Gerald Stanley Lee.

Crowds: a moving-picture of democracy online

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rather nice crowd, round a man, standing up softly at the last
moment and handing him over his forty thousand dollars. This
has been the history of the Nobel Trustees of Idealism, thus far.

But in a way, we are all the trustees of idealism, and the
problem of the Nobel Prize Trustees is more or less the prob-
lem of all of us. We are interested as well as they in try-
ing to find out how to recognize and reward men of genius.
What would we do ourselves if we were Nobel Prize Trustees.^
Precisely what was it that Alfred Nobel intended to achieve
for Literature when he made this bequest of forty thousand
dollars a year in his Will, for a work of Literature of an
idealistic tendency?

To take a concrete case, I can only record that it has seemec?

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to me that if Alfred Nobel himself could have been on
hand that particular year, and could have read Mr. Upward's
book, he would have given the prize of forty thousand dollars
to Allen Upward. He would not have given the prize to
Mr. Kipling — he would have given it twenty years before;
but in this particular year of which I am writing, when he
saw these two men together, I beUeve he would have given the
prize to Allen Upward, and he would have hurried.

I would like to put forward at this point two inquiries.
First, why did the Trustees not award the prize to Allen
Upward? And second, what would have happened if they had?

First, the Trustees could not be sure that Mr. Upward
in his work of genius was telling the truth.

Second, they could not be sure that the world would
approve of his having forty thousand dollars for telling the
truth. Perhaps the world would have rather had him paid
forty thousand dollars for not telling it.

Third, Mr. Kiphng was safe. No creative work had to
be done on Kiphng; all they had to do was to send him the
cheque. Great crowds had swept in from all over the world,
and nominated Mr. Kipling; the Committee merely had to
confirm the nomination.

Fourth, Mr. Upward, like all idealists, like all men who
have the power of throwing this world into the melting-pot
and bringing it out new again partly unrecognizable (which,
of course, is the regular historical, almost conventional, thing
for an idealist to do with a world), bewildered the Nobel
Prize Committee. They could not be sure but that Mr.
Upward's next book would be thought in the wrong, and make
their having given him forty thousand dollars to write it

What would have happened if the Tnistees had given the
prize to Mr. Upward?

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First, practically no one would have known who he was,
and twenty-five nations would have been reading his book
in a week, to see why the prize was given to him. The book
would have been given the most widespread, highly stim-
ulated, forty-thousand-dollar-power attention that any book
in any age has had.

Only now and then would a man go over and take down his
. old Kiphngs from the shelf and read them, because he had
heard that Mr. Kipling had forty thousand dollars more
than he had had before.

Secondly, Mr. Upward's new book would have the stimulus
of his knowing while he was writing it that every word would
be read by everybody. All the draught on the fire of his
genius of the whole listening world would result in a work
that even Mr. Upward himself perhaps would hardly believe
he had written. As events turned out, and Mr. Upward
did not get the prize there might be many reasons to believe
that his next book might be out of focus, might be a mere
petulant, scolding book, his exultation spent or dwindled,
because his last tremendous wager — that the world wanted
the truth — was lost.

Scolding in a book means, as a rule, either juveniUty or
it means relapse into conscious degeneration of the soul —
the focussing and fusing power in a man. I have sometimes
wondered if even Christ, if He had not died in His thirty-
third year, made His great dare for the world on the cross
early, would not have stopped beUeving so magnificently
in other people at about forty or forty-five or so, and would
not have spent the rest of His days in railing at them, and
in being very bitter and helpless and eloquent about Rome
and Jerusalem. I have caught myself once or twice being
glad Abraham Lincoln died suddenly just when he did, his
great faith and love all warm in him, and his great oath for
the world — that it was good — still fresh upon his Hps!

Writing a book like Allen Upward's for a planet with a

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vision of a thousand years singing splendidly through it»
and then just reading it all alone afterward when he has
written it, and going over the score all alone by himself, would
seem to be a good deal of a strain. To be contradicted out
loud and gloriously by a world might be inspiring, but to
be contradicted by a solid phalanx of silent nations, trooping
up behind one another, unanimous, impervious, is enough to
make any radiant, long-accumulated genius pause in full
career, question himself, question his vision as a chimera,
as some faintly Kghted Northern Lights upon the world,
that would never mean anything, that was an illusion, that
would just flicker in the great dark once more and go out.

I do not say that this is true, or that it would be true of
Allen Upward.

But I have read his book. I should think it might be true.

What Alfred Nobel had in mind, his whole idea in his Will,
it seems to some of us, was to put in his forty thousand dollars
at the working end of some man's mind, at the end of the
man's mind where the forty thousand dollars would itself be
creative, where the forty thousand dollars would get into the
man, and work out through the man and through his gen-
ius into the world. It does not seem to me that he wanted
to put his forty thousand dollars at the idle, old remember-
ing end of a man's mind; that he meant it should be used as
a mere reward for ideaUsm. I doubt if it even so much as
occurred to Alfred Nobel, who was an idealist himself, that
idealism, after a man had managed to have some in this world,
could be rewarded, or could possibly be paid for, by any one.
He knew, if ever a man knew, that ideaUsm was its own re-
ward, and that it was priceless, and that any attempt to re-
ward it with money, to pay a man for it after he had had
it, and after it was all over, would make forty thousand dollars
look shabby, or at least pathetic and ridiculous. What he
wanted to do was to build his forty thousand dollars over
into a Man. He wanted to feel that this money that he had

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made out of dynamite, out of destruction, would be wrought,
through this man, into exultation, into life. He had pro-
posed that this forty thousand dollars should become po-
etry in this man's book, that it should become Kght and heat,
a power-house of thought, of great events. What Alfred
Nobel had in mind, I think, with his Uttle forty thousand
dollars, was that it should be given a chance to become an
intimate part of some man's genius; that it should become
perhaps at last a Great Book — that great foundry of men's
souls, where the moulds of History are patterned out, and where
the hopes of nations and the prayers of women and children
and of great men are, and where the ideals of men — those
huge drive-wheels of the world — are cast in a strange light
and silence.

I wondered if they could have thought of this when they
voted on Allen Upward's book that day three years ago —
those twenty grave, quiet gentlemen in f rockcoats in Stockholm !

I have picked out Mr. Upward's book because it is the
most dijfficult, the most hazardous, and the least fortunate
one I know, to make my point with; and because a great
many people will get the reaction of disagreeing with me,
and feeling about it probably, the way the Nobel Prizes Trustees
did. I have wanted to take a book which has the traits in
it for which men of genius are persecuted or crucified or ignored
— our more modem timid or anonymous form of the cross.
K Mr. Upward had been given the Prize 1by the Nobel Prize
Trustees, it will have to be admitted a howl would have gone
up round the world that would not have quieted down yet;
and it is this howl that Mr. Nobel intended his Prize for,
and that he thought a man would need about forty thousand
dollars to meet.

I might have taken any one of several other books, and
they would have illustrated my point snugly and more con-

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veniently; but just that right touch of craziness that Nobel
had in mind, and that goes with great experiment of spirit
— the chill, Nietzsche-Uke wildness, that bravado before
God and man and before Time, that swinging one's self out
on Eternity, which make Upward a typical man of genius,

would have been lacking. K (whose criticisms of books

are the most creative ones I know) said of Upward's book
that he felt very happy and strangely emancipated when
he read it, but that it was an uncanny experience, as if he
had been made of thin air, had become a kind of aerated

being, a psychic eflFect that genius often has; and K

admitted to me confidentially that he felt that possibly he
and Upward were being a little crazy and happy together
by themselves, breaking out into infinite space so, and he

took the book over to W , and left it on his desk slink-

ingly and half-ashamed and without saying anything about
it. He said he was enormously reUeved next time he saw

W , felt as if he had just been pulled out of Bedlam

to find that there was at least one other man in the worid
apparently in his right mind, who valued the book as he did.
This is the precise feeling, it seems to me, that the Nobel
Prize was intended to champion and to stand by and tempor-
arily defend in a new author — the feeling he gives us of
being in the presence of imseen forees, of incalculableness.
It was this way Allen Upward has of taking his reader apart
or up into a high place (like the Devil), and dizzying him,
taking away his breath with Truth, that Nobel had in mind.
He wanted to spend eight thousand pounds a year on pro-
viding for the world one more book which would give the
ordinary man the personal feeling of being with a genius,
cold, lonely, cosmic genius, the sense of a chill wind of All
Space Outside blowing through — a book which is a sort
of God's Wilderness, in which ordinary men with their or-
dinary plain senses round them move about dazed a httle
and as trees walking — a great, gaunt, naked book.

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Alfred Nobel was the inventor of an explosive, a rearranger
of things assumed and things imbedded, and it was this same
expansive, half-terrible, half-sublime power in other men
and other men's books he wanted to endow — the power
to free and mobiUze the elements in a world, make it budge
over a little toward a new one. He wanted to spend forty
thousand dollars a year on the man in Uterature who had
the pent-up power in him to crash the world's mind open
once more every year Uke a Seed, and send groping up out
of it once more its hidden thought.

I may not be right in anticipating the eventual opinion
of Allen Upward's book; but even if I am wrong, it will have
helped perhaps to call attention to the essential failure of
the Nobel Prize Trustees to side with the darers and experi-
menters in Uterature, to take a serious part in those great
creative, centrifugal movements in the souls of men in which
new worlds and the sense of new worlds are swept in upon us.
For the Sciences, which are more matter of fact and tangible,
the Nobel Prize is functioning more or less as Mr. Nobel
intended, but certainly in Literature it will have to be classed
as one more of our hmndrum regular millionaire arrange-
ments for patting successful people expensively on the back.
It acts twenty years too late, falls into line with our usual
worldly ornamental D. D., LL. D. habit, and has become, so
far as Literature is concerned, a mere colossal, kindly, dod-
dering Old Age Pension from a few gentlemen in Stockholm.
It adds itself as one more futile effort of men of wealth —
or world owners to be creative and hvely with money, very
much on the premises with money, after they are dead.

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I HAVE sometimes wished that Mr. Carnegie would post
the following sign up on his Libraries, on the outside where
people are passing, and on the inside in the room where peo-
ple sit and think:

A Million Dollabs Reward.

Wanted, a Great Livino American Author for mt Libraries in
THE United States. At present our great author in America


Andrew Carnegie.

Mr. Carnegie's Libraries must be a source of constant
regret to the author of "Triumphant Democracy." They are
generally made up of books written in the Old Worid. It
would be interesting to know what are the real reasons great
Libraries are not being written for Mr. Carnegie in America,
and what there is that Mr. Carnegie or other people can
do about it. They are certainly going to be written in Amer-
ica some time, and certainly, unless the best and greatest
part of the Carnegie Library of the future is to be the Amer-
ican part of it, the best our Carnegie Libraries will do for
America will be to remind us of what we are not. Unless
we can make the American part of Mr. Carnegie's Libraries
loom in the world as big as Mr. Carnegie's chimneys, Amer-
ica — which is the last newest experiment station of the
world — is a failure.


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It has occurred to me to try to express, for what it may
be worth, a point of view toward Triumphant Democracy
Mr. Carnegie may have inadvertently overiooked.

If Mr. Carnegie would establish in every town where he
has put a library, by endowment or otherwise, a Commis-
sion, or what might be called perhaps a Searching Party,
in that community, made up of men of inventive and creative
temperament, who instinctively know this temperament
in others — men in all speciaUties, in all walks of life, who
are doing things better than any one wants to pay them to
do them — and if Mr. Carnegie would set these men to
work, in one way and another, looking up boys who are like
them, boys about the town, who are doing things better
than any one wants to pay them to do the^i — he would
soon get a monopoly of the idealism of the world; he would
collect in thirty-five years, or in one generation, an array
of hving great men, of national figures, men who would be
monuments to Andrew Carnegie, as compared with which
his present hbraries, big, thoughtless, innumerable, hum-
drum, sogging down into the past, would be as nothing. Mr.
Carnegie has given forty hbraries to New York; and I venture
to say that there is at this very moment, running round the
streets of the great city, one single boy, who has it in him
to conceive, to imagine, and hammer together a new world;
and if Mr. Carnegie would invest his fortune, not in build-
ings or in books, but in buying brains enough to find that
boy, and if the whole city of New York were to devote itself
for one hour every day for years to searching about and find-
ing that boy, to seeing just which he is, to going over all the
other boys five hours a day to pick him out, it would be —
well, all I can say is, all those forty hbraries of Mr. Car-
negie's, those great proud buildings, would do well if they
did not do one thing for six years but find that boy!

There is a boy at this very moment with strings and marblef
and a nation in his pocket, a system of railroads — a boy

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with a national cure for tuberculosis, with sun-engines for
everybody — there is a boy with cathedrals in him too, no
doubt or some boy like young Pinchot, with mountainsful
of forests in his heart.

This is what Mr. Carnegie himself would like to do, but
with his big, stiflp, clumsy Ubraries trailing their huge, sense-
less brick-and-mortar bodies, their white pillars and things,
about the country, unmanned, inert, eyeless, all those great
gates and forts of knowledge, Colisemns of paper, and with
the mechanical people behind the counters, the policemen
of the books, all standing about protecting them — with
all this formidable array, how can such a boy be hunted out
or drawn iq, or how would he dare go tramping in through
the great gates and hunting about for himself? He could
only be hunted out by people all wrought through with human
experience, men and women who would give the world to
find him, who are on the daily lookout for such a boy —
by some special kind of eager Ubrarian, or by disguised teach-
ers, anonymous poets, or by diviners, by expert geniuses
in boys. If Mr. Carnegie could go about and look up and
buy up wherever he went these men who have this boy-genius
in them, deliver them from empty, helpless, mere getting-a-
living Uves; and if he could set these men, and set them about
thickly, among the books in his libraries — those huge an-
atomies and bones of knowledge he has established every-
where, all his great Uterary steel-works — men would soon
begin to be discovered, to be created, to be built in Ubraries

. . but as it is now. . . .

Gentle Reader, have you ever stood in front of one of them,
looked up at the windows, thought of all those great tiers,
those moulds and blocks of learning on the shelves; and
have you never watched the weary people that dribble in
from the streets and wander coldly about, or sit down Ust-
less in them — in those mighty, silent empires of the past?
Have you never thought that somewhere all about them.

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somewhere in this same Ubrary, there must be some white,
silent, simny country of the future, full of children and of
singing, full of something very difiFerent from these iron walls
of wisdom? And have you never thought what it would
mean if Mr. Carnegie would spend his money on search parties
for people among the books, or what it would mean if the
entire Hbrary, if all the books in it, became, as it were, wired
throughout with Uve, splendid, deUghted men and women,
to make connections, to estabhsh the current between the
people and the books, to discover the people one by one and
follow them to their homes, and follow them in their hves,
and take out the latent geniuses, and the Ustless engineers
and poets, and the Kossuths, Caesars, the Florence Nightin-
gales . . . P

It is only by employing forces that can be made extremely
small, invisible, personal, penetrating, and spiritual, that
this sort of work can be done. It must be deUcate and won-
derful workmanship, like the magnet, like the mighty thistle-
down in the wind, like electricity, like love, like hope —
sheer, happy, warm hmnan vision going about and casting
itself, casting all its still and tiny might, its boundless seed,
upon the earth: but it would pay.

The same people too, speciaUsts in detecting and develop-
ing inventors, could be suppUed also to all other possible
caUings. They would constitute a universal profession,
penetrating all the others. They would go hunting among
foremen and in machine shops for the misplaced geniuses,
tried by wrong standards, underpaid for having other gifts.
They would keep a lookout through all the schools and col-
leges, looking over the shoulders of scolding teachers and
absent professors. They would go about studying the play-
grounds and mastering the streets.

We do not a httle for the Submerged Tenth and the sons
of the poor, and we have schools or missions for the sons
of the rich, but one of the things we need next to-day is that

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something should be done for the sons of the great neglected
respectable classes. Far more important than one more
Ubrary — say in Denver, for instance — would be a Denver
Bureau of Investigation, to be appointed, of high-priced,
spirited men, of expert hiunanists, to study difficulties, and
devise methods and missions for putting all society in Denver
through filters or placers, and finding out the rich human
ore, finding out where everybody really belonged, and what
all the clever misplaced people were really for. Of course
it would take money to do all this, and fiocks of free people
who are doing the work they love. But it is not book-racks,
nor paper, nor ink, nor stone steps, nor white pillars — it
is free men and free women America and England are ask-
ing of their Andrew Camegies to-day.

Mr. Carnegie has not touched this himGian problem in his
libraries. If Society were fitted up all through with electric
connections, men with a genius for discovering continents
in people, Colimibuses, boy-geniuses; and if there were es-
tablished everywhere a current between every boy and the
great world, this would be something on which Mr. Carnegie
could make a great beginning with the little mite of his for-
tune. If we were to have even one city fitted up in this way,
it would be hard to say how much it would mean — one city
with enough people in it who were free to do beautiful things,
free to be curious about the others, free to follow clues of
greatness, free to go up the streams qf Society to the still,
faint Uttle springs and beginnings of things. It would soon
be a memorable city. A world would watch it, and other
cities would grope toward it. Instead of this we have these
big, hollow, unmanned libraries of Mr. Carnegie's every-
where, with no people practically to go with them, no great
hive of happy living men and women in and out all day cross-
fertilizing boys and books.

There seems to be something imfinished and stoUd and
brutal about a Carnegie Library now. The spirit of the

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garden and the sea, of the sprmg and the light, and of the
child, is not in it. They have come to seem to some of us
mere huge Pittsburgs of brains — all these impervious, un-
wieldy, rolling-mills of knowledge. I should think it would
be a terrible prospect to grow old with, just to sit and see
them flocking across the country from your window, all these
huge smoke-stacks of books in their weary, sordid cities;
and the boys who might be great men, the small Lincolns
with nations in their pockets, the Uttle Bells with worlds
in their ears, the Pinchots with their forests, the McAdoos
and Roosevelts, the young Carnegies and Marconis in the

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MR. ISRAEL ZANGWILL in presiding at the meeting
of the Sociological Society the other night remarked, in re-
ferring to inspired millionaires, that as a rule in the minds
of most people nowadays a millionaire seemed to be a kind
of broken-oflF person, or possibly two persons. There always
seemed to have to be a violent change in a miUionaire some-
where along the middle of his life. The change seemed to
be associated in some way, Mr. Zangwill thought with his
money. He ' reminded one of the patent-medicine adver-
tisements, "Before and After Taking."

I have been trying to think why it is that the average mil-
lionaire reminds people — as Mr. Zangwill says he does —
of a patent-medicine advertisement, " Before and After Taking."

I have thought, since Mr. Zangwill made this remark,
of getting together a small collection of pictures of million-
aires — two pictures of each, one before and the other after
taking — and having them mounted in the most approved
patent-medicine style, and taking them down to Far End
and asking Mr. Zangwill to look them over with me and see
if he thought — he, Israel Zangwill, the novelist, the play-
wright, the psychologist — really thought, that millionaires
"Before and After" were as different as they looked.

I imagine he would say — and practically without looking
at the pictures — that of course to him or to me perhaps,
or to any especially interested student of human nature,
millionaires are not really diflFerent at all "Before and After

227 '■

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Taking"; that they merely had a sKghtly diflferent outer
look. They would merely look diflferent, Mr. Zangwill would
say, to the common run or majority of people — the people

Online LibraryGerald Stanley LeeCrowds: a moving-picture of democracy → online text (page 17 of 44)