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Title: Prejudices, Second Series
Author: Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis)
Language: English
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    1. Prophets and Their Visions, 9
    2. The Answering Fact, 14
    3. The Ashes of New England, 18
    4. The Ferment Underground, 25
    5. In the Literary Abattoir, 32
    6. Underlying Causes, 39
    7. The Lonesome Artist, 54
    8. The Cultural Background, 65
    9. Under the Campus Pump, 78
    10. The Intolerable Burden, 87
    11. Epilogue, 98







    1. On Music-Lovers, 194
    2. Opera, 197
    3. The Music of To-morrow, 201
    4. Tempo di Valse, 204
    5. The Puritan as Artist, 206
    6. The Human Face, 206
    7. The Cerebral Mime, 208



    1. The Holy War, 219
    2. The Lure of Babylon, 222
    3. Cupid and Well-Water, 225
    4. The Triumph of Idealism, 226


    1. The Nature of Love, 229
    2. The Incomparable Buzzsaw, 236
    3. Women as Spectacles, 238
    4. Woman and the Artist, 240
    5. Martyrs, 243
    6. The Burnt Child, 244
    7. The Supreme Comedy, 244
    8. A Hidden Cause, 245
    9. Bad Workmanship, 245




_Prophets and Their Visions_

It is convenient to begin, like the gentlemen of God, with a glance at
a text or two. The first, a short one, is from Ralph Waldo Emerson's
celebrated oration, "The American Scholar," delivered before the Phi
Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge on August 31st, 1837. Emerson was then
thirty-four years old and almost unknown in his own country:, though
he had already published "Nature" and established his first contacts
with Landor and Carlyle. But "The American Scholar" brought him into
instant notice at home, partly as man of letters but more importantly
as seer and prophet, and the fame thus founded has endured without much
diminution, at all events in New England, to this day. Oliver Wendell
Holmes, giving words to what was undoubtedly the common feeling,
hailed the address as the intellectual declaration of independence of
the American people, and that judgment, amiably passed on by three
generations of pedagogues, still survives in the literature books. I
quote from the first paragraph:

    Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the
    learning of other lands, draws to a close.... Events,
    actions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves.
    Who can doubt that poetry will revive and lead in a new age,
    as the star in the constellation Harp, which now flames
    in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall one day be the
    pole-star for a thousand years?

This, as I say, was in 1837. Thirty-three years later, in 1870, Walt
Whitman echoed the prophecy in his even more famous "Democratic
Vistas." What he saw in his vision and put into his gnarled and gasping
prose was

    a class of native authors, literatuses, far different, far
    higher in grade, than any yet known, sacerdotal, modern,
    fit to cope with our occasions, lands, permeating the whole
    mass of American morality, taste, belief, breathing into
    it a new breath of life, giving it decision, affecting
    politics far more than the popular superficial suffrage,
    with results inside and underneath the elections of
    Presidents or Congress--radiating, begetting appropriate
    teachers, schools, manners, and, as its grandest result,
    accomplishing, (what neither the schools nor the churches
    and their clergy have hitherto accomplished, and without
    which this nation will no more stand, permanently, soundly,
    than a house will stand without a substratum,) a religious
    and moral character beneath the political and productive and
    intellectual bases of the States.

And out of the vision straightway came the prognostication:

    The promulgation and belief in such a class or order--a
    new and greater literatus order--its possibility, (nay,
    certainty,) underlies these entire speculations.... Above
    all previous lands, a great original literature is sure to
    become the justification and reliance, (in some respects the
    sole reliance,) of American democracy.

Thus Whitman in 1870, the time of the first draft of "Democratic
Vistas." He was of the same mind, and said so, in 1888, four years
before his death. I could bring up texts of like tenor in great number,
from the years before 1837, from those after 1888, and from every
decade between. The dream of Emerson, though the eloquence of its
statement was new and arresting, embodied no novel projection of the
fancy; it merely gave a sonorous _Wald-horn_ tone to what had been
dreamed and said before. You will find almost the same high hope, the
same exuberant confidence in the essays of the elder Channing and
in the "Lectures on American Literature" of Samuel Lorenzo Knapp,
LL.D., the first native critic of beautiful letters--the primordial
tadpole of all our later Mores, Brownells, Phelpses, Mabies, Brander
Matthewses and other such grave and glittering fish. Knapp believed,
like Whitman long after him, that the sheer physical grandeur of the
New World would inflame a race of bards to unprecedented utterance.
"What are the Tibers and Scamanders," he demanded, "measured by the
Missouri and the Amazon? Or what the loveliness of Illysus or Avon by
the Connecticut or the Potomack? Whenever a nation wills it, prodigies
are born." That is to say, prodigies literary and ineffable as well as
purely material--prodigies aimed, in his own words, at "the olympick
crown" as well as at mere railroads, ships, wheatfields, droves of
hogs, factories and money. Nor were Channing and Knapp the first of
the haruspices. Noah Webster, the lexicographer, who "taught millions
to spell but not one to sin," had seen the early starlight of the same
Golden Age so early as 1789, as the curious will find by examining
his "Dissertations on the English Language," a work fallen long since
into undeserved oblivion. Nor was Whitman, taking sober second thought
exactly a century later, the last of them. Out of many brethren of our
own day, extravagantly articulate in print and among the chautauquas,
I choose one--not because his hope is of purest water, but precisely
because, like Emerson, he dilutes it with various discreet where-ases.
He is Van Wyck Brooks, a young man far more intelligent, penetrating
and hospitable to fact than any of the reigning professors--a critic
who is sharply differentiated from them, indeed, by the simple
circumstance that he has information and sense. Yet this extraordinary
Mr. Brooks, in his "Letters and Leadership," published in 1918,
rewrites "The American Scholar" in terms borrowed almost bodily
from "Democratic Vistas"--that is to say, he prophesies with Emerson
and exults with Whitman. First there is the Emersonian doctrine of
the soaring individual made articulate by freedom and realizing "the
responsibility that lies upon us, each in the measure of his own gift."
And then there is Whitman's vision of a self-interpretative democracy,
forced into high literary adventures by Joseph Conrad's "obscure inner
necessity," and so achieving a "new synthesis adaptable to the unique
conditions of our life." And finally there is the specific prediction,
the grandiose, Adam Forepaugh mirage: "We shall become a luminous
people, dwelling in the light and sharing our light." ...

As I say, the roll of such soothsayers might be almost endlessly
lengthened. There is, in truth, scarcely a formal discourse upon the
national letters (forgetting, perhaps, Barrett Wendell's sour threnody
upon the New England _Aufklärung)_ that is without some touch of this
previsional exultation, this confident hymning of glories to come,
this fine assurance that American literature, in some future always
ready to dawn, will burst into so grand a flowering that history will
cherish its loveliest blooms even above such salient American gifts to
culture as the moving-picture, the phonograph, the New Thought and the
bi-chloride tablet. If there was ever a dissenter from the national
optimism, in this as in other departments, it was surely Edgar Allan
Poe--without question the bravest and most original, if perhaps also
the least orderly and judicious, of all the critics that we have
produced. And yet even Poe, despite his general habit of disgust and
dismay, caught a flash or two of that engaging picture--even Poe, for
an instant, in 1846, thought that he saw the beginnings of a solid
and autonomous native literature, its roots deep in the soil of the
republic--as you will discover by turning to his forgotten essay on J.
G. C. Brainard, a thrice-forgotten doggereleer of Jackson's time. Poe,
of course, was too cautious to let his imagination proceed to details;
one feels that a certain doubt, a saving peradventure or two, played
about the unaccustomed vision as he beheld it. But, nevertheless, he
unquestionably beheld it....


_The Answering Fact_

Now for the answering fact. How has the issue replied to these
visionaries? It has replied in a way that is manifestly to the
discomfiture of Emerson as a prophet, to the dismay of Poe as a
pessimist disarmed by transient optimism, and to the utter collapse
of Whitman. We have, as every one knows, produced no such "new and
greater literatus order" as that announced by old Walt. We have given
a gaping world no books that "radiate," and surely none intelligibly
comparable to stars and constellations. We have achieved no prodigies
of the first class, and very few of the second class, and not many of
the third and fourth classes. Our literature, despite several false
starts that promised much, is chiefly remarkable, now as always, for
its respectable mediocrity. Its typical great man, in our own time, has
been Howells, as its typical great man a generation ago was Lowell,
and two generations ago, Irving. Viewed largely, its salient character
appears as a sort of timorous flaccidity, an amiable hollowness.
In bulk it grows more and more formidable, in ease and decorum it
makes undoubted progress, and on the side of mere technic, of the
bald capacity to write, it shows an ever-widening competence. But
when one proceeds from such agencies and externals to the intrinsic
substance, to the creative passion within, that substance quickly
reveals itself as thin and watery, and that passion fades to something
almost puerile. In all that mass of suave and often highly diverting
writing there is no visible movement toward a distinguished and
singular excellence, a signal national quality, a ripe and stimulating
flavor, or, indeed, toward any other describable goal. _What_ one
sees is simply a general irresolution, a pervasive superficiality.
There is no sober grappling with fundamentals, but only a shy sporting
on the surface; there is not even any serious approach, such as
Whitman dreamed of, to the special experiences and emergencies of the
American people. When one turns to any other national literature--to
Russian literature, say, or French, or German or Scandinavian--one
is conscious immediately of a definite attitude toward the primary
mysteries of existence, the unsolved and ever-fascinating problems
at the bottom of human life, and of a definite preoccupation with
some of them, and a definite way of translating their challenge into
drama. These attitudes and preoccupations raise a literature above
mere poetizing and tale-telling; they give it dignity and importance;
above all, they give it national character. But it is precisely here
that the literature of America, and especially the later literature,
is most colorless and inconsequential. As if paralyzed by the national
fear of ideas, the democratic distrust of whatever strikes beneath
the prevailing platitudes, it evades all resolute and honest dealing
with what, after all, must be every healthy literature's elementary
materials. One is conscious of no brave and noble earnestness in it, of
no generalized passion for intellectual and spiritual adventure, of no
organized determination to think things out. What is there is a highly
self-conscious and insipid correctness, a bloodless respectability, a
submergence of matter in manner--in brief, what is there is the feeble,
uninspiring quality of German painting and English music.

It was so in the great days and it is so to-day. There has always
been hope and there has always been failure. Even the most optimistic
prophets of future glories have been united, at all times, in their
discontent with the here and now. "The mind of this country," said
Emerson, speaking of what was currently visible in 1837, "is taught
to aim at low objects.... There is no work for any but the decorous
and the complaisant.... Books are written ... by men of talent ... who
start wrong, who set out from accepted dogmas, not from their own sight
of principles." And then, turning to the way out: "The office of the
scholar (_i.e.,_ of Whitman's 'literatus') is to cheer, to raise and to
guide men by showing them _facts amid appearances._" Whitman himself,
a full generation later, found that office still unfilled. "Our
fundamental want to-day in the United States," he said, "with closest,
amplest reference to present conditions, and to the future, is of a
class, and the clear idea of a class, of native authors, literatuses,
far different, far higher in grade, than any yet known"--and so on, as
I have already quoted him. And finally, to make an end of the prophets,
there is Brooks, with nine-tenths of his book given over, not to his
prophecy--it is crowded, indeed, into the last few pages--but to a
somewhat heavy mourning over the actual scene before him. On the side
of letters, the æsthetic side, the side of ideas, we present to the
world at large, he says, "the spectacle of a vast, undifferentiated
herd of good-humored animals"--Knights of Pythias, Presbyterians,
standard model Ph.D.'s, readers of the _Saturday Evening Post,_
admirers of Richard Harding Davis and O. Henry, devotees of Hamilton
Wright Mabie's "white list" of books, members of the Y. M. C. A. or the
Drama League, weepers at chautauquas, wearers of badges, 100 per cent,
patriots, children of God. Poe I pass over; I shall turn to him again
later on. Nor shall I repeat the parrotings of Emerson and Whitman in
the jeremiads of their innumerable heirs and assigns. What they all
establish is what is already obvious: that American thinking, when
it concerns itself with beautiful letters as when it concerns itself
with religious dogma or political theory, is extraordinarily timid and
superficial--that it evades the genuinely serious problems of life and
art as if they were stringently taboo--that the outward virtues it
undoubtedly shows are always the virtues, not of profundity, not of
courage, not of originality, but merely those of an emasculated and
often very trashy dilettantism.


_The Ashes of New England_

The current scene is surely depressing enough. What one observes
is a literature in three layers, and each inordinately doughy and
uninspiring--each almost without flavor or savor. It is hard to say,
with much critical plausibility, which layer deserves to be called
the upper, but for decorum's sake the choice may be fixed upon that
which meets with the approval of the reigning Lessings. This is the
layer of the novels of the late Howells, Judge Grant, Alice Brown and
the rest of the dwindling survivors of New England _Kultur,_ of the
brittle, academic poetry of Woodberry and the elder Johnson, of the
tea-party essays of Crothers, Miss Repplier and company, and of the
solemn, highly judicial, coroner's inquest criticism of More, Brownell,
Babbitt and their imitators. Here we have manner, undoubtedly. The
thing is correctly done; it is never crude or gross; there is in
it a faint perfume of college-town society. But when this highly
refined and attenuated manner is allowed for what remains is next to
nothing. One never remembers a character in the novels of these aloof
and de-Americanized Americans; one never encounters an idea in their
essays; one never carries away a line out of their poetry. It is
literature as an academic exercise for talented grammarians, almost as
a genteel recreation for ladies and gentlemen of fashion--the exact
equivalent, in the field of letters, of eighteenth century painting and
German _Augenmusik._

What ails it, intrinsically, is a dearth of intellectual audacity and
of æsthetic passion. Running through it, and characterizing the work
of almost every man and woman producing it, there is an unescapable
suggestion of the old Puritan suspicion of the fine arts as such--of
the doctrine that they offer fit asylum for good citizens only when
some ulterior and superior purpose is carried into them. This purpose,
naturally enough, most commonly shows a moral tinge. The aim of poetry,
it appears, is to fill the mind with lofty thoughts--not to give it
joy, but to give it a grand and somewhat gaudy sense of virtue. The
essay is a weapon against the degenerate tendencies of the age. The
novel, properly conceived, is a means of uplifting the spirit; its aim
is to inspire, not merely to satisfy the low curiosity of man in man.
The Puritan, of course, is not entirely devoid of æsthetic feeling. He
has a taste for good form; he responds to style; he is even capable
of something approaching a purely æsthetic emotion. But he fears this
æsthetic emotion as an insinuating distraction from his chief business
in life: the sober consideration of the all-important problem of
conduct. Art is a temptation, a seduction, a Lorelei, and the Good
Man may safely have traffic with it only when it is broken to moral
uses--in other words, when its innocence is pumped out of it, and it
is purged of gusto. It is precisely this gusto that one misses in all
the work of the New England school, and in all the work of the formal
schools that derive from it. One observes in such a fellow as Dr. Henry
Van Dyke an excellent specimen of the whole clan. He is, in his way,
a genuine artist. He has a hand for pretty verses. He wields a facile
rhetoric. He shows, in indiscreet moments, a touch of imagination.
But all the while he remains a sound Presbyterian, with one eye on
the devil. He is a Presbyterian first and an artist second, which is
just as comfortable as trying to be a Presbyterian first and a chorus
girl second. To such a man it must inevitably appear that a Molière, a
Wagner, a Goethe or a Shakespeare was more than a little bawdy.

The criticism that supports this decaying caste of literary Brahmins
is grounded almost entirely upon ethical criteria. You will spend a
long while going through the works of such typical professors as More,
Phelps, Boynton, Burton, Perry, Brownell and Babbitt before ever you
encounter a purely æsthetic judgment upon an æsthetic question. It
is almost as if a man estimating daffodils should do it in terms of
artichokes. Phelps' whole body of "we church-goers" criticism--the most
catholic and tolerant, it may be said in passing, that the faculty can
show--consists chiefly of a plea for correctness, and particularly
for moral correctness; he never gets very far from "the axiom of the
moral law." Brownell argues eloquently for standards that would bind
an imaginative author as tightly as a Sunday-school super-intendent
is bound by the Ten Commandments and the Mann Act. Sherman tries to
save Shakespeare for the right-thinking by proving that he was an Iowa
Methodist--a member of his local Chamber of Commerce, a contemner of
Reds, an advocate of democracy and the League of Nations, a patriotic
dollar-a-year-man during the Armada scare. Elmer More devotes himself,
year in and year out, to denouncing the Romantic movement, _i. e.,_
the effort to emancipate the artist from formulæ and categories, and
so make him free to dance with arms and legs. And Babbitt, to make
an end, gives over his days and his nights to deploring Rousseau's
anarchistic abrogation of "the veto power" over the imagination,
leading to such "wrongness" in both art and life that it threatens
"to wreck civilization." In brief, the alarms of schoolmasters. Not
many of them deal specifically with the literature that is in being.
It is too near to be quite nice. To More or Babbitt only death can
atone for the primary offense of the artist. But what they preach
nevertheless has its echoes contemporaneously, and those echoes, in the
main, are woefully falsetto. I often wonder what sort of picture of
These States is conjured up by foreigners who read, say, Crothers, Van
Dyke, Babbitt, the later Winston Churchill, and the old maids of the
Freudian suppression school. How can such a foreigner, moving in those
damp, asthmatic mists, imagine such phenomena as Roosevelt, Billy
Sunday, Bryan, the Becker case, the I. W. W., Newport, Palm Beach, the
University of Chicago, Chicago itself--the whole, gross, glittering,
excessively dynamic, infinitely grotesque, incredibly stupendous drama
of American life?

As I have said, it is not often that the _ordentlichen Professoren_
deign to notice contemporary writers, even of their own austere kidney.
In all the Shelburne Essays there is none on Howells, or on Churchill,
or on Mrs. Wharton; More seems to think of American literature as
expiring with Longfellow and Donald G. Mitchell. He has himself hinted
that in the department of criticism of criticism there enters into
the matter something beyond mere aloof ignorance. "I soon learned (as
editor of the pre-Bolshevik _Nation),_" he says, "that it was virtually
impossible to get fair consideration for a book written by a scholar
not connected with a university from a reviewer so connected." This
class consciousness, however, should not apply to artists, who are
admittedly inferior to professors, and it surely does not show itself
in such men as Phelps and Spingarn, who seem to be very eager to prove
that they are not professorial. Yet Phelps, in the course of a long
work on the novel, pointedly omits all mention of such men as Dreiser,
and Spingarn, as the aforesaid Brooks has said, "appears to be less
inclined even than the critics with whom he is theoretically at war
to play an active, public part in the secular conflict of darkness
and light." When one comes to the _Privat-Dozenten_ there is less
remoteness, but what takes the place of it is almost as saddening. To
Sherman and Percy Boynton the one aim of criticism seems to be the
enforcement of correctness--in Emerson's phrase, the upholding of "some
great decorum, some fetish of a government, some ephemeral trade, or
war, or man"--e. g., Puritanism, democracy, monogamy, the League of
Nations, the Wilsonian piffle. Even among the critics who escape the
worst of this schoolmastering frenzy there is some touch of the heavy
"culture" of the provincial schoolma'm. For example, consider Clayton
Hamilton, M.A., vice-president of the National Institute of Arts and
Letters. Here are the tests he proposes for dramatic critics, _i.
e.,_ for gentlemen chiefly employed in reviewing such characteristic
American compositions as the Ziegfeld Follies, "Up in Mabel's Room,"
"Ben-Hur" and "The Witching Hour":

    1. Have you ever stood bareheaded in the nave of Amiens?

    2. Have you ever climbed to the Acropolis by moonlight?

    3. Have you ever walked with whispers into the hushed
    presence of the Frari Madonna of Bellini?

What could more brilliantly evoke an image of the eternal Miss Birch,
blue veil flying and Baedeker in hand, plodding along faithfully
through the interminable corridors and catacombs of the Louvre,
the while bands are playing across the river, and young bucks in
three-gallon hats are sparking the gals, and the Jews and harlots
uphold the traditions of French _hig leef_ at Longchamps, and American
deacons are frisked and debauched up on martyrs' hill? The banality of
it is really too exquisite to be borne; the lack of humor is almost
that of a Fifth avenue divine. One seldom finds in the pronunciamentoes
of these dogged professors, indeed, any trace of either Attic or Gallic
salt. When they essay to be jocose, the result is usually simply an
elephantine whimsicality, by the chautauqua out of the _Atlantic
Monthly._ Their satire is mere ill-nature. One finds it difficult to
believe that they have ever read Lewes, or Hazlitt, or, above all,
Saintsbury. I often wonder, in fact, how Saintsbury would fare, an
unknown man, at the hands of, say, Brownell or More. What of his
iconoclastic gayety, his boyish weakness for tweaking noses and pulling
whiskers, his obscene delight in slang?...


_The Ferment Underground_

So much for the top layer. The bottom layer is given over to the
literature of Greenwich Village, and by Greenwich Village, of course,
I mean the whole of the advanced wing in letters, whatever the scene
of its solemn declarations of independence and forlorn hopes. Miss Amy
Lowell is herself a fully-equipped and automobile Greenwich Village,
domiciled in Boston amid the crumbling gravestones of the New England
_intelligentsia,_ but often in waspish joy-ride through the hinterland.
Vachel Lindsay, with his pilgrim's staff, is another. There is a third
in Chicago, with _Poetry: A Magazine of Verse_ as its Exhibit A; it
is, in fact, the senior of the Village fornenst Washington Square.
Others you will find in far-flung factory towns, wherever there is a
Little Theater, and a couple of local Synges and Chekovs to supply its
stage. St. Louis, before Zoë Akins took flight, had the busiest of
all these Greenwiches, and the most interesting. What lies under the
whole movement is the natural revolt of youth against the pedagogical
Prussianism of the professors. The oppression is extreme, and so the
rebellion is extreme. Imagine a sentimental young man of the provinces,
awaking one morning to the somewhat startling discovery that he is
full of the divine afflatus, and nominated by the hierarchy of hell
to enrich the literature of his fatherland. He seeks counsel and aid.
He finds, on consulting the official treatises on that literature,
that its greatest poet was Longfellow. He is warned, reading More and
Babbitt, that the literatus who lets feeling get into his compositions
is a psychic fornicator, and under German influences. He has formal
notice from Sherman that Puritanism is the lawful philosophy of the
country, and that any dissent from it is treason. He gets the news,
plowing through the New York _Times Book Review,_ the _Nation_ (so far
to the left in its politics, but hugging the right so desperately in
letters!) the _Bookman,_ the _Atlantic_ and the rest, that the salient
artists of the living generation are such masters as Robert Underwood
Johnson, Owen Wister, James Lane Allen, George E. Woodberry, Hamlin
Garland, William Roscoe Thayer and Augustus Thomas, with polite bows
to Margaret Deland, Mary Johnston and Ellen Glasgow. It slowly dawns
upon him that Robert W. Chambers is an academician and Theodore Dreiser
isn't, that Brian Hooker is and George Sterling isn't, that Henry
Sydnor Harrison is and James Branch Cabell isn't, that "Chimmie Fadden"
Townsend is and Sherwood Anderson isn't.

Is it any wonder that such a young fellow, after one or two sniffs
of that prep-school fog, swings so vastly backward that one finds
him presently in corduroy trousers and a velvet jacket, hammering
furiously upon a pine table in a Macdougal street cellar, his mind
full of malicious animal magnetism against even so amiable an old
maid as Howells, and his discourse full of insane hair-splittings
about _vers libre,_ futurism, spectrism, vorticism, _Expressionismus,
héliogabalisme?_ The thing, in truth, is in the course of nature.
The Spaniards who were outraged by the Palmerism of Torquemada did
not become members of the Church of England; they became atheists.
The American colonists, in revolt against a bad king, did not set up
a good king; they set up a democracy, and so gave every honest man a
chance to become a rogue on his own account. Thus the young literatus,
emerging from the vacuum of Ohio or Arkansas. An early success, as we
shall see, tends to halt and moderate him. He finds that, after all,
there is still a place for him, a sort of asylum for such as he, not
over-populated or very warmly-heated, but nevertheless quite real. But
if his sledding at the start is hard, if the corrective birch finds him
while he is still tender, then he goes, as Andrew Jackson would say,
the whole hog, and another voice is added to the raucous bellowing of
the literary Reds.

I confess that the spectacle gives me some joy, despite the fact
that the actual output of the Village is seldom worth noticing. What
commonly engulfs and spoils the Villagers is their concern with mere
technique. Among them, it goes without saying, are a great many
frauds--poets whose yearning to write is unaccompanied by anything
properly describable as capacity, dramatists whose dramas are simply
Schnitzler and well-water, workers in prose fiction who gravitate
swiftly and inevitably to the machine-made merchandise of the cheap
magazines--in brief, American equivalents of the bogus painters of the
Boul' Mich'. These pretenders, having no ideas, naturally try to make
the most of forms. Half the wars in the Village are over form; content
is taken for granted, or forgotten altogether. The extreme leftists,
in fact, descend to a meaningless gibberish, both in prose and in
verse; it is their last defiance to intellectualism. This childish
concentration upon externals unfortunately tends to debauch the small
minority that is of more or less genuine parts; the good are pulled in
by the bad. As a result, the Village produces nothing that justifies
all the noise it makes. I have yet to hear of a first-rate book coming
out of it, or a short story of arresting quality, or even a poem of
any solid distinction. As one of the editors of a magazine which
specializes in the work of new authors I am in an exceptional position
to report. Probably nine-tenths of the stuff written in the dark dens
and alleys south of the arch comes to my desk soon or late, and I go
through all of it faithfully. It is, in the overwhelming main, jejune
and imitative. The prose is quite without distinction, either in matter
or in manner. The verse seldom gets beyond a hollow audaciousness, not
unlike that of cubist painting. It is not often, indeed, that even
personality is in it; all of the Villagers seem to write alike. "Unless
one is an expert in some detective method," said a recent writer in
_Poetry,_ "one is at a loss to assign correctly the ownership of
much free verse--that is, if one plays fairly and refuses to look at
the signature until one has ventured a guess. It is difficult, for
instance, to know whether Miss Lowell is writing Mr. Bynner's verse, or
whether he is writing hers." Moreover, this monotony keeps to a very
low level. There is no poet in the movement who has produced anything
even remotely approaching the fine lyrics of Miss Reese, Miss Teasdale
and John McClure, and for all its war upon the _cliché_ it can show
nothing to equal the _cliché-free_ beauty of Robert Loveman's "Rain
Song." In the drama the Village has gone further. In Eugene O'Neill,
Rita Wellman and Zoë Akins it offers dramatists who are obviously many
cuts above the well-professored mechanicians who pour out of Prof. Dr.
Baker's _Ibsenfabrik_ at Cambridge. But here we must probably give
the credit, not to any influence residing within the movement itself,
but to mere acts of God. Such pieces as O'Neill's one-acters, Miss
Wellman's "The Gentile Wife" and Miss Akins' extraordinary "Papa" lie
quite outside the Village scheme of things. There is no sign of formal
revolt in them. They are simply first-rate work, done miraculously in a
third-rate land.

But if the rebellion is thus sterile of direct results, and, in more
than one aspect, fraudulent and ridiculous, it is at all events an
evidence of something not to be disregarded, and that something is
the gradual formulation of a challenge to the accepted canons in
letters and to the accepted canon lawyers. The first hoots come from
a tatterdemalion horde of rogues and vagabonds without the gates,
but soon or late, let us hope, they will be echoed in more decorous
quarters, and with much greater effect. The Village, in brief, is an
earnest that somewhere or other new seeds are germinating. Between the
young tutor who launches into letters with imitations of his seminary
chief's imitations of Agnes Repplier's imitations of Charles Lamb, and
the young peasant who tries to get his honest exultations into free
verse there can be no hesitant choice: the peasant is, by long odds,
the sounder artist, and, what is more, the sounder American artist.
Even the shy and somewhat stagey carnality that characterizes the
Village has its high symbolism and its profound uses. It proves that,
despite repressions unmatched in civilization in modern times, there is
still a sturdy animality in American youth, and hence good health. The
poet hugging his Sonia in a Washington square beanery, and so giving
notice to all his world that he is a devil of a fellow, is at least a
better man than the emasculated stripling in a Y. M. C. A. gospel-mill,
pumped dry of all his natural appetites and the vacuum filled with
double-entry book-keeping, business economics and auto-erotism. In
so foul a nest of imprisoned and fermenting sex as the United States,
plain fornication becomes a mark of relative decency.


_In the Literary Abattoir_

But the theme is letters, not wickedness. The upper and lower layers
have been surveyed. There remains the middle layer, the thickest and
perhaps the most significant of the three. By the middle layer I mean
the literature that fills the magazines and burdens the book-counters
in the department-stores--the literature adorned by such artists as
Richard Harding Davis, Rex Beach, Emerson Hough, O. Henry, James
Whitcomb Riley, Augustus Thomas, Robert W. Chambers, Henry Sydnor
Harrison, Owen Johnson, Cyrus Townsend Brady, Irvin Cobb and Mary
Roberts Rinehart--in brief, the literature that pays like a bucket-shop
or a soap-factory, and is thus thoroughly American. At the bottom this
literature touches such depths of banality that it would be difficult
to match it in any other country. The "inspirational" and patriotic
essays of Dr. Frank Crane, Orison Sweet Marden, Porter Emerson Browne,
Gerald Stanley Lee, E. S. Martin, Ella Wheeler Wilcox and the Rev. Dr.
Newell Dwight Hillis, the novels of Harold Bell Wright, Eleanor H.
Porter and Gene Stratton-Porter, and the mechanical sentimentalities
in prose and verse that fill the cheap fiction magazines--this stuff
has a native quality that is as unmistakable as that of Mother's Day,
Billy-Sundayism or the Junior Order of United American Mechanics. It
is the natural outpouring of a naïve and yet half barbarous people,
full of delight in a few childish and inaccurate ideas. But it would
be a grave error to assume that the whole of the literature of the
middle layer is of the same infantile quality. On the contrary, a
great deal of it--for example, the work of Mrs. Rinehart, and that
of Corra Harris, Gouverneur Morris, Harold MacGrath and the late O.
Henry--shows an unmistakably technical excellence, and even a certain
civilized sophistication in point of view. Moreover, this literature is
constantly graduating adept professors into something finer, as witness
Booth Tarkington, Zona Gale, Ring W. Lardner and Montague Glass. S. L.
Clemens came out of forty years ago. Nevertheless, its general tendency
is distinctly in the other direction. It seduces by the power of money,
and by the power of great acclaim no less. One constantly observes
the collapse and surrender of writers who started out with aims far
above that of the magazine nabob. I could draw up a long, long list of
such victims: Henry Milner Rideout, Jack London, Owen Johnson, Chester
Bailey Fernald, Hamlin Garland, Will Levington Comfort, Stephen French
Whitman, James Hopper, Harry Leon Wilson, and so on. They had their
fore-runner, in the last generation, in Bret Harte. It is, indeed,
a characteristic American phenomenon for a young writer to score a
success with novel and meritorious work, and then to yield himself to
the best-seller fever, and so disappear down the sewers. Even the man
who struggles to emerge again is commonly hauled back. For example,
Louis Joseph Vance, Rupert Hughes, George Bronson-Howard, and, to
go back a few years, David Graham Phillips and Elbert Hubbard--all
men flustered by high aspiration, and yet all pulled down by the
temptations below. Even Frank Norris showed signs of yielding. The
pull is genuinely powerful. Above lies not only isolation, but also a
dogged and malignant sort of opposition. Below, as Morris has frankly
admitted, there is the place at Aiken, the motor-car, babies, money in
the bank, and the dignity of an important man.

It is a commonplace of the envious to put all the blame upon the
_Saturday Evening Post,_ for in its pages many of the Magdalens of
letters are to be found, and out of its bulging coffers comes much
of the lure. But this is simply blaming the bull for the sins of all
the cows. The _Post,_ as a matter of fact, is a good deal less guilty
than such magazines as the _Cosmopolitan, Hearst's, McClure's_ and
the _Metropolitan,_ not to mention the larger women's magazines. In
the _Post_ one often discerns an effort to rise above the level of
shoe-drummer fiction. It is edited by a man who, almost alone among
editors of the great periodicals of the country, is himself a writer
of respectable skill. It has brought out (after lesser publications
unearthed them) a member of authors of very solid talents, notably
Glass, Lardner and E. W. Howe. It has been extremely hospitable to men
not immediately comprehensible to the mob, for example, Dreiser and
Hergesheimer. Most of all, it has avoided the Barnum-like exploitation
of such native bosh-mongers as Crane, Hillis and Ella Wheeler
Wilcox, and of such exotic mountebanks as D'Annunzio, Hall Caine and
Maeterlinck. In brief, the _Post_ is a great deal better than ever
Greenwich Village and the Cambridge campus are disposed to admit. It
is the largest of all the literary Hog Islands, but it is by no means
the worst. Appealing primarily to the great masses of right-thinking
and unintelligent Americans, it must necessarily print a great deal
of preposterous tosh, but it flavors the mess with not a few things
of a far higher quality, and at its worst it is seldom downright
idiotic. In many of the other great magazines one finds stuff that
it would be difficult to describe in any other words. It is gaudily
romantic, furtively sexual, and full of rubber-stamp situations and
personages--a sort of amalgam of the worst drivel of Marie Corelli,
Elinor Glyn, E. Phillips Oppenheim, William Le Quex and Hall Caine.
This is the literature of the middle layer--the product of the national
Rockefellers and Duponts of letters. This is the sort of thing that the
young author of facile pen is encouraged to manufacture. This is the
material of the best sellers and the movies.

Of late it is the movies that have chiefly provoked its composition:
the rewards they offer are even greater than those held out by the
commercial book-publishers and the train-boy magazines. The point of
view of an author responsive to such rewards was recently set forth
very naively in the _Authors' League Bulletin._ This author undertook,
in a short article, to refute the fallacies of an unknown who ventured
to protest against the movies on the ground that they called only for
bald plots, elementary and generally absurd, and that all the rest of a
sound writer's equipment--"the artistry of his style, the felicity of
his apt expression, his subtlety and thoroughness of observation and
comprehension and sympathy, the illuminating quality of his analysis
of motive and character, even the fundamental skillful development of
the bare plot"--was disdained by the Selznicks, Goldfishes, Zukors and
other such _entrepreneurs,_ and by the overwhelming majority of their
customers. I quote from the reply:

    There are some conspicuous word merchants who deal in the
    English language, but the general public doesn't clamor
    for their wares. They write for the "thinking class."
    The élite, the discriminating. As a rule, they scorn the
    crass commercialism of the magazines and movies and such
    catch-penny devices. However, literary masterpieces live
    because they have been and will be read, not by the few, but
    by the many. That was true in the time of Homer, and even
    to-day the first move made by an editor when he receives a
    manuscript, or a gentle reader when he buys a book, or a
    T. B. M. when he sinks into an orchestra chair is to look
    around for John Henry Plot. If Mr. Plot is too long delayed
    in arriving or doesn't come at all, the editor usually sends
    regrets, the reader yawns and the tired business man falls
    asleep. It's a sad state of affairs and awful tough on art,
    but it can't be helped.

Observe the lofty scorn of mere literature--the superior irony at the
expense of everything beyond the bumping of boobs. Note the sound
judgment as to the function and fate of literary masterpieces, e. g.,
"Endymion," "The Canterbury Tales," "Faust," "Typhoon." Give your
eye to the chaste diction--"John Henry Plot," "T. B. M.," "awful
tough," and so on. No doubt you will at once assume that this curious
counterblast to literature was written by some former bartender now
engaged in composing scenarios for Pearl White and Theda Bara. But it
was not. It was written and signed by the president of the Authors'
League of America.

Here we have, unconsciously revealed, the secret of the depressing
badness of what may be called the staple fiction of the country--the
sort of stuff that is done by the Richard Harding Davises, Rex Beaches,
Houghs, McCutcheons, and their like, male and female. The worse of it
is not that it is addressed primarily to shoe-drummers and shop-girls;
the worst of it is that it is written by authors who _are,_ to all
intellectual intents and purposes, shoe-drummers and shop-girls.
American literature, even on its higher levels, seldom comes out of
the small and lonesome upper classes of the people. An American author
with traditions behind him and an environment about him comparable to
those, say, of George Moore, or Hugh Walpole, or E. F. Benson is and
always has been relatively rare. On this side of the water the arts,
like politics and religion, are chiefly in the keeping of persons of
obscure origin, defective education and elemental tastes. Even some
of the most violent upholders of the New England superstition are
aliens to the actual New England heritage; one discovers, searching
"Who's Who in America," that they are recent fugitives from the six-day
sock and saleratus _Kultur_ of the cow and hog States. The artistic
merchandise produced by liberated yokels of that sort is bound to show
its intellectual newness, which is to say, its deficiency in civilized
culture and sophistication. It is, on the plane of letters, precisely
what evangelical Christianity is on the plane of religion, to wit,
the product of ill-informed, emotional and more or less pushing and
oafish folk. Life, to such Harvardized peasants, is not a mystery; it
is something absurdly simple, to be described with surety and in a
few words. If they set up as critics their criticism is all a matter
of facile labeling, chiefly ethical; find the pigeon-hole, and the
rest is easy. If they presume to discuss the great problems of human
society, they are equally ready with their answers: draw up and pass
a harsh enough statute, and the corruptible will straightway put on
incorruption. And if, fanned by the soft breath of beauty, they go into
practice as creative artists, as poets, as dramatists, as novelists,
then one learns from them that we inhabit a country that is the model
and despair of other states, that its culture is coextensive with human
culture and enlightenment, and that every failure to find happiness
under that culture, is the result of sin.


_Underlying Causes_

Here is one of the fundamental defects of American fiction--perhaps
the one character that sets it off sharply from all other known kinds
of contemporary fiction. It habitually exhibits, not a man of delicate
organization in revolt against the inexplicable tragedy of existence,
but a man of low sensibilities and elemental desires yielding himself
gladly to his environment, and so achieving what, under a third-rate
civilization, passes for success. To get on: this is the aim. To weigh
and reflect, to doubt and rebel: this is the thing to be avoided.
I describe the optimistic, the inspirational, the Authors' League,
the popular magazine, the peculiarly American school. In character
creation its masterpiece is the advertising agent who, by devising
some new and super-imbecile boob-trap, puts his hook-and-eye factory
"on the map," ruins all other factories, marries the daughter of his
boss, and so ends as an eminent man. Obviously, the drama underlying
such fiction--what Mr. Beach would call its John Henry Plot--is false
drama, Sunday-school drama, puerile and disgusting drama. It is the
sort of thing that awakens a response only in men who are essentially
unimaginative, timorous and degraded--in brief, in democrats, bagmen,
yahoos. The man of reflective habit cannot conceivably take any
passionate interest in the conflicts it deals with. He doesn't want
to marry the daughter of the owner of the hook-and-eye factory; he
would probably burn down the factory itself if it ever came into his
hands. What interests this man is the far more poignant and significant
conflict between a salient individual and the harsh and meaningless
fiats of destiny, the unintelligible mandates and vagaries of God. His
hero is not one who yields and wins, but one who resists and fails.

Most of these conflicts, of course, are internal, and hence do not
make themselves visible in the overt melodrama of the Beaches, Davises
and Chamberses. A superior man's struggle in the world is not with
exterior lions, trusts, margraves, policemen, rivals in love, German
spies, radicals and tornadoes, but with the obscure, atavistic impulses
within him--the impulses, weaknesses and limitations that war with his
notion of what life should be. Nine times out of ten he succumbs. Nine
times out of ten he must yield to the dead hand. Nine times out of ten
his aspiration is almost infinitely above his achievement. The result
is that we see him sliding downhill--his ideals breaking up, his hope
petering out, his character in decay. Character in decay is thus the
theme of the great bulk of superior fiction. One has it in Dostoievsky,
in Balzac, in Hardy, in Conrad, in Flaubert, in Zola, in Turgenieff,
in Goethe, in Sudermann, in Bennett, and, to come home, in Dreiser.
In nearly all first-rate novels the hero is defeated. In perhaps a
majority he is completely destroyed. The hero of the inferior--_i. e.,_
the typically American--novel engages in no such doomed and fateful
combat. His conflict is not with the inexplicable ukases of destiny,
the limitations of his own strength, the dead hand upon him, but
simply with the superficial desires of his elemental fellow men. He
thus has a fair chance of winning--and in bad fiction that chance is
always converted into a certainty. So he marries the daughter of the
owner of the factory and eventually gobbles the factory itself. His
success gives thrills to persons who can imagine no higher aspiration.
He embodies their optimism, as the other hero embodies the pessimism of
more introspective and idealistic men. He is the protagonist of that
great majority which is so inferior that it is quite unconscious of its

It is this superficiality of the inferior man, it seems to me, that
is the chief hallmark of the American novel. Whenever one encounters
a novel that rises superior to it the thing takes on a subtle but
unmistakable air of foreignness--for example, Frank Norris' "Vandover
and the Brute," Hergesheimer's "The Lay Anthony" and Miss Cather's
"My Antonia," or, to drop to short stories, Stephen Crane's "The Blue
Hotel" and Mrs. Wharton's "Ethan Frome." The short story is commonly
regarded, at least by American critics, as a preëminently American
form; there are even patriots who argue that Bret Harte invented it.
It meets very accurately, in fact, certain characteristic demands of
the American temperament: it is simple, economical and brilliantly
effective. Yet the same hollowness that marks the American novel also
marks the American short story. Its great masters, in late years, have
been such cheese-mongers as Davis, with his servant-girl romanticism,
and O. Henry, with his smoke-room and variety show smartness. In the
whole canon of O. Henry's work you will not find a single recognizable
human character; his people are unanimously marionettes; he makes
Mexican brigands, Texas cowmen and New York cracksmen talk the same
highly ornate Broadwayese. The successive volumes of Edward J.
O'Brien's "Best Short-Story" series throw a vivid light upon the
feeble estate of the art in the land. O'Brien, though his æsthetic
judgments are ludicrous, at least selects stories that are thoroughly
representative; his books are trade successes because the crowd is
undoubtedly with him. He has yet to discover a single story that even
the most naïve professor would venture to mention in the same breath
with Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," or Andrieff's "Silence," or
Sudermann's "Das Sterbelied," or the least considerable tale by Anatole
France. In many of the current American makers of magazine short
stories--for example, Gouverneur Morris--one observes, as I have said,
a truly admirable technical skill. They have mastered the externals of
the form. They know how to get their effects. But in content their work
is as hollow as a jug. Such stuff has no imaginable relation to life
as men live it in the world. It is as artificial as the heroic strut
and romantic eyes of a moving-picture actor.

I have spoken of the air of foreignness that clings to certain
exceptional American compositions. In part it is based upon a
psychological trick--upon the surprise which must inevitably seize upon
any one who encounters a decent piece of writing in so vast a desert
of mere literacy. But in part it is grounded soundly enough on the
facts. The native author of any genuine force and originality is almost
invariably found to be under strong foreign influences, either English
or Continental. It was so in the earliest days. Freneau, the poet of
the Revolution, was thoroughly French in blood and traditions. Irving,
as H. R. Haweis has said, "took to England as a duck takes to water,"
and was in exile seventeen years. Cooper, with the great success of
"The Last of the Mohicans" behind him, left the country in disgust
and was gone for seven years. Emerson, Bryant, Lowell, Hawthorne and
even Longfellow kept their eyes turned across the water; Emerson, in
fact, was little more than an importer and popularizer of German and
French ideas. Bancroft studied in Germany; Prescott, like Irving,
was enchanted by Spain. Poe, unable to follow the fashion, invented
mythical travels to save his face--to France, to Germany, to the Greek
isles. The Civil War revived the national consciousness enormously,
but it did not halt the movement of _émigrés._ Henry James, in the
seventies, went to England, Bierce and Bret Harte followed him, and
even Mark Twain, absolutely American though he was, was forever pulling
up stakes and setting out for Vienna, Florence or London. Only poverty
tied Whitman to the soil; his audience, for many years, was chiefly
beyond the water, and there, too, he often longed to be. This distaste
for the national scene is often based upon a genuine alienness. The
more, indeed, one investigates the ancestry of Americans who have won
distinction in the fine arts, the more one discovers tempting game for
the critical Know Nothings. Whitman was half Dutch, Harte was half
Jew, Poe was partly German, James had an Irish grand-father, Howells
was largely Irish and German, Dreiser is German and Hergesheimer is
Pennsylvania Dutch. Fully a half of the painters discussed in John G.
van Dyke's "American Painting and Its Tradition" were of mixed blood,
with the Anglo-Saxon plainly recessive. And of the five poets singled
out for encomium by Miss Lowell in "Tendencies in Modern American
Poetry" one is a Swede, two are partly German, one was educated in the
German language, and three of the five exiled themselves to England
as soon as they got out of their nonage. The exiles are of all sorts:
Frank Harris, Vincent O'Sullivan, Ezra Pound, Herman Scheffauer, T.
S. Eliot, Henry B. Fuller, Stuart Merrill, Edith Wharton. They go to
England, France, Germany, Italy--anywhere to escape. Even at home the
literatus is perceptibly foreign in his mien. If he lies under the
New England tradition he is furiously colonial--more English than the
English. If he turns to revolt, he is apt to put on a French hat and a
Russion red blouse. _The Little Review,_ the organ of the extreme wing
of _révoltés,_ is so violently exotic that several years ago, during
the plupatriotic days of the war, some of its readers protested. With
characteristic lack of humor it replied with an American number--and
two of the stars of that number bore the fine old Anglo-Saxon names of
Ben Hecht and Eisa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

This tendency of American literature, the moment it begins to show
enterprise, novelty and significance, to radiate an alien smell is not
an isolated phenomenon. The same smell accompanies practically all
other sorts of intellectual activity in the republic. Whenever one
hears that a new political theory is in circulation, or a scientific
heresy, or a movement toward rationalism in religion, it is always
safe to guess that some discontented stranger or other has a hand in
it. In the newspapers and on the floor of Congress a new heterodoxy is
always denounced forthwith as a product of foreign plotting, and here
public opinion undoubtedly supports both the press and the politicians,
and with good reason. The native culture of the country--that is,
the culture of the low caste Anglo-Saxons who preserve the national
tradition--is almost completely incapable of producing ideas. It is
a culture that roughly corresponds to what the culture of England
would be if there were no universities over there, and no caste of
intellectual individualists and no landed aristocracy--in other words,
if the tone of the national thinking were set by the non-conformist
industrials, the camorra of Welsh and Scotch political scoundrels,
and the town and country mobs. As we shall see, the United States has
not yet produced anything properly describable as an aristocracy, and
so there is no impediment to the domination of the inferior orders.
Worse, the Anglo-Saxon strain, second-rate at the start, has tended to
degenerate steadily to lower levels--in New England, very markedly.
The result is that there is not only a great dearth of ideas in the
land, but also an active and relentless hostility to ideas. The chronic
suspiciousness of the inferior man here has full play; never in modern
history has there been another civilization showing so vast a body of
prohibitions and repressions, in both conduct and thought. The second
result is that intellectual experimentation is chiefly left to the
immigrants of the later migrations, and to the small sections of the
native population that have been enriched with their blood. For such a
pure Anglo-Saxon as Cabell to disport himself in the field of ideas is
a rarity in the United States--and no exception to the rule that I have
just mentioned, for Cabell belongs to an aristocracy that is now almost
extinct, and has no more in common with the general population than
a Baltic baron has with the indigenous herd of Letts and Esthonians.
All the arts in America are thoroughly exotic. Music is almost wholly
German or Italian, painting is French, literature may be anything from
English to Russian, architecture (save when it becomes a mere branch
of engineering) is a maddening phantasmagoria of borrowings. Even
so elemental an art as that of cookery shows no native development,
and is greatly disesteemed by Americans of the Anglo-Saxon majority;
any decent restaurant that one blunders upon in the land is likely
to be French, and if not French, then Italian or German or Chinese.
So with the sciences: they have scarcely any native development.
Organized scientific research began in the country with the founding
of the Johns Hopkins University, a bald imitation of the German
universities, and long held suspect by native opinion. Even after its
great success, indeed, there was rancorous hostility to its scheme of
things on chauvinistic grounds, and some years ago efforts were begun
to Americanize it, with the result that it is now sunk to the level
of Princeton, Amherst and other such glorified high-schools, and is
dominated by native savants who would be laughed at in any Continental
university. Science, oppressed by such assaults from below, moves out
of the academic grove into the freer air of the great foundations,
where the pursuit of the shy fact is uncontaminated by football and
social pushing. The greatest of these foundations is the Rockefeller
Institute. Its salient men are such investigators as Flexner, Loeb and
Carrel--all of them Continental Jews.

Thus the battle of ideas in the United States is largely carried on
under strange flags, and even the stray natives on the side of free
inquiry have to sacrifice some of their nationality when they enlist.
The effects of this curious condition of affairs are both good and
evil. The good ones are easily apparent. The racial division gives the
struggle a certain desperate earnestness, and even bitterness, and so
makes it the more inviting to lively minds. It was a benefit to the
late D. C. Gilman rather than a disadvantage that national opinion
opposed his traffic with Huxley and the German professors in the early
days of the Johns Hopkins; the stupidity of the opposition stimulated
him, and made him resolute, and his resolution, in the long run, was of
inestimable cultural value. Scientific research in America, indeed, was
thus set securely upon its legs precisely because the great majority
of right-thinking Americans were violently opposed to it. In the same
way it must be obvious that Dreiser got something valuable out of
the grotesque war that was carried on against him during the greater
war overseas because of his German name--a _jehad_ fundamentally
responsible for the suppression of "The 'Genius.'" The chief danger
that he ran six or seven years ago was the danger that he might be
accepted, explained away, and so seduced downward to the common level.
The attack of professional patriots saved him from that calamity.
More, it filled him with a keen sense of his isolation, and stirred
up the vanity that was in him as it is in all of us, and so made him
cling with new tenacity to the very peculiarities that differentiate
him from his inferiors. Finally, it is not to be forgotten that,
without this rebellion of immigrant iconoclasts, the whole body of the
national literature would tend to sink to the 100% American level of
such patriotic literary business men as the president of the Authors'
League. In other words, we must put up with the æsthetic Bolshevism of
the Europeans and Asiatics who rage in the land, for without them we
might not have any literature at all.

But the evils of the situation are not to be gainsaid. One of them I
have already alluded to: the tendency of the beginning literatus, once
he becomes fully conscious of his foreign affiliations, to desert the
republic forthwith, and thereafter view it from afar, and as an actual
foreigner. More solid and various cultures lure him; he finds himself
uncomfortable at home. Sometimes, as in the case of Henry James, he
becomes a downright expatriate, and a more or less active agent of
anti-American feeling; more often, he goes over to the outlanders
without yielding up his theoretical citizenship, as in the cases of
Irving, Harris, Pound and O'Sullivan. But all this, of course, works
relatively light damage, for not many native authors are footloose
enough to indulge in any such physical desertion of the soil. Of much
more evil importance is the tendency of the cultural alienism that I
have described to fortify the uncontaminated native in his bilious
suspicion of all the arts, and particularly of all artists. The news
that the latest poet to flutter the dovecotes is a Jew, or that the
last novelist mauled by comstockery has a German or Scandinavian
or Russian name, or that the critic newly taken in sacrilege is a
partisan of Viennese farce or of the French moral code or of English
literary theory--this news, among a people so ill-informed, so horribly
well-trained in flight from bugaboos, and so savagely suspicious of
the unfamiliar in ideas, has the inevitable effect of stirring up
opposition that quickly ceases to be purely æsthetic objection, and
so becomes increasingly difficult to combat. If Dreiser's name were
Tompkins or Simpson, there is no doubt whatever that he would affright
the professors a good deal less, and appear less of a hobgoblin to
the _intelligentsia_ of the women's clubs. If Oppenheim were less
palpably levantine, he would come much nearer to the popularity of
Edwin Markham and Walt Mason. And if Cabell kept to the patriotic
business of a Southern gentleman, to wit, the praise of General Robert
E. Lee, instead of prowling the strange and terrible fields of mediæval
Provence, it is a safe wager that he would be sold openly over the
counter instead of stealthily behind the door.

In a previous work I have discussed this tendency in America to
estimate the artist in terms of his secular character. During the
war, when all of the national defects in intelligence were enormously
accentuated, it went to ludicrous lengths. There were then only authors
who were vociferous patriots and thus geniuses, and authors who kept
their dignity and were thus suspect and without virtue. By this gauge
Chambers became the superior of Dreiser and Cabell, and Joyce Kilmer
and Amy Lowell were set above Sandburg and Oppenheim. The test was
even extended to foreigners: by it H. G. Wells took precedence of
Shaw, and Blasco Ibáñez became a greater artist than Romain Rolland.
But the thing is not peculiar to war times; when peace is densest it
is to be observed. The man of letters, pure and simple, is a rarity
in America. Almost always he is something else--and that something
else commonly determines his public eminence. Mark Twain, with only
his books to recommend him, would probably have passed into obscurity
in middle age; it was in the character of a public entertainer, not
unrelated to Coxey, Dr. Mary Walker and Citizen George Francis Train,
that he wooed and won his country. The official criticism of the land
denied him any solid literary virtue to the day of his death, and even
to-day the campus critics and their journalistic valets stand aghast
before "The Mysterious Stranger" and "What is Man?" Emerson passed
through almost the same experience. It was not as a man of letters that
he was chiefly thought of in his time, but as the prophet of a new
cult, half religious, half philosophical, and wholly unintelligible to
nine-tenths of those who discussed it. The first author of a handbook
of American literature to sweep away the codfish Moses and expose
the literary artist was the Polish Jew, Leon Kellner, of Czernowitz.
So with Whitman and Poe--both hobgoblins far more than artists. So,
even, with Howells: it was as the exponent of a dying culture that he
was venerated, not as the practitioner of an art. Few actually read
his books. His celebrity, of course, was real enough, but it somehow
differed materially from that of a pure man of letters--say Shelley,
Conrad, Hauptmann, Hardy or Synge. That he was himself keenly aware of
the national tendency to judge an artist in terms of the citizen was
made plain at the time of the Gorky scandal, when he joined Clemens in
an ignominious desertion of Gorky, scared out of his wits by the danger
of being manhandled for a violation of the national pecksniffery.
Howells also refused to sign the Dreiser Protest. The case of Frank
Harris is one eloquently in point. Harris has written, among other
books, perhaps the best biography ever done by an American. Yet his
politics keep him in a sort of Coventry and the average American critic
would no more think of praising him than of granting Treitschke any
merit as an historian.


_The Lonesome Artist_

Thus falsely judged by standards that have no intelligible appositeness
when applied to an artist, however accurately they may weigh a
stock-broker or a Presbyterian elder, and forced to meet not only
the hunkerous indifference of the dominant mob but also the bitter
and disingenuous opposition of the classes to which he might look
reasonably for understanding and support, the American author is forced
into a sort of social and intellectual vacuum, and lives out his days,
as Henry James said of Hawthorne, "an alien everywhere, an æsthetic

The wonder is that, in the face of so metallic and unyielding a front,
any genuine artists in letters come to the front at all. But they
constantly emerge; the first gestures are always on show; the prodigal
and gorgeous life of the country simply forces a sensitive minority to
make some attempt at representation and interpretation, and out of many
trying there often appears one who can. The phenomenon of Dreiser is
not unique. He had his forerunners in Fuller and Frank Norris and he
has his _compagnons du voyage_ in Anderson, Charles G. Norris and more
than one other. But the fact only throws up his curious isolation in a
stronger light. It would be difficult to imagine an artist of his sober
purpose and high accomplishment, in any civilized country, standing
so neglected. The prevailing criticism, when it cannot dispose of him
by denying that he exists--in the two chief handbooks of latter-day
literature by professors he is not even mentioned!--seeks to dispose
of him by arraying the shoddy fury of the mob against him. When he
was under attack by the Comstocks, more than one American critic gave
covert aid to the common enemy, and it was with difficulty that the
weight of the Authors' League was held upon his side. More help for
him, in fact, came from England, and quite voluntarily, than could be
drummed up for him at home. No public sense of the menace that the
attack offered to free speech and free art was visible; it would have
made a nine-days' sensation for any layman of public influence to
have gone to his rescue, as would have certainly happened in France,
England or Germany. As for the newspaper-reading mob, it probably went
unaware of the business altogether. When Arnold Bennett, landing in
New York some time previously, told the reporters that Dreiser was the
American he most desired to meet, the news was quite unintelligible to
perhaps nine readers out of ten: they had no more heard _of_ Dreiser
than their fathers had heard of Whitman in 1875.

So with all the rest. I have mentioned Harris. It would be difficult
to imagine Rolland meeting such a fate in France or Shaw in England as
he has met in the United States. O'Sullivan, during the war, came home
with "A Good Girl" in his pocket. The book was republished here--and
got vastly less notice than the latest piece of trade-goods by Kathleen
Norris. Fuller, early in his career, gave it up as hopeless. Norris
died vainly battling for the young Dreiser. An Abraham Cahan goes
unnoticed. Miss Cather, with four sound books behind her, lingers
in the twilight of an esoteric reputation. Cabell, comstocked, is
apprehended by his country only as a novelist to be bought by stealth
and read in private. When Hugh Walpole came to America a year or two
ago he favored the newspapers, like Bennett before him, with a piece
of critical news that must have puzzled all readers save a very small
minority. Discussing the living American novelists worth heeding, he
nominated three--and of them only one was familiar to the general
run of novel-buyers, or had ever been mentioned by a native critic of
the apostolic succession. Only the poets of the land seem to attract
the notice of the professors, and no doubt this is largely because
most of the more salient of them--notably Miss Lowell and Lindsay--are
primarily press-agents. Even so, the attention that they get is seldom
serious. The only professor that I know of who has discussed the
matter in precise terms holds that Alfred Noyes is the superior of
all of them. Moreover, the present extraordinary interest in poetry
stops short with a few poets, and one of its conspicuous phenomena is
its lack of concern with the poets outside the movement, some of them
unquestionably superior to any within.

Nor is this isolation of the artist in America new. The contemporary
view of Poe and Whitman was almost precisely like the current view of
Dreiser and Cabell. Both were neglected by the Brahmins of their time,
and both were regarded hostilely by the great body of right-thinking
citizens. Poe, indeed, was the victim of a furious attack by Rufus W.
Griswold, the Hamilton Wright Mabie of the time, and it set the tone
of native criticism for years. Whitman, living, narrowly escaped going
to jail as a public nuisance. One thinks of Hawthorne and Emerson
as writers decently appreciated by their contemporaries, but it is
not to be forgotten that the official criticism of the era saw no
essential difference between Hawthorne and Cooper, and that Emerson's
reputation, to the end of his life, was far more that of a theological
prophet and ethical platitudinarian, comparable to Lyman Abbott or
Frank Crane, than that of a literary artist, comparable to Tennyson
or Matthew Arnold. Perhaps Carlyle understood him, but who in America
understood him? To this day he is the victim of gross misrepresentation
by enthusiasts who read into him all sorts of flatulent bombast,
as Puritanism is read into the New Testament by Methodists. As for
Hawthorne, his extraordinary physical isolation during his lifetime was
but the symbol of a complete isolation of the spirit, still surviving.
If his preference for the internal conflict as opposed to the external
act were not sufficient to set him off from the main stream of American
speculation, there would always be his profound ethical skepticism--a
state of mind quite impossible to the normal American, at least of
Anglo-Saxon blood. Hawthorne, so far as I know, has never had a single
professed follower in his own country. Even his son, attempting to
carry on his craft, yielded neither to his meticulous method nor to his
detached point of view. In the third generation, with infinite irony,
there is a grand-daughter who is a reviewer of books for the New York
_Times,_ which is almost as if Wagner should have a grand-daughter
singing in the operas of Massenet.

Of the four indubitable masters thus named, Hawthorne, Emerson, Whitman
and Poe, only the last two have been sufficiently taken into the
consciousness of the country to have any effect upon its literature,
and even here that influence has been exerted only at second-hand,
and against very definite adverse pressure. It would certainly seem
reasonable for a man of so forceful a habit of mind as Poe, and of such
prodigal and arresting originality, to have founded a school, but a
glance at the record shows that he did nothing of the sort. Immediately
he was dead, the shadows of the Irving tradition closed around his
tomb, and for nearly thirty years thereafter all of his chief ideas
went disregarded in his own country. If, as the literature books
argue, Poe was the father of the American short story, then it was a
posthumous child, and had step-fathers who did their best to conceal
its true parentage. When it actually entered upon the vigorous life
that we know to-day Poe had been dead for a generation. Its father,
at the time of its belated adolescence, seemed to be Bret Harte--and
Harte's debt to Dickens was vastly more apparent, first and last, than
his debt to Poe. What he got from Poe was essential; it was the inner
structure of the modern short story, the fundamental devices whereby a
mere glimpse at events could be made to yield brilliant and seemingly
complete images. But he himself was probably largely unaware of this
indebtedness. A man little given to critical analysis, and incompetent
for it when his own work was under examination, he saw its externals
much more clearly than he saw its intrinsic organization, and these
externals bore the plain marks of Dickens. It remained for one of his
successors, Ambrose Bierce, to bridge belatedly the space separating
him from Poe, and so show the route that he had come. And it remained
for foreign criticism, and particularly for French criticism, to lift
Poe himself to the secure place that he now holds. It is true enough
that he enjoyed, during his lifetime, a certain popular reputation,
and that he was praised by such men as N. P. Willis and James Russell
Lowell, but that reputation was considerably less than the fame of men
who were much his inferiors, and that praise, especially in Lowell's
case, was much corrupted by reservations. Not many native critics of
respectable position, during the 50's and 60's, would have ranked him
clearly above, say, Irving or Cooper, or even above Longfellow, his old
enemy. A few partisans argued for him, but in the main, as Saintsbury
has said, he was the victim of "extreme and almost incomprehensible
injustice" at the hands of his countrymen. It is surely not without
significance that it took ten years to raise money enough to put a
cheap and hideous tombstone upon his neglected grave, that it was
not actually set up until he had been dead twenty-six years, that no
contemporary American writer took any part in furthering the project,
and that the only one who attended the final ceremony was Whitman.

It was Baudelaire's French translation of the prose tales and
Mallarmé's translation of the poems that brought Poe to Valhalla. The
former, first printed in 1856, founded the Poe cult in France, and
during the two decades following it flourished amazingly, and gradually
extended to England and Germany. It was one of the well-springs, in
fact, of the whole so-called decadent movement. If Baudelaire, the
father of that movement, "cultivated hysteria with delight and terror,"
he was simply doing what Poe had done before him. Both, reacting
against the false concept of beauty as a mere handmaiden of logical
ideas, sought its springs in those deep feelings and inner experiences
which lie beyond the range of ideas and are to be interpreted only
as intuitions. Emerson started upon the same quest, but was turned
off into mazes of contradiction and unintelligibility by his ethical
obsession?--the unescapable burden of his Puritan heritage. But Poe
never wandered from the path. You will find in "The Poetic Principle"
what is perhaps the clearest statement of this new and sounder concept
of beauty that has ever been made--certainly it is clearer than any
ever made by a Frenchman. But it was not until Frenchmen had watered
the seed out of grotesque and vari-colored pots that it began to
sprout. The tide of Poe's ideas, set in motion in France early in
the second half of the century, did not wash England until the last
decade, and in America, save for a few dashes of spray, it has yet to
show itself. There is no American writer who displays the influence
of this most potent and original of Americans so clearly as whole
groups of Frenchmen display it, and whole groups of Germans, and
even a good many Englishmen. What we have from Poe at first hand is
simply a body of obvious yokel-shocking in the _Black Cat_ manner,
with the tales of Ambrose Bierce as its finest flower--in brief, an
imitation of Poe's externals without any comprehension whatever of his
underlying aims and notions. What we have from him at second-hand is a
somewhat childish Maeterlinckism, a further dilution of Poe-and-water.
This Maeterlinckism, some time ago, got itself intermingled with the
Whitmanic stream flowing back to America through the channel of French
Imagism, with results destructive to the sanity of earnest critics
and fatal to the gravity of those less austere. It is significant
that the critical writing of Poe, in which there lies most that was
best in him, has not come back; no normal American ever thinks of
him as a critic, but only as a poet, as a raiser of goose-flesh, or
as an immoral fellow. The cause thereof is plain enough. The French,
instead of borrowing his critical theory directly, deduced it afresh
from his applications of it; it became criticism _of_ him rather than
_by_ him. Thus his own speculations have lacked the authority of
foreign approval, and have consequently made no impression. The weight
of native opinion is naturally against them, for they are at odds,
not only with its fundamental theories, but also with its practical
doctrine that no criticism can be profound and respectable which is not
also dull.

"Poe," says Arthur Ransome, in his capital study of the man and the
artist, "was like a wolf chained by the leg among a lot of domestic
dogs." The simile here is somewhat startling, and Ransome, in a
footnote, tries to ameliorate it: the "domestic dogs" it refers to
were magnificoes of no less bulk than Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes and
Emerson. In the case of Whitman, the wolf was not only chained, but
also muzzled. Nothing, indeed, could be more amazing than the hostility
that surrounded him at home until the very end of his long life. True
enough, it was broken by certain feeble mitigations. Emerson, in
1855, praised him--though later very eager to forget it and desert
him, as Clemens and Howells, years afterward, deserted Gorky. Alcott,
Thoreau, Lowell and even Bryant, during his brief Bohemian days,
were polite to him. A group of miscellaneous enthusiasts gradually
gathered about him, and out of this group emerged at least one man of
some distinction, John Burroughs. Young adventurers of letters--for
example, Huneker--went to see him and hear him, half drawn by genuine
admiration and half by mere deviltry. But the general tone of the
opinion that beat upon him, the attitude of domestic criticism, was
unbrokenly inimical; he was opposed by misrepresentation and neglect.
"The prevailing range of criticism on my book," he wrote in "A
Backward Glance on My Own Road" in 1884, "has been either mockery or
denunciation--and ... I have been the marked object of two or three
(to me pretty serious) official bufferings." "After thirty years
of trial," he wrote in "My Book and I," three years later, "public
criticism on the book and myself as author of it shows marked anger
and contempt more than anything else." That is, at home. Abroad he
was making headway all the while, and long years afterward, by way of
France and England, he began to force his way into the consciousness
of his countrymen. What could have been more ironical than the solemn
celebrations of Whitman's centenary that were carried off in various
American universities in 1919? One can picture the old boy rolling with
homeric mirth in hell. Imagine the fate of a university don of 1860,
or 1870, or 1880, or even 1890 who had ventured to commend "Leaves of
Grass" to the young gentlemen of his seminary! He would have come to
grief as swiftly as that Detroit pedagogue of day before yesterday who
brought down the Mothers' Legion upon him by commending "Jurgen."


_The Cultural Background_

So far, the disease. As to the cause, I have delivered a few hints.
I now describe it particularly. It is, in brief, a defect in the
general culture of the country--one reflected, not only in the national
literature, but also in the national political theory, the national
attitude toward religion and morals, the national habit in all
departments of thinking. It is the lack of a civilized aristocracy,
secure in its position, animated by an intelligent curiosity, skeptical
of all facile generalizations, superior to the sentimentality of the
mob, and delighting in the battle of ideas for its own sake.

The word I use, despite the qualifying adjective, has got itself
meanings, of course, that I by no means intend to convey. Any mention
of an aristocracy, to a public fed upon democratic fustian, is bound
to bring up images of stock-brokers' wives lolling obscenely in opera
boxes, or of haughty Englishmen slaughtering whole generations of
grouse in an inordinate and incomprehensible manner, or of Junkers
with tight waists elbowing American schoolmarms off the sidewalks of
German beer towns, or of perfumed Italians coming over to work their
abominable magic upon the daughters of breakfast-food and bathtub
kings. Part of this misconception, I suppose, has its roots in the
gaudy imbecilities of the yellow press, but there is also a part that
belongs to the general American tradition, along with the oppression of
minorities and the belief in political panaceas. Its depth and extent
are constantly revealed by the naïve assumption that the so-called
fashionable folk of the large cities--chiefly wealthy industrials in
the interior-decorator and country-club stage of culture--constitute an
aristocracy, and by the scarcely less remarkable assumption that the
peerage of England is identical with the gentry--that is, that such
men as Lord Northcliffe, Lord Iveagh and even Lord Reading are English
gentlemen, and of the ancient line of the Percys.

Here, as always, the worshiper is the father of the gods, and no less
when they are evil than when they are benign. The inferior man must
find himself superiors, that he may marvel at his political equality
with them, and in the absence of recognizable superiors _de facto_ he
creates superiors _de jure._ The sublime principle of one man, one
vote must be translated into terms of dollars, diamonds, fashionable
intelligence; the equality of all men before the law must have clear
and dramatic proofs. Sometimes, perhaps, the thing goes further and is
more subtle. The inferior man needs an aristocracy to demonstrate, not
only his mere equality, but also his actual superiority. The society
columns in the newspapers may have some such origin: they may visualize
once more the accomplished journalist's understanding of the mob mind
that he plays upon so skillfully, as upon some immense and cacophonous
organ, always going _fortissimo._ What the inferior man and his wife
see in the sinister revels of those amazing first families, I suspect,
is often a massive witness to their own higher rectitude--to their
relative innocence of cigarette-smoking, poodle-coddling, child-farming
and the more abstruse branches of adultery--in brief, to their firmer
grasp upon the immutable axioms of Christian virtue, the one sound
boast of the nether nine-tenths of humanity in every land under the

But this bugaboo aristocracy, as I hint, is actually bogus, and the
evidence of its bogusness lies in the fact that it is insecure. One
gets into it only onerously, but out of it very easily. Entrance is
effected by dint of a long and bitter straggle, and the chief incidents
of that struggle are almost intolerable humiliations. The aspirant
must school and steel himself to sniffs and sneers; he must see the
door slammed upon him a hundred times before ever it is thrown open
to him. To get in at all he must show a talent for abasement--and
abasement makes him timorous. Worse, that timorousness is not cured
when he succeeds at last. On the contrary, it is made even more
tremulous, for what he faces within the gates is a scheme of things
made up almost wholly of harsh and often unintelligible taboos,
and the penalty for violating even the least of them is swift and
disastrous. He must exhibit exactly the right social habits, appetites
and prejudices, public and private. He must harbor exactly the right
political enthusiasms and indignations. He must have a hearty taste
for exactly the right sports. His attitude toward the fine arts must
be properly tolerant and yet not a shade too eager. He must read and
like exactly the right books, pamphlets and public journals. He must
put up at the right hotels when he travels. His wife must patronize
the right milliners. He himself must stick to the right haberdashery.
He must live in the right neighborhood. He must even embrace the right
doctrines of religion. It would ruin him, for all opera box and society
column purposes, to set up a plea for justice to the Bolsheviki, or
even for ordinary decency. It would ruin him equally to wear celluloid
collars, or to move to Union Hill, N. J., or to serve ham and cabbage
at his table. And it would ruin him, too, to drink coffee from his
saucer, or to marry a chambermaid with a gold tooth, or to join the
Seventh Day Adventists. Within the boundaries of his curious order
he is worse fettered than a monk in a cell. Its obscure conception of
propriety, its nebulous notion that this or that is honorable, hampers
him in every direction, and very narrowly. What he resigns when he
enters, even when he makes his first deprecating knock at the door, is
every right to attack the ideas that happen to prevail within. Such
as they are, he must accept them without question. And as they shift
and change in response to great instinctive movements (or perhaps,
now and then, to the punished but not to be forgotten revolts of
extraordinary rebels) he must shift and change with them, silently and
quickly. To hang back, to challenge and dispute, to preach reforms and
revolutions--these are crimes against the brummagen Holy Ghost of the

Obviously, that order cannot constitute a genuine aristocracy, in
any rational sense. A genuine aristocracy is grounded upon very much
different principles. Its first and most salient character is its
interior security, and the chief visible evidence of that security is
the freedom that goes with it--not only freedom in act, the divine
right of the aristocrat to do what he jolly well pleases, so long as he
does not violate the primary guarantees and obligations of his class,
but also and more importantly freedom in thought, the liberty to try
and err, the right to be his own man. It is the instinct of a true
aristocracy, not to punish eccentricity by expulsion, but to throw a
mantle of protection about it--to safeguard it from the suspicions and
resentments of the lower orders. Those lower orders are inert, timid,
inhospitable to ideas, hostile to changes, faithful to a few maudlin
superstitions. All progress goes on on the higher levels. It is there
that salient personalities, made secure by artificial immunities,
may oscillate most widely from the normal track. It is within that
entrenched fold, out of reach of the immemorial certainties of the
mob, that extraordinary men of the lower orders may find their city
of refuge, and breathe a clear air. This, indeed, is at once the
hall-mark and the justification of an aristocracy--that it is beyond
responsibility to the general masses of men, and hence superior to both
their degraded longings and their no less degraded aversions. It is
nothing if it is not autonomous, curious, venturesome, courageous, and
everything if it is. It is the custodian of the qualities that make for
change and experiment; it is the class that organizes danger to the
service of the race; it pays for its high prerogatives by standing in
the forefront of the fray.

No such aristocracy, it must be plain, is now on view in the United
States. The makings of one were visible in the Virginia of the later
eighteenth century, but with Jefferson and Washington the promise
died. In New England, it seems to me, there was never any aristocracy,
either in being or in nascency: there was only a theocracy that
degenerated very quickly into a plutocracy on the one hand and a caste
of sterile _Gelehrten_ on the other--the passion for God splitting
into a lust for dollars and a weakness for mere words. Despite the
common notion to the contrary--a notion generated by confusing
literacy with intelligence--New England has never shown the slightest
sign of a genuine enthusiasm for ideas. It began its history as a
slaughter-house of ideas, and it is to-day not easily distinguishable
from a cold-storage plant. Its celebrated adventures in mysticism, once
apparently so bold and significant, are now seen to have been little
more than an elaborate hocus-pocus--respectable Unitarians shocking the
peasantry and scaring the horned cattle in the fields by masquerading
in the robes of Rosicrucians. The ideas that it embraced in those
austere and far-off days were stale, and when it had finished with them
they were dead: to-day one hears of Jakob Böhme almost as rarely as one
hears of Allen G. Thurman. So in politics. Its glory is Abolition--an
English invention, long under the interdict of the native plutocracy.
Since the Civil War its six states have produced fewer political ideas,
as political ideas run in the Republic, than any average county in
Kansas or Nebraska. Appomattox seemed to be a victory for New England
idealism. It was actually a victory for the New England plutocracy,
and that plutocracy has dominated thought above the Housatonic ever
since. The sect of professional idealists has so far dwindled that it
has ceased to be of any importance, even as an opposition. When the
plutocracy is challenged now, it is challenged by the proletariat.

Well, what is on view in New England is on view in all other parts
of the nation, sometimes with ameliorations, but usually with the
colors merely exaggerated. What one beholds, sweeping the eye over
the land, is a culture that, like the national literature, is in
three layers--the plutocracy on top, a vast mass of undifferentiated
human blanks at the bottom, and a forlorn _intelligentsia_ gasping
out a precarious life between. I need not set out at any length, I
hope, the intellectual deficiencies of the plutocracy--its utter
failure to show anything even remotely resembling the makings of
an aristocracy. It is badly educated, it is stupid, it is full of
low-caste superstitions and indignations, it is without decent
traditions or informing vision; above all, it is extraordinarily
lacking in the most elemental independence and courage. Out of this
class comes the grotesque fashionable society of our big towns,
already described. Imagine a horde of peasants incredibly enriched
and with almost infinite power thrust into their hands, and you will
have a fair picture of its habitual state of mind. It shows all
the stigmata of inferiority--moral certainty, cruelty, suspicion
of ideas, fear. Never did it function more revealingly than in the
late _pogrom_ against the so-called Reds, _i. e.,_ against humorless
idealists who, like Andrew Jackson, took the platitudes of democracy
quite seriously. The machinery brought to bear upon these feeble and
scattered fanatics would have almost sufficed to repel an invasion by
the united powers of Europe. They were hunted out of their sweat-shops
and coffee-houses as if they were so many Carranzas or Ludendorffs,
dragged to jail to the tooting of horns, arraigned before quaking
judges on unintelligible charges, condemned to deportation without the
slightest chance to defend them: selves, torn from their dependent
families, herded into prison-ships, and then finally dumped in a snow
waste, to be rescued and fed by the Bolsheviki. And what was the
theory at the bottom of all these astounding proceedings? So far as
it can be reduced to comprehensible terms it was much less a theory
than a fear--a shivering, idiotic, discreditable fear of a mere
banshee--an overpowering, paralyzing dread that some extra-eloquent
Red, permitted to emit his balderdash unwhipped, might eventually
convert a couple of courageous men, and that the courageous men, filled
with indignation against the plutocracy, might take to the highroad,
burn down a nail-factory or two, and slit the throat of some virtuous
profiteer. In order to lay this fear, in order to ease the jangled
nerves of the American successors to the Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns,
all the constitutional guarantees of the citizen were suspended, the
statute-books were burdened with laws that surpass anything heard of
in the Austria of Maria Theresa, the country was handed over to a
frenzied mob of detectives, informers and _agents provocateurs_--and
the Reds departed laughing loudly, and were hailed by the Bolsheviki as
innocents escaped from an asylum for the criminally insane.

Obviously, it is out of reason to look for any hospitality to ideas
in a class so extravagantly fearful of even the most palpably absurd
of them. Its philosophy is firmly grounded upon the thesis that the
existing order must stand forever free from attack, and not only
from attack, but also from mere academic criticism, and its ethics
are as firmly grounded upon the thesis that every attempt at any
such criticism is a proof of moral turpitude. Within its own ranks,
protected by what may be regarded as the privilege of the order,
there is nothing to take the place of this criticism. A few feeble
platitudes by Andrew Carnegie and a book of moderate merit by John D.
Rockefeller's press-agent constitute almost the whole of the interior
literature of ideas. In other countries the plutocracy has often
produced men of reflective and analytical habit, eager to rationalize
its instincts and to bring it into some sort of relationship to the
main streams of human thought. The case of David Ricardo at once comes
to mind. There have been many others: John Bright, Richard Cobden,
George Grote, and, in our own time, Walther von Rathenau. But in
the United States no such phenomenon has been visible. There was a
day, not long ago, when certain young men of wealth gave signs of an
unaccustomed interest in ideas on the political side, but the most they
managed to achieve was a banal sort of Socialism, and even this was
abandoned in sudden terror when the war came, and Socialism fell under
suspicion of being genuinely international--in brief, of being honest
under the skin. Nor has the plutocracy of the country ever fostered an
inquiring spirit among its intellectual valets and footmen, which is
to say, among the gentlemen who compose headlines and leading articles
for its newspapers. What chiefly distinguishes the daily press of the
United States from the press of all other countries pretending to
culture is not its lack of truthfulness or even its lack of dignity
and honor, for these deficiencies are common to the newspapers
everywhere, but its incurable fear of ideas, its constant effort to
evade the discussion of fundamentals by translating all issues into
a few elemental fears, its incessant reduction of all reflection to
mere emotion. It is, in the true sense, never well-informed. It is
seldom intelligent, save in the arts of the mob-master. It is never
courageously honest. Held harshly to a rigid correctness of opinion by
the plutocracy that controls it with less and less attempt at disguise,
and menaced on all sides by censorships that it dare not flout, it
sinks rapidly into formalism and feebleness. Its yellow section is
perhaps its most respectable section, for there the only vestige of the
old free journalist survives. In the more conservative papers one finds
only a timid and petulant animosity to all questioning of the existing
order, however urbane and sincere--a pervasive and ill-concealed dread
that the mob now heated up against the orthodox hobgoblins may suddenly
begin to unearth hobgoblins of its own, and so run amok. For it is upon
the emotions of the mob, of course, that the whole comedy is played.
Theoretically the mob is the repository of all political wisdom and
virtue; actually it is the ultimate source of all political power. Even
the plutocracy cannot make war upon it openly, or forget the least
of its weaknesses. The business of keeping it in order must be done
discreetly, warily, with delicate technique. In the main that business
consists of keeping alive its deep-seated fears--of strange faces, of
unfamiliar ideas, of unhackneyed gestures, of untested liberties and
responsibilities. The one permanent emotion of the inferior man, as of
all the simpler mammals, is fear--fear of the unknown, the complex,
the inexplicable. What he wants beyond everything else is safety.
His instincts incline him toward a society so organized that it will
protect him at all hazards, and not only against perils to his hide
but also against assaults upon his mind--against the need to grapple
with unaccustomed problems, to weigh ideas, to think things out for
himself, to scrutinize the platitudes upon which his everyday thinking
is based. Content under kaiserism so long as it functions efficiently,
he turns, when kaiserism falls, to some other and perhaps worse form
of paternalism, bringing to its benign tyranny only the docile tribute
of his pathetic allegiance. In America it is the newspaper that is his
boss. From it he gets support for his elemental illusions. In it he
sees a visible embodiment of his own wisdom and consequence. Out of it
he draws fuel for his simple moral passion, his congenital suspicion of
heresy, his dread of the unknown. And behind the newspaper stands the
plutocracy, ignorant, unimaginative and timorous.

Thus at the top and at the bottom. Obviously, there is no aristocracy
here. One finds only one of the necessary elements, and that only in
the plutocracy, to wit, a truculent egoism. But where is intelligence?
Where are ease and surety of manner? Where are enterprise and
curiosity? Where, above all, is courage, and in particular, moral
courage--the capacity for independent thinking, for difficult problems,
for what Nietzsche called the joys of the labyrinth? As well look for
these things in a society of half-wits. Democracy, obliterating the old
aristocracy, has left only a vacuum in its place; in a century and a
half it has failed either to lift up the mob to intellectual autonomy
and dignity or to purge the plutocracy of its inherent stupidity and
swinishness. It is precisely here, the first and favorite scene of the
Great Experiment, that the culture of the individual has been reduced
to the most rigid and absurd regimentation. It is precisely here, of
all civilized countries, that eccentricity in demeanor and opinion
has come to bear the heaviest penalties. The whole drift of our law
is toward the absolute prohibition of all ideas that diverge in the
slightest from the accepted platitudes, and behind that drift of law
there is a far more potent force of growing custom, and under that
custom there is a national philosophy which erects conformity into
the noblest of virtues and the free functioning of personality into a
capital crime against society.


_Under the Campus Pump_

But there remain the _intelligentsia,_ the free spirits in the middle
ground, neither as anæsthetic to ideas as the plutocracy on the one
hand nor as much the slaves of emotion as the proletariat on the other.
Have I forgotten them? I have not. But what actually reveals itself
when this small brotherhood of the superior is carefully examined?
What reveals itself, it seems to me, is a gigantic disappointment.
Superficially, there are all the marks of a caste of learned and
sagacious men--a great book-knowledge, a laudable diligence, a certain
fine reserve and sniffishness, a plain consciousness of intellectual
superiority, not a few gestures that suggest the aristocratic. But
under the surface one quickly discovers that the whole thing is little
more than play-acting, and not always very skillful. Learning is there,
but not curiosity. A heavy dignity is there, but not much genuine
self-respect. Pretentiousness is there, but not a trace of courage.
Squeezed between the plutocracy on on side and the mob on the other,
the _intelligentsia_ face the eternal national problem of maintaining
their position, of guarding themselves against challenge and attack,
of keeping down suspicion. They have all the attributes of knowledge
save the sense of power. They have all the qualities of an aristocracy
save the capital qualities that arise out of a feeling of security, of
complete independence, of absolute immunity to onslaught from above
and below. In brief, the old bogusness hangs about them, as about the
fashionable aristocrats of the society columns. They are safe so long
as they are good, which is to say, so long as they neither aggrieve the
plutocracy nor startle the proletariat. Immediately they fall into
either misdemeanor all their apparent dignity vanishes, and with it all
of their influence, and they become simply somewhat ridiculous rebels
against a social order that has no genuine need of them and is disposed
to tolerate them only when they are not obtrusive.

For various reasons this shadowy caste is largely made up of men who
have official stamps upon their learning--that is, of professors,
of doctors of philosophy; outside of academic circles it tends to
shade off very rapidly into a half-world of isolated anarchists. One
of those reasons is plain enough: the old democratic veneration for
mere schooling, inherited from the Puritans of New England, is still
in being, and the mob, always eager for short cuts in thinking, is
disposed to accept a schoolmaster without looking beyond his degree.
Another reason lies in the fact that the higher education is still
rather a novelty in the country, and there have yet to be developed
any devices for utilizing learned men in any trade save teaching. Yet
other reasons will suggest themselves. Whatever the ramification of
causes, the fact is plain that the pedagogues have almost a monopoly
of what passes for the higher thinking in the land. Not only do they
reign unchallenged in their own chaste grove; they also penetrate to
all other fields of ratiocination, to the almost complete exclusion of
unshrived rivals. They dominate the weeklies of opinion; they are to
the fore in every review; they write nine-tenths of the serious books
of the country; they begin to invade the newspapers; they instruct and
exhort the yokelry from the stump; they have even begun to penetrate
into the government. One cannot turn in the United States without
encountering a professor. There is one on every municipal commission.
There is one in every bureau of the federal government. There is one at
the head of every intellectual movement. There is one to explain every
new mystery. Professors appraise all works of art, whether graphic,
tonal or literary. Professors supply the brain power for agriculture,
diplomacy, the control of dependencies and the distribution of
commodities. A professor was until lately sovereign of the country, and
pope of the state church.

So much for their opportunity. What, now, of their achievement?
I answer as one who has had thrown upon him, by the impenetrable
operations of fate, the rather thankless duties of a specialist in the
ways of pedagogues, a sort of professor of professors. The job has got
me enemies. I have been accused of carrying on a defamatory _jehad_
against virtuous and laborious men; I have even been charged with doing
it in the interest of the Wilhelmstrasse, the White Slave Trust and the
ghost of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Nothing could be more absurd.
All my instincts are on the side of the professors. I esteem a man
who devotes himself to a subject with hard diligence; I esteem even
more a man who puts poverty and a shelf of books above profiteering
and evenings of jazz; I am naturally monkish. Moreover, there are more
Ph.D.'s on my family tree than even a Boston bluestocking can boast;
there was a whole century when even the most ignorant of my house was
at least _Juris utriusque Doctor._ But such predispositions should not
be permitted to color sober researches. What I have found, after long
and arduous labors, is a state of things that is surely not altogether
flattering to the _Gelehrten_ under examination. What I have found,
in brief, is that pedagogy turned to general public uses is almost
as timid and flatulent as journalism--that the professor, menaced by
the timid dogmatism of the plutocracy above him and the incurable
suspiciousness of the mob beneath him, is almost invariably inclined
to seek his own security in a mellifluous inanity--that, far from
being a courageous spokesman of ideas and an apostle of their free
dissemination, in politics, in the fine arts, in practical ethics, he
comes close to being the most prudent and skittish of all men concerned
with them--in brief, that he yields to the prevailing correctness of
thought in all departments, north, east, south and west, and is, in
fact, the chief exponent among us of the democratic doctrine that
heresy is not only a mistake, but also a crime.

A philosophy is not put to much of a test in ordinary times, for in
ordinary times philosophies are permitted to lie like sleeping dogs.
When it shows its inward metal is when the band begins to play. The
turmoils of the late lamentable war, it seems to me, provided for
such a trying out of fundamental ideas and attitudes upon a colossal
scale. The whole thinking of the world was thrown into confusion; all
the worst fears and prejudices of ignorant and emotional men came to
the front; it was a time, beyond all others in modern history, when
intellectual integrity was subjected to a cruel strain. How did the
_intelligentsia_ of These States bear up under that strain? What
was the reaction of our learned men to the challenge of organized
hysteria, mob fear, incitement to excess, downright insanity? How did
they conduct themselves in that universal whirlwind? They conducted
themselves, I fear, in a manner that must leave a brilliant question
mark behind their claim to independence and courage, to true knowledge
and dignity, to ordinary self-respect--in brief, to every quality that
belongs to the authentic aristocrat. They constituted themselves,
not a restraining influence upon the mob run wild, but the loudest
spokesmen of its worst imbecilities. They fed it with bogus history,
bogus philosophy, bogus idealism, bogus heroics. They manufactured
blather for its entertainment. They showed themselves to be as naïve
as so many Liberty Loan orators, as emotional, almost, as the spy
hunters, and as disdainful of the ordinary intellectual decencies
as the editorial writers. I accumulated, in those great days, for
the instruction and horror of posterity, a very large collection
of academic arguments, expositions and pronunciamentos; it fills a
trunk, and got me heavily into debt to three clipping-bureaux. Its
contents range from solemn hymns of hate in the learned (and even
the theological) reviews and such official donkeyisms as the formal
ratification of the so-called Sisson documents down to childish
harangues to student-bodies, public demands that the study of the enemy
language and literature be prohibited by law, violent denunciations of
all enemy science as negligible and fraudulent, vitriolic attacks upon
enemy magnificos, and elaborate proofs that the American Revolution
was the result of a foul plot hatched in the Wilhelmstrasse of the
time, to the wanton injury of two loving bands of brothers. I do not
exaggerate in the slightest. The proceedings of Mr. Creel's amazing
corps of "twenty-five hundred American historians" went further than
anything I have described. And in every far-flung college town, in
every one-building "university" on the prairie, even the worst efforts
of those "historians" were vastly exceeded.

But I am forgetting the like phenomena on the other side of the bloody
chasm? I am overlooking the darker crimes of the celebrated German
professors? Not at all. Those crimes against all reason and dignity,
had they been committed in fact, would not be evidence in favor of the
Americans in the dock: the principle of law is too well accepted to
need argument. But I venture to deny them, and out of a very special
and singular knowledge, for I seem to be one of the few Americans who
has ever actually read the proclamations of the German professors:
all the most indignant critics of them appear to have accepted
second-hand accounts of their contents. Having suffered the onerous
labor of reading them, I now offer sworn witness to their relative
mildness. Now and then one encounters in them a disconcerting bray.
Now and then one weeps with sore heart. Now and then one is bogged in
German made wholly unintelligible by emotion. But taking them as they
stand, and putting them fairly beside the corresponding documents of
American vintage, one is at once struck by their comparative suavity
and decorum, their freedom from mere rhetoric and fustian--above all,
by their effort to appeal to reason, such as it is, rather than to
emotion. No German professor, from end to end of the war, put his hand
to anything as transparently silly as the Sisson documents. No German
professor essayed to prove that the Seven Years' War was caused by
Downing Street. No German professor argued that the study of English
would corrupt the soul. No German professor denounced Darwin as an
ignoramus and Lister as a scoundrel. Nor was anything of the sort done,
so far as I know, by any French professor. Nor even by any reputable
English professor. All such honorable efforts on behalf of correct
thought in war-time were monopolized by American professors. And if
the fact is disputed, then I threaten upon some future day, when the
stealthy yearning to forget has arisen, to print my proofs in parallel
columns--the most esteemed extravagances of the German professors
in one column and the corresponding masterpieces of the American
professors in the other.

I do not overlook, of course, the self-respecting men who, in the
midst of all the uproar, kept their counsel and their dignity. A small
minority, hard beset and tested by the fire! Nor do I overlook the
few sentimental fanatics who, in the face of devastating evidence to
the contrary, proceeded upon the assumption that academic freedom was
yet inviolable, and so got themselves cashiered, and began posturing
in radical circles as martyrs, the most absurd of men. But I think I
draw a fair picture of the general. I think I depict with reasonable
accuracy the typical response of the only recognizable _intelligentsia_
of the land to the first great challenge to their aristocratic
aloofness--the first test in the grand manner of their freedom alike
from the bellicose imbecility of the plutocracy and the intolerable
fears and childish moral certainties of the mob. That test exposed them
shamelessly. It revealed their fast allegiance to the one thing that is
the antithesis of all free inquiry, of all honest hospitality to ideas,
of all intellectual independence and integrity. They proved that they
were correct--and in proving it they threw a brilliant light upon many
mysteries of our national culture.


_The Intolerable Burden_

Among others, upon the mystery of our literature--its faltering
feebleness, its lack of genuine gusto, its dearth of salient
personalities, its general air of poverty and imitation: What ails
the beautiful letters of the Republic, I repeat, is what ails the
general culture of the Republic--the lack of a body of sophisticated
and civilized public opinion, independent of plutocratic control
and superior to the infantile philosophies of the mob--a body of
opinion showing the eager curiosity, the educated skepticism and the
hospitality to ideas of a true aristocracy. This lack is felt by the
American author, imagining him to have anything new to say, every day
of his life. He can hope for no support, in ordinary cases, from the
mob: it is too suspicious of all ideas. He can hope for no support
from the spokesmen of the plutocracy: they are too diligently devoted
to maintaining the intellectual _status quo._ He turns, then, to
the _intelligentsia_--and what he finds is correctness! In his two
prime functions, to represent the life about him accurately and to
criticize it honestly, he sees that correctness arrayed against him.
His representation is indecorous, unlovely, too harsh to be borne. His
criticism is in contumacy to the ideals upon which the whole structure
rests. So he is either attacked vigorously as an anti-patriot whose
babblings ought to be put down by law, or enshrouded in a silence which
commonly disposes of him even more effectively.

Soon or late, of course, a man of genuine force and originality is
bound to prevail against that sort of stupidity. He will unearth an
adherent here and another there; in the long run they may become
numerous enough to force some recognition of him, even from the
most immovable exponents of correctness. But the business is slow,
uncertain, heart-breaking. It puts a burden upon the artist that
ought not to be put upon him. It strains beyond reason his diligence
and passion. A man who devotes his life to creating works of the
imagination, a man who gives over all his strength and energy to
struggling with problems that are essentially delicate and baffling and
pregnant with doubt--such a man does not ask for recognition as a mere
reward for his industry; he asks for it as a necessary _help_ to his
industry; he needs it as he needs decent subsistence and peace of mind.
It is a grave damage to the artist and a grave loss to the literature
when such a man as Poe has to seek consolation among his inferiors,
and such a man as the Mark Twain of "What Is Man?" is forced to
conceal his most profound beliefs, and such men as Dreiser and Cabell
are exposed to incessant attacks by malignant stupidity. The notion
that artists flourish upon adversity and misunderstanding, that they
are able to function to the utmost in an atmosphere of indifference
or hostility--this notion is nine-tenths nonsense. If it were true,
then one would never hear of painters going to France or of musicians
going to Germany. What the artist actually needs is comprehension
of his aims and ideals by men he respects--not necessarily approval
of his products, but simply an intelligent sympathy for him in the
great agony of creation. And that sympathy must be more than the mere
fellow-feeling of other craftsmen; it must come, in large part, out of
a connoisseurship that is beyond the bald trade interest; it must have
its roots in the intellectual curiosity of an aristocracy of taste.
Billroth, I believe, was more valuable to Brahms than even Schumann.
His eager interest gave music-making a solid dignity. His championship
offered the musician a visible proof that his labors had got for him a
secure place in a civilized and stable society, and that he would be
judged by his peers, and safeguarded against the obtuse hostility of
his inferiors.

No such security is thrown about an artist in America. It is not that
the country lacks the standards that Dr. Brownell pleads for; it is
that its standards are still those of a primitive and timorous society.
The excesses of Comstockery are profoundly symbolical. What they show
is the moral certainty of the mob in operation against something that
is as incomprehensible to it as the theory of least squares, and what
they show even more vividly is the distressing lack of any automatic
corrective of that outrage--of any firm and secure body of educated
opinion, eager to hear and test all intelligible ideas and sensitively
jealous of the right to discuss them freely. When "The Genius" was
attacked by the Comstocks, it fell to my lot to seek assistance for
Dreiser among the _intelligentsia._ I found them almost unanimously
disinclined to lend a hand. A small number permitted themselves to be
induced, but the majority held back, and not a few, as I have said,
actually offered more or less furtive aid to the Comstocks. I pressed
the matter and began to unearth reasons. It was, it appeared, dangerous
for a member of the _intelligentsia,_ and particularly for a member
of the academic _intelligentsia,_ to array himself against the mob
inflamed--against the moral indignation of the sort of folk who devour
vice reports and are converted by the Rev. Billy Sunday! If he came
forward, he would have to come forward alone. There was no organized
support behind him. No instinctive urge of class, no prompting of
a great tradition, moved him to speak out for artistic freedom ...
England supplied the lack. Over there they have a mob too, and
something akin to Comstockery, and a cult of hollow correctness--but
they also have a caste that stands above all that sort of thing, and
out of that caste came aid for Dreiser.

England is always supplying the lack--England, or France, or Germany,
or some other country, but chiefly England. "My market and my
reputation," said Prescott in 1838, "rest principally with England."
To Poe, a few years later, the United States was "a literary colony
of Great Britain." And there has been little change to this day. The
English leisure class, says Prof. Dr. Veblen, is "for purposes of
reputable usage the upper leisure class of this country." Despite all
the current highfalutin about melting pots and national destinies the
United States remains almost as much an English colonial possession,
intellectually and spiritually, as it was on July 3, 1776. The American
social pusher keeps his eye on Mayfair; the American literatus dreams
of recognition by the London weeklies; the American don is lifted to
bliss by the imprimatur of Oxford or Cambridge; even the American
statesman knows how to cringe to Downing Street. Most of the essential
policies of Dr. Wilson between 1914 and 1920--when the realistic
English, finding him no longer useful, incontinently dismissed
him--were, to all intents and purposes, those of a British colonial
premier. He went into the Peace Conference willing to yield everything
to English interests, and he came home with a treaty that was so
extravagantly English that it fell an easy prey to the anti-English
minority, ever alert for the makings of a bugaboo to scare the plain
people. What lies under all this subservience is simple enough. The
American, for all his braggadocio, is quite conscious of his intrinsic
inferiority to the Englishman, on all cultural counts. He may put
himself first as a man of business, as an adventurer in practical
affairs or as a pioneer in the applied arts and sciences, but in
all things removed from the mere pursuit of money and physical ease
he well understands that he belongs at the second table. Even his
recurrent attacks of Anglophobia are no more than Freudian evidences
of his inferiority complex. He howls in order to still his inner
sense of inequality, as he howls against imaginary enemies in order
to convince himself that he is brave and against fabulous despotisms
in order to prove that he is free. The Englishman is never deceived
by this hocus-pocus. He knows that it is always possible to fetch
the rebel back into camp by playing upon his elemental fears and
vanities. A few dark threats, a few patronizing speeches, a few Oxford
degrees, and the thing is done. More, the English scarcely regard
it as hunting in the grand manner; it is a business of subalterns.
When, during the early stages of the war, they had occasion to woo
the American _intelligentsia,_ what agents did they choose? Did they
nominate Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, George Moore and company? Nay,
they nominated Conan Doyle, Coningsby Dawson, Alfred Noyes, Ian Hay,
Chesterton, Kipling, Zangwill and company. In the choice there was high
sagacity and no little oblique humor--as there was a bit later in the
appointment of Lord Reading and Sir Auckland Geddes to Washington. The
valuation they set upon the _aluminados_ of the Republic was exactly
the valuation they were in the habit of setting, at home, upon MM. of
the Free Church Federation. They saw the eternal green-grocer beneath
the master's gown and mortarboard. Let us look closely and we shall see
him, too.

The essence of a self-reliant and autonomous culture is an unshakable
egoism. It must not only regard itself as the peer of any other
culture; it must regard itself as the superior of any other. You will
find this indomitable pride in the culture of any truly first-rate
nation: France, Germany or England. But you will not find it in the
so-called culture of America. Here the decadent Anglo-Saxon majority
still looks obediently and a bit wistfully toward the motherland.
No good American ever seriously questions an English judgment on an
æsthetic question, or even on an ethical, philosophical or political
question. There is, in fact, seldom any rational reason why he should:
it is almost always more mature, more tolerant, more intelligent than
any judgment hatched at home. Behind it lies a settled scheme of
things, a stable point of view, the authority of a free intellectual
aristocracy, the pride of tradition and of power. The English are
sure-footed, well-informed, persuasive. It is beyond their imagination
that any one should seriously challenge them. In this over-grown and
oafish colony there is no such sureness. The American always secretly
envies the Englishman, even when he professes to flout him. The
Englishman never envies the American.

The extraordinary colonist, moved to give utterance to the ideas
bubbling within him, is thus vastly handicapped, for he must submit
them to the test of a culture that, in the last analysis, is never
quite his own culture, despite its dominance. Looking within himself,
he finds that he is different, that he diverges from the English
standard, that he is authentically American--and to be authentically
American is to be officially inferior. He thus faces dismay at
the very start: support is lacking when he needs it most. In the
motherland--in any motherland, in any wholly autonomous nation--there
is a class of men like himself, devoted to translating the higher
manifestations of the national spirit into ideas--men differing
enormously among themselves, but still united in common cause against
the lethargy and credulity of the mass. But in a colony that class,
if it exists at all, lacks coherence and certainty; its authority
is not only disputed by the inertia and suspiciousness of the lower
orders, but also by the superior authority overseas; it is timorous and
fearful of challenge. Thus it affords no protection to an individual
of assertive originality, and he is forced to go as a suppliant to a
quarter in which nothing is his by right, but everything must go by
favor--in brief to a quarter where his very application must needs be
regarded as an admission of his inferiority. The burden of proof upon
him is thus made double. Obviously, he must be a man of very strong
personality to surmount such obstacles triumphantly. Such strong men,
of course, sometimes appear in a colony, but they always stand alone;
their worst opposition is at home. For a colonial of less vigorous soul
the battle is almost hopeless. Either he submits to subordination and
so wears docilely the inferior badge of a praiseworthy and tolerated
colonist, or he deserts the minority for the far more hospitable and
confident majority, and so becomes a mere mob-artist.

Examples readily suggest themselves. I give you Poe and Whitman as men
strong enough to weather the adverse wind. The salient thing about each
of these men was this: that his impulse to self-expression, the force
of his "obscure, inner necessity," was so powerful that it carried him
beyond all ordinary ambitions and prudences--in other words, that the
ego functioned so heroically that it quite disregarded the temporal
welfare of the individual. Neither Poe nor Whitman made the slightest
concession to what was the predominant English taste, the prevailing
English authority, of his time. And neither yielded in the slightest
to the maudlin echoes of English notions that passed for ideas in the
United States; in neither will you find any recognizable reflection
of the things that Americans were saying and doing all about them.
Even Whitman, preaching democracy, preached a democracy that not one
actual democrat in a hundred thousand could so much as imagine. What
happened? _Imprimis,_ English authority, at the start, dismissed them
loftily; they were, at best, simply rare freaks from the colonies.
Secondly, American stupidity, falling into step, came near overlooking
them altogether. The accident that maintained them was an accident
of personality and environment. They happened to be men accustomed
to social isolation and of the most meager wants, and it was thus
difficult to deter them by neglect and punishment. So they stuck to
their guns--and presently they were "discovered," as the phrase is, by
men of a culture wholly foreign to them and perhaps incomprehensible
to them, and thereafter, by slow stages, they began to win a slow
and reluctant recognition in England (at first only from rebels and
iconoclasts), and finally even in America. That either, without French
prompting, would have come to his present estate I doubt very much. And
in support of that doubt I cite again the fact that Poe's high talents
as a critic, not having interested the French, have never got their
deserts either in England or at home.

It is lesser men that we chiefly have to deal with in this world,
and it is among lesser men that the lack of a confident intellectual
viewpoint in America makes itself most evident. Examples are numerous
and obvious. On the one hand, we have Fenimore Cooper first making a
cringing bow for English favor, and then, on being kicked out, joining
the mob against sense; he wrote books so bad that even the Americans of
1830 admired them. On the other hand, we nave Henry James, a deserter
made by despair; one so depressed by the tacky company at the American
first table that he preferred to sit at the second table of the
English. The impulse was, and is common; it was only the forthright
act that distinguished him. And in the middle ground, showing both
seductions plainly, there is Mark Twain--at one moment striving his
hardest for the English _imprimatur,_ and childishly delighted by every
favorable gesture; at the next, returning to the native mob as its
premier clown-monkey-shining at banquets, cavorting in the newspapers,
shrinking poltroonishly from his own ideas, obscenely eager to give
no offense. A much greater artist than either Poe or Whitman, so I
devoutly believe, but a good deal lower as a man. The ultimate passion
was not there; the decent householder always pulled the ear of the
dreamer. His fate has irony in it. In England they patronize him: he
is, for an American, not so bad. In America, appalled by his occasional
ascents to honesty, his stray impulses to be wholly himself, the
dunderheads return him to arm's length, his old place, and one of the
most eminent of them, writing in the New York _Times,_ argues piously
that it is impossible to imagine him actually believing the commonplace
heresies he put into "What Is Man?"



I have described the disease. Let me say at once that I have no remedy
to offer. I simply set down a few ideas, throw out a few hints,
attempt a few modest inquiries into causes. Perhaps my argument
often turns upon itself: the field is weed-grown and paths are hard
to follow. It may be that insurmountable natural obstacles stand
in the way of the development of a distinctively American culture,
grounded upon a truly egoistic nationalism and supported by a native
aristocracy. After all, there is no categorical imperative that ordains
it. In such matters, when the conditions are right, nature often
arranges a division of labor. A nation shut in by racial and linguistic
isolation--a Sweden, a Holland or a France--is forced into autonomy by
sheer necessity; if it is to have any intellectual life at all it must
develop its own. But that is not our case. There is England to hold
up the torch for us, as France holds it up for Belgium, and Spain for
Latin America, and Germany for Switzerland. It is our function, as the
younger and less confident partner, to do the simpler, rougher parts of
the joint labor--to develop the virtues of the more elemental orders
of men: industry, piety, docility, endurance, assiduity and ingenuity
in practical affairs--the wood-hewing and water-drawing of the race.
It seems to me that we do all this very well; in these things we are
better than the English. But when it comes to those larger and more
difficult activities which concern only the superior minority, and are,
in essence, no more than products of its efforts to _demonstrate_ its
superiority--when it comes to the higher varieties of speculation and
self-expression, to the fine arts and the game of ideas--then we fall
into a bad second place. Where we stand, intellectually, is where the
English non-conformists stand; like them, we are marked by a fear of
ideas as disturbing and corrupting. Our art is imitative and timorous.
Our political theory is hopelessly sophomoric and superficial; even
English Toryism and Russian Bolshevism are infinitely more profound
and penetrating. And of the two philosophical systems that we have
produced, one is so banal that it is now imbedded in the New Thought,
and the other is so shallow that there is nothing in it either to
puzzle or to outrage a school-marm.

Nevertheless, hope will not down, and now and then it is supported
by something rather more real than mere desire. One observes an
under-current of revolt, small but vigorous, and sometimes it exerts
its force, not only against the superficial banality but also against
the fundamental flabbiness, the intrinsic childishness of the Puritan
_Anschauung._ The remedy for that childishness is skepticism, and
already skepticism shows itself: in the iconoclastic political realism
of Harold Stearns, Waldo Frank and company, in the groping questions
of Dreiser, Cabell and Anderson, in the operatic rebellions of the
Village. True imagination, I often think, is no more than a function
of this skepticism. It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure
man who is always dull. The more a man dreams, the less he believes. A
great literature is thus chiefly the product of doubting and inquiring
minds in revolt against the immovable certainties of the nation.
Shakespeare, at a time of rising democratic feeling in England, flung
the whole force of his genius against democracy. Cervantes, at a time
when all Spain was romantic, made a headlong attack upon romance.
Goethe, with Germany groping toward nationalism, threw his influences
on the side of internationalism. The central trouble with America is
conformity, timorousness, lack of enterprise and audacity. A nation
of third-rate men, a land offering hospitality only to fourth-rate
artists. In Elizabethan England they would have bawled for democracy,
in the Spain of Cervantes they would have yelled for chivalry, and in
the Germany of Goethe they would have wept and beat their breasts for
the Fatherland. To-day, as in the day of Emerson, they set the tune....
But into the singing there occasionally enters a discordant note. On
some dim to-morrow, perhaps, perchance, peradventure, they may be


One thinks of Dr. Woodrow Wilson's biography of George Washington as
of one of the strangest of all the world's books. Washington: the
first, and perhaps also the last American gentleman. Wilson: the
self-bamboozled Presbyterian, the right-thinker, the great moral
statesman, the perfect model of the Christian cad. It is as if the
Rev. Dr. Billy Sunday should do a biography of Charles Darwin--almost
as if Dr. Wilson himself should dedicate his senility to a life of
the Chevalier Bayard, or the Cid, or Christ.... But such phenomena,
of course, are not actually rare in the republic; here everything
happens that is forbidden by the probabilities and the decencies. The
chief native critic of beautiful letters, for a whole generation, was
a Baptist clergyman; he was succeeded by a literary Wall Street man,
who gave way, in turn, to a soviet of ninth-rate pedagogues; this
very curious apostolic succession I have already discussed. The dean
of the music critics, even to-day, is a translator of grand opera
libretti, and probably one of the worst that ever lived. Return,
now, to political biography. Who can think of anything in American
literature comparable to Morley's life of Gladstone, or Trevelyan's
life of Macaulay, or Carlyle's Frederick, or even Winston Churchill's
life of his father? I dredge my memory hopelessly; only William Graham
Sumner's study of Andrew Jackson emerges--an extraordinarily astute and
careful piece of work by one of the two most underestimated Americans
of his generation, the other being Daniel Coit Gilman. But where is the
first-rate biography of Washington--sound, fair, penetrating, honest,
done by a man capable of comprehending the English gentry of the
eighteenth century? And how long must we wait for adequate treatises
upon Jefferson, Hamilton, Sam Adams, Aaron Burr, Henry Clay, Calhoun,
Webster, Sumner, Grant, Sherman, Lee?

Even Lincoln is yet to be got vividly between the covers of a book.
The Nicolay-Hay work is quite impossible; it is not a biography, but
simply a huge storehouse of biographical raw materials; whoever can
read it can also read the official Records of the Rebellion. All the
other standard lives of old Abe--for instance, those of Lamon, Herndon
and Weil, Stoddard, Morse and Miss Tarbell--fail still worse; when
they are not grossly preachy and disingenuous they are trivial. So far
as I can make out, no genuinely scientific study of the man has ever
been attempted. The amazing conflict of testimony about him remains a
conflict; the most elemental facts are yet to be established; he grows
vaguer and more fabulous as year follows year. One would think that, by
this time, the question of his religious views (to take one example)
ought to be settled, but apparently it is not, for no longer than a
year ago there came a reverend author, Dr. William E. Barton, with a
whole volume upon the subject, and I was as much in the dark after
reading it as I had been before I opened it. All previous biographers,
it appeared by this author's evidence, had either dodged the problem,
or lied. The official doctrine, in this as in other departments, is
obviously quite unsound. One hears in the Sunday-schools that Abe was
an austere and pious fellow, constantly taking the name of God in
whispers, just as one reads in the school history-books that he was a
shining idealist, holding all his vast powers by the magic of an inner
and ineffable virtue. Imagine a man getting on in American politics,
interesting and enchanting the boobery, sawing off the horns of other
politicians, elbowing his way through primaries and conventions, by the
magic of virtue! As well talk of fetching the mob by hawking exact and
arctic justice! Abe, in fact, must have been a fellow highly skilled
at the great democratic art of gum-shoeing. I like to think of him as
one who defeated such politicians as Stanton, Douglas and Sumner with
their own weapons--deftly leading them into ambuscades, boldly pulling
their noses, magnificently ham-stringing and horn-swoggling them--in
brief, as a politician of extraordinary talents, who loved the game for
its own sake, and had the measure of the crowd. His official portraits,
both in prose and in daguerreotype, show him wearing the mien of a
man about to be hanged; one never sees him smiling. Nevertheless, one
hears that, until he emerged from Illinois, they always put the women,
children and clergy to bed when he got a few gourds of corn aboard,
and it is a matter of unescapable record that his career in the State
Legislature was indistinguishable from that of a Tammany Nietzsche.

But, as I say, it is hopeless to look for the real man in the
biographies of him: they are all full of distortion, chiefly pious
and sentimental. The defect runs through the whole of American
political biography, and even through the whole of American history.
Nearly all our professional historians are poor men holding college
posts, and they are ten times more cruelly beset by the ruling
politico-plutocratic-social oligarchy than ever the Prussian professors
were by the Hohenzollerns. Let them diverge in the slightest from what
is the current official doctrine, and they are turned out of their
chairs with a ceremony suitable for the expulsion of a drunken valet.
During the recent war a herd of two thousand and five hundred such
miserable slaves was organized by Dr. Creel to lie for their country,
and they at once fell upon the congenial task of rewriting American
history to make it accord with the ideas of H. P. Davison, Admiral
Sims, Nicholas Murray Butler, the Astors, Barney Baruch and Lord
Northcliffe. It was a committee of this herd that solemnly pledged the
honor of American scholarship to the authenticity of the celebrated
Sisson documents....

In the face of such acute miliary imbecility it is not surprising to
discover that all of the existing biographies of the late Colonel
Roosevelt--and they have been rolling off the presses at a dizzy rate
since his death--are feeble, inaccurate, ignorant and preposterous. I
have read, I suppose, at least ten of these tomes during the past year
or so, and in all of them I have found vastly more gush than sense.
Lawrence Abbott's "Impressions of Theodore Roosevelt" and William
Roscoe Thayer's "Theodore Roosevelt" may well serve as specimens.
Abbott's book is the composition, not of an unbiased student of the
man, but of a sort of groom of the hero. He is so extremely eager to
prove that Roosevelt was the perfect right-thinker, according to the
transient definitions of right-thinking, that he manages to get a
flavor of dubiousness into his whole chronicle. I find myself doubting
him even when I know that he is honest and suspect that he is right.
As for Thayer, all he offers is a hasty and hollow pot-boiler--such a
work as might have been well within the talents of, say, the late Murat
Halstead or the editor of the New York _Times._ This Thayer has been
heavily praised of late as the Leading American Biographer, and one
constantly hears that some new university has made him _Legum Doctor,_
or that he has been awarded a medal by this or that learned society, or
that the post has brought him a new ribbon from some literary potentate
in foreign parts. If, in fact, he is actually the cock of the walk in
biography, then all I have said against American biographers is too
mild and mellow. What one finds in his book is simply the third-rate
correctness of a Boston colonial. Consider, for example, his frequent
discussions of the war--a necessity in any work on Roosevelt. In
England there is the mob's view of the war, and there is the view of
civilized and intelligent men, _e. g.,_ Lansdowne, Loreburn, Austin
Harrison, Morel, Keynes, Haldane, Hirst, Balfour, Robert Cecil. In
New England, it would appear, the two views coalesce, with the first
outside. There is scarcely a line on the subject in Thayer's book that
might not have been written by Horatio Bottomley....

Obviously, Roosevelt's reaction to the war must occupy a large part
of any adequate biography of him, for that reaction was probably more
comprehensively typical of the man than any other business of his
life. It displayed not only his whole stock of political principles,
but also his whole stock of political tricks. It plumbed, on the one
hand, the depths of his sagacity, and on the other hand the depths of
his insincerity. Fundamentally, I am convinced, he was quite out of
sympathy with, and even quite unable to comprehend the body of doctrine
upon which the Allies, and later the United States, based their case.
To him it must have seemed insane when it was not hypocritical, and
hypocritical when it was not insane. His instincts were profoundly
against a new loosing of democratic fustian upon the world; he believed
in strongly centralized states, founded upon power and devoted to
enterprises far transcending mere internal government; he was an
imperialist of the type of Cecil Rhodes, Treitschke and Delcassé. But
the fortunes of domestic politics jockeyed him into the position of
standing as the spokesman of an almost exactly contrary philosophy. The
visible enemy before him was Wilson. What he wanted as a politician
was something that he could get only by wresting it from Wilson, and
Wilson was too cunning to yield it without making a tremendous fight,
chiefly by chicane--whooping for peace while preparing for war, playing
mob fear against mob fear, concealing all his genuine motives and
desires beneath clouds of chautauqual rhetoric, leading a mad dance
whose tune changed at every swing. Here was an opponent that more than
once puzzled Roosevelt, and in the end flatly dismayed him. Here was a
mob-master with a technique infinitely more subtle and effective than
his own. So lured into an unequal combat, the Rough Rider got bogged in
absurdities so immense that only the democratic anæsthesia to absurdity
saved him. To make any progress at all he was forced into fighting
against his own side. He passed from the scene bawling piteously for a
cause that, at bottom, it is impossible to imagine him believing in,
and in terms of a philosophy that was as foreign to his true faith as
it was to the faith of Wilson. In the whole affair there was a colossal
irony. Both contestants were intrinsically frauds.

The fraudulence of Wilson is now admitted by all save a few survivors
of the old corps of official press-agents, most of them devoid of
both honesty and intelligence. No unbiased man, in the presence of
the revelations of Bullitt, Keynes and a hundred other witnesses, and
of the Russian and Shantung performances, and of innumerable salient
domestic phenomena, can now believe that the _Doctor dulcifluus_ was
ever actually in favor of any of the brummagem ideals he once wept
for, to the edification of a moral universe. They were, at best, no
more than ingenious _ruses de guerre,_ and even in the day of their
widest credit it was the Espionage Act and the Solicitor-General to
the Postoffice, rather than any plausibility in their substance,
that got them their credit. In Roosevelt's case the imposture is
less patent; he died before it was fully unmasked. What is more, his
death put an end to whatever investigation of it was under way, for
American sentimentality holds that it is indecent to inquire into the
weaknesses of the dead, at least until all the flowers have withered
on their tombs. When, a year ago, I ventured in a magazine article to
call attention to Roosevelt's philosophical kinship to the Kaiser I
received letters of denunciation from all parts of the United States,
and not a few forthright demands that I recant on penalty of lynch law.
Prudence demanded that I heed these demands. We live in a curious and
often unsafe country. Haled before a Roosevelt judge for speeding my
automobile, or spitting on the sidewalk, or carrying a jug, I might
have been railroaded for ten years under some constructive corollary
of the Espionage Act. But there were two things that supported me
in my contumacy to the departed. One was a profound reverence for
and fidelity to the truth, sometimes almost amounting to fanaticism.
The other was the support of my venerable brother in epistemology,
the eminent Iowa right-thinker and patriot, Prof. Dr. S. P. Sherman.
Writing in the _Nation,_ where he survives from more seemly days than
these, Prof. Dr. Sherman put the thing in plain terms. "With the
essentials in the religion of the militarists of Germany," he said,
"Roosevelt was utterly in sympathy."

Utterly? Perhaps the adverb is a bit too strong. There was in the man
a certain instinctive antipathy to the concrete aristocrat and in
particular to the aristocrat's private code--the product, no doubt,
of his essentially _bourgeois_ origin and training. But if he could
not go with the Junkers all the way, he could at least go the whole
length of their distrust of the third order--the undifferentiated
masses of men below. Here, I daresay, he owed a lot to Nietzsche. He
was always reading German books, and among them, no doubt, were "Also
sprach Zarathustra" and "Jenseits von Gut und Böse." In fact, the
echoes were constantly sounding in his own harangues. Years ago, as an
intellectual exercise while confined to hospital, I devised and printed
a give-away of the Rooseveltian philosophy in parallel columns--in one
column, extracts from "The Strenuous Life"; in the other, extracts
from Nietzsche. The borrowings were numerous and unescapable. Theodore
had swallowed Friedrich as a peasant swallows Peruna--bottle, cork,
label and testimonials. Worse, the draft whetted his appetite, and
soon he was swallowing the Kaiser of the _Garde-Kavallerie-mess_
and battleship-launching speeches--another somewhat defective
Junker. In his palmy days it was often impossible to distinguish his
politico-theological bulls from those of Wilhelm; during the war,
indeed, I suspect that some of them were boldly lifted' by the British
press bureau, and palmed off as felonious imprudences out of Potsdam.
Wilhelm was his model in _Weltpolitik,_ and in sociology, exegetics,
administration, law, sport and connubial polity no less. Both roared
for doughty armies, eternally prepared--for the theory that the way to
prevent war is to make all conceivable enemies think twice, thrice,
ten times. Both dreamed of gigantic navies, with battleships as long
as Brooklyn Bridge. Both preached incessantly the duty of the citizen
to the state, with the soft pedal upon the duty of the state to the
citizen. Both praised the habitually gravid wife. Both delighted in
the armed pursuit of the lower fauna. Both heavily patronized the
fine arts. Both were intimates of God, and announced His desires with
authority. Both believed that all men who stood opposed to them were
prompted by the devil and would suffer for it in hell.

If, in fact, there was any difference between them, it was all in favor
of Wilhelm. For one thing, he made very much fewer speeches; it took
some colossal event, such as the launching of a dreadnaught or the
birthday of a colonel-general, to get him upon his legs; the Reichstag
was not constantly deluged with his advice and upbraiding. For another
thing, he was a milder and more modest man--one more accustomed, let us
say, to circumstance and authority, and hence less intoxicated by the
greatness of his state. Finally, he had been trained to think, not only
of his own immediate fortunes, but also of the remote interests of a
family that, in his most expansive days, promised to hold the throne
for many years, and so he cultivated a certain prudence, and even a
certain ingratiating suavity. He could, on occasion, be extremely
polite to an opponent. But Roosevelt was never polite to an opponent;
perhaps a gentleman, by American standards, he was surely never a
gentle man. In a political career of nearly forty years he was never
even fair to an opponent. All of his gabble about the square deal was
merely so much protective coloration, easily explicable on elementary
Freudian grounds. No man, facing Roosevelt in the heat of controversy,
ever actually got a square deal. He took extravagant advantages; he
played to the worst idiocies of the mob; he hit below the belt almost
habitually. One never thinks of him as a duelist, say of the school
of Disraeli, Palmerston and, to drop a bit, Blaine. One always thinks
of him as a glorified longshoreman engaged eternally in cleaning out
bar-rooms--and not too proud to gouge when the inspiration came to
him, or to bite in the clinches, or to oppose the relatively fragile
brass knuckles of the code with chair-legs, bung-starters, cuspidors,
demijohns, and ice-picks.

Abbott and Thayer, in their books, make elaborate efforts to depict
their hero as one born with a deep loathing of the whole Prussian
scheme of things, and particularly of the Prussian technique in combat.
Abbott even goes so far as to hint that the attentions of the Kaiser,
during Roosevelt's historic tour of Europe on his return from Africa,
were subtly revolting to him. Nothing could be more absurd. Prof. Dr.
Sherman, in the article I have mentioned, blows up that nonsense by
quoting from a speech made by the tourist in Berlin--a speech arguing
for the most extreme sort of militarism in a manner that must have made
even some of the Junkers blow their noses dubiously. The disproof need
not be piled up; the America that Roosevelt dreamed of was always a
sort of swollen Prussia, truculent without and regimented within. There
was always a clank of the saber in his discourse; he could not discuss
the tamest matter without swaggering in the best dragoon fashion.
Abbott gets into yet deeper waters when he sets up the doctrine that
the invasion of Belgium threw his darling into an instantaneous and
tremendous fit of moral indignation, and that the curious delay in the
public exhibition thereof, so much discussed since, was due to his
(Abbott's) fatuous interference--a _faux pas_ later regretted with much
bitterness. Unluckily, the evidence he offers leaves me full of doubts.
What the doctrine demands that one believe is simply this: that the man
who, for mere commercial advantage and (in Frederick's famous phrase)
"to make himself talked of in the world," tore up the treaty of 1848
between the United States and Colombia (_geb._ New Granada), whereby
the United States forever guaranteed the "sovereignty and ownership"
of the Colombians in the isthmus of Panama--that this same man,
thirteen years later, was horrified into a fever when Germany, facing
powerful foes on two fronts, tore up the treaty of 1832, guaranteeing,
not the sovereignty, but the bald neutrality of Belgium--a neutrality
already destroyed, according to the evidence before the Germans, by
Belgium's own acts.

It is hard, without an inordinate strain upon the credulity, to
believe any such thing, particularly in view of the fact that this
instantaneous indignation of the most impulsive and vocal of men was
diligently concealed for at least six weeks, with reporters camped upon
his doorstep day and night, begging him to say the very thing that
he left so darkly unsaid. Can one imagine Roosevelt, with red-fire
raging within him and sky-rockets bursting in his veins, holding his
peace for a month and a half? I have no doubt whatever that Abbott,
as he says, desired to avoid embarrassing Dr. Wilson--but think of
Roosevelt showing any such delicacy! For one, I am not equal to the
feat. All that unprecedented reticence, in fact, is far more readily
explicable on other and less lofty grounds. What really happened I
presume to guess. My guess is that Roosevelt, like the great majority
of other Americans, was _not_ instantly and automatically outraged by
the invasion of Belgium. On the contrary, he probably viewed it as a
regrettable, but not unexpected or unparalleled device of war--if
anything, as something rather thrillingly gaudy and effective--a fine
piece of virtuosity, pleasing to a military connoisseur. But then came
the deluge of Belgian atrocity stories, and the organized campaign to
enlist American sympathies. It succeeded very quickly. By the middle of
August the British press bureau was in full swing; by the beginning of
September the country was flooded with inflammatory stuff; six weeks
after the war opened it was already hazardous for a German in America
to state his country's case. Meanwhile, the Wilson administration had
declared for neutrality, and was still making a more or less sincere
effort to practice it, at least on the surface. Here was Roosevelt's
opportunity, and he leaped to it with sure instinct. On the one side
was the adminstration that he detested, and that all his self-interest
(e. g., his yearning to get back his old leadership and to become
President again in 1917) prompted him to deal a mortal blow, and on the
other side was a ready-made issue, full of emotional possibilities,
stupendously pumped up by extremely clever propaganda, and so far
unembraced by any other rabble-rouser of the first magnitude. Is it
any wonder that he gave a whoop, jumped upon his cayuse, and began
screaming for war? In war lay the greatest chance of his life. In war
lay the confusion and destruction of Wilson, and the melodramatic
renaissance of the Rough Rider, the professional hero, the national

In all this, of course, I strip the process of its plumes and spangles,
and expose a chain of causes and effects that Roosevelt himself, if he
were alive, would denounce as grossly contumelious to his native purity
of spirit--and perhaps in all honesty. It is not necessary to raise
any doubts as to that honesty. No one who has given any study to the
developement and propagation of political doctrine in the United States
can have failed to notice how the belief in issues among politicians
tends to run in exact ratio to the popularity of those issues. Let the
populace begin suddenly to swallow a new panacea or to take fright at
a new bugaboo, and almost instantly nine-tenths of the master-minds
of politics begin to believe that the panacea is a sure cure for
all the malaises of, the republic, and the bugaboo an immediate and
unbearable menace to all law, order and domestic tranquillity. At the
bottom of this singular intellectual resilience, of course, there is a
good deal of hard calculation; a man must keep up with the procession
of crazes, or his day is swiftly done. But in it there are also
considerations a good deal more subtle, and maybe less discreditable.
For one thing, a man devoted professionally to patriotism and the
wisdom of the fathers is very apt to come to a resigned sort of
acquiescence in all the doctrinaire rubbish that lies beneath the
national scheme of things--to believe, let us say, if not that the
plain people are gifted with an infallible sagacity, then at least
that they have an inalienable right to see their follies executed.
Poll-parroting nonsense as a matter of daily routine, the politician
ends by assuming that it is sense, even though he doesn't believe
it. For another thing, there is the contagion of mob enthusiasm--a
much underestimated murrain. We all saw what it could do during the
war--college professors taking their tune from the yellow journals,
the rev. clergy performing in the pulpit like so many Liberty Loan
orators in five-cent moving-picture houses, hysteria grown epidemic
like the influenza. No man is so remote and arctic that he is wholly
safe from that contamination; it explains many extravagant phenomena of
a democratic society; in particular, it explains why the mob leader is
so often a victim to his mob.

Roosevelt, a perfectly typical politician, devoted to the trade, not
primarily because he was gnawed by ideals, but because he frankly
enjoyed its rough-and-tumble encounters and its gaudy rewards, was
probably moved in both ways--and also by the hard calculation that
I have mentioned. If, by any ineptness of the British press-agents,
tear-squeezers and orphan-exhibitors, indignation over the invasion
of Belgium had failed to materialize--if, worse still, some gross
infringement of American rights by the English had caused it to be
forgotten completely--if, finally, Dr. Wilson had been whooping for war
with the populace firmly against him--in such event it goes without
saying that the moral horror of Dr. Roosevelt would have stopped short
at a very low amperage, and that he would have refrained from making it
the center of his polity. But with things as they were, lying neatly to
his hand, he permitted it to take on an extraordinary virulence, and
before long all his old delight in German militarism had been converted
into a lofty detestation of German militarism, and its chief spokesman
on this side of the Atlantic became its chief opponent. Getting rid
of that old delight, of course, was not easily achieved. The concrete
enthusiasm could be throttled, but the habit of mind remained. Thus
one beheld the curious spectacle of militarism belabored in terms of
militarism--of the Kaiser arraigned in unmistakably _kaiserliche_ tones.

Such violent swallowings and regurgitations were no novelties to the
man. His whole political career was marked, in fact, by performances
of the same sort. The issues that won him most votes were issues that,
at bottom, he didn't believe in; there was always a mental reservation
in his rhetoric. He got into politics, not as a tribune of the plain
people, but as an amateur reformer of the snobbish type common in the
eighties, by the _Nation_ out of the Social Register. He was a young
Harvard man scandalized by the discovery that his town was run by
men with such names as Michael O'Shaunnessy and Terence Googan--that
his social inferiors were his political superiors. His sympathies
were essentially anti-democratic. He had a high view of his private
position as a young fellow of wealth and education. He believed in
strong centralization--the concentration of power in a few hands, the
strict regimentation of the nether herd, the abandonment of democratic
platitudes. His heroes were such Federalists as Morris and Hamilton; he
made his first splash in the world by writing about them and praising
them. Worse, his daily associations were with the old Union League
crowd of high-tariff Republicans--men almost apoplectically opposed
to every movement from below--safe and sane men, highly conservative
and suspicious men--the profiteers of peace, as they afterward became
the profiteers of war. His early adventures in politics were not
very fortunate, nor did they reveal any capacity for leadership.
The bosses of the day took him in rather humorously, played him for
what they could get out of him, and then turned him loose. In a few
years he became disgusted and went West. Returning after a bit, he
encountered catastrophe: as a candidate for Mayor of New York he was
drubbed unmercifully. He went back to the West. He was, up to this
time, a comic figure--an anti-politician victimized by politicians, a
pseudo-aristocrat made ridiculous by the mob-masters he detested.

But meanwhile something was happening that changed the whole color of
the political scene, and was destined, eventually, to give Roosevelt
his chance. That something was a shifting in what might be called
the foundations of reform. Up to now it had been an essentially
aristocratic movement--superior, sniffish and anti-democratic. But
hereafter it took on a strongly democratic color and began to adopt
democratic methods. More, the change gave it new life. What Harvard,
the Union League Club and the _Nation_ had failed to accomplish,
the plain people now undertook to accomplish. This invasion of
the old citadel of virtue was first observed in the West, and its
manifestations out there must have given Roosevelt a good deal more
disquiet than satisfaction. It is impossible to imagine him finding
anything to his taste in the outlandish doings of the Populists, the
wild schemes of the pre-Bryan dervishes. His instincts were against
all that sort of thing. But as the movement spread toward the East it
took on a certain urbanity, and by the time it reached the seaboard
it had begun to be quite civilized. With this new brand of reform
Roosevelt now made terms. It was full of principles that outraged all
his pruderies, but it at least promised to work. His entire political
history thereafter, down to the day of his death, was a history of
compromises with the new forces--of a gradual yielding, for strategic
purposes, to ideas that were intrinsically at odds with his congenital
prejudices. When, after a generation of that sort of compromising, the
so-called Progressive party was organized and he seized the leadership
of it from the Westerners who had founded it, he performed a feat
of wholesale englutination that must forever hold a high place upon
the roll of political prodigies. That is to say, he swallowed at one
gigantic gulp, and out of the same herculean jug, the most amazing
mixture of social, political and economic perunas ever got down by
one hero, however valiant, however athirst--a cocktail made up of all
the elixirs hawked among the boobery in his time, from woman suffrage
to the direct primary, and from the initiative and referendum to the
short ballot, and from prohibition to public ownership, and from
trust-busting to the recall of judges.

This homeric achievement made him the head of the most tatterdemalion
party ever seen in American politics--a party composed of such
incompatible ingredients and hung together so loosely that it began
to disintegrate the moment it was born. In part it was made up of
mere disordered enthusiasts--believers in anything and everything,
pathetic victims of the credulity complex, habitual followers of
jitney messiahs, incurable hopers and snufflers. But in part it was
also made up of rice converts like Roosevelt himself--men eager for
office, disappointed by the old parties, and now quite willing to
accept any aid that half-idiot doctrinaires could give them. I have no
doubt that Roosevelt himself, carried away by the emotional storms of
the moment and especially by the quasi-religious monkey-shines that
marked the first Progressive convention, gradually convinced himself
that at least some of the doctrinaires, in the midst of all their
imbecility, yet preached a few ideas that were workable, and perhaps
even sound. But at bottom he was against them, and not only in the
matter of their specific sure cures, but also in the larger matter of
their childish faith in the wisdom and virtue of the plain people.
Roosevelt, for all his fluent mastery of democratic counter-words,
democratic gestures and all the rest of the armamentarium of the
mob-master, had no such faith in his heart of hearts. He didn't believe
in democracy; he believed simply in government. His remedy for all
the great pangs and longings of existence was not a dispersion of
authority, but a hard concentration of authority. He was not in favor
of unlimited experiment; he was in favor of a rigid control from
above, a despotism of inspired prophets and policemen. He was not for
democracy as his followers understood democracy, and as it actually is
and must be; he was for a paternalism of the true Bismarckian pattern,
almost of the Napoleonic or Ludendorffian pattern--a paternalism
concerning itself with all things, from the regulation of coal-mining
and meat-packing to the regulation of spelling and marital rights. His
instincts were always those of the property-owning Tory, not those
of the romantic Liberal. All the fundamental objects of Liberalism
--free speech, unhampered enterprise, the least possible governmental
interference--were abhorrent to him. Even when, for campaign purposes,
he came to terms with the Liberals his thoughts always ranged far
afield. When he tackled the trusts the thing that he had in his mind's
eye was not the restoration of competition but the subordination of
all private trusts to one great national trust, with himself at its
head. And when he attacked the courts it was not because they put their
own prejudice before the law but because they refused to put _his_
prejudices before the law.

In all his career no one ever heard him make an argument for the rights
of the citizen; his eloquence was always expended in expounding the
duties of the citizen. I have before me a speech in which he pleaded
for "a spirit of kindly justice toward every man and woman," but that
seems to be as far as he ever got in that direction--and it was the
gratuitous justice of the absolute monarch that he apparently had in
mind, not the autonomous and inalienable justice of a free society.
The duties of the citizen, as he understood them, related not only to
acts, but also to thoughts. There was, to his mind, a simple body of
primary doctrine, and dissent from it was the foulest of crimes. No
man could have been more bitter against opponents, or more unfair to
them, or more ungenerous. In this department, indeed, even so gifted
a specialist in dishonorable controversy as Dr. Wilson has seldom
surpassed him. He never stood up to a frank and chivalrous debate.
He dragged herrings across the trail. He made seductive faces at the
gallery. He capitalized his enormous talents as an entertainer, his
rank as a national hero, his public influence and consequence. The
two great law-suits in which he was engaged were screaming burlesques
upon justice. He tried them in the newspapers before ever they were
called; he befogged them with irrelevant issues; his appearances in
court were not the appearances of a witness standing on a level with
other witnesses, but those of a comedian sure of his crowd. He was, in
his dealings with concrete men as in his dealings with men in the mass,
a charlatan of the very highest skill--and there was in him, it goes
without saying, the persuasive charm of the charlatan as well as the
daring deviousness, the humanness of naïveté as well as the humanness
of chicane. He knew how to woo--and not only boobs. He was, for all his
ruses and ambuscades, a jolly fellow.

It seems to be forgotten that the current American theory that
political heresy should be put down by force, that a man who disputes
whatever is official has no rights in law or equity, that he is lucky
if he fares no worse than to lose his constitutional benefits of free
speech, free assemblage and the use of the mails--it seems to be
forgotten that this theory was invented, not by Dr. Wilson, but by
Roosevelt. Most Liberals, I suppose, would credit it, if asked, to
Wilson. He has carried it to extravagant lengths; he is the father
superior of all the present advocates of it; he will probably go
down into American history as its greatest prophet. But it was first
clearly stated, not in any Wilsonian bull to the right-thinkers of all
lands, but in Roosevelt's proceedings against the so-called Paterson
anarchists. You will find it set forth at length in an opinion prepared
for him by his Attorney-General, Charles J. Bonaparte, another curious
and almost fabulous character, also an absolutist wearing the false
whiskers of a democrat. Bonaparte furnished the law, and Roosevelt
furnished the blood and iron. It was an almost ideal combination;
Bonaparte had precisely the touch of Italian finesse that the Rough
Rider always lacked. Roosevelt believed in the Paterson doctrine--in
brief, that the Constitution does not throw its cloak around
heretics--to the end of his days. In the face of what he conceived to
be contumacy to revelation his fury took on a sort of lyrical grandeur.
There was nothing too awful for the culprit in the dock. Upon his head
were poured denunciations as violent as the wildest interdicts of a
mediæval pope.

The appearance of such men, of course, is inevitable under a democracy.
Consummate showmen, they arrest the wonder of the mob, and so put
its suspicions to sleep. What they actually believe is of secondary
consequence; the main thing is what they say; even more, the way
they say it. Obviously, their activity does a great deal of damage
to the democratic theory, for they are standing refutations of the
primary doctrine that the common folk choose their leaders wisely.
They damage it again in another and more subtle way. That is to say,
their ineradicable contempt for the minds they must heat up and
bamboozle leads them into a fatalism that shows itself in a cynical
and opportunistic politics, a deliberate avoidance of fundamentals.
The policy of a democracy thus becomes an eternal improvisation,
changing with the private ambitions of its leaders and the transient
and often unintelligible emotions of its rank and file. Roosevelt,
incurably undemocratic in his habits of mind, often found it difficult
to gauge those emotional oscillations. The fact explains his frequent
loss of mob support, his periodical journeys into Coventry. There were
times when his magnificent talents as a public comedian brought the
proletariat to an almost unanimous groveling at his feet, but there
were also times when he puzzled and dismayed it, and so awakened its
hostility. When he assaulted Wilson on the neutrality issue, early
in 1915, he made a quite typical mistake. That mistake consisted in
assuming that public indignation over the wrongs of the Belgians would
maintain itself at a high temperature--that it would develop rapidly
into a demand for intervention. Roosevelt made himself the spokesman
of that demand, and then found to his consternation that it was
waning--that the great masses of the plain people, prospering under
the Wilsonian neutrality, were inclined to preserve it, at no matter
what cost to the Belgians. In 1915, after the _Lusitania_ affair,
things seemed to swing his way again, and he got vigorous support from
the British press bureau. But in a few months he found himself once
more attempting to lead a mob that was fast slipping away. Wilson, a
very much shrewder politician, with little of Roosevelt's weakness for
succumbing to his own rhetoric, discerned the truth much more quickly
and clearly. In 1916 he made his campaign for reëlection on a flatly
anti-Roosevelt peace issue, and not only got himself reëlected, but
also drove Roosevelt out of the ring.

What happened thereafter deserves a great deal more careful study than
it will ever get from the timorous eunuchs who posture as American
historians. At the moment, it is the official doctrine in England,
where the thing is more freely discussed than at home, that Wilson was
forced into the war by an irresistible movement from below--that the
plain people compelled him to abandon neutrality and move reluctantly
upon the Germans. Nothing could be more untrue. The plain people,
at the end of 1916, were in favor of peace, and they believed that
Wilson was in favor of peace. How they were gradually worked up to
complaisance and then to enthusiasm and then to hysteria and then to
acute mania--this is a tale to be told in more leisurely days and by
historians without boards of trustees on their necks. For the present
purpose it is sufficient to note that the whole thing was achieved so
quickly and so neatly that its success left Roosevelt surprised and
helpless. His issue had been stolen from directly under his nose. He
was left standing daunted and alone, a boy upon a burning deck. It took
him months to collect his scattered wits, and even then his attack upon
the administration was feeble and ineffective. To the plain people it
seemed a mere ill-natured snapping at a successful rival, which in fact
it was, and so they paid no heed to it, and Roosevelt found himself
isolated once more. Thus he passed from the scene in the shadows, a
broken politician and a disappointed man.

I have a notion that he died too soon. His best days were probably
not behind him, but ahead of him. Had he lived ten years longer, he
might have enjoyed a great rehabilitation, and exchanged his old
false leadership of the inflammatory and fickle mob for a sound and
true leadership of the civilized minority. For the more one studies
his mountebankeries as mob-master, the more one is convinced that
there was a shrewd man beneath the motley, and that his actual beliefs
were anything but nonsensical. The truth of them, indeed, emerges
more clearly day by day. The old theory of a federation of free and
autonomous states has broken down by its own weight, and we are moved
toward centralization by forces that have long been powerful and are
now quite irresistible. So with the old theory of national isolation:
it, too, has fallen to pieces. The United States can no longer hope
to lead a separate life in the world, undisturbed by the pressure of
foreign aspirations. We came out of the war to find ourselves hemmed in
by hostilities that no longer troubled to conceal themselves, and if
they are not as close and menacing to-day as those that have hemmed in
Germany for centuries they are none the less plainly there and plainly
growing. Roosevelt, by whatever route of reflection or intuition,
arrived at a sense of these facts at a time when it was still somewhat
scandalous to state them, and it was the capital effort of his life
to reconcile them, in some dark way or other, to the prevailing
platitudes, and so get them heeded. To-day no one seriously maintains,
as all Americans once maintained, that the states can go on existing
together as independent commonwealths, each with its own laws, its own
legal theory and its own view of the common constitutional bond. And
to-day no one seriously maintains, as all Americans once maintained,
that the nation may safely potter on without adequate means of defense.
However unpleasant it may be to contemplate, the fact is plain that
the American people, during the next century, will have to fight to
maintain their place in the sun.

Roosevelt lived just long enough to see his notions in these directions
take on life, but not long enough to see them openly adopted. To the
extent of his prevision he was a genuine leader of the nation, and
perhaps in the years to come, when his actual ideas are disentangled
from the demagogic fustian in which he had to wrap them, his more
honest pronunciamentoes will be given canonical honors, and he will be
ranked among the prophets. He saw clearly more than one other thing
that was by no means obvious to his age--for example, the inevitability
of frequent wars under the new world-system of extreme nationalism;
again, the urgent necessity, for primary police ends, of organizing the
backward nations into groups of vassals, each under the hoof of some
first-rate power; yet again, the probability of the breakdown of the
old system of free competition; once more, the high social utility of
the Spartan virtues and the grave dangers of sloth and ease; finally,
the incompatibility of free speech and democracy. I do not say that
he was always quite honest, even when he was most indubitably right.
But in so far as it was possible for him to be honest and exist at all
politically, he inclined toward the straightforward thought and the
candid word. That is to say, his instinct prompted him to tell the
truth, just as the instinct of Dr. Wilson prompts him to shift and
dissimulate. What ailed him was the fact that his lust for glory, when
it came to a struggle, was always vastly more powerful than his lust
for the eternal verities. Tempted sufficiently, he would sacrifice
anything and everything to get applause. Thus the statesman was
debauched by the politician, and the philosopher was elbowed out of
sight by the popinjay.

Where he failed most miserably was in his remedies. A remarkably
penetrating diagnostician, well-read, unprejudiced and with a touch
of genuine scientific passion, he always stooped to quackery when he
prescribed a course of treatment. For all his sensational attacks upon
the trusts, he never managed to devise a scheme to curb them--and
even when he sought to apply the schemes of other men he invariably
corrupted the business with timorousness and insincerity. So with
his campaign for national preparedness. He displayed the disease
magnificently, but the course of medication that he proposed was
vague and unconvincing; it was not, indeed, without justification
that the plain people mistook his advocacy of an adequate army for
a mere secret yearning to prance upon a charger at the head of huge
hordes. So, again, with his eloquent plea for national solidarity
and an end of hyphenism. The dangers that he pointed out were very
real and very menacing, but his plan for abating them only made them
worse. His objurgations against the Germans surely accomplished
nothing; the hyphenate of 1915 is still a hyphenate in his heart--with
bitter and unforgettable grievances to support him. Roosevelt, very
characteristically, swung too far. In denouncing German hyphenism so
extravagantly he contrived to give an enormous impetus to English
hyphenism, a far older and more perilous malady. It has already gone
so far that a large and influential party endeavors almost openly
to convert the United States into a mere vassal state of England's.
Instead of national solidarity following the war, we have only a
revival of Know-Nothingism; one faction of hyphenates tries to
exterminate another faction. Roosevelt's error here was one that he
was always making. Carried away by the ease with which he could heat
up the mob, he tried to accomplish instantly and by _force majeure_
what could only be accomplished by a long and complex process, with
more good will on both sides than ever so opinionated and melodramatic
a pseudo-Junker was capable of. But though he thus made a mess of the
cure, he was undoubtedly right about the disease.

The talented Sherman, in the monograph that I have praised, argues
that the chief contribution of the dead gladiator to American life was
the example of his gigantic gusto, his delight in toil and struggle,
his superb aliveness. The fact is plain. What he stood most clearly
in opposition to was the superior pessimism of the three Adams
brothers--the notion that the public problems of a democracy are
unworthy the thought and effort of a civilized and self-respecting
man--the sad error that lies in wait for all of us who hold ourselves
above the general. Against this suicidal aloofness Roosevelt always
hurled himself with brave effect. Enormously sensitive and resilient,
almost pathological in his appetite for activity, he made it plain to
every one that the most stimulating sort of sport imaginable was to
be obtained in fighting, not for mere money, but for ideas. There was
no aristocratic reserve about him. He was not, in fact, an aristocrat
at all, but a quite typical member of the upper _bourgeoisie;_ his
people were not _patroons_ in New Amsterdam, but simple traders; he was
himself a social pusher, and eternally tickled by the thought that he
had had a Bonaparte in his cabinet. The marks of the thoroughbred were
simply not there. The man was blatant, crude, overly confidential,
devious, tyrannical, vainglorious, sometimes quite childish. One often
observed in him a certain pathetic wistfulness, a reaching out for
a grand manner that was utterly beyond him. But the sweet went with
the bitter. He had all the virtues of the fat and complacent burgher.
His disdain of affectation and prudery was magnificent. He hated all
pretension save his own pretension. He had a sound respect for hard
effort, for loyalty, for thrift, for honest achievement.

His worst defects, it seems to me, were the defects of his race and
time. Aspiring to be the leader of a nation of third-rate men, he had
to stoop to the common level. When he struck out for realms above that
level he always came to grief: this was the "unsafe" Roosevelt, the
Roosevelt who was laughed at, the Roosevelt retired suddenly to cold
storage. This was the Roosevelt who, in happier times and a better
place, might have been. Well, one does what one can.


Alas, for the South! Her books have grown fewer--
She never was much given to literature.

In the lamented J. Gordon Coogler, author of these elegaic lines,
there was the insight of a true poet. He was the last bard of Dixie,
at least in the legitimate line. Down there a poet is now almost as
rare as an oboe-player, a dry-point etcher or a metaphysician. It is,
indeed, amazing to contemplate so vast a vacuity. One thinks of the
interstellar spaces, of the colossal reaches of the now mythical ether.
Nearly the whole of Europe could be lost in that stupendous region of
fat farms, shoddy cities and paralyzed cerebrums: one could throw in
France, Germany and Italy, and still have room for the British Isles.
And yet, for all its size and all its wealth and all the "progress"
it babbles of, it is almost as sterile, artistically, intellectually,
culturally, as the Sahara Desert. There are single acres in Europe that
house more first-rate men than all the states south of the Potomac;
there are probably single square miles in America. If the whole of the
late Confederacy were to be engulfed by a tidal wave to-morrow, the
effect upon the civilized minority of men in the world would be but
little greater than that of a flood on the Yang-tse-kiang. It would
be impossible in all history to match so complete a drying-up of a

I say a civilization because that is what, in the old days, the South
had, despite the Baptist and Methodist barbarism that reigns down there
now. More, it was a civilization of manifold excellences--perhaps
the best that the Western Hemisphere has ever seen--undoubtedly the
best that These States have ever seen. Down to the middle of the last
century, and even beyond, the main hatchery of ideas on this side of
the water was across the Potomac bridges. The New England shopkeepers
and theologians never really developed a civilization; all they ever
developed was a government. They were, at their best, tawdry and tacky
fellows, oafish in manner and devoid of imagination; one searches the
books in vain for mention of a salient Yankee gentleman; as well look
for a Welsh gentleman. But in the south there were men of delicate
fancy, urbane instinct and aristocratic manner--in brief, superior
men--in brief, gentry. To politics, their chief diversion, they brought
active and original minds. It was there that nearly all the political
theories we still cherish and suffer under came to birth. It was there
that the crude dogmatism of New England was refined and humanized. It
was there, above all, that some attention was given to the art of
living--that life got beyond and above the state of a mere infliction
and became an exhilarating experience. A certain noble spaciousness
was in the ancient southern scheme of things. The _Ur-_Confederate had
leisure. He liked to toy with ideas. He was hospitable and tolerant. He
had the vague thing that we call culture.

But consider the condition of his late empire to-day. The picture
gives one the creeps. It is as if the Civil War stamped out every last
bearer of the torch, and left only a mob of peasants on the field. One
thinks of Asia Minor, resigned to Armenians, Greeks and wild swine, of
Poland abandoned to the Poles. In all that gargantuan paradise of the
fourth-rate there is not a single picture gallery worth going into, or
a single orchestra capable of playing the nine symphonies of Beethoven,
or a single opera-house, or a single theater devoted to decent plays,
or a single public monument (built since the war) that is worth looking
at, or a single workshop devoted to the making of beautiful things.
Once you have counted Robert Loveman (an Ohioan by birth) and John
McClure (an Oklahoman) you will not find a single southern poet above
the rank of a neighborhood rhymester. Once you have counted James
Branch Cabell (a lingering survivor of the _ancien régime:_ a scarlet
dragonfly imbedded in opaque amber) you will not find a single southern
prose writer who can actually write. And once you have--but when you
come to critics, musical composers, painters, sculptors, architects
and the like, you will have to give it up, for there is not even a bad
one between the Potomac mud-flats and the Gulf. Nor an historian. Nor
a sociologist. Nor a philosopher. Nor a theologian. Nor a scientist.
In all these fields the south is an awe-inspiring blank--a brother to
Portugal, Serbia and Esthonia.

Consider, for example, the present estate and dignity of Virginia--in
the great days indubitably the premier American state, the mother of
Presidents and statesmen, the home of the first American university
worthy of the name, the _arbiter elegantiarum_ of the western world.
Well, observe Virginia to-day. It is years since a first-rate man,
save only Cabell, has come out of it; it is years since an idea has
come out of it. The old aristocracy went down the red gullet of war;
the poor white trash are now in the saddle. Politics in Virginia are
cheap, ignorant, parochial, idiotic; there is scarcely a man in office
above the rank of a professional job-seeker; the political doctrine
that prevails is made up of hand-me-downs from the bumpkinry of the
Middle West--Bryanism, Prohibition, vice crusading, all that sort
of filthy claptrap; the administration of the law is turned over to
professors of Puritanism and espionage; a Washington or a Jefferson,
dumped there by some act of God, would be denounced as a scoundrel
and jailed overnight. Elegance, _esprit,_ culture? Virginia has no
art, no literature, no philosophy, no mind or aspiration of her own.
Her education has sunk to the Baptist seminary level; not a single
contribution to human knowledge has come out of her colleges in
twenty-five years; she spends less than half upon her common schools,
_per capita,_ than any northern state spends. In brief, an intellectual
Gobi or Lapland. Urbanity, _politesse,_ chivalry? Co to! It was in
Virginia that they invented the device of searching for contraband
whisky in women's underwear.... There remains, at the top, a ghost of
the old aristocracy, a bit wistful and infinitely charming. But it has
lost all its old leadership to fabulous monsters from the lower depths;
it is submerged in an industrial plutocracy that is ignorant and
ignominious. The mind of the state, as it is revealed to the nation,
is pathetically naïve and inconsequential. It no longer reacts with
energy and elasticity to great problems. It has fallen to the bombastic
trivialities of the camp-meeting and the chautauqua. Its foremost
exponent--if so flabby a thing may be said to have an exponent--is a
stateman whose name is synonymous with, empty words, broken pledges and
false pretenses. One could no more imagine a Lee or a Washington in the
Virginia of to-day than one could imagine a Huxley in Nicaragua.

I choose the Old Dominion, not because I disdain it, but precisely
because I esteem it. It is, by long odds, the most civilized of the
southern states, now as always. It has sent a host of creditable sons
northward; the stream kept running into our own time. Virginians, even
the worst of them, show the effects of a great tradition. They hold
themselves above other southerners, and with sound pretension. If
one turns to such a commonwealth as Georgia the picture becomes far
darker. There the liberated lower orders of whites have borrowed the
worst commercial bounderism of the Yankee and superimposed it upon a
culture that, at bottom, is but little removed from savagery. Georgia
is at once the home of the cotton-mill sweater and of the most noisy
and vapid sort of chamber of commerce, of the Methodist parson turned
Savonarola and of the lynching bee. A self-respecting European, going
there to live, would not only find intellectual stimulation utterly
lacking; he would actually feel a certain insecurity, as if the scene
were the Balkans or the China Coast. The Leo Frank affair was no
isolated phenomenon. It fitted into its frame very snugly. It was a
natural expression of Georgian notions of truth and justice. There is
a state with more than half the area of Italy and more population than
either Denmark or Norway, and yet in thirty years it has not produced
a single idea. Once upon a time a Georgian printed a couple of books
that attracted notice, but immediately it turned out that he was
little more than an amanuensis for the local blacks--that his works
were really the products, not of white Georgia, but of black Georgia.
Writing afterward _as_ a white man, he swiftly subsided into the fifth
rank. And he is not only the glory of the literature of Georgia; he is,
almost literally, the whole of the literature of Georgia--nay, of the
entire art of Georgia.

Virginia is the best of the south to-day, and Georgia is perhaps the
worst. The one is simply senile; the other is crass, gross, vulgar
and obnoxious. Between lies a vast plain of mediocrity, stupidity,
lethargy, almost of dead silence. In the north, of course, there
is also grossness, crassness, vulgarity. The north, in its way, is
also stupid and obnoxious. But nowhere in the north is there such
complete sterility, so depressing a lack of all civilized gesture
and aspiration. One would find it difficult to unearth a second-rate
city between the Ohio and the Pacific that isn't struggling to
establish an orchestra, or setting up a little theater, or going in
for an art gallery, or making some other effort to get into touch
with civilization. These efforts often fail, and sometimes they
succeed rather absurdly, but under them there is at least an impulse
that deserves respect, and that is the impulse to seek beauty and to
experiment with ideas, and so to give the life of every day a certain
dignity and purpose. You will find no such impulse in the south.

There are no committees down there cadging subscriptions for
orchestras; if a string quartet is ever heard there, the news of it
has never come out; an opera troupe, when it roves the land, is a nine
days' wonder. The little theater movement has swept the whole country,
enormously augmenting the public interest in sound plays, giving new
dramatists their chance, forcing reforms upon the commercial theater.
Everywhere else the wave rolls high--but along the line of the Potomac
it breaks upon a rock-bound shore. There is no little theater beyond.
There is no gallery of pictures. No artist ever gives exhibitions. No
one talks of such things. No one seems to be interested in such things.

As for the cause of this unanimous torpor and doltishness, this
curious and almost pathological estrangement from everything that
makes for a civilized jculture, I have hinted at it already, and now
state it again. The south has simply been drained of all its best
blood. The vast blood-letting of the Civil War half exterminated and
wholly paralyzed the old aristocracy, and so left the land to the
harsh mercies of the poor white trash, now its masters. The war, of
course, was not a complete massacre. It spared a decent number of
first-rate southerners--perhaps even some of the very best. Moreover,
other countries, notably France and Germany, have survived far more
staggering butcheries, and even showed marked progress thereafter.
But the war not only cost a great many valuable lives; it also brought
bankruptcy, demoralization and despair in its train--and so the
majority of the first-rate southerners that were left, broken in spirit
and unable to live under the new dispensation, cleared out. A few went
to South America, to Egypt, to the Far East. Most came north. They were
fecund; their progeny is widely dispersed, to the great benefit of
the north. A southerner of good blood almost always does well in the
north. He finds, even in the big cities, surroundings fit for a man of
condition. His peculiar qualities have a high social value, and are
esteemed. He is welcomed by the codfish aristocracy as one palpably
superior. But in the south he throws up his hands. It is impossible for
him to stoop to the common level. He cannot brawl in politics with the
grandsons of his grand-father's tenants. He is unable to share their
fierce jealousy of the emerging black--the cornerstone of all their
public thinking. He is anæsthetic to their theological and political
enthusiasms. He finds himself an alien at their feasts of soul. And
so he withdraws into his tower, and is heard of no more. Cabell is
almost a perfect example. His eyes, for years, were turned toward
the past; he became a professor of the grotesque genealogizing that
decaying aristocracies affect; it was only by a sort of accident that
he discovered himself to be an artist. The south is unaware of the
fact to this day; it regards Woodrow Wilson and Col. John Temple Graves
as much finer stylists, and Frank L. Stanton as an infinitely greater
poet. If it has heard, which I doubt, that Cabell has been hoofed by
the Comstocks, it unquestionably views that assault as a deserved
rebuke to a fellow who indulges a lewd passion for fancy writing, and
is a covert enemy to the Only True Christianity.

What is needed down there, before the vexatious public problems of the
region may be intelligently approached, is a survey of the population
by competent ethnologists and anthropologists. The immigrants of the
north have been studied at great length, and any one who is interested
may now apply to the Bureau of Ethnology for elaborate data as to their
racial strains, their stature and cranial indices, their relative
capacity for education, and the changes that they undergo under
American _Kultur._ But the older stocks of the south, and particularly
the emancipated and dominant poor white trash, have never been
investigated scientifically, and most of the current generalizations
about them are probably wrong. For example, the generalization that
they are purely Anglo-Saxon in blood. This I doubt very seriously.
The chief strain down there, I believe, is Celtic rather than Saxon,
particularly in the hill country. French blood, too, shows itself here
and there, and so does Spanish, and so does German. The last-named
entered from the northward, by way of the limestone belt just east
of the Alleghenies. Again, it is very likely that in some parts of
the south a good many of the plebeian whites have more than a trace
of negro blood. Interbreeding under concubinage produced some very
light half-breeds at an early day, and no doubt appreciable numbers of
them went over into the white race by the simple process of changing
their abode. Not long ago I read a curious article by an intelligent
negro, in which he stated that it is easy for a very light negro to
pass as white in the south on account of the fact that large numbers
of southerners accepted as white have distinctly negroid features.
Thus it becomes a delicate and dangerous matter for a train conductor
or a hotel-keeper to challenge a suspect. But the Celtic strain is
far more obvious than any of these others. It not only makes itself
visible in physical stigmata--e. g., leanness and dark coloring--but
also in mental traits. For example, the religious thought of the south
is almost precisely identical with the religious thought of Wales.
There is the same naïve belief in an anthropomorphic Creator but little
removed, in manner and desire, from an evangelical bishop; there is
the same submission to an ignorant and impudent sacerdotal tyranny,
and there is the same sharp contrast between doctrinal orthodoxy and
private ethics. Read Caradoc Evans' ironical picture of the Welsh
Wesleyans in his preface to "My Neighbors," and you will be instantly
reminded of the Georgia and Carolina Methodists. The most booming
sort of piety, in the south, is not incompatible with the theory that
lynching is a benign institution. Two generations ago it was not
incompatible with an ardent belief in slavery.

It is highly probable that some of the worst blood of western Europe
flows in the veins of the southern poor whites, now poor no longer. The
original strains, according to every honest historian, were extremely
corrupt. Philip Alexander Bruce (a Virginian of the old gentry) says
in his "Industrial History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century"
that the first native-born generation was largely illegitimate. "One
of the most common offenses against morality committed in the lower
ranks of life in Virginia during the seventeenth century," he says,
"was bastardy." The mothers of these bastards, he continues, were
chiefly indentured servants, and "had belonged to the lowest class in
their native country." Fanny Kemble Butler, writing of the Georgia
poor whites of a century later, described them as "the most degraded
race of human beings claiming an Anglo-Saxon origin that can be found
on the face of the earth--filthy, lazy, ignorant, brutal, proud,
penniless savages." The Sunday-school and the chautauqua, of course,
have appreciably mellowed the descendants of these "savages," and their
economic progress and rise to political power have done perhaps even
more, but the marks of their origin are still unpleasantly plentiful.
Every now and then they produce a political leader who puts their
secret notions of the true, the good and the beautiful into plain
words, to the amazement and scandal of the rest of the country. That
amazement is turned into downright incredulity when news comes that his
platform has got him high office, and that he is trying to execute it.

In the great days of the south the line between the gentry and the poor
whites was very sharply drawn. There was absolutely no intermarriage.
So far as I know there is not a single instance in history of a
southerner of the upper class marrying one of the bondwomen described
by Mr. Bruce. In other societies characterized by class distinctions
of that sort it is common for the lower class to be improved by
extra-legal crosses. That is to say, the men of the upper class take
women of the lower class as mistresses, and out of such unions spring
the extraordinary plebeians who rise sharply from the common level,
and so propagate the delusion that all other plebeians would do the
same thing if they had the chance--in brief, the delusion that class
distinctions are merely economic and conventional, and not congenital
and genuine. But in the south the men of the upper classes sought their
mistresses among the blacks, and after a few generations there was
so much white blood in the black women that they were considerably
more attractive than the unhealthy and bedraggled women of the poor
whites. This preference continued into our own time. A southerner of
good family once told me in all seriousness that he had reached his
majority before it ever occurred to him that a white woman might make
quite as agreeable a mistress as the octaroons of his jejune fancy.
If the thing has changed of late, it is not the fault of the southern
white man, but of the southern mulatto women. The more sightly yellow
girls of the region, with improving economic opportunities, have gained
self-respect, and so they are no longer as willing to enter into
concubinage as their grand-dams were.

As a result of this preference of the southern gentry for mulatto
mistresses there was created a series of mixed strains containing the
best white blood of the south, and perhaps of the whole country. As
another result the poor whites went unfertilized from above, and so
missed the improvement that so constantly shows itself in the peasant
stocks of other countries. It is a commonplace that nearly all negroes
who rise above the general are of mixed blood, usually with the white
predominating. I know a great many negroes, and it would be hard for
me to think of an exception. What is too often forgotten is that this
white bloody is not the Mood of the poor whites but that of the old
gentry. The mulatto girls of the early days despised the poor whites
as creatures distinctly inferior to negroes, and it was thus almost
unheard of for such a girl to enter into relations with a man of that
submerged class. This aversion was based upon a sound instinct. The
southern mulatto of to-day is a proof of it. Like all other half-breeds
he is an unhappy man, with disquieting tendencies toward anti-social
habits of thought, but he is intrinsically a better animal than the
pure-blooded descendant of the old poor whites, and he not infrequently
demonstrates it. It is not by accident that the negroes of the south
are making faster progress, economically and culturally, than the
masses of the whites. It is not by accident that the only visible
æsthetic activity in the south is wholly in their hands. No southern
composer has ever written music so good as that of half a dozen
white-black composers who might be named. Even in politics, the negro
reveals a curious superiority. Despite the fact that the race question
has been the main political concern of the southern whites for two
generations, to the practical exclusion of everything else, they have
contributed nothing to its discussion that has impressed the rest of
the world so deeply and so favorably as three or four books by southern

Entering upon such themes, of course, one must resign one's self to
a vast misunderstanding and abuse. The south has not only lost its
old capacity for producing ideas; it has also taken on the worst
intolerance of ignorance and stupidity. Its prevailing mental attitude
for several decades past has been that of its own hedge ecclesiastics.
All who dissent from its orthodox doctrines are scoundrels. All who
presume to discuss its ways realistically are damned. I have had, in
my day, several experiences in point. Once, after I had published
an article on some phase of the eternal race question, a leading
southern newspaper replied by printing a column of denunciation of my
father, then dead nearly twenty years--a philippic placarding him as
an ignorant foreigner of dubious origin, inhabiting "the Baltimore
ghetto" and speaking a dialect recalling that of Weber & Fields--two
thousand words of incandescent nonsense, utterly false and beside
the point, but exactly meeting the latter-day southern notion of
effective controversy. Another time, I published a short discourse
on lynching, arguing that the sport was popular in the south because
the backward culture of the region denied the populace more seemly
recreations. Among such recreations I mentioned those afforded by
brass bands, symphony orchestras, boxing matches, amateur athletic
contests, shoot-the-chutes, roof gardens, horse races, and so on. In
reply another great southern journal denounced me as a man "of wineshop
temperament, brass-jewelry tastes and pornographic predilections."
In other words, brass bands, in the south, are classed with brass
jewelry, and both are snares of the devil! To advocate setting up
symphony orchestras is pornography!... Alas, when the touchy southerner
attempts a greater urbanity, the result is often even worse. Some time
ago a colleague of mine printed an article deploring the arrested
cultural development of Georgia. In reply he received a number of
protests from patriotic Georgians, and all of them solemnly listed the
glories of the state. I indulge in a few specimens:

    Who has not heard of Asa G. Candler, whose name is
    synonymous with Coca-Cola, a Georgia product?

    The first Sunday-school in the world was opened in Savannah.

    Who does not recall with pleasure the writings of ... Frank
    L. Stanton, Georgia's brilliant poet?

    Georgia was the first state to organize a Boys' Corn Club in
    the South--Newton county, 1904.

    The first to suggest a common United Daughters of the
    Confederacy badge was Mrs. Raynes, of Georgia.

    The first to suggest a state historian of the United
    Daughters of the Confederacy was Mrs. C. Helen Plane (Macon
    convention, 1896).

    The first to suggest putting to music Heber's "From
    Green-land's Icy Mountains" was Mrs. F. R. Goulding, of

And so on, and so on. These proud boasts came, remember, not from
obscure private persons, but from "Leading Georgians"--in one case,
the state historian. Curious sidelights upon the ex-Confederate mind!
Another comes from a stray copy of a negro paper. It describes an
ordinance lately passed by the city council of Douglas, Ga., forbidding
any trousers presser, on penalty of forfeiting a $500 bond, to engage
in "pressing for both white and colored." This in a town, says the
negro paper, where practically all of the white inhabitants have "their
food prepared by colored hands," "their babies cared for by colored
hands," and "the clothes which they wear right next to their skins
washed in houses where negroes live"--houses in which the said clothes
"remain for as long as a week at a time." But if you marvel at the
absurdity, keep it dark! A casual word, and the united press of the
south will be upon your trail, denouncing you bitterly as a scoundrelly
Yankee, a Bolshevik Jew, an agent of the Wilhelmstrasse....

Obviously, it is impossible for intelligence to flourish in such
an atmosphere. Free inquiry is blocked by the idiotic certainties
of ignorant men. The arts, save in the lower reaches of the gospel
hymn, the phonograph and the chautauqua harangue, are all held
in suspicion. The tone of public opinion is set by an upstart
class but lately emerged from industrial slavery into commercial
enterprise--the class of "hustling" business men, of "live wires," of
commercial club luminaries, of "drive" managers, of forward-lookers
and right-thinkers--in brief, of third-rate southerners inoculated
with all the worst traits of the Yankee sharper. One observes the
curious effects of an old tradition of truculence upon a population
now merely pushful and impudent, of an old tradition of chivalry upon
a population now quite without imagination. The old repose is gone.
The old romanticism is gone. The philistinism of the new type of
town-boomer southerner is not only indifferent to the ideals of the
old south; it is positively antagonistic to them. That philistinism
regards human life, not as an agreeable adventure, but as a mere trial
of rectitude and efficiency. It is overwhelmingly utilitarian and
moral. It is inconceivably hollow and obnoxious. What remains of the
ancient tradition is simply a certain charming civility in private
intercourse--often broken down, alas, by the hot rages of Puritanism,
but still generally visible. The southerner, at his worst, is never
quite the surly cad that the Yankee is. His sensitiveness may betray
him into occasional bad manners, but in the main he is a pleasant
fellow--hospitable, polite, good-humored, even jovial.... But a bit
absurd.... A bit pathetic.


The suave and [oe]dematous Chesterton, in a late effort to earn
the honorarium of a Chicago newspaper, composed a thousand words
of labored counterblast to what is called inspiration in the arts.
The thing itself, he argued, has little if any actual existence; we
hear so much about it because its alleged coyness and fortuitousness
offer a convenient apology for third-rate work. The man taken in such
third-rate work excuses himself on the ground that he is a helpless
slave of some power that stands outside him, and is quite beyond his
control. On days when it favors him he teems with ideas and creates
masterpieces, but on days when it neglects him he is crippled and
impotent--a fiddle without a bow, an engine without steam, a tire
without air. All this, according to Chesterton, is nonsense. A man who
can really write at all, or paint at all, or compose at all should be
able to do it at almost any time, provided only "he is not drunk or

So far Chesterton. The formula of the argument is simple and familiars
to dispose of a problem all that is necessary is to deny that it
exists. But there are plenty of men, I believe, who find themselves
unable to resolve the difficulty in any such cavalier manner--men whose
chief burden and distinction, in fact, is that they do not employ
formulæ in their thinking, but are thrown constantly upon industry,
ingenuity and the favor of God. Among such men there remains a good
deal more belief in what is vaguely called inspiration. They know
by hard experience that there are days when their ideas flow freely
and clearly, and days when they are dammed up damnably. Say a man of
that sort has a good day. For some reason quite incomprehensible to
him all his mental processes take on an amazing ease and slickness.
Almost without conscious effort he solves technical problems that have
badgered him for weeks. He is full of novel expedients, extraordinary
efficiencies, strange cunnings. He has a feeling that he has suddenly
and unaccountably broken through a wall, dispersed a fog, got himself
out of the dark. So he does a double or triple stint of the best work
that he is capable of--maybe of far better work than he has ever been
capable of before--and goes to bed impatient for the morrow. And on
the morrow he discovers to his consternation that he has become almost
idiotic, and quite incapable of any work at all.

I challenge any man who trades in ideas to deny that he has this
experience. The truth is that he has it constantly. It overtakes
poets and contrapuntists, critics and dramatists, philosophers and
journalists; it may even be shared, so far as I know, by advertisement
writers, chautauqua orators and the rev. clergy. The characters that
all anatomists of melancholy mark in it are the irregular ebb and flow
of the tides, and the impossibility of getting them under any sort of
rational control. The brain, as it were, stands to one side and watches
itself pitching and tossing, full of agony but essentially helpless.
Here the man of creative imagination pays a ghastly price for all
his superiorities and immunities; nature takes revenge upon him for
dreaming of improvements in the scheme of things. Sitting there in his
lonely room, gnawing the handle of his pen, racked by his infernal
quest, horribly bedevilled by incessant flashes of itching, toothache,
eye-strain and evil conscience--thus tortured, he makes atonement for
his crime of being intelligent. The normal man, the healthy and honest
man, the good citizen and householder--this man, I daresay, knows
nothing of all that travail. It is reserved especially for artists
and metaphysicians. It is the particular penalty of those who pursue
strange butterflies into dark forests, and go fishing in enchanted and
forbidden streams.

Let us, then, assume that the fact is proved: the nearest poet
is a witness to it. But what of the underlying mystery? How are
we to account for that puckish and inexplicable rise and fall of
inspiration? My questions, of course, are purely rhetorical.
Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always
a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and
wrong. The ancients, in the case at bar, laid the blame upon the gods:
sometimes they were remote and surly, and sometimes they were kind. In
the Middle Ages lesser powers took a hand in the matter, and so one
reads of works of art inspired by Our Lady, by the Blessed Saints, by
the souls of the departed, and even by the devil. In our own day there
are explanations less super-natural but no less fanciful--to wit,
the explanation that the whole thing is a matter of pure chance, and
not to be resolved into any orderly process--to wit, the explanation
that the controlling factor is external circumstance, that the artist
happily married to a dutiful wife is thereby inspired--finally, to
make an end, the explanation that it is all a question of Freudian
complexes, themselves lurking in impenetrable shadows. But all of these
explanations fail to satisfy the mind that is not to be put off with
mere words. Some of them are palpably absurd; others beg the question.
The problem of the how remains, even when the problem of the why is
disposed of. What is the precise machinery whereby the cerebrum is
bestirred to such abnormal activity on one day that it sparkles and
splutters like an arclight, and reduced to such feebleness on another
day that it smokes and gutters like a tallow dip?

In this emergency, having regard for the ages-long and unrelieved
sufferings of artists great and small, I offer a new, simple, and
at all events not ghostly solution. It is supported by the observed
facts, by logical analogies and by the soundest known principles of
psychology, and so I present it without apologies. It may be couched,
for convenience, in the following brief terms: that inspiration,
so-called, is a function of metabolism, and that it is chiefly
conditioned by the state of the intestinal flora--in larger words, that
a man's flow of ideas is controlled and determined, both quantitatively
and qualitatively, not by the whims of the gods, nor by the terms
of his armistice with his wife, nor by the combinations of some
transcendental set of dice, but by the chemical content of the blood
that lifts itself from his liver to his brain, and that this chemical
content is established in his digestive tract, particularly south of
the pylorus. A man may write great poetry when he is drunk, when he
is cold and miserable, when he is bankrupt, when he has a black eye,
when his wife glowers at him across the table, when his children lie
dying of smallpox; he may even write it during an earthquake, or while
crossing the English channel, or in the midst of a Methodist revival,
or in New York. But I am so far gone in materialism that I am disposed
to deny flatly and finally, and herewith do deny flatly and finally,
that there has lived a poet in the whole history of the world, ancient
or modern, near or far, who ever managed to write great poetry, or even
passably fair and decent poetry, at a time when he was suffering from
stenosis at any point along the thirty-foot _via dolorosa_ running from
the pylorus to the sigmoid flexure. In other words, when he was--

But perhaps I had better leave your medical adviser to explain. After
all, it is not necessary to go any further in this direction; the whole
thing may be argued in terms of the blood stream--and the blood stream
is respectable, as the duodenum is an outcast. It is the blood and the
blood only, in fact, that the cerebrum is aware of; of what goes on
elsewhere it can learn only by hearsay. If all is well below, then the
blood that enters the brain through the internal carotid is full of the
elements necessary to bestir the brain-cells to their highest activity;
if, on the contrary, anabolism and katabolism are going on ineptly, if
the blood is not getting the supplies that it needs and not getting
rid of the wastes that burden it, then the brain-cells will be both
starved and poisoned, and not all the king's horses and all the king's
men can make them do their work with any show of ease and efficiency.
In the first case the man whose psyche dwells in the cells will have
a moment of inspiration--that is, he will find it a strangely simple
and facile matter to write his poem, or iron out his syllogism, or
make his bold modulation from F sharp minor to C major, or get his
flesh-tone, or maybe only perfect his swindle. But in the second case
he will be stumped and helpless. The more he tries, the more vividly
he will be conscious of his impotence. Sweat will stand out in beads
upon his brow, he will fish patiently for the elusive thought, he will
try coaxing and subterfuge, he will retire to his ivory tower, he
will tempt the invisible powers with black coffee, tea, alcohol and
the alkaloids, he may even curse God and invite death--but he will
not write his poem, or iron out his syllogism, or find his way into C
major, or get his flesh-tone, or perfect his swindle.

Fix your eye upon this hypothesis of metabolic inspiration, and at once
you will find the key to many a correlative mystery. For one thing,
it quickly explains the observed hopelessness of trying to pump up
inspiration by mere hard industry--the essential imbecility of the
I,000 words a day formula. Let there be stenosis below, and not all
the industry of a Hercules will suffice to awaken the lethargic brain.
Here, indeed, the harder the striving, the worse the stagnation--as
every artist knows only too well. And why not? Striving in the face
of such an interior obstacle is the most cruel of enterprises--a
business more nerve-wracking and exhausting than reading a newspaper
or watching a bad play. The pain thus produced, the emotions thus
engendered, react upon the liver in a manner scientifically displayed
by Dr. George W. Crile in his "Man: An Adaptive Mechanism," and the
result is a steady increase in the intestinal demoralization, and a
like increase in the pollution of the blood. In the end the poor victim
comes to a familiar pass; beset on the one hand by impotence and on
the other hand by an impatience grown pathological, he gets into a
state indistinguishable from the frantic. It is at such times that
creative artists suffer most atrociously. It is then that they writhe
upon the sharp spears and red-hot hooks of a jealous and unjust Creator
for their invasion of His monopoly. It is then that they pay a grisly
super-tax upon their superiority to the great herd of law-abiding and
undistinguished men. The men of this herd never undergo any comparable
torture; the agony of the artist is quite beyond their experience and
even beyond their imagination. No catastrophe that could conceivably
overtake a lime and cement dealer, a curb broker, a lawyer, a plumber
or a Presbyterian is to be mentioned in the same breath with the
torments that, to the most minor of poets, are familiar incidents of
his professional life, and, to such a man as Poe, or Beethoven, or
Brahms, are the commonplaces of every day. Beethoven suffered more
during the composition of the Fifth symphony than all the judges on
the supreme benches of the world have suffered jointly since the time
of the Gerousia.

Again, my hypothesis explains the fact that inspiration, save under
extraordinary circumstances, is never continuous for more than a
relatively short period. A banker, a barber or a manufacturer of patent
medicines does his work day after day without any noticeable rise or
fall of efficiency; save when he is drunk, jailed or ill in bed the
curve of his achievement is flattened out until it becomes almost a
straight line. But the curve of an artist, even of the greatest of
artists, is frightfully zig-zagged. There are moments when it sinks
below the bottom of the chart, and immediately following there may
be moments when it threatens to run off the top. Some of the noblest
passages written by Shakespeare are in his worst plays, cheek by jowl
with padding and banality; some of the worst music of Wagner is in his
finest music dramas. There is, indeed, no such thing as a flawless
masterpiece. Long labored, it may be gradually enriched with purple
passages--the high inspirations of widely separated times crowded
together--, but even so it will remain spotty, for those purple
passages will be clumsily joined, and their joints will remain as
apparent as so many false teeth. Only the most elementary knowledge
of psychology is needed to show the cause of the zig-zagging that
I have mentioned. It lies in the elemental fact that the chemical
constitution of the blood changes every hour, almost every minute.
What it is at the beginning of digestion is not what it is at the end
of digestion, and in both cases it is enormously affected by the nature
of the substances digested. No man, within twenty-four hours after
eating a meal in a Pennsylvania Railroad dining-car, could conceivably
write anything worth reading. A tough beefsteak, I daresay, has ditched
many a promising sonnet, and bad beer, as every one knows, has spoiled
hundreds of sonatas. Thus inspiration rises and falls, and even when
it rises twice to the same height it usually shows some qualitative
difference--there is the inspiration, say, of Spring vegetables and
there is the inspiration of Autumn fruits. In a long work the products
of greatly differing inspirations, of greatly differing streams of
blood, are hideously intermingled, and the result is the inevitable
spottiness that I have mentioned. No one but a maniac argues that "Die
Meistersinger" is _all_ good. One detects in it days when Wagner felt,
as the saying goes, like a fighting cock, but one also detects days
when he arose in the morning full of acidosis and despair--days when he
turned heavily from the Pierian spring to castor oil.

Moreover, it must be obvious that the very conditions under which works
of art are produced tend to cause great aberrations in metabolism. The
artist is forced by his calling to be a sedentary man. Even a poet,
perhaps the freest of artists, must spend a good deal of time bending
over a desk. He may conceive his poems in the open air, as Beethoven
conceived his music, but the work of reducing them to actual words
requires diligent effort in camera. Here it is a sheer impossibility
for him to enjoy the ideal hygienic conditions which surround the
farmhand, the curb-broker and the sailor. His! viscera are congested;
his eyes are astrain; his muscles are without necessary exercise.
Furthermore, he probably breathes bad air and goes without needed
sleep. The result is inevitably some disturbance of metabolism, with a
vitiated blood supply and a starved cerebrum. One is always surprised
to encounter a poet who is ruddy and stout; the standard model is a
pale and flabby stenotic, kept alive by patent medicines. So with the
painter, the musical composer, the sculptor, the artist in prose.
There is no more confining work known to man than instrumentation.
The composer who has spent a day at it is invariably nervous and ill.
For hours his body is bent over his music-paper, the while his pen
engrosses little dots upon thin lines. I have known composers, after a
week or so of such labor, to come down with auto-intoxication in its
most virulent forms. Perhaps the notorious ill health of Beethoven,
and the mental break-downs of Schumann, Tschaikowsky and Hugo Wolf had
their origin in this direction. It is difficult, going through the
history of music, to find a single composer in the grand manner who was
physically and mentally up to par.

I do not advance it as a formal corollary, but no doubt this stenosis
hypothesis also throws some light upon two other immemorial mysteries,
the first being the relative æsthetic sterility of women, and the other
being the low æsthetic development of certain whole classes, and even
races of men, _e. g._, the Puritans, the Welsh and the Confederate
Americans. That women suffer from stenosis far more than men is a
commonplace of internal medicine; the weakness is chiefly to blame,
rather than the functional peculiarities that they accuse, for their
liability to headache. A good many of them, in fact, are habitually
in the state of health which, in the artist, is accompanied by an
utter inability to work. This state of health, as I have said, does
not inhibit _all_ mental activity. It leaves the powers of observation
but little impaired; it does not corrupt common sense; it is not
incompatible with an intelligent discharge of the ordinary duties of
life. Thus a lime and cement dealer, in the midst of it, may function
almost as well as when his metabolic processes are perfectly normal,
and by the same token a woman chronically a victim to it may yet show
all the sharp mental competence which characterizes her sex. But here
the thing stops. To go beyond--to enter the realm of constructive
thinking, to abandon the mere application of old ideas and essay to
invent new ideas, to precipitate novel and intellectual concepts out
of the chaos of memory and perception--this is quite impossible to the
stenotic. _Ergo,_ it is unheard of among classes and races of men who
feed grossly and neglect personal hygiene; the pill-swallower is the
only artist in such groups. One may thus argue that the elder Beecham
saved poetry in England, as the younger Beecham saved music.... But, as
I say, I do not stand behind the hypothesis in this department, save,
perhaps, in the matter of women. I could amass enormous evidences in
favor of it, but against them there would always loom the disconcerting
contrary evidence of the Bulgarians. Among them, I suppose, stenosis
must be unknown--but so are all the fine arts.

"La force et la foiblesse de l'esprit," said Rochefoucauld, "sont
mal nommées; elles ne sont, en effect, que la bonne ou la mauvaise
des organes du corps." Science wastes itself hunting in the other
direction. We are flooded with evidences of the effects of the mind
on the body, and so our attention is diverted from the enormously
greater effects of the body on the mind. It is rather astonishing that
the Wassermann reaction has not caused the latter to be investigated
more thoroughly. The first result of the general employment of that
great diagnostic device was the discovery that thousands of cases of
so-called mental disease were really purely physical in origin--that
thousands of patients long supposed to have been crazed by seeing
ghosts, by love, by grief, or by reverses in the stock-market were
actually victims of the small but extremely enterprising _spirochæte
pallida._ The news heaved a bomb into psychiatry, but it has so far
failed to provoke a study of the effects of other such physical
agents. Even the effects of this one agent remain to be inquired into
at length. One now knows that it may cause insanity, but what of the
lesser mental aberrations that it produces? Some of these aberrations
may be actually beneficial. That is to say, the mild toxemia
accompanying the less virulent forms of infection may stimulate the
brain to its highest functioning, and so give birth to what is called
genius--a state of mind long recognized, by popular empiricism, as a
sort of half-way station on the road to insanity. Beethoven, Nietzsche
and Schopenhauer suffered from such mild toxemias, and there is not
the slightest doubt that their extraordinary mental activity was at
least partly due to the fact. That tuberculosis, in its early stages,
is capable of the same stimulation is a commonplace of observation.
The consumptive may be weak physically, but he is usually very alert
mentally. The history of the arts, in fact, shows the names of hundreds
of inspired consumptives.

Here a physical infirmity produces a result that is beneficial, just
as another physical infirmity, the stenosis aforesaid, produces a
result that is baleful. The artist often oscillates horribly between
the two effects; he is normally anything but a healthy animal.
Perfect health, indeed, is a boon that very few men above the rank of
clodhoppers ever enjoy. What health means is a degree of adaptation
to the organism's environment so nearly complete that there is no
irritation. Such a state, it must be obvious, is not often to be
observed in organisms of the highest complexity. It is common,
perhaps, in the earthworm. This elemental beast makes few demands
upon its environment, and is thus subject to few diseases. It seldom
gets out of order until the sands of its life are run, and then it
suffers one grand illness and dies forthwith. But man is forever
getting out of order, for he is enormously complicated--and the higher
he rises in complexity, the more numerous and the more serious are
his derangements. There are whole categories of diseases, _e. g.,_
neurasthenia and hay-fever, that afflict chiefly the more civilized
and delicate ranks of men, leaving the inferior orders unscathed. Good
health in man, indeed, is almost invariably a function of inferiority.
A professionally healthy man, e. g., an acrobat, an osteopath or an
ice-wagon driver, is always stupid. In the Greece of the great days
the athletes we hear so much about were mainly slaves. Not one of
the eminent philosophers, poets or statesmen of Greece was a good
high-jumper. Nearly all of them, in fact, suffered from the same
malaises which afflict their successors of to-day, as you will quickly
discern by examining their compositions. The æsthetic impulse, like the
thirst for truth, might almost be called a disease. It seldom if ever
appears in a perfectly healthy man.

But we must take the aloes with the honey. The artist suffers damnably,
but there is compensation in his dreams. Some of his characteristic
diseases cripple him and make his whole life a misery, but there are
others that seem to help him. Of the latter, the two that I have
mentioned carry with them concepts of extreme obnoxiousness. Both are
infections, and one is associated in the popular mind with notions or
gross immorality. But these concepts of obnoxiousness should not blind
us to the benefits that apparently go with the maladies. There are,
in fact, maladies much more obnoxious, and they carry no compensating
benefits. Cancer is an example. Perhaps the time will come when the
precise effects of these diseases will be worked out accurately, and
it will be possible to gauge in advance their probable influence upon
this or that individual. If that time ever comes the manufacture of
artists will become a feasible procedure, like the present manufacture
of soldiers, capons, right-thinkers and doctors of philosophy. In those
days the promising young men of the race, instead of being protected
from such diseases at all hazards, will be deliberately infected with
them, as soils are now inoculated with nitrogen-liberating bacteria....
At the same time, let us hope, some progress will be made against
stenosis. It is, after all, simply a question of technique, like the
artificial propagation of the race by the device of Dr. Jacques Loeb.
The poet of the future, come upon a period of doldrums, will not tear
his hair in futile agony. Instead, he will go to the nearest clinic,
and there get his rasher of Bulgarian bacilli, or an injection of some
complex organic compound out of a ductless gland, or an order on a
masseur, or a diet list, or perchance a barrel of Russian oil.


An old _Corpsbruder,_ assaulting my ear lately with an abstruse tale of
his sister's husband's brother's ingratitude, ended by driving me quite
out of his house, firmly resolved to be his acquaintance no longer.
The exact offense I heard inattentively, and have already partly
forgotten--an obscure tort arising out of a lawsuit. My ex-friend,
it appears, was appealed to for help in a bad case by his grapevine
relative, and so went on the stand for him and swore gallantly to
some complex and unintelligible lie. Later on, essaying to cash in
on the perjury, he asked the fellow to aid him in some domestic
unpleasantness, and was refused on grounds of morals. Hence his
indignation--and my spoiled evening....

What is one to think of a man so asinine that he looks for gratitude in
this world, or so puerilely egotistical that he enjoys it when found?
The truth is that the sentiment itself is not human but doggish, and
that the man who demands it in payment for his doings is precisely the
sort of man who feels noble and distinguished when a dog licks his
hand. What a man says when he expresses gratitude is simply this:
"You did something for me that I could not have done myself. _Ergo,_
you are my superior. Hail, _Durchlaucht!"_ Such a confession, whether
true or not, is degrading to the confessor, and so it is very hard to
make, at all events for a man of self-respect. That is why such a man
always makes it clumsily and with many blushes and hesitations. It
is hard for him to put so embarrassing a doctrine into plain words.
And that is why the business is equally uncomfortable to the party
of the other part. It distresses him to see a human being of decent
instincts standing before him in so ignominious a position. He is as
flustered as if the fellow came in handcuffs, or in rags, or wearing
the stripes of a felon. Moreover, his confusion is helped out by his
inward knowledge--very clear if he is introspective, and plain enough
even if he is not--that he really deserves no such tribute to his high
mightiness; that the altruism for which he is being praised was really
bogus; that he did the thing behind the gratitude which now assails
him, not for any grand and lofty reason, but for a purely selfish and
inferior reason, to wit, for the reason that it pleases all of us to
show what we can do when an appreciative audience is present; that we
delight to exercise our will to power when it is safe and profitable.
This is the primary cause of the benefits which inspire gratitude,
real and pretended. This is the fact at the bottom of altruism. Find
me a man who is always doing favors for people and I will show you a
man of petty vanity, forever trying to get fuel for it in the cheapest
way. And find me a man who is notoriously grateful in habit and I'll
show you a man who is essentially third rate and who is conscious of
it at the bottom of his heart. The man of genuine self-respect--which
means the man who is more or less accurately aware, not only of his own
value, but also and more importantly, of his own limitations--tries
to avoid entering either class. He hesitates to demonstrate his
superiority by such banal means, and he shrinks from confessing an
inferiority that he doesn't believe in.

Nevertheless, the popular morality of the world, which is the creation,
not of its superior men but of its botches and half-men--in brief,
of its majorities--puts a high value on gratitude and denounces the
with-holding of it as an offense against the proprieties. To be
noticeably ungrateful for benefits--that is, for the by-products of the
egotism of others--is to be disliked. To tell a tale of ingratitude
is to take on the aspect of a martyr to the defects of others, to get
sympathy in an affliction. All of us are responsive to such ideas,
however much we may resent them logically. One may no more live in the
world without picking up the moral prejudices of the world than one
will be able to go to hell without perspiring....

Let me recall a case within my own recent experience. One day I
received a letter from a young woman I had never heard of before,
asking me to read the manuscripts of two novels that she had written.
She represented that she had venerated my critical parts for a long
while, and that her whole future career in letters would be determined
by my decision as to her talents. The daughter of a man apparently of
some consequence in some sordid business or other, she asked me to
meet her at her father's office, and there to impart to her, under
socially aseptic conditions, my advice. Having a standing rule against
meeting women authors, even in their fathers' banks and soap factories,
I pleaded various imaginary engagements, but finally agreed, after a
telephone debate, to read her manuscripts. They arrived promptly and I
found them to be wholly without merit--in fact, the veriest twaddle.
Nevertheless I plowed through them diligently, wasted half an hour at
the job, wrote a polite letter of counsel and returned the manuscripts
to her house, paying a blackamoor 50 cents to haul them.

By all ordinary standards, an altruistic service and well deserving
some show of gratitude. Had she knitted me a pair of pulse-warmers it
would have seemed meet and proper. Even a copy of the poems of Alfred
Noyes would not have been too much. At the very least I expected a note
of thanks. Well, not a word has ever reached me. For all my laborious
politeness and disagreeable labor my reward is exactly nil. The lady is
improved by my counsel--and I am shocked by her gross ingratitude....
That is, conventionally, superficially, as a member of society in
good standing. But when on sour afternoons I roll the affair in my
mind, examining, not the mere surface of it but the inner workings and
anatomy of it, my sense of outrage gradually melts and fades away--the
inevitable recompense of skepticism. What I see clearly is that I was
an ass to succumb to the blandishments of this discourteous miss,
and that she was quite right in estimating my service trivially, and
out of that clear seeing comes consolation, and amusement, and, in
the end, even satisfaction. I got exactly what I deserved. And she,
whether consciously or merely instinctively, measured out the dose with
excellent accuracy.

Let us go back. Why did I waste two hours, or maybe three, reading
those idiotic manuscripts? Why, in the first place, did I answer her
opening request--the request, so inherently absurd, that I meet her
in her father's office? For a very plain reason: she accompanied it
with flattery. What she said, in effect, was that she regarded me as a
critic of the highest talents, and this ludicrous cajolery--sound, I
dare say, in substance, but reduced to naught by her obvious obscurity
and stupidity--was quite enough to fetch me. In brief, she assumed
that, being a man, I was vain to the point of imbecility, and this
assumption was correct, as it always is. To help out, there was the
concept of romantic adventure vaguely floating in my mind. Her voice,
as I heard it by telephone, was agreeable; her appearance, since she
seemed eager to show herself, I probably judged (subconsciously) to
be at least not revolting. Thus curiosity got on its legs, and vanity
in another form. Am I fat and half decrepit, a man seldom noticed by
cuties? Then so much the more reason why I should respond. The novelty
of an apparently comely and respectable woman desiring to witness me
finished what the primary (and very crude) appeal to my vanity had
begun. I was, in brief, not only the literary popinjay but also the
eternal male--and hard at the immemorial folly of the order.

Now turn to the gal and her ingratitude. The more I inspect it the more
I became convinced that it is not discreditable to her, but highly
creditable--that she demonstrates a certain human dignity, despite her
imbecile writings, by exhibiting it. Would a show of gratitude put
her in a better light? I doubt it. That gratitude, considering the
unfavorable report I made on her manuscripts, would be doubly invasive
of her _amour propre._ On the one hand it would involve a confession
that my opinion of her literary gifts was better than her own, and
that I was thus her superior. And on the other hand it would involve
a confession that my own actual writings (being got into print without
aid) were better than hers, and that I was thus her superior again.
Each confession would bring her into an attitude of abasement, and
the two together would make her position intolerable. Moreover, both
would be dishonest: she would privately believe in neither doctrine.
As for my opinion, its hostility to her aspiration is obviously enough
to make her ego dismiss it as false, for no organism acquiesces in its
own destruction. And as for my relative worth as a literary artist,
she must inevitably put it very low, for it depends, in the last
analysis, upon my dignity and sagacity as a man, and she has proved
by experiment, and quite easily, that I am almost as susceptible to
flattery as a moving picture actor, and hence surely no great shakes.

Thus there is not the slightest reason in the world why the fair
creature should knit me a pair of pulse-warmers or send me the poems
of Noyes, or even write me a polite note. If she did any of these
things, she would feel herself a hypocrite and hence stand embarrassed
before the mirror of her own thoughts. Confronted by a choice between
this sort of shame and the incomparably less uncomfortable shame
of violating a social convention and an article of popular morals,
secretly and without danger of exposure, she very sensibly chooses
the more innocuous of the two. At the very start, indeed, she set
up barriers against gratitude, for her decision to ask a favor of me
was, in a subtle sense, a judgment of my inferiority. One does not ask
favors, if it can be avoided, of persons one genuinely respects; one
puts such burdens upon the naïve and colorless, upon what are called
the good natured; in brief, upon one's inferiors. When that girl first
thought of me as a possible aid to her literary aspiration she thought
of me (perhaps vaguely, but none the less certainly) as an inferior
fortuitously outfitted with a body of puerile technical information
and competence, of probable use to her. This unfavorable view was
immediately reënforced by her discovery of my vanity.

In brief, she showed and still shows the great instinctive sapience of
her sex. She is female, and hence far above the nonsensical delusions,
vanities, conventions and moralities of men.


One of the hardest jobs that faces an American magazine editor in
this, the one-hundred-and forty-fifth year of the Republic, is that
of keeping the minnesingers of the land from filling his magazine
with lugubrious dithyrambs to, on and against somatic death. Of
spiritual death, of course, not many of them ever sing. Most of them,
in fact, deny its existence in plain terms; they are all sure of the
immortality of the soul, and in particular they are absolutely sure of
the immortality of their own souls, and of those of their best girls.
In this department the most they ever allow to the materialism of the
herds that lie bogged in prose is such a benefit of the half doubt as
one finds in Christina Rossetti's "When I am Dead." But when it comes
to somatic death, the plain brutal death of coroners' inquests and
vital statistics, their optimism vanishes, and, try as they may, they
can't get around the harsh fact that on such and such a day, often
appallingly near, each and every one of us will heave a last sigh, roll
his eyes despairingly, turn his face to the wall and then suddenly
change from a proud and highly complex mammal, made in the image of
God, to a mere inert aggregate of disintegrating colloids, made in the
image of a stale cabbage.

The inevitability of it seems to fascinate them. They write about
it more than they write about anything else save love. Every day my
editorial desk is burdened with their manuscripts--poems in which the
poet serves notice that, when his time comes, he will die bravely
and even a bit insolently; poems in which he warns his mistress that
he will wait for her on the roof of the cosmos and keep his harp in
tune; poems in which he asks her grandly to forget him, and, above
all, to avoid torturing herself by vain repining at his grave; poems
in which he directs his heirs and assigns to bury him in some lonely,
romantic spot, where the whippoorwills sing; poems in which he hints
that he will not rest easily if Philistines are permitted to begaud his
last anchorage with _couronnes des perles;_ poems in which he speaks
jauntily of making a rendez-vous with death, as if death were a wench;
poems in which--

But there is no need to rehearse the varieties. If you read the
strophes that are strung along the bottoms of magazine pages you are
familiar with all of them; even in the great moral periodical that I
help to edit, despite my own excessive watchfulness and Dr. Nathan's
general theory that both death and poetry are nuisances and in bad
taste, they have appeared multitudinously, no doubt to the disgust of
the _intelligentsia._ As I say, it is almost impossible to keep the
minnesingers off the subject. When my negro flops the morning bale
of poetry manuscripts upon my desk and I pull up my chair to have at
them, I always make a bet with myself that, of the first dozen, at
least seven will deal with death--and it is so long since I lost that
I don't remember it. Periodically I send out a circular to all the
recognized poets of the land, begging them in the name of God to be
less mortuary, but it never does any good. More, I doubt that it ever
will--or any other sort of appeal. Take away death and love and you
would rob poets of both their liver and their lights; what would remain
would be little more than a feeble gurgle in an illimitable void. For
the business of poetry, remember, is to set up a sweet denial of the
harsh facts that confront all of us--to soothe us in our agonies with
emollient words--in brief, to lie sonorously and reassuringly. Well,
what is the worst curse of life? Answer: the abominable magnetism
that draws unlikes and incompatibles into delirious and intolerable
conjunction--the kinetic over-stimulation called love. And what is the
next worst? Answer: the fear of death. No wonder the poets give so
much attention to both! No other foe of human peace and happiness is
one-half so potent, and hence none other offers such opportunities to
poetry, and, in fact, to all art. A sonnet designed to ease the dread
of bankruptcy, even if done by a great master, would be banal, for
that dread is itself banal, and so is bankruptcy. The same may be said
of the old fear of hell, now no more. There was a day when this latter
raged in the breast of nearly every man--and in that day the poets
produced antidotes that were very fine poems. But to-day only the elect
and anointed of God fear hell, and so there is no more production of
sound poetry in that department.

As I have hinted, I tire of reading so much necrotic verse in
manuscript, and wish heartily that the poets would cease to assault
me with it. In prose, curiously enough, one observes a corresponding
shortage. True enough, the short story of commerce shows a good
many murders and suicides, and not less than eight times a day I am
made privy to the agonies of a widower or widow who, on searching
the papers of his wife or her husband immediately after her or his
death, discovers that she or he had a lover or a mistress. But I
speak of serious prose: not of trade balderdash. Go to any public
library and look under "Death: Human" in the card index, and you will
be surprised to find how few books there are on the subject. Worse,
nearly all the few are by psychical researchers who regard death as
a mere removal from one world to another or by New Thoughters who
appear to believe that it is little more than a sort of illusion.
Once, seeking to find out what death was physiologically--that is,
to find out just what happened when a man died--I put in a solid
week without result. There seemed to be nothing whatever on the
subject even in the medical libraries. Finally, after much weariness,
I found what I was looking for in Dr. George W. Crile's "Man: An
Adaptive Mechanism"--incidentally, a very solid and original work,
much less heard of than it ought to be. Crile said that death was
acidosis--that it was caused by the failure of the organism to maintain
the alkalinity necessary to its normal functioning--and in the absence
of any proofs or even arguments to the contrary I accepted his notion
forthwith and have held to it ever since. I thus think of death as
a sort of deleterious fermentation, like that which goes on in a
bottle of Château Margaux when it becomes corked. Life is a struggle,
not against sin, not against the Money Power, not against malicious
animal magnetism, but against hydrogen ions. The healthy man is one
in whom those ions, as they are dissociated by cellular activity, are
immediately fixed by alkaline bases. The sick man is one in whom the
process has begun to lag, with the hydrogen ions getting ahead. The
dying man is one in whom it is all over save the charges of fraud.

But here I get into chemical physics, and not only run afoul of
revelation but also reveal, perhaps, a degree of ignorance verging
upon intellectual coma. The thing I started out to do was to call
attention to the only full-length and first-rate treatise on death that
I have ever encountered or heard of, to wit, "Aspects of Death and
Correlated Aspects of Life," by Dr. F. Parkes Weber, a fat, hefty and
extremely interesting tome, the fruit of truly stupendous erudition.
What Dr. Weber has attempted is to bring together in one volume all
that has been said or thought about death since the time of the first
human records, not only by poets, priests and philosophers, but also
by painters, engravers, soldiers, monarchs and the populace generally.
The author, I take it, is primarily a numismatist, and he apparently
began his work with a collection of inscriptions on coins and medals.
But as it stands it covers a vastly wider area. One traces, in chapter
after chapter, the ebb and flow of human ideas upon the subject, of
the human attitude to the last and greatest mystery of them all--the
notion of it as a mere transition to a higher plane of life, the notion
of it as a benign panacea for all human suffering, the notion of it
as an incentive to this or that way of living, the notion of it as
an impenetrable enigma, inevitable and inexplicable. Few of us quite
realize how much the contemplation of death has colored human thought
throughout the ages. There have been times when it almost shut out all
other concerns; there has never been a time when it has not bulked
enormously in the racial consciousness. Well, what Dr. Weber does in
his book is to detach and set forth the salient ideas that have emerged
from all that consideration and discussion--to isolate the chief
theories of death, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, scientific
and mystical, sound and absurd.

The material thus digested is appallingly copious. If the learned
author had confined himself to printed books alone, he would have faced
a labor fit for a new Hercules. But in addition to books he has given
his attention to prints, to medals, to paintings, to engraved gems
and to monumental inscriptions. His authorities range from St. John
on what is to happen at the Day of Judgment to Sir William Osier on
what happens upon the normal human death-bed, and from Socrates on the
relation of death to philosophy to Havelock Ellis on the effects of
Christian ideas of death upon the mediæval temperament. The one field
that Dr. Weber has overlooked is that of music, a somewhat serious
omission. It is hard to think of a great composer who never wrote a
funeral march, or a requiem, or at least a sad song to some departed
love. Even old Papa Haydn had moments when he ceased to be merry, and
let his thought turn stealthily upon the doom ahead. To me, at all
events, the slow movement of the Military Symphony is the saddest of
music--an elegy, I take it, on some young fellow who went out in the
incomprehensible wars of those times and got himself horribly killed
in a far place. The trumpet blasts towards the end fling themselves
over his hasty grave in a remote cabbage field; one hears, before and
after them, the honest weeping of his comrades into their wine-pots. In
truth, the shadow of death hangs over all the music of Haydn, despite
its lightheartedness. Life was gay in those last days of the Holy
Roman Empire, but it was also precarious. If the Turks were not at the
gate, then there was a peasant rising somewhere in the hinterland, or
a pestilence swept the land. Beethoven, a generation later, growled
at death surlily, but Haydn faced it like a gentleman. The romantic
movement brought a sentimentalization of the tragedy; it became a sort
of orgy. Whenever Wagner dealt with death he treated it as if it were
some sort of gaudy tournament--a thing less dreadful than ecstatic.
Consider, for example, the _Char-Freitag_ music in "Parsifal"--death
music for the most memorable death in the history of the world. Surely
no one hearing it for the first time, without previous warning, would
guess that it had to do with anything so gruesome as a crucifixion.
On the contrary, I have a notion that the average auditor would guess
that it was a musical setting for some lamentable fornication between a
Bayreuth baritone seven feet in height and a German soprano weighing at
least three hundred pounds.

But if Dr. Weber thus neglects music, he at least gives full measure
in all other departments. His book, in fact, is encyclopædic; he
almost exhausts the subject. One idea, however, I do not find in it:
the conception of death as the last and worst of all the practical
jokes played upon poor mortals by the gods. That idea apparently
never occurred to the Greeks, who thought of almost everything, but
nevertheless it has an ingratiating plausibility. The hardest thing
about death is not that men die tragically, but that most of them die
ridiculously. If it were possible for all of us to make our exits at
great moments, swiftly, cleanly, decorously, and in fine attitudes,
then the experience would be something to face heroically and with
high and beautiful words. But we commonly go off in no such gorgeous,
poetical way. Instead, we die in raucous prose--of arterio-sclerosis,
of diabetes, of toxemia, of a noisome perforation in the ileo-caecal
region, of carcinoma of the liver. The abominable acidosis of Dr. Crile
sneaks upon us, gradually paralyzing the adrenals, flabbergasting the
thyroid, crippling the poor old liver, and throwing its fog upon the
brain. Thus the ontogenetic process is recapitulated in reverse order,
and we pass into the mental obscurity of infancy, and then into the
blank unconsciousness of the prenatal state, and finally into the
condition of undifferentiated protoplasm. A man does not die quickly
and brilliantly, like a lightning stroke; he passes out by inches,
hesitatingly and, one may almost add, gingerly. It is hard to say just
when he is fully dead. Long after his heart has ceased to beat and
his lungs have ceased to swell him up with the vanity of his species,
there are remote and obscure parts of him that still live on, quite
unconcerned about the central catastrophe. Dr. Alexis Carrel has cut
them out and kept them alive for months. The hair keeps on growing
for a long while. Every time another one of the corpses of Barbarossa
or King James I is examined it is found that the hair is longer than
it was the last time. No doubt there are many parts of the body, and
perhaps even whole organs, which wonder what it is all about when they
find that they are on the way to the crematory. Burn a man's mortal
remains, and you inevitably burn a good portion of him alive, and no
doubt that portion sends alarmed messages to the unconscious brain,
like dissected tissue under anæsthesia, and the resultant shock brings
the deceased before the hierarchy of heaven in a state of collapse,
with his face white, sweat bespangling his forehead and a great thirst
upon him. It would not be pulling the nose of reason to argue that many
a cremated Sunday-school super-intendent thus confronting the ultimate
tribunal in the aspect of a man taken with the goods, has been put down
as suffering from an uneasy conscience when what actually ailed him
was simply surgical shock. The cosmic process is not only incurably
idiotic; it is also indecently unjust.

But here I become medico-legal. What I had in mind when I began was
this: that the human tendency to make death dramatic and heroic has
little excuse in the facts. No doubt you remember the scene in the
last act of "Hedda Gabier," in which Dr. Brack comes in with the
news of Lövborg's suicide. Hedda immediately thinks of him putting
the pistol to his temple and dying instantly and magnificently. The
picture fills her with romantic delight. When Brack tells her that the
shot was actually through the breast she is disappointed, but soon
begins to romanticise even _that._ "The breast," she says, "is also a
good place.... There is something beautiful in this!" A bit later she
recurs to the charming theme, "In the breast--ah!" Then Brack tells
her the plain truth--in the original, thus: _"Nej,--det traf ham i
underlivet!"..._ Edmund Gosse, in his first English translation of the
play, made the sentence: "No--it struck him in the abdomen." In the
last edition William Archer makes it "No--in the bowels!" Abdomen is
nearer to _underlivet_ than bowels, but belly would probably render the
meaning better than either. What Brack wants to convey to Hedda is the
news that Lövborg's death was not romantic in the least--that he went
to a brothel, shot himself, not through the cerebrum or the heart, but
through the duodenum or perhaps the jejunum, and is at the moment of
report awaiting autopsy at the Christiania _Allgemeine-krankenhaus._
The shock floors her, but it is a shock that all of us must learn
to bear. Men upon whom we lavish our veneration reduce it to an
absurdity at the end by dying of chronic cystitis, or by choking upon
marshmallows or dill pickles, or as the result of getting cut by dirty
barbers. Women whom we place upon pedestals worthy of the holy saints
come down at last with mastoid abscesses or die obscenely of hiccoughs.
And we ourselves? Let us not have too much hope. The chances are that,
if we go to war, eager to leap superbly at the cannon's mouth, we'll be
finished on the way by an ingrowing toenail or by being run over by an
army truck driven by a former Greek bus-boy and loaded with imitation
Swiss cheeses made in Oneida, N. Y. And that if we die in our beds, it
will be of measles or albuminuria.

The aforesaid Crile, in one of his smaller books, "A Mechanistic View
of War and Peace," has a good deal to say about death in war, and in
particular, about the disparity between the glorious and inspiring
passing imagined by the young soldier and the messy finish that is
normally in store for him. He shows two pictures of war, the one ideal
and the other real. The former is the familiar print, "The Spirit of
'76," with the three patriots springing grandly to the attack, one of
them with a neat and romantic bandage around his head--apparently,
to judge by his liveliness, to cover a wound no worse than an average
bee-sting. The latter picture is what the movie folks call a close-up
of a French soldier who was struck just below the mouth by a German
one-pounder shell--a soldier suddenly converted into the hideous
simulacrum of a cruller. What one notices especially is the curious
expression upon what remains of his face--an expression of the utmost
surprise and indignation. No doubt he marched off to the front firmly
convinced that, if he died at all, it would be at the climax of some
heroic charge, up to his knees in blood and with his bayonet run clear
through a Bavarian at least four feet in diameter. He imagined the
clean bullet through the heart, the stately last gesture, the final
words: "Thérèse! Sophie! Olympe! Marie! Suzette! Odette! Denise!
Julie!... France!" Go to the book and see what he got.... Dr. Crile,
whose experience of war has soured him against it, argues that the best
way to abolish it would be to prohibit such romantic prints as "The
Spirit of '76" and substitute therefor a series of actual photographs
of dead and wounded men. The plan is plainly of merit. But it would
be expensive. Imagine a war getting on its legs before the conversion
of the populace had become complete.. Think of the huge herds of
spy-chasers, letter-openers, pacifist-hounds, burlesons and other such
operators that it would take to track down and confiscate all those

Even so, the vulgar horror of death would remain, for, as Ellen La
Motte well says in her little book, "The Backwash of War," the finish
of a civilian in a luxurious hospital, with trained nurses fluttering
over him and his pastor whooping and heaving for him at the foot of his
bed, is often quite as terrible as any form of exitus witnessed in war.
It is, in fact, always an unpleasant business. Let the poets disguise
it all they may and the theologians obscure the issue with promises of
post-mortem felicity, the plain truth remains that it gives one pause
to reflect that, on some day not far away, one must yield supinely to
acidosis, sink into the mental darkness of an idiot, and so suffer a
withdrawal from these engaging scenes. "No. 8," says the nurse in faded
pink, tripping down the corridor with a hooch of rye for the diabetic
in No. 2, "has just passed out." "Which is No. 8?" asks the new nurse.
"The one whose wife wore that awful hat this afternoon?" ... But all
the authorities, it is pleasant to know, report that the final scene
is placid enough. Dr. Weber quotes many of them. The dying man doesn't
struggle much and he isn't much afraid. As his alkalies give out he
succumbs to a blest stupidity. His mind fogs. His will power vanishes.
He submits decently. He scarcely gives a damn.



_On Music-Lovers_

Of all forms of the uplift, perhaps the most futile is that which
addresses itself to educating the proletariat in music. The theory
behind it is that a taste for music is an elevating passion, and that
if the great masses of the plain people could be inoculated with it
they would cease to herd into the moving-picture theaters, or to
listen to Socialists, or to beat their wives and children. The defect
in this theory lies in the fact that such a taste, granting it to be
elevating, simply cannot be implanted. Either it is born in a man or
it is not born in him. If it is, then he will get gratification for it
at whatever cost--he will hear music if hell freezes over. But if it
isn't, then no amount of education will ever change him--he will remain
stone deaf until the last sad scene on the gallows.

No child who has this congenital taste ever has to be urged or tempted
or taught to love music. It takes to tone inevitably and irresistibly;
nothing can restrain it. What is more, it always tries to _make_ music,
for the delight in sounds is invariably accompanied by a great desire
to make them. I have never encountered an exception to this rule. All
genuine music-lovers try to make music. They may do it badly, and
even absurdly, but nevertheless they do it. Any man who pretends to
a delight in the tone-art and yet has never learned the scale of G
major--any and every such man is a fraud. The opera-houses of the world
are crowded with such liars. You will even find hundreds of them in the
concert-halls, though here the suffering they have to undergo to keep
up their pretense is almost too much for them to bear. Many of them,
true enough, deceive themselves. They are honest in the sense that they
credit their own buncombe. But it is buncombe none the less.

Music, of course, has room for philanthropy. The cost of giving an
orchestral concert is so great that ordinary music-lovers could not
often pay for it. Here the way is open for rich backers, most of whom
have no more ear for music than so many Chinamen. Nearly all the opera
of the world is so supported. A few rich cads pay the bills, their
wives posture obscenely in the boxes, and the genuine music-lovers
upstairs and down enjoy the more or less harmonious flow of sound. But
this business doesn't _make_ music-lovers. It merely gives pleasure to
music-lovers who already exist. In twenty-five years, I am sure, the
Metropolitan Opera Company hasn't converted a single music-lover. On
the contrary, it has probably disgusted and alienated many thousands of
faint-hearted quasi-music-lovers, _i. e.,_ persons with no more than
the most nebulous taste for music--so nebulous that one or two evenings
of tremendous gargling by fat tenors was enough to kill it altogether.

In the United States the number of genuine music-lovers is probably
very low. There are whole states, _e. g.,_ Alabama, Arkansas and Idaho,
in which it would be difficult to muster a hundred. In New York, I
venture, not more than one person in every thousand of the population
deserves to be counted. The rest are, to all intents and purposes,
tone-deaf. They can not only sit through the infernal din made by the
current jazz-bands; they actually like it. This is precisely as if they
preferred the works of The Duchess to those of Thomas Hardy, or the
paintings of the men who make covers for popular novels to those of El
Greco. Such persons inhabit the sewers of the bozart. No conceivable
education could rid them of their native ignobility of soul. They are
born unspeakable and incurable.



Opera, to a person genuinely fond of aural beauty, must inevitably
appear tawdry and obnoxious, if only because it presents aural beauty
in a frame of purely visual gaudiness, with overtones of the grossest
sexual provocation. The most successful opera singers of the female
sex, at least in America, are not those whom the majority of auditors
admire most as singers but those whom the majority of male spectators
desire most as mistresses. Opera is chiefly supported in all countries
by the same sort of wealthy sensualists who also support musical
comedy. One finds in the directors' room the traditional stock company
of the stage-door alley. Such vermin, of course, pose in the newspapers
as devout and almost fanatical partisans of art; they exhibit
themselves at every performance; one hears of their grand doings,
through their press agents, almost every day. But one has merely to
observe the sort of opera they think is good to get the measure of
their actual artistic discrimination.

The genuine music-lover may accept the carnal husk of opera to get at
the kernel of actual music within, but that is no sign that he approves
the carnal husk or enjoys gnawing through it. Most musicians, indeed,
prefer to hear operatic music outside the opera house; that is why
one so often hears such things as "The Ride of the Valkyrie" in the
concert hall. "The Ride of the Valkyrie" has a certain intrinsic value
as pure music; played by a competent orchestra it may give civilized
pleasure. But as it is commonly performed in an opera house, with a
posse of flat bel-dames throwing themselves about the stage, it can
only produce the effect of a dose of ipecacuanha. The sort of person
who actually delights in such spectacles is the sort of person who
delights in plush furniture. Such half-wits are in a majority in every
opera house west of the Rhine. They go to the opera, not to hear music,
not even to hear bad music, but merely to see a more or less obscene
circus. A few, perhaps, have a further purpose; they desire to assist
in that circus, to show themselves in the capacity of fashionables,
to enchant the yokelry with their splendor. But the majority must be
content with the more lowly aim. What they get for the outrageous
prices they pay for seats is a chance to feast their eyes upon
glittering members of the superior _demi-monde,_ and to abase their
groveling souls before magnificoes on their own side of the footlights.
They esteem a performance, not in proportion as true music is on tap,
but in proportion as the display of notorious characters on the stage
is copious, and the exhibition of wealth in the boxes is lavish. A
soprano who can gargle her way up to G sharp in alto is more to such
simple souls than a whole drove of Johann Sebastian Bachs; her one
real rival, in the entire domain of art, is the contralto who has a
pension from a grand duke and is reported to be _enceinte_ by several
profiteers. Heaven visualizes itself as an opera house with forty-eight
Carusos, each with forty-eight press agents.... On the Continent,
where frankness is unashamed, the opera audience often reveals its
passion for tone very naively. That is to say, it arises on its hind
legs, turns its back upon the stage and gapes at the boxes in charming

That such ignobles applaud is usually quite as shoddy as they are
themselves. To write a successful opera a knowledge of harmony and
counterpoint is not enough; one must also be a sort of Barnum. All
the first-rate musicians who have triumphed in the opera house have
been skillful mountebanks as well. I need cite only Richard Wagner and
Richard Strauss. The business, indeed, has almost nothing to do with
music. All the actual music one finds in many a popular opera--for
example, "Thaïs"--mounts up to less than one may find in a pair of
Gung'l waltzes. It is not this mild flavor of tone that fetches the
crowd; it is the tinpot show that goes with it. An opera may have
plenty of good music in it and fail, but if it has a good enough show
it will succeed.

Such a composer as Wagner, of course, could not write even an opera
without getting some music into it. In nearly all of his works,
even including "Parsifal," there are magnificent passages, and some
of them are very long. Here his natural genius overcame him, and he
forgot temporarily what he was about. But these magnificent passages
pass unnoticed by the average opera audience. What it esteems in his
music dramas is precisely what is cheapest and most mountebankish--for
example, the more lascivious parts of "Tristan und Isolde." The sound
music it dismisses as tedious. The Wagner it venerates is not the
musician, but the showman. That he had a king for a backer and was
seduced by Liszt's daughter--these facts, and not the fact of his
stupendous talent, are the foundation stones of his fame in the opera

Greater men, lacking his touch of the quack, have failed where he
succeeded--Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Bach, Haydn, Haendel.
Not one of them produced a genuinely successful opera; most of them
didn't even try. Imagine Brahms writing for the diamond horseshoe!
Or Bach! Or Haydn! Beethoven attempted it, but made a mess of it;
"Fidelio" survives to-day chiefly as a set of concert overtures.
Schubert wrote more actual music every morning between 10 o'clock and
lunch time than the average opera composer produces in 250 years, and
yet he always came a cropper in the opera house.


_The Music of To-morrow_

Viewing the current musical scene, Carl Van Vechten finds it full of
sadness. Even Debussy bores him; he heard nothing interesting from that
quarter for a long while before the final scene. As for Germany, he
finds it a desert, with Arnold Schoenberg behind the bar of its only
inviting _Gasthaus._ Richard Strauss? Pooh! Strauss is an exploded
torpedo, a Zeppelin brought to earth; "he has nothing more to say."
(Even the opening of the Alpine symphony, it would appear, is more
stick-candy.) England? Go to! Italy? Back to the barrel-organ! Where,
then, is the tone poetry of to-morrow to come from? According to Van
Vechten, from Russia. It is the steppes that will produce it--or, more
specifically, Prof. Igor Strawinsky, author of "The Nightingale" and
of various revolutionary ballets. In the scores of Strawinsky, says
Van Vechten, music takes a vast leap forward. Here, at last, we are
definitely set free from melody and harmony; the thing becomes an
ineffable complex of rhythms; "all rhythms are beaten into the ears."

New? Of the future? I have not heard all of the powerful shiverings
and tremblings of M. Strawinsky, but I presume to doubt it none the
less. "The ancient Greeks," says Van Vechten, "accorded rhythm a
higher place than either melody or harmony." Well, what of it? So did
the ancient Goths and Huns. So do the modern Zulus and New Yorkers.
The simple truth is that the accentuation of mere rhythm is a proof,
not of progress in music, but of a reversion to barbarism. Rhythm is
the earliest, the underlying element. The African savage, beating his
tom-tom, is content to go no further; the American composer of fox
trots is with him. But music had scarcely any existence as an art-form
until melody came to rhythm's aid, and its fruits were little save
dullness until harmony began to support melody. To argue that mere
rhythm, unsupported by anything save tone-color, may now take their
place is to argue something so absurd that its mere statement is a
sufficient answer to it.

The rise of harmony, true enough, laid open a dangerous field. Its
exploration attracted meticulous minds; it was rigidly mapped in hard,
geometrical forms; in the end, it became almost unnavigable to the
man of ideas. But no melodramatic rejection of all harmony is needed
to work a reform. The business, indeed, is already gloriously under
way. The dullest conservatory pupil has learned how to pull the noses
of the old-time schoolmasters. No one cares a hoot any more about the
ancient laws of preparation and resolution. (The rules grow so loose,
indeed, that I may soon be tempted to write a tone-poem myself). But
out of this chaos new laws will inevitably arise, and though they
will not be as rigid as the old ones, they will still be coherent and
logical and intelligible. Already, in fact, gentlemen of professorial
mind are mapping them out; one needs but a glance at such a book as
René Lenormand's to see that there is a certain order hidden in even
the wildest vagaries of the moment. And when the boiling in the pot
dies down, the truly great musicians will be found to be, not those
who have been most daring, but those who have been most discreet and
intelligent--those who have most skillfully engrafted what is good
in the new upon what was sound in the old. Such a discreet fellow is
Richard Strauss. His music is modern enough--but not too much. One is
thrilled by its experiments and novelties, but at the same time one can
enjoy the thing as music.

Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner belonged to the same lodge. They
were by no means the wildest revolutionaries of their days, but they
were the best musicians. They didn't try to improve music by purging
it of any of the elements that made it music; they tried, and with
success, to give each element a new force and a new significance.
Berlioz, I dare say, knew more about the orchestra than Wagner; he
surely went further than Wagner in reaching out for new orchestral
effects. But nothing he ever wrote has a fourth of the stability and
value of "Die Meistersinger." He was so intrigued by his tone-colors
that he forgot his music.


_Tempo di Valse_

Those Puritans who snort against the current dances are quite
right when they argue that the tango and the shimmie are violently
aphrodisiacal, but what they overlook is the fact that the abolition
of such provocative wriggles would probably revive something worse, to
wit, the Viennese waltz. The waltz never quite goes out of fashion;
it is always just around the corner; every now and then it comes back
with a bang. And to the sore harassment and corruption, I suspect, of
chemical purity, the ideal of all right-thinkers. The shimmie and the
tango are too gross to be very dangerous to civilized human beings;
they suggest drinking beer out of buckets; the most elemental good
taste is proof enough against them. But the waltz! Ah, the waltz,
indeed! It is sneaking, insidious, disarming, lovely. It does its work,
not like a college-yell or an explosion in a munitions plant, but
like the rustle of the trees, the murmur of the illimitable sea, the
sweet gurgle of a pretty girl. The jazz-band fetches only vulgarians,
barbarians, idiots, pigs. But there is a mystical something in "Weiner
Blut" or "Künstler Leben" that fetches even philosophers.

The waltz, in fact, is magnificently improper--the art of tone turned
bawdy. I venture to say that the compositions of one man alone,
Johann Strauss II, have lured more fair young creatures to lamentable
complaisance than all the hyperdermic syringes of all the white slave
scouts since the fall of the Western Empire. There is something
about a waltz that is simply irresistible. Try it on the fattest and
sedatest or even upon the thinnest and most acidulous of women, and
she will be ready, in ten minutes, for a stealthy kiss behind the
door--nay, she will forthwith impart the embarrassing news that her
husband misunderstands her, and drinks too much, and cannot appreciate
Maeterlinck, and is going to Cleveland, O., on business to-morrow....

I often wonder that the Comstocks have not undertaken a crusade against
the waltz. If they suppress "The 'Genius'" and "Jurgen," then why do
they overlook "Rosen aus dem Süden"? If they are so hot against "Madame
Bovary" and the Decameron, then why the immunity of "Wein, Weib und
Gesang"? I throw out the suggestion and pass on. Nearly all the
great waltzes of the world, incidently, were written by Germans--or
Austrians. A waltz-pogrom would thus enlist the American Legion and
the Daughters of the Revolution. Moreover, there is the Public Health
Service: it is already engaged upon a campaign to enforce virginity in
both sexes by statute and artillery. Imagine such an enterprise with
every band free to play "Wiener Mäd'l"!


_The Puritan as Artist_

The saddest thing that I have ever heard in the concert hall is Herbert
K. Hadley's overture, "In Bohemia." The title is a magnificent piece of
profound, if unconscious irony. One looks, at least, for a leg flung
in the air, a girl kissed, a cork popped, a flash of drawer-ruffles.
What one encounters is a meeting of the Lake Mohonk Conference. Such
prosy correctness and hollowness, in music, is almost inconceivable.
It is as if the most voluptuous of the arts were suddenly converted
into an abstract and austere science, like comparative grammar or
astro-physics. "Who's Who in America" says that Hadley was born in
Somerville, Mass., and "studied violin and other branches in Vienna." A
prodigy thus unfolds itself: here is a man who lived in Vienna, and yet
never heard a Strauss waltz! This, indeed, is an even greater feat than
being born an artist in Somerville.


_The Human Face_

Probably the best portrait that I have ever seen in America is one of
Theodore Dreiser by Bror Nordfeldt. Who this Bror Nordfeldt may be I
haven't the slightest notion--a Scandinavian, perhaps. Maybe I have got
his name wrong; I can't find any Nordfeldt in "Who's Who in America."
But whatever his name, he has painted Dreiser in a capital manner. The
portrait not only shows the outward shell of the man; it also conveys
something of his inner spirit--his simple-minded wonder at the mystery
of existence, his constant effort to argue himself out of a despairing
pessimism, his genuine amazement before life as a spectacle. The thing
is worth a hundred Sargents, with their slick lying, their childish
facility, their general hollowness and tackiness. Sargent should have
been a designer of candy-box tops. The notion that he is a great artist
is one of the astounding delusions of Anglo-Saxondom. What keeps it
going is the patent fact that he is a very dexterous craftsman--one
who understands thoroughly how to paint, just as a good plumber knows
how to plumb. But of genuine æsthetic feeling the man is almost as
destitute as the plumber. His portrait of the four Johns Hopkins
professors is probably the worst botch ever palmed off on a helpless
committee of intellectual hay and feed dealers. But Nordfeldt, in his
view of Dreiser, somehow gets the right effect. It is rough painting,
but real painting. There is a knock-kneed vase in the foreground, and a
bunch of flowers apparently painted with a shaving-brush--but Dreiser
himself is genuine. More, he is made interesting. One sees at once
that he is no common man.

The artist himself seems to hold the portrait in low esteem. Having
finished it, he reversed the canvas and used the back for painting a
vapid snow scenes--a thing almost bad enough to go into a Fifth Avenue
show-window. Then he abandoned both pictures. I discovered the portrait
by accidentally knocking the snow scene off a wall. It has never been
framed. Drieser himself has probably forgotten it. ... No, I do _not_
predict that it will be sold to some Pittsburgh nail manufacturer, in
1950, for $100,000. If it lasts two or three more years, unframed and
disesteemed, it will be running in luck. When Dreiser is hanged, I
suppose, relic-hunters will make a search for it. But by that time it
will have died as a door-mat.


_The Cerebral Mime_

Of all actors, the most offensive to the higher cerebral centers is
the one who pretends to intellectuality. His alleged intelligence,
of course, is always purely imaginary: no man of genuinely superior
intelligence has ever been an actor. Even supposing a young man of
appreciable mental powers to be lured upon the stage, as philosophers
are occasionally lured into bordellos, his mind would be inevitably
and almost immediately destroyed by the gaudy nonsense issuing from
his mouth every night. That nonsense enters into the very fiber of the
actor. He becomes a grotesque boiling down of all the preposterous
characters that he has ever impersonated. Their characteristics are
seen in his manner, in his reactions to stimuli, in his point of view.
He becomes a walking artificiality, a strutting dummy, a thematic
catalogue of imbecilities.

There are, of course, plays that are not wholly nonsense, and now
and then one encounters an actor who aspires to appear in them. This
aspiration almost always overtakes the so-called actor-manager--that
is to say, the actor who has got rich and is thus ambitious to appear
as a gentleman. Such aspirants commonly tackle Shakespeare, and if
not Shakespeare, then Shaw, or Hauptmann, or Rostand, or some other
apparently intellectual dramatist. But this is seldom more than a
passing madness. The actor-manager may do that sort of thing once in a
while, but in the main he sticks to his garbage. Consider, for example,
the late Henry Irving. He posed as an intellectual and was forever
gabbling about his high services to the stage, and yet he appeared
constantly in such puerile things as "The Bells," beside which the
average newspaper editorial or college yell was literature. So with
the late Mansfield. His pretension, deftly circulated by press-agents,
was that he was a man of brilliant and polished mind. Nevertheless,
he spent two-thirds of his life in the theater playing such abominable
drival as "A Parisian Romance" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

It is commonly urged in defense of certain actors that they are forced
to appear in that sort of stuff by the public demand for it--that
appearing in it painfully violates their secret pruderies. This defense
is unsound and dishonest. An actor never disdains anything that gets
him applause and money; he is almost completely devoid of that æsthetic
conscience which is the chief mark of the genuine artist. If there
were a large public willing to pay handsomely to hear him recite
limericks, or to blow a cornet, or to strip off his underwear and
dance a polonaise stark naked, he would do it without hesitation--and
then convince himself that such buffooning constituted a difficult and
elevated art, fully comparable to Wagner's or Dante's. In brief, the
one essential, in his sight, is the chance to shine, the fat part,
the applause. Who ever heard of an actor declining a fat part on the
ground that it invaded his intellectual integrity? The thing is simply


Of all the sentimental errors which reign and rage in this incomparable
republic, the worst, I often suspect, is that which confuses the
function of criticism, whether æsthetic, political or social, with the
function of reform. Almost invariably it takes the form of a protest:
"The fellow condems without offering anything better. Why tear down
without building up?" So coo and snivel the sweet ones: so wags the
national tongue. The messianic delusion becomes a sort of universal
murrain. It is impossible to get an audience for an idea that is not
"constructive"--_i. e.,_ that is not glib, and uplifting, and full
of hope, and hence capable of tickling the emotions by leaping the
intermediate barrier of the intelligence.

In this protest and demand, of course, there is nothing but a hollow
sound of words--the empty babbling of men who constantly mistake their
mere feelings for thoughts. The truth is that criticism, if it were
thus confined to the proposing of alternative schemes, would quickly
cease to have any force or utility at all, for in the overwhelming
majority of instances no alternative scheme of any intelligibility
is imaginable, and the whole object of the critical process is to
demonstrate it. The poet, if the victim is a poet, is simply one as
bare of gifts as a herring is of fur: no conceivable suggestion will
ever make him write actual poetry. The cancer cure, if one turns to
popular swindles, is wholly and absolutely without merit--and the fact
that medicine offers us no better cure does not dilute its bogusness
in the slightest. And the plan of reform, in politics, sociology or
what not, is simply beyond the pale of reason; no change in it or
improvement of it will ever make it achieve the downright impossible.
Here, precisely, is what is the matter with most of the notions that go
floating about the country, particularly in the field of governmental
reform. The trouble with them is not only that they won't and don't
work; the trouble with them, more importantly, is that the thing they
propose to accomplish is intrinsically, or at all events most probably,
beyond accomplishment. That is to say, the problem they are ostensibly
designed to solve is a problem that is insoluble. To tackle them with
a proof of that insolubility, or even with a colorable argument of it,
is sound criticism; to tackle them with another solution that is quite
as bad, or even worse, is to pick the pocket of one knocked down by an

Unluckily, it is difficult for a certain type of mind to grasp the
concept of insolubility. Thousands of poor dolts keep on trying to
square the circle; other thousands keep pegging away at perpetual
motion. The number of persons so afflicted is far greater than the
records of the Patent Office show, for beyond the circle of frankly
insane enterprise there lie circles of more and more plausible
enterprise, and finally we come to a circle which embraces the great
majority of human beings. These are the optimists and chronic hopers
of the world, the believers in men, ideas and things. These are the
advocates of leagues of nations, wars to make the world safe for
democracy, political mountebanks, "clean-up" campaigns, laws, raids,
Men and Religion Forward Movements, eugenics, sex hygiene, education,
newspapers. It is the settled habit of such credulous folk to give ear
to whatever is comforting; it is their settled faith that whatever
is desirable will come to pass. A caressing confidence--but one,
unfortunately, that is not borne out by human experience. The fact is
that some of the things that men and women have desired most ardently
for thousands of years are not nearer realization to-day than they were
in the time of Rameses, and that there is not the slightest reason for
believing that they will lose their coyness on any near to-morrow.
Plans for hurrying them on have been tried since the beginning; plans
for forcing them overnight are in copious and antagonistic operation
to-day; and yet they continue to hold off and elude us, and the
chances are that they will keep on holding off and eluding us until
the angels get tired of the show, and the whole earth is set off like a
gigantic bomb, or drowned, like a sick cat, between two buckets.

But let us avoid the grand and chronic dreams of the race and get
down to some of the concrete problems of life under the Christian
enlightenment. Let us take a look, say, at the so-called drink problem,
a small sub-division of the larger problem of saving men from their
inherent and incurable hoggishness. What is the salient feature of the
discussion of the drink problem, as one observes it going on eternally
in These States? The salient feature of it is that very few honest and
intelligent men ever take a hand in the business--that the best men of
the nation, distinguished for their sound sense in other fields, seldom
show any interest in it. On the one hand it is labored by a horde of
obvious jackasses, each confident that he can dispose of it overnight.
And on the other hand it is sophisticated and obscured by a crowd of
oblique fellows, hired by interested parties, whose secret desire is
that it be kept unsolved. To one side, the professional gladiators
of Prohibition; to the other side, the agents of the brewers and
distillers. But why do all neutral and clear-headed men avoid it? Why
does one hear so little about it from those who have no personal stake
in it, and can thus view it fairly and accurately? Is it because they
are afraid? Is it because they are not intrigued by it? I doubt that
it would be just to accuse them in either way. The real reason why they
steer clear of the gabble is simpler and more creditable. It is this:
that none of them--that no genuinely thoughtful and prudent man--can
imagine any solution which meets the tests of his own criticism--that
no genuinely intelligent man believes the thing is soluble at all.

Here, of course, I generalize a bit heavily. Honest and intelligent
men, though surely not many of them, occasionally come forward with
suggestions. In the midst of so much debate it is inevitable that
even a man of critical mind should sometimes lean to one side or the
other--that some salient imbecility should make him react toward its
rough opposite. But the fact still remains that not a single complete
and comprehensive scheme has ever come from such a man, that no such
man has ever said, in so many words, that he thought the problem could
be solved, simply and effectively. All such schemes come from idiots
or from sharpers disguised as idiots to win the public confidence. The
whole discussion is based upon assumptions that even the most casual
reflection must reject as empty balderdash.

And as with the drink problem, so with most of the other great
questions that harass and dismay the helpless human race. Turn, for
example, to the sex problem. There is no half-baked ecclesiastic,
bawling in his galvanized-iron temple on a suburban lot, who doesn't
know precisely how it ought to be dealt with. There is no fantoddish
old suffragette, sworn to get her revenge on man, who hasn't a
sovereign remedy for it. There is not a shyster of a district attorney,
ambitious for higher office, who doesn't offer to dispose of it in
a few weeks, given only enough help from the city editors. And yet,
by the same token, there is not a man who has honestly studied it
and pondered it, bringing sound information to the business, and
understanding of its inner difficulties and a clean and analytical
mind, who doesn't believe and hasn't stated publicly that it is
intrinsically and eternally insoluble. I can't think of an exception,
nor does a fresh glance through the literature suggest one. The latest
expert to tell the disconcerting truth is Dr. Maurice Parmelee, the
criminologist. His book, "Personality and Conduct," is largely devoted
to demonstrating that the popular solutions, for all the support they
get from vice crusaders, complaisant legislators and sensational
newspapers, are unanimously imbecile and pernicious--that their only
effect in practice is to make what was bad a good deal worse. His
remedy is--what? An alternative solution? Not at all. His remedy, in
brief, is to abandon all attempts at a solution, to let the whole thing
go, to cork up all the reformers and try to forget it.

And in this proposal he merely echoes Havelock Ellis, undoubtedly
the most diligent and scientific student of the sex problem that the
world has yet seen--in fact, the one man who, above all others, has
made a decorous and intelligent examination of it possible. Ellis'
remedy is simply a denial of all remedies. He admits that the disease
is bad, but he shows that the medicine is infinitely worse, and so he
proposes going back to the plain disease, and advocates bearing it
with philosophy, as we bear colds in the head, marriage, the noises of
the city, bad cooking and the certainty of death. Man is inherently
vile--but he is never so vile as when he is trying to disguise and
deny his vileness. No prostitute was ever so costly to a community as
a prowling and obscene vice crusader, or as the dubious legislator or
prosecuting officer who jumps as he pipes.

Ellis, in all this, falls under the excommunication of the
sentimentalists. He demolishes one scheme without offering an
alternative scheme. He tears down without making any effort to build
up. This explains, no doubt, his general unpopularity; into mouths
agape for peruna, he projects only paralyzing streams of ice-water. And
it explains, too, the curious fact that his books, the most competent
and illuminating upon the subject that they discuss, are under the
ban of the Comstocks in both England and America, whereas the hollow
treatises of ignorant clerics and smutty old maids are merchanted with
impunity, and even commended from the sacred desk. The trouble with
Ellis is that he tells the truth, which is the unsafest of all things
to tell. His crime is that he is a man who prefers facts to illusions,
and knows what he is talking about. Such men are never popular. The
public taste is for merchandise of a precisely opposite character. The
way to please is to proclaim in a confident manner, not what is true,
but what is merely comforting. This is what is called building up. This
is constructive criticism.



_The Holy War_

The fact that the enforcement of Prohibition entails a host of
oppressions and injustices--that it puts a premium upon the lowest
sort of spying, affords an easy livelihood to hordes of professional
scoundrels, subjects thousands of decent men to the worst sort of
blackmail, violates the theoretical sanctity of domicile, and makes
for bitter and relentless enmities,--this fact is now adduced by its
ever-hopeful foes as an argument for the abandonment of the whole
disgusting crusade. By it they expect to convert even a large minority
of the drys, apparently on the theory that the latter got converted
emotionally and hastily, and that an appeal to their sense of justice
and fair-dealing will debamboozle them.

No hope could be more vain. What all the current optimists overlook
is that the illogical and indefensible persecutions certain to occur
in increasing number under the Prohibition Amendment constitute the
chief cause of its popularity among the sort of men who are in favor
of it. The typical Prohibitionist, in other words, is a man full of
religious excitement, with the usual sadistic overtones. He delights
in persecution for its own sake. He likes to see the other fellow
jump and to hear him yell. This thirst is horribly visible in all
the salient mad mullahs of the land--that is, in all the genuine
leaders of American culture. Such skillful boob-bumpers as the Rev.
Dr. Billy Sunday know what that culture is; they know what the crowd
wants. Thus they convert the preaching of the alleged Word of God
into a rough-and-tumble pursuit of definite sinners--saloon-keepers,
prostitutes, Sabbath-breakers, believers in the Darwinian
hypothesis, German exegetes, hand-books, poker-players, adulterers,
cigarette-smokers, users of profanity. It is the chase that heats up
the great mob of Methodists, not the Word. And the fact that the chase
is unjust only tickles them the more, for to do injustice with impunity
is a sign of power, and power is the thing that the inferior man always
craves most violently.

Every time the papers print another account of a Prohibionist agent
murdering a man who resists him, or searching some woman's underwear,
or raiding a Vanderbilt yacht, or blackmailing a Legislature, or
committing some other such inordinate and anti-social act, they simply
make a thousand more votes for Prohibition. It is precisely that sort
of entertainment that makes Prohibition popular with the boobery. It
is precisely because it is unjust, imbecile, arbitrary and tyrannical
that they are so hot for it. The incidental violation of even the
inferior mans liberty is not sufficient to empty him of delight in
the chase. The victims reported in the newspapers are commonly his
superiors; he thus gets the immemorial democratic satisfaction out of
their discomfiture. Besides, he has no great rage for liberty himself.
He is always willing to surrender it at demand. The most popular man
under a democracy is not the most democratic man, but the most despotic
man. The common folk delight in the exactions of such a man. They like
him to boss them. Their natural gait is the goose-step.

It was predicted by romantics that the arrival of Prohibition would see
the American workingman in revolt against its tyranny, with mills idle
and industry paralyzed. Certain boozy labor leaders even went so far as
to threaten a general strike. No such strike, of course, materialized.
Not a single American workingman uttered a sound. The only protests
heard of came from a few barbarous foreigners, and these malcontents
were quickly beaten into submission by the _Polizei._ In a week or
two all the reserve stocks of beer were exhausted, and every jug of
authentic hard liquor was emptied. Since then, save for the ghastly
messes that he has brewed behind locked doors, the American workingman
has been dry. Worse, he has also been silent. Not a sound has come out
of him.... But his liver is full of bile? He nourishes an intolerable
grievance? He will get his revenge, soon or late, at the polls? All
moonshine! He will do nothing of the sort. He will actually do what
he always does--that is, he will make a virtue of his necessity, and
straightway begin believing that he _likes_ Prohibition, that it is
doing him a lot of good, that he wouldn't be without it if he could.
This is the habitual process of thought of inferior men, at all times
and everywhere. This is the sturdy common sense of the plain people.


_The Lure of Babylon_

One of the ultimate by-products of Prohibition and the allied
Puritanical barbarities will probably be an appreciable slackening in
the present movement of yokels toward the large cities. The thing that
attracted the peasant youth to our gaudy Sodoms and Ninevehs, in the
past, was not, as sociologists have always assumed, the prospect of
less work and more money. The country boy, in point of fact--that is,
the average country boy, the normal country boy--had to work quite as
hard in the city as he ever worked in the country, and his wages were
anything but princely. Unequipped with a city trade, unprotected by a
union, and so forced into competition with the lowest types of foreign
labor, he had to be content with monotonous, uninspiring and badly-paid
jobs. He did not become a stock-broker, or even a plumber; until the
war gave him a temporary chance at its gigantic swag, he became a car
conductor, a porter or a wagon-driver. And it took him many years to
escape from that sordid fate, for the city boy, with a better education
and better connections, was always a lap or two ahead of him. The
notion that yokels always succeed in the cities is a great delusion.
The overwhelming majority of our rich men are city-born and city-bred.
And the overwhelming majority of our elderly motormen, forlorn corner
grocerymen, neighborhood carpenters and other such blank cartridges are

No, it was not money that lured the adolescent husbandman to the
cities, but the gay life. What he dreamed of was a more spacious and
stimulating existence than the farm could offer--an existence crowded
with intriguing and usually unlawful recreations. A few old farmers may
have come in now and then to buy gold bricks or to hear the current
Henry Ward Beechers, but these oldsters were mere trippers--they never
thought of settling down--the very notion of it would have appalled
them. The actual settlers were all young, and what brought them on was
less an economic impulse than an æsthetic one. They wanted to live
magnificently, to taste the sweets that drummers talked of, to sample
the refined divertisements described in such works as "The Confessions
of an Actress," "Night Life in Chicago" and "What Every Young Husband
Should Know." Specifically, they yearned for a semester or two in the
theaters, the saloons and the bordellos--particularly, the saloons and
bordellos. It was this gorgeous bait that dragged them out of their
barn-yards. It was this bait that landed a select few in Wall street
and the United States Senate--and millions on the front seats of
trolley-cars, delivery-wagons and ash-carts.

But now Puritanism eats the bait. In all our great cities the public
stews are closed, and the lamentable irregularities they catered to are
thrown upon an individual initiative that is quite beyond the talents
and enterprise of a plow-hand. Now the saloons are closed too, and the
blind-pigs begin to charge such prices that no peasant can hope to pay
them. Only the theater remains--and already the theater loses its old
lavish devilishness. True enough, it still deals in pornography, but
that pornography becomes exclusive and even esoteric: a yokel could
not understand the higher farce, nor could he afford to pay for a
seat at a modern leg-show. The cheap burlesque house of other days is
now incurably moral; I saw a burlesque show lately which was almost a
dramatization of a wall-card by Dr. Frank Crane. There remains the
movie, but the peasant needn't come to the city to see movies--there is
one in every village. What remains, then, of the old lure? What sane
youth, comfortably housed on a farm, with Theda Bara performing at the
nearest cross-roads, wheat at $2.25 a bushel and milkers getting $75 a
month and board--what jejune rustic, not downright imbecile, itches for
the city to-day?


_Cupid and Well-Water_

In the department of amour, I daresay, the first effect of Prohibition
will be to raise up impediments to marriage. It was alcohol, in the
past, that was the primary cause of perhaps a majority of alliances
among civilized folk. The man, priming himself with cocktails to
achieve boldness, found himself suddenly bogged in sentimentality, and
so yielded to the ancient tricks of the lady. Absolutely sober men will
be harder to snare. Coffee will never mellow them sufficiently. Thus I
look for a fall in the marriage rate.

But only temporarily. In the long run, Prohibition will make marriage
more popular, at least among the upper classes, than it has ever
been in the past, and for the plain reason that, once it is in full
effect, the life of a civilized bachelor will become intolerable. In
the past he went to his club. But a club without a bar is as hideously
unattractive as a beautiful girl without hair or teeth. No sane man
will go into it. In two years, in fact, nine out of ten clubs will be
closed. The only survivors will be a few bleak rookeries for senile
widowers. The bachelor of less years, unable to put up with the society
of such infernos, will inevitably decide that if he must keep sober he
might just as well have a charming girl to ease his agonies, and so he
will expose himself in society, and some fair one or other will nab
him. At the moment, observing only the first effect of Prohibition, the
great majority of intelligent women are opposed to it. But when the
secondary effect begins to appear they will become in favor of it. They
now have the vote. I see no hope.


_The Triumph of Idealism_

Another effect of Prohibition will be that it will gradually empty
the United States of its present small minority of civilized men.
Almost every man that one respects is now casting longing eyes across
the ocean. Some of them talk frankly of emigrating, once Europe pulls
itself together. Others merely propose to go abroad every year and to
stay there as long as possible, visiting the United States only at
intervals, as a Russian nobleman, say, used to visit his estates in
the Ukraine. Worse, Prohibition will scare off all the better sort
of immigrants from the other side. The lower order of laborers may
continue to come in small numbers--each planning to get all the money
he can and then escape, as the Italians are even now escaping. But no
first-rate man will ever come--no Stephen Girard, or William Osier,
or Carl Schurz, or Theodore Thomas, or Louis Agassiz, or Edwin Klebs,
or Albert Gallatin, or Alexander Hamilton. It is not Prohibition
_per se_ that will keep them away; it is the whole complex of social
and political attitudes underlying Prohibition--the whole clinical
picture of Puritanism rampant. The United States will become a sort
of huge Holland--fat and contented, but essentially undistinguished.
Its superior men will leave it automatically, as nine-tenths of all
superior Hollanders leave Holland.

But all this, from the standpoint of Prohibitionists, is no argument
against Prohibition. On the contrary, it is an argument in favor of
Prohibition. For the men the Prohibitionist--_i. e.,_ the inferior sort
of Puritan--distrusts and dislikes most intensely is precisely what
the rest of humanity regards as the superior man. You will go wrong if
you imagine that the honest yeomen of, say, Mississippi deplore the
fact that in the whole state there is not a single distinguished man.
They actually delight in it. It is a source of genuine pride to them
that no such irreligious scoundrel as Balzac lives there, and no such
scandalous adulterer as Wagner, and no scoundrelly atheist as Huxley,
and no such rambunctious piano-thumper as Beethoven, and no such German
spy as Nietzsche. Such men, settling there, would be visited by a
Vigilance Committee and sharply questioned. The Puritan Commonwealth,
now as always, has no traffic with heretics.



_The Nature of Love_

Whatever the origin (in the soul, the ductless glands or the
convolutions of the cerebrum) of the thing called romantic love, its
mere phenomenal nature may be very simply described. It is, in brief, a
wholesale diminishing of disgusts, primarily based on observation, but
often, in its later stages, taking on an hallucinatory and pathological
character. Friendship has precisely the same constitution, but the
pathological factor is usually absent. When we are attracted to a
person and find his or her proximity agreeable, it means that he or she
disgusts us less than the average human being disgusts us--which, if we
have delicate sensibilities, is a good deal more than is comfortable.
The elemental man is not much oppressed by this capacity for disgust;
in consequence, he is capable of falling in love with almost any woman
who seems sexually normal. But the man of a higher type is vastly more
sniffish, and so the majority of women whom he meets are quite unable
to interest him, and when he succumbs at last it is always to a woman
of special character, and often she is also one of uncommon shrewdness
and enterprise.

Because human contacts are chiefly superficial, most of the disgusts
that we are conscious of are physical. We are never honestly friendly
with a man who is dirtier than we are ourselves, or who has table
manners that are cruder than our own (or merely noticeably different),
or who laughs in a way that strikes us as gross, or who radiates some
odor that we do not like. We never conceive a romantic passion for a
woman who employs a toothpick in public, or who suffers from acne, or
who offers the subtle but often quite unescapable suggestion that she
has on soiled underwear. But there are also psychical disgusts. Our
friends, in the main, must be persons who think substantially as we
do, at least about all things that actively concern us, and who have
the same general tastes. It is impossible to imagine a Brahmsianer
being honestly fond of a man who enjoys jazz, or a man who admires
Joseph Conrad falling in love with a woman who reads Rex Beach. By the
same token, it is impossible to imagine a woman of genuine refinement
falling in love with a Knight of Pythias, a Methodist or even a
chauffeur; either the chauffeur is a Harvard aviator in disguise or the
lady herself is a charwoman in disguise. Here, however, the force of
aversion may be greatly diminished by contrary physical attractions;
the body, as usual, is enormously more potent than the so-called mind.
In the midst of the bitterest wars, with every man of the enemy held
to be a fiend in human form, women constantly fall in love with enemy
soldiers who are of pleasant person and wear attractive uniforms. And
many a fair agnostic, as every one knows, is on good terms with a
handsome priest....

Imagine a young man in good health and easy circumstances, entirely
ripe for love. The prompting to mate and beget arises within his
interstitial depths, traverses his lymphatic system, lifts his blood
pressure, and goes whooping through his _meatus auditorium externus_
like a fanfare of slide trombones. The impulse is very powerful. It
staggers and dismays him. He trembles like a stag at bay. Why, then,
doesn't he fall head over heels in love with the first eligible woman
that he meets? For the plain reason that the majority of women that he
meets offend him, repel him, disgust him. Often it is in some small,
inconspicuous and, at first glance, unanalyzable way. She is, in
general, a very pretty girl--but her ears stand out too much. Or her
hair reminds him of oakum. Or her mouth looks like his aunt's. Or she
has beer-keg ankles. Here very impalpable things, such as bodily odors,
play a capital part; their importance is always much underestimated.
Many a girl has lost a husband by using the wrong perfume, or by
neglecting to have her hair washed. Many another has come to grief by
powdering her nose too much or too little, or by shrinking from the
paltry pain of having some of her eyebrows pulled, or by employing a
lip-salve with too much purple in it, or by patronizing a bad dentist,
or by speaking incautiously of chilblains....

But eventually the youth finds his love--soon or late the angel
foreordained comes along. Who is this prodigy? Simply the _first_ girl
to sneak over what may be called the threshold of his disgusts--simply
the _first_ to disgust him so little, at first glance, that the loud,
insistent promptings of the Divine Schadchen have a chance to be
heard. If he muffs this first, another will come along, maybe soon,
maybe late. For every normal man there are hundreds of thousands in
Christendom, thousands in his own town, scores within his own circle
of acquaintance. This normal man is not too delicate. His fixed foci
of disgust are neither very numerous nor very sensitive. For the rest,
he is swayed by fashion, by suggestion, by transient moods. Anon a
mood of cynicism is upon him and he is hard to please, but anon he
succumbs to sentimentality and is blind to everything save the grossest
offendings. It is only the man of extraordinary sensitiveness, the man
of hypertrophied delicacy, who must search the world for his elective

Once the threshold is crossed emotion comes to the aid of perception.
That is to say, the blind, almost irresistible mating impulse, now
fortuitously relieved from the contrary pressure of active disgusts,
fortifies itself by manufacturing illusions. The lover sees with an
eye that is both opaque and out of focus. Thus he begins the familiar
process of editing and improving his girl. Features and characteristics
that, observed in cold blood, might have quickly aroused his most
active disgust are now seen through a rose-tinted fog, like drabs in a
musical comedy. The lover ends by being almost anæsthetic to disgust.
While the spell lasts his lady could shave her head or take to rubbing
snuff, or scratch her leg at a communion service, or smear her hair
with bear's grease, and yet not disgust him. Here the paralysis of the
faculties is again chiefly physical--a matter of obscure secretions, of
shifting pressure, of metabolism. Nature is at her tricks. The fever
of love is upon its victim. His guard down, he is little more than a
pathetic automaton. The shrewd observer of gaucheries, the sensitive
sniffer, the erstwhile cynic, has become a mere potential papa.

This spell, of course, doesn't last forever. Marriage cools the fever
and lowers the threshold of disgust. The husband begins to observe
what the lover was blind to, and often his discoveries affect him as
unpleasantly as the treason of a trusted friend. And not only is the
fever cooled: the opportunities for exact observation are enormously
increased. It is a commonplace of juridical science that the great
majority of divorces have their origin in the connubial chamber. Here
intimacy is so extreme that it is fatal to illusion. Both parties,
thrown into the closest human contact that either has suffered since
their unconscious days _in utero,_ find their old capacity for disgust
reviving, and then suddenly flaming. The girl who was perfect in her
wedding gown becomes a ghastly caricature in her _robe de nuit;_
the man who was a Chevalier Bayard as a wooer becomes a snuffling,
shambling, driveling nuisance as a husband--a fellow offensive to
eyes, ears, nose, touch and immortal soul. A learned judge of my
acquaintance, constantly hearing divorce actions and as constantly
striving to reconcile the parties, always tries to induce plaintiff
and defendant to live apart for a while, or, failing that, to occupy
separate rooms, or, failing that, to at least dress in separate
rooms. According to this jurist, a husband who shaves in his wife's
presence is either an idiot or a scoundrel. The spectacle, he argues,
is intrinsically disgusting, and to force it upon a refined woman is
either to subject her to the most exquisite torture or to degrade her
gradually to the insensate level of an _Abortfrau._ The day is saved,
as every one knows, by the powerful effects of habit. The acquisition
of habit is the process whereby disgust is overcome in daily life--the
process whereby one may cease to be disgusted by a persistent noise or
odor. One suffers horribly at first, but after a bit one suffers less,
and in the course of time one scarcely suffers at all. Thus a man, when
his marriage enters upon the stage of regularity and safety, gets used
to his wife as he might get used to a tannery next door, and _vice
versa._ I think that women, in this direction, have the harder row to
hoe, for they are more observant than men, and vastly more sensitive in
small ways. But even women succumb to habit with humane rapidity, else
every marriage would end in divorce. Disgusts pale into mere dislikes,
disrelishes, distastes. They cease to gag and torture. But though they
thus shrink into the shadow, they are by no means disposed of. Deep
down in the subconscious they continue to lurk, and some accident may
cause them to flare up at any time, and so work havoc. This flaring
up accounts for a familiar and yet usually very mystifying phenomenon
--the sudden collapse of a marriage, a friendship or a business
association after years of apparent prosperity.


_The Incomparable Buzzsaw_

The chief (and perhaps the only genuine) charm of women is seldom
mentioned by the orthodox professors of the sex. I refer to the charm
that lies in the dangers they present. The allurement that they hold
out to men is precisely the allurement that Cape Hatteras holds
out to sailors: they are enormously dangerous and hence enormously
fascinating. To the average man, doomed to some banal and sordid
drudgery all his life long, they offer the only grand hazard that he
ever encounters. Take them away and his existence would be as flat and
secure as that of a milch-cow. Even to the unusual man, the adventurous
man, the imaginative and romantic man, they offer the adventure of
adventures. Civilization tends to dilute and cheapen all other hazards.
War itself, once an enterprise stupendously thrilling, has been reduced
to mere caution and calculation; already, indeed, it employs as many
press-agents, letter-openers, and chautauqua orators as soldiers. On
some not distant to-morrow its salient personality may be Potash, and
if not Potash, then Perlmutter. But the duel of sex continues to be
fought in the Berserker manner. Whoso approaches women still faces the
immemorial dangers. Civilization has not made them a bit more safe than
they were in Solomon's time; they are still inordinately barbarous and
menacing, and hence inordinately provocative, and hence inordinately
charming and romantic....

The most disgusting cad in the world is the man who, on grounds of
decorum and morality, avoids the game of love. He is one who puts
his own ease and security above the most laudable of philanthropies.
Women have a hard time of it in this world. They are oppressed by
man-made laws, man-made social customs, masculine egoism, the delusion
of masculine superiority. Their one comfort is the assurance that,
even though it may be impossible to prevail against man, it is always
possible to enslave and torture a man. This feeling is fostered when
one makes love to them. One need not be a great beau, a seductive
catch, to do it effectively. Any man is better than none. No woman
is ever offended by admiration. The wife of a millionaire notes the
reverent glance of a head-waiter. To withhold that devotion, to shrink
poltroonishly from giving so much happiness at such small expense, to
evade the business on the ground that it has hazards--this is the act
of a puling and tacky fellow.


_Women as Spectacles_

Women, when it comes to snaring men, through the eye, bait a great many
hooks that fail to fluster the fish. Nine-tenths of their primping and
decorating of their persons not only doesn't please men; it actually
repels men. I often pass two days running without encountering a single
woman who is charmingly dressed. Nearly all of them run to painful
color schemes, absurd designs and excessive over-ornamentation. One
seldom observes a man who looks an absolute guy, whereas such women
are very numerous; in the average theater audience they constitute a
majority of at least nine-tenths. The reason is not far to seek. The
clothes of men are plain in design and neutral in hue. The only touch
of genuine color is in the florid blob of the face, the center of
interest--exactly where it ought to be. If there is any other color at
all, it is a faint suggestion in the cravat--adjacent to the face, and
so leading the eye toward it. It is color that kills the clothes of the
average woman. She runs to bright spots that take the eye away from her
face and hair. She ceases to be woman clothed and becomes a mere piece
of clothing womaned.

Even at the basic feminine art of pigmenting their faces very few women
excel. The average woman seems to think that she is most lovely when
her sophistication of her complexion is most adroitly concealed--when
the _poudre de riz_ is rubbed in so hard that it is almost invisible,
and the penciling of eyes and lips is perfectly realistic. This is
a false notion. Most men of appreciative eye have no objection to
artificiality _per se,_ so long as it is intrinsically sightly. The
marks made by a lip-stick may be very beautiful; there are many lovely
shades of scarlet, crimson and vermilion. A man with eyes in his head
admires them for themselves; he doesn't have to be first convinced that
they are non-existent, that what he sees is not the mark of a lip-stick
at all, but an authentic lip. So with the eyes. Nothing could be more
charming than an eye properly reënforced; the naked organ is not to be
compared to it; nature is an idiot when it comes to shadows. But it
must be admired as a work of art, not as a miraculous and incredible
eye. ... Women, in this important and venerable art, stick too closely
to crude representation. They forget that men do not admire the
technique, but the result. What they should do is to forget realism for
a while, and concentrate their attention upon composition, chiaroscuro
and color.


_Woman and the Artist_

Much gabble is to be found in the literature of the world upon
the function of woman as inspiration, stimulant and _agente
provocateuse_ to the creative artist. The subject is a favorite one
with sentimentalists, most of whom are quite beyond anything properly
describable as inspiration, either with or without feminine aid. I
incline to think, as I hint, that there is little if any basis of fact
beneath the theory. Women not only do not inspire creative artists to
high endeavor; they actually stand firmly against every high endeavor
that a creative artist initiates spontaneously. What a man's women
folks almost invariable ask of him is that he be respectable--that he
do something generally approved--that he avoid yielding to his aberrant
fancies--in brief, that he sedulously eschew showing any sign of
genuine genius. Their interest is not primarily in the self-expression
of the individual, but in the well-being of the family organization,
which means the safety of themselves. No sane woman would want to be
the wife of such a man, say, as Nietzsche or Chopin. His mistress
perhaps, yes--for a mistress can always move on when the weather gets
too warm. But not a wife. I here speak by the book. Both Nietzsche and
Chopin had plenty of mistresses, but neither was ever able to get a

Shakespeare and Ann Hathaway, Wagner and Minna Planer, Molière and
Armande Béjart--one might multiply instances almost endlessly. Minna,
at least in theory, knew something of music; she was thus what romance
regards as an ideal wife for Wagner. But instead of helping him to
manufacture his incomparable masterpieces, she was for twenty-five
years the chief impediment to their manufacture. "Lohengrin" gave her
the horrors; she begged Richard to give up his lunacies and return
to the composition of respectable cornet music. In the end he had to
get rid of her in sheer self-defense. Once free, with nothing worse
on his hands than the illicit affection of Cosima Liszt von Bülow,
he produced music drama after music drama in rapid succession. Then,
married to Cosima, he descended to the anticlimax of "Parsifal," a
truly tragic mixture of the stupendous and the banal, of work of genius
and _sinfonia domestica_--a great man dying by inches, smothered by the
smoke of French fried potatoes, deafened by the wailing of children,
murdered in his own house by the holiest of passions.

Sentimentalists always bring up the case of Schumann and his Clara
in rebuttal. But does it actually rebut? I doubt it. Clara, too,
perpetrated her _attentat_ against art. Her fair white arms, lifting
from the keyboard to encircle Robert's neck, squeezed more out of
him than mere fatuous smirks. He had the best head on him that music
had seen since Beethoven's day; he was, on the cerebral side, a
colossus; he might have written music of the very first order. Well,
what he _did_ write was piano music--some of it imperfectly arranged
for orchestra. The sad eyes of Clara were always upon him. He kept
within the limits of her intelligence, her prejudices, her wifely
love. No grand experiments with the orchestra. No superb leapings and
cavortings. No rubbing of sand-paper over critical ears. Robert lived
and died a respectable musical _Hausvater._ He was a man of genuine
genius--but he didn't leave ten lines that might not have been passed
by old Prof. Jadassohn.

The truth is that, no matter how great the domestic concord and how
lavish the sacrifices a man makes for his women-folk, they almost
always regard him secretly as a silly and selfish fellow, and cherish
the theory that it would be easily possible to improve him. This
is because the essential interests of men and women are eternally
antithetical. A man may yield over and over again, but in the long run
he must occasionally look out for himself--and it is these occasions
that his women-folk remember. The typical domestic situation shows
a woman trying to induce a man to do something that he doesn't want
to do, or to refrain from something that he does want to do. This
is true in his bachelor days, when his mother or his sister is his
antagonist. It is preëminently true just before his marriage, when
the girl who has marked him down is hard at the colossal job of
overcoming his reluctance. And after marriage it is so true that there
is hardly need to state it. One of the things every man discovers to
his disquiet is that his wife, after the first play-acting is over,
regards him essentially as his mother used to regard him--that is, as
a self-worshiper who needs to be policed and an idiot who needs to
be protected. The notion that women _admire_ their men-folks is pure
moonshine. The most they ever achieve in that direction is to pity
them. When a woman genuinely loves a man it is a sign that she regards
him much as a healthy man regards a one-armed and epileptic soldier.



Nearly the whole case of the birth-controllers who now roar in
Christendom is grounded upon the doctrine that it is an intolerable
outrage for a woman to have to submit to motherhood when her private
fancies may rather incline to automobiling, shopping or going to the
movies. For this curse the husband is blamed; the whole crime is laid
to his swinish lasciviousness. With the highest respect, nonsense! My
private suspicion, supported by long observation, copious prayer and
the most laborious cogitation, is that no woman delights in motherhood
so vastly as this woman who theoretically abhors it. She experiences,
in fact, a double delight. On the one hand, there is the caressing
of her vanity--a thing enjoyed by every woman when she achieves the
banality of viable offspring. And on the other hand, there is the fine
chance it gives her to play the martyr--a chance that every woman
seeks as diligently as a man seeks ease. All these so-called unwilling
mothers wallow in their martyrdom. They revel in the opportunity to be
pitied, made much over and envied by other women.


_The Burnt Child_

The fundamental trouble with marriage is that it shakes a man's
confidence in himself, and so greatly diminishes his general competence
and effectiveness. His habit of mind becomes that of a commander who
has lost a decisive and calamitous battle. He never quite trusts
himself thereafter.


_The Supreme Comedy_ Marriage, at Best, is full of a sour and
inescapable comedy, but it never reaches the highest peaks of the
ludicrous save when efforts are made to escape its terms--that is, when
efforts are made to loosen its bonds, and so ameliorate and denaturize
it. All projects to reform it by converting it into a free union of
free individuals are inherently absurd. The thing is, at bottom, the
most rigid of existing conventionalities, and the only way to conceal
the fact and so make it bearable is to submit to it docilely. The
effect of every revolt is merely to make the bonds galling, and, what
is worse, poignantly obvious. Who are happy in marriage? Those with so
little imagination that they cannot picture a better state, and those
so shrewd that they prefer quiet slavery to hopeless rebellion.


_A Hidden Cause_

Many a woman, in order to bring the man of her choice to the altar of
God, has to fight him with such relentless vigilance and ferocity that
she comes to hate him. This, perhaps, explains the unhappiness of many
marriages. In particular, it explains the unhappiness of many marriages
based upon what is called "love."


_Bad Workmanship_

The essential slackness and incompetence of women, their congenital
incapacity for small expertness, already descanted upon at length in
my psychological work, "In Defense of Women," is never more plainly
revealed than in their manhandling of the primary business of their
sex. If the average woman were as competent at her trade of getting a
husband as the average car conductor is at his trade of robbing the
fare-box, then a bachelor beyond the age of twenty-five would be so
rare in the world that yokels would pay ten cents to gape at him. But
women, in this fundamental industry, pursue a faulty technique and
permit themselves to be led astray by unsound principles. The axioms
into which they have precipitated their wisdom are nearly all untrue.
For example, the axiom that the way to capture a man is through his
stomach--which is to say, by feeding him lavishly. Nothing could be
more absurd. The average man, at least in England and America, has such
rudimentary tastes in victualry that he doesn't know good food from
bad. He will eat anything set before him by a cook that he likes. The
true way to fetch him is with drinks. A single bottle of drinkable wine
will fill more men with the passion of love than ten sides of beef or
a ton of potatoes. Even a _Seidel_ of beer, deftly applied, is enough
to mellow the hardest bachelor. If women really knew their business,
they would have abandoned cooking centuries ago, and devoted themselves
to brewing, distilling and bartending. It is a rare man who will walk
five blocks for a first-rate meal. But it is equally a rare man who,
even in the old days of freedom, would _not_ walk five blocks for a
first-rate cocktail. To-day he would walk five miles.

Another unsound feminine axiom is the one to the effect that the way
to capture a man is to be distant--to throw all the burden of the
courtship upon him. This is precisely the way to lose him. A man face
to face with a girl who seems reserved and unapproachable is not
inspired thereby to drag her off in the manner of a caveman; on the
contrary, he is inspired to thank God that here, at last, is a girl
with whom it is possible to have friendly doings without getting into
trouble--that here is one not likely to grow mushy and make a mess. The
average man does not marry because some marble fair one challenges his
enterprise. He marries because chance throws into his way a fair one
who repels him less actively than most, and because his delight in what
he thus calls her charm is reënforced by a growing suspicion that she
has fallen in love with him. In brief, it is chivalry that undoes him.
The girl who infallibly gets a husband--in fact, _any_ husband that she
wants--is the one who tracks him boldly, fastens him with sad eyes, and
then, when his conscience has begun to torture him, throws her arms
around his neck, bursts into maidenly tears on his shoulder, and tells
him that she fears her forwardness will destroy his respect for her.
It is only a colossus who can resist such strategy. But it takes only a
man of the intellectual grade of a Y. M. C. A. secretary to elude the
girl who is afraid to take the offensive.

A third bogus axiom I have already discussed, to wit, the axiom that a
man is repelled by palpable cosmetics--that the wise girl is the one
who effectively conceals her sophistication of her complexion. What
could be more untrue? The fact is that very few men are competent to
distinguish between a layer of talc and the authentic epidermis, and
that the few who have the gift are quite free from any notion that the
latter is superior to the former. What a man seeks when he enters the
society of women is something pleasing to the eye. That is all he asks.
He does not waste any time upon a chemical or spectroscopic examination
of the object observed; he simply determines whether it is beautiful or
not beautiful. Has it so long escaped women that their husbands, when
led astray, are usually led astray by women so vastly besmeared with
cosmetics that they resemble barber-poles more than human beings? Are
they yet blind to the superior pull of a French maid, a chorus girl,
a stenographer begauded like a painter's palette? ... And still they
go on rubbing off their varnish, brushing the lampblack from their
eyelashes, seeking eternally the lip-stick that is so depressingly
purple that it will deceive! Alas, what folly!


    Abbott, Lawrence
    Abbott, Lyman
    Akins, Zoë
    Alcott, A. B.
    Allen, James Lane
    _Also sprach Zarathustra_
    _American Painting and Its Tradition_
    _American Scholar, The_
    Amherst College
    Anderson, Sherwood
    Archer, William
    _Aspects of Death and Correlated Aspects of Life_
    _Atlantic Monthly_
    _Authors' League Bulletin_

    Babbitt, Irving
    _Backward Glance Along My Own Road, A_
    _Backwash of War, The_
    Baker, George P.
    Bancroft, George
    Barton, Wm. E.
    Baudelaire, Charles
    Beach, Rex
    Beethoven, Ludwig
    Bennett, Arnold
    Benson, E. F.
    Bierce, Ambrose
    Billroth, Theodor
    Blasco, Ibáñez, V.
    _Blue Hotel, The_
    Böhme, Jakob
    Bonaparte, Charles J.
    Boynton, P. H.
    Brady, Cyrus Townsend
    Brahms, Johannes
    Brainard, J. G. C.
    Bright, John
    Bronson-Howard, George
    Brooks, Van Wyck
    Brown, Alice
    Browne, Porter Emerson
    Brownell, W. C.
    Bruce, Philip Alexander
    Bryant, Wm. Cullen
    Burroughs, John
    Burton, Richard
    Butler, Fanny Kemble
    Bynner, Witter

    Cabell, James Branch
    Cahan, Abraham
    Caine, Hall
    Candler, Asa G.
    Carlyle, Thomas
    Carnegie, Andrew
    Carrel, Alexis
    Cather, Willa Sibert
    Chambers, Robert W.
    Channing, Wm. Ellery
    Chesterton, G. K.
    Churchill, Winston
    Clemens, S. L.
    Cobb, Irvin
    Cobden, Richard
    Comfort, Will Levington
    _Confessions of an Actress, The_
    Conrad, Joseph
    Coogler, J. Gordon
    Cooper, J. Fenimore
    Corelli, Marie
    Crane, Frank
    Crane, Stephen
    Crile, George W.
    Crothers, Samuel MCC

    D'Annunzio, Gabriel
    Dawson, Coningsby
    Davis, Richard Harding
    Debussy, Claude
    Deland, Margaret
    _Democratic Vistas_
    Dickens, Charlesx
    _Die Meistersinger_
    _Dissertations on the English Language_
    Doyle, A. Conan
    Dreiser Protest
    Dreiser, Theodore

    Eliot, T. S.
    Ellis, Havelock
    Emerson, Ralph Waldo
    _Ethan Frome_
    Evans, Caradoc

    Fernald, Chester Bailey
    Flexner, Simon
    Frank, Waldo
    Freneau, Philip
    Freytag-Loringhoven, Elsa von
    Fuller, Henry B.

    Gale, Zona
    Garland, Hamlin
    Geddes, Auckland
    _"Genius;" The_
    Gilman, Daniel Coit
    Glasgow, Ellen
    Glass, Montague
    Glyn, Elinor
    _Good Girl, A_
    Gorky, Maxim
    Gosse, Edmund
    Grant, Robert
    Graves, John Temple
    Greenwich Village
    Griswold, Rufus W.
    Grote, George

    Hadley, Herbert K.
    Hamilton, Clayton
    Harris, Corra
    Harris, Frank
    Harrison, Henry Sydnor
    Harte, Bret
    Haweis, H. R.
    Hawthorne, Hildegarde
    Hawthorne, Julian
    Hawthorne, Nathaniel
    Hay, Ian
    Haydn, Josef
    _Heart of Darkness_
    Hecht, Ben
    _Hedda Gabler_190
    Henry, O.
    Hergesheimer, Joseph
    Hillis, Newell Dwight
    Holmes, Oliver Wendell
    Hooker, Brian
    Hopper, James
    Hough, Emerson
    Howe, E. W.
    Howells, Wm. Dean
    Hubbard, Elbert
    Huneker, James

    _Impressions of Theodore Roosevelt_
    _In Defense of Women_
    _Industrial History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century_
    Irving, Henry
    Irving, Washington
    Iveagh, Lord

    James, Henry

    _Jenseits von Gut und Böse_
    Johns Hopkins University
    Johnson, Owen
    Johnson, Robert U.
    Johnston, Mary

    Kellner, Leon
    Kilmer, Joyce
    Kipling, Rudyard
    Knapp, Samuel Lorenzo

    La Motte, Ellen
    Lardner, Ring W.
    _Last of the Mohicans, The_
    _Lay Anthony, The_
    _Leaves of Grass_
    _Lectures on American Literature_
    Lee, Gerald Stanley
    Le Quex, William
    _Letters and Leadership_
    Lincoln, Abraham
    Lindsay, Vachel
    _Little Review_
    Loeb, Jacques
    London, Jack
    Longfellow, H. W.
    Lowell, Amy
    Lowell, James Russell
    Loveman, Robert

    Mabie, Hamilton Wright
    McClure, John
    MacGrath, Harold
    Maeterlinck, Maurice
    Mallarmé, Stephen
    _Man: An Adaptive Mechanism_
    Mansfield, Richard
    Marden, Orison Swett
    Markham, Edwin
    Martin, E. S.
    Mason, Walt
    Matthews, Brander
    _Mechanistic View of War and Peace, A_
    Merrill, Stuart
    Mitchell, Donald G.
    Moore, George
    More, Paul Elmer
    Morris, Gouverneur
    _My Antonia_
    _My Book and I_
    _My Neighbors_
    _Mysterious Stranger, The_

    Nietzsche, F. W.
    _Night Life in Chicago_
    Nordfeldt, Bror
    Norris, Charles G.
    Norris, Frank
    Norris, Kathleen
    Northcliffe, Lord
    Noyes, Alfred

    O'Brien, Edward J.
    O'Neill, Eugene
    Oppenheim, E. Phillips
    Oppenheim, James
    O'Sullivan, Vincent

    Parmelee, Maurice
    Perry, Bliss
    _Personality and Conduct_
    Phelps, Wm. Lyon
    Phillips, David Graham
    Poe, Edgar Allan
    _Poetic Principle, The_
    _Poetry: a Magazine of Verse_
    Porter, Eleanor H.
    Pound, Ezra
    Prescott, W. H.

    Ransome, Arthur
    Rathenau, Walther von
    Reading, Lordx
    Reese, Lizette Woodworth
    Repplier, Agnes
    Ricardo, David
    _Ride of the Valkyrie, The_
    Rideout, Henry Milner
    Riley, James Whitcomb
    Rinehart, Mary Roberts
    Rockefeller, John D.
    Rolland, Romain
    Roosevelt, Theodore
    Rossetti, Christina

    Saintsbury, George
    Sandburg, Carl
    Sargent, John
    _Saturday Evening Post_
    Scheffauer, Herman George
    Schubert, Franz
    Schumann, Robert
    Shakespeare, Wm.
    Shaw, George Bernard
    _Shelburne Essays_
    Sherman, S. P.
    Sisson documents
    Spingarn, J. E.
    Stanton, Frank L.
    Stearns, Harold
    _Sterbelied, Das_
    Sterling, George
    Stratton-Porter, Gene
    Strauss, Johann
    Strauss, Richard
    Strawinsky, Igor
    Sudermann, Hermann
    Sumner, William Graham
    Sunday, Billy

    Tarkington, Booth
    Teasdale, Sara
    _Tendencies in Modern American Poetry_
    Thayer, William Roscoe
    _Theodore Roosevelt_
    Thomas, Augustus
    Thoreau, Henry David
    _Times Book Review,_ New York
    Townsend, E. W.

    Vance, Louis Joseph
    _Vandover and the Brute_
    Van Dyke, Henry
    van Dyke, John C.
    Van Vechten, Carl
    Veblen, Thorstein

    Wagner, Richard
    Walpole, Hugh
    Weber, F. Parkes
    Webster, Noah
    Wellman, Rita
    Wells, H. G.
    Wendell, Barrett
    Wharton, Edith
    _What Every Young Husband Should Know_
    _What is Man?_
    Whitman, Stephen French
    Whitman, Walt
    Whittier, J. G.
    Wilcox, Ella Wheeler
    Willis, N. P.
    Wilson, Harry Leon
    Wilson, Woodrow
    Wister, Owen
    Woodberry, George, E.
    Wright, Harold Bell

    Zangwill, Israel

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