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The Salamander   By: (1878-1952)

The Salamander by Owen Johnson

First Page:

THE SALAMANDER

[Illustration: Doré]

THE SALAMANDER

By OWEN JOHNSON

Author of

THE VARMINT, STOVER AT YALE THE SIXTY FIRST SECOND, ETC.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY EVERETT SHINN

INDIANAPOLIS THE BOBBS MERRILL COMPANY PUBLISHERS

COPYRIGHT 1914 THE BOBBS MERRILL COMPANY

PRESS OF BRAUNWORTH & CO. BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS BROOKLYN, N. Y.

TO MY WIFE

FOREWORD

Precarious the lot of the author who elects to show his public what it does not know, but doubly exposed he who in the indiscreet exploration of customs and manners publishes what the public knows but is unwilling to confess! In the first place incredulity tempers censure, in the second resentment is fanned by the necessity of self recognition. For the public is like the defendant in matrimony, amused and tolerant when unconvinced of the justice of a complaint, but fiercely aroused when defending its errors.

In the present novel I am quite aware that where criticism is most risked is at the hands of those entrenched moralists who, while admitting certain truths as fit subjects for conversation, aggressively resent the same when such truths are published. Many such will believe that in the following depiction of a curious and new type of modern young women, product of changing social forces, profoundly significant of present unrest and prophetic of stranger developments to come, the author, in depicting simply what does exist, is holding a brief for what should exist.

If the type of young girls here described were an ephemeral manifestation or even a detached fragment of our society, there might be a theoretical justification for this policy of censure by silence. But the Salamanders are neither irrelevant nor the product of unrelated forces. The rebellious ideas that sway them are the same ideas that are profoundly at work in the new generation of women, and while for this present work I have limited my field, be sure that the young girl of to day, from the age of eighteen to twenty five, whether facing the world alone or peering out at it from the safety of the family, whether in the palaces of New York, the homesteads of New England, the manors of the South or the throbbing cities and villages of the West, whatever her station or her opportunity, has in her undisciplined and roving imagination a little touch of the Salamander.

That there exists a type of young girl that heedlessly will affront every appearance of evil and can yet remain innocent; that this innocence, never relinquished, can yet be tumultuously curious and determined on the exploration of the hitherto forbidden sides of life, especially when such reconnoitering is rendered enticing by the presence of danger here are two apparent contradictions difficult of belief. Yet in the case of the Salamander's brother, society finds no such difficulty it terms that masculine process, "seeing the world," a study rather to be recommended for the sake of satisfied future tranquillity.

That the same can be true of the opposite sex, that a young girl without physical temptation may be urged by a mental curiosity to see life through whatever windows, that she may feel the same impetuous frenzy of youth as her brother, the same impulse to sample each new excitement, and that in this curiosity may be included the safe and the dangerous, the obvious and the complex, the casual and the strange, that she may arrogate to herself the right to examine everything, question everything, peep into everything tentatively to project herself into every possibility and after a few years of this frenzy of excited curiosity can suddenly be translated into a formal and discreet mode of life here is an exposition which may well appear incredible on the printed page. I say on the printed page because few men are there who will not recognize the justice of the type of Salamander here portrayed... Continue reading book >>




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