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universal conceptions, and acts on them.”
"You think they are his own?"
"Well, it seems odd that the man should have done exactly the right thing so often. In business he had a success that points to genius, and since, in his charities, the same thing is indicated.
He knows how to select men, and can be measured by the ability of the men he selects. Harper of the Chicago University seemed to attract him, and his first great endowment resulted, and since he has continued with such men as Flexner. This supposedly hard-headed business man surrounds himself with dreamers; he evidently likes them and speaks their language. The same was true of the elder Armour and Dr. Gunsaulus. They measured each other, much as a man is measured by the wife he chooses."
"The Concord school is really very thin, with the exception of Emerson. Hawthorne was only about seventyfive per cent. as great as his reputation. Anatole France could have made "The Scarlet Letter' a hundred per cent. performance. Hawthorne got only about three fourths of its possibilities. Conrad was a great writer, and it is easy to see why so many people do not understand him. The average reader demands a lot of plot and incident. Conrad was really a painter. His plots were mere threads on which to hang a series of paintings. Most of his novels are collections of pictures, made understandable by moods, temperament, and movement of given characters. For me the greatest of all modern writers were the Russians. Dostoyevsky, in that supreme work, 'Crime and Punishment,' really had no plot at all. The
"Who, in your opinion, writes well whole thing is draped upon a structure to-day?" I asked.
"Almost no one in America," he replied. "Anatole France was a great writer, and Maeterlinck. D'Annunzio is another. There is a considerable list of writers who might have been great. Some recent ones in our own country gave promise of greatness in their early works, and then were led away. One of them said to me: 'I know I could have done it, but I lacked the courage. I could not stick it out.' There are too many easy and remunerative paths to tempt them to-day. On the whole, however, I think our literary product is an improvement over the past."
"But do you think our present writers compare well with the Concord school, or contemporary English ones with the mid-Victorian group?" The answer was only partial, and came in the form of a negative statement:
as simple as a proposition in Euclid. It is boiled down to utter simplicity."
I made some notes of his remarks as I sketched, and asked if there were any particular subjects upon which he would like to be quoted.
"No; far be it from me to interfere with you. I shall be interested in reading the impression that I have given you; some that have been written in the past were pretty hard on me. I don't care at all about that, however. You have a free rein. What have you heard about me in the past? What impression of me did you have before we met?"
"Well," I replied, smiling, "I had only a vague picture of you as a sort of wild and eccentric person who had written some able novels that were supposed, in some instances, to be quite naughty."
"Just what I thought!" He laughed
heartily. "I am supposed to be the lowest of the low, the vilest of human beings. Say what you please about me, but give also a portrait of me as I appeared in my contact with you."
"I have had an awfully good time with you," I said, "and no basis for muck-raking; but as I expect to be in Europe when the article appears and beyond present possibility of a 'beating up' or anything of that sort, you had better worry a bit."
"Don't mind me," he said. "Write it to please yourself, and good luck to you!"
EDGAR LEE MASTERS
More than a decade and a half ago, when as a youngster I was busy with my beginnings in New York, the north side of Sixteenth Street presented an unbroken phalanx of brownstone fronts, with the usual standardized high stoops from Fifth Avenue to Sixth. Not that this distinguished the street in any way; a majority of the others from Washington Square to Harlem presented almost identical aspects. On several occasions I had difficulty with my latch-key, discovering, after a time, that I was endeavoring to enter the house next door to my own, and this at a time when my unsophistication was such that I never dreamed but that nation-wide prohibition could possibly bring from any one sentiments other than joy and approval. Then a sweltering summer, when riveting-machines and a steam derrick next door made the first break in the brown ensemble. Visiting the same street a few months ago, I found the old ranks sadly decimated and in rapid retreat. In a front apartment of one of the remaining old guard, surrounded by his Lares and Penates and
a miniature snowstorm of manuscript, was the author of "The Spoon River Anthology."
Of medium height and stocky build, his ruddy face suggested an Irish strain. His waving hair betrayed a tendency to recede from his high and prominent forehead, and the shortness of his retroussé nose was emphasized by the downward encroachment of large horn glasses and the liberal expanse of his upper lip. His head presented an aspect of quaintness that would harmonize with a Continental coat and broad stock, or even the earlier satin costume with "shorts."
Mr. Masters was born in Kansas, but his family removed to Petersburg, Illinois, so soon after this event that his earliest memories are of this town and locality. Here he lived the delightful life of the average small boy of the Middle West, a life that I look back upon with the pleasant glamour of all troubles erased by time and all pleasures outstanding. A picture that he showed me revealed a topography similar to the one that I industriously explored during bare-legged summers, fishing-rod in hand. Spoon River, he told me, is a real stream that runs about thirty miles north of New Salem, emptying into the Illinois River. His novel, "Mitch Miller," affords a good picture of his boyhood, his grandparents figuring among its characters. He started active life as a lawyer, drifting into writing by degrees.
Before meeting Mr. Masters I had an account of a chance contact with him on a channel steamer from my friend Mr. R. B. Cunninghame Graham in London. Recalling this incident brought a discussion of the joys of travel abroad, but, after enthusiastic appreciation of other countries, my
sitter declared that for him America is the best of all.
"I have great pride in and love for America," he said; "my life is bound up in it. I find fault with it and scold it as a brother or father might, because I want it to behave; but I am all for it. I know that this country has its faults, and very serious ones. We are badly governed in comparison with England, and there is less interest in cultural things here than abroad. Prohibition is silly and an outrage, and other things of a similar kind threaten us. But for me this new country is the greatest. I would not for anything do as Henry James and Bret Harte did. There is no need to Europeanize oneself when there is so much here."
He quoted some lines from his "New Spoon River Anthology," then, finding the book, read to me the entire poem to which he had referred. In it he compared great episodes and personalities in American history with similar ones of Europe's past, exhorting his readers to dwell upon them instead of their foreign parallels, and ending with the line, "Think it over, you supercilious dreamers of dead days!" Another poem, a vivid portrait of a character from Middle-Western village life, followed, both exemplifying in their form that freedom from technical tradition that receives the label of "modernity" until a different point of view supersedes and robs it of that doubtful designation. Though his method of expression bears this designating stamp, Mr. Masters has little sympathy for so-called "modern" tendencies in painting and sculpture. He is a partizan of American painting, however, recognizing that our country is at present a leader in this field.
He is occupied for the present with "a long reading-fest," as he expressed it, delving deeply into American history and biography preparatory to the production of a long poem about America. Later he will supplement this with an extended journey through the West, visiting parts that he has never before seen. This work will be an ambitious one, and considerable time will be necessary for its completion. Several times he has essayed novels, meeting with some success; but he has so many plans for future efforts in verse that he never expects to use that form again. His "Spoon River Anthology" has the record of being the best seller in poetry, doing much better in this respect than his novels.
Added to his loyalty and pride in most things American, Mr. Masters is possessed of an enviable optimism regarding the ultimate effects of the mechanical and commercial specialization of our time. He is confident that the arts will not follow the crafts to their present state of near-extinction, and that the latter will be revived, possibly through the efforts of some very rich person who will make them fashionable. That the relentless sweep of mechanical mass-production, sacrificing beauty of craftsmanship, as it does to economy, can be overcome by the creation of mere sentiment seems to me improbable, but we would gladly welcome it if it came. In the opinion of my sitter, morals are at present in a better state than in times that have recently passed. He revealed himself as a man utterly in tune with the developments of his time, glorying in them, eager to record them, confident that we are moving in a direction that leaves no reason to regret the past.
Richard Kane Takes Stock of Marriage
Further Adventures of a Young American
BY IRWIN EDMAN
ECAUSE Richard Kane has often talked to me in the past as to a father confessor, I do not for a moment pretend omniscience as to the inner essence of his soul. Though I have studied psychology, I know enough about human nature to know the difference between the rhetoric that makes up nine tenths even of intimate confession and the secret stream that constitutes the life of a man's private being. But I have been fond of Richard for a long time. Love, proverbially blind, ought, perhaps, to be credited, too, with preternatural insight. Affection lends sharpness to perception, and perhaps I have not, in affection, read too much into those momentary glimpses of his life out of which I construct my picture of Richard, his sensations and ideas. I can, for example, lay no claim to more knowledge of his married life than would be open to any friend of any family, and certainly to no more than a bachelor can comprehend. But Richard's views, including his unexpressed ones, are fairly familiar to me by this time, and I have seen him and Helen together enough to know just where he is and how he stands on the question of marriage.
As far as externals go and by all conventional standards, Richard is
happily married. There is about him now a serenity he never possessed in those disordered years when he was floating between book and book, job and job, girl and girl, in the hunt for and the thirst for peace. Once, and not long before he was married, either, he looked upon marriage as a greasy prison-house, a drab dovecote of routine. It was indubitably associated in his imagination with middle age; it was the respectable quietus upon romance; it was a treadmill in suburbia. He had seen his friends within a year of married life translated, as it were, from the generation in which he had grown up to the generation of his father and mother.
Marriage meant concern with rents, grocer's bills, commutation tickets, and the social obligations of two families instead of one. Life was to be for him
how often I had heard the phrase in his mouth!-a soliloquy, a living in the clear pursuit of his own interests, responsible only to the call of his own temperament and the requirements of his own peace. He was to be a free spirit living in a continually adventurous world. He was, remembering Bacon's warning, giving no hostages to fortune. With much amusement, he now recalls to me those pre-marital declarations of his. For already at the