||“My Journey Through Inner Space” lecture, Marya Mannes, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1965.
||Baltimore Museum of Art;
||Baltimore Museum of Art; Mannes, Marya;
||Author and critic Marya Mannes delivered the lecture “My Journey Through Inner Space” at The Baltimore Museum of Art on February 28, 1965. The widely discussed author and critic was the author of many books and articles on social comment and political satire, and winner of the George Polk Memorial Award for radio and television production. Manes was a staff writer for “The Reporter”. She also wrote for Vogue, the New York Times magazine, Esquire, McCalls, and other publications. Some of Manne’s thoughts on her “journey through inner space” are found in her book “But Will It Sell?” which examines commerce, communications, crime and love, and art.
(Informal Talk) I have been sponsored as have all the rest by the Women’s Committee of the Baltimore Museum of Art. And I want to express again as I did at the very first of the series my thanks, and I am sure your thanks, for the splendid array of talent and interest with Baroque before I was just here. I also want to remind you now, lest I forget, and is customary, the audience is invited to the cafe at the end of the (Inaudible 00:34) after the lecture for coffee and to meet speakers. Now this is a lecture which will undoubtedly deal with vulgarity and harshness and (Inaudible 00:52) but also thinking and the culture fit. We have to speak here without a clear conscience today and we are all too often, our clear conscience is merely result of a bad memory. But she has a fondness for many of us. She said that she detests the secondary purpose in building upon primary experience holding a man who is a victim of things is neither free nor is he excellent. The daughter of two musicians, the late David and Clara Mannes and the wife of a British Aircraft Executive, Christopher Clarkson, she has been a staff writer for at least a dozen years for the magazine reporter which you know, and some of her most widely discussed articles have appeared in that magazine. But she’s also written for Vogue and the New York Times Magazines and Esquire and McCall’s and has contributed a monthly essay to the New York Herald Tribune. Perhaps you know her more better for her books or just as well, More in Anger being one title of earlier articles and essays, a book of the (Inaudible 00:02:22) Subverse, Message from a Stranger, her novel and the New York I Know. But her most recent book I think also perhaps her best one in many ways and book most sold is examining commerce and communications, crime, love and of course art. Incidentally, you probably notice that two of these books are for sale in the lobby, ______ 2:54 and the New York I Know and I understand that Marya Mannes has agreed that she would be very happy to autograph these books in the cafe if you do purchase them. On art as a communication, she said something which impressed me when I read it sometime ago that the artist of today says to the public, if you don’t understand what you have done, the main thing, that you and I, I hope are not, if you have to go the whole way to meet the artist, it’s his fault. She is also a poet, I refrain from reading some of my favorites, I hope she would quote some of her own but also a (Inaudible 03:49) and other problems and people. She is a woman who I think has the patience to endure her blessings, the driver of tomorrow’s ideas on yesterday’s highways and a great essayist — nor avoided collisions. Today, I think (Inaudible 00:04:23) of the man. We are looking far into the heart of the matter and she will now tell you what she has on her mind under the title “My Journey through Inner Space”, Mayra Mannes. (Applause) Thank you very much Parker. Ladies and gentleman, if I were you, I would be at the Boston Symphony or out walking. But since you are here through a mixture I would think of curiosity, friendship and if you like what you read, loyalty, I thank you for all with the curiosity that at least I understand. But we won’t get in spite of what Mr. Parker said, we won’t get into some vulgarity unless you find me vulgar or crime today. You will get not a lecture but a ramble really through me and this isn’t because I am enchanted with myself, I do not have a clear commission you are quite right about many things. So to anybody like myself who write about values and who has opinions and convictions about a great many things on which he is not qualified to speak, I say this, and I must say this because I am really not thoroughly educated, I have not been to a university. So when people say or write letters saying, who are you to tell us that something is good or bad or who do you think you are anyway, I think it’s a very good question. And I have sort of asked myself this, which is the hardest question in the world, who are you, how did you get that way, why do you feel as you do about certain things, how to come to certain conclusions and that in essence is the end product of this long journey in inner space, which is I think of far greater importance than outer to the future of man. And unless you finally arrived at the end of the journey which is the knowledge of soul and unless you do have an inner space, you are pretty well lost I think in this chaotic and complicated world. I am not saying that I have arrived at the end but the shape has begun to emerge and the beginning of that shape goes very far back. Mr. Parker spoke about my parents and parents, in case if anybody young around here, it’s pretty dark, parents are pretty important, at least mine were. And I think I got my first intimations about inner space as against the outside world in which one just lives without thinking as a child. When I heard them practice for their concerts, my father was a violinist, my mother was a pianist and they were perfectionists. And I would listen to them rehearse and I would listen them go over phrases not without argument on occasion, David you drag, I do not, you are taking a much faster tempo than you did last time, etc. However, then when they finally played at concerts and I must say that this was an agonizing experience because my only concern was that they would make a mistake, that they would miss notes. When I discovered that this was really not the purpose of music I got wound up in it. And I suddenly was aware of something marvelous that took place not only with my parents but the house or apartment was full of musicians playing chamber music and people like ____09:07 and I probably don’t remember them but they were the great musicians of the ’20s and ’30s, used to be there playing and I would see, I wondered incidentally why most musicians were homely. I was a very visual young person and I kept complaining to my parents who were not homely, I said why don’t you have any handsome men around. And then they said that it was a ridiculous question and said it was what was inside somebody not outside, fixing me with a glassy stare. Well, once, these rather unprepossessing men would sit down and play their violin or the piano, a transformation would take place as it took place in the familiar faces of my parents and they would be transmuted into something that was much larger than they were, they were refined in some unbelievable way that I couldn’t then define but have since tried to. There would be insurgence of something that was clearly larger than they were. They were consumed by it and I was so fascinated by this I thought it must be a wonderful way to be. I was half, one ear was with the music which aroused the deepest possible emotions as it so does if it’s good and the other part of me was saying, God, I would like to be like this, I was not a musician, I will tell you later why I wasn’t, very simple I had no talent. But I thought that the only thing important in life was to be exhorted. It was if you want intimations of glory and it was also if you wish the first and last feeling I have had about religion. This was religion, it always has been, it is the creative act and it has substituted for any form of religion for me. My father wrote autobiography when he was about 50 or so called Music Is My Faith, and he really meant it; this was everything. And as a matter of fact, this and a shorter or a magnificent painting or a Shakespeare Sonnet or my faith, this if you will is the divinity in man and this is the kingdom of heaven. I asked my father because although I never went to church, I did at my school in New York run by French ladies have scriptures read different chapter every morning. And I was absolutely ravished by the words, I thought they were extremely beautiful. But I kept coming home and saying well what’s the kingdom, and he would say, well it’s inside you, and I sort of thought of all these marvelous little buildings and things inside and I thought of Christ inside and I couldn’t quite make that one out. He said, well it’s perfectly true, He is, I mean this is it, it’s in you, you are in it and it’s in you. Well that took some understanding but I sort of let the matter drop. But it never left me because here again was the image of perfection or the image of good or the image of beauty locked inside you which you have to somehow bring out. So the obvious thing to do was to try to be like all these marvelous transmuted people. So I sat at the piano and for 10 years I played the Happy Farmer. I did work up to _____13:42 but it was so terrible the gap between what I had heard was right from these great artists that I was privileged to hear and what I did on the piano was not only intolerable to my teachers, they were literally whipped. I drove my family crazy. I had the competition of a brilliant brother who was a first grade pianist and of course my mother who locked herself in a room when I practiced. And when I did occasionally get to the loud passages missing notes, just unspeakable, she would emerge with a look of sort of gentle patient torture and say, I don’t think it says 40 dear and then my brother would come from another part of the apartment and say, it’s 3-4 it’s not 6-8, have you no rhythm for god’s sake. He was less polite than my parents. So I gave that up as a bad job. When I was 16, I made a personal resolve that this was not for me and I went over with a tremendous surge of passion for the word. Actually that had always been there because in school I was a prolific and passionate writer to the extent that my poor English teacher was swamped; I mean she asked me to do one piece I would do five. And they were bombastic and splendid and in an every possible style and also interspersed with poetry, terrible Keats, terrible Wordsworth. But I honestly think I learned a lot by trying to be like these other people. This sounds as if I believed in children copying class to _____ 15:32. Well in a sense I do. You have to observe, you have to be before you know or try to be. And once you have worked your way out of those stages, what’s left with you is some knowledge of however primitive, of what these creative artists must have felt when they were doing these things. It gives you not only a fantastic respect for doing this but knowledge of how very hard it is to come back. Well this inner space as I said was very filled with words, and I used to take things to people to learn, I used to go around saying I am the resurrection and the life, not with any disrespect at all I just thought it sounded great. And I would go into the shower and I would sing it, and this disturbed my brother who told my mother that he thought I was getting a religious mania. But I wasn’t, I just was in the love with these great marvelous phrases _____16:37 and as I was not awfully chummy with other kids, this is something he couldn’t understand either. Then of course proceeding my inner space got very rapidly filled with theater. As you would see I am afraid I am a hopeless romantic and things happen and I think this is the greatest, this is marvelous, what theater was, and I wasn’t content just to go and look, I would come back home and I must here explain that the cultivation of inner space has a great thing to do with solitude. In those old days back on the Crystal radio set we have no structured entertainment, I think that’s the word, see our days were not structured. After school, I think I had about four or five hours on my own which I would do with as I pleased. Half of them was lying on the bed with my feet up on the pillow reading and the rest were wandering through the parks of New York and on occasion (Inaudible 00:17:45). But a quite a lot of them were pretending I was somebody else and in this case, my first, which was alarming was Richard III. I had gone to see Richard III and was appalled and fascinated, deeply disturbed by the king. So I came back and managed to rustle together some things that he wore, a black (Inaudible 18:08) and a strange sort of jerkin which I made out of something and a floppy hat. I then managed to do a terrific job on myself with the crippled deal and I use to limp around the house memorizing certain speeches with great conviction. And my poor parents would come in from a concert and see this (Inaudible 18:34) black hat, and today they would have gotten a psychiatrist. They were very relieved when I sort of got through the Richard and went into Hamlet. And as I was very noble, I was incredibly noble and terribly pale, I put white things on my face because I ____ 18:57 child but I looked awful with my hair sort of hanging down all in black with a great chain which I think I got out of the kitchen. And that was a step in the right direction and even better when I became Mary, Duchess of Towers in Peter Ibbetson, and I don�t suppose any of you were old enough to know about that, but that was a great love story. And it seems that when they were parted tragically that the Duchess of Towers in her place and Peter in his, they would lie on their beds with their hands behind the back like that and think hard and then they would be together. So a lot of this was being lying praying for Peter, done quite a lot of that since too. But I am just telling you as well as I can. Well what really did go on, one of the things about it is that I was totally unconscious of limitations. I knew I was a girl but it didn’t trouble me. Also, my father who liked Shaw, he was an addict of Shaw and I think he got his advanced ideas from him, he certainly didn’t get it from mother who was advanced. This is the great joke. Mother was a professional concert pianist of considerable distinction and managed to juggle two lives with difficulty but with grace. However, mother was already beginning to worry about the feminine mystique and she had great fears of me sort of growing into Richard III or something like that. But father on the other hand said you can be anything you want, he said, you can be anything you want, don’t let anybody stop you. Well he had not counted a little thing called men and sex. But before we get big, don’t worry, I am not going to repeat a certain lecture that seems to have set Baltimorean culture on its end. It is fun but that’s not my lecture today. (Informal Talk) I didn’t go to college quite simply because I couldn’t bear four more years with girls; I had had that for 10 years and I wanted to live with a “L” so I rushed off and did. But there you come to the real problem, this is when I began to think that there may be no limitations being a female but there are considerable distractions and that my dreams of glory would have to be momentarily postponed for station identification and knowledge of another sort. So there was quite a period of intense struggle in inner space between the desire to be loved and the desire to be free. This is a tough thing for a woman because it was to surrender self really or to retain self and all romantic novels were strongly for the surrender of self rather than retention of self. And yet, I felt that if I didn�t hold on to my inner space I would be lost and as a matter of fact I very often was. The ’20s and ’30s I found although a lot of people don’t think much of them I think that they were an extraordinary time to live in and not all jazz and cigarettes holders and long ropes of pearls although I had all those. I also had a red sequin dress which I bought without anybody knowing me which came to the knee and I only discovered when I was being danced with. In those days we were close, we held each other. It was the most extraordinary _____23:32 dance the walls. You know I don’t understand of course the _____23:40 and I have the sense not to try it. But one of the reasons why I think I do but much is going on today, particularly these dances, to me of course it’s the fact of not being close to somebody as opposed to be danced with or not even looking at them is a degree of alienation if you want to call it that, it’s quite preposterous. And you are right, this red sequin dress, the trouble was that this was before the great day of imperishable plastics and the sequins came off in the gentleman’s hands like red caviar. There were sort of great big patches all down the back followed by a tray, at least it delighted my brother who was five years older and was very dubious about my success with the other sex anyway and he said, this will show you. He said, no red sequins are going to help you. He was right. But the ’30s were very fascinating. They were full, as you all know, of highly talented people who did not believe in instant success. There were no press agents and no mass media to elevate or amplify tiny talents and no talents to big ones. We all thought, not all but those of us in this sort of speak easy, semi electrical world, all night bull session circle, we felt that we could do something about the world that we could make it better, that we could in a sense reform it. And I don’t think that’s shameful, it may have been silly but it wasn’t shameful. It was a high note of idealism then. And although there were, I mean it’s very interesting, I am still a communist, I was totally a communist, I didn’t buy them because I couldn’t bear dogma of any sort and I couldn’t bear violence as a method towards anything so I did not get caught up fortunately, for me, later in any of the isms that occupied so many or quite a lot of my friends. I suppose that in reality it really raised its head in the a depression not because my family and I although we were not living together then suffered, we had no stocks and no bonds and we were extraordinarily unaffected by it. This is one of the great things about being hopeless at business. If you don’t know anything about the stock market, you don’t throw yourself out of windows if you lose, and we didn’t. I had to get a job and I had a traumatic experience for three years as an editor of Vogue where my inner space shrunk to nothing. I was so fascinated by the world of fashion and Society and these extraordinary male photographers sitting around and the fact that all my co-editors worked with hats on. I had a good job and people said how did you get started professionally and I said writing corset captions which was perfectly true. I had had things published before and I was considered to have some talent but it was a depression and if I could get $50 a week writing captions on the corsets I would do it, and I got very good out at them, terribly good. And then I went from that on to dresses and on to frills and to jewels, I even modeled them, I was a commercial model, I moonlighted and that’s a story by itself because people in society when they recognized my face they would hardly speak to me because I was one of the lower classes. But I found this whole lot world of fashion, and I still do, pretty ridiculous, it’s totally unreal, it’s wasteful, it’s silly. I am all for beauty but this kind of any exclusive society has always been a problem to me. And the Vogue society of those days, although “was not my dish” so life took me off to Italy and there began the first real beginning I suppose although I had known a great many painters of a development of the visual senses of what visual sense I have. There is no better place to get it than Italy and this was before the war when there was considerably more peace in spite of Mussolini who was of course a constant horror on the horizon. But there I not only saw the most beautiful things that have ever been made by man but I had a husband who was himself an artist and who explained a great deal of the techniques and backgrounds of all of this and all up and down Italy and even Greece. So I was very fortunate in this. I also for five years did portrait sculpture myself because again I was desperately anxious to find what was behind scenes, whether it was a looking glass of Alice or whether it was the human face. I had to get behind it and to the bottom of it to find out what it was that made people look as they do, why certain men had certain noses, why certain women had triangular muscles, why the backs of certain people’s necks had a great deal to say about who they were and why they were. And this was as I say an exploration. And the more I explored all these things both inviting and planning life, the more I began to be aware of something which has become an obsession and that is the strong association and links between everything; there are no such things as separate, separate odd, separate sign, separate being. It’s all part of one I would say fantastic design, universal design in which the principles and standards and values are pretty much akin, whether it’s the form of a sonata or whether it’s the shape of a paragraph or a sentence. There is such a tremendously small relationship in how you can separate them; how you can do one without being conscious of the other, I don’t know, and the same thing of course in sculpture and the painting and anything else. As for writing, I ultimately gave up sculpture because the war started and I think that if you feel deeply about the world and as (Inaudible 31:17) has said very brilliantly in a small book about function of the artist that he must periodically or she, anybody, the artist, must come out of his inner space, his essential inviolable privacy of creation and join the world and come out and fight for whatever it is you believe. And as 1939 or 1940, certainly even before Pearl Harbor, seemed to me of absolute paramount importance, I went into what is loosely known as government and became the most ham-fisted female spy ever to work for the war. So I was taught how to open locks but I never could. So this again, very torturous, but we now come up to ’46, no longer spy, took off my veil, threw away a bunch of violets, burned a lot of papers rapidly, and I got down to the serious business of writing. Inner space by that time was bursting with a desire to communicate and to communicate clearly. I have always been very impatient on this subject and this is where I differ from the intellectual establishment and they couldn’t be happier because they don’t think much of me. They suspect strongly, clear communication, they think it’s the mark of a shallow mind. But if you really express yourself, if you are able to communicate with a lot of people, it can’t be very worth communicating. In other words obscurity is a sign of deep perception, if only of yourself if not anything else. And this is why also, again opinion how you get values, why I have been so impatient with so very much in contemporary art and theater, what I think is the absolute neglect of these fundamental principles of a denial of the past, of a denial of craftsmanship which has become a dirty word. In short I think this is instant art largely predicated on sensation, on undisciplined emotion, on violence if you will. Now I am not talking about the many good examples of contemporary art but I do think the public as a whole has been sold over the last 20 years a great fraud in many of the painters that are supposed to be artists and I do not think are, because again the beauty of this world has been created out of chaos and made into order. And there is no question in my mind or my inner space that this is the function of the artist to create order, not an order but a structure which is as clear as a combination of atoms in a sort of universal dance, in ordered motion. I don’t know, I think I am getting probably near the end of this journey which probably doesn’t make very much sense but I hope I have to, when it sort of all comes together it will seem to make more. I think the sense of order comes in very small things too. I have a passion for working on ocean beaches anywhere anytime and I am constantly enthralled by the shape and order of the stones on the beach by the motion of waves, by the feathers of sea birds, by almost anything that is of nature and is in itself also abstract but it is form and it has pattern and it all fits with everything else. And I think this is one thing that you learn more and more as you grow older and that is the intense building, it’s a form of (Inaudible 00:36:23) I guess but in the small forms or the great forms of nature, it’s something that is vital to understand and vital to cherish. Where one is now, I mean obviously one has written books, one has been published, one is asked to lecture and one has to fight very hard from any feeling that this means that one is important — which particularly in this civilization of success is terribly dangerous and that’s to think that you are the soul possessor of truth, that you are important, that you are successful, I am terrified of that word and I hope never to use it even quietly when I talk to myself. It’s something that happens to somebody else if it’s there, it’s not me. You say, what is the end of this journey through inner space? Well it’s not ending. I don’t even see what the end is except that I know what I would like to do, I would like to have some small part in restoring the image of man, in restoring a passion for the hero and I don’t mean the battlefield hero, I think the man who stands up in a concert hall and plays an instrument or sings as a hero, I think the person who gets up and says what he means in Congress without worrying about voted as a hero. I think there are all sorts of heroes in levels and leaders of all kinds. And I would very much like to see this come back in our society, the full measure of a human being is essentially a glorious thing or can be a glorious thing. If I can do that through anything that I write or anything that I am then there will be some kind of dim shape at the end of the road. Right now, I sort of wonder how crazy you can get, I feel like a promising young writer with many things to learn and many worlds to conquer. Thank you. (Applause) (Informal Talk)