Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 23
That Ruth had little faith in his power as a writer, did not alter her nor diminish her
in Martin's eyes. In the breathing spell of the vacation he had taken, he had spent
many hours in self- analysis, and thereby learned much of himself. He had
discovered that he loved beauty more than fame, and that what desire he had for
fame was largely for Ruth's sake. It was for this reason that his desire for fame
was strong. He wanted to be great in the world's eyes; "to make good," as he
expressed it, in order that the woman he loved should be proud of him and deem
him worthy.
As for himself, he loved beauty passionately, and the joy of serving her was to
him sufficient wage. And more than beauty he loved Ruth. He considered love
the finest thing in the world. It was love that had worked the revolution in him,
changing him from an uncouth sailor to a student and an artist; therefore, to him,
the finest and greatest of the three, greater than learning and artistry, was love.
Already he had discovered that his brain went beyond Ruth's, just as it went
beyond the brains of her brothers, or the brain of her father. In spite of every
advantage of university training, and in the face of her bachelorship of arts, his
power of intellect overshadowed hers, and his year or so of self-study and
equipment gave him a mastery of the affairs of the world and art and life that she
could never hope to possess.
All this he realized, but it did not affect his love for her, nor her love for him. Love
was too fine and noble, and he was too loyal a lover for him to besmirch love with
criticism. What did love have to do with Ruth's divergent views on art, right
conduct, the French Revolution, or equal suffrage? They were mental processes,
but love was beyond reason; it was superrational. He could not belittle love. He
worshipped it. Love lay on the mountain-tops beyond the valley-land of reason. It
was a sublimates condition of existence, the topmost peak of living, and it came
rarely. Thanks to the school of scientific philosophers he favored, he knew the
biological significance of love; but by a refined process of the same scientific
reasoning he reached the conclusion that the human organism achieved its
highest purpose in love, that love must not be questioned, but must be accepted
as the highest guerdon of life. Thus, he considered the lover blessed over all
creatures, and it was a delight to him to think of "God's own mad lover," rising
above the things of earth, above wealth and judgment, public opinion and
applause, rising above life itself and "dying on a kiss."
Much of this Martin had already reasoned out, and some of it he reasoned out
later. In the meantime he worked, taking no recreation except when he went to
see Ruth, and living like a Spartan. He paid two dollars and a half a month rent
for the small room he got from his Portuguese landlady, Maria Silva, a virago and
a widow, hard working and harsher tempered, rearing her large brood of children