Category Archives: Ephemera

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.

The signature of Ben DeCasseres…

As Curtis Weyent pointed out in a post on his blog, Ben DeCasseres’ signature is often wildly inconsistent.  With that in mind, I collected every signature I have of Benjamin DeCasseres, from letters to inscriptions and regular “signed copy” signatures. There is up to two decades between some of these signatures, but I have not ordered them in any way.

The ghost books of Benjamin DeCasseres…

“So far as I know, DeCasseres was the only author who was proud of his unpublished books.” So said Charles Driscoll in his memorial to the recently passed on DeCasseres:

What follows are titles of DeCasseres books announced but (probably) never published (under the titles given in advance at least):

Words, Words, Words*
The Book of Vengeance
The Second Advent

*This title was actually advertised as forthcoming outside of DeCassere’s own materials, so it is possible that it was published and has become a lost work. In the March 9th, 1918 issue of Publisher’s Weekly, in the “Spring Announcements.” It’s listed as being published by “Goodman” and retails for 90 cents.

On the back flyleaf of Mencken and Shaw, listed under the header of “Books to be Released Later,” these titles were never published:

The Overlord
The Complete American*
The Ego Epic
Mars and the Man
The American Comedy
The Comedy of Hamlet

*This title was published as an essay in The American Mercury, a series of biographical sketches of famous Americans: P.T.Barnum, Jesse James, William Jennings Bryan, Dr. Frank Crane, Billy Sunday, Theodore Roosevelt, Edgar A. Guest, Woodrow Wilson.

The following were listed on the back cover of The Muse of Lies, along with other titles, under the header “Ready for Publication.” Of the other titles listed, all of them were published as “DeCasseres Books”, so it’s possible these were a planned part of that series.

Symphonies of the Ego
Chaos and Cosmos
The American Comedy (repeated)
The Complete American (repeated)

On the back of The Muse of Lies, but under the header “In Preparation” is the following:

Nietzsche

In a “DeCasseres Book”, but I don’t recall which one at the time, the following is mentioned:

Nutopia

This website http://www.authorandbookinfo.com/ngcoba/de.htm lists two odd items, not sure of their source:

Edelweiss And Mandragora
Counsels Of Imperfection

These two actually had descriptions on the inside back flap of the dustjacket for DeCassere’s Huneker.

Poses and Postures
Currents and tendencies of the American Drama. Serious and humorous analyses of the Shows of the Day, as they pass through Mr. Casseres’ brilliant imagination and are caught on the rapier of his wit. Price, $3.00

Somersaults
A book of literary criticisms in which all standards are smashed; ”an intellectual adventure among books and ideas with a humorous Ulysses. Price, $2.50.

I’m sure more will be added to this list at some point, I had not intended on publishing it, but finding a few more pushed me to assemble what I knew into a post.

Introducing UnionOfEgoists.com and Der Geist Journal…

UnionHeader

tbmsbibIntroducing the Union of Egoists, a biographical, historical, bibliographic and inspirational resource for autodidacts and vagabonds alike. A project initiated by Trevor Blake (Confessions of a Failed Egoist & Max Stirner Bibliography) and Kevin I. Slaughter (A Bible Not Borrowed from the Neighbors: Essays and Aphorisms on Egoism).
The first Egoist Max Stirner, Egoist Feminist Dora Marsden, defacto Satanist Benjamin DeCasseres, Social Darwinist Ragnar Redbeard and soap-box Superman Malfew Seklew are a few of the members of this Union of Egoists.
EgoCover-1963-LibertarianBookClub-682x1024Blake has described Egoism as being the claim that the individual is the measure of all things. In ethics, in epistemology, in aesthetics, in society, the Individual is the best and only arbitrator. Egoism claims social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual.
UnionOfEgoists.com is also home to Der Geist, a blog(including facebook page)and forthcoming print journal. The print journal will focus exclusively on the 100 years between the publication of Stirner’s “Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum” and DeCasseres death in 1945.
You can support the project by contributing corrections or materials. Use the Contact page or view the Wanted list.

“The Species Ghost” in Moods magazine…

What follows is a review of Moods journal, containing mention of a DeCasseres article titled “The Species Ghost”. This was later published in the “DeCasseres Book” Saint Tantalus (1936). The review itself was published in Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume LII, Number 51, 21 November 1908.

What follows is a rough transcription of the above:

“MOODS” A UNIQUE MONTHLY New Venture in Literary Field

“Moods.” the new publication which has already been announced as being the work of four Columbia men, contains, in its November issue, a series of poems and prose pieces that follow the style of last year’s Columbia Monthly. Of the thirteen contributions to this number, eleven are in verse. “A Memoir of Wilbam Barrington” is the one long prose piece, being a recollection of an artist’s life in New York. It has vague suggestions of Hopkinson Smith, but lacking in his peculiar charm. Most of the work is by Columbia men, past or present, the exceptions being the above “memoir,” two poems by Leonard Van Noppen, and “The Species Ghost,” by Benjamin De Casseres. Columbia men who contribute are G. W. Cronyn ’10. J. H. Donohue ’08, E. Goodman ’08, B. R. Herts ‘OB, G. M. Lapolla ’10, R. L. Roeder ’10, S. O’Sheel (Sp.), and. C. S. VVttpperman ’08. “Moods” is attractive in its make up, closely approximating in size and general appearance Elbert Hubbard’s “Little Journeys”. The cover design, by Florence Southworth, is unique; a combination of parallel lines in different combinations, representing various moods. A peculiar style of type used gives the design a distinctly foreign appearance—rather German. “Moods” is intended, as is stated editorially, to encourage “artistic excellence, sincerity, and individuality,” and to discourage conformity. In addition to the articles, there are three regular departments: “The Home of Thespis,” “The Art Lover,” and “Chords and Discords.”

Art in America, July-August 1973

ArtInAmerica

The July-August issue of Art in America contains the article “The Critics: Hartmann, Huneker, De Casseres” by Peter Plagens. I’ve transcribed the third section on DeCasseres, skipping the introduction and sections on the first two critics/artists.

——

Benjamin de Casseres comprised at once the best and worst of the three: the least substance (you get the feeling what he liked best about art was his own talking about it), and the best style. Two quotes give some idea of how sharp, overly cute, almost Timestyle, he was:

Turgenief’s characters are gripped in a vise. They go through life like somnambulists. Bazaroff is an arsenal of tendencies. Liza is a medieval nun that by some curious freak has been revamped for 19th century consumption.
The Comic View is exhilarating. It mounts the barricades of limitation with a hop, skip, and jump. It knows the value of all things. Science? Mere mumblings in a vacuum. Life? A parenthetical affirmative between two negatives. Honor? A bauble for babes. Love? Vascular excitation. Morality? A clever device of grafter princeps—the State. Tra-la! Hoop-la! Hold up your paper hoops, Master of Ceremonies, and see Merry Andrew dive through them and slit them into tissue shards.

De Casseres was, by his own admission a born writer, an anti-Semitic Jew and a direct descendant of Spinoza. He saw the artist as a transcendentally asocial (“only in a flurry of excess does one catch glimpses of immortal truth”), irrational (“creators should spurn reason as an eagle would a ladder”) individual. De Casseres’s most unsavory characteristic was his Nietzsche-derived social philosophy—the worst kind of might-makes-right social ethic. War, in his view, is inevitable and even honorable, since it sharpens the instincts for praying and conquest; a viable social system is only a mechanism which “pits one vice against another.” De Casseres also fabricated wrestling matches from criticism, e.g. Arthur Symonds vs. Kipling, or H. L. Mencken vs. Shaw. The latter (Mencken & Shaw, 1930) displays De Casseres at the height of his vindictive powers, going after G.B.S. with the most scurri­lous argumentum ad hominem because Shaw advocated Socialism (which terrified De Casseres, especially after the Russian Revolu­tion) while simultaneously amassing a personal fortune (driving De Casseres up his underpaid walls in envy), and, sub rosa, because Shaw was a near celibate.

The plutocratic fear of the Reds, which Mencken so finely but uncon­vincingly satirizes, is well founded. There is nothing more important than money—property—in the world. Every Red knows that; all Russians know that. In order to lick the world all Russia needs is money.
The plutocrats are all thieves; the Reds potentially or actually all thieves. There is no principle involved. To hell with ideals! I’m for protecting my bank account by upholding the Reigning Dynasty of Forty Thieves so long as they protect me.
. . . No strong man, no real man, no man with guts and brains wants to be equalized in his income with anyone else. All men are born unequal, and the battle will be always to the strongest and the race to the swiftest, no matter how sharp the giant gelding knife of Socialism becomes or how great the intermittent power of such group-predatory sentimentalists as George Bernard Shaw, superficially a dungaree Mephisto, but in his soul of souls a Cromwell and a social Borgia.

Shaw was a virgin until twenty-nine, and citing that fact is as close as De Casseres comes to allowing mitigating circumstances, for he believed, with Hunker, that rampant “individualism,” rampant “imperfection,” heroic excess and a sensual—read sex­ual—nature were the stuff of which artists are made . . . er, born. The arguments against De Casseres’s social esthetic now stand out embarrassingly. When he cites his “man” who disdains eco­nomic equality he means, whether he knows it or not, other privileged upper-middle-class whites like himself, with fancy edu­cations, who never struggled for anything more than the dinner check at Luchow’s. Even if “man” is predatory/competitive by nature, it doesn’t follow that a rational social system should encourage/reinforce it; rather, it ought to counterbalance it.
Shaw’s money does not taint his Socialism, only the reverse. Until the Revolution is won you’re going to have millionaires anyway, so it’s better they’re advocates-in-transit than robber barons. De Casseres, as a turn-of-the-century free-enterpriser, would certainly have Socialists be pauper saints and thus unheard voices. And De Casseres’s simplistic view of Socialism is of the undeserving mob trying to steal the fruits of society; he has no idea a la Marx or even a la Daniel Moynihan of the organism of society (i.e. you can’t let the workers starve without debilitating the whole thing). It’s the one question laissez faire advocates can never answer; what do we do with the losers? Camps? Mass graves? Slavery? Panhandling?

Letter to Zelda Fitzgerald by Benjamin De Casseres, Christmas 1931

On ebay, as of this posting, is a letter from Ben and Bio to Zelda Fitzgerald. I assume that something was sent with the letter, possibly a copy of Bio’s book “The Boy of Bethlehem”?

Zelda

Description reads:

ALS. 1pg. 5” x 6”. Christmas 1931. New York City.  An autograph letter signed Bio De Casseres Benjamin De Casseres addressed to Zelda Fitzgerald: “Dear Zelda: Here’s the latest news about the Virgin Birth – Bio De Casseres Benjamin De Casseres Christmas, 1931 New York City”.  It is penned in green ink and has some light toning that affects nothing.  Letters to Zelda are scarce, and this was sent when she was first hospitalized.