By Guido Bruno
was compiled and written by Guido Bruno. Bruno documented Bohemian life
of this book was privately printed by Bruno in 1921 in a limited
edition of 500
copies mainly for his friends at a cost of $5.00 each. There are only
libraries in the
As of July 25, 2009 there was one original copy for sale on Alibris.com at a cost of $1,500. No original copies were listed for sale at eBay or Amazon. That leaves a total of 472 original copies unaccounted for. Some are no doubt in the hands of private collectors while others are probably hidden away in attics and other storage places where they are collecting dust. Still other copies have likely have been discarded or destroyed. This is truly a rare book.
* * * * *
BY GUIDO BRUNO
An edition of
500 copies has
* * * * * *
WHO HAS NEVER
Table of Contents
The Village Paper
Winter's Awakening In The Village
The Peace Was Broken
Adultery On Washington Square
Roomer's Moving Day
My Only Friend
Just One Nickel
Diogenes In Our Village
Children's Hour On The Square
Love And Romance
Washington Square's Amusements For Man and Beast
Bathing On The Square
A Rainy Day
Madonna Of Our Square
Fire In Bruno's Garret
The Garret And Its Story
Anarchists In Our Village
To My Dear Friend Thomas
Antonio The Chestnut Vender
"I Dont Want A Kitchenette, I Want A NEW Saddle For My Horse," Said Alice
The Children Of The Village
Greenwich Village Attacked
The Lost Village
The Passing Of Bruno's Garret
The "little Theatre" Pest
Les Confidences: Being The Confession OF A Self-
A Famous Corner
* * * * *
INSTEAD OF A PREFACE
ONLY six years ago Greenwich
Village was a quiet idyllic part of old
There were hardly any stores in this vicinity, the streets desolate in daytime, dead at night. And now Greenwich Village has become a strange and mysterious community. Newspapers, especially the Sunday supplements, have told you a lot about Greenwich Village, about its peculiar restaurants, with bizarre colored furniture, about tea-rooms where a peculiar sort of people assemble, the kind of humans you are accustomed to call Bohemians; where impossible things are being sold in almost unreal shops. You have heard about women here wearing bobbed hair and smoking cigarettes, sitting around tables without table-cloths, talking of art, matrimony and social problems in quite a peculiar way; about men who let their hair grow long, prefer flowing neckties, and who are ever ready to serve you their theories of life--quite a tickling sensation after your family dinner in a Harlem elevator apartment.
Publicity has done it all, and I have the sad honor to have brought it about.
But for a French
proprietor of an ice cream parlor and an Italian printer journeyman,
a handful of type and an old fashioned hand press, there would never
a "Bruno's Garret," never a "Greenwich Village Gazette" which
became later "Bruno's Weekly." Charles Edison,
Thomas A. Edison's son, would have never come to Greenwich Village to
here his Thimble Theatre, his dancing on
There is a "but" and it hovers above the roofs of the houses, rustles through the leaves of the trees and seems to form a rare and scarce patina over the stones of its graveyards and the iron of its house gates.
Did you know that houses have souls and that you who are living in steam-heated, electric-lighted elevator apartments, are living in houses with dead souls?
Your telephone wires pierced their hearts. Your steam pipes put them upon a bed of Procrustes and your tapestries muzzled them. On bleak nights you can hear the wind moaning outside your roof asking in vain for admission. He cannot deliver his message for neighboring souls. It is on such nights that you turn restlessly in your bed listening to strange noises; you switch on your light and reopen your book which you laid away in the evening….
Since the days of the Revolution, which gave our nation independence, until yesterday and until this very day, almost everything big and of consequence can be traced to this little community. Thomas Paine lived and died here. Edgar Allan Poe came to Greenwich Village to spend his honeymoon, and to dream, to love, to starve and to write some of the things which have made his name immortal. Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson used to sit and chat on Washington Square while their housekeepers were cleaning their near-by apartments on Fifth Avenue. O. Henry spent most of his time in New York in Greenwich Village and some of the stories that made him famous are pictures of its life. Bayard Taylor and hundreds of others lived here.
Roosevelt had his headquarters on Washington Square and Abraham Lincoln made some of his important speeches here shortly before his assassination. Genius always struggled for recognition in the boundaries of the village and here it found its first recognition by another generation struggling similarly hard and paying its price for the laurels awarded by posterity.
* * * * *
It was in 1913. I was broke,
had come from the West where I had sold the monthly magazine that
ruin for the price of a ticket to New York. My search for friends had
futile. I used to live on
There is not a lovelier place in the city than Washington Square. It carries a touch of intimacy that makes dear the boudoir of our beloved one. It has the dignity of a church and the friendliness of an inn-keeper who values us as gladly- sheltered guests.
It was a wonderful evening and I took in the romance of it all. All at once it came to me! Over there the university; on the north side of the square all the aristocratic mansions; on the south side the aristocracy of mind in shabby lodging houses and studio buildings! Of course, this is the Quartier Latin of America. And I thought of the curious people that I knew lived in the neighborhood. How they worked: how they spent their lives in the happy solitude of creating. I made up my mind to tell the world about this strange spot in the most commercial business city on earth. I decided then and there that I would start a paper, call it Greenwich Village, and make it a picture of this neighborhood; quaint, most intimate, dignified, peculiar in spots, learned here and there but also with a ragged edge. I had to talk to somebody. The only shop I could see in this neighborhood was the very ice cream store which is still opposite the terminal station of the Fifth Avenue busses. I found the Rossi Brothers there very nice chaps, who seemed enthusiastic about my idea of a Greenwich Village magazine. "I am a printer," interrupted a rather rugged looking Italian who had listened to our conversation. "I have type and an old press; if the paper isn't too big in size I would like to print it."
I accompanied him to his
little room two by four, everything most primitive; but I had no money
and so I
decided to take advantage of the offer. Next morning I went out
advertisements to cover the expense of my first number. I found
willing to advertise in my new paper. The
The Little Church
nine months my correspondence was brought in big mail bags, the
busses stopped in front of my old little frame building, which by the
been erected a hundred and fifty years ago by the first public grave
One day Charles Edison,
patronized the garret frequently, unknown to me by name, asked me if
things that I was doing for painters and writers couldn't be done for
musicians. We formed a partnership, built Edison's Thimble Theatre
Brevoort Hotel and issued an appeal to all musicians and composers of
Any one could come here and play or sing to audiences which we got for them. There was no admission fee charged,
remembers what a pretty and intimate show house the Thimble Theatre is.
thought of utilizing the theatre for little plays. I got a small group
excellent professionals together, called them the Bruno
Players, and we had
This again being the first attempt of a small intimate theatre in
A Rainy Day
But the village flourishes today. Rents have gone sky-high. Greenwich Village had established its reputation, and the undesirable elements disappeared as quickly as they had come. Here it is after the war, the "gay corner" of New York.
Did you say you wished to "tour" Greenwich Village?
Yon must come down in the evening.
Then it is that village of which you dream, the background to so many big things, the essential in so many big lives, the one part of this city where you can forget the city and seven million co-inhabitants of yours. There is the arch with its simple architecture, the monumental gateway to the Square. Lights here and there. High up on the tower of a hotel an electric-lighted cross and still higher a few stars, and if you are lucky and the night is clear, the moon.
The square is deserted and only a few passengers, waiting for the next bus, make up the small group beneath the arc light. But the streets are peopled with men and women who stand around the Italian grocery shops and pastry bakeries; they worked all day and kept silent; now they live their own real life. There are cafes as you can see on the rivas of small Italian coast cities where you really drink coffee and eat pastry and play dominoes. Turning one of those streets and unexpectedly, like the background of a miniature playhouse, a little chapel looms up before you. The doors are open, candles before the altars are a testimony that the saints are not forgotten. Women are sitting on the stairs selling rosaries, little statuettes and paper flowers. Men, women and children are passing in and passing out. Follow the thundering elevated and turn again to the Square. As many windows as you see lighted in these mansions of yore used now as rooming and lodging houses—so many homes do they contain.
Can you help thinking: "If I were a poet or an artist, I surely would live here and nowhere else?"
But, dear reader, because of your living here you would not be a poet or an artist.
* * * * *
MY garret has six windows. Through every one the sun is shining, bathing the table with my typewriter in a shower of pure golden rays. The laundry that hangs along wash lines between the houses of little Italy near by seems real white; swinging joyfully to the rhythm of a teasing wind. A few of my neighbors seem to love vivid, glaring colors. There is one red nightshirt, on which I feast my eyes every other week. Its owner must be a giant with long arms. I fancy he brought it from Naples or Sicily. The shirt will fade and go the way of all shirts and he'll buy nice flannel pajamas —all Italians wear pajamas, there are dozens of them on the lines in front of my window—and he will forget his sunny Italy, lose his sun-browned cheeks, and how long and he will be one of those thousands of pale uniformly clad New Yorkers?
Doing the same work, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of others makes people uniform. Some elevate themselves up to the standard of the average, some come down to the standard of the average. But after a while all will be equal, they will all wear the same clothes, walk in the same manner, eat the same kind of food, make the same gestures, use the same language; all for one purpose: to make their daily bread.
Over there across the back yard in front of my garret a woman leans over the washtub. She never looks up to the forget-me-not blue sky; she doesn't see the sparrows on the fence fighting for crumbs of bread. Her husband somewhere in a shop leans over his work and is angry because tiny. little rays of the kind sun peep through, the blinded windows fascinated by the needle in his hand and dance in jolly circles over his work. To be poor is not the tragedy that kills happiness, transforms proud and free humans into bent and worn slaves; that creates human automatons.
It is the lack of time that makes millions wretched. They cannot look up to the skies and see the passing clouds—they have no time.
They do not admire the beauty of flowers nor do they inhale their fragrance—they have no time.
They don't hear the birds singing; they don't hear the cooing of babies and the heart gladdening chattering of children—they have no time.
Time, time—just a little
live is the real plea of the poor man.
* * * * *
Winter's Awakening in the Village
SLOWLY and with resignation king summer handed over the scepter to mild autumn. Warm summer afternoons which tempt one to forget that the fifteenth of September passed long ago, and to wear once more the straw hat or the white linen suit, are followed by chilly evenings with overcoat and protecting shawl.
The mansions which have dozed all summer behind drawn shades are awakening to new life. Their owners are returning and preparing for the winter's stay among us. The signs telling us that there are apartments, rooms, or studios for rent are vanishing from the quaint-looking dwellings—once family houses and mansions and now the homes of just as many as there can be rooms partitioned off for. Greenwich Village is on the morn of its winter season.
There is no other community in New York where the population is so constantly floating and so quickly shifted as in Greenwich Village. You think you know the Square because you lived there last year. And now, returning from your camp or from your summer residence or from the suburb where you spent the last months, you come to the house where you still keep your studio or where you secured quarters and you see new faces. They perhaps moved in yesterday, and they seem to belong to the place as though they had lived there for years. They will be gone tomorrow and won't leave a trace or a personal impression to tell the story of their sojourn.
And then those men and women on the street in a garb which arrests your eyes—it might be the flying necktie of the woman, please—men do not wear artists bows nowadays. Men seem to acquire with long hair, the neatness peculiar to the female sex; healthy girls with red cheeks and eyes radiant with expectancy and enthusiasm—and with bobbed hair. And some of them really look like men in their felt hats and man-like cut sack suits; you can see them flocking into Pepe's real estate office. Pepe has the real estate monopoly of Greenwich Village. He knows every cubby-hole high up under the roof of a forgotten factory-building on the outskirts of the Square, and he also knows how to transform it into "studios." And, ah! what prices does he know to charge! He sends the new arrivals from the country—artists and would-be artists who have saved their pennies for a year in Greenwich Village—on their tiresome road to find a "home."
Have you ever been there yourself? A list of addresses in your hand, wandering from house-door to house-door, looking at studios or rooms or apartments? No more heart- sickening and disappointing task is in store for us than this tiresome search for living-quarters. If we like one place, we can't afford to rent it; we stumble against one that just suits us and our pocket-book, we congratulate ourselves on our good luck and then we learn that some other luckier being had not only rented it an hour ago, but also had left a deposit to substantiate the deal. And with the first shadows of the dying day our spirits reach that point below zero where we don't care a rap, ring the bell of a house and tell ourselves. "If there are quarters that cost so much and so much, I'll take them."
And so they settle, are happy and contented, and start out with enthusiasm, and Greenwich Village once more fills its mission as it has done for the last one hundred years, since that memorable day when Tom Paine hunted for lodgings in the dreamy, sunny hamlet, nearly two miles away from the New York of those days to live here the quiet life of a hermit in the company of Madame Bonville and her two sons.
* * * * *
and yellow turned the leaves of our old wide-spreading trees. Mild
with their sad melancholy melody blew them from the branches, the brown
The fountains are wrapped up with straw, the benches deserted save in the afternoon sun—winter is coming.
Like heroes stripped of their armor the trees lift their branches toward heaven. Little clouds passing quickly like zealous couriers send their nicest winds down to them with a message of love and of hope. And like the knight of yore who reclined graciously and bowed slightly when his lady nodded, their twigs sway to the welcome melody, their branches whisper messages and their trunk resounds.
Have you ever put your ear close to a tree and listened to the surr-surr and huiii-huiii while it passes down to its roots deep under the ground? I have. I wish I knew the language of trees. It sounded so cheery and confiding.
"It is winter," it meant to me, "but not winter in our hearts. What does it matter that we change our clothes, what does it matter that the leaves—that our nice shady leaves are gone? Beautiful white snow will cover us soon, its little crystals will glitter in the sun and spring will come and we will bud again."
* * * * *
The Peace Was Broken
THE little Italian bootblack was shining my shoes. The grass on the Square was yellowish green scattered with red leaves. A merciful wind had tenderly cut the last threads with which they hung lifeless to the branches. Sober looking men and women in Sunday attire passed on their way to churches and children annoyed happily their governesses who were chatting and scolding. A pitiful figure reclined on a nearby bench. An old woman. Her clothes ragged. The toes sticking out of her torn shoes. A funny thing that she wore as a hat was tied under her chin. A little package held together with heavy cord had rolled from her lap to the ground. She was asleep. Her hands were clasped as in prayer. She might have been under the influence of liquor, but perhaps she was only exhausted.
The bench did not object to her taking a rest. A dead leaf had chosen her shoulder as a resting place. Everybody who passed her showed pity in his eyes. Who would not pity a woman? An old woman. A ragged woman, sleeping on a bench on a morning. On a Sunday morning.
Yes, there was one who objected that this poor creature had found rest for a minute after the weary travels of a homeless night. One who saw in her a disgrace to the quiet surroundings of a park that had accepted her, had caressed her, had lovingly watched her. There was one who looked with the eyes of a delighted beast that discovers its prey in this poor old creature. He stopped at a few yards distance. He took in the sight like the lustful pervert looking at the innocent young girl he is about to disgrace. The second he saw her he knew that the peace of this being must be disturbed. No rest for her. She must move on.
Did he step near her, did he touch her shoulder gently, did he give her a chance to awaken, to open her eyes, and did he tell her in a sympathetic voice: "It is not allowed to sit in this park, mother. I am sorry that I have to disturb you; let me guide you to a place that is prepared for such weary travelers as you are, where you will find peace and relief?"
Noiselessly he approached her so that he might not awaken her and spoil the pleasure of his profession. With his big heavy well-clothed foot, the blue coated brute stepped on her toes. She screamed. She looked wildly around. He jerked her up.
And the peace of the
Rooms to Rent
* * * * *
Mary stops Tom. She shows him her big, beautiful doll, with blonde curls of real hair, and blue eyes that open and close automatically, a doll with a human face. A face that looks like his little baby sister. She shows him the carriage, a real baby carriage, with silk curtains and soft pillows.
And Tom plays "father and mother" with little Mary. Mamie is still sitting on the bench near the Garibaldi monument, rocking her baby and waiting patiently for Tom. The father does not come back. Mamie takes her cigar box and her wooden doll and moves to a bench in the most remote corner of Washington Square South.
There she weeps
* * * * *
Roomer's Moving Day
TODAY I am sitting in the empty room. My own belongings are in my new quarters and I am saying good-bye: good-bye to the big broad bed that I loved because of the hours of worry and trouble that threw me upon it. Good-bye to the table where I used to sit and write; good-bye to the easy chair in which I used to sit and indulge in my most beloved thoughts. The mirror I view with sadness. Each mirror is dear to me because it saw me often as no other mirror will see me again. If I were rich I would smash it to pieces. I would melt the splinters and out of the many in the course of time broken and melted mirrors I would have made my coffin.
The jasmine bush which gave me its flowers and its odor at the time I moved in, is losing its leaves. They are red and yellow with ugly wrinkles, waiting upon the dying and sad lawn for the broom or the wind that will sweep them away. It is six o'clock, the lantern in front of my house is lighted, diffusing an atmosphere of lilac and of death. I am looking past the near-by trees, past the houses into the fields on the far horizon. I see black darkness, sad night.
When it becomes cozy and warm and snug wherever men live in solitude or in gatherings, when they look forward in happy expectation to the long eves of winter with glistening grate fires; when sweet hopes fill their hearts and memories appear as welcome visitors; when radiant life-loving feasts are near and when they think of the serene sacred glimmer of candles in dark green Christmas trees; of the gladness and the love that they will receive and that they will give.
When the angels of love and happiness are approaching: then I bundle up my belongings and am gone.
Whence? I do not know. But from there, too, wherever it may be, it will drive me away.
It will drive away: the homeless one, the roomer.
* * * * *
My Only Friend
IT is raining, raining, raining. The Square is deserted. The cop under the electric arc light in front of my garret window looks monstrously big and ghastly black in his rain coat and rain cap. Little silvery drops are rolling down his sleeves and dripping from time to time on his muddy rubber boots. Whistling winds sweep occasionally through my grate. They are hurrying somewhere but can't resist the temptation to look into the old familiar chimney. They rattle on the blind with which I closed up the fireplace. And they growl at the brick walls of the flue and are disappointed because they did not find a cheerful grate fire with leaping, gossiping flames that would flicker up high into the chimney and tell them the tales of the day and yesterday. "The barbarian," they growl, as they roam out to a passing heavy cloud which is just about to dissolve into rain, "there he sits in the light of his candle and his grate is cold. How cheerfully the logs used to crackle in years gone by when the folks were sitting around it talking and chatting. Radiators and furnaces they have today, and they are proud of the progress humanity has made. The fools!"
And I was sitting next to the red-hot stove and cursing my landlord who wouldn't repair my chimney. The candle burned steady and yellowish. There seemed no soul around, outside of myself. The city noises had died out and only the raindrops tapped steadily on the roof, on the window and on the little rivers and lakes which had formed themselves on the street and Square. Straight and motionless stood the books in their shelves like friends who are somewhere, near or far, ready to answer if you call on them. My affections and my loves are buried in my heart and I do not hang my sentiments upon my walls. And as my eyes glance around the pictures tacked to the walls of my garret here and there, out creeps—on hesitating but daring feet, shyly stopping and again advancing—sentiment pushed back into the cobwebbed corner of my heart, pressed there against the wall muzzled by better sense, silenced by "what is the use" and forgotten in the merciless hasteful strife of the day.
I lean back in my chair and I feel how the today dissipates into a nothing. Memories, pale and lifeless, take on color and bodies. I see people and places of years and years ago, and I see myself.
My sentiments do not hang on my walls. I never had a picture of my mother. I never asked for one. But I can hear her voice as no Edison could recreate it on his finest mechanical device. I scent her perfume, that old-fashioned heliotrope. I have not pictures of those friends of my youth, who shared with me the same benches in the schoolroom and the same ideals and who were the companions of my disappointments.
I left everything over there in that country of my birth, where streets are transformed into skirmish fields and the open country into battle grounds, where men are murdering and being murdered.
Will I ever see them again? Will I ever hear their voices?
I see the friends—the companions of my regiment. Perhaps the night is dark over there as here and the rain sizzling upon their coats, or maybe a few are sitting around a warming stove and silently thinking—thinking back to those happy days when war was a play and uniforms distinctions of gaiety and of mirth. And they roll a cigarette.
And they roll a cigarette.
I reach for my cigarette. I strike a match. I light it.
I feel one with my youth; I feel one with my friends again, and I look at the white paper with its glowing tip, between my fingers: my only friend.
* * * * *
Just One Nickel
Being My Christmas Offering to You
No home, no friends, no hope, walking the streets of the big city on a bitter cold winter evening, the realization that again the sun had set and he had tried in vain to better his situation and that he had not been able to procure for himself a place to rest for a few hours—it is the tragedy of a man's life.
"Men and women are passing on the streets, hurrying to some destination. Only I do not know what I shall do with myself. Every one of them has finished his business for the day and is hastening to his warm rooms at home, to his dinner which he will enjoy among his friends or his family. Only I have tried this or that and I have failed. I do not know where I am going to rest, where I am going to pass the long hours till the day breaks again, what I am going to do tomorrow."
It is a bitter feeling that overcomes him, wandering the streets in his insufficient clothing, unprotected from the sharp winds, the collar of his coat upturned, his hands deep in his pockets. It does not matter if he has himself to blame for his pitiful situation or if he is simply the victim of circumstances. Unconsciously he is longing for some one who will bring relief, for some one to whom he can talk. If he never before in his life thought of applying for charity and if even now he withholds the thought of asking for that which he needs and failed to earn, frost and hunger, wind and snow, and the dark streets, deserted at night by all human beings, change the course of his thought and his logic.
And if you are hurrying home on a cold evening from your daily work anxious to be again in the midst of the dear ones after the separation of hours, and out of the darkness of some alley a man in shabby clothes extends to you his hand and asks for assistance, help him. Don't be annoyed because you might miss your train, don't annoy him with unnecessary questions. Don't think he is a drunkard who will carry your nickel to the next saloon!
He is your brother. He is homeless. He has no friends. He asks your help. What do you care what he does with your nickel if you know you helped him? And if he goes to a saloon and buys a drink? Isn't the saloon the only place in the large, large city which keeps its doors open, keeps its light burning and its furnace going for the man with the one nickel—the only place where he can listen to human voices and see kind faces, where no one will pester him with religious and social reforms and deprive him of liberty and self-respect?
I know there are drunkards and evil doers and criminals. I know we have professional beggars on the corners of our streets. I know there are men and women who impose on our brotherly feeling. But at least one out of a hundred who approaches us will be the one whom we must help, and for the sake of this one let us help all who approach us!
Men and women are paid by organized charities to discriminate between the worthy and the unworthy and provide a temporary relief.
Let us form a new society! Without officers, without membership fees, without homes for the needy, and without standardized lodging houses! Let us wipe out the discrimination between the rich who contribute large amounts of money and the workers who intend to do good for small wages, and the poor and homeless, the recipients and victims of their benefactors. Let all of us be members of this society, rich and poor, men and women, idlers and laborers. Let the street be our club house, the outstretched hand and humbly uttered words for help, the high sign and "the grip" of membership.
And if he or she asks us for help and we have some money in our pockets let us hand him just as much as we can—not as a gift, nor as alms.
"Here," let us say, "is just as much as I can spare to give you. I hope it will help you over this night. We all have ups and downs in our lives. You will be better off some day. You, too, will have some money in your pocket and you, too, will hurry home as I do today. And some man might step up to you and ask your assistance. Don't turn away from him, but remember that he is the man who came to claim the loan I made you just now. Pay him the money I am loaning you and tell him what I have told you."
And the little money your circumstances allow you to lend to your poor brother in the street will keep in circulation; it will pass through the hands of thousands whom it will help. It will initiate thousands as members of our society and it will not only help the one who is in need but it will also restore to him his self-respect. You give the man whom you make in this way a member of our society, not only a night's lodging and a meal, but you place upon his shoulders a trust, a responsibility, and you place in his heart a new ambition.
And who knows but that the nickel you hand out today might come back to you some time.
It might come back to
you on a
cold winter night, on a dark street corner.
* * * * *
Diogenes in Our Village
At least one real philosopher is among us. A man who has no other object in life but to live, and to live means to him to walk about whenever he pleases to do so, to read books and his newspapers regularly, and above all, to let the sun shine upon him every day—not as we do, just to know subconsciously that the sun is shining because we don't light the gas or turn on the electric light—but to sit in the golden warm rays and to feel that there is one glorious sun shining for one man, and that is for himself. In fact, his desire for his daily sun bath made him a philosopher of life, caused him to give up an occupation and to seek and finally find a way to keep supplied the necessities of mind as well as of his body. Early in the morning for some days I had heard some one chopping wood, in the little alley just below my window. At first I did not know that the noise was caused by chopping wood. Curiosity made me look out of the window, and there was an old man chopping up old boxes and boards into small pieces, bundling the pieces and placing them into paper bags. I went down into the alley one morning and here is the story he told me: "People are glad if I remove these waste boxes and lumber from their premises. I have my regular route on Bleecker Street and every Saturday I make a trip down as far as Grand Street. It takes me about an hour in the late afternoon to get my supply for the next morning. I fill my bags—at present eight bags every day, but later on in the winter as many as fifteen and twenty. At six o'clock every morning, I take them to my regular customers right near by here in the tenement houses. They pay me four cents and five cents for each. It's easier for them to buy their fuel from me to cook breakfast, for a few pennies, than to pay half a dollar or a dollar to the coal man for a bigger supply.
"I struck on this scheme a couple of years ago, and I never regretted giving up my trade. I was a carpenter and I must say myself that I was pretty good at my trade. I used to earn as high as four or five dollars a day. In those days my wife lived and later on she was sick and all my savings went to the druggist and still later I paid hospital bills. The undertaker, after her death, put me into debt. I paid him off, too. I had to give up my home. I had no children and it was like starting a new life. I was out of work for a few weeks. I walked around the city. For twenty years I hadn't seen the city on a week day during business hours. I saw all that life on the streets. I saw so many things that were strange and new to me, and I wandered about just seeing things and looking at people and observing what they were doing. At that time I started to like the sun. All my life I lived in a tenement house. When I left in the morning it usually was dark, and it was dark again when I returned in the evening. Sundays I would fix things around the house or we would take a walk. But everybody did that on Sunday and so I really never got the right look at things. And then I started to think how I could always sit in the sun and see people and go about just as I pleased and still keep a roof over my head and get my regular food. You know if one wishes to sit in the sun, he must be master of his time. For instance, today I'll get the warmest sun rays at about eleven o'clock on my bench on the Square. And later on in the winter I'll have to catch it at noon. I know from day to day just when I'll get my sun. And then I hit on this scheme. I get the wood for nothing and the paper bags cost me about a cent for a day's supply. And then the little work in the morning and my round to my customers and I have all the day to myself. I am living in a lodging house right around the corner on Sixth Avenue. I have been living there for a couple of years. I am paying a dime a night. It is pretty clean and they know me and I am sure they will trust me if I can't pay. I eat one meal in a little restaurant nearby. They call it 'Dirty Dick's Place,' but it isn't dirty, and you get a nice plate of soup, a piece of meat, some vegetables, coffee, and bread for fifteen cents. Breakfast costs me three cents, in Max's—a cup of coffee and three rolls. They serve butter, too, but I prefer my rolls without it. The conductors of the buses give me the papers left by their passengers and then I sit on the Square and I read. I look at the old women and babies, I talk to the down-and-outers, and I am just happy and contented. I feel as if the city was mine."
It is noon and the sun is shining. It is a crisp, cheery day. Right over there across from my garret he sits in the sun. He is reading a newspaper. Through the naked trees the sun rays flood him. He surely knows where to find his warm, shiny spot. Well can I imagine Rockefeller walking up to him without attracting his attention, standing in front of him, still unobserved, and finally tapping him on the shoulder—why shouldn't Rockefeller play the Haroun-Al- Raschid on a sunny day on our Square?—and speaking to him: "My good man, if you will tell me the thing that you most desire in this world, and if money can buy it, it shall be yours," and my old philosopher, like old Diogenes, answers : "Just step aside, please, so the sun can shine upon me."
Then he would resume reading his paper.
* * * * *
March 18, 1915
It seemed so impossible that human beings, unquestionably intelligent, strong and weak as you and I, should go out and fight, strike blows, kill strangers, burn down property that is not their own in the name of patriotism or love of the emperor or for the sake of some other "ideals" that are mere superstitions, that are not more real than a butler is a part of a happy home. And while our newspapers feast on war news, on editorials that comment on the war, on attacks against those that are supposed to have incited the war, while preachers are praying for peace and condemning in their pulpits those that caused this wholesale butchery, while the cleverest writers of both hemispheres are making money hand over fist supplying publishers wholesale with their ready-made-to-order views on the war situation, while the fashions are influenced by militarism, while society folks tango and drink tea for the benefit of wounded soldiers, I am living quietly in dear old Greenwich Village. Who bothers here about the rights and wrongs of European nations? Two things only interest us of this quiet vicinity; that there is started a war that converts into a devil's kitchen Europe, the mother of our civilization— and the final end. Who caused this mix-up, the why and the when, the contents of the white and gray and orange papers of the nations setting forth their own views on the situation, don't mean anything to us.
Mostly emphasized is the fact that thousands are being killed daily and millions endangering their lives. Aren't we all under indictment of death every day, every minute of the day? The soldier who meets his death on the battlefield might have died just as well on the same day, and the same hour of the day, by accident; he might have been run over by an automobile, or hit by a brick falling from the housetop. Maybe you are not a fatalist and I grant you the right to believe anything you might choose, but you cannot deny that death is hovering above your head as long as you live. But did you ever consider that the same patriotism to which you ascribe the bravery and self-sacrifice of your European warriors, makes murderers out of men who never would have thought of committing murder as long as patriotism was not forced upon them? Just think of your own father or your brother, or think of yourself driven by patriotism to enlist. A gun is thrust into your hand, and you, who always have abstained from doing things you would not discuss with your friends during dinner, you go out, knock down a man, shoot down a man whom you have never met before, who never did anything to offend you.
This war makes murderers, blood-thirsty beasts out of men who are patriots from sheer force of circumstances.
And while the Circus Maximus with an arena that has for its boundaries the seas of the world is in progress, we, the innocent bystanders, are invited to act as noble Romans, sitting in our comfortable chairs looking down at a conquest of wild animals.
Did you see them there in the purple-covered box, the gentlemen with crowns on their heads? Immaculate in the attire of their self-imposed offices directing the actions and at the same time winking at us?
Panem et Circences! The American nation at large grasps the situation and hastens to do more than the imperators of Europe ever hope to achieve.
Bread and amusement is Europe's offering.
The financiers take the bread; planning to capture the commerce and industries of Europe supplying the non-producing nations of the old world with all they need to continue the war, lending them money by the millions. And the American people at large get the amusement, in newspapers, in magazines, on the stage, in moving picture theatres. There are even such among us, and in great multitudes, that are trying to dissolve the American unit formed by the conglomeration of all nations, taking sides with their own or their parent's native country. Poor devils. They left their country that meant nothing to them, that in most of the cases could not supply their daily needs, that would gag them, label them, and make use of them in any way it saw fit whenever they would choose to return to their "dear motherland," a motherland that makes murderers out of her subjects.
All Dressed Up
* * * * *
Children's Hour on the Square
WHY not come down once and see with your own eyes on a sunny afternoon? Just after school is over, after the children have piled their books in pyramids around the fountain right back of the arch, on Washington Square the "teachers" lining them up in lines and rings, the music starts a march or a waltz. . . . They all forget the petty worries of their young lives and they are just young and merry.
Crowds are attracted. People step nearer, drivers interrupt their journeys, get up on their seats, their hard-set, weather-beaten faces undergo a wonderful change. They smile, they actually smile and their unshaven features lose of their coarseness and they don't seem apart from all the other humanity because of the heavy rough labor which has hardened the best they had: their ability to smile.
You must watch the men on the benches in our parks some day, you must look—not only mechanically glance at them—at their faces. They seldom smile. Smiling is the expression of peace with oneself, of gladness one finds in oneself. It is so vastly different from laughing.
How they do smile at the Square, looking at the children in their joyful exercise! There is a watering station of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on the other side of the fountain. Hundreds of horses hitched to heavy loads, stop there for a few minutes of well-earned rest and for a draught of water. The drivers in the meantime smoke a pipe or roll a cigarette. They chat with the men on the benches. Who are these men on the benches? They are another mystery so often explored and still as mysterious as a hundred years ago. In the old New York Advertiser for 1815 we find a lengthy paragraph about the vagrants on New York park benches. They are still there. They sit quietly in the sun or shiver contentedly in the cold of our autumn mornings. They read newspapers picked up in waste paper cans or handed to them by the conductors of the auto busses, left on the seats by passengers. They talk only rarely. They are the quiet philosophers of our Square. They often sit for hours staring up at the skies or looking down to the ground, following with quick eyes the steps of passersby. The drivers in the afternoon are the only distraction in their sordid lives. They are the event of the day for the bench-dweller. They have cigarettes or tobacco for a pipe, they have a lunch pail with often more in it than they themselves can eat, and most likely they won't mind to act as bankers to their friends in the park, if their transaction of loans be kept inside of the copper currency.
And they all step nearer to the big circle around the children of the Children's Hour on Washington Square, their looks grow more and more interested the longer they observe the children. They are departing with that certain smile on their faces. And while they return to their benches or to their driver's seats, or continue their journey of the day, they continue to be under the spell of that Children's Hour. They think of things so remote to their present lives. Many of them had here the first chance for a long, long time to see children at play, and if once old memories are revived, and the mind taken away from the crude world of today . . . well . . . they smile.
The Diamond Disc on
* * * * *
A LONG row of automobiles
lines the curb of the north side of
I walk on to the Square. The snow is muddy and little rivers of an ugly fluid make walking difficult. On a wet bench with a clouded firmament as far-away canopy stretched over it, a man is seated. His hands are deep in his pockets. His coat collar turned up, his knees and legs close together— he must be cold. A man in blue livery with shining brass buttons strolls up from somewhere in the dark. He approaches the man on the bench. He assists him to the nearby police station.
* * * * *
SHORT-LIVED are the glories of this world. The Christmas tree which was hung with glittering gold and silver, by loving hands, only a few days ago, is lying today in the backyard or in the alley, stripped of its regalia—a prey to the garbage man. If you found it interesting to watch during the holiday week the front entrances of our mansions, if you noted the shining windows, the clean washed window sills, the newly-painted iron gates; if you saw messenger boys with promising-looking packages disappear and come out empty-handed, and distinguished delivery wagons with chauffeur and footmen in livery bringing parcels from exclusive Fifth Avenue shops, now after the holiday week is over take a walk to the other side of the house, to the back entrance and there you will see the sad remnants of all those glorious things: flowers—messengers of love and of admiration—crumpled up, dried, together with boxes which contained necessities and luxuries, holly wreaths deprived of their ribbons: peacefully do they await the arrival of that ominous hearse furnished by the street-cleaning department, and forth they go to the mysterious somewhere, the ultimate destination of our own journey.
And then there is New Year's Resolutions, new hopes, new stimuli, new ambitions, quiet counsel with ourselves, new policies toward friends and toward life. We get accustomed to the change in the date line. The new will grow old and after the first week of the first month of the new year shall have passed we will find that we are what we are, just our own selves; that our life is a long stretch of time with two radically important events—our birth and our death. And all that lies between these two dates that gives us to the world and takes us from the world is life. Traditions and conventions parcel it off into years and days. The system of the planets provides us with night and light and we permit others —some of whom are dead and gone and some of whom are contemporaries—to fill in our days with events. We sleep in the night.
But if we set aside everything and look back to the date of our birth and after we have found ourselves and gathered together all that which really makes our own self and then we look forward and search for the date of our death veiled by the good gods so that worry and regret at leaving this wonderful world may not spoil the joyous moments of today: we fail to see new years standing out like hurdles dividing our track to the infinite into shorter and longer paces, into hard and thornless paths.
It is one long joyous journey, one road of happiness and all you have to do is to travel it just by yourself, not depending upon mechanical devices imposed upon you by others: but just you yourself with head high up to the clouds who passing will greet you; with expanded chest inhale the glorious air of a universe that's yours, yours because you take possession of it.
Every new moment of your life a new year: in your own world.
* * * * *
Love and Romance
NEVER before, perhaps has there been an age of romanticism and of self-sacrifice such as ours. And if you, doubt it, compare our daily newspapers with the histories and chronicles of yore. Here and there a thrilling incident, a great personage, an extraordinary character, and so singular and so rare that the writer of those histories could not resist penning it down for eternity. The love of a Romeo, the perseverance of a Penelope, the self-sacrifice of a Nathan Hale, the heroism and bravery of a Joan of Are, are framed in history, being put down as almost abnormal exceptions, proving to the reader and philosopher that this world of old must have been an extinguished crater, and these incidents the sparks that kindle a new feeling among contemporaries.
And then look at our own days, unjustly called realistic and prosaic; called so by pessimists or men who live upon the border line of everyday life; who are incredulous and too prepossessed to read the police reports in our daily papers; who are shams clothed with the dignity that prevents them "from stepping down" into the real life of millions of our fellow men; who take for granted and for truth the printed word of the critics.
Can you doubt that this our age is one of romance, of supreme self-sacrifice unheard of, and of love that comes nearer to the love of Christ than the one preached for nineteen centuries in cathedrals and churches.
Read of the Irish heroes who gave their lives because they being shot or sent to a still worse fate — into the doom of prison cells — for the same "crimes" we celebrate our Washingtons and Lafayettes.
Think of the woman who entered the death cell of her doomed sweetheart two hours preceding his execution, and married him as proof of her sincere and never-changing love. Think of the one man who plotted and called to his aid a hostile nation; who gathered together an arsenal of arms and ammunition; who organized an army ready to strike for his country's freedom. The work of a Hercules—and he is facing a trial for his life.
Imagine today, this thirty-first of May, nineteen hundred and sixteen, hundreds of women, part of a crowd of spectators of the Harlem regatta, dressed in all the frolicky and frivolous finery of our time, chanting old-fashioned hymns, crying out from the bottom of their hearts: "Help, O Lord, you are our last refuge," all this on the street while a boy is drowning after an unsuccessful struggle to master the swirl of the waves, and while men are throwing off their clothes and jumping into the flood to save him (as reported by the New York Times of May 31st).
Think of the millionaire merchant in Detroit. From a worker he rose to be this country's foremost manufacturer. He who had drawn pay for years in his weekly pay envelope is now handing pay envelopes to thousands of his employees and looking after their welfare like no other man in this country. He could justly and rightfully enjoy the fruits of his labor, and he could dream peacefully through the evening of his life. But the sorrow of his fellow man is his sorrow. His love for the world is so great that he must "do something," be it only an effort to prevent further bloodshed and tears and murder. We see him equipping the Peace Ship. It is like a gigantic phantom of the Prince of Peace; like the unhonored messenger of a great and quickly approaching era; like the herald of a long expected "Kingdom of Man" upon earth.
We see him ridiculed and jeered at by his contemporaries. We see him laughed at ... but he walks his own way; this modern man of romance and of love who wants peace and happiness for all before he enjoys his own; which could be his for the taking.
The dreams of the Arabian Nights have come true, charmed to existence by an Edison. Invention today is the incarnate romance and the imagination come to life of a bygone age.
Daily do men realize more and more that to live means "to give and to forgive." That everything belongs to everybody and that the only way to bring about this idealistic state is to give to your neighbor what you have and what he needs.
Our age is the age of miracles, but we have not time to see them.
We read books or listen to preachers or dig ourselves into a miserable hole beneath the surface of a universe and we call it our own world; we become skeptics and pessimists and haters of men.
But life weaves its romances continuously.
May one of its myriads of threads entangle you too, one of these days and make you one of the romanticists of our age. One of those who has nothing better to give than love and who does not wish for anything better in return than love.
Nothing but love.
* * * * *
Charity in General
IT is highly deplorable that some one must always suffer that some one else may enjoy the self-elevating satisfaction of being charitable and benevolent. Organized charities contribute daily their share to the humiliation and the downfall of human kind. Forgotten is the old proverb "let not your right hand know what your left hand doeth." The right hand is destined today to register, to card index and to file in elaborate efficiency systems whatever the left hand is supposed to give. How wonderfully simple would it be if there were offices of humane organizations where a fellowman in distress could come for help. Where he could state, "I am homeless" and the home would be provided for him. Where he could say, "I am sick," and a physician's skill and a druggist's assistance would be his. Where one could go when reaching the parting of the ways, desiring to turn to the right and knowing his need for a guide. Even if nine out of ten for selfish reasons would be taking unfair advantage of the good heartedness and kindness of their community, to have been a "neighbor" to the tenth, the deserving one. . . humanity would be richly repaid.
Ideal conditions have only one function: to remain the ultimate goal of efficiency business of our day.
The same tender-hearted men and women who turn purple with indignant rage if the word vivisection is even mentioned contribute money and personal efforts toward the establishment of gigantic torture chambers and experimental stations, cold charitable institutions where human kind becomes the raw material for a standard product supposedly useful to all other humanity; where the voice of the heart is silenced and cold business methods, calculation and speculation are offered as balm upon bleeding wounds inflicted by humanity and as a miserable exchange for confidence, trust, hope and love. The feeling of the individual towards the individual is throttled to make the social worker efficient, to make the seeker for help a deserving entry upon the card index.
Little wheels move big wheels. The big wheels move the hands of the clock. The hands of the clock rotate and rotate in their prescribed circles. We see the hands only and we expect them to be at certain points at certain times. There is some mysterious connection between us who watch the hands move in their circles and the little invisible wheels which move the hands. Some day one will arise among the vast multitude of watchers who will lay a loving hand upon one of those smallest invisible wheels . . . and lo! a great change will come over. . . .
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Washington Square was recently chosen as a field of operation by some makers of happiness in this world. The latest arrival on the battlefield where hearts and human compassions are pierced by the poisoned daggers of "neighborly love" is the New York Women's League for Homeless Animals.
Last Wednesday noon they
with nine cages, one dog catcher and a comfortable chair on which he
and smoke and dream about the kindness of his patronesses. Homeless
dogs are this time the objects of charity. They deprive all stray
the neighborhood of the possibility of eventually finding some food in
garbage can or in the gutter. They lock them up in these two-by-four
exposed to sun and heat. It is a pitiful sight to see these little dogs
cats behind the bars. Their eyes are sad, glazed from thirst, their
hanging out, their little lungs working painfully. Hordes of children
standing around the cages and teasing the animals, as New York children
tenement districts are most likely to do. Shady trees are right near by
watchman's chair has found a place where it is cool. A fountain is not
steps away from the cages and the watchman has his drinking glass under
chair. But there is no receptacle or dish to serve water for those poor
creatures, afflicted by the "neighborly love" of the New York women
of the League for Animals. In these cages
they are forced to remain all day—little bits of kittens that in
left the yard where their mother is anxiously waiting for them, dogs
quite harmless. . . . Why do not these benevolent women direct their
to the big rats of this neighborhood? Why don't they clean tenement
bedbugs and other vermin? Why don't they start a city-wide campaign
cockroaches which invade poor men's grocery shops all over town? If
living has to be hurt, why not do away with some plague of humanity? Or
transfer these dogs and cats immediately to the death chambers they
for them in other parts of the city? Why not deliver them mercifully
to death instantly? Or is this shameful exhibition of thirsty and
animals upon the children's playground of
Should not these animals be granted at least a shady place, if they must be in cages, a drink of water once in a while and a square meal?
* * * * *
A VERY zealous young man gathers about him every evening around eight o'clock a large number of passersby on the northwest corner of Washington Square and Fifth Avenue, preaching to them from a chair equality of man and the futility of divinity and of churches. While exactly at the same hour the ill-blown sounds of a cornet invite the faithful to look at moving pictures on the corner of Thompson Street and Washington Square—at moving pictures illustrating in a rather grotesque way the Scriptures. What do they know about God and man?
At the same time a band of musicians, furnished by the city government, amuses the crowds in the park. Classic music and ragtime interchange as happily as moods and the masses are amused. A bit of music means so much in the life of everybody. It awakens so much good in the hearts of people. It brings back memories. It lulls into forgetfulness. It creates hopes. Truly these band concerts are to a good many of their listeners a much needed soul bath.
If you really think that the hand organ man is a pest that one can get rid of by handing over an abolus, you have not the children's version, of the story. What a cabaret means to you after dinner, the hand organ man means to the ragged little tots who, after their evening repast, populate Bleecker Street and the other thoroughfares that lead to the Square. Around these hand organs are the social centers where little girls meet little boys and dance and admire and feel, perhaps for the first time in their lives, what desire, possession and envy mean.
At the foot of the Garibaldi monument a very dignified old gentleman, with white side whiskers, assisted by a very pretty girl in a gray Quaker habit, proclaims every evening the happiness of an ideal world where there will be no money, no individual ownership, and therefore no quarrels and hatred, and nothing but gentleness and love in abundance. He, too, finds his group of diligent listeners. He looks so happy that one is almost convinced that he believes his prophecies, if only he would not pass around every once in a while some pamphlets which he wishes to sell for ten cents each. Once, after one of his meetings had closed, I saw him walking homeward with his young companion and a big bunch of his pamphlets under his arm. His face was not happy. What a paradox! That the man who preaches universal happiness based upon the abolishment of the circulation of money should be crest-fallen because the money did not circulate in his direction on this evening.
Strolling along about the Square and taking in the sights humanitarians and their humane objects provide for us, we will meet that funny old lady who carries some baby clothes in a paper bag and who will try to sell us home-knitted baby bootees. Of course, no one takes the offer seriously and a good many hand her a penny. We are good friends, this old woman and I. And so, once, handing out some small coin to her, I asked her to show me some bootees. She had only a single one in her bag, and that was time worn. She told me she made it about twenty-five years ago for that boy of hers who went away some dozen years ago. She believes firmly that one of these days he will come back to his old mother. And then, she will put the bootee in her chest drawer as a memory of her years of trouble and sorrow. Where there is hope there is life!
A new fad was started by some sightseer who invaded the Village on a bus a few days ago. He threw a few pennies among a crowd of boys who were loitering about the bus station. And he was well repaid, viewing from the height of his bus seat, the turmoil of fists, feet and heads jumbled in a tight mass. It was quite a spectacle for eyes and ears. Our street arabs now seem penny hungry whenever one of those swaggering sea-faring buses passes through the Square.
Such are the innocent
* * * * *
Bathing on the Square
QUITE an astonished face our dear old moon made last Sunday evening as she passed on her quiet journey over our Village and chanced to look down to her old playmate, the fountain on the Square.
Sylphic figures in
bathing suits were dancing gracefully on the once hot bus-invaded
flitting merrily from tree to tree like nymphs and fauns playing their
game. The old cop on the beat who had just turned, comfortably
He arrived in time to prevent them from jumping over the balustrade and taking a moonlight bath in the fountain. He was not rough either. He couldn't be, confronted by so much youth and chiffon. He eased them paternally and he really succeeded.
Hush! Hush! Hush! They disappeared here and there and again the Square was deserted, with the solitary cop like a black giant looking contemplatively up to the trees into the sparkling drops of the fountain. The moon threw a few pieces of her silver into the puddle around the fountain and continued on her endless journey. A black cat miaowed a little while, sentimentally, and then walked gravely to a huge garbage pail on the south side. And everything was peaceful in the Village.
* * * * *
A Rainy Day
RAIN drives the children from the Square; the homeless men and women from their benches where they sit and rest and dream of better times, past and future. A heavy sadness seems to hover over the Village when rain falls continuously. The asphalt is whitewashed, the grass seems greener and the branches of the trees heavy with water, that drops in regular intervals into the puddles on the sidewalk. The busses are far and few; they carry hardly any passengers at all. Women with one hand hold their skirts high, with the other the umbrella over their heads; men wear raincoats and slouch hats and all walk with bowed heads in careful search for dry spots.
An automobile whizzes
past like a
spitting dragon, splashing muddy water to the right and to the left.
The cop in
his rain coat under the sheltering arch looks like
* * * * *
Madonna of Our Square
July 15, 1916.
YOU perhaps never took a walk down Thompson Street, right around the corner of my Garret, and therefore you are not familiar with the row of a dozen or more small wooden houses which the irony of fate left here among brick mansions and tenement buildings, a stone's throw away from the thundering elevated: a sad memento of that Greenwich Village of yore, a thriving hamlet near old New York. But if you ever strolled past these houses you must have noticed the one whose door was painted white; which looked so clean amidst the ugliness of a neglected sidestreet. Its windows were shining in the sun: a couple of geraniums were on the window sill and white muslin curtains swinging rhythmically to the blowing wind permitted every once in a while a peep into the rooms. The sidewalk was always well-swept and most likely a baby carriage would be standing in front of the open house door. A white baby carriage with netting spread all over it; a fat little baby slumbering peacefully in it or playing with its tiny feet, searching with its big black eyes for the mother. Often when I passed the little house I felt happy because there was such an idyll in this noisy side-street. And we all are glad to see love in a little white cottage with a baby carriage in front of its door.
It is one of the tragedies of a big city that we live next door to people who could be our friends and whose friends we could be, but whom we never meet. We pass by almost daily; a change in the familiar surroundings would cause us to wonder and to be curious, but we very rarely take the initiative or trouble to inquire. We know we would lend our help if needed, but we don't want to and therefore we walk on and don't turn to the right or to the left; ships that pass in the night.
A time came when I had to go out every morning quite early. Then I saw the mother of the baby. She was a young girlish thing, very slender, very pale with dark glowing eyes, her black hair combed in madonna fashion to both sides, covering her ears. She stood in front of her little house, evidently waiting for someone and then she crossed over to the other side of the street and approached the letter carrier. She was all expectation. There was a faint smile on her lips. She was very pretty. The letter carrier had nothing for her. And slowly she returned to the house and disappeared through the white door. The next day, I witnessed the same scene. One evening I came home quite late and the Square was deserted with only the cross glowing on top of the Judson Hotel; the busses had ceased buzzing and the light wind rustled in the trees. Her house was dark; she was seated at the window with both arms on the window sill, resting her face in her hands: like one of the angels of the Sistine Madonna. She looked sad. Her eyes had a far-away look. I remember that I wanted to call to her "Hello, neighbor," and later on in my rooms I felt that she perhaps would have liked me to say a word to her; she seemed so alone in that little house in the quiet deserted street. An hour later I went out to mail a letter I had written. She was busy preparing some food for the baby.
Days passed and I saw her only silhouetted against her curtain, hugging the baby in her arms, walking up and down in the small room. In the morning she would watch the letter carrier from her window; she would watch him until he had passed her door.
I went out to the country for a few days and by habit I looked up at her windows on my return. They were shut, the curtains drawn tightly. Just then the letter carrier came around the corner and gave me my bunch of bills. "How about our neighbor?" I asked. "She doesn't seem to be anxious to get a letter from you today." She got one yesterday," he replied. "It was the first one in four weeks, the first one since she had come to live down in the Village."
My bills kept me busy all day, and worrying all night, and I didn't even notice that there was no light in my neighbor's windows until I recollected it on the next morning.
An unusual crowd of people had assembled in our street. Tom, the cop of the beat, was posted in front of the white door of my neighbor's little house. He looked like a giant leaning against the narrow and low door. "What's the matter, Tom?" I called out of the window. "Come and see yourself," was his answer. And I hurried out, in shirt sleeves and without collar, in time to enter with the coroner who had just arrived.
Both were dead, the baby in its white painted little carriage and the mother on her cot. They looked peacefully asleep. A happy smile seemed to be on both faces. There wasn't a drop of milk in the house and not a crumb of bread and not a penny of money. On the table lay about a dozen pawn tickets, the last one dated four days ago. She had pawned some sheets and table cloths for fifty cents. And a letter was on the table. Some man up the state told her that he was married now and that she must "hustle for herself and the kid as good as she could. And not trouble him any more as everything was now over between them forever."
Tom, big husky Tom, who had got honorable mention only recently from his department for running in that Hester Street gang of gunmen, sounded quite hoarse: "If I had known this. I saw her almost every evening." I do think there were tears in his eyes. You know Tom got married only fourteen days ago to a fine girl, just such a girl as this had been perhaps a year ago. But I might be mistaken. The coroner named some poison used for disinfecting purposes which she had given to the baby and had taken herself. Starvation or a broken heart might have been the cause.
I remembered the night that I saw her at her window staring up at the glowing cross over the Judson. But hadn't I been nearer than that cross? That's the tragedy in the big city. We see and we observe. Conventions kill our spontaneous impulses and we continue selfishly on our own road.
* * * * *
Fire in Bruno's Garret
FIRE of some unknown cause
destroyed, on the 12th of February, on
All back numbers of my magazines, Greenwich Village, Bruno Chap-Books and Bruno's Weekly were destroyed. Manuscripts of well known authors, historical documents, rare books, pamphlets which never can be duplicated, material which I had collected for the last twelve years—all went up in smoke.
And better than ever do I know today that there is no possession real which we do not carry with us constantly. Not in our pockets, but in our hearts. Not the property which we store in fireproof storehouses, or in safe deposit vaults; even that might be destroyed by earthquakes, or by Zeppelins, or other devices with which God and man manifest their existence unexpectedly.
Knowledge is the power that cannot be destroyed.
Ojnnia mea mecum porto.
* * * * *
The Garret and Its Story
March 18, 1916.
AGAIN I am sitting here, in these old time-worn rooms, whose floors seem even more rickety, whose ceilings appear even lower than before the fire, that mercifully wanted to assist Father Time, but did not succeed, in destroying prematurely this oldest of all the houses in Greenwich Village.
And now the landlord has put a roof over my head, made minor repairs here and there, and if the winds do not blow too wildly and the snow does not fall too heavily, I will be safe until the mild spring winds usher in friend summer.
It is a real garret and
be it not
the quaintest in
The little shack which at present shelters Bruno's Weekly, Bruno Chap-Books and myself, is nearly one hundred years old. It was the tool-house of a city undertaker, the residence of Governor Lucius Robinson and a stage-house where the stage-coaches stopped and waited until the mail was delivered and new mail taken on; it was a road-house where people used to come to spend their Sunday afternoons, and then in quick succession it was a saloon and an inn.
In the same rooms where a city undertaker prepared the bodies of the city's poor for their last resting place on Washington Square, then Potter's Field, where a Governor lived and held splendid receptions, where weary travelers found a night's lodging before they continued their journey towards Albany, I am sitting and writing these lines by the light of an old kerosene oil lamp. It is Sunday. The lawns on the Square are covered with mud, mud that had intended to be snow, will soon be soft green and the trees budding with new life. The population of little Italy, back on Third Street, is taking its weekly airing at the feet of their beloved Garibaldi on the Square, the busses bring joy riders from the far north points of the city; and I think: how wonderful is life.
From 1789 to 1823 Washington Square was a potter's field—where the fountains, Washington's Memorial Arch, asp halted walks and the homes of many aristocrats stand, the poorest of the poor of our city were once buried in nameless graves by the thousands.
Number 58 Washington Square, the corner of West Third Street, an old-time fashionable thoroughfare, is the most forlorn looking two-story frame building that can be found in New York. It saw its best days when the horse-drawn street cars were in vogue.
The potter's field had
It is a singular fact and one that the old real estate records do not explain, that this our corner was never fully improved. It is still covered for its depth of eighty feet with two-story wooden buildings, the corner being an ice cream store, and they present a decidedly incongruous appearance by the side of the fine old houses adjoining.
Tradition in the neighborhood states that these wooden buildings were once a tavern and one of the stage headquarters in the days of the early stage lines. In 1825 Alfred S. Pell, of the well known family, bought the plot for $1,000. In 1850 his heirs sold it to Frederick E. Richards and he transferred it to Peter Gilsey in 1897 for $9,100. In 1897 for $9,100. In 1867 John de Ruyter bought it for $14,650, and then Samuel McCreery acquired it in 1882 for $13,500— showing a lower valuation.
Early in the past century, John Ireland, who sold the corner to the grave digger, owned the entire plot of about 100 feet front on the square, extending through to Third Street. The fifty foot plot adjoining the corner is now occupied by two fine old houses similar in architecture to those on the north side of the square. Each covers a twenty-five foot lot, being 59 and 60 Washington Square, respectively. The latter is known as the Angelsea and has for years been a home for artists. The plot at 59 was also sold in 1819 by John Ireland for $500 to James Sedgeberg, a drayman, and it included the use of the 19 foot alley way on Thompson Street, now covered by a three-story brick house. James N. Cobb, a commission merchant, got the property with the house in 1842, and kept it until 1881, when his exectuors sold it to Samuel McCreery.
* * * * *
Anarchists in Our Village
HAVE you ever seen a real live anarchist? Just to be honest, you never wanted to see one. Is it because the B follows the A in the alphabet or because of a close association of ideas for which you are not responsible, you think immediately of bombs? Bombs and anarchists are inseparable in the minds of most of us. Mysterious destroyers of life and of property, merciless men who have pledged their lives, their knives, or their guns to some nefarious cause or another, who assemble in cellars lighted with candles or in road-houses which seem uninhabited and in reality are dynamite storehouses and bomb factories—aren't these the anarchists of your imagination? Aren't these the men of whom you think if you read that a king or a prince has been killed by an anarchist or that anarchists plan to blow up the Cathedral on Fifth Avenue?
An anarchist, to you, means a criminal and being an anarchist is his crime. Is it possible today to explain Christianity to one who knows the term alone but not its meaning? And just as many denominations, constitute the Christendom of the world, just as many kinds of anarchists are existing. It is not absolutely necessary to go out and kill Jews to earn the title, Christian. Millions of us would not even think it possible that Jews were and are being killed in the name of Christianity. And millions of anarchists today will deny stoutly and firmly that the real anarchist would manufacture a bomb, destroy other people's property or murder a fellow-being.
Millions of anarchists? Of course. There are millions among us. Some say they are anarchists and usually are not, and others would be shocked to be called such, yet they really are. It is just like with Christianity, and the same country that shocked Christian civilization with outrages in the name of Christianity put a bloody meaning in the spelling of anarchism. To judge a creed by extreme actions of fanatics cannot lead to an understanding. The religious maniac who is seized by temporary insanity and
murders his wife and his children is a mere incident of everyday life and does not cast reflections upon the religious belief which is more or less responsible for his delusion. To take the essence of a religion or a political creed or of anarchism and to compare it with the lives that men actually live, with their actions and the results of their actions, is a scientific and humane way in which to pass judgment.
Some of the biggest men in our public life are anarchists by their actions and they would protest vigorously against being called anarchists. Others confess they are anarchists and nobody would believe them. The men and women whom we are accustomed to call anarchists who are proclaimed as the apostles of anarchism and are supposed to be dangerous individuals recommended to the special care of police surveillance, are in reality harmless creatures, living a conventional life—professional preachers of anarchy, evangelists like Billy Sunday who are passing the plate. They might be sincere, but they surely get their share out of it.
Romance is more essential to everyday life than most of us imagine. Anarchism has all the qualities of romance a twentieth century man or woman could possibly look for. The moving picture screen is their source of information. Here they see the Russian anarchist who sacrifices his life for the sake of the cause. Meetings in cellars, exquisitely dressed society women, girls in rags, aristocrats, drunkards, statesmen, rich and poor, well educated and know-nothings, all are sitting around the same table, all take the same oath, all social differences erased, the motto is "all for one and one for all." This romance is so colossal as to be beyond the ken of ordinary mortals. Not the overthrow of the government, not the planning of a murder, interest the hundreds of onlookers; but this comradeship among people, who under ordinary circumstances would hardly ever meet, spurns the craving for comradeship and equalization of all.
Jack London, who declares himself as a revolutionist says: "It is comradeship that all these masses want. They call themselves comrades. Nor is the word empty and meaningless—coined of mere lip service. It knits men together who stand shoulder to shoulder under the red banner of revolt. This red banner, by the way, symbolizes the brotherhood of man, and does not symbolize the incendiarism that instantly connects itself with the red banner."
It is this craving for comradeship, for relations free of the masks and limitations necessitated by our society that brings men, and women together under the banner of anarchism, at least what they call anarchism in New York. And that longing for adventure and romance plays a big part in these circles is evident in the fact that since the start of the European struggles certain elements, regular habituees of anarchistic circles found a new field in their activities abroad in different capacities, or here, working for the benefit and the propaganda of universal peace and immediate help for the sufferers in the war zone.
Emma Goldman has a national reputation. She is a professional anarchist. She is doing it year in and year out, like an actress playing the big circuit. Did you ever meet Emma Goldman? Did you ever see her? You could never believe all the things you have read of her. Her home life is very similar to that of any other woman who is lecturing and writing. I saw her some time ago as hostess to many thousands of her followers and admirers. It was at the anarchists' ball, Bed Revel, they called it. It was red all right, but not the red that stands for dynamite and shooting and murder. It was the red Jack London speaks of, the red of comradeship. They danced and laughed and were happy and if anyone would want to call a gathering of young men and women like that dangerous, it wouldn't be safe to attend an opera performance or to enter a subway train. But London claims there are ten million anarchists in the United States. That would make one of each ten persons we meet.
The anarchists in New York mostly drink tea. They are men and women like you and me. They work for their living. Of course they would rather prefer not to work but so would every one of us. Anarchism in eighty out of a hundred cases is the only luxury of their lives. There are certain places in our metropolis which are known to the elect as anarchists meeting places. But mighty little anarchism do they talk about. They usually plan something. Something that any other club or any other society could also plan—an outing, a picnic, or a dance. They attend lectures and musicals and as a whole spend their time just as uselessly as most of us do after working hours.
In a basement nearby is an Italian place. Rough-looking individuals sit around small wooden tables. It would amuse you to understand the conversation of these "anarchists" about the last letter they received from home and when the long expected Anita is coming over to become Antonio's wife.
In the houses of Mystery on Washington Square are bushels of anarchists living. They write anarchism, they draw, and paint anarchism. You can see it on the newsstands or on the book shelves in the book stores.
Let us cross Fourteenth
enter that mysterious house on Fifteenth, between Fifth Avenue and
looks like a monastery and was one, about sixty years ago. It later was
gambling house, a house of ill fame, and its rooms are utilized at
studios. It is the property of the Van Buren estate, and the renting
doesn't bother to send collectors if his tenants do not pay promptly.
that if they do not appear themselves, little good will it do to send
collectors. Let us walk past the beautifully carved wooden doors of the
monk cells and enter Hippolyte Havel's abode, right under the roof.
Havel is the anarchist of New York. He looks the part. He was
one of the
lieutenants of Emma Goldman in the beginning of her career, he was
numerous international anarchistic congresses in Europe and in
"To be an anarchist means to be an individualist. To be an individualist means to walk your own way, do the thing you want to do in this life—do it as well as you can. You must never impose on your fellowmen; you must never be in their way; you must help everybody as well as you can; the good you derive through your life belongs, in the first place, to you, but you have to share it with the world if the world can benefit by it.
"About throwing bombs and killing other people? No true anarchist could destroy something that is existing. It would mean to deny his own existence, if he would not grant the right of existence to everybody and everything created."
How does that sound for the leader of the anarchists in our city?
To know anarchy, to really know it as it is, takes away its chief attraction; the romance of a melodrama.
* * * * *
To My Dear Friend Thomas
It is night. The wind howls and rattles at my door. The lock creaks and the wood squeaks. The wind wants to wheeze into my ears: "You have betrayed your friend and you have cheated his betrothed."
The moon is searching for me with her ghost-like light and I draw the shade. I know what she wants: "I just saw your old mother crying on her pillows, crying away her sorrows and griefs."
I closed the shutters; soon the sun will come with his clear impertinent rays: "You have stolen from your father hope and honor and he died, and I saw him cursing you on his deathbed."
There is the whiskey bottle at a little table next to my bed laughing at me, temptingly, invitingly: "Come, drink, drink oblivion," and I give it a kick and smash it into a thousand pieces. I don't want to forget.
And the looking-glass seems to look at me pityingly: "I always showed you the truth, and you didn't want to see." I turn it to the wall. I don't want pity.
Hard over there, on the bureau, the gun gleams at me: "Come, I do understand you, I do love yon, I do pity you and I will redeem you."
. . . But I did not shoot myself.
January 28, 1908, 3 a. m.
* * * * *
Antonio the Chestnut Vender
THOUGH the snow crystals glittering somewhere high above our planet can't quite make up their minds to descend from their heights as snow, and our afternoons look more like Indian summer than early winter, the surest sign of the winter's real advent has arrived: Antonio, the vender of chestnuts, has come back to the Square. He is just as frozen, with reddish-blue cheeks, dancing from one foot to the other, swinging his arms in order to warm his body, as last year or the year before, and all the many years previous. On the corner of Thompson Street and the Square, right opposite my garret, in front of that memorial fountain which closes its refreshing spout, when the city gardeners wrap rose bushes and many colored flowers of the park carefully in straw and cart them away . . . somewhere to sleep over the winter, Antonio has his roaster with a merry chimney out of which emanate from time to time, hand-warming clouds of vapor. In rhythmical intervals the little whistle shrills the glad tidings to the boys and girls who loiter around him and to the passerby: "Here, you! Here is something simple for you, something that smells good and tastes good!" Of course, you buy chestnuts. Involuntarily you fish out the pennies your news dealer handed you back as you purchased your paper.
Old Antonio looks very much like Garibaldi. But he told me that he posed also as Uncle Sam and as Lincoln and as an Italian bandit and as immigrant father who hunts for his lost daughter in the merciless streets of New York, and I know you have seen his face somewhere in an illustrated magazine or in the Sunday supplement of a daily paper. Yes, he is a model. When the chestnut season closes, he stores away his roaster right around the corner on Sullivan, in that old stable of our flower man. And then he impersonates in garrets and studios everything and everybody they wish him to impersonate. He cannot speak English, but he knows exactly what you want.
"Me, Napoleon!" and he takes the characteristic pose, and if you have enough imagination and you know what you want to draw, and you are determined to draw it ... well, you, too, will see Napoleon.
And then Antonio is so handy. For instance, your model disappointed you. He didn't show up, as they often do. Just run down to Antonio's corner, buy out his stock of chestnuts— and not expensive are his wares—and he closes shop, comes up to your studio, poses for you while you chew chestnuts and draw.
The only one who has a
against your bargain will be the gentle woman who takes care of your
who has to sweep out the chestnut shells the next morning.
Shine 'Em Up, Boss?
* * * * *
"I Don't Want a
Kitchenette, I Want a New Saddle for My
IN the evening you can see them, leaving stealthily their elevator apartments or their hotel suites, mounting a bus, with upturned collars and the hat deep into the face to protect them against the sharp wind, pilgrimaging down to the dear old haunts in the Village. Years ago they used to live here in some obscure rooming house or in a "studio," right under the roof of a dilapidated mansion. Gonfarone's used to be their Delmonico, in their times of ebb. But their tea pot on the window sill and the grocer around the corner on Sixth Avenue could tell you of a good many breakfasts, lunches and dinners "at home."
And then came the times when tea pot and grocer were forgotten; a stroke of good luck, and they moved uptown.
But the longing for those good old days returns sporadically, overcomes them and they cannot resist the call of their hearts, and down they go to the places that the new lust for "Bohemianism" made grow over night like mushrooms. They eat roast chicken and drink red wine somewhere at a small table in a dimly-lighted, badly-decorated spaghetti house with bad music. It isn't as it used to be; they miss something. They speak about the good times. But all is the same as it was, only they themselves have changed; they can never be the old ones again, because they have tasted their chicken in Delmonico's and know by heart their imported wine lists. They remember their good old quarters with tea kettle and delicatessen. For the atmosphere they did not bring with them to the spaghetti houses they are searching in apartments with kitchenettes.
A kitchenette! When two are just married and have no other object in life but to spend every minute possible together—all apart from the world, and if they don't wish to have intruders (guests) or if they cannot afford to have an establishment of their own, how nice it is to have this kitchenette; in those days when eating is nothing but a necessity, when being alone means more than the culinary offerings of the finest chef. But later on in life, when many ideals are so near in reach that they are almost forgotten, when one has developed the ability of enjoying a meal as an art creation, the coziness of a kitchenette affair is something that exists as long as you don't try it.
What these apartment dwellers are really searching for and cannot find is their old dear selves.
But why not be satisfied with placing flowers upon the grave of a beloved one? Why try to dig out the coffin and look at the corpse?
That new self of theirs, which has so much sentiment and so many good thoughts for their own self of by-gone days, is surely just as good—if not far better.
Spaghetti houses usually have soiled linen and not very clean silver. If there is a kitchenette, someone must peel the potatoes. And dinner tastes ever so much better after an hour's ride on horseback, and anyhow, holding onto the reins doesn't spoil one's hands. What a pity, if they are such nice hands!
* * * * *
The Children of the Village
BUT if we look back of the
scenes of what we are accustomed to call the Village, back of the
We discarded our overcoats, the furs are properly stored away, we think of our trips, of moving to the country; the trees are budding, soft green blades of grass peep bashfully out of the brown earth, the sparrows come forth from under their eaves repairing their summer residences in trees and bushes.
The sun did it. The sun with its kind golden rays, which are more beautiful on the dirtiest sidewalk of Little Italy back of our Square amidst the raggedest and noisiest lot of children than the chiseled gold-circling around the cold, costly-cut precious stones in Tiffany's window on Fifth Avenue. The sun did it, who shines for the poorest of us just as warmly and gladly as for the richest. The sun who finds his way to the heart of every one of us, no matter where we are, no matter what our lot in this world might be; the sun comes and knocks at the door of our heart, and he is persistent. We will have to open, even if we think in the importance of our microbic existence that we have no time . . . for sun rays which warm our heart and for light and for love.
One quarter of an acre of playgrounds is provided by our city for the thirty-five thousand children of Greenwich Village. One quarter of an acre of land to play in, to romp in, to feel like a human being before being shut up again in the evening in the stuffy atmosphere of a dingy tenement room. There are large parks in other parts of the city; parks where these poor little ones who do not know God's free country could spend a day and think they had been in the country. But mothers cannot take them, they have to work and slave from morning till late in the night in order to eke out a living, after they succeeded to earn enough to pay their rent to their landlord (I cannot understand how the honorable landlords dare to take money for these dungeon holes, very often unfit to house vermin).
Cars and elevators cannot be used without paying a fare and children get very hungry being out in the green using for once their limbs unrestrictedly, and a proper repast has to be provided for them. The babies want milk.
* * * * *
SOON the thick brown buds of the trees will open. Nature is pregnant and will give birth. The tender green life will thirst for the first refreshing rain. Everything will bloom and send forth fragrance and live.
The atmosphere around me vibrates. The darkness seems to stretch into the immeasurable. And there, from there resounds the echo. I feel it. With every nerve of my brain and with every vein which leads back to the heart from my extremist finger-tips, I feel it.
A grave is there with a big cold stone, and under it the dust of the warmest heart. Does it bloom there, too, sending forth fragrance? And will the rosemarys glow again?
The Mother of God in the nearby church holds her baby in her arms. She seems to smile, pleased with the beautiful roses and mignonettes brought her in her month.
Mother of God, do you remember the last sigh of that red bleeding heart; YOU, her last thought before she died?
Mother of God, did you send the fragrance and the love through the night from the one end of the indefinite to the other?
* * * * *
TWO long rows of light. White
glowing bulbs. Two and two. In distances that seem shorter and shorter.
long lines that meet somewhere—far, far away in the indefinite. Two
up Fifth Avenue leading to the indefinite. Two long rows down
Brilliant signs: huge, green, red and yellow, here and there, west of Fifth Avenue and east of Fifth Avenue.
Millions are happy and full of joy; gay and living . . .
Millions are wretched and miserable: starving. . . .
The doors of the houses are closed, the window shades are drawn. Business buildings are taking a refreshing nap.
Millions are suffering behind closed house doors, millions are comfortably content, and millions are happy behind the drawn window shades.
Autos, trucks, carriages
move up and down
But heart, dear little heart, why do you beat against my breast? Why do you send your waves of unrest and of love through my body up to the brain and back to eyes, ears, finger-tips and mouth?
Dear little heart, don't you see the policeman who oversees the long rows of glowing bulbs that meet nowhere and who commands vehicles to stop and pedestrians to move on?
You see the stars, my poor little neglected friend? You see the moon and the white clouds passing forth and back? You see the electric-lighted cross that locks the huge church doors preventing HIM to enter as once upon a time it meant the goal of his life.
The Enormous Street Sign
Pictures of the passion way upon which millions walk and bleed . . . Silver Selects Chalmers. . . . Budweiser. . . . The Passing Show of 1916. . . . Benedictine. . . . Shows . . . Cabarets . . . Cigarettes . . . Dancing .
Money, money, money.
The Painted Girl of the Street
Some one once opened her eyes. Some one once told her it was all right. Life had its place for her. . . . The woman at home that trusts you. . . . The painted girl, too, was a mother's baby. . . .
Money, money, money.
The Family Scene on the Street
The restaurant entrance. The starter tips his hat, the hat boy tips his hat, the chauffeur tips his hat. She gaudiously dressed, smiling. He smartly dressed, smiling. Diamonds, good food, good drinks, a nice home waiting. . .
Money, money, money.
The Bench on Madison Square
Slowly wear away the hours of the night. The big tower clock strikes the time heavily. He looks to the left. He looks to the right. He is grateful . . . no policeman is in sight. He thinks of what was. He thinks of what could be. He forgets what is. He hopes for what might be. It is cold. It is dirty . . . alone, alone. .
Money, money, money.
The Preacher on the Corner of Twenty-Fourth Street
"You know not what may happen tomorrow. All of you are well fed. You have had your gay evening. Here these poor wretches walked the streets from morning till now. Fifteen cents will buy them a bed. It will give them new courage. I won't tell you about the mercy Christ preached. I won't explain to you the meaning of neighborly love: but tomorrow, or some day after tomorrow, you may be here in this very line. Therefore, give your share today."
Money, money, money.
The Hand-Out Man
"You do not know whether I really do want that nickel for a bed or a cup of coffee. Maybe you are mistaken, but you cannot know whether I will buy a glass of beer. And if I do? . . . The nickel is lost to you anyhow, and the saloon is about the only place where I can purchase equality with the railroad magnate for just your nickel."
Money, money, money.
The Woman on the Bench in Union Square
The star of hope. It has shone for me all my life. Somehow I cannot even now discard it from my thought. I was mother. I have sinned against the laws of man. But I was mother ... a little funds would enable me to take my things out of pawn. How could my son find me? And he may be looking for me this very night.
Money, money, money.
Millions are happy in their beds. Millions are wretched in their beds. Millions are on their way to regrets and to unhappiness. Millions are wounded and sick. Millions are killing and stealing. Wronging other millions.
Some are starving, some have plenty.
All need things and all deny things to others. All want money. . . .
And they are starving for love.
ALL have hearts and they do not dare to listen to their own heart throbs.
They look for money and want to buy love.
Two long rows of gleaming light; up Fifth Avenue leading to the indefinite; down Fifth Avenue leading to the indefinite.
And hearts and stars. . ..
* * * * *
— July 8, 1916.
TALKING about aristocrats, we have had some real ones among us for the past weeks. With us is the Baroness— I forget her name. Names really don't count at all if one is confronted with her. Confronted is the only suitable expression for such an unbelievable sight on the street. The sphinx couldn't help shaking the head that hadn't moved for thousands of years and breaking its proverbial silence. She (the Baroness) wears a hairdress worn by the natives in the Soudan. All kinds of things can be found upon that turban without a top. Feathers of some strange animals in different sizes from half a yard to a yard each serve as a good background for a lot of trinkets sewed upon the sides of her hat and hanging dawn from the brim. She took rather a pride in confessing that she made this fortunate selection upon the bric-a- brac counter of a ten-cent store in 14th Street. There were little vases with silk and paper flowers stuck into them, a candle shade here and there cupidolls dressed up in gorgeous colors, red celluloid fishes fastened to the brim of her hat with delicate pale green baby ribbons, foreign coins underneath peacock feathers. Grotesquely carved penholders and many other smaller and bigger things which escaped detailed attention. Monumental pieces of chandelier crystals with garlands of yellow, green and blue glass pearls hung from her ears like the coronation decorations of the native kings of the Fiji Islands. Her waist was really no waist but glittering armor after the fashion of Don Quixote's famous garb of conquest. Quite simple and contrasting with the splendor of her other vestments was her belt. An iron rail, as one can see them laid on the roadway of our streets, bent into graceful curves, glittered around her waist line.
She doesn't make a secret of her affection for the Scotch. She used a glaring Scotch plaid as fundamental material for her skirt; Indian bead work, wax flowers under glass covers, the flags of all nations on pieces of felt given away as premium with a certain brand of cigarettes. Souvenir silver spoons, stuffed birds once perhaps, when alive, her pets, and small Persian prayer rugs are some of the ornaments she prefers for street wear. There are smaller things which can be noticed only on closer observation like Indian Buddhas, silk ribbons of a peculiar pattern, old Belgian laces and historic snuffboxes. She chooses as footgear moccasins of the Black Foot Indian brand, and she considers it bad manners for any one to talk to her without having first asked for an introduction to her fat little black dog. She takes a walk on the Square every evening between five and six. If you hesitate to believe me go and see for yourself. She does not object to being looked at.
Then we have the marchioness with oil and timber lands somewhere West. She knows more princes, counts and lords than you ever thought existed. She knows the family history of all American heiresses who married titles. She has the Marquise La Fontaine beaten by a long way. She is holding court in the Brevoort and as all people of noble blood she likes to play patroness to litterateurs and artists. It is her pleasure to assemble the flower of the Village manhood around her and to tell them from her vast experience among the nobles of the one world and the upper four hundreds of the other. Tom Sleeper was knighted by her recently and he is the grand old man of the Round Table who sticks it out until all others have left, overwhelmed with so many family complications. Pink, black and white are her colors.
* * * * *
THERE was a good deal of talk in the newspapers and magazines, again and again, about this "Bohemianism," and the "Bohemians" of our Village. Who is it you call a "Bohemian?" The public in general seems to think that this term applies to every man who wears long hair, a flying black necktie, indulges heavily in the absorption of alcoholic liquids, smokes cigarettes, has rather lax views about the relation between men and women, and who, in his leisure hours, paints or writes poetry. Or they think of women with short hair that wear some of those Roman striped silk garments that Martine & Martine manufacture in Switzerland and Wanamaker sells in his basement; who smoke cigarettes, believe nolens volens is free love, talk very cleverly about things usually out of the scope of a woman's conversation, and then—they, too—paint or write some poetry.
I wonder if any one knows where the word "Bohemian" originated? And why it is almost always closely linked with the Latin Quarters of Paris (not only in the famous novel of Henri Murger)? If fire had not destroyed my garret I could now refer to my files about the origin of the word "Bohemian," and could give you not only the facts, but the names and dates correctly. If I had time, I could take a trip to the Public Library and find it there. But I have neither of them, and so I leave it to you, if you are sufficiently interested, to look up dates and names.
The first University of the world was founded in 1346 in Paris, and now I miss the name of the Bohemian King who played an important part at the Court of Paris at that time as Bohemian heir apparent. This University of Paris was everything but an educational institution of the conception of our own days. Troubadours, scientists, "wayfaring students," as they were called, had found here a thriving abode, where royal grants provided generously for their daily needs and an assembly of fellow-seekers after the Truth and the Ideal permitted a universal exchange of ideas and values. Their language was the classic, and less classic Latin. The part of the city which they chose for their habitation soon was called by the other population of Paris, the Latin Quarters. The great number of Bohemians which the Bohemian Prince through his generosity invited to make pilgrimage to this new Dorado of everybody "learned," had settled again as a little community inside of the Latin Quarters. They all were men of the world. They all had traveled from the farthest South to the extremest North of Europe. Their habits of living were marked by their Slavonic temperament, their hot blood, their melancholy and sentimentality, which did not permit an early parting whenever they had gathered for learned discussions . . . and they were not believers of temperanc restrictions of any kind.
Bohemian life in the Latin Quarters" soon became an expression all over
* * * * *
I OVERHEARD an interesting
conversation in a
Is really commercialism inducing our shopkeepers to open their shops? Was it here, too, the eternal strife for money that converted souls once consecrated, to become money changers in the Temple of Art?
And so I walked up and down the line: to our oddity cellars and village stores and treasury boxes and paint boxes and mad hatter's shops.
What delightful, innocent children these girls and boys are, who sit behind the counter and make themselves believe that they are business people! Surely enough they have shelves, and they have hung out their shingles inviting passers-by to become customers. But selling is only the means to the end; to make money, is foreign to their innocent souls. Dressed fantastically like the early arrivals at a fancy costume ball, they are just hungry to show people how nicely they know how to combine colors, what excellent taste they have in choosing their surroundings. They are proud of their eccentricities, and they wouldn't change with the Vanderbilts when they strike an impossible, never-heard of color combination. People come and look at them and do not know whether to turn to the right or to the left, astonished by so much imagination surrounded by tenement houses, thundering elevators, screeching cars and hundreds of ragged children.
Ask these merchants of our community for the balance sheets of their last month's sales and you will find that they are paid only by their own pleasure and satisfaction in being permitted to do exactly the things they wish to do.
Do you remember the
hours you spent in your nursery playing storekeeper? Especially if your
was of a sunny disposition and came herself once in a while to buy and
You liked the chatting far better than the selling. So do the
* * * * *
Jan. 29, 1916.
ONE of Mr. Munsey's Sunday paper bards used last week the space of his supposedly humorous page to a coleric attack upon Gerenwich Village in general, and its restaurants, its girls, and its Garret in especial. It is the attempted Bohemianism that got his goat. He displayed his knowledge of Henri Murger and honored me by comparing my Garret to Murger's Garret. He found from a careful examination of both Garrets that the one in which Murger lived had literary value, because there was no bathtub and Murger had no money to live anywhere else. And therefore he handed the laurels of "true Bohemianism" to Henri.
If a man is once
forty-five with a
neat little bald spot surrounded by a thin growth of silver threads, if
wears spectacles on black strings and if one has been a Forty-second
"Bohemian" for the last fifteen years, known and hailed by all the
"girlies" of that section, one acquires a good portion of vanity. And
there is no severer sting for one's vanity than to remain unnoticed in
and cafes which appeal so very much to ones' "taste for Bohemianism."
Especially if one has been for fifteen years a Forty-second Street
if one arrived in
Bohemianism? What a
must a man be who even thinks of the possibility of a
This man doesn't know more about Murger than about Greenwich Village and the Garret.
There never was an air of Bohemianism about the Garret. At the time that I came to Greenwich Village two years and a half ago, after an absence of about six years, we had no fancy shops here and no Bohemian places of the purple and orange brand.
Mr. Coady had just opened his Washington Square Galleries and was doing his best to introduce to the exhibitors on Fifth Avenue and to the public at large the new French art, which since has become the vogue of our art connoisseurs. I started my little magazine, Greenwich Village, in a little 2x2 hall room in number 42, that famous house where Jenny Lind had lived and many others since famous in art and letters. It was a real garret and I surely didn't live there because I wouldn't have preferred to live in another more comfortable place. "Here is my magazine," I said, "and whoever has anything to say is welcome to use its pages." And they came and used them. Many authors whose names are found today on the tables of contents of national magazines and on the lists of publishers had here their first chance. And then one day the present garret—they called it garret, I didn't christen it—was available and I rented it. I had plenty of wall space and therefore I said, "If you have drawings or paintings which you wish to show to the world or at least to the world that cares to look at them, hang them on my walls, everybody will be welcome to view them." And so they did. I have had fourteen exhibitions in the garret during the last season. None of the exhibitors had put their works of art on exhibition before. Twelve have made their way since, and you meet today their drawings in your magazines and their paintings in the uptown galleries.
Where is there any attempt at Bohemianism?
I like business and I like art, but I think there is nothing more pitiable than a business man who attempts to be an artist or an artist who attempts to be a business man. And there is nothing more loathsome than a business man who professes to be an artist in order to do business. And there is none more unsuccessful and bound to come to grief than the artist who proclaims himself a business man in order to be able to follow his art.
To create a place of business in order to gather literateures and artists is possible only in one instance: if this place of business be an eating place where liquors are served if one desires such. Genius can never unite in unions under the protection of the Federation of Labor. Genius gives and takes freely, without consideration of values. Barter and exchange in the interest of art and literature is distasteful to genius. Therefore, a Henri Murger would have become a daring Wall Street speculator, had he been in America, or he would have spent two-thirds of his life as a vagrant on Blackwell's Island. A genius in America translates his poetry into bridge-building, his romanticism into cotton exchange and his imagination into Wall Street.
The dreamers of prose pastels await on park benches the sunrise of their days and many find a rest in jails and other charitable institutions before they are laid away in Potter's Field.
Good artisans possess the technique, the ability of concentration, and the endurance which makes the man of genius an immortal artist. But an artisan if not a man of genius exercises self-deception if he believes himself an artist.
Our magazines, our newspapers, our art dealers are in sore need of good craftsmen and of skilled artisans. They have no use for artists. Their supreme endeavor is to kill originality. To tone down genius to the standard of mediocrity, aspired to by many thousands as the supreme achievement of their earthly travels.
Genius needs a discoverer who acts as the mediator between art and the masses. Such a discoverer must be a critic. A critic must be a creator. Only a creator can discriminate between the beautiful and the ugly. The mediator between art and the masses must not be the exploiter of a rich vocabulary but the man with a firm look and a firm hand. He must have the singular courage to say: "This is a beautiful painting," and if he is a creator he will know how to defend his opinion by unshakable statements of truth. He will be able to point out the beauties of a work of art in simple words, which will appeal to the hearts of us, who constitute the masses.
Commercial values are no values to the critic of art. As long as the critic has to pass the advertising department on his way to the composition room he will never reach his destination.
* * * * *
The Lost Village
August 19, 1916
SINCE time immemorial aristocracy of mind and aristocracy of birth have lived in close quarters. The Roman Caesars were the friends and protectors of poets and artists. During the Middle Ages, French and German Princes encouraged the songs of the troubadours. The art of Guttenberg would have died in its infancy if the lords of castles and palaces had not found an honored place for books in their abodes.
The Napoleonic era brought about its big changes. Traditions were abolished. Titles became shallow names. Money and power became synonymous. Barriers that had existed for centuries were torn down; everybody was invited to participate in the big competition for life's good and desirable things. To gain money through personal efforts became a noble occupation of humanity. Actually to have gained it meant admission to that new nobility of our times: to the aristocracy of money.
And so today we find the aristocracy of money living in close quarters with the aristocracy of mind.
Right here in our Village, on Washington Square: there are the mansions of the oldest and richest families of New York, built by those merchant princes who gave names to our streets and public squares, to our libraries and our railroads, to our hospitals and our universities. On the South side, in the houses which O. Henry called "houses of mystery" are artists and writers, reformers and enthusiasts. And like a bridge over the yawning abyss that separates rich and poor, the university building on the east side of the Square. Here is the common ground where the dweller on the South side may find his card of admission into the palace on the North side. And here it is that the scion of the rich merchant's family will learn to bare his head before genius.
Such is the charm of
"benefactors of humanity," "lovers of art," and
"philanthropists" who have chosen
What a marvelous
this "Greenwich Village
And they do such a lot
our neighborhood! Notwithstanding expenses and labor they paint the
sills of reconstructed houses pale green. They put window boxes in
front of the
windows and compel you in the lease to keep them filled with flowers.
an old lantern above the house door and permit the star lessee to
choose it in
a junk shop on
They build apartment
fabulous rents. And now, having succeeded in getting Charles Dana
sign a lease for one of them, they should have no trouble in obtaining
price they wish to get from "art enthusiasts"
The people who had found
seclusion among the ancient surroundings of
Even the most dilapidated looking, almost shattered marble pillar has more charm, has more reality, is more alive than cheap stucco imitation, though it is dainty-looking has pale green window sashes and an iron lantern above its door.
Fads and fashions die. Cemeteries are restful and ideal places for dreamers. Real estate men will get their share, they will get the limit of their share. . . .
In a score of years
Village again will be the
* * * * *
The Passing of Bruno's Garret
November 8, 1916.
THE old frame house on the
The Garret was closed on November 1st.
I am not a friend of prospectuses and of announcements. Two years ago I conceived the idea of having a place where I could publish a magazine whose pages would be open to everybody who has something to say, whose walls would welcome the paintings and drawings any artist would choose to bring to it; a place where poets could come and read their poetry to an audience that had strolled in accidentally as had they themselves. I did not send out prospectuses and announcements. But I opened my doors and sent out my invitations, and whoever wanted to come, came. The Garret became known, at first in New York, and later all over the United States, and it made friends in England, and Germany, in Austria and France, in Italy. The Slavic countries sent their friendly messages, and even China and Japan were represented by artists and by poets. The war brought over many refugees, artists and writers who came to Bruno's Garret before they went out to make the rounds of art galleries and magazine editors in the city.
I could fill pages with reminiscences and memories vibrating with the sentiment of obsequies. I could write a book of melancholic sadness in verse libre while leaving these rooms that have become so dear to me. I could picture to you, dear reader, in tear-wet words how badly I feel at abandoning the place where I have worked two of the best years of my life. In turn you would feel sad and you would send me a few sad thoughts of sympathy.
I love deeds and no matter if well or badly done, verily they are better than, words.
And so I say, the Garret has fulfilled its mission. Here has been the debut of men and women who have made their mark in art and letters since. The Garret has earned its place in the history of contemporary art and letters. It will live in the memory of those who used to gather there. The literature that bears its imprint is the testimony of its spirit.
Everything I undertook there was done upon its own merit. I never asked for anything without giving value for value.
I opened up the Garret and I closed it.
Per aspera ad astra.
* * * * *
theatre" movement has grown to be a menace in
There was a time when literary people who could not write started magazines of their own, magazines which died quick but not premature deaths. That was in the late '90's. Everybody wanted to be an Elbert Hubbard and edit a "Philistine"; Mæcenases to the extent of fifty or a hundred dollars with which to pay the printer's bill for one issue were easily found, and magazines were born galore. It is easier to edit than to write; it is easier to criticize than create; it is more pleasant to accept other people's manuscripts than to have one's own rejected. I have compiled a bibliography of four hundred and eighty-five of such magazines, none of which finished its first volume.
Paper has become very expensive since the start of the war, and printers have taken the place of the proverbial pharmacist. Therefore, the man who was once famous for his saying five years ago, "Whenever I am broke I start a magazine," now is compelled by the commercial situation to exclaim, "I will start a little theatre, something different, you know."
Starting a magazine gave him prestige in a small mutual admiration coterie, brought subscriptions from here and there by every mail, which took care of immediate personal expenses, and somebody always was glad to exchange a receipted printer's bill for a hundred copies of a magazine with his or her poems safely printed in its pages. Such magazines died not only because the printers would extend no further credit, but also because there were no ideas behind them, because they were different from other magazines in size, and not in quality or originality.
It is the same with the little theatres of today. People who cannot act, who have no originality in any direction, who are amateur playwrights, gather together, rent rooms some where in some quaint part of the city, and play theatre. They appeal for
CHARLES EDISON'S LITTLE THIMBLE THEATRE AT NO.
A Naturalistic Tragedy. In One Act
By August Strudenberg
EVERY MONDAY, TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY.
At 8:45 P.m. and SATURDAY at 8 o’clock
ONLY IOO SEATS. AT ONE DOLLAR EACH
subscriptions; they find angels who pay their bills occasionally, and after they have failed to be quaint, and different and sensational, they disappear into the nothingness whence they emerged, or they hire a theatre uptown and try to raise funds on a larger scale.
Small theatres are
snobbish establishments, started for a small group of people whose
aroused by expectations of unusual and sensational productions. It is
significant that small theatres have been in vogue whenever autocratic
have swept over nations. The aristocrats of the times of Louis XV and
were proud of their private theatres; every little principality in
a small theatre for its princes and nobles; but art and literature,
few exceptions, were not the guiding stars of these institutions. Each
revolutionary movement brought about large theatres at moderate prices,
excellent actors and playwrights, whose names are framed in the golden
art. Even so here in
Times have changed. Broadway is the theatrical thoroughfare, and histrionic art a rare visitor. Theatres at large are well guarded temples of the rich. The plea of the "little theatre" usually is an objection to the commercialization of the stage. But instead of bringing life in all its beauty and all its ugliness upon the stage, the creators of these little show houses seem to revel in absurdities, in ugliness, the more serious ones in the imitation of European theatres of thirty years ago. Problems that were of mild interest to our fathers in their youth are brought out as novelties.
Of course, it is the sex element in these plays that draws audiences, and surely there are every night among the seven million inhabitants of New York one hundred or so "different" people, who enjoy a dialogue on sex, or a scientific discussion of something that is never discussed in real life.
Take, for instance, the two last bills of the Washington Square Players. They played "Youth." A man realizes at the last moment before his marriage to an actress that it would be better for him not to marry her, because by doing so he would prevent himself from marrying another woman, should he happen to love one. The actors declaimed their emotions in high-falutin' words, and tired themselves and the audience with well set analytical dissertations about emotions, which cease to be emotions when discussed.
There is but one redeeming feature about the Washington Square Players: Helen Westley. She is the finest actress in New York today. Were there any serious theatrical managers about Broadway, Helen Westley would be the most famous American stage-woman. She was not in the cast of "Youth"—an evening irretrievably lost.
The current bill is "Mrs. Warren's Profession." Augustin Daly had to close a magnificent interpretation eleven years ago. The police would not permit the performance. In those days the public was not supposed to know how riches are made. We have had crusades since against police graft. Vice rings have been broken up, political underworld methods exposed. The public has learned many a truth, and so the police today are given no reason for preventing our knowing a thing or two. And somehow "Mrs. Warren's Profession" seems not so horrible, compared with the professions of some moneymakers in our own today.
In the times of Mrs. Warren common people still had souls that could be sent through hell on earth, and to damnation for all eternity. The system, since has produced the generation of our contemporaries, who have no souls to be damned.
George Bernard Shaw
killed, not even by the miserable acting of the Washington Square
is the worst I have seen so far by this group of young enthusiasts, who
to be said about them. Mrs. Mary Shaw, the traditional Mrs. Warren, on the New York stage was everything but the Mrs. Warren of Mr. Shaw. She was not real, either in make-up or in her playing.
The Greenwich Village Theatre
To strive for the bizarre and the out-of-the-way, and then to fail to live up to the self-set standard of sensationalism, is a dreadful failure for a "little theatre." When people go to be shocked, and succeed only in being bored, they will not come again. There is, for instance, the Greenwich Village Theatre. It was opened this season under the best of auspices. Plenty of money not only to build the theatre, but also to support a staff of actors and directors.
What did the Greenwich Village Theatre people do? On the most picturesque of all New York's squares they erected a Greek structure in the architectural style of a small-town savings bank. As a first program they selected the most uninteresting and most untranslatable playlet of Schnitzler, and added concoctions by such standard failures upon Broadway as Bob Davis, concoctions which could never have been produced anywhere but on the amateur stages of fraternal orders as benefit performances for war sufferers.
Then came "Karen," by Bergstrom. At the time Hans Jaeger wrote his "Norwegian Boheme," Karen could have made a hit with neurotic college students on the Karl Johan of Christiania. But such figures are simply Barnum and Bailey freaks beside our healthy, vigorous American men, and to discourse through four endless acts with all the members of the family about the right of Karen to her Parisian escapades, was not only tiresome, but distasteful and out of place. Mr. Conroy's excellent acting is lost in the hopelessness of the characters he elects to play.
A sincere group of people that at least endeavors to produce plays by contemporary American authors. And the Provincetown Players are doing wonders with the material in their hands and with their tiny stage. They are the only group really non-commercial. The players are enthusiastic, and I wish Broadway had a chance to see them. Grace Potter's playlet, "The Disorderly Plat," was a slice of life from lower Sixth Avenue, and Miss Ravida Harding did not act her part, but lived it. Mr. Cook's peace propaganda play gave his actors a good chance to show the best they could do. And everybody could understand quite well that such a Pericles could not show deeper and more violent emotions for such an Aspasia.
Alfred Kreymborg set "his mushrooms," as he chooses to call his poems, to music, made them talk to each other, collected a group of enthusiasts from all over the country, hired the Provincetown Player theatre, sent out subscription blanks, filled the auditorium to the last seat with diners from uptown, who came in their limousines, sold them stacks of his books at the door, and really amused them for two hours. His "Minikin and Manikin" is an original and delightful play.
Rihani in her "Static Dances," a tall, lean woman with short hair and the face of a Greek boy, who refused a two- year contract with a Savage production in order to kneel on a mattress in Kreymborg's show house and sway her body rhythmically from the waist-line up, to the moaning sounds of an ancient phonograph which sounded as though it were in its death rattle, and using "Anitra's Dance" from Grieg's "Peter Gynt" as a death motive.
There are eight other "little theatres" around town, not to forget Mr. Harry Kemp's venture in the Thimble Theatre. He produced plays of his own, the chief attraction being an actress who pawned her jewels for thirty-five dollars in order to buy costumes for the play, as Harry Kemp rejoicingly related in his well-set curtain speech.
These "little theatres" are a menace. They are denouncing the Broadway theatres, and are trying to do in their own little way what they condemn in these same Broadway theatres.
They express their childish experiments with the seriousness of undertakers, and we don't get even fun for our money; and many say: "If this be art, I prefer Broadway. I will pay the price, and I will see something, and I'll laugh, sit in a comfortable chair, and know what it is all about."
If all the money
collected by the
"little theatres" in New York during the last season had been donated
toward a fund for building a municipal theatre, New York, like the
representative cities of Europe, would have a people's show house,
plays would be presented by good actors and where American playwrights
there are any) would have a chance to present their works before a
the supreme judge of art and literature, the masses of the people.
HATS off! Let us bare our heads in reverence!
A procession of noble misfortune passes: writers who had the courage to become their own publishers, editors who founded magazines of their own, men who thought so little of worldly fortune that they spoke only plain and naked truths, prophets and pioneers of new ideals of life, of politics, of religion. Then come the weavers of thought who gave their fancies free rein and tried to enwrap a gray, smoky world with the cloud-cloak of rose-tinged imagining; the poets who wanted to see the world dance merrily to their own rhythms; dreamers who cared not for the sorrows of today, joyous in a happy tomorrow, and those most pathetic figures in all American letters, the tragic publishers.
Of course, there are harlequins in the procession, imitators, fakers, sensation thirsty know-nothings, notoriety seeking poets.
Some have passed to a happier beyond, and have left it to us to admire their pluck in facing the hardships and starvation of a world that didn't welcome prophets in its midst. Others have changed into more profitable occupations, have been picked up by successful publishers and now look back at the tunes of their own publishing activities as one remembers the follies of childhood. And still others have had their experiences, have drained the bitter cup to the dregs, but go on in their self-chosen work, producing magazines at their own expense and wrestling books out of the clutches of payment-demanding printers.
The Dream of Edgar Allan Poe
All the bad rumors about Poe resulted from his constant desire to have a magazine of his own. He wanted to write criticism, and tell contemporaries what he thought of them. That group of poets of his day who so prominently occupied pages of magazines and assembled in those famous year books The Gem, The Casket and other anthologies were thorns in his side. And so he decided to publish The Stylus, a real magazine of his own
Drawing by Carl S. Yongre
conception. He wrote a long prospectus, went about the country trying to get financial backers, and if he failed, at least to get subscribers. He succeeded in collecting some money, but neglected to get out his magazine. And the progeny of those original subscribers who never received their money's worth of reading matter are even today making a fuss about Poe's "dishonesty."
Poe had another bad experience as a publisher. He was very young then, not quite twenty-one, when he decided to publish a small volume of his poems. Printers in those days were as much the sworn enemies of genius as they are today.
There are three sorts of printers: printers who do not trust at all. You have to pay the whole cost of production in advance at the time you bring your manuscript. They will not even look at you if you don't lay the money right down on the table. These are the most merciful printers, and are the true friends of publishers to be, even though these latter don't think so at the moment. Such printers never lose money and save their prospective customers the disappointment of failure.
The second class constitutes the printers who trust you half way. You pay them something down and they will go ahead with the job, making it clear to you that you must pay cash on delivery. Of course, the young editor is eager to see his stuff in print; he is a fatalist and believes that something unexpected will happen which will enable him to pay the balance of the printer's bill. He reads proof, makes up his magazine or his book, sees his child grow under his very eyes, and then the day arrives when it is all ready, wrapped to be sent out . . . but he has no money. The printer insists on his pound. Printers have been stung so often that they have lost all faith in humanity, as well as in the commercial worth of literary productions. They also have acquired such an amount of meanness that they will consign whole bundles of such productions to the ragman rather than let them go out on trust with a chance of being paid for. Such printers are the most common species. Editors and publishers commit all crimes short of murder to pay their bills. And the printers get rich, and more merciless from day to day.
And then there is the third class: Printers who trust. They are either young in their calling, or they have literary inclination and want to lend a helping hand in something they themselves like; often they have admiration for the man who gives them the work. But in most cases it is the genius of the publisher, the optimistic line of talk he hands out, that induces them to take over the work, to finish it and deliver it without payment. These are the "tragic printers." They do not last very long. Their plants are taken from them by their creditors, and soon we find them in some printing establishment of the first class, working eight hours a day for a living; running a press or in the composition room or at the stone.
Poe had the misfortune to take his book of poems to a printer of the second class. "Tamerlane," which since has become the famous "Tamerlane," the costliest book ever produced in America, the pamphlet of twenty-eight pages which brought twenty-eight hundred dollars the last time a copy was sold at auction, never saw the light of the world. Poe never called again at the printer's office after he had been requested to pay before taking away the books. However, he secured six copies for himself, and sent them out to the press. Five have been discovered so far. Two are in the British Museum, three in the hands of private collectors, and the sixth is somewhere unknown. It will turn up, perhaps, some day and will sell for an enormous price. But Calvin F. E. Thomas, the printer in question, sold the whole edition to the ragman, and poor Poe had nothing of his brain-child save a few necrologues in the literary sections of contemporary reviews.
In 1827 appeared a
little sheet in
The Poor Devil
It isn't so very long ago that Robert Reitzel died
But why delve into the past and speak about the dead? For we have still with us Sadakichi Hartman, that Nestor of author-publishers. Once a distinguished art critic who published a dozen books or so with the imprints of prominent Boston book people, he decided one day to become his own publisher. And today he is still walking his via crucis. There were his "Christ," his "Bhuddha," his "Confucius," originally published at fifty cents by the author, bought today by collectors readily for twenty-five dollars a copy. And there was his magazine The Stylus (an ominous name) which died prematurely after three numbers. Then there was his "Soul Atoms," a publication that never saw the light of the world. The printer was of the second of our three classes. I believe he has thousands of "Soul Atoms" in his store room today wrapped and ready for delivery, for some angel to appear to bail them out.
Sadakichi has written the only authentic history of American art. His interviews with everybody who amounted to something twenty years ago in America and Europe for Mc- Clure's Syndicate made his name famous wherever newspapers are read. And today he is somewhere in California lecturing, publishing pamphlets and books, writing plays for little theatres of his own; wrestling with printers.
Sadakichi is a wayfarer of yesteryear, appearing here and there, demanding tribute from contemporaries who look upon him as a curiosity, always ready to print books; and he is a genius at excavating printers of the third class we have described.
The Goose Quill
This was one of the funniest sheets ever
literary quality, high appreciation of the men of the nineties not very
He is about forty-five years of age today, in the prime of life; at that age when one has digested one's books, and sets out with the full vigor of manhood to achieve the ideals of boyhood's days. In other words, he knows the world as it is, has no illusions about anything, and has decided that the good old ideals of an old-world humanitarian education, leaving out its hypocrisies and substituting cosmos for sect are near the real thing. He arrived in America in the early nineties, an ardent admirer of Oscar Wilde. His little magazine The AntirPhilistine created a season's sensation. During the Chicago World's Fair he took daily sun baths in our literary firmament of the nineties. Eugene Field, Opie Read, Bill Keedy, Michael Monahan, Clarence Darrow were contributors to that bold and fearless freelance sheet he started: The Goose Quill. A few numbers are lying before me while I am writing these lines. Marvelous seems the clear foresight he had twenty years ago. In powerful language, quite forgotten since literature has ceased to be taken seriously by others than by such as are commercially connected with it, or who handle it as a commodity similar to other manufactured goods, he denounced men who have been denounced since by sincere men of letters.
He called Kipling "dead for ten years" and that was twenty years ago. He took Hall Caine as a joke, and that in the flourishing period of Caine's short-lived glory. He admired Ambrose Bierce, when nobody paid any attention to this most powerful American critic who has not been long enough dead to have been discovered yet. He went with fighting sarcasm after McCutcheon and Ham. Garlin. And both had just started out on their careers as geniuses, and everybody seemed to expect wonders from them.
The printers were too few in Chicago, and so Cowley moved his Goose Quill to New York, to cold, merciless New York, producing only printers of the first and second classes. The Goose Quill expired gently, but not before getting a good rap at the featured demi-gods of Sunday supplements and magazines of the day.
How often did we spend a pleasant hour in a certain dingy Chicago office, reading Horace and Verlaine aloud, he translating wonderful passages in impromptu meter while the elevated was thundering on its nearby structure, for we were on the top floor of a twentieth century office building.
Michael Monahan struggled with his Papyrus and later on with his Phoenix, Kenneth with his Echo in Minneapolis, devoted to Charles Lamb, I myself fought battle royal with scores of printers of all three of the classes, in most of the chief cities of America, and produced my Tramp, my Gold Bug, my Red Mirror, The Book Hunter, my Greenwich Village, Bruno's Weekly, and my long series of Chap Books. Harriet Monroe has her troubles with her Poetry; Brown in Boston with his Four Seas Publishing Company and his Poetry Review, Margaret Anderson with her Little Review, Joseph King with his Pagan, John N. Beffel is still publishing his Living Men, and there are many, many others who undergo privations of all sorts, who use all the cunning of modern pirates to get their sheets out each month. They are hounded by creditors; money they earn otherwise has to be thrown to printers like bones to a savage dog.
They never make money out of their publications, they never expect to. They scarcely ever break even. They are always optimistic, and if you catch them in a depressed mood, they open their hearts to you, tell you their ever-renewed troubles, and you ask them: "Why all this? Why don't you write like others for magazines, for publishers?" They look at you with sad disdain in their eyes.
They may reach for a manuscript somewhere on their table, show it to you enthusiastically: "Here is a magnificent thing I have for my next issue," they may say. "It is marvelous, just look at this sentence. Listen to this." And they will read part of a manuscript with fervid admiration.
And you will readily understand why they do not write for magazines and for publishers.
Many men waste their lives trying to be publishers, but others have given us priceless gifts, and are responsible for many a genius.
But printers are always the gainers.
* * * * *
Les Confidences: Being the Confessions of a Self-Made American
IN the solitude of my garret have I thought about all this business that is setting aflame with barbaric rage one world and creating uneasiness, constraining personal liberty and sowing the seeds of hatred among brothers in the other.
And because I thank the belligerent countries for some of the best and most essential things of my life, I feel that I must voice these thoughts of my solitude and tell them to you, who were born and raised in America, and who might better understand after this, and to you who are citizens by your own choice, but who perhaps had never time or inclination or the intuition to think about it all.
Well do I remember the day on which I resolved to make this country my own. It was nearly a year after my arrival in the United States. I had finished reading the writings of Abraham Lincoln. I wanted to be a citizen of the country for which this man had lived, worked and finally died.
Hero worship! But how I would wish to be young again! My ideals carried me with uncurtailed wings high above all material matters—above disappointments not spared to any of us, above all those little disasters which are part of our lives.
I had admired Alexander the Great; Napoleon had been my ideal for years. Power, strength, determination of will, making other people do what he thought was best for them— that had impressed me. To read the lives of these men, to study their methods and lives, brought me elevation and gave me ambition.
Being the product of a
system, raised in an atmosphere of discipline, of castes and of
was to be deeply impressed with the
I searched for it in France and I could not find it. Maybe I was too young in those days; maybe I was not able to translate the ideal into existing conditions. Maybe I was considering life as it was more than as it had been planned to be.
And I became a cynic; I lost my belief in real things. I wanted to live my own life outside of the community of men whom I did not trust, who seemed to me egotists, sailing under a false flag of idealistic endeavors. Too deeply rooted in me was my early education of respect for laws and regulations to do anything desperate, or to join the groups of the dissatisfied, of men who call themselves betterers of humanity, and whom humanity calls parasites or reformers.
And so I decided to live my own life in the "New World," to think as I wanted to think, to believe what I wished to believe, not to know anything of government, not to be a part of a system. As work which should furnish me with the necessities of life, I chose hard menial labor. Work that anybody could do who had strength and physical ability, where there were no questions asked, no contracts made. I came in the morning and received my pay in the evening, if I wished to. If I didn't like the work, I could quit it. And while I was working to earn my room and board, my thoughts were my own. And never in my life did I feel freer than in those days in which I had exchanged my pen for a shovel.
I frequented the libraries. In my work clothes I strolled in, asked for any book I wished to read. Can you recollect the red tape you have to go through if you ask for a book in a library of France, Germany, or Italy? Not the big tragedies of life make for unhappiness, but small, little annoyances spoil for us the pleasure of enjoying this world.
"I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and mean to keep doing so 'til the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything."
THESE are the words of
And so I stood there before the clerk in a western city and desired to make my application for American citizenship. It was a formality of a couple of minutes. I glanced over the slip of paper he handed me. There it stood, black on white, glaring into my face, that I had to renounce the sovereign, the prince whose subject I then was.
There are moments in the life of every human being when his brain works with a horrifying alacrity. Thoughts, memories, vivid pictures of scenes that have left an everlasting impression shoot through the brain in terrifying quick succession. They follow one another, covering as long a stretch of years as our conscious and unconscious memory goes back in our lives. It happened there to me. In the clerk's office while I was looking at the disinterested face of the man who wanted me to raise my hand, repeat the oath and be done with me. I saw myself as a young boy singing patriotic songs. I saw myself as a youth in uniform with unsheathed sword swearing an oath of allegiance to my king. How terrible that oath was! "During day and night," the oath read, "in water and on land, in peace and war, will I follow his leadership, will I be loyal to him. Even against my father and my brothers will I be loyal to him."
And then I thought how I had been educated at his expense, being a beneficiary of a stipendium, how I had to thank him indirectly for my college and for my university education. And I thought of my father, of my father's father and of all of my ancestors, and I thought of my brothers who wore his coat and spent their lives in his service, and all this I thought in less than a minute, and I told the clerk that I would come back on another day to sign my declaration of intention.
I do not take myself more seriously than is necessary in order to be taken seriously by others. I always hated ceremonies and climaxes of any kind, but on that day I felt something that I never had felt before. I felt I was giving birth to myself. Instead of doing as I had done so often in questions of importance, to wait until the moment presented itself and then to act, I decided to have it out with myself.
A man who wanted to live his own life, a man who could not give himself up to the narrowness of his surroundings, who was willing to give up everything, to sacrifice the fruits which long years of study and a professional training would have brought him, because he could not accept certain traditions and convictions—an iron ring around his head and an untrangressable wall enclosing his ambitions—must have the ability to forget, to erase out of mind completely what has been. Or the thoughts what could have been will come and torture him and make him regret and kill him.
For years I had not thought. I felt a stranger in my own past, as I was sitting there in my dark little hall room thinking of my allegiance to my king whom I had to abrogate in order to become an American citizen.
A teacher paid by him or by the government whose earthly impersonation he is, had taught me to read and to write. His schools gave me a military training and the military discipline taught me that great lesson millions of our brother citizens seem never to have learned: To keep my mouth shut and to obey orders.
all that I wanted to say thanks for to the country of my birth. I came
conclusion after I had guided my thoughts through twenty-three years of
life. I surprised myself at musings of sympathy and of pity for many of
who had been associates of my youth. While my country gave me
education, I had
to go to other countries for food to sustain my real self. I had to go
I summed up the impressions I had received during my stay in the United States. The streets of New York loomed up in my mind. I saw the Italian selling his Italian wares, the German the products of his country, the French, the specialties of France, I saw Norwegian and Swedish skippers, I saw the ghetto with its typical life, I saw the Armenian with his carpets and I saw the Greek and the Turk and the Spaniard; in the Metropolitan Opera House there was a German and Italian and French opera. The book stores were laden with the Anglicized literature of the world. The museums bore witness of everything beautiful that had ever been created in any part of the world at any age. The most remarkable, the most useful, the most beneficial things of the universe were brought here, put to the disposal of, annexed and assimilated by the American. And the American himself had come once from one of these countries. He had taken possession of all that he found and had given in exchange all that he had.
He had come as I did.
And I realized that to be American means to be cosmopolitan.
To be cosmopolitan means to be big, to be high above small hatred and petty jealousy and ill-directed ambition. It means to be a brother to mankind, a fellow-builder in this world.
While I had felt the laws of every country that I had lived in constraining personal liberty of the individual, I saw them here apparently made for the protection and for the benefit of the citizen. I was young in those days!
A pessimist, he who has given up hope, turns easily into an enthusiast. Over there in my own country by not complying with the average requirements of that particular class to whom I belonged by birth and among whom to live would have been my fate I hardly could have done anything with my life. I always would have been the apostate.
Here all paths seemed to me open to any goal I might set for myself. I felt that everybody could do things in this country. People would consider the merit of things done and would not ask, "Who is he? Why did he do it?"
I felt they would give me a chance.
And how I wanted a chance!
Then and there I bade farewell to the past, to my king and to my country.
I became an enthusiast again. I wanted to give everything so as to be worthy to receive.
Years came and years passed. I found that there was a difference between a Lincoln and the American I was confronted with every day. I found that not everything is gold that glitters. The enthusiasm cleared away like clouds—beautiful clouds, dreamy, rose-colored clouds, but never did I miss the silver lining.
I know America from East to West and from North to South. I know its people, those wonderful people who till the soil, who raise cattle, who mine hundreds of yards beneath the surface; I know the people of the city who work and scheme and labor and slave. I know the rich who had more at the day of their birth than an average human being could ever earn in three-score years: I know those wonderful geniuses who moulded their lives to their own desires, and I know the unfortunates who await on park benches at the dawn of a new day of misery.
I know this country, with the beauty of Italy, the romance of Spain and of Switzerland, with the marshes and pastures of France and of Germany. And the people are big-minded and big-hearted; they are dreamers but builders, lovers of the beautiful but utilizers of beauty; everything that is fit to survive everything created to last forever is a part of this United States. The cosmopolis as a whole and in its smallest village.
Hypocrisy it is to hoist the American flag and at the same time incite hatred against nations. Just as cosmopolitan as the United States are, just as cosmopolitan as its people is—and therefore truly American, the American flag is the highest and supermost symbol of the universal love of the kindred of men. Abolished is the distinction of races. Black be the body of a man or white, he is one of us. And white are the stripes, next to the red, red as the blood that pulsates in the veins of everything that is alive, of everything that is created and might find its way to the hospitable shores of the land of liberty. And the dome of blue arches above all of us in all parts of both hemispheres. And the stars are there, those kind benevolent eyes of eternity which follow us wherever we go, that bring peace to our hearts and hope and beauty, if we only lift our eyes to find them.
And because every one of
belligerent countries gave me an essential part of my life, and because
in all of them, and because I love this
* * * * *
Copyrighted 1921 by Guido Bruno
Most of these sketches and essays first appeared in Bruno's Weekly, Shadowland, The Bookhunter, Pearson's Magazine and New York Press, and to the owners and editors of these publications I am grateful for permission to reprint.
* * * * *
The Artists and Writers
An intimate diary of my experiences with artists and writers during the period I played, as the New York Herald styled it: "First aid to struggling genius."
For two years and a half
and artists from
I have recorded life in "Bruno's Garret on Washington Square" impersonally, dispassionately and truthfully.
I am printing five
for private circulation. The book is profusely illustrated, printed on
paper and well bound. The subscription price is five dollars a copy.