--New York Times
+++Page 4 is a virtually unreadable letter in handwritten
script from M. Brieux.+++
My endeavor has been to tell a simple story preserving as
closely as possible the spirit and feeling of the original. I
have tried as it were to take the play to pieces and build a
novel out of the same material. I have not felt at liberty to
embellish M. Brieux's ideas and I have used his dialogue word
for word wherever possible. Unless I have mis-read the author
his sole purpose in writing LES AVARIES was to place a number of
most important facts before the minds of the public and to drive
them home by means of intense emotion. If I have been able to
assist him this bit of literary carpentering will be worth
while. I have to thank M. Brieux for his kind permission to make
the attempt and for the cordial spirit which he has manifested.
PRESS COMMENTS ON THE PLAY
DAMAGED GOODS was first presented in America at a Friday matinee
on March 14th 1913 in the Fulton Theater New York before
members of the Sociological Fund. Immediately it was acclaimed
by public press and pulpit as the greatest contribution ever made
by the Stage to the cause of humanity. Mr. Richard Bennett the
producer who had the courage to present the play with the aid
of his co-workers in the face of most savage criticism from the
ignorant was overwhelmed with requests for a repetition of the
Before deciding whether of not to present DAMAGED GOODS before
the general public it was arranged that the highest officials in
the United States should pass judgment upon the manner in which
the play teaches its vital lesson. A special guest performance
for members of the Cabinet members of both houses of Congress
members of the United States Supreme Court representatives of
the Diplomatic corps and others prominent in national life was
given in Washington D.C.
Although the performance was given on a Sunday afternoon (April
6 1913) the National Theater was crowded to the very doors with
the most distinguished audience ever assembled in America
including exclusively the foremost men and women of the Capital.
The most noted clergymen of Washington were among the spectators.
The result of this remarkable performance was a tremendous
endorsement of the play and of the manner in which Mr. Bennett
and his co-workers were presenting it.
This reception resulted in the continuance of the New York
performances until mid-summer and is responsible for the decision
on the part of Mr. Bennett to offer the play in every city in
America where citizens feel that the ultimate welfare of the
community is dependent upon a higher standard of morality and
clearer understanding of the laws of health.
The WASHINGTON POST commenting on the Washington performance
The play was presented with all the impressiveness of a sermon;
with all the vigor and dynamic force of a great drama; with all
the earnestness and power of a vital truth.
In many respects the presentation of this dramatization of a
great social evil assumed the aspects of a religious service.
Dr. Donald C. Macleod pastor of the First Presbyterian Church
mounted the rostrum usually occupied by the leader of the
orchestra and announced that the nature of the performance the
sacredness of the play and the character of the audience gave to
the play the significance of a tremendous sermon in behalf of
mankind and that as such it was eminently fitting that a divine
blessing be invoked. Dr. Earle Wilfley pastor of the Vermont
Avenue Christian Church asked all persons in the audience to bow
their heads in a prayer for the proper reception of the message
to be presented from the stage. Dr. MacLeod then read the
Bernard Shaw preface to the play and asked that there be no
applause during the performance a suggestion which was rigidly
followed thus adding greatly to the effectiveness and the
seriousness of the dramatic portrayal.
The impression made upon the audience by the remarkable play is
reflected in such comments as the following expressions voiced
after the performance:
RABBI SIMON OF THE WASHINGTON HEBREW CONGREGATION--If I could
preach from my pulpit a sermon one tenth as powerful as
convincing as far-reaching and as helpful as this performance
of DAMAGED GOODS must be I would consider that I had achieved
the triumph of my life.
COMMISSIONER CUNO H. RUDOLPH--I was deeply impressed by what I
saw and I think that the drama should be repeated in every city
a matinee one day for father and son and the next day for mother
REV. EARLE WILFLEY--I am confirmed in the opinion that we must
take up our cudgels in a crusade against the modern problems
brought to the fore by DAMAGED GOODS. The report that these
diseases are increasing is enough to make us get busy on a
campaign against them.
SURGEON GENERAL BLUE--It was a most striking and telling lesson.
For years we have been fighting these condition in the navy. It
is high time that civilians awakened to the dangers surrounding
them and crusaded against them in a proper manner.
MRS. ARCHIBALD HOPKINS--The play was a powerful presentation of a
very important question and was handled in a most admirable
manner. The drama is a fine entering wedge for this crusade and
is bound to do considerable good in conveying information of a
very serious nature.
MINISTER PEZET OF PERU--There can be no doubt but that the
performance will have great uplifting power and accomplish the
good for which it was created. Fortunately we do not have the
prudery in South America that you of the north possess and have
open minds to consider these serious questions.
JUSTICE DANIEL THEW WRIGHT--I feel quite sure that DAMAGED GOODS
will have considerable effect in educating the people of the
nature of the danger that surrounds them.
SENATOR KERN OF INDIANA--There can be no denial of the fact that
it is time to look at the serious problems presented in the play
with an open mind.
Brieux has been hailed by Bernard Shaw as "incomparably the
greatest writer France has produced since Moliere" and perhaps
no writer ever wielded his pen more earnestly in the service of
the race. To quote from an article by Edwin E. Slosson in the
Brieux is not one who believes that social evils are to be cured
by laws and yet more laws. He believes that most of the trouble
is caused by ignorance and urges education public enlightenment
and franker recognition of existing conditions. All this may be
needed but still we may well doubt its effectiveness as a
remedy. The drunken Helot argument is not a strong one and
those who lead a vicious life know more about its risks than any
teacher or preacher could tell them. Brieux also urges the
requirement of health certificates for marriage such as many
clergymen now insist upon and which doubtless will be made
compulsory before long in many of our States.
Brieux paints in black colors yet is no fanatic; in fact he will
be criticised by many as being too tolerant of human weakness.
The conditions of society and the moral standards of France are
so different from those of America that his point of view and his
proposals for reform will not meet with general acceptance but
it is encouraging to find a dramatist who realizes the importance
of being earnest and who uses his art in defense of virtue
instead of its destruction.
Other comments follow showing the great interest manifested in
the play and the belief in the highest seriousness of its
There is no uncleanness in facts. The uncleanness is in the
glamour in the secret imagination. It is in hints half-truths
and suggestions the threat to life lies.
This play puts the horrible truth in so living a way with such
clean artistic force that the mind is impressed as it could
possibly be impressed in no other manner.
Best of all it is the physician who dominates the action. There
is no sentimentalizing. There is no weak and morbid handling of
the theme. The doctor appears in his ideal function as the
modern high-priest of truth. Around him writhe the victims of
ignorance and the criminals of conventional cruelty. Kind
stern high-minded clear-headed yet human-hearted he towers
over all as the master.
This is as it should be. The man to say the word to save the
world of ignorant wretches cursed by the clouds and darkness a
mistaken modesty has thrown around a life-and-death instinct is
The only question is this: Is this play decent? My answer is
that it is the decentest play that has been in New York for a
year. It is so decent that it is religious.
The play is above all a powerful plea for the tearing away of
the veil of mystery that has so universally shrouded this subject
of the penalty of sexual immorality. It is a plea for light on
this hidden danger that fathers and mothers young men and young
women may know the terrible price that must be paid not only by
the generation that violates the law but by the generations to
come. It is a serious question just how the education of men and
women especially young men and young women in the vital matters
of sex relationship should be carried on. One thing is sure
however. The worst possible way is the one which has so often
been followed in the past--not to carry it on at all but to