Brilliance; I'll tell you what that was, at least for
me. I wrote several things that people called "brilliant." One
in particular, a little play of decadent epigram. It was acted by amateurs
before an admiring "select" audience. That was when I was twenty-one.
From about sixteen on I had been acutely miserablephysically miserable.
I never knew when I wouldn't actually cave in. I felt like a bankrupt living
on borrowed money. Of course, it's plain enough nowthe revolt of starved
nerves. I cared only for my mind, grew only in that, and the rest of me
withered up like a stalk in dry soil. So the flower drooped tooin
decadent epigram. But nobody pointed out the truth of it all to me, and
I scorned to give my body a thought. People predicted a brilliant futurefor
me, crying inside! Then I married. I married the girl who had taken the
star part in the play. According to the logic of the situation, it was inevitable.
Everybody remarked how inevitable it was. A decorative girl, you know. She
wanted to be the wife of a great man.... Well, we didn't get along. There
was an honest streak in me somewhere which hated deception. I couldn't play
the part of "brilliant" young poet with any success. She was at
me all the while to write more of the same thing. And I didn't want to.
The difference between the "great" man I was supposed to be and
the sick child I really was, began to torture. I knew I oughtn't to go on
any further if I wanted to do anything real. Then one night we had an "artistic"
dinner. My wife had gotten hold of a famous English poet, and through him
a publisher. The publisher was her real game. I drank champagne before dinner
so as to be "brilliant." I was. And before I realized it, Norah
had secured a promise from the publisher to bring out a book of plays. I
remember she said it was practically finished. But it wasn't, only the one,
and I hated that. But I sat down conscientiously to write the book that
she, and apparently all the world that counted, expected me to write. Well,
I couldn't write it. Not a blessed word! Something inside me refused to
work. And there I was. In a month or so she began to ask about it. Norah
thought I ought to turn them out while she waited. I walked up and down
the park one afternoon wondering what to tell her.... And when I realized
that either she would never understand or would despise me, I grew desperate.
I wrote her a note, full of fine phrases about "incompatibility,"
her "unapproachable ideals," the "soul's need of freedom"things
she would understand and wear a heroic attitude aboutand fled. I came
here.... In a few months I was quite forgotten. That was one of the healthful
things I learned. Well, I was a wreck when I came here, I wanted only to
lie down under a tree.... And there it was, under that tree yonder, my salvation
came. Hunger. That was my salvation. Simple, elemental, unescapable appetite.
You see I had no servant, no one at all. So I had to get up and work to
prepare my food.... It was very strange. Compared with this life, my life
before had been like living in a locked box. Some one to do everything for
me except think, and consequently I thought too much. But here the very
fact of life was brought home to me. I spent weeks working about the house
and grounds on the common necessities. By the time winter came on the place
was fit to live inand I was enjoying life. All the "brilliance"
had faded away; I was as simple as a blade of grass. For a year I didn't
write a word. I had the courage to wait for the real thing, nobody pestering
me to be a "genius"! Some day you may read that first book. People
said I had re-discovered the virtue of humility. I had.
Credits: Reprinted from Read-aloud Plays. Horace Holley. New York:
Mitchell Kennerley, 1916.
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