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´╗┐Title: Eeldrop and Appleplex
Author: Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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EELDROP AND APPLEPLEX

T.S. Eliot



I


Eeldrop and Appleplex rented two small rooms in a disreputable part of
town. Here they sometimes came at nightfall, here they sometimes slept,
and after they had slept, they cooked oatmeal and departed in the
morning for destinations unknown to each other. They sometimes slept,
more often they talked, or looked out of the window.

They had chosen the rooms and the neighborhood with great care. There
are evil neighborhoods of noise and evil neighborhoods of silence, and
Eeldrop and Appleplex preferred the latter, as being the more evil. It
was a shady street, its windows were heavily curtained; and over it hung
the cloud of a respectability which has something to conceal. Yet it
had the advantage of more riotous neighborhoods near by, and Eeldrop and
Appleplex commanded from their windows the entrance of a police station
across the way. This alone possessed an irresistible appeal in their
eyes. From time to time the silence of the street was broken; whenever a
malefactor was apprehended, a wave of excitement curled into the street
and broke upon the doors of the police station. Then the inhabitants of
the street would linger in dressing-gowns, upon their doorsteps: then
alien visitors would linger in the street, in caps; long after the
centre of misery had been engulphed in his cell. Then Eeldrop and
Appleplex would break off their discourse, and rush out to mingle with
the mob. Each pursued his own line of enquiry. Appleplex, who had the
gift of an extraordinary address with the lower classes of both sexes,
questioned the onlookers, and usually extracted full and inconsistent
histories: Eeldrop preserved a more passive demeanor, listened to the
conversation of the people among themselves, registered in his mind
their oaths, their redundance of phrase, their various manners of
spitting, and the cries of the victim from the hall of justice within.
When the crowd dispersed, Eeldrop and Appleplex returned to their rooms:
Appleplex entered the results of his inquiries into large notebooks,
filed according to the nature of the case, from A (adultery) to Y
(yeggmen). Eeldrop smoked reflectively. It may be added that Eeldrop was
a sceptic, with a taste for mysticism, and Appleplex a materialist with
a leaning toward scepticism; that Eeldrop was learned in theology, and
that Appleplex studied the physical and biological sciences.

There was a common motive which led Eeldrop and Appleplex thus to
separate themselves from time to time, from the fields of their
daily employments and their ordinarily social activities. Both were
endeavoring to escape not the commonplace, respectable or even the
domestic, but the too well pigeonholed, too taken-for-granted, too
highly systematized areas, and,--in the language of those whom they
sought to avoid--they wished "to apprehend the human soul in its
concrete individuality."

"Why," said Eeldrop, "was that fat Spaniard, who sat at the table
with us this evening, and listened to our conversation with occasional
curiosity, why was he himself for a moment an object of interest to us?
He wore his napkin tucked into his chin, he made unpleasant noises while
eating, and while not eating, his way of crumbling bread between fat
fingers made me extremely nervous: he wore a waistcoat cafe au lait, and
black boots with brown tops. He was oppressively gross and vulgar;
he belonged to a type, he could easily be classified in any town
of provincial Spain. Yet under the circumstances--when we had been
discussing marriage, and he suddenly leaned forward and exclaimed:
'I was married once myself'--we were able to detach him from his
classification and regard him for a moment as an unique being, a soul,
however insignificant, with a history of its own, once for all. It is
these moments which we prize, and which alone are revealing. For any
vital truth is incapable of being applied to another case: the essential
is unique. Perhaps that is why it is so neglected: because it is
useless. What we learned about that Spaniard is incapable of being
applied to any other Spaniard, or even recalled in words. With the
decline of orthodox theology and its admirable theory of the soul, the
unique importance of events has vanished. A man is only important as he
is classed. Hence there is no tragedy, or no appreciation of tragedy,
which is the same thing. We had been talking of young Bistwick, who
three months ago married his mother's housemaid and now is aware of the
fact. Who appreciates the truth of the matter? Not the relatives, for
they are only moved by affection, by regard for Bistwick's interests,
and chiefly by their collective feeling of family disgrace. Not the
generous minded and thoughtful outsider, who regards it merely as
evidence for the necessity of divorce law reform. Bistwick is classed
among the unhappily married. But what Bistwick feels when he wakes up
in the morning, which is the great important fact, no detached outsider
conceives. The awful importance of the ruin of a life is overlooked. Men
are only allowed to be happy or miserable in classes. In Gopsum Street a
man murders his mistress. The important fact is that for the man the act
is eternal, and that for the brief space he has to live, he is already
dead. He is already in a different world from ours. He has crossed the
frontier. The important fact is that something is done which can not
be undone--a possibility which none of us realize until we face it
ourselves. For the man's neighbors the important fact is what the man
killed her with? And at precisely what time? And who found the body?
For the 'enlightened public' the case is merely evidence for the Drink
question, or Unemployment, or some other category of things to be
reformed. But the mediaeval world, insisting on the eternity of
punishment, expressed something nearer the truth."

"What you say," replied Appleplex, "commands my measured adherence.
I should think, in the case of the Spaniard, and in the many other
interesting cases which have come under our attention at the door of
the police station, what we grasp in that moment of pure observation
on which we pride ourselves, is not alien to the principle of
classification, but deeper. We could, if we liked, make excellent
comment upon the nature of provincial Spaniards, or of destitution (as
misery is called by the philanthropists), or on homes for working girls.
But such is not our intention. We aim at experience in the particular
centres in which alone it is evil. We avoid classification. We do not
deny it. But when a man is classified something is lost. The majority of
mankind live on paper currency: they use terms which are merely good for
so much reality, they never see actual coinage."

"I should go even further than that," said Eeldrop. "The majority not
only have no language to express anything save generalized man; they are
for the most part unaware of themselves as anything but generalized men.
They are first of all government officials, or pillars of the church, or
trade unionists, or poets, or unemployed; this cataloguing is not only
satisfactory to other people for practical purposes, it is sufficient
to themselves for their 'life of the spirit.' Many are not quite real at
any moment. When Wolstrip married, I am sure he said to himself: 'Now I
am consummating the union of two of the best families in Philadelphia.'"

"The question is," said Appleplex, "what is to be our philosophy. This
must be settled at once. Mrs. Howexden recommends me to read Bergson. He
writes very entertainingly on the structure of the eye of the frog."

"Not at all," interrupted his friend. "Our philosophy is quite
irrelevant. The essential is, that our philosophy should spring from our
point of view and not return upon itself to explain our point of view. A
philosophy about intuition is somewhat less likely to be intuitive than
any other. We must avoid having a platform."

"But at least," said Appleplex, "we are..."

"Individualists. No!! nor anti-intellectualists. These also are labels.
The 'individualist' is a member of a mob as fully as any other man: and
the mob of individualists is the most unpleasing, because it has
the least character. Nietzsche was a mob-man, just as Bergson is an
intellectualist. We cannot escape the label, but let it be one which
carries no distinction, and arouses no self-consciousness. Sufficient
that we should find simple labels, and not further exploit them. I am, I
confess to you, in private life, a bank-clerk...."

"And should, according to your own view, have a wife, three children,
and a vegetable garden in a suburb," said Appleplex.

"Such is precisely the case," returned Eeldrop, "but I had not thought
it necessary to mention this biographical detail. As it is Saturday
night, I shall return to my suburb. Tomorrow will be spent in that
garden...."

"I shall pay my call on Mrs. Howexden," murmured Appleplex.



II


The suburban evening was grey and yellow on Sunday; the gardens of the
small houses to left and right were rank with ivy and tall grass and
lilac bushes; the tropical South London verdure was dusty above and
mouldy below; the tepid air swarmed with flies. Eeldrop, at the window,
welcomed the smoky smell of lilac, the gramaphones, the choir of the
Baptist chapel, and the sight of three small girls playing cards on the
steps of the police station.

"On such a night as this," said Eeldrop, "I often think of Scheherazade,
and wonder what has become of her."

Appleplex rose without speaking and turned to the files which contained
the documents for his "Survey of Contemporary Society." He removed the
file marked London from between the files Barcelona and Boston where it
had been misplaced, and turned over the papers rapidly. "The lady you
mention," he rejoined at last, "whom I have listed not under S. but as
Edith, alias Scheherazade, has left but few evidences in my possession.
Here is an old laundry account which she left for you to pay, a cheque
drawn by her and marked 'R/D,' a letter from her mother in Honolulu (on
ruled paper), a poem written on a restaurant bill--'To Atthis'--and a
letter by herself, on Lady Equistep's best notepaper, containing some
damaging but entertaining information about Lady Equistep. Then there
are my own few observations on two sheets of foolscap."

"Edith," murmured Eeldrop, who had not been attending to this catalogue,
"I wonder what has become of her. 'Not pleasure, but fulness of life...
to burn ever with a hard gem-like flame,' those were her words. What
curiosity and passion for experience! Perhaps that flame has burnt
itself out by now."

"You ought to inform yourself better," said Appleplex severely, "Edith
dines sometimes with Mrs. Howexden, who tells me that her passion for
experience has taken her to a Russian pianist in Bayswater. She is also
said to be present often at the Anarchist Tea Rooms, and can usually be
found in the evening at the Cafe de l'Orangerie."

"Well," replied Eeldrop, "I confess that I prefer to wonder what has
become of her. I do not like to think of her future. Scheherazade grown
old! I see her grown very plump, full-bosomed, with blond hair, living
in a small flat with a maid, walking in the Park with a Pekinese,
motoring with a Jewish stock-broker. With a fierce appetite for food and
drink, when all other appetite is gone, all other appetite gone except
the insatiable increasing appetite of vanity; rolling on two wide
legs, rolling in motorcars, rolling toward a diabetic end in a seaside
watering place."

"Just now you saw that bright flame burning itself out," said Appleplex,
"now you see it guttering thickly, which proves that your vision
was founded on imagination, not on feeling. And the passion for
experience--have you remained so impregnably Pre-Raphaelite as to
believe in that? What real person, with the genuine resources of
instinct, has ever believed in the passion for experience? The passion
for experience is a criticism of the sincere, a creed only of the
histrionic. The passionate person is passionate about this or that,
perhaps about the least significant things, but not about experience.
But Marius, des Esseintes, Edith..."

"But consider," said Eeldrop, attentive only to the facts of Edith's
history, and perhaps missing the point of Appleplex's remarks, "her
unusual career. The daughter of a piano tuner in Honolulu, she secured
a scholarship at the University of California, where she graduated
with Honors in Social Ethics. She then married a celebrated billiard
professional in San Francisco, after an acquaintance of twelve hours,
lived with him for two days, joined a musical comedy chorus, and was
divorced in Nevada. She turned up several years later in Paris and
was known to all the Americans and English at the Cafe du Dome as Mrs.
Short. She reappeared in London as Mrs. Griffiths, published a small
volume of verse, and was accepted in several circles known to us. And
now, as I still insist, she has disappeared from society altogether."

"The memory of Scheherazade," said Appleplex, "is to me that of
Bird's custard and prunes in a Bloomsbury boarding house. It is not my
intention to represent Edith as merely disreputable. Neither is she
a tragic figure. I want to know why she misses. I cannot altogether
analyse her 'into a combination of known elements' but I fail to touch
anything definitely unanalysable.

"Is Edith, in spite of her romantic past, pursuing steadily some hidden
purpose of her own? Are her migrations and eccentricities the sign
of some unguessed consistency? I find in her a quantity of shrewd
observation, an excellent fund of criticism, but I cannot connect them
into any peculiar vision. Her sarcasm at the expense of her friends
is delightful, but I doubt whether it is more than an attempt to mould
herself from outside, by the impact of hostilities, to emphasise her
isolation. Everyone says of her, 'How perfectly impenetrable!' I suspect
that within there is only the confusion of a dusty garret."

"I test people," said Eeldrop, "by the way in which I imagine them as
waking up in the morning. I am not drawing upon memory when I imagine
Edith waking to a room strewn with clothes, papers, cosmetics, letters
and a few books, the smell of Violettes de Parme and stale tobacco. The
sunlight beating in through broken blinds, and broken blinds keeping out
the sun until Edith can compel herself to attend to another day. Yet the
vision does not give me much pain. I think of her as an artist without
the slightest artistic power."

"The artistic temperament--" began Appleplex.

"No, not that." Eeldrop snatched away the opportunity. "I mean that what
holds the artist together is the work which he does; separate him from
his work and he either disintegrates or solidifies. There is no interest
in the artist apart from his work. And there are, as you said, those
people who provide material for the artist. Now Edith's poem 'To Atthis'
proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that she is not an artist. On the
other hand I have often thought of her, as I thought this evening, as
presenting possibilities for poetic purposes. But the people who can
be material for art must have in them something unconscious, something
which they do not fully realise or understand. Edith, in spite of what
is called her impenetrable mask, presents herself too well. I cannot use
her; she uses herself too fully. Partly for the same reason I think,
she fails to be an artist: she does not live at all upon instinct.
The artist is part of him a drifter, at the mercy of impressions, and
another part of him allows this to happen for the sake of making use of
the unhappy creature. But in Edith the division is merely the rational,
the cold and detached part of the artist, itself divided. Her material,
her experience that is, is already a mental product, already digested by
reason. Hence Edith (I only at this moment arrive at understanding)
is really the most orderly person in existence, and the most rational.
Nothing ever happens to her; everything that happens is her own doing."

"And hence also," continued Appleplex, catching up the thread, "Edith
is the least detached of all persons, since to be detached is to be
detached from one's self, to stand by and criticise coldly one's own
passions and vicissitudes. But in Edith the critic is coaching the
combatant."

"Edith is not unhappy."

"She is dissatisfied, perhaps."

"But again I say, she is not tragic: she is too rational. And in
her career there is no progression, no decline or degeneration. Her
condition is once and for always. There is and will be no catastrophe.

"But I am tired. I still wonder what Edith and Mrs. Howexden have
in common. This invites the consideration (you may not perceive the
connection) of Sets and Society, a subject which we can pursue tomorrow
night."

Appleplex looked a little embarrassed. "I am dining with Mrs. Howexden,"
he said. "But I will reflect upon the topic before I see you again."





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