The Partisan reader : ten years of Partisan review, 1934-1944 : an anthology

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The Partisan reader : ten years of Partisan review, 1934-1944 : an anthology

Table of contents :
Introduction / Lionel Trilling --
In retrospect / William Phillips and Philip Rahv --
A group of stories --
Selected poems --
Interpretations --
Variety.

Citation preview

PHILL PS ACADEMY

L

3 1867 00023 9975

"N

Anno

1778

PHILLIPS ACADEMY

f O LI VER-WENDELL-HOLMES #

LIB RARY

This is an anthology of the best creative and critical work that has appeared in Partisan Review during the first ten years of its ex¬ istence. Founded in 1934, Partisan Review has steadily grown in prestige and influence, and today, both in American and in Europe, is considered by many distinguished writers and critics to be the most lively and intelli¬ gent literary periodical in this country. Ed¬ mund Wilson recently spoke of it as “the only first-rate literary magazine now pub¬ lished in the United States.” The Partisan Reader contains some of the most important writings of the past ten years. A handsome volume of 704 pages, it includes fiction by Franz Kafka, James T. Farrell, Charles Jackson, Mary McCarthy, Lionel Trilling, James Agee, Delmore Schwartz and other writers; a large poetry section repre¬ senting leading tendencies in modern Ameri¬ can and British verse and featuring such poets as T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Mari¬ anne Moore, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, E. E. Cummings, Louise Bogan, Allen Tate, Horace Gregory, Dylan Thomas, Karl Sha¬ piro and Kenneth Fearing; and a compre¬ hensive section of cultural and social criti¬ cism by such outstanding figures as John Dewey, Andre Gide, Ignazio Silone, Sidney Hook, Katherine Anne Porter, Sherwood Anderson, James Burnham, Dwight Mac¬ donald,

Meyer

Schapiro

and

John

Dos

Passos. Much of the material contained in this volume has never before appeared in book form.

V

PARTISAN READER

PARTISAN m TEN YEARS OF PARTISAN REVIEW in

20

1934-1944: AN ANTHOLOGY EDITED

BY

WILLIAM PHILLIPS AND PHILIP RAHV INTRODUCTION

BY

/

LIONEL TRILLING

THE DIAL PRESS, NEW YORK, 1946

L COPYRIGHT, 1946, BY DIAL PRESS, INC.

& 3 7 S sT For permission to use the copyrighted selections in this anthology, acknowledgments are due to Parti¬ san Review and to the following publishers: The Vanguard Press for “Benefits of American Life’’ from The Short Stories of James T. Farrell (1937). Harcourt Brace & Co. for “Flaubert’s Politics” from The Triple Thinkers by Edmund Wilson

(1938)

and “The Dry Salvages” from Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot (1943). Macmillan 8c Co. for “He Digesteth Harde Yron” from What Are Years by Marianne Moore (1941). Alfred A. Knopf for “The Woman That Had More Babies Than That” and “The Dwarf” by Wallace Stevens from Parts of a World (1942). Simon 8c Schuster for “The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt” by Mary McCarthy from The Com¬ pany She Keeps (1942).

3 10.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BY THE HADDON CRAFTSMEN, INC., SCRANTON, PA.

CONTENTS Introduction: In Retrospect:

ix

Lionel trilling william Phillips

and

philip rahv

679

1: A GROUP OF STORIES Benefits of American Life: Hurry, Hurry: In Prison:

james t. farrell

12

eleanor clark

'

Elizabeth bishop

Knoxville: Summer of 1915: Rachel’s Summer:

46 67

franz kafka

Two Morning Monologues: The Facts of Life:

32

delmore schwartz

In the Penal Colony:

91

saul bellow

97

paul Goodman

The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt: The Mohammedans:

mary mccarthy

h. j. kaplan

Of This Time, of That Place: The Hand That Fed Me:

20 28

James agee

Charles jackson

America! America!:

3

Lionel trilling

isaac rosenfeld

110 H2 165 199

2: SELECTED POEMS No Credit: Lullaby:

215

kenneth fearing

216

kenneth fearing V

v i

CONTENTS

[/Poem: Kenneth patchen

217

Between the World and Me: richard wright

218

The Dwarf: Wallace stevens

220

Love Lies Sleeping: Elizabeth bishop

221

Speech from a Forthcoming Play: e. e. cummings

223

The Ballad of the Children of the Czar: delmore schwartz

225

Several Voices out of a Cloud: louise bogan

229

Poem: dylan thomas

230

The Statue: john berryman

231

The Woman That Had More Babies Than That: WALLACE STEVENS Extract from “Autumn Journal”: louis MacNEiCE A Funeral Pall in Cellophane: john wheelwright

]yA

Nursery Rhyme: randall jarrell

Song: Young Oedipus and the Scarecrow: Gordon sylander The Dry Salvages: t. s. eliot Variations on a Theme by Pacelli: philip horton He “Digesteth Harde Yron”: Marianne moore Stormy Day: w. r. rodgers The Unlearning: harold rosenberg

233 235 237 239

241 243

250 252 255 257

The Simple Scale: david schubert 259

The Immigrants: Lionel abel

261

What of the Chain Remains: Lionel abel

262

Carmen XI: Robert Fitzgerald

263

Police Sergeant Malone and the Six Dead Drinkers: HORACE GREGORY Canzone: w. h. auden Two Sonnets: Robert lowell The Synagogue: rare j. shapiro Ode: ALLEN TATE The Semblables: william carlos williams

264 267 269 271 274 278

CONTENTS

vj.

Two Poems from a Text: Song:

28o

r. p. blackmur

2g2

JEAN GARRIGUE

The Metamorphoses:

randall jarrell

283

Rejoice in the Abyss:

Stephen spender

284

3: INTERPRETATIONS The Philosophic Thought of the Young Marx: 289

MAX BRAUNSCHWEIG

Flaubert’s Politics:

297

edmund wilson

Looking Forward to Looking Backward:

meyer

scHAPijto

310

Dostoevski and Politics: Notes on “The Possessed”: Philip rahv

224

The D. H. Lawrence Myth:

336

william troy

The Public v. the Late Mr. William Butler Yeats: 348

W. H. AUDEN

Pages from a Journal:

354

andre gide

The Americanism of Van Wyck Brooks: Avant-Garde and Kitsch: September Journal: A Goat for Azazel

f.

w.

393

Stephen spender

(a.d.

1688) :

katherine anne porter

morton dauwen zabel

The Integral Humanism of Jacques Maritain: My Friend James Joyce: Genesis of “Swann”:

Sidney hook

408 419 433

eugene jolas

457

robert vigneron

469

The Intellectuals’ Tradition: The Music of Poetry:

363 378

clement greenberg

Rimbaud: Life and Legend:

william Phillips

Anti-Naturalism in Extremis:

ignazio silone

john dewey

Malicious Philosophies of Science:

484 494

t. s. eliot

Ferrero and the Decline of Civilization:

ernest nagel

The Future of Democratic Values: '

dupee

The Metaphysicals and the Baroque:

dwight macdonald wylie sypher

509 514 529 546 567

CONTENTS

v ii i

4: VARIETY Some Personal Letters to American Artists: GEORGE L. K. MORRIS

585

Twilight of the Thirties: Passage from an Editorial: 591

Philip rahv

Excerpts from Symposium: The Situation in American Writing, 1939:

sherwood

anderson,

r.

p.

blackmur,

LOUISE BOGAN, JOHN DOS PASSOS, JAMES T. FARRELL, HORACE GREGORY,

KATHERINE

ANNE

PORTER,

GERTRUDE

STEIN,

WALLACE STEVENS, ALLEN TATE, LIONEL TRILLING

Poetry in a Dry Season:

randall jarrell

Picasso: 4000 Years of His Art: An American in Spain:

Lionel trilling

The Eisenstein Tragedy:

dwight macdonald

The Spiritual Underground: Chaos Is Come Again:

george l. k. morris

william Phillips

mary McCarthy

Bernanos and Christian Liberty:

nicola chiaromonte

Rules for Fishing in an Empty Sea: The Case of the Baffled Radical:

james burnham

harold rosenberg

An Interview with Marc Chagall:

james Johnson sweeney

596

629 634 639 645 651 655 658 663 666

671

Introduction

THIS book may be thought of as an ambiguous monument. It commemorates a victory—Partisan Review has survived for a decade and has survived with a vitality of which the evidence may be found in the quality and bulk of the present volume. Yet to celebrate the victory is to be at once aware of the larger circumstance of defeat in which it was gained. For what we are calling a notable and difficult achievement is no more than this: that a magazine which has devoted itself to the publication of good writing of various kinds has been able to continue in existence for ten years and has so far established itself that its audience now numbers six thousand readers. Here is an epitome of our cultural situation. Briefly put, it is that there exists a great gulf between our educated class and the best of our literature. I use the word educated in its commonest sense to indicate those people who value their ability to live some part of their lives with serious ideas. I limit the case to these people and do not refer to the great mass of people because that would involve us in an ultimate social question and I have in mind only the present cultural question. And I do not mean to assert that Partisan Review in itself contains the best of our literature, but that it is representative of the tend¬ encies that are producing the best. The great gulf to which I refer did not open suddenly. Some fifty years ago, William Dean Howells observed that the readers of the “cultivated” American magazines were markedly losing interest in literary contributions. Howells is here a useful witness, not only be¬ cause he had his finger in so many important literary pies and was ad¬ mirably aware of the economics and sociology of literature, but also because he himself was so interesting an example of the literary culture whose decline he was noting. The Ohio of Howells boyhood had only recently emerged from its frontier phase and in its manner of life it was still what we would call primitive. Yet in this Ohio, and

X

INTRODUCTION

while still a boy, Howells had devoted himself to the literary life. He was not unique or lonely; he had friends who also felt called to literature or scholarship. His elders did not think the young man strange. Literature had its large accepted place in this culture. The respectable lawyers of the locality subscribed to the great British quarterlies. The printing office of the elder Howells was the resort of the village wits “who dropped in, and liked to stand with their back to our stove and challenge opinion concerning Holmes and Poe, Irving and Macaulay, Pope and Byron, Dickens and Shake¬ speare.” Problems of morality and religious faith were freely and boldly discussed. There was no intellectual isolationism and the reverberations of the European movement of mind were felt at least eventually. Howells learned an adequate German from the German settlers and became a disciple of Heine. The past was alive, and Howells, rooting in a barrel of books in his father’s log-cabin, found much to read about old Spain—at the age of fifteen, having con¬ ceived a passion for Don Quixote, he vowed to write the life of Cer¬ vantes. At the outbreak of the Civil War, when Howells was twentythree, Abraham Lincoln, wishing to reward the young author for a campaign biography, offered him, at the suggestion of John Hay, the consulship at Venice. It was then the common practice to place literary men in foreign diplomatic posts. I am not trying to paint an idyllic picture of the literary life of our nineteenth century. It was a life full of social anomaly and economic hardship. What I am trying to suggest, however, is that in the culture of the time literature was assumed. What was true of Howells in Ohio was also true of Mark Twain in Missouri. Nothing could be falser than the view that Mark Twain was a folk writer. Like his own Tom Sawyer, he was literate and literary to the core, even snobbishly so. The local literary culture that he loved to mock, the graveyard poetry, the foolish Byronism, the adoration of Scott, was the literature of the London drawing rooms naturalized as a folk fact in Missouri. We were once a nation that took its cultural stand on McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers. When Oscar Wilde and Matthew Arnold came here on tour, they may have figured chiefly as curiosities, but at least these literary men were nothing less than that. In the nineteenth century, in this country as in Europe, literature underlay every activity of mind. The scientist, the philosopher, the historian, the theologian, the economist, the social theorist, and even the politician, were required to command literary abilities which would now be thought irrelevant to their respective callings. The man of original ideas spoke directly to. “the intelligent public,” to the

INTRODUCTION

xi

lawyer, the doctor, the merchant, and even—and much more than now, as the old practice of bringing out very cheap editions suggests to the working masses. The role of the “popularizer” was relatively little known; the originator of an idea was expected to make his own full meaning clear. Of two utterances of equal quality, one of the nineteenth and one of the twentieth century, we can say that the one of the nineteenth century had the greater power. If the mechanical means of communi¬ cation were then less efficient than now, the intellectual means were far more efficient. There may even be a significant ratio between the two. Perhaps, as John Dos Passos has suggested, where books and ideas are relatively rare, true literacy may be higher than where they are superabundant. At any rate, it was the natural expectation that a serious idea would be heard and considered. Baudelaire is the poet from whom our modern disowned poets have taken their characteristic attitudes, yet Baudelaire himself was still able to think of “success,” to believe in the possibility of being seriously listened to by the very society he flouted, and he even carried his belief to the point of standing for election to the Academy. This power of the word, this power of the idea, we no longer count on in the same degree. It is now twenty years since a literary move¬ ment in this country has had what I have called power. The literary movement of social criticism of the ig2o’s is not finally satisfying, but it had more energy to advance our civilization than anything we can now see and its effects were large and good. No tendency since has had an equal strength. The falling off from this energy may not be permanent. It could, of course, become permanent. There are circumstances that suggest it might become so. After all, the emotional space of the human mind is large but not infinite, and perhaps it will be pre-empted by the substitutes for literature—the radio, the movies, and certain magazines—which are antagonistic to literature not be¬ cause they are competing genres but because of the political and cul¬ tural assumptions that control them. And the science and politics with which we are now being confronted may be of such a kind as to crush the possibility of that interplay between free will and cir¬ cumstance upon which all literature stands. These conditions can scarcely encourage us. On the other hand, they must not be allowed to obsess us, so that we cannot work. They involve ultimate con¬ siderations, and—apart from the fact that it is always futile to make predictions about culture—the practical activity of literature requires that a sense of the present moment be kept paramount. To the general lowering of the status of literature and of the inter-

xi i

INTRODUCTION

est in it, the innumerable “little magazines” have been a natural and heroic response. Since the beginning of the century, resisting difficul¬ ties of which only their editors can truly conceive, they have tried to keep the roads open. From the elegant and brilliant Dial to the latest little scrub from the provinces, they have done their work, they have kept our culture from becoming wholly academic and wholly sociolog¬ ical. They are snubbed and snickered at, sometimes deservedly, and no one would venture to say in a precise way just what effect they have, except that they keep the new talents warm until the com¬ mercial publisher with an air of noble resolution is ready to take his chance, except that they keep a countercurrent moving which perhaps no one will be fully aware of until it ceases to move. Among these magazines, these private and precarious ventures. Partisan Review does a work that sets it apart. Although it is a magazine of literary experiment, it differs from the other little magazines in the emphasis it puts upon ideas and intellectual at¬ titudes. And to understand its special role in our culture, we must further particularize the cultural situation I have described—we must become aware of the discrepancy that exists between the political beliefs of our educated class and the literature that, by its merit, should properly belong to that class. In its political feeling our educated class is predominantly liberal. Attempts to define liberalism are not likely to meet with success—I mean only that our educated class is likely to have a generous, if mild, suspiciousness of the profit motive and imperialism, a belief in progress, science, social legislation, planning, international co¬ operation, perhaps especially where Russia is in question. These beliefs do great credit to those who hold them. Yet it is a comment, if not on our beliefs then on our way of holding them, that not a single first-rate writer has emerged either to deal with these ideas in a great critical way or to deal in a great poetic way with the emo¬ tions that are consonant with these ideas. Our liberal ideology has produced the author of The Grapes of Wrath or the author of A Bell for Adano, or lesser simulacra of these, but not, for several decades, a single writer who commands our real admiration—we all respond to the flattery of agreement, but perhaps even the simplest reader among us knows in his heart the difference between that emotion and the real emotions of literature. This con¬ temporary literature of liberalism is often commercially very success¬ ful, but it cannot be accused of “commercialism,” that old vice which we all used to scold. It is earnest, sincere, solemn. It is socially aware.

INTRODUCTION

x i i i

At its best it has the charm of a literature of piety. It has neither imagination nor mind. And if on the other hand we name those who, by general consent— by consent of the very class of educated people of which we speak— are to be thought of as the typical and monumental literary figures of our time, we see that to them the liberal ideology has been at best a matter of indifference. Proust, Joyce, Lawrence, Eliot, Mann (in his creative work), Kafka, Rilke, Gide—all have their own love of justice and the good life, but in not one of them does it take the form of a love of the ideas and emotions which liberal democracy, as known by our educated class, has declared respectable. So that we can say that no connection exists between our liberal educated class and the best of the literary mind of our time. And this is to say that there is no connection between the political ideas of our educated class and the deep places of the imagination. The same fatal separation is to be seen in the tendency of our educated liberal class to reject the tough, complex psychology of Freud for the easy rationalistic optimism of Horney and Fromm. The alienation of the educated class from the most impressive literature of our time has of course been noted before. Van Wyck Brooks in several dramatically vindictive utterances and J. Donald Adams in his weekly exposition have made the world aware of the dichotomy and have even offered a diagnosis. They attribute the lack of connection to the literal difficulty of the writers themselves and they blame this difficulty on the writers’ snobbishness and irrespon¬ sibility. They even go so far as to denounce as traitors to democracy all writers who do not turn, as Mr. Adams puts it, “away from the preferences of the self-appointed few, and toward the needs and de¬ sires of the many.” One might be the more willing to accept this diagnosis if Mr. Brooks and Mr. Adams were more adept in their understanding of what, after all, a good many people can understand, or if they were not so very quick to give all their sympathy and all their tolerance to works of an obviously inferior sort merely because they are easy to read and “affirmative” and “life-giving” and written for the needs and desires of the many. Myself, I am inclined rather to suppose that our tolerance should go to those writers from whom, whatever their difficulty, we hear the unmistakable note of seriousness —a note which, when we hear it, should at once suggest to us that they are not devoting their lives to committing literary suicide. It would be futile to offer a counterdiagnosis to the one of literary snobbery and irresponsibility made by Mr. Brooks and Mr. Adams,

X I V

INTRODUCTION

a counterdiagnosis which would undertake, perhaps, to throw the blame for the cultural situation upon the quality of the education, intelligence, and emotion of our educated class or upon the political ideas of this class. The situation is too complex and too important for so merely contentious a procedure. Neither blame nor flattery can do anything to close the breach that I have described. But to organize a new union between our political ideas and our imaginations—in all our cultural purview there is no work more necessary. It is to this work that Partisan Review has devoted itself for over a decade. It is of some importance that Partisan Review began its career as an organ which, in the cultural field, was devoted to the interests of the Communist Party. Considering it for the moment quite apart from any considerations of politics, the cultural program of the Com¬ munist Party in this country has, more than any other single factor, given the license to that divorce between politics and the imagination of which I have spoken. Basing itself on a great act of mind and on a great faith in mind, it has succeeded in rationalizing intellectual limitation and has, in twenty years, produced not a single intellectual work of distinction or even of high respectability. After Partisan Review had broken with the Communist Party, some large part of its own intellectual vitality came from its years of conflict with Com¬ munist culture at a time when our educated class, in its guilt and confusion, was inclined to accept in serious good faith the intel¬ lectual leadership of the Communist Party. In recent years the po¬ litical intensity of Partisan Review has somewhat diminished, yet its political character remains. As it should remain—for our fate, for better or worse, is political. It is not in itself a happy fate, even when it has an heroic sound. But there is no escape from it and the only possibility of enduring it is to force into our definition of politics every human activity and every subtlety of every human activity. There are manifest dangers in doing this, but greater dangers in not doing it. Unless we insist that politics is imagination and mind, we will learn that imagination and mind are politics, and of a kind we will not like. What marks Partisan Review is that it has made this right insistence and within its matrix of politics it has accommodated the old and the new, the traditional and the experimental, the Religious and the positivistic, the hopeful and the despairing. In its implicit effort to bring about the union of the political idea with the imagination, it has drawn on a wider range of human personality and interests than any other cultural periodical of our time. And yet, as I think the present volume shows, it has its

INTRODUCTION

xv

own unity. It is the unity conferred on diversity by intelligence and imagination. But if we grant the importance of the work, we are bound to ask how effectively it can be carried out by such an organ as Partisan Review. We are dealing again with power. The question of power has not always preoccupied literature. And ideally it is not the question which should come first to mind in thinking about literature. Quality is the first, and perhaps should be the only, consideration. But in our situation today, when we think of quality, we must ask what chance a particular quality has to survive, to establish itself in the world, and how it can turn itself into transmissible energy that will lead to action. This is not a desirable state of affairs. “Art is a weapon” and “Ideas are weapons” were phrases that a few years ago had a wide and glowing currency; and sometimes, as we look at the necessities of our life, we have the sense that the weapon-metaphor all too ruthlessly advances—food has become a weapon, sleep and love will soon be weapons, and our final slogan will-perhaps be, “Life is a weapon.” And yet the question of power is forced on us. At least let us not fall into the temptations it always offers—of grossness and crudeness. Mr. Brooks and Mr. Adams yield to these temptations when they denounce the coterie and the writer who does not write for “the many.” The matter is not so simple as these earnest minds would have it. From the democratic point of view, we must say that in a true democracy nothing should be done for the people. The writer who defines his audience by its limitations is indulging in the unforgivable arrogance. The writer must define his audience by its abilities, by its perfections as far as he is gifted to conceive them. He does well, if he cannot see his right audience within immediate reach of his voice, to direct his words to his spiritual ancestors or posterity, or even, if need be, to a coterie. The writer serves his daemon and his subject. And the democracy that does not know that the daemon and the subject must be served is not, in any ideal sense of the word, a democracy at all. The word coterie should not frighten us too much. Neither should it charm us too much—writing for a small group does not insure integrity any more than writing for the many. But the smallness of the audience does not, as Mr. Brooks would have us believe, limit the “human” quality of the work. Some coterie authors will no doubt always be difficult and special, like Donne or Hopkins. But Chaucer, writing for a small court group, did not lack in that broad humanity which Mr. Brooks and Mr. Adams seepi to deny to those who do not have a large audience in mind. Shakespeare, as his sonnets show, had

xvi

INTRODUCTION

something of the aspect of the coterie poet. Milton was content that his audience be few, though he insisted it be fit. The Romanticists wrote for a handful while the nation sneered. And our Whitman, now the often unread symbol of the democratic life, was through most of his career the poet of what was even less than a coterie. This stale argument should not have to be offered at all—and it is a grim portent of our political situation that, in the name of democ¬ racy, critics should try to make it a poet’s shame that he is not widely read. When we try to estimate the power of literature, we must not be misled by the fancy pictures of history. Now and then periods do occur when the best literature overflows its usual narrow bounds and reaches a greater mass of people than usual. The nineteenth century seems to have been such a period and we honor it for that. Periclean Athens also had this kind of overflowing. But the occasions are rare when the best literature becomes, as it were, the folk literature, and, generally speaking, literature has always been carried on within small limits and under great difficulties. Most people do not like the loneliness and the physical quiescence of the activity of contemplation and many do not have the time or the spirit left for it. But whenever it becomes a question of measuring the power of literature, Shelley’s old comment recurs and “it exceeds all imagination to conceive what would have been the moral condition of the world” if literature did not continue in existence with its appeal to its limited groups, keep¬ ing the road open. This does not answer the question of a period like ours when a kind of mechanical literacy is spreading more and more, when more and more people insist on an equality of cultural status and are in danger of being drawn to what was called by Tocqueville—who saw the situation in detail a century ago—the “hypocrisy of luxury,” the satisfaction with the thing that looks like the real thing but is not. Partisan Review, with its six thousand readers, cannot seem very power¬ ful here. Yet to rest with that judgment would be to yield far too easily to the temptations of grossness and crudeness which appear whenever the question of power is raised. We must take into account what would be our moral and political condition if the impulse which Partisan Review represents did not exist, the impulse to make sure that the daemon and the subject are served, to insist that the activity of politics be united with the imagination and subject to the criticism of mind. LIONEL TRILLING

A GROUP OF STORIES

Benefits of American Life BY JAMES T.

FARRELL

TAKISS TILLIOS was a strong shepherd boy whose home land was located just at the hollow valley of two mountains in Arcadia, Greece, in the central section of the Peloponnesus. He grew up on goat’s milk and on pitch black bread whose cinders were not separated so as to produce more bread per pound. His hard-working mother sold a piece of land, which produced enough wheat to pull the family through the whole year, in order to pay his steerage fare to America. For in America the streets were paved with gold; the buildings were taller than mountains; the women all dressed like princesses and the men had their pockets lined with money; every boy had a bicycle; and every man and woman owned an automobile. At the age of thirteen, Takiss, large for his age, arrived in a paradise known as Chicago. He was met at the railroad station, a scared and bewildered boy, by a relative who took him to a home on South Halsted Street. With voluble beneficence, the relative immediately employed Takiss, offer¬ ing him a salary of fifteen dollars a month and the privilege of sleeping on marble slabs in his candy kitchen. He told Takiss that all success¬ ful Greek men started that way, and he showed the boy Greek news¬ papers with pictures of stern, mustachioed Greek restaurant owners and candy-store proprietors who recounted the story of their rise to fame and offered themselves as favorable candidates for marriage. And as a final word of advice, the relative told Takiss that his mother was get¬ ting old now, and that he should send her some of his wages to help her out. ' Takiss quickly discovered what it meant to live in paradise. It meant working from six in the morning until six in the evening, and until even later on week ends. It meant sweeping out the store, washing dishes and windows, polishing, arranging, mopping, running errands. It meant attending night school to learn English when he could scarcely keep his eyes open and where he was frequently laughed at for his blundering efforts. It meant walking along, living in the midst of 3

4

THE

PARTISAN

READER

dirty streets where coal dust, soot, smoke, and the poisonous fumes of automobiles choked his nostrils and made him cough. It meant lone¬ some memories. For a long period, Takiss was a lonely boy remember¬ ing his homeland and his Grecian mountains, remembering the long, slow days with the sheep, remembering the games he had played with other boys, remembering the smile and kiss of his old mother, remem¬ bering always. And he was afraid of America, and of that tremendous paradise known as Chicago. He worked doggedly day after day, earning his fifteen dollars a month, catching a cough from sleeping on marble slabs. He worked doggedly, and from his wages he saved a pittance which he deposited in an immigrants’ savings bank. But he looked ahead to the day when he would be famous, with his picture in the Greek newspapers, a pride and an honor to his native Greece and to the great tradition of the great Socrates about whom his relative so frequently boasted. He dreamed of the time when he would become like Americans, talk like them, wear their clothes, ride in automobiles just as they did, walk along the streets with pretty American girls. In time, Takiss learned things. He learned American words, but never how to speak them like an American. He learned that he was considered a dirty Greek greenhorn, and that many Americans would have been just as pleased if he and many of his countrymen had never come to their land. And he learned that American girls laughed sar¬ donically at a young Greek greenhorn. Also, he learned of a place owned by a cousin of his, where for a little money he could go and find American girls who did not laugh at a Greek greenhorn, at least for five or ten minutes. He learned how to buy American clothes on installments, to wear a purple silk shirt, purple socks, and an orange tie. And he learned, also, that in the store he could put some of the money received for sales into his pocket instead of into the cash reg¬ ister. Eventually, the cousin employing him discharged him in anger, branding him a crook, a robber, a traitor. In the heated quarrel, Takiss asked him why, if he wanted honesty, he paid only six dollars a week wages, when he made so much money himself selling bad products and got his picture in the Greek newspapers as a successful pioneer in America. Takiss was employed by other of his countrymen, in fruit stores, soda parlors, at hot-dog stands, and in restaurants. He acquired addi¬ tional American knowledge, and more American words. And some¬ times when he was dressed up, wearing his purple silk shirt with socks

JAMES

T.

FARRELL

5

to match, and the orange tie, he would walk in the parks or along Halsted Street, seeing American girls, wishing that he had one of his own, a blonde girl with a beautiful pink-white complexion. Time slid from under Takiss, and he was a young man in his early twenties, with his first citizenship papers. He had worked like a dog, and he was still slaving at the same jobs, performing the same tasks and chores as he had always done since he had come to America. He earned eight dollars a week and was busy twelve hours a day in a candy store. He cleaned and he mopped; he scrubbed; he polished; he washed; he waited on trade. And often when he was alone in the store he pocketed money from the cash register. Every week he deposited money in the bank, and almost nightly he looked in his bank book, proud of his savings, thinking of how he was going to achieve fame in America. But he was never able to save money, because he w^s always quitting or losing jobs and having to use savings to support himself between jobs, as well as to send money to his mother. And he learned another thing ... he learned how to dance like Americans. A Greek-American friend told him of a dancing school called a taxi-dance hall on West Madison Street, and showed him an advertisement from the Greek-American owner. Professor Christopolos, who stated in the ad that anyone could be as graceful as he if they learned dancing from his beautiful girls at only ten cents a dance. He paid a dollar and was given ten tickets and entered the dimly lighted dancing school of Professor Christopolos on the fourth floor of a dingy and decrepit building. Each ticket was good for one dance which lasted from a minute to a minute and a half. Any girl in the place would dance with him, because she received five cents for each dance. Takiss’ tickets were quickly used up, and he bought more. It did not matter if he danced woodenly and clumsily, and the girls acted de¬ lighted to teach him. He went to this taxi-dance hall regularly, spend¬ ing three, four, and five dollars every visit, and once in a while a girl would ask him if he wanted to take her home, and for a few more dollars he could get other favors, too. After he started going to the taxi-dance hall regularly he was able to save less money, and he sent little to his mother. Takiss then spent some of his savings for a suit with bell-bottom trousers. He cultivated a mustache and long side-burns, greased his hair and parted it in the middle with meticulous attention. He began to look like a sheik, and listened to pick up all the words which the American-born sheiks used. He went to public dance halls where there was only an admission fee and longer dances. At these places,

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there were always swarms of girls, pretty American girls, some of them tall and beautiful blondes with milky skins and red lips like cherries. He would ask them to dance. Often they would dance with him, once. He would talk, and they would catch his accent, and when he asked them for a second dance they would thank him with great regret and exclaim that all their other dances were taken. So he would quickly be driven to dancing with the homely and ugly girls who were called wall-flowers. And then he would go back to Professor Christopolos’ dancing school, where all the girls would dance with him for ten cents a dance. One day, Takiss was twenty-five. His native Grecian mountains seemed to have receded in time and he saw them only in painful mists of memory, recalling their details and contours with lessening con¬ creteness. Greece to him was a memory. He had been in America for twelve years, and he was working ten hours a day in a hot-dog stand for ten dollars a week, and able to graft from three to five dollars a week extra. He wanted to make money and to become famous like some of his Americanized countrymen. And when he was a rich man with a hot-dog stand or a restaurant of his own, he would return to Greece with an American wife and act like a millionaire. And he had thirty-five dollars in the bank as a start toward these riches. He wanted to get more money, but not by running a brothel as his fourth cousin George did, and not bootlegging as did George’s friend, Mike. He remembered the things his mother, now dead, had told him, and he wanted to make his money and his fame in a way that his mother would have approved of. And then he would have his picture in a Greek-American newspaper. And hard times came to America. Takiss was out of work in the winter and again his savings melted. He was employed for ten dollars a week in a candy store, still working twelve hours a day, and in four months that job was gone. He worked for seven dollars a week wash¬ ing dishes in a large restaurant, and then his pay was cut to five dol¬ lars, and he went home every night tired, with chafed hands and an aching back. He had less money, also, for taxi dances. And he lost that job. He walked the streets looking for other work, and always he learned the same story . . . hard times. He ate very frugally, lived in a chilly, rat-infested room, and wished that he was back home again in his native Grecian mountains, or else that he was a rich and famous American Greek. Every day he went out looking for a job, and some-

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times he found work for a few days or a few weeks and was able to skim along while he tried again to find work. One day he saw an advertisement with large letters at the top . . . dance marathon. The word Marathon struck him. Greek. He would win it and win another victory for his country as it had been done in ancient times. He would become a famous Greek athlete. He in¬ vestigated, and learned that it was a contest in which everybody tried to dance longer than the others, and the winner received a fivehundred-dollar prize. And maybe if he won it, he would get a job in the moving pictures and become the idol of American girls, or go on the vaudeville stage, or be hired to dance in a cabaret. And while he was in the contest, he would be cared for, fed, and there would be no room rent to pay. He was strong and husky, even if he had been getting coughs in his chest for years ever since he had slept on those marble slabs. And he could dance. He was used to standing on his feet all day at work. And this was his chance to become rich. He would no longer have to tramp all over town to be told that there were no jobs because it was hard times. This was much better than saving up to own a candy store and grow fat like the American Greeks for whom he had worked. And after he won this contest, and became famous, he would go back to Greece with a trunk full of clothes and money, and maybe a rich American girl whose skin was like milk. Takiss entered the dance marathon, and when the rules were ex¬ plained to him, he only understood that he was to stay out on the floor and dance, and if he was able to do that longer than anyone else, he would get five hundred dollars. A number was pinned on his back, and he was assigned a partner named Marie Glenn, a beautiful blonde American girl of the type he had always dreamed of as a possible wife. At first, when she met him, she shuddered, and her face broke into an expression of disgust. But then she saw that he was strong and husky with broad shoulders, and she smiled, offering him a limp hand and sweetly telling him that she knew they were sure going to be the winners. , The dance marathon was conducted in a public dance hall on the south side of Chicago. A ring was placed in the center with an orches¬ tra dais at one end. Around the ring there were box seats, and behind them, rising rows of bleacher benches. The opening was described, in advertisements, as gala. An announcer talked through a micro¬ phone, and the promoters and judges wearing tuxedoes also addressed a full house. The contestants were introduced and some of them,

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but not Takiss, spoke to the crowd and the large radio audience all over America. It was all a new and promising, if confusing, world to Takiss, and he walked around the floor, feeling as lost and as out of place as he had on those first days in America. But it was leading at last to paradise. The contest swung into action. They danced for three minutes out of every ten, and walked around and around the floor for the remain¬ ing time; and they were given fifteen minutes rest out of every hour. There was glamour in being watched by so many people, in eating sandwiches and drinking coffee before them, in receiving attention from doctors and nurses, and meeting all the others who, like himself, saw at the end of this contest five hundred dollars and fame. As the contestants got to talking to each other, Takiss heard them using one word over and over again . . . celebrity. A celebrity was somebody who was important, like Jack Dempsey and movie stars and Mr. Delphos, the famous American Greek who was wealthy and owned a large dance hall known as the Bourbon Palace. They all wanted to be celebrities. And Takiss, too, he determined that he was going to be a celebrity. Takiss had not imagined that anyone could dance for more than a week like this, and that maybe after a sleepless and tiring week he would be the winner. In less than twenty-four hours he learned that it was a grind more grueling than he had calculated, and while he doggedly gritted his teeth, he determined that he would not let him¬ self drop out. Still, he wished that he had not entered it. He wished he were back working in fruit stores and ice-cream parlors the way he had been before hard times had come. He wished that he were a shepherd back in the Greek mountains. When his partner was tired, she put her arms around his neck or hips, laid her head against him, and fell asleep while he dragged her heavily around the floor, and when he fell asleep she did the same with him. Again and again their bodies were jolted, shoved, pushed against each other, and he began wanting her so that her very nearness be¬ came excruciating. And he noticed that she, particularly in the early dog hours of the mornings when there were scarcely any spectators in the hall, began brushing herself against him at every opportunity, looking feverishly into his eyes and telling him smutty jokes. And the other dancers became the same way, and the fellows used to tell him how much they wanted one of these girls, any girl. Day after day the marathon grind went on. His eyes grew heavy. His back ached. His feet became sore and raw, so that each step was

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pain and he felt often as if he were walking on fire. The hall was almost continuously stale with cigarette smoke and foul with body odors. He felt constantly dirty, sweaty, itchy. Dust got into his nostrils and his eyes. He began to cough again. His muscles knotted. He became like a person who was always only half awake, and every¬ thing took on the semblance of being a semidream. Marie, also, changed. She began to swell around the buttocks. Deep circles grew under her eyes. She became haggard and blowsy and looked like a worn-out prostitute. She used more and more cosmetics, and her face became like a ghastly caricature of the pretty girl who had entered the contest. In the beginning, particularly because of his accent and Greek heritage, Takiss became the butt of many jokes. Constantly, he would be asked why he wasn’t running a restaurant, and he would be given orders for a piece zapple pie kid. He was nicknamed Restaurant, Fruit Store, Socrates, and Zapple Pie Kid. In time, this wore down and failed to anger or disturb him. The grind settled into habitual misery and torture. He, like the other contestants, would long for fresh air, and during rest periods, when they were not so tired that they would be dragged like walking somnambulists to the rest cots, they would enter the vile and filthy dressing rooms or the equally unsavory lavatory and jam their heads out of the windows to breathe fresh air and to look yearningly down at the street where people walked free to do what they wished, not tired, able to breathe fresh air, even the fresh air of a city street that was saturated with carbon monoxide fumes and sootiness. Day after day dragged on. Sometimes Takiss, Marie, or the other contestants would live in stupors of six, twelve hours a day, even longer. As the time passed, the contestants would switch from affected and overstimulated good spirits to nasty, fighting nervousness, and then into that glaze-eyed stupor. Particularly in those dog hours of the early morning, they would be raw, if awake, and fight and curse. Sex, too, became a growing obsession, and in time was almost mad¬ ness. Living so near to one another, their bodies touching so fre¬ quently, they told smuttier and smuttier jokes. Perversities and desires or propositions for perversities sprang up among them. It became a relentless process of both physical and mental torture. Constipation, diarrhea, sudden inabilities to control their kidneys so that now and then a contestant would be walking around the floor, drugged in sleep, with wet lines down his trousers, or if a girl, down her beach pyjamas, which most of them wore regularly. Broken blood vessels

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and swollen veins in the legs. Headaches, eye troubles, sore throats, fevers, colds. Periods of sweatiness, followed by shivers and chills. And always that returning stupor, caused by sleeplessness and fatigue, and by the dreams and fantasies which they entertained as relief from that endless procession around and around the floor. And at the end of it all, money, the chance to become a celebrity, sex, and clean white bed sheets and a soft, fresh bed. Ways of making money from day to day quickly developed and were used to the utmost so that all of the contestants started bank accounts. Every one of them developed some trick or act, a song, a dance, a stunt of some kind, and after putting it on, they would be showered with money from the crowd. One of the contestants, a raw country youth of Lithuanian origin with a nasal twang to his voice, chewed razor blades as his stunt. Takiss learned a dance. Stores, theaters, and politicians also paid them fees to wear signs or sweaters and jerseys with advertising printed on the front or back. Money was sent to them, mash notes, written in as ignorant and as bad Eng¬ lish as that which Takiss used and wrote in. The various spectators picked favorites, cheered for them, shouted encouragement. And still the days stretched out, past the first month, with con¬ testant after contestant dropping out, and the field narrowing down. One day there would be a birthday party. Another day there was a floor wedding between two of the contestants who had met on the floor, and the wedding provided endless hours of raw jokes and humor about when they would have their wedding night, until, sex-crazed, both of the newlyweds went temporarily out of their heads and the gill screamed until she was dragged off the floor. Disqualified, they were out of the marathon, and a new note was introduced in the humor. Another day, a girl had an abscessed tooth extracted on the floor, and immediately afterward she rejoined the endless walking procession that tramped around and around in this ever dullening stupor. Another day, an Italian boy, who with his wife had entered the marathon because they were both unemployed and had been evicted, required crutches and ran a high fever. With his eyes intense from the fever, with suffering imprinted on his haggard face, he hobbled around and around. After twelve such hours he was forced out by the judges on the advice of a doctor. Again and again Takiss wanted to quit and satisfy himself with the incidental money he had taken in, and as repeatedly he would go patiently on. Like the others, he would fall into that lumbrous sleep, and external means would be necessary to awaken him so that he

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might continue. The male nurses would slap him in the face with wet towels, put his shoes on the wrong feet, strap him into an electric vibrator machine, poke their fingers down his throat, tickle his calloused soles. During one period, his cough developed into a severe cold in the chest. For another period, he was not out of his stupor for three days. And Marie, his partner, experienced the same tortures. They went on. Days and nights, and days and nights, with the field narrowing to thirteen, ten, eight, five, finally two couples. Then Marie collapsed and was carried off the floor and shipped to a hospital, and Takiss was disqualified. They each collected the two hundred and fifty dollars second-place money. After recuperation, Takiss entered other dance marathons, and became a professional. He secured a copy of Yes, We Have No Bananas with a Greek translation, and this, with his dance stunt, became very popular. He was able, with both attractions and with a growing audi¬ ence of fans, to earn from ten to fifteen dollars a day in extra money. Even when he was forced to retire from marathons or was disqualified, he departed with added money. Again the desire to return to his home¬ land like a rich American grew upon him, and now his bank ac¬ count, with foreign exchange rates, would make him very rich in Greece. He was something of a celebrity in this new world of his. His biography and picture appeared in Greek newspapers. A Greek merchant who sold a raisin beverage paid him and Marie each a hundred dollars to be photographed for a newspaper advertisement in which there was their signed testimony that they drank this beverage. He had a run of a week at a small theater on South Halsted Street where there were many Greeks. Takiss became a famous Amer¬ ican Greek. In all, Takiss participated in sixteen dance marathons. In eight of them he collected money and was the winner of a thousand-dollar supermarathon in which only finalists from other marathons were permitted to enter and in which there were no rest periods. He had money now, five thousand dollars. He returned to Greece. But the strain of the marathons had ruined his lungs and he had tuberculosis. Resorts for tuberculosis had been developed in his native mountains, and when he returned it was necessary for him to become a patient in one of them, and the money he had earned was paid out while he lived there with his lungs rotting away on him.

1935

Hurry, Hurry BY ELEANOR CLARK

NO ONE was there when the house began to fall. It was a beautiful June day, warmer than it had been. I remember that people had been particularly expansive that morning as after a thunderstorm. They had gathered on the porch steps at mailtime, exclaiming over and over on the warmth of the sun and the color of the tiger lilies that had just sprung out all over town. One of the ladies, receiving a long-awaited letter from her nephew, had suddenly become very witty and kissed everyone in the store, and this could never have happened on an ordinary day. Naturally it occurred to no one that a disaster was about to take place. The only creature that might have given some warning was the French poodle, de Maupassant, who had been locked in the house and should have sensed that everything was not quite right, but he gave no sign of life until the end. Probably my mother had spoiled him too much by that time. Certainly she loved the dog, especially since the accident that paralyzed one of his paws, so that it was hard for her to deny him anything. People laughed at her for this, and she laughed at herself, but she could always find something in him to excuse her behavior. She loved the aristocracy of him, the way he tossed his luxurious black mane—Louis Quatorze she called it_or drew his shoulders a little together and pointed up his slender glossy snout. In the evening he snuggled at her feet, and then, though in the daytime her profile was too sharp and her green-flecked eyes leapt too quickly to the defense, there was something almost of a madonna in my mother s face. But she had spoiled the dog. In the end he was incapable of serious thought and must have played or slept through the whole catastrophe. The servant spent most of his time writing love letters to the village saxophonist. I too was of no use, partly because I was walking on the hill about half a mile from the house. The other reason is simply that I was not interested. Later when I saw all my mother’s property tumbling to 12

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ruin I did try to concentrate on the tragedy of it: shook myself, rubbed my arms and legs, even kicked my shins and jumped up and down as if my feet were asleep, but with no effect. I spent the entire time— two or three hours it must have been—under a maple tree, and rescued nothing but one silver-backed hand mirror which fell out of an upper window and happened to land in my lap. I think that I was also the last person in the village to be aware that the house, where I was born and spent most of my childhood, was beginning to collapse. I noticed it quite by accident from the hill. The house was swaying very gently, the top of the cobblestone chimney with a graceful and independent motion, rather like the tail of a fish, and the foundations with a more irregular ebb and swell as if the stones were offering a futile resistance to their downfall. The kitchen ell and the wood¬ shed had already gone down, tearing an ugly wound in the north wall and leaving the servants’ quarters exposed. Naturally I made my way back as quickly as possible, but the lane had become so overgrown with sumac and brambles that it was almost half an hour before I reached the road. By that time the whole town was present and the lawn was already clotted with little groups of people (in one place the ladies of the Altar Guild, in an¬ other the three families that lived off the town, and so on) debating the causes of the collapse and the possibilities of doing something about it. My mother was running from one group to another, shaking hands with everyone, receiving advice and expressions of sympathy. She had been at a cocktail party and cut an especially charming figure, with her white picture hat and her flowered print. So much so that for some time—until the front wall actually began to bulge out over the lawn, like a paper bag slowly surcharged with water—most of the peo¬ ple were unable to keep their minds on the disaster and acted as if they were attending an ordinary funeral or tea. Now and then my mother paused in her rounds as hostess, tucking the minister’s arm under hers, and while appearing to cast down her eyes, with one of her green calculating upward Victorian glances managed to caress his face. “Ah Padre,” she sighed, plucking at the black cloth under her fingers, “what a good friend you are,” and added, turning to the church ladies, “He’s the best democrat any of us has ever seen.” The minister, who had also been at the cocktail party and whose cheeks were somewhat flushed, gazed with sly benevolence over his flock, laughed his deep-bellied indifferent laugh, and kissed my mother’s hand. “Ha ha ha, rattled the church ladies, and with one motion, as from a released spring, began to run in tiny

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circles around him, pointing delightedly at his full chest and the rather uncouth vigor of his jaw. “Always joking,” said the minister. Here her house is on the verge of collapse and she talks about democracy! What a woman!” At this the church ladies could no longer control themselves, they rolled and pivoted with laughter, poking each other s corsets and smacking their lips enviously toward my mother. “It’s true, upon my word it’s true!” she cried, one arm to the sky. “He treats us all the same, rich and poor alike! Here’s to Padre!” and she raised her empty hand still higher in a toast. “The best friend this community has ever had!” In the meantime the disintegration of the house was becoming more and more apparent. From the upstairs bedrooms, and even in the pantry and dining room, beams could be heard falling, and already a wide crack was beginning to open diagonally across the front living-room wall, exposing the dust-covered leaves of books, first the historical works and later the vellum-bound editions of Dante, Baudelaire, and Racine. It was this, I think, that first awoke my mother to a real awareness of what was happening. It was not only that the books were threatened with destruction; it was also obvious to eveiyone that their pages had not been cut. Even the town servants noticed it, even Myrtle who was hired for the lowest and heaviest form of cleaning, but Myrtle was a poor half-deformed creature and she would not have dared to smile behind her fingers as the others did. One by one the books fell among the barberry bushes, raising a cloud of greyish powder so stifling that the people nearest were forced to stumble back over the flowerbeds, holding handkerchiefs to their mouths. “Oh good Lord! the books! the books!” my mother gasped. She ran up under the crack in the wall, and holding her white hat with one hand, with the other attempted to catch the volumes as they toppled from their shelves. But they were coming too fast. Many of them, too, fell apart immediately against the outer air, leaving only something like silica dust midway to the ground, so that my mother was soon taken with a violent fit of coughing. At last, reeling and choking under the rain of classics that were now strik¬ ing her head and breasts and shoulders, she was obliged to stagger back toward the road. “A wonderful woman,” the ladies said, and they began to scamper to and fro, picking little bunches of sweet william, wild roses, and delphinium for my mother’s hair. Gratefully she closed her eyes and was nestling her grey curls more warmly against the Padre s lap, when the cobblestone chimney tore itself

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loose from the main beams of the house and crashed through the lower branches of the elms and across the lawn. Immediately my mother sprang up. “George! Burt! Albert!” she called. “Somebody’s got to save my things! Where’s the Fire Department? Fire Department!” The Fire Department was not really a department at all, but a group of farmers who no longer farmed, so they had nothing better to do than to jump on the fire engine as it went by. They were now lying on the grass passing around a bottle of beer and laughing at some story or joke. “George!” my mother wheedled. “Albert! Burt!” and she ran from one to another, prodding and kicking them with her white pointed toe. The firemen looked up slowly at the waving roof and the colonial columns which were beginning to bend like wax candles in the sun, then hoisting their quids all together to the other side of their faces they announced, “It ain’t a fire,” and lay down again, covering their necks against the afternoon sun. “But the highboy!” my mother cried. “The highboy! It belonged to my grandfather, it’s been in my family for two hundred years, my little old Aunt Mary left it to me in her will. She was so weak she could hardly hold up her head, and she whispered to me”—here my mother’s voice broke—“she said, 1 want you to have it, because it’s the loveliest thing I have, and you’re the only one that’s stood by me all these years.’ ” This recital so moved my mother that for a full minute she stood with her face in her hands, sobbing, but perceiving that she had still had no effect on the Fire Department she whipped away the last traces of her grief and turned to hunt out Cedric the servant. Cedric, however, was in no condition to be called upon. The collapse of the kitchen ell, taking with it the entire outer wall of his room, had re¬ vealed him stark naked playing pinochle with one of the summer residents, an incident that he was now trying to explain to the saxophonist. “Cedric!” my mother shouted. “Come here at once!” But just then a shutter fell on Cedric from the attic window and with a moan he dropped to the ground, followed by his friend. Fortunately my mother was spared this scene. She had just remem¬ bered de Maupassant and was threatening to run into the house for him when she was assured that someone had seen someone taking him away. In the end it was Myrtle who went in for the highboy. She was not at all anxious to go, even cried a little when it was first suggested, which was rather a surprise because everyone knew that her life was not worth anything. She had lost four fingers in a meat chopper, so

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perhaps it was the pain she was afraid of, or the noise: it was hard to tell. At any rate, as soon as she heard that the Selectmen had chosen her for the job she began to whimper and for several minutes stood twisting her fingers in her apron, made out of an old pair of bloomers my mother had given her, and chewing her hair. “Oh no,” she muttered to herself, “you don’t see me going in there”—she had the habit of talking to herself while she worked, even told herself long stories sometimes as she cleaned the toilets— “Not me, nossir! They come up to me all together and they says, ‘Now Myrtle,’ they says, ‘you just run along in there and bring out that hairloom. ’Tain’t as heavy as it looks,’ they says, kind of coaxing-like, ‘and mind you don’t smash it on the way out.’ I like that! Mind you don’t smash it, they says, on the way out! And there was the whole house rolling around and a crack in the front big enough to drive a Ford through. Why you could watch the ceiling come down in the parlor, and all the upstairs furniture coming down too, bang! bang! bang! Mind you don’t smash it, they says, on the way out! And do you want to know what I said?” Myrtle placed her crippled hands on her hips and with her eyes fiercely lit up she went on, raising her voice to a scream in order to hear herself above the splintering and crashing of the house. “I says to them, ‘No!’ I stood right up to them and I says, ‘I ain’t going into that house, not if you give me a million dollars I ain’t! And as for what I think of you . . . Yes,” her lower lip began to twitch and her voice dropped suddenly, “as for what I think of you . . But she was now surrounded by all the important people in town, including my mother, the minister, and the schoolteacher—a tiny knifish man with a cone-shaped head and glasses—and realizing that she had been overheard she was taken by a fit of trembling and was unable to go on. “I just got the habit of talking to myself,” she apologized, letting out a choked laugh, and then she began to cry again, with her head hanging and her red stubs pressed into the hair over her eyes. “I have no sympathy with any of them,” said the schoolteacher. “They ought to be horse-whipped, they don’t want to work.” He strode through the crowd, receiving with a wrinkling of his beagle’s nose their murmurs of agreement, tore off a stout black cherry switch and with little nasal shouts, like a cheerleader, began to slash at Myrtle’s ankles. “Oh mercy,” said Cedric. He giggled a little, then with a sob turned back to hide his face. “Oh darling,” he moaned, waving his fingers in the direction of Myrtle who was now hobbling toward the doorway. “It has such dreadful feet!”

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My mother was not wholly in sympathy with the schoolteacher’s tactics. She pushed her arm under Myrtle’s, and half dragging, half comforting her, pressed a dollar bill between her thumb and what was left of her forefinger. “I want you to take this, my dear, and get yourself something pretty.” Without raising her eyes Myrtle took the money and poked it in her shoe. In the doorway a new difficulty arose, the colums and the door¬ frame itself having already collapsed, leaving only an irregular space no bigger than the entrance to a small kennel for Myrtle to pass through. However several white-flanneled husbands now sprang into action, lifted Myrtle over the debris on the stoop, and twisted and heaved her head first into the hall. In less than a minute there was nothing to be seen of her but one soleless shoe with the crisp corner of a dollar bill sticking out at the side. “It seems rather a pity,” the minister murmured, looking at my mother. “Yes,” she hesitated. “Poor dear Myrtle, she’s such a pitiful little creature really and she has so little . . . But of course I can make it up to her.” She smiled, grabbed the dollar, and with a hidden ladylike gesture forced it into the Padre’s reluctant hand. “For the new altar cloths,” she whispered. “I have so little these days, but this much I can do for the community.” For almost half an hour Myrtle fought her way through the wreck¬ age inside the house, trying to reach the highboy in the downstairs guest room. From time to time we could see her face in an upstairs window, perspiration dropping from her hair, or her arm through one of the cracks that were now widening on every wall. “Hurry!” my mother shouted, with increasing anger as one by one her treasures—a Russion ikon, the Dresden china coffee cups, the Renaissance desk brought so tenderly from Florence—fell and were crushed. “Hurry up, Myrtle! Hurry up! Hurry up!” And every time a part of Myrtle came into view the schoolteacher’s eyes brightened and he danced back and forth cracking the black cherry whip above his head. “She’s a good worker but terribly slow,” the ladies agreed, twisting their handker¬ chiefs and criticizing Myrtle’s progress through the house. Some of them, the old New England stock, filled the time more usefully: dusted the grass and bushes where the books had fallen and arranged those that had remained intact in neat piles along the flagstone walk. During this time the front of the house had been bellying more and more out toward the lawn so that it was no longer possible to see into the guest room. “It’s gone!” my mother cried. “Ah, Padre! and she leaned against the minister. But a moment later Myrtle appeared again, this time on all fours, crawling up the circular staircase with

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the highboy on her back. “Bring it down! Down, Myrtle!” All the downstairs exits, however, were blocked: the lower half of the stair¬ case too was caving in, leaving Myrtle hanging by two fingers while with the other hand she struggled to keep the massive piece of fur¬ niture from slipping back into the pit. Now and then over the sounds of falling timber we could hear her groaning and crying out, “Oh Holy Virgin, help . . . Oh blessed mother of God . . Then the whole front of the house squeezed down slowly, and we heard nothing more but the breaking of beams and an underground commotion of water as heavy objects fell through to the cellar. The next and last time that we saw Myrtle she was trying to reach one of the attic windows, still struggling under what must have been a part of the highboy, though it was bashed to a skeleton. Her face was dreadfully distorted, as if she had been pinned under some heavy weight and in freeing herself had pulled her features half ofE. Of her nose there was nothing left but a bloody splinter of bone, and her chin, which had been rather underhung, now stuck out in sharp diagonal, forcing her mouth into an enormous grin. Yet in spite of this it seemed as if she were trying to smile, perhaps out of pride in having salvaged as much as she had. She kept pointing at the mahogany ruin on her back, nodding continually and working her mangled features in an effort at communication. “I can’t bear it,” Cedric said, “they oughtn’t to allow such things,” and he turned yellow and vomited in a patch of lilies. Everyone else was shouting at Myrtle—“Don’t throw it!” “Wrap it in a blanket!” “Let it down here!”—but she had sud¬ denly let go her load. Even from the ground one could see the wild look that came into her eyes, a brilliant hatred aimed down at the crowd. Yet perhaps there was some confusion in it too, for before the wall crashed her face changed again—for a moment she resembled a small wounded animal crying for its life—and she fell with her tornoff wrists lifted up in prayer. The rest of what happened was so sudden that I have no clear recollection of it. I remember that shortly after Myrtle’s death the ladies set to gathering flowers again and made a kind of tiny monu¬ ment of them on the grass, with poor myrtle written in English daisies across the top. The schoolteacher scoffed at this, saying there might have been some sense to it if she had done what she was sent for, but the general opinion was that the ladies had been very kind to think of such a thing. “She was very bitter,” the minister said, “but a good soul too,” and he took the carnation from his buttonhole and tossed it on the mound.

ELEANOR

1 9

CLARK

I think it was at about that time that the French poodle suddenly clawed its way up to the window of my mother’s bedroom, the only part of the house that was still standing. Yapping and rolling his eyes he perched on the swaying sill, his bandaged paw held up and a large drop of yellow liquid rolling down his aristocratic nose. “Moppy! Moppy!” my mother cried, running up under the wall. “Did you think your mummy had forgotten you? Oh Moppy you did, you’re crying! He’s crying,” she repeated, almost crying herself. “He thought I was going to leave him there all by himself. Come to me, my darling, come to your mummy, jump!” I remember the two of them that way: the dog afraid to jump, tossing his ruff and his long silken ears, and my mother in a new flowered print and a picture hat, holding her arms, with an expression of love, almost—I thought at that moment but I am not so sure now—almost a look of fulfillment in her face, which at times made one think of a madonna though the profile was too sharp. And then the last of the house fell and buried them. i938

In Prison BY

ELIZABETH

BISHOP

I CAN scarcely wait for the day of my imprisonment. It is then that my life, my real life, will begin. As Nathaniel Hawthorne says in The Intelligence-Office, “I want my place, my own place, my true place in the world, my proper sphere, my thing which Nature intended me to perform . . . and which I have vainly sought all my lifetime.” But I am not that nostalgic about it, nor have I searched in vain “all my lifetime.” I have known for many years in what direction lie my talents and my “proper sphere,” and I have always eagerly desired to enter it. Once the day has arrived and the formalities are over, I shall know exactly how to set about those duties “Nature intended me to per¬ form.” The reader, or my friends, particularly those who happen to be familiar with my way of life, may protest that for me any actual im¬ prisonment is unnecessary, since I already live, in relationship to society, very much as if I were in a prison. This I cannot deny, but I must simply point out the philosophic difference that exists be¬ tween Choice and Necessity. I may live now as if I were in prison, or I might even go and take lodgings near, or in, a prison and follow the prison routine faithfully in every detail—and still I should be a “minister without portfolio.” The hotel existence I now lead might be compared in many respects to prison life, I believe: there are the corridors, the cellular rooms, the large, unrelated group of people with the different purposes in being there that animate every one of them; but it still displays great differences. And of course in any hotel, even the barest, it is impossible to overlook the facts of “decoration,” the turkey carpets, brass fire-extinguishers, transom-hooks, etc.—it is ridiculous to try to imagine oneself in prison in such surroundings! For example: the room I now occupy is papered with a not unat¬ tractive wall-paper, the pattern of which consists of silver stripes about an inch and a half wide running up and down, the same distance from each other. They are placed over, that is they appear to be in20

ELIZABETH

BISHOP

2 1

side of, a free design of flowering vines which runs all over the wall against a faded brown background. Now at night, when the lamp is turned on, these silver stripes catch the light and glisten and seem to stand out a little, or rather, in a little, from the vines and flowers, apparently shutting them off from me. I could almost imagine my¬ self, if it would do any good, in a large silver bird-cage! But that is parody, a fantasy on my real hopes and ambitions. One must be in-, that is the primary condition. And yet I have known of isolated villages, or island towns, in our Southern states, where the prisoners are not really imprisoned at all! They are dressed in a distinctive uniform, usually the familiar picturesque suit of horizontal black and white stripes with a rimless cap of the same material, and sometimes, but not always, a leg iron. Then they are deliberately set at large every morning to work at assigned tasks in the town, or to pick up such odd jobs for themselves as they can. I myself have seen them, pumping water, cleaning streets, even helping house¬ wives wash the windows or shake the carpets. One of the most ef¬ fective scenes that I have ever seen, for color-contrast, was a group of these libertine convicts, in their black and white stripes, spraying, or otherwise tending to, a large clump of tropical shrubbery on the lawn of a public building. There were several varieties of bushes and plants in the arrangement, each of which had either brilliantly colored or conspicuously marked leaves. One bush, I remember, had long, knife-like leaves, twisting as they grew into loose spirals, the upper side of the leaf magenta, the under an ochre yellow. Another had large, flat, glossy leaves, dark green, on which were scrawled magnificent arabesques in lines of chalk-yellow. These designs, contrasting with the bold stripes of the prison uniform, made an extraordinary, if florid, picture. But the prisoners, if such they could be called—there must have hung over their lives the perpetual irksomeness of all half-measures, of “not knowing where one is at.” They had one rule: to report back to the jail, as “headquarters,” at nine o’clock, in order to be locked up for the night; and I was given to understand that it was a fairly frequent occurrence for one or two, who arrived a few minutes too late, to be locked out for the night!—when they would sometimes re¬ turn to their homes, if they came from the same district, or else drop down and sleep on the very steps of the jail they were supposed to be secured in. But this shortsighted and shiftless conception of the mean¬ ing of prison could never satisfy me; I could never consent to submit to such terms of imprisonment—no, never!

22

THE

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Perhaps my ideas on the subject may appear too exacting. It may seem ridiculous to you for me to be laying down the terms of my own imprisonment in this manner. But let me say that I have given this subject much of my thought and attention for several years, and I be¬ lieve that I am speaking not entirely from selfish motives. Books about imprisonment I like perhaps the best of all literature, and I have read a great many; although of course one is often disappointed in them in spite of the subject matter. Take The Enormous Room. How I envied the author of that book! But there was something artificial about it, something that puzzled me considerably until I realized that it was due to the fact that the author had had an inner conviction of his eventual release all during the period of his imprisonment—a flaw, or rather an air bubble, that was bound by his own nature to reach the surface and break. The same reason may account for the perpetual presence of the sense of humor that angered me so much. I believe that I like humor as well as the next person, but it has always seemed a great pity to me that so many intelligent people now believe that everything that can happen to them must be funny. This belief first undermines conversation and letter-writing and makes them monot¬ onous, and then penetrates deeper, to corrupt our powers of observa¬ tion and comprehension—or so I believe. The Count of Monte Cristo I once enjoyed very much, although

now I doubt that I should be able to read it through, with its ex¬ posure of “an injustice,” its romantic tunnel-digging, treasure-hunting, etc. However, since I feel that I may well be very much in its debt, and I do not wish to omit or slight any influence, even a childish one, I set the title down here. The Ballad of Reading Gaol was an¬ other of the writings on this subject which I never could abide—it seemed to me to bring in material that although perhaps of great human interest, had nothing whatever to do with the subject at hand. That little tent of blue, Which prisoners call the sky,” strikes me as absolute nonsense. I believe that even a keyhole of sky would be enough, in its blind, blue endlessness, to give someone, even someone who had never seen it before, an adequate idea of the sky; and as for calling it the sky we all call it the sky, do we not; I see nothing pa¬ thetic whatever about that, as I am evidently supposed to. Rather give me Dostoevski’s House of tfte Dead, or Prison Life in Siberia. Even if there seems to have been some ambiguity about the status of prisoners there, at least one is in the hands of an authority who realizes the limitations and possibilities of his subject. As for the frequently pub¬ lished best-sellers by warders, executioners, turn-keys, etc., I have

ELIZABETH

BISHOP

23

never read any of them, being determined to uphold my own point of view, and not wanting to introduce any elements of self-consciousness into my future behavior that I could possibly avoid. I should like a cell about twelve or fifteen feet long, by six feet wide. The door would be at one end, the window, placed rather high, at the other, and the iron bed along the side—I see it on the left, but of course it could perfectly well be on the right. I might or might not have a small table, or shelf, let down by ropes from the wall just under the window, and by it a chair. I should like the ceiling to be fairly high. The walls I have in mind are interestingly stained, peeled, or otherwise disfigured; gray or whitewashed, blueish, yellowish, even green—but I only hope they are of no other color. The prospect of un¬ painted boards with their possibilities of various grains, can sometimes please me, or stone in slabs or irregular shapes. I run the awful risk of a red brick cell; however, whitewashed or painted bricks might be quite agreeable, particularly if they had not been given a fresh coat for some time and here and there the paint had fallen off, revealing, in an irregular but beveled frame (made by previous coats) the regu¬ larity of the brick-work beneath. About the view from the window: I once went to see a room in the Asylum of the Mausoleum where the painter V- had been confined for a year, and what chiefly impressed me about this room, and gave rise to my own thoughts on the subject, was the view. My traveling companion and I reached the Asylum in the late afternoon and were admitted to the grounds by a nun, but a family, living in a small house of their own, seemed to be in charge. At our calls they rushed out, four of them, eating their dinner and talking to us at the same time with their mouths full. They stood in a row, and at the end of it their little black and white kitten was busy scratching in the dirt. It was “an animated scene.” The daughter, age eight, and a younger brother, each carrying and eating half a long loaf of bread, were to show us around. We first went through several long, dark, cellarlike halls, painted yellow, with the low blue doors of the cells along one side. The floors wtere of stone; the paint was peeling every¬ where, but the general effect was rather solemnly pretty. The room we had come to see was on the ground floor. It might have been very sad if it had not been for the two little children who rushed back and forth, chewing their bites of white bread and trying to outdo each other in telling us what everything was. But I am wandering from my subject, which was the view from the window of this room: It opened directly onto the kitchen-garden of the institution and beyond it

24

THE

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READER

stretched the open fields. A row of cypresses stood at the right. It was rapidly growing dark (and even as we stood there it grew too dark to find our way out if it had not been for the children) but I can still see as clearly as in a photograph the beautiful completeness of the view from that window: the shaven fields, the black cypress, and the group of swallows posed dipping in the gray sky—only the fields have retained their faded color. As a view it may well have been ideal, but one must take all sorts of things into consideration, and consoling and inspirational as that scene may have been, I do not feel that what is suited to an asylum is necessarily suited to a prison. That is, because I expect to go to prison in possession of my “faculties”—in fact it is not until I am securely installed there that I expect fully to realize them—I feel that something a little less rustic, a little harsher, might be of more use to me personally. But it is a difficult question, and one that is probably best decided, as of course it must be, by chance alone. What I should like best of all, I might as well confess, would be a view of a courtyard paved with stone. I have a fondness for stone court¬ yards that amounts almost to a passion. If I were not to be imprisoned I should at least attempt to make that part of my dream a reality; I should want to live in a farmhouse such as I have seen in foreign countries, a farmhouse with an absolutely bare stone platform attached to it, the stones laid in a simple pattern of squares or diamonds. An¬ other pattern I admire is interlocking cobblestone fans, with a border of larger stones set around the edge. But from my cell window I should prefer, say, a lozenge design, outlined by long stones, the interior of the lozenges made of cobbles, and the pattern narrowing away from my windows towards the distant wall of the prison yard. The rest of my scenery would be the responsibility of the weather alone, although I should rather face the east than the west since I prefer sunrises to sun¬ sets. Then, too, it is by looking towards the east that one obtains the most theatrical effects from a sunset, in my opinion. I refer to the fifteen minutes or half an hour of heavy gold in which any object can be made to look magically significant. If the reader can tell me of any¬ thing more beautiful than a stone courtyard lit obliquely in this way so that the shallowly rounded stones each cast a small shadow but the general surface is thickly sanded with gold, and a pole casts a long, long shadow and a limp wire an unearthly one—I beg him to. I undei stand that most prisons are now supplied with libraries and that the prisoners are expected to read the Everyman’s Library and other books of educational tendencies. I hope I am not being too

ELIZABETH

BISHOP

25

reactionary when I say that my one desire is to be given one very dull book to read, the duller the better. A book, moreover, on a subject completely foreign to me; perhaps the second volume, if the first would familiarize me too well with the terms and purpose of the work. Then I shall be able to experience with a free conscience the pleasure, per¬ verse as it may be, of interpreting it not at all according to its intent. Because I share with Valery’s M. Teste the “knowledge that our thoughts are reflected back to us, too much so, through expressions made by others”; and I have resigned myself to deriving what informa¬ tion and joy I can from this—lamentable but irremediable—state of affairs. From my one detached rocklike book I shall be able to draw vast generalizations, abstractions of the grandest, most illuminating sort, like allegories or poems, and by posing fragments of it against the surroundings and conversations of my prison, I shall be, able to form my own examples of surrealist art—something I should never know how to do outside, where the sources are so bewildering. Perhaps it will be a book on the cure of a disease, or an industrial technique— but no, even to try to imagine the subject would be to spoil the sen¬ sation of wavelike freshness I hope to receive when it is first placed in my hands. Writing on the wall: I have formulated very definite ideas on this important aspect of prison life, and have already composed sentences and paragraphs (which I cannot give here) I hope to be able to in¬ scribe on the walls of my cell. First, however, even before looking into the book mentioned above, I shall read very carefully (or try to read, since they may be partly obliterated, or in a foreign language) the in¬ scriptions already there. Then I shall adapt my own compositions, in order that they may not conflict with those written by the prisoner before me. The voice of a new inmate will be noticeable, but there will be no contradictions or criticisms of what has already been laid down, rather a “commentary.” I have thought of attempting a short, but immortal, poem, but I am afraid that is beyond me; I may rise to the occasion, however, oncfe I am confronted with that stained, smeared, scribbled-on wall and feel the stub of pencil or rusty nail between my fingers. Perhaps I shall arrange my “works

in a series

of neat inscriptions in a clear, Roman print; perhaps I shall write them diagonally, across a corner, or at the base of a wall and half on the floor, in an almost illegible scrawl. They will be brief, suggestive, anguished, but full of the lights of revelation. And no small part of the joy these writings will give me will.be to think of the person com-

26

THE

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READER

ing after me—the legacy of thoughts I shall leave him, like an old bundle tossed carelessly into a corner! Once I dreamed that I was in Hell. It was a low, Netherlands-like country, all the marsh-grass a crude artificial green, lit by brilliant but almost horizontal sunlight. I was dressed in an unbecoming costume of gray cotton: trousers of an awkward length and a shirt hanging out¬ side them, and my hair cut close. I suffered constantly from extreme dizziness, because the horizon (and this was how I knew I was in Hell) was at an angle of forty-five degrees. Although this useless tale may not seem to have much connection with my theme, I include it simply to illustrate the manner in which I expect my vision of the outside world to be miraculously changed when I first hear my cell door locked be¬ hind me, and I step to the window to take my first look out. I shall manage to look just a little different in my uniform from the rest of the prisoners. I shall leave the top button of the shirt un¬ done, or roll the long sleeves half-way between wrist and elbow—some¬ thing just a little casual, a little Byronic. On the other hand, if that is already the general tone in the prison, I shall affect a severe, mechan¬ ical neatness. My carriage and facial expression will be influenced by the same motive. There is, however, no insincerity in any of this; it is my conception of my role in prison life. It is entirely a different thing from being a “rebel” outside the prison; it is to be unconventional, rebellious perhaps, but in shades and inflections. By means of these beginnings, these slight differences, and the appeal (do not think I am boasting here, or overestimating the power of de¬ tails, because I have seen it work over and over again) of my carefully subdued, reserved manner, I shall attract myself one intimate friend, whom I shall influence deeply. This friend, already an important member of the prison society, will be of great assistance to me in es¬ tablishing myself as an authority, recognized but unofficial, on the conduct of prison life. It may take years before I command a wider in¬ fluence, but possibly—and this is what I dare to hope—I shall find the prison in such a period of its evolution that being thought of as an evil influence will be unavoidable. . . . Perhaps they will laugh at me, as they laughed at the Vicar of Wakefield; but of course, just at first, I should like nothing better! Many years ago I discovered that I could “succeed” in one place, but not in all places, and never, never could I succeed “at large.” In the world, for example, I am very much under the influence of dress, absurd as that may be. But in a place where all dress alike I have the gift of being able to develop a “style” of my own, something that is

ELIZABETH

27

BISHOP

even admired and imitated by others. The longer my sentence, al¬ though I constantly find myself thinking of it as a life sentence, the more slowly shall I go about establishing myself, and the more certain are my chances of success. Ridiculous as it sounds, and is, I am looking forward to directing the prison dramatic association, or being on the baseball team. But in the same way that I was led to protest against the ambiguity of the position of those prisoners who were in and out of prison at the same time (I have even seen their wives washing their striped trousers and hanging them on the line!) I should bitterly object to any change or break in my way of life. If, for example, I should be¬ come ill and have to go to the prison infirmary, or if shortly after my arrival I should be moved to a different cell—either of these accidents would seriously upset me, and I should have to begin my work all over again. Quite naturally under these circumstances I have often thought of joining our Army or Navy. I have stood on the sidewalk an hour at a time, studying the posters of the recruiting offices: the oval portrait of a soldier or sailor surrounded by scenes representing his “life.” But the sailor, I understand, may be shifted from ship to ship without so much as a by-your-leave; and then too, I believe that there is something fundamentally uncongenial about the view of the sea to a person of my mentality. In the blithe photographs surrounding the gallant head of the soldier I have glimpsed him “at work” building roads, peeling potatoes, etc. Aside from the remote possibilities of active service, those pictures alone would be enough to deter me from entering his ranks. You may say—people have said to me—you would have been happy in the more flourishing days of the religious order, and that, I imagine, is close to the truth. But even there I hesitate, and the difference be¬ tween Choice and Necessity jumps up again to confound me. “Free¬ dom is knowledge of necessity”; I believe nothing as ardently as I do that. And I assure you that to act in this way is the only logical step for me to take. I mean, of course, to be acted upon in this way is the /

only logical step for me to take. *938

Knoxville: Summer of 1915 BY

JAMES

AGEE

WE ARE talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child. It was a little bit mixed sort of block, fairly solidly lower middle class, with one or two juts apiece on either side of that. The houses corresponded: middle-sized gracefully fretted wood houses built in the late nineties and early nineteen hundreds, with small front and side and more spacious back yards, and trees in the yards, and porches. These were soft-wooded trees, poplars, tulip trees, cottonwoods. There were fences around one or two of the houses, but mainly the yards ran into each other with only now and then a low hedge that wasn’t doing very well. There were few good friends among the grown people, and they were not poor enough for the other sort of intimate acquaintance, but everyone nodded and spoke, and even might talk short times, trivially, and at the two extremes of the general or the particular, and ordinarily nextdoor neighbors talked quite a bit when they happened to run into each other, and never paid calls. The men were mostly small businessmen, one or two very modestly executives, one or two worked with their hands, most of them clerical, and most of them be¬ tween thirty and forty-five. But it is of these evenings, I speak. Supper was at six and was over by half past. There was still daylight, shining softly and with a tarnish, like the lining of a shell; and the carbon lamps lifted at the corners were on in the light, and the locusts were started, and the fireflies were out, and a few frogs were flopping in the dewy grass, by the time the fathers and the children came out. The children ran out first hell bent and yelling those names by which they were known; then the fathers sank out leisurely in crossed sus¬ penders, their collars removed and their necks looking tall and shy. The mothers stayed back in the kitchen washing and drying, putting things away, recrossing their traceless footsteps like the lifetime journeys of bees, measuring out the dry cocoa for breakfast. When 28

JAMES

AGEE

29

they came out they had taken off their aprons and their skirts were dampened and they sat in rockers on their porches quietly. It is not of the games children play in the evening that I want to speak now, it is of a contemporaneous atmosphere that has little to do with them: that of the fathers of families, each in his space of lawn, his shirt fishlike pale in the unnatural light and his face nearly anonymous, hosing his lawn. The hoses were attached at spigots that stood out of the brick foundations of the houses. The nozzles were variously set but usually so there was a long sweet stream of spray, the nozzle wet in the hand, the water trickling the right forearm and the peeled-back cuff, and the water whishing out a long loose and lowcurved cone, and so gentle a sound. First an insane noise of violence in the nozzle, then the still irregular sound of adjustment, then the smoothing into steadiness and a pitch as accurately tuned to the size and style of stream as any violin. So many qualities of sound out of one hose: so many choral differences out of those several hoses that were in earshot. Out of any one hose, the almost dead silence of the release, and the short still arch of the separate big drops, silent as a held breath, and the only noise the flattering noise on leaves and the slapped grass at the fall of each big drop. That, and the intense hiss with the in¬ tense stream; that, and that same intensity not growing less but grow¬ ing more quiet and delicate with the turn of the nozzle, up to that ex¬ treme tender whisper when the water was just a wide bell of film. Chiefly, though, the hoses were set much alike, in a compromise be¬ tween distance and tenderness of spray (and quite surely a sense of art behind this compromise, and a quiet, deep joy, too real to recognize it¬ self) and the sounds therefore were pitched much alike; pointed by the snorting start of a new hose; decorated by some man playful with the nozzle; left empty, like God by the sparrow’s fall, when any single one of them desists: and all, though near alike, of various pitch; and in this unison. These sweet pale streamings in the light lift out their pallors and their voices all together, mothers hushing their children, the hushing unnaturally prolonged, the men gentle and silent and each snail-like withdrawn into the quietude of what he singly is doing, the urination of huge children stood loosely military against an invisible wall, and gently happy and peaceful, tasting the mean goodness of their living like the last of their suppers in their mouths; while the locusts carry on this noise of hoses on their much higher and sharper key. The noise of the locust is dry, and it seems not to be rasped or vibrated but urged from him as if through a small orifice by a breath that can never give out. Also there is never one locust but an illusion

30

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READER

of at least a thousand. The noise of each locust is pitched in some classic locust range out of which none of them varies more than two full tones: and yet you seem to hear each locust discrete from all the rest, and there is a long, slow, pulse in their noise, like the scarcely defined arch of a long and high set bridge. They are all around in every tree, so that the noise seems to come from nowhere and every¬ where at once, from the whole shell heaven, shivering in your flesh and teasing your eardrums, the boldest of all the sounds of night. And yet it is habitual to summer nights, and is of the great order of noises, like the noises of the sea and of the blood her precocious grandchild, which you realize you are hearing only when you catch yourself listen¬ ing. Meantime from low in the dark, just outside the swaying horizons of the hoses, conveying always grass in the damp of dew and its strong green-black smear of smell, the regular yet spaced noises of the crick¬ ets, each a sweet cold silver noise three-noted, like the slipping each time of three matched links of a small chain. But the men by now, one by one, have silenced their hoses and drained and coiled them. Now only two, and now only one, is left, and you see only ghostlike shirt with the sleeve garters, and sober mystery of his mild face like the lifted face of large cattle enquiring of your presence in a pitchdark pool of meadow; and now he too is gone; and it has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds’ hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt: a loud auto: a quiet auto: people in pairs, not in a hurry, scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard, and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squared with clowns in hueless amber. A streetcar raising its iron moan; stopping; belling and starting, ster¬ torous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swim¬ ming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter; fainting, lifting, lifts, faints foregone: forgotten. Now is the night one blue dew. Now is the night one blue dew, my father has drained, he has coiled the hose. Low on the length of lawns, a fraiiing of fire who breathes.

JAMES

3 1

AGEE

Content, silver, like peeps of light, each cricket makes his comment over and over in the drowned grass. A cold toad thumpily flounders. Within the edges of damp shadows of side yards are hovering children nearly sick with joy of fear, who watch the unguarding of a tele¬ phone pole. Around white carbon corner lamps bugs of all sizes are lifted elliptic, solar systems. Big hardshells bruise themselves, assailant: he is fallen on his back, legs squiggling. Parents on porches: rock and rock. From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces. The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once en¬ chants my eardrums. On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there. First we were sitting up, then one of us lay down, and then we all lay down, on our stomachs, or on our sides, or on our backs, and they have kept on talking. They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very clear. All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away. After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am. i9B8

Rachel’s Summer BY CHARLES JACKSON

MY SISTER Rachel was dead at sixteen. It was a tremendous event in our town, and in our family too, of course; and though it all happened more than twenty years ago, now, I believe I could re¬ member, and set down, everything that was said or done in our house during those three days between her death and the funeral. Even con¬ versations I can remember; and who was there, of all our relatives and neighbors; and what people wore and how they behaved—during every hour from Sunday afternoon, when the thing happened, till the funeral was over on Wednesdav. I well knew that we had all been thrown into the limelight, as it were, by Rachel’s death, and that we were the talk of the town. Consequently when I spoke I was careful to speak with effect, and act as people expected me to act, with the proper amount of drama, so that nobody would be disappointed. That is probably why I remember everything so clearly. I was so busy thinking about myself and the impression I made that I didn’t have much time to think of Rachel. It had happened on Sunday, late in October—one of those amazing warm and lovely days that return suddenly, just before winter, to tell us of the end of summer long after summer is ended. In those days people drove out in their cars on Sunday, inviting friends or neighbors for a drive into the country, or to call on someone in the next town. Rachel had been asked to go riding by the Gove family, Wilson Gove and his father and mother; and about three o’clock they drove away, Mr. and Mrs. Gove in the front seat, Rachel and Wilson in back. An hour later, returning to town from nearby Palmyra, the car overturned coming down the East Palmyra hill and Rachel was thrown out and killed. \ It was a tragedy in the town for many reasons, and I was old enough to know most of them. Rachel was the only daughter in a family of four boys. She was young, of course, and very beautiful: people used to stop Mother on the street and tell her how beautiful /

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Rachel was getting to be, and Mr. Brittain the minister would say Rachel was going to be a beautiful woman “almost any day now,” wag¬ ging his finger at Mother in playful warning; and I myself remember how sometimes I would look at her across the supper table and sud¬ denly think that Rachel—my own sister that I quarreled with so much—was the most vivid and alive creature I had ever seen. And an¬ other reason was that my father had left home that year and his absence made my sister’s death a greater tragedy for my mother. The day after Rachel died—that wonderful Indian-summer Sunday— winter descended at once, with a heavy snowfall in the night, so that we looked out in the morning to white lawns and streets, and the side¬ walks had to be shoveled, and kids got out their sleds, and chains had to be put on the cars that drove us over Asylum Hill and down to the cemetery that freezing Wednesday afternoon. Mother said it seemed only fitting and proper that winter should come now: summer was in¬ deed over. The night before Rachel was buried we were taken in for one last look at her, as Mother didn’t want us to be around downstairs on the day of the funeral, when the house was filled with inquisitive neigh¬ bors and townspeople and all the hundreds of school children who filed in and out of the front room for an hour and a half before the service. We stood around the open coffin, Mother and we four boys and our father, who had come home for a few days just to make things look right, and I remember Mother didn’t cry or make a sound as we stood there. The room was heavy with the smell of floral pieces, al¬ most sickish with it. I looked at Rachel, lying so still and beautiful in her white dress with the yellow flowers in it, and all I could think of was Elaine or Juliet, and I wanted to say something about them. A quotation sprang into my mind and I had to hang onto myself hard to keep from saying it: “Death lies on her like an untimely frost, Upon the sweetest flower of all the field” —which is exactly the way it'was, but for once I had enough sense to keep my mouth shut. After awhile Mother said, “And now you’d better go to bed, boys. Grandma’ll get you something to eat if you want it.” We left the room in silence, acutely uncomfortable because our father had begun to weep. The next night, the funeral over, we were having supper in the dining room. There was a neighbor there by the name of Mrs. Kirtle, and our grandmother, Father, the four of us boys, and Mother. Mrs.

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Kirtle had been very busy the past three days doing things for us, running in with hot dishes, ordering this and that for the house, tell¬ ing callers how wonderfully Mother was bearing up, and taking charge generally. She was a very active woman in the town, and was president of the Garden Club and also of the Shakespeare Club. People said she had been an opera singer in her youth, and there was a picture of her on her parlor wall dressed in a Japanese kimono, with a fan, and paper chrysanthemums behind her ears. It didn’t look like her now, but those small beady eyes peeping over the fan were Mrs. Kirtle’s all right. I was looking at a pin Mother was wearing on her black silk blouse and Mother must have thought I was looking at the blouse, because she said, “Don’t worry, son. I won’t be wearing black after today.” She turned to my grandmother and said, “The boys don’t like me in black—” and then she began to cry, the first we had seen her cry since Sunday. My father got up from the table and came around to Mother and put his hand on her shoulder, saying, “That’s right, Ellen, let yourself go. It’s just what you need.” “Yes, it will be good for you,” my grandmother said. “Don’t mind the boys.” Mother sobbed on and on, shaking her head from side to side, her fingers held to her temples. Tears fell to the tablecloth and Mrs. Kirtle got up and pressed a handkerchief into Mother’s hand. The sobbing continued unabated for it must have been three or four min¬ utes, when Mrs. Kirtle said the thing that made Mother stop crying. “Think how good it was of God,” Mrs. Kirtle said, “to keep Rachel home with you all summer. You must comfort yourself with that, Ellen.” We knew what Mrs. Kirtle meant. Every year since Rachel was a little girl she had spent the summer at Grandmother’s farm in the Catskills—every summer, from the first of June till school opened in September. But this year, for some reason that we boys didn’t know, Rachel stayed home. Mother had planned to let her go, the same as usual, and all during the spring Rachel had talked about it and looked forward to her summer at Grandmother’s farm. Then, the last of May, just a few days before she was to leave. Mother changed her mind, saying that Rachel would have to stay home for the summer the same as the rest of us. I remember we didn’t think much of it at the time; but I remember, too, that Rachel was hopping mad, at first, and cried a lot when she couldn’t go, and cried often during that summer

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too. It seemed that she changed, then, and became a little older and more grown-up—she acted sort of aloof and thoughtful all the time, and wouldn’t play with us the way she used to, or go for hikes into the country with us, as we had been doing since we were little kids— those wonderful hikes that she had always loved before. Or maybe she didn’t really change at all and I only say this because of what I know now. I don’t know. I only know that though she didn’t go away that slimmer, and so could have gone on more hikes with us than ever, she never went on another hike again. Anyway, when Mrs. Kirtle said that, about God keeping Rachel home with Mother, we knew what she meant, and it did seem right, too. It seemed God must have known what was going to happen and so kept Rachel home for what was to be her last summer. It made me feel kind of good, even, when I thought of this; you could feel almost happy about it, if you, wanted to, and it wouldn't be wrong, either. Mother put her hands down from her head and sat straight up. There was no sob or weeping in her voice now. “It wasn’t God who kept Rachel home this summer,” she said. “You know that as well as I do, Doris Kirtle.” “Why, Ellen, don’t misunder— You know what I mean,” Mrs. Kirtle said. “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” I knew the rest of that. “His wonders to perform,” it went, because I had heard Mr. Brittain say it during the funeral service and I thought it the most wonderful thing I had ever heard. “Rachel’s summer—Rachel’s summer,” Mother went on. “That’s all I’ve been able to think of since it happened. That’s the whole—” “Now now, Ellen,” interrupted my father. “You mustn’t think of it.” “My darling Rachel, and that terrible terrible summer,” my mother cried. “If God had had his way, Rachel wouldn’t have stayed home. Oh, why didn’t I let her go?” My grandmother got up from the table. “Come on, boys,” she said. “I think we’d better go upstairs, don’t you? Your mother’s tired out.” Mother reached up and took Grandmother’s arm. “Wait a minute. Mama, I want to say something.” She looked at us—for quite awhile, it seemed—and then she said, “Listen, boys. Your sister was a wonder¬ ful girl. Do you hear?” She nodded, as if answering herself. “A wonder¬ ful girl. I want you to remember that.” It was a dreadfully solemn moment, I don’t know why. My knees were shaking, and then my little brother, who was eight, began to cry. “Don’t cry, son,” Mother said. “I only want to tell you—and you to

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know—what a wonderful girl Rachel was. You must be proud that you had such a sister.” “Never mind, Ellen,” my father said. “Look, you’re scaring them.” “No I’m not—am I, boys? And some day, when you’re older, I want to tell you something about Rachel, something you should know. You’re not old enough now, but some day you’ll know what a wonder¬ ful sister you had.” My grandmother patted Mother’s shoulder. “Yes, dear,” she said. “They know now, don’t you boys?—But look, it’s past our bedtime. Come, I’ll go up with you.” We went up to bed and for an hour thereafter, and maybe longer, I lay in my bed in the dark, thinking of what Mother had said. I knew all about this I’ll-tell-you-when-you’re-older stuff. It was Mother’s in¬ variable answer to questions that were embarrassing or that she didn’t know the answer to. I had heard it ever since I was old enough to ask questions, and now I didn’t pay any attention to it any more. When Mother would say, “I’ll tell you when you’re older,” I knew she was putting me off and also that it didn’t matter: sooner or later I’d find out for myself. Like the question about babies. For some years I had been asking where babies came from (Mother has told me that I asked earlier, and more often, than any of the other children) and she would answer, “You’re too young. I’ll tell you when you’re old enough to know.” Maybe it was wrong of her not to tell me, but at least she didn’t give me those silly answers about storks and things, that other boys’ mothers gave them. I was answered, and I guess it was as good a way as any. So now when she said this about Rachel, I didn’t think of it much, believing it was just another one of those things that I’d discover for myself before Mother got around to it. I didn’t even think of it at all. Instead I lay thinking of something else that Mother had said: “Your sister was a wonderful girl. I want you to remember that.” I’d remember it, all right. I’d never forget it. I was well aware of Rachel’s distinction, both in the town in general and in our own house. She was easily the outstanding member of the family, everybody no¬ ticed her all the time, everywhere, and I remember my mother used to say that she got tired of being known simply as “Rachel’s mother” when people stopped her bn the street and said, “You’re Rachel’s mother, aren’t you,” and went on to tell her how proud she must be to be the mother of such a wonderful girl. She was wonderful, but I knew many reasons why she was wonderful that my mother didn’t know at all.

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I knew that downtown when boys whistled at her, boys from the other side of the canal, Rachel didn’t get cross or blush or look away or stick up her nose and refuse to notice, the way other girls did. In¬ stead, Rachel would look up and see who it was had whistled, and smile right back, and even wave, maybe. They thought this was swell, and I did too.—I knew that when all we kids went on a hike into the country, even though there were boys in the bunch, and some of us al¬ most as old as she was, Rachel was the one who would be first to go into a field where there was a cow that might be a bull. We’d all stand on the outside of the fence, looking into the field, but Rachel would climb right over, the first thing, and go right up to the cow and pat it or hand it some grass, and then when we saw that it was all right, we’d climb over too. I don’t know whether or not she always knew, but any¬ way she wasn’t afraid. And then there was another thing I knew that Mother didn’t know and I was glad she didn’t. Rachel told a lie once and all of us knew that it was a lie but Mother, who wasn’t sure. That was a couple of years before, when Rachel was about thirteen or fourteen. Mother thought maybe it was a lie but she didn’t have proof, and so she asked Rachel if she would swear on the Bible that she was telling the truth. Rachel said yes, she would. Mother said, “All right, bring me the Bible.” We kids were all scared to death—all of us, that is, but Rachel. She walked right into the dining room and got the Bible from the lower shelf of the sideboard and brought it to Mother. Mother asked Rachel if she knew the seriousness of what she was doing and Rachel said yes. Mother took the Bible and set it in her lap. Then she said, “Put your hand on this and swear that you’re telling me the truth.” I almost didn’t dare look, but I had to. Rachel put her hand right on the Bible, looked straight at Mother, and said, “I swear.” There was a terrible silence. I think Mother was scared too. She looked it. Or maybe not scared, but something like it—worried, maybe. “You swear what,” she said. “I swear I’m telling the truth,” said Rachel. Mother looked back at Rachel for a minute and then she sighed, probably glad that it was over. We were. Then she said, “All right, you can put it back now.” Rachel took the Bible from Mother’s lap anc walked back to the dining room with it, looking just as she had before. There had been no lightning or thunder or anything, and she hadn’t changed a bit. These are the things I was thinking of as I lay in bed that night after the funeral. But only for a little while, because then I re¬ membered that tomorrow I was going back to school and I was glad.

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I looked forward to that, seeing all the kids and having them see me. I was a hero, kind of, and they would all pay a lot of attention to me. I mean there had been a death in the family and everybody knew it, and all the school kids, and the teachers too, would want to look at me and watch me and see how I acted. Only the day before, when I was returning some dishes to Mrs. Kirtle s house, I met one of the kids who lived up the street and he stopped and wanted to talk with me. He stood there on the sidewalk looking at me in a funny way, and then he said: “I saw something on your front door when I came home from school yesterday.” There was a kind of gleam in his eye, and he was al¬ most grinning. “It’s still there,” he said. I didn’t say anything and he kept on staring, peering at me closely as if he expected me to do something. I turned and walked on. “I guess it won’t be there to¬ morrow,” he called after me, as I went into Mrs. Kirtle’s house. We kind of pretended the next day that we didn’t want to go back to school. Mother said it was customary for children to stay home a week when there had been a death in the family, and we could have, too, and it would have been all right with our teachers, but she said we must return to school the day after the funeral because she wanted us all to get back to normal as soon as possible, just as if nothing had happened. So we did. But it wasn’t as if nothing had happened, of course. One morning about a week later the teacher called me up to her desk and asked if I didn’t want to look at a certain book she had, with beautiful colored pictures in it. I said yes and thank you and started to take it back to my seat. She said, “No, sit here and look at it, at my desk”; and because it was an honor to sit at the teacher’s desk I sat down feeling proud and began to look at the pictures, all the while thinking this was just part of her being extra nice to me, as she had been all week, ever since I came back. Then I began to realize that something was happening in the room. The kids were all completely still, there wasn’t even any whispering, and out of the corner of my eye I saw that something was being passed from seat to seat, up one row and down another. “See, isn’t this a nice one,” the teacher said, leaning over my shoulder and pointing to one of the pictures. I looked at it, wondering what was happening in the room, what was going on. And then, somehow, I knew. It Was the card of thanks that Mother had had printed and mailed to all the people who’d sent flowers when Rachel died, and of course one had been sent to each class in school. Now it was being passed around the room for the kids to read. I knew then why everyone was so solemn and quiet, and why each one of them

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looked up at me as he finished reading the card and passed it on to the next one. I pretended I didn’t know, though, and after a minute I turned away from the book as if I had lost interest in it and looked out of the window, staring into the sky with a sad faraway look till the business of passing the card was finished and the teacher said it was now time to take up geography. This was the sort of thing that happened often after the funeral, a lot of things like that the first few months, and longer, even, so that for years afterward we were always kind of conspicuous because of Rachel’s death, and treated with special kindness by people, or special attention. Most of all we were noticed by Mr. Brittain, our minister, who always stopped us kids in the street whenever we met him and wanted to talk with us. He would stand there for some time, holding our hands and asking how Mother was and how we were, though he must have seen us only a few days before at Sunday school and saw us regularly every week there. This was the more odd because Mother, for some strange reason, had given up going to church after Rachel died, and never went again. I thought it was maybe because seeing Mr. Brittain up in the pulpit reminded her too much of the funeral and Rachel; and I thought so all the more when one afternoon, some months later, Mr. Brittain called at our house and Mother asked me to answer the door and tell him she' wasn’t home. She didn’t want to see him again, and as far as I know she never did. At least she didn’t go to church any more and after a couple more tries he never called on Mother again. All this is so long ago that it seems something I have heard about rather than lived through. When I go home now it is hard to tell whether I really remember these things or whether I just know about them from Mother. It is still the same town in many ways, and in others it is different; but when I go home I am only conscious of the town as it used to be when I lived there, and of the things that hap¬ pened then. Mr. Brittain isn’t there any more but Mrs. Kirtle is—still living up the street, still as busy as ever: a little old white-haired lady running around the neighborhood doing things for people, managing the affairs of sick ones, and taking charge generally as she always did. And down below Asylum Hill is the cemetery where Rachel lies buried: a lovely spot, grown up now with rose bushes and shrubbery, quite different from the time when we first bought the lot in what was then called the “new part” of the cemetery and Mother used to mind it so much, because the “new part” was all barren and unplanted and very forsaken-looking compared to the “old part.”

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The last time I was home I was going through an old desk drawer, looking at papers and photographs I had long since forgotten, when I came upon something that made me laugh with delight. It was a note, on ruled paper, written in a childish but plain hand—a note my sister had written to someone in school and which had been passed back to her, with an answer. What delighted me was the postscript that Rachel had added. It read: “Have you heard that Kathleen McMahon is in a fix. You know what I mean.” My mother was sitting near me, sewing, and when I laughed she said, “What have you found now?” I said, “It’s a note Rachel wrote to somebody. Listen,” and I read it aloud. I saw Mother smile, but she said, “What’s so funny about that?” “Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “It just seems funny after all these years. I didn’t have any idea that Rachel would know—” I stopped, not knowing how to explain what I meant, and added: “She was a wise kid, wasn’t she?” After a moment Mother said, “Yes, she was.” I was pleased, somehow, with the whole thing. I liked the idea of knowing that Rachel was—well, sophisticated. It made her kind of a contemporary, less a girl who had been dead more than twenty years— and it made me know her and understand her better too, in a way that I couldn’t have known her when she was alive at sixteen and I was three years younger. “If Rachel had lived,” I said, “she’d probably have married in a year or two and be the mother of twenty kids by now.” “Probably,” Mother said. “Either that, or been married and divorced ten times over.” “What makes you say that?” Mother asked. “Nothing, except that’s the kind of person she was, or would have become. She was so full of life—so ready for life, wasn’t she? Just waiting for it.” Mother said nothing. I folded the note and stuck it back in the drawer. “It seems such a pity that that wonderful vitality, that wonder¬ ful talent for life, couldn’t have been used, somehow. Because that’s what it was, a real talent,” I^said. “Gosh, God doesn’t order things very well, does He, when He permits such waste.” Mother went on sewing for awhile and then, without looking up, she said, “Are you asking me something?” I didn’t know what she meant and I said so.

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“Are you trying to find out something, son? Have you ever heard anything?” “Mother,” I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Well, then,” Mother said, “I’ll tell you.” I was so surprised by all this that I was uncomfortable. I felt as though I had intruded in some way. I knew I had stumbled upon some¬ thing I had no right to know, and I wished I hadn’t. But there was no going back now. Mother wanted to tell me, and I passionately wanted to know, even though I honestly wished it hadn’t happened. Mother told all that she had to say in a quiet voice, unemotional, unmoved by the story—not so much telling it, it seemed, as merely reminiscing out loud. She went on with her sewing, and only stopped her recital when she laid aside a piece of work to pick up another, or when I, occasionally, interrupted her. “Do you remember when Rachel died,” she said, “I told you boys there was something I would tell you someday, something about Rachel, something you all should know?” I remembered, now. I remembered the supper after the funeral, and Mrs. Kirtle there, and the black silk blouse of my mother, and her saying this. I remembered how solemn and scared we were and how my brother began to cry when Mother said we were too young to know, now, what a wonderful sister we had, but someday— My poor funny Mother! At thirty-some, I was, apparently, at last old enough. “Rachel didn’t go to your grandmother’s that summer before she died,” Mother said, “and I think I should tell you why. Do you re¬ member that she didn’t go, and that she always had gone before, every summer? But maybe you don’t. That’s a long time ago.” “I remember,” I said. “She was going to go, the same as always,” Mother said, “but a few days before she was to leave, something happened. I’ll tell you as plain as I can, though it may be difficult.” “Don’t, Mother, unless you really want to,” I said. “It doesn’t make a bit of difference.” Mother paid no attention to this but went on as if she hadn’t heard me. “You children had gone off into the country for the day, on one of your hikes, you boys and Rachel and I think the two O’Connell children and the Lincoln girl. Yes, I know that Helen Lincoln was along too. After you had gone, I lit the gas under the heater to take a bath, rather glad to have the house to myself for the day, and just as I was going to get into the tub, the phone rang. It was Mrs. Kirtle. She asked if I was alone and I said yes. She said she wanted to

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come right over, she had something to tell me. I told her why didn’t she wait till later, as I was going to take a bath now, but she said no, she had to come right away, it was very important. So she came.” I could see Mrs. Kirtle hurrying over from her house, I could even hear her high little voice on the phone, but more than that, I saw all us kids on our hike and I remembered the very day: the hot dry road over Asylum Hill and down past the cemetery to the brook, and how we left the road there, and followed the brook through the fields to our favorite place up further where it was deep enough to swim. ‘‘Mrs. Kirtle told me her news right off, without preliminaries,” Mother went on. ‘‘Rachel was in trouble—she said it just like that. It came so sudden that I couldn’t believe it at first or take it seriously, because Mrs. Kirtle was so excited about it. I said how can you possibly know any such thing, and she said that Mr. Brittain had told her about it and had asked her to tell me—I ought to know about it, he had said. I began to understand, then, what she was saying—the seriousness of it, I mean—and asked her to tell me the whole story. I can’t tell you how thankful I was that you children were away at the time. It’s funny, but it seemed I couldn’t wait for Rachel to come back, I would die of anxiety—and yet I dreaded it too. I knew that when I spoke to Rachel, or even looked into her eyes, I would know. But you children were away on your hike, and I had to wait.” I listened to the story and it didn’t seem real. Much more real was the brook and the big willow tree and the enormous snake we saw there, so big that it seemed it must be Africa, and Rachel said that it was. “Mrs. Kirtle had heard the story at the Ladies’ Aid,” Mother said. “During their meeting the day before, Mr. Brittain came in and told a couple of the ladies about it, saying that somebody ought to tell Rachel’s mother. He asked which one of them knew me the best, and Mrs. Kirtle said she guessed she did. That’s how she came to me. I never did know who told Mr. Brittain, or how the story got started in the first place. When I went to him about it that week, he wouldn’t tell me, though I begged him to, and begged him many times that summer. After Rachel was dead, he did come to see me, but it was too late then and I wouldn’t talk to him.” Mother wa$ looking down at her sewing, she didn’t once look at me during the whole story, and my heart jumped with pity as I re¬ called that day and knew how it was with her. And all that while,

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we kids were off at the brook, moving in single file along the bank to our swimming place, a mile or more from the road. “About four o’clock or half-past, you children came down the street,” Mother said. “I was sitting in the porch swing, I hadn’t been able to do anything all day, and I was never so glad to see anybody, never in my life, as I was to see you children.” “Mother, I remember,” I said, and I did. I remembered exactly, and could see Mother sitting there now, watching for us through the vines. “Rachel had a big armful of wild iris,” Mother said. “Flags, you children called them—white ones and blue ones—and she said she was mad at you boys because you wouldn’t bring some home too. She could have had the whole field of them, she said, if you had only helped her.” “I remember, we wouldn’t,” I said. “I don’t know why.” “Rachel was beautiful that day, son,” Mother said. “She was only fifteen then, but really she had begun to look like a woman, almost. Maybe she only seemed more beautiful because of the terrible day and what I had to tell her. You’ll know what it’s like when your own children begin to grow up.” The old phrase—how many times I had heard it, and with what impatience each time. But it was right, it was true, and I was ashamed of my amused tolerance of my mother on many occasions before. “What did you do,” I said, to cover my embarrassment, “—how did you tell her?” “I simply told her,” Mother said. “We went upstairs to her bedroom and I asked her to sit down. We sat beside each other on the bed. Rachel saw that my eyes were red from weeping and suddenly she threw her arms about me and said, ‘Who’s been making my mother cry!’ Then I told her what Mrs. Kirtle had said—what Mr. Brittain had said—but I didn’t tell her who said these things. I couldn’t, though it was the first thing she asked, the very first. ‘Who told you,’ she cried in rage, ‘who said that!’ I wouldn’t tell her, I didn’t think I should.” “Oh, Mother,” I said, “you should have, you should.” “Well, I didn’t,” Mother went on. “I never did, even to the end, though she kept on asking me all summer, almost every day. Anyway, then I said, ‘Rachel, is this true, are you in trouble,’ and she almost shouted. ‘No!’ she cried, and I told her she’d have to be more quiet on account of you boys, I didn’t want you other children to know any¬ thing was wrong. Rachel was very angry—you know what a spirited

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child she was—and kept saying, ‘I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them!’ I tried to calm her, and said the only thing that was important was that I should know the truth. And then, between tears and outbursts of anger, Rachel told me the thing that made me know the story was not true. Do you know what it was?” I shook my head. I didn’t know but I couldn’t ask, remembering Rachel too well, and remembering, too, the episode of the Bible. ‘‘Rachel said, ‘Mother, it isn’t true, because listen. Today I couldn’t go in swimming. All the other kids went in, every one but me. I didn’t because I couldn’t. Ask the boys.’ ” I could have cheered. It was true, I remembered it perfectly. Thank God for that old-fashioned idea, I thought, and good for Rachel that she knew it. It told Mother without a shade of doubt—and me too, now—that Rachel was telling the truth. I remembered it all, and said so: how Rachel had sat on the bank waiting for us, while we kids splashed around in the stream, begging Rachel to come in, and calling her a sissy for not doing so. I remem¬ bered, too, but didn’t tell Mother this, how Helen Lincoln didn’t have a bathing suit and went in with her white middy blouse and bloomers, and how her middy got all wet and showed the points of her nipples when she stood up. And I remembered how I tried not to look at her too much, and that I was glad that Rachel, who wore a middy blouse too, hadn’t gone in with us after all. “Mother, for heaven’s sake,” I said, “why didn’t you ask us? It was true, Rachel didn’t go in, and we could have told you so!” “I didn’t need to, son,” Mother said. “I believed her.” She sighed deeply, but went on with her sewing. “Of course the damage had been done,” she said. “It didn’t matter that Rachel was innocent, the story was around town and the only thing to do, then, was to keep Rachel home for the summer. I wanted to let her go to your grandmother’s, as we had planned, but I couldn’t. I wrote to your father, asking him what to do, and he wrote back to keep her home, not to let her go away once during the summer, not even for a weekend. And all during that long summer, her last summer, poor Rachel wasn’t allowed to go away once, not even in September when the Lincolns invited her to the lake for Labor Day week end. She had to stay home with me the whole time, and almost every day she’d ask who had told me the story, and she’d swear that someday she’d know and that she’d kill whoever it was, or do something awful to them.” “So she should have, too, if she’d known,” I said. “But Mother,

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why didn’t you let her go? How could you have cared so much what people said, especially when you knew better?” “If she went away, people would believe the story,” Mother said. “She had gone away to have the baby. But if she stayed home—stayed home long enough— But son, you see—you see, she didn’t stay home long enough—” “What do you mean,” I said, “she didn’t go away once.” “I mean,” Mother said, “you see, Rachel never— No, she didn’t go away, but you see, she didn’t live long enough, either.” I got up and walked to the window. I didn’t trust myself to speak, and I knew I would have to wait quite awhile. I looked out of the * window at the street—this street I had played in, it seemed, all my life—and across the way was the house that always resounded to the thumping of a player-piano, and next to it was the O’Connell’s.house, and next to that was Mrs. Kirtle’s neat little home, kept neat and trim and painted for her every year by the son who now lived in New York, the same as I did. What drew us back to this town, anyway, and why did we ever come home? But we loved it too, we who had moved away, and though we never saw each other in New York, we met often at home during the year, in summer vacations or at Christ¬ mas time, bored to death through the long holidays, anxious to get away again, and thanking our stars that we didn’t have to live here. “Mother,” I said, after awhile, “I’m going out for a walk. I think I’ll go over to the library and see what it’s like.” “All right, son,” Mother said. “But be back in time for supper, don’t stop in anywhere. I’ve got vegetable soup cooking.” “I won’t stop in anywhere,” I said. I smiled to myself, because I knew that if I did stop in at somebody’s house, and be late, Mother would begin calling up. And then, just as I kissed her good-by, Mother said, “Son, I want to ask you something before you go out.” “What is it, Mother,” I said, “have I got my rubbers on?” She looked up at me beseechingly. “Is it true,” she said, “that Rachel didn’t go in swimming that day? Tell me—do you really remember it, or are you just saying that? I’ve got to know.” !939

America! America! BY

DELMORE

SCHWARTZ

WHEN Belmont Weiss the musician returned from Paris in 1934, he found that he had very little to do. He was unable to work with the great fluency and excitement he had enjoyed when he Was younger, and something had happened to the people he had known before going to Europe. The depression had happened to them; the full sense of it had, after years, wholly modified their hopes and desires. The boys with whom he had gone to college not only no longer lived in the same neighborhood, but in addition they saw little of each other and were embarrassed when they met. What impressed Belmont most of all was the modification of the sense of humor which had pre¬ vailed among them. After a few visits, Belmont gave up his effort to renew the old friendships; for he saw that they no longer existed. However, he was not bored. He wished very much that he were back in Paris again, and he hoped to be able to go back again next year, foolishly enough as it turned out. Meanwhile he was taking it easy, as his mother said. He was enjoying an ease, an indolence, a sense of relaxation which seemed unwarranted and peculiar to him. But he had done so much work during the previous year that a period of inactivity seemed unavoidable. Or so, at least, he told himself, in facile self-consolation. He would sleep late every morning and then sit for a long time at the breakfast table and listen to his mother’s endless conversation while she went about her household tasks. It was simple for Belmont to alternate his attention between his mother’s inexhaustible talk and the morning newspaper. The sunlight made the kitchen’s white¬ ness pleasant, the apartment was well heated, the newspaper was interesting, and Belmont ’ivould take another cup of coffee and turn the page when he saw that his mother was about to tell her nominal audience the story of one of her friends, a subject she enjoyed more than any other except for the story of her own life. One morning, however, Belmont had begun to feel somewhat 46

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uneasy about his enjoyment of these two hours of breakfast. He had done nothing, he had not even listened to music for a week, and as he explained in a letter, “when I am not working, I begin to feel ‘un¬ real.’ ” But on this morning, his mother’s story began to interest him very much. Indeed her conversation had come to interest him more and more, although she always talked of people who did not interest him in the least, relatives, old family friends, neighbors of ten years back. Mrs. Weiss had begun to tell her younger son of her friends, the Baumanns. She would have preferred her older son, who was a lawyer, and the substantial son, as her audience. But it really did not matter, since she was ironing yesterday’s wash, and conversation was not only a delight in itself, but made one forget the repetitive monotony of ironing. The Baumanns, Mrs. Weiss reminded Belmont, had been the ones who gave Belmont a silver spoon when he was born. She brought forth the spoon from one of the drawers under the cupboard where she kept the dishes and showed Belmont his initials engraved in twining letters upon the top of the spoon which was now twenty-five years old. The acquaintance of the Baumanns and the Weisses, which intermittently involved years of close friendship, dated back many years to a period just before the turn of the century. Belmont’s father, who was now dead, had been a young man of twenty-two when he had gone into what was then called the insurance game (the word rang in Belmont’s mind when his mother used it, for she had a fine aural memory for the speech she had heard other people employ). Mr. Baumann had already established himself in this field of endeavor with a moderate amount of success. In fact, the insurance business was ideally suited to Mr. Baumann’s temperament. Belmont’s mother proceeded to explain in great detail just why the field of insurance provided so genial a medium for a man of Mr. Baumann’s tastes and inclinations. Insurance involved the important matter of finding one’s way into the homes and the confidences of those who were going to be insured. Insurance could not be sold as a grocer or druggist sells his goods (Belmont was moved again) by wait¬ ing for the customer to come to you. Nor could you, like the book salesman, go from house to house, plant one foot in the doorway, and start talking before the housewife had a chance to shut the door in your face. For insurance, it was necessary to become friendly with a great many people, who would come to know you and like you and trust you, who would listen with r,espect to you and take your

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advice. You had to join various lodges and societies of your own class and race. This necessity worked no hardship on Mr. Baumann, for he en¬ joyed groups and gatherings of all kinds; he enjoyed them intensely. In his youth he had belonged to the societies of people who had come from the old country, and upon his marriage, he had joined his wife’s association. Then he had joined a Masonic lodge, and besides this, he participated in the social life of the neighborhood synagogue, though he was actually an admirer of Ingersoll. In this way, he had come to know a great many people, and he visited them with unfailing devotion to his love of sociability. To visit a friend was an involved activity for him. It required that he come into the house with much amiability (telling his host that he had been thinking and talking about him the other day) and announce that he had only dropped in for a few moments. Only after protestations of a predictable formality would he permit himself to be seated for a cup of tea. Once seated, said Mrs. Weiss (imposing from time to time her own variety of irony upon the irony which sang in Belmont’s mind at every phase of her story), once seated it was hours before Mr. Baumann arose from the dining-room table on which a fresh tablecloth had been laid, and from which the lace cover and the cut-glass had been withdrawn. Mr. Baumann drank tea in the Russian style, as he often explained. He drank it, that is to say and as he often said, from a glass, not from a cup; a cup was entirely out of the question. And while he drank and ate, he discoursed inimitably and authoritatively upon every subject, but especially upon Judaism, the private life of European royalty, and the new discoveries of science, for these were his favorite subjects. A silent amazement would sometimes grow among his auditors at the sheer length of time that he could continue to eat and drink, while talking; until at last, since there was little else left upon the table, he would absentmindedly take up the crumbs on the table¬ cloth. Even as a young man (Mrs. Weiss had not known him until he was in his forties), it was said of him that he looked like a banker. As he grew older and became quite plump, this impression was empha¬ sized. He took to pince-nez glasses and handsome vests delicately lined at the top with white, thfe whole view enhanced by gold watch and chain, and resembling, as Belmont remembered, certain photographs of the first J. P. Morgan. His friends were generally delighted by most aspects of his being, but particularly impressed by his appear¬ ance. They could be shamed, often enough, into allowing him to

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write some insurance for them. It was a time of general prosperity for these people. They were rising in the world, most of them, after having come to America as grown children, and they could afford an insurance policy, just as they could afford to look down on new¬ comers to America and on their own selves in earlier years, a state of being for which the special term, greenhorn, had been created. But most of all, they liked Mr. Baumann. They were flattered by his company. When he paid a visit, he conferred upon the household a tone of being well informed, even of intellectuality, which pleased the husband because of what it implied to the wife, the implication being that although he, the husband, was too busy a man in the dress busi¬ ness to know much of these worldly matters, yet he was capable of having as a friend and bringing into the house, this friendly and cultivated man who spoke English with a Russian accent which was undoubtedly refined. After a time in the insurance business there is no urgent need to acquire new customers and new policies. One can live comfortably on the commissions due one as the premiums continue to be paid from year to year. It is true that one must keep up one’s acquaintance with the policy-holder and see to it that the stress of hard times does not make him foolish enough to give up his policy and cease to pay the premiums. But this need of assuring your clients, urging or cajoling them into continuing their policies, does not, or did not in those days interfere with the habit of sleeping late in the morning and making one’s breakfast the occasion for the most painstaking scrutiny of the morning newspaper. Indeed, one can go for vacations in the Catskills or at Lakewood whenever one pleases, and this Mr. Bau¬ mann and his family often did. They went at least four times a year, usually during the high holy days, during Passover, sometime in the summer, and during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. In fact, Mr. Baumann had quite frequently written some of his best policies during the general high spirits which are the rule during vacations and at resorts. He was undoubtedly at his best during such times and amid such circumstances. At this point, Belmont recognized in his mother’s tone the resent¬ ment she had always felt toward those who lived well and permitted nothing to interfere with their enjoyment of life. It was the resent¬ ment of one who felt no inclination, herself, to live well, and regarded it as unjustified except on the part of the very rich or during vacations. An insurance man, however, has one urgent duty, the necessity of putting in an appearance at the funerals of those he has known even

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very slightly. This attendance is a perfect way in which to pay tribute to one of the irreducible facts upon which the insurance business is based. Moreover, it provides a basis for useful conversation. “Yes,” Mr. Baumann would say, “I was at L-’s funeral today.” His tone implied the authoritative character of his presence. “Yes!” He would reiterate emphatically, “We all have to go, sooner or later!” And as he squeezed the lemon into his tea, he dwelt upon various aspects of the funeral, the children’s lack of understanding, the widow’s hyster¬ ical weeping, the lifelike appearance of the corpse. “He looked,” Mr. Baumann would say, “just like he was taking a nap.” However, apart from doing business, Mr. Baumann enjoyed funerals for their own sake. They were representative meetings of people with whom he had everything in common and to whom he was a very interesting and wellinformed man, and even, so he seemed to himself at times, a sage without rabbinical trappings. Mrs. Weiss finished ironing a tablecloth with the greatest precision and neatness. She folded it carefully, placed it with the other garments already ironed, and took a new piece, permitting herself no pause in her monologue. Mrs. Baumann, she continued, was the one person who was unable to take Mr. Baumann with the seriousness he expected and received in all quarters. She preferred the rabbi of the neighborhood synagogue whenever there was a need for neighborhood sages. She and her hus¬ band shared so many interests that there was naturally a good deal of antagonism between them. Whatever gentleman happened to be occupying the rabbinical position in the neighborhood surpassed her husband at his own game, so far as she was concerned, surpassed him in unction, suavity, and fecundity of opinion. Mrs. Baumann was small, almost tiny next to her large and heavy husband, and nervous, fussy, anxious, while he was always assured and in company merely moved to smile when she attacked him with ironic remarks and told him that he was talking too much. Really, however, they loved the same things, and her resentment sprang from his being free to pursue a social life while she was burdened with the ceaseless activities involved in bringing up three children. Toward her children, toward her friends, toward all things Jewish, she directed an inexhaustible charity and indulgence and interest, so much so that she neglected her own household because she spent so much time visititig> like her husband, and telling in patient detail endless stories of her children, of friends, and of Jewish activities. In this period a short time before the World War, Freud and Bergson were chronicled in

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5 1

the Jewish newspapers as Jews who had made a great success in the wide world, and Mrs. Baumann relished their fame to the extent of making out, mistakenly enough, the nature of their doctrines. In this way, Belmont’s father, who visited the Baumann household very often before his marriage, learned of the doctrines of Freud and passed them on to the salesmen who worked for him in the real estate business. There was only one thing which Mrs. Baumann enjoyed more than finding out that a successful inventor or musician was Jewish; and that was to hear of some new fad, especially if it had to do with food. She herself often spoke of herself as having a new fad and believing that everyone should have fads; for the word pleased her and its full connotation had escaped her when she first heard of it. She said often that she wished she were a vegetarian. Belmont became nervous as he listened. He was not sure at any given moment whether the cruelty of the story was in his own mind or his mother’s tongue. And his own thoughts, which had to do with his own life, and seemed to him to have nothing to do with these peo¬ ple, began to trouble him. As the Baumann children grew up, they seemed to gain a great deal from the intensive social life of the household. For the small apart¬ ment near Eastern Parkway where they lived came in the end to be a kind of community center on Sunday nights, and all whom Mr. Bau¬ mann met in his leisurely round of business were invited there. Both husband and wife knew very well how glad lonely people are to have a house to come to when they have been thrown from the old country into the immense alienation of metropolitan life. And the Baumanns knew too, although they would never have wished to express the belief, that it was very important to have something to eat amid the talk, for people do not continue very long without the desire to eat; besides, the conversations, the stories, the jokes, the comments, are heightened, improved in quality, excited by the food and beverages, and the food one gets in another’s household seems exceptionally appetizing. Belmont, listening, tried to go back by means of imagination to the lives of those people. Certainly there were times in the old country when food was very scarce, so that one of the most wonderful things about America was the abundance of food. It was impossible, however, for Belmont, who had always been well fed, to convince himself that he knew what their states of mind in regard to food could have been. He returned to his mother who was still painting scenes of the Bau¬ manns’ social life on Sunday nights.

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The Baumann children grew up amid these pleasant circumstances of much sociability and company. Each of them acquired social talents which earned gratifying applause from the visitors, who were ex¬ pected, in any case, by an unseen, unspoken understanding, to make much of the children of any household they visited socially. Dick, the oldest, learned to play the piano very cleverly and to recite limericks and parodies. Sidney, the youngest, was enchanted by the Sunday nights and went so far as to bring the neighborhood cronies, the boys who lived on the same block, to the house. This was something most children avoided out of a general shame that their parents spoke broken English. Sidney showed much less talent than his brother, but was well liked by all partly because he was small and cute; partly because he was so fond of the company. Martha, the girl, suffered from the intense aversions and shames and frustrations of girlhood, and as her father said, she took it out on the piano, playing romantic music day and night. She was very smart and clever, and her remarks, when she was no more than fifteen, were sometimes so biting that she would be scolded helplessly and vainly, but tirelessly by her mother. Out¬ siders, however, were charmed, not annoyed, when she was fresh. When she was older, she defended herself by saying that she had learned her wit at the Sunday night school of gossip, when the whole company devoted itself to analyses of the failings of their absent friends. Nevertheless, despite her bitter remarks and comments on whatever went on in the household, she loved its whole regime very much, although she was annoyed to find that she depended upon it so much for her day-by-day food and drink of the spirit. It was about the time that the two older children, Dick and Martha, were getting old enough to need jobs that Belmont’s father and Mr. Baumann went into partnership in the real estate business. Belmont’s father had been in this business for some time and he had made a good deal of money. But at this time his need of capital (which he could have procured elsewhere) and his fondness for the company of the Baumanns, had made him offer Mr. Baumann a partnership. It was an offer made in a moment of weakness, when he had just enjoyed a good dinner at the Baumann household. Whenever Belmont’s father was very pleased and had enjoyed himself, he suffered from such gen¬ erous impulses, which did not, however, prevent him from repairing the evil consequences of his act with an equally characteristic ruthless¬ ness when it became clear that his generosity had not only been costly (for in that case, he could forget it), but would be of continuing cost¬ liness.

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This is what happened very soon with the partnership. Mr. Bau¬ mann and Dick soon showed Belmont’s father that their habits of living were not going to be altered by the fact that they were members of a going concern. Father and son arrived at the office an hour before noon, which gave them time to go through the mail before going out for an unhurried lunch. Both of them drew handsome salaries from the business, which troubled Belmont’s father more than anything else. When it was a question of selling a plot of land or a house to a customer, Mr. Baumann often allowed his interests of the moment, which were usually international in scope, to make him forget entirely the need of persuading the customer to make the deal. He ingratiated himself with the prospective customer all the time; but that very process ingratiated the customer with Mr. Baumann, a situation in which the mutual bloom of friendship soon made business njatters either unimportant or a question of tact and delicacy. Dick followed in his father’s footsteps and took customers to the ball game, which was well enough except that he too forgot the ulterior purpose of such expenditures of time, energy, and the firm’s money. In three short months, Belmont’s father appreciated his error and spent a week of bad half-sleepless nights trying to figure out the easiest way to free himself of his pleasure-loving partner and son. Finally, and as always, he solved this problem in the most brutal way by sending them a letter informing them of his grievances and dissolving the partnership. This summary dismissal ended the friendship between the two families for a time. But Mr. Baumann was really unable to sustain a grudge, although his wife certainly could and did in fact pester him about his weakness in forgetting the injuries done to him by his ostensible friends. Dick could not manage to hold down any job for any length of time and as yet he showed few signs of making his way in the world. But he did seem to make an immense number of friends everywhere and to be in request all over Brooklyn because he was literally always the life of the party. It was at one such party that he met his future wife, a beautiful girl who had already begun to make a good living by running her own beauty parlor. She was the only child of a mother who had been deserted by her husband and she had never been so charmed before as she was by Dick’s various activities in company, his parodies, imitations, songs, pranks, and his fine air of well-being and happiness. Somewhat perplexed by the girl’s adoring looks, Dick had invited her to the Baumann menage, where Mrs. Baumann im¬ mediately fell in love with her. Dick was nothing if not suggestible,

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and arranged matters in a variety of ways and after a certain amount of urging upon her part, all parties involved recognized the inevi¬ tability of the marriage. But Dick had first to make a living; his wife had her handsome business, which she ran with a cousin of hers. But this situation offended Mrs. Baumann’s sense of propriety. She expected and expressed her expectation that it would end very soon. She insisted that it must end before the two were married. She could not tolerate the idea that her daughter-in-law not only worked for a living, but also that she made more money than her son did, and she would not countenance the marriage until Susan gave up her busi¬ ness. Dick, however, was in no particular hurry to get married. He did want to please his mother, for this was one aspect of his desire to please everyone, the whole world. But he enjoyed being single from morning to night and did not conceive of his marriage as enforcing any change in his habits. It meant merely another addition to his wide circle of acquaintances. Belmont listened to his mother’s account with increasing absorption, but again and again his own thoughts intervened and he reflected on his separation from these people. It seemed, and it seemed sad and un¬ fortunate, that he was a thousand miles away from them in every sense. He was separated from any kind of life from which he could draw satisfaction and gain recognition and dignity. His interests belonged only to himself and a few other widely dispersed people like himself. When he had satisfied his objectives, no one or almost no one would be pleased, essentially. These people of whom he was hearing —not for the first or last time—should have been his genuine relatives and friends, for he had lived surrounded by their lives since the day of his birth. But he was an artist and an artist of the kind that could only be a monster to them in every actual way, although they would be pleased when his name and picture appeared in the newspaper. This particular lower middle class from which he came produced op¬ posites of itself, sheer perversions of all that it had worked for and wanted, children contemptuous of every aspect of their parents. These thoughts had occurred to him often enough before, and he had dis¬ missed them each time as he was now going to, by supposing that he dramatized the matter, and by assuring himself that the situation had little to do with his true Work as a musician. His mother had gone up to the roof to take some more wash down from the line. She told Belmont that it was time he was getting dressed (he had been sitting at the table garbed in dressing gown and pajamas), but before he had a chance to reply, she resumed her story.

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The engagement of Dick and Susan protracted itself and after two years the couple began to take their intermediate state almost for granted. Mrs. Baumann would mention proudly to her friends that Susan practically lived with them. It was by no means unusual for Susan to spend every week-day evening at the Baumann home. Dick would read the sport pages, while his mother interrupted his perusal from time to time, demanding that he admire the profile of his fiancee, who would be sewing. Susan was indeed very good-looking, and her business prospered exceedingly, while Dick went from one job to an¬ other, wholly unperturbed by the fact that a girl was waiting for him, a fact to which his mother sometimes summoned his attention. Finally Mrs. Baumann arranged that the marriage should occur at the outset of one of Dick’s business ventures, as if she were afraid to await the outcome. This new business was a small jewelry stpre in downtown New York near Wall Street, the capital being provided by Mr. Baumann. Within eight months Dick had to give up the business in order to avoid bankruptcy, and Susan had to go back to work as an assistant in a beauty parlor, a humiliation which disillusioned her with regard to her mother-in-law once and for all. The two never again managed to get along very well together, despite Mrs. Baumann’s im¬ perturbable admiration for her daughter-in-law. Mrs. Baumann could not understand her son’s inability to make a living and provide for his wife. No one failed to be delighted by his charm and his intelli¬ gence; and he always seemed to acquire a great deal of information about whatever business he was engaged in; but somehow he could not be successful nor make anything pay. After his marriage, Dick was as much a habitue of his parents’ household as before, for he and his bride had taken an apartment nearby in order to please Mrs. Baumann. And when it was necessary for Susan to go back to work again, it became convenient for the young married couple to have dinner every night with the whole Baumann family, a course which Susan came to resent more and more, though she was of a divided heart, for she often enjoyed the atmosphere of the family circle as much as before her marriage. One topic prevailed above all others in that household, the wonders of America. This was a subject which many of the foreign-born—for example, Belmont’s grandmother—loved to discuss; but in the Baumann household it was discussed with a scope, intensity, subtlety, and appreciative gusto such as could seldom have been equaled elsewhere. This was partly be¬ cause Mr. Baumann was very much interested in science and partly because he was so pleased with America- When the first plane flight

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was made, when apartment houses with elevators became common, when the new subway was built, someone or other in the Baumann household would mention the event, looking up from the newspaper where it was stated, and saying: “You see: America!” When the toiletbowl flushed like Niagara, when a suburban homeowner killed his whole family, and when a Jew was made a member of President Theo¬ dore Roosevelt’s cabinet, the comment was: “America! America!” The expectations of these people who had come in their youth to the brave new world had not been fulfilled in the least. They had ex¬ pected to be rich, above all, and they had had a very different image of what their new life would be. But something else had happened to their expectations. They had been amazed to the point where they saw that their imaginations were inadequate to the immense develop¬ ments which were occurring in the world of their time. They ex¬ pected, of course, that all the wonders would continue and multiply, and Mr. Baumann had the weird idea that his grandchildren would come home from business by a means of transportation which re¬ sembled the cash carriers which flew in tubes from place to place in the department stores. Mrs. Baumann’s conceptions of the future were of a less mechanical-scientific character. She dreamed that her sons would be millionaires and her grandsons rabbis and philosophers. The youngest child, Sidney, had arrived at the age where it was expected that he too should make a living for himself. But the dis¬ appointments occasioned by Dick’s career were as nothing to the difficulties which Sidney created. The older son had been an in¬ different student. Sidney, however, flatly refused to continue school at all after a certain time, and he displayed an unheard-of finickiness with regard to the jobs which were obtained for him through Mr. Baumann’s many friends. He left one job as a shipping clerk because he did not like the class of people with whom he had to work. He refused to take jobs during July and August on the basis of the illeffects of working during the summer heat, a reason with which he had been fortified by the countless family discussions of health and food and exercise. His mother always defended and humored him, saying that his health was delicate; but Sidney usually made his father furious and sometimes almost insanely angry. Mrs. Baumann would point out that Sidney was to be admired, after all, for his sensitivity to the finer things of life. Mr. Baumann, however, became very much concerned because this was the second example of impracticality in his children. When angered, he blamed this lack on his wife and

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his wife’s family, but came to Belmont’s father to discuss the matter with him, the two having been long agt> reconciled. “I’ll tell you what to do,” said Belmont’s father, “but you won’t do it. Ship Sidney out into the world. Make him stand on his own two feet. As long as he has a home to come to, and a mother to give him something to eat, and a lot of company in the house from morn¬ ing to night, he’s not going to worry about losing a job.” “But if a boy does not have ambition, is that enough?” Mr. Bau¬ mann replied. “I always say, it all depends on the individual. His home has nothing to do with it. It is always the character of the person that counts.” “Sure it depends on character,” Belmont’s father argued, “but he only finds out that he has to make his own way in the world when he has no home to come back to and no one to give him cigarette money. Why, if I were your son,” said Belmont’s father, flattered by being asked his advice and wishing to return the compliment, “I would quit work myself and just sit around and enjoy the pleasant evenings.” This advice was taken a year later. Sidney was sent to Chicago to be on his own, although not without first being given the names of numerous relatives and friends of the family in Chicago. In three months he had returned, having exhausted his funds and quarreled with his boss over working hours. He was received back in the bosom of his family with great joy, and though Mr. Baumann grumbled, and Martha addressed habitual ironic remarks to her brother as a captain of industry, no one had failed to feel his absence keenly and to be pleased deeply by his return. “Well: you can try in New York as well as Chicago,” said Mr. Baumann. “A smart boy like you is bound to get started sooner or later.” Mrs. Baumann believed that he would one day fall in love and that would be the turning point. Either, that is, he would find a rich girl attracted by his indubitably fine personality; or he would meet some poor girl and his desire to marry her would be the needed spur to ambition. In America, people were always or almost always successful. Mrs. Baumann had seen too many ignorant and poorly brought-up fools make out very well to believe otherwise. By this time Belmont’s mind had been so much absorbed by all that he had heard from his voluble mother through this long morn¬ ing, that he began to remember all the occasions in which he had, in one way or another, heard about, seen, and talked with the members of the Baumann family. He had been born during his father s partner¬ ship with Mr. Baumann (that was tho reason for the silver spoon

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they had given him) and the chief occasions of the Weiss family life, weddings, funerals, affairs, had always been marked by the presence of the Baumanns. For each fact which Belmont’s mother afforded him, his own mind spontaneously contributed another one. From time to time he would interrupt his mother and remind her of what he remembered. Then the flow of her conversation would seize upon his suggestion and move in the new direction with renewed vigor and fullness of detail. Some time before Sidney’s trip to Chicago, Martha had suffered a brief and successfully overcome attack of spinal meningitis, which left her, however, with a curvature of the spine which made it unlikely that she would ever be able to have children. Martha concluded that this lack, together with her plainness of appearance (which disap¬ peared in her natural vivacity and wit) would prevent her from getting a husband and leave her one of the accursed species of old maids, the greatest shame which could occur to a girl from the point of view of any Jewish mother. Her belief that she would not be able to get married heightened Martha’s daring wit and nerve. She was the one who continued her father’s intellectual interests. As he upon oc¬ casion would cite the authors he had read in Russia as a young man, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Lermontov; so she was very much taken up with Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, and spoke with bitter passion about woman’s suffrage. And then, to everyone’s amazement, a young doc¬ tor who had frequented the household, a very shy fellow who was already quite successful, and who had, moreover, a big family of his own to support, asked Martha to marry him, afraid above all that she would launch out at him with her famous sharpness and scorn. When she told him that he would have to go through life without children, he replied with a fine simplicity that he loved her and expected her to make a home for him which would be like her mother’s household. Their marriage was the greatest satisfaction of the Baumanns’ life, although it did not compensate for the inability of the two sons to support themselves. Mrs. Baumann tirelessly praised her son-in-law, never ceased to marvel at his magnanimity in marrying a girl who could not bear him children, and took especial pride in the fact that he was so good a doctor, a fact which not only impressed all other women of her acquaintance, whose hope was so often for a son or son-in-law who was a doctor, but also was linked with her passionate interest in everything that had to do with health. Martha’s harshness and sharpness were merely increased by her marriage, and she was especially relentless with her brothers, while

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her husband, Maurice, stood by, gently protesting because she had again called both of them failures. Maurice had an admiration for the arts from which he gained the usual independence of business values. He would try to argue with Martha that she was very con¬ ventional in this respect and accepting conventional notions of success. With her brutality of tongue, Martha would assert that there was one thing at which the Baumanns were wonderfully successful, and that was marriage. They made excellent marriages. In saying this, she referred not only to her own husband’s prosperity and generosity, but also to Susan, who had started her own beauty shop once more and for a number of years supported her husband and herself and also provided him with the capital for each new enterprise to which he was spurred by his mother’s anguish at the whole situation. Martha’s impatience with her family increased yearly and she wished to see less and less of them, but her husband soothed the hurt feelings of the parents and gently insisted on paying the weekly visit, although the couple had moved to a well-to-do suburb on Long Island. America! America! The expression began to recur in Belmont’s mind, like a phrase of a piece of music which he had heard too often the day before. He was moved, and his mother was also, in her own way, by the fact that Martha, the family rebel, the one who had freed herself from the family circle, should have been the one to make out well with her life. It seemed to Belmont’s mother (and this perception amazed him) that the two sons were unsuccessful just because they were so much like their father, who had, however, been successful enough, from every point of view. The sons had taken over the father’s attitudes and way of life wholly; but for some reason which was not clear, it no longer worked. Belmont remembered now the last visit of Mrs. Baumann to his mother just a month before he had left for Paris. It was an afternoon in late fall; Belmont was working very hard in his room and the sounds at the door which indicated visitors annoyed him because he knew he would have to stop work and come from his room in his shirt-sleeves and abstracted look to greet his mother’s friends. Mrs. Baumann had come with a woman of her own age, and when he came into the living room, Mrs. Baumann, whose volubility was only equaled by his mother’s, told him in a rush the story of her friendship with this woman. They had come to America together in the year 1888 as young girls. They had met on shipboard and this made them shipsisters. But although their friendship had continued in a mild way for some years, one day at a picnic-of their old country’s society,

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a sudden storm had come to disturb the fine summer Sunday, everyone had run for cover, and they had not seen each other again for the next nineteen years. For that was in 1911 and it was now 1930. The two old women, Mrs. Baumann and her shipsister, continued drinking their tea, and telling the young musician of their feelings in regard to what had come of their lives, and Belmont, suddenly tired and relaxed because he had stopped working, listened and drank tea also. Mrs. Baumann told him that in her sixty-five years of life she had known perhaps as many as a thousand people well, and when she tried to sleep at night, all those faces came back to her so clearly that she believed she could draw their pictures if she were an artist. She was sickened and horrified by this plenitude of memory, although it was not wholly clear why she should have been utterly appalled by the past. And the result was that she could not sleep at night and nothing was more pleasant than the sound of the milkman’s wagon which indicated that the darkness would soon be at an end, and she could get up and make breakfast for her family. She told Belmont that sometimes she thought she ought to go to see a psychoanalyst like Freud, a reference he could not at first understand because she pro¬ nounced the name to rhyme with food. Ffer companion offered advice at this juncture and said that she believed that everyone ought to have a hobby; her hobby was knitting and it seemed to her that if she did not have her knitting to do in the morning, she would certainly go crazy. From his mother, Belmont learned later that this woman’s daughter had married a Gentile and the result was that she was allowed to visit her only child only upon carefully arranged monthly dates when the husband had been asked to absent himself by his wife. Ffer one longing, and one which would not, she knew, be satisfied, was to go back to the old country for a visit; she thought of Belmont’s imminent journey in terms of her own desire to return and advised him to visit the Roumania from which she had come as a young girl. Listening to the two old women, Belmont tried to call images to his mind of their trip to the new world, their arrival at Ellis Island, and their first impressions of New York City. But he could not; there was nothing in his own experience which he could feel as comparable to that great displacement of the body and spirit which their coming to ArAerica must have been. Belmont’s mother had almost finished ironing her wash, but she was far from done with her story. There was no attribute of the family which she was not capable of illustrating with any number of examples, and each example itself provoked fresh memories and new

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ideas about these people she had known for thirty years. What she said bloomed in Belmont’s mind into shapes which would have astonished and angered her; her words descended into the marine world of his mind and were transformed there as the swimmers and divers seen in the movie, moving underwater through new pressures and compulsions, bubbling, and raising heavy arms to free them¬ selves from the dim and dusky green weight of the water. Belmont’s mother had arrived at the twenties, by which time the most bitter animosity had come to exist between Mr. Baumann and his son, Sidney. Whenever Sidney was criticized by his father for • his indolence, lack of initiative, and inability to keep any job, he would point out to his father the fact that many of his father’s friends had made or were making fortunes. Few of them had the bearing and personality of Mr. Baumann, but they were able to give their- sons a start in life. Sidney was an avid reader of newspapers, like his mother, and he had acquired a host of examples of immigrants who had be¬ come millionaires; the whole movie industry constituted, for Sidney, a standing example of his father’s ineptitude. It was true that it was unfair to go beyond the family’s circle of friends in order to make such comparisons; but Sidney was merciless when criticized. Mr. Baumann was left helpless by Sidney’s attack. He felt that there was something wrong not only with the contrast which was made by his son, but also with the repeated assertion that his life had not been successful. He himself was satisfied. He had always provided for his wife and his children and kept them in comfort. It was true that he did not work very hard, but that was unnecessary, since he had an income from the commissions of insurance policies he had written for thirty years, when the premiums were paid or when the policy was renewed. Sidney, however, brushed aside these answers as obvious admissions of weakness. He pointed out that other sons of their class of people had a ten dollar bill to spend on a girl on a Saturday night, but he did not. The more unsuccessful he was, the more outrageous became his verbal assault upop his father for not being a millionaire. Usually, it is true, he was provoked to these attacks by the attempts to get him to work by insulting him and bringing forward as examples other young men of his age who were doing very well, and who as a matter of fact, would soon be wealthy men in their own right, al¬ though they came from households and had parents who were really common. After Belmont’s father had left his mother early in the twenties, the Baumanns and Belmont’s mother became better friends than ever.

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Mrs. Baumann and Belmont’s mother would often discuss the fate of the Baumann children during frequent visits, although their friend¬ ship was somewhat handicapped by the fact that Mrs. Baumann was twenty years older than Mrs. Weiss. Belmont’s mother remembered now that she had once given Mrs. Baumann some advice which she still regarded as very good. She had told her friend that the salvation of the family would have been to go into the summer-hotel business, as they had once come very near doing. No one, Belmont’s mother had said and now reiterated, would have been better equipped for that business than the Baumanns. When his mother said such things, Belmont suffered from the illusion, for the moment at any rate, that she had a greater under¬ standing than he did of most of the difficulties of life. And it seemed to him at such times that the ignorance he took for granted in her was a sign of his own ignorance. Her understanding simply worked in different, less theoretical terms than his. She had clearly seen, he was sure, the necessity of a relationship he was always meeting in music, the necessity that the individual musician find the medium suitable to his own special gifts. One could hardly doubt that the summer hotel would have been the proper medium for the undeniable gifts of the Baumanns. What Mrs. Baumann could not understand at all and discussed most often with Belmont’s mother was the paradox that her sons, who had a much better bringing-up than other young men of her circle and class, had made out so poorly in comparison with them. She wished to know where the responsibility lay and the head start she attributed to her children made matters even more perplexing. She was worried about her husband’s accusation that it was her own humoring and babying and indulging of the two boys which had made them lacking in self-reliance and initiative and ambition. Mr. Bau¬ mann remembered the advice given him by Belmont’s father, that the children would be more ambitious if they had no home to come to, and distorted it into this explanation which blamed Mrs. Baumann for pampering her sons. Mrs. Baumann would present the problem to Belmont’s mother again and again, anxious to be told that on the contrary she had always been a wonderful mother. Belmont’s mother was always ready to blame'someone for everything that happened, but she had a vaguely general interest in the matter which left her free of her usual prepossessions. She observed that one trouble was that the Baumann sons were not willing to go from door to door, for the sake of getting some business; they had not been brought up to expect

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hard knocks and unfriendliness, and it was precisely here that boys who had been brought up in meaner families had the advantage over them. It was a strange and sad thing, both women agreed, that a cer¬ tain refinement—nothing like the Four Hundred, you understand, but merely a simple taste of the usual good things of life—should be a severe and even a fatal handicap. But worst of all, Mrs. Weiss would say, the greatest handicap of all had been their fine home and family surroundings which had weakened the boys for a career in a world where you had to fight for everything you wanted and you had to fight to keep whatever you had. Belmont’s mother would say to Mrs. Baumann that this was a cut-rate, cut-throat world (an expression as popular with her as: dog eat dog), and the best way to be prepared for such a world, as her own experience had shown her, was to be born into a family of thirteen children in which there was, never enough for everyone to eat. After 1929, when all the people who had been so successful lost so much, Sidney achieved new heights of scorn. There had been times before 1929 when he had been contemptuous of the system, but now that no one was able to make out well, he took the country-wide de¬ pression as a personal vindication. Every banker or broker who had been caught in some kind of dishonesty was one more instance to Sidney of his own integrity. He would say that if he had been pre¬ pared to do the things they had done, he too might have been as suc¬ cessful as they. But now Mr. Baumann was unable to support an idle son very well. With the hard times, many people had abandoned their insurance, or, what was worse, borrowed on it. The father’s difficulties and the son’s arrogance made the quarrels between them of a desperate character. Mr. Baumann had been dressing to pay a visit one Saturday night and he had been unable to find the pair of shoes he wanted. He was as always concerned about how he was going to be dressed and he became very irritated about not being able to find his shoes. He came into his son’s bedroom to ask him if he had seen the shoes, and Sidney, outstretched upon his bed reading and smoking, had been annoyed at the interruption and had told him that he ought not to be so concerned about such a cheap pair of shoes. The shoes were not cheap, in any case, and this characteristic judg¬ ment of his taste by his son, who used canons derived from his jobs at Christmas in clothing stores patronized by the rich, infuriated Mr. Baumann. He struck Sidney and only the screaming entrance of Mrs. Baumann prevented the continuance of a fist fight. The next day Sidney had a black eye which he vainly .tried to hide with powder. It

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was a Sunday and the Baumanns were going for a visit. Sidney wished to go along, being incapable of enduring any solitude at any time and having nowhere to go that afternoon. But he was reminded of his black eye by his mother and his father added that he had no clothes, particularly no shoes, suitable for the people they were going to visit. When the Baumanns returned late in the evening they found an emergency wagon and the police in front of the apartment house. Sidney had attempted to kill himself by turning on the gas in the kitchen; there had been an explosion and he had not even been seri¬ ously injured. Sidney was taken to Bellevue and kept there for a number of months. When his mother visited him, he told her that it was his father, she should remember, who had driven him to insanity. Mr. Baumann, when told of this, retaliated by saying that his son had not been able to be anything but a failure even at suicide, and he told everybody that at the asylum Sidney could not be persuaded to engage in the forms of occupational therapy; it seemed an epitome to him that even in the insane asylum, his son should refuse to do anything remotely resembling work. Nothing could make Mr. Bau¬ mann forget what Sidney had said to him during the early years of the depression when Mr. Baumann’s income was sharply curtailed. He had told his father that the old oil no longer worked, and when his father had asked him, what oil, what is this oil?, the son had said, banana oil! laughing with his whole body at his own witticism and then going on to explain to his father that he could no longer expect to persuade anyone that insurance was anything but a gyp by the old methods of striking up a friendship and paying long visits and acting like a sage of the neighborhood. Sidney remained under observation. Dick had for some years as¬ sisted his wife in her thriving beauty parlor. He had a child now, a grandchild of whom Mrs. Baumann made much, until she was for¬ bidden to see the child more than twice a week by her daughter-in-law. Martha and her husband prospered more than the rest of the family combined; for the practice of medicine was not so closely attached to the prosperity of the rest of the world as was such a business as insurance. Martha, after an operation and much nervousness, had also had a child. Both grandchildren were daughters, which was disappointing, but which was, at any rate, an indication that not all disappointments resulted from financial matters. (Dick would often say that money was not everything.) The whole family was ashamed of Sidney’s smash-up, as Dick called it, but this did not keep them from discussing the whole matter with

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all their many friends. Mr. Baumann at seventy was still able to eke out a living for his wife and himself. But he was a disappointed and a disillusioned man. He blamed everything on the individual, on the lack of will power on the part of his sons. Mrs. Baumann, however, would say to Belmont’s mother that you see: this is what we came to America for forty-five years ago, for this. Belmont was tired of his mother’s story and tired of having re¬ mained seated in one place for three hours. He was sick and tired of the mood in which he had heard the story, the irony and contempt with which he had listened for the most part. He had listened from such a distance that what he saw was an outline and thus a caricature. How different the picture would be if he had been able to see those lives from the inside, looking out. His mother asked him whether he wanted his lunch now, and he told her that he would go for a walk first. But instead he went into the bedroom he was sharing for a time with his older brother and sat down in the armchair by the window, trying to free himself of the conflicting emotions which the narrative had created in him. The bedroom window looked out on a back courtyard, which was empty except for a clothesline and one hanging aerial which had been loosened from its place by the wind. His gaze was directly out of the window at nothing at all. He recognized the blindness involved, the self-concern and the revery which always kept him from seeing what surrounded him. It now seemed to him that he had seen nothing of his connections with all these people. The separation and the alienation from them which he felt keenly at times was actual enough, but coexisted with the immense unity between his own life and the lives of these people. As the air was full of the radio’s voices, so it was also full of intima¬ tions of the countless habits, activities, desires and memories which united him to the people from whom he had come, not only his own family and not only their friends, but the age in which they had lived and the conditions which had moved them. He had for a long time seen himself as different, because he was an artist and because they regarded him as different and because art had no important part in their lives. That was what his separation and his difference amounted to; it was an aspect of the whole context in which he existed as a product of those people and their lives. The relationship which he now recognized did not seem a pleasant matter to him. He did not feel any allegiance, whatever that could be, to these people; and he certainly did not feel that he would want

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to spend his time with them, nor did he feel that he would resent any less the fact that they would never understand his music. But every quality of the Baumann family which his mother had displayed with her sharp tongue he now saw as corresponding to some quality in himself, modified by the change of circumstances, by the fact that he belonged to the third generation. The contemptuous mood which had governed him as he listened and with which he had enveloped everything his mother said was really self-contempt. His emotion took the new form of a kind of profound uneasiness, for he now began to see himself within the whole context of those lives and from the distant perspective he had adopted all morning. Looked at from that perspective, his own life, past and present, invited the same irony. He turned his mind deliberately from this prospect, as from the memory of an occasion of great embarrass¬ ment, of gaucheness and lack of tact. The impression was pathetic. It made actual the curious omniscience one gains in looking at an old photograph in which the posing faces and the old-fashioned clothes and the moment itself seem ridiculous, ignorant, and wholly unaware of the period quality, which is actually there, and the sub¬ sequent revelation of failure and waste. Lifting one’s gaze from the photograph, it might occur to one to recognize that the very moment of looking has or will have, in its time, the same character. As he thought of this limitation of vision, Belmont kept himself from looking at it too closely, though he promised himself that he would do so later. When Belmont’s mother had concluded by saying that it was a peculiar but assured fact that many people seem to be ruined by their finest qualities, Belmont had been shocked, for her observa¬ tion became a generalization about the usual fate of human beings, and his own fate. He saw the sources of his being in these lives and the fact presented him with a kind of incipient terror, such as he could feel at any moment if he imagined himself hanging by his hands from the window ledge of their fifth-floor apartment. And now it seemed to him that all those lives inhabited the air he breathed and would be present wherever he was. Their America would always be present in him.

194°

In the Penal Colony BY

FRANZ

KAFKA

“IT’S A curious machine,” said the officer to the explorer, and despite the fact that he was well acquainted with the apparatus, he nevertheless looked at it with a certain admiration, as it were. It was apparently merely out of courtesy that the explorer had accepted the invitation of the commanding officer to attend the execution of a private soldier condemned for disobedience and insulting a superior officer. Nor did there appear to be great interest in this execution in the penal colony. At any rate, here in the deep, sandy little valley shut in on every side by naked slopes, there were present, beside the officer and the explorer, only the condemned man—an obtuse, wide¬ mouthed fellow, with neglected face and hair—and a soldier acting as guard. The latter held the heavy chain to which were attached the little chains that fettered the offender’s ankles and wrists as well as his neck, and which were themselves linked together by connecting chains. As a matter of fact, however, the condemned man looked so doglike and submissive, one had the impression that he might be allowed to run freely about the slopes, and that, when the execution was about to begin, one would have only to whistle for him to come right back. The explorer had little thought for the apparatus and started walk¬ ing up and down behind the condemned man with almost visible indifference. Meanwhile, the officer began the final preparations, now crawling beneath the machinp, which was built deep in the ground, now climbing a ladder in order to inspect the upper parts. These were tasks which could easily have been left to a mechanic, but the officer performed them with great zeal, either because he was a special ad¬ vocate of this apparatus, or because for other reasons the work could not be entrusted to anyone else. “Now everything’s ready,” he finally called out and climbed down the ladder. He was exceedingly fatigued, breathing with his mouth wide open, and had stuck two dainty lady’s handkerchiefs under the collar of his uniform. “These uniforms are

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much too heavy for the tropics,” commented the explorer instead of making inquiries about the machine, as the officer had expected him to do. “Certainly,” said the officer, washing his hands, stained with oil and grease, in a pail of water that stood ready nearby, “but they are the symbols of home, and we don’t want to lose our homeland.” “But take a look at this machine,” he added immediately, as he dried his hands with a towel, pointing at the same time to the appa¬ ratus. “Up till now, it still had to be worked by hand; now it works entirely alone.” The explorer nodded and followed the officer. The latter, wanting to safeguard himself against all eventualities, said: “Of course disturbances do occur; I hope there will be none today, yet we must always reckon with one. For the apparatus has to run for twelve consecutive hours. But if there should be any disturbances, they will only be insignificant ones, and they will be repaired at once.” “Don’t you want to sit down?” he finally asked, and choosing a wicker chair from a heap of others, he offered it to the explorer, who could not refuse. He was now sitting on the edge of a pit, into which he cast a fugitive glance. It was not very deep. On one side of the pit the turned-up earth had been heaped into a wall: on the other side stood the machine. “I don’t know,” said the officer, “if the command¬ ing officer has already explained the apparatus to you.” The explorer made a vague gesture of the hand; the officer asked nothing better, for now he could explain the apparatus himself. “This machine,” he said, grasping the crankshaft, on which he was leaning, “is an inven¬ tion of our former commanding officer. I collaborated with him in the early experiments and took part in all the stages of the work up till the end. But credit for the invention belongs to him alone. Have you ever heard of our former commander? No? Well, I’m not exaggerating when I say that the organizing of the entire penal colony is his work. We who were his friends knew already, at the time of his death, that the organization of the colony was so complete in itself, that his suc¬ cessor, even though he were to have a thousand new ideas in his head, would not be able to change anything for many years to come, at least. What we foresaw has come about: the new commander has had to recognize this. It s too bad you did not know the former commander. But”—here the officer interrupted himself, “here I am gabbling away, and his apparatus is standing right here before us. It consists, as you see, of three parts. In the course of time, each of these parts has come to be designated by certain folk names, as it were. The lower one is called the bed, the upper one the draughtsman,’ and the middle one

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hanging up there is called the ‘harrow. ’ ” “The harrow?’’ asked the explorer. He had not been listening with undivided attention; the sun was much too tightly ensnared in the shadowless valley; it was hard to concentrate one’s thoughts. The officer seemed to him all the more admirable, therefore, as he explained his cause so zealously, in his tight dress uniform, heavy with epaulets and hung with gold braid. Moreover, as he spoke he was busying himself with a screwdriver, tightening a screw here and there. The soldier seemed to be in a state of mind similar to that of the explorer. He had tied the condemned man’s chain around both his wrists and was now leaning with one hand on his gun, his head drooping from the nape of his neck, in¬ different to everything. The explorer was not surprised by this, for the officer was speaking French and certainly neither the soldier nor the condemned man understood French. It was, therefore, all the more striking that the condemned man should nevertheless have made an effort to follow the explanations of the officer. With a kind of sleepy perseverance he continued to direct his glance where the officer hap¬ pened to be pointing. When the latter was now interrupted by a ques¬ tion from the explorer, he, too, looked, as did the officer, at the explorer. “Yes, harrow,” said the officer. “It’s a suitable name. The needles are arranged as in a harrow and the whole thing is worked like a harrow, although always on the same spot, and much more artistically. You’ll understand it right away, anyhow. The condemned man is laid here on the bed.—But I shall first of all describe the apparatus, and after that, I’ll get the operation itself under way. You will then be able to follow it more easily. Also, there is a cog-wheel in the draughts¬ man which has gotten too worn down; it makes a creaking noise when it runs so that a person can hardly understand what is being said. Spare parts are hard to get here, too, unfortunately.—Well, then, as I said, here’s the bed. It is entirely covered with a layer of cotton, the purpose of which you will learn later on. The condemned man is laid on this cotton, belly down and naked, of course; these straps for the hands, these for the feet, these for the throat, so as to fasten him tight. Here, at the head of the bed where, as I said, the man first lies on his face, there is this little ball of felt, which can be easily adjusted so that it goes right into the man’s mouth. Its purpose is to prevent his screaming and biting his tongue. Of course, the man must take hold of the ball of felt since, otherwise, his neck would be broken by the throat-straps.” “Is this cotton?” asked the explorer, bending forward. “Why certainly,” said the officer smiling, “just feel it yourself.” He

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seized the explorer’s hand and guided it across the bed. “It’s a spe¬ cially prepared cotton, that’s why it looks so unfamiliar; I’ll have something to say about its purpose later on.” The explorer was already won over a little in favor of the apparatus; he put his hands over his eyes as a protection against the sun and looked up at it. It was a large structure. The bed and the draughtsman were of equal dimen¬ sions and looked like two dark chests. The draughtsman was placed about two meters above the bed; both were connected at the corners by four brass poles which almost gave forth rays in the sunlight. The harrow was hanging between the chests, on a steel band. The officer had hardly noticed the explorer’s earlier indifference; he became aware, however, that his interest was now awakening; he therefore interrupted his explanations to give the explorer time for undisturbed contemplation. The condemned man imitated the ex¬ plorer; since he could not place his hand over his eyes, he blinked directly upward. “So the man lies down,” said the explorer, and he leaned back in his armchair, crossing his legs. “Yes,” said the officer, pushing his cap back a little and passing his hand over his hot face, “now listen! Both the bed and the draughtsman have their own electric batteries; the bed needs one for itself, the draughtsman one for the harrow. As soon as the man has been strapped down, the bed is put in motion. It quivers simultaneously from side to side, as well as , up and down, in tiny, very rapid vibrations. You will probably have seen similar machines in hospitals; only, in the case of our bed, all the motions are very precisely calculated; for they have to be painstakingly accorded to the motions of the harrow. But the execution proper of the sentence is left to this harrow.” “What is the sentence, anyway?” asked the explorer. “So you don’t know that, either?” said the officer with astonishment, biting his lips. “Please excuse me; if my explanations are perhaps a bit disjointed, I sincerely beg your pardon. For these explanations were formerly given by the commanding officer;

the

new

commander,

however,

has

shunned this duty of rank; but that he should have failed to enlighten such an important visitor”—the explorer sought to wave away the mark of honor with both\ hands, but the officer insisted on the ex¬ pression—“such an important visitor, about the form of our sentence, is another innovation which—,” he had a curse on his lips, but re¬ strained himself and said: “I was not informed, it is not my fault. As a matter of fact, I am the best qualified to explain our ways of judg-

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ing, for I carry here”—he tapped his breast-pocket—"the original drawings on the subject, made by the former commander.” “Drawings made by the commander himself?” asked the explorer. “Did he combine everything in his own person? Was he a soldier, a judge, a builder, a chemist, a draughtsman, all in one?” “Surely,” said the officer, nodding his head with a fixed, meditative expression. Then he examined his hands: they did not seem to him to be clean enough to touch the drawings; so he went to the pail and washed them once more. Then he took out a small leather briefcase. “Our sentence does not sound severe,” he said. ‘ The law which the condemned man broke is written on his body with the harrow. For instance, this offender”—the officer pointed to the condemned man— “will have inscribed on his body: ‘honor your superior. The explorer gave a fleeting glance at the man; when the officer pointed towards him, he hung his head and seemed to be concentrat¬ ing all his powers of hearing on finding out something. But the motions of his tightly pressed, puffy lips showed clearly that he could understand nothing. The explorer had wanted to ask various questions but at the sight of the man he only asked: Does he know his sentence?” “No,” the officer said, and wanted to go right ahead with his explanations. But the explorer interrupted him: “So he does not know his sentence?” “No,” said the officer again, and he hesitated a moment, as if demanding further justification of his question from the explorer. “It would be useless to announce it to him,” he said, “he’ll learn it anyway, on his own body. The explorer was inclined to remain silent, when he felt the condemned man s gaze upon him, it seemed to be asking if he could approve of the procedure described. So the explorer, who had already leaned back, bent forward once more and asked: “But he certainly must know that he has been con¬ demned, doesn’t he?” “He doesn’t know that either,” said the officer, smiling at the explorer, as if expecting further strange disclosures. “Well, then,” said the explorer, passing his hand over his forehead, so this man still does not know how his defense was undertaken? He had no opportunity of defending himself,” said the officer, and looked to one side, as if he were talking to himself and did not want to embarrass the explorer by telling these things which seemed to him self-evident. “But he must surely have had a chance to defend him¬ self?” said the explorer, rising from the armchair. The officer realized that he was in danger of being held up for some time in his explanation of the apparatus. So he walked over to the explorer, took his arm, pointed towards the condemned man who,

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seeing that interest was so obviously directed his way, now stood at attention, while the guard drew the chain tighter. “The situation is as follows,” said the officer. “I was appointed judge in the penal colony, despite my youth. For I was assistant to the former commander in all punitive matters and I am the one who knows the machine best. The principle on which I base my decisions is this: There is never any doubt about the guilt! Other courts cannot follow this principle, for they consist of many heads and also have still higher courts over them. Such is not the case here, or at least it was not the case with our former commander. To be sure, the new commander has already shown an inclination to meddle with my decisions, but I have always succeeded so far in warding him off, and I shall continue to do so.—You wanted an explanation of this case: it is as simple as all of them. The captain notified us this morning that this man, who had been assigned to his personal service and who slept in front of his door, had fallen asleep while on duty. For it is his duty to get up each time the hour strikes and salute before the captain’s door. This is certainly not a difficult duty, but it is a necessary one, for he must be alert while on guard as well as while serving his superior. Last night the captain wanted to see if the servant was doing his duty. He opened the door at two o’clock sharp and found him asleep in a crouching position. He took his riding whip and lashed the man across the face. Now, instead of getting up and asking forgiveness, the man seized his superior by the legs, shook him, and shouted: “Throw that whip away, or I’ll eat you up.” These are the facts. The captain came to me an hour ago. I wrote down his statement and added the sentence immediately. Then I ordered the man to be put in chains. That was all very simple. If I had called the man first and questioned him, it would have only resulted in con¬ fusion. He would have lied, then, if I had succeeded in contradicting the first lies, he would have replaced these with new ones, and so forth. But now I’ve got hold of him, and I’ll not let him go.—Is every¬ thing clear now? But time passes, the execution should have begun, and I am not yet through with the explanation of the apparatus.” He forced the explorer back into his armchair, went back over to the machine and began: “As you see, this harrow corresponds to the form of a human being; here is the harrow for the upper part of the body, here are the harrows for th& legs. For the head, this little burin alone is designated. Have I made myself clear?” He bent amiably towards the explorer, prepared to give the most exhaustive explanations. The explorer looked at the harrow with wrinkled forehead. The information about the court proceedings had not satisfied him. After

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all, he was forced to tell himself, this was a penal colony; special measures were necessary here, and they were obliged to proceed accord¬ ing to military regulations up to the very last detail. Besides, he placed some hope in the new commander who obviously intended to intro¬ duce—slowly, to be sure—a new procedure which could not penetrate the limited mind of this officer. This train of thought led the explorer to ask: “Is the commander going to attend the execution?” “That’s not certain,” said the officer, painfully affected by the unmotivated question, and his friendly expression became distorted. “That’s exactly why we have to hurry,” he continued, “I shall even have to cut my explanations short, as much as I regret to do so. But then I might add further explanations tomorrow, when the apparatus will have been cleaned again—the fact that it gets so dirty is its only defect. So now I’ll give you only the most essential facts: When the man lies on the bed and it has been made to vibrate, the harrow is lowered onto the body. Of itself it assumes a position that permits the sharp points just barely to touch the body; once it is in place, this steel cord tautens at once into a rod. And then the play begins. The uninitiated notice no external difference in the penalties. The harrow appears to be working uniformly. Tremblingly it sticks its points into the body, which has begun to tremble too, because of the bed. To make it pos¬ sible for everyone to verify the execution of the sentence, the harrow was made of glass. A few technical difficulties had to be surmounted in order to fasten the needles into it, but we finally succeeded after many attempts. We simply spared no pains. And now everyone can watch the progress of the writing on the body through the glass. Would you mind coming nearer to look at the needles?” Slowly the explorer rose, walked over and bent over the harrow. “You can see,” said the officer, “two kinds of needles in different ar¬ rangements. Each long one has a short one next to it. For the long one writes and the short one sprays water in order to wash off the blood, and so keep the writing always clear. The bloody water is then con¬ ducted into little drains and finally flows into this principal drain which has an overflow pipe leading into the ditch.” The officer pointed out the exact direction which the blood-water had to take. As he held both hands to the mouth of the overflow pipe in order to best illustrate his point, the explorer lifted his head and, groping behind him, was about to return to his seat. At that moment he saw to his horror that the condemned man, like himself, had acted on the invitation of the officer to inspect closely the construction of the harrow. He had dragged the drowsy guard a little way forward with his chain, and was

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also bending over the glass. He could be seen looking with uncertain eyes for the thing the two gentlemen had just been examining but, because he lacked the explanation, he was not successful. He bent first to one side, then to the other. Again and again his eye roved over the glass. The explorer wanted to push him back, for what he was doing was probably punishable. But the officer held the explorer back with one hand, took a clod of earth from the ditch with the other and threw it at the guard. The latter lifted his eyes suddenly, saw what the con¬ demned man had dared do, let his gun drop and, digging his heels into the ground, he wrenched the condemned man back so that he fell right over. The guard looked down at the man as he writhed and clanked his chains. “Stand him up straight!” the officer shouted, for he noticed that the explorer’s attention was far too diverted by the offender. What’s more, the explorer was bending across the harrow, without bothering about it, intent only on finding out what was going to hap¬ pen to the condemned man. “Handle him carefully,” the officer shouted again. He ran around the apparatus, seized the condemned man, whose feet kept slipping from under him, by the shoulders and stood him upright, with the help of the guard. “Now I know everything,” said the explorer when the officer came back to him again. “Except the most important part,” said the latter and grasping the explorer by the arm, he pointed upward; “There, in the draughtsman is the clock-work that determines the motions of the harrow, and this clock-work is regulated according to the drawing called for by the sentence. I still use the sketches made by the former commanding officer. Here they are,”—he pulled a few sheets out of his leather briefcase—“but unfortunately I cannot let you take them in your hand, for they are my most precious possession. Please sit down, I’ll show them to you from this distance, so that you may see everything well.” He showed him the first page. The explorer would have liked to say a word of approval, but he only saw labyrinthine lines that frequently crossed and recrossed each other and covered the paper so densely that one could recognize only with difficulty the white spaces in between. “Please read this,” said the officer. “I can’t,” said the explorer. “Why, it’s perfectly clear,” said the officer. “It’s un¬ doubtedly very artistic,” said the explorer evasively, “but I cannot decipher it.” “Of course,” ^aid the officer laughing, as he put the brief¬ case away, “it’s not fine penmanship for schoolchildren. You have to pore over it for a long while. In the end, you too would certainly make it out. Naturally it can’t be ordinary handwriting, for it is not supposed to kill at once, but within an average space of twelve hours; the turning

point being calculated for the sixth hour. The writing proper has to be surrounded by many, many embellishments; the real writing only encircles the body in a narrow girdle; the rest of the body is in¬ tended for decorative effects. Can you now understand the value of the work of the harrow, and of the entire machine? Just look at this!” He jumped onto the ladder, turned a wheel and called down: “Look out! step aside!” Everything began to move. If the wheel had not creaked, it would have been wonderful. As if surprised by this disturbing wheel, the officer threatened it with his fist, then, excusing himself, stretched his arms out towards the explorer and hurriedly climbed down in order to observe the action of the apparatus from below. Something was still out of order which he alone noticed. He climbed up again, grasped the inner part of the draughtsman with both hands and then, in order to get down quickly, instead of using the ladder, slid down one, of the rods. To make himself understood above the noise, he shouted as loudly as possible into the ear of the explorer: “Do you understand what’s happening now? The harrow is beginning to write: when it has finished the first inscription on the man’s back, the layer of cotton be¬ gins to furl up and rolls the body slowly over on its side so as to pre¬ sent a fresh surface to the harrow. In the meantime, the wound-written parts takes their place on the cotton, which stops the bleeding at once, by means of a special preparation, and makes further deepening of the writing possible. Just here, the spikes on the edge of the harrow tear the cotton from the wounds, as the body is turned over again, hurl it into the ditch, and the harrow starts working again. Thus it writes more and more deeply during the whole twelve hours. The first six hours the condemned man lives about as before, he only suffers pain. After two hours the piece of felt is removed, for the man hasn’t the strength to scream any more. Here, at the head end, we put warm rice porridge into this electrically heated tray, from which the man, if he cares to, can eat whatever he can lap up with his tongue. None of them ever misses this opportunity. I know really of none, and my experience is great. Only around the sixth hour does he lose his pleasure in eating. Then I usually kneel down here and observe the following phenom¬ enon. Rarely does the man swallow the last morsel. All he does is to turn it about in his mouth and spit it out into the ditch. I have to stoop over then, otherwise I would catch it in the face. But around the sixth hour how quiet the man becomes! Even the dullest begins to understand. It starts around the eyes. From here it spreads out. It’s a sight which could tempt you to lie down under the harrow with him. But nothing further happens, the man is. just beginning to decipher the

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*

writing, and he purses his lips as if listening. You have seen that it is not easy to decipher the writing with the eye; but our man deciphers it with his wounds. Of course, that means a lot of work; he needs six hours to accomplish it. Then the harrow spears him clean through and hurls him into the ditch, where he plumps down into the bloody water and cotton. The tribunal is ended and we, the soldier and I, shovel him under.” The explorer had bent his ear to the officer and, with his hands in his coat-pockets, observed the work of the machine. The condemned man was also observing it but without comprehension. He leaned over a little to follow the oscillating needles, when the guard, at a sign from the officer, slashed his shirt and trousers from behind with a knife so that they fell down off him. The man tried to seize the falling gar¬ ments in order to cover his nakedness, but the soldier lifted him into the air and shook the last shreds from him. The officer brought the machine to a standstill and in the silence that now reigned the con¬ demned man was placed under the harrow. The chains were undone and straps fastened in their place. Just at first it seemed almost to spell relief for the condemned man. Then the harrow settled down a bit lower, for he was a thin man. When the points touched him, a shudder ran over his skin; while the guard was busy with his right hand, he reached out blindly with his left; but it was towards where the ex¬ plorer was standing. Uninterruptedly the officer kept looking at the explorer from the side, as if trying to read on his face the impression that the execution, which he had explained to him at least super¬ ficially, was making on him. The strap intended for the wrist broke; the guard had probably pulled on it too hard. The guard showed him the broken bit of strap and the officer was obliged to help. Turning his face toward the ex¬ plorer, he walked over to the guard and said: “This machine is quite complicated, here and there something is bound to tear or break; but one should not for this reason allow oneself to be misled as to one’s general judgment. As a matter of fact, a substitute for the strap may be had promptly; I am going to use a chain, only the delicacy of the vibration of the right arm will in that case of course be reduced.” And as he attached the chain, he added: “The means at my disposal for the upkeep of the machine am very limited now. Under the former com¬ mander there existed a fund intended only for this purpose, to which I had free access. There was also a warehouse here in which all kinds of spare parts were kept. I confess I was almost wasteful with them, I mean formerly, not now, as the new commander—to whom every-

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thing is only a pretext for combating old institutions—asserts. Now he administers the Machine Fund himself, and whenever I send for a new strap the broken one is required as proof, the new one takes ten days to arrive, then it’s of poor quality and not worth much. But in the meantime how am I to make the machine go without straps? Nobody bothers about that!” The explorer reflected: It is always a delicate matter to intervene effectively in other people’s affairs. He was neither a citizen of the penal colony nor a citizen of the state to which it belonged. If he wanted to condemn the execution, or even to prevent it, they coidd say to him: You are a foreigner, be silent. To this he would not be able to reply other than to add that as far as this matter was concerned, he didn’t understand it himself, for he was traveling with the sole inten¬ tion of observing and certainly not with that of changing foreigp court procedures. But here, however, the situation appeared to be very tempting. There was no doubt about the injustice of the proceedings and the inhumanity of the execution. Nobody would assume that the explorer had any personal interest in the matter, for the condemned man was a stranger to him. They were not compatriots, not was he at all a man who invited pity. The explored himself had recommenda¬ tions from high officials, he had been received with great courtesy, and the fact that he had been asked to the execution seemed even to indi¬ cate that they might desire his opinion concerning this procedure. This was all the more likely in fact since the commanding officer, as he had just heard distinctly, was not a partisan of this procedure and maintained an almost hostile attitude towards the officer. At that moment, the explorer heard a cry of rage from the officer. Not without difficulty, he had just succeeded in shoving the felt gag into the mouth of the offender, when the latter closed his eyes in an irresistible nausea and vomited. Hurriedly the officer wrenched him away from the gag and tried to turn his head towards the ditch; but it was too late, the slop was already running all over the machine. “All this is the commander’s fault!” the officer cried and shook the brass rods in front without rhyme or reason. “They’re getting my machine as filthy as a stable.” His hands shaking, he showed the explorer what had hap¬ pened. “Haven’t I tried for hours to make the commander understand that no meals should be given for a day before the execution? But the new, lenient tendency disagrees. The ladies of the commander’s family stuff the man’s mouth with sweets before he is led away. All his life he has fed on stinking fish, and now he has to eat candy! But it certainly would be possible, I wouldn’t object, why on earth don’t they

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get a new felt gag, as I have urged for the last three months? How can anyone take into his mouth, without loathing, a gag on which more than a hundred dying men have sucked and bitten?” The condemned man had laid his head back and looked very peace¬ ful, the guard was busy cleaning the machine with the condemned man’s shirt. The officer walked towards the explorer, who took a step backwards in some sort of premonition, but the officer took his hand and drew him to one side. “I want to say a few words to you in con¬ fidence,” he said, “may I?” “Certainly,” said the explorer, and listened, his eyes lowered. “This procedure and this execution, which you now have the oppor¬ tunity to admire, no longer have any open adherents in our colony at present. I am their only advocate, as well as the only advocate of the old commander’s legacy. I am no longer able to consider further im¬ provements of the procedure, I exhaust all my strength trying to pre¬ serve what already exists. During the old commander’s lifetime, the colony was filled with his adherents; I possess some of his strength of conviction, but I entirely lack his power; in consequence, the adher¬ ents have slipped away. There are still a good many, but nobody ad¬ mits it. If you go to the teahouse today, that is on an execution day, and listen around a bit, you will perhaps hear only ambiguous utter¬ ances. These people are all adherents, but they are quite useless to me under the present commander with his present views. And now I ask you: Shall such a lifework as this”—here he pointed to the machine— “be allowed to perish just because of this commander and the women in his family who influence him? Can we allow this? Even though one is only on our island for a few days, as a stranger? But there is no time to lose, there is something afoot to undermine my jurisdiction; dis¬ cussions are already taking place in the commander’s office to which I am not summoned. Even your visit today seems to me to be character¬ istic of the entire situation; they are cowards, so they send you, a stranger, ahead of them.—How different the executions were in the old days! Already, a day before the execution, the entire valley was over¬ crowded with people; they all came just to watch; early in the morn¬ ing the commander appeared with his ladies; a flourish of trumpets awakened the entire encampment; I made the announcement that everything was ready; the Society people—no high official was allowed to be absent—took their places around the machine; this heap of wicker chairs is a miserable relic of those times. The machine was freshly painted and shone brightly, I used new spare parts for almost every execution. Before hundreds of eyes—all the spectators stood on

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tiptoe as far back as those slopes over there—the condemned man was laid under the harrow by the commander himself. What a common soldier is allowed to do today, was then my task, as presiding judge, and I felt honored by it. And now the execution began! Not a single discord disturbed the work of the machine. Many stopped looking, even, and just lay there in the sand with their eyes closed. Everybody realized: Justice is now being done. In the stillness only the sighing of the condemned man, muffled by the felt, could be heard. Today the machine no longer succeeds in wringing from the condemned man a sigh that is sufficiently loud for the felt not to stifle it. In those days, however, the writing needles dripped a corrosive liquid which we are not allowed to use today. Well, then came the sixth hour! It was im¬ possible to grant all the petitions to be allowed to witness the spectacle from close by. The commander in his wisdom gave orders tflat the children should be considered first; of course I was always allowed to stand close by on account of my position; many’s the time I used to crouch there with a small child in each arm. How we all absorbed the expression of transfiguration from the man’s tortured face, how we lifted our cheeks into the glow of this justice, finally achieved and already fading! What times those were, comrade!” The officer had evidently forgotten who it was standing before him; he had embraced the explorer and laid his head on his shoulder. The latter was greatly embarrassed and looked impatiently beyond the officer. The guard had finished the cleaning job and was now pouring rice porridge from a can into the tray. The condemned man, who seemed to have almost completely recovered, no sooner noticed this than he began to clack with his tongue for the porridge. The guard kept shoving him away, for the porridge was undoubtedly intended for a later moment, but it was nevertheless unseemly for him to put his dirty hands in the tray and eat out of it in front of the ravenous offender. The officer quickly pulled himself together. “I was not really trying to touch your emotions,” he said. “I know it is impossible to make those times comprehensible today. Besides, the machine still works and can speak for itself. It speaks for itself, even when it is standing all alone in this valley. And in the end, the corpse still falls with an un¬ believably gentle flying motion into the ditch, even though there are no longer hundreds to gather around the ditch like flies, as there used to be. At that time we had to put up a strong railing around the ditch, but that has been torn down long ago.” The explorer looked aimlessly about him, wanting to keep his face from the officer. The latter, thinking he was looking at the barrenness

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of the valley, seized his hands and walked around him in order to catch his glance: “Do you see the shame of it?’’ he said. But the explorer remained silent. For a little while the officer left him alone; with outspread legs and his hands on his hips, he stood still, looking at the ground. Then he smiled encouragingly at the explorer and said: “I was standing nearby yesterday, when the commander gave you the invitation. I heard it. I know the commander. I understood at once what he had in mind with that invitation. Although his power would be sufficient to take measures against me, he does not yet dare do so; but he wants to expose me to your judgment, as being that of a distinguished foreigner. He has made a careful calculation; this is your second day on the island, you did not know the old commander and his thought processes, you are prejudiced by the European point of view, you are perhaps, on principle, an opponent of capital punish¬ ment in general, and of such a machinelike type of execution in par¬ ticular; furthermore you see how the execution takes place, without public sympathy, sadly, on a machine that is already somewhat dam¬ aged; now would it not be easily possible—this is what the com¬ mander thinks—that you should not approve of my procedure? And if you did not approve of it, would you not keep silent about it—I am still speaking from the commander’s point of view—for you certainly have complete confidence in your own much tried convictions? You have surely seen and learned to appreciate the different peculiarities of many peoples, therefore you will in all probability not speak out with all your might against the procedure as you would, perhaps, do in your own country. But that isn’t at all necessary for the commander. A hap¬ hazard, merely an incautious word suffices. It need not in any way correspond to your convictions, if only it appears to meet with his wishes. I am sure he will question you with all the cunning he possesses. And the ladies will sit around in a circle, all ears. You’ll probably say: ‘In our country the court proceedings are different,’ or, ‘In our country the accused is examined before judgment is pronounced,’ or ‘In our country there are other penalties than the death penalty,’ or, ‘In our country there have been no tortures since the Middle Ages.’ These are all observations that are as right as they appear self-evident to you; innocent observations that do not touch my procedure. But how will the commander take therh? I can see him now, our friend the com¬ mander, as he pushes His chair aside and hurries to the balcony, I can see his ladies flocking after him, I can hear his voice—the ladies call it a thunder voice—as he says: ‘A great occidental researcher desig¬ nated to examine court proceedings in many countries, has just an-

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nounced that our procedure in accordance with old customs is an in¬ human one. After this judgment, pronounced by such a distinguished man, it is of course no longer possible for me to tolerate this method. Beginning today, I therefore issue the following order—and so forth.’ You want to protest, you did not really say what he announces you did, you did not call my method inhuman; on the contrary, in your innermost thoughts you regard it as the most human and most worthy of humanity; you also admire this mechanism—but it is too late; you can’t even reach the balcony, which is already crowded with ladies; you try to attract attention, you try to shout, but a lady’s hand holds your mouth shut—and I, and the old commander’s work, are lost.” The explorer had to suppress a smile; so the task he had regarded as being so difficult was really as easy as that. He said evasively, “You overestimate my influence; the commander has read my letter of intro¬ duction; he knows that I am no connoisseur of court proceedings. If I were to express an opinion, it would be the opinion of a private indi¬ vidual, of no more importance than that of any one else, and certainly much less important than that of the commander who, unless I am mistaken, has very extensive powers in this penal colony. If his opinion concerning this procedure is such a positive one as you believe, then, I am afraid that its end is indeed here, without there being any need of my modest co-operation.” Did the officer understand this? No, he did not yet understand. He shook his head vigorously and threw a brief glance back at the con¬ demned man and the soldier, who was startled and let go of the rice. The officer came quite near the explorer, and without looking at him directly but at something or other on his coat, said more softly than before: “You don’t know the commander; you are, as it were, under no obligations—if you’ll pardon my expression—to him, or to us all. Be¬ lieve me, your influence cannot be too highly estimated. I was indeed delighted when I heard that you were to attend the execution alone. This order of the commander was aimed at me, but now I am going to turn it to my own advantage. Uninfluenced by false insinuations and contemptuous looks—which would have been inevitable with a larger attendance at the execution—you have listened to my explanations, you have seen the machine and are now about to witness the execution. Surely your judgment is already formed; should there still be a few uncertainties in your mind, the sight of the execution will do away with them. And now I make this plea to you: help me with the com¬ mander!” The explorer did not allow him to cqntinue. “But how could I do

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that?” he cried. ‘‘That’s quite impossible. I am as powerless to help you as to hinder you.” “You certainly can,” said the officer. The explorer noticed somewhat anxiously that the officer’s fists were clenched. “You certainly can,” he repeated, still more insistently. “I have a plan that must succeed. You believe your influence is insufficient. I know it is sufficient. But allow¬ ing that you’re right, isn’t it necessary then to try everything, even what may possibly fail, in order to maintain this procedure? So listen to my plan. In order to carry it out, it is above all necessary for you to be as reticent as possible concerning your judgment of this procedure in the colony today. Unless someone questions you directly, you must by no means say anything; your utterances should be brief and vague; people should notice that it becomes increasingly difficult for you to talk about it, that you are acrimonious, that you practically have to burst into invective, were you to talk openly. I don’t ask you to lie, in any sense; you should give only the briefest answers, such as: ‘Yes, I’ve seen the execution,’ or ‘Yes, I’ve heard all the explanations.’ Only that, no more. Of course there is sufficient cause for the acrimony people should notice in you, even though it does not correspond to the com¬ mander’s viewpoint. Of course he will misunderstand completely and give it his own interpretation. That is the basis of my plan. Tomor¬ row an important meeting of all the higher administrative officers will take place under the chairmanship of the commander at headquarters. The commander naturally knows how to make a spectacle out of these sessions. A gallery has been built which is always occupied by spec¬ tators. I am obliged to attend these consultations, but I am loath to do so. In any case, you will certainly be invited to this meeting; if you will follow my plan today, the invitation will become an urgent request. Should you not be invited, however, for some undiscoverable reason, you must ask for an invitation; you will get it then without any doubt. So tomorrow you’re seated with the ladies in the commander’s box. He reassures himself frequently, by looking upward, that you are there. After disposing of diverse indifferent and ludicrous subjects, calculated solely to interest the spectators,—mostly about port constructions, eter¬ nally about port constructions—the court procedure then comes up for discussion. If this point should not occur to the commander, or rather not early enough. I’ll see to it that it does. I’ll stand up and make a re¬ port of today’s execution. Quite brief, only a report. Such a report is not customary, but I make it nevertheless. The commander thanks me, as always, with a friendly smile; and then he cannot restrain himself, he sees his chance: ‘A report of today’s execution has just been made,’ he

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will say, or something similar to this. ‘I’d only like to add to this re¬ port that this particular execution was attended by the great scholar, whose visit—an exceptional honor for our colony—you all know about. Our session today also takes on an added significance as a result of his presence. Let us now question this great scholar as to his opinion of this execution, carried out in accordance with early customs, as well as of the procedure that led up to it.’ Naturally, applause throughout the house, and general approval; I am the loudest. The commander makes a bow before you and says: ‘Then I put the question in the name of everyone present.’ And now you step up to the balustrade. Lay your hands on it, so that they are visible to everybody, otherwise the ladies will take hold of them and dally with your fingers.—And now, finally, comes a word from you. I don’t know how I shall stand the tension of the hours until that moment. You must place no limit on your speech, blare forth the truth; lean over the balustrade, bellow your opinion, yes, bellow it, at the commander, your unshakable opinion! But maybe you don’t want to do this, maybe it does not correspond to your character; in your country people act differently in such situations; this too is all right; this too is quite sufficient; don’t get up at all, say only a few words, whisper them so that they may be heard by the officials below you, that’ll do. You needn’t even mention the small attendance at the execution, the creaking wheel, the broken strap, the repulsive felt gag; no. I’ll take care of everything else. And believe me, if my speech doesn’t chase him from the hall, it’ll force him to his knees, so that he will have to acknowledge: I bow down before you, old com¬ mander!—That’s my plan; won’t you help me to carry it out? But of course you will, what’s more, you must.” And the officer seized the ex¬ plorer by both arms and looked into his face, breathing heavily. He had shouted the last sentences so loudly that even the guard and the condemned man became attentive; although they understood nothing, they stopped eating and looked towards the explorer, chewing the while. The explorer had no doubt from the very beginning as to the answer he would have to give. He had experienced too much in his life to vacillate now; at bottom he was an honest man, and he was not afraid. Nevertheless, he hesitated, just the time of a breath, at the sight of the soldier and the condemned man. But finally he said what he had to say: “No.” The officer blinked several times and did not take his eyes off him. “Do you want an explanation?” asked the explorer. The officer nodded silently. “I am opposed to this procedure,” the explorer then said. “Before you even took me into your confidence—I’ll not abuse

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this confidence, of course, under any circumstances—I had already con¬ sidered whether I would be justified in taking steps against this pro¬ cedure, and whether there would be the slightest prospect of success in case I did so. It was clear to me to whom I should have to turn first: to the commander, of course. You have made it still clearer, but with¬ out having strengthened my resolution; on the contrary, your honest conviction moves me, even though it could never influence me.” The officer remained silent, turned to the machine and, seizing one of the brass rods, leaned slightly backwards to look up at the draughts¬ man, as if to check whether or not everything was in order. The guard and the condemned man seemed to have become friends; the con¬ demned man was making signs to the guard, despite the fact that the tight straps which bound him made this difficult: the soldier bent over towards him; the condemned man whispered something to him and the soldier nodded. The explorer followed the officer: “You don’t know yet what I am going to do,” he said. “Of course, I shall give my opinion about the procedure to the commander, not at the meeting, however, but tete a tete; nor shall I stay here long enough to be drawn into any meeting: I am going away early tomorrow morning, or at least I’ll board ship then.” It seemed as though the officer had been listening. “So the procedure did not convince you,” he said to himself, and smiled as an old man smiles at a child’s nonsense, withholding his own real musings behind the smile. “Then the time has come,” he said finally, and looked suddenly at the explorer, his eyes shining with a certain challenge, a certain appeal for co-operation. “Time for what?” the explorer asked anxiously, but received no answer. You re free, said the officer to the condemned man in the latter’s own language. At first the condemned man did not believe it. “You’re free now, the officer said. The face of the condemned man showed signs of life for the first time. Was this the truth? Or was it only a pass¬ ing whim on the part of the officer? Had the foreign explorer obtained pardon for him? Which was it? His face seemed to ask these questions. But not for long. Whatever it might be, if he could, he really wanted to be fiee, and he began t& shake himself as much as the harrow per¬ mitted. “You’re breaking my straps,” the officer shouted. “Keep quiet, we’ll unfasten them for you. And with the help of the guard, to whom he had made a sign, he got to work. The condemned man chuckled gently

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to himself, saying nothing; he turned his face first to the left towards the officer, then to the right towards the guard; not forgetting the ex¬ plorer. “Pull him out,” the officer ordered the guard. To do this, they were obliged to move with a certain caution, on account of the harrow. The condemned man, due to his impatience, already had a few slight lacer¬ ations on his back. From this moment on, however, the officer hardly bothered about him any more. He walked over to the explorer, took out again his small leather briefcase, rummaged through it, finally found the paper he was looking for and showed it to the explorer. “Read this,” he said. “I can t, said the explorer. ‘I told you before I can’t read those pages.” But take a good look at the page anyway,” said the officer, stepping to the exploi er s side to read with him. When this did not help, either, in order to facilitate the explorer s reading, he ran his little finger across the page, well above it, as if the paper must not be touched under any condition. The explorer made an effort, in order to be agreeable to the officer at least in this, but it was impossible. Now the officer began to spell out the writing, then he read it once more connectedly. “It says: ‘be just!’—Now you can read it,” he said. The explorer bent so low over the paper that the officer drew it back, fearing he might touch it; actually the explorer said nothing more, but it was clear that he still had not been able to read it. “It says: ‘be just!’ ” the officer repeated. “That may be so,” said the explorer, “I believe that’s what it says.” “All right then,” said the officer, at least partially satisfied, and he climbed the ladder still holding the page; with great caution he laid it on the draughtsman, and then began apparently to rearrange the en¬ tire mechanism; it was a very tedious job, for the wheels in question must have been very tiny; sometimes his head disappeared completely in the draughtsman, he was obliged to examine the wheelwork so closely. The explorer continued to follow the work from below, his neck grew stiff, his eyes began to smart from the sunlight-flooded sky. The guard and the condemned man were now occupied only with each other. With the point of his bayonet, the guard lifted up the condemned man’s shirt and trousers which were lying in the ditch. The shirt was frightfully dirty, and the condemned man washed it in the water-pail. Both had to laugh aloud when the condemned man put the shirt and trousers on, for both garments had been slashed in two behind. Per¬ haps the offender thought it his duty to entertain the guard; in his slit clothes he made circles around the guard, who was crouching on the

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ground, laughing and beating his knees. Nevertheless they restrained themselves somewhat, out of respect for the presence of the two gentle¬ men. When the officer had finally finished up above, he smilingly sur¬ veyed the whole in all its parts once more, banged shut the cover of the draughtsman, which until now had been open, climbed down and looked first into the ditch, then at the condemned man; noticed with satisfaction that the latter had recovered his garments, walked towards the pail to wash his hands, recognized too late the repulsive filth in it, became saddened at the fact that now he could not wash his hands, at last dipped his fingers in the sand—this substitute did not suffice but he had to accommodate himself—then rose and began to unbutton the coat of his uniform. At this, the two lady’s handkerchiefs which he had stuck in his collar, fell into his hands. “Here, take your handker¬ chiefs,” he said, and threw them towards the condemned man. In ex¬ planation he said to the explorer: “Gifts from the ladies.” In spite of the evident hurry with which he took off his coat and then undressed completely, he nevertheless handled each garment very carefully. He even let his fingers run over the silver cord on his tunic and shook one of the tassels straight. Yet it was little in keeping with his carefulness that, as soon as he had finished handling a garment, he immediately threw it into the ditch, with an angry gesture. The last thing that remained was his smallsword and belt. He drew the sword from its scabbard, broke it, then gathered everything together—the pieces of the sword, the scabbard and the belt—and threw them away so violently that they clinked together in the ditch. Now he stood there naked. The explorer bit his lips and said nothing. To be sure, he knew what was going to happen, yet he had no right to prevent the officer from doing anything. If the court procedure to which the officer was so attached really was about to be abolished—• possibly as a consequence of the action which the explorer had felt obliged to take—then the officer was acting entirely rightly; the ex¬ plorer would not have acted differently in his place. The guard and the condemned man understood nothing at first; in the beginning, they did not even look on. The condemned man was overjoyed at having got back his pocket-handkerchiefs, but he was not allowed to enjoy them veity long, for the soldier snatched them away from him with a quick, unpredictable gesture. The condemned man now tried once more to pull the handkerchiefs from the soldier’s belt, into which the latter had carefully put them, but the soldier was on his guard. So they struggled, half in jest. Only when the officer was com-

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pletely naked did they pay any attention to him. The condemned man especially seemed to be seized with a foreboding of some great change. What had happened to him, was now happening to the officer. It might even go on to the very end. Most likely, the foreign explorer had given the order for it. So this was revenge. Without himself having suffered to the end, he was nevertheless avenged to the end. A broad, noiseless laughter appeared now on his face, and remained there. The officer turned towards the machine. If it had already been clear before that he understood the machine well, it was now almost horrify¬ ing to see the way he took charge of it, and the way it obeyed him. He had hardly brought his hand near the harrow when it rose and sank several times until it had reached the right position to receive him; he took hold of the bed by the edge only, and it started to vibrate right away; the ball of felt came toward his mouth. One saw that the officer did not really want to take it, but his hesitancy lasted just a moment, he submitted at once and took it in his mouth. Everything was ready, only the straps were still down hanging at the sides, but they were obviously unnecessary, as the officer did not need to be strapped in. Then the condemned man noticed the hanging straps; in his opinion the execution would not be complete unless the straps were tightly fastened; he waved excitedly to the guard and both of them ran to buckle the officer in. The latter had already stretched out one foot in order to push the crank that was to start the draughtsman going; then he saw that the two men had come near him. He drew his foot back and let himself be strapped in. Now, however, he was no longer able to reach the crank; neither the guard nor the condemned man would be able to find it, and the explorer was determined not to make a move. This was not necessary; hardly had the straps been fastened, when the machine began to work; the bed trembled, the needles danced on the skin, the harrow swung up and down. The explorer had been staring at it quite a while before he remembered that a wheel in the draughts¬ man should have made a creaking noise; yet all was silent, not the slightest hum was to be heard. Because of this silent action the machine ceased to be the focus of attention. The explorer looked over towards the soldier and the con¬ demned man. The latter was the more lively of the two, everything about the machine interested him; first he would bend down, then he would stretch himself, holding his index finger constantly extended to point out something to the guard. The explorer felt uncomfortable. He was determined to remain there till the end, but he could not have borne the sight of the two men very long. “Go home,” he said. The

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soldier would, perhaps, have been ready to go, but the condemned man considered the order as a sort of punishment. He begged and implored with clasped hands to be allowed to stay, and when the explorer, shak¬ ing his head, refused to give in, he even went on his knees. The ex¬ plorer saw that orders were of no avail here and he was about to go over and drive the two of them away. At that moment he heard a noise up in the draughtsman. He looked up. Could that one cog-wheel be giving trouble? But it was something else. Slowly the cover of the draughtsman rose and then fell wide open. The teeth of a cog-wheel began to show, then rose up; soon the whole wheel appeared; it was as if some great force were pressing the draughtsman together so that there was no room left for this wheel; it kept rotating till it reached the edge of the draughtsman, fell down, reeled upright a bit in the sand, then lay there. But already another one rose up above, followed by many more, big ones, little ones, and others that could hardly be told apart; the same thing happened to them all, one kept thinking that the draughtsman must surely be emptied by now, when a new, particularly numerous lot appeared, rose up, fell down, reeled in the sand and lay there. At the sight of this occurrence the condemned man forgot all about the explorer’s orders; the cog-wheels completely fascinated him; he kept trying to seize one of them, at the same time urging the soldier to help him; but he withdrew his hand in fright, for another cog¬ wheel always followed at once, and this, at least at first when it would come rolling towards him, frightened him. The explorer, however, was very disturbed; the machine was evi¬ dently going to pieces; its quiet action was a delusion; he had the feel¬ ing that he would have to care for the officer now, since the latter was no longer able to care for himself. But while the dropping of the cog¬ wheels had claimed his entire attention, he had neglected to watch the rest of the machine; now, however, when the last cog-wheel had left the draughtsman, he bent over the harrow, only to have a fresh, more an¬ noying surprise. The harrow was not writing, it was just sticking the body, nor was the bed rolling it but just lifting it, trembling, up to the needles. The explorer wanted to interfere and, if possible, bring the whole thing to a stop, for this was not the torture the officer had wanted to arrive at, this was outright murder. He stretched out his hands. But at that momerit the harrow was already beginning to rise sideways with the impaled body, the way it usually did only at the twelfth hour. Blood was flowing in a hundred streams, unmixed with water, for the little water pipes had also failed this time. And now the last thing failed too, the body did not release itself from the long

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needles, but, bleeding profusely, hung over the ditch without falling into it. The harrow was ready to fall back into its usual position, but, as if it had noticed itself that it was not yet freed of its burden, it re¬ mained suspended above the ditch. “Why don’t you help?” the ex¬ plorer shouted over to the guard and the condemned man, as he, him¬ self, seized the officer’s feet. He tried to hold the feet down on his side and the other two were to take hold of the officer’s head from the other side, so that he might be slowly lifted off the needles. But the two could not make up their minds to join him; the condemned man practically turned away; the explorer had to go over to them and force them to come over near the officer’s head. Just here he saw the face of the corpse, almost against his will. It was as it had been in life; no sign of the promised redemption was to be detected; that which all the others had found in the machine, the officer had not found; his lips were tightly pressed together, his eyes were open, and had an expres¬ sion of life; their look was calm and convinced; the point of the big iron prong pierced his forehead. When the explorer reached the first houses of the colony, with the soldier and the condemned man behind him, the soldier pointed at one house and said, “That’s the tea-house.” On the ground floor of one house there was a deep, low, cavernous room with smoke-stained walls and ceiling. On the street side it was wide open. Although the tea-house differed little from the other houses in the colony, which were all very run down, with the exception of the palatial structures that housed headquarters, it nevertheless gave the impression to the explorer of an historic memory, and he felt the power of other days. He walked nearer and, followed by his com¬ panions, he passed between the unoccupied tables standing on the street before the tea-house, and inhaled the cool, musty air which came from the inside. “The old man’s buried here,” said the soldier. “The priest refused him a place in the cemetery. At first they were un¬ decided as to where to bury him, but they finally buried him here. I’m sure the officer did not tell you anything about it, for that was the thing he was most ashamed of. He even tried a few times to disinter the old man at night, but he was always chased away.” “Where is the grave?” asked the explorer, who found it hard to believe the guard. Both the guard and the condemned man immediately dashed ahead of him and with outstretched hands pointed to the spot where the grave was to be found. They led the explorer straight to the back wall where customers were sitting at a few of the tables. They were prob-

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ably longshoremen, sturdy looking men with short, glossy, full black beards. All of them were coatless, their shirts torn; they were poor humble folk. As the explorer approached, several of them rose, flat¬ tened themselves up against the wall and looked in his direction. He s a foreigner,” was the whisper that went about the explorer, “he wants to see the grave.” They shoved one of the tables aside, underneath which there really was a tombstone. It was a simple slab, low enough to be hidden under the table. On it was an inscription in quite small letters, to read which the explorer was obliged to kneel down. It read: “here lies the old commander, his adherents, who may no longer BEAR A NAME, HAVE DUG THIS GRAVE FOR HIM AND ERECTED THIS STONE. THERE EXISTS A PROPHECY TO THE EFFECT THAT, AFTER A CERTAIN NUMBER OF YEARS, THE COMMANDER WILL RISE FROM THE DEAD AND LEAD THEM OUT OF THIS HOUSE TO THE RECONQUEST OF THE COLONY. BELIEVE AND

When he had finished reading, the explorer rose and saw the men standing about him and smiling as if they had read the inscription with him, had found it ridiculous, and were calling upon him to join in their viewpoint. The explorer acted as though he had noticed nothing, distributed a few coins among them, waited until the table had been shoved back over the grave, then left the tea-house and walked towards wait!”

the port. The guard and the condemned man had come across acquaintances in the tea-house who detained them. But they must have torn them¬ selves away soon after, for the explorer was no further than the middle of the long stairway leading to the boats, when they came running after him. They probably wanted to force the explorer at the last moment to take them along. While the explorer was negotiating with a sailor down below for his crossing to the liner, the two men rushed down the steps, silently, for they did not dare cry out. But when they arrived below, the explorer was already in the boat and the sailor was just about to shove off. They might still have been able to jump into the boat, but the explorer picked up a heavy, knotted tow-rope from the floor, threatened them with it, and thus prevented them from jumping.

(Translated by Eugene Jolas) \

1941

Two Morning Monologues BY SAUL BELLOW

9 A. M.

Without Work

IT’S MY father’s fault that I’m driven from the house all morning and most of the afternoon. I’m supposed to be looking for a job. J don’t exaggerate when I say driven. That’s what it is. He’s created an atmosphere in which if he found me at home, say at eleven in the morning, I’d feel intensely wrong and guilty. Even my mother has absorbed it from him, although she’s much gentler, the old woman, and doesn’t realize what’s happening and how I’m being forced. Pride and Investment: I take those words to supply the whole mean¬ ing of his attitude. “A good boy, a smart boy, American, as good as anybody else—but he hasn’t got a job.” One. Two: “Look at the money I spent on him.” His idea is that anyone who has had so much money invested in him should not only have no difficulty finding work but should actually be sought by employers. “Hundreds people are looking for such educated boys. He should advertise in the paper. You’d see,” he argues with my mother. As a matter of record he has advertised twice already. The first time he didn’t tell us, he wanted to surprise us. But he never got any replies, of course. In an evening’s desperation, after supper on some evening, it will once or twice occur to him that it’s my fault. I can tell. And he will look me up, whether in the parlor or on the porch, in the dark. But he never says a single word. He goes away, wondering about it I’m certain. I’d just as soon stay home in the morning and read Dick Tracy, though I’m not in love with the house and I don’t like to have the neighbors see me during the day. I often find myself wishing that mine had been one of the first draft numbers so that I’d be parted from both of them, especially from him, on official grounds. Perhaps I should be¬ come a volunteer. I needn’t tell you how much I’d like to get away. But there, too, I’m too wise and too principled, moreover. I know a

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great deal about myself, in as well as out—privately, that is, as well as statistically. I’m very nearly sunk. What sort of getting away would that be? Total it any way, top to bottom, reverse the order, it makes no difference, the sum is always sunk. The old man refuses to give in. He shakes his head at the dinner table. To him it seems reasonable that ... He has it all figured out. So and so’s son is working for so much and so much. A dumbbell. So why not . . . ? Things are this way and this way. He insists against bewilder¬ ment. It seems simple to him. And he never tires. “You’re a teacher, aren’t you. Five years in college. The best. All right, you can’t get a teacher job? the market is flooded? So get another job for a while.” His formulation against everything. When it happens that he’s not working and we are at home together he feeds on it con¬ tinually, grinding and grinding. “But then,” you say, “a lot of people are out of work.” Imagine it! To have to say something like that! “Oh sure.” He nods. He knows that. Millions. It’s true. But for some reason he never seems able to connect that with me. It’s true for others; ab¬ surd for me. Those ads were funny, very funny. The old woman and I both pleaded with him to keep my name out. “Jacob, it’s enough the tele¬ phone number. They don’t do like that. He’s right, listen to him better.” The first one was horrible. Let’s hope nobody noticed it. I didn’t want my name in the paper. I’ve always avoided parading it. I can’t stand that. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t swallow before saying it. And together with that ad . . . It’s the same every morning. Between my parents, between the same circumstances, between the ferns and the mohair couch, smell of sleep and coffee, the old woman over the sink cleaning a pot or cutting oranges, the old man cooling his tea. It’s the same alley, post in the alley, tin plate on the post reading 666. And it was the same before I went to school, then in grade school, high school, college. Perhaps the stairs have become darker, more buckled and gap-jointed. But that’s all. I brought my books home and read them on the kitchen table. Same for Dapple Gray, Walter Scott and The Counterfeiters. My father bought this house before I was born. He lost it a few years ago but we continue to live here, in the same flat. After breakfast he takes his bag with the overalls in it and his trowel and goes to work. Then my mother sees me to the door and puts my lunch in my hand. She wears an old bathrobe and her stock¬ ings are gartered loosely below the knees and falling. Sometimes she tries to kiss me good-by and I allow it. Ordinarily she is as strange to

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me as though she were dead or nonexistent. But then, when I rec¬ ognize that she is alive—not only that she lives, but that she prepares my orange juice before I leave and hands me my lunch—it gives me an extraordinary twist. I am the only son. Besides the lunch I get fifty cents for tobacco, for carfare, for a drink, for a newspaper, perhaps. Things that are essential. I wait for the car, the Cottage Grove car, on the corner near Poland’s grocery store. The Polands know me very well. They have been on the gorner for many years. Mr. Poland waves at me from behind the counter, withdrawing one hand from the breast of his apron, and smiles at me with his big, broad teeth whose discoloration makes a little flare in the early morning grocery-light. He wears an old fashioned belted cap. He says something to Mrs. Poland who is cutting down bananas from a bunch in the window. What can it be but, “Nu, Mandelbaum’s boy is still looking for a position”? Their own son, Bobby, is an accountant. We’re of about the same age. It’s a long ride. Often, when there’s no special hurry, I get off and walk. In this way I have covered the whole distance on foot and I know every part of it—garages, laundries, resale ^stores, house founda¬ tions, autoparts, weeds—all in two colors, sand and gray. There are no others; seasonal colors, I mean. Near Twenty-second Street there are several new factories with slick fronts and neon piping in the office windows. And then, when the line turns down Wabash Avenue, past the movie distribution houses, you see huge tableaux of kiss and thrill and murder. But usually I read a book and pay little attention, while the car wobbles towards the Loop, except to see what the sun is doing. I watch it occasionally. Just before we creep under the elevated lines it appears for a moment. Not much hope for it, I remark to myself. If it outlives me it won’t be for long. This morning it makes me think of nothing more important than a paper seal on a breakfastfood box. Yank it and the box opens. You will find a toy prize on top; a toy plane, crossed snow-shoes, a tiny loving cup. About eight months ago the report was going around that the war was opening new jobs and for the space of a week I actually went from place to place renewing my applications. My father was excited. “You’ll get it now. Now you’ll get. Wait just, and we’ll see.” The crowds were large. I used to hate to make the rounds because I saw so many acquaintances. We had to stand around, we lied to each other and we were embarrassed. Afterwards I discovered there was no need to; after all ... The word spread that companies were hiring and the agencies were

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surprised by an inrush of jobhunters. It wasn t true and there were no jobs, but there was a temporary stir and I would walk through the lobbies to the elevator quickly, head up, as though my business there had the support of purpose and money and influence. But upstairs I was reduced to the well-remembered waiting, sitting on benches, crossing and recrossing my legs with the others, reading the signs forbidding smoking and stating the rates of the agency. People behave differently now around these places. They used to sit apart, more stiffly to themselves, while listening for their names. They tried to look proper. The way you’re advised in school. Let the employer see a model young man or young woman—clean-cut, prudent, reliable. Not any more. They sit slumped now and don’t care if there is a little dirt under the fingernails. But there we were, handing around the papers, smoothing out the wrinkles, reading what new boats had been torpedoed and following the fight between the bookies and the courts. For a whole week I was busy this way. I had no time to eat my sandwiches—pale meat on white bread is what they usually are— and I carried them in my pocket and in the afternoon a faint spicy smell would spring out. One of the closely curled leaves of my identity. I wouldn’t think of spending time as I did then hurling myself against the wall lettered possible employment in the hope of striking the secret panel of the sliding door. The chief difficulty is in disposing of the day. Home, as I have said, is barred; the parks, the neighborhood too many others have successfully graduated from. But you find unusual resources, learning to eat your sandwiches, ordering only coffee, to lounge several hours in one place, to suck a maximum from each straw and pull the mar¬ row out of a cigarette. Spring and summer are better than the cold seasons, but costlier. You want to buy cold drinks, you take an ex¬ travagant boat ride. Eventually it will be settled, but the space between eventually and the present is long enough to stretch my legs in. Here we are. What’ll it be today, the library? museum? the court¬ house? a convention? \ 11:30 A.M.

The Gambler

What does it amount to? Close my eyes and pick, I may as well. It turns out the same; mostly sour loss. System is nothing and to try to

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dope them is just wasted. It isn’t a matter you reach into yourself for, bringing it up and showing it to the eyes, open proof. The card is dark, always; the dice to the last roll. Even horses. Even? Better say especially. I’m not fooled about it. We’re the ones at bottom who are least fooled. So early in the day, before eating, the cigarette dizzies. Afoot I would reel. My face stays stiff after shaving. It’s a job to open my mouth and swallow. The paper sticks to the lips, the smoke silky when it waves in the mirror over the cut-glass and the grapefruit. Today’s cinch it seems is Philomel. Philomel to cop the flower horse-shoe. The mud slipper, the way they run them. Or the jewelled hypo. That is if they do run them. It comes hoarse over the wire. Wouldn’t be bad to see them run off one of these days. Far from the book in the tobacco shop, beyond the room where the smooth bjlliards run. Well, I’ll make it yet. This early in the morning is when you feel it most. What sort of life? An inadoor on a sad shaft. You can hear the showers down the hall where the girls wheel the canvas carts. Wet towels fall in, sheets on which the sleep hangs, the wax-wrapped bacon burning. And yet, when I leave, shoes smart, pants smooth, hat over the eye, tasting the first cigarette on the way down in the cage . . . And what about him? The sucker scraping the griddle, turning the eggs, paddling the bread with wet butter. I couldn’t put in his twelve hours or the girl’s staggered twelve—eight on the books and four around the block, I hear. Impossible way to live. Thanks, bud, not for me. We couldn’t get along without them, whereas we could get along without me. Who picks us out? Who decides or what decides my place and their place? But anyway, not for me. To get around it counts. Slipping through. So far even in the Grand National for peace¬ time privates. But that I expected. It would have been funny to come out a loser with so many fall guys in. I don’t think they’ll get to me, either. If they do it’s up to me to cover all the angles. There’s a way through the cracks. This city, this country, it’s full of them and it’s up to people like me to find a way through them. You have to be able to recognize them. If you see them that way it breaks into spades, hearts. Thirteen in even tricks. What counts is reading them properly. You have to be on the spot when the kiss-off comes, connect the pair, hit the straight, fill in when the right one snaps up. But it’s the other way around too, in the same coin, when planes collide in all the room in the world, or you step out to meet the train front on, or the bullet in the field. A good example is that

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couple necking in Bucharest in their Ford when the skyscraper fell. The point is, then—the big point—is there a way around? Often it seems there is and just as often not. It gives you the squeeze and makes you pant after the ten pinned under your vest. The regular ones feel that way sometimes, but the more important for the game are Mamas on their way to shop. The Twenty-six girls themselves are sometimes bit. I’ve known that to happen. And the kids with their baseball pools. When you come to it there’s a lot that has to do with what remains of it from childhood. Yes, far as the big dough may seem from it. And not only tossing pennies and coupons. Kids think they can control the world. Walk from one side of the room to the other and a bell will ring; throw a stone at the sky and wait for it to rain. Next time it will rain. I remember that. Step on the crack in the sidewalk and watch out. I used to watch others, angry with those who didn’t look and stepped where they shouldn’t, upsetting the whole thing. What else. Coins on the bed when you’re sick. Arrange them on the quilt and they fall out. In fives, threes in triangles. Add them backward and get more. Those tricks are in the blood. Then you believe it’s all in the way you manage. Manage right and be a big-shot. Manage right and never die. Fight him back with a stick; blow back in his face. It’s in your hands to do it and in your power. Walk on the edge without falling. If you fall, grunt, give yourself a punch when nobody watches. That’s it, you see, the verge, the edge, the crumb of a minute before when any one of twelve, fifty, eight, thirty-seven comes out. The last minute without air, without breath, without end. Though the keenness falls off when it’s day in day out and the long shots break like well-controlled pitches and you win cagily, nervelessly. Like getting a pay envelope. But lose, too. Too more often than not. That’s how it turns out. Money owing, rent postponed, hole in your glove, one egg, cheap tobacco. Then you hear the swishing in the heart like a deck riffled, and the stains grow under the arm.

1941 \

The Facts of Life BY

PAUL

GOODMAN

CHILDISH Ronnie Morris has a wife Martha and a daughter Marcia, aged nine. Ronnie is middle-aged, as we say of any one ten years older than ourselves, and he has invented a wonderful scheme to milk -money from those who make $20,000 a year: he sells them Fine Editions with odd associations, as The Golden Ass bound in a donkey’s hide or The New Testament signed by the designer in the blood of a lamb. (He is childish enough to go through with such a profitable idea, instead of dismissing it like the rest of us fools.) He has a two-masted sail¬ boat; he moves in the circle of his clients. In a business way, he knows Picasso and Thomas Benton, and is the expert at the Club in the trade-secrets of the Muses. In the acts of love, he is medium; he went to Dartmouth; but in fact he is only moderately fixated on the period when he was fifth oar, for he had had an even prior period of ease and lust, which has saved him for philosophy and the arts, rather than the brokerage. Martha Morris is an Andalusian type. When she arranges flowers she keeps them under control with wires. She drives at high speeds. Her relations with Ronnie are as usual; she is her little daughter’s friend, and every Xmas she and Marcia design a gift-volume for Ronnie’s clientele. She is more political than her husband and her position is slightly to the left of the right wing of the left-center: a group that finds no representation in Washington, but used to have thirty seats in Paris. I could write forever, as it would seem, about Martha’s teeth as they flash under her nose. Aren’t the rhythms de¬ lightful, of the description of the upper middle class? Now little Marcia goes to the University Progressive School where many of her schoolmates have fathers in the embassies, but Marcia too has been to the Near East in search of that lamb. At school they are taught to express themselves freely. Little Marcia, when she does so— she takes after her mother—is delightful*! 97

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Marcia has a fight in school today with one o£ the little gentlemen, her contemporaries. He breaks her photographic plate. The fight is about the nature of chickens’ eggs. She stamps on his foot. Being a girl, she still has an advantage in mental age and more words to say; she says a sentence in French. He can’t punch her in the nose because it is ungentlemanly. He is inhibited from drawing on his best knowl¬ edge because it is dirty; but worse, it is gloomily indistinct, and even on these matters she seems to have more definite information, is about to mention it. “Shut up!” he argues, “shut up! you’re just an old-time Jew.” This perplexing observation, of which she understands neither head nor tail, brings her to a momentary pause; for up to now, at least with Harry—though certainly not with Terry or Larry—she has maintained a queenly advantage. But he has brought her to a pause by drawing on absolutely new information. Now she does a reckless thing: she dismisses his remark from her mind and launches into a tirade which devastatingly combines con¬ tempt and the ability to form complete sentences, till Harry goes away in order not to cry. A reckless, a dangerous thing: because what we thus dismiss enters the regions of anxiety, of loss and unfulfilled desire, and there makes strange friends. This is the prologue to fanatic interests and to falling in love. How new and otherwise real is this observation on its next appearance! Marcia calls her mother sometimes Momsy and sometimes Martha. “What did Harry mean,” she asks her, “when he called me an oldtime shoe?” “Jew?” “Yes, he stated I was just an old-time Joo.” Across the woman’s face passes, for ever so many reasons, the least perceptible tightening. “Oh oh!” feels Marcia along her ears and scalp; and now she is confirmed and doubly confirmed in the sus¬ picions she did not know she had. When she now has to express herself with colored chalks, new and curious objects will swim into the fore¬ ground alongside the pool, the clock will become a grandfather’s clock, and all be painted Prussian blue, even though Miss Coyle is trying to cajole especially the little girls into using warm bright colors, because that is their natural bent. “Well he was right, you are a Jewess,” says Martha. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” “Said Joo, not Juice.”

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“A Jew is a boy; a Jewess is a girl.” “Oh! there are two kinds!” It’s worse and worse. She never dreamed that Harry was up on anything, but perhaps even his veiled hints conceal something. She feels, it seems inescapable to her, that boys have a power, surely not obvious in school—and the grown-ups even take it for granted! She sees it every day, that these same boys when they become men are superior to the women. Yet men’s clothes don’t express anything, and actresses are better than actors. But just this contradiction con¬ firms it all the more, for the explanations of contradictions are in the indistinct region—and everything there is mutually involved. Marcia is already working on a system of the mysteries. Especially when Momsy now tries to tell her some reasonable anecdote about Jewesses and Jews, just like a previous astringent account of the chickens and the flowers. Martha never happens to have told little Marcia that they are all Jews. “Is Ronnie a Joo?” “Of course.” “Are Louis and Bernie Joos?” “Louis is a Jew but Bernie is a Gentile.” It’s a lie, thinks Marcia; they are both the same. (She means they are both effeminate.) Why is Martha lying to her? “What is ser-cum-si-zhun?” asks Marcia, calling the lie. This inquisition has now become intolerable to Martha. “Good night, Marcia,” she explains. “Is Rosina a Juice?” Marcia cries, asking about Ronnie’s mistress. “Marcia! I said good night!” “Tell me! tell me! is Rosina Juice?” “No.” “Ah!” “Why Ah?” “Good night, Momsy,” says Marcia, kissing her. Since the habits are formed speediest where necessity constrains and yet conscious and deliberate adjustment is embarrassing or tedious, Martha has speedily and long ago learned the few adjustments belong¬ ing particularly to Jews of a certain class of money. The other hotel; not on this list; the right to more chic and modernity, but please no associations with Betsy Ross in tableaux, or on committees. Of course

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habits learned by this mechanism are subject to amazing breaches, when submerged desire suddenly asserts itself and the son of Jacob becomes Belmont or Ronnie becomes, as he is, an honorary colonel in the militia. But on the whole, where money is so exchangeable, there are very few special adjustments; for instance, they never even came to Marcia’s keen perception, especially since none of the Jews whom she is so often with without knowing it, do not mention them. Of course, on the other hand, in the more critical social episodes, such as marriage—but forget that. And there are many other meanings, archaically forgotten. “Since you have to put up with the handicap whether you like it or not,” decides Mrs. Ronnie Morris, “why not make an advantage of it, and be proud of it?” And at once she writes out a check for a subscription to The Menorah Journal, the Harper’s Monthly of re¬ formed Jews. “Never heard such a stupid argument in my life!” says Ronnie. He is very angry, like any one who has played the game like a perfect gentleman and then finds that the other side goes too far and calls his daughter an old-time Jew. “What’s the use of pretending you’re a Jew, when you’re not a Jew?” he shouts. “We are Jews. Don’t shout,” says Martha. “I’ll go to school and punch that brat’s nose.” Martha says nothing. “Do I pay $300 a year for him to tell Marcia that she’s a Jew?” “But we are Jews,” says Martha, with a new loyalty. “Since when?” says Ronnie scientifically. “To be a Jew means one of three things: It means first to belong to a certain Race; but there isn’t any Jewish race in anthropology. Look at me, do I look like a Jewish race?” He looks like a highly brushed and polished moujik. “No. Secondly: it means a Nationality. But even if some Jews think they have a nationality, do I? I went to Jerusalem to pick out a Gentile lamb. Anyway, I can’t speak the language. Hebrew isn’t the same as Yiddish, you know, even though it looks the same; but I can’t speak that either. “Third: it’s a Religioh. So you see,” he concludes triumphantly, “it’s not a matter of not wanting to be a Jew or trying to hide that you’re a Jew, but you can’t be a Jew if you’re not a Jew!” “Don’t be a fool,” says Marcia. “A person’s a Jew if his grand¬ parents were Jews; even one’s enough sometimes, depending.”

PAUL

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“What sense does that make?’’ Do you think it s by accident,” says Martha flatly, “that your mama and papa came to marry Jews and we married Jews?” She means, thinks Ronnie, when our desire is toward Gentiles, toward retrousse noses and moon-face Hungarians. Does she mean Rosina? She means Bernie. We mean—but there is no time to think of that.

111 ask Louis, ’ says Ronnie; for though he holds sway at the luncheon club, all his ideas come from this poet. “He’s taking Marshy to the Picassos tomorrow.” “Let him tell her, then.” “What! are you going to let your daughter find out the facts from a stranger?” Having slept over it all night, by morning the little girl has con¬ trived the following working theory: In the beginning, of course, all babies are alike. Her deep-seated conviction on this point has never been in the least shaken by Momsy’s anecdotes about the chickens, for it is plain to observe that all babies are alike. (Nor is this the chief reason for her conviction.) But then comes the moment when the thing is cut off the girls. When this takes place, is not yet clear; but it is planned from the beginning, because you can tell by the names; although sometimes even there is a change of names; with some names you still can’t tell; and others are easy to change, like Robert and Roberta or Bernie and Bernice. All of this is an old story to Marcia. But now, there are some chosen ones, who are supposed to be cut but somehow they get off. Why? They are only partly cut—and this is ser-cum-si-zhun, because they use a scissors. These are Joos. For a moment, starting from “Louis,” Marcia thinks that she can tell by the names, but then when she thinks of “Ronnie” and 6f “Terry” and “Larry,” two boys in school whom she now knows are Joos (in fact, Terry is and Larry is not), she ^ees that she can’t. The last names are connected with marrying and have nothing to do with ser-cum-si-zhun. Now, she sees in a flash, it is better to be a Joo, for then you still have the secret power and the thing, but at the same time you can be cleverer like a girl. This is why Larry and Terry are always able to beat her, they have an unfair advantage; but Harry, the dope, is only a boy and not a Joo. There are also differences among Joos; for instance, Louis is much smarter than Papa. But this proves it, for Louis is more like Martha;

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that is, they cut the best amount off him, but not so much from Papa. Anyway, she hates Louis and loves her poor papa. And now an enormous love for poor Harry suffuses her and she begins to tremble and want to go to school; he has so much secret power. But more important—and, lying in bed, Marcia begins to tremble as she thinks about herself—what is a Juice? and besides all these, there are Gen-tiles. Martha and Marcia are Juice and Bernie is a Gen-tile. Oh! what a mean thing to say about poor Bernie, that he is not even a Juice, but even worse than a girl; he is not even clever. It is nice of Louis to be so kind to him. So it seems that things go in the following order: Boys, Joos, Juices, Girls, Gen-tiles. Except that it is smartest to be a Joo. But what is it! What is it that they did to Marcia to be a Juice? As she lets her fingers move between her thighs, she breaks into a cold sweat, and an urgency of longing loosens her strength. With a violent dismissal, she leaps from bed. But while she is eating breakfast, an awful emptiness for her boy Harry spreads within her, and she bursts into tears. Louis, who is quite intelligent, often cannot resist being cruel and supercilious to Ronnie, so that Ronnie feels like punching him in the nose—but then suddenly, at a poignant touch, even suggested by his own monologue, he relapses into natural melancholia. “To me of course,” says he suavely to Ronnie, “your Jewish problem doesn’t exist. My paternal parent twelfth removed was Joseph Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch, or Table of the observances; he had established the lineage back to Joseph, son of Eli, so that obviously, if we may lend any credence to the Gentile gospels, we go back to David the son of Jesse and further; but you’re a Russian Jew. On my mother’s side, I am related to the convert Leo the Hebrew; but that blood throughout is tainted by conversions; my three cousins, Georges de Duchesse, Georges Catala, and Georges Catala-de Duchesse were all converts of Maritain. My cousin Georges Catala-de Duchesse is the Abbot of St. Germain des Pres, an ZdoZ-worshipper, as I told him last summer. It ought to be clear by now, I said, that only Maimonides conceived the relation of God and Man in a way helpful and neces¬ sary to the Modern Age. This is my faith. ‘If every Jew would read the Mishneh Torah, he would become a perfect snob,’ cries Louis Parigi with pride, ‘and would set tradition against tradition and not take the insults lying down or by appealing merely to good sense!’ Besides, in our poetry both the Parigis and the de Duchesses look for inspira¬ tion to the Prophets. My cousin Georges de Duchesse, on the very eve

PAUL

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of his baptism wrote his rime royal Habakuk; but ‘Habakuk,’ as Voltaire says, ‘etait capable de tout!’ But even in writing my Anacre¬ ontics I have drawn on the dipsomaniac rhythms of your Chassidim. And by the way, my cousin Georges Catala was married to an eighth removed descendant of the Vilna Gaon, and her suicide was the cause of his conversion, which goes to show what comes of marrying with the Ashkenazim. (Are you also related to the Vilna Gaon, like all the other Lithuanians?) On the National issue, I am like Judah haLevi an allegorical Zionist; but the vulgar desire of a temporal habita¬ tion—this destroys, as I see it, just our sacred distinction from the Goyim”—(he pronounces Go-yeem as if he had stepped from a Chris¬ tian fastness in Aragon where never a Moor or Jew had once set foot);—“but God said—but God said,” says Louis, raising a forefinger, “Make Succoth, Booths.” At this quotation, suddenly, tears' glisten in his eyes and he sinks into the deepest gloom. “Besides,” he finishes airily, “except the purity of our Jewish morals, what defense do I have against adultery and sodomy?” It is especially this breezy ending that makes Ronnie punch him in the nose—almost; yet this happens to be his only heart-felt remark, though in the form of a wish. In the afternoon, in front of the impassive checkerboard of The Three Musicians, the little girl again bursts into tears. Louis, who has with some skill been pointing out to her only such features of the difficult paintings as she is adequate to, an underfed and melancholy face, a marvelous mother bathed in rose, the fact that in 1920 the colors are no longer blended, and enveloping it all in fanciful anecdotes—he looks at her in stupefaction. “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!” she sobs. They are alone in the room. “What’s not fair?” says Louis. “It’s not fair ’cause it’s a myst’ry, and I won’t ever be able to under¬ stand it.” “Why you’ve been understanding it very well, Marcia. What you said about the colors I didn’t know myself, because you’re a painter and I’m not.” “You’re lying to me—’cause it’s a secret myst’ry, and I won’t ever be able to understand it ’cause I’m only a girl, even if I’m a Juice.” ? ?

“I understand about the colors and the poor boy, but I can’t under-

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stand it all, ’cause they cut my thing off when I was little and Picass’ is a man— An’ I have nothing left but to be an actress. He takes her hand, for the tears are rolling down her cheeks. “—i won’t ever be able to make ’em any more with a myst’ry if I live to be a million years old.” She hides her face in her other arm, and she cries with the pent-up anxiety of her third to her ninth years. A guard comes in and hastily goes out the other door. On the walls, the impassive objects, which are indeed a secret mystery, stare from side to side. The tears glisten in Louis’s eyes. “This Holy Spirit,” he says—he thinks he says—“is given to us and not made by us. It’s not my fault if I cannot any more.” “Ah,” she says (he thinks), “maybe if it weren’t for the Bernies and the Jackies, the prophetic voice of the Lord of Hosts would not prove so disheartened at the third and fourth verse.” “What a despicable argument!” he cries (he thinks), “if I’m finally tired of that boy, why don’t I think so right off and not need these thin arguments to bolster up my courage? Stop staring, you,” says he to the unblinking middle Musician, “or I’ll punch you in the nose.” “Look Marshy,” he says reasonably to the little girl whose hand he is holding tight, “you can’t expect to make these things right off! You have to develop your power. Just as when you learn to play the piano, you see you have to begin with finger-exercises.” “Oh!” she cries in fright and pulls her hand away. “How could he tell so quick?” she thinks in terror; “Momsy couldn’t tell.” “See, this one is easy to understand,” he says, pointing to those Three Musicians. “You see, this is an oboe.” “What’s a Obo?” “An oboe is a kind of wooden instrument with stops. This part is what the oboe looks like from underneath, which you can’t ordinarily see. This is a guitar; he broke it into two pieces in order to make the pattern here with this red business—” “Can you, Louis?” she seizes his hand. “I mean can you? Can you develop your power by finger-exercises?” ?

?

“Can you? Can you?” “Certainly. Every day you’ll be able to paint a little better.” “Hurrah!” Two women come in, tittering at a pyramidal creature that is like one of the works of the Six Days.

PAUL

GOODMAN

1 05

But the silence is twangling with the music of the guitars of Picasso, with the guitars of Catalonia, with the cubist harmony by which the acrobats drift away. In the school-field, the fourth-year boys, in maroon sweat-suits, are playing the in-tra-mur-al ball-game, while Mr. Donlin is umpiring and keeping order. From time to time some of the little boys have the minds completely on the game. When his side is at bat, Harry is sitting on the lowest bench of the stands and Marcia bounces pebbles on him from above. Outside the iron fence around the field, Timmy and Page McCroskey, who go to Holy Name Academy, are staring at the clean and distinguished boys within. Mr. Donlin looks like a perfect fool, full of manly baby-talk such as, “Gooood try!” or “C’mon Terry, let’s see what you can do!” Sometimes he loses his temper. One' of the boys takes off his clothes and to the amazement of the Irish boys dis¬ closes his delicate limbs in another maroon uniform of shorts and a shirt with a big U. Amid a loud chorus, Mr. Donlin has to assert his authority to keep the children from exposing themselves to the cold air. “Mr. Donlin, Mr. Donlin,” mimic the two outside the bars, “kin I take off my drawers?” A local merchant-prince, a great contributor to the University, has the exclusive franchise for the manufacture and sale of these many uniforms. Timmy and Page and their friends call the U-school the Jew-school. They are envious of the boundless wealth behind the bars and of the fact that the girls and boys go to school together. “Why doncha let the girls play with youse?” shouts little Timmy. Page, who is a year younger and much bolder, cries, “Mr. Donlin, kin I take off my drawers and show the girls my p-■?” On the large field, which is used for the high-school games, the base¬ ball, thrown by weak arms and tapped by little bats, makes ridiculous little hops and arcs. Terry, distracted by the remark from the fence, drops a little pop-fly and the runners stream across the plate. Mr. Donlin advances to the fence shouting without profanity, go away or he’ll punch them in the nose. From a little distance, they shout in chorus: “Jew School Jew School!” and some of the little scholars, who at other times announce proudly that they go to the University P’rgressive School (as if they went to college), now turn pink. “Play ball!” shouts Mr. Donlin in a manly voice. Now all the little feelings are afire. Marcia and Harry, however, have heard nothing; but they have

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now progressed from the first stage of touching-yet-not-touching by throwing things at each other, to the next stage of punching and pull¬ ing shoe-laces. To the Irish boys, so systematically kept in order by their father and by the priest and Brothers to whom even their father defers, there is no way of doubting that non-Catholics enjoy a full sexual free¬ dom. They know, in fact, that the Reformation began with fornica¬ tion; and even more enviable are the Jews, as is proved by the antiSemitism, otherwise incomprehensible, that forms so large a part of the instruction by the Brothers. And along with this yearning, they observe this wealth and beauty and privilege through the bars; and so is consolidated that deep sentiment of inferiority which will to¬ morrow need firearms to soothe. To the little rich boys, on the other hand, it is obvious that free¬ dom lies outside the bars among those wild boys whose dirty lan¬ guage makes them tremble with terror and stirs unconquerable lust in each one when he is alone; who can stay out late and wear hats decorated with paper-clips, and beg for pennies from strangers. So even before the first clash, the rich boys feel physically and morally powerless and would like to be the slaves of the poor ones, and it will require all the machinery of the state to treat them with an iron hand. But why should I make the case any simpler than is necessary? For Timmy also hates little Page, just as he hates the Brothers in school; and among the U-boys there are the families going up and the fam¬ ilies falling down, and the case, for instance, of weedy Tom, whose parents are slipping and climbing at the same time, and who will to¬ morrow be satisfied and avenged by burning for the lowest hustler, if his name happens to be Woodrow, until with a sinking heart he one day learns that Woodrow isn’t a family name, but a war-name, after President Wilson. Fascinated, Timmy is watching Marcia wrestling with Harry and pulling his hair, while he is trying to concentrate on his teammate at bat: “Make it be a good one! Make it be a good one!” he cries; and then he suddenly chases Marcia up the stands. Pressed between the bars till he is white, Timmy follows them with his stare, above him, through the stands. But she jumps down and runs across the field to¬ ward the building, and the^i they both disappear. Poor Tommy stares at the gray door which has just closed.—So in each heart are fixed the types of love, after the girls who seem to be easy, who have the reputa¬ tion of being available, who are easy and available in idea though never in fact. The Jewish girls to the Irish boys like Timmy, and the

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Irish girls to the Jewish boys like Ronnie, and the sailors to Louis. But for the most part, it is just one’s own kind that is really available (and really desirable, and absolutely forbidden!), and that we live with in the end, as Ronnie with Martha, and Louis with Bernie; these are no doubt still deeper types of love, though far too deep to give us any pleasure. “Knock Knock!” cries Page McCroskey. “Play Ball!” shouts Mr. Donlin. “Knock Knock, Mr. Donlin, Knock Knock!” he screams. “Don’t pay any attention, play ball,” says Mr. Donlin. “Who’s there?” answers Larry. “Cohen!” “Don’t pay any attention!” cries Mr. Donlin. “Cohen who?” answers a voice. “Who said it?” shouts Mr. Donlin authoritatively. “Cohen f-yourself!” cry Page and Timmy together. One of the boys throws a stone at them. “You c- s-!” says Timmy, casting his eyes about for some resource. “Shut up, McCroskey,” says Terry, “or I’ll tell somethin’ on you, but I don’t want to make you ashamed.” “Do you believe that pile o’ s- that O’Hara said?” says Timmy wildly. “Naw, I saw it!” says Terry. “What did O’Hara say?” says Page. But at this instant a foul-ball jumps out over the fence. “H’yaann! H’yaann!” sing Page and Timmy and run down the block with the ball, grasping off their hats. “Where’s Harry Riesling? He’s supposed to be coaching on first,” says the beaten Mr. Donlin. But Marcia and Harry are in one of the empty rooms where they have never been before (it is part of the High School), and she is tell¬ ing him all about Picass’. He explains to her that he likes Terry and Larry swell, but he hates his big brother; but he promises just not to notice him any more. “He probably hates your papa as much as you hate him,” Marcia observes judiciously, “so that’s something you know on him.” This insight, this knowledge, casts such an angel light on Harry’s usually puzzled countenance that Marcia turns and stares at him. He explains to her that he likes geography and history, but .Miss Jensen doesn’t make it interesting the way Mr. Bee used to.

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and that’s why he’s not smart; and when Marcia tells him that she was in Egypt and the Near—East (as opposed to the Far—East), he is struck with admiration. But how different now is this admiration and his pleasure and pride in her ability to form complete sentences, as if she were a teacher whom he can kiss and lick and not even have to discuss certain things with, from the animosity he felt yesterday when she was so God-damned smart. She draws on the blackboard the dolphins playing at the lie de France’s prow. “There are geniuses in every race,” says Ronnie passionately, with all the energy of his desire for Rosina; “but both per capita and absolutely there are more of them among the Jews.” “I thought you said there was no Jewish race?” “That’s what I thought, but facts are facts and you can’t get around it. Einstein Ehrlich Freud.” “Yes, the Jews are always going in for syphilis or psychoanalysis or the fourth dimension,” says Martha. “Picasso—” “Ela, the same thing!” “Proust—” “There you have it!” says Martha triumphantly. “I’m not saying the Jews are not geniuses, but they’re queer, they’re just queer, that’s all.” “What about Dali? He’s not a Jew.” “Will you please tell me what you’re trying to prove by that? I thought you were trying to prove that all the Jews, including yourself, were geniuses.” “No, but you said that Proust and Picasso were Jews.” “I said it? I said it?” “I didn’t say you said it especially; they are Jews, half-Jews.” “Oh, don’t be a fool.” Ronnie says nothing. “And let me tell you another thing,” says Martha, "you Jews are not doing yourselves any favor by putting yourselves forward so much. If Felix Frankfurter is so smart as he’s supposed to be, he knows that especially just now there’s no place for another Jew on the Supreme Court bench. Every Jew that gets on the Supreme Court makes it just so much harder for us and Marcia. Where do you think I’m going to be able to send her to college?” “That’s a fine way of looking at it!” cries Ronnie. “It’s true enough,” he thinks; but Martha has always been ahead of him on national and international affairs.

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You le a Jew, so all right! ’ says Mrs. Ronnie Morris nee de Havilland. It s nothing to be ashamed of. But why bring it up in public? Who asks you?” “Who?” says Ronnie bewildered. But trust a Jew to put himself forward as if he were something peculiar! If it weren’t for the Jews, there wouldn’t be any antiSemitism.” “Who?” asks Ronnie. i94i

The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt BY MARY McCarthy

THE new man who came into the club car was coatless. He was dressed in gray trousers and a green shirt of expensive material that had what seemed to be the figure “2” embroidered in darker green on the sleeve. His tie matched the green of the monogram, and his face, which emerged rather sharply from this tasteful symphony in cool colors, was blush pink. The greater part of his head appeared to be pink, also, though actually toward the back there was a good deal of closely cropped pale-gray hair that harmonized with his trousers. He looked, she decided, like a middle-aged baby, like a young pig, like something in a seed catalogue. In any case, he was plainly Out of the Question, and the hope that had sprung up, as for some reason it always did, with the sound of a new step soft on the flowered Pull¬ man carpet, died a new death. Already the trip was half over. They were now several hours out of Omaha; nearly all the Chicago pas¬ sengers had put in an appearance; and still there was no one, no one at all. She must not mind, she told herself; the trip West was of no importance; yet she felt a curious, shamefaced disappointment, as if she had given a party and no guests had come. She turned again to the lady on her left, her vis-a-vis at breakfast, a person with dangling earrings, a cigarette holder, and a lorgnette, who was somebody in the New Deal and carried about with her a type¬ written report of the hearings of some committee which she was anxious to discuss. The man in the green shirt crowded himself into a love seat directly opposite, next to a young man with glasses and loud socks who was reading Vincent Sheean’s Personal History. Sustaining her end of a well-bred, wel^l-informed, liberal conversation, she had an air of perfect absorption and earnestness, yet she became aware, with¬ out ever turning her head, that the man across the way had decided to pick her up. Full of contempt for the man, for his coatlessness, for his color scheme, for his susceptibility, for his presumption, she never¬ theless allowed her voice to rise a little in response to him. The man l i 0

mary

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countered by turning to his neighbor and saying something excessively audible about Vincent Sheean. The four voices, answering each other, began to give an antiphonal effect, Vincent Sheean was a fine fellow, she heard him pronounce; he could vouch for it, he knew him per¬ sonally. The bait was crude, she reflected. She would have preferred the artificial fly to the angleworm, but still . . . After all, he might have done worse; judged by eternal standards, Sheean might not be much, but in the cultural atmosphere of the Pullman car, Sheean was a titan. Moreover, if one judged the man by his intention, one could not fail to be touched. He was doing his best to please her. He had guessed from her conversation that she was an intellectual, and was placing the name of Sheean as a humble offering at her feet. And the simple vulgarity of the offering somehow enhanced its value; it was like one of those home-made cakes with Paris-green icing that she used to receive on her birthday from her colored maid. Her own neighbor must finally have noticed a certain displace¬ ment of attention, for she got up announcing that she was going in to lunch, and her tone was stiff with reproof and disappointment so that she seemed, for a moment, this rococo suffragette, like a nun who discovers that her favorite novice lacks the vocation. As she tugged upon the door to go out, a blast of hot Nebraska air rushed into the club car, where the air-cooling system had already broken down. The girl in the seat had an impulse to follow her. It would surely be cooler in the diner, where there was not so much glass. If she stayed and let the man pick her up, it would be a question of eating lunch together, and there would be a little quarrel about the check, and if she let him win she would have him on her hands all the way to Sacramento. And he was certain to be tiresome. That emblem in Gothic script spelled out the self-made man. She could foresee the political pronouncements, the pictures of the wife and children, the hand squeezed under the table. Nothing worse than that, fortunately, for the conductors on those trains were always very strict. Still, the whole thing would be so vulgar; one would expose oneself so to the derision of the other passengers. It was true, she was always wanting something exciting and romantic to happen; but it was not really romantic to be the-girl-who-sits-in-the-club-car-and-picks-up-men. She closed her eyes with a slight shudder: some predatory view of herself had been disclosed for an instant. She heard her aunt’s voice saying, “I don’t know why you make yourself so cheap,” and ‘‘It doesn’t pay to let men think you’re easy.” Then she was able to open her eyes again, and smile a little, patronizingly, for of course it hadn’t worked

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out that way. The object of her trip was, precisely, to tell her aunt in Portland that she was going to be married again. She settled down in her seat to wait and began to read an advance copy of a new novel. When the man would ask her what-that-book-isyou’re-so-interested-in (she had heard the question before), she would be able to reply in a tone so simple and friendly that it could not give offense, “Why, you probably haven’t heard of it. It’s not out yet.” (Yet she thought, she had not brought the book along for purposes of ostentation: it had been given her by a publisher’s assistant who saw her off at the train, and now she had nothing else to read. So, really, she could not be accused of insincerity. Unless it could be that her whole way of life had been assumed for purposes of ostentation, and the book, which looked accidental, was actually part of that larger and truly deliberate scheme. If it had not been this book, it would have been something else, which would have served equally well to impress a pink middle-aged stranger.) The approach, when it came, was more unorthodox than she had expected. The man got up from his seat and said, “Can I talk to you?” Her retort, “What have you got to say?” rang off-key in her own ears. It was as if Broadway had answered Indiana. For a moment the man appeared to be taken aback, but then he laughed. “Why, I don’t know; nothing special. We can talk about that book, I guess.” She liked him, and with her right hand made a gesture that meant, “All right, go on.” The man examined the cover. “I haven’t heard about this. It must be new.” “Yes.” Her reply had more simplicity in it than she would have thought she could achieve. “It isn’t out yet. This is an advance copy.” “I’ve read something else by this fellow. He’s good.” “You have?” cried the girl in a sharp, suspicious voice. It was in¬ credible that this well-barbered citizen should not only be familiar with but have a taste for the work of an obscure revolutionary novelist. On the other hand, it was incredible that he should be lying. The artless and offhand manner in which he pronounced the novelist’s name indicated no desire to shine, indicated in fact that he placed no value on that name, that it was to him a name like Hervey Allen or Arthur Brisbane or Westbrook Pegler or any other. Two alternatives presented themselves: either the man belonged to that extraordinary class of readers who have perfect literary digestions, who can devour anything printed, retaining what suits them, eliminating what does not, and liking all impartially, because, since they take what they want from each, they are always actually reading the same book (she

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had had a cousin who was like that about the theater, and she re¬ membered how her aunt used to complain, saying, “It’s no use asking Cousin Florence whether the show at the stock company is any good this week; Cousin Florence has never seen a bad play”)—either that, or else the man had got the name confused and was really thinking of some popular writer all the time. Still, the assertion, shaky as it was, had given him status with her. It was as if he had spoken a password, and with a greater sense of assurance and propriety, she went on listening to his talk. His voice was rather rich and dark; the accent was Middle Western, but under¬ neath the nasalities there was something soft and furry that came from the South. He lived in Cleveland, he told her, but his business kept him on the go a good deal; he spent nearly half his time in New York. “You do?” she exclaimed, her spirits rising. “What is your business?” Her original view of him had already begun to dissolve, and it now seemed to her that the instant he had entered the club car she had sensed that he was no ordinary provincial entrepreneur. • “I’m a traveling salesman,” he replied genially. In a moment she recognized that this was a joke, but not before he had caught her look of absolute dismay and panic. He leaned toward her and laughed. “If it sounds any better to you,” he said, “I’m in the steel business.” “It doesn’t,” she replied, recovering herself, making her words prim with political disapproval. But he knew, she had given herself away; he had trapped her features in an expression of utter snobbery. “You’re a pink, I suppose,” he said, as if he had noticed nothing. “It’d sound better to you if I said I was a burglar.” “Yes,” she acknowledged, with a comic air of frankness, and they both laughed. Much later, he gave her a business card that said he was an executive in Little Steel, but he persisted in describing himself as a traveling salesman, and she saw at last that it was an accident that the joke had turned on her: the joke was a wry, humble, clownish one that he habitually turned on himself. When he asked if she would join him in a drink before lunch, she accepted readily. “Let’s go into the diner, though. It may be cooler.” “I’ve got a bottle of whisky in my compartment. I know it’s cool there.” Her face stiffened. A compartment was something she had not counted on. But she did not know (she never had known) how to refuse. She felt bitterly angry with the man for having exposed her—

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so early—to this supreme test of femininity, a test she was bound to fail, since she would either go into the compartment, not wanting to (and he would know this and feel contempt for her malleability), or she would stay out of the compartment, wanting to have gone in (and he would know this, too, and feel contempt for her timidity). The man looked at her face. “Don’t worry,” he said in a kind, almost fatherly voice. “It’ll be perfectly proper. I promise to leave the door open.” He took her arm and gave it a slight, reassuring squeeze, and she laughed out loud, delighted with him for having, as she thought, once again understood and spared her. In the compartment, which was off the club car, it was cooler. The highballs, gold in the glasses, tasted, as her own never did, the way they looked in the White Rock advertisements. There was something about the efficiency with which his luggage, in brown calf, was dis¬ posed in that small space, about the white coat of the black waiter who kept coming in with fresh ice and soda, about the chicken sand¬ wiches they' finally ordered for lunch, that gave her that sense of ritualistic “rightness” that the Best People are supposed to bask in. The open door contributed to this sense: it was exactly as if they were drinking in a show window, for nobody went by who did not peer in, and she felt that she could discern envy, admiration, and censure in the quick looks that were shot at her. The man sat at ease, unconscious of these attentions, but she kept her back straight, her shoulders high with decorum, and let her bare arms rise and fall now and then in short parabolas of gesture. But if for the people outside she was playing the great lady, for the man across the table she was the Bohemian Girl. It was plain that she was a revelation to him, that he had never under the sun seen anyone like her. And he was quizzing her about her way of life with the intense, unashamed, wondering curiosity of a provincial seeing for the first time the sights of a great but slightly decadent city. Answer¬ ing his questions she was able to see herself through his eyes (brown eyes, which were his only good feature, but which somehow matched his voice and thus enhanced the effect, already striking, of his having been put together by a gopd tailor). What she got from his view of her was a feeling of uniqueness and identity, a feeling she had when, at twenty, she had come to New York and had her first article accepted by a liberal weekly, but which had slowly been rubbed away by four years of being on the inside of the world that had looked magic from Portland, Oregon. Gradually, now; she was becoming very happy, for

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she knew for sure in this compartment that she was beautiful and gay and clever, and worldly and innocent, serious and frivolous, capricious and trustworthy, witty and sad, bad and really good, all mixed up together, all at the same time. She could feel the power running in her, like a medium on a particularly good night. As these multiple personalities bloomed on the single stalk of her ego, a great glow of charity, like the flush of life, suffused her. This man, too, must be admitted into the mystery; this stranger must be made to open and disclose himself like a Japanese water flower. With a messianic earnestness she began to ask him questions, and though at first his answers displayed a sort of mulish shyness (“I’m just a traveling salesman,’’ “I’m a surburban businessman,” “I’m an eco¬ nomic royalist”), she knew that sooner or later he would tell her the truth, the rock-bottom truth, and was patient with him. It was not the first time she had “drawn a man out”—the phrase puckered her mouth, for it had never seemed like that to her. Certain evenings spent in bars with men she had known for half an hour came back to her; she remembered the beautiful frankness with which the cards on each side were laid on the table till love became a wonderful slow game of double solitaire and nothing that happened afterwards counted for anything beside those first few hours of self-revelation. Now as she put question after question she felt once more like a happy burglar twirling the dial of a well-constructed safe, listening for the locks to click and reveal the combination. When she asked him what the emblem on his shirt stood for, unexpectedly the door flew open. “It was a little officer’s club we had in the war,” he said. “The four deuces, we called ourselves.” He paused, and then went on irrelevantly, “I get these shirts at Brooks Brothers. They’ll put the emblem on free if you order the shirts custom-made. I always order a dozen at a time. I get everything at Brooks Brothers except ties and shoes. Leonie thinks it’s stodgy of me.” Leonie was his wife. They had a daughter, little Angela, and two sons, little Frank and little Joe, and they lived in a fourteen-room house in the Gates Mills section of Cleveland. Leonie was a home girl, quite different from Eleanor, who had been his first big love and was now a decorator in New York. Leonie loved her house and chil¬ dren. Of course, she was interested in culture, too, particularly the theater, and there were always a lot of young men from the Cleveland Playhouse hanging around her; but then she was a Vassar girl, and you had to expect a woman to have different interests from a man. Leonie was a Book-of-the-Month Club member and she also sub-

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scribed to the two liberal weeklies. “She’ll certainly be excited,” the man said, grinning with pleasure, “when she hears I met somebody from the Liberal on this trip. But she’ll never be able to understand why you wasted your time talking to poor old Bill.” The girl smiled at him. “I like to talk to you,” she said, suppressing the fact that nothing on earth would have induced her to talk to Leonie. “I read an article in those magazines once in a while,” he continued dreamily. “Once in a while they have something good, but on the whole they’re too wishy-washy for me. Now that I’ve had this visit with you, though. I’ll read your magazine every week, trying to guess which of those things in the front you wrote.” “I’m never wdshy-washy,” said the girl, laughing. “But is your wife radical?” “Good Lord, no! She calls herself a liberal, but actually I’m more of a radical than Leonie is.” “How do you mean?” “Well, take the election. I’m going to vote for Landon because it’s expected of me, and my vote won’t put him in.” “But you’re really for Roosevelt?” “No,” said the man, a little impatiently, “I don’t like Roosevelt either. I don’t like a man that’s always hedging his bets. Roosevelt’s an old woman. Look at the way he’s handling those CIO strikes. He doesn’t have the guts to stay out of the whole business.” He leaned across the table and added, almost in a whisper, “You know who I’d like to vote for?” The girl shook her head. “Norman Thomas!” “But you’re a steel man!” said the girl. The man nodded. “Nobody knows how I feel, not even Leonie.” He paused to think. “I was in the last war,” he said finally, “and I had a grand time. I was in the cavalry and there weren’t any horses. But they made me a cap¬ tain and decorated me. After the armistice we were stationed in Cologne, and we got hold of a Renault and every week end we’d drive all night so we could 'Jiave a day on the Riviera.” He chuckled to himself. “But the way I look at it, there’s a new war coming and it isn’t going to be like that. God Almighty, we didn’t hate the Germans!” “And now?” “You wait,” he said. “Last time' it was supposed to be what you

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people call an ideological war—for democracy and all that. But it wasn’t. That was just advertising. You liberals have all of a sudden found out that it was Mr. Morgan’s war. You think that’s terrible. But let me tell you that Mr. Morgan’s war was a hell of a lot nicer to fight than this new one will be. Because this one will be ideological, and it’ll be too damned serious. You’ll wish that you had the international bankers and munitions men to stop the fight when things get too rough. I’d like to see this country stay out of it. That’s why I’m for Thomas.” “You’re a very interesting man,” said the girl, tears coming to her eyes, perhaps because of the whisky. “I’ve never known anyone like you. You’re not the kind of businessman I write editorials against.” “You people are crazy, though,” he said genially. “You’re never going to get anywhere in America with that proletariat stuff. Every workingman wants to live the way I do. He doesn’t want me to live the way he does. You people go at it from the wrong end. I remember a Socialist organizer came down fifteen years ago into southern Illi¬ nois. I was in the coal business then, working for my first girl’s father. This Socialist was a nice fellow . . .” His voice was dreamy again, but there was an undercurrent of ex¬ citement in it. It was as if he were reviving some buried love affair, or, rather, some wispy young tendresse that had never come to any¬ thing. The Socialist organizer had been a distant connection of his first girl’s, the two men had met and had some talks; later the Socialist had been run out of town; the man had stood aloof, neither helping nor hindering. “I wonder what’s become of him,” he said finally. “In jail some¬ where, I guess.” “Oh no,” said the girl. “You don’t understand modern life. He’s a big bureaucrat in the CIO. Just like a businessman, only not so well paid.” The man looked puzzled and vaguely sad. “He had a lot of nerve,” he murmured, then added quickly, in a loud, bumptious tone, “But you’re all nuts!” The girl bit her lips. The man’s vulgarity was undeniable. For some time now she had been attempting (for her own sake) to white¬ wash him, but the crude raw material would shine through in spite of her. It had been possible for her to remain so long in the compart¬ ment only on the basis of one of two assumptions, both of them literary: (a) that the man was a frustrated socialist, (b) that he was a frustrated man of sensibility, a kind of Sherwood Anderson character.

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But the man’s own personality kept popping up, perversely, like a jack-in-the-box, to confound these theories. The most one could say was that the man was frustrated. She had hoped to “give him back to himself,” but these fits of self-assertion on his part discouraged her by making her feel that there was nothing very good to give. She had, moreover, a suspicion that his lapses were deliberate, even malicious, that the man knew what she was about and why she was about it, and had made up his mind to thwart her. She felt a Take-me-as-I-am, an I’ll-drag-you-down-to-my-level challenge behind his last words. It was like the resistance of the patient to the psychoanalyst, of the worker to the Marxist: she was offering to release him from the chains of habit, and he was standing up and clanking those chains com¬ fortably and impudently in her face. On the other hand, she knew, just as the analyst knows, just as the Marxist knows, that somewhere in his character there was the need of release and the humility that would accept aid—and there was, furthermore, a kindness and a gen¬ eral co-operativeness which would make him pretend to be a little better than he was, if that would help her to think better of herself. For the thing was, the man and the little adventure of being with him had a kind of human appeal that she kept giving in to against her judgment. She liked him. Why, it was impossible to say. The at¬ traction was not sexual, for, as the whisky went down in the bottle, his face took on a more and more porcine look that became so dis¬ tasteful to her that she could hardly meet his gaze, but continued to talk to him with a large, remote stare, as if he were an audience of several hundred people. Whenever she did happen to catch his eye, to really look at him, she was as disconcerted as an actor who sees a human expression answering him from beyond the footlights. It was not his air of having money, either, that drew her to him, though that, she thought humorously, helped, but it hindered too. It was partly the homespun quality (the use of the word, “visit,” for example, as a verb meaning “talk,”’ took her straight back to her childhood and to her father, gray-slippered, in a brown leather chair), and partly of course his plain delight in her, which had in it more shrewdness than she had thought at first, for, though her character was new and inexplicable to him, in a gross sense he was clearly a connoisseur of women. But beyond all this, she had glimpsed in him a vein of sympathy and understanding that made him available to any human being, just as he was, apparently, available as a reader to any novelist—and this might proceed, not, as she had assumed out in the club car, from stupidity, but from a restless and perennially hopeful curiosity.

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Actually, she decided, it was the combination of provincialism and adventurousness that did the trick. This man was the frontier, though the American frontier had closed, she knew, forever, somewhere out in Oregon in her father’s day. Her father, when that door had shut, had remained on the inside. In his youth, as she had learned to her surprise, from some yellowed newspaper clippings her aunt had for¬ gotten in an old bureau drawer, he had been some kind of wildcat radical, full of workmen’s compensation laws and state ownership of utilities, but he had long ago hardened into a corporation lawyer. Eastern style. She remembered how once she had challenged him with those clippings, thinking to shame him with the betrayal of ideals and how calmly he had retorted, “Things were different then.” “But you fought the railroads, she had insisted. “And now you’re their lawyer.” “You had to fight the railroads in those days,” he had an¬ swered innocently, and her aunt had put in, with her ineffable plebeian sententiousness, “Your father always stands for what is right.” But she saw now that her father had honestly perceived no contra¬ diction between the two sets of attitudes, which was the real proof that it was not he, so much as the times, that had changed. Yet this man she was sitting with had somehow survived, like a lonely dinosaur, from that former day. It was not even a true survival, for if he was, as he said, forty-one, that would make him thirty years younger than her father, and he would be barely able to recall the Golden Age of American imperialism, to which, nevertheless, he plainly belonged. Looking at him, she thought of other young em¬ pires and recalled the Roman busts in the Metropolitan, marble faces of businessmen, shockingly rugged and modern and recognizable after the smooth tranquillity of the Greeks. Those early businessmen had been omnivorous, too, great readers, eaters, travelers, collectors, and, at the beginning, provincial also, small-town men newly admitted into world citizenship, faintly uneasy but feeling their oats. In the course of this analysis she had glided all the way from aver¬ sion to tenderness. She saw the man now as a man without a country, and felt a desire to reinstate him. But where? The best she could do was communicate to him a sense of his isolation and grandeur. She could ensconce him in the dignity of sadness. Meanwhile, the man had grown almost boisterously merry. It was late afternoon; the lunch things had long ago been taken away; and the bottle was nearly empty. Outside the flat yellow farm land went by, comfortably dotted with haystacks; the drought and the cow bones strewn over the Dust Bowl seemed remote as a surrealist painting.

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Other passengers still paused to look in at the open door on their way to the club car, but the girl was no longer fully aware of them: they existed, as it were, only to give the perspective, to deepen that warm third dimension that had been established within the compartment. The man was lit up with memories of the war, droll stories of horse¬ play and drinking parties, a hero who was drowned while swimming in a French river, trips to Paris, Notre Dame, and target practice in the Alps. It had been, she could see, an extension of college days, a sort of lower-middle-class Grand Tour, a wonderful male roughhouse that had left a man such as this with a permanent homesickness for fraternity and a loneliness that no stag party could quite ease. “I suppose I’m boring you,” said the man, still smiling to himself, “but—it’s a funny thing to say—I haven’t had such a good time since the war. So that you remind me of it, and I can’t stop talking. I don’t know why.” “I know,” she said, full of gentle omniscience. (This was her best side, and she knew it. But did that spoil it, keep it from being good?) “It’s because you’ve made a new friend, and you probably haven’t made one for twenty years, not since the war. Nobody does, after they’re grown-up.” “Maybe so,” said the man. “Getting married, no matter how many times you do it, isn’t the same thing. If you even think you’d like to marry a girl, you have to start lying to her. It’s a law of nature, I guess. You have to protect yourself. I don’t mean about cheating—that’s small potatoes . . .” A meditative look absorbed his face. “Jesus Christ,” he said, “I don’t even know Leonie any more, and vice versa, but that’s the way it ought to be. A man doesn’t want his wife to understand him. That’s not her job. Her job is to have a nice house and nice kids and give good parties he can have his friends to. If Leonie understood me, she wouldn’t be able to do that. Probably we’d both go to pot.” Tears came to her eyes again. The man’s life and her own life seemed unutterably tragic. “I was in love with my husband,” she said. “We understand each other. He never had a thought he didn’t tell me.” “But you got a divorce,” said the man. “Somebody must have mis¬ understood somebody else somewhere along the line.” “Well,” she admitted, “maybe he didn’t understand me so well. He was awfully surprised . . .” She giggled like a soubrette. The giggle was quite out of character at the moment, but she had not been able to re¬ sist it. Besides (she was sure), it was these quick darts and turns, these

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flashing inconsistencies that gave her the peculiar, sweet-sour, highly volatile charm that was her speciality de la maison. “Surprised when you picked up with somebody else?” asked the man. She nodded. “What happened to that?” After I got divorced, I didn’t want to marry him any more.” “So now you’re out on your own?” The question seemed almost idle, but she replied in a distinct, em¬ phatic voice, as if he were deaf and she had an important message for him. “No,” she said. “I’m going to be married in the fall.” “Are you in love with this one?” Oh, yes, she said. He s charming. And he and I are much more alike than Tom and I were. He’s a little bit of a bum and Lam too. And he’s selfish, which is a good thing for me. Tom was so good. And so vulnerable. The back of his neck was just like a little boy’s. I always remember the back of his neck.” She spoke earnestly, but she saw that the man did not understand. Nobody had ever understood—and she herself did not quite know— why this image retained such power over her, why all her feelings of guilt and shame had clustered around the picture of a boyish neck (the face had not been boyish, but prematurely lined) bared like an early martyr’s for the sword. “How could I have done it?” she whis¬ pered to herself again, as she still did nearly every day, and once again she was suffused with horror. “He was too good for me,” she said at last. “I felt like his mother. Nobody would ever have known it, but he needed to be protected.” That was it. That was what was so awful. Nobody would ever have known. But she had crawled into his secret life and nestled there, like the worm in the rose. How warm and succulent it had been! And when she had devoured it all, she had gone away. “Oh, God,” she muttered under her breath. It was no excuse that she had loved him. The worm indubitably loves the rose. Hurriedly, to distract herself, she began to talk about her love affairs. First names, with thumbnail descriptions, rolled out till her whole life sounded to her like a drugstore novel. And she found herself over¬ anxious to explain to him why in each case the thing had not borne fruit, how natural it was that she should have broken with John, how reasonable that she should never have forgiven Ernest. It was as if she had been a prosecuting attorney drawing up a brief against each of her lovers, and, not liking the position, she was relieved when the man in¬ terrupted her.

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“Seems to me,” he said, “you’re still in love with that husband of yours.” “Do you think so really?” she asked, leaning forward. “Why?” Per¬ haps at last she had found him, the one she kept looking for, the one who could tell her what she was really like. For this she had gone to palmists and graphologists, hoping not for a dark man or a boat trip, but for some quick blaze of gypsy insight that would show her her own lineaments. If she once knew, she had no doubt that she would behave perfectly; it was merely a question of finding out. How, she thought, can you act upon your feelings if you don’t know what they are? As a little girl whispering to a young priest in the confessional she had sometimes felt sure. The Church could classify it all for you. If you talked or laughed in church, told lies, had impure thoughts or conversations, you were bad; if you obeyed your parents or guardians, went to confession and communion regularly, said prayers for the dead, you were good. Protestants, like her father, were neutral; they lived in a gray world beyond good and evil. But when as a homely high-school girl, she had rejected the Church’s filing system, together with her aunt’s illiterate morality, she had given away her sense of herself. For a while she had believed that it was a matter of waiting until you grew older and your character was formed; then you would be able to recog¬ nize it as easily as a photograph. But she was now twenty-four, and had heard other people say she had a strong personality; she herself how¬ ever was still in the dark. This hearty stranger in the green shirt—per¬ haps he could really tell whether she was in love with her husband. It was like the puzzle about the men with marks on their foreheads: A couldn’t know whether his own forehead was marked, but B and C knew, of course, and he could, if he were bright, deduce it from their behavior. “Well,” replied the man, “of all the fellows you’ve talked about, Tom’s the only one I get a picture of. Except your father—but that’s different; he’s the kind of a man I know about.” The answer disappointed her. It was too plain and folksy to cover the facts. It was true that she had loved her husband personally, for himself, and this had never happened to her with anyone else. Nobody else’s idiosyncrasies had ever warmed her; nobody else had she ever watched asleep. Yet that kind of love had, unfortunately, rendered her impotent to love him in the ordinary way, had, in fact, made it necessary for her to be unfaithful to him, and so, in the course of time, to leave him altogether. Or could it not be put in another way? Could she not say that all that conjugal tenderness had been a brightly

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packaged substitute for the Real Thing, for the long carnal swoon she had never quite been able to execute in the marriage bed? She had noticed that in those households where domesticity burns brightest and the Little Attentions rain most prodigally, the husband is seldom ad¬ mitted to his real conjugal rights. But it was impossible to explain this to the man. Already the con¬ versation had dropped once or twice into ribaldry, but she was de¬ termined to preserve the decorum of the occasion. It was dark outside now and the waiter was back again, serving little brook trout on plates that had the Union Pacific’s crest on them. Yet even as she warned her¬ self how impossible it was, she heard her voice rushing on in a torrent of explicitness. (This had all happened so many times before, ever since, as a schoolgirl, she had exchanged dirty jokes with the college boys from Eugene and seen them stop the car and lunge at her across the gearshift. While all the time, she commiserated with herself, she had merely been trying to be a good fellow, to show that she was sophisticated and grown-up, and not to let them suspect—oh, never!— that her father did not allow her to go out with boys and that she was a neophyte, a helpless fledgling, with no small talk and no coquetry at all. It had not been fair—she could still italicize it, bitterly—for them to tackle her like a football dummy; she remembered the struggles back and forth on the slippery leather seats of sports roadsters, the physical awkwardness of it all being somehow the crowning indignity; she re¬ membered also the rides home afterwards, and how the boy’s face would always be sullen and closed—he was thinking that he had been cheated, made a fool of, and resolving never to ask her again, so that she would finally become notorious for being taken out only once. How indecent and antihuman it had been, like a tussle between the drowning man and the lifeguard! And of course she had invited it, just as she was inviting it now, but what she was really asking all along was not that the male should assault her, but that he should believe her a woman. This freedom of speech of hers was a kind of masquerade of sexuality, like the rubber breasts that homosexuals put on for drags, but, like the dummy breasts, its brazenness betrayed it: it was a poor copy and a hostile travesty all at once. But the men, she thought, did not look into it so deeply; they could only respond by leaping at her —which, after all, she supposed, was their readiest method of showing her that her impersonation had been convincing. Yet that response, when it came, never failed to disconcert and frighten her: I had not counted on this, she could always whisper to herself, with a certain sad bewilderment. For it was all wrong, it was unnatural: art is to be ad-

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mired, not acted on, and the public does not belong on the stage, nor the actors in the audience.) But once more the man across the table spared her. His face was a little heavy with drink, but she could see no lechery in it, and he listened to her as calmly as a priest. The sense of the nightmare lifted; free will was restored to her. “You know what my favorite quotation is?” she asked suddenly. She must be getting drunk, she knew, or she would not have said this, and a certain cool part of her personality protested. I must not quote poetry, she thought, I must stop it; God help us, if I’m not careful, we’ll be singing Yale songs next. But her voice had broken away from her; she could only follow it, satirically, from a great distance. “It’s from Chaucer,” she went on, when she saw that she had his attention. “Criseyde says it, ‘I am myn owene woman, wel at ese.’ ” The man had some difficulty in understanding the Middle English, but when at last he had got it straight, he looked at her with bald admiration. “Golly,” he said, “you are, at that!” The train woke her the next morning as it jerked into a Wyoming station. “Evanston?” she wondered. It was still dark. The Pullman shade was drawn, and she imagined at first that she was in her own lower berth. She knew that she had been drunk the night before, but re¬ flected with satisfaction that Nothing Had Happened. It would have been terrible if . . , She moved slightly and touched the man’s body. She did not scream, but only jerked away in a single spasmodic move¬ ment of rejection. This can’t be, she thought angrily, it can’t be. She shut her eyes tight. When I open them again, she said, he will be gone. I can’t face it, she thought, holding herself rigid; the best thing to do is to go back to sleep. For a few minutes she actually dozed and dreamed she was back in Lower Seven with the sheets feeling extraordinary crisp and clean and the curtains hanging protectively about her. But in the dream her pillow shook under her as the porter poked it to call her for breakfast, and she woke again and knew that the man was still beside her and had moved in his sleep. The train was pulling out of the station. If it had not beqn so early, outside on the platform there would have been tall men in cowboy hats. Maybe, she thought, I passed out and he put me to bed. But the body next to her was naked, and the horror rippled over her again as she realized by the coarse¬ ness of the sheets touching her that she was naked too. Oh my God, she said, get me out of this and I will do anything you want.

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Waves of shame began to run through her, like savage internal blushes, as fragments of the night before presented themselves for her inspection. They had sung songs, all right, she remembered, and there had been some question of disturbing the other passengers, and so the door had been shut. After that the man had come around to her side of the table and kissed her rather greedily. She had fought him off for a long time, but at length her will had softened. She had felt tired and kind, and thought, why not? Then there had been something peculiar about the love-making itself—but she could not recall what it was. She had tried to keep aloof from it, to be present in body but not in spirit. Somehow that had not worked out and she had been dragged in and humiliated. There was some comfort in this vagueness, but recollection quickly stabbed her again. There were (oh, holy Virgin!) four-letter words that she had been forced to repeat, and, at the climax, a rain of blows on her buttocks that must surely (dear God!) have left bruises. She must be careful not to let her aunt see her without any clothes on, she told herself, and remembered how once she had visualized sins as black marks on the white soul. This sin, at least, no one would see. But all at once she became aware of the significance of the sheets. The bed had been made up. And that meant that the Pullman porter . . . She closed her eyes, exhausted, unable to finish the thought. The Vincent Sheean man, the New Deal lady, the waiter, the porter seemed to press in on her, a crowd of jeering material witnesses. If only nobody could know . . . But perhaps it was not too late. She had a sudden vision of herself in a black dress, her face scrubbed and powdered, her hair neatly combed, sitting standoffishly in her seat, watching Utah and Nevada go by and reading her publisher’s copy of a new avant-garde novel. It could be done. If she could get back before the first call for breakfast, she might be able to carry it off. There would be the porter, of course, but he would not dare gossip to passengers. Softly, she climbed out of the berth and began to look for her clothes. In the darkness, she dis¬ covered her slip and dress neatly hung by the wash basin—the man must have put them there, and it was fortunate, at least, that he was such a shipshape character, for the dress would not be rumpled. On the floor she collected her stockings and a pair of white crepe-de-chine pants, many times mended, with a button off and a little brass pin in its place. Feeling herself blush for the pin, she sat down on the floor and pulled her stockings on. One garter was missing. She put on the rest of her clothes, and then began to look for the garter, but though she groped her way over every inch of the compartment, she could not

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find it. She sank to the floor again with one stocking hanging loosely down, buried her head in her arms and cried. She saw herself locked in an intolerable but ludicrous dilemma: it was impossible to face the rest of the train with one stocking hanging down; but it was also im¬ possible to wait for the man to wake up and enlist him in retrieving the garter; it was impossible to send the porter for it later in the morn¬ ing, and more impossible to call for it in person. But as the comic nature of the problem grew plain to her, her head cleared. With a final sob she stripped off her stockings and stuffed them into her purse. She stepped barefooted into her shoes, and was fumbling in her purse for a comb when the man turned over and groaned. He remembers, she thought in terror, as she saw his arm reach out dimly white and plump in the darkness. She stood very still, waiting. Perhaps he would go back to sleep. But there was a click, and the read¬ ing light above the berth went on. The man looked at her in bewilder¬ ment. She realized that she had forgotten to buckle her belt. “Dearest,” he said, “what in the world are you doing?” “I’m dressed,” she said. “I’ve got to get out before they wake up. Good-by.” She bent over with the intention of kissing him on the forehead. Politeness required something, but this was the most she could bring herself to do. The man seized her arms and pulled her down, sitting up himself beside her. He looked very fat and the short hair on his chest was gray. “You can’t go,” he said, quite simply and naturally, but as if he had been thinking about it all night long. “I love you. I’m crazy about you. This is the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me. You come to San Francisco with me and we’ll go to Monterey, and I’ll fix it up with Leonie to get a divorce.” She stared at him incredulously, but there was no doubt of it: he was serious. His body was trembling. Her heart sank as she saw that there was no longer any question of leaving; common decency forbade it. Yet she was more frightened than flattered by his declaration of love. It was as if some terrible natural force were loose in the compartment. His seriousness, moreover, was a rebuke; her own squeamishness and sick distaste, which a moment before had seemed virtuous in her, now appeared heartless, even frivolous, in the face of his emotion. “But I’m engaged,” she said, rather thinly. “You’re not in love with him,” he said. “You couldn’t have done what you did last night if you were.” As the memory of love-making returned to him, his voice grew embarrassingly hoarse.

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“I was tight,” she said flatly in a low voice. “A girl like you doesn’t let a man have her just because she’s drunk.” She bowed her head. There was no possible answer she could give. “I must go,” she repeated. In a way she knew that she would have to stay, and knew, too, that it was only a matter of hours, but, just as a convict whose sentence is nearly up will try a jail break and get shot down by the guards, so the girl, with Sacramento not far ahead, could not restrain herself from begging, like a claustrophobic, for immediate release. She saw that the man was getting hurt and angry, but still she held herself stiffly in his embrace and would not look at him. He turned her head around with his hand. “Kiss me,” he said, but she pulled away. “I have to throw up.” He pointed to the toilet seat, which was covered with green up¬ holstery. (She had forgotten that Pullman compartments had this in¬ decent feature.) She raised the cover and vomited, while the man sat on the bed and watched her. This was the nadir, she thought bitterly: surely nothing worse than this could ever happen to her. She wiped the tears from her eyes and leaned against the wall. The man made a gesture toward her. “Don’t touch me,” she said, “or I’ll be sick again. It would be better if I went back to my berth.” “Poor little girl,” he said tenderly. “You feel bad, don’t you?” He got out of the berth and took a fresh bottle of whisky from a suitcase. “I’ll have to save the Bourbon for the conductor,” he said in a matter-of-fact, friendly voice. “He’ll be around later on, looking for his cut.” For the first time that morning the girl laughed. The man poured out two small drinks and handed her one of them. “Take it like medi¬ cine,” he advised. She sat down on the berth and crossed her legs. The man put on a dressing-gown and pulled up a chair opposite her. They raised their glasses. The smell of the whisky gagged her and she knew that it was out of the question, physically, for her to get drunk a second time. Yet she felt her spirits lift a little. There was an air of professional rowdy¬ ism about their drinking neat whisky early in the morning in a dis¬ heveled compartment, that took her fancy. “What about the porter?” “Oh,” said the man genially. “I’ve squared him. I gave him ten last night and I’ll give him another ten when I get off. He thinks you’re

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wonderful. He said to me, ‘Mr. Breen, you sure done better than most.’ ” “Oh!” said the girl, covering her face with her hands. “Oh! Oh!” For a moment she felt that she could not bear it, but as she heard the man laugh she made her own discomfiture comic and gave an extra groan or two that were purely theatrical. She raised her head and looked at him shamefaced, and then giggled. This vulgarity was more comforting to her than any assurances of love. If the seduction (or whatever it was) could be reduced to its lowest common denominator, could be seen in farcical terms, she could accept and even, wryly, en¬ joy it. The world of farce was a sort of moral underworld, a cheerful, well-lit hell where a Fall was only a prat-fall after all. Moreover, this talk had about it the atmosphere of the locker room or the stag line, an atmosphere more bracing, more astringent than the air of Bohemia. The ten-dollar tips, the Bourbon for the conductor indicated competence and connoisseurship, which, while not of the highest order, did extend from food and drink and haberdashery all the way up to women. That was what had been missing in the men she had known in New York—the shrewd buyer’s eye, the swift, brutal appraisal. That was what you found in the country clubs and beach clubs and yacht clubs—but you never found it in the cafe of the Brevoort. The men she had known during these last four years had been, when you faced it, too easily pleased: her success had been grati¬ fying but hollow. It was not difficult, after all, to be the prettiest girl at a party for the sharecroppers. At bottom, she was contemptuous of the men who had believed her perfect, for she knew that in a bathing suit at Southampton she would never have passed muster, and though she had never submitted herself to this cruel test, it lived in her mind as a threat to her. A copy of Vogne picked up at the beauty parlor, a lunch at a restaurant that was beyond her means, would suffice to re¬ mind her of her peril. And if she had felt safe with the different men who had been in love with her it was because—she saw it now—in one way or another they were all of them lame ducks. The handsome ones, like her fiance, were good-for-nothing, the reliable ones, like her hus¬ band, were peculiar looking, the well-to-do ones were short and wore lifts in their shoes or fat with glasses, the clever ones were alcoholic or slightly homosexual, the serious ones were foreigners or else wore beards or black shirts or were desperately poor and had no table man¬ ners. Somehow each of them was handicapped for American life and therefore humble in love. And was she too disqualified, did she really belong to this fraternity of cripples, or was she not a sound and normal

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woman who had been spending her life in self-imposed exile, a princess among the trolls? She did not know. She would have found out soon enough had she stayed on in Portland, but she had not risked it. She had gone away East to college and never come back until now. And very early in her college life she had got engaged to a painter, so that nothing that hap¬ pened in the way of cutting in at the dances at Yale and Princeton really counted. She had put herself out of the running and was patently not trying. Her engagement had been a form of insurance, but the trouble was that it not only insured her against failure but also against success. Should she have been more courageous? She could not tell, even now. Perhaps she was a princess because her father was a real gentleman who lunched at his club and traveled by drawing room or compartment; but on the other hand, there was her aunt. She could find out for herself; it would take a prince to tell her. This man now—surely he came from that heavenly world, that divine position at the center of things where choice is unlimited. And he had chosen her. But that was all wrong. She had only to look at him to see that she had cheated again, had tried to get into the game with a deck of phony cards. For this man also was out of the running. He was too old. Sound as he was in every other respect, time had made a lame duck of him. If she had met him ten years before, would he have chosen her then? He took the glass from her hands and put his arms around her. “My God,” he said, “if this had only happened ten years ago!” She held herself stony in his embrace, and felt indeed like a rock being lapped by some importunate wave. There was a touch of dignity in the simile, she thought, but what takes place in the end?—Erosion. At that the image suddenly turned and presented another facet to her: dear Jesus, she told herself, frightened, I’m really as hard as nails. Then all at once she was hugging the man with an air of warmth that was not quite spurious and not quite sincere (for the distaste could not be smothered but only ignored); she pressed her ten fingers into his back and for the first time kissed him carefully on the mouth. The glow of self-sacrifice illuminated her. This, she thought de¬ cidedly, is going to be the only real act of charity I have ever per¬ formed in my life; it will be the only time I have ever given anything when it honestly hurt me to do so. That her asceticism should have to be expressed in terms of sensuality deepened, in a curious way, its value, for the sacrifice was both paradoxical and positive; this was no simple abstention like a meatless Friday or a chaste Sunday: it was the

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mortification of the flesh achieved through the performance of the act of pleasure. Quickly she helped him take off the black dress, and stretched her¬ self out on the berth like a slab of white lamb on an altar. While she waited with some impatience for the man to exhaust himself, for the in¬ dignity to be over, she contemplated with a burning nostalgia the image of herself, fully dressed, with the novel, in her Pullman seat, and knew, with the firmest conviction, that for once she was really and truly good, not hard or heartless at all. “You need a bath,” said the man abruptly, raising himself on one elbow and looking sharply down at her as she lay relaxed on the rumpled sheet. The curtain was halfway up, and outside the Great Salt Lake surrounded them. They had been going over it for hours, that immense, gray-brown blighting Dead Sea, which looked, not like an actual lake, but like a mirage seen in the desert. She had watched it for a long time, while the man beside her murmured of his happiness and his plans for the future; they had slept a little and when they opened their eyes again, it was still there, an interminable reminder of sterility, polygamy, and waste. “Get up,” he went on, “and I’ll ring for the porter to fix it for you.” He spoke harshly: this was the drill sergeant, the voice of authority. She sprang to attention, her lips quivering. Her nakedness, her long, loose hair, which a moment before had seemed voluptuous to her, now all at once became bold and disorderly, like an unbuttoned tunic at an army inspection. This was the first wound he had dealt her, but how deep the sword went in!—back to the teachers who could smoke ciga¬ rettes and gossip with you in the late afternoon and then rebuke you in the morning class, back to the relations who would talk with you as an equal and then tell your aunt you were too young for silk stockings, back through all the betrayers, the friendly enemies, the Janus-faced overseers, back to the mother who could love you and then die. “I don’t want a bath,” she asserted stubbornly. “I’m perfectly clean.” But she knew, of course, that she had not bathed since she left New York, and, if she had been allowed to go her own way, would not have bathed until she reached Portland—who would think of paying a dol¬ lar for a bath on the train? In the ladies’ room, where soot and spilt powder made a film over the dressing-tables and the hair receivers stared up, archaic as cuspidors, one sponged oneself hastily under one’s wrapper, and, looking at one’s neighbors jockeying for position at the mirror, with their dirty kimonos, their elaborate make-up kits, and

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their uncombed permanents, one felt that one had been fastidious enough, and hurried away, out of the sweet, musty, unused smell of middle-aged women dressing. “I’m perfectly clean,” she repeated. The man merely pressed the bell, and when the porter announced that the bath was ready, shoved her out into the corridor in his Brooks Brothers dressing gown with a cake of English toilet soap in her hands. In the ladies’ lounge, the colored maid had run the bath and stood just behind the half-drawn curtain, waiting to hand her soap and towels. And though, ordinarily, the girl had no particular physical modesty, at this moment it seemed to her insupportable that anyone should watch her bathe. There was something terrible and familiar about the scene—herself in the tub, washing, and a woman standing tall above her—something terrible and familiar indeed about the whole episode of being forced to cleanse herself. Slowly she 'remem¬ bered. The maid was, of course, her aunt, standing over her tub on Saturday nights to see that she washed every bit of herself, standing over her at the medicine cabinet to see that she took the castor oil, standing over her bed in the mornings to see if the sheets were wet. Not since she had been grown-up had she felt this peculiar weakness and shame. It seemed to her that she did not have the courage to send the maid away, that the maid was somehow the man’s representative, his spy, whom it would be impious to resist. Tears of futile, self-pitying rage came into her eyes, and she told herself that she would stay in the bath all day, rather than go back to the compartment. But the bell rang in the dressing-room, and the maid rustled the curtain, saying, “Do you want anything more? I’ll leave the towels here,” and the door swung to behind her, leaving the girl alone. She lay in the bath for a long time, gathering her forces. In the tepid water, she felt for the first time a genuine socialist ardor. For the first time in her life, she truly hated luxury, hated Brooks Brothers and Bergdorf Goodman and Chanel and furs and good food. All the pretty things she had seen in shops and coveted appeared to her sud¬ denly gross, superfatted, fleshly, even, strangely unclean. By a queer re¬ versal, the very safety pin in her underwear, which she had blushed for earlier in the morning, came to look to her now like a symbol of moral fastidiousness, just as the sores of a mendicant saint can, if thought of in the right way, testify to his spiritual health. A proud, bitter smile formed on her lips, as she saw herself as a citadel of socialist virginity, that could be taken and taken again, but never truly subdued. The man’s whole assault on her now seemed to have had a political char¬ acter; it was an incidental atrocity in the long class war. She smiled

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again, thinking that she had come out of it untouched, while he had been reduced to a jelly. All morning in the compartment he had been in a state of wild and happy excitement, full of projects for reform and renewal. He was not sure what ought to happen next; he only knew that everything must be different. In one breath, he would have the two of them playing golf together at Del Monte; in the next, he would imagine that he had given her up and was starting in again with Leonie on a new basis. Then he would see himself throwing everything overboard and going to live in sin in a villa in a little French town. But at that moment a wonderful technical innovation for the manufacture of steel would occur to him, and he would be anxious to get back to the office to put it through. He talked of giving his fortune to a pacifist organization in Washington, and five minutes later made up his mind to send little Frank, who showed signs of being a problem child, to a damn good military school. Perhaps he would enlarge his Gates Mills house; per¬ haps he would sell it and move to New York. He would take her to the theater and the best restaurants; they would go to museums and ride on bus tops. He would become a CIO organizer, or else he would give her a job in the personnel department of the steel company, and she could live in Cleveland with him and Leonie. But no, he would not do that, he would marry her, as he had said in the first place, or, if she would not marry him, he would keep her in an' apartment in New York. Whatever happened she must not get off the train. He had come to regard her as a sort of rabbit’s foot that he must keep by him at any price. Naturally, she told herself, the idea was absurd. Yet suddenly her heart seemed to contract and the mood of indulgent pity ebbed away from her. She shivered and pulled herself out of the tub. His obstinacy on this point frightened her. If he should bar her way when the time came . . . ? If there should be a struggle . . . ? If she should have to pull the communication cord . . . ? She told herself that such things do not happen, that during the course of the day she would surely be able to convince him that she must go. (She had noticed that the invocation of her father inevitably moved him. “We mustn’t do anything to upset your father,” he would say. “He must be a very fine man.” And tears would actually come to his''eyes. She would play that, she thought, for all it was worth.) Yet her uneasiness did not abate. It was as if, care¬ lessly, inadvertently, almost, she had pulled a switch that had set a whole strange factory going, and now, too late, she discovered that she did not know how to turn it off. She could have run away, but some

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sense of guilt, of social responsibility, of primitive awe, kept her glued to the spot, watching and listening, waiting to be ground to bits. Once, in a beauty parlor, she had been put under a defective dryer that re¬ mained on high no matter where she turned the regulator; her neck seemed to be burning up, and she could, at any time, have freed herself by simply getting out of the chair; yet she had stayed there the full half hour, until the operator came to release her. “I think,” she had said then, lightly, “there is something wrong with the machine.” And when the operator had examined it, all the women had gathered round clucking, “How did you ever stand it?” She had merely shrugged her shoulders. It had seemed, at the time, better to suffer than to “make a fuss.” Perhaps it was something like this that had held her to the man today, the fear of a scene and a kind of morbid competitiveness that would not allow the man to outdistance her in feeling. Yet suddenly she knew that it did not matter what her motives were: she could not, could not, get off the train until the man was reconciled to her doing so, until this absurd, ugly love story should somehow be concluded. If only she could convert him to something, if she could say, “Give up your business, go to Paris, become a Catholic, join the CIO, join the army, join the Socialist Party, go off to the war in Spain.” For a moment the notion engaged her. It would be wonderful, she thought, to be able to relate afterwards that she had sent a middle-aged businessman to die for the Republicans at the Alcazar. But almost at once she recognized that this was too much to hope for. The man back in the compartment was not equal to it; he was equal to a divorce, to a change of residence, at most to a change of business, but not to a change of heart. She sighed slightly, facing the truth about him. His gray flannel dressing-gown lay on a chair beside her. Very slowly, she wrapped herself in it; the touch of the material made gooseflesh rise. Something about this garment—the color, perhaps, or the unsuitable size—reminded her of the bathing suits one rents at a public swim¬ ming pool. She gritted her teeth and pulled open the door. She did not pause to look about but plunged down the corridor with lowered head; though she passed no one, it seemed to her that she was running the gantlet. The compartment, with its naked man and disordered bed, beckoned her on now, like a home. When she opened the door, she found the man dressed, the compart¬ ment made up, and-a white cloth spread on the collapsible table be¬ tween the seats. In a few minutes the waiter of the night before was back with orange juice in cracked ice and corned beef hash and fish cakes. It was as if the scenery, which had been struck the night before,

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had been set up again for the matinee. The difference was that the door remained shut. Nevertheless, though there were no onlookers, atmospheric conditions in the compartment had changed; the re¬ lationship of the pair took on a certain sociable formality. The little breakfast passed off like a ceremonial feast. All primitive peoples, she thought, had known that a cataclysmic experience, whether joyful or sad, had in the end to be liquidated in an orderly meal. The banquets in Homer came to her mind, the refreshments the Irish put out at a wake, the sweetmeats the Arabs nibble after love, the fairy stories that end: And-the-king-ordered-a-great-dinner-to-be-served-to-all-his-people. Upheavals of private feeling, like the one she had just been through, were as incalculable and antisocial as death. With a graceful inclina¬ tion of her head, she accepted a second fish cake from the waiter, and felt herself restored to the human race. There was to be no more love-making, she saw, and from the mo¬ ment she felt sure of this, she began to be a little bit in love. The long day passed as if in slow motion, in desultory, lingering, tender talk. Dreamy confidences were murmured, and trailed off, casual and unemphatic, like the dialogue in a play by Chekhov. The great desert lake out the window disappeared and was replaced by the sagebrush coun¬ try, which seemed to her a pleasant, melancholy symbol of the con¬ temporary waste land. The man’s life lay before her; it was almost as if she could reach out and touch it, poke it, explore it, shine it up, and give it back to him. The people in it grew distinct to her, though they swam in a poetic ambience. She could see Eleanor, now an executive in her forties, good-looking, well-turned-out, the kind of woman that eats at Longchamps or the Algonquin; and then Leonie, finer-drawn, younger, with a certain Marie Laurencin look that pale, pretty, neutral-colored rich women get; then herself, still younger, still more highly organized—and all the time the man, a ludicrous and touching Ponce de Leon, growing helplessly older and coarser in inverse rela¬ tion to the women he needed and wanted. And she could see the Brussels carpet in a Philadelphia whorehouse, where he had first had a woman, the old Marmon roadster in which he and Eleanor had made love, and the couch in her father’s house where the old man had surprised them, and also the squash court at the club, the aquamarine bathtubs in his house, the barbecue pit, the fraternity brothers, the Audubon prints in his study, the vacuum bottle on the night table. Somehow it had become essential to them both that she should know everything. They might have been collaborators, drawing up a dossier for a new Babbitt. This is what I am, he was

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saying: the wallpaper in the larger guest room is a blue and white colonial design; I go to bed at ten and Leonie sits up and reads; I like kippers for breakfast; we have Hepplewhite chairs in the sitting room; the doctor is worried about my kidneys, and I feel lonely when I first wake up. There were the details, the realistic “touches,” and then there was the great skeleton of the story itself. In 1917 he was a chemistry major, just out of the state university, with a job for the next year teaching science at a high school, and plans, then, for a master’s degree, and perhaps a job in the department at Cornell, where he had an uncle in the Agricultural School. The father had been a small businessman in a Pennsylvania coal town, the grandfather a farmer, the mother a little lady from Tennessee. But then there came the Officers’ Training Camp, and the brilliant war record, and the right connections, so that the high-school job was never taken, and instead he was playing handball at the Athletic Club in the evenings and working as a metallurgist for the steel company during the day. Soon he was moved into production, but somehow he was too amiable and easygoing for this, and in the days when he thought he was going to marry Eleanor, he was glad to get out and go into the coal business. When he came back to the steel company, it was as a purchasing agent, and here his shrewdness and bonhomie were better employed. He became Chief Purchasing Agent and Fourth Vice-President; it was doubtful whether he would ever go further. For ten years, he confided, he had been visited now and then by a queer sense of having missed the boat, but it was all vague with him: he had no idea of when the boat had sailed or what kind of boat it was or where it went to. If he had married Eleanor? But she was not the type; after eight years they had both seen that and were still good friends. Would he have done better to take the teaching job? It hardly seemed so. Plainly, he was no scientist—the steel company had seen this at once—and, had he taken that other road, at best he would have finished as the principal of a high school or the head of the chemistry department in a small-time state university. No, she thought, he was not a scientist manque, but simply a nice man, and it was a pity that society had offered him no nicer way of being nice than the job of buying materials for a company in Little Steel. The job, she saw, was one of the least compromising jobs he could have held and still made money; but regarding his business life as a nexus of personal friend¬ ships he had tried to hold himself aloof from both the banks and the blast furnaces. He was full of fraternal feelings, loyalties, even, toward

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the tin salesmen and iron magnates and copper executives and their wives who wined him and dined him and took him to the latest musical shows over and over again. (“Don’t mistake me,” he said,

most o£ those

fellows and their women are mighty fine people.”) Still

there was al¬

ways the contract, waiting to be signed the next morning, lying im¬ placably on the desk. Here he was, affable, a good mixer, self-evidently a sound guy, and yet these qualities were somehow impeached by the commercial use that was made of them, so that he found himself, as he grew older, hunting, more and more anxiously, for new and noncommercial con¬ texts in which to assert his gregariousness. He refused the conventional social life of Cleveland. At the country club dances, he was generally to be found in the bar, shooting the dice with the bartender; he played a little stud poker, but no bridge. In New York, he would stay at the Biltmore or the Murray Hill, buy his clothes at Brooks Brothers, and eat —when Leonie was not with him—at Cavanagh’s, Luchow’s, or the Lafayette. But the greater part of his time he spent on trains, talking to his fellow-passengers, getting their life stories. (“Golly,” he interjected, “if j were a writer like you!”) This was one of his greatest pleasures, he said, and he would never go by plane if he could help it. In the three and a half days that it took a train to cross the continent, you could meet somebody who was a little bit different, and have a good long visit with them. Sometimes, also, he would stop over and look up old friends, but lately that had been disappointing—so many of them were old or on the wagon, suffering from ulcers or cirrhosis of the liver. . . . He spread his hands suddenly. There it was, he indicated; he was sharing it all with her, like a basket lunch. And, as she accepted it, nodding from time to time in pleasure and recognition, supplementing it occasionally from her own store, she knew that the actual sharing of his life was no longer so much in question. During this afternoon of confidences, he had undergone a catharsis. He was at rest now, and happy, and she was free. He would never be alone again, she thought; in fact, it was as if he had never been alone at all, for by a tremendous act of perception, she had thrust herself back into his past, and was settled there forever, like the dear companion, the twin, we pray for as children, while our pareAts, listening, laugh. She had brought it off, and now she was almost reluctant to leave him. A pang of joy went through her as she examined her own sorrow and found it to be real. All day she believed she had been acting a tragic part in something called One Perfect Night, but slowly, without her being aware of it.

mary

McCarthy

1 37

the counterfeit had passed into the true. She did not understand exactly how it had happened. Perhaps it was because she had come so very, very close—tout comprendre, c’est tout aimer—and perhaps it was because she was good at the task he had assigned her: at the sight of his life, waiting to be understood, she had rolled up her sleeves with all the vigor of a first-class cook confronting a brand-new kitchen. “I love you,” she said suddenly. “I didn’t before, but now I do.” The man glanced sharply at her. “Then you won’t get off the train . . . ?” “Oh, yes,” she said, for now at last she could be truthful with him. “I’ll certainly get off. One reason I love you, I suppose, is because I am getting off.” His dark eyes met hers in perfect comprehension. “And one reason I’m going to let you do it,” he said, “is because you love me.” She lowered her eyes, astonished, once more, at his shrewdness. “Hell,” he said, “it’s a funny thing, but I’m so happy now that I don’t care whether I ever see you again. I probably won’t feel that way after you’re gone.* Right now I think I can live on this one day for the rest of my life.” “I hope you can,” she said, her voice trembling with sincerity. “My dear, dear Mr. Breen, I hope you can.” Then they both began to laugh wildly because she could not call him by his first name. Still, he had not quite relinquished the idea of marrying her, and, once, very late in the afternoon, he struck out at her with unexpected, clumsy ferocity. “You need a man to take care of you,” he exclaimed. “I hate to see you go back to that life you’ve been living in New York. Your father ought to make you stay home in Portland. In a few years, you’ll be one of those Bohemian horrors with oily hair and long earrings. It makes me sick to think about it.” She pressed her lips together, and was amazed to find how hurt she was. It was unthinkable that he should speak of her way of life with such contempt; it was as if he had made a point of telling her that her gayest, wickedest, most extravagant hat was ugly and out of fashion. “But you fell in love with me because I am Bohemian,” she said, forcing herself to smile, to take a wise and reasonable tone. “No,” he said, in a truculently sentimental voice. “It’s because under¬ neath all that you’re just a sweet girl.” She shook her head impatiently. It was not true, of course, but it was hopeless to argue with him about it. Clearly, he took some cruel satis-

1

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faction in telling her that she was different from what she was. That implied that he had not fallen in love with her at all, but with some other person: the whole extraordinary little idyl had been based on a misunderstanding. Poor Marianna, she thought, poor pickings, to be loved under cover of darkness in Isabella’s name! She did not speak for a long time. Night fell again, and the little dinner that was presently served lacked the glamour of the earlier meals. The Union Pacific’s menu had been winnowed out; they were reduced to steak and Great Big Baked Potatoes. She wished that they were out in the diner, in full view, eating some unusual dish and drinking a bottle of white wine. Even here in the compartment, she had hoped that he would offer her wine; the waiter suggested it, but the man shook his head without con¬ sulting her; his excesses in drink and love were beginning to tell on him; he looked tired and sick. But by ten o’clock, when they were well out of Reno, she had warmed to him again. He had been begging her to let him send her a present; the notion displeased her at first; she felt a certain arrogant condescension in it; she refused to permit it, refused, even, to give him her address. Then he looked at her suddenly, with all the old humility and square self-knowledge in his brown eyes. “Look,” he said, “you’ll be doing me a kindness. You see, that’s the only thing a man like me can do for a woman, is buy her things and love her a hell of a lot at night. I’m different from your literary boy friends and your artistic boy friends. I can’t write you a poem or paint your picture. The only way I can show that I love you is to spend money on you.” “Money’s your medium,” she said, smiling, happy in this further in¬ sight he had given her, happy in her own gift of expression. He nodded and she gave her consent. It must, however, be a very

small present, and it must not, on any account, be jewelry, she said, not knowing precisely why she imposed this latter condition. As they moved into the last hour of the trip, the occasion took on an elegiac solemnity. They talked very little; the man held both her hands tightly. Toward the end, he broke the silence to say, “I want you to know that this has been th^e happiest day of my life.” As she heard these words, a drowsy, sensuous contentment invaded her; it was as if she had been waiting for them all along; this was the climax, the spiritual orgasm. And it was just as she had known from the very first; in the end, he had not let her down. She had not been wrong in him after all.

mary

McCarthy

1 39

They stood on the platform as the train came into Sacramento. It was after three in the morning. Her luggage was piled up around them; one suitcase had a missing handle and was tied up with a rope. The man made a noise of disapproval. “Your father,” he said, “is going to feel terrible when he sees that.” The girl laughed; the train slowed down; the man kissed her passion¬ ately several times, ignoring the porter who waited beside them with a large, Hollywood-darky smile on his face. “If I were ten years younger,” the man said, in a curious, measured tone, as if he were taking an oath, “I’d never let you get off this train.” It sounded, she thought, like an apology to God. In the station the air was hot and thick. She sat down to wait, and immediately she was damp and grubby; her stockings were wrinkled; her black suede shoes had somehow got dusty, and, she noticed for the first time, one of the heels was run over. Her trip home seemed peculiarly pointless, for she had known for the last twelve hours that she was never going to marry the young man back in New York. On the return trip, her train stopped in Cleveland early in the morning. In a new fall suit she sat in the club car, waiting. Mr. Breen hurried into the car. He was wearing a dark-blue business suit and had two packages in his hand. One of them was plainly a florist’s box. She took it from him and opened it, disclosing two of the largest and most garish purple orchids she had ever seen. He helped her pin them on her shoulder and did not appear to notice how oddly they harmonized with her burnt-siena jacket. The other box contained a bottle’ of whisky; in memoriam, he said. They had the club car to themselves, and for the fifteen minutes the train waited in the station he looked at her and talked. It seemed to her

that

he

had been

talking

ever

since

she

left

him,

talking

volubly, desperately, incoherently, over the long-distance telephone, via air mail, by Western Union and Postal Telegraph. She had re¬ ceived from him several pieces of glamour-girl underwear and a topaz brooch, and had been disappointed and a little humiliated by the taste displayed. She was glad now that the train stopped at such an outland¬ ish hour, for she felt that he cut a ridiculous figure, with his gifts in his hand, like a superannuated stage-door Johnny. She herself had little to say, and sat passive, letting the torrent of talk and endearment splash over her. Sooner or later, she knew, the law of diminishing returns would begin to operate, and she would cease to reap these overwhelming profits from the small investment of her-

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self she had made. At the moment, he was begging her to marry him, describing a business conference he was about to attend, and asking her approval of a vacation trip he was planning to take with his wife. Of these three elements in his conversation, the first was predominant, but she sensed that already she was changing for him, becoming less of a mistress and more of a confidante. It was significant that he was not (as she had feared) hoping to ride all the way to New York with her: the business conference, he explained, prevented that. It never failed, she thought, to be a tiny blow to guess that a man is losing interest in you, and she was tempted, as on such occasions she always had been, to make some gesture that would quicken it again. If she let him think she would sleep with him, he would stay on the train, and let the conference go by the board. He had weighed the conference, obviously, against a platonic interlude, and made the sensi¬ ble decision. But she stifled her vanity, and said to herself that she was glad that he was showing some signs of self-respect; in the queer, business-English letters he had written her, and on the phone for an hour at a time at her father’s house, he had been too shockingly abject. She let him get off the train, still talking happily, pressed his hand warmly but did not kiss him. It was three weeks before he came to see her in her New York apart¬ ment, and then, she could tell, he was convalescent. He had become more critical of her and more self-assured. Her one and a half rooms in Greenwich Village gave him claustrophobia, he declared, and when she pointed out to him that the apartment was charming, he stated flatly that it was not the kind of place he liked, nor the kind of place she ought to be living in. He was more the businessman and less the suitor, and though he continued to ask her to marry him, she felt that the request was somewhat formal; it was only when he tried to make love to her that his real, hopeless, humble ardor showed itself once more. She fought him off, though she had an inclination to yield, if only to re-establish her ascendancy over him. They went to the theater two nights, and danced, and drank champagne, and the third morning he phoned her from his hotel that he had a stomach attack and would have to go home to Cleveland with a doctor. More than a month went by before she saw him again. This time he refused to come to her aparthaent, but insisted that she meet him at his suite in the Ambassador. They passed a moderate evening: the man contented himself with dining at Longchamps. He bought her a large Brie cheese at the Voisin down the street, and told her an anti-New Deal joke. Just below the surface of his genial manner, there was a

mary

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hostility that hurt her. She found that she was extending herself to please him. All her gestures grew overfeminine and demonstrative; the lift of her eyebrows was a shade too arch: like a passee belle, she was overplaying herself. I must let go, she told herself, the train is pulling out; if I hang on. I’ll be dragged along at its wheels. She made him take her home early. A little later she received a duck he had shot in Virginia. She did not know how to cook it and it stayed in her icebox so long that the neigh¬ bors complained of the smell. When she got a letter from him that had been dictated to his ste¬ nographer, she knew that his splurge was over. After that, she saw him once—for cocktails. He ordered double Martinis and got a little drunk. Then his friendliness revived briefly, and he begged her with tears in his eyes to “forget all this red nonsense and remember that you’re just your father’s little girl at heart.” Walking home alone, try¬ ing to decide whether to eat in a tearoom or cook herself a chop, she felt flat and sad, but in the end she was glad that she had never told him of her broken engagement. When her father died, the man must have read the account in the papers, for she got a telegram that read:

SINCEREST CONDO¬

LENCES. YOU HAVE LOST THE BEST FRIEND YOU WILL EVER HAVE. She did not file it away with the other messages, but tore it up carefully and threw it into the wastebasket. It would have been dreadful if anyone had seen it.

I941

The Mohammedans BY

H.

J.

KAPLAN

IT NEVER occurred to any of us that Simon might have been in¬ volved in the affair of the Mohammedans. He himself not only avoided any mention of the case, but shut himself up and saw no one until it was over. This indeed might have been construed as a suspicious cir¬ cumstance, were it not for the fact that when we went to see Simon it was hardly in order to discuss the pitiful local scandals. His full name was Charles Rodney Simon, and he had an illustrious ancestry among the local robber barons. He was small, middle-aged, very poor, shy, with a vehement, disjointed way of speaking. We were not disappointed to find him bizarre, with an inward irony and ex¬ quisite manners: it was just what we had been led to expect of a man who had lived abroad and seen T. S. Eliot plain. But think! A man could tell uproarious tales about his adventures as Lord of a Manor that was literally tumbling down about his ears. Ambassador of the Ideal in a town whose rapid development was due to the manufacture of fertilizer and the trading of hogs. He never breathed a word. . . . O, Simon, Simon, what a soiree you missed! One evening, late in the summer of 1942, he was sitting alone at the front window of his ancestral mansion, watching the sun go down over the park. Oddly enough, he was thinking of Negroes. Though both streets within his range of vision shook him from time to time with the monstrous rumbling of trucks, Simon cocked his ear to catch the faint, boisterous, confused sounds that drifted from the other side of the park. Over there, beyond the iron fence lined with clumps of trees and bushes, beyond the narrow strip of lawn, the streets of the Negro neighborhood glowed already with the garish neons, the bustling and back-slapping and ribald shouts. Simon often walked in that neighbor¬ hood, which only the park had prevented from engulfing his house. And he spoke often, with regret, of the Negroes, “creatures of music and dream,” who formed a world apart in America. A world of joy and 1 42

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J.

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spirit, a City which one might have opposed, as Lorca had opposed his gypsies, to the real world in which they violently and tragically lived. Only they were too numerous and too contemporary, like most things in this country. . . . The dusk was coming down swiftly. For a moment, Simon was distracted by a tiny, two-seater Ford which pulled up to the curb across the street and disgorged, surprisingly, four people—three women and a squat, long-armed man whose head was heavily bandaged. He looked away, and precisely because the thing was so unlikely al¬ lowed himself to hope that these were some of his rich relatives, come to show him off to one of their friends. They would come in, polite, mildly amused, and Simon would be introduced as a poet. How happy they were to introduce him as a poet! How that saved the whole situa¬ tion! He would carry on a kind of guerrilla war against them. He would turn to the prettiest woman and say: “Perhaps I have st>ld you a pair of shoes downtown? I am a poet four days of the week. The rest of the time I sell shoes.” He would start a political discussion so that, knowing the arguments of their side better than they, he might demonstrate the shallowness of their rather sporty radicalism. Or he would show them his rooms, painted orange-crates and all, letting them understand that he much preferred this to their modern apart¬ ments. Outside, the group crossed the street and stood now on the sidewalk in front of Simon’s house—which was, in fact, the only house left on a block long given over to garages and warehouses. For all his myopia, Simon could see now that they were Negroes and that the man wore a sort of terry-cloth towel wrapped about his head. Half-obscured by the weeds of the lawn, they stood there immobile, like a fresco of dancers. What did they want? What were they waiting for? After a while he looked away to the sunset, now merging downward with the glow that rose from the other side of the park. Then a dilapidated truck rattled around the corner and stopped, and Simon realized that these people were moving into his house. The idea came easily, without shock, as though his first concern was, defensively, to recall that he was a man of the spirit and that the

house was not necessarily his. The ancestral mansion belonged to an insurance company. They would have torn it down long ago—so they had often assured him—were it not for the fact that Simon’s father, an old friend of the company’s president, had expressed the desire that his son should live in the house as long as he pleased. Now, doubtless, they were trying to smoke him out with undesirable neigh¬ bors. . . . For a moment, Simon sat quite calmly, pulling his lip and

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considering what attitude he should take. The squat man with the bandaged head—one of his legs was shorter than the other—was hopping about with great agility, helping the truck-driver unload mattresses, bedsprings, ancient dressers, and even (Simon peered out through the arched window and caught every detail) some painted orange crates. But execrably painted, like the canvas wall of a side¬ show tent. He decided, finally, upon consternation; and he had a moment of bitterness. He was poor, patronized by fools, ignored by his peers. This was indeed the last straw! He jumped up, ran to his bedroom, seized his old opera cape and the stick he had inherited from his great-grandfather. After a mo¬ ment’s reflection, he also took his black Homburg hat. Thus accoutred, what would he do? Throw himself into the lake? Deliver a denuncia¬ tion from the porch steps? He hadn’t the vaguest idea. Perhaps, at bottom, he did not really believe that these people were coming to live in his house. He was five feet four inches tall, quite serious, quite consternated. Yet he gave an almost joyful laugh, muttered sic transit

gloria, and imagined himself describing to his friends what a droll figure he made as he ran to the foyer and opened the door. He found himself face to face with the Negro. The three women were still choreographically grouped on the sidewalk. The empty truck had driven away. Simon dropped his stick, picked it up, found the man’s outstretched hand before him. He shook it. “My name’s Wiley Bey,” said the Negro, in a very deep voice. “Yes, of course.” “Wiley Bey.” There was a moment of silence. “I’m not moving in here to hide out,” said the Negro. “They can’t scare me or the Temple with newspaper articles. I told the man, if the government ask where I live, just tell them.” “Yes, of course, I see,” muttered Simon again. He was intimidated and confused. Under the spotless, almost delicate order of the terrycloth turban, the man’s ugliness was imposing. His face was fleshy, with an enormous fat glistening nose, large black eyes, thick lips. He was scarcely taller than Simon, but his great chest and broad shoulders gave the impression of size and power. Perhaps, for once, he too was embarrassed or confused, fdr he stared at Simon with a slow, baleful, pendulum-like movement of his head, until the white man said: “Oh, yes, how stupid of me. Simon’s the name, Charles Rodney Simon.” Wiley Bey nodded gravely.

H.

J.

KAPLAN

1 45

“The name sounds Jewish, but it’s not. My background is ScotchNorman. In fact it’s my personal opinion that Simon was originally not a family but a Christian name. It’s easy to imagine young Nor¬ man nobles named Jean Simon de Monfort, or Robert Simon de la Tour becoming

John

Simon

and

Robert

Simon.

A question

of

primogeniture, no doubt. On the other hand—” “Have you got the key?’’ “You flatter me!” “The man at the office said you had the key, in case he didn’t get here.” “Why yes, of course! You mean the key to upstairs,” cried Simon with a nervous laugh. “Imagine! I rushed out here to help you move in and I forgot the key entirely. . . . But that’s nonsense, don’t believe a word of it. I was really quite annoyed when I saw you coming in. No one took the trouble to inform me, you know. And yet this house has been in the family for three generations. Ah well, at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near. And why didn’t he hand you over the key in the first place? He’s a fool, that man is, and a moral coward to boot.” He drew back a step and cocked his head. “Are you quite determined to move into this place? ... I find it picturesque, but not very practical.” The Negro stared at him, like an expressionless ebony idol. “But pay no attention to me,” said Simon. “Idiotic! . . . Now let me see. The key.” Wiley Bey turned to the women on the sidewalk and announced, in a tone of dispassionate disgust: “It’s a white man!” The women broke their group, each attaching herself to a small piece of furniture and dragging or carrying it to the steps. Simon found the man’s black eyes upon him again. “What the devil could I have done with that key,” he muttered, feeling about in his pockets. “Do you know that nobody’s been up¬ stairs for years. The floor is liable to collapse. Ha, ha! If it does, then I’m the one to catch it!” He ran inside, rummaged in a drawer and found the two keys on a silver ring. The separate entrance to the second floor had been installed at the time of his father’s wedding; the keyring had be¬ longed to his father; for a moment Simon stared at it unbelievingly and then, still wearing his opera cape and Homburg hat, brought it out to Wiley Bey, who was staggering up the stairs with a mattress slung over his head. Here, Simon stopped and thought: But this is absurd. I’m giving this creature my father’s key. Am I or am I not

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the lord of the manor? But all the humor and reality had gone out of it, and when the Negro popped his head from under the mattress, transfixing him with his extraordinary black eyes, Simon hastened to unlock the door, pushed it back on its rusty hinges and helped the man carry his burden upstairs. And when he went down again it seemed quite natural, indeed necessary, to pick up a bedpost and take it to the woman who stood waiting on the porch. And then to handle one end of a chest of drawers while the Negro, grasping the other end, grunted, “Steady now, right, left, now we got it.” . . . Simon was unused to physical labor. His muscles soon began to ache unbearably. Moreover, in maneuvering a rope-bound crate through the doorway, he painfully crushed his fingers against the jamb. Yet he continued feverishly to shuttle between sidewalk and stairs. Why? He thought of nothing. Once, one of the women, a tall flat¬ faced creature with her kinky hair braided into pigtails, murmured: “You are very kind.” For the rest, the three women maintained their mysterious silence. Wiley Bey thanked him gravely, but after a while seemed to forget that he was there. In fact, were it not for his febrile insistence, Simon would not have been able to help at all. Yet he could not go away: the whole feeling of this strange event was too unclear. On the one hand, intermittently, he was carried away by an unaccustomed elan of generosity and fraternity, a kind of drunken¬ ness. He babbled incessantly, he laughed for little or no reason, and asked pointless questions which no one bothered to answer. Once he launched into a half-serious harangue on the relation of the races, attributing to a “dear but misguided friend” some notions of his own about Negroes, which he now attacked with a curious mixture of subtlety and offensive buffoonery. He ended with an almost ribald joke and was so thunderstruck by Wiley Bey’s black look that he fell silent for several minutes. On the other hand, Simon felt a real and profound sadness as the second floor apartment took on the shape and appearance of a home. Something real was ending, something which he had transformed and played with, as he did with all real things— but which, no matter how, had been part of him. His “consternation” became resentment, directed not at Wiley Bey, but at the World and Time which thus buried his chosen, half-serious, secretly cherished past under a pile of ugly and malodorous furniture. When it had all been brought up and he had stood for a moment, morosely watching these people move busily about, putting clothes away, adjusting chairs and tables, he suddenly clapped his hand to his head and cried:

H.

J.

KAPLAN

147

“But look here! You can’t go through with this!” “What’s that?” said Wiley Bey, looking up from a trunk. He had been silent and preoccupied all evening, a man who exuded authority and power. The tall woman, who was lighting some candles on the mantelpiece, turned around. The other two came out of the kitchen and stood in the doorway. “You don’t know what this house means to me,” said Simon, his voice breaking. “I was born in this room. There used to be a big armchair in this corner, next to a black walnut bookcase.” “I’m sorry,” said Wiley Bey, bending again to his trunk. “Nobody told us anything about that.” There followed a long silence. It became in the end so unbearable that Simon blurted out the first things that came to his mind. “Forgive my behaving like Banquo’s ghost,” he said. “Or rather like the spectre at the banquet, or whatever it was. But you must admit, it’s all very odd. Not intrinsically odd, perhaps, but the effect is, if you know what I mean. And a Negro no less! An American instance! Do you know, my grandfather owned a slave? Not that he needed one, but just to show he was a Copperhead, in i860. . . . And a Mohammedan to boot, harem and all! Or are these your sisters? Ha, ha, can you fancy me in the role of a eunuch?” He would have said more, in his delirium, but he had not the time. He felt his throat seized by an enormous hand, and for a terrifying instant looked into the face of Wiley Bey. Then he was spun around, grasped by the collar and the slack of his pants, and half carried, half pushed through

the doorway.

Stumbling,

he turned around

drunkenly, and the door slammed shut in his face.

2 Having been thrown out of the Negro’s apartment, Simon quite naturally went back. In fact, no sooner had he found himself in the hall, with the door inexorably shut in his face, and his mouth bitter with the taste of insult and humiliation, than he was moved by an impulse to put his eye to the keyhole! Not that his distress and anger were not real, but his childish curiosity was equally real and (as he had learned from long experience) far more enduring. Mastering his impulse with difficulty, he went downstairs and paced the floor of his living room, savoring the bitter feelings, the rage of the declasse, the sense of degradation (how ignominiously the seat of his pants had been gathered in that enormous paw!), but nonetheless cocking his ear

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from time to time lest a significant movement from above should escape him. . . . Later, as he wrote a long account of the Negro’s arrival in his journal, he heard the low plucking of a large string instrument, probably a guitar, and faintly the voice of a woman singing some weird oriental song. For a moment, Wiley Bey’s deep voice, vibrantly, and then the music (to which Simon had listened open-mouthed, with delight) faded away. He determined to lodge a protest, in fact only physical terror saved him from thumping on the ceiling with the handle of a broom. It was not enough that these peo¬ ple were Negroes, and smelled queerly like all Negroes. They were given to singing in the dead of the night! At the same time, putting the finishing touches to his pages de journal, Simon found himself understanding the Negro’s wrath, lingering over his fierce aspect— and, with a little smile of satisfaction, appreciating the dramatic quality of the evening’s events. The next morning, he actually went to the office and lodged his protest, but by that time his resentment seemed unimportant, and in any case useless; indeed he realized instantly that he had come only in the hope of learning something about Wiley Bey. He ended by “performing” his indignation, as he sometimes performed for his friends; and by parrying the man’s insinuations about the arrears on his rent. He felt that something was going to happen: something portentous, perhaps decisive. So that, later in the day, when he caught the first rumbling of the “Wiley Bey Case,” he was scarcely surprised. A small rumbling it was—a set of insinuations hidden on a back page of a local newspaper—but Simon, who spent hours exchanging gossip with butchers and barbers, caught it and kept it alive. . . . For two days he waited in ambush for Wiley Bey: to no avail. He sat by his window, mulling over in his mind the ambiguous phrases he had read, the endless possibilities, the moral problem. This astonishing Negro— what was he after, what did he mean? At last, late in the afternoon of the third clay, Simon contrived to meet Wiley Bey on the porch steps. It was very difficult. The Negro smiled and said hello as though nothing had happened: he deprecated nothing, excused nothing, simply broadened his dazzling smile (which seemed to flatten indefinitely the shiny black nose) and invited Simon to continue the conversation upstairs. There—it all happened so swiftly that Simon had for an instant the feeling that it had been planned in advance (but by whom?)— Wiley Bey arranged his short leg before him and sank into the arm-

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chair. It obviously belonged to him. Simon sat rigidly in an ancient loveseat, with his elbow uncomfortably propped on

the

chipped

armrest. In the broad dullness of the afternoon, the apartment swal¬ lowed up the few pieces of furniture, the almost invisible pictures. Only Wiley Bey, with his absurd and magnificent turban, seemed fully there, at ease, exhausting the allotted space. He was in a warm mood. He rubbed his enormous blood-red palms and smiled slowly, like a paternal Buddha. Simon stared at the white teeth in the glisten¬ ing black face, and found nothing to say. At last, timidly, he hoped that Wiley Bey had straightened out his ah, difficulties with the draft board. On the contrary, said the Negro. This morning he had received a note, warning him to present his appeal tonight. In general, Wiley Bey did not recognize the right of these people to order him about as they pleased, and in any case such abominably short notice only proved (he smiled blandly and leaned back in his chair) that they were out to get his hide. Everyone in the neighborhood, even the land¬ lords and storekeepers who ran the draft board, knew where he would be tonight. “But I don’t understand,” said Simon. “Surely with your ah, phys¬ ical handicap,

they don’t expect—”

“That has nothing to do with it,” said Wiley Bey. “They want me to register as an American citizen.” “They do! And you registered as—?” “A Moslem, of course.” With that, he winked: a wink such as Simon had never seen before, the most shameless, the most guileless, the most mad! “O yes, to be sure, as a Moslem!” cried Simon. And, to hide his amazement and because he had nothing better to say, he assumed an air of intense chattiness: “That’s very interesting! You must tell me about that! I understand there are several sects?” Wiley Bey leaned forward and frowned. Solemn, ministerial, he suddenly reminded Simon of a Jew he had seen in Vienna, an old man who had emerged from the rear of his shop, clad in his colorful ritual garments, his eyes still lost in the misty distance of prayer. The old Jew had removed his prayer shawl, rubbed his hands, focused his eyes and presto! he was a merchant. “You are lost,” intoned Wiley Bey. “You don’t know where to turn. . . .” Withal, he kept his warmth and good humor, his curious mixture of falseness and sincerity, the unsaintly attitude of a political be-

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liever: a man capable, (as we later discovered) of misusing the funds of his church; and of all sorts of petty calculations. And immensely naif! He shook his finger under Simon’s nose. “You are one of God’s humble creatures,” he said, “even though you are white. But like most of my people, you’re tortured by the idea that you need dignity.” “That’s very true,” said Simon voluptuously. “Dignity! What they mean is demeanor—a window-shade to hide their flesh and their sin!” “Why, that’s a very good remark,” cried Simon. “Excellent! I must remember that! And may I say in passing that you yourself have plenty of demeanor, what with that turban of yours and your solemn air. But of course you don’t find that funny, and at bottom I don’t mean it to be. When it pops out that way, it sounds insulting. The fact is—I’m an artist.” He paused a moment, cocking his head. “I mean I’m a poet, I write poetry.” “Yes?” “Please believe me—I have the greatest respect for you. I’m excited, and so everything comes out topsy-turvy. In fact, when I’m with you I feel slightly wacky, so to speak, I can’t quite decide what tone to take. To begin with, I have an ambiguous feeling towards you. You’ve at once outraged me, by moving into my house and all that, and you’ve intrigued me with your turbans and mysteries and air of superior knowledge. Secondly, I’m a poet of the old school. I haven’t the faintest idea how to talk to people who don’t read poetry and don’t give a damn about it.” “It so happens,” said Wiley Bey, “that I’m very fond of poetry. For me, the greatest of them all is Ahmed Ali, a Negro who wrote in Alexandria, in the twelfth century.” “I flatter myself,” Simon went on, “that mine is the fundamentally poetic endowment. I feel everyone’s feelings to the point where I have almost none of my own. At the same time, one must live, that is, make decisions and have attitudes. It’s very difficult. . . . And then there’s this country!” Simon rolled his eyes and made a gesture of desperation. “Do you see what I mean?” At that moment, one of the women—a slatternly sexy-looking girl who seemed to be wearing nothing at all beneath her apron_came into the room and whispered something in Wiley Bey’s ear. The Negro turned to Simon: “Excuse me a moment, do you have any money?” “Not very much,” said Simon apprehensively.

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“Do you mind lending me a dollar?” Simon handed over his dollar. Being very poor and very miserly, this was in the nature of a catastrophe. Yet for a moment he was quite carried away by the simplicity of the Negro in taking the money, the quiet satisfaction at a difficulty conquered, and above all the ease and naturalness with which he, Simon, was counted upon. He stood up briskly, frowning to hide his pleasure: “But this is no time for me to be babbling about my little problems! My advice to you is to go to the board meeting and straighten the matter out. You were, I take it, born in the Near East?” “It doesn’t matter where I was born,” said Wiley Bey. “I was reborn in Islam.” “O, I see,” said Simon, pulling his lip. “Well, there’s nothing to do but go and explain the matter. I’m sure they’ll understand, especially since you’re not fit for military service in any case. On the other hand, if you don’t go, they can be quite nasty, as you’ve no doubt heard.” “You seem to have a very poor grasp of principle,” replied Wiley Bey, and even as he creased his face in a curious, almost roguish smile, he kept his eyes on Simon’s. “One of our basic doctrines is that we live in this country only in the flesh. Spiritually, we live in Islam. How could I abandon my people for a meeting of the draft board?” “Yes, of course,” said Simon, worriedly. “I see your point. Still—.” The Negro got up impatiently, grimacing as he adjusted his leg. In the spacious apartment, the light was failing, shadows creeping out of corners, over the ceiling. From the kitchen came a strong odor of barley soup, and of an unidentifiable meat. For a desperate moment, Simon felt that despite all his efforts, the feeling of communion, born in the transfer of a rumpled dollar bill, was fading away forever. Then he clapped his hand to his head and cried: “I’ve got it! I’ll go myself!” “You’ll go yourself?” “Why of course! I’ve nothing to do tonight, and come to think of it, I may very well have a friend on your draft board. In fact I expect to be called up sooner or later myself. I’m a man for whom the material world exists, as Gautier said. I’ll explain the whole thing. I’m sure it will come out all right.” Wiley Bey rubbed his hand over his face: it left the curious grimace of craftiness and purity, a smile. At the same time, he was hungry, so that half-consciously he moved toward the kitchen door as he said: “As a matter of fact, I think you’re right!” And, in a tone of amused and paternal scorn:

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“You will remind them of my leg, of course. . .

READER

Then he pushed

out his right jowl with his tongue and, fantastically, winked. “There’s no doubt about it. Between white men, the thing could be arranged!” Simon, slightly shocked, tilted his head to one side and pursed his lips ironically. Whereupon the Negro burst into an enormous peal of laughter and slapped his back with an extraordinary air of roguish¬ ness, unregenerate vitality, an attitude of fearlessness before his own sins. For a moment, Simon expected that he would be invited to dinner. The prospect intrigued and repelled him: he would never

he able to eat that Negro food! But Wiley Bey was actually showing him out. At the door, they shook hands, rather ceremoniously, as though Simon were going forth to preach to the Gentiles; and it was not until he was halfway down the stairs that it occurred to him that this, his rash and doubtful mission, was what Wiley Bey had wanted all along. In the end the idea pleased him, bearing as it did the promise of some indefinable intimacy with this strange man. Simon paced his floor and imagined grave and electric conversations, in which prob¬ lems would rise up and dissolve like paper in flame. . . . Yet the ticking of the clock and the onset of evening recalled him to the seriousness of the Negro’s situation; and when the time came to leave he was overcome with terror. He sat on his bed and thought, But this is absurd, what in the world shall I tell them? And what the devil have I to do with the whole business anyway? Nevertheless, he arose, donned his black cloak and walked across the park. These shaded lawns and bushes were notorious trystingplaces, already alive in the twilight. There were couples on the benches, whispering, stifled cries. Simon, his head cast down, his cloak almost dragging the ground behind him, passed through quickly, like a shadow, and noticed nothing. And so he walked the crowded streets, where kids ran screaming and cheap radios blared from furniture stores and groups of men and women broke to let him pass. He was so absorbed that he missed the sign on the store window and had to turn back. Two steps down, the interior of the store was divided by a low barrier, on the far side of which, around a conference table, sat the members of the board. They were absorbed in papers, spoke to each other in whispers. To the right, a few steps from the door, was a desk, behind which sat a young lady. “Your name?”

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“Charles R. Simon.” A banging of file cabinets. “Are you sure this is your board? We have no record of you.” “Oh no. I’ve been dreaming, I beg your pardon! I’ve come on behalf of my—ah, client.” “I’m sorry,” she said crisply. “It’s against the law for selectees to be represented by counsel. If he wants to appeal, he’ll have to come himself.” A Negro came in and respectfully removed his hat. The young lady made signs of addressing herself to the newcomer. “Look,” said Simon quickly. “To begin with, it’s not a question of appealing but of—how shall I say?—explicating. Secondly, Mr. Wiley Bey is not my client in a legal sense, that was only a manner of speak¬ ing. I am his advocate but not his lawyer. In fact, I am not a lawyer at all.” In the face of her astonishment, Simon was beginning to find a rare self-possession. “Suppose Mr. Wiley Bey were struck by an automobile and were physically incapable of appearing before the board?” “Just a moment,” she said, and walked back to the long table, letting the little door swing smartly behind her. The board members looked up as she began to whisper furiously and quite audibly her account of what Simon had said. An efficient female, thought Simon, and the idea was large and slow like all his ideas at the moment, amused him disproportionately; buckteeth and sallow skin! “Understand,” he interposed, “I did not state that Mr. Wiley Bey was struck by an automobile. I merely said that he was as effectively prevented from appearing here tonight as if he were so struck.” He smiled benignly at the bucktoothed girl. “The difference, you will surely grant, is by no means negligible. To begin with, Mr. Wiley Bey did not receive notice of this meeting until today, a procedure which I regard as highly unfair. Further—” “Hold on,” said the white-haired man at the head of the table. The five men put their heads together for a moment: “Do you mind stepping in here?” Simon walked through the barrier that blocked off the interior of the store into two parts. He threw off his cloak with a superb and slightly ridiculous gesture, like an undersized comedian playing bull¬ fighter. “Let’s get this straight,” said one of the board members. (A heavy man, with black-rimmed glasses and kinky hair, he spoke with a slightly Jewish intonation.) “As far as the board is concerned, this

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man’s name is Wiley, Hadde Wiley. He’s a neighborhood character. I remember when he was leader of some fishy pan-Asia cult, in the old days, before he became a Turk. Out to save the colored people through Japan and physical culture.” “Mr. Wiley’s past associations,” said Simon, “do not in the least affect the present circumstances.” “Okay. Have it your way. Officially we’re through with him any¬ way. We told him half a dozen times he’s got to comply with the law or take the consequences. The fact of the matter is that I wrote to him myself, the board had nothing to do with it. I figured we could afford to give him a last chance to straighten himself out.” By now, Simon was in an extraordinary state of controlled excite¬ ment. With one eye he watched the door as men came in—there were four of them now, sitting on the bench—and with the other he observed the faces of the members of the board. His mind had a curious clear emptiness; above all, he was filled with the sense of his own eloquence, and hadn’t the slightest notion of what to say! “Are you finished?” he asked. Not yet. You can do us a favor by telling Wiley he’s in a bad way. That’s no joke. He’s been talking his followers into registering like he did. According to the FBI, that’s conspiracy. Do you know what that means?” Simon waved his hand deprecatingly: the point (with a little smile) was conceded. There was a moment of silence. Then he put his finger tips together and frowned portentously: “I want it understood,” he began, “that I come in no spirit of dis¬ ruption or chicanery, but simply as an American citizen. Impelled by my desire for fairness and justice. What other connection could there be between this man and me? I am myself a Presbyterian, as was my grandfather, the first mayor of this town. As for the army, I expect to be called at any minute, and when I am, I shall go gladly, you may take my word for it. But what is the issue involved in this case? Surely you do not want to see this man arrested? That would only reflect on the patriotism of this neighborhood.” Of the two Negro board members, one was beginning to doze. The other murmured: “Exactly!” “Please come to the point,” said the chairman. “Aha!” replied Simon, with a subtle smile. “But what, precisely, is the point? If Mr. Wiley Bey were merely concerned with evading the di aft, he d need only point to his leg, which is lame and makes

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him unfit for service. As for his followers, the fact that they register as aliens does not absolve them from military service—” “Aliens have the right to refuse induction,” said the chairman. “May I ask if any of them have?” “I don’t know. ... Of course not! We didn’t accept their registra¬ tion in the first place. They were all born in this country. They’ve got to register as American citizens, which they are.” “Now,” said Simon, leaning forward with a great sense of insidious mastery. “Now we come to the point! Are they American citizens? Legally, they are. But as Montesquieu so brilliantly showed, and it is from that great thinker that our very legal structure derives, we must concern ourselves with the spirit and not simply with the letter of the law. Wiley Bey finds it impossible to be a Moslem and an American at the same time. He chooses to be a Moslem, i.e. an ally rather than a citizen of our country!” “There are five appeals waiting,” said the young lady. “One moment,” put in the black-rimmed glasses. “Even if what you say is true—and I doubt it: Wiley Bey, I mean Wiley himself stood right here in front of this board and told us that this was a white man’s war. That’s just what he said: a white man’s war—but be that as it may, and all the religious stuff aside, he still has to register properly. Agreed?” “Agreed. And according to his conscience, to register properly is to register as a Mohammedan.” “But,” cried the man in exasperation, “he still remains an Amer¬ ican citizen! Anyone born in this country is an American citizen. That’s the law! If he wants to be a Mohammedan let him go to China and take out his papers. Here he’s an American and that’s the end of it. A man can’t walk out of his obligations by calling himself a Moham¬ medan!” “Excuse me,” said Simon imperturbably. “It has not yet been proved that Wiley Bey is trying to avoid any obligations. He called this a white man’s war. So it is! It is also a war of the dynasts. Fortunately, our dynasts are interested in fighting it, else we should have been de¬ feated long ago. . . . But granting the modern principle of sovereignty, you are no doubt obliged to take a rather legalistic view of the matter. I see your point perfectly.” “In short,” said the chairman, “you consider him guilty yourself and have been wasting our time for nothing. Next case.” Simon was suddenly very tired. He stood there, dreamily, as the “next case” shuffled through the swinging door and came to stand

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beside him. What was all this nonsense about registrations and sover¬ eignty, wars and citizens? He had been performing again, like a lawyer! “One moment,” he suddenly cried, his face working strangely. “I beg of you, one moment more! I came to this meeting with no idea of what I was going to say to you—and now I know! Yes, Simon is guilty, I mean Wiley Bey is guilty. We are all guilty!” He paused, carried away, and pointed his finger at the ceiling. “Consider for a moment what a chain of guilt must have produced a situation like this! The infinite multitude of mean and grandiose actions without which—without all of which—this world we cling to in desperation would not be ours. What Wiley Bey does not sufficiently realize, and who can blame him?—is that the Negroes in this country are only one link in the chain. They were dragged here by men who had sold their souls to the devil. They were set free as a matter of expediency, and that was the only possible way! Wiley Bey is a power¬ ful man, above all a man of moral earnestness. He is aware of the guilt of a country which gives birth to the slogans we hear and read every day. Buy Blabber’s Beer and remember Pearl Harbor! No Negroes need apply! And so he in turn—I tell you, there’s no end to it!— commits the sins of despair and pride, chooses to withdraw from a society which is still capable of absorbing his values. To dissolve the City which grew painfully, crookedly, corruptly, and which alone stands between us and the unending jungle!” Simon paused again. He would have liked a great roll of drums, not for effect, but to make them listen. And, alas, he would have liked the words to come less easily, with no oratorical roundness or niceties of style. For Simon was so made that even now he feared that he might be performing, once more: his emotion part of the play. “Surely, I am not myself a man of moral earnestness. Perhaps you are thinking that I am only a foolish buffoon. But I am capable of seeing how we are all responsible for the wrong we inherit and live with, day by day. It is a small vision, and often worse than useless. But believe me, nothing less than this vision can make sense of such a case as Wiley Bey’s.” He stopped, and squinted myopically at the faces of the board members. With the exception of a Negro minister, who was dozing, they all looked rather embarrassed. “Are you finished?” said the chairman, heavily. Simon, quite suddenly, was embarrassed himself. He smiled awk¬ wardly and made a deep bow:

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“Opus superabat materiam. Nevertheless, I have spoken.” “Thank you for your inspiring message. Officer, will you please show this man to the door?” And so he swirled his cloak around his shoulders and walked out, followed by the policeman who had appeared from nowhere to fill his heart with the familiar unreasoning terror. Sweating, he mounted the two steps. O blue-clad terror of marginal men! Had he broken a law? Was the hand coming down on his shoulder? . . . The Negroes, who had been sitting open-mouthed on the bench, turned as he passed, and stared. Then they looked back to the members of the board. Outside, his sudden fright gave way to confusion. His mind in¬ stantly filled with what he had meant, the qualifications and nuances, what was implied or should have been, or what he had simply'forgot¬ ten—all that a shifting jumble soon impossible to distinguish from what he had actually said. Moreover, it occurred to him that the board had neglected to reply, i.e., to pass formally on the fate of Wiley Bey. In fact, since. Simon was not repelled but rather tempted by the absurd, he might have popped his head through the door and de¬ manded his word of decision, were it not that the policeman’s broad back so thoroughly blocked the doorway. . . . He hovered there for a moment, and at last decided to go home. But he could not go home. He carried with him through the crowded streets an obscure feeling that this evening was not done. At the corner of State Street he stood looking across at the dark and uninviting park, until a little black boy, hurtling in pursuit of another, almost knocked him over. Gasping for breath, he smiled feebly, patted the boy’s head and drew his hand back as though it had been bitten by the strange and kinky hair. Passers-by turned to stare at this odd little figure in a black cloak. Idlers on the corner moved closer. Simon, his eyes wary and apprehensive, turned quickly and walked down State Street, moving—with the bright lights and crowds and blare of sound receding, and' the park lying black and brooding across the street_into a different world. As from the brightness and febrile joy of earthly perdition to the swirling darkness of hell. He walked along a number of warehouses, then past a squat, red-brick building _an undertaking establishment—and an alley which was half blocked by an old dilapidated hearse. He moved out into the street, skirted the car and found himself staring at Wiley Bey’s church. It was a large store, with two show-windows, one of which bore the . multicolored legend: FIRST TEMPLE OF MOHAMMED COME

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TO ISLAM. On the other window there was a cheap, hand-painted sign in black and white: HEAR WILEY BEY! ! ! I WENT TO WASHINGTON AND WHAT DID I SEE ? ? ? ? Simon went hesitantly to the door, which was open, and looked in. Wiley Bey, his long arm thrashing the air above his turban, was describing the iniquities he had seen in Washington. For a moment, Simon watched him, curiously and distantly, almost without a sense of recognition. Wiley Bey’s face was distorted. His speech, which had been simple and even in tone, with at times a touch of pedantry, was now willfully and exaggeratedly Negro, high-pitched, full of special intention. The audience, crowded on all the benches, standing two-deep along the walls, participated in every phrase and intona¬ tion. “N so I done tole dat ole govment clerk, now look heah man . . “Aymen,” cried a shrill voice; and another rhythmically, the voice of an ancient hag who squatted in the rear: “Whad you all done tole dat man, son?” “Why ah done tole the exac same thing ah done tole*you!” “Tell it, son!” “Aymen, father!” “Do, Pasha Bey!” “Ah tole um, you kin beat a calud folks down! You kin take his money n take his skin! You kin lynch him n burn him, BUT YOU AINT GONNA GIT HIS SOUL!” The enthusiasm leaped up to meet him, almost drowning out his final words. No, they shouted, never; you tell it, father, no, no, no! Simon, frowning, looked about the hall with a curious nervousness, less defined but akin to his mad fear of the blue-coat; he looked about the hall, heard the stamping and groaning and chortling, saw the arms fly up and the moist and shining eyes. In some extraordinarily physical way, he was assailed by all this. He blinked and backed out of the doorway, thinking: he’s a charlatan, a rapist, no doubt a very great man! Wiley Bey imperiously calmed the crowd and changed his tone, speaking quietly, persuasively. Now he’s telling them he’s stronger than they, thought Simon, and that it’s useless to resist. At that moment, a white man detached himself from the crowd which lined the wall on the right, and walked back toward the door. He was a well-dressed young man, with a knowing tilt to his new grey hat; very tall and_in that mass of rags, bent backs, and ravaged faces—almost offensively handsome, strong, self-possessed. He walked through the doorway, un¬ ceremoniously hustling Simon as he passed; then he wheeled about, smiling ironically, and expertly hung a cigarette on his lip.

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You ve got to hand it to these niggers,” he said. “They sure know how to put on a show!” Simon did not reply. Usually of an almost neurotic politeness, he was annoyed now, by all this supercilious youthfulness and detach¬ ment. The young man broadened his smile. “I suppose you’re a Mohammedan too!” Simon drew himself up haughtily. “In this country,” he said, “we’re all Mohammedans. When you’ve lived a little longer and seen some¬ thing of the world, you’ll understand that.” “Well what do you know!” “These people, to be sure are a slightly heretical sect.” Oh this was his evening of eloquence and public action! Smiling slyly, yet with a face ingenuous and persuasive, his two hands palms outward in a gesture of evidence, clarity, simple faith, Simon turned— to find that the young man had disappeared. Astonished, he moved out to the curb and saw him striding swiftly away, in the direction of the bright lights. Inside the store, there was a great murmur and chatter, a pushing back of benches. The meeting was over, people were crowding around the platform; Wiley Bey was nodding gravely, shaking hands. This was the moment that Simon, all unconsciously, had come for: he would go in, report on his visit to the draft board, clear the matter up. . . . Negroes were beginning to drift out of the store, eyeing him curiously. A fat old lady, very black, planted herself in front of him and, with the most extraordinary insolence, stared him up and down. Simon backed away. Yes, now that he was here, he was anxious to talk to Wiley Bey. They would have a long conversation, their first, full of warmth and understanding. He would tell the Negro where he was wrong and where he was right. He would confess his own intimate sins. Alas! Now the crowd, moving boisterously out of the hall, threat¬ ened to engulf him, pushed him back to the street. All at once, the prospect of making his way through that dense Negro mass was too much for him. There would be time enough, he told himself, tomor¬ row. He hesitated yet a moment, then turned and walked off, past the hearse in the alleyway and the funeral hall; in the direction of the bright lights.

3 Simon’s Journal . . . Tuesday: Saw Wiley Bey in the morning. He was in a hurried and rather grumpy mood. Noticed for the first time that he has a wart on his neck, just below the turban.

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I fear I was rather overwhelmed by the humorous possibilities of the draft-board affair. (My old way of escaping the absurd: by being sure to see it first.) I remembered all sorts of details—the voice of the secretary, the cat in the corner, the sleepy minister; and I saw myself, dancing before those good citizens like a caricature of a lawyer, an¬ other good citizen,—so that all in all the story took too long, which irritated Wiley Bey, and I failed to impress him with the seriousness of the situation. When finally I began, in a considered and dignified way, to urge my point of view, W. B. had to go off somewhere. He’s recovered his pristine distance. In the afternoon, sat down to my desk. But I was rather tired and above all preoccupied with the whole question of W. B. Aside from all he means to this time and place (how he barged in and destroyed the very sense of my house!) I kept thinking of his strangeness, the pro¬ nounced Negro odor that already possesses his apartment, the three women who continue to hover in the background like permeating incarnations of—what? Who had thought we were so superstitious? ... In the end I gave up trying to work. Wednesday: After last notation, rather depressed, gave myself up to the melancholy and damnable practice of drinking alone—and finished the bottle of wine. Slept late and was awakened by W. B. who stood about, jovial and unembarrassed, while I dressed. In the course of my ablutions he shouted through the bathroom door an Arab proverb to the effect that nothing is more pleasant than pissing after wine. Asked him to reconcile that with the Koran’s well-known ban on alcohol. He insisted that Moslems consider not wine but drunkenness sinful, i.e. anything tending to surrender the individual’s ascendancy over his own spirit. Point can be checked. W. B. begged my pardon for his brusquerie of yesterday, alluding to difficulties within his movement (schism?!) which apparently were removed by prompt action. No describing him in a happy mood. While waiting, he strode about, ponderously, filling the air with his deep humming: themes from symphonies, especially Beethoven. Voice, chest, power, the shine of his skin—he positively swells the room. The whole question of W. B. seemed less theoretical, more fraught with anguish, for I kept thinking: What if they should really pounce on a man like this? At the same time there was something provoca¬ tive about all that force, and perhaps about the scorn with which he handled my books (like childish things he had long ago put away) —so that I found myself largely talking about myself. When he said something (in reply to my notion of religion) about the dishonesty of

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inventing a divine order, particularly if one knew what one was about, I tried to explain. That is, without stopping to adumbrate the extraor¬ dinary complexity of the process of believing, and the subtlety (in a business like this) of knowing “what you were about,” I told him frankly: “What matters to men like us, is not what we are—an endless question!—but what we manage to distill on the clean white paper.” “That is too bad,” he answered (only a literary man could be ex¬ pected to know what I meant). “For if you don’t write what you are you write nothing but verses. There’s no hope for you at all.” Just then—I was standing at the window—a police car slowed down at the curb, and an officer poked his head out of a window, scrutinizing the house. The automobile did not stop. It was gone in an instant. But its sudden appearance gave me such a shock that I lost all desire to make W. B. see what I meant. I simply said, in guise of transition to a more pressing problem: “I suppose you think we ought to come to Islam?” He hesitated, frowned and moved to the door, speaking coldly: “Islam is for men with dark skins.” Something to be worked out: the question of roles. Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief—at bottom am I attached to nothing? Is one role as good as another, provided one finds the proper style? Worse: nothing is ever resolved in our country. The point is important. I sit here and lose the name of action, grumbling about the moral form¬ lessness of it all: everything is slurred over, arranged, or forgotten. No heroism, no grandeur. Whenever a real question arises, it is destroyed precisely by its American particularity, which means that the principle involved is forever distorted by every kind of irrelevance. Thursday: Sold shoes today. O supplice! Came home early (plead¬ ing headache) to see W. B., but no one home upstairs. Tried to do some work: too agitated, expecting W. B. at any moment. But I was already in bed when they finally came home and began singing their weird songs. I put on a robe, went upstairs and entered the room, saying: “Wiley Bey, you are guilty of Satanic pride!” This produced a considerable effect, everyone laughed. The women disappeared as usual, and I told W. B. that the great danger was gleichschaltung, the deadly unifying process, the elimination of conflict. The atomization of groups into helpless individuals in face of the monster state. All this aided and abetted by his voluntary withdrawal. Etc. etc. He was affable, offered me wine (!) but obviously not in a mood to dispute or listen. And apparently

my presence inexorably banished

the

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women. Besides, I was chilly in my robe and felt a cold coming on. So I took a little wine and went downstairs. . . . Friday morning, Simon woke up sneezing. He puttered about dis¬ mally, making coffee, washing dishes, trying to think what he had in¬ tended to do that day. But of course there was only one thing to do. He dressed and went upstairs. This time he stood shivering in the hall without exaltation, and knocked. One of the women called softly: “Who dere?” “It’s I. Simon.” The door opened. Wiley Bey was standing at the front window. He looked small, round, impenetrable, at the end of the long expanse of floor. He turned from the window and said: “Well, here they are.” Simon walked across the floor. He was already frightened. In fact he had been frightened all along, from the very beginning. He wished Wiley Bey would stop grinning in that ghastly unrecognizable way, like some sinister African idol. Downstairs, the police were mounting to the front door. A dark green sedan had drawn up behind the squad car, and some men in plainclothes were getting out. The bell rang. Simon was suddenly overwhelmed by the Negro odor of this place. “Do you mind going down?” said Wiley Bey. “The buzzer doesn’t work.” Simon went to the hall and descended the steps. Halfway down, he was stopped by the Negro’s voice. “Ask them for a warrant,” said Wiley Bey, who was standing at the door. “Tell them they can’t come breaking into my house without a warrant.” Simon was seized with a violent fit of shivering: it was as though he were dreaming of shiver¬ ing. And oddly, he was struck by the illogic of the Negro’s attitude. To begin with, it isn’t your house, he thought. Moreover, you’ve repudi¬ ated the whole business, warrants and all. . . . His mind moved slowly, in wide irrelevant sweeps. In any case, it didn’t matter: when he turned to speak, Wiley Bey had disappeared from the landing. Simon first opened his own door, and left it ajar. Then he unlocked the front door, saying: “Mr. Wiley ah, lives on the second floor. . . .” Of course he had no time to mention the warrant. Three policemen shouldered their way past him and mounted the stairs. Two others stood in the doorway and looked ironically at Simon, who retired to his threshold. One of them said: “Where you going?”

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“I live in here,” said Simon. “On the first floor.” “Stay right where you are.” Keep us company,” added the other policeman, in a somewhat less threatening tone. But then he turned to the other and, with an air of quiet philosophical inquiry: “You know, I never been able to figure it out. Where does a white guy come off, living in a house with niggers?” “Hell, that’s nothing,” said the other. He looked at Simon and spat on the porch. “There’s white girls in houses go down on niggers. . . . You know I think I seen this guy somewhere. What’s your name?” “Simon. Charles R. Simon.” “You a friend of this guy Wiley? How’d you know we was looking for him}” “This house,” began Simon, with a miserable awkward ingratiating smile, “has been in my family for many generations. I—” The stairway door opened and one of the policemen appeared. Simon suddenly flushed red, thinking of what he had been about to say. He felt that he had disgraced himself and would disgrace himself again. Before whom? What god or moral law? He knew only the deser¬ tion of his courage which left him no humanity, no hope; he had smiled and smiled and he was damned forever. “That black bastard’s a real lawyer,” said the policeman at the stairway door. “He won’t let us in without a warrant.” “Break in the door and give him the flub-a-dub.” “Well what do you know,” said the other. “Wan-ton bru-tality!” He winked broadly at Simon and walked to the plainclothesmen who were standing by their sedan. Simon (alas!) made another, feebler effort to smile. The uniformed man came back and went up the steps again. He was followed by a plainclothesman. “If you had any self-respect, you woulda got the hell out of here as soon as these boogies come in.” (Upstairs, the policemen blew the lock off the door and advanced on Wiley Bey who retreated slowly, saying: “Just show me that war¬ rant, that’s my right!” One of the men in uniform swung suddenly, knocking the Negro down. Wiley Bey arose, jerked his bad leg stiff and crashed his enormous fist into the blue-clad chest. The policeman fainted. The other three began to use their clubs on Wiley Bey, keep¬ ing him off balance, battering him about the room.) “That is what comes of not taking a white man’s word.” “I suppose you’re a Mohammedan too.” (Upstairs, the women began to scream.)

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“Of course I’m not,” said Simon, with a nervous laugh. “My family has been Presbyterian for six generations.” A second plainclothesman—Simon recognized with terror the young man he had spoken to in front of Wiley Bey’s meeting—came to the hall door and shouted up for the men to hurry. (The women had stopped screaming. They were applying cold water to Wiley Bey’s face.) One of the men at the door said: “What do you say, we take this guy with us too, cap?” “That’s right,” said the other. “You can see right off he’s a dangerous guy-” The plainclothesman looked at Simon with professional boredom and said: “Leave him alone. He’s just a crackpot.” On the second floor, the policemen emerged from the apartment, half carrying, half dragging Wiley Bey. The Negro’s turban hung down grotesquely over his bloody face. He was conscious; his eyes met Simon’s as he passed; he even smiled, with his swollen lips, and said something indistinct. In general (it seemed to Simon) a quite repulsive air of triumph and self-satisfaction. The policeman who had been knocked out came down last; very pale, he muttered: “That black bastard broke half my ribs.” Simon closed his door, went to the front window, and stood watching them get into the cars and drive away. The house was his again. The idea kept getting in the way of what he was trying to think. . . . What was it? But there’s nothing, he said to himself bitterly, nothing you can make of it. Wiley Bey, for example, imagines he’s proved some point or other. And suddenly Simon (who couldn’t bear pain of any kind) began to bang his forehead hard against the wooden panelling between the two windows, saying aloud each time: “But he hasn’t, he hasn’t, he hasn’t!” 1943

\

Of This Time, of That Place BY

LIONEL TRILLING

IT WAS a fine September day. By noon it would be summer again but now it was true autumn with a touch of chill in the airr As Joseph Howe stood on the porch of the house in which he lodged, ready to leave for his first class of the year, he thought with pleasure of the long indoor days that were coming. It was a moment when he could feel glad of his profession. On the lawn the peach tree was still in fruit and young Hilda Aiken was taking a picture of it. She held the camera tight against her chest. She wanted the sun behind her but she did not want her own long morning shadow in the foreground. She raised the camera but that did not help, and she lowered it but that made things worse. She twisted her body to the left, then to the right. In the end she had to step out of the direct line of the sun. At last she snapped the shutter and wound the film with intense care. Howe, watching her from the porch, waited for her to finish and called good morning. She turned, startled, and almost sullenly low¬ ered her glance. In the year Howe had lived at the Aikens’, Hilda had accepted him as one of her family, but since his absence of the summer she had grown shy. Then suddenly she lifted her head and smiled at him, and the humorous smile confirmed his pleasure in the day. She picked up her bookbag and set off for school. The handsome houses on the streets to the college were not yet fully awake but they looked very friendly. Howe went by the Bradby house where he would be a guest this evening at the first dinner-party of the year. When he had gone the length of the picket fence, the whitest in town, he turned back. Along the path there was a fine row of asters and he went through the gate and picked one for his button¬ hole. The Bradbys would be pleased if they happened to see him invading their lawn and the knowledge of this made him even more comfortable. He reached the campus as the hour was striking. The students were 1 65

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hurrying to their classes. He himself was in no hurry. He stopped at his dim cubicle of an office and lit a cigarette. The prospect of facing his class had suddenly presented itself to him and his hands were cold, the lawful seizure of power he was about to make seemed momentous. Waiting did not help. He put out his cigarette, picked up a pad of theme paper and went to his classroom. As he entered, the rattle of voices ceased and the twenty-odd fresh¬ men settled themselves and looked at him appraisingly. Their faces seemed gross, his heart sank at their massed impassivity, but he spoke briskly. “My name is Howe,” he said and turned and wrote it on the blackboard. The carelessness of the scrawl confirmed his authority. He went on, “My office is 412 Slemp Hall and my office hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from eleven-thirty to twelve-thirty.” He wrote, “M., W., F., 11:30-12:30.” He said, “I’ll be very glad to see any of you at that time. Or if you can’t come then, you can arrange with me for some other time.” He turned again to the blackboard and spoke over his shoulder. “The text for the course is Jarman’s Modern Plays, revised edition. The Co-op has it in stock.” He wrote the name, underlined “revised edition” and waited for it to be taken down in the new notebooks. When the bent heads were raised again he began his speech of prospectus. “It is hard to explain—,” he said, and paused as they composed themselves. “It is hard to explain what a course like this is intended to do. We are going to try to learn something about modern literature and something about prose composition.” As he spoke, his hands warmed and he was able to look directly at the class. Last year on the first day the faces had seemed just as cloddish, but as the term wore on they became gradually alive and quite likable. It did not seem possible that the same thing could happen again. “I shall not lecture in this course,” he continued. “Our work will be carried on by discussion and we will try to learn by an exchange of opinion. But you will soon recognize that my opinion is worth more than anyone else’s here.” He remained grave as l^e said it, but two boys understood and laughed. The rest took permission from them and laughed too. All Howe’s private ironies protested the vulgarity of the joke but the laughter made him feel benign and powerful. When the little speech was finished, Howe picked up the pad of paper he had brought. He announced that they would write an

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extemporaneous theme. Its subject was traditional, “Who I am and why I came to Dwight College.” By now the class was more at ease and it gave a ritualistic groan of protest. Then there was a stir as fountain-pens were brought out and the writing arms of the chairs were cleared and the paper was passed about. At last all the heads bent to work and the room became still. Howe sat idly at his desk. The sun shone through the tall clumsy windows. The cool of the morning was already passing. There was a scent of autumn and of varnish, and the stillness of the room was deep and oddly touching. Now and then a student’s head was raised and scratched in the old elaborate students’ pantomime that calls the teacher to witness honest intellectual effort. Suddenly a tall boy stood within the frame of the open door. “Is this,” he said, and thrust a large nose into a college catalogue, '“is this the meeting place of English iA? The section instructed by Dr. Joseph Howe?” He stood on the very sill of the door, as if refusing to enter until he was perfectly sure of all his rights. The class looked up from work, found him absurd and gave a low mocking cheer. The teacher and the new student, with equal pointedness, ignored the disturbance. Howe nodded to the boy, who pushed his head for¬ ward and then jerked it back in a wide elaborate arc to clear his brow of a heavy lock of hair. He advanced into the room and halted before Howe, almost at attention. In a loud clear voice he announced, “I am Tertan, Ferdinand R., reporting at the direction of Head of Depart¬ ment Vincent.” The heraldic formality of this statement brought forth another cheer. Howe looked at the class with a sternness he could not really feel, for there was indeed something ridiculous about this boy. Under his displeased regard the rows of heads dropped to work again. Then he touched Tertan’s elbow, led him up to the desk and stood so as to shield their conversation from the class. “We are writing an extemporaneous theme,” he said. “The subject is, ‘Who I am and why I came to Dwight College.’ ” He stripped a few sheets from the pad and offered them to the boy. Tertan hesitated and then took the paper but he held it only tenta¬ tively. As if with the effort of making something clear, he gulped, and a slow smile fixed itself on his face. It was at once knowing and shy. “Professor,” he said, “to be perfectly fair to my classmates”—he made a large gesture over the room—“and to you”—he inclined his

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head to Howe—“this would not be for me an extemporaneous sub¬ ject.” Howe tried to understand. “You mean you’ve already thought about it—you’ve heard we always give the same subject? That doesn’t matter.” Again the boy ducked his head and gulped. It was the gesture of one who wishes to make a difficult explanation with perfect candor. “Sir,” he said, and made the distinction with great care, “the topic I did not expect but I have given much ratiocination to the subject.” Howe smiled and said, “I don’t think that’s an unfair advantage. Just go ahead and write.” Tertan narrowed his eyes and glanced sidewise at Howe. His strange mouth smiled. Then in quizzical acceptance, he ducked his head, threw back the heavy dank lock, dropped into a seat with a great loose noise and began to write rapidly. The room fell silent again and Howe resumed his idleness. When the bell rang, the students who had groaned when the task had been set now groaned again because they had not finished. Howe took up the papers and held the class while he made the first assignment. When he dismissed it, Tertan bore down on him, his slack mouth held ready for speech. “Some professors,” he said, “are pedants. They are Dryasdusts. How¬ ever, some professors are free souls and creative spirits. Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche were all professors.” With this pronouncement he paused. “It is my opinion,” he continued, “that you occupy the second category.” Howe looked at the boy in surprise and said with good-natured irony, “With Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche?” Not only Tertan’s hand and head but his whole awkward body waved away the stupidity. “It is the kind and not the quantity of the kind,” he said sternly. Rebuked, Howe said as simply and seriously as he could, “It would be nice to think so.” He added, “Of course I am not a professor.” This was clearly a disappointment but Tertan met it. “In the French sense,” he said with composure. “Generically, a teacher.” Suddenly he bowed. It ^vas such a bow, Howe fancied, as a stagedirector might teach an actor playing a medieval student who takes leave of Abelard—stiff, solemn, with elbows close to the body and feet together. Then, quite as suddenly, he turned and left. A queer fish, and as soon as Howe reached his office he sifted through the batch of themes and drew out Tertan’s. The boy had filled many

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sheets with his unformed headlong scrawl. “Who am I?” he had be¬ gun. “Here, in a mundane, not to say commercialized academe, is asked the question which from time long immemorably out of mind has accreted doubts and thoughts in the psyche of man to pester him as a nuisance. Whether in St. Augustine (or Austin as sometimes called) or Miss Bashkirtsieff or Frederic Amiel or Empedocles, or in less lights of the intellect than these, this posed question has been ineluctable.” Howe took out his pencil. He circled “academe” and wrote “vocab.” in the margin. He underlined “time long immemorably out of mind” and wrote “Diction!” But this seemed inadequate for what was wrong. He put down his pencil and read ahead to discover the principle of error in the theme. “Today as ever, in spite of gloomy prophets of the dismal science (economics) the question is uninvalidated. Out -of the starry depths of heaven hurtles this spear of query demanding to be caught on the shield of the mind ere it pierces the skull and the limbs be unstrung.” Baffled but quite caught, Howe read on. “Materialism, by which is meant the philosophic concept and not the moral idea, provides no aegis against the question which lies beyond the tangible (metaphysics). Existence without alloy is the question presented. Environment and heredity relegated aside, the rags and old clothes of practical life discarded, the name and the instrumentality of livelihood do not, as the prophets of the dismal science insist on in this connection, give solu¬ tion to the interrogation which not from the professor merely but veritably from the cosmos is given. I think, therefore I am (cogito etc.) but who am I? Ter tan I am, but what is Tertan? Of this time, of that place, of some parentage, what does it matter?” Existence without alloy: the phrase established itself. Howe put aside Tertan’s paper and at random picked up another. “I am Arthur J. Casebeer, Jr.,” he read. “My father is Arthur J. Casebeer and my grand¬ father was Arthur J. Casebeer before him. My mother is Nina Wimble Casebeer. Both of them are college graduates and my father is in in¬ surance. I was born in St. Louis eighteen years ago and we still make our residence there.” Arthur J. Casebeer, who knew who he was, was less interesting than Tertan, but more coherent. Howe picked up Tertan’s paper again. It was clear that none of the routine marginal comments, no “sent, str.” or “punct.” or “vocab.” could cope with this torrential rhetoric. He read ahead, contenting himself with underscoring the errors against the time when he should have the necessary “conference” with Tertan.

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It was a busy and official day of cards and sheets, arrangements and small decisions, and it gave Howe pleasure. Even when it was time to attend the first of the weekly Convocations he felt the charm of the beginning of things when intention is still innocent and uncorrupted by effort. He sat among the young instructors on the platform and joined in their humorous complaints at having to assist at the ceremony, but actually he got a clear satisfaction from the ritual of prayer and prosy speech and even from wearing his academic gown. And when the Convocation was over the pleasure continued as he crossed the campus, exchanging greetings with men he had not seen since the spring. They were people who did not yet, and perhaps never would, mean much to him, but in a year they had grown amiably to be part of his life. They were his fellow-townsmen. The day had cooled again at sunset and there was a bright chill in the September twilight. Howe carried his voluminous gown over his arm, he swung his doctoral hood by its purple neckpiece and on his head he wore his mortarboard with its heavy gold tassel bobbing just over his eye. These were the weighty and absurd symbols of his new profession and they pleased him. At twenty-six Joseph Howe had dis¬ covered that he was neither so well off nor so bohemian as he had once thought. A small income, adequate when supplemented by a sizable cash legacy, was genteel poverty when the cash was all spent. And the literary life—the room at the Lafayette or the small apartment without a lease, the long summers on the Cape, the long afternoons and the social evenings—began to weary him. His writing filled his mornings and should perhaps have filled his life, yet it did not. To the amuse¬ ment of his friends and with a certain sense that he was betraying his own freedom, he had used the last of his legacy for a year at Harvard. The small but respectable reputation of his two volumes of verse had proved useful—he continued at Harvard on a fellowship and when he emerged as Dr. Howe he received an excellent appointment, with pros¬ pects, at Dwight. He had his moments of fear when all that had ever been said of the dangers of the academic life had occurred to him. But after a year in which he had tested every possibility of corruption and seduction he was ready to rest easy. His third volume of verse, most of it written in his first year of teaching, tvas not only ampler but, he thought, better than its predecessors. There was a clear hour before the Bradby dinner-party and Howe looked forward to it. But he was not to enjoy it, for lying with his mail on the hall table was a copy of this quarter’s issue of Life and Letters,

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to which his landlord subscribed. Its severe cover announced that its editor, Frederic Woolley, had this month contributed an essay called “Two Poets,” and Howe, picking it up, curious to see who the two poets might be, felt his own name start out at him with cabalistic power—Joseph Howe. As he continued to turn the pages his hand trembled. Standing in the dark hall, holding the neat little magazine, Howe knew that his literary contempt for Frederic Woolley meant nothing, for he suddenly understood how he respected Woolley in the way of the world. He knew this by the trembling of his hand. And of the little world as well as the great, for although the literary groups of New York might dismiss Woolley, his name carried high authority in the academic world. At Dwight it was even a revered name, for it had been here at the college that Frederic Woolley had made the distinguished scholarly career from which he had gone on to literary journalism. In middle life he had been induced to take the editorship of Life and Letters, a literary monthly not widely read but heavily endowed and in its pages he had carried on the defense of what he sometimes called the older values. He was not without wit, he had great knowledge and considerable taste and even in the full movement of the “new”’ litera¬ ture he had won a certain respect for his refusal to accept it. In France, even in England, he would have been connected with a more robust tradition of conservatism, but America gave him an audience not much better than genteel. It was known in the college that to the subsidy of Life and Letters the Bradbys contributed a great part. As Howe read, he saw that he was involved in nothing less than an event. When the Fifth Series of Studies in Order and Value came to be collected, this latest of Frederic Woolley’s essays would not be merely another step in the old direction. Clearly and unmistakably, it was a turning point. All his literary life Woolley had been concerned with the relation of literature to morality, religion, and the private and delicate pieties, and he had been unalterably opposed to all that he had called “inhuman humanitarianism.” But here, suddenly, dra¬ matically late, he had made an about-face, turning to the public life and to the humanitarian politics he had so long despised. This was the kind of incident the histories of literature make much of. Frederic Woolley was opening for himself a new career and winning a kind of new youth. He contrasted the two poets, Thomas Wormser who was admirable, Joseph Howe who was almost dangerous. He spoke of the “precious subjectivism” of Howe’s verse. “In times like ours,” he wrote, .“with millions facing penury and want, one feels that the qualities of

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the tour d’ivoire are well-nigh inhuman, nearly insulting. The tour d’ivoire becomes the tour d’ivresse and it is not self-intoxicated poets that our people need.” The essay said more: “The problem is one of meaning. I am not ignorant that the creed of the esoteric poets de¬ clares that a poem does not and should not mean anything, that it is something. But poetry is what the poet makes it, and if he is a true poet he makes what his society needs. And what is needed now is the tradition in which Mr. Wormser writes, the true tradition of poetry. The Howes do no harm, but they do no good when positive good is demanded of all responsible men. Or do the Howes indeed do no harm? Perhaps Plato would have said they do, that in some ways theirs is the Phrygian music that turns men’s minds from the struggle. Certainly it is true that Thomas Wormser writes in the lucid Dorian mode which sends men into battle with evil.” It was easy to understand why Woolley had chosen to praise Thomas Wormser. The long, lilting lines of Corn Under Willows hymned, as Woolley put it, the struggle for wheat in the Iowa fields and expressed the real lives of real people. But why out of the dozen more notable ex¬ amples he had chosen Howe’s little volume as the example of “pre¬ cious subjectivism” was hard to guess. In a way it was funny, this multiplication of himself into “the Howes.” And yet this becoming the multiform political symbol by whose creation Frederic Woolley gave the sign of a sudden new life, this use of him as a sacrifice whose blood was necessary for the rites of rejuvenation, made him feel oddly unclean. Nor could Howe get rid of a certain practical resentment. As a poet he had a special and respectable place in the college life. But it might be another thing to be marked as the poet of a willful and selfish obscurity. As he walked to the Bradbys Howe was a little tense and defensive. It seemed to him that all the world knew of the “attack” and agreed with it. And indeed the Bradbys had read the essay but Professor Bradby, a kind and pretentious man, said, “I see my old friend knocked you about a bit, my boy,” and his wife Eugenia looked at Howe with her childlike blue eyes and said, “I shall scold Frederic for the untrue things he w^ote about you. You aren’t the least ob¬ scure.” They beamed at him. In their genial snobbery they seemed to feel that he had distinguished himself. He was the leader of Howeism. He enjoyed the dinner-party as much as he had thought he would. And in the following days, as he was more preoccupied with his duties, the incident was forgotten. His classes had ceased to be mere

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groups. Student after student detached himself from the mass and re¬ quired or claimed a place in Howe’s awareness. Of them all it was Tertan who first and most violently signaled his separate existence. A week after classes had begun Howe saw his silhouette on the frosted glass of his office door. It was motionless for a long time, perhaps stopped by the problem of whether or not to knock before entering. Howe called, “Come in!” and Tertan entered with his shambling stride. He stood beside the desk, silent and at attention. When Howe asked him to sit down, he responded with a gesture of head and hand as if to say that such amenities were beside the point. Nevertheless he did take the chair. He put his ragged crammed briefcase between his legs. His face, which Howe now observed fully for the first time, was confusing, for it was made up of florid curves, the nose arched in the bohe and voluted in the nostril, the mouth loose and soft and rather moist. Yet the face was so thin and narrow as to seem the very type of asceticism. Lashes of unusual length veiled the eyes and, indeed, it seemed as if there were a veil over the whole countenance. Before the words actually came, the face screwed itself into an attitude of preparation for them. “You can confer with me now?” Tertan said. “Yes, I’d be glad to. There are several things in your two themes I want to talk to you about.” Howe reached for the packet of themes on his desk and sought for Tertan’s. But the boy was waving them away. “These are done perforce,” he said. “Under the pressure of your re¬ quirement. They are not significant, mere duties.” Again his great hand flapped vaguely to dismiss his themes. He leaned forward and gazed at his teacher. “You are,” he said, “a man of letters? You are a poet?” It was more declaration than question. “I should like to think so,” Howe said. At first Tertan accepted the answer with a show of appreciation, as though the understatement made a secret between himself and Howe. Then he chose to misunderstand. With his shrewd and disconcerting control of expression, he presented to Howe a puzzled grimace. “What does that mean?” he said. Howe retracted the irony. “Yes. I am a poet.” It sounded strange to say. “That,” Tertan said, “is a wonder.” He corrected himself with his ducking head. “I mean that is wonderful.” Suddenly he dived at the miserable briefcase between his legs, put

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it on his knees and began to fumble with the catch, all intent on the difficulty it presented. Howe noted that his suit was worn thin, his shirt almost unclean. He became aware, even, of a vague and musty odor of garments worn too long in unaired rooms. Tertan conquered the lock and began to concentrate upon a search into the interior. At last he held in his hand what he was after, a torn and crumpled copy of Life and Letters. “I learned it from here,” he said, holding it out. Howe looked at him sharply, his hackles a little up. But the boy’s face was not only perfectly innocent, it even shone with a conscious admiration. Apparently nothing of the import of the essay had touched him except the wonderful fact that his teacher was a “man of letters.” Yet this seemed too stupid and Howe, to test it, said, “The man who wrote that doesn’t think it’s wonderful.” Tertan made a moist hissing sound as he cleared his mouth of saliva. His head, oddly loose on his neck, wove a pattern of contempt in the air. “A critic,” he said, “who admits prima facie that he does not understand.” Then he said grandly, “It is the inevitable fate.” It was absurd, yet Howe was not only aware of the absurdity but of a tension suddenly and wonderfully relaxed. Now that the “attack” was on the table between himself and this strange boy and subject to the boy’s funny and absolutely certain contempt, the hidden force of his feeling was revealed to him in the very moment that it vanished. All unsuspected, there had been a film over the world, a transparent but discoloring haze of danger. But he had no time to stop over the brightened aspect of things. Tertan was going on. “I also am a man of letters. Putative.” “You have written a good deal?” Howe meant to be no more than polite and he was surprised at the tenderness he heard in his words. Solemnly the boy nodded, threw back the dank lock and sucked in a deep anticipatory breath. “First, a work of homiletics, which is a de¬ fense of the principles of religious optimism against the pessimism of Schopenhauer and the humanism of Nietzsche.” “Humanism? Why do you call it humanism?” “It is my nomenclature for making a deity of man,” Tertan replied negligently. “Then three factional works, novels. And numerous essays in science, combating materialism. Is it your duty to read these if I bring them to you?” Howe answered simply, “No, it isn’t exactly my duty, but I shall be happy to read them.” Tertan stood up and remained silent. He rested his bag on the

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chair. With a certain compunction—for it did not seem entirely proper that, of two men of letters, one should have the right to blue-pencil the other, to grade him or to question the quality of his “sentence struc¬ ture”—Howe reached for Tertan’s papers. But before he could take them up, the boy suddenly made his bow-to-Abelard, the stiff incli¬ nation of the body with the hands seeming to emerge from the scholar’s gown. Then he was gone. But after his departure something was still left of him. The timbre of his curious sentences, the downright finality of so quaint a phrase as “It is the inevitable fate” still rang in the air. Howe gave the warmth of his feeling to the new visitor who stood at the door announcing himself with a genteel clearing of the throat. “Dr. Howe, I believe?” the student said. A large hand advanced into the room and grasped Howe’s hand. “Blackburn, sir, Theodore Black¬ burn, vice-president of the Student Council. A great pleasure, sir.” Out of a pair of ruddy cheeks a pair of small eyes twinkled goodnaturedly. The large face, the large body were not so much fat as beefy and suggested something “typical,” monk, politician, or inn¬ keeper. Blackburn took the seat beside Howe’s desk. “I may have seemed to introduce myself in my public capacity, sir,” he said. “But it is really as an individual that I came to see you. That is to say, as one of your students to be.” He spoke with an “English” intonation and he went on, “I was once an English major, sir.” For a moment Howe was startled, for the roast-beef look of the boy and the manner of his speech gave a second’s credibility to one sense of his statement. Then the collegiate meaning of the phrase asserted itself, but some perversity made Howe say what was not really in good taste even with so forward a student, “Indeed? What regiment?” Blackburn stared and then gave a little pouf-pouf of laughter. He waved the misapprehension away. “Very good, sir. It certainly is an ambiguous term.” He chuckled in appreciation of Howe’s joke, then cleared his throat to put it aside. “I look forward to taking your course in the romantic poets, sir,” he said earnestly. “To me the romantic poets are the very crown of English literature.” Howe made a dry sound, and the boy, catching some meaning in it, said, “Little as I know them, of course. But even Shakespeare who is so dear to us of the Anglo-Saxon tradition is in a sense but the preparation for Shelley, Keats and Byron. And Wadsworth.” - Almost sorry for him, Howe dropped his eyes. With some embarrass-

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menl, for the boy was not actually his student, he said softly, “Words¬ worth.” “Sir?” “Wordsworth, not Wadsworth. You said Wadsworth.” “Did I, sir?” Gravely he shook his head to rebuke himself for the error. “Wordsworth, of course—slip of the tongue.” Then, quite in command again, he went on. “I have a favor to ask of you. Dr. Howe. You see, I began my college course as an English major,”—he smiled —“as I said.” “Yes?” “But after my first year I shifted. I shifted to the social sciences. Sociology and government—I find them stimulating and very real" He paused, out of respect for reality. “But now I find that perhaps I have neglected the other side.” “The other side?” Howe said. “Imagination, fancy, culture. A well-rounded man.” He trailed off as if there were perfect understanding between them. “And so, sir, I have decided to end my senior year with your course in the romantic poets.” His voice was filled with an indulgence which Howe ignored as he said flatly and gravely, “But that course isn’t given until the spring term.” “Yes, sir, and that is where the favor comes in. Would you let me take your romantic prose course? I can’t take it for credit, sir, my pro¬ gram is full, but just for background it seems to me that I ought to take it. I do hope,” he concluded in a manly way, “that you will con¬ sent.” “Well, it’s no great favor, Mr. Blackburn. You can come if you wish, though there’s not much point in it if you don’t do the reading.” The bell rang for the hour and Howe got up. “May I begin with this class, sir?” Blackburn’s smile was candid and boyish. Howe nodded carelessly and together, silently, they walked to the classroom down the hall. When they reached the door Howe stood back to let his student enter, but Blackburn moved adroitly behind him and grasped him by the arm t^) urge him over the threshold. They entered together with Blackburn’s hand firmly on Howe’s bicep, the student in¬ ducting the teacher into his own room. Howe felt a surge of temper rise in him and almost violently he disengaged his arm and walked to the desk, while Blackburn found a seat in the front row and smiled at him.

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The question was. At whose door must the tragedy be laid? All night the snow had fallen heavily and only now was abating in sparse little flurries. The windows were valanced high with white. It was very quiet, something of the quiet of the world had reached the class and Howe found that everyone was glad to talk or listen. In the room there was a comfortable sense of pleasure in being human. Casebeer believed that the blame for the tragedy rested with heredity. Picking up the book he read, “The sins of the fathers are visited on their children.” This opinion was received with general favor. Never¬ theless Johnson ventured to say that the fault was all Pastor Manders’ because the Pastor had made Mrs. Alving go back to her husband and was always hiding the truth. To this Hibbard objected with logic enough, “Well then, it was really all her husband’s fault. He did all the bad things.” De Witt, his face bright with an impatient idea, said that the fault was all society’s. “By society I don’t mean upper-crust society,” he said. He looked around a little defiantly, taking in any members of the class who might be members of upper-crust society. “Not in that sense. I mean the social unit.” Howe nodded and said, “Yes, of course.” “If the society of the time had progressed far enough in science,” De Witt went on, “then there would be no problem for Mr. Ibsen to write about. Captain Alving plays around a little, gives way to per¬ fectly natural biological urges, and he gets a social disease, a venereal disease. If the disease is cured, no problem. Invent salvarsan and the disease is cured. The problem of heredity disappears and li’l Oswald just doesn’t get paresis. No paresis, no problem—no problem, no play.” This was carrying the ark into battle and the class looked at De Witt with respectful curiosity. It was his usual way and on the whole they were sympathetic with his struggle to prove to Howe that science was better than literature. Still, there was something in his reckless manner that alienated them a little. “Or take birth-control, for instance,” De Witt went on. “If Mrs. Alving had had some knowledge of contraception, she wouldn’t have had to have li’l Oswald at all. No li’l Oswald, no play.” The class was suddenly quieter. In the back row Stettenhover swung his great football shoulders in a righteous sulking gesture, first to the right, then to the left. He puckered his mouth ostentatiously. Intellect was always ending up by talking dirty. Tertan’s hand went up and Howe said, “Mr. Tertan.” The boy

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shambled to his feet and began his long characteristic gulp. Howe made a motion with his fingers, as small as possible, and Tertan ducked his head and smiled in apology. He sat down. The class laughed. With more than half the term gone, Tertan had not been able to remember that one did not rise to speak. He seemed unable to carry on the life of the intellect without this mark of respect for it. To Howe the boy’s habit of rising seemed to accord with the formal shabbiness of his dress. He never wore the casual sweaters and jackets of his classmates. Into the free and comfortable air of the college classroom he brought the stuffy sordid strictness of some crowded metropolitan high school. “Speaking from one sense,” Tertan began slowly, “there is no blame ascribable. From the sense of determinism, who can say where the blame lies? The preordained is the preordained and it cannot be said without rebellion against the universe, a palpable absurdity.” In the back row Stettenhover slumped suddenly in his seat, his heels held out before him, making a loud dry disgusted sound. His body sank until his neck rested on the back of his chair. He folded his hands across his belly and looked significantly out of the window, exasperated not only with Tertan but with Howe, with the class, with the whole system designed to encourage this kind of thing. There was a certain insolence in the movement and Howe flushed. As Tertan continued to speak, Howe walked casually toward the window and placed himself in the line of Stettenhover’s vision. He stared at the great fellow, who pretended not to see him. There was so much power in the big body, so much contempt in the Greek-athlete face under the crisp Greek-athlete curls, that Howe felt almost physical fear. But at last Stettenhover admitted him to focus and under his dis¬ approving gaze sat up with slow indifference. His eyebrows raised high in resignation, he began to examine his hands. Howe relaxed and turned his attention back to Tertan. “Flux of existence,” Tertan was saying, “produces all things, so that judgment wavers. Beyond the phenomena, what? But phenomena are adumbrated and to them we are limited.” Howe saw it for a moment as perhaps it existed in the boy’s mind— the world of shadows which are cast by a great light upon a hidden reality as in the old myth of the Cave. But the little brush with Stettenhover had tired him and he said irritably, “But come to the point, Mr. Tertan.” He said it so sharply that some of the class looked at him curiously. For three months he had gently carried Tertan through his verbosities.

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to the vaguely respectful surprise of the other students, who seemed to conceive that there existed between this strange classmate and their teacher some special understanding from which they were content to be excluded. Tertan looked at him mildly and at once came brilliantly to the point. “This is the summation of the play,” he said and took up his book and read, “ ‘Your poor father never found any outlet for the overmastering joy of life that was in him. And I brought no holiday into his home, either. Everything seemed to turn upon duty and I am afraid I made your poor father’s home unbearable to him, Oswald.’ Spoken by Mrs. Alving.” Yes, that was surely the “summation” of the play and Tertan had hit it, as he hit, deviously and eventually, the literary point of almost everything. But now, as always, he was wrapping it away from sight. “For most mortals,” he said, “there are only joys of biological urgings, gross and crass, such as the sensuous Captain Alving. For certain few there are the transmutations beyond these to a contemplation of the utter whole.” Oh, the boy was mad. And suddenly the word, used in hyperbole, intended almost for the expression of exasperated admiration, became literal. Now that the word was used, it became simply apparent to Howe that Tertan was mad. It was a monstrous word and stood like a bestial thing in the room. Yet it so completely comprehended everything that had puzzled Howe, it so arranged and explained what for three months had been per¬ plexing him that almost at once its horror became domesticated. With this word Howe was able to understand why he had never been able to communicate to Tertan the value of a single criticism or correction of his wild, verbose themes. Their conferences had been frequent and long but had done nothing to reduce to order the splendid confusion of the boy’s ideas. Yet, impossible though its expression was, Tertan’s incandescent mind could always strike for a moment into some dark corner of thought. And now it was suddenly apparent that it was not a faulty rhetoric that Howe had to contend with. With his new knowledge he looked at Tertan’s face and wondered how he could have so long deceived himself. Tertan was still talking and the class had lapsed into a kind of patient unconsciousness, a coma of respect for words which, for all that most of them knew, might be profound. Almost with a suffusion of shame, Howe believed that in some dim way the class had long ago had some intimation of Tertan’s madness. He reached out as de-

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cisively as he could to seize the thread of Tertan’s discourse before it should be entangled further. “Mr. Tertan says that the blame must be put upon whoever kills the joy of living in another. We have been assuming that Captain Alving was a wholly bad man, but what if we assume that he be¬ came bad only because Mrs. Alving, when they were first married, acted toward him in the prudish way she says she did?” It was a ticklish idea to advance to freshmen and perhaps not profitable. Not all of them were following. “That would put the blame on Mrs. Alving herself, whom most of you admire. And she herself seems to think so.” He glanced at his watch. The hour was nearly over. “What do you think, Mr. De Witt?” De Witt rose to the idea, wanted to know if society couldn’t be blamed for educating Mrs. Alving’s temperament in the wrong way. Casebeer was puzzled, Stettenhover continued to look at his hands until the bell rang. Tertan, his brows louring in thought, was making as always for a private word. Howe gathered his books and papers to leave quickly. At this moment of his discovery and with the knowledge still raw, he could not engage himself with Tertan. Tertan sucked in his breath to prepare for speech and Howe made ready for the pain and con¬ fusion. But at that moment Casebeer detached himself from the group with which he had been conferring and which he seemed to represent. His constituency remained at a tactful distance. The mission in¬ volved the time of an assigned essay. Casebeer’s presentation of the plea—it was based on the freshmen’s heavy duties at the fraternities during Carnival Week—cut across Tertan’s preparations for speech. “And so some of us fellows thought,” Casebeer concluded with heavy solemnity, “that we could do a better job, give our minds to it more, if we had more time.” Tertan regarded Casebeer with mingled curiosity and revulsion. Howe not only said that he would postpone the assignment but went on to talk about the Carnival and even drew the waiting constituency into the conversation. He was conscious of Tertan’s stern and aston¬ ished stare, then of his sudden departure. Now that the fact was clear, Howe knew that he must act on it. His course was simple enough.'' He must lay the case before the Dean. Yet he hesitated. His feeling for Tertan must now, certainly, be in some way invalidated. Yet could he, because of a word, hurry to assign to official and reasonable solicitude what had been, until this mo¬ ment, so various and warm? He cquld at least delay and, by moving

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slowly, lend a poor grace to the necessary, ugly act of making his report. It was with some notion of keeping the matter in his own hands that he went to the Dean’s office to look up Tertan’s records. In the outer office the Dean’s secretary greeted him brightly and at his request bi ought him the manila folder with the small identifying photograph pasted in the corner. She laughed. “He was looking for the birdie in the wrong place,” she said. Howe leaned over her shoulder to look at the picture. It was as bad as all the Dean’s-office photographs were, but it differed from all that Howe had ever seen. Tertan, instead of looking into the camera, as no doubt he had been bidden, had, at the moment of exposure, turned his eyes upward. His mouth, as though conscious of the trick played on the photographer, had the sly superior look that Howe knew'. The secretary was fascinated by the picture. “What a funny boy,” she said. “He looks like Tartuffe!” And so he did, with the absurd piety of the eyes and the conscious slyness of the mouth and the whole face bloated by the bad lens. “Is he like that?” the secretary said. “Like Tartuffe? No.” From the photograph there was little enough comfort to be had. The records themselves gave no clue to madness, though they sug¬ gested sadness enough. Howe read of a father, Stanislaus Tertan, born in Budapesth and trained in engineering in Berlin, once employed by the Hercules Chemical Corporation—this was one of the factories that dominated the south end of the town—but now without em¬ ployment. He read of a mother Erminie (Youngfellow) Tertan, born in Manchester, educated at a Normal School at Leeds, now housewife by profession. The family lived on Greenbriar Street, which Howe knew as a row of once elegant homes near what was now the factory district. The old mansions had long ago been divided into small and primitive apartments. Of Ferdinand himself there was little to learn. He lived with his parents, had attended a Detroit high school and had transferred to the local school in his last year. His rating for intelligence, as expressed in numbers, was high, his scholastic record was remarkable, he held a college scholarship for his tuition. Howe laid the folder on the secretary’s desk. “Did you find what you wanted to know?” she asked. The phrases from Tertan’s momentous first theme came back to him. “Tertan I am, but what is Tertan? Of this time, of that place, of some parentage, what does it.matter?’”

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“No, I didn’t find it,” he said. Now that he had consulted the sad half-meaningless record he knew all the more firmly that he must not give the matter out of his own hands. He must not release Tertan to authority. Not that he antici¬ pated from the Dean anything but the greatest kindness for Tertan. The Dean would have the experience and skill which he himself could not have. One way or another the Dean could answer the question, “What is Tertan?” Yet this was precisely what he feared. He alone could keep alive—not forever but for a somehow important time— the question, “What is Tertan?” He alone could keep it still a ques¬ tion. Some sure instinct told him that he must not surrender the ques¬ tion to a clean official desk in a clear official light to be dealt with, settled and closed. He heard himself saying, “Is the Dean busy at the moment? I’d like to see him.” His request came thus unbidden, even forbidden, and it was one of the surprising and startling incidents of his life. Later, when he re¬ viewed the events, so disconnected in themselves or so merely odd, of the story that unfolded for him that year, it was over this moment, on its face the least notable, that he paused longest. It was frequently to be with fear and never without a certainty of its meaning in his own knowledge of himself that he would recall this simple, routine request and the feeling of shame and freedom it gave him as he sent everything down the official chute. In the end, of course, no matter what he did to “protect” Tertan, he would have had to make the same request and lay the matter on the Dean’s clean desk. But it would always be a landmark of his life that, at the very moment when he was rejecting the official way, he had been, without will or intention, so gladly drawn to it. After the storm’s last delicate flurry, the sun had come out. Re¬ flected by the new snow, it filled the office with a golden light which was almost musical in the way it made all the commonplace objects of efficiency shine with a sudden sad and noble significance. And the light, now that he noticed it, made the utterance of his perverse and unwanted request even more momentous. The secretary consulted the engagement pad. “He’ll be free any minute. Don’t you want t

7 She is playing. The Harmonious Blacksmith. 1941

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The Immigrants BY

LIONEL

ABEL

CHAGGA, Arunta, Bata, Barabong. Prompt and equipped with human vanity, All sociologists, we go among These nervous immigrants to humanity. They missed the boat. Why did they miss it? Laws Demented. Quotas. And they killed their great. Amazed by blue they stayed. Because, because Run over by a lion. Or just late. Oh how could they make durable delay Without book, kodak, Sunday supplement? —Long before bowbend, singing string, or lasso— What could they do but while epochs away, Poor past folk breaking time in two? They spent Their human substance. Talking to Picasso. 1942

26 1

What of the Chain Remains BY

LIONEL

ABEL

O FIND him! find him! find that Jack of Jacks, That necessary monster! Where is he Who can absolve us of monstrosity? He who can tuck a tail between his teeth Struck with the mystery of words, he who can talk Of a thick coil and comfort in the dark; That mystic animal, that cross between A brother who can climb on branching words, A wordless brother tailed among the trees. 1942

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Carmen XI BY

ROBERT

FITZGERALD

Furi et Aureli, comites Catulli . . . FURIUS and Aurelius, Catullus’s comrades. Whether he penetrate the ultimate Indies, Where the rolling surf on the shores of Morning ' Beats and again beats, Or in the land of Bedouin, the soft Arabs, Or Parthians, the ungentlemanly archers. Or where the Nile with seven similar streamlets Colors the clear sea; Or if he cross the loftier Alpine passes And view the monuments of almighty Caesar— The Rhine, and France, and even those remotest Shuddersome British— Friends, prepared for all of these, whatever Province the celestial ones may wish me, Take a little bulletin to my girl friend, Brief but not dulcet: Let her live and thrive with her fornicators. Of whom she hugs three hundred in an evening, With no true love for any, leaving them brokenWinded the same way. She need not look, as once she did, for my love. By her own fault it died, like a tumbling flower At the field’s edge, after the passing harrow Clipped it and left it. 1942 263

Police Sergeant Malone and the Six Dead Drinkers BY

HORACE

GREGORY

MY LAST job was the case of The Six Dead Drinkers: It has given me dreams and my work is less efficient. It has shown me the will of death and I am impatient At the lack of will among those who choose to die. Even ill-health is a palpable excuse; I should have dropped the case. The men were found in a hotel linen closet, The sixth with a three-inch rope around his neck, A college student who pretended to be dead, A fool who whispered That all youth dies, that he did not wish to live: His breathing corpse was sent to the Polyclinic Where they brought him to and washed his hands and feet And offered him the rewards of war and love. I wrote the first report: it was “heart-failure,” Body intact and clean, no stains are visible On wall or street or floor— And the victim (if he chooses the occasion) May wear a judge’s gown, or a dinner jacket. Or the tonneau of a State Department car— After the police and the Mayor are photographed Newsmen are always glad to be satisfied. If it had been a series of gas-house disappearances. Or a run of phone-booth, murders, Or an Islip heiress who had lost her dog I would have let The Fairview psychiatrist reclaim the bodies. For he had said what no one should forget: 2 64

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GREGORY

265

“These men are not quite gone, They have merely sunk or drifted past their prime: Each body is a little overweight, Regular exercise would have done it no great harm; There is alcoholic content in its blood. This one is deaf, the other is half-blind. Another has a scar on its right side And still another lacks an index finger Which is sad, but each can be beautifully repaired. Therapy works wonders for such common ills. They could weave baskets, or model images in clay. Dye wool, or trace a pattern on a loom. Or even kalsomine the clinic walls— Each could be salvaged and each one could earn A minimum of fifty cents a day.” But I had my way; I restored them as they were. Each in the closet as though sitting in a bar, Friendly, about to speak: One looked like a school teacher with a glass eye. Another like a teller in a bank, Another like a sailor, reefed and spent On an East River barge, one like a millionaire Who has been reported missing for a week; And the last with his smile rolled upward to the ceiling Might have been a Correspondent in the First World War. Like one possessed, I sat down among them to hear them talk. The door closed quietly and the night was dark: I felt the cold, stilled air against my face, I knew the danger, I knew how deeply Sleep flows among the dead, how straight, how far The unseen distance falls, my body shaking And held upon a narrow ledge, my limbs were shadows. I awoke to throbbing airdromes in the sky, The nurse above me said: “You must lie quiet, You have been telling me secrets for days, for hours. Throat scorched, lips black and your tongue burning; You have told them all, there is nothing more to say.”

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But even as I woke, I could not stop: There were years more to tell Of misspent childhoods in the sun at Sante Fe, Or ten days with a duchess on the Matterhorn, Or minute views of the Louvre from Eiffel Tower, Bomb-scares in Jermyn Street, tear-gas in Wilhelmstrasse, Male sleeping beauty contests at Marseille— All, all were there, Even to the least detail. Memories of girls with the India Ocean in their eyes, And night-breathing oleander in dark hair, Words flowing from the lips that could not keep still— Were there five men in that place, or six, or seven Whispering my life, or theirs? I did not know, I knew only that a phosphorescent, blue-lighted river Coursed through my veins, that I must talk as if forever Of everything I had done, or hoped to do. It was no wonder my recovery was slow, That I enlisted to begin my life again, to leave the city. I have heard artillery encourages silence among men— If they sing, dance, shout or whisper, it does not matter. The guns speak for them and the sirens blow— The service leaves no mysteries unsolved; I have volunteered, and I am wild to go. 1942

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Canzone BY

W.

H.

AUDEN

WHEN shall we learn, what should be clear as day. We cannot choose what we are free to love? Although the mouse we banished yesterday Is an enraged rhinoceros today, Our value is more threatened than we know: Shabby objections to our present day Go snooping round its outskirts; night and day Faces, orations, battles, bait our will As questionable forms and noises will; Whole phyla of resentments every day Give status to the wild men of the world Who rule the absent-minded and this world. We are created from and with the world To suffer with and from it day by day: Whether we meet in a majestic world Of solid measurements or a dream world Of swans and gold, we are required to love All homeless objects that require a world. Our claim to own our bodies and the world Is our catastrophe. What can we know But panic and caprice until we know Our dreadful appetite demands a world Whose order, origins, and purpose will Be fluent satisfaction of our will? Drift, Autumn, drift; fall, colors, where you will: Bald melancholia minces through the world. Regret, cold oceans, the lymphatic will Caught in reflection on the right to will: While violent dogs excite their dying day 2 67

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To bacchic fury; snarl, though, as they will. Their teeth are not a triumph for the will But utter hesitation. What we love Ourselves for is our power not to love, To shrink to nothing or explode at will. To ruin and remember that we know What ruins and hyenas cannot know. If in this dark now I less often know That spiral staircase where the haunted will Hunts for its stolen luggage, who should know Better than you, beloved, how I know What gives security to any world, Or in whose mirror I begin to know The chaos of the heart as merchants know Their coins and cities, genius its own day? For through our lively traffic all the day, In my own person I am forced to know How much must be forgotten out of love, How much must be forgiven, even love. Dear flesh, dear mind, dear spirit, O dear love. In the depths of myself blind monsters know Your presence and are angry, dreading Love That asks its images for more than love; The hot rampageous horses of my will, Catching the scent of Heaven, whinny: Love Gives no excuse to evil done for love, Neither in you, nor me, nor armies, nor the world Of words and wheels, nor any other world. Dear fellow-creature, praise our God of Love That we are so admonished, that no day Of conscious trial be a wasted day. Or else we make a scarecrow of the day, Loose ends and jumble of our common world, And stuff and nonsense of our own free will; Or else our changing flesh may never know There must be sorrow if there can be love. !943

Two Sonnets BY

ROBERT

LOWELL

SALEM IN SALEM seasick spindrift drifts or skips With canvas skirts against the seaward panes. Until the knitting seaman stabs at ships, Nosing like sheep of Morpheus through his brain’s Asylum. Son of Salem, how the draft Lashes the oily jelly about your head, Beating up whitecaps! Son, the capital Craft Dumps its damned merchandise in Salem’s bed. Here sewage sickens the rebellious seas. Seaman, recall how Salem fishermen Once swung their nimble fleets on the Great Banks. Where was it that New England bred the men Who quartered the Leviathan’s fat flanks And fought the British lion to his knees?

CONCORD FORD idles here in his inventor’s search For history, for over the faked ricks. The Minuteman, the Irish Catholics, The ruined Bridge and Walden’s fished-out perch. The belfry of the Unitarian Church Clangs with preposterous torpor. Crucifix, On you the heirs of Caiaphas transfix Mammon’s unbridled industry, the lurch For lines to harness Heraclitus’ stream! This Church is Concord. Concord, where Thoreau 269

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And Emerson fleeced Heaven of Christ’s robe, Concord, a place of peace, for hire or show, Renowned for its embattled farmers’ scream, Whose echo girdled the imperfect globe. 1943

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The Synagogue BY

KARL

J.

SHAPIRO

THE SYNAGOGUE dispirits the deep street, Shadows the face of the pedestrian. It is the adumbration of the Wall, The stone survival that laments itself. Our old entelechy of stubborn God, Our calendar that marks a separate race. The swift cathedral palpitates the blood. The soul moves upward like a wing to meet The pinnacles of saints. There flocks of thanks In nooks of holy tracery arrive And rested take their message in midair Sphere after sphere into the papal heaven. The altar of the Hebrews is a house, No relic but a place, Sinai itself, Not holy ground but factual holiness Wherein the living God is resident. Our scrolls are volumes of the thundered law Sabbath by sabbath wound by hand to read. He knows Al-Eloah to whom the Arab Barefooted falls on sands, on table roofs. In latticed alleys underneath the egg On wide mosaics, when the crier shrills. O profitable curse, most sacred rug, Your book is blindness and your sword is rust. And Judenhetze is the course of time; We were rebellious, all but Abraham, And skulked like Jonah, angry at the gourd. 27 1



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Our days are captives in the minds of kings. We stand in tens disjointed on the world Grieving the ribbon of a coast we hated. Some choose the ethics of belief beyond Even particular election. Some In bland memorial churches modify The architecture of the state, and heaven Disfranchised watches, caput mortuum, The Human substance eating, voting, smiling. The Jew has no bedecked magnificat But sits in stricken ashes after death. Refusing grace; his grave is flowerless, He gutters in the tallow of his name. At Rome the multiplying tapers sing Life endless in the history of art. And Zion womanless refuses grace To the first woman as to Magdalene, But l"alf-remembers Judith or Rahab, The ^rewd good heart of Esther honors still, And weeps for almost sacred Ruth, but doubts Either full harlotry or the faultless birth. Our wine is wine, our bread is harvest bread That feeds the body and is not the body. Our blessing is to wine but not the blood Nor to Sangreal the sacred dish. We bless The whiteness of the dish and bless the water And are not anthropophagous to him. The immanent son then came as one of us And stood against the ark. We have no prophets, Our scholars are afraid. There have been friars. Great healers, poets. The stars were terrible. At the Sadduccee^court he touched our panic; We were betrayed to sacrifice this man. We live by virtue of philosophy. Past love, and have our devious reward.

READER

For faith he gave us land and took the land, Thinking us exiles of all humankind. Our name is yet the identity of God That storms the falling altar of the world.

Ode to Our Young Pro-Consuls of the Air BY

ALLEN

TATE

ONCE more the country calls From sleep, as from his doom. Each citizen to take His modest stake Where the sky falls With a Pacific boom. Warm winds in even climes Push southward angry bees As we, with tank and plane, Wrest land and main . From yellow mimes, The puny Japanese. Boys hide in lunging cubes Crouching to explode, Beyond Atlantic skies. With cheerful cries Their barking tubes Upon the German toad. Marveling day by day Upon the human kind, What might I have done (A poet alone) To balk or slay These enemies of mind? I sought b^ night to foal Chimeras into men— Decadence of power That, at late hour, 2 74

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TATE

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Untimed the soul To live the past again: Toy sword, three-cornered hat At York and Lexington— While Bon-Homme whipped at sea This enemy Whose roar went flat After George made him run; Toy rifle, leather hat Above the boyish beard— And in the Blue renown The Gray went down, Down like a rat, And even the rats cheered. In a much later age (Europe had been in flames) Proud Wilson yielded ground To franc and pound, Made pilgrimage In the wake of Henry James. Where Lou Quattorze held fete For sixty thousand men, France took the German sword But later, bored, Opened the gate To Hitler at Compiegne. In this bad time no part The poet took, nor chance: He studied Swift and Donne, Ignored the Hun, While with faint heart Proust caused the fall of France. /

Sad day at Oahu When the Jap beetle hit! Our Proustian retort Was Kimmel and §hort.

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Old women in blue; And then the beetle bit. It was defeat, or near it! Yet all that feeble time Brave Brooks and lithe MacLeish Had sworn to thresh Our flagging spirit With literature made Prime! Cow Creek and bright Bear Wallow, Nursing the blague that dulls Spirits grown Eliotic, Now patriotic Are: we follow The Irresponsibles! Young men, Americans! You go to win the world With zeal pro-consular For our whole star— You partisans Of Liberty unfurled! O animal excellence. Take pterodactyl flight Fire-winged into the air And find your lair With cunning sense On some Arabian bight Or sleep your dreamless sleep (Reptilian bomber!) by The Mediterranean And like a man Swear you to keep Faith with imperial eye:

\ Take off, O gentle youth And coasting India Scale crusty Everest Whose mythic crest

READER

Resists your truth; . And spying far away Upon the Tibetan plain A limping caravan, Dive, and exterminate The Lama, late Survival of old pain. Go kill the dying swan!

The Semblables BY

WILLIAM

CARLOS

WILLIAMS

THAT red brick monastery in the suburbs over against the dusthung acreage of the unfinished and all but subterranean

munitions plant: those high brick walls behind which at Easter the little orphans and bastards in white gowns sing their Latin

responses to the hoary ritual while frankincense and myrrh round out the dark chapel making an enclosed sphere of it of which they are the worm: that cell outside the city beside the polluted stream and dump heap, uncomplaining, and the field of upended stones with a photo under glass fastened here and there to one of them near the deeply carved name to distinguish it: that trinity of slate gables the unembellished windows piling up, the chapel with its round window between the dormitories 278

WILLIAM

CARLOS

WILLIAMS

279

peaked by the bronze belfry peaked in turn by the cross, verdigris . faces all silent that miracle that has burst sexless from between Leafless white empty tendrils the all but no

the carrot rows. birches, their swaying lazily in breeze guard

behind the spiked monastery fence the sacred statuary. But ranks of brilliant car-tops row on row give back in all his glory the late November sun and hushed attend, before that tumbled ground, those sightless walls and shoveled entrances where no one but a lonesome cop swinging his club gives sign, that agony within where the wrapt machines are praying 1943

Two Poems from a Text: Isaiah LXI, 1 BY R.

P.

BLACKMUR

Beauty for Ashes

ALL DAY I trespassed on my friend’s new death, and talked of it with strangers to give it handle, the skill of a firm pressure in the handshake, felt but not regarded. “My friend was killed!” I had the voice but not the throat for gesture, the seething in me was beneath control. “Was killed in Italy on a high road.” I thought of dust, and rock, and hanging trees. “Never was God revealed upon that road, never was man saved in that high place!” By night private, I balanced warring moods, white anarchs shifting in the moonlit room, and made of fragments—his lurking underword, straight eyes, high cheeks, and equable fresh glee— a sheave of presences to garner home, harvest and fecund ancestor of cold dawn. Also, I gathered unknown waste of him looming within, the smother lifting the wide sea. Anarch or ancestor, mood called mood. I have been selfed just so before, and drained. By ill and various violence have died at eight an aunt, an uncle nine years later; a father and grandfather in great age; and five friends else in swart, unequal time. Theirs has been the chaos I abide, of them my self the faltering piety: my ear for echo, my hope for grace and gesture. I am in tide with them, their verge in me. 280

R.

P.

BLACKMUR

28 1

My friend died on no road. My friend was killed in the rude place that stirs and is the same, the bottom place that is beyond, the place of balance and loss, gulf in even eyes. He died protesting fellowship and self, the common hope, uttering himself alone. In either ash is beauty, in all beauty ash. Accepting all, all but the self yields up.

II

The Oil of Joy for Mourning HIM whom the old joy fell over, night rain each night a new lover, I sing, I see, I wake; in last me, the unsleeping, the dark rover— in new him a raw joy for no sake.

2

As once by June dusk he played trover, at full moon found fourth leaf in cut clover among grass, dew-honey, and live toil, so I flush new scent from hush-cover, from the fit air we breathed, a sweet spoil.

3 Again as, through noon-dazzle, flash plover beyond number, and are lost in fog-hover, from his dying—the swept air and sea-slake— I pluck, I lose, I discover one flower, all flight, and joy-foil.

2944

Song BY

JEAN

GARRIGUE

SUCH is season’s grave enigma said: O sad, sad, my poor king who’s dead And handwriting that still exists like him And words he left that tread his mighty tread. The boulevard of trees his face curtained And girdle of oak leaves about his head Guard his pale loins that cover nothing now. O hang his face on the autumnal bough. But what of ice in rivers broken? That musical speech of gorges against stones? This was the ice that broke upon his look O regent of the day he left. My poor dead king against the avenues! What lucid snow now sleeps upon his breast! As once, in other snows respecting none He was the snow that falls now onto me. 1944

282

The Metamorphoses BY

RANDALL

JARRELL

WHERE I spat in the harbor the oranges were bobbing All salted and sodden, with eyes in their rinds; The sky was all black where the coffee was burning. And the rust of the freighters had reddened the tide. But soon all the chimneys were hidden with contracts, The tankers rode low in the oil-black bay. The wharves were a maze of the crated bombers, And they gave me a job and I worked all day. And the orders are filled; but I float in the harbor, All tarry and swollen, with gills in my sides, The sky is all black where the carrier’s burning, And the blood of the transports is red on the tide. 1944

283

Rejoice in the Abyss BY

STEPHEN

SPENDER

WHEN the foundations quaked and the pillars shook, I trembled, and in the dark I felt the fear Of the photograph my skull might take Through the eyesockets, in one flashlit instant, When the crumbling house would obliterate Every impression of my sunlit life With one impression of black final horror. Covering me with irrecoverable doom. But the pulsation passed, and glass lay round me. And I arose from the acrid dust, and in the night I walked through the clattering houses, A prophet seeking tongues of flame. Against a background of cloud, I saw The houses kneel, exposed in their abject Centennial human prayer: “O fate Spare us from grief that punishes our neighbors.” And the heads of the passers-by, looked through, Revealed the same shameless entreaty. Then in the icy night, indifferent to our Sulphurous nether fate, I saw The dead of all time heaped in one clear tide Uplifted on the points of stars, above This town, whose walls of brick and flesh Are transitory dwellings of the spirit Which climbs to that enormous tide of death. The ‘streets then filled with London prophets. Saints of Covent Garden, Parliament Fields, 284

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SPENDER

2 85

The Heath, Lambeth, and Saint John’s Wood Graveyard, Who cried in cockney fanatic voices: “In the midst of loif is death.” And they all kneeled And prayed against the misery manufactured In factories, the pride of houses, Ambition of palaces, vain hope of Churches, And they worshiped children and simple flowers. And opened slum windows onto angels Who climbed up all the sooty steeples. Like steeple jacks, or weeping chimney sweeps. And they sang: “We souls of the abyss. Dancing in frozen peace of upper air, Naively familiar with the stars and angels. We say, ‘Rejoice in the abyss! For hollow is the center of the skull. The rumor in the rose, the vacuum Drifting under pale gold of Saint Paul’s Cross. Unless your lives accept the space of death At the center of your building and your loves. Within the bells of flowers and bells of towers. All human aims are hatred and denial Each life is lived upon the death of others. And the terrible averted face Of every man and woman, cuts, like a sword, The smile from every neighbor face.’ ”

^ 1944

Q

i

\

INTERPRETATIONS

\

The Philosophic Thought of the Young Marx BY

MAX

BRAUNSCHWEIG

IT IS not merely as an introduction to Marx’s major work that the works of his youth are important. There is no doubt that a deep comprehension of Capital is impossible without discovering through the earlier works the road traversed by Marx in his manner of con¬ ceiving the social problem, the evolution of his terminology, and the development of his polemics. But the youthful works have ah import which surpasses by far their value as preliminary studies: they mark the passage between the old philosophy and the new, they assign to Marxism its position in the history of ideas. Nowhere is seen more clearly that Marxism was not an “invention,” but rather an organic and historically necessary development of European culture. Marx rests upon the great thinkers of the preceding epoch, and was but the continuator—a masterful continuator, moreover-—of their work. It is very important to raise this point again. To consider Marxism as a specifically economic doctrine is to narrow it down and to falsify it. It is more than that: a method of thinking, a new aspect of culture in the largest sense, even if its practical consequences do make them¬ selves felt primarily in the economic realm. The tangible proof of this extended meaning of Marxism is to be found precisely in the work of the young Marx. And the manuscripts of the year 1844, recently dis¬ covered, show perhaps most appropriately all the fullness of Marx’s thinking. Let us try to set in relief the principal ideas expressed in these Manuscripts. The center of young Marx’s reflections was neither economy nor social morality, but man: more precisely, his unnatural situation in actual society. Basically, it is the philosophic problem of the eighteenth century, and Marx can indeed be considered as the great continuator of French philosophy. But while the latter could only seek to resolve problems with the insufficient means of an idealistic philosophy, Marx, scarcely a century later, could find the solution, thanks to the powerful instrument of materialist dialectic. 2 89

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Two great currents transmitted to Marx the impulsion given to thought by the eighteenth-century philosophers: that of the French socialist writers of the nineteenth century (Saint-Simon, Fourier, and above all Sismondi), and that of the German philosophers of the nineteenth century (Hegel, Feuerbach). In uniting these two power¬ ful currents, Marx summed up in himself a whole century of thought, at the same time that he represented the dawn of a new philosophic epoch. It is man, then, who is at the foundation of Marx’s considerations; and to be more precise: man “alienated from himself.” This “alien¬ ation” (the term is acquired from Hegel and Feuerbach) is, according to Marx, one of the pillars of actual bourgeois society, the center, consequently, from which all his reflections will radiate. The man who works is a stranger to his labor; he performs it only with disgust; likewise, he is a stranger to the product of his toil, since this product belongs to another. And to this other also, to the owner, this product represents an indifferent thing, a commodity, that is, something which has value only because it can be exchanged for money. But the worker who feels his labor and the product of his labor to be something foreign to him, becomes also a stranger to himself. For work, that is to say, the productive transformation of the world, is part of the very essence of man. If man is prevented from working in a natural way, that is, from living naturally, he “alienates himself from himself,” which means that he is no longer a man in the full sense of the word. His existence becomes to a certain extent animal, for he works only in obedience to constraint, to misery. In affirming this alienation, in laying bare its terrible consequences, Marx arrived naturally at a second point: What is the relation of man to his work under natural conditions, noncapitalist conditions? It is extremely interesting to observe the attitude assumed by Marx toward the problem of work which has confronted the ethic of peoples for thousands of years. Work is for Marx “vital activity, productive life itself.” This is true, of course, only of free and conscious labor, not of the forced and alienated labor of capitalist society. This free labor is for Marx the true form of human existence. The human factor of work consists in the fact that through work man transforms nature, transforms it for himself, tl^at is, makes the world into his own world’ In the beginning, the world is composed only of dead and indifferent things: man makes of it, through his labor, his world, his reality. Thus nature is found to be integrated in human life. Being the object upon which man accomplishes his work, it becomes part of his being.

MAX

BRAUNSCHWEIG

29 1

“Nature is the inorganic body of man,” as Marx boldly put it. From dead stone, Michelangelo fashions with his chisel an expression of his being. In the same way, by means of all labor, nature becomes part of man, as man becomes part of nature. Each product of free labor in¬ carnates the personality of man. And therefore, this work is a joy, since it is the expression of life. We all recognize it in the exceptional case of the artist, that is, the creative transformation of nature is, according to Marx, the attribute of every man who works, providing he has broken loose from the fetters of “alienation.” Further: since I do not produce for myself alone, but also for others (who need my product as I need theirs), work is also the true form of social activity; it is the intermediary between one man and another. It is through work that man comes to the realization that he is. not isolated, that he is a social being. In each product he receives from another, he receives also part of the personality of the other. This idea is expressed in a very happy terminology in the “Remarks on James Mill”: “Our productions are so many mirrors in which our being is reflected.” This is, then, the Marxist conception of work: a tremendous enlarging of the human personality. The concepts “to work” and “to be a man” recover their meaning. It is only when one has allowed himself to become impregnated with these images of free labor and the “natural man” that one can measure exactly to what a level the wage-slave of bourgeois society has been dragged down, and what a perverse reversal of natural values the world of “alienated labor” proffers us. It is, in the true sense of the word, an inhuman existence that the worker leads under cap¬ italism. Under what concrete form does this alienation manifest itself in bourgeois society? Marx responds: “Under the form of private property”: thus precisely designating at the first stroke the practical arena of the class struggle. Private property: here is the form of pro¬ duction and consumption which determines everything. Private property is the negation of the human personality. It is the cause of the alienation. The task which will, consequently, be imposed upon Marx is to undertake a rigorous analysis of private property. This analysis must reveal the laws which regulate it, and must deduce from them the destructive forces which develop within its own being and are prepared to negate the negation, that is, to destroy the capitalist system. It is known that Marx attacked this problem in a special work, Capital, which has become his major work by its content and the time he devoted to it. But the meaning of ^ Capital within the context of

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Marx’s work will not be understood unless one is aware of the road which led him to pose the problem, the road which I have briefly sketched above. Evidently, Marx did not wait until the writing of Capital in order to discover and indicate the road of liberation. Already in the Holy Family, almost contemporary with the Manuscripts, he expresses it clearly: “It is the proletariat who will execute the death sentence which private property has suspended over itself in creating the pro¬ letariat.” The only road is, then, the proletarian revolution. Restored to its place within the context of Marxist thought, this concept acquires a larger meaning than is ordinarily attributed to it. It is not merely a matter of political revolution: it is a question of a total revolution. Suppressing private property, it will suppress the alienation of work and restore to man his true personality. This victorious proletarian revolution will cut in half the history of humanity. It will change the relations between man and the world. What was before private property will become property which is “truly human and social.” And it is only when man is freed of alienation and capitalist servitude that he will be capable of unfolding his truly human qualities. In the course of these reflections, Marx outlines an anthropology of vast scope. He presents a picture of man and of socialist society which, despite its fragmentary character, is of the highest importance because it represents the original stage of the Marxist conception of culture. Marx thus defines the complete man: he is the man who in his rela¬ tions with the world is capable of developing all his senses. Marx understands by this term not merely the five senses, but all the faculties which man manifests in his relations with beings or with the inanimate world. In this connection, thought, will, activity, love are senses. In the condition of alienation in which capitalist society has placed him, man is unable to unfurl all the richness of his senses. The only relation which he has with the external world is the relation of possession or of the desire for possession. “Private property,” says Marx, “has made us so stupid and so limited that an object does not become ours unless we own it.” In contrast, the relations between socialist man and the external world are infinitely richer $nd more diverse, for he can be united to it through all of his senses. He “appropriates his multiple existence in a multiple manner, that is, like a complete man.” Among the relations between man and the world, the relation of ownership occupies a very secondary position. It is replaced by the free activity of all human

MAX

BRAUNSCHWEIG

2 93

forms, that is, by the senses. This activity is realized by free labor in all its forms. It is in this sense that Marx still speaks of richness, rich¬ ness of the socialist individual and of socialist society. The more various the relations of man with his kind and with the material world, the richer he is. The new society produces, to return to Marx’s words, “as a continual reality, man in all the richness of his being, the complete man, perfectly realizing all his senses.” Marx presents us here with a succinct outline, but of masterful conception, of communist culture. He depicts, if you will, the socialist “ideal.” But it must be observed—and it is necessary to particularly emphasize this point in view of the many false idealistic interpreta¬ tions of Marx—that even in this realm, where it is not a matter of economic aspects, Marx remains a pure dialectical materialist. He does not project abstract virtues into the new man, but permits him to develop the qualities which he has received from nature, that is to say, his senses. Historical progress consists in the fact that man can now be a natural man, not in the development of a superior “ethic.” What idealism calls an ethic cannot constitute a problem of Marxist philos¬ ophy, since the “ethical” attitude towards others flows naturally from socialism and has no need of any norm. The method here followed by Marx, particularly in the matter of anthropology, can serve as a model for a purely materialistic method of treating extraeconomic problems, the problems of the superstruc¬ ture. It can, let it be said in passing, serve as an example for many good Marxists, who are prevented by a holy respect from touching cul¬ tural questions for fear of falling into idealism. But the image of socialist man supplied by Marx has still another importance. In all pre-Marxist philosophy, the ideal type of man was the contemplative man. Neither the middle ages nor the modern epoch was able to detach itself entirely from the ideal of the Stoa. Even Goethe, whose death (1832) took place but twelve years before the composition of the Manuscripts, had incarnated in his personality the contemplative sage; his human ideal was essentially of an ethical nature, in the true sense of the word: a receptive “perception of the universe. To this Marx opposed his new type of man. Man is man through his work. To be a man means to work, and to work means to transform nature in the image of man, to make nature human at the same time that it makes man natural. Man is no longer static, but dynamic. He is no longer defined by his qualities, but by his activity. This is a tremendous revolution in the history of philosophy. Thanks to Marx, work—meaning free and conscious work is for the first time

2 94

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placed upon the throne of history. A revolutionary principle, even

had Marx himself failed to draw the political implications. For man, visualized as an active being transforming the world, ought necessarily to transform also the social world. Such are, briefly outlined, some of the principal problems dealt with in the Manuscripts. It is possible to see here how large is the base upon which Marxism is founded and how limited it would be to see in it nothing but a purely economic doctrine. Marxism can rightfully claim to be called an integral philosophy: not only does it point out the practical road of social liberation, it also recreates man and his image of the world. Marx often termed his doctrine “realistic humanism.” Man and his liberation constitute the center to which his thought during his entire life ever returned. The Cylopean labor of Capital, the doctrine of revolution and proletarian dictatorship, all these were intended to forge the weapons of steel with which the worker would free himself from the trap of capitalism in order to achieve at last, after centuries of alienation, his true human dignity. Regarded from this height, does not the bourgeois prejudice which considers mate¬ rialistic thinking to be a degradation of man seem the most paradoxical of stupidities? Never did religion “sanctify” man and his work as much as atheistic Marxism. If now, having considered the writings of the young Marx in rela¬ tion to the philosophy of the preceding epoch, we compare them to his future work we can see that they are but the primitive stage of the latter. No doubt, many of the consequences of his thinking are only contained in the later works; many essential assertions concern¬ ing the laws of capitalist production can be found only in Capital. But there is, in return, within the work of his youth a broadness of thought, an abundance of original intuitions whose richness is far from having been exploited. The young Marx appears there as the heir of all the culture of his time. He is like a focal point where all the lumi¬ nous rays of European philosophy are concentrated. And the vigor of his thought has succeeded in drawing into organic unity these heter¬ ogeneous and often contradictory elements. Formally, the work of the young Marx is uneven, dislocated, fragmentary (this is the reason, no doubt, why it has been held in such low esteem). But it contains already all the essential elements of his doctrine. They are to be found there, so to speak, still in the state of an incandescent liquid mass, like the flow issuing from a blast furnace, filled with many impurities but also with many rich materials which Marx will use later on in forging the powerful iron rails of Capital. The task he undertook in Capital

MAX

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needed specialization. Many problems of his youth were put aside—or at least put off for later periods of leisure which never came. We know from the conversations of Marx himself how much he felt weighed down by his purely economic studies; he dreamed of devoting himself to philosophy once more after the completion of Capital. The gigantic monument which this work became caused this other project to run aground. Thus we are reduced to the philosophic essays of Marx’s youth. But the more we explore the depths of the world of ideas which they reveal, the more surely they retain their integrated value at the side of the later works. For us especially, they bear a markedly real character. With the advent of a socialist society in the USSR, many of the problems of Marxist culture have passed from the realm of theory to that of practice. The relations between man and work, the multiplicity of the human personality: these are questions of burning reality for the Soviet younger generation. With the absolutely new forms of work which are being born in the USSR, the thoughts of Marx which we have outlined take on the value of prophetic predictions. Socialist emulation, the shock brigades, testify to the fact that in the Soviet Union work has become free and conscious. And at the same time, the world which the Soviet working class is building, its factories, its new cities, its central electric plants, its gigantic agricultural communities —this world has become for the workers a part of their social being; they are joined to it much more closely than the Occidental worker is to his world. Here, nature begins to be, according to Marx’s definition, an extension of the human body. Thus the beginnings of socialist construction confirm already the profound historic reality of what Marx conceived a century earlier. Let us indicate another remarkable coincidence. In considering the work of the young Marx as a prolongation of the philosophy of his predecessors, it is possible to trace the curve of modern philosophic thought. This thought, freed from the servitude to the Church which characterized it during the entire Middle Ages, rises in a slowly ascending lirie, struggling obstinately, until the work of Kant and the German philosophers of the eighteenth century. Hegel’s powerful thinking takes over the results of his predecessors. But he reflects at the same time the decay of bourgeois capitalist society which he represents:—prolonging vertically the line of philosophic thought he loses himself in the clouds of mysticism. He stiffens in a posture of sterile reaction. This pause in his rise is not an accident; it corresponds to the limits of the society which sustains him. Marx

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picks up the line of his thought; he inflects it sharply and brings it down to the ground: out of mystical idealism emerges revolutionary materialism. Like the giant Antaeus who from contact with the sun draws constantly new strength, theory becomes, at the moment when Marx places it in contact with social reality, a force capable of laying hold of the masses. Now, this curve repeats itself upon

the economic and political

plane, but with a chronological difference of about 65 years.

Capitalism expands to its full power two generations after it has been bored through and surpassed by Marxist theory. The curve mounts continually and at an ever-increasing tempo; it reaches its height in the years before the war. The world war and the Bolshevik revolution violently break its flight. Capitalism enters the stage of decomposition. To use a metaphor borrowed from music, we can say that the two curves form together the pattern of a fugue: the theory is the first voice, and designs, two generations in advance, the figure which will be repeated later by the second voice—practical experience. And it is no accident that the writings of the young Marx take on such an actual meaning for us: they stand at the breaking-point of theoretical development, just as we stand ourselves, in the realm of concrete experience, at the breaking-point of capitalist development. i936

\

Flaubert’s Politics BY

EDMUND

WILSON

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT has figured for decades as the great glorifier and practitioner of literary art at the expense of human affairs both public and personal. We have heard about his asceticism, his nihilism, his consecration to the search for le mot juste. His ad¬ mirers have tended to praise him on the same assumption on which his critics have.found him empty and sterile: that he has no moral or social interests. At most, Madame Bovary has been taken as a parable of the romantic temperament. Really Flaubert owed his superiority to those of his contemporaries —Gautier, for example, who professed the same literary creed—to the seriousness of his concern with the large questions of human destiny. It was a period when the interest in history was intense; and Flaubert, in his intellectual tastes as well as in his personal relations, was almost as close to the historians Michelet, Renan, and Taine, and to the historical critic Sainte-Beuve, as to Gautier and Baudelaire. In the case of Taine and Sainte-Beuve, he came to deplore their preoccupation in their criticism with the social aspects of literature at the expense of all its other values; but he himself always seems to see humanity in social * terms and historical perspective. His point of view may be gauged pretty accurately from his comments in one of his letters on Taine’s History of Ejiglish Literature: “There is something else in art besides the milieu in which it is practiced and the physiological antecedents of the worker. On this system you can explain the series, the group, but never the individuality, the special fact which makes him this person and not another. This method results inevitably in leaving talent out of consideration. The masterpiece has no longer any sig¬ nificance except as an historical document. It is the old critical method of La Harpe precisely turned around. People used to believe that literature was an altogether personal thing and that books fell out of the sky like meteors. Today they deny that the will and the absolute

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have any reality at all. The truth, I believe, lies between the two ex¬ tremes.” But it was also a period in France—Flaubert’s lifetime, 1820-81 —of alternating republics and monarchies, of bogus emperors and defeated revolutions, when political ideas were in confusion. The French historians of the Enlightenment tradition, which was the tra¬ dition of the Revolution, were steadily becoming less hopeful; and a considerable group of the novelists and poets held political and social issues in contempt and staked their careers on art as an end in itself: their conception of their relation to society was expressed in their dam¬ nation of the bourgeois, who gave his tone to all the world, and their art was a defiance of him. The Goncourts in their journal have put the attitude on record: “Lying phrases, resounding words, blarney—that’s just about all we get from the political men of our time. Revolutions are a simple demenagement followed by the moving back of the same ambitions, corruptions, and villainies into the apartment which they have just been moved out of—and all involving great breakage and expense. No political morals whatever. When I look about me for a disinterested opinion, I can’t find a single one. People take risks and compromise themselves on the chance of getting future jobs. . . . You are reduced, in the long run, to disillusion, to a disgust with all beliefs, a tolerance of any power at all, an indifference to political passion, which I find in all my literary friends, and in Flaubert as in myself. You come to see that you must not die for any cause, that you must live with any government that exists, no matter how antipathetic it may be to you—you must believe in nothing but art and profess only literature. All the rest is a lie and a booby-trap.” In the field of art, at least, it was possible, by heroic effort, to prevent the depreciation of values. This attitude, as the Goncourts say, Flaubert shared. “Today,” he wrote Louise Colet in 1853, “I even believe that a thinker (and what is an artist if he is not a triple thinker?) should have neither religion nor fatherland nor even any social conviction. It seems to me that absolute doubt is now indicated so clearly that it would be almost an absurdity to want to formulate it.” And “the citizens who work themselves up for or against the Empire or the Republic,” he wrote George Sand in 1869, seem to be just about as ^useful as the ones who used to argue about efficacious grace and efficient grace.” Nothing exasperated him more_ and we may sympathize with him today—than the idea that the soul is to be saved by the profession of correct political opinions. Yet Flaubert is a thundering idealist. ‘‘The idea” which turns up in

EDMUND

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his letters of the fifties—“genius like a powerful horse drags humanity at her tail along the roads of the idea,” in spite of all that human stupidity can do to rein her in—is evidently, under its guise of art, none other than the Hegelian “Idea,” which served Marx and so many others under a variety of different guises. There are great forces in humanity, Flaubert feels, which the present is somehow suppressing but which may some day be gloriously set free. “The soul is asleep to¬ day, drunk with the words she has listened to, but she will experience a wild awakening in which she will give herself up to the ecstasies of liberation, for there will be nothing more to constrain her, neither gov¬ ernment nor religion, nor a formula; the republicans of all shades of opinion seem to me the most ferocious pedagogues, with their dream of organizations, of a society constructed like a convent.” When he reasons about society—which he never does except in his letters—his conceptions seem incoherent. But Flaubert, who believed that the artist should be a triple thinker and who was certainly one of the great minds of his time, was the kind of imaginative writer who works dramatically in images and does not deal at all in ideas. His informal expressions of his general opinions are as unsystematized and impromptu as his books are well built and precise. But it is worthwhile to quote a few from his letters because, though they are so very far from formulating a social philosophy—when George Sand accused him of not having one, he admitted it—they do indicate the instincts and emotions which are the prime movers in the world of his art. Flaubert is opposed to the socialists because he regards them as materialistic and because he dislikes their authoritarianism, which he says derives straight from the tradition of the Church. Yet they have “denied pain, have blasphemed three-quarters of modern poetry, the blood of Christ, which quickens in us.” And: “O socialists, there is your ulcer: the ideal is lacking to you; and that very matter which you pursue slips through your fingers like a wave; the adoration of human¬ ity for itself and by itself (which brings us to the doctrine of the useful in Art, to the theories of public safety and reason of state, to all the in¬ justices and all the intolerances, to the immolation of the right, to the leveling of the Beautiful), that cult of the belly, I say, breeds wind (pardon the pun).” One thing he makes clear by reiteration through the various periods of his life: his disapproval of the ideal of equality. What is wanted, he keeps insisting, is “justice”; and behind this de¬ mand for justice is evidently Flaubert’s resentment, arising from his own literary experience, against the false reputations, the undeserved

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rewards, and the stupid repressions of the Second Empire. And he was skeptical of popular education and opposed to universal suffrage. Yet among the contemporaries whom he admired most were demo¬ crats, humanitarians, and reformers. ‘‘You are certainly the French author,” he wrote Michelet, “whom I have read and reread most”; and he said of Victor Hugo that Hugo was the living man “in whose skin” he would be happiest to be. George Sand was one of his closest friends. Un Coeur Simple was written for her—apparently to answer her reproach that Art was “not merely criticism and satire” and to show her that he, too, had a heart. When we come to Flaubert’s books themselves, we find a much plainer picture of things. It is not true, as is sometimes supposed, that he disclaimed any moral intention. He deliberately refrained in his novels from commenting on the action in his own character: “the artist ought not to appear in his work any more than God in nature.” But, like God, he rules his universe through law; and the reader, from what he hears and sees, must infer the moral system. What are we supposed to infer from Flaubert’s work? His general historical point of view is, I believe, pretty well known. He held that “the three great evolutions of humanity” had been “paganisme, christianisme, muflisme (muckerism),” and that Europe was in the third of these phases. Paganism he depicted in Salammbo and in the short story Hdrodias. The Carthaginians of Salammbo had been savage barbar¬ ians: they had worshiped serpents, crucified lions, sacrificed their children to Moloch and trampled armies down with herds of elephants; but they had slaughtered, lusted, and agonized superbly. Christianity is exemplified in the two saints’ legends. La Tentation de Saint Antoine and La Legende de Saint Julien I’Hospitalier. The Christian combats his lusts, he expiates human cruelty; but this attitude, too, is heroic: Saint Anthony, who- inhabits the desert. Saint Julien, who lies down with the leper, have pushed to their furthest limits the virtues of abnegation and humility. But when we come to the muflisme of the nineteenth century—in Madame Bovary and L’Education Sentimentale —all is meanness, mediocrity, and timidity. The villain here is, of 'course, the bourgeois; and it is true that these two novels of Flaubert damn the contemporary world as flatly as the worlds of Salammbo and Saint Anthony have been roundly and dogmatically exalted. Biit in these pictures of modern life there is a

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greater complexity of human values and an analysis of social processes which does not appear in the books about the past. This social analysis of Flaubert’s has, it seems to me, been too much disregarded, and this has resulted in the underestimation of one of his greatest books, L’Education Sentimentale. In Madame Bovary, Flaubert criticizes the nostalgia for the exotic which played such a large part in his own life and which led him to write Salammbo and Saint Antoine. What cuts Flaubert off from the other romantics and makes him primarily a social critic is his grim realization of the futility of dreaming about the splendors of the Orient and the brave old days of the past as an antidote to bourgeois society. Emma Bovary, the wife of a small country doctor, is always seeing herself in some other setting, imagining herself someone else. She will never face her situation as it is, with the result that she is eventually undone by the realities she has been trying to ignore. The upshot of all Emma’s yearnings for a larger and more glamorous life is that her poor little daughter, left an orphan by Emma’s suicide and the death of her father, is sent to work in a cotton mill. The socialist of Flaubert’s time might perfectly have approved of this: while the romantic individualist deludes himself with dreams in the attempt to evade bourgeois society and only succeeds in destroying himself, he lets humanity fall a victim to the industrial-commercial processes, which, unimpeded by his dreaming, go on. Flaubert had more in common with and had perhaps been influenced more by the socialist thought of his day than he would ever have allowed himself to confess. In his novels, it is never the nobility, who are indistinguishable for mediocrity from the bourgeoisie, but the peasants and working people whom he habitually uses as touchstones to bring out the meanness and speciousness of the bourgeois. One of the most memorable scenes in Madame Bovary is the agricultural exhibition at which the pompous local dignitaries award a medal to an old farm servant for forty-five years of service on the same farm. Flau¬ bert has told us about the bourgeois at length, made us listen to a long speech by a town councilor on the flourishing state of France; and now he describes the peasant—scared by the flags and the drums and by the gentlemen in black coats and not understanding what is wanted of her. Her long and bony hands, with which she has worked all her life in greasy wool, stable dust, and lye, still seem dirty, although she has just washed them, and they hang half open, as if to present the testimony of her toil. There is no tenderness or sadness in her face: it has a rigidity almost monastic. And her long association with animals

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has given her something of their placidity and dumbness. “So she stood before those florid bourgeois, that half-century of servitude.” And the heroine of Un Coeur Simple, a domestic servant who devotes her whole life to the service of a provincial family and gets not one ray of love in return, has a similar dignity and pathos. But it is in L’Education Sentimentale that Flaubert’s account of society comes closest to socialist theory. Indeed, his presentation here of the Revolution of 1848 parallels in so striking a manner Marx’s analysis of the same events in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon that it is worthwhile to bring together into the same focus the diverse figures of Flaubert and Marx in order to see how two great minds of the last century, pursuing courses so apparently divergent, arrived at identical interpretations of the happenings of their own time. When we do this, we become aware that Marx and Flaubert started from very similar assumptions and that they were actuated by moral aims almost equally uncompromising. Both implacably hated the bour¬ geois, and both were resolved at any cost of worldly success to keep outside the bourgeois system. And Marx, like Flaubert, shared to some degree the romantic bias in favor of the past. Karl Marx can, of course, hardly be said to have had a very high opinion of any period of human history; but in comparison with the capitalist nineteenth century he betrayed a certain tenderness for Greece and Rome and the Middle Ages. He pointed out that the slavery of the ancient world had at least purchased the “full development” of the masters and that a certain Antipater of Thessalonica had joyfully acclaimed the inven¬ tion of the water wheel for grinding corn because it would set free the female slaves who had formerly had to do this work, whereas the bourgeois economists had seen in machinery only a means for making the workers work faster and longer in order “to transform a few vul¬ gar and half-educated upstarts into ‘eminent cotton spinners,’ ‘exten¬ sive sausage makers,’ and ‘influential blacking dealers.’ ” And he had also a soft spot for the feudal system before the nobility had revolted against the crown and while the rights of all classes, high and low, were still guaranteed by the king. Furthermore, the feudal lords, he insisted, had spent their money lavishly when they had it, whereas it was of the essence of capitalism that the capitalist saved his money and invested it, only to save and reinvest the profits. Karl Marx’s comment on his time was The Communist Manifesto. What is the burden of the great social novel of Flaubert? Frederic Moreau, the hero of L’Education Sentimentale, is a sensitive and

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intelligent young man with an income but he has no stability of pur¬ pose and is capable of no emotional integrity. He becomes so aimlessly, so willessly, involved in love affairs with different types of women that he is unable to make anything real out of any of them: they trip each other up until in the end he is left with nothing. He is most in love from the very beginning with the virtuous wife of a sort of glorified drummer, who is engaged in more or less shady business enterprises; but, what with his timidity and her virtue, he never gets anywhere with her—even though she loves him in return—and leaves her in the hands of the drummer. Flaubert makes it plain to us, however, that Frederic and the vulgar husband at bottom represent the same thing: Frederic is only the more refined as well as the more incompetent side of the middle-class mediocrity of which the promoter is the more flashy and active. And so in the case of the other characters, the representatives of journalism, art and drama and of the various political factions of the time and the remnants of the old nobility, Frederic finds the same shoddiness and lack of principle which are gradually revealed in himself—the same qualities which render so odious to him the banker M. Dambreuse, the type of the rich and powerful class. M. Dambreuse is always ready to trim his sails to any political party, monarchist or republican, which seems to have a chance of success. “Most of the men who were there,” Flaubert writes of the guests at M. Dambreuse’s house, “had served at least four governments; and they would have sold France or the human race in order to guarantee their fortune, to spare themselves a difficulty or anxiety, or even merely from baseness, instinctive adoration of force.” “Je me moque des affaires!” cries Frederic when the guests at M. Dambreuse’s are complaining that criticism of the government hurts business; but he always comes back to hoping to profit by M. Dambreuse’s investments and position. The only really sympathetic characters in L’Education Sentimentale are, again, the representatives of the people. Rosanette, Frederic’s mistress, is the daughter of poor workers in the silk mills, who sold her at fifteen to an old bourgeois. Her liaison with Frederic is a symbol of the disastrously unenduring union between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, of which Marx had written in The Eighteenth Brumaire. After the suppression of the workers’ insurrection during the June days of ’48, Rosanette gives birth to a weakly child, which dies while Frederic is already arranging a love affair with the dull wife of the banker. Frederic believes that Mme. Dambreuse will be able to advance his interests. And bourgeois socialism gets a very Marxist treatment—

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save in one respect, which we shall note in a moment—in the character of Senecal, who is eternally making himself unpleasant about com¬ munism and the welfare of the masses, for which he is apparently ready to fight to the last barricade. When Senecal, however, gets a job as fore¬ man in a pottery factory, he turns out to be an inexorable little tyrant; and when it begins to appear, after the putting down of the June riots, that the reaction is sure to triumph, he begins to decide, like our fascists today, that the strong centralization of the government is already itself a kind of communism and that authority is in itself a great thing. On the other hand, there is the clerk Dussardier, a strapping and stupid fellow and one of the few honest characters in the book. When we first see him he has just knocked down a policeman in a political brawl on the street. Later, when the National Guard, of which Dus¬ sardier is a member, turns against the proletariat in the interests of law and order, Dussardier fells one of the insurgents from the top of a barricade and gets at the same time a bullet in the leg, thereby becom¬ ing a great hero of the bourgeois. But Dussardier himself is unhappy. The boy he had knocked down had wrapped the tricolor around him and shouted to the National Guard: “Are you going to fire on your brothers?” Dussardier isn’t at all sure that he oughtn’t to have been on the other side. His last appearance is at the climax of the story, constitutes, indeed, the climax: he turns up in a proletarian street riot, which the cavalry and police are putting down. Dussardier refuses to move on, crying “Vive la Republique!”-, and Frederic comes along just in time to see one of the policemen kill him. Then he recog¬ nizes the policeman: it is the socialist, Senecal. L'Education Sentimentale, unpopular when it first appeared, is likely, if we read it in our youth, to prove baffling and even repellent. It sounds as if it were going to be a love story, but the love affairs turn out so consistently to be either unfulfilled or lukewarm that we find ourselves irritated or depressed. Is it a satire? It is too real for a satire. Yet it does not seem to have the kind of vitality which we are accus¬ tomed to look for in a novel. Yet, although we may rebel, as we first read it, against L’Education Sentimentale, we find afterwards that it has stuck in our crop. If it is true, as Bernard Shaw has\said, that Das Kapital makes us see the nine¬ teenth century “as if it were a cloud passing down the wind, changing its shape and fading as it goes,” so that we are never afterward able to forget that “capitalism, with its wage slavery, is only a passing phase of social development, following primitive communism, chattel slav-

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ery, and feudal serfdom into the past”—so Flaubert’s novel plants deep in our nrind an idea which we never get quite rid of—the sus¬ picion that our middle-class society of businessmen, bankers and manu¬ facturers, and people who live on or deal in investments, so far from being redeemed by its culture, has ended by cheapening and invalidat¬ ing culture: politics, science and art—and not only these but the ordinary human relations, love, friendship and loyalty to cause—till the whole civilization has seemed to dwindle. But fully to appreciate the book, one must have had time to see something of life and to have acquired a certain interest in social as distinct from personal questions. Then, if we read it again, we are amazed to find that the tone no longer seems really satiric and that we are listening to a sort of muted symphony of which the timbres had been inaudible before. There are no hero, no villain, to arouse us, no clowns to amuse us, no scenes to wring our hearts. Yet the 'effect is deeply moving. It is the tragedy of nobody in particular, but of the poor human race itself reduced to such ineptitude, such cowardice, such commonness, such weak irresolution—arriving, with so many fine notions in its head, so many noble words on its lips, at a failure which is all the more miserable because those who have failed are hardly conscious of having done so. Going back to L’Education Sentimentale, we come to understand Mr. F. M. Ford’s statement that you must read it fourteen times. Though it is less attractive on the surface than Madame Bovary and perhaps others of Flaubert’s books, it is certainly the one which he put the most into. And once we have got the clue to all the immense and complex drama which unrolls itself behind the detachment and the monotony of the tone, we find it as absorbing and satisfying as a great play or a great piece of music. The one conspicuous respect in which Flaubert’s criticism of the events of 1848 diverges from that of Marx has been thrown into special relief by the recent events of our own time. For Marx, the evolution of the socialist into a policeman would have been due to the bourgeois in Senecal; for Flaubert, it is a natural development of socialism. Flau¬ bert distrusted, as I have mentioned in quoting from his letters, the authoritarian aims of the socialists. For him, Senecal, given his bour¬ geois hypocrisy, was still carrying out a socialist principle—or rather, his behavior as a policeman and his yearnings toward socialist control were both derived from his tyrannical instincts. Today we must recognize that Flaubert had observed something of which Marx was not aware. We have had the opportunity to see how

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even a socialism which has come to power as the result of a proletarian revolution has bred a political police of almost unprecedented ruth¬ lessness and pervasiveness—how the socialism of Marx himself, with its emphasis on dictatorship rather than on democratic processes, has contributed to produce this disaster. Here Flaubert, who believed that the artist should aim to be without social convictions, has been able to judge the tendencies of political doctrines as the greatest of doctri¬ naires could not; and here the role chosen by Flaubert is justified. The war of 1870 was a terrible shock to Flaubert: the nervous dis¬ orders of his later years have been attributed to it. He had the Prussians in his house at Croisset and had to bury his manuscripts. When he made a trip to Paris after the Commune, he came back to the country deeply shaken. “This would never have happened,” he said when he saw the wreck of the Tuileries, “if they had only understood L’Education Sentimentale.” What he meant, one supposes, was that, if they had understood the falsity of their politics, they would never have wreaked so much havoc for their sake. “Oh, how tired I am,” he writes George Sand, “of the ignoble worker, the inept bourgeois, the stupid peasant and the odious ecclesiastic.” But in his letters of this period, which are more violent than ever, we see him taking a new direction. The effect of the Commune on Flaubert, as on so many of the other French intellectuals, was to bring out the class-conscious bourgeois in him. Basically bourgeois his life had always been, with his mother and his little income. He had, like Frederic Moreau himself, been “cowardly in his youth,” he wrote George Sand. “I was afraid of life.” And even moving amongst what he regarded as the grandeurs of the ancient world, he remains a mod¬ erate modern Frenchman who seems to be indulging in immoderation self-consciously and in the hope of horrifying other Frenchmen. Mar¬ cel Proust has pointed out that Flaubert’s imagery, even when he is not dealing with the world of the bourgeois, tends itself to be rather banal. It was the enduring tradition of French classicism which had saved him from the prevailing cheapness: by discipline and objectivity, by heroic application to the mastery of form, he had kept his world at a distance. But now when a working-class government had held Paris for two months and^a half and had wrecked monuments and shot bourgeois hostages, Flaubert found himself as fierce against the Communards as any respectable “grocer.” “My opinion is,” he wrote George Sand, “that the whole Commune ought to have been sent to the galleys, that those sanguinary idiots ought to have been made to

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clean up the ruins of Paris, with chains around their necks like con¬ victs. That would have wounded humanity, though. They treat the mad dogs with tenderness but not the people who have gotten bitten.” He raises his old cry for “justice.” Universal suffrage, that “disgrace to the human spirit,” must first of all be done away with; but among the elements which must be given their due importance he now includes “race and even money” along with “intelligence” and “education.” For the rest, certain political ideas emerge—though, as usual, in a state of confusion. “The mass, the majority, are always idiotic. I haven’t got many convictions, but that one I hold very strongly. Yet the mass must be respected, no matter how inept it is, because it con¬ tains the germs of an incalculable fecundity. Give it liberty, but not power. I don’t believe in class distinctions any more than you do. The castes belong to the domain of archaeology. But I do believe that the poor hate the rich and that the rich are afraid of the poor. That will go on forever. It is quite useless to preach the gospel of love to either. The most urgent need is to educate the rich, who are, after all, the strongest.” “The only reasonable thing to do—I always come back to that—is a government of mandarins, provided that the mandarins know something and even that they know a great deal. The people is an eternal minor, and it will always (in the hierarchy of social ele¬ ments) occupy the bottom place, because it is unlimited number, mass. It gets us nowhere to have large numbers of peasants learn to read and no longer listen to their priest; but it is infinitely important that there should be a great many men like Renan and Littre who can live and be listened to. Our salvation now is in a legitimate aristocracy, by which I mean a majority which will be made up of something other than numerals.” Renan himself and Taine were having recourse to similar ideas of the salvation of society through an “elite.” In Flau¬ bert’s case, it never seems to have occurred to him that the hierarchy of mandarins he is proposing and his project for educating the rich are identical with the ideas of Saint-Simon, which he had rejected years before with such scorn on the ground that they were author¬ itarian. The Commune has stimulated in Flaubert a demand for his own kind of despotism. He had already written in 1869: “It’s no longer a question of imagining the best form of government possible, because they are all alike, but to make sure that science prevails. That is the most urgent problem. Everything else will inevitably follow. The purely intellectual type of man has done more for the human race than all the Saint Vincent de Pauls in the world! And politics will remain idiotic forever

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as long as it does not derive from science. The government of a country ought to be a department of the Institute, and the least important of all.” “Politics,” he reiterated in 1871, “must become a positive science, as war has already become”; and, “The French Revo¬ lution must cease to be a dogma and become part of the domain of science, like all the rest of human affairs.” Marx and Engels were not reasoning otherwise; but they believed, as Flaubert could not do, in a coming of age of the proletariat which would make possible the appli¬ cation of social science. For Flaubert, the proletariat had been pathetic and too stupid to do anything effective; the Commune threw him into such a panic that he reviled them as criminals and brutes. At one moment he writes to George Sand, “The International may end by winning out, but not in the way that it hopes, not in the way that people are afraid of”; and then, two days later, “The International will collapse, because it is on the wrong path. No ideas, nothing but envy!” Finally, he wrote her in 1875: “The words ‘religion’ or ‘Catholicism,’ on the one hand, ‘progress,’ ‘fraternity,’ ‘democracy,’ on the other, no longer answer the spiritual needs of the day. The dogma of equality— a new thing— which the radicals have been crying up, has been proved false by the experiments of physiology and by history. I do not at the present time see any way of setting up a new principle, any more than of still respecting the old ones. So I search, without finding it, for the central idea from which all the rest ought to depend.” In the meantime, his work becomes more misanthropic. “Never, my dear old chap,” he had written Ernest Feydeau, “have I felt so colossal a disgust for mankind. I’d like to drown the human race under my vomit.” He writes a political comedy, Le Candidat, the only piece that he has yet composed which has not a single even faintly sympa¬ thetic character. The rich parvenu who is running for deputy sacrifices his daughter’s happiness and allows himself to be cuckolded by his wife as well as humiliating himself by every form of truckling and trim¬ ming, in order to win the election. The audience would not have it; and the leading actor, in the role of the candidate, came off the stage in tears. One can hardly blame them: reading the play today, in spite of some amusing and mordant scenes, it proves too horrible to take even from Flaubert. Then he embarked on Bouvard et Pecuchet, which occupied him— with only one period of relief, when he indulged his suppressed kind¬ liness and idealism in the relatively human Trois Contes—for most of the rest of his life. Flere two copyists retire from their profession and

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set out to cultivate the arts and sciences. They make a mess of them all. The book contains an even more withering version of the events of 1848, in which the actors and their political attitudes are reduced to the scale of performing fleas. When Bouvard and Pecuchet find that everything has “cracked up in their hands,” they go back to copying again. Flaubert did not live to finish the book; but the reader was to have been supplied in the second part with a sort of encyclopaedia made up entirely of absurd statements and foolish sentiments extracted from the productions which Bouvard and Pecuchet were to copy. Bouvard et Pecuchet has always mystified Flaubert’s critics, who have usually taken it as a caricature of the bourgeois like L’Education Sentimentale,—in which case, what would have been the point of doing the same thing over again with everything simply smaller and drier? M. Rene Dumesnil, the Flaubert expert, believes that Bouvard et Pecuchet was to have had a larger application. The encyclopaedia of silly ideas was to have been not merely a credo of the bourgeois: it was to have contained also the ineptitudes of great men, of writers whom Flaubert admired, and even selections from Flaubert himself. The disastrous experiments of the two copyists were to lead to a general exposure of all human stupidity and ignorance—certainly, in the first part of the book, Flaubert caricatures his own notions about politics and society along with those of everybody else. Bouvard and Pecuchet were to realize the stupidity of their neighbors and to learn their own limitations and to be left with a profound impression of general human imbecility and ignorance. They were themselves to compile the monument to human inanity. If this theory is true—and Flaubert’s manuscripts bear it out— Flaubert had lifted the onus of blame from the bourgeois and for the first time written a satire on humanity itself of the type of Gulliver’s Travels. The bourgeois has ceased to preach to the bourgeois: as the first big cracks begin to show in the structure of the nineteenth century, he shifts his complaint to the shortcomings of humanity, for he is unable to believe in, or even to conceive, any nonbourgeois way out.

mi

Looking Forward to Looking Backward BY MEYER

SCHAPIRO

IN THE present slump of socialist theory and with the revival of reformist programs, Mumford’s Culture of Cities1 has been welcomed as a major contribution to knowledge and to social thinking. The vast scope of the book, its boldness and breadth of statement, the abundant esoteric documentation, the palatable mixture of social argument and art criticism, the rampant healthiness of the author’s tastes, the won¬ derful timeliness of his appeal for new homes and regional planning, so close to the avowals of the government, all these considerations— secondary to truth and practicality—elevate the book in the minds of its reviewers as a monument of social prophecy and a tonic for discouraged men of good will. The Thesis. Mumford traces the history of cities since the Middle Ages in order to formulate the possibilities of the good city of the future. He believes that the medieval town was socially and hygienically better than has been supposed, and still offers invaluable suggestions today not only as an example of sound urban planning, but also in its democratic communal life; the interests of all classes were harmonized then through their common enjoyment of the rites and pageantry of the Church. It was at the end of the Middle Ages, with the rise of machine technology, despotism, militarism, and capi¬ talism, that the city began to assume its present unhealthy and hyper¬ trophied forms. From the “will-to-power” Mumford derives the mili¬ tarization of the city plan, the great boulevards, the architecture of pomp, the mechanical and unsocial regularity; from capitalist greed and indifference to biological needs, the “insensate” industrial town and the pollution of the^ whole environment. But during the last seventy-five years a reaction has set in. And in the newer ideals of regionalism, conservation, and the garden city, all related to the emerging “biotechnic economy,” patterned on the organism, Mum1 The Culture of Cities. By Lewis Mumford. Harcourt Brace. $5. 3 10

MEYER

SCHAPIRO

3 1 1

ford foresees a new civilization, the creation of which is the chief social and political problem of our time. This summary gives no more than the large outlines and tendency of the book. Actually, together with Technics and. Civilization (and a third volume on ethics and religion yet to come), it is an ambitious effort to write a history of modern culture and to set down the prin¬ ciples of a new society. It is conceived also as a work of public educa¬ tion, and is full of informative matter, often curious and delightful, touching on many more aspects of history than are ordinarily treated in books on architecture and planning. Mumford submits to the reader in a vivid, but often pompous, turgid, manner, the notions of advanced architects, city planners, and regionalists, as well as something of new historical research on the past solutions of similar problems. Society as Style. Although his cultural history and social program are not really distinct, it is convenient for purposes of analysis to con¬ sider them separately. The first is especially interesting in its frequent appeal to styles of art as symptoms and data of social life. These styles, for Mumford, are not simply indications of how people thought and felt, they are also clues to the causes and value of the culture and are even regarded as pervasive habits of mind, governing science, economy, social relations, and the state. Thus Mumford gives a paramount importance to the concept of “baroque,” by which he designates practically the whole of post-medieval society from the fifteenth cen¬ tury to the nineteenth. There emerges from his description the some¬ what vague and shapeless image of the baroque man who eats, drinks, loves, trades, builds, and reasons in a baroque style. For the analysis of the changing historical situations of building, trading, and reason¬ ing, Mumford substitutes the appreciation of the common baroque flavor of the builder, trader, and scientist. Now this is also what he often does with our own society; its evils and virtues are made to flow from the special psychologies of the predatory and the “organic” man. On the whole, he tends to psychologize causes and to moralize effects. Of analysis of social - structure or historical events or of the more intimate effect of city life on the arts, there is very little. Yet this writer, who accepts the “baroque man” as a fundamental fact and who appeals to a “resurgence of the organic” as the ground of revolu¬ tion, rejects the capitalist class and the proletariat as “bare economic abstractions.” Now while there is a value in isolating relatively widespread habits of thought in a culture or period, Mumford’s baroque as a stylistic

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concept is confused and inadequate. In the first place, it is applied to a lengthy period of time which is culturally so varied that the concept of baroque can hardly do justice to its historical richness. Even the baroque of a single moment, as described by Mumford, admits the most diverse and opposed qualities. And finally, his method of exhibiting the unity of the baroque rests upon an uncontrolled intuitiveness and merely verbal correlations. During the last thirty years historians have restricted the term baroque more and more to a specific moment in the arts of the seven¬ teenth century, distinguishing it from the preceding Mannerism and the subsequent Rococo and Classicism. They have also defined within the baroque various types, stages, and regional tendencies and given the term qualifying nuances which permit a somewhat more precise historical discussion. Mumford, however, throws all this overboard and, on the assumption that the term is bound to be stretched anyway, extends it over a period of four hundred years to include Brunelleschi and Horace Walpole, Uccello and Turner, and to cover qualities so contradictory that the existing ambiguity of the term becomes a rank confusion and the name is rendered useless for characterization. The baroque is the regular and the irregular, the massive and the minute, the ascetic and the sensual, the anti-organic and the naturalistic. (This ambiguity appears also in the uncertain etymology of the word: “baroque” has been derived from a word for an odd-shaped pearl and from the name of a scholastic syllogistic form.) Mumford himself seems to enjoy this union of opposites within his favorite category. But his stylistic license also permits him to obscure the relations of the bourgeois and the aristocratic during this period, and to impose a monolithic unity on the culture. He deduces almost everything from the psychology of the mythical baroque individual, who is at once despotic, military, pompous, gracious, exact, orderly, wasteful, ltbei tine, piotestant, and authoritarian. The newspaper, the “archae¬ ological cult of the past,” and even the clock (which he has elsewhere described as monastic and bourgeois in spirit) are now characterized as baroque. Just as the effort to measure or define the moment is called baroque, the baroque is identified by Mumford with the limit¬ less, and by this psychology of style he moralistically explains the behavior of time: “the notion of limits disappeared: the merchant cannot be too rich, the stafce or the city too big”; “the feverish desire to get somewhere” is “a manifestation of the pervasive will-to-power.” If we adopted his approach and tried to name Mumford stylistically after his method, we should call him a liberal expressionist with

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veiled bureaucratic tendencies: he has the closest affinities with Spengler, for if they differ in their conclusions, they are often similar in method and form. The Method of Analogy. Like Spengler he indulges in a crude analogical thinking which at its best may be called geistreich, but hardly profound; sometimes it is based on downright misunderstand¬ ing. Take for example his deliverance on Renaissance painting that “this putting together of hitherto unrelated lines and solids within the rectangular baroque frame—as distinguished from the often ir¬ regular boundaries of a medieval painting—was contemporary with the political consolidation of territory into the coherent frame of the state.” If by this reference to politics, the forms in painting seem to arise from a field beyond the canvas, although the connection is left vague, on the other hand the political movement becomes stylistic and characterological, like the work of art. But no historian of art will take the comparison seriously, not only because of the flimsiness of the verbal analogy of the political and the pictorial forms and the ambiguity of the stylistic terms, but because of the familiar facts that t) the rectangular frame is a common medieval type, 2) the nonrectangular forms are often regular and coherent, 3) the perspective organization of the pictorial space is known long before the political changes in question, 4) baroque art also cultivates the irregular and non-rectangular frame, 5) and finally, the baroque is used by Mumford to designate art from the fifteenth down to the nineteenth cen¬ tury, a period during which perspective, frames, and composition undergo pronounced changes and include irregular, boundless, and mobile forms. In the same way, because the processes of mining are “destruc¬ tive” and “anti-organic,” he explains the “general loss of form throughout society” in the nineteenth century by the predominance of mining; “the destructive imagery of the mine ... is carried into every department of activity, sanctioning the anti-vital and the antiorganic.” We may disregard' the mysterious animism of these judg¬ ments. But it is apparent that the good architecture of the past has re¬ quired quarrying and lumbering, which by Mumford’s criteria destroy nature, and that cultures sustained by hacking activities have not been without form. Interestingly enough, it is in the practical metal archi¬ tecture of the nineteenth century that Mumford finds the most satisfy¬ ing formal order and the “organic” tendencies of the future. And Im¬ pressionist painting, which is for him the culminating point in form-

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lessness, he also values as a manifestation of the organic, as a healthy reaction against the griminess of the industrial city. Architecture and Society. Although he regards architecture as a simple reflection of society, their relations are anything but clear in Mumford’s account. He does not limit himself to architectural forms or uses depending directly on the social objects in question, but dog¬ matically derives the artistic value of buildings from their social origin. At one point, having condemned the society of the post-medieval period as anti-vital, he must condemn its architecture as socially dead. This period “shows the fatal lack of connection between archi¬ tecture and the dominant social sources of order.” The proof that “architecture in the social sense was dead” lies in “the series of dusty revivals that took place . . . society itself is the main source of archi¬ tectural form; only in terms of living functions could living form be created. These banal tautologies and prejudices presuppose an indifference to the qualities of post-medieval architecture incredible in Mumford: it must issue from his prophetic zeal, not from his sensibility. When he admires a building, he infers that it is connected with the “dominant social sources of order,” or with some still healthy part in a diseased organism; if it is bad, then it lacks such a connec¬ tion. Hence if he values the work of Richardson (1838-1886), he is led to conclude—on what evidence, I do not know—that this great architect was basing his art organically on the technical resources and social principles of the new society,” and that “he entered deeply into the problems of his age and became familiar with its social and economic forces. Richardson “proved that organically conceived, a railroad station had no less capacity for beauty than a medieval fortress or a bridge.” But what has all this to do with the social prin¬ ciples of a new society? Richardson in his forms still clung to the past. He used traditional materials and accepted the existing social order no less than the inferior builders of his time. His successful con¬ structions were made for the very men whom Mumford cannot con¬ demn enough as ruthless despoilers of the environment and enemies of the organic. In designing the great warehouses in Chicago for the notorious land speculator, Marshall Field, Richardson accepted the contemporary city and commercial needs: it was built to suit the in¬ terests of a man who, by Mumford’s criteria, was personally respon¬ sible for much of the evil of the Chicago environment. Mumford betrays himself again when he cites “Berlage’s handsome Bourse in Amsterdam as a parallel example of great force and merit”; this is

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precisely a building which serves the financial functions that Mumford never tires of denouncing. The criticism of post-Renaissance architectural revivals as a sign of impotence is too easy and superficial; it induces the false con¬ clusion that because we have a style of our own, our society is more healthy and ordered. By proceeding from literature, music, and paint¬ ing in the same reductive spirit, one would have to draw the opposite conclusion. The charge of stylelessness in architecture has been re¬ peated already for a hundred years, but it is becoming more and more evident how much the architecture of the twentieth century owes to these revivals and what originality some of them possessed. Their nature is hardly exhausted by their imitative aspect. The values of a geometrical simplicity are already clear in neo-classic architecture (Ledoux, Soane and Schinkel have an imposing modernity); and the Gothic revival undoubtedly affected the modern taste for elusive, in¬ commensurable arrangements and the interest in technical sources of forms, whatever the misunderstandings of the neo-Gothic architects (echoed by Mumford!) about the constructive and functional char¬ acter of Gothic buildings. Conversely, Mumford tends to accept the programmatic definitions of functionalism uncritically, on their face value. And in assimilating, as he does, modern architectural style to cubism, which is anything but organic and social in his sense, his social judgment of the style becomes even more mysterious and confusing. If republican Germany produced it and the Nazis have restricted its use, it should also be remembered that the Italians have in turn wel¬ comed it as “rational architecture.” Mysticism of the Organic. His stylistic concepts and analogies are not merely incidental to Mumford’s program; they are material as¬ sumptions and elements of a method which, when applied to our own issues, entail his reformist outlook. Just as he describes the past in terms of a baroque style and lifeless revivals, expressing social decay, so the new civilization is described as an “organic” style already evi¬ dent in the later nineteenth, and the twentieth century, apart from actual economic and social relations. To complete the new tendency, inherent for Mumford in the psychology of new forms of technique and in a spontaneous, unlocalized feeling for the organic, one must rebuild the environment and get rid of bad obstructing habits in¬ herited from the past. “Biotechnic standards of achievement must produce a system of values destructive to metropolitan finance.” There is an engaging historical dialectic in Mumford’s conception

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of the modern “organic style.” The universal Middle Ages are organic on a local, ascetic, untechnological level; the nationalistic, baroque technology denies the organism; then, annihilating and uniting both, the new civilization (our own), regional and international, is organic through greater mastery of technique. But nothing is more unclear than Mumford’s idea of the organic. In both books an object is certi¬ fied as organic if it is alive or extremely complex, if it serves or per¬ tains in some way to a living being, or if it is an institution responsive to the biological needs of all individuals. So, to establish the organic sources of modern architecture, he points to the fact that the Victorian Crystal Palace—a gigantic showcase for industrial arts that by Mumford’s standards are anti-vital and decadent—was the design of a gardener inspired by the greenhouse, and that the first applications of concrete were in gardening. But with as much plausibility one might argue that modern architecture has a religious origin, since the first building entirely in concrete was a church (1894); or one might say that it is basically commercial, since iron and glass were applied together even earlier in the Halles and Passages, the grain markets and shopping arcades of the early nineteenth century. His organicizing of inventions and societies is even more subtle. The telephone, the air¬ ship, and contraceptives are for Mumford organic, whereas the tele¬ graph, the railroad train, and the printing press are merely mechan¬ ical. Feudalism, in which he mistakenly supposes the class struggle abated under the happy spiritual sovereignty of the Church, he con¬ siders more organic than capitalist society; in this opinion he joins hands with the modern Catholic ideologues of the corporate state. And in an astonishing passage which we must lay to his historical shortsightedness, he unwittingly presents his organic ideal as a kind of medieval totalitarianism; he reproaches Protestantism in the sixteenth century as socially anti-organic and as having “further destroyed the possibilities of creating a united front.” In his fuzzy organicism, Mumford also cultivates that fringe of inspirational scientific metaphor common among world-saviors and neo-religionists today. Like a romantic Naturphilosoph he equates the mechanical with the visible, the organic with the invisible—he cites rays, emanations and dreams!—and insists that the latter “are as real ... as any external phenomenon.” The polarity, organic and inorganic, corresponds for'him to that of quality and quantity; and he opposes the science before 1870 to science after 1870 as mechanism to organism. Sad dilettante muddle of Whitehead, Bergson, and ABC’s of the cosmos! He must be aware that the mechanism of the

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seventeenth century presupposed particles that no one had seen and invisible attractions through distant space, and that mechanistic physics was full of concepts derived from the experience of the human body; whereas the growth of the biological sciences in the last century has depended largely on the application of the methods of physics and chemistry to the living organism, and it is the classical mechanics which is applied in these sciences. In Mumford’s writings, the polar twins, organic and inorganic, are often nothing but heavily weighted homiletic counters, like the metaphors, life and death, light and darkness, in older religious speech. In characterizing an object as organic, Mumford sanctifies it, endows it with an aura. And in spite of his strenuous espousal of the organic, his social analyses, in their reduction of issues to bare polar conflicts, are often mechanical and primitive, and congested with Newtonian categories of mass, force, inertia, and space: “Our failure even to con¬ trive a breathing space in bellicose effort is partly due to the inertia of historic burdens.” Political Program. The counterpart of this rousing faith in the organic and the emergent is the political abstractness of Mumford’s partisanship of a new social order. It is not as if he is bringing us new values which have first to be understood and absorbed; he is reaffirm¬ ing the long-recognized need for basic changes in society. But when we look for discussion of the means, we find nothing but pious rhetoric or revolutionary bluster. The following is typical: “Instead of clinging to the sardonic funeral towers of metropolitan finance, ours to march out to newly plowed fields, to create fresh patterns of political action, to alter for human purposes the perverse mechanisms of our economic regime, to conceive and to germinate fresh forms of human culture.” One might imagine from this passage that he has serious political views; but nothing is more characteristic of Mumford as a social thinker than his general aversion to politics and his unclarity about the nature of the state. The mythical aggregate to which he constantly appeals, the undifferentiated we’s and our’s of his tumescent procla¬ mations, are his alternative to class groupings. True, he encourages “political association” as a kind of healthy activity, in the way settle¬ ment workers promote boys’ clubs (he names Sunnyside, L. I.—alas! —as a model of “robust political life”), and laments that “the saloon and the shabby district headquarters” have been the chief political clubrooms: “One of the difficulties in the way of political association is that we have not provided it with the necessary physical organs

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of existence: we have failed to provide the necessary sites, the neces¬ sary buildings, the necessary halls, rooms, meeting places.” But like so many honest reformers who fear the self-interest and blatancy of politics, he wishes finally to preserve his political virginity. Al¬ though he acknowledges the existence of the labor and socialist move¬ ments, essentially he regards them from outside, as possible aids to the independent, public-spirited reformer. He has adopted some socialist phrases, but is ignorant of socialist literature and its analyses of the questions he deals with. In a patronizing mood, he tells the reader that socialism arose in the slums; on the contrary, it is a product of critical members of the bourgeoisie, of their science and speculation as well as their moral idealism. Its history is only slightly affected by intellectual contributions from the slums. But is there a clearer sign of political naivete than his regret that “society” hasn’t provided meeting places for the workers: “In how many factory districts are there wellequipped halls of sufficient size in which the workers can meet?” It is typical of his provincial misunderstanding of the relations of politics and society that he can sweep aside the politics of the six¬ teenth to the nineteenth century as “crazy statecraft”; Mumford, had he been there, would have acted differently and is therefore full of regrets in discussing the mistakes of the past. He moralizes on politics, as on everything else. Yet in his own mind he remains a practical theorist and expresses contempt for those who do not see the im¬ mediate realities: “Plans that do not rise out of real situations, plans that ignore existing institutions, are of course futile: mere utopias of escape. What then shall we say of his own vagueness about the problems of the moment? In one place, excited by the obstacles private ownership of the land puts before sound urbanism, he writes that public control of land ... is the outstanding problem of modern statesmanship”; elsewhere, “regional rebuilding is . . . the grand task of politics for the opening generation.” But finally, “perhaps the most critical problem for human society today is that of diminishing the role of the power state and undermining both its pretensions and its ultimately militaristic forms of authority.” Yet he deals politically with none of these outstanding, critical problems and grand tasks, and fails altogether to evaluate the difficulties or to throw light on the means of transition. The belligerent talk of revolution in this book is mere bluster in view of his neglect of the cold facts of class power. Mumford does recommend a practical measure: he “prefers,” he tells us, “outright expropriation with drastically limited compensa-

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tion” in the form of pensions to the owners of the land. This “prefer¬ ence” is the sum of his revolutionary political meditations. The Power and Service States. The key to Mumford’s political ideas may be found in his concept of the state, which is based on the writ¬ ings of Geddes and Branford. In general, Mumford, who is so lyrical about the objectiveness of modern technics, evades names which help to illuminate their objects. He calls feudal absolutism “the baroque state,” capitalism “the power state,” and democracy “the service state.” The power state is that “creation of the baroque imagination” out of which has grown the service state through democratic pressure to “reapportion the existing balance of power within the nation, to equalize the privileges of different regions and groups and to dis¬ tribute the benefits of human culture.” From this account, which seems to substantialize certain functions of the state as an independent state within the state, it would follow that by gradually expanding the service state, one could finally crowd out and eliminate the power state. This is an historically false view of political liberalism, dis¬ regarding its bourgeois roots and aims, the close relations between power, interest, and service, and the ultimate dependence of the mod¬ ern state upon the economically dominant class. In the United States, he says, “the activities of the Department of the Interior, the Depart¬ ment of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce, the Forest Service, the Parks Service, the Children’s Bureau, are examples of the service state.” The service state is thus simply a branch of the power state; when the government builds roads, or promotes commerce, it is a service state, when it protects property or makes war, it is a power state. But from which of these functions can we best deduce the response of the “democratic” state, with all its service departments, to strikes, crises, and wars? Mumford considers the power state something abnormal and perverse and the service state as proper to society itself; but he fails to observe that if “irrationality and obsessive mythologies” are inherent in the power state as such, the Nazi state has also in¬ creased its service functions/ Just as his service state has grown out of his power state, we have now the example of fascism growing out of that republican Germany which is for him the highest example of the service state in modern times. It is trivial to identify, as he does, the emergence of the Nazi from this biotechnic paradise of healthy, organically inclined Germans with atavism and pathological traits. Such a view disregards the class tensions, the precarious life of re¬ publican Germany, and the fortunes of German capital during the

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world crisis. On the whole, Mumford tends to confuse not only the particular state functions and the social order, but also the state and the governmental regime. Hence his peculiar metaphors of disease and insanity to characterize the evils of the modern state, as if these evils were malfunctionings of society, weaknesses of a single infected organ, rather than results of the structure as a whole. If he has ac¬ cepted from radical critics the analysis of imperialism as an economic and political outgrowth of capitalism, he also speaks of it as if it were best understood and dealt with psychologically. Race doctrines are dismissed as “crazy dreams,” to be treated as “definitely pathological,” like the imperialist desire “to fill out the national boundaries.” The educational correctives of this “wanton mythology” are the rational regionalist’s facts, the unity of mankind. The present division of world empires he regards, with the have-not ambassadors, as an “intolerable anachronism.” There is in Mumford’s book a core of sound and familiar obser¬ vations: the development of capitalism does indeed entail a more and more thorough socialization of production and interdependence of functions; the state forms more and more “service” departments; and modern economy in its world character transcends political bound¬ aries. But in abstracting these facts from the structure of capitalist society, in neglecting their historical incidence, he lifts them out of the field of class relations in which their reactionary or socialist outcome will be largely determined. The Basic Communist. Mumford seems in places to accept the socialist and communist goals, but is careful to qualify them by hon¬ orable, apotropaic adjectives (“humanitarian socialism,” “basic com¬ munism,” “co-operative communism”), as if to distinguish his own ideals from the unhumanitarian, superficial, and unco-operative Marxist kind. He is evidently superior to socialism as a political move¬ ment. This bias appears in his incapacity to understand the simplest socialist statements of the same problems. In criticism of Engels on the housing question, he writes that Engels “not merely opposed all ‘palliative’ measures to provide better housing for the working classes,” but held “the innocent notion that the problem would be solved eventually for the proletariat by a revolutionary seizure of the com¬ modious quarters occupied by the bourgeoisie,” quarters which Mr. Mumford in his boundless sympathy with the masses rejects as “in¬ tolerable super-slums.” He calls Engels’ proposal “merely an impotent

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gesture of revenge,” while his own solution—“increasing the amount of housing, equipment, and communal facilities”—he considers to be “far more revolutionary in its demands than any trifling expropria¬ tion of the quarters occupied by the rich would be,” for it “demanded a revolutionary reconstruction of the entire social environment— such a reconstruction as we are on the brink of today.” Let us leave him on the brink and read what Engels actually wrote in 1872 in answer to the Mumfords of his day: “How a social revolution would solve this problem (of housing) depends not only on the conditions at the time, but also on much more far-reaching questions among which the abolition of the an¬ tagonism of city and country is one of the most essential. But since we are not designing a utopian system for setting up the future society, it would be more than idle to go into such questions. But this much is certain, that there exist in the great cities enough dwellings which if rationally used would satisfy the actual need for shelter.” It is evident that Engels did not regard the division of existing space as the “eventual solution,” but only as an immediate step and part of a more general expropriation. Like other socialists of his time he foresaw the ruralized city as the real locus of the solution. The criticism of palliatives was not a rejection of all improvements in building—as Mumford would have his readers believe—but an asser¬ tion of the impossibility of solving the housing problem of the masses under capitalism, an assertion which Mumford now repeats in this book. But whereas Engels also observed the role of philanthropic housing projects in dulling the worker’s insight into his social ex¬ perience, and the military and class functions of the city planning of his time, and therefore warned the worker against them, Mumford continues like his forebears of the seventies to promote the illusions. If he states again and again that to posit these ideals of housing is to demand a revolution, he repeats no less often that the revolution has already begun, that we are on the brink of basic socialism since Radburn, New Jersey, has been completed. But even here he straddles, and reveals his underlying indecision: it is not capitalism which stands in the way of housing, but “unregulated private capitalism.” Mumford’s Tradition. He repudiates the charge of reformism, but has not tried to indicate how his position differs from what is cur¬ rently called reformism, or to come to grips with Marxist criticism of views like his own. He has often acknowledged without critical reservation a deep indebtedness to Patrick Geddes who was undoubt-

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edly a reformist, opposed to revolutionary change. The enterprise of Mumford in writing Technics and Civilization and The Culture of Cities recalls the series edited by Geddes and Branford after 1917— The Making of the Future. Reading their volumes in this series, one is surprised to see how little Mumford has advanced beyond them after the events of these twenty years. He shares not only their reform¬ ist views, but even their turn of phrase, their style of thought—although he is more passionate and blustering, more emphatically responsive to the aesthetics of the environment. No doubt their optimistic ideas of reform through good will are still Mumford’s. They are regionalists, city planners, and nature lovers who call upon all men of good will to build a new civilization. Like Mumford, they hold up the Middle Ages as a period of democracy and organic society. Their reference to de Maistre and de Bonald as sources indicates the narrow distance which sometimes separates them from contemporary reactionaries who also speak of regional culture, the unified com¬ munity, and the decentralization of the big cities. And when we read their remarks on the war, with their hopes of a new civilization arising from the defeat of Prussianism, we seem to be reading Mumford’s call to war against the fascist states. They link Prussian Militarism and Competitive Big Business in the way people now link Fascism and the Two Hundred Families. Their anti-profiteering and anti-monopoly views were readily turned against the German enemy of the native monopolists. “Prussianism and profiteering are thus twin evils. Historiddly they have risen together. Is it not possible that they are destined to fall together before the rising tide of a new vitalism? The reversal of all these tendencies, mechanistic and venal, would be the preoccupation of a more vital era than that from which we are escap¬ ing. Its educational aim would be to think out and prepare the needed transition from a machine and a money economy towards one of Life, Personality, and Citizenship.” They even welcomed the war as “a spiritual protest and rebound against the mammon of materialism,” the “vastest of social experiments in the problem of co-ordinating communitary and private interests.” We seem to be listening to Mr. Mum¬ ford, when we read these lines from a series dedicated to “the Philoso¬ pher-Statesman,” Woodrow Wilson. It is not simply their acceptance of the war that we recall here, but the way in which their humanitananism was invoked to justify it and to create popular illusions concerning its nature and outcome. Mumford too denounces capital¬ ism; but in psychologizing it, in veiling its historical and social charac¬ ter in moral categories, and in regarding it as almost socialist, he is

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able to support it. If it includes both power states and service states, it becomes right to support one’s service state against the enemy’s power state. Today, when Marxists, liberals, fascists, and Christians all condemn capitalism, Mumford’s denunciation is not in itself crucial. It is espe¬ cially consoling to those who find capitalism intolerable, but the overthrow of capitalism equally unpleasant. He assures them that cap¬ italism is dying and that the new society is already growing up in the form of garden cities, suburbs, new houses, and superior streamlined machines, the very things by which the middle class measures its own well-being. The field of revolution lies for him in the fixtures of society, rather than in class relationships. By psychol¬ ogizing the latter, he reinstates the unattached man of good will, who finds in his spontaneous tastes and sympathies the test of po¬ litical theories. By treating capitalism as one vast slum or super-slum and the capitalists as vicious or pathological elements, he implies that social work and model resettlements are the effective instruments of change. In his fulsome announcements of prearranged social agenda, he is the ideal chairman of the super-natural and classless congress of men of good will, a congress at which practical difficulties are evaded and the drums of imperialist war play a humanitarian music. i938

Dostoevski and Politics: Notes on “The Possessed” BY

PHILIP

RA H V

THE TENDENCY of every age is to bury as many classics as it revives. If unable to discover our own urgent meanings in a creation of the past, we hope to find ample redress in its competitive neighbors. A masterpiece cannot be produced once and for all; it must be con¬ stantly reproduced. Its first author is a man. Its later ones—time, social time, history. To be means to recur. In the struggle for survival among works of art, those prove themselves the fittest that recur most often. In order to impress itself on our imagination, a work of art must be capable of bending its wondrous, its immortal head to the yoke of the mortal and finite—that is the contemporary, which is never more than an emphasis, a one-sided projection of the real. The past retains its vitality insofar as it impersonates the present, either in its aversions or ideals; in the same way a classic work renews itself by imperson¬ ating a modern one. Of all the novels of Dostoevski, it is The Possessed which now seems closest to us. Not many years ago what attracted us most were prob¬ lems of individual morality, of the opposition between society and the private ego, such as Crime and Punishment exemplified. Today we find The Possessed more congenial to our mood, for it analyses prob¬ lems of politics and radical ideology that have become familiar to us through our own experience. It is a work at once unique and typically Dostoevskian. Shaken by the Karamazov frenzy and full of Dostoevski’s moral and religious obsessions, it is at the same time the one novel in which he explicitly concerned himself with political ideas and with the revolutionary movement. The fact is that it really contains two novels. It was begun as a tendentious study of the evolution of ideas from fathers to sons, of the development of the liberal idealism of the thirties and forties of the last century into the nihilism and socialism of the sixties and seven324

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ties; but Dostoevski encountered such difficulties in its writing that he finally fused it with his projected Life of a Great Sinner, which was to be his major effort on the subject of atheism. For that reason The Possessed has two distinct sets of characters, one sacred and one pro¬ fane, one metaphysical and one empirical—the group around Stavrogin, the great sinner, and the group around the Verhovenskys, father and son, who are defined politically. While one set commits sins, the other commits crimes. Externally—in his melodramatic, sinister attrac¬ tiveness and in the Byronic stress given to his personal relations—Stavrogin derives from early European Romanticism, but in his moral sensuality, in his craving for remorse and martyrdom, he is an authen¬ tic member of the Karamazov family. He is doubled within himself as well as through Shatov and Kirillov, his satellites in the story. Shatov represents his Russian, national-messianic side, and Kirillov his experi¬ ments with God. However, although this scheme allows sin and crime, religion and politics, to engage in a mutual criticism of each other, it is too abstractly conceived to solve successfully the problem of unifying the two themes. Stavrogin is for the most part gratuitously introduced into the younger Verhovensky’s political maneuvers; the link between them is often artificial, giving rise to superfluous intricacies of structure and episode. In its Verhovensky parts the novel reminds us of the most recent political phenomena. It is not by chance that on the occasion of the Moscow trials the world press unanimously recalled to its readers the name of Dostoevski, the great nay-sayer to the revolution. This oc¬ curred twenty years after Dostoevski’s Russia—that realm of wood and dark, furious souls—had been ostensibly demolished and a new harmonious society erected on its ruins. The principles of science and reason had triumphed, we were told. But now the creations of a writer who considered these same principles to be the spawn of Satan were invoked to explain events which science and reason had apparently found inexplicable. It is not worthwhile, however, to examine The Possessed in order to echo the insinuations of the Stalin apologists who have suddenly rediscovered Dostoevski and the ‘ Slav soul. The Slav soul never explained anything. That swollen concept is the product of the psy¬ chological romanticism of the Slavophile movement, which substi¬ tuted brooding about history for making it. Dostoevski, too, “brooded” in the Slavophile fashion, but that by no means exhausts his contribu¬ tion to letters. As for those “sympathizers” of Stalin who use the

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“Slav soul” to prove the innocence of the GPU and the guilt of its victims, all that needs to be said about them is that they prove alto¬ gether too much. The “Slav soul” is impartial in its testimony; as a suprahistorical essence it draws no distinctions between accusers and accused, or between oppressors and oppressed. If you make the unfathomable perversity of the Slav nature your premise, then logically your conclusion cannot exclude any explanation, no matter how wild and incredible; and the “sympathizers” should be reminded that a frame-up of one’s real or potential political enemies is among the least of the marvels known to man. Through reading Dostoevski no one will ferret out the truth about the trials. About specific events one should make up one’s mind on the basis of specific evidence; empirical verification cannot be replaced by whatever insights into the general historical background of the Russian revolution we can derive from Dostoevski. The revolution explains Dostoevski infinitely better than Dostoevski explains the revolution. To look to the author of The Possessed for revelations is futile; but much can be learned from a study of the interrelationship between his works and the contending social forces which he combined into such extraordinary patterns. Although this analyst of contradic¬ tions, who was ever vibrating between faith and heresy, made revolu¬ tionaries the object of his venom, there is a real affinity between them. If in the past social critics dismissed The Possessed as a vicious caricature of the socialist movement, today the emergence of Stalinism compels a revision of that judgment. Its peculiar “timeliness” flows from the fact that the motives, actions, and ideas of the revolution¬ aries in it are so ambiguous, so imbedded in mystifications, as to suggest those astonishing negations of the revolutionary ideal which have come into existence since Lenin’s death. The present-day Comin¬ tern, emptied of principle, has converted politics into an art of illusion. Stalin’s “socialism” is devoid of all norms; never acting in its own name, it can permit itself every crime and every duplicity. Its first rule is to deny its own identity and keep itself solvent by drawing on the inexhaustible credit of the proletariat. In public the rapacious bureau¬ crat appears masked as a workingman. Marxism, and not the savage doctrine of preserving at all costs the power of the usurpers, is his offi¬ cial doctrine. It is a similaf- element of counterfeit, of a vertiginous interplay of reality and appearance, which makes Dostoevski’s story so prophetic in the light of what we know of the fate of the revolution. In reading it one is never really certain whether Pyotr Verhovensky,

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its chief revolutionary character, is not an agent of the Czar’s secret police. Even as he is engaged in preparing an insurrection, this “au¬ thorized representative” of an invisible Central Committee, which is located somewhere abroad and which turns out to be a myth, describes himself as “a scoundrel of course and not a socialist.” He methodically uses blackmail, slander, drunkenness, and spying to achieve his ends. But what in reality are his ends? Give him state power and you get a type like Yagoda, chief of the GPU, or his successor, Yezhov. Verhovensky’s plan is to organize a network of human knots whose task is to proselytize and ramify endlessly and aim “by systematic denunciation to injure the prestige of local authority, to reduce villages to confusion, to spread cynicism and scandals, together with complete disbelief in everything and an eagerness for something better, and finally, by means of fires, a pre-eminently national method, to reduce the country at a given moment, if need be, to desperation.” He actually carries out this ingenious plan in the town where the scene of the novel is laid. His pupil Shigalov, a character who fits Lenin’s definition of the pettybourgeois “gone mad,” busies himself with constructing—on paper— a new form of social organization to guarantee complete equality. Starting with “unlimited freedom” as its postulate, his Utopia, how¬ ever, arrives at “unlimited despotism.” This throws him into despair, yet he insists that there can be no other solution to the problems of society. A well-born. and well-to-do lady, Yulia Mihailovna, dreams of reconciling the irreconcilable in her own person, of uniting in the adoration of herself “the correct tone of the aristocratic salons and the free-and-easy, almost pot-house manners” of the youthful nihilists, the system of big landed property with free-thinking socialist notions. She is preyed upon by Liputin, an unwashed intriguer, who propounds the theory that there are people on whom clean linen is unseemly. Practicing petty usury, he at the same time holds forth in the language of “the universal social republic and harmony of mankind.” But the odd thing about him is that he is sincere. It is precisely through such complex and conflicting motivation that the inevitability of the social breakdown is impressed on the reader’s mind. Here the impulse to be rid of a rotting order has reached such intensity as to become objective; penetrating into the innermost, the most differentiated cells of human psychology, it has ceased to be incompatible with degenerate habits and desires. In one scene the philistine Karmazinov, a figure through whom the author mercilessly derided Turgenev, describes Russia in terms that approx¬ imate Lenin’s well-known exposition of what makes a revolutionaiy

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situation. In Dostoevski the revolution appears in self-alienated forms. Hence the perception that “Russia as she is has no future” and that “everything here is doomed and awaiting the end” is put into the mouth of his enemy, the man at whom we are supposed to laugh. But in those particular remarks Karmazinov predicts that while Europe, that realm of stone, will last his time, “Holy Russia” has less power of resistence and must fall. “How do you look at the manifestoes?” Verhovensky asks him. “They openly unmask what is false and prove that there is nothing to lay hold of among us, and nothing to lean upon. . . . To look facts straight in the face is only possible to Russians of this generation.” There is a slight miscalculation of the time factor here, but in that respect even Marx was frequently wrong. It took several decades longer before looking facts straight in the face became so widespread as to deprive the traditional order of its capacity to defend itself. Setting out to report on the moral depravity of the revolution, Dostoevski was nevertheless objective enough to demonstrate that Russia could not escape it. The infidel, the social philosopher in him, would not be submerged. If it is true that there was a good slice of the flunkey in his personal psychology, then he was the kind of flunkey, or rather super-flunkey, who even while bowing and scraping says the most outrageous things to your face. This novel, which so delighted the autocratic regime, in reality generalized its downfall in the sphere of values and personal relations. Dostoevski was a reactionary, but never a conservative; and with the other great cultural reactionaries of the bourgeois epoch he shared that insight into the corruption of modern society which at several points relates them to revolutionary thought. The philosophy of the present is ever the philosophy of narrow minds—only from the standpoint of the past or of the future is it possible to criticize that which exists: yet the past, having been historically vanquished by the present, must in practice come to terms with it. In that sense the great reactionaries have been the great romantics; but the fact that history has rejected and often put to equivocal uses their hankering after the lost organicism of earlier ages did not prevent them from living out their nostalgias in art and thus renewing its imagination. In The Possessed liberalism receives the broadest and most perspi¬ cacious criticism in the history of the novel. The malevolence with which the portrait of the intellectual Stepan Trofimovitch, the elder Verhovensky, is executed, in no way detracts from its enduring reality

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and social truth. This characterization has enormous contemporary meanings. It is only now, as fascism is heavily penalizing Western culture for subjecting itself to the timorous and accommodating coun¬ sels of the liberals, that we can fully appreciate Stepan Trofimovitch. A gentleman pacifist and aesthete, he simultaneously shines the boots of reaction and revolution. His standing protest he makes by lying down; he is subtle in his feelings, a self-indulgent humanitarian, and a parasite. His author created him with unsurpassed verve, wholly persuading us that his creation is objective. He is superior to Thomas Mann’s Settembrini, whose distant relative he is, for he is understood not argumentatively but through a tangible social milieu. Dostoevski boldly reduces him to his primary political elements while holding him together on the spiritual plane in a delicate equilibrium. And what a hazardous yet just simplification it was to place him in the position of being the charge of a rich and patrician lady, of making an assertive dramatic image out of her financial support of him. This exchange of cash and culture, however, is not conceived as a simple transaction; on the contrary, it entails mutual distrust, bitterness, and emotional tempests—but in the end a sentimental reconciliation is effected. In virtually the same terms Trotsky defines the basic relation of the intel¬ lectuals to the bourgeoisie in his Literature and Revolution. Stepan Trofimovitch is a typical modern figure, a liberal ideologue dispossessed by the social process and obstructing it. Are you interested in the quarrel between the defenders of “pure art” and its alleged political vulgarizers? Stepan Trofimovitch has much to say on this subject. Time and again he maintains that “Shakespeare and Raphael are more precious than the emancipation of the serfs, more precious than nationalism, more precious than socialism, more precious than the young generation, more precious than chemistry. . . .” He is willing to acknowledge the absurdity of the term fatherland and the harmful influence of religion, but “firmly and loudly” he declares that “boots are of less consequence than Pushkin.” To this day the aesthetes, insofar as they are secure in their possession of boots, display a scorn for such objects out of all proportion to their love for Shakespeare and Pushkin. (The aging Verhovensky was an erudite man, yet his knowledge of history was defective. Without the self-definition of the national principle, neither Shakespeare nor Pushkin could have burst the fetters of medievalism, just as without socialism the future is unlikely to emulate the past with Shakespeares and Pushkins of its own.) In Fathers and Sons, Turgenev’s Bazarov, the prototype of the nihi¬ lists in Russian fiction, held the view that a good chemist is worth

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twenty poets. But Bazarov’s nihilism was only a form of moral empiri¬ cism; he was an individualist who had not yet grown to the level of political thought. A few decades later, in the seventies, the adversaries of Stepan Trofimovitch had already translated Bazarov’s moral empir¬ icism into the formulae of the class struggle. During the Fete—the description of which includes the novel’s most superb scenes—Stepan Trofimovitch defies the political mob by shouting at them, “What is more beautiful, Shakespeare or boots, Raphael or petroleum?” The reply is rude but amply deserved. “Agent provocateur,” they growl. In his generalizations Dostoevski recognized no differences between liberals, nihilists, and socialists. But within the living organism of the novel he distinguished clearly between the elder Verhovensky and his revolutionary son. Paternity in this case is symbolic of a relation of ideas. The socialist doctrine negates liberalism even as it grows out of it. In an historical sense what Pyotr represents is his father’s ideas thought out to their logical conclusion, but for that very reason he becomes his father’s enemy. What kind of revolutionary, however, is Pyotr? According to the Marxist critic, Vyacheslav Polonsky, there is nothing realistic in the picture of the revolutionary movement given in The Possessed. Here Polonsky, it seems to me, is falling into that critical routine with regard to Dostoevski which has become habitual with Marxists. Instead of perceiving the particular significance of Dostoevski, in that more than any other writer he concentrates within himself the ideological pos¬ sibilities of literary art, Marxist criticism has been inclined to ignore and disparage him; and in doing so it has permitted the immediate political advantage thus obtained to distort its basic method. “A poisonous genius,” said Gorky—partly true, but no more than a statement of dislike and fear. Lenin devoted several articles to Tolstoi, but so far as I know never concerned himself with Dostoevski. The biographers of Dostoevski tell us that the activity of Pyotr Verhovensky’s circle in The Possessed is an imaginative rendering of the Nechayev episode in Russian revolutionary history. Now in Nechayevism the Russian revolution had its first taste of Machiavellian de¬ ception and double-dealing. Just as Verhovensky acted without prin¬ ciple and out of relation to any definite theory of social reconstruction, so Nechayev believed that it was his “exclusive task to destroy the existing system to build u^) is not our task.” Nechayev systematically cultivated criminal methods (which are utterly different from the methods of illegal struggle) in the pursuit of his revolutionary ends. Verhovensky’s murder of Shatov is patterned after Nechayev’s murder

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of the student Ivanov; and if we know that one section of the Cate¬ chism of a Revolutionary, composed by Bakunin and Nechayev, called for “acquaintance with city gossips, prostitutes, and other private sources” for gathering and disseminating information and rumors, we realize to what an extent, even to the repetition of comic details, the archetype of Nechayev is reproduced in The Possessed. Where Dosto¬ evski’s bias came in was in presenting Nechayev as typical of social¬ ism; in selecting data from life, he was oblivious to the thousands of examples of idealistic self-sacrifice which the class war in Russia had to show. “Tendentious” in that vital respect, he was realistic, how¬ ever, in his social sensitivity to one particular and highly important element of the Russian revolution whose recent recrudescence lends his novel its singular interest. The actions of Nechayev-Verhovensky are divorced from demo¬ cratic principle and scientific theory because he is essentially a belated Jacobin separated from the proletariat. In point of fact, Nechayevism developed at a time when the industrial proletariat had not yet crystal¬ lized within Russian society. Since he has no real historic validity, Nechayev-Verhovensky is stripped of moral norms. His peculiar “mad¬ ness” is determined by the fact that he strives to substitute his own sovereign will for those formidable class forces which alone are capable of consummating revolutionary changes. While confusing and compro¬ mising it, this type serves the revolution before the seizure of power as one of its part-time agents; but after the seizure of power, if given conditions encourage him to breed and grow, he turns against the revolution and seeks to divert it from its original course. In the Thermidorean period, rising to the surface of social life, he seizes control. Now Stalinism is, in one sense, Nechayevism plus state power. Stalinism, too, acts “for the masses” instead of with and through them; equally divorced from democratic principle and scientific theory, it strives to manipulate the historic process by means of criminal methods and bureaucratic cunning. Nechayev-Verhovensky’s attempt to over¬ throw the Czar without the active intervention of the masses is equiv¬ alent to Stalin’s attempt to build socialism in Russia in isolation from the fate of the international working class. The Marxist movement, on the other hand, distinguishes itself from the Jacobin and Blanquist types in that it is “the first one in the history of class societies which in all its factors is calculated upon the organization and initiative of the masses” (Luxemburg). The strong resemblance between NechayevVerhovensky and Stalin-Yezhov is to be explained, to my mind, by the coincident manifestations of two specific phases in Russian politics.

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If Nechayevism represents the pre-Marxist stage of the revolution, Stalinism represents its post-Marxist one. In Stavrogin and his alter egos, Kirillov and Shatov, Dostoevski was imitating his own obsessions. As against radicals like Verhovensky and Karmazinov, they personify the “pure” Russians. Shatov, for instance, becomes the spokesman of the national destiny. What is a Russian like and what is his mission—that is the problem which tor¬ ments him. Three times, in Fathers and Sons, Turgenev essayed to define the “typical Russian,” and each time he betrayed his sense of inferiority toward the West and the complacent, moderate cast of his sensibility. (The

three definitions occur

in

subordinate verbal

constructions:

a. “ ... a coarse, half-educated, but not ill-natured man, a typical Russian”; b. “the only good point in a Russian is his having the lowest possible opinion of himself”; c. “ . . . a young man at once progres¬ sive and a despot, as often happens with Russians.”) Dostoevski was outraged by Turgenev’s common sense and by his insistent deprecia¬ tion of Russia. Into his own conception of Russia and Russians he injected his characteristic emotion of extremity. The Russians are to him a kingdom of priests and a chosen people; even God is appro¬ priated to its uses. In Shatov’s scheme of things God is merely “the synthetic personality of the whole people, taken from its beginning to its end.” But these national visions anticipate much that Europe was to experience later. Stavrogin’s psychic conundrums—“his life, so to say, of mockery”—prefigure many of the tendencies in twentieth-cen¬ tury—especially postwar—European literature. To Dostoevski’s characters ideas are a source of suffering. Such people are unknown in countries like America, where social tension is at a relatively low point and where, in consequence, the idea counts for very little and is usually dismissed as “theory.” Only in a society whose contradictions are unbridled in temper do ideas become a mat¬ ter of life and death. Such is the historical secret of that “Russian intensity” which Western critics find so admirable. Alyosha Karama¬ zov, for example, was convinced “as soon as he reflected seriously, of the existence of God and immortality, and at once he said to himself: ‘I want to exist for God, a^id I will accept no compromise.’ ” In the same way, adds Dostoevski, “if he had decided that God and immor¬ tality did not exist he would at once have become an atheist and a socialist.” As simply as that. And in The Possessed, Kirillov decides that God “is necessary and must exist,” but at the same time he knows

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that “He doesn’t and He can’t.” “Surely,” he says, “you must under¬ stand that a man with two such ideas can’t go on living.” Kirillov shoots himself. Dostoevski decided against socialism on a principled metaphysical basis. His antipathy to it, however, had nothing in common with the banal objections of conservative householders. What he feared most was its rationality. He understood that “socialism is founded on the principles of science and reason. . . that it is not merely the labor question, it is before all else the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism today, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to Heaven from earth, but to set up Heaven on earth.” Nevertheless he was as much fascinated as repelled by the demonstrations of reason. Like Stavrogin, he never really at¬ tained the peace of religious faith, and when he believed he did not believe that he believed. He hated socialism because it objectified his lack of belief and his heretical love for the boundless expansion and change of which the human mind is capable. But in his compulsion to test theory by practice he came close to the methods of the revolution; and when he subjected Christianity to this rigorous test he found that only an “idiot” (Prince Myshkin) could possibly succeed in leading a Christian life. His plebeianism was another element that tended to subvert his support of the autocracy and the church. In his work we do not experience that sense of social hierarchies which affects us so strongly in Tolstoy. The plebeian world-feeling is one of the essential conditions of heresy, and the spiritual equality which reigns in Dosto¬ evski’s novels seems like a kind of inverted socialism, a commune of the spirit. For his ideological power Dostoevski paid by his exclusion from the sensuous-material world. He gives us sensations of time, but not of space. He has a prodigious appetite for people, but he is insensitive to textures and objects; his characters are morally sensual, not physi¬ cally. This overproduction of spirituality makes for a constant inner crisis, for a “moralizing and analyzing attitude” which shuts him off from nature. It is this quality which permits his narratives their break¬ neck pace—there is no need to stop when there is nothing to look at. The excessive sociability of his people has the same source. Criticism has often observed how perpetually dependent they are on externalization through talk and debate. Even in committing suicide they are not alone, and a love scene seldom takes place without the presence of a third person. Dostoevski stages his climaxes only after he has assembled his characters into one room: his novels are constructed like plays.

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In his preface to Edward Hallett Carr’s biography of Dostoevski, the Soviet critic, D. S. Mirsky, expresses his gratification with Carr for “showing up,” as it were, his subject. Carr had laid great stress on the literary and Romantic antecedents of Dostoevski, and Mirsky con¬ cludes that Dostoevski is “modern only insofar as the term modern can be extended to Rousseau, Byron, and Benjamin Constant.” He was produced by Russia precisely because she was backward and be¬ cause “he was a belated parallel in his country to what the Romantics had been in the West.” To Mirsky it seems that by labeling Dostoevski the belated Romantic of a backward country he has removed him from the terrain of the modern; what he has further in mind, of course, is to connect him with the reactionary tendencies of the Romantic movement in Germany and to a lesser extent in France. In relating Dostoevski to Romanticism in the way he does, Mirsky suggests the use of the dialectical “law of combined development.” But to invoke this law is to disprove Mirsky’s approach. The “law of com¬ bined development” explains why a bourgeois revolution, when it oc¬ curs in a backward country, tends to go beyond itself and be trans¬ formed into a proletarian one. A backward country is thus enabled to make up for lost time and outstrip its advanced neighbors, at least politically. In one bound it leaps from the status of pupil to the status of teacher. There is no reason, however, to confine this phenomenon of accelerated mutation to politics. It also operates on the spiritual plane. To say, then, in this sense, that Dostoevski was a belated Ro¬ mantic does not at all mean that the Romantic world was his world or that he restored the Romantic state of mind. Why is the Russian novel of the nineteenth century so great in its achievement? If the law of combined development” has any appli¬ cation here, it would point to the need of the Russian novelist to think his way out from the historical impasse into which backward and catastrophic conditions had driven his country. This same need im¬ pelled him to augment his equipment by “taking over” as rapidly as he could the acquisitions of Western culture. Even when he repudiated this culture, as Dostoevski did, he was strongly affected by it. Before re¬ jecting it he first had to acquire some essential part of it. To recognize the achievement of the Russian novel of the nineteenth century is to recognize Dostoevski’s supremacy as a modern writer. His one rival is Tolstoi. Only dogmatists of progress, who conceive of it is an even and harmonious development, can presume to commit Dosto¬ evski to a museum of Romantic antiquities. It is true that he labored to give his genius a religious sanctification, that in his philosophical

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and political views he ran counter to progressive thought. But it must be kept in mind that in the sphere of imaginative creation progress does not simply consist of knowing what is true and what is false from the standpoint of scientific method. Dostoevski not only renovated the traditional properties of Romanticism, but also discovered inversions and dissociations in human feeling and consciousness which to this day literature has but imperfectly assimilated. Reactionary in its abstract content, in its aspect as a system of ideas, his art is radical in sensibility and subversive in performance. Moreover, Romanticism is far from being as dreadful as Mirsky makes out. Its impulse was partly reactionary, of course, but in ap¬ proaching the old values through the self-consciousness of the new epoch, it responded to new emotions and invented new themes. There are numberless examples of this dual function of Romanticism. Cha¬ teaubriand, for instance, was faithful to throne and altar; he' set out to defend tradition and belabor Rousseau. “I am not like Rousseau,” he wrote in the introduction to Atala, “an enthusiast over savages. . . . I do not think that pure nature is . . . beautiful. ... I have always found it ugly. Let us paint nature, but selected nature (la belle nature). Art should not concern itself with the imitation of monsters.” This declaration, however, as Saint-Beuve noted, was belied by the actual content of Atala, in which one encounters a crocodile on virtually every page. Dostoevski’s “crocodiles” are thinking men. !938

The D. H. Lawrence Myth BY WILLIAM TROY

OF THE many examples of the artist as “suffering hero” thrown up by the nineteenth century and afterwards (Blake, Holderin, Baudelaire, Wagner, Melville, Van Gogh all belong to the tradition), D. H. Law¬ rence is perhaps the only one who took the next logical step and iden¬ tified himself overtly with a mystery god. That this is not a conceit but actually what happened in Lawrence’s case is apparent from even the most casual survey of his career. The process was a gradual one, to be sure, and the special aura that surrounds such early heroes as Birkin in Women in Love and Lilly in Aaron’s Rod condenses only by degrees into the unmistakable halo of The Man Who Died. But already in The Ladybird (1921) Lawrence had given to one of the most autobiograph¬ ical of his heroes the name of Dionysius himself. In his poetry this is to be traced out through the change from the rather conventional nature imagery of his early verse to the recondite symbolism of Last Poems. The whole process may also be correlated, of course, with the shifting of his intellectual interests from Freudian psychoanalysis to anthropology and comparative religion, from one type of mythology to another and much older one. For most people, however, the most strik¬ ing evidence will be the biographical: the persecutions and humilia¬ tions, the journeys by water, the agonies in the wilderness, the betrayals and final apotheosis at the hands of his disciples. Catharine Cars¬ well, in her account of the burlesque Last Supper at the Cafe Royal, does not quite explain how Lawrence ever came to lend himself to such a disgusting performance; and if Lawrence is finally forced to ad¬ vise the editor of the Adelphi to wipe away the “Judas slime,” the casualness of the implied relationship is rather astounding. But nothing could be more revealing than those last paintings of himself and his family which the\British censor was required to bar on the grounds of blasphemy. Because these belong so clearly to biography rather than to art, because they represent self-expression at its most naive and irresponsible, they leave no doubt as to the image of himself 336

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which Lawrence came to realize at the end. He had become, as he put it in a deathbed fragment, “like a Lord!” As for his posthumous repu¬ tation, a literary analogy is fortunately available and will suffice: the last scene in Le Rouge et le Noir in which the lovely ladies, gathering at Julien’s tomb at midnight, join forces in building up a little shrine. Lawrence is, to a remarkable degree even among contemporaries, a “case,” and he has received drastic treatment as such from all quar¬ ters. But it is really not helpful to be told by the psychoanalysts that he suffered from one or another malady, or by a theologian like T. S. Eliot that he was possessed of the Devil, or (what perhaps amounts to the same thing) that he was an unfortunate product of the capital¬ ist system. All of these interpretations have their relevance; but none of them quite explains away the phenomenon which, in the first place, has compelled our attention. So much is true for any writer and for any phenomenon, of course, and even leaving aside the matter of special bias every critical approach is limited ultimately by the cate¬ gories of the thinking mind itself. The problem is always to discover the approach that will do least violence to the object before us, that will reconcile the greatest number of the innumerable aspects that every object presents to the understanding. It merely happens that, in Lawrence’s “case,” criticism has been more than ordinarily handi¬ capped by a certain difficulty in determining exactly what the object itself really is. Although Lawrence speculated in several fields of knowl¬ edge, and contributed many valuable insights, he did not leave a sys¬ tematic body of thought; yet some people base their approach to him almost exclusively on what they call his ideas. On the other hand, if he is treated as an artist, there is the hard fact to get around that all but a few of his poems and novels are lacking in some of the most prominent features usually associated with works of art. To add to the confusion, if his so-called art is as often as not admired or con¬ demned for its thought, his so-called thought is either accepted or re¬ jected because of the art through which it is expressed. It does not help to draw parallels with Whitman and Melville; for these figures too have been singularly viscous objects for criticism. Perhaps the biographers and memoir-writers have been closest the mark, after all, in almost ignoring Lawrence the thinker and Lawrence the artist for Lawrence the man. In any case, Lawrence’s hold on the contemporary imagination seems to have been as much the effect of his reputation as of his accomplishments; and to say that it was based on the total image presented by his career is perhaps to take everything into account.

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This is not to dismiss his accomplishments but to put them in their proper relation to something else. “What a man has got to say is never more than relatively important,’’ Lawrence remarks in the Letters; and, while this may not be true for everyone, it was true enough for him to suggest an approach that will undertake at least to describe what it was to which his confused mass of writings may be related. What is here suggested is a view of Lawrence based on the view that he finally came to take of himself, the view of himself as a kind of contemporary reincarnation of the dying god. Such an approach may seem far-fetched; but no other enables us to reconcile so much of what is admirable and silly, sincere and false, profitable and dangerous in the Lawrence “case.” For example, the formlessness of his writings, to which the purely aesthetic critic in¬ variably turns his attention, is immediately seen as not so much a tech¬ nical deficiency as a function of his role. “They want me to have form,” he complained, “that means, they want me to have their pernicious, ossiferous, skin-and-grief form.” Or, as he put it in Fantasia of the Un¬ conscious, “As soon as I have finished mental conception, a full idea even of myself, then dynamically I am dead.” How such a dynamic view of the self is to be related to the practice of an objective art is of course the question; and the answer that Lawrence gives elsewhere is unsatisfactory: “One sheds one’s sicknesses in books—repeats and pre¬ sents again one’s emotions to be master of them.” But as an artist one successfully masters one’s emotions only by giving them aesthetic form and Lawrence has already had his say about form. In his handling of the allegory perhaps, he most clearly reveals his predicament; for, if this is the inevitable vehicle for revelation, it also requires the most deliberate manipulation of concepts. But since Lawrence will have nothing of concepts, most of his novels, from The Rainbow to Kan¬ garoo are allegories whose morals are either confused or postponed. When, in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, he does for once keep to a simple and consistent pattern the result is significantly the deadest writing of his career. He is at his best when he is most faithful to his role—in the apocalyptic passages of the novels, in the “Osiris-cries” of his successive resurrections, in his sermons on the mount. In The Man Who Died he wrote a moving and terrible story because he turned from allegory to myth—to the one and only myth to which he had been conforming all along. All of his formal vicissitudes are traceable to the intellectual difficulties in the way of being at once a functioning divinity and a

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practitioner of the arts. He was not a religious poet, as someone has said, but a self-induced earth god who sometimes wrote verse. Both in his life and in his works Lawrence illustrates what Nietzsche, in his well-known analysis of the Dionysius myth, calls “the agony of individuation.” This will have an unpleasantly metaphysical sound to modern ears; but it must be recalled that to the generation to which Lawrence belonged life still presented itself in terms of metaphysical problems. To these problems any serious discussion of Gide, Proust, Mann, and Joyce must likewise sooner or later be conducted. No mat¬ ter into what unpopularity metaphysics has fallen, it is the only rel¬ evant approach to these writers. So much seems necessary before offering the following interpretation of Nietzsche’s phrase: Nature (the undifferentiated flux of phenomena) takes on form; every form involves limitations; and as a result every individual must exist in a state of perpetual inner strife which can be terminated only 'through dissolution into his original substance. We need not ask what these limitations are, whether there is any less drastic mode of solution, or even whether this is in fact an accurate statement of the problem of being. It will have to be enough to suggest that Lawrence’s career was like a ritualistic exhaustion of the paradoxical ambition to enjoy nature, in the sense defined above, and to preserve the character of his individuality at one and the same time. Nature in Lawrence is commonly supposed to be identified tout court with sex; but there are innumerable passages in which it is care¬ fully explained that sex is but the medium or agency of a power still greater than itself. For this reason he is so hard on those who, like Benjamin Franklin, profane it in terms of hygienic “use.” Nor is it a pastime for a jaded epoch: “Buy a king-cobra and try playing with that.” Contrary to the general belief, Lawrence is more truly moral on the subject of sex than on any other subject. Also it is made clear that sex is not to be considered an end in itself, a solution to the indi¬ vidual problem; this is the thesis of The Rainbow and Women in Love. What the power that it represents actually is Lawrence attempts to reveal through a variety of means. In his best poems and novels this power is rendered for us through an interfusion of characterization and description: the early poem “Fireflies” and the scene by the pool in Women in Love are examples. Lawrence’s specialty as a novelist, it may be noted, is in the recording of such “vibrations.” This power is also personified in the familiar little dark man who remains so iden¬ tical throughout the long roll-call of the novels. But it is perhaps most clearly indicated through the metaphorical light-dark antithesis. By

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contrast with the world that he rejects Lawrence gives us the sharpest impression of the world that he would put in its place. If the light symbolizes

the

overspiritualized,

overintellectualized,,

and

wholly

devitalized “white consciousness” of our time, which it should not be difficult for most readers to recognize, the dark can only stand for its opposite—the unspiritual, unintellectual and wholly vital world of nature. The darkness materializes into “the dark gods” and finally “the dark god”; it invests itself in the innumerable forms of dragons, birds, insects, and little black men. But what it really amounts to throughout is something that no church father would have any dif¬ ficulty in calling by its right name. “My great religion,” Lawrence wrote, “is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect.” This sums up so completely his attitude toward nature that we can pass to his actual handling of the problem of individuality. None of the so-called individualistic writers of recent generations, it may be said, projected the problem with the same deliberation and insistence. “Insofar as he [man] is a single individual soul, he is alone—ipso facto. Insofar as I am I, and only I am I, and I am only I, insofar I am inevitably and eternally alone, and it is my last blessedness to know it, and to accept it, and to live with this as the core of my self-knowledge.” This is typical of any number of pronouncements on the subject. In the brilliant Studies in

Classic American Literature the attack is consistently directed against what Lawrence believed to be mankind’s reprehensible passion for merging.

All of the novels, as a matter of fact, are object-lessons in

the consequences of losing self-identity. In Sons and Lovers spiritual love, m most of the other early novels up to The Rainbow sexual love, and in Women in Love and Aaron’s Rod friendship between men are successively examined and rejected as a possible means of individual fulfillment. Beginning with Kangaroo, however, we get a new and more positive note. For if Lawrence through his heroes is so jealously defensive of what he calls his “life-form” he exhibits all along an equally strong counterimpulse toward just that sort of “merging” which he con¬ demns in others. The character Aaron replies to the statement in the above paragraph: “But—I can’t stand by myself in the middle of the world and m the middle of people and know I am quite by myself, and nowhere to go, and nothing to hold on to. I can for a day or two! But then it becomes unbearable as well.” This dialogue between Aaron and Lilly, who represent the two poles of Lawrence’s nature, objecti¬ fies the conflict by which he was tormented from beginning to end and

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which was the real source of his astonishing energy. The other side of his eccentric individualism is seen in his life in the febrile quality of his personal relationships and in his numerous projects for a model colony—in Florida, Cornwall, Sicily, Mexico, and again in England. It is interesting that the latter desire seems to have been more powerful than his judgment, for he had been annihilating in his ridicule of the Brook Farm experiment in the book on American literature. Law¬ rence s social need was so intense that it is not only the main theme of his Letters but the motive-power behind them—the reason that he is one of the great English letter-writers. But nothing could be franker than the following confession to Dr. Trigant Burrow: “What ails me is the absolute frustration of my primeval societal instinct. ... I think societal instinct much deeper than sex instinct—and societal repression much more devastating. There is no repression of the sexual individual comparable to the repression of the societal man in me, by 'the indi¬ vidual ego, my own and everybody else’s. I am weary even of my own individuality, and simply nauseated by other people’s.” Apparently “fulfillment” involves the satisfaction of other needs of man’s nature than his purely private sense of communion with the darkness. In the posthumous Apocalypse Lawrence begins to make a distinction between the personal and the collective man, but this soon evaporates in a blast of red dragon’s breath. Lawrence never really faced the question, for it would have taken him right out of the realm in which the assurances of the blood are sufficient. It would have required intellectual evaluation and moral choice. But we may consider the general solution that he came to offer for the relationships involved in sex, society, and politics. This may be indicated through an inaccurate analogy with the medieval doctrine of grace. Through sex the separate individuals in any relationship are restored to an organic union with the processes of nature; and through this ex¬ perience they are strengthened, in the best religious sense, both in themselves and in their relations with others. At least this is the only meaning that emerges through the banal conversations and tirades of

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which belongs late in the Lawrence canon. Politically, of course, such a doctrine leads straight into the very dark burrow of fascism. But it may be worthwhile to trace out Law¬ rence’s political development, if it may be called such, a little more carefully. As a coal miner’s son, as a suffering artist, and as an intelli¬ gent observer of contemporary life, he could never have been very sympathetic to the ideal of modern bourgeois democracy. All of his work is an implicit, and much of it an explicit, criticism of mass-pro-

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duction in ideas, emotions, and men. He was a revolutionist, there¬ fore, in the sense that every Bohemian artist under the bourgeois regime has been a revolutionist. But it does not follow that he could have turned to the Fabian socialism of prewar England or, later, to Soviet communism. What he objected to in communism was its failure to provide any ideal better than the one to which he had been opposed all along: “The dead materialism of Marx socialism and soviets seems to me no better than what we’ve got.” In Apocalypse communism is defined as a power-driven movement in which the proletariat is moti¬ vated entirely by the desire for revenge on the ruling class. It is “the old will of the Christian community to destroy human worldly power, and to substitute the negative power of the mass. ... In Russia, the triumph over worldly power was accomplished, and the reign of saints set in, with Lenin as chief saint.” To Lawrence power, the only real power, is to be achieved, as we have seen, through identification with nature; he is against the intellectual will expressing itself in any sort of active dogma. But this power would seem to be considerably vari¬ able between individual and individual. In such a situation the in¬ ferior men must bow down in homage before their acknowledged lords and masters; only in this way will a continuous “stream of life” be maintained. In other words, it is the old medieval hierarchy, with grace (sex) once again thrown in as a safeguard. In Kangaroo the fascist labor leader wins the support of his followers only to renounce it because he is still not on good enough terms with “the dark gods.” The same notion is repeated in the diffuse and hysterical Plumed Serpent. Led into confirmation of a political religion with whose only practical expression he would have been the first to quarrel, Lawrence illustrates the dangerous foolishness of his logic once it is applied. Only by courtesy of course is it to be called logic at all; here surely it is the blood and not the intellect that is doing the thinking. For sex is not the equivalent of medieval grace, in the sense of being a mode of communication between two absolute orders of being, but something common to both man and nature. Grace was invented by the theologians because it was necessary to establish some bridge be¬ tween the human and the divine by which man could receive some assistance in controlling the forces of his nature; but in Lawrence sex is indistinguishable from these forces themselves. To attempt to im¬ prove human relationships through sex is therefore like attempting to improve nature by lifting it by its own bootstraps. It is an attempt for which Lawrence could have found a discouraging precedent in a much earlier representative of the tortured Anglo-Saxon Protestant mind,

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who sought “the perfection of nature” only to end his days with a Yahoo babble in his brain. Swift belied human nature by projecting it too purely on its Houyhnhnm side, Lawrence by giving too much scope to its Yahoo side, but both pictures equalize in their common injustice to the reality. In his remarkable essay on Poe, Lawrence demonstrates how the Western will, become converted into the “will-to-know,” turns in on itself and becomes an instrument that ends by destroying its own object, as the hero of Ligeia wills the death of his beautiful young wife. It never seems to have occurred to him that his own version of the Schopenhauerian “will-to-live,” despite its up-to-date anthropolog¬ ical trappings, could also turn in on itself and blight the very sources of its energy. Yet in a story like The Ladybird there is an odd am¬ biguity in the manner in which the hero. Count Dionys Psanek, vacil¬ lates between being a sympathetic avatar of his mythological namesake and a somewhat sinister emissary of Avernus. In fact, there is some¬ thing rather sinister about all the little black heroes, and Dionys is selected only because he is the blackest and smallest and most obviously sinister of the lot. A German army officer imprisoned in England, he renews his friendship with a childhood acquaintance, the pale and virginal Lady Daphne, whose husband is away at the war. Through a series of distinctly cruel conversations he manages to persuade her that she is a “whited sepulchre” and that her husband is probably no better. Upon the latter’s return, he induces her, through the spell of his singing, to come to his room at night. There he is “seated in flame, in flame unconscious, like an Egyptian King-god in the statues.” At first he hesitates but then decides: “Take her into the underworld. Take her into the dark Hades with him, like Francesca and Paolo. And in hell hold her fast, queen of the underworld, himself master of the underworld.” He informs her, “In the dark you are mine. And when you die you are mine. But in the day you are not mine, because I have no power in the day. In the night, in the dark, and in death, you are mine.” This talk of intermingled love and night and death—we have heard it all before. Nineteenth-century romanticism had been a deathward movement, as Mann shows in his Wagner essay, and through the Nietzsche influence it is simple enough to relate Lawrence back to the sources of Poe, Wagner, Baudelaire, and the other great cele¬ brants of the tomb. Despite the superficial exaltation of birds and beasts and flowers, despite the eloquent stressing of the natural beauty and power in man, his life and work are rooted in an irrepressible

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yearning for the grave. For to what can this extinction of the daylight world, this abandonment of reason, lead but to a surrender of the finite human self to the infinite nothingness of the flux? For the ro¬ mantic there is always the moment when Life, with a capital L, must be equated with death; it is the moment when the expanding sense of nature in him causes him to break irrevocably the limitations which alone guarantee his identity. “Rich, florid, loosener of the strictureknot called life,” cries Whitman. “Sweet, peaceful, welcome Death.” If this loosening was indeed what had been desired all along, it was of course foolish to talk so big on the subject of life. For if life, human life, is a knot, reason is one of the two controlling cords. To discard reason is to throw over the only thing that can give life defi¬ nition. Lawrence’s program is, in the last analysis, a program for a mystery god—but hardly for a man. And Dionysius in every age can terminate his agony only by dissolving into his native element. These considerations are so obvious that they would not be raised if they had not been ignored by Lawrence right up to the end. Toward the last the strain is quite evident in the paintings, poems, and tales, so that as the affirmative note became more emphatic the underlying despair rose more and more to the surface. Like Melville’s whale, “life dies sunwards full of faith.” Sometimes the longing comes through as clearly as this: Life is for kissing and for horrid strife, The angels and the Sunderers, And perhaps in unknown Death we perhaps shall know Oneness and poised immunity.

But Lawrence’s importance is that of a cult-leader, a kind of latterday mystery god, as we have said, and to disinfect his ideas is not to re¬ duce the objective importance of his myth as a whole. It is perhaps an empty characterization to say that he was, in any case, one of the great personalities of his generation. For the isolated qualities of honesty, courage, and intensity there was perhaps not a man in England worthy to touch the hem of his much-battered garments. To say that he pos¬ sessed integrity is to strain the meaning of that term; but we can say that he kept to his role with an irreproachable consistency. Even as an artist his least successful organ notes proved more penetrating than the tinny whistles of the Shawsj the Wellses, and the Huxleys. He was a necessary antidote, for the parched young of two continents, to the salty fare of a superior artist like T. S. Eliot both in the latter’s waste¬ land and holy water phases. “Man seeks the perfection of the life or the

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work,” as Yeats has said, and Lawrence’s life was very nearly perfect of its kind. It was a perfect example of what it is to be a mystery god in our time. What then is the value of the Lawrence myth to a generation that is now perhaps far enough removed from it not to fall into the danger of a facile self-identification? It is the value, in the first place, of any myth: the vicarious exhaustion of possibilities that are inherent in the human being in every time and place. Lawrence overplayed one im¬ pulse of human nature on a scale and in a fashion to stand as a highly moral experience to anyone willing to follow him through to the end. Although he never achieved real tragedy in any of his works, he was himself a tragic figure in a drama that lacks a chorus. To appreciate him, we must try to supply this chorus and the proper language for it. In the second place, his story includes elements that should contribute to a deeper realization both of ourselves and our surrounding world. * If we distinguish between its positive and its negative aspects, we must admit that the latter constitute an impression of the contemporary world which no honest and sensitive person can fail to recognize. As a reflection of the formal and qualitative disintegration of human life at present, it is more compelling than the jeremiads of the reformers, the analyses of the psychologists, or the charts of the economists. Lawrence was not primarily a social critic, as some people have insistently main¬ tained, but his epos is a damning criticism not only of our socio-eco¬ nomic organization but of our whole culture to its roots. This is not to say that he was a mere product of this culture; the psychoanalysts can make an equally convincing case along quite different lines. After all, the pattern to which he conformed was something much older even than our culture. It is necessary to make this point very clear because the conclusion must not be, as Lawrence himself insisted, that we can solve everything by an immediate fiat of the intellectual will. Finally, the meaning of his myth is that whatever rational program we do undertake to alter the external situation must take sufficient account of that side of life to which he gave such fanatical allegiance. In his last years Lawrenqe was much fascinated by a conception which, if he had lived long enough to develop, might have led to a different solution to his many problems. It is the notion of the Greek “gods of limits,” the Dioscouri, or Heavenly Twins, who divided all things between them—earth and sky, Heaven and Hades, the upper and lower regions of consciousness. In Apocalypse Lawrence tells us a great deal more about them: they were “witnesses,” for example, to Adonai, the lord of life. They were “rivals, dividers, separators, for t

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good as well as for evil: balancers.” But, characteristically enough, Lawrence is more impressed by their negative aspect as sunderers or destroyers than as balancers between opposites. To him they seem to appear at successive moments of time rather than simultaneously. They tend to cancel each other out rather than to define the unity of whatever is the organism in which they are present. But to the Greek mind, to which they were above all witnesses to something, their principal function must have been that of definition. From such a brief summary it may or may not be evident how such a notion may be related to the dialectic or process type of thinking, which in its various expressions, is perhaps the characteristic type of thinking of our time. With little difficulty “the gods of limits” can be appropriated to the needs of much modern philosophy, psychology, politics, and science. For the present discussion they are useful as another restatement of the nature-reason antithesis that has been suggested as the real problem behind the Lawrence youth. If human life is a process that is in turn defined by these two processes, if it is divided between them, it is something that can be supported only if we can imagine at least temporary states of comparative stability. This solution has points of resemblance both to the Whiteheadian “event” in physics and to Dewey’s “equilibrium” in psychology. But the question is always to what extent such a resolution involves a virtual capitulation of one or the other of the contending parties. Lawrence was someone who spent his entire career combating what he believed was an undue balance in the structure of human life at the expense of the animal nature in man. In his reaction against the scientific rationalism of the latter nineteenth century he undoubtedly plunged himself into the most abject nature-mysticism. But the reaction against Lawrence in turn need not be anything so simple as a renewed assertion of pure scientific rationalism. For scientific rationalism, in any of its current forms or derivatives, does not really provide a resolution of the con¬ flict of which Lawrence’s career was the rather sensational rehearsal. Insofar as it is applied to the kind of problems with which he was concerned, it can only lead to an unequivocal victory of the one side of man’s nature over the other. It can only lead to a further building up of precisely those structures under which the individual has been buried for centuries. The okly real resolution would be a redefinition, in terms of what both man s reason and his nature are at present, of man himself. It may be that such a redefinition may be accomplished within one or another of the available contemporary programs; or it

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may be that none of these quite avoids falling over into one of the two extremes. But what is certain is that no definition will be satisfactory that does not take into important account all those values to whose defensive assertion Lawrence felt obliged to devote his career.

*938

The Public v. the Late Mr. William Butler Yeats BY W. H. AUDEN

THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR:

Gentlemen of the jury. Let us be quite clear in our minds as to the nature of this case. We are here to judge, not a man, but his work. Upon the character of the deceased, therefore, his affecta¬ tions of dress and manner, his inordinate personal vanity, traits which caused a fellow countryman and former friend to refer to him as the greatest literary fop in history, I do not intend to dwell. I must only remind you that there is usually a close connection between the personal character of a poet and his work, and that the deceased was no exception. Again I must draw your attention to the exact nature of the charge. That the deceased had talent is not for a moment in dispute; so much is freely admitted by the prosecution. What the defense are asking you to believe, however, is that he was a great poet, the greatest of this century writing in English. That is their case, and it is that which the prosecution feels bound most emphatically to deny. A great poet. To deserve such an epithet, a poet is commonly re¬ quired to convince us of these things: firstly a gift of a very high order for memorable language, secondly a profound understanding of the age in which he lived, and thirdly a working knowledge of and sympathetic attitude toward the most progressive thought of his time. Did the deceased possess these? I am afraid, gentlemen, that the answer is, no. On the first point I shall be brief. My learned friend, the counsel for the defense, will, I have no doubt, do his best to convince you that I am wrong. And he has a case, gentlemen. O yes, a very fine case. I shall only ask you to apply^to the work of the deceased a very simple test. How many of his lines can you remember? Further, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a poet who has a gift for language will recognize that gift in others. I have here a copy of an Anthology edited by the deceased entitled The Oxford Book of 3 48

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Modern Verse. I challenge anyone in this court to deny that it is the most deplorable volume ever issued under the imprint of that highly respected firm which has done so much for the cause of poetry in this country, The Clarendon Press. But in any case you and I are educated modern men. Our fathers imagined that poetry existed in some private garden of its own, totally unrelated to the workaday world, and to be judged by pure aesthetic standards alone. We know that now to be an illusion. Let me pass, then, to my second point. Did the deceased understand his age? What did he admire? What he condemn? Well, he extolled the virtues of the peasant. Excellent. But should that peasant learn to read and write, should he save enough money to buy a shop, attempt by honest trading to raise himself above the level of the beasts, and O, what a sorry change is there. Now he is the enemy, the hateful huxter whose blood, according to the unseemly boast of the deceased, never flowed through his loins. Had the poet chosen to live in a mud cabin in Galway among swine and superstition, we might think him mistaken, but we should admire his integrity. But did he do this? O dear no. For there was another world which seemed to him not only equally ad¬ mirable, but a deal more agreeable to live in, the world of noble houses, of large drawing rooms inhabited by the rich and the decora¬ tive, most of them of the female sex. We do not have to think very hard or very long, before we shall see a connection between these facts. The deceased had the feudal mentality. He was prepared to admire the poor just as long as they remained poor and deferential, accepting without protest the burden of maintaining a little Athenian band of literary landowners, who without their toil could not have existed for five minutes. For the great struggle of our time to create a juster social order, he felt nothing but the hatred which is born of fear. It is true that he played a certain part in the movement for Irish Independence, but I hardly think my learned friend will draw your attention to that. Of all the modes of self-evasion open to the well-to-do, nationalism is the easiest and most dishonest. It allows to the unjust all the luxury of righteous indignation against injustice. Still, it has often inspired men and women to acts of heroism and self-sacrifice. For the sake of a free Ireland the poet Pearse and the countess Markovitz gave their all. But if the deceased did give himself to this movement, he did so with singu¬ lar moderation. After the rebellion of Easter Sunday, 1916, he wrote a poem on the subject which has been called a masterpiece. It is. To succeed at such a time in writing a poem which could offend neither

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the Irish Republicans nor the British Army was indeed a masterly achievement. And so we come to our third and last point. The most superficial glance at the last fifty years is enough to tell us that the social struggle toward a greater equality has been accompanied by a growing intel¬ lectual acceptance of the scientific method and the steady conquest of irrational superstition. What was the attitude of the deceased toward this? Gentlemen, words fail me. What are we to say of a man whose earliest writings attempted to revive a belief in fairies and whose favorite themes were legends of barbaric heroes with unpronounceable names, work which has been aptly and wittily described as Chaff about Bran! But you may say, he was young: youth is always romantic; its silli¬ ness is part of its charm. Perhaps it is. Let us forgive the youth, then, and consider the mature man, from whom we have a right to expect wisdom and common sense. Gentlemen, it is hard to be charitable when we find that the deceased, far from outgrowing his folly, has plunged even deeper. In 1900 he believed in fairies; that was bad enough; but in 1930 we are confronted with the pitiful, the deplorable spectacle of a grown man occupied with the mumbo-jumbo of magic and the nonsense of India. Whether he seriously believed such stuff to be true, or merely thought it petty, or imagined it would impress the public, is immaterial. The plain fact remains that he made it the center of his work. Gentlemen, I need say no more. In the last poem he wrote, the deceased 1 ejected social justice and reason, and prayed for war. Am I mistaken in imagining that somewhat similar sentiments are ex¬ pressed by a certain foreign political movement which every lover of literature and liberty acknowledges to be the enemy of mankind? THE COUNSEL FOR THE DEFENSE:

Gentlemen of the Jury. I am sure you have listened with as much enjoyment as I to the eloquence of the prosecution. I say enjoyment be¬ cause the spectacle of anything well done, whether it be a feat of engineering, a poem, or even an outburst of impassioned oratory, must always give pleasure. We have been treated to an analysis of the character of the deceased which for all I know, may be as true as it is destructive. Whether it proves anything about the Value of his poetry is another matter. If I may be allowed to quote my learned friend, “We are here to judge, not a man but his work.” We have been told that the deceased was con¬ ceited, that he was a snob, that he was a physical coward, that his taste

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AUDEN

in contemporary poetry was uncertain, that he could not understand physics and chemistry. If this is not an invitation to judge the man I do not know what is. Does it not bear an extraordinary resemblance to the belief of an earlier age that a great artist must be chaste? Take away the frills, and the argument of the prosecution is reduced to this: “A great poet must give the right answers to the problems which per¬ plex his generation. The deceased gave the wrong answers. Therefore the deceased was not a great poet.” Poetry in such a view is the filling up of a social quiz; to pass with honors the poet must score not less than 75 per cent. With all due respect to my learned friend, this is nonsense. We are tempted so to judge contemporary poets because we really do have problems which we really do want solved, so that we are inclined to expect everyone, politicians, scientists, poets, clergymen, to give us the answer, and to blame them indiscriminately when they do not. But who reads the poetry of the past in this way? In an age of rising nationalism, Dante looked back with envy to the Roman Em¬ pire. Was this socially progressive? Will only a Catholic admit that Dryden’s “The Hind and the Panther” is a good poem? Do we con¬ demn Blake because he rejected Newton’s theory of light, or rank Wordsworth lower than Baker, because the latter had a deeper ap¬ preciation of the steam engine? Can such a view explain why Mock Emmet, Mock Parnell All the renown that jell is good; and bad, such a line as Somehoio I think that you are rather like a tree In pointing out that this is absurd, I am not trying to suggest that art exists independently of society. The relation between the two is just as intimate and important as the prosecution asserts. Every individual is from time to time excited emotionally and in¬ tellectually by his social and material environment. In certain indi¬ viduals this excitement produces verbal structures which we call poems; if such a verbal structure creates an excitement in the reader, we call it a good poem. Poetic talent, in fact, is the power to make personal ex¬ citement socially available. Poets, i.e. persons with poetic talent, stop writing good poetry when they stop reacting to the world they live in. The nature of that reaction, whether it be positive or negative, morally admirable or morally disgraceful, matters very little, what is essential is that the reaction should genuinely exist. The later Wordsworth is

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not inferior to the earlier because the poet had altered his political opinions, but because he had ceased to feel and think so strongly, a change which happens, alas, to most of us as we grow older. Now, when we turn to the deceased, we are confronted by the amazing spec¬ tacle of a man of great poetic talent, whose capacity for excitement not only remained with him to the end, but actually increased. In two hundred years when our children have made a different and, I hope, better social order, and when our science has developed out of all recog¬ nition, who but a historian will care a button whether the deceased was right about the Irish Question or wrong about the transmigra¬ tion of souls? But because the excitement out of which his poems arose was genuine, they will still, unless I am very much mistaken, be capable of exciting others, different though their circumstances and beliefs may be from his. However since we are not living two hundred years hence, let us play the schoolteacher a moment, and examine the poetry of the deceased with reference to the history of our time. The most obvious social fact of the last forty years is the failure of liberal capitalist democracy, based on the premises that every indi¬ vidual is born free and equal, each an absolute entity independent of all others. And that a formal political equality, the right to vote, the right to a fair trial, the right of free speech, is enough to guarantee his freedom of action in his relations with his fellow men. The results are only too familiar to us all. By denying the social nature of personality, and by ignoring the social power of money, it has created the most impersonal, the most mechanical, and the most unequal civilization the world has ever seen, a civilization in which the only emotion com¬ mon to all classes is a feeling of individual isolation from everyone else, a civilization torn apart by the opposing emotions born of eco¬ nomic injustice, the just envy of the poor and the selfish terror of the rich. If these latter emotions meant little to the deceased, it was partly be¬ cause Ireland compared with the rest of western Europe was economic¬ ally backward, and the class struggle was less conscious there. My learned friend has sneered at Irish nationalism, but he knows as well as I that nationalism is a necessary stage towards socialism. He has sneered at the deceased for not taking arms, as if shooting were the only honorable and useful form of social action. Has the Abbey Theater done nothing for Ireland? 7 But to return to the poems. From first to last they express a sus¬ tained protest against the social atomization caused by industrialism,

*

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and both in their ideas and their language a constant struggle to over¬ come it. The fairies and heroes of the early work were an attempt to find through folk tradition a binding force for society; and the doctrine of Anima Mundi found in the later poems is the same thing, in a more developed form, which has left purely local peculiarities behind, in favor of something that the deceased hoped was universal; in other words, he was working for a world religion. A purely religious solution may be unworkable, but the search for it is, at least, the result of a true perception of a social evil. Again, the virtues that the deceased praised in the peasantry and aristocracy, and the vices he blamed in the com¬ mercial classes were real virtues and vices. To create a united and just society where the former are fostered and the latter cured is the task of the politician, not the poet. For art is a product of history, not a cause. Unlike some other prod¬ ucts, technical inventions for example, it does not re-enter history as an effective agent, so that the question whether art should or should not be propaganda is unreal. The case for the prosecution rests on the fallacious belief that art ever makes anything happen, whereas the honest truth, gentlemen, is that, if not a poem had been written, not a picture painted, not a bar of music composed, the history of man would be materially unchanged. But there is one field in which the poet is a man of action, the field of language, and it is precisely in this that the greatness of the de¬ ceased is most obviously shown. However false or undemocratic his ideas, his diction shows a continuous evolution toward what one might call the true democratic style. The social virtues of a real democracy are brotherhood and intelligence, and the parallel linguistic virtues are strength and clarity, virtues which appear even more clearly through successive volumes by the deceased. The diction of The Winding Stair is the diction of a just man, and it is for this reason that just men will always recognize the author as a master. *939

Pages from a Journal BY

ANDRE

GIDE

EARLY in life I put myself on guard against beliefs I owed to habits encouraged by my parents, to my Protestant upbringing, and even to my own country. By no means did I preconceive them as bad. I rather chose not to admit them again before I had proved their excellence myself, passed them in review, compared them to others, submitted them to my critical appraisal, and had assured myself that they gave out a pure and full tone. I did not realize until much later, and even only recently, that a number of these conceptions—I mean those which I accepted after testing—were the product, often indirect, of my social condition, of the privileges of fate (which had allowed me to be born into an easy, com¬ fortable situation, sheltered from material cares), of the society in which I had lived, including my parents, and saying it more simply, of my class. This word, not so long ago, did not mean anything much to me. Men, I knew, were more or less fortunate, and, my sympathy carry¬ ing me towards the most unfortunate, I had scarcely had any but poor friends—that is to say those who were obliged, and often most pain¬ fully, to earn a living. No matter! The problems of the social order in¬ terested me hardly at all, and my mind allowed itself to be carried away or occupied only by problems which seemed to me to be common to all men. And no doubt I had first of all to realize how bad a form of society was which guarantees the happiness of a few privileged people by the misery of the great majority, a society which profits by this misery and maintains it. Then I realized that a number of those ideas which I had accepted and which I had considered acceptable, which my thoughts dwelt on, had only been formed by virtue of this inequality and were themselves part of a system which seemed to me indefensible. I did not condemn these ideas out of hand, for to some of them I owed my art and whatever in my eyes justified my existence; but at least they seemed suspect to me and I began to look askance at 354

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them and particularly those which flattered my class, those in which the bourgeois class could find support, comfort, and justification. My most critical attention was reserved for those concepts from which I might myself benefit. I devoted to them a sort of surly prefer¬ ence; yes: a recurrent preference. But even this critical survey, I must admit, remained bourgeois, and I know well enough that had I been less privileged I could not have undertaken it. That is also the reason, I thought, why working-class people accept so easily the ideas of others; why so often (some say, always) revolutionary incentives are a product of the bourgeois class although they are addressed to the masses and can only succeed through them. (1933) There is, no doubt, in the theories of Rousseau, less of the paradox¬ ical and foolish than people say. But what is irritating is that they were theories which were sometimes dictated to him by feeling. I can¬ not believe that man, as he claims, is “naturally good.’’ The taste, the need, even the very sense of truth is to be found neither in the child nor in primitive peoples. This utopian view of the past dangerously falsifies every project, every prediction of the future. But how can one deny—and precisely because it shapes man and educates him—that civilization is responsible for many defeats, society for much that is atrophied. Man is all to be made, to become, and this good man (not at all “naturally good,” but a product, a work of cultivation and of art) —one’s great complaint against society is for having done so little, worked so badly, to achieve him. What I particularly dislike, in Rousseau, is the value he places on ignorance. The misuse which man has made of the discoveries of science tends to incriminate not science, but man himself who misuses them. It goes without saying: if fire burns us, we will not put it out for that. What I hold against Rousseau is that he speaks of “laws of nature” when it is a question of human matters. Natural laws are immutable; there is nothing that man creates, there is nothing human which cannot be changed—beginning (or rather, ending) with man himself. In Lenin’s The State and Revolution, a short unfinished book but all the same most significant and weighty, there is a sentence that brings me up short. “Up to now,” he says, reverting to an idea dear to Marx and Engels, “there is not a single revolution which, everything considered, has not resulted in a strengthening of the administrative machinery of the state.” I am quoting from memory and I would not

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swear that these are his exact words; but I think that I have not dis¬ torted his thought. Besides, his whole book develops this theme. And from this idea he draws inspiration to undermine more completely the complicated machinery of the state. For if previous revolutions have until now only ended in a strengthening of the very thing which they set out to destroy, he thinks it is because these revolutions were never fully realized; because they did not press on to their logical con¬ clusions. This was written in 1917. If it was not finished, it is because Lenin believed that to act is more important than to write. This “realized” revolution—he himself created it. To accomplish it and to perfect it, no sacrifice was too great. The revolution finally triumphs —has triumphed. There have been twenty years of that. And what is the USSR today? The dreaded bureaucracy, the administrative ma¬ chinery has never been stronger. There is no “up to now” about it: the little sentence is still true and what Lenin wrote in 1917 he could write again today.1 I worry very little as to whether my writings conform to Marxism or not. This “fear of the Index,” which I used to talk about, the absurd fear of being found at fault by the purists, worried me a great deal for a long time, and to such a degree that I didn’t dare write. What I am going to say will seem very infantile. I do not care. I have no wish to boast, and I think that it is my own weaknesses that I am most willing to expose. But now I am free from this paralyzing fear. And this fear has taught me a good deal—yes, much more than Marx¬ ism itself. The discipline which I imposed upon myself during three years was not without benefit; but I found more profit today in freeing myself from it than in continuing to submit. This plunge into Marx¬ ism made me understand the indispensable qualities which it lacked. Was the failure of the USSR necessary to bring me to think thus? The USSR merely gives form to my disenchantment. At first, one tries to tell oneself: it was infidelity that caused this failure. Then one hears the echo of those sinister words: “There is not a single revolution which ...” I am not a Marxist, they say that Marx himself exclaimed towards the end of his life. I like this sally. To my way of thinking it means: “I bring a new method and hot a recipe, nor a finished system which 1 These few reflections have been copied from my preface to Yvon’s book: L’URSS Telte quElle Est (Gallimard). Editors’ Note: Published in this country without Gide s preface as What Has Become of the Russian Revolution?

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thereupon exempts man from any further effort (I mean: from any effort of thought). Therefore, do not be limited by my words but go beyond them.” It has been too often said that Moliere made fun of medicine. Not at all: he made fun of doctors and what they had made out of medicine. Nor was he irritated by Aristotle, but by Aristotelianism. Nor by sci¬ ence, but by those men of learning of his day who, proceeding by syllogisms, lazily allowed a knowledge of formulas to take the place of a direct observation of nature. How many young Marxists today, sunk in the “dialectic,” swear by Marx as one used to swear by Aristotle! Their “culture” begins and ends with Marxism, which, they believe, permits them to understand everything, to judge everything. And everything which lies outside the scope of Marxism or is contradictory to it, they declare either trivial or bad. It is significant that certain pure Marxist theoreticians expect, hope for, and demand of society, and of the state, that which they do not even begin by achieving for themselves. For the Christian, the revo¬ lution occurs in himself. I wish I could say, begins in himself; but most often that revolution suffices him; while for the Marxist the revolution outside himself is enough. I should like to make these two efforts, these two effects complementary, and I think that often their opposi¬ tion is rather factitious. A constant need for reconciliation troubles me; it is a defect of my intelligence; it is perhaps a quality of my heart. I would like to marry Heaven and Hell, a la Blake, to resolve contradictions, and to see, generally speaking, only misunderstanding in the most destructive and murderous oppositions. “Individualism and communism . . . how can you pretend to reconcile these two antagonists even within your¬ self?” my friend R. M. de G. laughingly said to me. “They are water and fire.” But from their marriage steam is born. There is a tragic need to hate, which I feel everywhere nowadays; a need to set in opposition everything which should be understood and completed and fertilized and united. The most intransigeant op¬ position. Only destruction is born of this fostering of hate. One must beware of the illusion (for I believe it is an illusion) that the last years of life can be devoted to a more energetic search for God. With the progressive blunting of the senses, a sort of stupor numbs one’s being; and, as the outside world loses its lustre and its in-

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centives, one’s vigor fails; a certain dreary indifference takes possession of the spirit, already pruned like those trees which the woodcutter has prepared for felling. To feel that one is an “abnormal” person—I wept distractedly when I first made this discovery, but it was necessary to make the best of it, and I had already accepted the abnormal enough not to be much sur¬ prised when I had to recognize it in sexual questions. No; my astonish¬ ment came rather, when I discovered that, in this field at last, the abnormal (I mean by this: what had been handed out to me as such) was, on the whole, rather frequent. I experienced this feeling of being set apart when I was still young, when I realized that often I did not react like the others—like the common run of others. And after that, it is vain to humiliate oneself, wish to be one of the crowd, run oneself down, seek to submerge one¬ self in the mass and make oneself pleasing—one is still nonetheless a being apart. The child can experience this feeling when he is still very young, sometimes with sadness, sometimes even with anguish, and very rarely with joy. I see less well and my eyes tire more easily. Also my hearing is worse. I tell myself that it is undoubtedly a good thing that thus, little by little, there draws away from us a world which, if one would not find it too hard to leave, one would find it too hard to leave suddenly. The best thing would be, at the same time, to approach progressively . . . something else. Nothing is more futile than this thirst for learning which still tor¬ ments me. If I could only break with this habit of thinking that my time is wasted when I am not occupied! This continual escape into the thought of others, from fear also of finding myself alone with my own thoughts, is a form of laziness. I have come to congratulate myself on the weakness of my eyes which will soon refuse me too constant reading. It is ten o’clock in the evening. The day is scarcely over. I hear the last sounds of the farm. And now everything goes to sleep in a great silence. The bird which saVig so melodiously a few moments ago, is quiet. I tell myself every day, at all hours, that I have certainly not much longer to live. The thought of death never leaves me; it lives within me without depressing me.

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Every evening, after “Good night,” having retired to my big room, I remain a long time seated in an armchair, doing nothing. Usually, I read rather late into the night, but my eyes are tired and the light is poor. Then I let my thoughts drift at random; and I call that “medi¬ tating.” I have no more projects in my head, not one; and this in¬ activity of mind troubles me. I have always loved work and have found pleasure in effort. Perhaps (but it cannot be here, where nothing stimulates me to want anything) I will enjoy again some new impulse towards some end, some work to be done . . . but I tell myself some¬ times, often, that for the time being I have said what I have to say and that my cycle is closed. This is also why I shall depart without too much regret. (To be at odds with his times—there lies the raison d’etre of the artist.) And that is why I hardly admit that his only significant value is as a mirror. He moderates, opposes, leads. And that is also ‘why he is often not understood at first except by the few. (Sorrento) Nobility, grace, voluptuousness. For here no trace of softness accom¬ panies the joy of living. Among the luxurious vines, everywhere one sees the effort of man and the triumph of the spirit. In no other land, certainly, is there a happier marriage of vegetation and a bold archi¬ tecture, where often only the festooning vine tempers with a smile an excessive severity. Nobility: that word haunts me, in Italy—where the most sensual caress approaches spirituality. Everything pleases me—even the volcanic tufa at Sorrento, and these profound ravines, these crevasses, which must have a special name of their own in geology, one which I should like to know. They are due, it seems to me, not so much to erosion (although a little water still flows at the bottom of the gulf) but to some abrupt seismic break. The walls remain sheer like the quarries of Syracuse, with the same luxurious flowering at their base. But it seems even more plausi¬ ble, that the earth opens, like a bursting grenade, from the effect of the heat. I will never be able to say how much I owe to Italy or how deeply I was, and remain, in love with her. The buildings, the walls along the roads, are covered with inscrip¬ tions in gigantic letters; salutes to II Duce and quotations from his speeches—perfect slogans, admirably chosen and well fitted to arouse the youth, to enlist it. Above all, these three words: Believe, Obey, Fight, appear most frequently, as if conscious of summing up the very

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spirit of fascist doctrine. These words shed a certain light and show me, in the process, the proper “stand” for antifascism. And nothing brings more confusion than the adoption of this slogan by communism itself, which still pretends to be antifascist, but is no longer so, except out of political expediency, communism which asks recruits to the party to believe, to obey and to fight, without questioning, without criticism, with blind submission. Three fourths of the Italian inscrip¬ tions would be just as suitable on the walls of Moscow. They tell me that one can triumph over an adversary only on his own terrain, and only with his own arms, that sword must be opposed to sword (of which I am by no means convinced). It is necessary first of all and above all to oppose the spirit to the spirit, something which is seldom done any more. The historians of tomorrow will inquire how and why, the end having been swallowed up in the means, the communist spirit has ceased to oppose the fascist spirit and even to differentiate itself from it. I continue to read Abel Hermant with the liveliest interest. His article in this morning’s Figaro lends itself to discussion. “If Flaubert had lived until our time,” he says, “he would laugh a good deal at our ‘slogans,’ for he had a very special hatred for those ready-made phrases which we, today, call slogans in the American style.” The slogan is not exactly a “ready-made phrase”; it was originally a “battle cry” capable of rallying the members of a party. The word today designates any formulation which is concise, easy to remember because of its shortness, and apt to strike the imagination. Such are those phrases of Mussolini which cover the walls of Italy. Perhaps Flaubert might have admired these formulations; what made him indignant, was to see them accepted without criticism. But the formula-slogan does not necessarily hide a commonplace. The words of St. Francis de Sales, noted by Massis, form a slogan: “There is no ready-made saintness,” as does Malraux’s phrase: “Culture is not in¬ herited, it is won.” And Flaubert would have approved of them, for it is the “ready-made” to which he objects, all that is obtained without a struggle, or more precisely still, laziness and anything that favors it. Flaubert’s slogan: “I term bourgeois whoever thinks meanly,” seems to imply a great deal more than Abel Hermant recognizes. If I were to interpret it, I would say, In the name of Flaubert: I care very little about social classes ! There can be “bourgeois” people among the nobles just as well as among the workers and the poor. I recognize the bourgeois, not at all by his clothing or his social level, but by the level

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of his thoughts, and, to simplify, I should call anyone “bourgeois” who thinks meanly. And if Flaubert, in another slogan which Abel Hermant also quotes, adds: “The bourgeois hates literature,” I see in this phrase (much less of a “slogan” than the first), not what Abel Hermant sees in it: “Flaubert called bourgeois anyone who did not like what he was doing,” but rather, the bourgeois, that is to say: who¬ ever thinks meanly, hates the gratuitous, the disinterested, anything that he cannot use. He can only accept utilitarian art and literature and hates all that he cannot raise himself high enough to understand. Stendhal’s great secret, his real cleverness, is, that he writes imme¬ diately. His impetuous thought remains as living and as freshly colored as the butterfly which has just spread its wings, and which the collector has seized as it left the chrysalis. Add to that, a certain quality of alert¬ ness and spontaneity, of the unconventional, of the sudden and the naked, which always ravishes us anew in his style. One might say that his thought does not even stop to put on its shoes before running. This should be a good example; or rather, I should follow his good example more often. One is lost when one hesitates. Translating, for that rea¬ son, does one’s style no good. Since one is dealing with an alien way of thinking, it is a matter of warming over, of dressing up, and one goes looking for the best words, the best turns of expression; one is sure that no matter what is to be said, there are twenty ways of saying it, and that there is one preferable to all others. One adopts the bad habit of dissociating the form from the substance, emotion and the expression of emotion from thought, which should remain inseparable. For example, I would like to say now that: “If others wrote less, I should find greater pleasure in writing.” . . . Very well! It’s done! What better phrase could I find? It came to me first, it explains my thought perfectly. But my mind turns around it, examines it, criticizes it, and seeks to bring to bear against it that petty process of attrition and destruction which it were better to leave to time, which looks after such things. And in saying all this, I myself fall into the errors for which I reproach others. / What more do I want to say? That this superabundance of writings, of printed matter, stifles me, and that in Paris, where it is all piled up, overflowing from inadequate bookcases, on tables, chairs, and even the floor and everywhere, my thoughts can no longer move or breathe. I am like Pompeii under its deluge of ashes; and I do not wish, in writing myself, to add to the pile. And sometimes when I do open one of these new books, it always seems to me that the little which is true

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and new in it, would gain by being said more briefly—or might not be said at all. So that, when the desire to write overtakes me, I hesitate and ask myself: is that really worth saying? Haven’t others said it before me? Haven’t I said it already myself? And I am silent. 1939

\

The Americanism of Van Wyck Brooks BY

F.

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DUPEE

NEW ENGLAND has given to the United States its most literate body of native tradition, and educated Americans, regardless of their particular backgrounds, are always tending to become spiritual New Englanders. If the Yankee tradition is no longer very much alive, so much the worse for educated Americans. Of this type of native mind Van Wyck Brooks is an excellent example. It is true that years ago, as the spokesman of a city culture which was then just emerging in its strength. Brooks made a great effort to master the spiritual New Englander in himself. He did not quite carry it off; his Yankee alter ego has since taken entire pos¬ session of him. And it is now clear that he always owed to the older tradition a great many of his qualities—the restraint and conscience that have marked all his work; the taste for arduous scholarship; the rather elaborate prose which is the conscious register of his highlyorganized individuality; but above all the air of unworldiness, of con•secration, which comes perhaps from his allegiance to the New England principle of intensive cultivation. “The great thing is to be saturated with something,”

Henry James, another spiritual New

Englander, used to maintain. And Brooks has saturated himself with the problems of art and society in the United States. But it was another tendency of the rhapsodic Yankee strain to turn everybody— novelists, philosophers, critics, historians, naturalists—into poets; and Brooks, too, admirable though he is as a scholar and social critic, has always at bottom worked and thought in the manner commonly ascribed to poets. Like them he tends to see all experience in the light of a single overmastering situation, but in his case the great situation, the donnee, is associated with the vicissitudes of creative inspiration in the United States, with the difficulty of realizing oneself, not only as an artist in America, but as an American artist. The effort to reconcile art and society in terms of our national experience has 3 63



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accordingly dominated all his work, both the early and the late, and has given an otherwise episodic career an urgent inner consistency.

2

By working very hard a single important piece of territory a writer may earn, at the very least, the reputation of being a “phenomenon.” This has been the case with Brooks, yet it has always been hard to say just what kind of phenomenon he is. During the years when aestheticism was the prevailing literary creed, he used to be called, rather invidiously, a sociologist. But as sociology came to seem to us less alien and less of a mystery, it was decided that Brooks’ social insights were the by-products of a temperament primarily ethical. And people pointed to his Freeman essays, which showed that when hard-pressed by disappointments, as he appears to have been during the postwar years, he was capable of taking up a position of re¬ proachful righteousness barely distinguishable from that of the New Humanists, whom he had always assailed. Let us see to what extent these various distinctions were justified. Morality, it is true, is the socialism of the individualist, who seeks to extend to society at large the codes that have come to govern people in their individual rela¬ tionships. And Brooks has been as consistently an individualist as he has been consistently preoccupied with the larger questions of society. But in deriving his ethical ideas from the new psychology of the Unconscious, he broke in part with the philosophy of traditional moral individualists. Like them he continued to conceive society in, terms of an analogy with the structure of the human personality, but instead of picturing personality as a complex of higher and lower selves, as a Plato or an Arnold—moralists even in their psychology_ normally pictured it, Brooks saw in it the Freudian pattern of re¬ pression and sublimation. And this pattern, modified as much by vestiges in him of the old ethical severity as by elements of modern materialism, he extended to social experience; so that the United States often appeared to him as a case of “atrophied personality,” a “prodigious welter of unconscious life” which it was the task of the new intelligentsia to bring to consciousness. If Brooks was a sociologist he was first of all an individualist, and if he was something of a moralist he was primarily^ psychologist. In America where the middle class, filling the whole picture, had made life as precarious for specialized types of individuality as it had made it safe for the more standard varieties, it was natural that a

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critic like Brooks should seize upon, the new psychology, apply its insights to American writers of the past, and preach its ethic of selffulfillment to the writers of the present. His criticism had therefore its intimate connection with his time and place, and that connection we shall presently consider in detail. But let us first look at Brooks’ work in its more technical aspects. His generation was making a great point of the importance of being “creative,” a slogan which Brooks translated into his own medium, developing a criticism that had many of the qualities of imaginative literature. In form it was eloquent, concentrated, boldly thematic; and it carried the biographical method to a higher point of development than it had yet reached in American criticism. In a sense Brooks’ approach is merely a variant of methods employed by Sainte-Beuve and Taine, but it acquired a special char¬ acter through the intensity both of his individualism and of his pre¬ occupation with psychology. The questions of culture at large he approaches in terms of leading individuals; the work of single writers he considers in the light of their biography. Thus The Ordeal of Mark Twain, The Pilgrimage of Henry James, and The Life of Emerson are all attempts to characterize entire cultural periods through the experience of leading individuals; and even The Flowering of New England, as someone has said, is not so much a history as a composite biography. The biographical method is commonly used to cast light on the work of literature. With Brooks, however, this procedure is usually reversed. When he appeals to the work it is in order to confirm some theory about the man; the real object of his criticism is some¬ thing which might be described as a psycho-literary superpersonality; and at this he arrives by dissolving literature into biography in such a way that the concrete literary product, the work itself with its four walls and established furniture as given by its author, is often lost to view. And this is true concerning his treatment of the intellectual as well as the structural properties of literature. For all his vital interest in the New England tradition, he has never made it very clear just what transcendentalism, considered as a philosophy, really was. And surely it is a paradox of his career that he should have been so warm in his championship of the artist, yet so cold to the work of art, so ready to proclaim America’s intellectual poverty, yet in practice so indifferent to ideas. There have been many instances, of course, where Brooks’ critical methods involved no particular difficulties. The literary portraits in Our Poets were certainly not lacking in a vivid aesthetic concreteness, nor were they demonstrably inconsistent with the actual work of the

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authors concerned. But other books, notably the Pilgrimage and the Ordeal, have given rise to criticism on the grounds that the accom¬ plishment of James and Mark Twain was ignored or distorted. Let us consider these charges, taking up first The Pilgrimage of Henry James. This book, which seems to me somewhat better than its reputation, testifies to Brooks’ ability to say things of value and to raise important issues even when in his main argument he appears most mistaken. For on the whole the picture of James that emerged from the Pilgrimage seemed to be a deduction rather from Brooks’ general theory of literary nationalism than from the novels themselves, the latter having a complex irony which Brooks failed to take into account and which in the end seriously undermines his thesis. Yet it is curious that in this case Brooks did examine the novels, and one concludes, not that his method is necessarily faulty in itself, but that he possesses in any case a strongly metaphysical cast of mind. To the sober scholar in him there1 is yoked a visionary and the two have some trouble pulling together in harmony. A myth-maker on one side of his nature, he sometimes strikes us as being himself that very poet-prophet, that reincarnated Whitman, which he once had the habit of invoking; but on the other side he is a skeptic, a critic, and an historian. Of the conflict generated in him by this ambivalence there is further evidence in The Ordeal of Mark Twain. The general thesis here appears to me considerably sounder than that of the Pilgrimage; and in addition to having been a pioneer in the attempt to fuse the historical and Freudian perspectives, the Ordeal was a splendid example of closelytextured argument, analytical wit, and the restrained use of local color; and it would be hard indeed to forget its picture of Mark Twain, “that shorn Samson, led about by a little child, who in the profound somnolence of her spirit, was simply going through the motions of an inherited domestic piety.” Nevertheless the Ordeal has presented many difficulties to its readers. It is one thing to muckrake a period, as Brooks here so effectively muckrakes the genteel era, pointing out its stultifying effects on a writer of genius; but it\ is another thing again to assume that in happier conditions your writer would have been a Tolstoy. For that is more or less what Brooks does assume, and the result is that the historical Mark Twain is everywhere dogged by the shadow of ^n ideal or potential or Unconscious Mark Twain, a kind of spectral elder brother whose brooding presence is an eternal reproof to the mere author of Huckleberry Finn. In addition to being highly speculative. Brooks’ approach has the disadvantage of diverting him from what Mark Twain achieved in a positive sense

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through the cultivation, however fragmentary, of his plebeian sen¬ sibility. This achievement it was left to Ernest Hemingway and other practicing artists to discover for themselves.

3 But Brooks’ habit of using the materials of history and biography to construct didactic myths, literary lessons in the shape of parables, was probably the effect of the period in which he came to maturity and of what he was trying to accomplish in that period. Throughout the years of industrial revolution following the Civil War, writers in America had been consigned, some of them to a limbo of servility, others to virtual oblivion, depending on whether they accepted or embraced the prevailing standards of that iron age. However, when Brooks’ first volume appeared, in 1909, the old exploitative phalanx of American society had been for some years breaking up. There was a great increase of radical consciousness on the part of the masses, and intellectuals had taken advantage of the general ferment to assert once more the claims of the individual. And thus, for the first time since the fifties, there came into existence a body of professionals sufficiently independent, militant, and cohesive to be called an intelligentsia. This body had in a sense been the creation of the radical movement; it therefore applied itself to politics, as well, and evolved a special type in the shape of the muckraker. But this was only the first phase in the life of the new intelligentsia. Later on, in Brooks’ generation, a re¬ action set in against reformism, which had so plainly missed its mark, and writers turned from politics to literature. The “artist” thereupon supplanted the muckraker as the standard intellectual type; conscious¬ ness of self was cultivated in place of class consciousness; and writers set out to express and assert and fulfill themselves. Thus the old subjective ethos of romanticism, freshly implemented by modern psychology, was reborn in America some sixty years after the decline of Emersonianism. Perhaps nothing was more remarkable in Brooks than the flair for assimilation and synthesis which permitted him to bring to focus in his criticism all the chief tendencies of those decades. For most people at that time, politics and literature seemed to constitute a dichotomy, because, for one thing, the radical movement was even more deficient in literary culture than it is today, and for another the intellectuals lacked any unified theory of culture and society. For Brooks, too, in the long run, art and politics were to seem two separate universes;

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but his early criticism embodied a notable attempt to bring the two into a better relation and so to combine the ideals of the muckrakers with those of his own primarily esthetic generation. The actual political content of his criticism was vague and shifting; yet whenever he attempted a definite formulation it became clear that he regarded socialism as a precondition of the “creative life” in America. And in many respects his early writings provided the United States with its closest parallel to the social-democratic literatures then flourishing in Europe. Nevertheless Brooks was at heart a psychologist and he was to keep the morality of self-fulfillment squarely in the center of his work. Nor did his socialist convictions in the long run prevent him from con¬ ceiving art as a process essentially self-contained, commanding an area of experience to all purposes special and separate. He seems to have taken over from Carlyle and Ruskin the “organic” view of society while rejecting the faith in authoritarian institutions that usually goes with it; and the mysticism inherent in this view conflicted all along the line with the scientific perspectives of socialism, forcing upon him a kind of unsystematic dualism. Concerning the relation of politics to literature, then, he tended to conceive the first as a function of a material world, the second as an enterprise connected with a world of the spirit. But Brooks did not exploit the music of antinomies to the extent that it has been exploited by a Thomas Mann, and in practice his dualism merely meant that in his opinion intellectuals ought properly to keep clear of politics. They had. Brooks assured them, a special mission, which was to “articulate the whole life of the people” by supplying the United States with new myths and new values; and to this he advised them to apply themselves with the fervor of a con¬ secrated minority, a priesthood, as he said, or a hierarchy. In America as elsewhere it was an age that made much of seers and cosmic voca¬ tions. Writers were looking for prophets—particularly among them¬ selves. And every nation, every social group, considered itself to have a “special mission.” And if, in respect to his essential philosophy, Brooks was very similar to Ruskin and Arnold, he was a Ruskin or an Arnold brought up to date: the culture which they had advocated as social medicine, he endeavored to implement in terms of an organized intel¬ ligentsia. For it was an age, too, of heightened crisis and organized struggle in the field of social relations. It is true, as Maixists have maintained, that Brooks’ idea of spe¬ cialization had the effect of isolating intellectuals from the masses and of tetarding the development among them of a materialist view of the

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politico-literary relationship. But in his preoccupation with the in¬ telligentsia there was at the same time a value which ought not to be overlooked. More than anyone else, unless it was Randolph Bourne, he grasped the importance to America of the emergence of such a body. He understood what it could mean to the labor movement, and he knew, too, that the absence of such a phenomenon had for half a century inflicted great hardship on American artists, leaving them solitary and exposed in the arena of a hostile society. It was on the new intelligentsia, then, that Brooks set his hopes for the country’s future, to them that he addressed his case histories in literary frus¬ tration, his essays in diagnosis and prescription, in short the whole of that prodigious anatomy of the creative life which took shape in his early writings. And it is not without significance that when, even¬ tually, he ceased to enlighten, admonish, and inspire the intellectuals, he lost at the same time a good share of his intellectual vitality.In view of his socialist professions it is curious that Brooks came to concentrate so exclusively on conditions in a single country. He appears to have felt that in Europe the evils of capitalism had been somewhat mitigated by the social-democratic movement, a movement whose success he was inclined to attribute to the efforts of literary critics. The United States, on the other hand, was a full-blown cap¬ italist nation which possessed only the weak beginnings of a critical culture; and we must develop such a culture if we were ever to ex¬ perience a genuine social transformation. It was on some such rea¬ soning as this that Brooks tended to justify his exclusive concern with the United States, his tendency to idealize Europe, his habit of ascrib¬ ing to literary culture the decisive role in reformist politics. Proceeding always bv the rule of opposites, he thought of the United States as the antithesis of Europe in respect to the quality, the unity, and the social use-value of its culture. French culture, he pretended, had at the touch of Montaigne fallen together like a single organism; but America had larked a master-spirit, and here there had always existed, between literature and experience, theory and practice, a profound cleavage which ha4 affected for the worse both our intel¬ lectual and our daily life, condemning the first to impotent idealism and the second to stark materialism. From the beginning the High¬ brow and Low-brow had divided the country’s literature between them; an effective middle tradition had failed to make its appearance, and in default of the spiritual checks which such a tradition might have exercised. Big Business had got firmly into the saddle and the Acquisitive Life had prevailed over the Creative Life. And with the

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optimism of a latterday Whitman—the optimism of a generation pioneering in social aesthetics (they used indeed to declare that social reform constituted the new American “frontier”) as their fathers had pioneered in industry—Brooks foresaw a culture which should replace the obsolete hegemony of New England and represent the country in all its racial, class and sectional complexity.

4 It is true that on the programmatic side Brooks’ early writings were infected with the extravagance that is commonly generated by the “organic” conception of society. French critics, we have reason to believe, would be the first to disclaim any superunity in the culture supposedly begotten by Montaigne. As for America: its intractable minorities and far-flung regions have offered to the literary nationalist a problem so stubborn that it refuses to be solved short of a social reconstruction more profound than any envisaged by Brooks. But on the critical side his work, attracting to it all the severity of a mind divided between poles of skepticism and faith, was of a trenchancy and cleverness unprecedented in American writing. Our literature did actually suffer, as he maintained, from a split personality which ex¬ pressed itself in various idealistic chivalries on the one hand, and on the other in a plebeian vigor unlighted by consciousness. And surely, considering the provocation, Brooks was justified in preaching a bold skepticism. “It is of no use,” he told the patriots of his day, “to go off in a corner with American literature ... in a sulky, private sort of way, taking it for granted that if we give up world values we are entitled to our own little domestic rights and wrongs, criticism being out of place by the fireside.” Not that Brooks was the only cosmopol¬ itan critic of American letters; but where the New Humanists, for ex¬ ample, took as their standard of comparison the achievements of some remote Periclean or Racinian age, Brooks had the realism to fix upon the European literature of his time. Moreover, in his account of the Genteel Tradition as “the culture of an age of pioneering, the reflex of the spirit of material enterprise,” as in a whole range of similar insights, he went far toward situating the country’s cultural problems in a concrete atmosphere of social and economic forces. In the long run, however, the value ol^ his early work seems mainly to lie in the skill and courage with which he isolated the data of intellectual maturity in America. In his hands the High-brow-Low-brow antithesis served rather as a descriptive than as an analytical tool. And what he

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really produced was a kind of symptomology sprinkled with clues and half-clues, with partial explanations, with portents adduced as causes and causes in the guise of portents. The materialist in him was always coming into conflict with the “organic” visionary, the social historian with the psychologist. Accustomed to conceiving matter and spirit in the shape of an antithesis, he never attained a stable view of cultural phenomena; and his lack of clarity on this point caused his criticism to veer back and forth between extremes of free will and determinism, so that while it seemed to him at times that the single writer might change the world unaided, at other times it appeared that we were very much at history’s mercy. Furthermore, psychology came to domi¬ nate his thought to the extent that he ended by giving the impression that he wanted to fasten upon American writers a cultural inferiority complex; and it was probably this impression rather than simply the severity of his critiques per se that helped to bring him intd partial eclipse in later years. And he was finally to pay in the unprofitable coin of centrism and compromise the price of his synthetic ambitions. His work would presently appear to belong neither to the sphere of literary criticism nor to the sphere of realistic social analysis. When he had finished trying to reconcile politics and literature, mysticism and science, he was left with an ideology as diffuse as that of an Emerson or a Whitman; and he seemed, like them, to belong to some more primi¬ tive stage of American society, the intellectual disorder of whose prophets signified a lack of urgent pressures in the age itself. Even Gide and Mann, accomplished dialecticians and great writers, have not really achieved universality in our time: they have merely under¬ gone a series of significant conversions. And Brooks, endeavoring to embrace the Whole, ended by losing touch with its parts, his sen¬ sibility acquired'a certain abstractness; and in time he was to seem almost the type of that Liberal critic whom T. S. Eliot from one angle, and Mencken from another, were to assail with so much effectiveness.

/

5

The fate of Brooks’ ideas was to receive a kind of summing-up, con¬ centrated and dramatic, in the brief career of the Seven Arts review. Appearing in the fall of igi6, The Seven Arts had Brooks as its chief spokesman, his theme being the necessity of a national literature for an America made acutely conscious of its individuality by the war in Europe. But a year later, America having entered the war, The Seven Arts showed a growing distaste for the struggle and was obliged to

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cease publication. Meanwhile, however, Randolph Bourne had all but supplanted Brooks as spokesman, and Bourne’s theme was, more and more, the social revolution. What had happened to push The

Seven Arts, in a single year, from literary nationalism to literary revo¬ lutionism? Had we come of age in a world already too far advanced in decay? Had the United States, in attaining to the level of the great powers, likewise fallen heir to a condition of crisis common to the entire capitalist world? This was more or less what had happened, as we can see in retrospect. Nationalism, having simply turned into a sordid imperialism, could no longer inspire a literature. Nor could the idea of the organic society survive the violent manifestations of a period of general revolution. The Seven Arts, in its rapid transition, was a fair register of the fact that ideas could appear viable at one moment, only to be swept the next into obsolescence. The war had witnessed America’s maturing as a world power: would we by the same token “catch up’’ with the elder nations in a cultural sense? To Brooks, at least, it began very shortly to appear that we would not. In America as elsewhere literature’s response to war and crisis was both violent and immediate. And the centrifugal tendencies which it developed were the reverse of what Brooks had preached and anticipated. Writers who, like Bourne and Reed, shared his social idealism, were steered by its logic towards socialist theory and politics. There remained the literary majority which, in the main hostile to all politics, was split between two groups. First there was the expatriate generation who, in addressing themselves to their aristocratic cult of poetry and form, pretty much ignored America. And second, there were the “Titans” who were presently to found the Mercury and who stayed in this country, as Mencken boldly confessed, solely in order to make merry at the spectacle of its foolishness. In the United States itself the aftermath of the war witnessed the definitive triumph of Bohemia over the universities and other centers of genteel culture. Instead of merging with the High-brow to produce a middle tradition, the Low-brow staged a coup d’etat. Debunking replaced the respectable profession of muckraking. The common man, whom Brooks had re¬ spected as an element in his proposed national synthesis, was now to be widely scorned as a simple moron. And if Brooks had taken issue with Dreiser on the grounds^that his determinism prevented his fiction from qualifying as healthy social realism, he was now to be faced with a whole generation of Dreisers. In America, in short, there was none of the philosophical skepticism which Brooks had advocated but only the

fashionable pessimism” (as he said) of parvenu plebeians, the

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virulent laughter of irresponsible satirists. And among the exiles there was an atmosphere of “fashionable pedantry,” reactionary metaphysics, symbolist mystification—and Brooks had never cared much for sym¬ bolism. The age of prophets and special missions had largely passed. The present age demanded of its artists and critics above all a concrete literary consciousness. And Brooks was in no position either to sym¬ pathize with its aims or to fulfill its demands. The papers he wrote for the Freeman in the early twenties, and in a less direct way the biog¬ raphies of Mark Twain and Henry James, were an index to his opinion of the times. As for the opinion that came generally to be held of him: it was not long before people began to complain that “for all his apparent enthusiasm for the artist, he does not seem vitally in¬ terested in art when it appears.” He fails to criticize, they said, he merely exhorts. And “the development of young artists is not achieved through exhortation.” These strictures were made by Paul Rosenfeld in the mid-twenties. They reveal the strongly experimental cast of the decade on which Brooks, with his theoretical temper, had had the misfortune to fall. 6 In The Pilgrimage of Henry James he remarked that to the author of The Ambassadors Europe had remained “a fairy-tale to the end.” This was scarcely just to James but it showed the high value which Brooks himself, in 1925, still placed on the critical spirit. But the years that followed were to witness his rapid retreat from this position. In 1920 he had published The Ordeal of Mark Twain, which was followed some years later by the Pilgrimage, and then after a long interval by The Life of Emerson. These books, which, together with the Freeman papers, constitute a transition between the eailier and later work, show Brooks in the process of trying to thrash his way out of the isolation in which he had landed. Someone has compared the three biographies to the phases of the Hegelian dialectic, Mark Twain figuring as the “thesis,” Henry James as the “antithesis,” and Emerson as the “synthesis.” But note that this is a dialectic that opens out toward the past. Brooks is intent not only upon making studies in literary frustration, nor only upon furnishing the twenties with didactic parables (there is reason to think that the Ordeal, with its stress upon Mark Twain’s immature and unreasoned pessimism, was aimed at the Menckenites, as the Pilgrimage, elaborating on the ex¬ patriate sensibility, is directed at Eliot’s generation), but he is also intent upon discovering the ideal American writer. And he finds him

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at last in the man of old Concord, the “barbaric sage” as W. C. Brownell had called him. And from the rediscovery of Emerson there follows a transfiguration of Emerson’s entire society. Brooks has found the key to American literature; he begins to write a cultural history in several volumes, the first of which turns out to be a chronicle, charm¬ ing as literature, largely fabulous as history, of the creative life in New England. The present has failed us, it is evil; doesn’t the past, then, by the law of contraries become good? The modern world has proven to be sadly incoherent; let us seek the organic virtues in the little premetropolitan half-agrarian universe of Concord and Boston. It was a springtime culture and spring is always virtuous. And if any¬ one feels disposed to remind us of “world values,” let us reply that “we are entitled to our own little domestic rights and wrongs, criticism being out of place by the fireside.” Prefigured in the closing chapters of the Pilgrimage (it was Brooks much more than James who longed to take passage for America), his nostalgia begins to affect his style and the very structure of his work. The pointed, argumentative, and analytical manner gives way to a prose of anecdote and local color, a blur of sensuous matter, a dream¬ like pastiche of remembered quotations. And one feels that Brooks has affixed to his camera a soft-focus filter. A comparison of the early and later work reveals, then, an astonish¬ ing reversal of opinion in respect to the achievement of New England. “An age of rude, vague, boisterous, dyspeptic causes” was the way he had formerly characterized that time. Its puritanism he had described as “a noble chivalry to which provinciality was almost a condition.” Its Ripleys and Danas and Alcotts had seemed “a queer miasmatical group of lunar phenomena.” Longfellow had been “an expurgated German student,” whom it was silly to approach critically. And Haw¬ thorne for all his charm had felt life “rather as a phantom than as a man.”1 But already in The Life of Emerson Hawthorne has become “a reminder as it were of some vast Cimmerian universe ... a real Sphinx, with a subterranean self buried fathoms deep in the desert sand.” What has happened is that Hawthorne has altered not so much in kind as in scale; he has been blown up to enormous stature in order that he may play the Prince of Darkness to Emerson’s Son of Light in a kind of veiled cosmological allegory that runs all through the Life. And if Hawthorne, once a little less than a man, is capable of becom¬ ing something only short of a god, we can imagine how it will be with Emerson. As New England’s chief intelligence Emerson had always 1 These quotations are mostly taken from America’s Coming of Age

(1915).

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figured to Brooks as the personification of a tradition shot through with false sublimities and seriously deficient in experience of life. And for Emerson, consequently, were reserved the most brilliant pages in

America’s Coming of Age. “A strange fine ventriloquism ... a con¬ tinual falsetto . . . abstract at the wrong times and concrete at the wrong times ... he could write page after page about a poet or painter without one intelligibly apt utterance ... he was not in¬ terested in human life; he cared nothing for emotion, possessing so little himself ... all the qualities of the typical baccalaureate ser¬ mon.” And so on. But compare this portrait with the estimate of Emerson’s virtues implied (for, as in the case of Hawthorne, it is only implied) in the Life and The Flowering of New England. Here the author of Representative Men has become a veritable embodiment of the creative spirit, a Yankee Balder. His prose evokes images of moun¬ tain streams, his passage through the New England world is' accom¬ panied by the springing up of greenery and flowers. A few reservations are necessary, however, if we are to see Brooks’ two periods in a proper light. Needless to say he was never a debunker, even in his most militant phase, and the severity of his judgments on the New England school was plentifully sweetened with qualification. Indeed he was the writer of his generation who strove hardest to play the mediator between past and present. And if he stressed the short¬ comings of the Yankee tradition it was because that tradition seemed at best a sectional phenomenon and because it had come to block the growth of a larger intellectual consciousness in America. Nor would we be justified in overlooking the very considerable merits of Brooks’ latest work. The Life may seem a rather flimsy and Stracheyan per¬ formance, but surely the Flowering has notable qualities considered as a literary exercise and a piece of scholarly investigation. The open¬ ing chapters, dealing with the birth of the artistic spirit in a young nation,

and the

closing pages,

describing Lowell

and Holmes

as

characters of the Yankee twilight, cause the book to be enclosed in a frame of excellent criticism. But in the absence of any such criticism in the case of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the rest, the frame only serves to set off a certain sponginess in the picture itself. Here, then, is a New England crowded with creative spirits but virtually bare of masterpieces, for Brooks has given up almost entirely the practice of correlating biography with literature. And here, above all, is a New England purged of conflict and contradiction, presented as an idyll of single-hearted effort; for Brooks has likewise given up the habit of correlating literary enterprise with social history. His per-

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spective as a man of the twentieth century, his values as a socialist and an historian, both have gone by the board in the interests of an impressionistic immediacy, and we are invited to survey the New Eng¬ land renaissance through the eyes of some actual participant, some breathless Lyceum ticket-holder of the period. Accordingly the Flowering represents not so much an explicit re¬ vision of Brooks’ earlier judgments as a shift to a sphere where critical judgment operates only by implication. The Yankee culture has been lifted from the plane of “world values,” where it shows as very small and incomplete, into an historical void where it becomes as great as you please. Indeed it is symptomatic of Brooks’ present tendency that he nowhere tries to come to terms with his earlier work or to offer a reasonable explanation of the apparent disjunction between his two periods. The most he has done along these lines has been to remark, in the preface to a reissue of three early essays, that the judgments of his first period were the indiscretions of a youth bent on following an iconoclastic fashion. A fashion! So much then for the ardors, the sin¬ cerities, the hopes that went into America’s Coming of Age. In dis¬ pensing with a rational view of American history it seems that he has lost the desire to make sense of his own history. And it is difficult to guess what course he will follow in the forth¬ coming installments of his chronicle. The Flowering was founded on a sharp distinction between past and present, and in the epilogue he endeavored to furnish his antimodernism with a theoretical frame¬ work by appealing to Spengler’s systematization of the celebrated anti¬ mony between “culture” and “civilization.” But Brooks’ latest utter¬ ances suggest that a further shift has occurred and that in his mind the antithesis between New England and the megalopolis may have been replaced in importance by an antithesis between America, con¬ ceived as a politico-cultural totality,

and fascist Europe.

He

has

recently published the transcript of an address delivered to the Con¬ necticut

chapter

Americans,

of

the

League

of

American

Writers.

“We

are

he assures the Connecticut writers, “and Americans are

born free.” We have a national tradition and it is intrinsically demo¬ cratic, and as for collectivism: of course Americans are collectivists! Franklin and J. Q. Adams were collectivists. Our revolution was fought in the name of collectivism^ And isn’t the League of American Writers a collectivity? Needless to say, by the time Brooks has finished playing on the word it has shed all historical meaning. "We are prepared to show that this countiy can do something better than fascism or com¬ munism,

he boasts, and he concludes: “It is something to win the

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proletariat, but the writers of this state have got to win the swells, who are the farmers. ... In order to win them, you have got to learn their language, for theirs is the sacred language of this country, as difficult for outsiders to learn as Hebrew or Sanskrit.” The Flowering, orderly and elevated in its temper, has not prepared us for the incoherence of these remarks, the bellicose resonance of the allusions to “this country,” the snobbish mystification involved in the appeals to a secret Yankee language. Translated into current politics, the nostalgia of the Flowering turns out to resemble the speeches at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon—a combination of gala rhetoric and inscrutable reasoning. There is an element of the comedy of mistaken identity in Brooks’ rapprochement with rural Connecticut (one had supposed that region to be monopolized by Polish farmers and contributors to The New

Republic); and even more in his collaboration with a latter-day brand of democratic-communism which, although he underwrites its demo¬ cratic professions and rejects its communist ones, is in fact neither democratic nor communist. But in other respects the later phases of this career are matter for serious regret. The writer who began by calling into question the prevailing American standards, today ends by affirming them. The powerful critic of the United States has turned into a zealous curator of its antiquities. And in order finally to accom¬ plish his great purpose of reconciling the artist with American society he has had recourse to an already distant past, and a past, moreover, which is largely the projection of his own fancy. Thus in the end the United States has become to Van Wyck Brooks the fairy-tale it never was to Henry James: for whatever may have been the attitude of James to Europe, it is certain that he had no illusions about middle-class America. In his own career, as formerly in his writings. Brooks has illustrated the difficulty of maintaining a strict intellectual position in the welter of American life. And his development has reproduced the circular pattern of the entire modern movement in American letters. Yet his is not strictly speaking a case of literary frustration nor can it be ex¬ plained in purely national terms. It is a case rather of the liberal writer who, in order to avoid meeting on their own grounds the virulent problems of the epoch, has felt it necessary to revert, as he used to say of others, “to ancestral attitudes,” to permit the spiritual New Englander in him to absorb the modern critic, the visionary to consume the skeptic.

1939

Avant-Garde and Kitsch BY

CLEMENT

GREENBERG

ONE AND the same civilization produces simultaneously two such different things as a poem by T. S. Eliot and a Tin Pan Alley song, or a painting by Braque and a Saturday Evening Post cover. All four are on the order of culture, and ostensibly, parts of the same culture and products of the same society. Here, however, their connection seems to end. A poem by Eliot and a poem by Eddie Guest—what perspective of culture is large enough to enable us to situate them in an enlightening relation to each other? Does the fact that a disparity such as this within the frame of a single cultural tradition, is and has been taken for granted—does this fact indicate that the disparity is a part of the natural order of things? Or is it something entirely new, and particular to our age? The answer involves more than an investigation in aesthetics. It appears to me that it is necessary to examine more closely and with more originality than hitherto

the relationship

between

aesthetic

experience as met by the specific—not generalized—individual, and the social and historical contexts in which that experience takes place. What is brought to light will answer, in addition to the question posed above, other and perhaps more important ones.

1 A society, as it becomes less and less able, in the course of its development, to justify the inevitability of its particular forms, breaks up the accepted notions upon which artists and writers must depend in large part for communication with their audiences. It becomes difficult to assume anything. All the verities involved by religion, authority, tradition, style, ^re thrown into question, and the writer or artist is no longer able to estimate the response of his audience to the symbols and references with which he works. In the past such a state of affairs has usually resolved itself into a motionless Alex378

CLEMENT

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andrianism, an academicism in which the really important issues are left untouched because they involve controversy, and in which creative activity dwindles to virtuosity in the small details of form, all larger questions being decided by the precedent of the old masters. The same themes are mechanically varied in a hundred different works, and yet nothing new is produced: Statius, mandarin verse, Roman sculpture, Beaux Arts painting, neo-republican architecture. It is among the hopeful signs in the midst of the decay of our present society that we—some of us—have been unwilling to accept this last phase for our own culture. In seeking to go beyond Alexandrianism, a part of Western bourgeois society has produced some¬ thing unheard of heretofore:

avant-garde culture. A superior con¬

sciousness of history—more precisely, the appearance of a new kind of criticism of society, an historical criticism—made this possible. This criticism has not confronted our present society with timeless utopias, but has soberly examined in the terms of history and of cause and effect the antecedents, justifications, and functions of the forms that lie at the heart of every society. Thus our present bourgeois social order was shown to be, not an eternal, “natural” condition of life, but simply the latest term in a succession of social orders. New perspectives of this kind, becoming a part of the advanced intellectual conscience of the fifth and sixth decades of the nineteenth century, soon were absorbed by artists and poets, even if unconsciously for the most part. It was no accident, therefore, that the birth of the avantgarde coincided chronologically—and geographically too—with the first bold development of scientific revolutionary thought in Europe. True, the first settlers of bohemia—which was then identical with the avant-garde—turned out soon to be demonstratively uninterested in politics.

Nevertheless, without

the

circulation of revolutionary

ideas in the air about them, they would never have been able to isolate their concept of the “bourgeois” in order to define what they were not. Nor, without the moral aid of revolutionary political atti¬ tudes would they have had the courage to assert themselves as aggres¬ sively as they did against the prevailing standards of society. Courage indeed was needed for this, because the avant-garde’s emigration from bourgeois society to bohemia meant also an emigration from the markets of capitalism, upon which artists and writers had been thrown by the falling away of aristocratic patronage. (Ostensibly, at least, it meant this—meant starving in a garret—although, as will be shown later, the avant-garde remained attached to bourgeois society precisely because it needed its money.)

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Yet it is true that once the avant-garde had succeeded in “detach¬ ing” itself from society, it proceeded to turn around and repudiate revolutionary as well as bourgeois politics. The revolution was left inside society, a part of that welter of ideological struggle which art and poetry find so unpropitious as soon as it begins to involve those “precious,” axiomatic beliefs upon which culture thus far has had to rest. Hence it was developed that the true and most important func¬ tion of the avant-garde was not to “experiment,” but to find a path along which it would be possible to keep culture moving in the midst of ideological confusion and violence. Retiring from public altogether, the avant-garde poet or artist sought to maintain the high level of his art by both narrowing and raising it to the expression of an absolute in which all relativities and contradictions would be either resolved or beside the point: “Art for art’s sake” and “pure poetry” appear, and sub¬ ject matter or content becomes something to be avoided like a plague. It has been in search of the absolute that the avant-garde has arrived at “abstract” or “nonobjective” art—and poetry, too. The avant-garde poet or artist tries in effect to imitate God by creating something valid solely on its own terms in the way nature itself is valid, in the way a landscape not its picture—is aesthetically valid; something given, increate, independent of meanings, similars, or originals. Content is to be dissolved so completely into form that the work of art or litera¬ ture cannot be reduced in whole or in part to anything not itself. But the absolute is absolute, and the poet or artist, being what he is, chei ishes certain relative values more than others. The very values in the name of which he invokes the absolute are relative values, the values of aesthetics. And so he turns out to be imitating, not God— and here I use imitate in its Aristotelian sense—but the disciplines and processes of art and literature themselves. This is the genesis of the abstract.”1 In turning his attention away from subject matter of 1 The example of music, which has long been an abstract art, and which avantgarde poetry has tried so much to emulate, is interesting. Music, Aristotle said curi¬ ously enough, is the most imitative and vivid of all arts because it imitates its original the state of the soul—with the greatest immediacy. Today this strikes us as the exact opposite of the truth, because no art seems to us to have less reference to something outside itself than music. However, aside from the fact that in a sense Aristotle may still be right, it must be explained that ancient Greek music was closely associated with poetry, and depended upon its character as an accessory to verse to make its imitative meaning clear. Plato, speaking of music, says: “For when there are no words, it is very difficult to recognize the meaning of the harmony and rhythm, or to see that any worthy object is imitated by them.” As far as we know, all music originally served such an accessory function. Once, however, it was abandoned, music was forced to withdraw into itself to find a constraint or original. This is found in the various means of its own composition and performance^

CLEMENT

GREENBERG

3 8 1

common experience, the poet or artist turns it in upon the medium of his own craft. The nonrepresentational or “abstract,” if it is to have aesthetic validity, cannot be arbitrary and accidental, but must stem from obedience to some worthy constraint or original. This constraint, once the world of common, extraverted experience has been renounced, can only be found in the very processes or disciplines by which art and literature have already imitated the former. These themselves become the subject matter of art and literature. If, to continue with Aristotle, all art and literature are imitation, then what we have here is the imitation of imitating. To quote Yeats: “Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence.” Picasso, Braque, Mondrian, Miro, Kandinsky, Brancusi, even Klee, Matisse, and Cezanne, derive their chief inspiration from the medium they work in.2 The excitement of their art seems to lie most of all in its pure preoccupation with the invention and arrangement of spaces, surfaces, shapes, colors, etc., to the exclusion of whatever is not neces¬ sarily implicated in these factors. The attention of poets like Rimbaud, Mallarme, Valery, Eluard, Pound, Hart Crane, Stevens, even Rilke and Yeats, appears to be centered on the effort to create poetry and on the “moments” themselves of poetic conversion rather than on ex¬ perience to be converted into poetry. Of course, this cannot exclude other preoccupations in their work, for poetry must deal with words, and words must communicate. Certain poets, such as Mallarme and Valery,3 are more radical in this respect than others—leaving aside those poets who have tried to compose poetry in pure sound alone. However, if it were easier to define poetry, modern poetry would be much more “pure” and “abstract.” ... As for the other fields of literature_the definition of avant-garde aesthetics advanced here is no Procrustean bed. But aside from the fact that most of oui best con¬ temporary novelists have gone to school with the avant-garde, it is significant that Gide’s most ambitious book is a novel about the writ¬ ing of a novel, and that Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake seem to be above all, as one French critic says, the reduction of experience to 2 1 owe this formulation to a remark made by Hans Hofmann, the art teacher, in one of his lectures. From the point of view of this formulation surrealism in plastic art is a reactionary tendency which is attempting to restore “outside” sub¬ ject matter. The chief concern of a painter like Dali is to represent the processes and concepts of his consciousness, not the processes of his medium. 3 See Valery’s remarks about his own poetry.

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expression for the sake of expression, the expression mattering more than what is being expressed. That avant-garde culture is the imitation of imitating—the fact itself—calls for neither approval nor disapproval. It is true that this culture contains within itself some of the very Alexandrianism it seeks to overcome. The lines quoted from Yeats above referred to Byzantium, which is very close to Alexandria; and in a sense this imitation of imitating is a superior sort of Alexandrianism. But there is one most important difference: the avant-garde moves, while Alex¬ andrianism stands still. And this, precisely, is what justifies the avantgarde’s methods and makes them necessary. The necessity lies in the fact that by no other means is it possible today to create art and lit¬ erature of a high order. To quarrel with necessity by throwing about terms like “formalism,” “purism,” “ivory tower,” and so forth is either dull or dishonest. This is not to say, however, that it is to the social advantage of the avant-garde that it is what it is. Quite the opposite. The avant-garde’s specialization of itself, the fact that its best artists are artists’ artists, its best poets, poets’ poets, has estranged a great many of those who were capable formerly of enjoying and appre¬ ciating ambitious art and literature, but who are now unwilling or unable to acquire an initiation into their craft secrets. The masses have always remained more or less indifferent to culture in the process of development. But today such culture is being abandoned by those to whom it actually belongs—our ruling class. For it is to the latter that the avant-garde belongs. No culture can develop without a social basis, without a source of stable income. And in the case of the avantgarde this was provided by an elite among the ruling class of that society from which it assumed itself to be cut off, but to which it has always remained attached by an umbilical cord of gold. The paradox is real. And now this elite is rapidly shrinking. Since the avant-garde forms the only living culture we now have, the survival in the near future of culture in general is thus threatened. We must not be deceived by superficial phenomena and local suc¬ cesses. Picasso’s shows still draw crowds, and T. S. Eliot is taught in the universities; the dealers in modernist art are still in business, and the publishers still publish some

difficult

poetry. But the avant-garde

itself, already sensing the danger, is becoming more and more timid every day that passes. Academicism and commercialism are appearing in the stiangest places. This can mean only one thing: that the avantgarde is becoming unsure of the audience it depends on—the rich and the cultivated.

CLEMENT

3 8 3

GREENBERG

Is it the nature itself of avant-garde, culture that is alone responsible for the danger it finds itself in? Or is that only a dangerous liability? Are there other, and perhaps more important, factors involved?

2

Where there is an avant-garde, generally we also find a rear-guard. True enough—simultaneously with the entrance of the avant-garde, a second new cultural phenomenon appeared in the industrial West: that thing to which the Germans give the wonderful name of Kitsch: popular, commercial art and literature with their chromeotypes, maga¬ zine covers, illustrations, ads, slick and pulp fiction, comics. Tin Pan Alley music, tap dancing, Hollywood movies, etc., etc. For some reason this gigantic apparition has always been taken for granted. It is time we looked into its whys and wherefores. Kitsch is a product of the industrial revolution which urbanized the masses of western Europe and America and established what is called universal literacy. Previous to this the only market for formal culture, as distinguished from folk culture, had been among those who in addition to being able to read and write could command the leisure and comfort that always goes hand in, hand with cultivation of some sort. This until then had been inextricably associated with literacy. But with the introduction of universal literacy, the ability to read and write became almost a minor skill like driving a car, and it no longer served to distinguish an individual s cultural inclinations, since it was no longer the exclusive concomitant of refined tastes. The peasants who settled in the cities as proletariat and petty bourgeois learned to read and write for the sake of efficiency, but they did not win the leisure and comfort necessary for the enjoyment of the city s traditional culture. Losing, nevertheless, their taste for the folk culture whose background was the countryside, and discovering a new capacity for boredom at the same time, the new urban masses set up a pressure on society to provide them with a kind of culture fit for their own consumption. To fill the demand of the new market a new commodity was devised: ersatz culture, kitsch, destined for those who, insensible to the values of genuine culture, are hungry nevertheless for the diversion that only culture of some sort can provide. Kitsch, using for raw material the debased and academicized simu¬ lacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates this insensibility. It is the source of its profits. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by

3 84

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formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money—not even their time. The precondition for kitsch, a condition without which kitsch would be impossible, is the availability close at hand of a fully matured cultural tradition, whose discoveries, acquisitions, and per¬ fected self-consciousness kitsch can take advantage of for its own ends. It borrows from it devices, tricks, stratagems, rules of thumb, themes, converts them into a system, and discards the rest. It draws its life blood, so to speak, from this reservoir of accumulated experience. This is what is really meant when it is said that the popular art and literature of today were once the daring, esoteric art and literature of yesterday. Of course, no such thing is true. What is meant is that when enough time has elapsed the new is looted for new “twists,” which are then watered down and served up as kitsch. Self-evidently, all kitsch is academic, and conversely, all that’s academic is kitsch. For what is called the academic as such no longer has an independent existence, but has become the stuffed-shirt front” for kitsch. The methods of industrialism displace the handicrafts. Because it can be turned out mechanically, kitsch has become an integral part of our productive system in a way in which true culture could never be except accidentally. It has been capitalized at a tre¬ mendous investment which must show commensurate returns; it is compelled to extend as well as to keep its markets. While it is essen¬ tially its own salesman, a great sales apparatus has nevertheless been created for it, which brings pressure to bear on every member of society. Traps are laid even in those areas, so to speak, that are the preserves of genuine culture. It is not enough today, in a country like ours, to have an inclination toward the latter; one must have a true passion for it that will give him the power to resist the faked article that surrounds and presses in on him from the moment he is old enough to look at the funny papers. Kitsch is deceptive. It has many different levels, and some of them are high enough to be dangerous to the naive seeker of true light. A magazine like the New Yorker, which is fundamentally high-class^ kitsch for the luxury trade, converts and waters down a great deal of avant-garde material for its own uses Nor is every single item of kitsch altogether worthless. Now and then it produces something of merit, something that has an authentic folk

CLEMENT

GREENBERG

3 85

flavor; and these accidental and isolated instances have fooled people who should know better. Kitsch’s enormous profits are a source of temptation to the avantgarde itself, and its members have not always resisted this temptation. Ambitious writers and artists will modify their work under the pressure of kitsch, if they do not succumb to it entirely. And then those puzzling borderline cases appear, such as the popular novelist, Simenon, in France, and Steinbeck in this country. The net result is always to the detriment of true culture, in any case. Kitsch has not been confined to the cities in which it was born, but has flowed out over the countryside, wiping out folk culture. Nor has it shown any regard for geographical and national-cultural boundaries. Another mass product of Western industrialism, it has gone on a triumphal tour of the world, crowding out and defacing native cul¬ tures in one colonial country after another, so that it is now 'by way of becoming a universal culture, the first universal culture ever beheld. Today the Chinaman, no less than the South American Indian, the Hindu, no less than the Polynesian, have come to prefer to the prod¬ ucts of their native art, magazine covers, rotogravure sections, and calendar girls. How is this virulence of kitsch, this irresistible attrac¬ tiveness, to be explained? Naturally, machine-made kitsch can under¬ sell the native handmade article, and the prestige of the West also helps, but why is kitsch a so much more profitable export article than Rembrandt? One, after all, can be reproduced as cheaply as the other. In his article on the Soviet cinema in the Partisan Review, Dwight Macdonald points out that kitsch has in the last ten years become the dominant culture in Soviet Russia. For this he blames the political regime—not only for the fact that kitsch is the official culture, but also that it is actually the dominant, most popular culture; and he quotes the following from Kurt London s The Seven Soviet Arts: “. . . the attitude of the masses both to the old and new art styles probably remains essentially dependent on the nature of the education afforded them by their respective states.” Macdonald goes on to say: ‘‘Why after all should ignorant peasants prefer Repin (a leading exponent of Russian academic kitsch in painting) to Picasso, whose abstract technique is at least as relevant to their own primitive folk art as is the former’s realistic style? No, if the masses crowd into the Tretyakov (Moscow’s museum of contemporary Russian art: kitsch) it is largely because they have been conditioned to shun ‘for¬ malism’ and to admire ‘socialist realism.’ ” In the first place it is not a question of a choice between merely the

THE

3 8 6

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old and merely the new, as London seems to think—but of a choice between the bad, up-to-date old and the genuinely new. The alter¬ native to Picasso is not Michelangelo, but kitsch. In the second place, neither in backward Russia nor in the advanced West do the masses prefer kitsch simply because their governments condition them toward it. Where state educational systems take the trouble to mention art, we are told to respect the old masters, not kitsch; and yet we go and hang Maxfield Parrish or his equivalent on our walls, instead of Rembrandt and Michelangelo. Moreover, as Macdonald himself points out, around 1925 when the Soviet regime was encouraging avant-garde cinema, the Russian masses continued to prefer Hollywood movies. No, “conditioning” does not explain the potency of kitsch. . . . All values are human values, relative values, in art as well as else¬ where. Yet there does seem to have been more or less of a general agreement among the cultivated of mankind over the ages as to what is good art and what bad. Taste has varied, but not beyond certain limits:

contemporary

connoisseurs

agree

with

eighteenth-century

Japanese that Hokusai was one of the greatest artists of his time; we even agree with the ancient Egyptians that Third and Fourth Dynasty art was the most worthy of being selected as their paragon by those who came after. We may have come to prefer Giotto to Raphael, but we still do not deny that Raphael was one of the best painters of his

time. There has been an agreement then, and this agreement rests, I believe, on a fairly constant distinction made between those values only to be found in art and the values which can be found elsewhere. Kitsch, by virtue of rationalized technique that draws on science and industry, has erased this distinction in practice. Let us see for example what happens when an ignorant Russian peasant such as Macdonald mentions stands with hypothetical freedom of choice before two paintings, one by Picasso, the other by Repin. In the first he sees, let us say, a play of lines, colors, and spaces that represent a woman. The abstract technique—to accept Macdonald’s supposition, which I am inclined to doubt—reminds him somewhat of the icons he has left behind him in the village, and he feels the attraction of the familiar. We will even suppose that he faintly sur¬ mises some of the great art values the cultivated find in Picasso. He turns next to Repin s picture and sees a battle scene. The technique is not so familiar—as technique. But that weighs very little with the peasant, foi he suddenly discovers values in Repin’s picture which seem far superior to the values he has been accustomed to finding in icon art, and the unfamiliar technique itself is one of the sources of

CLEMENT

GREENBERG

3 87

those values: the values of the vividly recognizable, the miraculous, and the sympathetic. In Repin’s picture the peasant recognizes and sees things in the way in which he recognizes and sees things outside of pictures—there is no discontinuity between art and life, no need to accept a convention and say to oneself, that icon represents Jesus because it intends to represent Jesus, even if it does not remind me very much of a man. That Repin can paint so realistically that identi¬ fications are self-evident immediately and without any effort on the part of the spectator—that is miraculous. The peasant is also pleased by the wealth of self-evident meanings which he finds in the picture: “it tells a story.” Picasso and the icons are so austere and barren in comparison. What is more, Repin heightens reality and makes it dra¬ matic: sunset, exploding shells, running and falling men. There is no longer any question of Picasso or icons. Repin is what the peasant wants, and nothing else but Repin. It is lucky, however, for Repin that the peasant is protected from the products of American cap¬ italism, for he would not stand a chance next to a Saturday Evening

Post cover by Norman Rockwell. Ultimately, it can be said that the cultivated spectator derives the same values from Picasso that the peasant gets from Repin, since what the latter enjoys in Repin is somehow art too, on however low a scale, and he is sent to look at pictures by the same instincts that send the cultivated spectator. But the ultimate values which the cultivated spectator derives from Picasso are derived at a second remove, as the result of reflection upon the immediate impression left by the plastic values. It is only then that the recognizable, the miraculous, and the sympathetic enter. They are not immediately or externally present in Picasso’s painting, but must be projected into it by the spectator sensi¬ tive enough to react sufficiently to plastic qualities. They belong to the “reflected” effect. In Repin, on the other hand, the “reflected” effect has already been included in the picture, ready for the spectator’s unreflective enjoyment.4 Where Picasso paints cause, Repin paints effect. Repin pre-digests art for the spectator and spares him effort, provides him with a short cut to the pleasure of art that detours what is neces¬ sarily difficult in genuine art. Repin, or kitsch, is synthetic art. The same point can be made with respect to kitsch literature: it provides vicarious experience for the insensitive with far greater im4 T. S. Eliot said something to the same effect in accounting for the shortcom¬ ings of English Romantic poetry. Indeed the Romantics can be considere t e original sinners whose guilt kitsch inherited. They showed kitsch how. What does Keats write about mainly, if not the effect of poetry upon himsel

3 8 8

THE

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mediacy than serious fiction can hope to do. And Eddie Guest and the

Indian Love Lyrics are more poetic than T. S. Eliot and Shakespeare.

3 If the avant-garde imitates the processes of art, kitsch, we now see, imitates its effects. The neatness of this antithesis is more than con¬ trived; it corresponds to and defines the tremendous interval that separates from each other two such simultaneous cultural phenomena as the avant-garde and kitsch. This interval, too great to be closed by all the infinite gradations of popularized “modernism” and “mod¬ ernistic” kitsch, corresponds in turn to a social interval,

a social

interval that has always existed in formal culture as elsewhere in civilized society, and whose two termini converge and diverge in fixed relation to the increasing or decreasing stability of the given society. There has always been on one side the minority of the powerful— and therefore the cultivated—and on the other the great mass of the exploited and poor—and therefore the ignorant. Formal culture has always belonged to the first, while the last have had to content them¬ selves with folk or rudimentary culture, or kitsch. In a stable society which functions well enough to hold in solution the

contradictions between its classes

the cultural

dichotomy

be¬

comes somewhat blurred. The axioms of the few are shared by the many;

the

latter

believe

superstitiously what

the

former

believe

soberly. And at such moments in history the masses are able to feel wonder and admiration for the culture, on no matter how high a plane, of its masters. This applies at least to plastic culture, which is accessible to all. In the Middle Ages the plastic artist paid lip service at least to the lowest common denominators

of experience.

This

even remained

true to some extent until the seventeenth century. There was avail¬ able for imitation a universally valid conceptual reality, whose order the artist could not tamper with. The subject matter of art was pre¬ scribed by those who commissioned works of art, which were not created, as in bourgeois society, on speculation. Precisely because his content was determined in advance, the artist was free to concentrate on his medium. He needed not to be philosopher, or visionary, but simply artificer. As long a$ there was general agreement as to what were the worthiest subjects for art, the artist was relieved of the necessity to be original and inventive in his “matter” and could devote all his energy to formal problems. For him the medium became.

CLEMENT

3 89

GREENBERG

privately, professionally, the content, of his art, even as today his medium is the public content of the abstract painter’s art—with that difference, however, that the medieval artist had to suppress his pro¬ fessional preoccupation in public—had always to suppress and sub¬ ordinate the personal and professional in the finished, official work of art. If, as an ordinary member of the Christian community, he felt some personal emotion about his subject matter, this only contributed to the enrichment of the work’s public meaning. Only with the Renaissance do the inflections of the personal become legitimate, still to be kept, however, within the limits of the simply and universally recognizable. And only with Rembrandt do “lonely” artists begin to appear, lonely in their art. But even during the Renaissance, and as long as Western art was endeavoring to perfect its technique, victories in this realm could only be signalized by success in realistic imitation, since there was nb other objective criterion at hand. Thus the masses could still find in the art of their masters objects of admiration and wonder. Even the bird who pecked at the fruit in Zeuxis’ picture could applaud. It is a platitude that art becomes caviar to the general when the reality it imitates no longer corresponds even roughly to the reality recognized by the general. Even then, however, the resentment the common man may feel is silenced by the awe in which he stands of the patrons of this art. Only when he becomes dissatisfied with the social order they administer does he begin to criticize their culture. Then the plebeian finds courage for the first time to voice his opinions openly. Every man, from the Tammany alderman to the Austrian house-painter, finds that he is entitled to his opinion. Most often this resentment toward culture is to be found where the dissatisfaction with society is a reactionary dissatisfaction which expresses itself in revival¬ ism and puritanism, and latest of all, in fascism. Here revolvers and torches begin to be mentioned in the same breath as culture. In the name of godliness or the blood’s health, in the name of simple ways and solid virtues, the statue-smashing commences. /

4 Returning to our Russian peasant for the moment, let us suppose that after he has chosen Repin in preference to Picasso, the state’s educational apparatus comes along and tells him that he is wrong, that he should have chosen Picasso—and shows him why. It is quite pos¬ sible for the Soviet state to do this. But things being as they are in

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Russia—and everywhere else—the peasant soon finds that the neces¬ sity of working hard all day for his living and the rude, uncomfortable circumstances in which he lives do not allow him enough leisure, energy, and comfort to train for the enjoyment of Picasso. This needs, after all, a considerable amount of “conditioning.” Superior culture is one of the most artificial of all human creations, and the peasant finds no “natural” urgency within himself that will drive him toward Picasso in spite of all difficulties. In the end the peasant will go back to kitsch when he feels like looking at pictures, for he can enjoy kitsch without effort. The state is helpless in this matter and remains so as long as the problems of production have not been solved in a socialist sense. The same holds true, of course, for capitalist countries and makes all talk of art for the masses there nothing but demagogy.5 Where today a political regime establishes an official cultural policy, it is for the sake of demagogy. If kitsch is the official tendency of cul¬ ture in Germany, Italy, and Russia, it is not because their respective governments are controlled by Philistines, but because kitsch is the culture of the masses in these countries, as it is everywhere else. The encouragement of kitsch is merely another of the inexpensive ways in which totalitarian regimes seek to ingratiate themselves with their subjects. Since these regimes cannot raise the cultural level of the masses even if they wanted to—by anything short of a surrender to international socialism, they will flatter the masses by bringing all culture down to their level. It is for this reason that the avant-garde is outlawed, and not so much because a superior culture is inherently a more critical culture. (Whether or not the avant-garde could pos¬ sibly flourish under a totalitarian regime is not pertinent to the ques¬ tion at this point.) As matter of fact, the main trouble with avantgarde art and literature, from the point of view of fascists and StalinIt will be objected that such art for the masses as folk art was developed under rudimentary conditions of production—and that a good deal of folk art is on a high level. \ es, it is but folk art is not Athene, and it’s Athene whom we want: formal culture with its infinity of aspects, its luxuriance, its large compre¬ hension. Besides, we are now told that most of what we consider good in folk culture is the static survival of dead, formal, aristocratic, cultures. Our old English ballads, for instance, were not created by the “folk,’) but by the postfeudal squirearchy of the English countryside, to survive in the mouths of the folk long after those for whom the ballads were composed had gone on to other forms of literature. . . . Unfortunateky, until the machine-age culture was the exclusive prerogative of a society that lived by the labor of serfs or slaves. They were the real symbols of culture. For one man to spend time and energy creating or listening to poetry meant that another man had to produce enough to keep himself alive &and the former in comfort. In Africa today we find that the culture of slave-owning tribes is generally much superior to that of the tribes which possess no slaves.

CLEMENT

GREENBERG

ists,

that

is

not

nocent,”

they

are

39 1

too

critical, but

that

they

are

too

“in¬

that it is too difficult to inject effective propaganda into

them, that kitsch is more pliable to this end. Kitsch keeps a dictator in closer contact with the “soul” of the people. Should the official culture be one superior to the general mass-level, there would be a danger of isolation. Nevertheless, if the masses were conceivably to ask for avant-garde art and literature. Hitler, IVIussolini and Stalin would not hesitate long in attempting to satisfy such a demand. Hitler is a bitter enemy of the avant-garde, both on doctrinal and personal grounds, yet this did not

prevent

Goebbels

in

1932-1933

from

strenuously

courting

avant-garde artists and writers. When Gottfried Benn, an Expressionist poet, came over to the Nazis he was welcomed with a great fanfare, although at that very moment Hitler was denouncing Expressionism as

Kulturbolschewismus.

the

prestige

which

the

This was at a time when the Nazis felt that avant-garde

enjoyed

among

the

cultivated

German public could be of advantage to them, and practical con¬ siderations of this nature, the Nazis being the skillful politicians they are, have always taken precedence over Hitler’s personal inclinations. Later the Nazis realized that it was more practical to accede to the wishes of the masses in matters of culture than to those of their pay¬ masters; the latter, when it came to a question of preserving power, were as willing to sacrifice their culture as they were their moral prin¬ ciples, while the former, precisely because power was being withheld from them, had to be cozened in every other way possible. It was neces¬ sary to promote in a much more grandiose style than in the democ¬ racies the illusion that the masses actually rule. The literature and art they enjoy and understand were to be proclaimed the only true art and literature and any other kind was to be suppressed. Under these

circumstances

people

like

Gottfried

Benn,

no

matter

how

ardently they support Hitler, become a liability; and we hear no more of them in Nazi Germany. We can see then that although from one point of view the per¬ sonal

Philistinism

of

Hitler

and

Stalin

is

not

accidental

to

the

political roles they play, from another point of view it is only an incidentally contributory factor in determining the cultural policies of their respective regimes. Their personal Philistinism simply adds brutality and double-darkness

to policies they would be

support anyhow by the pressure of all their other policies

forced

to

even were

they, personally, devotees of avant-garde culture. What the acceptance of the isolation of the Russian Revolution forces Stalin to do. Hitler

3 92

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is compelled to do by his acceptance of the contradictions of capital¬ ism and his efforts to freeze them. As for Mussolini—his case is a perfect example of the

disponibilite

of a realist in these matters. For

years he bent a benevolent eye on the Futurists and built modernistic railroad stations and government-owned apartment houses. One can still see in the suburbs of Rome more modernistic apartments than almost anywhere else in the world. Perhaps Fascism wanted to show its up-to-dateness,

to conceal

the fact

that

it was

a retrogression;

perhaps it wanted to conform to the tastes of the wealthy elite it served. At any rate Mussolini seems to have realized lately that it would be more useful to him to please the cultural tastes of the Italian masses than those of their masters. The masses must be provided with objects of admiration and wonder; the latter can dispense with them. And so we find Mussolini announcing a “new Imperial style.’’ Mari¬ netti, Chirico, et al. are sent into the outer darkness, and the new rail¬ road station in Rome will not be modernistic. That Mussolini was late in coming to this only illustrates again the relative hesitancy with which Italian its role. ... Capitalism

Fascism

in

decline

has

drawn

finds

that

the

necessary

whatever

of

implications

quality

it

is

of

still

capable of producing becomes almost invariably a threat to its own existence. Advances in culture no less than advances in science and industry corrode the very society under whose aegis they are made possible. Here, as in every other question today, it becomes neces¬ sary to quote Marx word for word. Today we no longer look towards socialism for a new culture—as inevitably as one will appear, once we do have socialism. Today we look to socialism

simply

for

preservation of whatever living culture we have right now.

1939

\

the

September Journal BY

STEPHEN

SPENDER

SEPTEMBER 3, 1939 I AM going to keep a journal because I cannot accept the fact that I feel so shattered that I cannot write at all. Today I read in the paper a story by Seymour Hicks of a request he gave to Wilde after his imprisonment, to write a play. Wilde said: “I will write a wonderful play with wonderful lines and wonderful dialogue.” As he said this, Hicks realized that he would never write again. I feel as if I could not write again. Words seem to break in my mind like sticks when I put them down on paper. I cannot see how to spell some of them. Sentences are covered with leaves, and I really cannot see the line of the branch that carries the green meanings. It so happens that the world has broken just at the moment when my own life has broken. I mean not my life but my relationship with A-. Everything I read in the papers about broken faith, broken pledges, disloyalty, etc., seems about her. At the same time, not being a great statesman, I cannot use those words or call down the curses of God on her. For all I know, God may be on the side of the faithless, in private life, at all events. Or rather, I don’t mean God, but that the very introduction of moral ideas makes everything, at this stage, meaningless. The moment I start thinking of right and wrong, I think, they may have done me a wrong, but I wonder,

are they happy?

Perhaps they have the secret of happiness, which I have lost. Perhaps their enjoyment of happiness makes them right and makes everything in my own mind, which is an endless argument, irrelevant. Anyhow, I know that she cannot bear being with me when my forehead is split with anxiety. I drive a wedge through her on those occasions and she makes me feel that I am being cruel to her and almost treating her violently. The best thing is to write anything, anything at all that comes into your head, until gradually there is a calm and creative day.

It is

essential to be patient and to remember that nothing one feels is the 393

THE

3 9 4

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READER

last word; all feeling passes over one and as far as the life of the emotions goes there is only one rule: to wait. If Toller had waited, he would be one of the few people alive today who are happy about the war. The most dangerous deception the emotions can practice on you is to pretend to be timeless and absolute. On top of despair,

they

impose a boredom which tells you that nothing is or ever will be worth doing, that all the words have broken into the separate letters of the alphabet and cannot be put together again. The whole of your life, they say, will be like this. Your unhappiness is no longer just a sensation, it is a fern growing through your whole body, and separat¬ ing the brain. Not only is it going to be impossible for you now to do anything but just stare, without crystallizing your disparate sensa¬ tions, but today too is expanding into an infinity of boredom. It is now ten o’clock, and one o’clock will not come;

or not until

a whole

sea of empty agony has flooded your mind. That is how Wilde must have felt sitting with his two boys at his marble-topped table in a cafe. That is how hundreds of people wait¬ ing for the news bulletins on the wireless feel today. But there is another waiting which is not just the emptiness of waiting. That is the patient faith of waiting.

Realizing that everything is only

episode in the whole story, and that although one has no

an

control

over the episodes, one can gradually form the whole pattern, however terrible the setbacks of moments and even of years. I must put out my hands and grasp the handfuls of facts. extraordinary

they

are!

The aluminum balloons

seem

nailed

How into

the sky like those bolts which hold together the irradiating struts of a biplane between the wings. The streets become more and more deserted and the West End is full of shops to let. Sandbags are laid above the glass pavements over basements along the sidewalk. Last night during the blackout there was a tremendous thunderstorm. We stood at the bottom of Regent Street in the pouring rain, the pitch darkness broken intermittently by

flashes of sheet lightning which

lit up Piccadilly Circus like broad daylight. SEPTEMBER 4. Greenwood and Sinclair were on the wireless last night. They talked about gallant Poland, our''liberties, democracy, etc., in a way which raised very grave doubts in my mind. Greenwood even talked about fighting the last war to end war. Personally, I prefer Chamberlain’s line to all this sanctimoniousness, which is that he has done his best

STEPHEN

to give

3 95

SPENDER

Hitler everything but now feels

that he can give nothing

more. I dislike all the talk about God defending the right. God has always defended the right, and after such a long experience. He of all people should realize the utter futility of it. Personally, if I were a close adviser of God, I’d press Him to decide the issue one way or the other once and for all and not go on playing this cat and mouse game between right and wrong. The whole point of being a man is that there is no omnipotence on one’s side. One doesn’t have to choose between good and evil, right and wrong, but between various kinds of evil. It is not a conflict be¬ tween God and the Devil, Christ, and Judas, but between the systems represented by Hitler and Chamberlain. With all humility, I am on the side of the Chamberlain system against fascism. The fundamental reason is that I hate the idea of being regimented and losing my personal freedom of action. I carry this feeling too far, in fact, I must admit I carry it to the point of hysteria—i.e. the point where I would really fight. I dread the idea of being ordered about and being made to do what I don’t want to do in a cause I hate. This fear has even forced me into a ceitain isolation, in which I find that the personalities of my fellow beings often impose a restraint and unwelcome sense of obligation on me. There you are, you analyze your hatred of fascism and it comes to a desire to be left alone. At school you allowed the other boys to take your possessions from you, but finally there was something which you fought for blindly—the possibility of being alone. When you felt that they were compelling you to be like them, and never to get away from their system and their standards, you bit and scratched. The same is true of all your relations with people. When you feel that another personality is obstructing the development of your own, you feel an embarrassment which is really the repression of rage. Of course, there are other reasons, arising from this. As long as somewhere in society, in individuals, there are centers of isolation, there is also a possibility of development and change. Fascism is not even an aristocratic form of society in which the people at the top have windows in their minds, light within darkness, centers of air and space. They are just the levers which crush the lives below into a solid mass of weight and darkness. I am living all the time for the possibility of change. The life I love is now like a tepid current in a pond which threatens any moment to become one solid block of ice. Well then, if war is madness and Hitler is mad, why reply to mad-

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ness with madness? Why fight? Why not be a pacifist? The answers are: (1) That I am not sufficiently a mystic to believe that if Hitler won we would not lose the values which I care about—the possibility of individual development, artistic creation, and social change. (2) That in politics, the possibilities of acting effectively are always limited to certain very definite lines. They are not, as some people seem to imagine, extended to every possible idealistic and Utopian attitude. Given a war like the present, a pacifist is simply a person who has put himself politically out of action, and, who in so doing is probably helping the other side. Possibly helping the other side may sometimes further the cause of ultimate peace, but in this war I don’t see how it can. Of course, there is a great deal to be got out of refusing to touch evil, in the way of saving one’s own soul and being an example to future generations. But actually, personal salvation and getting myself into a morally correct position superior to my contemporaries, don’t appeal to me, perhaps because I don’t believe in a system of rewards and punishments in an after life. If I ran away it would be because I wanted to save my skin or get on with my work, not be¬ cause I felt that even the world at war was unendurably wicked. SEPTEMBER 5. Oh, but books are crammed with all these arguments. If I started making speeches I would use them, and as I did so, I would feel a growing doubt in my own mind about their validity. I would be saying to myself, “Yes, I do, really and truly, believe that, so why is this doubt growing like a fungus in my mind? Why do I imagine that someone over there in the corner is sniggering? That that man with hair too far back over his temples and wearing a brown tweed jacket knows the answer to everything I am saying? Gradually Conviction is seeping out of the hall, like water out of a tank, with every word I say.’’ ; Doubtless my own contempt for my father’s recruiting speeches dur¬ ing the war is what undermines my faith in political arguments. When I start a train of argument it is like one of those trains on the Berlin underground which strut confidently above the street on their raised viaducts, surrounded below by the tenements which seem to ask whether after all everything is going quite so well as the pas¬ sengers, flashing through tfce slums, seem to think. I shall try to recollect Germany as it was 1929-1932 when I lived there for several months of each year. The people I knew there were not like the present rulers of Germany, not like the SS men, not

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like the Army, though I think I understand the Army. Germans have a greater capacity, I should say, than any other people, of evoking the idea of peace—Ruhe. To us and to the French, peace is a negative state when we are getting on with our business and private lives and are not at war. But to the Germans a state of peace is something positive and breathing and constructive, as opposed to a state of war. The positive idea of peace permeates a great deal of German romantic literature and music. Works like the slow movements of Beethoven’s Second and Fourth Symphonies are hymns to peace. They summon up a vision of a landscape exhaling peace. Daemmerung is a peaceful word, and words like Heim, Heimat, Friede, Ruhe, are loaded with a greater weight of emotion than the corresponding words in other languages. Other peace-music is Schubert’s songs, Beethoven’s early piano and piano-and-violin sonatas. Perhaps it is that the German landscape is particularly peaceful. I think of the Rhine at evening, the Harz mountains, the shores of the Alster at Hamburg with the heavy scent of lime blossom on a summer evening. I have a German relative who is the wife of a U-Boat commander. They live in Kiel, which has just been bombed. She plays the piano very well. Recently she came to London and she played an early Beethoven sonata to us at my grandmother’s flat. After she had played the slow movement her face was streaming with tears. Excuse me,” she said, “but this music is so full of peace.” Ten years after the war, Germany was full of peace, it dripped with peace, we swam in peace, no one knew what to do with all the German peace. They built houses with flat roofs, they sun-bathed, they walked with linked hands under the lime trees, they lay together in the pine forest, they talked about French art. Above all, everything was new, and everyone was young. They liked the English very much and they were sorry about the War. They talked about the terrible time they had during the inflation. This was in Hamburg. I used to bathe, and I went to parties of young people. I had never enjoyed parties before and I never have since, but these were like living in the atmosphere of a Blue Period Picasso. Everyone was beautiful, and gentle, everyone was poor, no one was smart. On summer evenings they danced in the half-light, and when they were tired of dancing they lay down in the forest, on the beach, on mattresses, on the bare floor. They laughed a great deal, smiling with their innocent eyes and showing well-shaped, but not very strong, teeth. Sometimes they let one down, sometimes the poorer

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ones stole, for example, but there was no Sin. I am not being ironic. There really was no sin, like there is in this kind of life in Paris or London. Of course, it was all very superficial, it has been blown away now. I could not dance. I could not speak German. I stood rather outside it. I think now of the sad refugees who were the exquisite, confident students of the Weimar Republican days. Perhaps it was all fictitious, but now in letting the mirage fade from the mind, I got very near to the truth, because everything in Germany is inclined to be fictitious. The German tends to think of his life as an operatic cycle emerging from a series of myths. There was the War, then there was the Infla¬ tion, then there was the period of Youth and the Weimar Republic, then there was the Crisis, then there was Hitler. Every German can readily explain him- or herself in terms of What We Have Been Through. This passive attitude to life, the tendency to consider oneself a product of circumstances and environment beyond one’s control, gives one the connection between the breakdown of external stand¬ ards and the private standards of people. A young man fighting in the Spanish War wrote a poem to his beloved, beginning: “Heart of the heartless world.” He was either optimistic or very lucky. It would have been truer to write: “Heartless one of the heartless world.” I was twenty in those days, and I was caught up mostly with the idea of Friendship—Freundschaft, which was a very significant aspect of the life of the Weimar Republic. This, if it was frank, was also ideal¬ istic. It was not cynical, shame-faced, smart, snobbish, or stodgy, as so often in England. It was more like Walt Whitman’s idea of camaraderie. I admit that I do not feel at all easy about this now, but I set it down for what it was. Two friends, young men, faced the world together, they camped, they traveled, they were happy in each other s company. There was usually a certain unpossessiveness about these relationships, a certain casualness, a frank and promiscuous admiration of beauty. The Germans had a reputation at that time of being homosexual, but I think it would be truer to say that they were bisexual, though there were of course a few of those zealots and martyrs who really hate women, whom one finds everywhere. But what the young, fiee, handsome German looked for in the world was

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a reflection of his own qualities in either man or woman. It was part of the myth that he should “travel light” and have no responsibilities. A life in which people are exercising sexual freedom without, apparently, anyone suffering or paying for it in any way, is attractive. One wonders how it is done. In this case, I think it was done at the price of making everything exist on the same level. The new architec¬ ture, the Bauhaus at Dessau, the social equality, the most casual affair, marriage, an abortion, a party, were all just the same. They were a pack of cards all of equal value precariously built up, so that when one fell, the whole house came down. Again and again I had experience of the German ignorance of Jews. Later, when Christopher Isherwood and I were staying on Insel Ruegen, and when the Nazis were doing exercises every evening in the woods and the “movement” had become a serious menace,, I got to know one or two of these young men. They were not gay, irre¬ sponsible, intelligent, like my Hamburg friends. They were heavy, stupid, but friendly and well meaning. They seemed perfectly content to lounge round all day sun-bathing, listening to the band, going to the dance hall in the evening and having their girls in the pine trees afterwards among the hungry mosquitoes. But actually theii fun lacked lightheartedness. For instance, when they sun-bathed, they would build little forts for themselves on the beach, set up a flag post, hoist a Nazi flag on it and gaze upwards in reverence. Whilst they were lounging round listening to the music, they seemed always to be waiting for a patriotic air, and when one was played, they would stand stiffly to attention. I was with two of them on some such occasion as this when sud¬ denly I lost my temper and said, “Ich bin ein Jude!” They laughed incredulously: “You a Jew? Impossible. Why, you’re the perfect Nordic type,” said one of them. “You’re tall, you have blue eyes, fair hair, Scandinavian features,” said the other, “that’s why we know and like you.” This astonished me. “Then what do you think when you meet a Jew?” I asked. “We want to kill and destroy the pest,” they said, “we want to crush him and knock him down.” ‘ Then knock me down,” I said. “Here I am, I’m a Jew, please knock me down.” They looked at me, dazed and injured by the deceptiveness of this wolf in Nordic clothing. I felt quite sorry for them. Then I got angry: “I don’t believe you have any idea what a Jew looks like, I said. “You imagine a monster when really you have to deal with a human being. I don’t believe you know what you re talking about, and your

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heads are stuffed with stupid hatred and lies.” Probably I didn’t know enough German to put it quite like that, but I worked myself up into a rage and rushed home to laugh with Christopher about it. On another occasion someone made friends with me in a train specifically because I was of the Nordic type, and, indeed, now I know exactly the kind of warm response that a Nordic appearance arouses in some Germans. How can one understand the tremendous interest in appearance of a military race? A uniform face, in a uni¬ form physique, dressed in uniform, and marching. In a way my Ham¬ burg friends who wanted girls to be like boys and everyone to have a lovely face on a perfect body, had their craving for uniformity, too. Certainly, 1929 was the beginning of the slump and the end of the efflorescence of the Weimar Republic. ... SEPTEMBER 6. I want to go on about Germany, about my landlord in Berlin, about Curtius, but I feel too tired, I can’t go on. The first thing about any war is that everyone is tired, countries at war are countries of tired¬ ness, fatigue becomes a spiritual experience. It becomes an illumi¬ nation, fetters of habit which make one wash and shave every day, which make one preface every contact with one’s neighbor with em¬ barrassment, fall away, and one enters into a more easy relationship with one’s fellow beings, an exhausted simplified state of being oneself. The wrong words which come into one’s mind, which the rigid dis¬ cipline of wakefulness would reject, are suddenly the right ones! every¬ thing flows freely and nervously, one does not even resent the heavy weight on one’s eyes, because one sees so much light. There was an air-raid warning last night. A- seems so far away now, I imagine her in her red dressing gown and she looks pale and dazed. I don’t imagine her happily.

But I imagine her tenderly.

Perhaps in a few days I’ll be able to think about her without re¬ proach. Perhaps I’ll get tired enough during this war to forgive her. remember again the water, the flowing line of the hills, the rich harvest quality of Germany. Immediately, of course, I suspect it of a certain falsity, a certain coarseness and thickness and monotony of texture, but it is still there, there like Wordsworth’s poem about the peasant girl. E- took me all over the place. He had a little car and when he wasn’t watching the road, his eyes were on me watching the effect of storks on the roofs of North German villages, of monkeys playing -at the Hagenbeck Zoo, of the Harz mountains. “If you like music we shall have a great deal in common,” he said when we first

STEPHEN

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40 1

met, and if ever I admitted for one moment that J appreciated any¬ thing, his eyes were ready to smile: “Ah, we have a great deal in common.” So we went to the Harz mountains, stopping on our way at Bruns¬ wick where we saw in a very dusty and deserted gallery one of the finest Rembrandts I have ever seen. We visited some people called Harman who had a house in the Harz mountains. Like everyone else they had lost their money and all they had was the property itself and, I sup¬ pose, the salary of Professor Harman. The whole family, grandmother, son, daughter-in-law, a grandson, two daughters, and a brother and sister who were fellow-students of Wolfgang, the son, at - Uni¬ versity, were there. Like nearly everyone I met in Germany at this time, they were obviously living from hand to mouth, they spent what they had, they "laughed and talked a great deal, and yet they had an air of having lost everything. Wolfgang had rather pinched, vague features which had a certain pallid, distracted beauty which attracted me at the time. Several years later, after Hitler’s rise to power, Wolfgang came to visit me in London. Earnest, and pale as ever, he had a mission: he wanted to convert me to Nazism. “Of course, there are things I do not like about the Nazis,” he said. “I do not agree with their views on literature and art. I do not sympathize with the persecution of the Jews. I do not accept their explanation of the Reichstag fire (though there is more in it than you would think). I do not like Goebbels propaganda. In fact, I dislike everything nasty about them. But all the same, they have a Faith.” Here his fists clenched and his eyes burned with a dubious mystery. “They have restored to us our belief in Germany and Life. Some of them are Idealists. There is a good deal of socialism in their economy.” I raged as I had done before. I told him that the most dangerous propagandists of Nazism were peo¬ ple like himself who pretended that they did not approve of its bad qualities and yet had accepted it. I told him he was a dupe, and that the Nazis wouldn’t care a damn about his footling little qualifications to satisfy his own conscience,,so long as they had got him where they had got him. I said: “If I were a German, as I well might be, I would by now either be in a concentration camp or else deprived of every means of earning my living. You can t expect me to be fair. I don t care about your reasons.” And I am ashamed to say that I kicked him out of the house. This was an unnecessary piece of self-righteousness on my part, because I heard later that he became disillusioned about the Nazis

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and was one of those unhappy, pained, gentle creatures who represent the heart of another Germany, and do not understand what is hap¬ pening to them. I have touched a deeper chord than I knew here, for have I not met two or three of them, don’t I know very well the peculiar whiteness and stillness of their eyes, which seem to have been drained of pigment? These poor ghosts are really beautiful in a sex¬ less way, because, if one is a young man of another era, naturally one cannot expect to be virile. How closely I press now upon a secret! Why am I always attracted by these desolate spirits? There was one whom I met on the Hook of Holland boat shortly before Hitler’s rise to power. He was the son of a general, and now that at least four names crowd on to me, I remember that they are all aristocrats and often close to the higher ranks of the Army. I cannot remember the names exactly—oh yes, this boy was called Horst. He had a round face with very well-formed features, delicate lips, china blue eyes, a tender complexion, and brown hair of an almost feathery lightness. He was quiet and polite, and he had some small out-of-the-way in¬ terest (just as Wolfgang had a card-index in which he “collected” Shakespeare’s imagery)—Horst’s hobby was playing the flute or mak¬ ing musical instruments or something. There’s really nothing much more to it than that. He had a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford and I used to call on him there and we went for walks and I introduced him to Shyah Berlin because he didn’t seem to know anybody. But he never became part of the life at Oxford. He was always just as gentle,

just

as

isolated,

and

gradually

one

saw

beyond

the

varnish of his interest in the musical instrument—or whatever—to a distress and restlessness of spirit that never ceased. Shyah saw him several times and then confessed to me that the sustained slight sense of his unhappiness was too much: he no longer cared to see him. Another such was surely Jowo von M- who wandered about Europe looking at pictures. They all had some mild objective interest which obviously was not their life, but which covered their refusal ever to speak about Germany. Perhaps, like Wolfgang, when the Nazis first came to power they flamed with a momentary hope which soon disappeared as they reverted to their former hobbies. Werner von L- was a more energetic variation on this type of German. When I first met him he was an ardent Social Democrat, in fact he was literally holding up id his rooms at Oxford a red banner which a Jewish girl with whom he lived had embroidered for a Peace Proces¬ sion. When the Nazis came into power he took the complicated view that this after all was perhaps the socialism he had been fighting

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for. He was a law student and he pretended to admire enormously the legal code which the Nazis introduced with their revolution. He forced, rather cruelly, the Jewish girl (who still used to visit Germany and camp with him in the woods) to admire this masterpiece. She told me that although she did not agree with the treatment of the Jews, etc., nevertheless, the documents in which the new laws were codified were marvelous. It was pathetic. I showed my lack of understanding again by fulminating. SEPTEMBER 8. When I come to think of it, the trouble with all the nice people I knew in Germany is that they were either tired or weak. The young people in Hamburg were tired, the young Nationalist aristocrats were weak. How are the people of good will today to avoid weakness and fatigue? SEPTEMBER 9. Yesterday morning while I was waiting for a bus, some soldiers passed down the road singing, “It’s a long way to Tipperary.” An unshaved and very ragged old tramp wearing the ribbons of several medals so loosely attached to his coat that they were almost falling off, said to me: “They’re singing now, but they won’t be singing when they come back. Hearing ’em sing reminds me of when I went out to fight in them trenches. We went out singing, but we didn’t sing for long.” In the afternoon I got a taxi to Waterloo before going into the coun¬ try. We were stopped near Southampton Row by five Frenchmen carrying a flag and singing the Marseillaise. The taximan said to me. “They won’t be doing that for long.” Peter Watson traveled from Paris to Calais a few days ago in a troop train. The compartment was crowded with soldiers. They sat all the way in absolute silence, no one saying a word. SEPTEMBER 10. “The best lack all" conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” W. B. Yeats, who wrote these lines, himself became a fascist sym¬ pathizer. He was prepared to accept the worst. He wanted strength at any price. Why were the gentle and kind people I knew in Germany, tired or weak?

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The tiredness of our generation consists in exploring unimportant and superficial aspects of the idea of freedom, without trying to dis¬ cover the strong basis on which any really free life must be built. Freedom, the young people in Hamburg said, is sexual freedom primarily, then freedom to enjoy yourself, to wander, not to make money, not to have the responsibility of a family, or the duties of a citizen, generally. Freedom is one long holiday. They were tired. What they wanted, in fact, was a holiday. Beware of people who explain themselves in terms of the difficult childhood they have had, the economic conditions of their country since the war, and everything, in short, that they have been through. Beware of people who say: “You don’t understand me.” After 1929, it became obvious that the world of these irresponsible Germans was threatened. “New styles of architecture, a change of heart.” The architecture was mostly swimming baths built with money raised from American loans. The change of heart, sun-bathing and sexual freedom, was almost as uneconomical an investment as the new architecture. That’s to say, it didn’t take root in the stony and barren soil of the difficult postwar years. I feel uneasy about discussing these things in an airy. Left Book Club manner, suddenly identifying myself with the Workers, in order to sneer at the people with whom I spend my week ends, and dis¬ missing my own promiscuous past as though I have renounced it finally. The fact is that I have just had a first-class failure in my per¬ sonal life, and I am so full of regret and bitterness that I cannot stay in the country because I dream of nothing else. However, important as these things are, the first sign of the “German tiredness” is to treat them as though nothing else were more im¬ portant. My friends in Hamburg behaved as though nothing mat¬ tered in life except sex and personal relationships, and at the same time they kept these problems in a state of perpetual, unsolved, pleasurable suspense. But if a human relationship becomes more important than any¬ thing else in two people’s lives, it simply means that there is a lack of trust between these two people. A relationship is not a way of entering into a kind of dual subjectivity, a redoubled and reciprocal egotism; it is an alliance of two people, who form a united front to deal with the problems of the outside world, and who understand that their trust in each other will not be broken up by impertinent

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outsiders. The problem of married people is not to become absorbed in each other, but how not to become absorbed in each other, how, in a word, to trust one another, in order to enter into a strong and satisfactory relationship with the society in which they live. A great cause of weakness today is people putting less important things before those that are more important, for example, personal relationships before work and an objective philosophy of life, sex before love. People who put personal relationships before their work become parasites on each other, form mutual-admiration societies, agree to do nothing that may make one jealous of the success in the world of the other. People who put sex before love flee from one marital relationship to another, using love as their excuse; because, for them, sex has become a thing in itself, dissociated from personal relationships. They have an image in their minds of one hundred per cent sexual satisfaction, and when they are in love, they are continually asking themselves, “Am I satisfied? and they are con¬ tinually tormented by the thought that perhaps they are not. For them love, at first an opportunity, soon becomes a trap, forcing them to give something instead of taking all the time, and preventing them from grasping at the possibly greater delights they might get elsewhere. Satisfactory personal relationships exist when the people who enjoy them have a satisfactory relation with society. They exist within society, they are not a conspiracy against society. In the same way, satisfactory sex exists within love and can be attained through love, which means patience and loyalty and understanding. Another cause of weakness is not to admit, but to pursue our failures blindly. There is such a thing as real failure in personal relationships and in sex. How easily then, that which symbolizes failure, the poor substitute improvised for love, becomes the most important thing in life! How people build it up and call the scars of failure their dazzling successes! Masturbation, homosexuality, following people in the streets, breaking up relationships because one has failed in one’s own, all these compensatory activities form a circle of Hell in which people can never rest from proving that their failures are the same as love. Yet the lives of countless men and women show that the great com¬ pensation lies in accepting failures as failures, and recognizing sub¬ stitutes as substitutes, and making the most of the rest of one s life. In fact the great artists and poets have almost without exception been failures in life. By this I mean that their relations with their fellow beings were really and truly at some point unsatisfactory, that most of them were fully conscious of this, and that their honesty in ad-

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mitting a defect restored to their lives a sense of scale which hope¬ lessly neurotic people lack. Baudelaire’s relationship with a Negress, the breakdown of Gauguin’s marriage which led him to go to the South Seas, Van Gogh’s failures in love, Rilke’s wanderings and sense of being outside love, to mention only a few examples which im¬ mediately come to mind, were all real failures in life and to “the man of genius” the failure to be a complete man must always be a humiliation. The compensations of genius are so dazzling that it is difficult to realize that Beethoven and Balzac paid so great a price, when they yet had the infinite privilege of being Beethoven and Balzac. They suffered as men, they rejoiced as creators. The creative artist realizes that art is not a complete life, otherwise he would be self-sufficient, he would isolate himself from the world of ordinary living, and there would be happy, unreal artists creating a truly pure art. Some people, who are not artists, or who are bad artists, think that art is like this, a world cut off from the world, where aesthetic experience is everything. These are the virtuosi of art and of appreciation: spirits which have flowed completely into an aesthetic medium, without the friction of living their lives. Of all the arts, music provides the most self-sufficient alternative world removed from the real world. Painting is the most objective of the arts because visual imagery always has a direct reference to real objects, and in order to get away from the broad day, painters have deliberately to paint visual experiences remembered from sleep—• dreams. But music is not a dream that imitates our sleep, it is a world of its own, full of abstract aural patterns, which are not recognizably related to the noises we hear in everyday life. At the same time it creates a world of tremendous conviction. The absolute ideas which have such a wavering meaning in words and which it puzzles us to attach to human behavior, have their fixed places in music. Schiller’s Ode to Liberty is a work which conveys little more to us today than a sense of enthusiasm for ideas which meant a great deal to Schiller but which the time between him and us has cast a doubt if not a slur upon. But in the music of the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony these ideas are fixed in a world of their own which one can enter without referring it back to the real world and the disillusion of the past hundred years. Actually the value of the music lies in the fact that it does never¬ theless refer back to the real world of experience. The triumph of art is not merely a triumph over technical difficulties, but the tri¬ umph of resolving the conflicts of life into a more enduring form of

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acceptance and contemplation. To regard these great acts of ac¬ ceptance—the masterpieces of art—as acts of rejection and escape, is simply a way of losing grip, it is letting the engine run without the wheels turning. If one looks at the faces of people in a concert one can see the difference between those who use music as a form of living and those who use it as a form of dying. The virtuoso of listening is, like the virtuoso of performing, a wonderful child, one who has never grown up but melted himself on the furnace of great works of art where he continually flows away. The people who are not virtuosi have a certain sculptural rigidity—the face of Schnabel or Toscanini—because they are always discovering a unity between the experiences of life and art. The young aristocratic sons of German militarists whom I call “weak,” were trying, without much conviction, it is true, to use the appreciation of art as a complete way of living, and as an escape from their despair about Germany. But this does not work. You go to the concert and music offers an interior life of sounds inside your head which is as complete as anything you have experienced. You read a play of Shakespeare, and you enter into a love and a courage of feel¬ ing completer because more explicit and final than anything that your own life may provide. “This is where I live most intensely,” you think. “This is real for me. Everything else can be put aside and for¬ gotten.” But it can’t. The felt life in the work of art is only intense, and often painful, because it actually touches the life of deep and terrible experience. Without this experience, art would simply express a frictionless tendency toward a vacuous perfection. But in true art there is a real conflict of life, a real breaking up and melting down of intractable material, feelings and sensations which seem incapable of expression until they have been thus transformed. A work of art doesn’t say, “I am life, I offer you the opportunity of becoming me.” On the contrary, it says; “This is what life is like. It is even realer, less to be evaded, than you thought. But I offer you an example of ac¬ ceptance and understanding. Now, go back and live!”

1940

A Goat for Azazel (a.d. 1688) BY

KATHERINE

ANNE

PORTER

MARTHA GOODWIN, fourteen-year-old, elder daughter of a pious brick mason named John Goodwin, was behaving very strangely. She had been behaving with conspicuous strangeness since she was eleven years old and it had long been suspected that she was in the grip of a diabolical possession. Cotton Mather early noted her symptoms and marked their progress. The Goodwins lived in Charles¬ town, and during a Sabbath visit to his father-in-law, John Phillips, Mather heard an encouraging bit of gossip. Not only Martha, but all four of Goodwin’s children had fallen, almost overnight, into a state of mind very puzzling and sinister. Little Mercy, seven years old, was in a continual tantrum. She yelled and her body grew rigid while she was being dressed; she refused to do the useful household task suitable to her age; and she would not, without a fearful struggle, allow herself to be put to bed at the customary hour. Naturally the Devil found an easy abiding-place in the bodies of children, conceived as they were, poisoned to the bone with original sin, but a sound beating would usually dislodge him. He sat firmly in this child against all such persuasions. The slightest rebuke from her parents affected her like a lightning shock. She fell prone, turned blue in the face, her eyes rolled upward and her teeth clenched in a par¬ oxysm of lockjaw. The elder son, sixteen years old, shouted that he was a wolf, retired into corners and howled bestially. The third child, John, suffered with shooting pains, and showed signs of epilepsy. He would sprawl on the floor and scream that he could not get up again because his head was nailed to the floor. Martha was a pretty, inventive, restless girl. She suffered all the afflictions of the others, with a few added symptoms acutely her own. One afflicted child had ^een troublesome enough, but four of them succeeded in terrorizing their parents completely. They called on their pastor and several other ministers to come and help them rout the invisible hosts that had chosen their humble household as a battlefield. 40 8

KATHERINE

ANNE

PORTER

409

The last minister to be invited was Cotton Mather. With his genius for instant action. Cotton Mather was the first man there. The prayer meeting was called for an afternoon. He arrived alone, early in the morning, held his prayer service by himself, recognized at a glance all the signs of true demoniacal possession in the children, and advised their father to look about for the witch. At this the children howled in dead earnest, and their sufferings were redoubled. By the time the other ministers arrived, among them Mr. John Hale of Beverly and Mr. Samuel Noyes of Salem, the children had been struck stone-deaf and could not hear the prayers. When the reverend gentlemen produced their Bibles, the Devil-possessed were provoked to roll on the floor and kick at them. The uproar continued for days, amid daily festivals of prayer and the fascinated attentions of the neighbors. The sufferings of the chil¬ dren rivaled those of the children of Sweden, Mather’s favorite witch ground. Pins were discovered sticking lightly under their skins. They vomited pins and nails and other unnatural substances. They wore themselves out with acrobatic feats, bending backwards until their heads touched their heels, while their arms and legs appeared to be wrenched from the sockets by invisible hands. At nightfall, recovered somewhat, they would eat hearty suppers and settle down for a good sleep. Cotton Mather suggested a three-day fast, and they weakened noticeably under it. Being fed again, their torments were renewed with sinister complications. Martha named the witch. Some time before, she had quarreled with the laundress, a girl of her own age, accusing her of stealing some linens. The girl was the daughter of Bridget Glover, an Irish woman who supported her family, with the help of her older children, by washing clothes for the neighbors. She was considered a little crazy, because she was excitable, and when she was excited she spoke Gaelic. But she had a free command of vituperation in English and her loose way of talking offended a great many people. She was a Catholic, really worse than a Quaker, and she had been called a witch more than once. Bridget Glover joined in tfie quarrel and defended her child. She went over to the Goodwin house and shouted angrily and made inco¬ herent threats. It was a foolish row over the back fence, but through skillful handling by Cotton Mather it became the most sensational episode in Boston for the next six months. The exact words spoken by Bridget Glover will never be known. Indeed, the facts of the case can¬ not now be learned, for it was recorded by Cotton Mather, who was

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interpreting by a formula, and the event followed the perfect classical pattern. Each member of the Goodwin family gave a different version of her speeches, but all agreed that she had spoken repeatedly of the Devil and had cursed them in the manner of a witch. Cotton Mather conferred with his friend Mr. Hale, who agreed with him that this was matter for the authorities. Bridget Glover was formally accused of witchcraft, and brought before the magistrates for examination. When they began to question her, so the story runs, she stammered a moment, lapsed into Gaelic, and never again spoke a word of English. It was necessary to conduct her trial through an interpreter. There is little doubt that she was full of fairy lore, a firm believer in ancient signs and wonders. This was not strange, nor even criminal. Good Congregationalists had to be reminded from the pulpit, now and again, that they must not turn the sieve and shears, wear amulets, and recite charms when they dug for healing herbs. The records are so confused in Bridget’s case that there is no way of knowing what arts she prac¬ ticed. The Irish bravado overcame her when confronted by her enemies, and she boasted that indeed she was a witch, and a good one. She had done all they charged her with, and more; she hinted she could tell great things if she pleased. The interpreters said so, at least. They also interrupted, on their own responsibility, to add that she appeared to be dominated in turn by a black magic superior to her own and was restrained from telling tales by being forced to talk in a language which the demons believed no one else in Boston could understand. The crack-brained logic of the demons left their servant defenseless, and the trial went on smoothly. Point by point the evidence corresponded with the best traditions. Rag figures stuffed with goat’s wool were found in her house and pro¬ duced in court. She admitted she had made them, and said her way of tormenting her victims was to wet her finger in her mouth and stroke these dolls. The Goodwin children were brought in, fell to roaring at the sight of her, and when she touched one of the dolls they flew obligingly into fits. Cotton Mather sat at the examination and took his endless notes. It was better than he had hoped for. The witch was invited to name her counsel. “Have you no one to stand by you?” asked a magistrate. “I have,” she said, and looked pertly into the air. “No, he’s gone!” She explained, the faithful interpreters said, that she meant her Prince. This seemed so curious they doubted if she was sane. Half a

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dozen physicians came to talk with her. They inquired first about the state of her soul. “You ask me a very solemn question, I cannot tell what to say to it.” They desired her to repeat the Pater Noster. She stumbled in some of the passages and excused her bad Latin by saying she could not pronounce these words if they gave her all the world. The doctors, too, had read the best authorities on witchcraft. They decided that she was sane, and a witch. Cotton Mather, in his own account of this episode, told how he posted himself with the interpreters outside her cell, where they heard her quarreling with her spectral demon, saying she had confessed to revenge herself for his falseness to her. Mather harried the fantastical creature, visiting her almost every day as she sat chained in her cell. In rambling wild talk she let her fancy go, according to the interpre¬ ters; and told of meetings with her Prince in company with other worshipers of his, though she would not name them, and confessed that she knew her Prince to be the Devil. Mather told her that her Prince had cheated her badly. “If that be so, I am sorry,

said Bridget.

She refused to answer some of his questions, explaining that her spirits forbade her to speak. As a Catholic she so feared and hated his heretic prayers that she implored him not to pray for her until her spirits gave her leave to listen. She was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Mather could not rest on this. He went around and collected all the neighborhood gossip about her. Festering grievances and old hatreds were reopened, a Mrs. Hughes remembered that her small son had waked one night crying that a woman was in the room, she had reached under the bedclothes and tried to tear out his bowels. She said that Bridget, when accused of this, had confessed it was herself in spectre. This Mrs. Hughes, under Mather’s questioning, enjoyed great refreshment of memory. A friend of hers had died six years before, declaring with her last breath that Bridget Glover had murdered her in spectre. Further

and this is the

perfect Mather touch—the dying woman had warned Mrs. Hughes to remember this, for in six years there would be great occasion to mention it. > . The six years were now finished. After sitting in prison lor some months, Bridget Glover was taken out and hanged. On the scaffold she spoke out clearly and strongly in Irish. The interpreter came down off the ladder and translated the speech to Mather, waiting below. She said that the children would not be relieved by her death, for there were others besides herself had a hand in their sufferings. This was truth with unconscious irony. The ones who had a hand

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in it published this statement at once, and the Goodwin children fell into fresh complexities of torment. Cotton Mather sat in the Goodwin house and urged the wretched little animals onward. They had begun with a fine holiday of rebellion, and now found themselves caught in a horrible device that really frightened them. They were no longer allowed to invent their own tortures, but suffered assault from without. Invisible hands smacked them rudely, and large bruises appeared on their bodies to prove it. On being assured that the spectres had done it, they said they could see the shadows moving about the room. Demoralized with terror, they would point them out, and Cotton Mather would aim a blow at this place. Strangely enough, the child who pointed, though his back was turned, would receive a stout thwack also. Howling, he would speak the names that occurred, or had been suggested, to him, and Cotton Mather wrote them down, with the comment that all the persons named had been since suspected of witchcraft. Invariably, he would observe within a few days that a suspected woman would be wearing an unaccountable bruise on the very part of her body where he had struck at her spectre a few days previously. He does not explain how he went about making these discoveries. He failed in gathering enough evidence to justify the arrest of any one of them. The solemn farce went on. The children were now quite bewildered, but they still had presence of mind enough to remember the main issue. During all the months that Bridget Glover sat chained waiting for her death, they concerned themselves with putting off the bedtime hour, getting out of their chores, and escaping family prayer. The neighbors crowded in as to a deathbed. This was better than a deathbed or a hanging, for it had the tang of novelty and supernatural danger. The children barked, purred, growled, leaped like wild animals, and at¬ tempted to fly like birds, or like witches. The watchers restrained them from harming themselves. When they pulled their neck-cloths so tightly they almost choked, someone was always on hand to relieve them. They almost fell in the fire, and they almost drowned themselves, but someone near-by hauled them out in the nick of time. If anyone dared to touch a Bible, those religion-surfeited infants almost died. They tore their clothes and broke glasses and spilled their cups, and mewed with delight; and to save their lives they could not do the simplest task without maVing a frightful mess of it. No one dared to punish them—were they not innocent victims of the Devil? Mather continued to tell them the spectres had done everything, and did not fail verbally to point the way to grace. “Child, pray to the

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Lord Jesus Christ,” he admonished them in turn. Immediately their teeth clenched over their tongues and they stared at him. “Child, look to Him,” he advised, and their eyes were pulled instantly so far into their heads he professed a fear that they would never emerge again. This grew monotonous, and Mather chose the interesting member of the family for closer observation. He took Martha to live in his house. She was gifted, pretty, and full of wit, and the others were merely noisy and stubborn and tiresome. Away from the stuffy, disordered cottage, Martha behaved herself very nicely at first. The big fine Mather house with its handsome furni¬ ture, silver, books, servants, impressed her. Good food, a soft bed, and the gentleness of Abigail, Mather’s young wife, were very disarming. Everything was pleasant except the persistent praying and the constant watching of all her movements. She grew restless in a few days. In a voice of distress she announced to Cotton Mather that They had found her out, and at once she had a fit of choking and her throat swelled until she was threatened with strangulation. Mather held her and stroked her throat until the fit passed. Whenever the fits returned, he could always cure her with this stroking, a remedy in common use by the lower order of witches. For several months the Mather household lived in tumult. Martha was the center of attraction, and she repaid the attention given her. A dozen times a day Mather forced her to her knees to pray with him. She clapped her hands over her ears and declared They were raising such a clamor she could not hear a word. At times she walked with a heavy limp,

and

she

explained

that They

had

clamped

Bridget

Glover’s chain on her leg. Mather would strike at the invisible chain and it would fall away. In his headlong battle with the Devil, he used with precision the methods of witchcraft described by those professional witchfinders Perkins, Gaule, Bernard; and Martha responded properly. She surmised hidden silver in the well, and it was found there. She spoke in strange languages, and “her belly would on a sudden be puft up strangely,” one of the marks of diabolical possession as quoted by Increase Mather in his useful table; now, I believe, noted as one of the common symptoms of intestinal worms; and she did all these things with high dramatic effect. She was forever getting into states where Cotton Mather must huiry to her rescue, and at times his powers of exorcism were tried severely. After a while, her mood would change into a charming gaiety. For

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days she would talk, “never wickedly,” wrote Mather with affectionate admiration, “but always wittily and beyond herself.” He loved wit and gaiety, and he dared not confess this taste to the society he lived in; but he could not deny himself the perverse joy he took in Martha’s youth and spirits. She was so entertaining in these moods he could not reprove her. His role of religious guardian and exorcist forbade him to play a foil to her, and her spirits flashed themselves away in empty air, unsatisfied. Relapsing into her dark mood, she would say, “I want to steal, or be drunk—then I would get well.” Martha was the first, and the most imaginative, of all the girls who were to follow her in a blind destructive rebellion against the per¬ version of life through religion, in the theocratic state. Revolt was working in all directions; it was fermenting in politics, in the Church, in labor, in the economic system; after two generations the whole body of society was heaving with premonitions of change. The children merely followed their sure instincts, but they were not understood, and Cotton Mather at twenty-eight years was in a position of power he was in no way fitted to assume. He used any weapon that came his way, but his personal desires blinded his judgment, and so he chose badly. He was bound to make of this absurd episode an issue of first importance in the history of his career, and he succeeded. He had proved his power as a witch-finder in the case of Bridget Glover, and he believed that a cure of Martha would establish finally the super¬ natural authority he craved: to be marked and set apart as the intimate of God, the most potent enemy of the Devil in New England, and in the world. First he must convince the Governor and the magistrates and the ministers of Boston that he could truly cast out devils. The rest would follow. Martha’s personality was a disturbing element, not to his greater plan but in his secret self. Neither of them realized fully the nature of the tension between them, and they played a gruesome game of Blind Man’s Buff. She tormented and tantalized him endlessly, and he held her and prayed with her while she struggled in her recurrent frenzies. At times these scenes were mere romps between them; at other moments they touched the edge of horror: he stared fascinated as she flung herself down before him writhing, crying for him to save her from her demons. He listened to her blasphemies as long as he dared, then stroked and soothed her into calm. She would work herself into a dangerous state and kick and strike at him; but always the blow that began in violence ended in a light pat of the fingertips or a soft nudge of the toe.

KATHERINE

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415

Day and night were the same to Martha. She would rise out of her sleep crying that her devil-horse was waiting for her. Mounting a chair, she would gallop about the room. Once, seated on air in the posture of a woman on horseback, she galloped up a flight of stairs, and Mather admired this feat so much he almost forgot its devilish inspiration. In this mood her boisterous humor grew very broad in the best seventeenth-century manner. If her stomach made sounds of dis¬ turbed digestion, she would exclaim, “Something is going away from me!”, clasp her head in her palm and complain of faintness. Mather, listening solemnly for some statement from the demons inhabiting her, would declare indeed he had heard the squeaking of a mouse. If he tried to persuade her to speak the Holy Name, she would answer flippantly, “Oh, you know what it is! It is G and O and D! All profitable and edifying literature threw her into confusion. Books in favor of the Quakers calmed her, but she could not endure a word against them. She enjoyed Popish books, and went blind at the sight of the Assembly catechism. She hugged the accursed book of common prayer to her bosom, calling it her Bible. Mather noted with mystification and some chagrin that his own books worked like a poison in her. He gave her his story of bewitched Ann Cole, of Hart¬ ford, who was unutterably pious, even in her fits. Ann Cole s pieties gave Martha the worst convulsions of all. It began to look as if the battle were lost, for Mather was so enchanted with her vitality and imagination he was losing control over her. Her tenderness then took an odd turn. She decided to flatter him outrageously. Flying as if pursued by an army of devils she burst in at his study door, paused with a sigh of relief, and told him she had come there for sanctuary. The devils could not enter there, the place was holy and God forbade it to them. She sat the whole afternoon by his side, demurely reading the Bible. At dark she went to the door and set her foot experimentally over the threshold. Her ghostly steed was waiting for her, her devils seized her, and she was off on her wild career seated on air. Mather had waited long for some demonstration that his study was in fact a holy of holies. He wished for definitive proof. He pursued her, and dragged her again over the magic doorsill. She resisted furiously, fell was was out

scuffled with her feet, and threw her weight upon him so that he almost forced to carry her outright. After incredible toil the goal gained and the delightful miracle repeated itself. They were both of breath, but she recovered first, stood up beaming, and said,

“Now I am well!”

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This was plainly a marvel very creditable to them both. Mather called in several ministers and repeated the scene successfully half a dozen times before witnesses who infallibly would spread the story in its proper light. It then occurred to him, or was suggested, that further demonstrations of this kind were dangerous, as savoring slightly of witchcraft in themselves. Besides, it was no longer necessary. Martha for no apparent reason became perfectly subdued. It was now early fall. Abigail was expecting her third child, and the constant excitement had wearied her. She lived in deep retirement, and no comment of hers is recorded concerning this episode. Martha was to stay on for a while to insure her recovery. She spent all her afternoons reading pious books in Mather’s study, and the household quieted down. During this inexplicable period of calm, Mather began preparing his pamphlet on Martha’s case, together with a sermon entitled, “The Nature and Reality of Witchcraft.” Martha grew very annoyed at this, and her manner toward him underwent a mysterious change. Previ¬ ously she had treated him with some respect, even in her rages; she had made love to him in her primitive way. Now she was bold and impudent; with her cutting young-girl wit she slashed at her patron and protector. He was startled and displeased at the new kind of demon that had got into Martha. Possibly she had not believed he was taking it all so seriously. When she discovered how completely she had befooled him, she was a changed girl. In all his life no one had dared to interrupt Cotton Mather at his holy labors. Martha knocked loudly at his door whenever she pleased, and invented scandalous pretexts to annoy him. “There is someone below would be glad to see you!” she shouted one day. Mather went down, found no one, and scolded her for telling falsehoods. She retorted, “Mrs. Mather is always glad to see you!” He understood nothing about women, and he never learned any¬ thing about them; this outburst of jealousy confounded him. A dozen times a day she was at his door, and would have him out on one excuse or another. The attention that had been given her was not going to be diverted to a sermon about her if she could help it. She threw heavy books and other objects at him, being careful not to hit him. She would follow him upstairs and down, heckling and ridiculing him about his foolish sermon, vowing she would revenge herself on him for writing it. She rummaged through his papers, a desperate impertinence, and got hold of his precious document on witchcraft. She had read it

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while he was writing it, at least a hundred times, says Mather. Now she could not get one word of it straight, but made a parody of it as she went, with such aptness and humor Mather laughed in spite of himself. At once she grew very earnest, and in a bitter voice she .prophesied that he “should quickly come to disgrace by that history.” She told him every day as clearly as she could in symbolic acts and words that she was making him ridiculous, but his obsessional self¬ concentration kept him blinded. He went on exhibiting her, and she rose to her audiences like the gifted actress she was. A number of young ministers came to witness her performances. Mather talked to them in Latin; if he told her to look to God, he said, her eyes would be fairly put out. The clever girl clenched her eyelids. This was impressive, and they began trying her demon with lan¬ guages. He knew Greek and Hebrew also. The Indian dialects floored the demon, and the gentlemen conversed in these. Then they Ml knelt and prayed affectionately for Martha, while she sprawled gracelessly on the floor, with her belly swelled strangely, and made croaking noises. She whistled, sang, shouted, and covered her ears to shut out the painful sound of prayer. Rising to her knees, she tried to strike Mather, could not, and begged the others to strike him for her: He has wounded me in the headV’ she wept. “Lord, have mercy on a daughter vexed with a Devil,” prayed Mather. Martha sank her voice into her throat, as if a demon of grisly humor spoke within her: “There’s two or three of us.” This was almost the end. Martha’s energies were about exhausted, her inventiveness would go no further. In the evening of this day, she grew merry for a while, and later went quietly to bed. In the night she began weeping terribly, and when Mather went to quiet her she told him she repented of all she had said and done. She was beginning to realize her situation and to be ashamed. At Christmas, she relapsed and gave a lively imitation of a drunken person, babbling and reeling and spewing. Mather was pained, in¬ sisted that she had had nothing to drink, and ended by admiring her talent for impersonation. She recovered shortly, wept again, and made one of her enigmatic remarks: “They will disgrace me when they can do nothing more.” Mather thought she spoke of her demons. Martha was growing up. She knew well that her day was over A sudden sickness came upon her. She pulled and tossed and moane and sweated in some profound disturbance, crying out that she was afraid to die alone, someone must die with her. Even m this state, she paraphrased a psalm so brilliantly that Mather was amazed again,

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for the last time. She resigned herself to death, prophesied Indian wars and a great tragedy upon the country, and recovered. Her brothers and small sister, without Martha to inflame them, had been reduced to their usual behavior. Mather sent her home. Here Martha’s personal history ceases, but not the consequences of this fateful period of her life. She became, Mather recorded merely, very docile, very silent; and remained a submissive Christian girl. He made a legend of her, and the drama of Martha Goodwin and Bridget Glover took hold of the popular imagination and was recalled again and again during the Salem Witchcraft, four years later. Mather preached his sermon on the nature and reality of witch¬ craft, and afterward published it, an initiate statement on the inner organization of the witch cult in New England, and elsewhere, its rules, ceremonies, feasts, and dark purposes. He was gradually per¬ suading himself that the putting to death of witches was a bloodsacrifice tending to placate the Devil. His mind was a little confused between the role played by the ancient Hebrew scapegoat and an ob¬ scure doctrine of the early Christians that Christ shed his blood not as an offering to God the Father for the remission of sins but as an act of propitiation to the Devil on behalf of mankind. A passage from the witchcraft section of his Magnolia Christi Americana is poetically applicable to Bridget Glover’s part in the Goodwin episode: “When two goats were offered unto the Lord (and only unto the Lord) we read that one of them was to fall by lot to Azazel ... it is not other than the name of the Devil himself.”

194°

Rimbaud: Life and Legend BY

MORTON

DAUWEN

ZABEL

HAD RIMBAUD never lived we should have been obliged to invent him. One is conscious of many temptations to audacity in reading the poet of Le Bateau Ivre and Une Saison en EnferA One is conscious in reading his critics and interpreters that these tempta¬ tions have seldom been resisted. They have resulted in some of the boldest hypotheses and most strenuous flights of elucidation in mod¬ ern criticism. Not content with the poet on his own terms, m his amazing and scarcely credible reality, his apologists have endowed him with a succession of masks that fit almost every type of spiritual and social ordeal in modern experience. Anyone approaching Rim¬ baud after half a century of such license and myth-making must share Miss Starkie’s feeling that it is time to call a halt to speculation and to recover the poet and his poems in terms as personal and local as possible. To do this can hardly do injustice to his achievement; it will survive the closest identification. His personality and career will always return to the larger dimensions of poetic morality and the feeling will survive that without Rimbaud the tenets of European romanticism would have lacked the sublimation by which they were recreated in contemporary art. To him Keats’s sentence on Shake¬ speare applies with special fitness. He led a life of allegory: his works are the comments on it. No poet has invited as many incarnations in the private con¬ venience or beliefs of his students or has become so dramatic an index of the aesthetic divergences of our time. Rimbaud himse was fascinated by the notion of avatar and mystic possession. He read Plato, Ballanche, Cabalist texts, and Buddhist scriptures in his search for a tradition that would support his sense of endowment i Arthur Rimbaud, by Enid Starkie. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. ^'a Season in Hell, by Arthur Rimbaud. Translated with an Introduction by Del-W Vo* 4 19*

Press. 5oc.

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by powers beyond himself. From this sense of divine endowment developed his experiments in derangement and hallucination, his wish to create a new order of poetry, his effort to free himself from the confines of his family, his class, his country, from Europe itself. It crystallized in his talk of “becoming God” and in his doctrine of the poet as voyant. He is certainly not a poet of fixed and centered intel¬ ligence; however far his greatest poetry succeeds in resolving the dis¬ cordant elements of his genius, we are wiser to refer the problem of unity in his character to psychologists, who should have no difficulty in defining a classic outline behind the pattern of hereditary and childhood influences traced by Miss Starkie. But the important thing for anyone to see who attempts to understand the real nature of Rim¬ baud s poetic and intellectual development is that he was more than normally conscious of his successive conflicts: of the rigid morality of his childhood with his sexual vagrancy, of his harshly rational mind with mystical illuminism, of his classical schooling with his later aes¬ thetic doctrines, of Christian teaching with private or Oriental modes of occult vision, of his precocious misanthropy with his humanitarian passion. He saw the collision between his personality as determined by nature and his identification of himself with the seer who should transcend the limits of soul and body, dissolve the arbitrary forms of European thought, and so release poetry for its highest destiny in the liberation of man. These conflicts were never obscured by the central complexity of his nature. His audacities of conduct and vision were firmly framed within his native equipment of pride, hard-headed industry, and ambition. Until he was fifteen he was a submissive son, a diligent student and prize-winner in the College de Charleville, an intelligence of facile energy and brilliance. Once he got to Africa he won, despite the futile outcome of most of his projects there, a reputa¬ tion as a shrewd trader, bargainer, and judge of men. The intensity an

anguish of his sensibility—his compulsion to sufferings that he

CalT^ “mexpressible”—were lodged in a spirit of baffling toughness. When Rimbaud’s critics simplify or inflate some facet of his genius to the neglect or disparagement of others, they are not so much explain¬ ing Rimbaud as diminishing his intelligence. He was not a poet to boast of containing multitudes, but his wit and subtlety of mind were endlessly explorative. They bred and tested him in an insight that none of the violences of his\career was able to brutalize or stultify. When he is used merely as a touchstone to a social, sexual, or exc usively aesthetic argument, there results a shrinking of this insight a simplification of his powers of criticism and synthesis. His famous

MORTON

DAUWEN

ZABEL

42 1

sentences then begin to sound ludicrous; his dynamic as a poet is cur¬ tailed. His reality as a human being is also diminished. Biographical research, commonly and often justly accused of obscuring the aesthetic virtue of a poet, is likely to have the opposite result with Rimbaud. That is what gives importance, beyond its scrupulous research and well-reasoned interpretation, to Miss Starkie’s admirable book, which now supersedes other existing biographies. It is legend, theory, and the inflation of his texts in the manner of a disputed gospel that threaten to make Rimbaud a confusing and unread poet. If one must approach him in terms of parable, it is safer to see him not as the germinal source of every cult or doctrine of our age, but as the culmination of the preceding obsessions of poetic revolt and individualism in nine¬ teenth-century Europe. However much his abnormal nature as poet and man gives him the force of a test-case in the arguments of Marxist and Freudian critics. Catholic converts, and symbolist or surrealist apologists, he becomes far more convincing if viewed as the Messiah toward whose coming every earlier romantic poet was a signal or a prophet. The Rimbaud vivant of French journalism is the mixed creation of his admirers, and there are signs that this character is becoming popularized abroad, since he is less likely to dispel the symbolic value of the poet who once lived and wrote in all too human body and “tried out the whole century to come in advance.” ‘ It is assumed, says Mr. Schwartz, “as with so many others, that his life interprets his poetty. One gets much more illumination by permitting our lives to interpret his text.” This holds for any understanding of poetry to some degree, but it holds here with necessary qualifications. Rimbaud’s text, in its fullest dimensions, is the true illumination of his genius. In that text there is much that can be recovered, understood, and translated less in terms of our lives and prepossessions than through the spiritual and temperamental growth of the child of Charleville. His youthful home, his study of Greek, Latin, and common-school science, his wanderings, the fantastic months in Brussels and London, his humiliating returns to Charleville, his break witji republican Paris, his break with Verlaine, and his five years of obstinate struggle to break with Europe—these phases of Rimbaud’s life culminate in his flight to Abyssinia, and each one made its assault on his consciousness of latent powers. In them exists the first gloss on the text of his poems; they remain antecedent to every specialized theory of his conduct or thought. critical edition of Rimbaud’s complete works; the most convenient 2 There is no poems is the Oeuvres de Arthur Rimbaud, including the Poemes edition of his

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The fragmentary appearance and fitful clairvoyance of Rimbaud’s pages then begin to take on a more serious unity than is commonly suspected. The fear and anguish of adolescence (Les Poetes de Sept Ans) develops into the ironical compassion of his human sympathies (Les Chercheuses de Poux and Les Effares). The torrential imagery of Le Bateau Ivre indicates an outbreak of consciousness that comes to sudden maturity in Une Saison en Enfer and Les Illuminations. The large gaps in event and meaning that we find so tempting to fill up with the values and necessities of “our lives” imply a broken but con¬ tinuously disintegrating and reconstructive impulse by which the poet attempted to arrive at his new conception of social happiness and human destiny and of the‘part poetry was to play in their attainment. “The new day of industrial capitalism, an air in which all that had been holy to European man decayed,” played its part in spurring Rim¬ baud s realization of the impasse at which humanity had arrived, but the air of his own temperament, of his personal obsessions, his social contempt generated by family discord, and his pathologically intensi¬ fied emotions and insight, existed before and after his encounter with the corruptions of Second Empire and post-Commune Paris, and from this he took his strongest energy as a poet. The larger atmosphere of the historical moment came to him later. It helped him realize himself; it did not make him what he was. For what he was we must go to the whole body of his works, every part of which bears upon the brilliant passages which often suffer the worst mangling in the hands of interpreters and translators. The pic¬ turesque Flemish charm of La Maline, Au Cabaret Vert, Le Buffet, and Les Effares embodies the first exhilaration of the enchanted vagabond of A. la Boheme, whose sympathy with the poor had not arrived at the Retrouves, preface by Claudel and annotations by Paterne-Berrichon (Paris: Mercure de France). Mr. Schwartz has now translated Une Saison en Enfer. His version shows many sensitive passages but is often at severe odds with Rimbaud’s meaning. Fortunately he is now preparing a corrected version, soon to be issued. Some of the difficulties in the present one are indicated by Justin O’Brien in The Kenyon Re¬ view (Spring, 1940; pp. 229-232). Both Mr. Schwartz’s and Mr. Abel’s translations exaggerate the fausse gaucherie of Rimbaud’s style; this results in dissipating its ironic and passionate quality and thus its critical force. When Mr. Abel stays close to Rimbaud’s meaning he may be cramped and awkward but makes a fair translation. His versions of Les Poetes de Sept Ans and Le Bateau Ivre are good guides, and even the untranslatable Coeur Vole {Coeur ’Supplicie), though modified out of its real meaning, manages to convey some of the lacerating pathos of the original Else¬ where Mr. Abel oversimplifies and grows soft in diction, and he has unfortunately omitted the French originals of the poems. One would like to see a straightforward guide-translation prepared for English readers along the lines of Roger Fry’s versions of Mallarme that appeared in 1936.

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bitter pathos of the Paris years. The purity of Reve pour I’Hiver ex¬ presses an adolescent emotion not yet shocked by the realities which soon overtook it and made it impossible for Rimbaud to retain the lyric simplicity that was Verlaine’s enigmatic secret through the years of his worst debauchery. The peasant sympathies of Le Mai, Rages de Cesar, Le Dormeur du Val, and L’Eclatante Victoire de Saarbroucke records of the War of 1870—convey a recognition of human stupidity that tempers and subtilizes the contempt he wrote in his comments on the aftermath of that national humiliation in Chant de Guerre Parisien, Les Accoupissements, Les Assis, Les Pauvres a, lEglise, and Paris se Repeuple. They also suggest that Une Saison en Enfer must be read with a good deal more realism than is usually brought to it. In the chapter L’Impossible, where Rimbaud records his failure in phil¬ osophical and religious belief, he recalls childhood as the most precious period in life (he again so describes it in Les Illuminations), the age that must be recaptured at all possible costs as the time of instinctive wisdom when God speaks directly to man. But he also sees the delu¬ sion of thinking that one can ever go back to it or recapture its inno¬ cence, for the innocence never really existed. In a momentary vision of perfect purity he realizes that it is through the spirit alone that man can reach God. The transition from the world of Ma Boheme and Reve pour I’Hiver is suddenly revealed as a token of the poet’s growth m spiritual maturity. Similarly the idea, in Les Illuminations, that the spirit must pass beyond its futile attempts to incarnate itself in con¬ crete images or words which are incapable of containing it wholly, sug gests the transition in Rimbaud’s thought from a world of physical and practical fixities to one of symbolic words and transcendent values. He forged his way through this transition in physical terms. His struggle was not only reflected in the violences of his personal life; it is demonstrated in the changing mode and intensity of his poems and it is finally formulated as his aesthetic morality. The state of ecstasy and superhuman bliss suggested by the “spontaneous incoherence of Matinee d’lvresse is the extension to a metaphysical plane of the lyric happiness to Ma Boheme. These signals of growth and maturity are continuous in Rimbaud’s poetry. There is an organic emergence of the later thought and emotion from the earlier, and the connection, so little apparent in the surface aspect of the poems, stands out wdien their subordinate motives and phrases are scrutinized and their specific personal quality is understood.

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Rimbaud was not the first example of his type—the demonic angel, the “mystique a I’etat sauvage”—in poetic history, but he represented the type in its starkest essentials; one might say in its unmixed and un¬ rationalized essentials, if we were not made aware by Miss Starkie’s documents that the rebel and mystic in Rimbaud were mixed with the rigor and tenacity of an extremely realistic mind, that he was tortured by an inheritance of moral rectitude and Christian discipline playing against his social vagrancy. Compared with Verlaine’s his intelligence was ruthlessly responsible for itself. The religious quality in him, how¬ ever latent, was harder and more intractable; his contempt for the moral surrender recorded in Verlaine’s Sagesse is one sign of it. The conflict of his terrifying logic of behavior with Verlaine’s pathetic sus¬ ceptibility was certainly a major cause of the break between the two. Baudelaire had induced Rimbaud to believe in dream as the highest mode of communication between man and the hidden world around him; Les Illuminations developed partly from an effort to induce the state of perpetual dreaming through drugs, alcohol, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and the ensuing dissociation of images and impressions, conveying the vivid manifestations of the hashish sleep, aimed to ex¬ press the delights of that condition. But Rimbaud confessed his ex¬ treme difficulty in achieving “this magic state of receptivity, for he knew that he was still bound by what he considered his besetting in¬ hibition, a consciousness of sin. He was unable yet to accept everything simply and naturally, for he had not completely uprooted the effects of his early training; and he constantly felt that he was being sub¬ mitted to temptation and that he was yielding to it. He was not yet able to achieve the instinctive certainty he wished to possess, that he was verily above the reach of sin and condemnation. He knew that only when he had shaken himself free from what seemed to him no more than a foolish inhibition could he achieve full creative power.” This conviction struggled in what almost amounted to a death-grip with his inheritance of scruple and conscience. These were stamped upon his sensibility as ineradicably as the obstinacy and pride that were his family s mark of race and station. No flights of fancy, no shows of con¬ tempt for bourgeois morality, no assaults on the degenerate society atound him, could free hijm from the whips of self-respect, moral honor, and ambition. And in no poet—not even in Baudelaire—were those whips applied to harsher violations of a man’s secret code than they were in Rimbaud. The citadel of his personal integrity was a

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rock-hewn fortress. High sounds and anathemas issued from it, but the singer of them was never to escape. He was clearly his mother’s son in this side of his nature. The figure of this rigidly austere, repugnant, and pathetic woman hovers over his life. “At no moment of her life had Vitalie Cuif lacked courage and determination.” She brought her husband a good dowry and the stolid family virtues of the Ardennes yeoman stock. The handsome captain of the Chasseurs d’Orleans was a fine soldier, a trustworthy officer, and a conscientious administrator, but Vitalie also brought to the marriage her knowledge of how men go wrong. She had seen her two brothers go to the dogs; the unstable element in Rimbaud, usually attributed to his father, has been shown by Godchot to stem from the erratic sons of the strict Cuif household. She was to see her husband desert his home to escape from her eternal vigilance and wrangling. Her elder son degenerated into laziness, vagrancy, and failure. Her silent ambitions, her passion for social prestige and rectitude, were concentrated on the second son, in whom she instinctively discovered (despite her uneasy disapproval of his literary passions) the brilliant mind and tenacious spirit that meant for her the redemption of family honor and fortune. She was the first person who seized upon Rimbaud in the character for which he was later to become famous. To her he was the redeeming child, the adolescent whose solid virtues and easy successes as a student were lit by the tenacious force, now become articulate, that possessed her own secret soul. In Miss Starkie’s early chapters one sees the searchlight of history playing on Mme. Rimbaud’s figure, immortalizing her in a role she little dreamed of. She is the mother of Les Poetes de Sept Ans, super¬ vising the evening studies of her children, unaware of “what revolt lay smoldering in the little boy who looked up at her out of such inno¬ cent blue eyes”; cutting and sewing her children’s clothes long after they had outgrown childish measurements; standing outside the schoolhouse door to lead her sons back home and so keep them from truancies that meant for her only one thing—a sure pathway to the Devil. It was the same woman who, years later, took her son back into her house when he returned, time after time, in rags and diseased, from Paris, London, Brussels, Hamburg, Italy, Alexandria, from remote Java where he had gone to enlist in the Dutch Army, and from Abyssinia. There seems to have been no open accusation of the terrible disap¬ pointment he had meted out to her. The son and mother never needed words to be aware of what they were thinking and feeling. On the morning his body was brought back to Charleville from the hospital in

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Marseilles she ordered a funeral de premiere classe, in the most tri¬ umphant bourgeois taste, at the short notice of two hours. Ten years later she refused to step sixty feet from her door to see the statue raised in his memory by the citizens of the town. It is said she never saw it in her remaining lifetime. When she had the bodies of Arthur and her daughter Vitalie moved to a new grave in 1900, she helped the workmen transfer the coffins and herself stooped to gather up in a white cloth the crumbling bones and soft hair of her little girl. She had done her best and her worst to raise her fatherless children. Isabelle alone remained to her, and the last words we hear from the mother were the scrupulous enquiries she made of Delahaye, long after Arthur’s death, about the desirability of Paterne-Berrichon as a hus¬ band for the girl. Delahaye was reassuring, but when he received Mme. Rimbaud’s New Year greeting-card a year after the marriage that left her finally alone and deserted in her house, she appended to her name a single word: “Desolee.” The secret ambition and defeats of Mme. Rimbaud are unmistak¬ ably the beginning of her son’s conflict with the world, and perhaps the source of his poetic animus. Many of the central passages in his works take their force from his resistance to the strictures of her morality. The poet makes himself a visionary through a long, immense, and reasoned derangement of all the senses. ... He exhausts all poisons in himself to keep only their quintessences. An indescribable torture in which he has need of all faith, all superhuman force, in which he be¬ comes, among all, the great sick man, the great criminal, the great accursed and the supreme Scholar!—for he arrives at the unknown; and even if, driven insane, he should end by losing his grasp on his visions, he has seen them-Even as a child I used to admire the in¬ corrigible convict on whom jail is always closing again. ... He had for me more strength than a saint, more good sense than a traveler_ and himself, himself alone! for witness of his glory and his reason.” The rebellion to imposed morality in these railleries originated in the intense duel of wills that is defined in Les Poetes de Sept Ans, that forms the exquisite tension of Une Saison en Enjer, and thatRimbaud shared subconsciously throughout his life with the inflexible woman of Charleville. From the confines of his youthful home Rimbaud stepped forth to his progressive rebellions Against the world—against “the inferior race (that) has covered everything—the people, as we say, Reason, the Na¬ tion, and Science.” These became what Mr. Schwartz says of them— the poisoned atmosphere of industrialized capitalism. But the poison that Rimbaud breathed first and last was something so profoundly in-

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tegral to his psychic constitution and conscience that the taste of it made even the pollution of Paris seem by comparison superficial. Rim¬ baud saw his age’s humiliations and he noted them with the accuracy of the naturalists in Paris se Repe'uple, Nuit de I’Enfer, and L’Eclair. But his sense of evil and human shame was rooted in his moral nature, and in the abnormalities of emotion and conduct that caused that nature to become inflamed and luminous. His biography tends to lessen the isolated importance of his successive encounters with fact. His four brief years in Paris become a crucial episode; his railleries against Church, state, army, town, and friends, whether in the cafes of Charleville or the lobbies of Paris theaters, become part of a drama of unsparing and obscene immolation—his answer to the smug compro¬ mises and makeshift security which he soon discovered most living to be composed of. In this role of the artist as insulter of domestic sanctities and- moral privileges, as a disputant before the bar of justice, Rimbaud takes on his radical force. This power Miss Starkie makes credible and human because she shows it rooted in the rebel’s and outcast s hunger for normal human affections and recognition. She doubtless goes too far in her apology when she minimizes Rimbaud’s cruelties and sins. These were not alone the methods of proof (“purification”) of an obsessive neurotic. They were what they always are when other human beings are involved: acts of nightmarish delight in the infliction of pain, in the humiliation of friends, in effrontery and reckless ingratitude. Rim¬ baud ceases to be humanly or morally significant if they are regarded as anything else. But they are offset by what is now apparent in his nature and heredity—by qualities of sensibility that made him not only a lyric poet of extraordinary power but a man of intensely pa¬ thetic weaknesses and strength; a man too of secret griefs who saw the misery of the Paris slums with a deeper anguish and heroism than that of Malte Laurids Brigge, a renegade who faced consequences without fear and whose long term in the lidless hell of Africa was alleviated by his knowledge of the misery of his fellow sufferers there, by his devotion to his servants, by his delicate jcare for his two mistresses, and by acts of kindness that are remembered among the citizens of Harar to this day. It was not a season he spent in Hell but a lifetime. The nineteenth century offers many tragedies of genius, but those of Keats, Heine, Holderlin, Thomson, and Leopardi pale when compared with the extremities of Rimbaud’s suffering. His life was pitilessly sacrificed to a hostile environment, to desperate privations, and to waste. For when Rimbaud broke with his moral foundations he broke without sparing

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himself any of the consequences. The shock of his encounter with human depravity in the Paris barracks (Coeur Supplicie) acted on his tormented sensibility as an abrupt dissolution of every ethical and moral legality in which he had been bred. When he put his soul to the rack he committed the worst affront to decency of which he was ca¬ pable, but he expected no flattering comfort from the ordeal and looked for no facile absolution either from his own conscience or from his fellow men. His refusal of easy grace was as rigid as that of Leon Bloy, and he shared Bloy’s contempt for the vicarious modes of Purga¬ tory with which most modern poets are satisfied. His sufferings after the flight from Paris could not, within the bounds of sanity, have been as deliberately chosen as his vices were, but their extremities raise his career to a level of appalling magnificence. The scenes in London and Paris with Verlaine show a squalor which none of the lyric beauties that grew out of them or the exalted lines of Delires can dispel. But as we read of the five years of homeless wandering by the outcast— “I’homme aux semelles de vent”—between his departure from Paris at nineteen and his first entry into Africa; as we see that interval reach¬ ing its climax in his climb on foot across the Alps in a violent snow¬ storm, coatless, hatless, through beating hailstones and a savage wind, along sheer precipices and through blizzards that froze his hair and beard, we are left astounded by the ruthlessness of a destiny that few men of any kind have been able to survive. In Rimbaud the forging of poetry was identical with the forging of his spirit. His tragedy as a poet lies in the fact that the conflict of elements in his nature exceeded those delicate and precarious antith¬ eses which must be held in balance if genius is to rise articulate from its agony. The forging had to continue beyond the point where the metal of poetic intelligence receives its temper. The whole nature of the man demanded the fire. The poet, as Mr. Abel says, suffered a fatal distempering, a regression from the civilized to the primitive, from poetry to prose, from prose to silence.” By the time Rimbaud died, seventeen years after his abandonment of poetry, he had not only shown how unsparing is the ordeal by which a man becomes the fit and conscious host of the poet within him, but to what a tragedy of waste and violence that ordeal, driven to excess by logic and instability.

1 he surface values of Rimbaud’s verse are not difficult to read, but because they are too often read as values of mere shock and derange-

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ment they are easily reduced to the empty eloquence and vitiating ab¬ stractness of thought that have made his influence one of the worst in modern poetry. This influence, as commonly understood, becomes an affair of sentimental and mystical pretensions and of a verbal reck¬ lessness that completely dispels the primary virtue of his art. That virtue is rooted in the rigor of his moral realism, in his lacerating study of selfhood and all that its mastery requires, and in the fact that to achieve a unity of his moral and poetic natures, he spared himself nothing. His radical criticism of the popular poets of Hugo’s genera¬ tion was that they had vision without realization: La culture de leurs times s’est commencee aux accidents.” “Musset, tenfold loathsome to a suffering generation like ours, carried away by visions of higher things which his angelic sloth only insults. Oh! these mawkish Comedies et Proverbes! Oh! the Nuitsl . . . Oh! Musset! Charming his love, isn’t it? That painting on enamel, what solid poetry! . . . Musset was able to achieve nothing! There were visions behind the veil that hid them, but he only closed his eyes.” When Rimbaud found his first great literary passion in the work of Baudelaire, he found an aesthetic that came as a revelation of the true unity and totality of poetry and of its future in enlarging the vision and experience of man. The doctrine of corre¬ spondences, with its promise of godhead in the form of complete poetic vision, came as the charter of a new age of truth. But it came in the work of a poet who brought the theoretic statement of the unity of art as found in Schopenhauer or Ballanche out of abstraction into the realism of the lyric experience. Baudelaire was for Rimbaud the first of the poets whose art seems “to be a complete picture of life in alf its complexities, in which the highest mingles with the lowest, aspirations with failures . . . flesh and spirit, dream and nightmare all at once.” He was the poet above all others of modern Europe who had a sense of the form that poetic realization must take if it is to subsume the full experience and consciousness of man. Baudelaire was the one poet in whom Rimbaud found a dramatization of moral reality and creative ordeal: “Plonger au fond du gouffre, Enfer ou Ciel qu’importe? An fond de Vinconnu pour trouver du nouveau.” Rimbaud followed Baudelaire faithfully up to the moral crisis in his poems, the moment where Baudelaire saw that the reckless indulgence of sense and its consequent dissolution of man’s standards of moral judgment meant a diminution and even a complete disintegration of human consciousness. At that point he rejected the Paradis Artificiels *

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of the hallucinated intelligence; “It is in this moral conclusion that Baudelaire’s real meaning is to be found and it is he himself who calls it moral.” Facing in self-induced hallucination and derangement the implications of suicide, Baudelaire was thrown back on his humanity, his personal identity, the tragic conflict of his instinctive and intelli¬ gent natures. In that conflict and in the tension it imposed on his sensibility lies the specific force of his poetry. Rimbaud broke with Baudelaire in refusing to accept the conditions of human life. They must be altered. The derangement of the senses must be complete and systematic. The dissolution of conceptual reality must be as thorough¬ going as is the dissolution of sensory impressions through the corre¬ spondences and associations set up by poetic imagination. The poet as voyant must become the true seer, the godhead of essences. This was Rimbaud at the outset of his career, at the threshold of Paris at the age of fifteen. Within five years he was to learn why Bau¬ delaire was thrown back on his conscious existence as a man, on his in¬ escapable moral identity. The learning took so intense a form of re¬ action and disgust that it deprived him of the will to write, and his career as poet broke off at the age of twenty. He is a lesser poet than Baudelaire by the degree to which he delayed and finally evaded the integration of his moral nature with his creative vision. He had once written to Izsmbard and Demeny that “the final apotheosis of the poet would be reached only when he had acquired full knowledge of him¬ self, of all of his faculties and how best to use them”; when, too, he would realize that “he has charge of humanity” and must make his visions known to others. When he said that he had not yet learned how relentless are the claims of selfhood and of human service. Rimbaud is the sworn enemy of sham, meanness, and every dis¬ honesty that enslaves the dignity and vision of man, but this is not to say that the ciitic in him coincides with the poet or that his animus is essentially that of a critical intelligence. He would have been a dull creature had he remained blind to the impotence and brutality of his century. It hardly took a great poet to see and anathemize these. The nineteenth-century poets had a great stock of popular sentiment and theological approval to draw on for support. Hugo and Swinburne had certain acceptable convictions in this line, but these indignations served them very slightly in strengthening or intensifying their poetic gifts. Today the indignation of social revolutionists and humanitarian poets has a similar means of success: it takes the tragedy of society, views it in its full horror of chaos and bloodthirsty anarchy, and glibly refers the problem to the abstract judgment of a social or moral theory. The

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whole central ground and condition of poetry—its source in private integrity and responsibility—is evaded. The large language of doctrine is set against the desperate and baffling nightmare of modern life. The two remain unanalyzed and unreconciled, and as a consequence most poetry and most social evangelism remain empty of value. Rimbaud comes in conveniently here as a model. His imitators have become legion since 1918 and something like a public nuisance during the past decade. These self-appointed spokesmen of a new age of dis¬ illusion and cataclysm have almost succeeded in dragging his example and value down to the level of abuse and misunderstanding where they were relegated by academicians and humanist critics half a century ago. He is drawn on alternately for visionary prophecy and for Isaiahan thunders, and though he figures in the shaping of several authentic talents in our time, he is one of the most misleading of influences misleading because he is badly read and superficially known in his fundamental quality. Hart Crane obviously brought both a high cre¬ ative zeal and a strong personal recognition to his study of Rimbaud, and he made something of his example, but elsewhere Rimbaud s in¬ tensity of mind and sensibility has been vulgarized until what remains is chiefly the spectacular defiance and moral shock of his surfaces. He has been reduced either to crude diabolism or to a frantic effort to recover the spiritual meaning and energy of life from encroaching ruin. His images of search and conflict have been tumbled into mean¬ ingless avalanches of sound and sense. His influence appears to have been steadily attenuated; from the work of Salmon to that of Claudel, from Perse to MacLeish, from Crane to Prokosch, from Eluard and the more gifted surrealistes to Aragon or Dylan Thomas, from Auden to Spender to Kenneth Patchen to (finally, let us hope) Oscar Williams. It is a progress in disorganization, in accepting the fact of unrest and dissolution as the matter of poetry, in substituting the distress and irre¬ sponsibility of the modern world for the active intelligence of poetic insight, and so in retreating to the language of prophetic arrogance and hollow judgments instead of attacking the true reality of words and experience as Rimbaud hoped to create it. To live a life like Rimbaud’s and to reach the vindication he arrived at means to have his capacities for self-knowledge, truth, and endur¬ ance. To write poetry like his implies an ability to face the full truth and responsibilities of such poetry, and to combine that truth with the excitement of a new vision. It was to this responsibility that Rimbaud’s bateau ivre returned him: “L’automne, notre barque elevee dans les brumes immobiles tourne vers le port de la misere, la cite enorme au

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del tache de feu et de boue.” He refused to accept the humiliation of reconciling his sublime vision of human destiny with this vraie vie; a fiercer humility lay in wait for him, but outside poetry. The task of completing his work has fallen on his descendants, and only when they begin to attack it with the rigor and fearlessness of Rimbaud’s char¬ acter will they escape the waste and silence that overtook him and so realize the high claims he made for the future of poetry and of mankind.

194°

\

The Integral Humanism of Jacques Maritain BY

SIDNEY

HOOK

CATHOLICISM is the oldest and greatest totalitarian movement in history. Other totalitarian movements have borrowed from it even when they have fulminated against it. Its essential totalitarian charac¬ ter is at times obscured, particularly when it finds itself in conflict with the newer movements which must consolidate their power at its expense. Compare it with Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism. In every case the mystique is different; but in every case we find present not merely dogmas, sacred and profane, rituals of canonization and excommunica¬ tion, but the desire to revolutionize “the soul” of man through the directing force of a highly organized minority, using those three great instruments described by Dostoevski’s Grand Inquisitor—miracle, mys¬ tery, and authority—to order a society in behalf of the interests of a bureaucratic hierarchy. Miracle in the form of bread in return for absolute submission; mystery in the form of doctrine to conceal the true source of the bread and the exploitation of those who make it; authority in the form of sacred script, a leader, and the secular arm to make doctrinal mysteries acceptable. The greatness of Catholicism as a movement, leaving aside the historical reasons for its varying fortunes, consists in its theoretical adaptability and practical resourcefulness. The extent of its theoretical adaptability may be gauged by the fact that in its struggles against other forms of totalitarianism, it sometimes assumes the vestment o ideological liberalism even though its authoritative spokesmen have on occasions held that the logical consequence of doctrinal liberalism is Bolshevism. Despite Jeffersbn’s outspoken Deism, Catholic writers insist that his inspiration was Thomist. And if we are to judge by the writings of the outspoken apologists of Catholicism in Europe and America, they are just as ready, if necessity arise, to baptize N arx as they once baptized Aristotle. The practical resourcefulness of Catholicism is exhibited, to men¬ tion one of many things, in the skillful use it can make of everyone. 433

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It has a place and function for all who accept the Catholic dispensa¬ tion—for every type of mind and personality, for every interest and talent. Soldier or social worker, scholar or man of action, poet or astronomer, converted Jew or converted Protestant—the virtues of each individual’s excellence can be made to serve the purposes of the Church. Its base of common dogmas is sufficiently broad to permit of a wide and controlled variation. It has countenanced a modernist and fundamentalist wing in politics, a realistic and nominalist tend¬ ency in philosophy, a rationalist and mystic emphasis in theology. In the past it has found use for a St. Francis Assisi and a Torquemada just as today it can find uses for a Maritain and a Coughlin. The New Christendom M. Jacques Maritain has been aptly described1 as the general com¬ manding “the ordered offensive of Thomism” in the Western world. His appeal is therefore not demagogic but intellectual; his audience not the masses which follow slogans more easily than fine distinctions but the intellectuals who lead them. More particularly, his writings are addressed to those intellectuals who, dissatisfied with the cheap dogmas of current political ideologies, are seeking a way of life which can integrate the values of personal experience into a significant pattern and at the same time provide a dynamic perspective for social action—and this without intellectual stultification. Normally, Cathol¬ icism would be the last faith to which intellectuals of social con¬ science, historic knowledge, and some intellectual training would look for such a new basis. But M. Maritain’s books while breathing a simple piety and convincing personal integrity display such formal sophistication that, despite the nihil ohstats of the censor librorum, they can circulate to the unconverted as illustrations of how one can be Catholic even though intelligent, yes, even though radical and intelligent. Such distinguished preaching to the unregenerated is not without its profound influence upon the faithful themselves, especially those errant sons of the Church who have grown critical of its in¬ stitutional practices. Their doubts are appeased and the role of the Church in supporting the regimes of Dollfuss, Mussolini, and Franco, its neutrality” to Coughlin, appear as accidents in its temporal career, in no way related to its essential nature. To say that M. Marit^in’s ideas are dangerous is no argument against them. M. Maritain would be the first to admit it. For every idea that bears on social action is dangerous—whether it be true 1 By Mr. Montgomery Belgion.

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or false. The danger of M. Maritain’s ideas is greater today than previously. For the demoralization of the radical and socialist move¬ ments throughout the world, the one indisputable consequence of Stalinism, gives M. Maritain his great opportunity. Already many of the literati and professionals have flocked back to their ivory towers from which the depression drove them, intellectually defenseless, into the doctrinal storms. A few of greater intelligence and moral in¬ tegrity, have devoted themselves to the cultivation of a spirituality whose logical consequence, whether in Tolstoy or in Aldous Huxley, is a withdrawal not only from politics but from the world. To those whom Hitler and Stalin have not frightened into making their peace with capitalism, M. Maritain’s '"integral humanism presents .itself more and more as the only apparent alternative to democratic social¬ ism in any of its reformulated variants. M. Maritain broaches his philosophy of “integral humanism” in a subtle and persuasive way. According to him the socialist movement is a Christian heresy, doctrinally in error, but moved by the same spiritual dynamism as historical Christianity. Indeed, when M. Maritain speaks of the aims of Catholic “integral humanism,” which seeks to found on a secure basis the modern and yet age-old desire for a better life, his words would not be out of place in a socialist tract. “This new humanism, which has in it nothing in common with bourgeois humanism, and is all the more human since it does not worship man, but has a real and effective respect for human dignity, and for the rights of human personality, I see as directed towards a socio-temporal realization of that evangelical concern for humanity which ought not to exist only in the spiritual order, but to become incarnate; and toward the ideal of a true brotherhood among men. It is not to the dynamism or the im¬ perialism of a race, or of a class, or of a nation, that it asks men to sacrifice themselves: it is for the sake of a better life for their fellows and for the concrete good of the community of human individuals. . .

(True Humanism, p. xvii)2

Nor is M. Maritain frightened by the revolutionary elements in Marxist thought, if only the revolution, harsh as may be its means, will uproot the “bourgeois man” whom M. Maritain loathes with an almost un-Christian contempt. For M. Maritain, the social ideals of Marxism are not objectionable. The Marxian critique of capitalist 2 New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1938. I have centered the argument around

this book because it is the latest available to me.

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economy and of the consequences of the operation of that economy upon human freedom and culture is described as a “great lightningflash of truth.” It is only the “metaphysical” basis of Marxism, its atheism, which M. Maritain deplores because it results in the apoth¬ eosis of collective man, in the conception of the absolute sovereignty of the collectivity, and negation of true personality whose ends are not all historical, social, or natural. That “Marxism” has a dogmatic metaphysics, false though it is, makes it superior to bourgeois nom¬ inalism which has no metaphysics.3 Substitute the true metaphysics for the false, the religion of Catholicism for the “religion” of socialism, then the social revolution of the Marxists, without abating one jot of its fiery opposition to capitalism and bourgeois humanism, can more surely move toward its legitimate objectives—without of course ever achieving the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth. M. Maritain is profoundly indifferent to the fate of bourgeois property. Nor does the Church’s real estate seem to concern him overmuch, for once the Marxist heresy is supplanted by the true doctrine, there will be no reason to be suspicious of the corporate property of God’s shep¬ herds which, after all, is held in trust for the flock. The assumption that Marxism is a Christian heresy seems to draw it into an orbit of common tradition and discourse within which a humanist solution is possible—until we remember how Christian heresies were treated by the Church. M. Maritain does not approve of physical extermination of heretics today; but neither does he ap¬ prove of an earthly city (state) which is neutral toward heresy. “It is necessary that Christ should be made known; that is the work of the Church, not of the State. But, be its type sacred or secular, a temporal Christian city knows that it is its duty to assist the Church in the free accomplishment of this mission.” The Christian city, not to be confused with the City of God which is outside of time, is of two types—consecrational and secular. In the former, the assistance which the State renders the Church “is of an instrumental order: the secular arm puts its sword at the disposition of spirituality. It is then normal that the coercive force of the State should come into play to protect the faith and the community against disintegrating influence. . . .” In the secular city, the State integrates 3 This is also the judgment of the eminent Catholic historian, E. Gilson. “Against the crude, yet fundamentally sdund craving of Marxism [Stalinism] for positive and dogmatic truth, the skepticism of our decadent philosophy [all non-Thomistic philos¬ ophy] has not a chance. It deserves to be destroyed as it actually is in the minds of many of our contemporaries who embrace Marxism because it is the only dogmatism they know. The Unity of Philosophical Experience, p. 294.

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“Christian activities in its own temporal work.” The Church is assisted by the State “in the fulfillment of its rightful mission” without the use of the sword. Which mode of collaboration should exist between Church and State, says M. Maritain, depends upon historical conditions. He does not approve of the consecrational state today on historical grounds; and historical grounds, as M. Maritain himself never tires of reiterat¬ ing, are variable. Clear it is that he does not in principle, as an integral humanist, disapprove of the secular arm putting its sword at the disposition of spirituality. He states the circumstances under which such practices may be extenuated, i.e., where heretics offend the consciousness of the community (which) is vitally impregnated with the same unanimous certitude. It may even happen that the inter¬ vention of the State in such matters will moderate and curb the ex¬ cesses of spontaneous popular reaction; what more natural impulse to the crowd than to lynch the heretic?” In order to save the heretic from lynching in a consecrational com¬ munity, the State steps in to put him to the sword according to what¬ ever due process of law obtains at the time. Such practices are not incompatible with the principle of integral humanism. They are in¬ compatible with the principles of that “bourgeois” free thought and humanism to which, according to Marx, the socialists fell heir, and of which M. Maritain says, departing from his customary urbanity, that it is “the stupidest thing the world has ever known. I hasten to repeat, however, that M. Maritain does not under present historic conditions, and with an eye on France and the AngloAmerican world, advocate the consecrational form of the Christian city but the secular form. But I must confess to a deep dissatisfaction with M. Maritain’s failure to explicate more fully under what set of historic conditions he would justify one or the other form of Christian state. He does not call for a return to the Middle Ages but for a new Christendom. It will incarnate the same (analogical) principles as the medieval world but will belong to an essentially (specifically) distinct type. About M. Maritain’s use of the analogical argument I shall have more to say. But insofar as he attempts to state the empirical conditions, and on his own view they must be primarily empirical at this point; for departing from the medieval way of treating the heretic, he flatly fails. His failure is very disturbing even when, perhaps it would be more accurate to say just because, we recognize that the problem lies within the field of prudence which does not admit as high an order of certitude as of caution.

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M. Maritain frankly avows that he has no desire to condemn the theory according to which the temporal power is justified in putting heretics to the sword for the good of their souls and for the spiritual unity of the community. “I have no desire to condemn such a system in theory. In one sense an earthly order capable of putting to death for the crime of heresy showed a greater care for men’s souls and held a higher ideal of the dignity of the human community centered in this way on truth than one which only looks to punish crimes against the body.” (p. 144) Why, then, does M. Maritain in delineating the respects in which the new Christendom differs from the old, make provision for what he calls the extraterritoriality of the person, which would preserve the life of the heretic even though his heresy, as a threat to men’s souls, is declared an abomination? His answer deserves careful con¬ sideration. Because putting to death for crime of heresy “is the point where human nature must most fatally lead to abuses; abuses which became [note the change of tense!] more and more intolerable when, after the ruin of medieval Christendom, the State, ceasing to act as the instrument of a higher and legitimate spiritual authority, arrogated to itself and in its own name rights of spiritual interference.” {ibid,., my italics.) The gravamen of M. Maritain’s disclaimer is not that the method leads to abuses, for all coercive means of implementing a good end, since they are employed by creatures of limited wisdom, lead to abuse! Rather is it that it leads to intolerable abuse. And why intolerable? Because when the consecrated Christian city loses its authority, the practice may be—and has been—adopted by those who have usurped that authority. But so long as the consecrated city retains its authority, abuses there may be; but intolerable abuses—never. And suppose there were a way of retaining authority in the consecrational State, so that there would be no danger that Protestants, absolute monarchs, and Jacobins would borrow a leaf from the pages of Church history with which to light the fires of Catholic martyrs? On what ground could M. Maritain condemn a practice—temporal suppression—which flows from a theory the right to save souls from heresy—of which he approves? The intolerable abuses of which M. Maritain speaks oc¬ curred after the ruin of medieval Christendom. Is he prepared to argue that the ruin of medieval Christendom is the result of its treat¬ ment of heretics? Hardly, for he has previously argued that as a means of achieving a good end, this .treatment of heretics was justified by the historic context and conditions. But if the ruin of medieval Chris-

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tendom is not the result of its treatment of heretics, he is still owing us an explanation of why he disapproves the practice but not the theory; at the very least, an indication of the historic conditions under which in the future the practice may be as unexceptionable as the theory. Before we conclude this section of our study, we must look a little more closely at the type of collaboration between Church and State which M. Maritain proposes for his secular Christian city. The spirit¬ ual (Catholic) principle is to have a commanding influence on the life and morals of the community but it must not command the state to enforce these principles on those—pagans and heretics who do not or will not see the truth. Here the familiar scheme of pluralism operates. But this pluralism, M. Maritain expressly warns, must not be confused with “theological liberalism.” Theological liberalism is the belief that the commonwealth “should be obliged to recognize as licet for each spiritual group the law worked out for that group according to its own principles.” This is impermissible to those who are concerned with men’s souls and who know that they know the truth about the only path by which these souls may be saved. The pluralist form of political organization “signifies that in order to avoid greater evil . . . the commonwealth could and should tolerate (to tolerate is not to approve) ways of worship more or less distant from the truth. . . .” These greater evils are civil strife and the insecurities it breeds. Tolerance of non-Catholics and heretical Catholics in M. Maritain’s secular Christian state is an evil, a lesser evil but an evil nevertheless. It is a lesser evil which is suffered by the true believers until they become strong enough to save the false believers from themselves without danger of provoking widespread civil strife. The measure of the strength of the integral humanists, we must therefore conclude, is the limit of the tolerance of integral humanism. Salva¬ tion is always a greater good than tolerance. Civil War is always a greater evil than tolerance. If repression could stop short of civil war, it would be a lesser evil than tolerance. How faithfully M. Maritain follows official Church doctrine on this point, despite his gracious prose and terminological liberalism, may be gathered from the following passage in the Papal Encyclical, Libertas, of Leo XIII. “Although in the extraordinary conditions of these times the Church usually acquiesces in certain modern liberties, she does so not as preferring them in themselves, but as judging it .expedient to allow them until in happier times she can exercise her own liberty.” Among the liberties of the Church are not merely the

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right to teach her doctrines as alone true but the right to judge and punish. The basic feature of M. Maritain’s secular Christian state is that it cannot be neutral in religion. Insofar as public education is con¬ cerned, not only must provision be made for religious instruction with due regard for the extraterritorial rights of heretical religions, but any teaching that falls within the very broad category of atheism must be proscribed in order to save the souls of the young from cor¬ ruption. M. Maritain is much too civilized a person to join in a man¬ hunt against atheistic professors of philosophy like Bertrand Russell. But he has formulated the theoretical premises which can be used to justify the tightest restrictions against a critical and experimental ap¬ proach to the fundamental questions of religion, morality, and a fortiori, politics.4 That M. Maritain’s views are dangerous, then, we may consider as having established. Reasonable they may also be, but there is at least as much gall and blood mixed up with the reasoning as sweetness and light. For M. Maritain, religious freedom is a contradiction in terms, intellectual independence on matters of faith and morals a form of arrogant impiety, urbane skepticism of metaphysical asser¬ tions, spiritual decadence, and simple courage in the face of death defiance of God. The position he represents may be found congenial by those who, having surrendered one or another specific variety of totalitarianism, have not yet repudiated its generic form. It deserves attentive consideration from those who refuse to acknowledge that the good life, personal or social, can be built on the pillars of myth, mystery, and authority. We turn now to an examination of M. Maritain’s reasoning. 4 The leal secret of M. Maritain’s ideas is their organizationally orthodox char¬ acter. How orthodox his conception of the New Christendom is may be gathered by comparing his position with that of Max Scheler, in his Catholic phase (Vom Euiigen nn Menschen). Scheler sought to bring Catholicism and socialism together in the interests of a new European culture by assigning to the first an educational and spiritualizing function in a socialist society, and not by giving the Church a place at the political controls. As an Augustinian, he was more interested in the direct relationship between the individual soul and God than in the mediating role of the Church. He, therefore, could embrace a Catholicism which falls short oAotalitarianlsm. But it is necessarily an heretical Catholicism. Aquinas leaves no doubt as to the central place of the Church, as an organization, in Catholic theory and practice. “The practice of the Church ^ possesses the highest authority, and we must be directed by it in all things. Even the doctrine of the Catholic teachers has its authority from the Church. Hence we must hold the custom of the Church in higher esteem than the authority of an Augustine or a Jerome.” (Quodlib. u, A. 7 citedby Grabmann, Aquinas, p. 50.) ’

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Theology and Politics M. Maritain is a subtle and persuasive writer. But this is not to say that he is a rigorous thinker. Despite the reputation for cogent argument which he enjoys among literary men and his Catholic brethren, there is hardly a conclusion he reaches that is not begged at the outset. He considers few of the possible alternatives to his controlling assumptions, and of these, only the crudest. The whole bent of his intellectual procedure is to make distinctions that enable him to withdraw the issues with which he is most concerned, from the possibility of scientific or empirical determination. The result is that to the unwary he seems to extend a vast area which includes almost all of the domains of scientific knowledge, art, and social action, within which conclusions may be freely reached by competent methods, without reference to Catholic dogma. Provided an individual is pre¬ pared to abandon his naturalism or his religious heresy (atheism, Protestantism, Greek orthodoxy, etc.), M. Maritain is willing to extend a friendly hand to him. It matters not at all whether the individual is a Darwinian, a Freudian, a logical empiricist, a Marxian socialist, yes, even a Stalinist! But the interests of the Catholic Church must be served, and so we find that Mr. Maritain at crucial points steps into the realm of time and social struggle to settle issues concerning the nature of mind, the state, political and moral hygiene (which includes questions like the relation of church and state, education, divorce, birth control, etc.) by reference to Catholic-Christian principles whose validity is declared to be timeless. The mysteries of Catholic dogma, which can best be stated in nega¬ tive terms, and cannot be justified on rational grounds, give M. Maritain a strategic vantage point. They enable him to criticize any basic belief concerning man, which is not centered in the Church, as inadequate, even when he admits a certain measure of truth in its claims. In this way the Church appears as the repository of all “truths” without being compelled to show how they can all be rationally held.. The unity which embraces all “truths,” pruned of exaggeration, is a supernatural mystery. In practice, i.e., in judgments applied to temporal institutions, this unity dissolves into the barest kind of eclecticism. For example, of the pessimism of the Reformation, M. Maritain can say that it “unduly exaggerates the Christian concept of original sin,” of the optimism of the Renaissance that it unduly exaggerates the equally Christian but opposite concept of the value of the human being.” Man is naturally evil but not only evil. Man is

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naturally good but not merely good. The same may be said of human ignorance and knowledge, ugliness and beauty, weakness and strength. M. Maritain is helpless, however, before a position which denies that men are “naturally” either good or evil, and that the qualities of good or evil are acquired by them in the course of time in relation to each other. He lumps together all positions different from his own as relatively unimportant variations of the same essential heresy. How like the procedure of the totalitarians! The integral human¬ ism of Catholicism offers men a choice between two alternatives; either pure Christianity (i.e., the Church) or some form of atheism, implicit or overt. Just as the Stalinists were wont to regard all intermediate groupings between fascism and Stalinism as forms of fascism, so Catholics in a frank mood, and M. Maritain in a less explicit one, lump Luther, Kant, Hegel, Croce, Dewey, Marx, and Stalin together as phases of an inevitable transition of decline from the true faith. In these days when the mystical law of the unity of opposites seems to be translated into the practical co-operation between totalitarians with opposite ideologies, we must not take too seriously M. Maritain’s sharp disjunction between Catholicism and Stalinism. As will be shown subsequently, he has built more than one bridge for possible use between the two. After all, the political liaison between fascism and Catholicism in some countries is a fact; and a Concordat between the Pope and Stalin is no more improbable today than the HitlerStalin pact was some years ago. This may sound shocking to those readers who recall M. Maritain’s passages in criticism of Stalinism. But what does he criticize? Not so much Stalin’s cultural terror but its spiritual error—the same spiritual error which presumably is found in democratic countries that are free from cultural terror. He does not criticize in any fundamental way, the structure of the Communist Party hierarchy; the absence of political democracy in Russia; the censorship of the mind; the thou¬ sand and one evils which flow from a minority-party dictatorship. He does criticize the principles by which these practices are regulated, not in the light of their empirical effects but in the light of Catholic principles which are equally exempt from check by any empirical effects. The Stalinist stewards are unworthy of their leadership! Insofar as their practices are sinful, it flows from their false religion—their atheism which is nothing^ else, according to M. Maritain, than the ne plus ultra of bourgeois humanism. He voices his distrust of this religion even as he accepts—gingerly, to be sure—the outstretched hand of the Communist Party in itsv Popular Front disguise. “It is in

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the logic of things that one day or another a hatred, a religious vindictiveness will be awakened against the faithful of other re¬ ligions, as generally happens in the case of all political nonconformists, if only in the last degree they refuse to conform.” (p. 32) That M. Maritain should hurl this reproach at the Stalinists is puzzling because were it true—and it is—it would seem as if he were accusing them of recapitulating the history of the Church itself. But it is at this point that M. Maritain rears himself to his full height as a Catholic apologist. In order to evade responsibility for the acts of the Church, he invokes a distinction between “authentic Christianity” (the Church) and the historic career of the Church. From the stand¬ point of “authentic Christianity” (Catholicism) there are many things which historic Catholicism has done from which we might well shrink in horror. But nothing it has done can affect the essence of the Church, its sacred and holy validity which it has received from the source of all validity. None of the deplorable acts and programs to which the historic Church has committed itself can be deduced from the prin¬ ciples of the authentic Church. But if it is impossible to deduce from authentic and revealed Christianity the particular programs which M. Maritain condemns, it is just as impossible to deduce their contraries of which he approves. If authentic Christianity comprises a set of gen¬ eral, eternal, and immutable truths beyond history and time, they cannot serve as a guide to specific problems of history and time. M. Maritain’s dilemma therefore is either to admit that no positive po¬ litical program, (which must of course consist of more than vague and unqualified injunctions to love one’s neighbor), is deducible from “authentic Christianity,” or that the political programs of Catholi¬ cism, including his own proposals, are to be explained by the concrete interests of the Church as an historic organization in time. He can¬ not do the first without cutting himself off from a principled basis on which to criticize political formations in time; he cannot do the second without running the risk of being compelled to condemn Church and Pope and of suffering eternal damnation. M. Maritain attempts to slip between the horns of this dilemma with another distinction. The Church itself must not be identified with the Kingdom of God; it is only the chrysalis of the Kingdom of God which can never be achieved in time. “It is in time but not of time.” Insofar as it is “in time” it must strive to realize the Kingdom of God although it can never completely succeed; insofar as it is not of time” it is the Kingdom of God already realized. But this distinc¬ tion, which is based on a religious mystery disguised as a metaphysical

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necessity, avails nothing. For even the Church in time is distinguished from the Church as an organization of men hierarchically organized to exercise power in the political and social struggles of the day. When the Pope issues an Encyclical (not to mention his prayers for Franco) it may be that he is not proclaiming the truths of the King¬ dom of God. But does he speak for the Church in time or for the Church as a corporation whose seat is in Rome and whose representa¬ tives bargain for the extension of its corporate rights in almost every court and chancellery of the world.5 The importance of M. Maritain’s intellectual procedure justifies restating this in another way. On the one hand, Catholicism is neutral to things in time, including politics. On the other hand, it is essentially concerned with them and especially with politics, for politics falls within the domain of morals, and moral values “imply a reference to the supernatural order and to revelation.” This revelation is granted to the Catholic church and only to the Catholic church. Consequently, no right order of society is achievable, no science or philosophy of politics can be true or even wholly useful, which does not judge and evaluate its objects “by the light of revealed principles.” The objects judged are secular and temporal. The principles by which they are judged are supernatural, substantially of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God can never be realized in this world but it can be prepared for by the Catholic church. Now the extent of the temporal power which the Church should claim in order to effect this preparation, is not a matter for sacred Catholic theology to decide but for Catholic politics informed by supernatural truths. In principle it is unlimited: in practice, a func¬ tion of expediency—a high expediency. Empirically, however, it varies with the power (wealth, numbers, influence) of the Church com¬ municants in specific historical contexts, and with the shrewd esti¬ mates by the hierarchy of the danger that its own principle of intoler¬ ance, used to further the Kingdom of God, might be applied by other religions against Catholics, to further the Kingdom of the Devil. M. Maritain cannot in principle condemn the aspiration of the Catholic 5 No one really knows when the Pope is speaking ex cathedra except the Pope himself. For all practical purposes, however, the Papal Encyclicals have a binding force not only on the behavior of the faithful but on their religious assent. “En¬ cyclicals are not necessarily ex\:athedra pronouncements, though the Pope could, if he so willed, issue definitions in that way. The faithful are bound to give them a religious assent, interior as well as exterior, and obedience and respect.” Addis and Arnold, Catholic Dictionary, p. 298 (my italics). Cf. Poynter “Catholicism and Sociology” (XIXth Century and After} Jan. 1940.

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Church to monopoly of temporal power without falling into heresy; he cannot condone all its practices without lapsing into spiritual sad¬ ism which would be very shocking to bourgeois liberals whom he accuses of lacking “both erotic feeling and ontological sensibility.” It is to escape from this and similar difficulties that he introduces his double mystery about time. To what pitiable straits M. Maritain is reduced as a Church apologist is indicated by the following. Attempting to explain away the assumption of vast temporal power by the Church during the Middle Ages, the counter-Reformation, and the ancien regime, he writes: “The Church, as such, was not involved in these excesses but they were produced within the Church, (p. 99) this is not another divine mystery, how can an organization not be involved in that which is produced within it? Perhaps the excesses were the work of outsiders—pagans dressed in the vestments of clerics? Such things have been often alleged. For example, the Nazi excesses of 1933 were all ex¬ plained as the work of Communists in the uniform of Storm Troopers. But if these excesses were the work of outsiders, surely M. Maritain might tell us when the Church as such disavowed these excesses. Un¬ fortunately, he does not. Even on the assumption that M. Maritain s distinction between what is “involved in and what is produced within” makes sense, were he discussing the good works of the Church during this period, instead of its auto-da-fes, he would not be likely to say: “The Church, as such, was not involved in these beneficent meas¬ ures but they were produced within the Church. Yet there is as much warrant for one piece of verbal legerdemain as for the other. It is not a question of whether the distinction between the temporal activity of the Church-as-such and the temporal activity of the Churchnot-as-such is tenable or untenable, since it involves the mysteries of sacred theology. The empirical question is: To what forms of be¬ havior, intellectual and practical, is the use of such words an index? Although M. Maritain allows a formal autonomy to questions of empirical fact, he shows absolutely no respect for empirical facts where they conflict with his ideological mission. In justifying his mission he writes as if he has come to recall the Church to a sense of its obliga¬ tions to the secular world. He would have us believe that the Church has confined its ministrations to the religious sphere and that “mat¬ ters of social, of political and economic life it has abandoned to their own secular law.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The Church has played a very active role in the social and political history of Europe and the Americas, particularly in those centers

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where its communicants are numerous. To speak only of our own hemisphere the history of Mexico in the last hundred years, and of Chicago, Boston, and New York. City in the last fifty, is incompre¬ hensible without reference to the open and sometimes decisive par¬ ticipation of the Catholic hierarchy—with or without benefit of the light of authentic Christianity. The advantages which the community is to derive, if the Church will only heed M. Maritain’s injunction to spiritualize temporal political life, are illustrated, according to our author, by the activity of the Catholic Church in Fascist Italy. Here in its very cradle, totali¬ tarianism has been checked, if not tamed, by papal intervention. “It is highly remarkable,” he writes, “that in the very country where the totalitarian State first had that name, the totalitarian principle has been in the sequel, half broken by the resistance of the Catholic Church, with which historical circumstances obliged it to come to terms.” (p. 278, my italics.) A masterpiece of misstatement! Were it not composed by M. Maritain we would consider it a devastating piece of irony from an anti-Catholic pen. The simple fact is that in coming to terms with Mussolini the Catholic Church strengthened totalitarianism in Italy. The date of the papal agreement, 1931, marks the stabilization of Italian Fascism in the eyes of the world. It was the Catholic Church that affixed the certified seal of stabilization. Clericalist sentiment which was at a low ebb in democratic Italy has grown tremendously in Fascist Italy, aided and abetted by Mussolini for value received. Did the Church lift up its voice against the Ethiopian campaign or did it rather improve on the opportunity to convert heretics? Is there any doubt that Mussolini’s invasion of Spain was carried out with the active collaboration of the Papacy? True, the Church took exception to Mussolini’s ideological adventure into “racism,” not on scientific but organizational grounds. The ideology of Catholicism after all is indispensable for its proselytizing efforts outside of Italy. But it did not succeed in deflecting the course of Mussolini’s policy one iota.6 Most eloquent of all, however, is the implication of the admission that it was with the Italian Fascist State and not the Italian democratic State that the Pope succeeded in coming to terms.

6 The only concrete evidence\M. Maritain cites of what the Catholic Church has received for its support of Italian Fascism is the fact that “the Ballilas have been constrained to concede Sunday to religion and the family.” This mitigates the fascization of these bases in arms on all other days of the week. M. Maritain mi°iit have also cited the additional fact that Mussolini has not withdrawn the rights of Christian burial to the victims of the Ovra.

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Integral Humanism and War M. Maritain is a faithful son of the Church not only in doctrine but in the accurate way in which he reflects the inconsequentiality of doctrine when confronted by momentous social and political issues. In any crucial situation the behavior of the Catholic Church may be more reliably predicted by reference to its concrete interests as a political organization than by reference to its timeless dogmas. Anal¬ ogously for M. Maritain. His attitude toward the Second World War is not what one would expect from a pious Christian but from a French patriot. One can respect the motives of the French patriot. But one cannot respect a rationalization of French patriotism in terms • of Catholic theology. It is truly sad to observe in M. Maritain’s Chris¬ tian apologetics for the cause of the Allies the lamentable disregard of the very distinctions he has so seriously urged upon us until now. In order to appreciate the gravity of M. Maritain’s intellectual sins— for the intellectual life has its virtues, too—it is necessary to re¬ capitulate briefly the argument of his True Humanism, approved by the Catholic censor, and compare it with the text of his article on the war, approved by the French censor. In the first, the Catholic Church is presented as the only genuine alternative to secular totalitarianism. The capitalist democracies are scorned for their bourgeois humanism, for their degrading cults of profit and comfort, and their anarchical conception of freedom. They receive particular condemnation for preparing the way for the worst features of totalitarianism. The totalitarian cultures are regarded as historically legitimate heirs of the vicious errors of bourgeois democ¬ racy, and as morally legitimate revulsions against this unendurable heritage. They show a praiseworthy concern for the souls of men but they have taken the wrong road to salvation. They exemplify “vir¬ tues gone mad.” Their errors cannot be corrected by a return to the spiritual indifference of bourgeois humanism but by an acceptance of the Catholic way of life which will preserve the positive features of the totalitarian cultures, Italian, German, or Russian, while prun¬ ing the deplorable excesses that flow from a false metaphysics. And now let us hear M. Maritain in defense of the war. The thing which I want to say at once and that I want to cry from the housetops is that the spiritual situation of Europe has completely changed and that the salvation of Europe has begun ... the striking indication of this change is the Russo-German alliance. It has completed the unmasking of the enemy. . . .

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Everyone now realizes that . . . there is only one revolution; and this revolution is in essence directed against the first principles of all Christian civilization, against everything which indicates the mark of God on man, against everything which implies respect for the human person, for justice and for truth, against everything which relates to greatness and liberty of the human soul. . . . The declaration of war against Germany by England and France on Sunday, the third of September, was not simply an action that had become politically necessary. It was also an admirable evidence of the strength of soul and of the moral greatness of these two countries. . . . The world saw that the democracies . . . were willing to remain faithful to the reason for their existence . . . that the men of France and England, of ’ those two ancient Christian lands, risked in the perils of a hellish war both their lives and their dearest goods and the incomparable heritage of civilization of which they are the guardians. (Com¬ monweal, October 13, 1939) Yesterday France and England, according to M. Maritain, were capitalist democracies accursed by bourgeois humanism; today they are those ancient Christian lands,” guardians of “the incomparable heritage of civilization.” Yesterday, the atheism of bourgeois man, of Stalinist totalitarianism, of fascism, were three different forms of the same essential heresy; today, by a verbal trans-substantiation, the atheistic bourgeois democracies become protagonists of the Christian principles they had shamelessly flouted for more than a century. Yes¬ terday, M. Maritain was hopeful that with the extension of the Popular Front and the signing of the Franco-Soviet pact, the Christian truths held in captive by the state philosophy of Stalin might yet convert their captors, today Stalinism is not only the creed of the unregeneratecl but of the unregenerate. Had the war broken out with either Hitler or Stalin on the side of the Allies, it is reasonable to assume that M. Maritain would soon find an essential difference between these twin forms of totalitarianism. And how fervently must M. Mari¬ tain pray for the continuance of Italian neutrality! For if totalitarian Italy, that most ancient of Christian lands, joins the defenders of Christian civilization, it will spoil the lines of his apology; and if it joins its sisters then we \Vill have the strange spectacle of a totali¬ tarianism, presumably tamed by the papacy, waging war against the principles of Christianity. A cruel dilemma, only one degree less cruel than the fate of an apologist called upon to explain the possible

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support of Christian principles by Mohammedan Turkey, not to mention China and Japan. So many questions crowd the mind concerning M. Maritain’s Christian defense of Allied victory that it is difficult to know where to begin. We might question him about the application of the first principles of Christian civilization by France and England to the natives of India and Indo-China. We might inquire why he so lightly disregards the danger he himself cites that war may bring many features of totalitarianism to the old Christian countries. We might ask why, if he believes that Europe has already been saved for Chris¬ tianity by baptism of fire, he is staunchly opposed to a peace without complete military victory. But all this is foreign terrain for M. Maritain and we wish to question him in his own terms. How is it possible for capitalist democracies thrice accursed by bourgeois humanism, metaphysical nominalism, and educational secularism to become the defenders of “the first principles of all Christian civilization ? There is only one answer that M. Maritain, as a Catholic, can make to explain the conduct of M. Maritain, as a French patriot. Despite spiritual negations of capitalist democracy, the latent strength of true Catholic principles, which exist in a distorted form even among the Christian heresies, has at this decisive moment transformed the character of the culture and opened new possibilities for a new Christendom. Overt or hidden, it is Catholic principles, and only Catholic principles, which are the true guardians of the Christian birthright of mankind. The Church can be relied upon to combat totalitarianism. And yet when M. Maritain wrote his Catholic apologia for Allied victory in a “just war,” he was not unacquainted with the Pastoral Letter of the bishops of the Catholic Church of Germany which said: “In this decisive hour we admonish our Catholic soldiers to do their duty in obedience to the Fuehrer and be ready to sacrifice their whole individuality. We appeal to the Faithful to join in ardent prayers that Divine Providence may lead this war to success.” (New York Times, September 24, 1939-) ' . , Will M. Maritain tell us once more that this is an action produced within” the Church but “not involving” the Church? Let us hope so, because since it involves a mystery it does not insult our intelligence and outrage our moral sensibilities as does the answer he actually gives. “It is entirely understandable,” he writes in another issue of Commonweal, “that the bishops of the countries at war should exhort their respective peoples to serve their countries loyally.” An evasion

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which lacks even subtlety. Does loyalty to one’s country, then, de¬ mand loyalty to whatever “criminal dreamer” whose “lust for power and savage aggression” ( the words are M. Maritain’s) orders them into battle? And have the Catholic bishops merely exhorted the Faithful to be loyal? They speak of the duty of obedience to the Fuehrer. They speak of the duty of sacrificing their whole individuality to him. But this is precisely the kind of abominations which M. Maritain has con¬ demned in the name of the Church, authentic Christianity, integral humanism. All this, according to M. Maritain, is entirely understandable; and he adds that it is “naive” to be scandalized by it. What is under¬ standable? The war of the Allies, M. Maritain is convinced, is a “just war,” demonstrable as such by eternal Christian principles. How is it understandable that a just war on one side of the Rhine, should be considered an unjust war on the other side of the Rhine by Catholics who enjoy the same grace of papal benediction and the same light of revealed principles as their fellow Catholic, M. Maritain? Is justice, then, as Pascal suggests, bounded by a river? Would it be under¬ standable if M. Maritain, as a Catholic, supported an unjust war? Why is it more understandable that the Catholic bishops of Germany should support an unjust war? And why is it “naive” to be scandalized by the division among Catholics? Because to be scandalized implies that one has taken the principles of integral humanism seriously? Or because it implies that one is not acquainted with the long record of such division? Or because it implies that it lacks intelligence to expect Catholic principles to be administered in any other way except real¬ istically, i.e, with an eye to organizational fortunes rather than to justice or sanctity? M. Maritain himself has exposed the hollowness of this integral humanism. A French patriot need not be driven to such desperate expedients to justify his action. Whether we accepted his reasons or not, we could understand them. For they would not involve tran¬ scendental mythology. Science, Atheism, and Mythology One of the central terms in M. Maritain’s critique of modern cul¬ ture is “atheism.” Almost all of our current evils and errors are re¬ duced to expressions or consequences of atheism. It is the root of Marxian fallacy in theory and Marxian inadequacy in practice. Insofar as M. Maritain finds occasion to criticize totalitarian regimes, he traces their excesses not to false principles of economics or politics but to

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their “atheism.” This atheism, he reminds us, is the logical outcome of bourgeois free thought. In many places M. Maritain seems to sug¬ gest that the Deists, many Protestant sects, all humanists except in¬ tegral humanists, are atheists, too. Even the “bourgeois liberal,” as a type, no matter how great a play he makes of morality and a spirit¬ ual point of view, “is a deist and an atheist; it is he who has taught their atheism to his pupils and heirs, the Communists.” (True Human¬ ism, p. 72) How such broad divergences as democratic socialism, capitalism, and Stalinism can flow from a negation of a theological principle, M. Maritain leaves unexplained. But here as elsewhere by a carefully cultivated ambiguity M. Maritain uses one term to cover at least two different doctrines which logically do not involve each other—the one, a theological proposition which denies the existence of God or gods, as well as divine creation or governance of the world; the second, a theory of personality or human value. In the strict sense, many people can be atheistic without ceasing to be religious. In fact, there are religions which are atheistic. Unfortunately, M. Maritain employs the term “atheism” in such a variety of contexts that it is difficult to find what common nucldus of meaning he gives it. It often serves as an epithet of denunciation rather than of description. Sometimes it means disbelief in the God of Catholicism, sometimes disbelief in any gods, sometimes devil worship, or irreligion, or antipersonalism, or just plain immorality. Where M. Maritain discusses atheism as a doctrine which denies the existence of God, his procedure is very illuminating. He does not attempt to prove the existence of God although we may suspect he accepts the Thomistic proofs, all of which are logically invalid. Instead, he tries to demonstrate the horrible practical consequences of atheism. Atheism is false because consistently lived, it must lead to suicide. “It is not by accident, it is by a strictly necessary effect, writ¬ ten in the nature of things, that every absolute experience of atheism, if it is conscientiously and rigorously followed, ends by provoking its psychical dissolution, in suicide. (True Humanism, p. 53) Even if it were a practical consequence of atheism, it would not prove that atheism is false. But why does M. Maritain insist that con¬ sistent atheism leads “by a strictly necessary effect” to suicide? M. Maritain’s reasoning is so shockingly bad that it is hard to account for it even in the interests of apologetics. He takes over, literally and completely, the argument of the mad Kirillov in Dostoevski s The Possessed. “If God exists all things depend on Him and I can do

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nothing outside His will. If He does not exist, all depends on me and I am bound to display my independence. . . . For three years I have been seeking for the attribute of my divinity and I’ve found it; the attribute of my divinity is independence. ... I shall kill myself to prove my independence and my new terrible freedom.” Dostoevski even without benefit of St. Thomas Aquinas is credited with the pro¬ found metaphysical insight that one must believe either that God exists or that one is himself God. If God doesn’t exist, then I must be God, and if I am God, I can only prove it by committing suicide. It is hard to take this with a straight face but it would be dis¬ courteous to M. Maritain’s high seriousness to take it otherwise. Very well, then. If God does not exist, it does not follow in the least that everything depends on me. Why should the only alternative to belief in a myth be a form of romantic madness? Even if God does not exist, I am still dependent in many ways upon other things and other people who do not depend for their existence upon me. If to exist means to be dependent upon something, it still does not follow that I must be dependent upon God. If to exist means to be inde¬ pendent of some thing in some respects, it does not follow that I must be independent of all other things in all other respects, that I must be “absolutely independent,” whatever that may mean. And if the ab¬ solute independence of Kirillov demands that he commit suicide, then the absolute independence of a Divine Power demands that, analogi¬ cally understood, it, too, commit suicide. The whole reference to Dostoevski is unfortunate, and on more grounds than one. The intellectual pattern of Dostoevski’s reactionary genius, although softened by pity, is not compromised, as in M. Maritain, by doctrinally unmotivated gestures toward liberalism and democracy. And his psychological insight penetrates even more deeply than M. Maritain realizes into the sophistic compulsions of those who desire to find logical reasons for beliefs based upon arbitrary faith. The sophism whose conclusion is that atheism entails suicide, which M. Maritain borrows from Kirillov, Dostoevski puts into the mouth of a madman. The more plausible sophism that belief in an omnipotent and benevolent God leads to self-destruction in a world of evil, Dostoevski puts into the mouth of Ivan Karamazov, the most powerful intelligence among his characters. Ivan is a believer whose Euclidean understanding cannot grasp the reason why the innocent should suffet in a world created by an omnipotent and benevolent God. As he explodes every justification theologians have advanced for the existence of evil, he concludes, “It’s not God that I don’t accept,

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Alyosha, only I most respectfully return Him the ticket.” Neither the sophism of Kirillov nor the sophism of Karamazov has any place in a discussion of the arguments for God’s existence. The problem of evil does not exist for naturalists. Nor for those Marxists who are genuine naturalists and not believers in a benevolent Natur-Dialectik. When M. Maritain reproaches Marxism for its atheism, he therefore shifts to another alleged consequence of dis¬ belief in the existence of God, viz., its atheistic conception of man and human nature. The “atheistic” conception of man is regarded as profoundly in¬ human because it views him as a natural and social creature but not as a personal one. It sacrifices man to “the monism of collective life” which bestows prosperity upon him only after it has deprived him of essential dignity. Marxist humanism, according to M. Maritain, operates with a philosophy of the human being as tropistic^lly de¬ termined by constant biological needs and varying historical ones. From that philosophy we can never derive the sense of human selfrespect and human freedom which are central to Catholic integral humanism. M. Maritain will probably be surprised to learn that it is in* the name of that very human dignity and independence, which he treats as spiritual abstractions, that Marx rejects not only liberal capitalism but Catholicism. M. Maritain has had his forerunners—the great Lamennais who towers above him as well as a whole flock of petty German consistorial councilors who lack his subtlety. On one of the occasions when the latter urged the working classes to unite with the Church and Throne against the liberal bourgeoisie, Marx reviewed briefly those “social principles of Christianity

which had taken

eighteen centuries to develop. The social principles of Christianity justified the slavery of classical days; they glorified medieval serfdom; and, when necessary, understand how to defend the oppression of the pro¬ letariat. The social principles of Christianity proclaim the neces¬ sity for the existence of a ruling class and an oppressed class, and remain content with the pious wish that the former will deal charitably with the latter. The social principles of Christianity assume that there will be a consistorial compensation in heaven for all the infamies committed on earth, and therewith justify the continuance of these infamies. The social principles of Chris¬ tianity explain that the contemptible practices of the oppressors

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against the oppressed are either just punishments for original sins and other sins, or trials which the Lord in his infinite wisdom has ordained for the redeemed. The social principles of Chris¬ tianity preach cowardice, self-contempt, abasement, submis¬ sion, humility, in short all the qualities of the canaille; and the proletariat, which will not allow itself to be treated as canaille, needs courage, self-respect, pride, and sense of personal dignity even more than its bread. The social principles of Christianity are mealy-mouthed; those of the proletariat are revolutionary. (Gesamtausgabe, Abt. I, Bd. 6, p. 278) There is rhetoric in this, and a certain failure to appreciate the positive accomplishments of the Christian heretical movements. But here as elsewhere, Marx is concerned to defend human personality— its dignity and independence—against vulgar materialistic views, on the one hand, and authoritarian spiritualistic views, on the other. For Marx, man is not born with a “soul” or “human personality.” He achieves it. Marx’s social philosophy is an attempt to discover, and to help to bring into existence, the social, cultural, and educa¬ tional conditions under which all men and women may develop sig¬ nificant human personalities. M. Maritain’s belief in a “personality” which can exist independently of physical, biological, historical, and cultural conditions is a consequence of a bad psychology and still worse metaphysics. M. Maritain is right in asserting that Marx’s critique of religion is the basis of Marx’s entire philosophical approach. He is wrong in identifying that critique of religion with atheism. He fails to under¬ stand in what way Marx’s critique of religion is the basis of all his other critiques. There is one clue to Marx’s antireligious position which M. Maritain, together with others of even greater acuity of social preception, has not read properly. We know that Marx was continuously charging that avowed atheists like Bruno Bauer and Max Stirner had not liberated themselves from religious dogmas. He takes Feuerbach to task for the same reason although he regarded him more highly than any of the Young Hegelians. Why? The answer is that for Marx the essence of the religious attitude is to be found in the method of hypostasis no matter what the objects hypostatized are. For Mark any introduction of abstractions, whose origin and reference are allegedly transcendental rather than his¬ torical, and which are presumably tested by intuition rather than by their functional use in concrete experiential situations, is religious.

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Literally it is supernaturalism. Marx’s critical method is scientific method used to disclose those problems and interests of men which are concealed by the introduction of unanalyzable abstractions. He is always asking: what is the earthly and empirical basis for unearthly and nonempirical dogmas? In the abstractions of theology, he finds a fetishism of words which conceals specific historical and organiza¬ tional needs. In the abstractions of jurisprudence, he finds a fetishism of principles which conceals the genuine power distributions in society. In the abstractions of economics, he finds a fetishism of com¬ modities which conceals the fact that men today are controlled by the very forces of production which they themselves create. Each set of abstractions is accompanied by a set of practices. Since these ab¬ stractions are nonempirical and nonhistorical, the only meaning that can be assigned to them is in terms of these very practices. Wherever abstractions are worshiped, whether it be in theology, politics, or physics, the task of scientific (materialistic) method is to locate the concrete situation in which they were first introduced, to observe the practices (Praxis') which they set up, and their subsequent career in estopping more fruitful modes of procedure in similar situations. It is in Marx’s scientific critique of abstractions that his irreligion lies and not in the village atheism with which it is often confused by many Marxists and most non-Marxists alike. This critique of ab¬ stractions constitutes the gravest challenge to M. Maritain’s philosophy and theology. For it cuts all dogmas at their root, especially those based on what is called analogical knowledge of proportionality, and reveals them as the conceptual instruments of systematically cultivated obscurantism. Take, for example, the dogma of divine creation, so necessary for M. Maritain’s theology. To create is a natural and historical process and in its usual sense implies either an end or an intent or both. When we say that an individual creates, we mean that it is an act in time, upon material which antecedes the action, by means of instru¬ ments which are at hand in a given place even though they may have been previously created. For M. Maritain, God creates the world together with the antecedent material and the instruments of creation. How is this creation to be understood? Not metaphorically but ana¬ logically. The metaphorical sense of creation is obviously derived from the activity of men as when we speak of the creative gusts of spring,” (or of “smiling skies” derived from “smiling men”). The analogical concept of creation as applied to God, however, has a meaning which in principle is not derived from, or reducible to, the

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creative activities of men. Nor are divine creation and human creation two different modes of creation, for in that case “creation” as a term would have a univocal, not an analogous meaning, and what is in question here is the analysis of the term “creation,” rather than the term “divine” whose meaning has difficulties of its own. Strictly speaking, we cannot predicate properties of God whose meanings are derived from human activity, without subjecting him to the same empirical tests as we apply to creatures of space and time. If we do this, God is anthropomorphized and all statements about him become false. If we do not do this, there is no possible way by which statements about God can be tested, and they become meaningless. It is in order to escape the dilemma between uttering false or meaningless statements about God, that the analogy of propor¬ tionality is introduced, since it enables theologians to say that our knowledge of him is “inadequate.” But this is no help, for if the concept “inadequate” is taken literally, the position is self-contradic¬ tory since it presupposes some true knowledge of God; and if it is taken analogically, the entire position is begged. For Marx the function of intelligent analysis of creation or of any other abstraction is to put an end to mystery: for M. Maritain it is to prepare the mind to accept mystery. From mystery to miracle is one step, and from miracle to authority another. And if we recall that for M. Maritain our analogical knowledge of God, for all its inadequacy and limitation, is more reliable than any other knowledge we have, more certain even than our knowledge of “the beating of our own hearts,” the true measure of his denigration of scientific method becomes apparent.

194°

\

My Friend James Joyce BY

EUGENE JOLAS

TO THOSE who knew him intimately, James Joyce was a human being of great warmth and charm, although, at first approach, his personality could seem almost forbidding. In fact, it took him some time to accept an easy comradeship in social intercourse. He often appeared to be on his guard, an attitude that was particularly -notice¬ able during the period of excessive curiosity concerning him that followed the publication of Ulysses. But once he had given his friend¬ ship, nothing could swerve him from his granitic loyalty. He was never an ebullient man. His moments of silence and introspection frequently weighed, even, on his immediate surroundings. Then a profound pessimism, that seemed to hold him prisoner within himself, made him quite inaccessible to outsiders. Usually, however, among his intimates, there finally came a festive pause, when he would begin to dance and sing, or engage in barbed thrusts of wit; when he would show flashes of gaiety and humor that could, on occasion, approach a kind of delirium. He was never an easy conversationalist, and had a tendency to monosyllabic utterances. He did not relish being questioned directly on any subject. He never gave any interviews, and I was always careful not to quote him for publication. When he was in the mood, his talk, given in his mellifluous Dublin speech, was a ripple of illuminating ideas and words. Once he had left his anarchic and misanthropic taciturnity, he could enjoy the companionship of his friends, on whom, in some ways, he was very dependent, with a demonstration of good fellowship that brought out another facet of his nature. He eschewed all esotericism in his talk. Nor was he interested in high-flown abstrac¬ tions, but engrossed rather by the drama of human relations, human behavior, human thought and customs. The range of subjects he en joyed discussing was a wide one: poetry prodigiously remembered and faultlessly recited; music and musicians, especially singing, of which his technical knowledge was astonishing; the theater, where his prefer457

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ences went to Ibsen, Hauptmann, Scribe; the various liturgies; educa¬ tion; anthropology; philology; and certain sciences, particularly phys¬ ics, geometry, and mathematics. He was little interested in pure politics and economics, although he followed events faithfully. I am conscious of difficulty in writing about him, for he was often amused by the articles that concerned his private life. He seemed to resent the constant macabre preoccupations with the condition of his eyes. Once, when I read a particularly inept piece about his personal habits, written in German, he said: “What are they writing about? Es ist eben nichts zu malen.” (There really is nothing to paint, anyway.) During the fourteen years of our association—which coincided with the writing of Work in Progress, or Finnegans Wake—I had many oppor¬ tunities to observe his kindliness, his humor, his pathos. I saw his stoicism before fate. I saw him in moments of insouciance and in moments of distress. In spite of the frailty of his physique, there was a certain toughness in him which saw him through the ups and downs of his destiny. This tenacity was part of his honesty of conviction, his horror of cheap compromise, his fanatic belief in his own intellectual powers. His being was compact and fashioned by a will of steel. He was a man of deep tolerance, and objected to all denigrations of friends, or enemies, in his presence. I met James Joyce for the first time in 1924, three years before I launched transition. It was at a rather dull banquet given at the Res¬ taurant Marguery in honor of Valery Larbaud, his first French friend and translator. (By a curious turn of fate, Larbaud was the last French writer Joyce saw anything of. While in Vichy, during the war, he went frequently to visit the now incurably ill author of Barnabooth.) Joyce was beaming in the aureole of Ulysses, and in a happy mood, when I was introduced to him. He thanked me courteously for something I had written about the book in a literary column I was then conducting for the Paris edition of the Chicago Tribune. We did not meet again until early in 1927, when I was preparing transition with Elliot Paul. We had approached Miss Sylvia Beach, his publisher, to ask her for a manuscript from Joyce, but with very little hope that anything would be forthcoming. Miss Beach consulted him, and within a few days we had the manuscript in our hands. On a Sunday afternoon^, in the winter of 1927, Joyce invited Mile. Adrienne Monnier, Miss Sylvia Beach, my wife, Elliot Paul, and myself to his home in the Square Robiac to listen to his reading of the manuscript in question. We listened to the Waterloo scene, which subsequently appeared in the first issue of the review. His voice was

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resonantly musical, and at times a smile went over his face, as he read a particularly exhilarating passage. After he had finished, he said: “What do you think of it? Did you like it?” We were all stirred by his verbal fantasy, excited, even, but puzzled. It was not easy to reply with conventional phrases. There was no precedent in literature for judg¬ ing this fragment with its structure of multiple planes and its novelty of a polysynthetic language. Some weeks later, he let me read the entire manuscript. It was not more than 120 pages long, and had been written, he said, within a few weeks during a stay on the Riviera in ig22. Yet it was already complete in itself, organically compressed, containing the outline of the entire saga. Even the title had been chosen, he indicated, but only he and Mrs. Joyce knew it. It was still a primitive version, to which he had already begun to add numberless paragraphs, phrases, words. In a moment of confidence he told me something about the genesis of the idea. His admirer, Miss Harriet Weaver—who, some years before, like a Maecenas of other days, made it possible for the struggling writer to be freed of financial worryhad asked him what book he was planning to write after Ulysses. He replied that now that Ulysses was done he considered himself as a man without a job. “I am like a tailor who would like to try his hand at making a new-style suit,” he continued. “Will you order one?” Miss Weaver handed him a pamphlet written by a village priest in England and giving a description of a giant’s grave found in the parish lot. “Why not try the story of this giant?” she asked jokingly. The giant’s narrative became the story of Finn McCool, or Finnegans Wake. The first issues of transition containing installments from what was then known as Work in Progress—Joyce told me that this provisional title was the invention of Ford Madox Ford, who had previously published a fragment in his Transatlantic Review—brought forth a fanfare of sensational outbursts. The confused critics in France, Eng¬ land and America snorted, for the most part, their violent disapproval. Miss Weaver herself regretfully wrote Miss Beach she feared Joyce was wasting his genius; an opinion which disturbed Joyce profoundly, for, after all, it was for her that the “tailor” was working. His friend Larbaud said he regarded the work as a divertissement philologique and of no great importance in Joyce’s creative evolution. H. G. Wells wrote him that he still had a number of books to write and could not give the time to attempt to decipher Joyce’s experiment. Ezra Pound attacked it in a letter and urged him to put it in the family album, together with his poems. Only Edmund Wilson was intelligently sympathetic. After a while the reactions became more and more

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vehement, even personal, and on the whole journalistically stereotyped. Joyce continued working at his vision. We saw a good deal of him during those years. Our office was not very far from his home, near the Eiffel Tower, and his urbane presence amid the disorder of our primitive hotel room was always a welcome one. All his friends collaborated then in the preparations of the frag¬ ments destined for transition'. Stuart Gilbert, Padraic Colum, Elliot Paul, Robert Sage, Helen and Giorgio Joyce, and others. He worked with painstaking care, almost with pedantry. He had invented an intricate system of symbols permitting him to pick out the new words and paragraphs he had been writing down for years, and which referred to the multiple characters in his creation. He would work for weeks, often late at night, with the help of one or the other of his friends. It seemed almost a collective composition in the end, for he let his friends participate in his inventive zeal, as they searched through num¬ berless notebooks with mysterious reference points to be inserted in the text. When finished, the proof looked as if a coal-heaver’s sooty hands had touched it. Once the work was done, we would dine with him at his favorite restaurant, the Trianons, where he liked the atmosphere and cuisine, and where he was sure to find his dry, golden Chablis, or, if the evening grew more hilarious than usual, an excellent Pommery champagne. His nearly whispered conversations never had any nuance of scatology, and whenever one of the more Rabelaisian of his companions would indulge in some too robust gauloiserie, he would deftly, almost impatiently, lead the dialogue into other channels. Sometimes he would bring with him a page he had written and hand it around the table with a gesture of polite modesty. He never explained his work, save through indirection. At that time Joyce’s family life was closely knit and happy, and his humor was a natural manifestation of this ambience. It did not yet have that mordant quality which it acquired in later years, after great sorrow had entered his home circle. And yet, even then, it was rather what Andre Breton has called somewhere, un humour noir. Later, he grew more asocial. But his friends succeeded in cheering him up. Once he celebrated, on the same day, his fiftieth birthday and the tenth anniversary of the publication of Ulysses. The events were hardly noticed by the literary world, which was then discovering social realism and considered Joyce outnloded. On that occasion, we gave a small din¬ ner at our home in Paris attended by Mrs. Joyce, Thomas McGreavy, Samuel Beckett, Lucy and Paul Leon, Helen and Giorgio Joyce, and others. The birthday cake was decorated with an ingenious candy

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replica of a copy of Ulysses, in its blue jacket. Called on to cut the cake, Joyce looked at it a moment and said: “Accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes: Hoc est enim corpus meum.” The talk at the table turned on the subject of popular sayings. Someone expressed a sus¬ picion of all of them and gave voice to his dislike for the adage: In Vino Veritas, which he held to be untrue and bromidic. Joyce agreed warmly and added: “It should really be: In Riso Veritas; for nothing so reveals us as our laughter.’’ He was always astonished that so few people had commented on the comic spirit in his writings. I was preparing a short homage to him in transition, and had, among other features, ordered a sketch of Joyce by the Spanish artist, Cesar Abin. The result was an impressive study of a distinguished homme de lettres, with pen in hand, his own volumes reverentially piled beside him. But Joyce would have none of it, and insisted on giving the cartoonist precise instructions for the design and execution of the job. He wanted it, first of all, to look like a question mark, because friends had told him once that his figure resembled a question mark, when seen standing meditatively on a street corner. For more than two weeks he kept adding new suggestions, until he was finally satisfied with it. He asked to be drawn with a battered old derby hung with spider webs and bearing a ticket on which was inscribed the fatal number 13. He asked that a star be put on the tip of his nose, in mem¬ ory of a criticaster’s description of him as a “blue-nosed comedian”; that his feet be suspended perilously over a globe called Ireland, on which only Dublin was visible; that he have patches on the knees of his trousers; that out of his pockets there should emerge the manu¬ script of a song entitled: Let me like a soldier fall. For his luck, his “fate,” had already started down the sombre path it never left again. It was as though he had a premonition of the immense trials that lay before him. It was during this period that he suggested that we plan a bal de la puree—which is French slang for general insolvency—since the depression was beginning to be felt in Paris more and more. The gayest of the guests was Joyce himself, who finally inveigled all the ladies present to give him th^ first prize for his costume: that of an old Irish stage character famous once as Handy Andy. At that time, the sudden death of his father came to him as a profound shock. He had never made any bones about his great affection for his father, and the autobiographical elements of his work reveal this in numberless symbolical and mythological allu¬ sions. Ulysses was man in search of his father, and Finnegans Wake is once again the expression of that filial quest. In those days, he

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dreamed much about him, and one evening he said suddenly: “I hear my father talking to me. I wonder where he is.” Sometimes he would tell picaresque tales of his father’s wit, and the last one I remember was one that concerned his father’s reaction in Dublin to a minuscule sketch of Joyce made by Brancusi. It was merely a geometrical spiral study symbolizing the ear. “Well, Jim hasn’t changed much,” said his father on seeing the portrait. During the summer and fall of 1931 his daughter Lucia suffered a nervous collapse, and we spent several months with the Joyce family in a little frontier town in the mountains of Austria. Joyce had not been writing for some time, due, partly, to the intense worry he felt over his daughter’s condition, partly to the general mood of inertia caused by the depression. So we took long walks together along the swirling mountain river Ill, nearby, or we climbed the wooded hills. He had a deep love for mountains and rivers, because, he said, “They are the phenomena that will remain when all the peoples and their governments will have vanished.” Yet he was not at all a nature romantic. He was rather a man of the megapolis. Toward dusk, after a siesta, he would go walking again. Eight o’clock was the hour he had set for himself many decades before as the time for his first glass of wine of the day. That summer he evolved a sort of ritual which, to me, had an almost grotesque fascination. At half past seven, he would race suddenly for the railroad station, where the Paris-Vienna Express was due to stop for ten minutes each day. He would quietly walk up and clown the platform. “Over on those tracks there,” he said one evening, “the fate of Ulysses was decided in 1915.” He referred to the fact that in this Austrian town of the border he had almost been prevented by some jinx from crossing into Switzerland during the first World War. When the train finally came in, he rushed to the nearest car in order to examine the French, German, and Yugo-Slav inscriptions, palpecl the letters with the sensitive fingers of defective vision. Then he would ask me questions about the persons getting on or oil the train. He would try to listen to their conversations. His fine ear for dialectal nuances in German often astonished me. When the train continued on its way into the usually foggy night, he stood on the platform waving his hat, as if he had just bid godspeed to a dear friend. With eight o’clock approaching, he almost skipped back to the hotel, for his first draught of Tischwein—or, as Mrs. Joyce, who thought the drink of rather inferior quality, used to say, dishwine. After a while I started making preparations for a new issue of

transition, and this stimulated him to work. He attacked the problem

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with savage energy. “How difficult it is to put pen to paper again,” he said, one evening. “Those first sentences have cost me a great deal of pain.” But gradually the task was in hand. It was to be known later as The Mime of Mick, Nick, and the Maggies. He wrote steadily on this fragment during those frenetic months, constantly interrupted by moments of anxiety about the health of his daughter, and his own resultant nervousness. At his hotel, where we would work in the afternoon, he gave me a densely written foolscap sheet beginning with the words: “Every evening at lighting up o’clock sharp and until further notice . . .” which I typed for him. After a few pages had thus been transcribed, we began to look through the note-books—which he lugged around on all his travels—and the additions, set down years before for a still unwritten text he had merely outlined in his mind, became more and more numerous. The manuscript grew into thirty pages and was not yet finished. He never changed a single word. There was always a certain inevitability, an almost volcanic affirma¬ tiveness about his primal choice of words. To me, his deformations seemed to grow more daring. He added, ceaselessly, like a worker in mosaic, enriching his original pattern with ever new inventions. “There really is no coincidence in this book,” he said during one of our walks. “I might easily have written this story in the traditional manner. . . . Every novelist knows the recipe. ... It is not very difficult to follow a simple, chronological scheme which the critics will under¬ stand. . . . But I, after all, am trying to tell the story of this Chapelizod family in a new way. . . . Time and the river and the mountain are the real heroes of my book. . . . Yet the elements are exactly what every novelist might use: man and woman, birth, childhood, night, sleep, marriage, prayer, death. . . . There is nothing paradoxical about this. . . . Only I am trying to build many planes of narrative with a single aesthetic purpose. . . . Did you ever read Laurence Sterne . . . ?” We read Goethe’s Farhenlehre, but he finally said he could use nothing from it. He was interested in a comic yersion of the theodicy, and he asked me to get one of the Jesuits nearby to give me an Augustinian text. There was a famous Jesuit school in the town, and he occasionally reminisced about his Dublin days with the fathers. But his antireligious convictions were unshakable. I had come back from a talk with his daughter who seemed to be interested in knowing something about Catholic dogma. Joyce, on hearing this, grew sud¬ denly quite violent and said: “Why should a young woman bother her head about such things? Buddha and Confucius and all the others were not able to understand anything about it. We know nothing, and

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never shall know anything. . . origin of language.

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He discussed Vico’s theory of the

conception of

the

cyclical

evolution

of

civilizations born from each other like the phoenix from the ashes haunted him. He began to speculate on the new physics, and the theory of the expanding universe. And while walking with him, I always had the impression that he was not really in an Austrian frontier town, but in Dublin, and that everything he thought and wrote was about his native land. He completed the Mime in Zurich, after our return there. We used to take a motorboat in the late afternoon and go out on the lake. Or else we would go walking up hill to the Zoo, where one evening he suddenly quoted to me the magnificent nocturne of Phoenix Park, with the verbal magic of animal sounds dying off in the gathering night. Or else we would walk up and down .the Bahnhofstrasse, and I would think of his poem about this street. He would talk about his World War experiences in the Swiss town, and chat about old friends, especially his English friend, Frank Budgen, who was his companion in those days. Then we would dine at the Kronenhalle, which he now preferred to the more colorful Zum Pfauen that had been his Stamm-

lokal in the old days. His guests were the few friends he had in Zurich: Dr. Bernard Fehr, of the University; Dr. Borach, and Mr. Edouard Brauchbar, English pupils during the first World War; Dr. and Mrs. S. Giedion. He was very fond of the Swiss fondant wine from the Valais, and we often left the restaurant in a grape-happy mood. A British clipping came saying that Joyce was trying to revive Swift’s little language to Stella. “Not at all,” said Joyce to me. “I am using a Big Language.” He said one evening: “I have discovered that I can do anything with language I want.” His linguistic memory was. extraordinary. He seemed constantly a I’affut, always to be listening rather than talking. “Really, it is not I who am writing this crazy book,” he said in his whimsical way one evening. “It is you, and you, and you, and that man over there, and that girl at the next table.” One day I found him in a Zurich tea-shop laughing quietly to himself. “Did you win le gros lot}” I asked. He said he had asked the servant girl for a glass of lemon squash. The somewhat obtuse Swiss girl looked puzzled.

Then

she

had

quatsch}” she stammered.

an

inspiration:

“Oh,

you mean Lebens-

(Her German neologism might be trans¬

lated by: life’s piffle!) Jojce retained all such scraps of conversation, lopped-off syllables said in moments of inertia or fatigue, jeux de mots,. alcoholically deformed words, slips of the tongue—all the verbal gro¬ tesques and fantasies which he heard issuing in unconscious moments..

EUGENE

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His knowledge of French, German, modern Greek, and especially Italian stood him in good stead, and he added constantly to that stock of information by studying Hebrew, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Fin¬ nish, and other tongues. At the bottom of his vocabulary was also an immense command of Anglo-Irish words that only seem like neolo¬ gisms to us today, because they have, for the most part, become ob¬ solete. His revival of these will some day interest the philologists. Language to him was a social as well as a subjective process. He was deeply interested in the experiments of the French Jesuit, Jousse, and the English philologist, Paget, and Finnegans Wake is full of strange applications of their gesture theory. He often talked with a derisive smile of the auxiliary languages, among them Esperanto and Ido. Back in Paris he became more and more absorbed by meditations on the imaginative creation. He read Coleridge and was interested in the distinction he made between imagination and fancy. He won¬ dered if he himself had imagination. As the political horizon in Europe grew more threatening, his high Olympian neutrality asserted itself more and more. In those days I remember reading to him a German translation from a speech by Radek in which the Russian attacked Ulysses, at the Congress of Kharkov, as being without a social conscience. “Well,” said Joyce, “all the characters in my books belong to the lower middle classes, and even the working class; and they are all quite poor.” He began to read Wuthering Heights. “This woman had pure imagination,” he said. “Kipling had it too, and certainly Yeats.” His admiration for the Irish poet was very great. A recent commentator, asserting that Joyce lacked reverence for the logos in poetry, inferred that he had little regard for Yeats. I can assure the gentleman that this was not true. Joyce often recited Yeats’ poems to us from memory. “No surrealist poet can equal this for imagination,” he said. Once when Yeats spoke over the radio, he invited us to listen in with him. I read The Vision to him, and he was deeply absorbed by the colossal conception, only regretting that “Yeats did not .put all this into a creative work.” At Yeats’ death he sent a wreath to his grave at Antibes, and his emotion, on hearing of the poet’s passing, was moving to witness. He always denied too that he had said to Yeats that he was too old to be influenced by him. Joyce had a passion for the irrational manifestations of life. Yet there was nothing in common between his attitude and that of the surrealists and psychoanalysts. Nor did his experiments have anything to do with those of the German romantics who explored the mysticism

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of the individual world. Joyce was an intensely conscious observer of the unconscious drama. During walks in Paris, we often talked about dreams. Sometimes I related to him my own dreams which, during the prewar years began to take on a strangely fantastic, almost apocalyptic silhouette. He was always eager to discuss them, because they in¬ terested him as images of the nocturnal universe. He himself, he said, dreamed relatively little, but when he did, his dreams were usually related to ideas, personal and mythic, with which he was occupied in his waking hours. He was very much attracted by Dunn’s theory of serialism, and I read to him that author’s brilliant A Theory with Time which Joyce regarded highly. He told me one of his dreams, and subsequent events seemed to confirm Dunn’s multidimensional conceptions. He was walking through a big city and met three men who called themselves Minos, Eaque, and Rhadamante. They sud¬ denly broke off their conversation with him and became threatening. He had to run to escape from their screams of obloquy. Three weeks later I noticed a feature story in the Paris-Soir to the effect that the police were looking for a crank who was sending explosives through the mails. This fanatic signed himself: Minos, Eaque, Rhadamante, the judges of Hell. One of Joyce’s less complicated dreams, however, caused considerable chuckling, each time he thought of it. This was a dream the climax of which was the titanic figure of Molly Bloom, seated on the side of a high hill. “As for you, James Joyce, I’ve had enough of you,” she shouted. His reply he never remembered. Some six months before Work in Progress was scheduled to appear, there was an amusing incident in connection with its title, then still known only to Mr. and Mrs. Joyce. Often he had challenged his friends to guess it. He even made a permanent offer to pay one thou¬ sand francs in cash to the person who would guess it. We all tried: Stuart Gilbert, Herbert Gorman, Samuel Beckett, Paul Leon, myself, but we failed miserably. One summer night, while dining on the ter¬ race of Fouquet’s Joyce repeated his offer. The Riesling was espe¬ cially good that night, and we were in high spirits. Mrs. Joyce began an Irish song about Mr. Flannigan and Mrs. Shannigan. Joyce looked startled and urged her to stop. This she did, but when he saw no harm had been done, he very distinctly, as a singer does it, made the lip motions which seemed to indicate F. and W. My wife’s guess was Fairy’s Wake. Joyce looked astonished and said, “Brava! But some¬ thing is missing.” For a few days we mulled over it. One morning I knew it was Finnegans Wake, although it was only ah intuition. That evening I suddenly threw the words into the air. Joyce blanched.

EUGENE

JOLAS

467

Slowly he set down the wine-glass he held. “Ah, Jolas, you’ve taken something out of me,” he said, almost sadly. When we parted that night, he embraced me, danced a few of his intricate steps, and asked: “How would you like to have the money?” I replied: “In sous.” The following morning, during my absence from home, he arrived with a bag filled with ten franc pieces. He gave them to my daughters with instructions to serve them for me at lunch. So it was Finnegans

Wake. All those present were sternly enjoined by Joyce not to reveal it, and we kept it a secret until he made the official announcement at his birthday dinner on the following February 2. The reception given this labor of seventeen years was to be a disappointing one. Among the few whose analysis struck him as being comprehensive and conscientious were, in rough order of his apprecia¬ tion, William Troy’s essay in Partisan Review, Harry Levin’s article in

New Directions, Edmund Wilson’s essays in the New Republic, 'Alfred Kazin’s review in the New York Herald Tribune, and Padraic Colum’s piece in the New York Times, as well as one or two from England and Scotland. From Ireland there was little reaction, and the reception in France, on which he had counted so much, was lamentable. This state of affairs was a source of deep depression during the last year of his life, and was responsible, more than anything else, for the fact that he was completely indifferent to any suggestion for a future work. For Joyce himself, Finnegans

Wake had prophetic significance.

Finn McCool, the Finnish-Norwegian-Irish hero of the tale, seemed to him to be coming alive again after the publication of the book, and in a letter from France I received from him last spring, he said: “. . . It is strange, however, that after publication of my book, Fin¬ land came into the foreground suddenly. First by the awarding of the Nobel Prize to a Finnish writer, and then by the political door. The most curious comment I have received on the book is a sym¬ bolical one from Helsinki, where, as foretold by the prophet, the Finn again wakes, and volunteer Buckleys are hurrying from all sides to shoot that Russian general. . . .” “Prophetic too were the last pages of my book. . . .” he added in this same letter. The last pages, that had cost him such profound anguish at the time of their writing. “I felt so completely exhausted,” he told me when it was done,

as if all

the blood had run out of my brain. I sat for a long while on a street bench, unable to move. . . .” “And it’s old and old it’s sad and old it’s sad and weary I go back to you, my cold father, my cold, mad father, my cold mad feary father, till the near sight of the mere size of him, the moyles and

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moyles of it, moananoaning, makes me seasilt saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms. . . There was no turning back after these lines, my friend. You knew it well. Adew! *94*

\

Genesis of “Swann”1 BY

ROBERT

VIGNERON

WITH JANUARY, 1907, begins a new phase in the life of Marcel Proust. He has just given up his Rue de Courcelles apartment, haunted with memories of his father and mother, to move into a new apart¬ ment at 102 Boulevard Haussmann, where he will camp for twelve years. He is sick: ever since his childhood, spells of asthma have frequently compelled him to take to his bed for weeks and months at a time; and, shortly after his mother’s death, he has been a patient in a clinic for nervous disorders. He is tormented: ever since the sordid aberrations of his adolescent years, he has maintained a morbid in¬ terest in the mysteries of Sodom and Gomorrah. He is sterile: he aspires to express himself in an original piece of creative work; but so far his wretched existence has prevented him from fulfilling this desire, which his articles in the Figaro and his translations from Ruskin have failed to satisfy. The times, however, are near. He had scarcely settled in his new quarters when, around the first days of August 1907, his doctors compelled him to leave Paris, and he went to Cabourg, a seaside resort on the Channel, where he put up at the Grand Hotel. This interlude was to be of tremendous import for his private life. Still deeply imbued with Ruskinian ideas, he intended to take advantage of his stay in Cabourg to explore Nor¬ mandy as an aesthete and archaeologist. Upon his arrival, he there¬ fore wrote to Emile Male for learned advice on the significant monu¬ ments in this province, and he began to look for a closed motorcar, which would make it possible for him to drive over the whole country1 This paper is based on the author’s own chronological classification of the cor¬ respondence of Marcel Proust. It was presented in French on April 15, 1936, before the Philological Society and on July 13, 1936, before the Romance Club of the Uni¬ versity of Chicago. A more detailed version, including the supporting evidence, has been published in French in the Revue d’histoire de la philosophie, January 15, 1937- PP- 67-115. According to the usage established by Proust himself, by Swann we mean the whole A la recherche du temps perdu. 469

47 0

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side without exposing himself either to the air or to the sun, his worst enemies. Thus he discovered Agostinelli. Born in Monaco of a monegasque father and a nigoise mother, Alfred Agostinelli was then nineteen years old, a beardless youth with languorous Southern eyes, and drove one of the red Unic taxicabs of the Compagnie des taximetres de Monaco. Proust hired him for the season, and Agostinelli not only managed to pilot him without incident to Caen, Bayeux, Dives, Pont-Audemer, Lisieux, but, around the middle of September, brought him safely back to Paris. No sooner had Proust returned to his Boulevard Haussmann apartment than recurring asthmatic spells forced him to take to his bed. Yet he did not forget the charming ephebe from Cabourg. In spite of his illness, he already had hired him for a few outings when Agostinelli was unexpectedly recalled to Monaco; and, on November 19, he published in the Figaro his curious “Impressions de route en automobile,” in which he evoked with special relish, a propos of his Ruskinian pilgrimages through Nor¬ mandy, the interesting personality of his chauffeur. He told how, one night, the ingenious Agostinelli had. illuminated the front of NotreDame de Lisieux for him with the headlights of the car. He also described the graceful and ambiguous silhouette of the beardless driver leaning on his wheel, as seen from the tonneau; and he allowed his imagination to play with sacrilegious metaphors: he compared him to a nun of speed, to a Saint Cecilia, or again to one of those saints on the portals of the cathedrals, who hold either an anchor, or a wheel, or a harp, or a grill—the symbols of their art or the instru¬ ments of their torture. The young saint in question, surprised but pleased to see himself so prematurely canonized, expressed his grati¬ tude in an enthusiastic letter. Another series of events, which developed in the fall of 1907, was destined to exert a determinant influence on Proust’s literary life: the Eulenburg affair. On October 23, 1907, in Berlin, began the trial of Count von Moltke’s libel suit against Maximilian Harden who, in his Zukunft, had accused him, as well as Prince Philippe zu Eulenburg and the camarilla around the Kaiser, of abnormal inclinations. Proust could not fail to be deeply interested in a scandal disclosing the ramifications and power of a sect whose arcana he was so zealously endeavoring to penetrate, land he followed the proceedings with wellinformed competence. Harden was acquitted; but almost immediately a new scandal broke out when, on November 6, the Moabit court in Berlin opened the trial of another journalist, Adolf Brandt, who had

ROBERT

VIGNERON

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accused Prince Bernhard von Billow, Chancellor of the Reich, of un¬ natural vices. On December 19, Harden was again brought to trial before a Berlin court; Prince zu Eulenburg, summoned as a witness, solemnly swore to his own innocence, and Harden was condemned. A few weeks later, on January 22, 1908, two high-ranking officers ap¬ peared before the court-martial of the First Division of the Guard to answer charges of homosexual practices. Meanwhile, all these scandals were being exploited in countless publications. A few commentators limited themselves to philosophical considerations; but most indulged in sensational revelations on the “Sodome de la Spree.” Perhaps Proust, even then, conceived the idea of devoting an objective study to a problem which had haunted him for so long and which contemporary events showed to be of such un¬ expected import. But another object diverted his attention, at least for a time. In December 1907, Messrs. Reboux and Muller had pub¬ lished their A la Maniere de , a collection of clever pastiches which met with considerable success; and, in January 1908, was exposed an unbelievable swindle, the ‘‘affaire des diamants” or “affaire Lemoine,” the vicissitudes of which were going to be news for several months. The former gave Proust the idea, and the latter the subject, of a series of pastiches which he published in February and March, 1908, in the Figaro under the title: “L’affaire Lemoine.” But he soon tired of this pastime, which he considered rather silly. Furthermore, the German scandals once more were engrossing the attention of Europe. On April 21, 1908, there opened in Munich the trial of Maximilian Harden’s suit against Anton Staedele, a journalist who had accused him of allowing himself to be bribed by Prince zu Eulenburg. Irrefutable evidence proved that, when swearing to his innocence at the December trial in Berlin, Prince zu Eulenburg had committed perjury; and the public prosecutor could not ignore this fact. On May x, the Prince was questioned at his Liebenberg castle; on May 7, he was put under arrest; on May 8, he was transferred to Berlin and interned in the Charity Hospital. Thus fell His Serene Highness Philippe, Fiirst zu Eulenburg und Hertefeld, Graf von Sandels, former ambassador in Vienna, knight of the Black Eagle, lately the friend and confidant of the Kaiser, and after him the most powerful man in the German Empire. It is at this juncture that, struck with this great and terrible ex¬ ample, Marcel Proust resolved to undertake, for publication as a magazine article, a metaphysical and social study of homosexuality, of which he apparently even wrote a few pages. But he soon changed

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his mind, and projected a short story, instead of an essay, on this same theme. He was hesitating, however, for he already had made the transcendence of art the essential dogma of his aesthetics, and he was afraid he would fail, in a short story on Sodom and Gomorrah, to detach himself completely from the contingencies which had in¬ spired it. He also undoubtedly perceived that a mere short story would be too narrow a frame of such a far-reaching subject: a novel was in order, and this might be his opportunity to realize at last a dream he had indolently been playing with for several years. As early as 1906, immediately after publishing his translation of Sesame and Lilies, he had confessed to his friends how weary he was of the vain task of translation and commentary, and how eager to undertake, as soon as his health would permit, an original and significant piece of work. His pastiches had for a while deluded this creative impulse, without appeasing it. All these characters in search of an author, who had been haunting him—had the Eulenburg affair at last suggested an ade