FOREWORD – M’lle New York

What follows is found on the first page of the first issue of Vance Thompson and James Huneker’s 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) 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 scorning egalitarianism


 

FOREWORD

The mob—that glorious clientage of Shakespeare—is dead; it has become the “public.” It is not merely a juggle of words. This change goes to the root of things. Once the poet and the mob wrought together. Oh. this divine mob of the early centuries! It had a fine force of instinct; it was ignorant and it avowed it; and by this very avowal it attained a high state of intellectual receptivity and appreciation. The mob and Peter the 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 language—but the mob has become the public and the poet is its lickspittle. Poets? They are the helots—many of them the drunken helots—of the magazines. The public—

The public is made up of individuals who have opinions—they even pronounce opinions; they read the newspapers; they have a sullen and irreconcilable hate for the 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 walk beneath the eternal stars and fondle each other; they are given in marriage and taken in adultery they beget children; they read the newspapers; they have opinions; they are the public. The public—

It corrupts the language it has inherited from the mob and the poets; it has debauched the stage to the level of Mr. Richard Watson Gilder’s poetry and looks upon the drama merely as a help to digestion, a peptic or aperiative; not content with having vulgarized literature and arts, it has begun to “popularize” science—your boot-maker 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 Library that Moses was only a “medicine man” and Christ a politician. The public—

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 looks 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 parts—the aristocracies of birth, wit, learning and art and the joyously vulgar mob.

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