« AnkstesnisTęsti »
"Don't you, darling?" asked Mrs. it was not kissing Nicolas, and the Featherstone. She sat on the edge of curious part of it was that she found Joy's bed as if this was rather impor- she did n't want to say anything more tant. "What has made you feel about Nicolas, even to her mother. different?"
She found herself saying instead some"I don't know,” said Joy. “P'raps thing quite different. it was dinner down-stairs and being “And, Mummy, p'raps,” she said, “I
" fourteen; p'raps—" Joy paused. It really am old enough to be confirmed suddenly occurred to her that perhaps now.”
Little does he dream,
The Latest Thing
By ALEXANDER BLACK
Author of "The Great Desire"
HERE is a real vividness in galloping kind that permits the wars
my recollection of an early and the plagues to bump one another, definition of “news.” When appears to show definite proportions my first editor said, “News of the usual and the exceptional. The
is essentially the unusual," I character in Sudermann who stood at was able to work out a fine piece of the window murmuring, “It's always comforting philosophy. If all that we raining," was obviously inaccurate. saw on the first page represented the Weather statistics were all against her. unusual, then people in general were Fire insurance assumes that flames not being divorced, not being murdered, usually keep their place. In the matnot being robbed, not having their ter of actual proportion science, in fact, houses burned, not finding fault with rather favors the optimist. their legislators, not having trouble Yet nothing is plainer than the elewith their insides, not punishing their mental sameness of much that must thinkers, not dissatisfied with landlords, pass as news.
When the "unusual" not in rebellion against dirty streets, begins to bore us we become suspicious. not feverishly interested in clothes In the end we may come to see that not or neurotic about sex.
the unusual, but simply the new, is the Under the spell of such a definition point of emphasis, that while the eleit was possible to feel a kind of calm- mentally usual keeps its likeness, ness, an assured serenity as to a pre- superficial newness is constantly in ponderant rightness. The worse the change. The newness is not in the first page looked, the heavier the em- fire, but in the house that is burned. phasis on the disastrous and the scan- The novelty is not in the scandal, but dalous, the greater seemed to be the in the dramatis persona. To-day never emphasis on the implied general ab- happened before. sence of the disastrous and the scanda- Interest in the new is as elemental lous. It might have seemed that no as our interest in something to eat. It practical optimist could get along with- not only has its passion point and its out the company of a nice first page, pathology, but its strange variations coming, like the Lord's mercies, "new of expression. Some people are glutevery morning.” Reasoning from the tons for newness; in others the new excertified unusual became a delight- cites aversion. It would be possible to fully reinforcing privilege, if not a claim that interest in the new is essenduty.
tially a human interest, since the lower There was enough of the plausible in creatures are not addicted to novelties. the definition and its corollary to give Yet the aversion seems to be quite as one pause. History, unless it is the human, or if not quite as human in its
degree, at least definitely a human For some reason people in America family trait of some familiarity. Per- are described as illustrating a particuhaps both are equally respectable. larly lively phase of the ardor for newHistory does not make the case wholly ness. Americans themselves are in clear, though the inference that the the habit of assuming that the point is new has had the better of it may seem well taken. There is in it a rather to be pretty well founded.
flattering suggestion of being “up and Evidently, both phases have always coming.” We have, perhaps reasonbeen in the blood of the race. A sense ably, come to think that we are exof the new is written in the Aurigna- traordinarily clever in invention, and cian cave drawings. It is certain that have even grown to be so sure of this a five o'clock “extra” would have that it is often a bit shocking to learn made a tremendous hit in a paleolithic that other countries have stumbled village, particularly, of course, if it upon an idea or so. A "glad hand" were illustrated. “All the Athenians for the new of any sort has in general and strangers which were there,” says appealed to us as indicating a progres
a the writer of the Acts, “spent their sive temper. We like the word entertime in nothing else, but either to tell, prise. “What 's new?” is, it may be, or to hear some new thing." The dis- not wholly an American salutation, aster to poor Aristides fell when his but it is unquestionably typical. We title lost its freshness. Nothing really should, naturally, not like to be acold irritates like something that has cused, as in the case of the Athenians, just ceased to be new. Yesterday's of spending our time “in nothing else, hero must wait awhile.
but either to tell, or to hear some new Testimony to the prevalence of an thing”; but we are likely to pardon a eager responsiveness to novelty pops up good deal to the spirit of alert curiosity in every age.
How closely this may be quite as if we had invented that, too. allied to hysteria is indicated in count How simply human we are in this parless instances. Some punster sturdy ticular is not often suspected. The enough to carry the onus should try antiquity of humanness is to be disnew-rosis. And in the shadow lurks covered in antiquity, but antiquity is the spirit of hatred for the new simply no place for those who are vigilant for because it is new. Making terms with the new. Certainly, those who are this implacable opponent, or going into still doing "nothing else" can have no open fight with him, has scrawled the time to go back. usual in history. To get itself estab- The nervous eagerness for the new lished the new has always had a mo- that is represented by fashion-fashion notony of conflict with the haters as in its modern sense-is certainly not well as its perilous intervals with those universal.
universal. China, for example, has of its first friends whose intoxication never shown a glimmer of the trait. came to the stage of the "hang over.” Plainly, there is a difference between a The plain people who, without hatred fashion that codifies and maintains for either the new or the old, have and a fashion that expresses the very thought that simple newness is not spirit of change. Both elicit volunenough have often been overlooked tary submission. Both produce unialtogether.
formities. But they are utterly differ
ent. You might give a gold bracelet riation are the most amenable as well to an African savage girl, and she as the most spectacular. We must might privately study it with wonder, admit this whether it is of something but you could not make her wear it in we might choose to call whimsical or public. Where the code is, and has of something as intrinsically horrible been for centuries, in favor of bracelets as the black lips of the heroine in in iron or bone or wood, you will the movies. Incidentally, newness in scarcely find a figure bold enough clothes has enormous attention value" openly to display a variation. The compared with almost any other mepressure of the established is older than dia. A girl with a shrinking mind, the neolithic. The man who endured diffident speech, and a habit of selfthe ordeal of carrying the first umbrella effacement (there are such girls) can must have been convinced of that. scorch a situation with a scarlet hat,
The fashion that interprets the itch if it chances that scarlet hats have not for change is another matter. This as- been happening, and do so without a suredly does “nothing else” but peer sign of timidity. A newness in herself tensely for the new. Newness is its would be terrifying to her. A newbasic quality. It subdivides newness. ness in the hat, a newness to this point Its high spot is the latest thing. of excoriating conspicuousness, she can
In clothes this passion is not merely carry without a tremor. It is evident dramatic. It is sacramental. When that in her mind the hat receives the Emerson remarked upon the fact that impact. She insists upon that. If the consciousness of being well dressed she finds your attention fixed upon her, imparts a peace and confidence which she is disappointed. “You have n't even religion may scarcely bestow, he said a word about my hat!" was recognizing the pressure of a social Each clothes newness has merely a expectation which only a Socrates theoretical life period. There is only a might ignore. This pressure can be “constructive recess” between one exdefied. “Bohemian" rebellion (in a pression and another. No amoeba has New York, for example) may bob its a shorter life. As a matter of sheer hair and leave off stockings; but its dress art, the newest thing dies as soon "difference" is soon standardized, and as it has really happened. In the presently there is no way in which the fever of this iteration there is nothing "bohemian" can be different save by for it but to beat the calendar, to wear being conventional again. The Green- a winter hat in the autumn and a wich Village girl, aspiringly radical, spring hat in the winter, thus adding who wept when it was discovered that paradox to precision. she was really married to her husband It is quite plain that no other art has was illustrating the fate not of a defi- anything like such a privilege. Even ance, but of a fashion.
the fluid elements of language can Clothes fashion offers the most con- reach no corresponding pace. The spicuous and the most successful ex- latest thing in slang has an appreciable ploitation of the new because of all the life, and you never can tell when it may avenues open to the expression of su- acquire real age. As Mr. Howells perficial change it presents the amplest once suggested, the new slang word opportunities. Its implements of va- may drop its s and become language at
last. The new word is thus under a discovery of sky-scrapers was surely double suspicion.
quite as significant and vastly more Probably it is true that in all the provocative. Art sometimes pretends arts mere newness, mere difference, is that subjects mean nothing at all, disproportionately acknowledged. An but insight and its revelations conartist may attract more attention by tinue to mark the output of genius. a new difference than by a new right- There is always fresh astonishment
The degree of his difference in the fact that people who are sensifrequently wins more homage than tive about newness in one art are often the degree of any other quality; than content with the dregs of another. sincerity or truth, for example. He Evidently most of us are specialists in will be particularly extolled in some newness. A woman who would blush quarters if his difference expresses not to be convicted of a last season's sleeve a need of his thought, but a conscious will use last season's slang without rebellion against the old or the fixed, shame. She is still saying "hectic" an irritated concentration upon the and that she is “simply crazy about matter of rebuke. A work that might it," without consciousness of crime, carry the subtitle, “A Study in Exas- and the word-artist, perhaps morbidly peration,” can win an hysteria of alert to avoid the battered phrase, will praise.
tranquilly permit the padding to reAnd this is quite understandable. main in the shoulders of his dress-coat. The refreshment of change for its own Scandal, I take it, must be new to be sake is never likely to be successfully acceptable. If it is not fresh, it will disparaged because pugnacious men lack the pollen of believableness. have forgotten everything but a pas
Since the newest accusation is the most sion against restraint.
accepted, newness, here, as elsewhere, straints are illusory. But this does has its own tang. “What everybody not matter. The habit of exaspera- believes is never true," says Nietzsche. tion gathers profound noises from a What everybody has had interval to whisper and feels crowded by the hear a second time will not be believed most remote appearances. An inti- by everybody. Fling a scandalous acmation that art is not free will lure cusation at a man, and virtually everyfrom his own personal privileges a man body may believe it at first, especially who feels the primary obligation to go if it is incredible. After a little time out and smite passing bigotry over even the stupidest minds lose a little the head. There might be a kind of of sureness about it, and with time bigotry in assuming that he was not enough there is always a tendency to wise. Emptying a bucket over smug- outlaw the whole thing because it is ness probably belongs among the old. When the man has been dead ethical considerations in any phase of sufficiently long, the tendency is to deliving.
cide that possibly it was n't true at all. Certainly there can be no quarrel In any event, not being new scandal it with art's real discoveries about life. is n't imperative to believe it. George Moore extolled the genius of I hope it may not be considered too Degas because he discovered the possi- cynical to suggest that except in the bilities of a shop-window. Pennell's matter of fashion and scandal most