George Cary Eggleston.

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We couldn't even afford it when Theodore got his first
sabbatical. We had to wait for the second, and save and
save and save. God knows if we'll ever be able to do it
again, on Theodore's salary."

"It is a shame," I said. "The finest work is so often the
most poorly paid."

"A shame?" she cried, becoming very lively. "Yes.
But whose fault do you think it is? There are plenty of fat
salaries going at the university, believe you me. But
why is Theodore nothing but a lecturer not even an
assistant professor, mind you after fourteen years
work at the same university?"

How like the old days !

"He's not very worldly," I murmured.

"Oh, that's a wonderful way of saying it, I know." She
was all pent up. It must have been quite a time since she
had unburdened her heart. She put her hand on my arm
and said, impulsively: "Listen! I want to have a little
talk with you. Let's go on the upper deck, in a corner,
somewhere where he won't find us."

I followed her miserably. We found our way to a dark


corner, and Theresa pulled two deck-chairs together
energetically. We sat down and she began.

"I know you admire Theodore, and I know he thinks
the world of you. I wouldn't be talking like this to you
otherwise, would I?"

I made a vague noise in my throat, but she did not
wait for a coherent answer. I remembered now her prac-
tice of interspersing her monologues with questions
which were intended only to test the attention of the
listener, not to elicit a reply.

"There's something wrong with him, isn't there?
Don't pretend, out of loyalty. Everybody knows there's
something wrong with him. I knew it when I married
him, and I hoped to be able to change him. God knows
I've tried, as every wife should. It was my duty. But I'm
beaten. Do you know what that means?"

I made the same noise as before.

"I'm beaten. He needs something more than my help.
He needs a psychoanalyst. Yes! That's the conclusion
I've reached. And that's why I'm talking to you."

I started. I was beginning to get afraid of the conver-

"You remember Gussart," she said, eagerly, "who
used to teach psychology at the university, and then went
and set up in private practice in New York?"

"He's not a psychoanalyst," I answered. "He's an
individual psychologist."

"Oh, let's not quibble about that. The man's a real
wonder. I'll tell you what he did for my younger sister,
Janet. She's married to a very decent boy by the name of
Tom Sutcliffe, who has quite an important position with
the Breton Engineering Company in New York. Until
about three years ago they were very, very happy, I
mean Tom and Janet. And then they passed through


the most terrible crisis. Everybody thought they were
going to break up. It wasn't money. Tom didn't lose his
job. Only the president of the company shifted Tom to the
personnel department, where he had to hire and fire men,
and Tom said he couldn't stand it. I mean he couldn't
face the men he had to fire. He used to come home
evenings black and miserable. He said he couldn't sit
there drawing a big salary for acting as the company's
executioner. Those were his exact words. He wanted to
go and be a bricklayer or something. He carried on
dreadfully. And Janet is such a sensitive girl I can't
tell you. He made her days and nights miserable. She
even had to come and live with me for two months. Of
course in a way I can understand Tom, but after all Janet
was right, though she didn't face it in the right way. So
I told her to send Tom to Gussart and she did. And I
want to tell you you'd be amazed, simply amazed
I'm not exaggerating how Gussart set Tom on his feet
again. I don't know what kind of complex he found
in Tom; but whatever it was, he found it, and got it out,
that's all. He taught Tom how to fire a man without
getting excited and panicky. That's what Tom always
complained about: it made him panicky. Gussart made
Tom see this was really wonderful that you could
do a man a service by firing him the right way, so as
not to discourage him, I mean like firing him soullessly,
not caring how he took it. You see what I mean?"

I muttered something to myself.

"Exactly. He taught Tom to take a pride in his work,
to face it creatively. And I can't tell you what a differ-
ence it made. Tom became more and more cheerful. He
would come home and tell Janet how he'd handled this
case, and that case and difficult cases too, men who'd
worked for the firm ten or fifteen years. Don't you think


it's marvelous, what psychoanalysis can help to do?"

The cooing, panting voice let up for a minute. I said:
"Yes, I've heard of some extraordinary cases."

"You see! There you are. I've got only one hope now,
and that's to send Theodore to a man like Gussart, so
that he can get rid of his inferiority complex. That's all it
really is! That's why he doesn't stand up for his rights,
and lets everyone bully him and fool him and cheat

She was panting more heavily, and leaning over.

"The things they do to him, the insults, the way they
pass him over and ignore him. And when I tell him to
stand up and fight like a man, he only smiles. Sometimes
I think I'll go mad. Don't you think a woman must have
a great love for a man to stick to him through all that?
Don't you?"

"Yes," I said.

"But of course when I spoke about his going to Gus-
sart, he said, No. He doesn't think he ought to. He says,
'I know I've got many faults, but I don't think I ought
to go to Gussart.' Then I tell him, of course, that nobody
ever wants to go to a psychoanalyst. They all fight
against it. They want to stay sick, because deep down
they really like to be that way, no matter how it makes
others suffer. I've begged him on my knees. I've threat-
ened to leave him though I know I couldn't do that.
And he knows it, too. Oh yes, he knows it, and he takes
advantage of it. Don't you think so?"

There was a queer, sick feeling rising in me, a hot and
cold feeling of approaching nausea. I wanted to get away.
I said: "It's very hard for me to judge. It's so many
years . . ."

"But I want you to help me," she begged, coming so
close that her breath was on my face. "I want you to try


and persuade him. Only of course he mustn't know that
I asked you. That would spoil everything. But he won't
suspect, if you go about it the right way. I mean you
could begin by asking him about his work, and how
much he earns now, and pretend to be surprised that
such a gifted man isn't a professor yet, and then

"No," I said, in a strangled voice, "I'd rather not."

"I wonder if you know what this means to me," she

"No, no, I won't do it," I said, harshly.

"Friends are such cowards," she cried. "All they think
of is how to seem to be nice, instead of how to help you."

"I'm sorry," I said.

The tone of my voice convinced her that it was useless
to persist. She rose from her chair, and when I too had
risen she said, "Now I suppose you'll go and repeat
everything to Theodore."

"Certainly not!" I exclaimed, horrified.

"That's what they all say," she flung back, bitterly.

After this incident there was no hope left of a quiet,
uninterrupted talk with Birrel. The prospect, or lack of
it, depressed me; first on general grounds, because my old
love for him had returned like a tidal wave, and I
wanted to tell him that I knew where I had gone wrong;
I wanted to hear from him, also, what I ought to do.
Second, I had been teased, and even stirred, by his
curious remark about something that he had never man-
aged to put across to me, something that he was destined
- so he felt to make me understand, he knew not
exactly why or how. But there was less than a day between
Regio and Naples; in Naples the Birrels were to spend
forty-eight hours, then catch one of the large Italian
liners to New York. Theresa was not likely to relax her
vigilance during this brief period.


So it turned out. I could have both of them together,
but neither of them separately. Still I hung on. We ar-
rived at Naples in the midst of a sirocco. The undistin-
guished streets were grey with dust in the thick, blurred
sunlight. I had no appetite for sightseeing. We went up,
on my advice, to a little hotel just below the San Martino
monastery. Thence, at least, we had the view of the bay,
and of Vesuvius with her sister hill opposite, and when
we sat on the balcony an occasional gust of wind, soon
discouraged, brought an illusion of momentary coolness.
| The Birrels were out a good deal more than I. Theo-

dore was not affected by the heat; Theresa insisted that,
heat or no heat, she had to get everything out of her trip.
They had seen Genoa, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome
and Brindisi on the outward journey; they had left
Naples, Capri and Pompeii for the return journey. On
the second day they left early, and we arranged to meet
in Pompeii at three o'clock. I told Theodore (who spoke a
passable Italian) to take the trolley to the railroad station,
whence it was a short ride to Pompeii. The conducted
tour if there was one that day was too expensive
for them; besides, it was not what Theodore wanted. I
explained very carefully that they were to meet me in
the little restaurant at the side of the station, in front of
the gate opening into Pompeii.

I have been in Naples five or six times, and I have
never failed to visit Pompeii. It pleases me to think that I
know its streets and principal buildings at least as well
as those of New York, London and Paris; and I have
often thought with amusement of making an appoint-
ment there it would have to be with some charming
woman say at the corner of Nola and Vico streets.
Yet the exhumed city itself, or the memory of it, does
not fill me with pleasant thoughts. I am drawn to it rather


by a species of depression looking for the outlet of a
symbol; and that depression has nothing to do with our
usual graveyard reflections on mortality, futility, the
brevity of the mortal span and the rest of it.

When I got to the appointed place, shortly after three,
the Birrels were not there. I sat down at a table. The
restaurant is small, ugly, shabby and ill-furnished. The
table-cloths are spotty and threadbare. You ask for
something to eat or drink, and the moment you sit down
two "musicians 55 materialise from somewhere, even if
the place is practically deserted, and break into a duet,
accompanying themselves on mandolin and guitar. They
sing, without the slightest interest, Santa Lucia, There Are
Smiles that Make You Happy, Mama Mia, and similar pieces,
two wretched, ragged, undersized, unshaven lazzaroni.
After fifteen minutes of this unutterably depressing nag-
ging they put out their hands for tips.

It is always so. It was so on that stifling afternoon, when
I was the only customer in the restaurant. I had not the
energy to chase them away. I looked out of the dirty
window-panes and felt my heart sinking lower and lower.
Then, at half past three, I decided that the Birrels had
lost their way, or changed their minds, and I went out of
the restaurant into the ruins.

So frightful was the heat that I did not encounter even
a guide; no, not even a peddler of photographic repro-
ductions of obscene Pompeian frescos. I wandered slowly
down the Via Marina into the Strada delPAbondanza,
with the sun burning my back. Then I turned left, re-
traced my way by the Strada di Nola, and went along
by the Road of Tombs which leads to Herculaneum.
Tombs in Pompeii really the last word in superfluous
emphasis. The grass-covered hills on my left, hiding un-
excavated ruins, were not less suggestive of death than


the alley through which I was walking. Yet it was not
death that lay so heavily on my spirits, not the thought of
the vanity of all human effort. This sickness and wretch-
edness of the heart, which always assailed me in Pompeii,
was connected with my hatred of Roman civilisation, its
immense brutality and ruthlessness, its crassness and
furious materialism.

Sometimes I have been among ruins, or in graveyards,
where I have conjured up (wrongly, perhaps, but that
does not matter) vague pictures of a kindly, gentle life
which was once and is no more. Then, instead of depres-
sion, I have experienced a feeling of sweetness, of grati-
tude and even of encouragement. How heartening to
think of some gracious, generous episode in the biologic
history of the planet! Even if it never returns, it was
worth while! Though this earth will at last fall into the
sun, though for the rest of time there will be nothing but
a blind rushing to and fro of lifeless masses in black,
immeasurable space, it will somehow have meant some-
thing that, in a certain corner, at a certain, unrecallable
moment, there blossomed love and the happiness which
springs from love.

But in Pompeii I recalled always that purse-proud
and upright patrician, Cato the elder, who used to turn
an honest penny by selling his old, decrepit slaves; I
recalled the monstrous destruction of an entire civilisa-
tion, the Carthaginian; I recalled the brutal property
laws, the slavery and the gladiatorial shows. It was not
the memory of individual maniacs, like Nero or Elagaba-
lus, that sickened me, just as I could not find relief in the
thought of such pure figures as Marcus Aurelius and
Pertinax: it was the entirety of that phenomenon sub-
sumed under the name of Rome, from the early days of
harsh, self-righteous and rapacious puritanism to the


latter days of parasitism and perversion: that heartless-
ness and ambition, that lust for power, that hunger for
triumphant experience which made such an impression
on the drivelling genius of Nietzsche. No thought for the
weak, no patience with the unhappiness of the imcompe-
tent, no concession to helplessness: only an immense,
organised jungle, out of which rose, as the "best" spiritual
product, a proud, cold, loveless system of ethics.

This it was that oppressed me as I plodded dully from
street to street, encountering no one. It seemed to me,
also, that the world had gone forward very little since
that day when Vesuvius sent down its torrents of lava
on the city, and one horrified inhabitant, before he fled
or died, had scribbled on a wall the words "Sodoma!
Gomora!" He had had time, in that awful moment, to
remember an earlier world doomed like his own; and I
thought now of my world, also doomed, perhaps, but to a
cataclysm of our own making. For the world was be-
coming Romanised ! And there was no escape ! We were
trapped in evil, we were compelled to confirm evil and
contribute to it. And even those who spoke of making
the world "a better place to live in" were harsh and
masterful, diminishing on every hand the amount of for-
bearance and forgiveness current among the human

It was getting late, and the gates of Pompeii would soon
close. Tired and despondent, I began to make my way
back. The sun was already over the Tyrrhenean sea,
and Vesuvius glowed behind me as I came down the Via
del Labirintu, dragging my feet along the smooth, wide
cobblestones. Then, as I passed along the House of the
Faun, I caught sight of two living figures, as motionless as
the nymph standing at the center of the empty basin in
the courtyard. It was the Birrels. They were seated in the


shade. Theresa was leaning against the wall, asleep. Her
hat was on one side. Her face, relaxed, was like that of a
sick, unhappy child, which had for a moment achieved a
little self-forge tfulness. Theodore sat at the edge of the
pavement, half turned toward Theresa. On his face there
was a look of such peculiar, piercing sweetness that I
stopped dead, and involuntarily put my hand up to my
heart. So I stood for a moment, frightened by something
I could not understand. Then, becoming aware of my
presence, he looked up and lifted a finger to his lips to
bid me be silent.

The Meaning of Modern Architecture


ARCHITECTURE is a social art, and every architec-
2\ tural movement has a social origin. Life, today,
differs radically even from that of a hundred years ago,
and it is the great change in the fundamental character-
istics of our lives that is necessitating a new form of
shelter. Life today is mobile, swift, dynamic. We move
freely and quickly from place to place, office to home,
city to suburb. Activities crowd our days, and time is
weighed as never before.

On the architect has fallen the problem of so construct-
ing buildings and houses (and even cities) that all move-
ment is smooth and quick and economical of time and
energy. Order is the order of the day. For our massed
activities cannot be carried on in disorder. This necessity
is the root of modern architecture, as functional order is
its very essence. And modern architecture has come to
look differently from all previous forms, because it is as
different as the life it is designed for.

The forces that changed society had their origin in the
industrial revolution. Transforming the nature of pro-
duction and distribution transformed society. So modern
architecture has been made possible by the development
of modern industry. New materials, methods and tech-
nique not only enlarged the possibilities of building, but
fundamentally changed its character. Steel and concrete,
increasing strength, opened new structural vistas. They
gave us freedom of ground plan, and independence from
supporting wall. The whole building bulk was loosened
and lightened. Space, formerly so firmly inclosed, could
now be treated as something free. Walls, no longer



bearing the weight of the building, became little more
than a sheathing. The windows, gradually enlarged,
often came to replace the walls themselves. The whole
transition was from the fixed and inflexible to the free
and flexible.

The new technique permits us to do things that could
not be done before. We can now span larger spaces and
greater heights. We build according to our technique,
even as the builders of the pyramids did, or the Greeks,
or the men of the renaissance achieving the great Gothic.
And the architecture of steel, cement, and glass is natu-
rally enough far different from that of stone or wood.

In the latter part of the last century came the first
liberation from the bondage of historical styles. The
engineers were the innovators more than the architects,
and all through the development of modern architecture
we see how the engineer led the architect again to the
path of creative work. Such structures as the Crystal
Palace in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the
several arcades of steel and glass scattered throughout
Europe, showed the way to a new type of structure. The
Art Nouveau movement, breaking with accepted tradi-
tion, added its weight of individual experiment in

A direct inspiration in America came from the silos
and grain elevators of the middle west, pure utilitarian
structures of simple geometric form. H. H. Richardson
at the end of the last century was an important influence
in the trend towards the functional. He made an invalua-
ble contribution in freeing architecture from geometric-
space rigidity, and in his later work his rooms were ar-
ranged according to their working relationship. Though
he still worked with stone, his massive walls were opened
up by wide windows, and an effort to lighten the bulk is


clearly recognizable, which the advent of steel was to
solve completely.

The problem of structure was first seriously considered
in this country by Louis Sullivan, a great artist and a
great draftsman, unfortunately winning but slight recog-
nition during his lifetime. It was Sullivan who formulated
part of the philosophy of the new architecture with the
simple words, "Form follows function." Through long
years of experiment he succeeded in developing a realistic
approach to architecture. In the Wainright building he
first used the new steel frame construction, and he real-
ized then the radical change in architecture that this
new method of building would bring about. With Sulli-
van it was rather more recognition than accomplishment.
In 1891, Burnham and Root built the Monadnock block
in Chicago. This building still combined masonry with
its steel skeleton but it was frankly and courageously

Sullivan's disciple, Frank Lloyd Wright, finally broke
completely with the past, and at the turn of the century
brought the principles of his master to realization.
Wright, a gifted genius, was the creator of a new though
personal architectural form. His floor plans threw 7 aside all
adherence to traditional concepts of balanced symmetry.
His revolt against symmetry, his innovation of banded
fenestration, his breaking down of interior walls, per-
mitting his rooms to flow one into another, are only a few
of his innovations. Europe recognized the great value of
Wright's logical insistence on organic architecture, and
even as early as 1910 his influence was felt in Germany.
Wright's work, especially in small houses, is among the
finest contributions to American architecture.

We have repeatedly noted how, from its earliest phase,
modern architecture moved about the idea of function.


This theme became its very essence. It sought to be that
architecture which would facilitate the kind of work or
life conducted within it. This controlled its form, in
spite of all past styles. Modern architecture is also
"organic." Wright, who had a deep feeling for the nat-
ural, was the great exponent of organic architecture. In
his building designs, the component parts complement
and flow out of each other, even as the building itself is
indigenous to the life and soil from which it rises. The aim
of modern architecture is perfect correlation. It admits
nothing to the building, in structure or decoration, unless
it be related to the purpose of the building itself. It is
founded on creative observation of nature. "Form fol-
lows function" is a biological truth. This is stating the
morphological law of all organic growth, as Behrendt
pointed out, and the primal law of all nature. "A sense of
the organic in Nature is indispensable to the architect,
and the knowledge of the relation of form to function is
at the root of his practice," said Wright.

The buildings of the modern architect rise naturally
from the earth, and remain architecturally true to the
sources of their being. The setting is so carefully con-
sidered, because the building is built in harmony with it.
Often the grass, trees and even the light and air are all
treated as if they were part of the building materials.

The modern architect seeks that a building (1) ex-
press its purpose adequately, (2) serve its function fully,
(3) use its site advantageously, (4) be related to its sur-
roundings. Only then can it be said to be a good piece of
architecture. To him architecture is the serious business
of sheltering man's activities so that they can be per-
formed in the best possible manner. Modern architecture
might be said to be a revolt against all " picture-book"
architecture with its make-shift and make-believe, and


essential dishonesty. That copying and dishonesty was
accepted for years as the sole purpose of architecture.
We have banks that look like Greek temples, skyscrapers
that look like Gothic churches, schools that look like
Tudor castles. What is to be said for the architect that
sacrifices daylight to achieve Gothic windows? Such a
principle as "balanced symmetry," in the Georgian
and French renaissance, is without meaning if it destroy
the use for which rooms are planned. Efficient circulation
within and between the rooms is all important. Furniture
and equipment is designed and placed to conserve space
and achieve harmonious order. The modern architect,
therefore, eliminates cornices, bay windows, gabled
roofs, towers, applied ornament, carved moldings, ex-
traneous lighting fixtures. And simplicity and economy
of time and work are his watchwords.

Features often labeled "modern," are the placing of
the kitchen and other services toward the front of a house,
the living quarters towards the rear, and transforming the
traditional backyard into a garden. This achieves easy
delivery access, and quietness for living quarters away
from the street. The flat roof is often desirable as it can

Online LibraryGeorge Cary EgglestonThe North American review (Volume 244) → online text (page 8 of 30)