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Title: Iconoclasts - A Book of Dramatists: Ibsen, Strindberg, Becque, Hauptmann, Sudermann, Hervieu, Gorky, Duse and D'Annunzio, Maeterlinck and Bernard Shaw
Author: Huneker, James
Language: English
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A Book of Dramatists

Ibsen, Strindberg, Becque, Hauptmann,
Sudermann, Hervieu, Gorky, Duse and
D'Annunzio, Maeterlinck and Bernard Shaw



My truth is the truth
            MAX STIRNER

New York
Charles Scribner's Sons









The Kingdom of God is within you


Ferdinand Brunetière has declared that "there can be no tragedy without
a struggle; nor can there be genuine emotion for the spectator unless
something other and greater than life is at stake." This so exactly
defines the dramas of Henrik Ibsen that it might have been specifically
written to describe their dramatic and ethical content. Whatever else
Ibsen's works may be, they are first soul dramas; the human soul is
not only their shadowy protagonist, but it is the stake for which his
characters breathlessly game throughout the vast halls of his poetic
and historic plays and within those modern middle-class apartments,
where the atmosphere seems rarefied by the intensity of the struggle.
"Greater than life" means for Ibsen the immortal soul--immortal not in
the theologic, but generic sense; the soul of the species, which never
had a beginning and never can have an end. With this precious entity
as pawn on Ibsen's dramatic chess-board, the Brunetière dictum is
perfectly fulfilled.

Let us apply to him and his plays a symbol; let us symbolize the
arch-symbolist. Ibsen is an open door. The door enacts an important
rôle with him. Nora Helmer, in A Doll's House, goes out of the door
to her new life, and in The Master Builder, Hilda Wangel, typifying
the younger generation, enters to Solness. An open door on the chamber
of the spirit is Ibsen. Through it we view the struggle of souls in
pain and doubt and wrath. He himself has said that the stage should
be considered as a room with the fourth wall knocked down so that the
spectators could see what is going on within the enclosure. A tragic
wall is this missing one, for between the listener and the actor there
is interposed the soul of the playwright, the soul of Ibsen, which,
prism-like, permits us to witness the refractions of his art. This open
door, this absent barrier, is it not a symbol?

What does Henrik Ibsen mean to his century? Is he dramatist,
symbolist, idealist, optimist, pessimist, poet, or realist? Or is he a
destructive, a corroding force? Has he constructive gifts--aside from
his technical genius? He has been called an anarchic preacher. He has
been described as a debaser of the moral coin. He has been ranged far
from the angels, and his very poetic gifts have been challenged. Yet
the surface pessimism of his plays conceals a mighty belief in the
ultimate goodness of mankind. Realist as he is, his dramas are shot
through with a highly imaginative symbolism. A Pegasus was killed early
under him, as Georg Brandes says; but there remains a rich remnant of
poesy. And may there not be deduced from his complete compositions
a constructive philosophy that makes for the ennoblement of his

Ibsen is a reflective poet, one to whom the idea presents itself
before the picture; with Shakespeare and Goethe the idea and form
were simultaneously born. His art is great and varied, yet it is
never exercised as a sheer play of form or colour or wit. A Romantic
originally, he pays the tax to Beauty by his vivid symbolism and his
rare formal perfections. And a Romantic is always a revolutionist.
Embittered in youth--proud, self-contained, reticent--he waged war with
life for over a half-century; fought for his artistic ideals as did
Richard Wagner; and, like Wagner, he has swept the younger generation
along with him. He, the greatest moral artist of his century, Tolstoy
not excepted, was reviled for what he had not said or done--so
difficult was it to apprehend his new, elusive method. A polemist
he is, as were Byron and Shelley, Tolstoy and Dickens, Turgenev and
Dostoïevsky. Born a Northman, he is melancholic, though not veritably
pessimistic of temperament; moral indignation in him must not be
confounded with the pessimism that sees no future hope for mankind.
The North breeds mystics. Shakespeare would have made his Hamlet a
Scandinavian even if the legendary Hamlet and the earlier play had
not existed. The brief, white nights, the chilly climate, the rugged,
awful scenery, react on sensitive natures like Ibsen's. And then the
various strains in his blood should not be forgotten,--Danish, German,
Norwegian, and Scotch. Thus we get a gamut of moods,--philosophic,
poetic, mystic, and analytic. And if he too frequently depicts
pathologic states, is it not the fault of his epoch? Few dramatists
have been more responsive to their century.


The drama is the domain of logic and will; Henry Becque called it "the
art of sacrifices." The Ibsen technic is rather tight in the social
dramas, but the larger rhythms are nowhere missing. The most artificial
of art forms, the drama, is in his hands a mirror of many reverberating
lights. The transubstantiation of realities is so smoothly accomplished
that one involuntarily remembers Whistler's remark as to art being only
great when all traces of the means used are vanished. Ibsen's technic
is a means to many ends. It is effortless in the later plays--it is
the speech of emotion, the portrayal of character. "Qui dit drame, dit
caractère," writes André Gide. Ibsen's content conditions his form.
His art is the result of constraint. He respects the unities of time,
place, action, not that he admires the pseudo-classic traditions of
Boileau, but because the rigorous excision of the superfluous suits his
scheme. Nor is he an extremist in this question of the unities. Like
Renan, the artist in him abhors "the horrible mania of certitude." The
time-unit in his best plays ranges from one to two days; the locality
is seldom shifted further than from room to garden. As he matured his
theatrical canvas shrank, the number of his characters diminished. Even
the action became less vivacious and various; the exteriorization of
emotional states was substituted for the bustling, vigorous life of the
earlier plays. Yet--always drama, dynamic not static.

His dialogue--a spoken, never a literary one--varies from extreme
naturalism to the half-uttered sentences, broken phrases, and
exclamations that disclose--as under a burning light--the sorrow and
pain of his men and women. One recalls in reading the later pieces
the saying of Maurice Barrès, "For an accomplished spirit there is
but one dialogue--that between our two egos--the momentary ego that
we are and the ideal one toward which we strive." The Ibsen plays are
character symphonies. His polyphonic mastery of character is unique
in the history of the drama; for, as we shall presently show, there
is a second--nay, a third--intention in his dialogue that give forth
endless repercussions of ideas and emotions.

The mental intensity of Ibsen is relentless. Once, Arthur Symons
showing Rodin some Blake drawings, told the French sculptor,
"Blake used literally to see these figures; they are not mere
inventions."--"Yes," replied Rodin, "he saw them once; he should have
seen them three or four times." Ibsen's art presents no such wavering
vision. He saw his characters not once but for many months continuously
before, Paracelsus-like, he allowed them an escape from his chemical
retort to the footlights. Some of them are so powerfully realized that
their souls shine like living torches.

Ibsen's symbolism is that of Baudelaire, "All nature is a temple filled
with living pillars, and the pillars have tongues and speak in confused
words, and man walks as through a forest of countless symbols." The
dramatist does not merely label our appetites and record our manners,
but he breaks down the barrier of flesh, shows the skeleton that
upholds it, and makes a sign by which we recognize, not alone the poet
in the dramatist, but also the god within us. The "crooked sequence of
life" has its speech wherewith truth may be imaged as beauty. Ibsen
loves truth more than beauty, though he does not ignore the latter.
With him a symbol is an image and not an abstraction. It is not the
pure idea, barren and unadorned, but the idea clothed by an image which
flashes a signal upon our consciousness. Technically we know that the
Norwegian dramatist employs his symbols as a means of illuminating the
devious acts and speech of his humans, binding by repetitions the
disparate sections and contrasted motives of his play. These symbols
are not always leading motives, though they are often so construed; his
leit-motiven are to be sought rather in the modulation of character
and the characteristic gestures which express it. With Rosmersholm the
"white horses" indicate by an image the dark forces of heredity which
operate in the catastrophe. The gold and green forest in Little Eyolf
is a symbol of what Rita Allmers brought her husband Alfred, and the
resultant misery of a marriage to which the man, through a mistaken
idealism, had sold himself. There are such symbols and catchwords in
every play. In Emperor and Galilean the conquering sun is a symbol for
Julian the Apostate, whose destiny, he believes, is conducted by the
joyous sun; while in Ghosts the same sun is for the agonized Oswald
Alving the symbol of all he has lost,--reason, hope, and happiness.
Thus the tower in The Master Builder, the open door in A Doll's
House, the ocean in The Lady from the Sea, give a homogeneity which
the otherwise loose structure of the drama demands. The Ibsen play is
always an organic whole.

It must not be forgotten that Henrik Ibsen, who was born in
1828,--surely under the sign of Saturn!--had passed through the flaming
revolutionary epoch of 1848, when the lyric pessimism of his youthful
poems was transformed into bitter denunciations of authority. He was
regarded as a dangerous man; and while he may not have indulged in any
marked act of rebellion, his tendencies were anarchic--a relic of his
devotion to the French Revolution. But then he was a transcendentalist
and an intellectual anarch. If he called the State the enemy of the
individual, it was because he foresaw the day when the State might
absorb the man. He advocated a bloodless revolution; it must be
spiritual to compass victory. Unless men _willed_ themselves free,
there could be no real freedom. "In those days there was no King in
Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Ibsen
confessed that the _becoming_ was better than the _being_--a touch
of Renan and his beloved _fieri_. He would have agreed with Emerson,
who indignantly exclaimed, "Is it not the chief disgrace in the world
not to be a unit; not to be reckoned one character; not to yield that
peculiar fruit which each man was created to bear, but to be reckoned
in the gross, in the hundred of thousand, of the party, the section to
which we belong, and our opinion predicted geographically as the North
or the South?" Lord Acton's definition that "Liberty is not a means to
a higher political end. It is in itself the highest political end,"
would have pleased Ibsen. "The minority is always in the right," he

The Ibsen plays are a long litany praising the man who wills. The weak
man must be educated. Be strong, not as the "blond roaming beast" of
Nietzsche, but as captain of your own soul's citadel! Rémy de Gourmont
sees the idea of liberty as an emphatic deformation of the idea of
privilege. Good is an accident produced by man at the price of terrible
labour. Nature has no mercy. Is there really free will? Is it not one
of the most seductive forms of the universal fiction? True, answers in
effect Ibsen; heredity controls our temperaments, the dead rule our
actions, yet let us act as if we are truly free. Adjuring Brand "To
thyself be true," while Peer Gynt practices "To thyself be sufficient,"
Ibsen proves in the case of the latter that Will, if it frees, also
kills. Life is no longer an affair of the tent and tribe. The crook of
a man's finger may upset a host, so interrelated is the millet-seed
with the star. A poet of affirmations, he preaches in his thunder-harsh
voice as did Comte, "Submission is the base of perfection"; but this
submission must be voluntary. The universal solvent is Will. Work
is not the only panacea. Philosophically, Ibsen stands here between
Schopenhauer and Nietzsche; he has belief in the Will, though not the
Frankfort philosopher's pessimism; and the Will to Power of Nietzsche
without that rhapsodist's lyric ecstasy. Nietzsche asked: "For what
is freedom? To have the will to be responsible for one's self." Ibsen
demonstrates that a great drama must always have a great philosophic
substratum. There may be no design in nature--let us believe there is.
Gesture is the arrest of the flux, rendering visible the phenomena of
life, for it moderates its velocity. In this hypothesis he would not
be at variance with De Gourmont, who has not hesitated to ask whether
intelligence itself is not an accident in the creative processes, and
if it really be the goal toward which mankind finally believes itself

There is the mystic as well as the realistic chord in the Ibsen
drama. His Third Kingdom, not of the flesh (Pagan) nor of the spirit
(Christian), yet partaking of both, has a ring of Hegel and also of
that abbot of Flores called Joachim, who was a mediæval Franciscan.
The grandiloquent silhouettes of the Romantic drama, the mouthers of
rhetoric, the substitution of a bric-à-brac mirage for reality, have
no place in Ibsen's art. For this avoidance of the banal he has been
called a perverter of the heroic. His characters are in reality the
bankruptcy of stale heroisms; he replaces the old formula with a new,
vital one--Truth at all hazards He discerns a Fourth Dimension of the
spirit. He has said that if mankind had time to think, there would be a
new world. This opposer of current political and moral values declares
that reality is itself a creation of art--each individual creates his
picture of the world. An idealist he is in the best sense of the word,
though some critics, after reading into the plays Socialism--picture
Ibsen and "regimentation," as Huxley dubbed it!--claim the sturdy
individualist as a mere unmasker of conventionalism. How far all this
is from Ibsen's intention--who is much more than a satirist! and social
reformer--may be seen in his Brand, with its austere watchword, "All
or Nothing." A prophet and a seer he is, not a glib socialist exposing
municipal evils and offering ready-made prophylactics. The curve of
Ibsen's art comprises all these petty minor evils of life, it reaches
across the edge of the human soul; while, ardent pilgrim that he is,
he slowly mounts to the peaks from which he may see his Third Kingdom.
But, like a second Moses, he has never descended into that country of
ineffable visions or trod its broad and purifying landscapes.

Max Stirner's radical and defiant egoism, expressed in his pithy
axiom, "My truth is the truth," might be answered by Ibsen with the
contradictory "Le moi est haïssable" of Pascal. Indeed, an ironic
self-contradiction may be gleaned from a study of Ibsen; each play
seems to deny the conclusions of the previous one. But when the
entire field is surveyed in retrospect the smaller irregularities
and deflections from the level melt into a harmonious picture. Ibsen
is complex. Ibsen is confusing. In Ibsen there rage the thinker, the
artist, the critic. These sometimes fail to amalgamate, and so the
artistic precipitation is cloudy. He is a true Viking who always loves
stormy weather; and, as Brandes said, "God is in his heart, but the
devil is in his body." His is an emotional logic, if one may frame such
an expression; and it would be in vain to search in his works for the
_ataraxia_ of the tranquil Greek philosopher. A dynamic grumbler, like
Carlyle, he eventually contrives to orient himself; his dramas are only
an escape from the ugly labyrinth of existence. If his characters are
sick, so is latter-day life. The thinker often overrides the poet in
him; and at times the dramatist, the pure _Theatermensch_, gets the bit
between his teeth and nearly wrecks the psychologist. He acknowledges
the existence of evil in the world, knows the house of evil, but has
not tarried in it. Good must prevail in the end is the burden of his
message, else he would not urge upon his fellow-beings the necessity of
willing and doing.

The cold glamour of his moods is supplemented by the strong, sincere
purpose underlying them. He feels, with Kierkegaard, that the average
sensual man will ever "parry the ethical claim"; and if, in Flaubert's
eyes, "man is bad because he is stupid," in Ibsen's "he is stupid
because he is bad." "To will is to have to will," says his Maximus
in Emperor and Galilean. This phrase is the capstone of the Ibsen
structure. If he abhors the inflated phraseology of altruism, he is one
with Herbert Spencer, who spoke of a relapse into egotism as the only
thing which could make altruism enduring.

Felicity, then, with Ibsen is experience itself, not the result of
experience. Life is a huge misunderstanding, and the Ibsen dramas
hinge on misunderstandings--the conflict between the instinctive and
the acquired, between the forces of heredity and of environment. Herein
lies his preference for the drama of disordered wills. And touching on
this accusation of morbidity and sickness, may there not be gleaned
from Shakespeare and Goethe many mad, half-mad, and brain-sick men and
women? The English poet's plays are a perfect storehouse of examples
for the alienist. Hallucination that hardens into mania is delicately
recorded by Ibsen; he notes with a surgeon's skilled eye the first
slight decadence and the final entombment of the will. Furthermore,
the chiefest malady of our age is that of the will enfeebled by lack
of exercise, by inanition due to unsound education; and as he fingers
our spiritual muscles he cries aloud their flabbiness. In men the
pathologic symptoms are more marked than in women; hence the number of
women in his dramas who assume dominant rôles--not that Ibsen has any
particular sympathy with the New Woman, but because he has seen that
the modern woman marks time better with the _Zeitgeist_ than her male

Will, even though your will be disastrous in its outcome, but will,
he insists; and yet demonstrates that only through self-surrender can
come complete self-realization. To say "I am what I am," is the Ibsen
_credo_; but this "_I_" must be tested in the fire of self-abnegation.
To the average theologian all this rings suspiciously like the
old-fashioned doctrine of salvation by good works. The Scotch leaven is
strong in Ibsen. In his bones he is a moralist, in practice an artist.
His power is that of the artist doubled by the profound moralist, the
philosopher doubled by the dramatist; the crystallization in the plays
of these antagonistic qualities constitutes the triumph of his genius.


The stage is Ibsen's pulpit, but he is first the artist; his moral,
as in all great drama, is implicit. He is a doubter; he often answers
a question with another question; and if he builds high he also digs
deep. His plays may be broadly divided into three phases. First we
get the national-romantic; second, the historical; third, the social
dramas of revolt. In the first, under the influence of fable and
folk-song, Ibsen delved into the roots of Scandinavia's past; then
follow the stirring dramas, Fru Inger of Ostraat, The Vikings at
Helgeland, The Pretenders, and those two widely contrasted epics,
Brand and Peer Gynt. Beginning with The Young Men's League and ending
with the dramatic epilogue, When We Dead Awake, the third period is
covered. And what range, versatility, observation, poetic imagination,
intellectual power! Yet this dramatist has been called provincial!
Provincial--when his maiden tragedy, Catilina, begins B.C. and his
epilogue ends the nineteenth century; when his characters are types
as well as individuals that exist from South to North. True man of
the North, he sought in Italy for his scene of action, his first
hero. That his men and women are strongly Norwegian is no imputation
of provincialism--Christiania is a world capital, Scandinavia is not
a Bœotia. And is not human nature composed of the same soul-stuff
the world over? A similar accusation might be easily brought against
French, English, and German drama. Not for the sake of the phrase did
M. Faguet salute Ibsen as "the greatest psychological dramatist since
the time of Racine." And remember that Faguet is a Frenchman loyal to
the art traditions of his race,--logic, order, clarity of motive, and
avoidance of cloudy dramatic symbolism.

There are at least three factors to be noted in the Ibsen plays--the
play _quâ_ play, that is, the drama for the sake of its surface
intrigue, with its painting of manner and character; the more ulterior
meanings and symbolism; and lastly, the ideologic factor, really
the determining one. M. Jules Gaultier, a young French thinker, has
evolved from the novels of Gustave Flaubert--greatest master of
philosophic fiction--a metaphysic which is very engaging. _Bovaryisme_
he denominates the tendency in humanity to appear other than it is.
This trait has been dealt with by all world novelists and satirists;
_Bovaryisme_ has elevated it to the dignity of a Universal Fiction. We
pretend to be that which we are not. It is the law of being, the one
mode by which life is enabled to vary and escape the typic monotony of
the species. It is the self-dupery of the race. We are all snobs of the
Infinite, parvenus of the Eternal. We are doomed to dissemble, else
perish as a race.

Now, apply the laws of biology to the moral world and you have
the perfect flowering of the application in the Ibsen drama. The
basic clash of character is that between species and individual.
Each drama furnishes an illustration. In Rosmersholm we see Johann
Rosmer--the last of the Rosmers, himself personifying the law of
heredity--endeavouring to escape this iron law and perishing in
the attempt. He drags down with him Rebekka West, who because of
her tendency to variability, in an evolutionary sense, might have
developed; but the Rosmer ideals poisoned her fresher nature.
Halvard Solness, the Master Builder, suffers from his tyrannical
conscience--nearly all of Ibsen's characters have a morbid
conscience--and not even the spiritual lift of that exotic creature,
Hilda Wangel, can save him from his fate. He attempts to go beyond
the law and limits of his being, and his will fails. But is it not
better to fall from his giddy height than remain a builder of happy
homes and churches? From her birth neurotic Hedda Gabler is hopelessly
flawed in her moral nature. She succumbs to the first pressure of
adverse circumstance. She, too, is not ripe for spiritual re-birth.
Nora Helmer, like Hilda Wangel, like Mrs. Alving, frees herself by her
variation from what we, in our ignorance of our own possibilities,
call the normal. It is a cardinal doctrine of Ibsen that we alone can
free ourselves; help can never come from without. This he demonstrates
by his ironical flaying of the busybody reformer and idealist, Greger
Werle, in The Wild Duck. Ibsen also presents here the reverse of
the Ibsen medal. Ekdal, the photographer, who is utterly worthless,
a fantastic liar and masquerader, like Peer Gynt, is not saved by
the interference of Werle--quite the contrary; tragedy is summoned
through this same Werle's intrusion, and that most pathetic figure,
Hedwig Ekdal, might have striven to self-realization had not her
young existence been snuffed out by a virtuous lie. Hilda Wangel is
the incarnation of the new order, Rosmersholm of the old. And, _les
femmes, ces êtres médiocres et magiques_, as Jules Laforgue calls them,
the women of Ibsen usually manage to evade the consequences of the
life-lie better than the men. The secret is that, nearer nature, they
instinctively will to live with more intensity of purpose. Sir Oliver
Lodge thinks that the conflict between Free Will and Determinism is
because we "ignore the fact that there must be a subjective partition
in the universe separating the region of which we have some inkling
of knowledge from the region of which we have none." It must be that
reservoir of eternal certitudes for which Maurice Maeterlinck sighs.
The unknown, the subliminal forces _là-has,_ have their share in the
control of our will, though we may only judge of what we see on this
side of the "misty region" of metaphysic. Be this as it may, Ibsen is
content to set his puppets acting within the appreciable limits of free
will allowed us by our cognition.

If this evolutionary foundation of the Ibsen drama be too deep, there
is also the dialogue, externally simple, terse, natural, forcible,
and in the vernacular replete with sonority, colour, and rhythm.
Yet it is a stumbling-block; beneath the dramatist's sentences are
pools of uncertainty. This is the so-called "interior" or "secondary"
dialogue. The plays, read in the illuminating sense of their symbolism,
become other and more perplexing engines of power. They are spiritual
palimpsests, through which may be dimly deciphered the hieroglyphics
of another soul-continent. We peer into them like crystal-gazers and
see the faint outlines of ourselves, but so seemingly distorted as to
evoke a shudder. Or is our ill-suppressed horror in the presence of
these haunting shapes of humanity the result of ignorance? The unknown
is always disquieting. Hippolyte Taine may be right. "Our inborn
human imperfection is part of the order of things, like the constant
deformation of the petal in a plant." And perhaps to Ibsen, who is ever
the dramatist, the lover of dramatic effects, should be granted the
license of the character painter. To heighten the facts of life is a
prime office of the playwright.

But he has widened by his synthesis the domain of the theatre; he
has brought to it new material for assimilation; he, in a technical
sense, has accomplished miracles by transposing hopelessly undramatic
ideas to the boards, and by his indomitable tenacity has transmuted
them into viable dramatic events and characters. Every piece of Ibsen
can be played; even Peer Gynt and its forty scenic changes. It has
been played--with its epic fantasy, humour, irony, tenderness, and
philosophy; Peer Gynt, the very picture of the modern inconstant man,
his spiritual fount arid, his imagination riotous, his conscience
_nil_, rank his ideals, his dodging along the line of least moral
resistance, his compromising with every reality of life--this Peer Gynt
is the very symbol of our shallow, callous, and material civilization.

In all the conflicting undertow of his temperament and intellect, Ibsen
has maintained his equilibrium. He is his own Brand, a heaven-stormer;
his own Skule, the kingly self-mis-truster, and his own Solness,
the doubter of himself cowed by the thoughts of the new generation
--personified in August Strindberg and Gerhart Hauptmann. The old and
the new meet at a tumultuous apex of art at once grim, repellent,
morose, emotional, unsocial, masterful, and gripping. And what an art!
What an ant-hill of struggling, impotent humanity he has exposed!
What riches for the comedians--those ever admirable exponents of
_Bovaryisme!_ They pass us slowly by, this array of Ibsen men and
women, with anguish in their eyes, their features convulsed and
tortured into revealing their most secret shames by their cruel master.
They pass us slowly, this motley mob, with hypnotic beckoning gestures
and piteous pleading glances, for their souls will be presently
spilled by their implacable creator. Lady Inger, her son dead, her
daughter distraught; revengeful Hjördis and bewitched Sigurd; Duke
Skule, fearing Hakon's divine right to the throne; Svanhilda freeing
Falk as she goes to her martyr marriage with the unloved Gulsted;
Brand, a new Adam, sacrificing wife and child to his fetich, "All or
Nothing"; fascinating, inconstant Peer Gynt; Emperor Julian, that
magnificent failure; the grotesque Steensgard; the whited sepulchre,
Consul Bernick; Nora and her self-satisfied Helmer; Oswald Alving and
his agonized mother; the doughty Stockmann, who declares that the
exceptional man stands ever alone; Gina, the homely sensible, and
Ekdal, the self-illusionist; Rebekka West and Johann Rosmer; Ellida
Wangeland the Stranger; Hedda and Lövborg; Hilda and Solness; Asta
and Rita Allmers; John Gabriel Borkman, his gloomy brows furrowed by
thoughts of vengeance, accused by Ella Rentheim, whose soul he has
let slip from his keeping; Rubek and Irene, the tragedy of the artist
who sacrifices love for art; and the entire cohort of subsidiary
characters, each one personal and alive---is not this small world, this
pictured life, a most eloquent witness to the fecundity of the northern
Rembrandt! He proclaims that "The Kingdom of God is within you";
Tolstoy has preached the like. But between the depressing quietism
of the Russian and the crescent individualism of the Norwegian there
lies the gulf separating East and West. Tolstoy faces the past. Ibsen
confronts the future.

       *       *       *       *       *



Students of Ibsen are deeply indebted to Mr. William Archer, not alone
for his translations--colourless though they often are--but also
for his illuminative critical articles on the Norwegian master. A
comparatively recent one describes Ibsen's apprenticeship and destroys
the notion that he owed anything to George Sand. He learned much of his
stagecraft from Eugène Scribe, who was the artistic parent of Sardou.
But as Mr. Archer wrote in an English periodical:--

      If the French are determined to claim some share in the
      making of Ibsen, they must shift their ground a little.
      He did not get his ideas from George Sand, but he got a
      good deal of his stagecraft from Eugène Scribe and the
      playwrights of his school. Ideas he could not possibly
      get from Scribe, for the best of all reasons; but he
      can be proved to have been familiar, at the outset
      of his career, with the works of that great inventor
      and manipulator of situations, from whom there can be
      little doubt that he acquired the rudiments of dramatic
      construction. He ultimately outgrew his teacher, even
      in technical skill, and his later plays, from Ghosts
      onward, show the influence of Scribe mainly in the careful
      avoidance of his methods. Nevertheless it was in the
      Scribe gymnasium, so to speak, that he trained himself for
      his subsequent feats as a technician.

It is significant of Ibsen's frame of mind in his extreme youth, that
his first drama was called Catilina (1850) and devoted to the Roman
champion of individual rights, the hater of tyrants. He studied,
says his biographer Hans Jaeger, Sallust's Catiline and Cicero's
Orations against Catiline; and Vasenius is quoted to the effect that
the Catilina of Ibsen is "a true representation of the historic
personage"--an opinion in which Jaeger does not coincide. Two women,
Aurelia and Furia, who dispute for the possession of the hero, are the
two women natures that may be found in nearly all of the dramas. It
is not the purpose of this study to dwell long upon the plays not in
the regular repertory. Chiefly for the historic retrospect are they
mentioned; particularly in the case of Catilina, the first as it sounds
the key in which the master works of the poet are generally sounded,
the key of individuality, "the utmost clearness of vision and fulness
of power," to employ Ibsen's own words.

Twenty-six poems appeared in a slim volume. They are boyish, one dating
from the nineteenth year of the author. They are immature, as might be
expected, though charged with pessimism, a youthful Byronism. "He went
about Grimstad like an enigma secured with seven seals," said a lady
who knew him then.

The Warriors' Tomb; Norma, or a Politician's Love,--this latter a
musical tragedy; St. John's Night, need not occupy our time, for the
curious Jaeger and Georg Brandes tell all there is to be told. St.
John's Night, though unpublished, was produced at the Bergen Theatre,
January 2, 1853.

The writer confesses to deep admiration for Fru Inger of Ostraat
(1857) and The Pretenders (1864), both translated by Mr. Archer.
Dealing as they do with historical figures they must be of necessity
interesting to Norwegians. Considered purely as stage plays they
appeal, particularly Lady Inger, a Lady Macbeth in her power for evil.
Nils Lykke, too, is firmly drawn and is fascinating in his ambitions
and debaucheries. There is one big scene in which the pair meet, which
does not soon leave the memory. We seem to see in The Pretenders "the
Great King's thoughts" of Skule, the germ of Julian's character, so
magnificently exposed in Emperor and Galilean. The Pretenders is full
of barbaric colour and the shock of arms. Some episodes recall in
atmosphere those wonderful scenes in Wagner's Götterdämmerung with
their hoarse-throated and bloody-minded thanes.

I was lucky enough to be present at the revival of this epical
composition at Berlin in the Neues Theatre, October, 1904. Previous
to this the Meiningen organization had presented the piece in a
worthy manner, and once at the Schiller Theatre there had been a few
representations. I was amazed at the power and verisimilitude of
Ibsen's characters up to the death scene--rather a theatrical one--of
the wicked Bishop Nikolas. After that the action became, because of
the weak interpretation of Duke Skule by Franz Wüllner, uninteresting.
And then, too, the fatiguing lengths; nearly five hours were consumed
in this noteworthy performance. Director Max Reinhardt was a subtly
wicked ecclesiastic, Friedrich Kanzler the heroic King Hakon. Die
Kronprätendenten, like Wagner's Ring, should be given in sections. At
the Neues Theatre it was splendidly mounted, though it is doubtful if
it ever will be a popular drama in Germany.

The Feast at Solhaug (1857) was a success when it was played at Bergen.
Jaeger says that Olaf Lijekrans, his next but unprinted drama, is
more romantic than its predecessor. St. John's Night is redolent of
folk-song, and the lyric prevails in nearly all the earlier work; but
prose dominates in the three historical dramas, the third being The
Vikings at Helgeland, considered elsewhere.

When Henrik Ibsen celebrated his seventieth birthday, the Berlin Press
Society, as an introduction to the celebration, had an Ibsen première,
at which his early drama, The Warriors' Tomb, was recited. This piece
exhibits him not as the psychological but as the romantic poet, in
his twenty-second year. He wrote the work in 1850 while he was a poor
student in Christiania. It was written immediately after Catilina, and
was performed on the stage at Christiania on September 26 of the same
year. When Ibsen became stage manager of tin Bergen Theatre a revised
version of the play was given, January 2, 1854. A local newspaper
printed it as a feuilleton, but every copy of that paper has vanished,
and The Warriors' Tomb exists only in two prompter's copies, one in
Christiania, the other in Bergen. The latter is the one which he
regards as the authorized version.

The piece is in verse and has a good movement and swing in it. It may
be called a dramatized ballad, and treats of the last great struggle
between Heathendom and Christendom. Students of English history know
how the Saxons wiped out Christianity from the Roman provinces they
conquered, except in a petty mountainous district in Wales, and
how a second wave of invaders ruined the Celtic church of Ireland
and the Celtic church of Iona, and founded an empire in Russia. It
seemed indeed as if the men who went to death hoping to drink mead in
Valhalla, would drive back those who went to battle hoping to sing
hymns among the cherubim. It is with this period of the world's history
that Ibsen's juvenile play is occupied.

King Gandalf and his men sail to Sicily to avenge the death of his
father, who had fallen in a Viking raid. There the rough wielder of the
sword meets the Christian maiden Blanca, and is conquered by her. The
word "forgiveness" overcomes him. He has sworn to die or be revenged,
so now resolves to die. Then he recognizes in a Christian hermit the
father whom he had believed to be dead. He buries only his sword and
his Viking spirit in the tomb of warriors.

The language of the piece is decidedly juvenile, and the whole of no
dramatic importance, yet it exhibits traces of the dramatic Viking of
to-day. In an address delivered at the Press Society's meeting, Dr.
Julius Elias points out that it contains another Ibsen motive, "the
ethical mission of woman." In the Lady of Ostraat, Ibsen's character,
Nils Lykke, says, "A woman is the most powerful thing on earth; in
her hands it lies to lead the man where God would have him," and here
Gandalf referring to an old saga says:--

'Tis said that to Valfather's share belongs
Only one-half of the slain warrior;
The other half falls into Freia's lot.
This saying I could never understand,
But now I grasp it. A slain warrior
Am I myself--and the best half of me
Belongs to Freia.

And Blanca leads Gandalf where God would have him; by her the rude
sea-king has his moral feelings touched, the heathen becomes a
Christian, the sea-rover a spiritual champion. She tells him that the
Northland that set out over the ocean to conquer the world with fire
and sword is called to "deeds of the spirit on the sea of thought."

Dr. Wicksteed in his invaluable lectures on Henrik Ibsen gives his
readers some specimen translations in prose of the poem. They deal,
in the main, with those themes dear to Tolstoy and Zola,--The Miner,
Afraid of the Light, The Torpedo and the Ark, Burnt Ships, The
Eider Duck--in this famous lyric as bitter-sweet as Heine's, Ibsen
prefigured his own flight from his native land to the South. We are
told by some that Ibsen was a man aloof from his country, a hater of
its institutions. No man, not even Björnson, has been more patriotic.
He has loved his Norway so well that he has seen her faults and has
not hesitated to lay on the lash. He loves the people quite as much
as Tolstoy his peasants; but he would have them stand each man on his
feet. Like Brand he has essayed to lead them to the heights, and never
has gone down to their level.

Love's Comedy (1862) is of especial interest to the student of the
prose plays. In it are floating, amorphous perhaps, the motives
we know so well of the later Ibsen. The comedy is accessible to
English readers, for it has been translated by C. H. Herford, with
an introduction and notes. Falk and Svanhild part because they fear
themselves,--she to marry a rich merchant, he to go his poetic path and
attempt to fly against the wind. The cruel satire of the lines stirred
all Norway. The paradox of two young folk abandoning each other just
because they fear their love will end the way of most married love,
is at least a rare one. As much as we admire Svanhild's resolution
to remember her love as a beautiful ideal, unshattered by material
realization, we cannot help suspecting that sensible old Gulstad's
money bags have a charm for her practical bourgeois nature. It is
Ibsen and his problem that is more interesting; we see the parent idea
of a long line of children, that idea which may be embodied in one
phrase,--never surrender your personality. "Nothing abides but the
lost" might be a motto for the piece, as Dr. Herford says. Brandes and
Wicksteed argue most interestingly from the theme. The young Ibsen had
recognized the essential mockery of so-called romantic love, with its
silly idealizations, its perplexed awakenings, its future filled with
desperate unhappiness. He had the courage to say these things by way of
a satirical parable, and there arose upon the air a burden of disgust
and hatred: cynic, atheist, brutal, and shocking. Ibsen bore it as he
bore his life long the attacks of press and public--in silence. He
could wait, and wait he did.

When Lugné-Poë produced The Comedy of Love at his Théâtre de
l'Œuvre, the translation by Mlle. Colleville and F. de Zepelin,
Catulle Mendès, who had been quarrelling with M. Poë to the extent
of a duel, wrote the following criticism of Ibsen's early work. It
illustrates the real Gallic point of view in the Ibsen controversy:--

      It seems that sensitive admirers of Henrik Ibsen do not
      class The Comedy of Love among the masterpieces of the
      great Norwegian. I am glad of it for the sake of those
      masterpieces. The thing which is displeasing above
      everything in this piece, where Ibsen's genius once
      more halts, is that one is unable to get at the initial
      intention of the author. What does he pretend to teach by
      making to evolute and chatter in the garden of a country
      house--what house I do not know, but for certain it is
      a matrimonial one--a number of engaged couples, married
      folks and parsons who are the fathers of a dozen children
      each? Those who used to love love no more; those who
      were romantic have become bourgeois; those who are still
      romantic will become bourgeois. Then there is a poet,
      whose lyrics we should classify in France--but we are in
      Lugné-Poë's house I--as provincial, who treats like a
      Philistine all these poor engaged persons, these engaged
      lovers, of our everyday life. As for him, being a poet
      (Heavens I how mediocre his verses must be!)--he pursues
      the vague, the immaterial, the sublime. He would like very
      well to carry with him in this pursuit a young person,
      once upon a time "poetical," but all the same strongly
      "practical," who, after inclining for an instant toward a
      life of devotion and _dévouement_ with the poet, does not
      hesitate to espouse a very rich merchant, who evidently
      has read Emile Augier, badly translated.

      It is with difficulty I discover the object of Henrik
      Ibsen. This puzzle is, however, very excusable in a
      French critic, since it is shared by critics of the
      North. Madame Ahlberg (read Ernest Tissot's book) thinks
      that Ibsen desires to show the contrast between love and
      the caricature of it which we see in marriage. Georg
      Brandes, the celebrated Danish critic, in The Comedy
      of Love esteems it impossible to know where he would
      carry the poet, and says, "the only certain thing is his
      pessimistic, conception of love and marriage."

      But Henry Jaeger, Norwegian critic, is not even sure of
      this, and to his mind this piece indicates that there
      are "sentiments of love, like those of religion; that
      is to say, which lose in sincerity the moment they are
      expressed." On which side should a Frenchman have an
      opinion on points which so divide much nearer judges?
      At the bottom I am not far from believing that Ibsen
      premeditated making it understood that even in love all is
      vanity upon this earth. Ecclesiastes was of this advice,
      and banality, that gray sun, shines on all the world. Is
      this to say that The Comedy of Love is a mediocre work?
      Not at all. Denuded of all dramatic interest, puerile
      because of its romantic philosophy, and often tedious to
      the point of inspiring us with the fear of a never ending
      yawn, this piece, all the same a dream of youth already
      virile, agitates in its incoherence, ideas, forces,
      revolts, ironies, and hopes, which a little later in more
      sure works, obscure but sure, will be the sad challenges
      of human personality. And moreover, in the lyrical
      language of personages too emphatically lyrical, which
      proceeds from that Suabianism which Heine vanquished,
      among all the little birds, all the little flowers, all
      the starlit nights, and other sillinesses of German
      romance, towers, flashes, and radiates resplendent the
      ardent soul of the true poet.

       *       *       *       *       *




With Dr. P. H. Wicksteed's affirmation, "Ibsen is a poet," humming in
my ears, I went to the most beautiful theatre in London, the Imperial,
to hear, to see, above all to see, the Norwegian dramatist's Vikings,
a few days before it was withdrawn, in May, 1903. For one thing the
production was doomed at the start: it was wofully miscast. The most
daring imagination cannot picture Ellen Terry as the fierce warrior
wife of Gunnar Headman. Once a creature capriciously sweet, tender,
arch, and delightfully arrogant, Miss Terry is now long past her prime.
To play Hjördis was murdering Ibsen outright.

But the play had its compensations. Miss Terry's son, Edward Gordon
Craig, exercised full sway with the stage, lighting, costumes. He
is a young man with considerable imagination and a taste for the
poetic picturesque. He has endeavoured to escape the deadly monotony
of London stage lighting, and, unaided, has worked out several
interesting problems. Abolishing foot and border lights, sending shafts
of luminosity from above, Mr. Craig secures unexpected and bizarre
effects. It need be hardly added that these same effects are suitable
only for plays into which the element of romance and of the fantastic
largely enter. We see no "flies," no shaky unconvincing side scenes,
no foolish flocculent borders, no staring back-cloths. The impression
created is one of a real unreality. For example, when the curtains are
parted, a rocky slope, Nordish, rugged, forbidding, is viewed, the
sea, an inky pool, mist-hemmed, washing at its base. From above falls
a curious, sinister light which gives purplish tones to the stony
surfaces and masks the faces of the players with mysterious shadows.
The entire atmosphere is one of awe, of dread.

With his second tableau Mr. Craig is even more successful. It is the
feast room in Gunnar's house. It is a boxed-in set, though it gives
one the feeling of a spaciousness that on the very limited stage of
the Imperial is surprising. A circular platform with a high seat at
the back, and a long table with rough benches, railed in, make up
an interior far from promising. A fire burns in a peculiar hearth in
the centre, and there are raised places for the women. Outside it is
dark. The stage manager contrived to get an extraordinary atmosphere of
gloomy radiance in this barbaric apartment. He sent his light shivering
from on high, and Miss Terry's Valkyr dress was a gorgeous blue when
she stood in the hub of the room. All the light was tempered by a
painter's perception of lovely hues. This scene has been admired very
much. For many, however, the third act bore off the victory. A simple
space of hall, a large casement, a dais, the whole flooded by daylight.
Here the quality of light was of the purest, withal hard, as befitted a
northern latitude.

In the last scene of all Mr. Craig wrestled with the darkness and
obtained several effects, though none startling or novel.

The Vikings was first planned for verse--a Norse tragedy of fate in
the Greek style. But the theme demanded a drastic, laconic prose, with
nothing unessential, and, as Jaeger points out, without monologues, or
lyric outbursts; the dialogue glows with passion, but the glow never
becomes flame or gives out sparks; here are caustic wit and biting
repartee, but the fighting is not carried on with light rapiers; we
seem to be watching a battle for life and death with the short, heavy
swords which the old Vikings used--hatred and love, friendship and
vengeance, scorn and grief--all are as intense as the sagas themselves.

The dramatic poet has been reproached, as his biographer asserts, for
"degrading the demi-gods" of the Völsung Saga into mere Norwegian and
Icelandic Vikings of the age of Erik Blodöx--or Bloody Axe. Other
critics, again, have commended him for making Vikings out of the
Völsung Saga.

Be it as it may, the result is drama of an excellent sort; romantic
drama if you will, yet informed by a certain realistic quality. Here
again the woman is the wielder of the power, and not the man. Hjördis
is the very incarnation of violence, of the lust of conquest, of hate,
revenge. She would overthrow kingdoms to secure the man she loved, and
that man is only a tool for her passionate ambitions.

The Vikings at Helgeland, then, is not exactly a dramatic paraphrase
of the Völsung Saga. Ibsen absorbed the wisdom of the ancients of his
race and made of them an organic work full of the old spirit, heroic,
powerful, and informed with the harsh romance of the time. This play
is not among his greatest, but it is none the less interesting as a
connecting link of his youth and early manhood.

Let us follow the piece scene by scene, noting the easy grasp of
character, the pithy dialogue, the atmosphere of repressed passion and
ferocious cruelty. There are evidences of crude power from first to
last. Upon the purple spotted rocks near the home of Gunnar Headman
on the island of Helgeland--in the north of Norway--Sigurd comes up
from his two war-ships which lie down in the misty cove. In the person
of Oscar Asche--familiar to New York theatre-goers as the appalling
Hebraic millionaire in Pinero's Iris--this Sigurd is a formidable
warrior, with hair in two blond plaits, steel-spiked cap, and fighting

He resembled Van Dyck's Siegmund as to girth, and with his big
bare arms, his bracelets, sword, and heavy stride, he gave one the
impression of clanking grandeur, of implacable phlegm. At once a row
begins, for Oernulf of the Fjords, an Icelandic chieftain, bars the
passage of the Viking. The pair fight. Fast from ship and cavern pour
warriors, and Dagny, the wife of Sigurd. Then hostilities cease. In
the young woman Oernulf recognizes a daughter wed without his consent
by Sigurd; for this hero, after giving up Hjördis--the foster daughter
of Oernulf--to Gunnar, marries Oernulf's real child, Dagny. As already
indicated, this scene was managed with remarkable deftness at the
Imperial. That sterling actor, Holman Clark, no stranger in America,
as Oernulf, carried away the major honours in this stirring episode.
His very mannerisms lent themselves to an amiable complicity with the
lines and gestures. We soon learn from his words that he means to
extort his pound of flesh from Gunnar for carrying off Hjördis. Sigurd
placates him with presents, with assurances of esteem. Dagny pleads
for forgiveness, and wins it.

Then enters Kara, the peasant, pursued by the house-carles of Hjördis,
and her motive is sounded for the first time in this drama of thwarted
love and hate. The wretched peasant has killed a subject of the Queen.
She is revengeful. He pleads for his life and is promised protection.
Hjördis soon appears. She looks like the traditional Valkyr and is
armed with a lance. Her nature is expressed in the cold way she greets
her foster sister, Dagny, though her face brightens at the sight of

Violently reproached by her foster father, Hjördis responds in kind.
Let Gunnar be weak; let him renew his pact of friendship with Sigurd.
_She_ owes nothing to Oernulf. He has slain her real father in unfair
fight--then she is called a wanton by the angry chieftain and her rage
flames up so that the dark rocks upon which they all stand seem to be
illumined. Kara, in the interim, has gone away muttering his vengeance;
Hjördis, dissimulating, invites all to a great feast in Gunnar's house
and departs. Sigurd would go. Dagny mistrusts. At last Sigurd tells his
too-long-kept secret. It was he that slew the white bear and won the
woman beloved of Gunnar. Dagny is amazed, and after being conjured by
her husband to keep precious this story she promises. But she wistfully
regards the ring upon her arm, the ring of Hjördis, plucked from her
wrist by Sigurd (the ring of the Nibelungs!). Sigurd bids her hide it,
for if Hjördis catches a glimpse of it the deception will be as plain
as the round shield of the sun blazing on high. And then--woe to all!
The curtains close.

Act II is devoted to the feast and the strange events which happened
thereat. Ibsen's magic now begins to work. His psychologic bent is felt
the moment after we see Dagny and Hjördis in conference. The mild wife
of Sigurd wonders audibly at the other's depression. Why should she
bemoan her fate with such a house, a fair and goodly abode? Hjördis
turns fiercely upon her and replies, "Cage an eagle and it will bite at
the wires, be they of iron or of gold." But has she not a little son,
Egil? Better no son at all for a mother who is a wanton, a leman! She
recalls with sullen wrath the words of Oernulf. In vain Dagny seeks to
pacify her. The older woman is of the race of Titans. She tells with
pride the story of the queen who took her son and sewed his kirtle fast
to his flesh. So would she treat her Egil!

"Hjördis, Hjördis!" cries the tender-hearted listener. For this she is
mocked. Hjördis further tortures her by asking if she has accompanied
her husband into battle, into the halls of the mighty. "Didst thou
not don harness and take up arms?" Dagny answers in the negative.
Gunnar is extolled for his deed, a mighty deed as yet not excelled by
Sigurd. The listener seems on the point of denying this Hjördis notes
her agitation and presses her, but Dagny is faithful to her word; she
keeps Sigurd's secret. Then in a burst, almost lyric, Hjördis confesses
her love for combat to the sisters of Hilda, the terrible Valkyrs who
fly in the sky, carrying dead warriors to Valhall. She loves, too,
witchcraft, and would be a witch-wife astride of a whale and skim the
storm waves. "Thou speakest shameful things," says the frightened
Dagny, and is scoffed at for her timidity.

Gradually the feast begins. The warriors assemble. I cannot say that
I admired their costumes, reminding me, as they did, of crazy-quilts.
Sigurd and Gunnar enter arm in arm. Egil, the hope of Gunnar's house,
has been sent away; his father feared the descent of Oernulf and his
men. He now regrets the absence of his boy. Oernulf is not present,
but is represented by his youngest son, Thorolf. After the drinking
has begun the trouble-breeding Hjördis weaves her spell of disaster.
She sets boasting the warriors, forces the hapless Gunnar to describe
how he slew the great white bear, and openly proclaims him a better
man than Sigurd. Even this breach of hospitality does not embitter the
friends. Thorolf, however, is hot, imprudent, and at a chance word from
Hjördis is set on fire. Miss Terry, it must be confessed, played this
entire scene with great dexterity. Her broken phrases,--for she has
not a prolonged note in her compass,--her scornful mien, her raucous
voice, and shrewish gestures were admirable agents for the expression
of ill-stifled hate. Taunted beyond his self-control, Thorolf tells
the woman that Egil has been kidnapped by Oernulf and his other sons.
Instantly she screams that Egil has been slain. Thorolf leaves,
swearing that he will be avenged; that, "Ere eventide shall Gunnar and
his wife be childless."

At this juncture Gunnar, who has hitherto seemed a lymphatic sort of
person, seizes his battle-axe, and, despite Sigurd's word of warning,
follows Thorolf and kills him. A moment later enter Oernulf, bearing in
his arms the child Egil, happy and unharmed. It is a striking climax.
To the father, already bereaved of his other sons, lost in the fight
with the treacherous peasant, Kara, for the possession of the child,
must be told the terrible news. Thorolf is the apple of his eye, the
last of his race. Broken-hearted Gunnar explains. Outraged at the deed
caused by Hjördis, the timid Dagny gives her the lie when Gunnar's feat
is again nauseatingly dwelt upon. "It is Sigurd who won the woman; look
at the ring on my arm!" Amazed, infuriated, Hjördis turns upon her
husband. Is it true? Gunnar confesses without shame. Sigurd presses his
hand and proclaims him a brave man, though he did not slay the bear.
The hall empties and after Dagny-woman-like--triumphantly exults and
cries, "Who is now the mightiest man at the board--my husband or
thine?" Hjördis is left to her miserable thoughts. She soon makes up
her mind, "Now have I but one thing left to do--but one deed to brood
upon; Sigurd or I must die."

These words recall the fatal Siegfrieds-Tod! of Götterdämmerung. Both
Wagner and Ibsen followed the main lines of the immortal epic.

If in this act the student, curious of those correspondences which
subtly knit together ages widely asunder, discovers a modern tone, he
will regain the larger air of the antique North in Act III. It belongs
essentially to Hjördis. In the free daylight we discover her weaving
a bowstring. Near her, on a table, lie a bow and some arrows. The one
soliloquy of the piece begins the act. It is short, pregnant--what is
to follow is incorporated in its _nuances_. She pulls at the bowstring.
It is tough, well weighted. "Befooled, befooled by him, by Sigurd--"
But ere many days have passed--!

Gunnar enters. He has had a bad night. He cannot sleep because of the
murdered Thorolf. Then for a few bars of this barbaric music Ibsen
relapses into pure Shakespeare. We see Lady Macbeth and her epileptic
husband merge into the figures of the fiercer Brynhild and the weaker
Gunther. The man is urged on to betray, to slay his friend.

Hjördis lies to Gunnar--as lied, when mad with jealousy, Brynhild to
Gunther and Hagen; but this same Hjördis has hardly the excuse of her
bigger-souled sister.

Gunnar weakens. He describes a dream that he has had of late.
"Methought I had done the deed thou cravest; Sigurd lay slain on the
earth; thou didst stand beside him and thy face was wondrous pale.
Then said I, 'Art thou glad, now that I have done thy will?' But thou
didst laugh and answer, 'Blither were I didst thou, Gunnar, lie there
in Sigurd's stead.'" Ill at ease, Hjördis flouts this dream and pushes
her cause to an issue. Sigurd must die. How? "Do the deed, Gunnar--and
the heavy days will be past." She promises cheap joys--love. He leaves
her clutched to the very heart by her baleful words. The next interview
is with Dagny. No trouble now in winging this emotional bird. Already
she repents of her cruelty the previous night and would make amends.
Hjördis recognizes the malleability of the woman and pierces her armour
by proving to her her own unfitness for the high position as wife of
Sigurd--now the sole hero. She plays all the music there is hidden
within this string, and it sounds its feeble, little, discouraged
tune without further ado. Dagny feels her worthlessness, has always
felt it; better let Sigurd go unattended, unhampered, and quite alone
upon that shining path of glory which surely awaits him. She leaves.
Treading upon her heels almost comes the redoubtable Sigurd to this
exposed cavern of the wicked. Too soon he falls into the toils, not
because, like Hercules with Omphale, he is merely a sensuous weakling,
but because he has loved Hjördis from the first. The plot curdles.
Explanations fall like leaves in the thick of autumn. If Sigurd has
loved, Hjördis has anticipated him. This eagle bends curved beak and
is of the lowly for the moment. She proves to Sigurd that the one
unpardonable sin is the repudiation of love.

For another and a nobler motive Sigurd gives place to his beloved
friend Gunnar, yet none the less is his a crime. It must be expiated,
as was John Gabriel Borkman's. Curious it is to note the persistency
through a half century of an idea. Like Flaubert, Ibsen did not really
add to his early acquired stock of images and ideas.

Tempted almost beyond his powers, Sigurd manages to save his
self-respect and remain faithful to his wife. He recognizes his
mistake; he has always loved the other woman, though he never knew
before that this affection was returned. Hjördis bids him renounce all
for her; together they will win the throne of Harfager--the ultimate
dream of Sigurd. Sadly he bends his back to her gibes, to her devilish
suggestions. One way is open to him. He can fight Gunnar in behalf
of Oernulf and thus avenge the death of Thorolf and put an end to an
existence become insupportable. Hjördis has other plans.

Act IV is short. We see the unhappy Oernulf lamenting his murdered son
before a black grave mound. He sings his Drapa over the dead body.
A storm arises. It is a night of terrors. Kara, the peasant, still
unappeased, burns the home of Gunnar. Hjördis meets Sigurd and, after
entreating vainly, shoots him with the bow and arrow she has made
expressly for the purpose. A strand of her hair is entwisted in the
bowstring. Sigurd, dying, tells her to her horror that he is not a
pagan, that even in death he will not meet her "over there," for he is
a Christian man; the white God is his; King Ethelstan of England taught
him to know the new religion. (The epoch of the play is A.D. 933.)
Despairingly, the strong-souled woman casts herself into a chasm and is
translated into Valhall by her immortal sisters, the Valkyrs. This last
scene is hopelessly undramatic and, as given at the Imperial, quite
meaningless. After Hjördis commits suicide the curtains shut out the

In the play, however, Oernulf, Dagny, Gunnar, and Egil are discovered
watching the storm. Gunnar claims the protection of the man whose son
he has slain. The body of Sigurd is found, and the arrow of Hjördis.
"So bitterly did she hate him," whispers Dagny to herself with true
Ibsenesque irony. Gunnar says aside, "She has slain him--the night
before the combat; then she loved me after all." These sly, pitiless
strokes would have proved too much to a British audience, sufficiently
outraged by several of Hjördis's very plain speeches. The little Egil
sees his mother on a black horse "home-faring" with the Valkyrs. The
storm passes; peacefully the moon casts its mild radiance upon this
field of strange conflict.

       *       *       *       *       *




In his three epical works,--for epics they are,--Brand, Peer Gynt, and
Emperor and Galilean, Ibsen reached poetic heights that he has never
since revisited. The spiritual fermentation attendant upon his first
visit to Italy in May, 1864, gave Norway, indeed all Scandinavia, its
first modern epic. And it is not strange that this Italian journey
should produce such monumental results. Goethe was at heart never
so German as in Italy; and Ibsen, one of the few names that will
be coupled with the poet of Faust when the intellectual history of
the past century is written, was never such a Northman as in Rome,
though he had left his native land full of bitterness, a self-imposed
exile, doomed to exist on the absurd stipend doled out to him with
niggardly hands by the Norwegian government. Yet, instead of turning to
antiquity, he penned Brand, one of the few great epics since Milton and
Goethe, and then as a satiric pendant let loose the demoniac powers of
his ironic fantasy in Peer Gynt. In this vast symphony, Brand is the
first sombre movement, Peer Gynt a brilliant Mephistophelian scherzo,
while Emperor and Galilean is the solemn and mystic last movement.

Brand places Ibsen among the great mystics beginning with Dante and
including the names of Da Vinci, Swedenborg, mad naked Blake, and
Goethe. Unlike the poet of the Divine Comedy he set his hell on the
heights, for the hell of the defeated is the story of that stern Brand
who left his church in the valley, summoned his flock to follow him
and found an Ice Church on the high hills. Only Hamlet and Faust are
recalled to the reader as they see this soul warped by its ideal of
"All or Nothing," and in the spiritual throes of doubt, even despair.
His God is the merciless Jahveh of the later Hebraic dispensation, not
the Eloihim of the earlier. Weakness of will is the one unpardonable
sin. Heroic as a Viking, he stands for all the Norwegian race was not
when Ibsen wrote his poem. Life broken into tiny fragments, waverers
and compromisers, he lashes his countrymen so that across these pages
you seem to hear the whistle of the knotted thongs. Conventional
religion comes in for its share of abuse from the tongue of this new
Elijah. The wife Agnes, one of the poet's most charming creations, is
at first attracted by the shallow, artistic Einar. When she meets
Brand her soul goes out to him. "Did you see him tower as he talked?"
she asks her companion. Bat as he sacrificed his mother to his ideal,
so he sacrifices his wife. Their child does not thrive in the gloomy
valley where this cure of souls abides. No matter. He remains. God's
will be done. The child dies. His clothes are sold to a gypsy because
Agnes has shed tears over them--a human weakness. She opens her window
in the evenings so that the lamplight will fall across the grave of
her child. That consolation, too, is denied her. Be hard! might be
the Nietzschean motto of her husband. And so she dies. His mother
died saying, "God is not so hard as my son," because he refused her
the sacraments. She had ill-gotten wealth. To make restitution was
his demand--All or Nothing. He would not make bargains, be a paltry
go-between for God and man. His nobility of character repels. People
feel his power but find him unapproachable. The _laissez-faire_ policy,
the easy-going philosophy of the official servants of God, raises
wrath in his bosom. He would drive these blasphemers from the sacred
precincts of the temple. It is his realization of the hopelessness of
reforming men by the old means that sends him to the mountains. He
has built a church, for the old church is too small. But the new, a
symbol of the soaring soul, is misunderstood. It is a gift from Brand
to his people, and so horrified is he with his failure to stir these
petty souls that he throws the church key in the river and summons the
multitude to follow him upward, up there in the clouds, where the true
God abides away from the vileness of mart and palace. Some follow, many
mock, and he is finally stoned and deserted. A crazy creature, Gerd,
who symbolizes wildness, an egotist who scorns human ties; she it is
who is appointed by the poet to open Brand's eyes. His spiritual pride
has been his downfall, for while thinking of others he has not "found
salvation for his own soul." The avalanche which she starts overwhelms
them both, but not before he hears a voice answer his prayer--does
mankind's will, then, count for nothing. "He is the God of Love," is
the reply.

Havelock Ellis thinks that "we have to look back to the scene in the
death of Lear" to attain a like imaginative height in literature.
Ibsen has set his character in a most life-like _milieu_. His people
are painted with a broad, firm hand. The mayor, the schoolmaster, the
doctor, the sexton, are living men, and their worldly natures are
clearly indicated. Prophet Brand is, though Ibsen told Georg Brandes
that he could have made him sculptor or politician, as well as priest.
Sören Kierkegaard and his revolt from orthodoxy may have supplied the
poet for his portrait. He, however, more than half hints that it was
Gustav Lammers who was the original of Brand, a fiery nonconformist man
who built his own church and seceded from the current evangelicism.

But, after all, Brand is Ibsen's own portrait, is a mask for Ibsen
himself. The beauty, grim as it is, and the picturesque variety of this
great poem almost match its ethical grandeur.

The Ice Church is too cold for humanity, Brand's ideal too inhuman.
Yet he has willed, he has not wholly failed. His error was in its
application--in not willing enough for himself. "Be what you are," he
exhorts the weak Einar, "whatever it is, but be it out and out" No
compromise with the powers of evil--yet Brand's doctrine led to his
destruction. Not to will is a crime, to will too much leads to madness.
What is the answer to this perplexing problem? Ibsen does not give it.
In his phraseology "to be oneself is to lose oneself." And Brand, who
was for "All or Nothing," severed his dearest ties and finally was
destroyed himself.

The complexity must not repel the student. Mr. C. H. Herford's
translation with the illuminating introduction is well worth the
reading. He thinks that the "Norwegian priest is tortured ... as
was Hamlet; Hamlet's power of resolve is depleted by the restless
discursiveness of his intellect; Brand's failure in sympathetic
insight hangs together with his peremptory self-assertion.... Unless
appearances wholly deceive, Shakespeare drew in Hamlet the triumph of
impulses which agitated without dominating his nature." Ibsen had
_lived_ Brand, he confesses it.

But as a stage play, and it has been played, it is not a success. It
lacks condensation. A battle-field of two tense souls--for Agnes's
almost matches Brand's at times--it is too long and too loosely
constructed in its joints for effective dramatic representation.
Dr. Wicksteed makes an acute point when he shows that Einar's smug
conversion--which fills Brand with loathing--is missed by the priest,
for "only a man whose heart is dead can live by that destroying phrase,
'All or Nothing.' The principle which slays the saintly Agnes, and
drives her heroic husband mad, fits the miserable Einar like a glove;
he is happy and at home with it."

Self-realization through self-surrender is the fundamental organ-tone
of the masterly, overarching epic. And note the symbolism of the
church, the church in the valley, and Gerd's Ice Church! This symbol
of architecture reappears in The Master Builder, just as the avalanche
motive reappears in When We Dead Awaken. The mountain-tops are the
abodes of Ibsen's heroes,--who are his thoughts,--and there he scourges
the human soul on this lofty Inferno.

In Brand, Ibsen girded against the weaklings, the men of half-hearted
measures, the conventional cowards of civilization. In Peer Gynt he
makes a hero of such a one, a lying, boastful fellow. The poem is one
of the most audacious and fantastic ever written. Yet with all its
shifting phantasmagoria, it so stands four-square rooted in the old,
brown earth. Peer is a rascal, but a lovable one; a liar from the first
page to the last. He "is himself" without a deviation from the crooked
paths of selfishness. Again Ibsen puzzles, for the very keystone of
his ethical arch is individuality. Peer is a compromiser at every
station of his variegated career. He, too, treats his mother cruelly,
though from different motives from Brand. He runs off with another
man's bride, because he has been too lazy to win her lawfully. He does
this in the face of a woman, Solveig, for whom he has entertained
the first unselfish desire of his shallow existence; he goes to the
trolls and lives in the swamps of sensuality--where Solveig follows
him, but is left; he goes to America after his mother's death,--a
most affecting page,--makes a fortune by selling Bibles, rum, and
slaves, buys a yacht, sets up for a cosmopolitan; "has got his luck
from America, his books from Germany, his waist-coat and manners from
France, his industry and keen eye for the main chance from England,
his patience from the Jews, and a touch of the _dolce far niente_ from
the Italians." He makes friends, for he is successful. They maroon him
on a savage shore, but blow up his yacht. He thanks God for the swift
retribution--as others have done in similar predicaments--though he
thinks the Lord is not very economical. Many adventures ensue, from
the episode with the dancing girl Anitra to the crowning in a madhouse
of Peer as Emperor of Himself.

At last, old, ruined, he returns to Norway. In the mountains, in the
identical hut, he finds the patient Solveig, who has always loved
him. He has met the Button-moulder, Death, who tells him that he is
doomed to the melting-pot, there to be re-minted. He has never been
himself, he the thrice-selfish Peer Gynt. His old thoughts come back
to him materialized as balls of wool. "We are thoughts," they cry,
"thou shouldst have thought us; hands and feet thou shouldst have lent
us." So this scamp, who "lived his life" seemingly to the utmost,
never lived it at all, blenches before the Boyg, the great, amorphous
mass that blocks his path, and listened to its whispered "Go round."
He always skirted difficulties, never faced them, a moral coward, a
time-server. Yet he may escape the Button-moulder, for Solveig has
believed in him. "Where have I been with God's stamp on my brow?" he
asks her, bewildered before the dawning perception of his worthlessness.

"In my faith, in my hope, in my love," she smilingly answers. The
Button-moulder calls without the house; "we meet at the last cross-way,
Peer, and then we shall see--I say no more." But Solveig guards him as
he sleeps.

The curse of Peer Gynt is his overmastering imagination coupled with
a weak will. It proves his downfall. "To be oneself, is to slay
oneself," says the Button-moulder. The lesson is the same as in
Brand,--self-realization through self-surrender. This parody of Don
Quixote and Faust was never the real Peer Gynt until the end.

The musical setting of Peer Gynt by Eduard Grieg gives no adequate
idea of the poem's dazzling humour, versatility, poetic power, malice,
swing, speed, and tenderness. Grieg, with the possible exception of the
episode of Peer's mother's death, has written in a sheer melodramatic
vein. Brand and Peer Gynt brought to Ibsen the fame he deserved, though
it was thus far confined to Norway.

The huge double drama, Emperor and Galilean, with the sub-title, a
World Historic Drama, is in a theatrical sense one of Ibsen's few
failures, though epical literature would sadly miss this vast and
hazardous undertaking devoted to Cæsar's apostasy and the Emperor
Julian, all in its ten acts. Naturally enough, even Ibsen's admirers
admit that the work lacks dramatic unity and that it is without
culminating interest. Yet dramatic it is, this narrative of Julian, the
so-called Apostate, who conceived the crazy notion of dragging from its
grave the forms of a dead and dusty paganism. He hates the Galilean
and finally becomes mad enough to crown himself a god. The vivid
pictures testify to Ibsen's powers of evocation, for it is said that
he was not deeply read in the classics. Dr. Emil Reich finds in Julian
something decadent, a prevision of the familiar Parisian type noted by
Huysmans. Rather have Huysmans and Ibsen gone to ancient Rome for their
figures--Julian has a touch of the Neronic cruelty and lust, just as he
has that monstrous artist's Cæsarean madness of dominion.

It is the scholar Julian listening to the teachings of the seer Maximus
who most attracts. Maximus predicts the advent of the Third Kingdom,
the kingdom which is neither that of the Galilean nor of the Emperor.
It is an empire that will harmonize both the empire of pagan sensuality
and the empire of the spirit and bring forth the empire of man. That
will be the Third Kingdom; "he is self-begotten the man who wills....
Emperor God--God Emperor. Emperor in the kingdom of the spirit,--and
God in that of the flesh." This mystic thought recalls that Joachim of
Flora, whose prophecies of the approaching Third Kingdom were approved
bythe Franciscans, by that section which was called the Spirituals.

There are some superb "purple patches" in Emperor and Galilean,
particularly in the second drama. Jealous of the Redeemer, for he would
be a world builder, he asks Maximus:--

"Where is he now? What if that at Golgotha, near Jerusalem, was but a
wayside matter, a thing done, so to speak, in passing, in a leisure
hour? What if he goes on and on, and suffers, and dies, and conquers,
again and again, from world to world? O that I could lay waste the
world! Maximus--is there no poison in consuming fire, that could lay
creation desolate, as it was on that day when the spirit moved alone on
the waters?" A second Alexander this, not groaning for more worlds to
conquer, but eager to slay the Son of Man.

Maximus has told him that, "You have tried to make the youth a child
again. The empire of the flesh is swallowed up in the empire of the
spirit. But the empire of the spirit is not final, any more than the
youth is.

"You have tried to hinder the growth of the youth--to hinder him from
becoming a man. O fool, who have drawn your sword against that which is
to be--against the third empire in which the twin-natured shall reign."

After bewailing that the Galilean will live in succeeding centuries to
tell the tale of the Emperor's defeat, Julian sees blood-red visions,
the hosts of the Galilean, the crimson garments of the martyrs, the
singing women, and all the multitudinous sent to overthrow him. In
the ensuing battle he dies with the historic exclamation upon his
lips,--"Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!"

Wicksteed points out that Julian is a pedant, not a prophet. Again we
may see operating in another environment a Peer Gynt on the throne, a
Skule of the Pretenders. Julian doubted as did Skule his divine call;
he did not really believe in himself, and under he went on his way to
the Button-moulder. Emperor and Galilean has all the largeness of an
epic and much of that inner play of spiritual functions which may be
seen amplified in its two predecessors.

The double drama was performed for the first time in its original
language at the National Theatre, Christiania, March 20, 1903. It
was played in German in connection with the celebration of Ibsen's
seventieth birthday in Berlin in 1898, and earlier in 1896 at Leipsic.

       *       *       *       *       *




The Young Men's League is actually the first of the prose social
dramas, though in Love's Comedy, published seven years earlier, we find
the poet preoccupied with love and marriage. Politics and politicians
fill the picture, an exceedingly animated one of the new play. Some
critics pretend to see in the figure of Steensgaard a burlesque of
Björnson, with whom about this time Ibsen had a quarrel. But this
has been denied. Steensgaard is the ideal politician,--that is, the
politician without ideals. He is carried away by the sound of his own
sonorous voice, by the rumbling of his own empty rhetoric. Brought
up in low environment, he snobbishly worships all this as base
and vulgar. So we find him capitulating to the enemy at the first
attack, a little flattery, a pleasant visit to an aristocratic house,
a peep at the daughter, and Steensgaard has changed his political
skin. He has so long misled himself that he misleads others. He is a
phrase-monger, a _parvenu_, a turn-coat. He is, in a word, a politician
all the world over. Thackeray would have delighted in the portrait
of this blathering, self-confident, self-deceived--a Peer Gynt in
politics, but without Peer's brilliant imagination. The characters
grouped about him are very vital,--the pompous aristocrat, Chamberlain
Bratsberg; the impressionable Selma; Monsen the swindler, Bastian and
Ragna his children; the shrewd Dr. Fjeldbo; Daniel Heire and Madame
Rundholmen--the latter one of those incomparably observed women of the
lower middle classes so grateful to Ibsen's powers of depiction.

When the comedy was produced, a scandal ensued. The dramatist had
spared neither high nor low. The piece was hissed and applauded
until the authorities interfered. It is more local than any of the
plays, though some of the characters are sufficiently universal to be
appreciated on any stage, Steensgaard the lying lawyer-politician in

       *       *       *       *       *




Pillars of Society is the fifteenth play of Henrik Ibsen, several of
which, among them Norma and The Warriors' Tomb, have not yet been
published. Written in Munich, it appeared in the summer of 1877.
The ensuing autumn saw the play on the boards of nearly all the
Scandinavian theatres; Germany followed suit early the next year, and
the success of this satiric social comedy ran like wildfire throughout
the continent. It was not until December 15, at the Gaiety Theatre,
London, that it had an English hearing.

There is something of Swift in its bitter strokes of sarcasm at the
expense of the ruling commercial classes. The Northern Aristophanes,
who never smiles as he lays on the lash, exposes in Pillars of Society
a varied row of whited sepulchres. His attitude is never that of
Thackeray: he never seems to sympathize with his snobs and hypocrites
as does the kindly English writer. There is no mercy in Ibsen, and his
breast has never harboured the milk of human kindness. This remote,
objective art does not throw out tentacles of sympathy. It is too
disdainful to make the slightest concession, hence the difficulty in
convincing an audience that the poet is genuinely human. We are all of
us so accustomed to the little encouraging pat on our moral hump that
in the presence of such a ruthless unmasking of our weaknesses we are
apt to cry aloud,--"Ibsen, himself, is an enemy of the people!"

It is an ugly, naked art, an art unadorned by poetic halos, lyric
interludes, comic reliefs, or the occasional relaxation by wit of
the dramatic tension. Love me, love my truth, the playwright says in
effect; and we are forced to make a wry face as we swallow the nauseous
and unsugared pill he forces down our sentimental gullets. His sinews
still taut from the extraordinary labours of Emperor and Galilean, that
colossal epic-drama of Julian the Apostate, the Scandinavian poet felt
the need of unbending, so he wrote Pillars of Society. It is the second
of that group of three dramas dealing with social and political themes
in the large, external style of which he is the unrivalled possessor.
Ibsen smelt corruption in all governments of the people by the people
and against the people. He foresaw that King Log was more dangerous
than King Stork. For him Demos has ever been the most exacting of
tyrants, the true foe to individuality.

The student of social pathology will find much that is amusing in
a grim sort of a way scattered throughout the scenes of Pillars of
Society. There is much action, much swift dialogue, much slashing wit,
and the general atmosphere is of a more breezy character than in the
plays which follow this one. Cheerful it is not. Surgery, whether of
the body or the soul, is not exactly pleasure-breeding. The story is
not an involved one, though Ibsen has woven a sufficiently complex
pattern to afford æsthetic interest in its disentanglement. If Consul
Bernick had not been in need of money, he would not have married
his meek wife, Betty, to whose elder half-sister he had previously
pledged his faith. As a pillar of society in a thriving community,
as the pillar of its church and commerce, Bernick could never afford
to be caught napping. Once it had nearly happened. He had carried on
an illicit love affair with a French actress. Her husband surprised
the pair. Bernick contrived an escape. So his brother-in-law, who had
slipped away to America, was blamed for the scandal, and you may easily
imagine the tongue-wagging and head-nodding in this philistine town.

It seems that Ibsen levelled his shafts at a species of social
hypocrisy peculiar to his native land. Here in America, where all
is fair and naught is foul, his satire falls short of its mark, for
our target is clean, and our sepulchres are unwhited! Probably this
optimistic sense of being different--and better than our neighbours
--fills us with satisfaction in the presence of an Ibsen play.
Strangely enough the people in this very drama entertain identical
opinions on the subject of their American brethren! Perhaps Pillars
of Society is not so provincial in its character-painting as some of
Ibsen's critics have imagined. Perhaps his shoe fits!

The return of the supposed fugitive Johan, Bernick's scapegoat
brother-in-law, finds the Consul beloved and respected by his
fellow-citizens. He has educated in his own household Dina Dorf, the
daughter of that French actress with whom years before he had seen
merry days--that is, if there is really any joy of life in those
dull, drab Norwegian communities. With Johan returns Lona Hessel, the
elderly sister-in-law. The Bernick household is dismayed at this rude
invasion of the "Americans," and the tragi-comedy begins in earnest.
Bernick has not improved with the years. He has become more grasping
for wealth and power. He even conceives the idea of sending to sea an
untrustworthy ship. Its rotten hulk almost carries off his young son,
while the father imagines that the unwelcome visitors, Johan and Lona,
are on board. To complicate matters, Dina, sick of the false odour
of sanctity in the home of Bernick, loves Johan, and to the infinite
scandal of every one she speaks out her mind. _She_ will go to America,
where people are not so good--alas! Ibsen didn't know that our national
goodness is becoming as a rank, threatening vegetation upon the body

Furthermore Bernick, so as to make himself pose as a self-sacrificing,
deeply injured man, has insinuated that Johan was an embezzler as
well as an immoral man. About the figure of the Consul there cluster
several admirable hypocrites: Rector Rörlund, who keeps Bernick upon
his pinnacle of self-righteousness; Hilmar Tönnessen, who goes about
sniffing out other people's soul maladies and carrying with peevish
pride the "banner of the ideal"; and several merchants, who are in with
the Consul whenever a "deal," public or private, is possible. The minor
characters, the women in particular, are individually outlined from the
shipbuilder Aune, with his sturdy adherence to the interests of the
Bernick house and his weak-kneed code of morals, to the veriest sketch
of a clerk--all are human, brimming over with selfish humanity.

The catastrophe is led up to with a masterly gradation of incident.
Confronted by Lona when in his darkest hour of despair and need,
Bernick has the lying garments in which he invests himself for his
family and friends torn away by the fearless words of Lona. She does
not accuse him of committing the one unforgivable, biblical sin which
Ella Rentheim throws at the desperate head of John Gabriel Borkman.
No, Lona does not say, "You slew the love that was in me;" she tears
up two incriminating letters, she declares that with Johan and Dina
she will return to America; but--but Bernick must escape from the cage
of lies in which, like a monstrous master-spider, he has been spinning
a network of falsehoods for the world. He groans out that it is too
late, that he must "sink along with the whole of the bungled social
system"--he is not the first, nor the last man, who has attempted to
shift upon society his individual sins. He calls himself the tool, not
the pillar, of society, and you seem to see, as he talks, the plaster
flaking off in great patches, and the ugly stains coming into view.

A grand demonstration by the town is made: torchlight, music, speeches,
a presentation, and all the rest of the cheap, vain humbug of which
we all disapprove so heartily in America--and indulge in it about
once every hour. Bernick tells the truth, confesses that he is the
real sinner, not Johan, and shocks his world immeasurably, especially
the priggish Rörlund. That worthy rector, who would marry Dina in a
pitying, pardoning way, is flouted by her. She leaves with Johan. Then,
it may be confessed, there is a flat, conventional conclusion, "docked
of its natural, tragic ending," as Allan Monkhouse truthfully declares.
Bernick is in reality re-whitewashed at the close of this powerful,
picturesque play.

One feels instinctively that more could be done with Lona and Bernick,
more utilized from the strong scenes between Aune and Bernick. But in
John Gabriel Borkman, Ibsen later realized the wicked grandeur inherent
in the character of a tremendous financial scoundrel; like Balzac's
Mercadet, his Borkman is a figure hewn from the native rock. Bernick
is a man you may meet in Wall Street, and certainly on any Sunday in
any given church you enter. He is proud, pious, fat as to paunch, and
lean-souled; and he drives a hard bargain with God, man, and devil. In
a word, the average pillar of any society, one who believes in making
religion and patriotism pay; a good father, a good husband, a good
fellow, is the inscription chiselled on his marble mortuary shaft--and
then the worms stop to smile archly at their eternal banquet! Truth
is always at the bottom of a grave. And Ibsen is a terrible digger of
graves when he so wills it.

As a matter of record it would not be amiss to state that Pillars of
Society, written in 1877, was produced in America at the Irving Place
Theatre, December 26, 1889, with Ernest Possart as Bernick, Frau
Christien as Mrs. Bernick, and Frl. Leithner as Lona. In English it
was first heard at the Lyceum Theatre, March 6, 1891, with George W.
Fawcett as Bernick, Alice Fischer as Lona, and Dina Dorf played by
Bessie Tyree. There was a third performance at Hammerstein's Opera
House three days later. Wilton Lackaye and his company revived the
piece at the Lyric Theatre, New York, April 15, 1904.

       *       *       *       *       *




Ibsen has been persistently confounded with those mannish women
who, averse from marriage, furiously denounce it as a tyrannical
institution. Strindberg, who was half mad at the time, accused the
Norwegian poet of being a woman's rights advocate. Dr. Brandes has told
us the contrary. Ibsen was never a woman's man; he did not like women's
society, preferring men's. He did not admire John Stuart Mill's book on
the woman question, and entertained an antipathy for those writers who
declare, gallantly enough, that they owe much in their books to their
wives. A sheer sense of justice impelled him to view the institution of
matrimony as not always being made above. A woman is an individual. She
has, therefore, her rights, not alone because of her sex, but because
she is a human being. So he wrote A Doll's House to show a woman's soul
in travail beset by obstacles of her own and others' making.

Thoroughly he accomplished his task. Nora Helmer, a lark-like creature
in Act I, grows before our eyes from scene to scene until, at the fall
of the curtain, she is another woman. In few dramas has there been
such a continuous growth. The play seems a trifle outmoded to-day,
not because its main problem will ever grow stale, but because of the
many and conflicting meanings read into it by apostles of feminine
supremacy. Ibsen declared in one of his few public speeches that he had
no intention of representing the conventional, emancipated woman.

It is Nora as an individual cheated of her true rights that the
dramatist depicts, for her marriage, as she discovers in the crisis,
has been merely material and not that spiritual tie Ibsen insists
upon as the only happy one in this relation. So she goes away to find
herself, and her going was the signal for almost a social war in
Europe. His critics forgot that Ibsen was a skilled deviser of theatric
effects, and such an unconventional exit was not without its artistic
values. This does not mean that he was insincere--Nora's departure is
a logical necessity. Without it the play would be sheer sentimental,
and therefore banal, nonsense. Nevertheless, that slammed door
reverberated across the roof of the world, and not over the knocking at
the gate in Macbeth was there such critical controversy.

One finds Nora Helmer a fascinating type of womanhood to study. To be
sure, she is not new--neither is Mother Eve, but can we ponder the
apple story too often or unprofitably? This Scandinavian Frou-Frou,
bursting with joy of life, is confronted with a grave problem, and as
she has been brought up perfectly irresponsible and a doll, she solves
the problem in an irresponsible manner. She commits forgery, believing
that the end justified the means, and you perforce sympathize with her
as her act brought good, not evil--rather would not have brought evil
if it had not been for the evil mind of Krogstad.

After the awakening Nora resolves to go away--away from husband,
home, and children. That such a revulsion should occur in the nature
of a gadabout and featherbrain like this girl, is not unnatural. Now
Torvald is not a bad man. On the contrary, he is what the world calls
a good man, and he is an insufferably selfish, priggish bore into the
bargain. Nora knew that when she left him "the miracle of miracles"
would never occur--that the leopard does not change his spots. The end
of this human fugue, so full of passion and vitality, contains some
of the strongest lines Ibsen penned. Nora is such a volatile, gay,
frivolous, restless, perverse, affectionate, womanly, childish, loving,
and desperate creature, that we hardly marvel at both her husband and
her father petting her like a doll. The awakening was severe, and
Torvald suffered, and it served him quite right. Dr. Rank forms "a
cloudy background" to the happiness of the Helmer household. He is very
interesting, with his cynicism and tragic resolves and passion. But
he serves his purpose in indicating certain things to Nora. He first
suggests, unconsciously, to her the thought of suicide, for Krogstad
discovers this thought lurking in her mind at his second visit and just
after Dr. Rank has made his confession of love to her. As for Krogstad,
he is only a man of mixed impulses. He could have been a decent member
of society; indeed, he tried hard to be. The unfortunate entrance into
the Helmer family life of Mrs. Linden upset all of his calculations,
and he became a blackmailer in consequence.

The afternoon of February 15, 1894, Mrs. Fiske played Nora in A
Doll's House at the Empire Theatre. It was a benefit performance.
Her support was unusually strong; W. H. Thompson, the Krogstad, won
critical admiration for the manner in which he suggested the shades
of a character whose possibilities for good and evil are perplexingly
interwoven. Mrs. Fiske was, however, the surprise of the day. Shedding
her Frou-Frou skin, she sounded every note on the keyboard of Nora
Helmer's character. She was bird-like, evasive, frankly selfish,
boiling with material enthusiasms, a creature of air, fire, caprice,
gayety, and bitterness. Excepting Agnes Sorma no one has indicated
with such _finesse_ of modulation the awakened moral nature of the
woman. And it is to be doubted if Mrs. Fiske ever bettered that first
rapturous interpretation.

The ending is an unresolved cadence, though to the ear attuned to the
finer spiritual harmonies it is not difficult to discern that the
wife will suffer and grow--and be herself. But the children, cries the
world! Ibsen, who has proved his love for the little ones, answers the
question by another. Read Ghosts, and you will see what might have
become of the Helmer children if Nora had stayed at home and continued
in her life-lie.

As an acting rôle Nora has won the suffrages of such artists as Betty
Hennings, Agnes Sorma, Hélène Odilon, Gabrielle Réjane, Friederike
Gossmann, Lilly Petri, Modjeska, Mrs. Fiske, Irene Triesch, Hilda
Borgström (a great Hilda Wangel), Stella Hohenfels, and Eleonore Duse.

Henrik Ibsen once attended a dinner given in his honour by the Ladies'
Club of Christiania, and made a speech about himself in answer to a
toast. Miss Osina Krog, in proposing Ibsen's health, spoke of him as a
poet who had done much for woman through his works. Dr. Ibsen's reply
was this:--

      All that I have composed has not proceeded from a
      conscious tendency. I have been more the poet and less
      the social philosopher than has been believed. I have
      never regarded the women's cause as a question in itself,
      but as a question of mankind, not of women. It is most
      certainly desirable to solve the woman question among
      others, but that was not the whole intention. My task
      was the description of man. Is it to some extent true
      that the reader weaves his own feelings and sentiments in
      with what he reads and that they are attributed to the
      poet? Not alone those who write, but also those who read,
      compose, and very often they are more full of poetry than
      the poet himself. I take the liberty to thank you for the
      toast, with a modification, for I see that women have a
      great task before them in the field for which this ladies'
      association works. I drink the health of the club and wish
      it happiness and success.

      I have always regarded it as my task to raise the country
      and to give the people a higher position. In this work
      two factors assert themselves. It is for the mothers to
      awake, by slow and intense work, a conscious feeling of
      culture and discipline. This feeling must be awakened in
      individuals before one can elevate a people. The women
      will solve the question of mankind, but they must do so as
      mothers. Herein lies the great task of women.

And this speech quite dissipates the notion that Ibsen had affiliations
with the Feminists.

       *       *       *       *       *




Following the scandal created by the first performance of A Doll's
House, Ghosts seemed like a deliberate affront to his critics, a
gauntlet hurled into their faces by the sturdy arm of Dr. Ibsen.
Now, he said, in effect,--though he has never condescended to pulpit
polemics or café Æsthetics,--here is a wife who resolves to endure
who stays at home and bears that burden. Nora Helmer refused! Behold
Mrs. Alving, the womanly woman, good housewife--_malgré elle même_--and
good mother!

Ghosts, like much that is great in art, is a very painful play. So
is Macbeth, so is Lear, so is Œdipus Rex. There are some painful
pictures in the small gallery of the world's greatest art, and in
music analogous examples are not wanting. Probably the most poignant
emotional music thus far written is to be found in the last movement
of Tschaikowsky's Pathetic Symphony. It is cosmic in its hopeless woe.
Yet Ibsen gives the screw a tighter wrench, for he conceived the idea
of transposing all the horror of the antique drama to the canvas of
contemporary middle-class life.

He gives us an Orestes in a smoking jacket, the Furies within the walls
of his crumbling brain. Naturally the academic critics cry aloud at the
blasphemy. The ancients, Racine, Shakespeare, and the rest, softened
their tragic situations by great art. As in a vast mirror the souls of
the obsessed pass in solemn, processional attitudes; the contours are
blurred; the legend goes up to the heavens in exquisite empurpled haze.

"Very well," grumbles in answer the terrible old man from Norway, "I'll
give you a new _Æsthetik_. Art in old times is at two removes from
life. I'll place it at one. I'll banish its opiates, its comic reliefs,
all its conventions that mellow and anæstheticize."

Then he wrote Ghosts. It is terrible. The Orestean Furies are
localized. They are no longer poetic and pictorial abstractions, but a
disease. So you can accept the thesis or leave it. One thing you cannot
do: you cannot be indifferent; and therein lies one secret of Ibsen's
power. It is his aloofness that his audiences resent the most of all.
If, like another master showman, Thackeray, Ibsen would occasionally
put his tongue in his cheek, or wink his eye in an aside, or whisper
that the story was only make-believe--there, dear ones, don't run away
--why, the Ibsen play might not be avoided as if it were the pest. But
there are no concessions made, and the sense of reality is tremendous
and often nerve-shocking.

The blemishes in Ghosts are few, yet they are in full view. That fire
is our old friend, "the long arm of coincidence." And what pastor
of any congregation, anywhere, could have been such a doddering
old imbecile as Manders with his hatred of insurance? Possibly he
represents a type of evangelical and very parochial clergyman, but a
type, we hope, long since obsolete. It is not well, either, to pry
deeply into the sources of Oswald's insanity. Thus far it has not
been accurately diagnosed. Let us accept it with other unavoidable
conventions. The pity about Ghosts, which is in the repertory of every
continental theatre, is that the Ibsenites made of it a stalking horse
for all kinds of vagaries, from free love to eating turnips raw.

Ibsen holds no brief for free love, or for diseased mental states. You
may applaud Mrs. Alving, you may loathe her; either way it is a matter
of no import to this writer. To call Ghosts immoral is a silly and an
illogical proceeding, for it is, if it is anything at all within the
domain of morals, a dramatic setting of the biblical wisdom that the
sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. This may be pure
pathology; in Ibsen's hands it is a drama of terrible intensity.

Ghosts is a very simple but painful story. The dissolute Captain
Alving, the father of Oswald, dies of his debaucheries before the play
begins. His wife, the mother of Oswald, has believed it her bounden
duty to hide from the world the cancer which is eating up her family
life. She partially succeeds, and only when he brings shame to her very
door does she weaken and fly to Pastor Manders, whom she once loved,
and who presumably loves her. This worthy clergyman does only what his
ideals have taught him. He refuses her refuge and sends her back to her
husband, admonishing her that her duty is to accept the cross which God
has imposed upon her and to reclaim her husband. Frozen up in heart
and soul, Mrs. Alving begins a long fight with the beasts of appetite
which rule her husband's nature. She sends away her son Oswald, she
even adopts a bastard daughter of her husband's, and marries off the
mother--a servant in her employ--to a carpenter, Jacob Engstrand
by name. The girl grows up to womanhood; Oswald, her son, becomes a
painter and lives in Paris. Captain Alving dies a miserable death,
his vices a secret to all but a few, while his widow seeks a salve
for her conscience by erecting with his money an orphanage. Naturally
Pastor Manders takes much interest in this scheme, and when he meets
Oswald fresh from Paris, he is struck by the resemblance the morbid,
sickly-looking youth bears to his dead father.

But all has not been well with the young man. He has been told by a
famous alienist in Paris that his days of sanity are numbered, and he
is at a loss to conjecture why such a curse should be visited upon
him. He always heard of his father's greatness and goodness. I know of
few more touching scenes than the conversation between mother and son,
and the horrible confession which follows. It is like a blast from a
charnel house; but then, what power, what lucidity! The poor, tortured
mother unburthens her heart to her pastor, and of course receives scant
consolation. How could he, according to his lights, treat her otherwise
than he did? Manders is a type, and he always faces the past; Mrs.
Alving looks toward the west for the glimmer of the new light. Alas,
it comes not I She only hears her son crying aloud, "Give me wine,
mother!" It is the spiritual battle of the old and new. And the old
order is changing.

Worse follows. The boy falls in love with Regina, his half-sister,
as to whose identity he is in absolute darkness, for she has been
brought up as a maid in his mother's house. But with his mind weakening
he clutches at this straw to help him. "Isn't she splendid, mother?"
he says, admiring the girl's superb animal development, and we can
easily conjecture the agony of his mother. Weak she must appear in the
pastor's eyes, for she almost hesitates about revealing the birth of
Regina, and wavers on the question of Oswald marrying her. She has been
too indulgent to the boy, and Manders does not scruple to tell her so.
He is one of your iron-minded men who have a rigid sense of what is
right and wrong, and one who would have no sympathy with fluttering
souls like Amiel, Lamenais, Clough, or any of the spiritual band to
whom dogmas are as steel clamps. Mr. Manders is outraged at Mrs.
Alving, and proposes sending Regina away, but where? To her father,
Jacob Engstrand, a cunning, low, hypocritical rascal? No, he is not her
real father. At the end of the first act both overhear Oswald trying
to kiss Regina in the dining room, and another such scene, in which
Captain Alving and Regina's mother were the actors, flashes before her,
and she cries "Ghosts!" as the curtain falls.

Everything then goes wrong. The Alving orphanage burns down, and
there is no insurance because Pastor Mander believes that insuring a
consecrated building against fire would be questioning Providence.
But his human respect plays him into the hands of Jacob Engstrand,
whose cunning is more than a match for the worthy priest. The dialogue
between these two widely varying types is a masterpiece.

Mrs. Alving is at last goaded into telling Oswald and Regina of their
blood relationship, and the girl, who is a bad, selfish lot, goes
away--deserts the family at the most critical period. She upbraids
Mrs. Alving for not having told her of her true station in life, and
turns her back on the poor mumbling wretch Oswald. She then walks
off defiantly and to her putative father's home, a sailors' dance
house. Oswald's mind is completely unhinged by this dénouement, and he
confides to his mother in stuttering, stammering accents--the sure
forerunner of the crumbling brain within--that he has some poison to
kill himself with; that he had relied on Regina to do it when he would
be an absolute idiot; but, as Regina was at hand no longer, his mother
must play the executioner.

The end is as relentless as a Greek tragedy. The boy chases his mother
from room to room imploring and screaming at her to rid him of his
pain; as she brought him into life without his consent, so should
she send him forth from it when he bade her. It is all frightful,
but enthralling. When Oswald cries aloud for the sun, the end has
been reached. He is a hapless lunatic, and his wretched, half-crazed
mother, remembering her promise to him, searches frantically in his
pocket for the morphine, and then a merciful curtain bars out from
further view the finale. If Ibsen's scalpel digs down too deep and
jars some hidden and diseased nerves, what shall we say? Rather can he
not turn upon us and cry, "I but hold the mirror up to nature; behold
yourselves in all your nakedness, in all your corruption!" Anatole
France once wrote, "If the will of those who are no more is to be
imposed on those who still are, it is the dead who live, and the live
men who become the dead ones." And this idea is the motive of Ghosts.

       *       *       *       *       *




Ibsen was called such hard names when Ghosts was produced that
William Archer made a collection of all the epithets hurled at the
dramatist's head and published them in the _Pall Mall Gazette_ with
the title Ghosts and Gibberings. Of course the Norwegian was indignant
that his play should have been so grossly misunderstood, and in An
Enemy of the People he undertook to show that the reformer--the true
pioneer--is always abused and pilloried as a dangerous foe to society,
and that the majority is always in the wrong. It is merely a case of
Horace's _odi profanum vulgus_ over again. But how did the playwright
go about his task? Did he paint for us another Ajax defying the
social lightning? Did he give us a modern Coriolanus? With his usual
ideal-demolishing propensities this terrible old man makes his hero a
fussy doctor--a man of the middle classes; a man who forgets the names
of the servant girls; a man who loves to see his children feed on roast
beef; a man who is economical in little things; a thorough professional
gentleman, who explodes, fusses, fumes, fidgets, goes off continually
at half cock; a crack-brained enthusiast, a fanatic, and a teller of
disagreeable truths. But this doctrinaire with torn trousers is a
mighty fellow after all, and by the supreme genius of his creator has
quite as much right to live as any Homeric hero. Vitality is the most
masterful test of a dramatist's characters; their vitality is their
excuse for being. Every figure in An Enemy of the People is brimming
with vitality, from the drunken man to Dr. Stockmann. Of course you can
hardly be expected to take an overweening interest in the condition
of the water pipes in that little town on the south coast of Norway.
What are water pipes to Hecuba? Yet a world of principle is involved in
these same germ-breeding conduits, and the crafty dramatist has, while
apparently depicting local types, contrived to paint a large canvas.
Have we not our Burgomaster Stockmanns, our Editor Hovstads, our timid
meliorists like Aslaken, and our fire-eating Billings? Men, men all of

What a daring thing it was to write a play without a love scene, a
play which is more like life than all the sensualistic caterwaulings,
philanderings, and bosh and glitter of the conventional stage, which we
fondly fancy holds the mirror up to nature! I have before dwelt on the
frugality of his phrases, of the delicacy and concise cleaving power
of his dialogues. He has broken with the convention of monologues,
of mechanical exits--indeed, of everything which savours of old-time
stage artifice. His acts terminate naturally, yet are pregnant with
possibilities. You impatiently wait for the next scene, and all because
a lot of nobodies in an out-of-the-way Norwegian health resort fight a
man who is crazy to tell the truth--and ruin the place. But they are
human beings even if they strut not in doublets and hose, and pour not
out perfumed passion to the damosel on the balcony.

One cannot sympathize much with Dr. Stockmann. He, while being "the
strongest man on earth," brought a calamity on his native place by his
awful propensity for blabbing out the truth. Besides, Ibsen leaves us
just a margin of doubt in the matter. Perhaps the worthy medical man
was not correct in his diagnosis of the waters, and if this were so
his conduct was inexcusable. But he fought for that most dangerous of
ideals,--the truth, even though he flaunts in the face of the mob the
fact that "a normally constituted truth lives, let me say as a rule,
seventeen or eighteen years: at the outside twenty; seldom longer."

One recalls Matthew Arnold's lecture on Numbers, in which that essayist
preached the evils of majority. Ibsen hits at democracy when he
can--for him the mass of the people is led by the few. An Enemy of the
People is an excellent repertory piece, though one feels the moral
stress too strongly in it.

       *       *       *       *       *




The Wild Duck followed An Enemy of the People and preceded Rosmersholm,
and is linked by similar inner motives, so these plays really can be
grouped as a trilogy. Stockmann, the energetic denouncer of public
dishonesty, is now Gregers Werle, just as earnest and sincere in
his claims for the ideal and in his strictures upon the erring. But
from what a different point of view, with what different results!
If Stockmann is a public-spirited reformer, Werle is a sneak and a
nuisance. Yet the two men's ideals coincide. Why this shifting of
position on the part of Ibsen?

A period of depression, consequent upon his uninterrupted labours and
their seeming futility, may have been one reason; the other is probably
because Ibsen, charged with the spirit of bitter mockery and in a
pessimistic humour, wished to show the obverse of his medal. From Brand
to Stockmann his idealists had been heaven-stormers. Well, here is a
heaven-stormer, an idealist, who is a dangerous man _because_ he tells
the truth. Is it well to blurt out the truth on all occasions? The
result of this thesis is one of the most entertaining, one of the most
tragic, plays of the series.

The Wild Duck has several drawbacks, the chief being the confusing
mixture of satire and tragedy; the satire almost oversteps the
limitations of satire, the tragic emphasis seems to be placed at the
wrong spot. The two qualities mingle indifferently. And the act ends
are not satisfying; they lack climax, especially after the catastrophe.
But the dialogue as in The League of Youth is an admirable transcript
from life. Each character speaks; nothing sounds as if written. The
glory of The Wild Duck is its characterization. Even the implacable
Dr. Nordau praises Gina Ekdal, calling her a female Sancho Panza. The
comparison is a happy one, for her husband, Hjalmar Ekdal, is a Don
Quixote of shreds and patches, a weak, vain, boastful, gluttonous,
shiftless fellow, and, of course, an idealist. He raves of the ideal,
and he is kept to an insane pitch of cloudy self-exaltation by Gregers
Werle, who, discovering that Gina was a former mistress of his father,
tells Ekdal with dire results. The little Hedwig, the most touching in
Ibsen's gallery of children, is also worked upon by the mischief maker,
so that she kills herself from a spirit of sacrifice--more of Werle's

Ekdal talks grandiloquently about shattered honour to Gina, who bids
him eat bread, drink coffee--he has been out all night airing his woes
to the storm. The woman's homely wit, solid common sense, and big
heart are given with satisfying verisimilitude. Gregers' father, and
his housekeeper, Mrs. Sörby; the garret of the photographer Ekdal,
where his disgraced, old drunken father has rigged up a mock forest
in which he hunts the "wild duck" and other tame fowl; the character
of Relling, Ibsen again masked, whose sardonic humour, cruel on the
surface, is in reality prompted by a kind heart--he makes people
believe they are grander than they are and therefore makes them
happier; all these figures in this amazing Vanity Fair are handled
masterfully. The World-Lie is here in microcosmic proportions. Every
one, except the stolid, unimaginative Gina, swaggers about in the
sordid atmosphere of deception. Werle always makes matters worse, and
on a painful note of tragedy the curtain falls. The tyranny of the
ideal is clearly set forth.

       *       *       *       *       *




Rosmersholm was finished in 1886. It followed The Wild Duck, that
ghastly mockery of Ibsen's own ideals, and in its turn it was followed
by The Lady from the Sea. The astonishingly fecund imagination that
drew Gina Ekdal in The Wild Duck did not show symptoms of fatigue in
the characterization of Rosmersholm. Its first representation occurred
on January 17, 1887. Bergen, Norway, and later Berlin, heard it
twenty-five times in one season. London had its taste of the strange
combination of evil and good on February 23, 1891; Paris, October 4,
1893, with Lugné-Poë's company. All Europe witnessed with astonishment
Rosmersholm, and New York had its first English performance March 28,
1904, at the Princess Theatre by the Century players.

Rosmersholm is not an agreeable drama. Why any one who prefers
amusement should sit it out is strange: stranger still the impulse to
abuse it because it does not give the same pleasure as the circus. Like
Hamlet Rosmersholm has a long foreground--Emerson said the same of Walt
Whitman. Hamlet comes before us after the mischief of his life has been
worked, his father has been slain, his mother has married the slayer
of her son's father, of her son's happiness. The first scene in Hamlet
is illuminating; the first two acts of Rosmersholm are most perplexing
to an audience unprepared for them by study. The technical error of
the modern play lies here: until Act III we are left in darkness as to
Rebekka's character and her ruling motives. Dr. Emil Reich proposed,
merely as a matter of experiment, a _schemata_ or a new _scenario_, in
which the first two acts would show Rebekka West freshly arrived at
Rosmersholm, her conduct with Beata Rosmer, the slow persecution of
that unfortunate lady, and her death by suicide at the mill-dam. This
idea has only one drawback--Ibsen did not follow it when he planned his

The truth is that, notwithstanding its mastery of character,
Rosmersholm must not be viewed as a drama following any previous model.
Emile Faguet declines to consider any longer the northern dramatist as
a realist. In his early prose dramas, when he filled in his canvas with
jostling throngs, Ibsen was a painter of manners; but as he grew, as
his method became less that of his predecessors and more of his own,
the action became more intense. The modern psychologic drama was born,
the drama in which wills collide, but not the will for trivial things.
It is the eternal duel of the sexes, the duel of the old and the new.
In this sombre atmosphere, subjected to many pressures by the black and
alembicated art of the dramatic wizard, the circumstances that occur
externally are of little significance, the dialogue spoken not to be
accepted unless for its "secondary intention." Bald on its surface,
its cumulative effect discloses the souls of his people. Commonplace,
even provincial as are their gestures, their surroundings, we presently
see the envelope of humanity melt away, and soon exposed are the real
creatures, the real men and women, exposed as in a dream. It is a cruel
art this that unwraps leaf by leaf the coverings of the human soul.
With the average dramatist, clever though he may be, his inspiration
compared to Ibsen's is like fire in a sheaf of straw--the spark glows
for an instant and then there is a vivid crackling of shallow flame.
We witness the illuminated edge of an idea, and then it fades into the
blackness. Ibsen's flame is more murky than brilliant; but it makes
light the swamps he traverses on his irresistible progress to the
mountains beyond.

Isolated then as is the _milieu_ of Rosmersholm, its real territory is
spiritual and not Rosmer's gloomy manor-house. The real and the ideal
are indescribably blended. Only after much study does the character
of Rebekka Gamvik, called West, yield its secrets. She was born in
Finmark. Her mother, possibly of Lapp origin, had carried on an
intrigue with Dr. West. Rebekka was its fruit. This she did not know
until too late to avert a hideous catastrophe; it was not alone her
illegitimacy that so horrified her when Rector Kroll informed her of
it--there were depths which she did not care to explore farther, though
she made the offer to Rosmer. Dr. West at his death bequeathed a small
library to his adopted daughter, and this proved a Pandora box both
to her and to Rosmersholm. Books of a "liberal" character filled the
mind of the young woman with dangerous ideas; for like the disciple in
Paul Bourget's novel, she speedily translated these ideas into action.
As cunning as Becky Sharp, as amorous as Emma Bovary, as ambitious as
Lady Macbeth, Rebekka West is the most complete portrait of a designing
woman that we know of; she is more trouble-breeding than Hedda Gabler.

Vernon Lee speaks of "the certainty that something is going on, that
certain people are contriving to live, struggle, and suffer, such as
I am haunted with after reading Thackeray, Stendhal, or Tolstoy." She
quotes William James's phrase, "the warm, familiar acquiescence which
belongs to the sense of reality." All greatly imagined characters in
fiction and drama have this "organic, inevitable existence," which
persists in the memory after the book is closed, after the curtain has
fallen. Rebekka West is among these characters. She is more terrible
than one of Félicien Rop's etched "Cold Devils." She grows in the
mind like a poisonous vegetation in the tropics. More magnificent in
her power to will and execute evil than Hedda Gabler, she weakens at
the crucial hour; this same will is paralyzed by the old faiths she
had sneered away. Edmund Gosse considers the failure of Rosmer as an
instance of new wine fermenting in old bottles. Equally, in Rebekka's
case, the old wine spoils in the new bottles.

Taking her courage in both hands the comely young woman contrives to
enter the household of Rector Kroll, whose sister Beata is married
to Rosmer. Kroll is a sturdy schoolmaster, an orthodox Conservative,
settled in his conviction that the world was made for good church-men
with fat purses--by no means a ludicrous or a despicable character. As
drawn by Ibsen, his is a massive personality,--sane, worldly-wise, a
man who hates the things of the spirit just as he hates radicalism. But
he doesn't know this. And it is the irony of his fate that he utters
those smug phrases dedicated by usage to matters spiritual, while he
walks in the way of the flesh. A tower of strength, Kroll is more than
the match for such a dreamer as Johannes Rosmer. Brendel, besides being
a fantastic adumbration of Ibsen, has propulsive power. He changes, at
each of his two appearances, the current of Rosmer's destiny.

Rebekka intuitively discerns this little rift in the armour of Kroll,
and flatters the worthy teacher, flatters his wife until she smuggles
herself beneath the Kroll roof-tree. There she encounters Rosmer
and his wife Beata. The latter is attracted by the fresh, vivacious
stranger with the free manners. Life at Rosmersholm is dull; Johannes
is a student of heraldry and a poor companion. Again Rebekka moves. She
is soon mistress of Rosmersholm. Her quick brain makes her a delight
to the master, her hypocritical sympathy an actual necessity to his
wife. Then begins the systematic undermining of both. She lends Dr.
West's books to the clergyman, and she insinuates into the feeble
brain of Beata the deadly idea that because of her childlessness she
is no longer worthy to remain Madame Rosmer. Slowly this idea expands,
and its growth is accelerated when Beata sees Johannes falling away
from the faith of his fathers. Sick in body, sick in brain, the
deluded woman is led step by step to the fatal mill stream. Before the
confession that Rebekka is disgraced and must leave Rosmersholm at
once, Beata recoils, and quickly commits suicide. And now the curtain
rises on Act I.

While these facts are revealed by subtle indications in the dialogue,
a feeling of dissatisfaction is also aroused. Not until Act III do we
learn of them completely, then through Rebekka's defiant confession.
This confession is brought about by a simple result, the failure of
Rosmer to reach her ambitious expectations. He is an idealist, a hero
of dreams, one who longs to step into the noisy arena of life and
"ennoble" men. Little wonder his brother-in-law Kroll mocks him. A
Don Quixote without the Don's courage. Surely Ibsen was smiling in
his sleeve at this milk-and-water Superman, this would-be meddling
reformer to whom he adds as pendant the pure caricature of Ulric
Brendel. Full of the new and heady wisdom garnered from Dr. West's
library, Rosmer resolves to break away from his political party, his
early beliefs, his very social order. The insidious teachings of
Rebekka flush his feeble arteries. He defies Kroll, and the war begins.
It is not very heroic, principally consisting in mud-throwing by rival
newspapers. Ibsen's vindictive irony--for the episode was suggested
by the disordered politics of Norway in 1885--has ample opportunities
for expression in the character of Mortensgaard, the editor of the
opposition journal, a man who has succeeded in life because, as Brendel
truthfully says, he has managed to live without ideals. Mortensgaard
is very vital. He is a scoundrel, but an engaging one in his outspoken
cynicism. It is only in print that he hedges. As much as he desires the
support of Rosmer, easily the most prominent man on the country-side,
it is as Rosmer the priest and conservative and not Rosmer the radical.
There are too many of the latter tribe!

This shifting of standards puzzles the clergyman; but when he learns
that the editor has a letter written by Beata which might incriminate
both Rebekka and himself, then he begins to see his false position, and
also the peril of playing with such fire. Slowly he is undeceived as to
Rebekka's character. He catches her eavesdropping, and is stunned by
her confession of treachery and murder. In the last act the bewildered
man hears another upsetting disclosure. On the eve of her departure
for the north, and after Rosmer has made his peace with Kroll and his
party, she blurts forth the fatal truth. She has long loved Rosmer,
and that love, at first passionate, selfish, impelled her to crime;
with the months came a great peace, and then, like a palimpsest showing
through the corrupt training of her girlhood, her conscience asserted
itself. Rosmersholm and the Rosmer ideals had begun their work of
denudation and disintegration. If the Rosmer ideal ennobled, it also
killed happiness, which really means that, the sting of her wickedness
being extracted, the woman was powerless for good or for evil; she no
longer had the inclination to descend into the infernal gulf of crime,
nor had she the will power to live the higher life. The common notion
is that Rebekka is converted by pure love. It is a suspiciously sudden
conversion. Rather let us incline to the belief that the main-spring
of her will was broken, even before Rosmer offered her marriage. Of
a cerebral type, like the majority of Ibsen's heroines, the violence
of her passion once cooled, she had nothing to make her life worth
while. Her confession calmed her nerves; after it, like many notorious
criminals, she was indifferent to the outcome.

In Rosmer the old churchly leaven began to work. Horrified by Rebekka's
revelation, as disappointed in her as she was in him, he demanded
why she had confessed her love. To give you back your innocence, she
replied. Does he wish for another test?--then make one, she will not
fear it. Straightway the stern priest awakens in him; he has never cast
off, despite his blasphemies, the yoke of the Lord. This woman that he
loves was the murderess of his wife Beata. An eye for an eye! Expiation
must be by blood sacrifice! Does she dare go out on the bridge across
the stream and--? Rebekka, worn out, sick of the vileness of her soul,
weary of this life which can now promise nothing, eagerly assents. She
will go, and go alone. Soon the last tremor of manhood is felt in the
superstitious brain of Rosmer. No, she shall not go alone. Together as
man and wife, sealed by a kiss, they will go to eternity. And then the
male moral coward and the female companion of his destiny walk calmly
to their fate. The housekeeper watches them fall in the raging pool,
and she is not as much surprised as one would imagine.

"The dead wife has taken them," she exclaims, for, like every one at
Rosmersholm, she believes in the triumph of the dead.

Rebekka West recalls to Georg Brandes the traits of a Russian woman,
rather than a Scandinavian. This is true. She might have stepped out
of a Dostoïevsky novel. She is far more interesting because far more
complex than Hedda Gabler, while not so modish or so fascinating. She
is less of a moral monster than Hedda, and far braver. She, at least,
has tested life and found its taste bitter in the mouth. Her eroticism
we must take for granted; in the play she displays nothing of it;
all is retrospective and introspective. The woman never contemplated
suicide; but that way out of the muddle is as good as a wretched
existence in some Finnish village. Rosmer proposes the suicide, he
dares not face his own wrecked ideals; it takes a man who is master of
himself to master his fellows. Life is like running water in his hands;
the woman he loved is a failure; all things come too late to those who
wait. Of Rebekka's repentance Ibsen leaves us in no doubt; but that she
would have elected self-slaughter for her end one strongly discredits.
It is despair, not heroism, that exalts her. She committed crime for
love, and now that crime she will expiate by self-surrender to her
lover's wish.

Browning would have delighted in such a theme as this, and might have
developed it into a second Ring and the Book. But dramatically the
English poet could never have beaten and bruised the idea into shape.
Ibsen has surmounted perilous obstacles in his dramatic treatment of a
purely psychologic subject. We wish to witness a conflict of wills, and
not the hearsay of such a conflict. Thus nearly two acts seem wasted
before the real situation occurs at the close of Act II, when Rosmer
proposes marriage. But so little does the poet care for incident, for
detail, that Rosmersholm might be played in one scene; the main action
takes place before the curtain goes up. The drama is a curious blending
of several styles--there are two motives and two manners. Both Free
Will and Determinism--not such Hegelian opposites as we imagine--have
each a share; while a mingling of romance and realism is shown in the
narration and in the background. The White Horse of Rosmersholm is
a colourful bit of symbolism, recalling Walter Scott; the accessory
characters are the homeliest and most natural imaginable. Auguste
Ehrhard, Ibsen's French admirer, has pointed out that in his subsidiary
figures the dramatist is very lifelike and his chief characters are
usually the mouthpieces of his theories.

The protagonist of Rosmersholm is Beata. She is seldom long absent from
each of the four acts. She peers over the edges of the dialogue, and
in every pause one feels her unseen presence. An appalling figure this
drowned wife, with her staring, fish-like eyes! She revenges herself
on the living in the haunted brain of her wretched husband, and she
exasperates Rebekka, slowly wearing away her opposition until the
doleful catastrophe. There is something both Greek and Gothic in this
spectral fury, this disquieting Ligeia of the mill-dam.

We find the old hero and heroine obsessed by fate, replaced by this
neurasthenic pair. The antique convention is altered, ancient values
depreciated. A hero is no longer interesting or heroic; the heroine,
a criminal, is no longer sympathetic. Yet we are enthralled by this
spectacle; for if cultivated man disdains the crude dramatic pictures
of lust and cruelty admired of his ancestors, he, nevertheless, hankers
after tragedy. And it is for the modern that Ibsen has devised a
tragic, ironic drama of the soul. In doing this the dramatist is the
slave of his own epoch, for, to quote Goethe again, a genius is in
touch with his century only by virtue of his defects; he, too, must be
an accomplice of his times.

Brandes has quoted Kierkegaard in relation to Ibsen's position: "Let
others complain of this age as being wicked. I complain of it as being
contemptible, for it is devoid of passion. Men's thoughts are thin
and frail as lace, they themselves are the weakling lace-makers. The
thoughts of their hearts are too paltry to be sinful." Browning has
expressed the same sentiment in his poem, The Statue and the Bust;
Ibsen transformed it into drama. His men are dreamers, his women
devils; both stop short of the great renunciation or the great revolt.
It is the realization of his failure that drives Rosmer and Rebekka
with him to death. As her strength of will once dominated him, so his
weakness ultimately overmasters her. She is a woman after all, a woman
in whom instinct has cried so imperiously that it wrecks her soul. A
fiddle may be mended, says Peer Gynt, but a bell, never! A cracked bell
might be the symbol of this extraordinary drama.

Rosmersholm has a planetary moral, and not a theologic one. And the
moral law cannot be transcended, he teaches in his elliptical style. He
is in the uttermost analysis an optimist.

Those self-indulgent weaklings who seek in Ibsen's dramas for
confirmation of their mediocre ideals will be sadly mistaken. Ibsen,
if he teaches anything, teaches that the ego is a source of danger. It
is in the delicate relations of the sexes that he reveals himself the
sympathetic poet and healer. And what greater tragedy on earth is there
than an unhappy marriage? Ever the moral idea is the motive of his
plays, the one overarching idea of our universe: man's duty to himself,
man's duty to his neighbour! That has been the chief concern of all the
great dramatists, and to its problems this poet-psychologist has added
his burden of the discussion.

In Rosmersholm we see how the self-deceptions of the man and woman who
disregarded the natural law and worldly wisdom ruined their lives.

Dr. Wicksteed concludes that "the strength and weakness of Ibsen's
much-discussed treatment of marriage lie in the fact that he does not
deal with it as marriage at all, but as the most striking instance of
the ever recurrent problem of social life, the problem that we may
hide in other cases, but must face here, the problem of combining
freedom with permanence and loyalty, of combining self-surrender with

Faguet scores Brandes for denying that Ibsen alone among dramatists
has used the symbol in a peculiarly poetic manner, proving that if
Ibsen is a realist he is also a psychologist, who with his lantern
illuminates the recesses of the soul. "For example," writes M. Faguet,
"in Rosmersholm, northern nature in its entirety, with its savageness,
its immense expanse of space, its broad horizons, its lofty heavens, is
the symbol, to my mind, of the moral liberty to which aspire several
characters of the play, as, indeed, do half of Ibsen's characters."
Finally, the symbol is above all a means for the dramatic poet to
give full expression to the poetry in his soul ... in Ibsen it is
essentially a direct product of the author's poetic faculty.... "Up to
the present time Ibsen is the only dramatic poet to write symbolical
dramas, that is to say, dramas into which a symbol is introduced
occasionally by way of explanation or commentary, or as an element of
beauty." The symbol, then, is not a sign of a weakened imagination, as
some bigoted "psychiatrists" would have us believe.

And the interpretation of Rosmersholm! Not a half-dozen actresses on
the globe have grasped the complex skeins of Rebekka West's character,
and grasping them have been able to send across the footlights the
shivering music of her soul. Thus far Scandinavian women have best
interpreted her to the satisfaction of the poet. The Italians are
too tragic, the French too histrionically brilliant; it is a new
virtuosity, a new fingering of the dramatic keyboard, that is demanded.

       *       *       *       *       *




Told with infinite technical skill, displayed on a canvas, the tints of
which modulate from dull copper to the vague mistiness of a summer sea,
this mermaid allegory of Ibsen had a charm that has almost vanished
in the translation and vanishes still more at a performance. Ellida
Wangel, The Lady from the Sea, is the second wife of Dr. Wangel, a
sensible, healthy bourgeois. She is jealous of his dead wife, she
is a neurotic creature given to reverie and easily impressed by the
strange, the far-away, the poetry of distance. In a mood of fantastic
excitement she once betrothed herself to a stranger, a sailor on an
American ship. He comes back to claim her, and so perfectly adjusted
are the atmospheric conditions of the drama, that we believe she should
leave her home and go away with this slightly supernatural and old-time
romantic figure.

In a stirring interview Ellida lets out the truths about her married
life to the perplexed Wangel--who is a sort of elder brother to
Helmer, though kinder of heart. "You bought me," she cries, her bosom
overcharged with the truth. It is the truth, but then, who cares co
face domestic truth? The worthy doctor is sadly taken aback. He had
married Ellida because his children needed a mother; he had--and "you
bought me all the same," is the cutting response. It is so. The man
sees the case from a different angle, and listens to her story of the
stranger. She will go when he returns, she says. He does return. He
does claim her; and in the garden scene at the end we see a situation
not unlike that last act of Candida. The stranger bids Ellida
prepare for departure. Wangel, who knows women better than it would
appear, tells her to go. "Now you can choose in freedom and your own
responsibility." The woman wavers and finally sends the sailor about
his business. The problem has been solved. Ellida can go to her husband
of her own free will.

Wicksteed's comment is refreshing. "The mere freedom of choice in which
Ellida Wangel and Nora Helmer lay such stress is but a condition, not
a principle of healthy life.... Without the spirit of self-surrender
free choice will never secure self-realization." This lady of the
light-house--Ellida was brought up in one--has two stepdaughters, the
eldest of whom contracts a loveless marriage, as does Svanhild in The
Comedy of Love, for the sake of a comfortable home. This parallelism
in the sub-plot is a favourite device of Ibsen--as though the children
mimicked the parents. The younger daughter later becomes the celebrated
Hilda Wangel who charms Master Builder Solness to his glory and ruin.
There is little in her here that gives evidence of such potentialities.
She is rather pert, wild, and self-conscious. The men of the play are
all excellently sketched. The Lady of the Sea, too, presents, in a
hazy symbol, the old lesson of individuality and free choice. But the
parable has never been so poetically uttered except in Brand.

It is pleasant to record the impressions of a performance of this play
at the Lessing Theatre, Berlin, September 30, 1904. Director Otto Brahm
has long been a noted Ibsenite, his brochure familiar to all students
of the Scandinavian master. Ibsen, in German, plays decidedly smoother,
with more sonority and an abundance of the much-decried "atmosphere."
The stage settings, as is usual at this artistic playhouse, were
beautiful. Yet one felt the danger of transferring to the boards such
an imaginative idea. In the hands of Agnes Sorma the difficult rôle of
Ellida would not have suffered. Irene Triesch, despite her unequivocal
sincerity, is not temperamentally suited to the part. A mermaid who is
given to morbid reveries and a fierce buccaneer-like stranger hardly
convince us in this miracle-hating age. Each time the sailor appeared
with his big cloak and melodramatic hat I expected to hear the theme
of the Flying Dutchman intoned by an invisible orchestra. The human
half of the story is more credible. Boletta and Hilda are real flesh
and blood, while the tutor Arnholm, impersonated by that excellent
character-actor, Emmanuel Reicher, was as big a bore as Ibsen probably
intended him to be. The Lady from the Sea is an attempt to capture a
mood in which Maeterlinck might have been more successful.

       *       *       *       *       *




Hedda Gabler is a great play, great despite its unpleasant theme,
and also remarkable, inasmuch as its subject-matter is essentially
undramatic--"the picture not of an action but of a condition," as Henry
James puts it. The Norwegian poet usually begins to develop his drama
where other writers end theirs. Yet so wonderful is his art that we are
treated to no long explanations, no retrospective speeches; indeed, the
text of an Ibsen play is little more than a series of memoranda for the
players. Cuvier-like, the actor must reconstruct a living human from a
mere bone of a word. These words seem detached, seem meaningless, yet
in action their cohesiveness is unique; dialogue melts into dialogue,
action is dovetailed to action, and fleeting gestures reveal a state of
soul. Ibsen does not read as well as he acts. He is extremely difficult
to interpret for the reason that the old technic of the actor is
inadequate, as Bernard Shaw long ago declared.

One merit of the piece is its absence of literary flavour. It is a
slice of life. In his prose dramas, Ibsen throws overboard the entire
baggage of "literary" effects. He who had worked so successfully in the
field of the poetic legendary and historic drama; who had fashioned
that mighty trilogy Brand, Peer Gynt, and Emperor and Galilean, saw
that a newer rubric must be found for the delineation of modern men and
women, of modern problems. So style is absent in his later plays--style
in the rhetorical sense. Revolutionist as he is, he is nevertheless a
formalist of the old school in his adherence to the classic unities.
In Hedda Gabler the action is compressed within a space of about
thirty-six hours, in one room, and with a handful of persons. One is
tempted to say that the principal action occurs before the play or
"off" the stage during its progress. We may see that Hedda does little
throughout. Yet, through some magical impartment of the dramatist, we
seem to be in possession of the characteristic facts of her nature
before she arrives on the scene. Concision does not alone explain
this, it may be noticed in other plays of the Norwegian. It is the
dramaturgic gift raised to its highest power, though that power be
expended upon base metal. Why Ibsen preferred a Hedda to an Isolde is a
question that would lead us into devious paths.

In Hedda Gabler all lyricism is sternly suppressed. As if the master
had determined to punish himself for his championing of individualism
in his earlier plays, he draws the portrait of one who might easily
figure as a Nietzschean Super-Woman. Preaching that the state is the
foe of the individual, that only revolution--spiritual revolution--can
regenerate society, that the superior man and woman are lonely, that
individual liberty must be fought for at all hazards,--liberty of
thought, speech, action,--Ibsen then deliberately shows the free woman,
one emancipated from the beliefs of her family circle and her country.
She epitomizes the latter-day anti-social being and is rightfully
considered by psychologists as a flaming sign of the times, a brief for
the social democrats.

With remorseless logic and an implacable analysis Ibsen discovers
to our gaze this bare soul. We see Hedda at school, a discontented,
restless girl, envious of her companions, conscious of her own
superiority, mental and physical, cruel and overbearing. Little, timid
Thea Rysing, with the crown of white-gold hair, wavy, copious, excites
anger in the breast of the badly balanced Hedda. She pulls the hair and
would delight to see it burn. After all, is she not General Gabler's
daughter, an aristocrat, though a poor one! She goes into society and
has admirers. Few attract her. They are either too stupid or not rich
enough. In this dangerous predicament, jelly-like and drifting, she
encounters Eiljert Lövborg, a young man of genius--at least Ibsen
says he is; he has certainly the temperament of erratic genius, though
at no time does he betray the possession of higher gifts. Yet an
interesting man, a romancing idealist, a deceiver of himself as well as
of the women before whom he masquerades and poses in the rôle of the
misunderstood and persecuted. He is first cousin to Hjalmar Ekdal in
The Wild Duck, one of those egotists of the self-pitying, elegiac kind
who weeps when he regards in the mirror his own sentimental features.

Despite her hardness, vanity, selfishness, Hedda is taken in by this
clever fellow. Like Emma Bovary (though socially more elevated) she is
at heart an incorrigible romantic and very snobbish. Modish elegance
is her notion of the universe, and a saddle horse with a man in livery
discreetly following her as she dashes through the crowded park
represents to her the top notch of mundane happiness. Lövborg is a born
liar. He has personal address, is undoubtedly a man of brains, and
dissipated as he is manages to surround his loose living with the halo
of Byronism. His debauches, he believes, are the result of a finely
strung nature in conflict with a prosaic world. Hedda sympathizes
with this view. She does more. She becomes morbidly interested in his
doings and asks imprudent questions which the man rightfully construes
as evidences of desire for the life he describes. He makes his first
error. It is Hedda's opportunity and she avails herself of it.
Naturally theatric, she seizes her father's pistol--there is a brace
of old cavalry pistols which play an important rôle throughout--and
threatens Lövborg. He leaves her and pretends that he is going to the
dogs, but in reality quits the city and takes a position in a country
family, there to find a more credulous victim, Thea, now the wife of
Sheriff Elvsted.

Remember that these experiences are not shown on the stage. Deftly
conveyed by the dramatic stenography of Ibsen, the audience absorb
the facts almost unconsciously; and when the curtain falls on Act II,
we seem to have known the Gablers, Tesmans, Lövborg, and Thea for
years. And all the time Ibsen is not overstepping the traditional
territory of the drama; his Lövborg and Hedda, his Thea and George,
his Brack--are they not, in their relative position, stock figures for
any classic comedy? George Tesman is own brother to Georges Dandin
and twin to Charles Bovary. He belongs to that large army of husbands
called by Balzac "the predestined." His beard, eyes, nose,--above all
his nose,--speech, gait, clothes, are they not so many stigmata of
the man whose wife will deceive him? The beauty of the situation is
that Hedda does not betray George, and yet she seems more criminal
than the timid Thea, who boldly deserts her old husband to follow the
scapegrace Lövborg. Hedda is the woman on the brink, the adulteress
in thought, the eternal type of one whose will is weakened by egoism.
Her soul, its roots nurtured in rank soil, has expanded secretly into
a monstrous growth. Her whole life has been one of concealment. She
has lied, presumably, in her girlhood, as she lies in the married
state. She is never happy except when teasing a man. Laura Marholm
paints her portrait as the _détraquée_: "Her wanton curiosity, her
constant longing, inflame the decadent and appeal directly to his
sensuality; but her cowardice and disinclination to satisfaction drive
her forever from attack to flight, and no sooner has she retreated
than she stretches forth her antennas and gropes for him again. To see
man feverish--that is what she lives upon; if she cannot have this
atmosphere about her, she becomes sallow, hollow-cheeked, and hysteric."

Here is Hedda Gabler sketched in a few words. A cold heart, a cool
head, curious but not sensual, combined with a cowardly fear of
the conventions--a snobbish tribute to virtues in which she does
not believe--these sent Hedda Gabler to her destruction, to that
Button-moulder who fashions anew the souls of the useless in his cosmic
dust-heap. She went through her life with the chip of chastity on her
shoulder; yet dare a man approach her and she is in the throes of mock
virtue. She made Lövborg feel this. Brack, with the measuring eye of
a worldly man, was not deceived by her tantrums; he saw the essential
baseness of the creature.

Hedda stands for a certain order of her sex--not the "strong-minded"
or "advanced"--that is, happily, in the minority. In Ibsen's judgment
she is doomed to failure because she did not dare far enough. She
feared to sin, not because of scrupulosity, but because of the world's
opinion. If she ever allowed tender feelings to usurp the hard image of
herself enthroned in her soul, they were for Lövborg. He struck in her
a depraved chord of feeling. Both loved pleasure. Both took the seeming
for actuality. If there is one thing that discredits Lövborg's claim
as a man of genius, it is his worship of trivial things. The scholar,
the philosopher, the poet, seek pleasure, seek the gratification of the
senses; but Lövborg's attitude is too base. He is worthy of Hedda's
admiration, and Hedda's only.

With his incomparable irony Ibsen gives the victory to the weak, to
the stupid. We may foresee the future of George and Thea when the
shock of battle has passed. Both, dull persons, plodding, painstaking,
absolutely devoid of humour, settle down to a peaceful existence
over the "great" work of the dead Lövborg. It is all piteous, all
hopelessly banal--and it is also daily life to its central core.

To assert that Hedda's acts were alone the result of her condition
would be to place the drama within the category of the pathologic.
Rather is the point made that, _despite_ her approaching motherhood,
Hedda's manifest disgust at any reference to it is a sign of her
deep-seated depravity. She loathes children, especially a child of
Tesman. She is too selfish to enter, even imaginatively, into the joys
of maternity. Ibsen notes this when he puts into George's mouth the
silly speech about young wives and the burning of the manuscript. Hedda
is, on the contrary, less hysterical and more self-contained after
marriage than before. Nothing could be more damnably cold-blooded than
her deliberate manipulation of Lövborg's vain nature. Only at the grate
as she burns the manuscript and in the outburst of wild music preceding
her suicide are the demoniac forces of her nature unloosed.

The former act is, nevertheless, controlled by a slow, cautious hate,
and the latter occurs off the stage; the pistol shot is the final
punctuation mark to this destructive, restless existence. No, Ibsen
aimed at something more profound than exhibition of maternal hysteria.
The causes of Hedda's behaviour dated back to her girlhood. She was
perverse, how perverse we see in her shameless confession that she had
led George to an avowal simply because she wanted the comfortable
Falk villa for a residence. Her revolt against life was bounded by her
petty appetites, nothing more; and for this reason she is an invaluable
"human document."

Removed from her cramping environments Hedda would have developed along
more normal lines; and herein lies the beauty of Ibsen's problem, Ibsen
who always asks questions--like Rembrandt in his Night Watch with
its mystic daylight. Hedda might have become an actress or a circus
rider, anything less evil than her position as the trouble-breeding
wife of Tesman. By enclosing her within the Tesman walls, surrounding
her with stupid and dissipated people, she was driven in upon herself,
and passing from one mood of exasperation to another she finally
became shipwrecked. As Allan Monkhouse writes, "Hedda Gabler is a
personification of ennui, a daring effort of imagination, a great
piece of construction, a study of essentials with all accidental human
element omitted, a work indeed not of realism, though surrounded by
realistic details, but belonging rather to such ideal art as the
Melancholia of Albert Dürer." Mr. Monkhouse could have quoted La
Bruyère about "opposition truths that illuminate one another," Hedda
Gabler is one of those "opposition truths" that illuminate an entire
section of her sex.

Technically, Ibsen has not surpassed himself in this work. Never has
he woven his patterns so densely--the pattern of character and the
pattern of action. As in a dream we divine the past of the humans he
sets strutting before us, and we leave the theatre as if obsessed by
an ugly nightmare. Those who condemn the characters are compelled
perforce to admire the cunning workmanship, and no greater error
can be committed than supposing the two may be disentangled. Study
carefully the play, study carefully its performance, and then despair
at separating the characterization from the purely formal elements.
Here matter and manner are merged perfectly. We note a few symbolic
catchwords, such as "vine leaves," but they serve their spiritual
as well as their technical purpose. The pistols, too, are cunningly
prepared agents of ruin. We also wonder why George is such a blind
fool; why Thea so soon consoles herself, with Lövborg's body still
warm; why Lövborg, who despises Tesman, should be anxious to show him
his new work. But, to quote Mr. James again: "There are many things
in the world that are past finding out, and one of them is whether
the subject of a work had not better have been another subject. We
shall always do well to leave that matter to the author; he may have
some secret for solving the riddle, so terrible would his revenge
easily become if he were to accept a responsibility for his theme."
And further: "The 'use' of Hedda Gabler is that she acts on others,
and that even her most disagreeable qualities have the privilege,
thoroughly undeserved doubtless, but equally irresistible, of becoming
a part of the history of others. And then one isn't so sure that she is
wicked, and by no means sure that she is disagreeable. She is various
and sinuous and graceful, complicated and natural; she suffers, she
struggles, she is human, and by that fact exposed to a dozen different
interpretations, to the importunity of our suspense...."

This seems to be a final judgment--if judgments of Ibsen can be
final--upon a woman, who, all said, is human enough to suffer, suffer
principally because she feared to sin. She is not a caricature of the
"modern" woman. If she had become conscious of the claims of others, in
a word the modern, unselfish, emancipated woman, her life would have
been different--and the theatre deprived of a most fascinating and
enigmatic figure, with her pallid skin, her haunting gray eyes, her
sweet, studied languor, and her delicate air of one to whom life owes
its richest gifts.

Dr. Wicksteed, in his admirable lectures on Ibsen, remarks: "I am
convinced that it is in this typical significance of marriage, and not
in any special interest in the so-called woman question as such, that
we are to seek the reason of Ibsen's constant recurrence to this theme.
Suppress individuality and you have no life; assert it, and you have
war and chaos.... Hedda Gabler neither drifted nor was forced into
marriage, but she deliberately and shamelessly paid the flattered
and delighted Tesman in the forged coinage of love for opening to her
a retreat from the career she had exhausted, and entry into the best
career she could still think of as possible, and we see the result.
Without the spirit of self-surrender, free choice will never secure

Her death, sought because of cowardly reasons, is yet the one real fact
in Hedda's shallow, feverish existence. Death could alone solve the
discords of her life's cruel music.

       *       *       *       *       *




The doctor of the madhouse at Cairo, in which Peer Gynt crowns himself
Emperor of Himself, said of his "patients": "Each one shuts himself up
in the cask of self, plunges down deep in the ferment of self. He's
hermetically sealed with the bung of self, and he tightens the staves
in the well of self. None has a tear for another's woes, none has a
sense for another's ideas. Ourselves--that's what we are in thought and
in speech; ourselves to the outmost plank of the springboard."

Such a sealed soul was that of Halvard Solness before Hilda Wangel
knocked at his door to demand of him the fulfilment of his promise. Ten
years earlier he had promised to make her a princess. She was then a
child and had excitedly waved a flag when she saw Solness in the pride
of his manhood, the greatest of the architects, climb to the top of
the scaffolding that surrounded the newly completed church and hang a
wreath on the weather-vane. Her enthusiasm had pleased the artist, and
a kiss was given with the promise. Her knock is as revolutionary as the
open door of Nora's house of dolls. As Hilda enters she brings with her
brilliant young womanhood, the fresh breeze of the new century. It was
needed in the unhappy Solness household.

Halvard lost his former home through a fire; it was the beginning of
his luck in life and also the date of his unhappiness. His children
died soon after the affair, and his wife's mind became morbid over the

"Is it not frightful," he tells Hilda, "that I must now go about and
reckon it up, pay for it?--not with money, but with human happiness.
And not merely my own; with that of others, too. Do you see _that_,
Hilda? That is what my artistic success has cost me--and others. And
every livelong day I must go about and see the price paid for me anew.
Again, and again, and still again."

Several fixed ideas haunt this man's brain. He has become moody, even
surly, because he suspects the younger generation of treason to him. As
he supplanted old Brovik, the broken-down architect in his employ, so
he fears that the son, Knut Brovik, will supplant him. He has, being a
man loved by women, won power over Knut's betrothed. He believes that
he has the rare gift of willing a thing, a telepathic power. He is not
mad but overwrought, and Hilda's visit is in the nature of a rescue.
_She_ is the fairy princess who is to rescue him from the evil Ego, in
which he is imprisoned as if in an ogre's cage.

Georg Brandes writes of The Master Builder: "It gives at one and the
same time a sense of enthralment and a sense of deliverance. This is
a play that echoes and reëchoes in our minds long after we have read
it.... Great is its art, profound and rich in its symbolic language....
Ibsen's intention has been to give us by means of real characters, but
in half-allegorical form, the tragedy of a great artist who has passed
the prime of life."

And as the Danish critic aptly remarks, in his--Ibsen's--case, "Realism
and symbolism have thriven very well together for more than a score of
years. The contrasts in his nature incline him at once to fidelity,
to fact, and to mysticism." This accounts in part for the puzzling
_naïveté_ of the dialogue, externally so simple that it delights
children. Symbolic figures are employed throughout, with repetitions of
motives as in a symphonic composition. These buttress up a structure
that might otherwise dissolve in fantastic smoke, so aerial is its

The various acts are mainly composed of a duologue between Hilda and
Halvard. Gradually she obtains by her terrible intensity and child-like
belief in him complete control of his self-absorbed will. She drives
him to sign a letter of praise for the youthful architect, Knut, _his_
possible rival; she sends the other girl away; she is kind to Aline,
the unhappy wife. Hilda is, as Ibsen said, a _reversed_ Hedda Gabler.
She has much of Rebekka West in her, with added youth and a nature
buoyant enough to triumph over the Solness ideals, just as she would
have compelled Rosmersholm to go down into the world and ennoble men.
She discovers Solness's intention to build no more, to climb no more
to the top of high turrets. It pains her to think that her part, her
master builder, the incarnation of her maidenly dreams, dares no longer
mount in company with his ideals. He will build no more churches, only
houses for human beings. There may be a castle in the air where he will
find his happiness--with Hilda.

"I'm afraid you would turn dizzy before we got halfway up," she says.

"Not if I can mount in hand with you, Hilda," he replies.

"Then let me see you stand free and high up." But alone, he must mount
to the top of the new tower. She urges him after the manner of Peter
Skule in The Pretenders, as did Rebekka in Rosmersholm. She will not
stand between Aline and Halvard, for she now knows Aline. Otherwise
her moral life is as free as Nietzsche's. So Solness marches up the
scaffolding, up the ladder to the very pinnacle, forgetting that life
has but one pinnacle to scale, and never a second. Her ecstasy as she
watches him reach the top, be once more the old genius, his real self,
Halvard Solness, that she cheers him and--he falls. Unconscious that he
is dead, apparently not caring for the woe brought to this house, Hilda
calls out until the curtain hides her from view:--?

"_My--my_ master builder!" And he is really hers, for she has created
his soul anew. That is the meaning of this difficult and lovely
fable,--though he fell to his death, Solness once more stood alone on
the heights.

Maurice Maeterlinck has written most clearly on the theme of this play.

"Some time ago," he says in The Treasure of the Humble (translated
by Alfred Sutro), "when dealing with The Master Builder, which is
the one of Ibsen's dramas wherein the dialogue of the second degree
attains the deepest tragedy, I endeavoured, unskilfully enough, to
fit its secrets.... 'What is it,' I asked, 'what is it that, in The
Master Builder, the poet has added to life, thereby making it appear so
strange, so profound, so disquieting, beneath its trivial surface? The
discovery is not easy, and the old master hides from us more than one
secret. It would even seem as though what he has wished to say were but
little by the side of what he has been compelled to say. He has freed
certain powers of the soul that have never yet been free, and it may be
that these have held him in thrall.'

"'Look you, Hilda,' exclaims Solness, 'look you! There is sorcery in
you, too, as there is in me. It is this sorcery that imposes action on
the powers of the beyond. And we _have_ to yield to it. Whether we want
to or not, we _must_. There is sorcery in them as in us all.' Hilda
and Solness are, I believe, the first characters in drama who feel,
for an instant, that they are living in the atmosphere of the soul;
and the discovery of this essential life that exists in them, beyond
the life of every day, comes fraught with terror. Hilda and Solness
are two souls to whom a flash has revealed their situation in the true
life.... Their conversation resembles nothing that we have ever heard,
inasmuch as the poet has endeavoured to blend in one expression both
the inner and outer dialogue. A new, indescribable power dominates
this somnambulistic drama. All that is said therein at once hides and
reveals the sources of an unknown life."

A true interior drama then is The Master Builder, full of the
overtones, the harmonies, of mundane existence. Never has Ibsen's art
been so clairvoyant.

       *       *       *       *       *




Little Eyolf is a moving drama of resignation. It does not sparkle with
the gem-like brilliancy of Hedda Gabler, it is not so swiftly dramatic,
nor has it the sombre power of Ghosts, nor yet the intimacy of A Doll's
House; but it is profoundly pathetic, and the means employed by Ibsen
to produce his greatest effects are simple in the extreme.

The story is this: Alfred Allmers has married a girl with "gold and
green forests"; Rita is her name. They have one child, Eyolf, a sweet
little boy, but lame from a fall. The sister of Allmers is named Asta.
She has the true savour of the Ibsen woman. She visits the Allmers at
their country home. Alfred has just come back from an excursion of six
weeks in the mountains, a lonely, self-imposed tour. He is a delicate
young man of lofty ideals, not as yet realized in his work. There
is something incomplete about him. He reminds one a trifle of Hedda
Gabler's husband, but while he is about as talented he is not quite
so dense. He has a life work, a volume to be written, which he calls
Human Responsibility. But he is a dreamer and has done little with it.
He is wrapped up in his boy and dedicates his life to him. In Little
Eyolf shall happily blossom all the painful buds of his own impotent
ambitions Alfred Allmers has the vision, but not the voice. He is a

But his wife, a full-blooded, impetuous woman, feels that she is being
denied her rights through this absorbing passion of the father for his
son. Her nature hungers for more than child love. She loves her husband
fiercely and fails to understand his coolness. Then what Ibsen calls
a Rat-Wife appears. The Rat-Wife is only a woman with a dog that goes
about catching and killing rats. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, she
plays upon a little pipe and the rats follow her to the water and are
drowned. "Just because they want not to--because they're so deadly
afraid of the water--that's why they've got to plunge into it," says
this horrid old bel-dame of the naughty perverse rodents. She has
lured other game--human game--in her early days, and Little Eyolf is
transfixed by her glittering eye, as Coleridge hath it.

He follows her music as far as the water and is drowned. The act is
vital and searching in its analysis of character. With a few powerful
strokes we get Rita, Asta, Alfred, the Rat-Wife; and the poor lame
chap, with his hankering after a soldier's life, is very sad.

The contention between Alfred and Rita, husband and wife, in the next
act, goes to the very springs of their souls. We learn that Rita is
jealous of her little boy--the dead, drowned boy, whose open, upturned,
and staring eyes haunt her. Alfred upbraids her for her neglect of
the child, and declares that he would be alive if it were not for her
carelessness. Being lame he was not taught to swim like other lads,
and the lameness was caused by a fall from a table. Rita had left
him asleep on the table, safe as she thought, and then the accident
occurred. The husband protests in a low voice that he too forgot, "You,
you, you, lured me to you--I forgot the child--in your arms."

The two lay bare their very thoughts. Alfred has really never loved
Rita. Her gold and green forests and her beauty led him to marry her.
His craze for the boy further removed him from his wife, and his
intellectual life was not conducive to perfect sympathy. He wished his
lad to be a prodigy. He meant him to do in the world all the father
had not. The scene is a poignant one. The mother, very human woman of
considerable temperament, is almost broken-hearted at the double loss.
The child's death was a blow, but her husband's dislike drives her
frantic. The child, young as he was, had repelled her. She felt barred
from the wealth of love that flourished between father and child. She
resented it. She resented the child's love for Asta, for Asta proves to
be a very formidable factor in the play. She is jealous of everybody.

Alfred Allmers is just a bit of a prig, self-conscious like most people
with a self-imposed mission in life, and doubtless possessing in full
measure the scholar's peevishness. The sister Asta is a woman with an
awful secret. She can give her suitor Borgheim no hopes. She loves
her brother's child to distraction, and she knows of her mother's
dishonour. To Rita she is not altogether sympathetic. She takes from
her Eyolf's love, the love he should have bestowed on his mother, and
she is evidently held in high intellectual favour by her husband.
Naturally Rita, who has lifted up both the Allmers by her wealth, feels
all this. She confesses it, too, to her husband. He has become morbid,
unmanned, hysterical, since the accident. All his hopes are dashed to
earth and shattered. He conceives a horrible fear for his wife. The
interview is a prolonged one and intensely painful. It is written with
supreme art and conveys volumes in half-uttered sentences. There are no
really long speeches, the dialogue being crisp, and while the action
is not rapid, three lives' histories are told with consummate art and
unabated vigour.

Asta has then a scene with her brother. She tells him that she is not
his sister; her mother was not all she should have been to his father.
Brother and sister face each other, and their parting at the end of the
act is another of those strangely affecting climaxes Ibsen builds so
well. There is never shown a hint of warmer feelings between the two
than their supposed relationship warrants. Eyolf, Eyolf! it is always
the spirit of the child that directs the doings of this strange yet
ordinary group of human beings.

Allmers later suggests suicide to his wife, and the awful contingency
is discussed. The tone of Little Eyolf is distinctly optimistic. Hope
is preached on every page. Alfred and Rita clasp hands and take up
their life work as it lies before them in the squalid village that
belongs to them. Asta goes away with Borgheim, leaving a flavour of
the mystic behind her. She is a true Ibsen girl. Little Eyolf is the
lodestar of Allmers ever after. The play seems on its surface to be a
powerful preachment against dilettanteism. Writing a book about Human
Responsibility is all well enough, but out in the thick of the fight
is a man's place. Assume the responsibilities of common humanity. Do
not talk about them. The relations of parents to children are fully
exploited, and the lesson read is that parents owe much to each other,
quite as much as to their children.

Ibsen has girded at the conventionalities of the marriage relation in
other plays. This is his Kreutzer Sonata. He shows the selfishness
of a parent's love. Rita and Alfred confess that they never truly
understood Eyolf, for they never knew each other. It is a profound
character study. Ibsen was writing for another theatre--the theatre of
the twentieth century. He has, like Maeterlinck, abjured the drama of
poison, mystery, conflict, violence, aye, even the drama of heroism.
He is a sorcerer who reveals to us the commonplace of life in other
symbols. We are surrounded by mystery. Life at its lowest term is a
profound mystery. Science may tabu late, but the poet draws aside the

To dip below the surface of Ibsen's lines is never a grateful task,
especially if the dramatic idea is first taken into consideration.
Psychology must play the principal rôle in any estimate of Little Eyolf
as a play pure and simple. Language is symbolic, though with Ibsen the
single word is never as important as it is with Maeterlinck. So we find
little of that dripping repetition, that haunting reiteration which the
Belgian writer may have borrowed from Edgar Allan Poe. The ellipsis
in Ibsen is cunningly contrived, he subtly foreshadows coming events,
but never by the Word Beautiful. Little Eyolf depicts the tyranny of

       *       *       *       *       *




There is in John Gabriel Borkman logical, well-knit construction. There
is an unflinching criticism of life--the attitude of a man who began
life as a poet and ends it as a realist; there is a strange power,
unpleasant power, a meagre intensity, yet unquestionable intensity,
and a genius for character-drawing and development of character that
is just short of the marvellous. That Ibsen has chosen his characters
from the world about him--a provincial, narrow, hard, cold world,--is
a commentary on his truthfulness, on his adherence to realistic
principles. The curious part of this is the resemblance his bourgeois
people bear to the bourgeois of nearly every civilized country.

John Gabriel Borkman is a play of great power, of a frugal,
constructive beauty, and in it from first to last there sounds faintly
but distinctly an antique note. There is also something of a Hamlet
situation in the position of the young man who might have won back his
father's kingdom, but quite like a modern Hamlet solved the knotty
problem by going away to Paris; any place, far away from the bleak
northern world where lived in a gloomy house his father, an ex-convict,
his mother, a soured fanatic, and his aunt, an old maid and an idealist.

John Gabriel Borkman, thirteen years previous to the opening of the
play, had been a gigantic speculator. All Norway, all the world, would
have been at his feet if he had not failed at the moment when success
seemed assured. By his downfall hundreds were enmeshed in ruin, and the
man went to prison for five years, leaving behind a heartbroken wife
and a young son. This boy, Erhart, was taken away and raised by a rich
aunt, but is now at home, where he has lived for eight years when the
curtain rises.

Mrs. Borkman is discovered in her old-fashioned drawing-room, in the
house saved out of the wreckage by her twin sister, Ella Rentheim. She
is longing for the return of her son Erhart, in whom she discerns the
saviour of the family. Her sister enters, and in his own remarkable,
sharp way Ibsen lets us witness the spiritual tragedy in the lives
of the pair. They both love Erhart, as formerly Ella had loved his
father, John Gabriel Borkman. The women hate each other, and their duel
is fought out in half-uttered sentences, pregnant pauses, and deadly
glances. It is the perfection of dialogue-writing and clear exposition.
You catch dim perspectives of the past, the treachery of the husband
of Mrs. Borkman, and of darker depths which are later explored. The
mother--oh, such a pitiful, harsh, sorrowful, repellent mother, nursing
her injuries until they become hissing vipers in her bosom--defies
her sister to win away the love of her son, that son she has dedicated
to the mission of rehabilitating the fortunes and good name of the
Borkmans. With cutting humility she acknowledges that she eats the
bread of her sister's charity, and then they hear footsteps. Is it
Erhart returning? No; it is some one up in the long gallery overhead!
It is the ex-convict, ex-banker, and swindler, John Gabriel Borkman,
who has never left the house since his release eight years before. Mrs.
Borkman cries:--

"It sometimes seems more than I can endure--always to hear him up
there walking, walking. From the first thing in the morning to the last
thing at night. And one hears every step so plainly! I have often felt
as if I had a sick wolf up there, prowling up and down in a cage.
Right over my head, too! Listen! there he goes. Up and down, up and
down, the wolf is prowling."

Then Erhart, a lively young man of about twenty-three, enters, welcomes
his aunt affectionately, his mother carelessly. With him is a Mrs.
Wilton, a beautiful young woman, whose husband has deserted her. The
pair are in love, although the mother does not quite see it. Mrs.
Wilton wishes Erhart to go with her to a neighbor's house, a Mr.
Hinkle's, but his duty is at home and she leaves him, the air being
promise-crammed with tantalizing hopes of pleasure and caprice. The
young man soon tires of the bickerings about him, and after declaring
that his aunt should be in bed after her long journey, leaves his
mother alone, and as the curtain falls she exclaims: "Erhart, Erhart,
be true to me! Oh, come home and help your mother! For I can bear this
life no longer."

Her mother's heart tells her that her boy is being drawn away from her,
drawn by some force she cannot analyze.

In Act II we get a picture of the "sick wolf up there," John Gabriel
Borkman himself. He is one of Ibsen's most veracious portraits. He
clings with unshaken obstinacy to the belief that he only sinned
against himself, that if he had been given time, that if he had
not been betrayed by a false friend, he would have pulled through.
All these facts are deftly brought out by conversation with the
half-pathetic, half-ludicrous figure of an humble bank clerk, the
only one of Borkman's friends who has clung to him in his reverses,
although Borkman has swept away his poor earnings. The contrast of the
pair--Borkman, almost satanic in his pride and his belief that he will
eventually regain his position in society, and the feeble aspirations
of the poor clerk, who is a poetaster--is wonderfully managed. There is
a quarrel, and Borkman is left to his gloomy thoughts, and then Ella
Rentheim comes in and one of the most powerful situations of the play

It has developed that Borkman has always loved Ella, but gave her up
and married her sister because an influential man who could advance his
interests was also in love with Ella. This man, not being able to marry
her, betrayed Borkman and his schemes. His name is Hinkle, and at his
very house that night, near Christiania (the scene of the play), Erhart
Borkman is enjoying himself with Mrs. Wilton and not caring a rap for
his sick-souled father, mother, and aunt.

When Borkman finally acknowledges to Ella that in his lust for power he
has sacrificed his love of her, and has sacrificed it uselessly, she
turns on him and cries "Criminal!" She goes on:--

"You are a murderer and you have committed the one mortal sin.... You
have killed the love life in me. Do you understand what that means? The
Bible speaks of a mysterious sin for which there is no forgiveness.
I have never understood what it could be; but now I understand. The
great, unpardonable sin is to murder the love life in a human soul....
You have done that. I have never rightfully understood until this
evening what has really happened to me. That you deserted me and turned
to Gunhild instead--I took that to be mere common fickleness on your
part, and the result of heartless scheming on hers. I almost think I
despise you a little in spite of everything. But now I see it! You
deserted the woman you loved! Me, me, me! What you held dearest in the
world you were ready to barter away for gain. That is the double murder
you have committed! The murder of your own soul and mine!"

And again, "You have cheated me of a mother's joy and happiness in
life--and a mother's sorrows and tears as well."

Then Ella tells Borkman that sorrow and disease have broken her down,
and she intends leaving her fortune to Erhart, the only one she loves;
her spiritual son, but he must give up the name of Borkman and take
that of Rentheim. Mrs. Borkman appears at this juncture, and there is
another clash as the curtain falls on three wretched people.

Act III treads closely on the heels of the preceding one, for the
action of the entire play takes place during one dull winter's
evening; and if there is unity of time, unity of place, there is
unity of character, for like some vast but closely knitted polyphonic
composition, the piece contains not a line, not a character, that is
wasted or undeveloped. It is as far as form simply magnificent; an
object lesson to young dramatists. But as to its theme; ah, I, too,
would be sorry to see our stage always filled with these crabbed, sour,
mean, loveless, and sad-visaged people! Little wonder that joyous
Erhart Borkman, the selfish son of a union barren of love, goes away in
Act III, after a climax that simply cuts into your nerves. Father and
mother--oh, the agony of that poor, old, weak, deserted woman--appeal
to him, but with Mrs. Wilton and a young girl, a daughter of the old
clerk, he goes out into the world to see life, to seek love, to enjoy,
to enjoy, to enjoy! It is the new laughing at the despair of the old,
and the curtain falls on a group that seems frozen with antique grief.

Of Act IV and Borkman's death--his soul had been dead since he went
to prison--I shall say but little. The end is silver-tipped with
symbolical hintings, but there is nothing dark or devious for even the
commonest comprehension.

The spiritual director of the Théâtre de l'œuvre, M. Lugné-Poë, once
wrote of Ibsen thus:--

"I do not know any one but M. August Ehrhard who has, with such
painstaking erudition, disengaged Ibsen's thought from his principal
works. And although the learned critic committed the great fault of
never attempting one single time to assimilate the rugged thought
of the great dramaturge, it must, nevertheless, be allowed his
conclusions were happy. I may cite this phrase from the letter to Ibsen
which terminates his volume, 'In truth you will renew the miracle of
Sophocles--at eighty years of age you will give us a new Œdipus.'

"To-day that which Ehrhard prophesied is already three-quarters
realized. Since Hedda Gabler, Ibsen has given us The Master Builder,
that heroic drama of pride, and John Gabriel Borkman, the secular
legend of the human chimera."

Even an indifferent performance which I saw at the Schiller Theatre,
Berlin, could not quite destroy the impression of a wounded Titan
struggling against fate. John Gabriel Borkman is a prodigious figure, a
second Mercadet, but fashioned by a Balzac of the theatre.

       *       *       *       *       *





Mr. William Archer sees in this closing drama of the social series
little else than a resuscitation of the characters and motives that
have done duty in his earlier plays. It is true that there is much
familiar music, that the themes have been treated in the previous
works; nevertheless the variation is of enthralling interest. This
epilogue is closely related to The Master Builder. Solness the
architect is differentiated from Arnold Rubek, the sculptor in
character; but both men are successful artists; both men have failed
in the one achievement worth the while--love. As in Brand, Rubek goes
to the snow-covered heights with his only love--Brand's was an ideal;
Rubek's is a woman--and the avalanche sweeps both to eternity. The
_Deus caritatis_, whose voice thunders in the ears of the dying Brand,
is in the epilogue the voice of the sister of mercy who cries, _Pax
vobiscum_, as Rubek and Irene are whirled away.

Ibsen, always disdainful of stage settings, evidently experienced a
change of mind, for, following Richard Wagner's example, he makes some
exceedingly severe demands upon the ingenuity of the stage manager,
beginning with The Lady from the Sea and John Gabriel Borkman.

The story of When We Dead Awake is simplicity itself. Arnold Rubek is
a famous sculptor, in middle years married to Maja, a young woman full
of the joy of life. The union proves unhappy. She is frivolous; he is
failing as an artist. Years before he had designed his masterwork,
The Day of Resurrection, and his model was the most beautiful woman
in the world. The artist conquered the man and he allowed Irene to
leave him, though she adored him. With her departure his fount of
inspiration dried up. He made portrait busts and revenged himself on
the indifferent world by maliciously modelling resemblances to ignoble
animals in the countenances of his sitters--the pig, the goat, the
ape, the hawk, were faintly suggested. This very modern trait has been
paralleled in the case of a celebrated painter of our times. Henry
James, in his own faultless way, has told the story in The Liar.

As is the case with the Ibsen plays, this train of happenings leads
up to the first act at a northern watering-place. Rubek and Maja tell
each other the truth of their mutual boredom. Then Irene comes upon
the scene, a sinister apparition. She is half mad and is watched by a
sister of mercy. She encounters Rubek, and the story of her love, which
led to insanity, comes out. He sees that his art has blinded him to
his real happiness. Like Ella Rentheim in John Gabriel Borkman, Irene
accuses him savagely of murdering her love life through neglect. Maja
has gone off with Ulfheim, a savage brute of a hunter, and together
Rubek and Irene seek to attain the heights. But the inexorable law of
their being bars the way. Only once in a lifetime is it vouchsafed to
a man or a woman to touch the tall stars, and so they perish, but not
before Rubek has cast off his life lie.

Eduard Brandes, the brother of the better known Georg, himself a
critic and dramatist, has uttered eloquent words about this drama:--

Unquestionably, there will be many objections made against this
magnificent drama because the high-sounding prose at times may seem
vulnerable to the attack of logical analysis. And it is quite certain
that the objections will gather themselves into the pertinent question,
Why did Henrik Ibsen show Irene as insane and why does he let Rubek,
who is not insane, prefer the abnormal woman to the beautiful and
sensible Maja?

To this may be answered, If Ibsen with such violence desired to
emphasize that life in its entirety, even the most artistic, is to be
counted as death, and that only the life of love is real love, to both
Irene and Maja, then he was forced to employ the most drastic pictures
of the kind of death that life without love assuredly is. Insanity,
without a doubt, is both mental and physical death: though the insane
may exist, yet humanity does not consider such existence--life.

Had not Irene stood there, so heartbroken, so ill in mind and evil, so
desirous and yet so afraid, with the black shadow of cell and restraint
in her wake, the lesson of the play would not be too plain, Without
love--no life.

It is Irene, of course, who is the star character in the play. It is
far from being the undecisive Rubek who not until the hour of his death
understood the love which Irene offered him, which in Maja's case was
confined to the customs of conventional marriage.

That Henrik Ibsen stands untouched by his weight of years, this drama
will ere long announce to the entire world. It is quite true that the
structure of the play cannot be analyzed on the spur of the moment.
The construction embodies a stage setting which will enhance the worth
of the drama. Almost with the identical progress which Irene and Rubek
make toward the mountain top the acts unfold themselves lucidly and are
entirely comprehensible. The more the psychological problem is studied
the better will it be understood why Ibsen is called great.

When We Dead Awake is a master's work and a masterpiece. Like none
other is Ibsen--so grand, so mystical, and yet so entirely in agreement
with the organic make-up of humanity. From the peak of the mountain he
speaks to us, aged as to years, youthful in deed and daring. There is
but one ruler, says Henrik Ibsen: the great Eros, and the poet is his

When We Dead Awake ends the cycle of the noble prose dramas of Henrik
Ibsen. Despite Mr. Archer's criticism the play shows little falling off
in intensity, even if the motives are thrice familiar. To will greatly
is the touchstone of life, to will when you know that you are hedged in
by overmastering destiny; to dare, though you know that free will is
one of life's darling illusions--that is success in life.

To thy own self be true,

said Shakespeare, and no one has said it with such tragic intensity
since him as has Henrik Ibsen.

"It has been a veritable misfortune for Æsthetics that the word 'drama'
has always been translated by 'action,'" wrote Nietzsche. "Wagner is
not the only one who errs here; all the world is still in error about
the matter; even the philologists ought to know better. The ancient
drama had grand _pathetic scenes_ in view; it first excluded action
(relegated it _previous_ to the commencement, or _behind_ the scene).
The word 'drama' is of Doric origin, and according to Dorian usage
signifies 'event,' 'history,' both words in a hieratic sense. The
oldest drama represented local legend, the 'sacred history,' on which
the establishment of the cult rested (consequently no doing but a

And elsewhere Nietzsche declares: "The affirmation of life, even in
its most unfamiliar and most severe problems, the will to _live_ life,
enjoying its own inexhaustibility in the _sacrifice_ of its highest
types--_that_ is what I call Dionysian, _that_ is what I divined as the
bridge to a psychology of the _tragic_ poet. Not in order to get rid of
terror and pity, not to purify from a dangerous passion by its vehement
discharge (it was thus that Aristotle understood it), but beyond terror
and pity, _to realize in fact_ the eternal delight of becoming--that
delight which even involves in itself the _joy of annihilation_."

He also pictures the great tragic artist offering a draught of sweetest
cruelty to heroic men. Readers interested should study Lessing in his
Hamburg Dramaturgy, Schopenhauer's essay on Tragedy, and Nietzsche's
valuable contribution to the discussion, his early work, The Birth
of Tragedy. The latter extols the Dionysian spirit of the drama--its
ecstasy and its triumphant affirmation of life the eternal. Walter
Pater should be consulted on the same lofty theme.

In form the perfected Ibsen tragedy follows Sophocles: anterior to the
rising of the curtain the various motives have developed and collided
in the dark chamber of the dramatist's brain. They are then incarnated
for the spectator as they near their catastrophe; thus the most
rigid economy of effects is practised, the three unities preached by
Boileau are set before us with unerring logic. It is all in a single
picture, this dénouement of his character's silent years. The method
has its drawbacks, yet there is no denying its intensity, which like
the fiery garment of Nessus envelops the dramatist's unhappy men and
women. Determinate as is the motivation of these dramas, there is
allowed the interval for action that might be described by the tick
of the pendulum,--diastole, systole, ebb, and flow. But within that
tiny mental territory man is monarch of his acts; moreover, as Ernest
Renan suggests, "What we call infinite time is, perhaps, a minute
between two miracles." Man dances on the rope of the present between
the past and the future, says Nietzsche; the spectacle, brief as it
is, has been recorded by Ibsen. Renan, who anticipated Nietzsche by
his proclamation that man should be virtuous for virtue's sake alone,
without regard for rewards attendant upon its performance, has also
written in his preface to Caliban (1878):--

"Man sees clearly at the hour which is striking that he will never know
anything of the supreme cause of the universe, or of his own destiny.
Nevertheless he wishes to be talked to about all that." And Ibsen has
talked to us much about all these things, following Goethe's axiom that
"no real circumstance is unpoetic so long as the poet knows how to use
it." The theatre director in Faust remarks, "He who brings much, brings
something to every one."

Octave Uzanne wrote, "People the orchestra and galleries of a theatre
with a thousand Renans and a thousand Herbert Spencers, and the
combination of these two thousand brains of genius will not produce
aught but the soul of a _concierge_."

So much for the power of collectivity. This theme which Gustave Le Bon
has treated in The Mob and The Psychology of the Peoples--literally
a drag-net psychology--? may be found lucidly discussed in Mr. A. B.
Walkley's Dramatic Criticism. The modern audience, he says, is no
longer a great baby, like the mediæval one, but an intelligent adult.
"On this crowd depends our future hopes of the stage."

With all the authorities, apologists, and panegyrists, Ibsen remains
a difficult nut to crack. His perversities of execution, aberrations
in sentiment, contrarieties, and monumental obstinacy are too much for
the average commentator's nerves--why, then, should he be enjoyed by
the public when doctors of the drama disagree? His warmest admirers
deny him the gift of humour, but we believe that he is the greatest
humorist, as well as dramatist, of the nineteenth century. No man,
not even Browning, has kept such rigid features in the very face of
idiotic abuse and still more silly praise. Not a sense of humour!
After A Doll's House came Ghosts, totally contravening the thesis, or
supposed thesis, of that problem play; after Ghosts, An Enemy of the
People, which declared for the rights of the individual; after this
piece the maddening and angular ironies of The Wild Duck, in which he
mocks himself, his theories; and then as if to explode the whole Ibsen
mine, Rosmersholm appeared. Therein the reformer, whether idealist
or of the ordinary peddling political stripe, is mercilessly flayed,
and Rebekka West, his wonderful incarnation of passion, deceits,
femininity, and renunciation, sacrifices her life to a false ideal,
to "Rosmersholm ideals," and mocks herself as she joins in the double
suicide. No humour! What, then, of Hedda Gabler, the young woman of
to-day; shallow-cultured, her religious underpinning gone, vacillating,
cerebral, all nerves full of a Bashkirtseff-like charm, this Hedda
who is so modern, who peeps over moral precipices, shudders and peeps
again--what preconceived theories of Ibsen did Hedda _not_ upset?

Followed the fantastic Master Builder, Little Eyolf, John Gabriel
Borkman, and When We Dead Awake, each mutually destructive of what we
supposed Ibsen stood for, destructive of the fumbling decadent that
spite depicts him. Not a humorist! Why, Aristophanes, Jonathan Swift,
Dumas _fils_, and Calvin (who was fond of roasting his religious foes)
rolled into one is about the happiest formula we can express for the
tense-lipped old humorist of Norway!

Like the John Henry Newman of Apologia Pro Vita Sua, his chief concern
is with the soul. To call him hard names is to betray the inner
anxieties that assail us at some time of our existence. "What if this
man were telling the truth?" we shiveringly ask. Then we incontinently
proceed to stone him to death with scabrous adjectives!

Ibsen never condescended to newspaper polemics--usually the refuge
of second-rate men. And his scorn and cruelty are but a disguised
kindness; if he lays bare our rickety social systems, our buckram
politics, exposes the _falsetto_ of our ideals, the flabbiness of our
culture, the cowardice of our ethics, the sleek optimism of our public
counsellors, and the dry rot of loveless marriage, it is to blazon our
moral maladies that we may seek their cure.

Like John Knox with Mary Stuart, he rudely raps at the door of our
hearts, bidding us awaken and open them. He is a voice crying in
the wilderness of shams--shams social, the shams of sentiment, of
money-getting. And he sometimes fails to discriminate the sheep and
goats, tweaking the foolish, self-satisfied noses of the former so
sadly, that he has been accused of mixing his moral values. But like
Tennyson he knows that there is often honest faith in doubt. His words
and works may be compared to that serpent of brass erected by Moses
in the midst of his ailing nation, which was at once a symbol and a

Ibsen, the cunning contriver of sinewy, vital dramas, swift in action,
with all extraneous flesh lopped away like the muscular figure of
a Greek athlete, this Ibsen of overarching poetic power, is a man
disdainful of our praise or our blame, knowing, with the subtle
prevision of genius, that one day the world will go to him for the
consolations of his austere art.



To search for God and to find the Devil! that is what happened to
me.--STRINDBERG'S _Inferno_.

A critic is a man who expects miracles. So it has become the general
practice to ignore a poet in his totality and seek only for isolated
traits. And then the trouble we take to search for what a man is not:
the lack of humour in Shelley, the lack of spirituality in Byron, the
lack of sanity in Nietzsche, the lack of melody in Richard Strauss!
The case of Johann August Strindberg has also proved tempting to
critical head-hunters. Long before we read his books we knew of his
neurasthenia, and after his reputation as a many-sided man of genius
had been established in Europe his matrimonial affairs were employed as
an Exhibit A to divorce him from public and critical favour. And yet
this poet, romancer, and novelist, who has created such a profusion
of types as to be called "The Shakespeare of Sweden," this more than
countryman of Swedenborg in his powers of intense vision, this seer
and chemist, possesses such a robust, tangible personality that the
world is hardly to be censured for being curious about the man before
studying his works.

His stock stems from the very soil of Sweden. In the seventeenth
century his ancestors were living in the little village of Strinne.
Tremendous in physique and intermingled with clerical strains,
Strindberg inherits both his big frame and sensitive conscience
from his mixed forebears. His is the sanguine scepticism like that
of Renan, Anatole France, Barrès, Bernard Shaw, as René Schickele
has suggested. A simple pagan he is not; nor would his particular
case have been so complicated. His lyric pessimism and his gift of
distilling his bitter experiences into a tale or a play are to-day
merged in the broad currents of his historical dramas and socialistic
novels. Even his misogyny has become ameliorated,--those episodes in
which are crystallized the petty misery of a married couple,--unpaid
debts, unloved children, the bailiff knocking at the back door!--let
us believe that they, too, were but a phase of his development. Played
in Germany and France,--Zola hailed his play, Married, as remarkable,
and its author as a _confrère_,--popular in Russia, recognized though
not without many years of unjust probation, Strindberg may be said to
have achieved what he set out to do,--"to search for God and find the
devil," and once more to find his God.

Herr Emil Schering, the devoted German translator of Strindberg,
related to me this anecdote. On the writing-desk of Ibsen there
stands, or stood, a photograph of Strindberg the Swede, once Ibsen's
foe. To a visitor's surprise, Ibsen, after gazing in silence for some
time at the picture, said, "There is one who will be greater than I."

Whether this story be true or not Strindberg is a man of genius,
a crazy one at times, fascinating as a writer and interesting
as a psychiatric study. And he answers to the chief test of the
dramatist--he is a prime creator of character. Edmund Gosse pronounced
him to be "certainly the most remarkable creative talent started by the
philosophy of Nietzsche"; and in speaking of his novel, Inferno, he
says that it "is a record of wretchedness and superstition and squalor,
told by a maniac who is a positive Lucifer of the intellect.... in
France not only has he a large following, but he exercises a positive
influence." Yet this erratic man has planned technical revolutions
for the dramatic stage--on the mechanical as well as the spiritual
side--that are as startling as were Richard Wagner's in the music
drama. It is not necessary here to describe his scheme for presenting
his long historical dramas without a change of front scene.

Strindberg is a man with an abnormal emotional temperament which he has
often allowed to master his judgment. If he had been a composer, while
his symphonies would have undoubtedly provoked abuse, they would not
have scandalized moralists--such is the peculiar vagueness of that art
in the domain of articulate thought. Some day the tone-symbols of music
will become a part of our consciousness, and then we may confidently
expect arrests, prosecutions, transportations, perhaps executions.
Luckily for the bold and imaginative thinkers, music remains the only
art, the last sanctuary wherein originality may reveal itself in the
face of fools and not pierce their mental opacity.

August Strindberg is a name little known to the English stage or
reading public. Yet his dramatic work dates back to 1872, when Meister
Olaf was composed. In this youthful essay he anticipated by seven years
the Nora type presented by Ibsen. His first novel appeared in 1879,
and in 1884, when Giftas was published, the stories in this violent
book nearly sent him to the Stockholm jail. It was 1888 before Gräfin
Julie was put forth, and this play originally in three acts brought
Strindberg European fame. Gläubiger, in 1889, confirmed the first
critical impression that a writer and thinker of a high order was come.
Strindberg's career has been a disordered one. Poverty interrupted his
studies at the Upsala University, made him a "super" in a theatre, and
drove him to journalism, and to become a doctor's assistant. Always
unhappy in his relation with women, often quite mad, and usually living
on the treacherous borderland of hallucination, his existence has been
fevered and miserable, though his successes are brilliant. Sanity
has not been his cardinal quality--he has more than once gone to the
asylum, emerging in a few months cured, and, remarkable as it sounds,
remembering the details of his mania. _Détraqué_, sick and cracked,
he nevertheless plunged into the study of chemistry, searching for a
universal solvent--a mad dream that would interest Balzac. Ideas almost
consumed the brain of this _cérébral_.

But hard work calmed his nerves, as was the case with Dostoïevsky.
Strindberg's scientific investigations are full of the flashes of
divination that at times lend value to the theories of imaginative
men. He has written an Introduction à une Chimie unitaire, which was
favourably received. It was a conclusion foregone that his impulsive
and overwrought emotional nature would lead him into extravagances.
Inferno and the double drama, Nach Damaskus, reveal his eroticism,
his exasperated imagination, his harsh atheism. He has confessed in
one of his autobiographical outpourings--for he lays bare his soul
with the same naïveté as did Tolstoy and Rousseau--that in his youth
he was a believer, that the modulation to free-thinking and rank
atheism was an easy one. Then, after a period of turbulence, he became
the dispassionate ponderer; and finally socialism, with its remote
horizons, its heroisms, its substitution of humanity for the old gods,
caught his wandering soul.

He lives no longer in Paris, a whirlpool for a man of his nature,
and since his third marriage, to Harriet Bosse, the popular Swedish
actress, called by her admirers the "Scandinavian Duse," he has resided
in Stockholm. There his great historical plays have been heard and
praised and abused; there he shows in his later writings a mystic
strain; there last autumn after some years of exaltation he agreed to
separate from his wife, for the clash of two such opposing temperaments
"hindered their free development"--so says his faithful biographer.
The separation caused much commotion in artistic and dramatic circles.
It was, however, a perfectly amicable one; Harriet Bosse declared that
she needed more liberty, for she hopes to travel throughout Europe. A
laudable ambition. Strindberg, notwithstanding his unhappy unions, is a
staunch monogamist, and allowed the woman to go her way. He has already
drawn her portrait in the powerful historical play Christine. Therein
the soul of the actress is set before us as the counterfeit Queen of
Sweden; winning and masculine, flattering and harsh, a heartless demon
and a tender maiden begging for sympathy; anon a mocking tyrant, a wild
cat, a second Messalina. It would appear that the poet lost no time in
studying Fru Strindberg's characteristics. She, on her side, had made a
contract with her manager not to appear in any of her husband's plays,
though she has enjoyed triumphs in Fräulein Julie and Samum. Perhaps
this was the first little rift in the domestic lute.

Biologists believe that after forty a man of genius--who is in
Darwinian parlance a _sport_--returns to his tribe; resumes in himself
the traits of his parents. Perhaps Strindberg has reached the grand
climacteric and may give us less disturbing masterpieces. In 1902,
under the title of Elf Einakter, a German translation of eleven of
his one-act plays was published. This collection contains the ripest
offering thus far of his unquestionable genius. It begins with Gräfin
Julie, condensed by the dramatist into a one-act piece. "A tragedy of
naturalism," he calls it. It is an emotional bombshell. The social
world seems topsy-turvied after a first reading. After a second, while
the gripping power does not relax, one realizes the writer's deep,
almost abysmal knowledge of human nature. Imagine a Joseph Andrews
made love to by a Lady Booby, youthful, fascinating. But Fielding
aims light shafts of satire; Strindberg calls up ghosts with haunting
eyes. Passion there is, and a horrible atmosphere of reality. You
know the affair has happened; you see the valet, Jean, chucking his
cook-sweetheart under the chin as she feeds him with dainties in the
kitchen; you witness the appearance on the scene of Julie enamoured;
frantic, unhappy Julie; and you view the crumbling of her soul,
depicted as in one of those drawings of Giulio Romano from which you
avert your head. The finale makes Ghosts an entertainment for urchins.

Everything is brought about naturally, inevitably. Be it understood,
Strindberg is never pornographic, nor does he show a naked soul merely
to afford charming diversion, which is the practice of some French

What would our Ibsen-hating critics say after Gräfin Julie or
Gläubiger! That kitchen--fancy a kitchen as a battlefield of
souls!--with its good-hearted and pious cook, the impudent scoundrel of
a valet eager for revenge on his superiors, and the hallucinated girl
from above stairs--it is a tiny epic of hatred, of class against mass.

Julie is neurotic. She has coolly snapped the betrothal vows made with
a titled young man of the district It is St. John's Eve. The villa of
the Count, Julie's father, is empty save for the two servants, Jean and
Christina--the latter is the cook. Julie, bored by her colourless life
and fevered by a midsummer's madness, throws herself at the valet's
head. He is frightened. His servant nature has the upper hand until the
pair, forced to hide because of the intrusion of rough country folk,
reappear. Then the male brute is smirking, triumphant. Justin Huntly
McCarthy made a translation of the piece for an English magazine in
1892. Here is an excerpt:--

[JULIE _enters, sees the disorder in the kitchen, and clasps her hands.
Then she lakes a powder puff and powders her face._]

JEAN. [_Enters excited_] There, you see and you hear. Do you still
think it possible to remain here?

JULIE. No, I do not. But what shall we do?

JEAN. Fly; travel; fly away from here.

JULIE. Travel? Yes! But where?

JEAN. To Switzerland, to the Italian lakes. Have you ever been there?

JULIE. No. Is it beautiful?

JEAN. An eternal summer. Orange trees, laurels--ah!

JULIE. But what shall we do there afterwards?

JEAN. We will start a first-class hotel for first-class guests.

JULIE. A hotel!

JEAN. That is the life to live, believe me. Always new faces, new
languages, not a moment's leisure for worrying or dreaming, no seeking
after employment, for work comes of itself. Night and day the bell
rings, the trains whistle, the omnibuses come and go while the gold
pieces roll into the till. That is a life to live.

JULIE. That is a life to live. And what of me?

JEAN. You shall be the mistress of the house, the ornament of the
firm. With your appearance and your manners we are sure of a colossal
success. You sit like a queen in the office and set your slaves in
motion with one touch on the electric bell; the guests march past your
throne and lay their treasures humbly on the table. You cannot imagine
how people tremble when they get a bill. I will salt the accounts
and you will sugar them with your most bewitching smile. Yes, let us
travel far from here. _He takes a time-table from his pockety_ Good. By
the next train we are in Malmö at 6.30, in Hamburg at 8.40 to-morrow
morning, from Frankfort to Basle in one day, and we are in Como by the
St. Gothard route in, let me see, three days. Three days!

JULIE. That is ah 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. 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. It recalls the past, it recalls the
Count. I have never met any man who compelled such respect from me.
I have only to see his glove lying on a table to feel quite small. I
have only to hear his bell and I start like a shying horse. And when
I look at his boots standing there so stiff and stately, it makes me
shiver. [_He pushes the boots away with his foot._] Superstition,
prejudice, which has been driven into us from childhood, but which we
can never get free of. If you will only come into another country, into
a republic, then people shall kneel down before my porter's livery,
people shall kneel down. But I shall not kneel down. I am not born to
kneel, for there is stuff in me; there is character in me; and if once
I reach the lowest branch, you shall watch me climb. To-day I am a
lackey, but next year I am a proprietor; in a few years I shall have
an income, and then I run off to Roumania, where I buy a decoration. I
can--mark well that I say can--die a count.

JULIE. Beautiful, beautiful!

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 hysterics, or all is lost. We must manage the affair quietly,
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. 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

The scamp sounds her as to the money she possesses. She has none. He
compels her to rob her father. He kills her bird. She curses him, for
her poor brain is going under from the strain put upon it. She throws
herself upon the mercy of the cook; but Christina, who is a good woman,
repels and rebukes the sinner. The Count returns. He rings. Jean again
becomes the servant, though not until he has given Julie his razor,
bidding her use it. She goes out and kills herself, unable to resist
the stronger will.

In this shocking drama is crystallized all the bitterness of
Strindberg, for he once married a Countess; he, too, has lived in
the _Inferno._ Again we say the ending revolts; in comparison, the
_coda_ of Ibsen's Ghosts is a mild exercise in emotional _arpeggios_.
Strindberg's heavy fist smashes out music, sinister and murderous, in
this ruthless play.

Julie is a close study of a girl whose blood is tainted before birth,
whose education has been false, whose life in society has inflamed her
passions. She falls easily when the cunning Jean tempts her at the
psychologic moment. I saw Julie at the Kleines Theatre, Berlin, last
autumn, Frau Eysoldt--Sorma suffering from a bruised arm--assuming the
title rôle, deciphering with skill the abnormal hieroglyphics of the

In Gläubiger, a tragic comedy, Strindberg treats, with his accustomed
omniscience, a sweet little story about a man who follows his
runaway wife to a seaside resort and becomes acquainted with the new
husband--unknown to the lady, who is away for a week. Here we catch
a glimpse of another hell, the cruelty of a powerful intellect. The
weaker man is a painter, turned sculptor, and--subtle irony--he models
only his wife's figure. (This was published in 1889; Ibsen certainly
read it--witness When We Dead Awake.) The snaring of the poor emotional
wretch's soul is masterly. It is all over in an hour, the entire play,
and again we feel as if we had mutely assisted at the obsequies of
three human beings.

The first husband--who is discovered as such at the end of the
play--meets his former wife, and her infamous nature is exposed. The
artist hears the conversation, and his fate is not to be spoken of
lightly. We pass on.

Paria is after a tale of Ola Hansson. It need not detain us. Poe is
a child compared to Strindberg in the analysis of morbid states of
soul. Samum is a shuddering ode to revenge. Finally we arrive at Die
Stärkere, which met with such acclaim on the Continent. Its chief
device of having one silent figure and making the other do the talking
is sufficiently novel. But it is again the drama, always the drama
with Strindberg. His picture, executed by a kindred and sympathetic
interpreter, Edvard Munch, shows the face of one who, like Dante, has
seen the nethermost hell.

Played by two artistic actresses, this sardonic little sketch, replete
with irony, malice, hatred,--yet full of humanity,--would prove most
attractive. It has many sly strokes of humour. The scene of the
action is a café on Christmas Eve. Madame X talks to Mademoiselle Y,
who remains absolutely silent, yet by glances and gestures contrives
to send the other woman scudding along the road from idle, amenable
chatter to outrageous recrimination. The two women love the same man.
Madame X is his wife. Ferociously she exposes her secrets. Her husband
at first has forced her to imitate Mademoiselle Y. But she is now the
stronger. She has made him forget his early love, who sits in a dreary
café alone on Christmas Eve, while she, his legal wife, will go home to
the father and children! It is an ugly episode. In Das Band we reach
a play revealing the better characteristics of the poet. It consists
only of a court-room scene with jurymen, judge, and officers before
whom a husband and wife make their petition for divorce--according
to Scandinavian procedure. They are resolved to separate; but there
is a child, a son, beloved by both. With this elemental stuff as a
subject, Strindberg wrings the heart of you. At the end the parents
damn themselves by their own admission, the child is taken from their
custody, and they confront each other in the deserted, dim court room,
their hearts bursting, their future a foggy, abandoned field. They
recall the poet Aldrich's picture of No-man's land, where the soul sees
its double, a _doppelgänger._

"And who are you?" cried one agape,
Shuddering in the gloaming light;
"I know not," said the second shape,
"I only died last night."

These two souls in the play, once hooked by the steels of marriage
and parenthood, realize as they fall loathingly asunder that they are
dead, that their life has passed on into the soul of their miserable
boy. It is such a play as this that vindicates Strindberg's claim to
the mastery of the drama. Here he is at his human best, freed from the
bizarre, and his humour and wit illuminate the ghastly darkness with
friendly flashes. The jurymen are excellent, and more comical still are
the court officers. Many touches throughout would make the translation
and performance of Das Band profitable. And not once is the child on
the stage. Possibly, as America is a divorce-loving nation, it would
reject with indignation the sight of so many bleaching family bones!

Mit dem Feuer Spielen is a comedy of a drastic kind. It shows
Nietzsche's influence. The sister of Nietzsche, Frau Förster-Nietzsche,
once assured me in Weimar that her brother enjoyed reading Strindberg's
novels. And there are several references to Strindberg in the published
correspondence of Georg Brandes and Nietzsche.

Debit and Credit also proves that, consciously or unconsciously,
Strindberg is a Nietzschean. It is a rogue's comedy with original
variations. The chief character evokes laughter, for through the grim
and sordid rifts in the plot--it pictures a tawdry great man--we hear
bursts of natural fun. There is humour, kindly and mocking. Very
Shaw-like, except that it was written in 1892, is Mutterliebe. In
Mrs. Warren's Profession, Mr. Shaw expanded the same grewsome idea.
Elsewhere the Irish writer calls Strindberg "the only living genuine
Shakespearian dramatist." Strindberg in his fifteen pages traverses a
lifetime, and his ending is logical.

In the preface to Fräulein Julie, Strindberg makes a general
confession--for him as for Tolstoy a psychologic necessity. "Some
people," he says, "have accused my tragedy of being too sad as though
one desired a merry tragedy. People call authoritatively for the
Joy of Life, and theatrical managers call for farces, as though the
Joy of Life consisted in being foolish, and in describing people who
each and every one are suffering from St. Vitus's dance or idiocy. I
find the joy of life in the powerful, terrible struggle of life; and
the capability of experiencing something, of learning something, is a
pleasure to me. And therefore I have chosen an unusual but instructive
subject; in other words, an exception, but a great exception, that will
strengthen the rules which offend the apostles of the commonplace.
What will further create antipathy in some is the fact that my plan
of action is not simple, and that there is not one view alone to be
taken of it. An event in life--and this is rather a new discovery--is
usually accompanied by a series of more or less deep-seated motives;
but the spectator usually generally chooses that one which his power
of judgment finds simplest to grasp, or that his gift of judgment
considers the most honourable. For example, some one commits suicide:
'Bad business!' says the citizen; 'Unhappy love!' says the woman;
'Sickness!' the sick man; 'Disappointed hopes!' the bankrupt. But it
may be that none of these reasons is the real one, and that the dead
man hid the real one by pretending another that would throw the most
favourable light on his memory."

The Father (produced in 1887 and translated into English by N.
Erichsen) is in three short acts. It depicts the destruction of
a man's brain through the machinations of his malevolent wife.
Strindberg's misogyny is the keynote of his early work. He hates woman.
He accuses Ibsen of gynolatry. "My superior intelligence revolts," he
cries, "against the gynolatry which is the latest superstition of the
free-thinkers." His own married life was so unhappy that he revenges
himself by attacking the entire sex. Every book, every play, is a
confession. He is the most subjective dramatist and poet of his age. In
Comrades he synthesizes the situation:--

      To wish to dethrone Man and replace him by Woman--going
      back to a matriarchy--to dethrone the true master of
      creation, he who has created civilization and given to the
      vulgar the benefit of his culture; he who is the generator
      of great thoughts, of the arts and crafts, of everything,
      indeed; to dethrone him, I say, in order to elevate "les
      sales bêtes" of women, who have never taken part in the
      work of civilization (with a few futile exceptions), is to
      my mind a provocation to my sex. And at the idea of seeing
      "arrive" these anthropomorphs, these half apes, this horde
      of half-developed animals, these women whose intellects
      are of the age of bronze, the male in me revolts. I feel
      myself stirred by an angry need of resisting this enemy,
      inferior in intellect, but superior by her complete
      absence of moral sense.

      In this war to the death between the two sexes it would
      appear that the less honest and more perverse would come
      out conqueror, since the chance of man's gaining the
      battle is very dubious, handicapped as he is by an inbred
      respect for woman, without counting the advantages that he
      gives her in supporting her and leaving her time free to
      equip herself for the fight.

This sex-against-sex manifesto will not make him popular in America, a
land peopled with gynolatrists; but his plays and novels may be read
with profit; if nothing else, they illustrate the violent rebound of
the pendulum in Scandinavia, where the woman question absorbed all
others for a time. Besides, Strindberg is a good hater, and good haters
are rare and stimulating spectacles.

Inferno is the very quintessence of Strindberg. Written between two
attacks--his unstable nerves send him at intervals into retreat--it is
the most awful portrayal of mental suffering ever committed to paper.
Poe said in one of his Marginalia that the man who dared to write the
story of his heart would fire the paper upon which he wrote. This
Strindberg has dared to do with a freedom, a diabolical minuteness,
that make the naïve stutterings of Verlaine and the sophisticated
confessions of Huysmans mere literature. Because of their intensity
you are forced to believe Strindberg, though his is only too plainly
a pathologic case; the delusions of persecution, of grandeur, of
almost the entire lyre of psychiatric woes, are to be detected in
this unique book. An enemy, a Russian, haunts him in Paris and plays
on the piano poisonous music which warns the listener that he is
doomed. It is the history of Strindberg's quarrel with the Polish poet
mystic and dramatist, Stanislaw Przybyszewski, who really tracked the
Swede because he was jealous of his own wife. Strindberg once wrote of
Maupassant's La Horla, "I recognize myself in that, and do not deny
that insanity has developed."

Margit is a five-act drama, with the sub-title La Femme du Chevalier
Bengt. It is a historical play of the times of the Reformation, and it
is modern in its glacial analysis of the feminine soul. The picture is
more various than is the case with the eternal monologue or dialogues
of his shorter pieces--and there is humour of a deadly kind. In Das
Geheimnis der Gilde (1879-80) the theme of Ibsen's The Master Builder
was anticipated. To enumerate the works of Strindberg would consume
columns; Herr Schering of Berlin has literally devoted his life to the
task of translating them. Already there are forty volumes of plays,
tales, novels, essays, monographs, poems, fables. Even in these times
of piping versatility, the many-sided activities of the Swede amaze.
His Nach Damaskus reveals a tendency to drift Rome-ward, to that
Roman church, the sanctuary for souls weary of the conflict. There
is no denying the fact that Strindberg's later productions show a
cooler head, steadier nerves, though the motives are usually madness
or blood guilt. The latest volume at the time of writing is devoted
to three plays,--Die Kronbraut, Schwanenweiss, Ein Traumspiel. Two of
these are powerful and painful. The playwright paints the peasantry
of his country with the sombre brush of Hauptmann. Ein Traumspiel is
that wonderful thing, a real dream put before us with all the wild
irrelevancies of a dream, yet with sober and convincing art. As a stage
piece it would be superbly fantastic. Strindberg has a faculty, which
he shares in common with E. T. W. Hoffmann and Edgar Poe, of catching
the ghosts of his brain at their wildest and pinning them down on
paper. In such moods he may be truly called a seer. Swedenborg alone
equals him in the veracity and intensity of his visions.

These later plays were admittedly composed during the few happy years
with his third wife, Fru Strindberg-Bosse. Edwin Bjorkman, who has
written with authority of his fellow-countryman, declares that "the
motives that move Strindberg are moral."

"One of his favourite doctrines," continues Mr. Bjorkman, "is that
social and individual purity is the only solid foundation for physical
and mental health, as well as an indispensable condition of true
achievement. He speaks somewhere of an artist 'who was yearning for the
summit of ambition without being willing to pay the price required of
those who are to reach it.'" And then he adds, "The only choice left us
by life is between the laurel and our pleasure."

Further he quotes the dramatist, "I let my self be carried away by
the heat of the battle [over the woman's emancipation movement, of
which he was at that time the only prominent literary antagonist in
the Scandinavian countries], and I went so far beyond the limits of
propriety that my countrymen feared I had become insane."

An alchemist, a dabbler in spiritualism, a wanderer among the lowly
long before Gorky was heard of, Strindberg once wrote to a friend when
lack of money kept him a practical prisoner on a small island outside
of Stockholm, although his writing-desk was housing the completed
manuscripts of six one-act plays and two larger dramas, "I am thinking
of becoming a photographer in order to save my talent as a writer."

A later novel is autobiographic. Einsam was published in 1903. It is
more reflective than his other books and betrays the loneliness of the
returned exile. It registers the poet's dissatisfaction with Lund,
to which he went after the tremendous experiences from 1894 to 1898.
A most startling play, one of my favourites, is Totentanz. It is a
double drama, the shabby hero of which would have pleased the creator
of Captain Costigan. His novel Die Gotischen Zimmer (1904) is of
socialistic character and contains many eloquent pages. As he was born
January 22, 1849, in Stockholm, it will be seen that this erratic man
is beginning to reach the cooling period of his genius.

The most vivid of his books, after Inferno, is The Confessions of a
Fool (Die Beichte eines Thoren). Strindberg's wife, to marry him, had
divorced herself from a baron. Yet the suspicious writer accused her of
all the crimes in the calendar. And he also admits that he abused her.
Strindberg was suffering from _paranoia simplex chronica_, according
to Dr. William Hirsch, whose valuable work, Genius and Degeneration,
contains a study of the Swede's case. What is of peculiar interest is
the symptom in his malady called "referential ideas." "The patients,"
says Dr. Hirsch, "refer all that goes on about to themselves. They
suspect that the world is leagued against them." For example: when
Strindberg first read Ibsen's Wild Duck, he immediately thought the
whole piece was intended for him and was only written on his account He
expressed himself as follows:--

      It was a drama of the famous Norwegian spy, the inventor
      of the equality madness. How the book fell into my
      hands I could not say. But now everything was clear
      and gave occasion to the worst suspicions concerning
      the reputation of my wife. The plot of the drama was
      as follows: A photographer (a nickname I had earned by
      my novels drawn from real life) has married a person
      of doubtful repute, who had been formerly the mistress
      of a great proprietor. The woman supports the husband
      from a secret fund which she derives from her former
      partner. In addition, she carries on the business of her
      husband, a good-for-nothing, who spends his time drinking
      in the society of persons of no consequence. Now that
      is a misrepresentation of the facts committed by the
      reporters. They were informed that Maria [Strindberg's
      wife] made translations, but they did not know that it
      was I who particularly corrected them and paid over to
      her the sums received for them. Matters become bad when
      the poor photographer discovers that the adored daughter
      is not his child, and that the wife warned him when she
      induced him to marry her. To complete his disgrace, the
      husband consents to accept a large sum as indemnity. By
      this I understand Maria's loan upon the baron's security,
      which I endorsed after my wedding.... I prepared a great
      scene for the afternoon. I wished to catch Maria in
      cross-examination, to which I wished to give the form of a
      defence for us both. We had been equally attracted by the
      scarecrow of the masculinists, who had been paid for the
      pretty job.

To show how mad were his conclusions it is only necessary to add that
he does not resemble in the least the selfish idealist, Hjalmar Ekdal,
in The Wild Duck, who never works unless he has to, while Strindberg's
literary labours have been enormous. Nor is it conceivable that the
baroness, Madame Strindberg, furnished Ibsen with the documents for
the portrait of the delightful Gina Ekdal. That woman was drawn from
the people. Furthermore, to call Ibsen "the inventor of the equality
madness" is absolutely a misstatement of a fact, as Ibsen has been a
despiser of democracy and all forms of equality.

With an almost infinite capacity for suffering, let us hope that this
great, bruised soul has found surcease from its mental suffering,
found some gleams of consolation, in his calmer years--until his next
psychical hegira. In rebelling against his existence, in refusing to
accept the wisdom of the experienced, Strindberg has suffered intensely
because his is an intense temperament. But he is a "culture hero," he
has "proved all things," and even from his hell he has brought us the
history of experiences not to be forgotten. One is tempted to credit
the alleged utterance of Ibsen, "Here is one who will be greater than



Emile Zola once wrote in his sweeping dictatorial manner, "Le théâtre
sera naturaliste ou il ne sera pas"; but as Henry Becque said in his
mordant style, Zola always convinced one in his pronunciamentos; it
was only when he attempted to put his theories into action that they
completely broke down. Alas! realism in the theatre after all the
gong-sounding of café æstheticians, after the desperate campaigns of
the one clairvoyant manager in the movement, Antoine, is as dead as the
romanticism of Hernani. After the flamboyant, the drab--and now they
are both relegated to the limbo of the tried-and-found-wanting.

When Zola sat down to pen his famous call to arms, Naturalism on
the Stage, Antoine was still in the future, Dumas _fils_ and Sardou
ruled the Parisian theatre, Uncle Sarcey manufactured his diverting
_feuilletons_, and Augier was become a classic. The author of
L'Assommoir had like Alexander sighed for new worlds to subjugate. He
had won a victory, thanks to Flaubert and the De Goncourts, in fiction;
it remained for the theatre to provoke his ire. It still clung
obstinately to old-fashioned conventions and refused to be coerced
either by Henrietta Maréchal or by the furious onslaught of Zola and
his cohort of writing men.

In the essay referred to, Zola said that a piece of work will always
be a corner of nature seen through a temperament. He told the truth
when he declared that the "romantic movement was but a skirmish;
romanticism, which corresponds to nothing durable, was simply a
restless regret of the old world." Stendhal and Balzac had created
the modern novel. The stage did not move with the other arts, though
Diderot and Mercier "laid down squarely the basis of the naturalistic
theatre." Victor Hugo gave the romantic drama its death-blow. Scribe
was an ingenious cabinet-maker. Sardou "has no life--only movement."
Dumas the younger was spoiled by cleverness--"a man of genius is not
clever, and a man of genius is necessary to establish the naturalistic
formula in a masterly fashion." Besides, Dumas preaches, always
preaches. "Emile Augier is the real master of the French stage, the
most sincere"; but he did not know how to disengage himself from
conventions, from stereotyped ideas, from made-up ideas.

Who, then, was to be the saviour, according to Zola? And this writer
did not underrate the difficulties of the task. He knew that "the
dramatic author was enclosed in a rigid frame,... that the solitary
reader tolerates everything, goes where he is led, even when he is
disgusted; while the spectators taken _en masse_ are seized with
prudishness, with frights, with sensibilities of which the author
must take notice under pain of a certain fall. But everything marches
forward! If the theatre will submit to Sardou's juggling, to the
theories and witticisms of Dumas, to the sentimental characters
of Augier, the theatre will be left in the onward movement of
civilization"; and as Becque said in his Souvenirs of a Dramatic
Author, the theatre has reached its end many times, yet somehow it
continues to flourish despite the gloomy prophecies of the professors
and critical malcontents. Every season, avowed Becque, that same cry
rises to heaven,--"La fin du théâtre"; and the next season the curtain
rises in the same old houses, on the same old plays.

However, Zola trumpeted forth his opinions. According to him the
De Goncourt brothers were the first to put into motion realistic
ideas. Henriette Maréchal, with its dialogue copied from the spoken
conversation of contemporary life, with its various scenes copied
boldly from reality, was a path breaker. And Becque again interrupts;
Edmond de Goncourt posed for thirty years as a hissed author, "pour
cette panade d'Henriette Maréchal." Away with the mechanism of the
polished, dovetailed, machine-made play of Dumas. "I yearn for life
with its shiver, its breath, and its strength; I long for life as it
is," passionately declaimed the simple-minded bourgeois Zola, who
then, in default of other naturalistic dramatists, turned his Thérèse
Raquin into a play--and melodrama it was, not without its moments of
power, but romantic and old-fashioned to a degree.

And this was Zola's fate: be contumaciously usurped the throne of
realism, never realizing his life long that he was a romanticist of the
deepest dye, a follower of Hugo, that melodramatic taleteller. All the
while he fancied himself a lineal descendant of Balzac and Flaubert.
Searching ceaselessly with his Diogenese lantern for a dramatist, he
nevertheless overlooked not only a great one, but the true father of
the latter-day movement in French dramatic literature--Henry Becque.
What a paradox! Here was the unfortunate Becque walking the boulevards
night and day with plays under his arm, plays up his sleeve, plays
in his hat, plays at home--and always was he shown the door, only
to reappear at the managerial window. Calm in his superiority, his
temper untouched by his trials, Becque presented the picture of the
true Parisian man of genius,--witty, ironical on the subject of his
misfortunes, and absolutely undaunted by refusals. He persisted until
he forced his way into the Comédie Française, despite the intriguing,
the disappointments, the broken promises, and the open hostility of
Sarcey, then the reigning pontiff of French dramatic criticism. Jules
Clarétie pretended a sympathy that he did not feel, and it was only
when pressure was brought by Edouard Thierry that his masterpiece,
Les Corbeaux, was put on the stage after many disheartening delays;
after it had been refused at the Vaudeville, the Gymnase, the Odéon,
the Porte-Saint-Martin, the Gaîté, the Cluny, and the Ambigu. Such
perseverance is positively heroic.

I know of few more diverting books than Becque's Memoirs and the record
of his Literary Quarrels. If he was gay, careless, and unspoiled by his
failures in his daily existence, he must have saved his bile for his
books. They are vitriolic. The lashing he gives Sarcey and Clarétie is
deadly. He had evidently put his revengeful feelings carefully away
and only revived them when the time came, when his successes, his
disciples, his election as the master of a powerful school, warranted
his decanting the bitter vintage. How it sparkles, how it bites! He
pours upon the head of Sarcey his choicest irony. After snubbing the
young Becque, after pompously telling him that he had no talent, that
he should take Scribe for a model, Sarcey at the end, when he saw
Becque as a possible strong figure in the dramatic world, calmly wrote:
"Oh! Becque I have known a long time. He brought me, his first piece. He
owes it to me that his The Prodigal Son was played." To cap his attack,
Becque prints this statement at the end of the miserable history of
his efforts to secure a footing. It is almost too good to be true.
Diabolically clever also is his imitation of a Sarcey _critique_ on
Molière, for Sarcey was no friend of character dramas.

In his preface to The Ravens, Becque announces that he is not a
thinker, not a dreamer, not a psychologist, not a believer in heredity.
As Jean Jullien truly said, the Becque plays prove nothing, are not
photographic, are not deformations of life, but sincere life itself.
The author relates that in composing--he had a large apartment on the
rue de Matignon---he spent much time in front of a mirror searching for
the exact gesture, for the exact glance of the eye, for the precise
intonation. This fidelity to nature recalls a similar procedure of
Flaubert, who chanted at the top of his formidable voice his phrases to
hear if they would stand the test of breathing. Becque caught the just
colour of every speech, and it is this preoccupation with essentials
of his art that enabled him to set on their feet most solidly all his
characters. They live, they have the breath of life in them; when they
walk or talk, we believe in them. The peep he permits us to take into
his workshop is of much value to the student.

He admired Antoine, naturally, and his opinion of Zola I have recorded.
He rapped Brunetière sharply over the knuckles for assuming that
criticism conserves the tradition of literature. Vain words, cries
Becque; literature makes itself despite criticism, it is ever in
advance of the critics. Only a sterile art is the result of academies.
Curiously enough, Becque had a consuming admiration for Sardou. Him he
proclaimed the real master, the man of imagination, observation, the
masterly manipulator of the character of characters. This is rather
disconcerting to those who admire in the Becque plays just those
qualities in which Sardou is deficient. Perhaps the fact that Sardou
absolutely forced the production of Becque's L'Enfant Prodigue may
have accentuated his praise of that prestidigitator of Marly. Becque
entertained a qualified opinion of Ibsen and an overwhelming feeling
for Tolstoy as dramatist. The Russian's Powers of Darkness greatly
affected the Frenchman. (Becque was born in 1837, died in 1900.)

And what is this naturalistic formula of Becque's that escaped the
notice of the zealous Zola and set the pace for nearly all the younger
men? Is it not the absence of a formula of the tricks of construction
religiously handed down by the Scribe-Sardou school? As is generally
the case, the disciples have gone their master one better in their
disdain of solid workmanship. The taint of the artificial, of the
sawdust, is missing in Becque's masterpieces; yet with all their large
rhythms, unconventional act-ends, and freedom from the _cliché_, there
is no raggedness in detail; indeed, close study reveals the presence
of a delicate, intricate mechanism, so shielded by the art of the
dramatist as to illude us into believing that we are in the presence
of unreasoned reality. Setting aside his pessimism, his harsh handling
of character, his seeming want of sympathy,--a true objectivity, for
he never takes sides with his characters,--Becque is as much a man of
the theatre as Sardou. He saw the mad futility of the literary men
who invaded the theatre full of arrogant belief in their formulas,
in their newer conventions that would have supplanted older ones.
A practical playwright, our author had no patience with those who
attempted to dispense with the frame of the footlights, who would turn
the playhouse into a literary farm through which would gambol all sorts
of incompetents masquerading as original dramatic thinkers.

Becque's major quality is his gift of lifelike characterization.
Character with him is of prime importance. He did not tear down the
structure of the drama but merely removed much of the scaffolding which
time had allowed to disfigure its façade. While Zola and the rest
were devising methods for doing away with the formal drama, Becque
sat reading Molière. Molière is his real master--Molière and life,
as Augustin Filon truthfully says. In his endeavour to put before us
his people in a simple, direct way he did smash several conventions.
He usually lands his audience in the middle of the action, omitting
the old-fashioned exposition act, careful preparation, and sometimes
development, as we know it in the well-regulated drama. But search for
his reasons and they are not long concealed. Logical he is, though it
is not the cruel logic of Paul Hervieu, his most distinguished artistic
descendant. The logic of Becque's events must retire before the logic
of his characters, that is all. Humanity, then, is his chief concern.
He cares little for literary style. He is not a stylist, though he has
style--the stark, individual style of Henry Becque.

Complications, catastrophe, dénouement, all these are attenuated
in the Becque plays. Atmosphere supplies the exposition, character
painting, action. The impersonality of the dramatist is profound. If
he had projected himself or his views upon the scene, then we would
have been back with Dumas and his preachments. Are we returning to the
Molière comedy of character? Movement in the accepted sense there is
but little. Treatment and interpretation have been whittled away to a
mere profile, so that in the Antoine repertory the anecdote bluntly
expressed and dumped on the boards a slice of real life without comment
--without skill, one is tempted to add.

Becque was nearer classic form than Hervieu, Donnay, De Curel, Georges
Ancey, Leon Hennique, Emile Fabre, Maurice Donnay, Lemaitre, Henri
Lavedan, and the rest of the younger group that delighted in honouring
him with the title of supreme master. After all, Becque's was a
modified naturalism. He recognized the limitations of his material, and
subdued his hand to them. M. Filon has pointed out that Becque and
his followers tried to bring their work "into line with the philosophy
of Taine," as Dumas and Augier's ideas corresponded with those of
Victor Cousin, the eclectic philosopher. Positivism, rather than naked
realism, is Becque's note. The cold-blooded pessimism that pervades so
unpleasantly many of his comedies was the resultant of a temperament
sorely tried by experience, and one steeped in the material-ism of the
Second Empire.

So we get from him the psychology of the crowd, instead of the hero
ego of earlier dramatists. He contrives a dense atmosphere, into
which he plunges his puppets, and often his people appear cold,
heartless, cynical. He is a surgeon, more like Ibsen than he would
ever acknowledge, in his calm exposure of social maladies. And what
a storehouse have been his studies of character for the generation
succeeding him! Becque forged the formula, the others but developed it.

The Becque plays! The last edition is in three volumes published by
_La Plume_ of Paris. It begins with an opera--fancy an opera by this
antagonist of romance!--entitled Sardanapale, in three acts, "imitated"
from Lord Byron. Victorin Joncières, a composer of respectable
ability, furnished the music. The "machine" was represented for the
first time at the Théâtre Lyrique, February 8, 1867. It need not
detain us. L'Enfant Prodigue, a four-act vaudeville, saw the light,
November 6, 1868, at the Théâtre Vaudeville. It is Becque at his
wittiest, merriest best. In an unpremeditated manner it displays a
mastery of intrigue that is amazing. For a man who despised mere
technical display, this piece is a shining exemplar of virtuosity.
Let those who would throw stones at Becque's nihilism in the matter
of conventional craftsmanship read The Prodigal Son and marvel at
its swiftness of action, its stripping the vessel of all unnecessary
canvas, and scudding along under bare poles! The comedy is unfailing,
the characterization rich in those cunning touches which are like salt
applied to a smarting wound. The plot is slight, the adventures of
several provincials who visit Paris and there become entangled in the
toils of a shrewd adventuress. The underplot is woven skilfully into
the main texture. Hypocrisy is scourged. A father and a son discover
that they are trapped by the same woman. There is _genre_ painting that
is Dutch in its admirable minuteness and truth; a specimen is the scene
at the _concierge's_ dinner. Wicked in the quality called _l'esprit
gaulois_, this farce is inimitable--and also a trifle old-fashioned.

In Michel Pauper,--given at the Porte-Saint-Martin, June, 1870,--Becque
was feeling his way to simpler methods. The drama is in five acts
and seven tableaux; and while it contains in solution all of Becque,
it may be confessed that the outcome is rather an indigestible mess.
The brutality of the opening scenes is undeniable. Michel is a
clumsy fellow, who does not always retain our sympathy or respect.
His courtship has all the delicacy of a peasant at pasture. But he
is alive, his is a salient character. The suicide of De La Roseraye
has been faithfully copied by Donnay in La Douloureuse, and by many
others in Paris, London, and America. Hélène, poor girl, who is so
rudely treated by Comte de Rivailler, would call forth a smile on
the countenance of any one when she announces her misfortune in this
stilted phraseology, "He asked of his own will what he could not obtain
from mine." The ending has a suspicion of the "arranged," even of the
violent melodramatic. And how shocking is the fall of Hélène! She
is the first of the Becque cerebral female monsters, though she has
at least more blood than some of his later creations. She loves the
Count--the shadow of an excuse for her destruction of her noble-minded
husband. However, one does not read Michel Pauper for amusement.

It is in L'Enlèvement that we find Becque managing with consummate
address a genuine problem. It was produced at the Vaudeville, November
18, 1871. The three acts pass at a château in the provinces. Emma de
Sainte-Croix, rather than endure the neglect and infidelities of her
husband, lives in dignified retirement with her mother-in-law. She is
a _femme savante_, though not of the odious blue-stocking variety. She
has a daily visitor in the person of a cultivated man who resides
in the neighbourhood. At once we are submerged in a situation. De La
Rouvre loves Emma. He, too, has been wretchedly mismated. His wife
was a despicable voluptuary who cheated him with his domestics. He
begs Emma to secure a divorce from her pleasure-loving husband. She
refuses. She loathes the divorce courts. She loathes vulgar publicity.
He proposes an elopement and is sharply brought to his senses by the
woman. She loves the proprieties too much to indulge in romantic
adventures, and has she not suffered enough through this love illusion?
Her mother-in-law does not approve of the man's presence. Her son is
always her son, and she hopes for reconciliation. If only Emma would be
a little more lenient!

The prodigal husband returns. He is an admirable blackguard who
respects neither his own honour nor that of his family. He flirts with
his wife at his mother's instigation, but his heart is not in the game.
Descends upon him one of his lady loves. She invades the château and
is introduced to his wife as a supposedly casual passer-by. But she is
detected as the worthless spouse of De La Rouvre. There is a scene.
Later Raoul, the husband, forces his way into his wife's bedchamber and
the episode on reading recalls Paul Hervieu's Le Dédale. The outcome,
however, is different. Repulsed, the husband curses his wife, and she
departs for India, elopes with her lover. Terse in dialogue, compact
in construction, L'Enlèvement contains some of the best of Becque.
Ibsen and Dumas are writ large in the general plan and dénouement,
though the character drawing is wholly Becque's. Despite his economy
of action and speech, he seldom gives one the feeling of abruptness
in transitional passages. His scenes melt one into the other without
a jar, and only after you have read or watched one of his plays do
you realize the labour involved to produce such an illusion of life
while disguising the controlling mechanism. All the familiar _points
de repires,_ the little tricks so dear to the average play-maker, are
absent. Becque conceals his technical processes, and in that sense he
has great art, though often seeming quite artless. And L'Enlèvement is
more than a picture of manners; it is as definitely a problem play as
A Doll's House. Only after being driven to it does Emma revolt. She is
a _révoltée_ of the cerebral type. The crowning insult is the attempt
made upon her right to her person. Hervieu's heroine is passional, and
it accounts for her lapse. We feel for her acutely. Emma's departure is

With La Parisienne, Becque is once more on his own ground. Paris and
its cynical view of the relations of the sexes is embodied in this
diabolically adroit and disconcerting comedy--represented for the first
time at the Comédie-Française, September 14, 1882, and reviewed at the
Odéon, November 3, 1897. The play is full of a _blague_ now slightly
outmoded, but the types remain eternally true--those of the Parisian
triangle. Only this three-cornered, even four-cornered, arrangement
(for there are two "dear friends") is played with amazing variations.

Clotilde du Mesnil and Lafont are quarrelling over a letter when the
curtain rises. He adjures her to resist temptation. "Resist, Clotilde;
that is the only honourable course, and the only course worthy of
you." She must remain dignified, honourable, the pride of her husband.
Suddenly, in the midst of this ignoble squabble, she cries, "Prenez
garde, voilà, mon mari!" Up to this moment the audience fancies that
it has been witnessing a marital row. The shock is tremendous when the
truth is learned. Nor are your feelings spared when later you hear
Clotilde accuse Lafont of not being fond of _her_ husband. The two
wrangle over the accusation. In another speech she exclaims: "Vous êtes
un libre penseur! Je crois que vous vous entendriez très bien avec une
maîtresse qui n'aurait pas de religion, quelle horreur!" This extremely
naïve statement reveals to us the land on the other side of good and
evil in which dwell Becque's characters. Are they even cynical? Hardly,
for there is no mockery, no parade of immorality, no speeches with
equivocal meanings. The calm assumption of external decency is merely
a reversion to the baldest paganism. It is the modern over-cynicism.
These people are so bad that, paradoxical as it may sound, they are
good. Certainly they are more refreshing and infinitely more moral
than that wretched Camille, with her repentant whimperings and her
nauseating speeches about soiled doves and their redemption.

And Lafont, stupid, loving, honest according to his lights, Lafont
so marvellously presented by Antoine, is he not a being who lives!
Clotilde as incarnated by Réjane is the worldling, neither stupid nor
witty. She is simply a good-natured, vain woman, who deceives her
husband and lover as naturally as she breathes.

Clotilde takes on a new _amant_, who treats her as badly as she treated
Lafont. Deserted, she picks up the old thread and begins to live as
before. As Mrs. Craigie says of this play: "There are critics who
mistaking the situation for the philosophy have called this piece
immoral. One would as soon call Georges Dandin or Tom Jones immoral. A
true book, a true play, cannot be otherwise than moral. It is the false
picture--no matter how pretty--which makes for immorality."

Throughout, these lovers quarrel like married folk. The social balance
is upset, domestic virtues topsy-turvied. And yet the merciless
stripping of the conventional romance,--the deluded husband, unhappy
wife, and charming consoler of the afflicted,--these old properties of
Gallic comedy are cast into the dust-bin. It is safe to say that since
La Parisienne no French dramatic author has had the courage to revive
the sentimental triangle as it was before this comedy was written. If
he ventured to, he would be laughed off the stage. And for suppressing
the sentimental married harlot let us be thankful to the memory of

Les Corbeaux is unique in modern comedy. Never played, to my knowledge,
in English, its ideas, its characterization, its ground-plan, have
been often ruthlessly appropriated. The verb "to steal" is never
conjugated in theatreland. Yet this play's simplicity is appealing. A
loving father of a family, a good-tempered bourgeois, dies suddenly.
His affairs turn Out badly. His widow and three daughters fall into
the hands of the ravens, the partner of their father, his lawyer,
his architect, and a motley crew of tradespeople. Ungrateful matter
this for dramatic purposes. Scene by scene Becque exposes the outer
and inner life of these defenceless women and their secret and malign
persecutors. Every character is an elaborate portrait. Naturally, the
family go to the dogs, and the wickedest villain of the lot catches in
marriage the flower of the unhappy flock. His final speech is sublime,
"My child, since your father's death you were hemmed in by a lot of
designing scoundrels." And by inference he pats himself on the back,
he, the worst scoundrel of all. If you tell me that the theme is not a
pleasant or suitable one for the drama, I shall recommend you to the
spirit of the late Henry Becque for answer. Les Corbeaux is the bible
of the dramatic realists.

Remain seven small pieces, principally in one act. La Navette is
wicked--and amusing. It aims at nothing else. Les Honnêtes Femmes might
have been written by Dumas. It is a sugar-coated sermon extemporized by
a young married woman for the benefit of a presumptive lover. She finds
him a bride, and the curtain falls. Le Départ is of sterner metal.
Here Becque beats Zola at his own game. The scene represents a working
girl's atelier in a Parisian store. The various women are clearly
outlined, so clearly that Huysmans in Sœurs Vatard is recalled. One
girl is honest. She is honourable enough to refuse an offer of marriage
made by the foolish young son of the proprietor, and for this wisdom
receives insults from the father and is finally discharged for being
too virtuous. She then incontinently goes to the devil. The devastating
irony of the dramatist illuminates this little piece with sinister
effect And the moral is never far to seek in Becque--perhaps a twisted
moral, yet not altogether a negligible one. In Veuve we find our old
friend Clotilde of La Parisienne, now a widow. Her behaviour to her
faithful admirer is a study of feminine malice, not only seen "through
a temperament," but the outcome of unerring observation. Madeleine is
a depressing sketch of a woman with a past who is educating her child
at a convent It has poignant moments. The other two little affairs, Le
Domino à Quart and Une Exécution, are exercises in pure humour of the
volatile Parisian sort.

Becque's touch is light in comedy, rather clumsy in set drama. He is,
as a rule, without charm, and he never indulges in mock pathos or cheap
poetic flights. He excelled in depicting manners, and his dramatic
method, as I have endeavoured to show, was direct and free from
antique rhetoric and romantic turgidities. He has been superseded by
a more comprehensive synthesis; France is become weary of the cynical
sinners--yet that does not invalidate the high ranking of this man
of genius. Whatever may be his deficiencies in the purely spiritual,
Henry Becque will ever remain a commanding figure in the battalion of
brilliant French dramatists.



Der Mensch, das ist ein Ding Das sich von ungefâhr bei uns verfing:
Von dieser Welt und doch auch nicht von ihr: Zur Hälfte--wo? wer
weiss?--zur Hälfte hier. Halb unser Bruder und aus uns Geboren Uns
feind und freund zur Hälfte und verloren.

_--Die Versunkene Glocke._

In the figure of Gerhart Hauptmann we encounter a man of genius,
a man of European significance, and more than the standard-bearer
of Young Germany. True, Hauptmann did graduate from the seminary
of the realists,--the heads of which were Arno Holz and Johannes
Schlaf,--writing, under the name of Bjarne P. Holmsen, that delectable,
ironic fantasy, Papa Hamlet But the dramatic poetic instincts of
the Silesian youth--he was born at Salzbrunn, 1862, the son of a
hotel-keeper--were not long to be penned behind the bars of a formula.
As in Goethe's Faust, two spirits travailed furiously within him.
Ultra-idealist in his boyhood, he suffered from the green-sickness of
Byronism, and wrote poems in imitation of Byron, Hebbel, Schiller. He
studied sculpture at Rome for a time and set up an atelier there. His
epic, Promethidenlos (1885), was as subjective as a restless, unhappy
young man of twenty-three could make it. Yet there is no mistaking the
chord set clanging by its immature music--the chord of sympathy with
human suffering, the true Hauptmann leit-motiv that may be equally
heard in his first drama, Before Sunrise, and in his latest, Rose Bernd.

The critical allotment of Hauptmann to the Ibsen domain is easy,
too easy; he has been greatly influenced by the "red star of the
north," though it has not been a baleful one. He owes as much to
Zola as to Ibsen, as Zola owes in his turn much to Victor Hugo and
Jean Jacques Rousseau. Young Germany itself, Karl Bleibtreu, Conrad
Alberti, Sudermann, Halbe, Conradi, Kretzer, and the rest were in the
fashioning of the _Freie Bühne_ heavily indebted to Antoine and his
revolutionary Théâtre Libre. Under the spell of the mystic and lyric
prose of Friedrich Nietzsche--surely among the most musical that
issued from German lips--individualism became an all-absorbing element
in the production of art works. It was the old leaven of Max Stirner
and his Der Einzige. John Henry Mackay, the Scotch-German, hymned in
almost delirious verse the rights of the Ego; even the cool-headed
East Prussian Sudermann felt the impact of this lyric anarchism when
he published his Three Heron Feathers. As to Hauptmann, whose lyre was
ever more sensitive to the mobility of the moral atmosphere, this wind
of individualism swept him along and he wrote Before Sunrise. It was
produced in 1889, and at once its author was recognized as a force.

Socialistic, this play is almost as rank as La Terre. Technically
it has many weak spots, but the basic idea is capital. The Krauses,
suddenly come into money, afforded the dramatist opportunities for his
still immature but profoundly true gifts of characterization. It is a
depressing crowd he sets before us, drunkenness being the least of its
defects. Helene Krause is betrothed to the lover of her step-mother,
and when Alfred Loth, a high-minded socialist, appears, she naturally
falls in love with him. Loth, warned by a doctor--an excellently
conceived character--that it were insane to marry into a tainted
family, leaves a letter for Helene and vanishes. She promptly kills
herself. The final curtain is harrowing. There is exaggerated realism
and also that curious tendency, which has developed instead of abating,
of dealing with depraved types. Friedensfest (1890), which followed,
begins to show Hauptmann more conscious of his own talents. The Scholz
family is accurately studied and presented. The dénouement baldly
stated--an unhappy father come home to die in a household from which
he has been banished by his conduct--smacks of German sentimentality.
Here the poet demonstrated that all lies in the individual handling
of the theme. The moral is "Peace on earth, good will to men," and
this unhappy pessimistic family is made to realize the strength of the
collectivist ideal. The same year Einsame Menschen appeared, in which
Ibsen's influence is paramount. It reads like a variant of Rosmersholm,
diluted though it be. If it proves anything, it is that the unpurified
is to be distrusted because it brings unhappiness in its train. The
Vockerat family is a fairly contented group until the appearance of
Anna Mahr, a young woman from Zurich University who has absorbed the
unsettling culture of the day. She speedily unseats the judgment of
John Vockerat, and in becoming his affinity she makes him neglect his
lovely wife. It is all so Ibsenian that we note with a sense of the
incongruous the scene of the action, the Müggelsee near Berlin. John
hates the religion of his parents, becomes estranged from these kindly
folk, throws himself on the mercy of Anna, who, after lecturing him
in the true-blue cerebral style of the emancipated woman, goes away.
Distracted, the young man drowns himself.

Notwithstanding technical and psychologic advances, this effort is
not so convincing as Before Sunrise. One feels the thesis prepared,
the task attacked, and not the spontaneous work of art. Charles
Henry Meltzer, Hauptmann's friend and English translator, declares
that Before Sunrise was written while the poet was still filled
with admiration of Tolstoy's Dominion of Darkness, and after many
conversations with Arno Holz and Bruno Wille, the socialist. In one
respect it is very remarkable--the evocation of atmosphere. And some
critics see in Anna Mahr a forerunner to Hilda Wangel of The Master

When, however, Die Weber was printed (1892), all Germany knew that
the master had appeared. It was not until February, 1893, that
the first performances took place on the _Freie Bühne_, Deutsches
Theatre, Berlin. The drama stands at the parting of the ways. Not
since Wagner's Die Meistersinger had such an attempt been made to
clear the German stage of its gingerbread rhetoric, its pasteboard
mock-antiques, its moonshine romantics. And while the Wagner comedy was
all grace, sweetness, and light and only epical in its vast machinery
of narration, The Weavers was a quivering transcript from life--and
such life! Germany took fire from the blaze of the dramatist's generous
wrath. Socialism or anarchy, what you will, were swallowed up in the
presentment of this veracious document of wretched lives. Yet, while
its _tendenz_ is unmistakably an arraignment of the wealthy classes,
of the _bourgeois_ master weavers, as is Zola's stern denunciation in
Germinal of unfeeling mine owners, Hauptmann, being the finer artist,
does not drive his lesson home with a moral sledge-hammer. He paints
the picture; his audience finds the indictment. Here is a new German
art at last.

And not altogether unprepared for this violent drama should have been
his admirers. His short _nouvelle_, Bahnwärter Thiel, is full of pity
for the downtrodden. This story sounds like a transposition of a Zola
melodrama to a finer key. The companion tale in the same volume, The
Apostle, might have been written by Dostoïevsky.

In Die Weber,--or De Waber, as it is called in the patois of
Silesia,--Hauptmann is for the first time Hauptmann. Zola and Ibsen are
no longer felt, for the resemblance to An Enemy of the People is of the
vaguest. Henceforth it is the masses, not the individual. Raised in the
weaving districts of Silesia, his grandfather a weaver and a witness
of a similar strike with its dire consequences,--Robert Hauptmann,
his father, also sat at the loom--the subject was one that could be
treated with epic breadth and eloquence by the poet. The mob is the
hero, for old Hilfe is only a representative of his class. Baumert
the soldier, Ansorge, the women, the blind wife, and the climax where
old Hilfe is dead and the little Mielchen tells with babyish joy the
story of the shooting--every character, every incident, rings true, and
rang so widely and so well that it set pealing the bells of the world.
If Hauptmann had died after writing Die Weber, he would have been
acclaimed a great dramatist.

It was Matthew Arnold who Englished Joubert's soul's cry, "You hurt
me!" In this moving and gloomy and largely planned tragedy of the
lowly, Hauptmann holds no brief for anarchy, plays upon no class
sentiment. He seems as objective as Flaubert, yet no play that I
ever witnessed is such a judgment of man and his cruelty to his

The ancients, who sounded the abysmal depths of despair, crime, and
terror, nevertheless contrived some relief; if no other, the artistic
form itself palliated the awful content of a tragedy of Æschylus. But
Hauptmann, with absolute indifference to our moral epidermis, strips
bare for us human nature, and we revolt naturally enough. The truth,
naked and unadorned, is always unpleasant. Pascal once wrote: "When I
see the blindness and the misery of man; when I survey the whole dumb
universe and man without light, left to himself and lost, as it were,
in this corner of the universe, not knowing who placed him here, what
he has come to do, what will become, of him when he dies, and incapable
of any knowledge whatever, I fall into terror, like that of a man who,
having been carried in his sleep to an island, desert and terrible,
should awake ignorant of his whereabouts and with no means of escape,
and therefore I wonder how those in so miserable a state do not fall
into despair." What would he not have written after witnessing this

The Weavers is a parable. The Weavers is a symphony in five movements,
with one grim, leading motive--hunger. In every act you hear that
ominous, that sickening word "hunger." The necessity of such a play
is chilling to our pampered and capricious appetites. Hunger! What a
horrible theme for an art work! The northern novelist, Knut Hamsun, has
in a more personal style used the same theme. We love blithe art, art
imbued with deep serenity,--_heiterkeit,_ Winckelmann called it,--so
away with this grim phantom, evoked by a ruthless imagination! But what
if it be true? That is the affair of the Commissioner of Charities. We
pay our taxes. Go to, Herr Hauptmann, go to! We prefer illusionists,
not unmaskers of grim truths. Yet hunger!

"There is," wrote Thomas Hardy, "a size at which dignity begins;
farther on there is a size at which grandeur begins; farther on there
is a size at which solemnity begins; farther on a size at which
ghastliness begins."

The novelist was speaking of the interstellar universe. In Die Weber
there are depths where ghastliness begins. It is not a play, it is a
chorale of woe, malediction, and want. The people, hardly civilized,
are put before us, a marvellous vitascope of pain and disease. What
avails criticism before such a spectacle?

It is hardly necessary to recapitulate the grewsome story of this
play--how the weavers starved, how the weavers revolted, and that
wonderful ending, old age stiffened in death and childhood merrily
unconscious. It recalls Victor Hugo's precipice with its single
crannied rose in full bloom. And The Weavers was the first modern play
that deals with the life of the proletarians.

College Crampton (1892), Der Biberpelz (1893), Hannele (1893), Florian
Geyer (1896), Die Versunkene Glocke (1897), Fuhrmann Henschel(1898),
Schluck und Jau (1900), Michael Kramer (1900), Der rote Hahn (1901),
Der Arme Heinrich (1902), Rose Bernd (1903), complete the list thus
far of this fecund and remarkable man. He has felt his way through
naturalistic drama to comedy, and in the latter without much success;
and from comedy to historical drama, with no success at all; indeed,
Florian Geyer was a failure, though in its amended version as given
last October 22, in Berlin, at the Lessing Theatre, it won approval,
critical and popular. The poet has written a new five-act comedy for
the same theatre, which he calls The Merry Maiden of Bishopsberg.

The Beaver-Coat and The Red Cock--the symbol of fire--are folk-plays,
the comedy rather grim, the sense of actuality strong. The first is
a "thieves' comedy" and the fooling is heavy enough in both pieces;
the latter is a continuation. German officialism is parodied. Schluck
und Jau was also a failure. Written partially in prose and verse, it
recalls Calderon, Grillparzer, Shakespeare's prologue to The Taming of
the Shrew, and Hauptmann himself. Although Fuhrmann Henschel followed
Hannele and The Sunken Bell, we prefer to speak of it and several other
plays before those two masterpieces. Wagoner Henschel was a surprise
and a deep disappointment to many of Hauptmann's admirers. He seemed
to return to the most sordid of topics, yet it contains passages of
spiritual beauty; while as a whole the note it sounds is a supernatural
one, despite the vileness of its surroundings. The psychologic
depiction of Henschel's downfall is masterly. He is a stolid teamster
whose first wife in her death-bed makes him promise not to marry the
servant girl, Hanna Scholl. But he does, for some one must look after
his daughter. The moral _dégringolade_ begins. The woman is a vicious
slattern. She is unfaithful. Things go badly. Henschel comes to believe
that his first wife haunts him, and kills himself. It is very morbid,
but it fits in the Hauptmann scheme, as Professor J. F. Coar in his
Studies in German Literature shows: "Hannele contrasted spiritual
consciousness with moral consciousness. And Henry in The Sunken Bell
fails because he attempts what his creator, Hauptmann, attempted in
Hannele. How, then, shall a poet find his quest rewarded? Only by
seeking the spiritual mirrored in the moral. Hauptmann is far from
having such a vision in Teamster Henschel; still he is to be credited
with the effort to obtain it. Again, he could only see the misery of
life.... In constantly narrowing circles the thoughts of Henschel turn
about the one tense feeling of wrong committed when he married again
in violation of his promise. The infidelity of the second wife appears
to him like the judgment of God.... At night the figure of his dead
wife lies down with him.... There is no trace of dialectical reasoning
in this simple Silesian teamster. He stands facing existence without
the ability to apply his reason to anything but the humdrum affairs of
life. Once forced beyond the bounds of these, reason gives way, and he
is gradually led into a pessimistic fatalism from which there is no
escape. But to create by transforming spiritual life into moral action
is the law of individual existence, and men, as Hauptmann sees them,
are in the world for this purpose."

On the material side Fuhrmann Henschel might be called a drama of
insomnia. The majority of the Hauptmann plays record the struggle
of mankind to widen its spiritual horizon. College Crampton is an
exception. It is merely an entertaining piece shorn of tragic meanings.
Moreover, it contains some excellent comedy and characterization. The
hero--a sorry one--drinks. Michael Kramer ends with the suicide of a
foolish talented young fellow, who is jeered to the desperate deed by
a lot of idlers in a Silesian café. The types are local. Kramer, his
father, is an austere artist. The _milieu_ is the artistic, though as
drama we are never carried off our feet. Loosely joined episodes and
too much dialogue mar the piece. There are, however, many deft touches,
and the scene wherein Kramer views his dead son is full of reserve
power and suggestiveness. Nearly all these plays enumerated thus far
are irregular on the constructive side, withal effective and human.
Hauptmann has ever been careless in his technics. The well-made play is
never in his thoughts, for he works from within to external details.
Even in his imitative period he betrayed this creative impulse.

Der Arme Heinrich is not Hauptmann at his happiest, despite rare
flashes of beauty and power in this replica of a mediæval miracle play.
The theme is unpleasant, a leprous knight rescued by the unselfish pure
love of a maiden--an idea as old as The Flying Dutchman, though set
forth in different terms, framed by another environment. It is rather
to Hannele and Die Versunkene Glocke we must turn for the greater

In Hannele and in his other dramatic productions he has proved himself
to possess in a consummate degree the art of arousing certain emotions,
of presenting most vividly certain types which have excited his brain
into abnormal activity; above all he knows the art of contrasts. He
is an idealist, he is a realist, he is a religionist, he is a natural
philosopher. After carefully analyzing Hannele, on is tempted to
pronounce it the work of a transcendental realist.

The play is the history of a child's soul. It is a psychological study
of the brain of a wretched little outcast, who, just before her death,
experiences delirious trances, in which condition the events and
personages of her unhappy life become objective visions, and these
visions are seen by the audience. The story is so simply, so chastely
told that one marvels effects can be produced by a verbal machinery of
such simplicity. The disgust inspired by the quarrelling, fetid crew
of beggars in the almshouse gives way to feelings of the most profound
pity at the entrance of the poor little would-be suicide. Her first
words, "I'm afraid," inspire sensations of pity at her condition, and
horror of the brute who drove her to the commission of such a desperate
deed. Hauptmann's touch is so true, so tender, that he evokes with ease
the whole past of this wretched girl, whose existence has been one of
blows, curses, kicks, and starvation. Her undeveloped soul, cramped as
it had been by her neglected life, has awakened under the kindnesses of
her teacher Gottwald, and how natural that he should be invested by her
with almost supernatural attributes!

Hauptmann conveys all this and more through the half-scared utterances
of Hannele, who refuses to respond to the pertinacious questionings
of Magistrate Berger, and only speaks when Gottwald asks her to. She
appears to be a stubborn girl, but it is a stubbornness born of hard
beatings and harsh language. She has been the butt of the village
children, and the one ray of light which has entered her life is her
teacher, and through him some glimmerings of religion. Heaven to her
is a place all golden glory, whose Lord is overflowing with pity for
unhappy children, and where she can eat, drink, and be warm. She has
been half starved and turned out in the streets on biting cold winter
nights. It is most natural that she should long earnestly for this
heaven, and her appeals to be allowed to die, so that she could see
the Lord, are eloquent to a degree. She is only a beggar girl, this
Hannele, and Hauptmann gives her to us in all her rags and misery, and
free from mawkish sentimentality.

Pity is the dominating note of the play, especially in part first;
Hannele's bruised body, shrinking, sensitive soul, arouse the deepest
pity. The transition to an atmosphere where the elements of awe and
fear enter is quietly accomplished by the dramatist. Hannele's delirium
is the medium. When she first appears in the strong arms of her teacher
she is numbed by the icy waters of the pond, but the warmth of the hot
drink and the hot bricks soon revive her and she wanders a little in
her speech. She tells Gottwald that it was the Lord who beckoned to
her in the water, and when she is left alone with Sister Martha, she
screams with fear at the sight of old Daddy Pleschke's hat and coat,
which hang at the foot of her miserable bed. The child thinks she sees
her stepfather.

But mark the skill of Hauptmann. After she is left alone her dreams
begin to assume a more definite shape, and then we, sitting in
the darkened auditorium, see Mattern, the mason, her brute of a
stepfather, as a vile nightmare. He acts and speaks to the little form
on the bed as he would in real life, and it writhes in agony, and
finally Hannele, her brain on fire with the hideous vision, awakens to
his call, and jumps tremblingly out of bed, rushes into a corner for
shelter, and there faints.

The return of Sister Martha, the replacing of Hannele on her couch,
are followed by the further progress of the fever and delirium. Being
alone, a vision of her mother appears. It is the most striking of the
play. Her mother consoles her, speaks of heaven in tender and lofty
imagery, and hints at her suffering while alive, and just grazes the
subject of Hannele's birth. Her suspected father is the examining
magistrate Berger, but the idea is lightly dwelt upon--sufficiently,
however, to give us a glimmer of the truth and adding a deeper accent
to the gloom. Hannele's mother was hounded to her death as was this
child. Her body, as we know by the testimony of the wood-cutter,
Seidel, was a mass of bruises after death. The interview between mother
and daughter is solemn and yet piteously human. The poor child cries
aloud after the fading figure and later shows with joy to Sister Martha
the supposed flower, Golden Sesame, which her mother gave her. Then
this tiny waif of the gutter becomes light-headed and sings of flowers,
of her teacher, and of the angels she has seen. From this delirious
state she never recovers, and her dreams take on a darker tinge in the
second part of the play.

A great dark angel appears and remains dumb to the child's excited
questionings. Her visions become involved here, for the Deaconess is
also seen, and while she is habited as Sister Martha, her features
are those of Hannele's mother. The child notices this and remarks
upon it. And now a touch of Hoffmannish fantasy is given in the
appearance of the village tailor, who salutes her as the Princess
Hannele, and delights her by producing a shining robe and a pair of
small slippers. Although she knows she is preparing for her death-bed,
she is delighted. Her conversation with the Deaconess has taught her
that death is not to be avoided--that it is the gate to joys eternal.
There is something subtly sad in this child eagerly asking about death
and the hereafter, with the awful symbol of death sitting in grim
silence before her. Hauptmann has deeply probed the childish heart. The
fantastic tailor retires after deferentially saluting Death, and then
some children, headed by Gottwald, enter and beg Hannele's pardon for
calling her Princess Rag-tag. Gottwald is bidding her farewell when a
lot of the village people appear, and later the crystal coffin into
which Hannele is laid. There is nothing repulsive in all this, despite
its realism. Hauptmann's art is so far removed from the crude that
sequence follows sequence in the most natural fashion and just as in De
Quincey's Dream Fugue.

Then comes the most dramatic part of these visions. Mattern slouches
in and begins to curse Hannele, and to search for her in the dark
corners. The neighbours cluster about the coffin, hiding it from view.
The stranger enters and calls Mattern to account. There is a scene
between the two. Mattern denies having treated the child badly, and
thunder and lightning rebuke him for the lie. He perjures himself, and
the mystic flower glows with miraculous light on Hannele's breast. The
neighbours, who play the part of Greek chorus, fiercely cry, "Murderer!
murderer!" and as one pursued by the Furies the miserable wretch rushes
away to hang himself. The stranger assumes a supernatural appearance.
He becomes clothed in white, and his brow shines. He advances to the
crystal basket wherein lies Hannele, and bids her arise. She does so,
and the neighbours flee affrighted. Remember that all this occurs
within the darkened chambers of Hannele's sick brain. Its objectivity,
so far as we are concerned, is a device of the dramatist. Hannele
arises and goes to the stranger, who is a glorified image of her
teacher, Gottwald. Some lyrical passages, strongly tinged with Oriental
colouring, follow, and an apotheosis closes the scene.

After all this burst of colour and harmony, for there is much music of
harps and plucked strings, we are almost instantly transported to the
almshouse again, and see Hannele once more in her rags on her squalid
bed. The doctor gravely announces, "She is dead," and Sister Martha
ends the play by saying, "She is in heaven."

Now make of Hannele what you will. Consider it as a plea against
cruelty to children, as a strong pictorial proverb, anything. There is
symbolism lurking in its situations. The Christ-idea of pity, an idea
new to the pagan world, but not new to Buddhism, may be considered as
the key-note of Hannele. Religious it is not. Blasphemous, however, in
intention it is not, and one fails to see any similarity between it and
Jean Beraud's picture of a Christ attired in nineteenth-century garb
and with a modern Magdalen washing his feet.

Hauptmann may tread on remarkably delicate ground at times; but his
seriousness and artistic ingenuity have enabled him to produce a most
poetic analysis of a soul and give it dramatic rhythms. To have the
courage to give permanent shape to such a fantastic dream requires,
besides imagination, marked technical abilities.

To me Hannele seems like a huge chant to the glory of death. Death,
"whose truer name is Onward," as sang the poet, is the theme, and
Death is shown to be Lord and Master. Like Maeterlinck, Hauptmann
tries to give emotion in the mass. You remember in L'Intruse and Les
Aveugles, how everything is subordinated to the production of the one
thrill--that of fear. By dissimilar method Hauptmann gets a similar
result. He meets death with a grave sweetness. At first terrible as is
the figure of the great Dark Angel, with his dread sword all bathed in
greenish light, the Deaconess brings balm to the anxious, questioning
soul of the child, and she meets death with dignity and submission.
With some of the same gentle and elevated philosophy does Hauptmann
approach his theme. The beggar child and her sufferings and dreams
serve for him as something which he drapes about with wisdom and poetry.

It is a reversion to the old miracle play cunningly blended with
modern realism; it is this that makes its form seemingly amorphous,
and renders it both a challenge and stumbling-block to the critics.
From the old view-point such a play as this is not fit for the boards.
It lacks action, and deals with states of emotion rather than with
dramatic events. But a soul life can also be dramatic, and Hauptmann,
who knows Parsifal well, has retained an admixture of realism so as to
set off by violent contrast the exalted idealism of the later scenes.

Jules Lemaître, the French critic, in praising Hannele, spoke of the
persistency in us of early religious impressions, no matter how blurred
they become by contact with the world. Oddly enough, this mixture of
the real and the supernatural forestalled Gorky and his slum plays.
Gorky himself could not have conceived and executed anything more
poignant than the story of Hannele--"Petite sœur de la grande
Brunnhild endormie aux rochers déserts," as Gabriel Trarieux calls
her. A dream poem, a study in mysticism, Hannele evokes memories of
Maeterlinck, though it "lacks the unity of his atmosphere," as an
English critic has rightly said. But it is moving art, nevertheless.

Hauptmann wears all the earmarks of a genius. He is child of his
age to a dangerous degree, and his tremulous, vibrating sensibility
mirrored the hysterical agitation, the pessimism, the sad strivings,
the individualism, the fret-fire fomentings and unbelief of a dying
century. He knows Goethe, and after the last act of The Sunken Bell
one feels constrained to cry, "The third part of Faust!" But it is
not Faust, neither is it Tannhäuser, though there are analogies; it
is realism, it is idealism, it is pantheism, it is Wagnerism. Above
all Friedrich Nietzsche towers in the background, and there is poesy,
exquisite poesy.

The Sunken Bell is a compound of antagonistic elements. The unities
seem askew, yet the result is artistic and illusory. Hauptmann has a
clairvoyant quality; he imposes upon his audience his dream of his
own fantastic world, and you find yourself five minutes after the
rise of the curtain devoutly believing in this queer No-man's land
of mischievous water goblins, satyrs, wonderful white nymphs, and
sorrowful mortals. It is all a masque--a profound masque of the spirit
in labour. Viewed as a symbol, we see in Heinrich the bell-founder, the
type of the struggling, the aspiring artist, who, cast down by defeat,
is led to more remote and loftier heights by a new ideal, there to live
the life of the Uebermensch, the Super-man, of Nietzsche. The fall is
inevitable. Dare as dared Faust and Ibsen's Brand to desert the valleys
and scale the slopes of Parnassus, and man's fate is assured.

Hauptmann's hero is a bell-founder who, crazed by grief at the loss
of his bell in the lake, mounts the peak and lies dying at the door
of a witch. It is at a period so charmingly pictured by Heine. The
twilight of the gods has begun and the scared peasant caught flashes
of faun-like creatures flitting in woodland glade and grove, still saw
shining the breasts of the nymph in the brake, and piously crossed
himself when toad, snake, and worm crossed his path. Heinrich is found
by Rautendelein, an elfish being, an exquisite creation of fire, of
flame, something of Ariel, Miranda, Puck, naïve Gretchen, a new Undine,
a symbol of the freedom of nature, a creature touched with the vaguer
surmise of adolescence, the most poetically conceived since Goethe's,
and yet evocative of Hans Christian Andersen. She, like the mermaid
of Andersen, loves the unconscious mortal, and despite the jaundiced
warnings of an old spirit of the well, she follows the sick man back to
his abode. The first act is ably contrived. There is atmosphere, and
the well-nigh impossible parts of the faun and the frog man--the latter
indulges in the familiar _Brek-ke-ke-keks_ of Aristophanes--become
real for the moment. It is the Hauptmann spell that weighs upon our
senses. Andersen-like, too, is the discovery by this child fairy that
love means pain. She finds a tear in her eye and thinks it is dew. The
mystery of womanhood encompasses her.

In Act II the bellman is upon abed of delirium. He has been found
and brought down from the mountains by his friends, the priest and
the villagers. His wife and children try to comfort him, but he is
oblivious, for he sees in his excited trance the figure of a beautiful
girl. Suddenly the dream becomes real. Rautendelein sits at his side
and woos him back to health. Startling is the end of this scene. The
nymph stands against the wall, her eyes fairly blazing at Heinrich,
while his wife crouches at his feet, happy at his restoration to
sanity. She does not see his glance fondly fastened on the nymph of the

He then leaves his home and goes up to the heights, where, unhampered,
he may exercise the full play of his artistic faculties. He will make a
bell and tune it to the laughter of Rautendelein. It shall make silvery
music across the hills and valleys, and summon the stray souls of earth
to him. He exalts nature to the priest who follows him to reclaim his
soul; this third act is really a glorified burst of Nietzscheism. Then
he has bad dreams; he is haunted by visions of home, and, after all the
splendour of imagery, of his defiance of the conventionalities of life,
something mars his life with the perfect woman he has elected to follow.

Appear his two children carrying an urn. "What carry ye?" he demands.
"Father, we carry an urn."--"What is in the urn?" "Father, something
bitter."--"What is the something bitter?" "Father, our mother's
tears."--"Where is your mother?" "Where the water-lilies grow."

Then booms down in the valley, where lies the lake, the sound of a
bell; an unearthly tone it has, as if struck by no mortal hand; it is
touched by the hand of his dead wife who killed herself to escape her
misery. Remorse sets in. He is no longer Balder the god of Spring, but
a wretched man, and, driving away with revilings the poor Rautendelein,
he descends to the valley, but is driven away, and finally dies in
front of the witch's hut; but not before Rautendelein finds him. His
last words are an ecstatic appeal to the sun--the sun which is the
symbol of his striving.

The charm, the witchery, the magical bitter-sweetness of this
dramatic poem are formidable at the close. Heinrich dies of poison,
self-administered, while through his filmy eyes there presses the
vision of the beloved one. It is, indeed, Rautendelein, but her very
shadow. Deserted, dreary, neither maid nor mortal nor nymph, she
accepts the love of the hideous, frog-like Nickelman, and goes down to
his slimy couch in the well. She emerges only to see her lover dying,
and pathetically denies to him that she is Rautendelein. As the curtain
falls on his corpse, we catch a glimpse of the girl sadly returning to
the well and to her horrible mate in the mud.

Sorma gave a delicious, naïve, and plastic version of the nymph at the
Irving Place Theatre in 1897. She possesses an exquisite sensibility.
She painted with a light hand the caprice, elfish cunning, and wiles of
Rautendelein, and at the close the tragic note was delicately sounded.
It was a great, a notable achievement.

Sorma has been called the German Duse. She is really a Silesian by
birth, and she is not a Duse. But she has unusual adroitness in the
expression of the conventional dramatic symbolism, and an agility in
technic and a variety of vocal and facial expression that enable her
to assume a wide range of character. A certain briskness and imperious
piquancy make her work unlike that of the German stage. She is more
Gallic, in reality more Slavic than Gallic. Her person is finely
fashioned, her features good, her eyes particularly expressive, and her
mask mobile and expressive easily of a mob of elusive emotions. She
reaches her climax by a rational crescendo, and never fails to thrill.
Altogether a creature of real fire and with an air of distinction. Of
the occasional sentimentality of the German stage she is never guilty.

Mr. Meltzer in the preface of his admirable translation tells us
"to view the play from the standpoint of the reformer, and you may
interpret it as the tale of a dreamer, who, hampered by inevitable
conditions, strives to remodel human society. For my part I incline to
regard Heinrich the bell-founder as a symbol of Humanity struggling
painfully toward the realization of its dream of the ideal truth and
joy and light and justice. Rautendelein in this reading stands for
Nature, or rather for the freedom and sincerity of Nature, missing a
reunion with which Humanity can never hope to reach the supreme truth,
and the supreme bliss of which the Sun is the emblem."

The artist _sans_ moral obligations is bound to be a failure, no matter
the height or depth of his genius. This has Tennyson sung; and Goethe,
in his imperial manner, has set it forth. Symbolic and allegoric The
Sunken Bell may signify the conflict of Pagan and Christian, Jew and
Greek, Heinrich standing midway between the opposing forces as did
Walter Pater's Denys in the mad days at Auxerrois. Miraculously has the
poet fixed his wild people of wood and waves. They with their coarse,
elemental gestures and foolery might have stepped out of a canvas by
Arnold Böcklin. The blank verse is admirable, and while the Faust metre
is largely used there are no such lyrics as we find strewn through
Goethe's immortal pages. And yet--yet is not Hauptmann Germany's most
distinguished dramatist since that master? The admirers of Robert
Hamerling and Von Wildenbruch will not have it so--possibly because of
the pessimism and the socialistic views of the new man. Nevertheless,
Hauptmann has the ear of all Germany to-day.

In Rose Bernd, Hauptmann returns to his beloved Silesians of The
Weavers, of Fuhrmann Henschel, of Before Sunrise. His new five-act
piece is a drama of the open fields and rough peasant life. It is
atmospheric throughout. Its moral fibre is incontestably strong,
though the method of presentation may seem unpleasant. The dialect
is difficult for the student, the play itself squalid and painful to
a degree. Nor has it the inevitable quality of Die Weber or Wagoner
Henschel. Rose recalls, though vaguely, something of Tess of the
D'Urbervilles, of Hetty Sorrel, and of Gretchen. She is a worker
in the harvest fields, and previous to the action of the play has
been deceived by Christoph Flamm, the mayor of the district and a
jolly landowner who has a paralyzed wife. He is a vital figure; his
exuberance, unrepentance, selfishness, and genuine passion for Rose are
all minutely indicated. His wife has been a second mother to Rose, who
resides with her father, a poor old peasant, a strict pietist. Frau
Flamm has lost her only child and lives on her memories. She is wheeled
about her house in an invalid's chair. She, too, is alive, and her not
unkindly probing of the unfortunate girl's secret brings about some
stirring scenes.

Rose is engaged to a young man, a book-binder, who is pious, whose
dream was to become a missionary. He is unassuming, ugly, and adores
Rose. She might have surmounted her troubles if the disturbing element
in the person of Streckmann, the dissipated engineer of the village
threshing machine, had not crossed her fate. He has witnessed the
interviews of Rose and Flamm, and he scares her by threatening to tell
the story to her father and her betrothed. He attempts to capture her
for himself, and at last succeeds, as the wretched girl relates in
accusing him: "I came to you in terror and anguish. I got on my knees
before you. You swore that you would keep my secret. You fell upon me
like a bird of prey. I tried to escape ... you committed a crime."

Streckmann later, in drunken fury, tells the peasants of Rose's sins.
Her father believes in her, but insists upon an explanation. The
miserable creature confesses in a delirious accent that she has just
strangled her new-born babe. Her father has her arrested, and her
patient lover August, who has forgiven her, lifts the swooning girl and
exclaims, "Hat das mädel gelitten!" (What the girl must have suffered!)
The play was forbidden the boards in Austria by the Emperor--it was at
once too moral and too truthful.

The interpretation at the Lessing Theatre, Berlin, which I witnessed,
October 2, 1904, was one the memory of which I shall long treasure.
The distribution of the rôles was almost faultless; the individual
execution of a high order. Rose was enacted by that great artist, Else
Lehmann, who portrayed the trying soul states and mental agony of the
unfortunate peasant girl with supreme skill. All the more difficult is
the character because Hauptmann has resolutely avoided showing us what
Rose really thinks. She is reacted upon by her friends and enemies, yet
seldom speaks, except in mono-syllables. The illumination of her nature
was a peculiar triumph of Lehmann's simple, sincere art.

Next to her artistically stood Hedwig Pauly as the invalid wife who
knows the manner of man to whom she is united and divines through
feminine intuition and sympathy the sufferings of Rose. The scene
wherein the girl is interrogated was tear-compelling. Nor must the
open-air incidents be forgotten. Herr Brahm's company played throughout
with that fidelity to life, with that utter absence of "acting," which
are the very essence of the histrionic art.

Rose Bernd, one is tempted to add, is Hauptmann's masterpiece, if we
did not remember Die Weber. It is deeply human, and in its exposition
of character a masterpiece.

It seems Hauptmann's fate to be hopelessly misinterpreted--he, the poet
whose love for his fellow-beings is become a veritable passion. He
began his artistic life as a poet-sculptor, and he has been modelling
human souls ever since. Perhaps they may be as imperishable as if they
had been carved in marble.



When Ferdinand Brunetière praises a drama, novel, or poem, it may be
inferred that the ethical element predominates. It is, therefore,
something of a surprise to find him enthusiastic over Paul Hervieu's
latest play, Le Dédale, which met with such a friendly reception at
the Théâtre Français, December 19, 1903, the night of its production.
It is a work of power, of art, while its moral is not flaunted as
on a signboard. The implacably harsh and logical treatment of the
woman with two husbands doubtless extorted from M. Brunetière the
honour of a patient and lengthy review. Himself a Roman Catholic of
the reactionary--one is tempted to employ the old-fashioned word
"ultramontane"--type, the French critic could not fail to side with the
playwright, though he has not hesitated, after the manner of critics,
to read into this problem piece some meanings of his own.

With the advent of the Naquet divorce bill in France the countenance
of problem plays underwent a radical change. A ministerial stroke of
the pen invalidated Dumas _fils_ and his unhappy women as a theme for
dramatic treatment. We have had plays dealing with the unpleasant
subject since then, but these were either frankly frivolous like
those of Alfred Capus, or wittily cynical with those of Maurice
Donnay. The modern master builder of French drama, Henry Becque, wrote
L'Enlèvement, in which he presented the question with his accustomed
clearness and probity. Hervieu, in Le Dédale, shows the influence
of at least one scene of Becque, though he has handled the incident
so individually as to deflect its conclusions completely. Since
L'Enlèvement there has been no such literary performance as Le Dédale,
which proved a labyrinth indeed for its unhappy characters and a
masterpiece in form.

The story is a simple one, direct as antique tragedy, and far from
being improbable. Divorce in France is a much more complicated matter
than in America. Society, notwithstanding its cynical attitude, is
not too favourable to divorced men and women, particularly women.
The church refuses to sanction separation if it is to be followed by
remarriage. Whether forged in heaven or elsewhere, the fetters of
wedlock are never to be loosed unless by death. Now Hervieu does not
pretend to a sympathy with either society or the church. He does not
attempt to win our suffrages for the woman or for the man. His is too
judicial an intellect to show partisanship, and he is too superior an
artist to turn his play into a moral tract. He dives deeper than the
law or society; he dives straight into the human heart, and after
setting forth his situations his summing up is irrefragable. From the
clash of his warring souls comes his tragedy; the divorce is a mere
pretext to set his people in action. The law of the species, that
compelling and terrible law, is his weapon, a formidable one in his
skilled hands. His thesis, baldly stated, is this: A man and a woman
once married are married until death, if there be a child. Let the law
supervene, let vagrant passion demolish the social structure, this
stark, naked fact remains--the flesh of the child unites the parents
in the bond of eternity.

In an earlier play, Les Tenailles, the same idea was present, but is
a first attempt compared to this newer work. The story in Le Dédale
runs thus: Marianne de Pogis has separated from her husband Max, a
handsome, careless _viveur_, for very patent reasons; with her own eyes
she witnessed his infidelity, further accentuated by the fact that her
friend was an accomplice to his infidelity. The outraged woman takes
her son and seeks the protection of her parents. These are called the
Villard-Duvals, the father of the old school, tolerant of masculine
transgressions; the mother a strict Roman Catholic, who abhors divorce.
M. Hervieu has never been so happy in his painting of two such widely
dissimilar portraits. Marianne is a proud woman with her father's
will and temperament, proud and, unfortunately for her peace of mind,
passionate. The inevitable man turns up. He is an admirable character,
this Le Breuil--a gentleman, steadfast, honourable above all, patient.
He loves Marianne and will not be refused. And she, tired of her
claustral existence, tired of her mother's reproaches, at last listens
to the pleadings of her suitor. Why not? She argues that her life
has been made miserable through no fault of her own. Why not remarry
and snatch some happiness from the devourer of all happiness--Time?
Her mother refuses to hear of the project. Worse to her would be
the remarriage of her daughter than sheer adultery. She has accused
Marianne of an unforgiving disposition, and it is only too plain that
she still considers her married to her divorced husband. But the father
likes his presumptive son-in-law. The man's honesty and fearlessness
appeal to him. Marianne, worn out by the continual bickering, marries
Guillaume Le Breuil.

In the next act we find them happy. The little son is loved by his
stepfather as if he were his own. But a cloud mounts in their sky. The
former husband, Max de Pogis, comes with his mother to intercede for
a sight of his boy. He is melancholy and depressingly repentant. He
married the woman for whom he sold his matrimonial birthright, and is
now a widower. In a vividly conceived and expressed scene his mother, a
skilful, worldly dame, argues with Marianne that to the father the love
of the son belongs. At last, after an exhausting interview in which
the hearts of these three humans are shown as if in a blazing light,
Marianne consents to her son visiting the château of his father and his

And then begins the mischief. The boy is smitten by a dangerous
illness. The third act discovers Marianne almost crazed by grief at
the home of her former husband. She has nursed the child in company
with his father. She only leaves the bedside when the doctor pronounces
his patient out of danger. The woman collapses. Max finds her weak,
her nerves shattered by the strain. He has touched her hand across the
body of their dying child, but not her heart. He makes an impassioned
appeal, but is repulsed. She loves her new husband, she says, and has
written him at least once every day. The mother of Max also tells the
harassed woman of the love she has aroused in her son--a love purified
by deep sorrow. At last Marianne retires to the apartment in which
she slept the night when Max de Pogis brought her to his château. Max
enters. It is a scene that even when read touches the heart. The man
is in earnest. He is humble. He tells of his love--a love compared to
which the second husband's is nothing. He plays the old variations with
a woman's heart--a maternal heart--as the instrument. This music proves
dangerous. It sets reverberating familiar chords. The hour is midnight.
The father of her son looks into her eyes and points to the mementos
of their early love. He clasps her to his breast, and the curtain falls
on the subjugation of the woman. The ghost of the past has made her
forget the present.

Do not be in haste to condemn her weakness. The dramatist is pitiless
enough in his judgment. She goes to her parents', not her husband's
home, and half mad with remorse tells--without any attempt to
sentimentally varnish her guilt--her mother everything. That lady is
not surprised, shocked as she may be. Max, after all, is the husband of
Marianne in the sight of God, let legislators decree what they may. It
is the triumph of the mother, the triumph of the species Jules Gaultier
would call it. The father is told, and he grieves mightily. And Le
Breuil, the new husband, what of him! Shuddering, Marianne declares
that henceforth for her he no longer exists. She has descended lower
than the lowest, but there remains a still deeper gulf of vileness, and
into it she will not fall. Le Breuil clamours for admittance. He must
know why his wife has not gone to her house. She will not see him. He,
the gentle Guillaume, becomes quarrelsome. Then she resolves to meet
him. This interview is another masterpiece of observation and dramatic
values. He begs for an explanation--he suspects that her nerves have
been upset by her visit and by the illness of her son, though he is too
tender and chivalric to cast this in her teeth. He is angelic in his
behaviour, but to no avail. Some subtle chemistry has transformed the
nature of Marianne. She respects, she pities her husband--live with
him she cannot. Aroused by her obduracy, Guillaume rushes at her to
kiss her. In a blinding flash she sees herself further dishonoured--
and to avoid the shame and desolation of it all she confesses. It is
an awful revelation. The unhappy man cannot believe his ears. He is
brutal, hysterical, wretched, and finally in a fury throws the woman
from him and rushes out to kill the wrecker of his happiness.

Fifth acts are always dangerous. Ibsen's fifth acts are, as a rule,
his weakest. The playwright who has the genius of the first act has
seldom the genius of the fifth. M. Hervieu's first acts invariably
puzzle or offend. No writer has to create a new public with each new
play as has this one. The reason is because his themes and their bold,
unconventional manipulation set on edge the nerves of his audience.

In his drama, Hervieu is the great serious artist. He never trifles,
despite his gift of irony, with his characters; never mocks them--above
all, never lets them escape his iron grasp. There is nothing of the
_improvisatore_ in him; he has not the romantic passion of George Sand
nor Ibsen's spirit of revolt; nor is he a vindicator of social wrongs
like M. Brieux. He is a dramatist, perhaps, fathered by the unique
Henry Becque, with a vision not unlike Stendhal's. The intensity of
this vision, the sincerity of the man, and the utter absence in him of
the theatrical wonder-worker have endeared him to M. Brunetière.

Every big play has at least one act that evokes violent discussion. Le
Dédale is no exception. Its fifth act is a strain upon our credulity,
though sober second thought compels one to accept the dénouement,
violent as it is. A duel is inevitable between the two men; the death
of either one would be banal; Marianne cannot without violating the
proprieties be thrust into the arms of either man; besides, the woman,
horrified by her error, an error seemingly thrust upon her by malignant
fate, has now conceived an aversion to both Max and Guillaume. Max
persecutes her, follows her to her country home, while Guillaume
silently tracks him. She meets the latter in an arbour and refuses to
live with him again. The injured man encounters Max as that seducer
gayly proceeds through the garden. Their meeting is a stirring moment.
After a few bitter words Guillaume drags Max over a cliff into a raging
stream, where their bodies are swept irrecoverably away. Unconscious of
this double tragedy, Marianne is heard calling: "Louis, Louis!" and as
the little boy runs in the curtain falls on a mute, touching display of
maternal love.

The reading of the play gives the impression of a melodramatic touch
in this catastrophe. It seems at first as if the author in despair
had solved his problem by a hasty theatrical stroke. As performed by
the inimitable Bartet and Le Bargy and Paul Mounet there is only a
faint suggestion of the theatric. Like the divorce theme, the tragedy
at the close is but an aid to expand M. Hervieu's thesis. Not the
inviolability of ecclesiastical marriage, not the dispute of two men
for the possession of a woman, but his thesis is the exposition of
the truth that a man and a woman are forever linked by that bond of
flesh, their child. Otherwise the dramatist holds no brief for heredity
or one against divorce. He selected his material like an artist.
What would have been the result if Marianne had had a child by her
second husband? Probably we should have had no play. We must accept
the premises of Hervieu or else avoid challenging his conclusions. In
the remotest analysis a drama may be an entity for the crucible of
the metaphysician; yet if it be great it will defy the test of logic
as does life itself. And there is not only logic in Paul Hervieu's
Le Dédale, but life, a great section of throbbing, real life. It is
certainly the most significant French play thus far of the new century.

I tested the validity of the foregoing criticism written after
reading the play by attending a performance at the Français, Paris,
October 20, 1904. Madame Bartet was superb, far exceeding my rather
suspicious expectations. Her serenity and dignity in the earlier acts;
the maternal anguish, the maternal--literally--passion that caused
her defection; the remorse and almost hysterical confession, were
all indicated by this mistress of fine nuances. Le Bargy has seldom
been better cast, while Paul Mounet was excellent; and I was almost
convinced by the finale, though I wish the playwright, taking a hint
from Ibsen, had ended on an unresolved cadence. But M. Hervieu is too
logical, too Gallic, to treat his audiences thus. He even re-wrote The
Enigma so as to make the end clearer.

The Enigma, which London saw in March, 1902, at Wyndham's Theatre, was
then called Cæsar's Wife, which is, as Osman Edwards justly remarks, a
pompous title.

The English cast of L'Enigme was: Mrs. Tree as Léonore, Fay Davis as
Giselle, Fred Kerr as Marquis de Neste, Leonard Boyne as Vivarce. The
story is simple, the treatment rather classic: Act I is lengthy, barren
of incident, and bitter in its polemical tone; Act II is old-fashioned
in its development and climax, yet the last words spoken are distinctly
novel and a tremendous indictment of the man who slays the woman on
the plea of outraged honour. Here is Dumas's _Tué-là_ reversed with
a vengeance. Yet one platitude supplants another. If the brute who
kills his wife because she is unfaithful to him is to be succeeded by
the lady who deceives her husband because he is unpleasant to her,
where does the moral come in? It is a new convention driving out an
old. As Hervieu is _féministe_, his sympathy leads him to espouse the
cause of the woman. Without wishing to be ungallant, we may ask what
is the difference between the woman with a half-dozen lovers and the
man with a half-dozen mistresses? In the eyes of the law, in the eyes
of religion, none; in the eyes of society a vast deal--if the woman is
discovered. Not if the man is; but before a jury-box composed of twelve
intelligent men the woman who--as popular parlance has it--"sins" has
every chance of being pitied and pardoned. Here the elemental sympathy
of the male for the female counts heavily against testimony and judge's

Dumas knew this (if he had lived in America the fact would have been
driven home every morning in the newspapers) when he wrote Francillon,
especially when he wrote Femme de Claude. _Tué-là_! was his ferocious
advice. So M. Hervieu set himself to preach the contrary. In Les
Paroles Restent, his first dramatic essay, even in Les Tenailles,
and La Loi de l'Homme, the wordiness becomes most monotonous. In The
Enigma, we notice the same long-winded discussions à la Dumas as in
Princesse Georges, with the _raisonneur_ in the centre of the stage,
--in this case Marquis de Neste,--weighing the merits of the various
speeches, spouting many himself, altogether turning the expository
act into a debating society. In their revolt against the so-called
"well-made play," the newer Parisian dramatists have gone to the other

However, the plot of The Enigma is distinctly worth the telling. Two
brothers, noblemen, De Gourgiran by name, are married to two charming
women, Léonore and Giselle. Here is a quartet instead of the eternal
duo with the triangle hung over the door like a sinister horseshoe
presaging ill luck. To this double family are added the elderly
Marquis, who is a cousin to the brothers, and a young man, Vivarce
by name. He is the unknown quantity of this well-mixed combination.
At first the household seems like most happy ones--without anything
worthy of chronicling. The brothers are mighty Nimrods, the wives
have children to interest them, Vivarce to amuse them, the Marquis to
lecture them. Everything goes on oiled wheels until the gamekeeper of
the estate tells his masters that poachers are abroad. The fraternal
pair resolve on stealing out before daybreak and surprising the
rascals. The respective characters of the brothers do not show much
diversity; both live to hunt, and incidentally they love their wives
better, much better, than their dogs. About this there must be no
mistake. Honest, upright, inflexible, hard-hearted, hard-headed
persons, they are absolutely lacking in humour. They bore their
wives, and if you would tell them this, they would shrug shoulders
philosophically and remark that women, especially good wives, were
intended to be bored by husbands.

But note their scowling features if that drawing-room animal, the
professional lover, is mentioned! Both empty their choicest vials
of objurgation and fury upon the luckless beast's head. In fact, a
discussion is started about the treatment a man should accord an erring
wife. The one rather would shoot such a wife through the heart, the
other brother would slay the lover and keep the wife alive and near
at hand so that she might be tortured. This cold-blooded proposition
arouses the righteous indignation of Giselle, who protests in the name
of her sex, in the name of humanity. She becomes so agitated that the
Marquis, whose suspicions have been aroused for some time, suspects the
lady of carrying on an intrigue with Vivarce. Earlier in the scene he
has privately accused Vivarce of betraying one of his hosts' wives, but
which one he cannot say.

Now here is where the puzzle comes in and the psychology evaporates.
The Marquis, so he relates, while suffering from insomnia, gets up one
fine night and sees Vivarce vanishing in the door of the château, which
door was opened by a female hand. Whose? Evidently one of the married
women. Which one? Ah, that is the enigma! Vivarce feebly admits his
shameful behaviour, though he refuses to give the name of the fair
sinner. The old nobleman is perplexed. He advises flight. He talks like
an ancient uncle from the country, who does not wish to borrow money
from his city relatives--that is, he talks sense, and as it dribbles
in one ear and out the other of his moonstruck companion, he realizes
the futility of his well-meant sermon. Young men will be fools and
lunatics--and he might have added, when they are not, heaven help their
wives in later years!

Unknown to the others the brothers resolve on lying in wait for the
poachers. After some conjugal bantering they retire. Their wives sit
up to talk matters over. The door has been barred; it is very close
within; Giselle proposes that they open the house. She essays in vain
to lift the heavy oaken bar. Leonore tries. She succeeds. The moonlight
is mellow without, and the summer night sends pleasant air and odours
into the living room. At last the two women prepare for bed. Novels
are selected, and with lamps in hand they are leaving the room without
thought of the open door. Giselle remembers it and returns. Leonore
bids her not to bother--there are no thieves in the neighbourhood. The
curtain falls.

Up to this moment there is no way of recognizing the "guilty" woman.
Dishonours are about even. Giselle, to be sure, is passionate in her
protestations of contempt for the brutality of husbands who take the
law into their own hands. But Leonore unbars the door. Giselle recalls
the fact that it should not be open, and Leonore tells her not to
worry. Which one is it? And before you rush rashly to a conclusion
remember that the dramatist knows more than his audience, and that he
contrives pitfalls for the unwary. Both women seem guilty, both may be
innocent. One of the brothers comes softly into the room; both have
agreed not to worry their wives about the poachers. The door is found
unbolted. The first comer surmises that his brother has preceded him,
but the gamekeeper tells him the door was open. Then the other brother
enters. Surprise! But there is no time for this sentiment, as a man
steals through the dimly lighted room. After a brief, fierce struggle
he is pinioned. A lantern reveals the features of Vivarce. How did he
come there? Why did he come out of the women's apartments at this hour
in the morning? Hate and destruction are in the air.

His answers are evasive. He is nervous--wanted a cigarette. The lie is
cast back in his teeth. And then a woman, holding a candle, rushes in
with pale face. It is Leonore. She has been awakened, so she avers,
by the shock of voices. Her husband sternly inquires her whereabouts
a few moments before. She has an excuse ready. She swears she is not
guilty, and even kneels to Vivarce, beseeching him to clear her. It is
too much. Her husband plucks her by the arm, and then, as his brother
questions her too closely, the man wavers to the side of his wife.
Perhaps, after all, it was Giselle. Yes, where is Giselle? The husband
of the absent one is swift to defend her. He goes to her room and
finds her fast asleep. Aha! says the other woman, and awakens her.
Confused by the lights, the accusation, the clash of words, she is the
very picture of a guilty woman as she enters in her white night robe,
her hair unbound, her features suffused in tears. Besides, did she not
make some very audacious speeches earlier in the evening defending the
right to love of a woman wearied of her husband? Free love--ah, odious
phrase! It damns her at once.

The trouble with a situation of this kind is that the spectator,
carried away by his curiosity, forgets all about the play of character,
the problem involved. It is The Lady or the Tiger over again, and
not so cleverly handled as that little masterpiece, for, as we shall
presently see, Hervieu solves the riddle in a very prosaic fashion.
A big interrogation point at the end would be the only excuse for
a recrudescence of a play of the Dumas sort. When Richard Strauss
composed the enigmatic tonalities at the close of his Tone poem, Also
Sprach Zarathustra, he did so because he could not logically leave
us on a full harmonic close. Since Hervieu did not develop his theme
broadly and allowed it to degenerate into the theatric device of
guessing the girl, he might have followed Frank Stockton and Richard
Strauss--withheld the complete dénouement and sent us home wondering.
But his artistic conscience began to operate at the close of Act II,
and not daring in Act III, he despatches his young lover out to the
dewy morn, there to shoot himself. This suicide cuts the tangle.
The sister who quails at the news is the guilty one--a Solomon-like
judgment, if ever there was one.

The gunshot rouses the women. Leonore it is who shudders and screams;
Giselle is only shocked. The complacent face of her husband at this
juncture is a study in selfishness. Leonore's husband throttles her and
is pulled off just in time. He bids her live--he knows how to torture;
and as the curtain falls the Marquis in the centre of the picture
invokes the curse of heaven on a social system that tolerates such
hideous cruelty.

It may be seen that the intellectual playwright takes advantage of a
situation in Pagliacci or in Catulle Mendès's La Femme de Tabarin; when
the lover is being killed or is killed, the grief of the "guilty" wife
betrays her secret to the world. It is lacking in novelty, yet a sound
situation psychologically. The torture motive is not new.

However, Paul Hervieu's reputation does not stand or fall on this drama
any more than it does on his novels, Flirt and L'Armature. Les Paroles
Restent has a theme cleverly invented, above all cleverly handled.
A man sets in motion a lie about a young girl in society, though he
believes it is the truth. Later he meets and loves her. His remorse is
great when he discovers that she is innocent. To make reparation (oh,
masculine vanity of vanities!) he resolves to confess both his love and
his fault. He does so. The woman, Régine de Vesles, is outraged in her
pride, in her love, to discover that her secret calumniator is the man
she has adored. She parts from him. A duel is precipitated--lugged in
by the hair, really--and De Nohan is dangerously wounded. Naturally
Régine goes to his bedside and pardons him. They are sure to be happy.
Alas! _les paroles restent_, and after De Nohan hears repeated his
vile slander he dies. The situations are effective throughout, the
character-drawing subtle.

This play is full of melodrama, and, as has been pointed out, contains
"several weapons borrowed from the arsenal of the inexhaustible
Scribe." Hervieu followed it with Les Tenailles, which was at
once a challenge to his critic and a greater play. _Tenailles_
(nippers)--horrible word! Here the author gives us human nature in the
raw. A woman is married to a man she does not love. He, it appears,
makes no attempt to secure her love. She really loves a famous man,
a traveller. She tells her husband so. She will not deceive him, as
other feebler women would; she must leave at once. But the husband
of Irene Fergan is cool-headed. He asks his wife how she proposes to
escape the hateful marriage tie. She must give the law a reason, a
motive. Collusion is the only remedy, and he will not enter into any
such conspiracy. Then she declares she will run away. Not far, he
calmly replies, for there is always the police. No matter what she
does, he will not let her go. Bowing her head, the woman submits. The
wife is the prisoner of the husband, the woman bond-slave of the man,
despite all our gabbling about emancipation and equal rights in this
enlightened century.

Ten years pass, when the curtain again rises. There is a child; the
home is seemingly a placid one. The little son must be sent to school.
Another crisis. There is a terrible duel of words and will. Enraged she
cries, "The child is not yours," and then confesses--no, confesses is
not the word, rather boasts, that she had a lover, the man she always
loved, the traveller. The husband now no longer claims the other's
son; he will even grant the divorce. The culmination comes when Irene
refuses to be thrust out of doors,--the child has just passed through
the room,--she has borne the agony of ten years. They must go hand in
hand manacled to the end, let the nippers gall as they will. There is
the child. Its future is at stake. "But," the man whimpers, "you are
guilty and I am innocent."--"No," she says, "we are only two miserable
people, and misery knows none but equals." The answer is like the harsh
stroke of a savage alarm bell. It startled all Paris for many months.
_Les paroles restent!_

The Law of Man is even more tense and disagreeable than its
predecessor. Herein the problem posed is this (for with Hervieu the
play is always a problem; like Ibsen he asks questions and seldom
answers them, though it may be premised that while he has much of
Ibsen's gloom and love for the unusual, he lacks the cold, concentrated
logic of the Norwegian): A woman surprises her husband by means of
letters, but does not leave him. Her daughter falls in love with the
son of the woman who has caused the trouble. Poor wife, poor mother,
she is confused at these crossroads of misery. Sacrifice her daughter
and appease her vengeance, or--hold her silence for evermore? She
prefers the former, and summoning the husband of her own husband's
mistress, the father of the young man who seeks the hand of her
innocent daughter, she tells the secret. After the first natural rage,
this undeceived man, more merciful than the woman, insists on her
silence. Two innocent young folk must not have their happiness slain
because of their parents' sins. And as it is his right, the selfish and
wretched woman must submit. A way is found to make the lovers happy,
and the play ends, leaving all sorts of interrogation marks in the air.
There are big things in this drama.

La Course du Flambeau played by Réjane with such striking effect is
judged by some of Hervieu's admirers as his masterpiece. It is not,
though an exceedingly interesting work replete with wisdom and several
strong studies of character. Sabine Revel, who sacrifices her mother
for the sake of her daughter and is in turn herself sacrificed,
illustrates the not uncommon fate of a selfish daughter and a too
fond mother. The Greek motto embodied in the title--the passing on of
the illuminated torch, according to Lucretius, at the "lampadophories"
festival in Athens--is employed by the dramatist as a symbol of the
chain of life, the light passed on from one generation to another with
the sacrificing of the old by the young which characterizes human

Yet there is no hint of Ibsen in this symbol; Hervieu is a painter of
manners, and a psychologist, not a poet. He confessed to me, while
graciously submitting to be "interviewed," that Ibsen has had little
part in his development. He is a true Frenchman and really derives
from Dumas _fils_ in his love of the problem posed; while his cerebral
temperament makes him more of a disciple of Stendhal and Becque than
of the very emotional, modern Germans and Scandinavians. Yet he has an
_emotive_ temperament--a glance at his sympathetic eyes will prove
it. He is a man with too large a head for his frame. He feels too
deeply to be happy. M. Alfred Binet, in his precise psychological study
of the dramatist, describes his sober methods of travail, his slow
composition, his philosopher's dislike of the hasty or the improvised,
and his fondness for clearly articulated dialogue. He has the logical
imagination, he disdains the Zola "human documents" in preparing his
story, and while he is by nature an ironist, he is too serious in his
outlook on life to play the part of a mystifier. "Irony is the speech
of the timid man," he said to me, when we spoke of Becque and his too
cynical disciples. An anxious sincerity is the key-note of M. Hervieu's
character. He abhors the facile triumphs of the Parisian play-maker who
dallies with ignoble themes. A finely attuned intellect, a plentiful
sympathy with suffering, a special sensitiveness to the soul feminine,
combined with real artistry,--though he despises mere technical
dexterity,--all have made Paul Hervieu the present master-psychologist
of the French stage.




      To my friend, George Bernard Shaw, the Celtic super-man,
      critic, novelist, socialist, and preface writer, to whom
      the present author--_circa_ 1890--played the part of a
      critical finger-post for the everlasting benefit (he
      sincerely hopes) of the great American public; and to
      whom he now dedicates this particular essay in gratitude
      for the rare and stimulating pleasure afforded him by the
      Shaw masques, the Shavian philosophy, and also the vivid
      remembrance of several personal encounters at London and

The announcement that Bernard Shaw, moralist, Fabianite, vegetarian,
playwright, critic, Wagnerite, Ibsenite, jester to the cosmos, and the
most serious man on the planet, had written a play on the subject of
Don Juan did not surprise his admirers. As Nietzsche philosophized with
a hammer, so G. B. S. hammers popular myths. If you have read his Cæsar
and Cleopatra you will know what I mean. This witty, sarcastic piece is
the most daring he has attempted. Some years ago I described the Shaw
literary pedigree as--W. S. Gilbert out of Ibsen. His plays are full of
modern odds and ends, and in form are anything from the Robertsonian
comedy to the Gilbertian extravaganza. They may be called psychical
farce, an intellectual _comédie rosse_--for his people are mostly a
blackguard crew of lively marionettes all talking pure Shaw-ese. Mr.
Shaw has invented a new individual in literature who for want of a
better name could be called the _Super-Cad_; he is Nietzsche's Superman
turned "bounder"--and sometimes the sex is feminine.

We wonder what sort of drama this remarkable Hibernian would have
produced if he had been a flesh-eater. If he is so brilliant on bran,
what could he not have accomplished on blood! One thing is certain--at
the cosmical banquet where Shaw sits is the head of the table--for him.

When Bernard Shaw told a gaping world that he was only a natural-born
mountebank with a cart and a trumpet, a sigh of relief was exhaled in
artistic London. So many had been taking him seriously and swallowing
his teachings, preachings, and _pronunciamentos_, that to hear the
merryman was only shamming, came as a species of liberation from a
cruel obsession. Without paying the customary critical toll, Shaw had
slipped duty free into England all manners of damnable doctrines.
What George Moore attempted in a serious manner George Shaw, a
fellow-Irishman, succeeded in accomplishing without the _chorale_ of
objurgation, groans, exclamations of horror, and blasts of puritanical
cant. Thus Proudhon, Marx, Lassalle, Ibsen, Wagner, Nietzsche, and a
lot of free-thinkers in socialism, religion, philosophy, and art,
walked unmolested through the pages of critical reviews, while Mr.
Moore was almost pilloried for advocating naturalism, while Vizetelly
was sent to prison for translating Zola.

After the Shaw criticisms came the novels, then the plays. The prefaces
of the latter are literature, and will be remembered with joy when the
plays are forgotten. In them the author has distilled the quintessence
of Shaw. They will be classics some day, as the Dryden prefaces are
classics. Nevertheless, in the plays we find the old Shaw masquerading,
this time behind the footlights. He is still the preacher, Fabian
debater, socialist, vegetarian, lycanthrope, and normally abnormal man
of the early days--though he prides himself on his abnormal normality.
Finding that the essay did not reach a wide enough audience, the wily
Celt mounts the rostrum and blarneys his listeners something after this

"Here's my hustings; from here will I teach, preach, and curse the
conventions of society. Come all ye who are tired of the property
fallacy! There is but one Karl Marx, and I am his living prophet.
Shakespeare must go--Ibsen is to rule. Wagner was a Fabianite; the Ring
proves it. Come all ye who are heaven-laden with the moralities! I am
the living witness for Nietzsche. I will teach children to renounce
the love of parents; parents to despise their offspring; husbands to
hate their wives; wives to loathe their husbands; and brothers and
sisters will raise warring hands after my words have entered their
souls. Whatever is is wrong--to alter Pope. The prostitute classes,--I
do not balk at the ugly word,--clergymen, doctors, lawyers, statesmen,
journalists, are deceiving you. They speak in divers and lying tongues.
I alone possess the prophylactic against the evils of life. Here it is:
Plays, Pleasant and Unpleasant; and Three Plays for Puritans."

But Shaw only removed another of his innumerable masks. Beware, says
Nietzsche, of the autobiographies of great men. He was thinking of
Richard Wagner. His warning applies to Bernard Shaw, who is a great
comedian and a versatile. He has spoken through so many different
masks that the real Shaw is yet to be seen. Perhaps on his death-bed
some stray phrase will illuminate with its witty gleam his true soul's
nature. He has played tag with this soul so long that some of it has
been lost in the game. Irishman born, he is not genial after the Oliver
Goldsmith type; he resembles much more closely Dean Swift, minus that
man's devouring genius. When will the last mask be lifted--and, awful
to relate, will it, when lifted, reveal the secret? A master hypnotist
perhaps he may be, illuding the world with the mask idea. And what a
comical thing it would be to find him smiling at the end and remarking,
"I fooled you, Brethren, didn't I?" In his many rôles one trait
has obstinately remained, the trait of irresistible waggery. Yet we
sadly suspect it. What if this declaration of charlatanism were but a
mask! What if Shaw were really sincere! What if he really meant to be
sincere in his various lectures and comedies! What if his assumption
of insincerity were sincere! His sincerity insincere! The thought
confuses. In one of his plays--The Philanderer--a certain character has
five or six natures. Shaw again, _toujours_ Shaw!

Joke of all jokes, I really imagine that Shaw is a sentimentalist in
private; and that he has been so sentimental, romantic, in his youth,
that an inversion has taken place in his feelings. Swift's hatred of
mankind was a species of inverted lyricism; so was Flaubert's; so may
be Shaw's. Fancy him secretly weeping over Jane Eyre, or holding a baby
in his lap, or--richest of all fancies--occasionally eating sausage and
drinking beer! I met him, once upon a time, in Bayreuth. He spoke then
in unmeasured terms of its beer drinkers, and added, without the ghost
of a smile, that breweries should be converted into insane asylums.

Whether we take him seriously or not, he is a delightful, an
entertaining writer. His facile use, with the aid of the various
mouthpieces he assumes at will, of the ideas of Nietzsche, Wagner,
Ibsen, and Strindberg, fairly dazzles. He despises wit at bottom, using
its forms as a medium for the communication of his theories. Art for
art's sake is a contradiction to this writer. He must have a sense of
beauty, but he never boasts of it; rather does he seem to consider it
something naked, almost shameful--something to be hidden away. So his
men are always deriding art, though working at it like devils on high
pay. This puritanical vein has grown with the years, as it has with
Tolstoy. Only Shaw never wasted his youth in riotous living, as did

He had no money, no opportunities, no taste. A fierce ascetic and a
misogynist, he will have no regrets at threescore and ten; no sweet
memories of headaches--he is a teetotaller; no heartaches--he is too
busy with his books; and no bitter aftertaste for having wronged a
fellow-being. Behold, Bernard Shaw is a good man, has led the life
of a saint, worked like a hero against terrible odds, and is the
kindest-hearted man in London. Now we have reached another mask--the
mask of altruism. Nearly all his earnings went to the needy; his was,
and is, a practical socialism. He never let his right hand know the
extent of his charities, and mark this,--no one else knew of it. Yet
good deeds, like murder, will out. His associates ceased deriding the
queer clothes, the flannel shirt, and the absence of evening dress; his
money was spent on others. So, too, his sawdust menu,--his carrots,
cabbage, and brown bread,--it did not cost much, his eating, for his
money was needed by poorer folk. So you see what a humbug is this
dear old Diogenes, who growls cynically at the human race, abhors
sentiment-mongers, and despises conventional government, art, religion,
and philosophy. He is an arch-sentimentalist, underneath whose frown
are concealed tears of pity. Another mask torn away--Bernard Shaw,

He tells us in the preface to Cashel Byron's Profession--which sounds
like the title of a Charles Lever novel--that he had a narrow escape
from being a novelist at the age of twenty-six. He still shudders
over it. He wrote five novels, three of which we know, to wit:
Cashel Byron's Profession, An Unsocial Socialist, Love Among the
Artists--hideous and misleading title. Robert Louis Stevenson took a
great fancy to Cashel Byron and its stunning eulogies of pugilism. It
was even dramatized in this country. With Hazlitt and George Meredith
(oh! unforgettable prize-fight in The Amazing Marriage) Mr. Shaw
praised the noble art of _sluggerei_. The Unsocial Socialist contains
at least one act of a glorious farce comedy. He is Early British in his
comedic writing. It is none the less capital fun.

This book or tract--it is hardly a novel--contains among other
extraordinary things a eulogy of photography that would delight the
soul of a Steichen. Shaw places it far above painting because of its
verisimilitude! It also introduces a lot of socialistic talk which is
very unconvincing; the psycho-physiologist would really pronounce the
author a perfect specimen in full flowering of the saintly anarch.
There is a rôle played by a character--Shaw?--? which recalls Leonard
Charteris in a later play, The Philanderer. All of his men are modelled
off the same block. They are a curious combination of blackguard,
philosopher, "bounder," artist, and comedian. His women! Recall
Stevenson's dismayed exclamation at the Shaw women! They are creatures
who have read Ibsen; are, one is sure, dowdy; but they interest. While
you wonder at the strength of their souls, you do not miss the size
of their feet. Mr. Shaw refuses to see woman as a heroine. She is
sometimes a breeder of sinners, always a chronicler of the smallest
kind of small beer, and for fear this sounds like an I ago estimate, he
dowers her with an astounding intellectual equipment, and then lets the
curious compound work out its own salvation.

He is much more successful with his servants; witness Bashville in
Cashel Byron's Profession, most original of lackeys, and the tenderly
funny old waiter in You Never Can Tell, a bitter farce well sprinkled
with the Attic salt of irony. Otherwise Mr. Shaw has spent his time
tilting at flagellation, at capital punishment, at the abuse of
punctuation, at the cannibalistic habit of eating the flesh of harmless
animals at Christmas, at Going to Church, extolling Czolgosz--heavens!
the list is a league long. His novels as a whole are disappointing,
though George Meredith has assured us in the first chapter of Diana
that brain stuff in fiction is not lean stuff. But there are some
concessions to be made to the Great God Beauty, and these Mr. Shaw has
not seen fit to make. Episodes of brilliancy, force, audacity, there
are; but episodes only. The psychology of a musician is admirably set
forth in Love Among the Artists, and the story, in addition, contains
one of the most lifelike portraits of a Polish _pianiste_ that has
ever been painted. John Sargent could have done no better in laying
bare a soul. Ugliness is rampant--ugliness and brutality. It is all as
invigorating as a bath of salt water when the skin is peeled off--it
burns; you howl; Shaw grins. He hates with all the vigour of his big
brain and his big heart to hear of the infliction of physical pain. He
does not always spare his readers. Three hundred years ago he would
have roasted heretics, for there is much of the grand inquisitor, the
John Calvin, the John Knox, in Shaw. He will rob himself of his last
copper to give you food, and he will belabour you with words that
assault the tympanum if you disagree with him on the subject of Ibsen,
Wagner, or--anything he likes.

Beefsteak, old Scotch ale, a pipe, and Montaigne--are what he needs
for one year. Then his inhumane criticism of poor, stumbling mankind's
foibles might be tempered. Shaw despises weakness. He follows to
the letter Nietzsche's injunction, Be hard! And there is something
in him of Ibsen's pitiless attitude toward the majority, which is
always in the wrong; yet is, all said and done, the majority. Facts,
reality, truth--no Gradgrind ever demanded them more imperiously than
Heervater Shaw, whose red beard and locks remind one of Conrad in Die
Meistersinger. Earth folk do everything to dodge the facts of life,
to them cold, harsh, and at the same time fantastic. Every form of
anodyne, ethical, intellectual, æsthetical, is resorted to to deaden
the pain of reality. We work to forget to live; our religions, art,
philosophy, patriotism, are so many buffers between the soul of man and
bitter truth.

Shaw wants the truth at all hazards; his habit of veracity is like that
of Gregers's Werle, is shocking. So he dips his subjects into a bath
of muriatic acid and seems surprised at their wrigglings and their
screams. "But I don't want to hear the truth!" yells the victim, who
then limps back to his comfortable lies. And the one grievous error
is that our gallant slayer of dragons, our Celtic Siegfried, does not
believe in the illusions of art. Its veils, consoling and beautiful,
he will not have, and thus it is that his dramas are amusing, witty,
brilliant, scarefying, but never poetic, never beautiful, and seldom
sound the deeper tones of humanity. With an artist's brain, he stifles
the artist's soul in him--as Ibsen never did. With all his liberalism
he cannot be liberal to liberalism, as Gilbert Chesterton so neatly
puts it.

The Perfect Wagnerite and The Quintessence of Ibsenism are two
supernally clever _jeux d'esprit_. As he reads Shaw and Fabianism
into the Ring of the Nibelungs, so his Ibsen is transformed into a
magnified image of Shaw dropping ideas from on high with Olympian
indifference. This pamphlet, among the first of its kind in English,
now seems a trifle old-fashioned in its interpretation of the Norwegian
dramatist--possibly because he is something so different from what Mr.
Shaw pictured him. We are never shown Ibsen the artist, but always the
social reformer with an awful frown. He was a fighter for Ibsen, when
in London Ibsen was once regarded as a perverter of morals. Bravery is
Bernard's trump card. He never flinched yet, whether answering catcalls
from a first night's gallery or charging with pen lowered lance-fashion
upon some unfortunate clerical blockhead who endeavoured to prove that
hell is too good for sinners.

It is easy to praise Mozart to-day; not so easy to demonstrate the
genius of Richard Strauss. Wagner in 1888 was still a bogie-man, a
horrid hobgoblin threatening the peace of academic British music. Shaw
took up the fight, just as he fought for Degas and Manet when he was an
art critic. I still preserve with reverence his sweeping answer to Max
Nordau. It wiped Nordau off the field of discussion.

And the plays! They, too, are controversial. They all prove something,
and prove it so hard that presently the play is swallowed up by its
thesis--the horse patiently follows the cart It may not be art, but
it is magnificent Shaw. You can skip the plays, not the prefaces.
Widowers' Houses is the most unpleasant, ugly, damnably perverse of the
ten. The writer had read Ibsen's An Enemy of the People too closely.
Its drainpipes, and not its glorification of the individual, got into
his brain. It filtered forth bereft of its strength and meaning in this
piece, with its nasty people, its stupidities. How could Shaw be so
philistine, so much like a vestryman interested in pauper lodgings? In
the implacable grasp of Ibsen, this sordid theme would have been beaten
on a red-hot anvil until shaped to something of purpose and power.
Shaw was not blacksmith enough to swing the Ibsen hammer and handle
the Ibsen bellows. He has written me on this subject that if I were a
resident of London I would see my way clearer toward liking this play.
It is, he asserts, a transcript of the truth--which still leaves my
argument on its legs.

The Philanderer, with its irresponsible levity and unexpected
contortions, is a comedy of the true Shaw order. It is his Wild Duck,
for in it he pokes fun at an Ibsen club, at the New Woman, and the New
Sentiment, at almost everything he upholds in other plays and ways.
There is a dramatic critic slopping over with British sentiment and
other liquids. The women are absolutely incredible. The first act,
like most of the Shaw first acts, is the best; best because, in his
efforts to get his people going, the dramatist has little time to
sermonize. He usually gets the chance later, to the detriment of his
structure. The first act of The Philanderer would have made Henry
Becque smile. It has something of the Frenchman's mordant irony--and
then you never know what is going to happen. The behaviour of the two
women recalls a remark of Shaw's apropos of Strindberg; Strindberg,
who "shows that the female Yahoo, measured by romantic standards, is
viler than her male dupe and slave." Here the conditions are reversed;
there is no romance; the dupes are women, and also the Yahoos. The
exposure of Julia's soul, poor, mean, sentimental, suffering little
creature, withal heroic, would please Strindberg himself. The play has
an autobiographic ring.

As to Mrs. Warren's Profession. It was played January 12, 1902, in
London, by the Stage Society. Mr. Grein says that Mrs. Warren's
Profession is literature for the study. The mother is a bore,
wonderfully done in spots (the spots especially) and the daughter a
chilly, waspish prig. The men are better; Sir George Crofts and the
philandering young fellow could not be clearer expressed in terms of
ink. I imagine that in a performance they must be extremely vital.
And that weak old _roué_ of a clergyman--why is Shaw so severe
on clergymen? For the rest, Mrs. Warren's Profession creates a
disagreeable impression, as the author intended it should. I consider
it his biggest, and also his most impossible, _opus_.

You Can Never Tell, Arms and the Man, Candida, and The Devil's Disciple
are a quartet difficult to outpoint for prodigal humour and ingenious
fantasy. In London the first named was voted irresistibly funny. It is
funny, and in a new way, though the framework is old-fashioned British
farce newly veneered by the malicious, the roistering humour of Shaw.
Arms and the Man and The Devil's Disciple have been in Mr. Mansfield's
repertory for years; they need no comment further than saying that the
first has something of the Gilbertian Palace of Truth topsy-turvying
quality (Louka is a free paraphrase of Regina in Ghosts, though she
talks Shaw with great fluency), with a wholly original content and
characterization; and the second is perverse melodrama.

Candida is not for mixed audiences. Christian socialism is caviare to
the general. In characterization there is much variety; the heroine--if
there be such an anomaly as a Shaw heroine--is most engaging. Every
time I read Candida I feel myself on the trail of somebody; it is all
in the air. The Lady from the Sea comes back when in that last scene,
where the extraordinary young poet Marchbanks, a combination of the
spiritual qualities of Shelley, Shaw, Ibsen's Stranger, and Shelley
again, dares the fatuous James Morell to put his wife Candida to the
test. It is one of the oddest situations in dramatic literature, and it
is all "prepared" with infinite skill. The dénouement is another of Mr.
Shaw's shower baths; withal a perfectly proper and highly moral ending.
You grind your teeth over it, as Mr. Shaw peeps across the top of the
page, indulging in one of his irritating dental displays.

The Man of Destiny is a mystification in one act. Napoleon talks the
purest Balzac when he describes the English, and Mr. Shaw manipulates
the wires industriously. It's good sport of its genre.

Captain Brassbound's Conversion is pure farce. But the joy of Cæsar
and Cleopatra is abounding. You chortle over it as chortled Stevenson
over the footman. A very devil of a play, one to read after Froude,
Michelet, Shakespeare, or Voltaire for the real facts of the case.
Since Suetonius, it is the first attempt at true Cæsarean history. And
the stage directions out-Maeterlinck Maeterlinck with their elaborate
intercalations. The gorgeous humour of it all!

Arms and the Man has been translated into German and played in Germany.
What will the Germans say to Cæsar and Cleopatra? They take Shaw too
seriously now, which is almost as bad as not taking him seriously at
all. What will the doctors of history do when the amazing character of
Cleopatra is dissected? If Shaw had never written another line but this
bubbling study of antiquity, in which the spirit of the opera bouffe
has not entered, he would be entitled to a free pass to that pantheon
wherein our beloved Mark Twain sits enthroned. It is all truth-telling
on a miraculous plane of reality, a reality which modulates and merges
into fantasy. One almost forgets the prefaces and the notes after
reading Cæsar and Cleopatra.

Whether he will ever vouchsafe the world a masterpiece, who can say?
Why demand so much? Is not he in himself a masterpiece? It depends on
his relinquishment of a too puritanical attitude toward art, life, and
roast beef. He is too pious. Never mind his second-hand Nietzsche, his
Diabolonian ethics, and his modern version of Carlylean Baphometic
Baptisms. They are all in his eye--that absolutely normal eye with the
suppressed Celtic twinkle. He doesn't mean a word he utters. (Who does
when writing of Shaw?) I firmly believe he says his prayers every night
with the family before he goes to his Jaeger-flannel couch!


Candida is the very quintessence of her creator. Many prefer this
sprightly sermon disguised as a comedy to Mr. Bernard Shaw's more
serious works. Yet serious it is. No latter-day paradoxioneer--to coin
a monster word, for the Shaws, Chestertons, _et al_.--evokes laughter
so easily as the Irishman. His is a cold intellectual wit, a Swiftian
wit, minus the hearty and wholesome obscenity of the great Dublin dean.
But it is often misleading. We laugh when we should reflect. We laugh
when we might better hang our heads--this is meant for the average
married and bachelor man. Shaw strikes fire in almost every sentence he
puts into Candida's honest mouth. After reading his eloquent tribute to
Ibsen, the crooked places in Candida become plainer; her mission is not
alone to undeceive but to love; not only to bruise hearts but to heal

In a singularly vivid passage on page 38 of The Quintessence of
Ibsenism, Mr. Shaw writes: "When Blake told men that through excess
they would learn moderation, he knew that the way for the present lay
through the Venusberg, and that the race would assuredly not perish
there as some individuals have, and as the Puritans fear we all shall
unless we find a way round. Also, he no doubt foresaw the time when our
children would be born on the other side of it, and so be spared the
fiery purgation."

This sentiment occurs in the chapter devoted to a consideration of
The Womanly Woman. Let us look at the phrases on the printed page of
Candida that might be construed as bearing upon the above, or, rather,
the result of the quoted passage.

Candida speaks to James, her husband, in Act II:--

Don't you understand? I mean, will he forgive me for not teaching
him myself? For abandoning him to the bad woman for the sake of my
goodness--my purity, as you call it? Ah, James, how little you
understand me, to talk of your confidence in my goodness and purity!
I would give them both to poor Eugene as willingly as I would give my
shawl to a beggar dying of cold, if there were nothing else to restrain
me. Put your trust in my love for you, James, for if that went I should
care very little for your sermons--mere phrases that you cheat yourself
and others with every day.

Here is one of the most audacious speeches in any modern play. It has
been passed over by most English critics who saw in Candida merely an
attempt to make a clergyman ridiculous, not realizing that the theme is
profound and far-reaching, the question put being no more and no less
than: Shall a married man expect his wife's love without working for
it, without deserving it? Secure in his conviction that he was a model
husband and a good Christian, the Rev. James Mavor Morell went his way
smiling and lecturing. He had the "gift of gab," yet he was no humbug;
indeed, a sincerer parson does not exist. He is quite as sincere as
Pastor Manders, much broader in his views, and consequently not half so

But he is, nevertheless, a bit of a bore, with his lack of humour
and his grim earnestness. No doubt Shaw took his fling at that queer
blending of Christianity and socialism, that Karl Marx in a parson's
collar which startled London twenty years ago in the person of the
Christian socialist clergyman. He saw, too, being a man with a sense
of character values and their use in violent contrast, that to the
rhapsodic and poetic Eugene Marchbanks, Morell would prove a splendid
foil. And so he does. Between this oddly opposed pair stands on her
solid, sensible underpinnings the figure of Candida. Realist as is Mr.
Shaw, he would scout the notion of his third act being accepted as a
transcript from life. For two acts we are in plain earthly atmosphere;
unusual things happen, though not impossible ones. In the last act
Shaw, droll dramatist and acute observer of his fellow-man's foibles,
disappears, only to return in the guise of Shaw the preacher.

And how he does throw a sermon at our heads! The play is arrested in
its mid-ocean, and the shock throws us almost off our feet. Do not
be deceived. That mock bidding for the hand of Candida, surely the
craziest farce ever invented, is but this author's cunning manner of
driving home his lesson. Are you worthy of your wife? Is the woman who
swore to love and honour you ("obey" is not in the Shaw vocabulary,
thanks to J. S. Mill) worthy of you? If your love is not mutual then
better go your ways--you profane it! Is this startling? Is this novel?
No and yes. The defence of love for love's sake, coming from the lips
of a Shaw character, has a surprising effect, for no man is less
concerned with sex questions, no man has more openly depreciated the
ascendancy of sex in art and literature. He would be the first to
applaud eagerly Edmund Clarence Stedman's question apropos of Walt
Whitman's Leaves of Grass: Is there no other light in which to view
the beloved one than as the future mother of our children? (I trust
to a treacherous memory; the meaning is expressed, though not in Mr.
Stedman's words.)

Therefore Candida is a large exposition of the doctrine that love
should be free,--which is by no means the same thing as free love; that
it should be a burden equally borne by both partners in the yoke; that
happiness, instead of misery, would result if more women resembled
Candida in candour. She cut James to the heart with the confounding
of her shawl and personal purity; it was an astounding idea for a
clergyman's ears. She proved to him later that she was right, that the
hundredth solitary sinner is of more consequence than the ninety-nine
reclaimed. Shaw, who is a Puritan by temperament, has, after his
master, Ibsen, cracked with his slingstone many nice little glass
houses wherein complacent men and women sit and sun their virtues in
the full gaze of the world. One of his sharp and disconcerting theories
is that woman, too, can go through the Venusberg and still reach the
heights--a fact always denied by the egotistical man, who wishes to be
the unique sinner so that he may receive the unique consolation. After
a gay life, a sober one; the reformed rake; Tannhäuser's return to an
Elizabeth, who awaits him patiently; dear, sweet, virtuous Penelope!
Shaw sees through this humbug of the masculine pose and turns the
tables by making his Candida ride the horse of the dilemma man-fashion.
Maeterlinck, in his Monna Vanna and Joyzelle, enforces the same
truth--that love to be love should be free.

And the paradoxical part of it all is that Candida is a womanly woman.
She is so domestic, so devoted, that the thin-skinned idealist Eugenie
moans over her kitchen propensities. Shaw has said that "the ideal wife
is one who does everything that the ideal husband likes, and nothing
else," which is a neat and sardonic definition of the womanly woman's
duty. Candida demands as her right her husband's trust in her love,
not heavenly rewards, not the consciousness of her own purity, not
bolts and bars will keep her from going from him if the hour strikes
the end of her affection. All of which is immensely disconcerting to
the orthodox of view, for it is the naked truth, set forth by a man
who despises not orthodoxy, but those who profess it only to practise
paganism. This Shaw is a terrible fellow; and the only way to get rid
of a terrible fellow is not to take him seriously but to call him
paradoxical, entertaining; to throw the sand of flattery in his eyes
and incidentally blind criticism at the same time. But Bernard Shaw has
always refused to be cajoled, and as to the sand or the mud of abuse
--well, he wears the very stout spectacles of common sense.


What does Mr. Shaw himself think of Candida? Perhaps if he could be
persuaded to tell the truth, the vapourish misconceptions concerning
her terrible "shawl" speech--about which I never deceived myself--might
be dissipated. It was not long forthcoming--his answer to my question,
an answer the publication of which was left to my discretion. It may
shock some of his admirers, disconcert others, but at the same time it
will clear the air of much cant; for there is the Candida cant as well
as the anti Shaw cant. He wrote me:--

      Don't ask me conundrums about that very immoral female,
      Candida. Observe the entry of W. Burgess: "You're the
      lady as hused to typewrite for him." "No." "Naaaow: _she_
      was younger." And therefore Candida sacked her. Prossy is
      a very highly selected young person indeed, devoted to
      Morell to the extent of helping in the kitchen but to him
      the merest pet rabbit, unable to get the slightest hold
      on him. Candida is as unscrupulous as Siegfried: Morell
      himself sees that "no law will bind her." She seduces
      Eugene just exactly as far as it is worth her while to
      seduce him. She is a woman without "character" in the
      conventional sense. Without brains and strength of mind
      she would be a wretched slattern or voluptuary. She is
      straight for natural reasons, not for conventional ethical
      ones. Nothing can be more cold-bloodedly reasonable
      than her farewell to Eugene: "All very well, my lad;
      but I don't quite see myself at fifty with a husband of
      thirty-five." It is just this freedom from emotional slop,
      this unerring wisdom on the domestic plane, that makes her
      so completely mistress of the situation.

      Then consider the poet. She makes a man of him finally by
      showing him his own strength--that David must do without
      poor Uriah's wife. And then she pitches in her picture
      of the home, the onions, and the tradesmen, and the
      cossetting of big baby Morell. The New York _hausfrau_
      thinks it a little paradise; but the poet rises up and
      says, "Out then, into the night with me"--Tristan's
      holynight. If this greasy fool's paradise is happiness,
      then I give it to you with both hands, "life is nobler
      than that." That is the "poet's secret." The young things
      in front weep to see the poor boy going out lonely and
      broken-hearted in the cold night to save the proprieties
      of New England Puritanism; but he is really a god going
      back to his heaven, proud, unspeakably contemptuous of
      the "happiness" he envied in the days of his blindness,
      clearly seeing that he has higher business on hand
      than Candida. She has a little quaint intuition of the
      completeness of his cure; she says, "he has learnt to do
      without happiness."

So here is Shaw on Shaw, Shaw dissecting Candida, Shaw at last
letting in light on the mystery of the "poet's secret!" There may be
grumbling among the faithful at this very illuminating and sensible
exposition, I feel. So thinks Mr. Shaw, for he adds, "As I should
certainly be lynched by the infuriated Candidamaniacs if this view of
the case were made known, I confide it to your discretion"--which by
a liberal interpretation means, publish it and be hanged to you! But
"Candidamaniacs!" Oh, the wicked wit of this man who can thus mock his
flock! His _coda_ is a neat summing up: "I tell it to you because it
is an interesting sample of the way in which a scene, which should be
conceived and written only by transcending the ordinary notion of the
relations between the persons, nevertheless stirs the ordinary emotions
to a very high degree, all the more because the language of the poet,
to those who have not the clew to it, is mysterious and bewildering and
therefore worshipful. I divined it myself before I found out the whole
truth about it."


Some day in the far future, let us hope, when the spirit of Bernard
Shaw shall have been gathered to the gods, his popular vogue may be
an established fact. Audiences may flock to sip wit, philosophy, and
humour before the footlights of the Shaw theatre; but unless the
assemblage be largely composed of Shaw _replicas,_ of overmen and
overwomen ("oversouls," not altogether in the Emersonian sense), it is
difficult to picture any other variety listening to Man and Superman.
For one thing, it is not a play to be played, though it may be read
with delight bordering on despair. A deeper reason exists for its
hopelessness--it is such a violent attack on what might be called the
Shaw super-structure, that his warmest enemies and chilliest admirers
will wonder what it is all about. Even William Archer, one of the
latter, confessed his disappointment.

Man and Superman--odious title--is Shaw's new attempt at a Wild Duck,
formerly one of Ibsen's most puzzling productions. Shaw mocks Shaw as
Ibsen sneered at Ibsen. This method of viewing the obverse of your
own medal--George Meredith would say the back of the human slate--is
certainly a revelation of mood-versatility, though a disquieting one to
the man in the street. It does not seem to be playing fair in the game.
Sometimes it is not. With Ibsen it was; he wished to have his fling at
the Ibsenite, and he had it. Shaw-like one is tempted to exclaim, Aha!
drums and trumpets again, even if the cart be re-painted. (_Vide_ his
earlier prefaces.)

The book is dedicated to Mr. Arthur Bingham Walkley, who once wrote of
his friend, "Mr. Bernard Shaw fails as a dramatist because he is always
trying to prove something." In the end it is Shaw the man who is more
interesting than his plays,--all the characters are so many,--Shaw's
winking at one through the printed dialogue.

In the pleasing and unpleasing plays, in the puritanical comedies, his
"forewords" were full of meat served up with a Hibernian sauce, which
produced upon the mental palate the flavours of Swift, of Nietzsche,
of Aristophanes, and of Shaw. This compound could not be slowly
degustated, because the stuff was too hot. Velocity is one of Shaw's
prime characteristics. Like a pianoforte _virtuoso_ whose fingers work
faster than his feelings, the Irishman is lost when he essays massive,
sonorous _cantilena_. He is as emotional as his own typewriter, and
this defect, which he parades as did the fox in the fable, has stood in
the way of his writing a great play. He despises love, and therefore
cannot appeal deeply to mankind.

In the present preface the old music is sounded, but brassier and
shriller; the wires are wearing. It is addressed to Arthur Bingham
Walkley, by all odds the most brilliant, erudite, and satisfying of
English dramatic critics. Now the cruel thing about this preface is
that in it the author tries to foist upon the critic of the London
_Times_ the penalty attached to writing such a play as Man and
Superman. We all cannot be Drydens and write prefaces as great as
poems; and Mr. Shaw might have left out either the play or the preface
and spared the nerves of his friends. He started out to make a play
on Don Juan, an old and ever youthful theme. He succeeded in turning
out an amorphous monster, part dream, part sermon, that will haunt its
creator as Frankenstein was haunted for the rest of his days. Man and
Superman is a nightmare.

To be impertinent is not necessarily an evidence of wisdom; nor does
the dazzling epigram supply the missing note of humanity. But our
author is above humanity. He would deal with the new man who is to
succeed the present used-up specimen. We must freeze up, if needs be
by artificial process, all the springs of natural instincts. Man must
realize that in the inevitable duel of the sexes he will be worsted
unless he recognizes that he is the pursued, not the pursuer. In the
animal kingdom it is the male that is gorgeously bedizened for the
purpose of attracting the feebler faculty of attention in the female.
But in the human order the man is the cynosure of the woman. Her
whole education and existence is an effort to win him--perhaps not
for himself, nevertheless to win and wear him. This is biologically
correct, though hardly gallant; and it is as old as Adam and Eve. Henry
James once defined the situation succinctly, "It was much more the
women ... who were after the men than the men who were after the women;
it was literally visible that the general attitude of one sex was that
of the object pursued and defensive, apologetic and attenuating...."
(In the Cage.)

Mr. Shaw might have added that, unlike lightning, women strike twice in
the same spot. Frivolity, however, is not in Mr. Shaw's present scheme
of applied Unsociology.

As is the case with most reformers, he has harked back to the past for
his future types. His men and women, though they go down to the sea
in motor cars, converse about Ibsen, Nietzsche, and Karl Marx, affect
twentieth-century modes, are in reality as old as the hills and as
savage as hillmen. They are only a trifle more self-conscious. The
present play--let us call it one for the sake of the argument--deals
with a precious "baggage" named Ann Whitefield. She is, in the words
of Ibsen, "a mighty huntress of men." She is pert, very vulgar, quite
uncivilized, quite ignorant of everyday feminine delicacies; in a
word, the new woman, according to the gospel of Shaw. Her pursuit of
a man, unavowed, bold, is the story of the play. She is hot-footed
after a revolutionary socialist, John Tanner. Every word that springs
or saunters from his lips, every movement of his muscular person,
betrays the breed of Daredevil Dick, of all the revolutionaries in all
the Shaw plays--the true breed of which Saint Bernard is himself the
unique protagonist. Tanner is rich and believes himself an anarchist.
He is mistaken. He is only a Fabianite with cash, a Fabianite who has
lost the "shining face" of a neophyte and talks daggers and dynamite,
though he uses them not. Ann has been left an orphan. She is a new
Hedda Gabler, who knows what she wants, sees it, secures it; therefore
she burns no dramatic "children," sends no man to a drunkard's doom;
nor will she, one feels quite certain, deceive her husband. To secure
him she attempts all the deception before she marries him, and if she
seldom succeeds with her white lies she nevertheless bags her game.

To supply these two pleasing persons with characters upon whom they
may act and be reacted, Mr. Shaw has devised a middle-aged hypocrite,
a whited sepulchre and man of the world, named Roebuck Ramsden; a
sap-headed young man who dotes so much on Ann that he sacrifices his
own happiness that she may be happy--or humbugs himself into that
belief; a self-willed young lady, his sister Violet, who conceals her
marriage with evil results to her reputation; a comical low-comedy
chauffeur; several pale persons; a snobbish American youth of humble
Irish parentage gilded by American wealth; some brigands, a dream Don
Juan, and last, but not least, the Devil, who in this case is _not_ a

The first act is promising. Mr. Shaw's little paragraphs--they are
intended as a prompt-book in miniature--are more amusing than his
preface. We are deluded into the notion that a first-class comedy is at
hand. There are all the materials ready. Ramsden, an "advanced" thinker
of the antiquated Bradlaugh type, has been appointed co-executor,
co-guardian with Tanner, a thinker of the latter-day type; that is, a
man who has read Marx, Proudhon, Nietzsche, but not Max Stirner. The
fair Ann, her mother and sister are the stakes of the game. Octavius,
the sap-headed young man, is ready to sacrifice himself, and his sister
shocks all by not acknowledging the father of her unborn child. Here
is potential stuff for a tragic comedy. But Mr. Shaw will not mould his
material into viable shapes. He refuses to be an artist. He loathes
art. And so he is punished by fate--his inspiration vanishes almost at
the point of execution, and, except for a few fugitive flashes, never
burns serenely or continuously.

One telling bit is when Tanner congratulates Violet (what an
appropriate name!) on her delicate condition and is scorned by that
young person, scorned and snubbed. What--she a wicked woman! No, she
is but secretly wedded; in the fulness of time her husband will be
revealed. Tanner sneaks away, feeling that not to women must man look
for the emancipation of the sexes from conventional notions. There are
long harangues on prevailing economic evils, social diseases--all the
old Shaw grievances are paraded.

Act II is rather thin. In Act III, which recalls a Gilbertian farce,
there are cockney brigands, a bandit corporation, limited, devoted to
the robbing of automobiles that pass through Spain. The idea is not
sufficiently novel to be funny. A lengthy parabasis, written in genuine
Shavian, shows us hell, the Devil, Don Juan, and Anna of Mozartean
fame. At least the talk here is as brilliant as is commonly supposed to
prevail in the nether regions. _Inter alia,_ we read that marriage is
the most licentious of human institutions--hence its popularity. Even
the Devil is shocked. "The confusion of marriage with morality has done
more to destroy the conscience of the human race than any other single
error." "Beauty, purity, respectability, religion, art, patriotism,
bravery, and the rest are nothing but words which I or any one else
can turn inside out like a glove," continues this relentless rake and
transformed preacher. Too true; but the seamy side as exhibited by Don
Juan Shaw is not so convincing as in Nietzsche's transvaluation of
all values. "They are mere words, useful for duping barbarians into
adopting civilization, or the civilized poor into submitting to be
robbed and enslaved."

Admitted, keen dissector of contemporary ills; but how about your play?
In effect the author says: "To the devil with all art and plays, my
play with the rest! What I wish to do is to tell you how to run the
universe; and for this I will, if necessary, erect my pulpit in hell!"

After this what more can be said? The play peters out; there is
talk, talk, talk. Ann calls the poetic temperament "the old maid's
temperament"; the brigand chief sententiously remarks: "There are two
tragedies in life: one is not to get your heart's desire; the other
is to get it"--which sounds as if wrenched from a page of Chamfort or
Rivarol; and Ann concludes with "Go on talking, Tanner, talking!" It
is the epitaph of the piece, dear little misshapen, still-born comedy.
Well may Mr. Shaw write "universal laughter" at the end. Yet I am
willing to wager that some critics will be in tears at this exhibition
of perverse waste and clever impotency.

The Revolutionists' Handbook and Pocket Companion, which tops this
extraordinary contribution, sociology masking as comedy, is its
chiefest attraction. There, petrified into glistening nuggets, may be
found Shaw philosophy, Shaw humour. There are maxims, too. "Do _not_
unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may
not be the same." This smacks of the inverted wisdom of the late James
Whistler. Marriage, crime, punishment, the beating of children, title,
honours, property, servants, religion, virtues, vices--everything of
vital import to thinking men and women is regarded with the charmingly
malevolent eye of Shaw. He exclaims: "Property, said Proudhon, is
theft. This is the only perfect truism that has been uttered on the
subject." Come, come, Bernard Shaw! Proudhon said it, but the speech
was not his own property. You, who know your social classics so well,
should have remembered Brissot's Philosophical Examination of Property
and Theft, only published in 1780! You also say, "Beware the man whose
God is in the skies," and "Every man over forty is a scoundrel." Tut,
tut! Why not add--all girls over fifty should be drowned? It is just as
logical. But can one condense the cosmos in a formula?

The general impression of the book causes us to believe there is
a rift in the writer's lute; not in his mentality, but in his own
beliefs, or scepticisms. Perhaps Shaw no longer pins his faith to Shaw.
Ibsen asserts that after twenty years a truth that has outlived its
usefulness is no longer _truth_, but the simulacrum of one. Shaw's
truths may be decaying. We feel sure that if they be, he will be the
first to detect the odour and warn away his public. Some years ago
he printed a pamphlet against anarchy and anarchist, which was to be
expected from a mild, frugivorous man. Now he seems to be wearying of
the milk-white flag of socialism; and yet his revolutionary maxims are
maxims for children in the time of teething. The world has moved since
the Fabian society scowled at the British lion and tried to twist its
tail with the dialectics of moderate socialism. To use Mr. Shaw's own
pregnant remark, "Moderation is never applauded for its own sake";
and: "Hewho can, does. He who cannot, teaches." Fabianism taught,
taught moderation! Yet to-day the real thing is not Elisée Reclus,
but Michael Bakounin; not Peter Kropotkin, but Sergei Netschajew; not
Richard Wagner, but his friend, Roeckel, who was sent by him across
the cannon-shattered barricades at Dresden in 1849 to fetch an ice to
the thirsty composer. Wagner rang the alarm bells on this opera bouffe
and escaped to Switzerland, Bakounin and Roeckel remained and went to

Shaw is still ringing alarm bells, but somehow or other their music is
missing and carries no message to his listeners. Is it possible that he
regrets the anarchy that he has never had the courage to embrace and
avow? A born anarchist, individualist, revolutionist, he has always
gone in for half-hearted measures of reform. Never, like Bakounin,
has he applied the torch, thrown the bomb; never, like Netschajew,
has he dared to pen a catechism of destruction, a manual of nihilism
so terrific that advanced Russian thinkers shudder if you mention its
title. It is even rumoured that the Irish dramatist serves his parish
as a meek citizen should--he will be writing poetry or melodrama next.
His pessimism is temperamental, not philosophical, like that of most
pessimists, as James Sully has pointed out. And instead of closely
observing humanity, after the manner of all great dramatists, he has
only closely studied Bernard Shaw.

"Regarded as a play, Man and Superman is, I repeat, primitive in
invention and second rate in execution. The most disheartening thing
about it is that it contains not one of those scenes of really
tense dramatic quality which redeemed the squalor of Mrs. Warren's
Profession, and made of Candida something very like a masterpiece."
Thus William Archer.


Most modestly Mr. Shaw entitles a farce of his, the celebrated drama
in two tableaux and in blank verse,--The Admirable Bashville, or
Constancy Unrewarded. It is nothing else but the story of Cashel
Byron's Profession put into blank verse, because, as Mr. Shaw says,
blank verse is so much easier to write than good prose. It is printed
at the end of the second edition of the prize-fighting novel. As
there has been a dramatization made--unauthorized--for a well-known
American pugilist-actor, Mr. Shaw thought that he had better protect
his English interests. Hence the parody for copyright purposes which
was produced in London the summer of 1903 by the Stage Society at the
Imperial Theatre. It is funny. It gibes at Shakespeare, at the modern
drama, at Parliament, at social snobbery, at Shaw himself, and almost
everything else within reach. The stage setting was a mockery of the
Elizabethan stage, with two venerable beef-eaters in Tower costume, who
hung up placards bearing the legend, "A Glade in Wiltstoken Park," etc.
Ben Webster as Cashel Byron and James Hearn as the Zulu King carried
off the honours. Aubrey Smith, made up as Mr. Shaw in the costume of
a policeman with a brogue, caused merriment, especially at the close,
when he informed his audience that the author had left the house. And
so he had. He was standing at the corner when I accosted him. Our
interview was brief. He warned me in grave accents and a twinkling
Celtic eye never again to describe him as "benevolent." Half the
beggars of London had winded the phrase and were pestering him at his
back gate. Mr. Shaw still looks as if a half-raw beefsteak and a mug of
Bass would do him a world of good. But who can tell? He might then lose
some of his effervescence--that quality of humour so happily described
by Edmund Gosse when he spoke of the _vegetable_ spirits of George
Bernard Shaw.

The new play, John Bull's Other Island, was first played in London
by the Stage Society last November. It is said--by Shaw's warmest
enemies--to be witty, entertaining, and dramatically boneless. There is
no alternative now for Mr. Shaw--he must visit America, lecture, and
become rich. It is the logical conclusion of his impromptu career, for
it was first in America that the Shaw books and plays were successful
and appreciated; the plays largely because of the bold efforts of
Arnold Daly and Winchell Smith, two young dramatic revolutionists. And
Mr. Shaw may rediscover America for the Americans!



_De profundis ad te clamavi!_

After witnessing a performance of Maxim Gorky's Nachtasyl--The Night
Refuge is a fair equivalent in English--one realizes, not without a
shudder, that there are depths within depths, abysms beneath abysms,
still unexplored by the dramatic adventurer. The late Emile Zola posed
all his lifetime as the father of naturalism in literature; but he
might have gone to school to learn the alphabet of his art at the knees
of the young man from Nijni Novgorod, Maxim Gorky. That anarchist
of letters has taught us lessons of the bitterest import, Gorky the
Bitter One. We know now that Zola was only masquerading in the gorgeous
rags of romanticism with a vocabulary borrowed from Chateaubriand,
Victor Hugo, and Flaubert; we know, too, that despite the _argot_
of L'Assommoir, the book is as romantic as a Bouguereau canvas--the
formula is the same: highly glazed surfaces, smug sentiment, and pretty
colouring. The difference is that while Zola painted low life like a
born romantic, Bouguereau selected for his subjects the nymphs so dear
to the lover of classic anthologies. To the night of his unfortunate
death Zola believed himself a naturalist, though his books never escape
the taint of melodrama.

The naturalism of the Russians is in a different key. Gogol, the
inimitable Gogol, wrote Dead Souls, and Russia had conquered the
kingdom once ruled by Fielding. If Chateaubriand was the father of
modern French prose, as Goethe asserted, from Gogol stemmed all the
great modern Russians: Dostoïevsky, Turgenev, Stchendrin, Tolstoy,
Gorky; and the last seems nearer the first than either Turgenev or
Tolstoy. He is hardly ten years old artistically, yet his name is
known from Siberia to the Sandwich Islands. He is read more in a day
than Kipling is in a year, and, compared to Kipling, he is as flint to
chalk, a man carved from the hardest granite.

A revolutionary, inasmuch as he deliberately disowns, in his most
characteristic work, all the devices of literature, of rhetoric, of
literary architecture, he is at his worst in prolonged narrative,
such as Foma Gordyeeff. And when he philosophizes he is long-winded.
It is in the short tale with a simple setting that Gorky knows how to
stir us. A strip of sea beach, the sky a hot azure, the water green
as grass, two or three men and women, and we are given a tragedy in
miniature. Or the steppes, sullen and brown, stretch before us to the
setting sun; a few tramps talk at random, night falls. Misery huddles
close. We have felt the very pulse-beat of life--and such lives! A
wretched outcast, starved, wet as a dog in the rain--for he is but a
dog in the rain--meets a woman as miserable and as degraded as himself.
They manage to steal some mouldy bread, and sleep one night in a cask.
It is but the recital of one night. They drift apart in the morning,
never to meet again. Why should they care? Drab and monotonous, their
soiled lives need be viewed but for a moment to surmise their future.
Yet Gorky--for he is his own hero--contrives to sound undertones in
this dark music that appeal. Instinctively he lays bare the souls of
the men and women he dissects--souls as of muddy flame. A dreary sigh
escapes their lips as they drag their poor carcases from place to
place. Life has drugged them with sorrow. Why move at all? Why live at
all? Why were they born? Why do they die? Existence is reduced to a few
primary movements; eat, sleep; if vodka can be secured, then drink it
to oblivion, for the sole blessing in this vale of tears is oblivion.

It may be seen that, compared to Gorky's rank, unsavoury, but sincere
notation of facts, Thomas de Quincey's charming narrative of his
youthful woes in Oxford Street--that "stony-hearted mother"--and
his walks and talks with Anne, the noctambulist, is an idyll. Gorky
transfers to his pages the odours of a starving, sweating humanity,
its drunkenness, its explosions of rage, guttural cries of joy,
and its all too terrible animalism. We turn our heads the other way
when his women curse and rave. Walt Whitman, said Moncure Conway,
brought the slop pail into the drawing-room; but for Gorky there is no
drawing-room. Life is only a dung heap.

For years I have searched for the last word in dramatic naturalism,
and in Gorky's Nachtasyl I found it. I heard it first in Berlin at the
Kleines Theatre, and later in Vienna at the Deutsches Volkstheatre.
Gorky, himself a lycanthrope, pessimist, despiser of his fellow-men,
has assembled in this almost indescribable and unspeakable mélange--for
it is not a play--a set of men and women whose very lives smell to
heaven; the setting recalls one of his stories, Men with Pasts. (It is
in Orloff and his Wife.)

An utter absence of theatricalism and a naïveté in dramatic feeling
proclaim Gorky a man of genius and also one quite ignorant of the
fundamental rules of the theatre. His four acts might be compressed
into two, or, better still, into one. Only the fatigue and gloom
engendered would interfere with this scheme, for there is far too
much talk, far too little movement. Gorky, like many uneducated men
of power, loves to moralize, to discuss life and its meanings. He is
at times veritably sophomoric in this respect. Long speeches are put
into the mouths of his characters, who forthwith spout the most dreary
commonplaces about destiny, luck, birth, and death.

The strength of the play lies in its presentation of character.
Characterization, with a slender thread of narrative, no effective
"curtains," comprises the material of this vivid experiment.
Nevertheless, it burns the memory because of its shocking candour and
pity-breeding truths.

One is struck by a certain resemblance to Charles Dickens in all the
novels of the Russians, Dostoïevsky and Gorky in particular. There are
whole passages in Crime and Chastisement and Injury and Insult that
might have been suggested by the English master of fiction. Gorky,
like Gogol, loves to picture some poor wretch with a dominant passion,
and then to place him in surroundings that will move the machinery of
his being. And with all his hatred of life, of men, pity oozes from
his pages, sometimes contemptuous, sometimes passionate, pity. The
Night Refuge is a cellar with a kitchen, a few holes in the wall for
sleeping purposes. Its counterpart exists in every great city. Thieves,
prostitutes, men and women, the very dregs of life, pass their battered
days and nights in these foul caves. Gorky confesses to having lived
in such places while he wandered through some of the Russian towns.
Anarchists are not, as is popularly supposed, born or bred in these
pest alleys, whose inhabitants are too degraded, too worn out, to
harbour plans for the overthrow of governments. The vermin that burrow
in the mud and darkness are not dangerously brave or endowed with
destructive energies.

The keepers of the night asylum are a man and wife, a trifle better
off than their lodgers in physique, for they are not drunkards. The
husband is past fifty, an avaricious, snuffling, shuffling hypocrite,
jealous of his young wife and brutal to the people he harbours. His
wife is only twenty-six and hates her husband. She loves a young,
good-looking thief who lives in the cellar, an aristocrat among his
fellows, for he sleeps alone in a sort of cupboard, and only works at
his "profession" when he needs money. He gets the hottest tea and the
nicest morsels from the shrewish woman. Her voice, raucous and full
of fury, is softened when she addresses her Wasjka. His companions
know all about this affair, but are not jealous of him; they are too
indifferent to everything but their own wants to care for God or man,
devils or angels. They are over-tramps, beings for whom the moralities,
major and minor, no longer have any meaning. The thief is tired of the
woman, tired of his life amid stupid people, and has cast his eyes on
Natascha, the sister of his mistress. The elder woman realizes it and
trouble is brewing when the curtain goes up.

It is morning. A dull light filters from above on a mass of almost
shapeless figures. One by one they stir. Yawns, half-stifled oaths,
coughing, expectorations, noses noisily blown, whinings, cries of
pain, harsh laughter, and suppressed sobbing--the hideous symphony of
life at its lowest social ebb. Again you feel like averting your head,
for such is the force of suggestion that a noisome odour seems to
emanate from the stage and creep languidly through the auditorium.

The other _dramatis person_: a policeman, uncle to the sisters; a
locksmith with a dying wife--dying of consumption brought on by
the prolonged beatings at the hands of her semi-insane husband; a
street-walker--one who reads sentimental novels and speaks at intervals
of a romance she had when younger; a huck-stress, cynical, drunken,
loud-mouthed; a cap-maker who never works; an actor who has forgotten
his professional name, poisoned with alcohol; a man named Satin, a
good-natured, degenerate scoundrel; a decayed baron, neurasthenic, and
with a face that recalls one of Doré's sketches of a damned soul--lean,
always biting his nails, stuttering, his eyes blazing with the infernal
fires of vodka madness; an old man of venerable aspect, a pilgrim who
happens in; his name is Luka and he is some sixty years of age. Then
there is a young scapegrace shoemaker who plays the concertina and
always describes himself as a free man, a man without cares, a man who
would not accept wealth if offered him. A Tartar and several porters
and members of the barefoot brigade make up this unattractive company.

How to weave a play from such unpromising material must have puzzled
Gorky. Evidently he did not try, preferring the easier way of letting
his people tell their own stories and reducing technical construction
to a mere dropping of the curtain from time to time. In fact, there is
far more dramatic intrigue in Tolstoy's Powers of Darkness, of which
this piece is really a pendant. Gorky does not fear the naked truth as
do many literary artists who have social position and reputations to

The collision of character which is essential to the production of
drama is brought about somehow or other, the chief means employed
being Luka the pilgrim. This old man, who is as loquacious as Polonius
and almost as platitudinous, changes the ideas of every one he meets.
He finds the thief hard and impenitent; he points out to him that in
Siberia, over yonder, is a wide, free land, where every man may hew a
way for himself. The good-looking scamp tells him that thief he was
born, thief he must remain; that his father saw the inside of prisons;
that if he goes to Siberia it will be as a convict, and not of his
own volition. Yet the words of the stranger have sunk a shaft into
his consciousness, and despite his mockery of the old man's belief he
pauses and reflects--why not? Why not become a decent man, marry, beget
children, and chuck the old life of crime and police espionage? He
loves Natascha. He hates her sister, and in the best scene of the play
he lays his case clumsily but manfully before the girl. The crossroads
of his life are arrived at--her decision will settle which turn he is
to take.

Natascha is that mixture of good, bad, and indifferent in all of us,
and is therefore a puzzle to audiences who like patterns made out of
the whole cloth, without any dubious mixture of light and shade. She
realizes that Wasjka has been her sister's lover; she has been beaten
so that her face and shoulders are often black and blue by her jealous
sister; she knows that her present life is a hell--yet she hesitates;
Luka urges her. Wasjka pleads. Unluckily, the sister returns home
earlier than expected and from a window overlooking the cellar up one
short flight of stairs she overhears the entire conversation. Here is
coincidence childishly introduced to unravel the simplest of dramatic
knots. Yet it seems inevitable. The sister is an envious, prying woman,
always spying upon her boarders. She may have hastened her devotions at
church--like her husband, she is bigoted and hypocritical--and quietly
sneaked in to see what mischief her disreputable crew of lodgers were
making. Pictorially the scene is striking. It recalls any one of the
numerous kitchen pieces of Teniers or Ostade, in which a stout wench is
courted, while from some aperture above a jealous wife threateningly
peers. At the crucial moment in the play the angry creature breaks out
into a volley of abuse. A pretty state of affairs! Such goings-on in
a respectable establishment if her back is turned for a half hour! A
body can't go to church to pray for the sins of her neighbours without
meddle-some old men entering unbidden a decent house and setting every
one by the ears!

After she empties one vial of wrath upon Luka's head she uncorks
another for her unfortunate sister's benefit. A lazy good-for-nothing,
living on the bread of her relatives--a fine marriage she will make
with a thief: a honey-moon in jail, perhaps! The husband puts in
nasty remarks, and Wasjka loses his temper. There is a short, sharp
interchange of blows, but the men are torn asunder. Hush! the police
are always lurking near by, and not even the uncle, himself a member
of the force, a bribe-taker, gambler, and drunkard, could intervene
where blood had been shed. But Wasjka's chance had passed. It does not
return. Natascha, cowed, humbly goes upstairs to the kitchen, there to
clean the samovar, and the aged Luka groans, for he knows what life is,
with its queer eddies and whirlpools of chance.

He has comforted the dying wife of the locksmith, Anna by name,
and, with all the ribaldry, drunkenness, and profanity around them,
whispers in her ears consoling words. She has known naught but misery,
starvation, cold, and blows her life long. Her brutal husband is
presented as the type of the workman who is always preaching of the
dignity of labour. _He_ is a workman, he proudly asserts to the thief,
and files away at his locks while his wife lies gasping. We catch a
strain of Tolstoy in the retort of the thief, who tells him that work
alone doesn't make a man. Thick of apprehension, the huge dolt sits
and files. When his wife begs for more air, he tells her to go to the
yard--the place is already too cold. Then he moves over to her and
offers her some bread. He even asks if she suffers. Finally, with the
others, he departs for the tavern. As she listens to Luka's words,
Wasjka enters and laughs them to scorn. Is there a God? The company,
which has returned, discusses violently this question. Talk, talk,
talk--the Russian tramp will talk all day if you give him a theme and a
drink. If one believes in a God, interposes Luka, then God exists; if
one does not, then there is no God. It is a neat metaphysical evasion,
but the others are momentarily silenced. Wasjka has boasted that he
fears neither life nor death. Anna quietly dies while the rest are
gabbling, and instantly a hush pervades the sordid scene. Dead! What
does that mean? A moment ago querulously begging for quiet--now quiet
forever! The young criminal edges his way upstairs, his bragging spirit
clean gone. Dead! Some one must run to the tavern and tell the husband.
The police must be informed; the sooner the better for the man's sake.
He might be suspected! The curtain falls on a moving spectacle.

Another case in which Luka interferes is that of the old actor. We
gather from this abject wreck's disconnected speeches that he has been
a dramatic artist in his time; but, as he repeats, parrot-fashion, he
"has poisoned his organism with alcohol." He picked up the phrase from
the doctor at the poorhouse infirmary. This caricature of humanity,
this wraith with a brilliant past, has drifted into the back waters
of the night refuge and there awaits death. One gleam of light he is
made to see before the end. Luka tells him of a city which contains a
hospital for the cure of drunkenness. There must the actor go and there
begin a new life. A new life! The words ravish his ears stunned by
debauchery and wake a momentary vista of hope. Where is this city? Luka
cannot tell. He has forgotten, but he will surely remember. The actor
later relates to the cynical street-walker the good news. His brain
stimulated by the intrusion of a new idea stirs to life. He quotes,
misquotes, Shakespeare; recalls bits of Lear, and breaks down in
recitation. The word, the word--what is it? Exalted he waves his arms
wildly and rushes out to the haven of rest, the tavern. When the dead
woman is surrounded by the speechless crowd, the old actor comes in,
mounts a table, and declaims his speech. He has remembered. The effect
is ghastly.

Luka has conversations with the baron. This odd bundle of bones lives
on the young woman already mentioned. If he can't get vodka, he will
drink drugs; these failing he will sit and gnaw his nails as a mouse
gnaws the wires of its cage, or he will sit cross-legged for hours on
the top of the Russian stove and listen to story-telling. His catchword
is "talk on"; anything for an anecdote. He mocks continually the woman
who supports him. She is an inveterate sentimentalist, and every day
tells a story about a student of noble birth who once threatened to
shoot himself for love of her. But, as the baron sarcastically points
out, the name of this imaginary hero is Gaston one day, another it is
Raoul. He taunts the poor devil into despair and drunkenness. Luka
expostulates. He touches the spring that sets working the young man's
recollections of a happy and honourable past. He was the son of a
wealthy, noble family. He had his coffee in bed in the morning--yes, it
is true! He had servants, horses, a wife. Why was he born? No idea! Why
did he marry? No idea! Why is he still living? No idea! Why will he die?

Then the woman has her revenge. It is her chance, and she takes it. She
sneers at the baron's lies. He take his coffee in bed! Not he. Liar
he is when he boasts of his birth. Vagabond! The episode is as ugly
as if it happened under our eyes. His secret weakness exposed, the
baron breaks into hysterical weeping, which presently modulates into
fierce anger. Seizing a glass, he attempts to hurl it at her head. But
the storm subsides, and soon they are all drinking and shouting. You
feel as if you had been viewing the scene from a hidden window, so
realistic is the performance by the troupe of the Kleines Theatre.

The climax is attained in the third act. A row is precipitated during
which the lodging-house keeper is killed. Who struck the blow? Loudly
his widow denounces Wasjka. He is the murderer of her husband, he
the thief who threatened so often the life of her good man. In the
confusion the police rush in, Wasjka is manacled; but so is the
woman, for Natascha bears witness that she overheard her sister
plotting the death of her husband with her lover, Wasjka. The moment
is as theatrically thrilling as you please; hate has the upper hand
in Natascha's heart and her evidence sends the pair to prison. She

About this time you begin to suspect that the well-meaning Luka is a
trouble-breeder. Every pie in which he has put his finger so far is
spoiled. He, too, vanishes as noiselessly as he appeared. In Act IV
what is left of the gang sits at the same old dingy table drinking
and discussing, interminably discussing, the events of the past, and
also Luka. He is branded as a liar, a bore, a kill-joy, a busybody,
and one who causes trouble. What if he lies or tells the truth? What's
the difference, anyhow? His truth caused murder, his lies did no one
good, and so they sneer, sneer at the world, sneer at themselves,
occasionally, Pilate-like, asking, what is truth? The Tartar prays
in a corner and reads his Koran, the rest yell out a drunken song,
the shoemaker plays his concertina. The old actor, worse sot than
ever, asks the Tartar to pray for him, goes out to the yard, and
hangs himself. The baron discovers the swinging body and announces
the fact to his comrades. One answers wrathfully, "So he must spoil
our singing--the fool!" And with that the curtain drops, leaving you
puzzled, disgusted, shocked, yet touched. Gorky has caught something
of "the strange, irregular rhythm of life" in this piece, and you feel
the vibration of truth in every line of the extremely plastic dialogue.
That the stage has, or has not, any business with such spectacles never
occurs to the spectator until out upon Berlin's broad avenue of trees
pulsing with life.

The amateur of sensations, exquisite, morbid, or brutal, must feel
after Nachtasyl that the bottomless pit has been almost plumbed. What
further exploitation of woe, of crime, of humanity stripped of its
adventitious social trappings, can be made? And this question is put
by every generation without in the least stopping the fresh shaking
up of the dramatic kaleidoscope. The Gorky play, even if it disgusts
at times, at least arouses pity and terror, and thus, according to
the classical formula, purges the minds of its spectators. Compared
to the drama of lubricity manufactured in Paris and annually exported
to America, this little study of a group of outcast men and women
is a powerful moral lesson. That it is a play I do not assert, nor
could it be put on the boards in America without a storm of critical
and public censure. Americans go to the theatre to be amused and not
to have their nerves assaulted. Thackeray, in a memorable passage of
Vanity Fair, refused to stir those depths of humanity where lurk all
manners of evil monsters. Perhaps this refusal was for the great writer
an artistic renunciation; perhaps he knew the British public. In our
own happy, sun-smitten land, where poverty and vice abound not, where
the tramp is only a creation of the comic journals--in America, if
such a truth-teller as Gorky arose, we should fall upon him, neck and
crop, gag him, and without bothering over the formality of a writ _de
lunatico inquirendo_, clap the fellow behind the bars of a madhouse
cell. It would serve him right. The ugly cancers of the social system
should never be exposed, especially by a candid hand! In art, to tell
truths of this kind does not alone shame the devil, but outrages the
community. No wonder Emperor William does not grace such performances
by his presence. No wonder Gorky is a suspect in Russia. He tells the
truth, which in the twentieth century is more dangerous than hammering

One detail I have forgotten. Old Luka the Pilgrim is asked by Wasjka
Pepel where he purposes travelling after he leaves their haunt. To
Little Russia, he says, adding that he has heard of a new faith being
preached out there, and he will see if there is anything in it. There
might be--men search and search for better things.... If God will but
give them patience, all will be well! Perhaps this new preacher has
found the light! It is a touch unmistakably of Russia, where even the
irreligious are not without faith. Gorky, with all his moral anarchy,
is as superstitious as a _moujik._ He shakes his fists at the eternal
stars and then makes the sign of the cross. It may be for that reason
he wrote The Night Refuge.

_De profundis ad te clamavi!_



The unfailing brilliancy of expression and abundant technical power
of Hermann Sudermann have so seldom failed him in the lengthy list of
his plays and novels that his admirers are too often oblivious to his
main defect as an artist and thinker--a dualism of style and ideas. The
Prussian playwright wishes to wear three heron feathers in his cap.
Cosmopolitan as he is, he would fill his dramas with the incomparable
psychologic content of Ibsen; he would be a painter of manners; he
would emulate Sardou in his constructive genius. To have failed,
and failed more than once, in his effort to precipitate these three
qualities in his surprisingly bold and delicate wit, is not strange.
And to have grazed so often the edge of triumphs, not popular but
genuinely artistic, warrants one in placing Sudermann high in the ranks
of German dramaturgists.

In a very favourable review written by Mr. W. S. Lilly of The Joy of
Life, he ranks Sudermann among the great painters of manners, and,
after reading Dame Care and The Cat's Bridge, we are tempted to agree
with the enthusiasm of the English critic. He thus sets down the
qualities of a painter of manners: "Sense and sensibility, sagacity
and suppleness, openness of mind and originality of thought, depth
of feeling and delicacy of touch." Does Sudermann's art include all
these things? We think not. Rather is he as a dramatist--the expert
_Techniker_, the man of the theatre, impregnated by the dominant
intellectual ideas of the hour, than a poet who from a haunting
necessity gazes into his heart and then writes: Sudermann is too
photographic; he too often wills his characters into a mould of his
own, not of their own, making; he wills his atmosphere to blend with
his theses, the reverse of Hauptmann's method. He is more cerebral than
emotional, more of a philosopher than a dramatic psychologist. Above
all, he is literary; he has the literary touch, the formal sense, the
up-gushing gift of verbal expression. Add to this order of talent a
real feeling for dramatic _nuance,_ and Sudermann's enigmatic warring
opposites of temperament and action seem remarkable.

In 1889, miraculous year of modern artistic Germany, Sudermann's
dramatic début in Honour was more of a nine days' wonder than
Hauptmann's Before Sunrise. The surety of touch, the easy mastery of
theatric effects, the violent contrasts, and the sparkling dialogue
transformed Sudermann's cometary career into a fixed star of the first
magnitude. To-day this first play appears banal enough. Time has
permitted us to see it in completer historic perspective. Ibsen's
influence in the posing of the moral conflict is speedily recognized,
just as Count Von Trast may be traced to those _raisonneurs_ so dear to
the younger Dumas, those human machines spouting logic and arranging
the dénouement like the god behind the cloud. One inevitably recalls
the relation of Björnsen to Ibsen in the present position of Sudermann
and Hauptmann.

Yet it is easy to admire Honour. It contains, notably in the two
acts of the "hinter haus," real strokes of observation and profound
knowledge of human nature. The elder Heinecke, rapacious rascal, is
a father lost to all sense of shame, for he closes his eyes to his
daughter's behaviour. This same old scamp is both true and amusing.
Nor is his wife depicted with less unwavering fidelity. The motive
of Honour is not alone the ironic contrast of real and conventional
ideals of honour--it shoots a bolt toward Nietzsche's land where good
and evil blend in one hazy hue. Sudermann, here and in nearly all
his later pieces, challenges the moral law--Ibsen's loftiest heron
feather--and if any appreciable theory of conduct is to be deduced from
his works, it is that the moral law must submit to the variations of
time and place, even though its infraction spells sin, even though the
individual in his thirst for self-seeking smashes the slate of morality
and perishes in the attempt.

This battle of good and evil Sudermann dwells upon, often to the
confusion of moral values, often to the tarnishing of his art. And
in his endeavour to hold the dramatic scales in strict equipoise,
to intrude no personal judgments, he leaves his audiences in blank
bewilderment. Better the rankest affirmations than the blandest
negatives. Yes counts far more than No in the theatre, and Sudermann
is happier when he is violently partisan. His contemporary, Hauptmann,
shows us the shipwreck of souls in whom the spiritual stress
preponderates. Sudermann, except in rare instances, sticks closer to
the social scale and its problems; and when he does he is at his best,
for it cannot be said that The Three Heron Feathers, written under
the spur of The Sunken Bell, betrays a mastery or even a familiarity
with those shadowy recesses wherein action is a _becoming_, where the
soul blossoms from a shapeless mass into volitional consciousness.
Sudermann's art is more external; it concerns itself with the How
rather than with the Why, and one feels that storm and fury were
deliberate engraftments, not the power which works from within to the
outer world.

There is character drawing of an unexceptional kind in Honour. Robert
Heinecke returns from foreign lands to find his family degraded, his
sister trading on her beauty, his father and mother accepting bounty
from the mansion house, the employers of the honourable son. The
maze in which he is caught is constructed with infinite skill; the
expository act is the best. There is not much mystery--we seem here
to be in the clear atmosphere of the French dramaturgists, Augier and
Dumas; while the finale is rather flat, we look for a suicide or a
scandal of some sort. The author keeps himself steady in the saddle
of realism. This ending is lifelike, inasmuch as the hero goes away
with Graf Trast, who literally reasons him out of his dangerous mood.
We feel that all the rest do not count, not the ignoble Kurt and his
snobbish friends, his philistine parents; not the Heineckes with their
vulgar avarice, their Zola-istic squalor. The romance is conventional.
In fact, so cleverly did Sudermann mingle the new and old in the
opposing currents of dramatic art that his play was instantly a success.

Accused of this ambition to drive two horses, the dramatist threw
down as a gauge to criticism, Sodom (1891). It was not a great play,
because it lacked logic, balance, truthfulness. A distorted picture of
artistic degeneracy, its satire on certain circles in Berlin caused a
furore; but the piece had not the elements of sincerity. Technically
it revealed the mastery of almost hopeless material, and while one's
æsthetic sense and the fitness of things are hopelessly upset, the
cunning hand of the prestidigitator is everywhere present. There are
some episodes that stir, notably the scenes between father and son; but
the grimness and sordidness are too much for the nerves.

Magda (1893) struck a new note. Many believe it to be Sudermann at
his best. Thus far he has not surpassed it in unity of atmosphere and
dissection of motives. That the _morale_ may be all wrong is not to
the point. Again we see Ibsen's mighty shadow in the revolt of the new
against the old; daughter and father posed antagonistically with the
figure of the pastor, one of the German author's better creations, as a
mediating principle.

One of many reasons that the Magda of Sudermann is a remarkable play
is the critical controversy over its interpretation. Each one of
us reveals his temperamental bias in the upholding of Bernhardt's
or Duse's or Modjeska's respective readings. And which one of the
three artists has exhausted the possibilities of Magda's many-sided
character? On this point Herr Sudermann is distressingly discreet,
although he has a preference for Duse, as is well known to a few of
his intimates. The reason is simple. Duse presents more phases of the
character, exhibits more facets of this curious dramatic gem, and by
her excellences, and not her limitations, we must judge her performance.

We have seen a dozen Magdas: English, French, German, Italian,
Belgian, Jewish, and Scandinavian. Fanatical admirers of Bernhardt
claim preeminence for her in the part, certain sides of which are
child's play for her accomplished virtuosity. But the critic who
knows Sudermann's Magda also knows that the very brilliancy of the
glorious French actress throws the picture into too high relief; there
are no middle tints in Sarah's embodiment. It recalls the playing
of an overmasteringly brilliant pianist, one who rolls over the
keyboard like a destructive avalanche. The human note, the sobbing,
undulating quality of a violoncello whose tone flashes fire, is
missing. Little doubt that Bernhardt gives us certain moods of Magda
in a transcendental manner. She is the supreme artist of all in the
exposition of tragic _bravura._ Yet she is not Sudermann's Magda. This
is so well known as to be a critical commonplace.

Mrs. Campbell's Magda is above the ordinary. Modjeska's powers were on
the wane when she appeared in the play; but we cannot forget the native
sweetness and true Polish _zal_ with which she suffused the character.
Supple, poetic, charming, she was, and despite all, lacked much of
Magda's complexity. Does Duse entirely fulfil all the requirements of
the rôle?

We do not know. We only feel that in mood-versatility she outstrips
all others we have seen, and if she has not seen farthest into the
soul of the opera singer, she has viewed it from more sides than her
contemporaries. Hence her interpretation is more various and, it being
Duse, is more wonderful in the technical sense in the revelation of an
effortless art.

She is natural, never photographic. Photography arrests motion; Duse
is ever in modulation. Rather, if you will have pictorial analogues,
might her Magda be compared to a Richard Earlom or a Valentine Green
mezzotint, wherein the luminous shadows and faint spiritual overtones
are acidly mellow. And who shall forget the manner of her throat
as it trilled with rage when to her Von Keller makes his perfectly
honourable and perfectly abominable offer! We have dwelt so much upon
the admirable reticences of this artist, upon her "tact of omission,"
we really forget that she never stops acting or living her part for a
moment. She continually evokes musical imagery, for the exquisite and
harmonious interrelations of every movement, every word, unroll before
us like great, solemn music.

Magda will probably outlive The Joy of Life, as it has already outlived
the dramatist's Honour. The theme of the first is based on more
fundamental facts than the others--the clash of will and affection. If
all human families were loving, if father never opposed daughter or
son flouted mother, then such a play as Magda never would have been
written. But, alas! the newspapers prove that family life is not always
celestial, indeed, that it is often bestial. But the Parson Tickletexts
never acknowledge this.

There is no lesson in Magda; the ending is not a sermon--unless you
wish it to prove that contradicting apoplectic fathers is a fatal
proceeding. Magda is an individualist. She is selfish. This trait
she shares with the mass of mankind. Her "I am I" is neither a
proclamation nor a challenge to the world. It is the simple confession
of a woman who knows herself, her weaknesses, her errors, who has
battled and wrested from life a little, passing triumph, the stability
of which she doubts.

"We must sin if we wish to grow. To become greater than our sins is
worth more than all the purity you preach." Is this immoral? We hasten
to quote a sentence from John Milton's Areopagitica, the magnificent
music of which fascinated the ear of Robert Louis Stevenson, quite
apart from its significant wisdom.

"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and
unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but
slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for,
not without dust or heat." Poor Magda's virtue was certainly not
cloistered. She ran for fame's garland in all the dust and heat of
the artistic arena. She won, she lost. The bigot discerns in Magda an
abandoned creature; the men and women who see life from all sides and
know the fallibility of the flesh are apt to forgive her shortcomings.

"The ghost of a linen decency yet haunts us." She must have had a
detestable disposition. Fancy what a spoilt opera singer with sore
tonsils can be on a rainy day, especially when she reads the name of
her dearest foe "substituting" on the bill. Then drop her in the sleepy
old town of her nativity, where a harsh, opinionated father would worm
from her every detail of her dubious past Sudermann has done this with
the result--a lifelike play, in which nothing is demonstrated except
the unalterable stupidity of things in general and the naked fact that
"I am I" is the only motto, whether secret or published, of every
human crawling 'twixt earth and sky. In the pastor Sudermann attempts
to paint the altruist in action. It is hardly a convincing piece of
portraiture. Your true altruist is bounded by Tolstoy on the north, by
Howells on the west, by Francis of Assisi on the south, and on the east
by Buddha. Outside of book covers the person exists not.

The Battle of the Butterflies (1894) was seen in New York at
Conried's Irving Place Theatre. It is comedy of a skin-deep variety,
entertaining! And here's an end to it. Happiness in a Corner is deeper
in sentiment. It has the Ibsen touch with a pathos foreign to the
Norwegian. Inspector Orb is of Ibsen, so is Pastor Weidemann, and
the others--Bettina, Räcknitz, Elizabeth, and Helena--are alive and
suffer and joy. There is vitality in this work. Also is there force
and consummate cleverness in the three one-act plays grouped under the
title Morituri (1896). Avowedly devoted to the theme of death they are
all three illustrative of the dramatist's feeling for the right phrase,
the only right situation. Teja, Fritzchen, and The Eternal Masculine
show us in three widely differing modes how, as in life, we miss the
happiness near at hand while longing for the ideal--a theme dealt
with more broadly in The Three Heron Feathers.

John the Baptist (1898), like Paul Heyse's Mary Magdalen, was the
occasion of a scandal in Berlin, because the censor forbade its
performance on religious grounds, though Otto Ludwig's Maccabees and
Hebbel's Judith are stock pieces. As a drama it is weak, for the
vacillating hero wearies us to distraction, notwithstanding the poetic
charm of the prologue. If the Christ had been boldly dramatized, as
was evidently the playwright's purpose, the outcome, no matter how
shattering to pious nerves, would have been better artistically. But
this vague dreamer, pessimistic, halting, irresolute, what can we
make of him across the footlights, and for once Sudermann's technical
ability failed him.

The Three Heron Feathers (1899) is an attempt to meet Hauptmann on
equal terms. It lacks coherence, despite the occasional lift of
its verse--Sudermann fancied that he had forsworn the prose of the
realistic drama forever--while the lofty moral ideal, unduly insisted
upon, soon becomes a thorn in the flesh. No one is alive but the trusty
Lorbuss, the Prince being a theory set in action. The next play, St.
John's Fire (1900), we confess to having read with more pleasure than
seeing it enacted. It goes up in the air soon after the curtain rises
on Act III, though the story is a capital one for dramatic purposes. It
would seem that Sudermann was again attacked by his doubting mania. He
has contrived the atmosphere of romance, the pagan fire of St. John,
the mystery of night, the passion of Georg and Marikke; but either his
courage failed him, or else beset by some idea of resignation he spoilt
his development and conclusion, and we leave the theatre dissatisfied,
not with that spiritual dissatisfaction which Ibsen plants, a
rankling sore in one's heart, but the kind that grows into resentment
against the dramatist, for Marikke is a girl of whom Thomas Hardy
would have been proud. And then there is a muddle of symbolism and
heredity,--Sudermann endeavouring to scoop up in his too comprehensive
net the floating ideas of the hour. Georg von Hartwig's sudden lapse
into a selfish citizen we can never forgive.

Of the criticism of masterpieces there is no end. Take Sudermann's The
Joy of Life as an example. (Why such an Ibsen-like title for Es Lebe
das Leben?) Obsessed by subject and subject-matter only, many of us
turn a blind side to the real qualities that make up an excellent play.
Now this harping on the theme of a drama--whether pleasant, unpleasant,
dull, brilliant, or truthful--is eminently amateurish. It is rather
the function of the manager; it affects his box-office, and, as he is
not in business for art, he cherishes that brave little place above
all else. But a critic is supposed to wear an open mind, to accept a
subject without looking the gift poet in the mouth, and also to judge
how near the dramatist reaches the goal of his own ideal--not the
critic's. That we do not do so is to be pitied. It is because of this
that so many wonderful plays never see the light, or else are botched
at their birth.

This persistent avoidance of the dramatist's view-point, this
refusal to enter into sympathetic complicity with him, leads to sad
conclusions. If you decide violently that a play has no right to exist
because it exhibits a situation or character abhorrent to your notions,
in what a predicament is the dramatist! It recalls the story told by
George Saintsbury about the man who was shown Flameng's beautiful
etching of Herrera's Child with the Guitar. "But I don't like babies,"
said the man, unconsciously illustrating uncatholicity in criticism.
The subject did not appeal to him, therefore its truthful art could go

Too great an artist to preach a moral, Sudermann nevertheless bestows
the justice demanded by destiny upon the luckless Beata, Countess of
Michael von Kellinghausen. The Joy of Life is next to Magda technically
one of Sudermann's biggest achievements.

To present such a trite theme with new harmonies is a triumph.
The tragic quality of the piece in an atmosphere bordering on the
aristocratic commonplace is not the least of its excellences. We know
that life is daily, that great art is rare, that the average sensual
man prefers a variety show to a problem play; yet we are not abashed
or downcast. The cant that clusters about cults, theatric or artistic,
should not close our ears to the psychologic power and the message--if
you will have the word--of this Sudermann play. If his Beata,--Ibsen
has a Beata in Rosmersholm and D'Annunzio one in his La Gioconda--was
a sorely beset woman, if she felt too much, thought too much,--one
suspects her of poring over Nietzsche and hearing much Wagner; witness
that allusion to Hans Sachs's quotation from Tristan,--yet is she not
a fascinating soul? Are there to be no semi-tones in character? Must
women be paragons and men perfect for inclusion in a play? If this be
so, then all the art of the Elizabethans is false, their magnificent
freedom and their wit a beacon of warning to pure-minded playwriters.
And, pray, out of what material shall the dramatist weave his pattern
of good and evil?

But had Sudermann transposed his Beata to the fourteenth century,
had he dowered her with mediæval speech and the name of Beatrice,
had he surrounded her with lovers in tin-plate armour, our shrinking
natures might not have hied to cover. The pathos of distance would
have softened the ugly truths of the modern drawing-room. The Joy of
Life is a capital play. There is much conventionality displayed in the
minor characters; only Beata and Richard are really original. And the
use of the divorce debate as a symbol reveals the real weakness of
the play, though structurally it has some striking virtues. The small
part of Meixner, the theological student turned social-democrat, had
_vraisemblance_. It suggests the character of Krogstad in A Doll's
House. That tiresome exhorter, Count Trast, in Sudermann's Honour,
is luckily not duplicated. And we doubt not that the absence of
explicatory comment by the author is disheartening to a public which
likes all the questions raised answered at the close, after the manner
of a Mother Goose morality. Neither D'Annunzio nor Sudermann is a
preacher. As in the ghastly illumination of a lightning flash, souls
hallucinated by love, terror, pity, despair, are seen struggling in
the black gulf of night. And then all becomes abysmal darkness. There
are the eternal verities, the inevitable compensations in this play.
The application of the moral is left to the listener, who is given
the choice of echoing or not echoing the immortal exclamation of Mr.
Saintsbury's unknown, "But I don't like babies!"

In Storm-Brother Socrates, Sudermann places his scene in a small East
Prussian town, possibly Matizken, where he was born in 1857. The
schoolmaster, the grocer, the Jewish rabbi, the tax-collector, and
the dentist are the chief characters of this satiric comedy. A lot of
old cronies, men who went through the stirring times of '48, form a
revolutionary guild, calling themselves "The Brotherhood of the Storm."
Harmless enough, they still declaim against Bismarck--the time of
action is twenty years ago--and talk of their warlike exploits. As the
dramatist is preeminently a painter of manners, many of his portraits
are masterly. The dentist, Hartmayer, is a hater of tyranny and an
idealist. He has assumed the name of Socrates, his companions selecting
such stirring pseudonyms as Catiline, Giordano Bruno, Spinoza, and
Poniatowski. This dentist's son' Fritz has adopted the same profession;
and being called to attend a reigning prince's dog for toothache, he is
denounced by his anti-imperialist of a father. But Fritz is a socialist
and has no prejudices on the subject of canine gums. Another brother,
an impudent lad, is a conservative. When the archives of the Bund fall
into the hands of the local magistrate, the old man is thoroughly
miserable. His associates fly and he, expecting arrest, is decorated
for the services of his son in saving an aristocratic dog's teeth! He
accepts, and the curtain falls on a rather discursive, ill-natured
comedy. However, Sudermann's virtuosity has plenty of opportunity for

The minor characters are well sketched. The waitress, Ida, is an
exceedingly vital figure, as is the innkeeper. The dialogue is
Sudermann almost at his best,--witty, sarcastic, ironical, tersely
vigorous, and true to life. Like Daudet and Flaubert, Sudermann loves
to prick the bloated German bourgeois. There is a little Hebrew,
named, from sheer cruelty, Siegfried Markuse. His description of his
freshman visits to a _Corps-Kneipe_ at the Königsberg University is a
fair example of the playwright's powers of unerring observation.

"Just as soon as I gave my name," relates Siegfried, "the man across
the table began to crack jokes on Jews. I play the naïve and keep the
game going. Then you should have heard them snicker. I see plainly
enough that they are laughing at me, but I clench my teeth and say
to myself, 'You are going to _compel_ me to respect your superior
intellect....' I talked about everything,--old idealism and modern
gaiters; Germany's inalienable national rights and the swellest way of
training poodles; the unimportance of Hegel's conception of divinity
and the importance of a good pug dog. I quoted Plato, Schopenhauer,
and the latest sharper. Everybody looked at me with mouth agape, and I
thought I had them just where I wanted them when my friend Hartmayer
came and whispered that he was commissioned to give me a hint that
this was no place for my colossal jaw, and that it would be better if
I stayed away next time. Outside I shook my fist and swore: 'If you
_won't_ have us as friends, you _will_ have us as enemies! Then we
shall see who comes out on top.'"

Mr. Lilly sees in Sudermann an affinity with Euripides, which may mean
that he is a painter of a society in its decadence. His affinities as
pointed out seem to be Parisian; at least he is Parisian in his gift
of observation and style, German as is his power of reasoning. He is
unmoral, following the _tendenz_ of his time, but not so completely
as D'Annunzio, who is satisfied with sheer shapes of beauty. With
Sudermann it is, first, technical prowess, secondly, social satire, and
he is always brilliant if not always satisfying.



_A. S. A. I. Madame la princesse Mathilde_,

_sonnet improvisé_

_sur des rimes données sur un sujet choisi_


Sous cette verandah, peinte en vert d'espérance, On arrive et l'on part
avec un souvenir Si doux, qu'on y voudrait aussitôt revenir Sous les
fleurs des tropiques et les plantes de France.

Une main de déesse y guérit la souffrance, Au mérite modeste elle ouvre
l'avenir. Elle sait couronner comme elle sait punir. Pour le génie elle
est pleine de déférence.

Devant elle enhardi, l'esprit prime-sautier, Ainsi qu'Euphorion dansant
sur la prairie, Peut, entre terre et ciel, se montrer tout entier.

Pour que son œil pétille et que sa lèvre rie Et que de toute humeur
sa lèvre soit guérie, Il suffit d'un bon mot de son bouffon Gautier.


The late Princess Mathilde Bonaparte meant many things to many people.
Her ancestry, her marriage to Prince Demidoff, her political power at
the Tuileries, her sympathetic patronage of artistic folk, her personal
beauty, love affairs, and feminine caprices--all these serve the
world as pleasing material for anecdotes. The Princess was fond of the
theatre, and fonder still of a _première_ when the play was written by
one of her intimate circle. She was surrounded by a distinguished group
of poets, painters, dramatists, novelists, and diplomats. De Morny
called her "the man of the family." She was good to gaze upon, and she
had intellect. After the death of Sainte-Beuve, the publication of her
correspondence with that celebrated critic gave us a portrait of his
friend. It occurs in Lettres de la Princesse:--

"The Princess has a high, noble forehead, and her light golden hair,
leaving uncovered on each side broad, pure temples, is bound in wavy
masses on the full, finely shaped neck. Her eyes, which are well set,
are expressive rather than large, gleam with the affection of the
thought of the moment, and are not of those which can either feign
or conceal. The whole face indicates nobleness and dignity, and, as
soon as it lights up, grace united to power, frankness, and goodness;
sometimes, also, it expresses fire and ardour. The head, so finely
poised and carried with such dignity, rises from a dazzling and
magnificent bust, and is joined to shoulders of statuesque smoothness
and perfection."

That description should cover a multitude of indiscretions, such as the
publication of the letters. She had already given Taine his _congé_
for his criticism of Napoleon in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, She was
the daughter of Jerome and Caroline of Wurttemberg and was as proud as
Napoleon. She never forgave an offence, and Taine's conception of the
First Consul as a superior bandit closed her doors upon him.

She stood with forced equanimity the first two of his masterly studies;
at the third she exclaimed with true feminine _finesse_ of cruelty:--

"Ah, I know what I shall do! I owe Mme. Taine a call. I shall leave my
card with P.P.C., which will mean that I take leave of him forever. I
cannot allow a friend to attack violently the head of my family, the
man without whom I should perhaps be nothing but a little orange-vender
on the bridge at Ajaccio." She put her threat into execution. Taine,
shocked by the rupture, called on Renan. After hearing the tale without
any comment but a sweet, ironical smile, Renan answered:--

"_ Cher ami_, I have quarrelled with a much greater lady than the
Princess Mathilde."

"With whom, then?"

"The Church," answered Renan, dryly.

Mathilde did not respect rank more than genius. She set her face
against the free and easy democratic manners, and because of this
disliked the American invasion--few of our countrymen crossed her
doors. One night Edmond About was invited to her house, and during
the trying moments before dinner he amused her with his wit. Suddenly
the Count Nieuwerkerke appeared. "Go away," cried the novelist, "and
let us be alone, you jealous fellow." The Princess arose, rang, and
instructed the servant: "Conduct M. About to his carriage. He is not
dining here to-night." And the man of the Broken Ear went away, his
temper much ruffled.

In 1847 the Princess settled in Paris permanently. She had been
divorced from the handsome, profligate Demidoff, and her allowance, a
big one, had been given her by a decree from the Czar. Over Napoleon
III she wielded great influence. Of him the De Goncourts said, "The
Emperor would be an excellent somnambulist if only he had intervals of
lucidity;" while Flaubert declared him to be clever because, knowing
his ignorance, he had the wisdom to hold his tongue. The Empress
Eugénie was always jealous of Mathilde's power with her imperial
cousin. That she was at the latter's funeral is an illustration of
life's topsy-turvy tricks. Eugénie was jealous also of the Castiglione,
and the De Goncourts do not fail to register Constance's spiritual
_mot_ about the Emperor.

"If I had only resisted, to-day I should have been an Empress!"

This recalls the delightful answer made by Alfred de Musset to a famous
actress of the Théâtre Français--is it necessary to give the name? Once
the lady had said:--

"Monsieur de Musset, I hear you have boasted of being my lover." "I beg
your pardon," answered the friend of Rachel and George Sand; "I have
always boasted to the contrary."

The rupture of Mathilde Bonaparte and Sainte-Beuve took place in 1869.
The brothers De Goncourt heard its details from the Princess. They
found her still trembling from the stormy interview. "I shall never
see him again--never again! I, who fell out with the Empress on his
account!... He has gone over to the _Temps_, our personal enemies! Ah!
I said to him, 'Monsieur Sainte-Beuve, listen! I am sorry you did not
die last year, for I should then have mourned a friend.'"

She must have been difficult at times. She had a good opinion of
her birth, wealth, position, and beauty. "Yes, I had a peculiar and
most extraordinary complexion. I remember in Switzerland, when I was
fourteen, they put a Bengal rose leaf on my cheek, and were unable to
distinguish between the two."

On one occasion, when Edmond de Goncourt was openly rude to her at
her Château Saint-Gratien, she, with her guests, sat stupefied.
Later he apologized, tears in his eyes--he was a gallant, handsome
gentleman--and he relates most ingenuously, "Suddenly she put her arms
around me and kissed me on each cheek, saying, 'Of course I forgive
you--you know how truly attached I am to you; I also, of late, have
felt quite nervous and upset.'"

It was this passage that caused Henry James to shiver; not because
of the fact, but the lack of tact. The De Goncourts were taken up
by the Princess in 1862. Jules, the younger brother, died in 1870,
literally killed by his devotion to literary art. The chiselling of
the De Goncourt phrases was deadly to brain and body. It is little
wonder that their novels, one after the other, until Germinie Lacerteux
appeared, should have been indifferently received. As Alphonse Daudet,
ever receptive and tender in his judgments of original work, wrote:
"Novels such as had never been seen before; novels that were neither
moulded upon Balzac nor diluted from George Sand, but novels made up
of pictures,... with plot scarcely indicated, and great blanks between
the chapters; real break-neck ditches for the bourgeois reader. To
this add an entirely new style, full of surprises--a style from which
all conventionality is banished, and which, by a studied originality
of phrase and image, forbids any commonplace in the thought; and then
the bewildering boldness, the perpetual uncoupling of words accustomed
to march together like oxen dragging a plough, the earnest care in
selection, the horror of saying all and anything; considering this,
how can one be astonished that the De Goncourts were not immediately
greeted by the applause of the common herd?"

The mystery of it is, Why should the De Goncourts have cared for the
applause of that same bourgeois public they so despised, reviled,
and held up to mockery in their books? Gautier, Zola, Daudet, had to
work like galley slaves for a living; the two brothers and Flaubert
were rich, as riches go with literary men; why, then, did they care
whether they were popular or not? Was it because they were human,
notwithstanding their theories of impassibility, perfection, and art
for art's sake?

The Château Saint-Gratien was the Princess Mathilde's country home
until her death. There she entertained, as entertained George Sand
at Nohant, all her friends. Until his death, in 1896, Edmond de
Goncourt was her privileged visitor. The work of the two brothers in
eighteenth-century chronicles amused and interested her, especially
their minute histories of such actresses as Du Barry, Sophie Arnold;
and, earlier, great women like Mme. de Pompadour, the Duchess of
Châteauroux; great painters, Watteau, Boucher, Latour, Greuze, Lancret,
Fragonard; and stage favourites such as Mesdames Saint Huberty,
Clairon, and La Guimard.

The brothers introduced Japanese art into France. They were amateurs
of the exquisite. Their house at Auteuil was truly "la maison d'un
artiste au XIX siècle." And consider the labour, acute, agonizing,
and enormous, involved in the writing and production of their novels:
Germinie, Madame Gervaisais, Renée Mauperin, Manette Salomon (which
was the first novel of studio life, excepting Fromentin's Domenique,
in France, and one that influenced Zola greatly in his L'œuvre and
De Maupassant in his Strong as Death), Charles Demailly--a wonderful
study of journalism in Paris, a true continuation of Balzac's Lucien
Rubempré; Sœur Philomène; and, written by Edmond after the death
of Jules, La Fille Elisa, Les Frères Zemganno, La Faustin, and
Chérie. In addition, there are the nine volumes of the journal, a
study of Gavarni, the master caricaturist; vaudevilles, pantomimes,
letters, portraits, several plays, histories, études, an early novel
En 18--, and miscellany amounting in all to over forty volumes. Yet
this fraternal pair, because of their wealth and birth, are still
contemptuously alluded to as "amateurs." Yes, amateurs, indeed, in
the fullest sense of a misinterpreted word, amateurs of beautiful
sensations, amateurs in their devotion to an ideal hopeless of
attainment, amateurs who might well be patterned after in this age of
hasty production, vulgar appeal to the sentimental, to the cheap and
obvious. Aristocrats were the De Goncourts, yet their white fingers
never faltered when they held the burin and engraved in indelible
letters that first great naturalistic novel, Germinie Lacerteux, the
tale of an unhappy servant.

Even their friend De Monselet pronounced it "sculptured slime,"
and, to the curiously inclined, interesting are the _critiques_ of
Brunetière; of Barbey D'Aurevilly?--who hacked away at everybody on
general principles; of Renée Doumic, who always follows the lead
of Brunetière; of Maurice Spronck, who declared that the brothers
were victims of a malady known to psycho-physiologists as _Audition
colorée_. But there were fairer critics. The studies of Zola, Daudet,
Henri Ceard, Paul Bourget, Henry James, Emile Hennequin, the friendly
words of Turgenev, that gentle Russian giant, the valuable suggestions
of Flaubert--these were balm to the sensitive nature of Edmond de
Goncourt. He lived to head a school--hitherto rather sterile, it must
be confessed--and before his death he dowered an academy. (Ah, if all
French literary men had but a moiety of Daudet's humour in the matter
of academies!)

But the contribution of the De Goncourts to the novel will be lasting.
They have one celebrated disciple, Karl Joris Huysmans, who began
under their influence and has traced for himself over the "great
highway so deeply dug out by Zola ... a parallel path in the air by
which we may reach the Beyond and Afterward, to achieve thus, in one
word, a spiritualistic naturalism." In the last analysis Huysmans is
an artistic stepson of the epileptic Dostoïevsky, greatest of all
psychologists; and while he may have forgotten it, his first artistic
springboard was the De Goncourts.

What Henrietta Maréchal accomplished despite its failure, was in the
dialogue--modern, picturesque, and of the best style for the stage,
because it set forth the particular turn of mind of each talker; and
it was also the first attack on that stronghold of French dramatic
tradition, the monotonous semi-chanting of the conservatoire-taught
actor. Here was an elastic, natural dialogue, charged with turns of
phrases taken up from the sidewalk, neologisms, slang--in a word,
lifelike talk as opposed to the old stilted verbiage.

The play was a failure, of course, as we shall see, for extraneous
reasons. The director of the Théâtre Français, M. Edouard Thierry, put
it on, and after the sixth performance, during all of which the actors
never heard their own voices because of the organized popular tumult,
the play was withdrawn. On its publication in book form it sold better
than its author's novels--a fact Zola notes with his accustomed scent
for the perversity of mankind.

Yet, as Daudet declared, Henrietta Maréchal was throughout "a fine,
bold, and novel production. And a short time after, the same people who
had hooted it frantically applauded Heloise Paranquet and the Supplice
d'une Femme, plays of rapid action going straight to their issue, like
a train at full speed, and of which ... Henrietta Maréchal was the
inspiration. And was not the first act, taking place in the opera ball,
with its crowd, its abusive chaff, its masks joking and howling in
pursuit of each other, that close approach to life and reality, ironic
and real as a Gavarni sketch--was it not 'naturalism' on the stage
fifteen years before the word 'naturalism' was invented?"

Daudet, with characteristic delicacy and fidelity to the theme,
elsewhere describes a reading at Edmond de Goncourt's house of his Les
Frères Zemganno--those fraternal heroes of the sawdust.

When the play was read to the members of the Comédie Française,
Minister Rouher--who afterward distinguished himself so terribly in
the Franco-Prussian War!--suggested to the trembling authors that
the valiant girl, who assumes her mother's guilt and is shot dead by
her enraged father, be wounded only, and marry her mother's lover!
Charming, is it not? The suggestion was frowned down by Marshal
Vaillant, an old soldier, who did not fear the smell of stage powder.

Written in 1863, Henrietta Maréchal was not produced until December 5,
1865, at the Comédie Française, and after its speedy withdrawal it was
not revived until March 3, 1885, at the Odéon. In the preface to the
De Goncourts' Théâtre, Edmond wrote of the painful struggles the pair
endured to obtain a hearing. They composed a vaudeville, Sans Titre,
which was not heard, and followed this by other attempts, during which
they slowly attained some knowledge of dramatic construction, and in
1867 followed Henrietta Maréchal with a five-act prose drama called
La Patrie en Danger. This was also read at the Française, in 1868,
admired, and dropped. Edmond declared it superior to its predecessor.
It deals with the epoch of the French Revolution, and need not concern
us now.

Of interest is his declaration that in the novel he is a realist (he
is really a modified romantic, with a romantic vocabulary, selecting
for subjects modern themes); but in the drama he totally disagrees
with Zola and his naturalistic formulas as applied to the theatre.
They have dug up a letter he sent over a decade ago to M. Lothar, who
made the German translation of La Faustin. It all is to be found in
this preface of 1879. De Goncourt, who naturally ranks the drama below
the novel as literature, upholds the conventions of the former. The
drama is by its nature romantic and limited in scope. The monologues,
asides, dénouements, sympathetic characters, and the rest must always
endure. He does think, however, that reality may be brought nearer, and
that literary language should give place to a style which will reveal
the irregularity and abruptness of vital conversation. In this latter
particular he has been a benefactor. Unnatural theatrical dialogue he
slew with his supple, free, naturally coloured speech in Henrietta
Maréchal. Stage talk should be, De Goncourt asserted, flowing and
idiomatic--never bookish. The ball scene in Henrietta proves that the
brothers could practise as well as preach.

It is a mistake, too, to think that their novels and plays are immoral
or hinge always on the eternal triangle. Various passions are treated
by them in their air-tight receiver; their methods of psychological
evisceration recall the laboratory of an analytical chemist. In
Germinie it is the degradation of a woman through weakness; in Madame
Gervaisais--that Odyssey of a woman's soul--it is the mystic passion
for religion; in Manette Salomon, art and woman and their dangers to
the impressionable artistic temperament; Charles Demailly pictures
the gulfs of despair into which the literary, the poetic soul may be
plunged; Sœur Philomène shows the combat between religious vows
and nature; and so on through a wide gamut. And these two nervous
artists have been mockingly called maniacs, their work has been derided
as inutile--that work which practically reconstructed the artistic
life of the eighteenth century and discovered to itself the artistic
soul of the nineteenth. If they had remained normal units of their
class, they would have gambled, shot pigeons, sported mistresses, and
dabbled in racing, drinking, and the other sterilities of fashionable
life. They preferred art, and they were rewarded in the usual
fashion. The singular thing is that they expected, ingenuous souls,
encouragement from their world. Fame came only when Jules was dead
and Edmond too old and embittered to appreciate it. The survivor saw
his ideas appropriated by Zola and the younger crowd, and cheapened
and coarsened beyond all likeness to the original. What, then, must
have been the dismay and perplexity of the brothers when they heard
the hissing, catcalls, groans, and yells of an organized clique sworn
to kill Henriette Maréchal? The body of the house was not hostile;
but politics, the Republican opposition to the patronage of the
Bonapartes, aroused students on the other side of the Seine, and a
scandalous scene, only equalled by the Parisian productions of Hernani
and Tannhäuser, occurred. Strangely enough, Théophile Gautier, who had
figured in the Hernani fracas, had written the prologue to Henrietta
Maréchal, and spoke it without opposition from the malcontents, though
he was the librarian of Princess Mathilde. Not a word could be heard
in any of the scenes, and when Got, the comedian who played in the
cast,--the rest were Delaunay, the Lafontaines, Arnould-Plessis,
Bressant, and other distinguished artists,--appeared to announce, as
was the custom, the authors' names, he stood for ten minutes unable to
make himself heard in the terrific hubbub. The Journal of the brothers
contains a minute account of the affair, and of their terror as they
stood, pale, breathless, peeping out upon a disordered sea of human
faces. After all, it is a joy, despite its frequent injustice, to see
a community take its drama seriously and not merely as a first aid to

The De Goncourts had the satisfaction a few weeks later to hear
Molière's Précieuses Ridicules hissed by the same mob believing that it
was Henrietta Maréchal.

Reading this play to-day one can see that its novelties must have
provoked hostility, though such critics as Jules Janin, Gautier,
Sarcey, Uhlbach, Nestor Roqueplan, Paul de Saint-Victor, and others
wrote impartial and enthusiastic criticisms. The middle-aged woman who
loves a young man was not pleasing upon the boards, and her daughter's
death at the pistol of her father caused a shudder; for it was the rank
side of adultery exhibited without that pleasing gloze of sentiment so
dear to the average Gallic playwright and public. Naturally politics
caused the row, for Princess Mathilde had steered the play into the
notice of M. Thierry. The speeches are too long and the action moves
languidly. Perhaps, after he had surveyed the situation in a calmer
mood, Edmond de Goncourt was impelled to write his preface espousing
the methods of Meilhac and Halévy. He said, among other acute things,
that the avarice in Molière's play, L'Avare, was "l'avarice bouffe"
when compared with the powerful and compelling study made by Balzac of
Père Grandet.

He also records the cynical remark of a well-known actress who, after
listening to the æsthetic _blague_ in a well-known literary group,
broke forth with this apostrophe, "Vous êtes jeunes, vous autres, mais
le théâtre au fond, mes enfants, c'est l'absinthe du mauvais lieu," and
to his dying day Edmond de Goncourt called the theatre a place for the
exercises of educated dogs or an exhibition of marionettes spouting
their tirades. Between these extremes he thought there was a place
where artistic spirit might be displayed in a dignified and beautiful
style. But he never found that place, despite his poignant finale, when
Henrietta declares that her mother's lover is her own.

Contrast this effective, if too heroic, dénouement with the cold
cynicism of Maurice Donnay in L'Autre Danger, where a pure girl is
forced by cruel circumstances to hear her mother's shame published, to
learn the awful news that the man she loves is the lover of her mother,
and, to cap this assault upon our nerves, the lover is made to marry
the wretched girl so as to divert suspicion from the inhuman mother.

In the grip of his dark pessimism Edmond de Goncourt predicted that in
fifty years the book would kill the theatre. It was about nine years
later that Ernest Renan, according to Octave Uzanne, said one evening
in conversation among friends, "Fifty years hence no one will open a
book." Both prophecies are likely to come to naught. Bad books, bad
plays, we shall always have with us. Life seems too brief for the
larger cultivation of beautiful art.





When this extraordinary woman first came to New York in January,
1893, she attracted a small band of admirable lunatics who saw her
uncritically as a symbol rather than as an actress. Some of us went
to fantastic lengths in our devotion. She was Our Lady of Evil, one
of Baudelaire's enigmatic women; Mater Malorium, a figure out of De
Quincey's opium-stained dreams; she was not only superior to Sarah of
the Sardou régime, but the true successor to Rachel. This semi-absurd
jumbling of Poe, Swinburne, Baudelaire, and the Elizabethans--what
a tremendous Duchess of Malfi we fancied Duse would make!--was not
altogether the fabric of fantasy. Nor was personality the strongest
asset in her art. She had suffered academic training; she had practised
when young all the scales of thumb-rule theatricalism; she had played
Cosette when a child and knew Electra. The apprenticeship then had been
exhausting, the thirty-six situations she had by heart, a long race
of play actors determined her vocation, and yet she rose superior to
all these things, to experiences that would have either crushed or made
mechanical the average artist. Life with its disillusionments was the
sculptor that finally wrought the something precious and strange we
recognize in Eleonora Duse.

Without especial comeliness, without the golden ductile voice of
Bernhardt, Duse so drilled her bodily organs that her gestures,
angular if executed by another, become potent instruments; her voice,
once rather thin, siccant, now gives a soft, surprised speech; and
her face is the mirror of her soul. Across it flit the agonies, the
joys, of the modern anæmic, overwrought woman. She excels in the
delineation of listless, nervous, hysterical, and half-mad souls. She
passes easily from the passionate creatures of Dumas and Sardou to
the chillier-blooded women of Ibsen and Sudermann, unbalanced and out
of tune with their surroundings. Shall we ever forget her reading of
Vladimir's letter in Fédora? And yet her assumption of the Russian
was a tour-de-force of technic; temperamentally the rôle belongs to
the hotter-tongued Bernhardt. With Santuzza, a primitive nature,
she accomplished wonders. That miserable, deserted girl, in a lowly
Sicilian village, with her qualms of conscience, her nausea, her hunted
looks--here was Verga's heroine stripped of all Mascagni's rustling
music, the soul showing clear and naked against the sordid background
of Cavalleria Rusticana.

The slinking ferocity of Cesarine's entrance into her husband's
atelier; the scene with Antonine; the interview of Camille with
Armand's father; the gracious gayety of Goldoni's La Locandiera; that
hideous battle of an exasperated man and woman before the closed
doors in Fernande; Magda's wonderful blush as she meets Kellar, the
cold-hearted prig, who ruined her--all these stale situations and
well-worn types, Magda being an honourable exception, Duse literally
re-created. In them we felt the power of her intellect, the magic of
the woman. And she stared tradition in the face by refusing to "make
up," unconcealing her own hair and doing nothing to restrict the
plasticity of her figure. Now she wears wigs, uses rouge discreetly,
for her hair is gray and her face more matured. But her art is broader,
though losing none of its former subtlety. There is more weight, more
brilliancy, in her action and gesture, and that doubtless prompted some
critics to compare her to Sarah Bernhardt. But she is still Eleonora
Duse, the woman with the imagination, the glance, and the beautiful

The wisdom of her choice in selecting only D'Annunzio's dramas is not
altogether apparent. She will listen to no advice; perhaps she is on
a mission; perhaps she wishes to make known everywhere the genius of
her young countryman, and to go back with the means to raise upon the
border of Lake Albano a great independent theatre, the poet's dream
of a dramatic Bayreuth. The D'Annunzio plays are not of the kind that
appeal to the larger public. For the student of contemporary drama they
are of surpassing interest in their freedom from conventional stage
trickery and characterization; La Gioconda, La Citta Morta, are really
lyric masterpieces in little, though many will wince at the themes,
at their bold development and treatment. When floated on the wings of
Richard Wagner's mighty music in Die Walküre, the incestuous loves of
Siegmund and Sieglinde are applauded; prose, be it as polished and
as sonorous as D'Annunzio's, has not the same privilege as music. So
the motto of Catulle Mendès for a playhouse has a point, "Abandon all
reality ye who would enter here." And D'Annunzio never falters before
harsh reality, as those who have read his romances well know. In each
of his plays we assist at the toilette of a woman's soul.

Duse's art, however, covers a multitude of D'Annunzio's
morbidities--everything that does not derive from bread and butter,
children in arms, politics, dog-shows and gowns, is adjudged morbid
by a world that feeds on divorce scandals, crimes of the day, and the
diversions of multi-millionnaires. D'Annunzio, who does not pretend to
be a mere painter of manners, is given over entirely to the portraying
of the primary passions. This Swinburne of Italy became famous in
his sixteenth year (he was born in 1864, and his real name is said to
be Gaetano Rapagnetto). Since then he has succeeded the poet Carducci
in the affections of a certain public, though his poetic ancestry may
be easily traced to Shelley, Baudelaire, Carducci, and Stecchetti.
From verse he passed to prose, writing in a highly coloured, fluid
style a group of novels called The Romances of the Rose, Lily, and
Pomegranate. The Triumph of Death is the best known to English and
American readers, though Fuoco--The Flame of Life--set wagging
the tongues of the curious by its carefully exposed portraits of a
celebrated Italian actress and D'Annunzio himself. In that astonishing
performance, the taste of which can be hardly gauged by any but Latin
standards, one of the D'Annunzio plays--The Dead City--is set forth
in detail. Whether the betrayal of a woman's soul--for D'Annunzio is
a true soul-hunter--was made with the concurrence of the subject, no
one seems to know. Of the psychologic value of the study there can be
but one opinion. It is unique, it is painful, it is appallingly true.
D'Annunzio now enjoys a European reputation. His art, despite its
exquisite workmanship, is still a gallery of echoes. He has absorbed
all contemporary culture, and so chiselled is his prose that he has
been called "the Italian Flaubert." A profound student of the classics,
he is rich in his scholarly allusions. The late Pope is said to have
delighted in the melodious thunder-pool of his style. From Balzac,
Flaubert, Zola, Bourget, Daudet, Maeterlinck, Tolstoy, and Dostoïevsky
he has absorbed much; while he evidently knows the English classics.
Some of his dramatic figures seem to have stepped out of John Webster
or John Ford's pages. In his short tales, Novelle della Pescara, he
has utilized a number of De Maupassant's themes, in an individual
manner; but the assimilation is complete. Compare La Ficelle and
Foire de Candea--the transposition of character and place are most
deftly accomplished, as a writer in the _Mercure de France_ has shown.
That D'Annunzio has chosen to depict decadent men and women, and all
bristling with vitality, is his personal idiosyncrasy. His chief defect
is an absolute lack of humour, and this, coupled with the tropical
quality of his art, causes a certain monotony--we breathe a dense,
languorous atmosphere. Human interest in the daily sense of the phrase
is often absent. He loves nature. He describes her lovingly. His formal
sense is exquisite; yet too much literature often kills the humanity of
his characters. And he is always more lyric than dramatic.

"Gabriele d'Annunzio," writes M. Huret, "is of medium height, slender,
not to say frail, with short, reddish hair which is growing thin on the
top of his finely shaped head, and this he brushes straight back at the
temples; his back already somewhat bent, he has the air of one of those
aristocratic beings who have begun life too soon. His ruddy mustache
is trimmed close to the lip, and the points are turned up sharply at
the corners, while the chin ends in a little pointed beard. The nose is
regular and shows strength; the division between the nostrils extends
below in a prominent lobe. His eyes, of pale blue, like a faded violet,
are half veiled by his heavy lids. Beneath these eyes the network of
fine lines tells the story of precocious weariness. The finely shaped
mouth opens widely in a smile over carefully tended teeth. And one
may search in vain in that face for any trace of the overwhelming,
almost savage, sensuality which his privileged hero manifests in all
his novels. The appearance of his physiognomy as a whole is rather
self-contained and cold. He is a thinker, assuredly quite master of
himself, much more given to enthusiasm over a beautiful verse than
capable of a real emotion over another's grief. Besides, has he not
written, 'One must keep one's liberty complete at any cost, even in

D'Annunzio has ever been a spoiled darling of the Muses. At the age
of sixteen, after he had published that turbulently erotic book of
verse, Primo Vere, Marc Monnier, the critic, wrote of him in the _Revue
Suisse_, "If I were one of his masters I should give him a medal and
the stick."

It is to be hoped that with increasing age and experience he will
pierce beneath the vesture of things and seek for the message
spiritual. He is now the poet of the fleshly, albeit an interpreter of
its beauties. The poet in him celebrates the joy of living, the joys
of love, of death,--oh, he can pipe you many sweet lays of Death the
Triumpher!--of wine, of art. He has just begun to write for the stage,
and is unduly preoccupied with the sumptuousness of externals, with the
bravery of words, with the torturing complexities of character.


Gabriele d'Annunzio's La Gioconda is a four-act tragedy of power,
beauty, and horror. Despite the reputation of the poet-dramatist
and his undeniable qualities of copious invention, skilful
characterization, and prime literary ability, this piece was not warmly
received in Italy. Its unrelieved analysis, its slowly accumulating
burden of misery, and the cruelty of the climax do not allure the
average listener. And the poet in D'Annunzio shows at every line--there
are many gorgeous ones spoken in La Gioconda.

Duse possesses the subtle hands of that painter's Lisa Gioconda, and
as the motive of D'Annunzio's play springs from a pair of hands--its
original title was The Tragedy of the Beautiful Hands--Signora Duse
makes of her fingers ten eloquent signals.

The opportunity for theatric climax is rare in La Gioconda; but
when it does come the effect is strong. A wife, whose love and
devotion are slighted, dares to face her rival in the studio of the
sculptor-husband. He has endeavoured desperately to wean himself from
his passion for the model who posed as his masterpiece, a Sphinx.
Attempted suicide before the action of the play proved how deeply sunk
in his imagination is this crazy infatuation. His wife meets the woman,
who is young, beautiful, strange, and absolutely enamoured of the
sculptor. Of her sincerity there is no doubt. Then the dramatist throws
wire-drawn analysis to the winds and in a scene of peculiar brutality
the women duel for the possession of the gifted, worthless man.

Here Duse's imagination and technic are revealed. She must remain the
refined woman, though her brain is afire, her soul up in arms. In acrid
terms of reproach and irony she defies the temptress of her husband,
knowing full well that he is lost to her; in the very flush of defeat
she would pluck victory by the sleeve. Startled by the ready assurance,
enraged by the seemingly triumphant wife, Gioconda, the model, rushes
into the atelier, bent upon destroying her counterfeit in clay,--that
figure she so lovingly guarded during the sculptor's illness.

She had watched the work of his soul, while his wife nursed only his
sick body. With this she taunts the other. In despair before the
looming catastrophe, Duse, the wife, cries that she has lied, that her
husband still loves his model. But it is too late. The struggle of the
women is heard. A crash and a scream announce that the statue has been
overthrown. Then an ugly Sardou motive is obtruded.

With the shadow of eternal regret in her eyes, her hands wrapped in the
wet cloths that bound the clay, Duse staggers from behind the draperies
of the atelier. She has saved her husband's statue, but her beautiful
hands are hopelessly maimed. This scene is hideously cruel. And to top
the _crescendo_ of woe, the vacillating man runs in. "You, you, you!"
sobs his wife; "it is saved," and the curtain blots the agonizing
situation from our eye, not from our memory.

The play might be truthfully called The Triumph of Art, for, if it
poses any problem at all, it is this: What will an artist, a sensuous,
weak decadent, do when confronted by the choice of relinquishing his
wife or his mistress? The latter is surpassingly beautiful, and, as he
tells his friend, the painter, in Act I, she is his sole inspiration,
the guiding pillar of flame for his art. "She has a thousand statues
in her," in that marvellous body that "is like a look." He loves his
wife, too, but she does not reveal to him his entire creative self. She
is a staff to lean upon, not an electric impulse in his life. To the
everyday observer all this seems a variation of an old story. Lucio is
tired of Silvia, his wife, and dazzles himself with the sophistries of
art--base sensuality being the real reason for his behaviour.

But this supposition is only a half-truth. Lucio has a species of
accursed temperament that needs must feed upon the exquisite surfaces
of beautiful things. He is a true artist of mediæval times, loving
colour and form for their own sake; art for art is his motto, as it was
Benvenuto Cellini's, as it was George Eliot's Tito Melemo. Lucio's most
eloquent speech describes the appeal Gioconda makes to his artistic
nature, the creative ardour she arouses. This speech is of much

Despicable as is the man,--and we never doubt his ultimate desertion
of his wife,--there is no denying the grim truth with which he is
depicted. That he is not sympathetic is hardly our affair. It is bad
art to preach, and that D'Annunzio never does. He simply sets before
us, with consummate address, a few episodes in the life of an unhappy
family, leaving us to draw our own inferences. His men and women are
genuinely alive, and, given their various temperaments, they act as
they inevitably would in the world of the living.

The character of the wife, Silvia, is beautiful despite the dissonance
of the fatal untruth she utters. Without mawkish sentimentality, she
divines the eternal child that is the basis of every artist, and so she
forgives her husband. As portrayed by Duse, one feels that lurking in
the sanctuary of her innermost being there is the sad, bitter suspicion
that her sacrifice will be in vain.

But she stops not to count the cost, and, at the end of Act I, when the
emotional, weak-spined fellow, touched by her sacrifice, casts himself
sobbing at her knees, her great heart surrenders, and she pets and
pities him. The exquisite tenderness, soft credulity, and suppressed
sweetness of Duse here sound like a strain of marvellous music. The
chords of human sympathy sing melodiously. And her every movement has
the actuality of life.

After the third act any dramatist would have cried quits. Not so
D'Annunzio. He wishes to tell us that Silvia is deserted forever.
Pathos, poetic in its quality, contrasts with the horror of the
preceding scene. We are shown Silvia at the seaside, her crushed hands
concealed. To her comes La Sirenetta, an elfin creature of the sea,
a tiny, fantastic fisher maid, who sings the delightful ballad of
the Seven Sisters and consoles the sorrowful wife and mother. Yes,
Silvia has a daughter, Beata, who is kept in ignorance of her mother's

It is now that the spectator feels the remorseless grip of the poet.
La Sirenetta offers a star-fish to Silvia and wonders why she does not
accept it. She is the solitary shaft of sunshine in the play. Beata
runs in with flowers for her mother. It is a poignant touch. The chilly
indifference of the dramatist to the suffering of his characters, his
complete detachment, is art of a rarefied sort, though not the art
that will endear him to all. "Beata!" exclaims the poor mother, making
a futile gesture with her mutilated arms. "You are crying! You are
crying!" sobs the child, throwing herself upon her mother's breast. The
flowers slip to earth.

A trait of Duse is the stifling of her tears when her sister
visits her. She involuntarily lifts her arms, and then, checking
herself with an indescribable movement, she rests her face upon her
sister's shoulder. There the tears fall. There she dries them. It is
characteristic Duse. Her entire assumption is on the plane of exalted
realism. We know that Silvia has a beautiful, strong soul, that she
succumbs to the awful pressure of temptation; and the lie she tells
is henceforth a memory never lifted from her life. In a measure she
accepts with resignation physical torture and loss of her husband.
D'Annunzio has not before created such a noble woman. Lucio is only
a variant of his typical man: George Aurispa, Andrea Sperelli, and
the rest of his amateurs in corruption and artistic hunters of morbid
sensation. Silvia is unique. Silvia is adorable as Duse presents her.
Throughout this most human among actresses is in constant modulation;
her very silence is pregnant with suggestion. She is the exponent of an
art that is baffling in its coincidence with nature. From nature what
secret accents has this Italian woman not overheard?--secrets that she
embodies in her art.

There are many beauties in the play, beauties of style, though the
dialogue in the early acts is in excess of the movement This is quite
in consonance with continental ideas of playwriting. In Europe the
art of elocution is not a lost one, as it is on the English stage.
The Italians and the French often speak for the sheer beauty of their
expressive tongues. So the action halts and there are some amateurish
strokes betrayed in the bringing on of his characters by D'Annunzio.
But the burning rhetoric of the young poet lends fascination to several
scenes--notably the interview of painter and sculptor in Act II. His
brother-poet, Arthur Symons, has Englished D'Annunzio's prose and has
accomplished his task with rare distinction.


D'Annunzio's Francesca da Rimini is glorified melodrama. It is
unnecessary to revert to the plays, poems, books, pictures, symphonies,
that have been made with the unhappy loves of Francesca and Paolo as
a theme. From the day when the great Florentine exile sang in Canto V
of his Hell, "In its leaves that day we read no more," Dante inspired
painters, poets, sculptors,--Rodin not among the least,--musicians,
and playwrights. Leigh Hunt wrote The Story of Rimini; there is George
Boker's commonplace play, in which Lawrence Barrett, Louis James, Otis
Skinner, and others have appeared; there is an old play by Silvio
Pellico, and the two new settings of the story by Stephen Phillips and
Marion Crawford--the latter's version prepared for Sarah Bernhardt--are
of yesterday's doings. Both Liszt and Tschaïkowsky have composed
symphonic poems on the subject.

And now D'Annunzio, as if he wished to demonstrate his fitness in
the handling of any dramatic form, conceived and executed a species
of poetic melodrama in which the life of a feudal period is unrolled
before us in five glowing tableaux. Prodigality of colour, bloody war,
horrid lusts, are mingled artistically with the processional attitudes
of tirewomen, sweet singing, and interludes of lyric passion. As in
a mirrored dream of Burne-Jones, Francesca moves slowly from rapt
maidenhood to forced marriage; from unhappy marriage to deception and
death. Not content to follow the bare lines of the ancient chronicle,
the playwright weaves into his symphony of adulterous passion historic
episodes and pictures of manners. It is one epoch of strange, repellent
contrasts. Souls are danced to the tune of graceful madrigals, and
roses often dyed a deeper hue by blood. In the sphere of action the
play mostly lives, though there are some halting moments of poetic
delicacy and introspection set over against operatic episodes. We
first assist at a scene of jester and damsels which recalls Bandello
or Boccaccio. It is gay and humorous, with the coarse, unseemly humour
of the time. Alberich, teased by the three mermaids in Rheingold, is
recalled. Two brothers of Francesca indulge in fierce recriminations
during which a veiled accusation of attempted parricide is made, with
the result that murder is barely escaped.

Francesca is deliberately betrayed by her brother, Ostasio Polenta,
into the arms of the "Lamester" Giovanni Malatesta. She believes that
she is wedding his brother Paolo, called the handsome one, skilled in
the fine arts, of goodly presence, a warrior and a lover of sport. By
a device near the close of Act I he is made to pass and be seen by
Francesca. She goes to her doom willingly. She loves, but does not know
that Paolo is a married man.

In the second act, a year later, Francesca, in a Saracenic headdress,
seems to have aged ten years. On the battlement of her husband's
fortress, amid the enginery of war, Greek fire boiling in the caldron,
darts flaming, missiles, catapults, ballista, and outlandish weapons
that crowd the summit of the tower, she stands. There is a terrific
din; crossbows twang, shoutings and tocsins are heard. Francesca,
displaying true mediæval immobility at all these sights and sounds,
hovers about the platform, questioning, curious.

She insists on tampering with a torch of the deadly Greek fire, and
it evokes from the poet a flock of his flaming images that Swinburne
alone might parallel. As Paolo enters, eager for the fight, Francesca's
attitude shifts. At once we see her aroused interest. She loved him,
loves him. Their interview contains some striking speeches. "And then I
saw your face, silent between the spears of the horsemen," she tells
him, and adds that then she longed for death. He replies in a like
exalted strain. He exposes himself at the open portcullis, and she
trembles but is brave.

Her Pater Noster is an outlet for her overcharged feelings. It was
delivered by Duse with shivering eloquence. The intensity of the scene
is heightened by the entrance of her husband, surnamed Gianciotto. He
limps, but is a mighty warrior in the land. The characters of the two
brothers are exposed in a few lines. Still another brother appears,
Malatestino. He is the youngest. His eye has just been destroyed during
this battle. Malevolent, cruel, he too loves Francesca. In a later act
he plays the part of Iago to his elder brother.

Act III is in the earlier half both a picture and a promise. Little
happens. We see Francesca in a rare room, with the Adriatic Sea
glimpsed through the open windows. This scene is beautifully presented.
Upon a unique lectern is placed a tome, The History of Launcelot of
the Lake, the very book mentioned by Dante as the fatal one. There
are girlish jesting and chattering. Francesca reads aloud. It may be
noticed that at the beginning of Act I the old romance of Tristan and
Isolde is alluded to, thus suggesting the ultimate ending of Francesca
and Paolo.

Throughout there are these delicate loops of leading motives binding
firmly the somewhat loosely built dramatic tale. Francesca relates her
dream to her slave, Smaragdi. It is of a pursuit through dim woods of a
naked woman by a savage knight and his mastiffs. The vision always ends
in the same manner. The knight cuts out her heart and throws it to the
hungry dogs; they devour it.

The entrance of a voluble merchant and later an astrologer and the
jester relaxes the tense melancholy of the love-lorn lady. A scene of
bright foolery follows. It is touched by no little fancy. And then the
slave whispers that Paolo is without. Sending away her people, she
receives him. There is the inevitable duo of amorous despair and the
fateful reading. Here D'Annunzio handles a foreseen situation with
poetic skill. He manages to create an atmosphere of suspense from the
beginning. The final cry of Francesca, "No, Paolo!" is worth a page of
overwrought adjectives and writhing embraces.

Act IV, the cruellest of the five, is devoted to the arousing of
Giovanni's suspicions. This is easily accomplished by Malatestino, the
wicked younger brother. Jealous of Paolo, he shocks Francesca with his
hints, his hot advances, and the hideous cruelty he exhibits in cutting
off the head of a prisoner. He drags on the stage the head, enveloped
in a bag. It is heavy, he remarks. Oddly enough, D'Annunzio manages
matters so that we sympathize with the deceived husband--rather an
un-Latin proceeding.

In the final act D'Annunzio, we feel, has Shakespeare before him. The
scene of Othello is evoked at once, not in incident, but because of
the spiritual, tragic atmosphere. Francesca is asleep; she moans, for
she dreams. Her maidens are sent away. Her slave is called, but comes
not. Tricked by this plotted absence, Paolo enters. The lovers are soon
caught and slain by Giovanni, who breaks his sword across his knee.
Every detail is admirably managed.

Not the least potent factor is the absence of all remorse shown by
Francesca. The victim of deceit, she does not hesitate to deceive
in return. In her love passages, Duse was truthful to a degree. She
invested Francesca with just the proper poise, dignity, and suppressed

Francesca da Rimini is the first of D'Annunzio's dramatic efforts that
attracted popular favour. It is an interesting rather than a great
play, though full of inspiring poetry. It was first given, December 9,
1901, at Teatro Costanzi, Rome, by the Duse Company, with the exception
that Gustavo Salvini was the Paolo on that occasion.


Compared to La Gioconda, The Dead City is a highly polished specimen
of the static drama; there is little that is dynamic until the
scene before the last. And the theme, thunder-charged as it is with
symbolism, is fitter for reading than for publication before the
footlights. The play is literature first, drama afterward. Sarah
Bernhardt produced it in Paris.

Incest as a subject for dramatic treatment is no new thing. The
Greeks employed it as a leit-motive of horror, and in the Œdipus
of Sophocles, the Hippolytus of Euripides--we recall with grateful
memories Bernhardt's puissant Phèdre in Racine's paraphrase of the
Greek dramatist--and in the Bible itself this dire theme may be
encountered, though no modern has had the courage to set the episode
of Tamar and Amnon in the Book of Samuel. Later, in the flush of
the seventeenth-century dramatic renascence, John Ford wrote his
masterpiece, The Brother and Sister.

In that play, admired of Charles Lamb, is set forth with a wealth of
realism undreamed of by D'Annunzio and the Greeks the details of a
lamentable passion, and so cunning is the art of Ford that we find
ourselves pitying the unhappy pair, Giovanni and Annabella, poor
play-things of the gods. Of Wagner's Die Walküre it is unnecessary to
speak. Music, as Henry James remarks, is a great solvent.

But mark the handling of the young Italian poet. Obsessed by the
Greeks, he has constructed his tragedy on antique lines. Crime is
hinted at; we even see an adulterous love--for evil passions hunt in
couples throughout this dream-like story--in development; almost is a
catastrophe precipitated. The incest, however, is potential. It is
only an idea. It scourges the two men like whips in the hands of the
avenging Furies. And it finally dooms an innocent creature, hopelessly
involving at the same time the happiness of three survivors.

It is then a crime contemplated, not accomplished, this love of a
brother for a sister. A critic might show that the Italian poet's form
is a replica of the Greek with several variations; there is a breach of
unity of place in the last act, and no "false catastrophe" is hinted
at in the fourth act. This W. F. Apthorp has pointed out. It is not
the sole departure. Instead of presenting us with a frozen imitation
of Grecian tragedy, like most writers who have attempted to cope with
the classics, D'Annunzio frankly filled the antique mould with modern

His men and women are modern; they are of to-day, neurotic, morbid,
febrile souls. And this modern atmosphere is a jangling dissonance to
them that prefer their tragedy unadulterated. Without an ounce of John
Ford's lusty Elizabethan animalism, D'Annunzio so contrives his play of
character and shock of incident that we are disquieted, dismayed, not
so much by the theme as by its insidious music.

With his customary audacity he places his action in Greece, on the
plain of Argolis; archæology is the background. Four friends are
engaged in excavating the dead city of Mycenæ, where Schliemann
discovered, or thought he discovered, the tombs and dusty bones of the
Homeric heroes. From these tainted remains is exhaled the moral malaria
that sets in action D'Annunzio's piece. It is a genuinely original and
morbid idea.

The house of the men of Atreus is dug up, and from it comes spiritual
pollution. Like a master of string-quartet writing the author has
manipulated his four characters so skilfully that the melody worked is
ever mysterious, ever melancholy. Anna is blind; she is the wife of
Alessandro, a poet and scholar. Alessandro is morally blind, for he
loves the younger Bianca, the sister of his friend Leonardo. Leonardo,
the successful explorer and rifler of Homeric tombs, loves his own
sister,--that ancient poison working in his veins,--and with this
uncanny combination D'Annunzio plays his sinister tunes, evokes his
strange harmonies.

There is no necessity of disputing the daring of this scheme, and
just as inutile would be a discussion of its ethics. It seems that
in his three plays, La Gioconda, La Citta Morta, and Francesca da
Rimini, D'Annunzio has tried his 'prentice hand at modern realism,
ancient tragedy, and historical melodrama. They are all three largely
experimental, and, it must not be forgotten, the works of a beginner.

It is the externals of the drama with which we are more concerned. Of
five acts three were placed in the _loggia_ of Leonardo's house; Act II
is the interior of the same house; Act V a fountain not far away. It
is then a soul tragedy that is enacted, and one cannot quite escape
the feeling that much study of Maeterlinck has been responsible for
the sullen, depressing atmosphere. There is in the dialogue, with its
haunting repetitions, the same electric apprehension sensed in the
Belgian's poems. Gestures, movements, the music of sonorous speech,
slow glances, and pauses--the pause is a big factor in Maeterlinck--are
woven into a sort of incomprehensible symphony.

Seemingly subordinate, Eleonora Duse is the real protagonist. Blind,
though not from birth, because of her exquisite tactile sensibility
she understands the love of her husband for her friend. An exalted
sentiment of renunciation prompts her to probe this secret passion,
and when she discovers that Bianca is languishing, too, her mind is
made up. She will efface herself. She will slay her useless life, So
that two souls may thrive in happiness. More than this, she tempts her
husband with the ripe beauty of Bianca. Here is an un-Greek idea at
once. It is altruism gone mad. From Anna is mercifully kept the unholy
love of the brother; nor is it revealed to Bianca. Therein lies another
deviation from antique models. A story in classical literature is never
told obliquely.

Duse, who has extraordinary powers of intuition, the logic of her
temperament, impersonated Anna with unvarying truth and veiled
sweetness, indicating by shades almost too fine for the frame of the
theatre her mental attitudes toward her companions. There are few
climaxes for her, the part being a passive one, the action being buried
in the text. But she has opportunities. Her cry for "Light!" is one;
and almost at the drop of the last curtain she finds her way to the
fountain where, lured by the brother Alessandro, Bianca, his hapless
victim, is murdered by being drowned in the murmuring waters which the
pair have so often watched.

Anna utters the names in the terrified accents of the lost blind. She
seeks, too, her husband. All the day she anticipated tragedy. It hung
over her soul like a smoky pall. She feels her way to the fountain and
there touching with her feet the body of the dead girl she distractedly
searches for signs of life. It is a dramatic moment. Then arising with
a shudder she shouts, joyfully:--

"Vedo! Vedo!" ("I see! I see!"). Her physical sight is restored and
her own hold on life becomes at once intensified; her unselfishness
is shed. And it is at this hopeless moment that the dramatist unseals
her vision and closes his play, leaving the wretched woman to face the
loss of Bianca and possibly the lunacy of her husband and his friend.
If they do not go mad it is because their nerves have become dulled
to the hideousness of life. They are abnormal; every one in the play,
excepting the girl Bianca, is abnormal. Even the nurse does not escape
the taint. She is a figure out of Maeterlinck, and doubtless knows the
madness that lurks in moon-haunted corridors!

That Duse triumphed was to be expected. She awed rather than astonished
us, her skill taking on new meanings, new colours. All together, her
art was a unique something that closely bordered on the clairvoyant.
Her helpless silences were actually terrifying; her poses most
pathetic. Bianca Maria was admirably played by Signorina Civani, the
Sirenetta of La Gioconda. She noted most fluently the loving, healthy
nature of the girl who falls a victim to the shafts of Eros. It is with
Sophocles's Antigone that the action begins; it is with a motto from
Antigone, Eros, unconquered in strife, that the play is overshadowed.


D'Annunzio's new play, The Daughter of Jorio, has achieved some success
in Italy, despite the absence of Eleonora Duse from the cast, and
despite the reaction against the enthusiasm of its _première_. When the
drama was produced at Milan it was put on for a "run," or the European
equivalent of one. There was severe criticism, but the consensus seems
to be that in his latest work that extraordinary creature, D'Annunzio,
has outshone his earlier dramatic efforts.

The chief quality that impresses itself upon the reader of La Figlia di
Jorio is its superior dramatic movement as compared, for example, with
The Dead City or Francesca da Rimini by the same writer. The first act
is full of vitality, its characterization excellent; the cuts in Acts
II and III made by D'Annunzio for the first performance greatly benefit
the somewhat sluggish _tempi_ of these scenes. The old rhetorician
and lover of beautiful phrases has not been killed in the Italian
poet, merely "scotched." For one thing, he has struck that theatrical
vein of gold, a new background, new methods of speech, new costumes,
new ideas--or, rather, most ancient ones, though novel to the stage.
Travelling with his friend, the painter Michetti, one summer in the
savage mountainous country of the Abruzzi, D'Annunzio saturated himself
with his accustomed receptivity to a strange people and environment,
which has resulted in a powerful tragedy. Like Verga's discovery of the
Sicilian peasant in Cavalleria Rusticana--a veritable treasure-trove
for that poet and also for Mascagni--D'Annunzio in his encounter with
the curious customs and pagan personalities of the hardy, superstitious
Abruzzi, was enabled to lay up a stock of images for his new work. I
doubt, however, if he has succeeded as well as Verga in getting close
to the skin and soil of this peasantry. There is more than one awkward
hiatus in The Daughter of Jorio, and an almost epileptic intensity in
the development of the witch girl's character.

The first act is the best, because the simplest and most sincere.
It shows us a living room in a rustic house. The background and
"properties" are said to be wonderfully realistic. Aligi, the shepherd,
is to marry. His bride's name is Vienda. He does not love her, for she
was chosen by his parents--and in this old Italian land the father's
command is law. The betrothal ceremonies are beginning. The groom's
sisters are near by. He is ill at ease, for he has been dreaming
strange dreams. Vienda spills the broken bread of betrothal from her
lap upon the floor. It is a maleficent sign. Suddenly there comes a
noise of shouting and music. The harvesters, crazy with drink and
the torrid heat of the sun, rush in. They have come to celebrate.
They are also chasing a human being, a miserable hunted girl of bad
repute, the daughter of Jorio, the magician. Hunted down, she claims
sanctuary in the household. Although she is of ill-fame, although
Aligi's father, Lazaro, has been wounded in a squabble about this girl,
Mila di Codra, she is sheltered by the woman. Aligi is for turning
her away; her coming spells more bad luck; the infuriated mob without
demand admittance. Enraged, the shepherd raises his staff to strike the
unhappy fugitive. As he does this he is overtaken by fresh visions;
he thinks he sees Mila guarded by a weeping angel. He falls at her
feet begging her pardon. A cross is laid over the threshold, a litany
sung by his sisters, and the angry reapers are hypnotized. They enter
singly, kiss the cross, and dissolve homeward. Lazaro enters with his
head in a bandage and Mila escapes. Another ill omen--the father and
son both love the same woman.

The second act discovers Aligi and Mila in a mountainous cave where
they have lived for six months--in a state of innocence. Here the
credulity of the spectator is taxed, and the lyric ecstasy of the poet
waxes. It is nevertheless an idyllic episode. One kiss is exchanged,
the first and the last, for Lazaro eventually finds his now disgraced
son, and with a pair of sturdy rustics comes to carry away the witch.
In the conflict that ensues the son murders the father. Act III brings
us back to the old home of Aligi. His father's corpse lies in the
garden, according to custom. The son is condemned to the awful death
of the parricide--after his offending hand is cut off he is to be tied
in a sack with a fierce dog and then thrown into the river. The end
may be surmised. One consolation is not denied him--a cup of drink to
induce forgetfulness. As the preparations are about completed Mila
bursts upon the crowded scene--an impressive one, according to printed
reports--and takes upon herself the blame of the affair. She it was,
she declares, who murdered Lazaro. Aligi curses her in his delirium,
as she is dragged away to be burnt alive, she the witch, the daughter
of Jorio. Her triumphant voice is heard to the last, while for a
background there is the chanting of the requiem and the triumphant
yelling and imprecations of the shepherds, the Abruzzi lusting for a
human sacrifice. Then the curtain falls. Several critics discern in
all this the triumph of religion over the senses--a solution that does
their ingenuity credit, though far from convincing.

It may be seen that there is real dramatic worth in the play, love
and sacrifice being its very pith. Better still, the poet has become
less self-absorbed and consequently more objective. The human note
predominates in this wild and highly coloured music. In his plays and
novels and verse he has himself been the artistic and sterile hero--as
Eleonora Duse, in the plays and one novel, their heroine. A German
critic declares that Mila is only a sister of the crazy woman in A
Spring Morning's Dream--as she, Duse, also is related to Silvia in
Gioconda, to the blind wife in The Dead City, and Francesca, as well as
La Foscarina in Fuoco, Duse, Eleonora Duse, always Duse. Lucky, thrice
happy poet, to have been inspired by such a model! To have had the
opportunity of studying such a sublime, unhappy soul as is Duse's!

A German critic speaks slightingly of Das Geklingel der schönen
Phrasen--the jingling of dulcet phrases--as a drawback to the action.
Doubtless this is true. Often we cannot hear the play because of the
words. The chief thing to be remarked, however, is the improvement
in dramatic spirit and rhythm and the gratifying supremacy of the
dramatic over the lyric and literary qualities--the latter hitherto
anti-dramatic elements in the plays of D'Annunzio.

The poet is now working on a new three-act tragedy, The Ship,--in which
Duse is to appear at La Scala this spring. The theme is Venetian--that
Venice which both Duse and D'Annunzio love so well; and also on a
modern drama entitled, The Light Under the Bushel.



"In life," said Barbey d'Aurevilly, "we are strangled between two
doors, of which the one is labelled _Too Soon_ and the other _Too
Late."_ The brilliant Beau Brummel of French literature who uttered
this fatidical speech was a contemporary of the unhappy, impulsive man
of genius, poet, mystic, and dramatist, who set Paris agog with his
novels, short stories, plays, his half-crazy conduct, his epigrams, his
fantastic litigations, and his cruel death--Villiers de l'Isle Adam.
The bosom friend of Charles Baudelaire and Richard Wagner, petted at
Bayreuth, feted in Paris, nevertheless he died in want, was buried by
his friends, and was proud, lonely, aristocratic to the very end--a
death from cancer.

His life furnishes material for one of his ironic, bitter, disturbing
tales. Born in Brittany, November 28, 1838, he died at Paris in
a religious hospital, August 19, 1889. A fierce, even militant,
Roman Catholic--he dedicated a book to the Pope--he shocked his
co-religionists by the confusing mixture of fanatical piety and
fantastic blasphemy which winds through his bizarre works. He is best
known to Americans by the story in his Contes Cruels, entitled, The
Torture by Hope, which recalls Poe at his best, the Poe of The Pit and
the Pendulum. His little play, The Revolt, was translated and first
appeared in the _Fortnightly Review_, December, 1897. Arthur Symons has
translated a poem, Aveu, and Vance Thompson, in the defunct pages of
_Mlle. New York_, wrote often of the celebrated Frenchman.

The critical bibliography of Villiers de l'Isle Adam is not a vast one.
There is, besides his principal works, only his life by his cousin
Vicomte Robert du Pontavice de Heussey; Rémy de Gourmont's brief,
sympathetic notice in his inimitable Le Livre des Masques; Anatole
France in La Vie Littéraire has dealt with the poet most subtly, as is
his wont; Arthur Symons's study; Mallarmé's lecture; a few caricatures
and a sketch by Paul Verlaine; a historic consideration by Alexis von
Kraemer, translated from the Finnish; a charming and extended étude
by Gustave Kahn; short essays by the lamented Hennequin, by J. K.
Huysmans, in A Rebours, by Sarcey, Gustave Guiches, Henry Bordeaux,
Teodor de Wyzewa, Georges Rodenbach, Catulle Mendès; and fragmentary
accounts in the ever valuable _Mercure de France_--and there the list
is snuffed out.

Not precisely dissolute, rather disorganized, the life of Adam
could be transformed into an object sermon by the wily educator and
moral-monger. But that would be a poor way of viewing it. Born without
average will power, except the will to imagine beautiful and strange
things, Villiers, as he is generally called, all his years fought the
contending impulses of his dual nature; fought bravely sometimes in
the open air with the blue sky smiling down on him; fought as if facing
an ambuscade at dark, and under the lowering clouds when all the powers
of evil were abroad and at his elbow. Then, he was what Bayard Taylor
called Edgar Poe--a bird of the night; a prowling noctambulist; a
feverish being, whose violent gestures, burning eyes, and irresolute
somnambulistic gait told the tale, the damnable and thrice-told tale,
of wasted genius.

Poe is the literary ancestor of nearly all the Parnassian and Diabolic
groups--ah, this mania for schools and groups and movements in
Paris! Poe begat Baudelaire and Baudelaire begat Barbey d'Aurevilly
and Villiers de l'Isle Adam, and the last-named begat Verlaine and
Huysmans--and a long chain of other gifted men can claim these two as
parents, even to Mallarmé, De Maupassant, and Henri de Régnier (who has
read the Horla of Guy de Maupassant will feel that therein the unhappy
disciple of Flaubert has raised to a terrifying degree the methods
of Poe; nor must Régnier's La Canne de Jaspe be forgotten). But they
all come from Poe; Poe, who influenced Swinburne through Baudelaire;
Poe, who nearly swept the young Maeterlinck from his moorings in the
stagnant fens and under the morose sky of his lowlands. If we have no
great school of literature in America, we can at least point to Poe as
the progenitor of a half-dozen continental literatures.

Villiers can be traced to Poe on one side, just as Chateaubriand is
another of his ancestors. M. de Gourmont deplores the criticism which
would detach Villiers from his time and isolate him as a species of
intellectual monster. There is much that is fantastic, even bizarre,
in his work, and he never escaped the besetting sin of his associates,
headed by Baudelaire, the childish desire to _épater le bourgeois_,
to shock conventional morality and manners by eccentric behaviour,
outrageous speech, and paradoxical writings. This legacy of the
romantic movement of 1830 really came across the water in Byron's
poses of wickedness and heroic mystifications. It was, in reality, the
Byronic attitude transposed to the Paris boulevards. Gautier wore a
pink doublet (not scarlet, he says), and it was elevated to a symbol.
Let us be scarlet, said these wild, young fellows, let our sins be
splendid! And then the crew would wander abroad, making the night
resound with their lyric outbursts, happy if a respectable citizen were
scandalized, and in their pockets, a world too wide for their money,
hardly the price of a bottle!

It was glorious, and it was art. But who cared, who knew? If a man of
Baudelaire's intellectual powers, a profound critic, genius, and poet,
could dye his hair green, simply to attract attention in the cafés
why should not men of lesser abilities follow suit and commit all
manner of extravagant pranks? Leconte de Lisle, impeccable poet and
a prim sort of person, impatiently exclaimed: "Oh, ces jeunes gens!
Tous fumistes!" And Thiers allowed to escape him the one _mot_ of his
complacent life worth remembering, "The Romanticists--that's the
Commune!" Perhaps the pink doublets and strange oaths of Ernani and
1830 were transformed into the grim figures of that later lurid epoch.

Villiers was in the very core of this artistic Paris. He slept all
day--or dreamed. At nightfall he stepped across the sill of his door,
and when he had friends, money, glory, he dined at Brébant's; when
he was shabby, he remained on the exterior boulevard. There, in some
modest café, seated at a table surrounded by disciples eager for his
ideas, his poetry, his scintillating wit,--eager to steal it and sell
it as their own,--the Master spoke, his vague blue eyes gleaming, his
long white hand waving aloft like a flag of revolt. What dreams, what
eloquence, what a soul, went under on this ignoble battle-field! What
slain ideals and poetry wasted in the very utterance, and what inroads
on a nervous, sickly constitution! But Villiers lived the life he had
elected. He was poor, always poor, and poverty makes extraordinary
bedfellows. But--his room-mates were the most intellectual spirits of
modern France. If Baudelaire could not drop in on him at his dusty
lodgings, Richard Wagner would. And so there was talk--such talk--and
there was that feeling of expansion, of liberation, which comes when a
man like Turgenev could say to Flaubert: "Cheer up, old fellow! After
all you are _Flaubert!_"

Villiers never forgot that he was Villiers. His pride, like his piety,
was Luciferian. Nobly descended, he almost fought a duel with a distant
cousin who doubted his birth. He claimed to spring from the ten times
blue blood of a Grand Master of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem,
who defended Rhodes against the Turks in the time of Charles V. With
this thought he often wandered into a café and had his absinthe charged
on the slate of the ideal, the reckoning of which no true poet listeth.

A mystic among mystics, yet his linen was not always impeccable.
Verlaine, another son of the stars and sewers, wrote, "I am far from
sure that the philosophy of Villiers will not one day become the
formula of our century." "Know, once and for all, that there is for
thee no other universe than that conception which is reflected at the
bottom of thy thoughts"--this utterance of Villiers is the keystone
of his system. In Elën (1864), his greatest drama, another idea comes
to the surface in the dialogue of Samuel and Goetze. Samuel speaks:
"Science will not suffice. Sooner or later you will end by coming to
your knees." Goetze: "Before what?" Samuel: "Before the darkness."

His life long, Villiers traversed the darkness which encompasses with
the sure, swift step of a nyctalops, one who can pierce with his
glance the deepest obscurity. So it is that in his plays and stories
we are conscious of the great mystery of life and death hemming us
about. Sometimes this atmosphere is morbidly oppressive, sometimes
it is relieved by gay, maniacal bursts of laughter. Again it lifts
and reveals the mild heavens streaked with menacing irony. There is a
lugubrious undercurrent in the buffooneries of Villiers. Philip Hale
has translated the cruel story of the swans massacred by fear. This
poet slew his soul by his evocation of terror.

He is a mystic, a spiritual romantic, and only a realist in his
sardonic pictures of Paris life, tiny cabinet pictures, etchings,
bitten out with the _aqua fortis_ of his ghastly irony. There is the
irony, a mask behind which pity, sympathy, lurk; Shakespeare wore this
mask at times. And there is the irony that withers, that blasts. This
is Villiers.

Axel is both difficult and illuminative reading. It is in four acts
with nine scenes. Each act or part is respectively entitled: The
Religious World, The Tragic World, The Occult World, The Passional
World. The poet had not known Wagner and his Tetralogy for naught. Sara
is a superb creation--but not on the boards, in the disillusioning,
depoetizing, troubled, and malarial air of the stage! It was a mistake
to play Axël in Paris. Its solemn act of rejection of life al the
moment "when life becomes ideal" is hardly fitting for the theatre. A
drama to be played by poets before a parterre of poets! Arthur Symons
has noticed with his accustomed acuity that "the modern drama under the
democratic influence of Ibsen, the positive influence of Dumas _fils_,
has limited itself to the expression of temperaments in the one case,
of theoretic intelligences in the other, in as nearly as possible the
words which the average man would use for the statement of his emotions
and ideas. The form, that is, is degraded below the level of the
characters whom it attempts to express."

It is a point well taken, though I feel inclined to rebel at the
pinning down of form to language alone. Ibsen's terseness--and remember
we only see him in the cold light of Mr. Archer's translations--is one
of his merits; but his form, his dramatic form, is not alone in his
text, but in the serene and ordered procession of his dramatic action.
Villiers is more poetically eloquent than the Ibsen of the prose
dramas. But as logical or as dramatic--!

Mr. Symons adds, "La Révolte, which seems to anticipate A Doll's
House, shows us an aristocratic Ibsen, touching reality with a certain
disdain, certainly with far less skill, certainly with far more
beauty." For me in a play of character the beauty that appeals is not
purely verbal. It is the beauty of character _quâ_ character, and the
beauty of events marshalled like a great sequence of mysterious music,
humming with the indefinable harmonies of life. Ibsen makes this music;
so does Gerhart Hauptmann. Axël is noble drama, despite its formal
shortcoming, its dream-like quality. Many went begging to Villiers,
and few came away empty-handed. Prodigal in genius, he was prodigal in

This poet, like most poets, loathed mediocrity. He sought the
exceptional, the complex soul. "A chacun son infini," he said; and
in Axel he cries: "As for living, our servants will do that for us!
As at the play in a central stall, one sits out so as not to disturb
one's neighbours--out of courtesy, in a word--some play written in a
wearisome style of which one does not like the subject, so I lived,
out of politeness." Here is the gauge cast disdainfully to those who
forever pelt us with sweet phrases about loving our neighbour, about
altruism, sympathy, and social obligations--all the self-illuding,
socialistic cant, in a word, that rankles in the breast of the solitary
proud man and poisons the mind of the weak. Villiers is the exorcist of
the real, the bearer of the ideal, wrote De Gourmont, himself a poetic
individualist. And he sums up, "Villiers knew all forms of intellectual

Villiers associated much with Richard Wagner, and with Baudelaire was
an ardent upholder of the new music during the troubled times of the
Tannhäuser _fiasco_. He played the piano, knew the Ring by heart--no
mean feat--and set Baudelaire's poems to music, anticipating Charles
Martin Loeffler by nearly a half-century. Of one of them the music is
said to be still extant. It is the poem with this couplet:--

Our beds shall be scented with sweetest perfume, Our divans be as cool
and dark as the tomb.

Probably the most lifelike, verbal portrait of Wagner is that of
Villiers's. In a memorable passage, which I commend to Mr. Finck
as testimony with which to snub recalcitrant clergymen and others,
Villiers notes Wagner's violent disclaimer that his Parsifal was
merely the work of the artist and not of the believing Christian.
"Why, if I did not feel in my inmost soul the living light and love of
that Christian faith, my works ... would be the works of a liar and
an ape. My art is my prayer." Thus Villiers reports Wagner--Wagner,
whose marvellous soul changed colour every moment, like one of those
exquisite flying fishes which paint the air and waters of the tropics.

In 1861, at Baudelaire's home, Villiers met Richard Wagner. It was at
a period of great depression for that master. Villiers speaks of the
interview as the most memorable of his life. "Wagner, with his high,
remarkable forehead, almost terrifying in its development; his deep
blue eyes, with their slow, steady, magnetic glance; his thin, strongly
marked features, changing from one shade of pallor to another; his
imperious hooked nose; his delicate, thin-lipped, unsatisfied, ironic
mouth; his exceedingly strong, projecting, and pointed chin--seemed to
Villiers like the archangel of celestial combat." A rare little band,
composed of Wagner, Villiers, Baudelaire, and Catulle Mendès, often
walked the town after midnight. Once they were down along a dreary
street which ends at the Quai Saint-Eustache, and there Wagner pointed
out to them the window of a garret at the top of a very high house.
In it he said he almost starved, despaired, even meditated suicide.
Villiers was a Wagnerian among Wagnerians. He paraphrased in words his
impressions of the German's music, and some of these were published in
Catulle Mendès's _Revue Fantaisiste_. He visited Wagner at Triebchen,
near Lucerne, in Switzerland, although he was so poor that he had to
walk part of the distance.

One of Villiers's characters was Triboulat Bonhomet. This was the man
who was so avid of new sensations in music that he cruelly slew swans.
During the autumn of 1879 Villiers was at Bayreuth in company with
Judith Gautier and Catulle Mendès, and gave a reading from his works
before a lot of crowned heads, Wagner and Liszt included. He read some
of the curious adventures of Bonhomet, and was surprised to hear his
audience laugh, at first quietly, at last unrestrainedly. At last the
tempest of laughter rose so high that the reader ceased and cast a
glance full of vague suspicion round his, audience. The Grand Duke
of Saxe-Weimar, who sat beside him, touched his shoulder and pointed
to a person sitting just opposite them. Villiers, with a little sharp
cry, dropped the manuscript from his trembling fingers and gave evident
signs of lively terror. There in front of him, surrounded by a bevy of
beautiful women, gazing at him with shining eyes, his enormous mouth
opened in stentorian laughter, his huge hands leading applause, was Dr.
Triboulat Bonhomet himself, flesh and bone. It was Franz Liszt!

From the very first line of the manuscript, in which Villiers had
minutely described the doctor, the whole audience had been struck by
the resemblance between the great pianist and Triboulat Bonhomet, and
as the description went on the likeness increased--dress, gestures,
habits, all bore a striking similarity. One person alone did not
perceive the identity, and he laughed louder than the rest--Liszt
himself. Finally the reading had to be stopped on account of the
general hilarity, but Liszt was never told of the joke.

The most curious episode in the life of Villiers was when he won a
prize with his five-act play, The New World. A dramatic competition was
announced by the theatrical press of Paris. A medal of honour and ten
thousand francs were offered to the French dramatic author who would
"most powerfully recall in a work of four or five acts the episode
of the proclamation of the independence of the United States, the
hundredth anniversary of which fell on July 4, 1876. The two examining
juries were composed as follows: the first, of the principal critics
of the French theatrical press; the second, of Victor Hugo, honorary
president; Emile Augier, Octave Feuillet, and Ernest Legouvé, members
of the French Academy; Mr. Grenville Murray, representing the New York
_Herald_, and M. Perrin, administrator-general of the Théâtre Français."

Villiers's play conquered. His New World was passed by both juries. But
through some sort of official devilry he received neither money nor
medal; nor was his play produced. He had the mortification of seeing a
second-rate piece by Armand d'Artois given while his own work collected
dust in the manuscript box of the Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre. Naturally
he raised a hubbub. He bearded the venerable Hugo at his home and there
insulted not only the poet, but also the aged Legouvé. Conflict was
the very breath of this visionary's nostrils. Did he not institute a
ridiculous lawsuit against the author of a play because it vilified,
so he claimed, a very remote ancestor? After interminable processes he
was non-suited. And The New World was his favourite drama! Villiers had
long dreamed of becoming the Richard Wagner of the drama.

His cousin says: "His idea was that the characteristics of the nation,
or of the event which was to be portrayed, should be imported into
the framework of some personal intrigue, in which each individual of
the _dramatis personæ_ should personify in his language, attitude, or
actions some one of the numerous elements produced by the friction
of the incidents of the play." Here is the leading motive idea of
Wagner--a dangerous idea in the drama, where the pattern must not be
too regular or too persistent. Villiers dreamed of a symphonic drama
with a densely woven web. Poets seldom realize the bigness of that
hollow frame, the theatre, on the background of which they must paint
in bold, splashing colours, or else pay the penalty of not being seen
at all. It is scene, not miniature, painting which is the real art of
the drama.

In sooth, The New World is a play that would puzzle the most sanguine
manager. It has been called "one of the best constructed, deepest, and
most passionate dramas of the present day," by a prejudiced witness,
the cousin of the poet. Against the wishes of his true friends,
Villiers allowed a representation, with dire results. Sarcey fairly
peppered it with his wit; so bad were the actors and actresses that the
author himself hissed furiously at every performance. This was at the
Théâtre des Nations, 1883. There were six representations. And such
an America as this poet depicts! It is as illusory, in another way,
as Victor Hugo's England. Villiers had evidently read Chateaubriand's
Atala--Chateaubriand, who cajoled his countrymen men into the belief
that he lived for years in Louisiana!--and so we are given some odd
characters, odd happenings, odder history. Mistress Andrews, the
heroine, is a sort of an American Melusina. Can any one in his most
exalted mood picture an American Melusina?

And so this "hybrid, complex, contradictory being, by turns mysterious,
terrible, cynical, innocent, loving, tragic, grotesque" poet, rolled
down the hill of life. Is it not Pascal who says: "The last act is
always tragedy, whatever fine comedy there may have been in the rest
of life. We must all die alone"? Villiers was lonely and dying from
his youth. Death was his intimate companion, sometimes a boon one, but
oftener a consoling friend. The death's-head adorns his wassail time.
Yet this poet actually went into politics, was a candidate at the
elections of the _Conseil Général_, and was, luckily enough, defeated.
One trembles at the idea of this aristocratic anarch among the bleating
law-makers. It is characteristic of him that he accepted his defeat
calmly because his opponent was De Hérédia the poet. _Noblesse oblige!_

Villiers, like most European poets, had formed a mighty ideal
of America and the Americans. He believed this country and its
institutions to be what Thomas Paine, Jefferson, and a few other
genuine patriots hoped it would be. He entertained for Thomas Edison
the deepest admiration. His novel, a grotesque book, The Eve of the
Future, contains a fanciful account of Menlo Park and its "terrifying
proprietor." When Edison went to the Paris exhibition in 1889 he
became acquainted with Villiers's novel. He read it at a sitting and
expressed himself thus: "That man is greater than I. I can only invent.
He creates." He did not meet the author, who was mortally ill, though
an attempt was made to bring the Frenchman and American together.
The leading motive of The Eve of the Future, pushed to an ingenuity
bordering on insanity, is the construction of an artificial woman which
when wound up imitates in every respect the daily life of a cultivated

J. K. Huysmans became known to Villiers, and his critical recognition
of his genius, tardy though it was, was one of the few consolations
accorded this unhappy man by fate. Huysmans it was who gently persuaded
Villiers to make a deathbed marriage and legitimize his son. His agony
was intensified by the fact that his wife could not sign her name to
the marriage contract, she could only make a cross. The artist in this
dying man persisted to the last. Huysmans with his omnivorous eye has
noted the sigh that escaped from the semi-moribund poet.

Thus he lived, thus he died, a stranger in a strange world. His plays
may be better appreciated some day. If Ibsen profited by The Revolt,
then the seed of Villiers has not been sown in vain. Nothing reveals
Ibsen's mastery of the dramatic form so completely as his treatment
of the woman who revolts and leaves her home, when compared to
Villiers's handling of the same idea. Elizabeth goes away in despair,
but to return. Nora departs, and the curtain quickly severs us from
her future, her "miracle" speech being a faint prophecy that may be
expanded some day into a fulfilment. Villiers was perhaps the pioneer;
though revolting women abound in Dumas, abound in the Bible, for that
matter; but the specific woman who puts up the shutters of the shop,
and declares the dissolution of the matrimonial firm, is the creation
of Villiers. Ibsen developed the idea, and, great artist that he is,
made of it a formal drama of beauty and dramatic significance--which
The Revolt is not. There are many loose psychologic ends left untied by
the Frenchman, and his conclusion is dramatically ineffectual.

What is the value of such a life, what its meanings? may be asked
by the curious impertinents. Why select for study the character
and career of a half-mad mystic? Simply because Villiers is a poet
and not a politician. It is because Villiers is Villiers that he
interests the student of literature and humanity. And the bravery,
the incomparable bravery, of the man who like Childe Roland blew his
slug-horn, dauntless to the last! In his Azrael he uses as a motto
Hassan-ben-Sabbah's "O Death! those who are about to live, salute
thee." All the soul of Villiers de l'Isle Adam is in that magnificently
defiant challenge!




The dramatical evolution of Maurice Maeterlinck.

When this Belgian poet, dramatist, mystic, became known in America, his
plays, avowedly written for marionettes, were received with open-eyed
wonder or prolonged laughter. Any idea that he be taken seriously was
scouted by serious critics, and the usual fate befell them-well-meaning
amateurs seized them as legitimate prey. There is no denying the
fact that at one time Maeterlinck meant for most people a crazy crow
masquerading in tail feathers plucked from the Swan of Avon.

But caricature and critical malignity did not retard the growth of this
very remarkable young man--he was born in 1862--and presently we heard
more of him. After we had finished The Treasure of the Lowly, Wisdom
and Destiny, The Buried Temple, and The Double Garden, it was conceded
that a mistake had been made just as in Browning's case. A mystic--yes,
and one who had adjusted his very sensitive scheme of thought to the
practical work-a-day work. A Belgian Emerson, rather than a Belgian
Shakespeare; but an Emerson who had in him much of Edgar Allan Poe.
_Toujours_ Poe, in any consideration of modern continental poets.

Maeterlinck began with a volume of poems entitled Serres Chaudes,
often compared to the unrhymed, loose rhythmic prose of Walt Whitman.
They do bear a certain superficial resemblance to Whitman's effusions,
though not in idea. It is rather a cataloguing, aimless apparently, of
widely disparate subjects. But the substance derives more from that
extraordinary book of an extraordinary poet, Les Illuminations by
Arthur Rimbaud, than from the ragged, epical lines of Whitman. Take,
for example, the following specimen of Maeterlinck's _âme_ in Serres

"One day there was a poor little festival in the suburbs of my soul.
They mowed the hemlock there one Sunday morning, and all the convent
virgins saw the ships pass by on the canal one sunny fast day, while
the swans suffered under a poisonous bridge. The trees were lopped
about the prison; medicines were brought one afternoon in June and
meals for the patients were spread over the whole horizon."

Now read Rimbaud, translated admirably by Aline Gorren: "As soon as
the Idea of the Deluge had sunk back into its place, a rabbit halted
amid the sainfoin and the small swinging bells and said its prayers
to the rainbow, through the spider's web.... The caravans started. And
the splendid hotel was erected upon the chaos of ice and night at the
Pole.... In hours of bitterness I imagine balls of sapphire, of metal.
I am master of the silence. Why should the semblance of a vent-hole
seem to pale up there at the corner of a vault?"

Both these hallucinations illustrate what Rémy de Gourmont would call
disassociation of ideas.

Maeterlinck fervently studied the English dramatic classics. The result
was wild ferment. In 1889 he published Princess Maleine, and such an
impression did its whirling words create that Octave Mirbeau wrote his
famous article in the Paris _Figaro_, August 24, 1890, in the course
of which he made this statement, "M. Maurice Maeterlinck nous a donné
l'œuvre la plus géniale de ce temps, et la plus extraordinaire et
la plus naïve aussi, comparable et--oserai-je le dire?--supérieure en
beauté à ce qu'il y a de plus beau dans Shakespeare ... plus tragique
que Macbeth, plus extraordinaire en pensée que Hamlet."

Either M. Mirbeau, who has often played the rôle of poet-anarchist, had
not read Shakespeare reasonably, or else he was indulging in a pleasing
mystification. Ah, that fatal _plus_, the uncritical overplus, how it
does jump up from the page smiting the optics with rude humour! As a
matter of sheer fact, Princess Maleine is an undigested compound of
Macbeth, Hamlet, Leaf, and, as Arthur Symons sagely remarks, with more
of the Elizabethan violence we find in Webster and Tourneur than in
Shakespeare. And its author was only a youth in his twenties.

However, with all its crudities, its imitations, its impossible
_mélange_ of blood, lust, tears, terror, there are several elements in
the crazy play that indicate latent gifts of a high order. The range,
is narrow and Poe-like. Fear is the theme, and a strange repetition
the method of expression. There is a young prince, a Hamlet, who has
fed on the art of the modern decadents. He is a spiritual half-brother
to Laforgue's Hamlet, shorn of that ironist's humour. Never could
Prince Hjalmar of the Maeterlinck tragedy utter such a sublimely ironic
soliloquy as Laforgue's, more Shakespearian than Shakespeare.

"Alas! poor Yorick! As one seems to hear, in one little shell, all the
multitudinous roar of the ocean, so I here seem to perceive the whole
quenchless symphony of the universal soul, of whose echoes this box was
as the cross-roads. And do you imagine a human race that would look
no farther, that would abide by this vaguely, immortal sound, which
one hears in a hollow skull, by way of explanation of death, by way of
religion?... They also had their time, all these small folk of history;
learning to read, paring their nails, illuminating the unsavoury
lamp, loving every night, gormandizing, vain, crazy for compliments,
kisses.... But yet--no longer to be, no longer to be in it, no longer
to be of it! Not even to be able to strain against one's human heart,
any afternoon in the week, the melancholy of centuries compressed into
one little chord upon the piano!..."

Maeterlinck's hero, too, is oppressed by the mystery of life.
Throughout the drama the Fate of ancient tragedy marches remorselessly
through the doomed palace of the king. Thanks to Maeterlinck, this
Fate takes on a new countenance. A disquieting attack is made upon the
nerves by the repercussive repetitions, the dense pall of melancholy
hanging over the place. A madhouse is a cheerful place by comparison.
One king has slain another and made a beggar outcast of the Princess
royal, Maleine. She is loved by and loves Prince Hjalmar--an odd
transposition of the sunny passions of Romeo and Juliet. The beggar
girl becomes maid in the palace of her father's murderer. It is not a
happy habitation. The old King is senile and debauched by Anne, Queen
of Jutland. This mis-creant, a hideous combination of Lady Macbeth,
Messaline, and Phædra, has a daughter bearing the pretty name of
Uglyane. Poor Uglyane! She is beautiful, unloved. The one assignation
of her life is defeated by Maleine, who plays a cruel trick upon her.
Going to the fountain--later we shall find that fountains assume
important rôles in these plays--Maleine meets Hjalmar. Then we get the
true Maeterlinck atmosphere. And this is where it may come from:--

      I looked upon the scene before me--upon the mere house
      and the simple landscape features of the domain, upon the
      bleak walls, upon the vacant, eye-like windows, upon a
      few rank sedges, and upon a few white trunks of decayed
      trees.... I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a
      black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the
      dwelling and gazed down.... About the whole mansion and
      domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves
      and their immediate vicinity; an atmosphere which had no
      affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up
      from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent
      tarn; a pestilent and mystic vapour, dull, sluggish,
      faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.

Pestilent and mystic is the atmosphere of Princess Maleine. The
quotation is from The Fall of the House of Usher. There is much of
Poe's dark tarn, of Auber, and the misty mid-region of Weir in the
early Maeterlinck.

The dénouement is horrible. Maleine is strangled by the Queen, who
also loves Hjalmar, and to the accompaniment of a lunar eclipse,
thunderbolts, a cyclone, meteors that explode, wounded swans that fall
from stormy skies, this night of strange portents comes to an end after
the prince avenges Maleine by stabbing the queen and killing himself.
There is a dog that sniffs, scratches, and howls at the locked door
of the murdered princess. Its name is Pluto. There are chanting and
spectral nuns, lewd beggars, an old Shakespearian nurse, a freakish
boy, and the usual scared courtiers. The scenes do not hang together
at all--there is no sequence of action, only of moods; or rather the
same mood persists throughout. Yet the lines bite at times, and there
are great fissures of silence, pauses as deep and as sinister as murky
midnight pools.

These pauses are always pregnant,--like the pauses in strange pages of
Schumann or those mysterious empty bars at the beginning of a Chopin
tragedy in tone,--empty, forbidding vestibules to woful edifices.

"There is a little kitchen maid's soul at the bottom of her green
eyes;" "I am sick to die of it one of those twenty thousand nights we
have to live;" "How dark? how dark? Is a forest lit up like a ball
room?" "The poor never know anything;" "Will she not have a little
silence in her heart?" "She is as cold as an earthworm;" "Oh! look,
look at their eyes. They will leap out upon me like frogs;" "My God!
My God! She is waiting now on the wharves of hell;" "How unhappy the
dead look!" These and many more, with gasps and ejaculations, make up a
dialogue that is at least original, though bizarre. Naturally it is all
the fruit of green, immature genius.

The ideas, hysterical and few as they are, begin to assume some
coherence if compared with the emotional and disconnected experiments
of the poems.

Maeterlinck has defined his æsthetic in his prose essays. He played
queer pranks upon the nerves with these shadows, these spiritual
marionettes, which are pure abstractions typifying various qualities
of the temperament. The iteration of his speech is like the dripping
of water upon the heads of the condemned. It finally stuns the
consciousness, and then, like a performer upon some fantastic
instrument with one string, this virtuoso executes variations boasting
a solitary theme--the fear of Fear.

Speech, says Maeterlinck, is never the medium of communication of real
and inmost thoughts. Silence alone can transmit them from soul to soul.
We talk to fill up the blanks of life. Silence is so truth-telling,
so illuminative, that few have the courage to face it. Mankind fears
silence more than the dark. (Poe again; Silence.) The most illuminating
silence of all, the most irresistible, is the Silence of Death. It is
the unspoken word that reveals our inner self. "We do not know each
other; we have not yet dared to be silent together." Modern thought
and literature lack this mystic element, lack the atmosphere of the
spiritual, perfect as is its technic and its intellectual equipment.
The Russians have it in their fiction--a fiction of epilepsy and
burning spiritual crises. The Middle Ages had it. Men stood nearer
to nature, to God. They understood children, women, animals, plants,
inanimate objects, with greater tenderness and greater depth. "The
statues and paintings they have left us may not be perfect, but a
mysterious power and secret charm that I cannot define are imprisoned
within them, and bestow upon them perpetual youth. Hamlet, King Lear,
Macbeth, are filled with the mysterious chant of the infinite, the
threatening silence of souls and of gods, eternity thundering on the
horizon, fate and fatality perceived interiorly without any one being
able to say by what signs they have been recognized."

Here we recognize the true mystic, the feeder upon the writings of
Emerson, Novalis, the Admirable Ruysbroeck; Plato, Plotinus, St.
Bernard, Jacob Boehme, and Coleridge. And while he achieves astonishing
flights into the blue, he always returns to mother earth. There
is spiritual lift in his words,--lift and ofttimes intoxication.
Generations of Flemish ancestors have dowered this young thinker with
solid nerves and a saner intellectual apparatus than his early critics
imagined. And he never exhibits what old Chaucer called "the spiced
conscience." Neither hell's flames nor the joys of heaven appear in his
pages. He preaches only of man and the soul of man.

Without the mystery of life, life is not worth the living. The static
opposed to the dynamic theatre is his ideal mood, not action; the
immaterial, not the obvious. Hamlet is not awake--at every moment
does he advance to the very brink of awakening. The mysterious chant
of the Infinite, the ominous silence of the soul and of God, the
murmur of Eternity on the horizon, the destiny or fatality that we are
conscious within us, though by what tokens none may tell--do not all
these underlie King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet? Are there not elements of
deeper gravity and stability in happiness in a single moment of repose
than in the whirlwind of passion? Does the soul only flower on nights
of storm? "But to the tragic author, as to the mediocre painter who
still lingers over historical pictures, it is only the violence of
the anecdote that appeals ... whereas it is far away from bloodshed,
battle-cry, and sword thrust that the lives of most of us flow on, and
men's tears are silent to-day, and invisible, and almost spiritual."

Maeterlinck goes to the modern theatre and feels as if he had spent
a few hours with his ancestors, who conceived life as something that
was primitive, arid, and brutal. He sees murder, hears of deceived
husbands and wives instead of being shown some act of life "traced
back to its sources and to its mystery by connecting links." He yearns
for one of the strange moments of a higher life that flit unperceived
through his dreariest hours. "Othello does not appear to live the
august daily life of Hamlet, who has the time to live, inasmuch as he
does not act. Othello is admirably jealous. But is it not perhaps an
ancient error to imagine that it is at the moment when this passion,
or others of equal violence, possess us that we live our truest lives?
I have grown to believe that an old man, seated in his arm-chair,
waiting patiently with his lamp beside him; giving unconscious ear to
all the eternal laws that reign about the house, interpreting, without
comprehending, the silence of doors and windows and the quivering voice
of light, submitting with bent head to the presence of his soul and
his destiny--an old man, who conceives not that all the powers of this
world, like so many heedful servants, are mingling and keeping vigil
in his room, who suspects not that the very sun is supporting in space
the little table against which he leans or that every star in heaven
and every fibre of the soul are directly concerned in the movement
of an eyelid that closes, or a thought that springs to birth--I have
grown to believe that he, motionless as he is, does yet live in reality
a deeper, more human, and more universal life than the lover who
strangles his mistress, the captain who conquers in battle, or the
husband who avenges his honour."

This excerpt (translated by Alfred Sutro) shows the real Maeterlinck,
the man whose mind is imbued by the strangeness of common life, the
mystic correspondences, the star in the grain of wheat. The philosophy
is akin to certain passages executed in the allegoric pictures of
Albrecht Dürer, William Blake, Rossetti, and Burne-Jones.

Each century, he argues, has its own near sorrow. It is well that we
should sally forth in search of our sorrows--the value of ourselves is
but the value of our melancholy and disquiets. The tragic masterpieces
of the past are inferior in the quality of their sorrow compared to
the sorrows of to-day. To-day it is fatality that we challenge; and
this is perhaps the distinguishing note of the new theatre. It is
no longer the effects of disaster that arrest our attention; it is
disaster itself; and we are eager to know its essence and its laws. It
is the rallying point of the most recent dramas, the centre of light
with strange flames gleaming, about which revolve the souls of women
and men. And a step has been taken toward the mystery so that life's
mysteries may be looked in the face. Between past and future man ("What
is man but a god who is afraid?") stands trembling on the tiny oasis of
the present. It is the disaster of our existence that we fear our soul;
did we but allow it to smile frankly in its silence and its radiance,
we should be already living an eternal life. O for those "reservoirs
of certitudes" on the other side of night, "whither the silent herd of
souls flock every morning to slake their thirst."

"To every man there come noble thoughts that pass his heart like great
white birds." Then is recalled Browning and his similitude of the
meanest soul that has its better side to show its love. "In life there
is no creature so degraded but knows full well which is the noble and
beautiful thing he must do." A life perceived is a life transformed.
To love one's self is to love thy neighbour in thyself! Maeterlinck's
attitude toward woman--the true touchstone of philosopher, poet,
priest, and artist--is beautiful. "I have never met a single woman who
did not bring to me something that was great."

The spiritual renascence may be at hand. It is the theatre that last
feels its approach. Poetry, painting, sculpture, music, all have met
it halfway; only the stage lags in the rear. Plot, action, trickeries,
cheap illusions, must be swept away into the limbo of things used up.
Atmosphere, the atmosphere of unuttered emotions, arrested attitudes,
ideas of the spiritual subconscious, are to usurp the mechanical
formulas of to-day. The ideal is music--music, the archetype of the
arts. (Walter Pater preached this platonic doctrine.) "It is only
the words that at first sight seem useless that really count in a
work." But to realize, to exteriorize the mystery, the significance of
the soul life, what a strange and symbolic web must be woven by the
poet-dramatist! He must break with the conventions of the past and
create something that is not quite painting, not quite drama, something
that is more than poetry, less than music--full of ecstasies, silent
joys, luminous pauses, and the burning fever of the soul that sometimes

It is very beautiful, very ideal--bard, poet, mystic, moralist, and
playwright, that Maeterlinck dared to become. He practised _before_ he
preached--unlike most men; and he had the slow fortitude of the brave.
We know now that artistically he springs from the loins of Poe and
Hoffmann; that Villiers de l'Isle Adam was his spiritual godfather;
that by the Belgian's artful scale of words he evoked images in our
mind which recall the harmonies of unheard music; that the union of
mysticism and freedom of thinking lends to his work peculiar eloquence;
that his device is "Within me there is more," a mediæval inscription
borrowed from an old doorway in Bruges. He is more revolutionary than
Ibsen in the matter of technic. Maeterlinck writes a play about an
open door, a closed window, or the vague and disheartening twilights
of cloudy gardens. That he is quite sane in his early work we must not
assert--since when shall art and sanity be driven in easy harness?

In giving a bare abstract of Maeterlinck's theories, spiritual and
æsthetic, their beauty and nobility, we but clear the way for a better,
because wider, appreciation of the plays. Let us consider them all from
The Intruder to Monna Vanna and Joyzelle.


"By mysticism we mean, not the extravagance of an erring fancy, but the
concentration of reason in feeling, the enthusiastic love of the good,
the true, the one, the sense of the infinity of knowledge, and of the
marvel of the human faculties. When feeding upon such thoughts the
'wing of the soul is renewed and gains strength, she is raised above
the manikins of earth' and their opinions, waiting in wonder to know
and working with reverence to find out what God in this or in another
life may reveal to her."

This is not from Maurice Maeterlinck; it was written by a hard-headed
man and lovable teacher, the late Benjamin Jowett, the famous Master
of Balliol. Not intended as a text, but merely to show that the lift
of spirit, which is the sign manual of mysticism, does not prelude the
practical. It is a fresh visual angle from which are viewed the things
of heaven and earthly things.

In his youth, possibly to escape the sterilities of the code--for he
was an advocate by profession---Maeterlinck took up the mystic writers
though the drama pulled him hard, as it ever does with the preëlected.
Little danger of this ardent young man weighing, as do many, the
theatre in the scales of commerce. As with Ibsen, the stage was an
escape for Maeterlinck; it liberated ideas, poetic, dramatic, mystic,
which had become intolerable, ideas which turned his brain. That art
of which Pinero so eloquently writes, "The great, the fascinating,
and most difficult art,... compression of life without falsification,"
could never have signified a gold mine for Maeterlinck as it did for
Robert Louis Stevenson. To the Belgian it was not a speculation, but
a consecration. To it he brought that "concentration of thought and
sustained intensity" which Pinero deems imperative in the curriculum
of a dramatic artist.

Upon the anvil of his youthful dreams did Maeterlinck forge his little
plays for marionettes. Shadowy they are, brief transcripts of emotion,
but valuable in illustrating unity of purpose, of mood, of _tone_.
Herein lies their superiority to Browning's more elaborate structures.
Before he ventured into the maze of plotting, Maeterlinck was content
with simple types of construction. The lyric musician in this poet,
the lover of beauty, led him to make his formula a musical one. The
dialogue of the first plays seems like new species of musical notation.
If there is not rhyme there is rhythm, interior rhythm, and an alluring
assonance. Hence we get pages burdened with repetitions and also the
"crossing fire" of jewelled words. Apart from their spirit the lines of
this poet are sonorously beautiful. In the "purple" mists of his early
manner a weaker man might have perished. Not so Maeterlinck. He is
first the thinker--a thinker of strange thoughts independent of their
verbal settings. He soon escaped preciosity in diction; it was monotony
of mood that chained him to his many experimentings.

And therein the old ghost of the Romantics comes to life asserting its
"claims of the ideal," as Ibsen has the phrase. Crushed to dust by the
hammers of the realists, sneered at in the bitter-sweet epigrams of
Heine, Romance returns to us wearing a new mask. We name this mask
Symbolism; but joyous, incarnate behind its shifting shapes, marches
Romance, the Romance of 1830, the Romance of--Before the Deluge.
The earth-men, the Troglodytes, who went delving into moral sewers
and backyards of humanity, ruled for a decade and a day; then the
vanquished reconquered. In this cycle of art it is Romance that comes
to us more often, remains longer when it does come.

Maurice Maeterlinck employs the symbol instead of the sword; the psyche
is his _panache._ His puppets are all poetic--the same poetry as of eld
informs their gestures and their speech. He so fashions them of such
fragile pure stuff that a phrase maladministered acts as the thrust
of a dagger. The Idea of Death slays: the blind see; bodies die, but
the soul persists; voices of expiring lovers float through vast and
shadowy corridors--as in Alladine and Palomides--children speak as if
their lips had been touched by the burning coal of prophecy; their
souls are laid bare with a cruel pity; love is strangled by a hair;
we see Death stalk in the interior of a quiet home, or rather _feel_
than see; or in our ears is whispered a terrible and sweet tale of
the Death of Tintagiles--it is all moonlight music, mystery with a
nightmare _finale_; or a tender original soul is crushed by the sheer
impact of a great love hovering near it--Aglavaine and Sélysette. Then
we get fantasy and miracle play, librettos, full of charm, wonder, and
delicious irony. Maeterlinck recalls life, beckons to life, and in
Monna Vanna smashes the stained-glass splendours hemming him in from
the world; and behold--we are given drama, see the shock of character,
and feel the mailed hand of a warrior-dramatist. In a dozen years he
has traversed a kingdom, has grown from _wunderkind_ to mature artist,
from a poet of few moods to a maker of viable drama.

The chronology of the Maeterlinckian dramatic works is this: Princess
Maleine (1889); The Intruder, The Blind (1890); The Seven Princesses
(1891); Pelléas and Mélisande(1892); Alladine and Palomides, Interior,
The Death of Tintagiles (1894); Aglavaine and Sélysette (1896); Ariane
and Barbe-Bleu, Sister Beatrice (1901); Monna Vanna (1902); Joyzelle

Though the first attempts are emotional presentations of ideas, though
the dramatic form is, from a Scribe standpoint, amateurish, yet the
unmistakable _flair_ of the born dramatist is present. In the beginning
Maeterlinck elected to mould poetic moods; later on we shall see him a
moulder of men and women.

A thinker may view the visible universe as a symbol, as the garment
wherewith the gods conceal themselves; this Goethe did. Or this
globe, upon the round of which move sorrowful creatures whirled
through space from an unthinkable past to an unthinkable future, may
be apprehended as a phantasmagoria, shot through with misery, a cage
of dreams, a prison wherein the echoes of what has been thought and
done meet in cruel confluence within the walls of the human brain.
All pessimistic cosmogonists, poets, dramatists, dwell, with the
obsession of an _idée fixe_, upon this scheme of things terrestrial.
And then there is De Maupassant, an _eye,_ which photographed the
salient profiles of his fellow-beings; or Poe, who, suffering from
an incurable disease, felt the horror of the pulse-beat, the hideous
drama of mere sentience. Charles Darwin, with pitiless objectivity,
displays a map of life whereon the struggle is eternal--a struggle
from protoplasm to Super-Man (the latter a mad idea in a poet's
skull). Carlyle thunders at the Sons of Belial and we shrivel up in
the fiery furnace of his eloquent wrath; or John Henry Newman wooes
us to God with beautiful, gentle speech. To every man his illusion.
Maeterlinck's is the apprehension of the helplessness of mankind,
though not its hopelessness. His optimism, the germ of which is in the
poems, has grown steadily with the years. And the tinge of pessimism,
of morbidity, in his earlier productions has vanished in the dialectic
of his prose.

Maeterlinck first saw his drama as music--this is a contradiction in
terms, but it best expresses the meaning intended. As in music there
are ebb and flow, rhythmic pulse, so his little landscapes unroll
themselves with iteration to the accompaniment of mournful voices.
No dramatist, ancient or modern, so depends upon vocal _timbre_ to
embody his dreams as this one. In reality his characters are voice or
nothing. From the deeps of haunted gardens come these muffled voices,
voices suffocated by sorrow, poignant voices and sinister. Allusion
has been made to the Poe-like machinery of Maeterlinck--atmosphere. It
is, however, only external. He works quite differently from Poe, and
the _dekoration_ with its dreamy forests, skies lowering or resonant
with sunshine, parks and fountains, stretch of sea and dreary moats,
is but a background for his moods. He pushes much farther than Ibsen
and Wagner the rhythmic correspondences of man and his artistic
environment. But the voice dominates his drama, the human voice with
all its varied intonations, its wealth of subtle _nuance_.

Instead of the idea-complexity we find in Browning, in Maeterlinck the
single motif is elaborated. He is not polyphonic,--to borrow a musical
metaphor,--but monophonie. Where he is a psychologist of the most
modern stamp lies in his perception of the fact that there is no longer
an autonomous _I_, the human ego is an orchestra of collective egos.
_We,_ not _I_, is the burden of our consciousness. Through countless
ages the vast chemistry of the Eternal retort has created a bubble, an
atom, which says _I_ to itself in daylight, when looking in mirrors,
but in the dark when the inutile noise of life is ceased then the _I_
becomes a multitudinous _We_. All the head hums with repercussive
memories of anterior existences. Some call it dreaming; others
nerve-memory; others again--recollection of anterior life.

Other dramatists have hinted this pantheism before Maeterlinck.
Shakespeare was a symbolist; so was Ibsen when he penned his The Master
Builder. But the younger man makes a formula of the idea. His is the
dramaturgy of the subconscious. His people say things and thereby
reveal their multiple personalities, even the colour of their souls.
Here, then, is the symbolist. To put the case more clearly, let Aline
Gorren be heard,--a writer who is imbued with the beauty of symbolic

      "Your documents, details, verified facts, are precisely
      the least worth considering," says, in effect, the
      Symbolist. "They are appearances; impalpable shadows of
      clouds. Nothing ye think to see is what it seems." Nothing
      outside of our representation exists. All visibilities are
      symbols. Our business is to find out what these symbols
      are. Any book that does not directly concern itself with
      the hints concealed beneath the diversified masks and
      aspects of matter is a house built out of a boy's toy
      blocks. Science, after promising more things than it could
      fulfil, has many hypotheses just now that float about one
      central idea--the existence of one essence, infinite in
      moods, by reference to which alone anything whatsoever can
      be understood. Those of our creed only and solely have a
      philosophic basis for their art.

Emil Verhaeren, Belgian mystic, anarchist, poet, sings of The Forest of
Numbers in his hate-saturated chants, Les Flambeaux Noirs.

Je suis l'halluciné de la forêt des Nombres.

And was not the greatest mystic of all one who saw the image in the
fiery bush, one who, "in the midway of this our mortal life," found
himself in a gloomy wood astray--was not Dante a supreme symbolist?
Life for a man of Maeterlinck's temperament is ever a "forest of
numbers"; with its strange arithmetic he hallucinates himself.
What is The Intruder but a symbol, and one that has enchained the
attention of man from before the time when the Brachycephalic and
the Dolichocephalic waged war with the cave-bear and murder was
celebrated in tribal lays? Through the ages Death, either as a shadowy
obstruction or a skeleton with scythe and hour-glass, has marched ahead
of men. Epic and anecdote, canvas and composition, have celebrated
his ineluctable victories. Why then call Maeterlinck morbid for
embroidering the _macabre_, fascinating theme with new variations!

Death the Intruder! Always the Intruder. In his first little dramatic
_plaque_, it is the venerable grandfather who is clairvoyant: Death,
protagonist. Almost imperceptibly the shadow steals into the room
with the lighted lamp and big Dutch clock. The spiritual evidence is
cumulative; a series of cunningly worded affirmations, and lo! Death
the Intruder. It is a revelation of the technic of atmosphere. Voice
again is the chief character.

The Blind takes us out of doors, though one senses the atmosphere of
the charnel-house under the blue bowl of the unvarying sky. This is
the most familiar and the most derided of the Maeterlinckian plays. It
is hardly necessary to describe that "ancient Nordland forest," with
its "eternal look under a sky of deep stars." The stage directions of
these poems are matchless. How depict an "eternal look"? These exalted
pictures are but the verbal instrumentation of Maeterlinck's motives.
They may be imagined, never realized. Yet how the settings enhance the
theme! These blind old men and women, with the lame, the halt, the mad
and the sad, form a painful tableau in the centre of which sits the
dead priest, their keeper, their leader, without whom they are destined
to stumble into the slow waters about the island.

Death the Intruder! But in this instance an intruder who has sneaked in
unperceived. The discovery is made in semi-tones that mount solemnly
to the apex of a pyramid of woe. This little drama is more "arranged"
than The Intruder; it does not "happen" so inevitably. Interior, called
Home by the English translator, the lamented poet Richard Hovey, is
of similar _genre_ to The Intruder. From a coign in an old garden
planted with willows we see a window--a symbol; through this window
the family may be viewed. Its members are seated. All is vague, dreamy.
The dialogue occurs without. An old man and a stranger discuss the
garden, the family and--the catastrophe. Most skilfully the poet
marshals his facts--hints, pauses, sighs, are the actors in the curious
puppet-booth. One phrase occurs that is the purest Maeterlinck:--

"Take care," says the old man; "we do not know how far the soul extends
about men...." The dénouement is touching.

From Holbein to Saint-Saëns art shows a procession of dancing
Deaths--always dancing with bare bones that creak triumphantly.
In Maeterlinck's mimings there is something of the spirit of Walt
Whitman's threnody.

The Belgian translates the idea of Death into phrases more hypnotic
than Whitman's. His "cool-enfolding Death" is not always "lovely
and soothing" for the survivors. His cast of mind is mediæval, and
presently comes sailing into the critical consciousness memories of the
Pre-Raphaelitic Brotherhood with its strained attitudes, its glories
of illuminated glass, its breathless intensity and concentration upon
a single theme--above all its apotheosis of the symbol and of Death
the Intruder. It is one more link in the development of our young
dramatist. He knew Poe and Emerson; he appreciated Rossetti both as
poet and painter. In the next group of plays under consideration a step
nearer life may be noted, a stronger element of romance betrays itself.
We are approaching, though deliberately, Maeterlinck, the Romantic.


Israel Zangwill told a story once about Maeterlinck that is curious
even if not true. He said the Belgian poet, when a young fellow, was
on one of his nocturnal prowls, and while sitting in a café overheard
a man explain a new dramatic technic to his friend. In it was the germ
of the Maeterlinck plays. Possibly the plays for marionettes, Les
Flaireurs, of Charles van Lerberghe were a starting-point. The growth
of the poet on the technical side, as well as the evolution from vague,
even nebulous thinking to the calm, solid philosophy of Wisdom and
Destiny, is set before us in the order of his composition. Nor is a
laconic dialogue so amazingly new. Dumas employed it, and also Hugo.

The romantic in Maeterlinck began to show itself plainly in The Seven
Princesses. Death is still the motive, but the picture is ampler,
the frame more decorative. Presently we shall see meads and forests,
maidens in distress, fountains and lonely knights. Movement, though
it be a mere sinister rustling of dead leaves, is more manifest in
this transitional period. The Seven Princesses is like some ancient
morality, with the nervous, sonorous, musical setting of a latter-day
composer. It has a spacious hall of marble, with a flight of seven
white marble steps; there are seven sleeping maidens; a silver lamp
sheds its mysterious glow upon the seven of mystic number (the
poet unconsciously recalls those other seven sleepers of the early
chroniclers), and the landscape without the palace--through the windows
of the terrace is seen the setting sun; the country is dark, marshy,
and between the huge willows a gloomy canal stretches to the horizon.
Upon its stagnant waters a man-of-war slowly moves. The old King and
Queen in the terrace note its approach. Here we have a prologue full of
atmosphere, an enigmatic story awaiting its solution.

We learn from the disjointed dialogue that the Prince, the heir
apparent, is expected. He comes upon the ship. He is welcomed by
the aged couple--"people are too old without knowing it," says the
Queen--and the ship leaves. Its departure is managed poetically.
The far-away voices of the sailors are heard in monotonous song:
"The Atlantic, the Atlantic," evokes a feeling of the remote which
we feel when Vanderdecken's vessel vanishes in The Flying Dutchman.
This refrain of "The Atlantic, the Atlantic, we shall return no more,
the Atlantic," sets vibrating certain chords of melancholy. In the
meantime the Prince has been regarding the sleepers through the glass
windows. The Queen, whose premonitions of approaching evil are quite
Maeterlinckian, points out the beautiful girls, names them. The most
beautiful of all is Ursula. The Prince notices that this Princess
does not sleep like her sisters. "She is holding one of her hands
strangely,..." he remarks. "Why has she not bound up her hair?" asks
the Queen, distractedly. Gradually the little evidences accumulate.
Something is wrong below, there in the great hall, where breathlessly
sleep the seven Princesses on the cushions of pale silk strewn upon the
marble steps.

The Prince, after trying to force the window, goes through a secret
passage and reaches the sleepers. The action is supplied by the Queen
at the window above. She weeps, she beats the glass, she says frantic
things in the gloom to the old King. "Seven little open mouths!...
Oh, I am sure they are thirsty," she cries. The Prince awakens the
Princesses--all save one. Ursula lies singularly still. "She is not
asleep! She is not asleep!" screams the frantic Queen. There is a
hurrying to and fro of servitors with torches. "Open, open," is the
piteous plaint of the old woman. Beyond, in the night, is heard the
chant of the seamen as they fade away into the darkness. "The Atlantic,
the Atlantic, we shall return no more."

What does it all mean? What is the hidden symbol? The scene suggests
Holland; yet it is no man's land. These dolorous people with burning
eyes and agitated, feverish gestures--who are they? Poets all.
Despite the decoration, despite the skilful handling of the element
of suspense, this little fantasy is not for the footlights. It is too
literary. There is mastery revealed in the dialogue. The entire piece
recalls a wan Burne-Jones picture with the symphonic accompaniment of
Claude Debussy.

Perhaps it is well that a dramatist is more chained to the planet
than his brethren, the poet, composer, _prosateur_. Like the sculptor
and the architect, the dramatic poet must deal with forms that can
be apprehended by the world. All art is a convention in the last
analysis; theatrical art contains more conventions than the rest. Men
of an original cast of mind revolt at the checks imposed upon their
imagination by the theatre. But Shakespeare submitted to them and, a
lesser man, Maeterlinck, has had to suffer the pangs of defeat. But he
has left his imprint upon the page of the French drama in his disregard
of the stage carpentry of Scribe and Sardou. Above all, he has imparted
to the contemporaneous theatre new poetic ideas. A new technic--on the
material side--is of less importance than the introduction of new modes
of expression, of atmosphere, of ideas.

Maeterlinck, after his early essays in a domain that is more poetical
than dramatic, we find longing for the romantic. He tires of single
figures painted upon a small canvas. (Faguet once called him the
"Henner of literature.") He longs for more space, more characters, more
action--in a word--variety. We get it in his next attempt, Alladine
and Palomides. In it there is less music, but more action--withal,
it is naïvely childish. Alladine is loved by Ablamore. He is an old
king, reigning over a castle surrounded by crazy moats. His beloved
is very young. When the knightly Palomides appears, they mutually
love. The King is a philosopher. Listen: "Now I have recognized that
misfortune itself is of better worth than sleep, and that there must
be a life more active and higher than waiting...." There is an avenue
of fountains that unfolds before the windows--wonderful, weariless.
Ablamore interrogates Alladine after she has encountered Palomides.
Does she regard the weariless fountains alone? He soon lays bare the
child soul of this maiden. Ablamore wishes Palomides to marry his
daughter Astolaine. He goes mad with jealousy and casts the lovers
into a dungeon, a trick dungeon, where marvels occur: a sea that is a
sky, move-less flowers. The pair embrace. Death is nigh--"there is
no kissing twice upon the heart of death." Finally they are engulfed.
Rescued, they die in separate chambers of the palace, from which the
aged King has fled. Voices are the only actors in the last scene.

Mediæval, too, in its picturesque quality is The Death of Tintagiles
with its five short acts of despairing sister love. The little
Tintagiles is the king that is to be. His grandmother, a demented
old woman, suffers from a mania which takes the form of aggressive
jealousy. She is ancient on her throne--in what strange land does she
reign?--and she seeks to assassinate the poor little boy. Ygraine
and Bellangère, his sisters, thwart her desires for a time--but
only for a short time. He is eventually kidnapped and murdered. This
simple, old-world fairy story--all Maeterlinck has a tang of the
supernatural--is treated exquisitely. The arousing of pity for the
doomed child is almost Shakespearian. These children of Maeterlinck
are his own creation. No one, with the exception of Dostoïevsky and
Hauptmann, approaches him in unfolding the artless secrets of the
childish heart. Like plucked petals of a white virginal flower, the
little soul is exposed. And there is no taint of precocious sexuality
as in Dostoïevsky's studies of childhood (Les Précoces and others).
Hauptmann's Hannele, among modern figures of girlhood, alone matches
the Belgian. Hannele is nearer the soil than Tintagiles or the little

"There seems to be a watch set for the approach of the slightest
happiness," laments Ygraine as she holds Tintagiles by the hand. They
live in a tower that stands in an amphitheatre of shadows. It is in
the valley. The air does not seem to go down so low. The walls of the
tower are cracking. "You would say it was dissolving in the shadows."
There the grandmother Queen resides. "They say she is not beautiful and
that she is growing huge." There is something monstrous in this hint of
her size--as though a black, dropsical spider sat in the dark weaving
the murderous webs for passing flies. Only the fly in this case is her
grandson. Into the "sickening castle" go the "little sad King" and his
sisters. Bellangère relates that smothered voices reached her in one
of the strange corridors. They spoke of a child and a crown of gold.
She did not understand, "for it was hard to hear, and their voices were
sweet." Enough, however, to put the sisters on their guard.

In their sleeping room they bar the doors. An old retainer is with
them. At the end of the act a door is slowly pushed open. They exert
all their force to keep it closed. The old man puts his sword through
the opening; it snaps. The room grows colder as the door, worked by
unseen means, opens. Then Tintagiles utters a piercing cry. The door
closes. They are saved--for a time. Act IV gives us the corridor in
front of the room wherein hide the boy and his sisters. The handmaids
of the vile old Queen chatter. It is near midnight. Sleep has overtaken
the hapless victims. The handmaids steal Tintagiles, and the scene
ends in screams. But the last act gives us sensations of the direst
sort, because its terrors are felt and not seen. It is nearly all
monologue. Only an actress of superior tragic power could do justice
to this intense episode. A great iron door is seen. Ygraine, haggard,
dishevelled, enters, lamp in hand. She has tracked her darling to this
awful spot. "I found all these golden curls along the steps and along
the walls; and I followed them. I picked them up.... Oh! oh! They are
very beautiful.... They say the shadows poison.... Ah! Still more
golden curls shut in the door.... Tintagiles!"

Then a tiny knock is heard--the bruised fists of Tintagiles on the
other side of the massive door. "Sister Ygraine, sister Ygraine," he
calls. He tells her he escaped from the monster. He struck her--struck
her! Poe-like he exclaims, "Open quickly ... for the love of dear
God, sister Ygraine." You feel the hideous woman approaching. "She
is breathing behind me," moans the child as the fat, panting devil
reaches him, an obscene shape of terror. "She ... is taking me by the
throat...." Ygraine, frantic, without, hears the fall of a little body
and bursts into despairing invectives. "Let me be punished some other
way.... There are so many things that could give me more pain ... if
thou lovest to give pain."

I confess that the condensed bitterness and woe and cruelty of this
last act border on the pathologic if we do not consider the symbol.
I would rather hear the beautiful symphonic poem of Charles Martin
Loeffler based upon the poetic impressions of this piece--the art of
music gives us the "pathos of distance." Yet Maeterlinck's Death of
Tintagiles is in form and style far above his previous efforts. His
marionettes are beginning to modulate into flesh and blood, and, like
the mermaid of the fairy story, the transformation is a painful one.

We note this modulation particularly in Pelléas and Mélisande. First
played in English by Forbes Robertson and Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the
play made a mixed impression in London; though it may be confessed
that, despite the scenic splendour, the translation and the acting
transposed to a lower, realistic key this lovely drama of souls.
There is no play of Maeterlinck's so saturated in poesy, so replete
with romance. The romantic in Maeterlinck has here full sway. There
are episodes as intense as the second act of Tristan and Isolde. One
expects to hear King Marke's distant, tremulous hunting horns in the
forest scene of the fourth act, where Pelléas and Mélisande uncover
their secret.

The plot is not a densely woven one. In the woods while hunting in
a land east of the sun and west of the moon, Golaud, a king's son,
comes upon Mélisande sitting disconsolate at the brink of a spring.
She is timid and would flee. Something has happened to her which she
does not explain, perhaps remember. She is lost, she declares, with
the passionate iteration which has become a fixed pattern in the
Maeterlinck dialogue. She has dropped into the pool the gold crown some
one gave her--who it was she never tells. A forlorn little princess out
of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Golaud marries her offhand
and brings her to his home, the castle of his grandfather, Arkël, King
of Allemonde. There his father lies dying--we never see this shadowy
invalid--and his brother Pelléas lives. Also Little Yniold, son of
Golaud, by a former marriage. The castle is malarial, rickety, like
many of Maeterlinck's buildings. Nearly all his people seem to suffer
from swampy emanations or the mephitic gas of ancient dungeons. The
evil odours of Arkël's abode are even alluded to in this play.

Pelléas and Mélisande love. Golaud suspects it, and his jealousy,
mixing with his love for brother and wife, is delineated masterfully.
We now begin to see the fruits of the dramatist's careful study of
moods. Evanescent as are the moods of the previous plays, they served
as spiritual gymnastics. With them he proved his ability to portray
the finer shades of terror, remorse, love, despair. In the jealousy of
Golaud he takes a step nearer the concrete. Golaud is a hunter, a man
whose temples are touched by gray. He adores his child-wife and trusts
her. He begs the moody Pelléas to wait upon her. His marriage with her
has surprised all, save his grandfather. Arkël says:--

"He has done what he probably must have done. I am very old, and
nevertheless I have not yet seen clearly for one moment into myself;
how would you that I judge what others have done?" A wonderful man,
indeed. Pelléas wishes to visit his dying friend Marcellus--the
Shakespeare nomenclature persists--but Arkël begs him to stay at home,
where death approaches.

Mélisande is well received by the King and Queen. She is astonished at
the gloom of the gardens, and is pleased with the spectacle of the sea.
In the ending of Act I we get a faint premonition of disaster. Pelléas
and Mélisande watch the departure of the ship that brought Mélisande.
(Maeterlinck here borrows an early effect from The Seven Princesses.)
It flies away under full sail.

_Pelléas_. Nothing can be seen any longer on the sea....

_Mélisande_. I see more lights.

_Pelléas_. It is the other lighthouses.... Do you hear the sea? It is
the wind rising. Let us go down this way. Will you give me your hand?

_Mélisande_. See, see, my hands are full.

_Pelléas_, I will hold you by the arm; the road is steep and it is very
gloomy there.... I am going away, perhaps, to-morrow....

_Mélisande_. Oh! ... Why do you go away?


Much sport has been made of the first scene in this play. Yet it
only displays the poet's worship of Shakespeare. Maid-servants are
discovered at the castle gate. They gabble as they knock for admission.
It is as prosaic as the rest of the work is poetic. A porter of the
"Anon, anon, I come" type holds parley. He is borrowed from Macbeth.
However, it does not demand a close reading of this episode to discover
that it sounds the keynote to music--always symbolical--of the drama
that follows.


The second act of Pelléas and Mélisande begins at an immemorial
fountain in the royal park. Here the young Prince sits with the
wife of his brother. Mélisande is one of the poet's most successful
full-length portraits. She is exquisitely girlish, is charming with her
strange Undine airs, and is touched by a singular atmosphere of the
remote. Hauptmann has realized the same ethereal type in Rautendelein.
Mélisande is very romantic. At times she is on the point of melting
into the green tapestry of the forest. She is a woodland creature. More
melancholy than Miranda, she is not without traces of her high-bred
temperament; less real than Juliet, she seems quite as passion-smitten.
Not altogether a comprehensible creation, Mélisande piques one at every
reading, with her waywardness, her infantile change of moods.

At the spring the two converse of the water and its healing powers
--"You would say that my hands were sick to-day," she murmurs as she dips
her hand into the pool. She loses her wedding ring. The conversation is
all as indirect, as elliptical, as Robert Browning or Henry James. Let
it be said that the affectation of understanding Browning at all points
is not so banal as the pretence of _not_ understanding Maeterlinck. The
symbol floats like a flag in his dramas.

In the interim Golaud has been wounded while hunting. It is not
serious, but it unlooses the heart of Mélisande, who confesses that
she, too, is ill. With her habitual avoidance of the definite, she
does not, or will not, tell her husband the cause of her vague unrest
and spiritual nostalgia. The interview is affecting. Golaud, the
middle-aged, cannot overhear the shell-like murmurings of this baby
soul. She recounts the loss of her wedding ring, but prevaricates.
Golaud bids her go search for it in company with Pelléas--always
Pelléas. In a grotto the two again meet. The cave is full of "blue
darks," and outside the moon has "torn through a great cloud." Suddenly
three sleeping beggars are discovered (again a recurrence to the
earlier style). They mean something, of course, though they do not
awaken. In certain pages of Maeterlinck it is well to let sleeping
symbols lie undisturbed. The action now moves apace. Pelléas, fearing
danger, wishes to fly, but is dissuaded by his grandfather.

In Act III Pelléas and Mélisande sit and converse. Little Yniold, with
his curious child's brain and child's candour, really discovers to the
lovers their mutual love. It is done captivatingly.

"You have been weeping, little mother," he says to his mother, in his
father's presence. "Do not hold the lamp under their eyes so," responds
Golaud. Then follows the poetic and famous scene of Mélisande on the
tower combing her unbound locks and singing in the moonlight. It is a
magical picture. One recalls Lilith, that first wife of Adam, painted
by Rossetti, who also combed dangerous silken tresses. Pelléas enters,
and the ensuing duologue is rich in tenderness and amorous poetry. One
in vain endeavours to recall so intensely vivid a scene in literature
since Romeo and Juliet. The romance of the French Romantics always
verged on the melodramatic and artificial, and the stately classics
are not happy in moments of this kind. The similar scene in Cyrano,
when compared to Pelléas and Mélisande, is mere rococo pasteboard,
though theatrically effective. Rostand is, at his best, Orientally
sentimental, as befits his blood; he is never truly poetic, for he is a
winning rhetorician, a "rhyming Sardou," rather than a dramatic poet.

The mad apostrophe to the hair of Mélisande is in key with the entire
setting of this moving tableau. "I have never seen such hair as thine,
Mélisande. I see the sky no longer through thy locks.... They are
alive like birds in my hands." Even the surprising of the lovers by
the sleepless husband has nothing theatric in it. He tells them that
they are children--"what children!"--and bids Mélisande not to lean
so far out of her window. In the next scene we see him with Pelléas
in the vaults of the castle. There is something evil in his heart; in
the brain of Maeterlinck there was Poe when he wrote this episode.
Golaud leads Pelléas through the vault. Pelléas almost stumbles into
an abyss--his brother has made a misstep. We feel ourselves listening
here on the brink of a catastrophe that does not happen. It recalls
Poe's Cask of Amontillado.

A painful scene is the questioning of little Yniold by his father. He
asked the boy what Mélisande and Pelléas talked of when together; asked
of their movements. Then he lifts his son to the window and bids him
look on and report. It is masterly in its cruel directness. "Are they
near each other?" he demands. "No, little father." Other even more
searching questions follow, and when the unfortunate spy is clutched
in a fierce grip he cries, "Ah, ah! little father, you have hurt me."
Unconsciously Golaud has betrayed his woful agitation.

Mélisande is pitied by Arkël. She replies that she is not unhappy.
He responds, "Perhaps you are of those who are unhappy without
knowing it." Golaud enters and reproaches her, seizes her hair. Her
consternation is great. She gives vent to that sentence which in
England convulsed a matter-of-fact audience. "I am not happy. I am not
happy!" The foredoomed lovers meet in the park. It is the great scene
of the piece. Again one must go to Tristan and Isolde, for the lyric
passion has the quality of intense music; that Tristan and Pelléas, of
which Jean Marnold wrote so acutely in the _Mercure de France_:--

      Tristan est l'œuvre maîtresse du musicien Wagner. C'est
      le défi de son génie au temps. Il eût pu disparaître
      après sans craindre l'oubli ou diminuer sa gloire. Mais
      ce type idéal du drame wagnérien, de l'aveu même du
      réformateur, ce modèle de l'œuvre d'art de l'avenir
      apparaît quasiment impossible au théâtre. S'il y assomme
      les dévots de l'opéra conventionnel, son poème ahurit,
      lasse ou blesse les réceptivités plus exigeantes. Nous
      savons, depuis Pelléas, que la vraie vie n'est pas
      forcément incompatible avec la scène lyrique; qu'un drame
      poignant y peut s'enrober de quelque symbole et s'atourner
      de romantisme, sans cesser d'être humain. Nous y vîmes une
      action simple emplir une soirée sans chevilles, des amants
      s'énoncer sans boursouflure, s'aimer sans philtre et sans
      charades, et mourir sans grandiloquence. Le pathos de
      Tristan vient trop tard; si tard, qu'il semble aujourd'hui
      à sa place adéquate en notre Opéra toulousain.

What Claude Debussy has done with this meeting in his music drama Paris
knows. Speech here in its rhapsodic rush becomes music. And it is all
poetic drama of the loftiest character, dealing with material as old as
Eve. The husband enters, slays his brother, and the curtain falls on
Mélisande fleeing, pursued by Golaud, sword in hand.

The fifth act of this play with its depiction of agony in the
stern soul of Golaud, its death of Mélisande, who dies of a broken
heart, is the tragedy of souls distraught. Even on cold paper it is
emotion-breeding. Arkël, as the spokesman for Fate, bids his son not to
trouble the last moments of Mélisande. She has given birth to a tiny
image of herself, and, quite frightened by the world she has lived
in, she leaves it like a bird scared to sudden flight. She has loved,
though it is not with the "guilty" love her husband supposed. He hovers
over her couch, awaiting the words that will satisfy his egotistic

"She must not be disturbed," urges the venerable Arkël. "The human soul
is very silent.... The human soul likes to depart alone.... It suffers
so timorously.... But the sadness, Golaud.... The sadness of all we
see.... 'Twas a little being, so quiet, so fearful, and so silent.
'Twas a poor little mysterious being like everybody." ...

Aglavaine and Sélysette is more shadowy in its treatment than Pelléas
and Mélisande, and no doubt to the lovers of the "precious" in
Maeterlinck more interesting than Monna Vanna. It deals with the love
of two women, Aglavaine and Sélysette, for Méléandre. The delicacy of
technic displayed is almost inconceivable, and the note of irony, faint
as it is, enters a new element in this spiritual duel. To be brief,
Aglavaine is the mouthpiece for Maeterlinck in his Treasure of the
Humble. She is an _esprit fort_, who attracts the husband of Sélysette
by her beauty of soul, vigour of brain, and temperamental intensity.
Poor Sélysette is crushed between the upper and nether millstone of the
man and woman. They both love her devotedly, but being of the Mélisande
type, in her sweet, submissive nature, she fades away until death,
self-sought, comes. She has a fragrant soul, and its fragrance exhales
itself on her deathbed. The dynamics of love prove too much for this
creature. There is tragic pathos in her taking off, and Maeterlinck
is at his best in delineating the tower, with its crumbling walls, the
wheeling birds frightened by the apparition of a falling body, and the
terror and alarm of the little sister. Less, much less, fitted for
theatrical representation than Pelléas and Mélisande, this drama is
charged with symbolism and with rather too severe strain for its poetic
build--too much intellectual freightage. It was composed after the
essays, and it is because of this, perhaps, that I find Aglavaine just
a trifle _doctrinaire._ There is wise and charming talk, the action
_nil._ We get instead _états d'âmes_. The two women expand before
our eyes; it is a rare spiritual growth, psychology in the veritable
sense of that overworked word. Yet the friendship of Aglavaine slays
Sélysette. There is mystery, beauty, of a high order in the play, and
in some things it betrays a distinct advance upon its predecessors.

Sister Beatrice and Ardiane and Barbe Bleu are librettos for music. The
first is a delightful setting of that old Dutch legend made familiar
to English readers by John Davidson in his The Ballad of a Nun. There
are homely pathos and mystic exaltation in Maeterlinck's interpretation
of this nun, who left her convent for the love of man, only to return,
decades later, wrecked in body and soul. But her absence has not been
missed, for the Virgin Mary has stepped down from her niche in the hall
and played the rôle of porteress disguised as the runaway.

Ardiane married Bluebeard and falls, like the rest of his wives, into
the trap set for them. She defies the monster, and with the help of
the peasants rescues them all from the marvellous dungeons under
the castle. But she goes forth into the world alone--oh, irony of
ironies!--the others do not care to be rescued. The story is told with
charm and brilliancy. The author discovers himself as a _conteur_ with
a light, graceful, humorous touch. It is an ideal libretto--for an
ideal composer. The Miracle of Saint Antony is a comedy which was first
seen at Brussels, October, 1903. It is a "satire of bourgeois society,"
and was well received.


Monna Vanna was produced at the Nouveau Théâtre, Paris, May 17, 1902.
In the cast were Georgette Leblanc, Jean Froment, Darmont, Lugné-Poé,
and others. The drama had an immediate success and has been played over
the continent. In London, which will stand any amount of coarseness,
so it be forthright and brutal, a public performance was forbidden to
Monna Vanna.

The action of this sombre, fascinating drama is laid at Pisa near the
close of the fifteenth century. The city is beleaguered by the army of
Prinzevalle sent from Florence. Within, the city has made desperate but
ineffectual resistance; ammunition and food have given out.

A few hours and the city will be in the hands of the enemy, will be
subject to sack, rapine, slaughter. Guido Colonna is at his wits' ends.
In the first act we find him in consultation with his lieutenants. His
father, Marco Colonna, scholar, virtuoso, and philosopher, has been
sent to the camp of Prinzevalle. Thence he returns, and in a scene of
power and suspense he informs his son of the terms set forth by the
conqueror. There is but one way out of the trouble. With rage, horror,
incredulity, Guido Colonna hears that if his wife, the high-born
beauty, Giovanna (Monna Vanna), goes to the tent of the barbarian
captain, Prinzevalle, the siege will be terminated.

His Vanna? Why? Who is this demon out of the nethermost hell that
can formulate such a vile condition? The father calmly explains.
Prinzevalle is not a barbarian, but a Hercules in strength and beauty.
He is cultivated. He has never seen Vanna. He desires the unknown. He
has the thirst for the infinite which characterizes great dreamers,
poets, generals, madmen of the ideal. If Monna Vanna is sent to his
tent, a living sacrifice, in return he will give bread, meat, wine,
gunpowder, arms, to the starving, vanquished city. Guido laughs at
such an insane offer. Marco tells him that the city council knows of
it--that--yes, Vanna has heard it. She is at that moment coming to
speak to her husband. He is stupefied to learn that the council has
spurned the offer. But Vanna has to be counted with.

Her decision that, Judith-like, she will go forth to this Holophernes,
maddens her husband beyond endurance. In an exciting scene he accuses
her of knowing Prinzevalle, of being unfaithful to her marriage vows
in thought. He loads his father with opprobrium. The curtain falls on
Vanna as she leaves, Guido telling her that she will never return to
him the same.

Act II: Tent of Prinzevalle. We have admirable opportunities to study
the man's character, virile, upright, fearless, poetic, melancholy,
through his interviews with his faithful secretary and Trivulzio,
the emissary of the Florentine government. The siege has lasted too
long; Prinzevalle has waxed too powerful, a conspiracy has been formed
against him. He is to be deposed, assassinated. He finds all this in
his conversation with the lying, base Trivulzio. The episode has an
antique quality. Trivulzio attempts an attack, but is easily repulsed,
though he receives a slight wound in the face, warning Prinzevalle
meanwhile that by daybreak he will be deposed, ruined. There is nothing
left then but the improbable acceptance by Guido Colonna and his
virtuous spouse of the hard condition he has imposed upon them.

She approaches. She has been saluted by the sentries. Prinzevalle is
amazed. She is enveloped in a long cloak--beneath it she is a Lady
Godiva. The meeting is one of the most curious in dramatic literature.
Gustave Flaubert had anticipated it in Salammbô, but the daughter of
Hamilcar was a barbarian, after all, and Mâtho's love for her brutal.
The souls of Maeterlinck's pair are set before us with clearness,
force, and solemnity. The aptitude for dissection of motive displayed
by the poet in his previous work is revealed here with splendid
results. It is all natural--as natural as such a situation can be--and
the dismay of the noble woman is mitigated somewhat when she discovers
Prinzevalle has known her, has always loved her, that he means her no
harm. By degrees she extorts the truth from him.

He is the playmate of her happiest hours; for her he has moved
mountains. Fresh from the insulting insinuations of her husband, her
head aflame with her exalted mission, she begins to see her life as
it really is. No, she does not precipitate herself into his arms! The
transition is infinitely more subtle than could be accomplished by most
modern playwrights. It is atmospheric. The dialogue leads us through
the avenues of this strangely reunited couple. _He_ is all passion
and tenderness. _She_--curiosity has given way to remembrance. At the
end he goes to Pisa with her, her captive; while radiant, unharmed,
she hastes to her husband and fellow-countrymen. The promised stores
have been sent; Prinzevalle deserts the cause of Florence--he is not a
Florentine, and as his life is in danger his defection may be pardoned.
And he loves. Stella Hohenfels in this scene quite surpassed herself
at the Hofburg Theatre, Vienna, where I witnessed a capital performance
of the play in 1903, with Joseph Kainz, Reimers, and others in the cast.

Daring as is this act, the next outgenerals it in surprises. Vanna
marches through the rejoicing city, lighted as for a feast. She is
conducted as a conqueror to her husband. Then begins the struggle. He
repulses her, heaping upon her vile phrases. Yes, she has saved Pisa,
but how? Where is the honour of the Colonna? She implores, explains,
denies, affirms. But when Guido learns the name of the silent warrior
who has accompanied her, his rage is boundless. It is her lover that
she hales back as a slave to show her triumph. There is enough meat
in this act to furnish forth a gross of modern nerveless, boneless,
bloodless abortions of drama now before the footlights. As a specimen
of the romantic drama with the accompaniment of a profound psychology,
Monna Vanna makes modern French works of the papier-maché type droop
like fresh flowers in a thunderstorm.

Incredulously the infuriated husband hears that Prinzevalle has made
no advances to Vanna. It is too much. Why, then, is he here? he
demands. He claims the head of Prinzevalle. Vanna jumps into the mob of
soldiers, crying that she has lied, lied abominably. Prinzevalle seized
her, she declares, and to defend herself she has wounded him. Behold
his face--which shows the marks of his struggle with the Florentine
emissary, Trevulzio.

It is a striking situation. In the heyday of his glory Sardou
never devised anything more theatrically effective--setting aside
consideration of the psychologic imbroglio. Vanna then claims
Prinzevalle as her spoils of war. To the victor belongs the vanquished.
Colonna, despite Prinzevalle's assertion that Vanna's lie is another
lie, is handed over to the care of Vanna's people. In a swift
"aside" she commands silence. She loves him, she whispers. Marco
understands--understands the manner in which Vanna will be revenged
upon Prinzevalle and also upon her husband for his disbelief. The
latter now disclaims his former doubts. Let her work her vengeance
upon the man she has captured. But for her all that has gone before in
her entire life is as a bad dream. The real, the beautiful life, the
dream, is at hand. It will be her revenge. She must go at once to her
prisoner, to Prinzevalle in his cell--the curtain falls.

There are weak spots in the scheme which tax one's credulity.
Something of the improbable must be granted a dramatist be he never so
logical. The rapid mental change of Vanna hints at a nature naturally
casuistical, as were no doubt many Italians of the Renascence. Her love
for Colonna could never have been deep-rooted. But she did not betray
him, and yet she has been adjudged profoundly immoral--in a word,
not to put too fine an edge upon the sophistries of the situation,
this heroine committed an imaginative infidelity as well as telling a
falsehood. The madness of the finale is but the logical outcome of her
love for Prinzevalle. Few plays, however, reveal their complete essence
in the mere reading. And the cryptic stammering, the arrested spasms,
of Maeterlinck's earlier style vanish quite in the action of Monna

I have dwelt perhaps to lengths upon the spiritual development of the
man,--those who run may follow his material progress,--but the reason
is simple: the soul of Maeterlinck is in his plays. That he is a
creative thinker is not asserted. He has studied deeply the wisdom of
the ancients, of the moderns. He knows Emerson and Molière. He knows
Saint Teresa and John of the Cross. Conceive an artistic temperament
that seeks the phrase for itself as did Walter Pater; that loves
the soul of humanity as did Robert Browning; that seeks a dramatic
synthesis for his poetry, philosophy, rhetoric--and you have this man.
His Flemish _fond_ may account for his mystic temperament, for his
preoccupation with things of the spirit, and yet how difficult it is
to place the critical finger on this quality and that quality, as if
on the bumps of the phrenologist, and say--here is the real Maurice


Passers-by on the Boulevard, the summer of 1903, stared at the Gymnase
Theatre, which bore the inscription: Le Théâtre Maeterlinck. Certainly
such an institution as the Maeterlinck Theatre was undreamed of a
decade ago by the poet's most fanatical adherents.

However, there it stood, this _affiche_; and there it stood the night
I stumbled through the semi-obscurity of the well-known house to my
_loge._ The criticisms of the new play had not been reassuring; a
second Monna Vanna was not to be expected; a return to Maeterlinck's
earlier manner was unthinkable, so I confess that I awaited the parting
of the curtains with a fair amount of curiosity. I was not disappointed
when the first scene disclosed a _loggia_ of a Renascence _palazzo_.
This setting sounded the keynote--and a very beautiful, delicate note
it was, for the author has been as careful in the mounting of this
play as he was indifferent in his first essays. Signor Rovescalli of
Milan had carried out the designs of Charles Doudelet with fidelity
and taste. The Pinturicchio costumes are all from the same hands.
Nothing--except the lighting--has been omitted that might add to
the incarnation of this dream--for a dream play Joyzelle is, full of
strange hypnotic action and phrases that haunt.

The piece, which is called a Conte d'Amour, is in five short acts. It
is confined to four characters, two of which carry the slight thread
of story. In style it is midway between Maeterlinck's earlier manner
and Monna Vanna. It might, if considered in historic sequence, have
been written before Monna Vanna, and thus could have furnished the
link between the static and the dynamic theatre of this poet. Coming
after the Italian tragedy of hot blood, it seems like a casting back
to an earlier manner. But it is not. There is more action than in any
play,--Vanna excepted,--more than in Pelléas and Mélisande. There
are passion and climax that come perilously nearer theatricalism than
anything Maeterlinck has yet written, though he steers around the
banal, avoiding it by a hair-breadth. Admirers of the dramatist's
repressed style must have taken a deep breath as the episode of the
attempted assassination developed into something quite unexpected.

Joyzelle is little more than a series of situations, in which the
heroine is tested by the stern old enchanter Merlin. When I called upon
the poet at his picturesque little house in Passy, I asked him about
The Tempest, which the critics one and all saw in his play. He smiled
and replied that Shakespeare was a good point of departure. Could
there be a better one? The resemblance is rather superficial. Prospero
and Miranda are, in the mysterious island of Maeterlinck, Merlin and
Lanceor--the latter the magician's son; and Joyzelle is, if you will, a
female Ferdinand come to woo the youth.

The changes to be rung on such a theme are not a few. But Maeterlinck
has elected to introduce a new and more disturbing element. It is
Arielle, the subconscious nature of Merlin, who always warns him of
impending danger. Instead of the old-fashioned soliloquy, we are given,
because of this dualism, dialogues between Merlin and his subliminal
self. This sounds terribly metaphysical, but as treated by Maeterlinck
Merlin's _alter ego_--his _doppelgänger_, as the German mystics have
it--is a charming young woman attired in gray and purple, minor in key.
If she is his constant mentor, he has also the power of projecting her
into the visible world--materializing, the spiritualists call it; and
as Klingsor tempted Parsifal by transforming Kundry into a seductive
shape, so Merlin uses Arielle as an agent of temptation against his
son, his weak and handsome Lanceor.

The plot is slight. Love, a very passionate, earthly love, is the
theme. Doubtless Maeterlinck intends the entire _conte_ as a symbol;
theatre-goers will be more interested in its external garb. Briefly,
Merlin interrogates the sleeping Arielle and learns that his son
Lanceor, who has just arrived on the island, is at the crisis of his
life. "Le destin de ton fils est inscrit tout entier dans un cercle
d'amour." He is condemned by the Fates to die within the month if he
does not find a perfect love, and to this love all is permitted, even
crime. If the girl upon whom he casts his eyes will sacrifice all
for her love, then happiness will be his portion. We are plunged into
a fairy land at the first words of Merlin. This gift of evoking an
atmosphere in a few phrases is Maeterlinck's own. All resemblance to
Shakespeare's folk vanishes as the scheme is unfolded. At first we see
Merlin addressing Arielle. When she sleeps he loses his force and so he
awakens her. After learning Lanceor's destiny, he resolves to be on his
guard. Joyzelle is cast up by the sea, and, encountering Lanceor, the
inflammable pair fall madly in love with each other. Nothing can come
between, or if any one does--! Lanceor is more assured than Joyzelle
that this is his first, his perfect passion. But Merlin, who pretends
anger, as does Prospero, resolves to test the newly kindled flame. He
threatens to kill Joyzelle if she meets Lanceor, but she defies him,
and refuses to bind herself to any promise imposed upon her. To a
sonorous and emphatic _Non_! the curtain intervenes.

Merlin now devises a series of tests for his son. Like Marco Colonna
in Monna Vanna, he would be cruel only to be kind. The first is the
trial by separation. In a lonely tower Lanceor is found by Joyzelle.
The place is as forbidding as the country of Browning's Childe Roland.
Joyzelle calls to Lanceor, who rushes to her arms. As they embrace
each other, trees put on full bloom, flowers carpet the ground, and
all nature bursts into life--only the order of decay and bloom is
reversed. Then Merlin has Lanceor bitten by a serpent, and falling
into a magic slumber Arielle appears, and he finds her instead of
Joyzelle, who has been sternly sent away. She returns only to find her
lover desperately enamoured of a strange woman. Even this does not
shake her faith. She refuses to believe the treachery of Lanceor. After
Arielle has departed, in a scene of singular power he drives forth his
patient Griselidis. It is almost brutal in its intensity.

In Act III Arielle bids Merlin leave Lanceor and seize Joyzelle for
himself,--a genuine subconscious suggestion this! In the security of
her wonderful love he may find safety from that Viviane, who later
saps his soul in the old-world wood of Broceliande. Joyzelle is proof
against the most insidious temptations, and in the trial by faith she
emerges triumphantly. Merlin suddenly commands her to look around, and
she will see Lanceor held captive in the arms of another. She moves
away without turning her head, thus averting the fate of a second Lot's
wife. The spectator, drugged by this time, begins to wonder if this
paragon has an Achilles heel. Merlin is quite as envious, for in the
next trial he causes Lanceor--poor Lanceor!--to be brought nigh death's
door, and Joyzelle, rendered desperate, throws herself at the cruel
parent's feet. She promises to fulfil any condition he may see fit in
his caprice to impose. Impose one he does. If Lanceor is restored to
health, will she become Merlin's bride instead of the son's? This, it
must be admitted, is a very ingenious form of torture, and yet, when in
the bigness of her soul Joyzelle acquiesces, we feel that another bead
has been touched in this rosary of pain.

How to extricate the girl from her grave position? Lanceor's good looks
have been spoiled by his illness--a mere trifle for this insatiable
creature. In the last act Merlin lies sleeping, Arielle on guard.
Joyzelle approaches, her face set in despair, yet firm in her purpose
to fulfil her destiny. She has promised. Lanceor has been saved. She
will pay. As she reaches the couch of the magician she plucks forth a
dagger and would have bloody murder. This is the supreme test--rather a
disquieting doctrine to the passivists and gentle persons who feed on
Maeterlinck's balmy philosophies. Love that does not flinch at crime
is the keystone to this little arch of a play. Merlin is satisfied.
Joyzelle has undergone his tests. She is the perfect woman for
Lanceor's perfect love. The two are united, and the lovely landscape
fades from our view like the misty pictures in a Chopin Ballade.

Ideal love is the motive of this new play, love that will march to the
jaws of hell, if needs be, for the beloved one; Orpheus and Eurydice,
Hero and Leander, or any other enamoured couple come to your memory as
the ingenuous Joyzelle, who has not a faint trace of humour in her,
proceeds gravely to the unpleasant tasks set her by Merlin. I could
not help recalling that Princess Istar,--set to music by d'Indy,--who
goes down into Hades and at each of its seven gates casts away a part
of her belongings. At the seventh and last gate she has remaining only
her nakedness. Maeterlinck removes leaf after leaf from the flower-like
soul of Joyzelle until its very core is reached.

While she bears a sisterly resemblance to many of his narve infantile
women, she is nearer related to Monna Vanna in her affirmative nature.
She is very full-blooded for a dream maiden, and at times she showed
something of Sardou's tigress-like creatures. Possibly one received
this impression because Georgette Leblanc, who originated the title
rôle, has evidently been a close student of Sarah Bernhardt's methods.
As is the case with modern _féministe_ writers--were there ever ancient
ones?--the woman is enthroned, she is the Eternal Womanly, and she has
the final word in the destiny of things, as in Goethe's poem. Lanceor
does not appear in an undesirable light, while Merlin represents Wisdom
and makes very Maeterlinckian speeches. His final words are full of the
sober dignity we expect from the author of Wisdom and Destiny.

In Joyzelle the words count for something, no matter what the author
intends them to convey by the "second intention." He once wrote "Les
hommes out je ne sais quelle peur étrange de la beauté." This strange
fear the young Belgian Merlin evokes of his own accord. We sense
the beauty, but are uncomfortable in its presence. Human beings or
semi-humans must act to reveal themselves. This they do in Joyzelle.
There can be no reproach here of the abuse of the "static," only the
action and words--couched in harmonious prose--do not quite summon
reality to us.

The disembodied thoughts of the poet are given a local habitation and
a name, and still they remain thoughts, abstractions; they are not of
our flesh and blood, but seem to inhabit that "Third Kingdom" Ibsen
has foretold. More "interior" than Monna Vanna, Joyzelle is hardly
apt to be appreciated. I feel quite sure that many of the adjectives
lavished upon it by the Parisian press were not sincere. As a race the
French cannot be in sympathy with the gray, slow, poetic images of this
Belgian mystic.

I had read Walkley's capital book on Dramatic Criticism, and after the
performance of Joyzelle I opened its pages and saw this: "So, says
Coleridge, stage presentations are to produce a sort of temporary half
faith, which the spectator encourages in himself and supports by a
voluntary contribution on his own part, because he knows that it is at
all times in his power to see the thing as it really is. Thus the true
stage illusion as to a forest scene consists--not in the mind's judging
it to be a forest, but in its remission of the judgment that it is not
a forest."

Joyzelle, then, would be the negation of the drama did we not allow for
Coleridge's "remission." If we can shut our eyes to the pure idealism
of Arielle, and see, as the poet intends us to do, a little love tale,
our enjoyment would be materially heightened. Theories hamper; so does
criticism. And the unhappiest critic of the drama is he who approaches
his author consciously. As in music, so in much of the Maeterlinckian
drama, nothing happens, and if we could be content to abandon ourselves
on the waves of the dramatist's fantasy, our pleasure would be tenfold
enhanced. This is the attitude in which one receives music. Why not
adopt its receptivity in Maeterlinck's case? for his plays are as near
the inarticulateness of music as they dare to be and still retain sober

The performance was a delight throughout. Every person in the cast is
an artist, and as Joyzelle I had an excellent opportunity to study the
personality and art of Georgette Leblanc,--now Mme. Maeterlinck,--for
whom Monna Vanna was written. A versatile woman, Leblanc was originally
in opera. She has sung Thaïs, Sapho, Navarraise, Carmen, Françoise
in L'Attaque au Moulin, the Bruneau-Zola music drama, and has played
over Europe with unbounded success Charlotte Corday and Monna Vanna.
As an interpreter of the _lieder_ literature of Schumann, Schubert,
Brahms, and the new Frenchmen and Belgians, Gabriel Fauré, d'lndy,
Claude Debussy, Georgette Leblanc has also won praise. And her voice
was never a great one. She has sung by the grace of God, as our German
brethren say, and as a _diseuse_ she has won more success than as a
singer. She is distinctly a personality. Her hair is wonderfully red,
the mask of her face a peculiarly expressive one. You recall those old
portraits by the masters, of some unknown woman, whose eyes follow you
from the canvas, eyes that peer beneath tumbled tresses, surmounted by
an imperial Gainsborough hat of velvet. She is given to the picturesque
in daily life, and has written a clever volume of essays all her own in
style and idea.

As an actress, I should say that Leblanc was halfway in her methods
between Sarah Bernhardt and--Georgette Leblanc. She has great facility
of speech, is plastic in her poses, indulges in those serpentine,
undulating movements we have long since recognized as Sarah's own.
Do not mistake; Mme. Leblanc has a pronounced individuality. She is
herself. Her intonations are her own. But she has such velocity and
clarity of diction, has such temperamental energy, plays a rôle with
such swiftness, that Bernhardt is inevitably suggested. As Monna Vanna
she is more successful than as Joyzelle. The abundant nervous energy
of the woman ill brooks long periods of repose, and Joyzelle is more
like a Burne-Jones maiden than the fiery lover of Prinzevalle. Leblanc
was intense in all the climaxes, and her denotements of joy, love,
hatred, and overwhelming desolation were alike admirable. She has
expressive features, though they are irregular--few women would call
her good-looking. (Note the discrimination of sex!) She nevertheless
made a charming Joyzelle, and spoke her husband's cadenced lines with
the exact feeling for their exquisite rhythms.


Experience of a saddening sort taught me that a man and his works
are twain; that a poet never looks like a poet; a composer is seldom
harmonious in private life. Yet I could not be but tempted when a
brief, courteous note from the author of Monna Vanna informed me that
he would give me an evening hour for an informal interview. Maeterlinck
lives on the Rue Reynouard in a small house, the garden of which
overlooks the Seine from the moderate heights of Passy. To reach his
apartments I had to traverse a twisted courtyard, several mysterious
staircases built on the corkscrew model, and finally was ushered into
an ante-chamber full of screens, old engravings, fans, much ornamental
brass, and reproductions of Mantegna, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and other
symbolistic painters.

But I was not to abide there long. A maid with doubting eyes piloted
me across a narrow hallway, through a room where sat a tirewoman
altering theatrical costumes--and at last I was not in M. Maeterlinck's
presence. Not yet. Down another staircase, and the great man loomed
up in cycling costume, cordial, grave, a handsome fellow with big,
Flemish bones, a small, round head, and wavy hair dappling at the
temples. A man past forty, a gentle, pensive sort of man, Maurice
Maeterlinck does not look like his photographs for the reason that they
were taken nearly a decade ago. He is much older, much more vigorous,
than I pictured him. The general race characteristics are Flemish or
Belgian--that is, Germanic and not Gallic. This he knows well and
realizes that his work must ever be exotic to the logical mind of the
Frenchman, for whom the form is ever paramount to the idea.

Maeterlinck's eyes are what the French call flowers of the head. A gray
blue, with hints of green, they are melancholy eyes, these, with long,
dark lashes. He is extremely modest, even diffident, though touch him
on his favourite theme and he responds readily. A devourer of English
literature, he will not venture into conversation in our tongue, for
he has had little practice. German he speaks, and he knows Italian. He
told me that in composing Monna Vanna, he read Sismondi for a year so
as to get historical colour. He was quite frank about the conception of
this play.

"I wrote it for Mme. Maeterlinck," he remarked simply, which disposed
of my theory that the piece was written to prove he knew how to make a
drama on conventional lines. Joyzelle was also written for the same
actress, a woman who has played an important rôle in the poet's life.
Then I brought up Browning's Luria and the opinion of Professor Phelps
of Yale that Maeterlinck had profited by reading the English poet when
he composed Monna Vanna. M. Maeterlinck smiled.

"Naturally I read Browning; who does not?" he said, with the naïve
intonation that becomes him so well. "Luria I have known for a long
time, but Luria is not a stage play;" which, coming from the author of
Les Aveugles, I considered sublime. He is quite right--Monna Vanna and
Luria have little in common except that the scenes of both are laid
at Pisa, and that both Luria and Prinzevalle were treated badly by an
ungrateful country. But then, so was Coriolanus and a host of other
historical patriots. Maeterlinck spoke of Shakespeare as other men
mention their deity. He knows Poe very well, and also Walt Whitman.

A study of Maeterlinck's art reveals the evolution of a mystic, the
creation of a dream theatre, the master of a mystic positivism.
In Edgar Quinet's romance, Merlin, we read of a visit made by the
magician to Prester John at his abbey. This abbey is an astounding
conglomeration of architectures--pagoda, mosque, basilica, Greek
temple, synagogue, cathedral, Byzantine and Gothic chapels, turrets,
minarets, and towers in bewildering array. Prester John is a venerable
man with a long, white beard. "Upon his head he wore a turban enriched
with a sapphire cross At his neck hung a golden crescent, and he
supported himself upon a staff after the manner of a Brahman. Three
children followed him, who carried each upon the breast an open book.
The first was the collection of the Vedas, the second was the Bible,
the third the Koran. At certain moments Prester John stopped and read a
few lines from one of the sacred volumes; after which he continued his
walk, his eyes fixed upon the stars."

Maurice Maeterlinck recalls this type of eclectic culture. Eclectic is
his taste in creeds and cultures. And in this he is the true man of
the twentieth century, summing up in himself the depths and shallows,
virtues and defects, of cultured eclecticism.

The greater part of the foregoing essays, now completely revised,
first appeared in the columns of the New York _Sun_ at the time the
author was dramatic editor of that journal. He wishes to acknowledge
here the courtesy of William M. Laffan, Esq. in the matter of their

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Iconoclasts - A Book of Dramatists: Ibsen, Strindberg, Becque, Hauptmann, Sudermann, Hervieu, Gorky, Duse and D'Annunzio, Maeterlinck and Bernard Shaw" ***

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