Huneker and Humanism  

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Huneker and Humanism (1935) is a book by Myra Ellen Bowers.

Full text[1]



■ Myra Ellen Bowers (a.B., Smith College, 1919)

Submitted, in partial fulfillment of the

requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts




Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2017 with funding from Boston Library Consortium Member Libraries



Outline for Thesis

Huneker and Humanism

I. Purpose of the Tnesis Page 1

1. To evaluate Huneker ’s worK as a critic in the light of the present-day interest in Humanism 1

a. Inadequacy of estimates of Huneker as

a critic 1

b. Importance of Humanism at present 2

II. Making the data compact 5

1. General discussion of Humanism outside

scope of thesis 3

2. Consideration of Huneker 's works limited

to those on literary criticism 3

3. Method to be used in presenting humanistic

side 3

a. Consideration of two essays of Huneker

to show treatment in conformance with standards for the humanistic critic 3

b. Comparison of an essay of Huneker with

one by a Humanist on the same subject 4

c. Consideration of humanistic ideas

tiiroughout Huneker 's work 4

1. Consideration of romantic ideas in Huneker 's work as corollary of hu- manistic ideas 4

d. A working definition of Humanism 5

III. Objectives of the humanistic critic--from Norman

Poerster’s Toward Standards 5

1. Historical understanding 6

2. Sympathetic understanding 6


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3 , Judgment

Page 6

a. ^Quantitative 6

b. i^ualitative 7

IV. Huneker’s essay, The i^uintessence of Shaw, con-

sidered in light of standards for humanistic

critic 7

1. Exhibition of historical understanding 7

2 . Exhibition of sympathetic understanding 8

3. i^uantitative judgment 9

4. 'Qualitative judgment 10

5. Summary of Huneker's evaluation of Shaw • 11

V. Huneker’s essay, A Note on Henry James, con-

sidered in the light of standards for humanistic critic 12

1. Exhibition of historical understanding 13

2. Exhibition of sympathetic understanding 13

3. Quantitative judgment 15

4. Qualitative judgment 16

5. Summary of Huneker’s evaluation of James 17

VI. Satisfaction of humanistic requirem.ents for crit- ic typical of Huneker 18

VII. Comparison of Huneker’s essay on Baudelaire with

T. S. Eliot’s Baudelaire in Our Time 19

1. Parallels in the two essays 20

a. Mod.ernism of Baudelaire 20

b. Baudelaire’s attitude toward vice 20

c. Lucidity of Baudelaire 21

d. ’’Heredity and nerves” in Baudelaire 22

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e. Sin cult in Baudelaire Page 23


f. Baudelaire's Style 24

g. Baudelaire's Christianity 24

h. Baudelaire's humility 25

2. Summary of likenesses and differences

in the two essays 26

3, Consideration of other points in Huneker's

essay on Baudelaire not treated by Eliot 27

a. These give sidelight on Huneker's

views on criticism 29

VIII. Examination of Huneker's work for humanistic and

anti -humanistic ideas 30

1. Humanistic ideas 31

a. Interest in the classics 31

b. Seeing life sanely and seeing it whole 32

c. Anti-humanitarianism 34

d. Hostility to the reforming tendency 34

e. Lack of the acquisitive instinct 35

f. Anti-Philistinism 35

g. Antipathy to dogma 36

h. Humility 37

i. Absence of "The Demon of the Absolute" 41

j . Dualism 42

k. Religion 42

l. Freedom of the Will 45

2. Summary of preceding humanistic ideas found

ih Huneker 46

3. Discussion of Huneker's ideas regarding sub- jectivity and objectivity 47









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a. Prevalence of subjectivity precludes Page 50

humanistic rating

b. This is not an unmitigated subjectivity 50

4. Romantic (non-humanistic ) ideas in Huneker's

work 52

a. Natural Rights theory 52

b. Naturalism 52

c. Perfectibility of Man 53

d. Temperamental Overflow 53

e. Inspiration 54

f. Sentimentalism 54

5. Summary of romantic ideas in Huneker’s work 55

6. Consideration of Huneker’s interest in out- standing personalities — a romantic tendency 55

7. Summary of humanistic and romantic ideas in

Huneker 57

a. Unconcern with general ideas precludes

rating as Humanist 58

IX. Huneker as a Critic 62

1. Huneker 's ideas about criticism 62

a. Impossibility of complete objectivity 62

1. Characteristics of Huneker v^hich

show in his v/ork 63

A. Interest in the seven arts,

particularly music 64

B. Allusiveness 65

C. Eclecticism 66

D. Sympathy and tolerance 66

E. Hurrhlity 67


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b. The critic's purpose and method Page 68

c. No identity between genius and taste 69

d. No connection between morality and

art 70

2. Estimates of contemporaries regarding Hune-

ker as a critic 71

a. Confusion regarding his worth 71

b. Estimates, favorable and unfavorable 71

3. Euneker's style as an expression of the man 94

a. Its bearing upon his rating as an im- pressionist 94

4. Consideration of the critical estimates of

Huneker discloses agreement on following points: 96

a. Vitality 96

b. Interest in the new and unusual 97

c . Learning 98

d. Humility 99

e. Impressionism 100

f. Subjectivity and objectivity 100

g. Influence upon literature and criticism 101

5. General estimate of Huneker as a critic 103

Summary 104

1. Evidence of Chapter II shows that Huneker conforms to humanistic standards for the

critic without use of general ideas 104

2. Evidence of Chapter III--Huneker ' s treatment of a critical subject corresponds with that

of a humanistic writer 104

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3. Evidence of Chapter IV--Huneker is more humanistic than romantic but not entirely so because of lack of interest in general ideas

4. Evidence of Chapter V--Huneker is a modi- fied impressionist and not a complete Humanist


Conclusion: Huneker not a complete Humanist be- cause of lack of concern with abstract principles --a humanist rather than a Humanist



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Huneker and Humanism

Purpose of the Thesis

Huneker and Humanism“-it sounds like a vaudeville duo.

Pick and Pat or Lily and Louise, and perhaps it is no more fan- tastic in its alliteration than in its implication. To the or- dinary person Huneker and Humanism are at the opposite ends of the literary criticism scale, Huneker is generally rated as an out-and-out impressionist and the Humanists say this is not I enough for a literary critic. One fancies Huneker would be

jmore than amused at this linking and the Humanists only a lit- i

I tie less than aghast.

j If the subject is such an apparent contradiction, such a


coupling of opposites, why should it be attempted? First of all, because, in this writer's opinion, Huneker has never re-


ceived his just due as an American critic; he was more than a mere impressionist; and there was in his work an aesthetic eval- j nation of the true, the good, and the beautiful, whether con-


scious on his part or not.

Why the Humanism in this consideration? Many modern think- ers profess to see in Humanism a way out of the impasse and con- fusion in which modern theories and practices lie. Romanticism, gone rampant, and its corollaries, Naturism and Behaviorism, leave us no standards with which to judge conduct; thought; progress; life, itself. The Humanists say that there is a norm, a general standard of human endeavor and accomplishment, against

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which the tendencies of the times may be evaluated, We may never rise above this welter in v/hich the v/orld finds itself except by properly appraising man's (man as a human being) place in it, by giving to man his proper beliefs and belongings and discarding the things which have no representative, long- run, human values. In so doing, we would not neglect the con- sideration of the component parts of man's nature, the essen- I tial dualism of mind and matter, the human and the animal, which make up man. We must use these opposing tendencies to weld a rule, a guide, a philosophy of life which shall be proof against all the evils that beset us in the present or that may


come after. The banking and money collapse are only the out- ward evidences of a general re-settling of our civilization level. The uncertainty in every line of endeavor is probably the evidence of a general cultural as well as material break- 'dovi/n. Whether it is, or not, we need Humanism, say the Human- 'ists, to show us some meaning and purpose in all the cross- I currents which seize us, to furnish us with a v/ay of life.

"in a century that seems unlikely to achieve a great religious revival, the fundamental conflict may well turn out to be one between a modern naturalism seek- ing further developments and applications of scien- tific technique, and a new humanism based upon the whole of human experience.” 1.

Humanism is in the air, an old thing, yet new, with the vitali- ty that anything which pertains to humanity possesses. This is the reason for the present stir about humanism. Its prominence is the reason for linking it with the name of Huneker in our

1. Norman Foerster--Towards Standards, Preface

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attempt to appraise his work.

Making the Problem as Compact as Possible

Humanism being based on humanity seems to mean almost all things to all men. It is subject to all possible variations and interpretations and in itself seems to furnish an example of the impossibility of applying definite systems of philosophy to haphazard humanity. Humanists disagree greatly among them- selves as to its implications and manifestations. Much of the current discussion of Hiamanism is caused by its advocates’ at- tempting to establish some common ground of agreement as to what it means and what it entails. Obviously, within the lim-


, its of this thesis we shall be unable to attempt any adjustment


betv/een the various groups of Humanists or any dogmatic asser- tion as to what Humanism really is. Rather, we shall try to ascertain the qualities which should be present in a critic of humanistic tendencies and see how near to or how far from those standards Huneker’s contributions came.

In so doing, for the purposes of more exact application, we shall limit ourselves to Huneker's essays on literature, omitting the work on music, painting, sculpture, the short stories, and the novel; and from these literary criticism es- says we shall select two on English literature to show in de- tail Huneker’s method and how it approached or avoided humanis- tic treatment; viz.. The Cj,uint essence of Shaw , in Iconoclasts , and A Note on Henry James , in Unicorns . For the purpose of comparison with a critique on the same subject by a Hiimanist,

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‘we shall consider 'The Baudelaire Legend , in Egoists . In con-


sidering hiimanistic ideas throughout the body of Huneker’s work


jWe shall take the examples of such ideas from the essays in

j which they appear. From the same sources we shall take exam- I

iples of anti -human! Stic (romantic) ideas. In view of the im-


jmense versatility of the man, we should be neglecting too much


lof his thought did we confine ourselves to the literary essays


!wholly, and yet, because we are considering how a humanistic -literary critic would work, it seems best to consider the more I familiar subjects to determine whether or not Huneker reached a



Representative, human judgment. The limiting and simplifying 1

,of the problem will aid us in the determination.








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A Working Definition of HuLianism

! First of all, let us get a working definition of Humanism

' in order to see what qualities the hiunanistic critic should



j possess. Humanism is a system of philosophy which takes partic- ular cognizance of man's human qualities, including his status in the universe (between animal and God) and the duality of his |

1 nature (his physical and mental endowment) and maintains that |

1 1 man, with his human equipment, particularly his mentality, |

which is peculiarly human, is capable of working out whatever


problems may come to him. On the literary side, it maintains j

that a work of art is great in so far as it embodies these con- cepts of man's humanity with proportion and discrimination and

with emphasis upon long-run, universal values. It venerates

j the classics as the embodiments of principles which are essen-

tially humanistic in that they have proved true for all men in

|all ages, i

i Secondly, let us state that we agree with W, C, Bro\mell


’that a critic needs function, equipment, criterion, method;

that the critic should have the power of generalization and

should answer the question: Is the work of art worth while? 1.

Ob.lectives of the Humanistic Critic


! For the particular equipment of the humanistic critic such


1 authority as Norman Foerster in his Toward Standards will fur-

jnish the essentials: 2,


The critic to interpret the humanistic aspects of a work


of art must have:

1, Criticism in America, Page 88 _2, Norman Foerster — Toward Standards, Page 186


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. .i



1. Historical imder standing

This is the understanding born of knowledge of the au- thor’s place in the general history of time, thought, place, and idea. With this knowledge as a background, the critic should try to remove the historical barrier between the artist and reader. The critic is to use the Taine yardstick of interpreting the artist’s offer- ing in the light of his milieu in race, place, and time but he is not to be content with this. He is to go be- yond this explanation and set up a foundation for the later criticism, for the inevitable general interpre- tation in the light of all factors. I

2. Understanding Born of S^rmpathy

The critic must not only understand, appreciate, and interpret the artist’s milieu; he must supplement thes€i with an understanding, born of sympathy, of the art- ist’s motive and intention. In so far as possible he will put himself in the author’s place toward the end of judging the book as an expression of the author’s intention.

3. Judgment

The critic must judge the artist’s book;

a. ^Quantitatively To do this, the critic

will answer the question; In what degree has the author succeeded in carrying out his artis- tic intention? The critic's ability to answer

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this question will rest upon his ability to

guage the author's intention as revealed to him

by knowledge and sympathy.

b, 'qi.ualitatively To .ludge the book qualita-

tively the critic must answer the question:

VVhat kind of beauty does the book possess? He

must question here not only the author's inten- tion but the object itself. The critic's crite- rion here will be the nature of things, things

as they are, in other words, the representative,

human values of the work of art.

The 'Quintessence of Shaw

Bearing these qualities and standards of equipment in mind,

ilet us consider first Huneker's treatment of Bernard Shaw as


shown in The Quintessence of Shaw in Iconoclasts.

Regarding the Understanding Born of Knowledge


Huneker gives us plenty of personal premises for his es- timate of Shaw. He was the first in this country to write of

Shav; in 1888. In 1890 he was instrumental in the purchase of

an article of Shave's on the forerunners of the piano for The


Musical Courier. They met several times in Europe and had

correspondence particularly regarding an autxior's note concern-

ling Candida in a letter from Shaw to Huneker. He tells us, as

the humanistic critic should, that Shaw is Hibernian; Fabian;

vegetarian; teetotaller; Wagnerite; Ibsenite; playwright; critic

(literary and musical); preacher; lycanthrope; misogynist; a

1. Iconoclasts, Page 233

t2. Steeplejack, Volume 2, Page 257




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pioneer in his championship of Wagner, Richard Strauss, Manet

and Degas; a philistine; and a jester. Shaw is poor, ascetic,

kind-hearted, generous, puritanical, courteous, courageous, a

user of paradoxes, and addicted to posing. He even gives us a


pedigree for Shaw: "W. S. Gilbert out of Ibsen.” Here we

have ample data for understanding the human entity that is Shaw,

Regarding the Understanding Born of S^.raipathy







1 Huneker has sympathetic understanding of Shaw's personali-

! tv and aims. He tells us that Shaw is normally abnormal,


though Shaw prides himself on being absolutely normal. Shaw is

always blarneying, removing masks one after another, or pre-

1 tending to, though Huneker warns us that even this posing may

!be a pose. He confidently believes Shaw is a sentimentalist in

jprivate and that his brutality of speech is only a defence mech- lanism for his sentimentality, though, of course, Huneker does


jnot use this term for the phenomenon. Shaw, he maintains, seems j to despise a sense of beauty. He despises wealcness and follows jNietszche's injunction to be hard.

Shaw he sees as a saintly (in his conduct) anarch but one

using half-hearted means of destruction of the old order, never

going whole-hog at his uprooting. Instead, says Huneker, he has

"spent his time tilting at flagellation, at capital punishment, at the abuse of punctuation, at the can- nibalistic habit of eating the flesh of harmless ani- mals at Christmas, at going to church, extolling Czolgoz--heavsns ! the list is a league long.” 2.

Shaw, according to Huneker, hates to hear of the inflic- tion of physical pain yet does not spare his readers mental

1 . Iconoclasts, Page 233 |2. Ibid., Page 240




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torture. Shaw is a reformer.

"He will rob himself of his last copper to give you food, and will belabor you with words that assault the tympanum if you disagree with him on the subject of Ibsen, Vyagner or anything he likes.” 1.

Shaw refuses to see women as heroines and makes of them

things which most women are not.

1 Surely our critic here understands and sympathizes. He

has interpreted his head data by nis heart promptings. Vi/hat-


ever conclusions we find Huneker reaching regarding this man,


it cannot be said that he has failed to trace his background or

been remiss in considering all the data to arrive at his judg- ment of Shaw’s work.

Quantitative Judgment

I How has Shaw carried out his artistic intentions in Hune-

ker's eyes? To Huneker, Shaw is delightful and entertaining.

”His facile use, with the aid of the various mouthpieces he as- sumes, of the ideas of Nietzsche, Wagner, Ibsen and Strindberg


fairly dazzles.” Shaw has been able to bring into England by


his manner of telling ”all manners of damnable doctrines” for

which people of more orthodox manner of presentation have been


1 Huneker says Shaw's plays prove something ”and prove it so


jhard that presently the play is swallowed up by the thesis--the


horse patiently follov/s the cart. It may not be art, but it is


magnificent Shaw,” In such a presentation the structures of

the plays and the characters suffer. Shaw succeeds in putting





1. Iconoclasts, Page 241

2. Ibid,, Page 237 j3. Ibid., Page 243


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over his ideas but at the cost of unconvincing characters.

’’His people are mostly a blackguard crew of lively marionettes, talking pure Shawese. Mr. Shaw has in- vented a new individual in literature who for want of a better name could be called the Super-Cad; he is Nietzsche's Superman turned 'bounder * --and some- times the sex is feminine." 1.

V»ith Shaw's continual "trickstering" and "kidding" one

gets the feeling that he doesn't mean a word he says. He sac- rifices sincerity for "smartness.” For, says Huneker, "To be

impertinent is not necessarily an evidence of wisdom; nor does


the dazzling epigram supply the missing note of humanity."

Shaw is trying, as Huneker believes, to condense the cosmos in- to a formula with his sharp sayings. Huneker says it can't be

done .

So far, our critic has shown where Shaw attains his objec- tives and where he falls short of so doing, pointing out the

losses or gains entailed by each success or failure.

(Qualitative Judgment


1 Huneker 's final evaluation of Shaw is one which could

stand for a present-day pronouncement upon G. B. S.'s worth in

i literature. One should bear in mind that these estimates date jfrom as remote a date as 1905. These are no statements re- Iclothed and dressed up-to-date by means of critical values and

estimates which have come into being since Huneker 's early judg- ment.

Summary of Himeker's Evaluation of Shaw




Briefly summarized, Huneker says that Shaw's books are

1. Iconoclasts, Page 234






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tracts for Shavian ideas. Shaw is after what seems to him the truth at all costs; he wears the "stout spectacles of common sense." Shaw does not believe in the illusions of art so his



dramas are "amusing, witty, brilliant, scarefying, but never

poetic, never beautiful and seldom sound the deeper tones of

1 .

humanity. "

Caesar and Cleopatra, "a bubbling study of antiquity,"

2 .

would entitle Shaw to ranking with Mark Twain,

Shaw’s prefaces, in Huneker’s opinion, will some day be I classics. They will be remembered with joy when the plays are


forgotten ,

"Velocity is one of Shaw's prime characteristics.

Like a pianoforte virtuoso whose fingers work faster than his feelings, the irishman is lost when he essays massive, sonorous cantilena. He is as emotional as his own typewriter, and this defect, which he parades as did the fox in the fable, has stood in the way of his writing a great play. He despises love and therefore ’ cannot ap- peal deeply to mankind." 3. . . . "And instead of closely observing humanity after the manner of all great dramatists, he has only closely studied Bernard Shaw." 4.

After all these years, who would change this estimate in searching for a genuine one on Shaw? Here is the typical Hune- ker critique. Hasn’t it fulfilled the three critical estimates of Matthew Arnold, the personal (impressionistic), the histori- cal (environmental), the real (humanistic)? To be sure, the material is not in this uninteresting order. 'The final judg- ment may come between two sense impressions in the first

1. Iconoclasts, Page 242

2. Ibid., Page 248

3. Ibid., Page 266

4. Ibid., Page 266

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I sentence; Huneker may digress to remark upon what somebody said


under similar or opposite circumstances or what the equivalent in music would be; but before he finishes we get not only visu- al, and audible, but also (sometimes) olefactory impressions of what the work is like; why the author happens to write this way, if there is a real reason; and, always, some interpretation of this man's contribution to the world store of literature.

In making this final estimate Himeker does not use philosophical jargon; he does not talk of "the ethical will" or "the superior imagination" of the Humanists but one feels sure that some higher authority within him has functioned to give us the ra- tional, representative, valid judgment which he always does.

VVe must recall that most of these articles were written for the newspapers or magazines under tremendous time-pressure and often not greatly changed for book publication. Under these conditions, why should we expect any final judgment at all from a man v^ho is rated as an impressionist and nothing else? vVhere was the compulsion upon him to take a critical stand unless v/ithin his own temperament?

— ^ote on Henry James

Let us consider the case of another literary figure treat- ed by Huneker. This time it is Henry James. The article is en--


titled K Note on Henry James , written after James's death dur- ing the World 'War. It is found in Unicorns , which was publishec, in 1917, To follow the plan for the humanistic critic:


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Re^ardin^ the Understanding Born of Knovifledge

Huneker is at pains to tell us that Henry James was as American, essentially, as Howells, in spite of his appearing

and acting more English than the English and in spite of his being a cosmopolitan. Huneker tells us that James was born in New England but failed to possess what is called a New England Iconscience. As the son of a metaphysician and moralist and the brother of the famous psychologist, William James, Huneker thinks it was natural that Henry James should be concerned v;ith jpsychological problems and clashes of character.

He even makes an attempt to account for the elliptical m.anner in James’s work, tracing it to Elaubert, who planed and stripped his style of all unnecessary verbiage, and to James's habit of dictating, saying, "The pen inhibits where speech does not." Huneker, who could neither dictate nor typewrite and who wrote all his myriad words in longhand, should know I

James's "sometime-oblique psychology" he ascribes to the

1 .

influence of Stendhal.

Regarding the Understanding Born of S^riapathy

Huneker, with his vast understanding of humanity, sets up for us a sympathetic picture of James. James, he would have us

understand, is not all "frosty intellect. But he holds in hor-

2 .

ror the facile expression of the sentiments." James has


"deep-veined humanity." He is concerned with moral purposes. "Like Renan," says Huneker, "he abhorred 'the horrible mania of

L. Unicorns, Page 55

2. ibid.. Page 65

3. Ibid. , Page 58

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1 .

certitude. • ”

Huneker laments the fact that James's change in citizen-

ship may have caused a coolness toward him, "That he did not

find all the perfections in his native land is a personal mat-

2 .

I ter," says Huneker,

Huneker wisnes us to comprehend the James style:

"These things [the elliptical manner] make difficult read- ing for a public accustomed to the hypnotic passes of successful fiction-mongers. In James nothing is fore- stalled, nothing is obvious, one is forever turning the curve of the unexpected," 3. ... "The spiritual

string music of Henry James is more thrilling to the educated ear than the sound of the big drum and the blaring of trumpets." 4. ... "His ears are for over-

tones, not the brassy harmonies of the obvious, of truths, flat, and flexible," 5.

Regarding James's choice of subject he is, as usual, chari- jtable .

"The implacable curiosity of the novelists concerning causes that do not seem final has been amply dealt with by Mr. Brownell. The question whether his story ! is worth the telling is a critical impertinence too

1 often uttered; what concerns us now in the James case

is his manner, not his matter. All the rest is life." 6.

Huneker tells us that some of the critics, particularly

■Ford Madox Hueffer, have been wrong in ascribing Puritanism to

James merely because of his New England birth. In spite of the

jfact, according to Huneker, that there is less Puritanism in New jEngland than in the Middle West, James is not a Puritan.

"To ascribe to Puritanism the seven deadly virtues and refinement, sensibility, intellectuality, is a common enough mistake. James never made that mistake. He knew that all the good things of life are not in the exclusive possession of the Puritans," .... "With the prudishness and peanut piety of Puritanism Henry James has nothing in comiaon." 7.

1. Unicorns, Page 63 5. Ibid., Page 64

|2. Ibid., Page 53 6. Ibid., Page 56

3. Ibid., Page 55 7. llDid. , Pages 60 and 61

4. Ibid., Page 56


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Himeker says that none of the things contained in the two

jfamous epigrams about James is true. One of the epigrams re- jlates that Henry James went to Prance and read Turgenev and that


Howells stayed at home and read Henry James; the other maintains

that Vifilliam James was the fictionist and his brother Henry, the


jpsychologis t ,

Our critic' thinks that James would have winced at reading

Hueffer’s statement that he was "the greatest of living men."


  • He also takes issue with some of Hueffer's (or Ford’s) state-

,ments which he brands as superlatives or overstatements.


Quantitative Judgment

As to whether James attained his obiectives:


"The actual story may be discouraging in its bareness, yet the situations are seldom fantastic. (The Turn of the Screw is an excention.) You rub your eyes as you finish; for with all your credulity, painful in its in- tensity, you have assisted at a pictorial evocation; both picture and evocation reveal magic in their misty attenuations. And there is ever the triumph of poetic feeling over banal sentiment." 2.

"as far as his middle period his manner is limpidity itself; the later style is a jungle of inversions, suspensions, elisions, repetitions, echoes, transpo- sitions, transformations, neologisms, in which the heads of young adjectives despairingly gaze from afar at the verbs v/hich come thundering at the close of sentences leagues long. It is bewildering, but more ! bewildering is this peculiarly individual style when

draughted into smooth journalistic prose. Nothing re- mains. Henry James has not spoken. His dissonances cannot be resolved except in the terms of his own matchless art. His meanings evaporate when phrased

1 in our vernacular." 3.

[ "Yet no matter how crabbed and involved is his page,

a character always em-erges from the smoke of his muttered enchantments. The chief fault is not his




!l. Unicorns, Page 61

2. Ibid., Page 55

j5. Ibid., Pages 56 and 57



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obscurity (his prose, like the prose in Browning’s

Bordello, is packed with too many meanings), but

that his characters always speak in purest Jacobean.” 1.

"His theme is shown from a variety of angles, but the result is synthetic. Elizabeth Luther Cary has pointed out that he is not a remorseless analyst.

He does not take the mechanism of his marionette apart, but lets us examine it in completeness.” 2.

1 ”it need hardly be added that character problems

j are of more interest to this novelist than the ex-

' ternal qualities of rhetorical sonority, or the

! fascination of glowing surfaces.” 3.


! In short, Huneker says that James is a psychologist as well

|as a novelist and succeeds in spite of surface obscurity in ‘giving us a clear picture of his characters. We trace their jmotives and their muslngs and get a complete idea of the person- ality involved, the interior promptings as well as the front

they present to the world. The characters complicate our prob-


llem of understanding them by talking after the manner of James, !but, says Huneker, ”So do the people in Balzac’s crov/ded, elec- tric world. So the men and women of Dickens and Mei*edith. It

jis the fault — or virtue — of all subjective genius; however, not

ja fault or virtue of Flaubert or Turgenev or Tolstoy.” 4.


Itciualitative Judgment

Huneker says that James’s fiction is for the future. His

neglect in his own time is only ”the penalty which a great art- ist pays for his devotion to his art. There is no need of in-

jdignation in the matter. Time rights such critical wrongs.

Consider the case of Stendhal. The fiction of Henry James is


for the future.” He goes on to tell us:






1 . Unicorns, Page 58 4. Ibid., Page 58

,2. Ibid., Page 65 5. Ibid., Page 53

3. ibid.. Page 57


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"James seceded years ago from the English traditions, from Fielding, Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot.

The Vi/'ings of a Dove , The Ambassadors , The Golden Bowl , are fictions that will influence future novelists. .

. . A marked tendency in the new movements is to throw overboard superfluous technical baggage. The James novel is one of grand simplifications." 1.

"Henry is a law unto himself. His novels may be a precursor of the books our grandchildren v>rill enjoy when the hurly-burly of noisy adventure, cheap histor- ical vapidities and still cheaper drawing-room strut- tings shall have vanished." 2.

Even in their own times, according to Huneker, Henry James

3 .

has been a "subtle breath on the waters of creation." He has influenced Paul Bourget, Edith Wharton, and Joseph Conrad.

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! ,,

His astute senses tell him of a world which we are only beginning to comprehend." 4. "VVhen beading him sympathetically one recalls the saying of Maurice Barres: ’For an accomplished spirit there is but one

dialogue, that between our two egos --the momentary ego that we are and the ideal one toward which we strive.’" .... "Henry Jaiaes will always be a touch- stone for the tasteless." 5.

Summary of Huneker ’ s Evaluation of James

Here again we have the attempt to place a general value upon an artist's work; we have knowledge, sympathy, insight, and evaluation. And the result is luminous, which it probably .would not have been, had the critique been overly devoted to



psychological, metaphysical factors. Huneker was such a vi- jbrantly-strung soul he caught many modulations which would have



-j— - --

H"! Unicorns, Page 54 4. Ibid., Page 64

2. Ibid., Page 57 5. Ibid., Page 66

is. Ibid. , Page 54

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escaped a minor critic. Sometimes these tags of impression were worth nothing; and, if he thought they were, he told you so. Sometimes, however, they proved the ’’open sesame” to the door of 'complete imder standing.

j The point is, that whether these hints were or were not of

value, Huneker was not content with them for his thesis. He [compared them with other impressions; he weighed them in the light of his own vast knowledge and his fellow-feeling for the author and gave them to us, not in any didactic presentation or with any pronouncements as to their unalterable value. Huneker


jwas too wise and tolerant for that. They came as the opinions I of Huneker, the man, and certainly as a human person he was qualified to be the clearing-house for any human values, even though formulae and general ideas did not concern him.

Criticisms of Shaw and James Typical of Huneker * s Evaluations ' These two articles. The <<^uint essence of Shaw and A Note on Henry James, have shown that Huneker covered the objectives



laid down for the humanistic critic in Toward Standards . They are typical Huneker estimates. Any Huneker critique will show, in greater or less degree, the evidence of the possession by the critic of standards of judgment.


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4 ,


•It ' V

Comparison of Baudelaire in Egoists with T. S. Eliot ' s Baude- laire in Our Time

' It may be interesting and purposeful for the object of our study to compare a present-day Humanist’s treatment of a subject with Huneker's of 1909. T. S. Eliot in For Lancelot Andrewes has a short article entitled Baudelaire in Our Time . Huneker jconsidered Baudelaire the greatest French poet of the 19th cen- jtury after Hugo and writes of him in detail in Egoists . For the purpose of easier visualization, we shall arrange the selections from both sources in parallel formation.

Eliot's main theme is that Arthur Symon's translation of

I __

Baudelaire, Baudelaire , Prose and Poetry , makes Baudelaire seem a poet of the '90's like Dowson and Wilde. Eliot says Baude- laire did not belong to the nineties or the romantic era which followed. He belongs to our own day and that of the antecedents of the nineties. He complains of Symon's comments on Baude- laire as being characteristic of the nineties and disputes him on several points; viz., Baudelaire's concern with vice, his religious leanings, his choice of words. Eliot says Baudelaire was a Christian and a classicist, born out of his time, and nearer to us than to Symons.

Huneker's is a more general and longer treatment. It tells of Baudelaire's life, his eccentricities, and his normal- ities. Baudelaire's work is appraised in its entirety includ- ing his critical efforts and the Poems in Prose . Huneker gives us his usual well-rounded conception of Baudelaire.

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Parallels in the Two Essa^z-s

The parallels in both follow and speak for themselves: i Modernism of Baudelaire

j Eliot: The translation would be good if our point of view were that of thirty years ago. Symons makes him a poet of the nineties like Dowson and Wilde. Baudelaire is great enough to appear in such different form to the nineties and the 1920' s. He belonged to the generation preceding the nineties and yet he is much more our contemporary than they are. Even the nineties are nearer to us than the interven- ing generation of Shaw, Wells, Lytton Strachey. Baudelaire

1 .

had nothing to do with the intervening generation.

Huneker: ”He was the last of the Romanticists; Sainte-

Beuve called him the Jiamtachatka of Romanticism; its remotest hyperborean peak. Romanticism is dead today, as dead as Naturalism, but Baudelaire is alive and is i read.” .... "Heine called himself the last of the Ro- mantics. The first of the moderns and the last of the Ro- mantics was the many-sided Charles Baudelaire.” 2.

Baudelaire ' s Attitude Toward Vice

Eliot says Symons shows the typical attitude toward vice of the generation to which he belonged. He finds it's al- most a matter of ritual in Baudelaire. The present gene- I! ration does not find it so. Huneker says of Baudelaire ' s j vicious gatherings that they were probably much less wicked! than the participants would have us believe.


' I

Eliot believes that Baudelaire was not a dupe to passions !|

but the opposite. Eliot says Baudelaire was trying to ex- |


plain or justify them, which puts him on a level with Dante.

|1. For Lancelot Andrewes, Page 91 4. Egoists, Page 83

i2. Egoists, Page 75 5. For Lancelot Andrewes,

3. For Lancelot imdrewes. Page 93 Page 95



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Huneker: "a lover of Gallic Byronisra and high-priest of

the Satanic school, there was no extravagance, absurd or terrible, that he did not commit, from etching a four-part fugue on ice to skating hymns in honor of Lu- cifer.” 1 "In the heyday of his blood he was per-

verse and deliberate. Let us credit him with contradicting the Byronic notion that ennui could best be cured by dissi- pation; in sin Baudelaire found the saddest of all tasks."

2 "He proved all things and found them vanity." 3.

.... "Vifhat the majority of mankind does not know con- cerning the habits of literary worxers is this prime fact: men who work hard, writing verse--and there is no mental toil comparable to it--cannot drink, or indulge in opium, without the inevitable collapse. The old-fashioned ideas of "inspiration," spontaneity, easy improvisation, the sud- den bolt from heaven, are delusions still hugged by the world. To be told that Chopin filed at his music for years, that Beethoven in his smithy forged his thunderbolts, that Manet toiled like a labourer on the dock, that Baudelaire was a mechanic in his devotion to poetic work, that Gautier was a hard-v/orking journalist, is a disillusion for the sentimental. Minerva springing full-fledged from Jupiter’s skull to the desk of the poet is a pretty fancy; but Balzac and Flaubert did not encourage this fancy. Work literally killed Poe, as it killed Jules de Goncourt, Flaubert, and Daudet . Maupassant went insane because he would work and he would play the same day, Baudelaire worked and worried. His debts haunted him his life long. His constitution was flawed — Sainte-Beuve told him that he had worn out his nerves--from the start, he was detraque; but that nis en- tire life was one huge debauch is a nightmare of the moral police in some white-cotton-night-cap country." 4.

Lucidity of Baudelaire

Eliot affirms that Baudelaire was not hysterical but lu-



Huneker; '"in Bayard Taylor’s The Echo Club we find on Page 24 this criticism: ’There was a congenital tv/ist about Poe. . . . Baudelaire and Swinburne after him have been trying to surpass him by increasing the dose; but his muse is the natural Pythia, inheriting her convulsions, while they eat all sorts of insane roots to produce theirs.’ This must have been written about 1872, and after reading it one would fancy Poe and Baudelaire were rhapsodic wrig- glers on the poetic tripod, whereas their poetry is often reserved, even glacial, Baudelaire, like Poe, sometimes built his nests with the 'birds of night,' and that was enough to condemn the work of both men with critics of the

■ — — - ■ ^

1. Egoists, Page 87 4. Ibid., Page 94

2. Ibid., Page 93 5, For Lancelot Andrewes, Page

i3. Ibid., Page 75 95

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didactic school.” 1.

And again, "Baudelaire is a masculine poet. He carved rather than sang; the plastic arts spoke to his soul. A lover and maker of images. Like Poe, his emotions transformed themselves into ideas. Bourget classified him as a mystic, a libertine, and an analyst. "2.

"Heredity and Nerves " in Baudelaire

Eliot tells us that Symons says that Baudelaire's impec- cable work was the result of "heredity and nerves . " Eliot


goes on to say that any work, if it is the result of hered-| ity and nerves, is not impeccable. [This sounds like quib- bling || V'lfe cannot be interested in any writer's heredity and nerves except to see how that distorts his objective

truth. If a writer sees truly, then his heredity and

3 .

nerves do not matter. j


Huneker, on the other hand, indicates that there was an af- fection of the nervous entity;

‘'r>y his first marriage the elder Baudelaire had one son, j Claude, who, like his half-brother, Charles, died of paral- ysis, though a steady man of business. That great neuro- sis, called Commerce, has its mental wrecks, too, but no one pays attention; only when the poet falls by the wayside is the chase begun bv neurologists and other soul-hunters seeking for victims." 4.

"He [BaudelaireJ never reached peace on his heights. Let us admit that souls of his kind are encased in sick frames, their steel is too shrewd for the scabbard; yet the enigma for us is none the less fathomable. Existence for such natures is sort of a muffled delirium. To affiliate him with Poe, De '<iuincey, Hoffmann, James Thomson, Coleridge, : and the rest of the sombre choir does not explain him; he is, perhaps, nearer Donne and Villon than any of the others --strains of the metaphysical and sinister are to be dis- covered in him." 5.

"Being of a perverse nature, his nerves ruined by abuse of drink and drugs, the landscapes of his imagination or those

1. Egoists, Page 72 4. Egoists, Page 91

2. Ibid., Page 97 5. Ibid., Page 79

3. For Lancelot Andrewes, Page 96

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by his friend, Rousseau, were more beautiful than Nature herself." 1.

Sin Cult in Baudelaire

Eliot says that there was no religion of sin with which


Baudelaire was concerned,

Huneker would probably be the first to deny that there is

ever a religion of sin; yet he seems to suggest that many

of Baudelaire’s antics were the result of a cult for the

outre^ and outlandish:

"For the sentimental no greater foe exists than the icono- clast who dissipates literary legends. And he is abroad nowadays • "

Legends about Poe’s drinking, De ^-^uincey’s opium- taking,

Charles Lamb’s gin-taking, Gautier’s red vest at the premi- ere of Hernani, and about Rousseau have been exploded but

those about Baudelaire seem indestructible. He says that


Baudelaire was partly to blame for the legends.

1 "in the history of literature, it is difficult to parallel

1 such a deliberate oiece of self -stultification, " 4

j "a dispassionate life of Baudelaire, however, has yet to be

i written, a noble task for some young poet who will disen-

1 tangle the conflicting lies originated by Baudelaire — that

tragic comedian- -from the truth and thus save him from him- self." 5.

"as long ago as 1869 and in our ’barbarous gas-lit country,' as Baudelaire named the land of Poe, an unsigned review ap- 1 peared in which this poet was described as ’unique and in-

teresting as Hamlet. He is that rare and unknown being, a

j genuine poet--a poet in the midst of things that have dis-

1 ordered his spirit--a poet excessively developed in his

I taste for and by beauty. . . . very responsive to the ideal

very greedy of sensation. ’ A better description of Baude- laire does not exist. The Hamlet-motive is one that sound- ed throughout the disordered symphony of the poet’s life. "6



1. Egoists, Page 96 4. ibid.. Page 67

2. For Lancelot Andrewes, 5. Ibid., Page 68

1 Page 97 6. Ibid., Page 73

|5. Egoists, Page 66




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"Poe was half -charlatan as was Baudelaire. In both the sublime and sickly were never far asunder. The pair loved to mystify, to play pranks on their contemporaries.” 1..

Baudelaire * s Style

Eliot says that what Baudelaire means to Symon’s generation is not what he means to ours. We can better appreciate the traditional character of Baudelaire’s verse; we are nearer to Kacine than is Mr. Symons. Kesemblances to Racine are lost in Symon’s translation. 'We should bring those points out today. Symons strives for nice phrasing, Swinburne- colored expressions. Baudelaire was not a disciple of

2 .

Swinburne. He chose words for their intrinsic meaning

Huneker does not trace out the Racine similarity but has

this to say regarding Baudelaire’s choice of words:

"Mr. Saintsbury, after Mr. Swinburne, the warmest advocate of Baudelaire among the English, thinks that the French poet in his picture criticism observed too little and imag- ined too much. ’In other words,’ he adds, ’to read a crit- icism of Baudelaire’s without the title affixed is by no means a sure method of recognizing the picture afterward. ’

3 We do not agree with Mr. Saintsbury. No one can

imagine too mcuh when the imagination is that of a poet. Baudelaire divined the work of the artist and set it down scrupulously in prose of rectitude. He did not paint pic- tures in prose. He did not divagate. He did not over- burden his pages with technical terms. But the spirit he did disengage in a few swift phrases.” 4.

Baudelaire ’ s Christianity

Eliot: Baudelaire was a Christian, born out of his time and a classicist born out of his time. Baudelaire was not an aesthetic or a political Christian; his tendency toward ritual comes from the instincts of a soul naturally Chris- tian and born when he was he had to discover Christianity

L. Egoists. Page 73 3. Egoists, Page 84

3. For Lancelot Andrewes , Page 4. Ibid., Page 85 98


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for himself. Charles Du Bos says Baudelaire was a natural

Christian and like Flaubert, who said, “l am a mystic at

1 .

the bottom and 1 believe in nothing."

Huneker: "His [Baudelaire ' sj sensibility was both catholic

and morbid, though he could be frigid in the face of the most disconcerting misfortunes. He was a man for whom the visible world existed; if Gautier was pagan, Baudelaire was a strayed spirit from medieval days. The spirit ruled and, as Paul Bourget said, ’he saw God. ’ A Manichean in his worship of evil, he nevertheless abased his soul: 'Oh! Lord God! give me the force and courage to contemplate my heart and body without disgust,’ he prays. But as someone remarked of Rouchefoucauld, 'Where you end, Christianity begins.’" 2,

Evidently Huneker was not too greatly impressed by Baude- laire’s piety. Yet he does believe that Baudelaire was sincerely religious:


tl '

How childish yet how touching is his r esolution--he wrote I in his diary of prayer’s dynamic force when he was penni- j less, in debt, threatened with imprisonment, sick, nause- I ated with sin: ’To make every morning my prayer to God, ' the reservoir of all force, and all justice; to my father, j to Mariette, and to Poe, as intercessors.’" 3. '

"He ^BaudelaireJ was a humanist of distinction; he has left a hymn to Saint Francis in the Latin of the decadence." 4.

Baudelaire ’ s Humility !

Eliot: "And Baudelaire came to attain the greatest, the

most difficult of the Christian virtues, the virtue of humility," 5.

Huneker: "Recall Baudelaire’s prayer: ’Thou, 0 Lord, my

God, grant me the grace to produce some fine lines which will prove to myself that I am not the least of men, that I am not inferior to those I condemn.’" 6.




1 .


Resiarding Poems in Prose: "Pity is their keynote, a ten- derness for the abject and lowly, a revelation of sensibi- lity that surprised those critics who had discerned in Baudelaire only a sculptor of evil." .... "But in the tiny landscapes of the Prose Poems tnere is nothing rigid

For Lancelot Andrewes, Page 104

Egoists, Page 78 Ibid., Page 77

4. Ibid. , Page 95

5. For Lancelot Andrewes, Page 105

6. Egoists, Page 98


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or artificial. Indeed the poet’s deliberate attitude of artificiality is dropped. He is human. Not that the deep fundamental note of humanity is ever absent in his poems;

1 the eternal diapason is there even when least overheard,” 1



Summary of Likenesses and Differences in the Two Essa 7 /-s

From these parallel quotations we see that Huneker and

Eliot are largely in accord regarding the characteristics and i

merits of Baudelaire. Evidently Huneker does not believe that

Baudelaire was so naive or so purposeful in regard to his life

of sinful sensation as does Eliot, but Huneker is careful to



make it plain that much of Baudelaire’s devotion to the flowers

of evil was due to his charlatanism and much to his desire to

try everything, Huneker would be the last man to condemn Baude- laire for these commissions from the standpoint of a narrow,


'1890 view of morality as Eliot insists Symons has done.


1 Huneker believed that Baudelaire was the victim of a hered-


jity which would lead to a condition of hysteria and nerves. I


jcan’t believe that he v/ould maintain that all Baudelaire’s writ- ing was a result of this condition but that it had its effect I

think he could not help but point out. He quotes Baudelaire as

writing in 1862: ”l have cultivated my hysteria with joy and


terror. Today imbecility’s wing fanned me as it passed,”

iBaudelaire also wrote in his journal: ”My ancestors, idiots or


.maniacs . . , all victims of terrible passions.” This,


Huneker says, was one of Baudelaire’s exaggerations but he also

says ,

"Charles believed himself lost from the time his half- brother was stricken. He also believed that his instability


1. Egoists, Page 99

2. Ibid., Page 77

3. Ibid., Page 92


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of temperament --and he studied his ’case’ as would a sur- geon-“was the result of his parents’ disparity in years.” 1

Huneker shows us that there was a morbid strain in Baudelaire of

which his disdain for his mother because she had married again

and his hatred of his step-father as a result, were indications,

even though he tells us that the mother admitted she did neglect


Baudelaire upon her second marriage.

Upon the bigger points that Baudelaire was religious and

humble, a writer of lucid words, a classicist, we find Huneker

and Eliot in agreement. We see this not only in the quotations

cited but from a consideration of the two articles as a v/hole.

They are surprisingly of a spirit, considering the space of time

between the authors and their supposedly divergent viewpoints.

Additional Points in Huneker ’ s Essay on Baudelaire

Huneker ’s article, as has been pointed out, is fuller than

Eliot’s and the parts which have not been quoted are in the same

vein--shall we call it ’humanistic’? Huneker deals with the

conceded influence of Poe upon Baudelaire and shows that "Poe

did not have overwhelming influence upon the formation of Baude-


laire’s poetic genius,” contrary to the usual belief. Hunekei

says that Baudelaire’s prose, particularly Mon Coeur Mis A Nu,

was affected, but that the ”bulk of poetry in Les Fleurs du Mai

was v/ritten before Baudelaire read Poe, though they were not


published until 1857 in book form.” Baudelaire wrote in a

letter to Thore: They accuse even me of imitating Edgar Poe.

... Do you know why I so patiently translated Poe? Because

1. Egoists, Page 92

2. Ibid., Page 72

3. Ibid., Page 72

.T » '

• » ^ r » -1 • . V-




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1 .

he resembled me.

Huneker points out the contrasts and similarities in Poe and Baudelaire, in their lives and poetry. He also says that Baudelaire’s translation of Poe is better than the original.

VVe are informed by Huneker that Baudelaire for a time succumbed to Rousseau’s idea of "liberty,” became, as Huneker puts it, "a Rousseau reactionary," though for personal reasons and not for

i 2.

"the eternal principles of Liberty."

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jicism of Baudelaire, particularly for his arraignraent of Baude- | ilaire’s reprehensible taste and his having introduced Poe as a great man to the French nation. Vtfe fancy that these are just


the things to which Eliot would object in James's criticism.

Regarding Baudelaire’s critical ability, Hiineker says i things which show Baudelaire to be a modern and one with lean-


lings toward Humanism, even though Huneker says he was an im- !


jpressionist : Baudelaire was not only a poet, ’the most original



of the century, ’ but also a critic of the first rank, one who welcomed Richard Wagner when Paris hooted him and his fellow composer. Hector Berlioz, played the role of the en- vious; one who fought for Edouard Manet, Leconte de Lisle, Gustave Flaubert, Eugene Delacroix; fought with pen for the modern etchers, illustrators, Meryon, Daumier, Felicien Rops , Gavarni, and Constantin Guys. He literally identi- fied himself with de (^uincey and Poe, translating them so wonderfully well that some unpatriotic critics like the French better than the original." .... "a ’icy ecstasy’ i is profound and harmonic, wnose criticism is penetrated by a catholic quality, who anticipated modern critics in his abhorrence of schools and environments, preferring to isolate the man and study him uniquely." 4.

"The polemics of historical schools were a cross for him to

L. Egoists, Page 89

2. Ibid., Page 76



3. Ibid., Page 80

4. Ibid., Page 81



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bear, and he bore all his learning lightly. Like a true critic he judged by form than theme. There are no types; there is only life, he had cried before Jules LaPorgue.

He was ever art-for-art, yet, having breadth of compre- hension and a Heine-like capacity for seeing both sides of his own nature and its idiosyncrasies, he could write: 'The puerile Utopia of the school of art for art, in ex- cluding morality, and often even passion, was necessarily sterile. All literature which refuses to advance frater- nally between science and philosophy is a homicidal and a suicidal literature.'” 1.

j ”Baudelaire, then, was no less sound a critic of the

plastic arts than of music and literature. Like his friend Flaubert, he had a horror of democracy, of the democrati- sation of the arts, of all the sentimental fuss and fuddle of a pseudo-huiaanitarianism. ” 2.

Huneker says that Baudelaire's influence in the main has ibeen baneful to impressionable artists in embryo' in producing

much artificial and morbid writing. ”ln his criticism alone was


he the sane, logical Frenchman.”

These latter portions of the essay, the phases of Baude- laire not treated by T. S. Eliot in For Lancelot Andrewes , have


been cited not only for their pertinence to the discussion of j Baudelaire but because they give us interesting sidelights on dluneker's viewpoint on criticism. Almost all the statements concerning Baudelaire's critical ability would apply to Huneker as we shall see in the next chapter.




Egoists, Page 81

2. Ibid., Page 85 ,3. Ibid., Page 87


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i Humanistlc and Anti -humanistic Ideas in Huneker * s Work

So far, we have considered tv/o critiques of Huneker as ex- amples of the humanistic attitude in criticism and another for the purpose of comparison of it with a critique by a present-day| jHumanist. Now let us examine Huneker ’s work as a whole for ex- amples of humanistic ideas or principles. 'We must bear in mind that in Huneker 's day there was no talk of Humanism as a current] 'literary idea. There was the old Humanism of the Renaissance, from which the new derives, and there was always the classical influence. There were Humanists of distinction then, standing

I for what are the fundamental principles of the Eiovement today but there was no conscious labeling of certain ideas or consid- erations as humanistic.

j The ’’technical terms" of the movement, if they could ‘be so-

-called, are largely the outcome of the philosophical studies of ! Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, and the modern Humanists. In


lour application of them to the writings of Huneker we must be

I conscious that the term and its application may not always co-

jincide throughout. The comparison will be a matter of idea,


I rather than of geometrical exactitude.

j We shall list some of the stock ideas of the present-day

Humanism and under them place what we find in Huneker 's work to bear them out or to contradict them.

To get the other side of the picture we shall examine Huneker 's essays for traces of Romanticism as examples of anti- humanistic ideas and show wherein Huneker was or was not

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Romantic .

! The humanistic and the Romantic data so gained will be ex-


'amined tov/ard the determining of Huneker’s critical qualities.

•Humanistic Ideas


! Interest in the Classics !

I In his vast scholarship Huneker naturally included the

classics. They were standards of excellence to him as the fol-

lowing excerpt shows:

’’aII Christianity is in the Imitation of Christ , and the quintessence of secular wisdom may be found in Montaigne.

No better gymnastic for the spirit is there than Plato, anc. woe to him that reads not the Bible --not alone for the style or the ’quotations' but for the sake of his miserable' soul. The classics, Greek and Latin, are what Bach and Beethoven are to musicians.** 1.

(Still, Huneker did not believe that the classics were dead and

fixed forms to which the literature of the present or of the


future should conform. He was fond of quoting Stendlial regard-


i ing the classics:

"Henry Beyle -Stendhal wrote in his witty, malicious manner I that 'Romanticism is the art of presenting to the people

j literary works which in the actual state of their habi-

I tudes and beliefs are capable of giving the greatest pos-

i sible pleasure; Classicism, on the contrary, is the art of

i presenting literature wnich gave the greatest possible

' pleasure to their great-grandfathers.' But Poe and Chopin

remain invincibly Romantic, yet are Classics." 2.

j Undoubtedly there were Greeks who complained that Euripi-


j des did not conform to the standard requirements for thought anc action in the drama; yet today Euripides is classic. Many a classic, as Huneker maintains, is a dead romantic. Many of our

romantic corpses may be some day embalmed in classic mausoleums.

1. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 128

2. Bedouins, Page 128

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1 - - . —


iSeeins Life Sanely and Seeing It Whole







j If anything human was interesting to Huneker, he was not

deceived by the aberrational bias of any one human being. It is


a point for commendation with him when an author sees life

steadily and sees it whole.

1 "As to the Puritanism of our present novels one may dare to

say in the teeth of youthful protestants that it is non- 1 existent. The pendulxim has swung too far the other way.'* 1


1 "So, merely as a suggestion to ambitious youngsters, let

' the novelist of the future in search of a novelty describe

a happy marriage, children, a husband who doesn't drink or gamble, a wife who votes, yet loves her home, her family, and Knows how to cook. .i/hat a realistic bombshell he would hurl into the camp of sentimental socialists and them that believe a wedding certificate is like Balzac's i La Peau de Chagrin — a document daily shrinking in happi-

j ness." 2.

1 '*Paul Verlaine has told us that 'j'ai vecu enormement,'

j though his living enormously did not prove that he was

1 happy. Far from it. but he had at least the courage to

relate his terrors. American novelists may agree with Dostoievsky that 'everything in the world always ends in meanness'; or with Doctor Pangloss that all is for the best in the best of possible worlds. An affair of temper- ament.. But don't mix the values. Don't confuse intel- lectual substances. Don't smear a fact with treacle and call it truth." 3.

"For them kr. Howells is a superannuated writer. Would there were more like him in continence of speech, whole- someness of judgment, nobility of ideals, and in the shrewd perception of character." 4.

Himeker is here speaking of the ordinary fiction writers of

that day.

"Let us pray that during the ensuing year no rust shall colour our soul into a dingy red. Let us pray for the living that they may be loosed from their politics and see

1 life steadily and whole." 5.

The gift of a proportional viewpoint was Huneker's. He

1. Unicorns, Page 86 4. ibid., Page 91

2. Ibid., Page 87 5. Ibid., Page 357

3. Ibid., Page 88



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i saw both sides of a question:

j “No, I simply hit the eternal triangle johnnies a wallop.

I /idultery has been done to death. It’s worse than uplift.

! I don’t change my spots over night. In the concrete adul-

I tery is the same old teasing device, pruritus and forever.

But the bores who write such stupid English always are moral; always pleasant." 1

Here Huneker is writing to H. h. Mencken on July 18, 1916.

With all his interest in exceptional individualities, he could write;

"Supermen, superrogues, sentimental humbugs, are done to the death, yet not a word of praise is given the garden variety of the human plant. Like the 'average sensual man’ and ’the man in the street' he is taken for granted. Mediocrity is the backbone of our country. The man in the street whose collective opinion, whose vote rules, whose fighting spirit protects us, isn't this chap, this 'fellowe and his wife,’ worth studying? A majority of ’exalted' souls would transform America into a howling wilderness. The word ’mediocrity’ has become debased in meaning. It formerly stood for the happy equilibrium of our mental and physical forces. The golden mediocrity of the Latin poet. To its possessor it spelled content, and, as long as the wolf was kept from the door, content- ment reigned. That is the precise word — contentment not happiness, which is too ecstatic to last without burning up nerve-tissue or without insanity supervening. To be contented was once a gift of the gods; nowadays it means that you are commonplace, without social ambitions, itnd this is not well.

I "Notwithstanding that we are a nation of one hundred

million humans (mostly busybodies and politicians, as Carlyle would say> we are each in his own. fashion en- deavouring to escape the imputation of mediocrity. In vain. Number is mediocrity. We think to order, we vote as we are bidden, and wear the clothes we are or- i dered to wear by destroyers of taste. Why then this mad

! desire to be exceptional, whence this cowardice that

i shudders before genuine art, and espouses the mediocre

j because it is more soothing to fat nerves? Let us hear

! the truth. It is because, happily for us, mediocrity

I is the normal condition of mankind, and genius is not." 2

I Huneker adinired decorum, discrimination, the "inner check."


'l. Letters, Page 218

|2. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 8

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  • 'We prefer the austerer Ibsen, who presents his men and

women within the frame of the drama, absolutely without personal comment or parti pris--as before his decadence did Tolstoy in his novels. Ibsen is the type of the philosophical anarch, the believer in man’s individual- ity in the state for the individual, not the individual for the state. It is at least more dignified than the other’s flood of confessions, of hysterical self -accusa- tions, of penitential vov/s and abundant lack of restraint." 1 .


Huneker had a true Humanist’s dislike for humanitarianism:

"I loathe sloppy humanitarianism and prefer an army of Nietzsches to a slobbering altruist." 2.

I In an article, The Lesson of the Master , which concerns

the letters of Henry James, Huneker says:

"The veiled hypocrisy that permits us to swallow the vul- ^ gar enormities of Zola because of his humbug 'humanitari- anism, ’ draws a taut line about the finished art of Hour- j get, who even if he is frank is always the moralist, not .

a preacher but a moralist ^ose morals are implicit." 3. j

The direct evidences of Huneker ’s antipathy to humanitari- anism could be multiplied many times as they are quite common

throughout his work, i

Hostility to the Reforming Tendency


1 Huneker was distinctly not a reformer nor did he have any

!use for the tribe.


"Let us pray that we may not take it on ourselves to feel holier than our neighbors. Let us pray that we be not cursed with the itching desire to reform our fellows, for the way of the reformer is hard, and he always gets what he deserves: the contempt of his fellow men. He is usu- ally a hypocrite." 4.

"All fanatics are alike. The truth is seldom their aim. They become propagandists no matter the silliness, in- utility, or the positive evil of their cause." 5.


ivory. Apes and Peacocks


Unicorns, Page 357


Page 81


Steeple.iack, Volume 1,




Letters, Page 225

Bookman, May 1920, Volume 51, Page 364

page 27













Here Huneker is speaking of the fact that one of his grandfath- ers was a temperance advocate, a reformer. Again,

"But the busy little lawyers, the grave and learned judges, the pestiferous politicians with their incessant clamour- ings , their raising of false, stupid, dangerous issues-- where are they all? Not a book, not a picture, not a melo- dy did they bequeath to us, and so they are irretrievably dead. (This is extremely hard on those humbugs, the re- formers.)" 1.

Lack of Acquisitive Instinct


Huneker ’s life, with its constant lack of money, is a long testimony to that inability to hoard money which he often la- ments in his pages. Tov/ard the end of his life we find him

writing that he is going out for all the money in sight but one

questions his ability to stick to the resolve or profit by it

2 .

if it should become a reality.

"But in 1875 it was different. I heard the call of music and obeyed it, and have regretted doing so ever since-- that is, when I look at my bankbook." 3,

"l didn't get salary till 1888, as my father often re- marked, my specialty was working for other people at re- duced rates.^’ 4,

"Further to muddle my affairs was a disinclination to make money. My father often declared that if I saw a ten-dollai bill coming to greet me I would run away. I have changed since then. I like money, vVho doesn't? I spend it, be- lieving that it's bad luck to save. But to pass our inter- val between two eternities raking in gold is simply absurd to me. I have always worked for leisure to waste time. I know of some families, not bohemian in their habits, who are never more than a few dollars ahead during their life- time. I am in that class, living from day to day in the industry of my pen. It seems ridiculous, and it is peri- lous. ... It is time, not money, that is the true treas- ure of life." 5.

Anti -philistinism

Nobody could be less the philistine than Huneker:

1. Steeplejack, Vol. 1, Page 3. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page

135 154

2. Letters in American Mercury 4. ibid.. Volume 2, Page 18 Jan. 1924, Vol 1., Page 22 5. Ibid., Volume 1, Page 202

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j ”1 am not a sport. In my veins flows sporting blood, but

1 only in the Darv/inian sense am I a ’sport,' a deviation

! from the normal history of my family, which has always been

devoted to athletic pleasures. A baseball match in which j carnage ensues is a mild diversion for me. I can’t under-

stand the fury of the contest. I yawn, though the fren- zied enthusiasm of the spectators interests me. I have fallen asleep over a cricket match at Lord's in London, and the biggest bore of all was a Sunday afternoon bull -fight in Madrid. It was such a waste of potential beefsteaks. Prize-fights disgust, shell races are puerile, football matches smack of obituaries. As for golf--that is a pre- lude to senility, or the antechamber to an undertaker’s establishment." 1.

"Oh! America I Happy hunting-ground for humbug, hysteria, and hypocrisy." 2.

, "Consider the new-rich. VVhat a study they afford the stu-

1 dents of manners. A new generation has arisen. Its taste,

1 intelligence, and culture; its canned manners, canned mu-

! sic--pref erably pseudo-Af rican-~canned art, canned food,

canned literature; its devotion to the mediocre--what a field for our aspiring young 'secretaries to society.’" 3.

"Talk about the 'dignity of labour’ to workingmen and watch their incredulous sneers. Dignity be hanged! they used to say to me at the dinner-hour; it’s the grinding misery of ! long hours--ten hours in those times — the poor pay and the

risks of the job, and after my short experience I heartily agree with their views, and I’m neither a socialist nor an anarchist much less a sentimental agitator, parlour rebel, nor amateur busybody fomenting trouble among the proleta- riat--to whom the world will presently belong, the bour- geois having had his fling since Napoleon I." 4.

Of George Moore's saying that Americans’ writing was more


jinteresting than Englishmen’s, not so stodgy:

"Mr. Moore doesn’t know that over here we smoke the opium of optimism." 5.

"We pretend that we are not mediocre--ii.h ! Bovarysme ines- capable--yet we proudly point to our national prosperity."


lAntioathy to Dogma


1 Huneker was surely not concerned with dogmas or creeds.






1. Unicorns, Page 340 4. Steeplejack, Vol. 1, P. 109

2. Steeplejack, Vol. 1, P. 98 5, Ibid., Volume 2, Page 231

13. Unicorns, Page 90 6. Ibid., Volume 1, Page 9





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His very eclecticism is an evidence of no formal adherence to a system of thoughts and ideas. He found the true, the good, and I the beautiful in many philosophies and many religions. Outright


’and by implication, he tells us many times the truth contained in the following quotation from his letters:


I ”I loathe movements--artistic , political, literary, reli-

gious--all propaganda," 1.

In a letter to Ivrnie. Emily Barili, dated March 23, 1919,



jHuneker says:


I ... also glad to hear . . . that Alfredo is still an

1 idealist in art. Bully I It doesn’t pay, dear friend, but

I the spiritual satisfaction is better than dollars and

I cents." 2.

  • There are many other indications in Huneker, as examples already

quoted will attest, that he had idealism, delicacy, elevation, and distinction. He also possessed the Christian virtues of awe, reverence, and humility.


And the greatest of these in Huneker 's make-up was humili- ty, A consideration of Huneker 's work fills us with admiration or despair at the lowliness of his self-esteem over his unusual attainments .

Mr. Robert Cortes Holliday in Our Steeple.jack of the Seven Arts in his Turns About Town tells us the following two stories. At the time of the first, Mr. Holliday was a clerk in the retail department of Scribner’s, Huneker ’s publishers. The famous critic, vV. C. Brownell, was an editorial adviser for Scribner’s for many years .

1, Letters, Page 209

2. Ibid., Page 274



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1 i



<• ■


"He OiunekerJ was, I distinctly remember, held decidedly in regard by the retail staff because he was (what, by a long shot, a good many ’authors’ were not) exceedingly af- fable in manner to us clerks.

"The moment I have particularly in mind was when Samuel } Butler’s The Way of All Flesh first appeared in an Ameri- can edition, V\fe all know all about Butler now. But, look- ing back, it certainly is astonishing how innocent most all of us then were of any knowledge of the great author of I Erewhon . Even so searching a student as Vi^. C. Brownell was

practically unacquainted with Butler. He was taking home a copy of The Way of All Flesh to read. Mr. Huneker was standing by. In some comment on the book he remarked that Butler had been a painter. ’A painter 1’ exclaimed Mr. Brownell, in a manner as though wondering how it came about he knew so little of the man. ’But this,’ said Mr. Hunekei} j referring to the novel, ’is not his best stuff. That is in

his note-books.’ Brownell: ’And where are they?’ Huneker: ’In the British Museum.’ Mr. Brownell made a fluttering gesture (as thougli to express that he ’gave up’) toward Mr, Huneker. 'He knows everything!' ne ejaculated." 1.

Mr. Holliday also tells us that when Hew Cosmopolis was

published, at a time when Huneker’ s fame was already secure,

Joyce Kilmer reviewed it very enthusiastically in the New York

!Times. Huneker went to the trouble of hunting up Kilmer to

2 .

jthank him very simply for his appreciation.



I , In a letter of December 30, 1917 to Theodore Presser,

iuneker begs off from being the guest of honor at a dinner. He

wants no such acclaim or fuss:

"I’m iimaensely flattered and pleased by the idea of a din- ner, but I can't conscientiously accept, because I never go to dinners public or semi-public. I never make speeches, because I can’t (though I can, when pressed, converse flu- ently with a barman); and so, Theodore, let the projected function--too much honor, by the way, for a poor music-re- porter--modulate into a quiet luncheon, a partie carre con- sisting of Mrs. Presser, Mr. Presser, Mr. Cooke and

Yours as ever

Jim Huneker" 3.

L. Turns About Town by Robert Cortes Holliday, Page 185

2. Ibid., Page 189

3. Letters, Page 238


In a letter to H. L. Mencken, dated /lugust 1, 1916, Hune-

ker is telling why he limited his consideration of Conrad in

Ivory Apes and Peacocks to two phases and says:

’’You are right, that ’Ivory' &:c . essay is solemn and pe- destrian and slurous.'* 1.

i Regarding Mencken’s article on him in Prefaces, he writes,

|on October 18, 1917,

'’as for the James Huneker it is despairingly exaggerated-- why, warum, pourquoi, perche? A newspaper man in a hell of a hurry writing journalese is not to be dumped into the seats of the mighty so easily." 2,

j The following is found in a letter to E. E. Ziegler of

February 17, 1905:

"Rather than have you change your style --if such a thing were possible--! would lose your friendship. As it is your copy this week is to chortle over. Ripping good 1

Don’t write with grave pauses, profound smirks and all the pompous, silly, amatory mean little reservations, attenu- ! ations, periphrases and involutions of your contemporaries.

1 Par better an honest staccato phrase than a wilderness of

1 sostenutos. And now I have done trying to play the school-

1 master--a sad role for me to essay. I hope you are not of-

1 fended." 3.


1 At the end of Steeplejack he says:

1 •

1 "And now it is time to ring down the final curtain on the

show. I might go on tapping new levels of energy, to use the striking phrase of William James, but to what purpose I Life is like an onion. You may peel off layer after layer until you reach the core--and then there is nothing. So could I skin my little symphony, in which there has been i ■ more dissonance than harmony, and enumerate my leading-

' motives; my mediocrity; my resigned attitude as a contem-

porary; my steeple jackism--! am still an impenitent steeple-

i jack and hope to die with my boots on; my disgust with

! Barmecide banquets; my vanity, selfishness, and egotism;

i my mannerisms, limitations; my many sins of omission and

! commission, including my regrets for girls unkissed, my

' garrulity, discursiveness, and vice of allusiveness; the

! list might be made much longer, only you must be v/eary of





1. Letters, Page 219

2. ibid.. Page 232

3. Ibid., Page 34

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the personal pronoun stitched in the palimpsest of my ad- venture. The truth is seldom amusing, and my velleities too often graze the fantastic.” 1.

Sometimes the humility is almost self-abasement:

"it is not, my dear Mr. Brownell, that I wish our estimates to accord--that would indeed be presumptuous on my part. .

. . I hope 1 don’t bother you with this chatter. You are one of the elect, mon cher maitre. I owe much to you.” 2,

Perhaps the following better illustrates the innate modesty Df Euneker than anything else. He is speaking regarding the phase of his work on which all authorities are agreed, his in- troduction of new men, the extension of the art horizon of Amer- ica ,

”l have no grievances. I am what i made myself, therefore, I blame myself for my shortcomings, as I loathe the brand of any particular school or movement in art, so I detest the fellow who lays the blame of his troubles on some one else--usually his wife. Friends have praised me, but I don’t deserve that praise. I never aimed at anything and if I anticipated others in ’discovering’ — presumptuous word — certain of the new men in Europe and America, it was because of my critical curiosity; also because a nev/spaper man has a scent for news.” 3.

Again, regarding his autobiography, Steeple.jack , in a let- ter to Alden March, May 28, 1918, he says:

”l have preferred to give the series a strong autobiograph- ical coloring at the beginning; thereafter men and events v/ill rule, connected by a slender thread of autobiography. The personal pronoun is personally abhorrent to me, but it is inescapable.” 4.

In another letter, dated July 28, 1918, to ivime. Frida Ash- forth we find the following:

"it [steeplejack] has to be garrulous and egotistic else it wouldn’t be autobiographical." 5.

Such depreciation of self, if extended, can become a vice.

L. Steeplejack, Vol. 2, P. 306 4. Letters, Page 253

c. Scribner's Magazine, May 5. ibid.. Page 261

1922, Vol. 72, Page 306 I. Steeplejack, Vol. 2, P'. 204

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Huneker’s attitude toward Henry Cabot Lodge, as shown in his letters to Mr, Lodge and in the article on Theodore Roosevelt in


Steeple.jack , sniacks slightly of servility, at least to one who

Relieves him the superior of both, on most points.

absence of '*The Demon of the iibsolute'*

In the light of Huneker's protestations of his adherence to

no particular school, of his catholicity of view-point, and of

his great eclecticism in regard to artistic principles, we should

not expect him to be dominated by any one theory or idea. One

of his critical virtues is that he never has an axe to grind.

"Now, I realize that while life is too vast to be compressed into any single formula, whether religious, philosophical, or artistic, universal wisdom has been distilled into cer- tain books . ’ 1 .

’’The idea of a great iimerican novel is an 'absolute,’ and nature abhors an absolute, despite the belief of some meta- physicians to the contrary." 2.

Huneker would have held that his possession of what he called "general ideas" would have acted against his arriving at a.n unbiased estimate of an author; that he would have constantly been seeking to find in the work of art a justification of his beliefs or a contradiction of them. It did not prevent his hav- ing standards but it did prevent his holding up as the touch- stone of merit or inferiority an inflexible structure of his own personal beliefs.

"Catholicity in taste and judgment has been my aim, some- times my undoing. The half is better than the whole, but for me the too much is too little. Again a case of person- al temperament." 3.

1. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 128

2. Unicorns, Page 82

3. Steeplejack, Volume 2, Page 212



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Where has the dualism which lies at the heart of all human

things been better stated than in the opening pages of Unicorns?

"Eternal is the conflict of the Real and the Ideal; Aris- totle and Plato; Alice and the Unicorn; the practical and the poetic; butterflies and geese; and rare roast-beef versus the impossible blue rose. And neither the Lion nor the Unicorn has yet fought the battle decisive. Perhaps the day may come when, weariness invading their very bones, they may realise that they are as different sides of the same coveted shield; matter and spirit, the multitude and the individual. Then unlock the ivory tower, abolish the tyrannies of superannuated superstitions, and give the people vision, without which they perish. The divine rights of hiimanity, no longer of kingly cabbages.

"The dusk of the future is washed with the silver of hope. The Lion and the Unicorn in single yoke. Strength and Beauty should represent the fusion of tne Ideal and the Real. There should be no anarchy, no socialism, no Broth- 1 erhood or Sisterhood of mankind, just the millennium of

sense and sentiment." 1.

Here Huneker is upholding the belief of those who make the

most telling criticism of Humanism. Such people believe that,

far from saying the dualism can never be altered, we should

strive to fuse the two tovmrd the greater glory of mankind.

The cleavage exists but the problem is to v^eld the two to pro-

d.uce the completely integrated man.


Huneker is more a T. S. Eliot than an Irving Babbitt as

far as religion is concerned. It was an aesthetic as well as a

fundamental impulse with him. It was real religion which took

his attention, not the inane and insane posturings and the hy- pocrisy which often pass for such.

1. Unicorns, Page 4

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’’Let us pray that we are not struck by religious zeal; re- ligious people are not always good people; good people are not envious, jealous, penurious, censorious, or busybodies, or too much bound up in the prospect of the mote in their brother’s eye and unmindful of the beam in their own. Fur- thermore, good people do not unveil with uncharitable joy the faults of women. Have faith. Have hope, and remember that charity is as great as chastity.

"Let us pray for the misguided folk who, forgetful of Moth- er Church, her wisdom, her consolations, flock to the tents of lewd, itinerant, mumbo- jumbo howlers, that blaspheme the sacred name as they epileptically leap, shouting glory- kingdom come and please settle at the captain’s office.

"Though they run on all fours and bark as hyenas, they shall not enter the city of the saints, being money-chang- ers in the Temple, and tripe-sellers of souls. Better Tophet and its burning pitch than a wilderness of such apes of God. Some men and women of culture and social position indorse these sorry buffoons, the apology for their para- doxical conduct being any port in a storm; any degrading circus, so it be followed by a mock salvation. But salva- tion for whom? »Vhat deity cares for such foaming at the mouth? such fustian? Conversion is silent and comes from within, and not to the din of brass-bands and screaming hallelujahs. It takes all sorts of gods to make the cos- mos, but why return to the antics and fetishes of our pri- mate ancestors, the cave-dwellers? This squirming and panting and brief reform ’true religion’? On the contrary it is a throwback to bestiality, to the vilest instincts.

A ’soul’ that has to be saved by such means is a soul not worth the saving. To the discard with it, where, flaming in purgatorial fires, it may be refashioned for future re- incarnation on some other planet." 1.

"Nov;, I am what an old and very dear priest calls a ’hick- ory Catholic,’ yet I love the odour of incense, the mystic bells, the music, the atmosphere of the altar, above all the intellectual life of the church. 'There is a world of thought suspended like Mahomet’s coffin above the quotidian existence of religion. It is not free to everyone, nor is it an arcanum forbidden all but the few." 2.

"Religion has given an emotional coloring to my modes of thought. It has been called a crutch for lame minds by Huxley; it is really a spiritual anodyne. Mankind demands some superstition — to give it a Voltaire name. ’Ecrasez I’infamel’ he wrote, forgetting that belief in the impos- sible is an organic necessity, and not sacerdotal dupery. Without vision people perish." 3.

1. Unicorns, Page 357

2 . Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 55

3 . Ibid., Bolume 1, Page 192

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"Heligion and government were not invented by priests and kings to enslave us. Our organic needs evolved them.'* 1.

It was more a question of religious impulse, reverent feel- ing with Huneker than a matter of denominational orthodoxy:

'*1, who am not of what is euphemistically called the reli- gious temperament, cannot pass a church without saluting and often entering. Two rituals fascinate me. The Homan Catholic and the Hebrew. . . . The soul of man is older than his handiv/ork, and his soul has always aspired after the vision. Totem and fetish, tabu, magic, animism, and idols are incorporated in the solemn church services of to- day. Heligious emotion is as old as humanity. Baudelaire would not permit his friends to mock his grotesque wooden idol, because, as he whispered, a god might be concealed ini it. The idea of divinity lurking everyvi^here was one of the charms of the pagan world. Man was accomplice in the eternal mysteries. Religion, that most ancient and jealous thing, was a forest peopled by gods, pluralistic deities. Some men outlive this feeling. I cannot. And the aesthet- ic symbolism of the Mass is alluring. But suppose that it would have been possible to have consulted me at the age of understanding. Would I have subscribed to the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church? Ur, to take a comjnoner example, was I asked whether I preferred being a Democrat or Repub- lican?" 2.

Was Huneker a Humanist in his feeling about religion? Vi/hat is the humanistic position on religion? Horman Poerster does not give religion much place in the humanistic scheme of things; T. S. Eliot says it is a necessity and that the humanistic posi- tion is insecure without the inevitable corollary of religion. Professor Babbitt certainly did not exclude religion. He main- tained that we knew nothing concerning the nature of "the high- er will" and that it might or might not be a working of the divine in the minds of men. At any rate, humanism and religious feeling are not incompatible. Huneker realized the existence in the world of "man" and of "more-than-man, " the dualism of "breed*'

1. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 319

2. Ibid., Volume 1, Page 34

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and of '*not-TDy-bread-alone . " This in itself, is good humanistic ioctrine.

freedom of the Will

Huneker's position with respect to the humanistic postulate

of the freedom of the will is not so clear. Sometimes he seems

to believe that the development of laaterialis tic psychology has

precluded the possibility of the freedom of the will:

"We live, as a modern thinker puts it, because we stand like the rest of cognisable nature under the universal law of causality; this idea is founded not on a metaphysical but a biological basis, ivietaphysics is a pleasing diver- sion, though it doesn’t get us to finalities, happiness is an absolute. Therefore it has no existence. 'There never was, there never will be an earthly paradise, no matter what the socialists say. Content is the suramum bonum of mankind; the content that comes with sound health and a clear conscience. The wrangling over Free vVill is now con- sidered a sign of gho st -worship . ” 1.

And again,

"The constancy of the human intellect proclaimed by Remy de Gourmont may be one more metaphysical illusion. Historical perspective is too limited to permit any but vague general- izations. AS for fatalism, what else are those who write and speak of Free-vVill, Immanence of the Deity, but fatal- ists? If the exterior world is a mirage, of our innerself, then the lack of continuity, the fragmentary attempts, the disjointed thinking without sequence or import, are not all these things natural for the reason that they are?" 2.

i In spite of all this, we should believe in the freedom of



jthe will for the courage it will give us.

"Nothing endures but mobility, changeless change. Never- j theless, we speak of stability, permanence, immortality, the absolute when nature abhors an absolute. The Eternal j Return is now. It is the eternal recommencement. . . . But

we must believe, the very affirmation of belief --say in

free-will--puts courage into actions." 3.

There is hope for the doctrine of the freedom of the ^vill


Unicorns, Page 157 Steeplejack, Voliune 1, Page 316

3. Ibid., Volume 1, Page 315

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5 ven in a mechanized, naturalistic view of man and his thought processes ;

“Perpetual motion, squaring the circle, are only variants of the alchemical pursuit of the philosopher's stone, the transmutation of the baser metals, the cabalistic Abraca- dabra, the quest of the absolute. Man can't live on ma- chinery alone, and the underfed soul of the past period of positivism craves more spiritual nourishment today. Hasn't tne remarkable mathematician Henry Poincare (author of Science and Hypothesis , The Value of Science , Science and Method ) declared that between the construction of the spirit and the absolute truth there is an abysm caused by free choice and the voluntary elimination which have ne- cessitated such inferences? Note the word 'free'; free- will is restored to its old and honourable estate in the hierarchy of thought.” 1.

“Literally we are imprisoned for life, with the privilege of telephoning our cerebral control to ask it to phone us the news of outer existence. It's the greatest- fairy-tale imaginable, our life. But it is not free--oh, no I In a I physical sense we are the grand-children of vegetables

I which live by solar heat; and of the so-called lov/er ani-

j mals --query: why lower? Like them we, too, are automatons,

i ruled by the same rigid laws; we borrow vitality from the

j vegetable kingdom, and we are nourished by this triple- distilled solar energy. . . . Our nervous system is the I whole animal. And these nerves may be so finely spun that they receive messages from the Fourth Dimension of Space. “2,

Here what looks like deterministic monism on the face of it

is not contradictory to the principles of Humanism, Maybe the

^ethical imagination has its moorings in the Fourth Dimension of


Space 1

Summary of Preceding Humanistic Ideas

It is said that anything may be proved by the use of sta- tistics and surely a random quoting of examples is open to the same objection. The examples quoted, however, have been chosen as representative of Huneker's ideas, not solely to foster the main idea of this thesis. Taking them for what they are worth.

1, Unicorns, Page 196

2. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 3].7

L. '


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we see that Huneker did not disregard the value of the classics; that he saw life sanely and saw it whole; that he had proport ior, and discrimination; that he v/as not deceived by humanitarianism; that he was not a reformer; that he did not have the acquisitive I instinct; that he was devoid of philistine tendencies; that he


was not concerned with dogmas and creeds; that he had the Chris-



Itian virtues and that one especially beloved of the humanists, humility; that he recognized the Demon of the Absolute and the dualism inherent in life. VVe cannot be so positive regarding his religious feeling or regarding his belief in the freedom of 'the will but we have seen that in these ideas Huneker leans in


the humanistic direction.

The way is not so clear as regards the question of objec-


tivity and subjectivity, of the imposition of general terms upon a piece of criticism and this represents the crux of our consi- deration of Huneker as a humanistic critic.

Huneker tells us often enough that he has no interest in objectivity:

Subjectivity and Objectivity

In a letter to Edward P. Mitchell regarding a forthcoming newspaper article, he says:

"I’ve sought for odd types--the old dilettante; the art auctioneer; the woman without taste in pictures; the paint- er’s hat of Hammers tein; M. Victor Haurel’s collar modelled after Hyacinthe Rigaud; the cane of Herr Roosevelt--these are the general subjects. I had included one other, ’ Crito the Critic , ’ but I feared it was too subjective. The rest I have sought for ob jectivity--odious word--for a dramati- zation of my spleen." 1.

1. Letters, Page 35

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I Regarding Anatole France; ’’After his clever formula that i there is no such thing as objective criticism, that all

j criticism but records the adventures of one’s soul among I the masterpieces, France was attacked by Brunetiere--of

whom the ever-acute Mr. James once remarked that his 'in- telligence has not kept pace with his learning, ’ Those critical watchwords (subjectivity and objectivity) are things of yester-year, and one hopes forever.”

"He Anatole France demonstrated that in the matter of judgment we are prisoners of our ideas, and he also formed a school that has hardly done him justice, for every im- pressionistic value is not necessarily valid. It is easy to send one's soul boating among masterpieces and call the result 'criticism'; the danger lies in the contingency that one may not boast the power of artistic navigation pos- sessed by Anatole France, a master steersman in the deeps and shallows of literature,” 1.

"The genius beholds another world because he has a profound?- er conception of the world which lies before us all, inas- much as it presents itself with more objectivity and dis- tinctness than it does to less favored mortals.” 2,

We are told in many places in Huneker's works that utter

subjectivity is impossible; that the critic cannot, in any way,

entirely divorce himself of xuis personality, whether he would or

no. The following excerpt is from an essay on the music of

!\.rnold Schoenberg in Ivory iipes and Peacocks ;

"In the first place the personality of the listener is bound to obtrude itself, dissociation from one's ego — if such a thing were possible--would be intellectual death; only by the clear, persistent image of ourselves do we ex- ist--banal psychology as old as the hills." 3.


"We know that the most ' objective ' --comical old categories 'objective' ana 'sub jective ' — philosophies are tinged by the temperaments of their makers; perhaps the chief character- istic of philosophers is their unphilosophic contempt for fellow-thinkers," 4.

Yet, as has been indicated, Huneker never believed that a flow of genuine impressions was enough to form the basis of a

1. Egoists, Page 153 3. Ivory Apes and Peacocks,

2. Variations, Page 17 Page 95

4, Variations, Page 2

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icriticism. Those who classify Huneker as a pure impressionist fail to take this fact into consideration. There was always some sense of norm, of standard, of criterion, against which the impressions were rated, were it only, in some cases, Hune- ker ’s innate good taste. Mere subjectivity is not enough.

"it’s all well enough to talk of temperamental bias, but a critic must observe a few of the rules of the game, or else not play fair.'* 1.

The presence of standards in Huneker 's critical equipment is implied rather than stressed; yet we find such statements as these :

"Tolerance is often a virtue of sceptics — but is it a vir- tue? Good art is never obscene; the only obscene is bad art." 2.

Regarding Frank Wedekind: "llis admirers speak of him as a unicorn, a man so original as to be without forerunners, without followers. A monster? For no one can escape the coimaon law of descent, whether physical or spiritual." 3.

"Even the Pont Aven School, headed by Gauguin and Van Gogh, is dating. The truth is that the time factor is grossly overestimated. Good art in 1500 or 1830, or 1867 or 1918, remains good art." 4.

Two letters to his friend, John '^uinn, dated respectively March 26, 1916 and April 7, 1916, do not sound like emanations from a pure impressionist;

"Remember, Johr., all these petty revolutions, interesting, even significant at times, will never even deflect for a moment the broad current of eternal art. It’s so in music I and literature; it's so in art. There is a norm, and these

' young chaps may fume and sputter, but back to it they must

j revert else rot and drop from the parent trunk." 5.


I "I am told twenty times a month to stick to my last, music

criticism and begad I think people are right. One must grow, but a good picture is as good in 1920 as the day it

jl. Letters, Page 63 4. Steeplejack, Vol. 1, P. 241

|2. Steeplejack, Vol. 1, P. 176 5. Letters, Page 206

3. Ivory Apes and Peacocks,

Page 123


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was painted, say 1900. I don't believe in schools or move- ments. There are only painters with talent. All the rest is ornam.ent or superfluous." 1.

"it may be the decadence, as any art is in decadence which stakes the parts against the whole." 2.

In his criticism Huneker was an example of the golden mean. iHe was neither wholly impressionistic nor wholly judicial; he


was analytic and synthetic; he was deductive and inductive, nei- ther conservative nor radical. He believed the critic should have sympathy and sincerity. For him there was no identity of genius and taste.

Subjectivity Precludes Humanistic Hating

Where Huneker falls short in the set-up for the humanistic critic is in his failure to recast the account of the phenomena of criticism into the terms of the noumenal. He tells us he is not concerned with "general ideas," and if we mean by the term metaphysical concepts, that is true. The surprising thing is that there is so much in his criticism which can be related to general currents of thought when the nature of his contributions is considered, a person writing for the daily press cannot be overconcerned v/ith philosophical matters. Possibly Huneker 's great vitality and abounding interest in life precluded the quiet contemplation of the philosopher, ^it any rate, I think we must set Huneker down as deficient in relation to the capa- city for abstract thought demanded of the humanistic critic. Huneker ' s iSub jectivity Hot Unmitigated

Fvery criticism Huneker made, however, went up against the

1. Letters, Page 208

2. Bedouins, Page 78




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j great sounding-board which, was James G. Huneker and was reject-


I ed or accepted by its falseness or truth of tone. Huneker may

Inot have been greatly occupied with general precepts. He didn't 1

ihave to be for the purpose of arriving at a real estimate. In i

his erudition, his scholarship, his knowledge of all the arts,

I his "humanity" (which we shall assume to have the two meanings wnich he gave it; one, an interest in the classics, and two, that quality represented in the highest compliment a pupil pays his teacher when he calls him "human"), his sympathy, his im- mediate perception of the best minds, was the complete criteri- on for evaluating a work of art. He failed in so doing some- times, as he would be the first to tell you, but even his most abject failures have some validity. He was equipped as few critics have been really to appraise a work of art. In short, when Huneker completed a criticism, it stood for representative human judgment by as representative a "human" as ever comes along. It wasn’t that he didn't consider "general ideas" in reaching his conclusions, but they were a fundamental part of his equipment, something tacit, inherent, prerequisites. Sure- ly his evaluations are clearer for the average reader without the philosophical jargon than they v/ould have been with it.

Huneker reached that seemingly impossible Babbittian standard — he achieved intensity on a background of calm. He had sufficient life and eagerness to rescue his attitude from the dead-level a complete humanistic attainment alv/ays seems


to imply.

Romantic ( N on -humani s tic) ideas in Himeker ' s Work

Now let us consider the other side of the situation to see if any anti -humanistic traits have crept up the Romantic back stairs .

Impressionism, with its emphasis upon the experiences of the senses, is a romantic manifestation but 1 think it has been shown that Huneker’s was a tempered, governed impressionism, not a riot of sight and sound and little else.

Most of the rom.antic tendencies, whether of the real or of the inverted kind, we may cast aside as negative in the case of Euneker, for instance:

The Natural Rights Theory

’’Rousseau is to blame for the 'Social Contract’ and the 'Equality' nonsense that has poisoned more than one na- tion's political idea," 1.

"Huysmans never betrayed the slightest interest in doc- trines of equality; for him, as for Baudelaire, socialism, the education of the masses, or democratic prophylactics were hateful. ... He did not believe in art for the multitude and the tableau of a billion humans bellowing to the moon the hymn of universal brotherhood made him shiver as v/ell it miight . . . . Art is for those who have the brains and patience to understand it. It is not a free port of entry for poet and philistine alike." 2,


As for naturalism, which is the inverted form of Romanti-


"The art of fiction has become finer, and more spiritual, especially in England, where the influence of Henry James is more potent than in his native land. But dear progres- sive Amierica is still in the throes of a naturalism which died at the birth of .sola's vilest offspring, ^ Terre .

Mr. Howells set the fashion of realism, a tempered realismj though he stemmed from. Jane Austen and Turgenev. Kis is

1. Agoists, Page 366

2. Ibid., Page 179




the art of the miniature painter. Prank Norris followed

1 him and Stephen Crane, both at a long distance, preceded

by Henry B. Fuller (in his i;\iith the Procession and the Cliff-Dwellers), ^ola v/as not a realist merely because he dwelt v;ith certain unpleasant facts. He was a myopic romanticist writing in a style both violent and tumefied, the history of his soul in the latrines of life. Life as i a v\hole he never saw steadily; it was for him more like a

{ succession of lurid lantern slides. If, in the Court of

Realism, Flaubert is king, then '/jola. ranks only as an ex- cavator.” 1.

”We know now that Zola was only masquerading in the gor- geous rags of romanticism with a vocabulary borrowed from Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo, and Flaubert; we know, too, that despite the argot of L’ Assommoir , the book is as ro- mantic as a Bougeureau canvas --the formula is the same: highly glazed surfaces, smug sentiment, and pretty color- ing.” 2,

”Vi/e turn our heads the other way when his fcorky's] women curse and rave. ifi/alt i/lihitman, said Ivioncure Conv/ay, brought the slop pail into the drawing-room; but for Gorky there is no drawing-room. Life is only a dung -heap.” 3.

The Perfectibility of Man

”Man is not a perfectible animal; not on this side of eternity,” 4.

”The interrogation posed on the horizon of our conscious- ness, regarding the perfectibility of mankind, is best an- swered by a definition of socialism as that religion which proves all men to be equally stupid.” 5.

Temperamental Overflow

Huneker did not sanction the romantic urge to indulge in

one’s individual idosyncrasy, to cultivate one's "temperamental

overflow. ”

"Etching rules. Vi/hy? Because an artist of overwhelming genius set upon the art his seal. Because it is a consum- mate medium for expressing personality, and in all the arts personality is the slogan of the hour. Vife must bare our souls in our work, cry young folk; the rest, art in- cluded, can go hang 1 But the question is whether these same souls are worth the bother of such exposure.” 6.

1. Steeplejack, Vol. 1, P. 270 4, Egoists, Page 370

2. Iconoclasts, Page 269 5. Ibid., Page 212

3. Ibid., Page 272 6. Variations, Page 78

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"Poe, then, like Chopin, did not die too soon. Neurotic natures, they lived their lives with the intensity which Walter Pater has declared is the true existence. ’To burn always with this hard, gera-like flarae, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. Failure is to form habits.' Alas ! that way madness lies for the majority of mankind, notwithstanding the aesthetic exhortation of Pater. Poe and Chopin fulfilled the Pater conditions during their brief sojourn on our parent planet. They ever burned with the flame of genius and that flame devoured them. They were not citizens of moral repute. Nor did they accumu- late ’mortal pelf.’” 1.


Huneker had no part in the romantic belief that inspiration

i is more important than perspiration in creating a work of art.


"stung by the gadfly of necessity, I had to follow my market: all newspaper men must. I was to learn that

versatility is not heaven-sent, but is largely a matter of elbow-grease." 2.

"You may be sure of one thing--no one in the history of the Seven Arts has mastered his material save in the sweat of his brow. Work and days." 3.

Huneker sometimes called himself sentimental but it was in

j playful mood. Sentimentalism, an attribute of Romanticism, was I

something which he pounded incessantly.


"That apocalyptic genius, Benjamin De Casseres, once divid- ed our native fiction-mongers into four groups. Punk, Junk, Bunk, and Bull, Punk includes the ladies with triple-bar- reled names--there are plenty with two; Junk, all the writers on so-called social service, pollyannas, new- thought ers, and pseudo-psychologists; Bunk is the fashion- abl able novel; and Bull applies to the Jack London school;

ramping, roaring, robust rough-riders and heroes from the wilds of the Woolly West; bastards of the Bret Earte fic- tion. It is a just classification. vVe needs must have our ’art’ dosed with saccharine." 4.

"if you happen to write a best-seller, you are acclaimed a genius, hud when you think it over, a man who can sell a million copies of a book compounded of sentimental slush

1. Bedouins, Page 3. Variations, Page 13

2. Steeplejack, Voliune 2, 4. Steeplejack, Volume 2,

Page 3 Page 172


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and slimy piety must be a genius. VVhat else is he? An I artistic writer? No. Respectable? Yes." 1.

"a liquorish sentimentality is the ever-threatening rock upon which the bark of young American novelists goes to pieces. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.) Be sentimental and you will succeed I Vi^e agree with Dostoievsky that in fic- tion, as v/ell as in life, there are no general principles, only special cases. But these cases, could they not be typical? even if there are not types, only individuals, iind are men and women so inthralled by the molasses of sentimentalism in life? Have the motion-pictures hopeless ly deranged our critical values? I know that in America charity covers a multitude of mediocrities, nevertheless,

I am loath to believe that all one reads in praise of I wretched contemporary fiction is meant in earnest." 2.


Summary of Romantic Ideas in Huneker ’ s tVork

So far, our qualities of Romanticism are on the negative side as far as Huneker is concerned. He did not believe in the Natural Rights Theory, or in Naturalism, or in the Perfectibili ty of Man. Cultivation of one's personal peculiarities without restraint was to him inartistic. He knew inspiration miust be supplemented by hard work. He abhorred sentimentality. A cos- mopolitan of cosmopolitans, a steeplejack of the arts, a fre- quenter of the haunts of men, one cannot imagine him, of all people, retreating to idyllic nature and the simple life. He was a foe of Puritanism and of laws limiting one's personal freedom but anti-conventional he could not be called. He pro- tests in a letter to Benjamin De Casseres on March 29, 1920

anent dedicating Bedouins to his wife that he was called a Bo-

3 .

hemian when he was nothing but an old bourgeois.

Interest in Outstanding Personalities

There was, however, one respect in which he might be

1. Variations, Page 11

2. Unicorns, Page 85

3. Letters, Page 290




charged with being romantic. This was his marked interest in outstanding personalities, men of unusual accomplishments, ec- centric geniuses, "originals.” He says:

"Set me down as hopelessly romantic, as a cultivator of the cult of great artists in an age when there are only imitators or pigmies. It's born in me, this species of artistic snobbery; I can’t help it." 1.

"in my artistic and literary Zoo there are many queer creatures but it is a mistake to suppose them all freaks.

. . . However, I am not setting up an alibi for the sanity of my favorite artists and writers. It is not necessary. There is, take it by and large, more madness among medio- cre persons, A little madness is a necessary ingredient in the composition of genius. Nor do I claim that my apes peacocks, unicorns, egoists, visionaries, melomaniacs, and steeplejacks are all geniuses. Again, mediocrity is to the fore, a mediocrity tempered by eccentricities." 2.

"when I spoke of my Zoo and its queer inmates, I was think- ing of what Paul Elmer More wrote in 1915: 'How in the name of heaven do you have the will-power to read all those eccentrics and maniacs vshom you seem to knov/ by heart? a week of them would kill me with ennui. After all, there is nothing that really lasts and maintains its interest but the sane and the reticent.’ Words of v/isdom. But sane genius also has its crazy wards, its padded cells: Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe; besides niy ’maniacs' are a pretty sane lot. Some drank. Some murdered sleep, yet Chopin, Stendhal, Anatole Prance, Richard Strauss, Pater, Wagner, Baudelaire, Manet, Brahms — the list is long and far from insane, for I take it neither Poe nor Chopin were quite mad. Drugs anh alcohol did for Poe. Mad, naked William Blake was peculiar, to say the least. Yet a god-intoxicated man. No, I don’t hold with the eminent critic that is Mr. More, and I yield to no one in my ad- miration of Wordsworth, of the Lake School, of the placid and delightful eighteenth-century essayists, a chacun son poison l" 3 .

Concerning art and life Huneker was the person about whom it might have been first written: "Humanus sum, et nihil hu- manum a me alienum puto . " Talent, in whatever wrapping it came, was interesting to him. If it didn’t conform in trappings to

|1. Variations, Page 55 '1 2. Steeplejack, Volume 2, Page 235 3. Ibid., Volume 2, Page 235

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the classics of the past, that was no reason for excluding it.

iClassics can be born today as well as in The Golden Age of i

Greece or the Augustan Age. Naturally, they will not have the same form, but, as Huneker often maintained, excellence is ex- cellence, regardless of the time and medium in which it appears Kuneker was discovering the classics of the future. In his I great zest for the seven arts any outstanding newcomer was ex-

lamined but, unless his contribution was worthy, he didn't be-

{ •

jcome a certified member of the ’’Zoo.”

“iVhenever a new poet or philosopher appears he is straight way accused of tampering with the moral currency. This is only mediocrity's mode of adjusting to marked mental dis- proportions. ... So let us cheer up, read Pater, Baude- laire, and the bible--from which they derive- -and blench not before the dissonantal batteries of the Neo-Scythian composers.” 1.

'Hvhen I praise the dissonantal art of Michael Artzibashef it is not with the idea that either his style or his pes- simism should be aped. That way unoriginality lies. But I do contend that in the practice of his art, its sinceri- ty, its profundity, he might be profitably patterned after by the younger generation. Art should elevate as well as amuse. Must fiction always be silly and shallow? It need be neither sordid nor didactic.” 2.

Of all the possible romantic manifestations surely Huneker may be allov/ed one. He couldn't be a representative human be- ing without some touch of romanticism.

Summary of Humanistic and Romantic Tendencies in Huneker

As we have seen from a detailed examination of the main precepts of the huraanistic belief, Huneker conforms in every aspect of that belief except the idea of freedom of the will and the value of subjectivity and objectivity. We cannot say

1. Variations, Page 34

2. Unicorns, Page 95

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that his attitude toward freedom of the will is contrary to hu- manistic "belief because he usually leaves us the loophole of the possibility of the nervous system's receiving impulses and ideas beyond the scope of material things. Huneker sees the need of the belief in freedom of the will and the possibility of its existence, according to Professor Babbitt, the mere idea of the freedom of the will is enough to justify its existence.

I dare say Huneker was like most human beings --on some days he was ’’the captain of his soul” and on others he was the most insignificant private in the forces of deterministic com- pulsion. Life may be like a multiple-choice examination: one has the prerogative of choice but what guarantee is there that the way one chooses has not been set and determined by forces and factors outside one's control? The words, ”1 am the master of my fate,” may be crammed down one's throat by the next per- son who happens to turn the next corner. The significant thing jis to will in spite of all the gods and all worldly obstacles.


jHuneker correctly appraised one of the main ideas in Ibsen. It

is to will even though one's will be disastrous, even though it

1 .

bring one's universe toppling about one's ears. At least, Huneker would agree with the Humanists that man has the power jto will.


lUnconcern with General Ideas Precludes Rating as Humanist

I '

I The main bar, however, to classifying Huneker as a Humanist )

comes in his opposition and aversion to definite systems of thought. His bent to eclecticism would probably assert itself,

1. Iconoclasts, Page 132

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if he were alive to consider the humanistic proposals. He

would not accept every humanistic idea merely because it would

be the "regular'* thing to do for a Humanist, any more than he

would accept every article in a creed. It might be that he

would subscribe to every doctrine of the Humanists except this

matter of general ideas, as he seems to in his writings. Yet

this matter of ultimate concern with the noumenal instead of

the phenomenal is a vital point in the humanistic creed, and we

cannot classify as Humanist anyone not subscribing to its truth.

Huneker’s romantic tendency implied in his interest in un- usual individuals is but another manifestation of his concern

with subjectivity instead of objectivity. "The representative

human values" were surely implied with Huneker. Every man has

them. Ivian, merely as ordinary man, is interesting, but the fel- low who has these qualities plus some others or the man who has


1 some of these basic qualities in paucity or in excess of the

average amount is even more interesting. Huneker would have

j exclaimed with Lola Ridge:

! "l love those spirits

That men stand off and point at.

Or shudder and hood up their souls —

Those ruined ones,

' Where Liberty has lodged an hour

i And passed like flame,

j Bursting asunder the too small house." 1.

And these individualistic tendencies are as much a human pos- session and attribute as the more humdrum, ordinary, human mani- festations. It is only that they aren’t so common. It isn't a

question of Huneker’s denying the value of stock ideas or

1. The New Poetry, Monroe and Henderson, Editors, Page 415 Debris, by Lola Ridge

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principles. Autliors who contradicted, them would be mors inter- esting to him because they did contradict them but that would

jnot damage the essential verity of the main principles attacked,


jHuneker preferred to look at each man's offering for what it


was worth in terms of general excellence, unhampered by adher- ence to any schematic system of abstractions. As an example of

the excellence of this method over a more philosophical hand- ling of material, somebody has pointed out the superiority of

Huneker's essay on Nietzsche for the average person over Paul

Elmer More's treatise on the same subject which Mencken has


damned in characteristic fashion:

"head More on Nietzsche if you want to find out just how stupid criticism can be, and yet show the outward forms of sense.” 1.

Huneker was intensely interested in abstractions per se. Con- sider the mysticism of his short stories and his preoccupation

with metaphysical ideas as shown in the articles on The Fourth


Dimension in unicorns, on Creative Involution in the same vol- 3. 4.

ume , the articles on Mystics in Egoists, and other references

throughout the complete writings. Interesting as these ideas

were to Huneker, however, they were still theories, not inflex- ible guides for the testing of worth in general writing. He

kept them in their places. Their places were not, in his con- ception of the fitness of things, in concrete critiques for the

general audience. Write fiction where you can indulge them to

your heart's content. It's a fantastic realm and will admit

them on the basis of their intrinsic worth. Don't intrude them

1. A Book of Prefaces, by H. L. Mencken, Page 158

2. bnicorns. Page 203

3. Ibid., Page 195

4. Egoists, Page 269

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as actualities in criticism.

Because of this lack of concern with abstract thought in his criticism, we are deterred from branding Huneker with the term, Humanist, though he possesses most of the humanistic qual ifications. Considering his aversion to wearing the conformist livery of any school, it is perhaps just as well. We should be sacrificing his individuality for a term of doubtful permanent value .

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I Huneker as a Critic

Huneker * s Ideas About Criticism

In attempting any just appraisal of Huneker as a critic, it will be pertinent to consider what Huneker believed the func- tion and procedure of the critic should be and what^his equip- ment and aim.

Impossibility of Complete Objectivity

AS we have noted before, Huneker believed it was impossible to attain a really objective article of criticism. The person- ality or the bias of the critic was bound to intrude. In spite of the critic's best intentions and practices, some element of self is inescapable. In a sense, our ego is our instrument for observation and, to correct the possible errors of refraction, Huneker believed that the critic should make an avowal of his own beliefs, prejudices, and tendencies so that the reader may discount or enhance what the critic has to say in the light of

his personal leanings and thereby arrive at an impartial, ob- jective concept of the work of art.

"a critic should confess his limitations, draw up at the beginning of a book a formal scenario of his temperament, prejudices, his likes and dislikes. A French critic, Hennequin, did this, and has since served as an examplar for the English writer, John M. Robinson. Then your read- ers would know what to expect, would discount radical ut- terances on hearing that your grandfather had been a Fenian or that your aunt was opposed to female suffrage. This is no Apologia, but an illuminating diagram." 1.

"l have written enough to give you a fair idea of my men- tal and physical characteristics, so that you will judge

1. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 6



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the critic as he should, be. This is the method suggested by Hennequin, of which I told you. A moral precis of the critic and a peek at his temperament, then much that is dark becomes light.” 1.

Characteristics of Huneker Miich Show in His Work

Huneker tells us many things which prove his criticism the

product of his own interesting personality. He was a shy boy,

shrinking from contests with other boys, an omnivorous reader,

early acquiring the foundation for his amazing erudition, and a

dreamer, but essentially a real boy.

”l long suffered from shyness, absurd sentimentality and a horror of the actual.” 2.

He confesses to a lack of capacity for hatred:

“Probably the gravest defect in my character is my inabili- ty to hate anyone, or anything for more than five minutes, except hypocrisy and noise.” 3.

We learn of his law-office apprenticeship and smile at the idea of Huneker ’s being a lawyer, even though with his wide knowledge and his remarkable verbal memory, he could have cited case on case to the confusion of his opponents. Was his law- office experience an early indication of his later disinclina- tion for general theories?

"Naturally, I didn't make perceptible progress in the law.

I absorbed the curriculum as a sponge absorbs liquid. My preceptor examined me at intervals, and it was then I first noted what I call my mechanical memory. I memorised as would a parrot. I repeated pages without knowing their meaning. The big technical phrases I gobetted as a dog does a bone. Terminology of any sort always appealed to me. I became proficient in phrases. With medical, or sci- entific terminology, it is the same, whether anatomy, ge- ology, astronomy, or cookery, the technical verbalisms were easy to remember. My judgment centres were not much exer- cised, so that when I underwent regulation examinations at

1. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 206

2. Ibid., Volume 1, Page 14

3. Ibid., Volume 1, Page 24

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the Law School, or during the law course at the University I had no trouble in reeling off page after page, because I simply let my memory prompt and turn over in my mind each page as it was finished. But put me to writing out opin- ions on a possible case, and my vaunted memory collapsed. Not taking the slightest interest necessarily I had noth- ing to say. Later in life I met pianists who could play hundreds of pieces. I have questioned them and in nine in- stances out of ten I found the same mechanical memory as mine. They saw the note-groups and the pages, but the mu- sical idea, or its emotional expression, did not much con- cern them. Ideas were not then my shibboleth,” 1.

Reading that Blackstone’s English style interested him more than

the legal principles involved, we are not surprised that he

never became a lawyer.

Interest in Music

Music became the illuminating force in his life, his fa- vorite among the seven arts. His preference was for pure musiCj rather than operatic or other forms. In his day he was account-

ed a world authority on Chopin and Brahms. Music undoubtedly colored his thinking as well as his expression. He often ex- claims at one’s inability to express the appreciation of music in terms of the actual.

"’You write of music as if it were a living thing,' said Arthur Symons to me in a memorable letter. Music is a living thing for me, as living as any vital organism. It lives when it enters the porches of my ears, and it is a living memory. To write about it is quite hopeless. You can describe a picture, a statue, a cathedral, and quote a poem; but you may not describe a symphony.” 2.

Interest in the Seven Arts

His interest in the other arts was only less than his love for music and was sufficient to gain him the rating of an ex-

I pert in those fields. He thought of any one of the arts in

1, Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 119

2. Ibid., Volume 2, Page 201

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terms of the others and one of his fondest dreams was that of a synthesis of the arts.

  • 'I muddled the Seven Arts in a grand old stew, I saw mu-

sic, heard colour, tasted architecture, smelt sculpture and fingered perfume. A mad carnival of the senses." .... Certain musical tones evoke certain colours. And if you investigate you will discover that the aesthetic terminol- ogy of painting resembles that of music. I believed in em- ploying the whole keyboard of analogies, so my criticism often proved trying to my readers, but not to me. I needs must educate them. The arts are separate, yet, as Walter Pater says, all travel towards a central sun in some re- mote constellation. But I abused the scheme, and I am not sorry." 1.


huneker accounts for some of this mingling of the arts by telling us that he has a centrifugal temperam-ent . One of the things which make his criticism difficult to read, is his con- tinual branching off where allusion leads. We eventually come back after a more interesting journey than the straight-away would have been but the deviation is often confusing.

"Wlien President Wilson spoke of his ’single-track mind,’ he merely proved that by powerful concentration he was able to canalise one idea, to focus it, and thus dispose of it. This innibitory power is not possessed by everyone. 1, for example, have a polyphonic mind. I enjoy the simul- taneous flight of a half-dozen trains of ideas, which run on parallel tracks for a certain distance, then disappear, arriving nowhere. This accounts for my ha If -mad worship of the Seven Arts which have always seemed one single art; when I first read Walter Pater’s suggestion that all the other arts aspire to the condition of music, I said, ’Thatfe it,’ and at once proceeded to write of painting in terms of tone, of literature as if it were only form and color, and of life as if it is a promenade of flavours. Now, I admit that this method apart from its being confusing to the reader, is also aesthetically false. I didn’t require Professor Babbitt to tell us that in his New Laocoon . The respective substance of each art is different, and not even the extraordinary genius of Richard Wagner could fuse

1. Steeplejack, Volume 2, Page 200


disparate dissimilarities. The musician in him dominated the poet, dramatist, and scene-painter. And in this para- graph I am precisely demonstrating what I spoke of — my polyphonic habit of thinking, if thinking it may be thus called. I often suffer from a ’split* or dissociated per- sonalities, henc'e my discursiveness--to call such a. fugi- tive ideation by so mild a name. But I started to tell you of my maternal grandfather and I am winding up on Wag- ner. Talk about ’free fantasy’ in a modern tone-poem, or a five-voiced fugue, or a juggler spinning six plates at once r* 1 .


"President Wilson has the centripetal temperament, or as he puts it, a 'one-track mind.’ So has my friend, Mr. Wickersham. Both men concentrate. Colonel Roosevelt has the centrifugal cast of mind; evidently I have the same.

I fly off with ease on any tempting tangent, also off my handle. The aptitude displayed by the Yankee for a half- dozen pursuits is the sign-manual of the centrifugal soul. It is pleasant to hear the whirring of its wheels though they serve no particular purpose. Thrashing the sea, eating the air promise -crammed, filling the belly with the east wind, fighting windmills --these are a few attributes of the centrifugalist . Ke is nothing if not versatile.

His intensity lasts ten minutes. He is focal in conscious ness, as the psychologists say, but his marginal subcon- sciousness is strongly obtruded. The sensory periphery is more masterful than the hub of his being. . . . The cen- trifugalist is usually an optimist, itll is for the best in this best of demi-mondes. The flowers of evil that blossom^ in the hothouse of hell become pretty pansies when plucked by a centrifugal poet." 2.


His philosophy was eclectic, culled from the most enticing flowerbeds:

"Eclectic is my taste in creeds and cultures. And in cul- tured eclecticism may be found the shallows and depths, defects and virtues of our times." 3.

Sym.pathy and Tolerance

This is another indication of Huneker’s lack of interest in general ideas or fixed systems of thought but it is also a

1. Steeplejack, Voliime 1, Page 22

2. Ibid., Volume 1, Page 135

3. Ibid., Volume 1, Page 208


great factor in fostering his sympathy and tolerance of view.

’’That absence of 'tendenz' which William James complained about in my Egoists , a refusal on my part to indulge in so called 'general views,' in any neat little theory or 'prob lem, ' met the approval of Remy De Gourmont , who detested phrases and empty formulas.” 1.


Critics, even the great ones, have "blind spots."

"The 'creative' critics are few. Montaigne, Goethe, Sainte* Beuve, Taine, Baudelaire, Georg Brandes , Nietzsche, Pater, Benedetto Croce, Havelock Ellis, M. Arnold, Arthur Symons, Anatole France, De Gourmont, Edgar Saltus, Brownell-“The list might be spun out, but these names suffice. Yet my idol among them, Sainte-Beuve, missed Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, and to Victor Hugo was inconsiderate — possibly on account of his affair with Adele Hugo. Consider the osrics of literature eternally embalmed in the amber of Sainte-Beuve ' s style, a fatal immortality for so many fu- tile butterflies, and you will admit that he still lives when many a mighty reputation has withered." 2.

Huneker, though he would not include himself among the great

critics, confesses to his own "blind spots."

"l have with all my boasted cosmopolitanism many 'blind' spots, many little Dr. Fells, the reason why I cannot tell. It was with difficulty I read Arnold Bennett, notwithstand- ing the joy he gave me in Buried Alive , yet I couldn't swallow Old 'Wives ' Tale --the hissing length of s's--nor that dull epic, Clayhanger. Mr. Bennett, whose touch is Gallic, who is first and last a newspaper man, is out of his depth in the artistic territory of Tolstoy and Hardy.

He is not a literary artist like George Moore or John Galsv/orthy. But Mr. Bennett enthralled me with his The Pretty Lady , an evocation, artistically evoked. So thus I had to reverse a too hasty judgment upon Arnold Bennett, whose resources are evidently not exhausted." 3.

With but these few glimpses into Hune'ker's character, we

can see that in his case the style or method is the man. It

lends weight to Huneker 's contention that the critic cannot be

wholly objective, try as he may.

1. Steeplejack, Volume 2, Page 253

2. Bedouins, Page 122

3. Steeplejack, Volume 2, page 126

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The Critic * s Purpose and Method

v\/hat did Huneker consider the purpose of the critic? He tells us in a few places.

"it sounds magnanimous, but neither praise nor blame should be the goal of the critic. To spill his ovm soul, that should be his aim. Notwithstanding the talk about objec- tive criticism, no such abstraction is thinkable. A critic relates his prejudices, nothing more. It is well to pos- sess prejudices. They lend to life a meaning." 1.

Lest this sound too romantic for the burden of our thesis,

let us read on:

"in his invaluable studies. Criticism and Standards , William Crary Brownell does not hold with the Brunetiere nor with the Anatole Prance opposing schools of criticism. He detects the doctrinaire and pedagogue in Brunetiere, and he rightly enough fears the tendency tov/ards loose thinking in the camp of the impressionistic criticism, of which Anatole Prance is the recognized head. Mr. Brownell believes in central authority. Yet, he is not a pontiff. He allows the needful scope for a writer’s individuality. It’s all very well to describe the boating of your soul among the masterpieces if you possess a soul comparable to the soul of Anatole Prance, but yours may be a mean little soul dwelling up some back-alley, and your pen a lean, dull one. Will your critical adventures be worth relating?

The epicurean test of the impressionist is not a standard, says Mr. Brownell, ’since what gives pleasure to some, gives none to others, and some standard is a necessary postulate, not only of criticism, but of all discussion, or even discourse.’ He asserts that criticism is an art. ’One of Sainte-Beuve ’ s studies is as definitely a portrait as one of Holbein’s.’ The ’creative-critic’ of Wilde is hardly a reality. There are no super-critics. Only men, cultured and clairvoyant. Sainte-Beuve, Taine, Nietzsche, Arnold, Pater, Benedetto Croce, Georg Brandes — and this Dane is the most cosmopolitan of all--are thinkers and literary artists. It is perilously easy to imitate their mannerisms, as it is to parody the unpoetic parodies of V/hitman, but it ends there. A little humility in a critic is a wise attitude. Humbly to follow and register his emotions aroused by the masterpiece is his function.

There must be standards, but the two greatest are sympathy and its half-sister, sincerity. The schoolmaster rule of thumb is ridiculous; ridiculous, too, is any man setting

1. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 207

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up an effigy of himself and. boasting of his ’objectivity.' The happy mean between sv/ashbucking criticism and the pom- pous academic attitude, dull but dignified, seems diffi- cult of attainment. But it exists. To use the personal pronoun in criticism doesn’t always mean ’subjectivity.’

I don’t believe in schools, movements, or schematologies , or any one method of seeing and writing. Be charitable, be broad--in a word, be cosmopolitan. He is a hobby of mine, this citizen of the world. A novelist may be pro- vincial, parochial as the town pump, that is his picture; but a critic must not be narrov/ in his outlook on the world. He need not be so catholic as to admire both Cezanne and Cabanel, for they are mutually exclusive, but he should be cosmopolitan in his sympathies, else his standards are insufficient. The truth is, criticism is a i full-sized man’s job." 1.



j The critic is to educate himself and broaden his vievirpoint

and sympathies to the end that he may justly interpret and cor- rectly appraise the work of art. The critic is human; he has his limitations, his prejudices, his preferences, of which he cannot rid himself but his knowledge and his outlook must be jbroad enough for him to render a correct estimate of the work


I considered. The critic cannot dispense with standards; the de- m-ands of excellence must be always before him. Sincerity and simplicity will help him toward an honest evaluation. Such a method was Huneker’s practice as well as preachment.

No Identity Between Genius and Taste

There was no doubt in Huneker’s mind concerning the non- identity of genius and taste;

"The critic need not be a painter to write of painting; a com.poser to speak of music. His primary appeal is to the public. He is the interpreter. The psychological process es need not concern us. There are the inevitable limita- tions. Describing music in terms of prose is hopeless.

The only true criticism of music is the playing thereof.

We are again confronted with the Vance Thompson crux; write about your liver, or the weather, or calico cats, as

1. Steeplejack, Volume 2, Page 122

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I am now doing. All the rest is technical camouflage. Of course, a catholic critic doesn’t mean an unprejudiced one. A critic without prejudices would be a faultless monster, and like Aristides the Just, should be stoned.” .... 1. ”a 11 said and done, a question of temperament, this opin- ion of one great man about the work of another.

"Therefore, brethren, it behooves us to be humble, as pride goeth before a fall. Like the industrious crow, the critic, or, as you will, the calico cat, should hop after the sowers of beauty, content to pick up in the furrowed field the grains dropped by genius. At best the critic sits down to a Barmecide's feast, to see, to smell, but not to taste the celestial manna vouchsafed by the gods.

We are only contemporaries of genius, all of us, and the calico cat is the badge of' our tribe. But who dares con- fess that shocking truth? And who shall bell the calico cat?" 2.

No Connection Between Morality and Art

Neither was there any connection between morality and art.

He never makes the mistake of the Puritan critics who preceded

and followed him of judging a work of art in the light of the

morals of the artist. Disapproval of the artist's way of life

was no criterion for real appreciation of his work.

”l adored Poe, and sadly wonder over the certain condescen- sion among our native critics when speaking of him. He drank. So did General Grant. He drugged. So did Coler- idge, Dei^uincey, and Charles Baudelaire. He was inconstant, So were Byron, Shelley, Swinburne--oh I billions of humans; what man some time or other hasn’t carried a harem under his hat? Or dreamed of houris never seen on sea or land I But European poets could live recklessly while this unhappy American was hunted to his grave for his temperamental va- riations; and once buried was quickly exhumed by the moral buzzards. As Baudelaire, who gave Poe European fame by translating him, wrote; ’Since when are the jackals per- mitted to defile the graves of genius in the United States? 'Why don’t critics and public alike pose the important question: Is the work good? Is the work bad? Do this and

the moral will take care of itself--that misery-breeding moral, varying like a weather-vane according to clime, time, and circumstance.” 3.

This matter of morality in the artist shows Huneker's power

1. Bedouins, Page 124

2. Ibid., Page 124

3. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 100


of dispassionate judgment; de neitiier approves nor condemns the artist’s falls from grace. He tries to understand and, wherever possible, condones. Here, in his ovm. particular way, he achieves a degree of objectivity not always reached by those who write objective criticism.

Contemporaries ’ Estimates of Huneker as a Critic Confusion Regarding His i/i/orth

Concerning Huneker 's place in American criticism, the Cur-

rent Opinion for April 1921 said:

"Seldom has so great a critic been subjected to such con- tradictory verdicts. Huneker, if we may judge from recent estimates on both sides of the Atlantic, was anything from a genius of the first order to a charlatan who pitifully wasted his gifts." 1.

The more one delves into the comparatively small literature about Huneker, the more one realizes that this is true. Where he is considered, there is either the hyperbole of praise or the inadequacy of underestimation, Huneker is either the in- spired pathfinder of American culture or a glorified book re- viewer. Some of this confusion regarding his critical impor- tance is the result of lack of perspective. We are too close to Huneker ’s time and his work was too far in advance of his time for correct judgment by his contemporaries.

Estimates -- Favorable and Unfavorable

Let us consider some of the divergent views concerning him to see if we can arrive at a general estimate of his worth to the field of literary criticism.

In the article cited, the opinion of several English

1. Current Opinion, April 1921, Placing James Himeker as a Critic

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papers and periodicals--all in the negative as far as Huneker's critical judgment is concerned--is quoted. The writer of the article remarks that this lack of appreciation in England may be due to a large extent to Huneker’s innate modesty and self- depreciation. His style was doubtless antipathetic to current English reviewing. One finds it hard to conceive of a more com- plete antithesis than that betv/een Huneker’s style and that of I the average English review. Huneker couldn’t have been ponder- ous if he had tried and there are no indications that he ever


Benjamin de Casseres in a review of Bedouins says: He [huneke^ has a marvelous power of suggesting, of stimulating, of suddenly embanking widely separated notions and as suddenly

disassociating them, as some one said about him, his brillian-

1 .

cy and versatility hide his profundity." In a publishers’

note to Variations we find the following:

"Alone among American belletristic writers he {Eunekerj followed the French journalistic literary tradition il- lumed and rendered illustrious by the practice of a long and shining roll of litterateurs. Such a practice tends of itself to popularize its product by inevitably keeping the larger public more or less in mind and therefore es- chewing professional pedantries. The element of person- ality acquires prominence as in conversation. Style it- self becomes conversational. Huneker is as familiar in address as if he were not erudite in material," 2.

Norman T. Byrne, writing in Scribner’s of May 1922, seeks

to find in Huneker’s life physical and emotional foundation for some of his defects and virtues. He pursues his thesis too vigorously for the value of some of the resulting judgments.

1. Scribner’s, May 1922 i2. Variations (Publishers’ note)





As an example of this tendency, he attributes to Huneker a de- votion to Catholic ritual, aroused by what Burnes calls his "morbid” love of a pious mother, which makes Huneker incapable of making a correct judgment where an anti-Catholic is consi- dered, and points to Huneker 's articles on Oscar Wilde and James Joyce as indication of this. This is palpably false. Huneker was not over-devout himself and many of the people he praises most loudly were active enemies of the Church, Reli- gion, no more than anything else, ever affected Huneker 's judg- ment. Moreover, Huneker has plenty of ground for his dicta re- garding Wilde and Joyce and they are not religious ones. If there is any critic to whom the quality of catholicity (small "c") could be ascribed, it is to Huneker. His charity of judg- ment amounts almost to a defect.

Mr. Byrne traces out Huneker 's philosophy of life and says it "made for subjective valuation, leniency, a freshening zest

for life that was pagan in spirit and a passionate love for art

1 .

that was almost religious." it also, according to Mr. Byrne, made for presentative , sketchy work which, though never dog- matic, was too humble and lacked general principles.

Mr. Byrne wisely remarks the French influence in Huneker and says:

"He had too vital an appreciation of the beautiful to fol- low Bruneti^re, but he was frightened by the freedom of the impressionistic methods of Anatole France." 2.

This does not sound like the mark of an utter impressionist.

Huneker, in Mr. Byrnes's estimation, had an unreasoning

1. James G. Huneker, by Norman T. Byrne, Scribner's, May 1922, Volume 71, Page 300

2. Ibid., Page 300 ci r 30 eon’LC"-: ia:\\

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respect for established authority, for venerable institutions,

for time-worn reoutations, “a thing that is also held in check

1 .

by all the natural vitality and genius of the man.’* This respect for authority accounts also for Huneker’s touches of sentimentality. And yet, this man who was so tinged with rever- ence for things that are could be the chief welcomer of all new worthwhile things in the arts. A man who could combine these two points of view must necessarily be possessed of a broad judgment .

Mr. Byrne says that Huneker’s main quality is "freshness."

He is a gust of fresh air "that deranged the musty rooms of a

2 .

criticism grown didactic and lifeless."

Mr. Bernard Smith has an interesting theory regarding Huneker’s role in American criticism. He says the most sig- nificant and potent critical ideas of the twentieth century came from Huneker, Spingarn, and Van VVyck Brooks: Huneker brought in impressionism and Mencken; Spingarn, expressionism; and Van Wyck Brooks, a liberal’s criticism of American society. Of the three. Brooks and Huneker are most important for they alone created schools and attracted foreigners and, of the two, Huneker has done most to affect American taste and criticism as Brooks's force has been spent in narrow range.

The reason for the emergence of these men Mr. Smith at- tributes to the rise of a new bourgeois class, founded upon in- dustry, capitalism, international trade, a city, cosmopolitan class, as the United States began to change from a mercantile

1. Scribner’s May 1922, Volume 71, Page 300

2. Ibid.

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pioneer community into an empire society. This class, Mr. Smith says, was subject to disillusioned, pragmatic, epicurean atti- tudes which characterize the modern spirit. Huneker, in Mr.

Smith’s opinion, was the complete expression of his age and that

1 .

was the reason for his success.

His cosmopolitanism, his sensuality, his indifference to

the Puritan virtues, his contempt for Victorian esthetic, and

2 .

his grim, inflexible individualism” mark him as the mouthpiece of this new society.

Mr. Smith says:

"He was always several steps ahead of the community that bred him, he was seldom in advance of, or superior to, its aspirations or even its latent reflexes. It was this class that came to dominate American life immediately after the World War. It set the whole tone of the decade in the arts and professions, in society, behavior, manners, and politics. And James Huneker ’s mind, his soul, if you will, was the dream of this class incarnate, and indeed it was his friends, his disciples, and pupils, who ruled the roost throughout the twenties. He is a shadow while his follow- ers are canonized, yet it was he who did the spade-work and bequeathed the style and the point of view which were later made popular by a dozen journalists. 'He was a man,' said Van Wyck Brooks, 'of the tribe.' Therein, entirely, lies his importance.” 3.

It would amuse Huneker to be named the head of so vast a movement as a new class of society, him who disclaimed all schools and movements. Huneker stood for representative aes- thetic values which are dateless and timeless. He was influ- enced by his time and place in history as any participating be- ing is, but no critic has ever been more remote from the senti- ments of the general public. He believed in the cult of the great man. Progress is in the advancement of the ideals of the

1. Man of the Tribe, by Bernard Smith, Saturday Review of Literature, August 19, 1933, Volume 10, Page 49

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

exceptional individual, the man who cultivates his human capa- bilities to the highest possible development. Huneker was gre- garious and friendly but no man was less of the ’’tribe." He flays its shortcomings too often. Mencken may be an outstand- ing representative of this allegedly new class in society but Huneker is not Mencken, in spite of their friendship and common qualities. As far as civilization went, Huneker was, least of all, an iconoclast. To a present-day reader he kowtows too much to established authority. That boyhood shyness and life- long gentleness of spirit are endearing qualities but they do not make a revolutionary personality.

Mr. Smith also says that Huneker is hard to read today.

He says that Huneker had no depth, no substance, no wisdom; that he was not a real intellect. He was a pure impressionist, in other words. Huneker was never easy to read and his work is more or less dated. The world-at-large has caught up with him

in some respects but a page of Huneker is still a good mental

1 .

exercise as well as an enjoyable one.

His virtues, Mr. Smith sums up on two words, "sympathy" and "enthusiasm." These made for Huneker his success and also defects. Mr. Smith says that Huneker has seen good in inferior artists. Huneker would be the first to admit it. Mr. Smith

remarks that Huneker has been wrong in certain judgments. Hune-

2 .

ker was big enough not to think himself infallible.

The most unjust estimate of Huneker encountered is that in Fred Lewis Pattee's The New American Literature . Mr. Pattee

1. Man of the Tribe, by Bernard Smith, Saturday Review of Literature, August 19, 1933, Volume 10, Page 49

2. Ibid,


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gives Hunekei^ credit for his anti-Puritanism, his versatility, his pioneer v>rork in introducing European culture to America and for momentary flashes of real critical insight. One feels con- stantly that he is "playing down" Huneker's value and influence and that possibly it comes from the fact that Mr. Pattee over- looked Huneker completely in his History of American Literature .

"To the commonalty he was first known, as far as he was known, in 1917 through Mencken’s essay, later published in his Book of Prefaces . " 1.

One wonders where Mr. Pattee was when Huneker was doing his best work. Huneker was well knovm and appreciated, even before he vjas "discovered" by Mr. Mencken. It is possible to name many people less concerned with the progress of American litera- ture than Mr. Pattee must have been who knew and admired Hunekei years before 1917.

Mr. Pattee makes another assertion which is manifestly un-

true .

"By temperament the man was headlong, impatient, a grasper at half-truths, a maker of epigrams at the expense of truth. His sarcasm was withering. His greatest pleasure was making 'imbeciles realize their imbecility’ and by im- beciles he meant all not in step with his own little com- pany." 2.

Enough has been said here in the evidence concerning Hune- ker's abnormal humility to show that this is a false statement.


jHuneker did dislike the pettiness and tawdriness of irjany of the


mob’s ideals but what he had to say of it was said with witty geniality, not sarcasm. He had a whimsical tolerance even toward the Philistine in the opinion of a writer in the Weekly

1. The Nev/ American Literature, Page 436

2. Ibid., Page 439


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Review of February 23, 1921:

"Courtesy, almost deference vi/as his habitual attitude toward conservative colleagues who challenged all his values." 1.

Mr. Pattee is disappointed in Steeplejack . Its failure to satisfy he assigns to Huneker’s bohemianism. Steeplejack is disappointing as an autobiography, mainly because it doesn’t tell us enougii of Huneker, Some of the incidents are unimport- ant. Mencken says that the chapter concerning Theodore Roose-

2 .

velt is "downright equivocation." It is distinctly banal.

One cannot imagine Huneker indulging in mob-worship of this kind. There is trivial gossip in Steeplejack but one does read and re- read it with delight and one comes away from it with a vivid realization of contact with a lovable personality and an ex- ceptional one. VVhen one realizes that this was v/ritten serially for The Philadelphia Public Ledger in fifteen weeks, one marvels all the more at its grace and charm. It couldn’t have been Hune- ker’s had it been heavy and dignified. Huneker calls it a "rag

Huneker’s work was "Moby-Dicks, chaotic, mostly trash," to


Mr. Pattee. This, concerning some of the most brilliant writ- ing of the century, is hardly equitable criticism.

To Ludwig Lewisohn,

"the entire modern period of American culture is scarcely thinkable without the long, energetic and fruitful activity of James Huneker. 4. . . .if there had come by 1909 to exist an American minority that v/as aware of the direction of human culture, that group was largely the creation of James Huneker." 5.

l/" Weekly Review, February 23, 1921," Huneker as a Critic, Vol. 4 , Page 186

2. Prejudices, Third Series, by H. L. Mencken, Page 79

3. The New American Literature, by Fred Lewis Pattee, Page 440

4. Expression in America, by Ludv/ig Lewisohn, Page 350

Yet Lewisohn sees Huneker as a pure impressionist.

"He was the pure impressionist, but that is what America needed. For nearly all critics hut himself cut themselves off from the majority of artistic impacts by anterior prin- ciples worthy of the W. C. T. U. But his sensibility was first-rate in quality, for it embraced all the arts and it I was united to a taste that was almost unerring. . . . Not that Huneker had not, when he chose, an intellectual rela- tion to his idols. ’Nietzsche, it should be remembered, was a great psychologist, perhaps greater as such than as a formulator of a philosophical system. ' But Huneker did not choose very often to use his mind. Driven constantly to write for bread, it was easier to be gossipy, allusive, splenetic, to make anecdote and enthusiasm do for substance. .... An austerer and more scrupulous spirit would not so successfully have carried the war of modernity into all the rotting citadels of genteel criticism and Anti-Saloon League taste in letters." 1.

h. W. Boynton laments Huneker' s preoccupation with matters of the stomach and his bohemianism but gives him credit for his versatility, his critical ability, his vitality, and human qual- ities .

"He was versatile with the uncalculating enthusiasm of a boy who will turn from one hilltop to another with complete disregard of all the hard climbing it involves. It's the fresh view he was after. . . . All the work in the world won't produce versatility and I'm sorry to add that versa- tility too often spells superficiality." 2.

"He never praised his own v/ork, but he enjoyed the praise of others. He was inclined to undervalue himself." 3.

"He is an eager lover of the things that are more excellent versatile all the time, but some of the time an exact and exhaustive student; an overflowing spring of generous im- pulses, a sensitive and abiding friend, and a loyal lover. It must have been fun to know him." 4.

There are more enthusiastic judgments concerning Huneker 's critical contribution: Benjamin de Casseres, one of his friends, tells us,

"His birth was as much an event in America as the birth of

1. Expression in America, by Ludwig Lewisolin, Page 354

2. Some Contemporary Americans, by H. ii/. Boynton, Page 226

3. Ibid. , Page 229

4. Ibid., Page 229


Walt Whitman and. Edgar Allen Poe." 1.

As early as July 1909, a writer in Current Literature ac- claimed Huneker as the Brandes of American literature and said his position was all the more outstanding because there were so few critics of worth in America.

"We can easily count our critics on our fingers; and unless we are arrantly optimistic in our own interpretation of the critic we need no more than a single hand. On the hand of criticism, Mr. Pollard, himself, (Percival) at his best may be compared to the little finger, Mr. Paul E. More, emi- nently sane and respectable, to the thumb, but James Hune- ker is the forefinger pointing the way to the new." 2.

The Nev; Republic, shortly after Huneker 's death, honestly

estimated his qualities:

"it is no part of the standing quarrel betv/een the field forces of criticism and its general staff to say that Hune- ker was naturally enlisted in active service. This was due in some measure to the exigencies of place and time. His America could not possibly accomodate within its narrow working ideas the multifold artistic Europe of which he had such fresh and special tidings. He was condemned to devote himself to the more immediate forms of interpretation. To such interpretation he gave himself without reserve or stint. It was really a journalistic task undertaken with unselfishness and it was overlighted with new names and references." 3.

"He worked with good heart and true intuition. Not follow- ing others' footsteps, as is the common fault of the author- itarians, he has proved to be the forerunner of the age that is now flourishing, with the heroes of this age the men whom he discerned and proclaimied on his own responsibi- lity, in a manner which was equally spirited." 4.

The New Republic does not want us to classify Huneker with

(Others of the critical profession, maintaining that Huneker was

Ln a class by himself.

"He was a Dionysiac force in criticism., gay and warm, as well as sharp and spiced and stinging. His relish for life and literature, his torrent of allusion and enumeration

1. Current Opinion, 4pril 1921, Placing Huneker as a Critic, Volume 70, Page 534

2. Current Literature, July 1909, James Huneker, Super-Critic, Volume 47, Page 57

3. New Republic, P'ebruary 23, 1921, Vol 25, P. 357 /4. Ibid.

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should keep him froi;. the pigeon-hole of classification. He was a creator who loved every variety of artistic creative- ness, and gave this country an unexampled report of it. To lose him is to lose a true watcher of the skies.” 1.

according to the Literary Digest of Larch 5, 1921, con- servatives and radicals in literature acclaimed him at his death. It stated that no specialist in any one of the arts could impeach Huneker's judgment in the whole gamut of them. It quoted, Ex-Attorney-General George vtf. Wickersham, a boyhood friend of tiuneker, as saying at his funeral regarding the earnestness of tiuneker's criticism:

"He judged all that was produced in any domain of art by comparison with absolute standards. His condemnation v/as not a matter of feeling or prejudice. It was the inevitalUe result of contrast. He could be witty without being cruel. It was this rare quality of impersonal judgment which singles him out as imique among critics. He had a great human tolerance for the failures of any man or vj-oman whom he saw struggling to give the world v/hat he perceived of truth or beauty in created things. He had no tolerance for affectation. He was inexorable in the application of standards of art.” 2.

The Living Age of May 14, 1921 quoted an article by Thomas

4oult which appeared in The English Review of April of that year.

"Huneker’s relish for life and literature showed qualities of which there is no equivalent in England. ’A Dionysiac force in criticism' he has been well called, apart as the poles from our own litterateurs, writing their criticism sadly, our zestless authoritarians.” 3.

In Mr, Moult 's opinion, Huneker had a rich and ripe knowl- edge and no suggestion of writing dovm to his public. The fol- lowing is interesting for its reference to Huneker's allusive- ness :

"He explored Europe and returned to New York with fresh tidings and generally sound pronouncements. He loved to

1. New Republic, February 23, 1921, Volume 25, Page 357

2. Literary Digest, March 5, 1921, Volume 68, Page 28

3. The Living Age, iviay 14, 1921, Volume 309, Page 426

docket his artistic heroes as madmen, wits, saints and sin- ners, and he captured their splendor, their pathos, and their gaiety for his readers in a way that has no compari- son in critical ready-writing. He reveled in allusiveness, confirming one of his author's statements by the words of ten others, checking an English painting by an Italian master, until the reader's mind is as heavily freighted as a catalogue. On one page of his Ivory Apes and Peacocks there may be counted thirty-three references l'* 1.

kr. Moult, too, says that tumeker's later books were not

the equals of the first.

Lawrence Gilman, a friend, writing in the North American of April 1921 said:

"Mr. Huneker in a quite definite and literal sense began and ended a significant period in the aesthetic life of this country. He had scarcely a precursor; he was unique while he lived; and he has no successor." 2.

Mr. Gilman is well av\fare of the significance of Huneker 's

contribution to American letters:

"Vi/hile Hamilton Wright kabie and his confreres were earnest- ly lecturing and essaying upon Thackeray and Dickens, try- ing to estimate, a little uncertainly, George Meredith and relapsing upon James Lane Allen with obvious relief, while their musical and pictorial brothers of the critical craft were engrossed in Brahms and Tchaikovsky, Pinero and Clyde Fitch, Sargent and Abbey, Mr. Huneker gaily conducted to public pasture (as he once put it) a surprising 'flock of Unicorns ' --typifying the dreamers of dreams in the Seven Arts . " 3 .

"To a public culture wnich had been timorous and parochial, a civilization which had been drab, anaemic, and thin, Mr. Huneker, almost unaided, brought color and gayety and abundance. . . . Into the depressing drabness of our crit- ical writing, with its incomparable paltriness and steril- ity, its dullness and triteness, its traditionalism and vapidity, kr . Huneker entered with somewhat the effect of a gusty spring wind blowing through a long-closed Mid- Western parlor." 4.

It is Mr. Gilman's belief that Huneker had completed his work before he died; that his pioneering was done and that his

1. The Living Age., May 14, 1921, Volume 309, Page 426

2. The North American, April 1921, Volume 243, Page 556 f3. Ibid.


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writing had begun to wear thin. Huneker was a stylist and had the gift of summing up an era or a writer in a succint and re- vealing phrase which remains with the reader as a key to the age or individual described. l/i/hen he had done so, if the phrase pleased him, he was likely to repeat it, Huneker tells us in Steeple.jack that at one time he was at “the hypercritical age,

believing that no phrase should be repeated, an insane notion

1 .

that often afflicts ’stylists,’” Later such repetition did not trouble him and there are many instances of it. Of this tendency Mr. Gilman says:

”lt was always a defect in his style that he fell in love with certain epithets, and that these hypnotized him, dogged his footsteps in his prose, tending to make it seem artificial and self-conscious. 2,

To Mr. Gilman the later books are inferior to the earlier and include banalities which the earlier Huneker would have sup- pressed. Vifith the exception of Unicorns , I think this is true. The essays seem more trivial, more journalistic, the good Hune- ker bits are farther apart.

It is a matter of regret to Mr. Gilman that Huneker did not

sare to “attempt any orientation of artistic phenomena in the


social scheme," to reduce his judgments to the terms of general Ideas. Mr. Gilman ascribes this failure to Huneker ’s aversion bo interpreting literature in the light of moral and philosoph- ical codes,

"No doubt he failed to discriminate between the criticism that is enriched by an acute awareness of all the inter- acting forces of its social seating and the incurable American habit of discussing aesthetic phenomena in terms

1. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 137

2. The North American, April, 1921, Volume 243, Page 556 •

3. Ibid.




of rigid and sentimental piety, . . . But he need not have

detached himself so wholly from the deeper and wider im- plications of his subject matter.'* 1.

This is Huneker’s main defect in Mr. Gilman's eyes for he goes on to say;

"Yet, when all is said, how immeasurably valuable an influ- ence he was I What susceptibility, clairvoyance, immediacy of response were his. He was innocent of prepossessions, infinitely flexible and generous. He was the friend of any talent fine and strange and courageous enough to incur the dislike of the might army of Bourbons, Puritans, and Boeotians, His critical tact was almost infallible. . . .

He has written pages that will always be cherished by those for whom criticism is one of the several ways of literature --pages of superb and gorgeous imagination, of beautiful insight, of splendid valor. He was, as we have already said of him, both vivid and acute, robust and fine -fingered, tolerant yet unyielding, astringent, yet t ender- -dynamic , contagious, perpetually lovable, inveterately alive. Re- membering him one remembers, too, one of his favorite quo- tations from Nietzsche ; 'Convictions are prisons. . . .

New ears for new music. . . . New eyes for the most remote

things . ' " 2 .

Mencken possesses Huneker's gift of characterizing a writer cr movement with an illuminating phrase, although Huneker's was nore apt to represent a wider judgment. Mencken has v/ritten of iuneker with appreciation and insight. He gives us many person- al glimpses of Huneker, a thing which is difficult to find in bhe case of a man who kept out of the limelight. He calls Hune- ier

"the solitary lokanaan in this tragic aesthetic wilderness, the only critic among us whose vision sweeps the whole j field of beauty, and whose reports of what he sees there

j show any genuine gusto. That gusto of his, I fancy, is

j two-thirds of his story. It is unquenchable, contagious,

I inflammatory; he is the only performer in the commissioned

j troupe who knows how to arouse his audience to anything ap- i proaching enthusiasm." 3.

IL. The North American, April, 1921, Volume 243, Page 556 g. Ibid.

3. A Book of Prefaces, by H. L. Mencken, Page 159

This joy in life is remarked by all the commentators as it must by even the most casual reader of Huneker. To this quality hencken attributes Huneker 's excellence in presentation over the other American critics. Huneker had the incomparable advantage of personal charm. Mencken says that Huneker ’s two studies on Ibsen, contrasted with the general body of writing upon Ibsen, reoresent the difference "between a portrait and a Bertillion

1 .

photograph, Kichard Strauss and Czerny, a wedding and an autopsy." p?he superiority of Huneker ’s treatment comes also from the fact


that he was a real man of culture, not the ordinary half -in- formed critic. Mencken says:

"He has reported more of interest and value than any other American critic, living or dead, but the essence of his criticism does not lie so much in what he specifically re- ports as in the civilized point of view from which he re- ports it. He is a true cosmopolitan, not only in the actu- al range of his adventurings , but also and more especially in his attitude of mind. His world is not America, nor Europe, nor Christendom, but the whole universe of beauty. " 2 .

Mencken gives him credit for altering the outlook of American literature and criticism.

"He was, I believe, the first American (not forgetting William Morton Payne and Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen, the pi- oneers) to write about Ibsen with any understanding of the artist behind the prophet's mask; he was the first to see the rising star of Nietzsche (this was back in 1888); he was beating a drum for Shaw the critic before ever Shaw the dramatist and mob philosopher was born (circa 1886-1890); he was writing about Hauptmann and Maeterlinck before they had got well set on their legs in their own countries; his estimate of Sudermann, bearing date of 1905, may stand with scarcely the change of a word today; he did a lot of val- iant pioneering for Strindberg, Hervieu, Stirner and Gorki, and later on helped in the pioneering for Conrad; he was in the van of the MacDowell enthusiasts; he fought for the ideas of such painters as Davies, Lawson, Luks , Sloan and

1. ii Book of Prefaces, by H. L. Mencken, Page 160

2. Ibid., Page 161 5. Ibid., Page 162


Prendergest (Americans all, by the way: an answer to the hollow charge of exotic obsession) at a time when even Manet, Monet and Degas were laughed at; he was among the first to give a hand to Prank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane and H. B. Puller. In sum, he gave some sem- blance of reality in the United States, after other men had tried and failed, to that great but ill-starred revolt against Victorian pedantry, formalism and sentimentality which began in the early 90' s. It would be difficult, in- deed, to overestimate the practical value to all the arts in America of his intellectual alertness, his catholic hospitality to ideas, his artistic courage, and, above all, his powers of persuasion. It was not alone that he saw clearly what was sound and significatn; it was that he managed, by the sheer charm of his writings, to make a few others see and understand it. If the United States is in any sort of contact today, however remotely, with what is aesthetically going on in the more civilized countries--if the Puritan tradition, for all its firm entrenchment, has eager and resourceful enemies besetting it--if the pall of Harvard quasi-culture, by the Oxford manner out of Calvin- ism, has been lifted ever so little--there is surely no man who can claim a larger share of credit for preparing the way. " 1

More to the same effect--

"VVhile the college pedagogues of the Brander Matthews type still worshipped the dead bones of Scribe and Sardou, Ro- bertson and Bulwer-Lytton, he preached the new and revolu- tionary gospel of Ibsen. In the golden age of Rosa Bon- heur's 'The Horse Pair,' he was expounding the principles of the post-impressionists. In the midst of the Sousa marches he whooped for Richard Strauss. Before the rev. professors had come to Schopenhauer, or even to Spencer, he was hauling ashore the devil-fish, Nietzsche. No stranger poisons have ever passed through the customs than those he brought in his baggage. No man among us has ever urged more ardently, or with sounder knowledge or greater persuasiveness, that catholicity of taste and sympathy which stands in such direct opposition to the booming cer- tainty and snarling narrowness of Little Bethel.” 2.

jMencken says that Huneker knew as much as forty men



"and his knowledge was well-ordered and instantly avail- able. He had read everything and seen everything and nothing that he had ever read or seen or heard quite passed, out of his mind." 3.

1. A Book of Prefaces, by H. L. Mencken, Page 162

2. Ibid., Page 192

3. Prejudices: Third Series, by H. L. Mencken, Page 82


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To Mencken, Huneker was a stimulating companion, good- humored and witty, and an enthralling conversationalist. Words and phrases fell from him with startling rapidity and all were worth remembering. Mencken says that Huneker’ s style in his books could not help being allusive as his talk was ten times more allusive than his writing.

Old Fogy and the one novel. Painted Veils , represent the real Huneker more than any other of the books, in Mencken's be- lief. He maintains that Huneker lost something of spontaneity in his books; that in his newspaper writing there was a freer and more characteristic expression of the man. Huneker seemed to feel a restraint in his formal v/riting that he did not feel in his daily newspaper feats.

Mencken does not miss Huneker 's faults and points of defect.

To him, Huneker has no capacity for extra-aesthetic valuations.

"if a work of art that stood before him was honest, if it was original, if it was beautiful and thoroughly alive, then he was for it to his last corpuscle." 1.

This led him, according to Mencken, to espouse persons who were

unworthy, "the sort of revolutionary who is here today and gone

2 .

tomorrow" and to neglect the new men who were more drab in ap- pearance. He praised some frauds and overlooked some good peo- ple in Mencken's judgment but, in general, Mencken says one is amazed by the soundness of Huneker 's judgments.

"He discerned the new and the important long before most of his contemporaries discerned it, and he described it habit- ually in terms that were never bettered afterwards." 3.

"His successive heroes, always under fire when he first

1. Prejudices; Third Series, by H. L. Mencken, Page 72

2. Ibid., Page 74

3. Ibid., Page 75

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championed the, almost invariably moved to secure ground and became solid men, challenged by no one save fools-“Ib- sen, Nietzsche, Brahms, Strauss, Cezanne, Stirner, Synge, the Russian Composers, the Russian novelists. He did for this Vi/'estern world what Georg Brandes was doing for Con- tinental Europe--sorting out the new comers with sharp eyes, and giving mighty lifts to those who deserved it." 1.

Most of Huneker’s defects, Mencken feels, came from his

virtues, his extreme modesty. Mencken realizes that Huneker was

not much of a fighter. He says:

"And though he was the greatest of all the enemies that the guardians had to face, it was seldom that he tackled them directly. ... He was always loath to set himself direct- ly against a concrete champion of orthodoxy; he could never get quite over the feeling that he was no more than an ama- teur among such gaudy doctors and that it would be unseem- ly for him to flout them too openly." 2.

Mencken accounts for this timorousness by Huneker' s intense gregariousness and the fact that for long years Huneker was fighting alone, putting forward these new gods with no sustain- ing congregation. The reason probably lies deeper than these facts. He was shy as a boy and gentle in his relationships with others all his life. Vife have remarked his inability to hate anything except hypocrisy and noise. He never lambasted his opponents, believing that they had a right to their opinions even as he. Mencken says that Steeplejack is full of apolo- getic timidity.

"it is the biography of a man who came to the end of his life harboring doubts of his own chief accomplishments and a bit intimidated by his own fame." 3.

Mencken is authority for the statement that it embarrassed Huneker to have his superiority to the rest of the critics dis- cussed. Huneker felt he had spread himself too thinly over the

1. Prejudices: Third Series, by H. L. Mencken, Page 75

2. Century, June, 1921, James Huneker, by H. L. Mencken, Vol. 102, Page 191

3. Ibid., Page 191


arts and did not know so much as the supposed experts in the separate fields of art.

Mencken blames this same timidity for Huneker's acceptance Df membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters, viencken affirms that:

"The offer of it to a man of his age and attainments after he had been passed over year after year in favor of all sorts of cheap-jack novelists and tenth-rate compilers of college textbooks, was intrinsically insulting; it was al- most as if the Musical Union had offered to admit a Brahms.’* 1 .

Just the fact that it might have been discourteous or insulting j Tor Huneker to refuse the membership might have influenced him to accept it. He seems constitutionally unable to hurt anybody’s feelings, even an organization’s.

Mencken, too, noted a dimunition in intensity and idea in , bhe later books of Huneker, a tendency to conform to current es- timations .

"He praises such one-day masterpieces as McPee's ’ Casuals of the Sea ’ ; he is polite to the gaudy heroines of the opera-house; he gags a bit at 'vVright ’ s ’ Modern Painting ’ ; he actually makes a gingery curtsy to Prank Jewett mather, a Princeton professor. . . . The pressure in the gauges can’t keep up to 250 pounds forever. Man must tire of fighting after a while, and seek ease in his inn.” 2.

■fet none of Huneker ’s faults could blind Mencken to his great

influence in American literature.

"into an assembly of national critics who had long Vi^allowed in dogmatic puerilities, Huneker entered v/ith a taste in- finitely surer and more civilized, a learning infinitely greater, and an address infinitely more engaging. Mo man was less the reformer by inclination, and yet hs became a reformer beyond compare. He emancipated criticism in America from its old slavery to stupidity, and with it he emancipated all the arts themselves.” 3.

1. Prejudices: Third Series, _ by H. L. Mencken, Page 81

2. A Book of Prefaces, by H. L. Mencken, Page 183

3. Prejudices: Third Series, by H. L, Mencken, Page 83







— — — I

Perhaps the best all-around estimation of Huneker is in

deorpie E. DeMille's Literary Criticism in America. Bernard

Smith, in the article already quoted, says that DeMille's ac- 1


count is deification of Huneker. The choice of v/ord is exag-


gerated; it is justification. !


DeMille points the fact, obvious to anybody who has been |


at all concerned with Huneker, that he has been neglected and ^


ignored: i


"Every now and then some criticaster, of the sort who be- j lieve that authors can be ranked and graded like pupils in; a class in elementary arithmetic, sets out to answer the question , vVho is the great ^imerican critic? The answers ! to this question have been various and surprising. Lowell j has been most often mentioned, but one also hears the names| of Poe, Stedman, and even Margaret Fuller. No one, how- ever, has as yet nominated for the honor James Huneker. Indeed, of all the major Am.erican critics, Huneker has been most persistently ignored. The qualities of the man are so obvious that this demands some attempt at explana- tion. This neglect is no doubt partly due to his lifelong connection with the daily papers--a connection that in- vites the academic epithet-- journalistic . More of it is j

owing to Huneker 's critical isolation. Most critics, the ! reader has probably noticed, speak not only for themselves j but for some group of creative writers, or some general movement of literary thought. They are party leaders, and the party helps them to fame. But Huneker belonged to no movement, advocated no reform, v/as touted by no clique, and it has been in the interest of no particular literary group to shout his praises. Only abroad has his import- ance been recognized. Rem.y de Gourrnont, Paul Bourget,

Georg Brandes , men whose mere awareness of the existence of an American critic mieant a great deal, recorded their estimation of him in flattering terms. Nor v^as this unde- served. One can give him no higher praise than to say that in range of interest, in keenness of intelligence, in catholicity of taste, in brilliance of style, he reminds one constantly of the great French critics of the Nine- teenth Century, of Sainte-Beuve and Taine and Le Maitre."

DeMille traces Huneker’ s life in an attempt to account for


■ - ■ — ^

1. Literary Criticism in iunerica by George E. DeMille, Page 206





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some of his critical characteristics. It is interesting to note that to the very agency to which Mr. Norman T. Byrne as- cribes Huneker’s supposed inability to judge the vrork of remiss Catholics, his Catholic up-bringing, DeMille ascribes his aloof- ness from Puritanism and the excesses of the anti-Puritanists .


"Both the Puritan, who shrieks ’Wipe it out,’ and the anti- Puritan, who demands it everywhere and then attempts to prove that it does not exist, are untrue to the facts of literature and life. Huneker did neither; he was neither prudish nor prurient. He dealt with many authors who were under the moral ban--Wedekind, George Moore, d’Annunzio-- but without descending to become either an apologist or a censor. The point is worth emphasizing, because this de- tachment, this balance, this moral tolerance, has been sadly lacking in most of our American critics.'* 1.

DeMille says Huneker ’s cosmopolitanism gave him valuable

contacts abroad and width of judgment but that he remained as

2 .

Anierican as fried chicken in spite of it.

Huneker ’s great vitality is acknov/ledged by DeMille. He says that critics possessed of such liveliness usually found schools or movements. It v/as huneker ’s distinction that he was both alive and aloof and this combination gives him his pecu-

liar excellence. Some of his work is uniraportnat but the best,

according to DeMille, is comparable to the scholarly work of the

3 .

"most cloistered recluse in critical history" and at the same time the work of a man intensely alive and eternally active in the world’s pursuits.

Huneker ’s interest in mysticism also tempered his vital exuberance that might have become mere barbarism and gave us a better-rounded personality. DeMille traces the importance of

1. Literary Criticism in Anierica, by George E. DeMille, P. 210

2. Ibid., Page 213

3. Ibid., Page 214

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the classical in music upon Huneker’s musical equipment and says;

"One finds the same qualities in his work as a critic of painting- -wide knowledge, classical backbone, liking for the new, the exotic, the strange." 1.

The same could be said of his literary criticism, DeMille

points out the romanticism in his liking for the extremes of

personality and the classicism of his interest in form and style

Huneker’s criticism did not end here but went on to include an

interest in ideas.

"He was equally interested in ideas, and vms always care- ful to lay bare, usually v/ithout accepting or rejecting, the ideas of his authors, iis a result of this breadth of interest, he avoided the imsatisfying narrowness of which one is often conscious when reading critics who stop at form or who deal only with ideas. One gets from Huneker a more complete and rounded picture of the author under consideration than from almost any other critic of litera- ture." 2.

DeMille, too, notes Huneker 's wide knowledge and scholar- ship. He cites an instance in Huneker' s essays on Ibsen.

"Not only was Huneker, when the subject called for it, definitely scholarly in method. He had as wide a back- ground of reading as the vast majority of professional scholars. One often hears the reproach leveled at journal- istic critics that, while versed in modern literature, their knowledge stops at the year 1800. From such reproact Huneker is free. His reading can only be described as im- mense, Within the pages of Steeple jack - -not a critical book, but an autobiography--one finds references to almost every classic author of importance. Here is a list gath- ered at random from a compass of about fifty pages-- Cellini, Bossuet, Kabelais, Montaigne, Goethe, Aquinas, Dante, Cervantes, Bunyan, Horace. No American critic we have considered had read so widely, and few had read so well." 3.

Huneker, to DeMille, was an impressionist. He notes a lack of abstract thought in Huneker.

"in spite of his keen intellect, in spite of his great

1. Literary Criticism in America, by George E. DeMille, P. 221

2. Ibid., Page 251

3. Ibid., Page 224

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interest in ideas, Huneker had little trace, I think, of the specifically philosophical type of mind — the type of mind that seeks to organize its ideas into a system, to base its judgments on general principles which, put togeth- er, make a more or less complete philosophy of literature. Unlike his French masters, unlike most of the American critics who had preceded him, Huneker was not given to dis- cussions of literature and criticism in the abstract. Ex- cept for one chapter in Steeplejack , headed ’Criticism,’ Huneker ’s pronouncements on literary theory were limited to very incidental remarks dropped in the course of his ex- aminations of specific writers.'* 1.

Concerning the charge that Huneker was not greatly con- cerned with American writers JJeMille has this to say:

"Writing from an international viev/point, he naturally had little use for those American writers who loomed large in our eyes during the last century only because of our liter- ary isolation. But both the American writers whom he men- tions and those of whom he omits to speak are evidence of his power of selection, his ability to pick out the best.

It is just for those American v/riters to wiiose reputations time has added that he shows due admiration." 2.

Huneker’ s breadth of viewpoint was not indiscriminate ap- proval. Excellence was his criterion and he could distinguish its lack as well as its presence but he never indulged in casti- gation.

"He might have written excellent destructive criticism, armed as he was with knowledge, analytic power, humor, and the gift of slashing phrase. But his geniality and his utter lack of the reformer’s zeal led him rather to pass over in silence the authors whose crimes outweighed their virtues. Viihat critical fault-finding he did was only for the purpose of separating the real excellence of an author from the weaknesses and errors that block our clear view of that excellence. And it is a tribute to his discrimi- nation that unlike Poe, he never lavished praise on an author undeserving of critical attention." 3.

The dramatic excellence of recent years, DeMille says, is


{largely due to Huneker ’s influence.

,|l. Literary Criticism in America, by George E. DeMille, P. 224 j2. Ibid., Page 235 3. Ibid., Page 239


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'^ Iconoclasts , which appeared in 1905, was the first piece of criticism in this country to give serious attention to the continental dramatists. It was also the first book by a major American critic to consider the drama as a subject for criticism," 1.

Other influences of Huneker, according to DeMille:

"His literary cosmopolitanism left its mark on nearly all succeeding American critics, most notably perhaps on Ernest Boyd, who seems at times a conscious imitator of Huneker, His impatience with moral attitudes in literary criticism has been adopted by the literary radicals of Mr. Mencken’s school, men from whom he is in many respects far removed. But in general we may say that Huneker stands as a great critical monolith at the opening of the Twentieth Century." 2 .

Huneker’ s Style and Its influence Upon His Rating as an Im- pressionist

No estimation of Huneker ’s critical ability would be com- plete without some consideration of his style. More than with most writers it was indicative of its user.

"it was flamboyant, daring, dazzling, always erudite," to

3 .

a writer in the Weekly Review of February 23, 1921.

"The style is the book, as it is the man. It is arch, staccato, ironical, witty, galloping, playful, polygot, allusive," says Mencken. He speaks of Huneker ’s "skipping, pizzicato sentences." 4.

DeMille ;

"His stylistic excellence was not the result of long and painful labor with the file; his brilliance was the natural and rapid utterance of a brilliant mind. He enjoyed doing tricks with words; he thought in clever sentences. He wrote in sentences; sometimes in sentences only," 5.


14. ,5.


"Although Huneker ’s manner was always staccato, in his critical works this manner was under thorough control. Disjointed though his paragraphs may appear at first read- ing, this effect is often an optical illusion, the result of a dazzlement produced by the too continuous sparkle and glitter of his sentences. But beneath this coating of jewels there is a rigid steel structure. Every essay has

Literary Criticism in America, Ceorge E. DeMille, Ibid., Page 242 . ,

Weekly Review, 2/23/21, Volume 4, Page 186 A Book of Prefaces, H. L, Mencken, Page 179 Literary Criticism in America, George E. DeMille,

Page 242 Page 231

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has its definite mark, toward which it flies straight as an arrow.'* 1.

Regarding Huneker’s manner of v/riting, Lawrence Gilman said:

"a prose style that was a nev/ thing under the American sun, a flexible, flashing, audacious, richly communicative style, poetic and irreverent, witty and rhapsodical, swift and nervous, yet extraordinarily sumptuous and ornate. It was uncompromisingly personal, pungent, racy, yet it was sophisticated to the last degree, immensely amusing and stimulating in its verbal virtuosity, its riotous gusto. '*2,

H. kV. Boynton believes that Huneker’s style was the outcome

of his speed of composition:

’’Such an output demanded fast writing and he wrote at a pace that only a journalist achieves; five thousand words a day for long stretches, a six-thousand-word magazine article once in six hours. . . . Such speed and such out-

welling made for a fluent yet sinev/y style.'* 3.

Pitts Sanborn, writing in the Nev/ York Globe, spoke of the

"extreme picturesqueness and animation of his writing, a style of pomp and splendor, touched with the rough hurly- burly of the vernacular, made every page he wrote an ex- citing and instructive inspiration to the reader." 4.

Huneker’s vocabulary had "tropical exuberance" to a writer


in the New York Times.

William Marion Reedy said Huneker’s sentences were like exploding torpedoes. "He makes you think in a series of jolts and jars but you think vividly for you come back to earth from your jump. Then you no sooner touch the ground but you’re up again." 6.

Edwin Markham maintained, with DeMille, that this style had use for all its fantastic quality:

! "Epithet and epigram must sustain and illumine the argu-

I ment . " 7 .



I Style always interested Huneker. He admired such differ-

lent types of expression as Playbert ’ s and Edgar Saltus ’ s . Yet,

1. Literary Criticism in America, by George E. DeMille, P. 232

2. North American Review of April, 1921, Volume 213, Page 556

3. Bostonia and Bohemia, by H. Vif. Boynton, Pages 227-223

4-5 Qur^pnt Placing James Huneker as a

6-7 Current Lit ., 7/69 , James Huneker, Super-Critic ,Vol 47, P. 57

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style was not all in all to him:

”1 dreamed of becoming a writer but I realized that splen- dor of style without spiritual elevation is like a gewgaw in a pawnbroker’s window.'* 1.

This arresting, stimulating, singing cascade of words is difficult to describe. The allusiveness of Huneker brings in all sorts of contrasts and comparisons. It is jerky and sedate in the same sentence, bedezined and stripped. It has the ar- resting attraction of the incongruous. The vocabulary dazzles. If the word hasn't been worn thin by the department-store ad- vertisers, it has ’’personality," as every good style should.

His style was largely to blame for Huneker’ s rating as a pure impressionist. There is such sensation power in it; it is so alive that one cannot imagine its writer being anything else j but an impression-sponge. The truth is that the style was


j Huneker ’s method, not his whold equipment.


I Consideration of Critical Estimates of Huneker ! Many types of writers, many divergent view-points are


(represented in the quoted opinions of Huneker as a critic--in I itself an indication that the question of his influence is as


lyet undetermined--yet the majority of them coincide upon cer- 1 tain points .


I Vitality


i Nearly all of the authorities quoted agree upon Huneker ’s


I vital force, his verve, his brio. To iviencken it is his "gusto,"

I to Norman T. Byrne, his "zest for life," his "freshness"; to i

Bernard Smith, his "sensuality"; to the New Republic writer, j 1. Steeplejack, Volume 2, Page 5


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his "Dionysiac force"; to Mr. Wicker sham, his "ardent tempera- ment"; to Royal Cortissoz, his "sensibility"; to DeMille, his

"vitality"--all synonyms for the remarkable power to infuse

life into the things about which he writes simply by his own

exuberance and delight in living. Huneker was far from being

an incarnation of Pollyanna. He was conscious of the tragedy at

the heart of things human, the ennobling and terrifying struggle

of man in a universe of whose birth and purpose he has no knowl- edge. Yet Huneker believed in getting as much out of life as

one could. It is the only life one is sure of living so one

may as well live it to the full. He would probably agree with

I Walpole: "it isn't life that matters; it's the courage ye {bring to it," and that high-heartedness in living, that capaci- 1 ty for sensation and impression, that saturation with vital stimuli, he communicates to the reader. Life is an adventure,

a sporting jaunt through an ever-changing landscape, among peo- ple of infinite human variation of appeal. Books are life;

their authors, people. Life has degrading aspects but it has

nobility and beauty. Merely being alive is a challenge. Hune- ker' s pages radiate this verve, Everything alive was interest- ing to him in great or less degree, so we find him concerned

with all kinds of human types .

Interest in the Hew and Unusual

Several of our critics, notably Bernard Smith, Mencken,

and DeMille, note Huneker 's concern with extremes of personali- ty and art, with the exotic and bizarre. Such people and

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things were interesting to Huneker because of their variation from the dead level of the average. The new, the fantastic, and the distinctive enlisted his attention. This, as has been indicated before in this thesis, is, as DeMille points out, a romantic tendency. Yet it was because of their fundamental, common humanity that they interested Huneker. If he had been a man without this human feeling, he would have dismissed many of them as crackpots.


His great learning has been remarked by most of those who

! write about him. The equipment which made him an authority on

any one of the arts is acknowledged generally. DeMille,

Lewisohn, Boynton, even Pattee, agree that he could be extreme- i

i ly scholarly at times, vi/hen he is, the pill is irradiated with the vitamins of his own, eager temperament and coated with his most engaging style. Had he been of didactic leaning, his teaching would have been presented in fascinating guise. Maybe, however, if he had been, the pedagogue would have conquered and reduced the gorgeous batik of his stuff to homespun, the in- triguing allusiveness to a monotonous one-two-three order of things. As it is, he is a teacher not of the type who imprints upon one's memory the eternal verities concerning two and two but the kind who inspires one to go out and read everything and everybody he mentions, to experience the literature of which he speaks .

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His deprecation of self and respect for certain authori- tarians have not escaped the attention of those who write about I

|him. Indeed, awareness of his humility is unavoidable because


lit sticks out all over him. it is a curious combination, the




jability to champion all sorts of newcomers in the face of hos- jtile attack, the preoccupation with proclaiming new viewpoints, and the humble submission to vested academicians and institu- tions. The two tendencies are irreconcilable in abstract con- sideration, yet human beings are often examples of this anti- thesis of characteristics. Huneker has always seemed to the jwriter like the brilliant, self-educated independent intellect which somehow often carries over a feeling of exaggerated re- spect for academic training. Such an intellect feels it has missed something vital in its inexperience of guided learning, forgetting that something real might have been lost as well as gained in the halls of culture. Formal education is respected and venerated; the self-educated man does not know it by actual contact; therefore, in his ovm estimation, who is he to judge?

So he jacks up its pedestal a bit and polishes its halo bright- er than the trained worshiper or the surrounding facts sanction.

Another cause of this humility is the fact that Huneker die not make the all-too-human and prevalent error of taking himself seriously. He could laugh at his own foibles. For instance, he writes from Weimar, September 25, 1904:


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’’Notwithstanding bad colds we are still in the ring and diving into Liszt treasures. I've secured the picture of the old Hausfrau who made Liszt's bed for thirty years. There's Journalism for you l” 1.

We find the following in Steeplejack ;

"Les gros bataillons ont toujours raison,' wrote Jomini, and this must be, not alone in the battlefield, but in peaceful lif e--charlatans are always in the majority, charlatans and imbeciles. I have spent my life in tilting at them, and at times I am afraid to look at the mirror."

2 .

To himself, he was no crusader but an average human being. Suet, a realization, on anyone's part, should, of itself, entail a be- •coming humility, as well as a permissible pride.


! Impressionism

I Feeling that huneker was an impressionist is a matter for


jagreement among our writers. Some of them imply standards in the impressionism; more do not. The latter mistake the manner of the man for his whold equipment. The scope of knowledge and catholicity of interest which most of them find in Huneker were j enough to furnish him with standards, even though they were merely those of comparison. But Huneker had more. He had the "feel" for excellence in all the arts and when he recorded his likes or dislikes they were tempered by his knowledge and sym- pathy with the best produced in any field of art.

Subjectivity and Objectivity

Coincidental with the noting of his impressionism, is the corresponding mention of his lack of interest in general ideas. As we have shown in another part of this thesis, Huneker is oper. to this objection, iibstract ideas were interesting to Huneker

1. Letters, Page 33

2. Steeplejack, Volume 1, Page 207




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i but not as standards in criticism. For this reason, Huneker is

said to have no standards. He judged each work of art in the



1 light of the eternal values of excellence which he carried in


his consciousness. Devotion to any artistic or philosophical

creed would have marred the objectivity of his point of view.

He who was subjective in his choices of authors for considera- tion was most objective in his judgments for he had no precon- ceived notions to get between him and a just evaluation.

Influence Upon Literature and Criticism

'The writers quoted are practically unanimous in their ac- knowledgement of the dynamic part which Huneker played, not onl^

in American literature and criticism, but in American civiliza- tion.

To set him up as the embodiment of a new social class

seems rather a fantastic thing to do, particularly if one has

doubts as to the existence of that class. It wasn’t that a new

class arose at the time of the war; it was that the war and its

aftermath changed the whole front of society. The era which

preceded tne war now seems like life in another incarnation.

Values, standards, v/ays of life, social manners, economic out- look, changed in every level of society. In some cases we mere- ly substituted new brands of Philistinism for old. In most

others, the change seems fundamental. The mohern tendency to

venerate "pull" instead of "push," to disclaim individual re- sponsibility for anything, to abandon the gentler ways of life

would have pained Huneker. For all his liking for the new and











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different, he had standards. Yet he was human enough to go along v/ith life; he was "sport" enough to "take a chance" on to- morrows. If such a new class has arisen, Huneker could not hav€! been its voice. The class and the mouthpiece would not match.

I Though he had his romantic aspects, Huneker’ s whole tenden-


I cy was away from the romantic standards and attitudes toward

I them which dominated American literature in his time. Yet he i

|did not fall into the error of substituting a naturalistic ro- manticism for the one in vogue at that time. He brought nev/ life blood and, more important than that, the v/ill to live and the courage to do so minus Puritan restraint to a literature anaemic, thin, and feeble. Here again Huneker ’s normal, human balance is noticeable. He did not advocate excesses to counter- act Puritanic aloofness. "Nothing too much" v/as his guiding principle here as elsewhere.

To hear that he had disciples would amuse him. His humili- ty would be again outraged and his risibility would be aroused at the irony of his having literary descendants when he had es- chewed all schools and movements. His influence was so great, hov/ever, that even those least conscious that he ever lived have been impelled by forces set in motion by him. The predic- tion which Bernard Smith makes --that Mencken will live because he took sides and uttered pronunciamentos , as Huneker never did, is open to dispute. It may be for that very reason that Hune- ker will live. The representative human expression of a non- combatant should outlast the literary polemics of his era.

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There is a particularly musty odor about a literary lost cause.

From our consideration of Huneker*s ideas about the crit- ic’s place and method and from certain influences in his life, we could almost predict what his criticism would be like had we never read it. vVe should expect it to be subjective, allusive, verbally ingenious, alive with sense impression, tolerant, ac- curate, and inspiring. Such it is.

General Estimate of Huneker as a Critic

Huneker’s ultimate rating lies in the future vtfhen the dust and turmoil of our day will have passed. For the present, De Mille has stated Huneker’s case admirably:

"To understand all schools and to belong to none; to ap- preciate the good in literature under a thousand varying forms; to experience constant and unwearied delight in reading, and to express that delight, that gusto, in con- tagious terms; to penetrate with lightning keenness, the secret of an author's power; to reveal that secret in dazzling and unforgettable phrase--thes e are the achieve- ments of a great critic. And above all these, to flash constantly upon the reader glimpses of a personality as rare, as fascinating, as that of any author whom he dis- cusses, is to write criticism that is in itself literature There are moods in v/hich one is disposed to call Himeker the greatest of American critics. This is probably ex- cessive. At any rate, he stands, with Lowell and Poe and James, in the very front rank of American criticism." 1.

|1. Literary Criticism in America, by George E. DeMille, P. 245

v» ■

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llvldence of Chapter II-- Huneker Conforms to Humanistic Standards

of Criticism vVithout Use of General Ideas

In Chapter II of this thesis we have measured Huneker's treatment of Bernard Shav; in Iconoclasts and of Henry James in Unicorns by the standards set by Norman Foerster in Toward Standards . To hr. Foerster, the critic should have historical understanding, that of the race, place, time, and factual en- vironment of the author; sympathetic understanding of the au- thor's point of view and intention; and in the light of these complementary understandings, should judge the author’s work both for the degree to v/hich the author has fulfilled his in- tention and for the ultimate v/orth of the author’s contribution.

With this equipment and purpose in mind, we have examined the articles on Shaw and James and have seen that they conform to the critical procedure and standards set for the humanistic critic by Mr. Foerster. Here v/e have noted that Huneker con- forms to these standards of measure without stressing the gen- eral ideas" or the philosophic abstractions dear to the Humanist.

Evidence of Chapter III -- Huneker ’ s Treatment of a Critical Sub- ject Corresponds >/ith That of a Human-

istic Writer

For the purpose of a more exact appraisal of humanistic qualities and tendencies in Huneker we have compared Huneker’s treatment of Baudelaire with that of an outstanding Humanist,

Mr. T. S. Eliot.

By means of parallel references wherever possible v;e have shown that Huneker and Eliot are largely in agreement concerning


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Baudelaire. They agree upon baudelaire ' s capacity for religious

feeling, upon his humility, upon his lucidity of expression and

upon his classicism. They are not wholly agreed concerning

Baudelaire's attitude toward sin and his affliction of nerves

and hysteria. The likeness of interpretation in the two essays

is more apparent than the dissimilarity. Concerning the points

in Baudelaire not covered by Eliot and treated by Huneker, we

find that they are, in the main, humanistically regarded.

Evidence of Chapter IV- - Huneker is More Humanistic than Romantic

--But Not Entirely So Due to Lack of interest in General Ideas

The fourth chapter has. been devoted to a listing of the

main ideas in the philosophy of modern Humanism with references

from Huneker 's work to illustrate or contradict them. These

ideas have been stated without definition or discussion as they j are part of the current coin of the humanistic marketplace and

Ineed no explanation that would be feasible within the limits of




•this thesis.



j In this summary we shall list these ideas with indication



! as to whether Huneker is humanistic in these respects. For

j ease in visualization, we shall use tabular form.


  • Humanistic Ideas Huneker ' s Point of View


I Interest in the Classics Humanistic

I Seeing Life Sanely and Seeing It \iVhole

! Anti -humanitarian! sm i

Reforming Tendency

Lack of Acquisitive instinct



Anti-Philistinism Humanistic

Antipathy to Dogma "

Idealism '*

Humility "

Demon of the Absolute "

Dualism "

Religion ”

Freedom of the i/l/ill Partly humanistic

Subjectivity — objectivity Not humanistic but

not wholly romantic

In respect to the latter quality we find that Huneker is

not humanistic. On the other hand, he cannot be rated as defi- nitely anti-humanistic in this regard. Huneker had standards

but he did not evaluate his criticism in terms of philosophical

abstractions. As a real Humanist, such a statement of general

[principles in relation to the author's work would have been his

first concern, or, at least, a primary one. Without such a ten-

dency on his part, we must rate Huneker as not a Humanist.

We then listed the stock ideas of Romanticism to see if

I any anti -humanistic ideas were in Huneker as romantic tenden-


jcies. The ideas with the verdicts follow:



jRomantic Ideas Huneker 's Point of View


jNatural Rights Non-romantic

[Perfectibility of Man '*

Temperamental Overflow '*

Inspiration "

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Return to Nature


Anti-conventional Tendencies




The latter romantic tendency is important for the burden of our thesis as it is linked with the idea of subjectivity, the interest in persons rather than in principles. On the ba- sis of our findings on this scale we cannot class Huneker as a Romanticist, but since the one romantic tendency we find is so closely linked to the fundamental humanistic ideal of objectivi- ty, it but strengthens the case against Huneker as a Humanist.

Evidence of Chapter V-- Huneker Is a Modified Impressionist and

ii o t a Complete Human is t

Chapter V we have devoted to an examination of Huneker's credo regarding criticism and the opinions of his contemporaries |Concerning his critical output. Our consideration of Huneker' s jbelief regarding the equipment of the critic and his function jhas sustained our previous findings that Huneker is not inter- jested in general ideas. Here again, though, vie see that his romantic ideas of impressionism are restrained by his feeling that the critic should have standards; that his aim was objec- tivity, though he approached it by subjective means.

In the consideration of the estimates of contemporaries i

such as Norman T. Byrne, Bernard Smith, Pred Lewis Pattee, H. V/, Boynton, Benjamin Le Casseres, G-eorge W. Wickersham, Thomas Moult, Lawrence Gilman, H. L. Mencken and George E. DeMille and

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writers in Current Opinion, The New Republic, The Literary Di- gest, and Current Literature, we have seen that Huneker*s worth to American criticism is a matter of dispute. We find, however j common to the majority of the critics mentioned, agreement upon Huneker’s qualities of vitality, interest in the new and unusua] , his learning, his humility, his impressionism, his dislike of ob- jectivity and his pioneer influence on American literature. Onei may well question whether a Humanist could have had the influ- ence on American life and letters that Huneker did. In the nature of that influence, it would seem that he could not. Suet,



[work, as has been pointed out in the course of the argument,

!was necessarily that of a person more concerned with surface things than with fundamental principles. For the purpose of the thesis we can disregard this phase of Huneher ' s work for we are appraising actual qualities in Huneker, not his influence, lof the agreed-upon qualities in Huneker, his learning and hu-



imility probably belong on the humanistic scale and his vitality, i

Ihis interest in the new and unusual, his impressionism, and his



dislike of objectivity as a method on the romantic scale. The opinions of the critics merely add weight to our previously es- tablished contentions.

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reason enough to clear him of the charge of pure impressionism,

A man who could write:

"Wasn’t it George Saintsbury who once remarked that all dis- cussion of contemporaries is conversation, not criticism? ... . If I say I hate it or 1 like it that is only a per-

sonal expression, not a criticism standing foursquare. I fear i subscribe to the truth of Mr. Saintsbury' s epigram." 1 .

is not likely to be a pure impressionist. Besides, if one wants jactualities instead of interpretations, there is the body of Huneker’s criticism for evidence.

Conclusion---Huneker a "humanist" nather Than a Humanist

In excluding Huneker from Humanism one is reminded of the



ibarring of Shakespeare by certain of the Hum^anists on the


jgrounds that he did not have a proportional human viewpoint; jthat his characters were types of aberrational as well as ration jal human beings; that he exercised no discrimination in his


Ichoices of people or theme. This is certainly carrying out a conviction to a dead letter. Shakespeare can perhaps be called the greatest "humanist" because of his concern with all kinds of human beings and human problems; and Huneker, mutatis mutandis, can also be called a "humanist," if not a Humanist. If, as T.

S. Eliot maintains , "there is no humanistic habit"; that Humanism

is merely the state of mind of a few persons in a few places at

2 .

a few times; v/e might even presume to use the capital H. in linking the word, humanist, to Huneker. Samuel Butler says somewhere that it doesn’t m.atter what profession of religion or irreligion a man may make, provided he doesn’t carry it out to


1. Ivory apes and Peacocks, Pages 115-114

2. For Lancelot Andrewes, by T. S. Eliot, Page 145

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the last analysis or insist upon it to the utmost, so we shall

be content with calling Huneker a huiaanist and not a Humanist. In his great aversion to labels, I really believe he would like it better that way.












Huneker and Humanism

BOOKS BY Jakes gibbohs hui^eker


IT. Y. , Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920 Egoists

N. Y'. , Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909 Iconoclasts

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928

Ivory Apes and Peacocks

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926

Letters of James Gibbons Huneker

Josephine nuneker, Eaitor, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922 New CosinoDolis

Old Fogy




Scribner's Sons,


1 Presser Co., 1923

' Distance

Scribner's Sons,


an Impressionist

Scribner's Sons,


Scribner's Sons,

1922 (2 Volumes)

Scribner's Sons,


Scribner's Sons,




Auer, Fagginer J. a. C. Hum anism States Its Case Lowell Institute Lectures Delivered at King's Chapel, Boston February and March 1932

Babbitt, Irving Democracy and Leadership Houghton and Mifflin Company, 1924

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Boynton, Percy H. Some Contemporar y Americans University of Chicago Press

Brooks , Van Wyck Letters and Leadership B. W. Huebsch, 1918

E. B. Burgum, Editor The Nev/ Criticism

j Prentice-Hall Inc., 1930

jCalverton, V. P. The Newer Spirit

j Boni & Liveright, 1925

i Eastman, Max The Literary Mind

! Scribner’s, 1932

Eliot, T. S. For Lancelot Andrewes

Doubleday, Doran ana Company, Inc., 1929

Pausett, Hugh I '.ins on The Proving of Psyche

Peers ter, Norman Tov/ard Standards Farrar Rinehart

Goldberg, Isaac The Fine Art of Living The Stratford Company, 1930

Grattan, Hartley The Critique of Humanism Brewer & Warren, Inc., 1930

Hackett, Francis A Book of Criticism B. W. Huebsch, 1919

Harcourt, Brace and Company Criticism in America 1924

Holliday, Robert Cortes Turns About Town

George H. Doran Company, 1921 Pages 182-194

Hyde, Lav/rence The Prospects of Humanism Gerald How, Limited, London, 1931

Ker, William Pat on in Essays and Studies

English Association Papers, Oxford, 1920

Lewisohn, Ludwig The Creative Life Boni ic Liveright, 1924

Lewisohn, Ludwig Expression in America Harper & Brothers, 1932

Mencken, H. L. A Book of Prefaces pages 151-194 Garden City Publishing Company. Inc., 1924



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jMencken, H. L. Prejudices , Third Series Pages 65-83

j iilfred ihiopf, 1924

kercier, Louis J. A. The Challenge of Humanism Oxford University Press, 1933

Moore, Paul Elmer Shelburne Essays , Seventh Series G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1910

Munson, Graham B. The Dilemma of the Liberated Coward-McCann, Inc., 1930

Pattee, Fred Lewis The H ew .american Literature The Century Co.

Samson, Leon The H ew Humanism

Horgate <ic tiiliiams, London, 1930

Santayana, George The Genteel Tradition at Bay Charles Scribner ' s Sons, 1931

Scott-James, R. A. The Making of Literature Henry Holt & Company

Walker, Joseph. Humanism as a of Life

. The Macmillan Company, 1932


Boyd, Ernest

By rn e , Ho rman T . Cortissoz, Royal

De Casseres, Benjamin Gilman, Lav/rence

Huneker, James G. Mencken, H. L.

[Moult, Thomas G.

I Morris, Lloyd R.

iilickerson, Hoffman

[Smith, Bernard

Brandes and Croce , iunerican Mercury, January 1924

James Gibbons Huneker , Bookman, May 1922 Sheaf of Huneicer ’ s Letters , Scribner's, May 1922

Bedouins (a Review) , Bookman, May 1922 Playboy of Criticism , Worth American, ^ipril 1921

Letters of Henry James, Bookman, May 1920' James Huneker , Century, June 1921 James nuneker , English Reivev/ of April 1921 (<iuoted in Living .^ge of May 14,192]. The Critic’s Cadenza, Outlook, November 10, 1920

Irving Babbitt , The American Review, P'ebruary 1934

Huneker Man of the Tribe , Saturday Re- view of Literature, August 19, 1933

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American Mercury Current Literature Current Opinion Literary Digest The New Republic The Weekly Review



Selections from Huneker ' s Letters, January 1924

James huneker Super-Critic , July 1909

Placing James Huneker as a Critic, April 1921

James 0 . Huneker as a Critic , March 5, 1921

James Huneker , February 23, 1921

James Gibbons Huneker , February 23, 1921


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