though it is bound to raise a chorus of
protestations. But Mr. Moore never worried over abuse. He has, Celt
that he is, followed his vision. In every man's heart there is a
lake, he says, and the lake in his heart is a sombre one, a very
pool of incertitudes. One feels like quoting to him--though it would
be unnecessary, as he knows well the quotation--what Barbey
d'Aurévilly once wrote to Baudelaire, and years later of Joris-Karel
Huysmans, that he would either blow out his brains or prostrate
himself at the foot of the cross. Mr. Moore has in the past made his
genuflections. But they were before the Jesus of his native
religion; the poetic though not profound image he has created in his
new book will never seem the godlike man of whom Browning said in
Saul: "Shall throw open the gates of new life to thee. See the
Christ stand!"



CHAPTER XXIV

PILLOWLAND


In his immortal essay on the "flat swamp of convalescence" Charles
Lamb speaks from personal experience of the "king-like way" the sick
man "sways his pillow--tumbling, and tossing, and shifting, and
lowering, and thumping, and flatting, and moulding it, to the
ever-varying requisitions of his throbbing temples. He changes
_sides_ oftener than a politician." How true this is--even to the
italicised word--I discovered for myself after a personal encounter
with the malignant Pneumococcus, backed up by his ally, the
pleurisy. Such was the novelty of my first serious illness that it
literally took my breath away. When I recovered my normal wind I
found myself monarch of all I surveyed, my kingdom a bed, yet
seemingly a land without limit,--who dares circumscribe the
imagination of an invalid? As to the truth of Mr. Lamb's remarks on
the selfishness of the sick man there can be no denial. His pillow
is his throne--from it he issues his orders for the day, his
bulletins for the night. The nurse is his prime minister, his right
hand; with her moral alliance he is enabled to defy a host of
officious advisers. But woe betide him if nurse and spouse plot
against him. Then he is helpless. Then he is past saving. His little
pet schemes are shattered in the making. He is shifted and mauled.
He is prodded and found wanting. No hope for the helpless devil as
his face is scrubbed, his hands made clean, his miserable tangled
hair combed straight. In Pillowland what Avatar? None, alas!
Nevertheless, your pillow is your best friend, your only confidant.
In its cool yielding depths you whisper (yes, one is reduced to an
evasive whisper, such is the cowardice superinduced by physical
weakness) "Bedpans are not for bedouins. I'll have none of them."
And then you swallow the next bitter pill the nurse offers.
Suffering ennobles, wrote Nietzsche. I suppose he is right, but in
my case the nobility is yet to appear. Meek, terribly meek, sickness
makes one. You suffer a sea change, and without richness. The most
annoying part of the business is that you were not consulted as to
your choice of maladies; worse remains: you are not allowed to cure
yourself. I loathe pneumonia, since I came to grips with the beast.
The next time I'll go out of my way to select some exotic fever.
Then my doctor will be vastly intrigued. I had a common or garden
variety of lung trouble. Pooh! his eyes seemed to say--I read their
meaning with the clairvoyance of the defeated--we shall have this
fellow on his hind-legs in a jiffy. And I didn't want to get well
too rapidly. Like Saint Augustine I felt like praying with a slight
change of text: "Give me chastity and constancy, but not yet." Give,
I said to my doctor, health, but let me loaf a little longer. Time
takes toll of eternity and I've worked my pen and wagged my tongue
for twice twenty years. I need a rest. So do my readers. The divine
rights of cabbages and of kings are also shared by mere newspaper
men. A litany of massive phrases followed. But in vain. The doctor
was inexorable. I had pneumonia. My temperature was tropical. My
heart beat in ragtime rhythm, and my pulse was out of the running. I
realised as I tried to summon to my parched lips my favourite "red
lattice oaths" that, as Cabanis put it years ago: "Man is a
digestive tube pierced at both ends." All the velvet vanities of
life had vanished. I could no longer think in alliterative
sentences. Only walking delegates of ideas filled my hollow skull
like dried peas in a bladder. Finally, I "concentrated"--as the
unchristian unscientists say--on the nurse, my nurse.

As an old reporter of things theatrical I had seen many plays with
the trained nurse as heroine. One and all I abhorred them, even the
gentle and artistic impersonation of Margaret Anglin in a piece
whose name I've forgotten. I welcomed a novel by Edgar Saltus in
which the nurse is depicted as a monster of crime incarnate. How
mistaken I have been. Now, the trained nurse seems an angel without
wings. She may not be the slender, dainty, blue-eyed, flaxen-haired
girl of the footlights; she is often mature and stout and a lover of
potatoes. But she is a sister when a man is down. She is severe, but
her severity hath good cause. At first you feebly utter the word
"nurse." Later she is any Irish royal family name. Follows, "Mary,"
and that way danger lies for the elderly invalid. When he calls her
"Marie" he is doomed. Every day the newspapers tell us of marriages
made in pillowland between the well-to-do widower, Mr. A. Sclerosis,
and Miss Emma Metic of the Saint Petronius Hospital staff. Married
sons and daughters may protest, but to no avail. A sentimental
bachelor or widower in the lonesome latter years hasn't any more
chance with a determined young nurse of the unfair sex than a
"snowbird in hell"--as Brother Mencken phrases it.

However, every nurse has her day. She finally departs. Your eyes are
wet. You are weeping over yourself. The nurse represented not only
care for your precious carcass but also a surcease from the demands
of the world. Her going means a return to work, and you hate to work
if you are a convalescent of the true-blue sort. Hence your tears.
But you soon recover. You are free. The doctor has lost interest in
your case. You throw physic to the dogs. You march at a lenten tempo
about your embattled bed. You begin sudden little arguments with
your wife, just to see if you haven't lost any of your old-time
virility in the technique of household squabbling. You haven't. You
swell with masculine satisfaction and for at least five minutes you
are the Man of the House. A sudden twinge, a momentary giddiness,
send you scurrying back to your bailiwick, the bedroom, and the
familiar leitmotiv is once more sounded, and with what humility of
accent: "Mamma!" The Eternal Masculine? The Eternal Child! You
mumble to her that it is nothing, and as you recline on that
thrice-accursed couch, you endeavour to be haughty. But she knows
you are simply a sick grumpy old person of the male species who
needs be ruled with a rod of iron, although the metal be well
hidden.

The first cautious peep from a window upon the world you left snow
white, and find in vernal green, is an experience almost worth the
miseries you have so impatiently endured. A veritable vacation for
the eyes, you tell yourself, as the fauna and flora of Flatbush
break upon your enraptured gaze. Presently you watch with breathless
interest the man[oe]uvres of ruddy little Georgie in the next garden
as he manfully deploys a troupe of childish contemporaries, his
little sister doggedly traipsing at the rear. Sturdy Georgie has the
makings of a leader. He may be a Captain of Commerce, a Colonel, and
Master-politician; but he will always be foremost, else nowhere.
"You are the audience," he imperiously bids his companions, and
when rebellion seemed imminent he punched, without a trace of anger,
a boy much taller. I envied Georgie his abounding vitality.
Furtively I raised the window. Instantly I was spied by Georgie who
cried lustily: "Little boy, little boy, come down and play with me!"
I almost felt gay, "You come up here," I called out with one lung.
"I haven't a stepladder," he promptly replied. The fifth floor is as
remote without a ladder as age is separated from youth. (Now I'm
moralising!) Undismayed, Georgie continued to call: "Little boy,
little boy, come down and play with me!"

The most disheartening thing about a first sickness is the friend
who meets you and says: "I never saw you look better in your life."
It may be true, but he shouldn't have said it so crudely. You
renounce then and there the doctor with all his pomps of healing.
You refuse to become a professional convalescent. You are cured
and once more a commonplace man, one of the healthy herd.
Notwithstanding you feel secretly humiliated. You are no longer King
of Pillowland.



CHAPTER XXV

CROSS-CURRENTS IN MODERN FRENCH LITERATURE


I

They order certain things better in France than elsewhere; I mean
such teasing and unsatisfactory forms of book-making known as
Inquiries ("Enquête," which is not fair to translate into the
lugubrious literalism, "Inquest"), Anthologies, and books that
masquerade as books, as Charles Lamb hath it. Without a trace of
pedantry or dogmatism, such works appear from time to time in Paris
and are delightful reminders of the good breeding and suppleness of
Gallic criticism. To turn to favour and prettiness a dusty
department of literature is no mean feat.

What precisely is the condition of French letters since Catulle
Mendès published his magisterial work on The French Poetic Movement
from 1867 to 1900? (Paris, 1903.) Nothing so exhaustive has appeared
since, though a half-dozen Inquiries, Anthologies, and Symposiums
are in existence.

The most comprehensive recently is Florian-Parmentier's Contemporary
History of French Letters from 1885 to 1914. The author is a poet,
one of les Jeunes, and an expert swimmer in the multifarious
cross-currents of the day. His book is a bird's-eye view of the map
of literary France as far as the beginning of the war. He is quite
frank in his likes and dislikes, and always has his reasons for his
major idolatries and minor detestations.

As a corrective to his enthusiasm and hatreds there are several new
Anthologies at hand which aid us to form our own opinion of the
younger men's prose and verse. And, finally, there is the
significant Inquiry of Emile Henriot: "A Quoi Rêvent les Jeunes
Gens?" (1913); of which more anon.

M. Florian-Parmentier is a native of Valenciennes, a writer whose
versatility and fecundity are noteworthy in a far from barren
literary epoch. He has, with the facility of a lettered young
Frenchman, tried his hand at every form. All themes, so they be
human, are welcome to him, from art criticism to playwriting. He is
seemingly fair to his colleagues. Perhaps they may not admit this;
but the question may be answered in the affirmative: Is he a safe
critical guide in the labyrinth of latter-day French letters?

He notes, with an unaccustomed sense of humour in a critical
barometer, the tendency of youthful poets, prose penmen, and others
to form schools, to create cénacles, to begin fighting before they
have any defined ideal. It leads to a lot of noisy, explosive
manifestoes, declarations, and challenges, most of them rather in
the air; though it cannot be denied that these ebullitions of gusty
temperaments do clear that same air, murky with theories and
traversed by an occasional flash of genius.

After paying his respects to the daily Parisian press, which he
belabours as venal, cynical, and impure, our critic evokes a picture
of the condition of literary men; not a reassuring one. Indeed, we
wonder how young people can dream of embracing such a profession,
with its heartaches, disappointments, inevitable poverty. Unless
these aspiring chaps have a private income, how do they contrive to
live?

The answer is, they don't live, unless they write twaddle for the
Grand Old Public, which must be tickled with fluff and flattery. You
say to yourself, after all Paris is not vastly different in this
respect from benighted New York. Detective stories, melodrama, the
glorification of the stale triangle in fiction and drama, the
apotheosis of the Apache--what are all these but slight variants of
the artistic pabulum furnished by our native merchants in
mediocrity? Consoled, because your mental and emotional climate is
not as inartistic as it is painted, you return to Florian-Parmentier
and his divagations. He has much to say. Some of it is not as tender
as tripe, but none is salted with absurdity.

Then you make a discovery. There is in France a distinct class, the
Intellectuals, who control artistic opinion because of its superior
claims; a class to which there is no analogy either in England or in
America. (The French Academy is not particularly referred to just
now.) Poets, journalists, wealthy amateurs, bohemians, and
professors--all may belong to it if they have the necessary
credentials: brains, talent, enthusiasm. It is the latter quality
that floats out on the sea of speculation many adventuring barks.
Each sports a tiny pennant proclaiming its ideals. Each is steered
by some dreamer of proud, impossible dreams. But they float, do
these frail boats, laden with visions and captained by noble
ambitions.

Or, another image; a long, narrow street, on either side houses of
manifold styles--fantastic or sensible, castellated or commonplace,
baroque, stately, turreted, spired, and lofty, these eclectic
architectures reflect the souls of the dwellers within. The ivory
tower is not missing, though a half-century ago it was more in
evidence; the church is there, though sadly dwarfed--France is still
spiritually crippled and flying on one wing (this means previous to
1914); and a host of other strange and familiar houses that Jack the
poet built.

On the doors of each is a legend; it may be Neo-Symbolism,
Neo-Classicism, Free-Verse, Sincerism, Intenseism, Spiritualists,
Floralism or the School of Grace, Dramatism and Simultanism,
Imperialism, Dynamism, Futurism, Regionalism, Pluralism, Sereneism,
Vivantism, Magism, Totalism, Subsequentism, Argonauts, Wolves,
Visionarism, and, most discussed of all, Unanimism, headed by that
fiery propagandist and poet, Jules Romains.

Now, every one of these cults in miniature has its following, its
programmes, sometimes its special reviews, monthly or weekly. They
are the numerous progeny of the elder Romantic, Realistic, and
Symbolistic schools, long dead and gathered to their fathers.

Charles Baudelaire, from whose sonnet Correspondences the Symbolists
dated; Baudelaire, the precursor of so much modern, is to-day
chiefly studied in his prose writings, critical and æsthetic. His
Little Poems in Prose are a breviary for the youths who are turning
out an amorphous prose, which they call Free. Paul Verlaine's
influence is still marked, for he is a maker of Debussy-like music;
moonlit, vapourish, intangible, subtle, and perverse. The very
quintessence of poetry haunts the vague terrain of his verse; but
his ideas, his morbidities, these are negligible, indeed, abhorred.

The new schools, whether belonging to the Extreme Right or Extreme
Left, are idealistic in their aim and practice; that or nothing. The
brutalities of Zola and the Naturalistic School, the frigid
perfection and metallic impassibility of the Parnassians are over
and done with. Cynical cinders no longer blind the eye of the
ideal. There is a renaissance of sensibility. The universe is become
pluralistic, sentimental pantheism is in the air. Irony has ceased
to be a potent weapon in the armoury of poets and prosateurs. It is
replaced by an ardent love of humanity, by a socialism that weeps on
the shoulder of one's neighbour, by a horror of egoism--whether
masquerading as a philosophy such as Nietzsche's, or a poesy such as
the Parnassians. For these poetlings issues are cosmical.

Coeval with this revival of sentiment is a decided leaning toward
religion; not the "white soul of the Middle Ages," as Huysmans would
say; not the mediæval curiosities of Hugo, Gautier, Lamartine; but
the carrying aloft of the banner of belief; the opposition to
sterile agnosticism by the burning tongues of the holy spirit. No
dilettante movement this return to Roman Catholicism. The time came
for many of these neophytes when they had to choose at the
cross-roads. Either--Or? The Button-Moulder was lying in wait for
such adolescent Peer Gynts, and, outraged and nauseated by the gross
license of their day and hour, by the ostentation of evil instincts,
they turned to the right--some, not all of them. The others no
longer cry aloud their pagan admiration of the nymph's flesh in the
brake, of the seven deadly arts and their sister sins.

In a word, since 1905 a fresher, a more tonic air has been blowing
across the housetops of French art and literature. Science is too
positive. Every monad has had its day. Pictorial impressionism is
without skeleton. Mysticism is coming into fashion again; only, the
youngsters wear theirs with a difference. Even the Cubists are
working for formal severity, despite their geometrical fanaticism.
Youth will have its fling, and joys in esoteric garb, in flaring
colours, and those doors in the narrow street called "Perhaps," do
but prove the eternal need of the new and the astounding. Man cannot
live on manna alone. He must, to keep from volplaning to the
infinite, go down and gnaw his daily bone. The forked human radish
with the head fantastically carved has underpinnings also; else his
chamber of dreams might overflow into reality, and then we should be
converted in a trice to angels, pin-feathers and all.

What were the controlling factors in young French literature up
to the greatest marking date of modern history, 1914? The philosophy
of Henri Bergson is one; that philosophy, full of poetic impulsion,
graceful phrasing, and charming evocations; a feminine, nervous,
fleshless philosophy, though deriving, as it does, from an
intellectual giant, Emile Boutroux. Maurice Barrès is another
name to conjure with; once the incarnation of a philosophical
and slightly cruel egoism; then the herald of regionalism,
replacing  the flinty determinism of Taine with the watch-words:
Patriotism, reverence for the dead--a reverence perilously near
ancestor-worship--the prose-master Barrès went into the political
arena, and became, notwithstanding his rather aggressive
"modernism," an idealistic reactionary.

He is more subtle in his intellectual processes than his one-time
master, Paul Bourget, from whom his psychology stemmed, and, if his
patriotism occasionally becomes chauvinistic, his sincerity cannot
be challenged. That sincerest form of insincerity--"moral
earnestness," so called--has never been his. He is no more a sower
of sand on the bleak and barren shore of negation. Little wonder he
is accepted as a vital teacher.

Other names occur as generators of present schools. Stendhal,
Mallarmé, Georges Rodenbach, Rimbaud--that stepfather of symbolism
--Emil Verhaeren--who is truly an elemental and disquieting
force--Paul Adam, Maeterlinck, the late Remy de Gourmont--who
contributed so much to contemporary thought in the making--Francis
Jammes, Villiers de l'Isle Adam, Renard, Samain, Saint-Georges de
Bouhelier, Jules Laforgue--and how many others, to be found in the
pages of Vance Thompson's French Portraits, which valuable study
dates back to the middle of the roaring nineties.


II

When we are confronted by a litany of strange names, by the
intricate polyphony of literary sects and cénacles, the American
lover of earlier French poets is bewildered, so swiftly does the
whirligig of time bring new talents. Already the generation of 1900
has jostled from their place the "elders" of a decade previous: you
read of Paul-Napoléon Roinard, Maurice Beaubourg, Hans Ryner--a
remarkable writer--André Gide, Charles-Louis Philippe, of Paul Fort,
Paul Claudel, André Suarès, Stéphane Servant, André Spire, Philéas
Lebesgue, Georges Polti (whose Thirty-six Dramatic Situations
deserves an English garb), and you recall some of them as potent
creators of values.

But if London, a few hours from Paris, only hears of these men
through a few critical intermediaries, such as Arthur Symons, Edmund
Gosse, and other cultivated and cosmopolitan spirits, what may we
not say of America, a week away from the scene of action? As a
matter of fact, we are proud of our provincialism, and for those who
"create"--as the jargon goes--that same provincialism is a
windshield against the draughts of too tempting imitation; but for
our criticism there is no excuse. A critic will never be a catholic
critic of his native literature or art if he doesn't know the
literatures and arts of other lands, paradoxical as this may sound.
We lack æsthetic curiosity. Because of our uncritical parochialism
America is comparable to a cemetery of clichés.

Nevertheless, those of us who went as far as the portraits by Vance
Thompson and Amy Lowell must feel a trifle strange in the long,
narrow street of Florian-Parmentier, with its alternations of
Septentrional mists and the blazing blue sky of the Midi. This
critic, by the way, is a staunch upholder of the Gaul. He will have
no admixture of Latin influence. He employs what has jocosely been
called the "Woad" argument; he goes back not to the early Britons,
but to Celticism. He is a sturdy Kymrist, and believes not in
literatures transalpine or transpyrenean. He loathes the "pastiche,"
the purveyors of "canned" classics, the chilly rhetoricians who set
too much store on conventional learning. A Frank, a northerner, and
the originator of Impulsionism is Florian-Parmentier. In his
auscultation of genius, La Physiologie Morale du Poète (1904), may
be found the germs of his doctrine. This doctrine seems familiar
enough now, as does the flux of Heraclitus and the Becoming of
Renan, in the teachings of Bergson. Unanimism has had some
influence. M. Florian-Parmentier does not admire this movement or
its prophet, Jules Romains. Unanimism. Ah! the puissant magic of the
word for these budding poets and philosophers. It ought to warm the
cockles of the heart of critics.

And then the generation of 1900--Alexander Mercereau, Henri
Hertz, Sébastien Voirol, Pierre Jaudon, Jacques Nayral, Fernand
Divoire, Tancrède Visan, Strentz, Giraudoux, Mandin, Guillaume
Apollinaire--all workers in the vast inane, dwellers on the
threshold of the future. The past and present bearings of the
Academy Goncourt are carefully indicated. Thus far nothing
extraordinary has come from it. Balzac is still the mighty one in
fiction. Thus far the names of Anatole France, Paul Adam, the
brothers Rosny, Pierre Mille--a brilliant, versatile man--still
maintain their primacy.

Thus far, among the essayists, Remy de Gourmont, Camille Mauclair,
Maeterlinck, Romain Rolland, J. H. Fabre, Jules Bois--now sojourning
in America and a thinker of verve and originality--and Henry
Houssaye, hold their own against the younger generation.

In the theatre there are numerous and vexing tendencies:
Maeterlinck, loyally acknowledging his indebtedness to gentle
Charles van Lerburghe, created a spiritual drama and has disciples;
but the theatre is the theatre and resists innovation. Ibsen, who
had his day in Paris, and Antoine of the Free Theatre were accepted
not because of their novelty, but in spite of it. They both were men
of the theatre. There is a school of Ideo-realism, and there are
Curel, Bataille, Porto-Riche, Maeterlinck, Trarieux, and Marie
Leneru; but the technique of the drama is immutable.

In the domain of philosophy and experimental science we find Emile
Boutroux, and such collective psychologists as Durckheim, Gustave
le Bon, and Gabriel Tarde; names such as Binet, Ribot, Michel
Savigny, Alfred Fouillée, and the eminent mathematician, Henri
Poincaré--who finally became sceptical of his favourite logic,
philosophy, and mathematics. This intellectual volte-face caused
endless discussion. The truth is that intuition, the instinctive
vs. intellectualism--what William James called "vicious
intellectualism"--is swaying the younger French thinkers and poets.

There is, if one is to judge by the anthologies, far too much of
metaphysics in contemporary poetry. Poetry is in danger of
suffocating in a misty mid-region of metaphysics. The vital impulse,
intuitionalism, and rhythmic flow of time in Bergson caught the
fancy of the poets. Naturally enough. Literary dogmatism had
prevailed too long in academic centres. Now it is the deliquescence
of formal verse that is to be feared. Vers-libre, which began with
such initiators as that astonishing prodigy, Arthur Rimbaud, has run
the gamut from esoteric illuminism to sonorous yawping from the
terrace of the brasseries. Have frogs wings? we are tempted to ask.
Voices they have, but not bird-like voices.

That fascinating philosopher and friend of Remy de Gourmont--who
practically introduced him--must not be overlooked, for he had
genuine influence. I refer to brilliant Jules Gaultier, who evolved
from Flaubert's Madame Bovary the idea of his Bovarysme--which,
succinctly stated, is the instinct in mankind to appear other than
it is; from the philosopher to the snob, from the priest to the
actor, from the duchess to the prostitute.

Of the influence of politics upon art and literature--which happily
are no cloistered virtues in France--we need not speak here. M.
Florian-Parmentier does so in his admirable and bulky book, of which
we have only exposed the high lights.

Since Jules Huret's Enquête sur l'Evolution Littéraire (1890),
followed by similar works of Vellay, Jean Muller, and Gaston Picard
(1913), we recall no such pamphlet as Emile Henriot's, mentioned
above. He put the questions: "Where are we? Where are we going?" in
_Le Temps_ of Paris, June, 1912, to a number of representative
thinkers and poets, and reprinted between covers their answers in
1913.

The result is rather confusing, a cloud of contradictory witnesses
are assembled, and what one affirms the other denies. There are no
schools! Yes, there are groups! We are going to the devil headlong!
The sky is full of rainbows and the humming of harps celestial!
Better the extravagances of the decayed Romanticists than the
debasing realism of the modern novel, cry the Symbolists. A plague
on all your houses! say the Unanimists. One fierce Wolf (Loup)
admitted that at the banquets of his cénacle he and his fellow poets
always ate in effigy the classic writers. Or was it at the
Symbolists'? Does it much matter? The gesture counts alone with
these youthful "Fumistes"--as Leconte de Lisle had christened their
predecessors.

Verlaine, in his waggish mood, persisted in spelling as "Cymbalists"
the Symbolists, his own followers. Gongs would have been a better
word. A punster speaks of Theists as those who love "le bon Dieu and
tea." The new critical school, at its head Charles Maurras, do not
conceal their contempt for all these "arrivistes" and revolutionary
groups, believing that only a classic renaissance will save Young
France. Barnums, the entire lot! pronounces in faded accents the
ultra-academic group. Three critics of wide-reaching influence are
dead since the war began: Emile Faguet, Jules Lemaître, and Remy de
Gourmont. They leave no successors worthy of their mettle.


III

The three volumes of anthology of French Contemporary Poets from
1866 to 1916 have been supplemented by a fourth entitled Poets of
Yesterday and To-day (1916). Edited by the painstaking M. G. Walch,
it comprises the verse of poets born as late as 1886. Among the
rest is the gifted Charles Dumas, who fell in battle, 1914. As
epigraph to the new collection the editor has used a line from this
poet's testament: "Ce désir d'être tout que j'appelle mon âme!"
Another anthology of the new poets is prefaced by M. Gustave Lanson,
but the Walch collection reveals more promising talents, or else the
poems are more representative.

Signor Marinetti, who is bilingual, is eccentrically amusing. But
are his contortions on the tripod art? The auto and aeroplane are
celebrated, also steam, speed, mist, and the destruction of all art
prior to 1900. The new schools are wary of rhetoric, thus following
Paul Verlaine's injunction: Take Eloquence by the neck and wring it!
Imagists abound, but they are in an aristocratic minority. The
watchword is: sobriety in thinking and expression.

Strangely enough, two names emerge victoriously from the confusing
lyric symphony and they are those of Belgian-born poets--Emile
Verhaeren, whose tragic death last year was a loss to literature,
and Maurice Maeterlinck. What living lyric poet has the incomparable
power of that epical Verhaeren, unless it be that of the more
sophisticated Gabriele d'Annunzio, or the sumptuous decorative verse
of Henri de Régnier, whose polished art is the antithesis of the
exuberant, lawless, resonant reverberations of Verhaeren?

What thinker and dramatist is known like Maeterlinck, except it be
the magical Gerhart Hauptmann? Rough to brutality--for Verhaeren at
one time emulated Walt Whitman (variously spelled as "Walth" and
"Withman"); with the names of foreigners Paris has ever been
careless in its orthography, witness "Litz" and "Edgard Poë"; he can
boast the divine afflatus. His personality is of the centrifugal
order. He has a tumultuous rhythmic undertow that sweeps one
irresistibly with him. But his genius is disintegrating, rather than
constructive.

Of what French poet among the younger group dare we say the same?
Grace, lyric sweetness, subtlety in ideas, facile technique--all
these, yes, but not the power of saying great things greatly.

As for Maeterlinck, he owes something to Emerson; but his mellow
wisdom and clairvoyance are his own. He is a seer, and his
crepuscular pages are pools of glimmering incertitudes, whereas of
Verhaeren we may say, as Carlyle said of Landor's prose: "The sound
of it is like the ring of Roman swords on the helmets of
barbarians."

Henry James tells a story of an argument between Zola, Flaubert, and
Turgenev, the Russian novelist declaring that for him Châteaubriand
was not the Ultima Thule of prose perfection. This insensibility to
the finer nuances of the language angered and astounded Zola and
Flaubert. They set it down to the fact that none but a Frenchman
can quite penetrate the inner sanctuary of his own language; which
may be true, though I believe that for Turgenev the author of Atala
was temperamentally distasteful.

Therefore, when an American makes the statement that the two
Belgians are superior to the living Frenchmen it may be classed as a
purely personal judgment. But the proposition first mooted by a
distinguished critic, Remy de Gourmont, that Maeterlinck and
Verhaeren be elected to the French Academy, was not a bizarre one.
The war has effaced many artistic frontiers. The majority of the
little circles that once pullulated in Paris no longer exist. Both
Verhaeren and Maeterlinck are now Frenchmen of the French. Their
inclusion in the Academy would have honoured that venerable and too
august body as much as the Belgian poets.

As to the war's influence on French letters, that question is for
soothsayers to decide, not for the present writer. After 1870
certain psychiatrists pretended that a degeneration of body and soul
had blighted artistic and literary Europe. Well, we can only wish
for the new France of 1920 and later such a galaxy of talents and
genius as the shining groups from 1875 to 1914. No need to finger
the chaplet of their names and achievements. Such books as those by
Catulle Mendès, Florian-Parmentier, Lanson, and Walch prove our
contention.



CHAPTER XXVI

MORE ABOUT RICHARD WAGNER


Time was when a fame-craving young man could earn a reputation for
originality by merely going to the market-place and loudly
proclaiming his disbelief in a deity. It would seem that modern
critics of Richard Wagner, busily engaged in placing the life of the
composer under their microscopes, are seeking the laurels of the
ambitious chap aforesaid.

Never has the music of Wagner been more popular than now; his name
on the opera billboards is bound to crowd a house. And never,
paradoxical as it may sound, has there been such a critical hue and
cry over his works and personality. The publication of his
autobiography has much to do with this renewal of interest. There is
some praise, much abuse, to be found in the newly published books on
the subject. European critics are building up little islands of
theory, coral-like, some with fantastic lagoons, others founded on
stern truth, and many doomed to be washed away over-night.
Nevertheless, the true Richard Wagner is beginning to emerge from
the haze of Nibelheim behind which he contrived to hide his real
self.

Wagner the gigantic comedian; Wagner the egotist; Wagner the victim
of a tragic love, Wagner tone-poet, mock philosopher, and a
wonderful apparition in the world of art till success overtook him;
then Wagner become bored, with no more worlds to conquer, deserted
by his best friends--whom he had alienated--without the solace of
the men he had most loved, the men who had helped him over the
thorny path of his life--Liszt, Nietzsche, Von Bülow, Otto
Wesendonk, and how many others, even King Ludwig II, whom he had
treated with characteristic ingratitude! No, Richard Wagner during
the sterile years, so called, from 1866 to 1883, was not a contented
man, despite his union with Cosima von Bülow-Liszt and the
foundation of a home and family at Baireuth.


I

However, there are exceptions. One is the book of Otto Bournot
entitled Ludwig Geyer, the Stepfather of Richard Wagner. I wrote
about it in 1913 for the _New York Times_. In this slender volume of
only seventy-two pages the author sifts all the evidence in the
Geyer-Wagner question, and he has delved into archives, into the
newspapers of Geyer's days, and has had access to hitherto untouched
material. It must be admitted that his conclusions are not to be
lightly denied. August Böttiger's Necrology has until recently been
the chief source of facts in the career of Geyer, but Wagner's
Autobiography--which in spots Bournot corrects--and the life of
Wagner by Mary Burrell, not to mention other books, have furnished
Bournot with new weapons.

The Geyers as far back as 1700 were simple pious folk, the first of
the family being a certain Benjamin Geyer, who about 1700 was a
trombone-player and organist. Indeed, the chief occupation of many
Geyers was in some way or other connected with the Evangelical
Church. Ludwig Heinrich Christian Geyer was a portraitist of no mean
merit, an actor of considerable power--his Franz Moor was a
favourite rôle with the public--a dramatist of fair ability (he
wrote a tragedy, among others, named The Slaughter of the
Innocents), and also a verse-maker. His acquaintance with Weber
stimulated his interest in music; Weber discovered his voice, and he
sang in opera. Truly a versatile man who displayed in miniature all
the qualities of Wagner. The latter was too young at the time of
Geyer's death, September, 1821, to have profited much by the
precepts of his stepfather, but his example certainly did prove
stimulating to the imagination of the budding poet and composer.
Geyer married Johanna Wagner-Bertz (Mary Burrell was the first to
give the correct spelling of her maiden name), the widow of the
police functionary Wagner (to whose memory Richard pays such cynical
homage in his obituary), August 14, 1814. She had about two hundred
and sixty-one thalern, and eight children. A ninth came later in the
person of Cäcile, who afterward married a member of the Avenarius
family. Cäcile, or Cicely, was a prime favourite with Richard.

       *       *       *       *       *

Seven years passed, and again Frau Geyer found herself a widow, with
nine children and little money. How the family all tumbled up in the
world, owing much to the courage, wit, vivacity, and unshaken
will-power of their mother, may be found in the autobiography.
Bournot admits that Geyer and his wife may have carried to the grave
certain secrets. Richard Wagner until he was nine years old was
known as Richard Geyer, and on page thirteen of his book our author
prints the following significant sentence: "The possibility of
Wagner's descent from Geyer contains in itself nothing detrimental
to our judgment of the art-work of Baireuth."


II

In 1900 a twenty-page pamphlet bearing the title Richard Wagner in
Zurich was published in Leipsic. It was signed Hans Bélart, and gave
for the first time to a much mystified world the story of Wagner's
passion for Mathilde Wesendonk, thus shattering beyond hope of
repair our cherished belief that Cosima von Bülow-Liszt had been
the lode-stone of Wagner's desire, that to her influence was due the
creation of Tristan and Isolde, its composer's high-water mark in
poetic, dramatic music. Now, Bélart, not content with his
iconoclastic pamphlet, has just sent forth a fat book which he calls
Richard Wagner's Love-Tragedy with Mathilde Wesendonk.

We had thought that the last word in the matter had been said when
Baireuth (Queen Cosima I) allowed the publication of Wagner's
diaries and love-letters to Mathilde--though her complete
correspondence is as yet unpublished. But Bélart is one of the
busiest among the German critical coral builders. He has dug into
musty newspapers and letters, and gives at the close of his work a
long list of authorities. Yet nothing startlingly new comes out of
his researches. We knew that Mathilde Wesendonk (or Wesendonck) was
the first love of Wagner, a genuine and noble passion, not his usual
self-seeking philandering. We also knew that Otto Wesendonk behaved
like a patient husband and a gentleman--any other man would have put
a bullet in the body of the thrice impertinent genius; knew, too,
that Tristan and Isolde was born of this romance. But there is a
mass of fresh details, petty backstairs gossip, all the
tittle-tattle beloved of such writers, that in company with Julius
Kapp's Wagner und die Frauen, makes Bélart's new book a valuable one
for reference.

Kapp, who has written a life of Franz Liszt, goes Bélart one better
in hinting that the infatuated couple transformed their idealism
into realism. Bélart does not believe this; neither does Emil
Ludwig, the latest critical commentator on Wagner. But neither
critic gives the profoundest proof that the love of Richard and
Mathilde was an exalted, platonic one, _i. e._, the proof
psychologic. I firmly believe that if Mathilde Wesendonk had eloped
with Wagner in 1858, as he begged her to do, Tristan and Isolde
might not have been finished; at all events, the third act would not
have been what it now is. A mighty longing is better for the birth
of great art than facile happiness. For the first time in his
selfish unhappy life Wagner realised Goethe's words of wisdom:
"Renounce thou shalt; shalt renounce." It was a bitter sacrifice,
but out of its bitter sweetness came the honey and moonlight of
Tristan and Isolde. Wagner suffered, Mathilde suffered, Otto
Wesendonk suffered, and last, but not least, Minna Wagner, the poor
pawn in his married game, suffered to distraction. Let us begin with
a quotation on the last page but three of Bélart's book: "Remarked
Otto Wesendonk to a friend: 'I have hunted Wagner from my
threshold....'"

This was in August, 1858. Wagner first met the Wesendonks about
1852, three years after he had fled to Zurich from Dresden because
of his participation in the uprising of 1849. (Wagner as amateur
revolutionist!) Thanks to the request of his wife Mathilde, Otto
Wesendonk furnished a little house on the hill near his splendid
villa for the Wagners. First christened "Fafner's Repose," Wagner
changed the title to the "Asyl," and for a time it was truly an
asylum for this perturbed spirit.

But he must needs fall deeply in love with his charming and
beautiful neighbour, a woman of intellectual and poetic gifts, and
to the chagrin of her husband and of Wagner's faithful wife. The
gossip in the neighbourhood was considerable, for the complete
frankness of the infatuated ones was not the least curious part of
the affair. Liszt knew of it, so did the Princess Layn-Wittgenstein.
An immense amount of "snooping" was indulged in by interested lady
friends of Minna Wagner. She has her apologists, and, judging from
the letters she wrote at the time and afterward--several printed for
the first time by Kapp and Bélart--she took a lively hand in the
general proceedings. Evidently she was tired of her good man's
behaviour, and when he solemnly assured her that it was the
master-passion of his life she didn't believe him. Naturally not. He
had cried "wolf" too often; besides, Minna, like a practical person,
viewed the possibility of a rupture with Otto Wesendonk as a
distinct misfortune. Otto had not only advanced much money to
Richard, but he paid twelve thousand francs for the scores of
Rheingold and Walküre and for the complete performing rights.
Afterward he sent both to King Ludwig II as a gift--but I doubt if
he ever got a penny from his tenants for rent. He also defrayed the
expenses of the Wagner concert at Zurich, a little item of nine
thousand francs. Scandal and calumny invaded his home, the fair fame
of his wife was threatened. No wonder the finale, long deferred, was
stormy, even operatic.

The lady was much younger than her husband; she was born at the
close of 1828, therefore Wagner's junior by fifteen years. She was a
Luckemeyer, her mother a Stein; a cultured, sweet-natured woman, it
is more than doubtful if she could have endured Wagner as a husband.
She did a wise thing in resisting his prayers. Not only was her
husband a bar to such a proceeding, but her children would have
always prevented her thinking of a legal separation. All sorts of
plans were in the air. When, in 1857, the American panic seriously
threatened the prosperity of Otto Wesendonk, who had heavy business
interests in New York, gossip averred that Frau Wesendonk would ask
for a divorce; but the air cleared and matters resumed their old
aspect. Minna Wagner's health, always poor, became worse. It was a
case of exasperated nerves made worse by drugs. She daily made
scenes at home and threatened to tell what she knew. That she knew
much is evident from her correspondence with Frau Wilk. She said
that Wagner had two hearts, but while he delighted in intellectual
and emotional friendship with such a superior soul as Mathilde, he
nevertheless would not forego the domestic comforts provided by
Minna. Like many another genius, Wagner was bourgeois. Those
intolerable dogs, the parrot, the coffee-drinking, the soft beds and
solicitude about his underclothing, all were truly German;
human-all-too-human.

In September, 1857, the newly married Von Bülows paid the Wagners a
visit, and as the guest-chamber of the cottage was occupied they
took up temporary quarters at an inn, "The Raven" (Wotan's ravens!)
Cosima, young, impressionable, turned her face to the wall and wept
when Wagner played and sang for his friends the first and second
acts of Siegfried. Even then she felt the "pull" of his magnetism,
of his genius, and doubtless regretted having married the fussy,
irritable Von Bülow--who had gone down in the social scale in
wedding a girl of dubious descent. (In Paris Liszt for many years
was only a strolling gipsy piano-player to whom the Countess
d'Agoult had "condescended.")

Mathilde Wesendonk entertained the Von Bülows, who went away pleased
with their reception, above all deeply impressed by the exiled
Wagner. They so reported to Liszt, and Von Bülow did more; as the
scion of an old aristocratic family, he made many attempts to
secure an amnesty for Wagner, as well as making propaganda for his
music. Which favours Wagner, who was the very genius of ingratitude,
repaid later.

In one point Herr Ludwig is absolutely correct: the composer was
supported by his friends from 1849 to the year when King Ludwig
intervened. The starvation talk was a part of the Wagner legend,
even the Paris days were greatly exaggerated as to their black
poverty. Wagner was always a spendthrift.

From November, 1857, to May, 1858, Wagner set to music the five
poems of Mathilde, veritable sketches for Tristan. Early in
September, 1857, the relations between Minna and Mathilde had become
strained. Wagner accused his wife of abusing Mathilde in a vulgar
manner; worse remained; he had sent a letter by the gardener to Frau
Wesendonk and the jealous wife intercepted it, broke the seal, read
the contents. To Wagner, this was the blackest of crimes; yet can
you blame her? To be sure, she had no conception of her husband's
genius. For her Rienzi was his only work. Had it not succeeded? So
had Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, also The Flying Dutchman, but Rienzi
was her darling. How often she begged him to write another opera of
the same Wagnerian calibre he has not failed to tell us. Otto
Wesendonk's wife she firmly believed was leading him into a
quagmire. What theatre could ever produce The Ring? One thing,
however, Minna did not do, as most writers on the subject say she
did: she did not show the fatal letter to Wesendonk at the time, but
only to Wagner. Later she made its meanings clear to the injured
husband, which no doubt provoked the explosive phrase quoted above.

       *       *       *       *       *

The youthful Karl Tausig, bearing credentials from Liszt, appeared
on the scene in May, 1858, and the entire household was soon in an
uproar. Luckily, Wagner had persuaded Minna to take a cold-water
cure at a sanatorium some distance from Zurich, so he could handle
the wild-eyed Tausig, whose volcanic piano performances at the age
of sixteen made the mature composer both wonder and admire. Tausig
smoked black cigars, a trait he imitated from Liszt, and almost
lived on coffee. Here is a curious criticism of him made by Cosima
Von Bülow, who, it must be remembered, was both the daughter and
wife of famous pianists. She said: "Tausig has no touch, no
individuality; he is a caricature of Liszt." This, in the light of
Tausig's subsequent artistic career, sounds almost comical; it also
shows the intensely one-sided temperament of a remarkable woman, who
banished from her life both von Bülow and her father, Franz Liszt,
when Wagner entered into her dreams. The fortitude she displayed
after her Richard's death in 1883 was not tempered by any human
feeling toward her father. His telegrams were unanswered. She
denied herself to him. She became a Brünnhilde frozen into a symbol
of intolerable grief.

Of her personal fascination the sister of Nietzsche, Elizabeth
Foerster-Nietzsche, told me, when I last saw her at Weimar. Von
Bülow succumbed to this charm; Rubinstein also (query: perhaps that
is the reason he so savagely abused Wagner in his Conversations on
Music?), and, if gossip doesn't lie, Nietzsche was another victim.

On September 17, 1858, after a general row, Wagner left his home on
the green hill, his "Asyl," for ever. Why? Plenty of conjectures, no
definite statements. He makes a great show of frankness in his
diaries, in his autobiography; but they were obviously "edited" by
Baireuth. Tristan and Isolde remains as evidence that a mighty
emotion had transfigured the nature of a genius, and instead of an
erotic anecdote the world of art is richer in the possession of a
moving drama of desire and woe and tragedy. At the Berlin premiere
of Tristan the old Kaiser Wilhelm remarked: "How Wagner must have
loved when he wrote the work;" which is sound psychology.


III

The two books discussed are constructive in nature; not so the book
by Emil Ludwig, Wagner, or the Disenchanted, which is frankly
destructive. Since The Wagner Case by Nietzsche--and not Nietzsche
at his best--there has not been written a book so overflowing with
hatred for Wagner, the man as well as the musician. Ludwig is the
author of poems, plays, and a study of Bismarck, the latter a
noteworthy achievement. He is thorough in his attacks, though he
does not measure up to Ernest Newman in his analysis of Wagner's
poetry, libretti, and philosophy. The English critic's studies
remain the best of its kind, because it is written without
parti-pris.

Ludwig slashes à la Nietzsche, though he cannot boast that poet's
diamantine style. He accuses Wagner of being paroxysmal, erotic--a
painter of moods; he couldn't build a Greek temple like
Beethoven--weak as a poet, inconclusive as a musician. For Tristan
and Die Meistersinger he has words of hearty praise. The Ludwig book
stirred up a nest of hornets, and one lawsuit resulted. A newspaper
critic presumed to criticise, and the sensitive poet, who calls
Wagner every bad name in the Schimpf Lexicon, invoked the aid of the
law. We know only too well, thanks to that ill-tasting but
engrossing autobiography, that Wagner was a monster of ingratitude.
Hasn't Nietzsche, against his own natural feeling, proclaimed the
futility of gratitude? Perhaps he learned this lesson from his hard
experience with Wagner. We also know that Wagner wanted to run the
universe, but after a brief note from Ludwig II he left Munich
rather than face the angry burghers.

He attempted to coerce Bismarck, but there he ran up against a wall
of granite. Bismarck was a Beethoven lover, and he abhorred, as did
Von Beust, revolutionists. Thereat Wagner wrote sarcastic things
about the uselessness and vanity of statesmen. He didn't treat
Ludwig II right when he announced from Venice that he wasn't in
sufficient health and spirits to grant the King's request for a
performance of the prelude to Lohengrin in a darkened theatre with
one listener, Ludwig II. (By the way, Ludwig II never sat through a
performance alone of Parsifal. Once and once only, years before the
completion of the work, he heard a performance of the prelude in
Munich given for his sole benefit.) Wagner's gruff letter wounded
the sensitive idealist. In 1866, a few weeks after the death of
Minna Wagner-Planer, Cosima von Bülow-Liszt followed Wagner to
Switzerland. Probably the hostile attitude of Liszt in the affair
was largely inspired by the fact that when Richard and Cosima
married, the latter abjured Catholicism and became a Protestant.
Liszt, a religious man (despite his pyrotechnical virtuosity in the
luxurious region of sentiment), never could reconcile himself to
this defection on the part of a beloved child.

It angered Nietzsche to discover in Wagner a leaning toward
mysticism, toward religion: witness the mock-duck mysticism and
burlesque of religious ritual in Parsifal. After Feuerbach came
Arthur Schopenhauer in the intellectual life of Wagner. This was in
1854. His friend Wille lent him the book. Immediately he started to
"Schopenhauerise" the Ring, thereby making a hopeless muddle of
situation and character. The enormous vitality of Wagner's
temperament expressed itself in essentially optimistic terms. He was
not a pessimist, and he hopelessly misunderstood his new master.
Wotan must needs become a Schopenhauerian; and Siegfried, a
pessimist at the close.

Nietzsche was right; Schopenhauer proved a powerful poison for
Wagner. And Schopenhauer himself laughed at Wagner's music; he
remained true to Rossini and Mozart and advised Wagner, through a
friend, to stick to the theatre and hang his music on a nail in the
wall; but when his library was overhauled several marginalia were
discovered, one which he contemptuously wrote on a verse of
Wagner's: "Ear! Ear! Where are your ears, musician?"

Wagner, when Liszt adjured him to turn to religion as a consolation,
replied: "I believe only in mankind." Ludwig compares this
declaration with some of the latter opinions concerning
Christianity, of which Wagner has said many evil things. Wagner's
life was a series of concessions to the inevitable. He modified his
art theories as he grew older, and with fame and riches his
character deteriorated.

He couldn't stand success--he, the bravest man of his day; the
undaunted fighter for an idea crooked the knee to caste, became an
amateur mystic and announced his intention of returning to absolute
music, of writing a symphony strict in form--which, for his
reputation, he luckily did not attempt. He was a colossal actor
and the best self-advertiser the world has yet known since Nero.
But I can't understand Herr Ludwig when he asserts that from 1866
to 1883 the composer did nothing but compose two marches, finish
Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. Rather a large order, considering the
labours of the man as practical opera conductor, prose writer,
poet-dramatist, and composer. And then, too, the gigantic scheme of
Baireuth was realised in 1876.

Comparatively barren would be a fairer phrase. After Tristan and
Isolde, what could any man compose? A work which its creator
rightfully said was a miracle he couldn't understand. After the
anecdotage of Wagner's career is forgotten, after Baireuth has
become owl-haunted, Tristan and Isolde will be listened to by men
and women who love or have loved.

It isn't pleasant to read a book like Ludwig's, truthful as it may
be in parts. Nor should he call our attention to the posthumous
venom of the composer as expressed in his hateful remarks concerning
Otto Wesendonk. There Wagner was his own Mime, his own Alberich, not
the knightly hero who would not woo the fair Irish maid till magic
did melt his will. Richard Wagner was once Tristan.



CHAPTER XXVII

MY FIRST MUSICAL ADVENTURE


Music-mad, I arrived in Paris during the last weeks of the World's
Fair of 1878, impelled there by a parching desire to see Franz
Liszt, if not to hear him. He was then honorary director of the
Austro-Hungarian section. But I could not find him, although I heard
of him everywhere, of musical fêtes and the usual glittering company
that had always surrounded this extraordinary son of fortune. One
day I fancied I saw him. I was sadly walking the Rue de Rivoli of an
October afternoon, when in a passing carriage I saw an old chap with
bushy white hair, his face full of expressive warts, and in his
mouth a long black cigar, which he was furiously puffing. Liszt! I
gasped, and started in pursuit. It was not an easy job to keep up
with the carriage. At last, because of a blocked procession, I
caught up and took a long stare, the object of which composedly
smiled at me, but did not truly convince me that he was Franz Liszt.
You see there were so many different pictures of him; even the warts
were not always the same in number. When I am in the Cambyses vein I
swear I've seen Liszt. Perhaps I did.

Liszt or no Liszt, my ambition was fired, and at the advice of
Frederick Boscovitz, a pupil of Liszt and cousin of Rafael Joseffy,
I went to the Conservatoire Nationale, with a letter of introduction
to the acting secretary, Emile Rety. I was told that I was too old
to enter, being a few months past eighteen. I was disappointed and
voiced my woes to Lucy Hamilton Hooper, then a clever writer and
correspondent of several American newspapers. Her husband was
Vice-Consul Robert Hooper and he kindly introduced me to General
Fairchild, the consul, and after a cross-examination I was given
a letter in which the United States Government testified to my good
social standing (I was not a bandit, nor yet an absconder from
justice) and extreme youth. Armed with this formidable document,
I again besieged the gates of the great French conservatoire--whose
tuition, it must be remembered, is free. I was successful, inasmuch
as I was permitted to present myself at the yearly examination, which
took place November 13 (ominous date). To say that I studied hard and
shook in my boots is a literal statement. I lived at the time in an
alley-like street off the Boulevard des Batignolles and lived
luxuriously on five dollars a week, eating one satisfying meal a day
(with a hot bowl of coffee in the morning) and practising on a
wretched little cottage piano as long as my neighbours would stand
the noise. They chucked boots or any old faggot they could find at
my door, and after twelve hours I was so tired of patrolling the
keyboard that I was glad to stop. Then, a pillow on my stomach to
keep down the pangs of a youthfully gorgeous appetite, I would lie
in bed till dinner-time. O Chopin! O consommé and boiled beef! O
sour blue wine at six cents the litre!

At last the fatal day dawned, as the novelists say. It was nasty,
chilling, foggy autumnal, but my long locks hung negligently and my
velveteen coat was worn defiantly open to the wind. I reached the
Conservatoire--then in the old building on the Rue du Faubourg
Poissonière--at precisely nine o'clock of the morn. I was put in a
large room with an indiscriminate lot of candidates, some of them so
young as to be fit for the care of a nurse. Like lost sheep we
huddled and as my eyes feverishly rambled I noticed a lad of about
twelve with curling hair worn artist fashion; a naughty haughty boy
he was, for he sneered at my lengthy legs and audibly inquired: "Is
grandpa to play with us!" I knew enough French to hate that little
monster with a nervous hatred. There was a tightened feeling about
my throat and heart and I waited in an agitated spirit for my
number. A bearded and shy young man came in from examination and was
at once mocked by the incipient virtuoso in pantalettes. Another
unfortunate, with a roll of music! Then the little devil was
summoned. We sat up. In ten minutes he returned with downcast mien,
flushed face, tears in his eyes, and tried to sneak out of the
room, but too late. After shaking hands all round we solemnly danced
in a circle about the now sobbing and no longer sinister child. Who
says youth is ever generous?

"Number thirteen!" sang out a voice, and I was pushed through a
narrow entry and a minute later was standing on the historic stage
of the Paris Conservatoire. The lighting was dim, but I discerned a
group of persons somewhere in front of me. A man asked me to sit
down at the grand piano--of course, like most pianos, out of
tune--and I tremblingly obeyed his polite request. At this juncture
a woman's voice inquired: "How old are you, monsieur?" I told her. A
feminine laugh rippled through the gloom, for I wore a fluffy little
beard, was undeniably gawky, and looked conspicuously older than my
years. That laugh settled me. Queer, creepy feelings seized my legs,
my eyes were full of solar spectrums, my throat a furnace and my
heart beat like a triphammer. I was not the first man, young or old,
to be knocked out by a woman's laugh. (Later I met the lady. She was
Madame Massart, and the wife of the well-known violin master,
Massart, of the Conservatoire.) Again the demand, "Play something."
It was a foregone conclusion that I couldn't. I began a minuetto
from a Beethoven Sonata, hesitated, saw fiery snakes and a
kaleidoscope of comets, then pitched into a presto by the
unfortunate Beethoven, and was soon stopped. A sheet of manuscript
was placed before me. I could have sworn that it was upside down, so
as a sight-reading test it was a failure. I was altogether a
distinguished failure, and with the audible comment of the examining
faculty ringing in my ears, I stumbled across the stage into welcome
darkness, and without waiting to thank Secretary Rety for his
amiability I got away, crossing in a hurry that celebrated courtyard
in which the hideous noises made by many instruments, including the
human voice, reminded me of a torture circle in Dante's Inferno.

The United States had no reason to be proud of her musical--or
unmusical--son that dull day in November, 1878. When I arrived in my
garret I swore I was through and seriously thought of studying the
xylophone. But my mood of profound discouragement was succeeded by a
more hopeful one. If you can't enter the Paris Conservatoire as an
active student you may have influence enough to become an
"auditeur," a listener; and a listener I became and in the class of
Professor Georges Mathias, a genuine pupil of Chopin. My musical
readers will understand my good luck. From that spiritual master I
learned many things about the Polish composer; heard from his still
supple fingers much music as Chopin had interpreted it. Delicate and
discriminating in style, M. Mathias had never developed into a
brilliant concert pianist; sometimes he produced effects on the
keyboard that sounded like emotional porcelain falling from a high
shelf and melodiously shattering on velvet mirrors. He also taught
me that if a pianist or violinist or singer is too nervous before
the public, then he or she has not a musical vocation--the case of
Adolf Henselt to the contrary notwithstanding. But better would it
be for me to admit that I failed because I didn't will earnestly
enough to succeed.



CHAPTER XXVIII

VIOLINISTS NOW AND YESTERYEAR


With the hair of the horse and the entrails of the cat, magicians of
the four strings weave their potent spells. What other instrument
devised by the hand of man has ever approached the violin? Gladstone
compared it with the locomotive; yet complete as is the mechanism of
the wheeled monster, its type is transitional; steam is already
supplanted by electricity; while the violin is perfection, as
perfect as a sonnet, and in its capacity for the expression of
emotion next to the human voice; indeed it is even more poignant.
Orchestrally massed, it can be as terribly beautiful as an army with
banners. In quartet form it represents the very soul of music; it is
both sensuous and intellectual. The modern grand pianoforte with its
great range, its opulence of tone, its delicacy of mechanism is,
nevertheless, a monster of music if placed beside the violin, with
its simple curves, its almost primitive method of music-making. The
scraping of one substance against another goes back to prehistoric
times, nay, may be seen in the grasshopper and its ingenious manner
of producing sound. But the violin, as we know it to-day, is not
such an old invention; it was the middle of the sixteenth century
before it made its appearance, with its varnished and modelled back.

Restricted as is its range of dynamics, the violin has had for its
votaries men of such widely differing temperaments as Paganini and
Spohr, Wilhelmj and Sarasate, Joachim and Ysaye. Its literature does
not compare with that of the piano, for which Bach, Beethoven,
Schumann, Chopin, and Brahms have written their choicest music, yet
the intimate nature of the violin, its capacity for passionate
emotion, crowns it--and not the organ, with its mechanical tonal
effects--as the king of instruments. Nor does the voice make the
peculiar appeal of the violin. Its lowest note is the G below the
treble clef, and its top note a mere squeak; but it seems in a few
octaves to have imprisoned within its wooden walls a miniature world
of feeling; even in the hands of a clumsy amateur it has the
formidable power of giving pain; while in the grasp of a master it
is capable of arousing the soul.

No other instrument has the ecstatic quality; neither the
shallow-toned pianoforte, nor the more mellow and sonorous
violoncello. The angelic, demoniacal, lovely, intense tones of the
violin are without parallel in music or nature. It is as if this box
with four strings across its varnished belly had a rarer nervous
system than all other instruments. It is a cry, a shriek, a hymn to
heaven, a call to arms, an exquisite evocation, a brilliant series
of multi-coloured visions, a broad song of passion, or mocking
laughter--what cannot the violin express if the soul that guides it
be that of an artist? Otherwise, it is only a fiddle. It is the
hero, the heroine, the vanguard of every composition. As a solo
instrument in a concerto, its still small voice is heard above the
din and thunder of the accompaniment. In a word, this tiny music-box
is the ruler among instruments.

Times have changed since 1658 in England, when the following
delightful ordinance was made for the benefit of musical genius, or
otherwise:

"And be it enacted that if any person or persons, commonly called
Fiddlers, or minstrels, shall at any time after the said first of
July be taken playing, fiddling, or making music in any inn,
alehouse or tavern, or shall be proffering themselves, or desiring,
or entreating any person or persons to hear them play ... shall be
adjudged rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars."

Decidedly, England was not then the abode of the muses, for the poor
actor suffered in company with the musician. You wonder whether this
same penalty would be imposed upon musical managers ... they
certainly do "entreat" the public to listen to their "fiddlers." Yet
in 1690 when Corelli, the father of violin playing, led the band at
Cardinal Ottoboni's house in Rome, he stopped the music because his
churchly patron was talking, and he made an epigram that has since
served for other artists: "Monsignore," remarked this intrepid
musician, when asked why the band had ceased, "I feared the music
might interrupt the conversation." How well Liszt knew this anecdote
may be recalled by his retort to a czar of Russia under similar
circumstances.

Until a few months ago I had not heard Eugene Ysaye play for years.
In the old days he had enchanted my ears, and in company with
Gerardy, the violoncellist and Pugno the pianist had made music fit
for the gods. Considering the flight of the years, I found the art
of the Belgian comparatively untouched. Like Liszt, like Paderewski,
Ysaye has his good moments and his indifferent. He is the Paderewski
of the strings in his magical interpretations. And unlike his
younger contemporaries, he still carves out the whole block of the
great classics, sonatas, and concertos. He plays little things
tenderly, exquisitely, and the man is first the musician, then the
virtuoso.

I heard neither Paganini nor Spohr. Joachim, Wilhelmj, Wieniawski,
and Ysaye I have heard and seen. My memory assures me of keener
satisfactions than any book about these giants of the four strings
could give me. The first violinist I ever listened to was in the
early seventies. I was hardly at the age of musical discrimination.
Yet I remember much. It was at the opera, a matinee in the
Philadelphia Academy of Music. Nilsson was singing. I can't recall
her on that occasion, though it seems only the other day when
Carlotta Patti sang the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, and
limped over the stage--possibly the lameness fixed the event in my
mind more than the music.

A "front" set was dropped between the acts at this particular
matinee--I do not recollect the name of the opera--and through a
"practicable" door came an old gentleman with a violin in his hands.
He was white-haired, he wore white side-whiskers, and he looked to
my young eyes like a prosperous banker. He played. It was as the
sound of falling waters on a moonlight night. I asked the name of
the old gentleman. My father said, "Henri Vieuxtemps," which told me
nothing then, though it means much to me now. What did he play? I do
not know. Yet whenever I hear the younger men attack his Fantaisie
Caprice, his Ballade and Polonaise, his Concertos, I think proudly:
"I have heard Vieuxtemps!" He was a Belgian, born 1820, died 1881.
His style was finished, elegant, charming. He was a pupil of De
Bériot and represented, with his master, perfection in the Belgian
school.

After an interval of some years, I heard the only pupil of
Paganini, as he called himself, Camillo Sivori. It was in Paris,
1879. The precise day I can't say but my letter from Paris which
appeared in the Philadelphia _Evening Bulletin_ was dated January
31, 1879. I still preserve it in a venerable scrap-book. I was in my
'teens but I wrote with the courage of youthful ignorance as
follows: (It almost sounds like a musical criticism.) "Although it
was generally supposed that Sivori, the great violinist, would not
play this season in Paris, he, nevertheless delighted a large
audience, last Sunday, at the Concert Populaire, with his lovely
music. He is no longer a young man, but the vigour and fire of his
playing are immense. He gave, with the orchestral accompaniment, a
Berceuse, his own composition, with unapproachable delicacy. It was
played throughout with the mute. In contrast came a Mouvement
Perpetuel. Sivori's tone is not like that of Joachim or Wilhelmj,
but it is sweeter than either. It reminds one of gold drawn to
cobweb fineness. As an encore he played the too well known Carnival
of Venice. That it was given in the style of his illustrious master,
Paganini, who may say? But it was amazing, painful, finally
tiresome." That same season I heard Anna Bock, Boscovitz, Diémer,
Planté, Theodore Ritter, the two Jaells, fat Alfred and his thin
wife.

Sivori (1815-1894), dapper, modest, stood up in the vast spaces of
the Cirque d'Hiver, which was engaged every Sunday by Jacques
Pasdeloup and his orchestra. (Jacob Wolfgang was the real name of
this conductor who braved the wrath of his audiences by putting
Wagner on his programmes; and one afternoon we had a pitched battle
over Rimsky-Korsakoff's Symphonic Poem, Sadko.) Sivori played a
tarantella; every tone was clearly heard in the great, crowded
auditorium. Pupils of De Bériot and Paganini I have heard, though I
hardly recall the style of the former and nothing of the latter. But
there was little of Paganini's fiery attack in Sivori; possibly he
was too old. Fire and fury I later found in Wieniawski.

I must not omit the name of Ole Bull (1810-1880), for, though I
heard him as a boy, I best remember him in 1880, when he gave his
last concerts in America. In the fifties, while on a visit to my
father's house, he went on his two thumbs around a dining-table,
lifting his body clear from the ground. His muscular power was
remarkable. It showed in the dynamics of his robust and sentimental
playing. Spohr discouraged him as a boy, but later spoke of his
"wonderful playing and sureness of his left hand; unfortunately,
like Paganini, he sacrifices what is artistic to something that is
not quite suitable to the noble instrument. His tone, too, is
bad...." For Spohr any one's tone was, naturally enough, bad, as he
possessed the most monumental tone that ever came from a violin.

The truth is that Ole Bull was not a classical player; as I remember
him, he could not play in strict tempo; like Chopin, he indulged in
the rubato and abused the portamento. But he knew his public.
America a half-century ago, particularly in the regions he visited,
was not in the mood for sonatas or concertos. Old Dan Tucker and the
Arkansaw Traveller were the mode. Bull played them both, played jigs
and old tunes, roused the echoes with the Star Spangled Banner and
Irish melodies. He played such things beautifully, and it would have
been musical snobbery to say that you didn't like them. You couldn't
help yourself. The grand old fellow bewitched you. He was a handsome
Merlin, with a touch of the charlatan and a touch of Liszt in his
tall, willowy figure, small waist, and heavy head of hair. Such
white hair! It tumbled in masses about his kindly face like one of
his native Norwegian cataracts. He was the most picturesque old man
I ever saw except Walt Whitman, at that time a steady attendant of
the Carl Gaertner String Quartet concerts in Philadelphia. (And what
Walt didn't know about music he made up in his love for stray dogs;
he was seldom without canine company.)

Those were the days when Prume's La Mélancolie and Wieniawski's
Légende were the two favourite, yet remote, peaks of the student's
répertoire. How we loved them! Then came Wieniawski with Rubinstein
in 1872-1873, and such violin playing America had never before
heard--nor has it since, let me hasten to add. This Pole (1835-1880)
was a brilliant master. His dash and fire and pathos carried you off
your feet. His tone at times was like molten metal. He had a
caressing and martial bow. His technique was infallible, his
temperament truly Slavic, languorous, subtle, fierce. Wieniawski
always reminded me of a red-hot coal. How chivalric is his
Polonaise--that old war-horse! How elegiac his Légende! His
favourite pupil was Leopold Lichtenberg, the greatest violin talent
that has been thus far unearthed in America. Lichtenberg had
everything when a youth--temperament, brains, musical feeling, and
great technical ability.

After Wieniawski followed Wilhelmj, who did not efface his memory,
but plunged one into another atmosphere; that of the calm, profound,
untroubled, and classic. No doubt Spohr's tone was larger, yet this
is difficult to believe. Wilhelmj drew from his instrument the
noblest sounds I ever heard; not Joachim, not Ysaye excelled him in
cantabile. He was the first to play Wagner transcriptions--no wonder
Wagner made him leader of the strings at Bayreuth in 1876. How he
read the Beethoven Concerto, the Bach Chaconne. Or the D flat
Nocturne of Chopin--in D. Or the much abused Mendelssohn E Minor
Concerto--with Max Vogrich accompanying him at the piano. A giant
in physique, when he faced his audience there was something of the
majestic, fair-haired god Wotan in his immobile posture. He never
appealed to his public as did Wieniawski; there was always something
of chilly grandeur and remoteness in Wilhelmj's play. The last time
I saw him was at Marienbad, shortly before his death, where, a
stooped-shouldered, grey-haired old man, he was taking a Kur. He
walked slowly, his hands clasped behind him, in his eyes the vacant
look of one busy with memories. He reminded me of Beethoven's
pictures.

Joseph Joachim, that mighty Hungarian, was past his prime when I
heard him in London. He played out of tune--some of his pupils have
imitated his failing--but whether in a Beethoven quartet, concerto,
sonata with piano, he always stamped on your consciousness that
Joseph Joachim was the greatest violinist that had ever lived. This
is, of course, absurd, this unfair comparison of one artist with
another. Yet it is human to compare, and if a violinist can evoke
such a vision of perfection, then he must be of uncommon powers.
Maud Powell, a distinguished pupil of Joachim, has asserted that it
took her three years before she could recover herself in the
presence of Joachim's overwhelming personality. Yet he struck me as
not at all assertive. He seemed an "objective" player, _i. e._, you
thought only of Beethoven, of Brahms, as he calmly delivered himself
of their Olympian measures. The grand manner is now out of fashion.
We care more for exotic rhetoric than for simple and lofty measures.
Sarasate and Dengremont charmed me more; Wieniawski set my blood
coursing faster; but in Joachim's presence I felt as if near some
old Grecian temple hallowed by the presence of oft-worshipped gods.

Remenyi was a puzzle. He could play divinely, and scratch
diabolically. He belonged to that old romantic school in which pose
and gesture, contortion and grimace occupied a prominent place. I
had an opportunity to study Remenyi (whose Austrian name was
Hoffman) (1830-1898), at close quarters. He brought to my father's
house in the early eighties his favourite instruments, and such a
wild night of music I never heard. He played hour after hour,
everything from Bach to Brahms--and incidentally scolded Brahms for
"stealing" some of his, Remenyi's, Hungarian dances! (Which is a
joke, as Brahms only followed the examples of Liszt and Joachim in
avowedly employing Hungarian folk melodies). He did such tricks as
dashing off in impeccable tune his arrangement of the D Flat Valse
of Chopin in double notes at a terrific tempo. Violinists will
understand the feat when I tell them that the key was the original
one--D flat. He made the walls shiver when he struck his bow
clangorously in the opening chords of the Rackoczy March. What a
hero then seemed this stout, little, prancing, baldheaded man with
the face of an unfrocked priest. How he could talk in a half-dozen
different languages; he had travelled enough and encountered enough
celebrated people to fill a dozen volumes with his recollections. He
was a violinist of unquestionable power; that he deteriorated in his
later years was to have been expected. Liszt understood and
appreciated Remenyi from the first; he nicknamed him "the Kossuth of
the Fiddle."

To recall all the celebrities of the violin I have heard since 1870
would be hardly possible. I've forgotten most of them, though I do
remember that wonderful boy, Maurice Dengremont, who ended his life,
so rich in possibilities, it is said as a billiard marker. He was
spoiled by women, for he was a comely lad. Another wonder-child kept
his head, and to-day fascinating Fritz Kreisler is a master of
masters and a favourite in America without peer. He first appeared
at Boston and in 1888. In Paris I recall Marsick and his polished
style; the gallant Sauret, Johannes Wolf, and the brilliant and
elegant Timothée Adamowski. And in 1880, Marie Tayau and her woman
quartet, a member of which was Jeanne Franko, the sister of the
conductors and violinists, Sam Franko and Nahan Franko; Cæsar
Thomson, the miraculous; C. M. Loeffler--subtle player, subtle
composer; Sarasate with his sweet tone; Brodsky and his masculine
manner; Willy Burmester and his pallid pyrotechnics; the learned
Schradieck, the Bohemian Ondricek, the dashing Ovide Musin, Bernhard
Listemann, Carl Halir; Gregorowitsch, the languid; brilliant
Marteau; Alexander Petschinikoff, the Russian; the musicianly Max
Bendix; the astonishing John Rhodes, the wonder-worker Kubelik and
his icy perfections; Kocian, Willy Hess, Efrem Zimbalist, Albert
Spalding, Arthur Hartman, and a myriad of spoiled youths, Von
Veczsey, Horszowski--all have crossed the map of my memory. And
Franz Kneisel and the Kneisel Quartet, dispensers of musical joys
for decades, but alas! no more. Alas! I would not barter memories of
their music-making for a wilderness of virtuosi. I must not forget
Joseph White, the Cuban violinist, who was with Theodore Thomas one
season. His style was finished and Parisian. He was a mulatto and a
handsome man. The night I heard him he played the Mendelssohn
concerto, and at the beginning of the slow movement his chanterelle
broke. Calmly he took concert master Richard Arnold's proffered
instrument and triumphantly finished the composition.

Three violinists abide clear in my recollection: Wieniawski,
Wilhelmj, and Ysaye. The last named is dearer because nearer,
contrary to the supposed rule that the older the thing the worse it
is. Ysaye is the magician of the violin. He holds us in a spell with
that elastic, curving bow of his, with those many coloured tones,
tender, silky, sardonic, amorous, rich, and ductile. He interprets
the classics as well as the romantics; Bach, Beethoven, Brahms;
Vieuxtemps as well as Sibelius. Above all else, his mastery of the
violin's technical mysteries, looms his musical temperament. He has
imagination.

I have reserved the women for the last. A goodly, artistic company.
It is not necessary to go back to the Milanolla sisters. We still
cherish remembrances of Camilla Urso and her broad musicianly
manner; the finished style of Normann-Neruda, Maris Soldat, the
gifted and unhappy Arma Senkrah, Nettie Carpenter, Teresina Tua--who
did not become a "Fiddle Fairy" when she visited us in 1887--Leonora
Jackson, Dora Becker, Olive Mead, and Maud Powell. In Europe many
years ago, I heard Marcella Sembrich, who, after playing the E Flat
Polonaise of Chopin on the piano, picked up a violin and dashed off
the Wieniawski Polonaise; these feats were followed by songs, one
being Viardot-Garcia's arrangement of Chopin's D Major Mazourka.
Sembrich is the blue rose among great singers. Gericke, Paur,
Nikisch were at first violinists; so was Fritz Scheel, late
conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Franz Kneisel is a
conductor of great skill; so is Frederick Stock, who followed
Theodore Thomas as conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Theodore Spiering formerly concert-master of the Philharmonic
orchestra proved himself an excellent conductor. But that a little
Polish woman could handle with ease two instruments and sing like an
angel besides, borders on the fantastic. Geraldine Morgan is an
admirable violin artiste who plays solo as well as quartet with
equal authority.

Maud Powell has fulfilled her early promise. She is a mature
artiste, one who will never be finished because she will always
study, always improve. A Joachim pupil, she is, nevertheless, a
pupil of Maud Powell, and her playing reveals breadth, musicianship,
beauty of tone and phrasing. She is our greatest American violin
virtuosa.

I wrote this of Mischa Elman (the first of the many Mischas and
Jaschas who mew on the fiddle strings) after I heard him play in
London: "United to an amazing technical precision there is a still
more amazing emotional temperament, all dominated by a powerful
musical and mental intellect, uncanny in one not yet out of his
teens. What need to add that his conception of Beethoven is neither
as lovely as Kreisler's nor as fascinating as Ysaye's? Elman will
mature. In the romantic or the virtuoso realm he is past master. His
tone is lava-like in its warmth. He paints with many colours. He
displays numberless nuances of feeling. The musical in him dominates
the virtuoso. Naturally, the pride of hot youth asserts itself, and
often, self-intoxicated, he intoxicates his audiences with his
sensuous, compelling tone. Hebraic, tragic, melancholy, the
boisterousness of the Russian, the swift modulation from mad caprice
to Slavic despair--Elman is a magician of many moods. When I listen
to him I almost forget Ysaye." Yet when I heard Ysaye play last
season it was Elman that I forgot for the moment. After all, a
critic, too, may have his moods. And now comes another conqueror,
the lad Jasha Heifetz from Russia, a pupil of Leopold Auer and an
artist of such extraordinary attainments that the greatest among
contemporary violinists--is it necessary to mention names?--have
said of him that his art begins where theirs ends, and that they
will shut up shop when he plays here. All of which is a flattering
tribute, but it has been made before. Heifetz, however, may be the
dark horse in the modern fiddle sweepstakes.



CHAPTER XXIX

RIDING THE WHIRLWIND


Once Swinburne, in a Baudelaire mood, sang: "Shall no new sin be
born for men's troubles?" And it was an Asiatic potentate who
offered a prize for the discovery of a new pleasure. Or was it a
sauce?

Mankind soon wearies. The miracles of yesteryear are the
commonplaces of to-day. Steam, telegraphy, electric motors,
wireless, and now wireless telephony are accepted as a matter of
course by the man in the street. How stale will seem woman suffrage
and prohibition after they have conquered. In the world of art
conditions are analogous. The cubist nail drove out the
impressionist, and the cubist will vanish if the futurist hammer is
sufficiently heavy.

Nevertheless, there is a novel sensation in store for those who make
a first flight through the air. I don't mean in a balloon, whether
captive or free; in the case of the former, a trip to the top of the
Washington Monument or the Eiffel Tower will suffice; and while I
rode in a Zeppelin at Berlin in 1912 (100 marks, or about $25, was
the tariff) and saw Potsdam at my feet, yet I was unsatisfied. The
passengers sat in a comfortable salon, ate, drank, even smoked. The
travelling was so smooth as to suggest an inland lake on a summer
day. No danger was to be apprehended. The monster air-ship left its
hangar and returned to it on schedule time. The entire trip lacked
the flavour of adventure. And that leads me to a personal
confession.

I am not a sport. In my veins flows sporting blood, but only in the
Darwinian sense am I a "sport," a deviation from the normal history
of my family, which has always been devoted to athletic pleasures. A
baseball match in which carnage ensues is a mild diversion for me. I
can't understand the fury of the contest. I yawn, though the
frenzied enthusiasm of the spectators interests me. I have fallen
asleep over a cricket match at Lord's in London, and the biggest
bore of all was a Sunday afternoon bull-fight in Madrid. It was such
a waste of potential beefsteaks. Prize-fights disgust, shell races
are puerile, football matches smack of obituaries. As for golf--that
is a prelude to senility, or the antechamber to an undertaker's
establishment.

The swiftness of film pictures has set a new metronomic standard for
modern sports. I suppose playing Bach fugues on the keyboard is as
exciting a game as any; that is, for those who like it. A
four-voiced polyphony at a good gait is positively hair-raising. It
beats poker. All this is a preliminary to my little tale.

Conceive me as an elderly person of generous waist measurement,
slightly reckless like most near-sighted humans; this recklessness
is psychical. Safety first, and I always watch my step; painful
experience taught me years ago the perils that lurk in ambush for a
Johnny-look-in-the-air.

Flying in heavier-than-air machines fascinated me. The fantastic
stories of H. G. Wells were ever a joy. When the Argonauts of the
Air appeared, flying was practically assured, although a Paris
mathematician had demonstrated with ineluctable logic that it was
impossible; as proved a member of the Institute a century earlier
that birds couldn't fly. It was an illusion. Well, the Wrights flew,
even if Langley did not--Langley, the genuine father of the
aeroplane.

Living so long in France and Belgium, I had grown accustomed to the
whirring of aerial motors, a sound not unlike that of a motor-boat
or the buzzing of a sawmill. I became accustomed to this drone above
the housetops, and since my return to America I have often wondered
why in the land where the aeroplane first flew, so little public
interest was manifested. To be sure, there are aero clubs, but they
never fly where the interest of the greater public can be intrigued.
Either there is a hectic excitement over some record broken or else
the aviator sulks in his tent. Is the money devil at the bottom of
the trouble? Sport for sport's sake, like art for art's sake, is
rarely encountered. The government has taken up flying, but that is
for pragmatic purposes. The aeroplane as a weapon of defence, not
the aeroplane as a new and agreeable pleasure. We are not a
disinterested nation; even symphony concerts and opera and the
salvation of souls are commercial propositions. Else would our skies
be darkened by flying machines instead of smoke, and our churches
thronged with aviators.

Walking on the famous and fatiguing Boardwalk of Atlantic City I
suddenly heard a familiar buzzing in the air and looked up. There it
was, a big flying boat like a prehistoric dragon-fly, speeding from
the Inlet down to the million-dollar pier. Presently there were two
of them flying, and I felt as if I were in a civilised land. On the
trolleys were signs: "See the Flying Boats at the Inlet!" I did, the
very next morning. I had no notion of being a passenger. I was not
tempted by the thought. But as Satan finds work for idle hands, I
lounged down the beach to the Kendrick biplane, and stared my full
at its slender proportions. A young man in a bathing-suit explained
to me the technique of flying, and insinuated that hundreds and
hundreds had flown during the season without accident. Afternoon saw
me again on the sands, an excited witness of a flight; excited
because I stood behind the motor when it was started for a
preliminary tryout--"tuning up" is the slang phrase of the
profession--and the cyclonic gale blew my hat away, loosened my
collar, and made my teeth chatter.

Such a tornadic roar! I firmly resolved that never would I trust
myself in such a devil's contrivance. Why, it was actually riding
the whirlwind--and, perhaps, reaping a watery grave. What else but
that? On a blast of air you sail aloft and along. When the air
ceases you drop (less than forty-five miles an hour). And this in a
flimsy box kite. Never for me! Not to-day, baker, call to-morrow
with a crusty cottage! as we used to say in dear old "Lunnon" years
ago. Nevertheless, the poison was in my veins; cunningly it began to
work. I saw a passenger, a fat man, weighing two hundred and four
pounds--I asked for the figures--trussed up like a calf in the arms
of a slight, muscular youth, who carried him a limp burden and
deposited him on a seat in the prow of the boat. I turned my head
away. I am not easily stirred--having reported musical and
theatrical happenings for a quarter of a century--but the sight of
that stout male, a man and a brother (I didn't know him from Adam),
evoked a chord of pity in my breast. I felt that I would never set
eyes again on this prospective food for fishes. I quickly left the
spot and returned to my hotel, determined to say, "Retro me,
Sathanas!" if that personage should happen to show me his hoofs,
horns, and hide.

But he did not. The devil is a subtle beast. He had simply set
jangling the wires of suggestion, and my nerves accomplished the
rest. One morning, a few days later, I awoke parched with desire. I
drank much strong tea to steady me and smoked unremittingly. Again,
during the early afternoon, I found myself up the beach. "My feet
take hold on hell," I said to myself, but it was only hot sand. I
teased myself with speculations as to whether the game was worth the
candle--yes, I had got that far, traversing a vast mental territory
between the No-Sayer and the Yes-Sayer. I was doomed, and I knew it
when I began to circle about the machine.

Courteously the bonny youth explained matters. It was a Glenn H.
Curtiss hydro-aeroplane, furnished with one of the new Curtiss
engines of ninety horse-power, capable of flying seventy to ninety
miles an hour, of lifting four hundred pounds, and weighing in all
about a ton. Was it safe? Were the taut, skinny piano wires that
manipulated the steering-gear and the plane durable? Didn't they
ever snap? Of course they were durable, and, of course, they
occasionally snapped. What then? Why, you drop, in spiral
fashion--volplane--charming vocable! But if the engine?--same thing.
You would come to earth, rather water, as naturally as a child takes
the breast. Nothing to fear.

Young Beryl Kendrick is an Atlantic City product--he was a
professional swimmer and life-guard--and will look after you. The
price is fifteen dollars; formerly twenty-five dollars, but
competition, which is said to be the life of trade, had operated in
favour of the public. Rather emotionally I bade my man good day,
promising to return for a flight the next morning, a promise I
certainly did not mean to keep. This stupendous announcement he
received coolly. Flying to him was a quotidian banality.

And then I noticed that the blazing sun had become darkened. Was it
an eclipse, or were some horrid, monstrous shapes like the
supposititious spindles spoken of by Langley devouring the light of
our parent planet? No, it was the chamber of my skull that was full
of shadows. The obsession was complete. I would go up, but I must
suffer terribly in the interim.

Why should I fly and pay fifteen good shekels for the unwelcome
privilege? I computed the cost of various beverages, and as a
consoling thought recalled Mark Twain's story of the Western editor
who, missing from his accustomed haunts, was later found serenely
drunk, passionately reading to a group of miners from a table his
lantern-illuminated speech, in which he denounced the cruel raw
waste of grain in the making of bread when so many honest men were
starving for whisky. Yet did I feel that I would not begrudge my
hard-earned royalties (I'm not a best-seller), and thus tormented
between the devil of cowardice and the deep sea of curiosity I
retired and dreamed all night of fighting strange birds that
attacked me in an aeroplane.

I shan't weary you with the further analysis of my soul-states
during this tempestuous period. I ate a light breakfast, swallowed
much tea. Then I resolutely went in company with a friend, and we
boarded an Inlet car. I had the day previous resorted to a major
expedient of cowards. I had said, so as to bolster up my fluttering
resolution, that I was going to fly; an expedient that seldom
misses, for I should never have been able to face the chief clerk,
the head waiter, or the proprietor at the hotel if I failed to keep
my promise.

"Boaster! Swaggerer!" I muttered to myself en route. "Now are you
satisfied? Thou tremblest, carcass! Thou wouldst tremble much more
if thou knewest whither I shall soon lead thee!" I quoted Turenne,
and I was beginning to babble something about Icarus--or was it
Phæton, or Simon Magus?--brought to earth in the Colosseum by a
prayer from the lips of Saint Peter--when we arrived. How I hated
the corner where we alighted. It seemed mean and dingy and sinister
in the dazzling sunlight--a red-hot Saturday, September 11, 1915,
and the hour was 10.30 A. M. A condemned criminal could not have
noted more clearly every detail of the life he was about to quit. We
ploughed through the sand. We reached the scaffold--at least it
looked like one to me. "Hello, here's a church. Let's go in," I felt
like exclaiming in sheer desperation, remembering Dickens and Mr.
Wemmick. I would have, such was my blue funk, quoted Holy Scripture
to the sandlopers, but I hadn't the chance.

I asked my friend, and my voice sounded steady enough, whether the
wind and weather seemed propitious for flying. Never better was the
reply, and my heart went down to my boots. I really think I should
have escaped if a stout man with a piratical moustache hadn't
approached me and asked: "Going up to-day?" I marvelled at his
calmness, and wished for his instant dissolution, but I gave an
affirmative shake of the head. Cornered at last! Handing my watch,
hat, and wallet to my friend, I coldly awaited the final
preparations. I had forgotten my ear protector, but cotton-wool
would answer the purpose of making me partially deaf to the
clangorous vibration of the propeller blades--which resemble in a
magnified shape the innocent air-fans of offices and cafés. I
essayed one more joke--true gallows humour--before I was led like a
lamb (a tough one) to the slaughter. I asked an attendant to whom I
had paid the official fee if my widows would be refunded the money
in case of accident; but this antique and tasteless witticism was
indifferently received, as it deserved. Finally the young man gave
me a raincoat, grabbed me around the waist, and bidding me clasp
his neck he carried me out into shallow water and sat me beside the
air-pilot, who looked like a mere lad in his bathing-clothes. My
hand must have been trembling (ah, that old piano hand), for he
inquiringly eyed me. The motor was screaming as we flew through the
water toward the Inlet. I hadn't courage of mind to make a farewell
signal to my companion. Too late, we're off! I thought, and at once
my trepidation vanished.

I had for some unknown reason, possibly because of absolute despair,
suffered a rich sea-change. We churned the waves. I saw tiny sails
studding the deep blue. Men fished from the shore. As we neared the
Inlet, where a shambling wooden hotel stands on the sandy point, the
sound of the motor grew intenser. We began to lift, not all at once,
but gradually. Suddenly her nose poked skyward, and the boat climbed
the air with an ease that was astonishing. No shock. No jerkiness.
We simply glided aloft as if the sky were our native heath--you will
pardon the Hibernicism--and as if determined to pay a visit to the
round blazing sun bathing naked in the brilliant blue. And with the
mounting ascent I became unconscious of my corporeal vesture. I had
become pure spirit. I feared nothing. The legend of angels became a
certainty. I was on the way to the Fourth Dimensional vista. I
recalled Poincaré's suggestion that there is no such thing as
matter; only holes in the ether. Nature embracing a vacuum instead
of abhorring it. A Swiss cheese universe. Joseph Conrad has said
"Man on earth is an unforeseen accident which does not stand close
investigation." But man in the air? Man is destined to wings. Was I
not proving it? Flying is the sport of gods, and should be of humans
now that the motor-car is become slightly "promiscuous."

The Inlet and thoroughfare at my feet were a network of silvery
ribbons. The heat was terrific, the glare almost unbearable. But I
no longer sneezed. Aviation solves the hay-fever problem. The wind
forced me to clench my teeth. We were hurled along at seventy miles
an hour, and up several thousand feet, yet below the land seemed
near enough to touch. As we swung across the masts of yachts I
wondered that we didn't graze them--so elusive was the crystal
clearness of the atmosphere, a magic mirror that made the remote
contiguous. The mast of the sunken schooner hard by the sand-bar
looked like a lead-pencil one could grasp and write a message to
Mars.

Hello! I was become lyrical. It is inescapable up in the air. The
blood seethes. Ecstasy sets in; the kinetic ecstasy of a
spinning-top. I gazed at the pilot. He twisted his wheel
nonchalantly as if in an earthly automobile. I looked over the sides
of the cedar boat and was not giddy, for I had lived years at the
top of an apartment-house, ten stories high, from which I daily
viewed policemen killing time on the sidewalks; besides, I have
strong eyes and the stomach of a drover. Therefore, no giddiness, no
nausea. Only exaltation as we swooped down to lower levels. Atlantic
City, bizarre, yet meaningless, outrageously planned and executed,
stretched its ugly shape beneath us; the most striking objects were
the exotic hyphenated hotel, with its Asiatic monoliths and dome,
and its vast, grandiose neighbour, a mound of concrete, the biggest
hotel in the world. The piers were salient silhouettes. A
checker-board seemed the city, which modulated into a tremendous
arabesque of ocean and sky. I preferred to stare seaward. The
absorbent cotton in my ears was transformed into gun-cotton, so
explosive the insistent drumming of the motor-engine. Otherwise, we
flew on even keel, only an occasional dip and a sidewise swing
reminding me that I wasn't footing the ordinary highway. The initial
intoxication began to wear off, but not the sense of freedom, a
glorious freedom; truly, mankind will not be free till all fly.

Alas! though we become winged we remain mortal. We may shed our
cumbersome pedestrian habits, but we take up in the air with us our
petty souls. I found myself indulging in very trite thoughts. What a
pity that war should be the first to degrade this delightful and
stimulating sport! Worse followed. Why couldn't I own a machine?
Base envy, you see. The socialistic leaven had begun to work. No
use; we shall remain human even in heaven or hell.

I have been asked to describe the sensation of flying. I can't. It
seems so easy, so natural. If you have ever dreamed of flying, I can
only say that your dream will be realised in an aeroplane. Dreams do
come true sometimes. (Curiously enough, I've not dreamed of flying
since.) But as there is an end even to the most tedious story, so
mine must finish.

Suddenly the sound of the engine ceased. The silence was thrilling,
almost painful. And then in huge circles, as if we were descending
the curves of an invisible corkscrew, we came down, the bow of the
flying boat pointing at an angle of forty-five degrees. Still no
dizziness, only a sense of regret that the trip was so soon over. It
had endured an eternity, but occupied precisely twenty-one minutes.

We reached the water and settled on the foam like a feather. Then we
churned toward the beach; again I was carried, this time on to solid
land, where I had ridiculous trouble in getting the cotton from my
harassed eardrums. Perhaps my hands were unsteady, but if they were,
my feet were not.

I reached the Inlet via the Boardwalk, making record time, and drew
the first happy sigh in a week as I sat down, lighted a cigar, and
twiddled my fingers at a waiter. Even if I had enjoyed a new
pleasure I didn't propose to give up the old ones. Then my nerves!
And when I meet Gabriele d'Annunzio I can look him in the eye. He
flew over Trieste, but I flew over my fears--a moral as well as a
physical victory for a timid conservative.



CHAPTER XXX

PRAYERS FOR THE LIVING

(From the editorial page of the New York _Sun_, December 31, 1916)


It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they
may be loosed from their sins; and it is as holy a prayer that begs
from the god of chance his pity for the living. Aye! it is those who
are about to live, not to die, that we should salute. Life is the
eternal slayer; death is but the final punctuation of the vital
paragraph. Life is also the betrayer. A cosmical conspiracy of
deception encircles us. We call it Maya, and flatter our finite
sense of humour that we are no longer entrapped by the shining
appearance of things when we say aloud: Stay, thou art so subtle
that we know you for what you are--the profoundest instinct of life:
its cruel delight in pretending to be what it is not. We are now,
all of us who think that we think, newly born Fausts with eyes
unbandaged of the supreme blinders, Time and Space. Nature clothes
the skeleton in a motley suit of flesh, but our supersharpened ears
overhear the rattling of the bones. We are become so wise that love
itself is no longer a sentiment, only a sensation; religion is
first cousin to voluptuousness; and if we are so minded we may jig
to the tune of the stars up the dazzling staircase, and sneer at the
cloud-gates of the infinite inane. Naught succeeds like negation,
and we swear that in the house of the undertaker it is impolite to
speak of shrouds. We are nothing if not determinists. And we believe
that the devil deserves the hindmost.

We live in order to forget life. For our delicate machinery of
apperception there is no longer right or wrong; vice and virtue are
the acid and alkali of existence. And as too much acid deranges the
stomach, so vice corrodes the soul, and thus we are virtuous by
compulsion. Yet we know that evil serves its purpose in the vast
chemistry of being, and if banished the consequences might not be
for universal good; other evils would follow in the train of a too
comprehensive mitigation, and our end a stale swamp of vain virtues.
Resist not evil! Which may mean the reverse of what it seems to
preach. The master modern immoralist has said: Embrace evil! that we
may be over and done with it. Toys are our ideals; glory, goodness,
wealth, health, happiness; all toys except health; health of the
body, of the soul. And the first shall be last.

The human soul in health? But there is no spiritual health. The
mystic, Doctor Tauler, has said: "God does not reside in a vigorous
body"; sinister; nevertheless, equitable. The dolorous certitude
that the most radiant of existences ends in the defeat of disease
and death; that happiness is relative, a word empty of meaning in
the light of experience, and non-existent as an absolute; that the
only divine oasis in our feverish activities is sleep; sleep the
prelude to the profound and eternal silence--why then this gabble
about soul-states and the peace that passeth all understanding?
Simply because the red corpuscles that rule our destinies are, when
dynamic, mighty breeders of hope; if the powers and principalities
of darkness prevail, our guardian angels, the phagocytes, are
dominated by the leucocytes. Gods and devils, Ormuzd and Ahriman,
and other phantasms of the sky, may all be put on a microscopic
slide and their struggles noted. And the evil ones are ever victors
in the diabolical game. No need to insist on it. In the heart of
mankind there is a tiny shrine with its burning taper; the idol is
Self; the propitiatory light is for subliminal foes. Alas! in vain.
We succumb, and in our weakness we sink into the grave. If only we
were sure of the River Styx afterward we should pay the ferry-tax
with joy. Better Hades than the poppy of oblivion. "Ready to be
anything in the ecstasy of being ever," as Sir Thomas Browne sagely
remarks.

The pious and worthy Doctor Jeremy Taylor, who built cathedral-like
structures of English prose to the greater glory of God and for the
edification of ambitious rhetoricians, has dwelt upon the efficacy
of prayer in a singularly luminous passage: "Holy prayer procures
the ministry and services of angels. It rescinds the decrees of God.
It cures sickness and obtains pardon. It arrests the sun in its
course and stays the wheels of the chariot of the moon. It rules
over all God's creatures and opens and shuts the storehouses of
rain. It unlocks the cabinet of the womb and quenches the violence
of fire. It stops the mouths of lions and reconciles our sufferance
and weak faculties with the violence of torment and sharpness of
persecution. It pleases God and supplies all our needs. But prayer
that can do this much for us can do nothing at all without holiness,
for God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a worshipper of God
and doth His will, him He heareth."

It should not be forgotten that Taylor, perhaps the greatest English
prose-master save John Milton, was a stickler for good works as well
as faith. He was considered almost heterodox because of his violence
of speech when the subject of death-bed repentance became a topic of
discussion; indeed, his bishop remonstrated with him because of his
stiff-necked opinions. To joust through life as at a pleasure
tournament and when the dews of death dampen the forehead to call on
God in your extremity seemed to this eloquent divine an act of
slinking cowardice. Far better face the evil one in a defiant spirit
than knock for admittance at the back door of paradise and try to
sneak by the winged policeman into a vulgar bliss: unwon, unhoped
for, undeserved. Therefore the rather startling statement, "God
heareth not sinners," read in the light of Bishop Taylor's fervent
conception of man's duty, hath its justification.

But this atmosphere of proverbial commonplaces and "inspissated
gloom" should not be long maintained when the coursers of the sun
are plunging southward in the new year; when the Huntsman is up at
Oyster Bay and "they are already past their first sleep in Persia."
What a bold and adventurous piece of nature is man; yet how he
stares at life as a frowning entertainment. Why must we "act our
antipodes" when "all Africa and her prodigies are in us"? Ergo, let
us be cheerful. God is with the world. Let us pray that during the
ensuing year no rust shall colour our soul into a dingy red. Let us
pray for the living that they may be loosed from their politics and
see life steadily and whole.

Let us pray that we may not take it on ourselves to feel holier than
our neighbours. Let us pray that we be not cursed with the itching
desire to reform our fellows, for the way of the reformer is hard,
and he always gets what he deserves: the contempt of his fellow men.
He is usually a hypocrite. Let us pray that we are not struck by
religious zeal; religious people are not always good people; good
people are not envious, jealous, penurious, censorious, or
busybodies, or too much bound up in the prospect of the mote in
their brother's eye and unmindful of the beam in their own.
Furthermore, good people do not unveil with uncharitable joy the
faults of women. Have faith. Have hope, and remember that charity is
as great as chastity.

Let us pray for the misguided folk who, forgetful of Mother Church,
her wisdom, her consolations, flock to the tents of lewd, itinerant,
mumbo-jumbo howlers, that blaspheme the sacred name as they
epileptically leap, shouting glory-kingdom-come and please settle at
the captain's office.

Though they run on all fours and bark as hyenas, they shall not
enter the city of the saints, being money-changers in the Temple,
and tripe-sellers of souls. Better Tophet and its burning pitch than
a wilderness of such apes of God. Some men and women of culture and
social position indorse these sorry buffoons, the apology for their
paradoxical conduct being any port in a storm; any degrading circus,
so it be followed by a mock salvation. But salvation for whom? What
deity cares for such foaming at the mouth, such fustian? Conversion
is silent and comes from within, and not to the din of brass-bands
and screaming hallelujahs. It takes all sorts of gods to make the
cosmos, but why return to the antics and fetishes of our primate
ancestors, the cave-dwellers? This squirming and panting and brief
reform "true religion"? On the contrary it is a throwback to
bestiality, to the vilest instincts. A "soul" that has to be saved
by such means is a soul not worth the saving. To the discard with
it, where, flaming in purgatorial fires, it may be refashioned for
future reincarnation on some other planet.

Abuse of drink is to be deplored, but Prohibition is more enslaving
than alcohol. Paganism in its most exotic forms is preferable to
this prize-ring Christianity. One may be zealous without wallowing
in debasing superstition. Again, let us pray for these imbeciles and
for the charlatans who are blinding them. Neither arts and sciences
nor politics and philosophies will save the soul. The azure route
lies beyond the gates of ivory and the gates of horn.

Let us pray for our sisters, the suffragettes, who are still
suffering from the injustice of Man, now some million of years. Let
us pray that they be given the ballot to prove to them its utter
futility as a cure-all. With it they shall be neither happier nor
different. Once a woman, always a martyr. Let them not be deceived
by illusive phrases. If they had not been oppressed they would
to-day be "free"! Alas! free from their sex? Free from the burden of
family? Free like men to carry on the rude labours of this ruder
earth? To what purpose? To become second-rate men, when nature has
endowed them with qualities that men vainly emulate, vainly seek to
evoke their spirit in the arts and literature! Ages past woman
should have attained that impossible goal, oppression or no; in
fact, adversity has made man what he is--and woman, too. Pray, that
she may not be tempted by the mirage into the desert, there to
perish of thirst for the promised land. Nearly a century ago George
Sand was preaching the equality of the sexes, and rightly enough.
What has come of it? The vote? Political office? Professions,
business opportunities? Yes, all these things, but not universal
happiness. Woman's sphere--stale phrase!--is any one she hankers
after; but let her not deceive herself. Her future will strangely
resemble her past.

William Dean Howells was not wrong when he wrote: Woman has only her
choice in self-sacrifice. And sometimes not even the choosing. Why?
Why are eclipses? Why are some men prohibitionists? Why do hens
cluck after laying eggs? Let us pray for warring women that their
politically ambitious leaders may no longer dupe them with
fallacious promises--surely a "pathetic fallacy." But, then, females
rush in where fools fear to tread.

And lastly, beloved sisters and brothers, let us heartily pray that
our imperial democracy (or is it a democratic empire?), our
plutocratic republic (or should we say republican plutocracy?) may
be kept from war; avoid "the drums and tramplings of three
conquests." But by the Eternal Jehovah, God of battles, if we are
forced to fight, then let us fight like patriotic Americans, and not
gently coo, like pacifists and other sultry south winds. A billion
for "preparedness," but not a penny for "pork," say we.

And by the same token let us pray that those thundering humbugs and
parasites who call themselves labour leaders--the blind leading the
blind--for ever vanish. Because of their contumacious acts and
egregious bamboozling of their victims, because of their false
promises of an earthly paradise and a golden age, they deserve the
harshest condemnation.

Like certain Oriental discourses, our little Morality which began in
the mosque has rambled not far from the tavern. Nevertheless, let us
pray for the living as well as the dead. Oremus!


       *       *       *       *       *



BOOKS BY JAMES HUNEKER


_What some distinguished writers have said of them_:

Maurice Maeterlinck wrote, May 15, 1905: "Do you know that
'Iconoclasts' is the only book of high and universal critical worth
that we have had for years--to be precise, since Georg Brandes. It
is at once strong and fine, supple and firm, indulgent and sure."

And of "Ivory Apes and Peacocks" he said, among other things: "I
have marvelled at the vigilance and clarity with which you follow
and judge the new literary and artistic movements in all countries.
I do not know of criticism more pure and sure than yours." (October,
1915.)

       *       *       *       *       *

Of "Visionaries" Remy de Gourmont wrote, June 22, 1906: "I am
convinced that you have written a very curious, very beautiful book,
and one of that sort comes to us rarely."

       *       *       *       *       *

Paul Bourget wrote, Lundi de Paques, 1909, of "Egoists": "I have
browsed through the pages of your book and found that you touch in a
sympathetic style on diverse problems, artistic and literary. In the
case of Stendhal your catholicity of treatment is extremely rare and
courageous."

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Georg Brandes, the versatile and profound Danish critic, wrote:
"I find your breadth of view and its expression more European than
American; but the essential thing is that you are an artist to your
very marrow."

       *       *       *       *       *


IVORY APES AND PEACOCKS

12mo. $1.50 net

     "Out of the depressing welter of our American writing upon
     æsthetics, with its incredible thinness and triteness and
     paltriness, its intellectual sterility, its miraculous dulness, its
     limitless and appalling vapidity, Mr. James Huneker, and the small
     and honorable minority of his peers, emerge with a conspicuousness
     that is both comforting and disgraceful.... Susceptibility,
     clairvoyance, immediacy of response, are his; he is the friend of
     any talent that is fine and strange and frank enough to incur the
     dislike of the mighty army of Bourbons, Puritans, and B[oe]otians.
     He is innocent of prepossessions. He is infinitely flexible and
     generous. Yet if, in the twenty years that we have been reading
     him, he has ever praised a commonplace talent, we have no
     recollection of it. His critical tact is well-nigh infallible....
     His position among writers on æsthetics is anomalous and
     incredible: no merchant traffics in his heart, yet he commands a
     large, an eager, an affectionate public. Is it because he is both
     vivid and acute, robust yet fine-fingered, tolerant yet unyielding,
     astringent yet tender--a mellow pessimist, a kindly cynic? Or is it
     rather because he is, primarily, a temperament--dynamic,
     contagious, lovable, inveterately alive--expressing itself through
     the most transparent of the arts?"
          --LAWRENCE GILMAN, in _North American Review_ (October, 1915).

       *       *       *       *       *


NEW COSMOPOLIS

12mo. $1.50 net

     "Mr. James Huneker, critic of music in the first place, is a
     craftsman of diverse accomplishment who occupies a distinctive and
     distinguished place among present-day American essayists. He is
     intensely 'modern,' well read in recent European writers, and not
     lacking sympathy with the more rebellious spirits. Ancient serenity
     has laid no chastening hand on his thought and style, but he has
     achieved at times a fineness of expression that lifts his work
     above that of the many eager and artistic souls who strive to be
     the thinkers of New England to-day. He flings off his impressions
     at fervent heat; he is not ashamed to be enthusiastic; and he
     cannot escape that large sentimentality which, to less disciplined
     transatlantic writers, is known nakedly as 'heart interest.' Out of
     his chaos of reading and observation he has, however, evolved a
     criticism of life that makes for intellectual cultivation, although
     it is of a Bohemian rather than an academic kind. Given a different
     environment, another training, Mr. Huneker might have emerged as an
     American Walter Pater."
                                 --_London Athenæum_ (November 6, 1915).

       *       *       *       *       *


MELOMANIACS

12mo. $1.50 net

     "It would be difficult to sum up 'Melomaniacs' in a phrase. Never
     did a book, in my opinion at any rate, exhibit greater contrasts,
     not, perhaps, of strength and weakness, but of clearness and
     obscurity. It is inexplicably uneven, as if the writer were
     perpetually playing on the boundary line that divides sanity of
     thought from intellectual chaos. There is method in the madness,
     but it is a method of intangible ideas. Nevertheless, there is
     genius written over a large portion of it, and to a musician the
     wealth of musical imagination is a living spring of
     thought."
           --HAROLD E. GORST, in _London Saturday Review_ (Dec. 8,1906).

       *       *       *       *       *


VISIONARIES

12mo. $1.50 net

     "In 'The Spiral Road' and in some of the other stories both fantasy
     and narrative may be compared with Hawthorne in his most unearthly
     moods. The younger man has read his Nietzsche and has cast off his
     heritage of simple morals. Hawthorne's Puritanism finds no echo in
     these modern souls, all sceptical, wavering, and unblessed. But
     Hawthorne's splendor of vision and his power of sympathy with a
     tormented mind do live again in the best of Mr. Huneker's
     stories."
                                      --_London Academy_ (Feb. 3, 1906).

       *       *       *       *       *


ICONOCLASTS:

A Book of Dramatists

12mo. $1.50 net

     "His style is a little jerky, but it is one of those rare styles in
     which we are led to expect some significance, if not wit, in every
     sentence."
                             --G. K. CHESTERTON, in _London Daily News_.

       *       *       *       *       *


MEZZOTINTS IN MODERN MUSIC

12mo. $1.50 net

     "Mr. Huneker is, in the best sense, a critic; he listens to the
     music and gives you his impressions as rapidly and in as few words
     as possible; or he sketches the composers in fine, broad, sweeping
     strokes with a magnificent disregard for unimportant details. And
     as Mr. Huneker is, as I have said, a powerful personality, a man of
     quick brain and an energetic imagination, a man of moods and
     temperament--a string that vibrates and sings in response to
     music--we get in these essays of his a distinctly original and very
     valuable contribution to the world's tiny musical literature."
                          --J. F. RUNCIMAN, in _London Saturday Review_.

       *       *       *       *       *


FRANZ LISZT

_WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS_

12mo. $2.00 net

       *       *       *       *       *


CHOPIN: The Man and His Music

12mo. $2.00 net

       *       *       *       *       *


OVERTONES: A Book of Temperaments

_WITH FRONTISPIECE PORTRAIT OF RICHARD STRAUSS_

12mo. $1.50 net

     "In some respects Mr. Huneker must be reckoned the most brilliant
     of all living writers on matters musical."
     --_Academy, London_.

       *       *       *       *       *


THE PATHOS OF DISTANCE

A Book of a Thousand and One Moments

12mo. $2.00 net

     "He talks about Bergson as well as Matisse; he never can keep still
     about Wagner; he hauls over his French library of modern immortals,
     and he gives a touch to George Moore, to Arthur Davies, and to many
     another valiant worker in paint, music, and letters. The book is
     stimulating; brilliant even with an unexpected
     brilliancy."
                                                    --_Chicago Tribune_.

       *       *       *       *       *


PROMENADES OF AN IMPRESSIONIST

12mo. $1.50 net

     "We like best such sober essays as those which analyze for us the
     technical contributions of Cézanne and Rodin. Here Mr. Huneker is a
     real interpreter, and here his long experience of men and ways in
     art counts for much. Charming, in the slighter vein, are such
     appreciations as the Monticelli and Chardin."
    --FRANK JEWETT MATHER, Jr., in _New York Nation_ and _Evening Post_.

       *       *       *       *       *


EGOISTS

_WITH PORTRAIT AND FACSIMILE REPRODUCTIONS_

12mo. $1.50 net

     "Closely and yet lightly written, full of facts, yet as amusing as
     a bit of discursive talk, penetrating, candid, and very
     shrewd."
                           --ROYAL CORTISSOZ, in the _New York Tribune_.

       *       *       *       *       *

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, NEW YORK


       *       *       *       *       *



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES


The original punctuation and spelling were retained, with the
exception of a few printer's mistakes. The text contains also
inconsistently spelled words. The oe ligature is indicated by
[oe].

       *       *       *       *       *

The full list of changes to the text is as following:


p. 10

"Lizst" changed to "Liszt"


p. 24

"Henri de Regnier" changed to "Henri de Régnier"


p. 40

"immediable" changed to "irremediable"


p. 66

"Maurice Barres" changed to "Maurice Barrès"


p. 77

"idylic" changed to "idyllic"


p. 83

"a critic should be ever so. (Consider" changed to
"a critic should be ever so. Consider"

Explanation: the opening bracket (with no corresponding closing
bracket) was removed.


p. 108

"hippogrifs" changed to "hippogriffs"


p. 112

"misanthrophy" changed to "misanthropy"


p. 116

"Huysman's" changed to "Huysmans's"


p. 117, p. 276

"Barbey d'Aurevilly" changed to "Barbey d'Aurévilly"


p. 127

"promegranates" changed to "pomegranates"


p. 133

"Musica" changed to "Musical"


p. 156

"Cujol" changed to "Cajal"


p. 165

"Facino Cano" changed to "Facino Cane"


p. 168

"Frederic Chopin" changed to "Frédéric Chopin"


p. 244

"I'm a Social-Democrat now." changed to ""I'm a Social-Democrat now."

Explanation: opening double quote added.


p. 246

"sich" changed to "such"


p. 246

"exclaims Maeterlinck," yet" changed to "exclaims Maeterlinck, "yet"

Explanation: the double quote was moved to the next sentence.


p. 327

"De Beriot" changed to "De Bériot"

       *       *       *       *       *

Please note that the text contains inconsistently spelled words or
phrases that were not changed. The following is a list of those
words. The number in brackets denotes the number of occurences of
each such word or phrase.

  - Café (1), Cafe (1)
  - Eugene Ysaye (1), Eugène Ysaye (1)
  - Karl Heymann (1), Carl Heyman (1)
  - Trocadero (1), Trocadéro (2)
  - bird-like (1), birdlike (1)
  - bric-à-brac (1), bric-a-brac (1)
  - free-will (1), free will (1)
  - rusé (1), ruse (1)
  - shadow-land (1), shadow land (1)





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