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Martin Eden 96







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




long since Swinburne died, and boastfully announcing that he had read "Excelsior" and the "Psalm of Life." Unwittingly, Ruth herself proved his point that she worshipped the established. Martin followed the processes of her thoughts, but forbore to go farther. He did not love her for what she thought of Praps and Vanderwater and English professors, and he was coming to realize, with increasing conviction, that he possessed brain-areas and stretches of knowledge which she could never comprehend nor know existed. In music she thought him unreasonable, and in the matter of opera not only unreasonable but wilfully perverse. "How did you like it?" she asked him one night, on the way home from the opera. It was a night when he had taken her at the expense of a months rigid economizing on food. After vainly waiting for him to speak about it, herself still tremulous and stirred by what she had just seen and heard, she had asked the question. "I liked the overture," was his answer. "It was splendid." "Yes, but the opera itself?" "That was splendid too; that is, the orchestra was, though Id have enjoyed it more if those jumping-jacks had kept quiet or gone off the stage." Ruth was aghast. "You dont mean Tetralani or Barillo?" she queried. "All of them--the whole kit and crew." "But they are great artists," she protested. "They spoiled the music just the same, with their antics and unrealities." "But dont you like Barillos voice?" Ruth asked. "He is next to Caruso, they say." "Of course I liked him, and I liked Tetralani even better. Her voice is exquisite--or at least I think so." "But, but--" Ruth stammered. "I dont know what you mean, then. You admire their voices, yet say they spoiled the music." "Precisely that. Id give anything to hear them in concert, and Id give even a bit more not to hear them when the orchestra is playing. Im afraid I am a hopeless realist. Great singers are not great actors. To hear Barillo sing a love passage with the voice of an angel, and to hear Tetralani reply like another angel, and to hear it all accompanied by a perfect orgy of glowing and colorful music--is ravishing, most ravishing. I do not admit it. I assert it. But the whole effect is spoiled when I look at them--at Tetralani, five feet ten in her stocking feet and weighing a hundred and ninety pounds, and at Barillo, a scant five feet four, greasy-featured, with the chest of a squat, undersized blacksmith, and at the pair of them, attitudinizing, clasping their breasts, flinging their arms in the air like demented creatures in an asylum; and when I am expected to accept all this as the faithful illusion of a love-scene between a slender and beautiful princess and a handsome, romantic, young prince--why, I cant accept it, thats all. Its rot; its absurd; its unreal. Thats whats the matter with it. Its not real. Dont tell me that anybody in this world ever made love that way. Why, if Id made love to you in such fashion, youd have boxed my ears." "But you misunderstand," Ruth protested. "Every form of art has its limitations." (She was busy recalling a lecture she had heard at the university on the conventions of the arts.) "In painting there are only two dimensions to the canvas, yet you accept the illusion of three dimensions which the art of a painter enables him to throw into the canvas. In writing, again, the author must be omnipotent. You accept as perfectly legitimate the authors account of the secret thoughts of the heroine, and yet all the time you know that the heroine was alone when thinking these thoughts, and that neither the author nor any one else was capable of hearing them. And so with the stage, with sculpture, with opera, with every art form. Certain irreconcilable things must be accepted." "Yes, I understood that," Martin answered. "All the arts have their conventions." (Ruth was surprised at his use of the word. It was as if he had studied at the university himself, instead of being ill-equipped from browsing at haphazard through the books in the library.) "But even the conventions must be real. Trees, painted on flat cardboard and stuck up on each side of the stage, we accept as a forest. It is a real enough convention. But, on

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