The New Freewoman: No. 10, Vol. 1, November 1st 1913.
by Dora Marsden
THERE is, about artists when asked to define their business, a coyness which would be exquisitely ludicrous if it were evinced by chemists or mathematicians, by carpenters or brick-layers. This coyness, and the vague waving of hands to give the expression of helplessness in-a-sort, in the grip of some high force, which if not divine, is at least too much above the common level to be comprehended by the Philistine, or commonsense man-these are quite sufficient to place art as we now know it, in its subconscious period. There is nothing to be gained by calling out against artists: their lack of comprehension as to what they are about, is a matter for regret rather than reprehension. They are in the position alchemists and astrologers were, before alchemy became chemistry, and astrology astronomy. Nothing deterred by the caveat against the intruding of "outsiders'" opinions into their territory, we make bold to define the sphere of Art, as the complement of Science. If science is the knowledge gained by applying to non-vital phenomena, the method of accurate description as opposed to that of imaginative interpretation, art is the product of the same method applied to vital (and mainly humanly vital) phenomena.
The knowledge massed by science is stupendous in bulk relatively to that amassed by art which boasts only the uncoordinated work of geniuses, few and far between. Science has made its advance chiefly in the last three hundred years, because during this period it has trusted to the results of unprejudiced observation of the "thing." Before, as now in art, save for one or two outstanding geniuses, it had guessed about things, and its guesses made a pile of useless words and ideas, unproved and incapable of proof. The energy of the greatest as well as the least of investigators was wasted in spinning these futile guesses. But the experiment, i.e., the essaying what could be done to a thing and what could be done with it, put an end to all that. Experiment broke the dominion of the guess-the imaginative interpretation. The idea broke upon the perception of the fact. Thought was bridled by knowledge of the "thing"; thought's utmost reach attained only to a "suggestion"; the hypothesis holding tentative existence only until the experiment should dissolve it into error or fact. The experimental method brought the scientific freethought period to an end. Observation of the subject put verbal notions out of court. With art on the other hand, matters have but reached at their ultimate limit the "interest" of the verbal treatment, the imaginative interpretation. And this only with the few. Most artists are content to pass on the conventional tradition with a few personal variations. It is only the few who have entered upon the free thought period, where all the variety of unbridled fancy is spread out before them to be seized upon. These are attached to no reality. They are indeed as unaware as the conventional that there exists a reality by faithfulness to which their works will be judged. They are the half-charlatans where the conventional are the dullards. The unconscious charlatanry of art has invaded every sphere of culture: it is indeed the substance of existing culture. In philosophy, theology and theosophy, in ethics, psychology, and sociology, throughout the whole length and breadth of literature, there spreads the record of the charlatan artists; of those who pretend they follow the motions of the soul, but who follow merely the idea; of those who speak with the certainty of knowledge concerning that of which they have made a bold guess.
The enthusiastic entry into the freethought domain by the arts, more conversationally so-called drama, poetry, and painting-is the main feature of modern "progress." Freethought is reaching its culminating point. In the theatre the drama of ideas is established. The verbal conception has ousted the "thing." The conflict is one of words not of living movements. Its climax is the scoring of a point of view, or the defeat of one. Where the genuine dramatist needs to guage the measure of human forces so that in the nature of their being they will mount and converge to a common climax at a point which he predicts and prepares for, the dramatist in the drama of ideas has merely to direct words. The difference between the two is similar to that between a snake- charmer surrounded by reptiles or a lion-trainer in a cage of performing lions, and the expert chairman of a well behaved debating society settling rules for conduct. The one manipulates living forces, the other verbalities. There is a great outcry just now that something is wrong with the drama. Drama is all right. As long as there are a few planks for a platform, and a few lengths of material for stage curtains, drama is secure, provided there are dramatists. Just now it appears that it is the dramatists that are missing. When a man of genius appears, that is an articulate man who understands men, drama will touch high-water mark in a single bound. (The stage just now merely reflects a state of affairs which obtains outside, one in which attempts are being made to redress evils by ideas. It is a special case of the general fear of setting living forces in movement.) In poetry the swerve away from the stupidity of convention has likewise been caught up by freethought, by the fancy unattached to reality. A perfect exampleo of a genuine emotional impulse being rendered abortive by plunging it into ideas is given by the work of Mr. F. T. Marinetti, the futurist leader, who expounds his creed in the current issue of "Poetry and Drama." In an astounding blend of wisdom and nonsense he illustrates how a healthy revolt which might have alighted on reality, is swung off into the folly of ideas. No wonder that the pendulum starts off again, as a writer in this issue points out ("Discipline and the New Beauty") on its return swing towards Authority-the continual swing between mutually negating ahernatives of tradition and freethought, stupidity and fancy, authority and ideas, discipline and individual whim. It seems to occur to no one that the one alternative is as bad as the other, and that both avoid the reality with which it is art's sole business to be concerned. The artist thus finds himself in the position of an accountant to a shady firm, the head of which asks him to cook the accounts to suit his interests; and upon refusing, imagines his sole alternative to be the production of an account hatched wholly in his own imagination, apparently unaware that it is his business to look at the ledger and keep his account in touch with that. So while the artist who makes his productions to the orders of authority, is uncomprehending - and stupid, his freethought brother, who works to fancy, is equally so. Work bound fast by the facts of the case is no more amenable to discipline than it is capable of being adjusted to the whim of fancy.
Such a definition of the sphere of Art as we have given, would seem at once to land its activities into the sphere of the occult. So it does, but the occult is the sense of the at-present hidden, but discoverable, tbe at-present unknown, but knowable, capable of being observed. The soul is not the soundless, unseen thing which common speech makes of it. If it were soundless how could we express our souls in sound, as we know we do, or if unseen how could it be expressed by the painter's brush or poet's words? If it be immeasurable, by what faculty do we gauge the force of the emotion which contorts the syllables of a simple phrase into an expression of the soul energy which has surged through it? The most superficial observation makes it clear that the soul breaks into evidence as readily as pain breaks into a cry, and the work of genius has been just the delineation of the manner how.
The line of true delineation of the soul is the direction which
all progress in Art must take. If progress is to be made in Art, as
it has been made in science, artists will have to put off their
agnosticism and the vague waving of hands as to what their business
is, and come to their tasks with as much sense of purpose as the
carpenter who lays down a floor, or puts in window-frames. For
there is little done. "In mystery the soul resides." The artist
must be prepared to begin humbly with the matter which lies to
hand: as Archimedes began with the physics observable in his bath,
or Newton watching an apple fall, or Watts the spluttering of a
tea-kettle. A good artist could begin by delineating the movements
of the soul when
and when it sleeps.
He might go further and make clear what is meant to the soul by those things which we call Beauty, Inspiration, Friendship, Intellect, Sex, God, Good and Evil.
The only one of the above to which continuous and serious attention has been given is love; yet the knowledge which such attention has made available amounts to nothing. Love still means a sentimentalism, or a bestiality, or a jest or any of the grades between. Yet love offers suggestions of phenomena so concrete that were they offered in respect of the existence of the aether they would be accepted readily as data awaiting co-ordination: the tenderness, the melting of barriers of exclusion, the sense of surrender made and surrender permitted. The interpretation of spirit with spirit, are genuine phenomena and not verbalities. Similarly in the mishaps of love, in the severances that are unprepared-for, the loss appears actual; not a loss of interest, but a loss of soul substance, a definite and tangible mutilation as though a drop-trap had fallen and taken off a hand; with a like irreconcilableness against picking up one's life and abandoning the lost portions.
And there is the matter of intellect, so much debated, and likely to prove no matter at all, to be merged and explained in the bale of the emotions; likely to be proved that it is instinct, well served by senses; so well served that it is in the way to forget its origin and meaning; that the senses are attenuated feeling, filaments of the soul-stuff drawn fine, told off from the deeper- seated well of life to stand on sentinel duty at the periphery; their attention turned owtward; placed mainly in the head because the head goes first, cautious, expending little emotion until sure of their surroundings; the intenser vitalised life of soul trailing behind; the senses occupied with the environment, their attention monopolised by that; the deeper reaches of emotion busy with the organising personality, kneading memory, the record of the buffeting of experience into the permanence of the individual ego. It has to be found what part the eye, the gateway of the exploring filament has played in bringing about the misunderstanding that intellect IS other than instinct; likely to be found that feeling is all in all, and knowledge but the co-ordination of feeling repeated in experience; that all the senses are senses of touch, i.e., contact-the impinging of organised life upon the things foreign to itself; the shiver of difference, and the shrinking where the "I" is touched by the "not I"-suggestions merely, indicative of the things which await the insight of the artists of the future. To delineate these things is the work of art. In music, painting and sculpture to project them afresh in analogues of sound, colour and contortion; in drama in their hurtling against each other; in these arts, presented; in poetry, the highest manifestation of self-consciousness*, represented in terms of self-recognised emotion. In poetry selfconsciousness culminates: in it alone emotion rounds on itself, articulate, and says "I know you." That is the broad difference between prose and poetry (not rhyme and poetry). A difference which we, unlike Mr. Pound, think it worthwhile inquiring into. The difference is one of brevity, completeness and finish simply because in poetry all the evidence of laboratory work is removed; the creaking of the thinking-machine is not there: it has done its work. Poetry is the expression of the soul-motion: perfect knowledge free both of redundance and hesitancy: it is brief because it is reduced to the exact equivalent it has reached the completeness of knowledge when its dimensions can be expressed in a formula. It is the formula. Anything omitted would make it error; anthing added would he confusion and irrelevance.
Prose is the proper place for the half-knowledge, the "I think." It is essentially "essay" work. i.e., trial work. It is honest, it is indispensable, but it is preliminary. It is furzy with opinion and suggestion. It is "interesting," that is, it holds the attention as does any useful uncompleted process. It is ephemeral; it is the fore-runner. It makes straight the way for poetry, the formula which comprehends and supersedes it. That is why a genuine "poem" is beyond the reach of argument. It makes a statement that is to be taken or left. In making statements, the poet takes the very same risks as the scientist: he stands to be discredited. A veritable Day of Judgment looms ahead for the poets when vital delineation shall have made headway. In the meantime, it is for those who write prose, and make essays in honest fashion to encourage the abandoning of problems turning on matters which offer no data for observation; to break the spell of the occult by making plain the things which lie nearest us. The abstractions, the ultimates and absolutes; "Universal Correspondences," "Cosmic" forces and "Eternal Recurrence" we shall do well to leave to an age which can approach then as realities.
The New Freewoman: No. 10, Vol. 1, November 1st 1913.
by Dora Marsden
THE poor poor find themselves again in the limelight. There is poor Mr. Caudle in prison in Carlisle; poor Mr. Larkin in Dublin ditto; the poor Welsh miners buried alive in the earth; poor Mrs. Pankhurst with breaking voice held up on Ellis Island, suspected of moral turpitudes; poor Miss Jenny and Miss Pankhurst borne about on stretchers; there has been a veritable marshalling of the poor poor: Mr. Rufus Isaacs meanwhile mounting the legal throne-plainly the workings of poetic justice, a phrase which means that the amount of rope you hold depends on the amount of force with which you pull. The poor poor are a species to themselves, especially catered for by the Clergy. The mark of the species is the peculiar soft spot in the structure of the Brain which makes them understand "poetic justice" in the reverse sense, i.e., that one obtains more rope the more one slacks the grip. Of course matters do not fall out like that on this planet-a discrepancy between fact and creed which the species are empowered to overcome by a certain vehemence of language, especially in regard to the little word "must." Things are thus, but surely they "must" be the opposite. That "sturdy" friend of the poor, "The Daily Herald," brings out a new "must" every morning. "The kiddies must be fed," though the Dublin mothers of the bairns won't hear of it, swiftly despatching the kind ladies who had arrived to do the deed. "Carson must be imprisoned," "Caudle must be released," "Directors must be indicted," and "Larkin must go free." "Must" excellent vocable: varying so radically with the amount of amunition it carries. "Mr. Asquith must learn," "Women must vote," "They must be free," "Forcible feeding must cease," "The cat and mouse act must go." Thus does the species imagine vain thing..
* * * *
Consider the miners. We must of necessity consider the miners. It is their offence, that inevitably they intrude. One is supposed to be grateful to them for the dangers they undergo to provide us with coal. We are not grateful. Why on earth a body of people should conceive it their "work" to toil ad moil underground to produce the rest of the people's coal is beyond our comprehension. It is not work which we would undertake: we see no reason why others should undertake the work for us. The fact of the matter is that they do not "undertake" the work either: they slither into it because someone offers them wages: because they need bread and clothes and shelter and are devoid of the initiative to find a decent manner how. Coal is not wanted: certainly it was not needed. Its advent has done all inordinate amount of harm and only made possible highly speculative good. Its filth and grime has been splotched from one end of the earth to the other--its progress has had squalor and misery as chosen attendants. Certainly the Benefits of coal do not even make a beginning towards compensating one for the horror of having to know that one miner has been entombed. When one realises that a like horror befalls a heavy proportion of all the "workers" concerned in it, one is driven to the conclusion that there is something radically wrong with miners and all self-elected victims. The conviction grows as one reads that the disastrous effects of the tragedy are added to by the fact that, owing to fire, surviving miners are not allowed to work in the mines. It apparently never occurs to these survivors that they have put in their full quota in the coal-getting line. Presumably they are born coal-getters. If when two men are working at a seam, one is taken and the other is left, the anxiety of the left one is to return to the seam.
* * * *
The sentence passed upon Mr. Larkin is very much what could have been expected. If anything its length is surprising-is the way of "leniency," and as such is an expression of scarcely disguised contempt for Mr. Larkin's followers. It perhaps recognises that though he is a spirited "leader," he leads sheep, and that the fiercest invocation of the fiercest ]eader is powerless to turn them into anything other. Seven months therefore: it would have been seven years had the Dublinites shown restiveness.
There was perhaps a point overlooked in our last notes when we calculated the chances of the advent of an "adviser of the poor," who should be of the "rich" caste. It is a dangerous and well-nigh hopeless position, not because of the strength of the rich but because of the spirit of the poor. They so believe in themselves as the poor. It is their fundamental belief, and however much they may appear under the spur of momentary irritation, to give ear to the creed of the rich, they will invariably abandon its exponent to the fate which awaits him, first as a traitor to his own caste, and second as the confuser of the caste of the poor. That in effect is what is involved in allowing Mr. Larkin to submit himself for "trial" in the courts of law. The law is framed just to perpetuate the two castes. The agitator who is confusing the two brought before the law stands in the position of a soldier who has deserted to the other side, and has been recaptured and is being tried by court-martial. Those who essay to fill the role adopted by Mr. Larkin will find for a long time yet that the poor are as ardent in their belief in the "law" as are those who frame and administer it. They are as acquiescent as the high priests are eager that their "advisers" should be tried by Caiaphas. The conclusions are foregone: and it is to the credit of the Larkins that they are not deterred thereby. It may be that their unquenchable faith is due to the perception that the poor are as valiant in their advisers' defence as their strength of arm makes it judicious for them to be; and their strength of arm should have been the first concern of their advisors. If they failed to see to that in the first place it is inevitable that they should be involved in its effects in the long run.
* * * *
And the unending grind of courts has its effects, which by the likelihoods of sheer chance must on occasions achieve good satire. That Mr. Isaacs should be appointed Lord Chief Justice, and that "Justice" should decree that Mr. Caudle's place is in prison about one and the same moment effects a coincidence which belongs to the region of exceedingly good fun. There exists a kind of person who would argue the synchronising events referred to above in a spirit of seriousness. It is a pity, for while one can be certain that "Driver" Caudle, for instance, has everyone's sympathy (if that is any use to him), he cuts an exceedingly humorous figure, like the blindfolded person in blind mans bluff whom the children pluck by the sleeve and confuse, by pushing forward unfamiliar objects. The press has christened him "Driver" Caudle, and driving is his business. He must drive if he can, and he must drive if he can't. In sprite-like mood, "Justice" draws the admissions from him, admissions of what he acknowledges to be his responsibility. "Yessir, yessir, quite responsible," and when he has ingeniously bound himself round with his admissions, "Justice" leans forward and says, "Now you see, by your own admissions, you agree with me that you have failed to discharge all your responsibilities; that you are an unfortunate but reprehensible person, and your proper quarters are in jail?" "Yessir, yessir! Thank you, kind gentleman," and Driver Caudle drives to prison in view of the obsequiousness of the "poor" before the law, it is refreshing to note the genial contempt for it of the politicians who make it. The gay, irreverent mockery involved in Mr. Isaacs' appointment is greatly to be commended. May all things goodly and human forbid that he should endeavour to give up to the traditions of his office. One is saddened by the mere suggestion that this sportive adventurer might find his facile powers overcome, for instance, by the awe and reverence of the poor for his station; or that he might bring himself to believe he is a "symbol," and like another Alexander, assuming the God affect to hold. No, rather would we hear of him as an innovator, a bringer of new things, relieving perchance the tedium of his office by playing pitch and toss with a juryman, or with the poor wretch upon whom he must perforce pass sentence when eloquence shall have run its course.
* * * *
We are encouraged by our recent success in persuading Mrs. Pankhurst to abandon her public death, to make further effort, to induce her to abandon the "dead body" which apparently travels with her in company with her dressing-case. It is evidently some alien mummified corpse which the lady cherishes. It has been brought with skilful effect into the argument for more than two years now, and presumably it is doing business as briskly as ever. We know without awaiting confirmation when we read that her kindly disposed American audiences were washed in tears that the valise once more has been unstrapped and- can we say it?-dusted and exhibited. Could not Mrs. Pankhurst, after conducting "It" through a successful tour in America, be persuaded to consign it to the companionship of that other symbol which did valiant service in that other "fight for freedom"-the teachest in Boston Harbour. For, although we look forward to Mrs. Pankburst's return, hoping that the minions of the law will leave her unmolested, we feel our cordiality withering somewhat at thought of the return of the valise.
Arising out of causes into which it would perhaps be indelicate to inquire, we realise that parental - authority exercises itself with slackened bands. If however, any virtue should still reside in it, we would supplicate that Mrs. PanlZhurst exercise it on Sylvia, and in the measure of a friend upon Miss Annie Kenney. It is the stretcher! On the principle perhaps that if the leader has the valise, the leaderettes may have the stretcher. "lf one can't be dead, be half dead," as it were.
Here is an ungarbled quotation from the "Daily Herald":-
"Amid scenes of enthusiasm Miss Annie Kenney was carried into the W.S.P.U. meeting at the Knightsbridge Hall yesterday. Miss Kenney, who completed a long hunger strike a week ago, arrived in a horsedrawn ambulance, preceded by about half a-dozen taxis containing supporters. The famous militant, who was looking extremely ill and haggard, was borne into the hall on a stretcher. Cries of "Bravo" were raised by the women, and loud cheers were given. The stretcher containing Miss Kenney was placed across two chairs on the platform. She lay almost motionless, and whispered only a few words to her friends."
And another from the "Daily News and Leader":-
"Whilst lying on a stretcher, Miss Sylvia Pankhurst addressed a large Suffragette gathering at the Bow Baths last night. As she was being placed on the platform and made comfortable by a nurse and doctor, the people stood up and saluted, and a Little girl presented her with a bunch of flowers. She spoke for ten minutes."
It is useless to discuss a matter of taste. One is prepared to acknowledge it is conceivable that one who is cause-ridden will hawk exhibitions of suffering before a public. It must he added, however, that the kind of public which will pay to witness such, is one with which association is dearly purchased no matter at what price. The modern diminution of business executed publicly at the block and the scaffold has turned adrift a type of apetite which is now apparently bent on moulding the militant suffrage movement to meet its own starved needs.