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November 25, 1923 - Image 4

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PAGE F'OUR

THE MICHIGAN DAtL f

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1923.

___PU H IHIA A~ UDY NVME 3 93

A CRITIC ; BEARDSLEY'S ART
FICTONIZES o(Continued from Page one)
FICTINIZE ony as it cals forth our emotions-
they are the mediums of transfer fromt
DON JUAN, by Ludwig Lewsohn. this world to that. The meaning of
Boni & Lveright, 1923. $2.00. this evil is as incomprehensible to us
The only chance this book has for as the idea of the universal and be-
just criticism is at the hands of such cause the road t it is full of terrible
youngsters as me. The professional dangers we avoid it.
critics in their Jesuitical, log rolling We have childish ideas of evil, th
way will insist that it is good liters- products of our limited experience.
ture, or keep silent on that point, be- We picture the devil as a snarling.
cause they, perhaps, have a novel brawling, savage beast and are natur-
inder the mattress. ally horrified to see him as perhaps
The initial assumption that all a co-god. We cannot know pure evil
books not textbooks nor detective any more than we can know pore good
stories are literature is, of course,f and our misfortune is to flee from the
false. More eminent men than I have 6nse and by doing so miss the other.
remarked on that; and such is the neither good nor evil are hman so 1
case of Mr. Lewisohn's "Don Juat."s would be justified in calling them the
it holds no claim to literature. same thing expressed differently. W
Now this appeals to me as not be- 'ecoi at the sight of evil because it is
ing the fault of Mr. Lewisohn so such an unaccustomed sight. Beardsley was
as it is the effect of his training. That broader in his view.
is, he probably had no deliberate in- Beardsley's art is dedecadent art.
tention to compose a precis of his at- It calls to mind the splendor of an
titude generally toward life or par- empire before its fall. The gorgeous
ticularly toward marriage. Yet that dress, the perfect elegance of figure,
is what he does, the marvelous lustre and sparkle of a
To be sure, it is inevitable that a highly cultivated group searching for
writer should imply his philosophy in a new ideal are suggested. But the
whatever he writes; but custom has it ideal sought is one that wrecks and
that in literature this statement destroys mere humans, an ideal that
should te implicit. In "Don Juan" paints a sardonic smile on the death
the statement is explicit. head. The fire has been carefully laid
The situation lr; Lewisohn choes and flames for a brief, powerful,
is legitimate enough. Lucien Curtis cleansing moment but the air dissi-
is to wed to a woman for whom he pates the spirit that would soar and
has ceased to feel and affection. Meet- flattens the ideal to cold, grey ashes.
ing a woman in whom ne finds a re- With Beardsley it is as if the fire had
sponsive note, he seeks divorce as a produced instead of reduced. as though
solution to his problem. His wife the flame had blazed in a vacuum.
blocks this action on the grounds of The result of such a thing can on1l
conventional goodness,-the "home" be suggested in human form but -the
inust he preserved. Outworn social suggestion is heightened by inhumail
forms are summoned as her shadowy forms whose grotesque and startling
but efficient allies. Prohibited from features have a horrible charm, the
the wman he wants and unsatisfied charm of the snake's eye.
with otherwomen, Lucien finds pro- -* * =
fnise of peace in the philosophic con- Let me show you a few of Beards-
templation of.his oal in tradition- leys -drawings, two or three of those
shattered, post-war- Europe. that have moved te most powerfuly.
-A Don nan by the inexorable ac- My translation of them to words will
tion of eustom - and tradition; caught e -woefully inadequate - but perhaps
'n the loom of safety and woven into I can suggest. the emotions they give
the web-against his 4nstincts and rea- me. One of them is- before me now.
son-that is his case. Like many of Beardsley's it has re-a
The art -of the story-teller in this -aolved ts-elf into a design 'that has
book les not in the people who em- neither. time nor place. -Its very con-
body the ideas, but in the present- cept-ion is unreal. First you see a
Lion of the ideas- themse-lves. Mr. Lew- young man in a long, flowing robes.
bahnis -da critic- by training and pro- His eyes are narrowed, his eyebrows
fession; his faculty is the critical j perplexed, and he is listening to a
faculty-he can do no other than what bodiless head that hovers near him.
he does, and what he -does is not lit- it-is a head with white hair and-some-
erature. - It is what has been well- thing infinitely old in its youthful
caled the thesis novel as such it is face. -A slightly mocking smile
-apably bandl. The -foliage of tn- touches -its lips and its eyes triumph-
necessary .- plot and character has antly but carefully watch the young
ruthlessly been- pruned away, leaving man. The slim graceful candles- fixed
oly the tragic and remorseless logic in fantastically beautiful hohlers, their
Of- the situation to work tself -out. nsmoky flames wavering -in the slight
Cast in the form of literature- as iobreeze, stand in the center. -Back of
is "Don Juan" stands as a dangerous the head rises the Slim, sparkling fig-
document. It-will command a-wider ure of a woman. She is stiffened as
attention than tracts or pulpit-pound- if by sheer- force of will, she seems to
ing, and its attitude is rehellio s. Mr. be on the very edge of twisting into
Lewisohn is a true rebel; and he ap- a snarling, writhing demon. She rises
peals tof-the young men and women pale and erect held by a diabolic
of the land because he is an idealist power that glitters in her eyes. She
(a notorious condition of youth.) makes the candles colorless and cold.
He preaches the integrity of the the darkness damp and poisonous: The
soul, a sufficiefitly innocuous doe- fantastic beauty of the scene fades
trine in the abstract, but when con- before her strange splendor. There isj
sidered in. the context of a practical a fascinating horror, a lurking fear,
institution like marriage and its in this picture, a horror and a fear
amendment, divorce, it is thoroughly that pore beauty lifts into an all-pow-
dangerous. The soul in its straight- erful and incomprehensible world.
forward flight toward the bright lamp The beauty rises in the splendor of a
of the ideal is likely to tip over mysterious creation.
or severely joggle the law and order And here is another drawing, one
of tae land. Therefore Mr. Lewisohn,; for Oscar Wilde's "Salome," a fitting
as a teacher of youth, is subversive ground for Beardsley's genius to start
to the moral structure of the time and its flight from. It is'of a woman, this
hence is eligible for suppression and drawing, of a fvoman in a long, black

other machinations of Comstockery. robe, from which her arms and neck
To: Panurge stretch in white sharpness. Before
--aher rises a fuzzy black growth sur-
mounted by a basin and looking like
a toad-stool in a - dark, wet cavern.
On the basin is a man's head, the
AA mouth open, the hair in tangled con.
fusion, and from it blood drips in a
)congulated black-red stream. There
is a wild stare in the eyes of the wo-j

man a stare like triumph fading into should like to have you see. The beau-
madness the madness of a victory that iful, White body of a girl is twisted
was .ternal defeat. The drooping in the sensuous curve of an eastern
features of the severed head are an
uinhosly travesty on life. A greater dance. Graceful flowers, like the an-
crinie than has ever been committed ternae of the butterfly, spring from
has reached its consummation and her heair and seem to sway slightly
we are carried to the very brink of as the body continues its slow move-
the result. The gaping head, the hor- ment. She is lightly and gracefully
ror on the woman's face, express a draped and there is a hot, fleshy sug-
greater tragedy than the flesh has gestion about her that her slanted
ever known. "The Dancer's Reward'" eyes suddenly arrest. Those eyes make
Hre is still another drawing I ' you conscious of something else in
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