Baltimore Evening Sun (1 October 1913): 6.


From the estimable Hot Towel’s report of the race riot on Harford avenue:

He was struck a number of times by innumerable fists.

No sane man, I take it, will question Dr. Howard A. Kelly’s vigorous denial, in yesterday’s Letter Column, of the absurd charge that his public war upon vice is a cloak for the practice of vice in private. I am by habit of a highly suspicious nature, particularly in this department, and there are very few Baltimoreans of easy means whose protestations of virtue I would take on trust, but Dr. Kelly is assuredly one of them. I know of no man, indeed, whose honesty of belief and purpose are more patent. He has made heavy sacrifices to the cause he believes in so earnestly, and he has faced opposition and opprobrium without flinching. One may perhaps call him, with all due respect, a mixture of impossibilist and fanatic, but it is certainly an imbecility to accuse him of hypocrisy.

What is more, Dr. Kelly is a man who deserves generosity from his opponents, for he is usually willing to admit their good faith, and even to allow them a certain reasonableness. In this respect he differs widely from most of the other vice crusaders–for example, from the Hon. Charles J. Bonaparte. Mr. Bonaparte’s attack upon segregation has consisted, in brief, of an ill-natured and preposterous attempt to prove that all of its advocates are interested in the trade of prostitution. Dr. Kelly engages in no such pious mountebankeries. He knows very well that many perfectly honest persons are against him, and he is man enough to admit it frankly. If he has been led at times into untenable and ridiculous positions, the chief fault attaches, I believe, to clever fellows who have gained his confidence and made connections with his bank account.

After Dr. Goldsborough’s Vice Commission makes its report, I propose to publish the inside history of the current vice crusade, with particular reference to the methods of warfare practiced by certain eminent crusaders. Without discounting that racy and entertaining story, let me say at once that there are but three of these warriors who qualify as gentlemen, or even as civilized white men, and that Dr. Kelly is one of them. Take him away from the vice crusade, indeed, and it would lose fully half of its respectability, and more than two-thirds of its honesty.

Boil your drinking water! Do your Christmas shopping early! Watch Bob come back!

Once more a fair young scheme for the uplift of the drama has gone to pot--this time at the Princess Theatre in the city of New York. When the Princess was opened, a year or so ago, it was announced that the house would be given over to one-act plays with ideas in them, and there were many promising references to the success of similar enterprises abroad, particularly in Paris, Stockholm and Moscow. But at the first hint of protest from “right-thinking” numskulls the management has beaten a precipitate and preposterous retreat. Hereafter, one may be sure, the Princess will be devoted to “sound” and “elevating” dramas exclusively. That is to say, no idea will be launched on its stage which will not commend itself at once, and with no argument save the bare statement, to all persons who regard Ibsen as a pornographer and George Bernard Shaw as a devil.

Various stories are current in New York as to the motives underlying the withdrawal of Mr. Nathan’s one-acter, “The Eternal Mystery,” and the closing of the theatre. One of them is to the effect that the burlesque sacrifice was performed at the behest of a certain New York critic–a gentleman hitherto uncelebrated as a professor of either ehics or æsthetics. Another has it that the play offended the religious sensibilities of some of the actresses invited to the dress rehearsal. A third--and the most probable--is that the managers principally concerned suffered a plain case of stage fright--that the mere contact with coherent thinking was enough to send them scurrying in alarm.

Whatever the truth, it must be plain that these managers stand before the public in a very ludicrous light.They were full of big talk when they opened the theatre--and they ran like deer at the first sign of opposition. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even wait for oppopition to appear. The mere threat of it was enough for them. They didn’t attempt any defense of themselves. They didn’t do their friends and well-wishers the honor of calling on them for help. One blast upon the moral, the “forward-looking,” bugle-horn was sufficient to take all the courage out of them. They were not ashamed to play the traitor to their own judgment, to admit their incompetence, to swallow their self-respect.

The same thing has happened over and over again in the United States. In physical combat, unless, the war and barroom records lie, we Americans have the sublime courage of tigers and hyenas, but when it comes to a moral issue, we willingly yield our necks to the nearest old maid. All of our large cities are infested with smuthounds and heretic-hunters. All forms of art, including even music, are censored by persons to whom the very notion of art itself is loathsome and obscene. We have no honest and open discussion of any serious thing. Our larger problems are either giggled over by fools or obfuscated by quacks. Nowhere else on earth is there a people more afraid of one another. It to worth a man’s life to say anything or maintain anything that has not been said and maintained before. In 30 years we have not contributed a single novel and valid idea to either art or philosophy. Our national ideal is the “right-thinking” man–i. e., the man who thinks what everyone else thinks. In our national speech the words “sane” and “orthodox” are synonymous.

In such an atmosphere, it must be obvious, a “theatre of ideas” can never flourish. Now and then some brave fool will try to set it up--and go down at once beneath an avalanche of moral lances. Now and then some managerial quack will announce its founding--and straightway turn it into a second-rate showshop. Is it any wonder that our national drama remains a ridiculous and puerile thing in the sight of all civilized people? Even the English dramatist, for all his woes, is in a better situation. He has a censor to face, true enough, but that censor is a single man, official, responsible and at least partly intelligent. But the American dramatist must run the gantlet of a vast horde of reckless and ignorant volunteers, each with some pet platitude to defend, each with a wild yearning to make a killing, each with eyes that see viciousness in every honest effort to tell the truth.

No matter what the result of the coming election, Col. Jacobus von Hook will still remain the most popular Tax Collector that Baltimore ever had.–Adv.