THE PESSIMIST'S PROGRESS
"Ah! Seigneur, donnez-moi la force et le courage De contempler mon cœur et mon corps sans dégoût."
JORIS-KARL HUYSMANS has been called mystic, naturalist, critic, aristocrat of the intellect; he was all these, a mandarin of letters and a pessimist besides -- no matter what other qualities persist throughout his work, pessimism is never absent; his firmament is clotted with black stars. He had a mediæval monk's contempt for existence, contempt for the mangy flock of mediocrity; yet his genius drove him to describe its crass ugliness in phrases of incomparable and enamelled prose. It is something of a paradox that this man of picturesque piety should have lived to be the accredited interpreter, the distiller of its quintessence, of that elusive quality, "modernity." The "intensest vision of the modern world," as Havelock Ellis puts it, Huysmans unites to the endowment of a painter the power of a rare psychologist,