How can one be good?
She swung round and looked in the dark corner by the
piano; but the
Devil was not there.
And then she ran across the room to her father, and shaking his arm, shouted, tremulously—
“Wake up, father! Wake up! The police are coming!”
And when the police came ten minutes later, accompanied by a very proud and virtuous little boy, they heard a small shrill voice crying, despairingly—
“The police, father! The police!”
But father would not wake.
“O limed soul that struggling to be free
Art more engaged!”
Charles Stephen Dale, the subject of my study, was a dramatist and, indeed, something of a celebrity in the early years of the twentieth century. That he should be already completely forgotten is by no means astonishing in an age that elects its great men with a charming indecision of touch. The general prejudice against the granting of freeholds has spread to the desired lands of fame; and where our profligate ancestors were willing to call a man great in perpetuity, we, with more shrewdness, prefer to name him a genius for seven years. We know that before that period may have expired fate will have granted us a sea-serpent with yet more coils, with a yet more bewildering arrangement of marine and sunset tints, and the conclusion of previous leases will enable us to grant him undisputed possession of Parnassus. If our ancestors were more generous they were certainly less discriminate; and it cannot be doubted that many of them went to their graves under the impression that it is possible for there to be more than one great man at a time! We have altered all that.
For two years Dale was a great man, or rather the great man, and it is probable that if he had not died he would have held his position for a longer period. When his death was announced, although the notices of his life and work were of a flattering length, the leaderwriters were not unnaturally aggrieved that he should have resigned his post before the popular interest in his personality was exhausted. The Censor might do his best by prohibiting the performance of all the plays that the dead man had left behind him; but, as the author neglected to express his views in their columns, and the common sense of their readers forbade the publication of interviews with him, the journals could draw but a poor satisfaction from condemning or upholding the official action. Dale’s regrettable absence reduced what might have been an agreeable clash of personalities to an arid discussion on art. The consequence was obvious. The end of the week saw the elevation of James Macintosh, the great Scotch comedian, to the vacant post, and Dale was completely forgotten. That this oblivion is merited in terms of his work I am not prepared to admit; that it is merited in terms of his personality I indignantly wish to deny. Whatever Dale may have been as an artist, he was, perhaps in spite of himself, a man, and a man, moreover, possessed of many striking and unusual traits of character. It is to the man Dale that I offer this tribute.