Hawthorne: Emperor of Shadows


From the “Hawthorne number”  of The Critic – Vol.XLV No.1, July 1904

Hawthorne: Emperor of Shadows

By Benjamin DeCasseres


HAWTHORNE drank from the beaker of inexhaustible shadows; his soul sought instinctively the obscure and the crepuscular; the shadow-glozed figures of his brain were never mockeries of the real, but phantasms of the dead-beings called out of the endless night of the tomb to sport, at his will, in the shadow of crypts and catacombs, or to languish in half-lights, or to be the pawns in some moral problem that vexed his sensitive heart. He dallied in byways and roamed strange, blighted heaths, and preferred to listen to the sibilant murmurs that came from the brackish tarn than to stand beside the gay, tumbling waterfall in the full light of the sun. He was an emperor—but an emperor of elves—an Oberon whose reign began at the twilight hour and who abdicated at the first cockcrow. He was a giant—but a giant leashed in cobwebs. He was a thinker whose thoughts were always at half-mast for the sorrows that sucked at his heart. He was exquisitely aware of a Conscience. He knew that the supernormal could alone explain the normal, that the exceptional housed all the laws that governed ordinary occurrences plus an explanation, which if it did not explain gave us something better — another mystery. “The Scarlet Letter” is the romance of pain; “The House of the Seven Gables” is the romance of crime; “The Marble Faun” the romance of penitential despair.

The evil that is in the heart of man; the subtle poisonous vapors that emanate from his soul like vent-hole gases; strange, sudden maladies without name, dateless in their birth, bringing with them reversions to a kind of devilship; moral cankers which he identified with physical environment and which he made to dwell in dank cellars, in old gabled houses, in curious angles in the garden-wall, or in the fetor of old wells—these things possessed Hawthorne entirely. He dealt with pain as though it were a conscious being —a survival in his brain of the puritan belief in a personal devil. He never burst through the black cerements and dun dreams that kept him apart from his kind. His tales are his soul-saga.

They portray a man immured in a sunless moat—one who is content with the dark, but who, unconsciously, rises from his seat at intervals and searches the walls with his eyes for a chink of light. His mind was a lodging-house for the distraught. What weird, pain-bitten, grief-ravaged beings took up their abode in that caravansary at night and slunk away in the morning, maybe never to return!—imprinted, unprintable, untellable. And there came, too, to stay with him myriads of wan, pale, ethereal wayfarers who seemed to bear about their eyes the light of impalpable worlds and on their brows the sombre thoughts of thwarted genius. The best that is in a man is never told—and the worst is past imagining. Two things the soul cannot formulate in language: its remote, obscure emotions and its immediate noon-day certainties. In Hawthorne’s face there are the wonderful tales that he never told.

There is phantom-touch in his pages. He lacked the sense of reality—the sure test of spirituality. Long, shadowy files sweep up from out the unconscious and form black processions across the earth. That is life. It is the phantom lockstep. These shadows come and go, making frenetic comic gestures. They whisper hoarsely each to the other—and this they call history. They scud across the earth from the immurmurous to the immurmurous — from Mist to Mist. They are palpitant sobs vested in flesh-mesh. This star is but a ghost walk—the fading ramparts of a mystic Elsinore, and graveyards are but tombs within tombs. The days sheened in their meridional glories, the nights set with their little pulsing eyes are the reflections of soul-torrent. Our arts are but the photographs of the apparitional.

Who has touched the Real or tethered the Now? What Hawthorne saw, that is so. Who can say, “Here thought begins and things cease”? Who can put his thought upon that moment that divides the sleeping moment from the waking moment?—who can tell how far one trenches on the other? Life is but a conscious sleeping; sleep an unconscious waking—or a waking into the Unconscious. Life in prospect is always phosphorescent with hope; the path behind is a white capped dream. Youth and Age are to both somnambules. Our imaginations —and Hawthorne was an imaginative seer — are unplumbed, immeasurable. Fancy is the mirror that gives us back the real. Life is a progressive dream, a languorous, painful unwinding. We pace the decks, withered gods, the definite shrunk to a hint, a puzzle to ourselves, a puzzle to the beasts below and the inhabitants of the fourth dimension above. Hawthorne nowhere formulates this sense of mystery, but it stands shadowlike behind each sentence. It is the breath of his literary body.

Though here, of our date and time, he was a belated spirit—a fanciful, roving, ether-cleaving spirit who one day, while peeping in curiosity over the eaves of his dream-mansion, fell into flesh. Society annoyed him and he turned from the rouged arts of civilization with a fine contempt.

Genius treads far from that bellowing sphinx called civilization. The nineteenth century was a coarse melodrama written by the devil for the delectation of the blasé gods. By ignoring it utterly Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walter Pater became its greatest critics. Civilization at best is a peddler dressed up to look like a monarch. It is that process which has subtilized the direct and made automatic the spontaneous. It has made a crooked line the shortest way between two given points and substituted Machiavelli for Euclid. It invents pains in order to banish from its heart the horrible boredom that oppresses it. The vaunted arts and sciences sit cheek-by-jowl with Mammon. “Progress” is the cluck-cluck of satisfaction of Caliban as he makes headway into thicker mud.

Practical life stands for the utter materialization of the soul. Its glitter, which attracts from afar, is the glitter that falls from pomade-burnished garbage cans. In the great cities, which Rousseau called nature’s sinks, men do not congregate, but fester. Cities are great street-canalled slime-vats, wherein long familiarity has indurated the sense of smell. Here the souls of men turn turtle: they call it “business.” Ideals melt in these fens like the snow-image in Hawthorne’s tale when it is dragged by the Practical Man—always and everywhere an atheist—before the fireplace. Practical life!—the domain of the arched spine and the furtive glance—it is better to become moss-grown in the Old Manse of Dreams. Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Clifford Pynchon, Miriam, Donatello shall outlive in shadowy immortality the flesh and blood beings that mimic their ways here below, and the turrets and spires of our civilization shall long be gangrened in the muds of oblivion when the shadow-makers that have gone shall still with potent rod smite the souls of generations unborn, and from them, as from us, shall burst the fountains of exalted wonder.

What strange shadows tread at our heels!—shadows of evil and shadows of good. On how slight a pivot turn our fortunes! In that exquisite fantasy, “David Swan,” the muffled march of events that never materialize, that cross and recross our paths unseen, unapprehended, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father when he parades before the eyes of the spirit-blind Queen Gertrude, is the theme of  Hawthorne. In this little allegory we read the chances of life. Our destinies are brittle but inexorable, and we are tossed around in the great world-forces like a bottle in the sea.

Young Swan lies down to rest beneath a tree that stands by a well-travelled road. He is poor and sleeps deep. A carriage becomes disabled near him and the occupants, an elderly lady and gentleman, while waiting for a broken wheel to be mended, contemplate his adoption, but the coachman interrupts with the message that the carriage is ready, and Fortune, which just grazed him in her flight, passes on forever. Death, in the guise of thieves who are about to murder him for his clothing, but who are opportunely frightened off, lingers near him for a second and then postpones her rendezvous with the soul of David Swan. Love, in the person of a young girl who steps aside to contemplate and blush, glides by him. David wakes and goes on his way whistling.

Our days are freighted with gifts and curses, and the bitterness of life lies in the consciousness of what might have been. Yet the Law never swerves, or if it swerve, it carries on its breast the debris of our dreams and hurries us to the Gulf that swallows all dreams. The might-have-been is as far away as that which never came to being. “Our happiness passes close by us.” Not so: it is the illusion of space. Unless we possess it, it is but the greater mockery when it thrusts its flowers under our noses and when we are about to inhale the fragrance substitutes snuff.

Hawthorne, King of a realm fantastic, Emperor of shadows, Grand Seigneur of the unmapped, tourist of the sub terrene, who saw from behind his lattice of fancy the pain that bases the moral world and the comic lie that is called optimism — he sups to-night, with Omar, Amiel, and de Maupassant, on herbs and bitters. For he was one of the Order of the Black Veil—in life a soul of regal pains, in death a quenchless memory in our hearts.






Philosopher Turns to New Credo in “War on Collectivism”

NEW YORK, Aug. 10 (A. P.) Benjamin DeCasseres, philosopher and descendant of philosophers, turned today from his abstractions to what he termed “a fighting political realism in the defense of American liberty.”

“I purpose from now on,” he said, to use all my forces in battling for the preservation of the American-British-French ideal of civil liberties against Communism. Fascism, Nazism or any form of collectivism that ties the individual to the Juggernaut of a dictatorial State.

“The difference between Communism and Fascism is a difference in stench.” The descendant of Spinoza, great Dutch philosopher of the 18th century, turned his back on the philosophers of antiquity and modernity.

Rings Liberty Bell

“I have hobnobbed with Buddha and Aeschylus, Plato and Schopenhauer, Spinoza and Nietzsche, Victor Hugo and Baudelaire, Goethe and Heine, Montaigne and Whitman, Hegel and Keats, Thomas Hardy and Dostoievsky,” he said,”-in fact, with the whole earth brain trust.

“I salute them in temporary farewell, walk down Olympus into Independence Hall, roll up my sleeves, carry the Liberty Bell up to the tower—and ring it till it either cracks to dust or until I die.” For his battle cry DeCasseres has taken a new American credo, culled from the men he considers the great type American political leaders—Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

His credo:

“I believe with Benjamin Franklin that any nation that exchanges its liberty for security is not worthy of either.

“I believe with Thomas Jefferson that the least government is the best government.

Activities Divided

“All my life I have divided my spiritual, mental and emotional activities between Olympus and Independence Hall.”

“That is, part of me pursued truth and beauty in the great thinkers and poets, and part of me pursued with passionate militancy the fierce individualism of Thomas Jefferson.

“Today I leave Olympus, except for short visits, and move, bag and baggage, into Independence Hall and Monticello.” DeCasseres said he considered that “there is a mighty war being fought now in every country in the world.”

“It is individualism versus collectivism; freedom versus reactionary totalitarianism.

“I shall advocate individualism against all forms of standardized stagnation, sterile conformity, beehive Socialism. Communism and the efforts of capitalism to monopolize the necessities of life.

“The most brutal form of capitalism is the totalitarian State: Russia, Germany and Italy.”

The philosopher, although he has turned from thoughts to deeds, insists on the rational approach to action.

“Every American worthy of the name,” he said, should know why he is an American.

“And having found out that this greatest deliberate experiment ever made in human liberties, with all its attendant faults and corruptions, is the superior politically of any other Government that has heretofore appeared on earth, he should be prepared to risk everything to save it from the threatened universal catastrophe of the superstitious belief that the State is a miracle machine.”


America’s Most Unpublished Author

As published in the San Bernardino Sun, Volume 67, Number 23, 23 September 1930

Intelligentsia Pole Star Gives Bernard Shaw Merciless Flaying In Volume Lauding H.L Mencken

America’s Most Unpublished Author at Last ‘Clicks’ and Works to Be Printed

By H. ALLEN SMITH (United Press Correspondent) NEW YORK, Sept. 22.

Benjamin Decasseres, pole star of the American intelligentsia and sometimes called the most unpublished author in the United States, has written a new book that will be published. It is called “Mencken and Shaw, the Anatomy of America’s Voltaire and England’s Other John Bull.” Between its covers Decasseres sets out, with a pen that drips blue fire, to prove that George Bernard Shaw is a colossal mountebank and that H. L. Mencken is the true modern Voltaire.

Lives in Apartment Off Gramercy Park

This being an interesting thesis, Decasseres submitted to an interview. He lives in an apartment off Gramercy park surrounded by books, green pencils, unpublished manuscripts and an ice box well stocked with tannic acid. The “Lone Eagle” of American literature wore brown striped pajamas, of a silken texture, during the interview. First off he brought out his 16 unpublished books. These range in topic from a volume of poetry to the love letters of Bio and Benjamin Decasseres. “The publishers,” Decasseres said, “won’t touch my stuff because I won’t go to literary teas.” His new volume on Mencken and Shaw will be published by Silas Newton, a Texas oil man. Newton may publish all of Decasseres works. The 57-year-old author believes that Mencken’s books should be placed in the schools, “to teach Americans how to write English.” He holds that Mencken is the greatest writer as well as the greatest social satirist this country has ever produced. “I have taken Mencken and Shaw,” he said, “as the world’s two outstanding sane rebels. But my idea is that Mencken’s sanity is sincere, while Shaw’s is not. Shaw delights in making people believe he is insane, which he probably is. He is a cheap publicity-seeker, a publicity-shark of the lowest type. He is like a trick bear, always clowning. “The big difference lies in the fact that Mencken has character, Shaw has none. I don’t agree with Mencken on many of his literary and esthetic judgments. But I believe that his grandeur comes from his narrowness, his height comes from his lack of breadth. “Mencken glories in the use of words. He takes the same pleasure in studying the use of words that a Beethoven would take in the study of notes, or a Rembrandt in the study of colors.” The frequent charge of insincerity, brought against Mencken, irritates Decasseres.

Has Been Pursuing One Line of Thought

“For 20 years.” he said, “the man has been following one solid line of thought a battering ram against sham and humbug and popular idols. My objection to him is that he is monotonously sincere. I wish he would change his record occasionally.” Decasseres said that Shaw has never created a character that will live, that he is the “father of all the sophisticated drool that exists on the stage today. He is the greatest disaster to the English stage of the century. He cannot create human beings, only epigrani-spouters, and he creates his characters to fit his epigrams instead of letting the epigrams flow naturally from the characters. I might add that he gats all his epigrams from jazzing up Schopenhauer, Neitzsche, Tolstoy, La Rochefocauld, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Butler. Shaw is related to the world of great artist? as jazz composers are related to Beethoven and Mozart.” Decasseres sent the proofs of his book to Mencken, who in- turn wrote a letter to the author. The last line of this letter reads: “You forgot to put in that I was baptized at the age of two months and had the hives for five weeks thereafter.”

“The Shadow Eater” reviewed in The Dial, 1917

The following review was published in The Dial, Vol. LXII No. 756, February 22, 1917.

The later 1923 edition.

Mr. Benjamin De Casseres brings together in “The Shadow Eater” a group of verses in the mood of a dyspeptic Whitman. On the principle that nothing is so emphatically defunct as the fads of yesteryear, these verses make an impression of astonishing antiquity. Compared with Longfellow they are old-fashioned and bromidic: Felicia Hemans, compared with them, is fresh and youthful. All the old exploded diseases of the soul that Max Nordau took seriously, all the spiritual sores, the puny blisters, the enfant terrible attitudinizing which our grandmothers gasped at in the French and German egoists of their day, are here exhumed and ranged anew for our inspection. But the gasp turned long ago into a yawn. Tom Sawyer could not go on forever mulcting his playfellows of pennies and marbles by the exhibition of his sore toe. Those who have read Leopardi, Schopenhauer, Weininger, and Baudelaire, will find no novel shudder in this book. They will see another desperate man storming sternly, inexorably, against a Deity whose existence he has just denied. They will see him again, in a mollified mood, patting his God on the head, with a half surmise that he may himself be God. They will find the old familiar familiarity with the word “lust” and with the obstetrical metaphor. (Is the time not ripe, by the way, for a midwife’s anthology ?) They will find another verse maker who is determined at all costs to be astonishing who, when sense palls, tries nonsense, and, that failing, tries capital letters. All this was good fun fifty years ago, but the wind of the poor jest is broken. The determination to cast off all shackles of convention is carried into orthography, so that beside such words, caviare to the general, as “adytum” and “lutescent,” we have the spellings “wafir,” “tapir” (not an animal), and “cozzen”! These spellings are the features of the book which one does not remember having met too frequently before.
Now and then a line attains epigrammatic value by its vigorous compression. Here, for example. is the pessimist’s description of a human life : “The cry in the womb, the release, the hasty scud across earth, the thud in the Pit !”
Here is solipsism in a nutshell : “My soul is a fountain that balances the ball of the visible cosmos.”
Here, again, is the “cosmic foot-pad’s” word about. Love, which, for reasons analogous to those which actuated Otto Weininger, he says he “rejects”: “Love, that accouched every star in the blue, that with knout of desire sends the young worlds grunting round and round the senescent suns.”


“A Counsel of Imperfection” by Benjamin DeCasseres

The following was published in The International, Vol. VI, No. V for October 1912.

A Counsel of Imperfection
by Benjamin DeCasseres

GULLIBUS:—But if your theories prevailed what would become of the race?

SATIRICUS:—The race ? My dear Gullibus, there is no such thing as the race; like posterity, it is a verbal superstition. The word was invented to keep social philosophers from saying anything dangerous. “To live for posterity” is the phrase of faddists. The attempt to live up to that phrase results in mental, moral and physical decay. It is part of the doctrine of Christian altruism—the part that is the most beautiful and decadent in tendency ; for you know, dear Gullibus, that all altruism is degeneracy. I can conceive of nothing more immoral than to sacrifice a present benefit in order to avoid a future evil. Grasp what you can now. Why should we live like a naked Hypothesis, sacrificing ‘the facts of this day for fear of the things that may not happen to-morrow ? Fine phrases have eviscerated the instinct to individuality. Social evolution is the evolution of phrases. The idea that we should so order our lives as to benefit generations not yet born is an idea that came into the world with the advent of man ; and man is only an abnormal development of the monkey, the most perfect, to my way of thinking, of all the vertebrates. Being an abnormality, man’s ideas are all abnormal, freakish. Do you suppose for a moment that the histories of those wonderful social states that the ants, bees, monkeys and other forms of superior intelligence have organized can show such worship of Cant as the history of man?
Let us look at some of the consequences were men to live solely with an eye to the good of posterity. What would become of sin, the one thing that gives form, color and symmetry to life? We dream of transmitting our sins and our defects as well as our virtues, and a father would rather see a son resemble him on his seamy side alone than not to have the son resemble him at all. The dream is to have “a chip of the old block.” There is no greater secret humiliation for a parent than to see a child who is “better” than himself. Superiority always draws the arrows of hate from the hidden slings where they are kept.

GULLIBUS :—You mean to say, Satiricus, that we are all in love with sin?

SATIRICUS :—Yes. Our dream of Heaven, of Perfection, is but the soul brooding over its abrogated darling sins. Perfection is sin deferred. The dream of a perfect social State springs from the cupidity of the heart. As for me, the most beautiful thing I can think of is a life wherein I shall live out my thwarted instincts. That is a marvellously beautiful thought which comes to me at times—that in some other sphere, social or celestial, I will be able to do all those things which the policeman would not allow me to do here. For the way of the transgressor who meets with no resistance is paved with gold.

GULLIBUS :—And conscience, Satiricus, what of that?

SATIRICUS :—It is not our sins that have begotten conscience. On the contrary, it is the inability to realize our sinful (miserable word !) desires that gives us that uncomfortable feeling in the head which is known as conscience. Successful murderers and thieves and swindlers have no conscience until they are caught. Success never had a conscience. It is born of fear and baffled instinct. Conscience is the homage that evil intention pays to the policeman.
Altruistic ideals are indeed valuable if we do not try to live up to them. Nothing so coarsens a thing as to use it. The sublime is only the sublime as long as we do not humanize it. Self-sacrifice is a sublime feeling; it attracts because of its unreality. To live for others ! Superb uplift in these words ! What exaltation in the idea! And, my dear Gullibus, it only exalts because it is an idea. We love goodness in an inverse ratio to our means of realizing it. Pegasus appeals to the imagination because he never existed. Drag him from his habitation in the clouds and we should yoke him to drays and furniture vans. It is thus with our ideals. If by any accident a great ideal becomes practicable it is soon ground up in the mills of the commonplace—and so loses all its beauty.

GULLIBUS :—What a paradoxist you are ! You destroy the value both of conscience and the ideal. Has the ideal, for instance, no value at all?

SATIRICUS :—Of course—did I not just speak of its value ? The ideal of self-sacrifice has an aesthetic value, like a sunset or a charming landscape. It has the beauty of perspective, the vague charm of aloofness. It has the value of an incentive. To degrade a dream into a concrete rule of conduct is as vulgar a thing as to litter the heavens with patent medicine advertisements. Have you noticed how convictions lose their force when enacted into law ? All our legislative bodies are engaged in repealing what the previous body ordained. It is a tragedy of the Ideal—the debacle of Imagination.
The man who goes to the stake for his convictions is an ass. But the martyr as a motive for a work of art or a novel is invaluable. For the beauty of an act of martyrdom lies in the fact that it will appear beautiful to somebody else. It has an aesthetic value only and is absolutely destitute of moral significance. Bruno, Savonarola and Socrates were merely obstinate fanatics. It is we who have created them. A kind of ex-post facto idealism. Now as to this craze of living for posterity and the “good of the race,” the motive is not moral, but aesthetic ; and that it has a value (as a human motive) no one can doubt who loves the marvellous literature of the New Testament, the jewelled but inutile phrasings of Ruskin and the simple patriarchal style of the late Tolstoi. What literature the unphilosophical philosophy of self-acrifice has given us!

GULLIBUS :—And Truth—what becomes of that in this amazing view ?

SATIRICUS :—Truth ! There is only one truth !—The universality of error. You remember what I said about Pegasus? Well, if Men ever discovered the Truth they would be bored to death. Without error life would not be worth the living. Indeed, life is hardly worth the living to-day because it is so much better than it used to be. People actually commit suicide now because they are happy—that is, they are bored with life, and what is boredom but the highest phase of happiness ? We are confronted by the dreadful possibility that every ideal may soon be realized. The Socialists are about to decree the end of poverty and want and will substitute a nasty ennui. The pride of rank is to make way for rank pride. The Empire of the Wise will soon be in the dust and every wise man will be compelled to live out his system as a penance for having dared to dream it. Gullibus, the imagination of man is confronted by the greatest crisis in its history. We are going to lose our gods ; the corner orator is decreeing the death of the Intangible. We shall fall from Parnassus into the Bon Marche.
And then in these days we are all understood. We no longer know the sweet secret of incommunicable sorrows. We are no longer mysterious one to another. We read each other like circus billboards. Life has lost its savor of mutual ignorance. The Brain is discovering all things, even its own limitations. Everything is classifiable. We are verging toward truth, goodness and cosmic lassitude. I foresee a time when there will no longer be room for those exquisite little hatreds and subtle jealousies from which we at present derive much pleasure.

GULLIBUS :—You don’t seriously hold that our hatreds are a source of pleasure, do you ?

SATRICUS :—Nothing is more clearly true. All hatred adds to self-esteem, and anything that adds to self-esteem must be pleasurable. Envy I hold to be the first and highest of virtues. To be envious of another reveals to us our own limitations. It makes us desire the things we lack ; and this gives birth to the instinct of pursuit. I often conceive envy as an exquisite perfume. It gives us our ideals. It is the fairest flower that blossoms on the Tree of Good and Evil. I, for one, dear Gullibus, would not consent to live another minute did the Green Goddess desert me. Envy is certainly the father of genius and the mother at least of self-culture. The total absence of this almost universal spur argues a low origin—bovine or porcine. We find little envy among peasants because they have no knowledge of values and no aspirations ; they would rather sleep on a dunghill than in the seigneur’s halls. Nothing so titillates my daily life as a desire for my neighbor’s wife or his rugs or his gold. Those who lack this divine and urgent fire of envy will be found prosy and virtuous or stupidly wise ! To dream of undoing your neighbor raises the tide of life—and Herbert Spencer, you know, defines pleasure as a rise in the tide of life. This is the age of intellectual Borgias, but it will pass, is passing now with the coming apotheosis of stupidity, the Brotherhood of Man. The Brotherhood of Man ! What a gigantic egotism ! We so love ourselves that, not being content with that, we are constantly seeking to be some one else. The precious fluids of selfhood seek discharge in other modes of life than our own. The passion for the consummation of the scheme of the Brotherhood of Man is generated in the monstrous desire of o’erbrimming egotists to expand the bladder of self to the dimensions of the race. The soul of man blasphemously seeks to take on the characteristics of Omnipotence ; this it calls self-sacrifice. Men desire to be MAN ; this they name the Brotherhood of Man.
It is envy that creates want ; it is the fulcrum on which Power tries its instruments. I would rather envy than have.

GULLIBUS :—And what becomes of justice?

SATIRICUS :—Justice is a catchword. It is as fugitive as the idea of God. It has never been defined. The only definition of justice that sounds rational to me is the tiger’s definition : What you want go and take. It is just that the strong should prey and that the weak should pray. All that I have has been stolen, even my present reasoning. If any one interferes with my methods, that is unjust, for injustice may be defined as settling an arbitrary limit to Power. Our present social condition is the most unjust imaginable because of the unceasing depredations of the weak on the strong. All organized government is used by the weak to harry and oppress primitive strength. Hence the present reign of mediocrity. The strongest go to the wall or jail and the unfittest survive and write our laws, our literature and our poems. You see, Gullibus, it is the old posterity-worship idea again. We are preserving the race at the expense of the individual. There is no justice in a system that will tie a Gulliver to the ground and allow myriad black ants from the government ant-villages to void their offal on him. Only war is justice.

GULLIBUS :—You are hardly convincing. From your remarks I gather that you have a very poor opinion of civilization. Come, have some common sense.

SATIRICUS :—Common sense is vulgar sense. Let us put common sense aside and talk intelligently. Civilization is a device for increasing human wants. It, too, is merely barbarism tattooed. But civilization is good in this : that it never satisfied a human craving. It promotes all the sacrosanct vices. There is nothing more frightful than a sense of satisfaction with things. Content is ever the doctrine of the aged and well-to-do. No, my dear Gullibus, let us not underestimate the blessings of civilization. Nowhere else can you find such exquisite pains and sufferings. Nothing so promotes the picturesquely criminal as our great and compact cities. The vileness of modern life is the one thing that redeems it. It made Balzac, Zola and Gissing possible. The slums are worth while when they manure such genius. Organized want—that is London ; unique thought, is it not ? Artists and psychologists and thinkers are interested in the phenomenon. It is the clay of the artistic spirit. Thus does civilization tend to perpetuate the arts and sciences. Gloria in Excelsis ! Have a cigarette?

“De Maupassant: Vagabond Faun” by Benjamin DeCasseres

The following was published in Shadowland magazine for April, 1922.

De Maupassant: Vagabond Faun
by Benjamin DeCasseres

GUY DE MAUPASSANT was a strange ethereal beast, a satyr at sprawl amid the lilies, a star-ranging butterfly meshed in compost. His written works are the de profundis of a great spirit, a miserere chanted in a crypt. There is everywhere in his works the record of a great agony, a ceaseless conflict with devils, a sincerity pitiless and pitiful. His poetical fancy, as elusive as the sheen on the waterfall, bruised its gossamer envelope at every turn against some nameless Shape. This dread shadow blocked his path like a sewer-rat crouched on the path of a running child.

What is the secret of these souls that come into life with a sure knowledge of life’s worthlessness? Where are those secrets learned? On what worlds of magnificent possibilities had the spiritual eye of Flaubert, De Maupassant and Schopenhauer gazed that with the sure instinct which urges the average mortal to take his pleasure bade these men spurn what is here? What profound mystery lies behind the possession of powers that by no possibility can be used on this early stage, constructed for the marionettes of the instinctive, the, puppets of the sexual and the stomachic! From what mystic Utopia had De Maupassant fared that this earth seemed to him little else than a scudding ball of ordure and the days of man hierarchies of the petty? With what gods had he conversed that the speech of mankind was to him ape-chatter?

The great cynic and the great idealist—and a cynic is an idealist temporarily bankrupt—belong to an order of their own—and that order is not the earth-order. Their souls in some fine foretime, unfettered by inelastic flesh coverings, had hurtled thru super-lunar spaces in the ecstasy begotten of unlimited power ; a pause, a misstep, and they are immured in clay-wrappings and are condemned to live and record. Ignorance makes for happiness, and limits that the crowd believes to be ultimates, whether they be physical, intellectual, or religious —limits at which a priest or lawyer has affixed a flaming sword —numb the will and generate that easy acquiescence in things as they are. “Happy are those whom life satisfies, who are amused and content,” sighs De Maupassant. For him nothing, changed—the days were monotones strummed upon catgut. When he Went into the street, the same man met him who met him the day before; their gestures were the same; their faces differed from one another only in the degree of stupidity which the flesh records registered; they shuffled, they haggled, they drank, they ate, and haggled again, and, when the shadows of the sun grew long on the Parisian boulevards, they shambled, shuffled home by the million. “And for this, man was born?” asked the great French pessimist, brooding en the mob’s docility, its unchangeable stupidity, its indestructible illusions, its adamantine asininity.

With a diabolical prankishness he liked to peer at the people at play, at work, at .prayers ; dissect their virtues, which he knew to be masks for their sinister lusts ; wonder at their clinging to life like soft mud to a cart’s wheel—and tho the wheel and its endless gyrations flattened them to a slimy ooze, still they rebelled not ! He wondered at that great Policeman of the people whom they called God, with his Scotland Yard methods and Puck-like pranks. De Maupassant’s contempts were built up of impotent rage and a consciousness of his own transcendent vision—a vision that gave us’ the finest short story in the world—”The Necklace.”

Like Amiel, his soul was constantly gnawed by a consciousness of the Infinite—not that concept of the Infinite that terrorizes, but the Infinite split into infinite shadowy goals that some minds pass before they have begun the race, To these minds the infinite is a process, not a thing; not the water that runs thru the hand, but the spirit of elusiveness that animates the disappearing-reappearing, tantalizing flow. Mentally, they are inversions, not perversions. The commonplace, everyday being works from the layers of the concrete up to the abstract; his idea of time is founded on the clocks he has seen; life has first to batter his pate to a pulp before he can apprehend the idea of universal pain. But the order of beings of which Guy de Maupassant is a type evolves in a way that is diametrically opposed to the average mortal. Their souls at birth are a conflux of ideas, and they burrow their way down from the ideal to the real. They interpret, translate and create. The earth-child grubs.
De Maupassant was like an ant that has crawled accidentally from the light of day thru the air-hole of a boy’s rubber ball, there in the interior to spend his days meditating on the dark. The meanness of the universe astonished him ; the battledore and the shuttlecock of the planets was an insane pastime ; the music of the spheres was cosmic yawp. “We can at least be good animals,” he exclaims ironically. “My body is real, my lusts are pleasure-pregnant. There is always room for the lowest. Loaf and take thy sport, dear body. I feel thrilling within me the sensations of all the different species of animals, of all their instincts, of all the confused longings of inferior creatures.” Not as a poet does he love the earth, but as a beast. Like a pound where on certain nights the spirits of a myriad throttled beasts revivify and with snarl and claw and blood-smeared fangs live over their dead earth-selves, so did De Maupassant at regular intervals fling open the door of his nethers and lead forth the caged sleek couriers of our past and glut them at the sties of pleasure. But he writhed in his raptures, and his pastimes were crucifixions.

It is curious that what is beautiful has so much evil in it. It is often thru “sin” that spirituality is born, and what finer virtue halos the soul than the consciousness that it is always possible for us to do evil in thought and be the secret bridegroom to the throttled lusts which we style our ideals ? De Maupassant realized the beautiful thru the evil in him. He molded the rich fungi on his brain-walls to immortal little waxen images and pinched his heart until it gave out music—music as evil and beautiful as truth. Philostratus tells us of a dragon whose brain was a blazing gem. Such a brain inhabited the body of the man who called himself “a lascivious and vagabond faun.”

The grotesque cravings of this man ! He shivered in horror at the antique, ever-recurring whirr that shook him from his slumbers. Each day he wished to be his last and first. He would have had Death weave her dark mantua around him each night that his eyes should rest each morn on something new. Poetry, art, music, bring us nothing, for they merely record ourselves ; they are the lengthened shadows of dwarfs. A new series is needed to recreate the soul staled by its very uselessness. Not new worlds, but a new world, is the goal of the distraught. Art is a stained image, experience is like a romance with the woman left out, and pleasure is but an opiate for despair.

We are two. Children that spend hours talking to themselves are aware in a dim way of the duality of the individual. In each soul there slumbers this other self, this shadow of the soul that waxes and wanes with our consciousness. It is the house of defeated dreams, the shadowy rendezvous of our uncoffined hopes ; a weird specter of the Great Desire. There are kenneled in the breast of this alter ego the women we never possessed, the gigantic deeds we never did, the “best” we have left undone, the worst we have done, our abrogated acts. Builded day by day, in slumber and in day dream ; builded of infinite trifles, this Horla, this vast phantasm of a self that never was diswombed unto reality, is the custodian of an endless, inutile past. It holds for ay our brief against the Eternal and mocks us with its demon eyes and its reproaches, half-wail, half-sneer.

De Maupassant, from the vats and the slime-pools of despair, conjured up his double and made of it a living, palpable thing of terror. Like the apparition that appeared to Markheim, in Stevenson’s perfect story, it was both the scorekeeper and umpire of his soul. It visited him in the dead of the night and woke him with the dull thump of its ebon knuckles on his heart. “It spoke to me in a short’ whisper of all that my insatiable, poor and weak spirit had touched upon with a useless hope, all that toward which it had been tempted to soar, without being able to tear asunder the chains of ignorance that held it.”

Is this half-created thing which each of us has in him, this unmanageable It of our own fabrication, a promise or a retribution ? Come with it airs from heaven or blasts from hell? Is it the shadow of a real Higher or a sooty smoke shape of the past ? In the stupendous conflict of opposing wills which we call society, where our fine hopes are frost-killed or done to death by main force, there is always a reserve of force—or is it a residuum? And that same conflict that is repeated in miniature in the cells of the individual has bred its reserve or residuum. We call it alter ego, Horla, doppelganger, our better self, our worse self ; is it reserve or residuum ?—unused power or slime?

Tho one of the intellectual elect, one who knew the pain in things before he experienced life—a seer who knew that the Veil of Isis was only a drab’s dirty kerchief—the presence of the squalid, the distorted images of beggars, the obscene poverty of the masses, gave him pain for which he could find no cure. The banal, the trite, the garbage dumps called cities, tortured him and drove him to his boat, to the seashore, to long mountain tramps where he tried to shut out the horrible things that spawned in Paris —the City of Light and Darkness. He was visited at such moments by strange penitential scourgings that he should be among the “fortunate.” Why was he not yonder beggar or that lame thing that was a woman? These street pictures stood out year after year in his brain in an undying protest against himself. Of misfortune he made an image as of terror he made a Thing.
We have our judgments—but they are never final. Each brain is but an angle —no one has yet lived who has seen the Whole. Where does the beast in us end and the beatitudes begin? Can the dreams of the spirituel be separated from nerve-centers? Track spiritual impulse to its lair and we find ourselves in a den of beasts ; track the sensual impulse up the steeps of the ages and we find ourselves lost in psychic mists. Is the soul of a man a pallid, manacled, protesting, guest-prisoner at the feasts of the flesh, or are the feasts of the flesh the only banquet in which we shall ever participate? What a contrast there is between the tiger pacing his cage in the zoological gardens and that great blonde beast.roaming the forests for prey ! This transformation in the world of men is called “spiritualizing the instincts”—a contradiction in terms. The subjugation of the majestic is the occupation of mediocre minds and socialistic puritans. Impotent Modernity ! The race today has no character. We are lame in our lusts ; our spirit has one watery bloodshot eye, and from our armpits we have grown hooks so that we may better hold to that which we, ragpickers and old do’ men, have won in the refuse heaps of civilization.

The back-alley Captain Kidds, the buccaneers of ash-heaps, the trumpeters of half-and-half—that is, Respectability—will always decry from their vast Sunday heights the man De Maupassant, who was what he was to the hilt, who when Beauty called him gave himself up to her in his entirety, and when the Beast snarled cried, “Here am I,” and when the Intellect levied on him her tribute rendered up his brain-house and its treasures to her demands

Bruce Forsythe, Teacher of Music

Sometimes things appear and they may have very little significance but I feel they need to be documented somewhere. I’m constantly making connections from one person to another after many years if research.

Thus is the case with this advertisement for Bruce Forsythe, african american music teacher in New York.  You can see he can provide testimonials from Carl Van Vechten, Benjamin DeCasseres and others.

The preceding ad is found on page 55 of The Official Central Avenue District Directory, published in New York in August, 1939. It is almost entirely black owned businesses.

“Mary Nash: Versatile Actress” by Benjamin DeCasseres

The following article on a young stage actress named Mary Nash (August 15, 1884 – December 3, 1976) was published in Shadowland magazine in April 1922. Wikipedia notes that “she started her Hollywood career in 1936, appearing in 18 films.”

“Mary Nash: Versatile Actress”
by Benjamin DeCasseres

If you’ve seen Mary Nash as Anna Valeska in “Captain Applejack”– that rip-roaring “kidded melodrama” which is partly “Peter Pan,” partly “Seven Keys to Baldpate,” and partly just itself– you have seen a quivering, vital personality, totally unlike the blonde, pretty-face heroine of the average Broadway play.

To follow her saps your strength. Her methods are more Continental than American or English. Her whole body acts– not merely her lips, her eyes and her gowns. She fires her role at you. It goes over with a rush and a roar.

When I went ino her dressing-room to interview her after the fall of teh final curtain of a certain Wednesday matinee, she was still Anna Valeska. She was still vibrating with the part, still pulsing tot he music of a fictional dream.

She is the dark, Spanish type of beauty– and every feature is fired by a cracking earnesness when she talks to you.No one is more perfectly natural and less stagy off-stage. One can see she enters con amore into her parts– she loves her art.

Humor threads all she says. Her eyes dance with laughter and over her face emotion after emotion– often contradictory– chase each other like thunderclouds mixed with golden sunshine.

a 1921 promotional photo of Mary Nash from “Captain Applejack”

When only seventeen years of age, Miss Nash was cast to play a child of fourteen by Clyde Fitch himself in “The City”– that astoundingly bold drama– for that time– which was produced after Fitch’s death. That was really her first part.

“I never had a bit of stage fright,” she said. “I took to acting naturally from the first time I faced an audience. From childhood I had been a play ‘fan,’ and while sitting on my seat I always conceived myself on the other side of the footlights doing the things that those actresses did which I admired. I could always project myself mentally into the parts I loved and, when my great moment came in ‘The City,’ I merely felt as tho I was taking posession of something that belonged to me– from before birth probably.

“Some actresses are born, some made, and others have their parts thrust upon them by producers. I was a born actress. Voila!”

Miss Nash has appeared with Ethel Barrymore and Grace George. She has appeared in plays by William de Mille and David Belasco.

“I have never played two parts alike in my life. I have never been and never want to be —- identified with any special role or any special school of acting. There is not only fun but health in versatility. I am avid. I am hungry, for all kinds of roles, serious -— comic, melodramatic, vamp and ingenue. No producer can say ‘That is a Mary Nash part.’ It doesn’t exist. But I always like them to say when they are stuck, “Let’s get Mary Nash– she can handle anything.”

I congratulated her on a healthy sense of self-appreciation, but she waved me off with a n’importe!

“What we need in this country badly,” she said with a quick pirouete of thought, “is soemthing like the Conservatiore in Paris. We need a national school of acting that will at least standardize our language. The stage here suffers from too many kinds of American brogue. We ave new England schools of acting, Southern schools, Western schools, New York schoos– all handling the same words with different prnunciations and enunciations. The American stage lacks an American tongue common to all.

“Then again technical training for the stage– in the sense that it exists in Europe– is almost unknown here. A born actress, of course, does not require much technical training. Acting is an art. It is not taken seriously enough here. Doing tricks of illusion on the stage is not acting. Before I learn my part, for instance, I know everbody elses part in the play. I play into the spirit of the drama or comedy in which I am cast. During the first week of a new play when I’m off stage, I watch the parts I’m not in from the wings, and make mental notes on where I can improve my own work. I want to fit perfectly into the spirit of the whole action– not merely ‘do a part.’ The latter is a fault of many of our actors and actresses, and savors too much of the movies—-”

“My cue!–the movies. (It’s always a cue in every conversation.)

“Yes—I love the movies—real movies. I do not go to the movies merely to see them—there is so much trash. I select—as I do plays and books and gowns.

“I was in one picture—a George Fitzmaurice picture ; but found that I could not act on the speaking stage and keep up my work in the pictures without doing myself and my employers an injustice. After one has spent the morning and afternoon in the studio doing pictures, one is totally—at least I was—unfit for work at night. I attribute a great deal of the inferior work of many of our actors and actresses on the speaking stage to the fact that they are played out by the picture work they are doing on the side.

“The pictures themselves I consider the most tremendous innovator and social influence of modern times. In the small towns thruout the country, for instance, they have become the glass of fashion for the young women. The pictures have taught them how to dress. They have brought to them new ideals of feminine charm and beauty. They all want to dress and smile like Norma Talmadge. The movies have revolutionized the wardrobes of the middle-class young woman.

“They are doing the same for furniture and interior decoration. I noticed in many Middle Western and Southern homes that rooms were furnished like movie sets. Imitative maybe—but it has raised the level.”

At the mention of “foreign pictures,” Miss Nash was all excitement again.

“Pola Negri !—she is an event. At her best she is one of the greatest actresses on or off the screen. She is a born actress. One does not believe she is acting to the directions of a megaphone or that she is conscious of the camera. She seems to be living her part, ejecting it from her very self, not from a scenario. Her vitality, her facial and bodily emotions swim right out of the screen. She does in the dumb world of the film what very few actresses have even been able to get over on the speaking stage. She conveys, in her parts, every nuance of the feminine soul. There is something great in that woman that I cannot describe. I only know it ‘gets you.’ It is genius.

“How different from the insipid, vapid, doll-baby stuff of most of our American screen actresses ! Pola Negri puts vital womanhood on the screen—not a director’s trick-bear.

“Personal habits—likes and dislikes ? I haven’t any outside of those I told you. I am not athletic or outdoors. In books I am hopelessly Mid-Victorian. I love my home. I love to embroider—and I love the play from an orchestra seat. I am at every odd matinee around town.

“I have embroidered whole luncheon sets on the stage in parts where I have used the basket and the knitting-needle. I believe I am the only actress who does this. And I never missed a cue. I cant embroider in my present part-but I hope my next part will enable me”I have embroidered whole luncheon sets on the stage in parts where I have used the basket and the knitting-needle. I believe I am the only actress who does this. And I never missed a cue. I cant embroider in my present part-but I hope my next part will enable me to complete on the stage ”

“Those two silk ties you promised me.” broke in Miss Nash’s husband, who had come in just in time to hear her last sentence.

The page facing the article contains this photograph with the caption “SHADOWS: Camera stufy by Edwin Bower Hesser”

$6.66 AUCTIONS: Benjamin DeCasseres, Max Stirner and more auctions starting at $6.66

The editor-in-chief of UnionOfEgoists.com and owner of Underworld Amusements has pulled a small stack of desirable new and used items from his personal collection and has listed them on ebay starting at $6.66. Every book listed is worth well more than that, some tens, some hundreds. He’s funding a secret project and you can be a part of that just by buying yourself a book.

The Unique and Its Property Max Stirner Wolfi Landstreicher Hardback #21 of 66

Occult Technology of Power #3 of 33 Ltd Edition Masonic Apron extra lapel pin

The Satanic Scriptures Peter H. Gilmore Hardback AS NEW

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Hanns Heinz Ewers Mahlon Blaine 1927 John Day

The Chameleon Benjamin DeCasseres 1922 

Benjamin DeCasseres Eugene O’Neill ANATHEMA! 1st ed. signed and #’ed 761 of 1250

Benjamin DeCasseres Eugene O’Neill ANATHEMA! 1st ed. signed and #’ed 571 of 1250

James Gibbons Huneker Benjamin DeCasseres 1925 Joseph Lawren

Max Stirner The Ego and His Own VG book Acceptable DJ Roots of the Right 1971

The Shadow Eater Benjamin DeCasseres 1923

The Shadow Eater Benjamin DeCasseres 1923 DJ Signature

The Muse of Lies Benjamin DeCasseres 1936 1st Edition

Love Letters of a Living Poet Benjamin DeCasseres 1931


The Unconquerable Jew (Harper’s Weekly, 1916)

as published in HARPER’S WEEKLY for May 6, 1916



THE Jew is the enigma of history. A giant shadow out of the East, the mystery and the problem of his destiny confront his own mind with a force as great as it strikes the minds of Christians and agnostics.

The evolution of the Jew is the romance of the races. He carries the Cross that he spurned on Calvary. and on his face is the dust of his humiliation; but to the mind’s eye he wears about his form something of the splendor of deniers. His toga is a winding-sheet, but he wears it proudly. His neck wrung for ages under the heel of hatred and bigotry, he emerges unconquered and is broken anew in the iron coils of circumstance. He challenges with a sneer on his lips the while his mind holds mystic parlance with his dream.

His dream! It is that that keeps him alive. He is a wanderer on the face of the earth who fingers perpetually the amulets of hope. He sees each race with its country, each religion with its hierarchy. Only the Hebrews are scattered to the four winds of heaven—cut, drawn and quartered, yet, like the ameba, they multiply by fission. A vague nostalgia keeps them alive, and above their heads is flaunted the mirage of Zion.

The Jew is an egotist—and in this lies his grandeur. He believes that he is of the race of Chosen People—that the Eternal has elected his race to be its mouthpiece. The Hebrews believe that a special divinity watches over them, that their terrible God is trying them. testing the metal and fibers of their nature, and that they will somehow, through the grace of Jehovah. cross the threshold of the New Jerusalem to the fanfare of the acclaiming servitors of the Only God. To them, their history is the epic of the ages. An outrage against one is an affront to all. If you attack a Jew you attack his race. He is of the elan of God, and when you scoff at him you scoff at the soul of the race.

Despised, degraded, shackled, outlawed, he has fashioned for a weapon of revenge a cudgel of gold dug out. of the earth. The world is today in pawn to him. He has studied the weaknesses of his adversaries and measured his thrift and, acquisitiveness against their needs. He knows in his heart of hearts that his Christian conquerors are at bottom things of earth like himself, and that the dynasties of power in this world are dynasties fed from money-bags, that the joists of authority, whether it be at the Vatican or the Quirinal, are mortared with lucre. He knows that more men pray to the Dollar than to God.

Proud, humble. calculating, thrifty, dreaming, the Jew wanders up and down the ages preyed upon by the beasts of religious fanaticism and preying like a beast in turn. Rejecting the Cross, he, by a fine irony, has been transfixed to it since his rejection. Dreaming of Zion. lie erects his tent in Paris, London and New York, where he sits throned in a lustrous martyrdom. Driven out of the temple. he rules from the market-place. He is unconquerable and indissoluble. His blood is intellectual, and his intellect has bloody intents.