Horace Holley Monologues

His Luck (Jean)

Jean says

You ask it, of course. You have the right. Sometimes I ask it, too, why Paul never succeeded. While we were struggling along, the things that held him back seemed only details. Only now do I see them as a whole. In the first place, Paul never aimed directly at success. He was all-round. If it had been merely a question of exploiting his talent, sticking to the one idea day in, day out, never letting an opportunity slip of meeting the right people and getting to the right places … that would have been easy. He had tremendous energy. I used to grudge his interest in other things. I hated to see him lose the chances and let them be snapped up littler men. He seemed to waste himself, right and left, prodigally. But it wasn’t that, it wasn’t waste. It was all as much a part of him as his music. He detested the stupidity of wealth and poverty, he rebelled against laws that aren’t laws, but only interests enforced authority, he fought against the sheer deadness of prejudice. How he hated all that! And why not? You see, Vera, he was sensitive to it not only as a thinker, but as a musician, too. It was all a part of the discord, and what I used to think his wasting himself was really an effort to create a larger harmony. He used to say that the beauty of music is only the image of beauty in life, and that life must come first. He couldn’t endure discords anywhere. Paul despised the musicians who scream at a flatted f but hunger for the flesh pots after the performance. No, he was never that. And people resented it. The very people who ought to have understood.

The Telegram (PErron)

PErron says

Only listen, and you will understand why I am tempted to doubt the calendar of the Church itself.

Two weeks ago my wife announced to me that she had reason to expect the due arrival of a son. She said there could be no question it will be a son because in her mother’s family for three generations it has been the same, three daughters followed a son. Eh bien, although I have always desired a son to follow me in this honorable and scientific profession, nevertheless I received the news with a certain consternation.

In short, my affairs have not gone too well of late, and without my wife’s assistance her needle…. That evening I thought much how I might increase my funds, and so for two weeks -two weeks, mon ami -I have omitted my customary cafĂ© after dejeuner, which all these years I have not failed to take with a serious group of friends at the Trois Arts, and even have I smoked no cigarettes.

True, this has not added much to our wealth, though it has been some satisfaction to realize I have done my possible. My health has suffered somewhat -I have grown absent-minded, and in the morning my head feels strange. However, that may not be due entirely to my unnatural abstinence.

However, on Friday the fifteenth July, at three o’clock precisely, as I sat here in meditation having finished a small work, I saw a telegraph boy hurry toward me down the street.

Then had I a premonition. My heart beat as it has not these twenty years. In an instant I was reading the message: my brother, who long ago ran away on adventure to Indo-China, had just died and left me a fortune in tea.

That was on Friday the fifteenth. And do you know what has happened since? I have lived two separate lives.

Yes, two existences have unrolled before me. In one I saw myself as I would have been without the telegram. My business fell away; my son was born a daughter, to my wife’s indignation and my own dismay; and having sold my little shop I sought work in a cursed factory. Ah me, it was terrible!

But the other picture. With my brother’s fortune I made aggrandisements and eventually moved to the Rue de la Paix. My scientific genius was at last appreciated, and my watches and clocks became the pride of the haute monde.

My son grew into a fine man, much resembling myself, and after learning the profession opened a branch office at Buenos Ayres. I won the ribbon.

In short, nothing lacked to make life agreeable and meritorious.

But then it was, just at that point, I came to myself and looking up recognized my friend the philosopher. Years seemed to have passed -two separate life times -and startled at finding myself seated in the same chair and wearing the same clothes, I demanded of you what day it was.

And you answered Friday the fifteenth. How can such a thing be possible?

The Genius (The Man)

The Man says

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 amateurs before an admiring “select” audience. That was when I was twenty-one. From about sixteen on I had been acutely miserable -physically 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 now -the 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 too -in 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 future -for 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 about -and fled. I came here….

The Genius (The Man)

The Man says

A man’s life is a rhythm. Eating, sleeping, working, playing, loving, thinking -everything. And when we live so that each activity comes at the right interval, we gain power. When one interrupts another, we lose. Weakness is merely the thrust of one impulse against another, instead of their combined thrust against the world. When I came here, feeling like a criminal, I was obeying the one right instinct in a welter of emotions. It was like the faintest of heart beats in a sick body. I listened to that. Then I learned physical hunger, then sleep, and so on. It’s incredible how stupid I was about the elemental art of living! I had to begin all over from the beginning, as if no one had ever lived before. Exactly! I learned that “good” is the rhythm of the man’s personal nature, and that “evil” is merely the confusion of the same impulses. As time went on it became instinctive to live for and the rhythm. Everything about my life here was caught up and used in the vision of power -drawing water, cutting wood, digging in the garden, dawn. It was all marvelous -I couldn’t help writing those poems. They are the natural joys and sorrows of ten years. As a matter of fact, though, I grew to care less and less about writing, as living became fuller and richer. People write too much. They would write less if they had to make the fire in the morning.

The Genius (The Boy)

The Boy says

It isn’t that, with me. I can’t write…. I had one splendid teacher. He used to talk about things right in class. He said that most educated people think that intellect is a matter of making fine distinctions -of seeing as two separate points what the unintelligent would believe was one point; but that this idea was finicky. He wanted us to see that intelligence might also be a matter of seeing the connection between two things so far apart that most people would think they were always separate. I like that. It made education mean something, because it made it depend on imagination instead of grubbing. And then he told us about the history of our subject -grammar. How it began as poetry, when every word was an original creation; and then became philosophy, as people had to arrange speech with thought; and then science, with more or less exact, laws. I could see it -the thing became alive. And he said all knowledge passed through the same stages, and there isn’t anything that can’t eventually be made scientific. That made me think a good deal. I wondered if somebody couldn’t work out a way of preventing anybody from being poor. It seems so unnecessary, with so much work being done. That’s what I want to do. Thanks to you, I –

The Genius (The Boy)

The Boy says

Well, maybe I’m wrong, but whenever I think of the Old Testament I see an old man under a tree -A man who has lived it all through, you know, and found out something real about it; and he sits there calm and strong, something like a tree himself; and every once in a while somebody comes along -a boy, you know, the boy talks to him all about himself, just as we imagine we’d like to with our fathers, if they weren’t so busy, or our teachers, if they didn’t depend so much upon books, or our ministers, if we thought they would really understand, the old man doesn’t say much maybe, but the boy goes away much stronger and happier….What I can’t understand is how nowadays people seem more grown up and competent than those men were, in a way, and we do such wonderful things -skyscrapers and aeroplanes -and yet we aren’t half so wonderful as they were in the Old Testament with their jugs and their wooden plows. I mean, we aren’t near so big as the things we do, while those old fellows were so much bigger. We smile at them, but if some day one of our machines fell over on us what would we do about it?

Pictures (Joe)

Joe says

Discouraging? It’s immoral!

Oh, these smug people who have been taught what to admire! These unborn souls who want to shut us all up in the dark! I suppose he went away thinking I put myself up higher than Raphael.

Who are we painting for? They don’t want it -wouldn’t take it for a gift. And here we are, a poor little group, standing amazed before the glory of the sun, and painting it -for the blind!

Some day -yes, when the life has oozed out of all our bright canvasses, when only the “rules” are left. And we won’t be able to rise from our graves and curse them!

I guess I let you in for a hard time, Silvia. I wish sometimes I could really paint the kind of thing that goes with stupid people’s dining rooms.

They with their Long Island Louvres!

Pictures (Joe)

Joe says

Those pictures don’t give out impulses to the artist.

The impulses they do give out are only the emotions that satisfy the student who has learned some rules and then sees the rules worked out.

The artist produced the rules as a side issue, but you are trying to make the rules produce the artist. T

hat’s the difficulty when people as a whole lose the creative sense. They are satisfied with things at second-hand. Second-hand expressions of life, and second-hand philosophies to justify the expressions. It’s a kind of conspiracy in which everybody works against everybody else.

Only the few real artists in any generation break through it into the light.

 

His Luck (Jean)

Jean says

Unhappy? Yes, I have been outrageously unhappy! Years of it! Sharp arrows and poisoned wine. I wanted to die…. You read a play Strindberg, and you say it’s very strong, very artistic, but all the while you believe it is only the nightmare of a diseased mind. It’s just a play& mdashyou shut the book and return to “real” life, thankfully. Well, the Strindberg play has been my real life, and real life my play, my impossible dream. You can’t imagine how terrifying it is to feel the situation develop around you. Two bodies caught naked in an endless wilderness of thorns. Every movement one makes to free the other only wounds him the more. Two souls, each innocent and aspiring, bound together serpents, like the Laocoon…. It is one of those things that are absolutely impossible … and yet true. We had the deepest respect and admiration for one another, but somehow we never walked in step. His emotion repressed mine, my emotion repressed his. Sometimes one was the slave, sometimes the other. We couldn’t both be free at the same time. There was always something to hide, to be afraid of…. Not words nor acts, but moods. It passed over from one soul to the other like invisible rays. And we couldn’t separate. That was part of it. We just went on and on….

His Luck (Jean)

Jean says

You don’t understand, I was unhappy, in the ordinary sense, unbelievably so. But that wasn’t all. I was alive! I lived as the man lives who faints in the dark mine underground, and I lived as the aviator lives, thrilling against the sun, and as the believer in a world of infidels. That was what he did for me. And slowly, as I learned how deeply the very pain was making me live, I put my unhappiness by. It was there, but it no longer seemed important. It was the lingering complaint of my old commonplace soul standing fearfully on the brink of greater things and hating the situation that led it there. No, I am a small woman in front of a big thing. One of the biggest, genius. And the force of it, relentless as nature, made me what I am. Paul. Oh, Vera, when I think of his music, tempestuous as the sea, healing as spring…. And now where is it? He had what all the world wants most, flight, and the world stalled him in its own mud. You saw it…. That’s why I shall stay here. It’s the only place with his atmosphere. All these things are he. I face them here in silence, and I bare my breast to the arrow. Here I am, the only one who knows Paul’s music in its possibility. To the rest, it is a heap of stones the roadside. The architect is dead.