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The Substance of a Dream   By: (1863-1940)

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Translated from the Original Manuscript



Mix, with sunset's fleeting glow, Kiss of friend, and stab of foe, Ooze of moon, and foam of brine, Noose of Thug, and creeper's twine, Hottest flame, and coldest ash, Priceless gems, and poorest trash; Throw away the solid part, And behold a woman's heart.


Methuen & Co. Ltd. 36 Essex Street W.C. London Second Edition First Published . October 16th 1919 Second Edition ... 1919







I could almost persuade myself, that others will like this little fable as much as I do: so curiously simple, and yet so strangely profound is its delicate epitome of the old old story, the course of true love, which never did run smooth.

And since so many people have asked me questions as to the origin of these stories, I will say a word on the point here. Where do they come from? I do not know. I discovered only the other day that some believe them to have been written by a woman. That appears to me to be improbable. But who writes them? I cannot tell. They come to me, one by one, suddenly, like a flash of lightning, all together: I see them in the air before me, like a little Bayeux tapestry, complete, from end to end, and write them down, hardly lifting the pen from the paper, straight off "from the MS." I never know, the day before, when one is coming: it arrives, as if shot out of a pistol. Who can tell? They may be all but so many reminiscences of a former birth.

The Substance of a Dream is half a love story, and half a fairy tale: as indeed every love story is a fairy tale. Because, although that unaccountable mystery, the mutual attraction of the sexes, is the very essence of life, and everything else merely accidental or accessory, yet only too often in the jostle of the world, in the trough and tossing of the waves of time, the accidental smothers the essential, and life turns into a commonplace instead of a romance. And so, like every other story, this little story will perhaps be very differently judged, according to the reader's sex. The bearded critic will see it with eyes very different from those with which it may be viewed by the fair voter with no beard upon her chin; for women, as the great god says at the end, have scant mercy on their own sex, and the heroine of the story is a strange heroine, an enigmatical Mona Lisa, so to say, who will not appeal to everybody so strongly as she does to the Moony crested Deity, when he sums her up at the close. I venture, with humility, to concur in the opinion of the Deity, for she holds me under the same spell as her innumerable other lovers. The reader, a more formidable authority even than the god, must decide: only I must warn him that to understand, he must go to the very end. He will not think his time wasted, if he take half the delight in reading, as I did, in transcribing, the evidence in the case. Only, moreover, when he closes the book will he appreciate the mingled exactitude and beauty of its name: for no story ever had a name which fitted it with such curious precision as this one. For the essence of a dream is always that along with its weird beauty, it counters expectation, often in such queer, ludicrous, kaleidoscopic ways. So it is, here.

Many bitter things, since the beginning, have men said of women, though neither so many nor so bitter, as the witty Frenchman cynically remarks, as the things women have said of one another. Poor Eve has paid very dear for that apple: the only wonder is, that she was not made responsible also for the Flood: but we have not got the whole of that story: Noah's wife may have dropped some incriminating documents into the water, for the Higher Criticism to unearth by and by: the Eternal Feminine may have had a hand in it after all, as she is generally to be found somewhere behind the scenes, wherever mischief brews for mortal man... Continue reading book >>

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