Infomotions, Inc.Nonsenseorship / Scott, Walter, Sir, 1771-1832

Author: Scott, Walter, Sir, 1771-1832
Title: Nonsenseorship
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): nonsenseorship; censorship; censor; censors; prohibition
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Title: Nonsenseorship

Author: G. G. Putnam

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Illustrated By


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

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

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

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

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

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 habitué 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 risqué 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.


Literature and the Bastinado.

The Woman's Place.

Owed to Volstead.

The Censorship of Thought.

The Uninhibited Flapper.

The Wowzer in the South Seas.

Reformers: A Hymn of Hate.


A Guess at Unwritten History.

In Vino Demi-Tasse.


And the Playwright.

The Oracle That Always Says "No".


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

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

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

The Periscope of the Author of the Mirrors of Washington is turned toward
the Great Negative Oracle.



_Another of Those Outlines_

[Illustration: George S. Chappell demonstrating his Outline of Censorship.]



[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

 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!


[Illustration: Heywood Broun finds America suffering from a dearth of


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

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 cafés. 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.


[Illustration: Ben Hecht chopping away at the ever-forgiving and
all-condoning Bugaboo of Puritanism.]


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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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.


[Illustration: Ruth Hale as a XXth Century woman guarding the Home Brew.]


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

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

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 naïveté 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.


[Illustration: Wallace Irwin composing under the influence of synthetic
gin and Andrew Volstead.]


I--_First Round_

   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--
   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


   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,


[Illustration: Robert Keable urging the Automaton called Citizen to turn
on his oppressor.]


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

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-fé 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.


[Illustration: Helen Bullitt Lowry watching Puritanism set the
Flapper free.]


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

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 fiancés,--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

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!

And if by chance there be any inhibitions left over, Prohibition has
obligingly introduced new opportunities for privacy, that will help
you check them too. When a couple strays off now from group formation,
there's a perfectly good alibi available of finding a sheltered spot
for a drink. Where once it really wasn't good form to go to a man's
hotel room, now it is the national custom for the owner of hootch to
register a casket for his jewel--and then invite the young things in,
one by one. A flapper these nights can retire to that hotel bedroom
for an hour in the middle of a dance. The girl is not "talked about,"
and the place is not "pulled." Even the house detective knows that she
is innocently drinking a drink.

Thus has this rebel young generation forced out into the open country
with it all the contented young women in their late twenties and early
thirties, who may not have been feeling rebellious at all. And the
wives of forty-five also, to compete all over again for their own
husbands. For "poaching" on the wifely preserves has become the
favorite flapper sport!

"Married men," having been forbidden to unmarried young persons for
three chaste generations, our flappers, bi-product of inhibition, are
promptly appropriating the husbands. This one item of the flapper raid
on the married men has done more than the entire twentieth century put
together to change the smug structure of American society, and bring
us back to normalcy.

Before 1865 no Southern belle considered herself worth her salt unless
all the courtly old married men in the country kissed her hand and
competed with the young blades for her quadrilles. But when black
persons stopped buttoning up the shoes of the Quality, America entered
upon her 1870's, her sombre brown stone fronts, and her cloistered
husbands. The money for doing society had simply passed into the hands
of the descendants of Miles Standish and Priscilla, who carried their
consciences into their sober mansions with them. The Age of Innocence
was upon us, and has clung close ever since.

From that fatal day on to 1917 each oncoming debutante was taught by
her mother to give unto the genus, married man, her most impersonal
manner, lest she provoke his "undesirable attentions." If poaching was
done, it was from behind a tree. Unmarried girls knew that their place
was not in somebody else's home in those days. The wives could protect
their preserves by the simple expedient of "talking about" any
unmarried young female caught on the married reservations.

And so it came to pass that the pick of the men were posted, because,
as fast as a callow youth gets worth marrying, somebody promptly
marries him. The Fast Young Married Crowd was a closed corporation and
played exclusively within itself; the female of the species had to
compete only with females of equal tonnage. The only sylph-like
temptation that a husband could encounter was a dissolute person whose
reputation had already been ruined--and she didn't count, because
nobody invited her to parties anyway. A wife could get as fat as she
wanted to in those days.

Even today that same leisurely life might exist for the wives. Even
today the wives might be resting their feet under the bridge tables,
secure in the consciousness that no bobbed haired young poacher was
daring to dance with their husbands, if they had just let prohibitions
enough alone--if they had only not been swept away by the high sport
of gossiping about our Wild Young People, which struck the country in
the summer of 1920. This gossip was an intrinsic phase of the virtue
wave which always immediately precedes a crime wave.

The wives just at this point, instead of sitting tight, made the
strategic mistake of turning the full force of the ammunition of
gossip, which should have been saved for defending husbands from
poachers, into an offensive attack on the flapper's lip stick, on her
cigarettes, and on her petting parties. Whenever two or three wives
were gathered together, their topic was our Wild Young People. That
summer, too, saw the launching of that now seasoned romance about the
checking of corsets. The resolutions at clubs were being resolved. The
preachers were sermonizing. The up-state legislators were drafting
bills against flappers' smoking cigarettes.

Human nature can be pushed just so far. Instead of reforming, the
young things apparently decided one might as well lose a reputation
for stealing a husband as for smoking a cigarette. The whole arsenal
for combating poachers blew up.

To make matters worse, in the excitement of the virtue wave our Wild
Young People had been attacked as a group instead of as individuals.
That was the second mistake. The whole strength of gossip consists in
selecting one member of the clan for calumny, to stand out disgraced
and alone among her exemplary sisters. Because the flappers had been
gossiped about _en masse_, the whole reason for not being
gossiped about had ceased. The poacher of that half generation ago had
been the kind of a girl who stalked her game alone.

But, when all the girls in town are seeking to steal your husband,
what are you going to do about it, if you are a woman of forty-five
with a heaviness around the hips and a disinclination to learn the
camel walk? Nor can you get the poachers off the scent by crossing the
trail with an eligible bachelor. Logically, the young things should
have enough sense to ignore a preempted husband and attend to the
serious business of getting themselves husbands. But they haven't.
They seem to prefer the husbands of the other women. And curiously,
the more they engage in this exotic sport of poaching, the less keen
they become about owning a property for somebody else to poach on.

The real interstate joke on Puritanism is that the flapper, who flaps
because Puritanism has driven her to it, will automatically bring
about its cure. The whole vitality of Puritanism rests on the
unswerving principle of letting not thy right hand know what thy left
hand doeth, if thy left hand is doing something it shouldn't.
Puritanism could not last out a week-end without the able assistance
of the standardized double life.

And that is just what the flappers refuse to respect. They are even
insisting on being taken along on the parties, which, by all the rules
of Rolf and Comstock should be confined to man's double life. Where
the chorus lady was once the only brand that had the proper and
improper equipment to jazz up an evening, now mankind has come to
prefer the flapper, who drinks as much as the Broadwayite, is just as
peppy and not quite so gold-diggish.

"It is so simple," smiles Barbara nonchalantly blowing her smoke
rings. "You old dears set man an impossible standard. As he had always
to be pretending holy emotions whenever he was around you he just
naturally had to get away half the time, to rest the muscles of his
inhibitions. Why, you funny old things actually drove man into his
double life, just as you made all of his best stories have two
editions, one for a nice girl and one for--well say one not so nice.
Our crowd has done more than all of your silly old social hygiene
commissions to bring nearer the single standard--by going part way to
meet him."

The preachers are wasting their time when they rail that the flappers
are painting their faces like "fallen women." Of course they are
painting them that way--for the very good reason that mankind has
demonstrated too unmistakably that that kind of woman has "a way with

Not so long ago cosmetics became a moral issue. The curl rag was the
only beautifier that somehow never lost its odor of sanctity--and that
was doubtless because curl rags were a perfectly logical part of the
long-sleeved Canton flannel nightgown civilization. Curls couldn't be
so very wrong when they were so frightfully unbecoming in the making.
And so the "good woman" handed over intact to her weaker sister every
beautifier that the world had been eight thousand years accumulating.

Slowly, timidly the allurements returned. The talcum powder bought for
baby surreptitiously reached the nose. When the half generation ago
was young, we had adopted a certain lip salve, just one shade darker
than the way lips come, explaining, to save our reputations, that we
were keeping our lips from chapping. Rouge too had come coyly,
back--but--and here's the gist of the whole matter--in polite society
paint was put on to imitate nature.

We were still doing our make-up as man conducted his double life--with
intent to deceive the general public. We still belonged at heart to
the Puritan era, in spite of our wicked fox-trot. All may have been
artificial below the neck, from our Gossard corsets with their phalanx
of garters on to our hobble skirts. But above the neck, we pretended
it was natural.

The flapper has changed all that. She has turned the lady up side
down, as well as the world. For the flapper is _au naturale_
below the neck. Above the neck she is the most artificially and
entertainingly painted creature that has graced society since Queen
Elizabeth. With one bold stroke of a passionately red lip stick, she
has painted out Elaine the Fair and the later-day noble Christie Girl
and painted in an exotic young person, meet to compete alike with a
Ziegfield show girl, with a heaven-born Egyptian princess or even a
good Queen Bess, who could not move her face after it was dressed up
for the morning. And Bess was the Virgin Queen. The American-Victorian
is indeed the only era in history when cosmetics became a moral issue.
Even in dour Cromwellian England, rouge registered the wrong politics
but not immorality. We are merely getting back to normalcy in
cosmetics--back behind the dun wall of the Victorian era.

And it is the flapper who has done it for us. What's more, she has
done it frankly and purposefully--because the reformer, in his naive
innocence, has explained to her that what she is doing is wicked and
will get that kind of "results." Similarly those of 'em who had not
yet taken off their corsets at dances, promptly did so when shocked
elders began repeating the corset checking story. Dear heart, the only
reason that they had not done so before was because the little dears
hadn't heard that the worst people were using ribs instead of
whalebone that season.

Vice would die out from disuse, if the reformers did not advertise.


[Illustration: Frederick O'Brien finds the South Seas purified and
beautified by the Missionaries.]


All over the South Seas the censor has had his day. From New Guinea to
Easter Island, he has made his rules and enforced them. Often he wrote
glowing pages of prose and poetry about his accomplishments, for
reading in Europe and America. He was usually sincere, and determined.
He felt that it was up to him to make over the native races to suit
his own ideas of what pleased God and himself. When he had the lower
hand, he prayed and strove in agony to change the wicked hearts of his
flock to Clapham or Andover standards; he suffered the contumelies of
heathen jibes, and now and again--often enough to make a cartoon
popular--he was hotpotted or baked on hot stones as a "long pig." When
he converted the king or chief, and he always directed his sacred
ammunition at the upper classes, he took advantage of every inch of
spiritual and governmental club put in his hand, and smote the pagan
hip and thigh. His sole effort was to make the South Seas safe for
theocracy, and to _strafe_ Satan.

Of course, he was a missionary. It is doubtful if any other urge than
a religious one could have infused into those canny migrants of the
past century the extraordinary zeal that characterized their singular
labors in the exquisite and benighted isles of the tropics.

To leave the melancholy and futuristic atmosphere of seminaries and
bethels where the ghosts and penalties of millions of sins cast down
their hearts, where few baths and drab clothes, dark homes and poor
food, made all conscious of dwelling in a vale of tears, and after
half a year or more of hard, ship fare and the rough discipline of a
tossing windjammer, to find themselves in the most magnificent scenes
on the globe, and amid the richest bounty, was trial enough of the
unstable soul of man. That they--most of them--resisted the
temptations of the tropical demon, that they continued to preach fire
and brimstone, to remain flocked and shod, pantaletted and stayed, is
proof enough of their cementation to the rock of ages.

The men were even subjected to direr spells. They were youths, the
rude boys of farm and hamlet, schooled in simple studies, untried by
the wiles of siren blandishments. If married, their courtships had
been without passion, and their wedded years without competition, and
generally without other incidents than children.

A typical union of this kind I find in an old diary of the wife of one
of the most famous propagandists of the American God in Polynesia. He
was of Yale and Andover, and she of Bradford, the daughter of a
Marlboro deacon. She was twenty-four and he a little older when her
cousin called upon her at her Marlboro home, to ask if she would
"become connected with a missionary now an entire stranger, attach
herself to a little band of pilgrims, and visit the distant land of

"What could I say? We thoroughly discussed the subject. Next week is
the anticipated, dreaded interview of final decision. Last night I
could neither eat nor close my eyes in sleep."

The suitor came. "The early hours of the evening were devoted to
refreshments, to free family sociality, to singing, and to evening
worship. Then one by one the family dispersed, leaving two of similar
aspirations, introduced as strangers, to separate at midnight as
interested friends.

"In the forenoon, the sun had risen high in the heavens, when it
looked down upon two of the children of earth giving themselves wholly
to their heavenly Father, receiving each other from his hand as his
good gift, pledging themselves to each other as close companions in
the race of life, consecrating themselves and their all to a life-work
among the heathen."

After six months on the wave, she approaches the "land of darkness
whither I am bound. When I reflect on the degradation and misery of
the inhabitants, follow them into the eternal world, and forward to
the great day of retribution, all my petty sufferings dwindle to a

They anchor, and "soon the islanders of both sexes came paddling out
in their canoes, with their island fruit. The men wore girdles, and
the women a slight piece of cloth wrapped around them, from the hips
downward. To a civilized eye their covering seemed to be revoltingly
scanty. But we learned that it was a full dress for daily occupation."

The note of nudity this really remarkable woman struck at her first
sight of the welcoming savages, was the keynote of the new domination
of the islands from Hawaii to Australia. The censors were convinced
that it was a state of ungodliness. Their reasoning was based on the
fig leaf tied about them by the first man and woman when they became
conscious of sin, and it proceeded to the logical teaching that the
less of the body exposed the more godly the condition. When they found
this nakedness associated with a relation of the sexes utterly opposed
to their own, and when, especially, the first white wives on the South
Sea beaches, found the joyous, handsome, frolicsome women of the
islands, making ardent love to their husbands, the innate heinousness
of bodily bareness became fixed as a guiding star towards bringing the
infidel to the true worship.

Clothe them and sanctify them, became the motto. From the wondrous
Marquesas valleys to the American naval station of Samoa, the bonnet,
the bonnet of a half century ago, is the requirement of decency in the
coral or bamboo church, as it is in the temples of New York. The
nightgown or Mother Hubbard of Connecticut became the proper female
attire for natives in the house of God, and thus, by gradual
establishment of a fashion, in their straw homes, and everywhere.
Chiefesses were induced to don calico, and chiefs the woolen or denim
trousers of refinement. The trader came to sell them, and so business
followed the Bible. Tattooing, which, with the Polynesians and
Melenesians, was probably a race memory of clothing in a less tropical
clime, was condemned bitterly by the white censors as causing nudity.
A man or woman whose legs and body were covered with marvellous
arabesques and gaudy pictures of palms and fish was not apt to hide
them under garments.

And here the censor also had an ally in the trader. The two joined,
unwittingly, to break down both the old morale of the pagan and the
new morality of the converts. The censorious cleric said that the Lord
disliked nakedness, or, at least, that unclothedness was unvirtuous,
while the seller of calico and alcohol advised the purchase of his
goods for the sake of style. He ridiculed tattooing and nudity, but he
also laughed with ribaldry at the religious arguments. The confused
indigene, driven by admonition and shame put on the hot and griming
stuffs, and finally, had them kept on him by statute. The censor in
the South Seas achieved his highest reach of holy effort. He had made
into law the _mores_ his sect or tribe had coined into morals,
and was able to punish by civil tribunal the evildoers who refused to
abide by his conception of the divine wish.

But here, old Mother Nature revolted. All over the world it would
appear that she is not in touch with the divinity that shapes the ends
of the censors. The clothing donned by the natives of the South Seas
killed them. They sweated and remained foul; they swam, and kept on
their garments; they were rained on, and laid down in calico and wool,
They abandoned the games and exercises which had made them the finest
physical race in the world, and took up hymn books and tools. The
physical plagues of the whites decimated them. They passed away as the
_tiaré_ Tahiti withers indoors. The censored returned to the rich
earth which had bred them, and taught them its secrets and demands.
Only a mournful remnant remains to observe the censorship.

But the curious spirit of inversion which tries to make the assumed
infinite of a finite nature, which had sacrificed a race to an
invented god, persists even in the South Seas. One of the most
distinguished authors, who has chosen that delectable clime for his
researches was arrested for napping on his own _paepae_ partly
clothed. The parson informed upon him, and the _gendarme_ fined
him. In the British South Seas, where I was recently, prohibition had
cast a blight upon the more poetical whites. I remember one night when
my vessel was anchored for a few hours in the roadstead of a lonely
island, a group of civil servants and a minister of the Church of
England had come aboard to buy what comforts they might from our
civilized caravan. They sat on deck clinking glasses occasionally,
talking of cities where a man might be freed from the "continuous
spying of the uncoo good." That was the phrase they used, being
English or Scots, and when the word was passed that we up-anchored
with the turn of the tide at midnight, they sang in a last burst of
lively furor a song of Dionysian regret. One stanza lingers with me:--

   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!

In the darkness I called to them as they went down the gangway into
their boat, "What is a wowzer?"

"'E's a bloomin' ---- 'oo wants to do unto others wot 'e's bleedin'
well done to 'imself."

The wowzers are more active in Hawaii, the most temperate portion of
Polynesia, than in the Maori isles of New Zealand. A law passed at the
last session of the Hawaiian legislature prohibits "any person over
fourteen years of age from appearing upon the streets of Honolulu in a
bathing suit unless covered suitably by an outer garment reaching at
least to the knees." There is a ferment in Honolulu over the arrest
and punishment of offenders against this new censorship. It is the
result of the control by the spiritual, or perhaps, lineal,
descendants of the first South Sea censors, of the great
grand-children of those men who wore the girdles of leaves at the
landing of the Marlboro school teacher a hundred years ago. The
girdle-wearers are members of the Hawaiian legislature--soon to be
succeeded by Japanese-native-born--and the censors, likely, are wives
of financiers and sugar factors. Again the feeble remnant of the
Hawaiian race voted against the girdle.

A friend of mine, grandson of the estimable missionary and his bride
of the New England of a century ago, thus comments upon the law in a
paper sent to me:--

The facts which caused the passage of the law were, that certain
residents of Waikiki were donning their bathing suits at home, walking
across and along the public streets to the sea and returning in the
same state of undress.

If the bathing suits had been of the old-style no objection to this
would have been made. The woman's bathing suit of the olden days were
a cumbrous swaddling garment, high-necked, long-sleeved, full-skirted,
bloomer-breeched and stockinged.

Simultaneously with the outbreak of the street parade era, above
noted, there came with spontaneous-combustion-like rapidity, a radical
change in the style of female bathing suits "on the street at

First the sleeves, then the stockings, then the skirts, then the main
portion of the garment covering the legs, successively disappeared,
until the low-necked, sleeveless, legless one-piece suit became "the
thing"; and women clad in garments scantier than the scantiest on the
ballet stage, were parading Kalakaua avenue in the vicinity of the
Moana hotel, to the scandal and disgust of some; the devouring gaze of
others; and the interested inspection of whomsoever chose to inspect!

It was a startling sight to the uninitiated--probably unduplicated in
any other civilized country.

The South Pacific or the heart of Africa would probably have to be
visited to find virtuous women so scantily clad, making such
exhibition of their persons in public-more particularly on the public

This scantiness of dress became the subject of protest, of
justification, of discussion in press, in public and in private
throughout the community.

The practice was violently attacked as tending to lewdness and
scandal; as vigorously defended as a question of personal taste and
liberty, and as a matter concerning safety and comfort in swimming.

Those "old-style suits" he refers to, "full-skirted, bloomer-breeched"
were the godly ones brought to Hawaii by the censors, but which
gradually disappeared with the influx of rich tourists from America,
and the importation by Honolulu merchants of the flimsier and less
concealing kind. This new generation of whites that has sought escape
from the "cumbrous, swaddling garment" embraces the flapper, who at
Waikiki is a beautiful and wholesome sight. Browned by years of
exposure to the beach sun, charmingly modelled, and with the grace and
freedom of limb of the surf-board rider and canoeist, she has no
consciousness of guilt in her emergence dripping from the sea, in her
lying in the breeze upon the sand, nor in her walks to and from her
bungalow nearby. And she refuses to be censored.

The commentator, proprietor of the oldest newspaper in the islands,
and himself a noted diplomat, lawyer and revolutionist--he took up a
rifle against Liliuokalani--says so:--

The law has been observed by a few, ignored by a few, and caricatured
by the many. It is not an uncommon thing to see a woman walking the
streets in Waikiki in the scantiest of bathing suits, with drapery of
the flimsiest suspended from her shoulders and floating behind upon
the breeze.

The police have made a few feeble and spasmodic attempts to persuade
observance of the law, with some ill-advised attempts to enforce
individual ideas of propriety on the beach itself.

On the whole, the law is either openly and flagrantly violated or
rendered farcical by the contemptuous manner of its semi-observance.

And, cautiously but firmly, the grandson of the first missionaries to
Hawaii, himself living six decades in Honolulu, a church member and
supporter of all evangelical and commercial progress, gives advice to
the people of his territory. Urging that those opposed to the bathing
suit law try legally to secure its repeal, but that all obey it while
it is on the statute books, he says:--

As to the question of attire on the beach, there are modest and
immodest women to be found everywhere, regardless of their clothes. It
is impossible to legislate modesty into a person who is innately
immodest, and it is therefore useless to try and do so. The attire of
a woman on the beach at Waikiki as well as her conduct elsewhere,
should therefore be left to the individual woman herself.

That is the last word of a very shrewd, wealthy, experienced,
religious son of censors. But wowzerism dies hard in America or in the
South Seas. The Anglo-Saxon American has it in his blood as an
inheritance from the rise of Puritanism four hundred years ago, while
with many it is an idiosyncrasy to be explained by the glands
regulating personality. In fact, I feel that this is the enemy the
would-be free must fight. We must attack and extirpate the wowzerary


[Illustration: Dorothy Parker hating Reformers.]


   I hate Reformers;
   They raise my blood pressure.

   There are the Prohibitionists;
   The Fathers of Bootlegging.
   They made us what we are to-day--
   I hope they're satisfied.
   They can prove that the Johnstown flood,
   And the blizzard of 1888,
   And the destruction of Pompeii
   Were all due to alcohol.
   They have it figured out
   That anyone who would give a gin daisy a friendly look
   Is just wasting time out of jail,
   And anyone who would stay under the same roof
   With a bottle of Scotch
   Is right in line for a cozy seat in the electric chair.
   They fixed things all up pretty for us;
   Now that they have dried up the country,
   You can hardly get a drink unless you go in and order one.
   They are in a nasty state over this light wines and beer idea;
   They say that lips that touch liquor
   Shall never touch wine.
   They swear that the Eighteenth Amendment
   Shall be improved upon

   Over their dead bodies--
   Fair enough!
   Then there are the Suppressors of Vice;
   The Boys Who Made the Name of Cabell a Household Word.
   Their aim is to keep art and letters in their place;
   If they see a book
   Which does not come right out and say
   That the doctor brings babies in his little black bag,
   Or find a painting of a young lady
   Showing her without her rubbers,
   They call out the militia.
   They have a mean eye for dirt;
   They can find it
   In a copy of "What Katy Did at School,"
   Or a snapshot of Aunt Bessie in bathing at Sandy Creek,
   Or a picture postcard of Moonlight in Bryant Park.
   They are always running around suppressing things,
   Beginning with their desires.
   They get a lot of excitement out of life,--
   They are constantly discovering
   The New Rabelais
   Or the Twentieth Century Hogarth.
   Their leader is regarded
   As the representative of Comstock here on earth.
   How does that song of Tosti's go?--
   "Good-bye, Sumner, good-bye, good-bye."

   There are the Movie Censors,
   The motion picture is still in its infancy,--
   They are the boys who keep it there.
   If the film shows a party of clubmen tossing off ginger ale,
   Or a young bride dreaming over tiny garments,
   Or Douglas Fairbanks kissing Mary Pickford's hand,
   They cut out the scene
   And burn it in the public square.
   They fix up all the historical events
   So that their own mothers wouldn't know them.
   They make Du Barry Mrs. Louis Fifteenth,
   And show that Anthony and Cleopatra were like brother and sister,
   And announce Salome's engagement to John the Baptist,
   So that the audiences won't go and get ideas in their heads.
   They insist that Sherlock Holmes is made to say,
   "Quick, Watson, the crochet needle!"
   And the state pays them for it.
   They say they are going to take the sin out of cinema
   If they perish in the attempt,--
   I wish to God they would!

   And then there are the All-American Crabs;
   The Brave Little Band that is Against Everything.
   They have got up the idea
   That things are not what they were when Grandma was a girl.
   They say that they don't know what we're coming to,
   As if they had just written the line.
   They are always running a temperature
   Over the modern dances,
   Or the new skirts,
   Or the goings-on of the younger set.
   They can barely hold themselves in
   When they think of the menace of the drama;
   They seem to be going ahead under the idea
   That everything but the Passion Play
   Was written by Avery Hopwood.
   They will never feel really themselves
   Until every theatre in the country is razed.
   They are forever signing petitions
   Urging that cigarette-smokers should be deported,
   And that all places of amusement should be closed on Sunday
   And kept closed all week.
   They take everything personally;
   They go about shaking their heads,
   And sighing, "It's all wrong, it's all wrong,"--
   They said it.

   I hate Reformers;
   They raise my blood pressure.


[Illustration: Frank Swinnerton contemplating, from the Tight Little Isle,
the two classes of prigs developed by Prohibition; those who accept it and
those who rebel.]


I shall never forget the shock I received when an American woman,
newly arrived in England, gave me her impressions of London. She was
distinctly pleased with the town, and when I rather foolishly asked if
she had been terrified by our celebrated policemen, she said, "Why,
no. I was in a taxicab yesterday, and the driver went right on past
the policeman's hand, stealing round where he'd no business to go. And
the policeman just said, 'Here, where you going? D'you want the whole
of England?' Why, in New York, if he'd done that, he'd have been in
prison inside of five minutes!"

I wonder if it will be understood how terrible disillusion on such a
scale can be. I had been thinking of the United States for so long as
the home of the free and the easy that it was hard to bring myself to
the belief that the police there were both peremptory and severe. I
had thought them all Irishmen of the humorous, or "darlint" type. It
seems I was mistaken. The little--I am now afraid misleading--
paragraphs which from time to time appear in the English papers,
saying that there has been a hold-up on Fifth Avenue, or that the
Chief of Police in some great city has been found to be the head
of a gang of international assassins, that things called Tammany and
graft and saloons flourish there without let or hindrance, had
attracted me to the United States. I wanted to live in such a country.
Here, I said, is a place where every man's hand is for himself, where
the revolver plays its true part, and where, with the aid of a
humorous Irish policeman, who will find me stunned by a sandbag and
take me to his little home in 244th Street and reveal the fact that he
is descended from Cuchulain, I can be happy.

At first I thought that my friend must be exaggerating. Not lightly
was I prepared to let my dream go. But I am afraid that my confidence
in America as the home of freedom needs a tonic. She may have been
right, although it seems unbelievable. When I thought the problem out
clearly I came to the conclusion that there was a sinister sound about
that comment upon our policemen. Were they losing control of us?
Apparently not. I had trouble on the road with a policeman over the
rear light of my car. There is no doubt that England is efficiently
policed. And so my mind stole back to America with a new uneasiness. I
recollected tales which I had heard about sumptuary laws regulating
the dress of American women, both in and out of the water. I saw the
police invading restaurants and snatching cigarettes from the mouths
of women. I saw drink being driven underground by Prohibition. I began
to question whether I should really like to live in the United States
after all. I asked those of my friends who had been to America.

They told me that if I visited America I should be regaled privately
with champagne from the huge reserves of private wine-cellars, but
that as a resident I should be forbidden to drink anything that
enlivened me. It was a great shock. I am not yet recovered from it. 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.

I have always hated the word "Don't." I hated it as a child, and I
hate it still. It is a nasty word, a chilling word, associated with
feelings of resentment, of discipline, of prohibition. Yes, that is
it, of course, Prohibition. I find that it is Prohibition which makes
my throat so dry. I thought it was a human characteristic, when
anybody said, "You're not to do that!" to do it at once in case there
should be any misunderstanding. I should be frightened to say "Don't!"
to anybody, because I feel sure it would precipitate unpleasantness.
Is America so different from the rest of the world that it likes
having "Don't!" said to it? I cannot think that. What occurs to me is
that America has not yet worked out of its system the strain that the
English Puritan fathers brought with them. It is a melancholy thought
to me that it is really ancient English repression that is responsible
for the present state of affairs. I feel very guilty, particularly as
I have seen an article about myself in an English newspaper headed "A
Modern Puritan." It is really I, and people like me, who have caused
the great drink restrictions in the United States. I bow my head.

The truth is, I suppose, that people in the United States take life
more seriously than we do in England. If you read any of the books
which have been written in this country during the ages to show what
sort of community is the ideal--I refer to such works as "Utopia" and
"News from Nowhere"--there is never any difference between them on one
point. All the dwellers in these ideal states appear to be thoroughly
idle. They have practically no work to do at all. All their time is
spent in talk and sylvan wandering, with music and dancing round
maypoles. There is no mistaking the fact that the Englishman's idea of
life is confirmed and justifiable laziness. He wants what he calls
leisure. Charles Lamb, a typically English author, wrote a poem
beginning "Who first invented work?" He came to the conclusion that it
must have been the Devil. The inference is clear. Observation confirms
my view. It is not to be doubted that the average Englishman spends
his life in scheming to make somebody else do the work that lies
nearest to his hand.

Americans must be different. I believe they really like work. And I
will give the Prohibitionists this handsome admission. I also work
much better without stimulants. I mean, much harder. But on the other
hand, I am less happy. Does an American feel happy in his work? Does
the act of work give him a satisfaction which is not felt by an
Englishman? I think that must be the explanation. But on the other
hand there is this question of Puritanism. We tried it in England, and
we had a severe reaction to libertinism. We maintain Puritanism only
in our suburban districts, where there is exceedingly close scrutiny
of all matters pertaining to conduct; and in our theatres. In the
suburbs it does not much matter, although it rather cramps our
suburban style; but in the theatre it drives some of us to
distraction. I will explain why.

Supposing a man wants to write a play, he at once thinks of getting it
produced. An unproduced play is like an unpublished novel: practically
speaking it does not exist. The author can read it, of course, and his
wife can assure him that it is a great deal better than anything she
has seen or read for years; but the author and his wife are both
haunted by the fact that there is a masterpiece which is lying--not
fallow, but unused and sterile. They grow dissatisfied. The savour of
life is lost for them. They develop persecution mania, grow very
conceited, and finally come to believe that only they of all the men
and women alive truly grasp the essentials of life. They say, if this
were the silly muck that most authors write, it would be produced, and
then we should have our car and our servants and diamonds and titles
and all the paraphernalia of happiness. As it is, we are doomed to
silence and poverty, simply because George is too much of an artist to
lower himself by writing what the public wants, and what the censor
will pass. For I have not been outlining the diseased state of mind of
the merely incompetent man who writes something that nobody will look
at. I have been giving details of one of those men who have a moral
message, and who desire greatly to spread it by means of the stage. He
has written, let us say, a play in which the name of God appears, or a
play wherein a young woman has a baby and does not wish to have a
husband. The censor says that there must be no mention of God in plays
performed on the public stage, and that young women who have babies
must either have husbands or come to early graves of their own
seeking. Very well, what happens? I have described the state of mind
of a husband and wife who have a pet child--a play--which is lying
heavy on their minds and hearts and hands. They are ripe for any
temptation of the devil. And it comes. It always comes.

The devil dresses himself up in the guise of a Sunday play-producing
society. The play is surreptitiously performed in a theatre to which
admission can be obtained only by members banded together for just
such emergencies. It is very badly acted by actors and actresses who
have not been able to spare sufficient time from their daily work to
learn their parts as well as they should have done. The audience comes
full of a smug self-satisfaction at the thought that it is excessively
intellectual and select, and that it alone can appreciate blasphemy or
the vagaries of neurotic young women. It sits intellectually in the
theatre, and watches the play. The author sits intellectually in his
box, and intellectually accepts the plaudits of the audience. He lives
thereafter in a highly intellectual atmosphere. He is driven to become
a member of the secret play-producing society, and to watch other
plays of a character not suited to the requirements of the censorship.
He is morally a ruined man. He will never any more be a decent member
of society, for he has become an intellectual. He has been taught to
despise ordinary human beings, for they do not want to be wicked or
silly, except in the normal humdrum way, and they have not seen his
play and are not members of his play-producing society. He discovers
that the censored is the only good art. He is driven to the reading of
all sorts of Continental drama. He is made into an anti-English
propagandist. He is like the person in the song, who,

"Praises every century but this, and every country but his own."

He has been lost for human kind, and is wedded to intellectualism and
a sense of superiority to others for the rest of his miserable life.
He institutes a new system of censorship of his own. It takes the form
of sneering at and condemning anything that does not conform to his
own ideas. He sniffs at all sorts of innocently happy people who are
inoffensively pursuing their noisy course through life. He begins to
hate noise. He makes a virtue of his abstention from ordinary
pleasures. He speaks condescendingly of the "hoi polloi." As I said,
he is ruined. He is no longer a man that one can talk to with any
comfort, for his sense of superiority is intolerable.

To me there is nothing more terrible than the sense of superiority to
others. It arises, not from merit or the consciousness of merit, but
from sheer tin-like flimsiness of character. It arises from limited
sympathies. The really great man, and the really sagacious man, is one
to whom nothing is contemptible. To him, even the follies of his
fellow-passengers are manifestations of human nature, revelations of
the material from which scholars and politicians no less than
drunkards and inconstants are gradually in course of time developed.
Somebody described "conceit" to me the other day as egotism in which
contempt for others is involved. It was agreed between us that egotism
was normal, since happiness is not to be attained without a sense of
personal utility to the world, and no objection was urged against it.
Vanity was to be tolerated, because it was definitely social--a
recognition of the existence and value of the good opinion of others;
but never sense of superiority. And the sense of rebellion should be
added to this other sense, as equally to be regretted. A young woman
whose incredible acts of folly had spoiled half-a-dozen lives,
including her own, recently encountered a young man whom she had
jilted on the eve of her marriage to another, whom she had also left.
The young man, still smarting under his ill-treatment, reproached her.
He said, "What you want, my dear, is discipline." "Pooh!" she
answered. "I'm _above_ discipline!" The poor young man retired,
unequal to the conversation. But the young woman went on her way,
defiant and self-infatuated, believing that she really was superior to
the opinions of others, the common decencies of conduct, the
inevitable give and take of ordinary life. Driven to folly by lack of
balance, she was learning to justify her folly by the argument for
rebellion. Whether she will ever learn to control her actions I do not
know, but rebelliousness from a fueling that one is too good to be
governed by normal standards is not only arrogant and unsocial. It is
silly. It is, to my mind, a criminal form of silliness. But it is one
very widely accepted by the young and the unimaginative. It must
therefore be recognized and combated.

 It springs, perhaps, from disordered shame, which makes children
noisily act in defiance of authority, particularly if there are others
present to overhear. No children are worse-behaved than those who are
over-controlled. The word "don't" at the breakfast-table produces more
acts of violent rebellion than any amount of parental weakness.
Unimaginativeness begets unimaginativeness. Rigidity in one person
creates a counter-rigidity in the other. There is a thwarting upon
both sides, a mutual shackle upon sweetness and understanding. A
wildness of action arises, with loss of affection, respect,
self-respect. And the vicious part of it is that children (we are all
children, for we never grew up in human relations), once they are
embarked upon an evil course, are driven by vanity to continue upon
that course until they are exhausted, going from defiance to defiance;
and ultimately building up a whole sophisticated gospel of axioms
whereby rebellion is given warrant and virtue. The gospel of rebellion
we know to be specious and without justification; but it is essential
to us, as human beings, to maintain self-approval for our acts. If we
cannot do this socially, by comparative standards, we do it
unsocially, by subversion of those standards. Rebels are only prigs
turned upside down or inside out.

The great defect of prohibition is that when it can be enforced by law
it makes rebels who think there is something inconceivably clever in
doing secretly that which the law forbids. They learn to think there
is some subtle merit in evading the law. They encourage others to
break the law, and so develop cliques and finally new and silly
conventions. Or, prohibition has another effect. It makes a whole
class who accept its rulings, and gradually these people, owing to a
peculiarity which all gregarious animals seem to have, begin to
believe that unless all are of their persuasion and of their number
the fault lies with the rebels. First of all they consider themselves
superior to the rebels, and despise them. Then, when they find that
the rebels think that _they_ are the superior class, in defying
the law or the convention, a new set of notions arises, and this set
of notions leads to persecution and to war. You cannot introduce any
restrictive or prohibitive measure without developing fanatical
conceit, narrow-mindedness, and intolerance, both in those who welcome
the measure and in those who seek to ignore and even to defy its

The Puritanical attitude is almost wholly repressive, and naturally
invokes force to aid its repressive measures. It did so in England
centuries ago in the matter of the theatre, and we are living among
all the rotten plays which have been written since, and the theatre is
for the most part a place of ignominious diversion. The play-producing
societies have nothing to produce that is worth producing, because the
atmosphere which causes such plays as are written to be produced
privately is not the healthy atmosphere from which masterpieces arise.
It is an atmosphere impregnated with priggishness and a sense of
superiority. It is an atmosphere, if there can be such a thing, of
sterility. The same thing happens in other matters, and I do not feel
at all certain that it may not happen with drink. If you say men are
not to drink you create two new classes. There is of course the
existing class that does not care for drink and is afraid of its
effects to the point of wishing to keep it away from those who do like
drink. That class already flourishes in most communities, and so I do
not place it among any two classes which are created by the
prohibition. The two classes are as follows-the class that submits,
and gradually develops priggishness and self-satisfaction at being in
the majority, and the class that rebels, and gradually develops
priggishness and self-satisfaction at being in the minority. Both
classes are objectionable, and I do not know which is the worse. They
are both inevitable in a world of prohibitions, and if the United
States, to which we are all looking as the real hope for intelligent
civilization, is going to take away our beer and turn us into
supporters of play-producing societies I cannot think what will happen
to the world. Better a wicked world than a virtuous one. Better a
world in which we can hope that there are people worse than ourselves
than a world where we know that there cannot be any better.


[Illustration: H. M. Tomlinson regarding, with not too great enthusiasm,
the Perfect State of the Future.]


That fairly violent scuffling during the years 1914-1918, the opening
skirmishes of the war between Organization and Liberty which our
fore-fathers named so strangely the "War to End War," did not appear
to conclude satisfactorily for the victorious nations, especially
England. Actually it was an excellent ground for the founding of that
Perfect State which, in the centuries that followed, arose on the
lines laid largely by chance and the exigencies of that early
scramble. Yet it is possible the victorious statesmen may not have
guessed that they had done really well. The name by which the war of
those remote years was popularly known is enough to show that the
difficulties faced by those men at the end of the war may have
obscured the good they had done. That name is itself clear evidence of
the not unpleasing credulity and ridiculous but innocent desire of the
people of that time.

After all, those peoples were not so long out of the Neolithic Age.
Their memory was still strong of the freedom of their earlier
wanderings when they could go where they liked, work at what suited
them, eat and drink what pleased them, choose who should be their
chief, and worship in any Temple which promised most personal
benefits. It was, then, natural for them to make so amusing a mistake
in the naming of their "Great War." They not only certainly imagined
they were ending War, but they imagined, too, they had a right to end
it, thinking that not only War, but every other act of the State, was
for their decision. Their Governors, therefore, judged it wise to
allow them this illusion to play with, so to distract their attention
from the reality, which they would have resented. This illusion was
known as Popular Government.

We may laugh at it now, but in those days the directing minds of great
nations found that common illusion no laughing matter. Some who
laughed at it openly discovered they had laughed on the wrong side of
the guillotine. It is usual in this era of science, when control by
the Holy State of the national mass-power, both of body and mind, is
complete, and when national emotion is raised by Press and Pulpit
whenever it is required and put wherever it is wanted, to ridicule the
laxity of the statesmen who directed the nations in that early war. A
little reflection, however, shows us that that laxity is but apparent.
Those statesmen went as far as they dared, and dared a little more
with each success they won. They discovered that control may be gained
by announcing control to be necessary for some quite innocent object,
and then using and retaining the power thus acquired for a real but
undivulged purpose. Sheep, we are aware, never understand they are
securely folded till the completing hurdle of the circuit is in its
place, and then they soon forget it, and begin grazing; for all sheep
want is grass, and perhaps a turnip or two to give content in a
limited pasture.

It would be wrong for us, nevertheless, to blame those early folk for
not understanding, as finely as we do, the true science of government
to be complete and unquestioned mastery. We have learned much since
then. Let us look back to those days for a moment, to get the just
perspective. One of the first significant things we notice is that
those people were free to criticize their politicians--baaing across
the hurdles, as it were. That was why they had to have explained to
them the "Objects of the War." They actually did not want to die. They
were reluctant to go to battle unless they knew why they were going.
True, it was easy enough to find a reason to satisfy them, but it is
necessary for us to remember that they would not submit to mutilation
and death without some reason. Much as their governors may have
desired it, those primitives would not agree willingly to the total
surrender of conscience, individual liberty, and of life, to
"politicians," as the High Priests of the Holy State were then
familiarly named. Individual conscience, therefore, had to be cajoled,
had to be bamboozled, had to be hypnotized; and a man's liberty could
not be taken from him unless he was helpless, or was looking, under
clever political finger-pointing, the other way.

It was this almost intractable matter of personal conscience and
liberty which was the cause of the angry disappointment following the
Versailles Treaty which, illustrating still further the need for
subtle tact in dealing with our hairy forefathers, was called a Peace

What a light is thrown upon those distant days and peoples when that
ancient document, the fragmentary relic of which is now treasured in
the museum at Tobolsk, is examined with even the little knowledge we
possess of the events immediately following it! For a time, we must
believe, humanity then was deliriously bereft. One could almost
believe the moon had a greater pull in those years.

"No more secret diplomacy!" historians tell us was one of the cries
of the soldiers as they went to battle. There is considerable ground,
too, for accepting the amusing traditional tale that even at the end
of the war the then President of the American Republic (mainly
confined at the time to the Western Continent), declared the first
point for the guidance of the Peace Conference must be an open
discussion of the covenant. And the first thing to happen when the war
ended was the closing of the door of the council room by the
peacemakers, who, naturally, were the very men with no other interest
till that moment but the full pursuit of war; yet nobody noticed the
door was shut, though nobody could hear what was going on inside the
room. The faith in their politicians held by the natives of the
backyard communities into which Europe was then divided--on the very
eve, we see now, of the full continental control of international
man-power by consolidated finance--was the measure of their annoyance
when, too late, naturally, the fact that the old shackles from which
they had been promised freedom were noticed to be riveted upon them
several links tighter.

But it is not their faith, so happily youthful, which so reveals their
ingenious minds as their resultant annoyance. That resentment
illuminates the essential fact for us in studying their mentality as
social animals. They really did accept without question, with open and
receptive mouths and eyes shut, what was considered pleasing enough to
fortify them in the trials of warfare. They were, difficult though it
is for us to understand it, too vacant and generous to realize that
the "Objects of the War" were but figments nicely calculated to get
them busy. The figments--we must give credit to the leaders of the
time-were indeed not un-imaginatively conjured up. Those inducing
visions worked. They were accepted readily, and even with delight. It
was sincerely believed that the pleasing dreams were substantial, that
those chromatic vapours evoked by gifted statesmen were veritable
promises of divine favor for meritorious endurance.

From that we can the more easily go with understanding to a study of
the consequences of that attractive faith of undisciplined peoples so
difficult to grasp for modern students, who witness daily the
admirable submission of our own uniform herds to the divine ordinances
of the High Priests of the Sacred Entity the State. Why, we even learn
that the survivors of the not inconsiderable armies returned from the
battlefields of 1918 with the innocent conviction that the gentlemen
of England would keep a bond as faithfully as common soldiers! The
hardest tasks of the statesmen of those days arose out of such
extraordinary expectations, out of the ruinous supposition of the
childish-minded that the honoring of a bond, the fulfilment of a
promise in return for benefits received, is equally incumbent on

With that knowledge we begin to realise the difficulties of their
statesmen. A careful computation shows us that in England, where
indeed the lavish promises had been most picturesque, and where the
tough idea of personal liberty took longest to kill, it required just
four years of severe disciplinary measures and dry bread to reduce the
masses generally to a pale, obedient, and constructive spirit. At
first they would not work unless they wanted to, and then only at
their own price. They pointed, when answering their masters, to the
fact that the best-fed people never worked at all, and lived in the
best houses. They refused to cancel the official contracts made with
them, even when ordered to do so by the police. They behaved indeed,
those ex-soldiers, as though it had been _their_ war. Such a
state of mind we in these days really find impossible to elucidate. It
is rather like trying to read the spots on a giraffe. It is as
inscrutable as the once general opinion that the community has a right
to decide upon its own affairs.

Today we have reached that point in the evolution of society when
uniformity is known to be more desirable, because more comfortable
than liberty; and uniformity is impossible without compulsion. A man
with a free and contentious mind is a danger to the community, for he
destroys its ease. He compels his fellows to active thought, if only
to refute him. This is a dissipation of energy, and a local weakening
of the structure of the State. It is historically true that a few men
with ranging and questioning minds have sometimes injected so strong
an original virus of thought that the community has been changed in
form and nature.

It was the mistake of the earlier nations to give little attention to
these troublesome and subversive fellows, who always thought more of
the truth than they did even of the inviolability of the High Priests
of the State. They preferred to die rather than surrender the
out-dated rights of man. Therefore they had to die. The rights of man
cannot be allowed to stand in the way of a nation's perfect
uniformity. It was many centuries before man realized that the only
freedom worth having is freedom from the necessity for individual
thought. Perfectly unembarrassed freedom, freedom in which the mind
may be empty and sunny, and assured happily of not the slightest
interruption from any unsanctioned unofficial idea, became possible to
a community only after the sanitary measures were devised which
sufficed against unexpected epidemics of speculative thinking.

This, we are sadly aware, took time; for the brightly-colored hopes
sent skyward so long ago as 1914, and the vistas discovered as a
consequence by young men whose eyes till then had been resting safely
on the ground, and the daring and lively questioning that was aroused
by the incessant nudging of sleeping minds, coincided, as it unluckily
happened, with the beginnings when the "Great War" ended, of
mass-production and international finance, so developing problems of
government, the solving of which could not be reconciled with any
admission of individual liberty and personal right. It was, therefore,
the elimination of the notion of justice and liberty from common
opinion which occupied statesmen from 1918 onwards.

Gradually the true social morality has been evolved--that one citizen
should be so like all other citizens that his only distinguishing
characteristic is his number; that the right ideal of citizenship,
plain for all to follow, and ensuring the stability of society, is to
be so loyal to the Holy State that an expression of a man's views in a
gathering of his fellows will rouse no more curiosity than a glass of
water. Obviously so desirable a similarity of mind and character,
making disputation impossible, and preventing all dislike of the
ordinances of the Sacred Entity, or Cabal of Inviolable Dispensers, a
uniformity in which war and peace become merely the national output of
a vast machine controlled by the Central Will, has been developed only
through ages of Press Suggestion, popular education with a bias that
was designed but was scarcely noticeable, the seizing and retaining of
opportunities by legislators whenever public opinion was sufficiently
diverted, and a development of chemical science and aeronautics which
has been encouraged by the enlightened directors of the major

The war which began in 1914 showed quite clearly, for example, the
value of the Censorship. The instituting of this office was never
questioned, for it was based on man's first impulse of obedience to
superiors when faced by a sudden danger, caused by his fear of the
unknown. More than that, the English were in a lucky state of
exaltation at the time, and were ready to sacrifice everything to save
from destruction what they were told was the ancient, exquisite, and
priceless civilization of France. They did save it; but in the
prolonged and costly process they learned more than they had known
before of that civilization, as well as of their own; and so much of
their fear of losing either was evaporated. By that time, anyhow,
criticism was useless, because the Censorship then was empowered to
deal even with a derisive cough when Authority was solemnly giving
orders. Once the office of the Censor was set in its place unnoticed
in a time of public nervousness and excitement, the rest was easy, for
it became possible to bring all criticism within a law which was
elastic enough to be extended even to those figments which merely
worked on the timidity of unbalanced minds.

It became unpatriotic to express a dislike for margarine, when butter
was prohibited. It was unpatriotic for a blind hunchback with heart
disease to protest that he was no soldier, if he were ordered to the
Front. For though the Censor, in the early period of that war, dealt
merely with news and opinions which might aid the enemy, yet, as the
value of adding to a nation's enemies became apparent to Authority, it
became necessary to turn into enemies of the State those who denounced
profiteers for turning blood into money, those who denounced generals
for wasting the lives of boys in purposeless actions, those who spoke
against the spending of the nation's resources to succor needy
contractors, and those who asked whether the war was to go on till all
were dead, or whether it might be stopped profitably at any time by
using a little common sense. Luckily for the welfare of the community,
this need for recognizing as enemies all, at home and abroad, who
differed from the decision of the Central Will, a need which was the
natural flower of that confidence which Authority acquired through
discovering the ease of control, put within the power of the Censor by
the time of the Peace Conference every possible form of protest, every
call for light, every cry of pain, every demand that such a "horrible
nonsense" as war should cease from human affairs, every plea for
compassion and generosity.

Thus the problem of perfect government was engendered and simplified.
It was at last possible to ensure, at least outwardly, a semblance of
uniformity. The rest was a matter of evolution, till today only a
particular enquiry will determine a man from a woman, though it may
fail to determine a fool from a man. All are alike, all agree with
what is officially announced by the Sacred Entity, and the nation is
as loyal and homogeneous, as contented, as stable and industrious, as
a reef of actinozoal plasm. Thus the Perfect State has been built like
a rock. The City of God has at last arisen; and in each of the uniform
homes of its neuters, or workers, there is to be found the Patriotic
Symbol--a portrait of a Sheep, enjoined by law to hang in a principal
place, and bearing the legend "God Bless this Loyal Face."

Here, however, we see at once that such a right condition of the
public mind could never have been acquired by a Censorship, by a mere
prohibition, that is, of individual thinking and acting. That ensures
merely a simulacrum of homogeneity. The appearance of general
acquiescence may exist, though not the real thing. It is easy to
compel men to do what they would not do freely if allowed an
opportunity for their reason to work. The problem was to prevent the
working of reason. Today, as we know, an order is issued by The
Chosen, and is followed by a campaign in the Press, and by revivals
exhorted from the Pulpit. There is no chance for the intrusion of
reason.--No facts are ever issued for reason to work upon, no
questioning is ever allowed. The suggestions of the Press and Pulpit
prompt loyalty and obedience, and what might, in early times, have
been resented as ridiculous, becomes the mode; and thus, if any rebels
exist, it is but briefly, for they are denounced as solitary and
repugnant independents. A suggestion becomes public opinion because
the majority of people accept it without knowing there is reason to
question the suggestion; and the minority also accept it in the end
through weariness of an unpleasant and even dangerous distinction.

Yet not, observe, all the minority. It was the experience of our
forefathers that unsuspected centres of infection always remained, and
were not discovered till they had poisoned large areas of the country.
Some bold fellow, here and there, had withstood all efforts at
intimidation, and in time made others as courageous as himself. A
means had to be found to eliminate the possibility of infection by
original minds, or clearly the Holy State could not consider itself
safe. Here, indeed, we see the hardest of the problems statesmen of
the past had to solve. From the mere negation of the Censorship, a
positive advance had to be made to the obliteration of original
thought. This at first, necessarily, was but tentative, and only the
confidence gained through successful experiment enabled governments at
last to find where the real trouble lay.

It was supposed, at first, that the destruction of subversive
political tracts and the persecution of radical views would be enough.
Yet, of course, it was learned that as fast as these were cropped,
growth elsewhere had become vigorous. The human intelligence is
natively prone to look towards new things. Then it was that, after a
long suspicion of the origin of ideals, great statesmen were led to an
examination of classic literature and a study of the arts. Then they
saw, what they might have known sooner, that in the very institutions
supported by the State, the Public Libraries and Art Galleries, were
actually preserved the potent ideals which demeaned that general
opinion which the State was laboring to establish.

The famous Day of Release was ordered. This was ordained to free
mankind from its heritage of the spirit. A test was made, and by that
test any book or picture or poem which could not be approved or
understood by native deacons of Solomon Island missions (who were
imported for the purpose) was at once extirpated. This checked a great
deal of the troublesome growth of the mind. Music, however, was
strangely forgotten; and it was proved that the great revolution which
burst out in Europe 120 years after the "Great War" began in the
emotion occasioned by the continued playing of the compositions of one
Beethoven, whose work is now fortunately lost, and other music which
remained in favor in spite of the official insistence on the use of
the steam saxophone for public concerts. Men, wherever they dared,
insisted on having the best. And though the records were at length
destroyed, the tenacious memories of a few fanatics and cranks
preserved much of the old music, and that usually of the worst and
most disloyal.

Here we see another step had to be taken by men in control of the
State. The memory of what was classical was kept though in an
ever-fading condition, and now and again some point of memory
fructified to almost its original suggestive beauty in the
fortuitously abnormal brain of a genius, and thus the state work of
hygiene had to be done over again; for curiously enough people
everywhere rose like a tide, and moved spontaneously towards these
manifestations of liberty and beauty, and away from their loyalty to
the God-State. A method, therefore, had to be discovered, first for
obliterating what remained in the public memory of what was magical
and rebellious, and then for the elimination of any possibility of
original genius arising; and genius was, it was seen, first and last,
the cause of all the trouble.

The destruction of all great works of art was followed, fifty years
later, by the Period of Purging. All who were denounced for having
quoted forbidden poetry, or for humming forbidden music, were
executed. Such malefactors, who refused to forget, obviously could not
be allowed to live. This gave a long period of peace, in which the
Sacred Entity, the Unassailable Authority, took concrete form. Even
so, the destruction of the treasures of the past, and of all memory of
them, did not prevent the spontaneous appearance, now and then, of
extraordinary men who, by divination it would seem, perceived a
flatness and monotony in society, a sameness of common thought, and
who laughed at the estimable uniform flocks; often, indeed, stampeding

Now science had its turn. It was more than a century since the works
of Darwin and other philosophers had been burned. Young students who
showed an aptitude for science, and so were potentially dangerous,
were taken early within the Sacred Precincts, initiated into the
mysteries of the Priests, and were given work and safety under the
shadow of the Entity. They rarely went wrong; and when they did they
went further or were heard of no more.

These men of science were set the problem of finding a method of
sterilizing the unfit, that is, people who showed any decadent
tendency to originality. All the increase of population by that time
was occasioned under the direction of the High Priests, so that the
Holy State had not only the power of dealing death, but of bringing
new life. The new life, it is evident, had to be determined, as far as
possible, by a scientific specification of a perfect citizen; and in
the course of a century or two, through the destruction of
intelligence wherever it inadvertently appeared, through the selection
of parents sufficiently loyal and docile to accept marriage
immediately when ordered by officials, and by certain signs, such as
lustiness, by which, at a birth, the skilled Public Watchers who
accompanied midwives were made suspicious of the new-born as possible
enemies of the State, at last mankind arrived at its present
perfection, content, and happiness, with hardly an intellectual doubt
or a sign of suspicious joy to mar the whole serene horizon of the
Holy State's exactitude.

Yet, we dare ask, had it not been for that little "War to End War" of
1914-1918, so innocently named by our forefathers who had too much
liberty to know what they were talking about, would the possibility of
our present social tranquility have arisen? It is hardly likely. The
freedom we enjoy from all criticism, from all interruptions of mind
and spirit, an internal peace which is indeed never broken except by
the lethal germs of our modern wars that, in the due course of nature,
obliterate every week or so a few of our cities, was a lucky chance
that was seized upon by public-spirited legislators who had the
prescience to know its value.


[Illustration: Charles Hanson Towne and the Law.]


The Young-Old Philosopher and I were sitting in one of the innumerable
restaurants in New York where the sanctity of the law is about as much
considered as a bicycle ride up Mt. Etna. At the next table--indeed,
all around us--rich red wine was being poured into little cups.

"The new motto of America should be '_In vino demi-tasse_,'" my
friend said, smiling. And I quite agreed with him. For it is being
done everywhere; in the most exalted circles, and in the lowest. Poor
old human nature, which an organized minority are so bent upon
changing overnight, cannot be altered; and, all the emphasis in a
supposedly free country having been placed upon not drinking, the
prohibitionists are wondering why so many of us care for liquid

There is too much _verboten_ in America today. I can remember the
time, not so long ago, when no dinner-party was counted a success
unless four or five cocktails were served before we sat down at the
table. But that era passed. It was soon evident that such foolishness
would lead to grave disaster--if not to the grave; and the young
business man who was seen to consume even one glass of beer at
luncheon was frowned upon, catalogued as unsteady, even in the face of
the fact that perhaps the most efficient people in the world were
automatic beer-drinkers.

As to drinking, in America we had other ideas. Big Business, which has
become such a potent factor among us, and more a part of our national
consciousness than Art and Letters ever will be, of its own volition
placed a ban upon immoderate drinking; and the sane among us--of whom
there were still many--gladly fell in line, and either went
periodically upon the water-wagon or took a nip only occasionally when
the cares of life weighed too heavily and insistently upon us.

Why, then, the Reformers? Why the Uplift Workers? Why the Extremists?
Not content with a great and wise people working out their own
salvation from within, they must step forth in solemn battalions, and
make us pure and holy--from without.

We resent them. There is no reason why an entire nation should be
indicted for the sins and failings of a few. It would be quite as
sensible to forbid connubial bliss because there are a handful of
libertines in the world.

The cry goes up, however, that the next generation will be so much
better because of our enforced good behavior now. I am afraid that I
am not enough of an altruist to care so definitely about the morals of
a race unborn. I feel that my children, looking over the files of our
newspapers, as they sip their light wine and beer, may smile and say,
"Poor grandpa! He had so little self-control that the Government had
to put the screws on him and his friends. Too bad! They must have been
a fast set in his day. And yet--he left us a pretty good heritage of
health and strength. We wonder if he was such an awful devil as
history makes out."

The truth is that nothing, in moderation, ever hurt anybody. That is
why the wise among us are against Prohibition and strongly for
Temperance. Normal men do not like to be coddled. If coddling is done,
however, they like to pick their coddlers. We don't like a lean and
sour-visaged Prohibitionist making a fuss over us, feeling our pulse,
taking our temperature, smoothing our brow. The whole trouble with the
world today, as a sane man views it, is that there has been altogether
too much coddling of the physically and mentally unfit.

We have become, through drifting, a nation of hypocrites. We make laws
so fast that the bewildered citizen cannot follow them. We add
amendment after amendment to our Constitution, and then laugh at what
we have done, the while we secretly rebel. We have few convictions,
and we refuse to face issues squarely and honestly. We pretend to be
virtuous before the rest of the world; but we are like the ostrich
which hides its head in the sands. We pretend that, just as the
eugenists think of the physical attributes of the coming generation,
we consider the mental attributes--and we turn around and raise a race
of bootleggers. We permit our enormous foreign population to see us at
our legislative work; and then we go proudly and sanctimoniously to
restaurants and allow Italian, German and French waiters to pour red
wine into our demi-tasses.

Oh, we are not in our cups--only in our half-cups. It would all be
very amusing were it not so terribly serious. For we are rapidly
floating toward trouble; and, hypocritically enough, we will not admit
it. When it is said, since the tragedy of Prohibition, that the
reformers will next snatch our cigars and cigarettes out of our
mouths, we shrug our shoulders, smile and pass on, saying, "Oh, no!
_that_ would be going _too_ far!"--in the face of what already
has been accomplished in this land of the spree and the home of
the grave.

Yes, we have become grave indeed. For there can be no doubt that there
is a feeling of great unhappiness and unrest in America now. One hears
the most solid citizens saying, "I do not try to save any more; I
merely live from day to day, hoping against hope that things will
right themselves, and that the old order will somehow return."

Who gets a long-term lease nowadays? Those of us who are old enough to
remember the simplicity and peace of the golden 'Eighties and
'Nineties are appalled at the nervous tension and complexities of this
hour. We are all catalogued and tagged, just as they are in that
Prussia we so recently and fervently despised; and we are hounded by
income-tax investigators, surrounded by a horde of spies who search
our luggage, pry into our kitchens to see if we are making home brew,
raided in restaurants--and laughed at by king-ridden and shackled

It isn't pleasant to realize that you are burdened with taxes partly
to cover the salaries of Federal Officers whose delicate duty it is to
spy upon you. And then when you walk out and talk to the police-man on
your street, he will whisper in your ear that he knows where he can
get you some delicious ale, and see to it that it is safely delivered
at your door. This is the America, deny it as we will, that we are
living in today. I confess that I hang my head a bit, and am ashamed
to look a Frenchman in the face.

Not long ago, at a dinner, I asked a certain politician--I refuse to
grace him with the name of statesman, though he has ambitions to be
known as such--why, if he believed in the Volstead Act, he still
consumed whiskey. His answer was intended to be amusing; to me it was
disgraceful. Said he: "I am drinking as much as I can in order to
lessen the supply for the other fellow."

And just a while back I went to a banquet at a country club near New
York. Two policemen in uniform were sent by the local authorities to
"guard the place" while much liquor was poured. These minions of the
sacred law were openly served with highballs, and laughed at the
Constitution of the United States, the while they drank. Everyone at
that party was loud in denunciation of Prohibition and what has come
in its wake, yet went on dancing with the casual remark that it was of
no consequence that they broke the law, since everyone was doing
it--and everyone always would.

Uphold the law, no matter what is injected into it, I have heard
people cry. That, it seems to me, is mere Teutonic stupidity, and has
no part in the attitude of thinking men and women in a land like
America. I suppose, arguing thus, that if a law were passed tomorrow
prohibiting the carrying of, say, hand-bags or canes, they would feel
it incumbent upon themselves, as good Americans, to fall into line,
bow the knee and whisper meekly, "All right, O most beloved country! I

A good American, as I understand it, is not one who ignorantly stands
for the letter of the law, no matter what that law may be. A good
American is one who tries to set his country right; one who looks
beyond the present ungenerous attitude of the fanatics; one who
visualizes the future and prays that our liberty may not be further
jeopardized, for the good of the generations that are to follow us.

We fought to rid the world of autocracy, yet we have suddenly become
the most autocratic nation on earth. Prohibition is a symbol of the
death of freedom. The issue at stake is as clear-cut as taxation
without representation; and our legislators should remember a certain
well-known Boston tea-party. There would have been no United States of
America unless a few honest men with sound convictions had rebelled
and protested against tyranny. The right kind of rebel makes the right
kind of citizen.

I have heard a few people liken one's duty in the matter of the draft
to the Prohibition law. If we obeyed a summons to fight, whether we
liked fighting or not, we should likewise obey the law regarding
drinking, they contend. The two things are as separated as the Poles.
In 1914, and thereafter, civilization itself was at stake; and that
man would have been blind indeed who did not see the stern and
clear-cut issues before us all. We leaped to arms because we wanted to
protect humanity, because the death-knell of democracy was sounding.
Prohibition, these same people would tell us, should be enforced to
save poor, weak humanity and civilization again, and we should fight
to that end. Yet as long as the world has been moving, civilized man
has been consuming a certain amount of alcohol, and has been in no
serious danger of going down to disaster. We have progressed through
the ages, despite our cheerful cups of wine; and though of course a
few imbeciles have dropped from the line, the rest of us have been
none the worse--in fact, sometimes a little better--for our occasional
libations. Let anyone deny this who has ever, for a moment even, been
in Arcady! And the dreadful and incontrovertible fact remains that the
sober nations have not proved themselves superior to those who drink
in moderation.

Who are happy over Prohibition? First, the Prohibitionists themselves,
and, secondly, the bootleggers. The more the lid is clamped on in our
great cities, the more rejoicing goes on in that mysterious inner and
under circle which dispenses liquor, and will continue to dispense it,
I fear, until the end of time. Whenever there is a "drive" on in New
York to "mop up the place," prices soar to the skies, and the illicit
trade waxes brisker than ever. No wonder the bootleggers grow
happy--and rich; and evade the income tax which the rest of us must

I am not sympathetic toward those who say that they have been driven
to excessive drinking because a certain obnoxious law has been passed.
The only way to fight Prohibition is to fight it soberly; it is the
jingled and jangled arguments of bar-room bores that hurt the cause of
the men and women who are moderate drinkers, and who wish with all
their hearts to see a return to common sense in our country.

We Americans never do anything piecemeal. Probably at the root of all
our strange fanaticism about drink was the thought that the saloon had
better go; that it was time for such foul places to disappear. The
pendulum had to swing all the way. If it would swing back a little; if
the Government would step in and control the liquor traffic, do away
with spirits, except for medicinal purposes, and give the people light
wine and beer, a truce could be declared over night. Drunkenness
should be made a prison offence. No matter who the offender against
public decency is he should be lodged in jail. Whether one is a
so-called gentleman coming out of his club, or the meanest tramp in
the streets, he should be punished. There would be no visible
drunkenness if a law like this were passed and rigorously enforced.

I am afraid that so long as grapes grow on vines and apples on trees;
so long as fermentation is one of Nature's processes, there can be no
such thing as Prohibition. And the Biblical justification for drinking
is pleasant reading for those who like, now and then, a little wine at
their dinner tables. Yet there are fanatics who rise up and shout that
the wine Christ caused to appear at the marriage feast of Cana was not
intoxicating. What divination is theirs which makes them so positive?
If water was just as good, why did not water remain in the casks?

If we would spend more time making laws that worked for good, rather
than for evil--and Graft is a great evil; if we would realize that it
is not so much our concern to make the other fellow good as to make
him happy, as Stevenson so beautifully puts it--then, I say, we would
be better employed than we are today with our foolish, fussy bills and
acts, mandates, precepts and restrictions.

I believe firmly in local option in all things; but there is no reason
why New York, or any other great city, should live as Kansas and Idaho
live. I prefer New York because a big city gives me a spiritual uplift
that a prairie town does not. It is my privilege to live where I
desire. I like to hear fine music, to come in contact with
intellectuals; to go to plays that are worth while; to read books that
satisfy my soul. I find such a life in New York. I have no quarrel
with the man who prefers the silence and loneliness of forests and
plains. He may be far happier than I. But I do insist that if I let
him alone, he also should let me alone. Throbbing cities thrill me:
cities with their glamour, their wonder, their enchantment, their
dreams of agate and stone, their lofty towers that plunge to the very
skies and kiss the clouds. I happen to like the innocent laughter in a
glass of champagne. You may call it wicked hilarity. But the
Continental manner of living appeals to me. I like the color and
warmth and fervor of life; and people who drink red wine with their
meals seem to me to be more cosmopolitan than those who do not. All
this seems part of the pageant of life to me. I am not provincial, and
I do not care to be made provincial by unintelligent and unimaginative

It may be that I am entirely wrong. I do not know. But I do know that
it seems utterly unreasonable to force me to abstain from wine if I
wish it, just because there are a few heavy imbibers of whiskey in the
world. I think it is a far more serious matter to have practically all
of us law-breakers than to have one-half of one per cent of us

Let us have done with insincere, inelastic laws, and get back to
wisdom and truth and sanity.


[Illustration: John V. A. Weaver noticing the bartender who has been thrown
out of work by Prohibition.]


(With a graceful bow to Don Marquis)

   You heard me! How many times I got to tell you?
   Them is my words: you leave that girl alone.
   Leave her alone, you hear? Leave her alone!
   You think I'll have my son foolin' around
   A little snippy rat that's all stuck-up,
   And thinks my son's not good enough for her?
   "Yeh," that's what Bill says, "Yeh, it's like I say;
   Ellen is got swell friends up on the Drive;
   I'm sorry she had to break a date with Fred.
   But still, you know, the world is changed a lot,
   And we changed with it. You're about the same,
   But me--well, I been gettin' right along,
   And honest, Jack, you see the sense yourself--
   Why should I let my daughter marry a clerk?"

   Can you believe it? Why, I damn near fainted.
   His daughter too good for the likes of us!
   Of course I got so mad I couldn't see!
   Of course I pasted him square in the eye!
   And if I catch him sayin' things about me
   I'll knock his stuck-up head off! And I tell you,
   If you go near the dirty oilcan's place,
   And crawl around that snippy brat of his,
   I'll kick you out into the street to stay.
   You hear that? Eight out in the street you go!
   The nerve! The dirty, lousy, low-down crook!
   A Bootleg gettin' stuck-up over money!
   The world is crazy, that's all there is to it!
   Crazy, I tell you! All turned upside-down!

   Listen. It's fifteen years I know this Bill.
   Them good old days, most every afternoon
   On the way home from the lumber yards I'd drop in
   And get a beer, and gas around a while.
   That was my second home, I useta say,
   And Bill's Place was a home you could be proud of.
   Say. The old woman never kep' a floor
   As clean as Bill's was. And the brass spittoons
   And rail-you could of shaved lookin' in one.
   And all the glasses polished! And the tables
   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 nights a great big hot roast ham,
   Or roast beef simply yellin' to be et,
   And washed down with a seidel of old Schlitz!

   Oh, say, that sure was fun, and don't forget it.
   Old Ed, and Tom, and Baldy Frank McGee,
   And the two Bentleys, we was all the reg'lars.
   It was our meetin'-place. And there we stood,
   And Lord! The rows about the government,
   And arguin! and all about the country,
   How it was goin' to the dogs. And maybe
   Somebody'd start a song, and old Pop Dikes
   Would have to quit the checker-game in the corner
   That him and Fat Connell was always playin',
   And never gettin' through. I never seen

   No bums come in and stay for more'n a minute;
   Bill didn't like to have no drunks around;
   He made 'em hit the air. Well, some of us,
   Of course, might get just a wee mite too much
   Under the belt, but who did that ever hurt?
   At least we knowed the licker wasn't poison.
   And when somebody would get very lit
   Bill was right there to try and make him stop;
   I can't see how it ever hurt us any.

   And Bill! He was some barkeep! One swell guy!
   A pleasant word for everybody, always,
   Straight as a string, and just the whole world's friend.
   I never saw a guy was liked so much.
   He hardly took a drink, just a cigar,
   And oncet a while a pony, say, of lager.
   And my, the way that bird could tell a story!
   Why, many a time I laughed until I cried.
   And if it happened I was out of dough,
   Bill was right there to make a little loan.
   Generous, that was Bill, and one good pal.
   A great old place it was, that place of Bill's.
   Them was the happy days!-them was the days.

   I never will forget that good-bye party
   The night that Prohibition was wished on us.
   You bet it wasn't any rough-house then.
   We all stood 'round the bar, solemn and quiet,
   And couldn't hardly think of what to say.
   Bill--it was funny what had happened to him.
   He didn't crack a smile the whole blame night.
   He just would shake his head, and bite his lips,
   And gosh, the way his eyes was shootin' fire.
   The last thing that he said before I left,
   "By God, I'll get back at 'em, you just wait!
   I'm closing here. But don't you fret--I'll get 'em--
   The dirty, pussy-footin' lousy skunks!"

   I had to go home early. And the next day
   I seen the wagons comin' to take the bar
   And all the furniture. I felt like cryin'.

   Well, you know what this prohibition is.

   Bill goes away, and stays about three months.
   And then one day I meets him on the street.
   "Well, Jack," he says, "You want some real good gin?"
   "Just what I need," I says. "All right," he says,
   "You come down to the house at nine o'clock.
   I'll fix you up. I'll give you half a case
   Four Bucks a bottle."... "Four a bottle!" I says,
   Thinkin' he must be kiddin'. "Sure," he says,
   "I got to make my profit. There's the risk.
   This is good stuff. I made it by myself.
   I guarantee that it won't make you sick."
   "I'm sick already, just from hearin' the price.
   No thanks. Not now," I says. He says all right,
   But when I want some, just remember him.

   And so, of course, later I did want some,
   And had to pay that much, and even more;
   But hell, what can you do? So long's you're sure
   The stuff ain't goin' to burn your insides out,
   You got to pay the price. And all the friends
   That Bill had useta have is customers,

   And all get stung the same. And dozens more.
   Them old days Bill was one fine friend for sure,
   Happy and nice and straight and generous.
   And now to think he high-brows you and me!
   A great big house he's got, and a new Packard,
   And di'monds for his wife, that scrubbed the floors
   Back in the days when he was only barkeep.
   That's what this Prohibition done for him,
   And what's it do for me, I'd like to know?
   It makes a crook of me, the same as him,
   Only I'm losin' money, and he gets it.
   Why, say, I catch myself all of the time
   Laughin' about this Prohibition law,
   And figgerin' new ways how I could break it.
   And that's the way it is with everybody.
   We get to see that one law is a joke,
   And think it's smart to bust it all to pieces.
   And pretty soon there's all the other laws,
   And how're you goin' to keep from think' likewise
   About a thing like stealin', and all that?
   No wonder that we got these here now crime waves!
   No wonder everybody is a crook!

   But that ain't what I'm sayin' to you now!
   You leave that stuck-up little Jane alone!
   They's plenty of girls that's pretty in the world--
   You leave that dirty oilcan's daughter be.
   Ten years ago she used to run around
   And rush the can for me and other folks.
   Now she's a real swell lady! Damn her eyes,
   And Bill's, and them there pussy-footin' fish!
   The world is, crazy! And I'm goin' nuts!
   High-tonin' me! You hear me? If I catch you
   Foolin' around that girl, I kick you out,
   So fast you won't know what has ever hit you!

   A bootleg's daughter! Hell!


[Illustration: Alexander Woollcott rescuing the Playwright from the awful
shears of the Censor.]


Every American playwright goes about his work these days oppressed by
a foreboding. He suspects that before long a censor is going to
materialize out of thin air to take stern and morose charge of the
American theatre. It is true that no statutory precipitation of such
an agent has been definitely proposed. It is true that the policeman
from the nearest corner has not gone so far as to drop around and warn
him that he'd better be careful. Nevertheless, he has the foreboding.
He perceives dimly that a desire to chasten the stage is in the air.
And he is right. It, is. It has been ever since the war.

Of course an itch to lay hands on the theatre was begetting
restlessness in the American bosom considerably prior to April 6,
1917. It is part of this country's Puritan inheritance to believe that
playgoing is somehow bad, that an enjoyment and patronage of the
theatre is sinful. This belief flows as an unconscious undercurrent in
the thought even of those clergymen who try pathetically hard to seem
and be liberal and unpharisaical, the kind who always begin their
lectures on Avery Hopwood by saying that they yield to no one in their
admiration and respect for the many splendid ladies and gentlemen of
the stage whom they are proud to number among their acquaintances.

Shaw, in his comparatively mild-mannered preface to "The Showing Up
of Blanco Posnet," recognizes the Puritan hostility to the theatre, but,
somewhat perversely, ascribes it to the fact that the _promenoirs_
have always been used as show-windows by the courtesans of each
generation. I suspect, however, that that hostility was more deeply
rooted. The Puritans disliked the theatre because it was jolly. It was
a place where people went in deliberate quest of enjoyment. And you
weren't supposed to do that on earth. Plenty of time for that later on.

When I was a knee-breeched schoolboy in Philadelphia, some of the more
dissipated of us used to organize Saturday excursions to Keith's old
Eighth Street Theatre, a vaudeville temple known to the natives as the
Buy-Joe. Fortified with a quarter and some sandwiches, one went at
eleven in the morning and hung on till the edge of midnight. To my
genuine surprise and confusion, I gathered that some of our classmates
not only avoided these orgies, but sincerely believed that we, who
indulged in them were simply courting Hell's fire. They stayed at home
and, I suppose, read "Elsie Dinsmore."

It so happens that I never encountered that book during my formative
years, but was in my hopelessly corrupted thirties before ever I saw a
copy. Even then, it did not lack interest. And one passage, at least,
richly rewarded a glance through its pages. It seems that Elsie,
arriving from somewhere, reached some city in the late evening. Her
father (a rakish, devil-may-care fellow who thought it was all right
for Elsie to play the piano on Sunday) met her at the station and
engaged a cabriolet to take her across town to whatever shelter had
been selected for the night. As they were bowling along one of the
principal streets, Elsie noticed a building which the author described
in shuddering accents as having, if I remember correctly, "a lighted
façade." The tone, if not the precise words of the description, rather
suggested that here was a gambling hell whose lower circles were
dedicated to rites of nameless infamy. Elsie shrank back into the
cloistered shadows of the cab. "Oh, father," she cried in hurt
bewilderment, "what kind of place was that?" Smitten, apparently, with
a certain remorse that he had suffered her virginal eyes to reflect so
scabrous a spot, he put a sheltering arm around her and said, sadly:
"That, little daughter, was a THEATRE."

At which limp climax, perhaps, you smile a little. But it is well to
remember that the children who were molded by "Elsie Dinsmore" are now
grown up and can be detected voting warmly at every election. Many of
them kicked over the traces long ago, but there are also many who are
reading Harold Bell Wright today. They admire Henry Ford. They sit
enthralled at the feet of Dr. John Roach Straton. And, not wryly but
with undiscouraged faith, they vote away for the Hylans and the
Hardings of each recurrent crisis. They brought the bootlegger into
existence and, at a rallying cry lifted by anyone against the theatre,
they will come scurrying intently from a thousand unsuspected flats
and two-story houses.

They are the more responsive to such cries since the war. That might
have been foreseen by any one at all familiar with the psychopathology
of reform. A cigarette addict who, in a spartan moment, swears off
smoking, is familiar enough with the inner gnaw that robs him of his
sleep and roils his dinner for days and days. His body, long
habituated to the tobacco, had dutifully taken on the business of
manufacturing its antidote. When the tobacco is abruptly removed, the
body continues for a while to turn out the antidote as usual and
during that while, that antidote goes roaming angrily through the
system, seeking something to oppose and destroy.

A somewhat analogous condition has agitated the body politic ever
since the late Fall of 1918. The passage of the Eighteenth Amendment
had robbed the prohibitionists of their chief excitement; then the
signing of the Armistice took away the glamor of public-spiritedness
from all those good people who had had such a splendid time keeping an
eye on their presumably treasonable neighbors. Behold, then, the Busy
Body (which is in every one of us) all dressed up and nowhere to go.
The itch became tremendous. The moving pictures caught it first. No
wonder the American playwright is uneasy. He ought to be.

He dreads a censorship of the theatre because he suspects (not without
reason) that it will be corrupt, that it will work foolishly, and
that, having taken and relished an inch, it will take an ell.

He is the more uneasy because he realizes that the theatre presents a
special incitement and a special problem--a problem altogether
different from that presented by the bookstall, for instance. The
play, once produced, is open to all the world. It may have been
written with the thought that it would amuse Franklin P. Adams, but it
is attended (in a body) by the Unintelligentsia. It may have been
heavily seasoned in the hope that it would jounce the rough boy of
Baltimore, H. L. Mencken-and lo, there in the third row on the aisle,
is Dr. Frank Crane, being made visibly ill by it. Your playwright may
write a piece to touch the memories and stir the hearts of elderly
sinners, but he has to face the fact that the girls from Miss Spence's
school may come fluttering to it, row on row.

On his desk is a seductive two-volume assemblage of "Poetica Erotica,"
edited by T. R. Smith, the antiquarian. It is a book which, if
flaunted, would agitate the Postmaster General, stir up the Grand
Jury, and make the Society for the Suppression of Vice call a special
mass-meeting. It is managed as a commercial article by a system of
furtive, semi-private sales which probably enhance its value as a
source of revenue and yet shut the mouth of the heirs of Anthony
Comstock. A folder announces that the juicy Satyr icon of Petronius
Arbiter will shortly issue from the same presses. And so on,
endlessly. It is a neat arrangement but one which cannot be imitated
by the playwright. When he wants to be naughty, he must make up his
mind to being naughty right out on the street-corner where every one
can see him.

And though, in the moments when he is disposed to temporize, he
sometimes thinks that suspect plays might, like saucy novels, be first
inspected in manuscript, he knows full well that no such tactics are
really feasible in the theatre. Your publisher, inwardly hot with
resentment, may nevertheless take the occasional precaution of showing
the script of a thin-ice book to the authorities--even to the
self-constituted ones--thereby forestalling prosecution by agreeing to
delete in advance such phrases and incidents as seem likely to agitate
those authorities unduly. But the flavor and significance of a play
depends too much on the manner of its performance and cannot be
clearly forecast prior to that performance any more than the hue of a
goblet can be guessed before the wine is poured. I can testify to
that--I, who in my time, have seen players make a minx out of Ophelia,
a mild-mannered mouse out of Katherine, an honest woman out of Lady
Macbeth and a benevolent old gentleman out of Shylock. I have seen
French players cast as the servants of Petruchio invade "The Taming of
the Shrew" with a comic pantomime in which they fought for their turns
at the keyhole of Petruchio's bedroom wherein Kate was being subjected
to a little off-stage taming. It would have amused Shakespeare
immoderately, I imagine, and certainly it would have surprised him.
Until his piece is spoken, even the author cannot tell--and
thereafter, from night to night, he cannot be sure.

That is why there is the quality of an eternal fable in the pathetic
old tale of the stagehand who had always felt that, if chance would
ever give him even the smallest of rôles, he would show these actors
where their shortcomings were. He would not drone out even the least
important and most perfunctory of speeches. Not he. Into every
syllable he would pour real meaning, real conviction. At last, after
twenty years of yearning from the wings, chance did rush him on as an
understudy. Unfortunately, he was assigned to the role of the page in
"King John," who must march into the throne-room and announce the
approach of Philip the Bastard.

So, it seems apparent that any real supervision of the theatre must
function with relation to produced plays and cannot deal with mere
unembodied and undetermined manuscripts.

Our playwright's suspicion that such supervision, if managed by a
politically appointed censor, would work foolishly, are justified by
all he has heard of such functionaries as they have worked in other
fields and in other lands. This was true of the gag which the doughty
Brieux finally pried off the mouth of the French playwright. It has
certainly been true of the mild and intermittent discipline to which
the remote and slightly puzzled Lord Chamberlain has subjected the
English dramatists. Indeed, when their mutinous mutterings finally
jogged Parliament into inspecting his activities, the Lord Chamberlain
was somewhat taken aback by the tactics of Shaw, who, instead of
hissing him for forbidding public performances of certain Shaw and
Ibsen plays, derided and denounced him instead for the plays he had
_not_ suppressed. And indeed, for every play which the Lord
Chamberlain has suppressed, the old playgoer of London could point to
five which, had he been more intelligent, he might more reasonably
have suppressed in its place.

But after all those scuffles on the Strand do seem part of the strange
customs of a fusty-dusty never-never land. So our American playwright
turns, instead, to the purifications effected nearer home. He looks
apprehensively into the matter of the movies. As an occasional
scenario writer, he has been instructed by bulletins sent out for his
guidance, little watch-your-step leaflets which list the alterations
ordered in earlier pictures by the august Motion Picture Commission of
the State of New York. Most of them are fussy little disapprovals of
language used in the titles. You mustn't say: "I shall kill Lester
Crope." Better say: "I shall destroy the false Lester Crope" or
something like that. You mustn't say "roué." You mustn't say: "I don't
like that rich old roué hanging around you." Better say: "I don't like
that rich old sport." And when, in a moment of self-indulgence, a
title-writer allowed himself the luxury of writing "In a moment of
madness, I wronged a woman," the Censor seems to have turned scarlet
and issued the following order: "Substitute for 'wronged' the word
'offended' or something similar."

"Or something similar." Somehow, that seems to recall an old "Spanish
for Beginners" textbook which bade me not bother with the "tutoyer"
business as it would not be needed during my travels in Spain, unless
I married there "or something similar."

At all events, no playwright can be scoffed at as an alarmist who
ventures to fear that a censorship of the drama will, in practice, be
foolish. At the thought of such frivolous and fatuous blue-pencillings
of his next drama (which is to be his master-piece, by the way) our
playwright becomes profoundly depressed and every time he goes out to
dinner or finds himself with a small, cornered audience at the club,
he winds up the talk on this bugaboo of his.

Out of the resulting prattle, two widespread impressions always come
to the top, two familiar comments on the subject which, whenever
questionable plays are mentioned, seem to emerge as regularly and as
automatically as does the applause which follows the rendition of
Dixie by any restaurant orchestra in New York. Both comments are

One comes from the man who can be counted on to say: "They tell me
that show at the Eltinge--What's it called? 'Tickling Tottie's
Tummy?'--well, they say it's pretty raw. Certainly does beat all how
there are some men who just have to see a show soon's they hear it's
smutty. I can't understand it."

This might be called the Comment Ingenuous. A man who never fails to
edge into any group whence the bent head and the hoarse chuckle tells
him that a shady story is on, a man who would have to think hard to
name a friend of his to whom he would not rush with the latest
scandalous anecdote brought in by the drummers from Utica--such a man
will, nevertheless, express a pious surprise when the crowds flock to
see the latest Hopwood farce just because it is advertised as
indecorous. It is not known why he is surprised.

Or, if he is not surprised, then he falls over backward and makes the
Comment Cynical. When he hears that "Under Betty's Bolster" is making
a fortune while "The Grey Iconoclast" is playing to empty benches next
door, he gives a sardonic little laugh (which he reserves for just
such occasions) and says: "Of course. You might have known. Old
Channing Pollock was right when he said: 'Nothing risqué, nothing
gained.' Don't the smutty shows always make money? Doesn't the public
invariably stampede to the most bedridden plays? Isn't the
pornographic play the most valuable of all theatrical properties?"

To which rhetorical questions, the answer in each case, as it happens,
is "No." The blush is not, of course, a bad sign in the box-office.
But the chuckle of recognition is a better one. So is the glow of
sentiment. So is the tear of sympathy. The smutty and the scandalous
have a smaller and less active market than homely humor, for instance,
or melodramatic excitement or pretty sentiment. When "Aphrodite" was
brought here from Paris, it was, for various reasons, impossible to
recapture for the translated dramatization the flavor of abnormal
eroticism which lent the book a certain phosphorescent glow at home.
So its producers relied on lots and lots of nudity to give it réclame
here. At this the Hearst papers did some rather pointed blushing and
the next morning, there was a grand scrimmage at the box-office and
seats were hawked about for grotesque prices. Whereupon the Comment
Cynical could be heard on all sides. But when at the end of the season
or so later, "Aphrodite" was withdrawn with a shortage of a hundred
and ninety thousand dollars or so on its books, the Cynics were too
engrossed with some other play to mention the fact. To be sure that
shortage was more than made up next season on the road, but it ought
to be mentioned that "Aphrodite" knew the indignity of many and many
an empty row in New York.

The great fortunes, as a matter of fact, are made with plays like "Peg
o' My Heart" and "The First Year," both as pure as the driven snow. It
is true that Avery Hopwood has grown rich on his royalties. But not so
rich as Winchell Smith, who has dealt exclusively with sweetness and
light. Also those who laugh most caustically over the Hopwood estate
usually find it convenient to ignore the fact that the greatest single
contribution to it has been made by "The Bat," at which Dr. Straton
might conceivably faint from excitement but at which he would have to
work pretty hard to do any blushing.

So much for the familiar catch-words and their validity. A little
discouraged by the fatuity of all lay discussion, our playwright may
be pictured as retreating to the clubrooms of the American Dramatists
and there finding his fellow-craftsmen all busy as bees on scenarios
overflowing with not particularly original sin. They are turning them
out hurriedly with an "After-me-the-deluge" gleam in their haunted
eyes. Some such despairing courtship of disaster may be needed to
explain the jostling procession of harlots which marked the American
Drama in the season of 1921-1922. An unprecedentedly large percentage
of the heroines had either just been ruined (or were just about to be
ruined) as the first curtain rose. Also the plays wallowed in a
defiant squalor of language which, five years before, would have
called out the reserves.

The privilege to indulge in such didos is not, as a matter of fact,
especially dear to them. They do not really prize unduly the right to
use the word "slut" once in every act. They can even bear up whenever
a law forbids disrobing on the stage. They know that most pruriency in
the theatre derives from the old frustrations sealed up and festering
in the mind of the onlooker who detects it. They suspect, from what
little reading they have managed in the psychology of outlets, that
the more mock-raping there is done on the stage of the local opera
house, the less real raping will be done on the greensward of the
nearest park. But they know, too, that the force of modesty is one of
the strongest and most ancient instincts of civilized man, that
probably it is a sound and healthy one, inextricably involved in the
race's instinct of self-preservation and self-perpetuation. Anyway,
they feel that the discussion draws them into matters unarguable.

They dread a Censor most for fear his appetite will grow by what it
feeds on. They know that the Lord Chamberlain began by exorcising
obscenity from the English theatre and ended by banning so fiercely
Puritanical a play as "Mrs. Warren's Profession" because it admitted
the existence of brothel-keeping as a business and by shutting up such
innocent merriment as "The Mikado" because its jocularity might offend
the (at the moment) dear Japanese.

Most American playwrights would derive a certain enjoyment from
watching a posse of citizens in wrathful pursuit of one of those
theatrical managers who are big brothers to the trembling crones that
totter up to you on the _Boulevard des Italiens_ and try to sell
you a few obscene postal-cards. But most American playwrights would
feel a genuine apprehension lest such a posse, confused in its values
and its mission, might then turn and lock up Eugene O'Neill because of
the rough talk that lends veracity to "The Hairy Ape" or because of
the steady scrutiny which has the effect of stripping naked the
unhappy creatures of his play called "Diff'rent."

They would be perfectly willing to co-operate with a State official
appointed to prevent the use of naughty words on the American stage,
but they darkly suspect that he would then require every heroine to
bring a letter from her pastor and would end by interfering with all
plays which suggested, for instance, that government had been known,
from time to time, to prove corrupt, wealth to become oppressive and
law, on rare occasions, to seem just a wee bit unjust. They are minded
to resist any supervision of the theatre's manners for fear it might
shackle in time the theatre's thought. Today or tomorrow they may be
seen temporizing or at least negotiating with the forces of
suppression in any community, but they are really seeking all the time
to frustrate those forces. And will so seek ever and always, law or no
law. It was just such frustration they were seeking when after a
season of ruined heroines (and ruined managers) they all gravely sat
down in April, 1922, and drew up a panel of 300 pure-minded citizens
from which a jury could be called to pass on any play complained of.

And they have the comfort of knowing that any such supervision, today
or tomorrow, legalized or roundabout, mild or incessant, is bound to
be superficial, spasmodic and largely formal. They know that in the
long run the theatre in each day and community, will manage somehow to
express the taste of that day and community. They know that it is
among the sweet revenges of life that the o'er-leaping censor always
defeats himself.

They derive a curious comfort from the story of the reviewer for a
Boston journal who once described a musician as remaining seated
through a concert in the pensive attitude of Buddha contemplating his
navel. It is a story within whose implications lies all that has ever
been said, or ever will be said, about censorship. The copy-readers
and make-up men, it seems, could see nothing especially infamous in
their reviewer's little simile. As poor George Sampson said of the
outraged Mrs. Wilfer's under-petticoat: "We know it's there." At all
events, the offending word passed all the sentries and was printed as
written, when, too late, it caught the horrified eye of the
proprietor. At the sight of so crassly physical a term in the chaste
columns of his own paper, he rushed to the telephone at the club and
called up the managing editor. That word must come out. But the paper
was already on the presses. Even as they spoke, these were whirling
out copy after copy. Too late to reset? Yes, much too late. But was
there not still some remedy which would keep at least part of the
edition free from that dreadful word? Wasn't it still possible to rout
out the type at that point, to chisel the word away and leave a blank?
Yes, that was possible. So the presses were halted, the one word was
scraped out, the presses whirred again and the review, with a gape in
the line, went up and down Beacon Street. Whereat Boston that night
shook with a mighty laughter--the contented laughter of the


[Illustration: The Periscope of the Author of the Mirrors of Washington
is turned toward the Great Negative Oracle.]


Has anyone ever stopped to think what the nonsenseorship would do to
our suppressed desires? A little while ago suppressed desires were
one's own affair. One fondled them in the skeleton closet of his
consciousness and was as proud of them as anyone with a haunted house
is of his right, title and interest in a ghost.

They proved to him that though he went to church on Sunday and was
respectably married to only one woman, he was really beneath his
correct exterior a whale of a fellow, who might have been, had he but
let himself go, a Casanova or at least a Byron. He patted himself on
the back for keeping unruly instincts in subjection. He applauded
himself for what he might be and for what he was. He got it coming and
going. It was a pleasant age.

But now is he permitted to have his own secret museum of virility? I
speak only of the sex which has my deepest sympathy.

No. The nonsenseorship regards him with suspicion. He must go and have
even that part of him which lies below the level of his consciousness
dragged forth by experts in the interests of society, and if there is
anything hidden in him which might not be exhibited on the movie
screens, he must have it sublimated. He cannot even have suppressed
desires. He cannot be a devil of a fellow even to himself. He cannot
be his own censor any longer, he must submit himself to outside
censoring, to the nonsenseorship.

It all came about this way. First to establish divine right somewhere
in modern government, the doctrine was set up that the public mind was
infallible. Thereafter, naturally, attention centered on the public
mind. What was it that it had this wonderful quality of always being
right? Experience showed that it was not a thinking mind. Since it was
not, then the thinking mind was anti-social.

Then our very best American philosophers, and some French ones, for
the support of mass opinion, developed a system which set forth that
reason always led you into traps and that the only mind to trust was
the irrational, instinctive or intuitional mind. Thus the
nonsenseorship, with excellent philosophic support put the ban upon
thinking. Now, I do not contend that many suffer seriously from this
restriction. For, after all, thinking is hard work and may cheerfully
be foregone in the general interest.

But does the nonsenseorship rest content with its achievement? If the
instinctive part of us is so important, let us have a look at it, says
society; perhaps something anti-social may be unearthed there. A
Viennese explores this area of the mind. He discovers what society
would forbid, merely hidden away. Civilization has merely pressed it
into dark corners, as the law has crowded the blackjack artist into
alleys and dens of thieves. The psychic police are put on our trail.
They must nab every suppressed desire and send it to the reform school
for re-education into something beautiful and serviceable. We may not
be unhappy, neurotic, mad; our complexes must be inspected. We must
suppress our reason, we may not suppress our desire; the
nonsenseorship says so, and to persuade us, its experts offer us the
reward of health and greater usefulness if we make this further

Now, although as I have said we let reason go at the behest of the
nonsenseorship without so much as a word of protest, we do not give up
our suppressed desires so easily and without a fight.

As a result we see the nonsenseorship in a new light. We feel it more
keenly now than ever before. It is revealed as the Procrustean bed
which cramps us up until we ache inside. If there is anything the
matter with us, if we are introverted, introspective, neurotic,
complicated, have too much ego or too little ego, are dyspeptic, sick,
sore, inhibited, regressive, defeated or too successful, unhappy,
cruel or too kind, if we differ ever so slightly from the enforced
average, it is because censorship presses upon us. And the cure for
censorship is more censorship. Have your psychic insides censored; if
you would be a perfect 36 mentally and morally, with the Hart,
Schaffner & Marxed soul which modern society wills that you shall
have, conform not only without but within, and be "splendidly null"! I
think it is the sudden realization that just a little more of
individuality, our hidden individuality, is threatened, which makes
the nonsenseorship irk us now as it never did before.

The race has always had it, but in the beginning it was a crude and
simple thing, troubling itself only with externals. A woman whose
official duty it is to look after the virtue of the movies in
Pennsylvania or Ohio, will not permit on the screen any suggestion
that there is a physiological relation between a mother and a child.
This method of protecting the race has its roots back in the primitive
mind of mankind. When men really did not understand how children came
about, births were catastrophic. A woman at a certain moment had to
disappear into the wilderness; she came back having found a baby under
a cabbage leaf. Any contact with her while she was making her
discovery might bring pestilence and death to the tribe.

We still believe in the pestilence even if we no longer have faith in
the cabbage leaf. The lady censor of Ohio or Pennsylvania is the tribe
driving the pregnant woman into the wilderness. On the whole the tribe
did it better than we do; it only removed the offender and the mental
life of the little community went on just as before. We keep the
offender amongst us and close our minds. Our simple ancestors covered
no more with the fig leaf than they thought it necessary to hide; we
wear the fig leaf over our eyes: that is the nonsenseorship.

Mr. Griffith recently brought out a cinema spectacle called "Orphans
in the Storm," which presented many scenes from the French Revolution.
Now it was not long ago that we Americans were all rather proud of the
French Revolution. We had had a revolution of our own and we thought
with satisfaction that the French had caught theirs from us. We were
as pleased about it as the little boy is when the neighbor's little
boy catches the mumps from him. He sees an enlargement of his ego in
the swollen neck of his playmate.

All that is changed now. Mr. Griffith picturing the triumphant mob in
Paris had to fill his screens with preachments against Bolshevism,
which had as much to do with his subject as captions about the rape of
the Sabine woman would have had to do with it. It is as if the little
boy had been taught to believe that by never saying the word mumps, he
could save his playmate from tumefying glands.

Soon some committee of morons which attends to the keeping of our
intellects on the level with their own will exclude from the schools
all histories which contain the words "the American Revolution." We
must call it the War for American Independence. That is putting the
fig leaf over our eyes. That is the nonsenseorship.

But before we decide whether or not we shall refuse to yield up our
suppressed desires as we have surrendered our reason to it, with the
approval of our leading philosopher, Mr. William James, let us
consider some of the advantages of the nonsenseorship. Perhaps it will
prove worth while to give up this little internal privilege.

First there is the simplicity of consulting the so-called public mind.
The favorite aphorism of the politician and his friend and spokesman
the editor is: "The public is always right upon a moral issue." This
means that if the politician or the propagandist can present a
question to the people in such a way that he can win his end by having
the public respond in the negative, he is sure of success. It is as if
society depended for its guidance upon the word of an oracle, a great
stone image, out of which the priests had only succeeded in producing
one response, a sound very much like, "No." The trick would consist of
so framing your question that the word "no" would give you approval
for your designs. That is the art of laying before the public a "moral
issue" upon which it is inevitably right.

Suppose, in a society ruled by the stone image, you wanted to make war
upon your neighbor. You would frame your question thus: "Shall we
stand by idly and pusillanimously while our neighbor invades our land
and rapes our women?" This is a moral issue of the deepest sanctity.
You would present it. The priests would do their little something
somewhere out of sight. From the great stone image would come a bellow
which resembled "No." You would have won on a moral issue and would
then be licensed to invade your neighbor's territory and rape his

Now you will perceive certain advantages in an oracle which can only
say one word. You know in advance what its answer will be. Suppose the
great stone image could have said either "yes" or "no." Suppose its
answer had been "yes" to your righteous question? It would have been
embarrassing. You could no longer say with such perfect confidence,
"It is always right upon a moral issue."

Suppose you were capital and you desired to reduce wages. You would
not go to the temple and say, "Shall we reduce wages?" That would not
be a moral issue upon which the answer would be right. You would ask,
"Shall we tamely acquiesce while the labor unions import the Russian
revolution into our very midst?" The great stone voice always to be
trusted on moral issues would thunder, "No."

Or suppose you were labor; for my oracle is even-handed--and you
wished to extend your organization--you would go to the temple and
propound the inquiry, "Shall we be eaten alive by the war profiteers?"
The always moral voice would at least whisper "No"

It will be observed that in consulting the oracle whose answer is
known in advance, the only skill required consists in so framing the
question that you will get a louder roar of "no" than the other side
can with its question. If you can always do this you can say with
perfect confidence that old granite lungs "is always right upon a
moral issue."

That is the art of being a great popular leader.

Would anyone exchange a voice like that as a ruler for the wisdom of
the world's ten wisest men? We laugh at the Greeks for their practice
of consulting the oracle at Delphi and rightly, for our oracle beats
theirs which used to hedge in its answers and leave them in doubt.
Ours never equivocates; we know its answer beforehand, for the public
mind is compounded of prejudices, fears, herd instincts, youthful
hatred of novelty, all easily calculable.

It has been my duty for many years to tell what public opinion is on
many subjects. My method, more or less unconscious, has been to say to
myself, "The public is made up largely of the unthinking. Such and
such misinformation has been presented to it. Such and such prejudices
and fears have been aroused. Its answer is invariably negative. The
result is so and so." It is thus that judges of public opinion
invariably proceed. They do not find the popular will reflected in the
newspapers. They know it as a chemist knows a reaction, from
familiarity with the elements combined. At least such a mind is highly

And after all who does make the best censor, or nonsenseor or whatever
you choose to call it? Was it not written, "The child is censor to the
man?" Well, if it was not it ought to have been, and it is now.
Consider the child as it arrives in the family. Forthwith there is not
merely the One Subject which may never be mentioned. There are a
hundred subjects. A guard is upon the lips. The little ears must be
kept pure.

Now, when we set up the establishment of democracy we did take a child
into our household. I have discussed elsewhere [Footnote: Chapter V,
_Behind the Mirrors_] the parentage of this infant born of
Rousseau and Thérèse, his moron mistress. The public mind is a child
mind because in the first place the mob mind of men is primitive,
youthful and undeveloped, and again because by the wide diffusion of
primary instruction, we have steadily increased the number of persons
with less than adult mentality who contribute to the forming of public
opinion. In the nature of the case, fifty per cent. of the public must
be sub-normal, that is, youthful mentality. We have reached down to
the level of nonsense for our guide. That is why we call it in this
book the nonsenseorship.

Every one who has watched the growth of a child's vocabulary has
observed that it learns to say "no," many months, perhaps more than a
year, before it ever says "yes." An infant which took to saying "yes"
before it did "no" would violate all precedents, would scandalize its
parents, and would grow up to be a revolutionist. It would have an
attitude toward life with which men should not be born and which
parents and society would find subversive. On the instinct for saying
"no" rests all our institutions, from the family to the state. It
should exhibit itself early and become a confirmed habit before the
dangerous "yes" emerges.

Besides, the child needs to say "no" long before it needs to say
"yes." Foolish parents feed it mentally as they feed it physically,
out of a bottle. If it had not its automatic facility of
regurgitation, both mental and physical, it would suffer from
excesses. Its "no" is its mental throwing up.

The public mind is still in the no-saying, the mental regurgitative
stage. But is not that ideal for the nonsenseorship? Does a censor
ever have need of any other word but "no"?

I have now established the convenience of an oracle whose answer "no"
can always be foreseen; and the fitness of the child mind for saying
"no," as well as the perfect adaptation of the single word vocabulary
to the purposes of the nonsenseorship.

One of the important ends which a "no" always serves is maintaining
the _status quo_. We all cling precariously to a whirling planet.
We hate change for fear of somehow being spilled off into space. The
nonsenseorship of the child mind is splendidly conservative. The baby
in the habit of receiving its bottle from its nurse will go hungry
rather than take it from its mother or father. Gilbert was wrong.
Every child is not born a little radical or a little conservative.

Reaching down for the child mind in society, with some misgivings, we
have been delighted to find it the strongest force making for
stability. An amusing thing happened when Mr. Hearst some years ago
sought readers in a lower level of intelligence than any journalist
had till then explored. To interest the child mind he employed the old
device of pictures, his favorite illustration portraying the
Plunderbund. Now, persons who thought the cartoon of the Plunderbund
looked like themselves, viewed the experiment with alarm. But Mr.
Hearst was right. He proved to be as he said he was, "our greatest
conservative force." The surest guardians of our morals and of our
social order are precisely Mr. Hearst's readers, who learned the
alphabet spelling out P-L-U-N-D-E-R-B-U-N-D. They watch keenly and
with reprobation in Mr. Hearst's press our slightest divagations.

De Gourmont, writing of education, asks: "Is it necessary to cultivate
at such pains in the minds of the young, hatred of what is new?" And
he says it is done only because the teacher naturally hates everything
that has come into the world since he won his diploma. But no; De
Gourmont is mistaken. It is because we teach the young what it is
socially beneficial that they should learn, having regard also for
their aversion to novelty, to the bottle from any other than the
accustomed hands.

And we find in the child mind--and foster it by education--"the will
to believe," that great American virtue. It requires an immense "will
to believe" to grow up in the family and in society, looking at the
elders and at all that is established, and accepting all the
information that mankind has slowly accumulated and which teachers
patiently offer. If the young once doubted, once thought--but
unfortunately they do not! Anyway, we do find in the child mind, which
forms the nonsenseorship, the "will to believe,"--of immense social

Now, the "will to believe"--like teeth which decay if not used upon
hard food, or muscles which grow flabby if they have not hard work to
perform--must be given something for its proper exercise. In a chapter
on "The Duty of Lying," in his brilliant book _Disenchantment_,
Mr. C. E. Montague shows what may be done with "the will to believe,"
developed as it has at last been. "During the war the art of
Propaganda was little more than born." In the next war, "the whole sky
would be darkened with flights of tactical lies, so dense that the
enemy would fight in a veritable 'fog of war' darker than London's own
November brews, and the world would feel that not only the Angel of
Death was abroad, but the Angel of Delusion too, and would hear the
beating of two pairs of wings." And what may be done with the "will to
believe" in time of war has immense lessons for the days of peace. A
British Tommy, quoted by Mr. Montague, summed the moral advantages up:
"They tell me we've pulled through at last all right because our
propergander dished up better lies than what the Germans did. So I say
to myself: 'If tellin' lies is all that bloody good in war, what
bloody good is tellin' truth in peace?'" What "bloody good" is it,
when you have ready to hand the well-trained "will to believe," which
those who censored reason for its social disutility set up as the most
serviceable attribute of the human mind?

I think I have written enough to prove that the child mind at the
bottom of nonsenseorship is the effective base of stability. But the
heart of man desires also permanency. Is there reasonable assurance
that we shall always be able to keep the guiding principles of our
national life, the nonsenseorship, a child mind?

It is true that we have reached as far down, through our press and
through our public men, to the levels of the low I. Q. as it is
practicable to go, until we grant actual children and not merely
mental children an even larger share than they now have in the forming
of public opinion; for this is, as you know, "the age of the child."

And no great further advance is likely to be made in the mechanical
means of uniting the whole 100,000,000 people of this country in a
24-hour a day, 365 days a year, mass meeting. The cheap newspaper, the
moving picture, instant telegraphic bulletin going everywhere, the
broadcasting wireless telephone, and the Ford car, have accomplished
all that can be hoped toward giving the widely-scattered population
the responsiveness of a mob.

But though perhaps we may never lower the I. Q. of the nonsenseorship,
no further triumphs being possible in that direction, there is no
reason why education, what we call "creating an enlightened public
opinion," should not always maintain for us the child mind as it now
is with all its manifold advantages.

Somewhere in Bartlett there is, or ought to be, a quotation which
reads like this: "The god who always finds us young and always keeps
us so." That is education; it always finds us young and always keeps
us so.

It catches us when our minds are merely acquisitive, storing up
impressions and information; and it prolongs that period of
acquisition to maturity by always throwing facts in our way. Its
purpose is not to "sow doubts," far from it, for that would have for
its ideal mere intelligence and not social usefulness. It develops
instead the "will to believe," and this serves the needs of the
propagandists, who, as Mr. Will H. Hayes is reported to have said of
the movies, "shake the rattle which keeps the American child amused so
that it forgets its aches and pains." We may safely trust education to
keep the American mind infantile, merely acquisitive and not critical.
And thus the nonsenseorship seems sure to be perpetuated, and we reach
the ideal of all the ages, society in its permanent and final form.
Here we are, here we may rest.

These considerations persuade me at least that we should make the
utmost sacrifices for so perfect a social means as we now have. Let
the nonsenseorship invade the secret closets of our personality and
rummage out our most cherished suppressed desires. Let us have nothing
that we may call our own. For my part, I shall spend the proceeds of
this article upon one of the new social police, a psycho-analyst.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Nonsenseorship, by G. G. Putnam


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