Old and New Masters eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 226 pages of information about Old and New Masters.
But his abiding view of woman was that of the plain man of the nineteenth century.  He must either be praising her as a ministering angel or denouncing her as a ministering devil—­preferably the latter.  It would be nonsense, however, to pretend that Strindberg did not see at least one class of women clearly and truly.  The accuracy with which he portrays woman the parasite, the man-eater, the siren, is quite terrible.  No writer of his day was so shudderingly conscious of every gesture, movement, and intonation with which the spider-woman sets out to lure the mate she is going to devour.  It may be that he prophesies against the sins of women rather than subtly analyses and describes them as a better artist would have done. The Confessions of a Fool is less a revelation of the soul of his first wife than an attack on her.  But we must, in fairness to Strindberg, remember that in his violences against women he merely gives us a new rendering of an indictment that goes back to the beginning of history.  The world to him was a long lane of oglings, down which man must fly in terror with his eyes shut and his ears covered.  His foolishness as a prophet consists, not in his suspicions of woman regarded as an animal, but in his frothing at the mouth at the idea that she should claim to be treated as something higher than an animal.  None the less, he denied to the end that he was a woman-hater.  His denial, however, was grimly unflattering:—­

I have said that the child is a little criminal, incapable of self-guidance, but I love children all the same.  I have said that woman is—­what she is, but I have always loved some woman, and been a father.  Whoever, therefore, calls me a woman-hater is a blockhead, a liar, or a noodle.  Or all three together.

Sex, of course, was the greatest cross Strindberg had to bear.  But there were hundreds of other little changing crosses, from persecution mania to poverty, which supplanted each other from day to day on his back.  He suffered continually both from the way he was made and from the way the world was made.  His novels and plays are a literature of suffering.  He reveals himself there as a man pursued by furies, a man without rest.  He flies to a thousand distractions and hiding-places—­drink and lust and piano-playing, Chinese and chemistry, painting and acting, alchemy and poison, and religion.  Some of these, no doubt, he honestly turns to for a living.  But in his rush from one thing to another he shows the restlessness of a man goaded to madness.  Not that his life is to be regarded as entirely miserable.  He obviously gets a good deal of pleasure even out of his acutest pain.  “I find the joy of life in its violent and cruel struggles,” he tells us in the preface to Miss Julia, “and my pleasure lies in knowing something and learning something.”  He is always consumed with the greed of knowledge—­a phase of his greed of domination.  It is this that enables him to turn his inferno into a purgatory.

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Old and New Masters from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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