Art-Love

Dublin Core

Title

Art-Love

Bibliographic Citation

J. William Lloyd, “Art-Love,” Liberty 4, no. 21 (May 7, 1887): 5.
Benjamin R. Tucker, “Response to ‘Art-Love’,” Liberty 4, no. 21 (May 7, 1887): 5.

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Text

Art-Love.

 

Dear Comrade Tucker:

You still misunderstand my art attitude, I think. I teach nothing reactionary, if I know it. I indeed believe in ideals, but they are simply my art models. My Great Ideal is my perfected and happy self; my lesser ideals all relate to this. My ideals are my gods; yet are they my servants. In a certain sense they are “fixed ideas,” yet I watch them with ever increasing keenness of criticism, and am always ready to unfix them, and “fix” them over, in the interests of my Ego. I am as “ghost-ridden” as Mr. Kelly, and believe most heartily in justice, morality, altruism, unselfishness, and all the rest; yet I believe in them merely because I consider them immensely conducive to my own happiness, which brings me close to your own position, I think. In other words, I claim to be an intelligent Egoist. I cannot tell when or where I first found these ideas, but it was years before I comprehended Anarchy, and they have done more, perhaps, than anything else to open my mind to it. I think even Tchernychewsky could find no fault with my idealism.

Therefore I cannot believe in “art for art’s sake.” I believe in art (as everything else) for humanity’s sake, which, sifted down, means for my own sake. The spirit of that wise saying of the Boss Carpenter of Judea about the Sabbath fits my thought here exactly. Art was made for man, not man for art.

I showed you that I used the word ulterior in the sense of indirect or incidental, and the “absurdity” of which you accuse me is purely of your own construction by making what I called the direct object of fine art do duty for an ulterior object. I assume that every intelligent man practises art for his own sake; and all that my offending aphorism was intended to assert was that the true artist cared more for to taaefits directly or necessarily coming to him from the practice of his art, as art, than for the indirect benefits which might accrue. In other words, in the true artist the esthetic passion must somewhat predominate.

Happiness is not necessarily “later in time of achievement,” but may coexist with immediate pleasure to the nerves of sense.

That you still misunderstand me is clearly revealed by your saying: “The true artist-lover refrains from dwelling upon babies precisely because he cares more for babies,” etc. Now all that is contrary to my idea, and shows that you have misunderstood my whole argument from the first. ‘Tis the stirpiculturist who cares more for babies. There is no necessary connection between love-making and babies, except that parents perfected by love-making make better babies, just as parents developed by calisthenics or massage would. This is why I distinguished love from passion, or, to speak more scientifically, the love-passion from the simple sex-passion. Sex-passion is an instinct having children for its direct object, and is guided by what we call Nature, but in love this sex-passion is tamed, trained, cultivated, and turned into new channels by the intellect and for the pleasure of the Ego. In the highest and most artistic love-making the sexual forces, intensely vivifying and thrilling, are intelligently and skilfully directed, now here, now there, into every physical and mental faculty, until their power is spent, producing the most brilliant action in the faculties thus inspired. Therefore in artistic love-making, you will perceive, the elements and essences secreted by the sex-passion are not utilized in real reproduction, nor wasted in sham reproduction, but employed as aesthetic agents for the benefit of the person. But, so far as the magnetic forces are concerned, at least, this is best accomplished by exchange between the sexes; that is to say, we can best utilize our own magnetic sexual secretions by exchanging them for an equal portion of the magnetism of some one of the opposite sex. The function of the sex-passion is to secrete surplus vital power and expend it for reproduction. But the function of the love-passion is to take this secreted vitality, exchange it for power secreted by one of the opposite sex, and distribute this for the development, pleasure, and happiness of the organism. This is why I said: “Passion is begotten of natural selection, looking to the maintenance of the race; love is of artificial culture, looking to the perfection of the individual.” Were I desirous of children, I should employ the simple, abrupt, paroxysmal sex-passiou, for that throws all the vital powers to the reproductive centres. But the love-passion is not fit to be directly employed in reproduction, because it withdraws the reproductive stores for an egoistic feast.

But our enemies will say that we waste time and valuable space in these aesthetic discussions, while the world perishes and tyrants rivet their chains. Let us drop the subject, for, now that you understand me, I feel sure you no longer accuse me.

No, indeed, Mr. Tucker, I did not think you silly enough tt> maintain that Anarchism rests on no positive principle. But, because your language seemed capable of misinterpretation in that way, I strove for clearer statement. So far from regarding you as silly, there are few living men whose intellectual powers I more respect; few, if any, whose teachings seem to me so near the basic truth. The only thing that seems unwise to me about you is (as I have before told y6u) that merciless combativeness which makes you strike blows so hard that they rebound to your own hurt and discredit; estranging from you friends and comrades who, whatever their errors in judgment, are at least following liberty as best they may, and are valuable in their place both to you and the cause. But doubtless my supply of this sort of presumptuous advice already exceeds the demand.

Sincerely, J. Wm. Lloyd.

May 29, 1887.

 

[When Mr. Lloyd finds himself in a tight place in an argument, his favorite resource is to accuse his opponent of what the logicians call ignoratio elenchi; that is, he says to him: “You, sir, have disproved something which I did not say, but what I did say you have overlooked.” Then he proceeds to show that what he did say substantially agrees with his opponent’s position. “You are right,” he asserts, “but I was not wrong.” Some time ago he answered Mr. Yarros in this way; now he meets me likewise. The disadvantage of this argument, if used repeatedly, consists in its establishment of the following unsatisfactory alternative,— either the opponent is a blockhead, or the criticised party is a very obscure and ambiguous writer. And in this case the alternative is not only unsatisfactory, but utterly confusing, because Mr. Lloyd has given me a certificate as a man of intellect and I have given him one as a literary artist. The consoling feature of the controversy is that I have elicited from him exactly what he claims to have elicited from me upon another matter,—clearer statement. It is true that Mr. Lloyd said in his second article that he had used “ulterior” in the sense of incidental, but it is not true that he “showed” it. On the contrary, I showed him, by calling attention to his context, that his use of the word necessarily implied the sense of later in time of achievement. If his meaning was other than his words implied, I could not be expected to know it. The same discrepancy between meaning

and statement appears in what he says of love and passion. Judging from his latest interpretation of his words, he had in view only the artist-lover who is not aiming at offspring. But his original words implied the contrary. I quote them: “A man makes a poor lover whose sole [italics mine] desire in love is to make that love beget offspring. The true artist cares more for his art and his pleasure in it than for its ulterior object.” If these sentences do not refer to a man who not only wants children, but wants at the same time to make love, and if they do not assert concerning him that he is not a true artist unless he cares more for his pleasure in love-making than for what sort of a child he is to produce, then I do not understand English. As stated, it was a plain case of “art for art’s sake,” and as such I attacked it.—Editor Liberty.]

 

J. William Lloyd, “Art-Love,” Liberty 4, no. 21 (May 7, 1887): 5.

 

Benjamin R. Tucker, “Response to ‘Art-Love’,” Liberty 4, no. 21 (May 7, 1887): 5.

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Citation

Tucker, Benjamin Ricketson, 1854-1939 and Lloyd, J. Wm. (John William), 1857-1940, “Art-Love,” The Libertarian Labyrinth, accessed October 18, 2019, http://library.libertarian-labyrinth.org/items/show/2507.