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Trilby And The Trilbyites
by [?]


The Trilby craze has overrun the land like the “grip” bacillus or the seven-year locust. Here in America it has become almost as disgusting as the plague of lice sent upon Egypt to eat the chilled steel veneering off the heart of Pharaoh the fickle. Everything is Trilby. We have Trilby bonnets and bonbons, poses and plays, dresses and drinks. Trilby sermons have been preached from prominent pulpits, and the periodicals, from penny-post to pretentious magazine, have Trilbyismus and have it bad. One would think that the world had just found Salvation, so loud and unctuous is its hosannah–that Trilby was some new Caaba- stone or greater Palladium floated down from Heaven on the wings of Du Maurier’s transcendent genius; that after waiting and watching for six thousand–or million–years, a perfect exemplar had been bequeathed to the world.

I have read Du Maurier’s foolish little book–as a disagreeable duty. The lot of the critic is an unenviable one. He must read everything, even such insufferable rot as “Coin’s Financial School,” and those literary nightmares turned loose in rejoinder–veritable Rozinantes, each bearing a chop-logic Don Quixote with pasteboard helmet and windmill spear. I knew by the press comments–I had already surmised from its popularity with upper-tendom– that “Trilby” was simply a highly spiced story of female frailty; hence I approached it with “long teeth”‘–like a politician eating crow, or a country boy absorbing his first glass of lager beer. I had received a surfeit of the Camillean style of literature in my youth before I learned with Ecclesiastes the Preacher–or even with Parkhurst–that “all is vanity.”

So far as my experience goes the only story of a fallen woman that was worth the writing–and the reading–is that of Mary Magdalen; and it is not French. Her affaires d’amour appear to have ended with her repentance. She did not try to marry a duke, elevate the stage or break into swell society. After closing her maison de joie she ceased to be “bonne camarade et bonne fille” in the tough de tough quarter of the Judean metropolis. There were no more strolls on the Battery by moonlight alone love after exchanging her silken robe de chambre for an old- fashioned nightgown with never a ruffle. When she applied the soft pedal the Bacchic revel became a silent prayer. So far as we can gather, the cultured gentlemen of Judea did not fall over each other in a frantic effort to ensnare her with Hymen’s noose. If the Apostles recommended her life to the ladies of their congregations as worthy emulation the stenographer must have been nodding worse than Homer. If the elite of Jerusalem named their daughters for her and made her the subject of public discussion, that fact has been forgotten. And yet it is reasonably certain that she was beautiful–even more beautiful than Trilby, the bones of whose face were so attractive, the pink of whose tootsie-wootsies so irresistible. The Magdalen of St. Luke appears to have been in many respects the superior of the Magdalen of Du Maurier. She does not appear to have been an ignorant and coarse-grained she-gamin who frequented the students’ quarter of the sacred city, posing to strolling artists for “the altogether,” being, in the crowded atelier like Mother Eve in Eden “naked and not ashamed.” We may suppose that the sensuous blood of the Orient ran riot in her veins–that she was swept into the fierce maelstrom by love and passion and would have perished there but for the infinite pity of our Lord, who cast out the seven devils that lurked within her heart like harpies in a Grecian temple, and stilled the storm that beat like sulphurous waves of fire within her snowy breast.