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Title: Prejudices, Third Series
Author: Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis)
Language: English
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    1. The Life of Man
    2. The Anthropomorphic Delusion
    3. Meditation on Meditation
    4. Man and His Soul
    5. Coda




    1. Abraham Lincoln
    2. Paul Elmer More
    3. Madison Cawein
    4. Frank Harris
    5. Havelock Ellis







    1. The Romantic
    2. The Skeptic
    3. The Believer
    4. The Worker
    5. The Physician
    6. The Scientist
    7. The Business Man
    8. The King
    9. The Average Man
    10. The Truth-Seeker
    11. The Pacifist
    12. The Relative
    13. The Friend



    1. Le Contrat Social
    2. On Minorities



    1. To Him That Hath
    2. The Venerable Examined
    3. Duty
    4. Martyrs
    5. The Disabled Veteran
    6. Patriotism


    1. Aspiration
    2. Virtue
    3. Eminence




Apparently there are those who begin to find it disagreeable--nay,
impossible. Their anguish fills the Liberal weeklies, and every ship
that puts out from New York carries a groaning cargo of them, bound
for Paris, London, Munich, Rome and way points--anywhere to escape the
great curses and atrocities that make life intolerable for them at
home. Let me say at once that I find little to cavil at in their basic
complaints. In more than one direction, indeed, I probably go a great
deal further than even the Young Intellectuals. It is, for example,
one of my firmest and most sacred beliefs, reached after an inquiry
extending over a score of years and supported by incessant prayer
and meditation, that the government of the United States, in both
its legislative arm and its executive arm, is ignorant, incompetent,
corrupt, and disgusting--and from this judgment I except no more than
twenty living lawmakers and no more than twenty executioners of their
laws. It is a belief no less piously cherished that the administration
of justice in the Republic is stupid, dishonest, and against all
reason and equity--and from this judgment I except no more than thirty
judges, including two upon the bench of the Supreme Court of the United
States. It is another that the foreign policy of the United States--its
habitual manner of dealing with other nations, whether friend or
foe--is hypocritical, disingenuous, knavish, and dishonorable--and from
this judgment I consent to no exceptions whatever, either recent or
long past. And it is my fourth (and, to avoid too depressing a bill,
final) conviction that the American people, taking one with another,
constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob
of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom
since the end of the Middle Ages, and that they grow more timorous,
more sniveling, more poltroonish, more ignominious every day.

So far I go with the fugitive Young Intellectuals--and into the
Bad Lands beyond. Such, in brief, are the cardinal articles of my
political faith, held passionately since my admission to citizenship
and now growing stronger and stronger as I gradually disintegrate
into my component carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, calcium,
sodium, nitrogen and iron. This is what I believe and preach, _in
nomine Domini,_ Amen. Yet I remain on the dock, wrapped in the flag,
when the Young Intellectuals set sail. Yet here I stand, unshaken and
undespairing, a loyal and devoted Americano, even a chauvinist, paying
taxes without complaint, obeying all laws that are physiologically
obeyable, accepting all the searching duties and responsibilities
of citizenship unprotestingly investing the sparse usufructs of my
miserable toil in the obligations of the nation, avoiding all commerce
with men sworn to overthrow the government, contributing my mite toward
the glory of the national arts and sciences, enriching and embellishing
the native language, spurning all lures (and even all invitations) to
get out and stay out--here am I, a bachelor of easy means, forty-two
years old, unhampered by debts or issue, able to go wherever I please
and to stay as long as I please--here am I, contentedly and even smugly
basking beneath the Stars and Stripes, a better citizen, I daresay,
and certainly a less murmurous and exigent one, than thousands who
put the Hon. Warren Gamaliel Harding beside Friedrich Barbarossa and
Charlemagne, android the Supreme Court to be directly inspired by the
Holy Spirit, and belong ardently to every Rotary Club, Ku Klux Klan,
and Anti-Saloon League, and choke with emotion when the band plays "The
Star-Spangled Banner," and believe with the faith of little children
that one of Our Boys, taken at random, could dispose in a fair fight
of ten Englishmen, twenty Germans, thirty Frogs, forty Wops, fifty
Japs, or a hundred Bolsheviki.

Well, then, why am I still here? Why am I so complacent (perhaps even
to the point of offensiveness), so free from bile, so little fretting
and indignant, so curiously happy? Why did I answer only with a few
academic "Hear, Hears" when Henry James, Ezra Pound, Harold Stearns and
the _emigrés_ of Greenwich Village issued their successive calls to the
corn-fed _intelligentsia_ to flee the shambles, escape to fairer lands,
throw off the curse forever? The answer, of course, is to be sought in
the nature of happiness, which tempts to metaphysics. But let me keep
upon the ground. To me, at least (and I can only follow my own nose)
happiness presents itself in an aspect that is tripartite. To be happy
(reducing the thing to its elementals) I must be:

    _a._ Well-fed, unhounded by sordid cares, at ease in Zion.

    _b._ Full of a comfortable feeling of superiority to the
    masses of my fellow-men.

    _c._ Delicately and unceasingly amused according to my taste.

It is my contention that, if this definition be accepted, there is no
country on the face of the earth wherein a man roughly constituted
as I am--a man of my general weaknesses, vanities, appetites,
prejudices, and aversions--can be so happy, or even one-half so happy,
as he can be in these free and independent states. Going further, I
lay down the proposition that it is a sheer physical impossibility
for such a man to live in These States and _not_ be happy--that it
is as impossible to him as it would be to a schoolboy to weep over
the burning down of his school-house. If he says that he isn't happy
here, then he either lies or is insane. Here the business of getting a
living, particularly since the war brought the loot of all Europe to
the national strong-box, is enormously easier than it is in any other
Christian land--so easy, in fact, that an educated and forhanded man
who fails at it must actually make, deliberate efforts to that end.
Here the general average of intelligence, of knowledge, of competence,
of integrity, of self-respect, of honor is so low that any man who
knows his trade, does not fear ghosts, has read fifty good books, and
practices the common decencies stands out as brilliantly as a wart on
a bald head, and is thrown willy-nilly into a meager and exclusive
aristocracy. And here, more than anywhere else that I know of or
have heard of, the daily panorama of human existence, of private and
communal folly--the unending procession of governmental extortions
and chicaneries, of commercial brigandages and throat-slittings, of
theological buffooneries, of æsthetic ribaldries, of legal swindles
and harlotries, of miscellaneous rogueries, villainies, imbecilities,
grotesqueries, and extravagances--is so inordinately gross and
preposterous, so perfectly brought up to the highest conceivable
amperage, so steadily enriched with an almost fabulous daring and
originality, that only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm
can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night, and to awake every
morning with all the eager, unflagging expectation of a Sunday-school
superintendent touring the Paris peep-shows.

A certain sough rhetoric may be here. Perhaps I yield to words as a
chautauqua lecturer yields to them, belaboring and fermenting the
hinds with his Message from the New Jerusalem. But fundamentally I am
quite as sincere as he is. For example, in the matter of attaining to
ease in Zion, of getting a fair share of the national swag, now piled
so mountainously high. It seems to me, sunk in my Egyptian night,
that the man who fails to do this in the United States to-day is a
man who is somehow stupid---maybe not on the surface, but certainly
deep down. Either he is one who cripples himself unduly, say by
setting up a family before he can care for it, or by making a bad
bargain for the sale of his wares, or by concerning himself too much
about the affairs of other men; or he is one who endeavors fatuously
to sell something that no normal American wants. Whenever I hear a
professor of philosophy complain that his wife has eloped with some
moving-picture actor or bootlegger who can at least feed and clothe
her, my natural sympathy for the man is greatly corrupted by contempt
for his lack of sense. Would it be regarded as sane and laudable for
a man to travel the Soudan trying to sell fountain-pens, or Greenland
offering to teach double-entry bookkeeping or counterpoint Coming
closer, would the judicious pity or laugh at a man who opened a shop
for the sale of incunabula in Little Rock, Ark., or who demanded a
living in McKeesport, Pa., on the ground that he could read Sumerian?
In precisely the same way it seems to me to be nonsensical for a man
to offer generally some commodity that only a few rare and dubious
Americans want, and then weep and beat his breast because he is not
patronized. One seeking to make a living in a country must pay due
regard to the needs and tastes of that country. Here in the United
States we have no jobs for grand dukes, and none for _Wirkliche
Geheimräte,_ and none for palace eunuchs, and none for masters of the
buck-hounds, and none (any more) for brewery _Todsaufer_--and very few
for oboe-players, metaphysicians, astrophysicists, assyriologists,
water-colorists, stylites and epic poets. There was a time when the
_Todsaufer_ served a public need and got an adequate reward, but it is
no more. There may come a time when the composer of string quartettes
is paid as much as a railway conductor, but it is not yet. Then why
practice such trades--that is, as trades? The man of independent
means may venture into them prudently; when he does so, he is seldom
molested; it may even be argued that he performs a public service by
adopting them. But the man who has a living to make is simply silly
if he goes into them; he is like a soldier going over the top with a
coffin strapped to his back. Let him abandon such puerile vanities, and
take to the uplift instead, as, indeed, thousands of other victims of
the industrial system have already _done._ Let him bear in mind that,
whatever its neglect of the humanities and their monks, the Republic
has never got half enough bond salesmen, quack doctors, ward leaders,
phrenologists, Methodist evangelists, circus clowns, magicians,
soldiers, farmers, popular song writers, moonshine distillers, forgers
of gin labels, mine guard, detectives, spies, snoopers, and _agents
provocateurs._ The rules are set by Omnipotence; the discreet man
observes them. Observing them, he is safe beneath the starry bed-tick,
in fair weather or foul. The _boobus Americanus_ is a bird that knows
no closed season--and if he won't come down to Texas oil stock, or
one-night cancer cures, or building lots in Swampshurst, he will always
come down to Inspiration and Optimism, whether political, theological,
pedagogical, literary, or economic.

The doctrine that it is _infra digitatem_ for an educated man to take
a hand in the snaring of this goose is one in which I see nothing
convincing. It is a doctrine chiefly voiced, I believe, by those
who have tried the business and failed. They take refuge behind the
childish notion that there is something honorable about poverty _per
se_--the Greenwich Village complex. This is nonsense. Poverty may be
an unescapable misfortune, but that no more makes it honorable than
a cocked eye is made honorable by the same cause. Do I advocate,
then, the ceaseless, senseless hogging of money? I do not. All I
advocate--and praise as virtuous--is the hogging of enough to provide
security and ease. Despite all the romantic superstitions to the
contrary, the artist cannot do his best work when he is oppressed by
unsatisfied wants. Nor can the philosopher. Nor can the man of science.
The best and clearest thinking of the world is done and the finest art
is produced, not by men who are hungry, ragged and harassed, but by men
who are well-fed, warm and easy in mind. It is the artist's first duty
to his art to achieve that tranquility for himself. Shakespeare tried
to achieve it; so did Beethoven, Wagner, Brahms, Ibsen and Balzac.
Goethe, Schopenhauer, Schumann and Mendelssohn were born to it. Joseph
Conrad, Richard Strauss and Anatole France have got it for themselves
in our own day. In the older countries, where competence is far more
general and competition is thus more sharp, the thing is often cruelly
difficult, and sometimes almost impossible. But in the United States
it is absurdly easy, given ordinary luck. Any man with a superior air,
the intelligence of a stockbroker, and the resolution of a hat-check
girl--in brief, any man who believes in himself enough, and with
sufficient cause, to be called a journeyman--can cadge enough money, in
this glorious commonwealth of morons, to make life soft for him.

And if a lining for the purse is thus facilely obtainable, given a
reasonable prudence and resourcefulness, then balm for the ego is just
as unlaboriously got, given ordinary dignity and decency. Simply to
exist, indeed, on the plane of a civilized man is to attain, in the
Republic, to a distinction that should be enough for all save the most
vain; it is even likely to be too much, as the frequent challenges of
the Ku Klux Klan, the American Legion, the Anti-Saloon League, and
other such vigilance committees of the majority testify. Here is a
country in which all political thought and activity are concentrated
upon the scramble for jobs--in which the normal politician, whether he
be a President or a village road supervisor, is willing to renounce
any principle, however precious to him, and to adopt any lunacy,
however offensive to him, in order to keep his place at the trough.
Go into politics, then, without seeking or wanting office, and at once
you are as conspicuous as a red-haired blackamoor--in fact, a great
deal more conspicuous, for red-haired blackamoors have been seen, but
who has ever seen or heard of an American politician, Democrat or
Republican, Socialist or Liberal, Whig or Tory, who did not itch for a
job? Again, here is a country in which it is an axiom that a business
man shall be a member of a Chamber of Commerce, an admirer of Charles
M. Schwab, a reader of the _Saturday Evening Post,_ a golfer--in
brief, a vegetable. Spend your hours of escape from _Geschäft_ reading
Remy de Gourmont or practicing the violoncello, and the local Sunday
newspaper will infallibly find you out and hymn the marvel--nay, your
banker will summon you to discuss your notes, and your rivals will
spread the report (probably truthful) that you were pro-German during
the war. Yet again, here is a land in which women rule and men are
slaves. Train your women to get your slippers for you, and your ill
fame will match Galileo's or Darwin's. Once more, here is the Paradise
of back-slappers, of democrats, of mixers, of go-getters. Maintain
ordinary reserve, and you will arrest instant attention--and have your
hand kissed by multitudes who, despite democracy, have all the inferior
man's unquenchable desire to grovel and admire.

Nowhere else in the world is superiority more easily attained or more
eagerly admitted. The chief business of the nation, as a nation, is
the setting up of heroes, mainly bogus. It admired the literary style
of the late Woodrow; it respects the theological passion of Bryan; it
venerates J. Pierpont Morgan; it takes Congress seriously; it would be
unutterably shocked by the proposition (with proof) that a majority of
its judges are ignoramuses, and that a respectable minority of them
are scoundrels. The manufacture of artificial _Durchlauchten, k.k.
Hoheiten_ and even gods goes on feverishly and incessantly; the will
to worship never flags. Ten iron-molders meet in the back-room of a
near-beer saloon, organize a lodge of the Noble and Mystic Order of
American Rosicrucians, and elect a wheelwright Supreme Worthy Whimwham;
a month later they send a notice to the local newspaper that they
have been greatly honored by an official visit from that Whimwham,
and that they plan to give him a jeweled fob for his watch-chain. The
chief national heroes--Lincoln, Lee, and so on--cannot remain mere
men. The mysticism of the mediæval peasantry gets into the communal
view of them, and they begin to sprout haloes and wings. As I say, no
intrinsic merit--at least, none commensurate with the mob estimate--is
needed to come to such august dignities. Everything American is a bit
amateurish and childish, even the national gods. The most conspicuous
and respected American in nearly every field of endeavor, saving only
the purely commercial (I exclude even the financial) is a man who would
attract little attention in any other country. The leading American
critic of literature, after twenty years of diligent exposition of his
ideas, has yet to make it clear what he is in favor of, and why. The
queen of the _haut monde,_ in almost every American city, is a woman
who regards Lord Reading as an aristocrat and her superior, and whose
grandfather slept in his underclothes. The leading American musical
director, if he went to Leipzig, would be put to polishing trombones
and copying drum parts. The chief living American military man--the
national heir to Frederick, Marlborough, Wellington, Washington and
Prince Eugene--is a member of the Elks, and proud of it. The leading
American philosopher (now dead, with no successor known to the average
pedagogue) spent a lifetime erecting an epistemological defense for the
national æsthetic maxim: "I don't know nothing about music, but I know
what I like." The most eminent statesman the United States has produced
since Lincoln was fooled by Arthur James Balfour, and miscalculated
his public support by more than 5,000,000 votes. And the current
Chief Magistrate of the nation--its defiant substitute for czar and
kaiser--is a small-town printer who, when he wishes to enjoy himself
in the Executive Mansion, invites in a homeopathic doctor, a Seventh
Day Adventist evangelist, and a couple of moving-picture actresses.


All of which may be boiled down to this: that the United States is
essentially a commonwealth of third-rate men--that distinction is easy
here because the general level of culture, of information, of taste and
judgment, of ordinary competence is so low. No sane man, employing an
American plumber to repair a leaky drain, would expect him to do it at
the first trial, and in precisely the same way no sane man, observing
an American Secretary of State in negotiation with Englishmen and Japs,
would expect him to come off better than second best. Third-rate men,
of course, exist in all countries, but it is only here that they are in
full control of the state, and with it of all the national standards.
The land was peopled, not by the hardy adventurers of legend, but
simply by incompetents who could not get on at home, and the lavishness
of nature that they found here, the vast ease with which they could
get livings, confirmed and augmented their native incompetence. No
American colonist, even in the worst days of the Indian wars, ever had
to face such hardships as ground down the peasants of Central Europe
during the Hundred Years War, nor even such hardships as oppressed the
English lower classes during the century before the Reform Bill of
1832. In most of the colonies, indeed, he seldom saw any Indians at
all: the one thing that made life difficult for him was his congenital
dunderheadedness. The winning of the West, so rhetorically celebrated
in American romance, cost the lives of fewer men than the single
battle of Tannenberg, and the victory was much easier and surer. The
immigrants who have come in since those early days have been, if
anything, of even lower grade than their forerunners. The old notion
that the United States is peopled by the offspring of brave, idealistic
and liberty loving minorities, who revolted against injustice, bigotry
and mediævalism at home--this notion is fast succumbing to the alarmed
study that has been given of late to the immigration of recent years.
The truth is that the majority of non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants since the
Revolution, like the majority of Anglo-Saxon immigrants before the
Revolution, have been, not the superior men of their native lands,
but the botched and unfit: Irishmen starving to death in Ireland,
Germans unable to weather the _Sturm und Drang_ of the post-Napoleonic
reorganization, Italians weed-grown on exhausted soil, Scandinavians
run to all bone and no brain, Jews too incompetent to swindle even
the barbarous peasants of Russia, Poland and Roumania. Here and
there among the immigrants, of course, there may be a bravo, or even
a superman--e. g., the ancestors of Volstead, Ponzi, Jack Dempsey,
Schwab, Daugherty, Debs, Pershing--but the average newcomer is, and
always has been simply a poor fish.

Nor is there much soundness in the common assumption, so beloved of
professional idealists and wind-machines, that the people of America
constitute "the youngest of the great peoples." The phrase turns up
endlessly; the average newspaper editorial writer would be hamstrung if
the Postoffice suddenly interdicted it, as it interdicted "the right to
rebel" during the war. What gives it a certain specious plausibility is
the fact that the American Republic, compared to a few other existing
governments, is relatively young. But the American Republic is not
necessarily identical with the American people; they might overturn
it to-morrow and set up a monarchy, and still remain the same people.
The truth is that, as a distinct nation, they go back fully three
hundred years, and that even their government is older than that of
most other nations, e. g., France, Italy, Germany, Russia. Moreover,
it is absurd to say that there is anything properly describable as
youthfulness in the American outlook. It is not that of young men, but
that of old men. All the characteristics of senescence are in it: a
great distrust of ideas, an habitual timorousness, a harsh fidelity
to a few fixed beliefs, a touch of mysticism. The average American is
a prude and a Methodist under his skin, and the fact is never more
evident than when he is trying to disprove it. His vices are not those
of a healthy boy, but those of an ancient paralytic escaped from the
_Greisenheim._ If you would penetrate to the causes thereof, simply
go down to Ellis Island and look at the next shipload of immigrants.
You will not find the spring of youth in their step; you will find the
shuffling of exhausted men. From such exhausted men the American stock
has sprung. It was easier for them to survive here than it was where
they came from, but that ease, though it made them feel stronger, did
not actually strengthen them. It left them what they were when they
came: weary peasants, eager only for the comfortable security of a
pig in a sty. Out of that eagerness has issued many of the noblest
manifestations of American _Kultur:_ the national hatred of war, the
pervasive suspicion of the aims and intents of all other nations, the
short way with heretics and disturbers of the peace, the unshakable
belief in devils, the implacable hostility to every novel idea and
point of view.

All these ways of thinking are the marks of the peasant--more, of the
peasant long ground into the mud of his wallow, and determined at last
to stay there--the peasant who has definitely renounced any lewd
desire he may have ever had to gape at the stars. The habits of mind of
this dull, sempiternal _fellah_--the oldest man in Christendom--are,
with a few modifications, the habits of mind of the American people.
The peasant has a great practical cunning, but he is unable to see
any further than the next farm. He likes money and knows how to amass
property, but his cultural development is but little above that of
the domestic animals. He is intensely and cocksurely moral, but his
morality and his self-interest are crudely identical. He is emotional
and easy to scare, but his imagination cannot grasp an abstraction.
He is a violent nationalist and patriot, but he admires rogues in
office and always beats the tax-collector if he can. He has immovable
opinions about all the great affairs of state, but nine-tenths of them
are sheer imbecilities. He is violently jealous of what he conceives
to be his rights, but brutally disregardful of the other fellow's. He
is religious, but his religion is wholly devoid of beauty and dignity.
This man, whether city or country bred, is the normal Americano--the
100 per cent. Methodist, Odd Fellow, Ku Kluxer, and Know Nothing.
He exists in all countries, but here alone he rules--here alone his
anthropoid fears and rages are accepted gravely as logical ideas, and
dissent from them is punished as a sort of public offense. Around every
one of his principal delusions--of the sacredness of democracy, of the
feasibility of sumptuary law, of the incurable sinfulness of all other
peoples, of the menace of ideas, of the corruption lying in all the
arts--there is thrown a barrier of taboos, and woe to the anarchist who
seeks to break it down!

The multiplication of such taboos is obviously not characteristic of
a culture that is moving from a lower plane to a higher--that is, of
a culture still in the full glow of its youth. It is a sign, rather,
of a culture that is slipping downhill--one that is reverting to the
most primitive standards and ways of thought. The taboo, indeed, is the
trade-mark of the savage, and wherever it exists it is a relentless
and effective enemy of civilized enlightenment. The savage is the most
meticulously moral of men; there is scarcely an act of his daily life
that is not conditioned by unyielding prohibitions and obligations,
most of them logically unintelligible. The mob-man, a savage set
amid civilization, cherishes a code of the same draconian kind. He
believes firmly that right and wrong are immovable things--that they
have an actual and unchangeable existence, and that any challenge
of them, by word or act, is a crime against society. And with the
concept of wrongness, of course, he always confuses the concept of mere
differentness--to him the two are indistinguishable. Anything strange
is to be combatted; it is of the Devil. The mob-man cannot grasp ideas
in their native nakedness. They must be dramatized and personalized
for him, and provided with either white wings or forked tails. All
discussion of them, to interest him, must take the form of a pursuit
and scotching of demons. He cannot think of a heresy without thinking
of a heretic to be caught, condemned, and burned.

The Fathers of the Republic, I am convinced, had a great deal more
prevision than even their most romantic worshipers give them credit
for. They not only sought to create a governmental machine that would
be safe from attack without; they also sought to create one that would
be safe from attack within. They invented very ingenious devices for
holding the mob in check, for protecting the national polity against
its transient and illogical rages, for securing the determination
of all the larger matters of state to a concealed but none the less
real aristocracy. Nothing could have been further from the intent
of Washington, Hamilton and even Jefferson than that the official
doctrines of the nation, in the year 1922, should be identical with the
nonsense heard in the chautauqua, from the evangelical pulpit, and on
the stump. But Jackson and his merry men broke through the barbed wires
thus so carefully strung, and ever since 1825 _vox populi_ has been
the true voice of the nation. To-day there is no longer any question
of statesmanship, in any real sense, in our politics. The only way to
success in American public life lies in flattering and kowtowing to the
mob. A candidate for office, even the highest, must either adopt its
current manias _en bloc,_ or convince it hypocritically that he has
done so, while cherishing reservations _in petto._ The result is that
only two sorts of men stand any chance whatever of getting into actual
control of affairs--first, glorified mob-men who genuinely believe
what the mob believes, and secondly, shrewd fellows who are willing
to make any sacrifice of conviction and self-respect in order to hold
their jobs. One finds perfect examples of the first class in Jackson
and Bryan. One finds hundreds of specimens of the second among the
politicians who got themselves so affectingly converted to Prohibition,
and who voted and blubbered for it with flasks in their pockets. Even
on the highest planes our politics seems to be incurable mountebankish.
The same Senators who raised such raucous alarms against the League of
Nations voted for the Disarmament Treaty--a far more obvious surrender
to English hegemony. And the same Senators who pleaded for the League
on the ground that its failure would break the heart of the world were
eloquently against the treaty. The few men who maintained a consistent
course in both cases, voting either for or against both League and
treaty, were denounced by the newspapers as deliberate marplots,
and found their constituents rising against them. To such an extent
had the public become accustomed to buncombe that simple honesty was
incomprehensible to it, and hence abhorrent!

As I have pointed out in a previous work, this dominance of mob ways
of thinking, this pollution of the whole intellectual life of the
country by the prejudices and emotions of the rabble, goes unchallenged
because the old landed aristocracy of the colonial era has been
engulfed and almost obliterated by the rise of the industrial system,
and no new aristocracy has arisen to take its place, and discharge its
highly necessary functions. An upper class, of course, exists, and of
late it has tended to increase in power, but it is culturally almost
indistinguishable from the mob: it lacks absolutely anything even
remotely resembling an aristocratic point of view. One searches in vain
for any sign of the true _Junker_ spirit in the Vanderbilts, Astors,
Morgans, Garys, and other such earls and dukes of the plutocracy; their
culture, like their aspiration, remains that of the pawnshop. One
searches in vain, too for the aloof air of the don, in the official
_intelligentsia_ of the American universities; they are timorous and
orthodox, and constitute a reptile Congregatio de Propaganda Fide to
match Bismarck's _Reptilienpresse._ Everywhere else on earth, despite
the rise of democracy, an organized minority of aristocrats survives
from a more spacious day, and if its personnel has degenerated and its
legal powers have decayed it has at least maintained some vestige of
its old independence of spirit, and jealously guarded its old right to
be heard without risk of penalty. Even in England, where the peerage
has been debauched to the level of a political baptismal fount for
Jewish money-lenders and Wesleyan soap-boilers, there is sanctuary for
the old order in the two ancient universities, and a lingering respect
for it in the peasantry. But in the United States it was paralyzed by
Jackson and got its death blow from Grant, and since then no successor
to it has been evolved. Thus there is no organized force to oppose the
irrational vagaries of the mob. The legislative and executive arms of
the government yield to them without resistance; the judicial arm has
begun to yield almost as supinely, particularly when they take the form
of witch-hunts; outside the official circle there is no opposition
that is even dependably articulate. The worst excesses go almost
without challenge. Discussion, when it is heard at all, is feeble and
superficial, and girt about by the taboos that I have mentioned. The
clatter about the so-called Ku Klux Klan, two or three years ago, was
typical. The astounding program of this organization was discussed
in the newspapers for months on end, and a committee of Congress sat
in solemn state to investigate it, and yet not a single newspaper
or Congressman, so far as I am aware, so much as mentioned the most
patent and important fact about it, to wit, that the Ku Klux was, to
all intents and purposes, simply the secular arm of the Methodist
Church, and that its methods were no more than physical projections
of the familiar extravagances of the Anti-Saloon League. The intimate
relations between church and Klan, amounting almost to identity, must
have been plain to every intelligent American, and yet the taboo upon
the realistic consideration of ecclesiastical matters was sufficient to
make every public soothsayer disregard it completely.

I often wonder, indeed, if there would be any intellectual life at
all in the United States if it were not for the steady importation
in bulk of ideas from abroad, and particularly, in late years, from
England. What would become of the average American scholar if he could
not borrow wholesale from English scholars? How could an inquisitive
youth get beneath the surface of our politics if it were not for such
anatomists as Bryce? Who would show our statesmen the dotted lines
for their signatures if there were no Balfours and Lloyd-Georges? How
could our young professors formulate æsthetic judgments, especially
in the field of letters, if it were not for such gifted English
mentors as Robertson Nicoll, Squire and Clutton-Brock? By what process,
finally, would the true style of a visiting card be determined, and
the _höflich_ manner of eating artichokes, if there were no reports
from Mayfair? On certain levels this naïve subservience must needs
irritate every self-respecting American, and even dismay him. When he
recalls the amazing feats of the English war propagandists between
1914 and 1917--and their even more amazing confessions of method
since--he is apt to ask himself quite gravely if he belongs to a free
nation or to a crown colony. The thing was done openly, shamelessly,
contemptuously, cynically, and yet it was a gigantic success. The
office of the American Secretary of State, from the end of Bryan's
grotesque incumbency to the end of the Wilson administration, was
little more than an antechamber of the British Foreign Office. Dr.
Wilson himself, in the conduct of his policy, differed only legally
from such colonial premiers as Hughes and Smuts. Even after the United
States got into the war it was more swagger for a Young American blood
to wear the British uniform than the American uniform. No American
ever seriously questions an Englishman or Englishwoman of official or
even merely fashionable position at home. Lord Birkenhead was accepted
as a gentleman everywhere in the United States; Mrs. Asquith's almost
unbelievable imbecilities were heard with hushed fascination; even
Lady Astor, an American married to an expatriate German-American
turned English viscount, was greeted with solemn effusiveness. During
the latter part of 1917, when New York swarmed with British military
missions, I observed in _Town Topics_ a polite protest against a very
significant habit of certain of their gallant members: that of going
to dances wearing spurs, and so macerating the frocks and heels of the
fawning fair. The protest, it appears, was not voiced by the hosts and
hostesses of these singular officers: they would have welcomed their
guests in trench boots. It was left to a dubious weekly, and it was
made very gingerly.

The spectacle, as I say, has a way of irking the American touched by
nationalistic weakness. Ever since the day of Lowell--even since the
day of Cooper and Irving--there have been denunciations of it. But
however unpleasant it may be, there is no denying that a chain of
logical causes lies behind it, and that they are not to be disposed of
by objecting to them. The average American of the Anglo-Saxon majority,
in truth, is simply a second-rate Englishman, and so it is no wonder
that he is spontaneously servile, despite all his democratic denial of
superiorities, to what he conceives to be first-rate Englishmen. He
corresponds, roughly, to an English Nonconformist of the better-fed
variety, and he shows all the familiar characters of the breed. He is
truculent and cocksure, and yet he knows how to take off his hat when
a bishop of the Establishment passes. He is hot against the dukes, and
yet the notice of a concrete duke is a singing in his heart. It seems
to me that this inferior Anglo-Saxon is losing his old dominance in
the United States--that is, biologically But he will keep his cultural
primacy for a long, long while, in spite of the overwhelming inrush
of men of other races, if only because those newcomers are even more
clearly inferior than he is. Nine-tenths of the Italians, for example,
who have come to these shores in late years have brought no more of the
essential culture of Italy with them than so many horned cattle would
have brought. If they become civilized at all, settling here, it is
the civilization of the Anglo-Saxon majority that they acquire, which
is to say, the civilization of the English second table. So with the
Germans, the Scandinavians, and even the Jews and Irish. The Germans,
taking one with another, are on the cultural level of green-grocers. I
have come into contact with a great many of them since 1914, some of
them of considerable wealth and even of fashionable pretensions. In the
whole lot I can think of but a score or two who could name offhand the
principal works of Thomas Mann, Otto Julius Bierbaum, Ludwig Thoma or
Hugo von Hofmannsthal. They know much more about Mutt and Jeff than
they know about Goethe. The Scandinavians are even worse. The majority
of them are mere clods, and they are sucked into the Knights of
Pythias, the chautauqua and the Methodist Church almost as soon as they
land; it is by no means a mere accident that the national Prohibition
Enforcement Act bears the name of a man theoretically of the blood of
Gustavus Vasa, Svend of the Forked Beard, and Eric the Red. The Irish
in the United States are scarcely touched by the revival of Irish
culture, despite their melodramatic concern with Irish politics. During
the war they supplied diligent and dependable agents to the Anglo-Saxon
White Terror, and at all times they are very susceptible to political
and social bribery. As for the Jews, they change their names to Burton,
Thompson and Cecil in order to qualify as true Americans, and when they
are accepted and rewarded in the national coin they renounce Moses
altogether and get themselves baptized in St. Bartholomew's Church.

Whenever ideas enter the United States from without they come by way of
England. What the London _Times_ says to-day, about Ukranian politics,
the revolt in India, a change of ministry in Italy, the character of
the King of Norway, the oil situation in Mesopotamia, will be said
week after next by the _Times_ of New York, and a month or two later
by all the other American newspapers. The extent of this control of
American opinion by English news mongers is but little appreciated in
the United States, even by professional journalists. Fully four-fifths
of all the foreign news that comes to the American newspapers comes
through London, and most of the rest is supplied either by Englishmen
or by Jews (often American-born) who maintain close relations with
the English. During the years 1914-1917 so many English agents got
into Germany in the guise of American correspondents--sometimes with
the full knowledge of their Anglomaniac American employers--that
the Germans, just before the United States entered the war, were
considering barring American correspondents from their country
altogether. I was in Copenhagen and Basel in 1917, and found both
towns--each an important source of war news--full of Jews representing
American journals as a side-line to more delicate and confidential work
for the English department of press propaganda. Even to-day a very
considerable proportion of the American correspondents in Europe are
strongly under English influences, and in the Far East the proportion
is probably still larger. But these men seldom handle really important
news. All that is handled from London, and by trustworthy Britons. Such
of it as is not cabled directly to the American newspapers and press
associations is later clipped from English newspapers, and printed as
bogus letters or cablegrams.

The American papers accept such very dubious stuff, not chiefly because
they are hopelessly stupid or Anglomaniac, but because they find it
impossible to engage competent American correspondents. If the native
journalists who discuss our domestic politics avoid the fundamentals
timorously, then those who venture to discuss foreign politics are
scarcely aware of the fundamentals at all. We have simply developed no
class of experts in such matters. No man comparable, say to Dr. Dillon,
Wickham Steed, Count zu Reventlow or Wilfrid Scawen Blunt exists in
the United States. When, in the Summer of 1920, the editors of the
Baltimore _Sun_ undertook plans to cover the approaching Disarmament
Conference at Washington in a comprehensive and intelligent manner,
they were forced, willy-nilly, into employing Englishmen to do the
work. Such men as Brailsford and Bywater, writing from London, three
thousand miles away, were actually better able to interpret the work
of the conference than American correspondents on the spot, few of
whom were capable of anything beyond the most trivial gossip. During
the whole period of the conference not a professional Washington
correspondent--the flower of American political journalism--wrote
a single article upon the proceedings that got further than their
surface aspects. Before the end of the sessions this enforced
dependence upon English opinion had an unexpected and significant
result. Facing the English and the Japs in an unyielding alliance,
the French turned to the American delegation for assistance. The
issue specifically before the conference was one on which American
self-interest was obviously identical with French self-interest.
Nevertheless, the English had such firm grip upon the machinery of news
distribution that they were able, in less than a week, to turn American
public opinion against the French, and even to set up an active
Francophobia. No American, not even any of the American delegates,
was able to cope with their propaganda. They not only dominated the
conference and pushed through a set of treaties that were extravagantly
favorable to England; they even established the doctrine that all
opposition to those treaties was immoral!

When Continental ideas, whether in politics, in metaphysics or in the
fine arts, penetrate to the United States they nearly always travel
by way of England. Emerson did not read Goethe; he read Carlyle. The
American people, from the end of 1914 to the end of 1918, did not
read first-handed statements of the German case; they read English
interpretations of those statements. In London is the clearing house
and transformer station. There the latest notions from the mainland are
sifted out, carefully diluted with English water, and put into neat
packages for the Yankee trade. The English not only get a chance to
ameliorate or embellish; they also determine very largely what ideas
Americans are to hear of at all. Whatever fails to interest them, or
is in any way obnoxious to them, is not likely to cross the ocean.
This explains why it is that most literate Americans are so densely
ignorant of many Continentals who have been celebrated at home for
years, for example, Huysmans, Hartleben, Vaibinger, Merezhkovsky,
Keyserling, Snoilsky, Mauthner, Altenberg, Heidenstam, Alfred Kerr. It
also explains why they so grossly overestimate various third-raters,
laughed at at home, for example, Brieux. These fellows simply happen to
interest the English _intelligentsia,_ and are thus palmed off upon the
gaping colonists of Yankeedom. In the case of Brieux the hocus-pocus
was achieved by one man, George Bernard Shaw, a Scotch blue-nose
disguised as an Irish patriot and English soothsayer. Shaw, at bottom,
has the ideas of a Presbyterian elder, and so the moral frenzy of
Brieux enchanted him. Whereupon he retired to his chamber, wrote a
flaming Brieuxiad for the American trade, and founded the late vogue of
the French Dr. Sylvanus Stall on this side of the ocean.

This wholesale import and export business in Continental fancies is of
no little benefit, of course, to the generality of Americans. If it
did not exist they would probably never hear of many of the salient
Continentals at all, for the obvious incompetence of most of the
native and resident introducers of intellectual ambassadors makes them
suspicious even of those who, like Boyd and Nathan, are thoroughly
competent. To this day there is no American translation of the plays of
Ibsen; we use the William Archer Scotch-English translations, most of
them atrociously bad, but still better than nothing. So with the works
of Nietzsche, Anatole France, Georg Brandes, Turgeniev, Dostoyevsky,
Tolstoi, and other moderns after their kind. I can think of but one
important exception: the work of Gerhart Hauptmann, done into English
by and under the supervision of Ludwig Lewisohn. But even here Lewisohn
used a number of English translations of single plays: the English were
still ahead of him, though they stopped half way. He is, in any case, a
very extraordinary American, and the Department of Justice kept an eye
on him during the war. The average American professor is far too dull
a fellow to undertake so difficult an enterprise. Even when he sports
a German Ph.D. one usually finds on examination that all he knows
about modern German literature is that a _Mass_ of Hofbräu in Munich
used to cost 27 _Pfennig_ downstairs and 32 _Pfennig_ upstairs. The
German universities were formerly very tolerant of foreigners. Many an
American, in preparation for professing at Harvard, spent a couple of
years roaming from one to the other of them without picking up enough
German to read the _Berliner Tageblatt._ Such frauds swarm in all our
lesser universities, and many of them, during the war, became eminent
authorities upon the crimes of Nietzsche and the errors of Treitschke.


In rainy weather, when my old wounds ache and the four humors do battle
in my spleen, I often find myself speculating sourly as to the future
of the Republic. Native opinion, of course, is to the effect that
it will be secure and glorious; the superstition that progress must
always be upward and onward will not down; in virulence and popularity
it matches the superstition that money can accomplish anything. But
this view is not shared by most reflective foreigners, as any one may
find out by looking into such a book as Ferdinand Kürnberger's "Der
Amerikamüde," Sholom Asch's "America," Ernest von Wolzogen's "Ein
Dichter in Dollarica," W. L. George's "Hail, Columbia!", Annalise
Schmidt's "Der Amerikanische Mensch" or Sienkiewicz's "After Bread,"
or by hearkening unto the confidences, if obtainable, of such returned
immigrants as Georges Clemenceau, Knut Hamsun, George Santayana,
Clemens von Pirquet, John Masefield and Maxim Gorky, and, via the ouija
board, Antonin Dvorak, Frank Wedekind and Edwin Klebs. The American
Republic, as nations go, has led a safe and easy life, with no serious
enemies to menace it, either within or without, and no grim struggle
with want. Getting a living here has always been easier than anywhere
else in Christendom; getting a secure foothold has been possible to
whole classes of men who would have remained submerged in Europe, as
the character of our plutocracy, and no less of our _intelligentsia_
so brilliantly shows. The American people have never had to face such
titanic assaults as those suffered by the people of Holland, Poland
and half a dozen other little countries; they have not lived with a
ring of powerful and unconscionable enemies about them, as the Germans
have lived since the Middle Ages; they have not been torn by class
wars, as the French, the Spaniards and the Russians have been torn;
they have not thrown their strength into far-flung and exhausting
colonial enterprises, like the English. All their foreign wars have
been fought with foes either too weak to resist them or too heavily
engaged elsewhere to make more than a half-hearted attempt. The combats
with Mexico and Spain were not wars; they were simply lynchings. Even
the Civil War, compared to the larger European conflicts since the
invention of gunpowder, was trivial in its character and transient in
its effects. The population of the United States, when it began, was
about 31,500,000--say 10 per cent, under the population of France in
1914. But after four years of struggle, the number of men killed in
action or dead of wounds, in the two armies, came but 200,000--probably
little more than a sixth of the total losses of France between 1914
and 1918. Nor was there any very extensive destruction of property.
In all save a small area in the North there was none at all, and even
in the South only a few towns of any importance were destroyed. The
average Northerner passed through the four years scarcely aware, save
by report, that a war was going on. In the South the breath of Mars
blew more hotly, but even there large numbers of men escaped service,
and the general hardship everywhere fell a great deal short of the
hardships suffered by the Belgians, the French of the North, the
Germans of East Prussia, and the Serbians and Rumanians in the World
War. The agonies of the South have been much exaggerated in popular
romance; they were probably more severe during Reconstruction, when
they were chiefly psychical, than they were during the actual war.
Certainly General Robert E. Lee was in a favorable position to estimate
the military achievement of the Confederacy. Well, Lee was of the
opinion that his army was very badly supported by the civil population,
and that its final disaster was largely due to that ineffective support.

Coming down to the time of the World War, one finds precious few signs
that the American people, facing an antagonist of equal strength
and with both hands free, could be relied upon to give a creditable
account of themselves. The American share in that great struggle, in
fact, was marked by poltroonery almost as conspicuously as it was
marked by knavery. Let us consider briefly what the nation did. For
a few months it viewed the struggle idly and unintelligently, as a
yokel might stare at a sword-swallower at a county fair. Then, seeing
a chance to profit, it undertook with sudden alacrity the ghoulish
office of _Kriegslieferant._ One of the contestants being debarred, by
the chances of war, from buying, it devoted its whole energies, for
two years, to purveying to the other. Meanwhile, it made every effort
to aid its customer by lending him the cloak of its neutrality--that
is, by demanding all the privileges of a neutral and yet carrying on a
stupendous wholesale effort to promote the war. On the official side,
this neutrality was fraudulent from the start, as the revelations of
Mr. Tumulty have since demonstrated; popularly it became more and
more fraudulent as the debts of the customer contestant piled up,
and it became more and more apparent--a fact diligently made known
by his partisans--that they would be worthless if he failed to win.
Then, in the end, covert aid was transformed into overt aid. And under
what gallant conditions! In brief, there stood a nation of 65,000,000
people, which, without effective allies, had just closed two and a
half years of homeric conflict by completely defeating an enemy state
of 135,000,000 and two lesser ones of more than 10,000,000 together,
and now stood at bay before a combination of at least 140,000,000.
Upon this battle-scarred and war-weary foe the Republic of 100,000,000
freemen now flung itself, so lifting the odds to 4 to 1. And after a
year and a half more of struggle it emerged triumphant--a knightly
victor surely!

There is no need to rehearse the astounding and unprecedented
swinishness that accompanied this glorious business--the colossal
waste of public money, the savage persecution of all opponents and
critics of the war, the open bribery of labor, the half-insane reviling
of the enemy, the manufacture of false news, the knavish robbery of
enemy civilians, the incessant spy hunts, the floating of public
loans by a process of blackmail, the degradation of the Red Cross
to partisan uses, the complete abandonment of all decency, decorum
and self-respect. The facts must be remembered with shame by every
civilized American; lest they be forgotten by the generations of the
future I am even now engaged with collaborators upon an exhaustive
record of them, in twenty volumes folio. More important to the present
purpose are two things that are apt to be overlooked, the first of
which is the capital fact that the war was "sold" to the American
people, as the phrase has it, not by appealing to their courage, but
by appealing to their cowardice--in brief, by adopting the assumption
that they were not warlike at all, and certainly not gallant and
chivalrous, but merely craven and fearful. The first selling point of
the proponents of American participation was the contention that the
Germans, with gigantic wars still raging on both fronts, were preparing
to invade the United States, burn down all the towns, murder all the
men, and carry off all the women--that their victory would bring
staggering and irresistible reprisals for the American violation of the
duties of a neutral. The second selling point was that the entrance
of the United States would end the war almost instantly--that the
Germans would be so overwhelmingly out-numbered, in men and guns, that
it would be impossible for them to make any effective defense--above
all, that it would be impossible for them to inflict any serious damage
upon their new foes. Neither argument, it must be plain, showed the
slightest belief in the warlike skill and courage of the American
people. Both were grounded upon the frank theory that the only way to
make the mob fight was to scare it half to death, and then show it a
way to fight without risk, to stab a helpless antagonist in the back.
And both were mellowed and reënforced by the hint that such a noble
assault, beside being safe, would also be extremely profitable--that
it would convert very dubious debts into very good debts, and dispose
forever of a diligent and dangerous competitor for trade, especially
in Latin America. All the idealist nonsense emitted by Dr. Wilson and
company was simply icing on the cake. Most of it was abandoned as
soon as the bullets began to fly, and the rest consisted simply of
meaningless words--the idiotic babbling of a Presbyterian evangelist
turned prophet and seer.

The other thing that needs to be remembered is the permanent effect
of so dishonest and cowardly a business upon the national character,
already far too much inclined toward easy ventures and long odds.
Somewhere in his diaries Wilfrid Scawen Blunt speaks of the marked
debasement that showed itself in the English spirit after the brutal
robbery and assassination of the South African Republics. The heroes
that the mob followed after Mafeking Day were far inferior to the
heroes that it had followed in the days before the war. The English
gentleman began to disappear from public life, and in his place
appeared a rabble-rousing bounder obviously almost identical with
the American professional politician--the Lloyd-George, Chamberlain,
F. E. Smith, Isaacs-Reading, Churchill, Bottomley, Northcliffe type.
Worse, old ideals went with old heroes. Personal freedom and strict
legality, says Blunt, vanished from the English tables of the law,
and there was a shift of the social and political center of gravity
to a lower plane. Precisely the same effect is now visible in the
United States. The overwhelming majority of conscripts went into the
army unwillingly, and once there they were debauched by the twin
forces of the official propaganda that I have mentioned and a harsh,
unintelligent discipline. The first made them almost incapable of
soldierly thought and conduct; the second converted them into cringing
goose-steppers. The consequences display themselves in the amazing
activities of the American Legion, and in the rise of such correlative
organizations as the Ku Klux Klan. It is impossible to fit any
reasonable concept of the soldierly into the familiar proceedings of
the Legion. Its members conduct themselves like a gang of Methodist
vice-crusaders on the loose, or a Southern lynching party. They are
forever discovering preposterous burglars under the national bed,
and they advance to the attack, not gallantly and at fair odds, but
cravenly and in overwhelming force. Some of their enterprises, to be
set forth at length in the record I have mentioned, have been of
almost unbelievable baseness--the mobbing of harmless Socialists,
the prohibition of concerts by musicians of enemy nationality, the
mutilation of cows designed for shipment abroad to feed starving
children, the roughing of women, service as strike-breakers, the
persecution of helpless foreigners, regardless of nationality.

During the last few months of the war, when stories of the tyrannical
ill-usage of conscripts began to filter back to the United States, it
was predicted that they would demand the punishment of the guilty when
they got home, and that if it was not promptly forthcoming they would
take it into their own hands. It was predicted, too, that they would
array themselves against the excesses of Palmer, Burleson and company,
and insist upon a restoration of that democratic freedom for which they
had theoretically fought. But they actually did none of these things.
So far as I know, not a single martinet of a lieutenant or captain has
been manhandled by his late victims; the most they have done has been
to appeal to Congress for revenge and damages. Nor have they thrown
their influence against the mediæval despotism which grew up at home
during the war; on the contrary, they have supported it actively, and
if it has lessened since 1919 the change has been wrought without
their aid and in spite of their opposition. In sum, they show all the
stigmata of inferior men whose natural inferiority has been made
worse by oppression. Their chief organization is dominated by shrewd
ex-officers who operate it to their own ends--politicians in search
of jobs, Chamber of Commerce witch-hunters, and other such vermin. It
seems to be wholly devoid of patriotism, courage, or sense. Nothing
quite resembling it existed in the country before the war, not even in
the South. There is nothing like it anywhere else on earth. It is a
typical product of two years of heroic effort to arouse and capitalize
the worst instincts of the mob, and it symbolizes very dramatically the
ill effects of that effort upon the general American character.

Would men so degraded in gallantry and honor, so completely purged of
all the military virtues, so submerged in baseness of spirit--would
such pitiful caricatures of soldiers offer the necessary resistance to
a public enemy who was equal, or perhaps superior in men and resources,
and who came on with confidence, daring and resolution--say England
supported by Germany as _Kriegslieferant_ and with her inevitable
swarms of Continental allies, or Japan with the Asiatic hordes behind
her? Against the best opinion of the chatauquas, of Congress and of the
patriotic press I presume to doubt it. It seems to me quite certain,
indeed, that an American army fairly representing the American people,
if it ever meets another army of anything remotely resembling like
strength, will be defeated, and that defeat will be indistinguishable
from rout. I believe that, at any odds less than two to one, even the
exhausted German army of 1918 would have defeated it, and in this view,
I think, I am joined by many men whose military judgment is far better
than mine--particularly by many French officers. The changes in the
American character since the Civil War, due partly to the wearing out
of the old Anglo-Saxon stock, inferior to begin with, and partly to
the infusion of the worst elements of other stocks, have surely not
made for the fostering of the military virtues. The old cool head is
gone, and the old dogged way with difficulties. The typical American of
to-day has lost all the love of liberty that his forefathers had, and
all their distrust of emotion, and pride in self-reliance. He is led
no longer by Davy Crocketts; he is led by cheer leaders, press agents,
word-mongers, uplifters. I do not believe that such a faint-hearted
and inflammatory fellow, shoved into a war demanding every resource
of courage, ingenuity and pertinacity, would give a good account of
himself. He is fit for lynching-bees and heretic-hunts, but he is not
fit for tight corners and desperate odds.

Nevertheless, his docility and pusillanimity may be overestimated, and
sometimes I think that they _are_ overestimated by his present masters.
They assume that there is absolutely no limit to his capacity for
being put on and knocked about--that he will submit to any invasion of
his freedom and dignity, however outrageous, so long as it is depicted
in melodious terms. He permitted the late war to be "sold" to him by
the methods of the grind-shop auctioneer. He submitted to conscription
without any of the resistance shown by his brother democrats of Canada
and Australia. He got no further than academic protests against the
brutal usage he had to face in the army. He came home and found
Prohibition foisted on him, and contented himself with a few feeble
objurgations. He is a pliant slave of capitalism, and ever ready to
help it put down fellow-slaves who venture to revolt. But this very
weakness, this very credulity and poverty of spirit, on some easily
conceivable to-morrow, may convert him into a rebel of a peculiarly
insane kind, and so beset the Republic from within with difficulties
quite as formidable as those which threaten to afflict it from without.
What Mr. James N. Wood calls the corsair of democracy--that is, the
professional mob-master, the merchant of delusions, the pumper-up of
popular fears and rages--is still content to work for capitalism, and
capitalism knows how to reward him to his taste. He is the eloquent
statesman, the patriotic editor, the fount of inspiration, the prancing
milch-cow of optimism. He becomes public leader, Governor, Senator,
President. He is Billy Sunday, Cyrus K. Curtis, Dr. Frank Crane,
Charles E. Hughes, Taft, Wilson, Cal Coolidge, General Wood, Harding.
His, perhaps, is the best of trades under democracy--but it has its
temptations! Let us try to picture a master corsair, thoroughly adept
at pulling the mob nose, who suddenly bethought himself of that Pepin
the Short who found himself mayor of the palace and made himself King
of the Franks. There were lightnings along that horizon in the days
of Roosevelt; there were thunder growls when Bryan emerged from the
Nebraska steppes. On some great day of fate, as yet unrevealed by the
gods, such a professor of the central democratic science may throw off
his employers and set up a business for himself. When that day comes
there will be plenty of excuse for black type on the front pages of the

I incline to think that military disaster will give him his inspiration
and his opportunity--that he will take the form, so dear to
democracies, of a man on horseback. The chances are bad to-day simply
because the mob is relatively comfortable--because capitalism has been
able to give it relative ease and plenty of food in return for its
docility. Genuine poverty is very rare in the United States, and actual
hardship is almost unknown. There are times when the proletariat is
short of phonograph records, silk shirts and movie tickets, but there
are very few times when it is short of nourishment. Even during the
most severe business depression, with hundreds of thousands out of
work, most of these apparent sufferers, if they are willing, are able
to get livings outside their trades. The cities may be choked with idle
men, but the country is nearly always short of labor. And if all other
resources fail, there are always public agencies to feed the hungry:
capitalism is careful to keep them from despair. No American knows what
it means to live as millions of Europeans lived during the war and have
lived, in some places, since: with the loaves of the baker reduced to
half size and no meat at all in the meatshop. But the time may come and
it may not be far off. A national military disaster would disorganize
all industry in the United States, already sufficiently wasteful and
chaotic, and introduce the American people, for the first time in
their history, to genuine want--and capital would be unable to relieve
them. The day of such disaster will bring the savior foreordained. The
slaves will follow him, their eyes fixed ecstatically upon the newest
New Jerusalem. Men bred to respond automatically to shibboleths will
respond to this worst and most insane one. Bolshevism, said General
Foch, is a disease of defeated nations.

But do not misunderstand me: I predict no revolution in the grand
manner, no melodramatic collapse of capitalism, no repetition of what
has gone on in Russia. The American proletarian is not brave and
romantic enough for that; to do him simple justice, he is not silly
enough. Capitalism, in the long run, will win in the United States,
if only for the reason that every American hopes to be a capitalist
before he dies. Its roots go down to the deepest, darkest levels of the
national soil; in all its characters, and particularly in its antipathy
to the dreams of man, it is thoroughly American. To-day it seems to be
immovably secure, given continued peace and plenty, and not all the
demagogues in the land, consecrating themselves desperately to the one
holy purpose, could shake it. Only a cataclysm will ever do that. But
is a cataclysm conceivable? Isn't the United States the richest nation
ever heard of in history, and isn't it a fact that modern wars are won
by money? It is not a fact. Wars are won to-day, as in Napoleon's day,
by the largest battalions, and the largest battalions, in the next
great struggle, may not be on the side of the Republic. The usurious
profits it wrung from the last war are as tempting as negotiable
securities hung on the wash-line, as pre-Prohibition Scotch stored in
open cellars. Its knavish ways with friends and foes alike have left
it only foes. It is plunging ill-equipped into a competition for a
living in the world that will be to the death. And the late Disarmament
Conference left it almost hamstrung. Before the conference it had the
Pacific in its grip, and with the Pacific in its grip it might have
parleyed for a fair half of the Atlantic. But when the Japs and the
English had finished their operations upon the Feather Duster, Popinjay
Lodge, Master-Mind Root, Vacuum Underwood, young Teddy Roosevelt and
the rest of their so-willing dupes there was apparent a baleful change.
The Republic is extremely insecure to-day on both fronts, and it will
be more insecure to-morrow. And it has no friends.

However, as I say, I do not fear for capitalism. It will weather the
storm, and no doubt it will be the stronger for it afterward. The
inferior man hates it, but there is too much envy mixed with his
hatred, in the land of the theoretically free, for him to want to
destroy it utterly, or even to wound it incurably. He struggles against
it now, but always wistfully, always with a sneaking respect. On the
day of Armageddon he may attempt a more violent onslaught. But in 'the
long run he will be beaten. In the long run the corsairs will sell him
out, and hand him over to his enemy. Perhaps--who knows?--the combat
may raise that enemy to genuine strength and dignity. Out of it may
come the superman.


All the while I have been forgetting the third of my reasons for
remaining so faithful a citizen of the Federation, despite all the
lascivious inducements from expatriates to follow them beyond the
seas, and all the surly suggestions from patriots that I succumb.
It is the reason which grows out of my mediæval but unashamed taste
for the bizarre and indelicate, my congenital weakness for comedy of
the grosser varieties. The United States, to my eye, is incomparably
the greatest show on earth. It is a show which avoids diligently all
the kinds of clowning which tire me most quickly--for example, royal
ceremonials, the tedious hocus-pocus of _haut politique,_ the taking
of politics seriously--and lays chief stress upon the kinds which
delight me unceasingly--for example, the ribald combats of demagogues,
the exquisitely ingenious operations of master rogues, the pursuit
of witches and heretics, the desperate struggles of inferior men
to claw their way into Heaven. We have clowns in constant practice
among us who are as far above the clowns of any other great state as
a Jack Dempsey is above a paralytic--and not a few dozen or score of
them, but whole droves and herds. Human enterprises which, in all
other Christian countries, are resigned despairingly to an incurable
dullness--things that seem devoid of exhilarating amusement by their
very nature--are here lifted to such vast heights of buffoonery that
contemplating them strains the mid-riff almost to breaking. I cite an
example: the worship of God. Everywhere else on earth it is carried
on in a solemn and dispiriting manner; in England, of course, the
bishops are obscene, but the average man seldom gets a fair chance to
laugh at them and enjoy them. Now come home. Here we not only have
bishops who are enormously more obscene than even the most gifted of
the English bishops; we have also a huge force of lesser specialists in
ecclesiastical mountebankery--tin-horn Loyolas, Savonarolas and Xaviers
of a hundred fantastic rites, each performing untiringly and each full
of a grotesque and illimitable whimsicality. Every American town,
however small, has one of its own: a holy clerk with so fine a talent
for introducing the arts of jazz into the salvation of the damned that
his performance takes on all the gaudiness of a four-ring circus, and
the bald announcement that he will raid Hell on such and such a night
is enough to empty all the town blind-pigs and bordellos and pack
his sanctuary to the doors. And to aid him and inspire him there are
traveling experts to whom he stands in the relation of a wart to the
Matterhorn--stupendous masters of theological imbecility, contrivers
of doctrines utterly preposterous, heirs to the Joseph Smith, Mother
Eddy and John Alexander Dowie tradition--Bryan, Sunday, and their like.
These are the eminences of the American Sacred College. I delight in
them. Their proceedings make me a happier American.

Turn, now, to politics. Consider, for example, a campaign for the
Presidency. Would it be possible to imagine anything more uproariously
idiotic--a deafening, nerve-wracking battle to the death between
Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Harlequin and Sganarelle, Gobbo and Dr.
Cook--the unspeakable, with fearful snorts, gradually swallowing the
inconceivable? I defy any one to match it elsewhere on this earth.
In other lands, at worst, there are at least intelligible issues,
coherent ideas, salient personalities. Somebody says something, and
somebody replies. But what did Harding say in 1920, and what did Cox
reply? Who was Harding, anyhow, and who was Cox? Here, having perfected
democracy, we lift the whole combat to symbolism, to transcendentalism,
to metaphysics. Here we load a pair of palpably tin cannon with blank
cartridges charged with talcum powder, and so let fly. Here one may
howl over the show without any uneasy reminder that it is serious, and
that some one may be hurt. I hold that this elevation of politics to
the plane of undiluted comedy is peculiarly American, that nowhere else
on this disreputable ball has the art of the sham-battle been developed
to such fineness. Two experiences are in point. During the Harding-Cox
combat of bladders an article of mine, dealing with some of its more
melodramatic phases, was translated into German and reprinted by a
Berlin paper. At the head of it the editor was careful to insert a
preface explaining to his readers, but recently delivered to democracy,
that such contests were not taken seriously by intelligent Americans,
and warning them solemnly against getting into sweats over politics.
At about the same time I had dinner with an Englishman. From cocktails
to bromo seltzer he bewailed the political lassitude of the English
populace--its growing indifference to the whole partisan harlequinade.
Here were two typical foreign attitudes: the Germans were in danger
of making politics too harsh and implacable, and the English were in
danger of forgetting politics altogether. Both attitudes, it must
be plain, make for bad shows. Observing a German campaign, one is
uncomfortably harassed and stirred up; observing an English campaign
(at least in times of peace), one falls asleep. In the United States
the thing is done better. Here politics is purged of all menace, all
sinister quality, all genuine significance, and stuffed with such
gorgeous humors, such inordinate farce that one comes to the end of
a campaign with one's ribs loose, and ready for "King Lear," or a
hanging, or a course of medical journals.

But feeling better for the laugh. _Ridi si sapis,_ said Martial. Mirth
is necessary to wisdom, to comfort, above all, to happiness. Well,
here is the land of mirth, as Germany is the land of metaphysics and
France is the land of fornication. Here the buffoonery never stops.
What could be more delightful than the endless struggle of the Puritan
to make the joy of the minority unlawful and impossible? The effort
is itself a greater joy to one standing on the side-lines that any or
all of the carnal joys that it combats. Always, when I contemplate an
uplifter at his hopeless business, I recall a scene in an old-time
burlesque show, witnessed for hire, in my days as a dramatic critic. A
chorus girl executed a fall upon the stage, and Rudolph Krausemeyer,
the Swiss comedian, rushed to her aid. As he stooped painfully to
succor her, Irving Rabinovitz, the Zionist comedian, fetched him a
fearful clout across the cofferdam with a slap-stick. So the uplifter,
the soul-saver, the Americanizer, striving to make the Republic fit
for Y. M. C. A. secretaries. He is the eternal American, ever moved by
the best of intentions, ever running _à la_ Krausemeyer to the rescue
of virtue, and ever getting his pantaloons fanned by the Devil. I am
naturally sinful, and such spectacles caress me. If the slap-stick were
a sash-weight the show would be cruel, and I'd probably complain to
the _Polizei._ As it is, I know that the uplifter is not really hurt,
but simply shocked. The blow, in fact, does him good, for it helps to
get him into Heaven, as exegetes prove from Matthew v, 11: _Heureux
serez-vous, lorsqu'on vous outragera, qu'on vous persécutera,_ and so
on. As for me, it makes me a more contented man, and hence a better
citizen. One man prefers the Republic because it pays better wages
than Bulgaria. Another because it has laws to keep him sober and his
daughter chaste. Another because the Woolworth Building is higher than
the cathedral at Chartres. Another because, living here, he can read
the New York _Evening Journal._ Another because there is a warrant out
for him somewhere else. Me, I like it because it amuses me to my taste.
I never get tired of the show. It is worth every cent it costs.

That cost, it seems to me is very moderate. Taxes in the United
States are not actually high. I figure, for example, that my private
share of the expense of maintaining the Hon. Mr. Harding in the White
House this year will work out to less than 80 cents. Try to think of
better sport for the money: in New York it has been estimated that
it costs $8 to get comfortably tight, and $17.50, on an average, to
pinch a girl's arm. The United States Senate will cost me perhaps $11
for the year, but against that expense set the subscription price
of the _Congressional Record,_ about $15, which, as a journalist, I
receive for nothing. For $4 less than nothing I am thus entertained as
Solomon never was by his hooch dancers. Col. George Brinton McClellan
Harvey costs me but 25 cents a year; I get Nicholas Murray Butler
free. Finally, there is young Teddy Roosevelt, the naval expert.
Teddy costs me, as I work it out, about 11 cents a year, or less
than a cent a month. More, he entertains me doubly for the money,
first as naval expert, and secondly as a walking _attentat_ upon
democracy, a devastating proof that there is nothing, after all, in
that superstition. We Americans subscribe to the doctrine of human
equality--and the Rooseveltii reduce it to an absurdity as brilliantly
as the sons of Veit Bach. Where is your equal opportunity now? Here in
this Eden of clowns, with the highest rewards of clowning theoretically
open to every poor boy--here in the very citadel of democracy we found
and cherish a clown _dynasty!_


There was a stimulating aliveness about him always, an air of living
eagerly and a bit recklessly, a sort of defiant resiliency. In his
very frame and form something provocative showed itself--an insolent
singularity, obvious to even the most careless glance. That Caligulan
profile of his was more than simply unusual in a free republic,
consecrated to good works; to a respectable American, encountering
it in the lobby of the Metropolitan or in the smoke-room of a
_Doppelschrauben-schnellpostdampfer,_ it must have suggested inevitably
the dark enterprises and illicit metaphysics of a Heliogabalus. More,
there was always something rakish and defiant about his hat--it was
too white, or it curled in the wrong way, or a feather peeped from the
band--, and a hint of antinomianism in his cravat. Yet more, he ran to
exotic tastes in eating and drinking, preferring occult goulashes and
risi-bisis to honest American steaks, and great floods of Pilsner to
the harsh beverages of God-fearing men. Finally, there was his talk,
that cataract of sublime trivialities: gossip lifted to the plane of
the gods, the unmentionable bedizened with an astounding importance,
and even profundity.

In his early days, when he performed the tonal and carnal prodigies
that he liked to talk of afterward, I was at nurse, and too young to
have any traffic with him. When I encountered him at last he was in
the high flush of the middle years, and had already become a tradition
in the little world that critics inhabit. We sat down to luncheon
at one o'clock; I think it must have been at Lüchow's, his favorite
refuge and rostrum to the end. At six, when I had to go, the waiter was
hauling in his tenth (or was it twentieth?) _Seidel_ of Pilsner, and
he was bringing to a close _prestissimo_ the most amazing monologue
that these ears (up to that time) had ever funnelled into this
consciousness. What a stew, indeed! Berlioz and the question of the
clang-tint of the viola, the psychopathological causes of the suicide
of Tschaikowsky, why Nietzsche had to leave Sils Maria between days in
1887, the echoes of Flaubert in Joseph Conrad (then but newly dawned),
the precise topography of the warts of Liszt, George Bernard Shaw's
heroic but vain struggles to throw off Presbyterianism, how Frau Cosima
saved Wagner from the libidinous Swedish baroness, what to drink when
playing Chopin, what Cézanne thought of his disciples, the defects in
the structure of "Sister Carrie," Anton Seidl and the musical union,
the complex love affairs of Gounod, the early days of David Belasco,
the varying talents and idiosyncrasies of Lillian Russell's earlier
husbands, whether a girl educated at Vassar could ever really learn to
love, the exact composition of chicken paprika, the correct tempo of
the Vienna waltz, the style of William Dean Howells, what George Moore
said about German bathrooms, the true inwardness of the affair between
D'Annunzio and Duse, the origin of the theory that all oboe players are
crazy, why Löwenbräu survived exportation better than Hofbräu, Ibsen's
loathing of Norwegians, the best remedy for Rhine wine _Katzenjammer,_
how to play Brahms, the degeneration of the Bal Bullier, the sheer
physical impossibility of getting Dvorak drunk, the genuine last words
of Walt Whitman....

I left in a sort of fever, and it was a couple of days later before I
began to sort out my impressions, and formulate a coherent image. Was
the man allusive in his books--so allusive that popular report credited
him with the actual manufacture of authorities? Then he was ten times
as allusive in his discourse--a veritable geyser of unfamiliar names,
shocking epigrams in strange tongues, unearthly philosophies out of
the backwaters of Scandinavia, Transylvania, Bulgaria, the Basque
country, the Ukraine. And did he, in his criticism, pass facilely from
the author to the man, and from the man to his wife, and to the wives
of his friends? Then at the _Biertisch_ he began long beyond the point
where the last honest wife gives up the ghost, and so, full tilt, ran
into such complexities of adultery that a plain sinner could scarcely
follow him. I try to give you, ineptly and grotesquely, some notion
of the talk of the man, but I must fail inevitably. It was, in brief,
chaos, and chaos cannot be described. But it was chaos made to gleam
and corruscate with every device of the seven arts--chaos drenched in
all the colors imaginable, chaos scored for an orchestra which made the
great band of Berlioz seem like a fife and drum corps. One night a few
months before the war, I sat in the Paris Opera House listening to the
first performance of Richard Strauss's "Josef's Legend," with Strauss
himself conducting. On the stage there was a riot of hues that swung
the eyes 'round and 'round in a crazy mazurka; in the orchestra there
were such volleys and explosions of tone that the ears (I fall into
a Hunekeran trope) began to go pale and clammy with surgical shock.
Suddenly, above all the uproar, a piccolo launched into a new and saucy
tune--in an unrelated key!... Instantly and quite naturally, I thought
of the incomparable James. When he gave a show at Lüchow's he never
forgot that anarchistic passage for the piccolo.

I observe a tendency since his death to estimate him in terms of
the content of his books. Even Frank Harris, who certainly should
know better, goes there for the facts about him. Nothing could do
him worse injustice. In those books, of course, there is a great
deal of perfectly sound stuff; the wonder is, in truth, that so much
of it holds up so well to-day--for example, the essays on Strauss,
on Brahms and on Nietzsche, and the whole volume on Chopin. But
the real Huneker never got himself formally between covers, if one
forgets "Old Fogy" and parts of "Painted Veils." The volumes of his
regular canon are made up, in the main, of articles written for the
more intellectual magazines and newspapers of their era, and they
are full of a conscious striving to qualify for respectable company.
Huneker, always curiously modest, never got over the notion that it
was a singular honor for a man such as he--a mere diurnal scribbler,
innocent of academic robes--to be published by so austere a publisher
as Scribner. More than once, anchored at the beer-table, we discussed
the matter at length, I always arguing that all the honor was enjoyed
by Scribner. But Huneker, I believe in all sincerity, would not
have it so, any more than he would have it that he was a better
music critic than his two colleagues, the pedantic Krehbiel and the
nonsensical Finck. This illogical modesty, of course, had its limits;
it made him cautious about expressing himself, but it seldom led him
into downright assumptions of false personality. Nowhere in all his
books will you find him doing the things that every right-thinking
Anglo-Saxon critic is supposed to do--the Middleton Murry, Paul Elmer
More, Clutton-Brock sort of puerility--solemn essays on Coleridge and
Addison, abysmal discussions of the relative merits of Schumann and
Mendelssohn, horrible treatises upon the relations of Goethe to the
Romantic Movement, dull scratchings in a hundred such exhausted and
sterile fields. Such enterprises were not for Huneker; he kept himself
out of that black coat. But I am convinced that he always had his own
raiment pressed carefully before he left Lüchow's for the temple of
Athene--and maybe changed cravats, and put on a boiled shirt, and took
the feather out of his hat. The simon-pure Huneker, the Huneker who was
the true essence and prime motor of the more courtly Huneker--remained
behind. This real Huneker survives in conversations that still haunt
the rafters of the beer-halls of two continents, and in a vast mass of
newspaper impromptus, thrown off too hastily to be reduced to complete
decorum, and in two books that stand outside the official canon, and
yet contain the man himself as not even "Iconoclasts" or the Chopin
book contains him, to wit, the "Old Fogy" aforesaid and the "Painted
Veils" of his last year. Both were published, so to speak, out of the
back door--the former by a music publisher in Philadelphia and the
latter in a small and expensive edition for the admittedly damned.
There is a chapter in "Painted Veils" that is Huneker to every last
hitch of the shoulders and twinkle of the eye--the chapter in which
the hero soliloquizes on art, life, immortality, and women--especially
women. And there are half a dozen chapters in "Old Fogy"--superficially
buffoonery, but how penetrating! how gorgeously flavored! how
learned!--that come completely up to the same high specification. If I
had to choose one Huneker book and give up all the others, I'd choose
"Old Fogy" instantly. In it Huneker is utterly himself. In it the last
trace of the pedagogue vanishes. Art is no longer, even by implication,
a device for improving the mind. It is wholly a magnificent adventure.

That notion of it is what Huneker brought into American criticism, and
it is for that bringing that he will be remembered. No other critic
of his generation had a tenth of his influence. Almost single-handed
he overthrew the æsthetic theory that had flourished in the United
States since the death of Poe, and set up an utterly contrary æsthetic
theory in its place. If the younger men of to-day have emancipated
themselves from the Puritan æsthetic, if the schoolmaster is now
palpably on the defensive, and no longer the unchallenged assassin of
the fine arts that he once was, if he has already begun to compromise
somewhat absurdly with new and sounder ideas, and even to lift his
voice in artificial hosannahs, then Huneker certainly deserves all the
credit for the change. What he brought back from Paris was precisely
the thing that was most suspected in the America of those days: the
capacity for gusto. Huneker had that capacity in a degree unmatched by
any other critic. When his soul went adventuring among masterpieces
it did not go in Sunday broad-cloth; it went with vine leaves in its
hair. The rest of the appraisers and criers-up--even Howells, with
all his humor--could never quite rid themselves of the professorial
manner. When they praised it was always with some hint of ethical, or,
at all events, of cultural purpose; when they condemned that purpose
was even plainer. The arts, to them, constituted a sort of school for
the psyche; their aim was to discipline and mellow the spirit. But to
Huneker their one aim was always to make the spirit glad--to set it, in
Nietzsche's phrase, to dancing with arms and legs. He had absolutely
no feeling for extra-æsthetic valuations. If a work of art that stood
before him was honest, if it was original, if it was beautiful and
thoroughly alive, then he was for it to his last corpuscle. What if it
violated all the accepted canons? Then let the accepted canons go hang!
What if it lacked all purpose to improve and lift up? Then so much the
better! What if it shocked all right-feeling men, and made them blush
and tremble? Then damn all men of right feeling forevermore.

With this ethical atheism, so strange in the United States and so
abhorrent to most Americans, there went something that was probably
also part of the loot of Paris: an insatiable curiosity about the
artist as man. This curiosity was responsible for two of Huneker's
salient characters: his habit of mixing even the most serious
criticism with cynical and often scandalous gossip, and his pervasive
foreignness. I believe that it is almost literally true to say that he
could never quite make up his mind about a new symphony until he had
seen the composer's mistress, or at all events a good photograph of
her. He thought of Wagner, not alone in terms of melody and harmony,
but also in terms of the Tribschen idyl and the Bayreuth tragi-comedy.
Go through his books and you will see how often he was fascinated by
mere eccentricity of personality. I doubt that even Huysmans, had
he been a respectable French Huguenot, would have interested him;
certainly his enthusiasm for Verlaine, Villiers de l'Isle Adam and
other such fantastic fish was centered upon the men quite as much
as upon the artists. His foreignness, so often urged against him by
defenders of the national tradition, was grounded largely on the fact
that such eccentric personalities were rare in the Republic--rare, and
well watched by the _Polizei._ When one bobbed up, he was alert at
once--even though the newcomer was only a Roosevelt. The rest of the
American people he dismissed as a horde of slaves, goose-steppers,
cads, Methodists; he could not imagine one of them becoming a
first-rate artist, save by a miracle. Even the American executant was
under his suspicion, for he knew very well that playing the fiddle
was a great deal more than scraping four strings of copper and catgut
with a switch from a horse's tail. What he asked himself was how a man
could play Bach decently, and then, after playing, go from the hall to
a soda-fountain, or a political meeting, or a lecture at the Harvard
Club. Overseas there was a better air for artists, and overseas Huneker
looked for them.

These fundamental theories of his, of course, had their defects. They
were a bit too simple, and often very much too hospitable. Huneker,
clinging to them, certainly did his share of whooping for the sort of
revolutionist who is here to-day and gone to-morrow; he was fugleman,
in his time, for more than one cause that was lost almost as soon as
it was stated. More, his prejudices made him somewhat anæsthetic, at
times, to the new men who were not brilliant in color but respectably
drab, and who tried to do their work within the law. Particularly in
his later years, when the old gusto began to die out and all that
remained of it was habit, he was apt to go chasing after strange
birds and so miss seeing the elephants go by. I could put together a
very pretty list of frauds that he praised. I could concoct another
list of genuine _arrivés_ that he overlooked. But all that is merely
saying that there were human limits to him; the professors, on their
side, have sinned far worse, and in both directions. Looking back
over the whole of his work, one must needs be amazed by the general
soundness of his judgments. He discerned, in the main, what was good
and he described it in terms that were seldom bettered afterward.
His successive heroes, always under fire when he first championed
them, almost invariably moved to secure ground and became solid men,
challenged by no one save fools--Ibsen, Nietzsche, Brahms, Strauss,
Cézanne, Stirner, Synge, the Russian composers, the Russian novelists.
He did for this Western world what Georg Brandes was doing for
Continental Europe--sorting out the new comers with sharp eyes, and
giving mighty lifts to those who deserved it. Brandes did it in terms
of the old academic bombast; he was never more the professor than
when he was arguing for some hobgoblin of the professors. But Huneker
did it with verve and grace; he made it, not schoolmastering, but a
glorious deliverance from schoolmastering. As I say, his influence was
enormous. The fine arts, at his touch, shed all their Anglo-American
lugubriousness, and became provocative and joyous. The spirit of
senility got out of them and the spirit of youth got into them. His
criticism, for all its French basis, was thoroughly American--vastly
more American, in fact, than the New England ponderosity that it
displaced. Though he was an Easterner and a cockney of the cockneys, he
picked up some of the Western spaciousness that showed itself in Mark
Twain. And all the young men followed him.

A good many of them, I daresay, followed him so ardently that they
got a good distance ahead of him, and often, perhaps, embarrassed him
by taking his name in vain. For all his enterprise and iconoclasm,
indeed, there was not much of the Berserker in him, and his floutings
of the national æsthetic tradition seldom took the form of forthright
challenges. Here the strange modesty that I have mentioned always
stayed him as a like weakness stayed Mark Twain. He could never quite
rid himself of the feeling that he was no more than an amateur among
the gaudy doctors who roared in the reviews, and that it would be
unseemly for him to forget their authority. I have a notion that
this feeling was born in the days when he stood almost alone, with
the whole faculty grouped in a pained circle around him. He was
then too miserable a worm to be noticed at all. Later on, gaining
importance, he was lectured somewhat severely for his violation of
decorum; in England even Max Beerbohm made an idiotic assault upon
him. It was the Germans and the French, in fact, who first praised him
intelligently--and these friends were too far away to help a timorous
man in a row at home. This sensation of isolation and littleness, I
suppose, explains his fidelity to the newspapers, and the otherwise
inexplicable joy that he always took in his forgotten work for the
_Musical Courier,_ in his day a very dubious journal. In such waters
he felt at ease. There he could disport without thought of the dignity
of publishers and the eagle eyes of campus reviewers. Some of the
connections that he formed were full of an ironical inappropriateness.
His discomforts in his _Puck_ days showed themselves in the feebleness
of his work; when he served the _Times_ he was as well placed as a
Cabell at a colored ball. Perhaps the _Sun,_ in the years before it
was munseyized, offered him the best berth that he ever had, save it
were his old one on _Mlle. New York._ But whatever the flag, he served
it loyally, and got a lot of fun out of the business. He liked the
pressure of newspaper work; he liked the associations that it involved,
the gabble in the press-room of the Opera House, the exchanges of news
and gossip; above all, he liked the relative ease of the intellectual
harness. In a newspaper article he could say whatever happened to pop
into his mind, and if it looked thin the next day, then there was,
after all, no harm done. But when he sat down to write a book--or
rather to compile it, for all of his volumes were reworked magazine
(and sometimes newspaper) articles--he became self-conscious, and so
knew uneasiness. The tightness of his style, its one salient defect,
was probably the result of this weakness. The corrected clippings that
constituted most of his manuscripts are so beladen with revisions and
rerevisions that they are almost indecipherable.

Thus the growth of Huneker's celebrity in his later years filled him
with wonder, and never quite convinced him. He was certainly wholly
free from any desire to gather disciples about him and found a school.
There was, of course, some pride of authorship in him, and he liked
to know that his books were read and admired; in particular, he was
pleased by their translation into German and Czech. But it seemed to
me that he shrank from the bellicosity that so often got into praise
of them--that he disliked being set up as the opponent and superior of
the professors whom he always vaguely respected and the rival newspaper
critics whose friendship he esteemed far above their professional
admiration, or even respect. I could never draw him into a discussion
of these rivals, save perhaps a discussion of their historic feats at
beer-guzzling. He wrote vastly better than any of them and knew far
more about the arts than most of them, and he was undoubtedly aware
of it in his heart, but it embarrassed him to hear this superiority
put into plain terms. His intense gregariousness probably accounted
for part of this reluctance to pit himself against them; he could
not imagine a world without a great deal of easy comradeship in it,
and much casual slapping of backs. But under it all was the chronic
underestimation of himself that I have discussed--his fear that he
had spread himself over too many arts, and that his equipment was
thus defective in every one of them. "Steeplejack" is full of this
apologetic timidity. In its very title, as he explains it, there
is a confession of inferiority that is almost maudlin: "Life has
been the Barmecide's feast to me," and so on. In the book itself he
constantly takes refuge in triviality from the harsh challenges of
critical parties, and as constantly avoids facts that would shock the
Philistines. One might reasonably assume, reading it from end to end,
that his early days in Paris were spent in the fashion of a Y. M. C. A.
secretary. A few drinking bouts, of course, and a love affair in the
manner of Dubuque, Iowa--but where are the wenches?

More than once, indeed, the book sinks to downright equivocation--for
example, in the Roosevelt episodes. Certainly no one who knew
Huneker in life will ever argue seriously that he was deceived by the
Roosevelt buncombe, or that his view of life was at all comparable to
that of the great demagogue. He stood, in fact, at the opposite pole.
He saw the world, not as a moral show, but as a sort of glorified
Follies. He was absolutely devoid of that obsession with the problem
of conduct which was Roosevelt's main virtue in the eyes of a stupid
and superstitious people. More, he was wholly against Roosevelt on
many concrete issues--the race suicide banality, the Panama swindle,
the war. He was far too much the realist to believe in the American
case, either before or after 1917, and the manner in which it was
urged, by Roosevelt and others, violated his notions of truth, honor
and decency. I assume nothing here; I simply record what he told me
himself. Nevertheless, the sheer notoriety of the Rough Rider--his
picturesque personality and talent as a mountebank--had its effect on
Huneker, and so he was a bit flattered when he was summoned to Oyster
Bay, and there accepted gravely the nonsense that was poured into his
ear, and even repeated some of it without a cackle in his book. To say
that he actually believed in it would be to libel him. It was precisely
such hollow tosh that he stood against in his rôle of critic of art and
life; it was by exposing its hollowness that he lifted himself above
the general. The same weakness induced him to accept membership in the
National Institute of Arts and Letters. The offer of it to a man of his
age and attainments, after he had been passed over year after year in
favor of all sorts of cheapjack novelists and tenth-rate compilers of
college textbooks, was intrinsically insulting; it was almost as if the
Musical Union had offered to admit a Brahms. But with the insult went
a certain gage of respectability, a certain formal forgiveness for old
frivolities, a certain abatement of old doubts and self-questionings
and so Huneker accepted. Later on, reviewing the episode in his
own mind, he found it the spring of doubts that were even more
uncomfortable. His last letter to me was devoted to the matter. He was
by then eager to maintain that he had got in by a process only partly
under his control, and that, being in, he could discover no decorous
way of getting out.

But perhaps I devote too much space to the elements in the man that
worked against his own free development. They were, after all, grounded
upon qualities that are certainly not to be deprecated--modesty,
good-will to his fellow-men, a fine sense of team-work, a distaste
for acrimonious and useless strife. These qualities gave him great
charm. He was not only humorous; he was also good-humored; even
when the crushing discomforts of his last illness were upon him his
amiability never faltered. And in addition to humor there was wit,
a far rarer thing. His most casual talk was full of this wit, and it
bathed everything that he discussed in a new and brilliant light. I
have never encountered a man who was further removed from dullness;
it seemed a literal impossibility for him to open his mouth without
discharging some word or phrase that arrested the attention and stuck
in the memory. And under it all, giving an extraordinary quality to
the verbal fireworks, there was a solid and apparently illimitable
learning. The man knew as much as forty average men, and his knowledge
was well-ordered and instantly available. He had read everything and
had seen everything and heard everything, and nothing that he had ever
read or seen or heard quite passed out of his mind.

Here, in three words, was the main virtue of his criticism--its
gigantic richness. It had the dazzling charm of an ornate and intricate
design, a blazing fabric of fine silks. It was no mere pontifical
statement of one man's reactions to a set of ideas; it was a sort
of essence of the reactions of many men--of all the men, in fact,
worth hearing. Huneker discarded their scaffolding, their ifs and
whereases, and presented only what was important and arresting in their
conclusions. It was never a mere _pastiche_; the selection was made
delicately, discreetly, with almost unerring taste and judgment. And
in the summing up there was always the clearest possible statement
of the whole matter. What finally emerged was a body of doctrine that
came, I believe, very close to the truth. Into an assembly of national
critics who had long wallowed in dogmatic puerilities, Huneker entered
with a taste infinitely surer and more civilized, a learning infinitely
greater, and an address infinitely more engaging. No man was less the
reformer by inclination, and yet he became a reformer beyond compare.
He emancipated criticism in America from its old slavery to stupidity,
and with it he emancipated all the arts themselves.


Nearly all the discussions of criticism that I am acquainted with
start off with a false assumption, to wit, that the primary motive
of the critic, the impulse which makes a critic of him instead of,
say, a politician, or a stockbroker, is pedagogical--that he writes
because he is possessed by a passion to advance the enlightenment,
to put down error and wrong, to disseminate some specific doctrine:
psychological, epistemological, historical, or æsthetic. This is
true, it seems to me, only of bad critics, and its degree of truth
increases in direct ratio to their badness. The motive of the critic
who is really worth reading--the only critic of whom, indeed, it may
be said truthfully that it is at all possible to read him, save as an
act of mental discipline--is something quite different. That motive
is not the motive of the pedagogue, but the motive of the artist. It
is no more and no less than the simple desire to function freely and
beautifully, to give outward and objective form to ideas that bubble
inwardly and have a fascinating lure in them, to get rid of them
dramatically and make an articulate noise in the world. It was for
this reason that Plato wrote the "Republic," and for this reason that
Beethoven wrote the Ninth Symphony, and it is for this reason, to
drop a million miles, that I am writing the present essay. Everything
else is afterthought, mock-modesty, messianic delusion--in brief,
affectation and folly. Is the contrary conception of criticism widely
cherished? Is it almost universally held that the thing is a brother
to jurisprudence, advertising, laparotomy, chautauqua lecturing and
the art of the schoolmarm? Then certainly the fact that it is so held
should be sufficient to set up an overwhelming probability of its lack
of truth and sense. If I speak with some heat, it is as one who has
suffered. When, years ago, I devoted myself diligently to critical
pieces upon the writings of Theodore Dreiser, I found that practically
every one who took any notice of my proceedings at all fell into either
one of two assumptions about my underlying purpose: _(a)_ that I had
a fanatical devotion for Mr. Dreiser's ideas and desired to propagate
them, or _(b)_ that I was an ardent patriot, and yearned to lift up
American literature. Both assumptions were false. I had then, and I
have now, very little interest in many of Mr. Dreiser's main ideas;
when we meet, in fact, we usually quarrel about them. And I am wholly
devoid of public spirit, and haven't the least lust to improve American
literature; if it ever came to what I regard as perfection my job
would be gone. What, then, was my motive in writing about Mr. Dreiser
so copiously? My motive, well known to Mr. Dreiser himself and to every
one else who knew, me as intimately as he did, was simply and solely
to sort out and give coherence to the ideas of Mr. Mencken, and to put
them into suave and ingratiating terms, and to discharge them with a
flourish, and maybe with a phrase of pretty song, into the dense fog
that blanketed the Republic.

The critic's choice of criticism rather than of what is called creative
writing is chiefly a matter of temperament--perhaps, more accurately
of hormones--with accidents of education and environment to help. The
feelings that happen to be dominant in him at the moment the scribbling
frenzy seizes him are feelings inspired, not directly by life itself,
but by books, pictures, music, sculpture, architecture, religion,
philosophy--in brief, by some other man's feelings about life. They
are thus, in a sense, second-hand, and it is no wonder that creative
artists so easily fall into the theory that they are also second-rate.
Perhaps they usually are. If, indeed, the critic continues on this
plane--if he lacks the intellectual agility and enterprise needed to
make the leap from the work of art to the vast and mysterious complex
of phenomena behind it--then they _always_ are, and he remains no more
than a fugelman or policeman to his betters. But if a genuine artist
is conceded within him--if his feelings are in any sense profound and
original, and his capacity for self-expression is above the average of
educated men--then he moves inevitably from the work of art to life
itself, and begins to take on a dignity that he formerly lacked. It
is impossible to think of a man of any actual force and originality,
universally recognized as having those qualities, who spent his whole
life appraising and describing the work of other men. Did Goethe, or
Carlyle, or Matthew Arnold, or Sainte-Beuve, or Macaulay, or even, to
come down a few pegs, Lewes, or Lowell, or Hazlitt? Certainly not. The
thing that becomes most obvious about the writings of all such men,
once they are examined carefully, is that the critic is always being
swallowed up by the creative artist--that what starts out as the review
of a book, or a play, or other work of art, usually develops very
quickly into an independent essay upon the theme of that work of art,
or upon some theme that it suggests--in a word, that it becomes a fresh
work of art, and only indirectly related to the one that suggested
it. This fact, indeed, is so plain that it scarcely needs statement.
What the pedagogues always object to in, for example, the _Quarterly_
reviewers is that they forgot the books they were supposed to review,
and wrote long papers--often, in fact, small books--expounding
ideas suggested (or not suggested) by the books under review. Every
critic who is worth reading falls inevitably into the same habit. He
cannot stick to his task: what is before him is always infinitely
less interesting to him than what is within him. If he is genuinely
first-rate--if what is within him stands the test of type, and wins an
audience, and produces the reactions that every artist craves--then
he usually ends by abandoning the criticism of specific works of art
altogether, and setting up shop as a general merchant in general ideas,
_i. e._, as an artist working in the materials of life itself.

Mere reviewing, however conscientiously and competently it is done, is
plainly a much inferior business. Like writing poetry, it is chiefly
a function of intellectual immaturity. The young literatus just out
of the university, having as yet no capacity for grappling with the
fundamental mysteries of existence, is put to writing reviews of books,
or plays, or music, or painting. Very often he does it extremely well;
it is, in fact, not hard to do well, for even decayed pedagogues often
do it, as such graves of the intellect as the New York _Times_ bear
witness. But if he continues to do it, whether well or ill, it is a
sign to all the world that his growth ceased when they made him _Artium
Baccalaureus._ Gradually he becomes, whether in or out of the academic
grove, a professor, which is to say, a man devoted to diluting and
retailing the ideas of his superiors--not an artist, not even a bad
artist, but almost the antithesis of an artist. He is learned, he is
sober, he is painstaking and accurate--but he is as hollow as a jug.
Nothing is in him save the ghostly echoes of other men's thoughts
and feelings. If he were a genuine artist he would have thoughts and
feelings of his own, and the impulse to give them objective form would
be irresistible. An artist can no more withstand that impulse than a
politician can withstand the temptations of a job. There are no mute,
inglorious Miltons, save in the hallucinations of poets. The one sound
test of a Milton is that he functions as a Milton. His difference
from other men lies precisely in the superior vigor of his impulse to
self-expression, not in the superior beauty and loftiness of his ideas.
Other men, in point of fact, often have the same ideas, or perhaps
even loftier ones, but they are able to suppress them, usually on
grounds of decorum, and so they escape being artists, and are respected
by right-thinking persons, and die with money in the bank, and are
forgotten in two weeks.

Obviously, the critic whose performance we are commonly called upon to
investigate is a man standing somewhere along the path leading from the
beginning that I have described to the goal. He has got beyond being a
mere cataloguer and valuer of other men's ideas, but he has not yet
become an autonomous artist--he is not yet ready to challenge attention
with his own ideas alone. But it is plain that his motion, in so far as
he is moving at all, must be in the direction of that autonomy--that
is, unless one imagines him sliding backward into senile infantilism:
a spectacle not unknown to literary pathology, but too pathetic to be
discussed here. Bear this motion in mind, and the true nature of his
aims and purposes becomes clear; more, the incurable falsity of the
aims and purposes usually credited to him becomes equally clear. He
is not actually trying to perform an impossible act of arctic justice
upon the artist whose work gives him a text. He is not trying with
mathematical passion to find out exactly what was in that artist's
mind at the moment of creation, and to display it precisely and in an
ecstasy of appreciation. He is not trying to bring the work discussed
into accord with some transient theory of æsthetics, or ethics, or
truth, or to determine its degree of departure from that theory. He is
not trying to lift up the fine arts, or to defend democracy against
sense, or to promote happiness at the domestic hearth, or to convert
sophomores into right-thinkers, or to serve God. He is not trying to
fit a group of novel phenomena into the orderly process of history. He
is not even trying to discharge the catalytic office that I myself, in
a romantic moment, once sought to force upon him. He is, first and
last, simply trying to express himself. He is trying to arrest and
challenge a sufficient body of readers, to make them pay attention
to him, to impress them with the charm and novelty of his ideas, to
provoke them into an agreeable (or shocked) awareness of him, and he is
trying to achieve thereby for his own inner ego the grateful feeling of
a function performed, a tension relieved, a _katharsis_ attained which
Wagner achieved when he wrote "Die Walküre," and a hen achieves every
time she lays an egg.

Joseph Conrad is moved by that necessity to write romances; Bach was
moved to write music; poets are moved to write poetry; critics are
moved to write criticism. The form is nothing; the only important
thing is the motive power, and it is the same in all cases. It is
the pressing yearning of every man who has ideas in him to empty
them upon the world, to hammer them into plausible and ingratiating
shapes, to compel the attention and respect of his equals, to lord
it over his inferiors. So seen, the critic becomes a far more
transparent and agreeable fellow than ever he was in the discourses
of the psychologists who sought to make him a mere appraiser in an
intellectual customs house, a gauger in a distillery of the spirit,
a just and infallible judge upon the cosmic bench. Such offices, in
point of fact, never fit him. He always bulges over their confines.
So labelled and estimated, it inevitably turns out that the specific
critic under examination is a very bad one, or no critic at all.
But when he is thought of, not as pedagogue, but as artist, then he
begins to take on reality, and, what is more, dignity. Carlyle was
surely no just and infallible judge; on the contrary, he was full
of prejudices, biles, naïvetés, humors. Yet he is read, consulted,
attended to. Macaulay was unfair, inaccurate, fanciful, lyrical--yet
his essays live. Arnold had his faults too, and so did Sainte-Beuve,
and so did Goethe, and so did many another of that line--and yet they
are remembered to-day, and all the learned and conscientious critics
of their time, laboriously concerned with the precise intent of the
artists under review, and passionately determined to set it forth with
god-like care and to relate it exactly to this or that great stream of
ideas--all these pedants are forgotten. What saved Carlyle, Macaulay
and company is as plain as day. They were first-rate artists. They
could make the thing charming, and that is always a million times more
important than making it true.

Truth, indeed, is something that is believed in completely only by
persons who have never tried personally to pursue it to its fastnesses
and grab it by the tail. It is the adoration of second-rate men--men
who always receive it at second-hand. Pedagogues believe in immutable
truths and spend their lives trying to determine them and propagate
them; the intellectual progress of man consists largely of a concerted
effort to block and destroy their enterprise. Nine times out of ten,
in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered;
there is only error to be exposed. In whole departments of human
inquiry it seems to me quite unlikely that the truth ever _will_ be
discovered. Nevertheless, the rubber-stamp thinking of the world
always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical
with the discovery of the truth--that error and truth are simple
opposites. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to,
when it has been cured of one error, is usually simply another error,
and maybe one worse than the first one. This is the whole history of
the intellect in brief. The average man of to-day does not believe in
precisely the same imbecilities that the Greek of the fourth century
before Christ believed in, but the things that he _does_ believe in are
often quite as idiotic. Perhaps this statement is a bit too sweeping.
There is, year by year, a gradual accumulation of what may be called,
provisionally, truths--there is a slow accretion of ideas that somehow
manage to meet all practicable human tests, and so survive. But even
so, it is risky to call them absolute truths. All that one may safely
say of them is that no one, as yet, has demonstrated that they are
errors. Soon or late, if experience teaches us anything, they are
likely to succumb too. The profoundest truths of the Middle Ages are
now laughed at by schoolboys. The profoundest truths of democracy will
be laughed at, a few centuries hence, even by school-teachers.

In the department of æsthetics, wherein critics mainly disport
themselves, it is almost impossible to think of a so-called truth
that shows any sign of being permanently true. The most profound of
principles begins to fade and quiver almost as soon as it is stated.
But the work of art, as opposed to the theory behind it, has a longer
life, particularly if that theory be obscure and questionable, and so
cannot be determined accurately. "Hamlet," the Mona Lisa, "Faust,"
"Dixie," "Parsifal," "Mother Goose," "Annabel Lee," "Huckleberry
Finn"--these things, so baffling to pedagogy, so contumacious to the
categories, so mysterious in purpose and utility--these things live.
And why? Because there is in them the flavor of salient, novel and
attractive personality, because the quality that shines from them is
not that of correct demeanor but that of creative passion, because they
pulse and breathe and speak, because they are genuine works of art. So
with criticism. Let us forget all the heavy effort to make a science of
it; it is a fine art, or nothing. If the critic, retiring to his cell
to concoct his treatise upon a book or play or what-not, produces a
piece of writing that shows sound structure, and brilliant color, and
the flash of new and persuasive ideas, and civilized manners, and the
charm of an uncommon personality in free function, then he has given
something to the world that is worth having, and sufficiently justified
his existence. Is Carlyle's "Frederick" true? Who cares? As well ask
if the Parthenon is true, or the C Minor Symphony, or "Wiener Blur."
Let the critic who is an artist leave such necropsies to professors of
æsthetics, who can no more determine the truth than he can, and will
infallibly make it unpleasant and a bore.

It is, of course, not easy to practice this abstention. Two forces,
one within and one without, tend to bring even a Hazlitt or a Huneker
under the campus pump. One is the almost universal human susceptibility
to messianic delusions--the irresistible tendency of practically every
man, once he finds a crowd in front of him, to strut and roll his
eyes. The other is the public demand, born of such long familiarity
with pedagogical criticism that no other kind is readily conceivable,
that the critic teach something as well as say something--in the
popular phrase, that he be constructive. Both operate powerfully
against his free functioning, and especially the former. He finds
it hard to resist the flattery of his customers, however little he
may actually esteem it. If he knows anything at all, he knows that
his following, like that of every other artist in ideas, is chiefly
made up of the congenitally subaltern type of man and woman--natural
converts, lodge joiners, me-toos, stragglers after circus parades.
It is precious seldom that he ever gets a positive idea out of them;
what he usually gets is mere unintelligent ratification. But this
troop, despite its obvious failings, corrupts him in various ways.
For one thing, it enormously reënforces his belief in his own ideas,
and so tends to make him stiff and dogmatic--in brief, precisely
everything that he ought not to be. And for another thing, it tends
to make him (by a curious contradiction) a bit pliant and politic: he
begins to estimate new ideas, not in proportion as they are amusing
or beautiful, but in proportion as they are likely to please. So
beset, front and rear, he sometimes sinks supinely to the level of a
professor, and his subsequent proceedings are interesting no more.
The true aim of a critic is certainly not to make converts. He must
know that very few of the persons who are susceptible to conversion
are worth converting. Their minds are intrinsically flabby and
parasitical, and it is certainly not sound sport to agitate minds
of that sort. Moreover, the critic must always harbor a grave doubt
about most of the ideas that they lap up so greedily--it must occur
to him not infrequently, in the silent watches of the night, that
much that he writes is sheer buncombe. As I have said, I can't imagine
any idea--that is, in the domain of æsthetics--that is palpably and
incontrovertibly sound. All that I am familiar with, and in particular
all that I announce most vociferously, seem to me to contain a core
of quite obvious nonsense. I thus try to avoid cherishing them too
lovingly, and it always gives me a shiver to see any one else gobble
them at one gulp. Criticism, at bottom, is indistinguishable from
skepticism. Both launch themselves, the one by æsthetic presentations
and the other by logical presentations, at the common human tendency
to accept whatever is approved, to take in ideas ready-made, to be
responsive to mere rhetoric and gesticulation. A critic who believes in
anything absolutely is bound to that something quite as helplessly as a
Christian is bound to the Freudian garbage in the Book of Revelation.
To that extent, at all events, he is unfree and unintelligent, and
hence a bad critic.

The demand for "constructive" criticism is based upon the same false
assumption that immutable truths exist in the arts, and that the artist
will be improved by being made aware of them. This notion, whatever the
form it takes, is always absurd--as much so, indeed, as its brother
delusion that the critic, to be competent, must be a practitioner of
the specific art he ventures to deal with, _i. e._, that a doctor, to
cure a belly-ache, must have a belly-ache. As practically encountered,
it is disingenuous as well as absurd, for it comes chiefly from bad
artists who tire of serving as performing monkeys, and crave the
greater ease and safety of sophomores in class. They demand to be
taught in order to avoid being knocked about. In their demand is the
theory that instruction, if they could get it, would profit them--that
they are capable of doing better work than they do. As a practical
matter, I doubt that this is ever true. Bad poets never actually grow
any better; they invariably grow worse and worse. In all history there
has never been, to my knowledge, a single practitioner of any art
who, as a result of "constructive" criticism, improved his work. The
curse of all the arts, indeed, is the fact that they are constantly
invaded by persons who are not artists at all--persons whose yearning
to express their ideas and feelings is unaccompanied by the slightest
capacity for charming expression--in brief, persons with absolutely
nothing to say. This is particularly true of the art of letters, which
interposes very few technical obstacles to the vanity and garrulity of
such invaders. Any effort to teach them to write better is an effort
wasted, as every editor discovers for himself; they are as incapable
of it as they are of jumping over the moon. The only sort of criticism
that can deal with them to any profit is the sort that employs them
frankly as laboratory animals. It cannot cure them, but it can at least
make an amusing and perhaps edifying show of them. It is idle to argue
that the good in them is thus destroyed with the bad. The simple answer
is that there _is_ no good in them. Suppose Poe had wasted his time
trying to dredge good work out of Rufus Dawes, author of "Geraldine."
He would have failed miserably--and spoiled a capital essay, still
diverting after three-quarters of a century. Suppose Beethoven, dealing
with Gottfried Weber, had tried laboriously to make an intelligent
music critic of him. How much more apt, useful and durable the simple
note: "Arch-ass! Double-barrelled ass!" Here was absolutely sound
criticism. Here was a judgment wholly beyond challenge. Moreover, here
was a small but perfect work of art.

Upon the low practical value of so-called constructive criticism I
can offer testimony out of my own experience. My books are commonly
reviewed at great length, and many critics devote themselves to
pointing out what they conceive to be my errors, both of fact and of
taste. Well, I cannot recall a case in which any suggestion offered
by a constructive critic has helped me in the slightest, or even
actively interested me. Every such wet-nurse of letters has sought
fatuously to make me write in a way differing from that in which the
Lord God Almighty, in His infinite wisdom, impels me to write--that
is, to make me write stuff which, coming from me, would be as false
as an appearance of decency in a Congressman. All the benefits I have
ever got from the critics of my work have come from the destructive
variety. A hearty slating always does me good, particularly if it be
well written. It begins by enlisting my professional respect; it ends
by making me examine my ideas coldly in the privacy of my chamber.
Not, of course, that I usually revise them, but I at least examine
them. If I decide to hold fast to them, they are all the dearer to me
thereafter, and I expound them with a new passion and plausibility.
If, on the contrary, I discern holes in them, I shelve them in a
_pianissimo_ manner, and set about hatching new ones to take their
place. But constructive criticism irritates me. I do not object to
being denounced, but I can't abide being school-mastered, especially by
men I regard as imbeciles.

I find, as a practicing critic, that very few men who write books
are even as tolerant as I am--that most of them, soon or late, show
signs of extreme discomfort under criticism, however polite its terms.
Perhaps this is why enduring friendships between authors and critics
are so rare. All artists, of course, dislike one another more or less,
but that dislike seldom rises to implacable enmity, save between opera
singer and opera singer, and creative author and critic. Even when
the latter two keep up an outward show of good-will, there is always
bitter antagonism under the surface. Part of it, I daresay, arises out
of the impossible demands of the critic, particularly if he be tinged
with the constructive madness. Having favored an author with his good
opinion, he expects the poor fellow to live up to that good opinion
without the slightest compromise or faltering, and this is commonly
beyond human power. He feels that any let-down compromises _him_--that
his hero is stabbing him in the back, and making him ridiculous--and
this feeling rasps his vanity. The most bitter of all literary quarrels
are those between critics and creative artists, and most of them arise
in just this way. As for the creative artist, he on his part naturally
resents the critic's air of pedagogical superiority and he resents it
especially when he has an uneasy feeling that he has fallen short of
his best work, and that the discontent of the critic is thus justified.
Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. Under it
all, of course, lurks the fact that I began with: the fact that the
critic is himself an artist, and that his creative impulse, soon or
late, is bound to make him neglect the punctilio. When he sits down to
compose his criticism, his artist ceases to be a friend, and becomes
mere raw material for his work of art. It is my experience that artists
invariably resent this cavalier use of them. They are pleased so long
as the critic confines himself to the modest business of interpreting
them--preferably in terms of their own estimate of themselves--but the
moment he proceeds to adorn their theme with variations of his own, the
moment he brings new ideas to the enterprise and begins contrasting
them with their ideas, that moment they grow restive. It is precisely
at this point, of course, that criticism becomes genuine criticism;
before that it was mere reviewing. When a critic passes it he loses his
friends. By becoming an artist, he becomes the foe of all other artists.

But the transformation, I believe, has good effects upon him: it makes
him a better critic. Too much _Gemütlichkeit_ is as fatal to criticism
as it would be to surgery or politics. When it rages unimpeded it leads
inevitably either to a dull professorial sticking on of meaningless
labels or to log-rolling, and often it leads to both. One of the most
hopeful symptoms of the new _Aufklärung_ in the Republic is the revival
of acrimony in criticism--the renaissance of the doctrine that æsthetic
matters are important, and that it is worth the while of a healthy male
to take them seriously, as he takes business, sport and amour. In the
days when American literature was showing its first vigorous growth,
the native criticism was extraordinarily violent and even vicious; in
the days when American literature swooned upon the tomb of the Puritan
_Kultur_ it became flaccid and childish. The typical critic of the
first era was Poe, as the typical critic of the second was Howells. Poe
carried on his critical jehads with such ferocity that he often got
into law-suits, and sometimes ran no little risk of having his head
cracked. He regarded literary questions as exigent and momentous. The
lofty aloofness of the don was simply not in him. When he encountered
a book that seemed to him to be bad, he attacked it almost as sharply
as a Chamber of Commerce would attack a fanatic preaching free speech,
or the corporation of Trinity Church would attack Christ. His opponents
replied in the same Berserker manner. Much of Poe's surviving ill-fame,
as a drunkard and dead-beat, is due to their inordinate denunciations
of him. They were not content to refute him; they constantly tried to
dispose of him altogether. The very ferocity of that ancient row shows
that the native literature, in those days, was in a healthy state.
Books of genuine value were produced. Literature always thrives best,
in fact, in an atmosphere of hearty strife. Poe, surrounded by admiring
professors, never challenged, never aroused to the emotions of revolt,
would probably have written poetry indistinguishable from the hollow
stuff of, say, Prof. Dr. George E. Woodberry. It took the persistent
(and often grossly unfair and dishonorable) opposition of Griswold _et
al_ to stimulate him to his highest endeavors. He needed friends, true
enough, but he also needed enemies.

To-day, for the first time in years, there is strife in American
criticism, and the Paul Elmer Mores and Hamilton Wright Mabies are
no longer able to purr in peace. The instant they fall into stiff
professorial attitudes they are challenged, and often with anything but
urbanity. The _ex cathedra_ manner thus passes out, and free discussion
comes in. Heretics lay on boldly, and the professors are forced to
make some defense. Often, going further, they attempt counter-attacks.
Ears are bitten off. Noses are bloodied. There are wallops both above
and below the belt. I am, I need not say, no believer in any magical
merit in debate, no matter how free it may be. It certainly does not
necessarily establish the truth; both sides, in fact, may be wrong, and
they often are. But it at least accomplishes two important effects.
On the one hand, it exposes all the cruder fallacies to hostile
examination, and so disposes of many of them. And on the other hand, it
melodramatizes the business of the critic, and so convinces thousands
of bystanders, otherwise quite inert, that criticism is an amusing and
instructive art, and that the problems it deals with are important.
What men will fight for seems to be worth looking into.


After a hearty dinner of _potage créole,_ planked Chesapeake shad,
Guinea hen _en casserole_ and some respectable salad, with two or three
cocktails made of two-thirds gin, one-third Martini-Rossi vermouth and
a dash of absinthe as _Vorspiel_ and a bottle of Ruhländer 1903 to wash
it down, the following thought often bubbles up from my subconscious:
that many of the acknowledged evils of capitalism, now so horribly
visible in the world, are not due primarily to capitalism itself but
rather to democracy, that universal murrain of Christendom.

What I mean, in brief, is that capitalism, under democracy, is
constantly under hostile pressure and often has its back to the wall,
and that its barbaric manners and morals, at least in large part, are
due to that fact--that they are, in essence, precisely the same manners
and morals that are displayed by any other creature or institution so
beset. Necessity is not only the mother of invention; it is also the
mother of every imaginable excess and infamy. A woman defending her
child is notoriously willing to go to lengths that even a Turk or an
agent of the Department of Justice would regard as inordinate, and
so is a Presbyterian defending his hell, or a soldier defending his
fatherland, or a banker defending his gold. It is only when there is no
danger that the average human being is honorable, just as it is only
when there _is_ danger that he is virtuous. He would commit adultery
every day if it were safe, and he would commit murder every day if it
were necessary.

The essential thing about democracy, as every one must know, is that
it is a device for strengthening and heartening the have-nots in their
eternal war upon the haves. That war, as every one knows again, has
its psychological springs in envy pure and simple--envy of the more
fortunate man's greater wealth, the superior pulchritude of his wife
or wives, his larger mobility and freedom, his more protean capacity
for and command of happiness--in brief, his better chance to lead a
bearable life in this worst of possible worlds. It follows that under
democracy, which gives a false power and importance to the have-nots by
counting every one of them as the legal equal of George Washington or
Beethoven, the process of government consists largely, and sometimes
almost exclusively, of efforts to spoil that advantage artificially.
Trust-busting, free silver, direct elections, Prohibition, government
ownership and all the other varieties of American political quackery
are but symptoms of the same general rage. It is the rage of the
have-not against the have, of the farmer who must drink hard cider and
forty-rod against the city man who may drink Burgundy and Scotch, of
the poor fellow who must stay at home looking at a wife who regards the
lip-stick as lewd and lascivious against the lucky fellow who may go to
Atlantic City or Palm Beach and ride up and down in a wheel-chair with
a girl who knows how to make up and has put away the fear of God.

The ignobler sort of men, of course, are too stupid to understand
various rare and exhilarating sorts of superiority, and so they do not
envy the happiness that goes with them. If they could enter into the
mind of a Wagner or a Brahms and begin to comprehend the stupendous joy
that such a man gets out of the practice of his art, they would pass
laws against it and make a criminal of him, as they have already made
criminals, in the United States, of the man with a civilized taste for
wines, the man so attractive to women that he can get all the wives he
wants without having to marry them, and the man who can make pictures
like Félicien Rops, or books like Flaubert, Zola, Dreiser, Cabell or
Rabelais. Wagner and Brahms escape, and their arts with them, because
the great masses of men cannot understand the sort of thing they
try to do, and hence do not envy the man who does it well, and gets
joy out of it. It is much different with, say, Rops. Every American
Congressman, as a small boy, covered the fence of the Sunday-School
yard with pictures in the manner of Rops. What he now remembers of the
business is that the pictures were denounced by the superintendent, and
that he was cowhided for making them; what he hears about Rops, when he
hears at all, is that the fellow is vastly esteemed, and hence probably
full of a smug æsthetic satisfaction. In consequence, it is unlawful in
the United States to transmit the principal pictures of Rops by mail,
or, indeed, "to have and possess" them. The man who owns them must
conceal them from the _okhrána_ of the Department of Justice just as
carefully as he conceals the wines and whiskeys in his cellar, or the
poor working girl he transports from the heat and noise of New York to
the salubrious calm of the Jersey coast, or his hand-tooled library set
of the "Contes Drôlatiques," or his precious first edition of "Jurgen."

But, as I say, the democratic pressure in such directions is relatively
feeble, for there are whole categories of more or less æsthetic
superiority and happiness that the democrat cannot understand at all,
and is in consequence virtually unaware of. It is far different with
the varieties of superiority and happiness that are the functions
of mere money. Here the democrat is extraordinarily alert and
appreciative. He can not only imagine hundreds of ways of getting
happiness out of money; he devotes almost the whole of his intellectual
activity, such as it is, to imagining them, and he seldom if ever
imagines anything else. Even his sexual fancies translate themselves
instantly into concepts of dollars and cents; the thing that confines
him so miserably to one wife, and to one, alas, so unappetizing and
depressing, is simply his lack of money; if he only had the wealth
of Diamond Jim Brady he too would be the glittering Don Giovanni
that Jim was. All the known species of democratic political theory
are grounded firmly upon this doctrine that money, and money only,
makes the mare go--that all the conceivable varieties of happiness
are possible to the man who has it. Even the Socialists, who profess
to scorn money, really worship it. Socialism, indeed, is simply the
degenerate capitalism of bankrupt capitalists. Its one genuine object
is to get more money for its professors; all its other grandiloquent
objects are afterthoughts, and most of them are bogus. The democrats
of other schools pursue the same single aim--and adorn it with false
pretenses even more transparent. In the United States the average
democrat, I suppose, would say that the establishment and safeguarding
of liberty was the chief purpose of democracy. The theory is mere
wind. The average American democrat really cares nothing whatever
for liberty, and is always willing to sell it for money. What he
actually wants, and strives to get by his politics, is more money.
His fundamental political ideas nearly all contemplate restraints and
raids upon capital, even when they appear superficially to be quite
free from economic flavor, and most of the political banshees and
bugaboos that alternately freeze and boil his blood have dollar marks
written all over them. There is no need to marshal a long catalogue of
examples from English and American political history: I simply defy any
critic of my doctrine to find a single issue of genuine appeal to the
populace, at any time during the past century, that did not involve a
more or less obvious scheme for looting a minority--the slave-owners,
Wall Street, the railroads, the dukes, or some other group representing
capital. Even the most affecting idealism of the plain people has a
thrifty basis. In the United States, during the early part of the late
war, they were very cynical about the Allied cause; it was not until
the war orders of the Allies raised their wages that they began to
believe in the noble righteousness of Lloyd-George and company. And
after Dr. Wilson had jockeyed the United States itself into the war,
and the cost of living began to increase faster than wages, he faced a
hostile country until he restored altruism by his wholesale bribery of

It is my contention that the constant exposure of capitalism to such
primitive lusts and forays is what makes it so lamentably extortionate
and unconscionable in democratic countries, and particularly in the
United States. The capitalist, warned by experience, collars all he
can while the getting is good, regardless of the commonest honesty and
decorum, because he is haunted by an uneasy feeling that his season
will not be long. His dominating passion is to pile up the largest
amount of capital possible, by fair means or foul, so that he will
have ample reserves when the next raid comes, and he has to use part
of it to bribe one part of the proletariat against the other. In the
long run, of course, he always wins, for this bribery is invariably
feasible; in the United States, indeed, every fresh struggle leaves
capital more secure than it was before. But though the capitalist thus
has no reason to fear actual defeat and disaster, he is well aware that
victory is always expensive, and his natural prudence causes him to
discount the cost in advance, even when he has planned to shift it to
other shoulders. I point, in example, to the manner in which capital
dealt with the discharged American soldiers after the war. Its first
effort was to cajole them into its service, as they had been cajoled
by the politicians after the Civil War. To this end, it borrowed
the machine erected by Dr. Wilson and his agents for debauching the
booboisie during the actual war, and by the skillful use of that
machine it quickly organized the late conscripts into the American
Legion, alarmed them with lies about a Bolshevist scheme to make slaves
of them (i. e., to cut off forever their hope of getting money), and
put them to clubbing and butchering their fellow proletarians. The
business done, the conscripts found themselves out of jobs: their
gallant war upon Bolshevism had brought down wages, and paralysed
organized labor. They now demanded pay for their work, and capital
had to meet the demand. It did so by promising them a bonus--_i. e.,_
loot--out of the public treasury, and by straightway inventing a scheme
whereby the ultimate cost would fall chiefly upon poor folk.

Throughout the war, indeed, capital exhibited an inordinately
extortionate spirit, and thereby revealed its underlying dread. First
it robbed the Allies in the manner of bootleggers looting a country
distillery, then it swindled the plain people at home by first bribing
them with huge wages and then taking away all their profits and
therewith all their savings, and then it seized and made away with the
impounded property of enemy nationals--property theoretically held in
trust for them, and the booty, if it was booty at all, of the whole
American people. This triple burglary was excessive, to be sure, but
who will say that it was not prudent? The capitalists of the Republic
are efficient, and have foresight. They saw some lean and hazardous
years ahead, with all sorts of raids threatening. They took measures to
fortify their position. To-day their prevision is their salvation. They
are losing some of their accumulation, of course, but they still have
enough left to finance an effective defense of the remainder. There
was never any time in the history of any country, indeed, when capital
was so securely intrenched as it is to-day in the United States. It
has divided the proletariat into two bitterly hostile halves, it has
battered and crippled unionism almost beyond recognition, it has a firm
grip upon all three arms of the government, and it controls practically
every agency for the influencing of public opinion, from the press to
the church. Had it been less prudent when times were good, and put its
trust in God alone, the I. W. W. would have rushed it at the end of the

As I say, I often entertain the thought that it would be better,
in the long run, to make terms with a power so hard to resist, and
thereby purge it of its present compulsory criminality. I doubt that
capitalists, as a class, are naturally vicious; certainly they are
no more vicious than, say, lawyers and politicians--upon whom the
plain people commonly rely, in their innocence, to save them. I have
known a good many men of great wealth in my time, and most of them
have been men showing all the customary decencies. They deplore the
harsh necessities of their profession quite as honestly as a judge
deplores the harsh necessities of his. You will never convince me that
the average American banker, during the war, got anything properly
describable as professional satisfaction out of selling Liberty bonds
at 100 to poor stenographers, and then buying them back at 83. He knew
that he'd need his usurious profit against the blue day when the boys
came home, and so he took it, but it would have given him ten times as
much pleasure if it had come from the reluctant gizzard of some other
banker. In brief, there is a pride of workmanship in capitalists, just
as there is in all other men above the general. They get the same
spiritual lift out of their sordid swindles that Swinburne got out of
composing his boozy dithyrambs, and I often incline to think that it
is quite as worthy of respect. In a democratic society, with the arts
adjourned and the sciences mere concubines of money, it is chiefly the
capitalists, in fact, who keep pride of workmanship alive. In their
principal enemies, the trades-unionists, it is almost extinct. Unionism
seldom, if ever, uses such power as it has to insure better work;
almost always it devotes a large part of that power to safeguarding
bad work. A union man who, moved by professional pride, put any extra
effort into his job would probably be punished by his union as a sort
of scab. But a capitalist is still able to cherish some of the old
spirit of the guildsman. If he invents a new device for corralling the
money of those who have earned it, or operates an old device in some
new and brilliant way, he is honored and envied by his colleagues.
The late J. Pierpont Morgan was thus honored and envied, not because
he made more actual money than any other capitalist of his time--in
point of fact, he made a good deal less than some, and his own son, a
much inferior man, has made more since his death than he did during
his whole life--but because his operations showed originality, daring,
coolness, and imagination--in brief, because he was a great virtuoso in
the art he practiced.

What I contend is that the democratic system of government would be
saner and more effective in its dealings with capital if it ceased to
regard all capitalists as criminals _ipso facto,_ and thereby ceased
to make their armed pursuit the chief end of practical politics--if
it gave over this vain effort to put them down by force, and tried
to bring them to decency by giving greater play and confidence to
the pride of workmanship that I have described. They would be less
ferocious and immoderate, I think, if they were treated with less
hostility, and put more upon their conscience and honor. No doubt the
average democrat, brought up upon the prevailing superstitions and
prejudices of his faith, will deny at once that they are actually
capable of conscience or honor, or that they have any recognizable
pride of workmanship. Well, let him deny it. He will make precisely
the same denial with respect to kings. Nevertheless, it must be plain
to every one who has read history attentively that the majority of the
kings of the past, even when no criticism could reach them, showed
a very great pride of workmanship--that they tried to be good kings
even when it was easier to be bad ones. The same thing is true of
the majority of capitalists--the kings of to-day. They are criminals
by our democratic law, but their criminality is chiefly artificial
and theoretical, like that of a bootlegger. If it were abolished by
repealing the laws which create it--if it became legally just as
virtuous to organize and operate a great industrial corporation, or
to combine and rehabilitate railroads, or to finance any other such
transactions as it is to organize a trades-union, a _Bauverein,_ or a
lodge of Odd Fellows--then I believe that capitalists would forthwith
abandon a great deal of the scoundrelism which now marks their
proceedings, that they could be trusted to police their order at least
as vigilantly as physicians or lawyers police theirs, and that the
activities of those members of it who showed no pride of workmanship at
all would be effectively curbed.

The legal war upon them under democracy is grounded upon the false
assumption that it would be possible, given laws enough, to get rid
of them altogether. The _Ur-_Americanos, who set the tone of our
legislation and provided examples for the legislation of every other
democratic country, were chiefly what would be called Bolsheviki
to-day. They dreamed of a republic wholly purged of capitalism--and
taxes. They were have-nots of the most romantic and ambitious variety,
and saw Utopia before them. Every man of their time who thought
capitalistically--that is, who believed that things consumed had to
be paid for--was a target for their revilings: for example, Alexander
Hamilton. But they were wrong, and their modern heirs and assigns are
wrong just as surely. That wrongness of theirs, in truth, has grown
enormously since it was launched, for the early Americans were a
pastoral people, and could get along with very little capital, whereas
the Americans of to-day lead a very complex life, and need the aid of
capitalism at almost every breath they draw. Most of their primary
necessities--the railroad, the steamship lines, the trolley car,
the telephone, refrigerated meats, machine-made clothes, phonograph
records, moving-picture shows, and so on--are wholly unthinkable save
as the products of capital in large aggregations. No man of to-day can
imagine doing without them, or getting them without the aid of such
aggregations. The most even the wildest Socialist can think of is to
take the capital away from the capitalists who now have it and hand it
over to the state--in other words, to politicians. A century ago there
were still plenty of men who, like Thoreau, proposed to abolish it
altogether. But now even the radicals of the extreme left assume as a
matter of course that capital is indispensible, and that abolishing it
or dispersing it would cause a collapse of civilization.

What ails democracy, in the economic department, is that it proceeds
upon the assumption that the contrary is true--that it seeks to bring
capitalism to a state of innocuous virtue by grossly exaggerating
its viciousness--that it penalizes ignorantly what is, at bottom, a
perfectly natural and legitimate aspiration, and one necessary to
society. Such penalizings, I need not argue, never destroy the impulse
itself; surely the American experience with Prohibition should make
even a democrat aware of that. What they do is simply to make it
evasive, intemperate, and relentless. If it were legally as hazardous
in the United States to play a string quartette as it is to build up a
great bank or industrial enterprise--if the performers, struggling with
their parts, had to watch the windows in constant fear that a Bryan,
a Roosevelt, a Lloyd-George or some other such predatory mountebank
would break in, armed with a club and followed by a rabble--then string
quartette players would become as devious and anti-social in their ways
as the average American capitalist is to-day, and when, by a process of
setting one part of the mob against the rest, they managed to get a
chance to play quartettes in temporary peace, despite the general mob
hatred of them, they would forget the lovely music of Haydn and Mozart
altogether, and devote their whole time to a _fortissimo_ playing of
the worst musical felonies of Schönberg, Ravel and Strawinsky.



_The Life of Man_

The old anthropomorphic notion that the life of the whole universe
centers in the life of man--that human existence is the supreme
expression of the cosmic process--this notion seems to be on its way
toward the Sheol of exploded delusions. The fact is that the life of
man, as it is more and more studied in the light of general biology,
appears to be more and more empty of significance. Once apparently the
chief concern and masterpiece of the gods, the human race now begins
to bear the aspect of _I_ an accidental by-product of their vast,
inscrutable and probably nonsensical operations. A blacksmith making a
horse-shoe produces something almost as brilliant and mysterious--the
shower of sparks. But his eye and thought, as we know, are not on the
sparks, but on the horse-shoe. The sparks, indeed, constitute a sort
of disease of the horse-shoe; their existence depends upon a wasting
of its tissue. In the same way, perhaps, man is a local disease of
the cosmos--a kind of pestiferous eczema or urethritis. There are,
of course, different grades of eczema, and so are there different
grades of men. No doubt a cosmos afflicted with nothing worse than an
infection of Beethovens would not think it worth while to send for the
doctor. But a cosmos infested by prohibitionists, Socialists, Scotsmen
and stockbrokers must suffer damnably. No wonder the sun is so hot and
the moon is so diabetically green!


_The Anthropomorphic Delusion_

As I say, the anthropomorphic theory of the world is made absurd by
modern biology--but that is not saying, of course, that it will ever
be abandoned by the generality of men. To the contrary, they will
cherish it in proportion as it becomes more and more dubious. To-day,
indeed, it is cherished as it was never cherished in the Ages of Faith,
when the doctrine that man was god-like was at least ameliorated
by the doctrine that woman was vile. What else is behind charity,
philanthropy, pacifism, Socialism, the uplift, all the rest of the
current sentimentalities? One and all, these sentimentalities are based
upon the notion that man is a glorious and ineffable animal, and
that his continued existence in the world ought to be facilitated and
insured. But this notion is obviously full of fatuity. As animals go,
even in so limited a space as our world, man is botched and ridiculous.
Few other brutes are so stupid or so cowardly. The commonest yellow dog
has far sharper senses and is infinitely more courageous, not to say
more honest and dependable. The ants and the bees are, in many ways,
far more intelligent and ingenious; they manage their government with
vastly less quarreling, wastefulness and imbecility. The lion is more
beautiful, more dignified, more majestic. The antelope is swifter and
more graceful. The ordinary house-cat is cleaner. The horse, foamed
by labor, has a better smell. The gorilla is kinder to his children
and more faithful to his wife. The ox and the ass are more industrious
and serene. But most of all, man is deficient in courage, perhaps the
noblest quality of them all. He is not only mortally afraid of all
other animals of his own weight or half his weight--save a few that he
has debased by artificial inbreeding--; he is even mortally afraid of
his own kind--and not only of their fists and hooves, but even of their

No other animal is so defectively adapted to its environment. The
human infant, as it comes into the world, is so puny that if it were
neglected for two days running it would infallibly perish, and this
congenital infirmity, though more or less concealed later on, persists
until death. Man is ill far more than any other animal, both in his
savage state and under civilization. He has more different diseases and
he suffers from them oftener. He is easier exhausted and injured. He
dies more horribly and usually sooner. Practically all the other higher
vertebrates, at least in their wild state, live longer and retain their
faculties to a greater age. Here even the anthropoid apes are far
beyond their human cousins. An orang-outang marries at the age of seven
or eight, raises a family of seventy or eighty children, and is still
as hale and hearty at eighty as a European at forty-five.

All the errors and incompetencies of the Creator reach their climax
in man. As a piece of mechanism he is the worst of them all; put
beside him, even a salmon or a staphylococcus is a sound and efficient
machine. He has the worst kidneys known to comparative zoology, and
the worst lungs, and the worst heart. His eye, considering the work it
is called upon to do, is less efficient than the eye of an earth-worm;
an optical instrument maker who made an instrument so clumsy would be
mobbed by his customers. Alone of all animals, terrestrial, celestial
or marine, man is unfit by nature to go abroad in the world he
inhabits. He must clothe himself, protect himself, swathe himself,
armor himself. He is eternally in the position of a turtle born without
a shell, a dog without hair, a fish without fins. Lacking his heavy and
cumbersome trappings, he is defenseless even against flies. As God made
him he hasn't even a tail to switch them off.

I now come to man's one point of unquestionable natural superiority:
he has a soul. This is what sets him off from all other animals, and
makes him, in a way, their master. The exact nature of that soul has
been in dispute for thousands of years, but regarding its function it
is possible to speak with some authority. That function is to bring
man into direct contact with God, to make him aware of God, above
all, to make him resemble God. Well, consider the colossal failure of
the device! If we assume that man actually does resemble God, then we
are forced into the impossible theory that God is a coward, an idiot
and a bounder. And if we assume that man, after all these years, does
_not_ resemble God, then it appears at once that the human soul is as
inefficient a machine as the human liver or tonsil, and that man would
probably be better off, as the chimpanzee undoubtedly _is_ better off,
without it.

Such, indeed, is the case. The only practical effect of having a
soul is that it fills man with anthropomorphic and anthropocentric
vanities--in brief with cocky and preposterous superstitions. He
struts and plumes himself because he has this soul--and overlooks the
fact that it doesn't work. Thus he is the supreme clown of creation,
the _reductio ad absurdum_ of animated nature. He is like a cow who
believed that she could jump over the moon, and ordered her whole life
upon that theory. He is like a bullfrog boasting eternally of fighting
lions, of flying over the Matterhorn, and of swimming the Hellespont.
And yet this is the poor brute we are asked to venerate as a gem in
the forehead of the cosmos! This is the worm we are asked to defend
as God's favorite on earth, with all its millions of braver, nobler,
decenter quadrupeds--its superb lions, its lithe and gallant leopards,
its imperial elephants, its honest dogs, its courageous rats! This is
the insect we are besought, at infinite trouble, labor and expense, to


_Meditation on Meditation._

Man's capacity for abstract thought, which most other mammals seem
to lack, has undoubtedly given him his present mastery of the land
surface of the earth--a mastery disputed only by several hundred
species of microscopic organisms. It is responsible for his feeling
of superiority, and under that feeling there is undoubtedly a certain
measure of reality, at least within narrow limits. But what is too
often overlooked is that the capacity to perform an act is by no means
synonymous with its salubrious exercise. The simple fact is that most
of man's thinking is stupid, pointless, and injurious to him. Of all
animals, indeed, he seems the least capable of arriving at accurate
judgments in the matters that most desperately affect his welfare.
Try to imagine a rat, in the realm of rat ideas, arriving at a notion
as violently in contempt of plausibility as the notion, say, of
Swedenborgianism, or that of homeopathy, or that of infant damnation,
or that of mental telepathy. Try to think of a congregation of educated
rats gravely listening to such disgusting intellectual rubbish as was
in the public bulls of Dr. Woodrow Wilson. Man's natural instinct, in
fact, is never toward what is sound and true; it is toward what is
specious and false. Let any great nation of modern times be confronted
by two conflicting propositions, the one grounded upon the utmost
probability and reasonableness and the other upon the most glaring
error, and it will almost invariably embrace the latter. It is so
in politics, which consists wholly of a succession of unintelligent
crazes, many of them so idiotic that they exist only as battle-cries
and shibboleths and are not reducible to logical statement at all. It
is so in religion, which, like poetry, is simply a concerted effort
to deny the most obvious realities. It is so in nearly every field
of thought. The ideas that conquer the race most rapidly and arouse
the wildest enthusiasm and are held most tenaciously are precisely
the ideas that are most insane. This has been true since the first
"advanced" gorilla put on underwear, cultivated a frown and began his
first lecture tour in the first chautauqua, and it will be so until the
high gods, tired of the farce at last, obliterate the race with one
great, final blast of fire, mustard gas and streptococci.

No doubt the imagination of man is to blame for this singular weakness.
That imagination, I daresay, is what gave him his first lift above his
fellow primates. It enabled him to visualize a condition of existence
better than that he was experiencing, and bit by bit he was able to
give the picture a certain crude reality. Even to-day he keeps on going
ahead in the same manner. That is, he thinks of something that he would
like to be or to get, something appreciably better than what he is or
has, and then, by the laborious, costly method of trial and error, he
gradually moves toward it. In the process he is often severely punished
for his discontent with God's ordinances. He mashes his thumb, he skins
his shin; he stumbles and falls; the prize he reaches out for blows
up in his hands. But bit by bit he moves on, or, at all events, his
heirs and assigns move on. Bit by bit he smooths the path beneath his
remaining leg, and achieves pretty toys for his remaining hand to play
with, and accumulates delights for his remaining ear and eye.

Alas, he is not content with this slow and sanguinary progress! Always
he looks further and further ahead. Always he imagines things just
over the sky-line. This body of imaginings constitutes his stock of
sweet beliefs, his corpus of high faiths and confidences--in brief, his
burden of errors. And that burden of errors is what distinguishes man,
even above his capacity for tears, his talents as a liar, his excessive
hypocrisy and poltroonery, from all the other orders of mammalia. Man
is the yokel _par excellence,_ the booby unmatchable, the king dupe of
the cosmos. He is chronically and unescapably deceived, not only by the
other animals and by the delusive face of nature herself, but also and
more particularly by himself--by his incomparable talent for searching
out and embracing what is false, and for overlooking and denying what
is true.

The capacity for discerning the essential truth, in fact, is as rare
among men as it is common among crows, bullfrogs and mackerel. The
man who shows it is a man of quite extraordinary quality--perhaps
even a man downright diseased. Exhibit a new truth of any natural
plausibility before the great masses of men, and not one in ten thousand
will suspect its existence, and not one in a hundred thousand will
embrace it without a ferocious resistance. All the durable truths
that have come into the world within historic times have been opposed
as bitterly as if they were so many waves of smallpox, and every
individual who has welcomed and advocated them, absolutely without
exception, has been denounced and punished as an enemy of the race.
Perhaps "absolutely without exception" goes too far. I substitute "with
five or six exceptions." But who were the five or six exceptions? I
leave you to think of them; myself, I can't.... But I think at once
of Charles Darwin and his associates, and of how they were reviled
in their time. This reviling, of course, is less vociferous than it
used to be, chiefly because later victims are in the arena, but the
underlying hostility remains. Within the past two years the principal
Great Thinker of Britain, George Bernard Shaw, has denounced the
hypothesis of natural selection to great applause, and a three-times
candidate for the American Presidency, William Jennings Bryan, has
publicly advocated prohibiting the teaching of it by law. The great
majority of Christian ecclesiastics in both English-speaking countries,
and with them the great majority of their catachumens, are still
committed to the doctrine that Darwin was a scoundrel, and Herbert
Spencer another, and Huxley a third--and that Nietzsche is to the three
of them what Beelzebub himself is to a trio of bad boys. This is the
reaction of the main body of respectable folk in two puissant and
idealistic Christian nations to the men who will live in history as the
intellectual leaders of the Nineteenth Century. This is the immemorial
attitude of men in the mass, and of their chosen prophets, to whatever
is honest, and important, and most probably true.

But if truth thus has hard sledding, error is given a loving welcome.
The man who invents a new imbecility is hailed gladly, and bidden to
make himself at home; he is, to the great masses of men, the _beau
ideal_ of mankind. Go back through the history of the past thousand
years and you will find that ninetenths of the popular idols of the
world--not the heroes of small sects, but the heroes of mankind in
the mass--have been merchants of palpable nonsense. It has been so in
politics, it has been so in religion, and it has been so in every other
department of human thought. Every such hawker of the not-true has been
opposed, in his time, by critics who denounced and refuted him; his
contention has been disposed of immediately it was uttered. But on the
side of every one there has been the titanic force of human credulity,
and it has sufficed in every case to destroy his foes and establish his


_Man and His Soul_

Of all the unsound ideas thus preached by great heroes and accepted by
hundreds of millions of their eager dupes, probably the most patently
unsound is the one that is most widely held, to wit, the idea that man
has an immortal soul--that there is a part of him too ethereal and
too exquisite to die. Absolutely the only evidence supporting this
astounding notion lies in the hope that it is true--which is precisely
the evidence underlying the late theory that the Great War would put
an end to war, and bring in an era of democracy, freedom, and peace.
But even archbishops, of course, are too intelligent to be satisfied
permanently by evidence so unescapably dubious; in consequence, there
have been efforts in all ages to give it logical and evidential
support. Well, all I ask is that you give some of that corroboration
your careful scrutiny. Examine, for example, the proofs amassed by
five typical witnesses in five widely separated ages: St. John, St.
Augustine, Martin Luther, Emanuel Swedenborg and Sir Oliver Lodge.
Approach these proofs prayerfully, and study them well. Weigh them in
the light of the probabilities, the ordinary intellectual decencies.
And then ask yourself if you could imagine a mud-turtle accepting them



To sum up:

    1. The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000
    revolutions a minute.

    2. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it.

    3. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and
    set spinning to give him the ride.


I open the memoirs of General Grant, Volume II, at the place where he
is describing the surrender of General Lee, and find the following:

    I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on
    _(sic)_ the field, and wore a soldier's blouse for a coat,
    with the shoulder straps of my rank to indicate to the army
    who I was.

Anno 1865. I look out of my window and observe an officer of the
United States Army passing down the street. Anno 1922. Like General
Grant, he is without a sword. Like General Grant, he wears a sort of
soldier's blouse for a coat. Like General Grant, he employs shoulder
straps to indicate to the army who he is. But there is something more.
On the left breast of this officer, apparently a major, there blazes
so brilliant a mass of color that, as the sun strikes it and the flash
bangs my eyes, I wink, catch my breath and sneeze. There are two
long strips, each starting at the sternum and disappearing into the
shadows of the axillia--every hue in the rainbow, the spectroscope, the
kaleidoscope--imperial purples, _sforzando_ reds, wild Irish greens,
romantic blues, loud yellows and oranges, rich maroons, sentimental
pinks, all the half-tones from ultra-violet to infra-red, all the
vibrations from the impalpable to the unendurable. A gallant _Soldat,_
indeed! How he would shame a circus ticketwagon if he wore all the
medals and badges, the stars and crosses, the pendants and lavallières,
that go with those ribbons!... I glance at his sleeves. A simple golden
stripe on the one--six months beyond the raging main. None on the
other--the Kaiser's cannon missed him.

Just what all these ribbons signify I am sure I don't know; probably
they belong to campaign medals and tell the tale of butcheries in
foreign and domestic parts--mountains of dead Filipinos, Mexicans,
Haitians, Dominicans, West Virginia miners, perhaps even Prussians.
But in addition to campaign medals and the Distinguished Service Medal
there are now certainly enough foreign orders in the United States to
give a distinct brilliance to the national scene, viewed, say, from
Mars. The Frederician tradition, borrowed by the ragged Continentals
and embodied in Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution, lasted
until 1918, and then suddenly blew up; to mention it to-day is a sort
of indecorum, and to-morrow, no doubt, will be a species of treason.
Down with Frederick; up with John Philip Sousa! Imagine what General
Pershing would look like at a state banquet of his favorite American
order, the Benevolent and Protective one of Elks, in all the Byzantine
splendor of his casket of ribbons, badges, stars, garters, sunbursts
and cockades--the lordly Bath of the grateful motherland, with its
somewhat disconcerting "Ich dien"; the gorgeous tricolor baldrics,
sashes and festoons of the Légion d'Honneur; the grand cross of SS.
Maurizio e Lazzaro of Italy; the sinister Danilo of Montenegro, with
its cabalistic monogram of Danilo I and its sinister hieroglyphics;
the breastplate of the Paulownia of Japan, with its rising sun of
thirty-two white rays, its blood-red heart, its background of green
leaves and its white ribbon edged with red; the mystical St. Saviour
of Greece, with its Greek motto and its brilliantly enameled figure
of Christ; above all, the Croix de Guerre of Czecho-Slovakia, a new
one and hence not listed in the books, but surely no shrinking violet!
Alas, Pershing was on the wrong side--that is, for one with a fancy
for gauds of that sort. The most blinding of all known orders is the
Medijie of Turkey, which not only entitles the holder to four wives,
but also absolutely requires him to wear a red fez and a frozen star
covering his whole façade. I was offered this order by Turkish spies
during the war, and it wabbled me a good deal. The Alexander of
Bulgaria is almost as seductive. The badge consists of an pointed
white cross, with crossed swords between the arms and a red Bulgarian
lion over the swords. The motto is "Za Chrabrost!" Then there are the
Prussian orders--the Red and Black Eagles, the Pour le Mérite, the
Prussian Crown, the Hohenzollern and the rest. And the Golden Fleece
of Austria--the noblest of them all. Think of the Golden Fleece on a
man born in Linn County, Missouri!... I begin to doubt that the General
would have got it, even supposing him to have taken the other side. The
Japs, I note, gave him only the grand cordon of the Paulownia, and the
Belgians and Montenegrins were similarly cautious. There are higher
classes. The highest of the Paulownia is only for princes, which is to
say, only for non-Missourians.

Pershing is the champion, with General March a bad second. March is
a K. C. M. G., and entitled to wear a large cross of white enamel
bearing a lithograph of the Archangel Michael and the motto, "Auspicium
Melioris Aevi," but he is not a K. C. B. Admirals Benson and Sims
are also grand crosses of Michael and George, and like most other
respectable Americans, members of the Legion of Honor, but they seem to
have been forgotten by the Greeks, the Montenegrins, the Italians and
the Belgians. The British-born and extremely Anglomaniacal Sims refused
the Distinguished Service Medal of his adopted country, but is careful
to mention in "Who's Who in America" that his grand cross of Michael
and George was conferred upon him, not by some servile gold-stick, but
by "King George of England"; Benson omits mention of His Majesty, as
do Pershing and March. It would be hard to think of any other American
officer, real or bogus, who would refuse the D. S. M., or, failing
it, the grand decoration of chivalry of the Independent Order of Odd
Fellows. I once saw the latter hung, with ceremonies of the utmost
magnificence, upon a bald-headed tinner who had served the fraternity
long and faithfully; as he marched down the hall toward the throne of
the Supreme Exalted Pishposh a score of little girls, the issue of
other tinners, strewed his pathway with roses, and around the stem of
each rose was a piece of glittering tinfoil. The band meanwhile played
"The Rosary," and, at the conclusion of the spectacle, as fried oysters
were served, "Wien Bleibt Wien."

It was, I suspect, by way of the Odd Fellows and other such gaudy
heirs to the Deutsche Ritter and Rosicrucians that the lust to gleam
and jingle got into the arteries of the American people. For years the
austere tradition of Washington's day served to keep the military bosom
bare of spangles, but all the while a weakness for them was growing in
the civil population. Rank by rank, they became Knights of Pythias,
Odd Fellows, Red Men, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Knights Templar,
Patriarchs Militant, Elks, Moose, Woodmen of the World, Foresters,
Hoo-Hoos, Ku Kluxers--and in every new order there were thirty-two
degrees, and for every degree there was a badge, and for every badge
there was a yard of ribbon. The Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, chiefly
paunchy wholesalers of the Rotary Club species, are not content with
swords, baldrics, stars, garters and jewels; they also wear red fezes.
The Elks run to rubies. The Red Men array themselves like Sitting
Bull. The patriotic ice-wagon drivers and Methodist deacons of the
Ku Klux Klan carry crosses set with incandescent lights. An American
who is forced by his profession to belong to many such orders--say a
life insurance solicitor, a bootlegger or a dealer in Oklahoma oil
stock--accumulates a trunk full of decorations, many of them weighing
a pound. There is an undertaker in Hagerstown, Md., who has been
initiated eighteen times. When he robes himself to plant a fellow
joiner he weighs three hundred pounds and sparkles and flashes like the
mouth of hell itself. He is entitled to bear seven swords, all jeweled,
and to hang his watch chain with the golden busts of nine wild animals,
all with precious stones for eyes. Put beside this lowly washer of the
dead, Pershing newly polished would seem almost like a Trappist.

But even so the civil arm is robbed of its just dues in the department
of gauds and radioactivity, no doubt by the direct operation of
military vanity and jealousy. Despite a million proofs (and perhaps a
billion eloquent arguments) to the contrary, it is still the theory at
the official ribbon counter that the only man who serves in a war is
the man who serves in uniform. This is soft for the Bevo officer, who
at least has his service stripes and the spurs that gnawed into his
desk, but it is hard upon his brother Irving, the dollar-a-year man,
who worked twenty hours a day for fourteen months buying soap-powder,
canned asparagus and raincoats for the army of God. Irving not only
labored with inconceivable diligence; he also faced hazards of no mean
order, for on the one hand was his natural prejudice in favor of a
very liberal rewarding of commercial enterprise, and on the other hand
were his patriotism and his fear of Atlanta Penitentiary. I daresay
that many and many a time, after working his twenty hours, he found it
difficult to sleep the remaining four hours. I know, in fact, survivors
of that obscure service who are far worse wrecks to-day than Pershing
is. Their reward is--what? Winks, sniffs, innuendos. If they would
indulge themselves in the now almost universal American yearning to
go adorned, they must join the Knights of Pythias. Even the American
Legion fails them, for though it certainly does not bar non-combatants,
it insists that they shall have done their non-combatting in uniform.

What I propose is a variety of the Distinguished Service Medal for
civilians,--perhaps, better still, a distinct order for civilians,
closed to the military and with badges of different colors and areas,
to mark off varying services to democracy. Let it run, like the
Japanese Paulownia, from high to low--the lowest class for the patriot
who sacrificed only time, money and a few nights' sleep; the highest
for the great martyr who hung his country's altar with his dignity, his
decency and his sacred honor. For Irving and his nervous insomnia, a
simple rosette, with an iron badge bearing the national motto, "Safety
First"; for the university president who prohibited the teaching of
the enemy language in his learned grove, heaved the works of Goethe
out of the university library, cashiered every professor unwilling
to support Woodrow for the first vacancy in the Trinity, took to the
stump for the National Security League, and made two hundred speeches
in moving picture theaters--for this giant of loyal endeavor let no
100 per cent. American speak of anything less than the grand cross of
the order, with a gold badge in polychrome enamel and stained glass,
a baldric of the national colors, a violet plug hat with a sunburst
on the side, the privilege of the floor of Congress, and a pension
of $10,000 a year. After all, the cost would not be excessive; there
are not many of them. Such prodigies of patriotism are possible only
to rare and gifted men. For the grand cordons of the order, _e.
g.,_ college professors who spied upon and reported the seditions of
their associates, state presidents of the American Protective League,
alien property custodians, judges whose sentences of conscientious
objectors mounted to more than 50,000 years, members of Dr. Creel's
herd of 2,000 American historians, the authors of the Sisson documents,
etc.--pensions of §10 a day would be enough, with silver badges and no
plug hats. For the lower ranks, bronze badges and the legal right to
the title of "the Hon.," already every true American's by courtesy.

Not, of course, that I am insensitive to the services of the gentlemen
of those lower ranks, but in such matters one must go by rarity rather
than by intrinsic value. If the grand cordon or even the nickel-plated
eagle of the third class were given to every patriot who bored a hole
through the floor of his flat to get evidence against his neighbors,
the Krausmeyers, and to every one who visited the Hofbräuhaus nightly,
denounced the Kaiser in searing terms, and demanded assent from Emil
and Otto, the waiters, and to every one who notified the catchpolls
of the Department of Justice when the wireless plant was open in the
garret of the Arion Liedertafel, and to all who took a brave and
forward part in slacker raids, and to all who lent their stenographers
funds at 6 per cent., to buy Liberty bonds at 41/4 per cent., and to
all who sold out at 99 and then bought in again at 83.56 and to all who
served as jurors or perjurers in cases against members and ex-members
of the I. W. W., and to the German-American members of the League for
German Democracy, and to all the Irish who snitched upon the Irish--if
decorations were thrown about with any such lavishness, then there
Would be no nickel left for our bathrooms. On the civilian side as
on the military side the great rewards of war go, not to mere dogged
industry and fidelity, but to originality--to the unprecedented, the
arresting, the bizarre. The New York _Tribune_ liar who invented the
story about the German plant for converting the corpses of the slain
into soap did more for democracy and the Wilsonian idealism, and hence
deserves a more brilliant recognition, than a thousand uninspired
hawkers of atrocity stories supplied by Viscount Bryce and his
associates. For that great servant of righteousness the grand cordon,
with two silver badges and the chair of history at Columbia, would be
scarcely enough; for the ordinary hawkers any precious metal would be
too much.

Whether or not the Y. M. C. A. has decorated its chocolate pedlars and
soul-snatchers I do not know; since the chief Y. M. C. A. lamassary in
my town of Baltimore became the scene of a homo-sexual scandal I have
ceased to frequent evangelical society. If not, then there should be
some governmental recognition of those highly characteristic heroes of
the war for democracy. The veterans of the line, true enough, dislike
them excessively, and have a habit of denouncing them obscenely when
the corn-juice flows. They charged too much for cigarettes; they tried
to discourage the amiability of the ladies of France; they had a habit
of being absent when the shells burst in air. Well, some say this and
some say that. A few, at least, of the pale and oleaginous brethren
must have gone into the Master's work because they thirsted to save
souls, and not simply because they desired to escape the trenches.
And a few, I am told, were anything but unpleasantly righteous, as a
round of Wassermanns would show. If, as may be plausibly argued, these
Soldiers of the Double Cross deserve to live at all, then they surely
deserve to be hung with white enameled stars of the third class, with
gilt dollar marks superimposed. Motto: "Glory, glory, hallelujah!"

But what of the vaudeville actors, the cheer leaders, the doughnut
fryers, the camp librarians, the press agents? I am not forgetting
them. Let them be distributed among all the classes from the seventh
to the eighth, according to their sufferings for the holy cause. And
the agitators against Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Wagner, Richard Strauss,
all the rest of the cacophonous Huns? And the specialists in the crimes
of the German professors? And the collectors for the Belgians, with
their generous renunciation of all commissions above 80 per cent.? And
the pathologists who denounced Johannes Müller as a fraud, Karl Ludwig
as an imbecile, and Ehrlich as a thief? And the patriotic chemists
who discovered arsenic in dill pickles, ground glass in pumpernickel,
bichloride tablets in Bismarck herring, pathogenic organisms in aniline
dyes? And the inspired editorial writers of the New York _Times_
and _Tribune,_ the Boston _Transcript,_ the Philadelphia _Ledger,_
the Mobile _Register,_ the Jones Corners _Eagle?_ And the headline
writers? And the Columbia, Yale and Princeton professors? And the
authors of books describing how the Kaiser told them the whole plot in
1913, while they were pulling his teeth or shining his shoes? And the
ex-ambassadors? And the _Nietzschefresser?_ And the chautauqua orators?
And the four-minute men? And the Methodist pulpit pornographers who
switched so facilely from vice-crusading to German atrocities? And Dr.
Newell Dwight Hillis? And Dr. Henry van Dyke? And the master minds of
the _New Republic?_ And Tumulty? And the Vigilantes? Let no grateful
heart forget them!

Palmer and Burleson I leave for special legislation. If mere university
presidents, such as Nicholas Murray Butler, are to have the grand
cross, then Palmer deserves to be rolled in malleable gold from head
to foot, and polished until he blinds the cosmos--then Burleson
must be hung with diamonds like Mrs. Warren and bathed in spotlights
like Gaby Deslys.... Finally, I reserve a special decoration, to be
conferred in camera and worn only in secret chapter, for husbands who
took chances and refused to read anonymous letters from Paris: the
somber badge of the Ordre de la Cuculus Canorus, first and only class.



A good prose style says Prof. Dr. Otto Jespersen in his great work,
"Growth and Structure of the English Language," "is everywhere a late
acquirement, and the work of whole generations of good authors is
needed to bring about the easy flow of written prose." The learned
_Sprachwissenschaftler_ is here speaking of Old English, or, as it
used to be called when you and I were at the breast of enlightenment,
Anglo-Saxon. An inch or so lower down the page he points out that what
he says of prose is by no means true of verse--that poetry of very
respectable quality is often written by peoples and individuals whose
prose is quite as crude and graceless as that, say of the Hon. Warren
Gamaliel Harding--that even the so-called Anglo-Saxons of Beowulf's
time, a race as barbarous as the modern Jugo-Slavs or Mississippians,
were yet capable, on occasion, of writing dithyrambs of an indubitable
sweet gaudiness.

The point needs no laboring. A glance at the history of any literature
will prove its soundness. Moreover, it is supported by what we see
around us every day--that is, if we look in literary directions.
Some of the best verse in the modern movement, at home and abroad,
has been written by intellectual adolescents who could no more write
a first-rate paragraph in prose then they could leap the Matterhorn
--girls just out of Vassar and Newnham, young army officers, chautauqua
orators, New England old maids, obscure lawyers and doctors, newspaper
reporters, all sorts of hollow dilettanti, male and female. Nine-tenths
of the best poetry of the world has been written by poets less than
thirty years old; a great deal more than half of it has been written
by poets under twenty-five. One always associates poetry with youth,
for it deals chiefly with the ideas that are peculiar to youth, and
its terminology is quite as youthful as its content. When one hears of
a poet past thirty-five, he seems somehow unnatural and even a trifle
obscene; it is as if one encountered a graying man who still played
the Chopin waltzes and believed in elective affinities. But prose,
obviously, is a sterner and more elderly matter. All the great masters
of prose (and especially of English prose, for its very resilience and
brilliance make it extraordinarily hard to write) have had to labor
for years before attaining to their mastery of it. The early prose of
Abraham Lincoln was remarkable only for its badness; it was rhetorical
and bombastic, and full of supernumerary words; in brief, it was a
kind of poetry. It took years and years of hard striving for Abe to
develop the simple and exquisite prose of his last half-decade. So with
Thomas Henry Huxley, perhaps the greatest virtuoso of plain English who
has ever lived. His first writings were competent but undistinguished;
he was almost a grandfather before he perfected his superb style.
And so with Anatole France, and Addison, and T. B. Macaulay, and
George Moore, and James Branch Cabell, and Æ._,_ and Lord Dunsany,
and Nietzsche, and to go back to antiquity, Marcus Tullius Cicero. I
have been told that the average age of the men who made the Authorized
Version of the Bible was beyond sixty years. Had they been under thirty
they would have made it lyrical; as it was, they made it colossal.

The reason for all this is not far to seek. Prose, however powerful
its appeal to the emotions, is always based primarily upon logic,
and is thus scientific; poetry, whatever its so-called intellectual
content is always based upon mere sensation and emotion, and is thus
loose and disorderly. A man must have acquired discipline over his
feelings before he can write sound prose; he must have learned how to
subordinate his transient ideas to more general and permanent ideas;
above all, he must have acquired a good head for words, which is to
say, a capacity for resisting their mere lascivious lure. But to
write acceptable poetry, or even good poetry, he needs none of these
things. If his hand runs away with his head it is actually a merit.
If he writes what every one knows to be untrue, in terms that no sane
adult would ever venture to use in real life, it is proof of his
divine afflation. If he slops over and heaves around in a manner never
hitherto observed on land or sea, the fact proves his originality.
The so-called forms of verse and the rules of rhyme and rhythm do not
offer him difficulties; they offer him refuges. Their purpose is not
to keep him in order, but simply to give him countenance by providing
him with a formal orderliness when he is most out of order. Using
them is like swimming with bladders. The first literary composition
of a quick-minded child is always some sort of jingle. It starts out
with an inane idea--half an idea. Sticking to prose, it could go
no further. But to its primary imbecility it now adds a meaningless
phrase which, while logically unrelated, provides an agreeable concord
in mere sound--and the result is the primordial tadpole of a sonnet.
All the sonnets of the world, save a few of miraculous (and perhaps
accidental) quality, partake of this fundamental nonsensicality. In all
of them there are ideas that would sound idiotic in prose, and phrases
that would sound clumsy and uncouth in prose. But the rhyme scheme
conceals this nonsensicality. As a substitute for the missing logical
plausibility it provides a sensuous harmony. Reading the thing, one
gets a vague effect of agreeable sound, and so the logical feebleness
is overlooked. It is, in a sense, like observing a pretty girl,
competently dressed and made up, across the footlights. But translating
the poem into prose is like meeting and marrying her.


Much of the current discussion of poetry--and what, save Prohibition,
is more discussed in America?--is corrupted by a fundamental error.
That error consists in regarding the thing itself as a simple entity,
to be described conveniently in a picturesque phrase. "Poetry," says
one critic, "is the statement of overwhelming emotional values."
"Poetry," says another, "is an attempt to purge language of everything
except its music and its pictures." "Poetry," says a third, "is the
entering of delicately imaginative plateaus." "Poetry," says a fourth,
"is truth carried alive into the heart by a passion." "Poetry," says a
fifth, "is compacted of what seems, not of what is." "Poetry," says a
sixth, "is the expression of thought in musical language." "Poetry,"
says a seventh, "is the language of a state of crisis." And so on, and
so on. _Quod est poetica?_ They all answer, and yet they all fail to
answer. Poetry, in fact, is two quite distinct things. It may be either
or both. One is a series of words that are intrinsically musical, in
clang-tint and rhythm, as the single word _cellar-door_ is musical.
The other is a series of ideas, false in themselves, that offer a
means of emotional and imaginative escape from the harsh realities of
everyday. In brief, (I succumb, like all the rest, to phrase-making),
poetry is a comforting piece of fiction set to more or less lascivious
music--a slap on the back in waltz time--a grand release of longings
and repressions to the tune of flutes, harps, sackbuts, psalteries and
the usual strings.

As I say, poetry may be either the one thing or the other--caressing
music or caressing assurance. It need not necessarily be both. Consider
a familiar example from "Othello":

    Not poppy, nor mandragora,
    Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world
    Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
    Which thou owed'st yesterday.

Here the sense, at best, is surely very vague. Probably not one auditor
in a hundred, hearing an actor recite those glorious lines, attaches
any intelligible meaning to the archaic word _owed'st,_ the cornerstone
of the whole sentence. Nevertheless, the effect is stupendous. The
passage assaults and benumbs the faculties like Schubert's "Ständchen"
or the slow movement of Schumann's Rhenish symphony; hearing it is a
sensuous debauch; the man anæsthetic to it could stand unmoved before
Rheims cathedral or the Hofbräuhaus at Munich. One easily recalls many
other such bursts of pure music, almost meaningless but infinitely
delightful--in Poe, in Swinburne, in Marlowe, even in Joaquin
Miller. Two-thirds of the charm of reading Chaucer (setting aside
the Rabelaisian comedy) comes out of the mere burble of the words;
the meaning, to a modern, is often extremely obscure, and sometimes
downright undecipherable. The whole fame of Poe, as a poet, is based
upon five short poems. Of them, three are almost pure music. Their
intellectual content is of the vaguest. No one would venture to reduce
them to plain English. Even Poe himself always thought of them, not as
statements of poetic ideas, but as simple utterances of poetic (i.e.,
musical) sounds.

It was Sidney Lanier, himself a competent poet, who first showed the
dependence of poetry upon music. He had little to say, unfortunately,
about the clang-tint of words; what concerned him almost exclusively
was rhythm. In "The Science of English Verse," he showed that the
charm of this rhythm could be explained in the technical terms of
music--that all the old gabble about dactyls and spondees was no more
than a dog Latin invented by men who were fundamentally ignorant of
the thing they discussed. Lanier's book was the first intelligent
work ever published upon the nature and structure of the sensuous
content of English poetry. He struck out into such new and far paths
that the professors of prosody still lag behind him after forty years,
quite unable to understand a poet who was also a shrewd critic and a
first-rate musician. But if, so deeply concerned with rhythm, he marred
his treatise by forgetting clang-tint, he marred it still more by
forgetting content. Poetry that is all music is obviously relatively
rare, for only a poet who is also a natural musician can write it, and
natural musicians are much rarer in the world than poets. Ordinary
poetry, average poetry, thus depends in part upon its ideational
material, and perhaps even chiefly. It is the _idea_ expressed in a
poem, and not the mellifluousness of the words used to express it,
that arrests and enchants the average connoisseur. Often, indeed, he
disdains this mellifluousness, and argues that the idea ought to be set
forth without the customary pretty jingling, or, at most, with only the
scant jingling that lies in rhythm--in brief, he wants his ideas in the
altogether, and so advocates _vers libre._

It was another American, this time Prof. Dr. F. C. Prescott, of Cornell
University, who first gave scientific attention to the intellectual
content of poetry. His book is called "Poetry and Dreams." Its virtue
lies in the fact that it rejects all the customary mystical and
romantic definitions of poetry, and seeks to account for the thing in
straightforward psychological terms. Poetry, says Prescott, is simply
the verbal materialization of a day-dream, the statement of a Freudian
wish, an attempt to satisfy a subconscious longing by saying that it
is satisfied. In brief, poetry represents imagination's bold effort to
escape from the cold and clammy facts that hedge us in--to soothe the
wrinkled and fevered brow with beautiful balderdash. On the precise
nature of this beautiful balderdash you can get all in the information
you need by opening at random the nearest book of verse. The ideas
you will find in it may be divided into two main divisions. The first
consists of denials of objective facts; the second of denials of
subjective facts. Specimen of the first sort:

    God's in His heaven,
    All's well with the world.

Specimen of the second:

    I am the master of my fate;
    I am the captain of my soul.

It is my contention that all poetry (forgetting, for the moment, its
possible merit as mere sound) may be resolved into either the one
or the other of these frightful imbecilities--that its essential
character lies in its bold flouting of what every reflective adult
knows to be the truth. The poet, imagining him to be sincere, is
simply one who disposes of all the horrors of life on this earth,
and of all the difficulties presented by his own inner weaknesses no
less, by the childish device of denying them. Is it a well-known fact
that love is an emotion that is almost as perishable as eggs--that
it is biologically impossible for a given male to yearn for a given
female more than a few brief years? Then the poet disposes of it by
assuring his girl that he will nevertheless love her forever--more,
by pledging his word of honor that he believes that _she_ will love
_him_ forever. Is it equally notorious that there is no such thing as
justice in the world--that the good are tortured insanely and the evil
go free and prosper? Then the poet composes a piece crediting God with
a mysterious and unintelligible theory of jurisprudence, whereby the
torture of the good is a sort of favor conferred upon them for their
goodness. Is it of almost equally widespread report that no healthy
man likes to contemplate his own inevitable death--that even in time
of war, with a vast pumping up of emotion to conceal the fact, every
soldier hopes and believes that he, personally, will escape? Then the
poet, first carefully introducing himself into a bomb-proof, achieves
strophes declaring that he is free from all such weakness--that he will
deliberately seek a rendezvous with death, and laugh ha-ha when the
bullet finds him.

The precise nature of the imbecility thus solemnly set forth depends,
very largely, of course, upon the private prejudices and yearnings
of the poet, and the reception that is given it depends, by the same
token, upon the private prejudices and yearnings of the reader. That
is why it is often so difficult to get any agreement upon the merits
of a definite poem, _i. e.,_ to get any agreement upon its capacity to
soothe. There is the man who craves only the animal delights of a sort
of Moslem-Methodist paradise: to him "The Frost is on the Pumpkin" is
a noble poem. There is the man who yearns to get out of the visible
universe altogether and tread the fields of asphodel: for him there
is delight only in the mystical stuff of Crashaw, Thompson, Yeats and
company. There is the man who revolts against the sordid Christian
notion of immortality--an eternity to be spent flapping wings with
pious green-grocers and oleaginous Anglican bishops; he finds _his_
escape in the gorgeous blasphemies of Swinburne. There is, to make an
end of examples, the man who, with an inferiority complex eating out
his heart, is moved by a great desire to stalk the world in heroic
guise: he may go to the sonorous swanking of Kipling, or he may go
to something more subtle, to some poem in which the boasting is more
artfully concealed, say Christina Rosetti's "When I am Dead." Many men,
many complexes, many secret yearnings! They collect, of course, in
groups; if the group happens to be large enough the poet it is devoted
to becomes famous. Kipling's great fame is thus easily explained. He
appeals to the commonest of all types of men, next to the sentimental
type--which is to say, he appeals to the bully and braggart type, the
chest-slapping type, the patriot type. Less harshly described, to the
boy type. All of us have been Kiplingomaniacs at some time or other. I
was myself a very ardent one at 17, and wrote many grandiloquent sets
of verse in the manner of "Tommy Atkins" and "Fuzzy-Wuzzy." But if
the gifts of observation and reflection have been given to us, we get
over it. There comes a time when we no longer yearn to be heroes, but
seek only peace--maybe even hope for quick extinction. Then we turn to
Swinburne and "The Garden of Proserpine"--more false assurances, more
mellifluous play-acting, another tinkling make-believe--but how sweet
on blue days!


One of the things to remember here (too often it is forgotten, and
Dr. Prescott deserves favorable mention for stressing it) is that a
man's conscious desires are not always identical with his subconscious
longings; in fact, the two are often directly antithetical. No doubt
the real man lies in the depths of the subconscious, like a carp
lurking in mud. His conscious personality is largely a product of his
environment--the reaction of his subconscious to the prevailing notions
of what is meet and seemly. Here, of course, I wander into platitude,
for the news that all men are frauds was already stale in the days
of Hammurabi. The ingenious Freud simply translated the fact into
pathological terms, added a bed-room scene, and so laid the foundations
for his psychoanalysis. Incidentally, it has always seemed to me that
Freud made a curious mistake when he brought sex into the foreground
of his new magic. He was, of course, quite right when he set up the
doctrine that, in civilized societies, sex impulses were more apt to be
suppressed than any other natural impulses, and that the subconscious
thus tended to be crowded with their ghosts. But in considering
sex impulses, he forgot sex imaginings. Digging out, by painful
cross-examination in a darkened room, some startling tale of carnality
in his patient's past, he committed the incredible folly of assuming
it to be literally true. More often than not, I believe, it was a mere
piece of boasting, a materialization of desire--in brief, a poem. It
is astonishing that this possibility never occurred to the venerable
professor; it is more astonishing that it has never occurred to any of
his disciples. He should have psychoanalyzed a few poets instead of
wasting all his time upon psychopathic women with sclerotic husbands.
He would have dredged amazing things out of their subconsciouses,
heroic as well as amorous. Imagine the billions of Boers, Germans,
Irishmen and Hindus that Kipling would have confessed to killing!

But here I get into morbid anatomy, and had better haul up. What I
started out to say was that a man's preferences in poetry constitute an
excellent means of estimating his inner cravings and credulities. The
music disarms his critical sense, and he confesses to cherishing ideas
that he would repudiate with indignation if they were put into plain
words. I say he cherishes those ideas. Maybe he simply tolerates them
unwillingly; maybe they are no more than inescapable heritages from his
barbarous ancestors, like his vermiform appendix. Think of the poems
you like, and you will come upon many such intellectual fossils--ideas
that you by no means subscribe to openly, but that nevertheless give
you a strange joy. I put myself on the block as Exhibit A. There is my
delight in Lizette Woodworth Reese's sonnet, "Tears." Nothing could do
more violence to my conscious beliefs. Put into prose, the doctrine
in the poem would exasperate and even enrage me. There is no man in
Christendom who is less a Christian than I am. But here the dead hand
grabs me by the ear. My ancestors were converted to Christianity in
the year 1535, and remained of that faith until near the middle of
the eighteenth century. Observe, now, the load I carry; more than
two hundred years of Christianity, and perhaps a thousand years
(maybe even two, or three thousand years) of worship of heathen gods
before that--at least twelve hundred years of uninterrupted belief
in the immortality of the soul. Is it any wonder that, betrayed by
the incomparable music of Miss Reese's Anglo-Saxon monosyllables, my
conscious faith is lulled to sleep, thus giving my subconscious a
chance to wallow in its immemorial superstition?

Even so, my vulnerability to such superstitions is very low, and it
tends to grow less as I increase in years and sorrows. As I have
said, I once throbbed to the drum-beat of Kipling; later on, I was
responsive to the mellow romanticism of Tennyson; now it takes one of
the genuinely fundamental delusions of the human race to move me. But
progress is not continuous; it has interludes. There are days when
every one of us experiences a sort of ontogenetic back-firing, and
returns to an earlier stage of development. It is on such days that
grown men break down and cry like children; it is then that they play
games, or cheer the flag, or fall in love. And it is then that they
are in the mood for poetry, and get comfort out of its asseverations
of the obviously not true. A truly civilized man, when he is wholly
himself, derives no pleasure from hearing a poet state, as Browning
stated, that this world is perfect. Such tosh not only does not please
him; it definitely offends him, as he is offended by an idiotic
article in a newspaper; it roils him to encounter so much stupidity in
Christendom. But he may like it when he is drunk, or suffering from
some low toxemia, or staggering beneath some great disaster. Then, as I
say, the ontogenetic process reverses itself, and he slides back into
infancy. Then he goes to poets, just as he goes to women, "glad" books,
and dogmatic theology. The very highest orders of men, perhaps, never
suffer from such malaises of the spirit, or, if they suffer from them,
never succumb to them. These are men who are so thoroughly civilized
that even the most severe attack upon the emotions is not sufficient
to dethrone their reason. Charles Darwin was such a man. There was
never a moment in his life when he sought religious consolation,
and there was never a moment when he turned to poetry; in fact, he
regarded all poetry as silly. Other first-rate men, more sensitive to
the possible music in it, regard it with less positive aversion, but
I have never heard of a truly first-rate man who got any permanent
satisfaction out of its content. The Browning Societies of the latter
part of the nineteenth century (and I choose the Browning Societies
because Browning's poetry was often more or less logical in content,
and thus above the ordinary intellectually) were not composed of such
men as Huxley, Spencer, Lecky, Buckle and Travelyn, but of third-rate
school-masters, moony old maids, candidates for theosophy, literary
vicars, collectors of Rogers groups, and other such Philistines. The
chief propagandist for Browning in the United States was not Henry
Adams, or William Summer, or Daniel C. Gilman, but an obscure professor
of English who was also an ardent spook-chaser. And what is thus true
ontogenetically is also true phylogenetically. That is to say, poetry
is chiefly produced and esteemed by peoples that have not yet come to
maturity. The Romans had a dozen poets of the first talent before they
had a single prose writer of any skill whatsoever. So did the English.
So did the Germans. In our own day we see the negroes of the South
producing religious and secular verse of such quality that it is taken
over by the whites, and yet the number of negroes who show a decent
prose style is still very small, and there is no sign of it increasing.
Similarly, the white authors of America, during the past ten or fifteen
years, have produced a great mass of very creditable poetry, and yet
the quality of our prose remains very low, and the Americans with prose
styles of any distinction could be counted on the fingers of two hands.


So far I have spoken chiefly of the content of poetry. In its character
as a sort of music it is plainly a good deal more respectable, and
makes an appeal to a far higher variety of reader, or, at all events,
to a reader in a state of greater mental clarity. A capacity for
music--by which I mean melody, harmony and clang-tint--comes late in
the history of every race. The savage can apprehend rhythm, but he
is quite incapable of carrying a tune in any intelligible scale. The
negro roustabouts of our own South, who are commonly regarded as very
musical, are actually only rhythmical; they never invent melodies,
but only rhythms. And the whites to whom their barbarous dance-tunes
chiefly appeal are in their own stage of culture. When one observes
a room full of well-dressed men and women swaying and wriggling to
the tune of some villainous mazurka from the Mississippi levees, one
may assume very soundly that they are all the sort of folk who play
golf and bridge, and prefer "The Sheik" to "Heart of Darkness" and
believe in the League of Nations. A great deal of superficial culture
is compatible with that pathetic barbarism, and even a high degree of
æsthetic sophistication in other directions. The Greeks who built the
Parthenon knew no more about music than a hog knows of predestination;
they were almost as ignorant in that department as the modern Iowans or
New Yorkers. It was not, indeed, until the Renaissance that music as
we know it appeared in the world, and it was not until less than two
centuries ago that it reached a high development. In Shakespeare's day
music was just getting upon its legs in England; in Goethe's day it
was just coming to full flower in Germany; in France and America it is
still in the savage state. It is thus the youngest of the arts, and the
most difficult, and hence the noblest. Any sane young man of twenty-two
can write an acceptable sonnet, or design a habitable house or draw a
horse that will not be mistaken for an automobile, but before he may
write even a bad string quartet he must go through a long and arduous
training, just as he must strive for years before he may write prose
that is instantly recognizable as prose, and not as a string of mere

The virtue of such great poets as Shakespeare does not lie in the
content of their poetry, but in its music. The content of the
Shakespearean plays, in fact, is often puerile, and sometimes quite
incomprehensible. No scornful essays by George Bernard Shaw and Frank
Harris were needed to demonstrate the fact; it lies plainly in the
text. One snickers sourly over the spectacle of generations of pedants
debating the question of Hamlet's mental processes; the simple fact
is that Shakespeare gave him no more mental processes than a Fifth
avenue rector has, but merely employed him as a convenient spout
for some of the finest music ever got into words. Assume that he
has all the hellish sagacity of a Nietzsche, and that music remains
unchanged; assume that he is as idiotic as a Grand Worthy Flubdub of
the Freemasons, and it still remains unchanged. As it is intoned on
the stage by actors, the poetry of Shakespeare commonly loses content
altogether. One cannot make out what the _cabotin_ is saying; one can
only observe that it is beautiful. There are whole speeches in the
Shakespearean plays whose meaning is unknown ever to scholars--and yet
they remain favorites, and well deserve to. Who knows, again, what
the sonnets are about? Is the bard talking about the inn-keeper's
wife at Oxford, or about a love affair of a pathological, Y. M. C.
A. character? Some say one thing, and some say the other. But all
who have ears must agree that the sonnets are extremely beautiful
stuff--that the English language reaches in them, the topmost heights
of conceivable beauty. Shakespeare thus ought to be ranked among
the musicians, along with Beethoven. As a philosopher he was a
ninth-rater--but so was old Ludwig. I wonder what he would have done
with prose? I can't make up my mind about it. One day I believe that he
would have written prose as good as Dryden's, and the next day I begin
to fear that he would have produced something as bad as Swinburne's. He
had the ear, but he lacked the logical sense. Poetry has done enough
when it charms, but prose must also convince.

I do not forget, of course, that there is a borderland in which it
is hard to say, of this or that composition, whether it is prose or
poetry. Lincoln's Gettysburg speech is commonly reckoned as prose, and
yet I am convinced that it is quite as much poetry as the Queen Mab
speech or Marlowe's mighty elegy on Helen of Troy. More, it is so read
and admired by the great masses of the American people. It is an almost
perfect specimen of a comforting but unsound asseveration put into
rippling and hypnotizing words; done into plain English, the statements
of fact in it would make even a writer of school history-books laugh.
So with parts of the Declaration of Independence. No one believes
seriously that they are true, but nearly everyone agrees that it
would be a nice thing if they _were_ true--and meanwhile Jefferson's
eighteenth century rhetoric, by Johnson out of John Lyly's "Euphues,"
completes the enchantment. In the main, the test is to be found in the
audience rather than in the poet. If it is naturally intelligent and in
a sober and critical mood, demanding sense and proofs, then nearly all
poetry becomes prose; if, on the contrary, it is congenitally maudlin,
or has a few drinks aboard, or is in love, or is otherwise in a soft
and believing mood, then even the worst of prose, if it has a touch
of soothing sing-song in it, becomes moving poetry--for example, the
diplomatic and political gospel-hymnes of the late Dr. Wilson, a man
constitutionally unable to reason clearly or honestly, but nevertheless
one full of the burbling that caresses the ears of simple men. Most of
his speeches, during the days of his divine appointment, translated
into intelligible English, would have sounded as idiotic as a prose
version of "The Blessed Damozel." Read by his opponents, they sounded
so without the translation.

But at the extremes, of course, there are indubitable poetry and
incurable prose, and the difference is not hard to distinguish.
Prose is simply a form of writing in which the author intends that
his statements shall be accepted as conceivably true, even when they
are about imaginary persons and events; its appeal is to the fully
conscious and alertly reasoning man. Poetry is a form of writing in
which the author attempts to disarm reason and evoke emotion, partly by
presenting images that awaken a powerful response in the subconscious
and partly by the mere sough and blubber of words. Poetry is not
distinguished from prose, as Prof. Dr. Lowes says in his "Convention
and Revolt in Poetry," by an exclusive phraseology, but by a peculiar
attitude of mind--an attitude of self-delusion, of fact-denying, of
saying what isn't true. It is essentially an effort to elude the bitter
facts of life, whereas prose is essentially a means of unearthing and
exhibiting them. The gap is bridged by sentimental prose, which is half
prose and half poetry--Lincoln's Gettysburg speech, the average sermon,
the prose of an erotic novelette. Immediately the thing acquires a
literal meaning it ceases to be poetry; immediately it becomes capable
of convincing an adult and perfectly sober man during the hours between
breakfast and luncheon it is indisputably prose.

This quality of untruthfulness pervades all poetry, good and bad.
You will find it in the very best poetry that the world has so far
produced, to wit, in the sonorous poems of the Jewish Scriptures.
The ancient Jews were stupendous poets. Moreover, they were shrewd
psychologists, and so knew the capacity of poetry, given the believing
mind, to convince and enchant--in other words, its capacity to drug
the auditor in such a manner that he accepts it literally, as he
might accept the baldest prose. This danger in poetry, given auditors
impressionable enough, is too little estimated and understood. It is
largely responsible for the persistence of sentimentality in a world
apparently designed for the one purpose of manufacturing cynics. It is
probably chiefly responsible for the survival of Christianity, despite
the hard competition that it has met with from other religions. The
theology of Christianity--_i._ e., its prose--is certainly no more
convincing than that of half a dozen other religions that might be
named; it is, in fact, a great deal less convincing than the theology
of, say, Buddhism. But the poetry of Christianity is infinitely more
lush and beautiful than that of any other religion ever heard of.
There is more lovely poetry in one of the Psalms than in all of the
Non-Christian scriptures of the world taken together. More, this
poetry is in both Testaments, the New as well as the Old. Who could
imagine a more charming poem than that of the Child in the manger?
It has enchanted the world for nearly two thousand years. It is
simple, exquisite and overwhelming. Its power to arouse emotion is
so great that even in our age it is at the bottom of fully a half of
the kindliness, romanticism and humane sentimentality that survive in
Christendom. It is worth a million syllogisms.

Once, after plowing through sixty or seventy volumes of bad verse, I
described myself as a poetry-hater. The epithet was and is absurd. The
truth is that I enjoy poetry as much as the next man--when the mood
is on me. But what mood? The mood, in a few words, of intellectual
and spiritual fatigue, the mood of revolt against the insoluble
riddle of existence, the mood of disgust and despair. Poetry, then,
is a capital medicine. First its sweet music lulls, and then its
artful presentation of the beautifully improbable soothes and gives
surcease. It is an escape from life, like religion, like enthusiasm,
like glimpsing a pretty girl. And to the mere sensuous joy in it, to
the mere low delight in getting away from the world for a bit, there
is added, if the poetry be good, something vastly better, something
reaching out into the realm of the intelligent, to wit, appreciation
of good workmanship. A sound sonnet is almost as pleasing an object
as a well-written fugue. A pretty lyric, deftly done, has all the
technical charm of a fine carving. I think it is craftsmanship that
I admire most in the world. Brahms enchants me because he knew
his trade perfectly. I like Richard Strauss because he is full of
technical ingenuities, because he is a master-workman. Well, who ever
heard of a finer craftsman than William Shakespeare? His music was
magnificent, he played superbly upon all the common emotions--and he
did it magnificently, he did it with an air. No, I am no poetry-hater.
But even Shakespeare I most enjoy, not on brisk mornings when I feel
fit for any deviltry, but on dreary evenings when my old wounds are
troubling me, and some fickle one has just sent back the autographed
set of my first editions, and bills are piled up on my desk, and I am
too sad to work. Then I mix a stiff dram--and read poetry.



_Abraham Lincoln_

The backwardness of the art of biography in These States is made
shiningly visible by the fact that we have yet to see a first-rate
life of either Lincoln or Whitman. Of Lincolniana, of course, there is
no end, nor is there any end to the hospitality of those who collect
it. Some time ago a publisher told me that there are four kinds of
books that never, under any circumstances, lose money in the United
States--first, detective stories; secondly, novels in which the heroine
is forcibly debauched by the hero; thirdly, volumes on spiritualism,
occultism and other such claptrap, and fourthly, books on Lincoln. But
despite all the vast mass of Lincolniana and the constant discussion
of old Abe in other ways, even so elemental a problem as that of
his religious faith--surely an important matter in any competent
biography--is yet but half solved. Here, for example, is the Rev.
William E. Barton, grappling with it for more than four hundred large
pages in "The Soul of Abraham Lincoln." It is a lengthy inquiry--the
rev. pastor, in truth, shows a good deal of the habitual garrulity of
his order--but it is never tedious. On the contrary, it is curious and
amusing, and I have read it with steady interest, including even the
appendices. Unluckily, the author, like his predecessors, fails to
finish the business before him. Was Lincoln a Christian? Did he believe
in the Divinity of Christ? I am left in doubt. He was very polite about
it, and very cautious, as befitted a politician in need of Christian
votes, but how much genuine conviction was in that politeness? And if
his occasional references to Christ were thus open to question, what
of his rather vague avowals of belief in a personal God and in the
immortality of the soul? Herndon and some of his other close friends
always maintained that he was an atheist, but Dr. Barton argues that
this atheism was simply disbelief in the idiotic Methodist and Baptist
dogmas of his time--that nine Christian churches out of ten, if he were
alive to-day, would admit him to their high privileges and prerogatives
without anything worse than a few warning coughs. As for me, I still

The growth of the Lincoln legend is truly amazing. He becomes the
American solar myth, the chief butt of American credulity and
sentimentality. Washington, of late years, has been perceptibly
humanized; every schoolboy now knows that he used to swear a good deal,
and was a sharp trader, and had a quick eye for a pretty ankle. But
meanwhile the varnishers and veneerers have been busily converting
Abe into a plaster saint, thus making him fit for adoration in the
chautauquas and Y. M. C. A.'s. All the popular pictures of him show
him in his robes of state, and wearing an expression fit for a man
about to be hanged. There is, so far as I know, not a single portrait
of him showing him smiling--and yet he must have cackled a good deal,
first and last: who ever heard of a storyteller who didn't? Worse,
there is an obvious effort to pump all his human weaknesses out of
him, and so leave him a mere moral apparition, a sort of amalgam of
John Wesley and the Holy Ghost. What could be more absurd? Lincoln,
in point of fact, was a practical politician of long experience and
high talents, and by no means cursed with inconvenient ideals. On the
contrary, his career in the Illinois Legislature was that of a good
organization man, and he was more than once denounced by reformers.
Even his handling of the slavery question was that of a politician, not
that of a fanatic. Nothing alarmed him more than the suspicion that
he was an Abolitionist. Barton tells of an occasion when he actually
fled town to avoid meeting the issue squarely. A genuine Abolitionist
would have published the Emancipation Proclamation the day after the
first battle of Bull Run. But Lincoln waited until the time was more
favorable--until Lee had been hurled out of Pennsylvania, and, more
important still, until the political currents were safely running his
way. Always he was a wary fellow, both in his dealings with measures
and in his dealings with men. He knew how to keep his mouth shut.

Nevertheless, it was his eloquence that probably brought him to his
great estate. Like William Jennings Bryan, he was a dark horse made
suddenly formidable by fortunate rhetoric. The Douglas debate launched
him, and the Cooper Union speech got him the presidency. This talent
for emotional utterance, this gift for making phrases that enchanted
the plain people, was an accomplishment of late growth. His early
speeches were mere empty fireworks--the childish rhodomontades of
the era. But in middle life he purged his style of ornament and it
became almost baldly simple--and it is for that simplicity that he
is remembered to-day. The Gettysburg speech is at once the shortest
and the most famous oration in American history. Put beside it, all
the whoopings of the Websters, Sumners and Everetts seem gaudy and
silly. It is eloquence brought to a pellucid and almost child-like
perfection--the highest emotion reduced to one graceful and
irresistible gesture. Nothing else precisely like it is to be found
in the whole range of oratory. Lincoln himself never even remotely
approached it. It is genuinely stupendous.

But let us not forget that it is oratory, not logic; beauty, not
sense. Think of the argument in it! Put it into the cold words of
everyday! The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers
who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of
self-determination--"that government of the people, by the people,
for the people," should not perish from the earth. It is difficult
to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle
actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates
who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What
was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else
than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, _i. e._,
of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle an
absolutely free people; they came out with their freedom subject to the
supervision and vote of the rest of the country--and for nearly twenty
years that vote was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely any freedom
at all. Am I the first American to note the fundamental nonsensicality
of the Gettysburg address? If so, I plead my æsthetic joy in it in
amelioration of the sacrilege.


_Paul Elmer More_

Nothing new is to be found in the latest volume of Paul Elmer More's
Shelburne Essays. The learned author, undismayed by the winds of
anarchic doctrine that blow down his Princeton stovepipe, continues
to hold fast to the notions of his earliest devotion. He is still the
gallant champion sent against the Romantic Movement by the forces
of discipline and decorum. He is still the eloquent fugleman of the
Puritan ethic and æsthetic. In so massive a certainty, so resolute an
immovability there is something almost magnificent. These are somewhat
sad days for the exponents of that ancient correctness. The Goths
and the Huns are at the gate, and as they batter wildly they throw
dead cats, perfumed lingerie, tracts against predestination, and the
bound files of the _Nation,_ the _Freeman_ and the _New Republic_
over the fence. But the din does not flabbergast Dr. More. High above
the blood-bathed battlements there is a tower, of ivory within and
solid ferro-concrete without, and in its austere upper chamber he sits
undaunted, solemnly composing an elegy upon Jonathan Edwards, "the
greatest theologian and philosopher yet produced in this country."

Magnificent, indeed--and somehow charming. On days when I have no
nobler business I sometimes join the barbarians and help them to launch
their abominable bombs against the embattled blue-nose& It is, in
the main, fighting that is too easy, too Anglo-Saxon to be amusing.
Think of the decayed professors assembled by Dr. Franklin for the
_Profiteers' Review;_ who could get any genuine thrill out of dropping
_them?_ They come out on crutches, and are as much afraid of what
is behind them as they are of what is in front of them. Facing all
the horrible artillery of Nineveh and Tyre, they arm themselves with
nothing worse than the pedagogical birch. The janissaries of Adolph
Ochs, the Anglo-Saxon supreme archon, are even easier. One has but to
blow a _shofar,_ and down they go. Even Prof. Dr. Stuart P. Sherman is
no antagonist to delight a hard-boiled heretic. Sherman is at least
honestly American, of course, but the trouble with him is that he is
_too_ American. The Iowa hayseed remains in his hair; he can't get rid
of the smell of the chautauqua; one inevitably sees in him a sort of
_reductio ad absurdum_ of his fundamental theory--to wit, the theory
that the test of an artist is whether he hated the Kaiser in 1917, and
plays his honorable part in Christian Endeavor, and prefers Coca-Cola
to Scharlachberger 1911, and has taken to heart the great lessons
of sex hygiene. Sherman is game, but he doesn't offer sport in the
grand manner. Moreover, he has been showing sad signs of late of a
despairing heart: he tries to be ingratiating, and begins to hug in the

The really tempting quarry is More. To rout him out of his armored
tower, to get him out upon the glacis for a duel before both armies, to
bring him finally to the wager of battle--this would be an enterprise
to bemuse the most audacious and give pause to the most talented. More
has a solid stock of learning in his lockers; he is armed and outfitted
as none of the pollyannas who trail after him is armed and outfitted;
he is, perhaps, the nearest approach to a genuine scholar that we have
in America, God save us all! But there is simply no truculence in him,
no flair for debate, no lust to do execution upon his foes. His method
is wholly _ex parte._ Year after year he simply iterates and reiterates
his misty protests, seldom changing so much as a word. Between his
first volume and his last there is not the difference between Gog and
Magog. Steadily, ploddingly, vaguely, he continues to preach the gloomy
gospel of tightness and restraint. He was against "the electric thrill
of freer feeling" when he began, and he will be against it on that last
gray day--I hope it long post-dates my own hanging--when the ultimate
embalmer sneaks upon him with velvet tread, and they haul down the flag
to half-staff at Princeton, and the readers of the New York _Evening
Journal_ note that an obscure somebody named Paul E. More is dead.


_Madison Cawein_

A vast and hefty tome celebrates this dead poet, solemnly issued by
his mourning friends in Louisville. The editor is Otto A. Rothert,
who confesses that he knew Cawein but a year or two, and never read
his poetry until after his death. The contributors include such local
_literati_ as Reuben Post Halleck, Leigh Gordon Giltner, Anna Blanche
McGill and Elvira S. Miller Slaughter. Most of the ladies gush over
the departed in the manner of high-school teachers paying tribute to
Plato, Montaigne or Dante Alighieri. His young son, seventeen years
old, contributes by far the most vivid and intelligent account of
him; it is, indeed, very well written, as, in a different way, is the
contribution of Charles Hamilton Musgrove, an old newspaper friend.
The ladies, as I hint, simply swoon and grow lyrical. But it is a
fascinating volume, all the same, and well worth the room it takes on
the shelf. Mr. Rothert starts off with what he calls a "picturography"
of Cawein--the poet's father and mother in the raiment of 1865, the
coat-of-arms of his mother's great-grand-father's uncle, the house
which now stands on the site of the house in which he was born, the
rock spring from which he used to drink as a boy, a group showing him
with his three brothers, another showing him with one brother and
their cousin Fred, Cawein himself with sideboards, the houses he lived
in, the place where he worked, the walks he liked around Louisville,
his wife and baby, the hideous bust of him in the Louisville Public
Library, the church from which he was buried, his modest grave in Cave
Hill Cemetery--in brief, all the photographs that collect about a man
as he staggers through life, and entertain his ribald grandchildren
after he is gone. Then comes a treatise on the ancestry and youth of
the poet, then a collection of newspaper clippings about him, then
a gruesomely particular account of his death, then a fragment of
autobiography, then a selection from his singularly dull letters, then
some prose pieces from his pen, then the aforesaid tributes of his
neighbors, and finally a bibliography of his works, and an index to

As I say, a volume of fearful bulk and beam, but nevertheless full of
curious and interesting things. Cawein, of course, was not a poet of
the first rank, nor is it certain that he has any secure place in the
second rank, but in the midst of a great deal of obvious and feeble
stuff he undoubtedly wrote some nature lyrics of excellent quality.
The woods and the fields were his delight. He loved to roam through
them, observing the flowers, the birds, the tall trees, the shining
sky overhead, the green of Spring, the reds and browns of Autumn, the
still whites of Winter. There were times when he got his ecstasy into
words--when he wrote poems that were sound and beautiful. These poems
will not be forgotten; there will be no history of American literature
written for a hundred years that does not mention Madison Cawein. But
what will the literary historians make of the man himself? How will
they explain his possession, however fitfully, of the divine gift--his
genuine kinship with Wordsworth and Shelly? Certainly no more unlikely
candidate for the bays ever shinned up Parnassus. His father was a
quack doctor; his mother was a professional spiritualist; he himself,
for years and years, made a living as cashier in a gambling-house!
Could anything be more grotesque? Is it possible to imagine a more
improbable setting for a poet? Yet the facts are the facts, and Mr.
Rothert makes no attempt whatever to conceal them. Add a final touch
of the bizarre: Cawein fell over one morning while shaving in his
bathroom, and cracked his head on the bathtub, and after his death
there was a row over his life insurance. Mr. Rothert presents all of
the documents. The autopsy is described; the death certificate is
quoted.... A strange, strange tale, indeed!


_Frank Harris_

Though, so far as I know, this Harris is a perfectly reputable man,
fearing God and obeying the laws, it is not to be gainsaid that a
certain flavor of the sinister hangs about his aspect. The first time
I ever enjoyed the honor of witnessing him, there bobbed up in my mind
(instantly put away as unworthy and unseemly) a memory of the handsome
dogs who used to chain shrieking virgins to railway tracks in the
innocent, pre-Ibsenish dramas of my youth, the while a couple of stage
hands imitated the rumble of the Empire State Express in the wings.
There was the same elegance of turn-out, the same black mustachios, the
same erect figure and lordly air, the same agate glitter in the eyes,
the same aloof and superior smile. A sightly fellow, by all the gods,
and one who obviously knew how to sneer. That afternoon, in fact, we
had a sneering match, and before it was over most of the great names in
the letters and politics of the time, _circa_ 1914, had been reduced
to faint hisses and ha-has.... Well, a sneerer has his good days and
his bad days. There are times when his gift gives him such comfort
that it can be matched only by God's grace, and there are times when
it launches upon him such showers of darts that he is bound to feel a
few stings. Harris got the darts first, for the year that he came back
to his native land, after a generation of exile, was the year in which
Anglomania rose to the dignity of a national religion--and what he had
to say about the English, among whom he had lived since the early 80's,
was chiefly of a very waspish and disconcerting character. Worse, he
not only said it, twirling his mustache defiantly; he also wrote it
down, and published it in a book. This book was full of shocks for the
rapt worshippers of the Motherland, and particularly for the literary
_Kanonendelicatessen_ who followed the pious leadership of Woodrow and
Ochs, Putnam and Roosevelt, Wister and Cyrus Curtis, young Reid and
Mrs. Jay. So they called a special meeting of the American Academy of
Arts and Letters, sang "God Save the King," kissed the Union Jack,
and put Harris into Coventry. And there he remained for five or six
long years. The literary reviews never mentioned him. His books were
expunged from the minutes. When he was heard of at all, it was only in
whispers, and the general burden of those whispers was that he was in
the pay of the Kaiser, and plotting to garrot the Rev. Dr. William T.

So down to 1921. Then the English, with characteristic lack of
delicacy, played a ghastly trick upon all those dutiful and
well-meaning colonists. That is to say, they suddenly forgave Harris
his criminal refusal to take their war buncombe seriously, exhumed him
from his long solitude among the Anglo-Ashkenazim, and began praising
him in rich, hearty terms as a literary gentleman of the first water,
and even as the chief adornment of American letters! The English
notices of his "Contemporary Portraits: Second Series" were really
quite amazing. The London _Times_ gave him two solid columns, and where
the _Times_ led, all the other great organs of English literary opinion
followed. The book itself was described as something extraordinary, a
piece of criticism full of shrewdness and originality, and the author
was treated with the utmost politeness.... One imagines the painful
sensation in the New York _Times_ office, the dismayed groups around
far-flung campus pumps, the special meetings of the Princeton, N. J.,
and Urbana, Ill., American Legions, the secret conference between
the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the Ku Klux Klan. But
though there was tall talk by hot heads, nothing could be done. Say
"Wo!" and the dutiful jack-ass turns to the right; say "Gee!" and he
turns to the left. It is too much, of course, to ask him to cheer as
well as turn--but he nevertheless turns. Since 1921 I have heard no
more whispers against Harris from professors and Vigilantes. But on
two or three occasions, the subject coming up, I have heard him sneer
his master sneer, and each time my blood has run cold.

Well, what is in him? My belief, frequently expressed, is that there
is a great deal. His "Oscar Wilde" is, by long odds, the best literary
biography ever written by an American--an astonishingly frank,
searching and vivid reconstruction of character--a piece of criticism
that makes all ordinary criticism seem professorial and lifeless. The
Comstocks, I need not say, tried to suppress it; a brilliant light
is thrown upon Harris by the fact that they failed ignominiously.
All the odds were in favor of the Comstocks; they had patriotism on
their side and the help of all the swine who flourished in those days;
nevertheless, Harris gave them a severe beating, and scared them half
to death. In brief, a man of the most extreme bellicosity, enterprise
and courage--a fellow whose ideas are expressed absolutely regardless
of tender feelings, whether genuine or bogus. In "The Man Shakespeare"
and "The Women of Shakespeare" he tackled the whole body of academic
English critics _en masse_--and routed them _en masse._ The two books,
marred perhaps by a too bombastic spirit, yet contain some of the
soundest, shrewdest and most convincing criticism of Shakespeare that
has ever been written. All the old hocus-pocus is thrown overboard.
There is an entirely new examination of the materials, and to the
business is brought a knowledge of the plays so ready and so vast that
that of even the most learned don begins to seem a mere smattering.
The same great grasp of facts and evidences is visible in the sketches
which make up the three volumes of "Contemporary Portraits." What one
always gets out of them is a feeling that the man knows the men he is
writing about--that he not only knows what he sets down, but a great
deal more. There is here nothing of the cold correctness of the usual
literary "estimate." Warts are not forgotten, whether of the nose or
of the immortal soul. The subject, beginning as a political shibboleth
or a row of books, gradually takes on all the colors of life, and then
begins to move, naturally and freely. I know of no more brilliant
evocations of personality in any literature--and most of them are
personalities of sharp flavor, for Harris, in his day, seems to have
known almost everybody worth knowing, and whoever he knew went into his
laboratory for vivisection.

The man is thus a first rate critic of his time, and what he has
written about his contemporaries is certain to condition the view of
them held in the future. What gives him his value in this difficult
field is, first of all and perhaps most important of all, his cynical
detachment--his capacity for viewing men and ideas objectively. In his
life, of course, there have been friendships and some of them have
been strong and long-continued, but when he writes it is with a sort
of surgical remoteness; as if the business in hand were vastly more
important than the man. He was lately protesting violently that he was
and is quite devoid of malice. Granted. But so is a surgeon. To write
of George Moore as he has written may be writing devoid of malice, but
nevertheless the effect is precisely that which would follow if some
malicious enemy were to drag poor George out of his celibate couch in
the dead of night, and chase him naked down Shaftsbury avenue. The
thing is appallingly revelatory--and I believe that it is true. The
Moore that he depicts may not be absolutely the real Moore, but he
is unquestionably far nearer to the real Moore than the Moore of the
Moore books. The method, of course, has its defects. Harris is far more
interested, fundamentally, in men than in their ideas: the catholic
sweep of his "Contemporary Portraits" proves it. In consequence his
judgments of books are often colored by his opinions of their authors.
He dislikes Mark Twain as his own antithesis: a trimmer and poltroon.
_Ergo,_ "A Connecticut Yankee" is drivel, which leads us, as Euclid
hath it, to absurdity. He once had a row with Dreiser. _Ergo,_ "The
Titan" is nonsense, which is itself nonsense. But I know of no critic
who is wholly free from that quite human weakness. In the academic
bunkophagi it is everything; they are willing to swallow anything so
long as the author is sound upon the League of Nations. It seems to me
that such aberrations are rarer in Harris than in most. He may have
violent prejudices, but it is seldom that they play upon a man who is

I judge from his frequent discussions of himself--he is happily free
from the vanity of modesty--that the pets of his secret heart are his
ventures into fiction, and especially, "The Bomb" and "Montes the
Matador." The latter has been greatly praised by Arnold Bennett, who
has also praised Leonard Merrick. I have read it four or five times,
and always with enjoyment. It is a powerful and adept tale; well
constructed and beautifully written; it recalls some of the best of the
shorter stories of Thomas Hardy. Alongside it one might range half a
dozen other Harris stories--all of them carefully put together, every
one the work of a very skillful journeyman. But despite Harris, the
authentic Harris is not the story-writer: he has talents, of course,
but it would be absurd to put "Montes the Matador" beside "Heart of
Darkness." In "Love in Youth" he descends to unmistakable fluff and
feebleness. The real Harris is the author of the Wilde volumes, of the
two books about Shakespeare, of the three volumes of "Contemporary
Portraits." Here there is stuff that lifts itself clearly and
brilliantly above the general--criticism that has a terrific vividness
and plausibility, and all the gusto that the professors can never pump
up. Harris makes his opinions not only interesting, but important.
What he has to say always seems novel, ingenious, and true. Here is the
chief life-work of an American who, when all values are reckoned up,
will be found to have been a sound artist and an extremely intelligent,
courageous and original man--and infinitely the superior of the poor
dolts who once tried so childishly to dispose of him.


_Havelock Ellis_

If the test of the personal culture of a man be the degree of his
freedom from the banal ideas and childish emotions which move the
great masses of men, then Havelock Ellis is undoubtedly the most
civilized Englishman of his generation. He is a man of the soundest
and widest learning, but it is not his positive learning that gives
him distinction; it is his profound and implacable skepticism, his
penetrating eye for the transient, the disingenuous, and the shoddy.
So unconditioned a skepticism, it must be plain, is not an English
habit. The average Englishman of science, though he may challenge the
Continentals within his speciality, is only too apt to sink to the
level of a politician, a green grocer, or a suburban clergyman outside
it. The examples of Wallace, Crookes, and Lodge are anything but
isolated. Scratch an English naturalist and you are likely to discover
a spiritualist; take an English metaphysician to where the band is
playing, and if he begins to snuffle patriotically you need not be
surprised. The late war uncovered this weakness in a wholesale manner.
The English _Gelehrten,_ as a class, not only stood by their country;
they also stood by the Hon. David Lloyd George, the _Daily Mail,_ and
the mob in Trafalgar Square. Unluckily, the asinine manifestations
ensuing--for instance, the "proofs" of the eminent Oxford philologist
that the Germans had never contributed anything to philology--are
not to be described with good grace by an American, for they were
far surpassed on this side of the water. England at least had Ellis,
with Bertrand Russell, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, and a few others in the
background. We had, on that plane, no one.

Ellis, it seems to me, stood above all the rest, and precisely because
his dissent from the prevailing imbecilities was quite devoid of
emotion and had nothing in it of brummagen moral purpose. Too many of
the heretics of the time were simply orthodox witch-hunters off on an
unaccustomed tangent. In their disorderly indignation they matched the
regular professors; it was only in the objects of their ranting that
they differed. But Ellis kept his head throughout. An Englishman of
the oldest native stock, an unapologetic lover of English scenes and
English ways, an unshaken believer in the essential soundness and
high historical destiny of his people, he simply stood aside from the
current clown-show and waited in patience for sense and decency to be
restored. His "Impressions and Comments," the record of his war-time
reflections, is not without its note of melancholy; it was hard to
look on without depression. But for the man of genuine culture there
were at least some resources remaining within himself, and what gives
this volume its chief value is its picture of how such a man made use
of them. Ellis, facing the mob unleashed, turned to concerns and ideas
beyond its comprehension--to the humanism that stands above all such
sordid conflicts. There is something almost of Renaissance dignity in
his chronicle of his speculations. The man that emerges is not a mere
scholar immured in a cell, but a man of the world superior to his race
and his time--a philosopher viewing the childish passion of lesser men
disdainfully and yet not too remote to understand it, and even to see
in it a certain cosmic use. A fine air blows through the book. It takes
the reader into the company of one whose mind is a rich library and
whose manner is that of a gentleman. He is the complete anti-Kipling.
In him the Huxleian tradition comes to full flower.

His discourse ranges from Beethoven to Comstockery and from Spanish
architecture to the charm of the English village. The extent of the
man's knowledge is really quite appalling. His primary work in the
world has been that of a psychologist, and in particular he has
brought a great erudition and an extraordinarily sound judgment to the
vexatious problems of the psychology of sex, but that professional
concern, extending over so many years, has not prevented him from
entering a dozen other domains of speculation, nor has it dulled his
sensitiveness to beauty nor his capacity to evoke it. His writing was
never better than in this volume. His style, especially towards the
end, takes on a sort of glowing clarity. It is English that is as
transparent as a crystal, and yet it is English that is full of fine
colors and cadences. There could be no better investiture for the
questionings and conclusions of so original, so curious, so learned,
and, above all, so sound and hearty a man.


Every time an officer of the constabulary, in the execution of his just
and awful powers under American law, produces a compound fracture of
the occiput of some citizen in his custody, with hemorrhage, shock,
coma and death, there comes a feeble, falsetto protest from specialists
in human liberty. Is it a fact without significance that this protest
is never supported by the great body of American freemen, setting aside
the actual heirs and creditors of the victim? I think not. Here, as
usual, public opinion is very realistic. It does not rise against the
policeman for the plain and simple reason that it does not question his
right to do what he has done. Policemen are not given night-sticks for
ornament. They are given them for the purpose of cracking the skulls of
the recalcitrant plain people, Democrats and Republicans alike. When
they execute that high duty they are palpably within their rights.

The specialists aforesaid are the same fanatics who shake the air with
sobs every time the Postmaster-General of the United States bars a
periodical from the mails because its ideas do not please him, and
every time some poor Russian is deported for reading Karl Marx, and
every time a Prohibition enforcement officer murders a bootlegger who
resists his levies, and every time agents of the Department of Justice
throw an Italian out of the window, and every time the Ku Klux Klan or
the American Legion tars and feathers a Socialist evangelist. In brief,
they are Radicals, and to scratch one with a pitchfork is to expose a
Bolshevik. They are men standing in contempt of American institutions
and in enmity to American idealism. And their evil principles are no
less offensive to right-thinking and red-blooded Americans when they
are United States Senators or editors of wealthy newspapers than when
they are degraded I. W. W.'s throwing dead cats and infernal machines
into meetings of the Rotary Club.

What ails them primarily is the ignorant and uncritical monomania that
afflicts every sort of fanatic, at all times and everywhere. Having
mastered with their limited faculties the theoretical principles set
forth in the Bill of Rights, they work themselves into a passionate
conviction that those principles are identical with the rules of law
and justice, and ought to be enforced literally, and without the
slightest regard for circumstance and expediency. It is precisely as if
a High Church rector, accidentally looking into the Book of Chronicles,
and especially Chapter II, should suddenly issue a mandate from his
pulpit ordering his parishioners, on penalty of excommunication and the
fires of hell, to follow exactly the example set forth, to wit: "And
Jesse begat his first born Eliab, and Abinadab the second, and Shimma
the third, Netheneel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozen the sixth,
David the seventh," and so on. It might be very sound theoretical
theology, but it would surely be out of harmony with modern ideas, and
the rev. gentleman would be extremely lucky if the bishop did not give
him 10 days in the diocesan hoosegow.

So with the Bill of Rights. As adopted by the Fathers of the Republic,
it was gross, crude, inelastic, a bit fanciful and transcendental.
It specified the rights of a citizen, but it said nothing whatever
about his duties. Since then, by the orderly processes of legislative
science and by the even more subtle and beautiful devices of juridic
art, it has been kneaded and mellowed into a far greater pliability
and reasonableness. On the one hand, the citizen still retains the
great privilege of membership in the most superb free nation ever
witnessed on this earth. On the other hand, as a result of countless
shrewd enactments and sagacious decisions, his natural lusts and
appetites are held in laudable check, and he is thus kept in order and
decorum. No artificial impediment stands in the way of his highest
aspiration. He may become anything, including even a policeman. But
once a policeman, he is protected by the legislative and judicial arms
in the peculiar rights and prerogatives that go with his high office,
including especially the right to jug the laity at his will, to sweat
and mug them, to subject them to the third degree, and to subdue their
resistance by beating out their brains. Those who are unaware of this
are simply ignorant of the basic principles of American jurisprudence,
as they have been exposed times without number by the courts of first
instance and ratified in lofty terms by the Supreme Court of the
United States. The one aim of the controlling decisions, magnificently
attained, is to safeguard public order and the public security, and
to substitute a judicial process for the inchoate and dangerous
interaction of discordant egos.

Let us imagine an example. You are, say, a peaceable citizen on your
way home from your place of employment. A police sergeant, detecting
you in the crowd, approaches you, lays his hand on your collar, and
informs you that you are under arrest for killing a trolley conductor
in Altoona, Pa., in 1917. Amazed by the accusation, you decide hastily
that the officer has lost his wits, and take to your heels. He pursues
you. You continue to run. He draws his revolver and fires at you. He
misses you. He fires again and fetches you in the leg. You fall and he
is upon you. You prepare to resist his apparently maniacal assault. He
beats you into insensibility with his espantoon, and drags you to the
patrol box.

Arrived at the watch house you are locked in a room with five
detectives, and for six hours they question you with subtle art.
You grow angry--perhaps robbed of your customary politeness by the
throbbing in your head and leg--and answer tartly. They knock you down.
Having failed to wring a confession from you, they lock you in a cell,
and leave you there all night. The next day you are taken to police
headquarters, your photograph is made for the Rogues' Gallery, and a
print is duly deposited in the section labeled "Murderers." You are
then carted to jail and locked up again. There you remain until the
trolley conductor's wife comes down from Altoona to identify you. She
astonishes the police by saying that you are not the man. The actual
murderer, it appears, was an Italian. After holding you a day or two
longer, to search your house for stills, audit your income tax returns,
and investigate the pre-marital chastity of your wife, they let you go.

You are naturally somewhat irritated by your experience and perhaps
your wife urges you to seek redress. Well, what are your remedies? If
you are a firebrand, you reach out absurdly for those of a preposterous
nature: the instant jailing of the sergeant, the dismissal of the
Police Commissioner, the release of Mooney, a fair trial for Sacco and
Vanzetti, free trade with Russia, One Big Union. But if you are a
100 per cent. American and respect the laws and institutions of your
country, you send for your solicitor--and at once he shows you just how
far your rights go, and where they end. You cannot cause the arrest of
the sergeant, for you resisted him when he attempted to arrest you,
and when you resisted him he acquired an instant right to take you
by force. You cannot proceed against him for accusing you falsely,
for he has a right to make summary arrests for felony, and the courts
have many times decided that a public officer, so long as he cannot be
charged with corruption or malice, is not liable for errors of judgment
made in the execution of his sworn duty. You cannot get the detectives
on the mat, for when they questioned you you were a prisoner accused of
murder, and it was their duty and their right to do so. You cannot sue
the turnkey at the watch house or the warden at the jail for locking
you up, for they received your body, as the law says, in a lawful and
regular manner, and would have been liable to penalty if they had
turned you loose.

But have you no redress whatever, no rights at all? Certainly you have
a right, and the courts have jealously guarded it. You have a clear
right, guaranteed to you under the Constitution, to go into a court
of equity and apply for a mandamus requiring the _Polizei_ to cease
forthwith to expose your portrait in the Rogues' Gallery among the
murderers. This is your inalienable right, and no man or men on earth
can take it away from you. You cannot prevent them cherishing your
portrait in their secret files, but you can get an order commanding
them to refrain forever from exposing it to the gaze of idle visitors,
and if you can introduce yourself unseen into their studio and prove
that they disregard that order, you can have them haled into court for
contempt and fined by the learned judge.

Thus the law, statute, common and case, protects the free American
against injustice. It is ignorance of that subtle and perfect
process and not any special love of liberty _per se_ that causes
radicals of anti-American kidney to rage every time an officer of the
_gendarmerie,_ in the simple execution of his duty, knocks a citizen
in the head. The _gendarme_ plainly has an inherent and inalienable
right to knock him in the head: it is an essential part of his general
prerogative as a sworn officer of the public peace and a representative
of the sovereign power of the state. He may, true enough, exercise that
prerogative in a manner liable to challenge on the ground that it is
imprudent and lacking in sound judgment. On such questions reasonable
men may differ. But it must be obvious that the sane and decorous way
to settle differences of opinion of that sort is not by public outcry
and florid appeals to sentimentality, not by ill-disguised playing to
class consciousness and anti-social prejudice, but by an orderly resort
to the checks and remedies superimposed upon the Bill of Rights by the
calm deliberation and austere logic of the courts of equity.

The law protects the citizen. But to get its protection he must show
due respect for its wise and delicate processes.


An unmistakable flavor of effeminacy hangs about the novel, however
heroic its content. Even in the gaudy tales of a Rex Beach, with their
bold projections of the Freudian dreams of go-getters, ice-wagon
drivers, Ku Kluxers, Rotary Club presidents and other such carnivora,
there is a subtle something that suggests water-color painting,
lip-sticks and bon-bons. Well, why not? When the novel, in the form
that we know to-day, arose in Spain toward the end of the sixteenth
century, it was aimed very frankly at the emerging women of the
Castilian seraglios--women who were gradually emancipating themselves
from the _Küche-Kinder-Kirche_ darkness of the later Middle Ages, but
had not yet come to anything even remotely approaching the worldly
experience and intellectual curiosity of men. They could now read and
they liked to practice the art, but the grand literature of the time
was too profound for them, and too somber. So literary confectioners
undertook stuff that would be more to their taste, and the modern novel
was born. A single plot served most of these confectioners; it became
and remains one of the conventions of the form. Man and maid meet,
love, and proceed to kiss--but the rest must wait. The buss remains
chaste through long and harrowing chapters; not until the very last
scene do fate and Holy Church license anything more. This plot, as I
say, still serves, and Arnold Bennett is authority for the doctrine
that it is the safest known. Its appeal is patently to the feminine
fancy, not to the masculine. Women like to be wooed endlessly before
they loose their girdles and are wooed no more. But a man, when he
finds a damsel to his taste, is eager to get through the preliminary
hocus-pocus as soon as possible.

That women are still the chief readers of novels is known to every book
clerk: Joseph Hergesheimer, a little while back, was bemoaning the
fact as a curse to his craft. What is less often noted is that women
themselves, as they have gradually become fully literate, have forced
their way to the front as makers of the stuff they feed on, and that
they show signs of ousting the men, soon or late, from the business.
Save in the department of lyrical verse, which demands no organization
of ideas but only fluency of feeling, they have nowhere else done
serious work in literature. There is no epic poem of any solid value
by a woman, dead or alive; and no drama, whether comedy or tragedy;
and no work of metaphysical speculation; and no history; and no basic
document in any other realm of thought. In criticism, whether of works
of art or of the ideas underlying them, few women have ever got beyond
the _Schwärmerei_ of Madame de Staël's "L'Allemagne." In the essay,
the most competent woman barely surpasses the average Fleet Street
_causerie_ hack or Harvard professor. But in the novel the ladies have
stood on a level with even the most accomplished men since the day
of Jane Austen, and not only in Anglo-Saxondom, but also everywhere
else--save perhaps in Russia. To-day it would be difficult to think of
a contemporary German novelist of sounder dignity than Clara Viebig,
Helene Böhlau or Ricarda Huch, or a Scandinavian novelist clearly
above Selma Lagerlöf, or an Italian above Mathilda Serao, or, for that
matter, more than two or three living Englishmen above May Sinclair,
or more than two Americans equal to Willa Cather. Not only are women
writing novels quite as good as those written by men--setting aside, of
course, a few miraculous pieces by such fellows as Joseph Conrad: most
of them not really novels at all, but metaphysical sonatas disguised
as romances--; they are actually surpassing men in their experimental
development of the novel form. I do not believe that either Evelyn
Scott's "The Narrow House" or May Sinclair's "Life and Death of Harriet
Frean" has the depth and beam of, say, Dreiser's "Jennie Gerhardt" or
Arnold Bennett's "Old Wives' Tale," but it is certainly to be argued
plausibly that both books show a far greater venturesomeness and a
far finer virtuosity in the novel form--that both seek to free that
form from artificialities which Dreiser and Bennett seem to be almost
unaware of. When men exhibit any discontent with those artificialities
it usually takes the shape of a vain and uncouth revolt against the
whole inner spirit of the novel--that is, against the characteristics
which make it what it is. Their lusher imagination tempts them to try
to convert it into something that it isn't--for example, an epic, a
political document, or a philosophical work. This fact explains, in
one direction, such dialectical parables as Dreiser's "The 'Genius,'"
H. G. Wells' "Joan and Peter" and Upton Sinclair's "King Coal," and,
in a quite different direction, such rhapsodies as Cabell's "Jurgen,"
Meredith's "The Shaving of Shagpat" and Jacob Wassermann's "The World's
Illusion." These things are novels only in the very limited sense
that Beethoven's "Vittoria" and Goldmarck's "Ländliche Hochzeit" are
symphonies. Their chief purpose is not that of prose fiction; it is
either that of argumentation or that of poetry. The women novelists,
with very few exceptions, are far more careful to remain within the
legitimate bounds of the form; they do not often abandon representation
to exhort or exult. Miss Cather's "My Antonia" shows a great deal
of originality in its method; the story it tells is certainly not a
conventional one, nor is it told in a conventional way. But it remains
a novel none the less, and as clearly so, in fact, as "The Ordeal of
Richard Feverel" or "Robinson Crusoe."

Much exertion of the laryngeal and respiratory muscles is wasted upon
a discussion of the differences between realistic novels and romantic
novels. As a matter of fact, every authentic novel is realistic in
its method, however fantastic it may be in its fable. The primary aim
of the novel, at all times and everywhere, is the representation of
human beings at their follies and villainies, and no other art form
clings to that aim so faithfully. It sets forth, not what might be
true, or what ought to be true, but what actually _is_ true. This is
obviously not the case with poetry. Poetry is the product of an effort
to invent a world appreciably better than the one we live in; its
essence is not the representation of the facts, but the deliberate
concealment and denial of the facts. As for the drama, it vacillates,
and if it touches the novel on one side it also touches the epic on the
other. But the novel is concerned solely with human nature as it is
practically revealed and with human experience as men actually know it.
If it departs from that representational fidelity ever so slightly, it
becomes to that extent a bad novel; if it departs violently it ceases
to be a novel at all. Cabell, who shows all the critical deficiencies
of a sound artist, is one who has spent a good deal of time questioning
the uses of realism. Yet it is a plain fact that his own stature as an
artist depends almost wholly upon his capacity for accurate observation
and realistic representation. The stories in "The Line of Love," though
they may appear superficially to be excessively romantic, really owe
all of their charm to their pungent realism. The pleasure they give is
the pleasure of recognition; one somehow delights in seeing a mediæval
baron acting precisely like a New York stockbroker. As for "Jurgen," it
is as realistic in manner as Zola's "La Terre," despite its grotesque
fable and its burden of political, theological and epistemological
ideas. No one not an idiot would mistake the dialogue between Jurgen
and Queen Guinevere's father for romantic, in the sense that Kipling's
"Mandalay" is romantic; it is actually as mordantly realistic as the
dialogue between Nora and Helmer in the last act of "A Doll's House."

It is my contention that women succeed in the novel--and that they
will succeed even more strikingly as they gradually throw off the
inhibitions that have hitherto cobwebbed their minds--simply because
they are better fitted for this realistic representation than
men--because they see the facts of life more sharply, and are less
distracted by mooney dreams. Women seldom have the pathological
faculty vaguely called imagination. One doesn't often hear of
them groaning over colossal bones in their sleep, as dogs do, or
constructing heavenly hierarchies or political Utopias, as men do.
Their concern is always with things of more objective substance--roofs,
meals, rent, clothes, the birth and upbringing of children. They are,
I believe, generally happier than men, if only because the demands
they make of life are more moderate and less romantic. The chief pain
that a man normally suffers in his progress through this vale is that
of disillusionment; the chief pain that a woman suffers is that of
parturition. There is enormous significance in the difference. The
first is artificial and self-inflicted; the second is natural and
unescapable. The psychological history of the differentiation I need
not go into here: its springs lie obviously in the greater physical
strength of man and his freedom from child-bearing, and in the larger
mobility and capacity for adventure that go therewith. A man dreams
of Utopias simply because he feels himself free to construct them; a
woman must keep house. In late years, to be sure, she has toyed with
the idea of escaping that necessity, but I shall not bore you with
arguments showing that she never will. So long as children are brought
into the world and made ready for the trenches, the sweat-shops and
the gallows by the laborious method ordained of God she will never be
quite as free to roam and dream as man is. It is only a small minority
of her sex who cherish a contrary expectation, and this minority,
though anatomically female, is spiritually male. Show me a woman who
has visions comparable, say, to those of Swedenborg, Woodrow Wilson,
Strindberg or Dr. Ghandi, and I'll show you a woman who is a very
powerful anaphrodisiac.

Thus women, by their enforced preoccupation with the harsh facts of
life, are extremely well fitted to write novels, which must deal with
the facts or nothing. What they need for the practical business, in
addition, falls under two heads. First, they need enough sense of
social security to make them free to set down what they see. Secondly,
they need the modest technical skill, the formal mastery of words and
ideas, necessary to do it. The latter, I believe, they have had ever
since they learned to read and write, say three hundred years ago; it
comes to them more readily than to men, and is exercised with greater
ease. The former they are fast acquiring. In the days of Aphra Behn
and Ann Radcliffe it was almost as scandalous for a woman to put her
observations and notions into print as it was for her to show her
legs; even in the days of Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë the thing
was regarded as decidedly unladylike. But now, within certain limits,
she is free to print whatever she pleases, and before long even those
surviving limits will be obliterated. If I live to the year 1950 I
expect to see a novel by a women that will describe a typical marriage
under Christianity, from the woman's standpoint, as realistically as
it is treated from the man's standpoint in Upton Sinclair's "Love's
Pilgrimage." That novel, I venture to predict, will be a cuckoo. At
one stroke it will demolish superstitions that have prevailed in the
Western World since the fall of the Roman Empire. It will seem harsh,
but it will be true. And, being true, it will be a good novel. There
can be no good one that is not true.

What ailed the women novelists, until very recently, was a lingering
ladyism--a childish prudery inherited from their mothers. I believe
that it is being rapidly thrown off; indeed, one often sees a concrete
woman novelist shedding it. I give you two obvious examples: Zona Gale
and Willa Cather. Miss Gale started out by trying to put into novels
the conventional prettiness that is esteemed along the Main Streets
of her native Wisconsin. She had skill and did it well, and so she
won a good deal of popular success. But her work was intrinsically as
worthless as a treatise on international politics by the Hon. Warren
Gamaliel Harding or a tract on the duties of a soldier and a gentleman
by a state president of the American Legion. Then, of a sudden, for
some reason quite unknown to the deponent, she threw off all that
flabby artificiality, and began describing the people about her as
they really were. The result was a second success even more pronounced
than her first, and on a palpably higher level. The career of Miss
Cather has covered less ground, for she began far above Main Street.
What she tried to do at the start was to imitate the superficial
sophistication of Edith Wharton and Henry James--a deceptive thing,
apparently realistic in essence, but actually as conventional as table
manners or the professional buffooneries of a fashionable rector.
Miss Cather had extraordinary skill as a writer, and so her imitation
was scarcely to be distinguished from the original, but in the course
of time she began to be aware of its hollowness. Then she turned to
first-hand representation--to pictures of the people she actually
knew. There ensued a series of novels that rose step by step to the
very distinguished quality of "My Antonia." That fine piece is a great
deal more than simply a good novel. It is a document in the history of
American literature. It proves, once and for all time, that accurate
representation is not, as the campus critics of Dreiser seem to think,
inimical to beauty. It proves, on the contrary, that the most careful
and penetrating representation is itself the source of a rare and
wonderful beauty. No romantic novel ever written in America, by man or
woman, is one-half so beautiful as "My Antonia."

As I have said, the novel, in the United States as elsewhere,
still radiates an aroma of effeminacy, in the conventional sense.
Specifically, it deals too monotonously with the varieties of human
transactions which chiefly interest the unintelligent women who are
its chief patrons and the scarcely less intelligent women who, until
recently, were among its chief commercial manufacturers, to wit, the
transactions that revolve around the ensnarement of men by women--the
puerile tricks and conflicts of what is absurdly called romantic
love. But I believe that the women novelists, as they emerge into the
fullness of skill, will throw overboard all that old baggage, and leave
its toting to such male artisans as Chambers, Beach, Coningsby Dawson
and Emerson Hough, as they have already left the whole flag-waving and
"red-blooded" buncombe. True enough, the snaring of men will remain the
principal business of women in this world for many generations, but it
would be absurd to say that intelligent women, even to-day, view it
romantically--that is, as it is viewed by bad novelists. They see it
realistically, and they see it, not as an end in itself, but as a means
to other ends. It is, speaking generally, after she has got her man
that a woman begins to live. The novel of the future, I believe, will
show her thus living. It will depict the intricate complex of forces
that conditions her life and generates her ideas, and it will show,
against a background of actuality, her conduct in the eternal struggle
between her aspiration and her destiny. Women, as I have argued, are
not normally harassed by the grandiose and otiose visions that inflame
the gizzards of men, but they too discover inevitably that life is a
conflict, and that it is the harsh fate of _Homo sapiens_ to get the
worst of it. I should like to read a "Main Street" by an articulate
Carol Kennicott, or a "Titan" by one of Cowperwood's mistresses, or
a "Cytherea" by a Fanny Randon--or a Savina Grove! It would be sweet
stuff, indeed.... And it will come.


When the history of the late years in America is written, I suspect
that their grandest, gaudiest gifts to _Kultur_ will be found in the
incomparable twins: the right-thinker and the forward-looker. No other
nation can match them, at any weight. The right-thinker is privy to all
God's wishes, and even whims; the forward-looker is the heir to all
His promises to the righteous. The former is never wrong; the latter
is never despairing. Sometimes the two are amalgamated into one man,
and we have a Bryan, a Wilson, a Dr. Frank Crane. But more often there
is a division: the forward-looker thinks wrong, and the right-thinker
looks backward. I give you Upton Sinclair and Nicholas Murray Butler
as examples. Butler is an absolute masterpiece of correct thought; in
his whole life, so far as human records show, he has not cherished a
single fancy that might not have been voiced by a Fifth Avenue rector
or spread upon the editorial page of the New York _Times._ But he has
no vision, alas, alas! All the revolutionary inventions for lifting up
humanity leave him cold. He is against them all, from the initiative
and referendum to birth control, and from Fletcherism to osteopathy.
Now turn to Sinclair. He believes in every one of them, however daring
and fantoddish; he grasps and gobbles all the new ones the instant they
are announced. But the man simply cannot think right. He is wrong on
politics, on economics, and on theology. He glories in and is intensely
vain of his wrongness. Let but a new article of correct American
thought get itself stated by the constituted ecclesiastical and secular
authorities--by Bishop Manning, or Judge Gary, or Butler, or Adolph
Ochs, or Dr. Fabian Franklin, or Otto Kahn, or Dr. Stephen S. Wise,
or Roger W. Babson, or any other such inspired omphalist--and he is
against it almost before it is stated.

On the whole, as a neutral in such matters, I prefer the forward-looker
to the right-thinker, if only because he shows more courage and
originality. It takes nothing save lack of humor to believe what
Butler, or Ochs, or Bishop Manning believes, but it takes long practice
and a considerable natural gift to get down the beliefs of Sinclair.
I remember with great joy the magazine that he used to issue during
the war. In the very first issue he advocated Socialism, the single
tax, birth control, communism, the League of Nations, the conscription
of wealth, government ownership of coal mines, sex hygiene and free
trade. In the next issue he added the recall of judges, Fletcherism,
the Gary system, the Montessori method, paper-bag cookery, war gardens
and the budget system. In the third he came out for sex hygiene, one
big union, the initiative and referendum, the city manager plan,
chiropractic and Esperanto. In the fourth he went to the direct
primary, fasting, the Third International, a federal divorce law, free
motherhood, hot lunches for school children, Prohibition, the vice
crusade, _Expressionismus,_ the government control of newspapers,
deep breathing, international courts, the Fourteen Points, freedom
for the Armenians, the limitation of campaign expenditures, the merit
system, the abolition of the New York Stock Exchange, psychoanalysis,
crystal-gazing, the Little Theater movement, the recognition of Mexico,
_vers libre,_ old age pensions, unemployment insurance, cooperative
stores, the endowment of motherhood, the Americanization of the
immigrant, mental telepathy, the abolition of grade crossings, federal
labor exchanges, profit-sharing in industry, a prohibitive tax on Poms,
the clean-up-paint-up campaign, relief for the Jews, osteopathy, mental
mastery, and the twilight sleep. And so on, and so on. Once I had got
into the swing of the Sinclair monthly I found that I could dispense
with at least twenty other journals of the uplift. When he abandoned
it I had to subscribe for them anew, and the gravel has stuck in my
craw ever since.

In the first volume of his personal philosophy, "The Book of Life:
Mind and Body," he is stopped from displaying whole categories of his
ideas, for his subject is not man the political and economic machine,
but man and mammal. Nevertheless, his characteristic hospitality to new
revelations is abundantly visible. What does the mind suggest? The mind
suggests its dark and fascinating functions and powers, some of them
very recent. There is, for example, psychoanalysis. There is mental
telepathy. There is crystal-gazing. There is double personality. Out
of each springs a scheme for the uplift of the race--in each there is
something for a forward-looker to get his teeth into. And if mind, then
why not also spirit? Here even a forward-looker may hesitate; here,
in fact, Sinclair himself hesitates. The whole field of spiritism is
barred to him by his theological heterodoxy; if he admits that man has
an immortal soul, he may also have to admit that the soul can suffer in
hell. Thus even forward-looking may turn upon and devour itself. But if
the meadow wherein spooks and poltergeists disport is closed, it is at
least possible to peep over the fence. Sinclair sees materializations
in dark rooms, under red, satanic lights. He is, perhaps, not yet
convinced, but he is looking pretty hard. Let a ghostly hand reach out
and grab him, and he will be over the fence! The body is easier. The
new inventions for dealing with it are innumerable and irresistible; no
forward-looker can fail to succumb to at least some of them. Sinclair
teeters dizzily. On the one hand he stoutly defends surgery--that
is, provided the patient is allowed to make his own diagnosis!--on
the other hand he is hot for fasting, teetotalism, and the avoidance
of drugs, coffee and tobacco, and he begins to flirt with osteopathy
and chiropractic. More, he has discovered a new revelation in San
Francisco--a system of diagnosis and therapeutics, still hooted at
by the Medical Trust, whereby the exact location of a cancer may
be determined by examining a few drops of the patient's blood, and
syphilis may be cured by vibrations, and whereby, most curious of all,
it can be established that odd numbers, written on a sheet of paper,
are full of negative electricity, and even numbers are full of positive

The book is written with great confidence and address, and has a good
deal of shrewdness mixed with its credulities; few licensed medical
practitioners could give you better advice. But it is less interesting
than its author, or, indeed, than forward-lookers in general. Of all
the known orders of men they fascinate me the most. I spend whole
days reading their pronunciamentos, and am an expert in the ebb and
flow of their singularly bizarre ideas. As I have said, I have never
encountered one who believed in but one sure cure for all the sorrows
of the world, and let it go at that. Nay, even the most timorous
of them gives his full faith and credit to at least two. Turn, for
example, to the official list of eminent single taxers issued by the
Joseph Fels Fund. I defy you to find one solitary man on it who stops
with the single tax. There is David Starr Jordan: he is also one of
the great whales of pacifism. There is B. O. Flower: he is the emperor
of anti-vaccinationists. There is Carrie Chapman Catt: she is hot for
every peruna that the suffragettes brew. There is W. S. U'Ren: he is in
general practise as a messiah. There is Hamlin Garland: he also chases
spooks. There is Jane Addams: vice crusader, pacifist, suffragist,
settlement worker. There is Prof. Dr. Scott Nearing: Socialist and
martyr. There is Newt Baker: heir of the Wilsonian idealism. There
is Gifford Pinchot: conservationist, Prohibitionist, Bull Moose,
and professional Good Citizen. There is Judge Ben B. Lindsey:
forward-looking's Jack Horner, forever sticking his thumb into new
pies. I could run the list to columns, but no need. You know the type
as well as I do. Give the forward-looker the direct primary, and he
demands the short ballot. Give him the initiative and referendum, and
he bawls for the recall of judges. Give him Christian Science, and he
proceeds to the swamis and yogis. Give him the Mann Act, and he wants
laws providing for the castration of fornicators. Give him Prohibition,
and he launches a new crusade against cigarettes, coffee, jazz, and
custard pies.

I have a wide acquaintance among such sad, mad, glad folks, and know
some of them very well. It is my belief that the majority or them are
absolutely honest--that they believe as fully in their baroque gospels
as I believe in the dishonesty of politicians--that their myriad and
amazing faiths sit upon them as heavily as the fear of hell sits upon a
Methodist deacon who has degraded the vestry-room to carnal uses. All
that may be justly said against them is that they are chronically full
of hope, and hence chronically uneasy and indignant--that they belong
to the less sinful and comfortable of the two grand divisions of the
human race. Call them the tender-minded, as the late William James used
to do, and you have pretty well described them. They are, on the one
hand, pathologically sensitive to the sorrows of the world, and, on
the other hand, pathologically susceptible to the eloquence of quacks.
What seems to lie in all of them is the doctrine that evils so vast as
those they see about them _must_ and _will_ be laid--that it would be
an insult to a just God to think of them as permanent and irremediable.
This notion, I believe, is at the bottom of much of the current
pathetic faith in Prohibition. The thing itself is obviously a colossal
failure--that is, when viewed calmly and realistically. It has not only
not cured the rum evil in the United States; it has plainly made that
evil five times as bad as it ever was before. But to confess that bald
fact would be to break the forward-looking heart: it simply refuses
to harbor the concept of the incurable. And so, being debarred by the
legal machinery that supports Prohibition from going back to any more
feasible scheme of relief, it cherishes the sorry faith that somehow,
in some vague and incomprehensible way, Prohibition will yet work.
When the truth becomes so horribly evident that even forward-lookers
are daunted, then some new quack will arise to fool them again, with
some new and worse scheme of super-Prohibition. It is their destiny
to wobble thus endlessly between quack and quack. One pulls them by
the right arm and one by the left arm. A third is at their coat-tail
pockets, and a fourth beckons them over the hill.

The rest of us are less tender-minded, and, in consequence, much
happier. We observe quite clearly that the world, as it stands, is
anything but perfect--that injustice exists, and turmoil, and tragedy,
and bitter suffering of ten thousand kinds--that human life at its
best, is anything but a grand, sweet song. But instead of ranting
absurdly against the fact, or weeping over it maudlinly, or trying
to remedy it with inadequate means, we simply put the thought of
it out of our minds, just as a wise man puts away the thought that
alcohol is probably bad for his liver, or that his wife is a shade
too fat. Instead of mulling over it and suffering from it, we seek
contentment by pursuing the delights that are so strangely mixed with
the horrors--by seeking out the soft spots and endeavoring to avoid
the hard spots. Such is the intelligent habit of practical and sinful
men, and under it lies a sound philosophy. After all, the world is
not our handiwork, and we are not responsible for what goes on in it,
save within very narrow limits. Going outside them with our protests
and advice tends to become contumacy to the celestial hierarchy. Do
the poor suffer in the midst of plenty? Then let us thank God politely
that we are not that poor. Are rogues in offices? Well, go call a
policeman, thus setting rogue upon rogue. Are taxes onerous, wasteful,
unjust? Then let us dodge as large a part of them as we can. Are whole
regiments and army corps of our fellow creatures doomed to hell? Then
let them complain to the archangels, and, if the archangels are too
busy to hear them, to the nearest archbishop.

Unluckily for the man of tender mind, he is quite incapable of any
such easy dismissal of the great plagues and conundrums of existence.
It is of the essence of his character that he is too sensitive and
sentimental to put them ruthlessly out of his mind: he cannot view
even the crunching of a cockroach without feeling the snapping of
his own ribs. And it is of the essence of his character that he is
unable to escape the delusion of duty--that he can't rid himself of
the notion that, whenever he observes anything in the world that
might conceivably be improved, he is commanded by God to make every
effort to improve it. In brief, he is a public-spirited man, and the
ideal citizen of democratic states. But Nature, it must be obvious,
is opposed to democracy--and whoso goes counter to nature must expect
to pay the penalty. The tender-minded man pays it by hanging forever
upon the cruel hooks of hope, and by fermenting inwardly in incessant
indignation. All this, perhaps, explains the notorious ill-humor of
uplifters--the wowser touch that is in even the best of them. They
dwell so much upon the imperfections of the universe and the weaknesses
of man that they end by believing that the universe is altogether out
of joint and that every man is a scoundrel and every woman a vampire.
Years ago I had a combat with certain eminent reformers of the sex
hygiene and vice crusading species, and got out of it a memorable
illumination of their private minds. The reform these strange creatures
were then advocating was directed against sins of the seventh category,
and they proposed to put them down by forcing through legislation of a
very harsh and fantastic kind--statutes forbidding any woman, however
forbidding, to entertain a man in her apartment without the presence of
a third party, statutes providing for the garish lighting of all dark
places in the public parks, and so on. In the course of my debates with
them I gradually jockeyed them into abandoning all of the arguments
they started with, and so brought them down to their fundamental
doctrine, to wit, that no woman, without the aid of the police, could
be trusted to protect her virtue. I pass as a cynic in Christian
circles, but this notion certainly gave me pause. And it was voiced by
men who were the fathers of grown and unmarried daughters!

It is no wonder that men who cherish such ideas are so ready to accept
any remedy for the underlying evils, no matter how grotesque. A man
suffering from hay-fever, as every one knows, will take any medicine
that is offered to him, even though he knows the compounder to be a
quack; the infinitesimal chance that the quack may have the impossible
cure gives him a certain hope, and so makes the disease itself
more bearable. In precisely the same way a man suffering from the
conviction that the whole universe is hell-bent for destruction--that
the government he lives under is intolerably evil, that the rich are
growing richer and the poor poorer, that no man's word can be trusted
and no woman's chastity, that another and worse war is hatching,
that the very regulation of the weather has fallen into the hands
of rogues--such a man will grab at anything, even birth control,
osteopathy or the Fourteen Points, rather than let the foul villainy go
on. The apparent necessity of finding a remedy without delay transforms
itself, by an easy psychological process, into a belief that the remedy
has been found; it is almost impossible for most men, and particularly
for tender-minded men, to take in the concept of the insoluble. Every
problem that remains unsolved, including even the problem of evil,
is in that state simply because men of strict virtue and passionate
altruism have not combined to solve it--because the business has been
neglected by human laziness and rascality. All that is needed to
dispatch it is the united effort of enough pure hearts: the accursed
nature of things will yield inevitably to a sufficiently desperate
battle; mind (usually written Mind) will triumph over matter (usually
written Matter--or maybe Money Power, or Land Monopoly, or Beef Trust,
or Conspiracy of Silence, or Commercialized Vice, or Wall Street, or
the Dukes, or the Kaiser), and the Kingdom of God will be at hand. So,
with the will to believe in full function, the rest is easy. The eager
forward-looker is exactly like the man with hay-fever, or arthritis, or
nervous dyspepsia, or diabetes. It takes time to try each successive
remedy--to search it out, to take it, to observe its effects, to hope,
to doubt, to shelve it. Before the process is completed another is
offered; new ones are always waiting before their predecessors have
been discarded. Here, perhaps, we get a glimpse of the causes behind
the protean appetite of the true forward-looker--his virtuosity in
credulity. He is in all stages simultaneously--just getting over the
initiative and referendum, beginning to have doubts about the short
ballot, making ready for a horse doctor's dose of the single tax, and
contemplating an experimental draught of Socialism to-morrow.

What is to be done for him? How is he to be cured of his great thirst
for sure-cures that do not cure, and converted into a contented and
careless backward-looker, peacefully snoozing beneath his fig tree
while the oppressed bawl for succor in forty abandoned lands, and
injustice stalks the world, and taxes mount higher and higher, and
poor working-girls are sold into white slavery, and Prohibition fails
to prohibit, and cocaine is hawked openly, and jazz drags millions
down the primrose way, and the trusts own the legislatures of all
Christendom, and judges go to dinner with millionaires, and Europe
prepares for another war, and children of four and five years work
as stevedores and locomotive firemen, and guinea pigs and dogs are
vivisected, and Polish immigrant women have more children every year,
and divorces multiply, and materialism rages, and the devil runs
the cosmos? What is to be done to save the forward-looker from his
torturing indignations, and set him in paths of happy dalliance?
Answer: nothing. He was born that way, as men are born with hare lips
or bad livers, and he will remain that way until the angels summon
him to eternal rest. Destiny has laid upon him the burden of seeing
unescapably what had better not be looked at, of believing what isn't
so. There is no way to help him. He must suffer vicariously for the
carnal ease of the rest of us. He must die daily that we may live in
peace, corrupt and contented.

As I have said, I believe fully that this child of sorrow is
honest--that his twinges and malaises are just as real to him as those
that rack the man with arthritis, and that his trusting faith in quacks
is just as natural. But this, of course, is not saying that the quacks
themselves are honest. On the contrary, their utter dishonesty must be
quite as obvious as the simplicity of their dupes. Trade is good for
them in the United States, where hope is a sort of national vice, and
so they flourish here more luxuriously than anywhere else on earth.
Some one told me lately that there are now no less than 25,000 national
organizations in the United States for the uplift of the plain people
and the snaring and shaking down of forward-lookers--societies for
the Americanization of immigrants, for protecting poor working-girls
against Jews and Italians, for putting Bibles into the bedrooms of
week-end hotels, for teaching Polish women how to wash their babies,
for instructing school-children in ring-around-a-rosy, for crusading
against the cigarette, for preventing accidents in rolling-mills, for
making street-car conductors more polite, for testing the mentality
of Czecho-Slovaks, for teaching folk-songs, for restoring the United
States to Great Britain, for building day-nurseries in the devastated
regions of France, for training deaconesses, for fighting the
house-fly, for preventing cruelty to mules and Tom-cats, for forcing
householders to clean their backyards, for planting trees, for saving
the Indian, for sending colored boys to Harvard, for opposing Sunday
movies, for censoring magazines, for God knows what else. In every
large American city such organizations swarm, and every one of them
has an executive secretary who tries incessantly to cadge space in the
newspapers. Their agents penetrate to the remotest hamlets in the land,
and their circulars, pamphlets and other fulminations swamp the mails.
In Washington and at every state capital they have their lobbyists, and
every American legislator is driven half frantic by their innumerable
and preposterous demands. Each of them wants a law passed to make
its crusade official and compulsory; each is forever hunting for
forward-lookers with money.

One of the latest of these uplifting vereins to score a ten-strike
is the one that sponsored the so-called Maternity Bill. That measure
is now a law, and the over-burdened American taxpayer, at a cost of
$3,000,000 a year, is supporting yet one more posse of perambulating
gabblers and snouters. The influences behind the bill were exposed in
the Senate by Senator Reed, of Missouri, but to no effect: a majority
of the other Senators, in order to get rid of the propagandists in
charge of it, had already promised to vote for it. Its one intelligible
aim, as Senator Reed showed, is to give government jobs at good
salaries to a gang of nosey old maids. These virgins now traverse the
country teaching married women how to have babies in a ship-shape and
graceful manner, and how to keep them alive after having them. Only
one member of the corps has ever been married herself; nevertheless,
the old gals are authorized to go out among the Italian and Yiddish
women, each with ten or twelve head of kids to her credit, and tell
them all about it. According to Senator Reed, the ultimate aim of the
forward-lookers who sponsored the scheme is to provide for the official
registration of expectant mothers, that they may be warned what to eat,
what movies to see, and what midwives to send for when the time comes.
Imagine a young bride going down to the County Clerk's office to report
herself! And imagine an elderly and anthropophagous spinster coming
around next day to advise her! Or a boozy political doctor!

All these crazes, of course, are primarily artificial. They are
set going, not by the plain people spontaneously, nor even by the
forward-lookers who eventually support them, but by professionals. The
Anti-Saloon League is their archetype. It is owned and operated by
gentlemen who make excellent livings stirring up the tender-minded;
if their salaries were cut off to-morrow, all their moral passion
would ooze out, and Prohibition would be dead in two weeks. So with
the rest of the uplifting camorras. Their present enormous prosperity,
I believe, is due in large part to a fact that is never thought
of, to wit, the fact that the women's colleges of the country, for
a dozen years past, have been turning out far more graduates than
could be utilized as teachers. These supernumerary lady Ph.D's almost
unanimously turn to the uplift--and the uplift saves them. In the early
days of higher education for women in the United States, practically
all the graduates thrown upon the world got jobs as teachers, but now
a good many are left over. Moreover, it has been discovered that the
uplift is easier than teaching, and that it pays a great deal better.
It is a rare woman professor who gets more than $5,000 a year, but
there are plenty of uplifting jobs at $8,000 and $10,000 a year, and in
the future there will be some prizes at twice as much. No wonder the
learned girls fall upon them so eagerly!

The annual production of male Ph.D's is also far beyond the legitimate
needs of the nation, but here the congestion is relieved by the greater
and more varied demand for masculine labor. If a young man emerging
from Columbia or Ohio Wesleyan as _Philosophiez Doctor_ finds it
impossible to get a job teaching he can always go on the road as a
salesman of dental supplies, or enlist in the marines, or study law, or
enter the ministry, or go to work in a coal-mine, or a slaughter-house,
or a bucket-shop, or begin selling Oklahoma mine-stock to widows and
retired clergy-men. The women graduate faces far fewer opportunities.
She is commonly too old and too worn by meditation to go upon the stage
in anything above the grade of a patent-medicine show, she has been so
poisoned by instruction in sex hygiene that she shies at marriage, and
most of the standard professions and grafts of the world are closed to
her. The invention of the uplift came as a godsend to her. Had not some
mute, inglorious Edison devised it at the right time, humanity would
be disgraced to-day by the spectacle of hordes of Lady Ph.D's going
to work in steam-laundries, hooch shows and chewing-gum factories. As
it is, they are all taken care of by the innumerable societies for
making the whole world virtuous and happy. One may laugh at the aims
and methods of many such societies--for example, at the absurd vereins
for Americanizing immigrants, _i. e.,_ degrading them to the level of
the native peasantry. But one thing, at least, they accomplish: they
provide comfortable and permanent jobs for hundreds and thousands of
deserving women, most of whom are far more profitably employed trying
to make Methodists out of Sicilians than they would be if they were
trying to make husbands out of bachelors. It is for this high purpose
also that the forward-looker suffers.


Where is the grave-yard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters
their mounds? There was a day when Jupiter was the king of the gods,
and any man who doubted his puissance was _ipso facto_ a barbarian and
an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships
Jupiter to-day? And what of Huitzilopochtli? In one year--and it is
no more than five hundred years ago--50,000 youths and maidens were
slain in sacrifice to him. To-day, if he is remembered at all, it
is only by some vagrant savage in the depths of the Mexican forest.
Huitzilopochtli, like many other gods, had no human father; his mother
was a virtuous widow; he was born of an apparently innocent flirtation
that she carried on with the sun. When he frowned, his father, the
sun, stood still. When he roared with rage, earthquakes engulfed whole
cities. When he thirsted he was watered with 10,000 gallons of human
blood. But to-day Huitzilopochtli is as magnificently forgotten as
Allen G. Thurman. Once the peer of Allah, Buddha and Wotan, he is now
the peer of General Coxey, Richmond P. Hobson, Nan Patterson, Alton B.
Parker, Adelina Patti, General Weyler and Tom Sharkey.

Speaking of Huitzilopochtli recalls his brother, Tezcatilpoca.
Tezcatilpoca was almost as powerful: he consumed 25,000 virgins a year.
Lead me to his tomb: I would weep, and hang a _couronne des perles._
But who knows where it is? Or where the grave of Quitzalcoatl is? Or
Tialoc? Or Chalchihuitlicue? Or Xiehtecutli? Or Centeotl, that sweet
one? Or Tlazolteotl, the goddess of love? Or Mictlan? Or Ixtlilton?
Or Omacatl? Or Yacatecutli? Or Mixcoatl? Or Xipe? Or all the host of
Tzitzimitles? Where are their bones? Where is the willow on which they
hung their harps? In what forlorn and unheard-of hell do they await the
resurrection morn? Who enjoys their residuary estates? Or that of Dis,
whom Cæsar found to be the chief god of the Celts? Or that of Tarves,
the bull? Or that of Moccos, the pig? Or that of Epona, the mare? Or
that of Mullo, the celestial jack-ass? There was a time when the Irish
revered all these gods as violently as they now hate the English. But
to-day even the drunkest Irishman laughs at them.

But they have company in oblivion: the hell of dead gods is as crowded
as the Presbyterian hell for babies. Damona is there, and Esus, and
Drunemeton, and Silvana, and Dervones, and Adsalluta, and Deva,
and Belisama, and Axona, and Vintios, and Taranuous, and Sulis, and
Cocidius, and Adsmerius, and Dumiatis, and Caletos, and Moccus, and
Ollovidius, and Albiorix, and Leucitius, and Vitucadrus, and Ogmios,
and Uxellimus, and Borvo, and Grannos, and Mogons. All mighty gods in
their day, worshiped by millions, full of demands and impositions,
able to bind and loose--all gods of the first class, not dilettanti.
Men labored for generations to build vast temples to them--temples
with stones as large as hay-wagons. The business of interpreting their
whims occupied thousands of priests, wizards, archdeacons, evangelists,
haruspices, bishops, archbishops. To doubt them was to die, usually at
the stake. Armies took to the field to defend them against infidels:
villages were burned, women and children were butchered, cattle were
driven off. Yet in the end they all withered and died, and to-day there
is none so poor to do them reverence. Worse, the very tombs in which
they lie are lost, and so even a respectful stranger is debarred from
paying them the slightest and politest homage.

What has become of Sutekh, once the high god of the whole Nile Valley?
What has become of:

    Resheph           Baal
    Anath             Astarte
    Ashtoreth         Hadad
    El                Addu
    Nergal            Shalera
    Nebo              Dagon
    Ninib             Sharrab
    Melek             Yau
    Ahijah            Amon-Re
    Isis              Osiris
    Ptah              Sebek
    Anubis            Molech?

All these were once gods of the highest eminence. Many of them are
mentioned with fear and trembling in the Old Testament. They ranked,
five or six thousand years ago, with Jahveh himself; the worst of them
stood far higher than Thor. Yet they have all gone down the chute, and
with them the following:

    Bile               Gwydion
    Lêr                Manawyddan
    Arianrod           Nuada Argetlam
    Morrigu            Tagd
    Govannon           Goibniu
    Gunfled            Odin
    Sokk-mimi          Llaw Gyffes
    Memetona           Lleu
    Dagda              Ogma
    Kerridwen          Mider
    Pwyll              Rigantona
    Ogyrvan            Marzin
    Dea Dia            Mars
    Ceros              Jupiter
    Vaticanus          Cunina
    Edulia             Potina
    Adeona             Statilinus
    Iuno Lucina        Diana of Ephesus
    Saturn             Robigus
    Furrina            Pluto
    Vediovis           Ops
    Consus             Meditrina
    Cronos             Vesta
    Enki               Tilmun
    Engurra            Zer-panitu
    Belus              Merodach
    Dimmer             U-ki
    Mu-ul-lil          Dauke
    Ubargisi           Gasan-abzu
    Ubilulu            Elum
    Gasan-lil          U-Tin-dir ki
    U-dimmer-an-kia    Marduk
    Enurestu           Nin-lil-la
    U-sab-sib          Nin
    U-Mersi            Persephone
    Tammuz             Istar
    Venus              Lagas
    Bau                U-urugal
    Mulu-hursang       Sirtumu
    Anu                Ea
    Beltis             Nirig
    Nusku              Nebo
    Ni-zu              Samas
    Sahi               Ma-banba-anna
    Aa                 En-Mersi
    Allatu             Amurru
    Sin                Assur
    AbilAddu           Aku
    Apsu               Beltu
    Dagan              Dumu-zi-abzu
    Elali              Kuski-banda
    Isum               Kaawanu
    Mami               Nin-azu
    Nin-man            Lugal-Amarada
    Zaraqu             Qarradu
    Suqamunu           Ura-gala
    Zagaga             Ueras

You may think I spoof. That I invent the names. I do not. Ask the
rector to lend you any good treatise on comparative religion: you
will find them all listed. They were gods of the highest standing and
dignity--gods of civilized peoples--worshipped and believed in by
millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient and immortal.
And all are dead.



Next to the clerk in holy orders, the fellow with the worst job in
the world is the schoolmaster. Both are underpaid, both fall steadily
in authority and dignity, and both wear out their hearts trying to
perform the impossible. How much the world asks of them, and how
little they can actually deliver! The clergyman's business is to save
the human race from hell: if he saves one-eighth of one per cent.,
even within the limits of his narrow flock, he does magnificently.
The school-master's is to spread the enlightenment, to make the great
masses of the plain people intelligent--and intelligence is precisely
the thing that the great masses of the plain people are congenitally
and eternally incapable of.

Is it any wonder that the poor birchman, facing this labor that would
have staggered Sisyphus Æolusohn, seeks refuge from its essential
impossibility in a Chinese maze of empty technic? The ghost of
Pestalozzi, once bearing a torch and beckoning toward the heights, now
leads down stairways into black and forbidding dungeons. Especially in
America, where all that is bombastic and mystical is most esteemed,
the art of pedagogics becomes a sort of puerile magic, a thing of
preposterous secrets, a grotesque compound of false premises and
illogical conclusions. Every year sees a craze for some new solution of
the teaching enigma, at once simple and infallible--manual training,
playground work, song and doggerel lessons, the Montessori method,
the Gary system--an endless series of flamboyant arcanums. The
worst extravagances of _privat dozent_ experimental psychology are
gravely seized upon; the uplift pours in its ineffable principles and
discoveries; mathematical formulæ are worked out for every emergency;
there is no sure-cure so idiotic that some superintendent of schools
will not swallow it.

A couple of days spent examining the literature of the New Thought in
pedagogy are enough to make the judicious weep. Its aim seems to be
to reduce the whole teaching process to a sort of automatic reaction,
to discover some master formula that will not only take the place of
competence and resourcefulness in the teacher but that will also create
an artificial receptivity in the child. The merciless application of
this formula (which changes every four days) now seems to be the chief
end and aim of pedagogy. Teaching becomes a thing in itself, separable
from and superior to the thing taught. Its mastery is a special
business, a transcendental art and mystery, to be acquired in the
laboratory. A teacher well grounded in this mystery, and hence privy
to every detail of the new technic (which changes, of course, with the
formula), can teach anything to any child, just as a sound dentist can
pull any tooth out of any jaw.

All this, I need not point out, is in sharp contrast to the old
theory of teaching. By that theory mere technic was simplified and
subordinated. All that it demanded of the teacher told off to teach,
say, geography, was that he master the facts in the geography book and
provide himself with a stout rattan. Thus equipped, he was ready for a
test of his natural pedagogical genius. First he exposed the facts in
the book, then he gilded them with whatever appearance of interest and
importance he could conjure up, and then he tested the extent of their
transference to the minds of his pupils. Those pupils who had ingested
them got apples; those who had failed got fanned with the rattan.
Followed the second round, and the same test again, with a second
noting of results. And then the third, and fourth, and the fifth, and
so on until the last and least pupil had been stuffed to his subnormal
and perhaps moronic brim.

I was myself grounded in the underlying delusions of what is called
knowledge by this austere process, and despite the eloquence of those
who support newer ideas, I lean heavily in favor of it, and regret to
hear that it is no more. It was crude, it was rough, and it was often
not a little cruel, but it at least had two capital advantages over all
the systems that have succeeded it. In the first place, its machinery
was simple; even the stupidest child could understand it; it hooked
up cause and effect with the utmost clarity. And in the second place,
it tested the teacher as and how he ought to be tested--that is, for
his actual capacity to teach, not for his mere technical virtuosity.
There was, in fact, no technic for him to master, and hence none for
him to hide behind. He could not conceal a hopeless inability to impart
knowledge beneath a correct professional method.

That ability to impart knowledge, it seems to me, has very little to
do with technical method. It may operate at full function without
any technical method at all, and contrariwise, the most elaborate of
technical methods, whether out of Switzerland, Italy or Gary, Ind.,
cannot make it operate when it is not actually present. And what does
it consist of? It consists, first, of a natural talent for dealing
with children, for getting into their minds, for putting things in a
way that they can comprehend. And it consists, secondly, of a deep
belief in the interest and importance of the thing taught, a concern
about it amounting to a sort of passion. A man who knows a subject
thoroughly, a man so soaked in it that he eats it, sleeps it and dreams
it--this man can always teach it with success, no matter how little
he knows of technical pedagogy. That is because there is enthusiasm
in him, and because enthusiasm is almost as contagious as fear or the
barber's itch. An enthusiast is willing to go to any trouble to impart
the glad news bubbling within him. He thinks that it is important and
valuable for to know; given the slightest glow of interest in a pupil
to start with, he will fan that glow to a flame. No hollow formalism
cripples him and slows him down. He drags his best pupils along as fast
as they can go, and he is so full of the thing that he never tires of
expounding its elements to the dullest.

This passion, so unordered and yet so potent, explains the capacity
for teaching that one frequently observes in scientific men of high
attainments in their specialties--for example, Huxley, Ostwald, Karl
Ludwig, Virchow, Billroth, Jowett, William G. Sumner, Halsted and
Osier--men who knew nothing whatever about the so-called science of
pedagogy, and would have derided its alleged principles if they had
heard them stated. It explains, too, the failure of the general run of
high-school and college teachers--men who are undoubtedly competent,
by the professional standards of pedagogy, but who nevertheless
contrive only to make intolerable bores of the things they presume
to teach. No intelligent student ever learns much from the average
drover of undergraduates; what he actually carries away has come out
of his textbooks, or is the fruit of his own reading and inquiry. But
when he passes to the graduate school, and comes among men who really
understand the subjects they teach, and, what is more, who really love
them, his store of knowledge increases rapidly, and in a very short
while, if he has any intelligence at all, he learns to think in terms
of the thing he is studying.

So far, so good. But an objection still remains, the which may be
couched in the following terms: that in the average college or high
school, and especially in the elementary school, most of the subjects
taught are so bald and uninspiring that it is difficult to imagine
them arousing the passion I have been describing--in brief, that only
an ass could be enthusiastic about them. In witness, think of the
four elementals: reading, penmanship, arithmetic and spelling. This
objection, at first blush, seems salient and dismaying, but only a
brief inspection is needed to show that it is really of very small
validity. It is made up of a false assumption and a false inference.
The false inference is that there is any sound reason for prohibiting
teaching by asses, if only the asses know how to do it, and do it
well. The false assumption is that there are no asses in our schools
and colleges to-day. The facts stand in almost complete antithesis to
these notions. The truth is that the average schoolmaster, on all the
lower levels, is and always must be essentially an ass, for how can one
imagine an intelligent man engaging in so puerile an avocation? And,
the truth is that it is precisely his inherent asininity, and not his
technical equipment as a pedagogue, that is responsible for whatever
modest success he now shows.

I here attempt no heavy jocosity, but mean exactly what I say.
Consider, for example, penmanship. A decent handwriting, it must be
obvious, is useful to all men, and particularly to the lower orders of
men. It is one of the few things capable of acquirement in school that
actually helps them to make a living. Well, how is it taught to-day?
It is taught, in the main, by schoolmarms so enmeshed in a complex and
unintelligible technic that, even supposing them able to write clearly
themselves, they find it quite impossible to teach their pupils.
Every few years sees a radical overhauling of the whole business.
First the vertical hand is to make it easy; then certain curves are
the favorite magic; then there is a return to slants and shadings. No
department of pedagogy sees a more hideous cavorting of quacks. In none
is the natural talent and enthusiasm of the teacher more depressingly
crippled. And the result? The result is that our American school
children write abominably--that a clerk or stenographer with a simple,
legible hand becomes almost as scarce as one with Greek.

Go back, now, to the old days. Penmanship was then taught, not
mechanically and ineffectively, by unsound and shifting formulæ, but
by passionate penmen with curly patent-leather hair and far-away
eyes--in brief, by the unforgettable professors of our youth,
with their flourishes, their heavy down-strokes and their lovely
birds-with-letters-in-their-bills. You remember them, of course. Asses
all! Preposterous popinjays and numskulls! Pathetic idiots! But they
loved penmanship, they believed in the glory and beauty of penmanship,
they were fanatics, devotees, almost martyrs of penmanship--and so
they got some touch of that passion into their pupils. Not enough,
perhaps, to make more flourishers and bird-blazoners, but enough to
make sound penmen. Look at your old writing book; observe the excellent
legibility, the clear strokes of your "Time is money." Then look at
your child's.

Such idiots, despite the rise of "scientific" pedagogy, have not
died out in the world. I believe that our schools are full of them,
both in pantaloons and in skirts. There are fanatics who love and
venerate spelling as a tom-cat loves and venerates catnip. There
are grammatomaniacs; schoolmarms who would rather parse than eat;
specialists in an objective case that doesn't exist in English;
strange beings, otherwise sane and even intelligent and comely,
who suffer under a split infinitive as you or I would suffer under
gastro-enteritis. There are geography cranks, able to bound Mesopotamia
and Beluchistan. There are zealots for long division, experts in the
multiplication table, lunatic worshipers of the binomial theorem. But
the system has them in its grip. It combats their natural enthusiasm
diligently and mercilessly. It tries to convert them into mere
technicians, clumsy machines. It orders them to teach, not by the
process of emotional osmosis which worked in the days gone by, but by
formulæ that are as baffling to the pupil as they are paralyzing to the
teacher. Imagine what would happen to one of them who stepped to the
blackboard, seized a piece of chalk, and engrossed a bird that held
the class spell-bound--a bird with a thousand flowing feathers, wings
bursting with parabolas and epicycloids, and long ribbons streaming
from its bill! Imagine the fate of one who began "Honesty is the best
policy" with an H as florid and--to a child--as beautiful as the
initial of a mediæval manuscript! Such a teacher would be cashiered and
handed over to the secular arm; the very enchantment of the assembled
infantry would be held as damning proof against him. And yet it is just
such teachers that we should try to discover and develop. Pedagogy
needs their enthusiasm, their naïve belief in their own grotesque
talents, their capacity for communicating their childish passion to the

But this would mean exposing the children of the Republic to contact
with monomaniacs, half-wits, defectives? Well, what of it? The vast
majority of them are already exposed to contact with half-wits in their
own homes; they are taught the word of God by half-wits on Sundays;
they will grow up into Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Red Men and
other such half-wits in the days to come. Moreover, as I have hinted,
they are already face to face with half-wits in the actual schools,
at least in three cases out of four. The problem before us is not
to dispose of this fact, but to utilize it. We cannot hope to fill
the schools with persons of high intelligence, for persons of high
intelligence simply refuse to spend their lives teaching such banal
things as spelling and arithmetic. Among the teachers male we may
safely assume that 95 per cent, are of low mentality, else they would
depart for more appetizing pastures. And even among the teachers female
the best are inevitably weeded out by marriage, and only the worst
(with a few romantic exceptions) survive. The task before us, as I
say, is not to make a vain denial of this cerebral inferiority of the
pedagogue, nor to try to combat and disguise it by concocting a mass of
technical hocus-pocus, but to search out and put to use the value lying
concealed in it. For even stupidity, it must be plain, has its uses in
the world, and some of them are uses that intelligence cannot meet. One
would not tell off a Galileo or a Pasteur to drive an ash-cart or an
Ignatius Loyola to be a stockbroker, or a Brahms to lead the orchestra
in a Broadway cabaret. By the same token, one would not ask a Herbert
Spencer or a Duns Scotus to instruct sucklings. Such men would not only
be wasted at the job; they would also be incompetent. The business
of dealing with children, in fact, demands a certain childishness of
mind. The best teacher, until one comes to adult pupils, is not the one
who knows most, but the one who is most capable of reducing knowledge
to that simple compound of the obvious and the wonderful which slips
easiest into the infantile comprehension. A man of high intelligence,
perhaps, may accomplish the thing by a conscious intellectual feat.
But it is vastly easier to the man (or woman) whose habits of mind are
naturally on the plane of a child's. The best teacher of children, in
brief, is one who is essentially child-like.

I go so far with this notion that I view the movement to introduce
female bachelors of arts into the primary schools with the utmost
alarm. A knowledge of Bergsonism, the Greek aorist, sex hygiene and
the dramas of Percy MacKaye is not only no help to the teaching of
spelling, it is a positive handicap to the teaching of spelling,
for it corrupts and blows up that naïve belief in the glory and
portentousness of spelling which is at the bottom of all successful
teaching of it. If I had my way, indeed, I should expose all candidates
for berths in the infant grades to the Binet-Simon test, and reject all
those who revealed the mentality of more than fifteen years. Plenty
would still pass. Moreover, they would be secure against contamination
by the new technic of pedagogy. Its vast wave of pseudo-psychology
would curl and break against the hard barrier of their innocent
and passionate intellects--as it probably does, in fact, even now.
They would know nothing of cognition, perception, attention, the
sub-conscious and all the other half-fabulous fowl of the pedagogic
aviary. But they would see in reading, writing and arithmetic the gaudy
charms of profound and esoteric knowledge, and they would teach these
ancient branches, now so abominably in decay, with passionate gusto,
and irresistible effectiveness, and a gigantic success.


Two great follies corrupt the present pedagogy, once it gets beyond
the elementals. One is the folly of overestimating the receptivity
of the pupil; the other is the folly of overestimating the possible
efficiency of the teacher. Both rest upon that tendency to put too
high a value upon mere schooling which characterizes democratic and
upstart societies--a tendency born of the theory that a young man
who has been "educated," who has "gone through college," is in some
subtle way more capable of making money than one who hasn't. The
nature of the schooling on tap in colleges is but defectively grasped
by the adherents of the theory. They view it, I believe, as a sort of
extension of the schooling offered in elementary schools--that is, as
an indefinite multiplication of training in such obviously valuable and
necessary arts as reading, writing and arithmetic. It is, of course,
nothing of the sort. If the pupil, as he climbs the educational ladder,
is fortunate enough to come into contact with a few Huxleys or Ludwigs,
he may acquire a great deal of extremely sound knowledge, and even
learn how to think for himself. But in the great majority of cases he
is debarred by two things: the limitations of his congenital capacity
and the limitations of the teachers he actually encounters. The latter
is usually even more brilliantly patent than the former. Very few
professional teachers, it seems to me, really know anything worth
knowing, even about the subjects they essay to teach. If you doubt it,
simply examine their contributions to existing knowledge. Several years
ago, while engaged upon my book, "The American Language," I had a good
chance to test the matter in one typical department, that of philology.
I found a truly appalling condition of affairs. I found that in the
whole United States there were not two dozen teachers of English
philology--in which class I also include the innumerable teachers of
plain grammar--who had ever written ten lines upon the subject worth
reading. It was not that they were indolent or illiterate: in truth,
they turned out to be enormously diligent. But as I plowed through
pyramid after pyramid of their doctrines and speculations, day after
day and week after week, I discovered little save a vast laboring of
the obvious, with now and then a bold flight into the nonsensical. A
few genuinely original philologians revealed themselves--pedagogues
capable of observing accurately and reasoning clearly. The rest simply
wasted time and paper. Whole sections of the field were unexplored, and
some of them appeared to be even unsuspected. The entire life-work of
many an industrious professor, boiled down, scarcely made a footnote in
my book, itself a very modest work.

This tendency to treat the superior pedagogue too seriously--to view
him as, _ipso facto,_ a learned man, and one thus capable of conveying
learning to others--is supported by the circumstance that he so views
himself, and is, in fact, very pretentious and even bombastic. Nearly
all discussions of the educational problem, at least in the United
States, are carried on by schoolmasters or ex-schoolmasters--for
example, college presidents, deans, and other such magnificoes--and so
they assume it to be axiomatic that such fellows are genuine bearers
of the enlightenment, and hence capable of transmitting it to others.
This is true sometimes, as I have said, but certainly not usually.
The average high-school or college pedagogue is not one who has been
selected because of his uncommon knowledge; he is simply one who has
been stuffed with formal ideas and taught to do a few conventional
intellectual tricks. Contact with him, far from being inspiring to
any youth of alert mentality, is really quite depressing; his point
of view is commonplace and timorous; his best thought is no better
than that of any other fourth-rate professional man, say a dentist or
an advertisement writer. Thus it is idle to talk of him as if he were
a Socrates, an Aristotle, or even a Leschetizky. He is actually much
more nearly related to a barber or a lieutenant of marines. A worthy
man, industrious and respectable--but don't expect too much of him. To
ask him to struggle out of his puddle of safe platitudes and plunge
into the whirlpool of surmise and speculation that carries on the
fragile shallop of human progress--to do this is as absurd as to ask a
neighborhood doctor to undertake major surgery.

In the United States his low intellectual status is kept low, not
only by the meager rewards of his trade in a country where money is
greatly sought and esteemed, but also by the democratic theory of
education--that is, by the theory that mere education can convert a
peasant into an intellectual aristocrat, with all of the peculiar
superiorities of an aristocrat--in brief, that it is possible to make
purses out of sow's ears. The intellectual collapse of the American
_Gelehrten_ during the late war--a collapse so nearly unanimous
that those who did not share it attained to a sort of immortality
overnight--was perhaps largely due to this error. Who were these
bawling professors, so pathetically poltroonish and idiotic? In an
enormous number of cases they were simply peasants in frock-coats--oafs
from the farms and villages of Iowa, Kansas, Vermont, Alabama,
the Dakotas and other such backward states, horribly stuffed with
standardized learning in some fresh-water university, and then set to
teaching. To look for a civilized attitude of mind in such Strassburg
geese is to look for honor in a valet; to confuse them with scholars
is to confuse the Knights of Pythias with the Knights Hospitaller.
In brief, the trouble with them was that they had no sound tradition
behind them, that they had not learned to think clearly and decently,
that they were not gentlemen. The youth with a better background
behind him, passing through an American university, seldom acquires
any yearning to linger as a teacher. The air is too thick for him;
the rewards are too trivial; the intrigues are too old-maidish and
degrading. Thus the chairs, even in the larger universities, tend
to be filled more and more by yokels who have got themselves what is
called an education only by dint of herculean effort. Exhausted by the
cruel process, they are old men at 26 or 28, and so, hugging their
Ph.D's, they sink into convenient instructorships, and end at 60 as
_ordentliche Professoren._ The social status of the American pedagogue
helps along the process. Unlike in Europe, where he has a secure and
honorable position, he ranks, in the United States, somewhere between
a Methodist preacher and a prosperous brick-yard owner--certainly
clearly below the latter. Thus the youth of civilized upbringings
feels that it would be stooping a bit to take up the rattan. But the
plow-hand obviously makes a step upward, and is hence eager for the
black gown. Thereby a vicious circle is formed. The plow-hand, by
entering the ancient guild, drags it down still further, and so makes
it increasingly difficult to snare apprentices from superior castes.

A glance at "Who's Who in America" offers a good deal of support
for all this theorizing. There was a time when the typical American
professor came from a small area in New England--for generations the
seat of a high literacy, and even of a certain austere civilization.
But to-day he comes from the region of silos, revivals, and saleratus.
Behind him there is absolutely no tradition of aristocratic aloofness
and urbanity, or even of mere civilized decency. He is a bind by birth,
and he carries the smell of the dunghill into the academic grove--and
not only the smell, but also some of the dung itself. What one looks
for in such men is dullness, superficiality, a great credulity, an
incapacity for learning anything save a few fly-blown rudiments, a
passionate yielding to all popular crazes, a malignant distrust of
genuine superiority, a huge megalomania. These are precisely the
things that one finds in the typical American pedagogue of the new
dispensation. He is not only a numskull; he is also a boor. In the
university president he reaches his heights. Here we have a so-called
learned man who spends his time making speeches before chautauquas,
chambers of commerce and Rotary Clubs, and flattering trustees who run
both universities and street-railways, and cadging money from such men
as Rockefeller and Carnegie.


The same educational fallacy which fills the groves of learning
with such dunces causes a huge waste of energy and money on lower
levels--those, to wit, of the secondary schools. The theory behind the
lavish multiplication of such schools is that they outfit the children
of the mob with the materials of reasoning, and inculcate in them a
habit of indulging in it. I have never been able to discover any
evidence in support of that theory. The common people of America--at
least the white portion of them--are rather above the world's average
in literacy, but there is no sign that they have acquired thereby any
capacity for weighing facts or comparing ideas. The school statistics
show that the average member of the American Legion can read and
write after a fashion, and is able to multiply eight by seven after
four trials, but they tell us nothing about his actual intelligence.
The returns of the Army itself, indeed, indicate that he is stupid
almost beyond belief--that there is at least an even chance that he
is a moron. Is such a fellow appreciably superior to the villein of
the Middle Ages? Sometimes I am tempted to doubt it. I suspect, for
example, that the belief in witchcraft is still almost as widespread
among the plain people of the United States, at least outside the
large cities, as it was in Europe in the year 1500. In my own state
of Mary-land all of the negroes and mulattoes believe absolutely in
witches, and so do most of the whites. The belief in ghosts penetrates
to quite high levels. I know very few native-born Americans, indeed,
who reject it without reservation. One constantly comes upon grave
defenses of spiritism in some form or other by men theoretically of
learning; in the two houses of Congress it would be difficult to
muster fifty men willing to denounce the thing publicly. It would
not only be politically dangerous for them to do so; it would also go
against their consciences.

What is always forgotten is that the capacity for knowledge of the
great masses of human blanks is very low--that, no matter how adroitly
pedagogy tackles them with its technical sorceries, it remains a
practical impossibility to teach them anything beyond reading and
writing, and the most elementary arithmetic. Worse, it is impossible
to make any appreciable improvement in their congenitally ignoble
tastes, and so they devote even the paltry learning that they acquire
to degrading uses. If the average American read only the newspapers,
as is frequently alleged, it would be bad enough, but the truth is
that he reads only the most imbecile _parts_ of the newspapers.
Nine-tenths of the matter in a daily paper of the better sort is almost
as unintelligible to him as the theory of least squares. The words
lie outside his vocabulary; the ideas are beyond the farthest leap of
his intellect. It is, indeed, a sober fact that even an editorial in
the New York _Times_ is probably incomprehensible to all Americans
save a small minority--and not, remember, on the ground that it is too
nonsensical but on the ground that it is too subtle. The same sort of
mind that regards Rubinstein's Melody in F as too "classical" to be
agreeable is also stumped by the most transparent English.

Like most other professional writers I get a good many letters from my
customers. Complaints, naturally, are more numerous than compliments;
it is only indignation that can induce the average man to brave the
ardors of pen and ink. Well, the complaint that I hear most often is
that my English is unintelligible--that it is too full of "hard" words.
I can imagine nothing more astounding. My English is actually almost
as bald and simple as the English of a college yell. My sentences are
short and plainly constructed: I resolutely cultivate the most direct
manner of statement; my vocabulary is deliberately composed of the
words of everyday. Nevertheless, a great many of my readers in my own
country find reading me an uncomfortably severe burden upon their
linguistic and intellectual resources. These readers are certainly
not below the American average in intelligence; on the contrary, they
must be a good deal above the average, for they have at least got to
the point where they are willing to put out of the safe harbor of the
obvious and respectable, and to brave the seas where more or less
novel ideas rage and roar. Think of what the ordinary newspaper reader
would make of my compositions! There is, in fact, no need to think; I
have tried them on him. His customary response, when, by mountebankish
devices, I forced him to read--or, at all events, to try to read--, was
to demand resolutely that the guilty newspaper cease printing me, and
to threaten to bring the matter to the attention of the _Polizei._ I do
not exaggerate in the slightest; I tell the literal truth.

It is such idiots that the little red school-house operates upon, in
the hope of unearthing an occasional first-rate man. Is that hope
ever fulfilled? Despite much testimony to the effect that it is, I am
convinced that it really isn't. First-rate men are never begotten by
Knights of Pythias; the notion that they sometimes are is due to an
optical delusion. When they appear in obscure and ignoble circles it
is no more than a proof that only an extremely wise sire knows his own
son. Adultery, in brief, is one of nature's devices for keeping the
lowest orders of men from sinking to the level of downright simians:
sometimes for a few brief years in youth, their wives and daughters are
comely--and now and then the baron drinks more than he ought to. But it
is foolish to argue that the gigantic machine of popular education is
needed to rescue such hybrids from their environment. The truth is that
all the education rammed into the average pupil in the average American
public school could be acquired by the v larva of any reasonably
intelligent man in no more than six weeks of ordinary application, and
that where schools are unknown it actually _is_ so acquired. A bright
child, in fact, can learn to read and write without any save the most
casual aid a great deal faster than it can learn to read and write in a
class-room, where the difficulties of the stupid retard it enormously
and it is further burdened by the crazy formulæ invented by pedagogues.
And once it can read and write, it is just as well equipped to acquire
further knowledge as nine-tenths of the teachers it will subsequently
encounter in school or college.


I know a good many men of great learning--that is, men born with an
extraordinary eagerness and capacity to acquire knowledge. One and all,
they tell me that they can't recall learning anything of any value in
school. All that schoolmasters managed to accomplish with them was
to test and determine the amount of knowledge that they had already
acquired independently--and not infrequently the determination was made
clumsily and inaccurately. In my own nonage I had a great desire to
acquire knowledge in certain limited directions, to wit, those of the
physical sciences. Before I was ever permitted, by the regulations of
the secondary seminary I was penned in, to open a chemistry book I had
learned a great deal of chemistry by the simple process of reading the
texts and then going through the processes described. When, at last,
I was introduced to chemistry officially, I found the teaching of
it appalling. The one aim of that teaching, in fact, seemed to be to
first purge me of what I already knew and then refill me with the same
stuff in a formal, doltish, unintelligible form. My experience with
physics was even worse. I knew nothing about it when I undertook its
study in class, for that was before the days when physics swallowed
chemistry. Well, it was taught so abominably that it immediately became
incomprehensible to me, and hence extremely; distasteful, and to this
day I know nothing about it. Worse, it remains unpleasant to me, and so
I am shut off from the interesting and useful knowledge that I might
otherwise acquire by reading.

One extraordinary teacher I remember who taught me something: a teacher
of mathematics. I had a dislike for that science, and knew little about
it. Finally, my neglect of it brought me to bay: in transferring from
one school to another I found that I was hopelessly short in algebra.
What was needed, of course, was not an actual knowledge of algebra,
but simply the superficial smattering needed to pass an examination.
The teacher that I mention, observing my distress, generously offered
to fill me with that smattering after school hours. He got the whole
year's course into me in exactly six lessons of half an hour each.
And how? More accurately, why? Simply because he was an algebra
fanatic--because he believed that algebra was not only a science of
the utmost importance, but also one of the greatest fascination. He
was the penmanship professor of years ago, lifted to a higher level.
A likable and plausible man, he convinced me in twenty minutes that
ignorance of algebra was as calamitous, socially and intellectually,
as ignorance of table manners--that acquiring its elements was as
necessary as washing behind the ears. So I fell upon the book and
gulped it voraciously, greatly to the astonishment of my father,
whose earlier mathematical teaching had failed to set me off because
it was too pressing--because it bombarded me, not when I was penned
in a school and so inclined to make the best of it, but when I had
got through a day's schooling, and felt inclined to play. To this
day I comprehend the binomial theorem, a very rare accomplishment in
an author. For many years, indeed, I was probably the only American
newspaper editor who knew what it was.

Two other teachers of that school I remember pleasantly as fellows
whose pedagogy profitted me--both, it happens, were drunken and
disreputable men. One taught me to chew tobacco, an art that has done
more to give me an evil name, perhaps, than even my Socinianism. The
other introduced me to Shakespeare, Congreve, Wycherly, Marlowe and
Sheridan, and so filled me with that taste for coarseness which now
offends so many of my customers, lay and clerical. Neither ever
came to a dignified position in academic circles. One abandoned
pedagogy for the law, became involved in causes of a dubious nature,
and finally disappeared into the shades which engulf third-rate
attorneys. The other went upon a fearful drunk one Christmastide,
got himself shanghaied on the water-front and is supposed to have
fallen overboard from a British tramp, bound east for Cardiff. At all
events, he has never been heard from since. Two evil fellows, and
yet I hold their memories in affection, and believe that they were
the best teachers I ever had. For in both there was something a good
deal more valuable than mere pedagogical skill and diligence, and
even more valuable than correct demeanor, and that was a passionate
love of sound literature. This love, given reasonably receptive soil,
they knew how to communicate, as a man can nearly always communicate
whatever moves him profoundly. Neither ever made the slightest effort
to "teach" literature, as the business is carried on by the usual idiot
schoolmaster. Both had a vast contempt for the text-books that were
official in their school, and used to entertain the boys by pointing
out the nonsense in them. Both were full of derisory objections to the
principal heroes of such books in those days: Scott, Irving, Pope, Jane
Austen, Dickens, Trollope, Tennyson. But both, discoursing in their
disorderly way upon heroes of their own, were magnificently eloquent
and persuasive. The boy who could listen to one of them intoning
Whitman and stand unmoved was a dull fellow indeed. The boy who could
resist the other's enthusiasm for the old essayists was intellectually
deaf, dumb and blind.

I often wonder if their expoundings of their passions and prejudices
would have been half so charming if they had been wholly respectable
men, like their colleagues of the school faculty. It is not likely. A
healthy boy is in constant revolt against the sort of men who surround
him at school. Their puerile pedantries, their Christian Endeavor
respectability, their sedentery pallor, their curious preference for
the dull and uninteresting, their general air of so many Y. M. C. A.
secretaries--these things infallibly repel the youth who is above
milksoppery. In every boys' school the favorite teacher is one who
occasionally swears like a cavalryman, or is reputed to keep a jug in
his room, or is known to receive a scented note every morning. Boys are
good judges of men, as girls are good judges of women. It is not by
accident that most of them, at some time or other, long to be cowboys
or ice-wagon drivers, and that none of them, not obviously diseased
in mind, ever longs to be a Sunday-school superintendent. Put that
judgment to a simple test. What would become of a nation in which all
of the men were, at heart, Sunday-school superintendents--or Y. M. C.
A. secretaries, or pedagogues? Imagine it in conflict with a nation
of cowboys and ice-wagon drivers. Which would be the stronger, and
which would be the more intelligent, resourceful, enterprising and



_The Romantic_

There is a variety of man whose eye inevitably exaggerates, whose
ear inevitably hears more than the band plays, whose invagination
inevitably doubles and triples the news brought in by his five senses.
He is the enthusiast, the believer, the romantic. He is the sort of
fellow who, if he were a bacteriologist, would report the streptoccocus
pyogenes to be as large as a St. Bernard dog, as intelligent as
Socrates, as beautiful as Beauvais Cathedral and as respectable as a
Yale professor.


_The Skeptic_

No man ever quite believes in any other man. One may believe in an
idea absolutely, but not in a man. In the highest confidence there
is always a flavor of doubt--a feeling, half instinctive and half
logical, that, after all, the scoundrel _may_ have something up his
sleeve. This doubt, it must be obvious, is always more than justified,
for no man is worthy of unlimited reliance--his treason, at best, only
waits for sufficient temptation. The trouble with the world is not that
men are too suspicious in this direction, but that they tend to be
too confiding--that they still trust themselves too far to other men,
even after bitter experience. Women, I believe, are measurably less
sentimental, in this as in other things. No married woman ever trusts
her husband absolutely, nor does she ever act as if she _did_ trust
him. Her utmost confidence is as wary as an American pick-pocket's
confidence that the policeman on the beat will stay bought.


_The Believer_

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence
of the improbable. Or, psychoanalytically, as a wish neurose. There
is thus a flavor of the pathological in it; it goes beyond the normal
intellectual process and passes into the murky domain of transcendental
metaphysics. A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never
had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not a mere
ass: he is actually ill. Worse, he is incurable, for disappointment,
being essentially an objective phenomenon, cannot permanently affect
his subjective infirmity. His faith takes on the virulence of a chronic
infection. What he usually says, in substance, is this: "Let us trust
in God, _who has always fooled us in the past."_


_The Worker_

All democratic theories, whether Socialistic or bourgeois, necessarily
take in some concept of the dignity of labor. If the have-not were
deprived of this delusion that his sufferings in the sweat-shop are
somehow laudable and agreeable to God, there would be little left in
his ego save a belly-ache. Nevertheless, a delusion is a delusion,
and this is one of the worst. It arises out of confusing the pride of
workmanship of the artist with the dogged, painful docility of the
machine. The difference is important and enormous. If he got no reward
whatever, the artist would go on working just the same; his actual
reward, in fact, is often so little that he almost starves. But suppose
a garment-worker got nothing for his labor: would he go on working
just the same? Can one imagine him submitting voluntarily to hardship
and sore want that he might express his soul in 200 more pairs of


_The Physician_

Hygiene is the corruption of medicine by morality. It is impossible to
find a hygienist who does not debase his theory of the healthful with a
theory of the virtuous. The whole hygienic art, indeed, resolves itself
into an ethical exhortation, and, in the sub-department of sex, into a
puerile and belated advocacy of asceticism. This brings it, at the end,
into diametrical conflict with medicine proper. The aim of medicine is
surely not to make men virtuous; it is to safeguard and rescue them
from the consequences of their vices. The true physician does not
preach repentance; he offers absolution.


_The Scientist_

The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and
inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable
curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the
former, and yet it is the former that moves some of the greatest
men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigators.
What animates a great pathologist? Is it the desire to cure disease,
to save life? Surely not, save perhaps as an afterthought. He is too
intelligent, deep down in his soul, to see anything praiseworthy in
such a desire. He knows by life-long observation that his discoveries
will do quite as much harm as good, that a thousand scoundrels will
profit to every honest man, that the folks who most deserve to be saved
will probably be the last to be saved. No man of self-respect could
devote himself to pathology on such terms. What actually moves him is
his unquenchable curiosity--his boundless, almost pathological thirst
to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has
not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing
slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but the dog sniffing
tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes. And yet he is one of
the greatest and noblest of men. And yet he stands in the very front
rank of the race.


_The Business Man_

It is, after all, a sound instinct which puts business below the
professions, and burdens the business man with a social inferiority
that he can never quite shake off, even in America. The business man,
in fact, acquiesces in this assumption of his inferiority, even when he
protests against it. He is the only man who is forever apologizing for
his occupation. He is the only one who always seeks to make it appear,
when he attains the object of his labors, _i. e._, the making of a
great deal of money, that it was not the object of his labors.


_The King_

Perhaps the most valuable asset that any man can have in this world
is a naturally superior air, a talent for sniffishness and reserve.
The generality of men are always greatly impressed by it, and accept
it freely as a proof of genuine merit. One need but disdain them to
gain their respect. Their congenital stupidity and timorousness make
them turn to any leader who offers, and the sign of leadership that
they recognize most readily is that which shows itself in external
manner. This is the true explanation of the survival of monarchism,
which invariably lives through its perennial deaths. It is the popular
theory, at least in America, that monarchism is a curse fastened upon
the common people from above--that the monarch saddles it upon them
without their consent and against their will. The theory is without
support in the facts. Kings are created, not by kings, but by the
people. They visualize one of the ineradicable needs of all third-rate
men, which means of nine men out of ten, and that is the need of
something to venerate, to bow down to, to follow and obey.

The king business begins to grow precarious, not when kings reach out
for greater powers, but when they begin to resign and renounce their
powers. The czars of Russia were quite secure upon the throne so long
as they ran Russia like a reformatory, but the moment they began to
yield to liberal ideas, _i. e.,_ by emancipating the serfs and setting
up constitutionalism, their doom was sounded. The people saw this
yielding as a sign of weakness; they began to suspect that the czars,
after all, were not actually superior to other men. And so they turned
to other and antagonistic leaders, all as cocksure as the czars had
once been, and in the course of time they were stimulated to rebellion.
These leaders, or, at all events, the two or three most resolute and
daring of them, then undertook to run the country in the precise way
that it had been run in the palmy days of the monarchy. That is to say,
they seized and exerted irresistible power and laid claim to infallible
wisdom. History will date their downfall from the day they began to
ease their pretensions. Once they confessed, even by implication, that
they were merely human, the common people began to turn against them.


_The Average Man_

It is often urged against the so-called scientific Socialists, with
their materialistic conception of history, that they overlook certain
spiritual qualities that are independent of wage scales and metabolism.
These qualities, it is argued, color the aspirations and activities
of civilized man quite as much as they are colored by his material
condition, and so make it impossible to consider him simply as an
economic machine. As examples, the anti-Marxians cite patriotism,
pity, the æsthetic sense and the yearning to know God. Unluckily,
the examples are ill-chosen. Millions of men are quite devoid of
patriotism, pity and the æsthetic sense, and have no very active desire
to know God. Why don't the anti-Marxians cite a spiritual quality
that is genuinely universal? There is one readily to hand. I allude
to cowardice. It is, in one form or other, visible in every human
being; it almost serves to mark off the human race from all the other
higher animals. Cowardice, I believe, is at the bottom of the whole
caste system, the foundation of every organized society, including
the most democratic. In order to escape going to war himself, the
peasant was willing to give the warrior certain privileges--and out
of those privileges has grown the whole structure of civilization.
Go back still further. Property arose out of the fact that a few
relatively courageous men were able to accumulate more possessions than
whole hordes of cowardly men, and, what is more, to retain them after
accumulating them.


_The Truth-Seeker_

The man who boasts that he habitually tells the truth is simply a man
with no respect for it. It is not a thing to be thrown about loosely,
like small change; it is something to be cherished and hoarded, and
disbursed only when absolutely necessary. The smallest atom of truth
represents some man's bitter toil and agony; for every ponderable chunk
of it there is a brave truth-seeker's grave upon some lonely ash-dump
and a soul roasting in hell.


_The Pacifist_

Nietzsche, in altering Schopenhauer's will-to-live to will-to-power,
probably fell into a capital error. The truth is that the thing the
average man seeks in life is not primarily power, but peace; all
his struggle is toward a state of tranquillity and equilibrium; what
he always dreams of is a state in which he will have to do battle no
longer. This dream plainly enters into his conception of Heaven; he
thinks of himself, _post mortem,_ browsing about the celestial meadows
like a cow in a safe pasture. A few extraordinary men enjoy combat at
all times, and all men are inclined toward it at orgiastic moments,
but the race as a race craves peace, and man belongs among the more
timorous, docile and unimaginative animals, along with the deer, the
horse and the sheep. This craving for peace is vividly displayed in
the ages-long conflict of the sexes. Every normal woman wants to be
married, for the plain reason that marriage offers her security. And
every normal man avoids marriage as long as possible, for the equally
plain reason that marriage invades and threatens _his_ security.


_The Relative_

The normal man's antipathy to his relatives, particularly of the
second degree, is explained by psychologists in various tortured
and improbable ways. The true explanation, I venture, is a good
deal simpler. It lies in the plain fact that every man sees in his
relatives, and especially in his cousins, a series of grotesque
caricatures of himself. They exhibit his qualities in disconcerting
augmentation or diminution; they fill him with a disquieting feeling
that this, perhaps, is the way he appears to the world and so they
wound his _amour propre_ and give him intense discomfort. To admire his
relatives whole-heartedly a man must be lacking in the finer sort of


_The Friend_

One of the most mawkish of human delusions is the notion that
friendship should be eternal, or, at all events, life-long, and that
any act which puts a term to it is somehow discreditable. The fact is
that a man of active and resilient mind outwears his friendships just
as certainly as he outwears his love affairs, his politics and his
epistemology. They become threadbare, shabby, pumped-up, irritating,
depressing. They convert themselves from living realities into
moribund artificialities, and stand in sinister opposition to freedom,
self-respect and truth. It is as corrupting to preserve them after
they have grown fly-blown and hollow as it is to keep up the forms
of passion after passion itself is a corpse. Every act and attitude
that they involve thus becomes an act of hypocrisy, an attitude
of dishonesty.... A prudent man, remembering that life is short,
gives an hour or two, now and then, to a critical examination of his
friendships. He weighs them, edits them, tests the metal of them. A
few he retains, perhaps with radical changes in their terms. But the
majority he expunges from his minutes and tries to forget, as he tries
to forget the cold and clammy loves of year before last.


Every man, as the Psalmist says, to his own poison, or poisons, as the
case may be. One of mine, following hard after theology, is political
economy. What! Political economy, that dismal science? Well, why not?
Its dismalness is largely a delusion, due to the fact that its chief
ornaments, at least in our own day, are university professors. The
professor must be an obscurantist or he is nothing; he has a special
and unmatchable talent for dullness; his central aim is not to expose
the truth clearly, but to exhibit his profundity, his esotericity--in
brief, to stagger sophomores and other professors. The notion that
German is a gnarled and unintelligible language arises out of the
circumstance that it is so much written by professors. It took a rebel
member of the clan, swinging to the antipodes in his unearthly treason,
to prove its explicitness, its resiliency, it downright beauty.
But Nietzsches are few, and so German remains soggy, and political
economy continues to be swathed in dullness. As I say, however, that
dullness is only superficial. There is no more engrossing book in the
English language than Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations"; surely the
eighteenth century produced nothing that can be read with greater ease
to-day. Nor is there any inherent reason why even the most technical
divisions of its subject should have gathered cobwebs with the passing
of the years. Taxation, for example, is eternally lively; it concerns
ninetenths of us more directly than either smallpox or golf, and has
just as much drama in it; moreover, it has been mellowed and made gay
by as many gaudy, preposterous theories. As for foreign exchange, it is
almost as romantic as young love, and quite as resistent to formulæ.
Do the professors make an autopsy of it? Then read the occasional
treatises of some professor of it who is not a professor, say, Garet
Garrett or John Moody.

Unluckily, Garretts and Moodys are almost as rare as Nietzsches,
and so the amateur of such things must be content to wrestle with
the professors, seeking the violet of human interest beneath the
avalanche of their graceless parts of speech. A hard business, I
daresay, to one not practiced, and to its hardness there is added
the disquiet of a doubt. That doubt does not concern itself with the
doctrine preached, at least not directly. There may be in it nothing
intrinsically dubious; on the contrary, it may appear as sound as the
binomial theorem, as well supported as the dogma of infant damnation.
But all the time a troubling question keeps afloat in the air, and
that is briefly this: What would happen to the learned professors if
they took the other side? In other words, to what extent is political
economy, as professors expound and practice it, a free science, in
the sense that mathematics and physiology are free sciences? At what
place, if any, is speculation pulled up by a rule that beyond lies
treason, anarchy and disaster? These questions, I hope I need not add,
are not inspired by any heterodoxy in my own black heart. I am, in
many fields, a flouter of the accepted revelation and hence immoral,
but the field of economics is not one of them. Here, indeed, I know
of no man who is more orthodox than I am. I believe that the present
organization of society, as bad as it is, is better than any other
that has ever been proposed. I reject all the sure cures in current
agitation, from government ownership to the single tax. I am in favor
of free competition in all human enterprises, and to the utmost limit.
I admire successful scoundrels, and shrink from Socialists as I
shrink from Methodists. But all the same, the aforesaid doubt pursues
me when I plow through the solemn disproofs and expositions of the
learned professors of economics, and that doubt will not down. It is
not logical or evidential, but purely psychological. And what it is
grounded on is an unshakable belief that no man's opinion is worth a
hoot, however well supported and maintained, so long as he is not
absolutely free, if the spirit moves him, to support and maintain
the exactly contrary opinion. In brief, human reason is a weak and
paltry thing so long as it is not wholly free reason. The fact lies in
its very nature, and is revealed by its entire history. A man may be
perfectly honest in a contention, and he may be astute and persuasive
in maintaining it, but the moment the slightest compulsion to maintain
it is laid upon him, the moment the slightest external reward goes with
his partisanship or the slightest penalty with its abandonment, then
there appears a defect in his ratiocination that is more deep-seated
than any error in fact and more destructive than any conscious and
deliberate bias. He may seek the truth and the truth only, and bring up
his highest talents and diligence to the business, but always there is
a specter behind his chair, a warning in his ear. Always it is safer
and more hygienic for him to think one way than to think another way,
and in that bald fact there is excuse enough to hold his whole chain of
syllogisms in suspicion. He may be earnest, he may be honest, but he is
not free, and if he is not free, he is not anything.

Well, are the reverend professors of economics free? With the highest
respect, I presume to question it. Their colleagues of archeology may
be reasonably called free, and their colleagues of bacteriology,
and those of Latin grammar and sidereal astronomy, and those of many
another science and mystery, but when one comes to the faculty of
political economy one finds that freedom as plainly conditioned, though
perhaps not as openly, as in the faculty of theology. And for a plain
reason. Political economy, so to speak, hits the employers of the
professors where they live. It deals, not with ideas that affect those
employers only occasionally or only indirectly or only as ideas, but
with ideas that have an imminent and continuous influence upon their
personal welfare and security, and that affect profoundly the very
foundations of that social and economic structure upon which their
whole existence is based. It is, in brief, the science of the ways and
means whereby they have come to such estate, and maintain themselves
in such estate, that they are able to hire and boss professors. It
is the boat in which they sail down perilous waters--and they must
needs yell, or be more or less than human, when it is rocked. Now
and then that yell duly resounds in the groves of learning. One
remembers, for example, the trial, condemnation and execution of Prof.
Dr. Scott Nearing at the University of Pennsylvania, a seminary that
is highly typical, both in its staff and in its control. Nearing, I
have no doubt, was wrong in his notions--honestly, perhaps, but still
wrong. In so far as I heard them stated at the time, they seemed
to me to be hollow and of no validity. He has since discharged them
from the chautauquan stump, and at the usual hinds. They have been
chiefly accepted and celebrated by men I regard as asses. But Nearing
was not thrown out of the University of Pennsylvania, angrily and
ignominiously, because he was honestly wrong, or because his errors
made him incompetent to prepare sophomores for their examinations; he
was thrown out because his efforts to get at the truth disturbed the
security and equanimity of the rich ignoranti who happened to control
the university, and because the academic slaves and satellites of
these shopmen were restive under his competition for the attention of
the student-body. In three words, he was thrown out because he was
not safe and sane and orthodox. Had his aberration gone in the other
direction, had he defended child labor as ardently as he denounced it
and denounced the minimum wage as ardently as he defended it, then he
would have been quite as secure in his post, for all his cavorting in
the newspapers, as Chancellor Day was at Syracuse.

Now consider the case of the professors of economics, near and far,
who have _not_ been thrown out. Who will say that the lesson of the
Nearing _débâcle_ has been lost upon them? Who will say that the
potency of the wealthy men who command our universities--or most of
them--has not stuck in their minds? And who will say that, with this
sticking remembered, their arguments against Nearing's so-called ideas
are as worthy of confidence and respect as they would be if they were
quite free to go over to Nearing's side without damage? Who, indeed,
will give them full credit, even when they are right, so long as they
are hamstrung, nose-ringed and tied up in gilded pens? It seems to
me that these considerations are enough to cast a glow of suspicion
over the whole of American political economy, at least in so far
as it comes from college economists. And, in the main, it has that
source, for, barring a few brilliant journalists, all our economists
of any repute are professors. Many of them are able men, and most of
them are undoubtedly honest men, as honesty goes in the world, but
over practically every one of them there stands a board of trustees
with its legs in the stock-market and its eyes on the established
order, and that board is ever alert for heresy in the science of its
being, and has ready means of punishing it, and a hearty enthusiasm
for the business. Not every professor, perhaps, may be sent straight
to the block, as Nearing was, but there are plenty of pillories and
guardhouses on the way, and every last pedagogue must be well aware of

Political economy, in so far as it is a science at all, was not pumped
up and embellished by any such academic clients and ticket-of-leave
men. It was put on its legs by inquirers who were not only safe
from all dousing in the campus pump, but who were also free from
the mental timorousness and conformity which go inevitably with
school-teaching--in brief, by men of the world, accustomed to its
free air, its hospitality to originality and plain speaking. Adam
Smith, true enough, was once a professor, but he threw up his chair
to go to Paris, and there he met, not more professors, but all the
current enemies of professors--the Nearings and Henry Georges and Karl
Marxes of the time. And the book that he wrote was not orthodox, but
revolutionary. Consider the others of that bulk and beam: Bentham,
Ricardo, Mill and their like. Bentham held no post at the mercy of
bankers and tripesellers; he was a man of independent means, a lawyer
and politician, and a heretic in general practice. It is impossible
to imagine such a man occupying a chair at Harvard or Princeton. He
had a hand in too many pies: he was too rebellious and contumacious:
he had too little respect for authority, either academic or worldly.
Moreover, his mind was too wide for a professor; he could never remain
safely in a groove; the whole field of social organization invited his
inquiries and experiments. Ricardo? Another man of easy means and great
worldly experience--by academic standards, not even educated. To-day,
I daresay, such meager diplomas as he could show would not suffice to
get him an instructor's berth in a fresh-water seminary in Iowa. As
for Mill, he was so well grounded by his father that he knew more, at
eighteen, than any of the universities could teach him, and his life
thereafter was the exact antithesis of that of a cloistered pedagogue.
Moreover, he was a heretic in religion and probably violated the Mann
act of those days--an offense almost as heinous, in a college professor
of economics, as giving three cheers for Prince Kropotkin.

I might lengthen the list, but humanely refrain. The point is that
these early English economists were all perfectly free men, with
complete liberty to tell the truth as they saw it, regardless of
its orthodoxy or lack of orthodoxy. I do not say that the typical
American economist of to-day is not as honest, nor even that he
is not as diligent and competent, but I do say that he is not as
free--that penalties would come upon him for stating ideas that Smith
or Ricardo or Bentham or Mill, had he so desired, would have been free
to state without damage. And in that menace there is an ineradicable
criticism of the ideas that he does state, and it lingers even when
they are plausible and are accepted. In France and Germany, where the
universities and colleges are controlled by the state, the practical
effect of such pressure has been frequently demonstrated. In the former
country the violent debate over social and economic problems during
the quarter century before the war produced a long list of professors
cashiered for heterodoxy, headed by the names of Jean Jaurès and
Gustave Hervé. In Germany it needed no Nietzsche to point out the
deadening produced by this state control. Germany, in fact, got out
of it an entirely new species of economist--the state Socialist who
flirted with radicalism with one eye and kept the other upon his chair,
his salary and his pension.

The Nearing case and the rebellions of various pedagogues elsewhere
show that we in America stand within the shadow of a somewhat similar
danger. In economics, as in the other sciences, we are probably
producing men who are as good as those on view in any other country.
They are not to be surpassed for learning and originality, and there is
no reason to believe that they lack honesty and courage. But honesty
and courage, as men go in the world, are after all merely relative
values. There comes a point at which even the most honest man considers
consequences, and even the most courageous looks before he leaps. The
difficulty lies in establishing the position of that point. So long as
it is in doubt, there will remain, too, the other doubt that I have
described. I rise in meeting, I repeat, not as a radical, but as one of
the most hunkerous of the orthodox. I can imagine nothing more dubious
in fact and wobbly in logic than some of the doctrines that amateur
economists, chiefly Socialists, have set afloat in this country during
the past dozen years. I have even gone to the trouble of writing a book
against them; my convictions and instincts are all on the other side.
But I should be a great deal more comfortable in those convictions and
instincts if I were convinced that the learned professors were really
in full and absolute possession of academic freedom--if I could imagine
them taking the other tack now and then without damnation to their
jobs, their lecture dates, their book sales and their hides.



_Le Contrat Social_

All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior
man: its one permanent object is to police him and cripple him. If
it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man
who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact;
if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior
in every way against both. Thus one of its primary functions is to
regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and
as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat
originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential
change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous
man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for
himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.
Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he
lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he
is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic
personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.
Ludwig van Beethoven was certainly no politician. Nor was he a patriot.
Nor had he any democratic illusions in him: he held the Viennese in
even more contempt than he held the Hapsburgs. Nevertheless, I am
convinced that the sharp criticism of the Hapsburg government that
he used to loose in the cafés of Vienna had its effects--that some
of his ideas of 1818, after a century of germination, got themselves
translated into acts in 1918. Beethoven, like all other first-rate
men, greatly disliked the government he lived under. I add the names
of Goethe, Heine, Wagner and Nietzsche, to keep among Germans. That of
Bismarck might follow: he admired the Hohenzollern idea, as Carlyle
did, not the German people or the German administration. In his
"Errinerungen," whenever he discusses the government that he was a part
of, he has difficulty keeping his contempt within the bounds of decorum.

Nine times out of ten, it seems to me, the man who proposes a change
in the government he lives under, no matter how defective it may be,
is romantic to the verge of sentimentality. There is seldom, if ever,
any evidence that the kind of government he is unlawfully inclined
to would be any better than the government he proposes to supplant.
Political revolutions, in truth, do not often accomplish anything of
genuine value; their one undoubted effect is simply to throw out one
gang of thieves and put in another. After a revolution, of course,
the successful revolutionists always try to convince doubters that
they have achieved great things, and usually they hang any man who
denies it. But that surely doesn't prove their case. In Russia, for
many years, the plain people were taught that getting rid of the Czar
would make them all rich and happy, but now that they have got rid of
him they are poorer and unhappier than ever before. The Germans, with
the Kaiser in exile, have discovered that a shoemaker turned statesman
is ten times as bad as a Hohenzollern. The Alsatians, having become
Frenchmen again after 48 years anxious wait, have responded to the boon
by becoming extravagant Germanomaniacs. The Tyrolese, though they hated
the Austrians, now hate the Italians enormously more. The Irish, having
rid themselves of the English after 700 years of struggle, instantly
discovered that government by Englishmen, compared to government by
Irishmen, was almost paradisiacal. Even the American colonies gained
little by their revolt in 1776. For twenty-five years after the
Revolution they were in far worse condition as free states than they
would have been as colonies. Their government was more expensive,
more inefficient, more dishonest, and more tyrannical. It was only
the gradual material progress of the country that saved them from
starvation and collapse, and that material progress was due, not to the
virtues of their new government, but to the lavishness of nature. Under
the British hoof they would have got on just as well, and probably a
great deal better.

The ideal government of all reflective men, from Aristotle to Herbert
Spencer, is one which lets the individual alone--one which barely
escapes being no government at all. This ideal, I believe, will be
realized in the world twenty or thirty centuries after I have passed
from these scenes and taken up my home in Hell.


_On Minorities_

It is a commonplace of historical science that the forgotten worthies
who framed the Constitution of the United States had no belief in
democracy. Prof. Dr. Beard, in a slim, sad book, has laboriously proved
that most obvious of obviousities. Two prime objects are visible in the
Constitution, beautifully enshrouded in disarming words: to protect
property and to safeguard minorities--in brief, to hold the superior
few harmless against the inferior many. The first object is still
carried out, despite the effort of democratic law to make capital an
outlaw. The second, alas, has been defeated completely. What
is worse, it has been defeated in the very holy of holies of those
who sought to attain it, which is to say, in the funereal chamber
of the Supreme Court of the United States. Bit by bit this great
bench of master minds has gradually established the doctrine that
a minority in the Republic has no rights whatever. If they still
exist theoretically, as fossils surviving from better days, there is
certainly no machinery left for protecting and enforcing them. The
current majority, if it so desired to-morrow, could add an amendment to
the Constitution prohibiting the ancient Confederate vice of chewing
the compressed leaves of the tobacco plant _(Nicotiana tabacum)_; the
Supreme Court, which has long since forgotten the Bill of Rights,
would promptly issue a writ of _nihil obstat,_ with a series of moral
reflections as _lagniappe._ More, the Supreme Court would as promptly
uphold a law prohibiting the chewing of gum _(Achras sapota)_--on
the ground that any unnecessary chewing, however harmless in itself,
might tempt great hordes of morons to chew tobacco. This is not a mere
torturing of sardonic theory: the thing has been actually done in the
case of Prohibition. The Eighteenth Amendment prohibits the sale of
intoxicating beverages; the Supreme Court has decided plainly that, in
order to enforce it, Congress also has the right to prohibit the sale
of beverages that are admittedly _not_ intoxicating. It could, indeed,
specifically prohibit near-beer to-morrow, or any drink containing
malt or hops, however low in alcohol; the more extreme Prohibitionists
actually demand that it do so forthwith.

Worse, a minority not only has no more inalienable rights in the United
States; it is not even lawfully entitled to be heard. This was well
established by the case of the Socialists elected to the New York
Assembly. What the voters who elected these Socialists asked for was
simply the privilege of choosing spokesmen to voice their doctrines in
a perfectly lawful and peaceable manner,--nothing more. This privilege
was denied them. In precisely the same way, the present national House
of Representatives, which happens to be Republican in complexion, might
expel all of its Democratic members. The voters who elected them would
have no redress. If the same men were elected again, or other men of
the same views, they might be expelled again. More, it would apparently
be perfectly constitutional for the majority in Congress to pass a
statute denying the use of the mails to the minority--that is, for the
Republicans to bar all Democratic papers from the mails. I do not toy
with mere theories. The thing has actually been done in the case of
the Socialists. Under the present law, indeed--upheld by the Supreme
Court--the Postmaster-General, without any further authority from
Congress, might deny the mails to all Democrats. Or to all Catholics.
Or to all single-taxers. Or to all violoncellists.

Yet more, a citizen who happens to belong to a minority is not even
safe in his person: he may be put into prison, and for very long
periods, for the simple offense of differing from the majority. This
happened, it will be recalled, in the case of Debs. Debs by no means
advised citizens subject to military duty, in time of war, to evade
that duty, as the newspapers of the time alleged. On the contrary,
he advised them to meet and discharge that duty. All he did was to
say that, even in time of war, he was against war--that he regarded
it as a barbarous method of settling disputes between nations. For
thus differing from the majority on a question of mere theory he was
sentenced to ten years in prison. The case of the three young Russians
arrested in New York was even more curious. These poor idiots were
jailed for the almost incredible crime of circulating purely academic
protests against making war upon a country with which the United States
was legally at peace, to wit, Russia. For this preposterous offense two
of them were sent to prison for fifteen years, and one, a girl, for
ten years, and the Supreme Court upheld their convictions. Here was a
plain case of proscription and punishment for a mere opinion. There was
absolutely no contention that the protest of the three prisoners could
have any practical result--that it might, for example, destroy the
_morale_ of American soldiers 6,000 miles away, and cut off from all
communication with the United States. The three victims were ordered
to be punished in that appalling manner simply because they ventured
to criticise an executive usurpation which happened, at the moment,
to have the support of public opinion, and particularly of the then
President of the United States and of the holders of Russian government

It must be obvious, viewing such leading cases critically--and hundreds
like them might be cited--that the old rights of the free American, so
carefully laid down by the Bill of Rights, are now worth nothing. Bit
by bit, Congress and the State Legislatures have invaded and nullified
them, and to-day they are so flimsy that no lawyer not insane would
attempt to defend his client by bringing them up. Imagine trying to
defend a man denied the use of the mails by the Postmaster-General,
without hearing or even formal notice, on the ground that the
Constitution guarantees the right of free speech! The very catchpolls
in the courtroom would snicker. I say that the legislative arm is
primarily responsible for this gradual enslavement of the Americano;
the truth is, of course, that the executive and judicial arms are
responsible to a scarcely less degree. Our law has not kept pace with
the development of our bureaucracy; there is no machinery provided for
curbing its excesses. In Prussia, in the old days, there were special
courts for the purpose, and a citizen oppressed by the police or by
any other public official could get relief and redress. The guilty
functionary could be fined, mulcted in damages, demoted, cashiered,
or even jailed. But in the United States to-day there are no such
tribunals. A citizen attacked by the Postmaster-General simply has
no redress whatever; the courts have refused, over and over again,
to interfere save in cases of obvious fraud. Nor is there, it would
seem, any remedy for the unconstitutional acts of Prohibition agents.
Some time ago, when Senator Stanley, of Kentucky, tried to have a law
passed forbidding them to break into a citizen's house in violation of
the Bill of Rights, the Prohibitionists mustered up their serfs in the
Senate against him, and he was voted down.

The Supreme Court, had it been so disposed, might have put a stop to
all this sinister buffoonery long ago. There was a time, indeed, when
it was alert to do so. That was during the Civil War. But since then
the court has gradually succumbed to the prevailing doctrine that the
minority has no rights that the majority is bound to respect. As it
is at present constituted, it shows little disposition to go to the
rescue of the harassed freeman. When property is menaced it displays
a laudable diligence, but when it comes to the mere rights of the
citizen it seems hopelessly inclined to give the prosecution the
benefit of every doubt. Two justices commonly dissent--two out of nine.
They hold the last switch-trench of the old constitutional line. When
they depart to realms of bliss the Bill of Rights will be buried with


The drama is the most democratic of the art forms, and perhaps the
only one that may legitimately bear the label. Painting, sculpture,
music and literature, so far as they show any genuine æsthetic or
intellectual content at all, are not for crowds, but for selected
individuals, mostly with bad kidneys and worse morals, and three of the
four are almost always enjoyed in actual solitude. Even architecture
and religious ritual, though they are publicly displayed, make their
chief appeal to man as individual, not to man as mass animal. One goes
into a church as part of a crowd, true enough, but if it be a church
that has risen above mere theological disputation to the beauty of
ceremonial, one is, even in theory, alone with the Lord God Jehovah.
And if, passing up Fifth Avenue in the 5 o'clock throng, one pauses
before St. Thomas's to drink in the beauty of that archaic façade,
one's drinking is almost sure to be done _a cappella;_ of the other
passers-by, not one in a thousand so much as glances at it.

But the drama, as representation, is inconceivable save as a show
for the mob, and so it has to take on protective coloration to
survive. It must make its appeal, not to individuals as such, nor
even to individuals as units in the mob, but to the mob as mob--a
quite different thing, as Gustav Le Bon long ago demonstrated in his
"Psychologie des Foules." Thus its intellectual content, like its
æsthetic form, must be within the mental grasp of the mob, and what is
more important, within the scope of its prejudices. _Per corollary,_
anything even remotely approaching an original idea, or an unpopular
idea, is foreign to it, and if it would make any impression at all,
abhorrent to it. The best a dramatist can hope to do is to give
poignant and arresting expression to an idea so simple that the average
man will grasp it at once, and so banal that he will approve it in the
next instant. The phrase "drama of ideas" thus becomes a mere phrase.
What is actually meant by it is "drama of platitudes."

So much for the theory. An appeal to the facts quickly substantiates
it. The more one looks into the so-called drama of ideas of the last
age--that is, into the acting drama--the more one is astounded by the
vacuity of its content. The younger Dumas' "La Dame aux Camélias,"
the first of all the propaganda plays (it raised a stupendous pother
in 1852, the echoes of which yet roll), is based upon the sophomoric
thesis that a prostitute is a human being like you and me, and suffers
the slings and arrows of the same sorrows, and may be potentially quite
as worthy of heaven. Augier's "Le Mariage d'Olympe" (1854), another
sensation-making pioneer, is even hollower; its four acts are devoted
to rubbing in the revolutionary discovery that it is unwise for a young
man of good family to marry an elderly cocotte. Proceed now to Ibsen.
Here one finds the same tasteless platitudes--that it is unpleasant for
a wife to be treated as a doll; that professional patriots and town
boomers are frauds; that success in business is often grounded upon
a mere willingness to do what a man of honor is incapable of; that a
woman who continues to live with a debauched husband may expect to have
unhealthy children; that a joint sorrow tends to bring husband and wife
together; that a neurotic woman is apt to prefer death to maternity;
that a man of 55 is an ass to fall in love with a flapper of 17. Do I
burlesque? If you think so, turn to Ibsen's "Nachgelassene Schriften"
and read his own statements of the ideas in his social dramas--read
his own succinct summaries of their theses. You will imagine yourself,
on more than one page, in the latest volume of mush by Orison Swett
Marden. Such "ideas" are what one finds in newspaper editorials,
speeches before Congress, sermons by evangelical divines--in
brief, in the literature expressly addressed to those persons whose
distinguishing mark is that ideas never enter their heads.

Ibsen himself, an excellent poet and a reflective man, was under no
delusions about his "dramas of ideas." It astounded him greatly when
the sentimental German middle-classes hailed "Ein Puppenheim" as a
revolutionary document; he protested often and bitterly against being
mistaken for a prophet of feminism. His own interest in this play
and in those that followed it was chiefly technical; he was trying
to displace the well-made play of Scribe and company with something
simpler, more elastic and more hospitable to character. He wrote
"Ghosts" to raise a laugh against the fools who had seen something
novel and horrible in the idea of "A Doll's House"; he wanted to prove
to them that that idea was no more than a platitude. Soon afterward he
became thoroughly disgusted with the whole "drama of ideas." In "The
Wild Duck" he cruelly burlesqued it, and made a low-comedy Ibsenist his
chief butt. In "Hedda Gabler" he played a joke on the Ibsen fanatics by
fashioning a first-rate drama out of the oldest, shoddiest materials
of Sardou, Feuillet, and even Meilhac and Halévy. And beginning with
"Little Eyolf" he threw the "drama of ideas" overboard forever, and
took to mysticism. What could be more comical than the efforts of
critical talmudists to read a thesis into "When We Dead Awaken"? I
have put in many a gay hour perusing their commentaries. Ibsen, had
he lived, would have roared over them--as he roared over the effort
to inject portentous meanings into "The Master Builder," at bottom no
more than a sentimental epitaph to a love affair that he himself had
suffered at 60.

Gerhart Hauptmann, another dramatist of the first rank, has gone much
the same road. As a very young man he succumbed to the "drama of
ideas" gabble, and his first plays showed an effort to preach this or
that in awful tones. But he soon discovered that the only ideas that
would go down, so to speak, on the stage were ideas of such an austere
platitudinousness that it was beneath his artistic dignity to merchant
them, and so he gave over propaganda altogether. In other words, his
genius burst through the narrow bounds of mob ratiocination, and he
began appealing to the universal emotions--pity, religious sentiment,
patriotism, amorousness. Even in his first play, "Vor Sonnenaufgang,"
his instinct got the better of his mistaken purpose, and reading it
to-day one finds that the sheer horror of it is of vastly more effect
than its nebulous and unimportant ideas. It really says nothing; it
merely makes us dislike some very unpleasant people.

Turn now to Shaw. At once one finds that the only plays from his
pen which contain actual ideas have failed dismally on the stage.
These are the so-called "discussions"--e. g., "Getting Married." The
successful plays contain no ideas; they contain only platitudes,
balderdash, buncombe that even a suffragette might think of. Of such
sort are "Man and Superman," "Arms and the Man," "Candida," "Androcles
and the Lion," and their like. Shaw has given all of these pieces
a specious air of profundity by publishing them hooked to long and
garrulous prefaces and by filling them with stage directions which
describe and discuss the characters at great length. But as stage plays
they are almost as empty as "Hedda Gabier." One searches them vainly
for even the slightest novel contribution to the current theories of
life, joy and crime. Shaw's prefaces, of course, have vastly more
ideational force and respectability than his plays. If he fails to get
any ideas of genuine savor into them it is not because the preface form
bars them out but because he hasn't any to get in. By attaching them to
his plays he converts the latter into colorable imitations of novels,
and so opens the way for that superior reflectiveness which lifts the
novel above the play, and makes it, as Arnold Bennett has convincingly
shown, much harder to write. A stage play in the modern realistic
manner--that is, without soliloquies and asides--can seldom rise
above the mere representation of some infinitesimal episode, whereas
even the worst novel may be, in some sense, an interpretation as
well. Obviously, such episodes as may be exposed in 20,000 words--the
extreme limit of the average play--are seldom significant, and not
often clearly intelligible. The author has a hard enough job making
his characters recognizable as human beings; he hasn't time to go
behind their acts to their motives, or to deduce any conclusions worth
hearing from their doings. One often leaves a "social drama," indeed,
wondering what the deuce it is all about; the discussion of its meaning
offers endless opportunities for theorists and fanatics. The Ibsen
symbolists come to mind again. They read meanings into such plays as
"Rosmersholm" and "The Wild Duck" that aroused Ibsen, a peaceful man,
to positive fury. In the same way the suffragettes collared, "A Doll's
House." Even "Peer Gynt" did not escape. There is actually an edition
of it edited by a theosophist, in the preface to which it is hymned as
a theosophical document. Luckily for Ibsen, he died before this edition
was printed. But one may well imagine how it would have made him swear.

The notion that there are ideas in the "drama of ideas," in truth,
is confined to a special class of illuminati, whose chief visible
character is their capacity for ingesting nonsense--Maeterlinckians,
uplifters, women's clubbers, believers in all the sure cures for
all the sorrows of the world. To-day the Drama League carries on
the tradition. It is composed of the eternally young--unsuccessful
dramatists who yet live in hope, young college professors, psychopathic
old maids, middle-aged ladies of an incurable jejuneness, the
innumerable caravan of the ingenuous and sentimental. Out of the
same intellectual _Landsturm_ comes the following of Bergson, the
parlor metaphysician; and of the third-rate novelists praised by the
newspapers; and of such composers as Wolf-Ferrari and Massenet. These
are the fair ones, male and female, who were ecstatically shocked by
the platitudes of "Damaged Goods," and who regard Augustus Thomas as
a great dramatist, and what is more, as a great thinker. Their hero,
during a season or two, was the Swedish John the Baptist, August
Strindberg--a lunatic with a gift for turning the preposterous into the
shocking. A glance at Strindberg's innumerable volumes of autobiography
reveals the true horse-power of his so-called ideas. He believed in
everything that was idiotic, from transcendentalism to witchcraft.
He believed that his enemies were seeking to destroy him by magic;
he spent a whole winter trying to find the philosopher's stone. Even
among the clergy, it would be difficult to find a more astounding ass
than Strindberg. But he had, for all his folly, a considerable native
skill at devising effective stage-plays--a talent that some men seem
to be born with--and under cover of it he acquired his reputation
as a thinker. Here he was met half-way by the defective powers of
observation and reflection of his followers, the half-wits aforesaid;
they mistook their enjoyment of his adept technical trickery for an
appreciation of ideas. Turn to the best of his plays, "The Father."
Here the idea--that domestic nagging can cause insanity--is an almost
perfect platitude, for on the one hand it is universally admitted
and on the other hand it is not true. But as a stage play pure and
simple, the piece is superb--a simple and yet enormously effective
mechanism. So with "Countess Julie." The idea here is so vague and
incomprehensible that no two commentators agree in stating it, and yet
the play is so cleverly written, and appeals with such a sure touch to
the universal human weakness for the obscene, that it never fails to
enchant an audience. The case of "Hedda Gabier" is parallel. If the
actresses playing Hedda in this country made up for the part in the
scandalous way their sisters do in Germany (that is, by wearing bustles
in front), it would be as great a success here as it is over there.
Its general failure among us is due to the fact that it is not made
indelicate enough. This also explains the comparative failure of the
rest of the Ibsen plays. The crowd has been subtly made to believe that
they are magnificently indecent--and is always dashed and displeased
when it finds nothing to lift the diaphragm. I well remember the
first production of "Ghosts" in America--a business in which I had a
hand. So eager was the audience for the promised indecencies that it
actually read them into the play, and there were protests against it
on the ground that Mrs. Alving was represented as trying to seduce
her own son! Here comstockery often helps the "drama of ideas." If no
other idea is visible, it can always conjure up, out of its native
swinishness, some idea that is offensively sexual, and hence pleasing
to the mob.

That mob rules in the theater, and so the theater remains infantile
and trivial--a scene, not of the exposure of ideas, nor even of
the exhibition of beauty, but one merely of the parading of mental
and physical prettiness and vulgarity. It is at its worst when
its dramatists seek to corrupt this function by adding a moral or
intellectual purpose. It is at its best when it confines itself to
the unrealities that are its essence, and swings amiably from the
romance that never was on land or sea to the buffoonery that is at
the bottom of all we actually know of human life. Shakespeare was
its greatest craftsman: he wasted no tortured ratiocination upon his
plays. Instead, he filled them with the gaudy heroes that all of us
see ourselves becoming on some bright to-morrow, and the lowly frauds
and clowns we are to-day. No psychopathic problems engaged him; he
took love and ambition and revenge and braggadocio as he found them.
He held no clinics in dingy Norwegian apartment-houses: his field was
Bohemia, glorious Rome, the Egypt of the scene-painter, Arcady. ... But
even Shakespeare, for all the vast potency of his incomparable, his
stupefying poetry, could not long hold the talmudists out in front from
their search for invisible significances. Think of all the tomes that
have been written upon the profound and revolutionary "ideas" in the
moony musings of the diabetic sophomore, Hamlet von Danemark!



_To Him that Hath_

The most valuable of all human possessions, next to a superior and
disdainful air, is the reputation of being well to do. Nothing else
so neatly eases one's way through life, especially in democratic
countries. There is in ninety-nine per cent, of all democrats an
irresistible impulse to crook the knee to wealth, to defer humbly to
the power that goes with it, to see all sorts of high merits in the
man who has it, or is said to have it. True enough, envy goes with
the pliant neck, but it is envy somehow purged of all menace: the
inferior man is afraid to do evil to the man with money in eight banks;
he is even afraid to _think_ evil of him--that is, in any patent and
offensive way. Against capital as an abstraction he rants incessantly,
and all of the laws that he favors treat it as if it were criminal. But
in the presence of the concrete capitalist he is singularly fawning.
What makes him so is easy to discern. He yearns with a great yearning
for a chance to tap the capitalist's purse, and he knows very well,
deep down in his heart, that he is too craven and stupid to do it by
force of arms. So he turns to politeness, and tries to cajole. Give
out the news that one has just made a killing in the stock market, or
robbed some confiding widow of her dower, or swindled the government
in some patriotic enterprise, and at once one will discover that one's
shabbiness is a charming eccentricity, and one's judgment of wines
worth hearing, and one's politics worthy of attention and respect. The
man who is thought to be poor never gets a fair chance. No one wants to
listen to him. No one gives a damn what he thinks or knows or feels. No
one has any active desire for his good opinion.

I discovered this principle early in life, and have put it to use
ever since. I have got a great deal more out of men (and women) by
having the name of being a well-heeled fellow than I have ever got by
being decent to them, or by dazzling them with my sagacity, or by hard
industry, or by a personal beauty that is singular and ineffable.


_The Venerable Examined_

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age
brings wisdom. It is my honest belief that I am no wiser to-day
than I was five or ten years ago; in fact, I often suspect that I
am appreciable _less_ wise. Women can prevail over me to-day by
devices that would have made me hoof them out of my studio when I was
thirty-five. I am also an easier mark for male swindlers than I used
to be; at fifty I'll probably be joining clubs and buying Mexican
mine stock. The truth is that every man goes up-hill in sagacity
to a certain point, and then begins sliding down again. Nearly all
the old fellows that I know are more or less balmy. Theoretically,
they should be much wiser than younger men, if only because of their
greater experience, but actually they seem to take on folly faster than
they take on wisdom. A man of thirty-five or thirty-eight is almost
woman-proof. For a woman to marry him is a herculean feat. But by the
time he is fifty he is quite as easy as a Yale sophomore. On other
planes the same decay of the intelligence is visible. Certainly it
would be difficult to imagine any committee of relatively young men, of
thirty or thirty-five, showing the unbroken childishness, ignorance and
lack of humor of the Supreme Court of the United States. The average
age of the learned justices must be well beyond sixty, and all of
them are supposed to be of finished and mellowed sagacity. Yet their
knowledge of the most ordinary principles of justice often turns out
to be extremely meager, and when they spread themselves grandly upon
a great case their reasoning powers are usually found to be precisely
equal to those of a respectable Pullman conductor.



Some of the loosest thinking in ethics has duty for its theme.
Practically all writers on the subject agree that the individual
owes certain unescapable duties to the race--for example, the duty
of engaging in productive labor, and that of marrying and begetting
offspring. In support of this position it is almost always argued that
if _all_ men neglected such duties the race would perish. The logic is
hollow enough to be worthy of the college professors who are guilty
of it. It simply confuses the conventionality, the pusillanimity, the
lack of imagination of the majority of men with the duty of _all_ men.
There is not the slightest ground for assuming, even as a matter of
mere argumentation, that _all_ men will ever neglect these alleged
duties. There will always remain a safe majority that is willing to
do whatever is ordained--that accepts docilely the government it is
born under, obeys its laws, and supports its theory. But that majority
does not comprise the men who render the highest and most intelligent
services to the race; it comprises those who render nothing save their

For the man who differs from this inert and well-regimented
mass, however slightly, there are no duties _per se_. What he is
spontaneously inclined to do is of vastly more value to all of us
than what the majority is willing to do. There is, indeed, no such
thing as duty-in-itself; it is a mere chimera of ethical theorists.
Human progress is furthered, not by conformity, but by aberration. The
very concept of duty is thus a function of inferiority; it belongs
naturally only to timorous and incompetent men. Even on such levels it
remains largely a self-delusion, a soothing apparition, a euphemism for
necessity. When a man succumbs to duty he merely succumbs to the habit
and inclination of other men. Their collective interests invariably
pull against his individual interests. Some of us can resist a pretty
strong pull--the pull, perhaps, of thousands. But it is only the
miraculous man who can withstand the pull of a whole nation.


"History," says Henry Ford, "is bunk." I inscribe myself among those
who dissent from this doctrine; nevertheless, I am often hauled up,
in reading history, by a feeling that I am among unrealities. In
particular, that feeling comes over me when I read about the religious
wars of the past--wars in which thousands of men, women and children
were butchered on account of puerile and unintelligible disputes
over transubstantiation, the atonement, and other such metaphysical
banshees. It does not surprise me that the majority murdered the
minority; the majority, even to-day, does it whenever it is possible.
What I can't understand is that the minority went voluntarily to the
slaughter. Even in the worst persecutions known to history--say, for
example, those of the Jews of Spain--it was always possible for a
given member of the minority to save his hide by giving public assent
to the religious notions of the majority. A Jew who was willing to
be baptized, in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, was practically
unmolested; his descendants to-day are 100% Spaniards. Well, then, why
did so many Jews refuse? Why did so many prefer to be robbed, exiled,
and sometimes murdered?

The answer given by philosophical historians is that they were a
noble people, and preferred death to heresy. But this merely begs
the question. Is it actually noble to cling to a religious idea so
tenaciously? Certainly it doesn't seem so to me. After all, no human
being really _knows_ anything about the exalted matters with which
all religions deal. The most he can do is to match his private guess
against the guesses of his fellowmen. For any man to say absolutely,
in such a field, that this or that is wholly and irrefragably true and
this or that is utterly false is simply to talk nonsense. Personally, I
have never encountered a religious idea--and I do not except even the
idea of the existence of God--that was instantly and unchallengeably
convincing, as, say, the Copernican astronomy is instantly and
unchallengeably convincing. But neither have I ever encountered
a religious idea that could be dismissed offhand as palpably and
indubitably false. In even the worst nonsense of such theological
mountebanks as the Rev. Dr. Billy Sunday, Brigham Young and Mrs. Eddy
there is always enough lingering plausibility, or, at all events,
possibility, to give the judicious pause. Whatever the weight of the
probabilities against it, it nevertheless _may_ be true that man, on
his decease, turns into a gaseous vertebrate, and that this vertebrate,
if its human larva has engaged in embezzlement, bootlegging, profanity
or adultery on this earth, will be boiled for a million years in
a cauldron of pitch. My private inclination, due to my defective
upbringing, is to doubt it, and to set down any one who believes it as
an ass, but it must be plain that I have no means of disproving it.

In view of this uncertainty it seems to me sheer vanity for any man to
hold his religious views too firmly, or to submit to any inconvenience
on account of them. It is far better, if they happen to offend, to
conceal them discreetly, or to change them amiably as the delusions
of the majority change. My own views in this department, being wholly
skeptical and tolerant, are obnoxious to the subscribers to practically
all other views; even atheists sometimes denounce me. At the moment,
by an accident of American political history, these dissenters from
my theology are forbidden to punish me for not agreeing with them.
But at any succeeding moment some group or other among them may seize
such power and proceed against me in the immemorial manner. If it ever
happens, I give notice here and now that I shall get converted to their
nonsense instantly, and so retire to safety with my right thumb laid
against my nose and my fingers waving like wheat in the wind. I'd do it
even to-day, if there were any practical advantage in it. Offer me a
case of Rauenthaler 1903, and I engage to submit to baptism by any rite
ever heard of, provided it does not expose my gothic nakedness. Make it
ten cases, and I'll agree to be both baptized and confirmed. In such
matters I am broad-minded. What, after all, is one more lie?


_The Disabled Veteran_

The science of psychological pathology is still in its infancy. In
all its literature in three languages, I can't find a line about the
permanent ill effects of acute emotional diseases--say, for example,
love affairs. The common assumption of the world is that when a love
affair is over it is over--that nothing remains behind. This is
probably grossly untrue. It is my belief that every such experience
leaves scars upon my psyche, and that they are quite as plain and quite
as dangerous as the scars left on the neck by a carbuncle. A man who
has passed through a love affair, even though he may eventually forget
the lady's very name, is never quite the same thereafter. His scars
may be small, but they are permanent. The sentimentalist, exposed
incessantly, ends as a psychic cripple; he is as badly off as the man
who has come home from the wars with shell-shock. The precise nature
of the scars remains to be determined. My own notion is that they take
the form of large yellow patches upon the self-esteem. Whenever a man
thinks of one of his dead love affairs, and in particular whenever
he allows his memory to dredge up an image of the woman he loved,
he shivers like one taken in some unmanly and discreditable act.
Such shivers, repeated often enough, must inevitably shake his inner
integrity off its base. No man can love, and yet remain truly proud. It
is a disarming and humiliating experience.



Patriotism is conceivable to a civilized man in times of stress and
storm, when his country is wobbling and sore beset. His country then
appeals to him as any victim of misfortune appeals to him--say, a
street-walker pursued by the police. But when it is safe, happy and
prosperous it can only excite his loathing. The things that make
countries safe, happy and prosperous--a secure peace, an active trade,
political serenity at home--are all intrinsically corrupting and
disgusting. It is as impossible for a civilized man to love his country
in good times as it would be for him to respect a politician.




Police sergeants praying humbly to God that Jews will start poker-rooms
on their posts, and so enable them to educate their eldest sons for
holy orders.... Newspaper reporters resolving firmly to work hard, keep
sober and be polite to the city editor, and so be rewarded with jobs
as copy-readers.... College professors in one-building universities
on the prairie, still hoping, at the age of sixty, to get their
whimsical essays into the _Atlantic Monthly._ ... Car-conductors on
lonely suburban lines, trying desperately to save up $500 and start
a Ford garage.... Pastors of one-horse little churches in decadent
villages, who, whenever they drink two cups of coffee at supper, dream
all night that they have been elected bishops.... Movie actors who
hope against hope that the next fan letter will be from Bar Harbor....
Delicatessen dealers who spend their whole lives searching for a cheap
substitute for the embalmed veal used in chicken-salad.... Italians
who wish that they were Irish.... Mulatto girls in Georgia and Alabama
who send away greasy dollar bills for bottles of Mme. Celestine's
Infallible Hair-Straightener.... Ash-men who pull wires to be appointed
superintendents of city dumps. 1.. Mothers who dream that the babies
in their cradles will reach, in the mysterious after years, the
highest chairs in the Red Men and the Maccabees.... Farmers who figure
that, with good luck, they will be able to pay off their mortgages
by 1943.... Contestants for the standing broad-jump championship of
the Altoona, Pa., Y. M. C. A.... Editorial writers who essay to prove
mathematically that a war between England and the United States is



Pale druggists in remote towns of the Epworth League and flannel
nightgown belts, endlessly wrapping up bottles of Peruna.... Women
hidden away in the damp kitchens of unpainted houses along the railroad
tracks, frying tough beefsteaks.... Lime and cement dealers being
initiated into the Knights of Pythias, the Red Men or the Woodmen
of the World.... Watchmen at lonely railroad crossings in Iowa,
hoping that they'll be able to get off to hear the United Brethren
evangelist preach.... Ticket-choppers in the subway, breathing
sweat in its gaseous form.... Family doctors in poor neighborhoods,
faithfully relying upon the therapeutics taught in their Eclectic
Medical College in 1884.... Farmers plowing sterile fields behind sad
meditative horses, both suffering from the bites of insects.... Greeks
tending all-night coffee-joints in the suburban wildernesses where the
trolley-cars stop.... Grocery-clerks stealing prunes and ginger-snaps,
and trying to make assignations with soapy servant-girls.... Women
confined for the ninth or tenth time, wondering helplessly what it is
all about.... Methodist preachers retired after forty years of service
in the trenches of God, upon pensions of $600 a year.... Wives and
daughters of Middle Western country bankers, marooned in Los Angeles,
going tremblingly to swami séances in dark, smelly rooms.... Chauffeurs
in huge fur coats waiting outside theaters filled with folks applauding
Robert Edeson and Jane Cowl.... Decayed and hopeless men writing
editorials at midnight for leading papers in Mississippi, Arkansas and
Alabama.... Owners of the principal candy-stores in Green River, Neb.,
and Tyrone, Pa.... Presidents of one-building universities in the rural
fastnesses of Kentucky and Tenbessee. ... Women with babies in their
arms weeping over moving-pictures in the Elks' Hall at Schmidtsville,
ville, Mo.... Babies just born to the wives of milk-wagon drivers....
Judges on the benches of petty county courts in Virginia, Vermont and
Idaho.... Conductors of accommodation trains running between Kokomo,
Ind., and Logansport....



The leading Methodist layman of Pottawattamie county, Iowa.... The
man who won the limerick contest conducted by the Toomsboro, Ga.,
_Banner._ ... The secretary of the Little Rock, Ark., Kiwanis Club....
The president of the Johann Sebastian Bach _Bauverein_ of Highlandtown,
Md.... The girl who sold the most Liberty Bonds in Duquesne, Pa....
The captain of the champion basket-ball team at the Gary, Ind., Y.
M. C. A.... The man who owns the best bull in Coosa county, Ala....
The tallest man in Covington, Ky.... The oldest subscriber to the
Raleigh, N. C, _News and Observer._ ... The most fashionable milliner
in Bucyrus, O.... The business agent of the Plasterers' Union of
Somerville, Mass.... The author of the ode read at the unveiling
of the monument to General Robert E. Lee at Valdosta, Ga.... The
original Henry Cabot Lodge man.... The owner of the champion Airedale
of Buffalo, N. Y,... The first child named after the Hon. Warren
Gamaliel Harding.... The old lady in Wahoo, Neb., who has read the
Bible 38 times.... The boss who controls the Italian, Czecho-Slovak and
Polish votes in Youngstown, O.... The professor of chemistry, Greek,
rhetoric and piano at the Texas Christian University, Fort Worth,
Tex.... The boy who sells 225 copies of the _Saturday Evening Post_
every week in Cheyenne, Wyo.... The youngest murderer awaiting hanging
in Chicago.... The leading dramatic critic of Pittsburgh.... The
night watchman in Penn Yan, N. Y., who once shook hands with Chester
A. Arthur.... The Lithuanian woman in Bluefield, W. Va., who has had
five sets of triplets. ... The actor who has played in "Lightning"
1,600 times.... The best horsedoctor in Oklahoma.... The highest-paid
church-choir soprano in Knoxville, Tenn.... The most eligible bachelor
in Cheyenne, Wyo.... The engineer of the locomotive which pulled the
train which carried the Hon. A. Mitchell Palmer to the San Francisco
Convention.... The girl who got the most votes in the popularity
contest at Egg Harbor, N. J....


    Adam, Villiers de l'Isle
    Adams, Henry
    Addams, Janec
    Addison, Joseph
    American Legion
    American Protective League
    _Annabel Lee_
    Anti-Saloon League
    Arnold, Matthew
    Asch, Sholom
    Asquith, Mrs.
    Astor, Lady
    _Atlantic Monthly_
    Augier, Emile

    Bach, J. S.
    Baker, Newton D.
    Balfour, A. J..
    Baltimore _Sun_
    Balzac, H.
    Barton, William E.
    Beerbohm, Max
    Beethoven, Ludwig van
    Belasco, David
    Bennett, Arnold
    Benson, Admiral
    Bentham, Jeremy
    _Berliner Tageblatt_
    Berlioz, Hector
    Bierbaum, Otto Julius
    Birkenhead, Lord
    Bismarck, Otto von
    Blunt, Wilfrid Scawen
    Böhlau, Helene
    Boston _Transcript_
    Bottomley, Horace
    Boyd, Ernest A.
    Brady, Diamond Jim
    Brahms, Johannes
    Brandes, Georg
    Brieux, Eugene
    Browning, Robert
    Bryan, William Jennings
    Bryce, James
    Burleson, A. S.
    Butler, Nicholas Murray

    Cabell, James Branch
    Carlyle, Thomas
    Cather, Willa
    Catt, Carrie Chapman
    Cawein, Madison
    Cézanne, Paul
    Chamberlain, Joseph
    Chopin, F.
    Churchill, Winston
    Civil War
    Clemenceau, Georges
    Clemens, Samuel L.
    Clutton-Brock, A.
    _Congressional Record_
    Conrad, Joseph
    Constitution, U. S.
    Coolidge, Calvin
    Cooper, J. Fenimore
    Cox, James M.
    Crane, Frank
    Creel, George
    Curtis, Cyrus K.

    D'Annunzio, Gabrielle
    Darwin, Charles
    Dawes, Rufus
    Debs, Eugene
    Declaration of Independence
    Dempsey, Jack
    Dillon, Dr.
    Disarmament Treaty
    Dreiser, Theodore
    Dryden, John
    Dumas, Alexandre _fils,_
    Dunsany, Lord
    Duse, Eleanora
    Dvorak, Antonin

    Edwards, Jonathan
    Ehrlich, Paul
    Ellis, Havelock
    Emerson, R. W.

    Finck, Henry T.
    Flower, B. O.
    Foch, Ferdinand
    Ford, Henry
    France, Anatole
    Franklin, Fabian
    Freud, Sigmund

    Gale, Zona
    Garland, Hamlin
    Garrett, Garet
    George, W. L.
    Gilman, Daniel, C.
    Goethe, J. W.
    Goldmarck, Karl
    Gorky, Maxim
    Gounod, Charles
    Gourmont, Remy de
    Grant, U. S.
    Greenwich Village

    Hamilton, Alexander
    Hamsun. Knut
    Harding, W. G.
    Harris, Frank
    Hartleben, O. E.
    Harvey, George B.
    Hauptmann, Gerhart
    Hazlitt, William
    _Heart of Darkness_
    Hergesheimer, Joseph
    Hillis, Newell Dwight
    Hofmannsthal, Hugo von
    Howells, William Dean
    Huch, Ricarda
    _Huckleberry Finn_
    Hughes, Charles E.
    Huneker, James G.
    Huysmans, J. K.

    Ibsen, Henrik
    Intellectuals, Young
    Irving, Washington

    Jackson, Andrew
    James, Henry
    Jefferson, Thomas
    Jespersen, Otto
    Jordan, David Starr
    _Josef's Legend_

    Kerr, Alfred
    Kipling, Rudyard
    Klebs, Edwin
    Knights of Pythias
    Know Nothings
    Krehbiel, Henry
    Ku Klux Klan
    Kürnberger, Ferdinand

    Lagerlöf, Selma
    Lanier, Sidney
    Lee, Robert E.
    Lewes, George Henry
    Lewisohn, Ludwig
    Lincoln, Abraham
    Lindsey, Ben B.
    Liszt, Franz
    Lloyd-George, David
    Lodge, Henry Cabot
    Lodge, Oliver
    London _Times_
    Lowell, James Russell
    Lowes, J. L.
    Ludwig, Karl
    Luther, Martin
    Lyly, John

    Mabie, Hamilton Wright
    Macaulay, T. B.
    Mann, Thomas
    March, General
    Marden, Orison Swett
    Marlowe, Christopher
    Masefield, John
    Mendelssohn, Felix
    Meredith, George
    Mill, J. S.
    Miller, Joaquin
    Milton, John
    _Mlle. New York_
    Mobile _Register_
    Moody, John
    Moore, George
    More, Paul Elmer
    Morgan, J. Pierpont
    Müller, Johannes
    Murray, Gilbert
    Murry, Middleton
    _Musical Courier_

    Nathan, George Jean
    National Institute of Arts and Letters
    National Security League
    Nearing, Scott
    _New Republic_
    New York _Evening Journal_
    New York _Sun_
    New York _Times_
    New York _Tribune_
    Nicoll, Robertson
    Nietzsche, F. W.
    Northcliffe, Lord

    Ochs, Adolph S.
    Odd Fellows
    _Old Fogy_

    _Painted Veils_
    Palmer, A. Mitchell
    Pershing, John J.
    Philadelphia _Ledger_
    Pinchot, Gifford
    Pirquet, Clemens von
    Poe, Edgar Allan
    Pound, Ezra
    Prescott, F. C.

    Reading, Lord
    Red Cross, American
    Reed, James A.
    Reese, Lizette Woodworth
    Reventlow, Count zu
    Ricardo, David
    Roosevelt, Theodore
    Roosevelt, Theodore, Jr.
    Root, Elihu
    Rops, Félicien
    Rosetti, Christina
    Rotary Club
    Rothert, Otto A.
    Russell, Bertrand
    Russell, Lillian

    St. Augustine
    Sainte-Beuve, C. A.
    St. John
    Santanyana, George
    _Saturday Evening Post_
    Schmidt, Annalise
    Schubert, Franz
    Schumann, Robert
    Schwab, Charles M.
    Scott, Evelyn
    Scribner's, Charles, Sons
    Seidl, Anton
    Senate, U. S.
    Serao, Mathilda
    Shakespeare, William
    Shaw, George, Bernard
    _Sheik, The_
    Sherman, S. P.
    Sienkiewicz, Henryk
    Sims, Admiral
    Sinclair, May
    Sinclair Upton
    Smith, Adam
    Sousa, J. P.
    Spencer, Herbert
    Staël, Mme. de
    Stearns, Harold
    Steed, Wickham
    Strauss, Richard
    Strindberg, August
    Sumner, William G.
    Sunday, William A.
    Supreme Court of the United States
    Swedenborg, Emanuel
    Swinburne, A. C.

    Taft, William H.
    Thoma, Ludwig
    Thompson, Francis
    Thoreau, H. D.
    _Town Topics_
    Tumulty, J. P.

    Underwood, Oscar
    U'Ren, W. S.

    Van Dyke, Henry
    Verlaine, Paul
    Viebig, Clara
    Volstead, Andrew

    Wagner, Cosima
    Wagner, Richard
    Washington, George
    Wassermann, Jacob
    Weber, Gottfried
    Wedekind, Frank
    Wells, H. G.
    Wesley, John
    Whitman, Walt
    Wilson, Woodrow
    Wolsogen, Ernst von
    Wood, James N.
    Wood, Leonard A.
    Woodberry, George E.

    Yeats, W. B.

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