Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968). rn The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.

Editor’s Preface

Sinclair, Upton

Upton Sinclair

WHEN the idea of this collection was first thought of, it was a matter of surprise that the task should have been so long unattempted. There exist small collections of Socialist songs for singing, but apparently this is the first effort that has been made to cover the whole field of the literature of social protest, both in prose and poetry, and from all languages and times.

The reader’s first inquiry will be as to the qualifications of the editor. Let me say that I gave nine years of my life to a study of literature under academic guidance, and then, emerging from a great endowed university, discovered the modern movement of proletarian revolt, and have given fifteen years to the study and interpretation of that. The present volume is thus a blending of two points of view. I have reread the favorites of my youth, choosing from them what now seemed most vital; and I have sought to test the writers of my own time by the touchstone of the old standards.

The size of the task I did not realize until I had gone too far to retreat. It meant not merely the rereading of the classics and the standard anthologies; it meant going through a small library of volumes by living writers, the files of many magazines, and a dozen or more scrap-books and collections of fugitive verse. At the end of this labor I found myself with a pile of typewritten manuscript a foot high; and the task of elimination was the most difficult of all.

To a certain extent, of course, the selection was self-determined. No anthology of social protest could omit “The Song of the Shirt,” and “The Cry of the Children,” and “A Man’s a Man for A’ That”; neither could it omit the “Marseillaise” and the “Internationale.” Equally inevitable were selections from Shelley and Swinburne, Ruskin, Carlyle and Morris, Whitman, Tolstoy and Zola. The same was true of Wells and Shaw and Kropotkin, Hauptmann and Maeterlinck, Romain Rolland and Anatole France. When it came to the newer writers, I sought first their own judgment as to their best work; and later I submitted the manuscript to several friends, the best qualified men and women I knew. Thus the final version was the product of a number of minds; and the collection may be said to represent, not its editor, but a whole movement, made and sustained by the master-spirits of all ages.

For this reason I may without suspicion of egotism say what I think about the volume. It was significant to me that several persons reading the manuscript and writing quite independently, referred to it as “a new Bible.” I believe that it is, quite literally and simply, what the old Bible was—a selection by the living minds of a living time of the best and truest writings known to them. It is a Bible of the future, a Gospel of the new hope of the race. It is a book for the apostles of a new dispensation to carry about with them; a book to cheer the discouraged and console the wounded in humanity’s last war of liberation.

The standards of the book are those of literature. If there has been any letting down, it has been in the case of old writings, which have an interest apart from that of style. It brings us a thrill of wonder to find, in an ancient Egyptian parchment, a father setting forth to his son how easy is the life of the lawyer, and what a dog’s life is that of the farmer. It amuses us to read a play, produced in Athens two thousand, two hundred and twenty-three years ago, in which is elaborately propounded the question which thousands of Socialist “soap-boxers” are answering every night: “Who will do the dirty work?” It makes us shudder, perhaps, to find a Spaniard of the thirteenth century analyzing the evil devices of tyrants, and expounding in detail the labor-policy of some present-day great corporations in America.

Let me add that I have not considered it my function to act as censor to the process of social evolution. Every aspect of the revolutionary movement has found a voice in this book. Two questions have been asked of each writer: Have you had something vital to say? and Have you said it with some special effectiveness? The reader will find, for example, one or two of the hymns of the “Christian Socialists”; he will also find one of the parodies on Christian hymns which are sung by the Industrial Workers of the World in their “jungles” in the Far West. The Anarchists and the apostles of insurrection are also represented; and if some of the things seem to the reader the mere unchaining of furies, I would say, let him not blame the faithful anthologist, let him not blame even the writer—let him blame himself, who has acquiesced in the existence of conditions which have driven his fellow-men to the extremes of madness and despair.

In the preparation of this work I have placed myself under obligation to so many people that it would take much space to make complete acknowledgments. I must thank those friends who went through the bulky manuscript, and gave me the benefit of their detailed criticism: George Sterling, Max Eastman, Floyd Dell, Clement Wood, Louis Untermeyer, and my wife. I am under obligation to a number of people, some of them strangers, who went to the trouble of sending me scrapbooks which represented years and even decades of collecting: Elizabeth Balch, Elizabeth Magie Phillips, Frank B. Norman, Frank Stuhlman, J. M. Maddox, Edward J. O’Brien, and Clement Wood. Among those who helped me with valuable suggestions were: Edwin Björkman, Reginald Wright Kauffman, Thomas Seltzer, Jack London, Rose Pastor Stokes, May Beals, Elizabeth Freeman, Arthur W. Calhoun, Frank Shay, Alexander Berkman, Joseph F. Gould, Louis Untermeyer, Harold Monro, Morris Hillquit, Peter Kropotkin, Dr. James P. Warbasse, and the Baroness von Blomberg. The fullness of the section devoted to ancient writings is in part due to the advice of a number of scholars: Dr. Paul Carus, Professor Crawford H. Toy, Professor William Cranston Lawton, Professor Charles Burton Gulick, Professor Thomas D. Goodell, Professor Walton Brooks McDaniels, Rev. John Haynes Holmes, Professor George F. Moore, Prof. Walter Rauschenbusch, and Professor Charles R. Lanman.

With regard to the illustrations in the volume, I endeavored to repeat in the field of art what had been done in the field of literature: to obtain the best material, both old and new, and select the most interesting and vital. I have to record my indebtedness to a number of friends who made suggestions in this field—Ryan Walker, Art Young, John Mowbray-Clarke, Martin Birnbaum, Odon Por, and Walter Crane. Also I must thank Mr. Frank Weitenkampf and Dr. Herman Rosenthal of the New York Public Library, and Dr. Clifford of the Library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. To the artists whose copyrighted work I have used I owe my thanks for their permission: as likewise to the many writers whose copyrighted books I have quoted. Elsewhere in the volume I have made acknowledgments to publishers for the rights they have kindly granted. Let me here add this general caution: The copyrighted passages used have been used by permission, and any one who desires to reprint them must obtain similar permission.

One or two hundred contemporary authors responded to my invitation and sent me specimens of their writings. Of these authors, probably three-fourths will not find their work included—for which seeming discourtesy I can only offer the sincere plea of the limitations of space which were imposed upon me. I am not being diplomatic, but am stating a fact when I say that I had to leave out much that I thought was of excellent quality.

What was chosen will now speak for itself. Let my last word be of the hope, which has been with me constantly, that the book may be to others what it has been to me. I have spent with it the happiest year of my lifetime: the happiest, because occupied with beauty of the greatest and truest sort. If the material in this volume means to you, the reader, what it has meant to me, you will live with it, love it, sometimes weep with it, many times pray with it, yearn and hunger with it, and, above all, resolve with it. You will carry it with you about your daily tasks, you will be utterly possessed by it; and again and again you will be led to dedicate yourself to the greatest hope, the most wondrous vision which has ever thrilled the soul of humanity. In this spirit and to this end the book is offered to you. If you will read it through consecutively, skipping nothing, you will find that it has a form. You will be led from one passage to the next, and when you reach the end you will be a wiser, a humbler, and a more tender-hearted person.