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November 27, 1921 - Image 1

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Tir lAirt43an &1Bthj
A Letter About Stephen Crane
By Theodore Dreiser

Editorial Note - The following
letter was written by Theodore
Dreiser to the Schoolmen's club
of Newark, New Jersey, regard-
ing the unveiling of a bronze tab-
let to the memory of Stephen
Crane. In these days, when the
"Realists," young and old, are
making a determined and spec-
tacular fight, and literary inter-
est, whether favorable or antag-
onistic, is focused on them, this
letter by Mr. Dreiser should add
more interest to matters.
Los Angeles,
Nov. 2, 1921.
Max J. Herzberg, Esq.,
Chairman, Arrangements Committee,
Schoolmen's Club, Newark, N. J.
Dear Mr. Herzberg:
Your letter of October twenty-
fourth, asking for an appropriate
word in connection with the unveil-'
ing of a bronze tablet to Stephen
Crane in Newark on November sev-,
enth, reaches me today. It pleases me
no little to learn that the Schoolmen's
Club is to honor Stephen Crane with
a bronze tablet. He was among the
very earliest of my purely American
literary adinirations and one of the
few writers who stood forward intel-
lectually and artistically at a time
when this nation was as thoroughly
submerged in romance and sentimen-
tality and business as it is today. At
that time, in so far as America was
concerned, there were but James and'
Howells and Mark Twain among the
elder realists and Garland and Fuller,
and Crane as beginners. Of this
younger group Crane was a peer. And
he certainly had more of a directness
and force and daring than most of his
elders. "Maggie" and "George's Moth-
er," while little more than sketches
in the best sense, bear all the marks
of a keen and unbiassed sympathy with
life, as well as a high level of literary

At this time, when realism, on the
one hand, stands in danger of becom-
ing a trivial fad, and pastime, a task
to which every seeker after a little
notoriety seeks to set his hand and,
on the other hand, can only be writ-
ten with a vice-crusader leaning over
one's shoulder to see whether the
American home and school, however
dull and ignorant, are being properly
preserved in their dullness and ignor-
ance, it is just as well that an organ-
ization somewhere should take upon
itself to honor a genius like Crane,
and so to write itself down as not
entirely submissive to the American
program of Business First, and Sweet-
ness and Light afterwards.
The little that Crane did, as you
will note, was done with fire and a
conscious or unconscious independ-
ence of our strawy and smothering
notions and theories in regard to let-
ters. Also it boded well for Ameri-
can letters. He took our hampering
hurdles without a thought or a care.
The "Red Badge of Courage" is a fine
picture of war. And it is not pleas-
ant. There is not much sweetness
about it and very little uplift. It ends
as it begins, grimly, and without any
solution, moral or spiritual. This in
itself is wrong, according to our mor-
al, and hence, our spiritual standards.
If you doubt it study our current
books and magazines. But let that be.
You are putting in its place a bronze
tablet which commemorates what he
'did. I hope that the sight of it will
inspire at least an occasional literary
aspirant to be fearless in his inter-
pretations of life. If so, it will not
have been put in place in vain. And
so we may pray, then, that the Gods
will endow him with a divine fire. If
so, our American vice societies and
their associate dullards can be safely
trusted to do the rest, i. e., make his
life a burden and his name anathema.

The above picture of Theodore Dreiser is not from life
but from a modelled bust. It can scarcely be called an excel-
lent likeness but it shows more than would a photograph from
life. It is imepressionistic, symbolic of the seer looking
through crystal, unshaded by colored lights, at the whole spec-
tacle of life. As Dreiser's books express naive astonish-
ment, delight, and terror over the things which he records, so
this picture reveals the wonderment, almost a staggering
unbelief. Yet, it expresses more; the unuttered words, "Here
is life! Why doesn't someone put it down." And on the face
is recorded the determination to put the cosmic scene without
alteration into writing G. D. E.

"Popular Music" Warmly Defended by McCormack
(By T. F. D.) subject and in spite of his hatred of will appeal to the people, and it mat- makes someone in trouble a bit strong-
"Don't you thinik the 'popular' songs interviewers and interviews, he tern not whether Handel or an un- er to keep up the fight, that's real
like 'Mother Machree' and 'Little Grey couldn't let his "songs of the people" known wrote it. music. Yes, it's not only real music
Home in the West' are debasing the go undefended, and in that strong, "Why, do.you know, if I can get a but it's greater than all the master-
tastes of the American people for the native brogue, which makes it a few more people to understand music's pieces ever written if it can reach the
classics?" pleasure to listen to him, he continued charm, to listen to music who haven't people when the masterpieces can't.
And then the storm broke. to defend them. listened before, or a few to come to "And who shall say what is good and
For such a question to John McCor- "Who says these songs are not the the better things of music by means what isn't? When a few highbrows
mack was a blow at his pet theory of thing to sing? A lot of highbrow of touching their hearts first, I will be like it and the great mass of the peo-
music, and he reacted almost as if it critics who think they know music, satisfied. And I'll sing to them as ple don't, can you call it great? But
were a personal affront. and haven't the warmth of the human long as God Almighty gives me the when all the people like it, and will
"What do you mean 'popular?' What soul in them! They think because voice to sing with, and the heart to listen to it, and love it, who is there
do you mean, 'debase?' And what they see the name of Schubert or feel for the people. who can say it isn't great, and who
makes you think they are not as good Handel after a song that its worth "God bless you, my boy," he said, can say it isn't worthy?
music as ever was sung? " he burst is guaranteed, and from then on the softening into a calmer, more contem- It isn't because he can't sing those
out. "Why, Mother Machree has touch- song is alright. oRt, both men have plative mood, "after all's said and "classical" songs that McCormack
ed more hearts today than anything written some of the most atrocious done, what is good music? If it doesn't like them-not at all! For
Verdi or Wagner ever wrote." things ever published as songs! No, touches a tired heart; if it makes a when the Metropolitan' Opera uses
John McCormack was on his favorite give me a song that is beautiful and sorrow less hard to bear; or if it (Continued on Page 4)


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