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Anglo-American Drama And Its Future

[The first part of this paper was published in the Hibbert Journal in 1910.]


There is a maxim particularly suitable to those who follow any art: "Don't talk about what you do!" And yet, once in a way, one must clear the mind and put into words what lies at the back of endeavour.

What, then, is lying at the back of any growth or development there may have been of late in drama?

In my belief, simply an outcrop of sincerity—of fidelity to mood, to impression, to self. A man here and there has turned up who has imagined something true to what he has really seen and felt, and has projected it across the foot-lights in such a way as to make other people feel it. This is all that has happened lately on our stage. And if it be growth, it will not be growth in quantity, since there is nothing like sincerity for closing the doors of theatres. For, just consider what sincerity excludes: All care for balance at the author's bank—even when there is no balance; all habit of consulting the expression on the public's face; all confectioning of French plays; all the convenient practice of adding up your plots on the principle that two and two make five. These it excludes. It includes: Nothing because it pays; nothing because it will make a sensation; no situations faked; no characters falsified; no fireworks; only something imagined and put down in a passion of sincerity. What plays, you may say, are left? Well, that was the development in our drama before this war began. The war arrested it, as it arrested every movement of the day in civil life. But whether in war or peace, the principles which underlie art remain the same and are always worth consideration.

Sincerity in the theatre and commercial success are not necessarily, but they are generally, opposed. It is more or less a happy accident when, they coincide. This grim truth cannot be blinked. Not till the heavens fall will the majority of the public demand sincerity. And all that they who care for sincerity can hope for is that the supply of sincere drama will gradually increase the demand for it—gradually lessen the majority which has no use for that disturbing quality. The burden of this struggle is on the shoulders of the dramatists. It is useless and unworthy for them to complain that the public will not stand sincerity, that they cannot get sincere plays acted, and so forth. If they have not the backbone to produce what they feel they ought to produce, without regard to what the public wants, then good-bye to progress of any kind. If they are of the crew who cannot see any good in a fight unless they know it is going to end in victory; if they expect the millennium with every spring—they will advance nothing. Their job is to set their teeth, do their work in their own way, without thinking much about result, and not at all about reward, except from their own consciences. Those who want sincerity will always be the few, but they may well be more numerous than now; and to increase their number is worth a struggle. That struggle was the much-sneered-at, much-talked-of so-called "new" movement in our British drama.

Now it was the fashion to dub this new drama the "serious" drama; the label was unfortunate, and not particularly true. If Rabelais or Robert Burns appeared again in mortal form and took to writing plays, they would be "new" dramatists with a vengeance—as new as ever Ibsen was, and assuredly they would be sincere. But could they well be called "serious"? Can we call Synge, or St. John Hankin, or Shaw, or Barrie serious? Hardly! Yet they are all of this new movement in their very different ways, because they are sincere. The word "serious," in fact, has too narrow a significance and admits a deal of pompous stuff which is not sincere. While the word "sincere" certainly does not characterise all that is popularly included under the term "new drama," it as certainly does characterise (if taken in its true sense of fidelity to self) all that is really new in it, and excludes no mood, no temperament, no form of expression which can pass the test of ringing true. Look, for example, at the work of those two whom we could so ill spare—Synge and St. John Hankin. They were as far apart as dramatists well could be, except that each had found a special medium—the one a kind of lyric satire, the other a neat, individual sort of comedy—which seemed exactly to express his spirit. Both forms were in a sense artificial, but both were quite sincere; for through them each of these two dramatists, so utterly dissimilar, shaped forth the essence of his broodings and visions of life, with all their flavour and individual limitations. And that is all one means by—all one asks of—sincerity.

Then why make such a fuss about it?

Because it is rare, and an implicit quality of any true work of art, realistic or romantic.

Art is not art unless it is made out of an artist's genuine feeling and vision, not out of what he has been told he ought to feel and see. For art exists not to confirm people in their tastes and prejudices, not to show them what they have seen before, but to present them with a new vision of life. And if drama be an art (which the great public denies daily, but a few of us still believe), it must reasonably be expected to present life as each dramatist sees it, and not to express things because they pander to popular prejudice, or are sensational, or because they pay.

If you want further evidence that the new dramatic movement is marked out by its struggle for sincerity, and by that alone, examine a little the various half-overt oppositions with which it meets.

Why is the commercial manager against it?

Because it is quite naturally his business to cater for the great public; and, as before said, the majority of the public does not, never will, want sincerity; it is too disturbing. The commercial manager will answer: "The great public does not dislike sincerity, it only dislikes dullness." Well! Dullness is not an absolute, but a very relative term—a term likely to have a different meaning for a man who knows something about life and art from that which it has for a man who knows less. And one may remark that if the great public's standard of what is really "amusing" is the true one, it is queer that the plays which tickle the great public hardly ever last a decade, while the plays which do not tickle them occasionally last for centuries. The "dullest" plays, one might say roughly, are those which last the longest. Witness Euripides!

Why are so many actor-managers against the new drama?

Because their hearts are quite naturally set on such insincere distortions of values as are necessary to a constant succession of "big parts" for themselves. Sincerity does not necessarily exclude heroic characters, but it does exclude those mock heroics which actor-managers have been known to prefer—not to real heroics, perhaps, but to simple and sound studies of character.

Why is the Censorship against it?

Because censorship is quite naturally the guardian of the ordinary prejudices of sentiment and taste, and quaintly innocent of knowledge that in any art fidelity of treatment is essential to a theme. Indeed, I am sure that this peculiar office would regard it as fantastic for a poor devil of an artist to want to be faithful or sincere. The demand would appear pedantic and extravagant.

Some say that the critics are against the new drama. That is not in the main true. The inclination of most critics is to welcome anything with a flavour of its own; it would be odd indeed if it were not so—they get so much of the other food! They are, in general, friends to sincerity. But the trouble with the critic is rather the fixed idea. He has to print his opinion of an author's work, while other men have only to think it; and when it comes to receiving a fresh impression of the same author, his already recorded words are liable to act on him rather as the eyes of a snake act on a rabbit. Indeed, it must be very awkward, when you have definitely labelled an author this, or that, to find from his next piece of work that he is the other as well! The critic who can make blank his soul of all that he has said before may indeed exist—in Paradise!

Why is the greater public against the new drama?

By the greater public I in no sense mean the public who don't keep motor cars—the greater public comes from the West-end as much as ever it comes from the East-end. Its opposition to the "new drama" is neither covert, doubtful, nor conscious of itself. The greater public is like an aged friend of mine, who, if you put into his hands anything but Sherlock Holmes, or The Waverley Novels, says: "Oh! that dreadful book!" His taste is excellent, only he does feel that an operation should be performed on all dramatists and novelists by which they should be rendered incapable of producing anything but what my aged friend is used to. The greater public, in fact, is either a too well-dined organism which wishes to digest its dinner, or a too hard-worked organism longing for a pleasant dream. I sympathise with the greater public!...

A friend once said to me: "Champagne has killed the drama." It was half a truth. Champagne is an excellent thing, and must not be disturbed. Plays should not have anything in them which can excite the mind. They should be of a quality to just remove the fumes by eleven o'clock and make ready the organism for those suppers which were eaten before the war. Another friend once said to me: "It is the rush and hurry and strenuousness of modern life which is scotching the drama." Again, it was half a truth. Why should not the hard-worked man have his pleasant dream, his detective story, his good laugh? The pity is that sincere drama would often provide as agreeable dreams for the hard-worked man as some of those reveries in which he now indulges, if only he would try it once or twice. That is the trouble—to get him to give it a chance.

The greater public will by preference take the lowest article in art offered to it. An awkward remark, and unfortunately true. But if a better article be substituted, the greater public very soon enjoys it every bit as much as the article replaced, and so on—up to a point which we need not fear we shall ever reach. Not that sincere dramatists are consciously trying to supply the public with a better article. A man could not write anything sincere with the elevation of the public as incentive. If he tried, he would be as lost as ever were the Pharisees making broad their phylacteries. He can only express himself sincerely by not considering the public at all. People often say that this is "cant," but it really isn't. There does exist a type of mind which cannot express itself in accordance with what it imagines is required; can only express itself for itself, and take the usually unpleasant consequences. This is, indeed, but an elementary truth, which since the beginning of the world has lain at the bottom of all real artistic achievement. It is not cant to say that the only things vital in drama, as in every art, are achieved when the maker has fixed his soul on the making of a thing which shall seem fine to himself. It is the only standard; all the others—success, money, even the pleasure and benefit of other people—lead to confusion in the artist's spirit, and to the making of dust castles. To please your best self is the only way of being sincere. Most weavers of drama, of course, are perfectly sincere when they start out to ply their shuttles; but how many persevere in that mood to the end of their plays, in defiance of outside consideration? Here—says one to himself—it will be too strong meat; there it will not be sufficiently convincing; this natural length will be too short, that end too appalling; in such and such a shape I shall never get my play taken; I must write that part up and tone this character down. And when it is all done, effectively, falsely—what is there? A prodigious run, perhaps. But—the grave of all which makes the life of an artist worth the living. Well! well! We who believe this will never get too many others to believe it! Those heavens will not fall; theatre doors will remain open; the heavy diners will digest, and the over-driven man will dream. And yet, with each sincere thing made—even if only fit for reposing within a drawer—its maker is stronger, and will some day, perhaps, make that which need not lie covered away, but reach out from him to other men.

It is a wide word—sincerity. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is no less sincere than "Hamlet," "The Mikado" as faithful to its mood of satiric frolicking as Ibsen's "Ghosts" to its mood of moral horror. Sincerity bars out no themes; it only demands that the dramatist's moods and visions should be intense enough to keep him absorbed; that he should have something to say so engrossing to himself that he has no need to stray here and there and gather purple plums to eke out what was intended to be an apple tart. Here is the heart of the matter: You cannot get sincere drama out of those who do not see and feel with sufficient fervour; and you cannot get good sincere drama out of those who will not hoe their rows to the very end. There is no faking and no scamping to the good in art. You may turn out the machine-made article very natty, but for the real hand-made thing you must have toiled in the sweat of your brow. In Britain it is a little difficult to persuade people that the writing of plays and novels is work. To many it remains one of those inventions of a certain potentate for idle hands to do. To some persons in high life, and addicted to field sports, it is still a species of licensed buffoonery, to be regulated by a sort of circus-master with a whip in one hand and a gingerbread nut in the other. By the truly simple soul it is thus summed up: "Work! Why, 'e sits writin' all day." To some, both green and young, it shines as a vocation entirely glorious and exhilarating. If one may humbly believe the evidence of his own senses, it is not any of these, but a patient calling, glamorous now and then, but with fifty minutes of hard labour and yearning to every ten of satisfaction. Not a pursuit, maybe, which one would change, but then, what man with a profession flies to others that he knows not of?

Novelists, it is true, even if they have not been taken too seriously by the people of these islands, have for a long time past respected themselves, but the calling of a dramatist till quite of late has been but an invertebrate and spiritless concern. Pruned and prismed by the censor, exploited by the actor, dragooned and slashed by the manager, ignored by the public, who never even bothered to inquire the names of those who supplied it with digestives—it was a slave's job. Thanks to a little sincerity it is not now a slave's job, and will not again, I think, become one.

From time to time in that vehicle of improvisation, that modern fairy tale—our daily paper—we read words such as these: "What has become of the boasted renascence of our stage?" or: "So much for all the trumpeting about the new drama!" When we come across such words, we remember that it is only natural for journals to say to-day the opposite of what they said yesterday. For they have to suit all tastes and preserve a decent equilibrium!

There is a new safeguard of the self-respecting dramatist which no amount of improvising for or against will explain away. Plays are now not merely acted, they are published and read, and will be read more and more. This does not mean, as some say, that they are being written for the study—they were never being written more deliberately, more carefully, for the stage. It does mean that they are tending more and more to comply with fidelity to theme, fidelity to self; and therefore are more and more able to bear the scrutiny of cold daylight. And for the first time, perhaps, since the days of Shakespeare there are dramatists in this country, not a few, faithful to themselves.

Now, all this is not merely fortuitous. For, however abhorrent such a notion may be to those yet wedded to Victorian ideals, we were, even before the war, undoubtedly passing through great changes in our philosophy of life. Just as a plant keeps on conforming to its environment, so our beliefs and ideals are conforming to our new social conditions and discoveries. There is in the air a revolt against prejudice, and a feeling that things must be re-tested. The spirit which, dwelling in pleasant places, would never re-test anything is now looked on askance. Even on our stage we are not enamoured of it. It is not the artist's business (be he dramatist or other) to preach. Admitted! His business is to portray; but portray truly he cannot if he has any of that glib doctrinaire spirit, devoid of the insight which comes from instinctive sympathy. He must look at life, not at a mirage of life compounded of authority, tradition, comfort, habit. The sincere artist, by the very nature of him, is bound to be curious and perceptive, with an instinctive craving to identify himself with the experience of others. This is his value, whether he express it in comedy, epic, satire, or tragedy. Sincerity distrusts tradition, authority, comfort, habit; cannot breathe the air of prejudice, and cannot stand the cruelties which arise from it. So it comes about that the new drama's spirit is essentially, inevitably human and—humane, essentially distasteful to many professing followers of the Great Humanitarian, who, if they were but sincere, would see that they secretly abhor His teachings and in practice continually invert them.

It is a fine age we live in—this age of a developing social conscience, and worthy of a fine and great art. But, though no art is fine unless it has sincerity, no amount of sincere intention will serve unless the expression of it be well-nigh perfect. An author is judged, not by intention but by achievement; and criticism is innately inclined to remark first on the peccadillo points of a person, a poem, or a play. If there be a scar on the forehead, a few false quantities, or weak endings, if there is an absence in the third act of some one who appeared in the first—it is always much simpler to complain of this than to feel or describe the essence of the whole. But this very pettiness in our criticism is, fortunately, a sort of safeguard. The French writer Buffon said: "Bien écrire, c'est tout; car bien écrire c'est bien sentir, bien penser, et bien dire." ... Let the artist then, by all means, make his work impeccable, clothe his ideas, feelings, visions, in just such garments as can withstand the winds of criticism. He himself must be his cruellest critic. Before cutting his cloth let him very carefully determine the precise thickness, shape, and colour best suited to the condition of his temperature. For there are still playwrights who, working in the full blast of an affaire between a poet and the wife of a stockbroker, will murmur to themselves: "Now for a little lyricism!" and drop into it. Or when the strong, silent stockbroker has brought his wife once more to heel: "Now for the moral!" and gives it us. Or when things are getting a little too intense: "Now for humour and variety!" and bring in the curate. This kind of tartan kilt is very pleasant on its native heath of London; but—hardly the garment of good writing. Good writing is only the perfect clothing of mood—the just right form. Shakespeare's form, you will say, was extraordinarily loose, wide, plastic; but then his spirit was ever changing its mood—a true chameleon. And as to the form of Mr. Shaw—who was once compared with Shakespeare—why! there is none. And yet, what form could so perfectly express Mr. Shaw's glorious crusade against stupidity, his wonderfully sincere and lifelong mood of sticking pins into a pig!

We are told, ad nauseam, that the stage has laws of its own, to which all dramatists must bow. Quite true! The stage has the highly technical laws of its physical conditions, which cannot be neglected. But even when they are all properly attended to, it is only behind the elbow of one who feels strongly and tries to express sincerely that right expression stands. The imaginative mood, coming who knows when, staying none too long, is a mistress who deserves, and certainly expects, fidelity. True to her while she is there, do not, when she is not there, insult her by looking in every face and thinking it will serve! These are laws of sincerity which not even a past-master in the laws of the stage can afford to neglect. Anything is better than resorting to moral sentiments and solutions because they are current coin, or to decoration because it is "the thing." And—as to humour: though nothing is more precious than the genuine topsy-turvy feeling, nothing is more pitifully unhumorous than the dragged-in epigram or dismal knockabout, which has no connection with the persons or philosophy of the play.

I suppose it is easy to think oneself sincere; it is certainly difficult to be that same. Imagine the smile, and the blue pencil, of the Spirit of Sincerity if we could appoint him Censor. I would not lift my pen against that Censorship though he excised—as perhaps he might—the half of my work. Sometimes one has a glimpse of his ironic face and his swift fingers, busy with those darkening pages. Once I dreamed about him. It was while a certain Commission was sitting on the British Censorship, which still so admirably guards Insincerity, and he was giving evidence before them. This, I remember, was what he said:

"You wish to learn of me what is sincerity? Look into yourselves, for what lies deepest within you. Each living thing varies from every other living thing, and never twice are there quite the same set of premises from which to draw conclusion. Give up asking of any but yourselves for the whereabouts of truth; and if some one says that he can tell you where it is, don't believe him; he might as well lay a trail of sand and think it will stay there for ever." He stopped, and I could see him looking to judge what impression he had made upon the Commission. But those gentlemen behaved as if they had not heard him. The Spirit of Sincerity coughed. "By Jove, gentlemen," he said, "it's clear you don't care what impression you make on me. Evidently it is for me to learn sincerity from you!"

There was once a gentleman, lately appointed to assist in the control of the exuberance of plays, who stated in public print that there had been no plays of any value written since 1885, entirely denying that this new drama was any better than the old drama, cut to the pattern of Scribe and Sardou. Certainly, novelty is not necessarily improvement. Comparison must be left to history. But it is just as well to remember that we are not born connoisseurs of plays. Without trying the new we shall not know if it is better than the old. To appreciate even drama at its true value, a man must be educated just a little. When I first went to the National Gallery in London I was struck dumb with love of Landseer's stags and a Greuze damsel with her cheek glued to her own shoulder, and became voluble from admiration of the large Turner and the large Claude hung together in that perpetual prize-fight! At a second visit I discovered Sir Joshua's "Countess of Albemarle" and old Crome's "Mousehold Heath," and did not care quite so much for Landseer's stags. And again and again I went, and each time saw a little differently, a little clearer, until at last my time was spent before Titian's "Bacchus and Ariadne," Botticelli's "Portrait of a Young Man," the Francescas, Da Messina's little "Crucifixion," the Uccello battle picture (that great test of education), the Velasquez (?) "Admiral," Hogarth's "Five Servants," and the immortal "Death of Procris." Admiration for stags and maidens—where was it?

This analogy of pictures does not pretend that our "new drama" is as far in front of the old as the "Death of Procris" is in front of Landseer's stags. Alas, no! It merely suggests that taste is encouraged by an open mind, and is a matter of gradual education.

To every man his sincere opinion! But before we form opinions, let us all walk a little through our National Gallery of drama, with inquiring eye and open mind, to see and know for ourselves. For, to know, a man cannot begin too young, cannot leave off too old. And always he must have a mind which feels it will never know enough. In this way alone he will, perhaps, know something before he dies.

And even if he require of the drama only buffoonery, or a digestive for his dinner, why not be able to discern good buffoonery from bad, and the pure digestive from the drug?

One is, I suppose, prejudiced in favour of this "new drama" of sincerity, of these poor productions of the last fifteen years, or so. It may be, indeed, that many of them will perish and fade away. But they are, at all events, the expression of the sincere moods of men who ask no more than to serve an art, which, heaven knows, has need of a little serving.


So much for the principles underlying the advance of the drama. But what about the chances of drama itself under the new conditions which will obtain when the war ends?

For the moment our world is still convulsed, and art of every kind trails a lame foot before a public whose eyes are fixed on the vast and bloody stage of the war. When the last curtain falls, and rises again on the scenery of Peace, shall we have to revalue everything? Surely not the fundamental truths; these reflections on the spirit which underlie all true effort in dramatic art may stand much as they were framed, now five years ago. Fidelity to mood, to impression, to self will remain what it was—the very kernel of good dramatic art; whether that fidelity will find a more or less favourable environment remains the interesting speculation. When we come to after-war conditions a sharp distinction will have to be drawn between the chances of sincere drama in America and Britain. It is my strong impression that sincere dramatists in America are going to have an easier time than they had before the war, but that with us they are going to have a harder. My reasons are threefold. The first and chief reason is economic. However much America may now have to spend, with her late arrival, vaster resources, and incomparably greater recuperative power, she will feel the economic strain but little in comparison with Britain. Britain, not at once, but certainly within five years of the war's close, will find that she has very much less money to spend on pleasure. Now, under present conditions of education, when the average man has little to spend on pleasure, he spends it first in gratifying his coarser tastes. And the average Briton is going to spend his little on having his broad laughs and his crude thrills. By the time he has gratified that side of himself he will have no money left. Those artists in Britain who respect æsthetic truths and practise sincerity will lose even the little support they ever had from the great public there; they will have to rely entirely on that small public which always wanted truth and beauty, and will want it even more passionately after the war. But that little public will be poorer also, and, I think, not more numerous than it was. The British public is going to be split more definitely into two camps—a very big and a very little camp. What this will mean to the drama of sincerity only those who have watched its struggle in the past will be able to understand. The trouble in Britain—and I daresay in every country—is that the percentage of people who take art of any kind seriously is ludicrously small. And our impoverishment will surely make that percentage smaller by cutting off the recruiting which was always going on from the ranks of the great public. How long it will take Britain to recover even pre-war conditions I do not venture to suggest. But I am pretty certain that there is no chance for a drama of truth and beauty there for many years to come, unless we can get it endowed in such a substantial way as shall tide it over—say—the next two decades. What we require is a London theatre undeviatingly devoted to the production of nothing but the real thing, which will go its own way, year in, year out, quite without regard to the great public; and we shall never get it unless we can find some benevolent, public-spirited person or persons who will place it in a position of absolute security. If we could secure this endowment, that theatre would become in a very few years the most fashionable, if not the most popular, in London, and even the great public would go to it. Nor need such a theatre be expensive—as theatres go—for it is to the mind and not to the eye that it must appeal. A sufficient audience is there ready; what is lacking is the point of focus, a single-hearted and coherent devotion to the best, and the means to pursue that ideal without extravagance but without halting. Alas! in England, though people will endow or back almost anything else, they will not endow or back an art theatre.

So much for the economic difficulty in Britain; what about America? The same cleavage obtains in public taste, of course, but numbers are so much larger, wealth will be so much greater, the spirit is so much more inquiring, the divisions so much less fast set, that I do not anticipate for America any block on the line. There will still be plenty of money to indulge every taste.

Art, and especially, perhaps, dramatic art, which of all is most dependent on a favourable economic condition, will gravitate towards America, which may well become in the next ten years not only the mother, but the foster-mother, of the best Anglo-Saxon drama.

My next reason for thinking that sincerity in art will have a better chance with Americans than in Britain in the coming years is psychological. They are so young a nation, we are so old; world-quakes to them are such an adventure, to us a nerve-racking, if not a health-shattering event. They will take this war in their stride, we have had to climb laboriously over it. They will be left buoyant; we, with the rest of Europe, are bound to lie for long years after in the trough of disillusionment. The national mood with them will be more than ever that of inquiry and exploit. With us, unless I make a mistake, after a spurt of hedonism—a going on the spree—there will be lassitude. Every European country has been overtried in this hideous struggle, and Nature, with her principle of balance, is bound to take redress. For Americans the war, nationally speaking, will have been but a bracing of the muscles and nerves, a clearing of the skin and eyes. Such a mental and moral condition will promote in them a deeper philosophy and a more resolute facing of truth.

And that brings me to my third reason. The American outlook will be permanently enlarged by this tremendous experience. Materially and spiritually she will have been forced to witness and partake of the life, thought, culture, and troubles of the old world. She will have, unconsciously, assimilated much, been diverted from the beer and skittles of her isolated development in a great new country. Americans will find themselves suddenly grown up. Not till a man is grown up does he see and feel things deeply enough to venture into the dark well of sincerity.

America is an eager nation. She has always been in a hurry. If I had to point out the capital defect in the attractive temperament of the American people, I should say it was a passion for short cuts. That has been, in my indifferent judgment, the very natural, the inevitable weakness in America's spiritual development. The material possibilities, the opportunities for growth and change, the vast spaces, the climate, the continual influxions of new blood and new habits, the endless shifts of life and environment, all these factors have been against that deep brooding over things, that close and long scrutiny into the deeper springs of life, out of which the sincerest and most lasting forms of art emerge; nearly all the conditions of American existence during the last fifty years have been against the settled life and atmosphere which influence men to the re-creation in art form of that which has sunk deep into their souls. Those who have seen the paintings of the Italian artist Segantini will understand what I mean. There have been many painters of mountains, but none whom I know of save he who has reproduced the very spirit of those great snowy spaces. He spent his life among them till they soaked into his nerves, into the very blood of him. All else he gave up, to see and feel them so that he might reproduce them in his art. Or let me take an instance from America. That enchanting work of art "Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn," by the great Mark Twain. What reproduction of atmosphere and life; what scent of the river, and old-time country life, it gives off! How the author must have been soaked in it to have produced those books!

The whole tendency of our age has been away from hand-made goods, away from the sort of life which produced the great art of the past. That is too big a subject to treat of here. But certainly a sort of feverish impatience has possessed us all, America not least. It may be said that this will be increased by the war. I think the opposite. Hard spiritual experience and contact with the old world will deepen the American character and cool its fevers, and Americans will be more thorough, less impatient, will give themselves to art and to the sort of life which fosters art, more than they have ever yet given themselves. Great artists, like Whistler and Henry James, will no longer seek their quiet environments in Europe. I believe that this war will be for America the beginning of a great art age; I hope so with all my heart. For art will need a kind home and a new lease of life.

A certain humble and yet patient and enduring belief in himself and his own vision is necessary to the artist. I think that Americans have only just begun to believe in themselves as artists, but that this belief is now destined to grow quickly. America has a tremendous atmosphere of her own, a wonderful life, a wonderful country, but so far she has been skating over its surface. The time has come when she will strike down, think less in terms of material success and machine-made perfections. The time has come when she will brood, and interpret more and more the underlying truths, and body forth an art which shall be a spiritual guide, shed light, and show the meaning of her multiple existence. It will reveal dark things, but also those quiet heights to which man's spirit turns for rest and faith in this bewildering maze of a world. And to this art about to come—art inevitably moves slowly—into its own, to American drama, poetry, fiction, music, painting, sculpture—sincerity, an unswerving fidelity to self, alone will bring the dignity worthy of a great and free people.


(1913-1917).

John Galsworthy

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