And if by chance there be any inhibitions left over, Prohibition has obligingly introduced new opportunities for privacy, that will help you check them too. When a couple strays off now from group formation, there's a perfectly good alibi available of finding a sheltered spot for a drink. Where once it really wasn't good form to go to a man's hotel room, now it is the national custom for the owner of hootch to register a casket for his jewel—and then invite the young things in, one by one. A flapper these nights can retire to that hotel bedroom for an hour in the middle of a dance. The girl is not "talked about," and the place is not "pulled." Even the house detective knows that she is innocently drinking a drink.
Thus has this rebel young generation forced out into the open country with it all the contented young women in their late twenties and early thirties, who may not have been feeling rebellious at all. And the wives of forty-five also, to compete all over again for their own husbands. For "poaching" on the wifely preserves has become the favorite flapper sport!
"Married men," having been forbidden to unmarried young persons for three chaste generations, our flappers, bi-product of inhibition, are promptly appropriating the husbands. This one item of the flapper raid on the married men has done more than the entire twentieth century put together to change the smug structure of American society, and bring us back to normalcy.
Before 1865 no Southern belle considered herself worth her salt unless all the courtly old married men in the country kissed her hand and competed with the young blades for her quadrilles. But when black persons stopped buttoning up the shoes of the Quality, America entered upon her 1870's, her sombre brown stone fronts, and her cloistered husbands. The money for doing society had simply passed into the hands of the descendants of Miles Standish and Priscilla, who carried their consciences into their sober mansions with them. The Age of Innocence was upon us, and has clung close ever since.
From that fatal day on to 1917 each oncoming debutante was taught by her mother to give unto the genus, married man, her most impersonal manner, lest she provoke his "undesirable attentions." If poaching was done, it was from behind a tree. Unmarried girls knew that their place was not in somebody else's home in those days. The wives could protect their preserves by the simple expedient of "talking about" any unmarried young female caught on the married reservations.
And so it came to pass that the pick of the men were posted, because, as fast as a callow youth gets worth marrying, somebody promptly marries him. The Fast Young Married Crowd was a closed corporation and played exclusively within itself; the female of the species had to compete only with females of equal tonnage. The only sylph-like temptation that a husband could encounter was a dissolute person whose reputation had already been ruined—and she didn't count, because nobody invited her to parties anyway. A wife could get as fat as she wanted to in those days.
Even today that same leisurely life might exist for the wives. Even today the wives might be resting their feet under the bridge tables, secure in the consciousness that no bobbed haired young poacher was daring to dance with their husbands, if they had just let prohibitions enough alone—if they had only not been swept away by the high sport of gossiping about our Wild Young People, which struck the country in the summer of 1920. This gossip was an intrinsic phase of the virtue wave which always immediately precedes a crime wave.
The wives just at this point, instead of sitting tight, made the strategic mistake of turning the full force of the ammunition of gossip, which should have been saved for defending husbands from poachers, into an offensive attack on the flapper's lip stick, on her cigarettes, and on her petting parties. Whenever two or three wives were gathered together, their topic was our Wild Young People. That summer, too, saw the launching of that now seasoned romance about the checking of corsets. The resolutions at clubs were being resolved. The preachers were sermonizing. The up-state legislators were drafting bills against flappers' smoking cigarettes.
Human nature can be pushed just so far. Instead of reforming, the young things apparently decided one might as well lose a reputation for stealing a husband as for smoking a cigarette. The whole arsenal for combating poachers blew up.
To make matters worse, in the excitement of the virtue wave our Wild Young People had been attacked as a group instead of as individuals. That was the second mistake. The whole strength of gossip consists in selecting one member of the clan for calumny, to stand out disgraced and alone among her exemplary sisters. Because the flappers had been gossiped about en masse, the whole reason for not being gossiped about had ceased. The poacher of that half generation ago had been the kind of a girl who stalked her game alone.
But, when all the girls in town are seeking to steal your husband, what are you going to do about it, if you are a woman of forty-five with a heaviness around the hips and a disinclination to learn the camel walk? Nor can you get the poachers off the scent by crossing the trail with an eligible bachelor. Logically, the young things should have enough sense to ignore a preempted husband and attend to the serious business of getting themselves husbands. But they haven't. They seem to prefer the husbands of the other women. And curiously, the more they engage in this exotic sport of poaching, the less keen they become about owning a property for somebody else to poach on.
The real interstate joke on Puritanism is that the flapper, who flaps because Puritanism has driven her to it, will automatically bring about its cure. The whole vitality of Puritanism rests on the unswerving principle of letting not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth, if thy left hand is doing something it shouldn't. Puritanism could not last out a week-end without the able assistance of the standardized double life.
And that is just what the flappers refuse to respect. They are even insisting on being taken along on the parties, which, by all the rules of Rolf and Comstock should be confined to man's double life. Where the chorus lady was once the only brand that had the proper and improper equipment to jazz up an evening, now mankind has come to prefer the flapper, who drinks as much as the Broadwayite, is just as peppy and not quite so gold-diggish.
"It is so simple," smiles Barbara nonchalantly blowing her smoke rings. "You old dears set man an impossible standard. As he had always to be pretending holy emotions whenever he was around you he just naturally had to get away half the time, to rest the muscles of his inhibitions. Why, you funny old things actually drove man into his double life, just as you made all of his best stories have two editions, one for a nice girl and one for—well say one not so nice. Our crowd has done more than all of your silly old social hygiene commissions to bring nearer the single standard—by going part way to meet him."
The preachers are wasting their time when they rail that the flappers are painting their faces like "fallen women." Of course they are painting them that way—for the very good reason that mankind has demonstrated too unmistakably that that kind of woman has "a way with her."
Not so long ago cosmetics became a moral issue. The curl rag was the only beautifier that somehow never lost its odor of sanctity—and that was doubtless because curl rags were a perfectly logical part of the long-sleeved Canton flannel nightgown civilization. Curls couldn't be so very wrong when they were so frightfully unbecoming in the making. And so the "good woman" handed over intact to her weaker sister every beautifier that the world had been eight thousand years accumulating.
Slowly, timidly the allurements returned. The talcum powder bought for baby surreptitiously reached the nose. When the half generation ago was young, we had adopted a certain lip salve, just one shade darker than the way lips come, explaining, to save our reputations, that we were keeping our lips from chapping. Rouge too had come coyly, back—but—and here's the gist of the whole matter—in polite society paint was put on to imitate nature.
We were still doing our make-up as man conducted his double life—with intent to deceive the general public. We still belonged at heart to the Puritan era, in spite of our wicked fox-trot. All may have been artificial below the neck, from our Gossard corsets with their phalanx of garters on to our hobble skirts. But above the neck, we pretended it was natural.
The flapper has changed all that. She has turned the lady up side down, as well as the world. For the flapper is au naturale below the neck. Above the neck she is the most artificially and entertainingly painted creature that has graced society since Queen Elizabeth. With one bold stroke of a passionately red lip stick, she has painted out Elaine the Fair and the later-day noble Christie Girl and painted in an exotic young person, meet to compete alike with a Ziegfield show girl, with a heaven-born Egyptian princess or even a good Queen Bess, who could not move her face after it was dressed up for the morning. And Bess was the Virgin Queen. The American-Victorian is indeed the only era in history when cosmetics became a moral issue. Even in dour Cromwellian England, rouge registered the wrong politics but not immorality. We are merely getting back to normalcy in cosmetics—back behind the dun wall of the Victorian era.
And it is the flapper who has done it for us. What's more, she has done it frankly and purposefully—because the reformer, in his naive innocence, has explained to her that what she is doing is wicked and will get that kind of "results." Similarly those of 'em who had not yet taken off their corsets at dances, promptly did so when shocked elders began repeating the corset checking story. Dear heart, the only reason that they had not done so before was because the little dears hadn't heard that the worst people were using ribs instead of whalebone that season.
Vice would die out from disuse, if the reformers did not advertise.
THE WOWZER IN THE SOUTH SEAS
All over the South Seas the censor has had his day. From New Guinea to Easter Island, he has made his rules and enforced them. Often he wrote glowing pages of prose and poetry about his accomplishments, for reading in Europe and America. He was usually sincere, and determined. He felt that it was up to him to make over the native races to suit his own ideas of what pleased God and himself. When he had the lower hand, he prayed and strove in agony to change the wicked hearts of his flock to Clapham or Andover standards; he suffered the contumelies of heathen jibes, and now and again—often enough to make a cartoon popular—he was hotpotted or baked on hot stones as a "long pig." When he converted the king or chief, and he always directed his sacred ammunition at the upper classes, he took advantage of every inch of spiritual and governmental club put in his hand, and smote the pagan hip and thigh. His sole effort was to make the South Seas safe for theocracy, and to strafe Satan.
Of course, he was a missionary. It is doubtful if any other urge than a religious one could have infused into those canny migrants of the past century the extraordinary zeal that characterized their singular labors in the exquisite and benighted isles of the tropics.
To leave the melancholy and futuristic atmosphere of seminaries and bethels where the ghosts and penalties of millions of sins cast down their hearts, where few baths and drab clothes, dark homes and poor food, made all conscious of dwelling in a vale of tears, and after half a year or more of hard, ship fare and the rough discipline of a tossing windjammer, to find themselves in the most magnificent scenes on the globe, and amid the richest bounty, was trial enough of the unstable soul of man. That they—most of them—resisted the temptations of the tropical demon, that they continued to preach fire and brimstone, to remain flocked and shod, pantaletted and stayed, is proof enough of their cementation to the rock of ages.
The men were even subjected to direr spells. They were youths, the rude boys of farm and hamlet, schooled in simple studies, untried by the wiles of siren blandishments. If married, their courtships had been without passion, and their wedded years without competition, and generally without other incidents than children.
A typical union of this kind I find in an old diary of the wife of one of the most famous propagandists of the American God in Polynesia. He was of Yale and Andover, and she of Bradford, the daughter of a Marlboro deacon. She was twenty-four and he a little older when her cousin called upon her at her Marlboro home, to ask if she would "become connected with a missionary now an entire stranger, attach herself to a little band of pilgrims, and visit the distant land of Hawaii."
"What could I say? We thoroughly discussed the subject. Next week is the anticipated, dreaded interview of final decision. Last night I could neither eat nor close my eyes in sleep."
The suitor came. "The early hours of the evening were devoted to refreshments, to free family sociality, to singing, and to evening worship. Then one by one the family dispersed, leaving two of similar aspirations, introduced as strangers, to separate at midnight as interested friends.
"In the forenoon, the sun had risen high in the heavens, when it looked down upon two of the children of earth giving themselves wholly to their heavenly Father, receiving each other from his hand as his good gift, pledging themselves to each other as close companions in the race of life, consecrating themselves and their all to a life-work among the heathen."
After six months on the wave, she approaches the "land of darkness whither I am bound. When I reflect on the degradation and misery of the inhabitants, follow them into the eternal world, and forward to the great day of retribution, all my petty sufferings dwindle to a point."
They anchor, and "soon the islanders of both sexes came paddling out in their canoes, with their island fruit. The men wore girdles, and the women a slight piece of cloth wrapped around them, from the hips downward. To a civilized eye their covering seemed to be revoltingly scanty. But we learned that it was a full dress for daily occupation."
The note of nudity this really remarkable woman struck at her first sight of the welcoming savages, was the keynote of the new domination of the islands from Hawaii to Australia. The censors were convinced that it was a state of ungodliness. Their reasoning was based on the fig leaf tied about them by the first man and woman when they became conscious of sin, and it proceeded to the logical teaching that the less of the body exposed the more godly the condition. When they found this nakedness associated with a relation of the sexes utterly opposed to their own, and when, especially, the first white wives on the South Sea beaches, found the joyous, handsome, frolicsome women of the islands, making ardent love to their husbands, the innate heinousness of bodily bareness became fixed as a guiding star towards bringing the infidel to the true worship.
Clothe them and sanctify them, became the motto. From the wondrous Marquesas valleys to the American naval station of Samoa, the bonnet, the bonnet of a half century ago, is the requirement of decency in the coral or bamboo church, as it is in the temples of New York. The nightgown or Mother Hubbard of Connecticut became the proper female attire for natives in the house of God, and thus, by gradual establishment of a fashion, in their straw homes, and everywhere. Chiefesses were induced to don calico, and chiefs the woolen or denim trousers of refinement. The trader came to sell them, and so business followed the Bible. Tattooing, which, with the Polynesians and Melenesians, was probably a race memory of clothing in a less tropical clime, was condemned bitterly by the white censors as causing nudity. A man or woman whose legs and body were covered with marvellous arabesques and gaudy pictures of palms and fish was not apt to hide them under garments.
And here the censor also had an ally in the trader. The two joined, unwittingly, to break down both the old morale of the pagan and the new morality of the converts. The censorious cleric said that the Lord disliked nakedness, or, at least, that unclothedness was unvirtuous, while the seller of calico and alcohol advised the purchase of his goods for the sake of style. He ridiculed tattooing and nudity, but he also laughed with ribaldry at the religious arguments. The confused indigene, driven by admonition and shame put on the hot and griming stuffs, and finally, had them kept on him by statute. The censor in the South Seas achieved his highest reach of holy effort. He had made into law the mores his sect or tribe had coined into morals, and was able to punish by civil tribunal the evildoers who refused to abide by his conception of the divine wish.
But here, old Mother Nature revolted. All over the world it would appear that she is not in touch with the divinity that shapes the ends of the censors. The clothing donned by the natives of the South Seas killed them. They sweated and remained foul; they swam, and kept on their garments; they were rained on, and laid down in calico and wool, They abandoned the games and exercises which had made them the finest physical race in the world, and took up hymn books and tools. The physical plagues of the whites decimated them. They passed away as the tiar Tahiti withers indoors. The censored returned to the rich earth which had bred them, and taught them its secrets and demands. Only a mournful remnant remains to observe the censorship.
But the curious spirit of inversion which tries to make the assumed infinite of a finite nature, which had sacrificed a race to an invented god, persists even in the South Seas. One of the most distinguished authors, who has chosen that delectable clime for his researches was arrested for napping on his own paepae partly clothed. The parson informed upon him, and the gendarme fined him. In the British South Seas, where I was recently, prohibition had cast a blight upon the more poetical whites. I remember one night when my vessel was anchored for a few hours in the roadstead of a lonely island, a group of civil servants and a minister of the Church of England had come aboard to buy what comforts they might from our civilized caravan. They sat on deck clinking glasses occasionally, talking of cities where a man might be freed from the "continuous spying of the uncoo good." That was the phrase they used, being English or Scots, and when the word was passed that we up-anchored with the turn of the tide at midnight, they sang in a last burst of lively furor a song of Dionysian regret. One stanza lingers with me:—
Whack the cymbal! Bang the drum! Votaries of Bacchus! Let the popping corks resound, Pass the flowing goblet round! May no mournful voice be found, Though wowzers do attack us!
In the darkness I called to them as they went down the gangway into their boat, "What is a wowzer?"
"'E's a bloomin' —— 'oo wants to do unto others wot 'e's bleedin' well done to 'imself."
The wowzers are more active in Hawaii, the most temperate portion of Polynesia, than in the Maori isles of New Zealand. A law passed at the last session of the Hawaiian legislature prohibits "any person over fourteen years of age from appearing upon the streets of Honolulu in a bathing suit unless covered suitably by an outer garment reaching at least to the knees." There is a ferment in Honolulu over the arrest and punishment of offenders against this new censorship. It is the result of the control by the spiritual, or perhaps, lineal, descendants of the first South Sea censors, of the great grand-children of those men who wore the girdles of leaves at the landing of the Marlboro school teacher a hundred years ago. The girdle-wearers are members of the Hawaiian legislature—soon to be succeeded by Japanese-native-born—and the censors, likely, are wives of financiers and sugar factors. Again the feeble remnant of the Hawaiian race voted against the girdle.
A friend of mine, grandson of the estimable missionary and his bride of the New England of a century ago, thus comments upon the law in a paper sent to me:—
The facts which caused the passage of the law were, that certain residents of Waikiki were donning their bathing suits at home, walking across and along the public streets to the sea and returning in the same state of undress.
If the bathing suits had been of the old-style no objection to this would have been made. The woman's bathing suit of the olden days were a cumbrous swaddling garment, high-necked, long-sleeved, full-skirted, bloomer-breeched and stockinged.
Simultaneously with the outbreak of the street parade era, above noted, there came with spontaneous-combustion-like rapidity, a radical change in the style of female bathing suits "on the street at Waikiki."
First the sleeves, then the stockings, then the skirts, then the main portion of the garment covering the legs, successively disappeared, until the low-necked, sleeveless, legless one-piece suit became "the thing"; and women clad in garments scantier than the scantiest on the ballet stage, were parading Kalakaua avenue in the vicinity of the Moana hotel, to the scandal and disgust of some; the devouring gaze of others; and the interested inspection of whomsoever chose to inspect!
It was a startling sight to the uninitiated—probably unduplicated in any other civilized country.
The South Pacific or the heart of Africa would probably have to be visited to find virtuous women so scantily clad, making such exhibition of their persons in public-more particularly on the public streets.
This scantiness of dress became the subject of protest, of justification, of discussion in press, in public and in private throughout the community.
The practice was violently attacked as tending to lewdness and scandal; as vigorously defended as a question of personal taste and liberty, and as a matter concerning safety and comfort in swimming.
Those "old-style suits" he refers to, "full-skirted, bloomer-breeched" were the godly ones brought to Hawaii by the censors, but which gradually disappeared with the influx of rich tourists from America, and the importation by Honolulu merchants of the flimsier and less concealing kind. This new generation of whites that has sought escape from the "cumbrous, swaddling garment" embraces the flapper, who at Waikiki is a beautiful and wholesome sight. Browned by years of exposure to the beach sun, charmingly modelled, and with the grace and freedom of limb of the surf-board rider and canoeist, she has no consciousness of guilt in her emergence dripping from the sea, in her lying in the breeze upon the sand, nor in her walks to and from her bungalow nearby. And she refuses to be censored.
The commentator, proprietor of the oldest newspaper in the islands, and himself a noted diplomat, lawyer and revolutionist—he took up a rifle against Liliuokalani—says so:—
The law has been observed by a few, ignored by a few, and caricatured by the many. It is not an uncommon thing to see a woman walking the streets in Waikiki in the scantiest of bathing suits, with drapery of the flimsiest suspended from her shoulders and floating behind upon the breeze.
The police have made a few feeble and spasmodic attempts to persuade observance of the law, with some ill-advised attempts to enforce individual ideas of propriety on the beach itself.
On the whole, the law is either openly and flagrantly violated or rendered farcical by the contemptuous manner of its semi-observance.
And, cautiously but firmly, the grandson of the first missionaries to Hawaii, himself living six decades in Honolulu, a church member and supporter of all evangelical and commercial progress, gives advice to the people of his territory. Urging that those opposed to the bathing suit law try legally to secure its repeal, but that all obey it while it is on the statute books, he says:—
As to the question of attire on the beach, there are modest and immodest women to be found everywhere, regardless of their clothes. It is impossible to legislate modesty into a person who is innately immodest, and it is therefore useless to try and do so. The attire of a woman on the beach at Waikiki as well as her conduct elsewhere, should therefore be left to the individual woman herself.
That is the last word of a very shrewd, wealthy, experienced, religious son of censors. But wowzerism dies hard in America or in the South Seas. The Anglo-Saxon American has it in his blood as an inheritance from the rise of Puritanism four hundred years ago, while with many it is an idiosyncrasy to be explained by the glands regulating personality. In fact, I feel that this is the enemy the would-be free must fight. We must attack and extirpate the wowzerary gland.
REFORMERS: A HYMN OF HATE
I hate Reformers; They raise my blood pressure.
There are the Prohibitionists; The Fathers of Bootlegging. They made us what we are to-day— I hope they're satisfied. They can prove that the Johnstown flood, And the blizzard of 1888, And the destruction of Pompeii Were all due to alcohol. They have it figured out That anyone who would give a gin daisy a friendly look Is just wasting time out of jail, And anyone who would stay under the same roof With a bottle of Scotch Is right in line for a cozy seat in the electric chair. They fixed things all up pretty for us; Now that they have dried up the country, You can hardly get a drink unless you go in and order one. They are in a nasty state over this light wines and beer idea; They say that lips that touch liquor Shall never touch wine. They swear that the Eighteenth Amendment Shall be improved upon
Over their dead bodies— Fair enough! Then there are the Suppressors of Vice; The Boys Who Made the Name of Cabell a Household Word. Their aim is to keep art and letters in their place; If they see a book Which does not come right out and say That the doctor brings babies in his little black bag, Or find a painting of a young lady Showing her without her rubbers, They call out the militia. They have a mean eye for dirt; They can find it In a copy of "What Katy Did at School," Or a snapshot of Aunt Bessie in bathing at Sandy Creek, Or a picture postcard of Moonlight in Bryant Park. They are always running around suppressing things, Beginning with their desires. They get a lot of excitement out of life,— They are constantly discovering The New Rabelais Or the Twentieth Century Hogarth. Their leader is regarded As the representative of Comstock here on earth. How does that song of Tosti's go?— "Good-bye, Sumner, good-bye, good-bye."
There are the Movie Censors, The motion picture is still in its infancy,— They are the boys who keep it there. If the film shows a party of clubmen tossing off ginger ale, Or a young bride dreaming over tiny garments, Or Douglas Fairbanks kissing Mary Pickford's hand, They cut out the scene And burn it in the public square. They fix up all the historical events So that their own mothers wouldn't know them. They make Du Barry Mrs. Louis Fifteenth, And show that Anthony and Cleopatra were like brother and sister, And announce Salome's engagement to John the Baptist, So that the audiences won't go and get ideas in their heads. They insist that Sherlock Holmes is made to say, "Quick, Watson, the crochet needle!" And the state pays them for it. They say they are going to take the sin out of cinema If they perish in the attempt,— I wish to God they would!
And then there are the All-American Crabs; The Brave Little Band that is Against Everything. They have got up the idea That things are not what they were when Grandma was a girl. They say that they don't know what we're coming to, As if they had just written the line. They are always running a temperature Over the modern dances, Or the new skirts, Or the goings-on of the younger set. They can barely hold themselves in When they think of the menace of the drama; They seem to be going ahead under the idea That everything but the Passion Play Was written by Avery Hopwood. They will never feel really themselves Until every theatre in the country is razed. They are forever signing petitions Urging that cigarette-smokers should be deported, And that all places of amusement should be closed on Sunday And kept closed all week. They take everything personally; They go about shaking their heads, And sighing, "It's all wrong, it's all wrong,"— They said it.
I hate Reformers; They raise my blood pressure.
I shall never forget the shock I received when an American woman, newly arrived in England, gave me her impressions of London. She was distinctly pleased with the town, and when I rather foolishly asked if she had been terrified by our celebrated policemen, she said, "Why, no. I was in a taxicab yesterday, and the driver went right on past the policeman's hand, stealing round where he'd no business to go. And the policeman just said, 'Here, where you going? D'you want the whole of England?' Why, in New York, if he'd done that, he'd have been in prison inside of five minutes!"
I wonder if it will be understood how terrible disillusion on such a scale can be. I had been thinking of the United States for so long as the home of the free and the easy that it was hard to bring myself to the belief that the police there were both peremptory and severe. I had thought them all Irishmen of the humorous, or "darlint" type. It seems I was mistaken. The little—I am now afraid misleading— paragraphs which from time to time appear in the English papers, saying that there has been a hold-up on Fifth Avenue, or that the Chief of Police in some great city has been found to be the head of a gang of international assassins, that things called Tammany and graft and saloons flourish there without let or hindrance, had attracted me to the United States. I wanted to live in such a country. Here, I said, is a place where every man's hand is for himself, where the revolver plays its true part, and where, with the aid of a humorous Irish policeman, who will find me stunned by a sandbag and take me to his little home in 244th Street and reveal the fact that he is descended from Cuchulain, I can be happy.
At first I thought that my friend must be exaggerating. Not lightly was I prepared to let my dream go. But I am afraid that my confidence in America as the home of freedom needs a tonic. She may have been right, although it seems unbelievable. When I thought the problem out clearly I came to the conclusion that there was a sinister sound about that comment upon our policemen. Were they losing control of us? Apparently not. I had trouble on the road with a policeman over the rear light of my car. There is no doubt that England is efficiently policed. And so my mind stole back to America with a new uneasiness. I recollected tales which I had heard about sumptuary laws regulating the dress of American women, both in and out of the water. I saw the police invading restaurants and snatching cigarettes from the mouths of women. I saw drink being driven underground by Prohibition. I began to question whether I should really like to live in the United States after all. I asked those of my friends who had been to America.
They told me that if I visited America I should be regaled privately with champagne from the huge reserves of private wine-cellars, but that as a resident I should be forbidden to drink anything that enlivened me. It was a great shock. I am not yet recovered from it. I see that I shall after all have to live quietly in England with my pipe and my abstemious bottle of beer. And yet I should like to visit America, for it has suddenly become in my imagining an enormous country of "Don't!" and I want to know what it is like to have "Don't" said by somebody who is not a woman.
I have always hated the word "Don't." I hated it as a child, and I hate it still. It is a nasty word, a chilling word, associated with feelings of resentment, of discipline, of prohibition. Yes, that is it, of course, Prohibition. I find that it is Prohibition which makes my throat so dry. I thought it was a human characteristic, when anybody said, "You're not to do that!" to do it at once in case there should be any misunderstanding. I should be frightened to say "Don't!" to anybody, because I feel sure it would precipitate unpleasantness. Is America so different from the rest of the world that it likes having "Don't!" said to it? I cannot think that. What occurs to me is that America has not yet worked out of its system the strain that the English Puritan fathers brought with them. It is a melancholy thought to me that it is really ancient English repression that is responsible for the present state of affairs. I feel very guilty, particularly as I have seen an article about myself in an English newspaper headed "A Modern Puritan." It is really I, and people like me, who have caused the great drink restrictions in the United States. I bow my head.
The truth is, I suppose, that people in the United States take life more seriously than we do in England. If you read any of the books which have been written in this country during the ages to show what sort of community is the ideal—I refer to such works as "Utopia" and "News from Nowhere"—there is never any difference between them on one point. All the dwellers in these ideal states appear to be thoroughly idle. They have practically no work to do at all. All their time is spent in talk and sylvan wandering, with music and dancing round maypoles. There is no mistaking the fact that the Englishman's idea of life is confirmed and justifiable laziness. He wants what he calls leisure. Charles Lamb, a typically English author, wrote a poem beginning "Who first invented work?" He came to the conclusion that it must have been the Devil. The inference is clear. Observation confirms my view. It is not to be doubted that the average Englishman spends his life in scheming to make somebody else do the work that lies nearest to his hand.
Americans must be different. I believe they really like work. And I will give the Prohibitionists this handsome admission. I also work much better without stimulants. I mean, much harder. But on the other hand, I am less happy. Does an American feel happy in his work? Does the act of work give him a satisfaction which is not felt by an Englishman? I think that must be the explanation. But on the other hand there is this question of Puritanism. We tried it in England, and we had a severe reaction to libertinism. We maintain Puritanism only in our suburban districts, where there is exceedingly close scrutiny of all matters pertaining to conduct; and in our theatres. In the suburbs it does not much matter, although it rather cramps our suburban style; but in the theatre it drives some of us to distraction. I will explain why.
Supposing a man wants to write a play, he at once thinks of getting it produced. An unproduced play is like an unpublished novel: practically speaking it does not exist. The author can read it, of course, and his wife can assure him that it is a great deal better than anything she has seen or read for years; but the author and his wife are both haunted by the fact that there is a masterpiece which is lying—not fallow, but unused and sterile. They grow dissatisfied. The savour of life is lost for them. They develop persecution mania, grow very conceited, and finally come to believe that only they of all the men and women alive truly grasp the essentials of life. They say, if this were the silly muck that most authors write, it would be produced, and then we should have our car and our servants and diamonds and titles and all the paraphernalia of happiness. As it is, we are doomed to silence and poverty, simply because George is too much of an artist to lower himself by writing what the public wants, and what the censor will pass. For I have not been outlining the diseased state of mind of the merely incompetent man who writes something that nobody will look at. I have been giving details of one of those men who have a moral message, and who desire greatly to spread it by means of the stage. He has written, let us say, a play in which the name of God appears, or a play wherein a young woman has a baby and does not wish to have a husband. The censor says that there must be no mention of God in plays performed on the public stage, and that young women who have babies must either have husbands or come to early graves of their own seeking. Very well, what happens? I have described the state of mind of a husband and wife who have a pet child—a play—which is lying heavy on their minds and hearts and hands. They are ripe for any temptation of the devil. And it comes. It always comes.
The devil dresses himself up in the guise of a Sunday play-producing society. The play is surreptitiously performed in a theatre to which admission can be obtained only by members banded together for just such emergencies. It is very badly acted by actors and actresses who have not been able to spare sufficient time from their daily work to learn their parts as well as they should have done. The audience comes full of a smug self-satisfaction at the thought that it is excessively intellectual and select, and that it alone can appreciate blasphemy or the vagaries of neurotic young women. It sits intellectually in the theatre, and watches the play. The author sits intellectually in his box, and intellectually accepts the plaudits of the audience. He lives thereafter in a highly intellectual atmosphere. He is driven to become a member of the secret play-producing society, and to watch other plays of a character not suited to the requirements of the censorship. He is morally a ruined man. He will never any more be a decent member of society, for he has become an intellectual. He has been taught to despise ordinary human beings, for they do not want to be wicked or silly, except in the normal humdrum way, and they have not seen his play and are not members of his play-producing society. He discovers that the censored is the only good art. He is driven to the reading of all sorts of Continental drama. He is made into an anti-English propagandist. He is like the person in the song, who,
"Praises every century but this, and every country but his own."
He has been lost for human kind, and is wedded to intellectualism and a sense of superiority to others for the rest of his miserable life. He institutes a new system of censorship of his own. It takes the form of sneering at and condemning anything that does not conform to his own ideas. He sniffs at all sorts of innocently happy people who are inoffensively pursuing their noisy course through life. He begins to hate noise. He makes a virtue of his abstention from ordinary pleasures. He speaks condescendingly of the "hoi polloi." As I said, he is ruined. He is no longer a man that one can talk to with any comfort, for his sense of superiority is intolerable.
To me there is nothing more terrible than the sense of superiority to others. It arises, not from merit or the consciousness of merit, but from sheer tin-like flimsiness of character. It arises from limited sympathies. The really great man, and the really sagacious man, is one to whom nothing is contemptible. To him, even the follies of his fellow-passengers are manifestations of human nature, revelations of the material from which scholars and politicians no less than drunkards and inconstants are gradually in course of time developed. Somebody described "conceit" to me the other day as egotism in which contempt for others is involved. It was agreed between us that egotism was normal, since happiness is not to be attained without a sense of personal utility to the world, and no objection was urged against it. Vanity was to be tolerated, because it was definitely social—a recognition of the existence and value of the good opinion of others; but never sense of superiority. And the sense of rebellion should be added to this other sense, as equally to be regretted. A young woman whose incredible acts of folly had spoiled half-a-dozen lives, including her own, recently encountered a young man whom she had jilted on the eve of her marriage to another, whom she had also left. The young man, still smarting under his ill-treatment, reproached her. He said, "What you want, my dear, is discipline." "Pooh!" she answered. "I'm above discipline!" The poor young man retired, unequal to the conversation. But the young woman went on her way, defiant and self-infatuated, believing that she really was superior to the opinions of others, the common decencies of conduct, the inevitable give and take of ordinary life. Driven to folly by lack of balance, she was learning to justify her folly by the argument for rebellion. Whether she will ever learn to control her actions I do not know, but rebelliousness from a fueling that one is too good to be governed by normal standards is not only arrogant and unsocial. It is silly. It is, to my mind, a criminal form of silliness. But it is one very widely accepted by the young and the unimaginative. It must therefore be recognized and combated.
It springs, perhaps, from disordered shame, which makes children noisily act in defiance of authority, particularly if there are others present to overhear. No children are worse-behaved than those who are over-controlled. The word "don't" at the breakfast-table produces more acts of violent rebellion than any amount of parental weakness. Unimaginativeness begets unimaginativeness. Rigidity in one person creates a counter-rigidity in the other. There is a thwarting upon both sides, a mutual shackle upon sweetness and understanding. A wildness of action arises, with loss of affection, respect, self-respect. And the vicious part of it is that children (we are all children, for we never grew up in human relations), once they are embarked upon an evil course, are driven by vanity to continue upon that course until they are exhausted, going from defiance to defiance; and ultimately building up a whole sophisticated gospel of axioms whereby rebellion is given warrant and virtue. The gospel of rebellion we know to be specious and without justification; but it is essential to us, as human beings, to maintain self-approval for our acts. If we cannot do this socially, by comparative standards, we do it unsocially, by subversion of those standards. Rebels are only prigs turned upside down or inside out.
The great defect of prohibition is that when it can be enforced by law it makes rebels who think there is something inconceivably clever in doing secretly that which the law forbids. They learn to think there is some subtle merit in evading the law. They encourage others to break the law, and so develop cliques and finally new and silly conventions. Or, prohibition has another effect. It makes a whole class who accept its rulings, and gradually these people, owing to a peculiarity which all gregarious animals seem to have, begin to believe that unless all are of their persuasion and of their number the fault lies with the rebels. First of all they consider themselves superior to the rebels, and despise them. Then, when they find that the rebels think that they are the superior class, in defying the law or the convention, a new set of notions arises, and this set of notions leads to persecution and to war. You cannot introduce any restrictive or prohibitive measure without developing fanatical conceit, narrow-mindedness, and intolerance, both in those who welcome the measure and in those who seek to ignore and even to defy its rulings.
The Puritanical attitude is almost wholly repressive, and naturally invokes force to aid its repressive measures. It did so in England centuries ago in the matter of the theatre, and we are living among all the rotten plays which have been written since, and the theatre is for the most part a place of ignominious diversion. The play-producing societies have nothing to produce that is worth producing, because the atmosphere which causes such plays as are written to be produced privately is not the healthy atmosphere from which masterpieces arise. It is an atmosphere impregnated with priggishness and a sense of superiority. It is an atmosphere, if there can be such a thing, of sterility. The same thing happens in other matters, and I do not feel at all certain that it may not happen with drink. If you say men are not to drink you create two new classes. There is of course the existing class that does not care for drink and is afraid of its effects to the point of wishing to keep it away from those who do like drink. That class already flourishes in most communities, and so I do not place it among any two classes which are created by the prohibition. The two classes are as follows-the class that submits, and gradually develops priggishness and self-satisfaction at being in the majority, and the class that rebels, and gradually develops priggishness and self-satisfaction at being in the minority. Both classes are objectionable, and I do not know which is the worse. They are both inevitable in a world of prohibitions, and if the United States, to which we are all looking as the real hope for intelligent civilization, is going to take away our beer and turn us into supporters of play-producing societies I cannot think what will happen to the world. Better a wicked world than a virtuous one. Better a world in which we can hope that there are people worse than ourselves than a world where we know that there cannot be any better.
A GUESS AT UNWRITTEN HISTORY
H. M. TOMLINSON
That fairly violent scuffling during the years 1914-1918, the opening skirmishes of the war between Organization and Liberty which our fore-fathers named so strangely the "War to End War," did not appear to conclude satisfactorily for the victorious nations, especially England. Actually it was an excellent ground for the founding of that Perfect State which, in the centuries that followed, arose on the lines laid largely by chance and the exigencies of that early scramble. Yet it is possible the victorious statesmen may not have guessed that they had done really well. The name by which the war of those remote years was popularly known is enough to show that the difficulties faced by those men at the end of the war may have obscured the good they had done. That name is itself clear evidence of the not unpleasing credulity and ridiculous but innocent desire of the people of that time.
After all, those peoples were not so long out of the Neolithic Age. Their memory was still strong of the freedom of their earlier wanderings when they could go where they liked, work at what suited them, eat and drink what pleased them, choose who should be their chief, and worship in any Temple which promised most personal benefits. It was, then, natural for them to make so amusing a mistake in the naming of their "Great War." They not only certainly imagined they were ending War, but they imagined, too, they had a right to end it, thinking that not only War, but every other act of the State, was for their decision. Their Governors, therefore, judged it wise to allow them this illusion to play with, so to distract their attention from the reality, which they would have resented. This illusion was known as Popular Government.
We may laugh at it now, but in those days the directing minds of great nations found that common illusion no laughing matter. Some who laughed at it openly discovered they had laughed on the wrong side of the guillotine. It is usual in this era of science, when control by the Holy State of the national mass-power, both of body and mind, is complete, and when national emotion is raised by Press and Pulpit whenever it is required and put wherever it is wanted, to ridicule the laxity of the statesmen who directed the nations in that early war. A little reflection, however, shows us that that laxity is but apparent. Those statesmen went as far as they dared, and dared a little more with each success they won. They discovered that control may be gained by announcing control to be necessary for some quite innocent object, and then using and retaining the power thus acquired for a real but undivulged purpose. Sheep, we are aware, never understand they are securely folded till the completing hurdle of the circuit is in its place, and then they soon forget it, and begin grazing; for all sheep want is grass, and perhaps a turnip or two to give content in a limited pasture.
It would be wrong for us, nevertheless, to blame those early folk for not understanding, as finely as we do, the true science of government to be complete and unquestioned mastery. We have learned much since then. Let us look back to those days for a moment, to get the just perspective. One of the first significant things we notice is that those people were free to criticize their politicians—baaing across the hurdles, as it were. That was why they had to have explained to them the "Objects of the War." They actually did not want to die. They were reluctant to go to battle unless they knew why they were going. True, it was easy enough to find a reason to satisfy them, but it is necessary for us to remember that they would not submit to mutilation and death without some reason. Much as their governors may have desired it, those primitives would not agree willingly to the total surrender of conscience, individual liberty, and of life, to "politicians," as the High Priests of the Holy State were then familiarly named. Individual conscience, therefore, had to be cajoled, had to be bamboozled, had to be hypnotized; and a man's liberty could not be taken from him unless he was helpless, or was looking, under clever political finger-pointing, the other way.
It was this almost intractable matter of personal conscience and liberty which was the cause of the angry disappointment following the Versailles Treaty which, illustrating still further the need for subtle tact in dealing with our hairy forefathers, was called a Peace Treaty.
What a light is thrown upon those distant days and peoples when that ancient document, the fragmentary relic of which is now treasured in the museum at Tobolsk, is examined with even the little knowledge we possess of the events immediately following it! For a time, we must believe, humanity then was deliriously bereft. One could almost believe the moon had a greater pull in those years.
"No more secret diplomacy!" historians tell us was one of the cries of the soldiers as they went to battle. There is considerable ground, too, for accepting the amusing traditional tale that even at the end of the war the then President of the American Republic (mainly confined at the time to the Western Continent), declared the first point for the guidance of the Peace Conference must be an open discussion of the covenant. And the first thing to happen when the war ended was the closing of the door of the council room by the peacemakers, who, naturally, were the very men with no other interest till that moment but the full pursuit of war; yet nobody noticed the door was shut, though nobody could hear what was going on inside the room. The faith in their politicians held by the natives of the backyard communities into which Europe was then divided—on the very eve, we see now, of the full continental control of international man-power by consolidated finance—was the measure of their annoyance when, too late, naturally, the fact that the old shackles from which they had been promised freedom were noticed to be riveted upon them several links tighter.
But it is not their faith, so happily youthful, which so reveals their ingenious minds as their resultant annoyance. That resentment illuminates the essential fact for us in studying their mentality as social animals. They really did accept without question, with open and receptive mouths and eyes shut, what was considered pleasing enough to fortify them in the trials of warfare. They were, difficult though it is for us to understand it, too vacant and generous to realize that the "Objects of the War" were but figments nicely calculated to get them busy. The figments—we must give credit to the leaders of the time-were indeed not un-imaginatively conjured up. Those inducing visions worked. They were accepted readily, and even with delight. It was sincerely believed that the pleasing dreams were substantial, that those chromatic vapours evoked by gifted statesmen were veritable promises of divine favor for meritorious endurance.
From that we can the more easily go with understanding to a study of the consequences of that attractive faith of undisciplined peoples so difficult to grasp for modern students, who witness daily the admirable submission of our own uniform herds to the divine ordinances of the High Priests of the Sacred Entity the State. Why, we even learn that the survivors of the not inconsiderable armies returned from the battlefields of 1918 with the innocent conviction that the gentlemen of England would keep a bond as faithfully as common soldiers! The hardest tasks of the statesmen of those days arose out of such extraordinary expectations, out of the ruinous supposition of the childish-minded that the honoring of a bond, the fulfilment of a promise in return for benefits received, is equally incumbent on everybody!
With that knowledge we begin to realise the difficulties of their statesmen. A careful computation shows us that in England, where indeed the lavish promises had been most picturesque, and where the tough idea of personal liberty took longest to kill, it required just four years of severe disciplinary measures and dry bread to reduce the masses generally to a pale, obedient, and constructive spirit. At first they would not work unless they wanted to, and then only at their own price. They pointed, when answering their masters, to the fact that the best-fed people never worked at all, and lived in the best houses. They refused to cancel the official contracts made with them, even when ordered to do so by the police. They behaved indeed, those ex-soldiers, as though it had been their war. Such a state of mind we in these days really find impossible to elucidate. It is rather like trying to read the spots on a giraffe. It is as inscrutable as the once general opinion that the community has a right to decide upon its own affairs.
Today we have reached that point in the evolution of society when uniformity is known to be more desirable, because more comfortable than liberty; and uniformity is impossible without compulsion. A man with a free and contentious mind is a danger to the community, for he destroys its ease. He compels his fellows to active thought, if only to refute him. This is a dissipation of energy, and a local weakening of the structure of the State. It is historically true that a few men with ranging and questioning minds have sometimes injected so strong an original virus of thought that the community has been changed in form and nature.
It was the mistake of the earlier nations to give little attention to these troublesome and subversive fellows, who always thought more of the truth than they did even of the inviolability of the High Priests of the State. They preferred to die rather than surrender the out-dated rights of man. Therefore they had to die. The rights of man cannot be allowed to stand in the way of a nation's perfect uniformity. It was many centuries before man realized that the only freedom worth having is freedom from the necessity for individual thought. Perfectly unembarrassed freedom, freedom in which the mind may be empty and sunny, and assured happily of not the slightest interruption from any unsanctioned unofficial idea, became possible to a community only after the sanitary measures were devised which sufficed against unexpected epidemics of speculative thinking.
This, we are sadly aware, took time; for the brightly-colored hopes sent skyward so long ago as 1914, and the vistas discovered as a consequence by young men whose eyes till then had been resting safely on the ground, and the daring and lively questioning that was aroused by the incessant nudging of sleeping minds, coincided, as it unluckily happened, with the beginnings when the "Great War" ended, of mass-production and international finance, so developing problems of government, the solving of which could not be reconciled with any admission of individual liberty and personal right. It was, therefore, the elimination of the notion of justice and liberty from common opinion which occupied statesmen from 1918 onwards.
Gradually the true social morality has been evolved—that one citizen should be so like all other citizens that his only distinguishing characteristic is his number; that the right ideal of citizenship, plain for all to follow, and ensuring the stability of society, is to be so loyal to the Holy State that an expression of a man's views in a gathering of his fellows will rouse no more curiosity than a glass of water. Obviously so desirable a similarity of mind and character, making disputation impossible, and preventing all dislike of the ordinances of the Sacred Entity, or Cabal of Inviolable Dispensers, a uniformity in which war and peace become merely the national output of a vast machine controlled by the Central Will, has been developed only through ages of Press Suggestion, popular education with a bias that was designed but was scarcely noticeable, the seizing and retaining of opportunities by legislators whenever public opinion was sufficiently diverted, and a development of chemical science and aeronautics which has been encouraged by the enlightened directors of the major industries.
The war which began in 1914 showed quite clearly, for example, the value of the Censorship. The instituting of this office was never questioned, for it was based on man's first impulse of obedience to superiors when faced by a sudden danger, caused by his fear of the unknown. More than that, the English were in a lucky state of exaltation at the time, and were ready to sacrifice everything to save from destruction what they were told was the ancient, exquisite, and priceless civilization of France. They did save it; but in the prolonged and costly process they learned more than they had known before of that civilization, as well as of their own; and so much of their fear of losing either was evaporated. By that time, anyhow, criticism was useless, because the Censorship then was empowered to deal even with a derisive cough when Authority was solemnly giving orders. Once the office of the Censor was set in its place unnoticed in a time of public nervousness and excitement, the rest was easy, for it became possible to bring all criticism within a law which was elastic enough to be extended even to those figments which merely worked on the timidity of unbalanced minds.
It became unpatriotic to express a dislike for margarine, when butter was prohibited. It was unpatriotic for a blind hunchback with heart disease to protest that he was no soldier, if he were ordered to the Front. For though the Censor, in the early period of that war, dealt merely with news and opinions which might aid the enemy, yet, as the value of adding to a nation's enemies became apparent to Authority, it became necessary to turn into enemies of the State those who denounced profiteers for turning blood into money, those who denounced generals for wasting the lives of boys in purposeless actions, those who spoke against the spending of the nation's resources to succor needy contractors, and those who asked whether the war was to go on till all were dead, or whether it might be stopped profitably at any time by using a little common sense. Luckily for the welfare of the community, this need for recognizing as enemies all, at home and abroad, who differed from the decision of the Central Will, a need which was the natural flower of that confidence which Authority acquired through discovering the ease of control, put within the power of the Censor by the time of the Peace Conference every possible form of protest, every call for light, every cry of pain, every demand that such a "horrible nonsense" as war should cease from human affairs, every plea for compassion and generosity.
Thus the problem of perfect government was engendered and simplified. It was at last possible to ensure, at least outwardly, a semblance of uniformity. The rest was a matter of evolution, till today only a particular enquiry will determine a man from a woman, though it may fail to determine a fool from a man. All are alike, all agree with what is officially announced by the Sacred Entity, and the nation is as loyal and homogeneous, as contented, as stable and industrious, as a reef of actinozoal plasm. Thus the Perfect State has been built like a rock. The City of God has at last arisen; and in each of the uniform homes of its neuters, or workers, there is to be found the Patriotic Symbol—a portrait of a Sheep, enjoined by law to hang in a principal place, and bearing the legend "God Bless this Loyal Face."
Here, however, we see at once that such a right condition of the public mind could never have been acquired by a Censorship, by a mere prohibition, that is, of individual thinking and acting. That ensures merely a simulacrum of homogeneity. The appearance of general acquiescence may exist, though not the real thing. It is easy to compel men to do what they would not do freely if allowed an opportunity for their reason to work. The problem was to prevent the working of reason. Today, as we know, an order is issued by The Chosen, and is followed by a campaign in the Press, and by revivals exhorted from the Pulpit. There is no chance for the intrusion of reason.—No facts are ever issued for reason to work upon, no questioning is ever allowed. The suggestions of the Press and Pulpit prompt loyalty and obedience, and what might, in early times, have been resented as ridiculous, becomes the mode; and thus, if any rebels exist, it is but briefly, for they are denounced as solitary and repugnant independents. A suggestion becomes public opinion because the majority of people accept it without knowing there is reason to question the suggestion; and the minority also accept it in the end through weariness of an unpleasant and even dangerous distinction.
Yet not, observe, all the minority. It was the experience of our forefathers that unsuspected centres of infection always remained, and were not discovered till they had poisoned large areas of the country. Some bold fellow, here and there, had withstood all efforts at intimidation, and in time made others as courageous as himself. A means had to be found to eliminate the possibility of infection by original minds, or clearly the Holy State could not consider itself safe. Here, indeed, we see the hardest of the problems statesmen of the past had to solve. From the mere negation of the Censorship, a positive advance had to be made to the obliteration of original thought. This at first, necessarily, was but tentative, and only the confidence gained through successful experiment enabled governments at last to find where the real trouble lay.
It was supposed, at first, that the destruction of subversive political tracts and the persecution of radical views would be enough. Yet, of course, it was learned that as fast as these were cropped, growth elsewhere had become vigorous. The human intelligence is natively prone to look towards new things. Then it was that, after a long suspicion of the origin of ideals, great statesmen were led to an examination of classic literature and a study of the arts. Then they saw, what they might have known sooner, that in the very institutions supported by the State, the Public Libraries and Art Galleries, were actually preserved the potent ideals which demeaned that general opinion which the State was laboring to establish.
The famous Day of Release was ordered. This was ordained to free mankind from its heritage of the spirit. A test was made, and by that test any book or picture or poem which could not be approved or understood by native deacons of Solomon Island missions (who were imported for the purpose) was at once extirpated. This checked a great deal of the troublesome growth of the mind. Music, however, was strangely forgotten; and it was proved that the great revolution which burst out in Europe 120 years after the "Great War" began in the emotion occasioned by the continued playing of the compositions of one Beethoven, whose work is now fortunately lost, and other music which remained in favor in spite of the official insistence on the use of the steam saxophone for public concerts. Men, wherever they dared, insisted on having the best. And though the records were at length destroyed, the tenacious memories of a few fanatics and cranks preserved much of the old music, and that usually of the worst and most disloyal.
Here we see another step had to be taken by men in control of the State. The memory of what was classical was kept though in an ever-fading condition, and now and again some point of memory fructified to almost its original suggestive beauty in the fortuitously abnormal brain of a genius, and thus the state work of hygiene had to be done over again; for curiously enough people everywhere rose like a tide, and moved spontaneously towards these manifestations of liberty and beauty, and away from their loyalty to the God-State. A method, therefore, had to be discovered, first for obliterating what remained in the public memory of what was magical and rebellious, and then for the elimination of any possibility of original genius arising; and genius was, it was seen, first and last, the cause of all the trouble.
The destruction of all great works of art was followed, fifty years later, by the Period of Purging. All who were denounced for having quoted forbidden poetry, or for humming forbidden music, were executed. Such malefactors, who refused to forget, obviously could not be allowed to live. This gave a long period of peace, in which the Sacred Entity, the Unassailable Authority, took concrete form. Even so, the destruction of the treasures of the past, and of all memory of them, did not prevent the spontaneous appearance, now and then, of extraordinary men who, by divination it would seem, perceived a flatness and monotony in society, a sameness of common thought, and who laughed at the estimable uniform flocks; often, indeed, stampeding them.
Now science had its turn. It was more than a century since the works of Darwin and other philosophers had been burned. Young students who showed an aptitude for science, and so were potentially dangerous, were taken early within the Sacred Precincts, initiated into the mysteries of the Priests, and were given work and safety under the shadow of the Entity. They rarely went wrong; and when they did they went further or were heard of no more.
These men of science were set the problem of finding a method of sterilizing the unfit, that is, people who showed any decadent tendency to originality. All the increase of population by that time was occasioned under the direction of the High Priests, so that the Holy State had not only the power of dealing death, but of bringing new life. The new life, it is evident, had to be determined, as far as possible, by a scientific specification of a perfect citizen; and in the course of a century or two, through the destruction of intelligence wherever it inadvertently appeared, through the selection of parents sufficiently loyal and docile to accept marriage immediately when ordered by officials, and by certain signs, such as lustiness, by which, at a birth, the skilled Public Watchers who accompanied midwives were made suspicious of the new-born as possible enemies of the State, at last mankind arrived at its present perfection, content, and happiness, with hardly an intellectual doubt or a sign of suspicious joy to mar the whole serene horizon of the Holy State's exactitude.
Yet, we dare ask, had it not been for that little "War to End War" of 1914-1918, so innocently named by our forefathers who had too much liberty to know what they were talking about, would the possibility of our present social tranquility have arisen? It is hardly likely. The freedom we enjoy from all criticism, from all interruptions of mind and spirit, an internal peace which is indeed never broken except by the lethal germs of our modern wars that, in the due course of nature, obliterate every week or so a few of our cities, was a lucky chance that was seized upon by public-spirited legislators who had the prescience to know its value.
IN VINO DEMI-TASSE
CHARLES HANSON TOWNE
The Young-Old Philosopher and I were sitting in one of the innumerable restaurants in New York where the sanctity of the law is about as much considered as a bicycle ride up Mt. Etna. At the next table—indeed, all around us—rich red wine was being poured into little cups.
"The new motto of America should be 'In vino demi-tasse,'" my friend said, smiling. And I quite agreed with him. For it is being done everywhere; in the most exalted circles, and in the lowest. Poor old human nature, which an organized minority are so bent upon changing overnight, cannot be altered; and, all the emphasis in a supposedly free country having been placed upon not drinking, the prohibitionists are wondering why so many of us care for liquid refreshment.
There is too much verboten in America today. I can remember the time, not so long ago, when no dinner-party was counted a success unless four or five cocktails were served before we sat down at the table. But that era passed. It was soon evident that such foolishness would lead to grave disaster—if not to the grave; and the young business man who was seen to consume even one glass of beer at luncheon was frowned upon, catalogued as unsteady, even in the face of the fact that perhaps the most efficient people in the world were automatic beer-drinkers.
As to drinking, in America we had other ideas. Big Business, which has become such a potent factor among us, and more a part of our national consciousness than Art and Letters ever will be, of its own volition placed a ban upon immoderate drinking; and the sane among us—of whom there were still many—gladly fell in line, and either went periodically upon the water-wagon or took a nip only occasionally when the cares of life weighed too heavily and insistently upon us.
Why, then, the Reformers? Why the Uplift Workers? Why the Extremists? Not content with a great and wise people working out their own salvation from within, they must step forth in solemn battalions, and make us pure and holy—from without.
We resent them. There is no reason why an entire nation should be indicted for the sins and failings of a few. It would be quite as sensible to forbid connubial bliss because there are a handful of libertines in the world.
The cry goes up, however, that the next generation will be so much better because of our enforced good behavior now. I am afraid that I am not enough of an altruist to care so definitely about the morals of a race unborn. I feel that my children, looking over the files of our newspapers, as they sip their light wine and beer, may smile and say, "Poor grandpa! He had so little self-control that the Government had to put the screws on him and his friends. Too bad! They must have been a fast set in his day. And yet—he left us a pretty good heritage of health and strength. We wonder if he was such an awful devil as history makes out."
The truth is that nothing, in moderation, ever hurt anybody. That is why the wise among us are against Prohibition and strongly for Temperance. Normal men do not like to be coddled. If coddling is done, however, they like to pick their coddlers. We don't like a lean and sour-visaged Prohibitionist making a fuss over us, feeling our pulse, taking our temperature, smoothing our brow. The whole trouble with the world today, as a sane man views it, is that there has been altogether too much coddling of the physically and mentally unfit.
We have become, through drifting, a nation of hypocrites. We make laws so fast that the bewildered citizen cannot follow them. We add amendment after amendment to our Constitution, and then laugh at what we have done, the while we secretly rebel. We have few convictions, and we refuse to face issues squarely and honestly. We pretend to be virtuous before the rest of the world; but we are like the ostrich which hides its head in the sands. We pretend that, just as the eugenists think of the physical attributes of the coming generation, we consider the mental attributes—and we turn around and raise a race of bootleggers. We permit our enormous foreign population to see us at our legislative work; and then we go proudly and sanctimoniously to restaurants and allow Italian, German and French waiters to pour red wine into our demi-tasses.
Oh, we are not in our cups—only in our half-cups. It would all be very amusing were it not so terribly serious. For we are rapidly floating toward trouble; and, hypocritically enough, we will not admit it. When it is said, since the tragedy of Prohibition, that the reformers will next snatch our cigars and cigarettes out of our mouths, we shrug our shoulders, smile and pass on, saying, "Oh, no! that would be going too far!"—in the face of what already has been accomplished in this land of the spree and the home of the grave.
Yes, we have become grave indeed. For there can be no doubt that there is a feeling of great unhappiness and unrest in America now. One hears the most solid citizens saying, "I do not try to save any more; I merely live from day to day, hoping against hope that things will right themselves, and that the old order will somehow return."
Who gets a long-term lease nowadays? Those of us who are old enough to remember the simplicity and peace of the golden 'Eighties and 'Nineties are appalled at the nervous tension and complexities of this hour. We are all catalogued and tagged, just as they are in that Prussia we so recently and fervently despised; and we are hounded by income-tax investigators, surrounded by a horde of spies who search our luggage, pry into our kitchens to see if we are making home brew, raided in restaurants—and laughed at by king-ridden and shackled Europeans.
It isn't pleasant to realize that you are burdened with taxes partly to cover the salaries of Federal Officers whose delicate duty it is to spy upon you. And then when you walk out and talk to the police-man on your street, he will whisper in your ear that he knows where he can get you some delicious ale, and see to it that it is safely delivered at your door. This is the America, deny it as we will, that we are living in today. I confess that I hang my head a bit, and am ashamed to look a Frenchman in the face.
Not long ago, at a dinner, I asked a certain politician—I refuse to grace him with the name of statesman, though he has ambitions to be known as such—why, if he believed in the Volstead Act, he still consumed whiskey. His answer was intended to be amusing; to me it was disgraceful. Said he: "I am drinking as much as I can in order to lessen the supply for the other fellow."
And just a while back I went to a banquet at a country club near New York. Two policemen in uniform were sent by the local authorities to "guard the place" while much liquor was poured. These minions of the sacred law were openly served with highballs, and laughed at the Constitution of the United States, the while they drank. Everyone at that party was loud in denunciation of Prohibition and what has come in its wake, yet went on dancing with the casual remark that it was of no consequence that they broke the law, since everyone was doing it—and everyone always would.
Uphold the law, no matter what is injected into it, I have heard people cry. That, it seems to me, is mere Teutonic stupidity, and has no part in the attitude of thinking men and women in a land like America. I suppose, arguing thus, that if a law were passed tomorrow prohibiting the carrying of, say, hand-bags or canes, they would feel it incumbent upon themselves, as good Americans, to fall into line, bow the knee and whisper meekly, "All right, O most beloved country! I obey!"
A good American, as I understand it, is not one who ignorantly stands for the letter of the law, no matter what that law may be. A good American is one who tries to set his country right; one who looks beyond the present ungenerous attitude of the fanatics; one who visualizes the future and prays that our liberty may not be further jeopardized, for the good of the generations that are to follow us.
We fought to rid the world of autocracy, yet we have suddenly become the most autocratic nation on earth. Prohibition is a symbol of the death of freedom. The issue at stake is as clear-cut as taxation without representation; and our legislators should remember a certain well-known Boston tea-party. There would have been no United States of America unless a few honest men with sound convictions had rebelled and protested against tyranny. The right kind of rebel makes the right kind of citizen.
I have heard a few people liken one's duty in the matter of the draft to the Prohibition law. If we obeyed a summons to fight, whether we liked fighting or not, we should likewise obey the law regarding drinking, they contend. The two things are as separated as the Poles. In 1914, and thereafter, civilization itself was at stake; and that man would have been blind indeed who did not see the stern and clear-cut issues before us all. We leaped to arms because we wanted to protect humanity, because the death-knell of democracy was sounding. Prohibition, these same people would tell us, should be enforced to save poor, weak humanity and civilization again, and we should fight to that end. Yet as long as the world has been moving, civilized man has been consuming a certain amount of alcohol, and has been in no serious danger of going down to disaster. We have progressed through the ages, despite our cheerful cups of wine; and though of course a few imbeciles have dropped from the line, the rest of us have been none the worse—in fact, sometimes a little better—for our occasional libations. Let anyone deny this who has ever, for a moment even, been in Arcady! And the dreadful and incontrovertible fact remains that the sober nations have not proved themselves superior to those who drink in moderation.
Who are happy over Prohibition? First, the Prohibitionists themselves, and, secondly, the bootleggers. The more the lid is clamped on in our great cities, the more rejoicing goes on in that mysterious inner and under circle which dispenses liquor, and will continue to dispense it, I fear, until the end of time. Whenever there is a "drive" on in New York to "mop up the place," prices soar to the skies, and the illicit trade waxes brisker than ever. No wonder the bootleggers grow happy—and rich; and evade the income tax which the rest of us must pay.
I am not sympathetic toward those who say that they have been driven to excessive drinking because a certain obnoxious law has been passed. The only way to fight Prohibition is to fight it soberly; it is the jingled and jangled arguments of bar-room bores that hurt the cause of the men and women who are moderate drinkers, and who wish with all their hearts to see a return to common sense in our country.
We Americans never do anything piecemeal. Probably at the root of all our strange fanaticism about drink was the thought that the saloon had better go; that it was time for such foul places to disappear. The pendulum had to swing all the way. If it would swing back a little; if the Government would step in and control the liquor traffic, do away with spirits, except for medicinal purposes, and give the people light wine and beer, a truce could be declared over night. Drunkenness should be made a prison offence. No matter who the offender against public decency is he should be lodged in jail. Whether one is a so-called gentleman coming out of his club, or the meanest tramp in the streets, he should be punished. There would be no visible drunkenness if a law like this were passed and rigorously enforced.
I am afraid that so long as grapes grow on vines and apples on trees; so long as fermentation is one of Nature's processes, there can be no such thing as Prohibition. And the Biblical justification for drinking is pleasant reading for those who like, now and then, a little wine at their dinner tables. Yet there are fanatics who rise up and shout that the wine Christ caused to appear at the marriage feast of Cana was not intoxicating. What divination is theirs which makes them so positive? If water was just as good, why did not water remain in the casks?
If we would spend more time making laws that worked for good, rather than for evil—and Graft is a great evil; if we would realize that it is not so much our concern to make the other fellow good as to make him happy, as Stevenson so beautifully puts it—then, I say, we would be better employed than we are today with our foolish, fussy bills and acts, mandates, precepts and restrictions.
I believe firmly in local option in all things; but there is no reason why New York, or any other great city, should live as Kansas and Idaho live. I prefer New York because a big city gives me a spiritual uplift that a prairie town does not. It is my privilege to live where I desire. I like to hear fine music, to come in contact with intellectuals; to go to plays that are worth while; to read books that satisfy my soul. I find such a life in New York. I have no quarrel with the man who prefers the silence and loneliness of forests and plains. He may be far happier than I. But I do insist that if I let him alone, he also should let me alone. Throbbing cities thrill me: cities with their glamour, their wonder, their enchantment, their dreams of agate and stone, their lofty towers that plunge to the very skies and kiss the clouds. I happen to like the innocent laughter in a glass of champagne. You may call it wicked hilarity. But the Continental manner of living appeals to me. I like the color and warmth and fervor of life; and people who drink red wine with their meals seem to me to be more cosmopolitan than those who do not. All this seems part of the pageant of life to me. I am not provincial, and I do not care to be made provincial by unintelligent and unimaginative law-makers.
It may be that I am entirely wrong. I do not know. But I do know that it seems utterly unreasonable to force me to abstain from wine if I wish it, just because there are a few heavy imbibers of whiskey in the world. I think it is a far more serious matter to have practically all of us law-breakers than to have one-half of one per cent of us drunkards.
Let us have done with insincere, inelastic laws, and get back to wisdom and truth and sanity.
JOHN V. A. WEAVER
(With a graceful bow to Don Marquis)
You heard me! How many times I got to tell you? Them is my words: you leave that girl alone. Leave her alone, you hear? Leave her alone! You think I'll have my son foolin' around A little snippy rat that's all stuck-up, And thinks my son's not good enough for her? "Yeh," that's what Bill says, "Yeh, it's like I say; Ellen is got swell friends up on the Drive; I'm sorry she had to break a date with Fred. But still, you know, the world is changed a lot, And we changed with it. You're about the same, But me—well, I been gettin' right along, And honest, Jack, you see the sense yourself— Why should I let my daughter marry a clerk?"
Can you believe it? Why, I damn near fainted. His daughter too good for the likes of us! Of course I got so mad I couldn't see! Of course I pasted him square in the eye! And if I catch him sayin' things about me I'll knock his stuck-up head off! And I tell you, If you go near the dirty oilcan's place, And crawl around that snippy brat of his, I'll kick you out into the street to stay. You hear that? Eight out in the street you go! The nerve! The dirty, lousy, low-down crook! A Bootleg gettin' stuck-up over money! The world is crazy, that's all there is to it! Crazy, I tell you! All turned upside-down!
Listen. It's fifteen years I know this Bill. Them good old days, most every afternoon On the way home from the lumber yards I'd drop in And get a beer, and gas around a while. That was my second home, I useta say, And Bill's Place was a home you could be proud of. Say. The old woman never kep' a floor As clean as Bill's was. And the brass spittoons And rail-you could of shaved lookin' in one. And all the glasses polished! And the tables So neat! And over at the free-lunch counter, Charlie the coon with a apron white like chalk, Dishin' out hot-dogs, and them Boston Beans, And Sad'dy nights a great big hot roast ham, Or roast beef simply yellin' to be et, And washed down with a seidel of old Schlitz!
Oh, say, that sure was fun, and don't forget it. Old Ed, and Tom, and Baldy Frank McGee, And the two Bentleys, we was all the reg'lars. It was our meetin'-place. And there we stood, And Lord! The rows about the government, And arguin! and all about the country, How it was goin' to the dogs. And maybe Somebody'd start a song, and old Pop Dikes Would have to quit the checker-game in the corner That him and Fat Connell was always playin', And never gettin' through. I never seen
No bums come in and stay for more'n a minute; Bill didn't like to have no drunks around; He made 'em hit the air. Well, some of us, Of course, might get just a wee mite too much Under the belt, but who did that ever hurt? At least we knowed the licker wasn't poison. And when somebody would get very lit Bill was right there to try and make him stop; I can't see how it ever hurt us any.
And Bill! He was some barkeep! One swell guy! A pleasant word for everybody, always, Straight as a string, and just the whole world's friend. I never saw a guy was liked so much. He hardly took a drink, just a cigar, And oncet a while a pony, say, of lager. And my, the way that bird could tell a story! Why, many a time I laughed until I cried. And if it happened I was out of dough, Bill was right there to make a little loan. Generous, that was Bill, and one good pal. A great old place it was, that place of Bill's. Them was the happy days!-them was the days.
I never will forget that good-bye party The night that Prohibition was wished on us. You bet it wasn't any rough-house then. We all stood 'round the bar, solemn and quiet, And couldn't hardly think of what to say. Bill—it was funny what had happened to him. He didn't crack a smile the whole blame night. He just would shake his head, and bite his lips, And gosh, the way his eyes was shootin' fire. The last thing that he said before I left, "By God, I'll get back at 'em, you just wait! I'm closing here. But don't you fret—I'll get 'em— The dirty, pussy-footin' lousy skunks!"
I had to go home early. And the next day I seen the wagons comin' to take the bar And all the furniture. I felt like cryin'.
Well, you know what this prohibition is.
Bill goes away, and stays about three months. And then one day I meets him on the street. "Well, Jack," he says, "You want some real good gin?" "Just what I need," I says. "All right," he says, "You come down to the house at nine o'clock. I'll fix you up. I'll give you half a case Four Bucks a bottle."... "Four a bottle!" I says, Thinkin' he must be kiddin'. "Sure," he says, "I got to make my profit. There's the risk. This is good stuff. I made it by myself. I guarantee that it won't make you sick." "I'm sick already, just from hearin' the price. No thanks. Not now," I says. He says all right, But when I want some, just remember him.
And so, of course, later I did want some, And had to pay that much, and even more; But hell, what can you do? So long's you're sure The stuff ain't goin' to burn your insides out, You got to pay the price. And all the friends That Bill had useta have is customers,
And all get stung the same. And dozens more. Them old days Bill was one fine friend for sure, Happy and nice and straight and generous. And now to think he high-brows you and me! A great big house he's got, and a new Packard, And di'monds for his wife, that scrubbed the floors Back in the days when he was only barkeep. That's what this Prohibition done for him, And what's it do for me, I'd like to know? It makes a crook of me, the same as him, Only I'm losin' money, and he gets it. Why, say, I catch myself all of the time Laughin' about this Prohibition law, And figgerin' new ways how I could break it. And that's the way it is with everybody. We get to see that one law is a joke, And think it's smart to bust it all to pieces. And pretty soon there's all the other laws, And how're you goin' to keep from think' likewise About a thing like stealin', and all that? No wonder that we got these here now crime waves! No wonder everybody is a crook!
But that ain't what I'm sayin' to you now! You leave that stuck-up little Jane alone! They's plenty of girls that's pretty in the world— You leave that dirty oilcan's daughter be. Ten years ago she used to run around And rush the can for me and other folks. Now she's a real swell lady! Damn her eyes, And Bill's, and them there pussy-footin' fish! The world is, crazy! And I'm goin' nuts! High-tonin' me! You hear me? If I catch you Foolin' around that girl, I kick you out, So fast you won't know what has ever hit you!
A bootleg's daughter! Hell!
AND THE PLAYWRIGHT
Every American playwright goes about his work these days oppressed by a foreboding. He suspects that before long a censor is going to materialize out of thin air to take stern and morose charge of the American theatre. It is true that no statutory precipitation of such an agent has been definitely proposed. It is true that the policeman from the nearest corner has not gone so far as to drop around and warn him that he'd better be careful. Nevertheless, he has the foreboding. He perceives dimly that a desire to chasten the stage is in the air. And he is right. It, is. It has been ever since the war.
Of course an itch to lay hands on the theatre was begetting restlessness in the American bosom considerably prior to April 6, 1917. It is part of this country's Puritan inheritance to believe that playgoing is somehow bad, that an enjoyment and patronage of the theatre is sinful. This belief flows as an unconscious undercurrent in the thought even of those clergymen who try pathetically hard to seem and be liberal and unpharisaical, the kind who always begin their lectures on Avery Hopwood by saying that they yield to no one in their admiration and respect for the many splendid ladies and gentlemen of the stage whom they are proud to number among their acquaintances.
Shaw, in his comparatively mild-mannered preface to "The Showing Up of Blanco Posnet," recognizes the Puritan hostility to the theatre, but, somewhat perversely, ascribes it to the fact that the promenoirs have always been used as show-windows by the courtesans of each generation. I suspect, however, that that hostility was more deeply rooted. The Puritans disliked the theatre because it was jolly. It was a place where people went in deliberate quest of enjoyment. And you weren't supposed to do that on earth. Plenty of time for that later on.
When I was a knee-breeched schoolboy in Philadelphia, some of the more dissipated of us used to organize Saturday excursions to Keith's old Eighth Street Theatre, a vaudeville temple known to the natives as the Buy-Joe. Fortified with a quarter and some sandwiches, one went at eleven in the morning and hung on till the edge of midnight. To my genuine surprise and confusion, I gathered that some of our classmates not only avoided these orgies, but sincerely believed that we, who indulged in them were simply courting Hell's fire. They stayed at home and, I suppose, read "Elsie Dinsmore."
It so happens that I never encountered that book during my formative years, but was in my hopelessly corrupted thirties before ever I saw a copy. Even then, it did not lack interest. And one passage, at least, richly rewarded a glance through its pages. It seems that Elsie, arriving from somewhere, reached some city in the late evening. Her father (a rakish, devil-may-care fellow who thought it was all right for Elsie to play the piano on Sunday) met her at the station and engaged a cabriolet to take her across town to whatever shelter had been selected for the night. As they were bowling along one of the principal streets, Elsie noticed a building which the author described in shuddering accents as having, if I remember correctly, "a lighted faade." The tone, if not the precise words of the description, rather suggested that here was a gambling hell whose lower circles were dedicated to rites of nameless infamy. Elsie shrank back into the cloistered shadows of the cab. "Oh, father," she cried in hurt bewilderment, "what kind of place was that?" Smitten, apparently, with a certain remorse that he had suffered her virginal eyes to reflect so scabrous a spot, he put a sheltering arm around her and said, sadly: "That, little daughter, was a THEATRE."
At which limp climax, perhaps, you smile a little. But it is well to remember that the children who were molded by "Elsie Dinsmore" are now grown up and can be detected voting warmly at every election. Many of them kicked over the traces long ago, but there are also many who are reading Harold Bell Wright today. They admire Henry Ford. They sit enthralled at the feet of Dr. John Roach Straton. And, not wryly but with undiscouraged faith, they vote away for the Hylans and the Hardings of each recurrent crisis. They brought the bootlegger into existence and, at a rallying cry lifted by anyone against the theatre, they will come scurrying intently from a thousand unsuspected flats and two-story houses.
They are the more responsive to such cries since the war. That might have been foreseen by any one at all familiar with the psychopathology of reform. A cigarette addict who, in a spartan moment, swears off smoking, is familiar enough with the inner gnaw that robs him of his sleep and roils his dinner for days and days. His body, long habituated to the tobacco, had dutifully taken on the business of manufacturing its antidote. When the tobacco is abruptly removed, the body continues for a while to turn out the antidote as usual and during that while, that antidote goes roaming angrily through the system, seeking something to oppose and destroy.
A somewhat analogous condition has agitated the body politic ever since the late Fall of 1918. The passage of the Eighteenth Amendment had robbed the prohibitionists of their chief excitement; then the signing of the Armistice took away the glamor of public-spiritedness from all those good people who had had such a splendid time keeping an eye on their presumably treasonable neighbors. Behold, then, the Busy Body (which is in every one of us) all dressed up and nowhere to go. The itch became tremendous. The moving pictures caught it first. No wonder the American playwright is uneasy. He ought to be.
He dreads a censorship of the theatre because he suspects (not without reason) that it will be corrupt, that it will work foolishly, and that, having taken and relished an inch, it will take an ell.
He is the more uneasy because he realizes that the theatre presents a special incitement and a special problem—a problem altogether different from that presented by the bookstall, for instance. The play, once produced, is open to all the world. It may have been written with the thought that it would amuse Franklin P. Adams, but it is attended (in a body) by the Unintelligentsia. It may have been heavily seasoned in the hope that it would jounce the rough boy of Baltimore, H. L. Mencken-and lo, there in the third row on the aisle, is Dr. Frank Crane, being made visibly ill by it. Your playwright may write a piece to touch the memories and stir the hearts of elderly sinners, but he has to face the fact that the girls from Miss Spence's school may come fluttering to it, row on row.
On his desk is a seductive two-volume assemblage of "Poetica Erotica," edited by T. R. Smith, the antiquarian. It is a book which, if flaunted, would agitate the Postmaster General, stir up the Grand Jury, and make the Society for the Suppression of Vice call a special mass-meeting. It is managed as a commercial article by a system of furtive, semi-private sales which probably enhance its value as a source of revenue and yet shut the mouth of the heirs of Anthony Comstock. A folder announces that the juicy Satyr icon of Petronius Arbiter will shortly issue from the same presses. And so on, endlessly. It is a neat arrangement but one which cannot be imitated by the playwright. When he wants to be naughty, he must make up his mind to being naughty right out on the street-corner where every one can see him.
And though, in the moments when he is disposed to temporize, he sometimes thinks that suspect plays might, like saucy novels, be first inspected in manuscript, he knows full well that no such tactics are really feasible in the theatre. Your publisher, inwardly hot with resentment, may nevertheless take the occasional precaution of showing the script of a thin-ice book to the authorities—even to the self-constituted ones—thereby forestalling prosecution by agreeing to delete in advance such phrases and incidents as seem likely to agitate those authorities unduly. But the flavor and significance of a play depends too much on the manner of its performance and cannot be clearly forecast prior to that performance any more than the hue of a goblet can be guessed before the wine is poured. I can testify to that—I, who in my time, have seen players make a minx out of Ophelia, a mild-mannered mouse out of Katherine, an honest woman out of Lady Macbeth and a benevolent old gentleman out of Shylock. I have seen French players cast as the servants of Petruchio invade "The Taming of the Shrew" with a comic pantomime in which they fought for their turns at the keyhole of Petruchio's bedroom wherein Kate was being subjected to a little off-stage taming. It would have amused Shakespeare immoderately, I imagine, and certainly it would have surprised him. Until his piece is spoken, even the author cannot tell—and thereafter, from night to night, he cannot be sure.