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- Celibates - 1/57 -



GEORGE MOORE Author of "Spring Days," "A Mummer's Wife" Etc.

With Introduction By TEMPLE SCOTT





Looking back over the twenty years since "Celibates" was first published I find that the George Moore of the earlier year is the George Moore of to-day. The novelist of 1895 and the novelist of 1915 are one and the same person. Each is really interested in himself; each is more concerned with how the world and its humanity appear to him than how they appear to the casual observer or how they may be in themselves. The writer is always expressing himself through the facts and personalities which have stirred his imagination to creative effort. George Moore has never been a reporter or a philosopher; he has always been an artist.

Now to say that the author of "Celibates" is always expressing himself does not at all mean that he is recording merely his private sensations, emotions, and moods. Egoist as he is, George Moore could not write his autobiography. He tried to do this lately in "Ave," "Vale," and "Salve," and failed--failed captivatingly. He is always most himself when he is dealing with what is not himself--with skies and hills and ocean and gardens and men and women. Moore is a naturalist in the finest sense of that word. He deals with nature as the artist must deal with it if nature is to be understood and enjoyed. For Moore's relationship with nature, and especially with human nature, is of that rare kind which is the experience of the very few--of those fine spirits endowed with the highest sympathy--a sympathy which is not a feeling with or for others but an actual union with others, a union which brings suffering as well as enjoyment. This is the artist's burden of sorrow and it is also his privilege. It is because of it that every true work of art has in it also something of a religious influence--a binding power which unites the separated onlookers in an experience of a common emotion. If the artist have not this peculiar sympathy he can have no vision and will never be a creator; he will never show us or tell us the new and strange mysteries of life which nature is continually unfolding. The artist's mission is to reveal to us the visions he alone has been vouchsafed to see, and to reveal them so that the revelation is a creation. The men and women he is introducing to us must be as real and as living to us as they are to him. That is what George Moore has done in "Celibates" and that is why I say he is an artist.

"Celibates" consists of three stories--two of women and one of a man. Mildred Lawson and John Norton are celibates by nature. Agnes Lahens is a celibate from environment and circumstance. Each of the three is utterly different from the other, and yet all are alike in that they are the products of a modern civilization. Mildred and John are without that compulsive force which is known as the sexual passion. If they have it at all, it has been diluted by tradition and so-called culture into a mere sensation. Agnes's passion is an arrested one, so that what there is of it is easily diverted into an expression of religious aspiration.

Mildred Lawson would be called a born flirt. She is pretty, charming, and talented; but she is cold, unresponsive, selfish, and futile. She is also eminently respectable after the English middle-class manner. She has ambition, but she lacks the will-power to school herself and the determination to accomplish. She is rich in goods but very poor in goodness. She is often moved profoundly by beautiful thoughts and uplifting emotions of which she herself is the pleasing, pulsating centre; but her soul is negative, so that her spiritual states evaporate when the opportunity is given her for transforming them into acts. She never gets anywhere. She is self-conscious to a degree and unstable as water. After breaking one man's heart and deadening the hearts of three other men, she finally accepts an old and rejected sweetheart, only to be torn by suspicions that he no longer cares for her and is marrying her only for her money. We leave her a prey to thoughts of a life which, unconsciously, she has brought on herself.

John Norton might be called the born monk. He is, however, but the male embodiment of that cultured selfishness of which Mildred Lawson is the female expression. He is not a flirt. He takes life too seriously to be that; but he takes it so seriously that there is only room in the world for himself alone. He comes of a fine old English stock, is rich, and is his own master. He treats his mother as a cold- blooded English gentleman, with Norton's peculiar nature, would treat a mother--with polite but firm disregard of her claims. He has enough and to spare of will-power, but it is become degenerated into obstinacy. He fails because he wants too much, because he is unsocial at heart, and does not understand that life means giving as well as taking. His sexual passion finds expression in a religious fanaticism which is but the expression of utter selfishness, as all sexual passion is. In the company of Kitty he has moments of exaltation, when his degenerate passion scents the pure air of love; but he can never let himself go. When, on one occasion, he so far forgets himself as to allow his heart to be responsive to Kitty's natural purity and he kisses her, he is so shocked at what he has done that he runs away and leaves the girl to a terrible fate. We leave him also a prey to thoughts of what he might have prevented. He, too, like Mildred Lawson, must henceforth face a life of his own unconscious making.

Agnes Lahens is the victim of a heartless, selfish society in which the abuse of love has made its world a desert and its products Dead Sea fruit. Out of a sheer impulse for self-protection she flies to the nunnery, which is ready to give her life at the price of her womanhood and her self-sacrifice.

As portraits, these of Mildred Lawson and John Norton are exquisitely finished. They are half-lengths, with a quality of coloring fascinating in its repelling truth. Every tint and shade have been cunningly and caressingly laid in, so that the features, living and animated, are yet filled with suggestions of the spiritual barrenness in the originals. Very human they are, and yet they are without those gracious qualities which link humanity with what we feel to be divine. There is the touch of nature here, but it is not the touch which makes the whole world kin. That touch we ourselves supply; and it speaks eloquently for Moore's art that in picturing these unlovely beings he throws us back on our better selves. Beyond the vision of these celibates here revealed we see a passionate humanity, working, hating, sorrowing, and dying, yet always loving, and in loving finding its fullest life in an earthly salvation. True love is a mighty democrat. Knowing these "Celibates," we welcome the more gladly those who, even if less gifted, are ready to walk with us, hand in hand, along the common human highway of the "pilgrim's progress."








The tall double stocks were breathing heavily in the dark garden; the delicate sweetness of the syringa moved as if on tip-toe towards the windows; but it was the aching smell of lilies that kept Mildred awake.

As she tossed to and fro the recollections of the day turned and turned in her brain, ticking loudly, and she could see each event as distinctly as the figures on the dial of a great clock.

'What a strange woman that Mrs. Fargus--her spectacles, her short hair, and that dreadful cap which she wore at the tennis party! It was impossible not to feel sorry for her, she did look so ridiculous. I wonder her husband allows her to make such a guy of herself. What a curious little man, his great cough and that foolish shouting manner; a good-natured, empty-headed little fellow. They are a funny couple! Harold knew her husband at Oxford; they were at the same college. She took honours at Oxford; that's why she seemed out of place in a little town like Sutton. She is quite different from her husband; he couldn't pass his examinations; he had been obliged to leave. ... What made them marry?

'I don't know anything about Comte--I wish I did; it is so dreadful to be ignorant. I never felt my ignorance before, but that little woman does make me feel it, not that she intrudes her learning on any one; I wish she did, for I want to learn. I wish I could remember what she told me: that all knowledge passes through three states: the theological, the--the--metaphysical, and the scientific. We are religious when we are children, metaphysical when we are one-and- twenty, and as we get old we grow scientific. And I must not forget this, that what is true for the individual is true for the race. In the earliest ages man was religious (I wonder what our vicar would say if he heard this). In the Middle Ages man was metaphysical, and in these latter days he is growing scientific.

'The other day when I came into the drawing-room she didn't say a

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