Part 2 will follow shortly. For she used the car as a jitney bus. But what is uniquely American in American literature? It may be severely planned, or it may ramble in ungirdled mood, but it has its own point of view that marks it from the short story proper, or the merely personal memoir. Somehow, when one is caught in the web of that exquisite, considered prose, the awkward symbols of speech seem transparent; we come close to a mans mind. The familiar names, the familiar rhythm of its words, its wonderful well-remembered stories of things long past,—like that of Esther, one of the best in English,—the eloquent anger of the prophets for the people then who looked as though they were alive, but were really dead at heart, all is solace and home to me.
Black specters danced in ecstasy over my bed. If that were taken away, there would be litde visible change, but the heart would be gone. And always there are the rainbows. By breakfast-time, nothing useful would have been accomplished. It is too late, after a busy day, and at that hour, to begin overtime on fashioning a new and better planet out of cosmic dust. But surely there should be a congenial fra- ternity of spirit among all who use the English tongue in print.
I know it is my world also; but I cannot help that. It is from the preface to A Personal Record, that fascinating auto- biographical volume in which Conrad tells the curious story of a Polish boy who ran away to sea and began to write in Eng- lish. I don't mind editing my files. For a short term we have noted that the ship appears to have reached a point of arrest in her foundering droop. Cigarettes glowed like firefiies in a forest.
The atmosphere that is so familiar and comforting to us, is to many of them an environment of dread possibilities. His interest in fruit is intimate, as he has been for some years an engineer in the sea service of the United Fruit Company, with a Mediterranean interim — reflected in much of his recent writing — during the War. The groaning rose to a shriek, and the little flame jumped in a panic, and nearly left its white column. It descends with ever-growing speed. Maeterlinck, born a subject of King Leopold, belongs to French literature.
Some hours past, we saw small flot- sam that may have come from the decks of a French mail steamer, torpedoed three days ago. No angel was Mary White, but an easy girl to live with, for she never nursed a grouch five minutes in her life. Conrad's career is too well known to be annotated here. We turn in under an archway behind a theatre and adjacent to the stage-door of the Opera House. For most of his life, he lived in Roslyn Heights, Nassau County, Long Island, commuting to the city on the Long Island Rail Road, about which he wrote affectionately. Should we force our wet shoes on again and plod through the snowy streets to the temporary mess-shack? The mind at rest beside that light, when the house is asleep, and the consequential affairs of the urgent world have diminished to their right proportions because we see them distantly from another and a more tranquil place in the heavens where duty, honour, witty arguments, controversial logic on great questions, appear such as will leave hardly a trace of fossil in the indurated mud which presently will cover them—the mind then certainly smiles at cleverness. She found one girl reading in the toilet, because there was no better place for a colored girl to loaf, and it inflamed her sense of injustice and she became a nagging harpie to those who, she thought, could remedy the evil.
I see the boys lying asleep between shifts, their enormous straw hats cov- ering their faces as they sprawl. A Gazette carrier passed— a High School boy friend— and she waved at him, but with her bridle hand; the horse veered quickly, plunged into the parking where the low-hanging limb faced her, and, while she still looked back waving, the blow came. It is bare of illusions. For my part, they are too big for bedfellows. American literature is English literature made in this country. As for the literary pundits, the high priests of the Temple of Letters, it is interesting and helpful occasionally for an acolyte to swinge them a good hard one with an incense-burner, and cut and run, for a change, to something outside their rubrics.
The familiar bridge, on which so many of our safe sea-days have been spent, is canted at an angle that makes foothold un- easy. Our poets, enamored of night- ingales and Persian gardens, have not altogether for- gotten the mocking-bird and the woods of Maine. Arnold Bennett is reported to have said that if Balzac had seen Pittsburgh, he would have cried : ''Give me a pen! Poe influenced Rossetti; Whitman influ- enced Henley. Hurrying from the mess-decks as en- joined, the quick movement gathers way and intensity : the decks become jammed by the pressure, the gang- ways and passages are blocked in the struggle. Morley graduated from this same school in 1910 as valedictorian. Probably English and French writers may be similarly classified as provincial or not.
For the truth is, there are times when we are too weary to remain attentive and thankful under the improving eye, kindly but severe, of the seers. Wells and Arnold Ben- nett particularly amused and diverted her. Some- times they are as richly diaphanous as a precious stone, and glow from within with a deep, inexplicable light. I think T can offer you, In this parliament of philomaths, entertainment of the Preface vii most genuine sort; and having said so much, I might well retire and be heard no more. Great planes of water slide past. Howells's latest unromantic novel, most of our books are eminent for just those virtues which Amer- ica is supposed to lack.
In such places, one is aware, with an almost insupportable and yet com- forting certitude, that both men and nations are hur- ried onwards to their ruin or ending as inevitably as 38 Rupert Brooke this dark flood. Artistic expression springs from life ultimately but not immediately. An alarmed cry from aloft — a half -uttered order to the steersman — an explosion, low down in the bowels of the ship, that sets her reeling in her stride! Marquis is a true philosopher and wit, his humor adorns a rich and mellow gravity. I know those men I have named are transcendent, the greater lights. It may be likened to a river which is swollen throughout its course by new tributaries and by the seepages of its banks; it reflects the life through which it flows, taking color from the shores; the shores modify it, but its power and volume descend from distant head- waters and affluents far up stream. We had counted on a proportion of the troops being on the deck, a steadying number to balance the sudden rush from below that we foresaw in emergency. It is because they are less in volume, and because the water does not fall so much into one place.