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ville impresario attracts thousands nightly to his show. Power of the same order as that which gathers a large audience for a magazine or a newspaper is exhibited by a popular orator, a spectacular preacher, or the chief of a great department store.
There are almost as many kinds of editors as there are trades and professions. Nowadays every occupation, cause, institution, and fraternity has its journal, and someone must be deputed to gather facts and developments arising at the centre and distribute them throughout the membership of the organism. However humble and unskilled, this service involves exercise of the faculties of formulation and selection which constitute the practice of all editing. There are degrees, of course, but the technique of summoning up the ingredients which, set and polished, are fused together as "The Atlantic Monthly", is the same as that which the editor of "The Grocer's Gazette" must follow in the assemblage of his own table of contents. There is this essential difference, however "The Grocer's Gazette" is published for the profit of its readers, whereas "The Atlantic" must be baited for their interests. One has a sustaining objective; the other is aimed at an invisible target which it must hit to live. The editor may be promoter, showman, artist, or evangelist. In fact, he should blend all these rôles if he be heaven born. As a rule, he carries the lighter qualities and spreads them as far as his vitality and his publisher permit. He is limited by the motive of his instrument, since he must represent the purpose of which it is the voice. Depending on the medium, either he is conveyed by his subjects or cruises under his own power. Coastbound freight or many cargoes on the Seven Seas.
However grandiose the approach, the initial problem of the editor is to gain an audience. It is soon made plain to him that the public issues no franchises for its instruction but lends a willing ear to entertainment. Yet if he takes the easiest way and is content with diversion merely, he finds himself limited to the patronage of the frivolous. But once the ear of his multitude is caught, he makes the agreeable discovery that it is as receptive of fact as it is eager for fiction, always provided the sterner issues are invested with the airs of novelty. As his exploration of the minds of his herd proceeds, it becomes clear that they will follow him to midAfrica, the moon, or into the depths of the fourth dimension, if only he is conjurer enough to make the way to these remote destinations a primrose path. There are no limits to the editorial privilege, so long as he who wields it remembers there is nothing a reader resents more deeply than being given information, or enjoys more utterly than acquiring it without pain or process. Nor must he ever introduce a new idea save in the disguise of an old friend.
An editor is marked by the company he gathers at his contents table. If wise, he will be resigned to the rôle of silent host; since he has furnished the banquet and the subjects, it is better form to let the guests speak the pieces. Even if one be bursting with eloquence, anonymity is in order. It is a penalty of the function one he shares with the entrepreneur, the playwright, and the composer, who must ever be heard by proxy.
This is not to contend that all the contents of the hosts of publications that color the newsstands of the nation are solely the fruit of an editor's planting. A publication type once established, innumerable contributors
adjust their themes to its inclination. For a periodical is also a market for writers' wares. The director's craftsmanship is in the selection and display of exhibits; his art, in blending a group of incongruous stories and articles into a harmonious, individualized entity.
Every publication is in the image of its maker. Into it, however unconsciously, he breathes and feeds his own identity. He can give no more than he sees and feels. If he be idealist, his book bespeaks preoccupation with the betterment of mankind and may halt by the wayside. If his heart beats in unison with the masses, he will circulate in millions and be called great, though he may know no better.
The prevailing magazine pattern is of the period of the "Follies", rather than in the mode of "Hamlet"; nevertheless, experience has occasionally demonstrated that convictions and knowledge are not insuperable bars to great circulations. There is a definition of good editing - the identification and interpretation of tendencies. An editor may still be trail blazer and road maker. Here is a world in flux, awaiting a revelation. Its atmosphere is charged with grave and significant issues. A deponent energized with sincerity and vitality can still move the multitude. But he must remember always to invest his message with some flaming trappings of spectacle. Would Moses ever have persuaded the Children of Israel out of the wilderness save for those miraculous pillars of cloud and fire?
From all the foregoing, it is clear there are no immutable laws in the publishing world. Success, like gold, is where it occurs. It is inherent in the individuality of him whose gift it is; and if the possessor be an editor, the law is to follow his inspirations. The product he bears is truly the offspring of his own personality, and though he
may carry himself with the air of a prophet, he is only the child of his destiny.
3. George Jean Nathan
CONFINE these remarks to the editing of magazines. This editing seems to me to fall into three groups. First, we have purely commercial editing: that is, editing for circulation with profit from circulation and from advertising as the sole end in view. ond, we have so called Messiah editing: that is, editing that has as its aim the improvement of the condition of mankind and the uplifting of the cosmos in one particular or another. And lastly, we have editing for the pure fun and exhilaration of the thing, like riding a good horse, listening to good music, or drinking good wine. My personal experience in editing has been confined to the first and last groups. Of the second I know nothing, have never known anything, and, please God, shall never know anything.
My adventures in commercial editing belong to the dim past, along with my other youthful adventures. They were not without interest to me in a relevant and most acceptable commercial way, but this is not a financial report. I shall therefore leave this phase of the theme to my more experienced and doubtless very much wealthier colleagues. My more mature years have been devoted to editing for the sport of the thing the only kind of editing that interests me in the slightest. magazine, to me and to my associate, friend, and partner Mencken no less is a toy, something with which to amuse ourselves and also, perhaps, a sufficient number of similarly minded readers to keep the mech
anism of the toy from running down. It provides us with the pleasure of unloading certain of our ideas upon the world, and sensing the reaction of other men to those ideas. Some of these ideas seem to us to be sound ideas; others seem to us to be still somewhat dubious; both, however, seem to us to be worth playing with and trying out. A new idea needs trying out, as a new tennis racket does.
As an editor, I have no program of reform, no wish to elevate my fellow man, no itch to make the world a better place to live in. The world is quite all right, so far as I am concerned, as it is. If the magazine of which I happen at the time to be coeditor diverts and entertains men who think about things much the way I happen to and men, no less, who think about things in
absolutely the opposite manner — I am satisfied. All other considerations I am happy to leave in the hands of my esteemed confrères.
I do not now know, and I have never known, any set rules or theories of editing. In so far as I have any talent for editing, that talent consists merely in printing anything that interests me. What interests other people, I do not know. If what interests me happens luckily also to interest other people, I am given credit for being an astute and discerning editor which I do not deserve. I like to interest other people, it goes without saying, but I am not privy to the secret as to how this interest may be evoked. I simply gamble so much as I edit myself. This is doubtless no way to be an editor. I am very sorry.
DEEP SEA FISHING
By Leonora Speyer
OMETIMES I cast my longing like a line,
Immoderate waters that are dreams of you
Your hands, your hands, a thousand multiplied,
HOW OLD IS GENIUS?
By Alexander Black
N the matter of art, youth and age
a superficial likeness. We find age, for example, betraying apprehensiveness as to birthday prejudices and a slipping attention on the part of its audience. Youth's anxiety is equally associated with the horrible haste of the clock. To youth, nothing looks worthwhile unless it can be induced to happen soon.
When I was nineteen it had become quite clear to me that if I were not famous at twenty five the jig would be up. Naturally I had no suspicion of my triteness. If we knew that we had happened before, our necessary impudence would be crippled. Even a taste of fame cannot appease the newly adult suspicion of the management. Max Beerbohm was having fun with this state of mind when, thirty years ago, he declared, "I shall write no more." Emerson's youthful, "Goodby, proud world, I'm going home", might suggest a rich anthology of sophomoric impatiences. I was not considering the misgivings of better men. I had an anxiety, and it was documented. the names were at hand, a sort of who's who among the early.
At twenty five I had a new list, a larger list, of the great whose blaring entrance into the arena had occurred somewhere within a ten year period ending at thirty five. This, I said, to my Unconscious, is your last stand. Win now or crawl into obscurity and pull the hole after you. But at thirty five there had been neither apocalypse nor cataclysm, and I was too busy to
fulfil the pledged abasement. The crawling was postponed. Moreover, new testimony had been introduced. Evidently the imposing triumphs marking the period between thirty five and forty five made most of the earlier records seem if not trivial at least inconclusive. And there came a time when it became imperative to acknowledge that the "curve" of genius rose sharply on the way toward fifty five, while not merely mature masterpieces but initial entrances of the most distinguished order were not to be included unless a still larger curve could be drawn.
It was not until the other day, in one of those intervals so plainly marked for unproductiveness that any maundering or mischief is likely to be invited, that I ventured to look among the records, no longer with an eagerness to be confirmed, nor altogether with a swagger of assurance, but with what seemed to be an amiable curiosity as to the possible insolence of the facts. No need to consider sheer precocity, which so often has an effect described (by George Eliot, for instance) as resembling the predicament of one who gets up too early and is sleepy all the afternoon. On the other hand, it could make no point to show genius still going strong at eighty five or ninety. There are inverted prodigies that upset all orderly calculations. I chose, arbitrarily, to look for the signs not of a first significant expression but of the fully "arrived" creative effort not for the first affairs but for the high moods of authentic gestation. Perhaps I there
by begged the question, for genius has no code for getting itself said. An "Endymion" written at twenty one and a "Way of All Flesh" written at sixty six both represented guilt in obeying that impulse, and each in its way illustrated sustained power. It was the hundred yard dash that I chose to ignore, not because this offered a lesser sign in itself, but because the longer run, if not the marathon, seems more likely to eliminate the element of chance, which art is quite privileged to use, yet which can be no part of its true essence. Mere length is not, then, an art quality, but it can be demonstrative.
It has been said of well cleaners in Africa that they must be able to stay submerged (with halted lungs) for four or five minutes, and that men under sixty are found not to have the necessary endurance. There is scarcely a happy parallel in the case of creative effort, though we might find many instances of shortwinded talent to bolster an analogy.
It would be easy, yet quite unscientific, to assume that the time theoretically required to produce a novel makes the novel the severest test of either the scope or the intensity of power. Sustained thinking and feeling and expressing can have no such measure. I found
myself looking up the novels (and romances) as well as certain outstanding plays, with no logic whatever, though I might, if I had felt any obligation, have argued that in a novel a writer has wider latitude for the betrayal of weaknesses than is offered in any other medium. It was impossible to miss the revelation that poets and playwrights are likely to flower earlier than the novelists. Here were "The School for Scandal" at twenty six, "Every Man in His Humor" at twenty five, "The Beaux' Stratagem" at twenty nine, "Vor Sonnenaufgang" at twenty
six, not to speak of Belasco's "May Blossom" at twenty five. Ibsen's "Doll's House" at fifty, or the Philoctetes, produced when Sophocles was well on toward ninety, did not seem to invalidate a theory that the playwright might be as early as the poet.
The twenties, I am bound to admit, offered poor pickings, though Kipling and Stephen Crane ("The Red Badge of Courage" was written at twenty five) and many another are to be cited in support of any claim for real youth. have confessed a juvenile theory as to twenty five. A later excursion into figures resulted at one moment in the conviction that thirty six was a noble crisis, for here were Shakespeare with "Hamlet", Flaubert with "Madame Bovary", Irving with "Rip Van Winkle", Boccaccio with the "Decameron", Whitman with "Leaves of Grass", Poe with "The Raven", Stevenson with "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". But in the end all such fantastic hypotheses were toppled.
Let me offer, with any proper apology for casualness, some of my notations, decade by decade. There is every likelihood of inexactness, for it is not always possible to discriminate accurately between writing date and publication date. And there is plenty of room for quarrel as to the choice of genius's "high spot". The entrance of a new personality inevitably attracts more attention than any later gesture. Loose criticism often confuses the furor of surprise with the sound of a real triumph, though first furors are, I suppose, of themselves a triumph. In a matter so elementally a question of opinion I should not and do not bother to consider how closely my choice of any book may match any other choice. Nevertheless, I have not, to my own feeling, chosen with any flagrant peculiarity of preference.