Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 28
But success had lost Martin's address, and her messengers no longer came to
his door. For twenty-five days, working Sundays and holidays, he toiled on "The
Shame of the Sun," a long essay of some thirty thousand words. It was a
deliberate attack on the mysticism of the Maeterlinck school - an attack from the
citadel of positive science upon the wonder-dreamers, but an attack nevertheless
that retained much of beauty and wonder of the sort compatible with ascertained
fact. It was a little later that he followed up the attack with two short essays, "The
Wonder-Dreamers" and "The Yardstick of the Ego." And on essays, long and
short, he began to pay the travelling expenses from magazine to magazine.
During the twenty-five days spent on "The Shame of the Sun," he sold hack-work
to the extent of six dollars and fifty cents. A joke had brought in fifty cents, and a
second one, sold to a high- grade comic weekly, had fetched a dollar. Then two
humorous poems had earned two dollars and three dollars respectively. As a
result, having exhausted his credit with the tradesmen (though he had increased
his credit with the grocer to five dollars), his wheel and suit of clothes went back
to the pawnbroker. The type- writer people were again clamoring for money,
insistently pointing out that according to the agreement rent was to be paid
strictly in advance.
Encouraged by his several small sales, Martin went back to hack- work. Perhaps
there was a living in it, after all. Stored away under his table were the twenty
storiettes which had been rejected by the newspaper short-story syndicate. He
read them over in order to find out how not to write newspaper storiettes, and so
doing, reasoned out the perfect formula. He found that the newspaper storiette
should never be tragic, should never end unhappily, and should never contain
beauty of language, subtlety of thought, nor real delicacy of sentiment. Sentiment
it must contain, plenty of it, pure and noble, of the sort that in his own early youth
had brought his applause from "nigger heaven" - the "For-God-my- country-and-
the-Czar" and "I-may-be-poor-but-I-am-honest" brand of sentiment.
Having learned such precautions, Martin consulted "The Duchess" for tone, and
proceeded to mix according to formula. The formula consists of three parts: (1) a
pair of lovers are jarred apart; (2) by some deed or event they are reunited; (3)
marriage bells. The third part was an unvarying quantity, but the first and second
parts could be varied an infinite number of times. Thus, the pair of lovers could
be jarred apart by misunderstood motives, by accident of fate, by jealous rivals,
by irate parents, by crafty guardians, by scheming relatives, and so forth and so
forth; they could be reunited by a brave deed of the man lover, by a similar deed
of the woman lover, by change of heart in one lover or the other, by forced
confession of crafty guardian, scheming relative, or jealous rival, by voluntary
confession of same, by discovery of some unguessed secret, by lover storming