What follows is found on the first page of the first issue of Vance Thompson andÂ James Huneker’sÂ M’lle New York magazine, in 1895. It is a glorious tirade of elitism against the “public”. I stumbled across V.T. while researching Max Stirner, who would certainly be an influence on Thompson (and Huneker!) a few years after the following was written.
My own Egoism tends to a type of elitism, rather than communitarian ideals, though some people tie their individualistic horse to the proverbial trough of humanity. I think it’s rather fetid water.
Wikipedia informs us:
From 1895 to 1899, (Vance Thompson)Â co-edited the periodical M’lle New York with Huneker. Described as “a highly idiosyncratic blend of serious analyses and presentations of European Symbolist literature and thought with buffoonery and incessant anti-philistinism”, it quickly became a manifesto for their cultural ideals.
In the following, Vance does not attack the poor, he slanders the UNDIFFERENTIATED mass. He set his journal to celebrate stratification, by scorningÂ egalitarianism
The mobâ€”that glorious clientage of Shakespeareâ€”is dead; it has become the “public.”Â It is not merely a juggle of words. This change goes to the root of things. Once theÂ poet and the mob wrought together. Oh. this divine mob of the early centuries! It hadÂ a fine force of instinct; it was ignorant and it avowed it; and by this very avowal itÂ attained a high state of intellectual receptivity and appreciation. The mob and Peter theÂ Hermit made the crusades; the mob and Luther the Reformation; the mob and Shakespeare made the drama, as the mob and Villon made the French languageâ€”but the mobÂ has become the public and the poet is its lickspittle. Poets? They are the helotsâ€”many of them the drunken helotsâ€”of the magazines. The publicâ€”
The public is made up of individuals who have opinionsâ€”they even pronounceÂ opinions; they read the newspapers; they have a sullen and irreconcilable hate for theÂ extraordinary; they believe in philanthropy (the most selfish of vices) and in education (the monstrous fetich of this thoughtless century): there are millions of them; they walkÂ beneath the eternal stars and fondle each other; they are given in marriage and taken inÂ adultery they beget children; they read the newspapers; they have opinions; they are theÂ public. The publicâ€”
It corrupts the language it has inherited from the mob and the poets; it hasÂ debauched the stage to the level of Mr. Richard Watson Gilder’s poetry and looks uponÂ the drama merely as a help to digestion, a peptic or aperiative; not content with havingÂ vulgarized literature and arts, it has begun to “popularize” scienceâ€”your boot-makerÂ has theories of the creation and your tailor argues the existence of God; counter jumpers play at atheism; lawyers and pedagogues are Mattered at reading in the Astor LibraryÂ that Moses was only a “medicine man” and Christ a politician. The publicâ€”
This grotesque aggregation of foolish individuals pretends to literary taste; it has its painters, its playwrights, its authors; that part of it which reads the male blue-stocking, William Dean Howells, looks down upon that part of it which reads the female blue-stocking, Richard Harding Davis; that part which reads Richard Harding Davis looksÂ down upon the part which reads Laura Jean Libby (why, in Heaven’s name?), and the readers of Miss Libby look down in turn upon the readers of the Police Gazette.
M’lle New York is not concerned with the public. Her only ambition is to disintegrate some small portion of the public into its original component partsâ€”the aristocracies of birth, wit, learning and art and the joyously vulgar mob.
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