All posts by Kevin I. Slaughter

DEUS AMERICANUS (1929)

The following essay by Benjamin DeCasseres was published in E. Haldeman-Julius’ “Little Blue Book” No. 1411, titled The Real Thomas Edison, published circa 1929. Haldeman-Julius had a page count that he wanted to reach for his famous little booklets, and since the titular essay only constituted 15 pages, we can assume he included the three other essays to fill the rest of the 64 pages. It is the only Litle Blue Book DeCasseres was included in, though his writing did appear in some of E. Haldeman-Julius’  journals.

Of note is the website Little Blue Books Bibliography. Any research into the publishing history of the E. Haldeman-Julius catalog will show that not only were publishing records not clear, but he often reused catalog numbers for different booklets, and would also retitle booklets just before they were published, but after promotional material was released! Jake Gibbs, the author of the website, worked on the bibliography for fifteen years, and it was completed just before his death. It is a monumental worth that others have attempted before, but his is certainly the most definitive by a long shot.

Mr. Gibbs describes the booklet:

1411. A. L. Shands. The Real Thomas A. Edison. c1929.
Contents:
1 LBB (c).
2 copyright, PUSA.
3 “Contents.”
4 blank.
5-19 “The Real Thomas A. Edison,” A. L. Shands.
20-33 “The Amazing Ignatius Donnelly,” Miriam Allen deFord.
34-49 “Deus Americanus,” Benjamin deCasseres.
50-61 “Was Thoreau an Anarchist?” C. Hartley Grattan.
62-4 blank.

Previous to Mr. Gibbs work was http://haldeman-julius.org/, which is sadly now only available through archive.org. There is a great deal of information there found nowhere else.

The essay itself is about Theodore Roosevelt, the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900, and then the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909.

I want to thank S.P. for this assistance in proofreading this transcription.


DEUS AMERICANUS

HOW THE PERFECT ONE BECAME THE LIVING SOUL
OF THESE STATES

Benjamin deCasseres

The noblest activity of Man is the creation of myths and gods. Man is a lie-loving animal. He calls it the search for the Ideal. Euclid, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and Edison have no power over his psychical life, and very little over his practical life. No human being has ever patterned his life on the type of the impersonal, cold, reasoning truth-seeker. It is Venus, Apollo and Hercules; Siegfried, St. George and St. Patrick; Christ, Buddha, Mahomet, Swedenborg; Hamlet, Huckleberry Finn, Pollyanna; Caesar, Napoleon, Lincoln; Kit Carson, Byron, Paul Revere, that are deified. Try to make a hero out of Eli Whitney in a school boy’s mind if he is reading the life of Daniel Boone! Try to make a heroine out of Madame Curie in the mind of a schoolgirl if she is reading the life of Joan of Arc!

The elect are not yet cold in the grave when they are lovingly lifted out of their coffins and swaddled in attributes that they never possessed. Their least gesture exaggerated to heroic proportions, they are set to suckle at the fat breasts of credulity; and so they rise, trailing their garments of mythic glory, into the empyreans of the imagination, where they reign as richly festooned prototypes, or, rather, as generating stud-horses and mares of the Ideal.

Every people must have an archetype of its national consciousness. The Greeks delighted in personifying all the elements of the Greek soul and of life. The modems are somewhat slower at the beautiful art of deification, although it has gradually accumulated a stock of Alfred the Greats, St. Genevieves, and, later, quite a litter of Joan of Arcs, Garibaldis, Bismarcks, Cromwells and other variations of Thor, Prometheus and Mexitl.

America had no national Deus until God decreed the mighty conflict of San Juan Hill. Neither Washington nor Lincoln quite filled the bill. Both are destined to become gods, no doubt, and float around in the skulls of posterity as immaculate prototypes of Liberty and Equality. They have already passed into the semi-legendary stage; but they both lack the quality of university, of cosmical versatility, of physical prowess. Washington and Lincoln were specialists. They were supermen by accident, not by divine intention, as was he who was born unto us, like Buddha, amid purple and fine linen, in the annus mirabilis 1858, but who chose deliberately the Common Way, the suffrages and approbation of the lowly.

I make no less a claim—which I shall prove—for this man than an incarnation. He was Deus Vulgus, the People incarnate, the body, brain and breath of America made corporeal. His evolution from foetus to Pantheon was as clearly ordained as was the assassination of McKinley, which cleared the way for his emergence from military fame to civic glory.

There is not an element in the American character that is not found magnified with startling clearness in our Deus. He is the very lexicon of all our virtues. By our “virtues” I mean of course our strengths, our root-motives, which I have catalogued in “The Complete American.” For those who have not read that wonder-book I will give here a list of those elemental American characteristics of which Deus Amcricanus is the supreme Hanuman: The passion for the circus; love of good, honest humbug; dialectical righteousness; camp-meeting mysticism; blare; hearth, home and mother; Pragmatic idealism; belief in the divinity of statistics; Our Hero; belief in nonogenarian wiseacres; the sentimental reformer; hullabaloo; upward and onward; respectability; you’re a liar; autoscopy; Chauvinism; keep smiling!—or grinning! Multiply, multiply! acrobatie superficiality; healthy, prolonged and manly exhibitionism; the masterful courage that first discovers the will of the people and then follows it resolutely to the end; speed; gregariousness; resonant, torse, ethico-orotund, ethico-magniloquent, ethico-detonating phrases like “a square deal,” “predatory interests,” “malefactors of great wealth.”

These constitute the very gizzard of the American’s Thirty-nine Articles, all en-souled in our Deus. And much more, for Deus Americanus was not only a mold into which was poured the soil-sap of a people but he was a creator as well. He o’er-leaped the mold and gave his people new values, new nebulae for posterity in which it could sun itself and worship from afar. He was a Hercules of physical strength, a mighty, planet-roving Nimrod; a Columbus of lost rivers and lost lands, a patron of the arts, sciences and the new spelling; a mighty warrior; a Mazeppa of the Dakotas; a super-policeman; a world-feared boxer and fencer; conqueror of the Jungfrau and the Matterhorn; maker of republics, with or without their consent; the constructor of a mighty canal; a naval-lord after several sea-goings; the conserver of American womanhood and childhood; the discoverer of Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Hart Benton; a super-Linnaeus, a super-Audubon, a super-Thoreau; the Great Peacemaker; Ambassador-at-Large to all peoples and all royal funerals; founder of the Ananias Club, which he convened and prorogued at his pleasure; patron saint of the Boy Scouts and Madonna to the Campfire girls; founder of the American Lourdes, Sagamore Hill; he taught His People to fear God and do their part; father of the Dry Sunday; Big Brother to all coal-strikers; and, above all, the divine Gascon of the Strenuous Life. Since Adam delved and Eve bit has any people ever had such a Deus? Take all the Dei and semi-Dei out of Homer, Asgard and Nibelheim, fuse them into a single Deus and you would not find in him the universality and perfectability of our Deus Americanus!

Every authentic god must have at least one temptation, one Gethsemane, one wrestling match with the Devil, one dragon to his credit.  The god must or else he cannot become a god. Our Deus had such a test put on him, and he came out triumphant, having beheaded the Foe in four words—”that dirty little atheist!” That Deus Americanus deliberately cast around to find a Fiend with which to wrestle—as some Doubting Thomases have intimated—I reject, after profound thought and study, as utterly ridiculous. Tom Paine had long been in the minds of all Real Americans the Arch-Fiend and the Anti-Christ. The Methodists had pictured him with horns and tail and the cloven hoof. Millions of American babies were scared into untimely righteousness with “If you are not a good little boy, Tom Paine’ll get you!” He was universally anathema. George Washington turned his back on the Devil when he returned from Europe, and so, shortly afterward, soared to the Heaven of the Saved. Paine was therefore inexorably listed by Fate as one of the Great Labors of Deus Americanus.

This final slaughter of Tom Paine by our Deus was, I believe, the greatest of his Labors because the conflict was spiritual and was hidden from the public gaze. Our god must have reconnoitered the Anti-Christ of the American Revolution from all angles before he began his attack, before there issued from his mighty pen the searing and deadly phrase “that dirty little atheist!” Our Lohengrin-Siegfried found his deepest suspicion realized; the fiend Paine was dirty, little and an atheist. More, he found confronting him a poxy, malignant dwarf, who under the mask of reason practiced the obscene black mass which he had learned in a French prison, where he had been thrown for trying to overthrow the God of Louis XIV and Tor quemada. The battle was short and decisive Hallelujah! Tom Paine is no more, our little children sleep in peace, and Deus Americanus for reward, now sits beside Elohim and watches the writhings of Paine the Anti-Christ and Anti-God in Hell. Sursum corda!

Deus Americanus was the looking-glass of all mythological genius, but much. more. If he was Hercules, Nimrod, Lohengrin, Mars and St. George, he also held in that mighty soul a Confucius, a Tartarin, a Marco Polo, a Taras Bulba, a Munchausen, a Wilhelm the Second. “I am large; I contain multitudes!” he might have said just as well as did a minor American poet whom Deus Antericanus never took up because, no doubt, he saw in him a rival of the doctrine of the Strenuous Life. Our Deus would tolerate no rivals. To him alone, and for him alone, the khaki and the sword, the medals and the decorations, the bay and the laurel. That which did not come from Sagamore-Horeb was terefah, scabby, ratty, un-American. A summons was a command. Has any American dared to reject a call to Sagamore-Horeb from Deus Amcricanus? Not even James Huneker dared to face the wrath of the expunger of Tom Paine and the Attila of San Juan Hill!

No godlet could ever become Deus Americanus unless he was impeccably respectable. Respectability and sexual rectitude are to .the American what bacchic and venusian bohemianism was to the ancients. So there is no smirch on the Earth-life of Deus Antericanus. He comes up clean—as clean as the whistle of Gabriel. No whisper shadowed him through life. He was Made in America, where Family Life is the cornerstone of the Temple. He sprouted from the loins of our most ancient and adamantine virtue. Had Tom Paine, the Foe, a wife or even children? I never heard of them (I am not an authority on demonology). Ben Franklin might have been Deus Americanus, but he, who incarnated so many of our traits, failed in two characteristics—he had no San Juan Hill and his puritanism was tainted with common Latin habits. George Washington ran a still, gambled and they do say——. Lincoln told Boccaccian stories. They were automatically ruled out. But the Immaculate One was found in a cradle in East Twentieth street. Destiny’s dice were set. The Perfect American—sans peur et sans reproche was born unto us!

Deus Americanus of course had his enemies while he was still in the woof and mesh of the flesh. What god had not his enemies? The Strenuous Life stimulates the birth of rivals. Deus Americanus was, in fact, always at Armageddon. Every day was Armageddon to him. Carrying in his larynx the very Voice of the quick and the dead, his brain weaving ideals for countless unborn Boy Scouts, feeling within his depths the Message of the Square Deal of Posterity, hearing in the cyclopean thump of his fist on thousands of tables the muffled drum-beat of his immortality, uttering through those great carnivorous teeth a defy to the enemies of His People, who, naturally, were the enemies of the Lord of Righteousness; casting out in the fire of his nostrils Malefactors of Great Wealth (no names given), slaughtering with mighty Isaiahan epithet those who dared disagree with him. battling for the Lord in rain or shine. Yankees win or Yankees lose—it would, indeed, have been miraculously unique if this Mighty Killer of the Moose and the Lion had not had his Lucifer, his Cain, his Brutus. The New York World even went so far as to sue Deus Americanus for libel. As well try to smash an Idea with a bamboo walking-stick!

They have accused him of disloyalty. How un-Deus-like such charges seem to us today, we who are molding for posterity the Great Legend! A god may be—nay, must be—inconsistent. He is protean. A law unto himself—sublime and impeccable egotist that he was!—those who could not do a volteface in perfect step with our Deus Amenicanus were flung to the ambulance corps. He was true to himself and to his heaven-storming dreams. Little men of Earth! Little men of Earth!—you who speak of loyalty, consistency! You live in realities, While our Deus was an Absolute. Loyalty! Gratitude! Consistency! A dog’s virtues! A nationalist when he spoke to the Egyptians in Egypt, imperialist when he addressed Englishmen in England—that was typically American, and therefore right. Our fishers of men and votes, do they not have one doctrine for the white aristocracy of the South, another for the Hog and Wheat Blocs of the West, another for the Mammon-sodden peoples of the East, and still another for the Harlem Ethiopian Belt? Consistency, thou art neither an American nor a Deus. Every blasphemy that has been uttered against Deus Americanus has been uttered by Prometheus against Zeus; but Zeus (and his heirs) still reigns and the vultures still nibble at the penitent liver of Prometheus.

The divinity of our Deus was squarely proven in his lifetime. He was bullet-proof. Twice was the Sign given. Twice did Deus Americanus come forth a greater than Siegfried, who, it will be remembered, had a vulnerable spot in the back which worked his undoing. But the King of the Nibelungs of the West—our Deus—although he had bathed in the blood of many Dragons of Evil, had been a Friend of Nature since boyhood, and so even the trees held their breath in brotherly awe and stayed the naughty leaf from falling on his back when he raged against the Malefactors and atheistic heathens.

Soaked in Dragon’s blood! No! Our Deus was soaked in something far greater. He was soaked in American Virtues and American Ideals. We Americans are baptized in the blood of Righteousness, and neither Excalibur nor the hosts of Tom Paine shall prevail against us! At the height of the Homeric contest on San Juan Hill, when the thunders from the fifty-mile-long Spanish artillery were shaking the world, Deus Americanus abandoned his horse, like Napoleon at Lodi, and, pistol in hand, charged with his handful of men into the frightful rain of shells and bullets. The great Spanish Army collapsed at the daring, miraculous feat and surrendered. San Juan Hill was the whirling fiery egg that hatched a Deus. An invulnerable incarnation had appeared amongst us. The Great Legend had begun to jell!

Again, many years later, when the voice of Achilles, which by its sound alone had shattered the Trojan army, had taken possession of our Deus the second Sign of invulnerability was given. It was in Milwaukee. An unknown man—a descendant or a disciple of the dirty little atheist, no doubt—shot at Deus Americanus, but so completely and miraculously was he panoplied in American Home Virtues and Ideals that he went right on speaking to his audience with most miraculous tongue.  Unshatterable proof this, and finally, that he was our Deus!

He had his play-moments, too, that endeared him to us probably beyond all else, for we are a play-people, almost infantile, it would seem, sometimes. We are the laughing baby-eye of the world, and ’twas fit that that element of our national character should appear in Deus Americanus. He played for us in the White House for many years. What gambols, what clownings, what sensational pranks he put on for us! How we guffawed, rocked, shook with mirth! So much so that when the Deus left the White House to retire into the Desert, like St. Francis of Assisi, for meditation and counsel with the lions of the Zambesi, he gave Utterance to the most celebrated mot of any abdicating ruler, “Well, I’ve had a corking good time!” Only a god could indulge in and get away with (as the saying goes) such a sportive remark after guiding for eight years the spiritual, moral and physical destinies of His People. Life is always a comedy to the gods—and what has an Olympian to do except have “a corking good time”?

Deus Americanus was a being of sublime moral courage, another trait that is almost uniquely American and which is one of the reasons, no doubt, why the Zeitgeist chose him as the Living Soul of These States. While he was reveling in his “corking good time” in the White House he executed one of those sudden morale coups that got him the name in some quarters of the Spiritual Marechal Ney, “the bravest of the brave.” He invited Booker T. Washington to dine with him and told the Associated Press so point-blank. There were gasps and sputterings among us Earth-whiffets, especially among the whiffets of the Southland. A Negro on terms of equality with the greatest of the White House Dei! But the Deus had resolved to go Lincoln one better. The latter had merely set the Negro free physically, but Deus Americanus had resolved to set him free socially and politically, which he did, as is known of all men, for he followed up his recognition of Booker T. Washington by enforcing throughout the Southland the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. This being one of the celebrated Twelve Labors, I will not touch upon it further. If Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, the Deus was certainly the Great Necromancer, for in assuring the Negroes of the South during their lifetime and unto unborn posterities the right to vote he accomplished one of the greatest moral and seemingly impossible victories in history.

Deus Americanus had not a provincial soul. He was never a local god. He went forth, when the Call came, unto all the world with the Big American Idea. He proclaimed it from the Sorbonne, from the Pyramids, on the Banks of the Amazon, at the very doors of the Vatican, from the Tower of London, on the Nile, and he fairly slapped it into the back of that fellow-Deus. Kaiser Wilhelm II, at Potsdam, where he uttered that famous toast which terrified the world, “With an army like that, I could lick the world!” Did he say “I” or “you”? N’importe! As a good American and a sound Deusian, I prefer to believe he said “I.” It sounds American, it is American, for we can lick the world, by Jingo!—as was said of yore. Messenger, handshaker and Ambassador to all the world was our Deus, and he was received wherever he went as Caesar Americanus by vast mobs that shouted Viva! and Prosit!

Like all genius, like all beings destined for apotheosis, he knew as a youth that he was born for a Purpose. The attractions are proportioned to the destinies, says Swedenborg. He first of all prepared himself for his secretly foretold Deushood by strengthening his body and his will. All gods are perfect physically and have almighty wills, he read in his dictionary of mythology. He was in his younger adolescent days a weakling, timid, almost sickly. By acts of fortitude and discipline such as only the Pre-Destined dare undertake he finally achieved, after many years, the title of Bwana Tombo, the Fat Man.

All greatness in action is founded on the exclusion of some universal human quality. No man can act continuously and have a continuous sense of humor. For humor is the supreme critic, the supreme disintegrator, the supreme paralyzer of action. Deus Americanus, like Narcissus, Alexander the Great, Cromwell and Napoleon, was totally devoid of a sense of humor. It was his pillar of strength, else he would not have undertaken the Labor of “Drying up” New York for one whole Sunday when he was Police Commissioner, a Labor which was so signally and admirably successful and grows so great in the eye of Fame that Deus Dry Sunday will, no doubt, in the calendars of posterity oust Easter Sunday as a day celebrating the rise of a regenerated New York from the hells of Swizzle.

Of all the elements which have gone to making Deus Americanus the body, blood and brain of our national, innermost self no small credit is due to the “style” of his many books. Nothing can be farther from “literature,” which among us is feminine for writin’. And there was, of course, nothing feminine in the Deus. His collected Logos is the American Style, as plain as a hitching post, as devoid of metaphor as an income-tax blank, as raw as the meat of pre-Promethean anthropophagi. Indeed, as his enemies can vouch, did he not verbally “eat ’em alive?”—he who would have branded in his pistol-shot prose Pan himself a “Nature Fakir” if the latter had ever questioned the eye and ear of the great Wilderness Hunter? No American writer, Deus or semi-Deus, has ever given us such home-grown and root-American epigrams: “The good woman is the best of all good citizens.” “Deeds, not words, alone shall save us.” “Let us pray with our bodies for our souls’ desire.” (This last is the one mystical flight in the prose of the Deus, and is almost Sapphic in its pagan grandeur.) “I believe in hard work and honest sport.” “I believe in a sane mind in a sane body.” (Our Deus translated this from the mens sana in corpore sano of an obscene Roman reformer named Juvenal, and, although he gives him no credit—gods have plenary rights in expropriation—the perfect translation of the difficult phrase proves the profound nature of his scholarship. Besides, the phrase achieved American validity only at the exact moment that Deus Americanus wrote “I believe” in front of it.) “These nations (Germany and Turkey) in this crisis stand for the reign of Moloch and Beelzebub on this earth.” “A churchless community is a community on the rapid down grade.” These are but a few of the epigrams from the vast treasure-house of Sagamorean wisdom, which has already. swept away forever the moral pot-shots of Epictetus, Confucius, Aurelius, Poor Richard, Oscar Wilde and Godey. The style is the god, verily.

But I do not ask trans-Atlantic and cis-Atlantic mankind to take my word alone that he of whom I have written is the veritable soil-and-soul Deus Americanus. Here follows the proclamation from Pantheon of the Deus on East Twentieth Street, New York City, where one may see the sacred relics and vestures of the American. I do not know who is the author of this sublime apotheosis of the greatest Police Commissioner New York ever had; but I do know that in it he has condensed the soul of Deus Americanus. To wit:

“He was found faithful over a few things and he was made ruler over many; he cut his own trail clean and straight and millions followed him toward the light. He was frail; he made himself a tower of strength. He was timid; he made himself a lion of courage. He was a dreamer; he became one of the great doers of all time. Men put their trust in him; women found a champion in him; kings stood in awe of him, but children made him their playmate. He broke a nation’s slumber with his cry, and it rose up. He touched the eyes of blind men with a flame that gave them vision. Souls became swords through him; swords became servants of God. He was loyal to his country and he exacted loyalty; he loved many lands, but he loved his own land best. He was terrible in battle but tender to the weak; joyous and tireless, being free from self-pity; clean with a cleanness that cleansed the air like a gale. His courtesy knew no wealth, no class; his friendship, no creed or color or race. His courage stood every onslaught of savage beast and ruthless man, of loneliness, of victory, of defeat. His mind was eager, his heart was true, his body and spirit, defiant of obstacles, ready to meet what might come. He fought injustice and tyranny; bore sorrow gallantly; loved all nature, bleak spaces and hardy companions, hazardous adventure and the zest of battle. Wherever he went he carried his own pack; and in the uttermost part of the earth he kept his conscience for his guide.”

America, behold your soul; behold your one Olympian double!

FIND AUTHOR’S TASTES DIFFER

The Pomona Progress Bulletin (Pomona, California)
12 May 1932 (Page 14)

NEW YORK (U.P.) Literary tastes differ among leading authors and editors of the United States, according to a symposium collected by the United Press. A number of prominent writers were asked to name three recently published books particularly to their liking. Their selections follow:

H. L. Mencken, editor The American Mercury: The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, by Robert Eisler; The Mysterious Madame, by C. E. Bechofer Roberts; The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind, by H. G. Wells.

Carl Van Doren, editor The Literary Guild: Expression In America, by Ludwig Lewlsohn; Wellington, by Philip Guedalla; The Social Life of Apes and Monkeys, by S. Zuckerman.

Fannie Hurst

Fannie Hurst, novelist: The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck; Russia, by Hans von Eckhardt.

Chrigtpher Morley, novelist and critic: The Tragedy of Henry Ford, by Jonathan Leonard; Kamonga, by Homer W. Smith; And Life Goes On, by Vici Baum.

Alexander Woolcott, critic: Stepping Westward, by Laura E. Richards; The Unseen Assassins, by Norman Angell; Loads of Love, by Anne Parrish.

Benjamin DeCasseres, critic: Mental Healers, by Stefan Zwelg; The Decline of the West, by Oswald Spengler; Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.

Anthony Abbott

Anthony Abbott, detective novel writer: Death Answers the Bell, by Valentine Williams; The Kennel Murder Case, by S. S. Van Dine; The Documents In the Case, by Dorothy Sayre.

William McFee, novelist: Way of the Lancer, by Richard Boleslav-sky; Rackety Rax, by Joel Sayre; Seventy Years in Archaeology, by Sir Flinders Petrie.

George Jean Nathan, critic: Essays In Persuasion, by L. M. Keynes: The Story of My Life, by Clarence Darrow; The Puritan, by Liam O’Flaherty.

Ben Hecht, novelist: “It’s no body’s business what I read.

Gene Fowler, novelist: Dr. Hofstetter’s Spavin & Gold Cure Almanac; Pueblo, Colo., telephone directory, issue of 1902; Black Beauty.

Harry Elmer Barnes, author and critic: Only Yesterday, by Frederick Lewis Allen; The Story of My Life, by Clarence Darrow; Is Capitalism Doomed? by Dennis

Spinoza: Liberator of God and Man & Against the Rabbis

Celebrating the 300th birthday of his relative Benedict Spinoza (1632 – 1677) saw Benjamin DeCasseres release two volumes about the man and his work. The first was Spinoza: Liberator of God and Man in 1933, and the second was Spinoza Against the Rabbis in 1937. This new edition combines them both for the first time, newly typeset and designed. DeCasseres brings to the light in this book hitherto unknown aspects of the doctrines of Spinoza: his liberation of God from the shackles of anthropomorphism, his glorification of the Will-to-Power, and his divinization of the Ego of the individual man. In the chapter entitled “Anathema!” DeCasseres has with a dramatic power only equaled in the pages of Victor Hugo or Merejkovsky pictured the excommunication from the Jewish Church of Benedict de Spinoza.

Limited hardback available exclusively from the publisher.

Paperback edition available on Amazon.com, Amazon UK, or directly from the publisher.

Edwin Markham to Benjamin DeCasseres

Edwin Markham ( 1852–1940) was an American poet. From 1923 to 1931 he was Poet Laureate of Oregon.

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My dear Mr. De Casseres:
I wish to thank you for remembering me with occasional copies of your printed writings. I trust that you will send me more.
I have a sincere admiration for your remarkable powers of expression; and many of your ideas meet with my entire approval.
But of course I do not accept the philosophy of ultimate pessimism. I cannot follow you into the Cimmerian darkness where you sometimes wander. Man has built his own hells, and he will sometime climb out of them to stand upon a cliff of stars.
Cordially yours,
Edwin Markham

“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”

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Love Letters of a Living Poet Benjamin DeCasseres 1931