Title: The Kempton-Wace Letters
Author: Jack London
Anna Strunsky Walling
Release date: February 27, 2010 [eBook #31422]
Credits: Produced by Curtis Weyant, Martin Pettit and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)
"He opened windows for them upon the splendour and the savagery, the pomp and the pitifulness that he had found in many corners of the earth. He saw that in every scene, in every human activity there was an element which lifted it into the region of the beautiful, and he made all his readers see it, whether he was learned or ignorant; cultivated or only just able to read. Full justice has never been done to him. There was no silver in his purse, only gold."—Hamilton Fyfe in "The Daily Mail."
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* Films have been founded on these novels
"And of naught else than Love would we
discourse."—Dante, Sonnet II.
Copyright in the United States of America, 1903, by the Macmillan
Company Printed in Great Britain by Love & Malcomson Ltd.
London and Redhill.
3 a Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
August 14, 19—.
Yesterday I wrote formally, rising to the occasion like the conventional happy father rather than the man who believes in the miracle and lives for it. Yesterday I stinted myself. I took you in my arms, glad of what is and stately with respect for the fulness of your manhood. It is to-day that I let myself leap into yours in a passion of joy. I dwell on what has come to pass and inflate myself with pride in your fulfilment, more as a mother would, I think, and she your mother.
But why did you not write before? After all, the great event was not when you found your[Pg 2] offer of marriage accepted, but when you found you had fallen in love. Then was your hour. Then was the time for congratulation, when the call was first sounded and the reveille of Time and About fell upon your soul and the march to another's destiny was begun. It is always more important to love than to be loved. I wish it had been vouchsafed me to be by when your spirit of a sudden grew willing to bestow itself without question or let or hope of return, when the self broke up and you grew fain to beat out your strength in praise and service for the woman who was soaring high in the blue wastes. You have known her long, and you must have been hers long, yet no word of her and of your love reached me. It was not kind to be silent.
Barbara spoke yesterday of your fastidiousness, and we told each other that you had gained a triumph of happiness in your love, for you are not of those who cheat themselves. You choose rigorously, straining for the heart of the end as do all rigorists who are also hedonists. Because we are in possession of this bit of data as to your temperamental cosmos we can congratulate you with the more abandon. Oh, Herbert, do you know that this is a rampant spring, and that on leaving Barbara I[Pg 3] tramped out of the confines into the green, happier, it almost seems, than I have ever been? Do you know that because you love a woman and she loves you, and that because you are swept along by certain forces, that I am happy and feel myself in sight of my portion of immortality on earth, far more than because of my books, dear lad, far more?
I wish I could fly England and get to you. Should I have a shade less of you than formerly, if we were together now? From your too much green of wealth, a barrenness of friendship? It does not matter; what is her gain cannot be my loss. One power is mine,—without hindrance, in freedom and in right, to say to Ellen's son, "Godspeed!" to place Hester Stebbins's hand in his, and bid them forth to the sunrise, into the glory of day!
Ever your devoted father,
September 3, 19—.
Here I am, back in the old quarters once more, with the old afternoon climb across the campus and up into the sky, up to the old rooms, the old books, and the old view. You poor fog-begirt Dane Kempton, could you but have lounged with me on the window couch, an hour past, and watched the light pass out of the day through the Golden Gate and the night creep over the Berkeley Hills and down out of the east! Why should you linger on there in London town! We grow away from each other, it seems—you with your wonder-singing, I with my joyful science.
Poesy and economics! Alack! alack! How did I escape you, Dane, when mind and mood[Pg 5] you mastered me? The auguries were fair. I, too, should have been a singer, and lo, I strive for science. All my boyhood was singing, what of you; and my father was a singer, too, in his own fine way. Dear to me is your likening of him to Waring.—"What's become of Waring?" He was Waring. I can think of him only as one who went away, "chose land travel or seafaring."
Gwynne says I am sometimes almost a poet—Gwynne, you know, Arthur Gwynne, who has come to live with me at The Ridge. "If it were not for your dismal science," he is sure to add; and to fire him I lay it to the defects of early training. I know he thinks that I never half appreciated you, and that I do not appreciate you now. If you will recollect, you praised his verses once. He cherishes that praise amongst his sweetest treasures. Poor dear good old Gwynne, tender, sensitive, shrinking, with the face of a seraph and the heart of a maid. Never were two men more incongruously companioned. I love him for himself. He tolerates me, I do secretly believe, because of you. He longs to meet you,—he knew you well through my father,—and we often talk you over. Be sure at every opportunity I tear off your halo[Pg 6] and trundle it about. Trust me, you receive scant courtesy.
How I wander on. My pen is unruly after the long vacation; my thought yet wayward, what of the fever of successful wooing. And besides, ... how shall I say?... such was the gracious warmth of your letter, of both your letters, that I am at a loss. I feel weak, inadequate. It almost seems as though you had made a demand upon something that is not in me. Ah, you poets! It would seem your delight in my marriage were greater than mine. In my present mood, it is you who are young, you who love; I who have lived and am old.
Yes, I am going to be married. At this present moment, I doubt not, a million men and women are saying the same thing. Hewers of wood and drawers of water, princes and potentates, shy-shrinking maidens and brazen-faced hussies, all saying, "I am going to be married." And all looking forward to it as a crisis in their lives? No. After all, marriage is the way of the world. Considered biologically, it is an institution necessary for the perpetuation of the species. Why should it be a crisis? These million men and women will marry, and[Pg 7] the work of the world go on just as it did before. Shuffle them about, and the work of the world would yet go on.
True, a month ago it did seem a crisis. I wrote you as much. It did seem a disturbing element in my life-work. One cannot view with equanimity that which appears to be totally disruptive of one's dear little system of living. But it only appeared so; I lacked perspective, that was all. As I look upon it now, everything fits well and all will run smoothly I am sure.
You know I had two years yet to work for my Doctorate. I still have them. As you see, I am back to the old quarters, settled down in the old groove, hammering away at the old grind. Nothing is changed. And besides my own studies, I have taken up an assistant instructorship in the Department of Economics. It is an ambitious course, and an important one. I don't know how they ever came to confide it to me, or how I found the temerity to attempt it,—which is neither here nor there. It is all agreed. Hester is a sensible girl.
The engagement is to be long. I shall continue my career as charted. Two years from now, when I shall have become a Doctor of[Pg 8] Social Sciences (and candidate for numerous other things), I shall also become a benedict. My marriage and the presumably necessary honeymoon chime in with the summer vacation. There is no disturbing element even there. Oh, we are very practical, Hester and I. And we are both strong enough to lead each our own lives.
Which reminds me that you have not asked about her. First, let me shock you—she, too, is a scientist. It was in my undergraduate days that we met, and ere the half-hour struck we were quarrelling felicitously over Weismann and the neo-Darwinians. I was at Berkeley at the time, a cocksure junior; and she, far maturer as a freshman, was at Stanford, carrying more culture with her into her university than is given the average student to carry out.
Next, and here your arms open to her, she is a poet. Pre-eminently she is a poet—this must be always understood. She is the greater poet, I take it, in this dawning twentieth century, because she is a scientist; not in spite of being a scientist as some would hold. How shall I describe her? Perhaps as a George Eliot, fused with an Elizabeth Barrett, with a hint of Huxley and a trace of Keats. I may say she is something like all this, but I must say she is [Pg 9]something other and different. There is about her a certain lightsomeness, a glow or flash almost Latin or oriental, or perhaps Celtic. Yes, that must be it—Celtic. But the high-stomached Norman is there and the stubborn Saxon. Her quickness and fine audacity are checked and poised, as it were, by that certain conservatism which gives stability to purpose and power to achievement. She is unafraid, and wide-looking and far-looking, but she is not over-looking. The Saxon grapples with the Celt, and the Norman forces the twain to do what the one would not dream of doing and what the other would dream beyond and never do. Do you catch me? Her most salient charm, is I think, her perfect poise, her exquisite adjustment.
Altogether she is a most wonderful woman, take my word for it. And after all she is described vicariously. Though she has published nothing and is exceeding shy, I shall send you some of her work. There will you find and know her. She is waiting for stronger voice and sings softly as yet. But hers will be no minor note, no middle flight. She is—well, she is Hester. In two years we shall be married. Two years, Dane. Surely you will be with us.
One thing more; in your letter a certain undertone which I could not fail to detect. A shade less of me than formerly?—I turn and look into your face—Waring's handiwork you remember—his painter's fancy of you in those golden days when I stood on the brink of the world, and you showed me the delights of the world and the way of my feet therein. So I turn and look, and look and wonder. A shade less of me, of you? Poesy and economics! Where lies the blame?
September 30, 19—.
It is because you know not what you do that I cannot forgive you. Could you know that your letter with its catalogue of advantages and arrangements must offend me as much as it belies (let us hope) you and the woman of your love, I would pardon the affront of it upon us all, and ascribe the unseemly want of warmth to reserve or to the sadness which grips the heart when joy is too palpitant. But something warns me that you are unaware of the chill your words breathe, and that is a lapse which it is impossible to meet with indulgence.
"He does not love her," was Barbara's quick decision, and she laid the open letter down with a definiteness which said that you, too, are laid out and laid low. Your sister's very wrists can[Pg 12] be articulate. However, I laughed at her and she soon joined me. We do not mean to be extravagant with our fears. Who shall prescribe the letters of lovers to their sisters and foster-fathers? Yet there are some things their letters should be incapable of saying, and amongst them that love is not a crisis and a rebirth, but that it is common as the commonplace, a hit or miss affair which "shuffling" could not affect.
Barbara showed me your note to her. "Had I written like this of myself and Earl—"
"You could not," I objected.
"Then Herbert should have been as little able to do it," she deduced with emphasis. Here I might have told her that men and women are races apart, but no one talks cant to Barbara. So I did not console her, and it stands against you in our minds that on this critical occasion you have baffled us with coldness.
An absence of six years, broken into twice by a brief few months, must work changes. When Barbara called your letter unnatural, she forgot how little she knows what is natural to you. She and I have been wont to predetermine you, your character, foothold, and outlook, by—say by the fact that you knew your Wordsworth and that you knew him without being able to[Pg 13] take for yourself his austere peace. Youth which lives by hope is riven by unrest.
That pale sunrise seen from Mt. Tamalpais and your voice vibrant to fierceness on the "else sinning gently"—to me the splendour of rose on piled-up ridges of mist spoke all for you, so dear have you always been. It rested on the possible wonder of your life. It threw you into the scintillant Dawn with an abandon meet to a son of Waring.
Tell me, do you still read your Wordsworth on your knees? I am bent with regret for the time when your mind had no surprises for me, when the days were flushed halcyon with my hope in you. I resent your development if it is because of it that you speak prosaically of a prosaic marriage and of a honeymoon simultaneous with the Degree. I think you are too well pleased with the simultaneousness.
Yet the fact of the letter is fair. It cannot be that the soul of it is not. Hester Stebbins is a poet. I lean forward and think it out as I[Pg 14] did some days ago when the news came. I conjure up the look of love. If the woman is content (how much more than content the feeling she bounds with in knowing you hers as she is yours), what better test that all is well? I conjure up the look of love. It is thus at meeting and thus at parting. Even here, to-night, when all is chill and hard to understand, I catch the flash and the warmth, and what I see restores you to me, but how deep the plummet of my mind needed to sound before it reached you. It is because you permitted yourself to speak when silence had expressed you better.
Show me the ideally real Hester Stebbins, the spark of fire which is she. The storms have not broken over her head. She will laugh and make poetry of her laughter. If before she met you she wept, that, too, will help the smiling. There is laughter which is the echo of a Miserere sobbed by the ages. Men chuckle in the irony of pain, and they smile cold, lessoned smiles in resignation; they laugh in forgetfulness and they laugh lest they die of sadness. A shrug of the shoulders, a widening of the lips, a heaving forth of sound, and the life is saved. The remedy is as drastic as are the drugs used for epilepsy, which in quelling the[Pg 15] spasm bring idiocy to the patient. If we are made idiots by our laughter, we are paying dearly for the privilege of continuing in life.
Hester shall laugh because she is glad and must tell her joy, and she will not lose it in the telling. Greet her for me and hasten to prove yourself, for
You will judge by this letter that I am neither sick nor well, and that I reach for a distress which is not near. If I were Merchant rather than Poet, it would be otherwise with me.
October 27, 19—.
Do I still read my Wordsworth on my knees? Well, we may as well have it out. I have foreseen this day so long and shunned it that now I meet it almost with extended hands. No, I do not read my Wordsworth on my knees. My mind is filled with other things. I have not the time. I am not the Herbert Wace of six years gone. It is fair that you should know this; fair, also, that you should know the Herbert Wace of six years gone was not quite the lad you deemed him.
There is no more pathetic and terrible thing than the prejudice of love. Both you and I have suffered from it. Six years ago, ay, and before that, I felt and resented the growing difference[Pg 17] between us. When under your spell, it seemed that I was born to lisp in numbers and devote myself to singing, that the world was good and all of it fit for singing. But away from you, even then, doubts faced me, and I knew in vague fashion that we lived in different worlds. At first in vague fashion, I say; and when with you again, your spell dominated me and I could not question. You were true, you were good, I argued, all that was wonderful and glorious; therefore, you were also right. You mastered me with your charm, as you were wont to master those who loved you.
But there came times when your sympathy failed me and I stood alone on outlooks I had achieved alone. There was no response from you. I could not hear your voice. I looked down upon a real world; you were caught up in a beautiful cloudland and shut away from me. Possibly it was because life of itself appealed to you, while to me appealed the mechanics of life. But be it as it may, yours was a world of ideas and fancies, mine a world of things and facts.
Enters here the prejudice of love. It was the lad that discovered our difference and concealed; it was the man who was blind and could not[Pg 18] discover. There we erred, man and boy; and here, both men now, we make all well again.
Let me be explicit. Do you remember the passion with which I read the "Intellectual Development of Europe?" I understood not the tithe of it, but I was thrilled. My common sense was thrilled, I suppose; but it was all very joyous, gripping hold of the tangible world for the first time. And when I came to you, warm with the glow of adventure, you looked blankly, then smiled indulgently and did not answer. You regarded my ardour complacently. A passing humour of adolescence, you thought; and I thought: "Dane does not read his Draper on his knees." Wordsworth was great to me; Draper was great also. You had no patience with him, and I know now, as I felt then, your consistent revolt against his materialistic philosophy.
Only the other day you complained of a letter of mine, calling it cold and analytical. That I should be cold and analytical despite all the prodding and pressing and moulding I have received at your hands, and the hands of Waring, marks only more clearly our temperamental difference; but it does not mark that one or the other of us is less a dedicated spirit. If I have[Pg 19] wandered away from the warmth of poesy and become practical, have you not remained and become confirmed in all that is beautifully impractical? If I have adventured in a new world of common things, have you not lingered in the old world of great and impossible things? If I have shivered in the gray dawn of a new day, have you not crouched over the dying embers of the fire of yesterday? Ah, Dane, you cannot rekindle that fire. The whirl of the world scatters its ashes wide and far, like volcanic dust, to make beautiful crimson sunsets for a time and then to vanish.
None the less are you a dedicated spirit, priest that you are of a dying faith. Your prayers are futile, your altars crumbling, and the light flickers and drops down into night. Poetry is empty these days, empty and worthless and dead. All the old-world epic and lyric-singing will not put this very miserable earth of ours to rights. So long as the singers sing of the things of yesterday, glorifying the things of yesterday and lamenting their departure, so long will poetry be a vain thing and without avail. The old world is dead, dead and buried along with its heroes and Helens and knights and ladies and tournaments and pageants. You cannot sing[Pg 20] of the truth and wonder of to-day in terms of yesterday. And no one will listen to your singing till you sing of to-day in terms of to-day.
This is the day of the common man. Do you glorify the common man? This is the day of the machine. When have you sung of the machine? The crusades are here again, not the Crusades of Christ but the Crusades of the Machine—have you found motive in them for your song? We are crusading to-day, not for the remission of sins, but for the abolition of sinning, of economic and industrial sinning. The crusade to Christ's sepulchre was paltry compared with the splendour and might of our crusade to-day toward manhood. There are millions of us afoot. In the stillness of the night have you never listened to the trampling of our feet and been caught up by the glory and the romance of it? Oh, Dane! Dane! Our captains sit in council, our heroes take the field, our fighting men are buckling on their harness, our martyrs have already died, and you are blind to it, blind to it all!
We have no poets these days, and perforce we are singing with our hands. The walking delegate is a greater singer and a finer singer than you, Dane Kempton. The cold, analytical[Pg 21] economist, delving in the dynamics of society, is more the prophet than you. The carpenter at his bench, the blacksmith by his forge, the boiler-maker clanging and clattering, are all warbling more sweetly than you. The sledge-wielder pours out more strength and certitude and joy in every blow than do you in your whole sheaf of songs. Why, the very socialist agitator, hustled by the police on a street corner amid the jeers of the mob, has caught the romance of to-day as you have not caught it and where you have missed it. He knows life and is living. Are you living, Dane Kempton?
Forgive me. I had begun to explain and reconcile our difference. I find I am lecturing and censuring you. In defending myself, I offend. But this I wish to say: We are so made, you and I, that your function in life is to dream, mine to work. That you failed to make a dreamer of me is no cause for heartache and chagrin. What of my practical nature and analytical mind, I have generalised in my own way upon the data of life and achieved a different code from yours. Yet I seek truth as passionately as you. I still believe myself to be a dedicated spirit.
And what boots it, all of it? When the last[Pg 22] word is said, we are two men, by a thousand ties very dear to each other. There is room in our hearts for each other as there is room in the world for both of us. Though we have many things not in common, yet you are my dearest friend on earth, you who have been a second father to me as well.
You have long merited this explanation, and it was cowardly of me not to have made it before. My hope is that I have been sufficiently clear for you to understand.
3 a Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
November 16, 19—.
You sigh "Poesy and Economics," supplying the cause and thereby admitting the fact. I wish you had shown some reluctance to see my meaning, that you had preferred to waive the matter on the ground of insufficient data, that you had been less eager to ferret out the science of the thing. Do you remember how your boy's respect rose for little Barbara whenever she cried when too readily forgiven? "She dreads a double standard," you explained to me with generous heat. You sympathised with her fear lest I demand less of her than of you, honouring her insistence on an equality of duty as well as of privilege. Is the man Herbert less proud than the child Barbara,[Pg 24] that you speak of a temperamental difference and ask for a special dispensation?
You are not in love (this you say in not gainsaying my attack on you, and so far I understand), because you are a student of Economics. At the last I stop. What is this about economics and poesy? About your emancipation from my riotously lyric sway? The hand of the forces by which you have been moulded cannot detain you from going out upon the love-quest. The fact of your preference for Draper cannot forestall your spirit's need of love. There are many codes, but there is one law, binding alike on the economist and poet. It springs out of the common and unappeasable hunger, commanding that love seek love through night to day and through day to night.
Yet it is possible to put oneself outside the pale of the law, to refuse the gift of life and snap the tie between time and space and creature. It is possible to be too emaciated for interest or feeling. The men and women of the People know neither love nor art because they are too weary. They lie in sleep prostrate from great fatigue. Their bodies are too much tried with the hungers of the body and their spirits too dimly illumined with the hope of fair chances.[Pg 25] It is also possible to fill oneself so full with an interest that all else is crowded out. You have done this. Like the cobbler who is a cobbler typically, the teacher who is a pedagogue, the physician and the lawyer who are pathologists merely, you are a fanatic of a text. You are in the toils of an idea, the idea of selection, as I well know, and you exploit it like a drudge. When a man finds that he cannot deal in petroleum without smelling of it, it is time that he turn to something else. Every man is engaged in the cause of keeping himself whole, in watching himself lest his man turn machine, in watching lest the outside world assail the inner. Nature spares the type, but the individual must spare himself. He is strong who is sensitive and who responds subtly to everything in his environment, but his response must be characteristic; he must sustain his personality and become more himself through the years. He alone is vital in the social scheme who lets nothing in him atrophy and who persists in being varied from all others in the scale of character to the degree of variability that was his at the beginning.
I read in your letter nothing but a decision to stop short and give over, as if you had strength for no more than your book and your theory![Pg 26] You have become slave to a small point of inquiry, and you call it the advance to a new time. "The crusade is on," you say. Coronation rites for the commoners and destruction to superstition. I put my hand out to you in joy. The joy is in unholy worship of a fetish, the pain that there is no joy also deference to a fetish. Your creed thunders "Thou shalt not." Love is a thing of yesterday. No room for anything that intimately concerns the self. But what are the apostles of the young thought preaching if it is not the right of men to their own, and what would it avail them to come into their own if life be stripped of romance?
I am dissatisfied because you are willing to live as others must live. You should stay aristocrat. Ferdinand Lassalle dressed with elegance for his working-men audiences, with the hope, he said, of reminding them that there was something better than their shabbiness. You are of the favoured, Herbert. It devolves upon you to endear your life to yourself. You do not agree with me. You do not believe that love is the law which controls freedom and life. Slave to your theory and rebel to the law, you lose your soul and imperil another's.
"Gently! Gently!" I say to myself. Old[Pg 27] sorrows and wrongs oppress me and I grow harsh. My heat only helps to convince you that my position is not based on the rational rightness you hold so essential and that therefore it is unlivable. I will state calmly, then, that it is wrong to marry without love. "For the perpetuation of the species"—that is noble of you! So you strip yourself of the thousand years of civilisation that have fostered you, you abandon your prerogative as a creature high in the scale of existence to obey an instinct and fulfil a function? You say: "These men and women will marry, and the work of the world go on just as it did before. Shuffle them about and the work of the world would yet go on." And you are content. You feel no need of anything different from this condition.
Believe me, Herbert, these million men and women will not let you shuffle them about. There are forces stronger than force, shadows more real than reality. We know that the need of the unhungered for the one friend, one comrade, one mate, is good. We honour the love that persists in loving. More beautiful than starlight is the face of the lover when the Voice and the Vision enfold him. The race is consecrated to the worship of idea, and the lover who[Pg 28] lays his all on the altar of romance (which is idea) is at one with the race. The arms of the unloved girl close about the formless air and more real than her loneliness and her sorrow is the imagined embrace, the awaited warm, close pressure of the hands, the fancied gaze. What does it mean? What secret was there for Leonardo in Mona Lisa's smile, what for him in the motion of waters? You cannot explain the bloom, the charm, the smile of life, that which rains sunshine into our hearts, which tells us we are wise to hope and to have faith, which buckles on us an armour of activity, which lights the fires of the spirit, which gives us Godhead and renders us indomitable. Comparative anatomy cannot reason it down. It is sensibility, romance, idea. It is a fact of life toward which all other facts make. For the flush of rose-light in the heavens, the touch of a hand, the colour and shape of fruit, the tears that come for unnamed sorrows, the regrets of old men, are more significant than all the building and inventing done since the first social compact.
Forgive my tediousness. I have flaunted these truisms before you in order to exorcise that modern slang of yours which is more false than the overstrained forms of a feudal France. To[Pg 29] shut out glory is not to be practical. You are not adjusting your life artistically; there is too much strain, too little warmth, too much self-complacence. I see that you are really younger than I thought. The world never censures the crimes of the spirit. You are safe from the world's tongue lashings, and in that safety is the danger against which my friendship warns you.
I have been reading Hester's poems, and I know that she is like them, nervous, vibrant, throbbing, sensitive. I have been reading your letters, and I think her soul will escape yours. If you have not love like hers, you have nothing with which to keep her. This I have undertaken to say to you. It is a strange role, yet conventional. I am the father whose matrimonial whims are not met by the son. The stock measure is to disinherit. But the cause of our quarrel is somewhat unusual, and I can be neither so practical nor so vulgar as to set about making codicils. Love is of no value to financiers; there is no bank for it nor may it be made over in a will. Rather is it carried on in the blood, even as Barbara carried it on into the life of her girl-babe. Your sister keeps me strong with the faith of love. May God be good to her! It was five years ago that she[Pg 30] came to me and whispered, "Earl." When she saw I could not turn to her in joy, she leaned her little head back against the roses of the porch and wept, more than was right, I fear, for a girl just betrothed. Earl was a cripple and poor and helpless, but Barbara knew better than we, for she knew how to give herself. Poor little one, whom nobody congratulated! She sends you and Hester her love, unfolding you both in her eager tenderness.
November 19, 19—.
Metaphysics is contagious. I caught it from Barbara, and I cannot resist the impulse to pass it on, and to you of all others.
The mood leapt upon Barbara out of the pages of "Katia," a story by Tolstoy. To my mind, it is a painful tale of lovers who outlive their love, killing it with their own hands, but the author means it to be a happily ending novel. Tolstoy attempts to show that men and women can find happiness only when they grow content to give over seeking love from one another. They may keep the memory but must banish the hope. "Hereafter, think of me only as the father of your children," and the woman who had pined for that which had been theirs in the beginning of their union weeps softly, and agrees. Tolstoy calls this peace,[Pg 32] but for Barbara and me this gain is loss, this end an end indeed, replete with all the tragedy of ending.
I found Barbara to-day on the last page of "Katia," and much disturbed. "Dear, I saw a spirit break," she said. I waited before asking whose, and when I did, she answered, "That of three-quarters of the world. The ghost of a Dream walked to-day—when after the spirit broke, I saw it—and myself and my Earl vanished in shadow. We and our love thinned away before the thought-shape."
"Your dreaming, Barbara, can scarce be better than your living."
We looked long at each other. She knew herself a happy woman, yet to-day the ghost had walked in the light, and her eyes were not held, and she saw. Even her life was not sufficient, even her plans were paltry, even her heart's love was cramped. Such times of seeing come to happy men and to happy women. Barbara was reading the opinions of the world and the acceptances of the world, and in disliking them she came to doubt herself. Perhaps she, too, should be less at peace, she too may be amongst Pharisees a Pharisee.
"In the midst of the breaking of spirit, how[Pg 33] can I know?" she demanded. "Love is sure," I prompted, my hand on her forehead. "Earl and I are sure, dear," she laughed low, and a drift of sobbing swept through the music; "it is not that we are in doubt about ourselves, but sometimes, like to-day, you understand, one finds oneself bitten by the sharp tooth of the world, and a despair courses through the veins and blinds the eyes, and then, in the midst of the bitterest throe, comes a great visioning."
I heard her and understood, and my heart leapt as it had not done for long. Think of it, Herbert, fifty-three and still young! When was it that I last fluttered with joy? Ah, yes, that time the summer and the woods had a great deal to do with it, and a few words spoken by a boy. I think Barbara's majesty of attainment through vicarious breaking of spirit a greater cause for rejoicing.
And then, in the midst of the bitterest throe, came a great visioning. When pain is good and to be thanked for, how good life is! By this alone may you know the proportion and the value of the good of being. Three-quarters of the world are broken spirited, but from out the wreckage a thought-shape, and it is well. The Vision fastens upon us, and what was full seems[Pg 34] shrunken, what whole and of all time a passing bit, an untraceable flash. And that is well, for the dream recalls the hope, and the heart grows hardy with hoping and dreaming.
And you? You do not repine because of these things. Let the Grand Mujik mutter a thousand heresies, let three-quarters of the world accept and live them, you would not think the unaspiring three-quarters broken-spirited. You would hail them right practical. And if you held a thought as firmly as your sister holds the thought of love, and you found yourself alone in your esteem of it, you would part from it and go over to the others. You would not be the fanatic your sister is, to stay so much the closer by it that of necessity she must doubt her own allegiance, fearing in her devotion that, without knowing it, she, too, is cold and but half alive. You would not see visions that would put your best to shame. The thought-shape of the more you could be, were you and the whole world finer and greater, would not walk before you. You would rest content and assured, and—I regret your assurance.
December 6, 19—.
No, I am not in love. I am very thankful that I am not. I pride myself on the fact. As you say, I may not be adjusting my life artistically to its environment (there is room for discussion there), but I do know that I am adjusting it scientifically. I am arranging my life so that I may get the most out of it, while the one thing to disorder it, worse than flood and fire and the public enemy, is love.
I have told you, from time to time, of my book. I have decided to call it "The Economic Man." I am going over the proofs now, and my brain is in perfect working order. On the other hand, there is Professor Bidwell, who is likewise correcting proofs. Poor devil, he is in[Pg 36] despair. He can do nothing with them. "I positively cannot think," he complains to me, his hair rumpled and face flushed. He did not answer my knock the other day, and I came upon him with the neglected proofs under his elbows and his absent gaze directed through window and out of doors to some rosy cloudland beyond my ken. "It will be a failure, I know it will," he growled to me. "My brain is dull. It refuses to act. I cannot imagine what has come over me." But I could imagine very easily. He is in love (madly in love with what I take to be a very ordinary sort of girl), and expects shortly to be married. "Postpone the book for a time," I suggested. He looked at me for a moment, then brought his fist down on the general disarray with a thumping "I will!" And take my word for it, Dane, a year hence, when the very ordinary girl greets him with the matronly kiss and his fever and folly have left him, he will take up the book and make a success of it.
Of course I am not in love. I have just come back from Hester—I ran down Saturday to Stanford and stopped over Sunday. Time did not pass tediously on the train. I did not look at my watch every other minute. I read the[Pg 37] morning papers with interest and without impatience. The scenery was charming and I was unaware of the slightest hurry to reach my destination. I remember noting, when I came up the gravel walk between the rose-bushes, that my heart was not in my mouth as it should have been according to convention. In fact, the sun was uncomfortable, and I mopped my brow and decided that the roses stood in need of trimming. And really, you know, I had seen brighter days, and fairer views, and the world in more beautiful moods.
And when Hester stood on the veranda and held out her hands, my heart did not leap as though it were going to part company with me. Nor was I dizzy with—rapture, I believe. Nor did all the world vanish, and everything blot out, and leave only Hester standing there, lips curved and arms outstretched in welcome. Oh, I saw the curved lips and outstretched arms, and all the splendid young womanhood swaying there, and I was pleased and all that; but I did not think it too wonderful and impossible and miraculous and the rest of the fond rubbish I am sure poor Bidwell thinks when his eyes are gladdened by his ordinary sort of girl when he calls upon her.
What a comely young woman, is what I thought as I pressed Hester's hands; and none of the ordinary sort either. She has health and strength and beauty and youth, and she will certainly make a most charming wife and excellent mother. Thus I thought, and then we chatted, had lunch, and passed a delightful afternoon together—an afternoon such as I might pass with you, or any good comrade, or with my wife.
All of which rational rightness is, I know, distasteful to you, Dane. And I confess I depict it with brutal frankness, failing to give credit to the gentler, tenderer side of me. Believe me, I am very fond of Hester. I respect and admire her. I am proud of her, too, and proud of myself that so fine a creature should find enough in me to be willing to mate with me. It will be a happy marriage. There is nothing cramped or narrow or incompatible about it. We know each other well—a wisdom that is acquired by lovers only after marriage, and even then with the likelihood of it being a painful wisdom. We, on the other hand, are not blinded by love madness, and we see clearly and sanely and are confident of our ability to live out the years together.
December 11, 19—.
I have been thinking about your romance and my rational rightness, and so this letter.
"One loves because he loves: this explanation is, as yet, the most serious and most decisive that has been found for the solution of this problem." I do not know who has said this, but it might well have been you. And you might well say with Mlle. de Scudéri: "Love is—I know not what: which comes—I know not when: which is formed—I know not how: which enchants—I know not by what: and which ends—I know not when or why."
You explain love by asserting that it is not to be explained. And therein lies our difference.[Pg 40] You accept results; I search for causes. You stop at the gate of the mystery, worshipful and content. I go on and through, flinging the gate wide and formulating the law of the mystery which is a mystery no longer. It is our way. You worship the idea; I believe in the fact. If the stone fall, the wind blow, the grass and green things sprout; if the inorganic be vitalised, and take on sensibility, and perform functions, and die; if there be passions and pains, dreams and ambitions, flickerings of infinity and glimmerings of Godhead—it is for you to be smitten with the wonder of it and to memorialise it in pretty song, while for me remains to classify it as so much related phenomena, so much play and interplay of force and matter in obedience to ascertainable law.
There are two kinds of men: the wonderers and the doers; the feelers and the thinkers; the emotionals and the intellectuals. You take an emotional delight in living; I an intellectual delight. You feel a thing to be beautiful and joyful; I seek to know why it is beautiful and joyful. You are content that it is, no matter how it came to be; I, when I have learned why, strive that we may have more beautiful and joyful things. "The bloom, the charm, the smile[Pg 41] of life" is all too wonderful for you to know; to me it is chiefly wonderful because I may know.
Oh, well, it is an ancient quarrel which neither you nor I shall outlive. I am rational, you are romantic,—that is all there is to it. You are more beautiful; I am more useful; and though you will not see it and will never be able to see it, you and your beauty rest on me. I came into the world before you, and I made the way for you. I was a hunter of beasts and a fighter of men. I discovered fire and covered my nakedness with the skins of animals. I builded cunning traps, and wove branches and long grasses and rushes and reeds into the thatch and roof-tree. I fashioned arrows and spears of bone and flint. I drew iron from the earth, and broke the first ground, and planted the first seed. I gave law and order to the tribe and taught it to fight with craft and wisdom. I enabled the young men to grow strong and lusty, and the women to find favour with them; and I gave safety to the women when their progeny came forth, and safety to the progeny while it gathered strength and years.
I did many things. Out of my blood and sweat and toil I made it possible that all men need not all the time hunt and fish and fight.[Pg 42] The muscle and brain of every man were no longer called to satisfy the belly need. And then, when of my blood and sweat and toil I had made room, you came, high priest of mystery and things unknowable, singer of songs and seer of visions.
And I did you honour, and gave you place by feast and fire. And of the meat I gave you the tenderest, and of the furs the softest. Need I say that of women you took the fairest? And you sang of the souls of dead men and of immortality, of the hidden things, and of the wonder; you sang of voices whispering down the wind, of the secrets of light and darkness, and the ripple of running fountains. You told of the powers that pulsed the tides, swept the sun across the firmaments, and held the stars in their courses. Ay, and you scaled the sky and created for me the hierarchy of heaven.
These things you did, Dane; but it was I who made you, and fed you, and protected you. While you dreamed and sang, I laboured sore. And when danger came, and there was a cry in the night, and women and children huddling in fear, and strong men broken, and blare of trumpets and cry of battle at the outer gate—you fled to your altars and called vainly on your[Pg 43] phantoms of earth and sea and sky. And I? I girded my loins, and strapped my harness on, and smote in the fighting line; and died, perchance, that you and the women and children might live.
And in times of peace you throve and waxed fat. But only by our brain and blood did we men of the fighting line make possible those times of peace. And when you throve, you looked about you and saw the beauty of the world and fancied yet greater beauty. And because of me your fancy became fact, and marvels arose in stone and bronze and costly wood.
And while your brows were bright, and you visioned things of the spirit, and rose above time and space to probe eternity, I concerned myself with the work of head and hand. I employed myself with the mastery of matter. I studied the times and seasons and the crops, and made the earth fruitful. I builded roads and bridges and moles, and won the secrets of metals and virtues of the elements. Bit by bit, and with great travail, I have conquered and enslaved the blind forces. I builded ships and ventured the sea, and beyond the baths of sunset found new lands. I conquered peoples, and[Pg 44] organised nations and knit empires, and gave periods of peace to vast territories.
And the arts of peace flourished, and you multiplied yourself in divers ways. You were priest and singer and dancer and musician. You expressed your fancies in colours and metals and marbles. You wrote epics and lyrics—ay, as you to-day write lyrics, Dane Kempton. And I multiplied myself. I kept hunger afar off, and fire and sword from your habitation, and the bondsmen in obedience under you. I solved methods of government and invented systems of jurisprudence. Out of my toil sprang forms and institutions. You sang of them and were the slave of them, but I was the maker of them and the changer of them.
You worshipped at the shrine of the idea. I sought the fact and the law behind the fact. I was the worker and maker and liberator. You were conventional. Tradition bound you. You were full bellied and content, and you sang of the things that were. You were mastered by dogma. Did the Mediæval Church say the earth was flat, you sang of an earth that was flat, and danced and made your little shows on an earth that was flat. And you helped to bind me with chains and burn me with fire when[Pg 45] my facts and the laws behind my facts shook your dogmas. Dante's highest audacity could not transcend a material inferno. Milton could not shake off Lucifer and hell.
You were more beautiful. But not only was I more useful, but I made the way for you that there might be greater beauty. You did not reck of that. To you the heart was the seat of the emotions. I formulated the circulation of the blood. You gave charms and indulgences to the world; I gave it medicine and surgery. To you, famine and pestilence were acts of providence and punishment of sin: I made the world a granary and drained its cities. To you the mass of the people were poor lost wretches who would be rewarded in paradise or baked in hell. You could offer them no earthly happiness of decency. Forsooth, beggars as well as kings were of divine right. But I shattered the royal prerogatives and overturned the thrones of the one and lifted the other somewhat out of the dirt.
Nor is my work done. With my inventions and discoveries and rational enterprise, I draw the world together and make it kin. The uplift is but begun. And in the great world I am making I shall be as of old to you, Dane. I, who[Pg 46] have made you and freed you, shall give you space and greater freedom. And, as of old, we shall quarrel as when first you came to me and found me at my rude earth-work. You shall be the scorner of matter, and I the master of matter. You may laugh at me and my work, but you shall not be absent from the feast nor shall your voice be silent. For, when I have conquered the globe, and enthralled the elements, and harnessed the stars, you shall sing the epic of man, and as of old it shall be of the deeds I have done.
3a Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
December 28, 19—.
The curtain is rung down on an illusion, but it rises again on another, this time, as before, with the look of the absolute Good and True upon it. It is because we are at once actor and spectator that we find no fault with blinking sight and slothful thought. We are finite branded and content, except during the shrill, undermining moments when the orchestra is tuning up. "Thus we half-men struggle."
I follow your letter and wonder whether your illusions have qualities of beauty which escape me. I give you the benefit of every doubt which it is possible for me to harbour with regard to my own system of illusions. You glorify the crowd practical. You attach yourself to the ranks that carried thought into action. You inspire yourself with rugged strength by dwelling[Pg 48] on the achievements of ruggedness, forgetting that the progress of the world is not marshalled by those who work with line and rule. It was not his crew, but Columbus, who discovered America. The crew stood between the Old and the New, as indeed the crew always does. Between the idealist and his hope were hosts of practical enemies whom he had to subdue before he reached land. But I must not fall into your mistake of dividing men into categories. Men are not either intellectual or emotional; they are both. It is a rounded not an angular development which we follow. Feeling and thinking are not mutually exclusive, and the great personality feels deeply because he thinks highly, feels keenly because he sees widely. Common sense is not incompatible with uncommon sense, evil does not of necessity attend beauty, nor weakness the strength of genius.
I shall sing of the deeds you have done if your deeds are worthy of song. I shall sing a Song of the Sword, too, should the sword "thrust through the fatuous, thrust through the fungous brood." Whatever helps the races to better life sings itself into racial lore, and I alone shall not refuse the tribute. When you come to see that the Iliad is as great a gift to the race as the doings[Pg 49] of Achilles, that the Iliads are more significant than the doings they celebrate, you will cease to classify men into doers and singers. You will cease to dishonour yourself in the eyes of the singers with the hope that in so doing you gain somewhat elsewhere.
Professor Bidwell is in love and it interferes with his work. You have the advantage of him there, no doubt. However, you lose more than you gain. You have shattered the dream and have awakened. To what? What is this reality in which your universe is hung? Where shine the stars of your scientific heaven? By the beauty of your dreaming alone, Herbert, shall you be judged and known. You dream that you have learned the lesson, solved the problem, pierced the mystery, and become a prophet of matter. But matter does not include spirit, so the motif of your dream grows all confused. Your race epic omits the race. You sing the branch and the leaf rather than the sunlit and tenebral wood. Bidwell thinks his ordinary sort of girl a "lyric love, half angel and half bird, and all a wonder and a wild desire." Bidwell exaggerates, perhaps, but unless he feels this for his wife, he has no wife. Barbara obeyed the voice of her heart. That sounds sentimental, but it is[Pg 50] none the less a courageous thing to do. I was inconsistent enough to be sorry because she loved a crippled man. Bidwell and Barbara are wiser and happier than you can be, Herbert, than you from whose hand the map of Parnassus Hill has been filched.
Is there one state of consciousness better than another? I think yes. Better to have long, youthful thoughts and to thrill to vibrant emotions than to grovel sluggishly; better to hope and dream and aspire and sway to great harmonies than to be blind and deaf and dumb—better for the type, better for the immortality of the world's soul. This to me is a vital thought, therefore life or death is in the issue. For the rest I know not. By the glimmer of light lent me, I can but guess greatness and descry vagueness. You go further and would touch the phantasmagorial veil. "Right!" I say, and I pray, "Godspeed." But there must be intensity. Are you thrilled? Do you stretch out your arms and dream the beauty? It is only when you gaze into a reality empty of the voices of life that I would wake you to bid you dream better.
Well, Herbert, I have quarrelled with you and shall to the end, I promise. I wish I could take[Pg 51] you away, hide you from your Hester's sight, and pour my poetic spleen out on you. Oh, I shall torment you into reason and passion! Whatever you may choose to be, you are my son. I must take you and keep you as you are, of course, but I choose to tell the truth to you though I do love you and hold you mine. Disagreeable of me, but how else?
Sunday, January 1, 19—.
Behold, I have lived! I press your face to the breathing, stinging roses of my days, and bid you drink in the sweet and throb with the pain. What is my philosophy but a translation of the facts which have stamped me? Perhaps if I let you read these facts, you will the sooner come to share my consecration and my faith. I must teach you to know that you are the fact of my whole tangled web of facts, and that all that I have and am, and all that might have been I and mine, stretches itself out in the unmarked path which is before you.
I take you back with me to the road, white with dust, upon which like a Viking and like a feeble girl I have travelled. It is not long, but how many paths, what byways and what turns![Pg 53] What sudden glimpses of sea and sky, what inaccessibleness! Hark, from the wood on either side murmurings of hope and hard sobbing of despair, young laughter of joy and aged renunciations! See from amongst the pines the farewell gleam of a white hand. All of it dear—dearly bought and precious and miraculous, the heartache even as the gladness.
Ay, through every grain of it. Even that morning in the wood, thirty years ago, when your mother put her hand in mine and looked a great pity into my eyes. Indeed, she loved me well, but romance shone on the brow of John Wace. For her his face was sunlit, and she needs must take it between her hands and hold it forever. He was her Siegfried, her master. Thus the gods decreed, and we three obeyed. What else was there to do? We must be honest before all, and Ellen did not love me any more, and I must know it, and wipe out a past of deepest mutuality, and strengthen and[Pg 54] console and restore the woman whose hand held mine while her eyes were turned elsewhere.
Before that bright, black summer morning which saw me woman-pitied, I knew I should have to renounce her. Their souls rushed together in their first meeting. John had been away, knocking about museums and colleges, and carrying on tempestuous radical work. He was splendidly picturesque. I was a youth of twenty-three, almost ten years his junior, a boy full of half-defined aims and groping powers, reaching toward what he had firm in his grasp. Ellen talked of his coming, and she planned that she should meet this my one friend in the environment she loved best—in my rooms, whose atmosphere, she declared, belonged to an earlier time and place. (She found in me Nolly Goldsmith and all of Grub Street.) So they met at the tea-table in my study, and a great warmth stole over your father. He spoke without looking at either of us, while Ellen looked as if her destiny had just begun.
Without, it rained. I strode to the window and in a dazed way stared at the lamp-post which was sticking out its flaming little tongue to the night. Why was I mocked? There was no mocking and there should have been no [Pg 55]bitterness. Of that there was none either, after a while.
Ellen put her hand on my hair, and a strong primal emotion rose in me. In that moment civilisation was as if it had not been. I reverted to the primitive. The blood of forgotten ancestors, cave-men and river-men, reasoned me my ethics. I turned to her, met her flushed cheeks and moved being and the glory of dawning in her eyes. I measured my strength with hers and your father's, Herbert. Easily, great strength was mine in my passion, easily I could carry her off!
You, too, have had moments of upheaval when you heard the growling of the tiger and the bear, when the brute crowded out the man. Then your soul writhed in derision, you scoffed at that which you had held to be the nobility of the soul, and you minced words satirically over the exquisiteness of the type which we have evolved. Then the experiment of life turned farce, the heavens fell about your ears and "Fool!" was upon your lips. Oh, the hurricane that sweeps over the soul when it is cheated of its joy! In the first instant of Ellen's indifference, when I felt myself pushed out of her life, I forgot everything but my desire. I[Pg 56] could not renounce her. I was in the throes of the passion for ownership.
Gentle girl between whom and myself there had been naught but sweetness and fellowship! How often had we talked large (we were very young!) of our sublimities and potentialities, how often had we pictured tragedies of surrender and greatened in the speaking! Ah, it should come true. For her and for me there must be miracles, and there were. So was the strength of the spirit proven, so was it shown to be "pure waft of the Will." So was I confirmed in the creed which believes that to keep we must lose, and to live we must die. So was I assured that there may be but one way, and that, the way of service.
I did not grip her passionately in my arms. I withdrew; I did much to make her task of leaving me an easy one. Were it not for my efforts, it would have been harder for her to obey a mandate which made for my pain. She could not quite drown an old, Puritan voice, speaking with the authority of tradition, which bade her hold to her vows. Yes, I made it easy for her. Harrow my soul with theories of selection and survival if you dare!
In those days the spires of the temple were[Pg 57] golden, the shrine white. The door was seen from every point in the fog-begirt world. We who worshipped knew not of doubt. Stirred by the rumbling organ tones of causes and ideas, we immolated our lives gladly. High priests of thought, we swung the censers and rose on the breast of the incense. Ellen and John and myself glorified God and enjoyed Him forever,—God, the Type, the Final Humanity, the giant Body Soul of man. In our hearts dwelt a religion which compelled us to serve the ideal. We strove to become what organically we felt the "Human with his drippings of warm tears" may become. We were the standard-bearers of the advancing margin of the world. We were the high-water mark toward which all the tides forever make. We were soldiers and priests.
And so when Ellen loved, and lacked courage for her love, I helped her. A past of kindness and ardour riveted her to my side. She knew that we were in feeling and fact divorced from each other by virtue of her stronger love for John, yet did she do battle with the rich young love. For two years we had been close; she had been so much my friend, she could not in maiden charity seal for me a so unwelcome fate. I had awakened her slumbering soul with my first look[Pg 58] into the sphinx wonder of her eyes. For me she had become fire and dew, flame of the sun, and flower of the hill. Without me to help her do it she could not leave me.
To the master of matter this coping with spiritual abstractions must appear like juggling with intellectual phantasmagoria. Yet I protest that life is finally for intangible triumphs. Unnamed fragrances steal upon the senses and the soul revels and greatens. Unseen hands draw us to worlds afar, and we are gathered up in the dignity of the human spirit. Unknown ideas attract and hold us, and we take our place in the universe as intellectual factors. In giving up Ellen I helped her, and, sacredly better still, I sent on into a world of vague thinking and weak acting the impulse of devotion to revealed truth.
She had a sweet way of sitting low and resting her head on my knee. She sat through one whole day with me thus, and for hours I could have thought her asleep were it not for the waves of feeling which surged in her upturned face. Toward the end she raised her head, ecstasy in her eyes and on her cheek and lip. "Dane, I love you. Dane! Dane!" The whole of me was caught up in the accents of that tremulousness.[Pg 59] She had know John three months; but her love for him was young, it had come unexpectedly, it was still unexpressed and ineffable. Her yearning for him led to softness toward me, and though she rose out of her mood as one does from a dream, the hours when we were like the angels, all love and all speech, were mine. So much was vouchsafed me.
Memories and echoes, gusts of sweet breath from the violets on your mother's grave—the prophet of matter will have none of them, and, I fear, will pity me that I am so much theirs. I am yours also, dear lad, and I wish to serve you.
January 20, 19—.
I do not know whether to laugh or weep. I have just finished reading your letter, and I can hardly think. Words seem to have lost their meaning, and words, used as you use them, are without significance. You appear to speak a tongue strangely familiar, yet one I cannot understand. You are unintelligible, as, I dare say, I am to you.
And small wonder that we are unintelligible. Our difference presents itself quite clearly to the scientific mind, and somewhat in this fashion: Man acquires knowledge of the outer world through his sensations and perceptions. Sensation ends in sentiment, and perception ends in reason. These are the two sides of man's nature, and the individual is determined and[Pg 61] ruled by whichever side in him happens to be temperamentally dominant. I have already classed you as a feeler, myself as a thinker. This is, I think true. You, I am confident, feel it to be true. I reason why it is true. You accept it on faith as true, lose sight of the argument forthwith, and proceed to express it in emotional terms—which is to say that you take it to heart and feel badly because it happens to be so.
You feign to know this modern scientific slang, and you are contemptuous of it because you do not know it. The terms I use freight no ideas to you. They are sounds, rhythmic and musical, but they are not definite symbols of thought. Their facts you do not grasp. For instance, the prehensile organs of insects, the great toothed mandibles of the black stag-beetle, the amorous din of the male cicada and the muteness of his mate—these are facts which you cannot relate, one with the other, nor can you generalise upon them. Let me add to these related characters, and you cannot discern the law which is alike to all. What to you the fluttering moth, decked in gold and crimson, brilliant, iridescent, splendid? The beauty of it bids you bend to deity, otherwise it has no[Pg 62] worth; it is a stimulus to religion, and that is all. So with the glowing incandescence of the stickleback and its polished scales of silver. What make you of the hoarse voice of the gorilla? Is not the dewlap of the ox inscrutable? the mane of the lion? the tusks of the boar? the musk-sack of the deer? In the amethyst and sapphire of the peacock's wing you find no rationality; to you it is a manifestation of the wonder which is taboo. And so with the cock bird, displaying his feathered ruffs and furbelows, dancing strange antics and spilling out his heart in song.
I, on the other hand, dare to gather all these phenomena together, and find out the common truth, the common fact, the common law, which is generalisation, which is Science. I learn that there are two functions which all life must perform: Nutrition and Reproduction. And I learn that in all life, the performance, according to time and space and degree, is very like. The slug must take to itself food, else it will perish; and so I. The slug must procreate its kind, or its kind will perish; and so I. The need being the same, the only difference is in the expression. In all life come times and seasons when the individuals are aware of dim yearnings and[Pg 63] blind compulsions and masterful desires. The senses are quickened and alert to the call of kind. And just as the fish and the reptile glimmeringly adumbrate man, so do these yearnings and desires adumbrate what man in himself calls "love," spelled all out in capitals. I repeat, the need is the same. From the amœba, up the ladder of life to you and me, comes this passion of perpetuation. And in yourself, refine and sublimate as you will, it is none the less blind, unreasoning, and compelling.
And now we come to the point. In the development of life from low to high, there came a dividing of the ways. Instinct, as a factor of development, had its limitations. It culminated in that remarkable mechanism, the bee-swarm. It could go no farther. In that direction life was thwarted. But life, splendid and invincible, not to be thwarted, changed the direction of its advance, and reason became the all-potent developmental factor. Reason dawned far down in the scale of life; but it culminates in man and the end is not yet.
The lever in his arm he duplicates in wood and steel; the lenses in his eyes in glass; the visual impressions of his brain on chemically sensitised wood-pulp. He is able, reasoning[Pg 64] from events and knowing the law, to control the blind forces and direct their operation. Having ascertained the laws of development, he is able to take hold of life and mould and knead it into more beautiful and useful forms. Domestic selection it is called. Does he wish horses which are fast, he selects the fastest. He studies the physics of velocity in relation to equine locomotion, and with an eye to withers, loins, hocks, and haunches, he segregates his brood mares and his stallions. And behold, in the course of a few years, he has a thoroughbred stock, swifter of foot than any ever in the world before.
Since he takes sexual selection into his own hands and scientifically breeds the fish and the fowl, the beast and the vegetable, why may he not scientifically breed his own kind? The fish and the fowl and the beast and the vegetable obey dim yearnings and vague desires and reproduce themselves. "Poor the reproduction," says Man to Mother Nature; "allow me." And Mother Nature is thrust aside and exceeded by this new creator, this Man-god.
These yearnings and desires of the beast and the vegetable are the best tools nature has succeeded in devising. Having devised them, she leaves their operation to the blindness of chance.[Pg 65] Steps in man and controls and directs them. For the first time in the history of life conscious intelligence forms and transforms life. These yearnings and desires, promptings of the "abysmal fecundity," have in man evolved into what is called "love." They arise in instinct and sensation and culminate in sentiment and emotion. They master man, and the intellect of man, as they master the beast and all the acts of the beast. And they operate in the development of man with the same blindness of chance that they operate in the development of the beast.
Now this is the law: Love, as a means for the perpetuation and development of the human type, is very crude and open to improvement. What the intellect of man has done with the beast, the intellect of man may do with man.
It is a truism to say that my intellect is wiser than my emotions. So, knowing the precise value and use of this erotic phenomenon, this sexual madness, this love, I, for one, elect to choose my mate with my intellect. Thus I choose Hester. And I do truly love her, but in the intellectual sense and not the sense you fanatically demand. I am not seized with a loutish vertigo when I look upon her and touch her[Pg 66] hand. Nor do I feel impelled to leave her presence if I would live, as did Dante the presence of Beatrice; nor the painful confusion of Rousseau, when, in the same room with Madame Goton, he seemed impelled to leap into the flaming fireplace. But I do feel for Hester what happily mated men and women, after they have lived down the passion, feel in the afternoon of life. It is the affection of man for woman, which is sanity. It is the sanity of intercourse which replaces love madness; the sanity which comes upon sparrows after the ardour of mating, when they leave off wrangling and chattering and set soberly to work to build their nest for the coming brood.
Pre-nuptial love is the madness of non-understanding and part-understanding. Post-nuptial affection is the sanity of complete understanding; it is based upon reason and service and healthy sacrifice. The first is a blind mating of the blind; the second, a clear and open-eyed union of male and female who find enough in common to warrant that union. In a word and in the fullest sense of the word, it is sex comradeship. Pre-nuptial love cannot survive marriage any considerable time. It is doomed inexorably to flicker out, and when it has flickered[Pg 67] out it must be replaced by affection, or else the parties to it must separate. We well know that many men and women, unable to build up affection on the ruins of love, do separate, or if they do not, continue to live together in cold tolerance or bitter hatred.
Now, Hester is my mate. We have much in common. There is intellectual, spiritual, and physical affinity. The caress of her voice and the feel of her mind are pleasurable to me; likewise the touch of her hand (and you know that in the union of man and woman the higher affinities are not possible unless there first be physiological affinity). We shall go through life as comrades go, hand in hand, Hester and I; and great happiness will be ours. And because of all this I say you have no right to challenge my happiness, and vex my days, and feel for me as one dead.
My dear, bewildered Dane, come down out of the clouds. If I am wrong, I have gone over the ground. Then do you go over that ground with me and show where I am wrong. But do not pour out on me your romantic and poetic spleen. Confine yourself to the Fact, man, to the irrefragable Fact.
Ah, your later letter has just arrived. I can only say that I understand. But withal, I am pained that I am not nearer to you. These intellectual phantasmagoria rise up like huge amorphous ghosts and hold me from you. I cannot get through the mists and glooms to press your hand and tell you how dear I hold you. Do, Dane, do let us cease from this. Let us discuss no further. Let me care for Hester in my own way so long as I do no sin and harm no one; and be you father to us, and bless us who else must go unblessed. For Hester, also, is fatherless and motherless, and you must be to her as you are to me.
3a Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
February 10, 19—.
So we have got into an argument! I have been poring over your last two or three letters, and they read like a set of briefs for a debate. Doubtless mine have the same forensic quality. Our letters have become rebuttals, pure and simple. This discovery gave my pen pause for a week. It occurred to me that Walt Whitman must have meant didactic letters too, when he said of the fretters of our little world, "They make me sick talking of their duty to God." Yet friend should speak to friend, should utter the word than which nothing is more sacred. "Let there be light, and there was light"—a ripple of light, and a flash, then the darkness broke and dispersed from the face of the waters. It was a trumpet-call of words bringing drama into a nebulous creation. Let the Word break up our night and let us not[Pg 70] only grant, but avow the conviction it brings us, no matter what the consequence. Let us worship the irrefragable Fact.
You hold that marriage is an institution having for its purpose the perpetuation of the species, and that respect and affection are sufficient to bring two people into this most intimate possible relation. You also hold that the business of the world, pressing hard upon men, makes "love from their lives a thing apart," and that this is as it should be. Your letters are an exposition and a defence of what I may loosely call the practical theory. You show that the world is for work and workers, and that life is for results as seen in institutions and visible achievements. I, on the other hand, maintain that it takes a greater dowry to marry upon than affection, and that men love as intensely and with as much abandon as women. People love in proportion to the depth of their natures, and the finest man in the world has an infinite capacity for giving and receiving love store. The spell is strongest upon the finest.
This, briefly, is what we have been saying to each other. You attack my idealism, call me dreamer, and accuse me of being out of joint with the time, which itself is rigorously in joint[Pg 71] with the laws of growth. And I class you with the Philistine because of your exaggeration of practical values. I hold that it is gross to respect the fact tangible at the expense of the feeling ineffable.
In your last letter you exploit the theory of Nutrition and Reproduction with a charm and warmth which helps me see you as I have so long known you, and which tells me again that you are worth fighting for and saving. But to trace love to its biologic beginning is not to deny its existence. Love has a history as significant as that of life. When, eons ago, the primitive man looked at his neighbour and recognised him as a fellow to himself, consciousness of kind awoke and a cell was exploded which functioned love. When, through the ages, economic forces taught men the need of mutual aid, when everywhere in life the law of development charged men with leanings and desires and outreachings, then the sway of love began in life. What was subconscious became conscious, what, back in the past, was a mere adumbration gloried out in Aurora splendours. The love of a Juliet is the outgrowth of natural processes manifesting themselves everywhere down the scale, but it is also the gift of the last [Pg 72]evolution, and it speaks to us from the topmost notch in the scale. The charm of morning rests on a Juliet's love because its hour is young and yet old, striking the time of the past and the future. It is thus that the hunger of the race and the passion of the race become in the individual the need for happiness. The need of the race and the need of the individual are at once the same and different.
What was the point of your letter? That sexual selection obtains? I grant it. That it is incumbent upon us as intelligent men and women to call to the aid of instinct our social wisdom? I grant and avow it. But our social wisdom insists that we obey the choices of instinct; our social wisdom is only another phase of our refinement, which, in impelling us to a love of the beautiful, does not the less impel us to love. Our social wisdom educates our taste without lessening our taste for the thing. "Love a beautiful person nobly, but be sure you love her," says our social wisdom with interesting tautology. Besides, you are a heretic to your own breed, Herbert. It is you who would forsake our present social wisdom, ruling modern men by laws which obtained in primitive life. It is you who steadily hark back to the past,[Pg 73] and to states of consciousness which were but can never be again. The early facts of biology cannot include that which transcends them. To borrow from Ernest Seton Thompson, man is evolved with the lower orders in the same way that water is changed into steam, and the nature of the change, when it is effected, is as radical. Add a number of degrees of heat to water and it is still water. Let one degree be wanting to the necessary number, and the substance is still intact. Add the last degree, and water is no longer water. From water to steam is a radical change and a transformation.
You agree to improve upon the beasts of the fields and upon our own race in the past, and in this you go farther than you have need if marriage is for nothing else than to serve the instinct for perpetuation. You shew some respect for what is natural and instinctive, yet you say that all would be as well if individual choice had not prevailed, and men and women were "shuffled about." You draw up a cold programme for action in affairs of the spirit and formulate a code of procedure in matters of the heart.
I have a programme too. Mine does not break with nature. On the contrary, it obeys every instinct and listens to every call on the senses.[Pg 74] My love begins in my biologic self, grows with my growth, takes its hues from visioned sunsets in corn-flower skies, its grace from swaying rivers of grain seen in dreams. It is for me what it is for fish and fowl, beast and vegetable. It is my passion for perpetuation, but it is also something as different from this as I am different from beast and vegetable. My love is "blind, unreasoning, and compelling," and for that I trust it. I do not conceive myself Man-god, therefore I do not say to Nature, "Allow me." I cannot be sure that when I say it in the case of the horse, who obeys like me "dim yearning and vague desires," I do not sacrifice him to a lust of my own. The lust for owning and spoiling is hard to cope with. Perhaps a purer time is near, when, upborne by a sense of the dignity of romance and the sacredness of life, man will refrain from laying rough hands on his mute brothers.
The romance which is my proof of the good of being does not rest on passion. The unclean fires that consume the loutish and degenerate are not of love. You quote instances of the hyperphysical and hysterical. The feeling that I would have you obey for your soul's sake and without which you are but half alive, is not the[Pg 75] blind passion of an oversexed sentimentalism. Rousseau was never in love in his life, though to say it were to accuse him of perjury.
One word more. Do you wish to know why I care? I care because I know you to be of those who are capable of love. Probably it was one little twist in your development that has turned you into alien ways of thinking and living. Yes, and more than for this I care because you are the fulfilment of a sacred past. You are the son of my sacrifice and your mother's love.
I care very much indeed. I do not wish you to awake some terrible night to find that you had ended your romance before you had begun it. I vex your days and call you dead? It is because I know the life that is by the grace of God yours, and because I cannot bear to let you coffin it. Herbert, there is misery when the blood pales, and the tears dry up, and the flame of the heart sinks, and all that is left is a memory of a thought—a memory of very long ago when one was young and might have chosen to live.
I am sorry we darken the days for each other.
Your friend always,
3a Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
February 12, 19—.
Barbara and Earl celebrated their anniversary yesterday. Invitations were sent out, the guests consisting of Melville and myself. "Anniversary of what?" we asked. For answer we received inscrutable smiles. Birthdays are accidents of fate. You may regret the accident or you may be thick enough in illusion to rejoice over it, but you cannot in decency celebrate an occurrence wholly independent of personal control and yet concerning itself with you! Leave the merrymaking for appreciative friends. So rules Barbara. Not a birthday, then, nor the date of their marriage. The occasion was in some flash struck from Being, the memory of which enriches them,—in a mood that for an hour held them in[Pg 77] strong grasp, in the utterance of a word charged with destiny, in the avowal of their love if their love awaited avowal. Whatever the cause, they honoured it with a will.
Barbara's eyes flashed, her cheeks were sweetly suffused, and her voice was vibrant. Earl, too, was at his best. My heart loved this man who had lain all his life with death. His health is at its bad worst this winter, which fact made of the "Celebration" a rather heart-rending affair. He has been obliged to abandon the Journal, but we hope he can stay with the school. Meanwhile, his chronic invalidism of body and purse does not too much affect him. He keeps his charm of tenderness and strength. He rivets his pupils to him almost as he riveted his Barbara.
I have discovered my proof of this couple's happiness. It is that I have always taken it for granted. Simple, is it not? And absolute. Often in their presence I catch myself imagining their mutual lives and seeing vaguely the graces that each brings to each. "How she must delight him!" I say. "How his eyes speak to her!" "They can never come to the end of each other," and so on. The ordinary married couple so often brings a sense of distressed surprise: "How can these two foot it[Pg 78] together?" "How did it happen?" "How can it go on?"
Last night counted to me. Your father and I have had such evenings, but I did not think I could do it all over again. We spoke with the fire (and conceit) of young students, exciting ourselves with expired theories, hoping old hopes, smarting under blows that perhaps had long ceased to fall. What then? What if we were ill-read in the facts? We could not have been wrong in the feeling. For the old hope that has been proven vain, a new; for the ancient hurt, a modern wrong, as great and as crying. It was good to feel that we had not grown too wise to harbour thoughts of change and redress, or too much ironed out with doctrine to be resigned. I confess it is long since I have eaten my heart in fury, in impatience, in wildness, but last night we awoke the radical in one another. We condemned the system. We placed ourselves outside the régime, refusing aught at its hands, registering our protest, hating the inordinate scheme of things only as hotly as we loved the juster Hand of a future time.
It is curious that we, offsprings of parvenue success, should be capable of such repudiation. Barbara accepts the Management without the[Pg 79] trouble of a question. "What do you know? What do you know?" the girl demands, a radiant little angel in white, and a conservative. "You must know yourselves in the wrong, else would you smite your way through the world."
Ah, Barbara has yet to learn that it is hard to live. It is not so hard to fight, and it is easy to rest neutral, but to be fighter and bearer both, to stand staunch, holding ever to the issue, and yet, without tameness, to take rebuff and wait, there's the true course and the heroic. It is difficult when one has been conquered to know it. It is difficult to honour an outgrown ideal, which cost us, nevertheless, comfort and prestige—prizes which youth scorns and which oncoming age, pathetically enough, holds dear. It is difficult to pull up when driving too fast and too far, when galloping towards fanaticism, and it is impossible to whip oneself into passion and martyrdom. It is difficult to live, little Barbara.
For me it is also difficult to report a social function. At this one Browning presided, for Melville took up "Caponsacchi" and read it to us. That voice of his is in itself an interpretation, but Browning needs interpreting less than any other man who wrote great poems, because he wrote the greatest. It was four in the morning[Pg 80] when the "O great, just, good God! Miserable me!" of the soldier-saint fell upon our ears. How we had listened! Earl steadily paced the floor, Barbara leaned her cheek upon my hand. Her soul was doing battle, and so was mine. We were all fighting the gallant fight. Read "Pompilia" and you are filled with reverence, read "Caponsacchi" and you are caught up by the spirit of action. You must rise and forth to burn your way like he, though you may have been too weary in spirit before to answer to your name when opportunity called roll.
It was Earl who broke the silence caused by the inner tumult. In a dreamy voice, his eyes very eager and intent, he told us how at one time he had gone up a hill that faced the house in which he lived. A hard rain was driving, he fell at every step up the slippery steepness, but at every step the beauty of it became more and more wondrous, hardly bearable. The little village sank lower and lower, and about him were soft hills, graceful and verdant, a stretch of water lying dark under the clouded sky, and the mountain gray and watchful in the distance. It was then, in the chill of a January rain, on an oak-clad hill of a western spot, that he recognised the dear features of the Mother, knew her his[Pg 81] as hers he was, and loved her with passion. The sea is vast and wondrous, but it is alien. It holds you apart; it is not of you. But the gentle earth with her undulating form and the growing life in her lap, soothes with wordless harmonies. It was then that he forgave the fate which deformed him. A twisted oak, that is all—no less a tree and no less beautiful in the landscape! And it was sufficient to live. In the bosom of so much beauty sufficient also to die. As he stood, thinking it out, feeling the wonder and the glory, at times sorry for those who can see no longer the slanting sheets of rain and the grass at the feet, at times feeling that since this is good, in some impalpable way oblivion to all this may be also good, as he stood there, flushed with the climbing and sad with great joy, the thought came: With whom? It cannot be lived alone. With whom? He turned at the touch of an arm at his shoulder to meet the smile and the look and the quick breath of her who had sent herself his Eve.
In the dawn stealing over the world of London, Earl told the story, and there and then we saw it all—the hill in the heart of the hills, the reconciled boy who had climbed its brow, the rain-drenched woman hurrying to overtake him,[Pg 82] with the gift of all of herself in her eyes. We looked neither at Barbara nor at Earl. Possessed of the secret, we spoke a few words and left. Our host had divulged what the anniversary sought to celebrate. We understood and were glad.
Good night, lad. Would you could have shared our heyday at the dawning!
February 31, 19—.
Love is a something that begins in sensation and ends in sentiment. Thanks to beautiful and permissible hyperbole, you have begun with sensation in your description of love, and have ended with sentiment. You have told me about love, in terms of love, which is a vain performance and unscientific. Now let me make you a definition. Love is a disorder of mind and body, and is produced by passion under the stimulus of imagination.
Love is a phase of the operation of the function of reproduction, and it occurs solely in man. Love, adhering to the common understanding of the term, is an emotional excitement which does not obtain among the lower animals. The lower animals lack the stimulus of imagination,[Pg 84] and with them the passion for perpetuation remains a mere passion. But man has developed imagination. The pure sexual passion is glossed over and obscured by a cloud of fancies, mistaken yearnings, and distorted dreams. And so well is the real intent of the function obscured, that it is actually lost to him, especially during the period of love madness, so that there seems an apparent divorce between the parts which go to make up love, between passion and imagination.
The romantic lover of to-day (expressing sensation in terms of sentiment, and fondly imagining that he is reasoning) cannot reconcile his soul-exaltation with bodily grossness, cannot conceive that soul can turn body, and in the embrace of body tell out all the wonder of soul. To all sensitive and spiritual men and women come times of anguish and tears and self-revolt, when they are confounded and heart-broken by the physical aspect of love. Poor men and women! they suffer keenly and sincerely through lack of something more than a sentimental concept of love. To them, body and soul appear things apart, to be kept apart, lest the one contaminate the other. And in the end, loving well and truly, they prove their love by enduring, though unable ever quite to shake off the sense[Pg 85] of sin and shame and personal degradation. They do not understand life, that is the trouble. The beast, lacking imagination, needs no rational rightness for the various acts of living, such as they need, and which they do not possess. Because of their unchecked and unbalanced imagination they mistake the half of life for the whole, and when forced to face the whole are affrighted and shocked. They do not reason that the need for perpetuation is the cause of passion; and that human passion, working through imagination and worked upon by imagination, becomes love.
And while I am in this vein, I may as well deny that a greater spiritual dowry than affection is required for marriage. (For that matter, I fail to see anything so spiritual in erotic phenomena.) If a man may achieve affection for a woman, without undergoing pre-nuptial madness,—if a man may take the short cut, as it were,—then I see no reason why he should not marry that woman. He is certainly justified, since affection is what romantic love must evolve into after marriage. But do not mistake me, Dane. I do not intend this sweepingly. It will not do for the whole human herd; for at once enters that abhorrent thing you rightly fear, the marriage for[Pg 86] convenience. Alas, it too often masquerades under the guise of romantic love. Certainly, every man is not capable of taking this short cut and at the same time of avoiding a violation of true sexual selection. Having little brain, the average man can only act in line with sexual selection by undergoing the romantic love malady. But for some few of us, and I dare to include myself, the short cut is permissible. This short cut I shall take, and far be it from any worldly sense of stocks and bonds and comfortable housekeeping.
Marriage means less to man than to woman? Yes, by all means, at least to the normal man or woman. As surely as reproduction is woman's peculiar function, and nutrition man's, just so surely does marriage sum up more to woman than to man. It becomes the whole life of the woman, while to the man it is rather an episode, rather a mere side to his many-sided life. Natural selection has made it so. The countless men of the past, even from before the time they swung down out of the trees, who devoted more time and energy to their love-affairs than to the winning of food and shelter, died from innutrition in various ways. Only the men, normal men, with a proper respect for the [Pg 87]mechanism of life, survived and perpetuated their kind. The chance was large that the abnormal lover did not win a wife at all. At least it is so to-day. The abnormal lover is not a successful bidder for women, and is usually passed by.
But while we are on this topic, do not let us forget Dante Alighieri, your prince of lovers. Has a suitable explanation ever occurred to you concerning how he came to marry Gemma, daughter of Manetto Donati, who bore him seven children, and was never once mentioned in the "Divina Commedia?" You remember what he said of his first meeting with Beatrice, "At that moment I saw most truly that the spirit of life which hath its dwelling in the secretest chambers of the heart began to tremble so violently that the least pulses of my body shook therewith." And he later had seven children by Gemma, daughter of Manetto Donati, and whom, as the historian has recorded, "there was no reason to suppose other than a good wife."
As for the primitive, I hark back to it because we are still very primitive. How many thousands years of culture, think you, have rubbed and polished at our raw edges? One, probably; at the best, not more than two. And that takes us back to screaming savagery, when, gross of[Pg 88] body and deed, we drank blood from the skulls of our enemies, and hailed as highest paradise the orgies and carnage of Valhalla. And before that time, think you, how many thousands of years of savagery did we endure? and how many myriads of thousands in the long procession of life up from the first vitalised inorganic? Two thousand years are an extremely thin veneer with which to cover the many millions.
And further, our much-vaunted two thousand years of culture is a thing of the mind, an acquired character. We are not born with it. Each must gather it for himself after he is born, from the spoken and written words of his fellow and forerunners. Isolate a babe from all of its kind and it will never learn to speak, and without speech words, it can never think save in the concretest possible way. Yet it will possess all the brute instincts and passions—the raw edges which do constantly shove through the culture varnish of the civilised man.
Our culture is the last to come, the first to go. I have seen it go from a man in an hour, nay, on the instant. Our culture is nothing more than the accumulated wisdom of the race. It is not part of us, not a thing or attribute handed down from father to son. It is a something[Pg 89] acquired in varying degree by each individual for himself. Yes, I do well to hark back to the primitive. It tells me where I am to-day and describes to me the world I am living in. You, Dane, are hyper-refined, or refined beyond the times. You are like the idealistic and advanced zealots, who, when such action would mean destruction, advise these United States to disarm in the face of the war-harnessed world.
But no more of this jerky letter. Soon I shall proceed to make my contention good. I shall show the higher part intellect plays in conjugal love, the control, restraint, forbearance, sacrifice. And I shall show that conjugal love is higher and finer than romantic love.
3a Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
March 15, 19—.
Clyde Stebbins was here an hour after your theories and definitions reached me. The fact that I had been reading treason against his sister made me pick my subjects a little too carefully for smooth conversation. Your letter, partly open, was on the table before us, and my eyes fell upon it often as I wondered what it would mean to Hester's brother—if he could read it. I no longer think only of you.
I reject your definition of love. It is not a disorder of the mind and body, nor is it solely the instrument of reproduction. I reject and resent your distinction between the pre-nuptial and post-nuptial states of feelings. Further, I[Pg 91] hold that marriage may not be based on affection alone, and I disagree with you that population is better than principle. Children need not be brought into the world at any cost.
Love is not a disorder, but a growth. There is spiritual as well as physical growth. Some men and women never grow up strong enough to love. Their development is arrested, or they are, from the beginning, poor creatures born of starvelings, and perhaps fated to give birth to pale, sapless beings like themselves. Others there are who love, and this is no ill chance, no disease of the mind and body calling for psychiater and physician. It is a strength, a becoming, a fulfilment. Let us reason from the effect to the cause. How does this madness manifest itself? Not in weakness. You never saw a man or woman in love who was the worse for it. The lover carries all things before him, and not for himself alone, but for a larger world than ever had been his. He who loves one must perforce love all the world and all the unborn worlds. This is the way life goes, which is another way of saying it is a scientific fact. That which makes men capable of consecration is not a disorder of the mind and body. It is the greatest of all forces, and it turns the[Pg 92] wrangling and grabbing human creature into an inspired poet.
And the cause? The passion for perpetuation and the imagination. We agree. But there are other and more immediate needs than the need of perpetuation that call out love, needs that are peculiarly of the present, being bound up with the steady outreaching for help, for fellowship in the jerky journey through the universe. If love were no more than an instrument of reproduction, you would be right in maintaining that the fastidiousness I insist on is unnecessary and unnatural. If love were that and that alone, there would be no love, which is a paradox indeed.
I dare a formula: In the beginning love arose in the passion for perpetuation; to-day, the passion for perpetuation arises in love. Just as we put ourselves in the way of natural selection, pitting the microcosm against the macrocosm in a passion of ethical feeling, just so do we reverse for ourselves processes that seem indeed to have[Pg 93] all the force of law. This reversal is civilisation.
The lover is impelled to perpetuate himself in the Here and the Now. The law of life exacts from him the tribute of love. Imagination gives the lover the key to the object of his love. He enters and he beholds only the ideal which is hers; for him her clay self and the mere facts of her do not exist. The conditions of love are inherent in civilisation. When purpose is high and feeling rich, when "the everlasting possession of the good" is desired, then is heard the I Am of love.
Now to my definition. Negatively, love is not a disorder of the mind and body, not a madness, since it arises in the eternally most valuable, since it is the culmination of high processes, and since it makes for sanity of vision and strength and happiness. Positively, love is the awakening of the personality to the beauty and worth of some one being, caused by the passion for perpetuation and by imagination. It is a desire to hold to the good everlastingly, and to merge with it.
Aristotle proved to the satisfaction of his time that women have fewer teeth than men. Aristotle was a great man, and besides being a philosopher was the foremost scientist of his[Pg 94] day. I cannot help thinking of this prodigious blunder. Perhaps (who knows?) the same famous fate which a sexual classification of teeth enjoys awaits a definition calling love a disorder.
I will continue to-morrow. A note has just been given me calling me to Earl, who is ill, but not seriously. Barbara has prescribed for him a game of chess. The desire to see you again has got into my blood. I think I shall be in the new West and with you before long.
Your friend always,
I must proceed with the three other points of my letter, so I shall stay here and write, though there is a sharp breeze this morning and a coquettishly escaping sunlight, and something tugs at me to go out upon the city streets. It is not restlessness, but the love of the open. I am fain to leave a walled house, and, better still, to get outside of the walls within and join the city in friendship and let the city join me. I never feel greater fellowship than when I walk—
Except when I write to you. Then do I greaten with the pride of life. My sympathies quicken and I grow young again. I constitute myself advocate of the world, and enthusiasm does not fail me in this high calling. It is but natural that in the face of scepticism which I[Pg 96] cannot share I should feel greater faith, that in the face of revilement a sense of the glory of the thing belittled should settle upon me. I turn zealot and spend myself in long-drawn praising. I lay myself under a spell of harmony because I am serving and defending and approving what I hold to be good.
So when you insist that romantic love is pre-nuptial and that it dies at marriage as others suppose it to die at the approach of poverty, I grow glad with the knowledge that this is not true. I scrutinize facts which I hitherto took for granted, and become doubly sure. You dogmatise when you say that the lover and the husband are mutually exclusive. If there was love in the beginning, it will be at the end. Love doubles upon itself. Propinquity tightens bonds and there is a steady blossoming of the character in a radiant atmosphere. The marriages that fail are the unions which are based on liking. In these, weariness must set in, for marriage demands that men and women be all in all to each other, and unless it be so with them, the lives of the "contracting parties" are, by the laws of logic, and by the force of the laws of delicacy in the art of living, forever spoilt.
Yes, and people who truly love come to regret[Pg 97] their married love, these too. But these have at least begun well. Their lives are infinitely richer for this fact. Their failure itself is made by it more bearable than the failure of those others who act the vulgarian and demand so little of life that even that little escapes them. No world-stains on these who are, at least, would-be lovers. They stand mistaken but irreproachable. It was neither their fault nor love's, and "life more abundant" comes to them even with the mistake.
You are consistent. Just as you maintain that love is passion, so do you think that it is no more than a preliminary thrill. You note a change; the flutter and the excitement felt in the presence of the unknown go, and you do not know that they give place to the steadier joys of the unknown, that after the promise comes the fulfilment, that the hope is not more beautiful than the realisation, that there is divinity in both, and that love does not disappoint.
Tell me, are the placid marriages of affection you are preparing to describe so very placid? Do these jog along so well? Is the control, restraint, forbearance, sacrifice, of which you speak, as readily practised for the person who is that to you which twenty others may quite[Pg 98] as easily be, as it is for the one beyond all whom you love and deify, whom the laws of your being command that you serve, living and dying? God knows, the average marriage does not exhibit a striking picture of the practice of these virtues! Rather are such phrases ideals on stilts on which suffering marital partners attempt to hobble across their extremity. On the other hand, to some extent everybody practises restraint and sacrifice since everybody is to some extent moral. But it goes very hard with your average man and woman in your average marriage, and there is a decided setting of the mouth and narrowing of the eyes with the effort.
Whatever placidity there is is attained by means of vampirism. Diderot, the husband of a stupid seamstress, had no right to the love of a Mlle. Voland. It was vampirism and sin to take all from this woman, and to return her favour with so much less than all, as surely as cowardice and selfishness are sin. But the illicit relation will exist because custom cannot rid men and women of subtle sympathies and dear yearnings, because men and women will love though the world consider it cheap and mad. Individually, we have no difficulty in finding our happiness, but we are made advance toward it through the[Pg 99] twisted byways of an unfrank world. "No straight road! Keep turning!" has been the scream of convention since convention began.
So for every commonplace marriage there is a canonised love, and the story is told in the old Greek civilisation by the Hetairæ. You remember how it reads in the history: "The low position generally assigned the wife in the home had a most disastrous effect upon Greek morals. She could exert no such elevating or refining influence as she casts over the modern home. The men were led to seek social and intellectual sympathy and companionship outside the family circle, among a class of women known as Hetairæ, who were esteemed chiefly for their brilliancy of intellect. As the most noted representative of this class stands Aspasia, the friend of Pericles. The influence of the Hetairæ was most harmful to social morality." And the practice persisted through many a renaissance where Lauras and Beatrices were besung, down to the brilliant encyclopædists of the eighteenth century with their avowed loves, down to our Goethe and John Stuart Mill. All of these loves rose in very different motives and environments, yet were they the same fundamentally,—strong, sweet love between man[Pg 100] and woman, very much spoiled by the fact that custom permitted the loveless marriage at the same time, but yet love which was good since it was the best that could be had. And when the historian permits himself to say, "The influence of the Hetairæ was most harmful to social morality," it is evident that he also thinks that a marriage which compels husband or wife to seek soul's help elsewhere than in their union is bad and wrong.
To-day there is a change in attitude. Woman is new-born in strength and dignity, and the highest chivalry the world has ever known is in blossom. She is an equal, a comrade, a right regal person. She is no longer a means but an end in herself, not alone fit to mother men but fit to live in equality with men. I repeat, she is not a means but an individual, with a soul of her own to rear. Because of the greater and more general emancipation of woman the subtlety of modern love has become possible.
Now for the last point, the question of perpetuation. Just as function precedes organ, so the love of life is inherent in the living for the maintenance of life. But even the primitive man, in whom instinct is strongest, proves himself capable of death. Some men have always[Pg 101] been able to give up their lives for some cause. (Indeed there is thought to be suicide amongst animals.) And to-day we certainly no longer say a man must live. Quite as often must he die. Men have found it wise to die at the stake or on the gallows. If this be true of our relation to the life which courses through us, how much more true is it of our instinct to perpetuate ourselves, which pertains to the love of life biologically only, which is often, in the social manifestation of that instinct, a cold intellectual concept and never a dominating thought! We are not driven to procreate. In fact, every child born into the world competes hard for its morsel. Under our unimaginable economic régime all increase in population is a menace.
I call bringing children into the world a codfish act which causes an overflux of vulgar little earthlings, if the process be not humanised and spiritualised. If the child is conceived not in lust but in love, it is rightly born. If it is the child of your ideal, the offspring of that which is your truest life, then is your progeny your immortality, and then, and then only, have you reason for pride and joy in that which you have caused to be.
My dear, dear Herbert, my love has not failed. This you must come to understand. Love never fails. The children that might have been mine are better unborn, since I could not give them a mother whom I loved. You remind me that Dante married Gemma, daughter of Manetto Donati, and she bore him seven children. Yet, Herbert, was this wife not mentioned in the "Commedia," nor in "La Vita Nuova," nor anywhere else in his writings. Dante was a Conformist. He was not in all respects above his time; witness his theology. Convention permitted the dispassionate marriage side by side with love. He was conventional, and the infinite moment of meeting in paradise with his Lady was embittered by her "cold, lessoned smiles."
It was for Beatrice that this man vexed his spirit with immortal effort and raised a Titan voice which yet is heard in charmed echoes. It was for Beatrice that he descended into the[Pg 103] dead regions and climbed the hills of purgatory and soared towards the Rose of Paradise,—"And 'She, where is She?' instantly I cried."
Dante, our prince of lovers, might have lived better, but he loved well.
This in answer to your letter. To meet your argument I have found it best to employ something of your own method, but I cannot rid myself of the feeling that I have vulgarised the subject by saying so much about it. I fear my letter would provoke a smile from those who know love and the wonder of its simplicity through all the subtlety. "We, in loving, have no cause to speak so much!" would be their unanswerable criticism. It is easier to live than to argue about life.
The thought has suddenly assailed me that what I have said may sound derogatory to Hester. Know, then, that I do not think there is a woman in the world who is not capable of inspiring true and abiding love in the heart of some man. Besides, Hester to me looms up as a heroine. Not a hair's breadth of what I know of her that is not beautiful. My regret is that she, who could be "a vision eterne," should be doomed to receive episodically your considerate affection. She does not know your programme.[Pg 104] She is a girl who takes your love for granted in the same way as she gives hers, without niggardliness. It is the woman who cannot be content with less than all that is slowly starved to death on a bread-and-water diet and who does not find it out until the end.
Until the carnival time when you and Hester come to love each other, if that time is to be, you two must be as separate in deed as you are in fact. Forgive me and write soon.
April 2, 19—.
So you have met Hester's brother? Well, I have had an outing with Hester. She loves me well, I know, and I cannot but confess a thrill at the thought. On the other hand, well do I know the significance of that love, the significance and the cause. Notwithstanding that wonderful soul of hers, she is in no wise constituted differently from her millions of sisters on the planet to-day. She loves—she knows not why; she knows—only that she loves. In other words, she does not reason her emotions.
But let us reason, we men, after the manner of men. And be thou patient, Dane, and follow me down and under the phenomena of love to[Pg 106] things sexless and loveless. And from there, as the proper point of departure, let us return and chart love, its phases and occurrences, from its first beginnings to its last manifestations.
Things sexless and loveless! Yes, and as such may be classed the drops of life known as unicellular organisms. Such a creature is a tiny cell, capable of performing in itself all the functions of life. That one pulsating morsel of matter is invested with an irritability which, as Herbert Spencer says, enables it "to adjust the inner relations with outer relations," to correspond to its environment—in short, to live. That single cell contracts and recoils from the things in its environment uncongenial to its constitution, and the things congenial it draws to itself and absorbs. It has no mouth, no stomach, no alimentary canal. It is all mouth, all stomach, all alimentary canal.
But at that low plane the functions of life are few and simple. This bit of vitalised inorganic has no sex, and because of that it cannot love. Reproduction is growth. When it grows over-large it splits in half, and where was one cell there are two. Nor can the parent cell be called mother or father: and for that matter, the parent cell cannot be determined. The original cell[Pg 107] split into two cells; one has as much claim to parenthood as the other.
It lives dimly, to be sure, this mote of life and light; but before it is a vast evolution, Dane, on the pinnacle of which are to be found men and women, Hester Stebbins, my mother, you!
A step higher we find the cell cluster, and with it begins that differentiation which has continued to this day and which still continues. Simplicity has yielded to complexity and a new epoch of life been inaugurated. The outer cells of the cluster are more exposed to environmental forces than are the inner cells; they cohere more tenaciously and a rudimentary skin is formed. Through the pores of this skin food is absorbed, and in these food-absorbing pores is foreshadowed the mouth. Division of labour has set in, and groups of cells specialise in the performance of functions. Thus, a cell group forms the skinny covering of the cluster, another cell group the mouth. And likewise, internally, the stomach, a sac for the reception and digestion of food, takes shape; and the juices of the body begin to circulate with greater definiteness, breaking channels in their passage and keeping those channels open. And, as the generations pass, still more groups of cells segregate[Pg 108] themselves from the mass, and the heart, the lungs, the liver, and other internal organs are formed. The jelly-like organism develops a bony structure, muscles by which to move itself, and a nervous system—
Be not bored, Dane, and be not offended. These are our ancestors, and their history is our history. Remember that as surely as we one day swung down out of the trees and walked upright, just so surely, on a far earlier day, did we crawl up out of the sea and achieve our first adventure on land.
But to be brief. In the course of specialisation of function, as I have outlined, just as other organs arose, so arose sex-differentiation. Previous to that time there was no sex. A single organism realised all potentialities, fulfilled all functions. Male and female, the creative factors, were incoherently commingled. Such an individual was both male and female. It was complete in itself,—mark this, Dane, for here individual completeness ends.
The labour of reproduction was divided, and male and female, as separate entities, came into the world. They shared the work of reproduction between them. Neither was complete alone. Each was the complement of the other.[Pg 109] In times and seasons each felt a vital need for the other. And in the satisfying of this vital need, of this yearning for completeness, we have the first manifestation of love. Male and female loved they one another—but dimly, Dane. We would not to-day call it love, yet it foreshadowed love as the food-absorbing pore foreshadowed the mouth.
As long and tedious as has been the development of this rudimentary love to the highly evolved love of to-day, just so long and tedious would be my sketch of that development. However, the factors may be hinted. The increasing correspondence of life with its environment brought about wider and wider generalisations upon that environment and the relations of the individual to it. There is no missing link to the chain that connects the first and lowest life to the last and the highest. There is no gap between the physical and psychical. From simple reflex action, on and up through compound reflex action, instinct, and memory, the passage is made, without break, to reason. And hand in hand with these, all acting and reacting upon one another, comes the development of the imagination and of the higher passions, feelings, and emotions. But all of this is in the books, and[Pg 110] there is no need for me to go over the ground.
So let me sum up with an analysis of that most exquisite of poets' themes, a maiden in love. In the first place, this maiden must come of an ancestry mastered by the passion for perpetuation. It is only through those so mastered that the line comes down. The individual perishes, you know; for it is the race that lives. In this maiden is incorporated all the experience of the race. This race experience is her heritage. Her function is to pass it on to posterity. If she is disobedient, she is unfruitful; her line ceases with her; and she is without avail among the generations to come. And, be it not forgotten, there are many obedient whose lines will pass down.
But this maiden is obedient. By her acts she will link the past to the future, bind together the two eternities. But she is incomplete, this maiden, and being immature she is unaware of her incompleteness. Nevertheless she is the creature of the law of the race, and from her infancy she prepares herself for the task she is to perform. Hers is a certain definite organism, somewhat different from all other female organisms. Consequently there is one male in[Pg 111] all the world whose organism is most nearly the complement of hers; one male for whom she will feel the greatest, intensest, and most vital need; one male who of all males is the fittest, organically, to be the father of her children. And so, in pinafores and pigtails, she plays with little boys and likes and dislikes according to her organic need. She comes in contact with all manner of boys, from the butcher's boy to the son of her father's friend; and likewise with men, from the gardener to her father's associates. And she is more or less attracted by those who, in greater or less degree, answer to her organic demand, or, as it were, organic ideal.
And upon creatures male she early proceeds to generalise. This kind of man she likes, that she does not like; and this kind she likes more than that kind. She does not know why she does this; nor, with the highest probability, does she know she is doing it. She simply has her likes and dislikes, that is all. She is the slave of the law, unwittingly generalising upon sex-impressions against the day when she must identify the male who most nearly completes her.
She drifts across the magic borderland to womanhood, where dreams and fancies rise and intermingle and the realities of life are lost. A[Pg 112] dissatisfaction and a restlessness come upon her. There seems no sanity in things, and life is topsy-turvy. She is filled with vague, troubled yearnings, and the woman in her quickens and cries out for unity. It is an organic cry, old as the race, and she cannot shut out the sound of it or still the clamour in her blood.
But there is one male in all the world who is most nearly her complement, and he may be over on the other side of the world where she may not find him. So propinquity determines her fate. Of the males she is in contact with, the one who can more nearly give her the completeness she craves will be the one she loves.
All of which is well and good in its way, but let us analyze further. What is all this but the symptoms of an extreme over-excitation and nervous disorder? The equilibrium of the organism has been overthrown and there is a wild scrambling for the restoration of that equilibrium. The choice made may be good or ill, as chance and time may dictate, but the impelling excitement forces a choice. What if it be ill? What if to-morrow a male who is a far better complement should appear? The time is now. Nature is not neglectful, and well she knows the disaster of delay. She is prodigal of[Pg 113] the individual and is satisfied with one match out of many mismatches, just as she is satisfied that of a million cod eggs one only should develop into a full-grown cod. And so this love of the human in no wise differs from that of the sparrow which forgets preservation in procreation. Thus nature tricks her creatures and the race lives on.
For the lesser creatures the trick serves the purpose well. There is need for a compelling madness, else would self-preservation overcome procreation and there be no lesser creatures. And man is content to rest coequal with the beast in the matter of mating. Notwithstanding his intelligence, which has made him the master of matter and enabled him to enslave the great blind forces, he is unable to perpetuate his species without the aid of the impelling madness. Nay, men will not have it otherwise; and when an individual urges that his reason has placed him above the beast, and that, without the impelling madness, he can mate with greater wisdom and potency, then the poets and singers rise up and fling potsherds at him. To improve upon nature by draining a malarial swamp is permitted him; to improve upon nature's methods and breed swifter [Pg 114]carrier-pigeons and finer horses than she has ever bred is also permitted; but to improve upon nature in the breeding of the human, that is a sacrilege which cannot be condoned! Down with him! He is a brute to question our divine Love, God-given and glorious!
Ah, Dane, remember the first dim yearning of divided life, and the soils and smirches and frenzies put upon it by the spawn of multitudinous generations. There is your love, the whole history of it. There is no intrinsic shame in the thing itself, but the shame lies in that we are not greater than it.
April 4, 19—.
There were several things in your letter which I forgot to answer. Much of beauty and wonder is there in what you have said, and unrelated facts without end. Many of those facts I endorse heartily, but it seems to me you fail to embody them in a coherent argument.
I have stated, in so many words, that there are two functions common to all life—nutrition and reproduction. Of this you have missed the significance in your rejection of my definition of love, so I must explain further. Unless these two functions be carried on, life must perish from the planet. Therefore they are the most essential concerns of life. The individual must preserve its own life and the life of its[Pg 116] kind. It is more prone to preserve its own life than the life of its kind, less prone to sacrifice itself for its species. So natural selection has developed a passion of madness which forces the individual to make the sacrifice. In all forms of life below man the struggle for existence is keen and merciless. The least weakness in an individual is the signal for its destruction. Therefore it is counter to the welfare of the individual to do aught that will tend to weaken it. On the other hand, the law is that the individual must procreate. But procreation means a weakening and a temporary state of helplessness. Problem: How may the individual be brought to procreate? to do that which is inimical to its welfare? Answer: It must be forced by something deeper than reason, and that something is unreasoning passion. Did the individual reason on the matter, it would certainly abstain. It is because the passion is not rational that life has persisted to this day. Man, coming up from the walks of lower life, brought with him this most necessary passion. Developing imagination, he commingled the two; love was the product.
Now, because of our imagination, do not let us confuse the issue. The great task demanded[Pg 117] of man is reproduction. He is urged by passion to perform this task. Passion, working through the imagination, produces love. Passion is the impelling factor, imagination the disturbing factor; and the disturbance of passion by imagination produces love.
Stripped of all its superfluities, what function does love serve in the scheme of life? That of reproduction. Nay, now, do not object, Dane; for you state the same thing, though less clearly, in your own definition of love. You say, "Love is the awakening of the personality to the beauty and worth of some one being" and is a desire to merge the life with that of the beloved being. In other words, your definition tells that the passion for perpetuation is the cause of love, and perpetuation the end to be accomplished. Thus nature tricks her creatures and the race lives on.
Then you say negatively, "Love is not a disorder of mind and body, not a madness, since it arises in the eternally most valuable, since it is the culmination of high processes, and since it makes for strength and sanity of vision and happiness." I have shown the value of passion, and the processes of which love is the culmination, and I have shown that both are unreasoning[Pg 118] and why they are unreasoning. Do you demonstrate where I am wrong.
Then again, you dare a formula: "In the beginning love arose in the passion for perpetuation; to-day the passion for perpetuation arises in love." It is clever, but is it true? Yes, as true as this formula I dare to pattern after yours: In the beginning man ate because he was hungry; to-day he is hungry because he eats.
There are many things more I should like to answer, but I am writing this 'twixt breakfast and lecture hour, and time presses and students will not wait.
3a, Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
April 22, 19—.
Nature tricks her creatures and the race lives on, and I, overcivilised, decadent dreamer that I am, rejoice that the past binds us, am proud of a history so old and so significant and of an heritage so marvellous. Nature tricks her creatures and the race lives on, and I am prayerfully grateful. The difference between us is that you are not. You are suffering from what has been well called, the sadness of science. You accept the thesis of a common origin only to regret it. You discover that romance has a history, and lo! romance has vanished! You are a Werther of science, sad to the heart with a melancholy all your own and dropping inert tears on the shrine of your accumulated facts.
In this you are with your generation. Just as every age has its prevailing disease of the body so has it its characteristic spiritual ailment. To-day we are in the throes of travail. In our arms is the child of our ever-delving intellect, but another deliverance is about to be and the suffering is great. After science comes the philosophy of science. Our eyes are bathed in Revelation, but upon our ears the music of the Word has not yet fallen. Until that time when the meaning of it all shall flash out upon the world, the race will be hidebound in callousness and in faint-hearted melancholy. As yet we do not know what to do with all which we know, and we are afflicted with the pessimism of inertia and the pessimism of dyspepsia. Intellectually, we have been living too high the last hundred years or so. In this is the secret of our difference. You insist upon cheapening life for yourself because it has become evident to you that the phenomenon is common, and I, on the other hand, shout its glory because it is universal. To myself I am breathless with wonder, but to you and in my work I needs must shout it.
Here let me be clear. I take it that you are under the sway of a contemporary mood, that your position is an accidental phase of to-day's[Pg 121] materialism. Broadly, our quarrel is that of pessimism and optimism, only your pessimism is unconscious, which makes it the more dangerous to yourself. You are too sad to know that you are not happy or to care. Does my diagnosis surprise you? Analyze the argument of your last letter. You trace the growth of the emotion of love from protoplasm to man. You follow the progress of the force which is stronger than hunger and cold and swifter and more final than death, from its potential state in the unicellular stage where life goes on by division, up through the multifarious forms of instinctive animal mating, till you reach the love of the sexes in the human world. And the exploring leads you to the belief that nothing has been reserved for the human worth his cherishing, to the conviction that the plan of life is simple and unvaried and therefore unacceptable.
You raise the wail of Ecclesiastes, "All is vanity and a striving after wind, and there is no profit under the sun." The Preacher and Omar and Swinburne are pathetically human, and we who are also human respond to their finality, to their quizzical indifference and their stinging resentment. We also say, "Vanity of vanities," and bow our heads murmuring[Pg 122] "Ilicet," and stretch out our hands to "turn down an empty glass," but all this in twilight moods when a dimness as of dying rests upon the soul. There are a few with whom it is always morning, and others who remember something of the radiance of the young day even in the heart of midnight. These disprove the postulates of sameness and satiety, these are not smitten by the seen fact as are you of the microscopic retina, these "see life steadily and see it whole."
We need not fear the label of an idea. When I say that your position is that of the pessimist, it is not more of an accusation than if I said it was that of the optimist. The thing to concern oneself with is the question, "which of these makes the nearer approach to the truth?" You have been asking me, "What is love worth?" And you have answered your question often enough and to your satisfaction, "In itself it is worth nothing, being but the catspaw to scheming forces." With your denial of any intrinsic beauty in the emotion, with your acceptance of it as an unfortunate incident in human affairs, comes a vague hope that the race will outgrow this force. Here is your rift in the cloud. You picture a scientific Utopia where there are no[Pg 123] lovers and no back-harkings to the primitive passion, and you appoint yourself pioneer to the promised land of the children of biology.
Ah! I speak as if I were vexed instead of simply being sure I am in the right. I wish to help you to see that there is another reading to your facts. If love is essentially the same from protoplasm to man, it does not for this reason become worthless. By virtue of being universal it is enhanced and most divinely humanly binding. You tell me that love is involuntary, compelled by external forces as old as time and as binding as instinct, and I say that because of this, life is finally for love. What! The cavemen, and the birds, too, and the fish and the plants, forsooth! What! The inorganic, perhaps, as well as the organic, swayed by this force which is wholly physical and yet wholly psychical! And does it not fire you? You are not caught up and held by this giant fact? You find that love is not sporadic, not individual, that it does not begin with you or end with you, that it does not dissociate you, and you do not warm to the world-organic kinship, you do not hear the overword of the poets and philosophers of all times, you[Pg 124] do not see the visions that gladdened the star-forgotten nights of saints?
The same surprise sweeps over the mind in reading Ecclesiastes. Is it a sorry scheme of things that one generation goes and another comes and the world abides forever? If the same generation peopled the earth for a million years, the dignity of life would not be increased. It is not necessary to have the assurance of eternal life as the dole for having come to be, in order to live under the aspect of eternity. It is larger to be short-lived, to be but a wave of the sea rolling for one sunful day and starry night towards a great inclusiveness. It is a higher majesty to be inalien and a part—a ringed ripple in the Vastness—than to lie broad and smiling in meaningless endlessness.
So it is a strange thing that men who are schooled by evolution to relate themselves to all that exists, and to seek for new kinships, should lament that there is no new thing under the sun. And whose eye would be satisfied with seeing and whose ear with hearing? Who would rather have the truth than the power to seek it? There is a way of reading Ecclesiastes and Schopenhauer with a triumphant lilt in the voice. After all, it is the modulation that[Pg 125] carries the message of the text. When you write the history of love, I find it fair reading. When you tell me love is primal and engrossing, I hold it the more a sin to crouch away from its fires.
"Love is the assertion of the will to live as a definitely determined individual." This is Schopenhauer's thesis and (unnecessarily enough) he apologises for it, as if it belittled love to say that it affects man in his essentia æterna. The genius of the race takes the lover conscript and makes him a soldier in life's battalions.
"The genius of the race," a metaphysical term, but meaning what you do when you speak of the function of love. Schopenhauer is a pessimist consciously, you, unconsciously; and you have both missed the living value of your facts. "Love is ruled by race welfare," says Schopenhauer. "It (the race welfare) alone corresponds to the profoundness with which it is felt, to the seriousness with which it appears, to the importance which it attributes even to the trifling details of its sphere and occasion." Love concerns itself with "The composition of the next generation," therefore you find it common as the commonplace, therefore Schopenhauer regards it as a force treacherous to happiness, since to live is to be miserable. "These lovers[Pg 126] are the traitors who seek to perpetuate the whole want and drudgery which would otherwise speedily reach an end; this they wish to frustrate as others like them have frustrated it before."
Because love frustrates the death of the race, it is the joy of my senses and the goal of my striving.
Says Schopenhauer: "Through love man shows that the species lies closer to him than the individual, and he lives more immediately in the former than in the latter. Why does the lover hang with complete abandon on the eyes of his chosen one, and is ready to make every sacrifice for her? Because it is his immortal part that longs after her, while it is merely his mortal part that desires everything else." Because this is so, love is the God of my faith.
You see where our subject takes us! And all the while I care nothing for the points of argument except where they prick you from your position. One must scale the skies and swim the seas in order to reach you. Well, have I approached within your hearing?
I was sitting amongst the fennel in Barbara's garden when your letter was brought, and I read it twice to make sure I understood. When[Pg 127] the sun lies warm on waving fennel and a city is before you, mysterious in a veil of mist, it is easier to feel love than to think about it. For a while, it was difficult to see the bearing of the data which you marshalled so well in defence of your denial. You went far in order to answer why you are content to marry a woman you do not love. Your methods are not the methods of the practical mind. I am glad for that. You idealise your attitude, you go far back in time, you enmesh yourself in theories and generalisations, you ride your imagination proudly, in order to reconcile yourself to something which suggests itself as more ideal than that for which the unreasoning heart hungers. You are sad, but you are not practical and you are not blasé.
Of Barbara, of myself, and of London doings, this is no time to write. Tell Hester your friend thinks of her.
Yours with great memories and greater hopes,
May 18, 19—.
I stand aloof and laugh at myself and you. Oh, believe me, I see it very clearly myself in the heyday and cocksureness of youth, flinging at you, with much energy and little skill, my immature generalisations from science; and you with an elderly beneficence and tolerance, smiling shrewdly and affectionately upon me, secure in the knowledge that sooner or later I am sure to get through with it all and join you in your broad and placid philosophy. It is the penalty age exacts from youth. Well, I accept it.
So I am suffering from the sadness of science. I had been prone to ascribe my feelings to the passion of science. But it does not matter in the least—only, somehow, I would rather you[Pg 129] did not misunderstand me so dreadfully. I do not raise the wail of Ecclesiastes. I am not sad, but glad. I discover romance has a history, and in history I am quicker to read the romance. I accept the thesis of a common origin, not to regret it, but to make the best of it. That is the key to my life—to make the best of it, but not drearily, with the passiveness of a slave, but passionately and with desire. Invention is an artifice man employs to overcome the roundabout. It is the short cut to satisfaction. It makes man potent, so that he can do more things in a span. I am a worker and doer. The common origin is not a despair to me; it has a value, and it strengthens my arm in the work to be done.
The play and interplay of force and matter we call "evolution." The more man understands force and matter, and the play and interplay, the more is he enabled to direct the trend of evolution, at least in human affairs. Here is a great and weltering mass of individuals which we call society. The problem is: How may it be directed so that the sum of its happiness greatens? This is my work. I would invent, overcome the roundabout, seek the short cut. And I consider all matter, all force, all factors, so that I may invent wisely and justly. And[Pg 130] considering all factors, I consider romance, and I consider you. I weigh your value in the scheme of things, and your necessity, and I find that you are both valuable and necessary.
But the history of progress is the history of the elimination of waste. One boy, running twenty-five machines, turns out a thousand pairs of socks a day. His granny toiled a thousand days to do the same. Waste has been eliminated, the roundabout overcome. And so with romance. I strive not to be blinded by its beauty, but to give it exact appraisal. Oftentimes it is the roundabout, the wasteful, and must needs be eliminated. Thus chivalry and its romance vanished before the chemist and the engineer, before the man who mixed gunpowder and the man who dug ditches.
I melancholy? Sir, I have not the time—so may I model my answer after the great Agassiz. I am not a Werther of science, but rather you are a John Ruskin of these latter days. He wept at the profanation of the world, at the steam-launches violating the sanctity of the Venetian canals and the electric cars running beneath the shadow of the pyramids; and you weep at the violation of like sanctities in the spiritual world. A gondola is more beautiful,[Pg 131] but the steam-launch takes one places, and an electric car is more comfortable than the hump of a camel. It is too bad, but waste romance, as waste energy, must be eliminated.
Enough. I shall go on with the argument. I have drawn the line between pre-nuptial love and post-nuptial love. The former, which is the real sexual love, the love of which the poets sing and which "makes the world go round," I have called romantic love. The latter, which in actuality is sex comradeship, I call conjugal affection or friendship. To be more definite, I shall call the one "love," the other "affection" or "friendship." Now love is not affection or friendship, yet they are ofttimes mistaken, one for the other, for it so happens that the friendship, which is akin to conjugal affection, is in many instances pre-nuptial in its development—a token, I take it, of the higher evolution of the human, an audaciousness which dares to shake off the blind passion and evade nature's trick as man evaded when he harnessed steam and rested his feet. It is of common occurrence that a man and woman, through long and tried friendship, reach a fine appreciation of each other and marry; and the run of such marriages is the happiest. Neither blinded nor frenzied by the[Pg 132] unreasoned passion of love, they have weighed each other,—faults, virtues, and all,—and found a compatibility strong enough to withstand the strain of years and misfortune, and wise enough to compromise the individual clashes which must inevitably arise when soul shares never ending bed and board with soul. They have achieved before marriage what the love-impelled man and woman must achieve after marriage if they would continue to live together; that is, they have sought and found compatibility before binding themselves, instead of binding themselves first and then seeking if there be compatibility or not.
Let me apparently digress for the moment and bring all clear and straight. The emotions have no basis in reason. We smile or are sad at the manifestation of jealousy in another. We smile or are sad because of the unreasonableness of it. Likewise we smile at the antics of the lover. The absurdities he is guilty of, the capers he cuts, excite our philosophic risibility. We say he is mad as a March hare. (Have you ever wondered, Dane, why a March hare is deemed mad? The saying is a pregnant one.) However, love, as you have tacitly agreed, is unreasonable. In fact, in all the walks of animal[Pg 133] life no rational sanction can be found for the love-acts of the individual. Each love act is a hazarding of the individual's life; this we know, and it is only impelled to perform such acts because of the madness of the trick, which, though it strikes at the particular life, makes for the general life.
So I think there is no discussion over the fact that this emotion of love has no basis in reason. As the old French proverb runs, "The first sigh of love is the last of wisdom." On the other hand, the individual not yet afflicted by love, or recovered from it, conducts his life in a rational manner. Every act he performs has a basis in reason—so long as it is not some other of the emotional acts. The stag, locking horns with a rival over the possession of a doe, is highly irrational; but the same stag, hiding its trail from the hounds by taking to water, is performing a highly rational act. And so with the human. We model our lives on a basis of reason—of the best reason we possess. We do not put the scullery in the drawing-room, nor do we repair our bicycles in the bedchamber. We strive not to exceed our income, and we deliberate long before investing our savings. We demand good recommendations from our cook, and take letters of introduction with us[Pg 134] when we go abroad. We overlook the petulant manner of our friend who rowed in the losing barges at the race, and we forgive on the moment the sharp answer of the man who has sat three nights by a sick-bed. And we do all this because our acts have a basis in reason.
Comes the lover, tricked by nature, blind of passion, impelled madly toward the loved one. He is as blind to her salient imperfections as he is to her petty vices. He does not interrogate her disposition and temperament, or speculate as to how they will coördinate with his for two score years and odd. He questions nothing, desires nothing, save to possess her. And this is the paradox: By nature he is driven to contract a temporary tie, which, by social observance and demand, must endure for a lifetime. Too much stress cannot be laid upon this, Dane, for herein lies the secret of the whole difficulty.
But we go on with our lover. In the throes of desire—for desire is pain, whether it be heart hunger or belly hunger—he seeks to possess the loved one. The desire is a pain which seeks easement through possession. Love cannot in its very nature be peaceful or content. It is a restlessness, an unsatisfaction. I can grant a lasting love just as I can grant a lasting satisfaction; but[Pg 135] the lasting love cannot be coupled with possession, for love is pain and desire, and possession is easement and fulfilment. Pursuit and possession are accompanied by states of consciousness so wide apart that they can never be united. What is true of pursuit cannot be true of possession, no more than the child, grasping the bright ball, can deem it the most wonderful thing in the world—an appraisement which it certainly made when the ball was beyond reach.
Let us suppose the loved one is as madly impelled toward the lover. In a few days, in an hour, nay, in an instant—for there is such a thing as love at first sight—this man and woman, two unrelated individuals, who may never have seen each other before, conceive a passion, greater, intenser, than all other affections, friendships, and social relations. So great, so intense is it, that the world could crumble to star-dust so long as their souls rushed together. If necessary, they would break all ties, forsake all friends, abandon all blood kin, run away from all moral responsibilities. There can be no discussion, Dane. We see it every day, for love is the most perfectly selfish thing in the universe.
But this is easily reconcilable with the scheme of things. The true lover is the child of nature. Natural selection has determined that exogamy[Pg 136] produces fitter progeny than endogamy. Cross fertilisation has made stronger individuals and types, and likewise it has maintained them. On the other hand, were family affection stronger than love, there would be much intermarriage of blood relations and a consequent weakening of the breed. And in such cases it would be stamped out by the stronger-breeding exogamists. Here and there, even of old time, the wise men recognised it; and we so recognise it to-day, as witness our bars against consanguineous marriage.
But be not misled into the belief that love is finer and higher than affection and friendship, that the yielding to its blandishments is higher wisdom on the part of our lovers. Not so; they are puppets and know and think nothing about it. They come of those who yielded likewise in the past. They obey forces beyond them, greater than they, their kind, and all life, great as the great forces of the physical universe. Our lovers are children of nature, natural and uninventive. Duty and moral responsibility are less to them than passion. They will obey and procreate, though the heavens roll up as a scroll and all things come to judgment. And they are right if this is what we understand to be "the bloom, the charm, the smile of life."
Yet man is man because he chanced to develop intelligence instead of instinct; otherwise he would to this day have remained among the anthropoid apes. He has turned away from nature, become unnatural, as it were, disliked the earth upon which he found himself, and changed the face of it somewhat to his liking. His trend has been, and still is, to perform more and more acts with a rational sanction. He has developed a moral nature, made laws, and by the sheer force of his will and reason curbed his lyings and his lusts.
However, our lovers are natural and uninventive. They get married. Pursuit, with all its Tantalus delights, its sighings and its songs, is gone, never to return. And in its place is possession, which is satisfaction, familiarity, knowledge. It heralds the return of rationality, the return to duty of the weighing and measuring qualities of the mind. Our lovers discover each other to be mere man and woman after all. That ethereal substance which the man took for the body of the loved one becomes flesh and blood, prone to the common weaknesses and ills of flesh and blood. He, on the other hand, betrays little petulancies of disposition, little faults and predispositions of which she never[Pg 138] dreamed in the pre-nuptial days, and which she now finds eminently distasteful. But at first these things are not openly unpleasant. There are no scenes. One or the other gives in on the instant, without self-betrayal, and one or the other retires to have a secret cry or to ruminate about it over a cigar—the first faint hints, I may slyly suggest, of the return of rationality. They are beginning to think.
Ah, these are little things, you say. Precisely; wherefore I lay emphasis upon them. The sum of the innumerable little things becomes a mighty thing to test the human soul. Moreover, many a home has been broken because of disagreement as to the uses or abuses of couch cushions, and more than one divorce induced by the lingering of tobacco odours in the curtains.
If the marriage of our lovers conform to the majority of marriages, the first year of their wedded life will determine whether they are able to share bed and board through the lengthening years. For this first year—often the first months of it—marks the transition from love to conjugal affection, or witnesses a rupture which nothing less than omnipotence can ever mend. In the first year a serious readjustment must take place. Unreason, as a basis for the[Pg 139] relation, must give way to reason; blind, ignorant, selfish little love must flutter away, so that friendship, clear-eyed and wise, may step in. There will come moments when wills clash and desires do not chime; these must be moments of sober thought and compromise, when one or the other sacrifices self on the altar of their nascent friendship. Upon this ability to compromise depends their married happiness. Returning to the rationality which they forsook during mating-time, they cannot live a joint rational existence without compromising. If they be compatible, they will gradually grow to fit, each with the other, into the common life; compromise, on certain definite points, will become automatic; and for the rest they will exhibit a tacit and reasoned recognition of the imperfections and frailties of life.
All this reason will dictate. If they be incapable of rising to compromise, sacrifice, and unselfishness, reason will dictate separation. In such cases, when they will have become rational once more, they will reason the impossibility of a continued relation and give it up. In which case the true-love disciple may contend that there was no real love in the beginning. But he is wrong. It was just as real as that of any[Pg 140] marriage, only it failed in the post-nuptial quest after compatibility. In all marriages love—passionate, romantic love—must disappear, to be replaced by conjugal affection or by nothing. The former are the happy marriages, the latter the mistaken ones.
As I close, the saying of La Bruyère comes to me, "The love which arises suddenly takes longest to cure." This generalisation upon all the love-affairs within the scope of a single lifetime cannot but be true, and it is quite in line with the general argument. I have shown that the love (so called) which grows slowly is akin to friendship, that it is friendship, in fact, conjugal friendship. On the other hand, the more sudden a love the more intense it must be; also the less rationality can it have. And because of its intensity and unreasonableness, the longer period must elapse ere its frenzy dies out and cool, calm thought comes in.
P.S.—My book is out—"The Economic Man." I send it to you. I cannot imagine you will care for the thing.
May 26, 19—.
"Pretty nineteen-year-old Louisa Naveret, because her slower-minded fiancé, Charles J. Johnson, could not understand a joke, is dying with a bullet in her brain, and he, her murderer, lies dead at the morgue. They were to have been married to-day."
From to-day's paper I quote the above introduction to a column murder-sensation in simple life. Simple it was, and elemental—the man loving steadily and doggedly and madly, after the manner of the male before possession; the woman fluttering, and teasing, and tantalising, after the manner of the female courting possession. They had been engaged for some time. The woman loved the man and fully intended to marry him. The engagement neared its close,[Pg 142] and on the day before that of the wedding, the man, slow minded, loving intensely, procured the marriage licence. The woman read the document, and with the last coy flutter before surrender told him that she would not marry him.
"I meant it as a jest," she said as she lay on a cot at the receiving hospital; but four bullets were in her body, and Charles J. Johnson, clumsy and natural lover, lay dead in an adjoining room with the fifth bullet in his brain.
In this pitiful little tragedy appear two of the most salient characteristics of love; namely, madness and selfishness. Let us analyze Charles J. Johnson's condition. He was a lineman for a telegraph company, healthy and strong, used to open-air life and hard work. He had steady employment and good wages. Can't you see the man, content with a good digestion, unailing body, and mild pleasures, and enjoying life with bovine placidity? But pretty Louisa Naveret entered his life. The "abysmal fecundity" was stirred and life clamoured to be created. Peacefulness and content vanished. All the forces of his existence impelled him to seize upon and possess "nineteen-year-old" Louisa Naveret. He was afflicted with[Pg 143] a disorder of mind and body, a madness so great, a delusion so powerful, a pain and unrest so pressing, that the possession of that particular "nineteen-year-old" woman became the dearest thing in the world, dearer than life itself and more potent than the "will to live."
I do well to call love a madness. Any departure from rationality is madness, and for a man of Charles J. Johnson's calibre, suicide is an extremely irrational act. But he also killed Louisa Naveret, wherein he was as selfish as he was mad. Convinced that he was not to possess her, he was determined that no other man should possess her.
While on this matter of love considered as a disorder of mind and body, I recall a recent magazine article of Mr. Finck's, in which he analyzes Sappho's conception of love. "In that famous poem of Sappho," he says, "that has been so often declared a compendium of all the emotions that make up love, I have not been able to find anything but a comic catalogue of such feelings as might overwhelm a woman if she met a bear in the woods—'deadly pallor,' 'a cold sweat,' 'a fluttering heart,' 'tongue paralyzed,' 'trembling all over,' 'a fainting fit.'"
Dante suffered similarly from the disorder of[Pg 144] love, if you will recollect. In this connection may be cited the following passage from Diderot's "Paradox of Acting ":—
"Take two lovers, both of whom have their declarations to make. Who will come out of it best? Not I, I promise you. I remember that I approached the beloved object with fear and trembling; my heart beat, my ideas grew confused, my voice failed me, I mangled all I said; I cried yes for no; I made a thousand blunders; I was illimitably inept; I was absurd from top to toe, and the more I saw it the more absurd I became. Meanwhile, under my very eyes, a gay rival, light hearted and agreeable, master of himself, pleased with himself, losing no opportunity for the finest flattery, made himself entertaining and agreeable, enjoyed himself; he implored the touch of a hand which was at once given him, he sometimes caught it without asking leave, he kissed it once and again. I, the while, alone in a corner, avoided a sight which irritated me; stifling my sighs, cracking my fingers with grasping my wrists, plunged in melancholy, covered with a cold sweat, I could neither show nor conceal my vexation."
Oh, the clamour of life to be born is a masterful thing, and so far as the individual is [Pg 145]concerned, a most irrational thing; and so far as the world of beasts and emotional men and women is concerned, it is a most necessary thing. That life may live and continue to live, a driving force is needed that is greater than the puny will of life. And in the disorder produced by the passion for perpetuation, whether or not assisted by imagination, is found this driving force. As Ernest Haeckel, that brave old hero of Jena, explains:—
"The irresistible passion that draws Edward to the sympathetic Otillia, or Paris to Helen, and leaps all bounds of reason and morality, is the same powerful, unconscious, attractive force which impels the living spermatozoon to force an entrance into the ovum in the fertilisation of the egg of the animal or plant—the same impetuous movement which unites two atoms of hydrogen to one atom of oxygen for the formation of a molecule of water."
But with the advent of intellectual man, there is no longer need for obeying blind and irresistible compulsion. Intellectual man, changing the face of life with his inventions and artifices, performing telic actions, adjusting himself and his concerns to remote ends and ultimate compensations, will grapple with the problem of[Pg 146] perpetuation as he has grappled with that of gravitation. As he controls and directs the great natural forces so that, instead of menacing, they are made to labour for his safety and comfort, so will he control and direct the operation of the reproductive force so that life will not only be perpetuated but developed and made higher and finer. This is not more impossible than is the steam-engine impossible or democracy impossible.
3a, Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
June 12, 19—.
Please remember that these letters are written to you alone. I do not think that there is less love in the world than ever before. I make you representative of a class, which, in turn, is characteristic of the modern scientific type, but I do not make you representative of all that to-day's world has lived up to and lived down. So I do not join my Ruskin in lamenting the past. To be sure, you are contemporary and you are parvenu. What then? You are few, nevertheless, and like the parvenu rich, you must pass into something quite unlike yourself. It is the law of growth. I ask you to account for yourself as an individual. The thing is fiercely personal. But you choose the roundabout method of[Pg 148] answering me. For a view of what in your eyes is pertinent to this matter, you stretch a canvas wide as the world. You are resolved that your course should dramatise the whole play and interplay of force and matter. It is ideally ambitious of you and I am glad. It puts you in the ranks with the students of the ideal tendencies. It shows that you are not always impatient for short cuts, and that you begin to be of those who harness "horses of the sun to plough in earth's rough furrows."
Your letter sounds conclusive. Romance is waste, love is unreasoning; compatibility alone is worth while. You think this, and are ready to encrust yourself with what is conventional and practical. Ah, no, it is not even decently conventional! The formal world pretends, at least, to love. It also reaches for the fires that thrill and thaw, whereas you stand before a cold hearth and think the chill well and welcome, since you understand its cause. You have grasped part of a truth, and though my mind complete your arc into the perfection of a circle, I cannot place it about your head as a halo. My confusion comes from thinking of you more than of my creed. A pregnant factor in our debate is the debater. The Hafiz of the Hafiz[Pg 149] maxims, the philosopher of your philosophy happens to interest me. You have been building yourself up before my eyes, and for watching I cannot speak.
With what does romance interfere? If it implied a waste of vital force, a giving up, a postponement of life, it were a roundabout path to development and happiness. But we live most when we are most under its sway, and it is for such self-promised sparks that we live at all. Romance quickens and controls as does nothing else, and because of this it is not only a means but an end in itself. It is stirred-up life. We live most when we love most. The love of romance and the romance of love is the only coin for which the heart-hurt sell their death. A trick? Perhaps. The love of life is a trick to save the races from self-murder. Nature makes legitimate her tricks. Let the Genius of the Race lure us with passion and dreaming! We are not the losers by it. And if the dream fades and we grow gray despite what has been lived, then it is something to remember that soul and sense have leapt and pulsed. I am thankful that romance has an aftermath, and that old men and women can prattle about days that were robust. I am thankful that the soldiers of life are at the end[Pg 150] given a furlough in which to fondle the arms they wielded with clumsiness and with spirit, and in which to pass themselves in review before their pension expires and their days are over. Youth has the romance of loving, and age the romance of remembering.
Lovers are not always compatible, you say, and, before all, you insist upon good partnership. How will you insure yourself against unfitness? Surely not by a registering and weighing of qualities, not by bargaining and speculating. We do not choose our wives as we do our saddle-horses; we do not plan our marriages as we plan our houses. It may sound paradoxical, but there is a higher compatibility than that of quality and degree. It is not whether people can live together, but whether they should live together. "It is an awkward thing to play with souls,"—you override the fastidiousness of the soul in marrying your companion. Unless you are an automaton, you cannot rest happy in the fact that you and she do not disagree. For comfort's sake you would have a negative dimension to your cosmos, forgetting that your longings and your needs and, it may be, your dreams, are positive. If sex-comradeship and affection were not as accidental and as dependent on[Pg 151] mood as love itself, your position would have much in its favour. You could then arrange for compatibility in marriage.
You speak of the methods in economics that conserve energy and capital, such as the employ of the machine-guiding boy, which saves the labour power of a hundred men, and you hold that in the realm of personal life like methods may obtain with value and dignity. I can see how natural it has become for you to take this viewpoint. One can be a zealot in matters frigid. The law behind the fact has you in its coil, and your passion goes to ice. You burn for that cold thing, compatibility. You, too, are in the market-place bound to a stake—it is not for such as you to escape the fire. If you look to compatibility and want it intensely, as others want love, then you suffer, and from your standpoint (not mine) you raise a vain cry; for compatibility, like everything else, is illusory. The illusions of love are a strength, and the ways of love are divine; through them we come to that feeling of completion which is compatibility and which is as ineffable as the white-lipped promise of waves heard by those who have also listened to weeping. Love is not responsible for institutionalism. There would be no fewer marriages if people[Pg 152] married for convenience, nor would the law make such unions less binding. It is not the fault of love that the great social paradox exists. In the precipitancy of feeling, you say, the lover fastens upon an unsuitable mate, and, with possession, love dies. Here I attack your facts. If an awakening comes, it is not for either of these reasons. Love is not essentially rational, but then it is love. There is some consistency in affairs natural, and the esoteric draught that enchanted at one time cannot poison at another.
Love is not essentially rational, and it will not of a sudden become so at the possession of the loved one. People who marry from convenience may wake to find their union most inconvenient. "There are more things in heaven and earth," and there are more intricacies of feeling and more sloughs and depths, than are dreamed of in your philosophy. A definite understanding as to sofa cushions and tobacco smoke does not always insure unwearied forbearance and devotion. With love, on the other hand, disappointment is very much less likely to spring up, for the reason that it is free from calculation. Love is a sympathy. It takes hold, it grows upon the soul and the senses, and it does not flee before argument and explanation.
Still less can I admit that possession kills love. Do we give up living because the world is based on Will and Idea? Yet to will is to want, Schopenhauer tells us, and to want is to be in pain. Do we know ourselves in pain every minute of our lives? Hardly. This applies. You hold that, with the fulfilled hope and the appeased hunger, indifference takes the place of desire. It reads so in logic, but not in life. If what is in our possession be good, we prize it more highly for its being within reach. The good in our keeping does not sate; it pains with divine hungers. We do not tire of what we have; we rise to it. We do not know the sweetness of being steadfast until we are so impelled by the love with which we have grown great. The lover may well say: "She was not my ideal; before I knew her I was not great enough to think her. She taught me."
Besides, an acquaintance with your wife's faults does not kill your love. You cannot turn from your brother or your friend if he commit even a lurid act; you cannot turn from a stranger; much less can you turn from your beloved. Herbert, when men set themselves to judge, they are invariably ridiculous and an offence to high heaven. Believe me, it is artificial. The[Pg 154] true judge cares not for the fact of the deed, but for its motive. And the lover knows the motive. He has the key to the life. He knows his beloved, not as she is, but "as she was born to be." His lips press and his arms enfold not her so much as the ideal of her, and unless she unmake herself, he cannot unlove her. "To judge a man by the fruit of his actions," says Professor Edward Howard Griggs, "it is necessary to know all of the fruit, which is impossible. You can only know what he eternally must be if you catch the aspect of his soul and grow to understand his aspirations and his loves." To idealise, therefore, is not to be blind, but to be far-seeing.
There is another way of looking on this question of the paradox. Granted that it is caused by romantic love, romantic love is still exclusively the best thing in the world. You cannot pay too dearly for the good of life. I know that the misery of being in the intimacy of wedlock with one who is not loved is unutterable. It is to become degraded and unrecognisable, it is to wear the brand of liar before God! The man whose outer life belies the inner is an enforced suicide. There is something of majesty on "laying one's self down with a will," and there[Pg 155] is something of strength in cloistering the body for the spirit's health's sake, but to die when all within is warm and clamorous for life is terrible. Such a death they die who are held together, not by the bonds of the spirit, but by those of convention. They who would go from each other and dare not, die the ignominious death of fear. The suicide is contemptible, besides being pitiable, when he is hounded out of life despite himself, when he is a little embezzler of a clerk who rushes from the music hall to the Thames and thinks of the unfinished glass with his last breath. No, I do not underestimate the tragedy of the paradox. Yet I say that if love were accountable for it (which it is not), it would still be folly to forswear love. Do you ask why? Because its dangers are the dangers common to all life, and we are so made that we cannot be frightened away from our portion of experience. We are as loth to give up our nights as our days. The winters as the summers, all the seasons and all the climes, the fears as the hopes, all the travail of deepest, fullest living, we claim as our own forever. We guard jealously our heritage of feeling. Would you for all the world sleep rather than wake, forget rather than remember? Then cease the[Pg 156] requiem of your speech about the dangers of disillusion!
Madness and selfishness were the cause of Louisa Naveret's death, and the man who was mad and selfish was her lover. The poor man had not the strength to renounce when he thought he found himself face to face with the necessity of renouncing. But all lovers are not too weak to cope with love. John Ruskin, if you remember, loved his wife, and he shot neither himself, nor her, nor Millais. Charles J. Johnson is not a Ruskin, and Ruskin's love was not a madness.
And, Herbert, to me there is nothing comic in a stress of feeling. Let the lover pale and flutter and faint; in the presence of his deity it is an acceptable form of worship. The very self-possessed lover is more preposterous!
Your book has not yet reached me. To-morrow I shall write again, providing I remember how to write a natural letter.
June 20, 19—.
There are impersonal hours when the things of the day drop below consciousness and the spirit grows devotional and wends a pilgrimage to larger spheres, there to sit apart. Such a respite was mine to-day. There had been a call to rouse and put forth work, and I wrought with all the puniness of my might (woe is me!), and earned my post at the window that looks out upon the large things. The best of nights and days of toil is that there comes a twilight in which fatigued eyes see clear. I said it did not matter how you do about your marriage. Time may right you in a way I cannot know. I said it did not matter if you are not righted in this, there being so much that never rights itself. Both hope and despair were followed by a calm of neutrality.[Pg 158] The inquiry waited no solution. The stress no longer touched me, and my twilight became luminous. I saw things as from a height and forms dropped out of my range, when Barbara came tugging at me, and my pale while of abstraction was at an end.
She wanted to know what troubled me. She made her way to me, hurried but resolved, and stated her demand. "You catechised me yesterday; to-night you shall answer."
She had come to defend herself. My talk having of late taken on the sameness of that of the man of one idea, Barbara was aroused. I was gauging her because she distressed me, was her thought. (I had been trying to find whether it is possible to live differently from her and live happily and well.) "You think I am not close enough to Earl, because I mourn for my little one, perhaps. You think me not sufficiently happy to be wifely." Could I suppose aught else from such an utterance but that there was an estrangement and hidden pain? How, unless there were sorrow, could the woman see herself sorrowed for? My mind leapt to possibilities. Little Barbara on the rack was more than I could bear. I groped for her hands. It was a fault in her to be so much on her guard. She[Pg 159] had no sorrow to confess, and spoke—only to ward off what was not directed toward her.
"The tenour of your talk led me on to believe—" she stammered with hot cheeks. It is a standing offence of hers to imagine herself accused, and she admits it is a weakness born of lack of poise. "But I took all for granted, I thought you fortunate beyond any other woman," I protested. At this the radiance broke forth. I forgave the chill that her first words on entering the room struck to my heart, and she forgot what she had imagined.
There is nothing more important than the play and interplay of feeling. Were Barbara "unwifely," I could not blame her, but neither could I have at hand my proof of dear miracles. My proof remained to me, for there she stood, her face lifted toward mine, her mouth tremulous, her grey eyes swimming. The mate woman was stirred. Barbara is twenty-six and has been married seven years, and she still vibrates with the old wonder to find herself loving and beloved.
I meant to tell you of what we spoke later, in the hope that I could show you a little better what I hold dear and why. But my hand grows nerveless. The twilight of abstraction has set[Pg 160] in. A little while ago this hand was quick to rest on Barbara's as I called her my heroine. She is that, not alone because she is pure and good and strong, but because she can accept the test of her instincts. It takes both faith and strength to obey oneself. "When shows break up, what but one's Self remains?" asks Whitman. The shows are but shows for Barbara. Will I look into your eyes on the morrow and find them, like hers, clear? Grant that it be!
July 1, 19—.
Somewhere in Ward you may read, "It must constantly be borne in mind that all progress consists in the arbitrary alteration, by human efforts and devices, of the normal course of nature, so that civilisation is wholly an artificial product." Why, Dane, this is large enough to base a sociology upon. And I must ask you first, is it true? Second, do you understand, do you appreciate, the tremendous significance of it? And third, how can you bring your philosophy of love in accord with it?
Romantic love is certainly not natural. It is an artifice, blunderingly and unwittingly introduced by man into the natural order. Is this audacious? Let us see. In a state of nature[Pg 162] the love which obtains is merely the passion for perpetuation devoid of all imagination. The male possesses the prehensile organs and the superior strength. Beyond the ardour of pursuit the female has no charms for him. But he is driven irresistibly to pursuit. And by virtue of his prehensile organs and superior strength he ravishes the females of his species and goes his way. But life creeps slowly upward, increasing in complexity and necessarily in intelligence. When some forgotten inventor of the older world smote his rival or enemy with a branch of wood and found that it was good and thereafter made a practice of smiting rivals and enemies with branches of wood, then, and on that day, artificiality may be said to have begun. Then, and on that day, was begun a revolution destined to change the history of life. Then, and on that day, was laid the cornerstone of that most tremendous of artifices, CIVILISATION!
Trace it up. Our ape-like and arboreal ancestors entered upon the first of many short cuts. To crack a marrow-bone with a rock was the act which fathered the tool, and between the cracking of a marrow-bone and the riding down town in an automobile lies only a difference of degree. The one is crudely artificial, the other [Pg 163]consummately artificial. That is all. There have been improvements. The first inventors grasped that truthful paradox, "the longest way round is the shortest way home," and forsook the direct pursuit of happiness for the indirect pursuit of happiness. If the happiness of a savage depended upon his crossing an extensive body of water, he did not directly proceed to swim it, but turned his back upon it, selected a tree from the forest, shaped it with his rude tools and hollowed it out with fire, then launched it in the water and paddled toward where his happiness lay.
Now concerning love. In the state of nature it is a brutal passion, nothing more. There is no romance attached. But life creeps upward, and the gregarious human forms social groups the like of which never existed before. Consider the family group, for instance. Such a group becomes in itself an entity. By means of the group man is better enabled to pursue happiness. But to maintain the group it must be regulated; so man formulates rules, codes, dim ethical laws for the conduct of the group members. Sexual ties are made less promiscuous and more orderly. A greater privacy is observed. And out of order and privacy spring respect and sacredness.
But life creeps upward, and the family group itself becomes but a unit of greater and greater groups. And rules and codes change in accordance, until the marriage tie becomes possessed of a history and takes to itself traditions. This history and these traditions form a great fund, to which changing conditions and growing imagination constantly add. And the traditions, more especially, bear heavily upon the individual, overmastering his natural expression of the love instinct and forcing him to an artificial expression of that love instinct. He loves, not as his savage forebears loved, but as his group loves. And the love method of his group is determined by its love traditions. Does the individual compare his beloved's eyes to the stars—it is a trick of old time which has come down to him. Does he serenade under her window or compose an ode to her beauty or virtue—his father did it before him. In his lover's voice throb the voices of myriads of lovers all dead and dust. The singers of a thousand songs are the ghostly chorus to the song of love he sings. His ideas, his very feelings are not his, but the ideas and feelings of countless lovers who lived and loved and whose lives and loves are remembered. Their [Pg 165]mistaken facts and foolish precepts are his, and likewise their imaginative absurdities and sentimental philanderings. Without an erotic literature, a history of great loves and lovers, a garland of love songs and ballads, a sheaf of spoken love tales and adventures—without all this, which is the property of his group, he could not possibly love in the way he does.
To illustrate: Isolate a boy babe and a girl babe of cultured breed upon a desert isle. Let them feed and grow strong on shell-fish and fruit; but let them see none other of their species; hear no speech of mouth, nor acquire knowledge in any way of their kind and the things their kind has done. Well, and what then? They will grow to man and woman and mate as the beasts mate, without romance and without imagination. Does the woman oppose her will to that of the man—he will beat her. Does he become over-violent in the manifestation of his regard, she will flee away, if she can, to secret hiding-places. He will not compare her eyes to the stars; nor will she dream that he is Apollo; nor will the pair moon in the twilight over the love of Hero and Leander. And the many monogamic generations out of which he has descended would fail to prevent polygamy[Pg 166] did another woman chance to strand on that particular isle.
It is the common practice of the man of the London slum to kick his wife to death when she has offended him. And the man of the London slum is a very natural beast who expresses himself in a very natural manner. He has never heard of Hero and Leander, and the comparison of the missus' eyes to the stars would to him be arrant bosh. The gentle, tender, considerate male is an artificial product. And so is the romantic lover, who is fashioned by the love traditions which come down to him and by the erotic literature to which he has access.
And now to the point. Romantic love being an artificial product, you cannot base its retention upon the claim that it is natural. Your only claim can be that it is the best possible artifice for the perpetuation of life, or that it is the only perfect, all-sufficient, and all-satisfying artifice that man can devise. On the one hand, for the perpetuation of life, man demonstrates the inefficiency of romantic love by his achievements in the domestic selection of animals. And on the other hand, the very irrationality of romantic love will tend to its gradual elimination as the human grows wiser and wiser. Also, [Pg 167]because it is such a crude artifice, it forces far too many to contract the permanent marriage tie without possessing compatibility. During the time romantic love runs its course in an individual, that individual is in a diseased, abnormal, irrational condition. Mental or spiritual health, which is rationality, makes for progress, and the future demands greater and greater mental or spiritual health, greater and greater rationality. The brain must dominate and direct both the individual and society in the time to come, not the belly and the heart. Granted that the function romantic love has served has been necessary; that is no reason to conclude that it must always be necessary, that it is eternally necessary. There is such a thing as rudimentary organs which served functions long since fallen in disuse and now unremembered.
The world has changed, Dane. Sense delights are no longer the sole end of existence. The brain is triumphing over the belly and the heart. The intellectual joy of living is finer and higher than the mere sexual joy of living. Darwin, at the conclusion of his "Origin of Species," experienced a nobler and more exquisite pleasure than did ever Solomon with his thousand concubines and wives. And while our sense[Pg 168] delights themselves have become refined, their very refinement has been due to the increasing dominion over them of the intellect. Our canons of art are not founded on the heart. No emotion elaborated the laws of composition. We cannot experience a sense of delight in any art object unless it satisfies our intellectual discrimination. "He is a natural singer," we say of the poet who works unscientifically; "but he is lame, his numbers halt, and he has no knowledge of technique."
The intellect, not the heart, made man, and is continuing to make him—ah, slowly, Dane, for life creeps slowly upward. The "Advanced Margin" is a favourite shibboleth of yours. And I take it that the Advanced Margin is that portion of our race which is more dominated by intellect than the race proper. And I, as a member of that group, propose to order my affairs in a rational manner. My reason tells me that the mere passion of begetting and the paltry romance of pursuit are not the greatest and most exquisite delights of living. Intellectual delight is my bribe for living, and though the bargain be a hard one, I shall endeavour to exact the last shekel which is my due.
Wherefore I marry Hester Stebbins. I am[Pg 169] not impelled by the archaic sex madness of the beast, nor by the obsolescent romance madness of later-day man. I contract a tie which my reason tells me is based upon health and sanity and compatibility. My intellect shall delight in that tie. My life shall be free and broad and great, and I will not be the slave to the sense delights which chained my ancient ancestry. I reject the heritage. I break the entail. And who are you to say I am unwise?
July 5, 19—.
I had not intended to answer your letter critically, but, on re-reading, find I am forced to speak if for no other reason than your epithet "parvenu." The word has no reproach. It was ever thus that the old and perishing recognised the vigorous and new. Parvenu, upstart—the term is replete with significance and health. I doubt not Elijah himself was dubbed parvenu when he fluttered with his golden harp into that bright-browed throng, pride-swollen for that they had fought with Michael when Lucifer was hurled into hell.
"We do not choose our wives as we buy our saddle-horses; we do not plan our marriages as we do the building of our houses,"—so you say,[Pg 171] and it is said excellently. No better indictment of romantic love do I ask. And oh, how many good men and women have I heard bitterly arraign society in that in the begetting of children it does not exercise the judgment which it exercises in breeding its horses and its dogs! Marriage is something more than the mere pulsating to romance, the thrilling to vague-sweet strains, the singing idly in empty days, the sating of self with pleasure—what of the children?
"Never mind the children," says selfish little Love. "It has been our wont never to give any thought to the children; they were incidental. Always have we sought our own pleasure; let us continue to seek our own pleasure." So Society continues to breed its horses and dogs with judgment and forethought and to trust to luck for its children.
But it won't do, Dane. Life, in a sense, is living and surviving. And all that makes for living and surviving is good. He who follows the fact cannot go astray, while he who has no reverence for the fact wanders afar. Chivalry went mad over an idea. It idealised, if you please. It made of love a fine art, and countless knights-errant devoted themselves to the service of the little god. It sentimentalised[Pg 172] over ladies' gloves and forgot to make for living and surviving. And while chivalry committed suicide over its ladies' gloves, the stout, wooden-headed burghers, with an eye to the facts of life, dickered and bickered in trade. And on the wreck and ruin of chivalry they flaunted their parvenu insolence. God, how they triumphed! The children and cobblers and shop-keepers buying with the yellow gold the "thousand years old names!" buying with their yellow gold the proud flesh and blood of their lords to breed with them and theirs! patronising the arts, speaking a kind word to science, and patting God on the back! But they triumphed, that is the point. They reverenced the fact and made for living and surviving.
Love is life, you say, and you seem to hold it the achievement of existence. But I cannot say that life is love. Life? It is a toy, i' faith, given to us, we know not why, to play with as we chance to please. Some elect to dream, some to love, and some to fight. Some choose immediate happiness, and some ultimate happiness. One stakes the Here and Now upon the Hereafter; another takes the Here and Now and lets the Hereafter go. But each grasps the toy and does with it according to his fancy[Pg 173] And while none may know the end of life, all know that life is the end of love. Love, poor little, crude little, love, is the means to life—and so we complete the circle. Life? It is a toy, i' faith, given us, we know not why, to play with as we chance to please.
But this we know, that love is the means to life, and it is subject to inevitable improvement. By our intellect will we improve upon it. Life abundant! finer life! higher life! fuller life! When we scientifically breed our race-horses and our draught-horses, we make for life abundant. And when we come scientifically to breed the human, we shall make for life abundant, for humanity abundant.
You say an acquaintance with the petty vices of one's wife does not kill one's love. Oh yes, it does, and out of the ashes of that love rises affection, comradeship, in kind somewhat similar to the affection and comradeship which I have for my brother. I do not love my brother, and it is because I do not love him, and because I do have affection and comradeship for him, that I do not turn away when he commits even a lurid act. Love, you will remember, takes its rise in the emotions, and is unstable and wanton and capricious. But affection takes its rise in the[Pg 174] intellect, is based upon judgment of the brain. Love is unyielding tyranny; affection is compromise. Love never compromises, no more than does the mad little mating sparrow compromise.
My brother?—I played with him as a boy. His weaknesses and faults incensed and hurt me, as mine incensed and hurt him. Many were our quarrels. But he had also good qualities which pleased me, and at times performed gracious acts and even sacrifices. And I likewise. And with my brain I weighed his weaknesses and faults against his gracious acts and sacrifices, and I achieved a judgment upon him. The ethics of the family group also contributed to this judgment. The duties of kinship and the responsibilities of blood ties were impressed upon me. We grew up at our mother's knee, and she and our father became factors in determining what my conduct should be. They, too, taught me that my brother was my brother, and that in so far as he was my brother, my relations with him must be different from my relations with those who were not my brothers. And all went to crystallise an intellectual judgment, or a set of criteria, as it were, to guide all sane, unemotional acts and even to control and [Pg 175]repress any emotional acts. These criteria, I say, became crystallised, became automatic in my thought processes.
And now, in manhood, my brother commits a lurid act, an act repulsive to me, one capable of arousing emotions of anger, of bitterness, of hatred. I experience an emotional impulse to pour my wrath upon him, to be bitter toward him, to hate him. Then I experience an intellectual impulse. Whatever way I may act, I must first settle with my crystallised criteria. The personal bonds of my boyhood and manhood press upon me—the gracious acts and sacrifices and compromises, our father and our mother, the duties of kinship and the responsibilities of blood. Thus two counter-impulses strive with me. I desire to do two counter things. Heart and head the fight is waged, and heart or head I shall act according to which is the stronger impulse. And if my affection be stronger, I shall not turn away, but clasp my brother in my arms.
I fear I have not made myself clear. It is difficult to write hurriedly of things psychological, when the extreme demand is made upon intellect and vocabulary; but at least you may roughly catch my drift. What I have striven[Pg 176] to say is, that I forgive my brother, not because I love him, but because of the affection I bear him; also that this affection is the product of reason, is the sum of the judgments I have achieved.
3a, Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
July 21, 19—.
"Progress is an arbitrary alteration, by human efforts and devices, of the normal course of nature, so that civilisation is wholly an artificial product." You ask me to consider this refracted bit of sociology and by its light to cast out my exalted notion of love. As if you have proven that love is incompatible with civilisation! We make over life with each successive step, but we do not give over living. In developing new forms and in establishing more and more subtle social relations we are only building upon what we find ready to hand. The paradox of creature and creator does not exist. When your sociologist speaks of arbitrary alterations, he has reference to polities and governments and criteria, to the material and ideal forces which a progressive society may wield for itself. He cannot include under[Pg 178] progress an alteration of those needs of existence which make up the quality of existence. Speak of a community which equally distributes the products of labour and I will grant that there has been an arbitrary alteration, the normal course of nature being that the stronger, openly, and even with the common assent, takes to the repletion of his desire from the weaker. But speak of a condition so progressive that it subverts the need, so that where in the one case hunger was equitably gratified, in the other, hunger was done away with, and I will say that you are giving an Arabian Nights' entertainment.
Love is of a piece with life, like hunger, like joy, like death. Your progress cannot leave it behind; your civilisation must become the exponent of it.
Your last letter is formal and elaborate, and—equivocal. In it you remind me, menacingly, of the possibilities of progress, you posit that love is at best artificial, and you apotheosise the brain. As an emancipated rationality, you say you cut yourself loose from the convention of feeling. Progress cannot affect the need and the power to love. This I have already stated. "How is it under our control to love or not to love?" Life is elaborate or it is simple (it depends upon[Pg 179] the point of view), and you may call love the paraphernalia of its wedding-feast or you may call it more—the Blood and Body of all that quickens, a Transubstantiation which all accept, reverently or irreverently, as the case may be.
I can more readily conceive the existence of a central committee elected for the purpose of regulating the marriages of a community, than of a community satisfied with such a committee. There is no logic in social events. The world persists in not taking the next step, and what to the social scout looked a dusty bypath may prove to be the highway of progress for the hoboing millions. Side issues are constantly cropping up to knock out the main issues of the stump orator; so let us be humble. For this reason I refuse to discuss possibilities in infinity. You and I cannot have become products of an environment which is not in existence. It is safe to suppose that our needs are like those of the race and that in us nothing is vestigial that is active in others. You cannot have become too rational to love. The device has not yet been formed.
You think I should take your word for it? But why? Have you never found yourself in the wrong, never disobeyed your best promptings[Pg 180] never meant to take the good and grasped the bad? Is it not possible that you are not yet awake, or, God pity you, that you are hidebound in the dogmatism of your bit of thinking.
It is for the second point of your letter that I called you equivocal. Earlier in our discussion, I remember, you laid stress on the fact that love is an instinct common to all forms of life; now you go to great lengths in order to show that it is artificial.
How do you differentiate between the artificial and nature? Surely a development is not artificial because it is recent! Surely man is as integral to life as his progenitors! When we come to civilisation, we are face to face with the largest and subtlest thing in life, and the civilisation of human society is not artificial. It is the fulfilment of the nature of man, the promise made good, the career established, the influence sent out. A universe of mind-stuff and a civilising force constantly causing change, for change is growth, constantly compelling expression of that change—to conceive it is to conceive infinitude. And the purpose? Development, always development. To that end the individual perishes, to that end the race is conserved, to that end the peril and the sacrifice, and the[Pg 181] agony of triumph in the overcharged heart at its last bound. And what is this refining of the type, this goal for which we all make with such tragic directness, but the gaining in the power to love? We begin with love to end with greater love, and that is progress. To write the epic of civilisation is a task for some giant artist who shall combine in himself Homer and Shakespeare, and the work will be a love story.
We do not throw away the grain and keep the chaff, nor do we transmit the "absurdities" and "philanderings" alone. If in the lover's voice throb the voices of myriads of lovers, it is because he is stirred even as they. If a ballad wakes a response in him, it is because its motif has been singing itself of its own accord in his heart, and its rhythm was the dream nightingale to which he bade Her hearken. Behind the tradition lies the fact. The expression may be ephemeral, the song flat, the motto conventional, but the feeling which prompted it is true. Else it could not have survived. And it has more than survived. It has grown with growth. For centuries it lodged in the nature of man, lulled in acquiescence, then, when the sense of recognition awoke, back in those wondrous young days, it wakened to pale life, and[Pg 182] now the feeling is man's whole support, giving him courage to work and purpose to live.
But the half brute of the London slums kicks his wife when she offends him and knows nothing of love. Well for the honour of love that it is so! The half brute of the London slums had not food enough when a child, and malnutrition is deadly. Later, he stole and lied in order to eat, and he was bullied and kicked for it out of human shape. The trick was passed on to him. The unfortunate of the London slums will push us all from heaven's gate, because we do not do battle with the conditions that make him. It is not such as he that should lead you to scorn love, for he is a mistake and a crime.
In your example of the isolated boy babe and girl babe we meet with a different condition. The individual repeats the history of the race, and as these have been left out by the civilising forces, they revert to past racial states. For these it is natural to live stolidly—is it therefore natural for us? The point I make is that our refinement, crying in us with great voice, is as much a part of us as are the simple few hungers of the racial infant. We are not the less natural for being subtle. And can it not be that the face of romance reveals itself even[Pg 183] to savage eyes? According to the need is the power, and the early man needs must hope and desire; he is curbed by waiting and taught by loss in the hunting, he is hungry, and he dreams that he is feasting. This dream is his romance—a red flicker in the dawn, then still the gray. To suppose this is not to be unscientific, for what is true of us must have had a beginning, and feeling, as well as being, cannot have been spontaneously generated.
There is an absolute gravitation to justice in nature. This was the creed preached by Huxley to Kingsley a week after his boy's death. Grief had turned the mind upon itself, and in the upheaval he formulated a philosophy of faith and joy!
Our reward is meted out according to our obedience to all of the law, spiritual and physical. Nature keeps a ledger paying glad life's arrears each minute of time. And the creed rises to my lips when I hear you cry shame upon the delight of love. It must be good, this thing which is so fraught with joy! You brand it sense delight, but all delight is of the senses, and Darwin at the conclusion of "The Descent of Man," if he was not overtaken by a feeling of incompleteness in the work and a consuming[Pg 184] fever for the further task, was glad in a human way, with the senses and through the emotions. Darwin's supreme moment may have come at quite a different time. What can we know of the moments of repletion that fall into another's life? With Huxley we may only know that our hearts bound high when we strike a chord of harmony and prove ourselves obedient to "all of the law," and our hearts bound high when we love. It is nature's way of showing her approval. Oh, the strength of love and the miracles of its compensations! The sense of becoming that it gives, even in its defeats, the gladness that ripples in its sob-strangled throat!
The day for asceticism is gone, or shall we say the night? We are not afraid of sense delights. We are intent upon living on all sides of our natures, roundly and naturally. You have a fine gospel of work and I congratulate you upon it, but you make no mention of the purpose of it all. It must not be work for work's sake. "When I heard the learned astronomer—" says Whitman. Do you remember? He caught in one hour the whole majesty, caught to himself the wonder that was unseen by the watching astronomers. Somehow you feel the learned ones had made a mistake in calculating[Pg 185] so long that they had no time to see with personal eyes the glory of the stars, and that Whitman had been philosopher and had gained where they failed. The inspiration of the poet, of the painter, of the economist, and biologist, is in the revelation which they receive of what to do and why to do. For this reason philosophy, which treats of the life and works of man, is in the highest sense sociological. The generalisations of philosophy go to improve our methods so that we may have greater proneness for sense of delight and greater possibility for sense delight. Why, what else is there? You are a poet, and you give an unrestorable day, when the sun is shining and the hills lie purple in the distance, to writing a sonnet. If you do so merely to employ yourself, it must be that the wolf of despair is at your being's door. You have come to the end, and the sun and the hills do not matter. You and they have parted company. But if you write, impelled by the wish that others should read and recognise, read and remember, and grow to know and feel better, and perhaps to love the sun and hills better, then is yours a work of love, and it will be made good to you, so that for the day which you have not seen, your night shall be instinct with light.[Pg 186] And if your labours are more especially in the service of art, then, also, with each approach toward expression, you are warmed through with the delight of achievement.
Is my meaning quite dashed away by this torrent of speech? It is simply this: Before we think we feel, and the end of thinking is feeling. The century of Voltaire and Dr. Johnson held that man is rational, the century of James, Ribot, Lange, and Wundt is thrilled to the heart with the doctrine that first, last, and always man is emotional. To speak loosely, the dimensions of the human cosmos are feeling, emotion, and sensation.
Build your fine structures. We like to see the foundations laid well and the thick walls go up. Keep to your wizard inventions. We like to live in a magic world. And ah, the indomitable machines with their austere promise of free days for weary hands, and ah, the locomotives and the ships steaming their ways toward intercourse, toward comity, toward fellowship! We like the intricacy and the vastness of the world in which we live. But "an unconsidered life is not fit to be lived by any man," says Aristotle. We must consider the phenomenon, civilisation, searching down for the nucleus of its[Pg 187] worth. We will find that the stone structure without hope were a pitiable thing, that the making of compacts and the banking of capital, without hope, were pitiable. This hope that is the life germane, the immortal flash of mortality, the most keenly human point in all humanity, is the hope for greater and greater social happiness. Our world is an ever unfinished house which we are employed in building. If we are imbued with the spirit of the architect and not of the hod-carrier, we will hope sweetly for the work. The house beautiful will begin to mean our life, and each night we will consult our drawings, looking to it that on the house built of our days the sun shall wester, and that within shall be intimacy, and laughter, great speech and close love, looking to it that the home be such as to better to-day's tenant so that he be more loving and lovable than the one of yesterday.
We are wrong, perhaps. Long ago we were no less than now. When we reached a hand in the darkness and grasped that of our fellow, the love and the strongly frail human abandon were no less. We have not grown in heart's munificence, perhaps. It is one of the illusions only. But the hope is ours. For what do you hope?
July 22, 19—.
Your birthday, Herbert, and for greeting I state that I walk your length with you. A truce to quarrelling! It is now a year since you informed me you were going to be married, and since then the gods have thundered their laughter at the sight of two muttering men who sat themselves on the axes of earth to dangle their legs into orbit vastness. Chronic somnambulists that they are, they took their monopolist way thither in their sleep.
I cannot tell you how full of vagary the correspondence we have fallen into seems to me. I deliberately attempted to write you into passion and for months you deliberately continued to convict yourself out of your own mouth, and we did not see that it was tragic and comic and preposterous. Could we personify this our [Pg 189]dealing, we would do well to call it a kind of Caliban. And the tentacles we threw out, clawing at everything, stealing for prop to our little theory all of man and God! It is the conceit of us that I find utterly hopeless of grace. So I drop my rôle of omniscience. I take my form off the hub, believing the system will maintain its gravity though I go my private way, and I promise to let you alone. Forgive me, and God bless you. Ah, yes, and many happy returns of the day. All my heart in the blessing and the wish.
I did some remembering to-day, dear lad. When you were born, I was five years younger than you are now, yet I felt myself old. "If we were as old as we feel, we would die of old age at twenty-one." My life seemed all behind me, long, turbulent, packed with pain, useless. I spoke of myself as if all were over. "It had been full of purpose, but what came of it? A few rhymes and a spoilt hope." To my morbid fancy your having come to be was a signal for me to go. I had no thought of dying, yet I accepted you as the proof of my failure. In the exacting eyes of the genius of the race I was insolvent. You were not mine. I looked into Time, and saw none of me there.
Yet the letter I wrote to your parents was sincere,—how else? And that night and the next and the next, I wrote "Gentleman Adventurers," which the critics called the epitome of all that is balladesque. One pitied the dead because they could go forth no more on water and under sky. This poem, written in a mood which beneficent nature sends on the too-sick spirit, has served for more than a quarter of a century as the complete and accepted catalogue of the reasons for living. Well, I must not laugh at it. It may be true that the passion of my heart incarnated itself in it beyond the rest, that my one song sang itself out those first three days of your life. If so, it is true that love is never cheated of its fruit, and that the joy which might have been for the individual oozes out of him to the race, that the strength which would have settled upon itself in the calm of satisfied hope, filters through him outwards.
Good night, lad. My hand is on your shoulder and I am loath to take it off. For a while I would like what cannot be, to travel with you the red-brown country-roads fragrant with hay, to cross the stiles and knock upon the cabin doors, and enter where sorrow and where gladness is, big with greeting and sure of welcome.[Pg 191] I have often pleased myself with the fancy that the outer aspects of life are patterned after the inner, so that in the map of the spirit are to be found city and country, wood, desert, and sea, so that we know these outer worlds through having travelled the worlds within. Though I stay behind, my eyes can follow you from this night's landmark along the stretch, on to the city avenues, up the highways, tracing the twists of the bypaths, clambering untrod trails of wilderness and mountain, on, on, till out upon the sea.
In one of the near turnings a woman with waiting face smiles subtly. Her hands beckon you to the tryst. Godspeed, my son.
August 6, 19—.
As I have constantly insisted, our difference is temperamental. The common words we lay hold of mean one thing to you and another thing to me. I do not equivocate when I say that love is instinctive, and that the latter-day expression of love is artificial. "Art," as I understand the term in its broadness, contradistinguishes from nature. Whatever man contrives or devises is an artifice, a thing of art not of nature, and therefore artificial.
As for ourselves, among animals we are the only real inventors and artificers. Instead of hair and hide, we have soft skins, and we weave cunning textures and wear wondrous garments. In cold weather, in place of eating much fat meat, we keep ourselves warm by grate fires and[Pg 193] steam heat. We cut up our blood-dripping meat chunks with pieces of iron hardened by fire and sharpened by stone, and we eat fish with a fork instead of our fingers. We put a roof over our heads to keep out storm and sunshine, sleep in pent rooms, and are afraid of the good night air and the open sky. In short, we are consummately artificial.
As I recollect, I have shown that the natural expression of the love instinct is bestial and brutal and violent. I have shown how imagination entered into the development of the expression of this love instinct till it became romantic. And, in turn, I have shown how artificial was the romantic expression of this love instinct, by isolating a boy babe and a girl babe in a natural state wherein they expressed their love instinct bestially and brutally and violently. As you say, they have simply been "left out by the civilising force." And this civilising, or socialising force is simply the sum of our many inventions. The isolated pair merely expressed their instincts in the unartificial, natural way. They had not been taught a certain particular fashion in which to express those instincts as have you and I and all artificial beings been taught.
As Mr. Finck has said, "Not till Dante's 'Vita Nuova' appeared was the gospel of modern love—the romantic adoration of a maiden by a youth—revealed for the first time in definite language."
Dante, and the men who foreshadowed and followed him, were inventors. They introduced an artifice for protracting one of our most vital pleasures. Well, they succeeded. And what of it? There are artifices and artifices, and some are better than others. The automobile is a more cunning artifice than the ox-cart, the subway than a palanquin. Devices come and devices go. Change is the essence of progress. All is development. The end of rapes and romances is the same—perpetuation. There may be head love as well as heart love. And in the time to come, when the brain ceases to be the servant of the belly, the head the lackey of the heart, in that time stirpiculture, which is scientific perpetuation, will take the place of romantic love. And in the present there may be men ready for that time. There must be a beginning, else would we still be jolting in ox-carts. And I am ready for that time now.
You say, "Love is of a piece with life, like hunger, like joy, like death." Quite true. And[Pg 195] civilisation is merely the expression of life—a variform utterance which includes love, and hunger, and joy, and death. Else what is this civilisation for? How did it happen to be? And I answer: It is the sum of the many inventions we have made to aid us in our pursuit of life and love and joy. It helps us to live more abundantly, to love more fruitfully, to joy more intelligently, and to get grim old Death by his knotty throat and hold him at arm's length as long as possible.
I stated that "all progress consists in the arbitrary alteration, by human efforts and devices, of the normal course of nature." This sociological concept comes inevitably into accord with my philosophy of love. It is the law of development, and all things of human life (which includes love) come inside of it. Wherefore, certainly, I am not outside our province when I demand of you to bring your philosophy of love into like accord.
Incidentally, I will state that I have fallen in love. I have grown feverish with desire, gone mad with dumb yearning. I have felt my intellect lose dominion, and learned that I was only a garmented beast, for all the many inventions very like the other beasts ungarmented.[Pg 196] Nay, I am no cold-blooded theorist, no thick-hided dogmatist; nor am I a chastely simple young man mooning in virginal innocence. My generalisations have been tempered in the heats of passion, and what I know I know, and without hearsay.
I have seen a learned man, drunk with wine, interrogate the new states of consciousness of his unwonted condition, and so doing, gain a more comprehensive psychological insight. So I, with my loves. I was impelled toward the women I shall presently particularise. I asked why the impulsion. I reasoned to see if there were a difference between these illicit passions of mine and the illicit passions of my respectable and respected friends. And I found no difference. Separated from codes and conventions, shorn of imagination, divested of romance, stripped naked down to the core of the matter, it was old Mother Nature crying through us, every man and woman of us, for progeny. Her one unceasing and eternal cry—Progeny! Progeny! Progeny!
Just as little girls, instinctively foreshadowing motherhood, play with dolls, so children feel vague sex promptings, and in sweetly ridiculous ways love and quarrel and make up after the[Pg 197] approved fashion of lovers. You loved little girls in pigtails and pinafores. We all did. And in our lives there is nothing fairer and more joyful to look back upon than those same little pigtails and pinafores. But I shall pass the child loves by, and instance first my calf love.
Do you remember the incident of the torn jacket and the blackened eyes?—so inexplicable at the time. Try as you would, neither you nor Waring could get anything out of me. Oh, believe me, it was tragic! I was fifteen. Fifteen, and athrill with a strange new pulse; flushed, as the dawn, with the promise of day. And, of course, I thought it was the day, that I loved as a man loved, and that no man ever loved more. Well, well, I laugh now. I was only fifteen—a young calf who went out and butted heads with another calf in the back pasture.
She was a demure little coquette, Celia Genoine, Professor Genoine's daughter, if you will recollect. "Ah," I hear you remonstrate, "but she was a woman." Just so. Fifteen and twenty-two is usually the way of calf loves. I invested her with all the glow and colour of first youth, and in her presence became a changed being. I blushed if she looked at me; trembled[Pg 198] at the touch of her hand or the scent of her hair. To be in her presence was to be closeted with the awfulness and splendour of God. I read immortality in her eyes. A smile from her blinded me, a gentle word or caressing look and I went faint and dizzy, and I was content to lurk in some corner and gaze upon her secretly with all my soul. And I took long, solitary walks, with book of verse beneath my arm, and learned to love as lovers had loved before me.
Sufficient romance was engendered for me to pass more than one night worshipping beneath her window. I mooned and sentimentalised and fell into a gentle melancholy, until you and Waring began to worry over an early decline, to consult specialists, and by trick and stratagem to entice me into eating more and reading less. But she married—ah, I have forgotten whom. Anyway, she married, and there was trouble about it, too, and I bade adieu to love forever.
Then came the love of my whelpage. I was twenty, and she a mad, wanton creature, wonderful and unmoral and filled with life to the brim. My blood pounds hot even now as I conjure her up. The ungarmented beast, my dear Dane, the great primordial ungarmented beast, mighty to procreate, indomitable in battle, [Pg 199]invincible in love. Love? Do I not know it? Can I not understand how that splendid fighting animal, Antony, quartered the globe with his sword and pillowed his head between the slim breasts of Egyptian Cleopatra while that hard-won world crashed to wrack and ruin?
As I say, This was the love of my whelpage, and it was vigorous, masterful, masculine. There was no sentimentalising, no fond foolishness of youth; nor was there that cool, calm poise which comes of the calculation and discretion of age. Man and woman, we were in full tide, strong, simple, and elemental. Life rioted in our veins; we were a-bubble with the ferment; and it is out of such abundance that Mother Nature has always exacted her progeny. From the strictly emotional and naturalistic viewpoint, I must consider it, even now, the perfect love. But it was decreed that I should develop into an intellectual animal, and be something more than a mere unconscious puppet of the reproductive forces. So head mastered my heart, and I laid the grip of my will over the passion and went my way.
And then came another man's wife, a proud-breasted woman, the perfect mother, made pre-eminently to know the lip clasp of a child. You know the kind, the type. "The mothers of[Pg 200] men," I call them. And so long as there are such women on this earth, that long may we keep faith in the breed of men. The wanton was the Mate Woman, but this was the Mother Woman, the last and highest and holiest in the hierarchy of life. In her all criteria were satisfied, and I reasoned my need of her.
And by this I take it that I was passing out of my blind puppetdom. I was becoming a conscious selective factor in the scheme of reproduction, choosing a mate, not in the lust of my eyes, but in the desire of my fatherhood. Oh, Dane, she was glorious, but she was another man's wife. Had I been living unartificially, in a state of nature, I would certainly have brained her husband (a really splendid fellow), and dragged her off with me shameless under the sky. Or had her husband not been a man, or had he been but half a man, I doubt not that I would have wrested her from him. As it was, I yearned dumbly and observed the conventions.
Nor are these experiences heart soils and smirches. They have educated me, fitted me for that which is yet to be. And I have written of them to show you that I am no closet naturalist, that I speak authoritatively out of[Pg 201] adequate understanding. Since the end of love, when all is said and done, is progeny; and since the love of to-day is crude and wasteful; as an inventor and artificer I take it upon myself to substitute reasoned foresight and selection for the short-sighted and blundering selection of Mother Nature. What would you? The old dame would have made a mess of it had I let her have her way. She tried hard to mate me with the wanton, for it was not her method to look into the future to see if a better mother for my progeny awaited me.
And now comes Hester. I approach her, not with the milk-and-water ardours of first youth, nor with the lusty love madness of young manhood, but as an intellectual man, seeking for self and mate the ripe and rounded manhood and womanhood which comes only through the having of children—children which must be properly born and bred. In this way, and in this way only, can we fully express ourselves and the life that is in us. We shall utter ourselves in the finest speech in the world, and, our children being properly born and bred, it shall be in the finest terms of the finest speech in the world. To do this is to have lived.
3a, Queen's Road, Chelsea, S.W.
August 26, 19—.
You insist that the question is not on the value of love but on the significance of the artificial. Be that as it may. To me love is integral with life, and to speak of civilising it away, seems, in point of fact, as preposterous and as anomalous as a Hamletless play of Hamlet. You forget that in developing you carry yourself along; you change, yet you remain racial and natural. Else there were too many missing links in all your departments. We read Homer to-day—telling proof that[Pg 203] the chain of sympathy stretches unbroken through epochs of inventions and discoveries and revolutions. Truism that it is, it presents itself with particular force at this stage.
With how much force? We stand in danger of exaggerating these vociferous thoughts. This question of naturalness as opposed to artificiality is not immediately pertinent to our problem, nor is the matter of optimism and pessimism, nor the biologic idea of survival. We should have looked more to the way of love in the lives of men and women and become historians of the method and conduct of the force. There would have been less confusion. So I write, "Be that as it may," and go back to more immediate considerations. And yet we were not far wrong! The little flower in the crannied wall could tell what God and man is. This is of all thoughts the most charged with truth. Let me understand one of your conclusions, root and all, and all in all, and such is the gracious plan of oneness in the branching and leafage and uptowering, that I must know and name the tree. Your winding bypath, could I but follow it to the end, must bring me to the highway of your thought, every step tell-tale of the journey's destination. But soon I shall be with[Pg 204] you (the fifth of next month, after all; the arrangements as planned). Then we will begin to know each other, and we will no longer be tormented by the irksomeness of writing. Therefore, until easier and more fluent times, to the heart of the subject straight.
Your love-affairs—how well you have outgrown them and how ably you criticise them! They have not withstood the test of time, for you bear them no loyalty. Calfdom and whelpage, vagaries of adolescence, you call them. You do not show them much respect! For this reason your examples lose what weight they might have borne. They belong so wholly to the past, they are mere wraiths of bygone stirrings, they cannot clothe you with knowledge of love. Cold now, what boots it that you have been afire? You cannot be taught by what is utterly over.
You are catching what I aim to say, I hope, for I aim to say much. Put it that instead of a girl whom you idealised, it was a principle—some scheme of reform which you honoured with all the passion of young hope and dream, and which knit your alert being into a Laocoon of striving. Your maturer eyes see this ideal impossible and narrow. In no wise can it satisfy[Pg 205] your bolder reach and larger sympathy. But you do not laugh at what has been. If you strove for it sincerely at any time, no matter how remote, you could never again deride it. Because once you loved it you are eternal keeper of the key to its good. What has been wholly yours you never quite desert. Nothing has remained to you of your love-affairs, therefore your recital of them is empty of meaning. If you were in love to-day, and because of your philosophy you determined to do battle with your feeling, your experience would be more authoritative.
You have known love, and having known you refuse it. Henceforth, it must be reason and not feeling. "What is your objection?" you ask. This merely, that the thing cannot be. Marriage to be marriage must come through love, through the reddest romance of love, through fire of the spirit, yes, even through the love of calfdom and whelpage. Else it is a mockery. Where is the woman of character who would sell the be-all and end-all of her existence for a neat catalogue of possible advantages? Where is the man who would frankly and without embellishment dare make such proposal? You point to yourself. But you have never explained yourself to Hester, and even to me you are[Pg 206] embellishing the matter with all the might in your persuasive pen.
The ardours of calfdom and whelpage that you smile at I would have you throb with. You underrate the firstlings of the heart, the rose and white blossoming, the call upon the senses and the readiness to respond and to fulfil, to give and to take, to be and make happy—the great pride and utter abandon which is young love. At fifteen, fortunately for the development of mind and character, hope is placed where hope must pine. Love, then, is doomed to be tragic. The youth "attains to be denied." But he sounds his depth. Thereafter, he knows what to expect of himself. He has a precedent. After this he will count it a sin to forget, and to accept the solace of mediocrity. In this lies the value of the tragedy.
I sometimes think that whatever is youngest is best. It is the young that, timid and bold, pay greatest reverence to knowledge, receiving without chill of prejudice and shameful cowardice of quibbling the brave new thought. Wisdom may be of age, but passion for scholarships, trail-breaking, and hardy prospecting in the treasure mines of research, is of young pioneerhood alone. It is a youth who dares be radical,[Pg 207] who dares, in splendid largess, build mistake upon mistake, bleeding his life out in service. And it is a youth, standing tiptoe upon the earth, now waiting in unperturbed ease, now searching with unbridled zeal, who is lover and mystic. "The best is yet to be," says Rabbi Ben Ezra, "the last of life, for which the first is made." Yes, the last of life will be good, but only if it is like youth, beating with its pulse and instinct with its spirit.
The unhappy youth is left on the battle-field but not to die. The sword-thrusts challenge him to put forth greater strength in fiercer wars. He learns hard and well.
Indeed, I cannot leave this subject of first love. How do you know it was not good for you to love as you did? It is strange you should resolve to love no more because at one time you loved deeply enough almost to remain in love. It cannot be that you have grown old and that nature is resolving for you. You tell me of your experiences in order that I may be convinced that you know whereof you speak and I listen in wonder. Your conclusions are unwonted.
Then something was amiss, for you have outgrown and forgotten, but how is it with you in the present when your indifference waits not upon[Pg 208] time? You approach your future wife clothed in indifference as in mail, and you do violence. How can I show you? I speak as I would to a child to whom it is necessary to explain that it is bad to abandon an education. Life is a school, and to me it seems that you are about to resign long before diploma and degree, so I interpose. I was taught by first love, and I honour that time beyond any other. I was Ellen's. I have been lonely. For the mere human need, for the sake of that which to the lonely is very dear, I have thought of marriage, but I remembered and I refused to do violence to myself remembering. Long ago my standard was established. I learned how deeply I could feel, and I refuse to acknowledge myself bankrupt, I refuse to approach an honourable human being with less than my all. Until my soul flower out again, until suns flame about my head as in that dear yoretime, I shall keep teeming with dreams and make no affront. I who have seen love, dare not live without love.
I would not give in to fate, Herbert. I would assert my manhood. I would abide in the strength of the first output, going with the flush of the first glow into the gloom. I would spurn the calm of compromise and mediocrity and register a high claim. I would keep the peace[Pg 209] with Romance and fly her colours to the last. You have lived? It is well, and it might have been better, but do not give over and talk of stirpiculture. You are not wiser than the laws which made you.
September 18, 19—.
How abominable I must seem to you, Dane! For certainly a creature is abominable that lays rough hands on one's dearest possessions. I doubt if even you realise how deeply you are stirred by my conduct towards love. My marriage with Hester, considering the quality and degree of the contracting parties, must appear as terrible to you as the sodomies that caused God's ancient wrath to destroy cities. You see, I take your side for the time, see with your eyes, live your thoughts, suffer what you suffer; and then I become [Pg 211]myself again and steel myself to continue in what I think is the right.
After all, mine is the harder part. There are easier tasks than those of the illusion-shatterer. That which is established is hard to overthrow. It has the nine points of possession, and woe to him who attempts its disestablishment; for it will persist till it be drowned and washed away in the blood of the reformers and radicals.
Love is a convention. Men and women are attached to it as they are attached to material things, as a king is attached to his crown or an old family to its ancestral home. We have all been led to believe that love is splendid and wonderful, and the greatest thing in the world, and it pains us to part with it. Faith, we will not part with it. The man who would bid us put it by is a knave and a fool, a vile, degraded wretch, who will receive pardon neither in this world nor the next.
This is nothing new. It is the attitude of the established whenever its conventions are attacked. It was the attitude of the Jew toward Christ, of the Roman toward the Christian, of the Christian toward the infidel and the heretic. And it is sincere and natural. All things desire to endure, and they die hard. Love will die[Pg 212] hard, as died the idolatries of our forefathers, the geocentric theory of the universe, and the divine right of kings.
So, I say, the rancour and warmth of the established when attacked is sincere. The world is mastered by the convention of love, and when one profanes love's Holy of Holies the world is unutterably shocked and hurt. Love is a thing for lovers only. It must not be approached by the sacrilegious scientist. Let him keep to his physics and chemistry, things definite and solid and gross. Love is for ardent speculation, not laboratory analysis. Love is (as the reverend prior and the learned bodies told brother Lippo of man's soul):—
I thoroughly understand the popular sentimental repugnance to a scientific discussion of love. Because I dissect love, and weigh and calculate, it is denied that I am capable of experiencing love. It is too radiant and glorious a thing for a dull clod like me to know. And because I cannot experience love and be made[Pg 213] mad by it, my fitness to describe its phenomena is likewise denied. Only the lover may describe love. And only the lunatic, I suppose, may compose a medical brochure on insanity.
October 7, 19—.
It is true that you have a hard task before you, but it is not because you are fighting convention and shattering illusion; it is because you are assailing a good. Love has never acquired the prestige of the established, and the run of marriages are prompted by advantage, routine, or passion. So you are no innovator, Herbert. The idolatry of love will not be overthrown by a drawn battle between those of the Faith and those of the Reformation. Nothing so spectacular awaits us.
I have a friend who has undertaken to translate "Inferno" into English, keeping to the terza rima. "It is like climbing the Matterhorn," he says gravely. "I get to places where I feel I can go neither forward nor back. The[Pg 215] task is prodigious." And it is. But whom will it concern if he succeeds in going forward? There are few who will read his book. The translation is of more importance to the translator than to anyone else. Yet the professor's magnum opus confers a degree upon us all. Because a standard is upheld and a man is willing and able to climb a Matterhorn of thought, we can ourselves stride forward with better courage. The work will be an output of heroism, and it will ennoble even those who will not know of it.
I have another friend who ruined his life for love, so says the world that you think steeped in the idolatry of love. A priest, who by a few strokes was able to quell in America a strong and bitter movement, a gifted orator, a man of giant powers, and who was won away at the age of forty from his career by a mere girl. The girl planned nothing. She found herself a force in his life almost despite herself. The mere fact that she lived was enough to wrest this Titan from the arms of the Church. He told me that she criticised him with the directness of a simple nature, and that he came to understand her truths better than she herself. I think she must have loved him at first, but she[Pg 216] did not go to him when all grew calm. I wish it could have been otherwise, and that she could have brought him a woman's heart.
The priest, as the professor, is a hero. Both made great outputs.
There are few who can live like these. But because there are a few who can love and work, the game is saved. And because there are a few of these, we must ever quarrel with the many who are not like them.
Does this really seem such poor philosophy to you? And when, Herbert, will you marry?
November 20, 19—.
Hester met me at the station, and we walked through the Arboretum to her home on the campus. Then followed an evening together in the dormitory parlour. I have just left her. Her face was tumultuously joyous when I murmured my "At last!" Her tearful excitement was like Barbara's. You did not tell me she is so young. You must have made her feel our closeness, or she may have found a bit of my verse that all expressed her, and presto, the whole-hearted one is my friend. Her poet is now her father, brother, comrade,—what she chooses, and all she chooses.
At one time, before we were well out of the Arboretum, our eyes met, and there was something so sad and mild and strange in the burn of her gaze that I felt her frank spirit was[Pg 218] unveiling itself in an utterness of speech. But I have become too much spoilt by mere length of living to be able to remember back and recognise what young eyes mean when they look like that. From London to Palo Alto is a short trip, if at the end of it you meet a Hester. Yet I am sad. The mood crept on me the moment we grew aware that evening had come, and we stopped a little in front of the arch to observe the night-look of the foot-hills. Lights had begun to appear in the corridors of the quadrangle, and here and there in a professor's office, while Roble and Encina looked like lit-up ferries. There was a spell of mystery and promise in the quiet which was deeper for being suggestive of the seething student-life just subsided. It was a silence that seemed to echo with bells and recitations, and babble and laughter and heartache. I fell into thought. One generation cometh and another passeth away. There is no respite. March with time and find death, mayhap, before it has found you. As years ago the flamelet of the street-lamp, so now these outposts of the colossal embryo of a world derided me and seemed to point me out and away. The evening grew chill with "a greeting in which no kindness is."
"Your coming has been announced in every class, and your lecture is on the bulletin-boards. After that, can you be depressed?"
The light words were spoken low, as if doubtful whether they could be taken in good part, and they came with something that was like music. Was it the voice or some inexplicable feeling? I turned in wonder. Her head was raised, and in the indistinctness I caught that sweet look of hers which besought me, and which I answered without knowing to what question.
I owe you a great happiness. Good-night.
Last night I delivered my address to the student body. Behold the chapel crowded to the doors, aisles and window-seats crammed, and faces peering in from without, those of boys and girls who had perched themselves on the outer sills. A student audience is at the same time most critical and the most generous. I spoke on Literature and Democracy.
Hester approved my effort. "How does it feel to be great?" she laughed. "How does it feel to be cruel?" I retorted. "But think, Mr. Kempton, when you visited the English classes you were just so much text for us. It[Pg 221] should count us a unit merely to have seen you."
A memory stood up and had its revenge on me. It taunted me for the half-expressed thought, for the fled insight, for the swelling note that midmost broke. Praise the artist, and he feels himself betrayer. Blear-eyed, the poet recalls the poem's sunrise, straightens himself with the old pride, is held again by the splendour which forecasts the about-to-be-steadier glory of day, and even with the recalling he shrinks together before what he knows was a false dawn. There was never a day. The song's note never sang itself at all.
Hester looked up with that wistfulness which so draws me. Her look said: "I pity you. I wish you were as happy as I." And a thought leaped out in answer to her look which would have smote her had it spoken. It was, "You, too, are awakened by a false dawning." Why is she so sure of herself and of you? Is she sure? The puny bit of writing had a vigorous rising. The ragged author was clad in it as in ermine. So the seeming love makes a strong call, for a while holding the girl intent upon a splendour of unfolding, her nature roused, her being expectant. But later, for poet and lover, the failure and the waste! Were it otherwise[Pg 222] with your feeling for your betrothed, the comparison would not hold.
Hester does not think these things, and she is beautiful and happy.
Her happiness wrung it from me. Before I could intervene, the question asked itself, "How will it be with you in after years?"
Straight the answer came, "There will be Herbert."
Hester is proud. To-night I saw it in the lift of her chin, in the set of her neck, in the brilliance of her cheek. She knows herself endowed. So when she prattled with abandon of all you both meant to be and do, her form erect before me, her hands eloquent with excitement, her voice pleading for the right to her very conscious self-esteem, I asked her to look still further. Further she saw you, and was content.
That was before dinner. Later we were walking. "I have a friend in Orion," she said.[Pg 224] The witchery of starshine played in her eyes and about her mouth. Where were you, Herbert? This night will never return. Yet what has been was for you—the more, perhaps, that you seemed away. So it is with lovers. She thinks you love her.
"I am sorry for your mood," she said. "You are holding yourself to account these days in a way I know." Then she spoke, and I learned with new heaviness of spirit that she does know the way of it. You never thought Hester had much to struggle with?
"I am difficult," she said. And again, "There are times when no power can hold me." Then she quoted Browning:—
"Are you unhappy, Hester?" I asked.
"Yes, but with no more reason than you for your unhappiness. Since you have come here, you have renewed your demands upon yourself. You wish to go to school with the youngest and find you cannot. You suffer because more seems behind you than before." Her voice rose as if[Pg 225] she were fighting tears. It was different with her, I told her. Nothing was behind her.
"You test your work and I test my love. When you are sad, it is because the soul of the song spent itself to gain body—" She did not finish. Why is she sad? Because the soul of her love is narrower than she hoped?
On our return from our walk she sank on the seat under the '95 oak. "Did you think I meant I was always unhappy?" she asked. Her words seem always to say more than her meaning. She imparts something of her own elaborateness to them. I laughed.
"How could I with the 'Herbert is' in my ears?" Then her love became voluble. I forgot what I knew of your theories and grew aflame with her ardour. I anticipated as largely as she. She was again possessed by her hopes.
There, under the shadow of the quadrangle which her young strides measured, she spoke of what, with you in her life, the years must be. Beyond words you are blessed, Herbert. But if she mistakes?
November 27, 19—.
Be outspoken! What will happen I can only surmise, but you must tell her what she is to you. Set her right.
This is the fourth letter in seven days about Hester. I am endeavouring to make you acquainted with her. I had no need if you loved her. How she loves you! Yet she thinks that your calm is depth, your silence prayer. Her pride protects her, but she strains for the word which does not come. She has never been quite sure, and I thank God for that. Hester has been fearing somewhat, and she has been doubting, and it is this that may save her when the night sets in and the storm breaks over her head.
You, too, are thankful that her instincts served[Pg 227] her true and that she never quite accepted the gift that seemed to have been proffered?
You have a right to demand the reason for my renewed attack. It is because I have learned the strength of her love. "You are blessed beyond words," I said two days ago, but as you reject the blessing, Hester must know it and you must tell her. Herbert, I am your friend.
November 29, 19—.
What a flutter of letters! And what a fluttery Dane Kempton it is! The wine of our western sunshine has bitten into your blood and you are grown over-warm. I am glad that you and Hester have found each other so quickly and intimately; glad that you are under her charm, as I know her to be under yours; but I am not glad when you spell yourself into her and write out your heart's forebodings on her heart. For you are strangely morbid, and you are certainly guilty of reading your own doubts and fears into her unspoken and unguessed thoughts.
Believe me, rather than the soul of her love seeming narrower than she hopes, the truth is[Pg 229] she gives her love little thought at all. She is too busy—and too sensible. Like me, she has not the time. We are workers, not dreamers; and the minutes are too full for us to lavish them on an eternal weighing and measuring of heart throbs.
Besides, Hester is too large for that sort of stuff. She is the last woman in the world to peer down at the scales to see if she is getting full value. We leave that to the lesser creatures, who spend their courtship loudly protesting how unutterable, immeasurable, and inextinguishable is their love, as though, forsooth, each dreaded lest the other deem it a bad bargain. We do not bargain and chaffer over our feelings, Hester and I. Surely you mistake, and stir storms in teacups.
"Be outspoken," you say. If my conscience were not clear, I should be troubled by that. As it is, what have I hidden? What sharp business have I driven? And who is it that cried "cheated!"? Be outspoken—about what, pray?
You bid me tell her what she is to me. Which is to bid me tell her what she already knows, to tell her that she is the Mother Woman; that of all women she is dearest to me; that of all the walks of life, that one is pleasantest wherein[Pg 230] I may walk with her; that with her I shall find the supreme expression of myself and the life that is in me; that in all this I honour her in the finest, loftiest fashion that man can honour woman. Tell her this, Dane. By all means tell her.
"Ah, I do not mean that," I hear you say. Well, let me tell you what you mean, in my own way, and bid you tell her for me. In the lust of my eyes she is nothing to me. She is not a mere sense delight, a toy for the debauchery of my intellect and the enthronement of emotion. She is not the woman to make my pulse go fevered and me go mad. Nor is she the woman to make me forget my manhood and pride, to tumble me down doddering at her feet and gibbering like an ape. She is not the woman to put my thoughts out of joint and the world out of gear, and so to befuddle and make me drunk with the beast that is in me, that I am ready to sacrifice truth, honesty, duty, and purpose for the sake of possession. She is not the woman ever to make me swamp honour and poise and right conduct in the vortex of blind sex passion. She is not the woman to arouse in me such uncontrolled desire that for gratification I would do one ill deed, or put the slightest hurt upon[Pg 231] the least of human creatures. She is not the most beautiful woman God Almighty ever planted on His footstool. (There have been and are many women as true and pure and noble). She is not the woman for whose bedazzlement I must advertise the value of my goods by sweating sonnets to her, or shivering serenades at her, or perpetuating follies for her. In short, she is not anything to me that the woman of conventional love is to the man.
And again, what is she to me? She is my other self, as it were, my good comrade, and fellow-worker and joy-sharer. With her woman she complements my man and makes us one, and this is the highest civilised sense of union. She is to me the culmination of the thousands of generations of women. It took civilisation to make her, as it takes civilisation to make our marriage. She is to me the partner in a marriage of the gods, for we become gods, we half brutes, when we muzzle the beast and are not menaced by his growls. Under heaven she is my wife and the mother of my children.
Tell her, then, tell her all you wish, you dear old fluttery, mothery poet father—as though it made any difference.
December 3, 19—.
Not three weeks ago you were sitting opposite me and speaking of Hester. You admitted many things that night, amongst them that the girl never carried you off your feet. You stated over again with precision all you had written. You betrothed yourself, not because Hester is different from everybody else in the world, but because she is like. You took her for what is typical in her, not for what is individual. You preferred to walk toward her before your steps were impelled, because you feared that impulsion would preclude rational choice. With the hope of out-tricking nature, you reached for Hester Stebbins, in order that there might be a wall between your heart's fancy and yourself, should your heart become[Pg 233] rebellious. I was to understand that this is the new school, that so live the masters of matter and of self.
And as you spoke, I wondered about the woman Hester and the form of love-making which existed between you, and whether she was simple and without any charm despite her culture and her gift of song. "She either loves him too well to know or to have the strength to care, or she is, like him, of the new school," I thought. I sat and watched you, noting your youth, surprised by the scorn in your eyes and the sadness on your lips. You seemed hopeless and helpless. I closed my eyes. "What has he left himself?" I kept asking. "How will he tread 'The paths gray heads abhor?'" My own head bowed itself as before an irreparable loss. I had rejoined the child of my care only to find him blasted as by grief, the first sunshine smitten from his face and his heart weighted. One word, one ray lighting your looks in a wonted way, one uncontrolled movement of the hand, one little silence following the mention of her, would have led me to believe that I had not understood and that all was well. The night grew old with your plans and analyses. We parted with a sense of shame upon us that we[Pg 234] should have written and spoken so long and with such heat, and to such little purpose.
You do not see how this answers your last letter. I will tell you. It shows you that you have explained yourself fully the night we spoke face to face.
You say that Hester is the woman to complement your man. This sounds like a lover, only I happen to know that she is not the irresistible woman. I found it out quite by accident—a few words dropped into a letter, a corroboration of the fact and further committal, a protracted defence of your position, running through a correspondence of over a year, and, finally, a face-to-face declaration. What boots it now that you write prettily? You do not love Hester. You want her to mother your children, and you install her in your life for the purpose before the need.
Love is not lust, and it is good. The irresistible marriage, alone, is the right one. Upon it, alone, does the sacrament rest. The chivalry of your last letter refers less to the girl than to your own ends. It is not because Hester is what she is, that "of all the walks in life that one is pleasantest wherein you may walk with her," but because that walk is the one you choose[Pg 235] beyond any other for your wife to follow. The mother woman is legion, and you refuse to specialise.
Hester does not peer down at the scales to see if she is getting full value, yet she does look to her dignity, and, being poor, will not account herself rich. Hester has felt since you made known to her that you wished her to be yours, that she counted punily in your scheme, that you placed little of yourself in charge of her. She loved you and avowed it, but she has never been happy. The tragedy of love is not (what it is thought to be) the unreciprocated love, but the meagerly returned love. It is better to be rejected, equal turned from equal, than to be held with slim desire for slight purpose. Can you see this, Herbert? You are hurting the girl's life. She will ask for what you withhold, though not a word rise to her lips; will thirst for it through the years, will herself grow cramped with your denial till her own love seem a thing of dream, unstable and vague and illusive. And all the time you are gentle. You are devoted to her interests, furthering her happiness to the best in your power; but your power cannot touch her happiness. It is not what you do; it is the motive to your acts, and Hester would know[Pg 236] that she has left you unmoved. You respect the function of motherhood, but you do not love Hester. Tell her this, and prevent her from entering a union in which she must feel herself half useful, half wifely, half happy, and therefore all unhappy.
It is not Hester's fault that you cannot love her, and perhaps it is not her misfortune. There is no need for panic. Of two persons, one loving and one loath, the indifferent one is in the right. Can a tree defend itself from the hewer's axe? What would avail it, then, to feel pain at the blows? It is beyond our control to love or not to love, and no effort that we may put forth can draw love to us when it is denied. It does not avail us to suffer from unrequited love.
This which I have just said is an article of faith which the doctrine of experience often contradicts, for there may be mistake, and the one who does not love may be in the wrong. If only you could wait to see the beauty which is she before you call her! A year later and Hester may flower for you in a passionate blossoming; her face may challenge you to live. A year later and you may find that she is indeed the woman to guide you and to follow you; her[Pg 237] voice a song; her eyes a light in the day. As yet, you have not gauged her, and you would put her to small uses. Stand aside, dear Herbert. It will be better.
I have played a surly part. I may be accused of having been to you both a Dmitri Roudin and an Iago. I beg you to believe that it has not been easy for me. I have uttered the earnest word, have driven you on by the goad of friendship, which drives far. I looked upon the days that came tripping toward you out of the blue-white horizon of time and saw them gray for a dear woman, gray and silent as the tomb over a dead love, and heavy hearted for a man who is my son.
Ever wholly yours,
December 15, 19—.
Over and ended. It shall be as I said last night. Herbert, there is no call for anger; believe me, there is not. I am doing what I cannot help doing. You have not changed, but my faith in you has, and I cannot pretend to a happiness I do not feel.
Oh, but I laugh, my very dear one, I laugh that I could seem to choose to wrest myself from you. Did you at one time love me? That morning of wild sunshine when you took my hand and asked me to be your wife seems very long ago. I should have understood—the blame is all mine—I should have known you did not love me, I should have been filled with anger and shame instead of happiness. The blame is all mine.
Last night, while you were speaking, I was standing in the window wondering what all the trouble was about. I could afford to be calm since I knew I was not hurting you very deeply. At most I was disappointing a very self-sufficient man. How do women find courage, O God, to take from men who love them the love they gave? No such ordeal mine?
Farewell, Herbert. Let us think calmly of each other since we have helped each other for so long a stretch of life. Farewell, dear.
Always your friend,
December 18, 19—.
Herbert has analyzed the situation and has arrived at the conclusion that my dissatisfaction arises in an inordinate desire for happiness. You should not care so much about yourself, he says. Poor, dear, young Herbert! He is very young and cannot as yet conceive how much there is about oneself that demands care. I thought it out in the hills to-day. It was gray and there was a fitful wind. What is this selfishness but a prompting to make much of life? You and I and people of our kind are old before our time, that is the reason we are not reckless. Our dreams mature us. I was a mere girl when Herbert said he wished to marry me, but I was old enough to grasp the full meaning of the[Pg 241] pact, as he could not grasp it. In a moment I had travelled my way to the grave and back. I looked at the sheer, quick clouds that flitted past the blue, and I felt that I had caught up with life; I had overtaken the wonders that hung in the sky of my dreaming. Then I looked at him and the sunshine got in my face and made me laugh (or cry)—I was so more than happy, being so much too sure of his need of me. I am glad I walked to-day. The view from the hills was beautiful. (You see I am not unhappy!) I stood on a rock and looked about me, thinking of you, of Barbara,—I feel I know her,—and of Herbert. He and I had often come to these spots. Oh, the hungry memories! Yet what were we but a young man and a young woman, who, without being battered into apathy by misfortune, without being wearied or ill, were taking each other for better or for worse because they seemed compatible? We were doing just that, to Herbert's certain knowledge! I failed him; he hoped for more complaisance. Marriage is a hazard, Mr. Kempton, confess it is, and a man does much when he binds himself to make a woman the mother of his children—nay, the grandmother of theirs, even that. What else and what more? I would never have been[Pg 242] wholly in my husband's life, comrade and fellow to it. Herbert knew this clearly, and I vaguely but I acted with clearness on my vagueness. It was hard to do. It has left me breathless and a little afraid to be myself,—as if I had killed a dear thing,—and tearful, too, and spasmodic for your sympathy and sanction.
I told him that for a long time I did not understand, supposing myself beloved and desired and chosen for him by God, thinking he yearned for the subtlety and mystery of me, thinking all of him needed me and cleaved earths and parted seas to come to me. Later, when I became oppressed by a lack and was made to hear the stillness that followed my unechoed words, I became grave and still myself. He had unloved me, I said, and I waited. Something seemed pending, and meanwhile I could love! I made much of every word of comfort that he dropped me, and dwelt with hope on the future. All this I told Herbert the night when I explained, and he turned pale. "You people fly away with yourselves. I cannot follow you. What is wrong, Hester?" He smiled in his distress. Yet was there in his softness an imperiousness, commanding me to be other than I am, forbidding me the right to crave in secret[Pg 243] what I had made bold to ask for openly. His man was stronger than my woman, and I leapt to him again. "My husband," I whispered, my hands in his. This, even after I understood, dearest Mr. Kempton.
It is a sorry tangle. If only one could suit feeling to theory! It is not for a theory that I refuse to be Herbert's wife. Yet if I loved him enough, I could give up love itself for him. He hinted it, looking as from a distance at me in my attitude of protest and restraint. If I loved him enough, I could forego love itself for him. Somewhere there is a fault, it would seem, somewhere in my abandon is restraint, in my love, self-seeking. Remorse overcame me just as he was about to leave, and I schooled myself to think that there had been no affront, that it honours a woman to be wanted no matter for what end, that every use is a noble use, that we die the same, loved or used. If Herbert Wace wants a wife and thinks me fitting, why, it is well. I thought all this and aged as I thought. Nevertheless, my hand did not put itself out a second time to detain the man who had forced me to face this.
There is a youth here who loves me. If Herbert's face could shine like his for one hour,[Pg 244] I believe I would be happier than I have ever been. And it would not spoil that happiness if this love were toward another than myself. Say you believe me. You must know it of me that before everything else in the world I pray that knowledge of love come to the man over whom the love of my girlhood was spilled.
Do you ask what is left me, dear friend? Work and tears and the intact dream. Believe me, I am not pitiable.