« AnteriorContinuar »
THE BOOK TABLE
BOOTH TARKINGTON, DRAMATIST
AN IDLE CONVERSATION BETWEEN AN INDOLENT REVIEWER
BY BARRETT H. CLARK
HE Friend. I warn you, my mind is made up; but if you want to air your ideas, go ahead. However, if you intend to write a review, why not write it? You surely aren't going to use my ideas?
The Reviewer. No; but you offer me just enough in the way of half-way intelligent opposition to stimulate my own thoughts. Besides, I don't like the notion of sitting down and dissecting Booth Tarkington's plays.
The Friend. You agree with me, then, that they are not worth writing about! Right. His books are a different story. Now, take "Alice Adams"
The Reviewer. I have not read "Alice Adams," and I prefer not to discuss the novels. I have been reading the three newly published plays-"Clarence," "The Country Cousin," and "Penrod," and if you will allow me to tell you about them
The Friend. Let me look at them. Why, these are simply the prompt copies, evidently reprinted from the stage manager's scripts
The Reviewer. Intended for production in theaters. That's what a play is. I hope I sha'n't have to make such an obvious statement in my review.
The Friend. Why didn't he publish them as books?
The Reviewer. Why not as tonepoems? Shall I never convince you that a play is a play, and that when you are privileged to read it you must always think of it as a play?
The Friend. But these are simply skeletons: dialogue and a few scraps of description-hardly literature, I should
The Reviewer. But
The Friend. I make that a night letter.
persuade me that my own reading of the "Ninth Symphony" is not finer than that of Nikisch. I am sure I enjoyed it more than I did any subsequent rendition of it.
The Friend. And this little chapter from your autobiography is intended to show
The Reviewer. That my own imagination filled the gaps. The pianola roll The description is supplied the barren notes and I the
The Friend. Not for me. The Reviewer. It is for the manager and the actress.
The Friend. But I am neither the manager nor the actress. I prefer de
inspiration. And so it is with plays. Did you never declaim "Hamlet" to yourself in the bath-tub and imagine you were Booth? I have played a violin and thought I was Kreisler as I accompanied myself on the pianola, playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto!
The Friend. I don't imagine the neighbors thought so.
The Reviewer. I was oblivious of the neighbors to put it politely.
The Friend. But what about Tarkington and his plays?
The Reviewer. Simply this: Take these "skeletons," as you call them, use your imagination, fancy yourself the stage director, the actors, the entire audience, and be the whole show yourself. That's practically what you do when you read a novel. Only, I beg you, when you read a play, forget that there is such a thing as a novel. And I venture to suggest, if you will try the experiment in a sympathetic mood, that you will find more in some plays than you do in a trilogy of novels.
The Friend. Your customary exaggeration.
The Reveiwer. I speak the literal truth. For example, compare "Antony and Cleopatra" or "Cæsar and Cleoscriptions of houses and people as the patra," to make the test a little fairerauthor writes them in his novels. with, well, with "Nicholas Nickleby."
The Reviewer. Did you see "The Do you miss the descriptions in ShakeCountry Cousin"?
The Friend. Yes. That was different. The Reviewer. Exactly. You are now reading the "night letter" directions,
speare? And as for Shaw, you get a small novel together with the play.
The Friend. Booth Tarkington is not Shakespeare, nor even Shaw.
The Reviewer. But they have one thing in common: they are all dramatists. For the sake of argument, I maintain that what Booth Tarkington omits in the way of detailed description serves only to stimulate the imagination. The Friend. Tell me, why do writers
The Friend. Yes. What has that to take such infinite trouble to describe do with the case?
The Reviewer. You crank it, or touch the self-starter or whatever it is, and it does the rest?
The Friend. Yes.
The Reviewer. And you like it?
The Reviewer. I don't. I beg your pardon, but I don't like your machine. I prefer the old-fashioned work-it-yourself pianola, where I use my hands and feet-and incidentally my head. I fee! I am running the show; I often used to imagine myself the conductor of a great orchestra, and to this day no one can
people and places?
The Reviewer. Sometimes the description is beautiful in itself; sometimes, unfortunately, it indicates intellectual laziness; and sometimes, of course, it takes the place of actual dialogue. The effective play tells a story by means of action, supplemented by speech, and, since the play is usually concerned with critical moments in the lives of people, the dramatist is forced to present his characters more vividly, more saliently, more dramatically, than is the novelist.
The Friend. Would you say that
"Clarence" is as complete a revelation of character as "Penrod"? I refer of course to the "Penrod" of the novels, not of the dramatization.
The Reviewer. That depends on you. The Friend. On me?
The Reviewer. Yes. Suppose you read "Hamlet" at the age of ten. You naturally lack the background of experience, and of course the play will mean little to you. If as a child you prefer Mother Goose rhymes, that cannot be urged as proof that the rhymes are greater than the play. The fault, dear Brutus
The Reviewer. And so with the reading of plays. You require a certain amount of background, a point of view, in order to get out of a play everything that the dramatist has put into it. An ingenious French critic once declared that Molière's Harpagon (in "The Miser") was as great a character as Balzac's Père Grandet (in "Eugénie Grandet"), but insisted that the comparison should not be made until Harpagon was in the surroundings proper to him—that is, in a theater. What you do in reading a play is simply to mount it, in your imagination. But to return to Tarkington
The Friend. You spoke of "The Country Cousin." I saw it acted a few years ago, and I confess that I blush for two ex-Presidents of the United States, both of whom seemed to think the piece worthy of serious attention.
The Reviewer. I grant you "The Country Cousin" is at best a flag-waving bit of propaganda, thoroughly Hundred Per Cent. But you will note that the play is the child of two parents: Julian Street is named as collaborator. I do not of course know what part each writer is responsible for, but it seems as if both compromised over the transaction and omitted the best of himself, for the result is mediocrity. But give it credit for a generous amount of good character drawing, exactly the sort of thing you profess to admire in "Seventeen" and "Penrod." Take, for instance, Sam Wilson. Sam opens the play. There is no description of him until after his entrance, and at that it is merely a matter of three short sentences, but you know Sam the moment he opens his mouth. Let me read you his opening speech:
You take the fellows that loaf all
I got a copy of Shakespeare handy,
And there you have Sam. It's living speech-"
The Friend. Do you think that way of presenting character is better than the same writer's method in a novel?
The Reviewer. Not of necessity better, but certainly not worse. Read a dozen plays, and you will find novelreading just a little dull. You will miss something, surely, but you will be compensated by receiving impressions which no novelist can give you. I am surprised that in America we have not adopted play-reading as a time-saving device. He who runs may read a play! The play eliminates the non-essentials, particularly the sort of padding that turns a good short story into a third-rate novel.
The Friend. Would you prohibit novels, or rather permit them only in dramatized form?
Novels will be pro
hibited sooner or later, and I shall be sorry, for what is finest in a great novel cannot be put into a play, just as a great play can never be adequately novelized. But most novels could with advantage be reduced to plays, thus saving some three or four hundred pages of valuable paper.
The Friend. Now, here is "Penrod," "a comedy in four acts adapted for the stage from Booth Tarkington's Penrod stories"
The Reviewer. Let us pass at once to "Clarence," which is not a dramatization. You saw the performance?
The Friend. Yes, and very good entertainment it was. But nothing more. The Reviewer. Nothing more! Good heavens, what do you want? Surely you are not one of those people who insist that a play shall be "as good as a sermon"? You don't expect to be uplifted and all that?
The Friend. No, but I demand something besides entertainment.
The Reviewer. It all depends on what you mean by "entertainment." "Hamlet" is "mere entertainment" for me; I am interested and excited by "Hamlet," but I surely don't go to see it in order to learn philosophy. "Clarence," I grant you, does not "entertain" me as does "Hamlet," but-like "Hamlet," remember-it shows human beings in interesting and critical situations. And that is why we go to the theater.
The Friend. Granted. But "Clarence" is trivial. It does not grapple with human problems; it fails even to reveal a pale reflection of life. The characters are puppets who do nothing, think nothing, and say nothing of exceptional significance.
The Reviewer. Look at "Clarence" as you would at a spectacle. Without unriddling the secret of life, Booth Tarkington has managed to throw together a number of genuinely American people. Isn't it interesting to see ourselves on the stage? How seldom do we have the chance! Here is Clarence. Can you imagine any one but an American doing and saying what Clarence does and says? The whimsicality and sly humor
of that extraordinary entomologist
would not, I think, raise the shadow of a smile on the face of a German, and a * Frenchman would be bored by it. The humor is quaint, it is quiet, it is not forced; above all, it emerges from the situations and is not gratuitously grafted upon the play, as conventional humor is so apt to be. You may have noticed how in many plays the dramatist seems to have gone over his MS. at rehearsals, seasoning it with "laughs." Well, Tarkington gets his laughs, not by bright lines and last-moment inspirations, but by allowing his people to reveal themselves at the right time and under the right circumstances. That is why "Clarence" is a genuine comedy. Listen to this (I omit the stage directions):
Cora. Do you wear spectacles because your eyes got gassed? Clarence. No. They say the liver affects the eyes very much.
Cora. How did it feel when you first enlisted? Clarence.
It felt all right. There was nothing the matter with it then. Cora. I don't mean your liver. I mean how did you feel when you first enlisted?
Clarence. I was drafted.
Cora. Were you just a private all the time?
Clarence. Yes, all the time after I was drafted, I was.
Bobby. I hope there'll be another
Clarence. So you could be in it?
Clarence. I wish you'd been in this one. What would you do?
Bobby. Flying Corps. That's the life!
Cora. What did you do in the war?
Clarence. Somebody had to.
Cora. But what for?
Clarence. They won't go where you want 'em to unless you drive 'em. Bobby. Did you meet Major Brooks-Carmel in France? He's a cousin of ours.
Clarence. No. I didn't meet him. Cora. Did you meet Lieutenant Whitcomb?
Clarence. What was his first name? Cora. Hobart. Lieutenant Sir Hobart Whitcomb, really. He was English-in the Royal Flying Corps.
Clarence. No. I didn't meet him. Cora. It's right to be personal to soldiers, isn't it?--so as to look after their welfare?
Clarence. It's very public-spirited. Cora. I think our American uniform is so becoming, don't you? Clarence. Do you mean you think I'd look worse in other clothes? Cora. No, but I would like to know why you drove a mule.
Clarence. I didn't select that branch of the service myself. Cora. You mean somebody told you to?
Clarence. Yes; so I thought it was better to do what they said. Cora.
Did you have to learn to
swear at the mules to make them obey?
Clarence. No. No, I didn't.
Cora. Oh, he was wounded! Where was it?
Clarence. At target practice!
There you have it. No smartness, no epigrams, not a false note. It is not great literature; it can hardly be called great comedy, but it is genuine.
The Friend. It is, as far as it goes. But tell me, do a string of scenes of that sort make a fine play?
The Reviewer. Yes. You miss the plot, but let me tell you that in pure comedy the plot matters little. It is at best a thread which holds the characters together. It may be conventional, it usually is; in "Clarence" the plot is little more than an excuse for the presentation of a number of very human and very amusing people. Clarence himself is a delight, and Bobby is surely as fine
an example of youth as Tarkington ever conceived.
The Friend. You seem, then, to think that the story is nothing, and the characters everything?
The Reviewer. In comedy, the plotThe Friend. Yes, yes, you've said that before. But tell me, what would "The Bat" be without a plot?
The Reviewer. Nothing, because "The Bat" is not a comedy. It is solely the plot that is of interest; the people are of no importance or interest. In order to enjoy "The Bat"-and I did enjoy itI must be in my seat before the curtain rises and remain in it until the last curtain falls after the mystery is revealed. Not so with comedy; you would enjoy seeing the second act of "Clarence" without the others; but imagine seeing the second act of "The Bat"! In "Clarence" I am willing to let the plot go hang
The Friend. So was Tarkington! The Reviewer. So was Tarkington. It would have been almost impossible to
develop so many characters if the dramatist had concentrated his attention on the story as well. Think of "The School for Scandal" and "As You Like It." Does the plot in either instance amount to a row of pins? Some day some one will discover a new way to write a comedy-without a plot
The Friend. You're quite mad!
The Reviewer. Shaw has almost done it. Or rather he has written plays which, if they had been good as character comedies, would have proved my point, for they are nothing as regards plot.
The Friend. Let me give you a word of advice. If you intend to write an article on Tarkington as a dramatist, you'll have to think of something to say about him.
The Reviewer. You think I need a plot? The Friend. Something at least besides trivial dialogue. Are you going to do the article?
The Reviewer. I hardly think so.
BITS OF TEXAS POLITICAL HISTORY
HAVE read your editorial "Merely a Choice of Two Evils" in The Outlook of September 13, 1922, based upon a telegram from Mr. John A. Lomax concerning the recent Senatorial race in Texas. I am a native of Texas, a graduate of the State University, and a Rhodes scholar from Texas. By virtue of the last fact, I was in England during the greater part of the campaign. In the spirit, accordingly, of an interested observer I am taking the liberty of sending you the facts outlined below as a follow-up article, based upon the complete returns as recorded by the Texas Election Bureau.
The conclusion drawn in your editorial comment on the Senatorial race in Texas is not sustained by the facts.
To correct a slight error, may I state that Mr. John A. Lomax is not Secretary of the University of Texas? He has not . been connected with that institution since the summer of 1917.
The essential error lies in the suggestion that Earle B. Mayfield's candidacy did not appeal to the people of Texas. That it did is evidenced by these figures. In the first primary, with a field of six, polling a combined vote of 596,533, Mayfield received 163,910-27 per cent, or slightly less than one-third, of the total number of votes cast-which gave him a plurality of 32,602 over Ferguson, who ran second, and 59,911 more votes than Senator Charles A. Culberson, the incumbent
In the run-off 582,824 ballots were cast, or 13,809 less than in the first primary. It would therefore appear that Something under 14,000 Democrats-and t 100,000 as Mr. Lomax suggests ed to vote. With respect to these, it
sin to note that Movfold's nomination
THE MAIL BAG
was assured after the first primary, so of the 13,809 who failed to vote it is safe to assume that the most of them were Mayfield's adherents. Ferguson, on the other hand, appealed to every element of dissatisfaction and polled a maximum vote. is likewise interesting to record that more people voted in the second primary than in any other Texas run-off.
Mr. Mayfield announced for the Senate in July of 1921 upon the distinct proposition of undertaking to preserve the life of the State Railroad Commission. He made 169 speeches in the first primary and never mentioned any one of his five opponents, refusing to be drawn into a campaign of mud-slinging or personal abuse and sticking to his platform. In the second primary he delivered thirty speeches of the same character.
In 1906, when twenty-five years old, Mayfield was elected to the State Senate, carrying every county in the district. In 1910 he was re-elected, again carrying every county in his district. In 1912 he ran for the State Railroad Commission, winning by 16,000. He was re-elected in 1914 by a majority of 130,000, and in 1920 was elected for the third time by a majority of 150,000, carrying all but one of the 252 counties in Texas.
His chief source of strength has been and is now an unyielding opposition to the liquor traffic. He launched his political career when the brewing interests dominated Texas politics from the precinct organizations to the State Convention, and he has waged six fights with stubborn opposition, the last one culminating in his nomination for the Senate. Austin, Texas. ROBERT M. FIELD.
[Mr. Lomax had already written us when this communication was received, pointing out the error in our statement concerning his connection with the Uni
versity of Texas. Mr. Lomax retired from his professorship at the time when Governor Ferguson overthrew the management of the University. When a new board of regents of the University was created, Mr. Lomax was again invited to resume his professorship. He is now executive secretary of the Ex-Students' Association of the University of Texas. In his letter to us Mr. Lomax gives the following information:
"You may be interested to know that on Saturday, September 16, the independent Democrats of Texas nominated George E. B. Peddy to oppose Mr. Mayfield in the race for United States Senator. Immediately after the Democrats had nominated Mr. Peddy, the Republicans also indorsed him as candidate for Senator."
LEASE accept my hearty congratula
tions on the editorial in the September 20th Outlook headed "PussyFooting.". From start to finish it is admirable both in sentiment and in expression. It puts the matter so plainly that he who runs, unless he is a fool, may read. At first I had felt that a governmental investigation would be only an expense, since everybody who has read the news of recent years, not to mention the history of the past, must realize that Islam is not capable of exercising civilized government. If those whom you ironically call statesmen would only stop thinking that they know it all, we should see something practicable and reasonable done to meet the situation. I wish that this editorial might rouse a public sentiment in the two great Anglo-Saxon nations that would make itself felt in season to ac complish something worth while.
SINCE the nation's founding, War, terrible but
inexorable, has five times visited the landand five times has the du Pont Company proved a dependable source of strength in the country's time of danger-ready with sufficient explosives to meet the needs of the nation's defenders.
"HE story of du Pont's service to the country is an inspiring one. For since its earliest days, the country's means of defense has been among the most important of this Company's service.
And rightly so, for since 1802, when at Thomas Jefferson's invitation, E. I. du Pont de Nemours set up on the Brandywine River the first powder mill in America, du Ponts have been powder-makers to the United States Government. The history of the du Pont Company is a story that is inseparably interwoven with the nation's history- a story that ranges through the century from Perry's jubilant "We have met the enemy and they are ours," to Pershing's reverent "Lafayette, we are here"- a story in which "Old Zach" Taylor across the Rio Grande, Grant before Vicksburg and Dewey at Manila Bay are heroic figures-a story of work and research always with the thought in mind that when America was forced to fight, she might have at her hand the best explosives and munitions science knew, and in the ever-increasing quantities that she needed. There is, indeed, no finer illustration of du Pont's service and efficiency than in the records of the last war. Starting in 1914 with a capacity of only 12,000,000 pounds of smokeless powder a year, it increased its volume until it was producing 440,000,000 pounds a year, supplying 40% of the Allies' explosives, and at the same time voluntarily reduced its price in the course of three years from $1 a pound to less than 50c!
YET, great as the du Pont Company's services to the
country have been in times of war, those are only the occasional services, for, happily, war comes but rarely. And it is the unsung services of the du Pont organization in times of peace that are truly remarkable.
The du Pont Company has been one of the leaders in the application of chemistry to the country's industries-one of the leaders in developing the most remarkable figure of the twentieth century-the Chemical Engineer. Since its earliest beginnings, the du Pont Company has been building upon the foundations of chemistry. Not only was
E. I. du Pont de Nemours himself a chemist, who had studied with the celebrated Lavoisier in Paris, but the manufacture of explosives was then and is now one of the industries that most require the services of the chemist.
As explosives increased in complexity and called for increasing chemical knowledge, the du Pont Company, little by little gathered to itself many of the keenest minds in the science and built up one of the finest chemical staffs in America, a staff not only of research chemists, but of men who knew manufacturing as well as the science of chemistry-men who were Chemical Engineers.
Now, the Chemical Engineer is a rare mingling of abilities. He is a chemist who can take the discoveries made on the experimental scale of the laboratories and put them into production on the larger scale of commerce. He is the man who has brought to the doors of industry new substances, new uses for long-used substances, uses for products that once were waste, and processes that cut the cost of manufacturing and made possible the century's wonderful strides in commerce.
And the du Pont Company's assistance in developing the Chemical Engineer and introducing him into his rightful place in American industry is not the least of the du Pont Company's services to the country.
* * *
UT yet another service has come through the Chemical Engineer-the family of du Pont products that carry the du Pont Oval. There is Fabrikoid for upholstery, luggage and bindings of books, not to mention half a hundred other uses-there is Pyralin from which toiletware for your wife's dressing table is made and many other articles-there are paints, varnishes, enamels, lacquersthere are dyes-there are many chemicals that America's industries must have-seemingly non-related, yet all of them the legitimate children of a manufacturer of explosives, for the basic materials or processes that go to the making of each of them are similar to those that du Pont Chemical Engineers use in the making of explosives-and it is only through the manufacture of such products as Fabrikoid and Pyralin and dyestuffs in times of peace that the du Pont Company can be sure of being prepared for its larger service that of insuring means for the nation's defense in times of war.
This is one of a series of advertisements published that the public may have a clearer understanding of E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. and its products.
E. L. DUPONT DE NEMOURS & COMPANY, Inc., Wilmington
Waste Steam Used
For Community Heating
After facts brought out in court showed that Miles City, Montana, was losing more than $100 a day by not selling exhaust steam, permission was given the electric station to proceed with a plan for distributing this waste steam to heat nearby buildings.
A bulletin has been prepared showing the development of this profitable municipal venture. Today, some 47 buildings are heated from the central station plant. Heat sales run over $32,000 a year. Fire hazards are reduced because individual heating plants are thrown out of these buildings. Dirt and dust of coal and ash handling are eliminated. This is one of over four hundred installations of Community Heating designed and installed by our engineers.
If there is an electric light plant or factory in
Write for Bulletin No. 20-O covering Adsco
AMERICAN DISTRICT STEAM COMPANY
WHAT IS HAPPENING
BY ROGER C. HOYT
HE answer to this question is being eagerly sought by two classes of Americans. First, the many thousands who immediately after the armistice, deluded by the specious promises of over-optimistic brokers, "invested" their savings in German marks and have since watched the steady march of the mark towards the vanishing point. Secondly, that large group of American business men who wish to transact business with Germany but find it practically impossible to make contracts because of the rapid shift of prices in Germany due to the wide fluctuation of the mark. Perhaps a simple statement of the economic principles involved will, therefore, throw some light on the probable outcome of this perplexing situation.
The complexity of civilized life makes money absolutely essential as a medium of exchange and as a measure of value. In primitive times men resorted to barter, which was the simple exchange of commodities. But this very quickly grew cumbersome and inadequate. Men then cast around for some article which could serve as a unit of value. In savage communities the unit was seashells, cattle, beaver-skins, corn, cocoanuts, salt, or some other article of general consumption. But these units in turn were soon found to be unsatisfactory and a unit of greater intrinsic value was sought. Men then turned to the use of metals which had many desirable qualities as money, and gradually gold, the most valuable metal, became accepted as the most universally satisfactory unit which could be found. And so, in course of time, what is known as the "gold standard" became the basis for the currency systems of practically all modern governments. This means that the underlying unit of value is gold and that all other forms of currency are ultimately redeemable in gold.
Unfortunately, however, many governments, led astray by financial stringency and false economic theories, have attempted to issue currency not redeemable in gold, but basing its value on the mere word or fiat of the issuing government. This form of currency is known as "fiat money." Our own greenbacks issued after the Civil War are an example of this "fiat money." But the issue of flat money by a government immediately brings into action an old economic law known as Gresham's Law. This in simple language is that "bad money drives out good money." When bad money is issued, people will hoard their good money, and in time the bad money will depreciate in value because there is no real intrinsic value back of it. There are many such cases in the monetary history of the last two centuries. During our war of the Revolution the Continental Congress issued over 241 millions of naner monev This