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Title: Nonsenseorship
Author: Lowry, Helen Bullitt [Contributor], Chappell, George S. (George Shepard), 1877-1946 [Contributor], Weaver, John V. A. (John Van Alstyne), 1893-1938 [Contributor], Swinnerton, Frank, 1884-1982 [Contributor], Hecht, Ben, 1894-1964 [Contributor], Towne, Charles Hanson, 1877-1949 [Contributor], O'Brien, Frederick, 1869-1932 [Contributor], Woollcott, Alexander, 1887-1943 [Contributor], Keable, Robert, 1887-1927 [Contributor], Gilbert, Clinton W. (Clinton Wallace), 1871-1933 [Contributor], Tomlinson, H. M. (Henry Major), 1873-1958 [Contributor], Broun, Heywood, 1888-1939 [Contributor], Hale, Ruth, 1887-1934 [Contributor], Irwin, Wallace, 1876-1959 [Contributor], Parker, Dorothy, 1893-1967 [Contributor], Putnam, G. G. [Editor]
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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By G. G. Putnam and Others


   Edited by G. P. P.

Illustrated By Ralph Barton


At current bootliquor quotations, Haig & Haig costs twelve dollars a
quart, while any dependable booklegger can unearth a copy of "Jurgen"
for about fifteen dollars. Which indicates, at least, an economic
application of Nonsenseorship.

Its literary, social, and ethical reactions are rather more involved. To
define them somewhat we invited a group of not-too-serious thinkers to
set down their views regarding nonsenseorships in general and any pet
prohibitions in particular.

In introducing those whose gems of protest are to be found in the
setting of this volume, it is but sportsmanlike to state at the start
that admission was offered to none of notable puritanical proclivity.
The prohibitionists and censors are not represented. They require, in a
levititious literary escapade like this, no spokesman. Their viewpoint
already is amply set forth. Moreover, likely they would not be
amusing.... Also, the exponents of Nonsenseorship are victorious; and
at least the agonized cries of the vanquished, their cynical comment or
outraged protest, should be given opportunity for expression!

Not that we consider HEYWOOD BROUN agonized, cynical, or outraged.
Indeed, masquerading as a stalwart foe of inhibitions, he starts
right out, at the very head of the parade, with a vehement advocacy
of prohibition. His plea (surely, in this setting, traitorous) is to
prohibit liquor to all who are over thirty years of age! He declares
that "rum was designed for youthful days and is the animating influence
which made oats wild." After thirty, presumably, Quaker Oats....

And at that we have quite brushed by GEORGE S. CHAPPELL. who serves
a tasty appetizer at the very threshold, a bubbling cocktail of verse
defining the authentic story of censorious gloom.

Censorship seems a species of spiritual flagellation to BEN HECHT, who,
as he says, "ten years ago prided himself upon being as indigestible a
type of the incoherent young as the land afforded." And nonsenseorship
in general he regards as a war-born Frankenstein, a frenzied virtue
grown hugely luminous; "a snowball rolling uphill toward God and
gathering furious dimensions, it has escaped the shrewd janitors of
orthodoxy who from age to age were able to keep it within bounds."

Then RUTH HALE, who visualizes glowing opportunities for feminine
achievement in the functionings of inhibited society. "If the world
outside the home is to become as circumscribed and paternalized as the
world inside it, obviously all the advantage lies with those who have
been living under nonsenseorship long enough to have learned to manage

WALLACE IRWIN is irrepressibly jocose (perhaps because he sailed for
unprohibited England the day his manuscript was delivered), breaking
into quite undisciplined verse anent the rosiness of life since the red
light laws went blue.

"I am not sure, as I write, that this article ever will be printed,"
says ROBERT KEABLE, the English author of "Simon Called Peter." (It is).
Mr. Keable, a minister from Africa, wrote of the war as he saw it in
France, and in a way which offended people with mental blinders. He
declares that the war quite completely knocked humbug on the head and
bashed shams irreparably. "Rebels," says he, meaning those who speak
their mind and write of things as they see them, "must be drowned in a
babble of words."

And then HELEN BULLITT LOWRY, the exponent of the cocktailored young
lady of today, averring that to the pocket-flask, that milepost between
the time that was and the time that is, we owe the single standard of
drinking. She maintains that the debutantalizing flapper, now driven
right out in the open by the reformers, is the real salvation of our
mid-victrolian society.

No palpitating defense of censorship would be expected from FREDERICK
O'BRIEN of the South Seas, who contributes (and deliciously defines)
a precious new word to the vocabulary of Nonsenseorship, "Wowzer." The
nature of a wowzer is hinted in a ditty sung by certain uninhibited
individuals as they lolled and imbibed among the mystic atolls and white

   "Whack the cymbal! Bang the drum!
   Votaries of Bacchus!
   Let the popping corks resound,
   Pass the flowing goblet round!
   May no mournful voice be found,
   Though wowzers do attack us!"

DOROTHY PARKER gives vent to a poignant Hymn of Hate, anent reformers,
who "think everything but the Passion Play was written by Avery
Hopwood," and whose dominant desire is to purge the sin from Cinema even
though they die in the effort. "I hope to God they do," adds the author

From England, through the eyes of FRANK SWINNERTON, we glimpse ourselves
as others see us, and rather pathetically. In days gone by, lured by
reports of America's lawless free-and-easiness, Swinnerton says he
craved to visit us. But no more. The wish is dead. We have become
hopelessly moral and uninviting. "I see that I shall after all have to
live quietly in England with my pipe and my abstemious bottle of beer.
And yet I should like to visit America, for it has suddenly become in my
imagining an enormous country of 'Don't!' and I want to know what it is
like to have 'Don't' said by somebody who is not a woman."

Also is raised the British voice of H. M. TOMLINSON, singed with satire.
He writes as from a palely pure tomorrow when mankind shall have reached
such a state of complete uniformity of soul, mind and body, that "only a
particular inquiry will determine a man from a woman, though it may
fail to determine a fool from a man." Tomlinson's imagined nation of the
future is "as loyal and homogeneous, as contented, as stable, as a reef
of actinozoal plasm." And over each hearth hangs the sacred Symbol--a
portrait of a sheep.

Next is the usually jovial face of CHARLES HANSON TOWNE (that face which
has launched a thousand quips) now all stern in his unbattled struggle
with Prohibition, dourly surveying this "land of the spree and home of
the grave."... "My children," says Towne, "as they sip their light wine
and beer..." He is, at least, an optimist! But then, we are reminded he
is also a bachelor.

In his own American language JOHN WEAVER pictures the feelings of an
old-time saloon habitué when his former friend the barkeep, now rich
from bootlegging, with a home "on the Drive" and all that, declares
his socially-climbing daughter quite too good for this particular "Old
Soak's" son. Weaver's retrospect of "Bill's Place" will bring damp eyes
to the unregenerate:

   "So neat! And over at the free-lunch counter,
    Charlie the coon with a apron white like chalk,
    Dishin' out hot-dogs, and them Boston Beans,
    And Sad'dy night a great big hot roast ham,
    Or roast beef simply yellin' to be et,
    And washed down with a seidel of Old Schlitz!"

"The Puritans disliked the theatre because it was jolly. It was a place
where people went in deliberate quest of enjoyment." So says ALEXANDER
WOOLLCOTT, who emerges as a sort of economic champion of stage morality,
though no friend at all of censorship. Despite the _mot_ "nothing risqué
nothing gained," Woollcott emphatically declares the bed-ridden play is
not, as a general thing, successful. "A blush is not, of course, a bad
sign in the box-office," says he, developing his theme, "but the chuckle
of recognition is better. So is the glow of sentiment, so is the tear
of sympathy. The smutty and the scandalous are less valuable than homely
humor, melodramatic excitement or pretty sentiment."

And last in this variegated and alphabeted company the anonymous
AUTHOR OF "THE MIRRORS OF WASHINGTON" who views the applications of
nonsenseorship from the standpoint of national politics.

G. P. P.


We Have With Us Today. G. P. P.

Evolution-Another of Those Outlines. GEORGE S. CHAPPELL

Nonsenseorship. HEYWOOD BROUN

Literature and the Bastinado. BEN HECHT

The Woman's Place. RUTH HALE

Owed to Volstead. WALLACE IRWIN

The Censorship of Thought. ROBERT KEABLE

The Uninhibited Flapper. HELEN BULLITT LOWRY

The Wowzer in the South Seas. FREDERICK O'BRIEN

Reformers: A Hymn of Hate. DOROTHY PARKER


A Guess at Unwritten History. H. M. TOMLINSON


Bootleg. JOHN V. A. WEAVER




George S. Chappell demonstrating his Outline of Censorship.

Heywood Broun finds America suffering from a dearth of Folly.

Ben Hecht chopping away at the ever-forgiving and all-condoning Bugaboo
of Puritanism.

Ruth Hale as a XXth Century woman guarding the Home Brew.

Wallace Irwin composing under the influence of synthetic gin and Andrew

Robert Keable urging the Automaton called Citizen to turn on his

Helen Bullitt Lowry watching Puritanism set the Flapper free.

Frederick O'Brien finds the South Seas purified and beautified by the

Dorothy Parker hating Reformers.

Frank Swinnerton contemplating, from the Tight Little Isle, the two
classes of prigs developed by Prohibition; those who accept it and those
who rebel.

H. M. Tomlinson regarding, with not too great enthusiasm, the Perfect
State of the Future.

Charles Hanson Towne and the Law.

John V. A. Weaver noticing the bartender who has been thrown out of work
by Prohibition.

Alexander Woollcott rescuing the Playwright from the awful shears of the

The Periscope of the Author of the Mirrors of Washington is turned
toward the Great Negative Oracle.



_Another of Those Outlines_

[Illustration: George S. Chappell demonstrating his Outline of



[Sidenote: _Time. The Beginning_.]

 When Adam sat with lovely Eve
   And, pressed his Primal suit,
 There was a ban, if we believe
   Our Genesis, on fruit.
 But did it give old Adam pause,
   This One and only law there was?


[Sidenote: _Nine verses are supposed to elapse_.]

 And then great Moses, on the crest
   Of Sinai, did devise
 His tablets, acting for the best,
   (Though some thought otherwise).
 At least he showed restraint, for then
   Man's sins were limited to _Ten_,


[Sidenote: _Ninety-nine verses elapse_.]

 In later days the Romans proud
   Their famous Code began.
 And lots of things were not allowed
   By just Justinian.
 He wrote a list, stupendous long;
   _"One Hundred_ Ways of Going Wrong."


[Sidenote: _Nine hundred and ninety-nine verses elapse_.]

 Napoleon, (see Wells's book)
   Improved the Roman plan
 By spotting a potential crook
   In every fellow-man.
 And by the _Thousand_ off they went
   To jail, until proved innocent.


[Sidenote: _Nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine verses elapse_.]

 Now in the change-about complete
   Since Adam Passed from View.
 For apples we are urged to eat
   And all else is taboo.
 A _Million_ laws hold us in thrall,
   And we serenely break them all!


[Illustration: Heywood Broun finds America suffering from a dearth of


A censor is a man who has read about Joshua and forgotten Canute. He
believes that he can hold back the mighty traffic of life with a tin
whistle and a raised right hand. For after all it is life with which he
quarrels. Censorship is seldom greatly concerned with truth. Propriety
is its worry and obviously impropriety was allowed to creep into the
fundamental scheme of creation. It is perhaps a little unfortunate that
no right-minded censor was present during the first week in which
the world was made. The plan of sex, for instance, could have been
suppressed effectively then and Mr. Sumner might have been spared the
dreadful and dangerous ordeal of reading "Jurgen" so many centuries

Indeed, if there had only been right-minded supervision over the
modelling of Adam and Eve the world could worry along nicely without
the aid of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. Suppression of those
biological facts which the Society includes in its definition of Vice
is now impossible. Concealment is really what the good men are after.
Somewhat after the manner of the Babes in the Woods they would cover us
over with leaves. For men and women they have figs and for babies they
have cabbages.

It must have been a censor who first hit upon the notion that what you
don't know won't hurt you. We doubt whether it is a rule which applies
to sex. Eve left Eden and took upon herself a curse for the sake of
knowledge. It seems a little heedless of this heroism to advocate
that we keep the curse and forget the knowledge. The battle against
censorship should have ended at the moment of the eating of the apple.
At that moment Man committed himself to the decision that he would know
all about life even though he died for it. Unfortunately, under the
terms of the existence of mortals one decision is not enough. We must
keep reaffirming decisions if they are to hold. Even in Eden there was
the germ of a new threat to degrade Adam and Eve back to innocence. When
they ate the apple an amoeba in a distant corner of the Garden shuddered
and began the long and difficult process of evolution. To all practical
purposes John S. Sumner was already born.

To us the whole theory of censorship is immoral. If its functions were
administered by the wisest man in the world it would still be wrong. But
of course the wisest man in the world would have too much sense to be
a censor. We are not dealing with him. His substitutes are distinctly
lesser folk. They are not even trained for their work except in the
most haphazard manner. Obviously a censor should be the most profound
of psychologists. Instead the important posts in the agencies of
suppression go to the boy who can capture the largest number of smutty
post cards. After he has confiscated a few gross he is promoted to the
task of watching over art. By that time he has been pretty thoroughly
blasted for the sins of the people. An extraordinary number of things
admit of shameful interpretations in his mind.

For instance, the sight of a woman making baby clothes is not generally
considered a vicious spectacle in many communities, but it may not
be shown on the screen in Pennsylvania by order of the state board of
censors. In New York Kipling's Anne of Austria was not allowed to "take
the wage of infamy and eat the bread of shame" in a screen version of
"The Ballad of Fisher's Boarding House." Thereby a most immoral effect
was created. Anne was shown wandering about quite casually and drinking
and conversing with sailors who were perfect strangers to her, but the
censors would not allow any stigma to be placed upon her conduct. Indeed
this decision seems to support the rather strange theory that deeds
don't matter so long as nothing is said about them.

The New York picture board is peculiarly sensitive to words. Upon one
occasion a picture was submitted with the caption, "The air of the South
Seas breathes an erotic perfume." "Cut out 'erotic,'" came back the
command of the censors.

In Illinois, Charlie Chaplin was not allowed to have a scene in "The
Kid" in which upon being asked the name of the child he shook his head
and rushed into the house, returning a moment later to answer, "Bill."
That particular board of censors seemed intent upon keeping secret the
fact that there are two sexes.

Of course, it may be argued that motion pictures are not an art and that
it makes little difference what happens to them. We cannot share that
indifference. Enough has been done in pictures to convince us that very
beautiful things might be achieved if only the censors could be put out
of the way. Not all the silliness of the modern American picture is the
fault of the producers. Much of the blame must rest with the various
boards of censorship. It is difficult to think up many stories in which
there is no passion, crime, or birth. As a matter of fact, we are of the
opinion that the entire theory of motion picture censorship is mistaken.
The guardians of morals hold that if the spectator sees a picture of
a man robbing a safe he will thereby be moved to want to rob a safe
himself. In rebuttal we offer the testimony of a gentleman much wiser
in the knowledge of human conduct than any censor. Writing in "The
New Republic," George Bernard Shaw advocated that hereafter public
reading-rooms supply their patrons only with books about evil
characters. For, he argued, after reading about evil deeds our longings
for wickedness are satisfied vicariously. On the other hand there is the
danger that the public may read about saints and heroes and drain off
its aspirations in such directions without actions.

We believe this is true. We once saw a picture about a highwayman (that
was in the days before censorship was as strict as it is now) and it
convinced us that the profession would not suit us. We had not realized
the amount of compulsory riding entailed. The particular highwayman whom
we saw dined hurriedly, slept infrequently, and invariably had his boots
on. Mostly he was being pursued and hurdling over hedges. It left us
sore in every muscle to watch him. At the end of the eighth reel every
bit of longing in our soul to be a swashbuckler had abated. The man
in the picture had done the adventuring for us and we could return in
comfort to a peaceful existence.

Florid literature is the compensation for humdrummery. If we are
ever completely shut off from a chance to see or read about a little
evil-doing we shall probably be moved to go out and cut loose on our
own. So far we have not felt the necessity. We have been willing to let
D'Artagnan do it.

Even so arduous an abstinence as prohibition may be made endurable
through fictional substitutes. After listening to a drinking chorus in a
comic opera and watching the amusing antics of the chief comedian who is
ever so inebriated we are almost persuaded to stay dry. Prohibition is
perhaps the climax of censorship. It has the advantage over other forms
of suppression in that at least it represents a sensible point of
view. Yet, we are not converted. There are things in the world far more
important than hard sense.

One of the officials of the Anti-Saloon League gave out a statement the
other day in which he endeavored to show all the benefits provided by
prohibition. But he did it with figures. There was a column showing
the increase of accounts in savings banks and another devoted to
the decrease of inmates in hospitals, jails and almshouses. From a
utilitarian point of view the figures, if correct, could hardly fail
to be impressive, but little has been said by either side about the
spiritual aspects of rum. Unfortunately there are no statistics on that,
and yet it is the one phase of the question which interests us. Some
weeks ago we happened to observe a letter from a man who wrote to one of
the newspapers protesting against the proposed settlement in Ireland on
the ground that, "It's so damned sensible." We have somewhat the same
feeling about prohibition. It is a movement to take the folly out of our
national life and there is no quality which America needs so sorely.

If enforcement ever becomes perfect this will be a nation composed
entirely of men who wear rubbers, put money in the bank, and go to bed
at ten. That fine old ringing phrase, "This is on me," will be gone
from the language. Conversation will be wholly instructive, for in
fifty years the last generation capable of saying, "Do you remember that
night--?" will have been gathered to its fathers.

Of course, there is no denying the shortsightedness of the forces of
rum. They cannot escape their responsibility for having aided in the
advent of Prohibition. They were slow to see the necessity of some form
of curtailment and limitation of the traffic. Such moves as they
did make were entirely wrong-headed. For instance, we had ordinances
providing for the early closing of cafés. Instead of that we should have
had laws forbidding anybody to sell liquor except between the hours of
8 P.M. and 5 A.M. Daytime drinking was always sodden, but something is
necessary to make night worth while. Man is more than the beasts, and he
should not be driven into dull slumber just because the sun has set.

The invention of electricity, liquor, cut glass mirrors, and cards made
man the master of his environment rather than its slave. Now that liquor
is gone all the other factors are mockery. Card playing has become
merely an extension of the cruel and logical process of the survival of
the fittest. The fellow with the best hand wins, instead of the one with
the best head. Nobody draws four cards any more or stands for a raise
on an inside straight. The thing is just cut-throat and scientific and
wholly mercenary.

The kitty is gone. Nobody cares to come in to a common fund for the
purchase of mineral water and cheese sandwiches. And with the passing of
the kitty the most promising development of co-operation and communism
in America has gone. It was prophetic of a more perfectly organized
society. In the days of the kitty the fine Socialistic ideal of, "From
each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs," was
made specific and workable. And the inspiring romantic tradition of
Robin Hood was also carried over into modern life. The kitty robbed only
the rich and left the poor alone.

But now none of us will contribute unquestionably to the material
comfort of others. Each must keep his money for the savings bank.

Perhaps, something of the old friendly rivalry may be revived. In a
hundred years it may be that men will meet around a table and that one
will say to the other, "What have you got?"

"I've got $9,876.32 in first mortgages and gilt-edged securities."

"That's good. You win."

But somehow or other we doubt it.

Another mistake which was made in the policy of compromising with the
drys was the agreement that liquor should not be served to minors. On
the contrary, the provision should have been that drink ought not to
be permitted to any man more than thirty years of age. Liquor was never
meant to be a steady companion. It was the animating influence which
made oats wild. Work and responsibility are the portion of the mature
man. Rum was designed for youthful days when the reckless avidity for
experience is so great that reality must be blurred a little lest it
blind us.

We happened to pick up a copy of "The Harvard Crimson" the other day
and read: "The first freshman smoker will be held at 7.45 o'clock this
evening in the living room of the Union. P. H. Theopold, '25, Chairman
of the Smoker Committee, will act as Chairman, introducing Clark
Hodder, '25, and J. H. Child, '25, the Class President and Secretary
respectively. After the speeches there will be a motion picture, and
some vaudeville by a magician from Keith's. Ginger ale, crackers, and
cigarettes will be served. All freshmen are invited to attend."

They used to be called Freshmen Beer Nights and in those days the
possibility of friendship at first sight was not fantastic. We feel sure
that it cannot be done on ginger ale. The urge for democracy does not
dwell in any soft drink. The speeches will be terrible, for there will
be no pleasant interruptions of "Aw, sit down," from the man in the back
of the room. If somebody begins to sing, "P. H. Theopold is a good old
soul," it is not likely to carry conviction. Not once during the evening
will any speaker confine himself to saying, "To Hell with Yale!" and
falling off the table. Probably the magician will not be able to find
anything in the high hat except white rabbits.

Although we have seen no first hand report of that freshman smoker,
we feel sure that it was only a crowded self-conscious gathering of a
number of young men who said little and went home early.

Even from the standpoint of the strictest of abstainers there must be
some regret for the passing of rum. What man who lived through the bad
old days does not remember the thrill of rectitude which came to him the
first time he said, "Make mine a cigar."

Though they have taken away our rum from us we have our memories. Not
all the days have been dull gray. Back in the early pages of our diary
is the entry about the trip which we made to Boston with William F----in
the hard winter of 1907. It was agreed that neither of us should
drink the same sort of drink twice. Staunch William achieved nineteen
varieties, but we topped him with twenty-four. Upon examination we
observe that the entry in the memory book was made several days later.
The handwriting is a little shaky. But for that adventure we might have
lived and died entirely ignorant of the nature of an Angel Float.

In those days human sympathy was wider. F. M. W. seemed in many respects
a matter-of-fact man, but it was he who chanced upon the 59th street
Circle just before dawn and paused to call the attention of all
bystanders to the statue of Columbus.

"Look at him," he said. "Christopher Columbus! He discovered America and
then they sent him back to Spain in chains."

He wept, and we realized for the first time that under a rough exterior
there beat a heart of gold.


[Illustration: Ben Hecht chopping away at the ever-forgiving and
all-condoning Bugaboo of Puritanism.]


Surveying the trend of modern literature one must, unless one's mental
processes be complicated with opaque prejudices, wonder at the provoking
laxity of the national censorship. I write from the viewpoint of an
aggrieved iconoclast.

It becomes yearly more obvious that the duly elected, commissioned and
delegated high priests of the nation's morale are growing blind to
the dangers which assail them. If not, then how does it come that
such enemies of the public weal as H. L. Mencken, Floyd Dell, Sherwood
Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, Dos Passos, Mr. Cabell, Mr. Rascoe, Mr.
Sandburg, Mr. Sinclair Lewis are not in jail? How does it come Professor
Frinck of Cornell is not in jail? Bodenheim, Margaret Anderson, Mr. John
Weaver are not in jail.

Were I the President of the United States sworn to uphold the dignity
of its psychopathic repressions, pledged on a stack of Bibles to promote
the relentless pursuit and annihilation of other people's happiness,
I would have begun my reign by clapping H. L. Mencken into irons
forthwith. Mr. Cabell, I would have sent to Russia. Sherwood Anderson I
would have boiled in oil.

But what is the situation? Observe these gentlemen and their kin
enjoying not only their bodily liberty but allowed to prosper on the
royalties derived from the sale of incendiary volumes designed to
destroy the principles upon which the integrity of the commonwealth
depends. The spectacle is one aggravating to an iconoclast. There is no
affront as distressing as the tolerance of one's enemies.

Mr. H. L. Mencken is, perhaps, the outstanding victim of this depravity
of indifference which more and more characterizes the enemy. Mr.
Mencken, hurling himself for ten years against the Bugaboo of
Puritanism--a fearless and wonderfully caparisoned Knight of Alarums,
Prince of Darkness, Evangel of Chaos--Mr. Mencken pauses for a moment
out of breath casting about slyly for fresher and deadlier weapons and
lo! the Bugaboo with a gentle smile reaches out and embraces him and
plants the kiss of love on both his cheeks, strokes his hair wistfully,
and invites him to sit on the front porch. Alas, poor Mencken! It is the
fate that awaits us all. Zarathustra in the market-place feeding ground
glass to the populace is gathered to the bosom of the City Fathers and
gleefully enrolled as a member of the Guild.

This is no idle rhetoric. Dissent in the Republic has come upon hard
ways. Ten years ago the name of Mencken would have stood against the
world. Today no college freshman, no lowly professor, no charity worker,
or local alderman too puritanical to do him homage.

Whereupon the argument is that an era of enlightenment has set in, that
this same Mencken and his contemporary throat-cutters have vanquished
the Bugaboo, and that, as a result, a spirit of high intellectual life
prevails through the land. The proletaire have risen and are thumbing
their nose at the gods. Brander Matthews has sent in a five years'
subscription to the Little Review. The Comstocks overcome with the
vision of their ghastly complexes are appealing to Sigmund Freud for
advice and relief. But the argument is superficial. "Victory!" cry the
iconoclasts grinding their teeth at the absence of a foe.

But it is a victory that rankles in the soul. The foe is not vanquished
but, seemingly, bored to death has fallen asleep. It is, in any event, a
phenomenon. Many generalizations offer themselves as solace.

The first paradox of this phenomenon is that Puritanism, beaten to a
pulp by an ever-increasing herd of first, second, third, and fourth
rate iconoclasts, has triumphed completely in the legislatures of the
country. With every new volume exposing the gruesome mainsprings of the
national virtue, further taboos and restrictions crowd themselves into
the statute books.

In a sense it would seem as if the _bete populaire_, becoming
increasingly drunk with the consciousness of its own power, is elatedly
preoccupied in cutting off its own nose, tying itself up into knots, and
kicking itself in the rear, proclaiming simultaneously and in triumphant
tones, "Observe how powerful I am. I can pass laws making ipecac a
compulsory diet."

Whereupon the laws are passed and the noble masses with heroic grimaces
fall to devouring ipecac, to the confusion of all free-born stomachs.
In fact this species of ballot flagellatism, this diverting pastime of
hitting itself on the head with a stuffed club has gradually elevated
the body politic to the enviable position occupied by the all-powerful
king of Fernando Po. This mysterious being lives in the lowest depths of
the crater of Riabba. His power is in direct ratio to the taboos which
hem him in. Convinced that bathing is a crime against his dignity, that
sunlight is incompatible with his royal lineage; convinced that his
prestige is dependent upon a weekly three days' fast and a
cautious observation of the taboos against all variants of social
intercourse--piously convinced of these astounding things, the
all-powerful monarch of Fernando Po sits year in and year out motionless
on his throne in the lowest depths of the crater of Riabba, awed by
himself and overcome with the contemplation of his all-powerfulness. We
have here, I trust, an illuminating analogy.

The Republic, like this King of Fernando Po, imposes daily upon itself
new taboos, new rituals. Yet there is the phenomenon of its tolerance
toward the idol breakers. From the lowest depths of the crater of Riabba
in which he sits enthroned the monarch of the Laongos condemns to death
with a twitch of his brows all who seek to question the sanctity of
the taboos. But this other occupant of the crater of Riabba-our
Republic-raises gentle eyes to the idol wreckers, to the taboo
destroyers. An occasional, "tut tut" escapes him. And nothing more.

Whereupon the argument is that our monarch of the pit is an impotent
fellow. Again, a superficial deduction. For behold the censorships with
which he belabors himself.

Censorship, almost extinct in the restriction of the national
literature, thrives in every other field. Censorships abound. Food,
drink, movies, politics, baseball, diversion, dress--all these are under
the jurisdiction of a continually aroused censorship. The pulpits and
editorial pages emit sonorous hymns of taboo. Every caption writer is
an Isaiah, every welfare worker fancies himself the handwriting on the
wall. Unchallenged by the vote of the masses or by any outward evidence
of mass dissent, the platitudes pile up, the nation is filled from
morning to morning with stentorian clamor. Puritanism in a frenetic
finale approaches a climax.

But, and we tiptoe towards the crux of this phenomenon, the Bacchanal
of Presbyterianism is an artificial climax. Unlike the day of the later
Caesars, the populace does not abandon itself in imitation of its Neros
and Caligulas. Instead, we have the spectacle of a populace apathetic
toward the spirit of its time.

The Puritan debauch is the logical culmination of the anti-Paganism and
backworldism launched two hundred centuries back. The Christian ethic,
to the bewildered chagrin of its advocates, has triumphed. Not a triumph
this time that offers itself as a cloak for Jesuitism, colonization,
or empire juggling. But an unimpeachable triumph entirely beyond the
control of the most adroit of the choir-Machiavellis.

In other words the body politic finds itself betrayed by its own
platitudes. A moral frenzy animates its horizon. But it is a frenzy of
idea escaped control, an idea grown too huge and luminous to direct
any longer. The moral frenzy of the war was the moral frenzy of such an
idea--virtue become a Frankenstein. This virtue--the Golden Rule, the
Thou Shalt Nots, the thousand and one unassailable maxims, adages, old
saws invented chiefly for the protection of the weak and the solace
of the inferior--this virtue has taken itself out of the hands of its
hitherto adroit worshippers. A snowball rolling uphill toward God and
gathering furious dimensions, it has escaped the shrewd janitors of
orthodoxy who from age to age were able to keep it within bounds.

Thus in the war, confronted with the platitude that the world must be
made safe for democracy and with the further platitude that democracy
and equality were the goals of Christianity and with a dozen similar
platitudes none of which had any authentic contact with the life of the
nation, thus confronted, the proletaire was forced to lift itself up by
its boot straps and rise to the defence of a Frankenstein idealism of
which it was the parent-victim. Disillusionment with the causes of the
war has, however, served no high purpose. The Frankenstein God, the
Frankenstein virtue is still enshrined in the Heaven of the Copy Books.
And we find the proletaire still worshipping, albeit with the squirmings
and grimacings, a horrible idealization of itself.

The Thou Shalt Nots have escaped. They increase and multiply with a
life of their own. Logic is the most irresponsible of the manias which
operate in life. Logic demands that ideas be carried to their climax and
this demand, as inexorable as Mr. Newton's law, has made a Frankenstein
of the unsuspecting Galilean.

Hypnotized by the demands of logic, bewildered by the contemplation
of this code of backworldism which he himself seems somehow to have
created, the ballot maniac stands riveted at the polls and sacrifices
to his own image by hitting himself on the head with further virtuous
restrictions--a gesture necessary to prevent his own image from giving
him the lie. He must, in other words, prove himself as virtuous,
whenever public demonstration demands, as the Frankenstein platitudes
proclaim him to be.

The Puritanism of the nation, remorselessly upheld by its laws and its
public factotums is an extraneous and artificial pose into which
the blundering proletaire has tricked itself. There are innumerable
consequences. We have, firstly, the spectacle of the masses disporting
themselves slyly in the undertow of cynicism.

"Modesty," bellows Sir Frankenstein from pulpit and press, "is a
cardinal virtue." "Right O," echoes the feminine contingent and promptly
bobs its hair, shortens its skirts, and rolls down its socks.

"Abstinence, sobriety, are an economic and spiritual necessity," bellows
Sir Frankenstein. Whereupon the male contingent votes the land dry and
gets drunk.

From the foregoing we may derive glimmers of truth concerning the public
tolerance of iconoclasts. "Main Street," a volume fathered by Mencken,
Freud, and the other Chaos-Bringers, leaps into prominence as a best
seller. It is devoured and acclaimed by the ballot maniac who reads
it, smacks his lips over its "truths" and sallies forth to vote further
canonizations of hypocrisy into the legal code. Even I, who ten years
ago prided myself upon being as indigestible a type of the Incoherent
Young as the land afforded, find myself for one month a best seller
[Footnote: "Erik Dorn," Mr. Hecht's first novel.--Ed.] on my native
heath. Woe the prophet who is with honor in his country! He will flee in
disgust in quest of hair shirts and a bastinado.

Thus, the citizens. With the left hand they greet the iconoclasts and
hand them royalties. With the right hand they pass further laws for the
iconoclasts to denounce. A phenomenon results. With the thought of the
masses becoming more and more neutral in the highty-tighty war between
Good and Evil, the laws created by these same masses grow more and more
rabid. But it must be borne in mind that although the masses, carried
away by flagellant impulses, assist in the creation of these laws, in
the main, they are laws, self-created platitudes which give birth to new
platitudes. Logic is the most pernicious of the Holy Ghosts responsible
for the conception of undesirable Gods.

I am prepared now to make further revelations. The foregoing, although
bristling with inconsistencies, seems to me, nevertheless, a ground
work. I will begin the apocalyptic finale with a resume of the
choir-leaders, the high priests, the Mahatmas of Sir Frankenstein.

Item one: It is obvious that the laws of the land being the ghastly
climaxes of artificial logic and not of human desires or biological
necessities, therefore the salaried apostles of these laws must function
similarly outside nature.

The high priests, it develops indeed upon investigation, diligently
lickspittling to Sir Frankenstein, have no following. The masses are not
going to Heaven in their wake. They, the high priests, are magically out
of touch with their worshippers. And from day to day they grow further
out of touch until they are to be seen high in the clouds tending the
fugitive altars that are soaring toward God on their own power.

These high priests are the creatures elected, commissioned and delegated
by the proletaire to perpetuate its grandiose and impossible image. And
this they do. They are the custodians of the public morals, meaning
the protectors of the huge trick mirror out of which the complexes,
neurasthenias, and morbid fears of the public stare back at it in the
guise of Virtue, Honor, Decency, and Love. These custodians are also, to
leap into the denouement, the censors here under discussion; censors not
only tolerated but insisted upon by the people to annoy and harass them
and inspire them to further ballot flagellations in order that they, the
people, may be spared the disaster of discovering themselves different
from what two hundred centuries of self-idealization have driven them
into believing themselves to be.

This, the high priests do. In every village, hamlet and farm they have
their say. They chastise. They make things fit for decent people to see
or wear or drink, and people flattered to death at the idea of being
considered decent submit piously to the distastement infringements and

All-powerful are the censors. But despite this all-powerfulness they
labor under a wretched handicap. They are stupid. Stupidity is the
paradox to be found most often in all-powerful Gods. They are stupid,
the censors. And the Devil is clever. The Seven Arts which are the Seven
Incarnations of Dionysius, the Seven Masks of an unrepentant Lucifer,
elude them in the horrific struggle. Or at least partially elude them.
Occasionally a cloven hoof is spied and sliced to the bone.

       *       *       *       *       *

We return now with proud and tranquil ease to the beginning of this
tale, to the phenomenon of a tolerated literary iconoclasm in a land
alive with caterwaulings of virtue.

As hinted above not all the Arts escape, nor do any of them escape
all the time. Music, whose sly and terrible vices were for centuries
unperceived by the high priests, has been brought to earth in places.
"Jazz Incites to Sin. Syncopation is Devil's Ally." Discovered! One
reads the morning paper and feels a return of hope. The High Priests are
aroused. They have disembowelled an ally. There is hope then of a bloody
fray. Another Edition and they will be on our own heads, swinging their
snickersnees. Mencken will be arrested and burned in public. Anderson
will be strung up by the heels and his estates confiscated. There
will be war--red war, and we in the army of the iconoclasts growling
impotently at each other will face about and have at them with
hullaballo and manifesto and snickersnee in turn.

"Nude Painting Banned From Window. Nab Store Keeper." We read on. The
snickersnee swings towards the vitals of Hollywood. "Movie Magnate
Charges Work of Art Cut; Sues Censors. Seeks Redress in Courts."

Valhalla! They are closing in. Another forced march and they are upon

Alas, our coffee cools as we wait impatiently for the alarms to sound.
We are intact. Mencken still lives. Anderson still lives. The tide of
battle sweeps us by, passes us up, and there's the end to it.

Again, our victory rankling, we cast about for reasons. Do not the
censors read our books? Yes, the censors read our books. And scratching
their necks pensively and immediately below their left ears, the censors
fall asleep. Our books were over their heads. Our broadsides aimed
for their vitals whizzed by their ears and lulled them into slumber. A
hideous victory is in our hands.

Voltaire blew God out of France for a century. But that was because God
was still an emotion in his day and not a Frankenstein of logic. He blew
up the high priests. But that was because the high priests still
had enough intelligence in that time to know what constituted an
epoch-shaking explosion.

Our enemies the censors, the hallelujah flingers, commissioned, elected,
delegated by the proletaire are not worthy our steel. Having no
longer any contact with the masses, they need no genius to perpetuate
themselves. The masses care not what they are so long as they are.
Figureheads for Frankenstein, they need only shriek themselves blue
and their will, will be done. Shrewdness, intelligence, are qualities
non-essential since virtue, no longer feeding upon shrewdness and
intelligence, fattens upon its own monstrous logic.

The high priests are vital to the lie which man has created for himself
as a heaven and out of which his own image leers godlike back at him.
They are vital for nothing else.

Therefore our immunity. Since they need no grey matter, they have
none. And unable to understand us, they ignore us. And if we grow too
insistent, as has Mencken, they put an end to the business by embracing
us and pulling our fangs by disgusting us with their stupidity.

Given free reign under the conditions herein outlined, the youth of
the land is abandoning itself to a safe and sane orgie of iconoclasm.
Satanic epigrams cloud the air of the very market-place. Poets,
column conductors, hack literary reviewers, hack romancers, lecturers,
realists, imagists, and all are gloatingly engaged in sacking the
Temple, in thumbing their nose at the taboos.

In fact so widespread is the unlicensed and unrebuked iconoclasm of the
day that a great disgust is being born in the hearts of the pioneers.
Every dog has his paradox, every hack his anti-Christ, they bewail. And
surveying the horizon despairingly they see no enemy rushing upon them
with the wind.

There are, of course, scattered here and there among the keepers of the
Seal, observant priests. They omit isolated groans. They launch Quixotic
sorties. But they retire and collapse without waiting combat. To their
denunciation of "degenerate, sinful and corrupting cesspools of alleged
art" (I quote from a review of some of my own work appearing in an issue
of the Springfield (Ill.) _Republican_), there is no answering response.
They are left abandoned, the Fiery Cross burning down to their fingers
and flickering out. They cannot be glorified into an enemy.

On the whole I fear for the result. Ideas favor a bloody battle-ground
for birthplace. And here we stand, drawn up in battle array discharging
broadsides of "Winesburgs, Ohios," "Main Streets," "Cornhuskers" and
the like; flying our colors valiantly--but there is no battle. The enemy
sleeps. Or the enemy wakes up and issues an indifferent invitation that
we stay to tea.

Comrade Dreiser may demur at all this and, peeling his vest, reveal us
wounds, honorable wounds acquired in honorable battle. And further, he
may regale us with tales of hair shirts and bastinadoes suffered by him
in the Republic. But alas, he is Telemachus, grey-bearded and full of
memories. And the youth of Athens, fallen upon softer ways, listen with
envious incredulity to such tall tales.


[Illustration: Ruth Hale as a XXth Century woman guarding the Home


At last the women of this country are about to perform a great
service--not one of those courtesy services about which so much is
so volubly said and so little is done in repayment--but a good sturdy
performance, that will probably bring these magnificent men folks right
to their knees.

They are going to teach the unfortunates how to live under prohibitions
and taboos. Of course there has never been any prodigality of freedom in
this country--or any other--but what there was belonged to the men. The
women had to take to the home and stay there. So the two sexes adjusted
themselves to life with this difference, that the women had to do all
the outwitting and circumventing, all the little smart twists and turns,
all the cunning scheming by which people snatch off what they want
without appearing to, whereas men got their much or little by prosily
sticking their hands out for it.

This developed, naturally, not only somewhat diverse temperaments, hut
also greatly diverse equipments. When men cannot get what they want now
by either asking or paying for it, they have no more resources.
Bless them, they must return into the home, where the secret has been
perfected for centuries on centuries of how to hoard a private stock
and how to find a bootlegger. Under the steadily growing nonsenseorship
regime, they are obliged to come and take lessons from the lately
despised group of creatures to whom nonsenseorship is a well-thumbed
story. If the world outside the home is to become as circumscribed and
paternalized as the world inside it, obviously all the advantage lies
with those who have been living under nonsenseorship long enough to have
learned to manage it.

Thus woman moves over from her dull post as keeper of the virtues to the
far more important and exciting post as keeper of the vices. It is not
an ideal power which she thus acquires. But then none of this is about
ideals. This is just a little practical 'study in what is going to
happen, and why. Taboos never yet have added a cubit to the stature
of the soul of humanity. They have nearly always been the chattering
children of fear and pure idiocy. They have always tried to throw
the race back on to all fours, and have left the nobility of standing
upright wholly out of account.

The taboos which have surrounded women time out of mind have been so
puerile and imbecile that one quite non-partisanly wonders why on earth
they have been allowed to continue. A second thought demonstrates,
of course, that fear has had the major part in it, and that skill in
cheating has gone so far as practically to nullify the privations of the

But one must put by this hankering after nobility, and accept the plain
fact that fear is the dominant human motive. What the race would do if
fear were conquered, or at least faced sternly eye to eye, is staggering
to contemplate. Perhaps God looks upon that vision. It may be that which
gives Him patience. But man at best gives it one terrified squint in a
lifetime. All behavior must take fear into account.

The man who lately brought back from the Amazon Basin news of a
fear-dispelling drug used there by a savage tribe, would have been
carried home from the steamer on the shoulders of his compatriots if for
one moment he had been believed. His drug may do all he claimed for it,
but a country which boasts a Volstead in full stride cannot force itself
to take him seriously. The only likely part of his story was that the
tribes who prepared the drug would put to instant death any woman who
happened either to learn how to prepare it or did actually get some of
it into her.

We recognize that part as familiar. We have made the same fight here
against the fearless woman as the savages made on the Amazon. The only
thing we were never smart enough to apply was the moral of the Kipling
story about the two greatest armies in the world: the men who believed
that they could not die till their time came, against those who wanted
to die as soon as possible. It was from one or the other of these two
kinds of fearlessness that women have trained themselves in wisdom. This
is the wisdom which moves them to secret laughter when they find their
brothers in the throes of Volstead and Krafts. And it is from this
wisdom that they will teach them all to be happy, though prohibited.

It is an unfortunate fact that humanity will not behave itself. It
does not really warm to any of the current virtues. When the Eighteenth
Amendment says it must not drink hard liquors, its inner heart's
desire is to drink them, even beyond its normal, and usual capacity.
Prohibition is, it is true, one of the strikingly superimposed virtues.
It has nothing whatever to recommend it in man's true feelings, and this
is not true of many of the civilized traits, though probably not any
of them meets with entire approval. We do think that before anything
approaching a real art of living is perfected among us, the present
ethical system will be wholly outmoded. Meanwhile, pressure brought to
bear on the least welcome of all virtues is merely going to make bad
behavior worse. But that is Volstead's business, not ours. Let him
do battle with that octopus, while we bring up reinforcements to his
enemies. Women know all about how to be bad and comfortable while the
law goes on trying to make them good and otherwise. Just look at a few
of the things on which they have cut their teeth.

We do not know, unfortunately, just at what point in her history woman
went under the long siege of her taboos. Whether the system of keeping
her publicly helpless and interdicted goes before church and state,
or was the result of them, there is now no history to tell us. But
certainly she always had one supreme power and one supreme weakness, and
somewhere in time, her more neutrally equipped male companion played the
one against her, to save his own skin from being stripped by the other.

But if the past is foggy, the present is not. We do know what is now,
and has for a long time been, a shocking list of what she must not be
allowed to do.

She cannot own and control her own property, for instance, except here
and there in the world. Perhaps the theory was that she could not create
property. But one would have said that such of it as she inherited she
had as sound a right to as that that her brother inherited. But no such
common sense notion prevailed. No matter how she came by it, it became
her husband's as soon as she married. The law has always behaved as if
a woman became a half-wit the moment she married. Seeing what she
deliberately lost by it, perhaps the law is right. She lost control of
her possessions, including herself. She lost her citizenship, and she
lost her name, though this by custom and not by law. And finally, she
never could acquire control even over her own children, which certainly
she did create. We do not know how many of these disabilities would have
been excused on the ground that they were for her own good. It seems
likelier that they came under the head of that fine old abstraction, the
general good. No longer back than 1914, H. G. Wells, in "Social Forces
in England and America" observed that they would probably never be
able to give women any real freedom because there were the children
to consider. Mr. Wells did not appear to know that he was bridging a
horrible conflict in terms with a pretty fatuity. Nor did he later give
himself pause when, towards the end of the book, he complained that all
the babies were being had by the low grade women, while the high grade
ones were quite insensible to their duties.

It was possibly with an unruliness of this kind in contemplation that
the law decided that women should know nothing of birth control.
Now there's a taboo for you. Many of our very best people--the moral
element, so called--will not even speak the words. But that prohibition,
like all the others, has its side door--may one say its small-family
entrance? The women who do not know all there is to know about it are
just those poor, isolated, and ignorant women economically starved who
should be the first to be told.

Consider the quaintest, we think, of all the proscriptions against
women--that they cannot have citizenship in their own right. What is
citizenship if it is not the assumption, made by the State, that because
you were born within it, and had grown used to it and fond of it, and
were attached to it by all the associations of blood ties, friendships,
and what not, you were therefore entitled to take part in it, and could
be called on to give it service? If citizenship is a mere legal figment,
by what right do States send their citizens to war? Yet women are
theoretically transferred, body and bone, heart, memory, and soul, to
whatever country or nation their husbands happen to give allegiance to.
Isadora Duncan, born in California, of generations of Californians,
and American all her life, has lately married a young Russian poet.
Hereafter she must enter her country as an alien immigrant--if it so
happens that the quota is not closed. Does anybody in his senses imagine
that Isadora Duncan has been changed, or could be changed, for better
or worse? An opera singer who was in danger during the war of losing her
position at the Metropolitan Opera House because she was an enemy alien,
went forth and married an American. By that means she was actually
supposed to have been made over into an American. Can naïveté go

For our present purposes we merely want to point out that what is done
to one woman in the name of the public good is craftily used by the next
one to serve her own ends. There is a terrifying proportion of women
in America today who can vote, without knowing a word of our language,
without participating in one particle of our common life, because their
husbands have taken on American citizenship. They wouldn't be allowed to
become American citizens if they wanted to, by any other means.

There are scores and scores of these legal absurdities conscripting
the activities of women. Twenty books could be written about them, and
probably will be. But we must leave them, with such representation as
these few instances afford, and go from, the body of taboos that are
done in the name of the good of the State, to that collection done for
Woman's own personal good.

Some of these are legal and some are not, but they are all operative.
They are all things she has to go around, or under. She cannot serve on
juries. She is always righteously barred from courtrooms when there
is to be testimony concerning sex. Woman, the mother of children, the
realist of sex compared to whom the most sympathetic of males is at best
an outsider, is to be "protected" from a few scandalous narratives. Of
course all women know that they are barred from juries not because the
happenings in court would shock or even surprise them, but because they
would embarrass their far more sensitive and finicky men. So what they
wish to know of court proceedings, they learn from their good men, in
the pleasant privacy of their homes. If the juries are so much the worse
for this sort of thing, and they are, the matter cannot be helped by the
ladies, dear knows, and the men would die almost any death liefer than
that of ravaged modesty.

Probably the most ungrateful of the restrictions on females is that
forbidding them to hold office in churches. This has been put on all
sorts of high grounds, chief among them being that women could do so
much abler work in little auxiliaries of their own. This contention was
challenged about two years ago in the House of Commons, by Maud Royden,
the English Lay Evangelist to whom the pulpits of London are forbidden,
with one or two exceptions. Miss Royden, whose preaching was being
bitterly opposed by several members of the House, annoyed them all
considerably by saying that the Church of England had already had two
women as its absolute head. This was denied in a great sputter, to which
Miss Royden replied, "How about Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria?"
Well, this happened to be something that nobody could gainsay, but into
the wrathy silence which followed, one member of the House rose to his
feet and let the cat right out of the bag. If women were given church
authority, he said, they would refuse to accept their husbands'
authority in their homes, and England would go to rack and ruin. This is
one of the few recorded occasions when a taboo-er so far forgot himself,
and American church potentates do not like to be reminded of it. Within
a month, one of the Protestant sects in this country has given women the
right to hold minor offices, but three others, in general convention,
refused even to consider it.

Again we are going to rest our case on selected instances, and return
to a consideration of how these walled-in women have learned to live
comfortably and with some self-respect behind the garrison wall. It is
this, after all, which they must now teach their men.

The first thing that happened to the woman who married was that she
became legally non-existent. But though she was scratched off the public
books, she couldn't exactly be scratched out of her husband's scheme of
general well-being. Neither could the race make great strides without
her. After everything in the world had been done to make her as harmless
as possible, she still remained non-ignorable. Two courses were open to
her; and she has always used whichever of the two was necessary at the
time. She could be so sweet and beguiling, so full of blandishments,
that man rushed out to bring her all and more than she had been
prohibited from having. Or she could terrify him, both by her temper and
her biological superiority, into stopping his entire precious machinery
against her, and thanking his stars that he could get off with a whole

Of course these things have not always worked out just so. There have
been the tragic mischances. But in the main, an oppressed people learn
how to outsmile or outsnarl the oppressor. The Eighteenth Amendment may
yet live to wish it was dead. Mr. Volstead seems to have believed that
the nonsenseorship game was new and exciting, and could be trusted to
carry itself by storm. Not while the ancient wisdom of long-borne bans
and communicadoes looked out of the female eye. There was a body of
experts in existence of whom, apparently, he had never even heard.

He never once thought how the twentieth century was to become known
as the Century of The Home, with the home brew, and the subscription
editions, and the sagacities of women. If he should complain that there
is no honor and fine living in all of this, we shall have to agree with
him. But we can answer that by guile we have preserved our joys, and
cleared our way out from the shadows of his big totem pole. If we have
but little magnificence, we have as much as anybody can ever have who
is hounded by the legal virtues. And if we may keep a little gaiety for
life, by that much do we make him bite the dust. It isn't pretty, but
it's art.


[Illustration: Wallace Irwin composing under the influence of synthetic
gin and Andrew Volstead.]


I--_First Round_

   Prune extract and bright alcohol, so wooden
     One kills its flavor in rank fusel oil!
   C2-H3-HO--a rather good 'un
     To mix with fruity syrups in our toil
   To give our social meetings after dark
   Their necessary spark!
   And you, most heavenly twins,
     Born of one mother--
   Although our woe begins
   When, through our mortal sins,
     We can't tell which from 'tother--
   And Methyl!
   Like Ike
   And Mike
   Strangely you look alike.
   Like sisters I have met
   You're very hard to tell apart--and yet
   The one consoles more gently than a wife;
   The other turns and cripples you for life.

   Such spirits as these, and many more I summon
   From many a poisoned tin,
   Or many a bottle falsely labelled "Gin."
   Or many a vial pathetic,
   Yclept "Synthetic."
   Like Dante on his joy-ride Seeing Hell,
   Fain would I take you down
   Through sulphurous fires and caverns bilious brown
   Into the Land of Mystery and Smell
   Where Satan steweth
   And home-breweth
   While thirsty hooch-hounds yell
   Their blackest curse,
   Or worse:
   "Vol-darn our souls with each Vol-blasted dram
   That burns our throats and isn't worth a dam!
   We drink, yet how we dread it--
   Vol-stead it!"
     They've said it.

II--_Short Intermission to Change Meter_

   In Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-three
   A. Lincoln set the darkies free;
   In Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen
   A. Volstead muzzled the canteen
   And freed the millions, great and small,
   From bondage to King Alcohol.

   Was it not thoughtful, good and kind
   For such a man of such a mind
   To show an interest so grand
   In his misguided native land?
   And don't these statements illustrate
   Our Nation's progress up to date?
   We're freedom-loving and we're brave
   And simply cannot stand a slave.
   And when a crisis needs a man
   From Mass, or Tex. or Conn, or Kan.
   That man steps forward, firm of chin--
   So Andrew Volstead came from Minn.

   He came from Minn, to show the world
   That gin is wrong
   And rye is strong
   And Scotch to limbo should be hurled.
   Thus with his spotless flag unfurled
   He went against the Demon Rum
   Who snarled, "I vum!"
   Got sort of numb,
   Rolled up his eyes, lay down and curled
   While all the saints of heaven above
   (Including Mr. Bryan's Dove)
   Cried "Rah-rah-rah!
   And siss-boom-ah!
   Three cheers for Health and Christian Love!
   But, Andrew dear--
   Say, now, look here!
   You're not including wine and beer!"

   Then Andrew Volstead squared his chin
   And answered briefly, "Sin is sin."
   No compromise
   With the King of Lies!
   Both liquor thick and liquor thin
   We'll cease to tax
   And use the axe
   Invented by the Man from Minn.
   For right is right and wrong is wrong--
   A spell has cursed the world too long.

   The curse of drink--
   Stop, friends, and think
   How, reft of spirits weak or strong,
   My Nation will be purified
     Of all corruptions vile.
   The lamb and lion, side by side,
     Will smile and smile and smile.
   The workman when his day is o'er
   Will hurry to his cottage door
     To kiss his loving wife;
   He'll lay his wages in her hand
   And peace will settle on the land
     Without a trace of strife.
   The criminals will cease to swarm,
   Forgers and burglars will reform
   And minor crimes will so abate
   That lower courts--now open late--
   Will close and let the magistrate
     Go to the zoo
     Or read _Who's Who_.
   In short I do anticipate
   A thinner, cooler human race,
   Its system cleansed of every trace
     Of inner fire
     And hot desire
   And passions spurring to disgrace.
   "'Tis simple," said the Man from Minn.,
   "To cure the world of mortal sin--
     Just legislate against it."
   Then up spake Congress with a roar,
   "We never thought of that before.
     Let's go!"
           And they commenced it.

III--_Tone Picture's Suggesting Conditions in U. S. A. Some Two Years
After Alcoholic Stimulants Had Been Legislated out of Business_


   Grandma's sitting in her attic,
   Oiling up her automatic.
   Mid-Victorian is her style,
   Prim yet gentle is her smile
   As she fits the cartridges
   One by one, and softly says:

   "Grandson is a Dry Enforcer.
     Grandpa is a Legger--
   All for one and one for all--
     I'll never die a beggar.
   Bill brings booze from Montreal,
     Grandpa lets him through--
   Oh, life's been rosy for us folks
     Since the red-light laws went blue."


  Pretty Sadie, aged fourteen,
   To a lamp-post clings serene.
   "What's the matter?" some may ask.
   On her hip she wears a flask
   Labelled "Tonic for the Hair"--
   "Hic," says Sadie, "we should care!"

  "Father is a corner druggist--
     Why should I abstain?
   Brother is a counterfeiter,
     Printing labels plain.
   I can buy grain alcohol
     As all the neighbors do;
   And if you treat me right I'll lend
     My formula to you."


   Sits the plumber, man of metal.
   Joining gas-pipes to a kettle.
   'Neath the bed his wife is lying
   Rather silent--she is dying
   From some gin her husband gave her.
   He's too busy now to save her.

   "Things," he sings, "are looking upward;
     I am making stills.
   Soon we'll cook the stuff by wholesale,
     Running twenty 'mills.'
   What we make and how we make it
     Doesn't cut no ice.
   Anything you sell in bottles
     Brings the standard price."


   In the gutter, quite besotted,
   Lies the drunkard, sadly spotted.
   People pass with unmoved faces--
   Why remark such commonplaces?
   Just another Volstead duckling,
   Rolling in the gutter chuckling:

   "Over seas of milk and water,
     Angels' wings a-flappin',
   Now we're purified and holy,
     Things like me can't happen.
   Liquor's gone and gone forever--
     Even the word is lewd:
   Otherwise there's somethin' makes me
     Feel like I was stewed."

IV--_Finale--A Short Interview with the Human Stomach_

   Last night as I lay on my pillow,
     Last night when they'd put me to bed
   I spoke to my dear little tummy
     And wept at the words that I said:

   "My sensitive, beautiful tummy
     That once was so rosy and pure!
   My dainty, fastidious tummy--
     O what have you had to endure?

   "You once were inclined to be fussy;
     You turned at inferior rye;
   You moped at a dubious vintage
     And shrieked if the gin wasn't dry.

   "But now you are covered with bunions
     And spongy and morbid and blue;
   You bite in the night like an adder--
     O say, what has happened to you?"

   Then my sullen and sinister tummy
     Rose slowly and spoke to my brain;
   "Say, boss, what's the stuff you've been drinking
     That fills me with nothing but pain?

   "Today you had 'cocktails' for luncheon--
     They tasted like sulphured cologne.
   They--were followed by poisonous highballs
     That fell in my depths like a stone.

   "I am dripping with bootlegger brandy,
     I ooze with synthetical gin;
   And the beer that you make in the kitchen--
     Ah, dire are the wages of sin!

   "The cursed saloon has departed,
     And well we are rid of the plague;
   But I'm weary of furniture polish
     With the counterfeit label of Haig.

   "Yea, gone is the old-fashioned brewery
     And the gilded cafe is no more...."
   Here my tummy jumped over the pillow
     And fell in a fit on the floor,


[Illustration: Robert Keable urging the Automaton called Citizen to turn
on his oppressor.]


I knew a man, about a year ago, who published a novel upon which the
critics fell with such fury this side the water at least, that whether
in the body or out of the body, such was ultimately his state
of bewilderment, he could not tell, and if I am asked to discuss
"Prohibitions, Inhibitions and Illegalities" it is natural that
the incident should be foremost in my mind. True, it is becoming
increasingly the fashion for a parson to preach a sermon without
announcing text, but modern preaching, like brief bright brotherly
breezy modern services, does not seem to cut much ice. Therefore we will
hark back to the manner of our forefathers and take the incident for a
text. It affords an admirable example of nonsenseorship.

As is always done in approved sermons (but humbly entreating your
forbearance, which is less common) let us consider the context, let
us review the circumstances of the case in point. Our author left the
lonely heart of Africa for the theatre of war in France. He left a
solitude, a freedom, a beauty, of which he had become enamoured, for
that assemblage of all sorts of all nations, in a cockpit of din and
fury, known as the Western Front. He expected this, that, and the other;
mainly he found the other, that, and this. Being desirous of serving
the God of things as they are, he pondered, he observed, and, his
heart burning within him, he wrote. He had no opportunity of writing in
France, so he wrote on his return, away up in the Drakensberg mountains,
alone, with the clean veld wind blowing about him and the nearest town
an hour's ride away, and that but three houses when he reached it. He
had seen vivid things and it chanced he was able to write vividly. There
were twenty chapters in his novel and he wrote them in twenty days.

The novel finished, the MS. of it was despatched to nine publishing
firms in succession, who silently but swiftly refused it. It only went
to the tenth at all because there is luck in a round number, and it
found a home because it found a free man. On the eve of its appearance,
it was hung up for a month because it was felt that whereas the
booksellers might display a book containing a certain passage which
referred to a woman's bosom, they would not do so if it contained a
plural synonym. (I offer abject apologies for these dreadful details.)
And when it finally appeared, the main portion of the English Press
cried to heaven against it, and a smaller section clamoured for
disciplinary action. For a hectic month the author, who had simply and
plainly written of things as they were, honestly without conception that
anyone existed who would doubt their truth or the obvious necessity for
saying them, sat amazed before the storm.

Now that incident, unimportant to the world at large as it is, does
afford an admirable example of that censorship which is about us at
every turn. True, in this case, the official censor remained silent.
Although prepared to read passages from Holy Scripture in the
witness-box, and challenge a denial of the facts, the author was not
called upon to do so. He had previously given slight hints of the truth
about the racial situation in South Africa in another book and had had
that volume censored out of existence, but perhaps because this present
work merely touched on morals the official censor decided to give him
rope with which to hang himself.

He was hung, of course, rightly and convincingly, hung by the neck
till he was dead. Thus a clergyman who took the book from a circulating
library because of its Scriptural title, and whose daughters wrapped it
in _The Church Times_ and read it over the week-end, declined to meet
him at dinner. A bishop cut him in the street. Very rightly and properly
too. The book honestly, simply, undisguisedly, told the truth. Since
then America has been good enough to recognise it.

But this is at least the first consideration of British censorship
today: it must suppress the truth about most of the important things in
life. Take the allied case of the Unknown Warrior. We are told that
he was a crusader, that he was glad to die in a noble cause, that his
valour deserved the Victoria Cross and his religion Westminster Abbey.
In short he was a saint. But, one protests (a bit bewildered because it
sounds so good) that was not the man I knew. The man I knew lived next
door and was a damned good chap. The man I knew chucked up his business
and left his home and risked his life because everybody was doing it,
because it seemed there was a real mess-up, because one had to.

Also, it was a change. Oddly enough, Adam goes out from a modern office
or a modern factory in order to hoe up weeds in the sweat of his brow
and in danger of his life with barely a regret for the Paradise he has
to leave. Besides Eve went with him. God, there were Eves in France!
Women who knew how to make a man forget, women who didn't count the
cost, women who loved for love's sake. And for this and other causes,
the Unknown Warrior was extraordinarily bored at having to die, except
that he came not to care so much so long as he was sure he was only to
be asked to die. As for his valour--Well, said he, it's no use grousing,
and if it's a question of bayonets, it had better be mine in the other
chap's stomach. Besides we English-speaking peoples don't shout about
our valour. And as for religion--Well, if there's a God why doesn't He
stop this bloody war, or, anyway, where the blazes is He?

There you are. It's abominable to write like that. Here it is in print;
isn't it disgraceful? You see, it happens to be true. But if men said
that, loud enough and enough of them, there would be no more wars. No
more wars? There would be no more Downing Street either, and an American
army would march, as like as not, on Washington. Disgraceful! It's so
disgraceful that I am not sure, as I write, that this article will ever
be printed.

Now since the War it is noticeable that the spirit of censorship has
very visibly increased its activities among us. There is little doubt of
that and there is little doubt of the reason for it. The War, by tearing
down shams and by stripping men and women to the essentials, forced many
to see things as they are. The old lies were no use in that hour, nor
the old conventions and beliefs. Men learned to look beyond them, and
they learned not to be afraid to look. Partly it was no use being afraid
in the War and men got out of the habit, and partly, having looked,
they saw something so much better ahead. Or again the trend of modern
civilisation was so unarguably revealed in all the stark horror of its
inhumanity that men saw suddenly that it was better to be brave and
revolt and be killed than be cowardly and submit and live.

A great many of those who saw did not survive to tell the tale, but some
did. There are more men and women about today who are not to be put off
with humbugs than ever there were before. Such folk make up an element
in Society which the censors know to be something more than dangerous.
They are men who cannot easily be bribed for they have seen through the
worth of the bribe, who cannot be intimidated because they no longer
fear, and who cannot be cheated because they have seen true values.
Hence your new censorship and its methods. Rebels must be drowned in a
babble of words. They must be suppressed by the action of the unthinking
masses rolled up upon them. They must be ground to powder lest they
should turn the world upside down.

That, then, is the basis of censorship. Fear. You can do most things in
England today except tell the truth, or, at any rate, except tell the
truth in such a way that people will believe you. At the time of the
French Revolution there was a broadsheet in circulation which showed on
one side Louis XVI in his coronation robes. He was a fine figure of a
man. His flowing wig descended majestically to his broad shoulders and
his shapely leg, thrust forth, dominated a world. But on the reverse, a
pimply shrunken figure emerged from the bath. Shortly after publication
they had a revolution in France.

Now the War circulated such another broadsheet in the world. Here is
the official side of it. Marriage is made in heaven. Politicians are
earnest, devoted men. One's own country always fights for Right
without Fear and without Reproach. Millionaires are nearly always
philanthropists. Capitalism is a just, kindly, and reasonable basis
for Society. The General Confession has become the national prayer of
Englishmen. Modern Civilisation is thoroughly healthy and every day it
gets better and better. It is so. It must be so. _What's that?_ You have
known a politician. . . . Your friend is married and. . . . Brother, it
is impossible. You must not say so anyway: the whole fabric of Society
will be shaken. You must not think so for a moment.

_You must not think so_. That is the creed of the new censorship. And
very sensible, too. It is an odd thing that the Middle Ages of the
Inquisition were so nonsensical, judged by our standards. Grand
inquisitors cared remarkably little how a man thought provided he did
not say what he thought too publicly. If he went to church once a
year he might be a Jew for all their interference. If he signed the
Thirty-nine Articles he might use a rosary in his own home. If Columbus
thought the world was round, he was welcome to go and see, but if
Galileo said that the Church was wrong for saying the world was flat,
there was nothing for it but to shut him up in prison. It was all rather
stupid, but it was interesting.

For above all things, the limits of censorship were well defined.
Censorship was based on hypotheses. It was conceived that Almighty God
had established St. Peter as a censor of public faith and morals, but
it was not maintained that he was established as the censor of art and
literature and life. There was thus originality in all these affairs. In
a mediaeval town every house was different, in a mediaeval cathedral
no two pillars were alike, and in the dress of a mediaeval crowd was
captured the colours of the rainbow. With an odd result. Men laughed at
the devil in the freedom of their souls. They tweaked his tail on carven
misericords, and in the mystery play he was invariably cast for the

Further, and in close accord with this, a pleasant feature of the old
Inquisition was that it tried and burnt you for the good of your own
soul, and despite all calumnies and mis-representations on the part of
later writers, that remained to the end the main motive of the rack
and of the stake. Personally I find it hard to suppose that some such
consideration in any way lightened the last hours of the victim, but at
least it enlightens our judgment of the inquisitor. Heresy was to him,
quite honestly, a form of lunacy. Public opinion agreed with him. It was
a species of moral and mental hydrophobia, and the mass of men no more
desired to be converted to heresy than we desire to be bitten by mad
dogs. In their simple souls they abhorred and feared the thing. They
attended an auto-da-fé as an act of faith, piety, and rejoicing. They
might have been a Paris crowd watching the last hours of such a social
pest and terror as Landru, except that it probably occurred to few of
the Parisian sightseers to pray for that murderer's soul.

But the modern Inquisition, the neo-censorship, is out, not to save my
soul, but the souls of my contemporaries. It does not imagine that I am
preaching a hideous thing from which all men will revolt; it imagines
that I am offering them something which they will gladly and readily
accept. It does not judge me and my sayings and doings from the
standpoint of an accredited representative of society, but from the
standpoint of a non-accredited governor of society. It silences me for
fear that I may be followed, not lest I should be damned. It does not
censor me for speaking or acting against an established order in which
everyone believes, but for speaking or acting against an order in
which practically everyone has ceased to believe. "Burn him," cried
Torquemada; "he has spoken what no one thinks." "Bury him," cries your
modern censor; "he has thought what no one speaks."

Thus, today, the point is that you may not think. All the energies of
the censorship are bent towards the prohibition of thought. For one
penny, every morning, even if you are an Englishman in Paris, a daily
newspaper will tell you what to think and castigate you if you think
otherwise. No, it is three halfpence in Paris. But that is the idea.
That is the great conspiracy. Certain news-items are regaled to me,
certain news-items are suppressed, in order that I may not think amiss.
Certain books are refused me, certain plays must not be produced,
certain fashions are taboo, certain things may not be done, lest, by any
chance, I should form the habit of thinking, lest I should step out
of the throng and be myself. Lest I should make a venture of personal
opinion, and be right.

The odd thing is that the average man lends himself to the deception and
even plays his part in the great game. Of course he is not altogether to
blame. The psychology of the method is so truly conceived. It is dinned
into him so repeatedly that things are so, that black is white and white
is black, that if you see it in Bottomley's _John Bull_ it is so, that
he honestly comes to believe the bunkum. For he, too, fears at his
heart. He is a conservative animal. Men used to burn a heretic because
they believed in God; now they censor him out of existence because if
they did not believe in the Northcliffe press they would have
nothing whatever in which to believe. Men used to believe in the Ten
Commandments; now they accept Prohibition because if they did not accept
some authority they would have to govern themselves. Men used to believe
the Bible; now they believe the daily papers because if they did not
they would be compelled to lift up their eyes and look on life.

But Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the whole truth and nothing but the
truth a while ago. "If you teach a man to keep his eyes upon what others
think of him, unthinkingly to lead the life and hold the principles of
the majority of his contemporaries you must discredit in his eyes the
authoritative voice of his own soul. He may be a docile citizen; he
will never be a man." And Bernard Shaw was not far out when, in the
Introduction to _Man and Super-Man_, he pointed out what amiable honest
gentlemen the free-booters who built the Rhine castles were compared
with your modern millionaires, newspaper-owners, and political bosses.
The robber-baron risked his neck. The robber-baron played a game. The
robber-baron mostly warred on his own mates who were also playing the
game. But the robber-baron of today would enslave the souls of men
because he has forgotten how else to enjoy himself.

The net result then is that we are fast abandoning any attempt to think
for ourselves. Not merely is any attempt at original thought or action
cleverly stifled with pillows much as the princes were smothered in the
Tower, but the censors of our freedom shout so loudly and supply us with
mental goods so cheaply that in the end we have no real mental power
of choice left. A million advertisements tell me that all decent people
shave with Apple-Blossom soap, and with Apple-Blossom soap I shave. A
score of papers tell me Germany is undertaxed and can pay Reparations,
and I sit quiet while France occupies the Ruhr. Or vice-versa, as the
case or another may be. Every child goes to school and every school is
under Government control and every Government teaches that it is good
for you to be governed and for the world that it should govern. A few
years ago we were told that we had to be organised and schooled and
managed because the nation was at war, but the thing is fast becoming a
habit, and we have now to be managed and schooled and organised because
the nation is at peace.

It is indeed just here that censorship has gone mad. It must have been
horribly unpleasant to burn at the stake, but at least you had the
satisfaction of knowing that the man who lit the faggots had some shadow
of reason behind him. He had at least an hypothesis. He acted reasonably
in its application. He believed something; he believed it with some
horse-sense; and he acted as the saviour of Society. But today our
censors have nothing behind them. No one supposes them to be more moral,
more charitable, more instructed than other men; still less does anyone
suppose them to be more inspired or dowered with divine right. They do
not defend a faith for which they, too, would die; they merely bolster
up a position because in so doing they find bread and butter. They do
not object to innovators because what they innovate is bad; they object
to innovators because they innovate. They do not object to us because
they believe that we tell lies; they object because they know that we
tell the truth.

This, then, is all very well, but what is the end to be? The theologians
have always said that Almighty God left man free to sin because He
did not want automatons. It is exactly here, however, that your modern
censors improve on the Deity. They do want automatons. Only automatons
will face liquid fire and poison gas. Only automatons will live in a
jerry-built cottage in a modern town and pay heavily for the privilege.
Only automatons will vote correctly at elections and keep the political
business going and allow everything to run on smoothly for the next war.
Only automatons will agree to the lengthening of skirts from the knee
to the ankle. And only automatons will acquiesce in a system of morality
which is not built on divine revelation or even on social necessity, but
on exploded superstitions and sex domination and the conventions of the
propertied classes.

Thus the devil is coming surely hut steadily into his own. We have
already half-accepted an inverted order, allowing that all the good
tunes are his and attributing to him things which he knows well enough
he has no right to call his own. In a few years we shall neither use
tobacco nor the grape, gifts of the good God, nor dance nor choose our
own clothes nor laugh nor think. We shall scurry hither and thither
before the flick of the devil's tail and be ready for the burning. We
shall have sold our birthright of daring for an insipid mess of pottage:
sold our right to choose and to spare, to slay and to leave alive, to be
glad and to be sorry, to be martyrs if we would be, to explore, to risk,
to win. We shall be docile and respectable, and the standard of our
docility and respectability will have been set by men no better and no
worse than we are. We shall be sober by act of Parliament, and moral--if
it be morality--because we have lost the notion of being anything else.
We shall be of no use whatever to God, and precious small beer for the

And is there no way of escape? There truly is, Let any man ask the first
censor that he sees by what authority he is censoring and who gave him
that authority. Let him ask by what standards he is judging and in whose
interests, and let him tell him what he thinks of his standards and
interests. Let him say BOO and see how foolish the goose can look.
Laugh, for Neo-Puritanism cannot stand laughter. Much else it can stand,
but not that. Don't argue; the old enemy is mighty good at words. Don't
hit; there are few of you strong enough. But laugh, laugh honestly, and
go on laughing, for it is the only invincible weapon in the world. There
is no more merry music either, and it is the melody for--Men.


[Illustration: Helen Bullitt Lowry watching Puritanism set the Flapper


Two generations ago the girl was "damned." One generation ago she was
"ruined." Now, according to the best authorities and her own valuation,
she has just played out of luck.

So that for the reformers and prohibitionists, the censors and the
woman's club resolutionists! Their bi-product is Miss Twentieth Century
Unlimited, the one uninhibited creature in a Volsteaded civilisation.
Controls--of liquor and of birth--have given us The Flapper. The
official reformers, reinforcing the sagging inhibitions and corsets of
the nineteenth century, were just the final impetus needed to drive her
out into the open.

The flapper is released from the strangle hold that is throttling the
rest of us. If somebody makes a law for her, she promptly and blithely
breaks it, the pocket flask for the moment being the outward and visible
sign of the spirit--and spirits--of her wide-flung rebellion. It is the
milepost between the time that was and the time that is, that flask, and
to it we owe the single standard of drinking.

A half generation ago the sub-debs did not indulge in anything more
relaxing than coca cola. And even first and second year debbies did
their drinking from glasses issued by the hostess, not in triplicate. If
a young man of the period imported a flask from the outside, that young
man was promptly dropped from polite society, no matter how stringent
was the shortage of dancing beaux. They called a flask a "bottle of
whiskey" in those days.

Wild oats were reserved for the boys at college. If you were of Eve's
sheltered sex, you really had to become a member of the Fast Young
Married Crowd before you could get a look in. That Fast Young Married
Crowd was the first to come out of the biological fastnesses of the
Mid-Victorian era into the cocktails and jazz of our Mid-Victrolian

Moral: You had to keep yourself the kind of a girl you'd been told a
man wanted to marry, if you ever wanted to join in a cocktail party and
slide down the banisters uninhibited--as rumor had it the Fast Young
Married Crowd was doing on its orgies. Over the border of matrimony lay
the mysteries of the gay wild life.

In that era before our morals were legislated, being "that kind of a
girl" was a trying responsibility. There was an approved technique that
every wise virgin had to master. It consisted of letting each man, on
whom she conferred her favors, think that she really was in love with
him. She called it "being engaged." And,--if perchance she came to
possess a harem of fiancés,--remember that the young things of the
period were not so well able to conduct their own courtings as our
present-day emancipated flappers. They still had to depend on what the
tide washed in. They still did their picking from those that picked
them--and sorted 'em over at their leisure.

Then, too, a half generation ago, we had not read our Freud. We did not
know the jargon of sex. Both man and girl were apt to call "in love" the
emotion which our present-day young things frankly call something else.
Thus came it that the petting parties of the period operated under the
left wing of a near-engagement.

Yet there was a weakness to the system. Each fiance had the lordly
impression that he "possessed" the lady of his choice. And the minute
the male feels that he possesses a woman, he can get all the psychology
of "riding away" and leaving her. Our Freudian flappers are better
strategians. Man simply can't labor under the impression that he
possesses a young person, if her lingo is calling the once sacred kiss
just a "flash of pash." Applied slang is a great leveller of romance.

For times have changed since it was good form for a maid to avoid the
crass mention of sex. With prohibition has come such an outburst of Get
Moral Quick legislation that the reaction is now being felt throughout
the length and breadth of the flapper. The legislators would lengthen
the skirts to protect the defenceless male from a chance thought of
legs and the like. Whereat the flapper retaliates by conversing pretty
ceaselessly about--well, say associated subjects.

Last season the writer, being of the genus Successfully Single, woke up
with a start to realize that two desirables had toyed with her hook--and
retreated. One of them had even exited, uttering a fatal accusation
about a "trammelled soul." Such a warning calls for a taking of stock.
And this is what I found: Because of the flappers and the way they run
shop, the whole technique of the man game has changed. My method, alas,
had become as out of style as a pompadour Gibson hat. Where once girls
pretended to know less and to have experienced less than they actually
had, now they pretend to more. Therein lie all the law and the social
profits. Therefore Rule One of these dauntless rebels reads: It is not
an insult but a compliment for an admirer to explain that his intentions
are frankly carnivorous.

To my ten-year-old technique had still been clinging the cobwebs of
the past, when even Launcelot's intentions were painted as slightly
honorable. But now--the shades of Alfred Lord Tennyson help us!--it has
become the smart procedure to take Man's bold bad intentions right out
into the conversation and pretend to be tempted by them.

The truth of the matter is that those pseudo-engagements of the fox-trot
decade really were furnishing a charge account psychology. Man could
close his eyes and whisper, "Some day, my own," and still go nicely on a
_Ladies' Home Journal_ cover design of "Under the Mistletoe." But, when
our flapper is not even pretending to him that she is going to marry
him, and when he is not even pretending to himself that he is going to
marry her--well, the whole sex game has then been put on a frank cash
and carry basis.

Mark well, however, these worldly-wise young things of this the third
year of our Prohibition are not necessarily less virtuous technically
than their own crinolined grandmothers. Only these days they are not
bragging about their virtue.

"And have all the men afraid of you, for fear they'll be responsible for
teaching you something," explains one practical miss. "Men like to find
you in stock, ready-taught. We know how to take care of ourselves--so
we let them think what they want." In short, the whole new game, as
the earnest disciple from the half generation ago learned it, is not to
reveal the dark secret that you abide by the Ten Commandments. Man must
not suspect that you are unattainable. He must just think that he has
not attained you--yet. If you want to compete with the flappers, you've
got to play by the flapper rules. Check your conversational inhibitions!

And if by chance there be any inhibitions left over, Prohibition has
obligingly introduced new opportunities for privacy, that will help
you check them too. When a couple strays off now from group formation,
there's a perfectly good alibi available of finding a sheltered spot for
a drink. Where once it really wasn't good form to go to a man's hotel
room, now it is the national custom for the owner of hootch to register
a casket for his jewel--and then invite the young things in, one by one.
A flapper these nights can retire to that hotel bedroom for an hour in
the middle of a dance. The girl is not "talked about," and the place
is not "pulled." Even the house detective knows that she is innocently
drinking a drink.

Thus has this rebel young generation forced out into the open country
with it all the contented young women in their late twenties and early
thirties, who may not have been feeling rebellious at all. And the wives
of forty-five also, to compete all over again for their own husbands.
For "poaching" on the wifely preserves has become the favorite flapper

"Married men," having been forbidden to unmarried young persons for
three chaste generations, our flappers, bi-product of inhibition, are
promptly appropriating the husbands. This one item of the flapper raid
on the married men has done more than the entire twentieth century put
together to change the smug structure of American society, and bring us
back to normalcy.

Before 1865 no Southern belle considered herself worth her salt unless
all the courtly old married men in the country kissed her hand and
competed with the young blades for her quadrilles. But when black
persons stopped buttoning up the shoes of the Quality, America entered
upon her 1870's, her sombre brown stone fronts, and her cloistered
husbands. The money for doing society had simply passed into the hands
of the descendants of Miles Standish and Priscilla, who carried their
consciences into their sober mansions with them. The Age of Innocence
was upon us, and has clung close ever since.

From that fatal day on to 1917 each oncoming debutante was taught by her
mother to give unto the genus, married man, her most impersonal manner,
lest she provoke his "undesirable attentions." If poaching was done, it
was from behind a tree. Unmarried girls knew that their place was not
in somebody else's home in those days. The wives could protect their
preserves by the simple expedient of "talking about" any unmarried young
female caught on the married reservations.

And so it came to pass that the pick of the men were posted, because,
as fast as a callow youth gets worth marrying, somebody promptly marries
him. The Fast Young Married Crowd was a closed corporation and played
exclusively within itself; the female of the species had to compete only
with females of equal tonnage. The only sylph-like temptation that a
husband could encounter was a dissolute person whose reputation had
already been ruined--and she didn't count, because nobody invited her to
parties anyway. A wife could get as fat as she wanted to in those days.

Even today that same leisurely life might exist for the wives. Even
today the wives might be resting their feet under the bridge tables,
secure in the consciousness that no bobbed haired young poacher was
daring to dance with their husbands, if they had just let prohibitions
enough alone--if they had only not been swept away by the high sport of
gossiping about our Wild Young People, which struck the country in the
summer of 1920. This gossip was an intrinsic phase of the virtue wave
which always immediately precedes a crime wave.

The wives just at this point, instead of sitting tight, made the
strategic mistake of turning the full force of the ammunition of gossip,
which should have been saved for defending husbands from poachers, into
an offensive attack on the flapper's lip stick, on her cigarettes,
and on her petting parties. Whenever two or three wives were gathered
together, their topic was our Wild Young People. That summer, too,
saw the launching of that now seasoned romance about the checking of
corsets. The resolutions at clubs were being resolved. The preachers
were sermonizing. The up-state legislators were drafting bills against
flappers' smoking cigarettes.

Human nature can be pushed just so far. Instead of reforming, the
young things apparently decided one might as well lose a reputation for
stealing a husband as for smoking a cigarette. The whole arsenal for
combating poachers blew up.

To make matters worse, in the excitement of the virtue wave our Wild
Young People had been attacked as a group instead of as individuals.
That was the second mistake. The whole strength of gossip consists in
selecting one member of the clan for calumny, to stand out disgraced
and alone among her exemplary sisters. Because the flappers had been
gossiped about _en masse_, the whole reason for not being gossiped about
had ceased. The poacher of that half generation ago had been the kind of
a girl who stalked her game alone.

But, when all the girls in town are seeking to steal your husband, what
are you going to do about it, if you are a woman of forty-five with a
heaviness around the hips and a disinclination to learn the camel walk?
Nor can you get the poachers off the scent by crossing the trail with an
eligible bachelor. Logically, the young things should have enough sense
to ignore a preempted husband and attend to the serious business of
getting themselves husbands. But they haven't. They seem to prefer the
husbands of the other women. And curiously, the more they engage in
this exotic sport of poaching, the less keen they become about owning a
property for somebody else to poach on.

The real interstate joke on Puritanism is that the flapper, who flaps
because Puritanism has driven her to it, will automatically bring about
its cure. The whole vitality of Puritanism rests on the unswerving
principle of letting not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth,
if thy left hand is doing something it shouldn't. Puritanism could not
last out a week-end without the able assistance of the standardized
double life.

And that is just what the flappers refuse to respect. They are even
insisting on being taken along on the parties, which, by all the rules
of Rolf and Comstock should be confined to man's double life. Where the
chorus lady was once the only brand that had the proper and improper
equipment to jazz up an evening, now mankind has come to prefer the
flapper, who drinks as much as the Broadwayite, is just as peppy and not
quite so gold-diggish.

"It is so simple," smiles Barbara nonchalantly blowing her smoke rings.
"You old dears set man an impossible standard. As he had always to be
pretending holy emotions whenever he was around you he just naturally
had to get away half the time, to rest the muscles of his inhibitions.
Why, you funny old things actually drove man into his double life, just
as you made all of his best stories have two editions, one for a nice
girl and one for--well say one not so nice. Our crowd has done more than
all of your silly old social hygiene commissions to bring nearer the
single standard--by going part way to meet him."

The preachers are wasting their time when they rail that the flappers
are painting their faces like "fallen women." Of course they are
painting them that way--for the very good reason that mankind has
demonstrated too unmistakably that that kind of woman has "a way with

Not so long ago cosmetics became a moral issue. The curl rag was the
only beautifier that somehow never lost its odor of sanctity--and that
was doubtless because curl rags were a perfectly logical part of the
long-sleeved Canton flannel nightgown civilization. Curls couldn't be so
very wrong when they were so frightfully unbecoming in the making.
And so the "good woman" handed over intact to her weaker sister every
beautifier that the world had been eight thousand years accumulating.

Slowly, timidly the allurements returned. The talcum powder bought for
baby surreptitiously reached the nose. When the half generation ago was
young, we had adopted a certain lip salve, just one shade darker than
the way lips come, explaining, to save our reputations, that we were
keeping our lips from chapping. Rouge too had come coyly, back--but--and
here's the gist of the whole matter--in polite society paint was put on
to imitate nature.

We were still doing our make-up as man conducted his double life--with
intent to deceive the general public. We still belonged at heart to
the Puritan era, in spite of our wicked fox-trot. All may have been
artificial below the neck, from our Gossard corsets with their phalanx
of garters on to our hobble skirts. But above the neck, we pretended it
was natural.

The flapper has changed all that. She has turned the lady up side down,
as well as the world. For the flapper is _au naturale_ below the neck.
Above the neck she is the most artificially and entertainingly painted
creature that has graced society since Queen Elizabeth. With one bold
stroke of a passionately red lip stick, she has painted out Elaine the
Fair and the later-day noble Christie Girl and painted in an exotic
young person, meet to compete alike with a Ziegfield show girl, with a
heaven-born Egyptian princess or even a good Queen Bess, who could not
move her face after it was dressed up for the morning. And Bess was the
Virgin Queen. The American-Victorian is indeed the only era in history
when cosmetics became a moral issue. Even in dour Cromwellian England,
rouge registered the wrong politics but not immorality. We are merely
getting back to normalcy in cosmetics--back behind the dun wall of the
Victorian era.

And it is the flapper who has done it for us. What's more, she has
done it frankly and purposefully--because the reformer, in his naive
innocence, has explained to her that what she is doing is wicked and
will get that kind of "results." Similarly those of 'em who had not yet
taken off their corsets at dances, promptly did so when shocked elders
began repeating the corset checking story. Dear heart, the only reason
that they had not done so before was because the little dears hadn't
heard that the worst people were using ribs instead of whalebone that

Vice would die out from disuse, if the reformers did not advertise.


[Illustration: Frederick O'Brien finds the South Seas purified and
beautified by the Missionaries.]


All over the South Seas the censor has had his day. From New Guinea to
Easter Island, he has made his rules and enforced them. Often he wrote
glowing pages of prose and poetry about his accomplishments, for reading
in Europe and America. He was usually sincere, and determined. He felt
that it was up to him to make over the native races to suit his own
ideas of what pleased God and himself. When he had the lower hand, he
prayed and strove in agony to change the wicked hearts of his flock to
Clapham or Andover standards; he suffered the contumelies of heathen
jibes, and now and again--often enough to make a cartoon popular--he was
hotpotted or baked on hot stones as a "long pig." When he converted the
king or chief, and he always directed his sacred ammunition at the upper
classes, he took advantage of every inch of spiritual and governmental
club put in his hand, and smote the pagan hip and thigh. His sole effort
was to make the South Seas safe for theocracy, and to _strafe_ Satan.

Of course, he was a missionary. It is doubtful if any other urge than a
religious one could have infused into those canny migrants of the past
century the extraordinary zeal that characterized their singular labors
in the exquisite and benighted isles of the tropics.

To leave the melancholy and futuristic atmosphere of seminaries and
bethels where the ghosts and penalties of millions of sins cast down
their hearts, where few baths and drab clothes, dark homes and poor
food, made all conscious of dwelling in a vale of tears, and after half
a year or more of hard, ship fare and the rough discipline of a tossing
windjammer, to find themselves in the most magnificent scenes on the
globe, and amid the richest bounty, was trial enough of the unstable
soul of man. That they--most of them--resisted the temptations of the
tropical demon, that they continued to preach fire and brimstone, to
remain flocked and shod, pantaletted and stayed, is proof enough of
their cementation to the rock of ages.

The men were even subjected to direr spells. They were youths, the rude
boys of farm and hamlet, schooled in simple studies, untried by the
wiles of siren blandishments. If married, their courtships had been
without passion, and their wedded years without competition, and
generally without other incidents than children.

A typical union of this kind I find in an old diary of the wife of one
of the most famous propagandists of the American God in Polynesia. He
was of Yale and Andover, and she of Bradford, the daughter of a Marlboro
deacon. She was twenty-four and he a little older when her cousin called
upon her at her Marlboro home, to ask if she would "become connected
with a missionary now an entire stranger, attach herself to a little
band of pilgrims, and visit the distant land of Hawaii."

"What could I say? We thoroughly discussed the subject. Next week is
the anticipated, dreaded interview of final decision. Last night I could
neither eat nor close my eyes in sleep."

The suitor came. "The early hours of the evening were devoted to
refreshments, to free family sociality, to singing, and to evening
worship. Then one by one the family dispersed, leaving two of similar
aspirations, introduced as strangers, to separate at midnight as
interested friends.

"In the forenoon, the sun had risen high in the heavens, when it looked
down upon two of the children of earth giving themselves wholly to their
heavenly Father, receiving each other from his hand as his good gift,
pledging themselves to each other as close companions in the race of
life, consecrating themselves and their all to a life-work among the

After six months on the wave, she approaches the "land of darkness
whither I am bound. When I reflect on the degradation and misery of
the inhabitants, follow them into the eternal world, and forward to the
great day of retribution, all my petty sufferings dwindle to a point."

They anchor, and "soon the islanders of both sexes came paddling out
in their canoes, with their island fruit. The men wore girdles, and
the women a slight piece of cloth wrapped around them, from the hips
downward. To a civilized eye their covering seemed to be revoltingly
scanty. But we learned that it was a full dress for daily occupation."

The note of nudity this really remarkable woman struck at her first
sight of the welcoming savages, was the keynote of the new domination of
the islands from Hawaii to Australia. The censors were convinced that
it was a state of ungodliness. Their reasoning was based on the fig leaf
tied about them by the first man and woman when they became conscious of
sin, and it proceeded to the logical teaching that the less of the body
exposed the more godly the condition. When they found this nakedness
associated with a relation of the sexes utterly opposed to their own,
and when, especially, the first white wives on the South Sea beaches,
found the joyous, handsome, frolicsome women of the islands, making
ardent love to their husbands, the innate heinousness of bodily bareness
became fixed as a guiding star towards bringing the infidel to the true

Clothe them and sanctify them, became the motto. From the wondrous
Marquesas valleys to the American naval station of Samoa, the bonnet,
the bonnet of a half century ago, is the requirement of decency in
the coral or bamboo church, as it is in the temples of New York. The
nightgown or Mother Hubbard of Connecticut became the proper
female attire for natives in the house of God, and thus, by gradual
establishment of a fashion, in their straw homes, and everywhere.
Chiefesses were induced to don calico, and chiefs the woolen or denim
trousers of refinement. The trader came to sell them, and so business
followed the Bible. Tattooing, which, with the Polynesians and
Melenesians, was probably a race memory of clothing in a less tropical
clime, was condemned bitterly by the white censors as causing nudity. A
man or woman whose legs and body were covered with marvellous arabesques
and gaudy pictures of palms and fish was not apt to hide them under

And here the censor also had an ally in the trader. The two joined,
unwittingly, to break down both the old morale of the pagan and the
new morality of the converts. The censorious cleric said that the Lord
disliked nakedness, or, at least, that unclothedness was unvirtuous,
while the seller of calico and alcohol advised the purchase of his goods
for the sake of style. He ridiculed tattooing and nudity, but he also
laughed with ribaldry at the religious arguments. The confused indigene,
driven by admonition and shame put on the hot and griming stuffs, and
finally, had them kept on him by statute. The censor in the South Seas
achieved his highest reach of holy effort. He had made into law the
_mores_ his sect or tribe had coined into morals, and was able to punish
by civil tribunal the evildoers who refused to abide by his conception
of the divine wish.

But here, old Mother Nature revolted. All over the world it would appear
that she is not in touch with the divinity that shapes the ends of the
censors. The clothing donned by the natives of the South Seas killed
them. They sweated and remained foul; they swam, and kept on their
garments; they were rained on, and laid down in calico and wool,
They abandoned the games and exercises which had made them the finest
physical race in the world, and took up hymn books and tools. The
physical plagues of the whites decimated them. They passed away as the
_tiaré_ Tahiti withers indoors. The censored returned to the rich earth
which had bred them, and taught them its secrets and demands. Only a
mournful remnant remains to observe the censorship.

But the curious spirit of inversion which tries to make the assumed
infinite of a finite nature, which had sacrificed a race to an invented
god, persists even in the South Seas. One of the most distinguished
authors, who has chosen that delectable clime for his researches was
arrested for napping on his own _paepae_ partly clothed. The parson
informed upon him, and the _gendarme_ fined him. In the British South
Seas, where I was recently, prohibition had cast a blight upon the more
poetical whites. I remember one night when my vessel was anchored for a
few hours in the roadstead of a lonely island, a group of civil servants
and a minister of the Church of England had come aboard to buy what
comforts they might from our civilized caravan. They sat on deck
clinking glasses occasionally, talking of cities where a man might
be freed from the "continuous spying of the uncoo good." That was the
phrase they used, being English or Scots, and when the word was passed
that we up-anchored with the turn of the tide at midnight, they sang
in a last burst of lively furor a song of Dionysian regret. One stanza
lingers with me:--

   Whack the cymbal! Bang the drum!
   Votaries of Bacchus!
   Let the popping corks resound,
   Pass the flowing goblet round!
   May no mournful voice be found,
   Though wowzers do attack us!

In the darkness I called to them as they went down the gangway into
their boat, "What is a wowzer?"

"'E's a bloomin' ---- 'oo wants to do unto others wot 'e's bleedin'
well done to 'imself."

The wowzers are more active in Hawaii, the most temperate portion of
Polynesia, than in the Maori isles of New Zealand. A law passed at the
last session of the Hawaiian legislature prohibits "any person over
fourteen years of age from appearing upon the streets of Honolulu in
a bathing suit unless covered suitably by an outer garment reaching at
least to the knees." There is a ferment in Honolulu over the arrest and
punishment of offenders against this new censorship. It is the result
of the control by the spiritual, or perhaps, lineal, descendants of the
first South Sea censors, of the great grand-children of those men who
wore the girdles of leaves at the landing of the Marlboro school teacher
a hundred years ago. The girdle-wearers are members of the Hawaiian
legislature--soon to be succeeded by Japanese-native-born--and the
censors, likely, are wives of financiers and sugar factors. Again the
feeble remnant of the Hawaiian race voted against the girdle.

A friend of mine, grandson of the estimable missionary and his bride of
the New England of a century ago, thus comments upon the law in a paper
sent to me:--

The facts which caused the passage of the law were, that certain
residents of Waikiki were donning their bathing suits at home, walking
across and along the public streets to the sea and returning in the same
state of undress.

If the bathing suits had been of the old-style no objection to this
would have been made. The woman's bathing suit of the olden days were
a cumbrous swaddling garment, high-necked, long-sleeved, full-skirted,
bloomer-breeched and stockinged.

Simultaneously with the outbreak of the street parade era, above noted,
there came with spontaneous-combustion-like rapidity, a radical change
in the style of female bathing suits "on the street at Waikiki."

First the sleeves, then the stockings, then the skirts, then the main
portion of the garment covering the legs, successively disappeared,
until the low-necked, sleeveless, legless one-piece suit became "the
thing"; and women clad in garments scantier than the scantiest on the
ballet stage, were parading Kalakaua avenue in the vicinity of the Moana
hotel, to the scandal and disgust of some; the devouring gaze of others;
and the interested inspection of whomsoever chose to inspect!

It was a startling sight to the uninitiated--probably unduplicated in
any other civilized country.

The South Pacific or the heart of Africa would probably have to be
visited to find virtuous women so scantily clad, making such exhibition
of their persons in public-more particularly on the public streets.

This scantiness of dress became the subject of protest, of
justification, of discussion in press, in public and in private
throughout the community.

The practice was violently attacked as tending to lewdness and scandal;
as vigorously defended as a question of personal taste and liberty, and
as a matter concerning safety and comfort in swimming.

Those "old-style suits" he refers to, "full-skirted, bloomer-breeched"
were the godly ones brought to Hawaii by the censors, but which
gradually disappeared with the influx of rich tourists from America,
and the importation by Honolulu merchants of the flimsier and less
concealing kind. This new generation of whites that has sought escape
from the "cumbrous, swaddling garment" embraces the flapper, who at
Waikiki is a beautiful and wholesome sight. Browned by years of exposure
to the beach sun, charmingly modelled, and with the grace and freedom of
limb of the surf-board rider and canoeist, she has no consciousness of
guilt in her emergence dripping from the sea, in her lying in the breeze
upon the sand, nor in her walks to and from her bungalow nearby. And she
refuses to be censored.

The commentator, proprietor of the oldest newspaper in the islands, and
himself a noted diplomat, lawyer and revolutionist--he took up a rifle
against Liliuokalani--says so:--

The law has been observed by a few, ignored by a few, and caricatured by
the many. It is not an uncommon thing to see a woman walking the streets
in Waikiki in the scantiest of bathing suits, with drapery of the
flimsiest suspended from her shoulders and floating behind upon the

The police have made a few feeble and spasmodic attempts to persuade
observance of the law, with some ill-advised attempts to enforce
individual ideas of propriety on the beach itself.

On the whole, the law is either openly and flagrantly violated or
rendered farcical by the contemptuous manner of its semi-observance.

And, cautiously but firmly, the grandson of the first missionaries to
Hawaii, himself living six decades in Honolulu, a church member and
supporter of all evangelical and commercial progress, gives advice to
the people of his territory. Urging that those opposed to the bathing
suit law try legally to secure its repeal, but that all obey it while it
is on the statute books, he says:--

As to the question of attire on the beach, there are modest and immodest
women to be found everywhere, regardless of their clothes. It is
impossible to legislate modesty into a person who is innately immodest,
and it is therefore useless to try and do so. The attire of a woman on
the beach at Waikiki as well as her conduct elsewhere, should therefore
be left to the individual woman herself.

That is the last word of a very shrewd, wealthy, experienced, religious
son of censors. But wowzerism dies hard in America or in the South Seas.
The Anglo-Saxon American has it in his blood as an inheritance from
the rise of Puritanism four hundred years ago, while with many it is an
idiosyncrasy to be explained by the glands regulating personality. In
fact, I feel that this is the enemy the would-be free must fight. We
must attack and extirpate the wowzerary gland.


[Illustration: Dorothy Parker hating Reformers.]


   I hate Reformers;
   They raise my blood pressure.

   There are the Prohibitionists;
   The Fathers of Bootlegging.
   They made us what we are to-day--
   I hope they're satisfied.
   They can prove that the Johnstown flood,
   And the blizzard of 1888,
   And the destruction of Pompeii
   Were all due to alcohol.
   They have it figured out
   That anyone who would give a gin daisy a friendly look
   Is just wasting time out of jail,
   And anyone who would stay under the same roof
   With a bottle of Scotch
   Is right in line for a cozy seat in the electric chair.
   They fixed things all up pretty for us;
   Now that they have dried up the country,
   You can hardly get a drink unless you go in and order one.
   They are in a nasty state over this light wines and beer idea;
   They say that lips that touch liquor
   Shall never touch wine.
   They swear that the Eighteenth Amendment
   Shall be improved upon

   Over their dead bodies--
   Fair enough!
   Then there are the Suppressors of Vice;
   The Boys Who Made the Name of Cabell a Household Word.
   Their aim is to keep art and letters in their place;
   If they see a book
   Which does not come right out and say
   That the doctor brings babies in his little black bag,
   Or find a painting of a young lady
   Showing her without her rubbers,
   They call out the militia.
   They have a mean eye for dirt;
   They can find it
   In a copy of "What Katy Did at School,"
   Or a snapshot of Aunt Bessie in bathing at Sandy Creek,
   Or a picture postcard of Moonlight in Bryant Park.
   They are always running around suppressing things,
   Beginning with their desires.
   They get a lot of excitement out of life,--
   They are constantly discovering
   The New Rabelais
   Or the Twentieth Century Hogarth.
   Their leader is regarded
   As the representative of Comstock here on earth.
   How does that song of Tosti's go?--
   "Good-bye, Sumner, good-bye, good-bye."

   There are the Movie Censors,
   The motion picture is still in its infancy,--
   They are the boys who keep it there.
   If the film shows a party of clubmen tossing off ginger ale,
   Or a young bride dreaming over tiny garments,
   Or Douglas Fairbanks kissing Mary Pickford's hand,
   They cut out the scene
   And burn it in the public square.
   They fix up all the historical events
   So that their own mothers wouldn't know them.
   They make Du Barry Mrs. Louis Fifteenth,
   And show that Anthony and Cleopatra were like brother and sister,
   And announce Salome's engagement to John the Baptist,
   So that the audiences won't go and get ideas in their heads.
   They insist that Sherlock Holmes is made to say,
   "Quick, Watson, the crochet needle!"
   And the state pays them for it.
   They say they are going to take the sin out of cinema
   If they perish in the attempt,--
   I wish to God they would!

   And then there are the All-American Crabs;
   The Brave Little Band that is Against Everything.
   They have got up the idea
   That things are not what they were when Grandma was a girl.
   They say that they don't know what we're coming to,
   As if they had just written the line.
   They are always running a temperature
   Over the modern dances,
   Or the new skirts,
   Or the goings-on of the younger set.
   They can barely hold themselves in
   When they think of the menace of the drama;
   They seem to be going ahead under the idea
   That everything but the Passion Play
   Was written by Avery Hopwood.
   They will never feel really themselves
   Until every theatre in the country is razed.
   They are forever signing petitions
   Urging that cigarette-smokers should be deported,
   And that all places of amusement should be closed on Sunday
   And kept closed all week.
   They take everything personally;
   They go about shaking their heads,
   And sighing, "It's all wrong, it's all wrong,"--
   They said it.

   I hate Reformers;
   They raise my blood pressure.


[Illustration: Frank Swinnerton contemplating, from the Tight Little
Isle, the two classes of prigs developed by Prohibition; those who
accept it and those who rebel.]


I shall never forget the shock I received when an American woman,
newly arrived in England, gave me her impressions of London. She was
distinctly pleased with the town, and when I rather foolishly asked if
she had been terrified by our celebrated policemen, she said, "Why,
no. I was in a taxicab yesterday, and the driver went right on past the
policeman's hand, stealing round where he'd no business to go. And the
policeman just said, 'Here, where you going? D'you want the whole of
England?' Why, in New York, if he'd done that, he'd have been in prison
inside of five minutes!"

I wonder if it will be understood how terrible disillusion on such a
scale can be. I had been thinking of the United States for so long as
the home of the free and the easy that it was hard to bring myself to
the belief that the police there were both peremptory and severe. I had
thought them all Irishmen of the humorous, or "darlint" type. It seems
I was mistaken. The little--I am now afraid misleading--paragraphs which
from time to time appear in the English papers, saying that there has
been a hold-up on Fifth Avenue, or that the Chief of Police in some
great city has been found to be the head of a gang of international
assassins, that things called Tammany and graft and saloons flourish
there without let or hindrance, had attracted me to the United States.
I wanted to live in such a country. Here, I said, is a place where every
man's hand is for himself, where the revolver plays its true part, and
where, with the aid of a humorous Irish policeman, who will find me
stunned by a sandbag and take me to his little home in 244th Street and
reveal the fact that he is descended from Cuchulain, I can be happy.

At first I thought that my friend must be exaggerating. Not lightly was
I prepared to let my dream go. But I am afraid that my confidence in
America as the home of freedom needs a tonic. She may have been right,
although it seems unbelievable. When I thought the problem out clearly
I came to the conclusion that there was a sinister sound about that
comment upon our policemen. Were they losing control of us? Apparently
not. I had trouble on the road with a policeman over the rear light of
my car. There is no doubt that England is efficiently policed. And so
my mind stole back to America with a new uneasiness. I recollected tales
which I had heard about sumptuary laws regulating the dress of
American women, both in and out of the water. I saw the police invading
restaurants and snatching cigarettes from the mouths of women. I saw
drink being driven underground by Prohibition. I began to question
whether I should really like to live in the United States after all. I
asked those of my friends who had been to America.

They told me that if I visited America I should be regaled privately
with champagne from the huge reserves of private wine-cellars, but that
as a resident I should be forbidden to drink anything that enlivened me.
It was a great shock. I am not yet recovered from it. I see that I shall
after all have to live quietly in England with my pipe and my abstemious
bottle of beer. And yet I should like to visit America, for it has
suddenly become in my imagining an enormous country of "Don't!" and I
want to know what it is like to have "Don't" said by somebody who is not
a woman.

I have always hated the word "Don't." I hated it as a child, and I hate
it still. It is a nasty word, a chilling word, associated with feelings
of resentment, of discipline, of prohibition. Yes, that is it, of
course, Prohibition. I find that it is Prohibition which makes my throat
so dry. I thought it was a human characteristic, when anybody said,
"You're not to do that!" to do it at once in case there should be any
misunderstanding. I should be frightened to say "Don't!" to anybody,
because I feel sure it would precipitate unpleasantness. Is America so
different from the rest of the world that it likes having "Don't!" said
to it? I cannot think that. What occurs to me is that America has not
yet worked out of its system the strain that the English Puritan fathers
brought with them. It is a melancholy thought to me that it is really
ancient English repression that is responsible for the present state
of affairs. I feel very guilty, particularly as I have seen an article
about myself in an English newspaper headed "A Modern Puritan." It
is really I, and people like me, who have caused the great drink
restrictions in the United States. I bow my head.

The truth is, I suppose, that people in the United States take life more
seriously than we do in England. If you read any of the books which
have been written in this country during the ages to show what sort of
community is the ideal--I refer to such works as "Utopia" and "News from
Nowhere"--there is never any difference between them on one point. All
the dwellers in these ideal states appear to be thoroughly idle. They
have practically no work to do at all. All their time is spent in talk
and sylvan wandering, with music and dancing round maypoles. There is no
mistaking the fact that the Englishman's idea of life is confirmed and
justifiable laziness. He wants what he calls leisure. Charles Lamb, a
typically English author, wrote a poem beginning "Who first invented
work?" He came to the conclusion that it must have been the Devil.
The inference is clear. Observation confirms my view. It is not to be
doubted that the average Englishman spends his life in scheming to make
somebody else do the work that lies nearest to his hand.

Americans must be different. I believe they really like work. And I
will give the Prohibitionists this handsome admission. I also work much
better without stimulants. I mean, much harder. But on the other hand, I
am less happy. Does an American feel happy in his work? Does the act of
work give him a satisfaction which is not felt by an Englishman? I
think that must be the explanation. But on the other hand there is this
question of Puritanism. We tried it in England, and we had a severe
reaction to libertinism. We maintain Puritanism only in our suburban
districts, where there is exceedingly close scrutiny of all matters
pertaining to conduct; and in our theatres. In the suburbs it does not
much matter, although it rather cramps our suburban style; but in the
theatre it drives some of us to distraction. I will explain why.

Supposing a man wants to write a play, he at once thinks of getting it
produced. An unproduced play is like an unpublished novel: practically
speaking it does not exist. The author can read it, of course, and his
wife can assure him that it is a great deal better than anything she has
seen or read for years; but the author and his wife are both haunted
by the fact that there is a masterpiece which is lying--not fallow, but
unused and sterile. They grow dissatisfied. The savour of life is lost
for them. They develop persecution mania, grow very conceited, and
finally come to believe that only they of all the men and women alive
truly grasp the essentials of life. They say, if this were the silly
muck that most authors write, it would be produced, and then we should
have our car and our servants and diamonds and titles and all the
paraphernalia of happiness. As it is, we are doomed to silence and
poverty, simply because George is too much of an artist to lower himself
by writing what the public wants, and what the censor will pass. For
I have not been outlining the diseased state of mind of the merely
incompetent man who writes something that nobody will look at. I have
been giving details of one of those men who have a moral message, and
who desire greatly to spread it by means of the stage. He has written,
let us say, a play in which the name of God appears, or a play wherein
a young woman has a baby and does not wish to have a husband. The censor
says that there must be no mention of God in plays performed on the
public stage, and that young women who have babies must either have
husbands or come to early graves of their own seeking. Very well, what
happens? I have described the state of mind of a husband and wife who
have a pet child--a play--which is lying heavy on their minds and hearts
and hands. They are ripe for any temptation of the devil. And it comes.
It always comes.

The devil dresses himself up in the guise of a Sunday play-producing
society. The play is surreptitiously performed in a theatre to which
admission can be obtained only by members banded together for just such
emergencies. It is very badly acted by actors and actresses who have not
been able to spare sufficient time from their daily work to learn their
parts as well as they should have done. The audience comes full of
a smug self-satisfaction at the thought that it is excessively
intellectual and select, and that it alone can appreciate blasphemy
or the vagaries of neurotic young women. It sits intellectually in the
theatre, and watches the play. The author sits intellectually in his
box, and intellectually accepts the plaudits of the audience. He lives
thereafter in a highly intellectual atmosphere. He is driven to become a
member of the secret play-producing society, and to watch other plays
of a character not suited to the requirements of the censorship. He
is morally a ruined man. He will never any more be a decent member
of society, for he has become an intellectual. He has been taught to
despise ordinary human beings, for they do not want to be wicked or
silly, except in the normal humdrum way, and they have not seen his play
and are not members of his play-producing society. He discovers that the
censored is the only good art. He is driven to the reading of all sorts
of Continental drama. He is made into an anti-English propagandist. He
is like the person in the song, who,

"Praises every century but this, and every country but his own."

He has been lost for human kind, and is wedded to intellectualism and
a sense of superiority to others for the rest of his miserable life. He
institutes a new system of censorship of his own. It takes the form of
sneering at and condemning anything that does not conform to his
own ideas. He sniffs at all sorts of innocently happy people who are
inoffensively pursuing their noisy course through life. He begins to
hate noise. He makes a virtue of his abstention from ordinary pleasures.
He speaks condescendingly of the "hoi polloi." As I said, he is ruined.
He is no longer a man that one can talk to with any comfort, for his
sense of superiority is intolerable.

To me there is nothing more terrible than the sense of superiority to
others. It arises, not from merit or the consciousness of merit, but
from sheer tin-like flimsiness of character. It arises from limited
sympathies. The really great man, and the really sagacious man, is
one to whom nothing is contemptible. To him, even the follies of his
fellow-passengers are manifestations of human nature, revelations of the
material from which scholars and politicians no less than drunkards
and inconstants are gradually in course of time developed. Somebody
described "conceit" to me the other day as egotism in which contempt for
others is involved. It was agreed between us that egotism was normal,
since happiness is not to be attained without a sense of personal
utility to the world, and no objection was urged against it. Vanity was
to be tolerated, because it was definitely social--a recognition of the
existence and value of the good opinion of others; but never sense of
superiority. And the sense of rebellion should be added to this other
sense, as equally to be regretted. A young woman whose incredible acts
of folly had spoiled half-a-dozen lives, including her own, recently
encountered a young man whom she had jilted on the eve of her marriage
to another, whom she had also left. The young man, still smarting under
his ill-treatment, reproached her. He said, "What you want, my dear, is
discipline." "Pooh!" she answered. "I'm _above_ discipline!" The poor
young man retired, unequal to the conversation. But the young woman went
on her way, defiant and self-infatuated, believing that she really was
superior to the opinions of others, the common decencies of conduct, the
inevitable give and take of ordinary life. Driven to folly by lack
of balance, she was learning to justify her folly by the argument for
rebellion. Whether she will ever learn to control her actions I do
not know, but rebelliousness from a fueling that one is too good to be
governed by normal standards is not only arrogant and unsocial. It is
silly. It is, to my mind, a criminal form of silliness. But it is
one very widely accepted by the young and the unimaginative. It must
therefore be recognized and combated.

 It springs, perhaps, from disordered shame, which makes children
noisily act in defiance of authority, particularly if there are others
present to overhear. No children are worse-behaved than those who are
over-controlled. The word "don't" at the breakfast-table produces
more acts of violent rebellion than any amount of parental weakness.
Unimaginativeness begets unimaginativeness. Rigidity in one person
creates a counter-rigidity in the other. There is a thwarting upon both
sides, a mutual shackle upon sweetness and understanding. A wildness of
action arises, with loss of affection, respect, self-respect. And the
vicious part of it is that children (we are all children, for we never
grew up in human relations), once they are embarked upon an evil
course, are driven by vanity to continue upon that course until they are
exhausted, going from defiance to defiance; and ultimately building up a
whole sophisticated gospel of axioms whereby rebellion is given warrant
and virtue. The gospel of rebellion we know to be specious and without
justification; but it is essential to us, as human beings, to
maintain self-approval for our acts. If we cannot do this socially,
by comparative standards, we do it unsocially, by subversion of those
standards. Rebels are only prigs turned upside down or inside out.

The great defect of prohibition is that when it can be enforced by law
it makes rebels who think there is something inconceivably clever in
doing secretly that which the law forbids. They learn to think there is
some subtle merit in evading the law. They encourage others to break the
law, and so develop cliques and finally new and silly conventions. Or,
prohibition has another effect. It makes a whole class who accept its
rulings, and gradually these people, owing to a peculiarity which all
gregarious animals seem to have, begin to believe that unless all are
of their persuasion and of their number the fault lies with the rebels.
First of all they consider themselves superior to the rebels, and
despise them. Then, when they find that the rebels think that _they_ are
the superior class, in defying the law or the convention, a new set of
notions arises, and this set of notions leads to persecution and to
war. You cannot introduce any restrictive or prohibitive measure without
developing fanatical conceit, narrow-mindedness, and intolerance, both
in those who welcome the measure and in those who seek to ignore and
even to defy its rulings.

The Puritanical attitude is almost wholly repressive, and naturally
invokes force to aid its repressive measures. It did so in England
centuries ago in the matter of the theatre, and we are living among all
the rotten plays which have been written since, and the theatre is
for the most part a place of ignominious diversion. The play-producing
societies have nothing to produce that is worth producing, because
the atmosphere which causes such plays as are written to be produced
privately is not the healthy atmosphere from which masterpieces arise.
It is an atmosphere impregnated with priggishness and a sense of
superiority. It is an atmosphere, if there can be such a thing, of
sterility. The same thing happens in other matters, and I do not feel at
all certain that it may not happen with drink. If you say men are not to
drink you create two new classes. There is of course the existing class
that does not care for drink and is afraid of its effects to the point
of wishing to keep it away from those who do like drink. That class
already flourishes in most communities, and so I do not place it among
any two classes which are created by the prohibition. The two
classes are as follows-the class that submits, and gradually develops
priggishness and self-satisfaction at being in the majority, and
the class that rebels, and gradually develops priggishness and
self-satisfaction at being in the minority. Both classes are
objectionable, and I do not know which is the worse. They are both
inevitable in a world of prohibitions, and if the United States, to
which we are all looking as the real hope for intelligent civilization,
is going to take away our beer and turn us into supporters of
play-producing societies I cannot think what will happen to the world.
Better a wicked world than a virtuous one. Better a world in which we
can hope that there are people worse than ourselves than a world where
we know that there cannot be any better.


[Illustration: H. M. Tomlinson regarding, with not too great enthusiasm,
the Perfect State of the Future.]


That fairly violent scuffling during the years 1914-1918, the opening
skirmishes of the war between Organization and Liberty which our
fore-fathers named so strangely the "War to End War," did not appear to
conclude satisfactorily for the victorious nations, especially England.
Actually it was an excellent ground for the founding of that Perfect
State which, in the centuries that followed, arose on the lines laid
largely by chance and the exigencies of that early scramble. Yet it is
possible the victorious statesmen may not have guessed that they had
done really well. The name by which the war of those remote years was
popularly known is enough to show that the difficulties faced by those
men at the end of the war may have obscured the good they had done.
That name is itself clear evidence of the not unpleasing credulity and
ridiculous but innocent desire of the people of that time.

After all, those peoples were not so long out of the Neolithic Age.
Their memory was still strong of the freedom of their earlier wanderings
when they could go where they liked, work at what suited them, eat and
drink what pleased them, choose who should be their chief, and worship
in any Temple which promised most personal benefits. It was, then,
natural for them to make so amusing a mistake in the naming of their
"Great War." They not only certainly imagined they were ending War, but
they imagined, too, they had a right to end it, thinking that not only
War, but every other act of the State, was for their decision. Their
Governors, therefore, judged it wise to allow them this illusion to play
with, so to distract their attention from the reality, which they would
have resented. This illusion was known as Popular Government.

We may laugh at it now, but in those days the directing minds of great
nations found that common illusion no laughing matter. Some who laughed
at it openly discovered they had laughed on the wrong side of the
guillotine. It is usual in this era of science, when control by the Holy
State of the national mass-power, both of body and mind, is complete,
and when national emotion is raised by Press and Pulpit whenever it is
required and put wherever it is wanted, to ridicule the laxity of
the statesmen who directed the nations in that early war. A little
reflection, however, shows us that that laxity is but apparent. Those
statesmen went as far as they dared, and dared a little more with
each success they won. They discovered that control may be gained by
announcing control to be necessary for some quite innocent object,
and then using and retaining the power thus acquired for a real but
undivulged purpose. Sheep, we are aware, never understand they are
securely folded till the completing hurdle of the circuit is in its
place, and then they soon forget it, and begin grazing; for all sheep
want is grass, and perhaps a turnip or two to give content in a limited

It would be wrong for us, nevertheless, to blame those early folk for
not understanding, as finely as we do, the true science of government to
be complete and unquestioned mastery. We have learned much since
then. Let us look back to those days for a moment, to get the just
perspective. One of the first significant things we notice is that
those people were free to criticize their politicians--baaing across the
hurdles, as it were. That was why they had to have explained to them
the "Objects of the War." They actually did not want to die. They were
reluctant to go to battle unless they knew why they were going. True,
it was easy enough to find a reason to satisfy them, but it is necessary
for us to remember that they would not submit to mutilation and death
without some reason. Much as their governors may have desired it,
those primitives would not agree willingly to the total surrender of
conscience, individual liberty, and of life, to "politicians," as the
High Priests of the Holy State were then familiarly named. Individual
conscience, therefore, had to be cajoled, had to be bamboozled, had to
be hypnotized; and a man's liberty could not be taken from him unless
he was helpless, or was looking, under clever political finger-pointing,
the other way.

It was this almost intractable matter of personal conscience and liberty
which was the cause of the angry disappointment following the Versailles
Treaty which, illustrating still further the need for subtle tact in
dealing with our hairy forefathers, was called a Peace Treaty.

What a light is thrown upon those distant days and peoples when that
ancient document, the fragmentary relic of which is now treasured in the
museum at Tobolsk, is examined with even the little knowledge we possess
of the events immediately following it! For a time, we must believe,
humanity then was deliriously bereft. One could almost believe the moon
had a greater pull in those years.

"No more secret diplomacy!" historians tell us was one of the cries of
the soldiers as they went to battle. There is considerable ground, too,
for accepting the amusing traditional tale that even at the end of the
war the then President of the American Republic (mainly confined at
the time to the Western Continent), declared the first point for the
guidance of the Peace Conference must be an open discussion of the
covenant. And the first thing to happen when the war ended was the
closing of the door of the council room by the peacemakers, who,
naturally, were the very men with no other interest till that moment but
the full pursuit of war; yet nobody noticed the door was shut, though
nobody could hear what was going on inside the room. The faith in their
politicians held by the natives of the backyard communities into which
Europe was then divided--on the very eve, we see now, of the full
continental control of international man-power by consolidated
finance--was the measure of their annoyance when, too late, naturally,
the fact that the old shackles from which they had been promised freedom
were noticed to be riveted upon them several links tighter.

But it is not their faith, so happily youthful, which so reveals
their ingenious minds as their resultant annoyance. That resentment
illuminates the essential fact for us in studying their mentality as
social animals. They really did accept without question, with open and
receptive mouths and eyes shut, what was considered pleasing enough to
fortify them in the trials of warfare. They were, difficult though it
is for us to understand it, too vacant and generous to realize that the
"Objects of the War" were but figments nicely calculated to get them
busy. The figments--we must give credit to the leaders of the time-were
indeed not un-imaginatively conjured up. Those inducing visions worked.
They were accepted readily, and even with delight. It was sincerely
believed that the pleasing dreams were substantial, that those chromatic
vapours evoked by gifted statesmen were veritable promises of divine
favor for meritorious endurance.

From that we can the more easily go with understanding to a study of
the consequences of that attractive faith of undisciplined peoples so
difficult to grasp for modern students, who witness daily the admirable
submission of our own uniform herds to the divine ordinances of the
High Priests of the Sacred Entity the State. Why, we even learn that
the survivors of the not inconsiderable armies returned from the
battlefields of 1918 with the innocent conviction that the gentlemen of
England would keep a bond as faithfully as common soldiers! The hardest
tasks of the statesmen of those days arose out of such extraordinary
expectations, out of the ruinous supposition of the childish-minded
that the honoring of a bond, the fulfilment of a promise in return for
benefits received, is equally incumbent on everybody!

With that knowledge we begin to realise the difficulties of their
statesmen. A careful computation shows us that in England, where indeed
the lavish promises had been most picturesque, and where the tough idea
of personal liberty took longest to kill, it required just four years
of severe disciplinary measures and dry bread to reduce the masses
generally to a pale, obedient, and constructive spirit. At first they
would not work unless they wanted to, and then only at their own
price. They pointed, when answering their masters, to the fact that the
best-fed people never worked at all, and lived in the best houses.
They refused to cancel the official contracts made with them, even when
ordered to do so by the police. They behaved indeed, those ex-soldiers,
as though it had been _their_ war. Such a state of mind we in these days
really find impossible to elucidate. It is rather like trying to read
the spots on a giraffe. It is as inscrutable as the once general opinion
that the community has a right to decide upon its own affairs.

Today we have reached that point in the evolution of society when
uniformity is known to be more desirable, because more comfortable than
liberty; and uniformity is impossible without compulsion. A man with a
free and contentious mind is a danger to the community, for he destroys
its ease. He compels his fellows to active thought, if only to refute
him. This is a dissipation of energy, and a local weakening of the
structure of the State. It is historically true that a few men with
ranging and questioning minds have sometimes injected so strong an
original virus of thought that the community has been changed in form
and nature.

It was the mistake of the earlier nations to give little attention to
these troublesome and subversive fellows, who always thought more of the
truth than they did even of the inviolability of the High Priests of the
State. They preferred to die rather than surrender the out-dated rights
of man. Therefore they had to die. The rights of man cannot be allowed
to stand in the way of a nation's perfect uniformity. It was many
centuries before man realized that the only freedom worth having
is freedom from the necessity for individual thought. Perfectly
unembarrassed freedom, freedom in which the mind may be empty and
sunny, and assured happily of not the slightest interruption from any
unsanctioned unofficial idea, became possible to a community only after
the sanitary measures were devised which sufficed against unexpected
epidemics of speculative thinking.

This, we are sadly aware, took time; for the brightly-colored hopes sent
skyward so long ago as 1914, and the vistas discovered as a consequence
by young men whose eyes till then had been resting safely on the ground,
and the daring and lively questioning that was aroused by the incessant
nudging of sleeping minds, coincided, as it unluckily happened, with
the beginnings when the "Great War" ended, of mass-production and
international finance, so developing problems of government, the solving
of which could not be reconciled with any admission of individual
liberty and personal right. It was, therefore, the elimination of
the notion of justice and liberty from common opinion which occupied
statesmen from 1918 onwards.

Gradually the true social morality has been evolved--that one citizen
should be so like all other citizens that his only distinguishing
characteristic is his number; that the right ideal of citizenship, plain
for all to follow, and ensuring the stability of society, is to be
so loyal to the Holy State that an expression of a man's views in a
gathering of his fellows will rouse no more curiosity than a glass of
water. Obviously so desirable a similarity of mind and character, making
disputation impossible, and preventing all dislike of the ordinances of
the Sacred Entity, or Cabal of Inviolable Dispensers, a uniformity in
which war and peace become merely the national output of a vast machine
controlled by the Central Will, has been developed only through ages of
Press Suggestion, popular education with a bias that was designed but
was scarcely noticeable, the seizing and retaining of opportunities by
legislators whenever public opinion was sufficiently diverted, and
a development of chemical science and aeronautics which has been
encouraged by the enlightened directors of the major industries.

The war which began in 1914 showed quite clearly, for example, the value
of the Censorship. The instituting of this office was never questioned,
for it was based on man's first impulse of obedience to superiors when
faced by a sudden danger, caused by his fear of the unknown. More than
that, the English were in a lucky state of exaltation at the time, and
were ready to sacrifice everything to save from destruction what they
were told was the ancient, exquisite, and priceless civilization of
France. They did save it; but in the prolonged and costly process they
learned more than they had known before of that civilization, as well as
of their own; and so much of their fear of losing either was evaporated.
By that time, anyhow, criticism was useless, because the Censorship
then was empowered to deal even with a derisive cough when Authority
was solemnly giving orders. Once the office of the Censor was set in its
place unnoticed in a time of public nervousness and excitement, the rest
was easy, for it became possible to bring all criticism within a law
which was elastic enough to be extended even to those figments which
merely worked on the timidity of unbalanced minds.

It became unpatriotic to express a dislike for margarine, when butter
was prohibited. It was unpatriotic for a blind hunchback with heart
disease to protest that he was no soldier, if he were ordered to the
Front. For though the Censor, in the early period of that war, dealt
merely with news and opinions which might aid the enemy, yet, as the
value of adding to a nation's enemies became apparent to Authority, it
became necessary to turn into enemies of the State those who denounced
profiteers for turning blood into money, those who denounced generals
for wasting the lives of boys in purposeless actions, those who
spoke against the spending of the nation's resources to succor needy
contractors, and those who asked whether the war was to go on till all
were dead, or whether it might be stopped profitably at any time by
using a little common sense. Luckily for the welfare of the community,
this need for recognizing as enemies all, at home and abroad, who
differed from the decision of the Central Will, a need which was the
natural flower of that confidence which Authority acquired through
discovering the ease of control, put within the power of the Censor by
the time of the Peace Conference every possible form of protest, every
call for light, every cry of pain, every demand that such a "horrible
nonsense" as war should cease from human affairs, every plea for
compassion and generosity.

Thus the problem of perfect government was engendered and simplified.
It was at last possible to ensure, at least outwardly, a semblance
of uniformity. The rest was a matter of evolution, till today only a
particular enquiry will determine a man from a woman, though it may fail
to determine a fool from a man. All are alike, all agree with what is
officially announced by the Sacred Entity, and the nation is as loyal
and homogeneous, as contented, as stable and industrious, as a reef of
actinozoal plasm. Thus the Perfect State has been built like a rock. The
City of God has at last arisen; and in each of the uniform homes of
its neuters, or workers, there is to be found the Patriotic Symbol--a
portrait of a Sheep, enjoined by law to hang in a principal place, and
bearing the legend "God Bless this Loyal Face."

Here, however, we see at once that such a right condition of the
public mind could never have been acquired by a Censorship, by a mere
prohibition, that is, of individual thinking and acting. That
ensures merely a simulacrum of homogeneity. The appearance of general
acquiescence may exist, though not the real thing. It is easy to compel
men to do what they would not do freely if allowed an opportunity for
their reason to work. The problem was to prevent the working of reason.
Today, as we know, an order is issued by The Chosen, and is followed by
a campaign in the Press, and by revivals exhorted from the Pulpit. There
is no chance for the intrusion of reason.--No facts are ever issued for
reason to work upon, no questioning is ever allowed. The suggestions of
the Press and Pulpit prompt loyalty and obedience, and what might, in
early times, have been resented as ridiculous, becomes the mode; and
thus, if any rebels exist, it is but briefly, for they are denounced as
solitary and repugnant independents. A suggestion becomes public opinion
because the majority of people accept it without knowing there is reason
to question the suggestion; and the minority also accept it in the end
through weariness of an unpleasant and even dangerous distinction.

Yet not, observe, all the minority. It was the experience of our
forefathers that unsuspected centres of infection always remained, and
were not discovered till they had poisoned large areas of the country.
Some bold fellow, here and there, had withstood all efforts at
intimidation, and in time made others as courageous as himself. A means
had to be found to eliminate the possibility of infection by original
minds, or clearly the Holy State could not consider itself safe. Here,
indeed, we see the hardest of the problems statesmen of the past had to
solve. From the mere negation of the Censorship, a positive advance
had to be made to the obliteration of original thought. This at first,
necessarily, was but tentative, and only the confidence gained through
successful experiment enabled governments at last to find where the real
trouble lay.

It was supposed, at first, that the destruction of subversive political
tracts and the persecution of radical views would be enough. Yet,
of course, it was learned that as fast as these were cropped, growth
elsewhere had become vigorous. The human intelligence is natively prone
to look towards new things. Then it was that, after a long suspicion
of the origin of ideals, great statesmen were led to an examination of
classic literature and a study of the arts. Then they saw, what they
might have known sooner, that in the very institutions supported by the
State, the Public Libraries and Art Galleries, were actually preserved
the potent ideals which demeaned that general opinion which the State
was laboring to establish.

The famous Day of Release was ordered. This was ordained to free mankind
from its heritage of the spirit. A test was made, and by that test any
book or picture or poem which could not be approved or understood by
native deacons of Solomon Island missions (who were imported for the
purpose) was at once extirpated. This checked a great deal of the
troublesome growth of the mind. Music, however, was strangely forgotten;
and it was proved that the great revolution which burst out in Europe
120 years after the "Great War" began in the emotion occasioned by the
continued playing of the compositions of one Beethoven, whose work is
now fortunately lost, and other music which remained in favor in spite
of the official insistence on the use of the steam saxophone for public
concerts. Men, wherever they dared, insisted on having the best. And
though the records were at length destroyed, the tenacious memories of
a few fanatics and cranks preserved much of the old music, and that
usually of the worst and most disloyal.

Here we see another step had to be taken by men in control of the State.
The memory of what was classical was kept though in an ever-fading
condition, and now and again some point of memory fructified to almost
its original suggestive beauty in the fortuitously abnormal brain of a
genius, and thus the state work of hygiene had to be done over again;
for curiously enough people everywhere rose like a tide, and moved
spontaneously towards these manifestations of liberty and beauty, and
away from their loyalty to the God-State. A method, therefore, had to be
discovered, first for obliterating what remained in the public memory
of what was magical and rebellious, and then for the elimination of any
possibility of original genius arising; and genius was, it was seen,
first and last, the cause of all the trouble.

The destruction of all great works of art was followed, fifty years
later, by the Period of Purging. All who were denounced for having
quoted forbidden poetry, or for humming forbidden music, were executed.
Such malefactors, who refused to forget, obviously could not be allowed
to live. This gave a long period of peace, in which the Sacred Entity,
the Unassailable Authority, took concrete form. Even so, the destruction
of the treasures of the past, and of all memory of them, did not prevent
the spontaneous appearance, now and then, of extraordinary men who, by
divination it would seem, perceived a flatness and monotony in society,
a sameness of common thought, and who laughed at the estimable uniform
flocks; often, indeed, stampeding them.

Now science had its turn. It was more than a century since the works of
Darwin and other philosophers had been burned. Young students who showed
an aptitude for science, and so were potentially dangerous, were taken
early within the Sacred Precincts, initiated into the mysteries of the
Priests, and were given work and safety under the shadow of the Entity.
They rarely went wrong; and when they did they went further or were
heard of no more.

These men of science were set the problem of finding a method of
sterilizing the unfit, that is, people who showed any decadent tendency
to originality. All the increase of population by that time was
occasioned under the direction of the High Priests, so that the Holy
State had not only the power of dealing death, but of bringing new life.
The new life, it is evident, had to be determined, as far as possible,
by a scientific specification of a perfect citizen; and in the course
of a century or two, through the destruction of intelligence wherever
it inadvertently appeared, through the selection of parents sufficiently
loyal and docile to accept marriage immediately when ordered by
officials, and by certain signs, such as lustiness, by which, at a
birth, the skilled Public Watchers who accompanied midwives were made
suspicious of the new-born as possible enemies of the State, at last
mankind arrived at its present perfection, content, and happiness, with
hardly an intellectual doubt or a sign of suspicious joy to mar the
whole serene horizon of the Holy State's exactitude.

Yet, we dare ask, had it not been for that little "War to End War"
of 1914-1918, so innocently named by our forefathers who had too much
liberty to know what they were talking about, would the possibility of
our present social tranquility have arisen? It is hardly likely. The
freedom we enjoy from all criticism, from all interruptions of mind and
spirit, an internal peace which is indeed never broken except by the
lethal germs of our modern wars that, in the due course of nature,
obliterate every week or so a few of our cities, was a lucky chance that
was seized upon by public-spirited legislators who had the prescience to
know its value.


[Illustration: Charles Hanson Towne and the Law.]


The Young-Old Philosopher and I were sitting in one of the innumerable
restaurants in New York where the sanctity of the law is about as much
considered as a bicycle ride up Mt. Etna. At the next table--indeed, all
around us--rich red wine was being poured into little cups.

"The new motto of America should be '_In vino demi-tasse_,'" my friend
said, smiling. And I quite agreed with him. For it is being done
everywhere; in the most exalted circles, and in the lowest. Poor old
human nature, which an organized minority are so bent upon changing
overnight, cannot be altered; and, all the emphasis in a supposedly free
country having been placed upon not drinking, the prohibitionists are
wondering why so many of us care for liquid refreshment.

There is too much _verboten_ in America today. I can remember the time,
not so long ago, when no dinner-party was counted a success unless four
or five cocktails were served before we sat down at the table. But that
era passed. It was soon evident that such foolishness would lead to
grave disaster--if not to the grave; and the young business man who was
seen to consume even one glass of beer at luncheon was frowned upon,
catalogued as unsteady, even in the face of the fact that perhaps the
most efficient people in the world were automatic beer-drinkers.

As to drinking, in America we had other ideas. Big Business, which has
become such a potent factor among us, and more a part of our national
consciousness than Art and Letters ever will be, of its own volition
placed a ban upon immoderate drinking; and the sane among us--of whom
there were still many--gladly fell in line, and either went periodically
upon the water-wagon or took a nip only occasionally when the cares of
life weighed too heavily and insistently upon us.

Why, then, the Reformers? Why the Uplift Workers? Why the Extremists?
Not content with a great and wise people working out their own salvation
from within, they must step forth in solemn battalions, and make us pure
and holy--from without.

We resent them. There is no reason why an entire nation should be
indicted for the sins and failings of a few. It would be quite as
sensible to forbid connubial bliss because there are a handful of
libertines in the world.

The cry goes up, however, that the next generation will be so much
better because of our enforced good behavior now. I am afraid that I am
not enough of an altruist to care so definitely about the morals of
a race unborn. I feel that my children, looking over the files of our
newspapers, as they sip their light wine and beer, may smile and say,
"Poor grandpa! He had so little self-control that the Government had to
put the screws on him and his friends. Too bad! They must have been
a fast set in his day. And yet--he left us a pretty good heritage of
health and strength. We wonder if he was such an awful devil as history
makes out."

The truth is that nothing, in moderation, ever hurt anybody. That is why
the wise among us are against Prohibition and strongly for Temperance.
Normal men do not like to be coddled. If coddling is done, however,
they like to pick their coddlers. We don't like a lean and sour-visaged
Prohibitionist making a fuss over us, feeling our pulse, taking our
temperature, smoothing our brow. The whole trouble with the world today,
as a sane man views it, is that there has been altogether too much
coddling of the physically and mentally unfit.

We have become, through drifting, a nation of hypocrites. We make laws
so fast that the bewildered citizen cannot follow them. We add amendment
after amendment to our Constitution, and then laugh at what we have
done, the while we secretly rebel. We have few convictions, and we
refuse to face issues squarely and honestly. We pretend to be virtuous
before the rest of the world; but we are like the ostrich which hides
its head in the sands. We pretend that, just as the eugenists think of
the physical attributes of the coming generation, we consider the mental
attributes--and we turn around and raise a race of bootleggers. We
permit our enormous foreign population to see us at our legislative
work; and then we go proudly and sanctimoniously to restaurants and
allow Italian, German and French waiters to pour red wine into our

Oh, we are not in our cups--only in our half-cups. It would all be very
amusing were it not so terribly serious. For we are rapidly floating
toward trouble; and, hypocritically enough, we will not admit it. When
it is said, since the tragedy of Prohibition, that the reformers will
next snatch our cigars and cigarettes out of our mouths, we shrug our
shoulders, smile and pass on, saying, "Oh, no! _that_ would be going
_too_ far!"--in the face of what already has been accomplished in this
land of the spree and the home of the grave.

Yes, we have become grave indeed. For there can be no doubt that there
is a feeling of great unhappiness and unrest in America now. One hears
the most solid citizens saying, "I do not try to save any more; I
merely live from day to day, hoping against hope that things will right
themselves, and that the old order will somehow return."

Who gets a long-term lease nowadays? Those of us who are old enough to
remember the simplicity and peace of the golden 'Eighties and 'Nineties
are appalled at the nervous tension and complexities of this hour. We
are all catalogued and tagged, just as they are in that Prussia we
so recently and fervently despised; and we are hounded by income-tax
investigators, surrounded by a horde of spies who search our luggage,
pry into our kitchens to see if we are making home brew, raided in
restaurants--and laughed at by king-ridden and shackled Europeans.

It isn't pleasant to realize that you are burdened with taxes partly to
cover the salaries of Federal Officers whose delicate duty it is to spy
upon you. And then when you walk out and talk to the police-man on your
street, he will whisper in your ear that he knows where he can get you
some delicious ale, and see to it that it is safely delivered at your
door. This is the America, deny it as we will, that we are living in
today. I confess that I hang my head a bit, and am ashamed to look a
Frenchman in the face.

Not long ago, at a dinner, I asked a certain politician--I refuse to
grace him with the name of statesman, though he has ambitions to
be known as such--why, if he believed in the Volstead Act, he still
consumed whiskey. His answer was intended to be amusing; to me it was
disgraceful. Said he: "I am drinking as much as I can in order to lessen
the supply for the other fellow."

And just a while back I went to a banquet at a country club near New
York. Two policemen in uniform were sent by the local authorities to
"guard the place" while much liquor was poured. These minions of
the sacred law were openly served with highballs, and laughed at the
Constitution of the United States, the while they drank. Everyone at
that party was loud in denunciation of Prohibition and what has come in
its wake, yet went on dancing with the casual remark that it was of no
consequence that they broke the law, since everyone was doing it--and
everyone always would.

Uphold the law, no matter what is injected into it, I have heard people
cry. That, it seems to me, is mere Teutonic stupidity, and has no part
in the attitude of thinking men and women in a land like America. I
suppose, arguing thus, that if a law were passed tomorrow prohibiting
the carrying of, say, hand-bags or canes, they would feel it incumbent
upon themselves, as good Americans, to fall into line, bow the knee and
whisper meekly, "All right, O most beloved country! I obey!"

A good American, as I understand it, is not one who ignorantly stands
for the letter of the law, no matter what that law may be. A good
American is one who tries to set his country right; one who looks beyond
the present ungenerous attitude of the fanatics; one who visualizes the
future and prays that our liberty may not be further jeopardized, for
the good of the generations that are to follow us.

We fought to rid the world of autocracy, yet we have suddenly become the
most autocratic nation on earth. Prohibition is a symbol of the death
of freedom. The issue at stake is as clear-cut as taxation without
representation; and our legislators should remember a certain well-known
Boston tea-party. There would have been no United States of America
unless a few honest men with sound convictions had rebelled and
protested against tyranny. The right kind of rebel makes the right kind
of citizen.

I have heard a few people liken one's duty in the matter of the draft to
the Prohibition law. If we obeyed a summons to fight, whether we liked
fighting or not, we should likewise obey the law regarding drinking,
they contend. The two things are as separated as the Poles. In 1914, and
thereafter, civilization itself was at stake; and that man would have
been blind indeed who did not see the stern and clear-cut issues before
us all. We leaped to arms because we wanted to protect humanity, because
the death-knell of democracy was sounding. Prohibition, these same
people would tell us, should be enforced to save poor, weak humanity and
civilization again, and we should fight to that end. Yet as long as the
world has been moving, civilized man has been consuming a certain amount
of alcohol, and has been in no serious danger of going down to disaster.
We have progressed through the ages, despite our cheerful cups of wine;
and though of course a few imbeciles have dropped from the line,
the rest of us have been none the worse--in fact, sometimes a little
better--for our occasional libations. Let anyone deny this who has ever,
for a moment even, been in Arcady! And the dreadful and incontrovertible
fact remains that the sober nations have not proved themselves superior
to those who drink in moderation.

Who are happy over Prohibition? First, the Prohibitionists themselves,
and, secondly, the bootleggers. The more the lid is clamped on in our
great cities, the more rejoicing goes on in that mysterious inner and
under circle which dispenses liquor, and will continue to dispense it, I
fear, until the end of time. Whenever there is a "drive" on in New York
to "mop up the place," prices soar to the skies, and the illicit trade
waxes brisker than ever. No wonder the bootleggers grow happy--and rich;
and evade the income tax which the rest of us must pay.

I am not sympathetic toward those who say that they have been driven to
excessive drinking because a certain obnoxious law has been passed. The
only way to fight Prohibition is to fight it soberly; it is the jingled
and jangled arguments of bar-room bores that hurt the cause of the men
and women who are moderate drinkers, and who wish with all their hearts
to see a return to common sense in our country.

We Americans never do anything piecemeal. Probably at the root of all
our strange fanaticism about drink was the thought that the saloon
had better go; that it was time for such foul places to disappear. The
pendulum had to swing all the way. If it would swing back a little; if
the Government would step in and control the liquor traffic, do away
with spirits, except for medicinal purposes, and give the people light
wine and beer, a truce could be declared over night. Drunkenness should
be made a prison offence. No matter who the offender against public
decency is he should be lodged in jail. Whether one is a so-called
gentleman coming out of his club, or the meanest tramp in the streets,
he should be punished. There would be no visible drunkenness if a law
like this were passed and rigorously enforced.

I am afraid that so long as grapes grow on vines and apples on trees; so
long as fermentation is one of Nature's processes, there can be no such
thing as Prohibition. And the Biblical justification for drinking is
pleasant reading for those who like, now and then, a little wine at
their dinner tables. Yet there are fanatics who rise up and shout that
the wine Christ caused to appear at the marriage feast of Cana was not
intoxicating. What divination is theirs which makes them so positive? If
water was just as good, why did not water remain in the casks?

If we would spend more time making laws that worked for good, rather
than for evil--and Graft is a great evil; if we would realize that it
is not so much our concern to make the other fellow good as to make him
happy, as Stevenson so beautifully puts it--then, I say, we would be
better employed than we are today with our foolish, fussy bills and
acts, mandates, precepts and restrictions.

I believe firmly in local option in all things; but there is no reason
why New York, or any other great city, should live as Kansas and Idaho
live. I prefer New York because a big city gives me a spiritual uplift
that a prairie town does not. It is my privilege to live where I desire.
I like to hear fine music, to come in contact with intellectuals; to
go to plays that are worth while; to read books that satisfy my soul. I
find such a life in New York. I have no quarrel with the man who prefers
the silence and loneliness of forests and plains. He may be far happier
than I. But I do insist that if I let him alone, he also should let
me alone. Throbbing cities thrill me: cities with their glamour, their
wonder, their enchantment, their dreams of agate and stone, their lofty
towers that plunge to the very skies and kiss the clouds. I happen to
like the innocent laughter in a glass of champagne. You may call it
wicked hilarity. But the Continental manner of living appeals to me. I
like the color and warmth and fervor of life; and people who drink red
wine with their meals seem to me to be more cosmopolitan than those
who do not. All this seems part of the pageant of life to me. I am not
provincial, and I do not care to be made provincial by unintelligent and
unimaginative law-makers.

It may be that I am entirely wrong. I do not know. But I do know that
it seems utterly unreasonable to force me to abstain from wine if I wish
it, just because there are a few heavy imbibers of whiskey in the world.
I think it is a far more serious matter to have practically all of us
law-breakers than to have one-half of one per cent of us drunkards.

Let us have done with insincere, inelastic laws, and get back to wisdom
and truth and sanity.


[Illustration: John V. A. Weaver noticing the bartender who has been
thrown out of work by Prohibition.]


(With a graceful bow to Don Marquis)

   You heard me! How many times I got to tell you?
   Them is my words: you leave that girl alone.
   Leave her alone, you hear? Leave her alone!
   You think I'll have my son foolin' around
   A little snippy rat that's all stuck-up,
   And thinks my son's not good enough for her?
   "Yeh," that's what Bill says, "Yeh, it's like I say;
   Ellen is got swell friends up on the Drive;
   I'm sorry she had to break a date with Fred.
   But still, you know, the world is changed a lot,
   And we changed with it. You're about the same,
   But me--well, I been gettin' right along,
   And honest, Jack, you see the sense yourself--
   Why should I let my daughter marry a clerk?"

   Can you believe it? Why, I damn near fainted.
   His daughter too good for the likes of us!
   Of course I got so mad I couldn't see!
   Of course I pasted him square in the eye!
   And if I catch him sayin' things about me
   I'll knock his stuck-up head off! And I tell you,
   If you go near the dirty oilcan's place,
   And crawl around that snippy brat of his,
   I'll kick you out into the street to stay.
   You hear that? Eight out in the street you go!
   The nerve! The dirty, lousy, low-down crook!
   A Bootleg gettin' stuck-up over money!
   The world is crazy, that's all there is to it!
   Crazy, I tell you! All turned upside-down!

   Listen. It's fifteen years I know this Bill.
   Them good old days, most every afternoon
   On the way home from the lumber yards I'd drop in
   And get a beer, and gas around a while.
   That was my second home, I useta say,
   And Bill's Place was a home you could be proud of.
   Say. The old woman never kep' a floor
   As clean as Bill's was. And the brass spittoons
   And rail-you could of shaved lookin' in one.
   And all the glasses polished! And the tables
   So neat! And over at the free-lunch counter,
   Charlie the coon with a apron white like chalk,
   Dishin' out hot-dogs, and them Boston Beans,
   And Sad'dy nights a great big hot roast ham,
   Or roast beef simply yellin' to be et,
   And washed down with a seidel of old Schlitz!

   Oh, say, that sure was fun, and don't forget it.
   Old Ed, and Tom, and Baldy Frank McGee,
   And the two Bentleys, we was all the reg'lars.
   It was our meetin'-place. And there we stood,
   And Lord! The rows about the government,
   And arguin! and all about the country,
   How it was goin' to the dogs. And maybe
   Somebody'd start a song, and old Pop Dikes
   Would have to quit the checker-game in the corner
   That him and Fat Connell was always playin',
   And never gettin' through. I never seen

   No bums come in and stay for more'n a minute;
   Bill didn't like to have no drunks around;
   He made 'em hit the air. Well, some of us,
   Of course, might get just a wee mite too much
   Under the belt, but who did that ever hurt?
   At least we knowed the licker wasn't poison.
   And when somebody would get very lit
   Bill was right there to try and make him stop;
   I can't see how it ever hurt us any.

   And Bill! He was some barkeep! One swell guy!
   A pleasant word for everybody, always,
   Straight as a string, and just the whole world's friend.
   I never saw a guy was liked so much.
   He hardly took a drink, just a cigar,
   And oncet a while a pony, say, of lager.
   And my, the way that bird could tell a story!
   Why, many a time I laughed until I cried.
   And if it happened I was out of dough,
   Bill was right there to make a little loan.
   Generous, that was Bill, and one good pal.
   A great old place it was, that place of Bill's.
   Them was the happy days!-them was the days.

   I never will forget that good-bye party
   The night that Prohibition was wished on us.
   You bet it wasn't any rough-house then.
   We all stood 'round the bar, solemn and quiet,
   And couldn't hardly think of what to say.
   Bill--it was funny what had happened to him.
   He didn't crack a smile the whole blame night.
   He just would shake his head, and bite his lips,
   And gosh, the way his eyes was shootin' fire.
   The last thing that he said before I left,
   "By God, I'll get back at 'em, you just wait!
   I'm closing here. But don't you fret--I'll get 'em--
   The dirty, pussy-footin' lousy skunks!"

   I had to go home early. And the next day
   I seen the wagons comin' to take the bar
   And all the furniture. I felt like cryin'.

   Well, you know what this prohibition is.

   Bill goes away, and stays about three months.
   And then one day I meets him on the street.
   "Well, Jack," he says, "You want some real good gin?"
   "Just what I need," I says. "All right," he says,
   "You come down to the house at nine o'clock.
   I'll fix you up. I'll give you half a case
   Four Bucks a bottle."... "Four a bottle!" I says,
   Thinkin' he must be kiddin'. "Sure," he says,
   "I got to make my profit. There's the risk.
   This is good stuff. I made it by myself.
   I guarantee that it won't make you sick."
   "I'm sick already, just from hearin' the price.
   No thanks. Not now," I says. He says all right,
   But when I want some, just remember him.

   And so, of course, later I did want some,
   And had to pay that much, and even more;
   But hell, what can you do? So long's you're sure
   The stuff ain't goin' to burn your insides out,
   You got to pay the price. And all the friends
   That Bill had useta have is customers,

   And all get stung the same. And dozens more.
   Them old days Bill was one fine friend for sure,
   Happy and nice and straight and generous.
   And now to think he high-brows you and me!
   A great big house he's got, and a new Packard,
   And di'monds for his wife, that scrubbed the floors
   Back in the days when he was only barkeep.
   That's what this Prohibition done for him,
   And what's it do for me, I'd like to know?
   It makes a crook of me, the same as him,
   Only I'm losin' money, and he gets it.
   Why, say, I catch myself all of the time
   Laughin' about this Prohibition law,
   And figgerin' new ways how I could break it.
   And that's the way it is with everybody.
   We get to see that one law is a joke,
   And think it's smart to bust it all to pieces.
   And pretty soon there's all the other laws,
   And how're you goin' to keep from think' likewise
   About a thing like stealin', and all that?
   No wonder that we got these here now crime waves!
   No wonder everybody is a crook!

   But that ain't what I'm sayin' to you now!
   You leave that stuck-up little Jane alone!
   They's plenty of girls that's pretty in the world--
   You leave that dirty oilcan's daughter be.
   Ten years ago she used to run around
   And rush the can for me and other folks.
   Now she's a real swell lady! Damn her eyes,
   And Bill's, and them there pussy-footin' fish!
   The world is, crazy! And I'm goin' nuts!
   High-tonin' me! You hear me? If I catch you
   Foolin' around that girl, I kick you out,
   So fast you won't know what has ever hit you!

   A bootleg's daughter! Hell!


[Illustration: Alexander Woollcott rescuing the Playwright from the
awful shears of the Censor.]


Every American playwright goes about his work these days oppressed by
a foreboding. He suspects that before long a censor is going to
materialize out of thin air to take stern and morose charge of the
American theatre. It is true that no statutory precipitation of such an
agent has been definitely proposed. It is true that the policeman from
the nearest corner has not gone so far as to drop around and warn him
that he'd better be careful. Nevertheless, he has the foreboding. He
perceives dimly that a desire to chasten the stage is in the air. And he
is right. It, is. It has been ever since the war.

Of course an itch to lay hands on the theatre was begetting restlessness
in the American bosom considerably prior to April 6, 1917. It is part of
this country's Puritan inheritance to believe that playgoing is somehow
bad, that an enjoyment and patronage of the theatre is sinful. This
belief flows as an unconscious undercurrent in the thought even of
those clergymen who try pathetically hard to seem and be liberal and
unpharisaical, the kind who always begin their lectures on Avery Hopwood
by saying that they yield to no one in their admiration and respect for
the many splendid ladies and gentlemen of the stage whom they are proud
to number among their acquaintances.

Shaw, in his comparatively mild-mannered preface to "The Showing Up of
Blanco Posnet," recognizes the Puritan hostility to the theatre, but,
somewhat perversely, ascribes it to the fact that the _promenoirs_ have
always been used as show-windows by the courtesans of each generation.
I suspect, however, that that hostility was more deeply rooted. The
Puritans disliked the theatre because it was jolly. It was a place where
people went in deliberate quest of enjoyment. And you weren't supposed
to do that on earth. Plenty of time for that later on.

When I was a knee-breeched schoolboy in Philadelphia, some of the more
dissipated of us used to organize Saturday excursions to Keith's old
Eighth Street Theatre, a vaudeville temple known to the natives as
the Buy-Joe. Fortified with a quarter and some sandwiches, one went
at eleven in the morning and hung on till the edge of midnight. To my
genuine surprise and confusion, I gathered that some of our classmates
not only avoided these orgies, but sincerely believed that we, who
indulged in them were simply courting Hell's fire. They stayed at home
and, I suppose, read "Elsie Dinsmore."

It so happens that I never encountered that book during my formative
years, but was in my hopelessly corrupted thirties before ever I saw a
copy. Even then, it did not lack interest. And one passage, at least,
richly rewarded a glance through its pages. It seems that Elsie,
arriving from somewhere, reached some city in the late evening. Her
father (a rakish, devil-may-care fellow who thought it was all right for
Elsie to play the piano on Sunday) met her at the station and engaged a
cabriolet to take her across town to whatever shelter had been selected
for the night. As they were bowling along one of the principal streets,
Elsie noticed a building which the author described in shuddering
accents as having, if I remember correctly, "a lighted façade." The
tone, if not the precise words of the description, rather suggested that
here was a gambling hell whose lower circles were dedicated to rites of
nameless infamy. Elsie shrank back into the cloistered shadows of the
cab. "Oh, father," she cried in hurt bewilderment, "what kind of place
was that?" Smitten, apparently, with a certain remorse that he had
suffered her virginal eyes to reflect so scabrous a spot, he put a
sheltering arm around her and said, sadly: "That, little daughter, was a

At which limp climax, perhaps, you smile a little. But it is well to
remember that the children who were molded by "Elsie Dinsmore" are now
grown up and can be detected voting warmly at every election. Many of
them kicked over the traces long ago, but there are also many who are
reading Harold Bell Wright today. They admire Henry Ford. They sit
enthralled at the feet of Dr. John Roach Straton. And, not wryly but
with undiscouraged faith, they vote away for the Hylans and the Hardings
of each recurrent crisis. They brought the bootlegger into existence
and, at a rallying cry lifted by anyone against the theatre, they will
come scurrying intently from a thousand unsuspected flats and two-story

They are the more responsive to such cries since the war. That might
have been foreseen by any one at all familiar with the psychopathology
of reform. A cigarette addict who, in a spartan moment, swears off
smoking, is familiar enough with the inner gnaw that robs him of his
sleep and roils his dinner for days and days. His body, long habituated
to the tobacco, had dutifully taken on the business of manufacturing its
antidote. When the tobacco is abruptly removed, the body continues for
a while to turn out the antidote as usual and during that while, that
antidote goes roaming angrily through the system, seeking something to
oppose and destroy.

A somewhat analogous condition has agitated the body politic ever since
the late Fall of 1918. The passage of the Eighteenth Amendment had
robbed the prohibitionists of their chief excitement; then the signing
of the Armistice took away the glamor of public-spiritedness from all
those good people who had had such a splendid time keeping an eye on
their presumably treasonable neighbors. Behold, then, the Busy Body
(which is in every one of us) all dressed up and nowhere to go. The itch
became tremendous. The moving pictures caught it first. No wonder the
American playwright is uneasy. He ought to be.

He dreads a censorship of the theatre because he suspects (not without
reason) that it will be corrupt, that it will work foolishly, and that,
having taken and relished an inch, it will take an ell.

He is the more uneasy because he realizes that the theatre presents a
special incitement and a special problem--a problem altogether different
from that presented by the bookstall, for instance. The play, once
produced, is open to all the world. It may have been written with the
thought that it would amuse Franklin P. Adams, but it is attended (in a
body) by the Unintelligentsia. It may have been heavily seasoned in the
hope that it would jounce the rough boy of Baltimore, H. L. Mencken-and
lo, there in the third row on the aisle, is Dr. Frank Crane, being
made visibly ill by it. Your playwright may write a piece to touch the
memories and stir the hearts of elderly sinners, but he has to face the
fact that the girls from Miss Spence's school may come fluttering to it,
row on row.

On his desk is a seductive two-volume assemblage of "Poetica Erotica,"
edited by T. R. Smith, the antiquarian. It is a book which, if flaunted,
would agitate the Postmaster General, stir up the Grand Jury, and make
the Society for the Suppression of Vice call a special mass-meeting. It
is managed as a commercial article by a system of furtive, semi-private
sales which probably enhance its value as a source of revenue and yet
shut the mouth of the heirs of Anthony Comstock. A folder announces that
the juicy Satyr icon of Petronius Arbiter will shortly issue from the
same presses. And so on, endlessly. It is a neat arrangement but one
which cannot be imitated by the playwright. When he wants to be naughty,
he must make up his mind to being naughty right out on the street-corner
where every one can see him.

And though, in the moments when he is disposed to temporize, he
sometimes thinks that suspect plays might, like saucy novels, be first
inspected in manuscript, he knows full well that no such tactics are
really feasible in the theatre. Your publisher, inwardly hot with
resentment, may nevertheless take the occasional precaution of
showing the script of a thin-ice book to the authorities--even to the
self-constituted ones--thereby forestalling prosecution by agreeing to
delete in advance such phrases and incidents as seem likely to agitate
those authorities unduly. But the flavor and significance of a play
depends too much on the manner of its performance and cannot be clearly
forecast prior to that performance any more than the hue of a goblet can
be guessed before the wine is poured. I can testify to that--I, who in
my time, have seen players make a minx out of Ophelia, a mild-mannered
mouse out of Katherine, an honest woman out of Lady Macbeth and a
benevolent old gentleman out of Shylock. I have seen French players cast
as the servants of Petruchio invade "The Taming of the Shrew" with a
comic pantomime in which they fought for their turns at the keyhole
of Petruchio's bedroom wherein Kate was being subjected to a little
off-stage taming. It would have amused Shakespeare immoderately, I
imagine, and certainly it would have surprised him. Until his piece
is spoken, even the author cannot tell--and thereafter, from night to
night, he cannot be sure.

That is why there is the quality of an eternal fable in the pathetic
old tale of the stagehand who had always felt that, if chance would ever
give him even the smallest of rôles, he would show these actors where
their shortcomings were. He would not drone out even the least important
and most perfunctory of speeches. Not he. Into every syllable he would
pour real meaning, real conviction. At last, after twenty years of
yearning from the wings, chance did rush him on as an understudy.
Unfortunately, he was assigned to the role of the page in "King John,"
who must march into the throne-room and announce the approach of Philip
the Bastard.

So, it seems apparent that any real supervision of the theatre must
function with relation to produced plays and cannot deal with mere
unembodied and undetermined manuscripts.

Our playwright's suspicion that such supervision, if managed by a
politically appointed censor, would work foolishly, are justified by all
he has heard of such functionaries as they have worked in other fields
and in other lands. This was true of the gag which the doughty Brieux
finally pried off the mouth of the French playwright. It has certainly
been true of the mild and intermittent discipline to which the remote
and slightly puzzled Lord Chamberlain has subjected the English
dramatists. Indeed, when their mutinous mutterings finally jogged
Parliament into inspecting his activities, the Lord Chamberlain was
somewhat taken aback by the tactics of Shaw, who, instead of hissing
him for forbidding public performances of certain Shaw and Ibsen plays,
derided and denounced him instead for the plays he had _not_ suppressed.
And indeed, for every play which the Lord Chamberlain has suppressed,
the old playgoer of London could point to five which, had he been more
intelligent, he might more reasonably have suppressed in its place.

But after all those scuffles on the Strand do seem part of the strange
customs of a fusty-dusty never-never land. So our American playwright
turns, instead, to the purifications effected nearer home. He looks
apprehensively into the matter of the movies. As an occasional scenario
writer, he has been instructed by bulletins sent out for his guidance,
little watch-your-step leaflets which list the alterations ordered in
earlier pictures by the august Motion Picture Commission of the State of
New York. Most of them are fussy little disapprovals of language used in
the titles. You mustn't say: "I shall kill Lester Crope." Better say:
"I shall destroy the false Lester Crope" or something like that. You
mustn't say "roué." You mustn't say: "I don't like that rich old roué
hanging around you." Better say: "I don't like that rich old sport." And
when, in a moment of self-indulgence, a title-writer allowed himself
the luxury of writing "In a moment of madness, I wronged a woman," the
Censor seems to have turned scarlet and issued the following order:
"Substitute for 'wronged' the word 'offended' or something similar."

"Or something similar." Somehow, that seems to recall an old "Spanish
for Beginners" textbook which bade me not bother with the "tutoyer"
business as it would not be needed during my travels in Spain, unless I
married there "or something similar."

At all events, no playwright can be scoffed at as an alarmist who
ventures to fear that a censorship of the drama will, in practice, be
foolish. At the thought of such frivolous and fatuous blue-pencillings
of his next drama (which is to be his master-piece, by the way) our
playwright becomes profoundly depressed and every time he goes out to
dinner or finds himself with a small, cornered audience at the club, he
winds up the talk on this bugaboo of his.

Out of the resulting prattle, two widespread impressions always come
to the top, two familiar comments on the subject which, whenever
questionable plays are mentioned, seem to emerge as regularly and as
automatically as does the applause which follows the rendition of Dixie
by any restaurant orchestra in New York. Both comments are absurd.

One comes from the man who can be counted on to say: "They tell me that
show at the Eltinge--What's it called? 'Tickling Tottie's Tummy?'--well,
they say it's pretty raw. Certainly does beat all how there are some
men who just have to see a show soon's they hear it's smutty. I can't
understand it."

This might be called the Comment Ingenuous. A man who never fails to
edge into any group whence the bent head and the hoarse chuckle tells
him that a shady story is on, a man who would have to think hard to name
a friend of his to whom he would not rush with the latest scandalous
anecdote brought in by the drummers from Utica--such a man will,
nevertheless, express a pious surprise when the crowds flock to see the
latest Hopwood farce just because it is advertised as indecorous. It is
not known why he is surprised.

Or, if he is not surprised, then he falls over backward and makes the
Comment Cynical. When he hears that "Under Betty's Bolster" is making
a fortune while "The Grey Iconoclast" is playing to empty benches next
door, he gives a sardonic little laugh (which he reserves for just such
occasions) and says: "Of course. You might have known. Old Channing
Pollock was right when he said: 'Nothing risqué, nothing gained.'
Don't the smutty shows always make money? Doesn't the public invariably
stampede to the most bedridden plays? Isn't the pornographic play the
most valuable of all theatrical properties?"

To which rhetorical questions, the answer in each case, as it happens,
is "No." The blush is not, of course, a bad sign in the box-office. But
the chuckle of recognition is a better one. So is the glow of sentiment.
So is the tear of sympathy. The smutty and the scandalous have a smaller
and less active market than homely humor, for instance, or melodramatic
excitement or pretty sentiment. When "Aphrodite" was brought here from
Paris, it was, for various reasons, impossible to recapture for the
translated dramatization the flavor of abnormal eroticism which lent the
book a certain phosphorescent glow at home. So its producers relied
on lots and lots of nudity to give it réclame here. At this the Hearst
papers did some rather pointed blushing and the next morning, there
was a grand scrimmage at the box-office and seats were hawked about for
grotesque prices. Whereupon the Comment Cynical could be heard on all
sides. But when at the end of the season or so later, "Aphrodite" was
withdrawn with a shortage of a hundred and ninety thousand dollars or
so on its books, the Cynics were too engrossed with some other play to
mention the fact. To be sure that shortage was more than made up next
season on the road, but it ought to be mentioned that "Aphrodite" knew
the indignity of many and many an empty row in New York.

The great fortunes, as a matter of fact, are made with plays like "Peg
o' My Heart" and "The First Year," both as pure as the driven snow. It
is true that Avery Hopwood has grown rich on his royalties. But not so
rich as Winchell Smith, who has dealt exclusively with sweetness and
light. Also those who laugh most caustically over the Hopwood estate
usually find it convenient to ignore the fact that the greatest single
contribution to it has been made by "The Bat," at which Dr. Straton
might conceivably faint from excitement but at which he would have to
work pretty hard to do any blushing.

So much for the familiar catch-words and their validity. A little
discouraged by the fatuity of all lay discussion, our playwright may be
pictured as retreating to the clubrooms of the American Dramatists
and there finding his fellow-craftsmen all busy as bees on scenarios
overflowing with not particularly original sin. They are turning them
out hurriedly with an "After-me-the-deluge" gleam in their haunted eyes.
Some such despairing courtship of disaster may be needed to explain the
jostling procession of harlots which marked the American Drama in the
season of 1921-1922. An unprecedentedly large percentage of the heroines
had either just been ruined (or were just about to be ruined) as the
first curtain rose. Also the plays wallowed in a defiant squalor of
language which, five years before, would have called out the reserves.

The privilege to indulge in such didos is not, as a matter of fact,
especially dear to them. They do not really prize unduly the right to
use the word "slut" once in every act. They can even bear up whenever a
law forbids disrobing on the stage. They know that most pruriency in the
theatre derives from the old frustrations sealed up and festering in
the mind of the onlooker who detects it. They suspect, from what little
reading they have managed in the psychology of outlets, that the more
mock-raping there is done on the stage of the local opera house, the
less real raping will be done on the greensward of the nearest park. But
they know, too, that the force of modesty is one of the strongest and
most ancient instincts of civilized man, that probably it is a sound
and healthy one, inextricably involved in the race's instinct of
self-preservation and self-perpetuation. Anyway, they feel that the
discussion draws them into matters unarguable.

They dread a Censor most for fear his appetite will grow by what it
feeds on. They know that the Lord Chamberlain began by exorcising
obscenity from the English theatre and ended by banning so fiercely
Puritanical a play as "Mrs. Warren's Profession" because it admitted
the existence of brothel-keeping as a business and by shutting up such
innocent merriment as "The Mikado" because its jocularity might offend
the (at the moment) dear Japanese.

Most American playwrights would derive a certain enjoyment from watching
a posse of citizens in wrathful pursuit of one of those theatrical
managers who are big brothers to the trembling crones that totter up to
you on the _Boulevard des Italiens_ and try to sell you a few obscene
postal-cards. But most American playwrights would feel a genuine
apprehension lest such a posse, confused in its values and its mission,
might then turn and lock up Eugene O'Neill because of the rough talk
that lends veracity to "The Hairy Ape" or because of the steady scrutiny
which has the effect of stripping naked the unhappy creatures of his
play called "Diff'rent."

They would be perfectly willing to co-operate with a State official
appointed to prevent the use of naughty words on the American stage, but
they darkly suspect that he would then require every heroine to bring a
letter from her pastor and would end by interfering with all plays which
suggested, for instance, that government had been known, from time to
time, to prove corrupt, wealth to become oppressive and law, on rare
occasions, to seem just a wee bit unjust. They are minded to resist any
supervision of the theatre's manners for fear it might shackle in time
the theatre's thought. Today or tomorrow they may be seen temporizing
or at least negotiating with the forces of suppression in any community,
but they are really seeking all the time to frustrate those forces.
And will so seek ever and always, law or no law. It was just such
frustration they were seeking when after a season of ruined heroines
(and ruined managers) they all gravely sat down in April, 1922, and drew
up a panel of 300 pure-minded citizens from which a jury could be called
to pass on any play complained of.

And they have the comfort of knowing that any such supervision, today
or tomorrow, legalized or roundabout, mild or incessant, is bound to be
superficial, spasmodic and largely formal. They know that in the long
run the theatre in each day and community, will manage somehow to
express the taste of that day and community. They know that it is among
the sweet revenges of life that the o'er-leaping censor always defeats

They derive a curious comfort from the story of the reviewer for a
Boston journal who once described a musician as remaining seated through
a concert in the pensive attitude of Buddha contemplating his navel. It
is a story within whose implications lies all that has ever been said,
or ever will be said, about censorship. The copy-readers and make-up
men, it seems, could see nothing especially infamous in their reviewer's
little simile. As poor George Sampson said of the outraged Mrs. Wilfer's
under-petticoat: "We know it's there." At all events, the offending word
passed all the sentries and was printed as written, when, too late, it
caught the horrified eye of the proprietor. At the sight of so crassly
physical a term in the chaste columns of his own paper, he rushed to the
telephone at the club and called up the managing editor. That word must
come out. But the paper was already on the presses. Even as they spoke,
these were whirling out copy after copy. Too late to reset? Yes, much
too late. But was there not still some remedy which would keep at
least part of the edition free from that dreadful word? Wasn't it still
possible to rout out the type at that point, to chisel the word away and
leave a blank? Yes, that was possible. So the presses were halted, the
one word was scraped out, the presses whirred again and the review, with
a gape in the line, went up and down Beacon Street. Whereat Boston
that night shook with a mighty laughter--the contented laughter of the


[Illustration: The Periscope of the Author of the Mirrors of Washington
is turned toward the Great Negative Oracle.]


Has anyone ever stopped to think what the nonsenseorship would do to our
suppressed desires? A little while ago suppressed desires were one's own
affair. One fondled them in the skeleton closet of his consciousness
and was as proud of them as anyone with a haunted house is of his right,
title and interest in a ghost.

They proved to him that though he went to church on Sunday and was
respectably married to only one woman, he was really beneath his correct
exterior a whale of a fellow, who might have been, had he but let
himself go, a Casanova or at least a Byron. He patted himself on the
back for keeping unruly instincts in subjection. He applauded himself
for what he might be and for what he was. He got it coming and going. It
was a pleasant age.

But now is he permitted to have his own secret museum of virility? I
speak only of the sex which has my deepest sympathy.

No. The nonsenseorship regards him with suspicion. He must go and have
even that part of him which lies below the level of his consciousness
dragged forth by experts in the interests of society, and if there
is anything hidden in him which might not be exhibited on the movie
screens, he must have it sublimated. He cannot even have suppressed
desires. He cannot be a devil of a fellow even to himself. He cannot be
his own censor any longer, he must submit himself to outside censoring,
to the nonsenseorship.

It all came about this way. First to establish divine right somewhere
in modern government, the doctrine was set up that the public mind was
infallible. Thereafter, naturally, attention centered on the public
mind. What was it that it had this wonderful quality of always being
right? Experience showed that it was not a thinking mind. Since it was
not, then the thinking mind was anti-social.

Then our very best American philosophers, and some French ones, for the
support of mass opinion, developed a system which set forth that reason
always led you into traps and that the only mind to trust was the
irrational, instinctive or intuitional mind. Thus the nonsenseorship,
with excellent philosophic support put the ban upon thinking. Now, I do
not contend that many suffer seriously from this restriction. For, after
all, thinking is hard work and may cheerfully be foregone in the general

But does the nonsenseorship rest content with its achievement? If the
instinctive part of us is so important, let us have a look at it,
says society; perhaps something anti-social may be unearthed there. A
Viennese explores this area of the mind. He discovers what society would
forbid, merely hidden away. Civilization has merely pressed it into dark
corners, as the law has crowded the blackjack artist into alleys and
dens of thieves. The psychic police are put on our trail. They must
nab every suppressed desire and send it to the reform school for
re-education into something beautiful and serviceable. We may not
be unhappy, neurotic, mad; our complexes must be inspected. We must
suppress our reason, we may not suppress our desire; the nonsenseorship
says so, and to persuade us, its experts offer us the reward of health
and greater usefulness if we make this further surrender.

Now, although as I have said we let reason go at the behest of the
nonsenseorship without so much as a word of protest, we do not give up
our suppressed desires so easily and without a fight.

As a result we see the nonsenseorship in a new light. We feel it more
keenly now than ever before. It is revealed as the Procrustean bed which
cramps us up until we ache inside. If there is anything the matter with
us, if we are introverted, introspective, neurotic, complicated, have
too much ego or too little ego, are dyspeptic, sick, sore, inhibited,
regressive, defeated or too successful, unhappy, cruel or too kind,
if we differ ever so slightly from the enforced average, it is because
censorship presses upon us. And the cure for censorship is more
censorship. Have your psychic insides censored; if you would be a
perfect 36 mentally and morally, with the Hart, Schaffner & Marxed soul
which modern society wills that you shall have, conform not only
without but within, and be "splendidly null"! I think it is the sudden
realization that just a little more of individuality, our hidden
individuality, is threatened, which makes the nonsenseorship irk us now
as it never did before.

The race has always had it, but in the beginning it was a crude and
simple thing, troubling itself only with externals. A woman whose
official duty it is to look after the virtue of the movies in
Pennsylvania or Ohio, will not permit on the screen any suggestion that
there is a physiological relation between a mother and a child. This
method of protecting the race has its roots back in the primitive mind
of mankind. When men really did not understand how children came about,
births were catastrophic. A woman at a certain moment had to disappear
into the wilderness; she came back having found a baby under a cabbage
leaf. Any contact with her while she was making her discovery might
bring pestilence and death to the tribe.

We still believe in the pestilence even if we no longer have faith in
the cabbage leaf. The lady censor of Ohio or Pennsylvania is the tribe
driving the pregnant woman into the wilderness. On the whole the tribe
did it better than we do; it only removed the offender and the mental
life of the little community went on just as before. We keep the
offender amongst us and close our minds. Our simple ancestors covered no
more with the fig leaf than they thought it necessary to hide; we wear
the fig leaf over our eyes: that is the nonsenseorship.

Mr. Griffith recently brought out a cinema spectacle called "Orphans in
the Storm," which presented many scenes from the French Revolution.
Now it was not long ago that we Americans were all rather proud of the
French Revolution. We had had a revolution of our own and we thought
with satisfaction that the French had caught theirs from us. We were
as pleased about it as the little boy is when the neighbor's little boy
catches the mumps from him. He sees an enlargement of his ego in the
swollen neck of his playmate.

All that is changed now. Mr. Griffith picturing the triumphant mob in
Paris had to fill his screens with preachments against Bolshevism, which
had as much to do with his subject as captions about the rape of the
Sabine woman would have had to do with it. It is as if the little boy
had been taught to believe that by never saying the word mumps, he could
save his playmate from tumefying glands.

Soon some committee of morons which attends to the keeping of our
intellects on the level with their own will exclude from the schools
all histories which contain the words "the American Revolution." We must
call it the War for American Independence. That is putting the fig leaf
over our eyes. That is the nonsenseorship.

But before we decide whether or not we shall refuse to yield up our
suppressed desires as we have surrendered our reason to it, with the
approval of our leading philosopher, Mr. William James, let us consider
some of the advantages of the nonsenseorship. Perhaps it will prove
worth while to give up this little internal privilege.

First there is the simplicity of consulting the so-called public mind.
The favorite aphorism of the politician and his friend and spokesman the
editor is: "The public is always right upon a moral issue." This means
that if the politician or the propagandist can present a question to
the people in such a way that he can win his end by having the public
respond in the negative, he is sure of success. It is as if society
depended for its guidance upon the word of an oracle, a great stone
image, out of which the priests had only succeeded in producing one
response, a sound very much like, "No." The trick would consist of so
framing your question that the word "no" would give you approval for
your designs. That is the art of laying before the public a "moral
issue" upon which it is inevitably right.

Suppose, in a society ruled by the stone image, you wanted to make war
upon your neighbor. You would frame your question thus: "Shall we stand
by idly and pusillanimously while our neighbor invades our land and
rapes our women?" This is a moral issue of the deepest sanctity. You
would present it. The priests would do their little something somewhere
out of sight. From the great stone image would come a bellow which
resembled "No." You would have won on a moral issue and would then be
licensed to invade your neighbor's territory and rape his women.

Now you will perceive certain advantages in an oracle which can only say
one word. You know in advance what its answer will be. Suppose the great
stone image could have said either "yes" or "no." Suppose its answer had
been "yes" to your righteous question? It would have been embarrassing.
You could no longer say with such perfect confidence, "It is always
right upon a moral issue."

Suppose you were capital and you desired to reduce wages. You would not
go to the temple and say, "Shall we reduce wages?" That would not be a
moral issue upon which the answer would be right. You would ask, "Shall
we tamely acquiesce while the labor unions import the Russian revolution
into our very midst?" The great stone voice always to be trusted on
moral issues would thunder, "No."

Or suppose you were labor; for my oracle is even-handed--and you wished
to extend your organization--you would go to the temple and propound
the inquiry, "Shall we be eaten alive by the war profiteers?" The always
moral voice would at least whisper "No!"

It will be observed that in consulting the oracle whose answer is known
in advance, the only skill required consists in so framing the question
that you will get a louder roar of "no" than the other side can with its
question. If you can always do this you can say with perfect confidence
that old granite lungs "is always right upon a moral issue."

That is the art of being a great popular leader.

Would anyone exchange a voice like that as a ruler for the wisdom of
the world's ten wisest men? We laugh at the Greeks for their practice of
consulting the oracle at Delphi and rightly, for our oracle beats theirs
which used to hedge in its answers and leave them in doubt. Ours never
equivocates; we know its answer beforehand, for the public mind is
compounded of prejudices, fears, herd instincts, youthful hatred of
novelty, all easily calculable.

It has been my duty for many years to tell what public opinion is on
many subjects. My method, more or less unconscious, has been to say to
myself, "The public is made up largely of the unthinking. Such and such
misinformation has been presented to it. Such and such prejudices and
fears have been aroused. Its answer is invariably negative. The result
is so and so." It is thus that judges of public opinion invariably
proceed. They do not find the popular will reflected in the newspapers.
They know it as a chemist knows a reaction, from familiarity with the
elements combined. At least such a mind is highly convenient.

And after all who does make the best censor, or nonsenseor or whatever
you choose to call it? Was it not written, "The child is censor to the
man?" Well, if it was not it ought to have been, and it is now. Consider
the child as it arrives in the family. Forthwith there is not merely the
One Subject which may never be mentioned. There are a hundred subjects.
A guard is upon the lips. The little ears must be kept pure.

Now, when we set up the establishment of democracy we did take a child
into our household. I have discussed elsewhere [Footnote: Chapter V,
_Behind the Mirrors_] the parentage of this infant born of Rousseau and
Thérèse, his moron mistress. The public mind is a child mind because
in the first place the mob mind of men is primitive, youthful and
undeveloped, and again because by the wide diffusion of primary
instruction, we have steadily increased the number of persons with less
than adult mentality who contribute to the forming of public opinion.
In the nature of the case, fifty per cent. of the public must be
sub-normal, that is, youthful mentality. We have reached down to the
level of nonsense for our guide. That is why we call it in this book the

Every one who has watched the growth of a child's vocabulary has
observed that it learns to say "no," many months, perhaps more than a
year, before it ever says "yes." An infant which took to saying "yes"
before it did "no" would violate all precedents, would scandalize its
parents, and would grow up to be a revolutionist. It would have an
attitude toward life with which men should not be born and which parents
and society would find subversive. On the instinct for saying "no" rests
all our institutions, from the family to the state. It should exhibit
itself early and become a confirmed habit before the dangerous "yes"

Besides, the child needs to say "no" long before it needs to say "yes."
Foolish parents feed it mentally as they feed it physically, out of
a bottle. If it had not its automatic facility of regurgitation, both
mental and physical, it would suffer from excesses. Its "no" is its
mental throwing up.

The public mind is still in the no-saying, the mental regurgitative
stage. But is not that ideal for the nonsenseorship? Does a censor ever
have need of any other word but "no"?

I have now established the convenience of an oracle whose answer "no"
can always be foreseen; and the fitness of the child mind for saying
"no," as well as the perfect adaptation of the single word vocabulary to
the purposes of the nonsenseorship.

One of the important ends which a "no" always serves is maintaining the
_status quo_. We all cling precariously to a whirling planet. We
hate change for fear of somehow being spilled off into space. The
nonsenseorship of the child mind is splendidly conservative. The baby in
the habit of receiving its bottle from its nurse will go hungry rather
than take it from its mother or father. Gilbert was wrong. Every child
is not born a little radical or a little conservative.

Reaching down for the child mind in society, with some misgivings, we
have been delighted to find it the strongest force making for stability.
An amusing thing happened when Mr. Hearst some years ago sought readers
in a lower level of intelligence than any journalist had till then
explored. To interest the child mind he employed the old device of
pictures, his favorite illustration portraying the Plunderbund.
Now, persons who thought the cartoon of the Plunderbund looked like
themselves, viewed the experiment with alarm. But Mr. Hearst was right.
He proved to be as he said he was, "our greatest conservative force."
The surest guardians of our morals and of our social order are
precisely Mr. Hearst's readers, who learned the alphabet spelling out
P-L-U-N-D-E-R-B-U-N-D. They watch keenly and with reprobation in Mr.
Hearst's press our slightest divagations.

De Gourmont, writing of education, asks: "Is it necessary to cultivate
at such pains in the minds of the young, hatred of what is new?" And he
says it is done only because the teacher naturally hates everything that
has come into the world since he won his diploma. But no; De Gourmont
is mistaken. It is because we teach the young what it is socially
beneficial that they should learn, having regard also for their aversion
to novelty, to the bottle from any other than the accustomed hands.

And we find in the child mind--and foster it by education--"the will to
believe," that great American virtue. It requires an immense "will to
believe" to grow up in the family and in society, looking at the elders
and at all that is established, and accepting all the information that
mankind has slowly accumulated and which teachers patiently offer. If
the young once doubted, once thought--but unfortunately they do not!
Anyway, we do find in the child mind, which forms the nonsenseorship,
the "will to believe,"--of immense social utility.

Now, the "will to believe"--like teeth which decay if not used upon
hard food, or muscles which grow flabby if they have not hard work to
perform--must be given something for its proper exercise. In a chapter
on "The Duty of Lying," in his brilliant book _Disenchantment_, Mr. C.
E. Montague shows what may be done with "the will to believe," developed
as it has at last been. "During the war the art of Propaganda was little
more than born." In the next war, "the whole sky would be darkened
with flights of tactical lies, so dense that the enemy would fight in a
veritable 'fog of war' darker than London's own November brews, and the
world would feel that not only the Angel of Death was abroad, but
the Angel of Delusion too, and would hear the beating of two pairs of
wings." And what may be done with the "will to believe" in time of war
has immense lessons for the days of peace. A British Tommy, quoted by
Mr. Montague, summed the moral advantages up: "They tell me we've pulled
through at last all right because our propergander dished up better lies
than what the Germans did. So I say to myself: 'If tellin' lies is all
that bloody good in war, what bloody good is tellin' truth in peace?'"
What "bloody good" is it, when you have ready to hand the well-trained
"will to believe," which those who censored reason for its social
disutility set up as the most serviceable attribute of the human mind?

I think I have written enough to prove that the child mind at the bottom
of nonsenseorship is the effective base of stability. But the heart of
man desires also permanency. Is there reasonable assurance that we shall
always be able to keep the guiding principles of our national life, the
nonsenseorship, a child mind?

It is true that we have reached as far down, through our press and
through our public men, to the levels of the low I. Q. as it is
practicable to go, until we grant actual children and not merely mental
children an even larger share than they now have in the forming of
public opinion; for this is, as you know, "the age of the child."

And no great further advance is likely to be made in the mechanical
means of uniting the whole 100,000,000 people of this country in a
24-hour a day, 365 days a year, mass meeting. The cheap newspaper,
the moving picture, instant telegraphic bulletin going everywhere, the
broadcasting wireless telephone, and the Ford car, have accomplished
all that can be hoped toward giving the widely-scattered population the
responsiveness of a mob.

But though perhaps we may never lower the I. Q. of the nonsenseorship,
no further triumphs being possible in that direction, there is no reason
why education, what we call "creating an enlightened public opinion,"
should not always maintain for us the child mind as it now is with all
its manifold advantages.

Somewhere in Bartlett there is, or ought to be, a quotation which reads
like this: "The god who always finds us young and always keeps us so."
That is education; it always finds us young and always keeps us so.

It catches us when our minds are merely acquisitive, storing up
impressions and information; and it prolongs that period of acquisition
to maturity by always throwing facts in our way. Its purpose is not
to "sow doubts," far from it, for that would have for its ideal mere
intelligence and not social usefulness. It develops instead the "will
to believe," and this serves the needs of the propagandists, who, as Mr.
Will H. Hayes is reported to have said of the movies, "shake the rattle
which keeps the American child amused so that it forgets its aches
and pains." We may safely trust education to keep the American
mind infantile, merely acquisitive and not critical. And thus the
nonsenseorship seems sure to be perpetuated, and we reach the ideal of
all the ages, society in its permanent and final form. Here we are, here
we may rest.

These considerations persuade me at least that we should make the
utmost sacrifices for so perfect a social means as we now have. Let the
nonsenseorship invade the secret closets of our personality and rummage
out our most cherished suppressed desires. Let us have nothing that
we may call our own. For my part, I shall spend the proceeds of this
article upon one of the new social police, a psycho-analyst.

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