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Title: August Strindberg, the Spirit of Revolt - Studies and Impressions
Author: Lind-af-Hageby, L. (Lizzy), 1878-1963
Language: English
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AUGUST STRINDBERG

THE SPIRIT OF REVOLT

Studies and Impressions

by

L. LIND-AF-HAGEBY



New York
D. Appleton and Company
MCMXIII



CONTENTS

        INTRODUCTION. THE RIDDLE
    I.  THE STRUGGLE WITH ENVIRONMENT
   II.  THE STRUGGLE FOR SELF-EXPRESSION
  III.  "FERMENTATION TIME"
   IV.  THE DRAMA OF THE HERETIC
    V.  MARRIED AND BLASPHEMOUS.
   VI.  THE ARTIST.
  VII.  SELF-TORMENTOR AND VISIONARY.
 VIII.  The Theatre of Life

STRINDBERG'S CHIEF WRITINGS

INDEX

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Bust by Carl Eldh.]



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

  August Strindberg. From a Bust by Carl Eldh.... Frontispiece
  Strindberg's Parents
  August Strindberg (1862 and 1870)
  August Strindberg. From Statue by Carl Eldh
  August Strindberg (1884)
  August Strindberg (1884 and 1897)
  August Strindberg. From Bust by Max Levi, 1893
  August Strindberg. From Bust by Agnes Kjellberg Frumerie, 1896
  August Strindberg. From Portrait in Oil by Chr. Krogh, 1893
  August Strindberg. From Portrait in Oil by Richard Bergh, 1906
  August Strindberg (1904 and 1906)
  August Strindberg (1906 and 1907)
  August Strindberg (1902). In His Home in Stockholm (1908)
  August Strindberg. From Bust by K.I. Eldh. Bought by the Swedish
     State. In the National Museum, Stockholm
  August Strindberg. From Portrait by Carl Larsson, 1899. In the
     National Museum, Stockholm
  Strindberg in His Library in the Blue Tower. His Last Home
  Strindberg in His Study (1911)
  The Strindberg-Theatre in Stockholm
  Harriet Bosse. Strindberg's third Wife as Biskra in Samum, 1902.
  Anne-Marie Bosse-Strindberg. Strindberg's only child by his third
     marriage
  Strindberg's Funeral (May 19th, 1913)
  Trades-Unions and Undergraduates in Procession



AUGUST STRINDBERG

THE SPIRIT OF REVOLT


INTRODUCTION

THE RIDDLE


There have been few dispassionate attempts to discern August
Strindberg's place in contemporary literature. His writings and his
personality defied ordinary criticism.

He took upon himself the rôle of destroyer, he mocked men's religion
and men's morality, he ridiculed propriety and poured bitter scorn on
the social order. There was something cometic in the swiftness and
intensity with which he appeared, disturbing the well-ordered orbits of
traditions and conventions. The erratic course of his voyage through
humanity caused alarm. No sooner had people congratulated themselves
that his terrific lust for destruction had passed by their favourite
systems and their cherished ideals, than his ruthless force was upon
them, exposing ugliness and scattering treasures.

He passed on, making enemies, breaking idols, desecrating temples. He
sowed reality and he reaped hatred.

His titanic spirit worked through a brain charged with explosive
mentality. He poured out dramas, novels, stories, with a versatility
and an accumulating energy which in themselves were offensive to the
mediocre and to those who sought to place him within literary shackles.
He discoursed on history, science and statecraft with the calm
assurance of omniscience.

He wrote books which were decidedly and unblushingly "immoral." He
compelled attention by blasphemous outbursts which filled the religious
with righteous indignation and sighs for the _auto-da-fé_. He dissected
the human heart, laid bare its meanness, its uncleanliness; made men
and women turn on each other with sudden understanding and loathing,
and walked away smiling at the evil he had wrought. He turned on
himself with savage hatred, and in books, bearing the mark of the
flagellant and reflecting the agony of a soul in torment, he pointed to
his sins and his stripes.

"He is very evil," said some; "let us put him in prison."

"He is mad," said others; "let us have him declared a lunatic."

"He is most improper," said the majority; "let us ignore him
altogether."

When public opinion was quite sure that Strindberg was evil, mad, and
improper, when he stood convicted out of his own mouth of anti-social
and satanic designs, he stayed the verdict by his own magic. He
wrote more and more, and there came from his pen artistic creations
endowed with virtues which could not have risen in a mind submerged in
vice; pictures of scenery which bespoke a delicate and spiritualised
nature-worship. His mind held a garden of flowers as well as a pile of
putrescence.

On May 14th, 1912, the stillness of death descended on the battlefield
which was Strindberg's life. The literary historian who justly passes
the suspended verdict must hold peculiar and special qualifications.
For the winds of literary taste and fashion cannot touch the giant of
expression. Condemnation by temporary systems of morality and creed
did not alter his course in life and will not disturb him in death.
He was--himself; and he worked ceaselessly at the task of finding
more of himself. Strindberg the atheist, Strindberg the scientist,
Strindberg the spiritualist, Strindberg the mystic, Strindberg the
sensualist, and Strindberg the ascetic, took equally important parts in
his theatre of life. The critic met him day by day in different attire
and pose, incarnations of the elusive self which was stage-manager of
this extraordinary performance. A soul in conflict with itself, good
and evil, fair and foul; sparkling with life and tense with passion
to create, he could not give us peace or contentment. Like Jacob, he
wrestled with God, though not for a night only, but throughout life,
and he fought with the desperation of one who knows that upon the issue
of the struggle depends, not his own blessing, but the liberation of
countless prisoners.

An epitome of humanity, a fragment of the world's eternal and real
drama of birth and death, he cannot be fully understood save by those
who share his cosmic consciousness.

He studied chemistry, astronomy, botany, physics, geology, entomology,
medicine, philology and political economy with a voracity which made
him ridiculous in the eyes of the specialists who are satisfied with a
few well-established formulæ. For him there were no barriers between
specialised departments of human knowledge--all sciences were thrown
into the melting-pot, in which he was preparing the new brew which
would slake the thirst of parched souls. A solipsist who assimilated,
rejected and transmuted the patiently accumulated theories of morals
as the supreme duty of existence, he scorned the slaves of ethical
communism.

The iconoclasm of Ibsen was fired by the realisation of the duties
of the wise prophet amongst his foolish people. The hypocrisies
and foibles of the little souls were the objects of the thundering
chastisement of his trumpet. The white heat of Nietzsche's forge for
the making of Superman was engendered by contempt for the feeble and
sickly. The misanthropy which breathed poison out of Strindberg's
writings, which showed souls and things in hideous nakedness, and
painted sores and disease with horrible realism, was the darkness which
he held high so as to call forth the cry for tight.

The collected works of Strindberg, which will shortly be published in a
new edition, consist of some 115 plays, novels, collections of stories,
essays and poems. Amongst these some seem absolutely antithetical.
It is the constant changeability, the self-contradictions, which made
Strindberg so incomprehensible to his contemporaries. The measure of
his life-force was so liberal that he could afford to continue where
others stop. He shed his skins like the snake and altered his colour
like the chameleon, because he was the personification of perpetual
movement and change. Thus he was endowed with ever-recurring youth;
the decay of the old was immediately followed by birth of the new.
The diary, in which, during the last fourteen years, he recorded
his visions and supernatural experiences, will not be given to the
world for many years to come. Though it depicts the last phase of his
spiritual evolution, the postponement of publication is no doubt wise.
Meanwhile, those who have poured curses on Strindberg's blatant atheism
have been perplexed by his last words.

When death was drawing near, he took the Bible--which always lay on the
table by his bed--held it up and said in a clear voice:

"Everything personal is now obliterated. I have settled with life. My
account has been rendered. This alone is right."

He expressed a last wish that the Bible and a little crucifix which
he used to wear should be placed on his breast after death, and that
he should be buried early in the morning, and not amongst the rich. He
desired to be laid to rest alone on the top of a hill under the firs.

This love of the early morning was part of his craving for more light.
For many years he used to take a solitary morning walk. At seven
o'clock he emerged from his "blue tower" in Stockholm and walked
briskly through the streets and squares of his native town. At nine he
was back at his writing-table--of late years a recluse for the rest of
the day, absorbed in his work.

"Ever since my youth," he writes in _Inferno_, "I devote my morning
walk to meditations which are preparations for my daily work. Nobody
may then accompany me, not even my wife. In the morning my mind enjoys
a balance and an expansion which approach ecstasy; I do not walk, I
fly; I do not feel that I have a body; all sadness evaporates and I
am entirely soul. This is for me the hour of inner concentration, of
prayer, my divine service."

I have often seen Strindberg in the streets of Stockholm. He walked
with his high forehead painfully contracted, the eyes searching and
concentrated, and an expression of haughty bitterness upon his face.
A solitary, suggesting to the passer-by Rodin's _Penseur_ in motion
and the futile wanderings of Ahasuerus; he seemed wrapped in his own
misery, held aloof by suffering and contempt.

One day I met him with a companion. He was holding a little girl by
the hand and talking to her. The child looked up in his face and
Strindberg's expression was changed. Love for the child, respect for
the questions and joys of childhood shone out of the face of the hater.
He was not obsessed by the ugliness of things or the cruelty of human
deception. His face was aglow with the early enthusiasm which, though
slain a thousand times, rises again at the bidding of the Self that
knows the answer to the riddle.

In the early morning of Sunday, May 19th, August Strindberg's body was
laid to rest. It was a glorious spring day with sunshine and blue sky.
Some sixty thousand people were astir to do homage to the memory of one
whom they knew to have been intrinsically true and tragically great.
Royalty, Riksdag, universities, capital and labour, statesmen, writers
and artists assembled to say a united farewell to the man of mystery
who, by his intense sincerity and the exuberance of genius, had at last
melted hatred, and ascended the steps from shame to glory.

In a message after Strindberg's death, Maxim Gorki likened him to
Danko, the hero of the old Danube legend, who, in order to help
humanity out of the darkness of problems, tore his heart out of his
breast, lit it and holding it high, led the way. The masses who mock
and praise so easily, who crucify and raise idols with the same haste,
seldom recognise their real friends. Strindberg patiently burnt his
heart for the illumination of the people, and on the day when his body
was laid low in the soil the flame of his self-immolation was seen pure
and inextinguishable.



CHAPTER I

THE STRUGGLE WITH ENVIRONMENT


Strindberg's childhood and youth, as described by himself in his
autobiographical novel _The Bondswoman's Son_, present psychological
features of exceptional interest. The circumstances of his early
home-life and their effect upon the unfolding forces of his genius
cannot be ignored by anyone who attempts to explain the varied strata
of his artistic production.

His insistent and torturous need for exact self-analysis, coupled with
an equally compelling need to tell the truth, made all his writings
strongly subjective. His autobiography--"the story of a soul's
evolution"--is an intimate revelation of his power to dissect his past
selves, to record minute incidents and to extract reflexes from the
bundle of emotions and thoughts which go to make up character. Nothing
is lost, nothing is too insignificant for careful examination in the
microscope under which he places every cell of himself. The confessions
of Rousseau and Tolstoy have not the nakedness of Strindberg's truth
about himself. Though he never loses sympathy with himself, he scorns
excuses and exposes his sins and his follies with ruthless exactitude.
There is a strange combination of the coolly analysing psychologist
and the passionate flagellant in the descriptions which range from the
struggles of childhood, through the Inferno-period of 1896, to the calm
of _Alone_, and the final visions of light.

The autobiographical novel in four volumes which was published under
the titles _The Bondswoman's Son, Fermentation Time, In the Red Room_
and _The Author_, was written at the age of thirty-seven, and, though
the impressions of childhood are recorded with deep insight into
the child's mind, we cannot forget that they were written down and
interpreted by the man who had behind him years of tumultuous and
bitter struggle for self-expression, and before whom the banquet of
life seemed reduced to dead-sea fruit. In the preface to the fifth
edition of _The Bondswoman's Son_, he tells us that when writing the
volume he believed he stood before death, "for I was tired, saw no
longer any object in life, considered myself superfluous, thrown away."

       *       *       *       *       *

Johan August Strindberg was born in Stockholm on January 22nd, 1849.
His father, whom in disparagement of his parentage he often calls
"the grocer," was a merchant and shipping agent who had married a
servant-girl, the mother of his three children. The father was a man
of education and natural refinement who passed through many economical
vicissitudes, culminating in bankruptcy at the time of August's birth.
August was born a short time after the union between the parents had
been legalised by the ceremony of marriage, and he was not welcome.
His father bore his troubles with manly fortitude and resignation
and cherished the ideals of the upper classes, whilst the mother
was essentially of the people and remained so. He claimed a distant
ancestral connection with the nobility of Sweden, his family having
descended from the son of a peasant who was born in 1710 at Strinne
in Angermanland, and who married a girl of noble birth. The discord
resulting from the difference between his father and mother gave August
his first impression of that class struggle which I throughout life
held him in the bondage of a haunting problem, and which stimulated the
development of his mordantly critical faculties.

Poverty, with its attendant cares and anxieties, reigned in the house
by Klara churchyard, where, from a flat on the third floor, August
began to survey life's difficulties. He tells us that he recollects
fear and hunger as his first sensations. He was afraid of darkness, of
being beaten, of offending people, of falling down, of knocking against
things, of being in the way, of the fists of his brothers, of father's
and mother's chastisements.

It was not easy to avoid being in people's way, for the parents with
seven children and two servants lived in three rooms. The furniture
consisted mostly of cradles and beds; children slept on ironing boards
and chairs. Baptisms and funerals alternated. The mother developed
phthisis after the birth of her twelfth child.

She was contented with her life, he tells us, for she had risen in the
social scale and improved her own and her family's position. The father
was less satisfied with his fate, for he had descended and sacrificed
himself. He was tired, sad, severe and serious, but not hard.

Strindberg's recollections of his early impressions of the relations
between his father and mother show the inception of the views on women
and marriage which earned for him the title of woman-hater, and which
found their most provocative expression in _The Father_ and _The
Confession of a Fool_.

"This is the father's thankless position in the family," he writes; "to
be everybody's breadwinner, everybody's enemy." He concluded that his
mother did not overwork herself, though his account of the daily life
in the family does not support that view.

As a little boy August was as weak as other little boys. He adored
his mother. He was shy, acutely sensitive, morbidly self-conscious,
keenly resentful of injustice. He was not his mother's favourite, he
was nobody's favourite, and this embittered him. The mother soon became
an object of analysis; he was torn between love for her and contempt
for her faults, which he discovered through making comparisons between
her and his father. He says that a yearning for the mother followed
him through life. The future misogynist was fostered by the child's
passionate and unrequited love for the mother. When in later life
Strindberg's attacks upon women were criticised, he defended himself by
declaring that he chid woman because he loved her so well.

Disgust with the daily drudgery and routine of the household was
aroused at an early age. He speaks of the family as an institution for
providing food and clean clothes, where there is an eternal round of
shopping, cooking, cleaning and washing.

"Glorious moral institution," he cries; "holy family, inviolable,
divine institution for the education of citizens in truth and virtue!
Thou pretended home of virtues, where innocent children are tortured to
speak their first lie, where will-power is crushed by despotism, where
self-reliance is killed by narrow egoism. Family, thou art the home of
all social vices, the charitable institution for all lazy women. The
forge for the chains of the breadwinner, and the hell of the children!"

This passage follows the description of an unjust punishment which
was meted out to August. He was accused of having drunk some wine out
of his aunt's bottle, and upon blushing in response to his father's
question was beaten as the culprit. Fear of the physical pain made
him confess the deed which he had never committed, and, upon telling
his old nurse that he had suffered innocently, he was again seized and
now beaten as a liar as well as a thief. After that day he lived in
constant anxiety. The world was a cruel and unfriendly place; there
were enemies everywhere.

"Who drank that wine?" he repeatedly asked himself. The search for a
satisfactory reply to that question and to Similar questions was not
abandoned, though it was futile. The hostility to social injustice and
enforced criminality to which, later on, he gave literary utterance,
had a remote though ineffaceable connection with the abducted contents
of the wine bottle.

His ideas about God were vague, and chiefly formulated through saying
daily the Swedish child's prayer: "God who loveth children." The
windows of the house over-looked the old churchyard of Klara. When
there was a fire in the night the church bells were tolled in a manner
which struck horror in the heart of the child. The whole household
was awake. "There is a fire," ran the whisper. He cried and tried in
vain to go to sleep again. Then his mother came, tucked him up and
said: "Don't be afraid; God will protect those who are unhappy." The
following morning the servants read in the paper that there had been a
fire, and that two people had been burnt to death.

"That was God's will," said his mother. Sacha incidents did not pass him
by. The apparent inconsistency between the expectation of faith and the
tragic reality troubled him and caused his first religious doubts.

The old church with its graves became the symbol of gloom, and of the
joyless fate from which there is no escape. During the cholera epidemic
of 1854 the child of five watched the paraphernalia and ceremonies of
death from the bedroom window. In the churchyard below, gravediggers
were at work, stretchers were carried past, dark knots of people were
seen to assemble round black boxes. The church bells tolled incessantly.

One day his uncle took him and his brothers inside the church. In spite
of the beautiful walls in white and gold, the sound of the music which
was like that of a hundred pianos, and kneeling white angels, his
attention was riveted on two figures. Amidst the praying congregation
two prisoners in chains were doing penance. They were guarded by
soldiers and dad in long, grey cloaks with hoods over their heads.

He was told that these men were thieves. A feeling of oppression by
something horrible, by an incomprehensibly cruel and relentless force,
overcame August, and he was glad to be taken away.

The initiation into the existence of pain and suffering which awaits
every child held peculiar terrors for him. Acutely sensitive, his
nerves of sympathy responded quickly to the feelings of others. One
day he was taken to the workhouse infirmary to visit his wet-nurse who
was slowly dying. The old women with their diseases, pale, lame and
sorrowing, the long row of beds, the colourless monotony of the ward
and its unpleasant odours fixed themselves in his consciousness. When
he left he was haunted by a strange sense of unpaid and unpayable debt.
For this was the woman who had fed him, whose blood had nourished his.
Through poverty she had been forced to give him that which rightfully
belonged to her own child. August felt vaguely that he was enjoying
stolen life, and he was ashamed of his relief at being taken away from
the sights of the sick-room.

When August was seven the family moved to a larger house. The worst
days of penury were now over, and, though strict economy had to be
practised and every luxury eschewed, there was more freedom from
anxiety for the daily bread. His mind had hitherto been fed by daily
portions of Kindergarten fare. He was now sent to Klara school for
boys, where his sense of the general injustice of things was rapidly
developed through the vigour with which the headmaster wielded his cane.

He was awakened at six during the dark winter mornings, and as his home
was now far from Klara he had to trudge a long way through deep snow,
and arrived at his destination in wet boots and knickerbockers. When
late he was paralysed with fright in anticipation of the headmaster's
morning exercise on those who were unpunctual. He heard the screams of
boys who were already in the dutches of the tyrant.

One morning he was saved by the kindly charwoman, who pleaded for him
and pointed out that he had a long way to walk. It is a pity that the
charwoman who saved Strindberg from a thrashing has not been given a
niche in his gallery of women.

August did not shine in this school, though his knowledge was in
advance of his years, and he had, therefore, been admitted before the
required age. He was the youngest at school and at home, a position
which he vainly resented. This was a school for the children of the
upper middle class. August wore knickerbockers of leather, and strong
coarse boots, which smelt of blubber and blacking. The boys in velvet
blouses avoided him. He observed that the badly dressed boys were more
severely beaten than the well-dressed ones, and that nice-looking boys
escaped altogether.

Strindberg records his early experiences at school with characteristic
vehemence:

"... It was regarded as a preparation for hell and not for life; the
teachers seemed to exist in order to torment, not to punish. All life
weighed like an oppressive nightmare, in which it was of no avail to
have known one's lessons when one left home. Life was a place for
punishing crimes committed before one was born, and therefore the child
walked about with a permanently bad conscience."

At the age of nine he fell in love for the first time. A roseate
shimmer descended over the cane and the Latin grammar through the
presence in the class-room of the headmaster's little daughter. She was
placed at the back of the room, and the boys were forbidden to look at
her. "She was probably ugly," he tells us with his usual realism where
love affairs are concerned, "but she was nicely dressed." During the
French lessons her soft voice rang out above the grating sound of the
boys' answers, and even the hard visage of the teacher melted when he
spoke to her.

August never had the courage to speak to her. His love expressed itself
in gentle melancholy and vague wishes. He felt the victim of a secret
within his own breast and suffered from it. The affair ended with a
frustrated suicidal intention, but the lover did not attain to peace.
His love affairs from the first to the last were tinged with tragedy,
and were the vehicles of his restless and futile search for harmony.

The house in the north of Stockholm, to which the family had moved,
had a large garden and adjoining fields. The father loved the country,
and farming operations on a small scale were part of the daily duties.
The boys were made to work in the garden, and were thus provided with
healthy exercise. A magnificent old oak and bowers of lilac and
jessamine made the old-fashioned garden beautiful. August's bitter
experience of canes, teachers and unattainable feminine charm did not
corrode his inborn love of nature, which remained a source of mental
and physical rejuvenation when others ran dry.

The deep blackness of the freshly tilled soil, the apple trees in
their blossoming glory, the tulips in their gorgeous garb called forth
aspirations in his mind which responded to no human voice. The boy
walking in the garden was filled with a solemnity which neither school
nor church could inspire.

A summer holiday spent at Drottningholm, amidst the smiling islands and
wooded shores of the Lake of Malär, had accentuated his disgust with
the ugly things which abound in towns.

Stockholm's Skärgård, the archipelago which guards the fair capital of
Sweden, and which is the pride of every true child of Stockholm, became
his favourite scenery in later years.

There is something primæval and suggestive of the creation of the world
in these thousands of rocks and islands which rise in ever-varying
form and colour from the blue depths of the Baltic. The keen salt
breezes which sweep round the bare and uninhabitable rocks whisper of
a no-man's land, where the soul is tossed by elements neither friendly
nor hostile, but restful. Through the white stems of the birches,
the deep red of the cottages and the evergreen storm-bent fir trees,
the islands on which the poor fisherfolk live and labour, salute the
passing mariner by a trichromatic call to the simple life.

Upon this world the youthful Strindberg gazed one day. He had walked
through a deep forest, and crept through whortleberries and juniper to
the top of a steep rock. The picture of islands and fjords which lay
spread before his eyes caused him to "shiver with, delight."

That picture, he writes, impressed him as if he had recovered a land
seen in beautiful dreams, or in a former life.

He hid from his comrades; he could not follow them.

"This was his scenery, the true milieu of his nature, idylls, poor
rugged rocks, covered with pine forest, thrown out on wide stormy
fjords with the immense sea as a distant background. He remained true
to this love ... and neither the Alps of Switzerland, the olive-dad
hills of the Mediterranean, nor the cliffs of Normandy could oust this
rival."

Love of nature did not curb August's high spirits in childhood. At the
age of ten he played wild games, climbed trees, slid down mountains on
pieces of wood, robbed birds' nests and shot their innocent owners. He
rode bareback, could swim, sail a boat and handle a gun.

During a summer holiday August and his brothers were sent as boarders
to the house of a sexton. It was the father's wish that his sons
should share in the work on the farm as well as prepare for the
winter's schooling. In the sexton's kitchen August saw the wafers
prepared and stamped for Holy Communion. He mischievously ate them and
reflected that there was not much in the Sacrament. He broke covenant
with his host by rushing into the church, turning the hour-glass on
the pulpit, and delivering a sermon. He ran through the church on
the backs of the pews and threw over the reading-desk, on which the
hymn-book lay. The disjointed pieces of the desk frightened him and
reminded him of possible consequences. Yielding to the first impulse of
self-preservation he knelt and said the Lord's Prayer.

[Illustration: Strindberg's mother, Ulrika Eleonora Norling]

[Illustration: Strindberg's father Oskar Strindberg]

A thought came to him. He rose, examined the reading-desk, saw that
the damage was not irreparable, took off his boot and mended the desk
with a few well-directed blows. He then calmly walked out of the church
feeling that the power within himself was, after all, more reliable
than the God whose help he had invoked. The mysterious interrelation
between whole-hearted prayer and the dormant powers within ourselves is
seldom understood. The child's logic humorously reflected the spiritual
instability of average humanity.

His self-reliance was, however, fitful. Sometimes he wept bitterly,
battling with an uncontrollable duality within his own mind, a divided
will which made him unreasonable and capricious. He developed sudden
antipathies, endured fits of shyness and self-abasement, during which
he had to run away from other children and hide himself. At such times
he would deliberately keep away when good things were distributed, and
on being forgotten, revel in his martyrdom.

August's rebellion against learning lessons developed _pari passu_
with his powers of independent thought. He did not make progress at
Klara school, and his father transferred him to another, where he mixed
with children of people in humble circumstances. Here he felt more at
home; no one looked down on him; his boots and his knickerbockers did
not give offence. His pity was aroused by the poverty of some of his
school-fellows. They were expected to be clean, attentive and polite,
but how could they? They came from homes where no one could afford
to be clean, where families were crowded in small rooms which served
as work-shops as well as nurseries, where the decencies of life were
unattainable luxuries. The contrast between the two schools afforded
August material for continued meditation on class problems.

Latin and Greek were the principal subjects taught. August wanted
to learn in his own way and to translate in his own way. Both in
classics and in history he refused to submit to the discipline of the
schoolmaster. Having formulated his own method of learning and the
proper form of examining pupils he defied the teacher's order. He was
dumb when he should speak, and spoke when he should be silent. When the
exasperated Latin master declared August to be an idiot, the father
unexpectedly took his son's part and moved him to a private school.
This school had introduced rational methods of teaching; flogging was
prohibited, the boys were treated as individuals, and August felt
that he could expand without fear of immediate repression. During the
years that followed, the family attained a position of comparative
affluence and comfort. August lost the dread of being trampled upon or
suppressed from above, and mixed freely with titled youths who were
accorded no privileges by the headmaster who lacked all reverence for
the distinction of birth.

August was wont to parade his knowledge before his mother. At first she
took great pride in her son's gifts and the time when he should wear
the white cap of honour, coveted by every Swedish student, was often
spoken of. But the mother's leanings towards a narrow pietism caused
her to discern the vanity of learning in her son's mind. She warned
him against the wickedness of such pride, and contrasted the humility
of Christ and His contempt of worldly wisdom with the self-conceit of
mere book-learning. The son listened, and concluded that the mother's
resentment of culture was the result of her own ignorance. One evening
the sons were called to the mother's death-bed. August was then
thirteen. Overwhelmed with grief and shivering with the horror of
Death, he sat hour after hour by the bed crying, and thinking over all
the evil he had done.

This was the inevitable end. How could he live without a mother? The
future seemed wrapped in impenetrable darkness and misery. Then oh,
horror!--a shameful thought crossed his mind. Some time before his
mother had shown him a little ring, and said that it would belong to
him after her death. And now, at the solemn and awful moment, the
promise of the ring rose in his unwilling memory. He saw it on his
finger--one bright spot in this sorrowful hour, something to look
forward to.

But only for a moment--such low covetousness, such a shameful thought
by the side of a dying mother must come straight from the devil. The
pangs of remorse and shame were so persistent that the incident fixed
itself in his memory, and years afterwards the recollection made him
blush.

The allurements of thoughts which we ought not to think, and which
range from sudden inconvenient flashes of recognition of the comical
in the midst of the serious business of life, to the haunting ideas
which are the débris of mental combustion, could not be understood by
the boy. Nor did he know that he was destined to live through the gamut
of cerebral phenomena, an exponent of extravagant thought and lawless
ideation.

When the stillness of death fell upon the room the unworthy thought
was far away and August screamed like a drowning child. The father was
softened and spoke kind words to the two boys. Strindberg tells us
with his usual candour that his sorrow lasted scarcely three months.
"Sorrow," he writes, "has the happy quality of consuming itself. It
dies of starvation. As it is essentially an interruption of habits it
can be replaced by new ones." After six months his father married the
housekeeper.

August was now learning five languages, besides his own. Botany,
zoology and the physical sciences aroused his keen interest. He had
collections of insects and minerals, and a herbarium to which he
devoted much time. He developed an insatiable appetite for knowledge,
but he claimed freedom to find his intellectual food without extraneous
interference or restrictions. He not only wanted to know everything,
but he wanted to be able to do everything, to be endowed with all
human talents.

His brother had been praised for his drawings; August wanted to draw.
During the Christmas holidays he copied all his brother's drawings,
but on finding that he could do it without difficulty his interest
waned and he gave it up. All his brothers and sisters could play some
instrument. The house resounded with exercises on the piano, the violin
and the 'cello. August wanted to play, but without practising scales.
He taught himself to play the piano and learnt to read and copy music.
He played badly, but it gave him pleasure. He learnt the names of
composers and the number of opus of everything that was played in the
house, so that he should have superior knowledge.

He was jealous of the accomplishments of others, but the jealousy was
created by unsatisfied ambition, and the consciousness of illimitable
capabilities. Every subject interested him, until he had mastered
it. When he knew the plants, minerals, insects and birds in his
neighbourhood, he turned to other fields of natural science. Physics
and chemistry attracted him. He did not want to repeat the classical
experiments in the text-books; he wanted to make new discoveries. The
lack of money and apparatus restrained him. Ingenuity was necessary.
During the summer holidays he tried to make an electric machine out of
an old spinning-wheel and a window pane. An umbrella was broken and
made to yield a whalebone, out of which, with the help of a violin
string, he made a drill-borer. The square pane had been made circular
through patient knocking with a key-bit. This labour had taken days.
When the time came for boring a hole in the middle and his piece of
quartz made no impression he lost patience, and attempted to force
a hole. The pane was smashed and August's enthusiasm converted into
hopeless fatigue.

Recovered, he decided to construct a _perpetuum mobile_. His father
had told him that a prize was awaiting the inventor of the impossible.
After formulating his theory, which included a waterfall driving a
pump, he collected his material. A number of useful articles were
sacrificed for the purpose: the coffee boiler provided a tube; the
soda-water machine, reservoirs; the strong-box, plates; the chest of
drawers, wood; the bird-cage, wire, etc. At the crucial moment the
ubiquitous housekeeper interrupted him by asking if he would accompany
his brothers and sisters to the mother's grave. Irritation broke the
inventive spell, and in the anger of failure he dashed the artful
apparatus to pieces on the floor.

Reproaches and ridicule did not deter him. He arranged experimental
explosions and manufactured a Leyden jar. For this purpose he flayed
a dead black cat which he found in the street. He anticipated
"Jönköping's Säkerhetständstickor" by making safety matches which he
declares were as good as the later, much-advertised patent.

His wilfulness and lack of mental discipline were necessarily
distasteful to his surroundings. When he wanted to unlock a drawer and
the key could not be found he seized a poker and broke open the lock
with such force that the screws and the plate were tom out.

"Why did you break the lock?" he was asked.

"Because I wanted to get into the chest of drawers," was the laconic
reply.

The father not unnaturally decided to do what lay in his power to curb
the troublesome spirit of independence in his son. August disliked
his stepmother and resented her usurpation of his mother's place.
He was now _gymnasist_[1] and treated with respect in the school.
The lessons took the form of lectures, and the teachers showed due
regard for individual rights and tastes. At home everything was done
to humiliate him. He attributed what he regarded as a systematic
persecution to the mean and revengeful spirit of the stepmother. He
was made to wear old clothes which did not fit him; his gymnasist-cap,
which should have been the pride of his heart, was home-made and an
object of ridicule; he was compelled to work in the stable between
school hours, and commanded to take the groom's place during the
holidays. His weekly allowance for the school lunch was 3 1/2 d., a sum
which he found sufficient for tobacco but not for sandwiches. He had
a healthy appetite and was always hungry. The parsimoniousness of the
home régime subjected him to humiliating experiences at school. Once he
accidentally broke the eye-glasses of a friend. In vain he exhausted
all his inventive resources in attempts to mend them. They had to be
mended by an expert at the cost of 7d. On the following Monday August
brought his friend 3 1/2 d., and after another week discharged his
debt of honour by shamefacedly paying another 3 1/2 d. His miserable
poverty could no longer be kept a secret, and he hated the cause of his
oppression.

At the age of fifteen he fell in love with a woman of thirty. The
love was platonic, an attraction of souls--a contact of minds seeking
spiritual enlightenment along the same path. She was a woman of the
world, engaged to another who lived abroad, animated by religious
emotionalism and half-conscious eroticism. They attended the same
circle for French conversation and added the spice of Gallic expression
to their correspondence, which treated of Jesus, the struggle against
sin, life, death, God in nature, love, friendship and doubt. August
became her conscience, and she was his spiritual mother. Strindberg
publishes some of his French compositions from this period in his
autobiography. All speculations were eventually smashed against the
bedrock of Jesus. The parental authorities objected strongly to
August's friendship, and especially to the atmosphere of French secrecy
in which it was enveloped.

August became absorbed in the struggle for salvation. A puritanism
which despised the cold formalism of the Lutheran State Church and
claimed the free companionship of Jesus was fashionable in Sweden at
this time. The joyful certainty of being among the sheep infected those
susceptible to sudden "revivals" within all classes of society. What
could be of greater importance than being amongst the elected of God,
comforted by the knowledge of righteousness, borne aloft by complete
detachment from the world, the flesh and the devil? August laid
passionate siege to Heaven and clamoured for immediate inclusion among
the children of God.

His motives were complicated. One was fright and a desire to be on
the safe side. For he had read books which predicted a terrible fate
in store for youthful sinners upon attaining the age of twenty-five.
He knew he was a sinner, and, if his body were condemned to painful
afflictions and death, his soul would, at least, be saved. Another was
spiritual jealousy. His stepmother professed great religious devotion.
She and his eldest brother seemed to outshine him in religious fervour.
That could not be tolerated. August imposed severe restrictions upon
himself. All worldly pleasures were to be shunned. One Saturday
evening the family planned an excursion for the following Sunday.
August asked his father's permission to stay at home for conscientious
reasons. He spent Sunday morning in one of the "free" churches, where
the elect gloried in their exclusive and dearly bought salvation.
In the afternoon he studied Thomas à Kempis and Krummacher. The
stepmother had broken the Sabbath. She was inconsistent and a prey to
the temptations of the devil; she could no longer compete with him in
religious virtue. That was balm to the soul, but the peace of Jesus,
which he had been told would descend like a clap of thunder and be
followed by absolute certainty, would not come. He walked alone to Haga
Park, praying all the time that Jesus would seek him out. In the park
he saw happy families absorbed in picnics and carriages filled with gay
men and women. All these were destined to eternal damnation. His reason
protested, but his faith assented. He returned home unharmonious and
unsatisfied. When late in the evening his brothers and sisters related
the incidents of their happy day, his envy was mixed with pangs of
remorse.

The puritanical phase culminated during the confirmation, which had
been postponed by the father, who, knowing the waywardness of the
child, feared the unrestraint of the youth. A number of circumstances
contributed to the reaction which followed upon his first Holy
Communion. He had whipped his reason into submission to an elated
sentiment which in due course exhausted itself. The Sacramental bread
was robbed of its mystery by the fatal familiarity with which he had
treated it in the sexton's kitchen.

But the disintegration of the puritan was accomplished through the
influence of new friends. One of these decided to cure the hungry
dreamer in Strindberg by a good meal. One day on the way to the Greek
lesson, Fritz, "the friend with the eye-glasses," suggested that they
should play truant and lunch at a restaurant. Scruples overcome, August
enjoyed his first meal in a restaurant and his first glass of brandy.
The luxuries of beefsteak and beer in quantitative perfection, and the
audacity with which his friend treated the waiter, made a profound
impression on him. The friend paid for the feast, and August came out a
changed man.

"This was not an empty pleasure, as the pale man had asserted," he
writes. "No, it was a solid pleasure to feel red blood run through
half-empty arteries which were to nourish the nerves for the struggle
of life. It was a pleasure to feel spent strength return and the lax
sinews of a half-crushed will stretched again. Hope was awakened, the
mist became a rosy cloud, and the friend let him see glimpses of the
future as it was formed by friendship and youth."

The friend advised him to earn money by giving private lessons. This
would secure freedom from parental tyranny. He encouraged independence
and self-confidence in August, who, acting upon his advice, obtained
a post as private tutor. By exercising economy in the expenditure of
brains at the gymnasium and limiting his studies to those absolutely
necessary for the final examen, he succeeded in his dual work of
learner and teacher. The sense of sin departed; he was able to take
part in the festivities of his school-fellows. The platonic friendship
with the woman of thirty evaporated with the advent of a less ethereal
admiration for the beauty of waitresses _et hoc genus omne_. He went to
dances and sought jollity in the "punsch-evenings" of the students. A
craving for alcohol had been aroused; under its influence the demons
of gloom and insoluble problems departed.

The change in his attitude to life was hastened by an influence
which now made itself felt for the first time. Literature as a great
tradition and interpretation of human problems became known to him.
The belletristic and the puritanical conceptions of life presented
themselves in their profoundest antithesis. Natural selection did the
rest. His range of reading was wide and varied, as were the demands of
his many-sided self. He devoured Shakespeare, admired Dickens, found
Walter Scott tedious, Alexandre Dumas puerile, and Eugène Sue's Le
Juif Errant grandiose. He detested poetry; it was affected and untrue.
People did not talk in that manner and seldom thought of such beautiful
things. The realisation of God in Nature replaced the desire to seek
God in the churches, and August gradually discovered that he was a
freethinker. The alarm and public prayers of the elect, which he had
deserted, did not alter his course.

During the summer holidays he acted as tutor to an aristocratic family
in the country. Fritz had warned him against saying everything he
thought and doing everything he wanted, or disputing vehemently with
his superiors. But the difficulty of submitting to the conventions of
the social order could not be overcome.

August's plans for the future were vacillating and embarrassing to
the father. For a short time he cherished the idea of becoming a
non-commissioned officer in a cavalry regiment, at another time the
plan of spending his days as a country curate, joined in happy wedlock
to a pretty waitress (a brand snatched from the fire), had captivated
him. But the University conquered. At the University a man could be
poor and badly dressed and yet be counted a gentleman; it was the only
place where one could sing, get drunk and have fights with the police
without losing social standing. There was a secret satisfaction in the
thought.

One day during the tutorage in the country the vicar, who was
overworked, invited August to preach a "proof-sermon." The practice
of permitting serious-minded students and undergraduates to try
their priestly powers was not uncommon. The idea was glorious and
irresistible. The baron, the baroness, the squires and the ladies
would all have to listen reverently to August as the mouthpiece of
the Lord. But he remembered that he was a freethinker. The orthodox
conception of Jesus was no longer his. It was hypocrisy to accept the
offer. And yet, he believed in God, he had thoughts to give, opinions
he wanted to voice. He confessed to the vicar, who reassured him. If he
believed in God, there was no real difficulty--the good Bishop Wallin
had never mentioned Jesus in his sermons. August should only not talk
too much about his aberrations.

[Illustration: August Strindberg 1862--(Reproduced by kind
permission of Messrs. Albert Bonnier, Stockholm)]

[Illustration: August Strindberg 1870]

The week during which the sermon was prepared, was rich in compensation
for years of ignominy. Something within him responded with avidity to
the call of the messenger, the prophet.

The church was filled with people when August mounted the pulpit in
clerical garb and with a beating heart. He prayed to the only true
God to help him when now he wanted to strike a blow for truth. He
spoke of conversion through free will and opened the gates of heaven
to all--publicans and sinners, rulers and harlots--and denounced his
old friends who were sunk in cruel and hypocritical self-conceit. He
was deeply moved by his own eloquence. The vicar and the congregation
forgave the irregularities, and the day ended in mutual satisfaction.

The experience confirmed August's contempt of orthodox religion.
He became the ringleader of a section in the highest class in the
_Gymnasium_ which, in spite of threats and reprimands, refused to
attend morning prayers. Once when the father begged him to go to church
he replied:

"Preach--I can do that myself."

In May, 1867, August passed his _student-examen_. The white cap was on
his head, and the gates of the University were open to him.


[1] Gymnasia are preparatory schools for Universities.



CHAPTER II

THE STRUGGLE FOR SELF-EXPRESSION


A university, said Newman, is a place where "mind comes first and
is the foundation of the academical polity." Strindberg's contact
with the University of Upsala brought his own creative mind into
constant conflict with the custodians of regulations which govern
the traditional pursuit of knowledge. Between 1867 and 1872 he spent
periods at Upsala, during which he made vain attempts to achieve
success as a dutiful learner, submissive to the discipline of
professorial authority. The difficulty was not that he would not or
could not study. He studied too much; his mind absorbed with intuitive
and lightning quickness knowledge from men and books. But he refused
to take opinions on trust; he individualised everything that was
assimilated by his receptive and turbulent mind, and scorned academical
routine.

In the autumn of 1867 August Strindberg went to Upsala to equip himself
with the powers and graces which accompany a "university education." He
possessed the sum of 80 kronor (1 krona = 1s. 2d.), laboriously earned
by private lessons; his father had contributed a few cigars to his
son's outfit and advised him to shift for himself. Margaret, the old
kind-hearted servant, had forced a loan of 15 kronor upon him. Thus he
was again victimised by a woman's heart.

The room which he shared with a friend, was rented for 30 kronor for
the whole term. It contained two beds, two tables, two chairs, and a
cupboard. His dinner was brought by the charwoman for 1 kr. 50 öre per
week. Breakfast and supper consisted of a glass of milk and a bun.
By practising the strictest economy he managed to live, but he soon
discovered that he could not afford to buy the necessary books, nor
the regulation dress-coat, without which no Swedish under-graduate
could solicit the kind attention of the professors. He did not attract
attention as a promising student. His attendance at lectures served
chiefly as a stimulus to his critical faculties. He found the methods
of teaching literature and philosophy tedious and ineffective, the
professors ignorant and plebeian. He borrowed books and selected
his own reading. He taught himself to play the cornet in one of the
University orchestras, thus attempting to soothe the discord of his
soul.

He grew tired of his friend Fritz. "They had worn out their friendship
by living together," he writes in _Fermentation Time_. "They knew each
other by heart, knew each other's secrets and weaknesses, knew what
answer the other would give in argument." He accepted the end of their
friendship as the inevitable result of the exploitation of personality
which he resented in friendship and in love. Personal attractions and
ties were masked warfare in Strindberg's life; he gave and he took,
and generally ended by despising. Throughout life his caustic efforts
to reach the centre of things did not tend to strengthen bonds which
depend on a certain amount of pleasant illusion and benign deception.

His love of nature brought no disillusionment. "It was his dream to
live in the country," he writes of his Upsala time. "He had an inborn
dislike of town, though born in a capital. He had culture-hostility in
the blood, could never get rid of the sense of being a product of
Nature which did not want to be torn from the organic union with earth.
He was a wild plant, the roots of which in vain sought a little soil
between the stones of the pavement; he was an animal longing for the
forest."

The delight in the beauty and fragrance of flowers, the preference for
the simplicity of rural life which he so often expressed show a mood
unaffected by discontent and pessimism. Some sprite of nature-joy dwelt
within him and remained happy in spite of unhappiness. After uttering
curses on the sins of humanity he would be found singing pæans to the
harmony of the plant-world.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the end of the first term he had spent his eighty kronor and
returned to Stockholm in search of remunerative work. After several
unsuccessful attempts to obtain a post in the country, he found a
situation as teacher at the Stockholm Board-School at a yearly salary
of £50, which to him seemed opulence. He now lived at home, and
contributed to the household expenses.

The schoolmaster of eighteen was again brought face to face with the
problems of poverty. The injustice, under which he had smarted as a
child, was still alive. He was now in the detestable position of the
pedagogical tyrant, but his pity had not diminished. He was expected
to chastise the lazy children, but his heart refused to accept the
prevalent faith in flogging. The children--ugly, stunted, pale,
starved, sickly--appealed to his pity.

"Suffering," he writes, "has stamped on the faces of the lower classes
that expression of hopelessness and torment which neither religious
resignation nor the hope of heaven can obliterate, and from which the
upper classes flee as from an evil conscience."

He studied the penalty of industrialism, and observed that the children
of the manual labourer looked more sickly and less intelligent than
those of the upper class:

"The trade-diseases of the urban working-man seemed to be transmitted;
here one saw in miniature the lungs and the blood of the gas-worker,
ruined through sulphurous fumes; the shoulders and flattened feet of
the smith; the brain of the painter, atrophied through the fumes of
varnish and poisonous paints; the scrofulous eruption of the sweep;
the contracted chest of the bookbinder; here one heard the echo of the
cough of the metal-worker and the asphalt manufacturer; smelt the
poisons of the wall-paper maker; noticed the watchmaker's myopia in new
editions. In truth, this was not a race which possessed the future,
or upon which the future could reckon, and it cannot reproduce itself
for any length of time, for the ranks of the artisans are constantly
recruited from the country."

His sympathy with the working classes was no passing sentiment; it was
the lasting keynote of his plea for social justice which is clearly
heard through the cacophony of some of his later outbursts against the
social order.

Rebellious, contempt of current morals and respectability rose as
a mighty force in the mind of this extraordinary schoolmaster. His
morning duties at the board-school and his afternoon work as private
tutor to the daughters of a well-to-do and refined family compelled
him to outward decorum. But he did not live virtuously. His sense-life
was awake, and he recognised no necessity for restraint. The strivings
after ascetic peace which filled his adolescence had been laid
aside; with the breaking of his faith in the watchful solicitude of
Jesus, natural impulses had been set free. His autobiography records
his early struggles, and his later "fall" with the same detached
imperturbability. He lacks the sense of shame which avoids certain
topics. He observes no reticences. The pages in many of his books are
studded with coarse language and unsavoury references to physical
life. The sexual cynicism which pervades the story of his life is only
relieved by his perfect sincerity.

He describes the pleasures of inebriation with similar frankness. At
the age of nineteen he was already familiar with Bacchic revels. His
brain was inflamed with ideas, congested with unformulated thought. The
narcosis of alcohol attracted him.

"Sometimes melancholy, at other times gay," he writes, "he sometimes
felt an irresistible craving to extinguish the burning fire of thought
and to stop the turmoil of the brain. Shy, he sometimes felt impelled
to come forward, to make an impression, to find an audience, to
appear in public. When he had drunk a great deal, he wished to recite
great and solemn things, but in the middle of the piece, when ecstasy
was at its height, he heard his own voice, became shy, frightened,
thought himself ridiculous, stopped suddenly, changed his tone, took
up the comical, and finished with a grimace. He had pathos, but only
for a while; then self-criticism came, and he laughed at his forced
emotions." Strindberg finds another explanation of his craving for
alcohol in the lack of nourishing diet at Upsala and the dulness of
his home in Stockholm. "Strong liquors gave him strength," he says,
"and he slept well after them." He adds: "Like the rest of the race,
he was born of drunkards, generation after generation from pagan times
immemorial, when ale and mead were used, and the desire had inevitably
become a necessity."

He was not a success as a board-school teacher. There were bargains
with his conscience during scripture lessons, and the prevailing system
of teaching seemed a cruel parody. He shrank from the sights and sounds
and smells of the herd of poor children. Ambition and intellectual
hunger called him to seek experience elsewhere.

His restlessness was increased through reading Byron's _Manfred_ and
Schiller's _Die Räuber_. He tried to translate the former into Swedish,
but discovered to his chagrin that he could not write blank verse. Karl
Moor in _Die Räuber_ laid hold of his imagination with the claims of a
kindred spirit. Here was his own heterodoxy and revolt against laws,
society, customs, religion made manifest in a living, literary figure
by a great writer. Schiller's maturer repudiation of his fierce bandit
did not trouble him. Manfred fleeing from himself to the Alps appealed
to him as a feat of rebellion complementary to Karl Moor's adventures.

At the age of nineteen the rôle of the schoolmaster was exchanged for
that of the student of medicine. His duties at the board-school had
become intolerable, when, one evening, a Mend, an old doctor, knocked
at his door and suggested that he should desert the school and enlist
in the service of Aesculapius. His fatherly friend brushed aside
objections on the ground of poverty by suggesting that Strindberg
should live in his house and, in return, act as tutor to his boys.
In spite of the dreary prospect of eight years of medical studies
the kindly offer was accepted; for the profession of medicine seemed
the portal to enviable knowledge. Not the dry, stereotyped dogmas of
the Church and the University curriculum, but real wisdom penetrating
life's mysteries. "To become a sage who understood life's riddles--that
was his dream for the moment." He disliked the idea of a career in the
service of the State or of being a mere figure, a wheel or a screw, in
the social machinery. The physician seemed to him to be free.

His preparatory studies were carried out at the Technological
Institute. Here the vigorous fantasy of the future alchemist received
the first stimulus through chemical experiments which fascinated him by
revealing the secrets of matter. Here he also studied zoology, anatomy,
botany and physics.

But other powers were at work undermining the solidifying influence
of application to science. In the doctor's house he met writers and
artists. Conversation generally turned on plays, pictures, books,
authors and actors. There was a fine library, offering the world's
literary treasures. There was a collection of pictures and there were
valuable engravings. The intellectual atmosphere was international, and
afforded a pleasant change from the vulgar patriotism which had been
sacred to the pedagogues of the board-school.

The Dramatic Theatre was near at hand. Here a new and gaily attractive
world was opened to him. Standing in the gallery he listened to the
badinage of French comedy and saw the types of the Second Empire in
aristocratic setting. Thus he spent several evenings every week. The
life of the actor seemed strangely interesting, for he was allowed to
express himself, to speak unwelcome truths without losing popularity.
The theatrical profession seemed outside and above the petty rules
of society--a privileged class. It offered special and glorious
opportunities for artistic self-expression.

Meanwhile the experiences of his medical education had become
distasteful. The old physician brought his pupil to see patients,
rich and poor, providing him with diverse "clinical material." He was
asked to assist at early morning operations and to hold the patients.
Whilst Strindberg held the patient's head, the doctor "removed glands
with a fork." The assistant's thoughts were soaring high above the
surgery, in the regions of Goethe's Faust and Wieland's novels; they
were with George Sand, Chateaubriand and Lessing. During cauterisation
the smell of human flesh rose in his nostrils and spoilt his appetite
for breakfast. He describes his state of mind in the following words:
"Imagination had been set in motion and memory would not work; reality
with its bums and blood clots was ugly; æstheticism had seized the
youth, and life seemed dull and repulsive."

A futile attempt to pass a preliminary medical examination at Upsala
precipitated his decision not to enter a profession which was
exclusively occupied with the aches of the body. In spite of the
disappointment of his medical benefactor, he announced his intention of
becoming an actor.

He now lived for some months in an ideal stage-world. After making
arrangements for obtaining practical instruction in the autumn, he
devoted the summer to private studies of the art which appeared to
be his true and only vocation in life. Schiller's lecture, "On the
Theatre as an Institution for Moral Education," saturated his mind with
a lofty and idealistic conception of the ethical and æsthetic mission
of the stage. Was not this the greatest of all human arts? Was it not
a calling worthy of the finest talent and the most devoted labour? He
buried his past restlessness in faithful search for knowledge of the
actor's gifts and graces. Goethe taught him how to stand, sit down,
carry himself, how to enter and leave a room gracefully. He studied the
pose of antique sculpture and practised to walk with uplifted head
and expanded chest, whilst the arms were trained to swing easily and
the hand to be lightly closed with the fingers forming a beautifully
shaped curve. He tried to conquer his shyness and his fear of crossing
open places, and paraded his new artful self in the most frequented
_promenade_ in Stockholm.

The doctor's house was made the scene of his dramatic exercises. Here
he prepared the performance of _Die Räuber_ and appeared himself as
Karl Moor. When his vocal practices disturbed the peace of the house,
he repaired to Ladugårdsgärdet, the vast fields and hills, on the
east side of Stockholm, which for many years past have been used for
military manœuvres. They now also serve as a starting-point for aerial
flights. But no mechanical wings of flight could equal those, on which
Strindberg's imagination soared towards the realisation of his mission
as an artist and a social reformer.

Here, he tells us, he stormed against heaven and earth. The city, the
church spires of which were visible, represented Society, whilst he
belonged to Nature. "He shook his fist at the palace, the churches,
the barracks, and snarled at the troops which during the manœuvres
sometimes came too near him. There was something fanatical in his
work, and he spared no pains to make his reluctant muscles obedient."

The keen resentment of injustice and the irrepressible sympathy
with the poor and the down-trodden, which the later misanthropy of
the man could never quell, showed forth in an episode of this time,
connected with the unveiling of a statue of Charles XII. Though the
statue had been erected through public donations, the arrangements for
the unveiling were such as to exclude the people from a view of the
proceedings. The people threatened to pull down the stands for paying
spectators which obscured the view, and the troops were called out to
restore order. August was seated at a gay dinner-party at the doctor's
house in honour of some Italian operatic stars, when the sounds of the
battle reached the ears of the company.

"What is that?" asked the prima donna.

"It is the noise of the mob," said a professor.

August could not sit still. The clinking of glasses, the tight
dinner-talk, the jests and laughter jarred on him. Who were these who
spoke of the people as "mob"? Something stirred within his breast with
the call of blood and the passion of identical feeling. He left the
table and went out into the streets.

"'The mob'!" he writes, "the word rang in his ears, whilst he walked
down the street. The mob! they were his mother's former school-fellows,
they were his school-fellows and later his pupils, they were the dark
background which made the light pictures effective in the place he had
just left. He felt like a deserter, as if he had done wrong in working
his way up."

He reached the place where the statue had been raised, and mixed
with the excited crowds. The clatter of hoofs and the sight of the
approaching Life Guards filled him with a mad desire to resist all this
mass of men, horses and sabres. Together they were oppression incarnate.

August placed himself in the middle of the street, right in front of
the approaching cavalry. Through his mind flashed the call to revolt,
the born rebel's impulsive desire for self-immolation.

A hand seized him and pulled him out of danger. He was led home, and
after promising not to return to the scene of struggle the inevitable
reaction set in with exhaustion and high temperature in the evening.

On the day of the unveiling he was present among the undergraduates.
At the end of the ceremony there was a skirmish between the police
and the people. Stones were thrown and order was restored by means of
sabre-cuts. A man standing near Strindberg was attacked by a police
inspector. August rushed at the inspector, seized him by the collar and
shook him.

"Let the man go!" he cried.

"Who are you?" asked the astounded inspector.

"I am Satan," answered the demoniacal liberator, "and I shall take you,
if you don't let the fellow go."

In trying to seize August the inspector released his hold of the man.
At the same moment a stone knocked oft the three-cornered hat of
authority from the inspector's head, and August wrenched himself free.
The police drove the crowd before them at the point of the bayonet.
August followed with other enthusiasts, determined to release the
prisoners. The attempt was, of course, futile; the bayonets were the
strongest.

Strindberg describes how two gentlemen, one middle-aged, the other
young, both highly respectable, with conservative views, were seized
with his own passionate longing to defend the people against the
police. Speechless, they instinctively grasped each other's hands, and
with white, set faces ran to the rescue. When the excitement was over,
and the wave of sympathy had spent itself, they awoke in their normal
selves and were shocked at their own conduct. August himself could
jest over his wild outburst, when half an hour later he was seated in
a restaurant with a chop in front of him and friends around to listen
to an objective account of the whole incident. The middle-aged merchant
of impeccable propriety failed to recognise August, when, by chance,
they met again. The composite consciousness created by the contagion of
strong emotion had ceased to exist.

When his dramatic recitals to the winds which sweep over
Ladugårdsgärdet had been followed by the prosaic training at the school
of the Dramatic Theatre, the conflict between dream and reality was
followed by the usual tragic results. His wish to make his début in
an important part was rudely brushed aside. After some humiliating
experiences, he was given a small part in Björnson's Mary Stuart. He
appeared as a "nobleman," and all his dramatic energy was, perforce,
encompassed in the following sentence: "The Peers have sent an
emissary with a challenge to the Earl of Bothwell."

It was bitterly insignificant, but it was the portal to greater
achievement.

The disillusionment of his first glimpse behind the scenes was manfully
rebutted. The boards and the paint which, when seen from the gallery,
had held so much charm, were now, when scrutinised from the other side,
dusty and ugly. The actors who were permitted to play great parts were,
after all, just like ordinary mortals. They yawned loudly between their
turns, and gave expression to commonplace sentiments as a relief from
the sublimities uttered on the stage.

After some months, during which Strindberg was only a super, he was
heartily tired of the whole thing. The mechanism, living and dead, of
dramatic production disgusted him. He felt repressed and misjudged.
But at the same time he was ashamed of quitting the profession which
he had chosen with such high expectations. He demanded his right to
be tried and judged. He was given an important part and a special
rehearsal, at which he appeared without stage costume and without the
requisite enthusiasm. The elder actors resented the arrangement, and
Strindberg shouted his sentences in a manner which made it clear that
he was in need of further instruction. He was advised to resume his
pupilage. But this he would not do. The humiliation was unbearable.
He cried with rage and decided to commit suicide. An opium pill which
he had treasured with a view to the possibility of having to summon a
catastrophic end to life's difficulties was utilised for the purpose,
but failed altogether of a calamitous effect. A friend, who knew the
better way, re-awakened Strindberg's interest in earthly existence
through a merry drinking bout.

On the following day, he tells us, he felt bruised, wounded, tom,
with quivering nerves and with the fever of shame and drunkenness in
his veins. He lay on his sofa reading Topelius' _Tales of a Surgeon_
and musing over his own troubles. His brain worked at high pressure,
sorting memories, adding and eliminating, calling out personalities. He
heard his characters speak. It was as if he saw them on a stage. After
a few hours he had visualised a comedy in two acts, and in four days
the play was written.

"It was a work," he writes in _Fermentation Time_, "at once painful
and pleasurable, if it even could be called work, for it came of
itself, without his will or effort."

"And when the piece was ready," he tells us, "he drew a deep sigh, as
if years of pain were over, as if an abscess had been lanced. He was so
happy that something sang within him, and he decided to send his piece
to the theatre. This was the salvation."

Macaulay thought that books are written either to relieve the fulness
of the mind or the emptiness of the pocket. He ignored the intimate
correlation between the two motives. The full mind is only too often
made inarticulate by the empty pocket, whilst, on the other hand, the
empty pocket sometimes accelerates processes of the mind which, but for
that stimulus, would never reach fulness. Strindberg was throughout
life the slave of a full mind and an empty pocket.

His first effort in drama had now to be submitted to competent
criticism. He prepared the garret which he rented from the doctor
for the festive reception of two wise friends. A clean napkin on the
table, two candles and a bottle of "punsch" were the outer signs of
the solemnity with which he welcomed his critics. The play was read to
the end in sympathetic silence. The friends then saluted August as an
author.

When alone he fell on his knees and thanked God who had delivered him
out of his difficulties and who had given him the gift of literary
expression. Perhaps no subsequent literary crises of gestation ever
equalled the first in intensity of expectation; I he felt that he had
at last found his vocation, the part he was called upon to play in life.

The material for his first play had been his own family troubles;
his religious doubts now found expression in a play in three acts.
He had also discovered that he could write rhymed verse, presumably
as the result of a visitation of the Holy Ghost. A feverish power of
production followed: in two months he wrote two comedies, a tragic
verse drama and some poems.

The first comedy had been submitted to the manager of the Royal
Theatre. Meanwhile the anonymous author continued to walk the boards,
now buoyed by a secret joy. His turn would come; the thought of the day
when he would be recognised made him bold. In his peasant costume he
felt a prince in disguise.

But the comedy was not accepted. The tragedy which he also sent in met
with the same fate, though he received a kindly hint that it would be
worth his while to perfect himself in the art of dramatic construction,
and that time and experience would be more profitably expended on a
literary career than on further attempts to succeed as an actor. He
was advised to return to Upsala. A tragedy with the title _Jesus of
Nazareth_ was sketched out. It was intended to crush Christianity
completely and for all time. It was only partly written, when, happily,
it was abandoned, the youthful author having succumbed to the magnitude
of his subject.

His last appearance on the stage was ignominious, yet symbolic of his
future as a writer of drama. No part whatever had been found for him.
He offered to act as prompter and was accepted. Thus ended the career
upon which he had entered with such glorious zest.



CHAPTER III

"FERMENTATION TIME"


Goaded by misfortune, the recalcitrant scholar returned to Upsala
determined to distinguish himself by obtaining his degree or by writing
a successful play which would compensate for past failures. His return
was made possible by the possession of a few hundred kronor, left to
him under his mother's will.

With five kindred souls he founded a poetical guild to which the
name _Rune_--"Song"--was given. The meetings of the brethren were
occasions for improvisation and tippling, for hair-splitting arguments
and epicurean excesses. They philosophised over life and literature,
expressed the joy of existence in music, and alcoholic melancholy in
sad tales of suffering.

August wrote and read poetry which breathed idealism, nature-worship
and patriotism. He sang to the guitar, sometimes sentimental
folk-songs, sometimes compositions of a less worthy kind.

The dialectics of the company stimulated August's powers of expression,
though they interfered with his studies.

A friend advised him to write a one-act play in verse. This, he said,
would have a greater chance of being acted than a tragedy in five
acts, which August thought more fitting. The one-act play was written
in a fortnight. It was called _In Rome_ and dealt with Thorvaldsen's
first stay in that city. The idea had long been present in his mind.
It burst into dramatic shape with unmistakable force, and the friends,
recognising that it had a living spirit, prophesied that it would be
accepted. The birth of the play was duly celebrated with carousals, in
which the author was acclaimed with generous admiration.

The psychology of drunkenness was one of the subjects for incisive
discussion and historical analysis at the meetings of the _Rune_. The
members certainly did not lack practical experience of its mental
perplexities, but, however vinous their youthful judgment of the
problems of life generally, they appraised the possibilities of August
Strindberg's art with singular accuracy.

Strindberg's slender resources did not save him from the pinch of
poverty. He had tasted luxury in the doctor's house. His room in
Upsala was squalid; the rain came through the ceiling, fire-wood was
scarce, and occasional frugal suppers of bread and water were forcible
reminders of life's realities. He managed, nevertheless, to study
æsthetics and living languages with a new ardour. His range of reading
was widened, and his critical faculties were in a continuous process of
development.

Ibsen and Björnson dominated the intellectual horizon. August had
been deeply stirred by _Brand_, when reading it a year earlier, and
had felt the soul-struggles of Ibsen's deliverer to be identical with
his own, but he now reacted against the Norwegian invasion of the
Swedish mind. The gloom of the mountains and fjords of Norway, the
poverty and enforced abstinences of its people were reflected in the
minds of its writers, and had no rightful place amongst the smiling
lakes and flower-strewn sward of Sweden. Ibsen's women now roused the
instinctive sex-antagonism in Strindberg; he hated Nora, and the whole
brood of matriarchal ideas, of which he thought Ibsen a dangerous
modern exponent. Strindberg's later writings against women are
indirect replies to Ibsen; and his objections to woman's struggle for
emancipation were expressed with a controversial vehemence which robbed
them of literary effect.

In the autumn of 1870 _In Rome_ was performed at the Royal Theatre at
Stockholm. The author was twenty-one years old. He watched the play,
standing in his old place in the gallery. The inebriation of success
was now followed by acute pangs of self-criticism. He felt as if he had
been under an electric battery, his legs trembled, and he wept with
nervousness. A friend seized his hand to calm him.

"Every stupidity," he writes, "which had slipped into the verse shook
him and jarred upon his ears. He saw nothing but imperfections in his
work. His ears burnt with shame, and he ran out before the curtain
fell."

The attacks upon the clergy now seemed stupid and unjust, the
glorification of poverty and pride, mistaken; the description of his
relationship to his father, cynical.

He had found his own play stupid; he was overcome with shame, and death
by drowning in the rapid waters of Norrström seemed the only atonement.

The incident is characteristic of the man. The thoughts which a few
months before had been conjured up by the imaginative contemplation
of Thorvaldsen before the statue of Jason, of the struggle between
filial duty and artistic consciousness, were now outside their author,
dismissed, objects of pity. He had grown, whilst the imperfect words
lay dead on the paper.

The evening ended in the company of friends. His searchings after
perfection and his intellectual remorse were assuaged by food and drink
and by the gratification of the lower impulses, to which he yielded
without the sense of shame or sin.

On the following day he read a favourable notice of the play, in which
the language was described as beautiful, and the anonymous author was
said to be a well-known critic who was familiar with the artistic world
in Rome.

Thus he made his first acquaintance with the sweets of dramatic
criticism. In Rome has nothing of the fierce personality which, in his
later plays, outraged the critics of Sweden. There are strokes of fine
picturing, and there is charm of phrase, but the piece is meagre in
conception and puerile in expression.

He returned to Upsala and was now, by his father's intervention,
lodged in the house of the widow of a clergyman. It was hoped that a
well-regulated home-life, with sufficiency of food and a minimum of
comfort, would provide his spirits with wholesome restraint. But the
reverse happened. There were a number of undergraduates staying in the
house; the table was laden with good things; card-playing and heavy
drinking occupied the evenings. August was frequently drunk, his brain
was saturated with the clashing opinions of the young men, who loudly
wooed their _Weltanschauung_; he was dissatisfied, persecuted by doubts
and unreasonable remorse. He was in love--for the eighth time--and the
object of his love was, as usual, unattainable.

In Rome had met with severe, though not altogether unjust criticism in
another paper. His earlier play, The Freethinker, had been printed and
published anonymously through the kind offices of a friend. It fell
into the hands of a hostile journalist who ridiculed it. Strindberg now
underwent the painful experience of mental dissection at the hands of a
ruthless critic. However willingly we may condemn ourselves and indulge
in the bitter-sweet contemplation of the follies of yesterday's ego,
the rude touch of another's flail arouses every fibre of self-defence.

Though he had promised his father to turn his face against the
temptations of authorship and to give single-minded attention
to studies, the creative impulse could not be quelled. He wrote
_Blotsven_, a tragedy in five acts, which reiterated the religious
rebellion of _The Freethinker_, depicting the struggle between the
spirit of the Viking and proselytising Christianity. The old Icelandish
tales which he now read in the original, and the influence of
Oehlenschläger, had helped to mould the form.

At this time he became absorbed in the mentality of the Danish writer
Sören Kierkegaard. His book _Enten-Eller_--Either Or--which treats
of the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, and which preaches
the life-fearing asceticism of the helpless sensualist, stirred
Strindberg's doubts and self-reproaches. An elder friend by the
runic name of "Is," whose real name was Josef Linck, managed, by the
simulation of much learning, culminating in intellectual nihilism, to
persuade August that his stand-point was untenable. The friend talked
philosophy, æsthetics, world-history, dished up Kant, Schopenhauer,
Thackeray and George Sand, and dyed August's soul with impotent
scepticism.

The result was that Strindberg burnt the MSS. of his _Blotsven_. The
friend had shown that he was not a poet, and the tears which he shed
over the ashes were embittered by the knowledge that he had deceived
his father.

He hurriedly decided to pass his examination in Latin compositions.
He had not made the requisite preparation, called on the Professor in
a state of after-dinner exaltation, demonstrated his independence of
spirit, and was promptly turned out.

The suicide of a student brought the supernatural to the door of the
already over-visited mind. Strindberg had met the unhappy man some days
before and avoided his company. On visiting the place of the tragedy,
he was completely unnerved by the sight of blood and the gruesome
associations. He felt half guilty of murder, could not sleep and was
haunted by the dead man. The Runic brethren watched over him, but his
friend "Rejd" nevertheless found him with a bottle of prussic acid
and sinister intentions. The friend shrewdly suggested a preparatory
sacrificial rite of four "toddies" before the fatal poison was
drained. The desired effect was soon apparent. August had to be carried
home, but as the gate of the house was closed his friends threw him
over the fence. He remained in a snow-drift until he had recovered
sufficiently to find his room. But his ghost-ridden soul did not find
peace until he quitted Upsala a few days later.

He confessed his sins to his father and obtained permission to remain
at home, and to prepare for his degree in a less disturbing atmosphere.
He now "felt protected as if he had landed after a night's stormy
voyage," and slept calmly in his old truckle-bed. _Blotsven_ rose from
the ashes. He re-wrote it in a fortnight. It was now condensed into one
act under the title _The Outlaw_, and was sent to the theatre.

Being thus relieved of the supreme duties to his dramatic _daimon_, he
again descended to Latin compositions and passed his examen in spite of
continued defiance of the Professor's rules of procedure. The æsthetic
thesis, which he submitted shortly afterwards, was promptly returned
to him by the Professor, with the remark that its contents were more
suitable for the fair readers of an illustrated weekly than for an
academical discourse. This was indeed injustice. August had poured out
his most mature views on realism versus idealism, utilising the Danish
dramatist Oehlenschläger as a buffer between his new and his old self.
The essay is re-printed in full in the autobiography, and is well worth
reading. The style is rich in imagery and analogy, the conclusions
audacious, though a gentle world-weariness pervades every argument.
Strindberg's later style as an incisive essayist is discernible in
spite of the periphrastic treatment of dramatic problems from Sophocles
to Shakespeare. The desire to show erudition is apparent on every
page, and the author confesses that the wish to show the Professor
his profound knowledge of Danish literature was one of his motives in
choosing the subject. The Professor's unsympathetic attitude towards
his review of Danish literature was, therefore, mortifying.

His quiet life at home had begun well. The earlier struggle against
poverty had been superseded by well-ordered home-life. August's
sisters were now grown up; he was impressed and felt sanctified by
their unostentatious discharge of daily duties which contrasted so
sharply with his own wild and worthless past. The stem father had been
mellowed by time, and August spent many evenings with him in friendly
talk on great subjects.

But rebellion soon drove the son away. August resented some trifling
interference with his liberty, borrowed a few hundred kronor, and
settled for the summer in a fisher-man's cottage on one of the Baltic
islands outside Stockholm. With three of the Runic brethren he now
threw himself into a healthy outdoor life, bathing, sailing, fencing.
The body was to be taught natural goodness, and the counsels of Satan
were to be unheeded. He studied philology, avoided alcohol, and dwelt
with Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe. Natural asceticism and the mental
discipline of classifying root-words would curb his vigorous fantasy
and help him to acquit himself with honour at Upsala. He could expect
no further help from the father.

At the beginning of the autumn term he arrived in Upsala hungry and
with one krona in his pocket. He felt justified in borrowing from
friends, for he was confident of the future. With the small sums which
he succeeded in drawing on the bank of friendship he rented a miserable
room, which contained little but a bed without sheets or pillowcases.
He lay on it in his underclothing, reading by the light of a candle
stuck in a bottle. Kind friends were responsible for an irregular
supply of food, but no spartan resolutions could temper the cold
weather. He succeeded in borrowing a little wood and carried it home
under cover of darkness. A physicist taught him to extract the full
calorific value from the charcoal. There was a stovepipe in the room
which was hot every Thursday when the landlady did her washing. Then
he stood reading with his hands on his back, leaning against the pipe,
with the chest of drawers doing service as a reading-desk.

His Viking play had meanwhile been accepted. The first performance was
received coldly. The critics were ungracious; he was accused of having
borrowed the form from Ibsen, though the cold restraint and rugged
simplicity of the language were directly inspired by the Icelandish
Sagas.

Sick at heart, Strindberg resumed his battle with poverty and
dejection. The darkness of uncertainty was again upon him, when, with
the suddenness which is usually reserved for good boys in fairy tales,
Fortuna held out her hand. He received a letter announcing that the
King was interested in his play and wished to see him. He could not
believe his eyes, and suspected that the letter was a joke. On being
re-assured of the genuineness of the message, he went to Stockholm
and was received by Charles XV. The King smiled as the young author
made his stumbling way to the royal presence through the lines of
courtiers, and greeted him with geniality. Charles XV, himself a poet,
expressed the pleasure which he had derived from the Viking play, and
his personal interest in the revival of the old northern tales. After
inquiries regarding Strindberg's financial prospects, the King ordered
a yearly stipend of eight hundred kronor to be paid to him from the
privy purse.

August left the palace, moved and grateful, with the first quarterly
instalment of the monarch's bounty in his pocket.

The short play which had won royal favour is the first work in which
Strindberg's mastery over his dramatic art was foreshadowed. The
terse phrasing fitly embodies the spirit of Norseman valour. It grips
the reader with the force of a _drapa_, sung in faithful celebration
of life's attempts and hard-won victories. Gunlöd, the daughter of
Thorfinn, the old heathen Viking, has been secretly baptised and loves
the Christian Viking, Gunnar. The human conflict between sorrow and
resignation, faith and doubt, is drawn with a passionate wish to do
justice to everyone. Strindberg possessed that power of visualising
and speaking through the characters of a play with equally apportioned
interest, which is essential to the true dramatist. His own words on
his relationship to the Viking play, show that he was fully aware of
this faculty of artistic self-multiplication and of its penalties:

"Johan[1] had incarnated himself in five persons in the play. In the
earl, who fights against time; in the bard, who surveys and penetrates;
in the mother, who rebels and takes revenge, but who is deprived of
her avenging power through her sympathy; in the girl, who breaks with
her father because of her faith; in the lover, who is burdened with
an unhappy love. He understood the motives of all the characters
and pleaded every-one's cause. But a play which is written for the
mediocre, who have ready-made opinions about everything, must at least
be partial to a couple of its characters in order to win the ordinary
audience which is always passionate and partial. Johan could not do
this, for he did not believe in absolute right or wrong, for the simple
reason that all these conceptions are relative. One can be right in
regard to the future and wrong in respect to the present; one is wrong
this year, but considered right next year; the father may think that
the son is right, whilst the mother thinks him wrong; the daughter
has the right to love whomsoever she loves, but the father thinks her
wrong in loving a heathen. This was doubt. Why do men hate and despise
the doubter? Because doubt is evolution, and Society hates evolution
because it disturbs the peace, but doubt is true humanity and will
end in equity of judgment. The stupid only are certain, the ignorant
only believe that they have found truth. But peace is happiness, and
pietists therefore seek it in the peace of stupidity. It is said that
doubt consumes the power of action, but is it then better to act
without considering and weighing the consequences of the act? The
animal and the savage act blindly, obeying lusts and impulses, thereby
being like men of action."

       *       *       *       *       *

Life at Upsala was strangely changed. The royal patronage endowed
August with a distinction, the pleasure of which was evident. The
sense of freedom from the pressure of poverty, of having achieved some
measure of success, expanded his chest and straightened his back.
His friends did not recognise him. They were accustomed to see in
August the poor half-starved, erratic youth who needed their help.
In unconsciously looking down, we add to our self-respect. August
no longer needed the pity which had given pleasure to givers and
recipient, and the result was disharmony. The _Rune_ was weakened
through indifference and internal strife, and died naturally, a victim
of competition.

August's good fortune was not of long duration. He, die rebel, the
destroyer of common idols and conventions, had not hesitated to receive
the King's gift. For he had never believed that the ills of the world
would be set right by the abolition of monarchy, and in the King's
gift he saw not the grace of the ruler, but recognition accorded to
him by a personal friend and admirer. But he soon began to chafe under
the obligations and restrictions which his new position entailed. At
the end of the term he manfully struggled through his examination in
philology, astronomy and sociology. During the next term his mental
restlessness became acute. The brain was filled with creative energy,
and the path of learning was blocked. Doubt and apathy chilled his
efforts to do the work which was expected of him. Sometimes he lay
all day on a sofa, longing to be free and in the midst of life. He
felt imprisoned by the royal stipend and sought succour in reading
the history of philosophy. But the different systems seemed to him to
possess the same degree of validity, and his head was replete with his
own thoughts.

One evening he evoked the anger of one of the professors by attacking
Dante. He declared the composition of the _Commedia_ to be an imitation
of Albericus' vision, and Dante's greatness to be over-rated. Dante
was ignorant of Greek, therefore uncultured; he was no philosopher,
as he suppressed thought by revelation; he was a foolish monk who
sent unbaptised children to hell. He lacked all self-criticism when
he classed ingratitude to friends and treason to one's country among
the worst of crimes, whilst he himself sent his friend and teacher,
Brunetto Latini, to the nether world and supported the German Emperor
Henry VII against his native town, Florence. He showed bad taste, for
amongst the six greatest poets of the world, he placed Homer, Horace,
Lucanus, Ovid, Virgil and--himself.

The result of these observations was that Strindberg was dismissed as
insolent and crazy.

A period of increased mental distress and uncertainty followed upon the
explosion. The town was grey and dirty, and the chill of winter lay
over the land. There was no stability in his soul--he felt as if it had
been dissolved, and hovered as a sensitive smoke around him. A forcible
new impression pulled him together. One day he found his friend, the
naturalist, painting as a recreation. This was something that would
condense and support an evaporating ego. To paint green landscape
in the midst of dull winter, and to hang it on one's wall--that was
something worth doing!

"Is it difficult to paint?" he asked.

"No, it is easier than drawing. Try it," was the reply.

August borrowed an easel, brushes and paint, locked his door and gave
himself up to colour-worship. When he saw the blue colour give the
effect of a clear sky he was enraptured, and when he conjured up green
bushes and a lawn on the canvas, "he was inexpressibly happy--as if he
had eaten hashish."

One day, when he had locked himself in, he heard a conversation between
his friends outside the door. They talked as if they were discussing
someone who was ill.

"Now he is painting too!" said one of the friends in a tone of deep
depression.

August reflected and came to the conclusion that he was going mad.
Fearing compulsory incarceration, he wrote to the manager of a private
asylum in which the patients were allowed their liberty and to till the
soil. He expressed his willingness to submit to the curative principles
of the institution. The reply was kind and reassuring. The manager had
made inquiries about the would-be patient and found that there was no
need for extreme steps.

Three months, passed and the second instalment of the royal stipend was
not paid. A letter of humble inquiry brought the reply that His Majesty
had never meant to give permanent support to Strindberg, and that it
was only a question of temporary help. A further sum was enclosed, as
His Majesty had graciously decided to help his protégé once more.

The first sense of relief was followed by some anxiety as to the
consequences. The King's promise was no mistake. The real explanation
of the "disgrace" was not easy to find. Some thought the King had
forgotten; others that his proverbial generosity had exceeded his
means. Ten years later Strindberg heard that he had been wrongfully
accused of writing defamatory verses about the King.

He decided to leave Upsala and to seek work in Stockholm as a
journalist. At a valedictory gathering of the old friends he thanked
them for their contributions to his self, "for a personality is
not developed out of itself; out of each soul with which it comes
in contact it sucks a drop, like the bee collecting its honey from
millions of flowers, transforming it and passing it on as its own."


[1] In his autobiography he uses his first Christian name: Johan, and
speaks of himself in the third person.



CHAPTER IV

THE DRAMA OF THE HERETIC


We may agree with Höffding that "every important individuality is
a point of view for the human race, from which men catch sight of
possibilities and aspects of existence which would otherwise have
escaped them." But we must also acknowledge that the strongest
individuality is i malleable in the hands of experience, and that
contact with humanity wrenches away the mind from cherished points of
view.

Though Strindberg was born with defiance of the Decalogue upon his lips,
though he lived in perpetual revolt against restraint and intellectual
formalism, though he sought above all to think and not to copy,
he could not escape that constant pressure of others which is the
essential of collective existence.

The University, with its rigid forms of instruction, its standards of
learning, had been the cage on the bars of which he had exercised his
muscles of independence. He had craved for freedom; his chronic disgust
at the established order had made him fail through paralysis of will,
where he might have excelled through natural superiority. And yet he
felt strangely _en rapport_ with the tradition of the University, when
in the spring of 1872 he embarked upon journalism in Stockholm. He went
into humble lodgings on borrowed money, and obtained an ill-paid post
on a Radical evening paper.

The journalists with whom he now mingled lacked the culture which the
University imposes even on its most rebellious alumni. They talked in
ready-made phrases and wrote on subjects over which they had no mental
mastery. They could harm or help fellow-creatures by the exercise of a
power for which they were totally unfitted. Loose-witted and garrulous,
they missed central questions and mistook the gossip of the news-hunter
for judicial wisdom.

The journalistic profession of that time did not command general
respect, and the _littérateurs_ of the Radical press were often
treated as a species of social brigands. They were nameless and their
activities subterraneous, but they wrote "_We_" and held the mole's
power of being able to upset the tilled fields of man.

Strindberg plunged into art-criticism, and exposed Count George von
Rosen's famous picture "Erik XIV and Karin Månsdotter," in the National
Museum of Stockholm, to the fire of his discontent. The ashes of his
own drama on "Erik XIV," which he had burnt, lay over his judgment,
and the feeling of identity with the oppressed classes, now revived
through associations, made him resent Rosen's conception of Göran
Persson, the favourite and evil genius of the mad king. Rosen had
painted the sly and intriguing counsellor with a fidelity which was
opposed to Strindberg's view of Persson, as an enemy of the nobility
and a friend of the people. Rosen's standpoint was therefore condemned
in Strindberg's articles, which appeared after some editorial trimming
of their literary ornamentation.

A brief but eventful attachment to a ladies' illustrated paper,
to which he contributed short stories and biography, increased
Strindberg's knowledge of the exigences of journalism and the
possibilities for feminine exploitation of the impecunious male.

He chose his friends amongst the artists. They were shabbily dressed,
cultivated vile manners, were gloriously illiterate, but they had
originality of feeling and thought. Without book-knowledge they had
the knack of seizing the essence of life and of settling problems with
intuitive accuracy. Strindberg still found solace of mind in painting.
It was like singing. The brush and the colours gave shape to his vague
imaginings. The post-romanticism of Corot pervaded his circle of
friends. The idea that one should paint one's own soul, not stocks and
stones, captivated him.

The only value of the impression lay in its fusion with individuality.
One should therefore paint from memory, with fantasy.

He always painted the sea with its shore in the foreground, and
angry-looking firs, some naked cliffs further out, a white light-house
and sea-marks. The sky was usually clouded, but at the horizon the
clouds broke, and light was let through. He painted sunrise and
moonshine, but never clear daylight.

His friends wore long hair, slouch-hats, brightly coloured neckties,
and lived like the birds. They dreamt of canvas so large and subjects
so great that no studio could contain them. A sculptor had made
arrangements with a Norwegian to hew the legendary giant out of the
Dovre mountain, a painter was going to reproduce the sea--nothing but
the sea--with a horizon so vast that the globular shape of the earth
should be made visible.

With two friends of the new life Strindberg talked out his melancholy
questionings, and sketched the future of regenerated humanity. One
was a painter of thirty who had been an agricultural labourer, and
who, after some years' training, had found art an inadequate vehicle
for thought, and who now "lived on nothing" but the stimulus of his
eclectic philosophy.

The friend's name was "Måns," and he had a remarkable faculty for
discovering faulty premises in the fabric of August's _dichtung_. The
other friend possessed the steadiness of the well-established social
unit, and contributed a dispassionate and polite scepticism to the
review of ideas.

They introduced Strindberg to Buckle's theories. There he found support
for his rebellion against the scholasticism of Upsala, and learnt that
his disease of doubt was in reality the basis of health. Doubt and
discontent were the pre-requisites of knowledge and progress--the sole
paths towards true happiness.

He felt irritated with all that was old and antiquated. Newspapers
worked for the hour only, with no thought for the future. He could not
read them without spasms of impatience.

The third volume of the autobiography describes his mental tension
in the following passages: "His philosophic friend comforted him and
calmed him by La Bruyère's saying: 'Do not distress yourself over the
stupidity and wickedness of human beings; you may just as well distress
yourself over the falling stone; both are subservient to the same laws;
to be stupid and to fall.'

"'Yes, it is all very well to say that. But to be a bird and compelled
to live in a mine! Air, light, I cannot breathe; not see!' he burst
out. 'I am dying of suffocation!'

"'Write,' said his friend.

"'Yes, but what?'"

Out of the mists of doubt, the volatility of convictions, there rose
creatures clad in flesh and blood, the warring selves of his multiple
personality. The thin silhouettes of history became instinct with life;
and Strindberg's first great drama, _The Heretic_, afterwards named
_Master Olof_, was conceived.

He wrote it during two summer months of quiet life on his island in
the Baltic. It was necessary to act, for his newspaper had died and
food was scarce. His kind friends, the fishermen, gave him credit,
and he could concentrate on his task without the haunting anxiety for
to-morrow's meals.

_Master Olof_ deals with the Swedish Protestant Reformation. In the
personality of Olaus Petri, the Swedish Luther, he had found all
the elements needed for an historical drama of the soul's battle
and final defeat by the world. Olof, the priest with a message, the
fanatic who is willing to live and die for the cause of religious and
social reform, surrenders to compromise. As Archbishop Olaus Petri
he stands forth as the heretic who had purchased peace at the price
of spirituality. The tragedy of enthusiasm, wrecked by the practical
issues of life, is the theme of _Master Olof_, and it has seldom found
a more intense dramatic expression.

Olaus, with the tongue of fire over his head, called to make war on
the superstitions and avarice of the Roman Catholic Church, defies the
bishops. He is saved from the consequences of their wrath by the King,
who knows the value of the energy which impels the heresy. In Gustavus
Vasa, the prudent King who makes Olof his secretary, Strindberg saw
the opportunist, the man of worldly wisdom who neutralises great ideas
by skimming their froth and rejecting their substance. Olof follows
his light and becomes a conspirator against the King. But the King is
stronger than he: caught, punished and pardoned, Olof at last becomes a
dutiful servant of the State, and of the conservative powers which keep
Society immune against the onslaughts of enthusiasts.

In Gerdt the printer, who urged the young Olof to become a Daniel and
to speak the truth before kings, Strindberg saw the revolutionary who
is the consistent enemy of compromise. In Olof's mother, who dies in
the Catholic faith cursing her heretic son, he hears the eternal cry
of the Old stabbed by the New; of the stagnant content that dwells in
Woman when it is hurt by the passionate discontent that dwells in Man.

The relativity of truth and its perpetual evolution, the inevitable
clashing of faiths and convictions, invest the struggle between mother
and son with tragic reality. She has refused to call his wife anything
but a harlot; for is she not living with a priest? She has in vain
exerted parental authority to turn her son from the path of perdition.
To her, Olof is the apostle of Antichrist, the child in the meshes
of Satan, whom passionately she strives to save. "Ask me not," cries
Olof to the mother before delivering his heretical sermon. "A mother's
prayer can tempt angels in heaven to apostasy."

Two rascally priests pray by her deathbed, their thoughts intent on
the bag of gold which tempts their cupidity. She dies comforted by
their presence and shrinking from her son's defilement. But death
smooths sharp differences, and when her eyes are closed Olof lights
the holy candles, places a palm-branch in her hand, and prays for her
forgiveness.

The figure of Strindberg's Olaus Petri, burning with religious
fervour, proclaiming the true creed of Christ to the people who reply
by throwing stones, a reformer who does not perish by his faith but
lives by acceptance of common sense, is a contribution to the world's
deathless _dramatis personæ_. He is very remote from Shakespeare's
Wolsey, and the psychological climax is reversed, but there is
an ecclesiastical magnificence in the two characters which forces
comparisons.

There is an impressive simplicity in the language, and the author
achieves the highest effects in portraiture with few rhetorical
devices. The conflict of personalities makes the drama rich in
contrasts, but they are softened by an atmosphere of fatalistic
resignation before the irreconcilability of ideas. The characters are
all right with the limited measure of rightness which is contained in
each soul. They are all wrong with the wrongness which is inseparable
from human form. In _Master Olof_ Strindberg spoke as Goethe had spoken
in _Goetz von Berlichingen_.

_Master Olof_ was written during one of those periods of simple life
and isolation which Strindberg sought with the craving of the repentant
monk.

Debauch and drunkenness were eschewed, milk took the place of liquids
of fermentation. Angling, swimming, fencing and mental gymnastics in
the company of three sympathetic friends kept body and mind vigorous.

One of the friends paid his bill and our dramatist returned to town
filled with hope and with the sense of relief of one who has at last
said what he thinks. The play was sent to the manager of the Royal
Theatre, and its author returned to the palette.

Whilst waiting for the verdict Strindberg sought to "idiotise" himself,
and to stifle thought by diligent painting during some weeks. One
evening at a gathering of press-men, the late editor of the dead
evening paper told him that the play had been rejected. He felt
suddenly ill and had to leave the company.

The next day he heard the reason for the refusal. Gustavus Vasa and
Olaus Petri were distorted and degraded. He knew that he had stripped
them of their historical and patriotic aureole, and he had deliberately
restored their human contours. But such restoration was not welcome,
and he was warned that the public did not want it. A thorough revision
of the play was recommended.

The bitterness of failure now worked havoc in his soul. He plunged
into the study of social problems. He found human folly supreme
in principles of government and in the judgment of majorities and
minorities. The curse of nescience was upon all flesh.

"His thoughts struggled like fish in the net and ended in entangling
themselves," he writes of this mood. He tried to dismiss such
thoughts. But it was impossible. They returned "like a quiet, great
sorrow, bringing despair because the world went its way--idiotically,
majestically, inevitably--to the devil." A new rôle, that of sceptic,
materialist, atheist, seemed to be his own part in the drama of mind.
He strove to free himself from prejudices, social, religious, moral
and practical, and ceased to read newspapers. For newspapers praised
stupidity, mistook acts of egotism for love of humanity, and insulted
intelligence.

"He had but one opinion: that everything was wrong; but one conviction:
that nothing could be done to make things better at present; but one
hope: that some day the time for interference would come, and that
things would then improve."

There is something infinitely pathetic in Strindberg's life-long
conflict with social injustice and fatuity. He was like a man digging
deep for the straggling roots of a large tree. Sometimes he found
one, but he could never put his foot on all at the same time. Social
evolution, with its infinite variety of hidden forces, which burst into
foliage on the tree of good and evil, yielded but few secrets to his
spade. He besieged the soil in his hand with passionate questions and
showered curses upon the matter under his muck-rake, but the elusive
spirit which makes flowers out of dirt and green life out of black
decay escaped him. The scepticism and impetus to transvalue all values
which the rejection of _Master Olof_ had accelerated were further
developed by the company which Strindberg now found congenial. A
coterie of artists, writers and dilettantish philosophers assembled in
the evenings in the Red Room of "Berns Restaurant." The tone was free,
the clamour for truth loud, and contemptuous of the treasures of the
past. The company was heterogeneous and disputatious, but held together
by an aggressive scepticism which was beautifully sincere. The axiom
that the spring of human action is egoism, was the basis of argument,
and hypocrisy was hunted down with relentless severity.

The old was to be destroyed and the new created.

"That is ancient," were words of reproach. As new human beings they
must think new thoughts, and new thoughts required new language.

Anecdotes and old jokes were cut short. Phrases and borrowed
expressions were rejected. One was allowed to be coarse and to call
things by their proper names, but not to be vulgar, not to quote from
the latest comic opera or to use witticisms which had appeared in the
last number of the comic paper.

Everything was focussed to strictly personal and independent judgment.
Strindberg led the way in destructive criticism. Like Spencer before
the old masters, he found the artistic perfection of the past centuries
over-rated and superseded. The historical Jesus had been exposed to
speculative criticism by scholars, and every tyro in the Red Room had
the courage to follow.

But Strindberg defied the art-consciousness of the world by attacking
Shakespeare. He knew all his plays, had read them in English, and was
familiar with the commentators. He inveighed against the loose and
disconnected composition in _Hamlet_, the commonplace characterisation,
the weakness of the anti-climax. His sling wanted a Goliath. The blind
worship of that which is old and famous roused him to battle. Friends
who came from Upsala thought alike and talked alike. They had become
parrots who repeated the same views on Raphael and Schiller, automata
from which conventional imitation had plucked every idiosyncrasy.

The happy camaraderie of the Bohemian circle and the race for
intellectual independence did not assuage the pangs of physical hunger.
After some dinnerless days Strindberg decided to make another attempt
to join the profession of his heart. He travelled to Gothenburg on
borrowed money, presented himself to the manager of the theatre, and
offered his services as actor. His demand for a rehearsal of the play
and part which he selected was granted, but he could not command the
necessary emotional energy. He was offered an engagement at a small
salary, but the condition of waiting for two months before appearing
did not commend itself to his impetuous spirit, and he returned
dejected to Stockholm. He felt that the charge of changeability which
was brought against him was not altogether unjust, and though he was
ashamed of his many changes, he could not act otherwise.

The persistence with which Strindberg attempted a theatrical career
is strange in view of the lack of self-confidence, with which he was
afflicted when face to face with an audience. At viva voce examinations
he was attacked by sudden aphasia, though he knew the answers to the
questions. He found difficulty in public speaking, and his linguistic
gifts did not help him to speak foreign languages with ease.

In the beginning of 1873 Strindberg found employment as editor of
a new paper published in the interests of the insurance system.
A less appropriate sphere of activity could scarcely have been
devised, but he managed to transform the dry bones of premium and
compensation into delectable morsels of brain-food. He penetrated
the mysteries of commerce and statistics, studied the relationship
between birth-rate and pauperism, and examined Socialism as a solution
of economic riddles. But his inability to accommodate himself to
existing conditions brought the enterprise to a speedy end. It was
never financially sound, and when Strindberg chastised the methods
of shipping insurance companies subscriptions began to fall off. A
burlesque in which he ridiculed the methods of insolvent companies,
and which was privately acted before indignant victims did not add to
his popularity as editor. He exposed shams and humbug regardless of
consequences. The crash came during the summer, when Strindberg was
seeking peace of mind on his island. A loan had gaily been contracted
in the Riksbank to meet the costs of publication.

The day of repayment found Strindberg and his friends of the "Red Room"
absolutely incapable of paying the debt. The presence of the printer's
bill and the absence of the guarantees offered by the various insurance
companies brought him to despair. The catastrophe had been precipitated
by the carelessness of his coadjutors; Strindberg had honestly done his
part to fulfil the obligations of the loan.

Strindberg fell seriously ill with fever. In delirious dreams he was
haunted by futile remorse, by angry creditors and subscribers. In his
brain-storms he battled with the evil one, who was permitted to bring
deception and suffering to innocent humanity whilst God looked on
complacently. His illness was followed by ague, which troubled him for
many years.

A plan to find Nirvana in the waves ended in the return of the will to
live and a liaison with the housekeeper in the cottage.

The friends who shared the cottage with him had left, and Strindberg
fell passionately in love. She had been kind to him during his
illness, and he felt drawn towards her by invisible cords which, under
the circumstances, spelt tragedy. For after a short time she was
unfaithful to him, and he fell a prey to tormenting jealousy.

No human experience passed him by lightly; he was a sensitive subject,
who received impressions with painful vividness, and responded with the
volcanic intensity of surcharged emotion.

The description which he gives in _In the Red Room_ of the psychosis of
his jealousy is of much interest:

     "But as he walked on the shore, through glades and into the
     forest, design and colour began to mingle as if he had seen it all
     through tears. The mental shock, remorse, repentance, shame, began
     to dissolve him, and consciousness was loosened in its fixtures.
     Old thoughts about a task unfulfilled, about humanity suffering
     under mistakes and delusions, arose. Suffering enlarged his ego,
     the impression that he was fighting an evil power stimulated his
     resistance into wild defiance; the desire to battle with fate
     awoke, and from a heap of stakes he thoughtlessly picked up a long
     pointed stick. In his hand it became a spear and a club.

     "He burst into the forest, breaking branches as if he had been
     fighting its dark giants. He kicked the fungi under his feet as if
     he were battering in so many empty gnomes' skulls. He yelled as if
     he were driving wolves and foxes, and opp! opp! opp! echoed the
     cry through the pine forest.

     "At last he came to a rock which rose as an almost perpendicular
     wall in front of him. He struck it with his spear as if he wished
     to hew it down, and stormed up its side. Bushes crackled under
     his hand, and rustled down the mountain, tom up by the roots;
     stones rolled down; he put his foot on young junipers and whipped
     them till they lay broken like down-trodden grass. Thus he forced
     himself up and stood on the top.

     "The rocks lay below, and beyond them the sea in an enormous
     circular view. He breathed as if now at last he had sufficient
     space. But on the mountain there stood a broken fir which was
     taller than he. He climbed it, spear in hand, and seated himself
     astride on the top which formed a saddle. Then he took off his
     belt, made a noose and hung it round a branch, came down from the
     tree and picked up a large stone which he placed in the sling.

     "Now there was only the sky above him. But beneath him spread the
     pine forest, head by head, like an army storming his citadel.
     Beyond it the fjord raged and advanced towards him like cavalry of
     white cuirassiers; and beyond it lay the naked rocks like a fleet
     of monitors.

     "'Come,' he cried, and brandished his spear, 'come a hundred, come
     a thousand,' he called. And spurring his high wooden horse he
     shook his weapon.

     "The September wind blew from the fjord, and the sun set. The pine
     forest below became a murmuring crowd. And now he wanted to speak
     to them. But they murmured incomprehensible words and answered
     only 'Wood,' when he spoke to them.

     "'Jesus or Barabbas?' he roared. 'Jesus or Barabbas?'

     "'Barabbas, of course,' he answered himself, when he listened for
     an answer.

     "Darkness fell, and he felt frightened, dismounted from his
     saddle, and went home.

     "Was he mad? No! He was only a poet who had sung in the forest
     instead of at the writing-table. But he hoped that he was mad;
     he wished darkness to extinguish his light, for he saw no hope
     which could illuminate the darkness.

     "His consciousness, which saw through the nothingness of life,
     wanted to see no more. It preferred to live in illusions, like the
     sick man who wants to believe that he will get well and therefore
     hopes it!"

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Statue by Carl Eldh.--(Reproduced by
kind permission of the Sculptor.)]

Was he mad? The school of psychologists which sees in every
manifestation of the _genus irritabile_ evidence in favour of a verdict
of insanity will conclude that he was. There is urgent need for a
psychological restatement of the supernormalities of genius. The wild
outbursts of the world's intuitionalists, the devouring fire of their
creative passion, must ever remain unintelligible to soul-paupers
and to those whose cerebral activities are strictly dependent upon
the presence of print. But genius may expect better understanding
from those who give careful thought to the processes of mind, and who
should have penetrated beyond the definitions of "sane" or "mad." Those
who live and die in ignorance of the blessings of Horace's golden
mediocrity probably find the compensation which Dryden voiced:

     "There is a pleasure, sure, in being mad,
     Which none but madmen know."

The consciousness of greatness and power which accompanies the
unshackling of genius is mistaken for megalomania and contrasted
with the accompanying inability to achieve worldly success along
well-trodden roads. The result is contempt and ridicule.

Strindberg descended from his peak of glory, and for the seventh time
the prodigal son returned to his father's house. He was not welcome. He
had proved himself a good-for-nothing, and the family now treated him
with open contempt.

Life at home became intolerable and he again fled to the sea. He
lived for some time at Sandhamn, amongst pilots and coastguard-men.
Acquaintance with the sea-faring life was a tonic to the mind and an
incentive to interest in the practical side of life.

"You are twenty-four," said one of these friends to him, "and you are
nothing yet. You are surely going to be something, like other people,
even if you want to be an author, for one can't live on that."

Wise and timely words. Following his friend's advice, Strindberg
aspired to a clerk-ship in the local telegraph office, and diligently
practised the art of the telegraph operator. After a month he was
allowed to send off the weather telegrams. The office routine was
somewhat painful, but life amongst honest and hard-working seamen
showed him new sides of human character, and the steady sense of duty
which keeps the mind placid and happy amidst whirlpools and storms.

Two shipwrecks off the coast supplied material for picturesque and
vivid description, which he made use of in letters to _Dagens Nyheter_,
one of the daily papers of Stockholm. The letters brought him a good
offer of work on the staff of the paper, which he thankfully accepted.

At first everything went smoothly. The editorial office was like an
observatory, from which one could study the world and watch history
in the making. By inapt comparison between the old University and the
potentialities of the new Press, his contempt for the former grew.

The pressman is invested with authority. By the aid of modern
inventions and the efficient organisation of the news-service, he is
enabled to survey events on the world's stage, and to seize its acting
personalities whilst they are still warm with speech. He becomes the
central nervous system of pulsating humanity; he is expected to
interpret its sensory impressions and to enrich the body-social by
concepts and opinions. Strindberg saw the power of the Press, and in
the anticipatory joy of being able to express himself freely, he buried
his old disgust at the wickedness of journalism.

But the peace was short-lived. He was soon taught that one must not
aim at too wide a view-point or express oneself too freely. The ideal
and the real newspaper are two very different things. The idea that
a newspaper must offer its comment and its opinions to the buying
and subscribing public in strict conformity with party colour and
convention was not one to which he could give loyal allegiance.
He reported the debates in the _Riksdag_ in such a disrespectful
manner that a less critical man had to take his place. He reviewed a
Christian journal by declaring that the publisher had incurred a heavy
responsibility by spreading such errors, with the result that his
editor had to appease the indignant publisher.

He gave vent to highly original views on art, and when allowed to act
as dramatic critic of the performances at the Royal Theatre, took the
opportunity of paying off old scores. There were many complaints
against him, and he was even threatened with a thrashing by a
theatrical company which was smarting under his attacks. It was evident
that his services were not appreciated, and Strindberg relieved the
newspaper of his embarrassing presence.

Starvation followed, and under the lash of that whip a few months of
distasteful work on another paper. This time, he tells us, was a period
of bitter want, illness and humiliation. He dared' not go home; his
friends regarded him with pity and suspicion. The circle of the Red
Room was dissolved. Depression and dislike of human society overtook
him. There were days when he preferred to go without food to meeting
people in the restaurant. On other days he followed the same course
through want of money. Sometimes he spent the whole day lying on a
sofa, his thoughts spun in a circle which held the hope that death or
lunacy would set him free, but, when hunger came in the evening, he was
driven out to seek help.

At this time of utter misery there occurred one of those sudden changes
of circumstance which are interwoven in the sombre warp and woof of
Strindberg's destiny like a thread of scarlet. Following a friend's
advice he had applied for the post of assistant librarian in the Royal
Library of Stockholm. His application was successful, and in 1874 he
again placed his foot on the step-ladder of social respectability,
redeemed by the titles of _Royal_ Secretary and "extraordinarie
amanuens."

He threw himself into the depths of human thought, contained in
the books of which he was now master, with the eagerness of one
who is so thirsty that he wants to drink the sea. New passion, new
disillusionment. The great problems of life, those that last through
centuries and chaff the impotence of the human mind, remained problems.
Like a cow chewing the cud, the philosophers of mankind laboured with
the same unanswerable questions. Away then from the intellectual fields
where the mind is poisoned and left in irremediable misery! His new
work demanded a useful and acceptable contribution to the resources of
the library.

He undertook to catalogue Chinese Manuscripts, and devoted a year
to the study of the Chinese language. When the catalogue was ready,
he handed it with a certain pride of victory to the authorities of
the library, for he was now the sinologue of the institution. The
ancient culture of the yellow empire attracted him with its atmosphere
of somnolent mysticism. It was an opiate to his restlessness. In the
Chinese literature he searched for information about Sweden and Swedes,
and in the Swedish literature he looked for references to China and its
inhabitants.

The result was a "Memoir," which was read at the Académie des
Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. Correspondence with sinologues all
over the world followed, together with membership of learned societies
and a medal from the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. "Thus,"
Strindberg tells us, "he succeeded in contracting a healthy idiotism
which seriously threatened to extinguish all intelligence." He advanced
so far on his new path that he even coveted a Russian order.

He was at last somebody and something in the eyes of the world.

Friends recognised him, and saluted him like one who, having been sick
and foolish, had tired of his folly, and returned to normal life.



CHAPTER V

MARRIED AND BLASPHEMOUS


Strindberg's relations to women and his three unhappy marriages
were the fountain of soul-racking experience from which he emerged,
possibly not wiser, but certainly more powerful as an interpreter
of himself and of humanity. The women he loved were injured by him,
inasmuch as he made their real and imagined failings the subject of
brutal biographical romance. The fact that the blame fell upon him,
not upon the victims of his conjugal experimentation, would scarcely
compensate for the painful publicity with which he punished the women
and unburdened himself.

Worthy people have agitated themselves over the question whether
Strindberg was a real evil-liver or not. He was certainly an evil-liver
in the sense of conventional morality. In giving free play to the
impulses of his ever-expanding personality, he played the colossal
egotist and sinned against the laws of God and man. If by evil-liver
we understand a craven sensualist or a man beset with Don Juanesque
frivolities, he was not one.

There was nothing of the light-hearted immoralist of the comic
stage, or the poetic profligacy of Robert Bums, about Strindberg;
he acted throughout the heavy tragedian in the inexorable drama of
sex-antagonism.

The exemplary husband and the faithful lover are not, as a rule, found
among the torchbearers of literature, though few elect to outrage
literary decency by minute public dissections of their past loves. _The
Confessions of a Fool_, which Strindberg himself called "a terrible
book," is a nauseating record of his first marriage, in which love
and lust, hatred and disgust, adoration and contempt, exultation and
misery, are set forth in their psychological relation to a sexual love,
the disappointment of which lashed the artist in Strindberg into fury
against woman. The ghost of Strindberg's first wife never left his
side. In the _Confession_ she is portrayed as a beautiful siren with
golden hair, adorably small feet and a false heart--a fiend in female
form, with the soul of a prostitute and the worst vices of a loathsome
debauchée. She reappears in his dramas _The Father, Comrades, The
Link_; in his stories and essays; in different characters, drawn with
a pen dipped in gall, retouched and seen in different perspective, but
always the cause of man's degradation or downfall.

Strindberg's first marriage was preceded by a divorce, for his wife
Siri von Essen, daughter of Captain Carl Reinhold von Essen, was at
the time when Strindberg made her acquaintance the wife of Baron
Wrangel, Captain of the Life Guards. The reader of the fourth volume
of Strindberg's autobiography, entitled _The Author_, and of _The
Confession of a Fool_, receives very different impressions of the
author's first experience of matrimony. In the former, which deals
with the period 1877-87, there is scant reference to the matrimonial
tragedy which is the sole and sordid theme of _The Confession_, which
relates to the same period. _The Author_ was published in 1887, _The
Confession_ was written in 1888, a German version published in 1893,
and the original French edition in 1894. The reason for the omissions
in _The Author_ may mercifully be found in the desire to shield living
persons in Sweden from the fate of being the central figures in a
_chronique scandaleuse_. _The Confession_ has never been published in
book-form in Sweden, or in the Swedish language.[1] A pirated Swedish
translation appeared in instalments in a disreputable paper in spite
of the author's protest. Throughout his literary warfare Strindberg
has shown scant regard for personal feeling, and when he withheld _The
Confession_ from Swedish readers he probably was conscious of the dire
results which would follow upon the publication of his "worst" book.
The law-suit following upon the publication of _Married_, in 1884,
must have been a warning example. In a letter written from Paris,
in 1884, Björnstjerne Björnson relates his impressions of a visit
from Strindberg, and refers to the latter's inability to deal with
principles and opinions apart from personality.

"He has been a pietist," he writes, "and so he is still, in spite of
many experiences--not religiously, but morally. A cause is for him only
persons, bring them out, whip them."[2]

In _The Confession_ Strindberg's wife is certainly brought out and
whipped. But the whipping was preceded by idolatrous adoration.

"He would and he must have a woman to worship," he writes of some
innocent _schwärmerei_ which was a prelude to the fugue of marriage.
"To worship was his weakness, since the idea of God had been obscured.
He was too weak to believe in himself, and his sense of reverence,
which was given no nourishment as he had lost reverence for everything,
found this expression. He had no friends, and he must, therefore, at
any price worship, revere, love."

Of the troubled termination of another love episode, which was not so
innocent but which served to arouse his yearnings for pure affection,
he writes with true Strindbergian absence of erotic humour:

"If he had now been inclined to be a woman-hater he would, of course,
not have looked at a woman again, and condemned the whole sex, but he
was a woman-worshipper, and, therefore, he immediately found another."

The woman-worshipper in Strindberg was generally silenced by his
inseparable twin--the woman-hater. The woman-worshipper fell in love
with the pretty baroness, suffered the torture of the damned in being
denied her presence, was enslaved by her "roguish curls, golden as a
cornfield on which the sun is shining,"[3] her willowy figure, her
movements full, of softness and grace, her elegance in dress, her
aristocratic apparition. The woman-hater looked on the "fall" with a
sneer, participated with joy-mingled disgust in the intrigue which led
to divorce proceedings, hurried marriage, and the premature birth and
death of a child, cursed the bondage of ten years of married "hell,"
and finally related the intimacies of the conjugal struggle in the
public confessional in sibilant tones of revenge.

The friendship between the "Royal secretary" and the Baroness began
under the happiest circumstances and without any fore-shadowing of
coming evil. Strindberg was a welcome guest in the family, a trusted
friend of husband and wife, a respectful admirer of the girlish
mother who, seen by the side of her little girl of three, seemed
Madonna-like in her chaste aloofness. The Baroness dreamt of going
on the stage, of devoting herself to art, to a mission, and of thus
gaining individual independence. The theatre became a bridge of union
between her and Strindberg. The Baron was a sympathetic listener, a
pleasant companion, a gallant soldier, who, though warmly interested in
Strindberg's personality and career, could not always suppress a slight
condescension in his manner towards him.

The aristocracy of birth and the aristocracy of brain presented
themselves to Strindberg in a juxtaposition which threw the superiority
of the former into pleasant relief. That class-consciousness, which was
peculiarly sensitive in him, invested his friendship with the Baron
with a special interest. When visiting him at the guard-house he was
not altogether free from a sense of awe and admiration engendered by
the atmosphere of military power and aristocratic rule. "A son of the
people," he writes, "a descendant of the middle classes, cannot but be
impressed by the insignia of the highest power of the land."

Before the bowl of _punsch_ he enjoyed a sense of social superiority
over the lieutenants, an identity with the ruling forces which
was rudely shattered when the conversation turned on the riot of
1868, during which the Guards had charged into the mob, of which
Strindberg had been a red-hearted constituent. When the Captain spoke
contemptuously of the mob, "the hatred of race, the hatred of caste,
tradition, rose between them like an insurmountable barrier." "As I saw
him sitting there," writes Strindberg, "the sword between his knees--a
sword of honour, the hilt of which was ornamented with the name and
crown of the Royal giver--I felt strongly that our friendship was but
an artificial one, the work of a woman, who constituted the only link
between us."

The birth of Strindberg's illicit passion for the Baroness was followed
by alternate spells of adoration and loathing. The picture which he
draws of the struggle is highly characteristic.

He makes his attic into a temple of worship, with azaleas, geraniums
and roses, and prepares an altar for the adoration of his Madonna with
the child. He places her portrait in a semicircle of flower-pots,
with the lamplight full on it, and passes the evenings with blinds
drawn down in the Holy of Holies. But the strain becomes unbearable.
Another evening he is found in the midst of dissolute friends, a
partaker in an orgy of youthful blasphemy and desecration of love.
Amidst bacchanalian invocation of the satanic, he delivers himself
of a rhapsody of insults against the adored woman, dissects her in
anatomical terms and coarse allusions, and ends the day by sacrificing
his woman-worship on the polluted altar of Aphrodite Pandemos.
He wants to flee from temptation, and decides to quit Stockholm
for Paris. Embarked upon a cargo steamer bound for Havre, after a
touching farewell from his two friends, duty's journey is found to be
unendurable. He is tormented with loneliness, overcome by the thought
of the dreary voyage and the cruel separation from the beloved. A
wild desire to escape from the moving prison, to swim to the shore,
seizes him. An opportunity for less dramatic flight offers itself; the
pilot cutter is about to leave the steamer for the shore. Strindberg
impetuously begs the captain to put him ashore, and the latter,
suspecting the sanity of the traveller, allows him and his luggage to
depart in the cutter. Once ashore and in the quiet seaside place where,
the spring before, he had spent happy hours with her the situation
becomes awkward. He is ashamed of his weakness; how is his conduct to
be explained? After engaging a room at the hotel he wanders into the
forest and runs amuck among the fir trees and the tender associations
of the past, the tears raining down his cheeks, his heart in a turmoil
of conflicting emotions. He concludes that he must either die or go out
of his mind, and chooses a wilfully contracted pneumonia as the most
suitable road to extinction. He undresses by the shore, throws himself
into the cold water and swims out into the open sea. After a struggle
with the waves, he returns exhausted. Beckoning Fate to do her worst,
he then climbs an aider tree in a state of perfect nudity. The icy
October gale responds, and, when he descends shivering, he is satisfied
with the first part of the expiatory act. Back at the hotel he sends
a telegram to the Baron, informing his friends of his illness, goes
to bed, and drains a cup of poison in the form of an overdose of the
sleeping-draught supplied by the local chemist. The next morning brings
the Baron and the anxious Baroness, and a return of rude health which
neither gale nor poison could shake.

He returns to Stockholm, and the old life is resumed. Frequent calls
on the Baroness, weak struggles to resist, are followed by mutual
declarations of love. She visits his attic and the temple of pure
adoration is made profane. Her tender conscience finds excuses in her
husband's infidelities, her ardent lover is in the ecstasy of conquest.
The husband is told everything. The scandal, the family quarrels, the
intermixture of the criticism and condemnation of others which follow
expel the sinners from their paradise.

[Illustration: August Strindberg--1884.]

Proceedings to dissolve the marriage are commenced, and the Baroness
spends a few weeks in Copenhagen so as to comply with the legal
necessity of having "deserted" her husband. On her return to Stockholm
she is determined to realise her ideal of going on the stage. She
succeeds in obtaining an engagement under the patronage of two famous
actors and eventually makes a successful début. The requisite publicity
is provided not only by lovers of art, but also by scandal-mongers. The
process of disillusionment has begun. The iconoclast is already master
of the idolater, and Strindberg sees the disjointed skeleton where a
few months ago he saw the beautiful form of a goddess. "Everything
was permitted to us now, but temptation had diminished," he writes in
illustration of that lurking element of the _macabre_ which caused
sudden satiety and shattered his love through the dissociation of
his sexual personality. He does not stand by, a passive onlooker of
the dissolution; he assists by bitter invective and gross abuse. The
ex-Baroness on the stage is no longer to him the virginal mother with
whom he had fallen in love; she is an actress "with insolent gestures,
bad manners, boastful, overbearing." The sight of the stockings,
destined to envelop the feet which a short time ago were heavenly, is
now revolting. He notices that her room is untidy, her dress slovenly,
that she wears old slippers, and that her gestures are reminiscent of
the street. He discovers that he has no desire for her company, that
she inspires him with disgust.

Such were the first stages of Strindberg's union with the woman, who
has been analysed, divided, multiplied and endowed with every variety
of feminine crime in his writings. Eager to fly from "the repulsive
heap of offal," to which he likens the whole tragedy of the divorce,
he went to Paris in the company of a friend who enjoyed the sudden
affluence of a legacy. This time he safely reached his destination, and
experienced no uncontrollable impulse to abandon the journey. In Paris
he received a letter from the Baroness, in which she told him that she
was about to become a mother and begged him to save her from dishonour.

His love received a fresh stimulus; the shade of the Madonna resumed
temporary physical form. Strindberg returned to Stockholm, willing to
retrieve the past and mould the future by holy matrimony. The wedding
took place in December, 1877. Shortly afterwards a little girl was
prematurely born--a weakly infant who died two days later, thereby
saving the parents the anxiety of keeping its existence secret.

The unfoldment of the story of Strindberg's first marriage, the
tragi-comedy of its rhythm of love and hatred, shows not only
incompatibility of temper and a profound spiritual alienation, but
his unfitness to bear with equanimity prolonged period of domestic
enslavement. The superficial reader of the unpleasant details of _The
Confession_ will close the book with Géronte's question on his lips:
"Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère?" The sexual psychology
of the book, its profound, though brutal exposure of its author's
emotional intemperance, can only be studied in conjunction with the
whole of his autobiographical writings. A mood, a phase, a temper,
appertaining to the woman-hater, are seething in _The Confession_, and
produce pearls of literary power as well as comicalities, and bêtises
which are reminiscent of a third-rate French novel.

_The Author_ reveals the idealist in quest of true love, a man who can
feel the purity and joy of generative creation, the natural pathos and
sacredness of family life.

Of the psychic rearrangement which preceded the birth of the second
child, Strindberg writes:

"He received the first certainty with fear. How could he receive and
bring up a child, and how would the ideal marriage of his dreams now be
realised? But he accustomed himself to the thought, and the unborn one
soon became a personal acquaintance, a beloved guest who was expected,
and for whose future he wanted to fight. The wife who hitherto had been
a comrade was endowed with another value as mother, and the ugly side
of their relationship, which already had been noticeable, disappeared.
A great, high mutual interest ennobled the relationship, made it
more intimate and roused dormant forces to activity. This time of
waiting was more beautiful than the period of the engagement and the
honeymoon, and the arrival of the child the most beautiful in his life."

Those who see in Strindberg's attitude towards marriage and women
nothing but the ravings of a sacrilegious and obscene mind deliberately
shut their eyes to aspirations, such as the above, which, however
fleeting, were as much a part of the man's attitude as the profanities
which even his warmest panegyrists cannot defend.

Strindberg continues: "When he held the new-born daughter in his arms
he felt that the soul only achieves immortality through transformation
in a younger body, and that a childless life is a carnivore which only
eats others without being eaten. But he also experienced a strange
feeling of having flowered and gone to seed. He was child again in his
child, but he himself felt that he had grown old. He was deposed and
there was already a successor in the house."

The feeling of being deposed did not prevent subsequent acts of
unimpaired autocracy, but the record of the first rush of feelings of
paternal solidarity is of interest in view of the anarchic hostility to
the family which Strindberg's writings so often express.

The troubled course of love had not interfered with the rising wave
of literary productivity. Before marriage he had continued to write
short stories descriptive of coast life, and in addition to his labours
as assistant librarian he had obtained fairly remunerative work as an
art-critic. He had experienced so much disappointment as a dramatist
that he decided to employ another literary form.

In 1877 a collection of short stories appeared, entitled _From
Fjärdingen and Svartbäcken_, which described the undergraduates' life
at Upsala and caused annoyance by its disclosure of the swamps and
pitfalls in the academical training-ground. These twelve sketches,
written with directness of phrase and a vividness of description which
show keen powers of observation, were met with charges of exaggeration.
The superannuated student who spins out a worthless existence in
gasconade and song, supplementing the weakness of his mind by a few
high-sounding philosophical catch-words; the popular poet who wins
applause and friends by impromptu doggerel, stupid and coarse; the
refined and sensitive youth who is hated because he is a devotee of
outer and inner cleanliness and decorum; the wild spendthrift who
smashes windows and extinguishes street-lamps as a pastime worthy
of his caste--these and others are drawn against a background of
traditional cant, humbug and soul-destroying lies. Several of the
stories have autobiographical patches. There is withal a good-humoured
satire, not free from youthful pathos, permeated by sympathy and a
personal note of an experience acutely felt. The book is interesting as
the first specimen of Strindberg's realistic style as a prosaist. The
reviews of the book expressed divergent opinions; Strindberg read them
with the composure of one who knows how such views are manufactured.

Rebuffed by the refusal of theatrical managers to accept _Master Olof_,
he had re-written it in verse. The new edition was published in 1877,
and the reception brought its author bitter disappointment, and fuller
experience of the indifference which kills. The critics were silent.
They ignored the masterpiece of his youth, and presented a deaf ear to
the poetry of the heretic. One paper declared the play to be humbug.
His old colleagues of the press-table saw no reason for acclamation.

The satire which had shone with a mellow light in the sketches of
Upsala life was fanned into hot flame through contact with the world
of Philistines. Determined to speak his mind untrammelled by accepted
standards of literary form, whether poetic or prosaic, historical
or modern, he now wrote a novel which he called _The Red Room_. The
book was published in 1879, and produced an outburst of anger and
admiration. Voltaire's words, "Rien n'est si désagréable que d'être
pendu obscurément," had been chosen by Strindberg as a motto for
the book and in protest against the treatment he had received. The
force and style of _The Red Room_ effectively protected its author
from continued obscurity. Strindberg's name was made by this book;
henceforth it was the war-cry of opposing factions. As a novel the
book fails through lack of cohesive development of character-study
and events. As a series of sketches of the follies and vanities which
permeate the social hierarchy it compels attention by its direct,
speaking style, and the singular freshness and spontaneity of its
satire. The central figure of the book is Arvid Falk--Strindberg the
idealist--a journalist whose contact with the world results in a series
of disillusionments. Everything that is dishonest, cruel, banal,
hypocritical and vile in the social system is exposed to view in the
pages of _The Red Room_, which still, after thirty years, retain their
freshness and the warmth of the burning moral indignation which caused
them to be written.

He had found in the depth of the human heart the seven deadly sins,
and he traced their poison in every human relationship, under the
cloak of respectability, in the qualities which lead to worldly
success and honour. Oblique finance, dishonest company-promoting,
show philanthropy, unctuous religiosity, servile journalism, create
characters which are drawn in bold and dark outline with strongly
concentrated colours, but without the exaggeration of which he
was accused. The characters are so typical of human weakness and
wickedness, the psychological analysis of motives and acts so accurate,
that the indictment of the book remains true in spite of changes
in social form and personal types. The pompous publisher who grows
fat on the brains of young authors, whilst he intimidates them by
depreciation; the editor who finds favour with his party and his
employers by suppressing every unwelcome truth and spreading every
useful party lie; the moneylender who builds up a banking business
through exploitation of the financial ruin of others, are contrasted
with the unsuccessful and the unworldly.

Amongst the artists and intellectual _dilettanti_ who assembled in the
Red Room of Berns Restaurant in the evening, and whose hard struggle
for bread in the day formed such a sharp contrast to the comfort of the
time-servers, Strindberg found the Dionysian madness, without which the
sanity of the rest of the world would have been unbearable. There is
still life in the making, goodness inviolable, a brotherhood that woos
the joy and beauty of life, contemptuous of the badges and labels of
Society! But the majority who writhed under his satirical portraiture
did not find compensation in his exceptions. For the lightning
of his satire had not only played upon the time-worn objects of
ridicule--those from which they dissociated themselves with a smile of
tolerant amusement--it had illuminated and rent the pillars of Society
to which they clung with superstitious respect. Had he not shown how
literary and dramatic reputations were made and unmade by the personal
ill-will or good-humour of self-constituted critics? Had he not handled
the activities of the ancient art-critic, who bestowed automatic
praise on all his old friends, and chilly silence on all new painters
with merciless severity? Did not his unseemly badinage with the
civil service, and with the well-established routine in governmental
departments, stamp him as an enemy of Society? Some method of silencing
him had to be found.

The manner in which the book was written was provocative by its
idiomatic phrasing and the naturalness of its scenes--every sentence
was charged with revolt against the ultra-academical style which had
been the accepted standard of good writing. This was a realism in
fiction which was dangerous alike to morals and literary comportment,
introduced by a man who proved himself to be master of a new art in
words. The anxiety was abated, when some outraged critic hit upon the
idea that Strindberg was but an imitator of Zola. This was not true;
the author of _The Red Room_ had not read any of Zola's writings, but
he had read Dickens--thoroughly--and admired the gentle humour with
which the great English novelist unmasked social injustices and their
complacent representatives. He had felt a desire to be able to clothe
his indictment of Society in similar form. There is little similarity
between the writings of Dickens and those of Strindberg; the latter
lacked altogether the child-like and detached interest with which
Dickens watched and chronicled the doings of the amazing people around
him.

In Dickens's books there is a distinct line of cleavage between the
good and the bad characters. _The Red Room_ contains well-marked
specimens of both, but most of Strindberg's writings depict the hybrids
of good and evil, the psychological complexity in the human struggle
for knowledge. As a novelist Strindberg shows some affinity with
George Gissing. Strindberg's descriptions of the squalid tragedy of
poverty--honest, hopeless, heaven-forsaken poverty--have the same power
of spoiling the enjoyment of a good dinner as those of Gissing. In _New
Grub Street_ Gissing lets Biffen say, "Show the numberless repulsive
features of common decent life." The repulsive features of human life
generally met with protesting resonance in Strindberg's poignant
sensibility; he described them and the result is "unpleasant."

The publication of The Red Room was followed by an intense literary
activity on the part of its restless author. He had found his tongue,
and he had found an audience.

The versatility of mind and production which was the despair of his
critics became apparent. In 1880 _The Secret of the Guild_, a comedy
in four acts, was published. The theme of the play is the unsuccessful
attempt to complete a church by a guild of masons in Upsala in 1402.
For fifty years the work has proceeded, but envy, dishonesty and pride
of trade have stood in the way of its completion. The old alderman is
deposed and his son becomes master of the work. Jacques, the son, is
a man of action, ambitious and unscrupulous, who urges on the work
without the cautiousness of old age. The roof is laid, the tower is
built, but the secret of success has eluded Jacques. The tower falls
as a result of ignorance of the spiritual secret which would have
preserved it. "The church was built in sin and therefore it lies
in ruins," says the old alderman. The play faithfully reflects the
Middle-Age atmosphere, and harmonises with Strindberg's earlier plays
in its vivid presentation of the struggle between two generations.

Its infusion of faith and Christian symbology had the effect of
modifying the storm of execration, with which pious respectability
strove to break the author of _The Red Room_.

The performance of _Master Olof_ at the Swedish Theatre in 1880 was
a great success, and it was no longer possible to ignore Strindberg
as a dramatist. Revised five times in deference to criticism and
technique, the play had at last conquered opposition by the richness
of its historical imagination, the splendour of its form and the fiery
youthfulness of its treatment of the oldest of spiritual problems. The
tardy acknowledgment was balm even to Strindberg's sceptical soul, and
the two plays which he now wrote breathed "faith, hope, and charity,"
as if the gloomy truths of _The Red Room_ had been forgotten.

_The Journey of Lucky Peter_[4] satirises humanity and Society in its
narrative of what befell Peter who wanted to see the world and taste
its luxuries, but like all good fairy-tales the drama ends happily,
and Peter regains peace of heart, and finds his dual-soul. And the
satire is tempered with a humour, so sympathetic, an understanding
of the doers and victims of evil, so delicate, that the reader of
this fairy-play puts down the book with a sigh of satisfaction that,
after all, the worst experiences in this world prove themselves to be
but necessary milestones of the pilgrim's progress. Lucky Peter who
discovers the nothingness of the rich man's pleasures, of the king's
power, the bitterness of fame, the changeability of human institutions!
We envy him his rapid liberation from the chains of flesh, the severe
tuition under his fairy-teacher. The charm of the play is irresistible;
it has the mysterious eventfulness of _Peter Pan_ and _The Blue Bird_,
but none of the fatuities which often distort plays for children of all
ages. Even when he entered fairyland Strindberg could not leave his
intelligence behind.

In _Sir Bengt's Wife_, the other play of this period, he gives us
an historical drama of marriage, in which love rises triumphant and
purified through life's difficulties and misunderstandings. Sir Bengt
has fallen in love with the nun who is doing penance for the sinful
response of her unruly woman's heart. He delivers her from the tyranny
of the abbess, and the wedding festivities promise a life-long feast
for the bold knight and his fair lady. But the fates are jealous of
so much happiness, such blending of strength and beauty, and disaster
overtakes them in the person of the king's bailiff who demands the
payment of a heavy fine in consequence of the knight's negligence in
not having provided the king with a mounted soldier. Sir Bengt is
unable to pay, and loses his knighthood. The unscrupulous bailiff, who
has designs upon Lady Margit, helps Sir Bengt to accept the services
of a moneylender by which complete ruin is averted. Sir Bengt conceals
his trouble from his bride, and seeks to redeem his position by hard
and honest work. A child is born, but the harmony between husband and
wife is disturbed through misunderstandings. To Lady Margit the change
in her husband is distressing: he works like a peasant, and has become
oblivious of the arts and graces of knightly conduct.

One day when, by ignorance and womanish love of the beautiful, she
has thwarted his plan for the restitution of his property he lifts
his hand to strike her. Protected by the Reformation, which has now
been accomplished, she asks the king to dissolve her marriage with a
brutal and unworthy man. The wicked bailiff is watching the disruption
of the home with satisfaction, and succeeds in gaining Lady Margit's
affection. Fortunately she discovers the villainy of his plan, and
tastes the reprobation of "the world" in time. The _dénouement_ of the
play is reached by a reconciliation between husband and wife, following
upon the mutual discovery of sterling merit and the inviolability of
marriage, parenthood and home. The simplicity of the love-drama, the
inherent goodness of the characters, including the Father Confessor
who, to fit the general harmony, kills the phantoms of his lower nature
is scarcely Strindbergian. One dominant note rings clear and undefiled
through the three plays of this period: the sense of the sacredness
of paternity. The pathos and tragedy of fatherhood are interwoven in
many of Strindberg's plays, but generally entangled in a multitude of
disturbing emotions.

_Sir Bengt's Wife_ was published in 1882, _The Journey of Lucky Peter_
in 1883. During the years 1880-82 a work entitled _Old Stockholm_[5]
appeared, with Strindberg and Claes Lundin as joint authors. It is
a popular and comprehensive account of past customs, institutions
and pleasures of the citizens of the capital of Sweden, profusely
illustrated. Strindberg had collected the material at the Royal
Library, and planned to write the whole work. His health broke down
through overwork, and he found it necessary to engage a collaborator.
He managed, however, to write entertainingly on guilds and orders,
legends and superstitions, street music and amusements, celebration of
Christmas and Easter, slang, fauna and flora of the city of his birth.
_The Red Room_ had already shown Strindberg's keen observation of the
character and peculiarities of Stockholm life; the _genius loci_ had
in him a faithful, though not always flattering, _raconteur_. In _Old
Stockholm_ the comprehensiveness of his knowledge of the history of the
Swedish capital became apparent.

The solidity of his antiquarian and historical research brought him
an offer to write a popular history of Swedish culture which he
accepted, on condition that the independence of his historical sense
should not be suppressed. Having prepared his material he was lost in
philosophical speculation over the absence of an intelligent connection
between cause and effect. "Was not history a capricious muddle, a walk
in a circle? Had not civilisations risen and perished, social systems
appeared and disappeared, religions changed and men remained unwise and
unhappy?" He succeeded in contracting his point of view, and wrote his
history with the intention of counteracting the prevalent method of
viewing historical events through the medium of privileged personages.
Others had overrated the personal factor. Strindberg admits that he
under-rated it. _The Swedish People_ met with angry criticism and
resentment of the sceptical manner in which time-worn and honoured
tenets were treated.

The reception of _The Swedish People_ aroused the powers of satire
which had been lulled to sleep during a temporary spell of optimism.
The warm and sunny atmosphere, in which the warrior had rested, gave
place to storm and thunder, and Strindberg gathered his force for a
fresh attack on Society. This time he disdained the form of the novel
which, though thin and undeveloped, had yet made it possible for some
of the parties arraigned to dismiss _The Red Room_ as a piece of clever
but fantastic fiction.

_The New Kingdom_, which appeared in 1882, is a series of satirical
descriptions of the ideals and conduct of the inhabitants of the
"new kingdom" which was supposed to have been created by the Swedish
constitution of 1865. The book is an attack upon everything that
average humanity holds dear; the scorching satire plays like lightning
upon royalty, militarism, history, aristocracy, bureaucracy, the press,
the theatre, and, with special annihilative pleasure, on the Swedish
Academy. It was impossible to deny that Strindberg had descended from
generalisations to portraiture, that well-known and highly-respected
personages had been pilloried and caricatured. Affronted Society
declared the book to be simply a lampoon on spotless individuals.
Though the personal attacks were doubtless in bad form, and, though
there are passages in the book which strain ridicule to the point of
the grotesque and the vulgar, the brilliant wit, the profusion of
ideas, and, above all, the incomparably good temper place The New
Kingdom in the forefront of contemporary satirical writings. The genre
of Grenville Murray's Les Hommes du Second Empire had suggested the
form. An affinity with Max Nordau is noticeable in certain chapters,
and especially in that on "The Official Lie"; but Strindberg's
exposure of conventional hypocrisy and social humbug is achieved by a
tempestuous outburst, compared with which Nordau's strictures seem a
discursive and spiritless sermon.

The year which saw the storm of _The New Kingdom_ also witnessed more
moderate winds in the first instalment of _Swedish Destinies and
Adventures_, a collection of stories in historical setting which showed
Strindberg as an interpreter of the genial and peaceful aspects of
life, as a humorous onlooker whose memory is stored with pictures of
the kaleidoscopic reign of joy and sorrow, sin and virtue. Now and then
the fresh narrative is oppressed by a distant rumble of the preacher
who finds it difficult to suppress his views on women, political
economy and over-rated civilisation.

_Swedish Destinies and Adventures_ had reconciled the critics to
Strindberg's existence. There was talent--undoubtedly; there was a mine
of creative imagination; there was a calm current of lyrical content
which the wild torrents of satire and abuse had not swallowed. Perhaps
he might yet be redeemed, tamed to run a less dangerous and offensive
literary course?

The praise won by the historical stories was cut short by the
appearance in 1883 of _Poems in Verse and Prose_. The novelist, the
historian, the dramatist in Strindberg had stood aside to let the
poet speak. And the poet spoke in words which were a challenge to the
phrase-mongers and the purists, in hot and rugged verse which acted
like an over-dose of pepper on the jaded literary palate. There were
lapses of metre, there were faults of rhythm, but the energy of thought
sustained the poet on a height from which the custodians of formal
rhyme could not dislodge him. If De Quincey's differentiation between
the literature of power and the literature of knowledge be applied to
Strindberg's first volume of poems there can be little doubt as to the
category to which they belong.

The most typical poems of the series are "Loke's Blasphemies," in
which he lets Loke, the enemy of the deities of Northern mythology,
sing his own song of defiance and contempt for the "Gods of time";
and "Different Weapons," a finely cut satire on the way his literary
executioners had avoided open duel and resorted to secret poison. The
poet introduced his work by a militant preface, in which he declared
that he was a challenger who was forced to employ the weapons chosen
by his opponents. He stated that the poetic form imposes unnecessary
fetters on thought, and is, therefore, destined to fall into disuse.
"Stronger spirits have formerly broken them, but dared not throw them
away. The mediocrities of our time dare not place such bad verse on the
Christmas market as that written by our great poets. In this respect,
i.e. the writing of bad verse, I dare compare myself with the greatest
without danger of contradiction." He intimated that the metrical
blemishes were deliberate sacrifices of form to thought, and left his
detractors to believe or disbelieve in his theoretical perfection as a
poet.

Tired after so many battles, so many literary peregrinations,
Strindberg had left Sweden before the publication of his poems. He
settled in Paris with his family, and, with the industry of mind which
in him was identical with life, proceeded to study the intellectual and
artistic resources of the "gay" city. The result was the conviction
that a large town should not be likened to the heart of a body, but to
an abscess which corrupts the blood and poisons the system.

The most important event during Strindberg's stay in Paris was probably
his contact with Björnson. A friendship sprang up between the two
Scandinavian rebels which was rich in sympathy and exchange of ideas.
In _The Author_ Strindberg gives us his impressions of Björnson, and
Björnson has written an interesting description of Strindberg.[6]
Strindberg found Björnson a complex of personalities, consisting of
the preacher, the peasant, the theatrical manager and the good child.
Björnson found Strindberg young throughout, at home everywhere, free
everywhere, an incurable idealist in whose eye something sinister
battled with something roguish.

By the side of the massive Norwegian Strindberg experienced an unusual
sense of security which developed into filial love.

Björnson's democratic drama _The King_ had been attacked as
_lèse-majesté_ and a political scandal. They had many experiences
in common, were relatives in thought. Björnson in exile appealed
to whatever vestige of hero-worship was left in Strindberg's soul.
Suffering from nervous depletion, and in a generally weakened state
of health, he adopted a deferential attitude towards Björnson which,
being foreign to his temperament, was logically bound to be followed
by emancipation. Early in their intercourse Strindberg had made the
characteristic discovery that he was endowed with greater knowledge and
a more incisive understanding than Björnson. Björnson begged Strindberg
to be less personal in his satire, apparently unconscious of the
extremely personal nature of his own attacks upon the common enemy.
The tie of friendship was gradually loosened, until Björnson's rôle of
"conscience" and father confessor came to an abrupt end in 1884.

Strindberg was content to dwell for a time amongst the _literati_ of
different nationalities who had assembled in Paris. Free from the
stings of the bourgeois wasps upon whose nest he had trampled, he
enjoyed the fresh air and the keen winds in the great republic of mind.
Like other men he knew the exhilaration which follows upon the _jeu
d'esprit_ in the highways of thought, the intellectual union which
rejuvenates and fatigues by its fertility. But unlike most men he
soon tired of even the best company, and the craving for solitude and
independence became imperative.

Paris was deserted for Lausanne. In a little châlet by the shore of
the lake he recovered physical strength and mental poise. The sight of
the Alps acted as a tonic to his nervous system, and solitary morning
walks on the shore brought him the stillness of mind out of which new
faith is moulded. The way to Rousseau was straight and easy; the peace
of Nature, the sinlessness, the simplicity of the peasant's life,
as compared with the vitiated conditions of town labour, impressed
themselves on his thought. The diseases of mind and body, caused by the
unnatural oppression of civilisation, were amenable to treatment, more
practical than satire, and more human than the loathing with which he
had decried the false gods and the vulgar tyrants. The remedies were to
be found in a combined "return to Nature," and reorganisation of the
conditions of labour. Socialism, internationalism, the theories of a
broad and humanitarian outlook upon industrial processes of development
which tend towards a more equal distribution of wealth and power, now
fed Strindberg's hunger after social righteousness. He attempted to
throw off national limitations; to feel and act as a European with
pan-national sympathies and interests.

The peace movement presented itself to him as one of the greatest
thoughts of the time. In his youth he had felt at one with the
proletariat, trampled down by the hoofs of militarism. In his satirical
writings the peacocks of the social fowl-yard--the proud bearers of
epaulets and tinsel--had received a full share of his attention. In
Switzerland he came into contact with the organised peace movement,
and the result was the novel _Remorse_, a powerful analysis of the
mental torture endured by a German officer who in obeying orders has
caused three innocent Frenchmen to be shot. The inhumanity of war and
the reality of human brotherhood are here presented in a manner which
makes the story a stirring, yet delicately artistic appeal against the
horrors of the battlefield. Whilst he thus placed himself in the ranks
of the world's peace-makers the struggle with the sex-problem, from
which he never wholly escaped, developed into a battle, the noise of
which was destined to reverberate through his whole life. During the
summer of 1884--whilst exposed to the unromantic surroundings of a
Swiss mountain _pensionnat_--he wrote twelve stories of married life,
to which he gave the innocuous title _Married_. They were published
in Stockholm in September by Herr Bonnier, and had the effect of a
bomb thrown amidst sleepy and contented people--contented to be rid
of the enemy. The book was eagerly read by everyone, by the high
priests of morality as well as by libertines; it sent shudders of
indignation through the respectability which covers vice and sin with
silence, and called forth shouts of delight from the champions of
"free" morals. It was denounced as indecent, and as a grave danger to
the youth of Sweden by representatives of religion and education. The
Queen of Sweden read the book and came to the conclusion that it was
injurious to morality and offensive to religion. She was undoubtedly
sincere in her condemnation, whilst the majority who joined the hue
and cry against Strindberg were but tainted reflections of the purity
upon which they prided themselves. This time the author of _The Red
Room_ and _The New Kingdom_ had placed himself within reach of the
law. Within a fortnight of the publication of _Married_ the book was
impounded, and proceedings were instituted against the publisher.

But it was not the indecency which was the subject of legal
proceedings. It was the sacrilegious handling of Holy Communion in
the first story, entitled "The Reward of Virtue," which afforded the
opportunity for legal repression. True to the irreverent impulse which
owed its origin to the ecclesiastical preparations in the sexton's
kitchen, Strindberg had vented his feelings of opposition to the tenets
of Christianity in a tasteless sentence. It recorded the commercial
value of the wafers and the wine and ridiculed the "insolent fraud"
which enabled the priest to foist these articles of commerce on the
congregation, as the flesh and blood of the "Agitator" who was executed
more than 1800 years ago.

The story, which to a great extent was autobiographical, dealt with
the alleged evils of chastity in a youth and consequent declination of
mental faculties. The problems of puberty, which Wedekind subsequently
dramatised with tragic force in _Frühlings Erwachen_, were amongst the
painful experiences which Strindberg dwelt upon in his autobiography.
In _Married_ the conflict between Nature and virtue is falsely
presented. The auxiliary influences of moral and physical culture are
ignored.

Some stories treat of love and marriage, of the transformation of
raptures and idylls into painful struggles for the maintenance of
the family, of helpless young men captured in the economic trap of
matrimony, of the monotony of daily domestic drudgery which makes
fretful wives and impatient husbands out of ardent Romeos and dreamy
Juliets. There are squabbles and reconciliations, there are scenes
and _intérieurs_ in the comedy of marriage, to which the stories bear
witness with little regard for the usual restraint of description. The
characters are life-like types of Swedish middle-class society. They
have been drawn with a realism which shows them as the pathetic puppets
of marital fate, or as the unreflecting fools of sexual idealism. There
is the deft touch of Maupassant in the rendering of love's irony, there
is the inevitableness of Balzac and--in the "indecencies"--not a little
of Boccaccio's mirth of imagination.

Withal there is an absence of the cynicism which is a general
characteristic of Strindberg's writings on sexual love; we get a
surfeit of realism, but we also get pages of playful and almost tender
sympathy with love's happiness and sweet illusion. The story of a young
couple's improvident marriage, of their enjoyment of the home with its
brand-new things--from the sky-blue quilts to the well-cut glasses--of
the careless happiness which is young and foolish, and forgets all
about work and duty and the wolves without until the birth of the child
and bankruptcy disturb the dream, is an imperishable gem of human
description. And the story of the crotchety and greedy old bachelor
of irreproachable private life and well-timed permissible vices, who
finally marries and becomes an ideal husband and a doting father, is
proof of the author's recognition of family-life as a bridge between
egotism and altruism.

The youth who falls in love with the blossoming girl of fourteen, and
is compelled to postpone marriage until he joins his fate to the faded
and sickly woman of twenty-four, with a worm-eaten nose (who ever saw
anyone with a worm-eaten nose? Strindberg's strength of expression is
embarrassing), spends married life in vain languishing for the perished
beauty of fourteen. Finally--and when too late--he discovers that the
lost angel has all the time been by his side, though disguised in
ungainliness of form and feature. The story is a miniature of man's
earthly conduct. The child is always the apotheosis of sexual union,
the redeemer of the petty nature of husband and wife. The woman who
shouts "I am not your servant" to the exasperated husband does so
because she is not sanctified by motherliness. Though the primitive
fidelity with which Strindberg sketches his matrimonial types, jars
on our sensibilities through ineptitudes of diction and occasional
vulgarisms, though we feel irritated with his boneless and martyrised
husbands, _Married_ is at once a work of art, and a plea for the
super-marriage which is yet to come.

When the news of the action against the publisher of _Married_ reached
Strindberg in Switzerland, he hesitated as to the right course to
pursue. He considered the charge of blasphemy to be merely a peg on
which his enemies had hung their long-suppressed lust for revenge.
The efforts to suppress the book as a pornographic publication had
proved futile and absurd, and had served to show well-intentioned
people that realism is not necessarily rank immorality. He resented
the attack on freedom of religious thought. On discovering that the
Swedish law punishes denial of the pure Lutheran doctrine with two
years' hard labour, he reflected that, if the law were enforced Jews,
Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Methodists and Baptists would all be
incarcerated in Långholmen--the prison in which certain newspapers in
Stockholm had already joyfully deposited their image of Strindberg.
To plead guilty to the charge of blasphemy was to admit the existence
of a legitimate censorship on thought and religious conviction which
he denied. But the publisher was in danger of being punished, and
Strindberg could not stand by whilst a scapegoat suffered the penalty
of his transgressions. A letter of protest against the proceedings had
been ignored. Another letter to the authorities, in which Strindberg
formally admitted his authorship, was followed by the request that he
should appear personally before the Court. A consultation in Geneva
with Herr Bonnier, junior, followed, and as there seemed little doubt
that the publisher would be found guilty, if the author shirked his
responsibility for any motive whatever, Strindberg left for Stockholm.

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Photo by G. Florman, Stockholm--1884.]

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Photo by Lina Jonn, Lund--1897.]

He received warnings on the way, gloomy prophecies that the prisoner's
cell was the ultimate destination of his journey. On arriving in
Stockholm on October 2nd, he was met at the station by an inquisitive
and admiring crowd. There were cries for a speech as he stepped out of
the train amid cheers. Did this mean that there were friends as well
as enemies awaiting him? He was not, after all, a _vox clamantis in
deserto_. There were supporters and sympathisers ready for his message.
Standing on the platform, amid the bustle and noise of the station, he
addressed the people on the meaning and object of his realism. Within
a few minutes he experienced the vicissitudes of the "leader" of a
movement: acclaimed by some and insulted by others, he reached his
hotel opposite the station amidst the excitement which is meat unto the
agitator and dross to the thinker.

In the evening there was a special performance of _The Journey of Lucky
Peter_ which the author was invited to attend. At the theatre he was
the centre of interest, the object of inquisitive glances. The public
cheered him again--was it possible that he too had a following, a
circle of responsive souls willing to stand by him in the struggle for
new thought? But no, the sceptic within him did not believe in this
adulation. "No, I am no good as a 'great' man," he reflected. "I can
never learn to believe in cheers. They cheer to-day and boo to-morrow!'"

During the weeks that followed he had ample opportunity for
philosophical studies of the cheering-booing propensity of human
nature. The violent attacks in the Conservative press had all the
psychological elements of the booing which is an essential stimulus to
continued self-satisfaction and placid Phariseeism; the cheering which
echoed from another quarter was not always attuned to the highest
aspirations of the hero of the moment.

The trial of the case was painful to Strindberg. He had none of the
qualities which make men revel in loud publicity. Despite the character
of his writings, and the war which he had waged with his pen, he had
all the personal reserve of the sensitive and the recluse. On November
17th the jury found a verdict of "Not guilty" for the author and
publisher of _Married_. His friends cheered, working men in the street
cheered and triumphantly escorted Strindberg to his hotel. The victory
over the enemies of "free speech" was celebrated in the evening by a
banquet, and on the following day Strindberg left Stockholm for Geneva,
where he joined his wife.

In Sweden the controversy ran high. _Married_ was once more on sale.
It was stated that no less than 3500 copies of the book had been sold
during the short interval between the day of publication and the
confiscation.

The advertisement provided by the prosecution now ensured the widest
publicity for the book. Pedagogues and moralists saw not only a grave
danger to the youth of Sweden in the circulation of the book, but the
cause of actual and deplorable corruption amongst the boys in public
schools. A pamphlet entitled _Strindberg-Literature and Immorality
amongst Schoolboys_, by John Personne, a master in one of the Stockholm
public schools, is a curious document in proof of the animosity against
Strindberg which at this time possessed many excellent people. Herr
Personne claimed to have personal knowledge of the evil wrought by
Strindberg's theories, and his pages bristle with indignation. He
flouts the idea that Strindberg is a man of courage, and accuses him
of supplying indecencies at a good price. He inveighs against the
"satanical tricks" by which this "literary ragamuffin" makes vice
appear identical with joy, thereby luring boys to destruction. One
need not be a pedant in matters of moral perception to sympathise with
Herr Personne's motive, despite the acerbity which characterises his
ebullitions. Whatever may be said for realism in the description of
sexual struggles from the artistic and scientific points of view, it
has yet to be proved that youth benefits by free access to the wares
offered by the _l'art pour l'art_ vendors of life's intimacies.

The feminists joined the schoolmasters in bitter denunciation of
Strindberg, though, as yet, there was none of the radical opposition
to every phase of woman's emancipation which developed with deepening
experience of conjugal misery. The first volume of _Married_ was,
it is true, written as a protest against the "sickly" deification
of the liberty of woman underlying the _Nora-Cult_. In opposing
Ibsen, whom Strindberg calls "the famous Norwegian blue-stocking,"
he had carried out what to him was a sacred duty. But the preface to
_Married_ contained views on the rights of women which, but for the
general commotion, would have preserved the writer from the charge of
uncompromising enmity towards the souls of women. After analysing the
cause of unhappy marriages in some epigrammatic pages, he slaughters
the "romantic monstrosity" which is Ibsen's Nora, and presents his
scheme for the future regeneration of woman under the title _Woman's
Rights_.

The first of these is the right to have the same educational advantages
as man. There is to be wholesale educational reform from which class
and sex differences are to be eliminated; "unnecessary" learning is
to be abolished and the substitute is to be found in a universal
citizen's examination--a degree of social competency requiring the
arts of reading, writing, arithmetic and elementary knowledge of the
laws of one's country, with appreciation of the duties and rights of
citizenship. To this curriculum one living foreign language will be
added, but there will not be time for much more, for "the future will
require every citizen to earn his living by manual labour in accordance
with the law of nature." The regeneration of woman and the reform of
marriage are thus--according to August Strindberg of 1884--inseparably
bound up with socialistic hopes of equality.

In co-education he sees the remedy for the insipid gallantry and
sex mystification which are responsible for so many pangs of
disillusionment after marriage. He wishes the theoretical equality
of the sexes to be enforced in the relations between brothers and
sisters. A girl should not expect a boy to give up his seat to her,
and a brother should not count upon his sisters for the restoration of
missing buttons and other creature comforts. And, last but not least,
he proclaims _Votes for Women_ as the prerogative of the enlightened
woman of the future! We may, therefore, claim indulgence for the
woman-hater's life-long growl of discontent against the feminine sex,
for, underlying all his dislike of the present, there was a radiant
vision of the future. There are propositions in this preface which
should satisfy even the most consistent advocates of votes for women.
"Woman shall be eligible for election to every occupation," writes
Strindberg; in marriage she is to retain her own name and not, as now,
be a feminine appendix ignominiously tacked on to the man; she is to
be master of her own body, and of the choice of motherhood. Of the
spiritual functions of motherhood he writes:

"Is anyone wiser or more fit to rule than an old mother who, through
motherhood and the household, has learnt to reign and to administer?"
Through the influence of the mother, he continues, "customs and laws
will be softened, for no one has learnt forgivingness as a mother,
no one knows as she does how patient, how indulgent one must be with
erring human children."

Whilst the waves of the Strindberg storm were beating against the
breakwater of Swedish society, the author of paradoxes was working out
his own matrimonial fate in Geneva and Paris. His dreams of a better
future took form in _Real Utopias_, published in 1885, a collection
of stories in which the socialistic and utilitarian solution of
heart-rending problems is presented in a novelistic form which shows
Strindberg at his best. The style is instinct with a tender pity for
human suffering; there is a keen sense of character, and a wealth of
exuberant descriptive warmth which are in sharp contrast with the
meagre and stunted sociology to which they have been made subservient.
They show the addition of a new string to his lyre, a tone of southern
richness which accentuates the superiority of the artist in Strindberg
to the social philosopher.

At the age of thirty-seven he gathers the riches of his
experiences--external and internal--sits down to draw up an account
with life and writes his _Autobiography_: The first three volumes deal
with the period 1849-79, and were published during 1886. During the
same year the second part of _Married_ appeared--in many respects
the antithesis of the first. After a prolonged plunge into the depths
of subjectivity, Strindberg rose endowed with a new creative force.
He had spoken that which was within him, and through the process of
self-renewal which followed he attained his highest powers as artist.


[1] The first Swedish edition will shortly appear amongst the collected
works of Strindberg which are being issued by Messrs. Albert Bonnier.

[2] _En bok om Strindberg_, af Holger Drachmann, Knut Hamsun, Justin
Huntly McCarthy, Björnstjerne Björnson, Jonas Lie, Georg Brandes, etc.
(Karlstad, 1894).

[3] _The Confession of a Fool_. English translation by Ellie
Schleussner.

[4] The name of this play has been wrongly translated into English.
It is generally written of as _The Journal of Lucky Peter_, a mistake
which even appears in the Encyclopædia Britannica.

[5] A third and unaltered edition of this book, which is now regarded
as one of the classical works on the subject, was issued during 1912
(H. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm).

[6] _En Bok om Strindberg_ (Karlstad, 1894).



CHAPTER VI

THE ARTIST


Whilst fighting the battle of realism in fiction Strindberg had
prepared the dramatic form which was to be his contribution to the
"new" theatre, on which the curtain was about to rise. The demand for
a new dramatic art had become imperative. Tired of the admonitions and
stale declamations of the old rhetorical play, the public had asked
for a representation of life. Dumas père had responded by writing the
drama of personality, Dumas _fils_ by establishing the play of moral
problems. Ibsen had built the psychological play on the foundation
of Dumas and had endowed the Norwegian language with a new sonority.
Scribe had supplied fine technique and neat carpentry for the new
French stage, but Paris, the petulant playgoer, sighed for other things.

Zola raised the cry of naturalism. The artificial plots of Dumas,
Augier and Sardou were to be superseded by dramatic flashes of
reality. "I yearn for life, with its shiver, its breath and its
strength; I long for life as it is," cried the author of _Thérèse
Raquin_, and Strindberg responded. In September, 1887, _The Father_
was published, the first of the series of naturalistic plays through
which Strindberg's European reputation as a modern dramatist and a
woman-hater was established. The institution in the same year of the
Théâtre Libre, by M. André Antoine, provided a stage which was wholly
adapted to the revolt against old-fashioned theatricality.

M. Antoine was an employee at the gas-works who had a passionate
faith in realistic drama. With a group of sympathetic _dilettanti_ he
began evening performances in a large room in Place Pigalle without
the stage mechanism of the commercial theatre. Success attended the
enthusiastic players, and the performances at the Théâtre Libre became
the rendezvous of the intellectual and artistic world which gravitates
to Paris. The soul of the enterprise, M. Antoine, was manager,
actor, scene-painter, and mechanic. The theatre was semi-private.
Special invitation cards to elect audiences protected the actors
from the attention of gallery-opinion. The actors and authors of the
new plays were the hosts in this home of dramatic revolution, where
every original playwright was welcome. Strindberg's _The Father, Lady
Julie_ and _Creditors_ were amongst the first plays produced, and he,
therefore, had the satisfaction of being played in Paris before any
appearance on the French stage of the "famous Norwegian blue-stocking."
Tolstoy's _Powers of Darkness_, Zola's _Thérèse Raquin_, Emile Fabre's
_L'Argent_, an adaptation of the brothers de Goncourt's Sœur Philomène
and Villiers' "_L'Evasion_," belonged to the early repertoire.
_Ghosts_ was the first of Ibsen's plays to appear; it was followed by
_Rosmersholm_. The Théâtre Libre lasted eight years. It had time to
create a "modernity" in taste and dramatic expression which produced
similar free theatres in Berlin and London, and a vogue of naturalism
which included every variety of "life," and which, occasionally, gave
undue preference to lubricity and morbidity.

The Swedish edition of _The Father_ was followed by a French edition,
containing a sympathetic prefatory letter by Zola. The three acts of
this tragedy present a drawn-out duel between man and woman for the
possession of the soul of the child. The father, a cavalry captain, is
intellectual, serious, studious, lovable. His wife is stupid, selfish
and diabolically resourceful in the choice of weapons for the final
defeat of the ill-used man. He is mentally poisoned by the suggestion
that he is not the father of the child. Laura, the wife, has herself
administered the poison in order to shatter the man's peace of mind,
and break the foundation of his love for the child. Her hatred knows no
bounds. She not only seeks to drive him mad, but contrives by skilful
intrigue to procure evidence of his insanity. She informs the doctor
that her husband suffers from extraordinary delusions regarding the
uncertainty of paternity, and that he talks of little else. When the
doctor meets the Captain the question which is eating his mind shows
itself as an obsessing idea. Everybody and everything conspires to make
the man appear a raving lunatic. Finally, even the old nurse who has
been a true and good woman is induced to betray him. He believes in
her kindness of heart, and allows her to approach him. She slips the
strait-jacket over him, thereby adding the last link to the chain of
feminine treachery and cruelty which has enslaved him. Subjugated,
robbed of his faith and his mind, the man dies--the victim of woman.

In the preface Zola expressed his interest in the boldness of the
idea. "Your Laura," he wrote, "is woman as she is in her conceit and
in her mystical unconsciousness of her qualities and faults." _The
Father_ was one of the few dramatic works which had the power of moving
him deeply. But he found a certain want of reality in the characters
and the construction of the play. The nameless captain and his cruel
entourage were thought-forms, lacking the solid dimensions which Zola
identified with reality. In a critical appreciation of Strindberg,
published in 1894, Georg Brandes praised _The Father_ as a tragedy of
concentrated energy, magnificent in its composition and powerful in
its effect. "There is something eternal in The Father," he writes, "an
unforgettable psychology of woman, showing typically feminine weakness
and vice." Brandes thinks the symbolism of the final scene, in which
the man of intellect is ruined by woman, inherently true. He adds: "The
strength of the indignation and the hatred which have produced the
drama are impressive. This tragedy is a cry of anguish which clings
to one's memory, which grips and terrifies through the depth of the
passionate suffering that uttered the cry."

Laura may be regarded as the most complete type of Strindberg's
Inferno-women. She has not even the _beauté du diable_ which creates
an illusion of goodness in some of his types. She is the man-eater,
the destroyer of all that is noble, consistent, progressive in man.
Strindberg sees a cannibalistic tendency in woman which makes marriage
a feast of horror, and this is a theme to which he often returns. In
_The Father_ the distraught man says to his child: "You see, I am a
cannibal, and I will eat you. Your mother wanted to eat me, but she
could not. I am Saturn who ate his children, because it had been
prophesied that they would eat him. To eat or to be eaten? That is the
question. If I do not eat you, you will eat me, and you have already
showed me your teeth." ...

The callous egotism with which Laura kills her husband is shown by the
following words, with which she assaults him: "Now you have fulfilled
your function as an unfortunately necessary father and bread-winner,
you are not needed any longer, and you must go. You must go, since you
have realised that my intellect is as strong as my will, and since you
will not stay to acknowledge it."

It is perhaps not unnatural that the Captain should throw a lighted
lamp at Laura after listening to this speech. But the speech itself is
certainly unnatural, and would be more in keeping with the sentiments
of a female spider--if that callous insect could formulate her
generative philosophy--than those of a woman. As a self-expository wife
Laura severely taxes our credulity.

_Lady Julie_[1] is a different type. She is the pretty, neurotic,
sensual, useless woman, blue-blooded and empty-minded, destined to
total extinction in the process of natural selection. Her tragedy is
unfolded in a play of one act, which is the quintessence of Strindberg
as a "naturalistic" dramatist. The scene is laid in the Count's
kitchen. The Count's daughter, Lady Julie, is alone in the house
with Jean, the valet, and Christine, the cook. It is St. John's Eve;
the farm hands belonging to the estate are assembled for the annual
midsummer dance. They do not dance in the kitchen, but there is
midsummer madness in the air. Christine is betrothed to Jean who treats
the products of her culinary art with epicurean disdain. He knows his
value as a man and a servant. Jean is an excellent valet, well-made,
well-behaved, who knows when to show self-confidence and when to
cringe. Lady Julie has graced the servants' dance with her presence.
She has favoured Jean with such marked attention that the people have
begun to gossip. Alone with him in the kitchen she encourages him to
make love to her. The valet is uneasy; the man is eager to make himself
master of the Count's daughter, but the servant shrinks from the
sacrilege. But Lady Julie taunts him with his unmanliness, tempts him
with her beauty, and the effervescence of her highly-strung nerves. A
strange love-scene follows.

The sound of approaching country-folk forces Jean and Lady Julie to
hide from their prying eyes. They do not wish to be found alone in the
kitchen. Jean's room is near at hand and becomes their refuge, whilst
the peasants make the kitchen the scene of their midsummer merry-making.

When the kitchen is deserted, Lady Julie and Jean reappear. There is
an autumnal chill in the air. For Lady Julie is no longer Lady Julie.
The valet is master. They are both conscious of the monstrous breach of
social etiquette which has been committed. And the grey dawn will not
only bring the shame of day, but the home-coming of the Count.

Jean is chivalrous. He proposes immediate flight to Switzerland or the
Italian lakes. There, he thinks, they can start an hotel--a first-class
hotel for first-class guests. He waxes enthusiastic over the joys
of the hotel-owner. She will be mistress of the house, queen of the
accounts, before whom the guests will humbly lay their gold.

She cannot rise to his enthusiasm. She wants the comfort of love:

     _Julie_. That is all very fine. But, Jean, you must give me
     courage. Say that you love me. Come and take me in your arms.

     _Jean_ (_hesitating_). I would like to, but I dare not. Not here
     in this house. I love you without doubt. Can you doubt it?

     _Julie_ (_shyly, with true womanly feeling_). You! Say "thou" to
     me. Between us there are no longer any barriers. Say "thou."

     _Jean_ (_troubled_). I cannot. There are still barriers between us
     so long as we remain in this house. There is the past, there is
     the Count. I have never met anyone who compelled such respect from
     me. I have only to see his gloves lying on a chair to feel quite
     small. I have only to hear his bell, and I start like a shying
     horse. And when I now look at his boots, standing there so stiff
     and stately, it is as if something made my back bend. (_He kicks
     the boots_.) Superstition, prejudice which have been driven into
     us from childhood, but which may be as easily forgotten again. If
     you will only come into another country, into a republic, people
     will cringe before my porter's livery. People shall cringe, but
     I shall not cringe. I was not born to cringe, for there is stuff
     in me; there is character in me; and if once I grip the lowest
     branch, you shall watch me climb. To-day I am a lackey, but next
     year I am a proprietor; in ten years I shall be independent, and
     then I go to Roumania and get myself an order. I can--mark well I
     say I _can_--a count.

     _Julie_. Fine, fine!

     _Jean_. Ah, in Roumania a man can buy a count's title, and then
     you will be a countess--my countess.

     _Julie_. What do I care for what I have cast aside! Say that you
     love me, or else--ah, what am I else?

     _Jean_. I will say it a thousand times--later on. But not here.
     And, above all, no sentimentality, or all is lost. We must keep
     cool like sensible people. (_He takes out a cigar, cuts the end,
     and lights it_.) Sit down there, and I will sit here, and then we
     can chat as if nothing had happened.

     _Julie_ (_in despair_). Oh, my God! Have you no feelings?

     _Jean_. I! Why, there is no one more sensitive than I, but I can
     command my feelings.

     _Julie_. A short time ago you would have kissed my shoe, and
     now----

     Jean (_coldly_). Yes, before. But now we have something else to
     think about.

They cannot flee without money. Jean suggests that she can steal the
necessary sum in her father's room. He taunts her with her weakness
until she robs her father. They prepare to leave the house. The girl
wants to bring her greenfinch. Infuriated by her sentimentality,
Jean snatches the bird from her and kills it. The man's brutality
and meanness are suddenly revealed to her; her brain reels under the
humiliation which she has brought upon herself. She hurls curses at
the head of the impudent domestic. The morning has come, and Christine
enters the kitchen on her way to church. The girl appeals to her,
seeks her sympathy, but Christine's feelings of propriety are too
shocked to allow of any pity for the fallen girl. She leaves them. The
Count returns. They hear him in his room, know that he will discover
the theft. His daughter is half demented with fear, remorse, shame; she
is incapable of deciding what to do. Jean's servant conscience has been
awakened by the arrival of his master. The Count is there to command,
Jean to obey. And when Lady Julie wants him to tell her what to do he
hands her a razor--with the complacency with which he might hand his
mistress the riding-whip. She leaves the kitchen and kills herself.

Such are the outlines of this painful play, the most "successful" of
Strindberg's naturalistic dramas. Again we have a struggle between
man and woman, but this time the opposites of class and blood are
added to those of sex. The healthy egotism, the common instincts of
self-preservation in the valet endow him with a physical stability
against which Lady Julie's emotions break like foam against a rock. She
goes, he remains. Like _The Admirable Crichton_, Jean knows that there
must be masters and servants in this world of inequality, and, though
his passions for once mastered his conviction, he is soundly submissive
to social law and order. In Lady Julie, Strindberg has sketched the
useless, unnatural, pleasure-loving, hysterical woman of the leisured
classes whom he detests.

In the preface to the play he analyses this type of woman. "Lady Julie
is a modern character," he writes, "not as if the half-woman, the
man-hater, had not existed in all times, but because she has now been
discovered, has appeared on the scene, and created a disturbance." In
such women he sees a danger to the race, for, as a rule, they attract
degenerate men, and transmit their own misery to another generation.
They sell themselves for "power, decorations, distinctions, diplomas,"
and produce beings of undecided sex to whom life is useless. For such
psycho-pathological creatures Strindberg sees no hope beyond that of
elimination through contact with reality (Jean was "reality" to Lady
Julie), or a fatal outburst of long-suppressed sexual instincts. "The
type is tragic," he concludes, "offering the spectacle of a desperate
struggle against nature; tragic as a romantic inheritance which is now
being destroyed by the naturalism which only seeks happiness; and only
strong and good species are compatible with happiness."

Justin McCarthy translated _Lady Julie_ into English, and expressed
his admiration for the unalloyed realism of the piece in an article in
_The Fortnightly Review_. The mental intensity with which Strindberg
visualised the character of Lady Julie is strangely impressive.
There is no extravagant or jejune theorising; it is drama vehemently
conceived and true to its creator. But the horror which moved Justin
McCarthy when reading the play, and which most readers experience, is
a product of Strindberg's peculiar misogyny which, for the purposes
of the play, he coupled with the ordinary standard of convention and
morality. Lady Julie's disgrace is unpardonable from the point of view
of society. She dies in deference to its verdict. We cannot imagine a
drama by Strindberg, in which tragedy is woven out of the misconduct
of a Lord Julius instead of a Lady Julie. A young "blood," neurotic,
suffering from ennui, and seeking temporary distraction in the company
of Jeanne, the valet's daughter, would not have inspired a naturalistic
drama of sex and caste. There is a wealth of material which can be
used to _épater le bourgeois_ in the idea of a well-bred woman's
precipitous "return to nature." The commonplace spectacle of a similar
descent on the part of a well-bred man affords none.

In _Comrades_ we meet the type of woman who surpasses _Lady Julie_ in
anti-social attributes. Laura is something of a female tigress, the
mother whose claws are ready to tear all but the cub; Lady Julie, with
her hysteria I and her caprices is still the womanly woman. But Bertha
who is united to her "comrade" Axel in a marriage of equality is worse
than they. She is plain, mannish, ambitious; a mental parasite who
suppresses her womanhood and simulates her husband's talents. The rival
of man, the unsexed, simian-brained shrew, Strindberg's _bête noire_.

_Comrades_ is a four-act comedy of marriage. Axel Alberg and his wife
are Swedish painters in Paris. They have each painted a picture which
has been submitted to the Salon. In Act I we find Axel at work in the
studio. He is a good fellow, honest, painstaking, generous. Friends
call and discover his embarrassing position as a married comrade. There
is the doctor, mature in experience and philosophical in outlook,
who when Axel asks him if he does not believe in woman answers: "No,
I don't. But I love her." There is the sensible, matter-of-fact
Lieutenant Starck, who will stand no nonsense from women, and whose
happy, normal wife knows that woman's real happiness is found in
subjection unto her husband. They are shocked to hear of Bertha's
tastes and habits. Bertha comes home. She has kept her nude male model
waiting, and her poor husband has had to pay five francs in consequence
of her unpunctuality. This is a small part of the sacrifices he has
made for her artistic career. In the scenes that follow we see Bertha
insisting on keeping the household accounts, though her head cannot
grapple with the simplest problems of addition and subtraction. She has
made false entries, and deliberately deceives Axel as to the manner in
which the funds of the comradeship are expended. She coquettes with
Willmer, a young writer, and receives presents from him. Intent upon
securing the acceptance of her picture, she makes nefarious use of
Axel's love for her.

     _Bertha_. Will you be very kind to me? Very?

     _Axel_. I always want to be kind to you, my dear.

     _Bertha_. Do you? Look here, you know Roubey, don't you?

     _Axel_. Yes, I met him in Vienna, and we became good friends.

     _Bertha_. You know that he is a member of the jury?

     _Axel_. Well, what about that?

     _Bertha_. Yes, now you will be angry. I know it.

     _Axel_. If you know it, don't make me angry.

     _Bertha_ (_caresses him_). You won't sacrifice anything for your
     wife--nothing.

     _Axel_. Go and beg? No, that I won't do.

     _Bertha_. Not for yourself, for your picture will probably be
     accepted all the same, but for your wife?

     _Axel_. Don't ask me.

     _Bertha_. I should really never ask anything of you.

     _Axel_. Yes, things which I can do without sacrificing....

     _Bertha_. Your manly pride.

     _Axel_. Let us leave it at that.

     _Bertha_. But I should sacrifice my womanly pride, if I could help
     you.

     _Axel_. You have no pride.

     _Bertha_. Axel!

     _Axel_. There, there, forgive me.

     _Bertha_. I am sure you are jealous of me. I am sure you would not
     like my picture to be accepted.

     _Axel_. Nothing would delight me more, I assure you, Bertha.

     _Bertha_. Would it also delight you if I were accepted and you
     were refused?

     _Axel_. I must feel (_laying his hand on his heart_). I am sure
     it would be an unpleasant feeling--sure. Both because I paint
     better than you, and because....

     _Bertha_. Say it straight out,--because I am a woman.

     _Axel_. Yes, also for that reason. It is strange, but I have a
     feeling as if you women were intruders, forcing your way in and
     demanding the spoils of the battle which we men have fought whilst
     you sat by the fireside. Forgive me, Bertha, for saying this, but
     such thoughts come to me.

     _Bertha_. You are just like all other men, exactly.

     _Axel_. Like all other men. I hope so.

     _Bertha_. And lately you have assumed such superiority; you used
     not to be like that.

     _Axel_. I suppose that is because I am superior. Do something
     which we men have not already done.

     _Bertha_. What! What are you saying? Are you not ashamed?

Bertha changes her tone, and plays the humble comrade who is sorely
in need of a little encouragement. Axel rejects her arguments, but
eventually goes to Monsieur Roubey. During Axel's absence a letter
arrives containing the information that his picture has been refused.
Bertha guesses its contents and revels in the luxury of pity and
_schadenfreude_. Axel returns, after finding Madame Roubey at home,
(a meeting cleverly foreseen by Bertha) with the news that Bertha's
picture has already been accepted. He congratulates Bertha on her
success. He is confident that his picture will also be accepted. She
hands him the letter. The _scène de rupture_ is inevitable.

     _Axel_ (_lays his hand on his heart and sits down_). What ...
     (_controls himself_). This is a blow which I did not expect. This
     is most unpleasant.

     _Bertha_. Well, perhaps I can help you now.

     _Axel_. You look as if you enjoyed my defeat, Bertha. Oh, I feel a
     great hatred of you stirring within me!

     _Bertha_. I look happy, perhaps, because I have had a success, but
     when one is tied to a man who cannot rejoice in one's happiness it
     is difficult to feel sorry when he is unhappy.

     _Axel_. I don't know what has happened, but it seems to me that
     we have become enemies now. The struggle for a position has come
     between us, and we can no longer be friends.

     _Bertha_. Does not your sense of justice tell you that the one who
     was most competent won the battle?

     _Axel_. You were not the most competent.

     _Bertha_. But the jury thought so.

     _Axel_. The jury? But you know very well that you cannot paint as
     well as I do.

     _Bertha_. Are you sure of that?

The dialogue that follows is a crescendo of the sex-against-sex
quarrel. "A comrade," concludes Axel, "is a more or less loyal
competitor, but we are enemies." Bertha, selfish, mean, inebriated
by her triumph, goes out to celebrate her victory in the company of
friends. Axel stays at home to nurse his sorrow. The curtain descends
upon the dejected husband begging his wife not to come home drunk.

Act II shows us Bertha usurping Axel's place as teacher. She finds
fault with his technique, and snatches the brush out of his hand to
show him how to paint. Her puny mind reels with the desire to humiliate
him. Malicious tongues have whispered that he has painted her picture,
that he has good-humouredly let her reap the honour of his toil. Bertha
is casting about for a means of crushing Axel for ever. To-morrow
they will give an evening-party. Her friend Abel--another of the
emancipated, heartless, false, perverse, masculine women of artistic
Bohemia--makes a welcome suggestion. Why not arrange to have Axel's
rejected picture sent home at the very hour when their friends are
assembled in the studio? The idea fascinates Bertha, but she dare not
be responsible. "I should like it to be done, but I don't want to be
concerned in it," she says. "I want to stand guiltless and to be able
to swear that I am innocent." And Abel undertakes to manage the matter.

The sex-war reaches its climax in Act III. Axel has tom himself
free from the meshes of his decaying love. Now he knows Bertha as
she really is. He has discovered her dishonest book-keeping, her
money transactions with Willmer, her insidious efforts to emasculate
his soul--he realises the full horror of her short hair, and of
their union. He has broken his marriage-vows, and throws down the
wedding-ring. He is free. But Bertha's malignity clings to him:

     _Bertha_. And this, all this noble revenge, simply because you
     were inferior to me.

     _Axel_. I was your superior when I painted your picture.

     _Bertha_. When you painted my picture! Say that again and I will
     strike you.

     _Axel_. You who despise brute force are always the first to appeal
     to it. Strike me if you like.

     _Bertha_ (_advancing towards him_). You think I have not the
     strength.

     _Axel_ (_seizing both her wrists and holding them_). No, not that.
     Are you convinced now that I am also physically the stronger? Bow
     down, or I will break you!

     _Bertha_. Dare you strike me?

     _Axel_. Why not? I only know of one reason why I should not.

     _Bertha_. And that is----?

     _Axel_. That you are irresponsible.

     _Bertha_ (_struggling to free herself_). Ah, let me go!

     _Axel_. Not until you have begged my pardon. Down on your knees.
     (_He forces her down with one hand_.) Now look up to me from
     below. That is your place, the place you yourself have chosen.

     _Bertha_ (_gives in_). Axel, Axel, I don't know you e any longer.
     Can this be you who swore to love me, you who begged to be allowed
     to support me?

     _Axel_. Yes, I was strong then and believed I had strength to do
     it. But you clipped the hair of my strength while my tired head
     lay in your lap. During sleep you stole my best blood, and yet
     enough remains to subdue you. Stand up, and let us have done with
     speeches. There is business to be talked over. (_Bertha gets up,
     then sits down on the sofa, weeping_.)

     _Axel_. Why are you crying?

     _Bertha_. I don't know. Perhaps because I am weak.

     _Axel_. You see! I was your strength. When I took back what was my
     own you had nothing left. You were like a rubber ball which I blew
     out; when I threw you down you collapsed.

     _Bertha_ (_without looking up_). I don't know if it is as you
     say, but since we quarrelled my strength has left me. Axel,
     believe me, I have never felt for you what I now feel.

     _Axel_. Really! What do you feel?

     _Bertha_. I can't say. I don't know if it is love, but....

     _Axel_. What do you mean by love? Is it not a secret longing to
     eat me alive once more? You begin to love me. Why not formerly,
     when I was good to you? Goodness is stupidity. Let us be wicked.
     What do you think?

     _Bertha_. Yes, I would rather have you a little wicked than weak.
     (_Gets up_.) Axel, forgive me, but don't desert me. Love me, oh,
     love me!

But Axel is not caught again. He consents to allow the party to take
place, as if they were still good comrades, but he is determined to
obtain a divorce. In Act IV we again meet the happy pair, Starck,
Willmer, Abel, Dr. Östermark, the _raisonneur_ of the play, and his
divorced wife, Mrs. Hall, a dubious middle-aged woman whom Bertha
imagines to be a victim of man's brutality and a living argument in
favour of the woman's movement. She and Abel have arranged, not only to
punish Axel by confronting him with his unsuccessful picture, but to
disconcert Dr. Östermark by confronting him with the wife and daughters
whom he has not seen for eighteen years. But Bertha's calculations
are faulty, as usual. The picture is carried into the studio by order
of the _concierge_ who has protested against its unexpected appearance
at the door. Axel is annoyed. She wants everybody to see the picture,
to look at it closely. They do, and it turns out to be Bertha's picture.

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Portrait in Oil by Chr. Krogh, 1893]

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Portrait in Oil by Richard Bergh, 1906.]

The last scenes of the play show us a shame-faced Bertha recovering
from the fainting-fit which followed upon the sight of the picture. She
knows that Axel has nobly changed the numbers in order to give her a
better chance. She knows that circumstances have combined to unmask her
completely. He is the stronger, and she offers him her love. Relentless
in his masculine strength, Axel shakes her off, turns her out into the
street. "You once asked me to forget that you are a woman," he cries,
"well, I have forgotten it." She reminds him of a man's duty to his
wife. Axel hands her some bank-notes. Bertha departs consoled and Axel
goes to meet his mistress. "I want comrades at the _café_, but at home
I want my wife," he cries, before the final exit of Bertha.

_Comrades_ has been confounded with the typical _comédie rosse_. But
here, as in _Lady Julie_, the collision of character is presented
with the intensity which is possible only when a dramatist treats
of a question which to him is vital. One inadequately described as
a "tragedy," the other as a "comedy," there is in both plays the
pessimistic despair of the absolutely sincere anti-feminist. It raises
them high above the facile farce of passion, satiety and change.
Bertha is to Strindberg the New Woman--a creature to be shunned and
exterminated. Nietzsche thought that the "beautiful and dangerous cat,"
which is woman, should never be visited without a whip. Strindberg
would not only bring the whip, but poison to the defeminised monster
who wishes to be the rival of man.

In _Comrades_ the dramatist presents his characters with that ironical
smile which is the condiment of life's bitter draughts. There is a
general consciousness of _blague_ pervading the studio. The doctor who
finds the wife, on whom he once lavished a romantic love, a drunken
slattern, her daughters in a second union in the service of vice, helps
the reeling woman out of the house and expresses his feelings thus:
"Oh, Dolce Napoli! Joy of life, where art thou? Went away as she did.
Such was the bride of my youth!... Oh, Dolce Napoli! I wonder if the
cholera-sick fishing harbour is so sweet, after all! Blague probably.
Blague, blague! Brides, love, Naples, _joie de vivre_, ancient, modern,
liberal, conservative, ideal, real, natural--blague. Blague all the
way."

_Creditors_ is a one-act play in which we meet the erotic woman, the
alluring, treacherous, unmoral creature of instinct and passion, who
battens on men's souls--in short, the vampire. After the _blague_ of
_Comrades_ the anguish of _Creditors_. There are two men and one woman
in the piece. Tekla has been married to Adolf, a painter, for seven
years. Adolf adores her--their love has been a ceaseless giving on
his part. He has merged his personality in hers, he has laid his art
as a sacrifice on the altar of his devotion. He has thought of her,
painted her, modelled her, given her the treasures of his mind, filled
her soul until his own is empty, and now he is weak whilst she is
strong. They are staying at the seaside place, to which they come every
summer. Tekla has been away for a week when the curtain rises on Adolf
engaged in modelling the figure of his wife. He is a nervous wreck,
semi-epileptic, with crutches by his side. He is talking confidentially
to Gustaf, whose acquaintance he has made during Tekla's absence. He
does not know that Gustaf is the husband from whom Tekla was separated
before he married her, does not know that Gustaf is the _creditor_ to
whom they are both in debt. Gustaf induces Adolf to tell the story of
his married life, of his sacrifices, his self-effacement, his reckless
giving. He subtly leads Adolf to realise Tekla's voracious egotism,
her falseness, her voluptuousness, plays upon his jealousy, rouses
his suspicions, wrecks his peace of mind. Adolf is fascinated against
his will by the force and coolly analysing mind of Gustaf. He cannot
understand why there is something in Gustaf's manner of speaking, and
in his eye which reminds him of Tekla. Gustaf replies that Tekla and he
may be distant relatives, as are all human beings.

They discuss Tekla's first husband. Adolf has never seen him, but
knows that he is an idiot, for Tekla has written a book in which the
ridiculous man is described. Gustaf shows Adolf that he is treated
as the second idiot by Tekla. He asks why Tekla sent away her child.
Adolf hesitates to tell his friend, then confesses that at the age of
three the child showed a likeness to the first husband which Tekla
found unendurable. Gustaf asks Adolf if he has never felt jealous of
the first husband. "Would it not nauseate you to meet him when out for
a walk, when his eyes on your Tekla would say to you: We instead of
I--We?" Adolf admits that the thought has haunted him. Gustaf draws a
picture of the torment caused by the indelible memory of the third.
"But they know that _one_ sees them in the darkness--and then they are
frightened and in their fright the figure of the absent one begins
to haunt them, to assume dimensions, to change until he becomes a
nightmare disturbing their sleep of love, a creditor who knocks at the
door, and they see his black hand between theirs, they hear his grating
voice in the silence of the night which should only be disturbed by
their beating pulses. He does not prevent their union, but he disturbs
their happiness. And when they feel his invisible power of disturbing
their happiness, when at last they flee--but flee in vain from the
memory which persecutes them--from the debt they have left behind, and
the judgment which frightens them, they lack the strength to bear their
transgression and find a scapegoat which must be slaughtered...."

Tortured by the suggestion that Tekla has now been unfaithful to
him, which every sentence spoken by Gustaf drives more deeply into
the inflamed brain, Adolf consents to test Tekla's fidelity by means
devised by Gustaf. When she comes home Adolf is to study her manner,
and lead her to reveal her real self, whilst Gustaf listens in another
room. When the husband has reached the limit of his power of deduction
he is to go out, and leave to Gustaf the rôle of inquisitor. Adolf is
to be a secret witness of the second examination. He can hear all in
the adjoining room.

Tekla comes home. She is playful, loving, treats him as her naughty
child--just as Gustaf said she would, if guilty. She has enjoyed
herself, and Adolf's solemn tones of reproach and impending disaster
cause a revulsion of feeling, in which she shows herself as the
heartless coquette, the _mangeuse d'hommes_, to whom conjugal monotony
is insupportably dull. Adolf goads her vanity by saying that she has
reached the age, when admirers are no longer troublesome. She wishes to
assure him of the contrary, warns him, threatens that in future he will
have to play the ridiculous part of the jealous and deceived husband
who, lacking evidence, can only injure himself.

Adolf tells her that her plumes are borrowed, that he has endowed her
with sense, electrified her once empty brain, made her famous by his
pictures and his deification. She concludes that he means to tell her
that he has written her books. The rhythm of the quarrel rises until
Adolf in the throes of an approaching fit, cries: "Be quiet. Leave me.
You destroy my brain with your clumsy pincers--you thrust your claws in
my thoughts and tear them to pieces."

At the sight of Adolf's condition Tekla grows tender. He recovers,
and she makes him beg her forgiveness. After summoning his remaining
strength he leaves her. Gustaf enters the room. There is a touching
scene of recognition, embarrassment and assurances of mutual respect.
The virile mind of Gustaf soothes Tekla's overwrought nerves.
She allows him to understand that her present husband is feeble,
backboneless, and unreasonably jealous.

They revive memories. Gustaf observes that she still wears the
ear-rings which he gave her. The magnetism of old associations, old
regrets, draws them together. Gustaf puts his arm round her waist;
she resists and confesses herself afraid of his presence. She does not
wish to do any real wrong to Adolf, for she knows that he loves her.
But Gustaf knows more than she does. He shows her the tom pieces of her
photograph, thrown on the floor by Adolf some time before. He makes
her see clearly that Adolf treats her with contempt. He begs her to
liberate herself from Adolf's sick fancies, and to come back to the man
of will. Some scruples, a short struggle, and she promises to meet him
in the evening when Adolf will be away.

The sound of something falling comes from the adjoining room. Gustaf
assures her that it is nothing--probably a dog that has been locked
up. But Tekla is smitten with sudden understanding. She sees through
Gustaf's plot, knows that her husband has heard everything. The
horrible revenge of the man she betrayed revolts her, yet impresses
her by its diabolical consistency. Gustaf is about to leave her,
declaring that the debt has been paid, when the door is opened, and
Adolf appears, deadly pale, a cut across the cheek, his eyes vacant,
and foaming at the mouth. He falls. Tekla throws herself over the body,
from which life is fast ebbing. "Adolf, my beloved child, say that you
are alive, forgive, forgive; Oh, God! he does not hear, he is dead. Oh,
God in Heaven!" And the curtain falls as Gustaf exclaims: "Really, she
loves him too! Poor thing!"

_Creditors_ has added an important psychological factor to Strindberg's
usual duel of sex. Here we have, not only the sinful nature of woman,
the instinctive selfishness, the absence of moral sense, but the
operation of a mysterious law of unity, which assists in the downfall
of the woman and the victory of the stronger man. Tekla, once mother
of Gustaf's child, is held to him by cords of a sympathy which may be
called physiological, and which constitutes nature's irrefrangible
banns of marriage.

The thesis has since been fully developed in Paul Hervieu's _Le
Dédale_. Here the dissonance of divorce and re-marriage resounds
through a highly artistic presentment of the conflict between religion,
morality, affection and "nature." Marianne de Pogis has left Max, her
husband, because of his infidelities. She re-marries and finds in
Le Breuil, her second husband, the virtues which her former husband
lacked. Her child by the first marriage falls ill, and she meets her
first husband by its bedside. She remains in his house to nurse the
child, and succumbs to the old love which has never died. The end is
tragic. She cannot go back to Le Breuil. Hervieu cuts short the agony
of three souls by the death of the two men. Le Breuil kills Max and
himself; together they go over the rock into the foaming waters where
human passion is extinguished. Strindberg also summons death as the
only solution of Adolf's martyrdom, but, with characteristic sense of
the hideous interminableness of life's complexities, leaves Tekla and
Gustaf to loathe the tie which they cannot break. Gustaf is the strong
man who, knowing woman, despises her and masters her. Adolf is the
woman-worshipper, the slave who has sold his masculine birthright for
worthless favours. He is killed by disillusionment.

The production of _The Father, Lady Julie,_ and _Creditors_ at the
Théâtre Libre was followed by their performance at the Théâtre de
l'Œuvre in Paris, another experimental theatre which was founded in
1893 by M. Lugné-Poë. _Lady Julie_ was part of the early repertory
of the Freie Bühne, an advanced playhouse which had been established
in Berlin in 1889 to meet the demand for realism on the stage. _The
Father_ and _Creditors_ were performed in Copenhagen in 1889, and the
latter play was soon presented at the Residenz Theater in Berlin. The
Independent Theatre in London, founded by Mr. J.T. Grein in 1891,
introduced Ibsenism to England, and suffered the penalty of the
pioneer. Strindbergism might have wrecked the undertaking before the
work was accomplished. Mr. Grein's services to the British playgoer
have not yet been fully appreciated. He broke one or two windows in
the suffocating theatre of banalities and bon-bon amours. Thanks to
his courage we can now enjoy an increased amount of oxygen. But the
West-End stage still thrives on airlessness. The popular long-run
play, in which the charming actress appears as mannequin for the
best costumier, whilst social inanities are paraded as absorbing
problems--with a happy ending--contracts the lungs of all who in the
drama seek a mirror and a criticism of life. To find modern dramatic
art they must perforce go to the sporadic centres of unconventional
and non-commercial performances, or to the semi-private stages of
societies which fight the prevalent stagnation by bold experimental
presentation of new dramatic ideas. Strindberg's plays are practically
unknown in England. The Adelphi Players produced _The Father_ in July,
1911, and _Lady Julie_ in April, 1912. The Stage Society, which is the
descendant of Mr. Grein's Independent Theatre, has played _Creditors_.
The Stronger, an atmospheric sketch with two characters, of whom the
one maintains silence, whilst the other uses her tongue, was acted
by Madame Lydia Yavorskaia and Lady Tree in 1909. Of the remainder
of the fifty-one plays by which he has encompassed many "schools" of
playwriting, evolved new dramatic forms, and tested different methods
of expression the British public knows little or nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Naturalism has passed away. The shallow materialism, the false
simplicity of presentation, with which it sought to kill romantic
methods of dramaturgy, proved fatal. They were found to be as unreal
as the old-fashioned conventions of the stage. But there were other
qualities in the movement which have not died, but profoundly
influenced the character-drawing and scenic development of the modern
drama. Hauptmann, Hervieu, Wedekind, Schnitzler, Gorky, Tchekhov
have transmuted and individualised the permanent elements of the
early realism. As an exponent of naturalism Strindberg's personality
towered high above the first noisy purveyors of what M. Jullien named
"slices of life"--some distressingly indigestible. It is true that
the fabric of his drama was woven out of the ever-recurring theme of
sexual antagonism. He described it with the undertone of personal
suffering--the suffering of experience and of pity--with which Tolstoy
made his peasants articulate in _Powers of Darkness_, or Henry Becque
the ill-used women in _Les Corbeaux_.

But Strindberg's plays are highly "unpleasant," says some defender of
the morality of the stage. True, but they are honestly unpleasant. They
differ from the popular play of amorous escapades and half-uttered
indecencies, as the mountain torrent differs from the garden fountain.
They are written by the impelling force of an idea, whilst the
conventional immorality play exists in the interests of frivolous
entertainment. However much we may disagree with the _leitmotif_ in
Strindberg's naturalistic plays, and realise the limitations of his
theses, we cannot ignore them. And do they not, after all, treat of
"love," the obsessing object of dramatic interest from the plaintive
demi-monde of Dumas _fils_ to the man-hunting Ann of Bernard
Shaw? From Sudermann and Pinero to Schnitzler and Capus, through
sentimentalism, conventionalism, and cynicism, the theme persists in
absorbing dramatic imagination. Compared with Schnitzler, the prince
of amorists, Strindberg's _milieu_ is sombre with fateful retribution.
Like Strindberg, Schnitzler dramatises the illusion and disillusionment
of love; his lovers and mistresses are also on the road to knowledge.
The ten couples who pass over the stage in _Reigen_ might be sparks
from Strindberg's anvil. But on closer inspection we find that there
has been no fire. Schnitzler's world is the play-room of the passions,
Strindberg's their inferno.

In _Lady Julie_ and _Creditors_, both one-act plays and each with only
three speaking parts, he created a new dramatic form. He now assailed
the old theatre with the same vigour with which he had attacked old
social institutions. In the preface to _Lady Julie_ he contemptuously
writes:

"The theatre has long appeared to me, as art in general, to be a
_Biblia Pauperum_, a bible in pictures for those who cannot read
writing or print, and the playwright as a lay preacher who disseminates
the thoughts of the period in popular form, so popular that the middle
classes, which chiefly fill the theatres, can understand what it is all
about without much mental exertion. The theatre has therefore always
been a board-school for young people, the half-educated, and women who
still possess the primitive capacity for deceiving themselves, and
allowing themselves to be deceived, i.e. to accept illusion, receive
suggestion from the author."

The influence of Edmond de Goncourt, who called the theatre an
exhibition of spouting marionettes and a place for the exercise of
educated dogs, can be traced in this passage. Rudimentary, incomplete
processes of thought, dependent on imagination, are, concluded
Strindberg, necessary to theatrical enjoyment. With the development of
reflection, investigation, and the higher mental attributes, decay of
pleasure in theatrical performances would follow as the shell drops
from the ripe fruit. In the theatrical crisis which raged in Europe at
this time (1888), and in the moribund state of drama in England and
Germany he saw evidence of an approaching extinction of the theatre.

It would, however, be a mistake to invest these views with a greater
seriousness than they contained. As Henry Becque pointed out in
his "Souvenirs," _la fin du théâtre_ has repeatedly been proclaimed
by dissatisfied critics, without causing the slightest impediment
in the ceaseless flow of dramatic production. In the preface to _Le
Fils Naturel_, Dumas had compared the moralising functions of the
stage to those of the Church. Strindberg replied, twenty years later,
by predicting the downfall of both as vehicles of human progress.
Hot-headed attacks on the theatre precede the evolution of new dramatic
forms; they are the outcome of the modernity which is ever at war
with methods which have become classic. "To save the theatre, the
theatre must be destroyed, the actors and actresses must all die of
the plague," is the sweeping verdict of Eleonora Duse,[2] but there
is no disparagement in the reflection that the melancholy prophecies
are often uttered by dramatists who are misunderstood and rejected. In
Anton Tchekhov's _The Seagull_, published in 1900, the familiar protest
is heard: "To me the theatre of to-day," says the poet Constantine,
through whom the author speaks, "is no more than an antiquated
prejudice, a dull routine." He protests against the trivialities, the
commonplace morality, the repeated dishing up of the same story in
a thousand varieties. He wants to flee, as Maupassant fled from the
Eiffel Tower. Each malcontent finds solution in his own new method of
drama. Rousseau's letter to d'Alembert contains the genuine criticism
of the theatre, with which no born dramatist can sympathise. From the
effect of fostering artificial emotions, of indulging in sham joys
and sorrows, there is no escape through improvement of dramatic form.
Whether for good or ill it remains with us. But there is happily little
danger of the rationality, in which Strindberg saw the doom of the
theatre.

The choice of naturalistic subjects was to be a contributing factor in
the process of rationalism. Of the painful impression created by _Lady
Julie_ Strindberg writes:

"When I chose this subject from life, just as it was told to me
some years ago when it stirred me deeply, I found it suitable for a
tragedy, for it still makes a painful impression to see a happily
placed individual go to the wall, and still more to see a family die
out. But the time may come when we shall be sufficiently evolved and
enlightened to contemplate with indifference the coarse, cynical, and
heartless drama which life offers, when we have laid aside the inferior
and unreliable registration-machines which we call feelings, and which
will be superfluous and injurious when our organs of judgment are fully
developed....

"The fact that my tragedy makes a sad impression on many is the
fault of the many. When we become strong, as were the first French
revolutionaries, it will make an exclusively pleasant and cheerful
impression to see the royal parks cleared of rotting, superannuated
trees which have too long stood in the way of others with equal right
to vegetate their full life-time; it will make a good impression in the
same sense as does the sight of the death of an incurable.

"The reproach was levelled against my tragedy, _The Father_, that it
was so sad, as though one wanted merry tragedies. People clamour for
the joy of life, and theatrical managers order farces, as though the
joy of life consisted in being foolish, and in describing people as if
they were each and all afflicted with St. Vitus's Dance or idiocy. I
find the joy of life in the powerful, cruel struggle of life, and my
enjoyment in discovering something, in learning something. Therefore
I have chosen an unusual, though instructive, case, in other words, an
exception, but a great exception which confirms the rule, and which
is sure to offend the lovers of the banal. The simple brain will
further be shocked by the fact that my motives behind the action are
not simple, and that there is not one view alone to be taken of it. An
event in life--and this is a comparatively new discovery--is generally
produced by a whole series of more or less deep-seated motives, but
the spectator chooses for the most part the one which is easiest for
him to grasp, or the one most advantageous to the reputation of his
judgment. Take a case of suicide as an example. 'Bad business,' says
the bourgeois. 'Unhappy love!' say the women. 'Sickness!' says the
disease-ridden man. 'Shattered hopes!' the bankrupt. But it is possible
that the motives lay in all of these causes, or in none, and that the
dead man hid the real one by putting forward another which has thrown a
more favourable light on his memory."

In an essay entitled _On Modern Drama and the Modern Theatre_, written
in March, 1889, and published in the first volume of a collection of
plays and essays under the title _Things Printed and Unprinted_,
Strindberg proclaims the regenerating powers of the Naturalistic
Theatre in the following words:

"Let us have a theatre, where we can be horrified by the horrible,
where we can laugh at what is laughable, play with playthings; where we
can see everything without being shocked, if that which has hitherto
been concealed behind theological and æsthetical hangings is revealed.
Though old, conventional laws may have to be broken, let us have a
free theatre, where everything is admitted except the talentless, the
hypocritical and the stupid."

He distinguishes between true and false naturalism, and deprecates
the commonplace dulness of the subject chosen by Henry Becque in _Les
Corbeaux_. To Strindberg the choice of such subjects depends on a
soullessness or a lack of temperament, which must bore the spectator
instead of stimulate him. He calls such a dramatic method simple
photography which "includes everything, even the speck of dust upon the
lens of the camera. This is realism," he writes; "a method, latterly
exalted to an art, a little art which cannot see the wood for the
trees. This is the false Naturalism which believed that art consisted
merely in sketching a piece of nature in a natural manner, but it is
not the true naturalism which seeks out those points in life, where the
great conflicts occur, which loves to see that which cannot be seen
every day, rejoices in the battle of elemental powers, whether they be
called love or hatred, revolt or sociability; which cares not, whether
a subject be beautiful or ugly, if only it is great."

"I do not know the modes," cried Socrates, "but leave me one which
will imitate the tones and accents of a brave man, enduring danger or
distress, fighting with constancy against fortune." The Naturalism
of which Strindberg was a prophet might have chosen these words as
a motto. Socrates continued: "And also one fitted for the work of
peace, for prayer heard by the gods, for the successful persuasion or
exhortation of men, and generally for the sober enjoyment of ease and
prosperity." With this side of man's natural life young Naturalism had
no sympathy. That came with years of discretion.

The transformation of the diffuse drama in many acts into the concise
and dynamic one-act play with few characters, and the simplification of
stage technique, were the salient points in Strindberg's proclamation
of Theatre Reform. He held that there is generally but one scene,
towards which the playwright mounts on devious paths, and that author
and audience alike are made to endure painful side-shows for the sake
of one thing worth seeing. A man's dramatic talent may outlast his
one-act play, but it is taxed to depletion in the construction of five
acts, just as the imaginative patience of the audience is exhausted by
the long intervals.

The Greek art of the one-act play had been revived in the eighteenth
century in the _Proverbes Dramatiques_ of Carmontelle, developed by
Musset and Feuillet, and had finally found a modern interpretation in
the style of the _Quart d'Heure_ of which _Entre Frères_ by Guiche and
Lavedan is a typical example. When writing _Lady Julie_, Strindberg
had in mind the monographic novels of the brothers de Goncourt. The
dialogue in Lady Julie is interrupted twice. There is singing and
a folk-dance. Such diversions do not leave the spectator time to
escape from the suggestion of the playwright, or to lose the precious
illusion. The performance of Lady Julie lasts an hour and a half,
and Strindberg saw no reason why the public should not be educated
to endure one act which lasts the whole evening. There may be mental
diversions, such as are provided by monologue, pantomime and ballet;
but people can listen for hours to sermons and speeches, and may
consequently learn true dramatic concentration.

The scenery should be simple. "With the aid of a table and two chairs
the strongest conflicts which life offers could be presented," he
writes of the genre of the proverbe, "and by that form of art it
became possible to popularise the discoveries of modern psychology."
The decorations should only be suggestive of place and time.
An impressionistic representation of a corner of a room and its
furniture--not the whole room--is all that is needed. Grotesque
scene-painting should be abolished together with the stagey villain who
can create no illusion of wickedness. Footlights were an abomination
to Strindberg. M. Ludovic Céller[3] tells us of their humble and
smoky origin in the tallow candles which, for economical reasons,
were placed on the floor to illuminate the darkness of stage and
auditorium. Whatever their origin, they have a power of distorting
facial expression against which Strindberg vehemently protested. His
protest has been echoed by numerous reformers of the theatre. But the
footlights remain to disfigure noses and blacken eyes in accordance
with time-honoured custom. With proper side-lighting and less paint
on the faces of the actors Strindberg saw possibilities for the mimic
art, which are hidden under shadows and heavy layers of powder and
rouge. The visible orchestra was another obstacle to scenic progress;
in the shrinking of stage and auditorium to a size compatible with
artistic presentation, he saw another means of improvement. In the
small, simplified theatre, with well-regulated light effects and actors
with natural intonation and gestures, Strindberg found a chance for the
continuance of the theatre. Many of his ideas have been realised in the
Künstler Theater of Munich.

In the preface to _Lady Julie_ he deals with the all-important subject
of characterisation. "As modern characters," he writes, "living in a
period of transition more hurried and hysterical than its immediate
predecessor, I have drawn my characters vacillating, broken, mixtures
of old and new.... My souls (characters) are conglomerations of
past and present stages of culture, scraps of books and newspapers,
fragments of men and women, tom shreds of Sunday attire that are now
rags, such as go to make up a soul. And I have thrown in some history
of origins in letting the weaker steal and repeat the words of the
stronger, in letting the souls borrow ideas, or so-called suggestions
from one another."

He ridicules the ordinary idea of a strong character. The person
"who has acquired a fixed temperament or accommodated himself to a
certain rôle in life, who in a word has ceased to grow, was supposed
to have character; whilst one who developed, the skilful navigator on
the stream of life who does not sail with close-tied sheets, but who
knows when to fall off before the wind and when to luff again, was
deemed deficient in character.... This bourgeois conception of the
fixity of the soul was transferred to the stage, where all that is
bourgeois has ever reigned supreme. Such a character became synonymous
with a gentleman, fixed and ready-made, one who invariably appeared
drunk, jocular, melancholy.... I do not, therefore, believe in simple
theatrical characters. And the summary judgments which authors pass on
human beings, such as: this one is stupid; that one is brutal; he is
jealous; he is mean, etc., should be refuted by naturalists who know
the rich complexity of the soul, and who realise that 'vice has an
obverse which shows a considerable likeness to virtue.'"

The secret of Strindberg's great influence on the theatre of twenty
years ago lay in this very conception of character. His men and women
are _alive_, moving, changing, growing, shrinking in ceaseless response
to the pressure of existence. He is the dramatist of the _perpetuum
mobile_ in the modern heart, the interpreter of inexhaustible
discontent in himself and others. His personality vibrates in the
dialogue, and lifts the idea of the play to the surface in every
consecutive scene, but the artist in him is stronger than the
idealogue. The curtain and the settled problem do not drop together.
Strindberg has answered a question or two, tentatively, in his own
manner, but others crowd in upon him and his audience. The absence
of finality is felt through the tragic endings, through the strong
blend of moods, emotions and desires of his exceptional characters,
through the unreasonableness of his prejudices. In spite of pessimism
and cynicism a hope of change is communicated to the spectator, which
penetrates depression and stimulates the curiosity to live.

Amongst the one-act plays which were written between 1887 and 1897,
_Samum_, _Pariah, The Stronger, Playing with Fire_ and _The Link_
present the typical characters of psychic intensity and neuropathic
activity. _Samum_ is the story of the revenge of an Arabian girl and
her lover upon a hapless Frenchman, lieutenant in a Zouave regiment.
She kills him, not with a dagger, for that might involve the punishment
of her tribe, but with words. With the help of "Samum," the hot,
suffocating wind of the desert which blows phantoms into the white
man's brain, she thrusts suggestion after suggestion into his mind. She
makes the sick man believe that he has been bitten by a mad dog; she
offers him sand instead of water in the drinking bowl, and rejoices
when he dreads the drink; she invokes hideous pictures of the defeat of
his regiment, the faithlessness of his wife, the death of his child,
before his fevered imagination. She finally makes him stare in a mirror
at the ghastly image of a skull, and tells him that this is his face,
that he is dead. And when the Frenchman, murdered by horror, sinks back
dead, Youssef, her lover, proud of race and proud of the woman's black
magic, hails her as the worthy mother of his child.

_Pariah_ is a dialogue which bears the mark of the master-craftsman
in the dramatic presentation of psychological events. It is a contest
of minds founded on a tale by Ola Hansson. Two middle-aged men, one
an archæologist, the other a somewhat mysterious man of unknown
occupation, who has returned to Sweden from America, have met in the
country. The archæologist is engaged in recovering antique ornaments
from the bowels of the earth. In the room where the two men face each
other there stands a box, containing bracelets and trinkets of gold
which he has found. Herr X., the archæologist, talks of his poverty,
of how easily he might appropriate to his own use some of the gold
he has found. Debts could be paid, and his wife's anxiety allayed
by one single bracelet. So simple and yet impossible to do. Herr Y.
listens to the reasons which prevent Herr X. from becoming a thief
though there can be no fear of detection. Incapable of stealing
himself, Herr X. expresses his pity for others who fall under similar
temptation. He suspects that the man by his side is in need of such
pity--his conduct has already betrayed the convict. By a series of
psychologically timed questions Herr X. unmasks Herr Y., who, taken
by surprise, confesses that he has served a term of imprisonment for
fraud. The wild anger which for a moment surged through the brain of
the criminal has given way to servile admiration of the superior mind.
He kisses the archæologist's hand. All is known, and yet there is no
condescension on the part of the stronger man. Herr Y. tells the story
of how he came to write a false signature; he wishes to persuade Herr
X. of his spiritual innocence, show him that he was the victim of an
uncontrollable impulse which never defiled his real self. Herr X. has
fallen into an introspective mood. Hesitating, half afraid of what he
is doing, he confides to Herr Y. that he has killed a man--a worthless,
drunken old servant, and without intention to inflict deadly injury,
it is true, but such is the fact: he is a murderer. In reply to Herr
Y.'s eager questions why he escaped without punishment, Herr X. gives
the reasons, why he believed it to be a greater wrong to give himself
up to justice than to conceal the deed--there were his parents, his
career, his fitness for life. Herr Y. has the scoundrel's alert sense
of opportunity. He begins by pointing out his moral superiority over
Herr X., and ends by trying to extort money. Let Herr X. only put his
hand in the box, and transfer some of its contents to Herr Y., and
nothing more will be said of the crime. Let him refuse to do this, and
the whole story will be told at the nearest police-station. The end of
this incisive piece of psychology shows us Herr Y., driven to flight by
the cold-blooded logic of Herr X., who demonstrates that the would-be
accuser is a forger who is "wanted," and whose dread of the police
authorities is a guarantee of his discretion in the matter.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Stronger_ is a contest of temperaments carried out by one voice
only. Two women--the wife and the mistress of one man--have met in
a café. Mademoiselle Y. sits silent, whilst Madame X. talks. But
her silence conveys more than speech. It drives Madame X. to reveal
the humiliation she has suffered, it drives her through jealous and
angry recriminations to a triumphant and vindictive assertion of her
superior position as the legal wife and mother. As an ironical and
adroit study of two types of the soul feminine, and by the skilful
handling of the monologue the piece is one of the best of its genre.

_Playing with Fire_ is a triangular comedy of marriage, in which
conjugal fidelity is saved at the eleventh hour through sudden and
truly Strindbergian disillusionment which makes the friend of husband
and wife depart like a rocket from the house of temptation, whilst the
peace of an orderly lunch descends upon the family. _The First Warning_
is a conjugal squabble, and one of the weakest dramatic episodes
conceived by Strindberg. The character of the jealous and enslaved
husband, who has made six vain attempts to flee from the devastating
charm of his wife, is a diluted réchauffé of an incident related in
_The Confession of a Fool_, including the significant moment when
the wife is subjugated by the shock of losing her first front tooth,
and the attendant discovery of the vanity of all things of beauty.
The dialogue is unreal, and Strindberg's sketch of the young girl so
unnatural that we may be grateful that the type has not been more
frequently chosen for "naturalistic" treatment.

_The Link_, a tragedy published in 1897, is a masterly divorce-court
scene. Here Strindberg draws the shame and agony of the broken
marriage-tie with bitter realism, and yet with a delicate touch of that
all-human compassion before which the flowers of satire wither. The
Baron and the Baroness have decided to separate, and proceedings for a
deed of separation have been entered by the husband. There is a link
between them which cannot be broken--the child whom they both love; and
for his sake they are determined not to expose their differences before
the hungry eyes of scandal-mongers. The husband is willing to let the
mother have the custody of the child. But the questions of the judge
pierce the veneer of amiability. Who is the cause of dissension? What
has brought them before the Court? The answers bring accusations and
recriminations, a parade of quarrels and dissensions, angry revelations
of infidelity, disgust, espionage, lies, hatred, and, when the Court
exercises its legal power of depriving both parents of the custody
of the child, the torture of vain regret and empty lives. There is
consummate art in the picture of the emotional revolution, through
which husband and wife are forced into self-damning revelations. The
minor characters of the jurymen and court officials are drawn with a
calm observation and quiet humour which form an effective background
to its central tragic figures. Incidentally, the inadequacy of the law
to secure justice for the wronged is shown, and the lawyer in the play
has some affinity with the legal luminaries in M. Brieux's _La Robe
Rouge_. But Strindberg's judge is a righteous man who chafes under the
limitations and responsibilities of his profession.

[Illustration: August Strindberg--1904 (Photo by Andersson, Stockholm.)]

[Illustration: August Strindberg--1906 (Photo by Haminqvist, Stockholm)]

Those, whose knowledge of Strindberg's writings is limited to his
naturalistic plays, have judged his powers as a literary artist from
an entirely inadequate point of view. When Justin McCarthy spoke of
the real Strindberg, as revealed in _The Father, Lady Julie_ and
_Comrades_, he ignored, not only the volumes of essays, stories and
novels which preceded the plays mentioned, but those which were
published at the same time. Strindberg has been described as a man who
had no interest to spare for social problems, or politics, or the great
movements of his time--as a dramatist whose knife was forever delving
in the pathological tissue of passions, and whose eyes saw nothing
but the broad and sombre outlines of inevitable tragedy. Those who
know _The People of Hemsö_ (1887), a novel of the fishermen's life
in the Stockholm Archipelago, fresh as the salt breeze of the sea,
bright with sunshine, and the jollity of a man with steady nerves,
who is thoroughly at home in a boat and in a hut, are familiar with
another side of Strindberg. Or the volume of short stories entitled
_Fisher Folk_ (1888), with its sketches of life on the island, broadly
humorous, impressive in its unaffected narrative of the struggles and
ambitions of the hardy toilers among the rocks. The stories bring us
in the midst of the island folk: we know their practical, wind-dried
minds where superstition lurks in a corner; we see their sparse
bodies--sometimes fed on herring-heads and potatoes. We attend the
dance which the poor, hunch-backed tailor gives to the young people as
an offering on the altar of joy, and lament with him the devastation
wrought by terpsichorean orgies in his garden. We accompany Westman,
the ungodly pilot who has harpooned a seal from his little boat,
and is dragged out to sea by the cruel monster in spite of pitiful
recitals of the Lord's Prayer, and offers of a pure silver chandelier
to the local church. We are made to participate in the people's life.
In both books there is a wealth of descriptive power, and there is
something fundamentally healthy in the figures of the common people
whom he draws, a natural pathos in their vulgarity, and even in their
criminality.

There are some who see exclusively _das Dämonische_ in Strindberg,
and who picture him as perpetually skirting precipices of moral
and intellectual negation, or as a Lucifer who never emerges from
consuming tongues of fire. They have nothing to say of such books as
his _Sketches of Flowers and Animals_ (1888). Here we meet him, a
mild and patient gardener, sowing his salad and spinach, revelling in
the reward which his cool cucumbers offer after having been carefully
tended by loving hands. Here he initiates us into his cult of the
flower, his adoration of colour and form in the plant world; he
anticipates Maeterlinck in his sensitive studies of the intelligence
of flowers and the mysteries of seeds. His _Fables_ are stories of
birds, insects and bushes, betraying an intimate knowledge of nature,
and sparkling with a good-humoured satire. In these books there are
strokes of brilliant imagination, there is a womanly tenderness for
the lives of plant-children. In one of his stories[4] he tells us of
a tall fir that can feel and suffer, and his description of the spirit
within the tree which sobs under the wood-cutter's axe, and which some
day we shall recognise, reminds us of Fiona Macleod's _Cathal of the
Woods_. Strindberg's love of Nature had many qualities in common with
Thoreau--there is the same pleasure in cultivating the cabbage-patch,
the same ecstatic contemplation of green life. Thoreau could find his
way in the wood during the night by the touch of his feet. Strindberg,
treading his way through the forest in the dark hours, knows whether he
walks on soil, clubmoss or maidenhair, "through the nerves, of his large
toe."[5]

There is also a practical, homely side of Strindberg, which is
generally ignored, qualities appertaining to the small farmer with a
keen eye to profitable cultivation of the land. Without these qualities
he could not have written _Among French Peasants_ (1889), which is
a series of articles on the life and conditions in agricultural
France. They are the product of the mind of a true son of the
soil, equipped with a journalist's power of rapid generalisation.
Strindberg travelled through France, notebook in hand, stayed amongst
the peasants, measured hay and corn, attended weddings and fairs,
annotating the prices of meat and butter, studied the ravages of
the phylloxera and geological formations. The book is crammed with
facts and comparative statistics of town and country, wheat and wine,
village education, libraries, labourers' wages, cheese-making, the best
fertilisers, and other matters of import to rural economy.

He shirked no trouble, avoided no obstacles to equip himself as a
writer on gigantic subjects. His encyclopædic grasp of a many-sided
subject is shown in this book, and in his numerous essays on
sociological questions. It carries with it a certain superficiality,
and readiness to theorise from insufficient data which may necessitate
a graceful retraction of opinions, once loudly proclaimed. But there is
ample compensation in the freshness and vigour of a mind which bears
crop after crop without exhausting itself. Such a quickly grown crop,
verdant and luxurious in ideas, is the essay, written in 1884, _On the
General Discontent, its Causes and Remedies_, in which he inveighs
against the evils of a false Culture, and within the space of a hundred
pages lets Society pass in review before his critical pen in the types
of the king, the bureaucrat, the physician, the teacher, the merchant,
the sailor, the artisan, the manufacturer, the labourer, the servant,
the scientist, the author, the journalist, and the artist, and finally
prescribes the pills of self-help, self-government and limitation of
useless luxuries, artfully mixed. There is much of Rousseau, Tolstoy,
Spencer, Mill and de Quesnay in the social philosophy, with which he
wished to build on the ruins, wrought by _The Red Room_ and _The New
Kingdom_. The ideal peasant--in Tolstoyan garb--was then Strindberg's
hope for humanity.

When he wrote _At the Edge of the Sea_, in 1890, the horrors of
unchecked democracy had been revealed to him. It is the story of a
highly intelligent, refined and super-sensitive man who is forced
to live amongst coarse and ignorant people, and who is gradually
driven to insanity and suicide. This book is the apex of Strindberg's
novelistic art. The scene is again laid on one of the islands outside
Stockholm, the life of the fisherfolk is once more described. But the
tone and the colour are changed. There is the same brilliancy in the
description of scenery, and the psychological imagination is more
lavish than ever, but the mists of Nietzscheanism lie heavily over the
book. The distinction between "slave-morality" and "master-morality" is
emphasised with truly Dionysian pessimism.

The same influence coloured the preface to _Lady Julie_, and the novel
_Tschandala_, published in 1889, and led Mr. Edmund Gosse into the
error of describing Strindberg as "the most remarkable creative talent
started by the philosophy of Nietzsche." Strindberg was certainly
not "started" by Nietzsche who was entirely unknown to him until the
autumn of 1888, when George Brandes brought the two writers together.
A correspondence between Nietzsche and Strindberg began in 1889, and
continued until Nietzsche's illness. Nietzsche read Strindberg's novels
with interest, and Strindberg duly acknowledged the influence which
Nietzsche exercised upon him, but protested against the mistaken view
expressed by Mr. Gosse and others, in the following words: "Those
who have followed my career as a writer at its different stages of
development know sufficiently well how early I adopted the so-called
Nietzschean standpoint with regard to conventional morals, and the
emancipation of women to give me my due, and Nietzsche his with clear
consciences."

The statement that Strindberg was a Nietzschean _pur et simple_ is as
absurd as the statement that he was a Darwinist or a Methodist. He
passed through the fatalism of Hartmann, the pessimism of Schopenhauer,
the naturalism of Zola, the realism of Turgenev and Dostoevsky. On one
occasion he speaks of Balzac as his master, on another he calls himself
a Voltairean. These influences are but lights on the way. He passes on,
and speaks to us with a new tongue. When charged with inconsistency
he might well have answered with Walt Whitman: "I am large--I contain
multitudes."


[1] _Fröken Julie_, the Swedish name of this play, has been translated
into English as "Miss Juliet" and "Miss Julia." The meaning of the
Swedish title and the idea of the play are more faithfully rendered by
the title _Lady Julie_. In the choice of a title for his feminine type
of aristocratic degeneracy, Strindberg was probably influenced by Anna
Maria Lenngren's _Fröken Juliana_, a well-known satirical poem on a
similar subject which belongs to classical Swedish literature. Up to
the middle of the nineteenth century the title "Fröken" was exclusively
used-when addressing the unmarried daughters of the hereditary nobility
of Sweden. An unmarried daughter of a Swedish count is a countess,
though she is addressed as "Fröken." Upon marriage with a commoner she
may use or drop her title.

[2] _Studies in Seven Arts_, by Arthur Symons.

[3] _"Les décors, les costumes et la mise-en-scène au XVII siècle."_

[4] Confused Sensations.

[5] The Confession of a Fool.



CHAPTER VII

SELF-TORMENTOR AND VISIONARY


He restlessness of Genius is a sore trial to Mediocrity. Mediocrity
in the Critic's chair, whose business it is to pass judgment upon the
artist and his work, to affix a label to his back, and to place him
on a particular shelf where the public can find him. The literary
artist is expected to have a point of view which he has reached through
certain early influences, to express himself in a certain form, and,
when mature, to be measurable and easily recognisable in size and
colour. If his personality and his writings make the critic's work easy
he will be blessed by his contemporaries, or possibly condemned. But
he will always be understood, and in the understanding there is solid
comfort. You may sneer at the gods of society, you may shake your fist
at law and authority, you may ridicule humanity, but you must, like Mr.
George Bernard Shaw, always say the same thing. Voltaire is always
expected to contemplate the world with a truly Voltairean smile of
irony, Rousseau to cling innocently to Nature, Swift to see humanity
only from the satirist's vantage-point.

The man of genius who, conscious of the limitations of a single point
of view, seeks another, who strides across the hilltops of past thought
in rapid search of a higher one, who hugs philosophies and drops them,
holds faiths and deserts them, is a phenomenon before which the critic
feels uneasy. He calls in the doctor, and together they prepare the
last label of madness--red, like a warning against poison--and hurl
it at the extraordinary man when he happens to pass at a convenient
distance. Believing that there is nothing further to be said, they
return to their respective vocations.

From the points of view of Mediocrity and Eugenics Strindberg presented
the typical signs of degeneration, irrespectively of the traits and
characteristics which are inadequately defined as the insanity of
genius. He was a truth-seeker, and, consequently, a fault-finder. He
knew peace and comfort like other men, and brief hours of sunshine,
but spiritual discontent compelled him to be a nomad, a wanderer in
many lands. Hence the critic's failure to classify him as a romanticist
or realist, a socialist or individualist, a pessimist or humorist,
a maniac or mystic, or to map out his life into periods and squares
of thought. There was something of the eternal recurrence in him, an
alchemical consciousness of all in all. He leaves beliefs, parts with
influences, conquers new lands through violent crises of awakening
which well-nigh wreck the body, and returns to the first camp, richer
and yet the same. Through soul-sickness and hallucinations, through
delirium and phrenopathic punishments he is led to the super-sanity
of genius. He becomes the visionary of things hidden, the medium of
spirits, the sinner on the road to Damascus, the prophet of divine
justice.

Mistakes and bitter experiences prepared the way for the religious
crisis of 1894. In 1887 he left Switzerland and France for Bavaria,
where he wrote _The Father_ and The _People of Hemsö_. He lived in
Denmark from the autumn of 1887 to the summer of 1889. The prosecution
of _Married_ had inspired cautiousness in the hearts of Swedish
publishers, and Strindberg had only with difficulty found a publisher
for _The Father_ and _Lady Julie_. The plays were promptly attacked
by Swedish critics, amongst them Professor Warburg, author of a
history of literature, who thought their naturalism an unmistakable
form of decadence. When Strindberg returned to his country in 1889
the hostility aroused by _Married_, and augmented by lively tales of
the author's views on morality took an unexpectedly practical form.
When yachting along the west coast for the purpose of collecting
material for a great work on _The Scenery of Sweden_, he was actually
refused permission to land in one of the fishing villages.[1] During
the two years which he now spent in Sweden he became embittered by
the enmity of his critics. He isolated himself on one of his beloved
islands outside Stockholm, wrote and painted. In the autumn of 1892 an
exhibition of his pictures was held in Stockholm. It was impressions
of the sea which his brush had chosen--ice, mist, storm--and painted,
not only with a tender feeling for island scenery, but disclosing
considerable technical merit and accuracy of hand. The principal
cause of suffering lay in Strindberg's eroticism, his interminable
suspiciousness against his wife which made his divorce in 1892 a
merciful end to a marriage of torment. There is much in the repulsive
pages of _The Confession of a Fool_ which betrays its author's lack of
mental balance; the incessant puling over the woman's wickedness, and
the attendant self-appreciation are not apt to command the reader's
sympathy. The same may be said of the second volume of _Married_,
published in 1886. There are a carelessness of style, and a bluntness
of accusation against womankind which make the book inartistic. The
_ad captandum_ controversialist has overruled judgment; there is a
tone of personal irritation in the stories which Strindberg tells
us were written "in self-defence" against the attacks, made upon
him by feminists. Like John Knox, when he wrote _The First Blast of
the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regimen of Women_, Strindberg was
actuated by a kind of religious fervour. Like John Knox he detested
"this monstriferous empire of women," whilst his admiration for
the dangerous sex repeatedly cast him in chains of bondage. Like
Schopenhauer he mocked all womankind "long of hair and short of
sense," and threw misogyny to the winds before the first pair of
charming eyes or dainty feet.

In the autumn of 1892 we find Strindberg in Germany. The curse of
marriage is no longer upon his head. He lives at Friedrichshagen, near
Berlin, with his friends, the Swedish writer Ola Hansson, and his
wife Laura Marholm who has written an interesting psychological study
of Strindberg. Strindberg has passed through one of those "deaths,"
in which he found temporary Nirvana when the battle of thoughts had
been too sanguinary. He has forsaken literature, thrown away the pen
as a worthless tool of a tormented imagination which can scratch but
not solve the riddle of the Sphinx. He has been re-born--a scientist.
The exact sciences--chemistry, physics, astronomy--hold out hopes of
complete replies to questions which the playwright can dress in human
shape but not analyse.

Strindberg's friend, Gustaf Uddgren,[2] has described a visit to him
at this time. His study was bare and uninviting. On the floor there
lay stacks of scientific books piled up against the wall. They had
been bought with the first money he had earned in Germany, and none had
been wasted on the luxury of a bookcase. The room contained a large,
old easel, not unlike a brown skeleton; a writing-table from which the
usual heaps of manuscript and notes were conspicuously absent; and, for
the comfort of the body, a few easy chairs and a sofa, arranged so as
to give the impression of a drawing-room. Strindberg did not wish to
discuss literary subjects. He was glad to have left off writing, and
looked forward with eager joy to scientific research. Uddgren tried in
vain to induce him to talk about Walt Whitman. Strindberg preferred to
discuss Red Indians with his guest who knew something of the wild west.

After a few months at Friedrichshagen Strindberg moved to Berlin.
He was in need of change and expansion. In the evenings he was now
found in a little Wein Stube in Unter den Linden which is called "Zum
Schwarzen Ferkel." It had already won fame as the favourite resort of
Heine and E.T.A. Hoffmann. Here he was the centre of a literary and
scientific coterie. Guitar in hand, amidst sympathetic friends, he
became Dionysos, the singer of glad tidings, of wine-born joy. He
improvised songs, and the nights were made short with wit and sparkling
discussions. The Polish writer, Stanislav Przybyszewski, became much
attached to Strindberg who found in him whirling depths of imaginative
thought which attracted him, and made him seek his society on the
principle of _similia similibus curantur_. Amongst other friends of the
coterie were Holger Drachmann, Gunnar Heiberg, Adolf Paul, and Edvard
Munch. "Zum Schwarzen Ferkel" is impregnated with the Strindbergian
spirit. The landlord proudly shows the visitor the portraits which
Strindberg gave him, and the picture by Strindberg, entitled _Die
Welle_, which hangs on the wall.

The plunge into the "exact" physical sciences, from which he had
expected so much, proved disappointing. The boundaries of experimental
research were soon reached by his penetrative imagination. He had a
passion for facts, but he could not, like the typical man of science,
content himself with systematised classification of things observable.
His speculative writings are studded with allusions to scientific
theories, and show an extensive knowledge of the history of chemistry
and botany, of the facts of astronomy, geology, and zoology. He
garnered the fruits of nineteenth-century science with the pleasure of
the true dilettante, and having tasted them, declared them insipid.
The imaginative processes of his mind continued where those of others
stop; he passed from the visible to the occult, from rigid induction
to extravagant fancy. Beyond the uttermost limits of science he came
to see another world, in which chemistry became alchemy, astronomy
astrology, physics the servant of magic, and the form of man the
tool of mighty forces. He became a student of magnetism, hypnotism,
telepathy, spiritism, of the secret knowledge which has persisted
throughout the ages as the pearl within the oyster.

Whilst literary Berlin was acclaiming Strindberg as the naturalistic
playwright, his mind was centred on the hyperchemical speculations
which later on found expression in his _Antibarbarus I or the
Psychology of Sulphur or All is in All_, and in _Sylva Sylvarum_.
Whilst wings of imagination were lifting him to new planes of thought,
there was a sudden jerk on the chain which bound him to earth. He
fell in love. The ideal woman had again appeared, now in the person
of Fräulein Frida Uhl, a young Austrian girl, daughter of Hofrath
Friedrich Uhl, in Vienna. They became engaged, and art-loving Berlin
was one day surprised to see Strindberg escorting his fiancee to
the National Gallery. He was attired in the fashionable apparel of
the Berlin dandy. A check suit of a large pattern, a short yellow
overcoat, a garish tie, a grotesque walking-stick, and an immaculate
silk hat which, according to the account given by Gustaf Uddgren,
retained its place with difficulty on the leonine mane, gave him an
appearance of unwonted worldliness. They were married in April, 1893,
and spent the honeymoon at Gravesend. An injunction had meanwhile been
granted against the German edition of _The Confession of a Fool_, and
Strindberg returned to Berlin in order to appear before the Court in
the action which followed. The prosecution failed. Strindberg and his
wife spent the winter at her father's country place at Armstädten, on
the Danube, where he returned to his esoteric studies, and wrote his
_Antibarbarus_. In August, 1894, Strindberg went to Paris. His wife
had accompanied him, and left their child in Austria. The tie was now
irksome to him; _les hautes études_ and not woman had again become the
mistress of his soul. In November he sent his wife back to her parents.

"It was with a feeling of wild joy," he writes, "that I returned from
Gare du Nord, where I had left my dear little wife who was going to
our child who had fallen ill in a distant country. The sacrifice of
my heart was thus made complete." Their last words, "When do we meet
again?--Soon," were deceptive; an intuition truly told him that they
had parted for ever. He had placed human affection on the altar of
truth-seeking, thus practising the motto with which _Inferno_ opens:

     Courbe la tête, fier Sicambre!
     Adore ce que tu as brûlé,
     Brûle ce que tu as adoré!

At the Café de la Régence he sat down at the table where he used to sit
with his wife, "the beautiful wardress of my prison who spied on my
soul day and night, guessed my secret thoughts, watched the course of
my ideas, jealously observed my spirit's striving towards the unknown."
He felt free, a sense of mental expansion, of liberated power, a call
to reach the arcanum of human knowledge.

In Paris he was now the playwright of the day. The success of _Lady
Julie_ and _Creditors_ was followed by a brilliant performance of _The
Father_ at Théâtre de l'Œuvre in December. All Paris talked of his
originality and of his misogyny which provided a piquant sensation,
and a subject for interesting gossip in literary and dramatic circles.
He was interviewed and photographed--he was the _cher maître_ of the
theatrical manager who expected from him a sensible appreciation of
his possibilities for further triumphs on the stage. In Berlin he
was the literary lion of the moment. His plays and novels lay in the
booksellers' windows in attractive German dress, his portrait was
exhibited, his personality was discussed. He was saluted as a leader of
a new movement. But he turned his back on all this. Another self was
shed; a voice within whispered the old burning "Beyond this"--drove him
across the borderland of sanity, and into the chaos of unhuman desires.

He left the café, and returned to his rooms in Quartier Latin. From
their hiding-place in his trunk he took six crucibles made of fine
porcelain, bought with money which he "had stolen from himself," made
up a fierce fire in the stove, and pulled down the blinds for the
night's experiment. His theory regarding the composition of sulphur
which had met with such merciless ridicule was now to be put to the
final test. A packet of pure sulphur and a pair of tongs completed
the equipment of the laboratory. The sulphur burnt with infernal
flames, and towards the morning he was able to demonstrate that it
contained carbon. He believed that he had solved the great problem,
overthrown orthodox chemistry, and gained scientific immortality. He
had not noticed that the intense heat had burnt his hands, and caused
the skin to fall off in flakes, but the pain of undressing in the
morning made him conscious of the injury. The joy in the pursuit of the
problems which haunted him was, however, greater than the pain, and
the experiments were continued night after night. He had proved the
existence of carbon in sulphur, now he had to show that it contained
hydrogen and oxygen. The burns on his hands became filled with
fragments of coke, they were bleeding, and caused him great pain, but
he persisted in the work. He avoided his friends, and sought absolute
loneliness. Meanwhile he wrote love-letters to his wife, relating
to her the wonderful discoveries which he had made. She replied by
warnings against such futile and foolish occupations, in which she
saw nothing but waste of money. Irritated by her want of sympathy,
Strindberg sent her a letter of farewell to wife and child, in which he
led her to understand that a love affair had absorbed all his thoughts.
She replied by instituting proceedings for divorce.

The charge which he had made against himself was not true, and he was
soon the prey of remorse. His injured pride had led him to write a
letter which he describes as shameful and unpardonable, and in the
loneliness which followed he saw himself as a suicide and assassinator.
On Christmas Eve the vision of his deserted wife and child by the
Christmas tree caused him to flee from the company which he had sought,
and visit café after café, where he failed to find comfort in the usual
glass of absinthe. During the night the feeling of being persecuted
by an unknown power, bent on preventing his great task, overcame him.
He slept badly, and was repeatedly awakened by a cold current of air
sweeping across his face. Poverty, his persistent enemy, did hot
leave him in peace. He lacked the necessary means to pay for rent
and regular meals. His hands were black and swollen through neglect,
and symptoms of blood-poisoning in the arms set in. The news of his
helplessness and misery spread amongst his countrymen in Paris. He
was sought out by a persistent countrywoman who raised a sum of money
amongst the Swedes in Paris, and Strindberg was brought to the Hospital
of Saint Louis, his cup of humiliation filled to overflowing.

At the hospital he felt imprisoned amongst ghosts, punished by having
to live in the midst of people with the faces of the dead and dying,
the wrecks of humanity who offended his sense of beauty by appearing
without a nose or an eye, with a split lip or a mortifying cheek.
Amongst these derelicts Strindberg watched the gentle ministrations
of the old sœur de charité. She was kind to him, allowed him little
privileges, called him her boy, and he responded by calling her "my
mother." "How blissful," he writes, "to say this word mother which
had not passed my lips for thirty years. The old woman who belongs to
the Order of Saint Augustine, and who wears the costume of the dead
because she has never taken part in life, is gentle as self-sacrifice,
and teaches us to smile at our pains, as if they were pleasures, for
she knows how beneficial suffering can be. Not a reproachful word, no
expostulations or sermons." "This nun has played a part in my life,"
he adds, and, when writing down his _Inferno_ experiences three years
later, he sends her thoughts of gratitude for having shown him the path
of the cross.

During the months which he spent in the hospital his chemical
speculations continued to absorb his interest. He submitted his
insufficiently burnt sulphur to an independent analysis which confirmed
his demonstration that it contained carbon. The chemist at the hospital
encouraged his researches, and Strindberg laid the results before the
public in an article which appeared in _Le Temps_, and brought him
requests for further articles on his theories. He left the hospital
in February, and spent two months in chemical work during which he
became a student at the Sorbonne, and used the analytical laboratory.
At the conclusion of his experiments he was satisfied that sulphur is a
ternary combination consisting of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.

A superstitious faith in signs and warnings had meanwhile developed.
A mysterious meaning in the names of the streets and places which
he passed made itself known to him--rue Beaurepaire, rue Dieu, Porte
Saint-Martin--a gorgeous signboard above a dyeing business, displaying
his own initials on a white silver cloud surmounted by a rainbow,
became a good omen of the future. The chemist Orfila revealed himself
as a kind patron saint to whom he was strangely led, first by finding
his chemical treatise in a bookseller's shop, then by discovering his
grave in the course of a morning walk in the Montparnasse cemetery, and
finally by being attracted to Hotel Orfila--the monasterial guest-house
from which women were excluded.

In his daily experiences he discerned the guidance and punishment of
an unseen hand which, for a high and inscrutable purpose, was leading
him out of his past folly. Sometimes the Unknown One delivered him into
the hands of demons; at other times he received the grace which saved
him from temptations and evil. The idea of persecution permitted for
the sake of the chastisement needed by his spirit became paramount.
The simultaneous playing of three pianos in the rooms adjoining his,
the unexpected presentation of the hotel bill, an inexplicable noise
in the room, during which the plaster of the ceiling fell on his head,
roused his suspicions. He moved to Hotel Orfila which looked like a
monastery. It harboured Roman Catholic students, and an atmosphere of
mysticism.

Annoyances, revelations, and delusions of persecution now crowded in
upon him. Strange dreams foretold the future, commonplace objects
assumed fantastic shape. One day, when looking at the embryo of a
sprouting walnut under the microscope, he saw two little white hands
folded as if in prayer. Immovable, perfect in form, they were there,
the hands of a child or a woman, raised beseechingly towards him.
Shortly before the incident he had sinned grievously against his child.
Seized by an uncontrollable longing to be reunited to his wife, in
spite of the divorce proceedings, he had wished--with a concentrated
and occultly sharpened desire--that the child might fall ill, and
thus become a link of reunion. There were other mysteries. The coal in
his stove burned itself into grotesque shapes, works of some kind of
elemental sculptor, which were so realistic that the sparrows, feeding
on crumbs by his window, were frightened by the sight of them. His
pillow-case, crumpled by the after-dinner nap, showed him one day a
head in marble modelled on the lines of Michel-Angelo; another day a
mighty Zeus rested on his bed; one night, after a festive evening with
friends, he was received by the devil himself in correct middle-age
attire, thus competing with Blake who one day, whilst ascending the
stairs of his house, saw Satan glaring at him through a window.

From sulphur he turned to iodine as a subject of original
experimentation, and then, oblivious of Aristotle's injunctions, to
the goldmaker's art. He did not possess "the most precious stone of
the philosophers," by which base metals are changed into gold, and
he had to be unorthodox--even when practising the alchemistic art.
He therefore rejected the alchemical faith that gold alone is free
from sulphur, and commenced experiments with solutions of sulphate of
iron in support of the theory that gold contains iron and sulphur. He
succeeded in making gold--his special gold of art--but it vanished
when put to the ordinary chemical test. Signs and guidance from unseen
Powers encouraged him to persist in spite of failure. Whilst out for
a walk his eyes were riveted by the letters F and S intertwined. At
first he thought of his wife's initials, and of her faithful love, but
such a commonplace interpretation was quickly dismissed. The letters
meant _Fer_ and _Soufre_--the secret of the generation of gold was thus
laid bare before his eyes. Another time two pieces of paper lying at
the foot of a monument attracted his attention. One bore the imprint
207, the other 28. What could this be but a reminder of the atomic
weights of lead (207) and silicum (28)? Subsequent experiments in
which he extracted gold from lead and silicum confirmed the wisdom of
the exegesis made. But the spirit of gold is fickle. One day, after
repeated failures, when standing naked to the waist as a smith before
the fiercely burning furnace, he looked into the crucible, and saw a
skull with a pair of glittering eyes. The eyes looked into his soul
with a supernatural irony, and the goldmaker was struck by paralysing
doubt, by fear of the consequences of his folly.

One day he was forcibly reminded that the fruits of his labour should
be consecrated to Wisdom, not Mammon. He had written an article in _Le
Temps_, and drawn public interest to his theory that iodine could be
made from benzine. An enterprising agent called on him, and showed
him that his idea contained possibilities for a highly successful
commercial undertaking, and that a patent might be worth millions of
francs. Strindberg repudiated the suggestion, though the agent offered
him 100,000 francs if he would go with him to Berlin, and subordinate
his experiments to industrial usages. Unpaid bills and the usual want
of money caused him to give more serious thought to the offer made.
After some time he was willing to meet the agent and a chemist, for the
purpose of making a conclusive experiment, and to turn his art into
much-needed cash. He collected his retorts and reagents, and arrived at
the agent's office on the day appointed. It happened to be Whit-Sunday,
and the office, which looked out on a dark and grimy street, was so
dirty that the result was one of those mental revolutions to which
hyper-æsthetic senses are subject. "Memories of childhood were
awakened," he writes. "Whitsuntide, the feast of joy, when the little
church was decorated with foliage, tulips, and lilies, when it was
opened for the children's first Communion, the girls clad in white
like angels ... the organ ... the tolling of the bells...."

A feeling of shame overcame him, he returned home determined not to
turn science into a business. He cleared his room of the chemical
apparatus, swept and dusted it, and made it beautiful with flowers. A
bath and clean clothes added to the feeling of purification, and during
a walk in the Montparnasse cemetery gentle thoughts of peace filled his
mind. _O crux ave spes unica_--these words from the graves carried a
message of the future. Not love, not gain, not honour for him, but the
cross, the only path to wisdom!

This unfitness for practical life, this sudden change of personality,
through which the poet or the child within are confronted with
unbearable conditions, brings a smile to the lips of the man who is
thoroughly "fit." The man of the world does not only keep religion and
business in water-tight compartments, he keeps dreams for the night,
and poetical recollections for important occasions, such as weddings
and funerals. He is not troubled by unexpected visitants from his
subconscious self which cause inconsistencies and poetic delirium. He
may well deplore the unpracticality of men like Renan who dreamily
allow themselves to be exploited by "sharper" brains, whilst they
spend years in contemplation of their own complexity. "I am a tissue
of contradictions," wrote Renan, "... one of my halves is constantly
occupied in demolishing the other, like the fabulous animal of Ctesias
who ate his paws without knowing it."[3]

Instead of selling his process of manufacturing iodine, Strindberg
returned to the hyperchemical task which he had set himself: to
eliminate the barriers between matter, and that which is called spirit.
An object worthy indeed of concentrated effort, worthy even in the
face of the inevitable failure of seeking to grasp that which to human
intelligence is unknowable!

Meanwhile he went "mad." Mad as Tasso and Cellini, Poe and Blake. We
cannot dispute the madness, but we may hold that the madness of genius
is more valuable to humanity than the sanity of mediocrity.

In Strindberg we can clearly distinguish between cerebral derangements
causing auditory hallucinations as well as delusions of persecution,
and the super-conscious activity which produced the state of
_clairpsychism_, which is generally classed with insanity. Dr. W.
Hirsch has studied Strindberg's disease from the ordinary alienist's
point of view, and concluded that he suffered from _paranoia simplex
chronica_--a diagnosis which is empty of meaning when applied to
such a mind. Dr. S. Rahmer[4] made Strindberg the subject of a more
comprehensive psychopathic study, and defined his case as one of
_melancholia daemomaniaca_. The inadequacy of such diagnoses will be
apparent to every serious student of _Inferno_ and _Legends_--the
books which are mostly extracts from the diary in which he recorded
his madness--and of plays like _To Damascus, Advent, Easier, The Dream
Play_, and _The Great Highway_, which give evidence of his lucidity,
and of the mysticism which he distilled from mental torture.

There is nothing original in the fact that a man describes his own
madness in prose or verse. Such descriptions may even be regarded as a
distinct genre of literary activity, perverse and detestable to those
who, like Mr. Balfour, want only the "cheerful" note in literature, but
of infinite interest to those who place a truthful account of the
human soul above one which is pleasing. Nathaniel Lee's poems, Lenan's
_Traumgewalten_, Hoffmann's _Kreisler_ possess a psychological interest
which no clamour for literary cradle-songs can remove. Strindberg's
self-revelations have a touch of that exultation which, through a
dominant curiosity, survives the most complete cheerlessness, horror,
and pain--that joy of which Charles Lamb wrote to Coleridge: "Dream
not, Coleridge, of having tasted all the grandeur and wildness of fancy
till you have gone mad," and which made him look back upon his lunacy
"with a gloomy kind of envy."

[Illustration: August Strindberg--1906]

[Illustration: August Strindberg--1907. Photo's: A. Malmström, Stockholm.]

Comparisons between Rousseau's _Confessions, Dialogues_, and
_Rêveries_, and Strindberg's _Inferno_ readily suggest themselves.
Both writers reveal, by their minute analysis of sick thoughts, the
consciousness of a lunacy which is a necessary experience on the
road to spiritual health, and, therefore, shameless. There is much
similarity in the stories of persistent attacks by invisible enemies,
of plots, and persecutions, in the egocentric deductions from natural
phenomena and the events of the world. But there is also a great
difference. Rousseau manages to keep a watchful eye on the preservation
of friendly relations with the world throughout his aberrations, whilst
Strindberg recklessly defies its judgment.

Strindberg's persecutional mania developed rapidly during the spring
and summer of 1896. Every object, every incident was charged with a
sinister meaning. He became obsessed with the idea that his former
friend, Przybyszewski, whom he writes of as Popoffsky, intended to
murder him. The reason for this suspicion lay in Strindberg's former
intimacy with the woman who afterwards became Przybyszewski's wife. One
day his ear caught the strains of Schumann's _Aufschwung_, played by an
unseen musician in an adjoining house. He became strangely agitated.
The pianist who played _Aufschwung_ in such a manner could only be
Przybyszewski, and the music must be a prelude to the revenge which he
was about to inflict on Strindberg. With the horror of his impending
fate mingled remorse and self-accusation. "My friend, the Russian,"
he writes, "my disciple who called me father because he had learnt
everything from me, my _famulus_ who looked upon me as master, and
kissed my hands because his life began where mine ended. It is he who
has come from Vienna to Paris in order to kill me...." The reflection
that he had not borne the Pole's efforts to injure him meekly, but
retaliated, at first invested the thought of death with a sacrificial
grandeur. But when _Aufschwung_ was played every day between four
and five fear of death increased. He felt a fierce hatred of the man
who thus hunted him down. He sought confirmation of his suspicions
by questioning the coterie of artists which met at Mme. Charlotte's
_crêmerie_ in rue de la Grande Chaumière. The answers seemed to him
evasive, and Strindberg withdrew from the circle of friends, convinced
that there was a widespread plot against him. The Norwegian artist,
Edvard Munch, was at this time painting Strindberg's portrait, and was
alternately trusted by him, and suspected as an accomplice in the crime
contemplated.

His inflammable fancy saw warnings of danger everywhere. A large dane,
lying outside Munch's house, was a sign that he must not enter it, and
he returned, thanking the powers which had protected him. Another time
he turned away from the house after seeing a child sitting outside the
door with a card in its hand which happened to be a ten of spades. In
the Luxembourg Gardens two dry twigs, broken by the storm, lay in such
a manner as to form the Greek letters P and Y--the first and the last
letters of the dreaded name. He implored, the help of Providence, and
recited the Psalms of David against his enemies.

The terror of being delivered into the hands of his persecutors was
temporarily dispelled by a sense of divine protection, of nearness
to the Lord. On March 29th Balzac's _Seraphita_ had fallen into his
hands, by chance apparently, but really, he thought, through heavenly
guidance. The day was the anniversary of Swedenborg's death, and
the coincidence became a token of a spiritual bond between him and
the great Swedish seer which outlasted his disease, and remained a
source of illumination until his death sixteen years later. Orfila
and Swedenborg now spoke to him in his hours of hope; he conversed
with them as Blake conversed with Dante, Virgil, and Moses. The Old
Testament shed strength upon him. He found comfort in the Book of Job,
for Satan had obtained leave to tempt him, as Job was tempted. There
were moments when he felt drawn away from life by a heavenly nostalgia,
sustained by a realisation of spiritual worth which, at other times,
increased his sense of guilt by adding the sin of pride to the many
others for which he atoned. Of such moments he writes: "I despise
the earth, this impure and unworthy world, humanity and the works of
humanity. I see in myself the righteous man to whom the Almighty has
sent trials, and whom the purgatory of earthly life shall make worthy
of approaching deliverance."

His customary chair at the Brasserie des Lilas was engaged one evening,
when he came to seek oblivion in the glass of green absinthe. On
another occasion the glass was mysteriously upset, and on a third a
chimney above him caught fire, and sent two large pieces of soot into
his glass. In these and similar incidents he recognised a guiding hand,
tribulations arranged for the purpose of breaking him of a dangerous
habit. One is reminded of Rousseau's belief that unfavourable winds had
been prepared, as a special trial, for his journey.

Short intervals of spiritual calm did not allay Strindberg's fear of
Przybyszewski. Though substantially unfounded, and, though he was in
possession of incontrovertible evidence that the Pole was not in Paris,
the fear increased until he was mastered by terror. Hotel Orfila was no
longer a retreat of peace. Women were admitted--a circumstance which
in itself was calculated to disturb his nerves--and with them followed
a host of troubles. A mysterious stranger had taken the room adjoining
his, and seemed to imitate all Strindberg's movements. Strindberg sat
writing at his table, so apparently did the stranger. When Strindberg
rose and pushed back his chair, the stranger did likewise. When
Strindberg went to bed, the stranger also went to bed. The unseen
enemy was there dose to him, watching every movement, waiting for an
opportunity to slay him by infernally subtle means. Outside the hotel
there were signs of danger. One day he felt Quai Voltaire and Place
des Tuileries shake under his feet. Another day a sudden feeling of
lameness proved to him that he was being poisoned, and that the Pole
had contrived to send gas through the wall. He thought of giving
information to the police, but the possibility that he might be
imprisoned as a lunatic restrained him. He could no longer work or
sleep. There were whispering voices around him; the shadow of a woman
on the wall outside his window suggested the fearful revenge of his
feminist protagonists. One night he felt an electric current passing
through his body. The stranger and his accomplices were evidently
doing their murderous work in a thoroughly scientific manner. With the
thought, "They are killing me. I will not be killed," he rose from the
bed, found the proprietor, and obtained another room for the night.
This happened to be under the one tenanted by the terrible stranger,
and Strindberg's suspicions were confirmed by hearing a heavy object
being dropped into a bag, and securely locked up. Evidently an electric
machine, he thought. On the following day he packed up his belongings,
and hurriedly left Hotel Orfila.

His suspicions fell on friends and foes alike. One day, after a
sitting, Munch received a post card from Strindberg which put an end to
further visits:

"When last you came to see me you looked like a murderer, or the
accomplice of a murderer. I only want to inform you that the
Pettenkofer gas-oven in the room next to mine is unusable, and
therefore unsuitable for the purpose. Sg."[5]

Side by side with the mania of which the message to Munch is typical,
Strindberg retained a sanity during this time which Uddgren had
occasion to observe. He went to see Strindberg at Hotel Orfila, and saw
the traces of the torture through which he had passed in his haggard,
ashen face. Uddgren had heard that Strindberg's insanity was on the
point of breaking out, but in the course of a long talk with him he
could find no signs of brain-softening. The mania, the eccentricities,
the flashing imagination, the instinct for self-martyrisation were
there intensified, but not the incoherency which he had observed
in other literary friends who were victims of insanity. It is also
remarkable that throughout Strindberg's period of lunacy his writings
were accepted and printed.

After the flight from Hotel Orfila he hid himself in an hotel in rue
de la Clef. All went well for some time. Feeling that he was at a safe
distance from his persecutors, he abandoned his incognito, and sent
his address to Hotel Orfila. There was an immediate recurrence of the
attacks. An old man, with "grey and wicked eyes like a bear," carried
empty cases, pieces of tin, and other mysterious objects into the room
adjoining his. In the room overhead a noise of hammering and dragging
began which suggested the installation of an infernal machine. The
noisy preparations were followed by the sound of a revolving wheel,
suggestive of preparations for his execution. "I am sentenced to
death," he thought; but by whom? By the pietists, catholics, jesuits,
theosophists? Was he condemned as a sorcerer or as a black magician? Or
was it by the police? Was he suspected of being an anarchist? In the
manners of the landlady and the servant he read suspicion and contempt.
The struggle seemed hopeless. Preparing to die at the hands of his
enemies, he arranged his papers, wrote necessary letters, and said a
solemn farewell to Nature as represented by the Jardin des Plantes.
"Farewell," he cried, "stones, plants, flowers, trees, butterflies,
birds, snakes, all created by God's good hand." Resigned and at peace
with Fate he re-entered his hotel, but his anguish returned at the
sight of the change which had been made in the room adjoining his.
On the mantelpiece lay sheets of metal isolated from each other by
pieces of wood, and on the top of each pile a book or a photographic
album had been placed, so as to give an innocent look to what could be
nothing but accumulators, infernal machines. Two workmen on the roof of
a neighbouring house were handling some objects, and pointing to his
window--the chain of evidence was complete.

At night he made the last toilet of the condemned, took a bath, shaved,
and attired himself in a manner worthy of a solemn parting from the
body and its miseries. Waiting for the end, he reflected that he could
harbour no fear of hell in another world--he had passed through a
thousand hells in this life. Anguish endowed him with a burning desire
to quit the vanities and deceptive pleasures of the world. "Born
with a heavenly nostalgia," he writes, "as a child I cried over the
uncleanliness of existence; amongst relatives and in society I felt a
stranger, far away from the land of my home. Ever since my childhood I
have sought my God, and found the devil. I carried the cross of Christ
in my youth, and I have denied a God who is content to rule over slaves
who love those who whip them."

After a few hours' sleep he was awakened by the sensation of being
lifted out of bed by a pump, sucking his heart. He had scarcely put his
feet on the floor before he felt an electric douche fall upon his neck,
and press him to the ground. He rose, snatched his clothes, and rushed
out into the garden. A light cough from the room, wherein dwelt his
enemy, was answered by a cough from the other room. The conspirators
were clearly signalling to each other. To return to the room of horror
was out of question. He dragged an arm-chair into the garden, and
finally went to sleep under the star-lit sky, soothed by the presence
of the flowers. On the following morning he fled to friends in Dieppe,
cursing his unknown enemies. His friends were horrified at his
appearance, and when his kind hostess led him to a looking-glass he saw
in his own face, not only the traces of suffering and neglect, but an
expression which filled him with shame and detestation of himself. "If
I had then read Swedenborg," he writes, "the imprint left by the evil
spirit would have explained to me my mental state and the events of the
last weeks." Despite the efforts of his sympathetic friends to convince
him that the house was free from dangers of any kind, the night brought
new terrors. Sitting at a table, and waiting for the sinister moment
when the clock should strike two, Strindberg was determined bravely
to face the worst. Uncovering his chest, he challenged the unknown
persecutors to strike him. The response was the sensation of an
electric current directed against his heart, gradually increasing in
strength until he could resist it no longer. As if struck by a clap of
thunder, he felt his body filled by a fluid which was suffocating him,
and drawing out his heart.

He rushed downstairs where another bed had been made up for him in
case of need. He lay down, and tried to collect his thoughts. Could
this be electricity? No, for he had used the compass as indicator,
and the result had been negative. Whilst pondering on the mysterious
force, another discharge of "electricity" struck him with the strength
of a cyclone, and lifted him out of bed. He tried in vain to escape.
His own graphic description of what followed shows the agony through
which he passed. "I hide behind walls, I lie down by the thresholds,
and in front of the stoves. Everywhere, everywhere the furies seek me
out. My soul's anguish overpowers me. The panic terror of everything
and nothing gets hold of me, and I flee from room to room, and end
my flight on the balcony, where I remain crouching." At dawn he went
into his friend's studio, where he lay down on a rug. Even here he was
disturbed, but now by rats, and, fearing that he might be a victim
of delirium, he fled to the hall, where the door-mat became his
resting-place. He hurriedly left Dieppe for the south of Sweden, and
sought refuge in the house of his friend, Dr. Eliasson, in Ystad.

Strindberg had rightly surmised that his friends in Dieppe were
convinced of his insanity. His conduct during the first days of his
stay in Ystad caused his medical friend to treat him with the firmness
and authority necessary towards one who is mentally irresponsible.
The result was that Strindberg suspected that the doctor intended
to imprison him in a lunatic asylum, and to appropriate his secret
of gold-making. The month which he spent at the doctor's house was
devoted to a cold-water cure which did not assuage his misery. The
shape and material of the bed in which he had to sleep suggested
electrical devices of evil, the nightly assault by the vampire which
sucked his heart was repeated, and brought him out of bed in terror
of death; he heard voices, saw signs, feared he was being poisoned by
hemlock, hashish, digitalis, or daturine. One night he heard the doctor
handle a very heavy object and wind up a spring, and through the wall
which separated them he felt the approach of the electric current.
It reached his heart. Seizing his clothes he fled through the window
into the street, and to the house of another physician who succeeded
in calming him, and--so he believed--in intimidating his treacherous
friend, and thus saved Strindberg's life.

These delusions of horror were suspended by a letter from his wife
which breathed love and pity, and in which she invited him to come
to Austria and see his little daughter. The thought of the child, of
holding her in his arms, of begging her to forgive him, of making
her happy by a father's tenderness, brought about a spiritual
metamorphosis. He left Sweden, and arrived at his mother-in-law's
country house on the Danube in September, 1896. During the months which
he spent there he did not meet his wife-a separation which he bore with
equanimity, in consequence of "an indefinable lack of harmony in our
temperaments"--but he saw the child daily.

"Every man, if he is sincere, may tread again for himself the road to
Damascus-a journey which must vary for each individual soul," wrote
Victor Hugo. Here, in the presence of the child, Strindberg was brought
face to face with his own sinfulness. He had set out to persecute, but
the light from heaven had prostrated him and struck him with blindness.
Before the scales could fall from his eyes his penance must be made
complete. He had left an infant of six weeks. The little girl of two
and a half years, who now met him, scrutinised his soul with eyes
full of serious inquiry, and then allowed her father to clasp her to
his breast. "This is Dr. Faust's resurrection to earthly life, but
sweeter and purer," he writes. "I cannot cease carrying the little
one in my arms, and feeling her little heart beat against mine. To
love a child is for a man to become woman; it is to lay aside the
manly, to experience the sexless love of the dwellers in heaven, as
Swedenborg called it." But an incident soon occurred which disturbed
his peace. At supper he gently touched the child's hand in order to
help her. She cried out, and, drawing back her hand with a look full
of horror, said, "He hurts me." Another evening he was humiliated by
the mysterious conduct of the child. Pointing at an invisible person
behind Strindberg's chair, she began to cry with fear, and said, "The
sweep is standing there." Her grandmother who believed in clairvoyance
in children made the sign of the cross over the child's head, and-a
painful silence fell upon the company.

Whilst he accepted these trials as punitive messages and warnings,
his scarified soul became receptive to Roman Catholic influences. His
wife's mother and aunt were Catholics; his child had been brought up in
that faith. He had seen human souls sanctified by a catholic mysticism
which bore humility and fortitude. The symbols, the certainty, the rich
imagery of the Catholic Church had appealed to him, when the poverty of
philosophical speculation had made him despair of human intelligence.
He had bought a rosary in Paris because it was beautiful, and because
"the evil ones were afraid of the cross." One day an image of the
Madonna, carried through the streets of Paris on a cart following a
hearse, had strangely attracted him. Like Tasso's vision of the Virgin
in the midst of his feverish torment by noises and tinkling bells,
Strindberg's gaze on the image of all-merciful motherhood brought
comfort. At first attracted to Catholic prayers, and to the ideal of
the monastic life by the instinct which makes the man in pain seek an
anodyne, he was gradually led to a deeper understanding of esoteric
Christianity. Swedenborg continued to reveal the mysteries of symbols
and correspondences to him; in the scenery around the Austrian village
he found, not only an exact replica of a Swedenborgian hell, but the
original of a landscape which had precipitated itself in the zinc bath
used in his gold-making experiments in Paris.


[Illustration: August Strindberg--1902]

[Illustration: August Strindberg--1908--In his home in Stockholm.
Photo by A. Blomberg, Stockholm]


Strindberg's early blasphemies and atheism were the fruits of an
inverted religiosity which left him no peace. His devotional mood
could find no bridge of union with his scientific mood. The search
for knowledge and the search for God led to different goals. Whilst
his brain struggled for breadth, his heart cried for the narrow depth
of dogma and creed. His researches into occultism and the philosophy
of religions, his acquaintance with theosophy did not reconcile his
religion with his science. The sense of sin, of having sought unlawful
knowledge haunted him in his studies of black magic and Satanism, and
in the exercise of the occult powers of which he was conscious. Though
Strindberg had not read Huysmans' _Là-Bas_ and _En Route_ when he wrote
_Inferno_, there is a strong resemblance between the books and the
religious evolution of the authors.

Strindberg accepted the doctrine of reincarnation as a Christian
tenet, and the corollary of a Karmic law which compels us to suffer
for sins committed before birth, but he resisted what he believed to
be the central teaching of theosophy, i.e. the necessity for killing
personality. A theosophical friend sent him Madame Blavatsky's _Secret
Doctrine_ which Strindberg criticised severely, though he knew that
his outspokenness would deprive him of a friend and a benefactor. He
declined to join a "sect" which denied a personal God, the only one
who could satisfy his religious needs. He declared Madame Blavatsky's
masterpiece to be "detestable through the conscious and unconscious
deceptions, through the stories of the existence of Mahatmas,"
interesting through the quotations from little-known authors,
condemnable, above all, as the work of "a gynander who has desired
to outdo man, and who pretends to have overthrown science, religion,
philosophy, and to have placed a priestess of Isis on the altar of the
crucified One."

In spite of this denunciation, Strindberg had absorbed many
theosophical ideas, and his later writings are not altogether free from
the influence of the despised "gynander" and the theories of occult
science which she expounded.

During the time spent in Austria Strindberg slowly recovered his
mental balance, whilst his visionary powers and spiritual clairvoyance
were in process of development. He stayed with his wife's mother and
aunt, two pious and gentle old women, who treated his soul-sickness
with Christian forbearance and healing sympathy. He was still subject
to "astral" attacks, to "electric" discharges, to nightmares and
ghostly visitations. Unacquainted with the higher aspects of
psychical research and modern theories of psychological phenomena,
he was as yet unable to bring about order in the unruly house of his
mind. Whether we use spiritualistic language and call him a medium,
or that of psychology and label the messages which reached him
"teleological automatism," there can be no doubt that the keynote of
his soul's gloom and glory was a hyper-sensitiveness which made him
a lightning-conductor for the psychic currents of his time. We may
turn away with disdain from the pitiful picture of Strindberg at his
writing table, warding off the imaginary attacks of elementals, incubi,
lamiæ, by thrusts in the air with a dalmatian dagger, and we may smile
at the childish superstition with which he accepted the oracular
guidance of the cock on the top of Notre Dame, or the direction chosen
by a ladybird visiting his manuscript. But that there were within him
cryptopsychic gifts of telepathy, clair-audience, and divination, a
somnambulistic consciousness of a reality other than that which is
cognisable to the senses, no student of psychic forces can doubt.

In December, 1896, Strindberg returned to Sweden. Swedenborg's _Arcana
Cœlestia_, which he now read, dissipated his fears of persecution by
showing him that all the horrors through which he had passed, were
recognised by Swedenborg as incidental to the purgation of soul which
is the highest object of life. Strindberg found that, before receiving
his momentous revelations, Swedenborg had passed through nightly
tortures resembling his own. By informing him of the real nature of
the horrors Swedenborg liberated him from the electricians, the black
magicians, the destroyers, the jealous gold-makers, and the fear of
madness. "He has shown me the only path to salvation: to seek out
the demons in their dens within myself, and to kill them ... through
repentance."

_Inferno_ was composed in Lund, the little University town in the south
of Sweden, between May 3rd and June 25th, 1897. _Legends_, which is
but a rifacimento of the struggle to slay the "demons in their dens,"
was begun in Lund, and finished in Paris in October, 1897. In March,
1898, Strindberg went back to Lund, free from haunting obsessions of
evil, master of his madness, enriched by religious experiences which
produced an exuberant rise of new ideas. He had crossed the Rubicon.
Henceforth he shared in that direct vision which makes paralysing doubt
impossible, and which is the prerogative of God's fools all over the
world. To the end of life his mind retained intellectual disquiet;
there remained in him a strain of the wild man, an over-balance of
curiosity which set up eternal enmity between him and convention. The
Swedish critic, Oscar Levertin, succinctly summed up Strindberg in the
Italian proverb: _All soul, all gall, all fire_. But after 1898 there
is a calm light which the unruly flames cannot hide. His spiritual
wrestlings continue through the zenith of his literary production, but
they leave him stronger.

A comparison between his views on the "nature of man" in 1884 and in
1910 is interesting. In an essay on _The Joy of Life_, written in
1884, he greatly offended the Swedish Mrs. Grundy by the following
passage: "After long centuries of the voluntary or involuntary lie, of
artificialising custom and speech, a general craving for brutality is
sometimes awakened, a delirious desire to throw off one's clothes and
walk about naked, to reveal the indecent, to approach the repulsive,
to be a happy and joyous animal." In an article on _Religion_, written
in 1910, and published in _Speeches to the Swedish Nation_, he wrote:
"I apply my biblical Christianity to my own personal and inner use,
so as to curb my somewhat riotous nature, rendered riotous by the
veterinary philosophy and animal doctrine (Darwinism) in which I was
brought up. The fact that I practise, as far as I can, the Christian
doctrines should not, I maintain, give people reason to complain. For
it is only through religion, or the hope for something better, and the
realisation of the inner meaning of life as a time of probation, a
school, possibly a house of correction, that we can bear life's burden
with sufficient resignation. In the understanding of the relative
insignificance of external conditions of life, compared with the
possession of hope and faith, one finds that moral courage to renounce
everything--which the ungodly lack--to suffer everything for the sake
of a mission, to speak out when others remain silent."

In the same "speech" he says: "Since 1896 I call myself a Christian
(see _Inferno_). I am not a Catholic, and have never been one,
but during seven years' life in Catholic countries and in intimate
relationship with Catholics I discovered that there was no difference
between Catholicism and Protestantism, or merely an outward one, and
that the schism which took place once was purely political, or was only
concerned with theological points which in reality have nothing to do
with religion. This was the cause of my tolerance towards Catholics
which found a special expression in my _Gustavus Adolphus_, and gave
rise to the fable about my being a Catholic. I am entered on the parish
register as a Protestant, and shall remain one, but I am probably not
orthodox, nor am I a pietist, but rather a Swedenborgian."

At the time when _Inferno_ was written Strindberg was, however,
more completely under the spell of Rome than he acknowledges in his
later writings. He contemplated retreat in a Belgian monastery, and
in _Inferno_ he tells us that, when he read Sar Peladan's _Comment
on devient Mage_, "Catholicism held its solemn and triumphant entry
into my life." He found many points of contact between Swedenborg's
mystical philosophy and that of the Catholic Church. The profound
influence on modern thought exercised by Swedenborg, and which is
clearly discernible in the writings of Goethe, Emerson, Balzac,
Tennyson, Mrs. Browning, Ruskin, Coventry Patmore, and Carlyle, is
evidence of the spiritual catholicity of the great Swedish mystic.
Superficial criticism is apt to dismiss Swedenborg as a deluded
ghost-seer, whose psychical derangements are responsible for a
farrago of communications on heaven and hell, prodigiously wearisome
in details and lacking the saving grace of humour. Such criticism is
made by those who know nothing of the intellectual versatility, and
the scientific achievements of Swedenborg. His writings on anatomy,
physiology, geology, and metallurgy alone would have entitled him to a
distinguished place among the pioneers of science. Swedenborg studied
mechanics, engineering, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and music,
and took a keen interest in handicrafts.

There is a striking resemblance between Swedenborg and Strindberg in
this versatility of mood and thought. It is emphasised by many minor
traits of character and taste, such as the great love for children and
flowers which both evinced. Separated by more than a century and a
half, Strindberg found himself the spiritual descendant of Swedenborg.
To him he dedicates his first _Blue Book_ (1907) in the following
words: "To Emanuel Swedenborg, Teacher and Leader, this book is
dedicated by the Disciple." The _Blue Books_ deal with every thinkable
subject--religious, philosophical, scientific--in an aphoristic and
combative manner which is pervaded by a curious mixture of pride and
humility. Here speaks the High Priest of Knowledge, here quivers the
helpless embryo of the humanity which is to come. In these motley pages
the Teacher and the Disciple talk of telepathy, chemistry, astronomy,
meteorology, spectral analysis, atoms and crystals, the psychology
of plants, the secrets of birds, the formation of clouds, Darwinism,
radium, woman, the secrets of chess, the secrets and magic of numbers,
the Mesopotamian language, hieroglyphics, Hebraic research, symbolism,
clairvoyance, and a hundred other subjects. In the preface to _The
Bondswoman's Son_ Strindberg speaks of his Blue Book as the synthesis
of his life. The Disciple is worthy of the Master; to the Swedenborgian
and eighteenth-century conception of the natural world and the
spiritual world Strindberg has added the craving for a synthetic
interpretation of facts, which was characteristic of the nineteenth
century, and which found its foremost representatives in Spencer and
Comte. In his sense of truth, in his work for the correlation of
knowledge, in his readiness to forsake pleasant beliefs for unpleasant
facts, Strindberg realised Swedenborg's description of a certain phase
of angelic life: "To grow old in heaven is to grow young."

The renewal of intellectual youth, with its baffling polymathy and
selfcontradictions, led Strindberg to question the composition of his
own soul. In the preface to _The Bondswoman's Son_ he confesses that he
has sometimes wondered if he has incarnated different personalities.
Dissociated fields of consciousness may be a psychopathic phenomenon,
or indicative of an advanced state of psychic evolution. The problem
has been approached from many points of view. The mystery of
personality metamorphosis, of primary and secondary individualities,
contained within the frame of one human body, is now a recognised
subject of inquiry in the domain of abnormal psychology. Cases of
multiple personality in which there is an absolute division between
the "entities," and in which the memories do not intermingle, have
been carefully studied and classified. The ease with which Strindberg
apostatised, the mutually destructive theories which he advanced at
different periods of life, the power with which he could objectify his
past selves, and repeatedly paint "the face of what was once myself,"
point to a multiplicity of consciousness which, though not rare in
genius, was especially active in him. In the preface to _The Author_,
written in 1909, Strindberg says of himself as the writer of the book
twenty years earlier: "The personality of the author is just as much a
stranger to me as to the reader--and just as unsympathetic."

There is undoubtedly a gulf between the personality responsible for the
preface to _Lady Julie_ with its crude materialism, and the sensitised
consciousness of the man who pours out his soul in the _Blue Books_
and in _Alone_. Nietzscheanism was but a cloak, with which Strindberg
covered the _cor laceratum_, which always suffered acutely through
the misfortunes of others. The cloak did not fit him. In _Alone_,
the dulcet autobiographical finale to the agitato of _Inferno_, we
find him in self-imposed and vicarious suffering for the sins of a
neighbouring grocer who has failed in business through incompetence and
dishonesty. "I went through all his agony," he writes; "thought of his
wife, of the approaching quarter-day, of the rent, of the cheques."
Strindberg now lived in open enmity with the theories of the survival
of the fittest and natural selection; his conception of the evolution
idea led him to repudiate the current belief in the descent of man as a
glorification of brute-nature, and to cry: "What a shame to have paid
homage to the Ape-King, the seducer of my youth!"

To the natural capacity for suffering was added that imposed on him
through the development of his psychic powers. He did not only live
the lives of others "telepathically"; his sensibility became so
exteriorised as to receive impressions at a great distance. Thus he
used to feel, when one of his plays was being performed for the first
time in some part of Europe, though he had received no information in
regard to the performance. In 1907 he told Uddgren that, after going to
bed at ten in the evening, he was sometimes awakened by the sound of
loud applause which caused him to sit up in bed, wondering if he was
at a theatre. Such a telepathic ovation was invariably followed by the
news of some dramatic success. In the first _Blue Book_, "the Disciple"
relates the following: "In a company I interrupted myself with a smile
in the middle of an animated conversation. 'What are you smiling at?'
somebody asked. 'The southern express pulled up at the Central Station
just now,' was the reply. Another time something similar happened, and
I said: 'The curtain has now fallen on the last act in Helsingfors, and
I heard the applause after my first night.' I perceive the talk of the
people in restaurants after the performance as ringing in the ears. I
can hear this all the way from Germany when I have a first performance,
though I have no previous knowledge of being played."

He records the psychic rapport which sexual union establishes between
him, and the woman he loves. When she is absent, and thinks kindly
of him, he perceives the fragrance of incense or jessamine; when she
is travelling he knows if she is on a steamer or in a train. He can
distinguish the throbbing of the propeller from the thumping of the
buffers on the railway carriage.

The most remarkable passage in the _Blue Book_ is perhaps the following
summary of his _clairpsychism_:

"I feel at a distance when somebody touches my fate, when enemies
threaten my personal existence, but also when people speak kindly of
me or wish me well; I feel in the street if I meet friend or enemy; I
have participated in the suffering caused by an operation on a person
towards whom I feel comparatively indifferent; I have twice gone
through the death agony of others with attendant physical and mental
suffering; the last time I passed through three diseases in six hours,
and rose well when the absent one had been liberated through death.
This makes life painful, but rich and interesting."


[1] _Bøken on Strindberg_ af Gustaf Uddgren.

[2] _En Ny Bok on Strindberg_.

[3] _Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse_.

[4] Grenzfragen der Literatur und Medizin, Munich, 1907.

[5] _En Ny Bok om Strindberg af Gustaf Uddgren_.



CHAPTER VIII

THE THEATRE OF LIFE


Strindberg's fiftieth birthday was celebrated quietly in Lund in
1899. A general feeling of distrust and bewilderment was prevalent
amongst his countrymen. At the age of fifty he had returned to Sweden,
apparently healthy in mind and body, in the prime of life, charged with
a literary vitality which confounded current theories of his insanity.
He had calmly and unostentatiously resumed his task of writing drama.
The haunted, feverish expression had left his countenance; he had
made himself a new visage, upon which were stamped self-mastery and
tranquillity of mind. And, yet, he had recently published _Inferno_ and
_Legends_, and laid bare his soul's misery and delirium in throbbing
pages, over which the reviewers had poured acrid contempt. He had
written _To Damascus_ in a gust of mediæval repentance, and uncovered
himself in the transports of asceticism. With a sigh of relief his
enemies had laid aside their opposition to his indiscretions and
revelations, his materialism and transcendentalism, his socialism and
individualism. They felt that there was no need to take a lunatic
seriously. His friends had waited patiently for the "dancing star"
which they knew would arise out of the chaos.

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Bust by K.I. Eldh (Bought by the
Swedish State. In the National Museum, Stockholm)]

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Portrait by Carl Larsson, 1899. (In
the National Museum, Stockholm)]

_The Saga of the Folkungs, Gustavus Vasa_ and _Eric XIV_ appeared in
1899, and showed that the author of _Master Olof_ had returned to the
art with which, twenty-seven years earlier, he had given his country
its greatest historical play. With the precision of the somnambulist
who takes up the thread of mental events, regardless of the time that
has passed, Strindberg resumed the story of _Master Olof_ where he had
left off. In _Gustavus Vasa_ we again meet Olof, the renegade, but he
is now--as befits his character--a secondary person, duly subservient
to the Power of the Time, King Gustavus Vasa. With _Gustavus Vasa_ and
_Eric XIV_ Strindberg attained to mastery of a dramatic art, in which
he stands unsurpassed. The art of writing _the psychological drama of
history_ is his, and his alone. No other dramaturge of modern times
has approached him in clarity of historical vision, or in imaginative
reconstruction of living characters which are at once true to their
time and to all times.

No period of Swedish history lends itself better to dramatic treatment
than that dominated by the first of the Vasas, Gustavus Erikson,
the chosen king of the people, the incarnation of will, of a wholly
masculine personality. The king's struggle to quell the rebellious
spirit of the freemen of Dalecarlia, the vast inland county north of
Stockholm, to whom he owes his throne and his power, is the subject
of the play. The wrath of the king pervades the first act with an
atmospheric suggestion of fateful horror which is the antithesis
of melodramatic art, and shows Strindberg's power of restraint and
concentration in the unfoldment of tragedy. The king has marched to
Dalecarlia in order to punish the stiff-necked peasants who think that
they can make and unmake kings with impunity. When the curtain rises
upon the assembled leaders of the peasants the king is not seen, but
his presence is felt. Master Olof has arrived as the emissary of the
sovereign; solemn messengers bid the veterans of the soil to remain
seated until they are called to appear before the king. There is a
sense of suppressed fear in the room; the quiet, slow-thinking men,
dad in white sheep-skin coats, suspect something, but cannot grasp the
unthinkable audacity of the king's plans. One by one they are called
out, but no one returns. Then a messenger from the king brings in three
blood-stained sheep-skin coats, and throws them on the table. This is
the king's warning to those who remain, and who are permitted to live.

In the five acts of this play Strindberg lets us see the human
qualities of Gustavus Vasa; the dramatist draws a living soul, not
a marionette; a man, hot-tempered, hard, strong, with a vein of
irresoluteness running through the granite of his will, a man whose
strength is blended with the weakness of the child within that
never grows up. We see in him the inconsistency of all flesh: the
mighty reformer of the Roman Catholic Church who upholds evangelical
Lutheranism and yet clings to catholic habits; the brutal tyrant who
has a way of his own of enforcing obedience by bringing his little
steel hammer in ominous contact with obstinate heads, and who yet
remains the kind, fatherly friend of his people. The patriarch who
has identified himself with his country before the Lord, who has
stood forth as a prophet of patriotism, and who is forced by growing
self-knowledge to separate the personal from the impersonal, is at
last humiliated by the goodness of others. Threatened by rebels who
march towards Stockholm from the south, outwitted by his treacherous
allies in Lübeck, the old king trembles at the news that the sturdy men
of Dalecarlia are on their way to Stockholm. The retribution for his
harsh deeds of suppression is upon him, and he bows his head before
the chastisement of God. But the men of Dalecarlia are made of stuff
which outlasts a few fallen heads. They have come in their thousands to
help their king and their country to put the common enemy to flight.
Engelbrecht, their leader--jolly, true and a little tipsy--bursts into
the king's palace, and proudly offers him the arms and the devotion of
the men in sheep-skin coats, true representatives of the Swedish spirit.

Eric, the king's dissolute and epileptic son, heir to the throne, is
in every way a contrast to his father: he is the chronic weakling who
oscillates between unholy desire and self-disgust, the born pariah
in the realm of the mind, whether he be clad in purple or in rags.
Of such, we think, the Kingdom of Heaven is not made. Yet Strindberg
shows us Eric's glimpse of heaven. In the fourth act Eric and his boon
companion and evil counsellor, Göran Persson, bent on the pleasures of
the tavern, meet Karin, the flowergirl. She asks Eric to buy her wreath
of flowers:

_Prince Eric_ (_looks fixedly at the girl_). Who--is--that?

_Göran Persson_. A flowergirl.

_Prince Eric_. No--it--is--something else--do you see?

_Göran Persson_. What am I supposed to see?

_Prince Eric_. You ought to see what I see, but you can't.

The girl kneels before the prince. He takes the wreath from her hands,
places it on her head, and asks her to rise. "Rise, my child," he says,
"you must not kneel before me, but I shall kneel before you. I do not
want to ask your name, for I know you, though I have never seen you, or
heard anything about you." He begs her to ask a favour of him. She asks
him to buy her flowers. Eric takes a ring off his finger, and gives it
to the girl. She dare not wear it, and returns it. She leaves them, and
Eric asks Göran if he has not seen the marvellous apparition, heard the
wonderful voice. Göran has heard nothing but the voice of a common
lass, a little cheeky.

     _Prince Eric_. Hold your tongue, Göran, I love her.

     _Göran Persson_. She is not the first one.

     _Prince Eric_. Yes, the first one, the only one.

     _Göran Persson_. Well, seduce her then.

     _Prince Eric_ (_draws his sword_). Take care, or by God----

     _Göran Persson_. Is he going to prick me now again?

     _Prince Eric_. I do not know what has happened, but from this
     moment I detest you; I cannot live in the same town as you; you
     pollute me with your eyes, your whole being stinks. Therefore I
     leave you, and never want to see you before my face again. I leave
     you as if an angel had come to fetch me from the dwellings of the
     wicked; I detest the past, as I detest you and myself. (_Follows
     Karin_.)

Though Strindberg shows an understanding of love's miracles--with
which he is not generally credited--he makes no attempt to endow the
first meeting between Eric and the peasant girl who became the mother
of his children, and finally his queen, with a greater transfiguring
power than it possessed. Here, as in all his historical dramas, he
writes with the sense of the importance of the infinitely small, with
the knowledge that "characters" and events arise out of the mind's
contact with things that seem insignificant to the superficial
observer. The wooden rigidity which the ordinary historian gives to
the figures of the past, is the result of the incapacity to visualise
the daily, the commonplace, in lives lived long ago. Strindberg's
psychological conception of characters of the past is based on an
almost microscopical power of seeing details. His own hypersensitive
emotional memory initiated him into the manner, in which history is
made by mood and temper, aches and pains--as well as by deliberate
purpose of will and political programmes. Whether it be true or not
that the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was due to the toothache of
Louis XIV, and that history was thus made by the ill-timed activity of
molar nerves, psychological research into the origin of great events
on the world's stage would reveal causes which the historian does not
deign to consider.

_Eric XIV_, the drama of the reign of the mad son of the sane King
Gustavus, is a masterpiece of life-like presentation. Searching
comparisons between the arts of Strindberg and Shakespeare are otiose.
But in the dramatic treatment of lunacy the author of _Eric XIV_ may
well be compared with the author of _Hamlet_, _Lear_, and _Macbeth_.
The dramatic verisimilitude of Strindberg's lunatics is made perfect
through an experiential familiarity with the nethermost adventures
of the mind, which Shakespeare lacked. In _Eric XIV_ the monomania
of persecution, the fitful _délires de grandeur_, the half-conscious
cruelty are drawn with a spontaneous realism which is heightened by
a terrible psychological accuracy of analysis. Strindberg has drawn
almost as many mad and half-mad folk as Shakespeare. He can describe
every form of mental derangement, and has not forgotten the soul
obsessed by God and, therefore, detached from the world. In _The Saga
of the Folkungs_ the Voice of the Unseen speaks through an obsessed
woman who sees the souls of people, and is able to reveal the hidden
treachery of those who surround King Magnus. "One must be mad," says
a barber in this play, "to have the courage to reveal all secrets at
once." In _Easter_, the most mystical of Strindberg's plays, he draws
an exquisite character of a young girl who is "mad," whose soul is pure
and lovely, and who sees and hears things that happen far away. To her,
also, all secrets are open; she can see the stars during the daytime,
and, though her head is "soft," her spirit dwells in the realms of
pure beauty. There is a fool in To Damascus; there is the frenzy of
despair in _The Father_. The novels _Remorse, At the Edge of the Sea_
and _The Gothic Rooms_ present a gallery of psycho-pathological types.

Strindberg's novelistic treatment of lunacy has a natural profuseness
of imagination, not unlike that of E.T.A. Hoffmann and Dostoevsky. It
therefore bears little resemblance to the more artificial composition,
typified by Paul Hervieu's _L'Inconnu_ or Guy de Maupassant's _Le
Horla_.

The scenes in _Eric XIV_ are constructed with a finished workmanship,
and an economy of events which make it one of Strindberg's most
playable pieces. Consumed by jealous hatred of his brother, Johan,
Eric keeps him a prisoner; a prey of malignant suspicion against
everybody, Eric commits atrocious murders and endures frantic remorse.
At last, Eric's excesses can no longer be endured by the people. He is
imprisoned, and Johan becomes king. In _Eric XIV_ the psychological
dissection of character does not hinder the dramatic movement of
the play; the playwright combines brilliant impressionism with due
subservience to the laws of the theatre. In _The Saga of the Folkungs_
he has allowed the psychological treatment to usurp the domain of
drama. The play deals with a period in Swedish history when two brother
kings occupied the throne. Here, too, we have sombre tragedy. There
is no lack of dramatic elements, for the horrors of plague, hanging,
flagellants and execution are shown upon the stage. But Strindberg
has psychologised his characters so intensely that the flesh has, as
it were, fallen away from their souls, and with that the obscurity of
motives and objects which creates the deception upon which human action
is built, and which is essential to drama. The effect of the play on
the spectator is the intense, yet real, terror of a nightmare, from
which we vainly struggle to awaken. The over-balance of psychological
analysis mars some of the later historical dramas. It makes some of the
transcendental plays and the chamber plays mere dramatic dialogues,
pictures of minds in conflict; it gives us the Shadow Theatre of
the Soul, and leads Strindberg to bold defiance of the rules of
dramaturgy--including those laid down by himself.

The cycle of the Vasa plays--_Master Olof_, _Gustavus Vasa_ and _Eric
XIV_--bears the mark of the consummate craftsman. Their strength is
the strength of reality, their beauty a perfect proportion of dramatic
construction. A row of historical plays followed: _Gustavus Adolphus_
(1900); _Engelbrecht_ (1901); _Charles XII_ (1901); _Gustavus III_
(1903); _Queen Christina_ (1903); _The Nightingale of Wittenberg_
(1903); _The Last Knight_ (1908); _The National Director_ (1909); _The
Earl of Bjälbo_ (1909). Of these, _Gustavus Adolphus_ with its breadth
of battlefield panorama; _Charles XII_ with its narrow searchlight
on the declining figure of the lion-hearted, but beaten king; _Queen
Christina_ with its flamboyant sketch of the clever and capricious
daughter of Gustavus Adolphus, are eminently playable. _Gustavus
III_ has pointed dialogue, cameo-like pictures of word-fencing; it
faithfully paints the decadent time when Sweden was steeped in the
sterile scepticism of France; it portrays the reaction which led to the
assassination of the King of Masquerades, but the play is not woven
with the dramaturgic skill of the former dramas. _The Last Knight_
is an historical jugglery with ideas in five acts which strains the
dramatic form beyond its measure of elasticity.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would require a separate volume to deal adequately with
Strindberg's historical writings. It is not only his dramas which bear
testimony to the originality of his historical conception, but a number
of treatises, essays, and stories, such as _Studies in the History
of Culture, The Swedish People, Swedish Destinies and Adventures,
Historical Miniatures_, and _The Conscious Will in the History of the
World_. His independent historical researches unearthed documents and
accumulated evidence with a painstaking thoroughness which should
have endowed him with a special "authority." But he has been derided
and abused because of his lack of a truly professorial treatment of
historical characters. His powers of visualisation and interpretation
have given offence to historical specialists. He has been accused of
distorting the calm faces of royal personages, of encumbering his
pictures of the past with ugly and unnecessary details. He has been
condemned because there is a twentieth-century atmosphere about his
characters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But we may
well ask: Has any historical chronicler or dramatist ever given a
faithful representation of the past except through the medium of his
own personality, his own time? There are anachronisms in _Hamlet_;
so there are in _Eric XIV_. In a wider sense, all historical writings
are anachronistic. In that sense Strindberg's history is less burdened
with errors than that of most writers. The offence which Strindberg
committed--if it be an offence--is that he saw and threw upon the
canvas the lasting psychological features which persist through the
vicissitudes of time, through the altered conditions of morality,
custom, and nationality. He saw the eternally human beneath the masks
of canonised and apotheosised individuals.

_Gustavus Adolphus_, Strindberg's drama of the fair hero-king of Sweden
who played an illustrious part in the Thirty Years' War, and who landed
with twenty thousand men in Pomerania in 1630 as friend and protector
of oppressed Protestants in Germany, has all the elements of a powerful
historical play. It has been severely criticised in Sweden and in
Germany. Strindberg has himself explained that the Swedes objected to
his portrait of Gustavus Adolphus because he had made him too small,
and the Germans objected because he had made the conquering hero
too great. Strindberg did not hesitate to show the blemishes on the
historical idol of Sweden: the weakness, the impetuousness, the spells
of fear, the carelessness, the moral elasticity which characterised
Gustavus Adolphus. Nor did he hesitate to show the horrors and
self-deception of war, the blackguardly deeds which are glorified
by militarism, or the petty quarrels between Catholics, Lutherans,
and Calvinists which prolonged the strife. The king is represented
as being brought--by the force of events--to see the unworthiness of
the cause which he espouses, and for which he finally dies. This was
an unpardonable offence against the sacro-sanctity of tradition, and
the fact that Strindberg's Gustavus Adolphus lost none of his heroic
qualities by being stripped of pseudo-angelic ones did not temper the
wind of the general condemnation. The famous generals of the Swedish
army, Horn, Banér, Tott, Brahe, Torstensson, Stenbock, have been shorn
of none of their glory.

In _Charles XII_ Strindberg repeats the offence committed in _Gustavus
Adolphus_. With irreverent and destructive hands Charles XII broke the
greatness of Sweden,[1] builded by Gustavus Adolphus, and Strindberg
mercilessly analyses the foolhardy mind of Charles XII, through which
his campaigns and his country were foredoomed to disaster.

The attacks made upon Strindberg by those who cling to stereotyped
methods of historical judgment have but served to show the importance
of the method which he inaugurated. It will undoubtedly guide the
historian of the future. The average historian moulds his material to
the conventional view; he has no place for the shapes of originality
which, but for his cramped pages, would stand forth lifelike and real.
Mr. William Archer tells us that the historical dramatist must not
flagrantly defy or disappoint popular knowledge or prejudice. But
popular knowledge can take no account of the deeper psychological
traits which it is the business of the historical dramatist to
discover. Mr. Archer holds that the dramatist must not run counter to
"generally accepted tradition." "New truth, in history," he adds, "must
be established either by new documents, or by a careful and detailed
reinterpretation of old documents; but the stage is not the place
either for the production of documents or for historical exegesis."[2]
Those who thus separate the known past from the revivifying influence
of imaginative art seek to impose the academic view of history upon the
artistic conscience. That conscience is never free from impressions
of the accumulated experience of the past. Every play which depicts
yesterday's customs, manners, costumes, conflicts of thought and
morality is "historical," and artistic exegesis alone can make real
to us that which is absent from school treatises, statistics and
blue-books.

The series of plays which have been designated as symbolical,
transcendental, mystical and mad--according to the mental outlook of
the reader--bring us nearest to the real Strindberg, to the essential
in his imaginative art which, though illusive and often completely
submerged, yet stands forth as the structure of his life. To this
series belong _To Damascus_, I and II (1898), _Advent_ (1899), _The
Dance of Death_, I and II (1901), _Easter_ (1901), _The Crown Bride_
(1902), _Swanwhite_ (1902), _The Dream Play_ (1902), _The Great
Highway_ (1909). In these plays we have the eternal questions of the
human mind, the joys of illusion, the sorrows of knowledge, the fruits
of sin and hatred, the rise through pain and suffering, the soul's
battle with relentless fate, the awful mystery of existence, and the
ultimate hope of something better to come, cast into the weird and
haunting shapes of the people of Strindberg's inner world; the souls
that are at once real and unreal, mad and sane, acting in the solid
world of matter, and held in shadowy bondage by the mists of dreamland.
Here we meet them all, the souls that have gone by, that are here
around us, that are yet to come. They meet us with tears and smiles,
with lies and truth, with virtue and vice, pathetic and repulsive,
lovable and loathsome--humanity.

[Illustration: Strindberg in his library in the "Blue Tower," 1911. His
Last Home in Stockholm]

Strindberg suggests the soul's corruption and the soul's ineffable
sweetness with the same impassioned power of creation. In _Swanwhite_,
the charming fairy play in which the influence of Maeterlinck is
discernible, the budding love between a fairy-like princess and a
chivalrous prince is described with a delicacy which brings the reader
into a land of romance and roses, of stainless purity and spring-like
innocence. In _Advent_ we are brought into the house of wickedness, of
cruel, designing, ancient wickedness. The old judge and his wife are
steeped in every variety of human treachery and vileness. They die, and
we follow them into the darkness of hell, where the seven deadly sins
have grouped themselves around the throne of the monarch. Through the
pain of being made to see themselves as they really are, they cry out
for light. In both pieces the "supernatural" plays the most important
part; the wicked stepmother in _Swanwhite_ exhales a breath of evil
before which the rose fades, and the dove falls dead; the ill-treated
children in _Advent_ are comforted by a mysterious playmate, clad in
white, who brings light into the dark cellar in which they have been
imprisoned. The story in _The Crown Bride_ of a peasant girl, who kills
her child, is told with an exalted simplicity, and given a setting
of the old fairy-faith of Dalecarlia which peoples the rivers with
nature-spirits and the forests with _trolls_. Here, as in the other
fairy plays, things are endowed with souls, and the fierce hatred
between the two old peasant families is reflected by every object that
surrounds them. Unknown forces are all the time engaged in a mystic
underplay which is the real action of the piece.

The law of _karma_--the chain of cause and effect--runs through all
these plays, and binds together the psychological sequence where the
dramatic construction fails. In _Easter_ Strindberg has drawn the
anguish of a little bourgeois family, labouring under the misfortunes
following upon the father's defalcations. He is in prison, and Elis,
his son, a schoolmaster, who is meticulously honest, is weighed down
by shame, and tormented by the fear that the man to whom the father
is heavily indebted, will exercise his right and seize the furniture.
The family look upon this man, Lindkvist, as an ogre, and when they
learn that he has come to live in the same town they are in constant
fear that he will ruin them. Throughout the three acts of this very
playable piece Strindberg gives a highly finished and concentrated
picture of those multiple and long-lived sufferings of the innocent,
which follow in the wake of transgressions committed by the guilty.
But he makes Lindkvist an arbiter of fate, a messenger of hope who
shows that good as well as evil is minutely recorded in the great Book
of Events. For long ago when Elis' father was a young man, and before
he placed himself within the meshes of the law, he did Lindkvist a
kindness. That kindness has never been forgotten; it lay like a seed
of life in Lindkvist's soul, and, as it grew, it made him a generous
man. And thus Lindkvist forgives and forgets, and the spirit of Easter
is resurrected in the hearts of the family. Eleonora, the pure and
tender-spirited girl who went mad on the day when her father was sent
to prison, is wrongfully suspected of having stolen a daffodil plant in
the shop of the adjoining florist. The symbolism of the piece is made
complete by the strange play of the shadow of paternal crime on the
guiltless child. In her mad innocence of the world's ways Eleonora has
taken the flowerpot and left a shilling and her name on the counter,
but the coin and the name are not seen by the agitated shopkeeper who
is anxious to brand the suspected culprit. The "theft" is at last
satisfactorily explained. Eleonora speaks with the wisdom of many lives
when she says: "I was born old ... I knew everything already when I
was born, and when I learnt something I only recollected. When I was
four years old I knew men's ... thoughtlessness and foolishness, and
therefore people were unkind to me."

The force of suggestion, the primary importance of thought form the
keynote of several of Strindberg's plays. In _Eric XIV_ he lets Göran
Persson say to Eric: "King and friend, you so often use the word hate
that at last you imagine yourself to be the enemy of humanity. Don't
use it! The word is the first realisation of the creative force, and
you throw a spell over yourself by this incantation. Say 'love' a
little oftener, and you will imagine yourself loved." _There are Crimes
and Crimes_, a play in four acts which has been a great theatrical
success, is built around the subtle force of evil thought. Maurice, a
dramatist of the Bohemian world in Paris, who is about to receive the
laurels of fame deserts his mistress and his child to follow a woman
bent on pleasure only; in the elation of their passion they wish death
to Maurice's child and destruction to all obstacles in their way. The
child dies mysteriously in the morning, and through a combination of
malign circumstances Maurice is accused of being the murderer. He is
innocent, but he has sinned in thought, and when, at the end of the
fourth act, he is mercifully extracted from the vortex, into which he
has brought himself, the Abbé says to him: "You were not innocent,
for we are also responsible for our thoughts, words, desires, and you
murdered in thought when your evil will wished for the death of your
child."

_There are Crimes and Crimes_ does full justice to Strindberg as an
accomplished stage craftsman; in _The Dance of Death_ we have, perhaps,
the most sharply chiselled dramatic form of all his later plays. It is
a symphony of married hatred and misery in which the orchestration is
perfect. The dialogue is at once natural and calculated; the silent
play of the piece even more intensely suggestive than the spoken
words. We get glimpses of the dramatic art of bygone days: that of
Æschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; we are mercilessly ground in the
mill of a ghastly nineteenth-century problem play. The figure of the
Captain of the Fortress, the untruthful, scheming old rascal who has
attained to a diabolical mastery in the art of making others unhappy
and uncomfortable, is drawn with a supreme irony which makes it unique
in vital drama. Amongst Strindberg's realistic plays it has another
distinction: it represents his only stage-creation of a vampire-like
_husband_. The wife is naturally not far behind him. Death stands
behind the central figures of the play, the dancing death of Holbein
and Saint-Saëns. The strains of his tune drown the jarring notes of
conflict, and bring the voice of hope to the Captain's lips: "Wipe
out, and pass on!"

The trilogy _To Damascus_, with its autobiographical wanderings on the
crooked paths of experience, is perhaps the strangest literary play
ever written. It contains the elements of the old miracle and morality
plays, the soul's battle with itself and with the Devil, its final
renouncement of the world and entry into the new Life. "The Stranger"
meets "The Lady"; together they journey from station to station on
the road of suffering and disillusionment. They part in hatred, and
meet again in the vicissitudes of love. They separate finally as
The Stranger attains to peace, religious peace, in the monastery of
dead passions on the top of the hill. The stages that He between the
beginning and the end of the journey are described in scenes which are
both possible and impossible. The Beggar, The Doctor, The Sister, The
Mother, The Old Man, The Confessor, The Abbess, The Fool, The Shadows,
and The Children all take their assigned parts as separate individuals.
And yet they seem to be one and the same, fragments of a multiple
personality. All things and all thoughts come back in this play like
the top spun by a skilful player of diabolo. The Stranger climbs a
mountain, and arrogantly threatens the Lord of the skies with a cross
which he has snatched from a Calvary. He falls, and is found in raving
delirium by the kind Samaritans of the Convent who bring him to their
hospital. He regains consciousness, and finds himself seated at a table
in the Refectory in company with the shades of all whom he has injured,
or with whose fate his own is bound up. The scene is one of the deepest
religious realism. It has a touch of that crushing and unreasonable
sense of guilt which often accompanies the return to physical life of
one who has been to the very gates of death. The curse of Deuteronomy
is read by The Confessor, and every word brands the memory of The
Stranger with the seal of The Law. Of this consciousness of guilt The
Stranger says: "There are moments when I feel as if I carried within me
all the sin and sorrow and uncleanliness and shame of the world; there
are moments when I believe that the wicked act, crime itself, is an
imposed punishment."

The world gives a banquet in honour of The Stranger, who has succeeded
in making gold. But the banquet is so arranged as to show the envy
and hatred and treachery which lie behind the festive speeches,
the fickleness of public approval. In the portrait gallery of the
monastery The Stranger is shown the real selves of great men who have
been honoured for their consistency, whilst they have been bundles
of inconsistencies--Napoleon, Luther, Voltaire, Goethe, Bismarck.
The yearning for the peace that passeth all understanding is well
expressed when The Stranger, bruised and tired, weary of searching and
self-disgust, sees the white monastery on the hill and cries:

"Anything so white I never before beheld on this dirty earth, except in
my dreams; yes, this is my youth's dream of a house wherein dwell peace
and purity. I greet thee, white house.... Now, I am at home."

It is as if the heat of imagination, which produced some of
Strindberg's great books, were too great to permit him to leave a
subject, when, artistically, it is finished. After _Inferno_ he wrote
Legends which was but a faint echo. The theme of _To Damascus_ is
weakly repeated in _The Great Highway_, a drama in verse and prose
which also deals with the soul's fearful struggle and disillusionment.
_To Damascus_ contains some shallow thoughts and some banalities of
expression, but it is a powerful creation, magnificently conceived. In
_The Great Highway_ the mysticism falls flat, the play does not grip by
any poetic power; it is an _olla podrida_ of its author's philosophy
of life which sometimes is not even lukewarm. But it does contain some
gems of lyrical beauty, and one or two passages in which Strindberg
reaches his own heights.

The _Dream Play_ is a new conception and a new art. In a memorandum to
the play Strindberg writes: "In this Dream Play, as in the previous
one _To Damascus_, the author has sought to imitate the disconnected,
but apparently logical form of the dream. Anything may happen;
everything is possible and probable. Time and space do not exist;,
on an insignificant background of reality imagination spins threads
and weaves new patterns: a mixture of memories, experiences, free
fancies, absurdities and improvisations. The characters split, double,
multiply, evaporate, solidify, diffuse, clarify. But one consciousness
reigns above them all--that of the dreamer; it knows no secrets, no
incongruities, no scruples, no law."

The texture of _To Damascus_ is solid compared with that of _The Dream
Play_. The story of the descent of the Daughter of Indra into matter,
of human life as typified by The Glazier, The Officer, The Lawyer, The
Bill-poster and The Poet, is told without any dramatic sequence, such
as is required by the theatre of to-day. It is a play written for a
stage not yet built, to be performed by some diaphanous visitants from
the astral world. Strindberg calls _The Dream Play_ a Buddhistic and
proto-Christian drama. It is more than that: it is pre-cosmic.

The paradoxical versatility of a man who holds all the keys of
successful drama in his hands, and yet sacrifices the theatre to the
transcendentalism of his ideas, is not easily explained. Strindberg
told Dr. John Landquist, now editor of the posthumous edition of his
collected works, that he really found it difficult to write modern
plays, and that he loved pomp and circumstance in drama.[3] That
love is displayed in the sumptuous repast introduced into the second
part of _To Damascus_, at once coarsely barbaric and uncomfortably
ethereal, a strange combination of the Banquet of Life and the Swedish
_hors-d'œuvre_ table. And yet, this is the man who wrote the Chamber
Plays: _Storm, The Burned Lot, The Pelican, The Black Glove_ and _The
Spook Sonata_ (1907), in which the figures move, physical, yet free
from the three dimensions, impersonated ideas, brain-spectres who walk
the boards with unsteady feet. This is the man who wrote the preface
to _Lady Julie_, who sought the realisation of his theatrical ideal in
the one-act play with two or three characters, and who later came to
write _Gustavus Adolphus_ with fifty-four characters, _Midsummer_ with
thirty-two characters; who created twenty-four characters for _Gustavus
Vasa_, and twenty for _Eric XIV_ and _The Saga of the Folkungs_
respectively, and whose dramatic lavishness necessitated a succession
of five-act dramas. It seems strange that the author of saga plays,
like _The Journey of Lucky Peter_, and _The Keys of Heaven_, with its
parodied Sancho Panzaisms, should have composed _The Dance of Death_;
that the conscience-stricken visions of To Damascus should be followed
by _The Slippers of Abu Casem_. This ingenious "toy for children"
Strindberg dedicated to his youngest daughter, the little Anne-Marie,
on her sixth birthday.

The two great Norwegian dramatists presented an orderly development
in the choice of dramatic form, which makes the study of their art
an exercise in the logic of temperament. The natural romanticism of
Ibsen's early plays passed into the classical art of _Ghosts_. The
intellectual modernism of the later Ibsen was the ripeness anticipated
by every shrewd observer of the course of his mind. The art of Ibsen
is complex, yet simple. Born out of the depths of his love of truth
and his love of beauty, it arose, well-formed, palpable, a thing for
all the world to see and hear, an indictment of the gigantic social
fraud to which all must ultimately listen. It is essentially exoteric.
So is the art of the rival and minor playwright, Björnson, who has
given the world its most perfect dramatised sermons. Strindberg's art
is incalculable, subtle, the caprice of a spirit that cannot exhaust
itself: esoteric because it is ever rooted in the unconscious. His
plays may be read and seen by the many, but at present they will be
understood only by the few.

In versatility of dramatic form Hauptmann stands nearest Strindberg.
He has almost as many strings to his harp as the Swede--he has written
naturalistic plays and fairy drama, social plays and mystical drama,
farce, comedy, romance and realism. Both dramatists are impelled by
pity for human suffering, but the pity that guides Hauptmann, and
which is typified by _The Weavers_, is an elemental, earthbound pity,
concerned with food and poverty, lack of shelter and work. Strindberg's
pity is transcendentalised; it hovers round the greater mysteries of
existence itself, seeks to extract the human spirit from the curse of
illusions. Hence the absence of finality in his writings. No book gives
the impression of being quite finished; they all transmit the ache for
a new point of view. Whilst Maeterlinck has evolved a philosophy of
spiritualised tranquillity, and administers a soothing narcotic for
the Soul Rampant in the twilight of his charmed castles, Strindberg
walks on, acutely conscious of the thorns upon which he treads. Whilst
Björnson, satisfied, proclaims his ideal of physical purity, and throws
down _A Gauntlet_ at vice, Strindberg is haunted by the ideal of the
human soul's unattainable purity from dross. Whilst Bernard Shaw cuts
the world's perplexities with a joke, a flashing paradoxical joke,
Strindberg raises his bands in threatening condemnation at the God-head
Himself. In Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's _Elën_, Samuel says to Goetze:
"Science will not suffice. Sooner or later you will end by coming to
your knees." Goetze: "Before what?" Samuel: "Before the Darkness."
Strindberg was brought to his knees by the Darkness, but he rose with
the dawn that followed.

During the thirteen years that passed between the quiet celebration of
Strindberg's fiftieth birthday, and the national festivities with which
the Swedish people acclaimed him on January 22nd, 1912, his countrymen
were gradually made aware of his greatness. Men of all parties
fearlessly proclaimed his genius over the open grave, though some would
never have ventured to do so if they had not felt quite sure that he
could not prepare any further shocks of surprise.

It is impossible to present a study of the experiences which caused
the corrosive bitterness in Strindberg's attacks on everything and
everybody, without reference to the unjust and Pharisaical criticism
to which he had to submit. On the other hand, there can be no doubt
that it was difficult to live with Strindberg. The Swedes had to live
with him, and the household of those who set themselves up to guard the
propriety and integrity of literary art was day by day threatened by
his revolutionary ideas, his personal attacks on spotless individuals,
his coarse-grained descriptions of indescribable things. We must
therefore extend sympathy to his detractors as well as to him. There
is, besides, a reversionary power in the mere passage of time which
calls for special tolerance. The reviewers of the _Athenæum_ and
_Blackwood's Magazine_, who suggested that Ruskin's _Modern Painters_
had emanated from Bedlam, are more entitled to our sympathy than the
object of their criticism.

The Swedes have a peculiar fear of praising that which is their own.
They labour under a feeling that such praise is egotistical, blustering
and discourteous to others. In Swedish peasant homes the housewife
does honour to her guests by loud depreciation of the contents of her
house and its offerings, no matter how well-appointed the home may
be. The trait persists in the judgment of cultured people on national
qualities, art and literature. It is certainly graceful, and makes the
Swede an excellent companion, a polite and generous appreciator of the
talents of others. But it is inimical to the toleration of a forceful
and self-confident personality within one's own family or nation,
and favourable to the mediocritisation of boisterous originality.
If Strindberg had been an Italian or a Spaniard he would in all
probability have been the recipient of the Nobel Prize during his
life-time, in addition to posthumous honours.

[Illustration: Strindberg in his study, 1911.]

[Illustration: The Strindberg Theatre in Stockholm.]

In the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy (of Literature), the
late Dr. C.D. af Wirsén, Strindberg had a persistent enemy. Wirsén
acted as Secretary to the Academy from 1884 to his death in 1912, and
exercised considerable influence over the selection of recipients
of the Nobel Prize in literature which is awarded by the Swedish
Academy. To Wirsén who wrote idyllic and elegiac poetry, and who held
everything that is old in reverence, Strindberg was incomprehensible.
By his attacks on Strindberg, and also by his derisive criticism of
another free-thinking Swedish writer, Ellen Key,[4] Wirsén shows a
close resemblance to the type of foolish biographer for which Mr.
A.C. Benson has found an admirable name: the eagle-eating monkey.
There is a pseudo-aristocracy of mind which receives not truth in its
house, unless she be arrayed in garments of classical cut, and has
not journeyed along the highways of humankind. Wirsén looked upon
Strindberg as a parvenu of intelligence, just as certain academicians
regarded Spencer as a parvenu of science. Wirsén's diligent criticisms
of Strindberg range over twenty years,[5] and may in some measure
explain Strindberg's delusions of persecution. In 1882 Wirsén gave
qualified praise to _Master Olof_, and took the opportunity of
reminding his readers that _The Red Room_ was pervaded by "evil but
empty wit." His virtuous indignation over "the blasphemous effusions"
and "ridiculous vanity" of Strindberg's autobiography was sustained
by the discovery that it contained much boastfulness, but no solid
thought, and he searched in vain for any proof that the unlucky author
was--what he might have been--a noble, though eccentric personality. He
received _The Father_ with feelings of pity for he could see nothing
in it, but the impotence of a diseased imagination and a mixture of
coarseness and paradoxicality. When Comrades was published Wirsén
expressed his astonishment that such a play had found a publisher.
He dismissed _The Stronger_, as giving "no evidence of strength
in the composition. Anything weaker has seldom been put together."
He could find no artistic merit in _At the Edge of the Sea_. In
1897 he condemned _The Link_ and _Playing with Fire_ by declaring
that both were equally "unpleasant and painful." He naturally found
Strindberg's verses bad, and shuddered over their invectives of
hatred and revenge. When _Inferno_ was published he derived comfort
from announcing that Strindberg's intellect "has now gone to pieces,"
but recorded mournfully that the pen that wrote _Legends_ was as
evil as ever. Wirsén did not believe in Strindberg's delusions; he
claimed to see through them: they were nothing but coquetry with
the public, sensational advertisement. _To Damascus_ was to him "a
horrid and depressing work--excessively loathsome." The most unjust
of all Wirsén's accusations against Strindberg is, perhaps, that of
dulness. The autopsychological quest for truth in Strindberg's writings
bored Wirsén, and he thought others must be bored too. Between the
chastisements Wirsén exhibited a truly Christian forbearance, and
graced a corner of his literary column by beseeching Strindberg and his
followers to return to the path of goodness. He assured the sinners
that their return to sounder ideas and purer production would be met
with a warm welcome and undisguised joy in spite of the past.

But the prodigal son of Swedish literature did not return to the house
of the Academy. He had been well castigated for his brilliant satire on
that somnolent institution in The _New Kingdom_, but he continued to
mock "the Gods of Time" until the end of his days. In 1910 he took the
Academy to task for its admiration of Baron Klinkowström, a poetaster,
whose puerile and pompous verses were free from any menace to the
existing order of things.

It is true that Wirsén did not represent the whole of literary
criticism in Sweden. It is also true that Strindberg always had a small
circle of faithful followers who admired him, believed in him--and
copied him. But during the many years when Strindberg was absent from
Sweden a new school of literature was formed which was equally out of
touch with his early realism and his late mysticism. Oscar Levertin,
Werner von Heidenstam, Gustaf af Geijerstam and Selma Lagerlöf are
the most prominent names of modern Swedish literature. Geijerstam's
Erik Grane is an offshoot of early Strindbergism, and Heidenstam's
brilliant stories of the soldiers of Charles XII, _Karolinerna_, are
not without traces of the influence of Strindberg's _Swedish Destinies
and Adventures_. But Strindberg was always too sceptical to stake his
fortune on any particular breed of Pegasus. In his last two "terrible"
novels, _The Gothic Rooms_ (1904) and _Black Flags_ (1907), he again
delivered himself of violent and personal attacks upon society in
general and the priests of literature and art in particular, thereby
widening the gulf that lay between him and them.

The many attacks made upon Strindberg in Sweden had one practical
effect which caused him bitter disappointment. Theatrical managers
fought shy of his plays. Fourteen years passed between the successful
production of _The Father_ in Paris and its performance in Stockholm.
_Lady Julie_ had to wait eighteen years before she was allowed to
appear in Stockholm. In 1906 the play had a run of several weeks at
"Folkteatern," in Stockholm, a playhouse for the working classes,
where the aristocratic lady's downfall was appreciated in a crude, but
wholehearted manner.

Whilst the theatrical managers of Sweden were hesitating as to the
expediency of allowing Strindberg to overshadow the stage, Herr
Lauthenburg gave popular performances at the "Residenz Theater" in
Berlin of _Creditors_, _Playing with Fire_ and _Facing Death_. Together
with Hauptmann and Ibsen, Strindberg now won theatrical triumphs all
over Germany.

The indifference shown in Sweden towards the performance of
Strindberg's plays led him to plan a Strindberg-Theatre to be run
on lines similar to those of the Théâtre Maeterlinck. After many
difficulties the plan was at last realised in the autumn of 1907, when
_The Intimate Theatre_ began its stormy career with _The Pelican, The
Burned Lot, Storm_, and the Hoffmanesque and elliptic _Spook Sonata_.
These plays were promptly attacked by critics who made little attempt
to understand them.

The efforts made in certain quarters to silence Strindberg could not
suppress the rising wave of admiration. When once the public had been
brought in touch with him, the anathema of the powerful literary
coterie was useless. In 1901 Herr Albert Ranft had courageously staged
_Gustavus Vasa_ and _Eric XIV_ at "Svenska Teatern" in Stockholm.
They became theatrical successes. "Dramatiska Teatern" followed suit
with _Charles XII_, _Easter_ and _There are Crimes and Crimes_. A
young Norwegian actress, Harriet Bosse, played the part of Eleonora
in _Easter_ with so much charm that she fascinated both audience and
author. She became a favourite actress and--Strindberg's third wife.
Several of Strindberg's great historical plays were performed before
the opening of his own Intimate Theatre. Though the change in public
opinion was making itself felt, Strindberg could not but resent the
tardy recognition of his works.

He was out of touch with the literary men of his own country. To them
he appeared as an outlander, and yet he was, withal, so intensely
Swedish. He sought in vain to denationalise himself. He was not
Swedish with the passionate, reverential love with which Dostoevsky
was Russian. Strindberg was Swedish in spite of his efforts to the
contrary; his country was in his blood and bones. When Herr A.
Babillotte,[6] a German writer, says of Strindberg: "He is without
roots ... though a Swede, he is certainly not Swedish," he shows scant
understanding of one of the mainsprings in Strindberg's character and
production. The statement is on a par with his contemptuous dismissal
of Strindberg's historical dramas.[7] These plays drew nourishment
from his love of his country, and derived actuality from his identity
with Sweden. His heart hankered after Sweden, and drove him home when
pride would have kept him away. In one of his first poems, entitled In
Paris, he sang wittily of his incorrigible heart's longing for Sweden,
despite the allurements of Montmartre. He felt lonely in Switzerland
because he had not spoken to a countryman for three months.

The difficulty in tracing Strindberg's literary ancestry in Sweden
is responsible for attempts to find his roots elsewhere. Thus Laura
Marholm elaborates a fantastic theory, according to which the mixture
of genius and nomadic barbarism in Strindberg is to be explained by
his "Mongolian blood." The union of mystic melancholy and exuberant
sensuousness in Strindberg caused close, but futile comparisons
to be made between him and E.J. Stagnelius, a Swedish poet of the
romantic school who died in 1823. But a greater number of points of
contact could be established between Strindberg and the "wizard" of
Swedish literature, K.J.L. Almqvist, who lived in open revolt against
authority and convention of all kinds, and whose prolific writings
showed a remarkable versatility of mind. Almqvist was a realist and
symbolist who loved to throw out paradoxical _bons-mots_ on current
morals with a generous hand. "Two things are white," he said, "...
innocence and arsenic." The amoral note of his writings and the general
bizarrerie of his metaphors may show a certain likeness to Strindberg,
but it vanishes upon closer comparison. Almqvist was not a dramatist.

Though without direct literary parentage in Sweden, Strindberg is the
most typical representative of his country's temperament and spiritual
struggles. His genius is indigenous in spite of its universality. His
is the race-consciousness which is enriched by contact with other
races, but which never loses its distinct quality.

He writes an idiomatic Swedish which, in a sense, is not reproducible
in another language. His sentences, whether in the dialogue of a drama,
or in the story of a novel, are wrought with a nervous force which
is untranslatable. His phrases seem to be innervated, warm-blooded
entities, and support the theory that the sentence preceded the word
in the evolution of speech. He is often ungrammatical; each sentence
is a living whole which cannot be divided. Analyse him with syntax and
dictionary, and you will find "mistakes" and startling neology. The
meaning will sometimes be obscure. But read him as you would listen
to a piece of music with your ear to the harmonics, and you will find
a consummate artist in words. Laura Marholm says that the sound of
Strindberg is like bell metal in Swedish, whilst it resembles tin in
German. There is much truth in the statement. Even the vigorous and
cogent translations into German by Herr Emil Schering cannot retain
the soul and magic of Strindberg's style. Translated from German into
English he is unrecognisable. The difficulty of fusing his meaning
and style in a new form is also apparent in the direct translations
into English which have been made. Some of his plays have been
sympathetically done into English by Herr Edwin Björkman. Mr. Björkman
quotes from an article in _The Drama_, in which the belief is expressed
that Strindberg's prose will be rendered better in "American" than in
English. Mr. Björkman's translations are certainly American rather
than English. The question whether this is an advantage to the style
and beauty of the translation is a matter of taste which it would be
invidious to discuss.

Strindberg never strove to build up a style, like Stevenson who "played
the sedulous ape" to Lamb, Wordsworth and Baudelaire. He knew nothing
of the terrible torture of style which made Flaubert's literary
labours a martyrdom. Ideas haunted Strindberg as they haunted Jules
de Goncourt, but he never experienced the slavery to literary form in
which the Goncourts lived. He did not live in order to write; he wrote
in order to live.

In an article of reminiscences by Madame Hélène Welinder,[8] who
spent the summer of 1884 with Strindberg and his family at Chexbres
in Switzerland, there is a vivid account of Strindberg's manner of
writing. He wrote with feverish restlessness, and tried to overcome
sleeplessness with large doses of bromide. She asked him if rest would
not be better than bromide. Strindberg put his hand to his forehead as
if in pain, and replied with a tone of despair: "I cannot rest, however
much I should like to. I must write for bread in order to maintain
wife and children, and, even apart from this, I cannot stop. Whether
I travel by train, or do anything else, my brain works incessantly,
it grinds and grinds like a mill, and I cannot make it stop. I get no
peace before I see my thoughts on paper, and then something new begins
immediately, and there is the same misery. I write and write, and do
not even read through what I have written."

This rapidity of composition was probably to some extent responsible
for the frequent repetitions of the same word within a short paragraph,
the careless tautology of ideas, situations and episodes in his
books. Many instances of such episode-repetition could be given. Thus
_Comrades_ and _Charles XII_ contain similar phrases about the woman
clipping the man's hair of strength, whilst his head rests in her lap.
_The Dream Play_ has several scenes which are "the doubles" of those
related in _Fairhaven and Foulstrand_. A certain event connected with
the tearing up of _The Swiss Family Robinson_ serves the author's
psychological purposes both in _To Damascus_ and in _The Dream Play_.
In _The Father_ Laura secretly abstracts the contents of her husband's
letter-bag, and in _To Damascus_ "The Lady" is guilty of the same
offence. Both in _Fairhaven and Foulstrand_ and in _To Damascus_ the
woman promises not to read a certain book by the man which deals with
his first marriage. She breaks the promise, and the disastrous effect
is related with emphasis in both books. In _The Dance of Death_ the
remorseless Captain calmly refers to his attempt to drown his wife by
pushing her into the water; the incident is more fully worked out in
_Fairhaven and Foulstrand_, and is the theme of a story in _Fisher
Folk_. Such repetitions cannot be attributed to poverty of imagination;
they are the outcome of a too retentive emotional memory and an
insistent need of expression, immediate expression.

It is curious to note that in spite of the richness and purity of his
Swedish, in which the living tongue of the people is heard as never
heretofore, there is not infrequently an admixture of foreign words and
expressions. That his early verse-play _In Rome_ should contain rhymes
on "jouissance" and "connaissance," coupled with Swedish words, and
that some of his early poems were adorned in the same manner is not
surprising. But when Göran Persson in _Eric XIV_ lightly throws out a
hybrid drawing-room phrase: "_Tant mieux_ for my enemies!" a jarring
note is introduced which is difficult to explain in a dialogue,
otherwise so carefully balanced. The habit of using root-words from
many languages, to which he gave Swedish shape, grew upon Strindberg
in later years. In the plays his characters suddenly begin to spout
Latin and Greek, like the philosophic beggar in _To Damascus_ and the
sergeant-major in _Gustavus Adolphus_. Such dramatic exercises in the
classics may have had a good and sufficient reason. The use of words of
foreign extraction was no doubt fostered by his familiarity with the
literature of many countries, and by the limitations of each language.
To this may be added his growing interest in philological research. A
short time before his death he was keenly at work on the etymology of
Finnish, Hebrew and Greek.

Uddgren's account of Strindberg's manner of working in 1907 shows that
the fever had not left him. "When I have finished my work for the day,"
Strindberg said, "I always note on a piece of paper what I shall begin
with the next day. The whole long afternoon and evening I collect
material for next day's work. During my morning walk my thoughts are
further condensed, and when I return from my wanderings I am charged
like an electric machine. I put on a dry vest, for after my walk I am
always very hot, and then I sit down at my writing-table. As soon as I
have paper and pen ready it bursts out. The words literally tumble over
me, and the pen works under high pressure in order to get everything
down on paper. When I have written for a while I have a feeling that I
am floating in space. Then it is as if a higher will than my own made
the pen glide over the paper, guide it to write down words which seem
to me entirely inspired."

The same ecstasy of writing is shown in _Alone_, where he says of his
life at the writing-table: "I live, and I live the manifold lives
of all the human beings I describe, happy with those who are happy,
evil with the evil ones, good with the good; I creep out of my own
personality, and speak out of the mouths of children, of women, of old
men; I am king and beggar, I have worldly power, I am the tyrant and
the most despised of all, the oppressed hater of the tyrant; I hold all
opinions and profess all religions; I live in all times and have myself
ceased to be. This is a state which brings indescribable happiness."
These words remind us of Flaubert who felt "in the space of a minute
a million thoughts, images and combinations of all kinds, throwing
themselves into my brain at once as it were the lighted squibs of
fire-works,"[9] and recall the plastic and yearning girl-soul of Marie
Bashkirtseff who, when walking in Rome, exclaimed: "I want to be Cæsar,
Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Caracalla, the Devil, the Pope," and who
adds: "I love to weep, I love to be in despair. I love to be grieved
and sad ... and I love life in spite of everything."

Amiel, remembering a night when he lay stretched full length on the
sandy shore of the North Sea, cries: "Will they ever return to me,
those grandiose, immortal, cosmogonic dreams, in which one seems to
carry the world in one's breast, to touch the stars, to possess the
infinite?"[10] Amiel dreamt, Strindberg created; Amiel found literary
exultation in dreamy contemplation of the universe, Strindberg in the
spiral revolutions of humanity.

But sometimes the joy of literary creation gave way to profound
self-disgust. "What an occupation," he writes in _The Quarantine
Master's Tales_,[11] "to sit and flay one's fellow-humans, offer the
skins for sale, and expect people to buy them. It is like the famished
hunter who cuts off his dog's tail, eats the meat himself, and gives
the bones to the dog, the dog's own bones. To go about spying out
people's secrets, exposing the birthmark of one's best friend, using
one's wife as a vivisection rabbit, storming like a Croat, cutting
down, violating, burning and selling. The devil take it all."

[Illustration: Harriet Bosse, Strindberg's third wife as Biskra in
_Samum_ 1902.]

[Illustration: Anne-Marie Bosse-Strindberg, Strindberg's only child in
his third marriage. Born 1902.]

Strindberg's style expands to fit his wild excursions into the world
of ideas and his eccentricities of conception, such as the story of
when he tried to catch dead "souls" with a bottle containing sugar
of lead, on the Montparnasse cemetery,[12] or that of the madman's
microscopical studies of the genesis of humanity in _At the Edge
of the Sea_. His expressions and metaphors often bear the imprint
of overwrought feeling, as when he speaks of the "blood-poisoning
cares of the household," or when the impression produced by a visit
to parents-in-law is that "of a serpent's hole into which Satan had
enticed him." When he describes poor people asleep at night in
a railway carriage, as presenting the appearance of corpses on a
battlefield and scattered human limbs, we cannot but congratulate
ourselves on the dulness of our imagination.

Strindberg's "wildness" has been falsely attributed to the influence of
alcohol. His use of absinthe, and his habit of heaping all sins upon
himself--including that of drunkenness--account for the fable that
he was incapable of writing without the aid of alcoholic excesses.
He cannot even be placed in the long list of literary and artistic
"drunkards "--including the names of Bums, Byron, Charles Lamb,
Addison, Musset, Hoffmann, Poe and Baudelaire--to whom alcohol was a
means of attaining to inspiration. Strindberg did not seek cortical
excitation. He sought oblivion. In _The Great Highway_, "The Hunter"
says to "The Wanderer" (Strindberg): "Mr. Incognito, why do you
drink so much?" _The Wanderer_: "Because I am always lying on the
operating-table, and have to chloroform myself."

He was not a man who suffered from chronic congestion of the head
in consequence of indifference to all hygienic laws. Ever since the
early days when he used to throw himself headlong into the open sea
from a rock, he was devoted to cold-water ablutions. His morning
exercise, which sometimes was taken so vehemently as to tire him out
completely, was part of the routine of daily life. In his home-life he
was of methodical, orderly habits; he detested alike uncleanliness and
untidiness--in fact, precisely the opposite of what some people have
imagined him to be.

The roots of his "wildness" cannot be found in the fumes of alcohol.
There was a strain of the publicist and the agitator in Strindberg
which found but an insufficient outlet. His craving for social reform
was not satisfied by corresponding activity. He suffered from too much
happening within him, and too little without. His stored-up energy
caused a series of eruptions. Strindberg was an orator afflicted with
dumbness. His faults of style are those of the typical orator. The
splendour and vigour of his phrasing often hide blunders of logic
and hasty conclusions. If Strindberg had met audiences face to face,
like Björnson, and been in actual touch with the people, his tongue
would have lost its sting. Björnson's pulpit manner would have fitted
Strindberg badly, but it would have protected him against himself.

But Strindberg could not be a public speaker. Though he was essentially
a "Confessor" on paper of the race of St. Augustine and Chateaubriand,
he dreaded the personal jostling and exhibition which are inseparable
from political life. Loneliness was necessary to him. The emanations,
opinions and habits of others were apt to oppress him, if brought too
closely within his own circle. In Paris he fled from his friendship
with Jonas Lie; in _Inferno_ he shows this dread of paying the taxes
of friendship. He felt the identity of other people pressing on him
in much the same way as Keats did. In company he did not like to be
contradicted. Though a genial and generous host, he could turn friends
out of his house if they proved themselves possessed of too great
pugnacity of argument. "I have never hated human beings, rather the
reverse," he says, "but ever since I was born I fear them."

This fear of an alien invasion of the soul, of losing himself in
another, made him flee again and again from the prison-house of love.
In all his books the attraction between man and woman is a duel
between love and hatred. Sexual love is never spiritualised; it drags
man into the illusions of Maya, it robs him of strength of purpose,
of intellectual freedom. Hence Strindberg's men are ever struggling
to get out of the clutches of woman. When the ties are too strong
to be broken, when passion obscures reason, hatred is born. Anatole
France calls himself "a philosophical monk." The monk is always by
Strindberg's side, pointing out the degradation of carnal love, urging
him to seek liberation at all costs. But he is not yet ready. He wants
to go, and he wants to stay. And all his couples, autobiographical and
purely imaginative, bum in the fires of love-hatred. "I love her," he
writes in Inferno, "and she loves me, and we hate each other with a
wild hatred, born of love, which is intensified by the great distance."
In _Fairhaven and Foulstrand_ the lover says: "At bottom we hate
each other, because we love each other. We are afraid of losing our
personalities through the assimilating power of love, and therefore we
must break away sometimes so as to feel that I am not you...."

After some time love always becomes irksome to Strindberg. He longs for
male companionship. He experiences a sense of relief when he is free
from the woman, from the consciousness of always being watched. His
voice resumes its manly tones, his chest expands. This trait subsists
in his stories; it makes marital happiness impossible.

He can describe the marriage of souls with exquisite delicacy, the
first hours of newborn tenderness, the maiden's innocence, the youth's
wonder at the miracle which is taking place within his heart, the
chaste abandonment of reserve before the unifying power of love. But
when once love has descended from Heaven to Earth, Strindberg does
not leave the lovers in peace. From earth's paradise they are driven
to hell; they must hate each other, torment each other, devour each
other's substance with the cruelty of vampires. Even the first kiss is
fraught with untold dangers. In _Midsummer_--a sunny play emphasising
the worth of man and the dignity of work, remarkably free from
distressing problems--this pathological trait is introduced. Julius, a
healthy young gardener, kisses Louise, his sweetheart, on the mouth,
and the demoniacal depths of human nature are immediately revealed to
both. Julius begins to understand the meaning of hatred, and gives
utterance to startling thoughts. Louise no longer recognises his voice.
"Why did you kiss me?" says Julius, "we ought never to have done
that." "What happened?" says Louise. "I have just read in a book,"
answers Julius, "that when two innocent bodies, carbon and nitrogen,
unite a dreadful poison is formed. The poison has been born on our lips,
and hatred has been born out of our innocent love."

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Bust by Max Levi, 1893.]

[Illustration: August Strindberg--Bust by Agnes Kjellberg-Frumerie, 1896.]

Shakespeare married a shrew. She served as an excellent model for his
portraits of angry women. Led by a malignant fate Strindberg married
three women who had interests outside the home. He loved _the ideal_
of the womanly woman, the mother who lives for home and children. He
came to detest the intellectual woman; she was to him the man-woman, a
danger to the race, the enemy of man who steals his qualities because
she is bent on his destruction.

In _The Confession of a Fool_ his love for his first wife suffers at
an early stage through the necessary introduction of business into the
divorce arrangements. "Where is the charm of a woman who is always worn
out with contention, whose conversation bristles with legal terms?" he
asks plaintively. In _Fairhaven and Foulstrand_ the second story of the
Quarantine Master shows the same sad development: "... But this evening
he found her ugly, carelessly dressed, with ink on her fingers, and
her conversation was so business-like that she appeared to him in a
detestable light." "A lady," he says in one of his essays on the art
of the theatre, "must never be snappish or grumpy, even if her part is
one of opposition. A lady should always be graceful, even in moments of
anger."

Already as a youth he found it difficult to talk sense to girls.
He denied that friendship could exist between the two sexes. The
presence of emancipated and "free" women was sufficient completely
to disorganise his work and temper. He told Uddgren that he did not
feel happy in Switzerland, because he found women enjoying the same
freedom as men in marriage. "I experienced a sense of peace when I
came to Bavaria where the men are the rulers in marriage, and the
women are obedient and faithful. The mere fact of returning to these
old-fashioned, patriarchal conditions was sufficient to restore my
literary powers which, during the last time in Switzerland, had been in
abeyance."

In an essay entitled _Woman-Hatred and Woman-Worship_, published
in 1897, Strindberg wrote: "As I have the reputation of being a
woman-hater, and people amuse themselves by calling me one, I am
forced to ask myself if I really am one. On looking back at my past
life I discover that, ever since I became man, I have always lived
in regular relations with women, and that their presence has aroused
pleasant feelings in me, in so far as they have remained women towards
me. But when they have behaved as the rivals of man, neglected their
beauty and lost their charm, I have detested them by dint of a natural
and sound instinct, for in them I sensed something of man, and an
element of my own sex which I detest from the bottom of my heart....
Consequently, as I have been married twice and had five children, it is
not very likely that I should be a woman-hater."

"The most beautiful thing I know," says The Stranger to The Lady in _To
Damascus_, "is a woman bent over her needlework or her child." And The
Lady crochets. The good women in his plays are all fitted for "the most
beautiful thing": Gunlöd in _The Outlaw_, Margaretha in _The Secret of
the Guild_, Karin in _Eric XIV_.

The following passage throws light, not only on Strindberg's attitude
towards women, but on the attitude of women towards him: "To return
to woman was to me to come back to nature, and in a corner of my soul
I made myself unconscious, instinctive, a child, and thus renewed my
power to think, act and fight.... I have always worshipped women, these
enchanting, criminal minxes whose worst crimes are not registered in
criminal statistics. But I have had sufficiently bad--or good--taste
to tell them the troth, and they have revenged themselves by calling
me woman-hater. Just think, if these priestesses of revenge knew
how many successes with the fair sex their revenge has brought me!
Inquisitiveness, the original sin of Eve, drew the little ingénues
to the monster, and the monster put no obstacles in the way for even
the most inquisitive to satisfy their curiosity ... many thanks, my
charming enemies."

It is little wonder that a man so constituted should be appalled at
the prospect of the New Woman with her independence, her clubs, her
cigarettes, her politics, her sport. Monsieur Casimir Dudevant, the
husband of George Sand, who was "just an ordinary man" was at first
puzzled by his wife's extraordinary qualities, and then came to the
conclusion that she was "idiotic." Poor Monsieur Dudevant! He was the
forerunner of a long row of perplexed husbands, injured in their sense
of the fitness of things. Strindberg merely made himself a spokesman
for what the majority of masculine men feel in regard to intellectual
women, even though they may not be capable of expressing it. Since he
abandoned his early championship of woman's suffrage, he came to utter
much bad and ill-tempered abuse of woman. Some of the things which he
said of "lazy, stingy and cowardly woman," of her mental and physical
inferiority to man, might well be included in Flaubert's _Dossier de la
Sottise Humaine_. His arguments in favour of the theory that woman is
an intermediary biological form, whose development has been arrested
somewhere between man and youth, are interesting but unconvincing. The
evidence he offers in support of his views on the general incapacity
of woman--an incapacity which ranges from the handling of musical
instruments to making coffee--bears the imprint of petulance rather
than research. Sometimes there is a cross and quarrelsome tone in these
utterances which reflects personal irritation, something of Alfred de
Musset's words in _Nuit d'Octobre_:

     Honte à toi, qui la première
     M'a appris la trahison...!

But, after all, there is not much difference between the reasons
against woman's political emancipation put forward by Strindberg, and
those to which Mrs. Humphry Ward clings. And there is a close affinity
between the psychological and physiological arguments against woman's
suffrage, advanced in leading articles in _The Times_, and those on
which Strindberg based his objections to giving women greater freedom.
The dread of the subjection of man, of a general feminisation of the
world, and its effects on social life and politics, is the common
ground of opposition.[13]

Some people have found an appropriate analogy in the fact that
Strindberg "hated," not only women, but dogs. The hatred of dogs
pervades his books, and has a note of the same bitter unreasonableness
as his strictures on women. His first wife had a King Charles, "a
blear-eyed little monster," which apparently received more loving
attention than her husband. She even "prayed for dogs, fowls and
rabbits," whilst, presumably, she did not pray for him. This was
intolerable, and henceforth the dog became Strindberg's symbol of the
worthless recipients of the good things of this world, of sneaking
cupboard-love and uncleanliness. He has surpassed the Bible in
contemptuous references to the dog.

From this hatred the rest of the animal world was exempt. He cautions
the angler against inflicting unnecessary suffering on the worm. He
feeds the birds on his window-sill and the bear in the Zoo. He tells
a story of a certain island where all the people were abominable
drunkards, and where the only eyes which could still reflect
intelligence and the blue sky were those of animals. He is not in
sympathy with the aimless destruction of life. "Why must one always
have a gun when one sees an innocent creature in the forest?" he asks,
and adds: "There are other occasions in life when a gun would be of
better use." In _The Crown Bride_ the life of an ant is spared, and the
mystic "White Child" proclaims the love that is greatest of all, "love
for every living thing, great and small."

Strindberg's life in Stockholm during the last years of his great
dramatic production flowed in a calm stream, the surface of which
showed no signs of the storms within. He lived the life of a literary
hermit, wrapped up in his studies and his art. He took his morning
walks when the greater part of Stockholm was still asleep, and received
only a few privileged friends in his home. Solitude had become his best
friend. In the morning he made his own coffee, and partook of a light
repast before going out. As a rule he lived frugally, and his little
home was arranged with the greatest simplicity. "When I get out of bed
the morning after a sober evening and a restful night, life itself is
a distinct enjoyment. It is like rising from the dead," he says in
_Alone_.

Poverty, the faithful companion of his youth, dung to him to the end.
Even during the last years he was often in monetary difficulties; in
his attacks upon the powers of the day he had no thought of what the
morrow would bring to him. He had again and again to pay the penalty
of speaking unpopular truths. And when money came his way he did not
love it well enough to make it stay with him. He gave with a lavish,
careless hand, with a heart ever warm and bleeding for those who had
less than he. When, on his last birthday, a purse containing 50,000
kronor had been presented to him, as a token of the people's love and
admiration, he gave away large sums to the cause of peace, to the poor.
When, at last, a great publisher bought the rights of all his published
works in Sweden for some £11,000, the affluence came too late--for him.

In 1901 he married Harriet Bosse who had been the sympathetic
interpreter on the stage of the women in some of his plays. The
marriage was amicably dissolved in 1904. During his third marriage he
wrote _The Dance of Death_ and _Swanwhite_, and published a volume
of poems, in which his lyrical powers were perfected through greater
sensitiveness and restraint. Among these poems there is one, strange
and beautiful, spiritual and earthly, in which he sings of the glory of
the form of woman--the theme of artists and lovers since the beginning
of time--but here treated in a new manner. In her he sees the motion of
stars and planets, the lines of sphere, parabola and ellipse. He sees
the infinite possibilities of the Cosmic procession, of the creative,
ever-moving force, the highest and the lowest, in the symbol of the
eternally feminine.

The "music of the spheres" has been captured in this little poem. It
is strange how often one is constrained to use musical metaphors in
describing Strindberg's style. There is always music in his language.
He was conscious of this himself, for in his last plays he always chose
music to fit the mood of his dramatic movement. Thus the spiritual
peace of _Easter_, the change from fear of fate to certainty of God's
presence, is accompanied by Haydn's _Sieben Worte des Erlösers_, the
sinful thoughts of Maurice and Henriette in _There are Crimes and
Crimes_ are followed by the finale of Beethoven's Sonata in D minor.
_The Dream Play_ is interluded with Bach's Toccata con Fuga; the _Dance
of Death_ is trodden to the tune of the "Entry of the Boyars."

Over his piano there hung a death-mask of Beethoven. The final movement
of the "Moonlight Sonata" was to him the highest interpretation of
humanity's yearning for deliverance. Music brought him peace. It gave
him strength when words failed--even during the last days when he sat
at his piano, improvising variations on the Death hymn of the Titanic.
Strindberg's old friend Tor Aulin, the well-known Swedish composer,
received a characteristic message from Strindberg's deathbed: "A last
farewell from Saul to David."

[Illustration: Strindberg's Funeral, May 19th, 1912. Trades-Unions and
Undergraduates in Procession.]

The little Anne-Marie Bosse-Strindberg, his daughter in the last
marriage, was very dear to his heart. He had found her gifted with
something of the second sight which was his own, and his great
tenderness for children found response in her. Amongst his three
children by the first marriage his daughter Greta, married to Dr.
Henry von Philp in Stockholm, understood him best. She was an actress,
and took the part of Kerstin in _The Crown Bride_ during the national
festivities in his honour in January, 1912. Happily he did not live
to mourn over the tragic fate that overtook her. She was killed in
a terrible railway accident which took place a few weeks after her
father's death.

The illness which was to end his life had long been battling with his
wonderful vitality. He caught cold during the Christmas of 1911, when
he went to pay a visit to his daughter Greta. Pneumonia supervened and
laid him low for some time. He regained strength and once again put on
his warrior's armour. Of this illness he gave an account in Berliner
Tageblatt of February 4th, 1912. After describing an etymological
challenge which he had sent to three Finnish friends he writes:

"The challenge had hardly been accepted before I fell ill; I first
noticed it on the morning of Christmas Day, when I was so tired, so
tired, that I would neither get up, nor drink my coffee. I had no
pains, but experienced a great calm and an indifference towards the
outer world, and felt as if I had at last found peace. Usually I get
up punctually at seven, take a walk, and hurry home, driven by an
irresistible longing for work. Now this restlessness had left me; I
felt my life-work was completed. I had said all I wished to say, and my
unprinted manuscripts were put away in perfect order in boxes."

But the recovery was apparent only. The real trouble was cancer of the
stomach. An operation was performed, but could not check the advance of
the disease.

On January 22nd, 1912, the whole Swedish nation celebrated his
sixty-third birthday. It was nearly too late. The breath of death was
already upon him as he stood on his balcony, waving his hand to the
torchlight procession which passed his house, bending his head before
the deafening cheers which rose from the multitudes, from whose lips
the cry for August Strindberg rose in tones of jubilant hero-worship.
As he stood there, raised above the bands and banners of the festive
acclamation, it may be that the memories of past mistakes, past
humiliation, and past struggle for goodness, rose within that mighty
brow, and kept pace with the steps of the marching crowd below. For he
knew, as few have known, the comedy and the tragedy of life.

That night the theatres of Stockholm vied with each other in performing
his plays. Laurel-wreathed busts and portraits of Strindberg were
on view in the foyers and restaurants. The night came with public
festivities in his honour, music and speeches of approbation.

But the dramatist remained at home in his Blue Tower with a few
friends. The applause of the public touched his heart, but did not
deceive him. He knew that the curtain was about to fall on his part in
the perpetual performance in the Theatre of Life, and that new scenes
were to follow, to be hissed and applauded until Time puts its last
figure upon the stage.


[1] In 1658 the kingdom of Sweden included the whole of the present
Sweden and Finland, and in addition Esthonia, Livonia, part of
Ingermanland, Pomerania, Wismar, Bremen and Verden.

[2] _Play-Making. A Manual of Craftsmanship_, by William Archer.

[3] Idun, May, 1912.

[4] Ellen Key's _Lifsåskådning och Verksamhet som Författarinna_. En
undersökning af C.D. af Wirsén.

[5] Kritiker, af C.D. af Wirsén.

[6] August Strindberg. _Das Hohe Lied seines Lebens_, von Arthur
Babillotte.

7:
 "Ich halte Strindberg's historische Dramen für das
Schwächste was er je geschrieben."

[8] _Ord och Bild_, No. IX, 1912.

[9] Correspondence.

[10] Amiel's Journal.

[11] _Fairhaven and Foulstrand_.

[12] _Fables and Other Stories_.

[13] The reader is referred to the following leading articles:
_Insurgent Hysteria_ (March 16th, 1912), _The Subjection of Man_ (July
31st, 1912), and _Militant Suffragism_ (September 24th, 1912).



LIST OF STRINDBERG'S CHIEF WRITINGS


A uniform edition of Strindberg's collected works is in course of
publication by Messrs. Albert Bonnier of Stockholm, who are the owners
of the copyright of Strindberg's writings. The following list includes
some unpublished works which will now be issued for the first time by
Messrs. Bonnier.

In a preface to _The Author_, one of the autobiographical volumes,
Strindberg gave a chronological list of his most important works,
and added explanatory remarks. The appended notes embody some of
Strindberg's views on his own writings:


  The Freethinker                     1869
  Hermione                            1869
  In Rome                             1870
  The Outlaw                          1871
  Master Olof                         1872
  The Year 'Forty-Eight               1881

"In Rome," "The Outlaw," and "Hermione" are classified by Strindberg as
"studies."

  From Fjärdingen and Svartbäcken     1877 Stories
  The Red Room                        1879 Novel
  From the Sea                        1880}
  Here and There                      1880} Stories
  Old Stockholm                       1880}

He and She....

(To be published for the first time in the posthumous edition of
Strindberg's Collected Works.)

  The Secret of the Guild             1880}
  Sir Bengt's Wife                    1882} Plays
  The Journey of Lucky Peter          1883}
  Studies in the History of Culture   1881
  The Swedish People               1881-82  History.
  The New Kingdom                     1882  Satirical sketches
  Swedish Destinies and Adventures
   (Two Volumes)                   1883-92  Stories in Historical Setting.

Strindberg defines "The New Kingdom" as a criticism of "The Changeably
Permanent."

  Poems in Verse and Prose            1883
  Somnambulistic Nights after
    Wakeful Days                      1884
  Miscellanea (Likt och Olikt) Essays: Society under Review.
  From Italy                          1884
  Married (Two Volumes)            1884-86 Stories.

Strindberg points out that the first volume of "Married" is a defence
and glorification of marriage, of home, mother, and child, and that the
second part is a criticism.

  The Impoundage Journey

An account of the prosecution following upon the publication of
"Married." It will now be issued in book-form.

  Real Utopias                        1885 Stories.

Described by Strindberg as positive suggestions in the spirit of
Saint-Simonism. REMORSE--"The Peace Story"--is included in this
collection.

  The Bondswoman's Son}
  Fermentation Time.  }
  In the Red Room     }            1886-87 Autobiography
  The Author          }
  The People of Hemsö                 1887}
  Fisher folk                         1888} Novels

These novels represent the author's emancipation from the bondage of
"problems"; Strindberg points out that they are simply descriptions of
country life and scenery.

  Sketches of Flowers and Animals     1888
  The Father                          1887}
  Lady Julie                          1888}
  Comrades                            1888}
  Creditors                           1890}
  Pariah                              1890}
  Samum                               1890}
  The Stronger                        1890}Plays
  Facing Death                        1893}
  The First Warning                   1893}
  Debit and Credit                    1893}
  Mother-Love                         1893}
  Playing with Fire                   1897}
  The Link                            1897}
  Among French Peasants               1889
  Tschandala                          1889}
  The Island of Bliss                 1890}Stories
  At the Edge of the Sea              1890 Novel

Strindberg remarks that "At the Edge of the Sea" was influenced by
Nietzsche, but "the individual succumbs in the struggle for absolute
individualism."

  Things Printed and Unprinted
  (Two Volumes)                    1890-97  Essays

  The Associations of France and Sweden
  up to the Present Time              1891
  (To be published for the first time in Swedish.)

  Fables                           1890-97
  The Keys of Heaven                  1892 Play

Strindberg's remark: "Darkness, sorrow, despair, absolute scepticism."

  The Confession of a Fool            1893 Autobiographical Novel.

(A German edition was published in 1893; a French edition in 1894; it
will now be published in Swedish.)

  Jardin des plantes
  Antibarbarus                     1892-98 Essays.
  Types and Prototypes
  Inferno                             1897}
  Legends                             1898} Autobiography.
  To Damascus. I and II               1898}
               III                    1904} Plays.
  Advent.                             1899}

"The great crisis at fifty," remarks Strindberg, "revolutions in my
mental life, wanderings in the desert, devastation, Hells and Heavens
of Swedenborg. Not influenced by Huysmans' "En Route," still less by
Peladan, who was then unknown to the author ... but based on personal
experiences."

  There are Crimes and Crimes         1899}
  The Saga of the Folkungs            1899}
  Gustavus Vasa                       1899} Plays.
  Eric XIV                            1899}
  Gustavus Adolphus                   1900}

"Light after darkness," writes Strindberg. "New production, with Faith,
Hope, and Charity regained--and absolute certainty."

  Midsummer                           1901}
  Easter                              1901}
          "The school of suffering."      }
  The Dance of Death. I and II        1901} Plays.
  Engelbrecht                         1901}
  Charles XII                         1901}
  The Crown Bride                     1902
  Swanwhite                           1902
  The Dream Play                      1902
  Christina                           1903
  Gustavus III                        1903
  The Nightingale in Wittenberg       1903
  Fairhaven and Foulstrand            1902  Stories.
     (Partly autobiographical.)
  Sagas                               1903
  Alone                               1903  Mediative Autobiography.
  The Gothic Rooms                    1904  Novel.
  Word-Play and Handicraft                  Poems.
  The Conscious Will in the History
    of the World                            Historical.
  A Free Norway[*]
    (* To be published for the first time.)

  Historical Miniatures               1905} Stories in
  New Swedish Adventures.             1906} Historical Setting.
  Black Flags                         1907  Novel.

  A Blue Book. I, II, III             1907-8
     The Synthetic Philosophy of Strindberg's Life.

  Storm                               1907}
  The Burned Lot                      1907}
  The Spook Sonata                    1907} Chamber Plays.
  The Pelican                         1907}
  The Black Glove                     1909}
  The Festival of the Finished
     Building.                        1907}
  The Scapegoat                       1907} Stories.
  The Last Knight                     1908}
  The Slippers of Abu Casem           1908}
  The Earl of Bjälbo                  1909} Plays.
  The National Director               1909}
  The Great Highway                   1909}

"The Great Highway" is a "farewell to life and a self-declaration."

  Hamlet                            }
  Julius Cæsar                      }
  Memorandum to the Members of      }
     the Intimate Theatre.          }
  Macbeth and Other Plays by        } 1908-9 Dramaturgy.
     Shakespeare                    }
  An Open Letter to the Intimate    }
     Theatre                        }

  The Origins of our Mother Tongue    1910}
  Biblical Proper Names               1910} Philology.
  Roots of World-Languages            1910}
  Speeches to the Swedish Nation      1910
  The State of the People             1910
  Religious Renaissance               1910
  China and Japan[1]                  1911

Dr. John Landquist, the editor of the posthumous edition of
Strindberg's collected works, has kindly placed the following note on
Strindberg's manuscripts at our disposal:

"The MSS., most of which are still in existence, are written with the
utmost care in Strindberg's clear and energetic hand, and are often
beautifully ornamented. They reflect the neatness and order with which
the author surrounded himself, and also the love with which he carried
out his work. When writing mediæval drama, Strindberg illuminated
his MSS. like a mediæval handwritten manuscript with artistically
designed and coloured initial letters, and with miniatures painted by
himself--the whole harmonising with the period and surroundings in
which the action takes place. On other pages there is interspersed
in the writing itself such ornamentation as would correspond to the
time and atmosphere of the written work. As a rule he used hand-made
Lessebo-paper, and generally made very few alterations. He hardly ever
copied out his MSS. In later years he seldom corrected anything when
once it had been written down. He did not like to read through his own
works after having completed them."


[1] All correspondence relating to the authorisation of translations
of Strindberg's works and the rights of performing his plays in England
and America should be addressed to Herr Albert Bonnier, of Stockholm.
He is now the sole representative of Strindberg's literary executors.



    INDEX


    A

    Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 119
    Addison, 338
    Adelphi Players, The, 204
    _Admirable Crichton, The_, 181
    _Advent_, 304, 305, 306
    Æschylus, 310
    Ahasuerus, 16
    Albericus, 89
    Alembert, d', 209
    Almqvist, K.J.L., 328, 329
    _Alone_, 19, 284, 285, 335, 350
    Amiel, _Journal_ of, 336
    _Antibarbarus I, or the Psychology of Sulphur_,
       _or All is in All_, 241, 242
    Antoine, Monsieur André, 171
    Aphrodite Pandemos, 128
    Archer, Mr. William, _Play-Making. A Manual of Craftsmanship_ by, 303
    Aristotle, 251
    _Athenæum_, 320
    Augier, 170
    Augustine, St. 340
    Augustus, 336
    Aulin, Tor, 352
    _Author, The_, 19, 122, 133, 134, 152, 284
    _Autobiography_, 56, 86, 98, 169


    B

    Babillotte, Herr Arthur,_ August Strindberg_.
       _Das Hohe Lied seines Lebens_ by, 327, 328
    Bach, 352
    Balfour, A.J. 256
    Balzac, 159, 232; _Seraphita_ by, 260; 281
    Bashkirtseff, Marie, 336
    Baudelaire, 331, 338
    Becque, Henry, _Les Corbeaux_ by, 205, 212; _Souvenirs_ by, 208
    Beethoven, _Sonata in D minor_ by, 352;
       _Moonlight Sonata_ by, 352
    Benson, Mr. A.C., 321
    Berliner Tageblatt, 353, 354
    Bismarck, 313
    Björkman, Herr Edwin, 330
    Björnson, Björnstjerne,
       _Mary Stuart_ by, 67, 75, 123, 152;
       _The King_ by, 153, 154, 317;
       _A Gauntlet_ by, 318, 339
    _Black Flags_, 325
    _Black Glove, The_, 316
    _Blackwood's Magazine_, 320
    Blake, 251, 255, 260
    Blavatsky, Madame, _The Secret Doctrine_ by, 274, 275
    _Blotsven_, 79
    _Blue Bird, The_, 144
    _Blue Book, A_, 282, 284, 286, 287
    Boccaccio, 159
    _Bok om Strindberg, En_, af Holger Drachmann, Knut Hamsun,
       Justin Huntly McCarthy, Björnstjerne Björnson, Jonas Lie,
       Georg Brandes, etc., 123, 152
    _Bondswoman's Son, The_, 18, 19, 282, 283
    Bonnier, Herr Albert, 123,161, 162
    _Book of Job, The_, 260
    Bosse, Harriet, 327, 351
    Brandes, Georg, 123, 174, 175, 231
    Brieux, Monsieur, _La Robe Rouge_ by, 225
    Browning, Mrs., 281
    Buckle, 97
    _Burned Lot, The_, 316, 326
    Burns, Robert, 121, 338
    Byron, _Manfred_ by, 58, 338


    C

    Capus, 206
    Caracalla, 336
    Carlyle, 281
    Carmontelle, _Proverbes Dramatiques_ by, 214
    Céller, Monsieur Ludovic, _Les décors, les costumes_
       _et la mise-en-scène au XVII siècle_ by, 215
    Cellini, Benvenuto, 255
    _Charles XII_, 299, 302, 303, 326, 332
    Chateaubriand, 61, 340
    Chemistry, 244, 245, 248, 251, 252, 253
    Clairpsychism, 256, 276, 278, 285, 286, 287
    Coleridge, 257
    _Collected Works of August Strindberg, The_, 13, 123
    Comédie rosse, 193
    _Comrades_, 122, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192,
       193, 194, 195, 225, 322, 332
    Comte, 283
    _Confession of a Fool, The_, 22, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126,
       127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 223, 228, 237, 242, 343
    _Confused Sensations_, 228
    _Conscious Will in the History of the World, The_, 300
    Corot, 96
    _Creditors_, 172, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203,
       204, 206, 244, 326
    _Crimes and Crimes, There are_, 309, 310, 326, 352

    Criticism, Literary, 77, 78, 84, 139, 148, 150, 233, 234, 235,
       236, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325
    _Crown Bride, The_, 304, 306, 349, 353


    D

    _Dagens Nyheter_, 115
    _Damascus, To_, 256, 288, 297, 304, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316,
       323, 332, 334, 345
    _Dance of Death, The_, 304, 310, 311, 316, 333, 351, 352
    Dante, 83;
       the _Commedia_ by, 89, 260
    De Quincey, 151
    Dickens, 47, 140
    _Different Weapons_, 151
    Dostoevsky, 232, 297, 327
    Drachmann, Holger, 123, 240
    _Drama, The_, 330
    Drama, Naturalistic, 170, 171
    "Dramatiska Teatern," 323
    _Dream Play, The_, 256, 304, 314, 315, 332, 352
    Dryden, 113
    Dudevant, Monsieur Casimir, 346
    Dumas fils, Alexandre, 170, 206;
       _Le Fils Naturel_ by, 208
    Dumas père, Alexandre, 47, 170
    Duse, Eleonora, 208


    E

    _Earl of Bjälbo, The_, 299
    _Easter_, 256, 296, 304, 306, 307,
    308, 326, 327, 352
    _Edge of the Sea, At the_, 230, 231, 297, 323, 337
    Eliasson, Dr., 269
    Emerson, 281
    _Encyclopædia Britannica_, 143
    _Engelbrecht_, 299
    _Eric XIV_, 289, 295, 296, 297, 298, 301, 308, 309, 316,
       326, 333
    Essen, Siri von, 122;
       divorce of, 130;
       becomes an actress, 130;
       marries August Strindberg, 132;
       divorce of, from Strindberg, 237
    Euripides, 310


    F

    _Fables_, 227, 228, 337
    Fabre, Emile, _L'Argent_ by, 172
    _Facing Death_, 326
    _Fairhaven and Foulstrand_, 332, 333, 336, 337, 341, 343
    _Father, The_, 22, 122, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 202, 203,
       204, 210, 225, 235, 244, 297, 322, 325, 332
    _Fermentation Time_, 19, 53, 69, 86, 87
    Feuillet, 214
    _First Warning, The_, 223
    _Fisher Folk_, 226, 227, 333
    _Fjärdingen and Svartbäcken, From_, 135, 136
    Flaubert, 331;
       _Correspondance_ of, 336;
       _Dossier de la Sottise Humaine_ by, 347
    "Folkteatern," 325
    France, Anatole, 341
    _Freethinker, The_, 78, 79
    "Freie Bühne," 202
    _French Peasants, Among_, 228, 229


    G

    Geijerstam, Gustaf af, _Erik Grane_ by, 324
    _General Discontent, its Causes and Remedies, On the_, 229, 230
    Geographical Society, The Imperial Russian, 119
    Gissing, George, _New Grub Street_ by, 141
    Goethe, _Faust_ by, 61, 62, 83
       _Goetz von Berlichingen_ by, 102, 281, 313
    Goncourt, the brothers de, _Sœur Philomène_ by, 172, 214, 331
    Goncourt, Edmond de, 207
    Goncourt, Jules de, 331
    Gorki, Maxim, 17, 204
    Gosse, Mr. Edmund, 231
    _Gothic Rooms, The_, 297, 325
    _Great Highway, The_, 256, 304, 313, 314, 338
    Grein, Mr. J.T., 203, 204
    Guiche, _Entre Frères_ by, 214
    _Gustavus Adolphus_, 280, 299, 301, 302, 316, 334
    _Gustavus III_, 299
    _Gustavus Vasa_, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 298, 316, 326


    H

    Hamsun, Knut, 123
    Hansson, Ola, 220, 238
    Hartmann, 232
    Hauptmann, 204, 317;
       _The Weavers_ by, 318; 326
    Haydn, _Sieben Worte des Erlösers_ by, 352
    Heiberg, Gunnar, 240
    Heidenstam, Werner von, 324;
       _Karolinerna_ by, 325
    Heine, 239
    Henry VII, 89
    Hervieu, Paul, _Le Dédale_ by, 201, 204;
       _L'Inconnu_ by, 297
    Hirsch, Dr. W., 256
    _Historical Miniatures_, 300
    Hoffmann, E.T.A., 239
       _Kreisler_ by, 257, 297, 338
    Holbein, 310
    Homer, 90
    Horace, 90, 113
    Hospital of Saint Louis, 247
    Hugo, Victor, 271
    Huysmans, _Là-Bas_ by, 274;
       _En Route_ by, 274
    Höffding, 93


    I

    Ibsen, 13;
       _Brand_ by, 75, 166, 170;
       _Ghosts_ by, 172, 317;
       _Rosmersholm_ by, 172, 203, 326

    Independent Theatre, The, 203, 204
    _Inferno_, 15, 19, 243, 248, 256, 257, 274, 277, 279, 280, 285,
       288, 313, 323, 340, 341
    Internationalism, 155
    Intimate Theatre, The, 326, 327


    J

    _Journey of Lucky Peter, The_, 143, 144, 146, 316
    _Joy of Life, The_, 278
    Julius Cæsar, 336
    Jullien, Monsieur, 205


    K

    Keats, 340
    Key, Ellen, 321
    _Keys of Heaven, The_, 316
    Kierkegaard, Sören, _Enten-Eller_ by, 79
    Knox, John, _The First Blast of the Trumpet against_
       _the Monstrous Regiment of Women_ by, 237
    "Künstler Theater," 216


    L

    La Bruyère, 98
    _Lady Julie_, 172, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184,
       193, 202, 204, 206, 209, 210, 211, 214, 216, 217, 218, 225,
       231, 236, 244, 284, 316, 325
    Lagerlöf, Selma, 324
    Lamb, Charles, 257, 331, 338
    Landquist, Dr. John, Article in _Idun_ by, 315
    _Last Knight, The_, 299
    Latini, Brunetto, 89
    Lauthenburg, Herr, 326
    Lavedan, Entire Frères by, 214
    Lee, Nathaniel, 257
    _Legends_, 256, 277, 288, 313, 323
    Lenan, _Traumgewalten_ by, 257
    Lenngren, Anna Maria, _Fröken Juliana_ by, 176
    Lessing, 61
    Levertin, Oscar, 278, 324
    Library of Stockholm, The Royal, 118
    Lie, Jonas, 123, 340
    _Link, The_, 122, 219, 224, 225, 323
    _Loke's Blasphemies_, 151
    Louis XIV, 295
    Lucanus, 90
    Lugné-Poë, Monsieur, 202
    Lundin, Claes, 146
    Luther, 313


    M

    Macaulay, 70
    McCarthy, Justin Huntly, 123;
       article in _The Fortnightly Review_ by, 183, 225
    Macleod, Fiona, _Cathal of the Woods_ by, 228
    Maeterlinck, 227, 305, 316
    Marcus Aurelius, 336
    Marholm, Laura, 238, 328, 330
    _Married_, 123, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164,
       165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 235, 236, 237
    _Master Olof_, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 136, 142, 289, 298, 322
    Maupassant, Guy de, 159, 209;
       _Le Horla_ by, 297
    Michel-Angelo, 251
    _Midsummer_, 316, 342, 343
    Mill, John Stuart, 230
    _Modern Drama and the Modern Theatre, On_, 211, 212
    Moses, 260
    Multiple personalities, 283, 284
    Munch, Edvard, 240, 259, 263
    Murray, Grenville, _Les Hommes du Second Empire_ by, 149
    Musset, Alfred de, 214, 338;
       _Nuit d'Octobre_ by, 347


    N

    Napoleon, 313
    _National Director, The_, 299
    Naturalism, 170, 204, 205, 212, 213
    _New Kingdom, The_, 148, 149, 157, 230, 324
    Newman, 51
    Nietzsche, 13, 194, 231, 232, 284
    _Nightingale of Wittenberg, The_, 299
    Nobel Prize, The, 321
    Nordau, Max, 149


    O

    Oehlenschläger, 79, 82
    _Old Stockholm_, 146, 147
    Orfila, 248, 260
    _Outlaw, The_, 81, 84, 85, 86, 345
    Ovid, 90


    P

    _Pariah_, 219, 220, 221, 222
    _Paris, In_, 328
    Patmore, Coventry, 281
    Paul, Adolf, 240
    Peace movement, The, 155, 156
    Peladan, Sar, _Comment on devient Mage_ by, 280
    _Pelican, The_, 316, 326
    _People of Hemsö, The_, 226, 227, 235
    Personne, John, _Strindberg-Literature and Immorality_
       _amongst Schoolboys_ by, 165
    _Peter Pan_, 144
    Philp, Greta Strindberg von, 353
    Pinero, Sir Arthur, 206
    _Playing with Fire_, 219, 223, 323, 326
    Poe, 255, 338
    _Poems in Verse and Prose_, 150, 151
    Przybyszewski, Stanislav, 240, 258, 259, 260, 262


    Q

    _Quarantine Master's Tales, The_, 336, 337, 343, 344
    _Queen Christina_, 299
    Quesnay, de, 230


    R

    Rahmer, Dr. S., Article in _Grenzfragen der Literatur_
       _und Medizin_ by, 256
    Ranft, Herr Albert, 326
    Realism, 170, 183, 212
    _Real Utopias_, 168
    _Red Room, In the_, 19, 110, 111, 112, 113
    _Red Room, The_, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 147, 148,
       157, 230, 322
    Reformation, the Protestant, 99, 291
    Religion, 279
    _Remorse_, 156, 297
    Renan, _Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse_ by, 255
    "Residenz Theater," 203, 326
    _Reward of Virtue, The_, 157
    Rodin, _Le Penseur_ by, 16
    _Rome, In_, 74, 76, 77, 78, 333
    Rosen, George von, _Erik XIV and Karin Månsdotter_ by, 95
    Rousseau, 19, 154, 209, 230, 234;
       _Confessions_ by, 257;
       _Dialogues_ by, 257;
       _Rêveries_ by, 257, 260
    "Rune," the formation of the, 73
    Ruskin, 281;
       _Modern Painters_ by, 320


    S

    _Saga of the Folkungs, The_, 289, 296, 297, 298, 316
    Saint-Saëns, 310
    _Samum_, 219, 220
    Sand, George, 61, 346
    Sardou, 170
    _Scenery of Sweden, The_, 236
    Schering, Herr Emil, 330
    Schiller, _Die Räuber_ by, 58, 63;
       _On the Theatre as an Institution for Moral Education_ by, 62
    Schnitzler, 204;
       _Reigen_ by, 206
    Schopenhauer, 232, 237, 238
    Schumann, _Aufschwung_ by, 258, 259
    "Schwarzen Ferkel, Zum," 239, 240
    Scott, Sir Walter, 47
    Scribe, 170
    _Secret of the Guild, The_, 142, 345
    Shakespeare, 47, 82, 83, 101;
       _Hamlet_ by, 106, 295, 301;
       _Lear_ by, 295;
       _Macbeth_ by, 295, 296, 343
    Shaw, George Bernard, 206, 233, 234, 318
    Sinology, 118
    _Sir Bengt's Wife_, 144, 145, 146
    _Sketches of Flowers and Animals_, 227
    _Slippers of Abu Casem, The_, 316
    Socialism, 167, 169, 229, 230
    Socrates, 213
    Sophocles, 82, 310
    Sorbonne, La, 248
    _Speeches to the Swedish Nation_, 279
    Spencer, 106, 230, 283
    _Spook Sonata, The_, 316, 326
    Stage Society, The, 204
    Stagnelius, E.J., 328
    Stevenson, R.L., 331
    Stockholm's Skärgård, 30, 83, 99, 226
    _Storm_, 315, 326
    Street riots in Stockholm, 66, 67, 126
    Strindberg, Anne-Marie Bosse-, 316, 353
    Strindberg, August,
       death of, 11;
       scientific studies of, 12, 37, 60, 83, 238, 239, 240, 241,
         244,245;
       diary of, 14;
       faith in the Bible, 14;
       love of the early morning, 15;
       funeral of, 16;
       birth of, 20;
       parents of, 20;
       ancestry of, 20;
       poverty of, 21, 75, 83, 107, 117, 350;
       views of, on the family as an institution, 22, 23;
       misogyny of; 22, 124, 125, 171, 184, 194, 244, 344, 345;
       attacks upon women, 23, 75, 76, 175, 237, 347;
       early home of, 24, 29;
       early religious doubts of, 25, 32, 33;
       early school-days of, 27, 28;
       love of nature, 29, 30, 31, 32, 53, 227, 228, 265;
       independence of, at school 33, 34;
       death of the mother of, 35, 36, 37;
       interest of, in music, 38, 53, 352;
       constructs machines, 39, 40;
       as "gymnasist," 41;
       becomes a pietist, 42, 43, 44, 45;
       as private tutor, 46, 47, 48;
       influence of literature on, 47;
       becomes a freethinker, 47;
       preaches a sermon, 49;
       passes the "student--examen," 50;
       enters the University of Upsala, 51;
       criticism of academical routine, 51, 52, 53;
       becomes a schoolmaster, 54;
       studies social conditions, 54, 55, 103, 154, 155, 228, 229, 230;
       sympathy of, with the people, 56, 64, 65;
       contempt of current morals, 56, 120;
       takes up the study of medicine, 59;
       comes under the influence of art, 60;
       decides to become an actor, 62;
       makes his début at the Dramatic Theatre, 67;
       tries to commit suicide, 69, 80, 129;
       composes his first play, 69;
       first attempts to write verse, 71;
       first plays refused, 71, 72;
       returns to the University, 73;
       first performance of a play by, 76;
       burns the MSS. of Blotsven, 80;
       passes his Latin examination, 81;
       presents his æsthetic thesis. 81;
       performance of a Viking play by, 84;
       King Charles XV sends for, 85;
       as a painter, 90, 96, 103, 236, 240;
       becomes a journalist, 92;
       as an art critic, 95;
       lack of self-confidence of, 107;
       edits an insurance paper, 108;
       financial crash, 109;
       obtains a post as telegraph clerk, 114;
       resumes journalistic work, 115;
       becomes parliamentary reporter and dramatic critic, 116;
       is nominated assistant librarian, 118;
       class-consciousness of, 126, 127;
       first marriage of, 132;
       views of, on the sacredness of parenthood, 133, 134;
       increasing literary activity of, 135;
       first great dramatic success, 142, 143;
       on the tragedy of fatherhood, 146, 175;
       historical point of view of, 147, 148;
       criticises poetry as a form of literary expression, 151;
       leaves Sweden, 152;
       is prosecuted for blasphemy, 157;
       is cheered by the people in Stockholm, 162, 163, 164;
       attacks of Conservative press 163;
       is found "not guilty," 164;
       is denounced by feminists, 165;
       advocates rights of women and marriage reform, 167;
       views of, on spiritual functions of motherhood, 168;
       begins a series of naturalistic plays, 171;
       on the educational value of the theatre, 206, 207;
       views of, on theatre reform, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218;
       obtains divorce from his first wife, 237;
       second marriage of, 242;
       becomes an alchemist, 251;
       madness of, develops, 255;
       persecutional mania of, becomes acute, 265;
       prepares to die, 266;
       fears detention in an asylum, 269;
       love of, for his child, 271, 272;
       is influenced by Roman Catholicism, 272, 280;
       religious feeling of, 273, 279;
       attitude of, towards theosophy, 274, 275;
       recovery of, 275;
       psychic development of, 276;
       fiftieth birthday of, 288;
       resumes the writing of drama, 288;
       as an historical psychologist, 289, 301;
       criticism of, as an historian, 301, 302, 303;
       national celebration of, 319, 353, 354, 355;
       tautology in the writings of, 332, 333;
       philological studies of, 334;
       attitude towards animals of, 348, 349;
       third marriage of, 351;
       last illness of, 353, 354;
    _Stronger, The_, 204, 219, 222, 223, 322
    _Studies in the History of Culture_, 300
    Sudermann, 206
    Sue, Eugène, _Le Juif Errant_ by, 47
    "Svenska Teatern," 326
    _Swanwhite_, 304, 305, 306, 351
    Swedenborg, Emanuel, 260, 267, 272, 273, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283
    Swedish Academy, The, 321, 324
    _Swedish Destinies and Adventures_, 150, 300, 325
    _Swedish People, The_, 148, 300
    Swift, Dean, 234
    _Sylva Sylvarum_, 241
    Symons, Arthur, _Studies in Seven Arts_ by, 208


    T

    Tasso, 255, 273
    Tchekhov, Anton, 204; _The Seagull_ by, 208





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