The Letters of Lincoln Steffens - Vol. 2

The Letters of Lincoln Steffens - Vol. 2

The Letters of Lincoln Steffens - Vol. 2

The Letters of Lincoln Steffens - Vol. 2

Excerpt

IN JANUARY, 1920, leaving G. in Paris, Steffens went to Copenhagen with George Lansbury, Labor M.P. and editor of the London Daily Herald . They talked with Maxim Litvinov at the time Assistant Commissar for Foreign Affairs in the Soviet Government. The conversations finished, Steffens again visited Berlin. On his return to Paris, he found that G. had left, and he followed her to Monte Carlo. The possibility of revolution in Italy awakened once more his passionate curiosity about the processes of change, and they went to Rome. G. returned to America in June, and Steffens went to Vienna and Prague with E. A. Filene. After a brief stay in Germany, he sailed for New York.

He was trying to understand all that had happened to him and the world during his absence from America. When he started out for the peace conference, he had written Laura that he might be back so soon there would be no time for letters. He had stayed two years. He had observed the conference and later peace meetings; he had looked at defeated Germany, insurgent Italy, and revolutionary Russia. And even in the autumn of 1920 he was loath to leave Europe.

That he was learning all the time he did not doubt, but he could not say what. Writing came hard. He was thinking, not very precisely, of a book on the two cultures, the dying culture of his era and the culture of the future. But he was not writing it. At times he was depressed: "If I can't write any more," he said in February, 1920, "I ought to know it and turn definitely to other things." And again, a fortnight later: "My stuff does not of itself take a form and so help write itself. This scares me a little. Form is the essence of the creative faculty, and I may have lost that." But in more confident moments . . .

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