HEYWOOD BROWN GEORGE S. CHAPPELL RUTH HALE BEN HECHT WALLACE IRWIN ROBERT KEABLE HELEN BULLITT LOWRY FREDERICK O'BRIEN DOROTHY PARKER FRANK SWINNERTON H. M. TOMLINSON CHARLES HANSON TOWNE JOHN V. A. WEAVER ALEXANDER WOOLLCOTT and the AUTHOR of "THE MIRRORS of WASHINGTON" Edited by G. P. P.
SUNDRY OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING PROHIBITIONS INHIBITIONS AND ILLEGALITIES
Illustrated By RALPH BARTON
WE HAVE WITH US TODAY
At current bootliquor quotations, Haig & Haig costs twelve dollars a quart, while any dependable booklegger can unearth a copy of "Jurgen" for about fifteen dollars. Which indicates, at least, an economic application of Nonsenseorship.
Its literary, social, and ethical reactions are rather more involved. To define them somewhat we invited a group of not-too-serious thinkers to set down their views regarding nonsenseorships in general and any pet prohibitions in particular.
In introducing those whose gems of protest are to be found in the setting of this volume, it is but sportsmanlike to state at the start that admission was offered to none of notable puritanical proclivity. The prohibitionists and censors are not represented. They require, in a levititious literary escapade like this, no spokesman. Their viewpoint already is amply set forth. Moreover, likely they would not be amusing.... Also, the exponents of Nonsenseorship are victorious; and at least the agonized cries of the vanquished, their cynical comment or outraged protest, should be given opportunity for expression!
Not that we consider HEYWOOD BROUN agonized, cynical, or outraged. Indeed, masquerading as a stalwart foe of inhibitions, he starts right out, at the very head of the parade, with a vehement advocacy of prohibition. His plea (surely, in this setting, traitorous) is to prohibit liquor to all who are over thirty years of age! He declares that "rum was designed for youthful days and is the animating influence which made oats wild." After thirty, presumably, Quaker Oats....
And at that we have quite brushed by GEORGE S. CHAPPELL. who serves a tasty appetizer at the very threshold, a bubbling cocktail of verse defining the authentic story of censorious gloom.
Censorship seems a species of spiritual flagellation to BEN HECHT, who, as he says, "ten years ago prided himself upon being as indigestible a type of the incoherent young as the land afforded." And nonsenseorship in general he regards as a war-born Frankenstein, a frenzied virtue grown hugely luminous; "a snowball rolling uphill toward God and gathering furious dimensions, it has escaped the shrewd janitors of orthodoxy who from age to age were able to keep it within bounds."
Then RUTH HALE, who visualizes glowing opportunities for feminine achievement in the functionings of inhibited society. "If the world outside the home is to become as circumscribed and paternalized as the world inside it, obviously all the advantage lies with those who have been living under nonsenseorship long enough to have learned to manage it."
WALLACE IRWIN is irrepressibly jocose (perhaps because he sailed for unprohibited England the day his manuscript was delivered), breaking into quite undisciplined verse anent the rosiness of life since the red light laws went blue.
"I am not sure, as I write, that this article ever will be printed," says ROBERT KEABLE, the English author of "Simon Called Peter." (It is). Mr. Keable, a minister from Africa, wrote of the war as he saw it in France, and in a way which offended people with mental blinders. He declares that the war quite completely knocked humbug on the head and bashed shams irreparably. "Rebels," says he, meaning those who speak their mind and write of things as they see them, "must be drowned in a babble of words."
And then HELEN BULLITT LOWRY, the exponent of the cocktailored young lady of today, averring that to the pocket-flask, that milepost between the time that was and the time that is, we owe the single standard of drinking. She maintains that the debutantalizing flapper, now driven right out in the open by the reformers, is the real salvation of our mid-victrolian society.
No palpitating defense of censorship would he expected from FREDERICK O'BRIEN of the South Seas, who contributes (and deliciously defines) a precious new word to the vocabulary of Nonsenseorship, "Wowzer." The nature of a wowzer is hinted in a ditty sung by certain uninhibited individuals as they lolled and imbibed among the mystic atolls and white shadows:
"Whack the cymbal! Bang the drum! Votaries of Bacchus! Let the popping corks resound, Pass the flowing goblet round! May no mournful voice be found, Though wowzers do attack us!"
DOROTHY PARKER gives vent to a poignant Hymn of Hate, anent reformers, who "think everything but the Passion Play was written by Avery Hopwood," and whose dominant desire is to purge the sin from Cinema even though they die in the effort. "I hope to God they do," adds the author devoutly.
From England, through the eyes of FRANK SWINNERTON, we glimpse ourselves as others see us, and rather pathetically. In days gone by, lured by reports of America's lawless free-and-easiness, Swinnerton says he craved to visit us. But no more. The wish is dead. We have become hopelessly moral and uninviting. "I see that I shall after all have to live quietly in England with my pipe and my abstemious bottle of beer. And yet I should like to visit America, for it has suddenly become in my imagining an enormous country of 'Don't!' and I want to know what it is like to have 'Don't' said by somebody who is not a woman."
Also is raised the British voice of H. M. TOMLINSON, singed with satire. He writes as from a palely pure tomorrow when mankind shall have reached such a state of complete uniformity of soul, mind and body, that "only a particular inquiry will determine a man from a woman, though it may fail to determine a fool from a man." Tomlinson's imagined nation of the future is "as loyal and homogeneous, as contented, as stable, as a reef of actinozoal plasm." And over each hearth hangs the sacred Symbol—a portrait of a sheep.
Next is the usually jovial face of CHARLES HANSON TOWNE (that face which has launched a thousand quips) now all stern in his unbattled struggle with Prohibition, dourly surveying this "land of the spree and home of the grave."... "My children," says Towne, "as they sip their light wine and beer..." He is, at least, an optimist! But then, we are reminded he is also a bachelor.
In his own American language JOHN WEAVER pictures the feelings of an old-time saloon habitu when his former friend the barkeep, now rich from bootlegging, with a home "on the Drive" and all that, declares his socially-climbing daughter quite too good for this particular "Old Soak's" son. Weaver's retrospect of "Bill's Place" will bring damp eyes to the unregenerate:
"So neat! And over at the free-lunch counter, Charlie the coon with a apron white like chalk, Dishin' out hot-dogs, and them Boston Beans, And Sad'dy night a great big hot roast ham, Or roast beef simply yellin' to be et, And washed down with a seidel of Old Schlitz!"
"The Puritans disliked the theatre because it was jolly. It was a place where people went in deliberate quest of enjoyment." So says ALEXANDER WOOLLCOTT, who emerges as a sort of economic champion of stage morality, though no friend at all of censorship. Despite the mot "nothing risqu nothing gained," Woollcott emphatically declares the bed-ridden play is not, as a general thing, successful. "A blush is not, of course, a bad sign in the box-office," says he, developing his theme, "but the chuckle of recognition is better. So is the glow of sentiment, so is the tear of sympathy. The smutty and the scandalous are less valuable than homely humor, melodramatic excitement or pretty sentiment."
And last in this variegated and alphabeted company the anonymous AUTHOR OF "THE MIRRORS OF WASHINGTON" who views the applications of nonsenseorship from the standpoint of national politics.
G. P. P.
We Have With Us Today. G. P. P.
Evolution-Another of Those Outlines. GEORGE S. CHAPPELL
Nonsenseorship. HEYWOOD BROUN
Literature and the Bastinado. BEN HECHT
The Woman's Place. RUTH HALE
Owed to Volstead. WALLACE IRWIN
The Censorship of Thought. ROBERT KEABLE
The Uninhibited Flapper. HELEN BULLITT LOWRY
The Wowzer in the South Seas. FREDERICK O'BRIEN
Reformers: A Hymn of Hate. DOROTHY PARKER
Prohibition. FRANK SWINNERTON
A Guess at Unwritten History. H. M. TOMLINSON
In Vino Demi-Tasse. CHARLES HANSON TOWNE
Bootleg. JOHN V. A. WEAVER
And the Playwright. ALEXANDER WOOLLCOTT
The Oracle That Always Says "No". THE AUTHOR OF "THE MIRRORS OF WASHINGTON"
George S. Chappell demonstrating his Outline of Censorship.
Heywood Broun finds America suffering from a dearth of Folly.
Ben Hecht chopping away at the ever-forgiving and all-condoning Bugaboo of Puritanism.
Ruth Hale as a XXth Century woman guarding the Home Brew.
Wallace Irwin composing under the influence of synthetic gin and Andrew Volstead.
Robert Keable urging the Automaton called Citizen to turn on his oppressor.
Helen Bullitt Lowry watching Puritanism set the Flapper free.
Frederick O'Brien finds the South Seas purified and beautified by the Missionaries.
Dorothy Parker hating Reformers.
Frank Swinnerton contemplating, from the Tight Little Isle, the two classes of prigs developed by Prohibition; those who accept it and those who rebel.
H. M. Tomlinson regarding, with not too great enthusiasm, the Perfect State of the Future.
Charles Hanson Towne and the Law.
John V. A. Weaver noticing the bartender who has been thrown out of work by Prohibition.
Alexander Woollcott rescuing the Playwright from the awful shears of the Censor.
The Periscope of the Author of the Mirrors of Washington is turned toward the Great Negative Oracle.
Another of Those Outlines
BY GEORGE S. CHAPPELL
[Sidenote: Time. The Beginning.]
When Adam sat with lovely Eve And. Pressed his Primal suit, There was a ban, if we believe Our Genesis, on fruit. But did it give old Adam pause, This One and only law there was?
[Sidenote: Nine verses are supposed to elapse.]
And then great Moses, on the crest Of Sinai, did devise His tablets, acting for the best, (Though some thought otherwise). At least he showed restraint, for then Man's sins were limited to Ten,
[Sidenote: Ninety-nine verses elapse.]
In later days the Romans proud Their famous Code began. And lots of things were not allowed By just Justinian. He wrote a list, stupendous long; "One Hundred Ways of Going Wrong."
[Sidenote: Nine hundred and ninety-nine verses elapse.]
Napoleon, (see Wells's book) Improved the Roman plan By spotting a potential crook In every fellow-man. And by the Thousand off they went To jail, until proved innocent.
[Sidenote: Nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine verses elapse.]
Now in the change-about complete Since Adam Passed from View. For apples we are urged to eat And all else is taboo. A Million laws hold us in thrall, And we serenely break them all!
A censor is a man who has read about Joshua and forgotten Canute. He believes that he can hold back the mighty traffic of life with a tin whistle and a raised right hand. For after all it is life with which he quarrels. Censorship is seldom greatly concerned with truth. Propriety is its worry and obviously impropriety was allowed to creep into the fundamental scheme of creation. It is perhaps a little unfortunate that no right-minded censor was present during the first week in which the world was made. The plan of sex, for instance, could have been suppressed effectively then and Mr. Sumner might have been spared the dreadful and dangerous ordeal of reading "Jurgen" so many centuries later.
Indeed, if there had only been right-minded supervision over the modelling of Adam and Eve the world could worry along nicely without the aid of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. Suppression of those biological facts which the Society includes in its definition of Vice is now impossible. Concealment is really what the good men are after. Somewhat after the manner of the Babes in the Woods they would cover us over with leaves. For men and women they have figs and for babies they have cabbages.
It must have been a censor who first hit upon the notion that what you don't know won't hurt you. We doubt whether it is a rule which applies to sex. Eve left Eden and took upon herself a curse for the sake of knowledge. It seems a little heedless of this heroism to advocate that we keep the curse and forget the knowledge. The battle against censorship should have ended at the moment of the eating of the apple. At that moment Man committed himself to the decision that he would know all about life even though he died for it. Unfortunately, under the terms of the existence of mortals one decision is not enough. We must keep reaffirming decisions if they are to hold. Even in Eden there was the germ of a new threat to degrade Adam and Eve back to innocence. When they ate the apple an amoeba in a distant corner of the Garden shuddered and began the long and difficult process of evolution. To all practical purposes John S. Sumner was already born.
To us the whole theory of censorship is immoral. If its functions were administered by the wisest man in the world it would still be wrong. But of course the wisest man in the world would have too much sense to be a censor. We are not dealing with him. His substitutes are distinctly lesser folk. They are not even trained for their work except in the most haphazard manner. Obviously a censor should be the most profound of psychologists. Instead the important posts in the agencies of suppression go to the boy who can capture the largest number of smutty post cards. After he has confiscated a few gross he is promoted to the task of watching over art. By that time he has been pretty thoroughly blasted for the sins of the people. An extraordinary number of things admit of shameful interpretations in his mind.
For instance, the sight of a woman making baby clothes is not generally considered a vicious spectacle in many communities, but it may not be shown on the screen in Pennsylvania by order of the state board of censors. In New York Kipling's Anne of Austria was not allowed to "take the wage of infamy and eat the bread of shame" in a screen version of "The Ballad of Fisher's Boarding House." Thereby a most immoral effect was created. Anne was shown wandering about quite casually and drinking and conversing with sailors who were perfect strangers to her, but the censors would not allow any stigma to be placed upon her conduct. Indeed this decision seems to support the rather strange theory that deeds don't matter so long as nothing is said about them.
The New York picture board is peculiarly sensitive to words. Upon one occasion a picture was submitted with the caption, "The air of the South Seas breathes an erotic perfume." "Cut out 'erotic,'" came back the command of the censors.
In Illinois, Charlie Chaplin was not allowed to have a scene in "The Kid" in which upon being asked the name of the child he shook his head and rushed into the house, returning a moment later to answer, "Bill." That particular board of censors seemed intent upon keeping secret the fact that there are two sexes.
Of course, it may be argued that motion pictures are not an art and that it makes little difference what happens to them. We cannot share that indifference. Enough has been done in pictures to convince us that very beautiful things might be achieved if only the censors could be put out of the way. Not all the silliness of the modern American picture is the fault of the producers. Much of the blame must rest with the various boards of censorship. It is difficult to think up many stories in which there is no passion, crime, or birth. As a matter of fact, we are of the opinion that the entire theory of motion picture censorship is mistaken. The guardians of morals hold that if the spectator sees a picture of a man robbing a safe he will thereby be moved to want to rob a safe himself. In rebuttal we offer the testimony of a gentleman much wiser in the knowledge of human conduct than any censor. Writing in "The New Republic," George Bernard Shaw advocated that hereafter public reading-rooms supply their patrons only with books about evil characters. For, he argued, after reading about evil deeds our longings for wickedness are satisfied vicariously. On the other hand there is the danger that the public may read about saints and heroes and drain off its aspirations in such directions without actions.
We believe this is true. We once saw a picture about a highwayman (that was in the days before censorship was as strict as it is now) and it convinced us that the profession would not suit us. We had not realized the amount of compulsory riding entailed. The particular highwayman whom we saw dined hurriedly, slept infrequently, and invariably had his boots on. Mostly he was being pursued and hurdling over hedges. It left us sore in every muscle to watch him. At the end of the eighth reel every bit of longing in our soul to be a swashbuckler had abated. The man in the picture had done the adventuring for us and we could return in comfort to a peaceful existence.
Florid literature is the compensation for humdrummery. If we are ever completely shut off from a chance to see or read about a little evil-doing we shall probably be moved to go out and cut loose on our own. So far we have not felt the necessity. We have been willing to let D'Artagnan do it.
Even so arduous an abstinence as prohibition may be made endurable through fictional substitutes. After listening to a drinking chorus in a comic opera and watching the amusing antics of the chief comedian who is ever so inebriated we are almost persuaded to stay dry. Prohibition is perhaps the climax of censorship. It has the advantage over other forms of suppression in that at least it represents a sensible point of view. Yet, we are not converted. There are things in the world far more important than hard sense.
One of the officials of the Anti-Saloon League gave out a statement the other day in which he endeavored to show all the benefits provided by prohibition. But he did it with figures. There was a column showing the increase of accounts in savings banks and another devoted to the decrease of inmates in hospitals, jails and almshouses. From a utilitarian point of view the figures, if correct, could hardly fail to be impressive, but little has been said by either side about the spiritual aspects of rum. Unfortunately there are no statistics on that, and yet it is the one phase of the question which interests us. Some weeks ago we happened to observe a letter from a man who wrote to one of the newspapers protesting against the proposed settlement in Ireland on the ground that, "It's so damned sensible." We have somewhat the same feeling about prohibition. It is a movement to take the folly out of our national life and there is no quality which America needs so sorely.
If enforcement ever becomes perfect this will be a nation composed entirely of men who wear rubbers, put money in the bank, and go to bed at ten. That fine old ringing phrase, "This is on me," will be gone from the language. Conversation will be wholly instructive, for in fifty years the last generation capable of saying, "Do you remember that night—?" will have been gathered to its fathers.
Of course, there is no denying the shortsightedness of the forces of rum. They cannot escape their responsibility for having aided in the advent of Prohibition. They were slow to see the necessity of some form of curtailment and limitation of the traffic. Such moves as they did make were entirely wrong-headed. For instance, we had ordinances providing for the early closing of cafs. Instead of that we should have had laws forbidding anybody to sell liquor except between the hours of 8 P.M. and 5 A.M. Daytime drinking was always sodden, but something is necessary to make night worth while. Man is more than the beasts, and he should not be driven into dull slumber just because the sun has set.
The invention of electricity, liquor, cut glass mirrors, and cards made man the master of his environment rather than its slave. Now that liquor is gone all the other factors are mockery. Card playing has become merely an extension of the cruel and logical process of the survival of the fittest. The fellow with the best hand wins, instead of the one with the best head. Nobody draws four cards any more or stands for a raise on an inside straight. The thing is just cut-throat and scientific and wholly mercenary.
The kitty is gone. Nobody cares to come in to a common fund for the purchase of mineral water and cheese sandwiches. And with the passing of the kitty the most promising development of co-operation and communism in America has gone. It was prophetic of a more perfectly organized society. In the days of the kitty the fine Socialistic ideal of, "From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs," was made specific and workable. And the inspiring romantic tradition of Robin Hood was also carried over into modern life. The kitty robbed only the rich and left the poor alone.
But now none of us will contribute unquestionably to the material comfort of others. Each must keep his money for the savings bank.
Perhaps, something of the old friendly rivalry may be revived. In a hundred years it may be that men will meet around a table and that one will say to the other, "What have you got?"
"I've got $9,876.32 in first mortgages and gilt-edged securities."
"That's good. You win."
But somehow or other we doubt it.
Another mistake which was made in the policy of compromising with the drys was the agreement that liquor should not be served to minors. On the contrary, the provision should have been that drink ought not to be permitted to any man more than thirty years of age. Liquor was never meant to be a steady companion. It was the animating influence which made oats wild. Work and responsibility are the portion of the mature man. Rum was designed for youthful days when the reckless avidity for experience is so great that reality must be blurred a little lest it blind us.
We happened to pick up a copy of "The Harvard Crimson" the other day and read: "The first freshman smoker will be held at 7.45 o'clock this evening in the living room of the Union. P. H. Theopold, '25, Chairman of the Smoker Committee, will act as Chairman, introducing Clark Hodder, '25, and J. H. Child, '25, the Class President and Secretary respectively. After the speeches there will be a motion picture, and some vaudeville by a magician from Keith's. Ginger ale, crackers, and cigarettes will be served. All freshmen are invited to attend."
They used to be called Freshmen Beer Nights and in those days the possibility of friendship at first sight was not fantastic. We feel sure that it cannot be done on ginger ale. The urge for democracy does not dwell in any soft drink. The speeches will be terrible, for there will be no pleasant interruptions of "Aw, sit down," from the man in the back of the room. If somebody begins to sing, "P. H. Theopold is a good old soul," it is not likely to carry conviction. Not once during the evening will any speaker confine himself to saying, "To Hell with Yale!" and falling off the table. Probably the magician will not be able to find anything in the high hat except white rabbits.
Although we have seen no first hand report of that freshman smoker, we feel sure that it was only a crowded self-conscious gathering of a number of young men who said little and went home early.
Even from the standpoint of the strictest of abstainers there must be some regret for the passing of rum. What man who lived through the bad old days does not remember the thrill of rectitude which came to him the first time he said, "Make mine a cigar."
Though they have taken away our rum from us we have our memories. Not all the days have been dull gray. Back in the early pages of our diary is the entry about the trip which we made to Boston with William F—— in the hard winter of 1907. It was agreed that neither of us should drink the same sort of drink twice. Staunch William achieved nineteen varieties, but we topped him with twenty-four. Upon examination we observe that the entry in the memory book was made several days later. The handwriting is a little shaky. But for that adventure we might have lived and died entirely ignorant of the nature of an Angel Float.
In those days human sympathy was wider. F. M. W. seemed in many respects a matter-of-fact man, but it was he who chanced upon the 59th street Circle just before dawn and paused to call the attention of all bystanders to the statue of Columbus.
"Look at him," he said. "Christopher Columbus! He discovered America and then they sent him back to Spain in chains."
He wept, and we realized for the first time that under a rough exterior there beat a heart of gold.
LITERATURE AND THE BASTINADO
Surveying the trend of modern literature one must, unless one's mental processes be complicated with opaque prejudices, wonder at the provoking laxity of the national censorship. I write from the viewpoint of an aggrieved iconoclast.
It becomes yearly more obvious that the duly elected, commissioned and delegated high priests of the nation's morale are growing blind to the dangers which assail them. If not, then how does it come that such enemies of the public weal as H. L. Mencken, Floyd Dell, Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, Dos Passos, Mr. Cabell, Mr. Rascoe, Mr. Sandburg, Mr. Sinclair Lewis are not in jail? How does it come Professor Frinck of Cornell is not in jail? Bodenheim, Margaret Anderson, Mr. John Weaver are not in jail.
Were I the President of the United States sworn to uphold the dignity of its psychopathic repressions, pledged on a stack of Bibles to promote the relentless pursuit and annihilation of other people's happiness, I would have begun my reign by clapping H. L. Mencken into irons forthwith. Mr. Cabell, I would have sent to Russia. Sherwood Anderson I would have boiled in oil.
But what is the situation? Observe these gentlemen and their kin enjoying not only their bodily liberty but allowed to prosper on the royalties derived from the sale of incendiary volumes designed to destroy the principles upon which the integrity of the commonwealth depends. The spectacle is one aggravating to an iconoclast. There is no affront as distressing as the tolerance of one's enemies.
Mr. H. L. Mencken is, perhaps, the outstanding victim of this depravity of indifference which more and more characterizes the enemy. Mr. Mencken, hurling himself for ten years against the Bugaboo of Puritanism—a fearless and wonderfully caparisoned Knight of Alarums, Prince of Darkness, Evangel of Chaos—Mr. Mencken pauses for a moment out of breath casting about slyly for fresher and deadlier weapons and lo! the Bugaboo with a gentle smile reaches out and embraces him and plants the kiss of love on both his cheeks, strokes his hair wistfully, and invites him to sit on the front porch. Alas, poor Mencken! It is the fate that awaits us all. Zarathustra in the market-place feeding ground glass to the populace is gathered to the bosom of the City Fathers and gleefully enrolled as a member of the Guild.
This is no idle rhetoric. Dissent in the Republic has come upon hard ways. Ten years ago the name of Mencken would have stood against the world. Today no college freshman, no lowly professor, no charity worker, or local alderman too puritanical to do him homage.
Whereupon the argument is that an era of enlightenment has set in, that this same Mencken and his contemporary throat-cutters have vanquished the Bugaboo, and that, as a result, a spirit of high intellectual life prevails through the land. The proletaire have risen and are thumbing their nose at the gods. Brander Matthews has sent in a five years' subscription to the Little Review. The Comstocks overcome with the vision of their ghastly complexes are appealing to Sigmund Freud for advice and relief. But the argument is superficial. "Victory!" cry the iconoclasts grinding their teeth at the absence of a foe.
But it is a victory that rankles in the soul. The foe is not vanquished but, seemingly, bored to death has fallen asleep. It is, in any event, a phenomenon. Many generalizations offer themselves as solace.
The first paradox of this phenomenon is that Puritanism, beaten to a pulp by an ever-increasing herd of first, second, third, and fourth rate iconoclasts, has triumphed completely in the legislatures of the country. With every new volume exposing the gruesome mainsprings of the national virtue, further taboos and restrictions crowd themselves into the statute books.
In a sense it would seem as if the bete populaire, becoming increasingly drunk with the consciousness of its own power, is elatedly preoccupied in cutting off its own nose, tying itself up into knots, and kicking itself in the rear, proclaiming simultaneously and in triumphant tones, "Observe how powerful I am. I can pass laws making ipecac a compulsory diet."
Whereupon the laws are passed and the noble masses with heroic grimaces fall to devouring ipecac, to the confusion of all free-born stomachs. In fact this species of ballot flagellatism, this diverting pastime of hitting itself on the head with a stuffed club has gradually elevated the body politic to the enviable position occupied by the all-powerful king of Fernando Po. This mysterious being lives in the lowest depths of the crater of Riabba. His power is in direct ratio to the taboos which hem him in. Convinced that bathing is a crime against his dignity, that sunlight is incompatible with his royal lineage; convinced that his prestige is dependent upon a weekly three days' fast and a cautious observation of the taboos against all variants of social intercourse—piously convinced of these astounding things, the all-powerful monarch of Fernando Po sits year in and year out motionless on his throne in the lowest depths of the crater of Riabba, awed by himself and overcome with the contemplation of his all-powerfulness. We have here, I trust, an illuminating analogy.
The Republic, like this King of Fernando Po, imposes daily upon itself new taboos, new rituals. Yet there is the phenomenon of its tolerance toward the idol breakers. From the lowest depths of the crater of Riabba in which he sits enthroned the monarch of the Laongos condemns to death with a twitch of his brows all who seek to question the sanctity of the taboos. But this other occupant of the crater of Riabba-our Republic-raises gentle eyes to the idol wreckers, to the taboo destroyers. An occasional, "tut tut" escapes him. And nothing more.
Whereupon the argument is that our monarch of the pit is an impotent fellow. Again, a superficial deduction. For behold the censorships with which he belabors himself.
Censorship, almost extinct in the restriction of the national literature, thrives in every other field. Censorships abound. Food, drink, movies, politics, baseball, diversion, dress—all these are under the jurisdiction of a continually aroused censorship. The pulpits and editorial pages emit sonorous hymns of taboo. Every caption writer is an Isaiah, every welfare worker fancies himself the handwriting on the wall. Unchallenged by the vote of the masses or by any outward evidence of mass dissent, the platitudes pile up, the nation is filled from morning to morning with stentorian clamor. Puritanism in a frenetic finale approaches a climax.
But, and we tiptoe towards the crux of this phenomenon, the Bacchanal of Presbyterianism is an artificial climax. Unlike the day of the later Caesars, the populace does not abandon itself in imitation of its Neros and Caligulas. Instead, we have the spectacle of a populace apathetic toward the spirit of its time.
The Puritan debauch is the logical culmination of the anti-Paganism and backworldism launched two hundred centuries back. The Christian ethic, to the bewildered chagrin of its advocates, has triumphed. Not a triumph this time that offers itself as a cloak for Jesuitism, colonization, or empire juggling. But an unimpeachable triumph entirely beyond the control of the most adroit of the choir-Machiavellis.
In other words the body politic finds itself betrayed by its own platitudes. A moral frenzy animates its horizon. But it is a frenzy of idea escaped control, an idea grown too huge and luminous to direct any longer. The moral frenzy of the war was the moral frenzy of such an idea—virtue become a Frankenstein. This virtue—the Golden Rule, the Thou Shalt Nots, the thousand and one unassailable maxims, adages, old saws invented chiefly for the protection of the weak and the solace of the inferior—this virtue has taken itself out of the hands of its hitherto adroit worshippers. A snowball rolling uphill toward God and gathering furious dimensions, it has escaped the shrewd janitors of orthodoxy who from age to age were able to keep it within bounds.
Thus in the war, confronted with the platitude that the world must be made safe for democracy and with the further platitude that democracy and equality were the goals of Christianity and with a dozen similar platitudes none of which had any authentic contact with the life of the nation, thus confronted, the proletaire was forced to lift itself up by its boot straps and rise to the defence of a Frankenstein idealism of which it was the parent-victim. Disillusionment with the causes of the war has, however, served no high purpose. The Frankenstein God, the Frankenstein virtue is still enshrined in the Heaven of the Copy Books. And we find the proletaire still worshipping, albeit with the squirmings and grimacings, a horrible idealization of itself.
The Thou Shalt Nots have escaped. They increase and multiply with a life of their own. Logic is the most irresponsible of the manias which operate in life. Logic demands that ideas be carried to their climax and this demand, as inexorable as Mr. Newton's law, has made a Frankenstein of the unsuspecting Galilean.
Hypnotized by the demands of logic, bewildered by the contemplation of this code of backworldism which he himself seems somehow to have created, the ballot maniac stands riveted at the polls and sacrifices to his own image by hitting himself on the head with further virtuous restrictions—a gesture necessary to prevent his own image from giving him the lie. He must, in other words, prove himself as virtuous, whenever public demonstration demands, as the Frankenstein platitudes proclaim him to be.
The Puritanism of the nation, remorselessly upheld by its laws and its public factotums is an extraneous and artificial pose into which the blundering proletaire has tricked itself. There are innumerable consequences. We have, firstly, the spectacle of the masses disporting themselves slyly in the undertow of cynicism.
"Modesty," bellows Sir Frankenstein from pulpit and press, "is a cardinal virtue." "Right O," echoes the feminine contingent and promptly bobs its hair, shortens its skirts, and rolls down its socks.
"Abstinence, sobriety, are an economic and spiritual necessity," bellows Sir Frankenstein. Whereupon the male contingent votes the land dry and gets drunk.
From the foregoing we may derive glimmers of truth concerning the public tolerance of iconoclasts. "Main Street," a volume fathered by Mencken, Freud, and the other Chaos-Bringers, leaps into prominence as a best seller. It is devoured and acclaimed by the ballot maniac who reads it, smacks his lips over its "truths" and sallies forth to vote further canonizations of hypocrisy into the legal code. Even I, who ten years ago prided myself upon being as indigestible a type of the Incoherent Young as the land afforded, find myself for one month a best seller [Footnote: "Erik Dorn," Mr. Hecht's first novel.—Ed.] on my native heath. Woe the prophet who is with honor in his country! He will flee in disgust in quest of hair shirts and a bastinado.
Thus, the citizens. With the left hand they greet the iconoclasts and hand them royalties. With the right hand they pass further laws for the iconoclasts to denounce. A phenomenon results. With the thought of the masses becoming more and more neutral in the highty-tighty war between Good and Evil, the laws created by these same masses grow more and more rabid. But it must be borne in mind that although the masses, carried away by flagellant impulses, assist in the creation of these laws, in the main, they are laws, self-created platitudes which give birth to new platitudes. Logic is the most pernicious of the Holy Ghosts responsible for the conception of undesirable Gods.
I am prepared now to make further revelations. The foregoing, although bristling with inconsistencies, seems to me, nevertheless, a ground work. I will begin the apocalyptic finale with a resume of the choir-leaders, the high priests, the Mahatmas of Sir Frankenstein.
Item one: It is obvious that the laws of the land being the ghastly climaxes of artificial logic and not of human desires or biological necessities, therefore the salaried apostles of these laws must function similarly outside nature.
The high priests, it develops indeed upon investigation, diligently lickspittling to Sir Frankenstein, have no following. The masses are not going to Heaven in their wake. They, the high priests, are magically out of touch with their worshippers. And from day to day they grow further out of touch until they are to be seen high in the clouds tending the fugitive altars that are soaring toward God on their own power.
These high priests are the creatures elected, commissioned and delegated by the proletaire to perpetuate its grandiose and impossible image. And this they do. They are the custodians of the public morals, meaning the protectors of the huge trick mirror out of which the complexes, neurasthenias, and morbid fears of the public stare back at it in the guise of Virtue, Honor, Decency, and Love. These custodians are also, to leap into the denouement, the censors here under discussion; censors not only tolerated but insisted upon by the people to annoy and harass them and inspire them to further ballot flagellations in order that they, the people, may be spared the disaster of discovering themselves different from what two hundred centuries of self-idealization have driven them into believing themselves to be.
This, the high priests do. In every village, hamlet and farm they have their say. They chastise. They make things fit for decent people to see or wear or drink, and people flattered to death at the idea of being considered decent submit piously to the distastement infringements and taboos.
All-powerful are the censors. But despite this all-powerfulness they labor under a wretched handicap. They are stupid. Stupidity is the paradox to be found most often in all-powerful Gods. They are stupid, the censors. And the Devil is clever. The Seven Arts which are the Seven Incarnations of Dionysius, the Seven Masks of an unrepentant Lucifer, elude them in the horrific struggle. Or at least partially elude them. Occasionally a cloven hoof is spied and sliced to the bone.
* * * * *
We return now with proud and tranquil ease to the beginning of this tale, to the phenomenon of a tolerated literary iconoclasm in a land alive with caterwaulings of virtue.
As hinted above not all the Arts escape, nor do any of them escape all the time. Music, whose sly and terrible vices were for centuries unperceived by the high priests, has been brought to earth in places. "Jazz Incites to Sin. Syncopation is Devil's Ally." Discovered! One reads the morning paper and feels a return of hope. The High Priests are aroused. They have disembowelled an ally. There is hope then of a bloody fray. Another Edition and they will be on our own heads, swinging their snickersnees. Mencken will be arrested and burned in public. Anderson will be strung up by the heels and his estates confiscated. There will be war—red war, and we in the army of the iconoclasts growling impotently at each other will face about and have at them with hullaballo and manifesto and snickersnee in turn.
"Nude Painting Banned From Window. Nab Store Keeper." We read on. The snickersnee swings towards the vitals of Hollywood. "Movie Magnate Charges Work of Art Cut; Sues Censors. Seeks Redress in Courts."
Valhalla! They are closing in. Another forced march and they are upon us.
Alas, our coffee cools as we wait impatiently for the alarms to sound. We are intact. Mencken still lives. Anderson still lives. The tide of battle sweeps us by, passes us up, and there's the end to it.
Again, our victory rankling, we cast about for reasons. Do not the censors read our books? Yes, the censors read our books. And scratching their necks pensively and immediately below their left ears, the censors fall asleep. Our books were over their heads. Our broadsides aimed for their vitals whizzed by their ears and lulled them into slumber. A hideous victory is in our hands.
Voltaire blew God out of France for a century. But that was because God was still an emotion in his day and not a Frankenstein of logic. He blew up the high priests. But that was because the high priests still had enough intelligence in that time to know what constituted an epoch-shaking explosion.
Our enemies the censors, the hallelujah flingers, commissioned, elected, delegated by the proletaire are not worthy our steel. Having no longer any contact with the masses, they need no genius to perpetuate themselves. The masses care not what they are so long as they are. Figureheads for Frankenstein, they need only shriek themselves blue and their will, will be done. Shrewdness, intelligence, are qualities non-essential since virtue, no longer feeding upon shrewdness and intelligence, fattens upon its own monstrous logic.
The high priests are vital to the lie which man has created for himself as a heaven and out of which his own image leers godlike back at him. They are vital for nothing else.
Therefore our immunity. Since they need no grey matter, they have none. And unable to understand us, they ignore us. And if we grow too insistent, as has Mencken, they put an end to the business by embracing us and pulling our fangs by disgusting us with their stupidity.
Given free reign under the conditions herein outlined, the youth of the land is abandoning itself to a safe and sane orgie of iconoclasm. Satanic epigrams cloud the air of the very market-place. Poets, column conductors, hack literary reviewers, hack romancers, lecturers, realists, imagists, and all are gloatingly engaged in sacking the Temple, in thumbing their nose at the taboos.
In fact so widespread is the unlicensed and unrebuked iconoclasm of the day that a great disgust is being born in the hearts of the pioneers. Every dog has his paradox, every hack his anti-Christ, they bewail. And surveying the horizon despairingly they see no enemy rushing upon them with the wind.
There are, of course, scattered here and there among the keepers of the Seal, observant priests. They omit isolated groans. They launch Quixotic sorties. But they retire and collapse without waiting combat. To their denunciation of "degenerate, sinful and corrupting cesspools of alleged art" (I quote from a review of some of my own work appearing in an issue of the Springfield (Ill.) Republican), there is no answering response. They are left abandoned, the Fiery Cross burning down to their fingers and flickering out. They cannot be glorified into an enemy.
On the whole I fear for the result. Ideas favor a bloody battle-ground for birthplace. And here we stand, drawn up in battle array discharging broadsides of "Winesburgs, Ohios," "Main Streets," "Cornhuskers" and the like; flying our colors valiantly—but there is no battle. The enemy sleeps. Or the enemy wakes up and issues an indifferent invitation that we stay to tea.
Comrade Dreiser may demur at all this and, peeling his vest, reveal us wounds, honorable wounds acquired in honorable battle. And further, he may regale us with tales of hair shirts and bastinadoes suffered by him in the Republic. But alas, he is Telemachus, grey-bearded and full of memories. And the youth of Athens, fallen upon softer ways, listen with envious incredulity to such tall tales.
THE WOMAN'S PLACE
At last the women of this country are about to perform a great service—not one of those courtesy services about which so much is so volubly said and so little is done in repayment—but a good sturdy performance, that will probably bring these magnificent men folks right to their knees.
They are going to teach the unfortunates how to live under prohibitions and taboos. Of course there has never been any prodigality of freedom in this country—or any other—but what there was belonged to the men. The women had to take to the home and stay there. So the two sexes adjusted themselves to life with this difference, that the women had to do all the outwitting and circumventing, all the little smart twists and turns, all the cunning scheming by which people snatch off what they want without appearing to, whereas men got their much or little by prosily sticking their hands out for it.
This developed, naturally, not only somewhat diverse temperaments, hut also greatly diverse equipments. When men cannot get what they want now by either asking or paying for it, they have no more resources. Bless them, they must return into the home, where the secret has been perfected for centuries on centuries of how to hoard a private stock and how to find a bootlegger. Under the steadily growing nonsenseorship regime, they are obliged to come and take lessons from the lately despised group of creatures to whom nonsenseorship is a well-thumbed story. If the world outside the home is to become as circumscribed and paternalized as the world inside it, obviously all the advantage lies with those who have been living under nonsenseorship long enough to have learned to manage it.
Thus woman moves over from her dull post as keeper of the virtues to the far more important and exciting post as keeper of the vices. It is not an ideal power which she thus acquires. But then none of this is about ideals. This is just a little practical 'study in what is going to happen, and why. Taboos never yet have added a cubit to the stature of the soul of humanity. They have nearly always been the chattering children of fear and pure idiocy. They have always tried to throw the race back on to all fours, and have left the nobility of standing upright wholly out of account.
The taboos which have surrounded women time out of mind have been so puerile and imbecile that one quite non-partisanly wonders why on earth they have been allowed to continue. A second thought demonstrates, of course, that fear has had the major part in it, and that skill in cheating has gone so far as practically to nullify the privations of the taboo.
But one must put by this hankering after nobility, and accept the plain fact that fear is the dominant human motive. What the race would do if fear were conquered, or at least faced sternly eye to eye, is staggering to contemplate. Perhaps God looks upon that vision. It may be that which gives Him patience. But man at best gives it one terrified squint in a lifetime. All behavior must take fear into account.
The man who lately brought back from the Amazon Basin news of a fear-dispelling drug used there by a savage tribe, would have been carried home from the steamer on the shoulders of his compatriots if for one moment he had been believed. His drug may do all he claimed for it, but a country which boasts a Volstead in full stride cannot force itself to take him seriously. The only likely part of his story was that the tribes who prepared the drug would put to instant death any woman who happened either to learn how to prepare it or did actually get some of it into her.
We recognize that part as familiar. We have made the same fight here against the fearless woman as the savages made on the Amazon. The only thing we were never smart enough to apply was the moral of the Kipling story about the two greatest armies in the world: the men who believed that they could not die till their time came, against those who wanted to die as soon as possible. It was from one or the other of these two kinds of fearlessness that women have trained themselves in wisdom. This is the wisdom which moves them to secret laughter when they find their brothers in the throes of Volstead and Krafts. And it is from this wisdom that they will teach them all to be happy, though prohibited.
It is an unfortunate fact that humanity will not behave itself. It does not really warm to any of the current virtues. When the Eighteenth Amendment says it must not drink hard liquors, its inner heart's desire is to drink them, even beyond its normal, and usual capacity. Prohibition is, it is true, one of the strikingly superimposed virtues. It has nothing whatever to recommend it in man's true feelings, and this is not true of many of the civilized traits, though probably not any of them meets with entire approval. We do think that before anything approaching a real art of living is perfected among us, the present ethical system will be wholly outmoded. Meanwhile, pressure brought to bear on the least welcome of all virtues is merely going to make bad behavior worse. But that is Volstead's business, not ours. Let him do battle with that octopus, while we bring up reinforcements to his enemies. Women know all about how to be bad and comfortable while the law goes on trying to make them good and otherwise. Just look at a few of the things on which they have cut their teeth.
We do not know, unfortunately, just at what point in her history woman went under the long siege of her taboos. Whether the system of keeping her publicly helpless and interdicted goes before church and state, or was the result of them, there is now no history to tell us. But certainly she always had one supreme power and one supreme weakness, and somewhere in time, her more neutrally equipped male companion played the one against her, to save his own skin from being stripped by the other.
But if the past is foggy, the present is not. We do know what is now, and has for a long time been, a shocking list of what she must not be allowed to do.
She cannot own and control her own property, for instance, except here and there in the world. Perhaps the theory was that she could not create property. But one would have said that such of it as she inherited she had as sound a right to as that that her brother inherited. But no such common sense notion prevailed. No matter how she came by it, it became her husband's as soon as she married. The law has always behaved as if a woman became a half-wit the moment she married. Seeing what she deliberately lost by it, perhaps the law is right. She lost control of her possessions, including herself. She lost her citizenship, and she lost her name, though this by custom and not by law. And finally, she never could acquire control even over her own children, which certainly she did create. We do not know how many of these disabilities would have been excused on the ground that they were for her own good. It seems likelier that they came under the head of that fine old abstraction, the general good. No longer back than 1914, H. G. Wells, in "Social Forces in England and America" observed that they would probably never be able to give women any real freedom because there were the children to consider. Mr. Wells did not appear to know that he was bridging a horrible conflict in terms with a pretty fatuity. Nor did he later give himself pause when, towards the end of the book, he complained that all the babies were being had by the low grade women, while the high grade ones were quite insensible to their duties.
It was possibly with an unruliness of this kind in contemplation that the law decided that women should know nothing of birth control. Now there's a taboo for you. Many of our very best people—the moral element, so called—will not even speak the words. But that prohibition, like all the others, has its side door—may one say its small-family entrance? The women who do not know all there is to know about it are just those poor, isolated, and ignorant women economically starved who should be the first to be told.
Consider the quaintest, we think, of all the proscriptions against women—that they cannot have citizenship in their own right. What is citizenship if it is not the assumption, made by the State, that because you were born within it, and had grown used to it and fond of it, and were attached to it by all the associations of blood ties, friendships, and what not, you were therefore entitled to take part in it, and could be called on to give it service? If citizenship is a mere legal figment, by what right do States send their citizens to war? Yet women are theoretically transferred, body and bone, heart, memory, and soul, to whatever country or nation their husbands happen to give allegiance to. Isadora Duncan, born in California, of generations of Californians, and American all her life, has lately married a young Russian poet. Hereafter she must enter her country as an alien immigrant—if it so happens that the quota is not closed. Does anybody in his senses imagine that Isadora Duncan has been changed, or could be changed, for better or worse? An opera singer who was in danger during the war of losing her position at the Metropolitan Opera House because she was an enemy alien, went forth and married an American. By that means she was actually supposed to have been made over into an American. Can navet go further?
For our present purposes we merely want to point out that what is done to one woman in the name of the public good is craftily used by the next one to serve her own ends. There is a terrifying proportion of women in America today who can vote, without knowing a word of our language, without participating in one particle of our common life, because their husbands have taken on American citizenship. They wouldn't be allowed to become American citizens if they wanted to, by any other means.
There are scores and scores of these legal absurdities conscripting the activities of women. Twenty books could be written about them, and probably will be. But we must leave them, with such representation as these few instances afford, and go from, the body of taboos that are done in the name of the good of the State, to that collection done for Woman's own personal good.
Some of these are legal and some are not, but they are all operative. They are all things she has to go around, or under. She cannot serve on juries. She is always righteously barred from courtrooms when there is to be testimony concerning sex. Woman, the mother of children, the realist of sex compared to whom the most sympathetic of males is at best an outsider, is to be "protected" from a few scandalous narratives. Of course all women know that they are barred from juries not because the happenings in court would shock or even surprise them, but because they would embarrass their far more sensitive and finicky men. So what they wish to know of court proceedings, they learn from their good men, in the pleasant privacy of their homes. If the juries are so much the worse for this sort of thing, and they are, the matter cannot be helped by the ladies, dear knows, and the men would die almost any death liefer than that of ravaged modesty.
Probably the most ungrateful of the restrictions on females is that forbidding them to hold office in churches. This has been put on all sorts of high grounds, chief among them being that women could do so much abler work in little auxiliaries of their own. This contention was challenged about two years ago in the House of Commons, by Maud Royden, the English Lay Evangelist to whom the pulpits of London are forbidden, with one or two exceptions. Miss Royden, whose preaching was being bitterly opposed by several members of the House, annoyed them all considerably by saying that the Church of England had already had two women as its absolute head. This was denied in a great sputter, to which Miss Royden replied, "How about Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria?" Well, this happened to be something that nobody could gainsay, but into the wrathy silence which followed, one member of the House rose to his feet and let the cat right out of the bag. If women were given church authority, he said, they would refuse to accept their husbands' authority in their homes, and England would go to rack and ruin. This is one of the few recorded occasions when a taboo-er so far forgot himself, and American church potentates do not like to be reminded of it. Within a month, one of the Protestant sects in this country has given women the right to hold minor offices, but three others, in general convention, refused even to consider it.
Again we are going to rest our case on selected instances, and return to a consideration of how these walled-in women have learned to live comfortably and with some self-respect behind the garrison wall. It is this, after all, which they must now teach their men.
The first thing that happened to the woman who married was that she became legally non-existent. But though she was scratched off the public books, she couldn't exactly be scratched out of her husband's scheme of general well-being. Neither could the race make great strides without her. After everything in the world had been done to make her as harmless as possible, she still remained non-ignorable. Two courses were open to her; and she has always used whichever of the two was necessary at the time. She could be so sweet and beguiling, so full of blandishments, that man rushed out to bring her all and more than she had been prohibited from having. Or she could terrify him, both by her temper and her biological superiority, into stopping his entire precious machinery against her, and thanking his stars that he could get off with a whole skin.
Of course these things have not always worked out just so. There have been the tragic mischances. But in the main, an oppressed people learn how to outsmile or outsnarl the oppressor. The Eighteenth Amendment may yet live to wish it was dead. Mr. Volstead seems to have believed that the nonsenseorship game was new and exciting, and could be trusted to carry itself by storm. Not while the ancient wisdom of long-borne bans and communicadoes looked out of the female eye. There was a body of experts in existence of whom, apparently, he had never even heard.
He never once thought how the twentieth century was to become known as the Century of The Home, with the home brew, and the subscription editions, and the sagacities of women. If he should complain that there is no honor and fine living in all of this, we shall have to agree with him. But we can answer that by guile we have preserved our joys, and cleared our way out from the shadows of his big totem pole. If we have but little magnificence, we have as much as anybody can ever have who is hounded by the legal virtues. And if we may keep a little gaiety for life, by that much do we make him bite the dust. It isn't pretty, but it's art.
OWED TO VOLSTEAD
Prune extract and bright alcohol, so wooden One kills its flavor in rank fusel oil! C2-H3-HO—a rather good 'un To mix with fruity syrups in our toil To give our social meetings after dark Their necessary spark! And you, most heavenly twins, Born of one mother— Although our woe begins When, through our mortal sins, We can't tell which from 'tother— Ethyl And Methyl! Like Ike And Mike Strangely you look alike. Like sisters I have met You're very hard to tell apart—and yet The one consoles more gently than a wife; The other turns and cripples you for life.
Such spirits as these, and many more I summon From many a poisoned tin, Or many a bottle falsely labelled "Gin." Or many a vial pathetic, Yclept "Synthetic." Like Dante on his joy-ride Seeing Hell, Fain would I take you down Through sulphurous fires and caverns bilious brown Into the Land of Mystery and Smell Where Satan steweth And home-breweth While thirsty hooch-hounds yell Their blackest curse, Or worse: "Vol-darn our souls with each Vol-blasted dram That burns our throats and isn't worth a dam! We drink, yet how we dread it— Vol-stead it!" They've said it.
II—Short Intermission to Change Meter
In Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-three A. Lincoln set the darkies free; In Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen A. Volstead muzzled the canteen And freed the millions, great and small, From bondage to King Alcohol.
Was it not thoughtful, good and kind For such a man of such a mind To show an interest so grand In his misguided native land? And don't these statements illustrate Our Nation's progress up to date? We're freedom-loving and we're brave And simply cannot stand a slave. And when a crisis needs a man From Mass, or Tex. or Conn, or Kan. That man steps forward, firm of chin— So Andrew Volstead came from Minn.
He came from Minn, to show the world That gin is wrong And rye is strong And Scotch to limbo should be hurled. Thus with his spotless flag unfurled He went against the Demon Rum Who snarled, "I vum!" Got sort of numb, Rolled up his eyes, lay down and curled While all the saints of heaven above (Including Mr. Bryan's Dove) Cried "Rah-rah-rah! And siss-boom-ah! Three cheers for Health and Christian Love! But, Andrew dear— Say, now, look here! You're not including wine and beer!"
Then Andrew Volstead squared his chin And answered briefly, "Sin is sin." No compromise With the King of Lies! Both liquor thick and liquor thin We'll cease to tax And use the axe Invented by the Man from Minn. For right is right and wrong is wrong— A spell has cursed the world too long.
The curse of drink— Stop, friends, and think How, reft of spirits weak or strong, My Nation will be purified Of all corruptions vile. The lamb and lion, side by side, Will smile and smile and smile. The workman when his day is o'er Will hurry to his cottage door To kiss his loving wife; He'll lay his wages in her hand And peace will settle on the land Without a trace of strife. The criminals will cease to swarm, Forgers and burglars will reform And minor crimes will so abate That lower courts—now open late— Will close and let the magistrate Go to the zoo Or read Who's Who. In short I do anticipate A thinner, cooler human race, Its system cleansed of every trace Of inner fire And hot desire And passions spurring to disgrace. "'Tis simple," said the Man from Minn., "To cure the world of mortal sin— Just legislate against it." Then up spake Congress with a roar, "We never thought of that before. Let's go!" And they commenced it.
III—Tone Picture's Suggesting Conditions in U. S. A. Some Two Years After Alcoholic Stimulants Had Been Legislated out of Business
Grandma's sitting in her attic, Oiling up her automatic. Mid-Victorian is her style, Prim yet gentle is her smile As she fits the cartridges One by one, and softly says:
"Grandson is a Dry Enforcer. Grandpa is a Legger— All for one and one for all— I'll never die a beggar. Bill brings booze from Montreal, Grandpa lets him through— Oh, life's been rosy for us folks Since the red-light laws went blue."
Pretty Sadie, aged fourteen, To a lamp-post clings serene. "What's the matter?" some may ask. On her hip she wears a flask Labelled "Tonic for the Hair"— "Hic," says Sadie, "we should care!"
"Father is a corner druggist— Why should I abstain? Brother is a counterfeiter, Printing labels plain. I can buy grain alcohol As all the neighbors do; And if you treat me right I'll lend My formula to you."
Sits the plumber, man of metal. Joining gas-pipes to a kettle. 'Neath the bed his wife is lying Rather silent—she is dying From some gin her husband gave her. He's too busy now to save her.
"Things," he sings, "are looking upward; I am making stills. Soon we'll cook the stuff by wholesale, Running twenty 'mills.' What we make and how we make it Doesn't cut no ice. Anything you sell in bottles Brings the standard price."
In the gutter, quite besotted, Lies the drunkard, sadly spotted. People pass with unmoved faces— Why remark such commonplaces? Just another Volstead duckling, Rolling in the gutter chuckling:
"Over seas of milk and water, Angels' wings a-flappin', Now we're purified and holy, Things like me can't happen. Liquor's gone and gone forever— Even the word is lewd: Otherwise there's somethin' makes me Feel like I was stewed."
IV—Finale—A Short Interview with the Human Stomach
Last night as I lay on my pillow, Last night when they'd put me to bed I spoke to my dear little tummy And wept at the words that I said:
"My sensitive, beautiful tummy That once was so rosy and pure! My dainty, fastidious tummy— O what have you had to endure?
"You once were inclined to be fussy; You turned at inferior rye; You moped at a dubious vintage And shrieked if the gin wasn't dry.
"But now you are covered with bunions And spongy and morbid and blue; You bite in the night like an adder— O say, what has happened to you?"
Then my sullen and sinister tummy Rose slowly and spoke to my brain; "Say, boss, what's the stuff you've been drinking That fills me with nothing but pain?
"Today you had 'cocktails' for luncheon— They tasted like sulphured cologne. They—were followed by poisonous highballs That fell in my depths like a stone.
"I am dripping with bootlegger brandy, I ooze with synthetical gin; And the beer that you make in the kitchen— Ah, dire are the wages of sin!
"The cursed saloon has departed, And well we are rid of the plague; But I'm weary of furniture polish With the counterfeit label of Haig.
"Yea, gone is the old-fashioned brewery And the gilded cafe is no more...." Here my tummy jumped over the pillow And fell in a fit on the floor,
THE CENSORSHIP OF THOUGHT
I knew a man, about a year ago, who published a novel upon which the critics fell with such fury this side the water at least, that whether in the body or out of the body, such was ultimately his state of bewilderment, he could not tell, and if I am asked to discuss "Prohibitions, Inhibitions and Illegalities" it is natural that the incident should be foremost in my mind. True, it is becoming increasingly the fashion for a parson to preach a sermon without announcing text, but modern preaching, like brief bright brotherly breezy modern services, does not seem to cut much ice. Therefore we will hark back to the manner of our forefathers and take the incident for a text. It affords an admirable example of nonsenseorship.
As is always done in approved sermons (but humbly entreating your forbearance, which is less common) let us consider the context, let us review the circumstances of the case in point. Our author left the lonely heart of Africa for the theatre of war in France. He left a solitude, a freedom, a beauty, of which he had become enamoured, for that assemblage of all sorts of all nations, in a cockpit of din and fury, known as the Western Front. He expected this, that, and the other; mainly he found the other, that, and this. Being desirous of serving the God of things as they are, he pondered, he observed, and, his heart burning within him, he wrote. He had no opportunity of writing in France, so he wrote on his return, away up in the Drakensberg mountains, alone, with the clean veld wind blowing about him and the nearest town an hour's ride away, and that but three houses when he reached it. He had seen vivid things and it chanced he was able to write vividly. There were twenty chapters in his novel and he wrote them in twenty days.
The novel finished, the MS. of it was despatched to nine publishing firms in succession, who silently but swiftly refused it. It only went to the tenth at all because there is luck in a round number, and it found a home because it found a free man. On the eve of its appearance, it was hung up for a month because it was felt that whereas the booksellers might display a book containing a certain passage which referred to a woman's bosom, they would not do so if it contained a plural synonym. (I offer abject apologies for these dreadful details.) And when it finally appeared, the main portion of the English Press cried to heaven against it, and a smaller section clamoured for disciplinary action. For a hectic month the author, who had simply and plainly written of things as they were, honestly without conception that anyone existed who would doubt their truth or the obvious necessity for saying them, sat amazed before the storm.
Now that incident, unimportant to the world at large as it is, does afford an admirable example of that censorship which is about us at every turn. True, in this case, the official censor remained silent. Although prepared to read passages from Holy Scripture in the witness-box, and challenge a denial of the facts, the author was not called upon to do so. He had previously given slight hints of the truth about the racial situation in South Africa in another book and had had that volume censored out of existence, but perhaps because this present work merely touched on morals the official censor decided to give him rope with which to hang himself.
He was hung, of course, rightly and convincingly, hung by the neck till he was dead. Thus a clergyman who took the book from a circulating library because of its Scriptural title, and whose daughters wrapped it in The Church Times and read it over the week-end, declined to meet him at dinner. A bishop cut him in the street. Very rightly and properly too. The book honestly, simply, undisguisedly, told the truth. Since then America has been good enough to recognise it.
But this is at least the first consideration of British censorship today: it must suppress the truth about most of the important things in life. Take the allied case of the Unknown Warrior. We are told that he was a crusader, that he was glad to die in a noble cause, that his valour deserved the Victoria Cross and his religion Westminster Abbey. In short he was a saint. But, one protests (a bit bewildered because it sounds so good) that was not the man I knew. The man I knew lived next door and was a damned good chap. The man I knew chucked up his business and left his home and risked his life because everybody was doing it, because it seemed there was a real mess-up, because one had to.
Also, it was a change. Oddly enough, Adam goes out from a modern office or a modern factory in order to hoe up weeds in the sweat of his brow and in danger of his life with barely a regret for the Paradise he has to leave. Besides Eve went with him. God, there were Eves in France! Women who knew how to make a man forget, women who didn't count the cost, women who loved for love's sake. And for this and other causes, the Unknown Warrior was extraordinarily bored at having to die, except that he came not to care so much so long as he was sure he was only to be asked to die. As for his valour—Well, said he, it's no use grousing, and if it's a question of bayonets, it had better be mine in the other chap's stomach. Besides we English-speaking peoples don't shout about our valour. And as for religion—Well, if there's a God why doesn't He stop this bloody war, or, anyway, where the blazes is He?
There you are. It's abominable to write like that. Here it is in print; isn't it disgraceful? You see, it happens to be true. But if men said that, loud enough and enough of them, there would be no more wars. No more wars? There would be no more Downing Street either, and an American army would march, as like as not, on Washington. Disgraceful! It's so disgraceful that I am not sure, as I write, that this article will ever be printed.
Now since the War it is noticeable that the spirit of censorship has very visibly increased its activities among us. There is little doubt of that and there is little doubt of the reason for it. The War, by tearing down shams and by stripping men and women to the essentials, forced many to see things as they are. The old lies were no use in that hour, nor the old conventions and beliefs. Men learned to look beyond them, and they learned not to be afraid to look. Partly it was no use being afraid in the War and men got out of the habit, and partly, having looked, they saw something so much better ahead. Or again the trend of modern civilisation was so unarguably revealed in all the stark horror of its inhumanity that men saw suddenly that it was better to be brave and revolt and be killed than be cowardly and submit and live.
A great many of those who saw did not survive to tell the tale, but some did. There are more men and women about today who are not to be put off with humbugs than ever there were before. Such folk make up an element in Society which the censors know to be something more than dangerous. They are men who cannot easily be bribed for they have seen through the worth of the bribe, who cannot be intimidated because they no longer fear, and who cannot be cheated because they have seen true values. Hence your new censorship and its methods. Rebels must be drowned in a babble of words. They must be suppressed by the action of the unthinking masses rolled up upon them. They must be ground to powder lest they should turn the world upside down.
That, then, is the basis of censorship. Fear. You can do most things in England today except tell the truth, or, at any rate, except tell the truth in such a way that people will believe you. At the time of the French Revolution there was a broadsheet in circulation which showed on one side Louis XVI in his coronation robes. He was a fine figure of a man. His flowing wig descended majestically to his broad shoulders and his shapely leg, thrust forth, dominated a world. But on the reverse, a pimply shrunken figure emerged from the bath. Shortly after publication they had a revolution in France.
Now the War circulated such another broadsheet in the world. Here is the official side of it. Marriage is made in heaven. Politicians are earnest, devoted men. One's own country always fights for Right without Fear and without Reproach. Millionaires are nearly always philanthropists. Capitalism is a just, kindly, and reasonable basis for Society. The General Confession has become the national prayer of Englishmen. Modern Civilisation is thoroughly healthy and every day it gets better and better. It is so. It must be so. What's that? You have known a politician. . . . Your friend is married and. . . . Brother, it is impossible. You must not say so anyway: the whole fabric of Society will be shaken. You must not think so for a moment.
You must not think so. That is the creed of the new censorship. And very sensible, too. It is an odd thing that the Middle Ages of the Inquisition were so nonsensical, judged by our standards. Grand inquisitors cared remarkably little how a man thought provided he did not say what he thought too publicly. If he went to church once a year he might be a Jew for all their interference. If he signed the Thirty-nine Articles he might use a rosary in his own home. If Columbus thought the world was round, he was welcome to go and see, but if Galileo said that the Church was wrong for saying the world was flat, there was nothing for it but to shut him up in prison. It was all rather stupid, but it was interesting.
For above all things, the limits of censorship were well defined. Censorship was based on hypotheses. It was conceived that Almighty God had established St. Peter as a censor of public faith and morals, but it was not maintained that he was established as the censor of art and literature and life. There was thus originality in all these affairs. In a mediaeval town every house was different, in a mediaeval cathedral no two pillars were alike, and in the dress of a mediaeval crowd was captured the colours of the rainbow. With an odd result. Men laughed at the devil in the freedom of their souls. They tweaked his tail on carven misericords, and in the mystery play he was invariably cast for the clown.
Further, and in close accord with this, a pleasant feature of the old Inquisition was that it tried and burnt you for the good of your own soul, and despite all calumnies and mis-representations on the part of later writers, that remained to the end the main motive of the rack and of the stake. Personally I find it hard to suppose that some such consideration in any way lightened the last hours of the victim, but at least it enlightens our judgment of the inquisitor. Heresy was to him, quite honestly, a form of lunacy. Public opinion agreed with him. It was a species of moral and mental hydrophobia, and the mass of men no more desired to be converted to heresy than we desire to be bitten by mad dogs. In their simple souls they abhorred and feared the thing. They attended an auto-da-f as an act of faith, piety, and rejoicing. They might have been a Paris crowd watching the last hours of such a social pest and terror as Landru, except that it probably occurred to few of the Parisian sightseers to pray for that murderer's soul.
But the modern Inquisition, the neo-censorship, is out, not to save my soul, but the souls of my contemporaries. It does not imagine that I am preaching a hideous thing from which all men will revolt; it imagines that I am offering them something which they will gladly and readily accept. It does not judge me and my sayings and doings from the standpoint of an accredited representative of society, but from the standpoint of a non-accredited governor of society. It silences me for fear that I may be followed, not lest I should be damned. It does not censor me for speaking or acting against an established order in which everyone believes, but for speaking or acting against an order in which practically everyone has ceased to believe. "Burn him," cried Torquemada; "he has spoken what no one thinks." "Bury him," cries your modern censor; "he has thought what no one speaks."
Thus, today, the point is that you may not think. All the energies of the censorship are bent towards the prohibition of thought. For one penny, every morning, even if you are an Englishman in Paris, a daily newspaper will tell you what to think and castigate you if you think otherwise. No, it is three halfpence in Paris. But that is the idea. That is the great conspiracy. Certain news-items are regaled to me, certain news-items are suppressed, in order that I may not think amiss. Certain books are refused me, certain plays must not be produced, certain fashions are taboo, certain things may not be done, lest, by any chance, I should form the habit of thinking, lest I should step out of the throng and be myself. Lest I should make a venture of personal opinion, and be right.
The odd thing is that the average man lends himself to the deception and even plays his part in the great game. Of course he is not altogether to blame. The psychology of the method is so truly conceived. It is dinned into him so repeatedly that things are so, that black is white and white is black, that if you see it in Bottomley's John Bull it is so, that he honestly comes to believe the bunkum. For he, too, fears at his heart. He is a conservative animal. Men used to burn a heretic because they believed in God; now they censor him out of existence because if they did not believe in the Northcliffe press they would have nothing whatever in which to believe. Men used to believe in the Ten Commandments; now they accept Prohibition because if they did not accept some authority they would have to govern themselves. Men used to believe the Bible; now they believe the daily papers because if they did not they would be compelled to lift up their eyes and look on life.
But Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the whole truth and nothing but the truth a while ago. "If you teach a man to keep his eyes upon what others think of him, unthinkingly to lead the life and hold the principles of the majority of his contemporaries you must discredit in his eyes the authoritative voice of his own soul. He may be a docile citizen; he will never be a man." And Bernard Shaw was not far out when, in the Introduction to Man and Super-Man, he pointed out what amiable honest gentlemen the free-booters who built the Rhine castles were compared with your modern millionaires, newspaper-owners, and political bosses. The robber-baron risked his neck. The robber-baron played a game. The robber-baron mostly warred on his own mates who were also playing the game. But the robber-baron of today would enslave the souls of men because he has forgotten how else to enjoy himself.
The net result then is that we are fast abandoning any attempt to think for ourselves. Not merely is any attempt at original thought or action cleverly stifled with pillows much as the princes were smothered in the Tower, but the censors of our freedom shout so loudly and supply us with mental goods so cheaply that in the end we have no real mental power of choice left. A million advertisements tell me that all decent people shave with Apple-Blossom soap, and with Apple-Blossom soap I shave. A score of papers tell me Germany is undertaxed and can pay Reparations, and I sit quiet while France occupies the Ruhr. Or vice-versa, as the case or another may be. Every child goes to school and every school is under Government control and every Government teaches that it is good for you to be governed and for the world that it should govern. A few years ago we were told that we had to be organised and schooled and managed because the nation was at war, but the thing is fast becoming a habit, and we have now to be managed and schooled and organised because the nation is at peace.
It is indeed just here that censorship has gone mad. It must have been horribly unpleasant to burn at the stake, but at least you had the satisfaction of knowing that the man who lit the faggots had some shadow of reason behind him. He had at least an hypothesis. He acted reasonably in its application. He believed something; he believed it with some horse-sense; and he acted as the saviour of Society. But today our censors have nothing behind them. No one supposes them to be more moral, more charitable, more instructed than other men; still less does anyone suppose them to be more inspired or dowered with divine right. They do not defend a faith for which they, too, would die; they merely bolster up a position because in so doing they find bread and butter. They do not object to innovators because what they innovate is bad; they object to innovators because they innovate. They do not object to us because they believe that we tell lies; they object because they know that we tell the truth.
This, then, is all very well, but what is the end to be? The theologians have always said that Almighty God left man free to sin because He did not want automatons. It is exactly here, however, that your modern censors improve on the Deity. They do want automatons. Only automatons will face liquid fire and poison gas. Only automatons will live in a jerry-built cottage in a modern town and pay heavily for the privilege. Only automatons will vote correctly at elections and keep the political business going and allow everything to run on smoothly for the next war. Only automatons will agree to the lengthening of skirts from the knee to the ankle. And only automatons will acquiesce in a system of morality which is not built on divine revelation or even on social necessity, but on exploded superstitions and sex domination and the conventions of the propertied classes.
Thus the devil is coming surely hut steadily into his own. We have already half-accepted an inverted order, allowing that all the good tunes are his and attributing to him things which he knows well enough he has no right to call his own. In a few years we shall neither use tobacco nor the grape, gifts of the good God, nor dance nor choose our own clothes nor laugh nor think. We shall scurry hither and thither before the flick of the devil's tail and be ready for the burning. We shall have sold our birthright of daring for an insipid mess of pottage: sold our right to choose and to spare, to slay and to leave alive, to be glad and to be sorry, to be martyrs if we would be, to explore, to risk, to win. We shall be docile and respectable, and the standard of our docility and respectability will have been set by men no better and no worse than we are. We shall be sober by act of Parliament, and moral—if it be morality—because we have lost the notion of being anything else. We shall be of no use whatever to God, and precious small beer for the devil.
And is there no way of escape? There truly is, Let any man ask the first censor that he sees by what authority he is censoring and who gave him that authority. Let him ask by what standards he is judging and in whose interests, and let him tell him what he thinks of his standards and interests. Let him say BOO and see how foolish the goose can look. Laugh, for Neo-Puritanism cannot stand laughter. Much else it can stand, but not that. Don't argue; the old enemy is mighty good at words. Don't hit; there are few of you strong enough. But laugh, laugh honestly, and go on laughing, for it is the only invincible weapon in the world. There is no more merry music either, and it is the melody for—Men.
THE UNINHIBITED FLAPPER
HELEN BULLITT LOWRY
Two generations ago the girl was "damned." One generation ago she was "ruined." Now, according to the best authorities and her own valuation, she has just played out of luck.
So that for the reformers and prohibitionists, the censors and the woman's club resolutionists! Their bi-product is Miss Twentieth Century Unlimited, the one uninhibited creature in a Volsteaded civilisation. Controls—of liquor and of birth—have given us The Flapper. The official reformers, reinforcing the sagging inhibitions and corsets of the nineteenth century, were just the final impetus needed to drive her out into the open.
The flapper is released from the strangle hold that is throttling the rest of us. If somebody makes a law for her, she promptly and blithely breaks it, the pocket flask for the moment being the outward and visible sign of the spirit—and spirits—of her wide-flung rebellion. It is the milepost between the time that was and the time that is, that flask, and to it we owe the single standard of drinking.
A half generation ago the sub-debs did not indulge in anything more relaxing than coca cola. And even first and second year debbies did their drinking from glasses issued by the hostess, not in triplicate. If a young man of the period imported a flask from the outside, that young man was promptly dropped from polite society, no matter how stringent was the shortage of dancing beaux. They called a flask a "bottle of whiskey" in those days.
Wild oats were reserved for the boys at college. If you were of Eve's sheltered sex, you really had to become a member of the Fast Young Married Crowd before you could get a look in. That Fast Young Married Crowd was the first to come out of the biological fastnesses of the Mid-Victorian era into the cocktails and jazz of our Mid-Victrolian period.
Moral: You had to keep yourself the kind of a girl you'd been told a man wanted to marry, if you ever wanted to join in a cocktail party and slide down the banisters uninhibited—as rumor had it the Fast Young Married Crowd was doing on its orgies. Over the border of matrimony lay the mysteries of the gay wild life.
In that era before our morals were legislated, being "that kind of a girl" was a trying responsibility. There was an approved technique that every wise virgin had to master. It consisted of letting each man, on whom she conferred her favors, think that she really was in love with him. She called it "being engaged." And,—if perchance she came to possess a harem of fiancs,—remember that the young things of the period were not so well able to conduct their own courtings as our present-day emancipated flappers. They still had to depend on what the tide washed in. They still did their picking from those that picked them—and sorted 'em over at their leisure.
Then, too, a half generation ago, we had not read our Freud. We did not know the jargon of sex. Both man and girl were apt to call "in love" the emotion which our present-day young things frankly call something else. Thus came it that the petting parties of the period operated under the left wing of a near-engagement.
Yet there was a weakness to the system. Each fiance had the lordly impression that he "possessed" the lady of his choice. And the minute the male feels that he possesses a woman, he can get all the psychology of "riding away" and leaving her. Our Freudian flappers are better strategians. Man simply can't labor under the impression that he possesses a young person, if her lingo is calling the once sacred kiss just a "flash of pash." Applied slang is a great leveller of romance.
For times have changed since it was good form for a maid to avoid the crass mention of sex. With prohibition has come such an outburst of Get Moral Quick legislation that the reaction is now being felt throughout the length and breadth of the flapper. The legislators would lengthen the skirts to protect the defenceless male from a chance thought of legs and the like. Whereat the flapper retaliates by conversing pretty ceaselessly about—well, say associated subjects.
Last season the writer, being of the genus Successfully Single, woke up with a start to realize that two desirables had toyed with her hook—and retreated. One of them had even exited, uttering a fatal accusation about a "trammelled soul." Such a warning calls for a taking of stock. And this is what I found: Because of the flappers and the way they run shop, the whole technique of the man game has changed. My method, alas, had become as out of style as a pompadour Gibson hat. Where once girls pretended to know less and to have experienced less than they actually had, now they pretend to more. Therein lie all the law and the social profits. Therefore Rule One of these dauntless rebels reads: It is not an insult but a compliment for an admirer to explain that his intentions are frankly carnivorous.
To my ten-year-old technique had still been clinging the cobwebs of the past, when even Launcelot's intentions were painted as slightly honorable. But now—the shades of Alfred Lord Tennyson help us!—it has become the smart procedure to take Man's bold bad intentions right out into the conversation and pretend to be tempted by them.
The truth of the matter is that those pseudo-engagements of the fox-trot decade really were furnishing a charge account psychology. Man could close his eyes and whisper, "Some day, my own," and still go nicely on a Ladies' Home Journal cover design of "Under the Mistletoe." But, when our flapper is not even pretending to him that she is going to marry him, and when he is not even pretending to himself that he is going to marry her—well, the whole sex game has then been put on a frank cash and carry basis.
Mark well, however, these worldly-wise young things of this the third year of our Prohibition are not necessarily less virtuous technically than their own crinolined grandmothers. Only these days they are not bragging about their virtue.
"And have all the men afraid of you, for fear they'll be responsible for teaching you something," explains one practical miss. "Men like to find you in stock, ready-taught. We know how to take care of ourselves—so we let them think what they want." In short, the whole new game, as the earnest disciple from the half generation ago learned it, is not to reveal the dark secret that you abide by the Ten Commandments. Man must not suspect that you are unattainable. He must just think that he has not attained you—yet. If you want to compete with the flappers, you've got to play by the flapper rules. Check your conversational inhibitions!