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Full text of "Peter Whiffle : his life and works"

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THE MODERN LIBRARY 

OF THE world's BEST BOOKS 



PETER WHIFFLE 



The publishers will be pleased to send, upon re- 
quest, an illustrated catalogue setting forth the 
purpose and ideals of The Modem Library, and 
describing in detail each volume in the series, 
(^very reader of books willfind titles he has been 
looking for, attractively printed, and 
ai an unusually low price 



PETER WHIFFLE 



BY 

CARL VAN VECHTEN 




^^tfR^^^' 



THE MODERN LIBRARY 

PUBLISHERS : NEW YORK 



A 



Copyright, 1922, by Alfred a. knopf j 



First Modern Library Edition 

1929 



\ rN^ 



UNIVERSITY 
LIBRARY 




Manufactured in the United States of America 

Sound for THE MOUKRN LIBRARY by H. JVolff 



V 



"'Tingling is the test/ said Babhalanja, 'Yoomy, 
did you tingle, <when that song ivas composingf* 
"'All over, Babhalanja.'" 

Herman Melville: Mardi. 



"ff^e ivork in the dark— we do what <we can—^we 
give what ive have. Our doubt is our passion, and 
our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of 
art.*' Dencombe: The Middle Years. 

"Les existences les plus belles sont peut-etre celles 
qui ont subi tous les extremes, qui ont traverse toutes 
les temperatures, rencontri toutes les sensations exces- 
sives et tous les sentiments contradict oires," 

Remy de Gourmont: Le Chat de Mis^re. 

"The man vt>ho satisfies a ceaseless intellectual cur^ 
iosity probably squeezes more out of life in the long 
run than any one else." 

Edmund Gosse: Books on the Table. 



O mother of the hills, forgive our towers; 
O mother of the clouds, forgive our dreams** 

Edwin Ellis. 






^« 






1- ' 



X-- 



.. . r rsrx' r*. ■ 



mm M • ■ V * 



— ." _ r ;• 






Preface 

So few people were acquainted with Peter 
Whiffle that the announcement, on that page of the 
New York Times consecrated to wedding, birth, 
and obituary notices, of his death in New York 
on December 15, 1919, awakened no comment. 
Those of my friends who knew something of the 
relationship between Peter and myself, probably 
did not see the slender paragraph at all. At any 
rate none of them mentioned it, save, of course, 
Edith Dale, whose interest, in a sense, was as 
special as my own. Her loss was not so personal, 
however, nor her grief so deep. It was strange 
and curious to remember that however infrequently 
we had met, and the chronicle which follows will 
give evidence of the comparative infrequency of 
these meetings, yet some indestructible bond, a firm 
determining girdle of intimate understanding, over 
which Time and Space had no power, held us to- 
gether. I had become to Peter something of a 
necessity, in that through me he found the proper 
outlet for his artistic explosions- I was present, 
indeed, at the bombing of more than one discarded 
theory. It was under the spell of sucK ^lV'^'mwnsJ^ 
trivial znd external matters that omt l-txca^i^^ 



Preface 

developed and, while my own interests often fi 
in other directions, Peter certainly occupied as i 
portant a place in my heart as I did in his, probat 
in some respects, more important. Nevertheh 
when I received a notification from his lawyer tl 
I had been mentioned in Peter's will, I was o 
siderably astonished. My astonishment increas 
when I was informed of the nature of the beque 
Peter Whiffle had appointed me to serve as 
literary executor. 

Now Peter Whiffle was not, in any accepted sei 
of the epithet, an author. He had never publisl: 
a book; he had never, indeed, written a book, 
the end he had come to hold a somewhat mys 
theory in regard to such matters, which he h 
only explained to me a few moments before he di" 
I was, however, aware, more aware than any c 
else could possibly have been, that from time to tii 
he had been accustomed to take notes. I was 
familiar, I suppose, as any one could be, with t 
trend of his later ideas, and with some of 1 
major incidents in his earlier life he had acquaint 
me, although, here, I must confess, .there w( 
lacunsB in my knowledge. Still, his testament: 
request, unless I might choose to accept it in 
sense, I am convinced, entirely too flattering to i 
slender talents, seemed to be inconsistent with t 
speculative idea which haunted him, at least 
wards the end of his life. This contradiction a 
^/r enlarging sense of the mystet\o\x% Ocl?lt?i^v^t 

[2l 



m 



reface 

Ac assignment were somewhat dispelled by a letter, 
dated June 17, 1917, which, a few days after 
the reading of the will, his lawyer placed in my 
hands and which indicated plainly enough that 
Peter had decided upon my appointment at least 
two years and a half before he died. This letter 
not only confirmed the strange clause in the will 
but also, to some extent, explained It and, as the 
letter is an essential part of my narrative, I offer it 
in evidence at once. 

Dear Carl — so It read: 

I suppose that some day I shall die; people do 
die. If there h^^ b<;^n nnf 8rt purpose in my life, 
it has—Iieen. R0t_ taJiav©—* purpose. ~That, you 
alone, perhaps, understand. You know how I have 
always hesitated to express myself definitely, you 
know how I have refrained from writing, and you 
also know, perhaps, that I can write; Indeed, until 
recently, you thought I was writing, or would write. 
Bat I think you realize now what writing has come 
to mean to me, definition, constant definition, al- 
though It Is as apparent as anything can be that life, 
nature, art, whatever one writes about, are fluid 
and mutable things, perpetually undergoing change 
and, even when they assume some semblance of 
permanence, always presenting two or more faces. 
There are those who are not appalled by these 
conditions, those who confront them with bravery 

Kd even with impertinence. \ ou Wn e. \i?.e,'c\ ':.wix- 
:ous. You have published seveiaX^jooVA"^^^^^ 



K 



Preface I 

have read with varying shades of pleasure, and you 
have not hesitated to define, or at any rate discuss, 
even that intangible, invisible, and noisy art called 
Music. 

I have begun many things but nothing have I 
ever completed. It has always seemed unnecessary 
or impossible, although at times I have tried to 
carry a piece of work through. On these occasions 
a restraining angel has held me firmly back. 
It might be better if what I have written, what I 
have said, were permitted to pass into oblivion with 
me, to become a part of scoriae chaos. It may not 
mean anything in particular; if it means too muchi 
to that extent I have failed. 

Thinking, however, of death, as I sometimes do, 
I have wondered if, after all, behind the vapoury 
curtain of my fluctuating purpose, behind the orphlc 
wall of my indecision, there did not lurk some 
vague shadow of intention. Not on my part, per* 
haps, but on the part of that being, or that con- 
dition, which is reported to be interested in such 
matters. This doubt, I confess, I owe to you. 
Sometimes, in those extraordinary moments be- 
tween sleeping and awakening— and once in the 
dentist's chair, after I had taken gas — the knots 
seemed to unravel, the problem seemed as naked 
as Istar at the seventh gate. But these moments 
arc difficult, or impossible, to recapture. To re- 
capture them I should have been compelled to 

vent a new style, a style as capricious and vibrr 



ilA 



Preface 

tory as the moments themselves. In this, how- 
ever, as you know, I have failed, while you have 
succeeded. It is to your success, modest as it may 
appear to you, that I turn in my dilemma. To come 
to the point, cannot you explain, make out some 
kind of case for me, put me on my feet {or in a 
book), and thereby prove or disprove something? 
Shameless as I am, it would be inconceivable, absurd, 
for me to ask you to do this while I am yet living 
and I have, therefore, put my request into a formal 
clause in my will. After I am dead, you may 
search your memory, which I know to be very good, 
for such examples of our conversations as will best 
be fitted to illuminate your subject, which I must 
insist — you, yourself, will imderstand this, too, 
sooner or later — is not tne at all. 

When your book is published, I shall be dead 
and perhaps unconscious. If, however, as I strongly 
suspect, some current connects the life to be with 
the life that is, I can enjoy what you have done. 
At the best, you may give others a slight intimation 
of the meaning of inspiration or furnish guide- 
posts, lighthouses, and bell-buoys to the poet who 
intends to march singing along the highroad or 
bravely to embark on the ships at sea; at the worst, 
I have furnished you with a subject for another 
book, and I am well aware that subjects even for 
bad books are difficult to light upon. 

t5l 



This letter, I may say, astonished me. I think 
it would astonish anybody. A profound and en- 
veloping melancholy succeeded to this feeling of 
astonishment. At the time, I was engaged in put- 
ting the finishing touches to The Tiger in the 
House and I postponed meditation on Peter's 
affair until that bulky volume could be dispatched 
to the printer. That happy event felt on March 
15, 1920, but my anthology, Lords of The House- 
tops, next claimed my attention, and then the new 
edition of Interpreters, for which I had agreed to 
furnish a new paper, and the writing of this new 
paper amused me very much, carrying my mind 
not only far away from cats, which had been 
occupying it for a twelvemonth, but also away from 
Peter's request. At last, Interpreters was ready 
for the printer, but now the proofs of The Tiger 
began to come in, and I may say that for the next 
three months my days were fully occupied in the 
correction of proofs, for those of Lords of The 
Housetops and Interpreters were in my garret 
when the proofs of The Tiger were not. Never 
have 1 corrected proofs with so much concentrated 
artention as that which I devoted to the proofs of 
The Tiger, and yet there were errors. In re- 
gard to some of these, I was not the collaborator. 
On Page 240, for instance, one may read. There 
are many females in the novels of Eraile Zola. 
My intention was to have the fourth word read, 
felines, and so it stood in the final proof, but my 



Prejace 

ambition to surmount the initial letter of Zola's 
Christian name with an acute accent (an ambition 
1 shall forswear on this present page), compelled 
the printer to reset the line, so that subsequently, 
when I opened the book at this page, I read 
with amazement that there are many females in 
the novels of Emile Zola, a statement that cannot 
be readily denied, to be sure, but still it is no dis- 
covery of which to boast. 

It was not until September, 1920, that I had an 
opportunity to seriously consider Peter's request 
and when I did begin to consider it, I thought of 
it at first only as a duty to be accomplished. But 
when I began searching my memory for details of 
the conversations between us and had perused cer- 
tain notes I had made on various occasions, visited 
his house on Beekman Place to look over his effects 
and talk with his mother, the feeling of the artist 
for inevitable material came over me and I knew 
that whether Peter had written me that letter or 
not, I should sooner or later have written this book 
about him. 

There was another struggle over the eventual 
form, a question concerning which Peter had made 
no suggestions. It seemed to me, at first, that a 
sort of haphazard collection of his ideas and pro- 
nunciamentos, somewhat in the manner of Samuel 
Butler's Note-Books, would meet tiie case, but after 
a little reflection I rejected this idea. Va^'i <mv^^ 
man was needed for a complete u'(\dtT^^.'a.'cv&-'c\^ tsH. 

V'.'\ 



his ideas, or lack of them, for they shifted Ukt 
the waves of the sea. I can never tell why, but 
it was while I was reading William Dean Howells's 
Familiar Spanish Studies one day in the New 
York Public Library that I suddenly decided on a 
sort of loose biographical form, a free fantasia in 
the manner of a Liszt Rhapsody, This settled, 1 
literally swam ahead and scarcely found it necessary 
to examine many papers (which was fortunate ai 
few exist) or to consult anything but my memory, 
which lighted up the subject from obscure angles, 
as a search-light illuminates the spaces of the sea, 
once I had learned to decipher the meaning of tfae 
problem. What it is all about, or whether it is 
about anything at all, you, the reader, of course, 
must decide for yourself. To me, the moral, if I 
may use a conventional word to express an un* 
conventional idea, is plain, and if I have not suc- 
ceeded in making it appear so, then I must to some 
extent blame you, the reader, for what is true of 
ail books, is perhaps truest of this, that you will 
carry away from it only what you are able to bring 
to it. 



Chapter I 

One of my friends, a lady, visited Venice alone 
in her middle age. It was late at night when the 
train drew into the station, and it was raining, a 
drizzly, chilling rain. The porter pushed her, 
with her bag, into a damp gondola and the dismal 
voyage to the hotel began. There were a few 
lights here and there but she had the impression 
that she was floating down the Chicago River in a 
wash-tub. Once she had reached her destination, 
she clambered unsteadily out of the black barge, 
wobbled through a dark passageway, inhaling great 
whiffs of masticated garlic, and finally emerged 
in a dimly, lighted lobby. At the desk, a sleepy 
clerk yawned as she spoke of her reservation. 
Tired, rather cross, and wholly disappointed, she 
muttered, I don't like Venice at all. I wish I hadn't 
come. The clerk was unsympathetically explana- 
tory, Signora should have visited Venice when she 
was younger. 

A day or so later, the lady recovered her spirits 
and even her sense of humour for she told me the 
story herself and I have always remembered it. 
The moment it passed her lips, indeed, I begaia tcs 

[91 



' Peter IVhiffle 
reflect that I had been lucky to encounter the 
Bride of the Adriatic in my youth. Paris, too, 
especially Paris, for there Is a melancholy pleasure 
to be derived from Venice. It is a suitable environ- 
ment for grief; there is a certain superior relish to 
suffering there. Pans, I sometimes think, smiles 
only on the very young and it is not a city I should 
care to approach for the first time after I had passed 
forty. 

I was, as a matter of fact, in my twenties when 
I first went to Paris — my happiness might have been 
even greater had I been nineteen — and I was alone. 
The trip across England — I had landed at Liver- 
pool — and the horrid channel, I will not describe, 
although both made sutBcient impression on me, but 
the French houses at Dieppe awakened my first deep 
emotion and then, and so many times since, the 
Normandy cider, quaffed in a little cafe, contermi- 
nous to the railroad, and the journey through France, 
alive In the sunlight, for it was May, the fields 
dancing with the green grain spattered with ver- 
milion poppies and cerulean cornllowers, the white 
roads, flying like ribbons between the stately pop- 
lars, leading away over the charming hills past the 
red-brick villas, completed the siege of my not too 
easily given heart. There was the stately and 
romantic interruption of Rouen, which at that 
period suggested nothing in the world to me but 
Emma Bovary. Then more fields, more roads, 
more towns, and at last, towards twilight, Paris. 

rtol 



Hi 



'ije ana Works 

Railroads have a fancy for entering cities stealth- 
ily through backyai'cis and the first glimpses of 
Paris, achieved from a car-window, were not over- 
pleasant hut the posters on the hoardings, adver- 
tising beer and automobile tires, particularly that of 
the Michelin Tire Company, with the picture of the 
pinguid gentleman, constructed of a series of pneu- 
matic circles, seemed characteristic enough. Chcret 
was dead but something of his spirit seemed to glow 
in these intensely coloured affiches and I was young. 
Even the dank Gare Saint Lazare did not dismay 
me, and I entered into the novel baggage hunt with 
something of zest, while other busy passengers and 
the blue porters rushed hither and thither in a 
complicated but well-ordered maze. Naturally, 
however, I was the last to leave the station; as the 
light outside deepened to a rich warm blue, I wan- 
dered into the street, my porter bearing my trunk, 
to find there a solitary cocher mounted on the box of 
his carious fiacre. 

An artist friend, Albert Worcester, had already 
determined my destination and so I gave commands, 
Hotel de la Place de I'Odeon, the cocher cracked 
his whip, probably adding a Hue cocotte I and 
we were under way. The drive through the streets 
that evening seemed like a dream and, even later, 
when the streets of Paris had become more familiar 
to me than those of any other city, I could occa- 
sionally recapture the mood oi tVi\s ^T&^\\i\Q^- ^^^ 
Kris in the May twilight is ver-y soH a.tv^. cwa^\i>-^si. 
, [111 



Peter Whiffle 

the grey buildings swathed in a bland blue light and 
the air redolent with a strange fragrance, the ingre- 
dients of which have never been satisfactorily identi- 
fied in my nasal imagination, although Huysmans, 
Zola, Symons, and Cunninghame Graham have all 
attempted to separate and describe them. Presently 
we crossed the boulevards and I saw for the first 
time the rows of blooming chestnut trees, the 
kiosques where newsdealers dispensed their wares, 
the brilliantly lighted theatres, the sidewalk cafes, 
sprinkled with human figures, typical enough, doubt- 
less, but who all seemed as unreal to me at the time 
as if they had been Brobdingnags, Centaurs, Griffins, 
or Mermaids. Other fiacres, private carriages, 
taxi-autos, carrying French men and French ladies, 
passed us. I saw Bel Ami, Nana, Liane de Pougy, 
or Otero in every one of them. As we drove by 
the Opera, I am certain that Cleo de Merode and 
Leopold of Belgium descended the steps. Even the 
buses assumed the appearance of gorgeous char- 
iots, bearing perfumed Watteauesque ladies on 
their journey to Cythera. As we drove through 
the Tuileries Gardens, the mood snapped for an 
instant as I viewed the statue of Gambetta, which, 
I thought at the time, and have always thought 
since, was amazingly like the portrait of a gentle- 
man hailing a cab. What could more completely 
symbolize Paris than the statue of a gentleman per- 
petually hailing a cab and never getting one? 
fVe drove on through the "Lduvt^ ^ivdi xvcx^ ^'t 

[I2l 



•J 



His Life and Works 

Seine was under us, lying black in the twilight, re- 
viving dark memories of crime and murder, on 
across the Pont du Carrousel, and up the narrow 
Rue de Seine, The Quartier Latin! I must have 
cried aloud, for the cocher looked a trifle suspicious, 
his head turned th& fraction of an inch. Later, of 
course, I said, the left bank, as casually as any one^ 
It was almost dark when we drove into the open 
Place, flanked by the Odeon, a great Roman temple, 
with my little hotel tucked into one corner, as un- 
ostentatiously as possible, being exactly similar to 
every other structure, save the central one, in the 
Place. I shall stop tonight, I said to myself, in the 
hotel where Little Billee lived, for, when one first 
goes to Paris when one is young, Paris is either 
the Paris of Murger, du Maurier, or the George 
Moore of the Confessions, perhaps the Paris of 
all three. In my bag these three books lay, and I 
had already begun to live one of them. 

The patron and a servant in a long white apron 
were waiting, standing In the doorway. The serv- 
ant hoisted my trunk to his shoulder and bore it 
away. I paid the cocher's reckoning, not without 
difliculty for, although I was not ignorant of the 
language, I was unaccustomed to the simplicity of 
French coinage. There were also the mysteries 
of the pourboire to compute — ten per cent, I had 
been told; who has not been told this? — and be- 
sides, as always happens when one is travelling, I 
had no little money. But at letv^Vv ^i^v^ Tv^'g:iVv^*t^^'^^ 






Peter Whiffle 

were terminated, not to the displeasure of the 
cocher, I feel certain, since he condescended to 
smile pleasantly. Then, with a crack of his whip, 
this enormous fellow with his black moustaches, his 
glazed top-hat, and his long coat, drove away. I 
cast a long lingering look after him, apparently 
quite unaware that many another such teratological 
specimen existed on every hand. Now I followed 
the patron into a dark hallway and new strata of 
delight. He gave me a lighted candle and, behind 
him, I mounted the winding stairway to the first 
floor, where I was deposited in a chamber with dark 
red walls, heavy dark red curtains at the windows, 
which looked out over the Place, a black walnut 
wash-hand-stand with pitcher and basin, a huge 
black walnut wardrobe, two or three chairs of the 
same wood, upholstered with faded brocade, and 
a most luxurious bed, so high from the floor that 
one had to climb into it, hung with curtains like 
those at the window, and surmounted by a feather- 
bed. There was also another article of furniture, 
indispensable to any French bedroom. 

I gave Joseph (all men servants In small hotels 
In Paris are named Joseph, perhaps to warn ofi 
prospective Potiphar's wives) his vail, asked for 
hot water, which he bore up promptly in a small 
can, washed myself, did a little unpacking, hum- 
ming the Mattchiche the while, changed my shirt, 
my collar and my necktie, demanded another bougie, 
liffhted it. and under the humble illumination af- 



His Life and Works 

forded by it and its companion, I began to read 
again The Confessions of a Young Man. It was 
not very long before I was interrupted in the midst 
of an absorbing passage descriptive of the circle at 
the Nouvelle Athenes by the arrival of Albert 
Worcester, who had arranged for my reception, 
and right here I may say that I was lodged in the 
Hotel de la Place de I'Odeon for fifty francs a 
month. Albert's arrival, although unannounced, 
was not unexpected, as he had promised to take me 
to dinner. 

I was sufficiently emphatic. Paris! I cried. 
Paris! Good God! 

I see you are not disappointed. But Albert 
permitted a trace of cynicism to flavour his smile. 

It's too perfect, too wonderful. It is more 
than I felt or imagined. I'm moving in. 

But you haven't seen it. . . . 

I've seen enough. I don't mean that. I mean 
I've seen enough to know. But I want to see it 
all, everything, Saint Sulpice, the Folies-Bergere, 
the Musee de Cluny, the Nouvelle Athenes, the 
Comedie Frangaise, the Bal BuUier, the Arc de 
Triomphe, the Luxembourg Gardens. . . . 

They close at sundown. My expression was 
the cue for him to continue. They'll be open 
tomorrow and any other day. They're just around 
the corner. You can go there when you get up in 
the morning, if you do get up in the morning. But 
what do you want to do tonl^Vvtl 

Lisa 




Peter WhiBe 

Anything I Everything! I cried. 
Well, we'll eat first. 

So we blew out the candles, floated down the dark 
stairs — I didn't really walk for a week, I am sure — , 
brusliing on our way against a bearded student 
and a girl, fragrant and warm in the semi -blackness, 
out into the delicious night, with the fascinating in- 
describable odour of Paris, which ran the gamut 
from the fragrance of lilac and mimosa to the 
aroma of horse-dung; with the sound of horses* 
hoofs and rolling wheels beating and revolving on 
the cobble-stones, we made our way — I swear my 
feet never touched the ground— through the nar- 
row, crooked, constantly turning, bewildering 
streets, until we came out on a broad boulevard 
before the Cafe d'Harcourt, where I was to eat 
my first Paris dinner. 

The Cafe d'Harcourt is situated near the Church 

of the Sorbonnc on the Boulevard Saint Michel, 

which you are more accustomed to see spelled Boul' 

Mich'. It is a big, brightly lighted cafe, with a 

broad terrassc, partially enclosed by a hedge of 

green bushes in boxes. The hands of the clock 

pointed to the hour of eight when we arrived and 

the tables all appeared to be occupied. Inside, 

groups of men were engaged in games of checkers, 

while the orchestra was performing selections from 

I Louis Ganne's operetta, Les Saltimbanques. On 

k the terrasse, each little table, covered with its white 

^Uoth, was lighted by a tiny lamp with a roseate 



His Life and Works 

shade, over which faces glowed. The botdes and 
dishes and silver all contributed their share to the 
warmth of the scene, and heaping bowls of peaches 
and pears and apples and little wood strawberries, 
ornamenting the sideboards, gave the place an al- 
most sumptuous appearance. Later I learned that 
fruit was expensive in Paris and not to be tasted 
lightly. Victor Maurel has told me how, dining 
one night with the composer of The Barber, he 
was about to help himself to a peach from a silver 
platter in the centre of the table when the frugal 
Madame Rossini expostulated, Those are to look 
at, not to eat! 

While we lingered on the outer sidewalk, a little 
comedy was enacted, through the denouement of 
which we secured places. A youth, with wine in 
his head and love in his eyes, caressed the warm 
lips of an adorable girl. Save for the glasses of 
aperitifs from which they had been drinking, their 
table was bare. They had not yet dined. He 
clasped her tightly in his arms and kissed her, kissed 
her for what seemed to be a very long time but 
no one, except me, appeared to take any notice. 

Look I I whispered to Albert. Look! 

Oh, that's all right. You'll get used to that, 
he replied negligently. 

Now the kiss was over and the two began to 
talk, very excitedly and rapidly, as French people 
are wont to talk. Then, impulsively, they rose 
from their chairs. The man thre^ ^, coVsv ^^^^r^ cjc^ 




* Peter Whiffle 

\ napkin. I caught the glint of gold. He gath- 
ered his arms about the woman, a lovely pale blue 
creature, with torrid orange hair and a hat abloom 
with striated petunias. They were in the middle of 
the street when the waiter appeared, bearing a tray, 
laden with plates of sliced cucumbers, radishes and 
butter, tiny crayfish, and a bottle of white wine. 
He stared in mute astonishment at the empty table, 
and then picked up the coin. Finally, he glanced to- 
wards the street and, observing the retreating pair, 
called after them: 

Mais vous n'avez pas dine! 

The man turned and shot his reply over his 
shoulder. Nous rentronsl 

The crowd on the terrasse shrieked with delight 
They applauded. Some even tossed Bowers from 
the tables after the happy couple and we . . .we 
sat down in the chairs they had relinquished. I am 
not certain that we did not eat the dinner they had 
ordered. At any rate we began with the cucumbers 
and radishes and ecrevisses and a bottle of Graves 
Superior. 

That night in Paris I saw no Americans, at least 
no one seemed to be an American, and I heard no 
English spoken. How this came about I have no 
idea because it never occurred again. In fact, one 
meets more Americans in Paris than one docs in 
New York and most of the French thnt I manage 
to speak I have picked up on the Island of Man- 

Iattan. During dinner T began tn suspect a man 



His Life and Works 

without a beard, in a far corner, but Albert re- 
assured me. 

He is surely French, he said, because he is 
buttering his radishes. 

It would be difficult to exaggerate my emotion: 
the white wine, the bearded French students, the 
exquisite women, all young and smiling and gay, 
all organdie and lace and sweet-peas, went to my 
head. I have spent many happy evenings in the 
Cafe d'Harcourt since that night. I have been 
there with Olive Fremstad when she told me how, 
dressed as a serpent in bespangled Nile green, she 
had sung the finale of Salome to Edward VII in 
London, and one memorable Mardi-Gras night with 
Jane Noria when, in a long raincoat which covered 
me from head to foot, standing on our table from 
time to time, I shouted, C'est I'heure fatale! and 
made as if to throw the raincoat aside but Noria, 
as if dreading the exposure, always dragged me 
down from the table, crying, No! Nol until the 
carnival crowd, consumed with curiosity, pulled me 
into a corner, tore the raincoat away, and every- 
thing else too! There was another night, before 
the Bal des Quat'z Arts, when the cafe was filled 
with students and models in costume, and costume 
for the Quat'z Arts in those days, whatever it may 
be now, did not require the cutting out of 
many handkerchiefs. But the first night was the 
best and every other night a more or less pale re- 
flection of that, always, indeed, coVoxsct^^ •a^XsJcS^fc^'^ 

[19^ 






Peter Whiffle 

the memory of It. So that today, whea some- 
times I am asked what cafe I prefer in Paris and I 
reply, the d'Harcoiirt, there are those who look at 
me a little pityingly and some even go so far as to 
ejaculate, Oh, that 1 but I know why it is my favour- 



Even a leisurely dinner ends at last, and I knev, 
as we sipped our coffee and green chartreuse and 
smoked our cigarettes, that this one must be over. 
After paying our very moderate addition, wc 
strolled slowly away, to hop into an empty fiacre 
which stood on the corner a block down the boule* 
vard, I lay back against the seat and gazed at the 
stars for a moment as the drive began through the 
warm, fragrant Paris air, the drive back to the right 
bank, this time across the Pont Neuf, down the Rue 
de Rivoli, through the Place de la Concorde, where 
the fountains were playing, and up the Champs- 
Elysees. The aroma of the chestnuts, the melting 
grey of the buildings, the legions of carriages and 
buses, filled with happy, chattering people, the 
glitter of electricity, all the mystic wonder of thia 
enchanting night will always stay with me. 

Wc drove to the Theatre Marigny where wc 
saw a revue; at least we were present at a revue; I 
do not remember to have seen or heard anything on 
the stage. Between the acts, we walked in the 
open foyer, at this theatre a sort of garden, and 
admired the cocottes, great ladies of some distant 
l^och, they seemed to me. in their toilets from 



His Life and Works 

Redfern and Doucet and Cheruit and Callot Soeurs, 
their hats from the Rue de la Paix and the Place 
Vendome, their exceedingly elaborate and decora- 
tively artificial complexions. Later, we sipped cas- 
sis on the balcony. It was Spring in Paris and I was 
young! The chestnut trees were heavy with white 
blossoms and the air was laden with their perfume. 
I gazed down the Champs-Elysees, surely the true 
Elysian Fields, a myriad of lights shining through 
the dark green, the black, leaved branches. I do 
not think I spoke many words and I know that 
Albert did not. He may have been bored, but I 
think he derived some slight pleasure from my 
juvenile enthusiasm for, although Paris was old 
hat to him, he loved this particular old hat. 

We must have stopped somewhere for more 
drinks on the way home, perhaps at Weber's in the 
Rue Royale, where there was a gipsy band. I do 
not remember, but I am sure that it was nearly four 
in the morning when we drove up before the little 
hotel in the Place de TOdeon and when, after we 
had paid the driver and dismissed him, I discovered 
to my astonishment that the door was locked. 
Albert assured me that this was the custom and 
that I must ring for the concierge. So I pulled 
the knob, and even outside we could hear the dis- 
tant reverberations of the bell, but no reply came, 
and the door remained closed. It was Joseph's 
job to open the door and Joseph was asleep and 
refused to awaken. Again arv(i 2l^?\xv ^^ ^nJ^^^ 



Peter Whiffle 

the cord, the bell tinkling in the vast silence, for 
the street was utterly deserted, but still no one 
came. At last we desisted, Albert suggesting that 
I go home with him. We walked a few paces 
until we came to the iron fence surrounding the 
Luxembourg Gardens and there, lying beside it, 
I espied a ladder, left by some negligent workman. 

But my room is on the first floor. The window 
is open; it looks over the Place. I can enter with 
the ladder, I cried. 

Albert, amused, helped me carry it back. Set 
up, it just reached the window and I swiftly scaled 
it and clambered into the room, waving my hand 
back to Albert, who hoisted the ladder to his 
shoulder as he started up the street trying to 
whistle, Viens Poupoulel but laughing to himself 
all the time, so that the tune cracked. As for me, I 
lighted one of my candles, undressed, threw the 
feather-bed off to the floor, and climbed into bed. 
Then I blew out the candle and soon fell asleep. It 
was the tenth of May, 1907, that I spent my first 
night in Paris. 



[22A 



Chapter II 

It must have been nearly noon when I awakened 
and drew back the heavy curtains to let the sunlight 
into my room, as I have since seen so many French 
actresses do on the stage. I rang the bell, and 
when Joseph appeared, I asked for hot water, choc- 
olate and rolls. Presently, he returned with a little 
can of tepid water and my breakfast on a tray. 
While I sponged myself, I listened to the cacophony 
of the street, the boys calling vegetables, the heavy 
rumbling of the buses on the rough pavement, the 
shrieking and tooting of the automobile sirens. 
Then I sipped my chocolate and munched my crois- 
sant, feeling very happy. My past had dropped 
from me like a crustacean's discarded shell. I was 
in Paris and it still seemed possible to live in Paris 
as I had been told that one lived there. It was 
exactly like the books. 

After my breakfast, I dressed slowly, and wan- 
dered out, past the peristyle of the Odeon, where I 
afterwards spent so many contented hours search- 
ing for old plays, on through the now open gate of 
the Luxembourg Gardens, gaily sprinkled with 
children and their nounous, students and sweet girls, 
charming old ladies with lace caps on their heads 
and lace scarfs round their shoulders, and painters^ 

[231 



Peter Whiffle 

working away at their canvases on easels. In the 
pool in front of the Senate, boys were launching 
their toy sloops and schooners and, a little farther 
away on the gravel walk, other boys were engaged 
in the more active sport of diabolo. The gardens 
were ablaze with flowers but a classic order was I 
maintained for which the stately rows of clipped 
limes furnished the leading note. The place 
seemed to have been created for pleasure. Even 
the dingy statues of the queens smiled at me. I sat 
on a bench, dreaming, until an old crone approached 
and asked me for a sou- I thought her a beggar 
until she returned the change from a fifty centimes 
piece which I had given her, explaining that one ' 
sou was the price of my seat. There were free ^i 
seats too, I discovered after I had paid. ; 

The Luxembourg Gardens have always retained • 
their hold over my imagination. I never visit Paris 
without spending several hours there, sometimes ■ 
in the bright morning light, sometimes In the late 
afternoon, when the military band plays dolent 
tunes, usually by Massenet, sometimes a spectator 
at one of the gulgnols and, very often in the ' 
autumn, when the leaves are falling, I sit silently 
on a bench before the Medici fountain, entirely 
unconscious of the passing of time. The I-uxetn- 
bourg Gardens always envelop me in a sentimental 
mood. Their atmosphere is softly poetic, old-fash- 
ioned, melancholy. I am near to tears now, merely 
thinking of them, and I am sure the tears came to ■ 

r243 
ti2*^ m 



-ning foun^H 



Life and Works 

my eyes even on that bright May morning I 
teen years ago. 

Did I, attracted by the strange name, lunch at 
the Deux-Magots? It is possible. I know that 
later I strolled down the Rue de Seine and along 
the quais, examining eighteenth century books, buy- 
ing old numbers of TAssiette au Beurre, and talking 
■with the quaint vendors, most of them old men. 
Then I wandered up the Rue de Richelieu, studying 
the examples of fine bindings in the windows of the 
shops on either hand. About three o'clock, I 
mounted the imperiale of a bus, not even asking 
where it was going. I didn't care. I descended 
before the gate of the Pare Monceau and passed a 
^ew happy moments in the presence of the marble 
'idy in a dress of the nineties, who reads Guy de 
Maupassant in the shadow of his bust, and a few 
more by the Naumachie, the oval pool, flanked by 
a semi-circular Corinthian colonnade in a state of 
picturesque ruin. 

At a. quarter before four, I left the pare and, 
hailing a fiacre, bade the driver take me to Martha 
Baker's studio in the Avenue Victor Hugo, where 
1 had an appointment. Martha was painting my 
portrait. She had begun work on the picture in 
Chicago the year before but when 1 went to New 
York,, she went to Paris. So it was still unfinished 
and I had promised to come to her for more sit- 
tings. Now, in Chicago, Martha notti 'Oft'sx \ 
grcw restless on the model-stand and sVve. \v^^toM.TA 

[25] 



Peter Whiffle 

It expedient to ask people in to talk to me, so thst 
my face would not become dead and sullen. There, 
I usually knew the people she would ask, but it ot 
curred to me, as I was driving to her door, that in 
I Paris I knew no one, so that, if she followed her 
fefaabit, I would see new faces. 

F The cocher stopped his horse before an old stoK 
house and I entered. Challenged by the concIcrgCt 
I asked for Mademoiselle Bahker, and was direc- 
ted to go through the courtyard into a back 
passageway, up the stairs, where I would find Mai 
emolselle Bahker, troisieme a gauche. I followed 
these instructions and knocked at the door. 
Martha, herself, opened it. 

Oh, Carl, it's you! I'm so glad to see you! 
Martha had not changed. She and even her 
hitudio were much as they had been in Chicago. She 
^B dead now, dead possibly of a broken heart; cer- 
tainly she was never happy. Her Insouciance, the 
portrait of Elizabeth Buehrmann, in a green cloth 
dress trimmed with fur, and a miniature or two hang 
^L;in the Art Institute in Chicago, but during her life- 
^Vtime she never received the kind of appreciation she 
^■iteally craved. She had an uncanny talent for pop 
Bitraiture, a talent which in some respects I have never 
^pseen equalled by any of her coevals. Artists, as a 
matter of fact, generally either envied or admiretl 
her. Her peculiar form of genius lay in the fad^ 
ity with which she caught her sitters' weaknesses- 
^Possibly this is the reason she did not sell 



°^ 



lis 

pictures, for her models were frequently dissat^ 
iied. It was exasperating, doubtless, to find oim 
self caught in paint on canvas against an un- 
enviable immortality. Her sitters were exposed, 
so to speak; petty vices shone forth; Martha almost 
idealized the faults of her subjects. It would be 
Impossible for the model to strut or pose before 
one of her pictures. It told the truth. Sargent 
caught the trick once. I have been informed that 
a physician diagnosed the malady of an American 
lady, his patient, after studying Sargent's portrait 
of her. 

Martha should have painted our senators, our 
mayors, our scientists, our authors, our college 
presidents, and our critics. Posterity might have 
learned more from such portraits than from vol- 
umes of psychanalytic biography. But most of herf 
sitters were silly Chicago ladies, not particularlyj 
weak because they were not particularly strong, i 
On the few occasions on which in her capacity as an 
artist she had faced character, her brushes uner- 
ringly depicted something beneath the surface. She 
tore away men's masks and, with a kind of 
mystic understanding, painted thetr insides. How 
it was done, I don't know. Probably she herself 
didn't know. Many an artist is Ignorant of the 
secret of his own method. If I had ascribed this 
quality to Martha during her lifetime, which I 
n«ver did, she might not have taken It as praise. 

Kay not, indeed, have been h« MrfoVC\o\v, A- 
[27] 



Peter Whiffle 

though truth was undoubtedly her ambition. Spe^ 
ulation aside, this was no art for Chicago. I doubt, 
indeed, if it would have been popular anywhere, for 
men the world over are alike in this, that they not 
only prefer to be painted in masks, they even want 
the artist to flatter the mask a bit. 

The studio, I observed at once, was a little arty, 
a little more arty than a painter's studio usually is. 
It was arranged, of that there could be no doubt 
There were, to be sure, canvases stacked against 
the wall In addition to those which were hanging, 
but they had been stacked with a crafty hand, one 
indubious of its effect. For the rest, the tables and 
couches were strewn with brocades and laces, and 
lilacs and mimosa bloomed in brown and blue and 
green earthenware bowls on the tables. Later, I 
knew that marigolds and zinnias would replace; 
these and, later still, violets and gardenias, 
an easel stood my unfinished portrait and a pale 
and a box of paints lay on a stool nearby. 

Martha herself wore a soft, clinging, dark-green 
woollen dress, almost completely covered by a brown 
denim painter's blouse. Her hair was her great 
glory, long, reddish gold Melisande hair whidit 
when uncoiled, hung far below her knees, but today 
it was knotted loosely on top of her head. H 
face, keen and searching, wore an expression thai 
might be described as wistful; discontent lurfc 
somewhere between her eyes and her mouth. H 
complexion was sallow ^n^ sVve wot^ ei^^-^^.^'^fta- 



:( 




His Life and Works 

There was some one else present, a girl, sitting 
in a shadowy corner, who rose as I entered. A 
jtrong odour o^ Coeur de Jeannette hovered about 
ber. She was an American. She was immediately 
introduced as Miss Clara Barnes of Chicago, but I 
RTould have known she was an Aftierican had she not 
been so introduced. She wore a shirt-waist and 
skirt. She had very black hair, parted in the middle, 
a face that it would have been impossible to remem- 
ber ten minutes and which now, although I have seen 
ber many times since, I have completely forgotten, 
and very thick ankles. I gathered presently that 
she was in Paris to study singing as were so many 
girls like her. Very soon, I sized her up as the 
kind of girl who thinks that antimacassars are otto- 
mans, that tripe is a variety of fish, that Cosi Fan 
Tutte is an Italian ice cream, that the pope's nose is 
a nasal appendage which has been blessed by the 
head of the established church, that The Beast in 
the Jungle is an animal story, and that when one says 
Arthur Machen one means Harry Menckdn. 

Well, we'd best begin, said Martha. It's late. 

Isn't it too late ? I was rather surprised when you 
asked me to come in the afternoon. 

Martha smiled but there was a touch of petulance 
in her reply: I knew you wouldn't get up very 
early the morning after your first night in Paris, and 
I knew if I didn't get you here today there would be 
small chance of getting you here at all. If you come 
again, of course it will be in the motivm^. 

[291 




Peter Whiffle 
1 1 climbed to the model-chair, seated myseU, 

'asped the green book that was part of tht 
composition, and automatically assumed that y/mx- 
begone expression that is worn by all amateur) 
who pose for their portraits. 

That won't do at all, said Martha. I asked Clan 
to come here to amuse you. 

Clara tried. She told me that she was studying 
Manon and that she had been to the Opera-Comique 
fifteen times to hear the opera. 

Garden is all wrong in it, all wrong, she continued 
In the first place she can't sJng. Of course she's 
pretty, but she's not my idea of Manon at all. I will 
really sing the part and act it too, 

A month or two later, while we munched sand- 
wiches and drank beer between the acts of Tristan 
und Isolde in the foyer of the Prinzregenten The- 
ater in Munich, Olive Fremsfad Introduced me to an 
American girl, who informed me that a new Isolde 
had been born that day. 

I shall be the great Isolde, she remarked casually, 
and her name, I gathered, when I asked Madame 
Fremstad to repeat it, was Minnie Saltzmann- 
Stevens. 

But on the day that Clara spoke of her future tri- 
umphs in Manon, I had yet to become accustomed 
to this confidence with which beginners in the vocal 
art seem so richly endowed, a confidence which is | 
frequently disturbed by circumstances for, as George 
I^Moore has somewhere s ajd, our dreanu -Aud our 

t 



His Life and Works 

circ umstances are often J n conflict. Later, I dis- 
covered that every unsuccessful singer believes, and 
asserts, that Geraldine Farrar is instrumental in 
preventing her from singing at the Metropolitan 
Opera House. On this day, I say, I was unaware 
of this peculiarity in vocalists but I was interested 
in the name she had let slip, a name I had never 
before heard. 

Who is Garden? I asked. 

You don't know Mary Garden! exclaimed Mar- 
tha. 

There! shrieked Clara. There! I told you so. 
No one outside of Paris has ever even heard of the 
woman. 

Well, they've heard of her here, said Martha, 
quietly, pinching a little worm of cobalt blue from 
a tube. She's the favourite singer of the Opera- 
Comique. She is an American and she sings Louise 
and Manon and Traviata and Melisande and 
Aphrodite, especially Aphrodite. 

She's singing Aphrodite tonight, said Miss 
Barnes. 

And what is she like? I queried. 

Well, Clara began dubiously, she is said to be 
like Sybil Sanderson but, of course, Sanderson had 
a voice and, she hurried on, you know even Sander- 
son never had any success in New York. 

I recalled, only too readily, how Manon with Jean 
de Reszke, Pol Plangon, and Sybil Sanderson in 
the cast had failed in the nineties -ait. iVvt \Afc\x^- 

[31I \ 



Peter Whiffle 

politan Opera House, and I admitted as much to 
Clara. 

But would this be true today? I pondered. 

Certainly, advanced Clara. America doesn^t 
want French singers. They never know how to sing. 

But you are studying in Paris. 

The girl began to look discomfited. 

With an Italian teacher, she asseverated. 

It delighted me to be able to add, I think Sander- 
son studied with Sbriglia and Madame Marchesi. 

Your face is getting very hard, cried Martha in 
despair. 

I think he is very rude, exclaimed the outraged 
and contumacious Miss Barnes, with a kind of leer- 
ing acidity. He doesn't seem to know the difference 
between tradition and impertinent improvisation. 
He doesn't see that singing at the Opera or the 
Opera-Comique with a lot of rotten French singers 
would ruin anybody who didn't have training enough 
to stand out against this influence, singing utterly un- 
musical parts like Melisande, too, parlando roles cal- 
culated to ruin any voice. Maeterlinck won't even 
go to hear the opera, it's so rotten. I wonder how 
much Mr. Van Vechten knows about music anyway? | 

Very little, I remarked mildly. 

Oh, wailed Martha, you're not entertaining Carl 
at all and I can't paint when you squabble. CarFs 
very nice. Why can't you be agreeable, Clara? 
What is the matter ? 
A//55 Barnes disdained to repV^. ^^ dtt«^\\Rx-\ 



His Life and Works 

self into a sort of sulk, crossing her thick ankles 
massively. The scent of Coeur de Jeannette seemed 
to grow heavier. Within bounds, I was amused by 
her display of emotion but I was also bored. My 
face must have showed it. Martha worked on 
for a moment or two and then flung down her 
brush. 

It's no good, no good at all, she announced. 
You have no expression today. I can't get behind 
your mask. Your face is completely empty. 

And, I may add, as this was the last day that 
Martha ever painted o n this portrait, she never did 
get b ehind the ^iaask. To ^iaL ext ent I triumphed, 
and the picture still exists to confuse people as to 
my real personality. It is >4is.^^pty as if jt had 
bee n paintod by B o l d ini or iMcEvoy. Fortunately 
for her future reputation in this regard, Martha 
had already painted a portrait of me which is suffi- 
ciently revealing. 

I must have stretched and yawned at this point, 
for Martha looked cross, when a welcome inter- 
ruption occurred in the form of a knock at the 
door. Martha walked across the room. As she 
opened the door, directly opposite where I was sit- 
ting, I saw the slender figure of a young man, per- 
haps twenty-one years old. He was carefully 
dressed in a light grey suit with a herring-bone pat- 
tern, and wore a neck-scarf of deep blue. He car- 
ried a stick and buckskin gloves in one hand and a 
straw hat in the other. 

[33^ 



ip 



Why, it's Peter I cried Martha. I wish you had 
come sooner. 

This is Peter Whiffle, she said, leading him into 
the room and then, as he extended his hand to mc, 
You know Clara Barnes. 

He turned away to bow but I had already caught 
his Interesting face, his deep blue eyes that shifted 
rather uneasily but at the same time remained 
honest and frank, his clear, simple expression, his 
high brow, his curly, blue-black hair, carefully 
parted down the centre of his head. He spoke to mc 
at once. 
^ Martha has said a good deal, perhaps too much 
ta|t>out you. Still, I have wanted to meet you. 
■ You must tell mc who you are, I replied. 

I should have told you, only you just arrived, 
Martha put in. I had no idea that Peter would 
come In today. He is the American Flaubert or 
Anatole Prance or something. He is writing % 
book. What is your book about, Peter? 

Whiffle smiled, drew out a cigarette-case of 
Toledo work, extracted a cigarette from it, and 
said, I haven't the slightest idea. Then, as if he 
thought this might be construed as rudeness, or false 
modesty, or a rather viscous attempt at secrecy, he 
added, 1 really haven't, not the remotest. I want 
to talk to you about It ... . That's why I wanted 
to meet you. Martha says that you know . . . well, 
that you know. 

[34] 



w 



than 



Life am 

You really should be painting Mr, Van Vechtcn 
now, said Clara Barnes, with a trace of malice. He 
has the right expression. 

I hope I haven't interrupted your work, said 
Peter. 

No, I'm through today, Martha rejoined. We're 
neither of us in the mood. Besides it's absurd to 
try to paint in this light. 

Painting, Peter went on, is not any easier than 
writing. Always the search for — for what? 
asked suddenly, turning to me. 

For truth, I suppose, I replied, 

I thought you would say that but that's not 
I meant, that's not at all what I meant. 

This logogriph rather concluded that subject, 
for Peter did not explain what it was that he did 
mean. Neither did he wear a conscious air of 
obfuscation. He rambled on about many things, 
spoke of new people, new books, new music, and he 
also mentioned Mary Garden. 

I have heard of Mary Garden for the first time 
today, I said, and I am beginning to be interested. 

You haven't seen her? demanded Peter. But 
she is stupendous, soul, body, imagination, intellect, 
everything! How few there are. A lyric Melis- 
ande, a caressing Manon, a throbbingly wicked 
Chrysis. She is the cult in Paris and the Opera- 
Comique is the Temple where she is worshipped, I 
iink some day this new religion will be carriei 

[35"\ 




riedJ^^ 



wm 






America. He stopped. Let me see, what am 1 1 
doing tonight? Oh, yes, I know. I won't do that. 
Will you go with me to hear Aphrodite? 

Of course, I will. I have just come to Paris 
and 1 want to do and hear and see everything. 

Well, we'll go, he announced, but I noted that 
his tone was curiously indecisive. We'll go to 
dinner first. 

You're not going to dinner yet? Martha de- 
manded rather querulously. 

Not quite yet. Then, turning to Clara, How's 
the Voice? 

It was my first intimation that Clara had thus 
symbolized her talent in the third person. People 
were not expected to refer to her as Clara or Miss 
Barnes; she was the Voice. 

The Voice is doing very well indeed, Clara, now 
quite mollified, rejoined. I'm studying Manon, and 
if you like Mary Garden, wait until you hear mel 

Peter continued to manipulate Clara with the 
proper address. The conversation bubbled or lan- 
guished, I forget which; at any rate a half-hour 
or so later, Peter and 1 were seated in a tan-cab^ 
bound for Foyot's where he had decided we would 
dine; at least I thought he had decided, but sooa 
he seemed doubtful. 

Foyot's, Foyot's, he rolled the name meditatively 

'er on his tongue. I don't know, . , , 

Wc leaned back against the seat and drank in the 
soft air. 1 don't think that we talked very much. 



His Life and Works 

The cocher was driving over the bridge of Alex- 
andre III with its golden horses gleaming in the late 
afternoon sunlight when Peter bent forward and 
addressed him, 

AUez au Cafe Anglais. 

Where meant nothing to me, but I was a little 
surprised at his hesitation. The cocher changed 
his route, grumbling a bit, for he was out of his 
course. 

I don't know why I ever suggested Foyot, said 
Peter, or the Cafe Anglais either. We'll go to the 
Petit Riche. 



[373 



Chapter III 

\i the reader has been led to C3tpect a chapter 
devoted to an account ot Mary Garden to Aphro* 
dite, he will be disappointed. I did not sec Marj 
Garden that evening, nor for many evenings tfaer^ 
after, and I do not remember, indeed, that Peter 
Whiffle ever referred to her agairu We dined at 
3 quiet little restaurant, Boilaive by name, near 
the Folics-Bergerc, The interior, as bare of dec- 
oration as are most such interiors in Paris, where 
the food and wines are given more consideration 
than the mural paintings, was no larger than thai 
of a small shop. My companion led me straight 
to a tiny winding staircase in one comer, which we 
ascended, and presently we found ourselves in a 
private room, with three tables in it, to be sure, 
but two of these remained unoccupied. We began 
our dinner with escargots bourguignons, which I was 
eating for the first time, but 1 have never been 
squeamish about novel food. A man with a bruad 
taste in food is inclined to be tolerant in regard to 
everything. Also, when he begins to understand 
the cooking of a nation, he is on the way to an un- 
derstanding of the nation itself. There were many 
other dishes, but I particularly remember a navarin 
because Peter spoke of it, pointing out that ever)' 

K [38] ^ 

■ Z L ■ 



His Life and Works 

country has one disb in which it is honourable to put 
whatever is left over in the larder. In China (or 
out of it, in Chinese restaurants), this dish is called 
chop suey; in Ireland, Irish stew; in Spain, oUa or 
puchero; in France, ragout or navarin; in Italy, 
minestra ; and in America, hash. We lingered over 
such matters, getting acquainted, so to speak, 
passing through the polite stages of early con- 
versation, slipping beyond the poses that one un- 
consciously assumes with a new friend. I think 
I did most of the talking, although Whiffle told me 
that he had come from Ohio, that he was in Paris 
on a sort of mission, something to do with liter- 
ature, I gathered. We ate and drank slowly and 
it must have been nearly ten when he paid the 
bill and we drove away, this time to Fouquet's, an 
open-air restaurant in the Champs-Elysees, where 
we sat on the broad terrasse and drank many bocks, 
so many, indeed, that by the time we had decided 
to settle our account, the saucers in front of us 
were piled almost to our chins. We should prob- 
ably have remained there all night, had he not 
suggested that I go to his rooms with him. That 
night, my second in Paris, I would have gone any- 
where with. any one. But there was that in Peter 
Whiffle which had awakened both my interest and 
my curiosity for I, too, had the ambition to write, 
and it seemed to me possible that I was in the pres- 
ence of a writing man, an author. 

Wc entered another taxi-auto ot ^•^ct^^'V ^^^^* 



Peter Whiffle 

remember and it doesn't matter, there were so 
many peregrinations in those days, and we drove to 
an apartment house in a little street near the Rue 
Blanche. The house being modern, there was an 
ascenseur and I experienced for the first time the 
thrill of one of those little personally conducted 
lifts, in which you press your own button and take 
your own chances. Since that night I have had 
many strange misadventures with these intransi- 
gent elevators, but on this occasion, miraculously, 
the machine stopped at the fourth floor, as it had 
been bidden, and soon we were in the sitting-room 
of Whiffle's apartment, a room which I still remem- 
ber, although subsequently I have been in half a 
dozen of his other rooms in various localities. 

It was very orderly, this room, although not ex- 
actly arranged, at any rate not arranged like 
Martha's studio, as if to set object against object 
and colour against colour. It was a neat little 
ivory French room, with a white fire-place, picked 
in gold, surmounted by a gilt clock and Louis XVI 
candlesticks. There were charming aquatints on 
the ivory walls and chairs and tables of the Empire 
period. The tables were laden with neat piles 
of pamphlets. Beside a typewriter was ranged a 
heap of note-books at least a foot high and stacked 
on the floor in one corner there were other books, 
/or/nidable-looklng volumes of weight and heft, 
''thick bulky octavos with cut-2itvd-comfc-?i^^\w. c& 
'^ressions/' apparently dictionanes ^it^d Y^-^l^^tja- 



His Life and Works 

An orange Persian cat lay asleep in one of the 
chairs as we entered, but he immediately stretched 
himself, extending his noble paws, yawning and 
arching his back, and then came forward to greet 
us, purring. 

Hello, George! cried Whiffle, as the cat waved 
his magnificent red tail back and forth and rubbed 
himself against Peter's leg. 

George? I queried. 

Yes, that's George Moore. He goes every- 
where with me in a basket, when I travel, atid he 
is just as contented in Toledo as he is in Paris, 
anywhere there is raw meat to be had. Places 
mean nothing to him. My best friend. 

I sat in one of the chairs and lit a cigarette. 
Peter brought out a bottle of cognac and a couple 
of glasses. He threw open the shutters and the 
soft late sounds of the city filtered in with the fresh 
spring air. One could just hear the faint tinkle 
of an orchestra at some distant bal. 

I like you. Van Vechten, my host began at last, 
and I've got to talk to somebody. My work has 
just begun and there's so much to say about it. 
Tell me to stop when you get tired. ... In a 
way, I want to know what you think; in another 
way, it helps me merely to talk, in the working out 
of my ideas. But who was there to talk to, I 
mean before you came? I can see that you may 
be interested in what I am trying to do, good God I 
in what I will do! , I've dotve ?l Vo\. 'a^t^^.$i^J^ - - - 




ren't writte^T 



Peter Whiffle 

I You have begun your boc^ then? 

Well, you might say so, but I ha%-en't 
line, I've collected the straw; the bricks wiB 
come. I've not been idle. You see those cata- 
logues? 

I nodded. 

He fumbled them over. Then, without a break, 
with a strange glow of exhilaration on his pale 
ethereal face, his e>'es flashing, his hands gestic- 
ulating, his body swajing, marching up and 
down the room, he recited with a crescendo which 
mounted to a magnittcent fortissimo in the coda: 

Perfumery catalogues: Coty, Houbigant, Atkin- 
son, Rigaud, Rue dc la Paix, Bond Street, Place 
Vendome, Regent Street, Nirvana, Chypre, Sakoun- 
tala, .\mbre, Apres I'Ondee, Quelqucs Fleurs, 
Fougere Royale, Myrbaha, Yavabnah, Gaudika, 
Delices de Pera, Cceur de Jeannette, Djer Kiss, 
Jockey-Club, and the Egyptian perfumes. Myrrh 
and Kyphy. Did you know that Richelieu lived 
in an atmosphere heavily laden with the most pun- 
gent perfumes to inflame .his sexual imagination? 
Automobile catalogues: Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, 
Ford, tires, self-starters, limousines, carburettors, 
gas. Jewellery catalogues: heaps of 'em, all about 
diamonds and platinum, chrysoprase and jade, mal- 
achite and chalcedony, amethysts and gurnets, and 
the emerald, the precious stone which comes the 
^jiearcst to approximating that human manifestation 
^Kpown as art, because it always has flaws; red ja»- 

E £li 



mm 



e andrWorks 

per, sacred to the rosy god Bacchus, the green 
plasma, blood-stone, cornelian, cat's-eye, amber, 
with its medicinal properties, the Indian jewels, 
spinels, the reddish orange jacinth, and the violet 
almandine. Did you know that the Emperor 
Claudius used to clothe himself in smaragds and sar- 
donyx stones and that Pope Paul II died of a cold 
caught from the weight and chill of the rings which 
loaded his aged fingers? Are you aware that the 
star-topaz is as rare as a Keutschacher Rubentaler 
of the year 1 504 ? Yonder is a volume which treats 
of the glyptic lore. In it you may read of the As- 
syrian cylinders fashioned from red and green ser- 
pentine, the Egyptian scarabei, carved in steaschist; 
you may learn of the seal-cutters of Nineveh and 
of the Signet of Sennacherib, now preserved in the 
British Museum. Do you linow that a jewel en- 
graved with Hercules at the fountain was deposited 
in the tomb of the Frankish King Childeric at 
Tournay ? Do you know of Mnesarchus. the 
Tyrrhene gem-cutter, who practised his art at 
Samos ? Have you seen the Julia of Evodus, 
engraved in a giant aquamarine, or the Byzantine 
topaz, carved with the figure of the blind bow-boy, 
sacrificing the Psyche-butterfly, or the emerald 
signet of Polycrates, with the lyre cut upon it, or 
the Etruscan peridot representing a sphinx scratch- 
ing her ear with her hind paw, or the sapphire, dis- 
covered in a disused well at Hereford, in which the 
.d of the Madonna has been eh'istVWA., ^nxn^ "^^ 



COVI 

i 



Peter Whiffle 

inscription, round the beasil, in Lombard letters, 
TECTA LEGE LECTA TEGE, or the jacinth engraved 
with the triple face of Baphomet, with a 
legend of darkly obscene purport? The breast- 
plate of the Jewish High Priest had its oracular 
gems, which were the Urim and Thummim. Apol- 
lonius Tyaneus, the sorcerer, for the pur- 
poses of his enchantments, wore special rings with 
appropriate stones for each day of the week. 
Also, in this curious book, and others which you 
may examine, such as George IIFs Dactyliotheca 
Smithiana (Venice; 1767), you will find some ac- 
count of the gems of the Gnostics: an intaglio in 
a pale convex plasma, carved with the Chnuphis 
Serpent, raising himself aloft, with the seven vowels, 
the elements of his name, above; another 
jewel engraved with the figure of the jackal- 
headed Anubis, the serpent with the lion's head, the 
infant Horus, seated on the lotus, the cynocephalus 
baboon, and the Abraxas-god, lao, created from the 
four elements; an Egyptian seal of the god Har- 
pocrates, seated on the mystic lotus, in adoration 
of the Yoni; and an esoteric green jasper amulet 
in the form of a dragon, surrounded by rays. 
Florists' catalogues: strangely wicked cyclamens, 
meat-eating begonias, beloved of des Esseintes 
(Henri Matisse grows these peccant plants in his 
garden and they suggest his work), shaggy chrysan- 
themums, orchids^ green, w\v\te> zxA ixvauve^ the 
veined salpiglossxs, the mouttviv:\, x\0^-%xsvf36Lvwi 



His Life and Works 

tuberose, all the mystic blossoms adored by Robert 
de la Condamine's primitive, tortured, orgiastic 
saints in The Double Garden, marigolds and dai- 
sies, the most complex and the most simple flowers 
of all, hypocritical fuchsias, and calceolaria, sacred 
to la bella Cenerentola. Reaper catalogues: you 
know, the McCormicks and the Middle West. Por- 
celain catalogues: Rookwood, Royal Doulton, 
Wedgwood, Delft, the quaint, clean, heavy, charm- 
ing Brittany ware, Majolica, the wondrous Chinese 
porcelains, self-colour, sang de boeuf, apple of roses, 
peach-blow, Sevres, signed with the fox of Emile 
Renard, or the eye of Pajou, or the little house of 
Jean-Jacques Anteaume. Furniture catalogues : 
Adam and Louis XV, Futurist, Empire, Venetian 
and Chinese, Poincare and Grand Rapids. Art- 
dealers' catalogues: Felicien Rops and Jo David- 
son, Renoir and Franz Hals, Cranach and Picasso, 
Manet and Carpaccio. Book-dealers' catalogues: 
George Borrow, Thomas Love Peacock, Ambrose 
Bierce, William Beckford, Robert Smith Surtees, 
Francis William Bain. Do you know the true 
story of Ambrose Gwinett, related by Oliver Gold- 
smith: the fellow who, having been hanged and 
gibbeted for murdering a traveller with whom he 
had shared his bed-chamber at a tavern, revived 
in the night, shipped at sea as a sailor, and later 
met on a vessel the man for whose murder he had 
been hung? Gwinett's supposed victim had heetv 
attacked during the night Y7\t\v ^, %tN^x^ \X^'^S^M| 

[45^ 



Prfer fFhiffle 

of the nose, bad risen and left the house for a wilk 
by the sea-wall, and had been shanghaied. Cata- 
logues of curious varieties of cats : Australian, 
with long noses and long hind-legs, like kangarooSi 
Manx cats without any tails and chocolate and fanTi 
Siamese cats with sapphire eyes, the cacodorous 
Russian blue cats, and male tortoise-shells. Cata- 
logues of tinshops: tin plates, tin cups, and caa* 
openers. Catalogues of laces: Valenciennes and 
Cluny and Chantilly and double-knot, Punto in Aria, 
a Spanish lace of the sixteenth century, lace con- 
structed of human hair or aloe fibre. Point 
d'Espagne, made by Jewesses. Catalogues of toys: 
an engine that spreads smoke in the air, as it runs 
around a track with a circumference of eight feel, 
a doll that cries. Uncle! Uncle 1 a child's opium set. 
Catalogues of operas: Marta and Don Pasquale, 
Der Freischiitz and Mefistofele, Simon Bocanegra 
and La Dolores. Cook-Books: Mrs. Pennell's The 
Feasts of Autolycus, a grandiose treatise on the 
noblest of the arts, wherein you may read of the 
amorous adventures of The Triumphant Tomato 
and the Incomparable Onion, Mr. Finck's Food add 
Flavour, the gentle Abraham Hayward on The Art 
of Dining, the biography of Vatel, the super-cook 
who killed himself because the fish for the king's 
dinner were missing, Mrs. Glasse's Cookery, which 
Dr. Johnson boasted that he could surpass, and, 
^bovc all, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's Physi- 
tiogie du Gout. Catalogues of harness, bits and 
'1 



His Life and Works 

saddles. Catalogues of cigarettes: Dimitrinos and 
Melachrlnos, Fatlmas and Sweet Caporals. Cata- 
logues of liqueurs : Danziger Goldwasser and Creme 
Yvette, Parfait Amour, as tanagrine as the blood 
in the sacred altar chalice. Catalogues of paints: 
yellow ochre and gamboge, burnt sienna and Chinese 
vermilion. Catalogues of hats: derbies and fe- 
doras, straw and felt hats, top-hats and caps, som- 
breros, tam-o'shanters, billycocks, shakos and tar- 
booshes. . • . 

He stopped, breathless with excitement, demand- 
ing. What do you think of that? 

I don't know what to think. . . . 

I'm sure you don't. That isn't all. There are 
dictionaries and lexicons, not only German, English, 
French, Italian, Russian, and Spanish, but also 
Hebrew, Persian, Magyar, Chinese, Zend, Sanscrit, 
Hindustani, Negro dialects, French argot, Portu- 
guese, American slang, and Pennsylvania Dutch. 

And what are those curious pamphlets ? 

He lifted a few and read off the titles: 

A study of the brain of the late Major J. W. 
Powell. 

A study of the anatomic relations of the optic 
nerve to the accessory cavities of the nose. 

On regeneration in the pigmented skin of the 
frog and on the character of the chromatophores. 

The chondrocranium of an embryo pig. 

Morphology of the parthogenetic development 
of amphitrite. 

[471 



^^^ Peter WBffle 

^B Note on the influence of castradoa 
H^vi^t of the brain and spinal cord in the ; 
rat 

There are, he added solemnly, inany 
words in these pamphlets, not readily to be j 
elicwbere. 

Now Peter pointed to the pile of note- 
tfae table. 

These are my note-books. I have ranged I 
for my material. For days I have walked i 
Passage dcs Panoramas and the Rue St. Hoi 
making lists of every object In the windows. 

PCbe case of books I have described the bindings. 
1 have stopped before the shops of fruit vendors, 
Hiti<]ue dealers, undertakers, jewellers, and fashion- 
ers of artificial flowers. I have spent so much time 
in tiie Galerles Lafayette and the Bon Marche 
that I have probably been mistaken for a shofh 
lifter. These books are full of results. Wh^^H 
you think of it? ^H 

But what is all this for? ^^| 

For my work, of course. For my work. 
I can't imagine, I began almost in a whisper, I 
lias so astonished, what you do, what you are going 
I do. Arc you writing an encyclopedia? 
I No, my intention is not to define or describe, but 
I enumerate. Life is made up of a collection of 
fcjccts, and the mere citation of them is sufficient 
give the reader a sense of form and colour, 
ptmospherc and style. And form, style, manner in 



[^1 



His Life and Works 

literature are everything; subject is nothing. Noth- 
ing whatever, he added impressively, after a pause. 
Do you know what Buffon wrote: Style is the only 
passport to posterity. It is not range of infor- 
mation, nor mastery of some little known branch of 
science, nor yet novelty of matter, that will insure 
immortality. Recall the great writers, Theophile 
Gautier, Jules Barbey d'AureviUy, Joris Huysmans, 
Oscar Wilde: they all used this method, cata- 
logues, catalogues, catalogues! AI J^ great art is 

a matter_ of^r^^^^^glV"g ^ '^^* summ ing it up in a 
lisF-eSCohjjejcts. This is so true that the commer- 
cial catalogues themselves are almost works of art. 
Their only flaw is that they pause to describe. If 
it only listed objects, without defining them, a 
dealer's catalogue would be as precious as a book 
by Gautier. _. 

During this discourse, George Moore, the orange 
cat, had been wandering around, rather restlessly, 
occasionally gazing at Peter with a semi-quizzical 
expression and an absurd cock of the ears. At 
some point or other, ^owever, he had evidently ar- 
rived at the conclusion that this extra display of 
emotion on the part of his human companion boded 
him no evil and, having satisfied himself in this re- 
gard, he leaped lightly to the mantelshelf, circled 
his enormous bulk miraculously around three or 
four times on the limited space at his disposal, and 
sank into a profound slumber when, probably with 
dreams of garrets full of lazy trvlce^ \vl% t-^x^ 7>.TA\iys. 

[49'\ 




Peter fFhiffle 

tail, which depended a foot below the shelf, ben 
to twitch. 

( ' Peter continued to talk: d'Aurevilly wrote his 
books in different coloured Inks. It was a wonder- 
ful idea. Black ink would never do to describe 
certain scenes, certain objects. I can imagine an 
entire book written In purple, or green, or blood- 
red, but the best book would be written in raany 
colours. Consider, for a moment, the distinction 
between purple and violet, shades which are cous- 
ins: the one suggests the most violent passions or 
something royal or papal, the other a nunntry or a 
widow, or a being bereft of any capacity for pas- 
sion. 

Henry James should write his books in white ink 
on white paper and, by a system of analogy, you 
can very well see that Rider Haggard should write 
his books in white ink on black paper. Pale ideas, 
obviously expressed. Gold ! Think what you 
could do with gold I If silence Is golden, surely 
the periods, the commas, the semicolons, and dashes 
should be of gold. But not only the stops could 
gleam and shine; whole silent pages might glitter. 
And blue, bright blue; what more suggestive colour 
for the writer than bright blue? 

Not only should manuscripts be written in multi- 
coloured inks, but they should be written on multi- 
coloured papers, and then they should be printed in 
multi-coloured inks on multi-coloured papers. Tht 

^ [50] 



His Life and Works 

art of book-making, in the sense that the making of 
a book is part of its authorship, part of its creation, 
is not even begun. — 

The sculptor is not satisfied with moulding his 
idea in day; he gives it final form in marble or 
malachite or jade or bronze. Many an author, 
however, having completed work on his manuscript, 
is content to allow his publisher to choose the paper, 
the ink, the binding, the typography: all, obviously, 
part of the author's task. It is the publisher's wish, 
no doubt, to issue the book as cheaply as possible, 
and to this end he will make as many books after the 
same model as he practicably can. But each book 
should have a different appearance from every other 
book. Each book should have the aspect to which 
Its ideas give birth. The form of the material 
should dictate the form of the binding. Who but a 
fool, for example, would print and bind Lavengro 
and Roderick Hudson in a similar manner? And 
vet that is just what publishers will do if they are let 
alone. 

Peter had become so excited that he had 
awakened George Moore, who now descended from 
the mantelpiece and sought the seclusion of a couch 
In the corner where, after a few abortive licks at his 
left hind-leg, and a pretence of scrubbing his ears, he 
again settled Into sleep. As for me, I listened, en- 
tranced, and as the night before I had discovered 
Paris, it seemed to me now that 1 -was i\w.QN«wtft 

[5il 



'Peter Whiffle 

the secrets of the writer's craft and I determined to 
go forth in the morning with a note-book, jotting 
down the names of every object I encountered, 

I must have been somewhat bewildered for I re- 
peated a question I had asked before: 

Have you written anything yet? 

Not yet. ... I am collecting my materials. It 
may take me considerably longer to collect what 1 
shall require for a very short book. 

What is the book to be about? 

Van Vechten, Van Vechten. you arc not following 
me! he cried, and he again began to walk up and 
down the little room. What is the book to be 
about? Why, it is to be about the names of the 
things I have collected. It is to be about three 
hundred pages, he added triumphantly. That is 
what it is to be about, about three hundred pages, 
three hundred pages of colour and style and lists, 
lists of objects, all jumbled artfully. There isn't a 
moral, or an idea, or a plot, or even a character. 
There's to be no propaganda or preaching, or 
violence, or emotion, or even humour. I am not 
trying to imitate Dickens or Dostoevsky. They did 
not write books; they wrote newspapers. Art 
eliminates all such rubbish. Art has nothing to do 
with ideas. Art is abstract. When art becomes 
concrete it iS no "to ng er~an. Thank God, I know 
what T want to dol Thank God, I haven't wasted 
my time admiring hack work! Thank God, I can 
start in at once constructing a masterpiece 



1. 



His Life and Works 

a list of passengers sailing on the Kronprinz Wil- 
hclm is more nearly a work of art than a novel by 
Thomas Hardy! What is there in that? Any- 
body can do it. Where is the arrangement, the 
colour, the form ? Hardy merely photographs life 1 

But aren't you trying to photograph still life? 

Peter's face was almost purple; I thought he 
would burst a blood-vessel. 

Don't you understand that perfumes and reap- 
ing-machines are never to be found together in real 
life? That is art, making a pattern, dragging un- 
familiar words and colours and sounds together until 
they form a pattern, a beautiful pattern. An 
Aubusson carpet is art, and it is assuredly not a pho- 
tograph of still life. . . . Art. ... 

I don't know how much more of this there was 
but, when Peter eventually stopped talking, the sun- 
light was streaming in through the window. 



[5SA 



Chapter IV 



It was many days before I saw Peter again, 
met other men and women. I \-isited the Lotivre- ' 
and at Hrst stood humbty in the Salon Carre before 
the Monna Lisa and in the long corridor of the Ve- 
nus de Milo; a little later, I became tburiferous 
before Sandro Botticelli's frescoes from the ViU« 
Lemmi and Watteau's Pierrot. I made a pil- 
grimage to the Luxembourg Gallery and read 
Huysmans's evocation of the picture before Mo- 
reau's Salome. I sat in the tiny old Roman arena, 
Lutetia's amphitheatre, constructed in the second 
or third century, and conjured up visions of 
lions and Christian virgins. I drank tea at 
the Payillon d'Armenonville in the Bois and 1 
bought silk handkerchiefs of many colours at the 
Gaieties Lafayette. I began to carry my smaQ 
change in a pig-skin purse and I learned to look 
out for bad money. Every morning I called for 
mail at the American Express Company in the Rue 
Scribe, I ate little wild strawberries with Crerae 
d'lsigny. I bought old copies of I'Assiette au 
Beurre on the quais and new copies of Le SouHre 
at kiosques. 1 heard Werther at the Opera-Com- 
ique and 1 saw Lina Cavalieri in Thai's at the 
Opera. 1 made journeys to Versailles, Saint Cloud, 



His Life and Works 

and Fontainebleau. I inspected the little hotel in 
the Rue des Beaux-Arts where Oscar Wilde died 
and I paid my respects to his tomb in Pere-Lacbaise. 
The fig-leaf was missing from the heroic figure on 
the monument. It had been stolen, the cemetery- 
guard informed me, par une jeune miss a^glaise, 
who desired a souvenir. I drank champagne cock- 
tails, sitting on a stool, at the American bar in the 
Grand Hotel. I drank whisky and soda, ate salted 
nuts, and talked with English racing men at Henry's 
bar, under the delightful brown and yellow mural 
decorations, exploiting ladies of the l88o period 
with bangs, and dresses with bustles, and over-drap- 
ings, and buttons down the front. I enjoyed long 
bus rides and I purchased plays in the arcades of 
the Odeon. I went to the races at Chantilly. I 
drank cocktails at Louis's bar in the Rue Racine. 
Louis Doerr, the patron, had worked as a bar-man 
in Chicago and understood the secrets of American 
mixed drinks. Doubtless, he could have made a 
Fireman's Shirt. He divided his time between his 
little bar and his atelier, where he gave boxing les- 
sons to the students of the quarter. When he was 
teaching the manly art, Madame Doerr manipu- 
lated the shaker. I attended services at Les Han- 
netons and Maurice's Bar and I strolled through 
the Musec de Cluny, where I bought postcards of 
chastity belts and instruments of torture. I read 
Maupassant in the Pare Monceau. I took in the 
ghty revues at Parislana, the Ba-ta-d.'Wi., -wn.^ 

[551 i 



^Bie 



Peter Whiffle 

the Folies-Bergere. I purchased many English and 
American novels in the Tauchnitz edition and I 
discovered a miniature shop in the Rue de Fur- 
stemberg, where elegant reprints of bawdy eight- 
eenth century French romances might be procured. 
I climbed to the top of the towers of Notre-Dame, 
particularly to observe a chimere which was said to 
resemble me, and I ascended the Tour Eiffel in an 
elevator, I consumed hors d'ceuvres at the Bras- 
serie Univcrselle. I attended a band concert in the 
Tuilcries Gardens, I dined with Olive Fremstad 
at the Mercedes and Olive Fremstad dined with 
me at the Cafe d'Harcourt. I heard Salome at the 
Chatelet, Richard Strauss conducting, with Emmy 
Destinn as the protagonist in a modest costume, 
trimmed with fur, which had been designed, it was 
announced, by the Emperor of Germany. I dis- 
covered the Restaurant Cou-Cou, which I have 
described in The Merry-Go-Round. and I made pil- 
grimages to the Rat Mort, the Nouvelle Athenes, 
and the Elysee Montmartre, sacred to the memory 
of George Moore. They appeared to have altered 
since he confessed as a young man. I stood on a 
table at the Bal Tabarin and watched the quadrille, 
the pas de quatre, concluding with the grand ecart, 
which was once sinister and wicked but which has 
come, through the portentous solemnity with which 
tradition has invested it, to have almost a reli- 
gious signllicance. I learned to drink Amer Picon, 
Krenadinc, and white absinthe. I waited threr 



^ 



His Life and Works 

hours in the street before Liane de Pougy's hotel 
in the Rue de la Neva to see that famous beauty 
emerge to take her drive, and I waited nearly as 
long at the stage-door of the Opera-Comique for 
a glimpse of the exquisite Regina Badet. I em- 
barked on one of the joyous little Seine boats and 
I went slumming in the Place d'ltalie, La Villette, 
a suburb associated in the memory with the name 
of Yvette Guilbert, and Belleville. I saw that very 
funny farce, Vous n'avez rien a declarer at the 
Nouveautes. In the Place des Vosges, I admired 
the old brick houses, among the few that Napoleon 
and the Baron Haussmann spared in their deracina- 
tion of Paris. On days when I felt poor, I dined 
with the cochers at some marchand de vins. On 
days when I felt rich, I dined with the cocottes at 
the Cafe de Paris. I examined the collection of 
impressionist paintings at the house of Monsieur 
Durand-Ruel, No. 37, Rue de Rome, and the vast 
accumulation of unfinished sketches for a museum 
of teratology at the house of Gustave Moreau, No. 
14, Rue de La Rochefoucauld, room after room 
of unicorns, Messalinas, muses, magi, Salomes, 
sphinxes, argonauts, centaurs, mystic flowers, chi- 
merae, Semeles, hydras, Magdalens, griffins, Circes, 
ticpolongas, and crusaders. I drank tea in the 
Ceylonese tea-room in the Rue Caumartin, where 
coffee-hued Orientals with combs in their hair waited 
on the tables. I gazed longingly into the show- 
windows of the shops where Toledo cigarette-c<^&^%^ 

[571 1 



Peter Whiffle 

Bohemian garnets, and Venetian glass goblets were 
offered for sale. I bought a pair of blue velvet 
workman's trousers, a beret, and a pair of canvas 
shoes at Au Pays, 162 Faubourg St. Martin. I 
often enjoyed my chocolate and omelet at the Cafe 
de la Regence, where everybody plays chess or 
checkers and has played chess or checkers for a 
century or two, and where the actors of the 
Comedie Frangaise, which is just across the Place, 
frequently, during a rehearsal, come in their make- 
up for lunch. I learned the meaning of flic, gigo- 
lette, maquereau, tapette, and rigolo. I purchased 
a dirty silk scarf and a pair of Louis XV brass 
candlesticks, which I still possess, in the Marche du 
Temple. I tasted babas au rhum, napoleons, and 
palmiers. I ordered a suit, which I never wore, 
from a French tailor for 150 francs. I bought 
some Brittany ware in an old shop back of Notrc- 
Dame. I admired the fifteenth century apocalyptic 
glass in the Sainte-Chapelle and the thirteenth cen- 
tury glass in the Cathedral at Chartres. I learned 
that demi-tasse is an American word, that Sparkling 
Burgundy is an American drink, and that I did not 
like French beer. I stayed away from the recep- 
tions at the American embassy. I was devout in 
Saint Sulpice, the Russian Church in the Rue Daru, 
Saint Germain-des-Pres, Saint Eustache, Sacre-Coeur, 
and Saint Jacques, and I attended a wedding at the 
Afadeleincy which reminded me that Bel Ami had 
^^e/7 married there. I passtd \\t?L%^Tv\. c^txiSav© 



Its Life and Works 

at the Boitc a Fursy, on the Rue Pigalle, and Les 
Noctambules, on the Rue ChampoIIion. I learned 
to speak easily of Mayol, Eve Lavalliere, Drancm, 
Ernest la Jeunesse, Colette Willy, Max Dearly, 
Charles-Henry Hirsch, Lantelme, Andre Gide, and 
Jeanne Bloch. I saw Clemenceau, Edward VII, 
and the King of Greece. I nibbled toasted scones 
at a tea-shop on the Rue de Rivoli. I met the 
Steins. In short, you will observe that I did every- 
thing that young Americans do when they go to 
Paris. 

On a certain afternoon, early in June, I found my- 
self sitting at a table in the Cafe de la Paix with En- 
glewood Jennings and Frederic Richards, two of my 
new friends. Richards is a famous person today 
and even then he was somebody. He had a habit of 
sketching, wherever he might be, on a sheet of paper 
at a desk at the Hotel Continental or on a program 
at the theatre. He drew quick and telling likenesses 
in a few lines of figures or objects that pleased him, 
absent-mindedly signed them, and then tossed them 
aside. This habit of his was so well-known that he 
was almost invariably followed by admirers of his 
work, who snapped up his sketches as soon as he had 
disappeared. I saw a good collection of them, 
drawn on the stationery of hotels from Hamburg to 
Taormina, and even on meat paper, go at auction in 
London a year or so ago for £l,ooo. When I knew 
bim, Richards was a blond giant, careless of eveiy- 

~ [59] ~ 



Peter Whiffle 

thing except his appearance. Jennings was an 
American socialist from Harvard who was ranging 
Europe to interview Jean Jaures, Giovanni Papini, 
and Karl Liebknecht. He was exceedingly eccentric 
in his dress, had steel-grey eyes, the longest, sharpest 
nose I have ever seen, and wore glasses framed in 
tortoise-shell. 

It had become my custom to pass two hours of 
every afternoon on this busy corner, first ordering 
tea with two brioches, and later a succession of 
absinthes, which I drank with sugar and water. In 
time I learned to do without the sugar, just as even- 
tually I might have learned, in all probability, to do 
without the water, had I not been compelled to do 
without the absinthe.^ I was enjoying my third 
pernod while my companions were dallying with 
whisky and soda. We were gossiping, and where 
in the world can one gossip to better advantage than 
on this busy corner, where every passerby offers a 
new opportunity? But, occasionally, the conversa- 
tion slipped into alien channels. 

How can the artist, Jennings, for instance, was 
asking, know that he is inspired, when neither the 
public nor the critics recognize inspiration? The 
question is equally interesting asked backwards. As 
a matter of fact, the artist is sometimes conscious 
that he is doing one thing, while he is acclaimed and 
appreciated for doing another. Columbus did not 

^ Since absinthe has come under tVie ban m Patis^ I am informed 
^at the correct form of approach is to asV tlc^ Iot %. \«c\^^^Nt. 
'or un distiaguS. 

\6o\ 




2w Life and Works 

|.out to discover America. Yes, there Is often an 
ridental quality in great art and oftener still there 
is an accidental appreciation of it. In one sense art 
is curiously hound up with its own epoch, but 
appreciation or depreciation of its relation to 
that epoch may come in another generation. The 
judgment of posterity may be cruel to contemporary 
genius. In a few years we may decide that Richard 
Strauss is only another Liszt and Stravinsky, an- 
other Rubinstein. 

Inspiration! Richards shrugged his broad shep- 
herd's plaid shoulders. Inspiration! Artists, crit- 
ics, public, clever men, and philistlnes monotonously 
employ that word, but it seems to me that art is cre- 
ated through memory out of experience, combined 
with a capacity for feeling and expressing experi- 
ence, and depending on the artist's physical condi- 
tion at the time when he is at work, - , 

Are you, I asked, one of those who believes that 
a novelist must be unfaithful to his wife before he 
can write a fine novel, that a girl should have an 
amour with a prize-fighter before she can play 
Juliet, and that a musician must be a pederast be- 

^faire he can construct a great symphony? 

^■Richards laughed. 

^^frjo, he replied, I am not, but that theory is very 
popular. How many times I have heard it thun- 
dered forth I As a matter of fact, there is a certain 
amount of truth in it, the germ, indeed, of a great 

K, for some emotional experience. Vs e,?.st'ci.\xnis. "u^ 
. '^ m 



be artist, but why particularize? Each as he mayl 

I know a man, I went on, who doesn't believe that 
experience has anything to do with art at all. He 
thinks art is a matter of arrangement and order and 
form. 

His art then, broke in Jennings, is epistemologi- 
cal rather than inspirational. 

But what does he arrange? queried Richards. 
Surely incidents and emotions. 

Not at all. He arranges objects, abstractions: 
I colours and reaping-machines, perfumes and toys. 

Long ago I read a book like that, Jennings went 
on. It was called Imperial Purple and it purported 
to be a history of the Roman Empire or the Roman 
Emperors. It was a strangely amusing book, 
rather like a clot of blood on a daisy or a faded 
pomegranate flower in a glass of buttermilk. 

At this period, 1 avidly collected labels. Who 
wrote it? 1 asked. 

I don't remember, but your description of your 
friend recalls the book. What is the name of your 
friend's book? 

He hasn't written a book yet. 

I see. 

He is about to write it. He knows what be 
wants to do and he is collecting the materials. He 
is arranging the form. 

What's it about? Jennings appeared to be inter- 

estcd. 

. Oh. if^s about things. Whiffle told me, I suj^ 

gi 



«iptJM 



His Life and Works ^' 

he was joking, that it would be about three hundred 
pages. 

Richards set down his glass and in his face I 
recognized the portentous expression of a man 
about to be delivered of an epigram. It came: 1 
dislike pine-apples, women with steatopygous 
figures, and men with a gift for paronomasia. 

Jennings ignored this ignoble interruption. 
George Moore has written somewhere, he said, 
that if an author talks about what he is going to 
write, usually he writes it, but when he talks about 
how he is going to write it, that is the end of the 
matter. I wonder if this is true? T have never 
thought much about it before but I think perhaps 
it is. I think your friend will never write his 
book. 

Richards interrupted again: Look at that ma- 
qucreau. That's the celebrated French actor who 
went to America after a brilliant career in France 
in the more lucrative of his two professions, which 
ended in a woman's suicide. His history was 
well-known to the leading woman of the company 
\nth which he was to play in America, but she had 
never met him. At the first rehearsal, when they 
were introduced, she remarked. Monsieur, la 
connaissance est deja faite! Turning aside, he 
boasted to his male companions. La gueuse ! Avant 
dix jours je I'aurai enfilee! In a week he had made 
good his threat and in two weeks the poor woman 
was without a pearl. 




Feter Whiffle 
He should meet Arabella Munson, said JeB* 
nings. She Is always willing to pay her way. She 
fell in love with an Italian sculptor, or at any rate 
selected him as a suitable father for a prospective 
child. When she became pregnant, the young man 
actually fell ill with fear at the thought that he 
might be compelled to support both Arabella and 
the baby. He took to his bed and sent his mother 
as an ambassadress for Arabella's mefcy. Chok- 
ing with sobs, the old woman demanded what 
would be required of her son. My good woman, 
replied Arabella, dry your tears. I make it a point 
of honour never to take a penny from the fathers 

E: my children. Not only do I support the chil- 
■en, often I support their fathers as well! 
It was sufficiently warm. I lazily sipped my 
)sinthe. The terrasse was crowded and there 
as constant movement; as soon as a table wHf 
relinquished, another group sat down In the emptj 
chairs. Ephra Vogelsang, a pretty American 
singer, had just arrived with a pale young blond 
^Lboy, whom I identified as Marcel Moszkowski, the 
^non of the Polish composer. Presently, another 
^Ktable was taken by Vance Thompson and Ernest 
^Vla Jeunesse, whose fat face was sprinkled with pirn- 
^■ples and whose fat fingers were encased to the 
knuckles in heavy oriental rings. I bowed to Ephra 
and to Vance Thompson. On the sidewalk marched 
the eternal procession of newsboys, calling La P» 
ti — trJeJ La Pa — trie! so like a phrase at 

in 



La f I 



His Life and JForks 

beginning of the second act of Carmen, old gentle- 
men, nursemaids, painted boys, bankers, Ameri- 
cans, Germans, Italians, South Americans, Rouma- 
nians, and Neo-Kaffirs. The carriages, the motors, 
the buses, formed a perfect maze on the boulevard. 
In one of the vehicles I caught a glimpse of an- 
other acquaintance. 

That's Lily Hampton, I noted. She is the 
only woman who ever made Toscanini smile. 
You must understand, to appreciate the story, that 
she is highly respectable, the Mrs. Kendal of the 
opera stage, and the mother of eight or nine chil- 
dren. She never was good at languages, speaks 
them all with a rotten accent and a complete igno- 
rance of their Idioms. On this occasion, she was 
singing In Italian but she was unable to converse 
with the director in his native tongue and, conse- 
quently, he was giving her directions In French. He 
could not, however, make her understand what he 
wanted her to do. Again and again he repeated 
his request. At last she seemed to gather his mean- 
ing, that she was to turn her back to the footlights. 
What she asked him, however, ran like this: Est-ce 
que vous voulez mon derriere, maestro? 

Now there was a diversion, an altercation at the 
farther end of the terrasse, and a fluttering of feath- 
ered, flowered, and smooth-haired and bald heads 
turned In that direction. In the midst of this tur- 
bulence, I heard my name being caW-td •it\^,\^^'''^'ii 
up, beheld Peter WhMt wavmg irorn t\\e "vcw^^'^vsN-^ 

r65l 



Peter tFhiffle 

of a bus. I beckoned him to descend and join us 
and this he contrived to do after the bus had trav- 
elled several hundred yards on its way towards the 
Madeleine and I had abandoned the idea of seeing 
him return. But the interval gave me time to in- 
form Richards and Jennings that this was thejroung 
author of whom 1 had spoken. Presently He came 
along, strolling languidly down the walk. He 
looked a bit tired, but he was very smartly dressed, 
with a gardenia as a boutonniere, and he seemed to 
vibrate with a feverish kind of jauntiness. 

I am glad to see you, he cried. IVe been meaning 
to look you up. In fact if I hadn't met you I 
should have looked you up tonight. Fm burning 
for adventures. What are you doing? 

I explained that I was doing nothing at all and 
introduced him to my friends. Jennings had an 
engagement. He explained that he had to talk at 
some socialist meeting, called our waiter, paid for 
his pile of saucers, and took his departure. Rich- 
ards confessed that he was burning too. 

What shall we do? asked the artist. 

There's plenty to do, announced Peter, con- 
fidently; almost too much for one night. But let's 
hurry over to Serapi's, before he closes his shop. 

We asked no questions. We paid our saucers, 

rose, and strolled along with Peter across the Place 

in front of the Opera and down the Rue de la 

Chaussee-d'Antm until we stood before e tiny shop, 

^Ae window of which was SV\ed wAv \i^\.>SLt!^ ^{ 



His Life and Works 

perfume and photographs of actresses and other 
great ladies of various worlds and countries, all in- 
scribed with flamboyant encomiums, relating to the 
superior merits of Serapi's wares and testifying to 
the superlative esteem in which Serapi himself was 
helddi^ 

Ledby Peter, in the highest exuberance of nervous 
excitement but still, 1 thought, looking curiously 
tired, we passed within the portal. We found our- 
selves in a long narrow room, surrounded on two 
sides by glass cases, in which, on glass shelves, were 
arranged the products of the perfumer's art. At 
the back, there was a cashier's desk without an at- 
tendant; at the front, the show-window. In the 
centre of the room, the focus of a group of admiring 
women, stood a tawny-skinned Oriental — ^perhaps 
concretely an Arabian — with straight black hair 
and soft black eyes. His physique was magnificent 
and he wore a morning coat. Obviously, this was 
Serapi himself. 

Peter, who had now arrived at a state in which he 
could with difficulty contain his highly wrought emo- 
tion — and it was at this very moment that I began 
to suspect him of collecting amusements along with 
his other objects — in a whisper confirmed my con- 
jecture. The ladies, delicately fashioned Tanagra 
statuettes in tulle and taffeta and chiffon artifices 
from the smartest shops, in hats on which bloomed 
all the posies of the season and posies which went 
beyond any which had ever bloora.ed,^t.x^xttsij^v^^ 

[671 






^^ Peler Whiffle 

attractive to be duchesses, although right here I must 
pause to protest that even duchesses sometimes 
have their good points: the Duchess of TaUeyrand 
has an ankle and the Duchess of Marlborough, a 
throat. The picture, to be recalled later when 
^[i^a Loy gave me her lovely drawing of Eros 
being spoiled by women, was so pleasant, withal 
s!igh:Iy ridiculous, that Richards and I soon caught 
the infection of Peter's scarcely masked laughter 
and our eyes, too, danced. We made some small 
pretence of examining the jars and bottles of Sche- 
herazade, Ambre, and Chypre In the cases, but only 
a small pretence was necessary, as the ladies and 

leir Arab paid not the slightest attention to us. 

At length, following a brief apolog\-, Serapi broke 
through the ranks and disappeared through a door- 
way behind the desk at the back of the room. As the 
curtains lifted, I caught a glimpse of a plain, bus- 
iness-like woman, too dignified to be a mere clerk, 
obviously the essential wife of the man of genius. 
He was gone only a few seconds but during those 
seconds the chatter ceased abruptly. It was ap- 
parent that the ladies had come singly. They were 
not acquainted with one another. As Serapi re- 
entered, they chirped again, peeped and twittered 
their twiddling tune, the words of which were Ahl 
anil Oh ! In one hand, he carried a small crystitl 
phi;:l to which a blower was attached. He ex- 
plained that the perfume was his latest creation, an 
hcrmet'ic confusion of the dangers and ardours of 



His Life and Works 

Eastern life and death, the concentrated essence of 
the unperfumed flowers of Africa, the odour of 
their colours, he elaborated, wild desert existence, 
the mouldering tombs of the kings of Egypt, the 
decaying laces of a dozen Byzantine odalisques, a 
fragrant breath or two from the hanging gardens 
of Babylon, and a faint suggestion of the perspi- 
ration of Istar. It is my reconstruction, the artist 
concluded, of the perfume which Ruth employed to 
attract Boaz I The recipe is an invention based on 
a few half-illegiblcL lines which I discovered in the 
beauty-table book of an ancient queen of Georgia, 
perhaps that very Thamar whose portrait has been 
painted in seductive music by the Slav composer, 
Balakireff. 

The ladies gasped. The fascinating Arab pressed 
the rubber bulb and blew the cloying vapours into 
their faces, adjuring them, at the same time, to 
think of Thebes or Haroun-Al-Raschid or the pre- 
Adamite sultans. The room was soon redolent with 
a heavy vicious odour which seemed to reach the 
brain through the olfactory nerves and to affect the 
will like ether. 

He is the only man alive today, whispered Pefer, 
not without reverence, who has taken Flaubert's 
phrase seriously. He passes his nights dreaming 
of larger flowers and stranger perfumes. I believe 
that he could invent a new vice I 

Serapi went the round of the circle with his mystic 
spray, and the twitterings of the ladles soit&xNR.^ \5^ 

[691 




Peter Whiffle ^^^ 

rstatic coos, like the little coos of dismay aod de- 
Tt" light of female cats who feel the call of pleasure, 
when suddenly the phial fell from the Arab's un- 
clasped hand, the hand itself dropped to his side, the 
brown skin became a vivid green, all tension left his 
body, and he crumbled into a heap on the floor. The 
ladies shrieked; there was a delicious, susurrous, 
rainbow swirl and billow of tulle and taffeta and 
chiffon; there was a frantic nodding and waving of 
sweet-peas, red roses, dandelions, and magenta bell- 
flowers; and eight pairs of white-gloved arms circled 
rhythmically in the air. The effect was worthy of 
the Russian Ballet and. had Fokine been present, 
it would doubtless have been perpetuated to the sub- 
sequent enjoyment of audiences at Covent Garden 
and the Paris Opera. | 

Now, an assured and measured step was heard- i 
From a room in the rear, the calm, practical pres- 
ence entered, bearing a glass of water. The ladies 
moved a little to one side as she knelt before the 
recumbent figure and sprinkled the green face. 
Serapi almost immediately began to manifest signs 
of recovery; his muscles began to contract and his 
face regained its natural colour. We made our 
way into the open air and the warm western sun- 
light of the late afternoon. Peter was choking 
with laughter. I was chuckling. Richards was too 
astonished to express himself. 

Life is sometimes artistic, Peter was saying. 

retimes, if you give it a chance and look ii^M 



His Life and Works 

them, It makes patterns, beautiful patterns. But 
Serapi excelled himself today. He has never done 
anything like this before. I shall never go back 
there again. It would be an anticlimax. 

We dined somewhere, where I have forgotten.: 
It is practically the only detail of that evening which 
has escaped my memory. I remember clearly how 
Richards sat listening in silent amazement to Peter's 
arguments and decisions on dreams and circum- 
stances, erected on bewilderingly slender hypotheses. 
He built up, one after another, the most gorgeous 
and fantastic temples of theory; five minutes later 
he demolished them with a sledge-hammer or a 
feather. It was gay talk, fancy wafted from no- 
where, unimportant, and vastly entertaining. In- 
deed, who has ever talked like Peter? 

We seemed to be in his hands. At any rate 
neither Richards nor I offered any suggestions. 
We waited to hear him tell us what we were to do. 
About 9 o'clock, while we were sipping our cognac, 
he informed us that our next destination would be 
La Cigale, a music hall on the outer circle of the 
boulevards in Montmartre, where there was to be 
seen a revue called, Nue Cocotte, of which I still 
preserve the poster, drawn by Maes La'ia, depicting 
a fat duenna, fully dressed, wearing a red wig and 
adorned with pearls, and carrying a lorgnette, a 
more plausible female, nude, but for a hat, veil, 
feather boa, and a pair of high boots with yellow 
tops over which protrude an Itvctv ox \n?o c3f5.N3N»R- 

[7i"\ ( 



Peter Whiffle 

sock, and an English comic, in a round hat, "a yellow 
checked suit, bearing binoculars, all three astride a 
remarkably vivid red hobby horse whose feet are 
planted in the attitude of bucking. The comic 
grasps the bobbed black tail of the nag in one hand 
and the long yellow braid of the female in the other. 

The cocottcs of the period were wont to wear 
very large bell-shaped hats. Lily Elsie, who was 
appearing in The Merry Widow in London, fol- 
lowed this fashion and, as a natural consetjucnce, 
these head-decorations were soon dubbed, probably 
by an American, Merry Widow hats. Each suc- 
ceeding day, some girl would appear on the boule- 
vards surmounted by a greater monstrosity than had 
been seen before. Discussion in regard to the sub- 
ject, editorial and epistolary, raged at the moment 
in the Paris journals. 

Once we were seated in our stalls on the night 
in question, it became evident that the hat of the 
cocotte in front of Peter completely obscured his 
view of the stage. He bent forward and politely 
requested her to remove it. She turned and ex* 
plained with equal politeness and a most entrandng 
smile that she could not remove her hat without 
removing her hair, surely an impossibility, Mon- 
sieur would understand. Monsieur understood per- 
fectly but, under the circumstances, would Madame 
have any objection i f Monsieur created a dis- 
turbance? Madame, her eyes shining with mirtbt 

^ [72] 



His Life and Works 

replied that she would not have the tiniest objection, 
that above all else in life she adored fracases. 
They were of a delight to her. At this juncture in 
the interchange of compliments the curtain rose dis- 
closing a row of females in mauve dresses, bearing 
baskets of pink roses. Presently the compere 
appeared. 

Chapeau ! cried , Peter, in the most stentorian 
voice I have ever heard him assume. Chapeau! 

The spectators turned to look at the valiant 
American. 'Several heads nodded sympathy and 
approval. 

Chapeau! Peter called again, pointing to the 
adorable little lady in front of him, who was enjoy- 
ing the attention she had created. Her escort, 
on the other hand, squirmed a little. 

The cry was now taken up by other unfortunate 
gentlemen in the stalls, who were placed in like 
situations but who had lacked the courage to begin 
the battle. The din, indeed, soon gained such a de- 
gree of dynamic force that not one word of what was 
being said on the stage, not one note of the music, 
could be distinguished. Gesticulating figures stood 
up in every part of the theatre, shrieking and franti- 
cally waving canes. The compere advanced to the 
footlights and appeared to be addressing us, much 
in the manner of an actor attempting to stem a fire 
stampede in a playhouse, but, of course, he was in- 
audible. As he stepped Ivack, a sudden lull sue- 

[731 



Peter Whiffle 

ceeded to the tumult. Peter took advantage of this 
happy quiet to interject: Comme Melisande, je nc 
suis pas heureux ici ! 

The spectators roared and screamed; the house 
rocked with their mirth. Even the mimes were 
amused. Now, escorted by two of his secretaries 
in elaborate coats decorated with much gold braid, 
the manager of the theatre appeared, paraded sol- 
emnly down the aisle to our seats and, with a bow, 
offered us a box, which we accepted at once and in 
which we received homage for the remainder of the 
evening. At last we could see the stage and enjoy 
the blonde Idette Bremonval, the brunette Jane 
Merville, the comic pranks of Vilbert and Prince, 
and the Festival of the Deesse Raison. 

The performance concluded, the pretty lady 
who had not removed her hat, commissioned her re- 
luctant escort to inquire if we would not step out for 
a drink with them. The escort was not ungracious 
but, obviously, he lacked enthusiasm. The lady, 
just as obviously, had taken a great fancy to Peter. 
We went to the Rat Mort, where we sat on the 
terrasse, the lady gazing steadily at her new hero 
and laughing immoderately at his every sally. Pe- 
ter, however, quickly showed that he was restless 
and presently he rose, eager to seek new diversions. 
We hailed a passing fiacre and jumped in, while the 
lady waved us pathetic adieux. Her companion 
seemed distinctly relieved by our departure. Peter 
was now in the highest animal spirits. All traces of 

[74] 



His Life and Works 

fatigue had fled from his face. The horse which 
drew our fiacre was a poor, worn-out brute, like so 
many others in Paris, and the cocher, unlike so many 
others in Paris, was kind-hearted and made no effort 
to hasten his pace. We were crawling down the hill, 

I will race you ! cried Peter, leaping out (he told 
me afterwards that he had once undertaken a similar 
exploit with a Bavarian railway train). 

Meet me at the Olympia Bar I he cried, dashing 
on ahead. 

The cocher grunted, shook his head, mumbled a 
few unintelligible words to the horse, and we drove 
on more slowly than before. Peter, indeed, was 
soon out of sight. 

Ten minutes later, as we entered the cafe under 
the Olympia Music Hall, we noted with some 
surprise that the stools in front of the bar, on which 
the cocottes usually sat with their feet on the rungs, 
their trains dragging the floor, were tmpty. The 
crowd had gathered at the other end of the long hall 
and the centre of the crowd was Peter. He was 
holding a reception, a reception of cocottes! 

Ah! Good evening. Mademoiselle Rolandine de 
Maupreaux, he was saying as he extended his 
hand, I am delighted to greet you here tonight. 
And if this isn't dear little Mademoiselle Celes- 
tine Sainte-Resistance and her charming friend, 
Mademoiselle Edmee Donnez-Mol! And CamlUe! 
CamiUe la Grande! Quelle chance dc vous voir! 
Et Madame, votre mere, elle va Vivtu'*. ^"^ 

[751 



Peter Whiffle 

Gisele la Belle ! Mais vous avez oublie de m'ecrire ! 
Do not, I pray you, neglect me again. And the 
charming Hortense des Halles et de chez Maxim, 
and the particularly adorable Abelardine de Belle- 
ville et de la Place d' Italic. Votre soeur va mi- 
eux, j'espere. Then, drawing us in, Permettez- 
moi, mesdemoiselles, de vous presenter mes amis, le 
Due de Rochester et le Comte de Cedar Rapids. 
Specialement, mesdemoiselles, permettez-moi de vous 
recommander le Comte de Cedar Rapids. 

He had never, of course, seen any of them be- 
fore, but they liked it. 

Richards grumbled. It's bloody silly, but he was 
laughing harder than I was. 

I heard one of the girls say, Le jeune Americain 
est f ou ! 

And the antiphony followed, Mais il est char- 
mant. 

Later, another remarked, Je crois que je vais lui 
demander de me f aire une politesse I 

Overhearing which, Peter rejoined, Avec plaisir, 

Mademoiselle. Quel genre? 

r' It was all gay, irresponsible and meaningless, 

perhaps, but gay. We sat at tables and drank and 

' smoked and spun more fantasies and quaint conceits 

until a late hour, and that night I learned that even 

French cocottes will occasionally waste their time, 

provided they are sufficiently diverted. Towards 

four o'clock in the morning, however, I began to 

" note a change in Peter's deportment and demeanour. 

[76] 



His Life and Works 

There were moments when he sat silent, a little 
aloof, seemingly the prey of a melancholy regret, 
too well aware, perhaps, that the atmosphere he 
had himself created would suck him into its merry 
hurricane. I caught the lengthening shadows under 
his eyes and the premonitory hollows in his cheeks. 
And this time, therefore, it was I who suggested 
departure. Peter acceded, but with an air of wist- 
fulness as if even the effort of moving from an un- 
comfortable situation were painful to him. Rising, 
we kissed our hands to the band of sirens, who all 
pressed forward like the flower maidens of Parsifal 
and with equal success. Three of the pretty ladles 
accompanied us upstairs to the sidewalk and every 
one of the three kissed Peter on the mouth, but not 
one of them offered to kiss Richards or me. 

We engaged another fiacre and drove up the 
Champs-Elysees. Now, it was Richards and I who 
had become vibrant. Peter was silent and old and 
apart. The dawn, the beautiful indigo dawn of 
Paris was upon us. The cool trees were our only 
companions In the deserted streets until, near t'le 
great grey arch, we began to encounter the wagons 
laden with vegetables, bound for the Halles, wagons 
on which carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, radishes. 
and heads of lettuce were stacked in orderly and in- 
tricate patterns. The horses, the reins drooping 
loosely over their backs, familiar with the route, 
marched slowly down the wide avenue, while the 
^drivers in their blue smocks, perched high on. tb^^u 

M [77l 



Peter Whiffle 

fronts of their carts, slept. We drove past them up 
the Avenue du Bois-de-Boulogne Into the broadening 
daylight. On Peter Whiffle's countenance were 
painted the harsh grey lines of misery and despair. 



[78I 



Chapter V 

Notwithstanding that Peter occupied an undue 
share of my waking thoughts for the next few days, 
perhaps a week went by before I found it convenient 
to seek him out again. One afternoon, 1 shook my- 
self free from other entertainments and made my 
way in a taxi-auto to the apartment in the street near 
the Rue Blanche. The concierge, who was knitting 
at a little window adjacent to the door, informed me 
that to the best of her belief Monsieur Whiffle was 
at home. Venturing to operate the ascenseur alone, 
I was somewhat proud of my success in reaching the 
fourth floor without accident. Standing before 
Peter's door, I could hear the sound of a woman's 
voice, singing Manon's farewell to her little table: 

Adieu, notre petite table, 
Qui nous reunit si souvent! 
Adieu, notre petite table. 
Si grande pour nous cependant. 

On tient, c^est inimaginable, 
Si peu de place en se serrant. 

The voice was a somewhat uncertain soprano with a 
too persistent larmoyante quality. When it ceased, 
I pressed the button and the door was opened by 

[79] 




Peter Whii 

peter, in violet and grey striped pyjamas and Jap- 
anese straw sandals with purple velvet strapl 
across his toes. 

Van Vechten! he cried. It's you! We've bem 
home all day. Clara's been singing. 
H So the voice was Clara's. She sat, indeed, on the 
Vrlong piano bench — the piano was an acquisition since 
my last visit — also slightly clad. She was wearing, 
to be exact, a crepe de chine night-dress. Her feet 
were bare and her hair was loose but, as the day was 
cool, she had thrown across her shoulders a black 
Manila shawl, embroidered with huge flowers of 
Chinese vermilion and magenta. 

How are you, Mr. Van Vechten? she asked, ex- 
tending her hand, I'll get some tea. Her manner, 
I noted, was more ingratiating than it had been the 
day we met at Martha's. 

Nothing whatever was said about the situation, if 
there was a situation. For my part, I may say that I 
was entirely unaccustomed to walking Into an apart- 
ment at five o'clock in the afternoon and discovering 
the host in pyjamas, conversing intimately with a 
lightly-clad lady, who, a week earlier, I had every 
reason to believe, had been only a casual acquaint- 
ance. The room, too, had been altered. The 
piano, a Pleycl baby grand, occupied a space near the 
window and George Moore was sitting on It, finding 
it an excclJent point of vantage from which to scan 
the happenings in the outside world. Naturally hit 

Kack was turned and he did not get up, taking his air 
[8ol 



His Life and Works 

of indifference from Peter and Clara or, perhaps, 
ttiey had taken their air from him. The note-books 
had disappeared, although a pile of miscellaneous 
volumes, on top of which I spied Jean Lombard's 
I'Agonie, still occupied the corner. The table was 
covered with a cloth and the remains of a lunch, 
which had evidently consisted of veal kidneys, toast, 
and coffee. I detected the odour of Cosur de 
Jeannette and presently I descried a brule-parfum, a 
tiny jade dragon, valiantly functioning. A pair of 
long white suede gloves and a black hat with a grey 
feather decorated the clock and candelabra on the 
mantelshelf, and a black and white check skirt, a 
pair of black silk stockings, and low patent-leather 
lady's shoes in trees were also to be seen, lying over a 
chair and on the floor. 

Peter, however, attempted no explanations. In- 
deed, none was required, except perhaps for a cate- 
chumen. He began to talk immediately, in an easy 
conversational tone, evidently trying to cover my 
confusion. His manner reminded me that an intelli- 
gent Negro, who had written many books and met 
many people, had once told me that he was always 
obliged to spend at least ten minutes putting new 
white acquaintances at their ease, making them feci 
that it was unnecessary for them to put him at his 
ease. It is a curious fact that the man in an em- 
barrassing situation Is seldom as much embM^'a.'s.'s.'::^. 
as the man who breaks in upon it. 
Peter asked many questions about -wVvtLt W^-^^^^'^ 

[8i] 



Peter Whiffle 

doing, inquired about Richards, whom he avowed 
he liked — they had not, I afterwards recalled, 
exchanged more than three words — and concluded 
with a sort of rhapsody on Clara's voice, which he 
pronounced magnificently suited to the new music. 

Presently Clara herself came back into the room, 
bearing a tray with a pot of tea, toast and petits 
fours. She placed her burden on the piano bench 
while she quickly swept the debris from the table. 
Then she transferred the tea service to the unoccu- 
pied space and we drew up our chairs. 

Where have you been? asked Clara. Martha 
says she hasn't seen you. Will you have one lump 
or two? 

Two. You know, when one comes to Paris for 
the first time — 

I took Van Vechten about a bit the other night, 
Peter broke in. I think I forgot to tell you. 
We've had so much to talk about. . . . 

Clara interrupted the shadow of an anserine 
smile to nibble a pink cake. Her legs protruded at 
an odd angle and I caught myself looking at her 
thick ankles. 

You're looking at my legs 1 she exclaimed. You 
mustn't do thatl I have very ugly legs. 

But they're very sympathetic! cried Peter. 
Don't you think they're sympathetic. Van Vechten? 

I assured him that I did and we went on talking, 

^ I/ttle constrainedly y I thought, about nothing in 

Particular until, at length, Peter 2isVLed C\m^\1 ^t. 

[821 



His Life and Works 

would sing again. Without waiting for a reply, he 
seated himself before the piano and began the pre- 
lude to Manon's air in the Cours la Reine scene and 
Ckra, without rising, sang: 

Je marche sur tous les chemins 
Aussi bien qu'une souveraine; 
On s'incline, on baise mes mains, 
Car par la beaute je suis reine! 

Now her voice had lost the larmoyante quality, 
which evidently was a part of her bag of tricks for 
more emotional song, but it had acquired a hard bril- 
liancy which was even more disagreeable to the ear. 
She had also, I remarked, no great regard for the 
pitch and little, if any, expressiveness. Neverthe- 
less, Peter wheeled around, after an accompaniment 
which was even less sympathetic to me than Clara's 
legs, to exclaim: 

Superb I I want her to study Isolde. 

Peter doesn't understand, explained Clara, that 
you must begin with the lighter parts. If I sang 
Isolde now I would have no voice in five years. 
Isolde will come later. I can sing Isolde after I 
have lost my voice. My first roles will be Manon, 
Violetta, and Juliette. It's old stuff, perhaps, but it 
doesn't injure the voice, and the voice is my first con- 
sideration. Now I wouldn't sing Salome if they 
offered me 500 francs a night. 

Did you hear about Adelina Patti ? asked Peter. 
She is a good Catholic. She went to a performance 




Peter Whiffle 

i Salome at the Chatelet and while Destinn was os- 
ailating the head of Jochanaan she dropped to her 
knees in her loge and began to pray I 

I don't blame her, said Clara. It's rotten and 
immoral, Salome — not the play, I don't mean that, 
but the music, rotten, immoral music, ruinous to the 
voice. Patti was probably praying God for another 
Rossini. Strauss's music will steal ten years from 
Destinn's career. 

Peter eyed her with adoration. After a few 
more remarks, I made my departure, both of them 
urging me to come again at any time. Peter had 
not said one word about his writing, I reflected, as I 
walked down the stairs, and he had been very exag* 
gerated in his praise of Clara's meagre talents. 

And I did not go back. I did not see Peter again 
that summer; I did not see him again, in fact, for 
nearly six years, My further adventures, which in- 
cluded a trip to London, to Munich, where I at- 
tended the Wagner and Mozart festivals, to Hol- 
land and Belgium, were sufficiently diverting but, as 
they have no bearing on Peter's history, I shall not 
relate them now. They will fall into their proper 
chapters in my autobiography, which Alfred A. 
LjKnopf will publish in two volumes in the fall of 

* Although 1 did not learn the facts I am about to 
catalogue until a much later date — some of them, 
indeed, not until after Peter's death — this seems as 

I good a place as any to tell what I know of his early 



His Life and JVorks 

life. He was born June 5, 1885, in Toledo, Ohio. 
He never told his age to any one and I only discov- 
ered it after his death. If an inquiry were made 
concerning it, it was his custom to counter with an- 
other question: How old do you think I am? and 
then to add one year to the reply, thus insuring 
credence. So I have heard him give himself ages 
varying from eighteen to forty-five, but he was only 
thirty-four when he died in 1919. 

His father was cashier in a bank, a straight, se- 
rious, plain sort of man, of the kind that is a prop to 
a small town, looked up to and respected, asked 
whether an election will have an effect on stock val- 
ues, and whether it Is better to illuminate one's 
house with gas or electricity. His mother was a 
small woman with a pleasant face and red hair 
which she parted in the centre. Kindliness she oc- 
casionally carried almost to the point of silliness. 
She was somewhat garrulous, too, but she was well- 
read, not at all ignorant, and at surprising moments 
gave evidence of possessing a small stock of common 
sense. I think Peter inherited a good deal of his 
quality from his mother, who was a Fothcringay of 
West Chester, Pennsylvania, I met her for the 
first time soon after her husband's death. She was 
wearing, in addition to a suitable mourning garment, 
five chains of Chinese beads and seemed moderately 
depressed. 

Peter's resemblance to Buridan's donkey (it will 
be remembered that the poor beast wavered U^-t-w^wtv 



Kbei 



[851 



Peter Whiffle 

the hay and the water until he starved to death) be- 
gan with his very birth. He could not, indeed, de- 
cide whether he would be born or not. The family 
physician, by the aid of science and the knife, decided 
the matter for him. Soon thereafter he often hes- 
itated between the milk-bottle and the breast. 
There was, doubtless, a certain element of restless- 
ness and curiosity connected with this vacillation, a 
desire to miss nothing in life. It is possible that the 
root of this aggressive instinct might have been de- 
racinated but Mrs. Whiffle, with a foresense of the 
decrees of the most modem motherhood, held no 
brief for suppressed desires. Baby Peter was al- 
ways permitted to choose, at least nearly always, and 
so, as he grew older, his mania developed accord- 
ingly. A decision actually caused him physical pain, 
often made him definitely ill. He would pause in- 
terminably before two toys in a shop, or at any rate 
until his mother bought both of them for him. He 
could never decide whether to go in or go out, 
whether to play horse or to cut out pictures. His 
mother has told me that on one occasion she discov- 
ered this precocious child (at the age of twelve) in 
the library of a Toledo bibliophile (she was in the 
house as a luncheon guest) with the Sonnets of Pic- 
tro Aretino in one hand and Fanny Hill in the other. 
He could not make up his mind from which he would 
derive the most pleasure. In this instance, his ma- 
ternal parent intervened and took both books away 
from him. 



^^^^ His Life and Works * 

I Otherwise, aside from various slight illnesses, 

his childhood was singularly devoid of incident. 
Because he hummed bits of tune while at play, his 

1 mother decided that he must be musical and sent 
him to an instructor of the piano. The first six 

' months were drudgery for Peter but as soon as he 
began to read music easily the skies cleared for hira. 
He never became a great player but he played easily 

I and well, much better than I imagined after hearing 
his rather bombastic accompaniments to Clara's 
singing. Of books he was an omnivorous reader. 
He read every volume — some of thcra two or three 
times — in the family library, which included, of 
course, the works of Dickens, Thackeray, Wilkic 
Collins, Charles Rcade, and Sir Walter Scott, Emer- 
son's Essays, Eulwer-Lytton, Owen Meredith's Lu- 
dlc, that long narrative poem called Nothing to 
Wear, Artemus Ward's Panorama, Washington 
Irving, Longfellow, Whittier, Thoreau, Lowell, 
and Hawthorne, and among the moderns, Mark 
Twain, William Dean Howells, F. Hopkinson 
Smith, F. Marion Crawford, Richard Harding 
Davis, George W. Cable, Frank Stockton, H. C. 
Bunner, and Thomas Nelson Page. Peter once 
told me that his favourite books when he was four- 
teen or fifteen years old were Sarah Grand's The 
Heavenly Twins and H. B. Fuller's The Chevalier 
of Pensieri-Vani, The latter made a remarkable 
impression on him, when he first dvato'vt'cti.'v'^.'fA-"^^ 

kige of fifteen, not that he fuWy a^pf t^^*^^^^^^^^*^^'^' 
I '''^ — 



^^ Peter Whiffle ^^^ 

raillery but it seemed to point out the pleasure to 
be apprehended from pleasant places. He named 
a cat of the period, a regal yellow short-haired torn, 
after the Prorege of Arcopia. The house library 
exhausted, the public library offered further oppor- 
tunities for browsing and it was there that he made 
the acquaintance of Gautier, in translation, of 
course. He also found it possible to procure — 
though not at the public library — and he devoured 
with aviditj' — he has asserted that they had an 
extraordinary effect in awakening his imagination 
— Nick Carter, Bertha M. Clay, and Golden Dayi. 
For a period of four or five years, in spite of 
all protests, although he had never heard of the 
vegetarians, he subsisted entirely on a diet of 
cookies soaked in hot milk. He had a curious in* 
herent dislike for spinach and it was characteristic o£ 
his father that he ordered the dish to appcif 
on the table every day until the boy tasted i 
morsel. In after life, Peter could never even look 
at a dish of spinach. He cared nothing at all for 
outdoor sports. Games of any kind, card or oscula- 
tory, he considered nuisances. At a party, while the 
other children were engaged in the pleasing pastime 
of post office, he was usually to be found in a corner, 
reading some book. The companionship of boys 
and girls of his own age meant very little to him. 
He liked to talk to older people and found special 
pleasure in the company of the Reverend Horatio 
Wallace, a clergyman n ^ the Dutch Refon 



His Life and Works 

Church, who had visited New York. This reverend 
doctor was violently opposed to art museums, nov- 
els, and symphony orchestras, but he talked about 
them and he was the only person Peter knew in 
Toledo who did. He railed against the sins of 
New York and the vices of Paris but, also, he de- 
scribed them. 

In the matter of a university education, his mother 
took a high hand, precluding all discussion and inde- 
cision by sending him willy-nilly to Williams. Her 
brother had been a Williams man and she prayed 
that Peter might like to be one too. The experi- 
ment was not unsuccessful. The charm in Peter's 
nature began to expand at college and he even made 
a few friends, the names of most of which he could 
no longer remember when he spoke to me of his col- 
lege days some years afterwards. He realized that 
the reason he had made so few in Toledo was that 
the people of Toledo were not his kind of people. 
They lived in a world which did not exist for him. 
They lived in the world of Toledo while he lived in 
the world of books. At college, he began to take 
an interest in personalities ; he began to take an in- 
terest in life itself. He studied French — it was the 
only course he thoroughly enjoyed^ — and he began 
to read Gautier in the original. Then, at the in- 
stigation of a particularly intelligent professor, he 
passed on to Barbey d'Aurevilly, to Huysmans, to 
Laforgue, and to Mallarme. 

His holidays were always a torture for the boy. 

[891 




Peter Whiffle ^^^ 

Bhould he accept one of several invitations to visit 
Ilis lad friends or should he go home? One Easter 
vacation, Monkey Rollins had asked him to visit 
him in Providence while Teddy Quartermouse had 
bidden him to enjoy himself In New York. Peter 
pondered. He liked Monkey's sisters but a week 
in Providence meant, he knew, dancing, bridge, and 
golf, alt of which he hated. Teddy was not as 
companionable as Monkey and he had no sisters, 
but in New York both indoor and outdoor sports 
could be avoided. Peter helplessly examined bodi 
sides of the shield until Monkey settled the question 
by coming after him, helping him pack, and carry- 
ing him triumphantly to the railway station. 

No sooner, however, had he arrived in Providence 
than he knew that it would be impossible for him to 
remain there. He did not find Monkey's mother 
very agreeable, rather she was too agreeable, Th* 
vegetables were cooked In milk — the Rollins fanuly 
had previously lived in Missouri. This, of coun^ 
was not to be borne. Worst of all, there was a pa^ 
rot, a great, shrieking, feathered beast, with kopro- 
lagniac tastes. Nevertheless, he exerted himself at 
dinner, giving a lengthy and apocryphal descriptioo 
to Mrs. Rollins of his performance of a concerto fot 
kettle-drum with the college band, and doubtlett 
made a distinctly favourable impression on the entire 
family. Even the parrot volunteered: Hurrah for 
you, kid, you're some guy I as the procession trooped 
hto the library, which one of the girls referred W 

[90A 



His Life and tVorks 

as "the camegie," for coffee. While Caruso nego- 
tiated Celeste Aida on the phonograph, Peter, after 
whispering an appropriate excuse to Monkey, con- 
trived to slip upstairs. He looked about on the 
landing in the upper hallway for a telephone but, 
naturally, it wasn't there. Then he reconnoitred 
and discovered that by climbing out over the porch 
and making a ten foot jump he would land very 
neatly in a bed of crocuses. This he did and, 
scrambling to his feet, made straight for an apoth- 
ecary's coloured lights, which he saw in the distance. 
The sequel is simple. In fifteen minutes, by way of 
the kitchen, he was back in the library; in thirty min- 
utes, he had the family in roars of laughter; in forty- 
five minutes, Papa Rollins began to yawn and 
guessed it was bed-time; Mama Rollins called in 
the maid to cover the parrot and arrange the fire. 
Monkey said he thought he would play a game of 
something or other with Peter. The girls giggled. 
In exactly an hour, there was a ring at the door 
and the maid reappeared in the library, with a 
yellow envelope addressed to Peter. He hastily 
tore it open, trying to look portentous. Every- 
body else did look portentous. Peter handed 
the telegram to Monkey, who read it aloud: 
Your mother would like to shake your hand before 
she takes the ether tomorrow morning. The mes- 
sage was dated from New York and the signature 
was that of a famous surgeon. Mrs. Rollins was 
the first to break a moment of appalling ^\k.^v«.-. 

[911 



■There's a train in llftceii minutes. It's the last. 
fcQuick, M-onkey, the motor! Peter cried, Send my 
■'things to the Manhattan, as he jerked on his coat 
■■He caught the train and some hours later he and 
■Teddy Quarterraouse might have been observed 
f amusing themselves with highballs and a couple of 
■girls at Rector's. 

In time, college days passed, Peter confessed to 
me that the last two years were an awful strain but 
he stuck them out, chiefly because he could not think 
of anything else he wanted to do. His real mental 
agony began with his release. He dreaded life and 
most of all he dreaded work. His father, although 
well-to-do, had a sharply defined notion that a boy 
who would not work never amounted to anything. 
His peculiar nature sometimes asserted Itself in lu- 
dicrous and fantastically exaggerated demonstra- 
tions of this theory. Once, for example, during a 
summer vacation spent in the country, he insisjted 
that Peter skin a pig. You have an opportunity to 
learn now and you never can tell when you may 
have to skin another pig. When the time comes 
you will be prepared. His father, Peter returned 
from college discovered, was In no mood to tolerate 
rvacillation or dawdling. But Peter seemed to fed 
V410 urge of any kind. I not only did not want to 
do anything, he explained, there was nothing that 
wanted to do. Here his father, with whom 
Jtbc boy had never been particularly sympathetic 
i/jnotive of the CEdipns complex by the flutei 

i92;\ 



His Life and Works 

the orchestra), asserted his authority and put 
him in the bank. Peter loathed the bank. He 
hated his work, cutting open envelopes early in 
the morning, sorting out bills for collection, and 
then, on his bicycle, making the collections. In the 
afternoon, an endless task at the adding machine 
seemed Dantesque and, at night, the sealing of en* 
velopes was even more tiresome than opening them 
in the morning. There was, however, one mitiga- 
ting circumstance in connection with the last job of 
the day, the pleasure afforded by the rich odour of 
the hot sealing-wax. His pay was $9 a week; he has 
told me that probably he was not worth itl Fortun- 
ately he lived at home and was not asked to pay 
board. He bought books with the $9 and "silly 
things." When I asked him what he meant by silly 
things, he replied : Oh, Rookwood pottery, and alli- 
gators, and tulip bulbs: I don't remember, things 
like that 1 One day, he promised his father that he 
would give up smoking if that one would present 
him with a gold cigarette-case I 

There came a morning when he could not make up 
his mind to get up. His mother called him several 
times in vain. He arrived at the bank half an hour 
late and was reprimanded. His father spoke about 
his tardiness at lunch. At this period he was in- 
clined to be sulky. He started off on his bicycle in 
the afternoon but he did not go to the bank. He 
rode along by the river, stopping at a low saloon in 
the outlying districts, where the workmea oi V5k\sss. 



Peter Whiffle 

factory were wont to congregate in the evening, 
and drank a great many glasses of beer. Cheered 
somewhat thereby, the thought of facing his father 
no longer exasperated him. The big scene took 
place before dinner. Had it not been for the beer, 
he would have been obliged to act his part on an 
empty stomach. 

Are you no good at all ? Thus his father's bari- 
tone aria began. Are you worthless? Fm not 
going to support you. Suppose you had to pay your 
own board. I can't keep a son of mine in the bank 
because he is a son of mine unless he does some work. 
Certainly not. How long are you going to dawdle ? 
What are you going to do? Et cetera, et cetera, 
with a magnificent cadenza and a high E to top off 
with. Sustained by the beer, Peter reported to me 
that he rather enjoyed the tune. He said nothing. 
Dinner was eaten in complete silence and then the 
paternal parent went to bed, a discouraged and 
broken man. He seemed senescent, although he was 
not yet fifty. After dinner, Peter's mother spoke to 
him more gently but she also was full of warning and 
gloomy foreboding: What is it you want to do, my 
son? ... I don't know. I'm not sure that I want 
to do anything. . . . But you must do something. 
You wouldn't be manly if you didn't do something. 
It is manly to work. A day will come when my son 
will want to marry and then he will need money to 
support his dear wife. Etc. Etc. Peter reported 

[94] 



His Life and Works 

to mc that he seemed to have heard this music be- 
fore. He had not yet read The Way of All Flesh: 
I doubt if it were published at this time, but Ernest 
Pontifex would have been a sympathetic figure to 
him. Peter knew the meaning of the word cliche, 
although the sound and the spelling of it were yet 
strange to him. 

When he got to his room certain words his 
mother had spoken rang in his ears. Why, he asked 
himself, should men support women? Art is the 
only attraction in life and women never do good 
work in art. They are useless in the world aside 
from their functions of sex and propagation. Why 
should they not work so that the males could be free 
to think and dream? Then it occurred to him that 
he would be furious if any woman supported his 
father; that could not be borne, to have his father 
at home all day while his mother was away at work! 
Nevertheless, he went to sleep quite happy, he 
has assured me, and slept soundly through the night, 
although he dreamed of a pair of alligators, one of 
which was pulling at his head and the other at his 
feet, while a man with an ax rained blows on his 
stomach. In the morning his affairs seemed to be 
in a desperate state. He could not bear the idea 
of getting up and going to the bank and yet there 
was nothing else he wanted to do. Of one thing 
only he was sure: he did not want to support him- 
self. He did not, so far as he was able to make 

k [95] m 



Peter Whiffle 

out, want to do anything I He wanted his family 
to stop bothering him. Was no provision made 
in this world for such as he? 

Certainly, no provision was made for him in To- 
ledo, Ohio. The word temperament was still un- 
discovered there. His negative kind of desire was 
alien to American sympathy. Of so much, he was 
aware. Adding machines and collections awaited 
him. He went to the bank where the paying teller 
again reprimanded him. So did one of the clerks. 
So did one of the directors, a friend of his father. 
He staggered through another day, which he helped 
along a little by returning at noon with all his notes 
uncollected. Nobody wants to pay today, he ex- 
plained. . . . But it's your business to make them 
pay. . . . There was cold ham, cold slaw, and rice 
pudding for lunch. His mother had been crying. 
His father was stern. 

Ehiring the rice pudding, he made a resolution, 
which he kept. From that day on he worked as he 
had never worked before. Everybody in the bank 
was astonished. His father was delighted. His 
mother said, I told you so. I know my son. . . . 
He stopped buying books and silly things and, when 
he had saved enough money, he took a train to New 
York without bidding the bank officials or his family 
good-bye. Once there, his resolution again failed 
him. He had no desires, or if he had, one counter- 
acted another. His money was almost gone and he 
was forced to seek for work but everywhere he went 

[96] 



^^^^f^^na^^TRs 



he was refused. He lived at a Mills Hotel. He 
retained a strange fondness for his mother and be- 
gan to write her, asking her to address him care of 
general delivery. 

At lUst he secured a position at a soda fountain In 
a drug-store. He worked there about a week. 
One night the place got on his nerves to such an 
extent that he wanted to break the glasses and squirt 
fizz at every customer. To amuse himself, there- 
fore, he contrived to inject a good dose of castnr 
oil or cantharides into every drink he served. Ti' ■ 
proprietor of the shop was snoopy, Peter told me, 
and after watching me out of the corner of his eye 
for some time, he gave me a good kick, which landed 
me in the middle of the street. He tossed six 
dollars, the remainder of my wages, after me. It 
may appear strange to you but I have never been 
happier in my life than I was that night with six 
dollars in my possession and the satisfactory knowl- 
edge that I would never see that store again. 

During the next three weeks, Peter did not find 
any work. I doubt If he tried to find any. He 
often slept In Madison Square or Bryant Park with 
a couple of newspapers over him and a couple under 
him. He lived on the most meagre rations, some 
of which he collected In bread lines. He even 
begged at the kitchen doors of the large hotels and 
asked for money on the street. He has told me, 
however, that he was neither discouraged nor un- 
py. He felt the most curious sense of utjlvfe-^ 

t9ll 



^topi 



Peter Whiffle 

as if he were suffering martyrdom, as, indeedi he 
was. Life seemed to have left him out of its ac» 
counting, to have made no arrangements for his 
nature. He had no desire to work, in fact his re- 
pugnance for work was his strongest feeling, and 
yet, it seemed, he could procure no money without 
working. He was willing, however, to go with- 
out the things he wanted, really to suffer, rather 
than work. I just did not want to do anything, he 
has said. It was a fixed idea. It was my greatest 
joy to talk about the social unrest, the rights of the 
poor, the wicked capitalist, and the ideas of Karl 
Marx, with the man in the street, the real man in the 
street, the man who never went anywhere else. Dur- 
ing this period, he continued to write his mother 
what she afterwards described as "bright, clever 
letters.'' I have seen a few of them, full of the most 
astounding energy and enthusiasm, and a vague phil- 
osophy of quietism. She wrote back, gently chiding 
him, letters of resignation but still letters of advice, 
breathing the hope that he might grow into a re- 
spected citizen of Toledo, Ohio. She did not under- 
stand Peter but she loved him and would have gone 
to New York to see him, had not a restraining hand 
burked her. Mr. Whiffle was determined to hold 
no more traffic with his son. He refused, indeed, 
to allow Peter's name to be mentioned in his pres- 
ence. Toledo talked with intensity behind his back 
but Mr. Whiffle did not know that. Hard as he 
tried not to show it, he was disappointed: it was 

[98] 



His Life and Works 

Impossible for him to reconcile his idea of a son with 
the actuality. Mrs. Whiffle's first mild suggestion 
that she might visit Peter was received with a ter- 
rible hurricane of resentment. She did not mention 
the subject again. She would have gone anyway if 
Peter had asked her to come but he never did. 

Through an Italian, whom he met one day in 
Bryant Park, Peter next secured a position as a 
member of the claque at the Opera. Every night, 
with instructions when to applaud, he received either 
a seat in the dress-circle or a general admission 
ticket. There was also a small salary attached 
to the office. He did not care about the salary 
but he enjoyed going to the Opera which he had 
never before attended. He heard Manon Lescaut, 
La Damnation de Faust, Tristan, Lohengrin, Tosca, 
Romeo et Juliette, and Fedora. But his favourite 
nights were the nights when Olive Fremstad sang. 
He heard her as Venus in Tannhauser, as Selika in 
TAfricaine, as Carmen, and he heard her in that 
unique performance of Salome on January 22, 1907. 
One night he became so interested in watching her 
that he forgot to applaud the singer who had paid 
the claque. His delinquency was reported by one 
of his colleagues and the next evening, when he went 
to the bar on Seventh Avenue where the claque 
n:athered to receive its orders, he was informed that 
his services would no longer be required. 

After another three weeks of vagrancy, he found 
another job, again throup^h a park acqualataxvc^. 



Peter Whiffle 

He has told me that it was the only work he ever 
enjoyed. He became a "professor" in a house of 
pretty ladies. His duty was to play the piano. 
Play us another tune, professor, the customers 
would say, as they ordered beer at a dollar a bottle, 
and Peter would play a tune. Occasionally one of 
the customers would ask him to take a drink and he 
would order a sloe gin fizz, which Alonzo, the sick- 
looking waiter, a consumptive with a wife and five 
children to support, would bring in a sticky glass, 
which he deposited with his long dirty fingers on the 
ledge of the piano. Occasionally some man, wait- 
ing for a girl, was left alone with him, and would 
talk with him about the suspender business or the 
base-ball game, subjects which perhaps might not 
have interested him elsewhere but which glowed with 
an enthralling fire in that incongruous environment. 
The men preferred tunes like Lucia, the current Hip- 
podrome success from Neptune's Daughter, or songs 
from The Red Mill, in which Montgomery and 
Stone were appearing at the Knickerbocker, or I 
don't care. This last was always demanded when a 
certain girl, who imitated Eva Tanguay, was in the 
room. But the women, when.they were alone in the 
house, just before dinner in the.late afternoon, or on 
a dull evening, always asked him to play Hearts and 
Flowers, Massenet's Elegie, or the garden scene 
from Faust, and then they would drink whisky and 
cry and tell him lies about their innocent girlhood. 
There was even some literary conversation. One 

[lool 



His Life and Works 
of the girls read Georges Ohnet and another ad- 
mired the work of Harris Merton Lyon and talked 
about it. Peter found it very easy to remain pure. 

He received two dollars a night from the house, 
and, occasionally, tips. Out of this he managed to 
rent a hall bedroom on West Thirty-ninth Street 
and to pay for his lunches. The Madame provided 
him with his dinner. Breakfast he never ate. He 
passed his mornings In bed and hts afternoons in 
the park, usually with a book. 

A French girl named Blanche, whom he liked 
particularly, died one night. She was taken to a 
funeral chapel the next morning. The other girls 
went about the house snivelling and most of them 
sent flowers to the chapel. Blanche's coffin was 
well banked with carnations and tuberoses. The 
Madame sent a magnificent standing floral-piece, a 
cross of white roses and, on a ribbon, the inscription. 
May our darling rest in peace. Blanche wore a 
white lace dress and looked very beautiful and very 
Innocent as she lay dead, Peter thought. Her 
mother came from a distant city and there was a 
priest. The two days preceding Blanche's burial, 
the girls passed in tears and prayers and sentimental 
remarks about how good she was. At night they 
worked as usual and Peter played the piano. It 
was very much like the Maison Tellier, he reflected. 

With Peter, change was automatic and axiomatic, 
but he might have remained in the house a very long 
time, as he has assured me that he was ije.^tt';.'^.'^ "^a-^- 

[ioi-\ 



Peter Whiffle 

tented, but for one of those accidents that never hap- 
pen in realistic novels but which constantly happen 
in life. Mrs. Whiffle's brother, the graduate of 
Williams, erstwhile mentioned, a quaint person, who 
lived at Rochester, was a rich bachelor. He was 
also a collector, not of anything special, just a collec- 
tor. He collected old andirons and doorknobs and 
knockers. He also collected postmarks and home- 
spun coverlets and obsolete musical instruments. 
Occasionally he even collected books and in this re- 
spect his taste was unique. He collected first 
editions of Ouida, J. T. Trowbridge, Horatio 
Alger, Jr., G. A. Henty, and Oliver Optic. He 
had complete sets of first editions of all these au- 
thors and, unlike most book collectors, he read them 
with a great deal of pleasure. He especially enjoyed 
Cudjo's Cave, a novel he had devoured so many 
times that he had found it necessary to have the 
volume rebound, thus subtracting fronr its value if 
it ever comes up at an auction sale. 

This uncle had always been prejudiced against 
Peter's father and, of late years, this prejudice had 
Swollen into a first-rate aversion. Visits were never 
exchanged. He considered himself an amateur of 
parts and Peter's father, a sordid business grub. 
Mrs. Whiffle, however, whose whole nature was con- 
ciliatory, continued to write long letters to her 
brother. Recently she had turned to him for sym- 
pathy and had found a well of it. Mr. Fotheringay 
was ready to sympathize with anybody who had fled 

[102] 



'^ife and Works 

from old man Whiflle's tyranny. For the first time 
he began to take an interest in the boy whom he 
had never seen. His imagination fed on his sister's 
letters until it seemed to him that this boy was the 
only living being he had ever loved, Peter had been 
working among the daughters of joy about two 
months when Mr. Fotheringay died. When his 
will, made only a few weeks before his death, was 
read, it was discovered that he had left his col- 
lections to Williams College with the proviso that 
they be suitably housed, kept intact, and called the 
John Alden Fotheringay Collection. Williams Col- 
lege, I believe, was unable to meet the terms of the 
bequest and, as a result, through a contingent clause, 
they were sold. Not long ago, I ran across one of 
the books in Arthur Harrington's shop on Lexing- 
ton Avenue in New York. It was a copy of J. T. 
Trowbridge's The Satin-Wood Box and it was 
easily identified by Mr. Fotheringay's bookplate, 
which represented an old man counting his gold, 
with the motto, In hoc signo vinces. After this de- 
partment of the estate had been provided for in the 
will, a very considerable sum of money, well in- 
vested, remained. This was left to Peter without 
proviso. 

As he never expected letters from any one except 
his mother, he seldom visited the post office and this 
particular communication from Mr. Fotheringay's 
lawyers, forwarded by Mrs. Whiffle, lay in a general 
delivery box for nearly a week before tie ciXVwi- 



Peter Whlfi 

He answered by telegraph and the next morninga 
received a substantial cheque at his hall bedroom a3 
dress. The first thing he bought, he has told 
me, was a book, an extra-illustrated copy of 
Mademoiselle de Maupin, from Brentano's in 
Union Square. Then he went to a tailor and was 
measured for clothes. Next he visited Brooks 
Brothers, on Twenty-second Street and Broadway, 
and purchased a ready-made suit, a hat, shoes and 
stockings, shirts, and neckties. He took a bath, 
shaved, had his hair cut, and, dressed in his new 
finery, embarked for the Knickerbocker in a taxi. 
He walked Into the bar under Maxfield Parrish's 
King Cole and ordered a Martini cocktail. Then 
he ate a dinner, consisting of terrapin, roast canvas- 
back, an alligator pear, and a quart or two of Pontet 
Canet. It was during the course of this dinner that 
it occurred to him, for the first time in his life, that 
he would become an author. Four days later he 
sailed for Paris. 




Chapter VI 

There is a considerable period in the life of 
George Borrow for which his biographers have been 
absolutely unable to account. To this day where 
Borrow spent those lost years is either unknown or 
untold. There is a similar period in the life of 
Peter Whiffle, the period including the years igo?' 
1913. In the summer of the former year I left 
him at Paris in the arms of Clara Barnes, so to 
speak, and I did not see him again until February, 
1913. Subsequently, when I knew him better, I 
inquired about these phantom years but I never 
elicited a* satisfactory reply. He answered me, to 
be sure, but his answer consisted of two words, 1 
lived. 

Our next meeting took place in New York, where 
I was a musical reporter on the New York Times, 
the assistant to Mr. Richard Aldrich. One night, 
having dropped Fania Marinoff at the theatre where 
she was playing, I walked south-east until I 
came to the Bowery. I strolled down that decaying 
thoroughfare, which has lost much of its ancient 
glory — even the thugs and the belles of Avenue A 
have deserted it — to Canal Street, where the Man- 
hattan Bridge invites the East Side to adventure 
through its splendid portal, but the East Side ig- 

[lOSl J! 



reter 

nores the invitation and stays at home. It is \ 
upper West Side that accepts the invitation and re^^ 
ments of motor-cars from Riverside Drive, in con- 
tinuous procession, pass over the bridge. For a 
time I stood and watched the ugly black scarabs 
with their acetylene eyes crawl up the approach 
and disappear through the great arch and 
then, walking a few steps, I stopped before the 
Thalia Theatre, as I have stopped so many times, to 
admire the noble facade with its flight of steps and 
its tall columns, for this is one of my dream theatres. 
Often have I sat in the first row of the dress circle, 
which is really a circle, leaning over the balustrade, 
gazing into the pit a few feet below, and imagining 
the horseshoe as it might appear were it again fre- 
quented by the fashion of the town. This is a 
theatre, in which, and before which, it has often 
amused me to fancy myself a man of wealth, when 
my first diversion would be a complete renovation — 
without any reconstruction or vandalism — of this 
playhouse, and the production of some play by 
Shakespeare, for to me, no other theatre in New 
York, unless it be the Academy of Music, lends Itself 
so readily to a production of Shakespeare as the 
Thalia. As I write these lines, I recall that the old 
New York theatres are fast disappearing: Wallack's 
is gone; Daly's is no more; even Weber and Ficlds's 
has been demolished. Cannot something be done 
to save the Thalia, which is much older than any of 
Wdiese? Cannot this proud auditorium be recffl 



[1061 



His Life and Works 

crated to the best in the drama? On this night I 
paused for a moment, musing before the portal, 
somewhat after this manner — for I have always 
found that things rather than people awaken any 
latent sentiment and sympathy in my heart — and 
then again I passed on. 

Soon I came to a tiny Chinese shop, although I 
was still several blocks above Chinatown. The 
window was stacked with curious crisp waffles or 
wafers in the shape of lotus flowers, for the religious 
and sexual symbolism of the Chinese extends even 
to their culinary functions, and a Chinaman, just in- 
side, was dextrously transferring the rice batter 
to the irons, which were placed over the fire, turned 
a few moments, and a wafer removed and sprinkled 
with dry rice powder, as Richelieu, lacking a blotter, 
sprinkled pounce on his wet signature. But the 
shop was not consecrated solely to the manufacture 
of waffles; there were tea-sets and puppy-cats, all 
the paraphernalia of a Chinese shop in New York 
— on the shelves and tables. It was the waffles, and 
the peanut cakes, however, which tempted me to 
enter. 

Once inside, I became aware of the presence of a 
Chinese woman at the back of the shop, holding in 
her arms an exquisite Chinese baby, for all Chinese 
babies, with their flat porcelain faces, their straight 
black hair, and their ivory hands, are exquisite. 
This baby, in green-blue trousers fashioned of some 
soft silk damask, a pink jacket of tVvt %^xsv^ \sn»^.^^>5^^ 



Peter Whiffle 

and a head-dress prankt with ribbons into which or- 
naments of scarlet worsted and blue-bird feathers 
were twisted, was smiling silently and gracefully 
waving her tiny ivory hands towards the face of an 
outcast of the streets who stood beside her mother. 
I caught the rough workman's suit, the soiled, torn 
boots, the filthy cap, and the unkempt hair in my 
glance, which reverted to the baby. Then, as I ap- 
proached the odd group, and spoke to the mother, 
the derelict turned. 

Carl! he ejaculated, for, of course, it was Peter. 

I was too much astonished to speak at all as I 
stared at this ragged figure without a collar or a 
tie, with several days' growth of beard on his usually 
glabrous cheeks, and dirty finger-nails. I had only 
wit enough left to shake his hand. At this time I 
knew nothing of his early life, nothing of the for- 
tune he had inherited, and the man in front of me, 
save for something curiously inconsistent in the ex- 
pression of the face, was a tramp. Certainly the 
face was puzzling: it positively exuded happiness. 
Perhaps, I thought, it was because he was glad to see 
me. I was glad to see him, even in this guise. 

Carl, he repeated, dear old Carl! How silly of 
me not to remember that you would be in 
New York. He caught my glance. Somewhat of 
a change, eh? No more ruffles and frills. Th^t 
life, and everything connected with it, is finished. 
Luckily, you've caught me near home. Come with 
me; there's liquor there. 

[io8] 



Its L,tje and 

1 So we walked out. I had not yet spoken a word. 
[ was choking with an emotion I usually reserve for 
old theatres, but Peter did not appear to be aware 
of it. He chattered on gaily. 

Have you been to Paris recently? Where have 
you been? What have you been doing? Are you 
writing? Isn't New York lovely? Don't you 
think Chinese babies are the kind to have, if you arc 
going to become a father at all? Wasn't that an 
adorable one? He waited for no answers. Look 
at the lights on the bridge. I live in the shadow of 
the span. I think I live somewhere near the old 
Five Points that used to turn up in all the old melo- 
dramas; you know, The Streets of New York. It's 
a wonderful neighbourhood. Everybody, absolutely 
everybody, is interesting. There's nobody you 
can't talk to, and very few that can't talk. They all 
have something to say. They are all either dis- 
appointed and discouraged or hopeful. They all 
have emotions and they are not afraid to show them. 
They all talk about the REVOLUTION. It may 
come this winter. No, I don't mean the Russian 
revolution. Nobody expects a revolution in Russia, 
Nobody down here is interested in Russia; the Rus- 
sian Jews especially are not. They have forgotten 
Russia. I mean the American REVOLUTION. 
The Second American REVOLUTION, I suppose 
!t will be called. Labour against Capital, The 
Workman against the Leisure Class. The Prole- 

Kiat against the Idler, Did you ever hear oC ?^9| 



Peter Whiffle 

Vlag? Do you read The Masses? 1 go to meet- 
ings, union meetings, Socialist meetings, I. W. W. 
meetings, Syndicalist meetings, Anarchist meetings. 
I egg them on. It may come this winter, I teli you! 
There wil! be barricades on Fifth Avenue. Vander- 
bilt and Rockefeller will be besieged in their houses 
with the windows shuttered and the doors barred 
and the butler standing guard with a machine-gun at 
some gazebo or turret. It will be a real siege, last- 
ing, perhaps, months. How long will the food hold 
out? In the end. they'll have to eat the canary and 
the Pekinese, and, no, nnt the cat, I hope. The cat 
will be clever and escape, go over to the enemy where 
he can get his meals. But boots, boot soup I Just 
like the siege of Paris; each robber baron locked up 
in his stronghold. Sometimes, the housemaid will 
desert; sometimes, the cook. The millionaires will 
be obliged to make their own beds and cook their 
own dogs and, at last, to man their own machine* 
gunsl 

The mob will be barricaded, too, behind barriers 
hastily thrown up in the street, formed of old 
moving-vans, Rolls-Royces and Steinway grands, 
covered with Gobelin tapestries and Lilihan, Mosul, 
Sarouk, and Khorassan rugs, the spoils of the de- 
nuded houses. With a red handkerchief bound 
around my brow, I shall wave a red flag and shriek 
on the top of such a barricade. My face will be 
streaked with blood. We shall all yell and if w« 
don^t sing the ^a Ira and the Carmagnole, we 



dnMj 



Its Life and Works 
at least sing Alexander's Ragtime Band and My 
Wife's Gone to the Country. 

Eventually, Fifth Avenue will fall and the Astors 
and the Goulds will be brought before the Tribunal 
of the People, and if you know any better spot for a 
guillotine than the very square in which we stood 
just now, in that vast open space before the Man- 
hattan Bridge, over which they all drive off for 
Long Island, I wish you'd tell me. There are those 
who would like to see the killing done In Washing- 
ton or Madison Square, or the Plaza or Columbus 
Circle, which, of course, has a sentimental interest 
for the Italians, but think of the joy it would give 
the East Side mothers, suckling their babies, and 
the pushcart vendors, and all the others who never 
find time to go up town, to have the show right here. 
Right here it shall be, if I have my way, and just 
now 1 have a good deal of influence. 

We had stopped before one of those charming old 
brick houses with marble steps and ancient hand- 
wrought iron railings which still remain on East 
Broadway to remind us of the day when stately 
landaus drove up to deposit crinolined ladies before 
their portals. We ascended the steps and Peter 
opened the door with his key. The hallway was 
dark but Peter struck matches to light us up the 
stairs and we only ceased climbing when we 
reached the top landing. He unlocked another door 
which opened on a spacious chamber, a lovely old 
room with a chaste marble fire-place in the Dovvw;. 



Peter Whiffle ^^^ 

mode, and faded wall-paper of rose and grey, de- 
picting Victorlajn Greek females, taller than the 
damsels drawn by Du Maurier and C. D. Gibson, 
languishing in the shadows of broken columns and 
weeping willow trees. Upon this paper were fas- 
tened with pins a number of covers from radical 
periodicals, native and foreign, some in vivid col- 
ours, the cover of The Masses for March, 1912, 
Charles A. Winter's Enlightenment versus Violence. 
the handsome head of a workman, his right hand 
bearing a torch, printed in green, several cartoons 
by Art Young, usually depicting the rich man as an 
octopus or hog, and posters announcing meet- 
ings of various radical groups. Gigantic letters, 
cut from sheets of newspaper, formed the legend, 
. I. W. W., over the door. 

■. The room was almost devoid of furniture. There 
Rwas an iron bed, with tossed bed-clothing, a table 
' on which lay a few books, including, I noted, one 
by Karl Marx, another by English Walling, Frank 
Harris's The Bomb, together with a number of 
copies of Piet Vlag's new journal, The Masses, 
and Jack Marinoff's Yiddish comic weekly. The Big 
Stick. There was also a pail on the table, such a 
pail as that in which a workman carries his mid-day 
meal. There were exactly two chairs and a ward- 
robe of polished oak in the best Grand Rapids man- 
ner stood in one corner. All this was sufficiently 
bewildering but I must confess that the appearance 
I of the lovely head of a Persian cat, issuing froiM 



His Life and Works 

under the bed-covers, made me doubt my reason. I 
recognized George Moore. Presently I made out 
another puss, sitting beside a basket full of kittens 
in the corner near the wardrobe. 

I must introduce you, explained Peter, to the 
mother of George Moore's progeny. This is 
George Sand. 

By this time I was a fit subject for the asylum. 
Even the Persian cats did not set me right. Happy 
or not, the man was evidently poor. 

I suppose I would Insult you if I offered you a job, 
I stuttered at last. 

A job I Carl, don't you know that I simply will 
not work? 

Well, and I found this even more difficult than my 
first proposal, I hope you won't misunderstand. , . . 
I haven't much, . . but you must permit me to give 
you some money. 

Money! What for? 

Why, for you. ; . . 

Comprehending at last, Peter threw back his head 
and began to laugh. 

But I don't need money. . . I never had so little 
use for it. Do you realize what it costs me to live 
here? About $15 a week. That includes every 
Item, even fresh beef for my cats. I was about to 
tell you, if you had given me time — you always in- 
terrupt — that I simply don't know what to do with 
my money. Stocks have gone up. The labourers 
in the factories at Little Falls are work.ltv^oMt-' 




Peter Whig 

i make me more prosperous. Indeed, one of the 
rteasons I was so glad to see you was that I thought. 
perhaps, you could help me to spend some money. 

The line about the interruptions, I should explain, 
was simply a fabrication of Peter's. If I have set 
our conversations down as monologues on his part, 
that is just how they occurred. Aside from Philip 
Moeller and Arnold Daly, I have never known any 
one to talk so much, and my role with Peter, as with 
them, was that of listener. To continue, I should 
have known enough, even so early in our acquain- 
tance, not to be astonished by anything he might do, 
but if there had been a mirror in the room, which 
there was not, I fancy I might have looked into the 
most exasperatingly astonished face I had ever seen 
up to that time. I managed, however, to laugh. 
Peter laughed, too, and sat down. George Moore 
leaped to his knee and George Sand to his shoulder, 
rubbing her magnificent orange brush across his 
face. 

And how about your boofc? I asked. 

It's coming . . . coming fast. 

Are you still collecting notes? 

Notes? . . . Oh, you are remembering whjj 
was doing in Paris. That was only an experlni 
... I was on the wrong track. ... I threw t 
all away! I couldn't do anything with that. , 
I'm done with such nonsense. 

I couldn't be astonished any more. 

I What are you doing now? 
^ ["41 



His Life and Works 

I've told you. rm living. Oh, Fm full of it : I 
know what art is now; I know what real literature 
is. It has nothing to do with style or form or man- 
ner. George Moore, not my cat but the other one, 
has said that Christianity is not a stranger re- 
ligion than the cult of the inevitable word. The ' 
matter is what counts. I think it was Theodore 
Dreiser. . . , 

Here I did interrupt : 

I know him. When I first came to New York 
in 1906 I wrote a paper about Richard Strauss's 
Salome for the Broadway Magazine. He was the 
editor. 

You know Theodore Dreiser! 

There was awe in his tone. 

Very slightly. I saw something of him then. 
Principally, I remember his habit, when he was talk- 
ing, of folding his handkerchief into small squares, 
then unfolding it. He repeated this process in- 
definitely. 

Show me. 

I showed him. 

Well, Fm glad I met you tonight. ... It was Sis- 
ter Carrie that set me right; at least I think it was 
Sister Carrie. What a book ! What a masterpiece 1 
No style, no form, just subject- The devils flogged 
St. Jerome in the fifth century because he was rather 
a Ciceronian than a Christian in his beautiful writ- 
ing, but they never will flog Theodore Dreiser 1 He 
had an idea, he knew life, and he yi-^t ^^^\.^ -^if^jax 



Peter Whiffle 

he felt. He wasn't thinking of how to write it; he 
had something to write. Have you read Sister Car- 
rie? 

I explained that Edna Kenton had given me the 
book to read when it first appeared. 

Strange as it may appear to you, for my way is 
not, perhaps, Dreiser's, that book explains why I am 
here and why I dress in this manner. It explains 
why I wander about the streets and talk with the 
people. It explains why I am hoping for the REV- 
OLUTION (Peter on this occasion invariably pro- 
nounced this word in capitals). It explains why I 
am an I. W. W. I would even join the Elks, if 
necessary. I think Dreiser at one time must have 
been an Elk; else how could he describe Hurstwood 
so perfectly? 

It is amusing, however, that you who won't work 
should become an international worker ! 

I dare say it is, drawled Peter, stroking George 
Moore's back, as the superb cat lay purring on his 
knee. I dare say it is but I'd go a good deal farther 
to get what I want; I'd even seek employment in a 
department store or a Chinese laundry. However, 
it's coming without that, it's coming fast. I found 
my heroine the other day, a little Jewish girl, who 
works in a sweat-shop. She has one blue eye and 
one black one. She has a club-foot, a hare-lip, and 
she is a hunch-back. I nearly cried for joy when I 
discovered her. I met her on Rivington Street 
walking with a stack of men's overcoats three feet 

[1161 



His Life and Works 

high poised on her head. She was limping under 
her burden. I followed her to the shop and made 
some inquiries. Her name is Rosie Levenstein. I 
shall leave in the deformities, but I shall change her 
name. 

Isn't she just a trifle unpleasant, a little unsym- 
pathetic, for a heroine? 

My book, replied Peter, is going to be very un- 
pleasant. It is about life and because you and I en- 
joy life is little enough reason for us to consider it 
other than a dirty business. Life for the average 
person, foi^ Rosie, for instance, simply will not do. 
It's bloody awful and, if anything, I shall make it 
worse than it is. Now, if the comrades succeed in 
starting the REVOLUTION, I am going through 
with it, straight through, breaking into drawing- 
rooms with the others. Fm going to pound up a 
Steinway grand with a hammer. Here Peter, with 
a suitable gesture, brought his hand down rather 
heavily on George Moore's head and that one, in- 
dignant, immediately rose and jumped down from 
his lap, subsequently stretched himself on the floor, 
catching his claws in the carpet, and after yawning 
once or twice, retreated under the bed. George 
Sand now left Peter's shoulder to fill the vacant 
place on his knee. As I told you, I'm going to wear 
a red handkerchief round my brow and my face will 
be bloody. Then, all I have to do is to transfer the 
whole experience, everything / have done and felt, 
the thrill, the BOOM, to Rosie. Can't you see tke. 



Peter Whiffle 

picture in my last chapter of the little, lame, hare- 
lipped hunch-back, with one blue eye and one black 
one, marching up Fifth Avenue with the comrades, 
wrapped in the red flag, her face stained with blood, 
humbling the Guggenheimers and the Morgans, dis- 
turbing the sleep of Henry Clay Frick, casting art 
treasures, bought with the blood of the poor, out to 
the pavement, breaking windows, shooting, tortur- 
ing, devastating? Then the triumphant return to 
the East Side, Rosie on the men's shoulders. 
Everybody tired and sweaty, satiated and bloody. 
Now, all the realism of the interiors, gefiUte fish 
and schnaps. But Rosie will sit down to her dinner 
in a Bendel evening gown, raped from one of the 
Kahn closets. The men come back for her. An- 
other procession down Canal Street. The police 
charge the mob. Shots. The Vanderbilts and the 
Astors and the Schwabs in their Rolls-Royces and 
their Fierce-Arrows, fitted with machine-guns, 
charge the mob. Terrible slaughter. Rosie dead, 
a horrid mess, fully described, lying on the pave- 
ment. Everything lost. Everything worse than it 
was before. Deportation. Exile. Tenements razed. 
Old women, their sheitels awry, wrapped in half a 
dozen petticoats and thick shawls, bearing the sa- 
cred candlesticks, fleeing in all directions. Cries of 
Weh is mir ! Moans. Groans. Desolation. And, 
at the end, a lone figure standing just where you and 
I were standing a little while ago, philosophizing, 

[ii8] 



His Life and Works 

pointing the dread moral, accenting the horror. 
The lights go out. Darkness. In the distance, i. 
band is heard playing The Star Spangled Banner. 
Finis. 

Peter's excitement became so great that he almost 
shrieked; he waved his arms and he half rose out of 
his chair. George Sand, too, found it expedient to 
retreat under the bed. The kittens, tumbling mew- 
ing out of their basket, their little tails, like Christ- 
mas trees, straight in the air, followed her, and soon 
were pushing their paws valiantly against her belly 
and drinking greedily from her dugs. 

It's wonderful, I said when Peter, at last, was si- 
lent. Then, as it seemed, rather inconsequentially, 
Do you know Edith Dale? 

Who is Edith Dale? 

Well, she's a woman, but a new kind of woman, 
or else the oldest kind; I'm not sure which. I'm 
going to take you there. Bill Haywood goes there. 
So does Docis Keane. Everybody goes there. 
Everything is all mixed up. Everybody talks his 
own kind of talk and Edith, inscrutable Edith, sits 
back and listens. You can listen too. 

Is she writing a book? 

No, she never does anything like that. She 
spends her energy in living, in watching other peo- 
ple live, in watching them make their silly mistakes, 
in helping them make their silly mistakes. She is a 
dynamo. She will give you a good deal. At least, 

[119] 



Peter Whige 

these gathering!; will give you a good deal. I think 
you might carry a chapter or two of your novel 
through one of Edith Dale's evenings. 

Must I change my clothes ? 

No, you are right just as you are. She will like 
you the better for them. 

That's good. I couldn't change my clothes. 
My friends, the comrades, wouldn't understand if 
they saw me. But you must have a drink. I had 
nearly forgotten that I had promised you one*. 

Peter opened the polished oak wardrobe and ex- 
tracted therefrom a bottle of Christopher's Finest 
Old White Scotch Whisky and he began to speak 
of the advantage of allowing spirits to retain their 
natural colour, which rarely happens in the case of 
whisky, although gin is ordinarily to be distinguished 
in this manner. 



[120] 



"Chapter VII 



Edith Dale had returned to New York after 
three years in Florence. Near the old renaissance 
city she had purchased an ancient villa in the moun- 
tains and had occupied herself during her sojourn 
there in transforming it into a perfect environment 
for the amusing people with whom she surrounded 
herself. The villa originally had been built with- 
out a loggia; this was added, together with a salone 
in the general style of the old house. The lovely 
Italian garden was restored. Cypresses pointed 
their dark green cones towards the sky and gar- 
denias bloomed. White peacocks and statues were 
imported. Then, with her superlatively excellent 
taste at her elbow, Edith rushed about Italy in her 
motor, ravishing prie-Dieu, old pictures, fans, china 
dogs, tapestries, majolica, and Capo di Monte por- 
celains, carved and gilded renaissance boxes, fantas- 
tic Venetian glass girandoles, refectory tables, di- 
vans, and divers bibelots, until the villa became a 
perfect expression of her mood. When every pos- 
sible accent had been added, she entertained in the 
evening. Eleanora Duse, a mournful figure in black 
velvet, stood on the loggia and gazed out over the 
hills towards Certosa; Gordon Craig postured in 
the salone; and Gertrude Stein commemorated the 



Peter Whiffle 

occasion in a pamphlet, printed and bound in a Flor- 
entine floral wall-paper, which today fetches a good 
sum in old bookshops, when it can be found at all. 
To those present at this festa, it seemed, doubtless, 
like the inauguration of the reign of another Lo- 
renzo the Magnificent There was, indeed, the 
prospect that Ease and Grace, Beauty, Wit, and 
Knowledge, would stroll through these stately and 
ornate chambers for indefinite months, while hungry 
artists were being fed in the dining-room. But to 
Edith, this culminating dreary festivity was the end. 
She had decorated her villa with its last china dog, 
and the greatest actress in the world was standing 
on her loggia. Under the circumstances, further 
progress in this direction seemed impossible. She 
was even somewhat chagrined to recall that it had 
taken her three years to accomplish these things 
and she resolved to move more quickly in the future. 
So, packing enough of her treasures to furnish an 
apartment in New York, she shut the villa door 
without looking behind her, and booked a passage 
on the next boat sailing from Genoa. 
I In New York she found the top floor of an old 

mansion in Washington Square exactly what she 
wanted and installed green glass, lovely fabrics, and 
old Italian furniture against the ivory-white of the 
walls and the hangings. She accomplished the set- 
ting in a week; now she required the further decora- 
tion which the human element would afford. Art, 
for the moment, was her preoccupation and, with 

[1221 



i 



His Life and Works 

i|ier tremendous energy and her rare sagacity and 
taste, she set about, quite spontaneously, arranging 
for an exhibition, the first great exhibition of the 
post-impressionist and cubist painters in New Yorlt. 
This show has now become almost a legend but it 
was the reality of that winter. It was the first, and 
possibly the last, exhibition of paintings held in New 
York which everybody attended. Everybody went 
and everybody talked about it. Street-car conduc- 
tors asked for your opinion of the Nude Descending 
the Staircase, as they asked you for your nickel. 
Elevator boys grinned about Matisse's Le Madras 
Pouge, Picabia's La Danse a la Source, and Bran- 
cusi's Mademoiselle Pogany, as they lifted you to 
the twenty-third floor. Ladies you met at dinner 
found Archlpenko's sculpture very amusing, but was 
it art? Alfred Stieglitz, whose 291 Gallery had 
nourished similar ideas for years, spouted like a 
geyser for three weeks and then, after a proper in- 
terval, like Old Faithful, began again. Actresses 
began to prefer Odilon Redon to Raphael Klrch- 
ner. To sum up, the show was a bang-up whale 
of a success, quite overshadowing the coeval appear- 
ance of the Irish Players, chaperoned by Lady Greg- 
ory. It was cartooned, it was caricatured, it was 
Dr. Frank Craned. Scenes in the current revues 
at the theatres were devoted to it; It was even men- 
tioned in a burlesque at the Columbia. John 
Wanamaker advertised cubist gowns and ladies be- 
to wear green, blue, and violet wigs, and tg^ 



^■^ Peter Whiffle ^" 

paint their faces emerald and purple. The eHects 
of this aesthetic saturnalia are manifest even today. 

Fresh from the quieter insanity of Florence, 
Hdith was intensely amused by all this. It seemed 
so extraordinarily droll to find the great public 
awake to the excitement of art. She surrounded 
herself with as many storm centres as possible. 
The crowds flocked to her place and she made them 
comfortable. Pjnchbottles and Curtis Cigarettes, 
poured by the hundreds from their neat pine boxes 
into white bowls, trays of Virginia ham and white 
Gorgonzola sandwiches, pale Italian boys in aprons, 
and a Knabe piano were added to the decorations. 
Arthur Lee and Lee Slmonson, Marsden Hartley, 
Andrew Dasburg, Max Weber, Charles Dcmuth, 
Bobby Jones — just out of college and not yet a de- 
signer of scenery — Bobby Parker, all the jeunes 
were confronted with dowagers from the upper 
East Side, old family friends, Hutchins Hapgood, 
Ridgely Torrence, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and 
pretty women. Arguments and discussions floated 
in the air, were caught and twisted and hauled and 
tied, until the white salon itself was no longer static. 
There were undercurrents of emotion and sex. 

Edith was the focus of the group, grasping this 
faint Idea or that frail theory, tossing it back a com- 
plete or wrecked formula, or she sat quietly with her 
hands folded, like a Madonna who had lived long 
enough to learn to listen. Sometimes she was not 
even at home, for the drawing-room was generally 

L r: - 



ipied from ten in the morning until midnight. 
Sometimes — very often, indeed — she left her guests 
without a sign and went to bed. Sometimes — and 
this happened still oftener — she remained in the 
room without being present. Andrew Dasburg 
commemorated this aspect in a painting which he 
called The Absence of Edith Dale. But always, 
and Dasburg suggested this in his flame-like por- 
trait, her electric energy presided. She was the 
amalgam which held the incongruous group to- 
gether; siie was the alembic that turned the dross to 
gold, — i 

When dulness, beating its tiresome wings, seemed 
about to hover over the group, she had a habit of 
introducing new elements into the discussion, or new 
figures into the group itself, and one day it must 
have occurred to her that, if people could become so 
excited about art, they might be persuaded to be- 
come excited about themselves too, and so she trans- 
ferred her interest to the labouring man, to unions, 
to strikes, to the I. W. W. I remember the first 
time I saw her talking earnestly with a rough mem- 
ber of the garment-maker's union. Two days later, 
Bill Haywood, himself, came in and the tremendous 
isence of the one-eyed giant filled the room, seem- 
ig to gi^'^ it a new consecration. Debutantes 
knelt on the floor beside him, while he talked simply, 
but with an enthralling intensity, about the things 
that interested him, reinforcing his points by crush- 

kthc heels of his huge boots intQ iVvt ^Voan-k^ ■^.'^ 



Peter Whiffle 

or digging his great hands into the mauve tapestry 
with which the divan was upholstered. Miners, 
garment-makers, and silk-weavers were the hon- 
oured guests in those days. The artists still came 
but the centre of interest had shifted. Almost half 
of every day Edith now spent in Paterson, New 
Jersey, where the strike of the hour was going on, 
attending union meetings and helping to carry 
pickets back and forth in her motor. She continued 
to be diverted by the ironies and complexities of 
Ufe. 
f Recruits to the circle arrived from Europe-s-for 
Edith knew half of Europe — ; solemn celebrities, 
tramps, upper Fifth Avenue, Gramercy Park, Green- 
wich Village, a few actresses — 1 took Fania Marin- 
off there several times — were all mixed up with 
green glass vases, filled with fragrant white lilies, 
salmon snapdragons, and blue larkspurs, pinchbot- 
tles, cigarette stubs, Lincoln Steffens, and the paint- 
ings of Marsden Hartley and Arthur B. Davies. 
Over the whole floated the anomalous odours of 
Eau de Lavande Ambree and Bull Durham. 

Edith herself was young — about thirty-four — 
and comely, with a face that could express anything 
or nothing more easily than any face I have ever 
seen. It was a perfect mask. She wore lovely 
gowns of clinging turquoise blue, spinel, and jacinth 
silks from Liberty's. When she went out she 
wrapped herself in more soft silks of contrasting 
shades, and donned such a hat as Donatello's David 

[1261 



His Life and Works 

wears, graceful with its waving plumes and an ava- 
lanche of drooping veils. 

1 spent whole days at Edith's and was nearly as 
much amused as she. To be truthful, I dare *say I 
was more amused, because she tired of it before I 
did. But before these days were over I brought in 
Peter. I had telephoned Edith that we were 
coming for dinner and, when we arrived, the 
rooms were nearly empty, for she found it as easy 
to rid herself of people as to gather them in. 
Neith Boyce was there, I remember, her lovely red 
hair caught in a low knot and her lithe body swathed 
in a deep blue brocade. There were two young 
men whosre names I never knew, for Edith never in- 
troduced anybody and these young men did not inter- 
est me sufficiently to compel me to converse with 
them and they interested Edith so little that they 
were never allowed to appear again. The dinner, 
as always, was simple: a soup, roast beef and 
browned potatoes, peas, a salad of broccoli, a 
loaf of Italian bread, pats of sweet butter, and 
cheese and coffee. Bottles of whisky, red and 
white wine, and beer stood at intervals along the 
unclothed refectory table. The cynical Tuscan 
butler, who had once been in the service of Lady 
Paget, never interrupted the meals to serve these. 
You poured out what you wanted when you wanted 
it. The dinner was dull. The young men tried 
to make an impression on Edith, with a succession 
of witty remarks of the sort which would Ka^^ 



^^^ Peter Whiffle 

made them exceedingly popular in anything like 
what Ward McAllister describes as Society as I 
Have Found It, but it was apparent that their host- 
ess was unaware of their very existence. Neith and 
I exchanged a few inconsequential phrases con- 
cerning D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. Peter, 
dressed as he had been when I met him in the Chi- 
nese shop, and even dirtier, was utterly silent. 
Long before coffee was served, Edith left the table 
and went into the salon to write letters. 

When we followed her later, there were already 
a few people there, talking in corners, and more 
were arriving. Now and again, Edith glanced up 
from her letters to greet one of the newcomers but 
she did not rise. Peter wandered about the room, 
looking at the pictures, occasionally picking up a 
book, of which there were a great number lying 
about on the tables. Donald Evans, correct and 
rather portentous in his studied dignity, made an 
early appearance. At this period he was involved 
in the composition of the Sonnets from the Patago- 
nian. He drew a manuscript from his pocket and 
laid it on the desk before Edith. Over her 
shoulder I read the line, ^^ 

^H She triumphed in the tragic turnip field. ^^H 

ViMutchins Hapgood, haggard and restless and ^^^ 
strangely sympathetic, came in and joined uneasily 
in an eager conversation with a young woman with 
bobbed hair who stood in a corner, fingering an Aj^ui 
can primitive carving m wood of a naked wofl^^f 

- ■ "^ ^ 



His Life and Works 

with long pointed breasts. Yorska was there, the 
exotic Yorska with her long nose, her tragic eyes, 
her mouth like a crimson slit in a face as white as 
Pierrot's, a modern Judith looking for a modern 
Holof ernes and never finding him; Jo Davidson 
with his jovial bliack beard, Bacchus or satyr in 
evening clothes ; Edna Kenton, in a pale green float- 
ing tunic of her own design; Max Eastman, poet 
and Socialist, and his wife, Ida Rauh; Helen West- 
ley, a tall angular scrag with something of the aris- 
tocracy of the Remsen-Meseroles informing her 
spine, who had acquired a considerable reputation 
for being "paintable" by never paying the slightest 
attention to her clothes; Henrietta Rodman, the 
round-faced, cherubic Max Weber. ... I caught j 
all these and,' quite suddenly, although for some 
time, I remembered afterward, I had been aware 
of the odour of Coeur de Jeannette, Clara Barnes. 
She was sitting, when I discovered her, on a sofa 
before the fire-place, in which the coals were 
glowing. She was more matronly in figure and was 
dressed with some attempt at stylization. She was 
wearing a robe of batik, iridescent in the shades of 
the black opal, with a belt of moonstones set in 
copper, and huge earrings fashioned of human 
hair. On her feet were copper-coloured sandals 
and I was pleased to note that her dress was long 
enough to cover her ankles. I leaned over the back 
of the sofa and addressed her. 
Miss Barnes, I believe . * . 



Peter Whiffle 

She turned. 

Oh, it's you. What a long time it's been since 
Paris. 

I perceived that her new manner was not exclu- 
sively a matter of clothes. 

Peter is here tonight, I hazarded. 

Is he ? she parried, without any apparent interest. 

What are you doing now? 

What I have always been doing, studying for 
opera. That teacher in Paris nearly ruined my 
voice. I am really, it seems, a contralto, and that 
fool had me studying Manon. Carmen is to be my 
great role. I have a splendid teacher now and I 
am working hard. In two or three more years, I 
should be ready for my debut. I want to get into 
the Metropolitan. . . . You, I hear, are with the 
Times. Perhaps you can help me. . . . 

So she rambled on. I had heard everything she 
had to say many times before and I have heard it 
many times since; I found it hard to listen. 
Looking across the room, I saw Peter gazing at 
us. So he knew she was there, but he only smiled 
and turned back his attention to the book he held in 
his hand. Clara, however, had caught his eye. 
Her face became hard and bitter. 

He might speak to me, she said and there was a 
tone of defiance in her voice. Then, more calmly, I 
never understood Peter; I don't understand him 
now. For three days, a week, perhaps, I thought 
he loved me. One day he disappeared, without any 



His Life and JVorks 

explanation; nothing, not a sign, not a word. I 
knew that he had left Paris, because he had taken 
the cat with him. I was not very much in love with 
him and so it didn't hurt, at least it didn't hurt 
deeply, but what do you make of a man like that? 

He contradicts himself, 1 put in rather lamely, 
searching for words. 

That's it! He contradicts himself. Why, do 
you know, T don't believe he cared at all for my sing- 
ing. After the day I sanp for you, he never asked 
me to sing again and when I offered to he always put 
me off. 

An old lady in a black satin dress, trimmed with 
cataracts of jet beads, addressed me and fortunately 
drew me out of Clara's orbit. 

Mrs. Dale has some remarkable pictures of the 
new school, she began, but, of course, I don't like 
them. Now, if you want to see pictures — I hadn't 
said that I did— you should go to Henry Prick's. 
Do you know Mr. Prick? 

No, but I know the man who shot him. 

The old lady grew almost apoplectic and the jet 
beads jangled like i^olian harps in a heavy wind. 
She managed, however, to gasp out with a sound 
that was remarkably like gurgling. Oh, indeed! 
How interesting! Then, peering about nervously, I 
don't suppose he's here tonight. 

I haven't seen him, I said, but he often comes 
here and, as I see Emma Goldman yonder, I should 
think it extremely likelv that he wilt appear later. 



nore, I 
7ould 



^^^ Peter Whiffle 

Oh, indeed ! The old lady leitmotived once more, 
How interesting! How very interesting! Would 
you mind telling me the time? 

It's a quarter of ten. 

Oh, as late as that ! — She had ju:!! arrivi 
Really, I had no idea it was so late. Jolin — this to 
a decrepit old gentleman in shiny evening clothes — 
John, It's a quarter to ten. 

What of it? querulously demanded the old gen- 
tleman, with a curious upward turn to his ridicu- 
lous side-whiskers. What of it? 

The old lady, forgetting her fifty years of train- 
ing in the most exclusive drawing-rooms, turned and 
whispered something In his ear. 

Now it was the turn of the old gentleman to feel 
a touch of apoplexy. 

Berkman ! he roared, Berkman! Where is the 
scoundrel? Where Is the assassin? 

The old lady looked almost shame-faced as she 
tried to pacify John: He's not here yet, but he may 
come. 

We shall leave at once, announced the old gentle- 
man decisively, Edith is trespassing on oiir good 
nature. She ts gping too far. We shall leave at 
once. 

He offered the old lady his arm and they made 
their way rapidly out, rubbing against, in the pas- 
sageway, a one-eyed man nearly seven feet tall. 
Now Edith had neither observed the coming or the 

Koing of this elderly couple but Bill Haywood 1 
[152I 



^nt^Ltf^anaWo 



OTKS 

not crossed the threshold before she was shaking 
his hand and, a moment later, she had drawn him 
with her through a doorway into a httle room at 
one side of the salon, where she couJd talk to him 
more privately. 

The most fascinating man alive, volunteered a 
stranger at my elbow, a little fellow with a few 
wisps of yellow hair and a face like a pug-dog, that 
Bill Haywood. No show aboiU him, nothing theat- 
rical, not a bit like the usual labour leader. Genu- 
ine power, that's what he has. He never goes in 
for melodrama, not even at a strike meeting. The 
other day in Paterson, a child was hurt while the 
police were clearing the street of strikers. One of 
the policemen, with his billy, struck down the boy's 
mother and a man who was helping her to her feet. 
At the meeting the next day, Haywood recited the 
facts, just the bare facts, without comment or colour 
and without raising his voice. What's the police- 
man's name? cried a voice in the hall. His name, 
replied Haywood, as coldly as possible, is said to be 
Edward Duffy: his number is 72. That was all, 
but Edward Duffy, No 72, had been consigned to 
the perpetual hatred of every one of the two thou- 
sand men present at the meeting. He spurns elo- 
quence and soap-box platitudes. He never gibbers 
about the brotherhood of man, the socialist com- 
monwealth rising upon the ruins of the capitalist 
system, death to the exploiters, and all the other 
Idles of the ordinary labour agitator. Wcjxkssa. 



syst 



Peter Whiffle 

want simple, homely facts regarding their trades 
and he gives them these facts. He is — 

What are all these God damn bourgeois doing 
here? demanded a high, shrill voice from the next 
room. 

My companion smiled. That is Hippolytc 
Havel. He always asks that question, even at an- 
archist meetings, but it isn't a cliche with him; it's 
part of his charm. 

Hippolyte, sweet, blinking, amblyoptic Hippo- 
lyte, his hair as snarly as the Medusa's, strode into 
the room. 

Hush, some one adjured us. Hush ! Yorska is go- 
ing to recite. 

After a few seconds, there was silence. All the 
chairs were filled ; many were sitting on the floor or 
standing against the wall or in the doorways; ladies 
in black velvet, wearing diamonds, ladies in batik 
and Greenwich Village sacks, ladies with bobbed 
hair and mannish-cut garments, men in evening 
dress, men in workmen's clothes. No one present, 
I noted, looked quite so untidy as Peter. Yorska, 
her tragic face emerging from three yards of black 
tulle and satin, recited, in French, Baudelaire's Le 
Balcon, fingering a red rose at her waist. As she 
uttered the last lines with passionate intensity, 

— O serments! O parfums! O baisers infinis! 

there was a scattered clapping of hands, a few ex- 
clamations of delight. Now the Tuscan butler, as 



His Life and Works 

cynical as Herbert Spencer, threw open the doors to 
the dining-room, exposing the table laden with 
sandwiches, salads, cold meats, glasses, and bottles, 
including kiimmel bottles in the form of Russian 
bears. A few of the young radicals were the first to 
surge to the repast. My companion and I slipped 
out in time to hear an instructive lecture on the 
subject of collective bargaining from a young man 
with a black flowing tie, who grasped a pinchbottle 
so fervidly that I felt sure it would never leave his 
hand until he had usurped the contents. Represent- 
ation was a word which, in its different senses, was 
often used that evening. The labourers cooed over 
it, worshipped it, and set it up in a shrine, while the 
artists spurned it and cast it from them; "mere pho- 
tography" was the phrase. 

Helen Westley, black and limp, stood beside me. 

Who, she asked, is that young man you brought 
here tonight? 

Peter WhifHe, I replied. 

Peter Whistle? was her interrogative reproduc- 
tion. 

Presently the quiet even voice of Bill Haywood 
was heard from the drawing-room, a voice that by 
its very mildness compelled sHence: 

Violence, yes, we advocate violence of the most 
violent sort, violence that consists in keeping your 
mouth shut and your hands in your pockets. 
Don't fold your arms, I say to the men, but keep 
your hands in your pockets to keep hired thugs and 



^^^ Peter Whiffle 

detectives from putting bombs there. In doing thil I 
and staying on strike you are committiog the most j 
violent acts in the world, for you arc stopping in- 
dustry and keeping it stopped until the mill ownen 
grant your demands, an eight hour day, two looms 
to a worker, and higher wages. 

See how he talks, pointed out my unidentified 
companion, rubbing his flabby fingers the while 
around the flange of his wine-glass, about half-foU 
of red California wine. No rage, no emotion, a 
simple explanation of the humanities. Let us go 
in where we can hear him better. 

But when we joined the throng In the drawing- 
room, we discovered that Haywood was not begin- 
ning. He had already finished what he had to say 
to the group and had returned to his more in- 
timate conversation with Edith. He brought back 
to my mind Cunnlnghame Graham's description of 
Parnell, not popular, in the hail-fellow-well-met 
and loudly cheered conception of the word, but yet 
with an attraction for all women whom he came 
across, who were drawn to him by his careless treat- 
ment of them, and by the wish that nature has im- 
planted in their sex, to be the rulers of all men who 
stand above their kirid. 

Did It ever occur to you, my companion began 
again, that there Is some strange relationship be- 
tween trade unionism and tribal magic? You know 
how the men of one union cannot do the work foi 

K [136] 



His Life and Works 

the men of another union. What is this restriction 
but the taboo? 

What, indeed? I echoed pleasantly, unable to 
think of anything more apposite to say. Besides, 
my attention was wandering. I had discovered 
Peter, who appeared to be engrossed in the charms 
of a pretty girl of whom I knew little except that 
her name was Mahalah Wiggins. 

Now the round-faced, cherubic Max Weber rose 
to speak. 

The art consciousness is the great life conscious- 
ness, he began in his somewhat high-pitched voice. ' 
Its product and the appreciation of its product are 
the very flower of life. . . . Hutchins Hapgood's 
companion continued to finger lovingly the polished 
wooden African figure. ... Its presence in man 
is Godliness on earth. It humanizes mankind. 
Were it spread broadcast it would do away with 
dry, cold intellectualism, which dead and unfired, 
always seeks refuge in pretending to be more than it 
is. . . . Bill Haywood, the giant Arimaspian, w^s 
pounding the seat of the brocaded sofa with his 
great fist. . . . Art or art consciousness is the 
real proof of genuine human sympathy. It oozes 
spiritual expression. Were it fostered it would 
sooner solve the great modern economic problem 
than any labour propaganda. . . . Helen Westley 
was yawning, with a great open jaw, which she made 
no effort to conceal. ... A lack of this art con* 

[137] 



^^^ Peter Whiffle 

sciousness — Weber was very earnest, but in no sens* 
theatrical — on the part of both capital and laboui, 
is one cause of this great modern struggle. WcK 
this art consciousness more gen?:al, material pos- 
session would be less valued; the covetous spirit 
would soon die out. . . . Yorska, a wraith of 
black satin and black tulle, her pale Pierrot face slit 
with crimson and punctuated with two black holes, 
lined with purple, stood In the doorway motionless, 
like another Rachel, with one hand lifted above her 
head, grasping the curtain, trying to look uncovet- 
ous. . . . Art socializes more than socialism with 
its platform and Its platitudes. . . . Bravo! This 
from HIppolyte Havel. . . . Economists go not 
deep enough into the modern monetary disease. 
They deal only with materialism. They concen- 
trate only on what is obvious, the physical starva- 
tion of the toiling class, but never do they see or 
seem to realize the spiritual starvation or the lack 
of an art consciousness to both capital and labour. 
They would argue that the material relief must 
come first. I reply, now as always, we must begin 
with the spiritual. I do not see, however, how the 
spiritual or icsthctic can be separated from the 
material. . . . Clara Barnes gave an angry shake 
to her long earrings, but Donald Evans had the 
rapt attentive air of a man hearing a great truth for 
the first time. . . . The common solution of this 
great problem is too dry, too matter of fact, too cal. 

r'ated, too technical, too scientifically intellei 
[1381 



;ct^K 



IP 



Life and Works 

and not enough intellectually Imaginative. Art con- 
sciousness is not merely a form of etiquette, nor a 
phase of culture — it is life — the quality of sensitive 
breathing, seeing, hearing, developed to a high true 
spirituality. Man would value man more. The 
wonder of and the faith in other human beings 
would kindle a new social and spiritual life. 

That's good talk, was Bill Haywood's com- 
ment. 

What does it all mean? Clara Barnes caught 
my attention again; it was obvious that she could 
catch no one else's. 

It means what you are willing or able to put Into 
it, nothing more, I affirmed. 

Well, said Clara, yawning, I guess I can't put 
much into it. This is worse than a party I went to 
last week, given by a baritone of the Aborn Opera 
Company. 

At this point, a little school-marm type of person, 
with a sharp nose and eye-glasses, rose and shrilly 
began to complain. -" > 

I am a mere lay woman, I don't know a thing 
about modern art. I've been trying to learn some- 
thing for five years. In the effort, I have attended 
all the meetings of this kind that I could in Paris, 
New York, and London. There's always a lot of 
talk but nothing is ever clear. Now I'd like 
to know if there isn't some explanation of modern 
art, an explanation that a mere lay woman co uld 
^^lerstand. 



an could 



gla^H 



Peter Whiffle 

Tliere was z npple of amused laughter 
the young artists and a rapid exchange of gl: 
but not one of thetn rose. Instead, a ratfaer 
Bjassive female, utterly unknown to me, with as 
^ many rows of gold braid across her chest as a 
French academician, a porter at the Credit Lyonnaia, 
or a soldier in the array of the Prince of Monaco, 
stood on her feet. 

What, exactly, would you like to know? she a^xd 
in a voice in which authority and coafidence were 
equal elements. 

I'd like to know everything, but I'd be satisfied 
with anything. What, for instance, is the meaning 
of that picture? 

Slie pointed to Andrew Dasburg's The Absence 
of Edith Dale, a cubistic contribution to xstbedc 
production in several planes and the colours of red, 
ycllinv, and blue. 

The massive lady began with some hesitation. 
I Icr confidence had not deserted her but she seemed 
to be searching for precise words. 

Well, she said, that picture is the kind of picture 
that gives pleasure to the kind of people who like 
that kind of picture. The arrangement of plane* 
and colours is very satisfying. Perhaps I could efr 
plain it to you in terms of music. Do you undeiv 
stand the tcrminnlogy of music? 

Not at all, snapped the little woman with the eye- 
glasses. 

»The massive lady seemed gratified and continued, 
[140^ 



His Life and ^Ofki 

In that case, you may have difficulty In following 
tnc, but if you take the first and second themes of a 
sonata, their statement, the development or work- 
ing-out section, the recapitulation, the coda. . . . 
It has some relation to the sonata form certainly, 
but, , . , The artist is in the room, the artist who 
painted the picture. Won't you explain the picture, 
Mr. Dasburg? 

Andrew, very much amused, did not take the 
trouble to rise. 

The picture is there, he said. You can look at 
it. Then, after a pause, he added, Henry James 
says, Woe, in the £Esthetic line, to any example that 
requires the escort of precept. It is like a guest 
arriving to dine accompanied by constables. 

Then, said the little lady, solemnly, I say, Woe 
to that picture, woe to it, for it certainly requires 
the escort of precept. Moreover, I don't think any 
one here knows anything, not a thing ! she 
cried, her voice rising to a shrill intensity, not a 
blessed thing. It's just like the last chapter of 
Alice. If I shouted. Why, you're only a pack of 
cards, you'd all fly up in the air, a lot of flat paste- 
boards with kings, queens, aces, and deuces painted 
on your faces I I shall never ask another question 
about modern art. My private impression is that 
it's just so much junk. 

Very indignant now, she wrapped an ice-wool 
shawl around her bony shoulders and made her way 
out of the room. ^m 



Peter Whiffle 

There wasn't an instant's pause and her depar- 
ture caused no comment. A new speaker began : 

The world, it may be stated, for the purposes of 
classification, is divided into four groups : the prole- 
tariat, the aristocrats, the middle class, and the art- 
ist class. The artist class may be called by any 
other name, bohemians, anarchists, revolutionists, 
what you will. It includes those who think and act 
freely, without traditions or inhibitions, and not all 
people who write or paint belong to this class at all. 
The artist class lives the way it wants to live. The 
proletariat and the aristocrats live the way they 
have to live. The middle class is composed of 
members of the proletariat trying to live like the 
aristocrats. . . . 

My mind wandered. I glanced across at Peter. 
He was still absorbed in Mahalah Wiggins and did 
not appear to be listening to the speaker. Yet, if 
he were really writing a realistic novel, the talk, the 
whole atmosphere of the evening should have in- 
terested and enthralled him. He never looked up 
and he was whispering very rapidly. 

Some people resemble animals; some, perhaps, 
minerals; assuredly, some resemble flowers. Ma- 
halah Wiggins was like a pansy. Her hair was 
black with purple lights ; her eyes were a pale pansy 
blue; her face bore an ingenuous pansy expression 
that made one wonder why pansics were for 
thoughts. She wore a purple velvet dress with long 
tight sleeves ending in points which reached her 

[142] 



His Life and Works 

knuckles, and, around her throat, a chain of crystal 
beads that hung almost to her waist. 

Intercepting the long look I gave the girl, Neith 
Boyce smiled. 

Are you, too, interested in Mahalah? she asked. 

I am interested in the effect she is making. 

She always makes an effect, Neith rejoined. 

Who is she? 

An orphan. Her father left her a little money, 
which she is spending at the Art Students' League, 
trying to learn to draw. Her only real talents are 
obvious. She knows how to dress herself and she 
knows how to attract men. Your friend seems to 
like her. 

He does, indeed. 

Mahalah comes here often and always spends the 
evening in a corner with some man. She seems to 
prefer married men. Is your friend married? 

No. 

A fat woman in a grey crepe dress, embroidered 
in steel beads, standing in the centre of the room, 
shifted my attention. 

Who is that? I asked. 

That is Miss Gladys Waine, replied Neith. She 
is the wife of Horace Arlington, the sculptor. 

Miss and a wife? What is she then, herself? 

Nothing. She does not write, or paint, or com- 
pose. She isn't an actress. She is nothing but a 
wife, but she insists on retaining her individuality 
and her name. If any one addresses her as Ntr^. 



Peter Whiffle 

Arlington, she is furious, and if you telephone her 
house and ask for Mrs. Arlington, although she 
may answer the telephone herself, she will assure 
you that Mrs. Arlington is not in, does not, in fact, 
live there at all. She adores Horace, too. The 
curious thing is that Horace's first wife, who di- 
vorced him, has never given up his name, of which 
she appears to be very proud. She is always called 
Mrs. Horace Arlington and trembles with rage 
when some tactless person remembers her own 
name. 

My anonymous companion was by my side again 
with a plate of chocolate ice cream which he offered 
me. 

Did you ever try eating chocolate ice cream and 
smoking a cigarette simultaneously? he asked. If 
you haven't, allow me to recommend the combina- 
tion. The flavour of both cigarette and ice cream 
is immensely improved. 

An old lady with an ear-trumpet, thinking she had 
been addressed, took the plate of ice cream from his 
outstretched hand, leaned over us and queried, Eh? 

I say, said my incognito companion, that there is 
nothing like a good dose of castor oil. 

Nothing like it for what? she shrieked. 

As a carminative 1 he yelled. 

But I don't suffer from that complaint, she argued. 

Allow me to congratulate you, madame, and he 
bowed to her. 

As we were saying, he continued, in a confidential 

[144I 



CS/e and Works 

manner, grasping my arm, one cannot be too careful 
in writing a drama. Weak, low-born people in 
trouble are pathetic; the middle classes in the same 
plight are subjects for melodrama or comedy; but 
tragedy should deal with kings and queens. 

The groups separated, came together, separated, 
came together, separated, came together: syndical- 
ists, capitalists, revolutionists, anarchists, art- 
ists, writers, actresses, "perfumed with botanical 
creams," feminists, and malthusians were all mixed 
in this strange salad. I talked with one and then 
another, smoking constantly and drinking a great 
deal of Scotch whisky. Somehow, my strange 
companion, like the Duchess in Alice, contrived 
always to be at my side. Remembering the situa- 
tion at the Queen's croquet party, I could not help 
feeling grateful that his chin was square and that he 
was shorter than I. At one o'clock I had a head- 
ache and decided to go home. I looked for Edith. 

She went to bed hours ago, Neith explained. 

Then I made a vain search through the rooms for 
Peter. 

One of the two young men who had dined with us 
stopped me. 

If you are searching for your friend, he said, 
he went away with Mahalah Wiggins. 




[145^ 



A 



Chapter VIII 



Friendship usually creates onerous obligations. 
Our friends are inclined to become exigent and de- 
manding. They learn to expect attentions from us 
and are hurt when we do not live up to these ex- 
pectations. Friends have an unpleasant habit of 
weighing on our consciences, occupying too much of 
our time, and chiding us because we have failed 
them in some unimportant particular. Is it strange 
that there are moments when we hate them? 
Friendship, indeed, is as perilous a relationship as 
marriage; it, too, entails responsibility, that great 
god whose existence burdens our lives. Seemingly 
we never escape from his influence. Each newly 
contracted friendship brings another sacrifice to 
the altar of this very Christian divinity. But there 
was no responsibility connected with my friendship 
for Peter. That is why I liked him so much. When 
he went away, he seldom notified me of his depar- 
ture ; he never wrote letters, and, when he returned, 
I usually re-encountered him by accident. In the 
whole of our long acquaintance, there never was a 
period in which he expected me to telephone him 
after a decent interval. We were both free in our 
relationship, as free as it is possible for two people, 
who are fond of each other, to be. There was a 
great charm in this. 

[146] 



His Life and Works ' 

A whole month went by, after EdJth Dale's party, ' 
without my hearing from him. Then I sought him 
out. By this time, I knew him well enough to be 
prepared for some transmutation: but I was scarcely 
prepared for what I saw. His room on East Broad- 
way had been painted ivory-white. On the walls 
hung three or four pictures, one of Marsden Hart- 
ley's mountain series, a Chinese juggler in water 
colour by Charles Demuth, a Picabia, which os- 
tensibly represented the mechanism of a locomotive, 
with real convex brass piston-rods protruding from 
the canvas, a chocolate grinder by Marcel Du- 
champ, and an early Picasso, depicting a very sick- 
looking pale green woman, lying naked in the gutter 
of a dank green street. There were lovely desks and 
tables, Adam and Louis XIV and Francois I, a 
chaise longue, banked with striated taffeta cushions, 
purple bowls filled with spiked, blue flowers, Ber- 
gamo and Oushak rugs, and books bound In gay 
Florentine wall-papers. The bed was covered with 
a Hungarian homespun linen spread, embroidered 
in gay worsteds. The sun poured through the win- 
dow over George Moore's ample back and he looked 
bappier. 

Peter was wearing green trousers, a white silk 

irt, a tie of blue Chinese damask, clasped with a 
black opal, and a most ornate black Chinese dress- 
ing-gown, around the skirt of which a silver dragon 
diased his tail. He was combed and brushed and 

icre was a fainf odour of toilet-wate^ . ViAs.tv-i^^ 



^er 



PiH!- Whiffle ' 

were manicured and on one of his little tingers I ob- 
served a ring which I had never seen him wear Ik- 
fore. Later, when I examined it more closely, \\ 
proved to be an amethyst intaglio, with Leda and 
the Swan for its subject. It has been said, perhaps 
too often, that you cannot make a silk purse out of 
a sow's ear. It is even more true that you cannot 
make a sow's ear out of a silk purse. 

I rose to the room: It's nicer than Edith's. 
It's not bad, Peter admitted. I didn't get it fixed 
I^P at first. I like it better now, don't you? 
^^ I liked your friend, the other night, he contimied 
^K You mean Edith? 
^B>Yes. You must take me there again. 
^Brm sorry but that is impossible. She has given 
^^p her apartment and returned to Florence. But, 
I added, I didn't know that you had talked together. 
We didn't exchange three words, not even 
two, he said, but I took her In and she took me in. 
Wc like each other, I'm sure, and some day we'll 
meet again. Look, he added, sweeping his arm 
around, see what her glamour has given me, a new 
life! 

But why did you leave so early? 
I met a girl. . . , 

The next few weeks have left a rather confused 
impression in ray mind, perhaps because Peter him- 
self seemed to be confused. He never spoke of his 
book. Occasionally we went to the theatre or to 
\ concert. I remember a concert of Negro music 



His Life and Works 

at Carnegie Hall, when there were twenty-four 
pianos and thirty banjos in the band and the Negroes 
sang G'wine up, Go Down, Moses, Rise and Shine, 
Run Mary, Run, and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, 
with less of the old plantation spirit than either Pe- 
ter or I could have assumed, but when the band broke 
into ragtime, the banjos twanged, the pianos banged, 
the blacks swayed back and forth, the roof was 
raised, and glory was upon us. Once, coming out 
ot ^otian Hall, after a concert given by Elena 
Gerhardt, we were confronted by a wagon-load of 
double basses in their trunks. Two of the monsters, 
with their fat bellies and their long necks, stood 
vis-a-vis on the sidewalk and seemed to be convers- 
ing, while their brothers on the wagon, a full nine, 
wore the most ridiculously degnge air of dignity. 
We will not sit down, not here at any rate, they 
plainly said, but they did not complain. Peter 
laughed a good deal at them and remarked that the 
aristocrats in the French Revolution must have gone 
to the guillotine in much the same manner, only the 
absurd double basses in their trunks had no roses to 
smell. Never have I seen inanimate objects so ani- 
mate save once, at a rehearsal in the darkened Bel- 
asco Theatre, when the curly gold backs of the or- 
nate chairs, peeping over the rails of the boxes, as- 
sumed the exact appearance of Louis XIV wigs on 
stately gentlemen. We heard Toscanini conduct 
the Ninth Symphony at the Metropolitan Opera 
, House and we went to see Mrs. Leslie Carter ijW^ 

[149^ 



^^^ Peter Whiffle ^^^" 

Paula Tanqueray. Often, in those days, we dined 
at the Pavilion d'Orlent, an Armenian restaurani 
on Lexington Avenue. Peter particularly enjoyed 
a pudding called Tavouk Gheolcsu, made of shred- 
H ded chicken-breasts, pounded rice flour, powdered 
^■augar, and cinnamon, and Midia Dolma, which are 
^■mussels stuffed with raisins and rice and pignolia 
nuts. Studying the menu one night, it occurred to 
him that the names of the dishes would make ex- 
cellent names for the characters of a play. The 
heroine, of course, he said, would be I.ahana Sarma 
and the adventuress, Sgara Keofte; Engulnar is a 
splendid name for a hero, and the villain should be 
called Ajem Pilaf I There was a Negro cafe in the 
basement of a building on Thirty-eighth Street, 
which we frequently visited to see a most amazing 
mulatto girl, apparently boneless, fling herself about 
while a pitch-black boy with Ivory teeth pummelled 
his drum, at intervals tossing his sticks high in the 
air and catching them dextrously, and the pianist 
pounded Will Tyers's Maori out of the piano. Oc- 
casionally we patronized more conventional cafes, 
one especially, where Peter was interested in a 
dancer, who painted lier face with Armenian bole 
and said she was a descendant of a Hindu Rajah, 

It was during this period that Peter nourished a 

desire to be tattooed and we sought out masters of 

the art on the Bowery and at Coney Island, For 

hours at a time he would examine the albums of 

^^esigns or watch the artist at work decorating sailors 

t ' ^ 



His Life and Works 
and stevedores. One of these young men came 
nearly every day until his entire body, with the ex- 
ception of his eye-balls, lips, and nails, had become a 
living Persian carpet, a subtle tracery of arabesques 
and fantastic beasts, birds and reptiles. The process 
of application was interesting. First, the pattern 
must be pricked out on glazed paper, smeared with 
lamp-black; this was laid on the surface to be 
tattooed and the outline left by the lamp-black was 
worked over with needles. The artist utilized a 
piece of wood into which were fixed with wires, nine 
or ten sharp points. The victims seemed to suffer a 
good deal of pain, but they suffered in silence. It 
was not, however, fear of pain that caused Peter to 
hesitate. I think he would have been frescoed from 
head to foot, could he have once decided upon a de- 
sign. Day after day, he looked over the sketches, 
professional symbols, military, patriotic, and re- 
ligious, symbols of love, metaphorical emblems and 
emblems fantastic and historical, frogs, tarantulas, 
serpents, hearts transfixed with arrows, crosses sur- 
mounted by spheres, and cannon. He was most 
tempted, I think, by the design of an Indian holding 
aloft the flag of the United States. 

Late in March, he suggested a trip to Bermuda. 

We must go somewhere, he explained, and why 
not Bermuda? It's not too far away. 

I had been working hard and welcomed the idea 
of a vacation. To the question of a destination I 
was comparatively indifferent. It was, hcwd^t 

[ISA 



^^ Peter Whiffle 

not too easy to arrange for even a brief leave of aih 
sence from the Times during the busy Winter 
months. By pleading incipient nervous prostration, 
however, I managed to accomplish my purpose. 

On the day marked for our departure, I set out. 
bags In hands, for the office of the steamship com- 
pany on lower Broadway, where Peter had com- 
missioned me to stop for the tickets. There, a clerk 
behind the counter gave me a note. It was from 
Peter. 

Dear Carl, it ran, I've cancelled our bookings. 
I can't go. Come in to see me today and we'll ar- 
range another trip. 

An hour later I found Peter in bed in his room on 
East Broadway. He was consuming a raw-beef 
sandwich but he laid it down to grasp my hand. 

I'm sorry, he began, but I don't know how I ever 
happened to hit on the idea of Bermuda, When I 
awoke this morning, the thought appalled me; I 
KcDuldn't get out of bed. 

I The counterpane was strewn with pamphlets 
relating to foreign travel. The telephone rang. 

Excuse me, he said, as he clutched the receiver. 
Then, by way of explanation. It's the agent of the 
Cunard Line. I want to ask about the southern 
route. 

He did. He asked about sailings for Italy. 
Africa, India, and even Liverpool and then he told 
the agent that he could not decide what to do but 

kbe would let him know Inter. 




zSj Life and Works 

i Carl, he exclaimed suddenly, let's go to Alaska I 

I shook my head. 

It may be that we shall meet there by chance some 
day, but I don't believe you can make up your mind 
to go there this week. 

I'm afraid not, he assented ruefully. I suppose 
it's hard for you to understand, 

I understand well enough, I replied, but under the 
circumstances you will have to travel alone or get 
some one else to go with you. While you are de- 
ciding, my leave of absence will expire. 

A few days later he telephoned me. 

I'm really going to Bermuda, was his message. 
I've had bookings on every boat sailing for 
Europe the past week and cancelled them all. My 
first idea was the right one. Bermuda is a change, 
it's near at hand, and I can get back quickly if I don't 
like it. Come to Bermuda with me, Carll 

When are you sailing? I asked. I'll come down 
to see you off. 

On the day set, I went to the wharf, and to ray 
great surprise, found Peter there, just as he had 
promised he would be, an hour before sailing time. 
If he kept an engagement at all, he always kept it 
on time. He had made preparations, buying new 
summer clothes, he explained, and a new innovation 
trunk. As he never knew how long he would stay 
in one place or where he would go from there, he 
always carried a great deal of apparently unneces- 
sary baggage. This time he had five trunks with, hira 





Peter Whiffle 

Jid several bags, Including two for the cats. 
1 we stood on the wharf together, we saw these tn 
being hoisted aboard. Then we walked up the 
gang-plank and went to seek out his cabin. He did 
not like it, of course, and he hunted up the purser 
and asked to be transferred to another part of the 
boat. The ship was crowded and no other cabin 
was vacant, but the purser, spurred to extra effort by 
the tip which Peter handed him, promised to try to 
get him one of the officers' rooms. A little later this 
transfer was effected and, before I left the bont, 
Peter was installed in his new quarters. As I bade 

^hini farewell, I thought he looked a litde wistful. 
I watched the boat puU out into the river. 
Five hours later, as I was working in the tower 
of the New York Times, I was called to the tele- 
phon.. 

I said. Hello, and almost dropped the receiver, 
for I had heard Peter's voice from the other end of 
the wire. 

I'm back on East Broadway, he groaned. Do 
come down. 

When 1 arrived, I found him propped up in bed, 
drinking tea, which he shared with me. 

I just couldn't go! It wouldn't have been right 
to go feeling the way I did about It. Something 

E.dful would have happened. ^^h 

ut I saw the boat cast off her moorings. ^^^| 
eter grinned. ^^^| 

Je were steaming down the river. I was 4^^| 



His Life and Works 
tired and, having the desire to rest In bed, T began to 
undress. Suddenly it came over me that I had made 
a great mistake, I put my clothes on again rapidly, 
dashed to the deck, and hunted up the purser. You 
know, he had already befriended me. I told him 
that I had just opened my mail and mv telegrams 
and had run across one informing me of the violent 
illness of my father — you know how much that 
would really worry me I — and that I must go back. 
He informed me that this was impossible, but an- 
other bill — a very large one this time — made him 
more sympathetic and my disembarkation was ar- 
ranged with the aid of a tug-boat. I even got my 
trunks off, but I had to cry a good deal to do that, 
I'm very sorry for you, Mr, Whiffle, the purser 
said. He will never forget me, I'm sure. 

The telephone rang. Peter lifted the receiver 
from the hook and I heard him say. Please reserve 
me a deck cabin on the Kronprinz Wilhelm sailing 
tomorrow. He turned, as he put the receiver back; 
I'm not crazy about the North German Lloyd but 
I've already sailed this week on the French Line, 
the Holland-American, the Cunard, and the White 
Star. I had to change. 

By telephone the next day, I learned that Peter 
had not sailed on the Kronprinz Wilhelm. 

Do you know, he said, I've hit on a solution. I 
could not decide where to go — every place has its 
faults — but it has occurred to me that I am not com- 
pelled to go anywhere: I can stay on right herel ^m 




'Peter Whiffle 

There is still a pendant to this part of my tale. 

■ i In May, Peter informed me that he had rented a 
house on Long Island, a small cottage near Great 
Neck, with a big fire-place and furniture that would 
do. He took me out with him the first night. He 
had engaged a man and his wife, Negroes, to care 
for the place and cook. We enjoyed a very good 
dinner and he seemed to have settled down for the 
summer but in the morning, at breakfast. I, and the 
Negroes, learned that he was dissatisfied. 

I don't like the place much, he explained, at least, 
I don't think I do. At least, I'm not going to stay 
here. 

He paid the servants two weeks wages and dis- 
missed them. Then he telephoned an expressman 
to call for his trunks, none of which had been 
opened. Carrying the bags, two of which contained 
cats, we caught the 9 o'clock train back to town. 

Before this last fluctuation, some time In April, 
I think it was, Peter's father really did die. Peter 
did not go to Toledo for the funeral but, after it 
was over, Mrs. Whiffle came to New York and T met 
her one day at tea. There was no change in Peter; 
certainly not a band of black on his arm. 

He did seem bo have one fixed idea that spring, 
an idea that centred on marriage. 

I'm not particularly in love with any one, he ad- 
mitted, and so it is rather difficult to choose, but I 
want children and my children must have a mother. 

KThere is Mahalah Wiggins . . . and there is the 



His Life and Works 

Rajah's grand-daughter. Well, I don't know that 
they will marry me, but I must decide what I am 
going to do before I give them a chance to decide 
what they are going to dol 

A week or so later: I've been considering this 
question of marriage. It's a serious step. I can't 
rush into a thing like that. Mahalah doesn't like 
cats. You know, I couldn't give up my cats. I 
can't marry a woman who doesn't like cats. Luckily 
I haven't asked her. 

A few days later : I will marry Mahalah, I think. 
She understands me; she doesn't seem to mind the 
crazy things I do. She is beginning to like the 
cats. She is healthy and she might produce fine chil- 
dren. 

Another interval and then : She has accepted me. 
Isn't it wonderful for her to love me at my age for 
my money alone! 

The preparations for the wedding were porten- 
tous, although it was to be celebrated as quietly as 
possible. There were clothes to buy and an apart- 
ment to be furnished. He left the decision of the 
day and place to Mahalah* — fortunately that was her 
affair — ^but there was endless discussion about the 
honeymoon. He considered In turn nearly every 
spot on the globe, including Patagonia and Abys- 
sinia. As the day in May set for the ceremony ap- 
proached, Maine was mentioned rather more fre- 
quently than any other locality, but I had no real 
conviction that they would ultimately ^ ^Vss.^^. ^- 



Peter Whiffle 

was to be the sole attendant at the wedding. That 
much seemed to be settled. 

The great day dawned and brought with it a 
windy rain. I knew that Peter detested windy days; 
one of his superstitions associated them with dis- 
aster. He did not telephone me in the morning and 
his silence seemed ominous. Nevertheless, I put on 
a morning coat and a silk hat and presented myself 
at his rooms an hour before the minute set for the 
ceremony, which was to be celebrated in a little 
church in the neighbourhood. On another day, I 
would not have been surprised to find a note from 
Peter instead of himself but when, on reaching the 
top landing, I discovered the door open, and an old 
charwoman, packing tip books and bowls inside, 
handed me a note with the superfluous information 
that Mr. Whiffle had gone away, my knees shook to 
such an extent that I wondered if I had suddenly be- 
come afflicted with tabes. 

I managed to ask. Where? 

I dunno, sir. He took his trunks. 

I opened the letter. 

Dear Carl, it ran, I just couldn't do it. It 
wouldn't be right to do it, if I feel that way, would 
it? And I do, indeed, I do! I told you I was not 
in love and it's hard to make up your mind if you 
don't feel strongly enough, and I never feel strongly 
enough about anything until afterwards. You know 
that. Now, that's soon enough about Bermuda or 
a house in the country, but it's too late in marriage. 



His Life and Works 

So I've just called it off. IVe written her a note 
which doesn't exactly explain anything but some day 
she'll be glad, I hope, and so all you have to do is to 
make her feel that it's all right. Somehow, I be- 
lieve she will understand. Anyway, I don't think 
she will be surprised. I'm going to Africa and, if 
I ever have an address again, I'll send it to you. 

Peter. 



[1591 



Chapter IX 



In September, 1913, I found myself on the Pal 
Milan Express on my way to Venice to meet Editb 
Dale, I have travelled across Switzerland many 
times and I hope to do so again {the view from the 
car-windows is magnificent), but I shall never visit 
that country. God keep me from lingering in the 
mountains or by the shores of the sea. Such im- 
mensities of nature strangle talent and even dwarf 
genius. No great creative work has ever been com- 
posed by the sea or in the shadow of a mountain. 
In the presence of the perpetual mysteries of nature, 
man feels his smallness. There are those who may 
say that the sky-scrapers of the city evoke a similar 
feeling, but man's relation to these Is not the same: 
he knows that man built these monster structures 
and that man will tear them down again. Moun- 
tains and the sea are eternal. Does this explain 
why so much that passes for art In America comes 
from Indiana and Illinois, the flat, unlmposing, 
monotonous Middle West? 

All journeys, I suppose, have their memorable in- 
cidents and episodes, however unimportant. My 
sole memory of this particular hegira Is trifling. 
While I was dining, the train gave a lurch or a 
swerve, hurling me with my plate in my lap to the 
^farthest corner of the car. The soup which 1 



His Life and Works 

plate contained was in my lap, too, and elsewhere. 
Fortunately, the soup was not too hot. The accident 
recalled how once in a French drawing-room I had 
spilled a cup of calid coffee on my leg, scorching it 
painfully. The hostess was concerned about her 
carpet. I do hope, she was saying, that you haven't 
spilled your coffee on my carpet. I had not, but 
my leg was burned so badly and I felt so outraged 
by her lack of sympathy, that I took occasion later 
to make good the omission. Another night, another 
year, and certainly another place, a celebrated lady, 
next to whom I was sitting at supper, whisperingly 
adjured me to upset my coffee into her lap. She 
was wearing a new and elaborate frock and, as- 
tonished by her unreasonable request, I was dilatory 
in obeying. She whispered again, this time more 
sharply. Do as I tell youl At last I obeyed her, 
but the attempt at carelessness must have seemed 
very clumsy. I am a poor actor. Apologize, was 
her next command. Meekly, I followed instructions. 
Now she spoke aloud. It doesn't matter at all, she 
said. It's only an old rag. The other gentlemen 
present condoled with her, but she smilingly put 
them off. Don't make the boy feel bad. It wasn't 
his fault. Next day, while I lunched with her, a 
great many boxes arrived from Bendel's and Hick- 
son's. Every man who had attended the supper 
had bought her a new dress, as she had been sure 
they would 1 

Towards nightfall, we approached the Italian hai:- 



^^^ Peter Whiffle 

der and after we had passed into Italy, the compart* 
ment, which had been crowded all day, was empty 
but for mc and another man. As he was a Rouma- 
nian, who spoke neither French nor English, we did 
not converse. About 8 o'clock, we lay down on our 
respective seats and tried to sleep. It was nearljT 
midnight when we arrived at Milan and I was glad 
to descend from the train, after the long journey, to 
take a few hours repose at a hotel near the station. 
Early in the morning, which was bright and sunny, 
I departed for Venice, 

In the evening of that day, I was sitting at a table 
in the garden of Bonvecchiati's with Edith, who had 
motored down from Florence. Since the night I 
had taken Peter to her house in Washington Square, 
I had seen her only for fleeting moments, but she 
bridged the months immediately. Peter had been 
correct in his assumption that she would remember 
him. In fact, one of the first questions she asked 
was: 

Where is that boy you brought to my house the 
other night? 

It was "the other night" to Edith; months and 
even years meant nothing to her. 

Peter Whiffle? 

Yes, a nice boy. I liked him. Where Is ; 
Let's take him back to Florence with us. 

I don't know where he is. 

Then I told her the story of how Peter did^ 
get mariied. 



hs and 

1 



His Life and Works 

I knew he was amusing. Let's get in touch with 
his vibrations and find him. 

Edith, indeed, had invented her own kind of wire- 
less long before Marconi came along with his. Dis- 
tances, as a matter of fact, circumscribed her even 
less than time. 

Just then, she saw Constant Lounsberry, or some 
one else, at a table in the corner of the garden where 
we were dining and she strolled over to talk with 
her. Sipping my coffee and smoking my cigarette, 
I recognized a familiar voice and turned to see Peter, 
with his mother, about to claim an adjacent table 
from which the occupants were rising. He looked 
two years younger than he had four months before 
and his rather pretty mother helped to confirm the 
illusion. Of course, I joined them at once and soon 
we were discussing the Italian futurists, the compar- 
ative merits of spaghetti and risotto, Lydia Borelli, 
the moving pictures, and the Marchesa Casati, who 
had given a magnificent festa the evening previous, 
when, clad in a leopard's pelt, she had stood on the 
steps of her palace, and greeted her guests as they 
approached by gondola on the Canale Grande. Pe- 
ter, I noted, was wearing his amethyst intaglio of 
Leda and the Swan on the little finger of his left 
hand. ^ After a time, during which, for a few brief 
moments, the conversation drifted towards Toledo 
and the small affairs of Mrs. Whiffle, he told me his 
story. 

I came near dying in Africa, Carl, surrounded by 



^^^ Peter Whiffle 

niggers and fleas 1 It was horrible. Hot as a New 
York roof-garden and nearly as uncomfortable. 
There I lay, rotting with a nameless fever, no one 

with me but an incompetent Dutch doctor, who was 
more ignorant of the nature of my complaint than I 
was myself, and a half-naked aboriginal, who wanted 
to call in the witch-doctor and who, when burked In 
this direction, attempted a few amateur charms, 
which at least had the merit of awakening my Inter- 
est. There I lay in a rude thatched hut with a roof 
of caked cow-dung; I couldn't eat, drink, or speak. 
I thought it was the end. Funny, but the only sound 
that reached my ears, after a few days, was the chat- 
tering of monkeys, and later they told me there were 
no monkeys about at all. 

Over my head on the wall, hung a dirty thonged 
whip. Whether its purpose was to beat women or 
oxen, I don't know, but, you will remember, per- 
haps, that sometimes, when I awaken from sleep In 
the middle of the night, I have a strange habit of 
holding one arm straight up in the air, at right 
angles with my body. Well, while I was ill, there 
it was, most of the time, straight up I One night, 
when my strength was fast ebbing away, I reached 
higher and grasped the whip. Then I grew drowsy: 
everything seemed to turn blood-red, even the palm- 
leaves that waved across the opening made by the 
doorway of the hut, and it was very hot, unspeakably 
roasting. Now, through this same doorway, 

I Iked a woman in a nistv black robe and, althoH] 



His Life and Works 

I knew it must be Death, the figure confused itself 
in my mind with Kathleen-ni-HouIihan and (will 
you believe it?) Sara AUgood! Fancy the appear- 
ance of Death in the middle of Africa suggesting to 
me the character of an Irish play and the actress I 
had seen in it ! There followed a slight pause, dur- 
ing which Death stood perfectly still. Then two 
more figures entered the tiny hut. One was the 
Devil, Ahriman, Abaddon, what you will; I 
recognized him at once, he was so likable and, be- 
sides, he was lame. The other, I gathered after a 
little conversation, was an emissary from heaven. 
Eblis seated himself on one side of my cot, rest- 
ing his crutches against the wall, and Gabriel's am- 
bassador stood on the other side. Now these two 
droll fellows began to describe the climates and 
amusements of heaven and hell to me, each speak- 
ing in his turn, and continually interrupting them- 
selves to beg me to decide speedily where I wanted 
to go. They stated frankly that they had not any 
too much time, as they had several other visits to 
make before dinner in various parts of the world. 
The Angel polished his feathers with a small hat- 
brush and the Devil seemed to be taking good care 
of his nails, in default of the opportunity to visit a 
manicure. Death stood immovable, inexorable. 
Imagine, even in her presence, I had to make up my 
mind where I wanted to go. It was a terrible ex- 
perience, I can tell you ! It was as if she were saying, 
Hurry now, hurry now! Nine minutes m.oi:e.. 



reierlrmffte I 

Only, of course, she did not utter a single word. 
The Angel and the Devi! were too silly. Had they 
been silent, it would have been so much easier for 
me to decide. My mind would just be wavering in 
a certain direction, when one of the supernatural 
visitors would put me completely out with a warning 
about his rival's domain and a word of enthusiasm 
for his own. Never have I suffered such agony. 
I could not decide whether to go to Paradise or 
Pandemonium. My perplexity increased as they ar- 
gued. Meantime, It was obvious that I was 
keeping Death from other bedsides, I could sec 
that she was becoming nervous and irritable. 
shifting first on one foot, then on the other. 
It was evidently very irksome to her that she 
had taken a vow of silence. In life, it is so 
easy; there is always something else to do. But, in 
death, Carl, there is a single alternative; at least, it 
seemed so to me for an unconscionable space of 
time. Suddenly, however, two Ideas occurred to 
me: I remembered that I had read somewhere that 
demon and deity were originally derived from the 
same root: in that case, one place would be as bad 
or as good as the other; and I remembered my solu- 
tion of the Bermuda problem: I could stay where I 

was, / aias ne t ■ e em p r l ied — ts g o ativ^ 'herf. 

Stretching up my hands, I pulled hard on the whip, 
which must have broken loose from the nail, because 
when I came out of my coma, the thongs were 
gripped tightly in my hand, lying on the blaiil 

. [1661 



His Life and Works 

Peter concluded his story and, suddenly, with 
that delightful inconsequence, which contributed so 
definite a charm to his manner, he pointed to a 
woman in the crowd. 

She resembles an ostrich and she is dressed like a 
peacock, he said. 

Peter, I wish you wouldn't jest about death and 
holy things, interjected Mrs. Whiffle, on whose lit- 
eral mind the tale had evidently clawed as an eagle 
claws the brain of a cat. 

But, mother, Peter tried to mollify her, I am not 
jesting. I am telling you something that happened. 

Something that you thought had happened, Mrs. 
Whiffle corrected, but we should only think good 
thoughts. We should keep the dark ones out of 
our minds, especially when they interfere and con- 
flict with the powerful words of Almighty God, our 
Creator. 

I'm sorry, mother, I won't tell it again, he said, 
simply. Then, after a nibble or two at a lobster, 
he turned to me. Mother is going to America to- 
morrow. I shall be alone. Have you been to the 
Austrian Tyrol? There's Russia, of course, and 
Spain, and those islands where Synge used to go. 
Where are they? And Bucharest. Carlo, will you 
go with me tomorrow to Buenos Ayres or Helsing- 
fors? 

You are not to be told where you are going, I re- 
plied, but you are going with me. 

Experience has taught me that people with prin-^ 



riplcs are invariably unreasonable. Peter had no 
principles and therefore he was reasonable. So 
the next day, he really did drive back with u9 to 
Florence, through, the pleasant olive groves and 
vineyards. A Jeroboam of chianti enlivened the 
journey, and Edith adored the story of Peter's en- 
counter with Death, the Devil, and the Angel. 

The Villa Allegra is set on the hills of Arcetri, 
high above the long cypress-bordered avenue called 
the Stradone del Pogglo Imperiale. The villa is so 
artfully concealed amongst the cunningly-grouped, 
gnarled olive trees, eucalypti, myrtles, plane-trees, 
laurels, pepper-trees, and rows of cypresses, that, 
until you are in the very courtyard, you are unaware 
of its propinquity, although, by some curious para- 
dox, the view from the loggia commands the sur- 
rounding country. The lovely curve of the facade 
has been attributed to the hand of Raphael, and 
Brunelleschi is said to have designed the cortile, for 
the physician of the Medici once inhabited this coun- 
try house, but the completely successful loggia and 
the great salone were added by Chester Dale. 

Peter had never been in Florence before; no more 
had I ; so the romantic charm of this lovely old 
house in the mountains served to occupy us for sev- 
eral days. We inspected the sunken Roman bath 
and were thrilled by the rope-ladder, which, when 
lowered through a trap-door, connected a chamber 
on the second storey with a room on the first. Wc 

trc satisfied to sit in the evening under the 



His Life and Works 

damask walls, illuminated by wax tapers set in ^- 
randoles of green and rose faience, to stroll in the 
gardens, to gaze off towards the distant hills from 
the loggia. Edith entertained us with long ac- 
counts of the visits of the spectre, the dame blanche 
who haunted the house. It was, if the servants who 
swore they had seen her were to be believed, the 
spirit of an elderly maiden lady who had died there. 
In life, it seems, she had been of a jealous disposi- 
tion and had tried to make the villa uncomfortable 
for other guests. She was not succjcssful in this 
effort until she died, and not altogether successful 
even then, for there were those who refused to be 
terrified by the persistent presence of this spinster 
eidolon, which manifested itself in various ways. 
Others, however, resembled Madame de Stael, 
who did not believe in ghosts but was afraid of 
them. 

In the mornings, Peter and I breakfasted to- 
gether in the garden, whither was borne us by the 
cynical butler a tray with individual drip coffee- 
pots, a plate of fresh rolls, and a bowl of honey. 
The peacocks strutted the terrace and the breeze 
blew the branches of the fragrant gardenias across 
our noses. In the distance, the bells of Florence 
softly tolled. In the afternoon, the faraway hills be- 
came purple and, in the evening, the atmosphere was 
tinged with green. The peasants sang in the road 
below and the nightingales sang in the olive copse. 
Roman lamps flickered on the tables and Strega, the 

[i69-\ 



mi 



Peter Whi, 

jolden witch-liquij, stood in our tiny crumpled 
Venetian tumblers, their distorted little bellies 
flecked with specks of gold. There were occasional 
callers but no other resident guests than our- 
selves at the villa and Edith, as was her custom, 
left us a good deal alone. On the day of our ar- 
rival, indeed, she disappeared after luncheon and 
only returned two days Ir.ter, when she explained 
that she had gone to visit a friend at Pisa. We 
usually met her at dinner when she came out to the 
garden-table, floating in white crepe de chine, with 
a turban of turquoise biue or some vivid brilliant 
green, but during the day she was seldom visible- 
She ate her breakfast alone on the balcony above 
our bedroom, then read for an hour or two. What 
she did after, one never knew, save as she told of it. 
Meanwhile, Peter and I wandered about, inspect- 
ing the shops on the Ponte Vecchio, tramping 
through the old palaces and galleries. Several 
times Peter paused; he hesitated for the longest 
time, I think, before the David of Donatello, that 
exquisite soft bronze of the Biblical lad, nude but 
for his wreathed helmet, standing in his adolescent 
slender beauty with one foot on the head of the de- 
capitated giant. He carries a sword and over bis 
face flutters a quizzical expression. Indeed, what 
Walter Pater said of the face of Monna Lisa might 
equally well apply to the face of David. So re- 
marked Peter, explaining that the quality of both 
le David and Leonardo's darling was the same. 



His Life and Works 



both possessed a compelling charm, and it was the 
charm of David which had slain the ugly giant, just 
as charm always kills ugliness. And he swore that 
this was the most beautiful object that the hand of 
man had yet created, an art expression which 
reached Its emotional and intellectual zenith, and 
then he spoke of the advantage that sculpture en- 
joyed over painting. 

One tires of a painting. It is always the same. 
There is never anything new in it. But with a 
statue, every different light gives it a novel value, 
and it can be turned around. When you tire of one 
aspect, you try another. That Is why statues be- 
long in houses and pictures belong in museums. 
You can visit the museum when you wish to look.at 
a picture, hut it is impossible to live with a picture, 
because it is always the same. You can kill any pic- 
ture, even a picture by Velazquez, by hanging it on 
your own wall, for in a few days it becomes a com- 
monplace to you, a habit, and at last one day you do 
not look at it any more, you scarcely are aware that 
it is there at all, and you are surprised when your 
friends speak of it, speak of It admiringly. Yes, you 
say, unconvinced, it is beautiful. But you do not be- 
lieve it. On the other hand, a statue is new every 
day. Every passing cloud in the sky, every shifting 
of the location of a lamp, gives a new value to a 
statue, and when you tire of seeing it In the house, 
you can transfer it to the garden where it begins 
^nother avatar. 




refer 

Leaving David behind us, we walked down the 
' long, marble, fourteenth century stairway of the Pa- 
lazzo del Podesta, into the magnificent court emb^ 
lished with the armorial bearings of the old chief 
magistrates, out to the Via del Proconsolo, on 
through the winding streets to the Palazzo Ric- 
cardi, where Peter again paused before the frescoes 
of Benozzo Gozzoli, The Gifts of the Magi is the 
general title but Gozzoli, according to a pleasant 
custom of his epoch, has painted the Medici on a 
hunting expedition, the great Lorenzo on a white 
charger, with a spotted leopard at its heels, falcons 
on the wrists of his brilliant attendants, a long train 
of lovely boys, in purple and mulberry and blue and 
green and gold, the colours as fresh, perhaps, as the 
day they were painted. The most beautiful room in 
the world, Peter exclaimed, this little oratory about 
the size of a cubicle at Oxford, painted by candle- 
light, for until recently, there was no window in 
the room, and I believed him. I am not sure but, 
belike, I believe him still. Then Peter loved the 
walk in that gallery which connects the Pitti Palace 
with the Uffizi, a long narrow gallery which runs 
over the shops of the Ponte Vecchio (was ever an- 
other bridge so richly endowed with artistic anJ 
commercial interest?) where hang the old portraits 
of the families who have reigned in Florence, and 

IBOme others. Quaint old canvases, they are, by 
artists long forgotten and of people no longer re- 
membered, but more interesting to Peter and MM 
■ - " J 



His Life and Works 

than the famous Botticellis and Bellinis and Gior- 
giones which crowded the walls of the galleries. 
As we stood before them, Peter imagined tales of 
adventure and romance to suit the subjects, pinning 
his narratives to the expression of a face, the style 
of a sleeve, the embroidery of a doublet, or to some 
accompanying puppet or pet, some ill-featured 
hunch-back dwarf. 

Thus the days passed and Peter became dreamy ■ 
and wistful and the charm of his spirit, I believe, 
was never before so poignant, for his chameleon 
soul had taken on the hue of the renaissance and its 
accompanying spirituality, the spirituality of the art- 
ist, the happy working artist contriving works of 
genius. He could have perfectly donned the cos- 
tume of the cinquecento, for the revolutionary Pe- 
ter of New York, the gay, faun-like Peter of Paris, 
had disappeared, and a Peter of reveries and 
dreams had usurped their place. 

Never have I been so happy, he said to me on one 
of these days, as I am now. This is true beauty, the 
beauty of spirit, art which has nothing to do with 
life, which, indeed, makes you forget the existence of 
life. Of course, however, this is of no help to the 
contemporary artist. Confronted, on every hand, 
with perfection, he must lay down his chisel or his 
brush or his pen. Great art can never flourish 
here again. That is why Browning's poetry about 
Florence is so bad; why Ouida, perhaps a lesser ar- 
tist, succeeded where Browning failed. This is the 



I 



Peter Whiffle ^ 

ideal spot In which to idle, to dream, even to thint 
but no work is possible here and that, perhaps, is whj 
I love Florence so much. 1 feel that I could remain 
here always and, if I did I should do nothing, noth- 
ing, that is, but drink my coffee and eat my rolls and 
honey in the morning, gaze across to the hills and 
dream, stroll over the wondrous Ponte Santa 
Trinita, wiiich connects us so gracefully with the Vii 
Tornabuoni, wonder how Ghirlandaio achieved tht 
naive charm of the frescoes in the choir of Santa 
Maria Novella, nothing else but these things. And, 
of course, I should always avoid the Piazza Vittorio 
Emanuele. 

But he had scarcely uttered the name before he 
.•determined that he must drink some beer and so wc 
strolled across the Piazza, on which he had just 
placed a malison, into the Giubbe Rosse, full of 
Americans writing letters, and Swedes and Ger- 
mans, reading their native papers. We sat down 
at a table just outside the door and asked one of the 
red-coats, whose scarlet jackets give this place its 
cant name, to bring us two steins of Miinchener. 
Then came an anachronism, one of those anachro- 
nisms so unusual in Florence which, more than any 
other city, is all of a piece. A stage-coach, such a 
coach as one sees in old England, drawn by four 
horses, drove gaily through the square. The inte- 
rior seemed empty but on the top sat several English 
girls in sprigged muslins, a few pale youths, and * 

[174] 



His Life and Works 

hatless man with very long hair, who was clad in 
olive-green velvet. 

Who is it? I asked a man at a neighbouring table. 

And the reply came, That is Gordon Craig and 
his school. 

A few days later, Peter encountered Papini, that 
strange and very ugly youth, who mingled his 
dreams and his politics, mixing mysticism and propa- 
ganda until one became uncertain whether he was 
seer or socialist, and Marinetti. He read Mafarka 
le Futuriste and Marinetti talked to him about war 
and vaudeville, noise and overthrow, excitement and 
destruction. Bomb the palaces and build factories 
where they stood! So Marinetti enjoined his fol- 
lowers. Whatever is today is art; whatever was 
yesterday is nothing, worse than nothing, refuse, 
manure. Peter was especially amused by Mari- 
netti's war cry, Meprisez la femme ! his banishment 
of the nude and adultery from art, which was to be- 
come entirely male. So, indeed, was life, for Mar- 
inetti exhorted his male disciples to bear their own 
children ! All these ideas, Peter repeated to me in 
a dreamy, veiled voice, noting at the same time that 
one of Marinetti's arms was longer than the other. 
It did not seem quite the proper environment to 
carry on in this respect, but the words of the Italian 
futurist had indubitably made an impression. I 
could see that it was quite likely that Peter would 
become a Marinettist when he went back to New 
York. 




Peter Whiffle 

At dinner, one night, it became apparent that 
Peter once more was considering his life work. One 
of the guests, a contessa with a florid face and an 
ample bosom, began to fulminate: 

Art is magic. Art is a formula. Once master t 
formula and you can succeed in expressing yourself. 
Barrie has a formula. Shaw has a formula. Even 
George Cohan has a formula. Black magic, at- 
gromancy, that's what it is: the eye of a newt, th« 
beak of a raven, herbs gathered at certain hours, 
the heart of a black cat, boiled in a pot together, 
call up the bright devils to do your bidding. 

Art is a protest, corrected Mina Loy. Each art- 
ist is protesting against something: Hardy, against 
life itself; Shaw, against shams; Flaubert, against 
slipshod workmanship; George Moore, against 
prudery; Cunninghame Graham, against civili- 
zation; Arthur Machen, against reality; Theodore 
Dreiser, against style. . . . 

Never did I feel less sure of the meaning of art 
than I do here, surrounded by it, began Peter, al« 
though I have never been more conscious of it, more 
susceptible to real beauty, more lulled by its magic. 
Yet I do not understand its meaning. It does not 
help me to work out my own problems. The trails 
cross. For instance, here is Edith leading her own 
life; here are we all leading our own lives, as re- 
mote as possible from Donatello and Gozzoli. 
Here is Gordon Craig, dressed like Bunthornc, driv- 
ing a stage-coach and sending out arcane but thun- 



His Life and fForks 

dering manifestos against a theatre in which his 
mother and Eleanora Duse are such conspicuous 
examples; here is Papini working and dreaming; 
here is Marmetti shooting off firecrackers; here are 
the Braggiottis, teaching young Americans the ele- 
ments of music in that modern music-room with bas- 
relief portraits of the great composers, Beethoven, 
Bach, Verdi, Mozart, Wagner, Rossini , . . and 
Sebastian B. Schlesinger, moulded in the frieze. 
Here is Loeser, always building new houses and 
never completing them ; here is Arthur Acton, with a 
chauffeur who sings tenor arias in the drawing-room 
after dinner; here is Leo Stein, coHectlng Renoirs 
and Cezannes for his villa at Settignano. What 
does it all mean, unless it means that everything 
should be scrambled together? I think a great 
book might be written if everything the hero 
thought and felt and observed could be put into it. 
You know how, in the old novel, only what is ob- 
viously essential to the plot or the development of 
character is selected. But a man, crossing a street 
to commit a murder, does not continuously think of 
the murder. The cry of Buns! hot cross buns! the 
smell of onions or dead fish, the sight of a pretty 
woman, impress his senses and remind him of still 
other things. These ideas, impressions, objects, 
should al! be set down. Nothing should be omitted, 
nothing! One might write a whole book of two 
hundred thousand words about Ocve, «:>imv\s. ^"^ "^"^ 
hour. And what a book! VJ\\at -i^io^^^ ^ 



^^ Peter Whiffle 

This was before the day of Dorothy Richardsoft 
James Joyce, and Marcel Proust. The contesst 
snorted. MJna Loy, at the other end of the tabU 
looked interested in Peter for the first time, I 
thought. The white Persian cat, one of Edith's cats, 
with his superb porcelain-blue eyes, sauntered into 
the room, his tail raised proudly. Edith spoke: 

The great artists put themselves into their work; 
the cat never does. Men like Stieglitz and dt 
Meyer put themselves into their cameras, that Ii 
why their photographs are wonderful, but the cat 
never puts himself into a camera. The great con- 
querors put themselves into their actions; the cat 
never does. Lovers put themselves Into the selvei 
of their loved ones, seeking identity; the cat never 
does. Mystics try to lose themselves in union with 
their gods; the cat never does. Musicians put 
themselves into their instruments; the cat never 
does. Indian men, working in the ground, put 
themselves in the earth, in order to get thcmselvM 
hack in the forms of wheat or maize to nourish 
their bodies; the cat never does. Navajo women, 
when they weave blankets, go so completely into the 
blanket while they are working on it, that they at 
ways leave a path in the weaving that comes out 
at the last corner for their souls to get out of tfac 
blanket; otherwise they would be imprisoned in it 
The cat never does things like thisl 

So every one really centres his self some* 

I [178] 



>mei^S|^ 



His Life and Works 

outside of himself; every one gets out of his body. 
The cat never does. Every one has a false centre. 
Only the cat — the feline — has a true centredness 
inside himself. Dogs and other animals centre 
themselves in people and are therefore open to in- 
fluence. The cat stays at home inside his body and 
can never be influenced. 

Every one has always worked magic through 
these false centres — doing things to himself — seek- 
ing outlets, seeking expression, seeking power, all of 
which are only temporarily satisfactory like a move 
ment of the bowels, which is all it amounts to on 
the psychic plane. The cat is magic, is himself, is 
power. The cat knows how to live, staying as he 
does inside his own body, for that is the only place 
where he can live! That is the only place where 
he can experience being here and now. 

Of course, all the false-centred people have a 
kind of magic power, for any centredness is power, 
but it doesn't last and it doesn't satisfy them. Art 
has been the greatest deceiver of all — the better the 
art, the greater the deception. It isn't necessary 
to objectify or express experience. What IS neces- 
sary IS to be. The cat knows this. Maybe, that is 
why the cat has been an object of worship; maybe, 
the ancients felt intuitively that the cat had the truth 
in him. 

Do you see where these reflections lead? The 
whole world is wildly pursuing a mirage; only th«= 
cat is at home, so to speak. 



Peter Whiffle 

Actors understand this. They only get a senje 
\oi reality when they throw themselves into a part 
. . a false centre. 

The cat understands pure being, which is all we 
leed to know and which it takes us a Hfedme to 
I learn. It is both subject and object. It is its own 
f outlet and its own material. It is. All the rest of 
us are divided bits of self, some here, some there. 
The cat has a complete subjective unity. Being ill 
own centre, it radiates electricity in all directions. 
It is magnetic and impervious. I have known people 
to keep a cat so that they could stroke the electricit)' 
out of it. Why didn't they know how to be electric 
as the cat IS? The cat is the fine specimen of the i 
am. Who of us is so fully the I am that I am? 

Look around the world 1 Everybody putting 
Yumself out In some form or another I Why? It 
doesn't do any good. At the end you exhaust the 
possibilities of the outside world — geographically 
and spiritually. You can use up the external. You 
can come to the end of objectifying and objectives, 
and then what? In the end, only what we started 
with — the Self in the body, the Self at home, where 
it was all the time while bits of it were wandering 
-outside. 

1 Peter applauded with sundry bravos and benuoU 
and divers amens, but was moved to ask, Doei 
the cat know this? Has the cat got a constians 
being? Does he appreciate his advantage? 

[i8o] 



His Life and Works 

But no one answered these questions, least of all 
the haughty white Persian. 

Apparently unreasonably (this biography was as 
far from my mind as anything well could be), fol- 
lowing a habit which I never could explain to myself 
until I became a professional writer and the reason 
became clear, before going to bed, I made notes on 
this and several subsequent evenings and it is upon 
these notes that I am drawing now, to refresh my 
memory. A few nights later, when Edith and Pe- 
ter and I were sitting alone on the loggia, Peter 
talked to us about the critics. 

The trouble with the critics, he was saying, is that 
they are not contradictory enough. They stick to a 
theory for better or worse, as unwise men stick to 
an unwise marriage. Once they have exploited a 
postulate about art or about an artist, they make 
all his work conform to this postulate, if they ad* 
mire it. On the other hand, if the work of an art- 
ist displeases them, they use the postulate as a ham- 
mer. I think it is Oscar Wilde who has written, 
Only mediocre minds are consistent. There is some- 
thing very profound in this aphorism. 

Consider Frank Harris's Shakespeare theory, for 
example. It is good enough as an idea, as a casual 
inspiration it is almost a . masterpiece. It would 
make a fine essay; if it had been used as a passing 
reference in a book, it probably would have been 
quoted for years. Harris, however, has spun it 
out into two thick volumes and made It fit into crev- 



Peter Whiffle 

ices and crannies where it cannot very well feel at 
home. Certainly, it is true that any artist creates 
his characters out of his own virtues and weaknesses; 
all of a novelist's characters, to a certain extent, re- 
flect phases of himself. The mistake Harris has 
made lies in identifying Shakespeare only with his 
weak, unsuccessful, sentimental, disappointed, un- 
happy characters, such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Or- 
sino, Antonio, and Romeo. Shakespeare probably 
was just as much Sir Toby Belch and Falstaff. 
Curiously, this theory of identification fits the 
critic himself, the intellectual creator, more snugly 
than it does the romancer, the emotional crea- 
tor. Remy de Gourmont has pointed this out. 
He says, Criticism is perhaps the most suggestive 
of literary forms; it is a perpetual confession; be- 
lieving to analyze the works of others, the critic 
unveils and exposes himself to the public. So from 
these books we may learn more about Frank Harris 
than we do about Shakespeare. ^ This, of course) 
has its value. 

But that is why Shakespeare is greater than his 
critics, that is greater than the critics who cling to 
one theory. Shakespeare speaks only through his 
characters and he can say, or make some one say. 

Frailty, thy name is woman, 

but on the next page another character may deny 

^In a later book, his biography of Oscar Wilde, Frank Harris 
tells us more about himself tYvan \ve Aot'a ?Jawvx. N^'^Ci^^. 



His Life and Works 

this sentiment, for this is not Shakespeare's opinion, 
it is that of an incensed lover. So Richard III re- 
marks : 

Conscience is but a word the cowards use, 
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe. 

But Hamlet replies: 

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all. 

Both are true, both good philosophy, and so from 
the playwright, the great poet, the novelist, you get 
a rounded view of life which a critic usually denies 
you. 

Occasionally a critic does contradict himself and 
really becomes human and delightful and we take 
him to our hearts, but the next day all the doctors 
and professors and pundits are excoriating him, as- 
suring us that he is not consistent, that he is a loose 
writer, etc. Good critics, I should like to believe, 
are always loose writers; they perpetually contra- 
dict themselves; their work is invariably palinodal. 
How, otherwise, can they strive for vision, and how 
can they inspire vision in the reader without striv- 
ing for vision themselves? Good critics should 
grope and, if they must define, they should con- 
stantly contradict their own definitions. In this 
way, in time, a certain understanding might be 
reached. For instance, how delightful of Anatole 
France to describe criticism as a soul's adventures 
among masterpieces, and then to devote his critical 

[i8sl 



Peter Whiffle 

pen to minor poets and unimportant eighteenth cen- 
tury figures. 

But, asked Edith, does not the reader in his own 
mind contradict the consistent critic? Does not this 
answer your purpose ? 

By no means. What you say is quite true. A 
dogmatic writer rouses a spirit of contradiction in 
the reader, but this is often a spirit of ire, of deep 
resentment. That is in itself, assuredly, something, 
but it is not the whole purpose of criticism to arouse 
anger, whatever the prima donna who reads the 
papers the morning after her debut at the Opera 
may think. Criticism should open channels of 
thought and not close them ; it should stimulate the 
soul and not revolt it. And criticism can only be 
wholesome and sane and spiritually stimulating 
when it is contradictory. I do not mean to say that 
a critic should never dogmatize — I suppose at this 
moment I myself appear to be dogmatizing 1 He 
may be as dogmatic as he pleases for a page or 
two pages, but it is unsafe to base an entire book 
on a single idea and it is still more unsafe to 
reflect this idea in one's next book. It is better 
to turn the leaf and begin afresh on a new page. 
Artists are never consistent. Ibsen apparendy 
wrote A Doll's House to prove that the truth should 
always be told to one's nearest and dearest and, 
apparently, he wrote The Wild Duck to prove 
that it should not. Ibsetv, ^ou %tt^ ^as a poet and 
be knew that both his thests ^^t^ tcvx^- \tv\iv%^v 



His Life and Works 

tempt to explain the revolutionary doctrines which 
he found inherent in Wagner's Ring, Bernard Shaw 
ran across many snags. He swam through the 
Rheingold, rode triumphantly through Die Wal- 
kiire, even clambered gaily through Siegfried, ' by 
making the hero a protestant, but when he reached 
Gotterdammerung, his hobby-horse bucked and 
threw him. Shaw was forced to admit that Gott- 
erdammerung was pure opera, and he attempted 
to evade the difficulty by explaining that Wagner 
wrote the book for this work before he wrote the 
other three, quite forgetting that, if War^ner's in- 
tention had been the creation of a revolutionary 
cycle, it would have been entirely possible for him 
to rewrite the last drama to fit the thesis. The fact 
is that the work is inconsistent from any point of 
view except the point of view of art. Any critic 
who is an artist will be equally inconsistent. 

Truth 1 Truth 1 Peter cried in scorn. Forsooth, 
what is truth? Voltaire was right: error also has its 
merits. 

And yet ... I began. 

And yet! he interrupted, still more scornfully. 
No, there is no such thing as truth. Truth is impos- 
sible. Truth is incredible. The most impossible 
and incredible physical, spiritual, or mental form or 
idea or conception in the cosmos is the cult of truth. 
Truth implies permanence and nothing is permanent. 
Truth implies omniscience atvdtvo otv^v^ ^\ks>x^^'^^'J?^^- 
Truth implies community ot l^eVvcv^ ^xA tvo \r^^^ 



Peter Whiffle 

man beings feel alike about anything, except perhaps 
for a few shifting seconds. Truth, well if there is 
such a thing as truth, we may at least say that it is 
beyond human power to recognize it. 

But it is not impossible to approach Truth, to 
play around her, to almost catch her, to vision her, 
so to speak. No, that is not impossible. Nathe- 
less, the artist, the writer, the critic who most 
nearly approaches Truth is he who contradicts him- 
self the oftenest and the loudest. One of the very 
best books James Huneker has written is a work 
purporting to come from the pen of a certain Old 
Fogy, in which that one opposes all of James's 
avowed opinions. It is probable, indeed, that we 
can get the clearest view of Huneker's ideas from 
this book. 

Then truth is not an essential of art? I asked. 

It has, of course, nothing whatever to do with 
art. No more has form. Life has so much form 
that art, which should never imitate life, should be 
utterly lacking in form. Criticism appears to be a 
case apart. Criticism is an attempt, at its worst at 
least, to define art and definition implies truth and 
error. But what the critics do not realize in their 
abortive efforts to capture her, is that Truth is elu- 
sive. She slips away if you try to pin her down. 
You must, as Matthew Arnold has said much better 
than I can, approach her from all sides. Even then 
she will elude you, for the reason I have elucidated, 
because she does not ex\st\ 



?w Life and Works 

Why do we read the old critics? For ideas? Sel- 
dom. Style? More often. Anecdote? Always, 
when there is any. Spirit? We delight in it. 
Facts? Never. No, you wIU never find facts — at 
least about such a metaphysical concept as art — cor- 
rectly stated in books, because there is no way of 
stating them correctly. And the evasion of facts is 
an exact science which has yet to become popular 
with the critics, although It is always popular with 
readers, as the continued success of Berlioz's Me- 
moires goes to show. We read the old critics to 
find out about the critics^ not about the subjects on 
which they are writing. Consequently, it is only the 
critics who have been interesting personalities who 
are read through many generations. 

As an addendum, I might state that interest In art 
Is fatal. An enthusiastic essay will kill anything. 
Spontaneity and freshness do not withstand praise. 
Art must be devoid of self-consciousness. A cer- 
tain famous actress once told me that she never 
liked to have people particularize in their enthusi- 
asm about one of her performances. When, she 
said, they tell me that such and such a gesture, such 
and such a tone of voice, is the important moment in 
one of my interpretations, I can never repeat it 
without remembering their praise, and, involuntar- 
ily, something of the original freshness has de- 
parted, 

T remember another occasiotv oti -wVxiJa. "*$'S^« 
talked about the subject t\\at mo?.\. 'v:^*^.^.'^^^'^^^'^'^ 



Peter Whiffle 

It is the pleasant custom of present day publish- 
ers of books, he was saying, to prelude the real pub- 
lication of a volume by what is technically known as 
a dummy. The dummy, the sample from which or- 
ders are taken, to all outward inspection, appears to 
be precisely like the finished book. The covers, the 
labels, the painted top, and the uncut edges give one 
every reason to hope for a meaty interior. Once 
opened, however, the book offers the browser a suc- 
cession of blank pages. Sheet after sheet of clean 
white paper slips through his fingers, unless, by some 
chance, he has opened the volume at the beginning, 
for the title-page and table of contents are printed 
(the dedication is missing), and so are the first thir- 
teen pages of the text. 

Such dummies are irresistible to me. Coming 
warm, hot even, from the binder, they palpitate 
with a suggestion which no perusal of their contents 
can disturb. How much better than the finished 
book ! I exclaim, and there are days when I feel that 
I will never write a book; I will write only dummies. 
I would write a title-page, a table of contents, and 
thirteen pages of some ghost essay, breaking off in 
the middle of a curious phrase, leaving the reader 
sweetly bewildered in this maze of tender thought. 
And, to give this dummy over-value, to heighten its 
charm and its mystery, I would add an index to the 
blank pages, wherein one could learn that on empty 
pnge 76 hovered the spirits oi HeUogabalus and 
Gertrude Atherton. It wou\d i\xt\?cvt.x vcAoxTtv ^\ns. 



His Life and Works 

that Joe Jackson, George Augustus Sala, and firelcss 
cookers were discussed on page 129. Fancy the 
reader's delight in learning that he might cull pas- 
sages dealing with the breeding of white mice on un- 
begottcn pages 67, 134, 185 et seq., 210, 347 1 

I have it in mind to call my first dummy, Shelling 
Peas for Shillings. The binding will be of magenta 
boards witJi a pistachio-green label, printed in ma- 
genta Ink. The top will be stained pistachio-green 
and the edges will be unopened. On the title-page, 
I shall set an appropriate motto and a plausible table 
of contents might include: 

The Incredible History of Ambrose Gwinett 

Inkstains and Stoppage 

Purcell, Polko, and Things Beginning with a P 

Folk-Dancing at Coney Island 

Carnegie Hall as a Cure for Insomnia 

Many Blue Objects and One Black One 

Ouida's Italy 

Erasmus Darwin's Biographer 

Etc. 

You see how the subjects present images and Ideas 
which will make it possible for the reader, in his 
mind's eye, to write the papers himself. Shelling 
Peas for Shillings, Peter rolled the name over. It's 
a good title. I shouldn't wonder If sometime that 
dummy would be much sought after by collectors. 



ti89"\ 



Chapter X 

My story rolls on. As I gaze back through the 
years, gathering the threads of this history together, 
trying to weave them into form, I am amazed to 
recall how very few times, comparatively speaking, 
Peter and I met. Yet, I assume, I was his best 
friend during these years, at any rate his most sym- 
pathetic friend. If there were no other proof, his 
will would offer excellent evidence in this respect. 
But we saw each other seldom, for a few hours, a 
few days, at best for a few weeks, followed by a pe- 
riod of vacuum. I had my own interests and, doubt- 
less, he had his. It was characteristic that he never 
wrote letters to me, with the exception of the one or 
two brief notes I have already inserted in the text. 
His personality, however, was so vivid, the impres- 
sion he made on me was so deep, that he always 
seemed to be with me, even when the ocean sep- 
:i rated us. As I write these lines, I could fancy that 
he stands beside me, a sombrely joyous spectre. I 
could believe that he bends over my shoulder or, at 
any rate, that presently I will hear a knock at the 
door and he will enter, as he entered Martha Bak- 
er's studio on that afternoon in May so long ago. 

The magic Florentine days marched to a close. 
/ say marchedj but the m\is\cal {otm was more ex- 
actly that of a gavotte, a pav^itve, ot ^. %\,'\\.i^^sSs\^ 



His Life and Works 

dance, imagined by Frederic Chopin. It was too 
perfect to last, this life which appeared to assume^ 
the shape of conscious art. One afternoon, Peter 
and I motored to the old Villa Bombicci, the design 
of which legend has attributed to the hand of Mi- 
chael Angelo. Now it had become a farmhouse, 
and pigs and. chickens, a cock and a few hens, stray 
dogs and cats, wandered about in the carious cortile. 
We had come to bathe in the swimming-pool, a mar- 
ble rectangle, guarded by a single column of what 
had once been the peristyle. A single column, a 
cornered wall, and a cluster of ivy: that was the pic- 
ture. We could bathe nude, for the wall concealed 
the pool from the farmhouse. 

Peter was the first to undress and, as he stood on 
the parapet of the pool by the broken column, his 
body glowing rose-ivory in the soft light of the set- 
ting sun, his head a mass of short black curls, he 
seemed a part of the scene, a strange visitor from 
the old faun-like epoch, and I could imagine a faint 
playing of pipes beyond 'the wall, and a row of Tan- 
agra nymphs fleeing, terrified, in basso-rilievo. 
Sometime, somewhere, in the interval since the days 
when we had pursued the exterior decorators on 
the Bowery and at Coney Island, he had discovered 
an artist, for now his chest was tattooed with a 
fantastic bird of rose and blue, a bird of paradise, 
a sirgang, or, perhaps, a phoenix or a Zhar-Ptitsa, 
the beak pointing towards b\s xJcvto^x.^ ^^ V^-j^^xnrx'^ 
of the tail showering tOY^atd^ ^?X ^o\vv3^ ^^ "^ 



wm 



body which is the centre of umbilicular contempla- 
tion among the Buddhists. He straightened his 
lithe body, lifted his arms, and dived into the pool, 
where he swam about like a dolphin. It was Pe- 
ter's nature, as I must have made evident by now, 
to take the keenest joy in everything he did 
Almost immediately I followed and we puffed 
and blew, spattering the crystal drops about in 
the air, so that it seemed as if showers of 
stones fell sharply, stinging our faces, as we lay on 
our backs in the warm water. Eventually, clamber- 
ing up to the parapet, we sat silent for many mo- 
ments and I remember that a fleecy cloud passed 
over the face of the sinking sun. It was very sdll, 
save for the soft lowing of cattle In the dUtant 
mountains, the cackling of the hens in the courtyard, 
and the sweet tolling of faraway bells. 

Peter broke the silence. ! 

I am not going back to the villa, he said. 

Peter I I exclaimed. But. . . . 

I didn't know until just now. I love the villa. I 
love Florence. I love Edith and I love you. I 
have never been so happy, hut it couldn't last. Just 
now when we were spattering water I had a pre- 
monition. . . . He laughed. There was once a 
singer — I do not recall her name, but it was neither 
Patti nor Jenny Lind — who retired while she was 
still in the best of voice, and those who heard her in 
her last opera will always remember what a g reat I 
singer she was. So I am going away while X^^^^ 

\.i92v j^M 



^ 



^kl^ 



His Life and IVorns 

happy, so that I can always remember that I have 
been perfectly happy — once. 

But you always are. , . . 

There, you see, you think so! There are months 
and years when I am alone, when nobody sees me. 
Then I am struggling. I make a great deal of 
sport about work and, indeed, I won't work at any- 
thing that doesn't interest me, but you know, you 
must know by now, how much I want to write. It 
is coming so slowly. It Is getting late . . . late. 
I must go away to think. I'm too happy here and 
I am losing time. He was very earnest now. I 
■must write my book. 

But you are coming back to the villa. Your 
clothes are there, and you will want to say good-bye 
to Edith. 

No, that is just what I want to avoid and that is 
what you can do for me. I can't say good-bye to 
Edith. She would persuade me to stay. It would 
be so easy 1 You, especially, could persuade me to 
stay, but I know you won't, now that you under- 
stand how I feel. I shall catch the night express 
for Milan, Please, try to explain to Edith . . . 
and you can pack my bags and send them after me. 

But where are you going? 

I don't know, and even if I did know and told 
you, you might be certain that I would change my 
mind and go somewhere else. Dispatch my bags to 
the American Express CompaTVj 'vn.'^a.t'v^ ■a.-ci5i."V ^^ 
send for them. ^^J 



m. si. 



^^" Peter fThiffle 

When shall we meet again? 

Peter stood up, his nude body outlined agalntl 
the crumbling, pink, vine-covered wall. Then bt 
■iurned and stooped to draw on his clothing. 

Chi lo sa? It will be sometime. You are 
back to New York? 

Yes, very soon. Perhaps next week. 

Well, if we don't meet somewhere else, 1 wtU 
there to see you, that much I promise. Then, si- 
most awkwardly, he added, I want you to have my 
ring. He drew off the amethyst intaglio of Leda 
and the Swan and handed it to me. 

We dressed in silence. The motor stood waiting 

in the road beside the decrepit farmhouse, noblt 

even in its decay. Peter asked the chauffeur to 

drive him to the station, before he should take me 

■ back to the Villa Allegra, and at the station we 

P parted. 

' Dinner that night seemed tasteless. Edith was 
furious; I have seldom seen her so angry. It wis 
exactly what she would have done herself, had she 
been so inclined, but she was not at all pleased (o 
have Peter usurp her privileges. She hardly waiKd 
for the salad, leaving me to munch my cheese and 
drink my coffee alone. Following dinner I sat, » 
solitary figure on the loggia, smoking a cigarette 
and sipping my Strega. Giuseppe, the boy who 
brought it to me, seemed as dispirited as the re*t of 
us. After trying in vain to interest myself in hiU 
a dozen books, I ■wetit to \iei ■a.Tvi. ■ctJCi.t^ ■^■s*. rest- 



His Life and Works 

lessly during the long hot night. I was up very 
early arid went to the garden as usual, but now lonely 
and miserable, to have my breakfast. The butler, 
more cynical than ever, brought the tray. A gar- 
denia and a note were added touches. They were 
Edith's farewells. She had departed for a motor 
trip through the Abruzzi. She might return in 
three weeks. I was welcome to stay at the villa 
and wait or. . . . And so that summer ended. 

A month later, Edith was back in New York and 
again I saw a good deal of her. She asked for news 
of Peter but I had none to give her. Other friends 
of mine who had heard about him from Edith, ex- 
pressed a desire to meet him but, so far as I was con- 
cerned, I did not even know whether or not he was 
alive. In December, however, passing through 
Stuyvesant Square with its gaunt bare trees, the old 
red-brick Quaker school-houses, and the stately but 
ugly Saint George's, on my way to Second Avenue, 
where I intended to visit a shop where Hungarian 
music might be procured, I found him, sitting 
alone on a bench. 

I am too happy to see you again, he greeted me, 
but only you. Edith must not be told that I am in 
New York, for at last I am working and I can afford 
no interruptions. Edith has a way of breaking up 
the rhythm of one's life and my life is very 
rhythmic just now. Do you remember, one ni^ht a.t 
the villa, there was some cotv\et^^X\o\v -^^n^^- ^"^^^ 
mulad and black magic? 



Peter Whiffle 

You mean the contessa. . . . 

She was speaking figuratively, perhaps, but I have 
taken her literally. He paused for a moment; then 
he continued. It is possible that you will also re- 
member my telling you in Florence that I believed 
Donatello's David to be the most beautiful work 
of art in the world. 

I remember ; I still think you were right. 

I haven't altered my opinion. It is the most 
beautiful statue I have ever seen, just as Debussy's 
I'Apres-midi d'un Faune is the most beautiful music 
I have ever heard, just as The Hill of Dreams is — 
have you read it? 

At that time, I had not, and I admitted it. I 
was even ignorant of the name of the author. 

Now Peter, as he sat on the bench beside me, be- 
gan to speak of Arthur Machen : The most wonder- 
ful man writing English today and nobody knows 
him! His material is handled with the most con- 
summate art; arrangement, reserve, repose, the per- 
fect word, are never lacking from his work and yet, 
at the age of fifty, he is an obscure reporter on a 
London newspaper. There are, of course, reasons 
for this neglect. It is a byword of the day that one 
only takes from a work of art what one brings to it, 
and how few readers can bring to Machen the requi- 
site qualities; how few readers have gnosis! 

Machen evokes beauty out of horror, mystery, 
and terror. He suggests tVve cxlt^vcvt.'^ ^i live ter- 
rible, the vicious, the most ev\V\i^ iveNex ^^^c£^\\ss»^. 



His Life and Works 

them. His very reserve conveys the infinity of abom- 
ination. You know how Algernon Blackwood docu- 
ments his work and stops to explain his magic orgies, 
so that by the time you have finished reading one of 
his weird stories, you completely discount it. On 
the other hand, although Machen writes in the sim- 
plest English concerning the most unbelievable im- 
pieties, he never lifts the crimson curtain to permit 
you to see the sacrifice on the Manichean altar. 
(He leaves that to the imagination. But his ex- 
pression soars so high, there is such ecstasy in his 
prose, that we are not meanly thrilled or revol- 
ted by his negromancy; rather, we are uplifted and 
exalted by his suggestion of impurity and corrup- 
tion, which leads us to ponder over the mysterious 
connection between man's religious and sensual, 
natures. Think, for a moment, of the life of Paul 
Verlaine, dragged out with punks and pimps in the 
dirtiest holes of Paris, and compare it with the 
pure simplicity of his religious poetry. Think of 
the Song of Songs which is Solomon's and the ancient 
pagan erotic rites in the holy temples. Remember 
the Eros of the brothels and the Eros of the sacred 
mysteries. Recall the Rosicrucian significance of 
the phallus, and its cryptic perpetuation in the cross 
and the church steeple. In the middle ages, do 
not forget, the Madonna was both the Virgin 
Mother of Christ and the patron of thieves, strum- 
pets, and murderers. Far surpassing ^.U. <5^kssx 
conceivable worldly p\eas\xte%\% vJcvr. \5^q^ ^^'^'^s^^^'^' 



Peter Whiffle 

by the gratification of the sensual appetite; faith 
promises a bliss that will endure for ever. In either 
case the mind is conscious of the enormous impor- 
tance of the object to be obtained. Machen 
achieves the soaring ecstasy of Keats's Ode on a 
Grecian Urn or Shelley's To a Skylark, and yet he 
seldom writes of cool, clean, beautiful things. Was 
ever a more malignantly depraved story written 
than The White People (which it might be profit- 
able to compare with Henry James's The Turn of 
Screw), the story of a child who stumbles upon the 
performance of the horrid, supernatural rites of a 
forgotten race and the consequences of the discov- 
ery? Yet, Machen's genius burns so deep, his power 
is so wondrous, that the angels of Benozzo Gozzoli 
himself do not shine with more refulgent splendour 
than the outlines of this erotic tale, a tale which it 
would have been easy to vulgarize, which Black- 
wood, nay Poe himself, would have vulgarized, 
which Laforgue would have made grotesque or 
fantastic, which Baudelaire would have made poetic 
but obscene. But Machen's grace, his rare, ecstatic 
grace, is perpetual and unswerving. He creates 
his rhythmic circles without a break, the skies open 
to the reader, and the Lord, Jesus Christ, appears 
on a cloud, or Buddha sits placidly on his lotus. 
Even his name is mystic, for, according to the Arba- 
tel of Magic, Machen is the name of the fourth 
heaven. 
Machen does not often wtvtc oi ^\v\\& m^.^^\\\fc\^ 



His Lije and Works 

a negromancer ; the baneful, the baleful, the horren- 
dous are his subjects. With Baudelaire, he might 
pray, Evil be thou my good I Consider the theme of 
The Great God Pan, a psychic experiment, operation, 
if you will, on a pure young girl, and its consequences. 
Again a theme which another writer, any other 
writer, would have cheapened, filled in with sordid 
detail, described to the last black mass. But Ma- 
chen knows better. He knows so much, indeed, 
that he is able to say nothing. He keeps the thau- 
maturgic secrets as the alchemists were bidden to do. 
Instead of raising the veil, he drops it. Instead of 
revealing, he conceals. The reader may imagine as 
much as he likes, or as much as he can^ for nothing 
is said, but he rises from a reading of one of these 
books with a sense of exaltation, an awareness that 
he has tasted the waters of the Fountain of Beauty. 
There is, indeed, sometimes, in relation to this 
writer, a feeling^ that he is truly inspired, that he 
is writing automatically of the eternal mysteries, 
that the hand which holds the pen is that of a blind 
genius, and yet. . . . 

More straightforward good English prose, lim- 
pid narrative, I am not yet acquainted with. What a 
teller of stories 1 This gift, tentatively displayed in 
The Chronicle of Clemendy, which purports to be a 
translation from an old manuscript — Machen has 
really been the translator of the Heptamaron, 

^A feeling in which he encoura^t^ )a^V\«.i vcl \vvi ^x^V^^^ "^s^ **. 
new edition o£ The Great God Patv\ 191^. 



Peter Whiffle 

Beroalde de Verville's Moyen de Parvenir, and the 
Memoirs of Casanova — flowered in The Three Im- 
postors, nouvelles in the manner of the old Arabian 
authors. This work is not so well-known as The 
Dynamiter, which it somewhat resembles, but it de- 
serves to be. Through it threads the theme, that of 
nearly all his tales, of the disintegration of a soul 
through an encounter with the mysteries which we 
are forbidden to know, the Sabbatic revels, the two- 
horned goat, alchemy, devil-worship, and the eter- 
nal and indescribable symbols. The problem is al- 
ways the same, that of facing the great God Pan and 
the danger that lurks for the man who dares the 
facing. 

And one wonders, Peter continued, his eyes di- 
lating with an expression which may have been either 
intense curiosity or horror, one wonders what price 
Machen himself has paid to learn his secret of how 
to keep the secrets! He must have encountered 
this horror himself and yet he lives to ask the rid- 
dle in flowing prose 1 What has it cost him to learn 
the answer? Popularity? Perhaps, for he is an 
obscure reporter on a London newspaper and he 
drinks beer! That is all any Englishman I have 
asked can tell me about him. Nobody reads his 
books; nobody has read them . . . except the few 
who see and feel, and John Masefield is one of these. 
This master of English prose, this hierophant, who 
knows all the secrets and kcc^s ^^tcv^ \.Vvv^ delver in 
forgotten Jore, this wise poet ^\vo >xe\vl\.% •wA'vsv- 



ife and Works 



His Life and 

spires us, is an humble journalist and he drinks beer! 

Peter paused and looked at me, possibly for cor- 
roboration, but what could I say? I had never, 
until then, touched upon Machen, although I re- 
membered that Mina Loy had included him in her 
catalogue of protestants in the symposium at the 
Villa AUegra. Later, when I sought his books, I 
found them more difficult to arrive at than those of 
any of his contemporaries and today, thanks to the 
fame he has achieved through his invention of 
the mystic story of The Bowmen, the tale of the 
Angels at Mons, a story which was credited as true, 
for returning soldiers swore that they had really 
seen these angels who had led them into battle, thus 
arousing the inventive pride of the author, who 
published a preface to prove that the incident had 
never occurred except in his own brain, his early 
booksi command fantastic prices. Eight or nine 
pounds is asked for The Chronicle of Clemendy and 
forty or fifty pounds for his translation of Casan- 
ova. But on that day I said little about the mat- 
ter, because I had nothing to say. 

Now we were walking and presently stopped be- 
fore Peter's door, a house on the south side of Stuy- 
vesant Square, conveniently near, Peter observed, 
in sardonic reference to Marlnetti's millennium, the 
Lying-in-Hospital. He unlocked the door and we 
entered. The hall was painted black and was en- 
tirely devoid of furniture. N \-a.Tcvi$, ^^■s^stwSv^'?^ «^ 
an iron chain from the ce\V\t\^^ s\ve.5i. \>^iS- "^ ^^^ 




reref Whiffle 

^ow, for it was enclosed in a globe of prelarial 
rpurple glass. We passed on to a chamber in whidi 
purple velvet curtains were caught back by heavy 
silver ropes, exposing at symmetrical intervals, the 
black walls, on which there were several pictures: 
Martin Schongauer's copperplate engraving of The 
Temptation of Saint Anthony, in which the most 
obscene and foulest of fiends tear and pull and bite 
the patient and kindly old man; Lucas Cranach's 
woodcut of the same subject, more fantastic but lesi 
terrifying; two or three of Goya's Caprichos; 
Felicien Rops's Le Vice Supreme, in which a skele- 
ton in evening dress, holding his head in the curve 
of his elbow, chapeau claque In hand, opens wide an 
upright coffin to permit the emergence of a female 
skeleton in a fashionable robe; black ravens flit 
across the sky; Aubrey Beardsley's Messalina; Pie- 
ter Bruegel's allegorical copperplate of Lust, 
crammed with loathsome details; and William 
Blake's picture of Plague, in which a gigantic hid- 
eous form, pale-green with the slime of stagnant 
pools, reeking with vegetable decays and gangrene, 
the face livid with the motley tints of pallor and 
putrescence, strides onward with extended arms, 
like a sower sowing his seeds, only the perms of his 
rancid harvest are not cast from his hands but drip 
from his fusty fingers. The carpet was black and 
in the very centre of the room was a huge silver 
table, fantastically carved, the top upheld by four 
basilisk caryatides. On tV\B U>i\c ^^QQ&.-s.'W'es.ti^ 
\202'^ 



His Life and Works 

round which was coiled a serpent, the whole fash- 
ioned from malachite, and a small cornelian casket» 
engraved in cuneiform characters. There were no 
windows in the room, and apparently no doors, for 
even the opening through which we had entered had 
disappeared, but the chamber was pleasantly lighted 
with a lambent glow, the origin of which it was im- 
possible to discover, for no lamps were visible. In 
one corner, I noted a cabinet of ebony on the top of 
which perched an enormous black, short-haired cat, 
with yellow eyes, which, at first, indeed, until the 
animal made a slight movement, I took to be an 
objet d'art. Then Peter called, Lou Matagot, 
and with one magnificent bound, the creature landed 
on the silver table and arched his glossy back. 
Then he sharpened his claws and stretched his joints 
by the aid of the casket scratched with the cuneiform 
symbols. 

Lou Matagot, Peter explained, signifies the Cat 
of Dreams, the Cat of the Sorcerers, in the Proven- 
cal dialect. 

There were a few chairs, strangely modern. Bal- 
let Russe chairs, upholstered in magenta and green 
and orange brocades in which were woven circles 
and crescents and stars of gold and silver, but Pe- 
ter and I seated ourselves at one end of the room 
on a high purple couch, a sort of throne, piled with 
silver and black cushions, on which was worked in 
green threads an emblem, which Peter e^xjU.v^^^"^*^'^ 
the character of Mersilde, a ?vetv^^NVo\v•^^'^^^^'^^ 



Peter Whiffle 

to transport you wherever you wish to go. Now, 
he pulled a silver rope which hung from the ceiling, 
the lights flashed off and on again, and I observed 
that we were no longer alone. A little black page 
boy in a rose doublet, with baggy silver trousers, 
and a turban of scarlet silk, surmounted by heron's 
plumes, sparkling with carbuncles, stood before us. 
He had apparently popped out of the floor like the 
harlequin in an English pantomime. At a sign from 
Peter, he pressed a button in the wall, a little cup- 
board opened, and he extracted a bottle of amber 
crystal, half-full of a clear green liquid, and two 
amber crystal glasses with iridescent flanges. 

I am striving to discover the secrets, said Peter, 
as we sipped the liqueur, the taste of which was both 
pungent and bitter. 

Not in this room ! I gasped. Unless you mean 
the secrets of Paul Poiret and Leon Bakst. 

No, he laughed, as the cat leaped to his shoulder 
and began to purr loudly, not in this room. This 
is my reception-room where I receive nobody. You 
are the first person, with the exception of Hadji, 
to enter this house since I have remodelled it but, 
he continued reflectively, I have a fancy that the 
bright fiends of hell, the beautiful yellow and blue 
devils, will like this room, when I call them forth 
to do my bidding. 

Again he warned me. Not one word to Edith, do 
you understand ? Not one word* I must be alone. 
I have told you and otvVy ^om. \ tomjsx ^<5\^ \w 



His Life and Works 

peace and that I cannot do if I am interrupted. 
This room is my relief. It amuses me to sit here, 
but it is not my laboratory. Come, it is time to 
show you. Besides, I have my reasons. ... 

We did not rise. The lights were again myste- 
riously extinguished and I felt that the couch on 
which we sat was moving. The sensation was pleas- 
ant, like taking a ride on a magic carpet or a tak- 
trevan. In a few seconds, when light appeared 
again, instead of a wall behind us we sat with a wall 
before us. Facing about, I perceived that we were 
in another chamber, a chamber that would have 
pleased Doctor Faust, for it was obviously the lab- 
oratory of an alchemist. Nevertheless, I noted 
at once a certain theatrical air in the arrangement. 

This, I said, seems more suitable for the perfor- 
mances of Herrmann the Great or Houdini than the 
experiments of Paracelsus. 

Peter grinned. It was clear that he was taking 
a childish delight in the entertainment. 

It is fun to do this with you. I've had no one 
but the black boy and the cat. There are moments 
when I think I would like to bring Edith here, but 
she would spoil it by getting tired of it, or else she 
would like it too much and want to come every day 
and bring others with her to see the show. Well, 
look around. 

I followed his advice. It was the conventional 
alchemist's retreat. There ^et^ ^\>3&^$^ ^-^'^ -^c^^ 
mummies and astrolabes. lA«\i% "^^^ N^o^^^ ^^ 



Peter fFhiffle 

suspended from the ceiling. Skulls grinned from 
the tops of cabinets. There were rows and row* 
of ancient books, many of them bound in sheepskin 
or vellum, in a case against one wall, A few larger 
volumes, with brass or iron clasps, reposed on a 
table. Lou Matagot, who had been carried into 
the room with us, presently stretched his great, 
black, glossy length over the top of one of these. 
There were cauldrons, retorts, crucibles, rows of 
bottles, a fire, with bellows, and a clepsydra, or 
water-clock, which seemed to be running. Theit 
was an Arcula Mystica, or demoniac tctephone, re- 
sembling a liqueur-stand. Peter explained that 
possessors of this instrument might communicate 
with each other, over whatever distance. There 
were cabinets, on the shelves of which lay amutets 
and talismans and periapts, carved from obsidian 
or fashioned of blue or green faience, the surfaces 
of which were elaborately scratched with hermetic 
characters, and symplegmata with their curious 
confusion of the different parts of different beasts. 
There were aspergills, and ivory pjTies, stolen, per- 
haps, from some holy place, and now consecrated 
to evil uses. There were stuffed serpents and di- 
vining rods of ha7el. There were scrolls of parch- 
ment, tied with vermilion cord. In fact, there was 
everything in this room that David Belasco ^ 
provide for a similar scene on the staqc. 
Here, said Peter, I study the Book of the I 
hierograms. rhabdomar>rv. on(:\to'm'a.'(vc^. 



: parch- 
ere was 

1 



His Life and Works 

mancy, margaritomancy, parthenomancy, gyro- 
mancy, spodanomancy, ichthyomancy, kephalono- 
mancy, lampodomancy, sycomancy, angelology, 
pneumatology, goety, eschatology, cartomancy, 
aleuromancy, alphitomancy, anthropomancy, axi- 
nomancy, which is performed by applying an agate 
to a red-hot ax, arithmomancy, or divination by 
numbers, alectoromantia, in which I lay out the let- 
ters of the alphabet and grains of wheat in spaces 
drawn in a circle and permit a cock to select grains 
corresponding to letters, belomancy, divination by 
arrows, ceroscopy, cleidomancy, astragalomancy, 
amniomancy, cleromancy, divination performed by 
throwing dice and observing the marks which turn 
up, cledonism, coscinomancy, capnomancy, divina- 
tion by smoke, captoptromancy, chiromancy, dac- 
tyliomancy, performed with a ring, extispicium, or 
divination by entrails, gastromancy, geomancy, di- 
vination by earth, hydromancy, divination by water, 
and pyromancy and aeromancy, divination by fire 
and air, onomancy, divination by the letters of a 
name, onychomancy, which is concerned with finger- 
nails, ornithomancy, which deals with birds, and 
chilomancy, which deals with keys, lithomancy, 
eychnomancy, ooscopy, keraunoscopia, bibliomancy, 
myomancy, pan-psychism, metempsychosis, the 
Martinists, the Kabbalists,the Diabolists, the Palla- 
dists, the Rosicrucians, the Luciferians, the Um- 
bilicamini, all the nocuous, demotvol^<^^'^> -^^sn^ 
pneumatic learning, incVutfvtv^ Vx'wxs^^'c^^^^^^'^ '^'^ 



Peter Whiffle 

sualism. At present, I am experimenting with white 
mice. I dip their feet in red ink and permit them 
to make scrawls on a certain curious chart. 

I have dabbled in drugs, for you know that the 
old Greek priests, the modern seers, and the 
mediaeval pythonesses, all have resorted to drugs 
to assist them to see visions. The narcotic or 
anaesthetic fumes, rising from the tripods, lulled the 
old Greek hierophants and soothsayers into a sym- 
pathetic frame of mind. First, I experimented 
with Napellus, for I had read that Napellus caused 
one's mental processes to be transferred from the 
brain to the pit of the stomach. There exists an 
exact description of the effects of this drug on an 
adept, one Baptista Van Helmont, which I will read 
you. 

Peter, here, went to the shelves, and after a little 
hesitation, pulled out an old brown volume. He 
turned over the pages for a few seconds and then 
began to read: Once, when I had prepared the 
root (of Napellus) in a rough manner, I tasted it 
with the tongue : although I had swallowed nothing, 
and had spit out a good deal of the juice, yet I felt 
as if my skull was being compressed by a string. 
Several household matters suggested themselves and 
I went about the house and attended to them. At 
last, I experienced what I had never felt before. It 
seemed to me that I neither thought nor understood, 
and as if 1 had none of the usual ideas in my head; 
but I felty with astomsVvmetvt, eV^wVj ^xA eix^xvcv^^^. 



His Life and Works 

that all these functions were taking place at the pit 
of the stomach: I felt this clearly and perfectly, 
and observed with the greatest attention that, al- 
though I felt movement and sensation spreading 
themselves over the whole body, yet that the whole 
power of thought was really and unmistakably sit- 
uated in the pit of the stomach, always excepting 
a sensation that the soul was in the brain as a 
governing force. The sensation was beyond the 
power of words to describe. I perceived that I 
thci^'jht with greater clearness t there was a pleasure 
in such an intellectual distinctness. It was not a 
fugitive sensation; it did not take place while I slept, 
dreamed, or was ill, but during perfect conscious- 
ness. I perceived clearly that the head was perfectly 
dormant as regarded fancy: and I felt not a little 
astonisiied at the change of position. 

Well, continued Peter, closing the book and re- 
garding me with great intensity, you will admit that 
would be a sensation worth experiencing. So I 
tried it . . . with horrible results. Will you be- 
lieve it when I tell you that I became wretchedly ill 
in that very centre which Van Helmont locates as 
the seat of thought? I suffered from the most ex- 
cruciating pains, which were not entirely relieved by 
an emetic. Indeed, I passed a week or so In bed. 

My next experiment, he went on, was made with 
hashish. Cannabis Indica, which I prepared and 
took accordin;; to the directioivs o\ ■a.\\c.'^s:t •Sk&K^'^^ 
^£o had found that the Arv,% 'pTo^ute.A. -a-Vi-vA »i 



Peter Whiffle 

demoniac and incessant laughter, hearty, Gargan- 
tuan laughter, and the foreshortening of time and 
space. He could span the distance between London 
and Paris in a few seconds. Furniture and statues 
assumed a comic attitude; they seemed to move 
about and become familiar with him. He was liter- 
ally aware of what the Rosny have called the semi- 
humanite des choses. I took the drug, as I 
have said, exactly as he directed, but the effect 
on me was entirely dissimilar. Immediately, I 
was plunged into immoderate melancholy. The 
sight of any object immeasurably depressed mc\ I 
also noted that my legs and arms had apparendy 
stretched to an abnormal length. I sobbed with 
despair when I discovered that I could scarcely see 
to the other end of my laboratory, it seemed so far 
away. Mounting the stairs to my bed-chamber was 
equivalent in my mind to climbing the Himalayas. 
Although Hadji afterward assured me that I had 
been under the influence of the drug for only 
fourteen hours, it was more like fourteen years to 
me, which I had passed without sleep. At the end 
of the experiment, my nerves revolted under the 
strain and again I wa-s forced to take to my bed, this 
time for four days. 

My third experiment was made with Peyote 
beans, whose properties are extolled by the Ameri- 
can Indians. After eating these beans, the red 
merif who use them in the masteries of their wor- 
Bhip, suffer J I have been \ntoTme^d,lTom^xs.t3.WQ£viX^ 



His Life and Works 

ng nausea, the duration of which is prolonged, 
^fter the nausea ha^ passed its course, a series of 
irisions is vouchsafed the experimenter, these visions 
extending in a series, on various planes, to the mystic 
number of seven. Under the spell of these visions, 
the adepts vaticinate future events. I have won- 
dered sometimes if it were not possible that the 
ancient Egyptians were familiar with the proper- 
ties of these beans, that William Blake was under 
their influence when he drew his mystic plates. 

Be that as it may, I swallowed one bean, which 
[ had been informed would be sufficient to give me 
the desired effect, and without interval, I was 
:arried at once on to the plane of the visions, which 
:oncentrated themselves into one gigantic phantasm. 
Have you ever seen Jacques Callot's copperplate 
engraving of The Temptation of Saint Anthony? 
The hideous collection of teratological creatures, 
half-insect, half-microbe, of gigantic size, exposed 
in that picture, swarmed about me, menacing me 
with their horrid beaks, their talons and claws, their 
2vil antennae. Further cohorts of malignant mon- 
strosities without bones lounged about the room and 
sprawled against my body, rubbing their flabby, 
slimy, oozing folds against my legs. After a few 
more stercoraceous manoeuvres, some of which I 
>hould hesitate to describe, even to you, the mon- 
sters began to breathe forth liquid fire, and the pain 
resulting from the touch of tKes^ Icywgx^'^ ^V ^tcwns:. 
finally awoke me. I was vvoUtvxV:^ :^^ ^^^ ^^^^ "^ 



Peter Whiffle 

ness developed in the seven stages traditionally al- 
lotted to the visions. First, extreme nausea, which 
lasted for two days, second, a raging fever, third, 
a procession of green eruptions on my legs, fourth, 
terrific pains in the region of my abdomen, fifth, 
dizziness, sixth, inability to command any of my 
muscles, and seventh, a prolonged period of sleep, 
which lasted for forty-eight hours. Nevertheless, 
I came nearer to success in this experiment than in 
any other. 

My fourth experiment was made with cocaine, 
which I procured from a little Italian boy, about 
eleven years old, who was acting in a Bowery bar- 
room as agent for his father. Laying the white 
crystals on the blade of an ivory paper-cutter, I 
sniffed as I had observed the snow-birds themselves 
sniff. Immediately, my mind became clear to an ex- 
tent that it had never been clear before. My in- 
tellect became as sharp as a knife, as keen as the 
slash of a whip, as vibrant as an E string. I seemed 
to have a power of understanding which I had never 
before approached, not only of understanding but 
also qf hearing, for I caught the conversation of 
men talking in an ordinary tone of voice out in the 
Square. Also, I became abnormally active, nerv- 
ous, and intense. I rushed from the room, with- 
out reason or purpose, with a kind of energy which 
seemed deathless, so strong was its power. When, 
however, I endeavoured to make notes, for my mind 
seethed with ideas, I was unable to do so. I 



His Life and Works 

scratched some characters on paper, to be sure, 
but I found them wholly undecipherable the next 
day. They were not in English or in any language 
known to me. Finally, I ran out of the house and, 
encountering, on Second Avenue, a fancy woman of 
the Jewish persuasion, I accompanied her to her 
cubicle, and permitted her to be the subsidiary 
hierophant in the mystic rites I then performed. 
That, concluded Peter, with a somewhat 
sorry smile, was the last of my experiments with 
drugs. 

This story and, indeed, this whole phase, amused 
me enormously. An ambition which had persuaded 
its possessor that In order to become the American 
Arthur Machen, he must first become an adept in 
demonology seemed to me to be the culmination of 
Peter's fantastic life, which, indeed, it was. But 
I said little. As usual, I let him talk and I listened. 
There seemed, however, to be a period here and I 
took occasion to look over the books, asking him 
first if he had any objection to my copying off some 
of the titles, as I felt that it might be possible that 
some day I should want to make some researches in 
this esoteric realm. He bade me do what I liked 
and, advancing towards the book-shelves with the 
small note-book which I carried with me at that 
period in order to set down fleeting thoughts as they 
came, I transferred some of the titles therein. 

I stopped at last, not from lack of patience on 
my part, but from observing the impatience of Peter^ 



Peter Whiffle 

who obviously had a good deal more to say. On 
my turning, indeed, he began at once. 

I have made, he said, some tentative minor ex- 
periments but my final experiments are yet to be 
attempted. Nevertheless, I have found a spring- 
board from which to leap into my romance. Let 
me read you a few pages of Arthur Waite's some- 
what ironic summary of Dr. Bataille's Le Diable au 
XIX* Siecle. Naturally I shall treat the subject 
more seriously, but what atmosphere, what a gor- 
geous milieu in which to plunge the reader when he 
shall open my book 1 

Peter now took from the shelves a small black 
volume, lettered in red, and turned over the leaves. 
First, he said, I shall read you some of the Doctor's 
experiences in Pondicherry, and he began: 

Through the greenery of a garden, the gloom 
of a well, and the entanglement of certain stairways, 
they entered a great dismantled temple, devoted to 
the service of Brahma, under the unimpressive di- 
minutive of Lucif. The infernal sanctuary had a 
statue of Baphomet, identical with that in Ceylon, 
and the ill-ventilated place reeked with a horrible 
putrescence. Its noisome condition was mainly 
owing to the presence of various fakirs, who, though 
still alive, were in advanced stages of putrefaction. 
Most people are supposed to go easily and pleasandy 
to the devil, but these elected to do so by way of 
a charnel-house asceticism, and an elaborate system 
o{ self-torture. Some were suspended from the 



His Life and fForks 

ceiling by a rope tied to their arms, some embedded 
in plaster, some stiffened in a circle, some perma- 
nently distorted Into the shape of the letter S; some 
were head downwards, some in a cruciform position. 
A native Grand Master explained that they had 
postured for years in this manner, and one of them 
for a quarter of a century. 

Fr.'. John Campbell proceeded to harangue the 
assembly in Ourdou-zaban, but the doctor com- 
prehended completely, and reports the substance of 
his speech, which was violently anti-Catholic in its 
nature, and especially directed against missionaries. 
This finished, they proceeded to the evocation of 
Baal-Zeboub, at first by the Conjuration of the Four, 
but no fiend appeared. The operation was re- 
peated ineffectually a second time, and John Camp- 
bell determined upon the Grand Rite, which began 
by each person spinning on his own axis, and in 
this manner circumambulating the temple, in pro- 
cession. Whenever they passed an embedded fakir, 
they obtained an incantation from his lips, but still 
Baal-Zeboub failed. Thereupon, the native Grand 
Master suggested that the evocation should be per- 
lurmed by the holiest of all fakirs, who was pro- 
duced from a cupboard more fetid than the temple 
itself, and proved to be in the following condition : — 
(a) face eaten by rats; (b) one bleeding eye hang- 
ing down by his mouth; (c) legs covered with 
gangrene, ulcers, and rottenness; (d) expression 
peaceful and happy. JB 




Pete<- Whiffle 

Entreated to call on Baal-Zeboub, each time he 
lened his mouth his eye fell into it; however, he 
Ficontinued the invocation, but no Baal-Zeboub mani- 
.fested. A tripod of burning coals was next ob- 
tained, and a woman, summoned for this purpose, 
plunged her arm into the flames, inhaling with great 
delight the odour of her roasting flesh. Result, wL 
Then a white goat was produced, placed upon the 
altar of Baphomet, set alight, hideously tortured, 
cut open, and its entrails torn out by the native 
Grand Master, who spread them on the steps, uttc^ 
ing abominable blasphemies against Adona'i. This 
having also failed, great stones were raised from 
the floor, a nameless stench ascended, and a largj 
consignment of living fakirs, eaten to the bone by j: 
I worms and falling to pieces in every direction, were 1' 
■•dragged out from among a number of skeletons, il 
Piwhile serpents, giant spiders, and toads swarmed 
from all parts. The Grand Master seized one of 
the fakirs and cut his throat upon the altar, chant- 
ing the Satanic liturgy amidst imprecations, curses, 
a chaos of voices, and the last agonies of the goat. 
The blood spirted forth upon the assistants, and the 
Grand Master sprinkled the Baphomet. A final 
howl of invocation resulted in complete failure, 
whereupon It was decided that Baal-Zeboub had 
business elsewhere. The doctor departed from 
the ceremony and kept his bed for cight-and-forty 
hours. 
■ Peter looked up frotn tVe\»ooV\u\vv^Vi.^ii.'R\^ 



^^^ 



Hij Uje and Works 

an eiq>ressioa oi irrick cyu'lrstrOQ -aiacdji -b-zs 
quaint. 

What do Toa xlJxJk of duet? faf; zsked 

Wttj prcttT. I ixsrtaariei 

Very strocg for riac bcg^rrarg of ott romsacs ! be 
cried. Yoo sec, I dbaS tfxsssnaavt 7tn& ti£s fsSmrc 
and woriL up gradnallT to dbe filial bnCSarst sococfSu 
Let me introdace too to aoodbcr p2.%§zg(t irom 
Wake's summarj of Dr. BataifieV mastrrpiece : He 
turned a few ay^re Vtsrta znd presectiv was read- 
ing again: 

A select ooEnpanr of h£nzte% proceeded in hired 
carriages throo^ the deuAzH^jn of Dappah. under 
the convoy of the imuzted coadiniea» for the op- 
eration of a great satanic solemnity. At an easy 
distance from the dty is the Sheol of the native 
Indians, and hard by the latter place there is a moun- 
tain 500 feet high and 2000 long on the sunnnit of 
which seven temples are erected* communicating one 
with another by subterranean passages in the rock. 
The total absence of pagodas makes it evident that 
these temples are devoted to the worship of Satan; 
they form a gigantic triangle superposed on the 
vast plateau, at the base of which the party 
descended from their conveyances, and were met 
by a native with an accommodating knowledge 
of French. Uppn exchanging the Sign of Lucifer^ 
he conducted them to a hole in the rock, which 
gave upon a narrow passage guarded b^ a^ ^a^ft. ^ 



Peter 

Sikhs with drawn swords, prepared to massacre I 
anybody, and leading to the vestibule of the first 
temple, which was filled with a miscellaneous con- 
course of Adepts. In the first temple, which wai 
provided with the inevitable statue of Baphomet, i 
but was withal bare and meagrely illuminated, the \ 
doctor was destined to pass through his promised 
ordeal for which he was stripped to the skin, and 
placed in the centre of the assembly, and at a ^ven 
signal one thousand odd venomous cobra de capello) 
were produced from holes In the wall and encour- 
aged to fold him in their embraces, while the music 
of flute-playing fakirs alone intervened to prevent 
his instant death. He passed through this trying en- 
counter with a valour which amazed himself, per- 
sisted in prolonging the ceremony, and otherwise 
proved himself a man of such extraordinary metal 
that he earned universal respect. From the Sanc- 
tuary of the Serpents, the company then proceeded 
into the second temple or the Sanctuary of the 
Phcenix. 

The second temple was brilliantly illuminated and 
ablaze with millions of precious stones wrested by 
the wicked English from innumerable conquered 

Pitajahs; it had garlands of diamonds, festoons of 
rubies, vast images of solid silver, and a gigantic 
Phoenix in red gold more solid than the silver. 
There was an altar beneath the Phcenix, and a male 
and female ape were composed on the altar steps, 
fc while the Grand Master proceeded to the celcbra- 



His Life and Wotrs 

tion of a black mass, which was followed by an 
amazing marriage of the twe engaging animals, and 
the sacrifice of a lamb brought alive into the temple, 
bleating pJteously, with nails driven through its feet. 

The third temple was consecrated to the Mother 
of fallen women, who, in memory of the adventure 
of the apple, has a place in the calendar of Lucifer; 
the proceedings consisted of a dialogue between 
the Grand Master and the Vestal. 

The fourth temple was a Roslcrucian Sanctuary, 
having an open sepulchre, from which blue llames 
continually emanated; there was a platform in the 
midst of the temple designed for the accommodation 
of more Indian Vestals, one of whom it was pro- 
posed should evaporate Into thin air, after which a 
fakir would be transformed before the company 
into a living mummy and be interred for a space of 
three years. The fakir introduced his performance 
by suspension In mid-air. 

The fifth temple was consecrated to the Pelican, 

The sixth temple was that of the Future and was 
devoted to divinations, the oracles being given by a 
Vestal in a hypnotic condition, seated over a burn- 

f brazier. 
The assembly now thoughtfully repaired to the 
;nth temple, which, being sacred to Fire, was 
ipped with a vast central furnace surmounted 
by a chimney and containing a gigantic statue of 
Baphomet; In spite of the intolerable heat pervad- 
1^ the entire chamber, this idol contrived to pre- 

[219^ 



Peter Whiffle 

serve Its outlines and to glow without pulverizing. 
A ceremony of an impressive nature occurred in this 
apartment; a wild cat, which strayed in through the 
open window, was regarded as the appearance of a 
soul in transmigration, and in spite of its piteous 
protests, was passed through the fire to Baal. 

And now the crowning function, the Magnum 
Opus of the mystery, must take place in the Sheol 
of Dappah ; a long procession filed from the moun- 
tain temples to the charnel-house of the open plain; 
the night was dark, the moon had vanished in dis- 
may, black clouds scudded across the heavens, a 
feverish rain fell slowly at intervals, and the ground 
was dimly lighted by the phosphorescence of the gen- 
eral putrefaction. The Adepts stumbled over dead 
bodies, disturbing rats and vultures, and proceeded 
to the formation of the magic chain, sitting in a vast 
circle, every Adept embracing his particular corpse. 

Well? asked Peter, closing the book. Well? 

Kolossall I shouted in German. 

Isn't it, and there's ever so much more, wonderful 
stories, incantations and evocations in the works of 
Arthur Waite, Moncure Daniel Conway, Alfred 
Maury, J. Collin de Plancy, Francois Lenormant, 
Alphonse Gallais, the Abbe de Montfaucon dc 
Villars, J. G. Bourgeat, and William Godwin. 
Have you ever heard of The Black Pullet or The 
Queen of The Hairy Flies? 

This timty Carl; he spoke with great intensity and 
earnestness^ I am on tVvt t\^t \x^.^. \ -wts. ^^^« 

\220\ 



Life and Work 

vinccd that to give a work of this character a propd 
background one must know a great deal more than 
one tells. That, in fact, is the secret of all fine 
literature, the secret of all great art, that it con- 
ceals and suggests. The edges, of course, are 
rounded: it is not a rough and obvious concealment. 
You cannot begin not to tell until you know more 
than you are willing to impart. These books have 
given me a good deal, but I must go farther — as 
I am convinced that Machen has gone farther. I 
am going through with it . . . all through with it, 
searching out the secrets of life and death, a few 
of which I have discovered already, but I have yet 
to make the great test. And when I know what 
I shall find out, I shall begin to write ■ . . but I 
shall tell nothing. 

Peter was flaming with enthusiasm again. It 
wasn't necessary for me to speak. He required an 
audience, not an interlocutor. 

Why not now? he demanded suddenly. Why t 
now and here, with you? 

What do you mean? I queried. 

Why not make the great experiment now? | 
am prepared and the moon and the planets are i 
vourable. Arc you willing to go through with It? 
I must warn you that you will never be the same 
again. You may even lose your life. 

What will happen? I asked. 

The earth will rock. A storm. ■>«>.VV v^^'^'s^siV ^'^- 
low, thunder and li^Vitvimcf. \>-a\\s o^ 'w^'t, ■Csw.v&s.-^- 

I22A 



d an 

I 



' Peter Whiffle ^^^ 

lolts, showers of feathers, and then we shall dis- 
solve into . . . into a putrid mass, the agamous I 
mass from which we originated, neither male nor 
female, with only a glowing eye, a great eye, radiat- I 
ing intelligence out of its midst. Then Astaroth 
himself (I shall call Astaroth, because his inferiors 
in the descending hierarchy, Sargatanas and Nebiros, 
dwell in America) will appear, in one of his forms, 
perhaps refulgent and beautiful, perhaps ugly and 
tortured and hideously deformed, perhaps black or 
yellow or blue, but assuredly not white or green. 
He .may be entirely cnvcred with hair or entirely 
covered with eyes, or he may be eyeless. Mayhap, 
he will be lean and proud and sad, and he will prob- 
ably limp, for you know he is lame. His feet will 
be cloven, he v/ill wear a goat's beard, and you may 
distinguish him further by the cock's feather and 
the ox's tail. Or, perhaps, he may arrive in the 
shape of some monster : the fierce flying hydra called 
the Ouranabad, the Rakshe who eats dragons and 
snakes, the Soham, with the body of a scarlet 
griffin and the head of a four-eyed horse, the Syl, 

, basilisk with a human face. . . . But, however 



he may appear, in his presence you will learn ^Q^ 
HLaiast secrets of all the worlds. ^^^ 

WL And then what will happen? ^^| 

" Then I shall speak the magic formula and we sml^ 

resume our proper shapes but from that moment on 
R-e shall hover — llteraUy, not v^^'^"'^o?i't«-^W — be* 

Been life and death. VJc sVvaUVsvQ-N e.Nt:TtU||^ 
. L2^ M 



His Life and Works 

, . . and eventually we shall pay the price. . 

Like Faust? 

Like Faust . . . that is, if we are not clever 
enough to outwit the demon. Those who practise 
devilments usually find some means to circumvent 
the devil. 

I appeared to ponder. 

I am willing to go through with it, I said at last. 

Good ! I knew you would be. Let's get to work 
at once ! 

He lifted the most ponderous volume in the lab- 
oratory from the floor to the top of an old walnut 
refectory table. The book was bound in musty 
mellow vellum, clasped with iron, and the foxed leaves 
svere fashioned from parchment made from the 
skin of virgin camels. As he opened it, I saw 
that the pages were inscribed with cabalistic 
characters and symbols, illuminated in colours, none 
of which I could decipher. Lou Matagot jumped 
on to the table and sat on the leaves at the top of 
the book, forming a paper weight. He sat with his 
back to Peter and his long, black tail played nerv- 
ously up and down the centre of the volume. 

Peter now drew a circle with a radius of twelve 
or thirteen feet around us, inscribing within its cir- 
cumference certain characters and pentacles. Then 
he plunged a dagger through what I rfecognized to 
be a sacred wafer, which he told me had been stolen 
from a church at midnight, -ait tiv^ ^-^xeifc \kw^R.^ \?^«^.- 
ering what, from the tone oi Vv\% n^v:-^ A '^^'^'^^^ 



1^ 



k 



Peter Whiffli 
blasphemous imprecations, although the language 
he used was unfamiliar to me. Next he ar- 
ranged a copper chafing-dish over a blue flame and 
began to stir the ingredients, esoteric powders and 
crystals of bright colours. Now he lovingly lift- 
crystal viol, filled with a purple liquid, and 
lOured the contents into a porcelain bowl. In- 
stantly, there was a faint detonation and a thick 
cloud of violet vapour mounted spirally to the ceil- 
ing. All the time, occasionally referring to the 
grimoire on the table, and employing certain un- 
mentionable symbolic objects in the manner pre- 
scribed, he muttered incantations in the unknovn 
itongue. The room swam with odours and mists, 
iviolet clouds and opopanax fogs. So far, the in- 
vocation was pretty and amusing but it resembled 
the arcane rites of Paul Iribe more than those of 
Hermes Trismegistus. 

Now Peter pulled three black hairs from the cat's 
tail, which Lou Matagot delivered with a yowl of 
rage, springing at the same time from the table to 
the top of the cabinet, whence he regarded us 
through the mists and vapours, with his evil yellow 
eyes. The hairs went Into the chafing-dish and 
a new aroma filled the room. The claws of an owl, 
the flower of the moly, and the powder of vipers 
followed and then Peter opened a long flat box 
which nearly covered one end of the huge tabic, 
and a nest of serpents, with bellies of rich turquoiw 
&je and backs of tawny -yeWow, mitV>:d vith 



His Life and Works 
zigzags, reared their wicked lieads. He called 
them by name and they responded by waving their 
heads rhythmically. I began to grow alarmed and 
dizzy. Vade retro, Satanas! was on tip of my 
tongue. For a few seconds, I think, I must have 
fainted. When I revived, I still heard the chanting 
of the incantation and the sound of tinkling bells. 
The serpents' heads still waved in rhythm and their 
bodies, yellow and turquoise blue, were elongated in 
the air until they appeared to be balancing on the 
tips of their tails. The eyes of Lou Matagot 
glared maliciously through the thick vapours and 
the cat howled with rage or terror. 

Nowl cried Peter, for the first time in English. 
Now I 

My nails dug holes in the palms of my perspiring 
hands. Peter renewed his nocuous muttering and 
casting the wafer, transfixed by the dagger, into the 
porcelain bowl containing the violet fluid, he poured 
the whole mixture into the copper chafing-dish. 



There was a terrific explosion. 




Chapter XI 



I left the hospital before Peter. My JnJM 
indeed, were of so slight a nature that I was c 
fined only a few days, while his were so serious that 
the physicians despaired of his hfe, and he was 
forced to keep to his bed for several months. 
Following my early discharge, I made daily visits 
of inquiry to the hospital but it was not until June, 
1914, that I was assured that he would recover. 
With this good news, came a certain sense of relief. 
and I made plans for another voyage to Europe. 
The incidents of that voyage — I was in Pans at the 
beginning of the war — are of sufficient Interest so 
that I may recount them in another place, but they 
bear no relationship to the present narrative. 

Subsequent to his recovery, I have learned since 
from the physician who attended him during lus 
protracted illness, Peter returned to Toledo with 
his mother. It is probable that he made further 
literary experiments. It has even occurred to me 
that the pivot of his being, the explanation for his 
whole course of action may have escaped me. Al- 
though, from the hour of our first meeting, my in- 
terest in and my affection for Peter were deep, as- 
suredly I never imagined that I should be writing 
down the history of his life. For the greater part 
B ^2261 ^ 



His Life and Works 

of the term of our friendship, indeed, I was a writer 
only in a very modest sense. I was not on the look- 
out for the kind of "copy" his affairs and ideas of- 
fered, for at this period I was a reporter of music 
and the drama. Even later, when I began to set 
down my thoughts In what is euphemistically called 
a more permanent form, the notion of using Peter 
as a subject never presented itself to me, and if he 
had asked me to do so during his lifetime, urging 
me to put aside a pile of unfinished work in his be- 
half, the request would have astounded me. I 
made, therefore, no special effort to ferret out his 
secrets. When it was convenient for both of 
us we met and, largely by accident, I was a silent 
witness of three of his literary experiments. How 
many others he may have made, I do not know. It 
is possible that at some time or other he may have 
been inspired by the religious school, the Tolstoy 
theory of art, or he may have followed the sensuous 
lead of Go7.zoli and Debussy, artists whose work in- 
trigued him enormously, or in another aesthetic 
avatar, he may have believed that true art is de- 
grading or cpldly classic. There is even the possi- 
bility, by no means remote, that he may have falleii 
under the influence of the small-town and psych- 
analytic schools. Except In a general way, how- 
ever, in a conversation which I shall record at the 
end of this chapter, he never mentioned further ex- 
periments. It Is possible that others may have evi- 
dence bearing on this point. Martha R'a.V.'s^^^ wvs^^ 



Peter Whiffle 

make a good witness, but she died in 191 1. Mrs. 
Whiffle knew nothing of any importance whatever 
about her son. Since his death I have interrogated 
her in vain. She was, indeed, very much astonished 
at the little I told her and she will read this book, I 
think, with real amazement. The report of Clara 
Barnes, too, was negligible. Edith Dale has sup- 
plied me with a few facts which I have inserted 
where they chronologically belong. Most of my 
other friends, Philip Moeller, Alfred Knopf, Edna 
Kenton, Pitts Sanborn, Avery Hopwood, Freddo 
Sides, Joseph Hergesheimcr, even my wife, Fania 
Marinoff, never met Peter. Walter Hunter walked 
up Fifth Avenue with us one day, but Peter was un- 
usually silent and after he had left us at the corner 
of Fifty-seventh Street, Walter was not sufficiently 
curious to ask any questions concerning him. I 
doubt if Walter could even recall the incident today. 
I have inserted advertisements in the Paris, New 
York, and Toledo newspapers, begging any one 
with pertinent facts or letters in his possession to 
communicate with nie, but as yet I have received 
no replies. I have never seen a photograph of my 
friend and his mother informs me that she doubts if 
he ever sat for one. 

The record, therefore, of Peter's literary life, at 

the conclusion of this chapter, will be as complete 

as 1 can make it. I have tried to set down the truth 

as I saw it, leaving out tvo\fe[m^ tVvaX 1 temember, 

even at the danger of bteomtv^ >aMv^w^s^T?ji:?j se^v 



IH 



^e an(t Works 
rulous and rambling. I have written down all I 
know because, after all, I may have misunderstood 
or misinterpreted, and some one else, with the facts 
before him, may be better able to reconstruct the 
picture of this strange life. 

Our next meeting occurred in January, 1919, and 
his first remark was, Thank God, you're not shot 
up! From that time, until the day of his death, ■ 
nearly a year later, Peter never mentioned the war 
to me again, although I saw him frequently enough, 
nor did he speak of his writing, save once, on an 
occasion which shall be reported in Its proper place- 
When we came together for the first time, after 
the long interval — he had just returned to New 
York from Florida — I was surprised at and even 
shocked by the purely physical change, which, to be 
sure, had a psychical significance, for his face had 
grown more spiritual. He had always been slender, 
but now he was thin, almost emaciated. To describe 
his appearance a little later, I might use the 
word haggard. His coat, which once fitted his fig- 
ure snugly, rather hung from his shoulders. There 
were white patches in the blue-black of his hair, deep 
circles under his eyes, and hollows in his cheeks. 
But his eyes, themselves, seemed to shine with a new 
light, seemed to see something which I could not 
even imagine. He had rid himself of many excres- 
cences and externalities, the purely adscititious ciji.3.1- 
itics, charming though they mv^tVie., ■'siVvOo.'to.-si.^*^^ 
his personality. He had. mdeei, $:\sco-i^t'^^'^"-^ 

. ^[2291 

^ 



self, although I never knew how clearly until our 
last conversation. Peter, without appearing to be 
particularly aware of It, had become a mystic. His 
emancipation had come through suffering. He was 
quieter, less restless, less excitable, still enthusiasdc, 
but with more balance, more — I do not wish to be 
misunderstood — irony. He had found life very 
satisfying and very hard, very sweet, with some- 
thing of a bitter after-taste. He seemed almost 
holy to me, reminding me at times of those ascetic 
monks who crawl two thousand miles on their bcllicj 
to worship at some shrine, or of those Hindu fakiri 
who lie in one tortured position for vears, their 
bodies slowly consuming, while their souls gain fire. 
That he was ill, very ill, I surmised at once, al- 
though, like everything else I have noted here, this 
was an Impression. He made no admissions, never 
spoke of his malady; indeed, for Peter, he talked 
astonishingly little about himself. He was pathetic 
and at the same time an object for admiration. 

Afterwards, I learned from his mother that he 
suffered from an incurable disease, the disease 
that killed him late in 1919. But he never spoke of 
this to me and he never complained, unless his oc- 
casional confession that he was tired might be con- 
strued as a complaint. 

We had fine times together, of a new kind. The 
tables, In a sense, were turned, I had become the 
Uter, however humble, and Viis ^.wCovtvo^ V-jl^i^I^ 

[230^ ^M 



His Life and Works 

been realized. His sympathy with my work, with 
what I was trying to do, which he saw almost im- 
mediately, saw, indeed, in the beginning, more 
clearly than I saw it myself, was complete. He was 
never weary of talking about it, at any rate he never 
showed me that he was weary, and naturally this 
drew us very closely together, for an author is fond- 
est of those men who talk the most about his work. 
But this is not the place to publish his opinions of 
me, although some of them were so curious and far- 
seeing — they were not all flattering by any means — 
that I shall undoubtedly recur to them in my auto- 
biography. Fortunately for me, his sympathy grew 
as my work progressed, and it seemed amazing to 
me later, looking over the book after a period of 
years, that he had found anything pleasant to re- 
port of Music After the Great War. He had, in- 
deed, seen something in it, and when I recalled what 
he had said it was impossible to feel that he had 
overstated the case in the interests of friendship. 
He, had seen the germ, the root of what was to 
come; he had seen a suggestion of a style, unde- 
veloped ideas, which he felt would later be de- 
veloped, as indeed, to a limited extent, they were. 
His plea, to put it concisely, had been for a more 
personal expression. He was always asking me, 
after this or that remark or anecdote in conver- 
sation, why I did not write it just as I had said it 
or tdid it, and it was a %xt^X. ^\t.^.%\w:^ V^x\>Ksss.\si^'^- 



Peter Whiffle ' 

ceive in The Mcrry-Go-Round and In the Garret I ' 
(of which he read the proofs just before his deadi) 
some signs of growth in this direction. 

You are becoming freer, he would say. You 
are loosening your tongue; your heart is beating ' 
faster. In time you may liberate those subconscious 
ideas which are entangled in your very being. It i 
is only your conscious self that prevents you from 1 
becoming a really interesting writer. Let that once l 
be as free as the air and the otheT will be free too. I 
You must walk boldly and proudly and without 
fear. You must search the heart; the mind is neg- 
ligible in literature as in all other forms of art. Try 
to write just as you feci and you wilt discover that 
your feeling is greater than your knowledge of it. 
The words that appear on the paper will at first 
seem strange to you, almost like hermetic symbols, 
and it is possible that in the course of time you will 
be able to say so much that you yourself will not un- 
derstand what you are writing. Do not be afraid 
of that. Let the current flaw freely when you feel 
that it is the true current that is flowing. 

That is the lesson, he continued, that the creative 
or critical artist can learn from the interpreter, the 
lesson of the uses of personality. The great in- 
terpreters, Rachel, Ristori, Mrs, Siddoiis, Duse, 
Bernhardt, Rejane, Ysaye, Paderewski, and Mary 
Garden are all big, vibrant personalities, that the 
deeper thing, call it God, caW it YY , Sio-w^ "Cwtwisfei 
and permeates. You may not bAcve \V\^ tvQ'« .>a>».\ 



His Life and Works 

know it is true, and you will know it yourself some 
day. And if you cannot release your personality, 
what you write, though it be engraved in letters 
an inch deep on stones weighing many tons, will 
lie hke snow in the street to be melted away by the 
first rain. 

We talked of other writers. Peter drew my at- 
tention, for instance, to the work of Cunnlnghame 
Graham, that strange Scotch mystic who turned his 
back on civilization to write of the pampas, the arid 
plains of Africa, India, and Spain, only to find irony 
everywhere in every work of man. But, observed 
Peter, he could not hate civilization so intensely had 
he not lived in it. It is all very well to kick over 
the ladder after you have climbed it and set foot on 
the balcony. Like all lovers of the simple life, he 
Is very complex. And we discussed James Branch 
Cabell, who, Peter told me, was originally a "ro- 
mantic." He wrote of knights and ladyes and pal- 
freys with sympathetic picturesqueness. Of late, 
however, continued Peter, he, too, seems to have 
turned over in bed. Romanticism still appears in 
his work but it is undermined by a biting and dis- 
turbing irony. He asks: Are any of the manifesta- 
tions of modern civilization worthy of admiration? 
and like Graham, he seems to answer. No. It is 
possible that the public disregard for his earlier and 
simpler manner may have produced this metamor- 
phosis. Many a man has become bitter with less 
•■eason. Then he spoke of the a.ttYvWt^'i. Vx&v^^'^k,*;. 

I235A 



Peter Whiffle 

of Maurice Hewlett and Anatole France on the work 
of Cabell. Bernard Shaw, said, Peter, once lost all 
patience with those critics who insisted that he was a 
son of Ibsen and Nietzsche and asserted that it was 
their ignorance that prevented them from realizing 
the debt he owed to Samuel Butler. Cabell might, 
with justice, voice a similar complaint, for if he ever 
had a literary father it was Arthur Machen. In that 
author's The Chronicle of Clemendy, issued in 1888, 
may be discovered the same confusion of irony and 
romance that is to be traced in the work of Cabell. 
Moreover, like The Soul of Mclicent, the book pur- 
ports to be a translation from an old chronicle. I 
might further speak of the relationship between 
Hieroglyphics and Beyond Life, The Hill of 
Dreams and The Cream of the Jest, although 
in each case the treatment and the style are 
entirely dissimilar. Machen even preceded Ca- 
bell in his use of unfavourable reviews (Vide the 
advertising pages of Beyond Life) in his preface 
to the 19 1 6 edition of The Great God Pan. Per- 
haps, added Peter, Cabell has also read Herman 
Melville's Mardi to some advantage. But he is 
no plagiarist; I am speaking from the point of 
view of literary genealogy. Peter, at my instiga- 
.tion, read a novel or two of Joseph Hergesheimer's. 
Linda Condon, he reported, is as evanescent as the 
spirit of God. Only those who have encountered 
L^dy Beauty among tVve '^utCvp^t \.t^^^ \tv \J^^ ^-a.rly 
dawn will feel this book, atv^ ot^^ ^^^^ ^'^ '^^'^ 



; andirorks 



6 rfis L,tfe , 

will understand. For Hergesheimer has worked a 
miracle; he has brought marble to life, created a 
vibrant chastity. He has described ice in words of 
flame I 

One night, quite accidentally, we saw the name of 
Clara Barnes on a poster in front of the Metro- 
politan Opera House. She was singing the role of 
the Priestess in Aida. We purchased two general 
admission tickets and slipped in to hear her. The 
Priestess, those who have heard Aida will remem- 
ber, officiates in the temple scene of the first act but, 
fike the impersonator of the Bird in Siegfried, she 
is invisible. Clara's voice sounded tired and worn, 
as indeed. It should sound after those long years of 
study. 

We must go back to see her, Peter urged. 

We found a changed and broken Clara. She was 
dressing alone, but on the third floor, and the odour 
of Coeur de Jeannette persisted. She burst into 
tears when she saw us. 

I can't do it, she moaned. Why did you ever 
come? I can't do it. I can only sing with my mu- 
sic in front of me. I shall never be able to sing a 
part which appears and there are so few roles in 
opera, which permit you to sing back of the scenery I 
I can't remember. Now she was wailing. As 
fast as I learn one part I forget another. 

As we walked away on Fortieth Street, Peter 
began to relate an incident he had once read in 
Plutarch : There was a cett-iViv m'a.^\ev\i^*a'wssv'%.\s> 

u^\ dl 



M 



Peter Whiffle 

a barber at Rome, which could imitate any word he 
heard. One day, a company of passing soldiers 
blew their trumpets before the shop and for the 
next forty-eight hours the magpie was not only 
mute but also pensive and melancholy. It was gen- 
erally believed that the sound of the trumpets had 
stunned the bird and deprived him of both voice and 
hearing. It appeared, however, that this was not 
the case for, says Plutarch, the bird had all the 
time been occupied in profound meditation, studying 
how to imitate the sound of the trumpets, and when 
at last master of the trick, he astonished his friends 
by a perfect imitation of the flourish on those in- 
struments he had heard, observing with the greatest 
exactness all the repetitions, stops, and changes. 
This lesson, however, had apparently been learned 
at the cost of the whole of his intelligence, for 
it made him forget everything he had learned be- 
fore. 

We visited many out-of-the-way places to- 
gether, Peter and I, the Negro dance-halls near 
135th Street, and the Italian and the Yiddish 
Theatres. Peter once remarked that he enjoyed 
plays more in a foreign language with which he was 
unfamiliar. What he could imagine of plot and 
dialogue far transcended the actuality. We often 
dined at a comfortable Italian restaurant on Spring 
Street, on the walls of which birds fluttered through 
frescoed arbours, trailing with fruits and flowers, 
and where the spaghetti Y7a% too ^ood to be eaten 



His Life and Works 

without prayer. In an uptown cafe, we had a 
strange adventure with a Frenchwoman, La Ti- 
gresse. which I have related elsewhere.' Peter re- 
fused, in these last months, to go to concerts, es- 
pecially in Carnegie Hall, the atmosphere of which, 
he said, made it impossible to listen to music. The 
bare walls, the bright lights, the sweating con- 
ductors, and the silly, gaping crowd oppressed his 
spirit. He envied Ludwig of Bavaria who could 
listen to music in a darkened hall in which he was 
the only auditor. Conditions were more favour- 
able in the moving picture theatres. The bands, 
perhaps, did not play so well but the auditoriums 
were more subtly lighted, so that the figures of the 
audience did not intrude. 

Peter was more of a recluse than ever. It had 
been impossible to persuade him to meet anybody 
since the Edith Dale days (Edith herself was now 
living in New Mexico and, owing to a slight mis- 
understanding, I had not seen or heard from her 
in five years). He was even sensitive and morbid 
on the subject. He made me promise, as a matter 
of fact, after the Walter Hunter episode, that in 
case we encountered any of my friends in a res- 
taurant or at a theatre, I would not introduce him. 
There was, I assured myself, a good reason for this. 
In these last days, Peter faded out in a crowd. He 
lost a good deal of his personality even in the pres- 
ence of a third person. I begged him to go with 

^Id the Garret. h| 

123,1^ 1 



Peter Whiffle 

me to Florine Stettheimer's studio to see her pic- 
tures, which I was sure would please him, but he re- 
fused. He liked to stroll around with me in odd 
places and he read and played the piano a good 
deal, but he seemed to have few other interests. 
He was absolutely ignorant of such matters as 
politics and government. He never voted and I 
have heard him refer to the president, and not in 
jest, as Abraham Wilson. Sports did not amuse 
him either, but occasionally we went together to sec 
the wrestlers at Madison Square Garden, especially 
when Stanislaus Zbyszko was announced to appear. 
He never went to Europe again although, shortly 
before he died, he talked of a voyage to Spain. He 
visited his mother at Toledo several times and he 
had planned a trip to Florida, the climate of which 
he found particularly soothing to his malady, in 
January, 1920. Occasionally he just disappeared, 
returning again, somewhat mysteriously, without 
any explanation, without, indeed, any admission that 
he had been away. I knew him too well to ask ques- 
tions and, to say truth, there was something very 
sweet about these little mystifications. Privacy 
was so dear a privilege to him that even with his 
nearest friends, of which, assuredly, I was one, per- 
haps the nearest in this last year, it was essential 
to his happiness that he should maintain a certain 
restraint, a certain reserve, I had almost said, a cer- 
tain mystery, but, curiously, there was nothing theat- 
rical about Peter, evetv vtv his most theatrical per- 



) 



■i 



His Life and Works 

formances. Just as by the fineness of his taste, Rem- 
brandt softened the hideousness of a lurid subject 
in his Anatomy Lesson, so the exquisite charm of 
Peter's personality overcame any possible repug- 
nance to anything he might choose to do. 

During this last year In New York, he lived In an 
old house on Beekman Place, that splendid row, just 
two blocks long, of mellow brown-stone dwellings, 
with flights of steps, which back upon the East 
River at Fiftieth Street. We often sat on the 
balcony, looking over towards the span of the 
Queensboro Bridge, Blackwell's Island, with Its 
turreted and battlcmented castles so like the Mys- 
teries of Udolpho, watching the gulls sweep over 
the surface of the water, the smoke wreathe from 
the factory chimneys, and the craft on the river, 
with cargoes "of Tyne coal, road-rails, pig-lead, 
fire-wood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays," of the 
city, but seemingly away from it, with our backs to 
it, literally. Indeed, while life ebbed by. And, at 
my side, too, I saw it slowly ebbing. 

The interior, one of those fine old New York 
interiors, with high ceilings, bordered with plaster 
gulUoches, white carved marble fire-places, sliding 
doors, and huge crystal chandeliers, whose pendants 
jingled when some one walked on the fioor above, 
it had been his happy fancy to decorate in the early 
Victorian manner. The furniture, to be sure, was 
mostly Chippendale, Sheraton, and Heppelwhite, 
but there were also heavy carvtA ■^■alvKi.v '^•6.vl%^ 



Peter Whiffle 

upholstered in lovely figured glazed chintzes. The 
mirrors were framed in four inches of purple and 
red engraved glass. The highboys were littered 
with ornaments, Staffordshire china dogs and shep- 
herdesses, splendid feather and shell flowers, and 
ormolu clocks stood under glass bells on the mantel- 
shelves. He had found a couple of rather worn, 
but still handsome, Aubusson carpets, with garlands 
of huge roses of a pale blush colour. One of these 
was in the drawing-room, the dther in the library. 
An old sampler screen framed the fire-place in the 
latter room. The books were curious. Peter was 
now interested in byways of literature. I remem- 
ber such volumes as Thomas Mann's Der Tod in 
Venedig, Paterne Berrichon's Life of Arthur Rim- 
baud, Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, with music by Claude 
Terrasse, Jean Lorrain's La Maison Philibert, 
Richard Garnett's The Twilight of the Gods, the 
Comte de Lautreamont's Les Chants de Maldoror, 
Leolinus Siluriensis's The Anatomy of Tobacco, 
Binet-Valmer's Lucien, Haldane MacFall's The 
Wooings of Jezebel Pettyfer, James Morier's 
Hajji Baba of Ispahan, Robert Hugh Benson's 
The Necromancers, Andre Gide's L'Immoraliste, 
and various volumes by Gulllaume ApoUinaire. 
The walls of the drawing-room were hung with a 
French eighteenth century, rose cotton print, the de- 
sign of which showed, on one side, Cupid rowing 
lustily, while listless old Time sat in the bow of the 
boat, with the motto: T Amour fait passer Ic Temps; 

i 



lis Life and Works 

and, on the other side, Time propelling the boat, 
while a saddened Cupid, his face burled in his 
hands, was the downcast passenger, with the 
motto : Le Temps fait passer I'Amour. In 
the centre, beside a charming Greek temple, a 
nymph toyed with a spaniel, and the motto 
read : I'Amitle ne craint pas le Temps ! 
There were, therefore, no pictures on these walls, 
but, elsewhere, where the walls were white, or 
where they were hung with rich crimson Roman 
damask, as in the library, there were a few steel 
engravings and mezzotints and an early nineteenth 
century lithograph or two. Over his night-table, 
at the side of his bed, he had pinned a photograph 
of a detail of Benozzo Gozzoll's frescoes in the 
Palazzo RIccardI, the detail of the three youths, 
and there was also a large framed photograph of 
Cranach's naive Venus in this room. The piano 
stood in the drawing-room, near one of the win- 
dows, looking over the river. It was always open 
and the rack was littered with modern music: John 
Ireland's London Pieces, Bela Bartok's Three Bur- 
lesques, Gerald Tynvhitt's Three Little Funeral 
Marches, music by Erik Satie, Darius Milhaud, 
Georges Auric, and Zoltan Kodaly. I remember 
one day he asked me to look at Theodor Strelche's 
Spriiche and Gedichte, with words by Richard 
Dehmel, the second of which he averred was the 
shortest song ever composed, consisting of but fo ur 
bars. J9 



Peter Whiffle 

It was a lovely house to lie about in, to talk in, to 
dream in. It was restful and quaint, oFFering a 
pleasing contrast to the eccentric modernity of the 
other homes I visited at this period. There was no 
electricity. The chandeliers burned gas but the 
favourite illumination was afforded by lamps with 
round glass globes of various colours, through 
which the soft light filtered. 

On ar afternoon in December, 1919, we were 
lounging in the drawing-room. Peter had curled 
himself into a sort of knot on a broad sofa with 
three carved walnut curves at the baclt. He had 
spread a knitted coverlet over his feet, for it was 
a little chilly, in spite of the fact that a wood fire 
was smouldering in the fire-place. On the table be- 
fore him there was a highball glass, half-full of the 
proper ingredients, and sprawling beside him on the 
sofa, a magnificent blue Persian cat, which he called 
Chalcedony. George Moore and George Sand 
had long since perished of old age and Lou Matagot 
had been a victim of the laboratory explosion. 
There was a certain melancholy implicit in their 
absence. Nothing reminds us so irresistibly of the 
passing of time as the short age allotted on this 
earth to our dear cats. The pinchbottle and sev- 
eral bottles of soda, a bowl of cracked ice and a 
bowl of Fatima cigarettes, which both of us had 
grown to prefer, reposed conveniently on the tabic 
hetwcen us. I remember the increasing sileni 



' His Life and Works 

the twilight fell and, how, at last, Peter began to 
talk. 

I wanted to do so much, he began, and for a long 
time, during these past four years, it seemed to me 
that I had done so little. I remembered Zola's 
phrase: IVIon (Euvre, alors, c'etait I'Arche, I'Arche 
immense I Helas! ce que Ton reve, et puis, apres, ce 
que Ton execute ! At the beginning of the war, I was 
so very miserable, so unhappy, so alone. It seemed 
to me that I had been a complete failure, that I 
had accomplished nothing, , . . , 

1 must have raised a protesting hand, for he in- 
terjected, No, don't interrupt me. I am not com- 
plaining or asking for sympathy. I am explaining 
how I felt^ not how I feel. I never spoke of it, of 
course, while I felt that way. I am only talking 
about it now because I have gone beyond, because, 
In a sense, at least, I understand. I am happier 
now, happier, perhaps, than I have ever been be- 
fore, for in the past four years I have left behind 
my restlessness and achieved something like peace. 
I no longer feel that I have failed. Of course, I 
have failed, but that was because I was attempting 
to do something that I had no right to attempt, 
My cats should have taught me that. It is neces- 
sary to do only what one must, what one is forced 
by nature to do. Samuel Butler has said, and how 
truly, Nothing is worth doing or well done which 

tnot done fairly easily, and some little deficiency of 
[2«1 



Peter IFhiffle 

effort is more pardonable than any perceptible ex- 
cess, for virtue has ever erred rather on the side of 
self-indulgence than of asceticism. . . . And so, in 
the end, and after all I am still young, I have learned 
that I cannot write. Is a little experience too much 
to pay for learning to know oneself? I think not, 
and that is why, now, I feel more like a success than 
a failure, because, finally, I do know myself, and be- 
cause I have left no bad work, I can say with 
Macaulay: There are no lees in my wine. It is all 
the cream of the bottle. . . . 

I have tried to do too much and that is why, 
perhaps, 1 have done nothing. I wanted to write a 
new Comedie Humaine. Instead, I have lived it. 
And now, I have come-ta^thcconcluaiDiLjhst that 
was all-tber£_Hras-fei!"-me_la-iiQiJust to live, as fully 
as possible. Sympathy and enthusTasfir"aTE^some- 
thing, after all. I must have communicated at 
least a shadow of these to the ideas and objects and 
people on whom I have bestowed them. Benozzo 
Gozzoli's frescoes — now, don't laugh at what I am 
going to say, because it is true when you understand 
it — are just so much more precious because I have 
loved-thcnr — -Th&yZffiilLgu'*-mare__geople pleasure 
because L iiave-gixen them my affection. This is 
something; indeed, nextTtrtKe"^^eation of the fres- 
coes, perhaps it is everything. 

There are two ways of becoming a writer: one, 
the cheaper, is to discover a formula: that is black 
magic; the other is to have ttvcurge: that is white 



Jis Life and fVorks 

magic. I have never been able to discover a new 
formula; I have worked with the formulae of other 
artists, only to see the cryptogram blot and blur 
under my hands. My manipulation of the mystic 
figures and the cabalistic secrets has never raised the 
right demons. , , . 

What is there anyway? All expression lifts us 
farther away from simplicity and causes unhap- 
plness. . . . Material, scientific expression: flying- 
machines, moving pictures, and telegraphy are simply 
disturbing. They add nothing valuable to human 
life. Any novelist who invokes the aid of science 
dies a swift death. Zola's novels are stuffed with 
theories of heredity but ideas about heredity change 
every day. The current craze is for psychanalytic 
novels, which are not half so psychanalytic as the 
books of Jane Austen, as posterity will find out for 
itself. . . . Art in this epoch is too self-conscious. 
Everybody is striving to do something new, instead 
of writing or painting or composing what is natu- 
ral. . . , Even the disturbing irony and pessimism 
of Anatole France and Thomas Hardy add nothing 
to life. We shall be happier If we go back to the be- 
ginning. . . . 

The great secret is the cat's secret, to do what 
one has to do. Let IT do it, let IT, whatever IT 
is, flow through you. The writer should say, with 
Sancho Panza, De mis vinas vengo, no se nada, 
Labanne, in Le Chat Maigre, cries: Art declines in 
the degree that thought develoijs. ^tv. Ci-i^e^;.*-.,''^^ 



Peter Whiffle 

the time of Aristotle, there were only sculptors. 
Artists are inferior beings. They resemble preg- 
nant women; they pve birth without knowing why. 
And again, to quote my beloved Samuel Butler, No 
one understands how anything is done unless he can 
do it himself; and even then he probably does not 
know how he has done it. I might add that ven' 
often he does not know what he has done. Stern 
wrote Tristram Shandy to ridicule his personal en- 
emies. Dickens began Pickwick to give the artist, 
Seymour, an opportunity to draw Cockney sports- 
men and he concluded it in high moral fervour, with 
the ambition to wipe out bribery and corruption at 
elections, unscrupulous attorneys, and Fleet Prison. 
To Cervantes, Don Quixote was a burlesque of the 
high-flown romantic literature of his period. To 
the world, it is one of the great romances of all 
time. . . . 

You see, I am beginning to understand why I 
haven't written, why I cannot write. . . . That is 
why I am unhappy no longer, why I am more peace- 
ful, why I do not suffer. But, and now a strange, 
quavering note sounded in his voice, if I had found 
a new formula, who knows what I might have done? 

He turned his face away from me towards the 
back of the sofa. The cat was purring heavily, al- 
most like the croupy breathing of a child. I. was 
quite dark outside, and there was no light in the 
room save for the fticVet tWx. c^cwv^ Vtornv tVv^ dying 



His Life and Works 

embers. There was a long silence. In trying 
afterwards to reckon its length, I judged it must 
have been fully half an hour before I spok4. It 
was a noise that broke the charm of the stillness. 
The dead end of the log split over the andirons 
and fell into the fire-place. 
\ Peter, I began. 
' He did not move. 

' Peter. ... I rose and bent over him. The 
clock struck six. The cat stirred uneasily, rose, 
stretched his enormous length; then gave a faint but 
ilarmingly portentous mew and leaped from the 
:ouch. 

Peter ! 

He did not answer me. 

April 2gy ig2i 
New York. 



THE ENDl 



[247] 



IQ 



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