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Damaged goods : the great play Les avar online

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3 3333 06014 1492





The Newark
Public Library

Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

The Branch Libraries
Literature & Language Dept.
455 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10016







Adult books 10^ Juvenile books 54
Recordings 10^ Video tapes $3.00

Form *0692




Novelized with the approval of
the author





Copyright, 1913, t>y







The production of Eugene Brieux's play, "Les
Avaries," or, to give it its English title, "Damaged
Goods," has initiated a movement in this country
which must be regarded as epoch-making.





My endeavor has been to tell a simple
story, preserving as closely as possible
the spirit and deling ci the original. I
have tried, as It were, to take the play to
pieces, and build a novel out of the same
material. I havo not felt at liberty to
embellish M. Brieux's ideas, and I have used
his dialogue word for word wherever possi-
ble. Unless I have mis-read the author,
his sole purpose in writing Les Avaries was
to place a number of most important facts
before the minds of the public, and to drive
them home by means of intense emotion.
If I have been able to assist him, this bit
of literary carpentering will be worth while.
I have to thank M. Brieux for his kind
permission to make the attempt, and for
the cordial spirit which he has manifested.




Damaged Goods was first presented in America at
a Friday matinee on March 14th, 1913, in the Fulton
Theater, New York, before members of the Socio-
logical Fund. Immediately it was acclaimed by
public, press and pulpit as the greatest contribution
ever made by the Stage to the cause of humanity.
Mr. Richard Bennett, the producer, who had the
courage to present the play, with the aid of his co-
workers, in the face of most savage criticism from
the ignorant, was overwhelmed with requests for a
repetition of the performance.

Before deciding whether or not to present Damaged
Goods before the general public, it was arranged that
the highest officials in the United States should pass
judgment upon the manner in which the play teaches
its vital lesson. A special guest performance for
members of the Cabinet, members of both houses of
Congress, members of the United States Supreme
Court, representatives of the Diplomatic corps and
others prominent in national life was given in Wash-
ington, D. C.



Although the performance was given on a Sunday
afternoon (April 6, 1913), the National Theater was
crowded to the very doors with the most dis-
tinguished audience ever assembled in America,
including exclusively the foremost men and women
of the Capital. The most noted clergymen of
Washington were among the spectators.

The result of this remarkable performance was a
tremendous indorsement of the play and of the
manner in which Mr. Bennett and his co-workers
were presenting it.

This reception resulted in the continuance of the
New York performances until mid-summer and is
responsible for the decision on the part of Mr. Ben-
nett to offer the play in every city in America where
citizens feel that the ultimate welfare of the com-
munity is dependent upon a higher standard of
morality and clearer understanding of the laws of

The Washington Post, commenting on the Wash-
ington performance, said :

The play was presented with all the impressiveness of a
sermon; with all the vigor and dynamic force of a great
drama; with all the earnestness and power of a vital truth.

In many respects the presentation of this dramatization
of a great social evil assumed the aspects of a religious service.
Dr. Donald C. MacLeod, pastor of the First Presbyterian
Church, mounted the rostrum usually occupied by the leader
of the orchestra, and announced that the nature of the
performance, the sacredness of the day, and the
of the audience gave to the play the significance of


'ious sermon in behalf of mankind, and that as such it was
eminently fitting that a divine blessing be invoked. Dr.
Earle Wilfley, pastor of the Vermont Avenue Christian
Church, asked all persons in the audience to bow their heads
in a prayer for the proper reception of the message to be
presented from the stage. Dr. MacLeod then read the Ber-
nard Shaw preface to the play, and asked that there be no
applause during the performance, a suggestion which was
rigidly followed, thus adding greatly to the effectiveness and
the seriousness of the dramatic portrayal.

The impression made upon the audience by the remarkable
play is reflected in such comments as the following expressions
voiced after the performance:

Rabbi Simon, of the Washington Hebrew Congregation If I
could preach from my pulpit a sermon one tenth as powerful,
as convincing, as far-reaching, and as helpful as this per-
formance of Damaged Goods must be, I would consider that
I had achieved the triumph of my life.

Commissioner Cuno H. Rudolph I was deeply impressed
by what I saw, and I think that the drama should be repeated
in every city, a matinee one day for father and son and the
next day for mother and daughter.

Rev. Earle Wilfley I am confirmed in the opinion that we
must take up our cudgels in a crusade against the modern
problems brought to the fore by Damaged Goods. The
report that these diseases are increasing is enough to make
us get busy on a campaign against them.

Surgeon General Blue It was a most striking and telling
lesson. For years we have been fighting these conditions
in the navy. It is high time that civilians awakened to the
dangers surrounding them and crusaded against them in a
proper manner.

Mrs. Archibald Hopkins The play was a powerful presen-
tation of a very important question and was handled in a

otiiadmirable manner. The drama is a fine entering wedge

ington or ii. r X3. an d i g bound to do considerable good in
: ~~ of a very serious nature.


Minister Pezet, of Peru There can be no doubt but that
the performance will have great uplifting power, and accom-
plish the good for which it was created. Fortunately, we do
not have the prudery in South America that you of the north
possess, and have open minds to consider these serious

Justice Daniel Thew Wright I feel quite sure that Damaged
Goods will have considerable effect in educating the people
of the nature of the danger that surrounds them.

Senator Kern, of Indiana There can be no denial of the
fact that it is time to look at the serious problems presented
in the play with an open mind.

Brieux has been hailed by Bernard Shaw as
"incomparably the greatest writer France has
produced since Moliere," and perhaps no writer
ever wielded his pen more earnestly in the service
of the race. To quote from an article by Edwin
E. Slosson in the Independent:

Brieux is not one who believes that social evils are to be
cured by laws and yet more law r s. He believes that most of
the trouble is caused by ignorance and urges education, public
enlightenment and franker recognition of existing conditions.
All this may be needed, but still we may well doubt its effect-
iveness as a remedy. The drunken Helot argument is not
a strong one, and those who lead a vicious life know more
about its risks than any teacher or preacher could tell them.
Brieux also urges the requirement of health certificates for
marriage, such as many clergymen now insist upon and which
doubtless will be made compulsory before long in many of
our States.

Brieux paints in black colors yet is no fanatic; in fact, he
will be criticised by many as being too tolerant of human
weakness. The conditions of society and the moral standardi


of France are so different from those of America that his
point of view and his proposals for reform will not meet with
general acceptance, but it is encouraging to find a dramatist
who realizes the importance of being earnest and who uses
his art in defense of virtue instead of its destruction.

Other comments follow, showing the great interest
manifested in the play and the belief in the highest
seriousness of its purpose:

There is no uncleanness in facts. The uncleanness is in
the glamour, in the secret imagination. It is in hints, half-
truths, and suggestions the threat to life lies.

This play puts the horrible truth in so living a way, with
such clean, artistic force, that the mind is impressed as it
could possibly be impressed in no other manner.

Best of all, it is the physician who dominates the action.
There is no sentimentalizing. There is no weak and morbid
handling of the theme. The doctor appears in his ideal
function, as the modern high-priest of truth. Around him
writhe the victims of ignorance and the criminals of conven-
tional cruelty. Kind, stern, high-minded, clear-headed, yet
human-hearted, he towers over all, as the master.

This is as it should be. The man to say the word to save
the world of ignorant wretches, cursed by the clouds and
darkness a mistaken modesty has thrown around a life-and-
death instinct, is the physician.

The only question is this : Is this play decent? My answer
is that it is the decentest play that has been in New York for
a year. It is so decent that it is religious.

Hearst's Magazine.

The play is, above all, a powerful plea for the tearing away
of the veil of mystery that has so universally shrouded this
subject of the penalty of sexual immorality. It is a plea for
light on this hidden danger, that fathers and mothers, young


men and young women, may know the terrible price that
must be paid, not only by the generation that violates the
law, but by the generations to come. It is a serious question
just how the education of men and women, especially young
men and young women, in the vital matters of sex relationship
should be carried on. One thing is sure, however. The
worst possible way is the one which has so often been followed
in the past not to carry it on at all but to ignore it.

The Outlook.

It (Damaged Goods') is, of course, a masterpiece of "thesis
drama," an argument, dogmatic, insistent, inescapable,
cumulative, between science and common sense, on one side,
and love, of various types, on the other. It is what Mr.
Bernard Shaw has called a "drama of discussion"; it has the
splendid movement of the best Shaw plays, unrelieved and
undiluted by Shavian paradox, wit, and irony. We imagine
that many in the audiences at the Fulton Theater were
astonished at the play's showing of sheer strength as acted
drama. Possibly it might not interest the general public;
probably it would be inadvisable to present it to them.
But no thinking person, with the most casual interest in
current. social evils, could listen to the version of Richard
Bennett, Wilton Lackaye, and their associates, without being
gripped by the power of Brieux's message. The Dial.

It is a wonder that the world has been so long in getting
hold of this play, which is one of France's most valuable
contributions to the drama. Its history is interesting.
Brieux wrote it over ten years ago. Antoine produced it at
his theater and Paris immediately censored it, but soon
thought better of it and removed the ban. During the
summer of 1910 it was played in Brussels before crowded
houses, for then the city was thronged with visitors to the
exposition. Finally New York got it last spring and eugenic
enthusiasts and doctors everywhere have welcomed it.

The Independent.

A Letter to Mr. Bennett from Dr. Hillis, Pastor of Plymouth
Church, Brooklyn.

23 Monroe Street,
Bklyn. August 1, 1913.
Mr. Richard Bennett ,

New York City, H. Y.
My Dear Mr. Bennett:

During the past twenty-one years since I en-
tered public life, I have experienced many exciting
hours under the influence of reformer, orator and
actor, but, in this mood of retrospection, I do not
know that I have ever passed through a more thrill-
ing, terrible, and yet hopeful experience than last
evening, while 1 listened to your interpretation of
Eugene Brieux* "Damaged Goods.*

I have been following your wors witn ever deep*
ening interest, It is not too much to say that you
have changed the thinking of the people of our coun-
try as to the social evil. At last, thank God, this
conspiracy of silence is ended. No young man who
sees "Damaged Goods'* will ever be the same again. If
I wanted to build around an inx&oent boy buttresses
of fire and granite, and lend hia triple armour
against temptation, and the assaults of evjj.1, I would
put him for one evening under your influence. That
which the teacher, the preacher and the parent have
failed to accomplish it has been given to you to
achieve. You have done a work for which your genera*
tion owes you an immeasurable debt of gratitude.

I shall be delighted to have you use my Study
of Social Diseases and Heredity in connection with
your great reform.

ell good wishes, I am, my dear Mr. Bennett,
Faithfully yours,



IT was four o'clock in the morning
when George Dupont closed the door
and came down the steps to the street.
The first faint streaks of dawn were in the
sky, and he noticed this with annoyance,
because he knew that his hair was in dis-
array and his whole aspect disorderly;
yet he dared not take a cab, because he
feared to attract attention at home.
When he reached the sidewalk, he glanced
about him to make sure that no one had
seen him leave the house, then started
down the street, his eyes upon the sidewalk
before him.

George had the feeling of the morning
after. There are few men in this world
of abundant sin who will not know what
the phrase means. The fumes of the
night had evaporated; he was quite
sober now, quite free from excitement.



He saw what he had done, and it seemed
to him something black and disgusting.

Never had a walk seemed longer than
the few blocks which he had to traverse
to reach his home. He must get there
before the maid was up, before the baker's
boy called with the rolls; otherwise, what
explanation could he give? he who had
always been such a moral man, who had
been pointed out by mothers as an example
to their sons.

George thought of his own mother, and
what she would think if she could know
about his night's adventure. He thought
again and again, with a pang of anguish,
of Henriette. Could it be possible that a
man who was engaged, whose marriage
contract had actually been signed, who was
soon to possess the love of a beautiful and
noble girl that such a man could have been
weak enough and base enough to let him-
self be trapped into such a low action?

He went back over the whole series
of events, shuddering at them, trying to
realize how they had happened, trying to
excuse himself for them. He had not


intended such a culmination; he had never
meant to do such a thing in his life. He
had not thought of any harm when he
had accepted the invitation to the supper-
party with his old companions from the
law school. Of course, he had known
that several of these chums led "fast"
lives but, then, surely a fellow could go
to a friend's rooms for a lark without

He remembered the girl who had sat
by his side at the table. She had come
with a friend who was a married woman,
and so he had assumed that she was all
right. George remembered how embar-
rassed he had been when first he had
noticed her glances at him. But then the
wine had begun to go to his head he was
one of those unfortunate wretches who
cannot drink wine at all. He had offered
to take the girl home in a cab, and on the
way he had lost his head.

Oh! what a wretched thing it was. He
could hardly believe that it was he who
had spoken those frenzied words; and
yet he must have spoken them, because


he remembered them. He remembered
that it had taken a long time to persuade
her. He had had to promise her a ring
like the one her married friend wore.
Before they entered her home she had
made him take off his shoes, so that the
porter might not hear them. This had
struck George particularly, because, even
flushed with excitement as he was, he
had not forgotten the warnings his father
had given him as to the dangers of contact
with strange women. He had thought to
himself, "This girl must be safe. It is
probably the first time she has ever done
such a thing. ' ;

But now George could get but little
consolation out of that idea. He was suf-
fering intensely the emotion described by
the poet in the bitter words about " Time's
moving finger having writ.' ! His mind,
seeking some explanation, some justifica-
tion, went back to the events before that
night. With a sudden pang of yearning,
he thought of Lizette. She was a decent
girl, and had kept him decent, and he was
lonely without her. He had been so afraid


of being found out that he had given her up
when he became engaged; but now for a
while he felt that he would have to break
his resolution, and pay his regular Sunday
visit to the little flat in the working-class
portion of Paris.

It was while George was fitting himself
for the same career as his father that of
notary that he had made the acquaintance
of the young working girl. It may not be
easy to believe, but Lizette had really been
a decent girl. She had a family to take
care of, and was in need. There was a
grandmother in poor health, a father not
much better, and three little brothers;
so Lizette did not very long resist George
Dupont, and he felt quite virtuous in giving
her sufficient money to take care of these
unfortunate people. Among people of his
class it was considered proper to take such
things if one paid for them.

All the family of this working girl were
grateful to him. They adored him, and
they called him Uncle Raoul (for of course
he had not been so foolish as to give them
his true name).


Since George was paying for Lizette,
he felt he had the right to control her
life. He gave her fair warning concerning
his attitude. If she deceived him he
would leave her immediately. He told
this to her relatives also, and so he had
them all watching her. She was never
trusted out alone. Every Sunday George
went to spend the day with his little
"family," so that his coming became almost
a matter of tradition. He interested her
in church affairs mass and vespers were
her regular occasions for excursions.
George rented iwo seats, and the grand-
mother went with her to the services. The
simple people were proud to see their name
engraved upon the brass plate of the pew.

The reason for all these precautions
was George's terror of disease. He had
been warned by his father as to the dangers
which young men encounter in their amours.
And these lessons had sunk deep into
George's heart; he had made up his mind
that whatever his friends might do, he,
for one, would protect himself.

That did not mean, of course, that he


intended to live a virtuous life; such
was not the custom among young men
of his class, nor had it probably ever
occurred to his father that it was possible
for a young man to do such a thing. The
French have a phrase, 'Thomme moyen
sensuel" the average sensual man. And
George was such a man. He had no noble
idealisms, no particular reverence for
women. The basis of his attitude was a
purely selfish one; he wanted to enjoy
himself, and at the same time to keep out
of trouble.

He did not find any happiness in the
renunciation which he imposed upon him-
self; he had no religious ideas about it.
On the contrary, he suffered keenly, and
was bitter because he had no share in
the amusements of his friends. He stuck
to his work and forced himself to keep
regular hours, preparing for his law exami-
nations. But all the time he was longing
for adventures. And, of course, this could
not go on forever, for the motive of fear
alone is not sufficient to subdue the sexual
urge in a full-blooded young man.


The affair with Lizette might have con-
tinued much longer had it not been for the
fact that his father died. He died quite
suddenly, while George was away on a trip.
The son came back to console his broken-
hearted mother, and in the two weeks
which they spent in the country together
the mother broached a plan to him. The
last wish of the dying man had been that
his son should be fixed in life. In the midst
of his intense suffering he had been able
to think about the matter, and had named
the girl whom he wished George to marry.
Naturally, George waited with some interest
to learn who this might be. He was
surprised when his mother told him that
it was his cousin, Henriette Loches.

He could not keep his emotion from
revealing itself in his face. "It doesn't
please you?" asked his mother, with a
tone of disappointment.

"Why no, mother/ 3 he answered. "It's
not that. It just surprises me."

"But why?" asked the mother. "Hen-
riette is a lovely girl and a good girl."

"Yes, I know/' said George; "but then


she is my cousin, and He blushed a
little with embarrassment. "I had never
thought of her in that way/ 3

Madame Dupont laid her hand upon her
son's. "Yes, George/ 3 she said, tenderly.
"I know. You are such a good boy/ 3

Now, of course, George did not feel
that he was quite such a good boy; but
his mother was a deeply religious woman,
who had no idea of the truth about the
majority of men. She would never have
got over the shock if he had told her about
himself, and so he had to pretend to be
just what she thought him.

"Tell me/ 3 ' she continued, after a pause,
"have you never felt the least bit in love?"

"Why no I don't think so/ 3 George
stammered, becoming conscious of a sudden
rise of temperature in his cheeks.

"Because/ 31 said his mother, "it is really
time that you were settled in life. Your
father said that we should have seen to it
before, and now it is my duty to see to it.
It is not good for you to live alone so long/ 3

"But, mother, I have you" said George,


"Some day the Lord may take me
away/ ; was the reply. "I am getting old.
And, George, dear " Here suddenly
her voice began to tremble with feeling
"I would like to see my baby grand-
children before I go. You cannot imagine
what it would mean to me.' 3

Madame Dupont saw how much this
subject distressed her son, so she went on
to the more worldly aspects of the mat-
ter. Henriette's father was well-to-do,
and he would give her a good dowry.
She was a charming and accomplished
girl. Everybody would consider him most
fortunate if the match could be arranged.
Also, there was an elderly aunt to whom
Madame Dupont had spoken, and who
was much taken with the idea. She owned
a great deal of property and would surely
help the young couple.

George did not see just how he could
object to this proposition, even if he had
wanted to. What reason could he give
for such a course? He could not explain
that he already had a family with step-
children, so to speak, who adored him.


And what could he say to his mother's
obsession, to which she came back again
and again her longing to see her grand-
children before she died? Madame Dupont
waited only long enough for George to
stammer out a few protestations, and then
in the next breath to take them back;
after which she proceeded to go ahead with
the match. The family lawyers conferred
together, and the terms of the settlement
were worked out and agreed upon. It
happened that immediately afterwards
George learned of an opportunity to pur-
chase the practice of a notary, who was
ready to retire from business in two months'
time. Henriette's father consented to
advance a portion of her dowry for this

Thus George was safely started upon

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Online LibraryUpton SinclairDamaged goods : the great play Les avar → online text (page 1 of 8)