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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Journal Of Arthur Stirling: "the Valley Of The Shadow" - Part 2. Seeking A Publisher - August 2d. -- August 31st.
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The Journal Of Arthur Stirling: "the Valley Of The Shadow" - Part 2. Seeking A Publisher - August 2d. -- August 31st. Post by :cornett Category :Long Stories Author :Upton Sinclair Date :May 2012 Read :619

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The Journal Of Arthur Stirling: "the Valley Of The Shadow" - Part 2. Seeking A Publisher - August 2d. -- August 31st.

PART II. SEEKING A PUBLISHER August 2d. -- August 31st.

August 2d.

Oh what a horrible thing is "business"! Here, where I am,--this is _the world_. An industrial era!

* * * * *

This is a wholesale-paper house, and the three partners who run it call themselves, with unconscious irony, "wholesale-paper MEN"! They live their lives in wholesale-paper,--they talk it--they dream it--they plan it--they have no hope in the world except to find people to buy wholesale-paper! And the manager--keen and hungry--he is planning to be a wholesale-paper man himself. And here are twenty-five men and youths apparently having but one virtue in the world, the possibility of consecrating their souls to wholesale-paper!

What they make is useful, it may even be sublime--in which way the business is unique. But none of these men ever thinks of that--they would be just as absorbed in the business if it were wholesale bonnets. None of them has the least care in the world about books. And these men who come here to buy the paper--are _they any better? Or is their interest in the paper the profits it may bring to them?

* * * * *

--Dear God!--That brought me back to The Captive.

* * * * *

--I have been sick to-day, and sickness clips your wings. It is an error of mine--I pay for my food with my soul, and so I try to eat little, and thereby make myself ill.

* * * * *

August 3d.

I got my first twelve dollars to-day!

* * * * *

August 5th.

To-day I made a resolution, that I must stop this chafing, this panting, this beating my wings to pieces. A man's inspiration must be under his control, to stop it, as well as to start it. I can not write or dream poetry while I am in this slavery, and somehow I have to realize it. When I go home I will get to some work, and not wander around hungering.

After my glimpse of the forest it is frightful to be penned in this steaming city. To have to work in an office all day--sometimes it makes me reel. And then at night too, when I try to read, the room gets suffocating.

Then I go out among the tenement-house crowds, carrying my little note-book. I stop at a lamp-post and look at a couple of words and then walk on and learn them! So I go for hours.

* * * * *

--Hurry up, publishers!--I wrote to them to-night.

* * * * *

August 7th.

"In answer to your letter of the 5th instant, we beg to inform you that your manuscript is now in the hands of our readers, and that you may expect a report upon it in a week."

* * * * *

I am reading Euripides.

* * * * *

August 8th.

Oh how will I find words for my delight when I have got a little money and can escape from dirt and horror. To-night two vile men have been quarreling in the room underneath, and I have been drinking in all their brutal ugliness. Bah!--

* * * * *

To live in a place where there are not horrible women in wrappers, reeling, foul-smelling men, snuffling children with beer-cans!

This is more of my "economy"!

* * * * *

To-night I sat upon the edge of the bed and whispered, "To be free! I shall be free!"--until I was trembling in every nerve.

My beautiful poem! My beautiful poem will set me free!

Sometimes I love it just as if it were a child.

* * * * *

August 10th.

Twelve dollars more!

* * * * *

August 11th.

"We have read with the utmost interest the manuscript of The Captive which you have been so good as to show us. We are very sorry to say that it does not seem to us that the publication of this poem would be a venture in which we could engage with profit. At the same time, however, we have been very much struck with it, and consider it an altogether remarkable piece of work. We should like very much to have the privilege of an interview with you, should you find it convenient."

* * * * *

Now what in the world do they mean by that? If they are not going to publish the book, what do they want to see me for? And I've wasted two weeks more of my life!

I had not reckoned on petty things such as these. I fear I have not much knowledge of men. How can a man read The Captive and not know that others would read it? What are they in business for, anyway?

* * * * *

August 12th.

I begged off from work for an hour. I have had an interview with the great publishers! I have learned a great deal too.

I saw the manager of the firm. He meant to be very kind, that is the first thing to say; the second is that he is very well-dressed, and comfortable-looking.

* * * * *

"Now, Mr. Stirling," said he, "you know a publishing house is always on the lookout for the new man. That is why I wanted to have the pleasure of meeting you. It is evident to me that you have literary talent of no common kind."

(I bow.)

"I wish that I could tell you that we could consider The Captive an available piece of writing; I have read it myself with the greatest care. But you must know, Mr. Stirling, that it is an exceedingly _difficult piece of work; I mean difficult from a publisher's point of view. There is very little demand for poetry nowadays--a publisher generally brings out at a loss even the poems that make a reputation for their authors. Whether you are aware of that I don't know, but it is true; and I think of all kinds of poetry a blank verse tragedy is the most to be shunned."

(Here a pause. I have never any tongue when I am with men.)

"What I want to talk to you about, Mr. Stirling, is the work which you contemplate in the future. As I said, I was interested at once in this work; I should like very much indeed to advise you and to be of any assistance to you that I can. I should like very much to know what your plans are. I should like very much to see anything that you might write. Are you contemplating anything just at present?"

"No, not just at present."

"Not? Don't you think that you might find it possible to produce something just a little more in accordance with the public taste? Don't you think, for instance, that you might possibly write a novel?"

(Some hesitation.) "I have thought of a novel."

"Ah! And might I ask--would it be a character study?--or perhaps historical?--or--"

"It would be historical."

"Ah! And of what period?"

"The Civil War."

(A great look of satisfaction.) "Dear me! Why, that is very interesting indeed, Mr. Stirling! I should like to see such a work from your pen. And are you thinking of completing it soon?"

(General discomfort on my part.) "I had never thought of the time exactly. I had feared it would take a great many years."

(Perplexity.) "Oh, pshaw!--still, of course, that is the way all great work is done. Yes, one has to obey one's own inspiration. I understand perfectly how he can not adjust himself to the market. I have seen too often how disastrous such attempts are."

(More courteous platitudes, I assenting. Then at last, weary--)

"You don't think, then, that you will be able to undertake The Captive?"

"No, Mr. Stirling, I really do not think we can. You understand, of course, if I take this work to the firm I have to tell them I think it will sell; and that I can not honestly do. You know that a publishing house is just as much limited as any other business firm--it can not afford to publish books that the trade does not want. And this is an especially unusual sort of thing, it is by no means easy to appreciate--you must be aware of that yourself, Mr. Stirling. You see when I read a manuscript I have to keep constantly before my mind the thought of how it is going to affect the public--a very different thing from my own judgment, of course. From the former standpoint I believe there are things in The Captive that would meet with a reception not satisfactory to either of us, Mr. Stirling."

(Perplexity on my part.) "You'll have to explain that to me, I fear."

"Why--but the explaining of that would be to offer you my opinion about the book--"

"I should be very pleased to hear it. Your reason for declining it, then, is not altogether that it is a blank-verse drama?"

"Not altogether, Mr. Stirling. It's a little difficult for me to tell you about these things, you know. I understand that the book must have meant a great deal to you, and so I am naturally diffident. But if you will pardon my saying so, it seems to me that the book--it is obviously, of course, the work of a young man--it is very emotional, it strives to very high altitudes. I will not say that it is exaggerated, but--the last part particularly--it seems to me that you are writing in too high a key, that your voice is strained." (An uncomfortable pause.) "Of course, now, that is but my opinion. It will not seem of any value to you, perhaps, but while I read it I could not get away from the fact that it was not altogether natural. It seemed hysterical and overwrought in places--it gives the effect of crudeness. It is rather hard, you know, to expect a man who sits at a desk all day to follow you in such very strenuous flights." (A slight laugh.)

"Mind you it is not that I do not appreciate high qualities, Mr. Stirling, it is merely that it seemed to me that if it were toned down somewhat it would be better--you know such things strike different people in different ways; you do not find it easy to believe that it would affect men so--but I am pretty sure that the impulse of the average critic would be to go still further--to make fun of it. Here, for instance--let me read you the opinion upon the book that was handed in by one of our most experienced readers--etc., etc.--"

I have told enough of that story, giving the conversation as literally as I can recall it. I am always a fool, the presence of other men overawes me; I sit meek and take all that comes, and then make my escape. The great publishers' manager still thinks he impressed me with his wisdom--he has half an idea I'm going to "tone down" The Captive!

--He read me that criticism--great God, it makes me writhe! It was like a review of the Book of Revelations by Bill Nye.

* * * * *

_That my work should be judged by such men!

* * * * *

--"Exaggerated!" "Hysterical!" And is there nothing hysterical in life, then? And would you go through battle and pestilence with the same serenity that you sit there at your desk all day, you publisher?

As if a man who was being torn to pieces would converse after the manner of Mr. Howells and Jane Austen!

* * * * *

--"Tone it down!" That bit of inanity has been haunting my ears. Tone down The Captive! Tone down the faith and rapture of my whole life, until it is what the reading public will find natural!--And tone down the Liebes-Tod--and tone down the Choral Symphony--and Epipsychidion--and King Lear!

Swounds, show me what thou'lt do:
Woo't weep? Woo't fight? Woo't fast? Woo't tear thyself?
Woo't drink up eisel? Eat a crocodile?
I'll do't. Dost thou come here to whine?
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou'lt mouth,
I'll rant as well as thou!--

"This is mere madness," observes the queen. Tone it down!

* * * * *

August 12th.

I sat last night brooding over this thing till almost dawn. I could not bring myself to the thought of offering my work again to be judged by such people. I made up my mind to take a different course--I sat and wrote a long letter to a certain poet whom I love and honor. He is known as a critic--he will know. I told him the whole story, and asked him to read the poem.

It was something that I had never thought about, the effect of The Captive upon commonplace people. I was so full of my own rapture--I made my audience out of my own fancy. And now these snuffy little men come peering at it!

My appeal is not to the reading public--my appeal is to great minds and heroic hearts--to the ages that will come when I have gone.

--And can it be that I am to repeat the old, old story--will every one laugh at me and leave me to starve?

* * * * *

--I will get myself together and prepare for a siege. I will find an opening somewhere. You can not shut up a volcano.

* * * * *

August 16th.

There seems to be little use of struggling. I can not control myself. I wander around, restless, unhappy. That horrible prison that I am pent in--God, how I hate it! Such heart-sickening waiting--waiting!--and meanwhile that intolerable treadmill! It drives me wild! I am so full of life, of passion; and to be dragged back--and back--and stamped on! Each day I feel myself weaker; each day my power and my joy are going. Let me go--let me go!

Is my inspiration of no value at all, my ardor, my tenderness, my faith,--all nothing? You treat me as if I were an ox!

* * * * *

It is like being chained in the galleys! The dust and the heat, the jostling crowds, the banging and rattling, the bare, hideous streets--and above it all the wild, rampant vulgarity--the sordidness, the cheapness, the chaffering! My eyes stare at advertisements and signs until they burn me in my head.

Oh, the hell of egotism and vulgarity that is a city!

--"Why so much trouble? Other men bear dust and heat, and do their work without complaining!" Ah, yes!--but they do not have to write poems in the bargain!

* * * * *

If it were for truth and beauty, such a life would be heroism. But the hoards of wealth that they heap up--they spend it upon fine houses, and silly clothes, and gimcracks, and jewels, and rich food to eat, and wines to drink, and cigars to smoke! Bah!--

It is the brutality of it all that drives me wild. I see great, hulking, disgusting _bodies that live to be pampered and fed. And after that, in the place of minds, I see little restless centers of vanity--hungering, toiling, plotting, intriguing--to be stared at and praised and admired.

* * * * *

August 20th.

I thought that I would surely have heard from my poet by now. I am not a good waiter.

* * * * *

The senior-partner's nephew is a young German, over to learn the language. He is on a furlough from the army. He has close-cropped hair, a low forehead, and two front teeth like a squirrel's. When he smiles he makes you think of a horse. He has opinions, commercial and political, which he enunciates in a loud voice. Think of listening to Prussian opinions!

* * * * *

And there is another clerk who was meant for a variety-show specialist. He hums comic songs and cracks jokes, and conducts witty pantomime incessantly. He is very popular. He is never quiet. Sometimes he slaps you on the back.

* * * * *

I wrestle with my soul all day; the rage of it is like to burst me. The infinite pettiness of it--that is the thing! I am bitten and stung by a swarm of poisonous flies!

* * * * *

August 24th.

Another twelve dollars yesterday! I gasp with relief as if I were hauling a load up successive slopes; here is so much gained, so much safe. I have gotten along on twelve dollars; I have a little over thirty-five.

* * * * *

I believe these things are more wearing than the toil of writing; I know I find it so. Then I accomplish something; here I work myself into nervous frenzies, and chafe and pant for nothing. I can feel how it weakens me; I can feel that I have less elasticity, less _elan every day. Ah, God, let me go!

* * * * *

August 25th.

Why doesn't he answer my letter?

* * * * *

August 27th.

To-day I took myself off in a corner. I said: "Am I not here, have I not this thing to _do_? The power that I have in my soul--it is to be used for the doing of _this_; if I am to save my soul, it must be by the doing of _this_! And I am a fool that I do not face the fact. I shall be free some day--that I know--I have only to bide my time and wait. Meanwhile I am to stay here--or until I have money enough; and now I will turn my soul to iron, and do it! I am going to study what I can in this place, and at night I am going to speed home and get into a book. I will never stop again, and never give up--and above all never think, and never feel! I will get books of fact to read--I will read histories, and no more poetry. I will read Motley, and Parkman, and Prescott, and Gibbon, and Macaulay.--Macaulay will not afflict me with wild yearnings, I guess."

--Is there any author in the world more vulgar than Macaulay?--unless it be Gibbon. Or possibly Chesterfield.

I have heard Chesterfield's letters referred to as a "school for gentlemen." When the world is a little bit civilized, men will read them as they now read Machiavelli's Prince.

* * * * *

--All these resolutions while I was selling wholesale-paper! I fought quite a battle, and heard some of the old-time music. What a task for a poet,--to fight _not to live!

* * * * *

August 30th.

I have still heard nothing from my poet! I wrote to him to-day to ask him if he had received my letter. Eighteen whole days gone by, and I watching every mail, with The Captive lying idle in a drawer! I can not stand waiting like this--Why do not people answer my letters promptly?

* * * * *

August 31st.

I have been reading George Moore's Evelyn Innes for the last two days. He is striving toward deeper things; but the mark of the beast is in the fiber.

The spiritual struggles of a young lady with two sloppy lovers at once! Of a young and beautiful girl whose first walk on the street with a baronet is a "temptation." And who turns nun at last and worships the Holy Virgin, in order to forget her nastiness! A Gallicized novelist ought to deal with Gallic characters. While I was reading Evelyn Innes, I could never get away from the impression that I was reading the career of a chambermaid.

And the whole story hinges upon the fact that a woman can not sing the sacred ecstasy of Tristan and Isolde without being a harlot!

* * * * *

I read the Confessions of a Young Man, and I felt the vigor of it, and the daring; but it was a very cheap kind of daring. The fundamental laws of life are occasionally enunciated by commonplace people, and that gives an opportunity to be startling. But I leave it for small boys to gape at such fireworks; my interest is in the stars.

The last chapter runs into absolute brutality. I am accustomed to say that Gautier is a ruffian author, but if there is any ruffianism in Gautier more savage than that sentiment about the "skinful of champagne," I do not know where to find it.

About such stuff as that I would say that it makes me sick, but it is not worth that--it simply makes me tired. One would not call it impudent, because it is so silly--it is the driveling of a fool. He will get me off in a corner now, will he, and probe my soul? "Out with it!--Why not confess that you'd like to live a life of dissipation if you only had the money!" Why, you poor fool, before I would live such a life, I'd have my eyes torn out, and my ears torn off, and my fingers, and my hands, and my feet. "Why not confess the wild joys of getting drunk on champagne!" Poor fool, I have never tasted champagne.

* * * * *

--"Perhaps that is just the reason," you add. When the folly of a fool reaches its climax, the fool becomes a wit. But possibly that is it, I never was drunk.

--And yet I know something about drunkenness. I once buried a drunkard. He was my father. He died in a delirium.

* * * * *

There must be something young about my attitude--men smile at me. But I do not find it easy to imagine evil of men. I do not mean the crowd--I do not philosophize about the crowd. But I mean the artists. I was looking at a picture of Musset the other day; it was a noble face--the face of a man; and in the face of a man I read dignity and power--high things that I love and bow before. Here are lips,--and lips are things that speak of beauty; here are eyes,--and eyes are things that seek the light. And now to gaze upon that face and say: "This man lived in foulness; he was the slave of hateful lust--he died rotten, and sodden with drink."--I say that I do not find it easy.

* * * * *

I have nothing to do with any artist who has anything to do with sin--anything, one way or the other. If a man must still think about sin, let him go back, and let him go down,--let him be a Christian. Let him wrestle with his body, overcome himself, obey laws, and learn fear. To such men and to such ways I can only say: "I have nothing to do with you." My life is for free men--my words are for free men--for men defying law and purged of fear, for men mad with righteousness. What right have foul men in the temple of my muse? The thought of them is insult to me--away with them--in their presence I will not speak of what I love. For I am a drunkard--yes, and I am drunk all night and all day! And I am a lover--a free lover--knowing no law and defying all restraint. And how can I say such things in the presence of foul men?

Let not any man think that he can feel the love-clasp of my muse while he hides a satyr's body underneath his cloak. Free is my muse, and bold, fearing not the embrace of man, fearing not passion, nor the words of passion,--not the throbbing heart, nor the burning brow, nor the choking voice. But the warmth of her breath and the fire of her eyes, they were kindled at a shrine of which the beast does not know. Let not any man think that he can kiss the lips of my muse while his breath is tainted with the fumes of wine!

* * * * *

An artist is a man with one pleasure--and it is not self-indulgence; an artist is a man with one virtue--and it is not self-restraint. Sweetly and simply will I and my muse take all temptation, knowing not that it tempts, and wondering at the clamor of men. I will eat and drink that I may be nourished, I will sleep that I may be rested, I will dress that I may be warm. When I go among men it shall be to speak the truth, and when I press a woman to my heart, it shall be that a man may be born into the world. There is but one sin that I know, and that is dulness; there is but one virtue, and that is fire. And for the rest, I love pleasure, and hold it sweetest and holiest of all the words I know; the guide-post of all righteousness is pleasure--which whoso learns to read may follow all his days.

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The Journal Of Arthur Stirling: "the Valley Of The Shadow" - Part 2. Seeking A Publisher - December 2d. -- December 31st. The Journal Of Arthur Stirling: "the Valley Of The Shadow" - Part 2. Seeking A Publisher - December 2d. -- December 31st.

The Journal Of Arthur Stirling: "the Valley Of The Shadow" - Part 2. Seeking A Publisher - December 2d. -- December 31st.
PART II. SEEKING A PUBLISHER December 2d. -- December 31st."I have received your letter, and I regret very much that I can not grant the request you make. The pressure upon my time is such that I can not possibly undertake to read your book. There would be no use in my doing so, anyhow, for I tell you frankly it seems to me the situation you are in is just what you need. My advice to you is to be a man and face it. I do not see any reason why one person should be set free from the

The Journal Of Arthur Stirling: "the Valley Of The Shadow" - Part 2. Seeking A Publisher - July 8th. -- July 31st. The Journal Of Arthur Stirling: "the Valley Of The Shadow" - Part 2. Seeking A Publisher - July 8th. -- July 31st.

The Journal Of Arthur Stirling: "the Valley Of The Shadow" - Part 2. Seeking A Publisher - July 8th. -- July 31st.
PART II. SEEKING A PUBLISHER July 8th. -- July 31st.July 8th. To-day I took it to the publisher's! * * * * * I had been pondering for a week who were the best publishers. To-day I hardly had the courage to go in--I know nothing about such things--and my hands shook so I could hardly hold the package. * * *