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page. Still, the period was at best but preliminary to a period which would no longer have the duty of surveying the ground. When the materials had been collected, they were ready to be used. The use must follow, if the collection was not to have been chiefly dilettantism.
The twentieth century has proceeded so far on the road from document to art that the busy pursuit of local color has begun to seem an antique fashion. Edith Wharton in "Ethan Frome" and Willa Cather in "My Antonia," to name no further instances of their type, have, without any sacrifice of accuracy, elevated their themes to a point where they are significant in their own right and not solely interesting as transcripts of plights or characters hitherto unencountered in fiction. Robert Frost has distilled into his few volumes of verse, with their curt dramas and honest lyrics, virtually all about New England that had come to light during a generation, and in addition has lent it, by his art, such wings that it does not have to be read with too insistent a consciousness of its special locality. Edwin Arlington Robinson, so much detached, indeed, from any particular soil that his scene is sometimes misty, has told stories which almost never call for the explanation that they are documents upon this or that prevailing circumstance in contemporary life. James Branch Cabell has left the world of outward appearances so far behind him that he seems at first glance to have strayed into a region of pure fantasy, though at second glance he will be seen to have crept back, as if after a strategic voyage around the globe, to strike at many general truths which lie beneath the
outward appearances with which he does not burden his pen.
Strictly speaking, of course, the qualities by virtue of which a book may be judged a document and the qualities by virtue of which it may be judged a work of art are not altogether separable. Sinclair Lewis is a case in point. His reputation is primarily based upon his documentary value. The little details of village existence, the little details of bourgeois careers, the little details of semi-scientific professions-these he has studied with minute accuracy and revealed with all the crafts of dexterous mimicry. Moreover, he is supposed to be concerned exclusively with American manners as they now flourish among the vulgar. Nor can it be questioned that he has told his stories very largely in the mood of one who seeks to confound by the citation of evidence, of documents, which would have no great importance were this purpose lacking. But by his documents alone Mr. Lewis could not have become the national figure that he is. He is an artist of remarkable audacity. Though his interest in his documents leads him to excessive length in his novels, it does not allow him ever to be submerged. His characters may be hopelessly local in their sympathies; he is not. He gathers all his material together in a vigorous hand, beats it out according to a pattern which is his own, colors it with his temperament and salts it with his comedy, sets it moving with the racing vigor which is his greatest narrative gift. In time it must be perceived that he has done a great deal more than his documents prompted.
Further examples to the same effect might be brought forward, yet the fact would still remain that much of
the best imaginative work in the United States since 1900 has consisted in the substitution of one sort of documents for another. The newer documents are bolder. They have ventured into pathless regions with a candor not hitherto displayed on this side of the Atlantic. They have made it plain that the national complacency is less secure than it was during the egregious generation which followed the Civil War. Sherwood Anderson, in particular, has drawn a whole gallery of men and women who wander eternally in a brooding suspicion that the life around them, which seems so alert, compact, clear-cut, positive, useful, and satisfying, may in reality be only a mirage. Without doubt to have done this is to have done a salutary thing, with the consequence that the edifice of national literature has a wider foundation than it had, and so has a chance to rise higher than it could formerly hope to rise. Mr. Anderson, however, is avowedly among those who inquire whether he and his fellows can be regarded as more than a second or third rank of pioneers. They have produced, he admits, many good and many clever books. Where are their masterpieces? They have produced increasingly valuable documents. Where are their works of art?
His inquiries lead to the suggestion that documents bear to works of art about the relation that journalism bears to literature. The difference is not, as is sometimes held, merely a difference in finish. It lies, rather, in the processes of creation. If journalism goes in at one ear of the reader and out the other, so does it pass
through the writer at the same casual speed. Trained to deal promptly with almost any subject, the journalist seizes upon some new matter, all in the day's or the week's or the month's work, turns it rapidly over in his mind, gives it such shape as he can upon such brief notice, and utters it. Supposing he is a Swift or a Voltaire or a Shaw, he may have such gifts of clarity and force that he makes literature out of those qualities alone. But ordinarily he imparts to his material no element of interest except that which lies in the material itself, and that interest is ordinarily a passing affair. Literature is produced not by transit through an orderly mind, but by secretion in an original one. Some story, some situation, some character, some mood, finds lodgment in a creative writer. It grows there, as a child in its mother. The process is obscure. Though the seed will not grow unless it has a certain vitality of its own, still it draws its substance from the peculiar constitution of the parent, and when eventually it is born, it reveals traits which it may almost be said to have inherited. The raw material has not only been neatly shaped; it has been thoroughly remade. The final product is all that counts.
Signs here and there point to a disposition among various members of the newer school to get away from raw documents. Some of them are flirting with history, some of them with a more or less bodiless pure beauty. But to this method of escape the current temper does not seem well suited. It has given itself so long to the study of documents that, when it is too far removed from them, it misses the edge and sting of reality. Another and another generation may
have to pass before the symbols of romance can be generally accepted as the language of truth. Meanwhile, there is the immediate problem. Miss Cather has pointed out, and has employed, one solution, which is that of writing shorter books, and thus of avoiding the burden of detail which so often overweights the artist. This is perhaps the best of all the practical devices which have been proposed. By shortening his grip, the artist can get a firmer hold. But brevity alone is not enough. It only simplifies the task by discarding documents which might otherwise prove unwieldy. What is needed is a strengthened sense that even a valuable document upon the times is not worth greatly more than a news item. Too few writers have latterly understood this. In their zeal to mirror a provoking age, they have got into the habit of thinking that a document is an end in itself. It may be that when it is frankly a document, but it should not pretend also to be a work of art. For a work of art, however grounded in documents, may properly be expected to convey its meaning or reveal its beauty to persons who do not know anything about the matters therein documented. The principal weakness of recent American literature, brilliant as it is, comes from the fact that so large a part of it is hardly more than journalism, or, at best, than autobiography beaten out into thin fiction. If that literature is to continue its development, it must cease to be contented with any modest aims whatever. It must set out to produce work which by its form and content and independence can stand alone.
It is true enough that masterpieces are not made by the sole act of taking
thought, nor does one writer learn much about his own masterpiece from looking at another's. Nevertheless, changes in literary fashion are brought about by the surrender of certain prevailing ideas among writers and the acquisition of others. The present would be an excellent time to surrender the idea that the business of the new American literature is to document the new age. The age has been documented. The duty, if there was one, has been discharged. Its place has been taken by an opportunity, for any who want to grasp it, to combine materials in fresh ways, to shape them into fresh forms, to touch them with fresh colors, to lighten them with fresh moods. These may or may not call for novelties of technic, as the instinct of the particular artist may direct; but they will call for a decrease in reverence for raw material. That reverence has been a superstition. It can be overcome only when the artist learns to trust himself. If he gives sufficient thought to the matter, he will realize that his raw materials have, so far as he as artist is concerned, no rights which he is bound to respect except the right still to mean something or to be beautiful when he is done with them. He cannot even know that his materials have any existence except as he perceives them. Such being the circumstances, he is free to work his creative will upon them. For the most part, he will want, being himself a human being, to leave them as nearly as possible in their customary human semblance; but he will not prove much of an artist unless he has the power and the courage to move among them with a hand occasionally higher than is quite human.
Around the World with Open Eyes
The Strange Odyssey of Count Keyserling
BY GLENN FRANK
OR several days I have been spending all my spare hours with one of the most interesting men of modern times, Count Hermann Keyserling. I do not mean that Count Keyserling has been in New York or that I have been in Europe. In fact, I have never met this brooding prophet who may turn out to be a John the Baptist to a new Western civilization. I have done something better. I have gone, with care and a singular exaltation of spirit, through the seven hundred and ten pages of his "The Travel Diary of a Philosopher." The publication of this diary is, as I see it, more than the mere making and marketing of another good book; it is a spiritual event of national importance. And I commit this fervent judgment to cold type with no cautioning sense of overstatement.
Count Keyserling has come to a Europe that is busy reconstructing its frontiers to tell it that it must reconstruct its faith as well. While premiers have been telling their peoples that they must balance their budgets, this philosopher has been telling them that they must balance their beings as well. While his contemporaries have been saying there must be a new Germany, Count Keyserling has been
saying there must be new Germans. Surrounded by scholars of the letter that kills, he has chosen to be a scholar of the spirit that gives life. To a Western civilization that has seen its obsession with a gaudy externalism bring it near to ruin, Count Keyserling has come as the prophet of a new internalism that may mean renaissance.
Western civilization has long been identified with the motor type, the sort of man who runs more than he reads and acts oftener than he thinks; the sort of man who must go outside the frontiers of his own mind and spirit to find either the world of reason or of recreation; the sort of man who is externally rich, but internally poor.
Eastern civilization has long been identified with the meditative type, the sort of man who sits and thinks more than he either runs or reads; the sort of man who has emancipated himself from dependence upon the outside world of affairs for stimulus to ideas or for diversion; the sort of man who is externally poor, but internally rich.
Count Keyserling is neither the poor-rich man of the West nor the rich-poor man of the East. He is an ethical liaison officer between the dreaming East and the doing West.
The story of why this man with the soul of a monk turned himself temporarily into a globe-trotter is the story of a strange odyssey indeed. Count Keyserling hated travel before he began his tour; he still hates it. He was not interested in gathering facts about the political, social, and industrial life of the peoples he visited. His tour was no reporter's jaunt. His diary abounds with exquisite and exhilarating discussions and descriptions of peoples and places, but these are incidental products of his adventure. He went to India, to China, to Japan, to Africa, to America, not to find out what these lands and these peoples were like, but to find what he himself was like. Let me try to condense and simplify his explanation of his purpose.
In childhood and youth our bodies must grow before we can focus our major energies upon the deeper development of our personalities. But this period of physical growth is limited. Our bodies do not grow indefinitely. Even the man who is doomed by some glandular eccentricity to become a circus giant stops growing at some point. As the vernacular phrase runs, we "get our growth" by the time we reach a certain age. After that our development is not a matter of physical expansion, but of intellectual and spiritual enrichment.
Count Keyserling suggests that something analogous to this happens in the life of the mind and of the spirit. In the childhood and youth of our minds we must busy ourselves with building up the body of our understanding by widening the range of our information before we can focus our major energies upon developing the spirit of our understanding
by finding the inner meaning of all the information we have amassed. In the childhood and youth of our minds facts are to our spirit what food is to our body. For a time we grow mentally in proportion to the quantity of facts we take in. But, according to Count Keyserling, just as our bodies do not grow indefinitely although we constantly feed them with food, so our minds do not grow indefinitely just because we constantly feed them with new facts. A time comes when we stagnate mentally and spiritually unless we contrive to penetrate to the inner meaning of our facts, the inner meaning of our beings, the inner meaning of reality. Of course there is nothing new here: it is the ancient distinction between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is a matter of facts; wisdom is a matter of understanding. The goal of our spirits is wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is to wisdom what the body is to the mind. If we fail to shift our personal development from the quantitative field of facts to the qualitative field of understanding, we may become learned, but we shall never become wise; we may become effective peddlers of data, but we shall never become spacious spirits.
Scholar that he is, Count Keyserling found that he had reached the point beyond which the mere learning of more facts would not help him toward that self-realization which is the passion of all great spirits. He wanted to be a free and growing spirit. He did not want to be tied by the strings of any neat formula or even by the limitations of a personality that had begun to crystallize. He knew that he could not find this freedom and this growth in mere