Title: On Eugene O’Neill’s “Philosophical Anarchism”
Topics: philosophy, theatre
Date: 2007
Source: The Eugene O’Neill Review, Vol. 29 (2007), pp. 50–72. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/29784831>
Publisher: Penn State University Press

Some reasonably well-known facts circulate in O’Neill scholarship regarding the subject of this essay—the playwright’s relation to the American anarchist movement in the opening decades of the twentieth century. We know, for example, that as early as 1903, when O’Neill was fifteen years old, a minor anarchist cohort calling itself L’Avvenire (“the Future” or “the Oncoming”) existed in New London, Connecticut, the closest thing O’Neill could claim as a hometown, and published the radical newsletter II Nostro Programma (“Our Program” or “Our Agenda”). We also know that the Greenwich Village bohemian Louis Holladay introduced O’Neill at the age of eighteen to Benjamin R. Tucker, the radical publisher, translator, bookstore proprietor, and editor of the anarchist journal Liberty, who in turn introduced him to “philosophical anarchism,” or “individualist anarchism.” We know that nearly ten years later one of O’Neill’s Harvard classmates in George Pierce Baker’s play writing workshop described the emergent playwright as “intellectually ... a philosophical anarchist; politically, a philosophical socialist” (qtd. in Pfister 107). Most O’Neillians know this line verbatim and also know that he abandoned socialism quite early as a viable political philosophy—most likely swayed away from any confidence in what Nietzsche caustically termed the “herd” by two close companions, fellow philosophical anarchists Terry Carlin, the man who introduced O’Neill to Hutchins Hapgood, and Hapgood himself, who introduced him to the Provincetown Players. We know that in 1909 O’Neill shared a studio in the Lincoln Arcade Building at 65th Street and Broadway with a New London friend, Ed Keefe, along with the painters George Bellows and Ed Ireland, who ushered him into their anarchist circle, and that he was further exposed to philosophical anarchism when Bellows was teaching with Ash Can Painter Robert Henri at the Ferrer Center in New York, where he studied informally in 1915. We know, too, that same year he served a short apprenticeship at Hippolyte Havel’s Revolt magazine, shut down after only three months for openly opposing the country’s engagement in the war in Europe, where he met many of the friends and radical associates who would occupy his early Greenwich Village days.

We also know O’Neill’s perplexing lines from 1922, just after winning two Pulitzer Prizes (Beyond the Horizon [1920] and “Anna Christie” [1922]), and before his series of highly expressionistic, psychology-driven middle plays made his international reputation soar: “Time was, when I was an active Socialist, and, after that, a philosophical anarchist. But today I can’t feel that anything like that matters” (qtd. in Pfister 138); although as late as 1946, at a rehearsal for The Iceman Cometh (1939), when the fifty-eight-year-old O’Neill was in his last stage as a working playwright, he famously, rather cryptically remarked, “I am a philosophical anarchist, which means, ‘Go to it, but leave me out of it’” (qtd. in Bowen 82). And finally we know O’Neill’s response to a female acquaintance when she identified herself as “philosophically ... an anarchist but in practical matters a capitalist”— according to him, she was the “wisest woman he had met in a thousand years” (qtd. in Pfister 138–39).

But what do we know about the actual meaning of this term—“philosophical anarchism”? It has a sexy, rebellious ring to it, and that seems sufficient. How do we distinguish philosophical anarchism, cited often as a distinctive worldview in many texts from the first half of the twentieth century, from Emma Goldman’s well-known definition of anarchism that we find both on the masthead of the first edition of Mother Earth (April 1910), and in similar language on the frontispiece of her autobiography Living My Life (1931): “The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made laws. The theory that all governments rest on coercion and force, that they are therefore harmful and unnecessary”? While Arthur and Barbara Gelb, Louis Sheaffer, and Stephen A. Black, the most prominent O’Neill biographers, do not list “anarchism” or “the anarchist movement” in their indexes (a peculiar omission given that this was O’Neill’s only self-professed social philosophy), they do differentiate between Benjamin Tucker’s and Goldman’s divergent anarchisms: Tucker, raised as he was in a Quaker household, rejected any act of violence against the State, and he and Goldman terminated their already shaky alliance over the Berkman/Frick affair, in which the Russian anarchist and Goldman’s lover Alexander Berkman shot and wounded the millionaire industrialist Henry Clay Frick in a botched assassination attempt following Frick’s brutal suppression of steel workers in the Homestead Strike of 1892. “No pity for Frick, no praise for Berkman” was Tucker’s final word on the subject (qtd. in Madison, “Benjamin” 463). O’Neill critic Doris Alexander, though she does include “anarchism” and “the anarchist movement” in the indexes of her biographical studies The Tempering of Eugene O’Neill and Eugene O’Neill’s Last Plays, respectively, and refers to the “philosophical anarchist Larry [Slade from The Iceman Cometh] f assigns little meaning to it but “against all forms of government” (29). In Eugene O’Neill’s Last Plays, a critical masterpiece by any measure, Alexander probes further than any O’Neill scholar and rightly looks to Benjamin Tucker’s, Terry Carlin’s, and Hutchins Hapgood’s weighty influence on O’Neill’s worldview. But who influenced them, and, again, why does a definition of their school of thought remain so elusive?

One book sporadically emerges in these and other studies, a book we find positioned alongside Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Marx, Kropotkin, and others on the Tyrone bookshelves in the stage directions of Long Day “s Journey into Night—it is the founding text of the philosophy, the 1844 treatise entitled The Ego and His Own: The Case of the Individual Against Authority by the radical egoist Max Stimer.[1] Once read, Stimer’s revolutionary text, which Tucker first published in English, which he called the “greatest work of political philosophy and ethics ever written” (qtd. in Madison, Critics 201), and which could be found on the bookshelf of nearly all Greenwich Village radicals in the 1910s, provides some remarkable answers to the above question.

Max Stimer (nee Caspar Schmidt [1806–1856]) is one of two authors on Edmund Tyrone’s bookshelf that O’Neill included with both first and last names (the other being the poet Ernest Dowson). This is most likely because his reputation by the mid-twentieth century had slackened considerably after the rise of socialistic organizations, trusts, and syndicates in the 1930s (see Yarros). Bom in 1806, Stimer studied under Hegel at Berlin University and later joined Die Freien (“the Free Ones”), a Hegelian philosophical club in the mode of O’Neill’s “Second Story Club” in New London and Terry Carlin’s “Rogue’s Gallery” in Chicago. He taught secondary school for the bulk of his professional life, and like Nietzsche after him, his mild manner in day-to-day existence starkly contrasted with the outrageous arrogance one finds throughout his masterpiece. With no other significant works to his name, Stimer has been vilified for adding fuel to twentieth-century totalitarian fires, particularly in his homeland Germany. Though there is no indication Adolf Hitler ever read him, Karl Marx most certainly had. In a section of The German Ideology ironically entitled “Saint Max,” one that comprised a full two-thirds of their volume for rebuttal, Marx and Engels sternly cautioned their readers against the dangers of placing the interests of the self so high above that of the people, insofar as “socio-economic change is a necessary prerequisite for a better individual life” (Carroll 15). The “selfishness” inherent in Stimer’s treatise, however, one that Nietzsche was to popularize in the decades to come, laid the groundwork for the conceptions of moral ambiguity, psychoanalysis, sexual freedom, and social and artistic experimentation that define the modernist era. When read closely, The Ego and His Own brings to light a coherent socio-philosophical framework by which to read nearly the whole of the O’Neill canon.[2]

In 1906, Tucker, the legitimate founder and chief proponent of American philosophical anarchism, opened his Unique Book Shop at 502 Sixth Avenue near 30th Street, a store dedicated to intellectual freedom, free love, and espoused, in contrast to other anarchists from the time—specifically “communist-anarchists” of the Bakunin/Goldman/Berkman variety—nonviolent social and cultural protest.[3] In 1909, James Huneker distinguished philosophical anarchism from its more aggressive cousin as “without a touch of the melodrama of communistic anarchy, with its black flags, its propaganda by force, its idolatry of assassinations, bomb-throwing, killing of fat, harmless policemen, and its sentimental gabble about fraternity” (355). A militant atheist, Tucker was greatly influenced by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s What Is Property? (1840), in whose book the term “anarchism” first came into being, and in 1890 Tucker was the first to translate that incendiary text into English. He also founded the radical anarchist journal Liberty and edited it for nearly thirty years. On a socio-economic level, the journal was committed to these core beliefs: the “absence of all compulsion”; “extreme individualism, holding that all coercion was immoral”; and the line that to abolish land ownership, “money and banking,” “trade, patents and copyright,” was to abolish poverty (Madison, “Benjamin” 457). In addition, he was adamantly “opposed to all paternalistic reform movements” (Yarros 470) and referred to plutocrats and capitalists as “the brotherhood of thieves” (qtd. in Madison, Critics 204), but “deprecated violence in any form except that of self-defense” (Madison, “Benjamin” 462).

The most accomplished scholar of philosophical anarchism, Victor Yarros, pronounced “philosophical anarchism was as American a contribution as pragmatism” (470); indeed, James Huneker described what he called “philosophic anarchy” in 1909 as “pragmatism with a vengeance” (364). For his part, Tucker defined the philosophical anarchist as “an unterrified Jeffersonian democrat,” who believed in “government by consent of all the governed” (Yarros 473). Like Jefferson, Tucker maintained that majority rule was not consent by all the governed and viewed the State as “the enemy of the poor, the disinherited, the downtrodden” (Yarros 474). More to the point, Yarros goes on, “what anarchism objects to is compulsory co-operation, not to intelligent, free, and experimental co-operation” (475). Tucker was heavily influenced by American Transcendentalism as well, particularly Thoreau’s brand of civil disobedience and Whitman’s heroic blend of individualism and radical democracy, and the good gray poet responded in kind: “Tucker did brave things for Leaves of Grass f Whitman wrote, “I could not forget that.... I love him: he is plucky to the bone” (qtd. in Sheaffer 103).

Louis Holladay introduced O’Neill to Tucker and his bookstore during O’Neill’s short-lived stay at Princeton, and he soon became one of the regular patrons that one New York journalist described as “well dressed, seemingly well-educated young men, whose mental processes have led them into out of the way or unconventional channels” (qtd. in Sheaffer 104). The bookstore offered, at a time when such work was not readily available, over 5,000 volumes of what Tucker called “the most complete line of advanced literature, in the advanced languages, to be found anywhere in the world” (qtd. in Madison, Critics 200), much of which was banned throughout the country. Tucker himself had translated a good deal of this radical literature for the first time into English and debuted far more American editions through his independent press. Outside of the socio-economic, Tucker’s influence, according to O’Neill, greatly influenced his “inner self’ (qtd. in Sheaffer 102). Indeed, Tucker’s philosophical anarchism was inextricably tied to the “inner self,” rather than first attempting social change from without. In the philosopher William O. Reichert’s words, Tucker’s anarchism espoused “the rejection of all formalism, authority, and force in the interest of liberating the creative capacities of the individual” (858). He believed that if you live your own life, then others would ideally follow your example by living theirs. Reichert elaborates: “the courageous individual performs an act of ‘propaganda by deed’ every time he personally resists the enticements of Leviathan. When enough people resist it to the point of ignoring it altogether, the state will have been destroyed as completely as a scrap of paper is when it is tossed into a roaring fire” (860).[4]

Regardless of the strong American antecedents to Tucker’s philosophical anarchism, in 1907 he became obsessed with a newly translated book from Germany that his imprint published for the first time in the United States: Stimer’s The Ego and His Own. Louis Sheaffer catalogues a comprehensive, scarcely hyperbolic distillation of Stimer’s views in the broadest sense: “With Germanic thoroughness Stimer took on the State, the Press, Parents, Family Life, Morality, Education, Liberalism, Socialism, Communism, Christianity, all religions, in fact, all schools of thought, and demolished just about everything in sight and ever known in civilization in favor of individualism inviolate, anarchism in its ultimate form” (122). Though Tucker’s bookshop included volumes by Proudhon, Mill, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Zola, Gorky, Ingersoll, Kropotkin, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Shaw, O’Neill’s New London friend and roommate in Manhattan, Ed Keefe, recalled much later of their period in the art studio when O’Neill introduced him to Tucker’s store, “I remember one book he made me buy: Max Stimer’s Ego and His Own” (qtd. in Gelb 243).

Political historian Charles A. Madison describes Tucker as holding the pacifist line that “nothing good or lasting was accomplished by force, and that violence tended only to multiply itself. Much as he desired the abolition of the state, he refused to achieve it by means of terror” (“Benjamin” 462). And like Tucker after him, Max Stimer was a pacifist: “The State practices ‘violence,’” he writes, “the individual must not do so. The State’s behavior is violence, and it calls its violence ‘law’; that of the individual, ‘crime.’ Crime, then—so the individual’s violence is called; and only by crime does he overcome the State’s violence when he thinks that the State is not above him, but he is above the State” (133).[5] As such, the Gelbs are somewhat overreaching by contending that O’Neill’s third full-length play The Personal Equation (1915), written for George Pierce Baker’s playwriting seminar at Harvard, is “further evidence that violent anarchism was less repugnant to O’Neill than to Tucker,” insofar as it “not unsympathetically [...] examines the forces that drove the early militant labor movement, along with Tucker’s nonviolent anarchism” (219). The Tucker/Goldman debate is reflected in the dispute between the pacifist character Enwright and the violent anarchist revolutionary Olga, a character based closely on Emma Goldman (Feingold). When Enwright warns that violent retribution is sure to follow if they carry out their plan to dynamite the engines of the merchant ship, Olga responds fiercely: “force alone can be effective against force. For many years the workers have [...] thought Capitalism impregnable behind its fortress of law, and they have been afraid. A few successful assaults of this kind and their eyes will be opened” (325–26). Tucker, for his part, was “not unsympathetic” to Goldman’s struggle either, but what is The Personal Equation, in which a young man involves himself in a violent anarchist movement and is ultimately shot down by his own father, but a parable in which violence, however sympathetic, can only “multiply itself’? Much later we find in O’Neill’s 1940 work diary the sketch of a comedy with the working title “The Visit of Malatesta,” based on the life of Italian anarchist Enrico Malatesta. In it, Malatesta visits a fictional version of New London. Although Italian Americans in the play consider him a regicidal hero, the mastermind behind the assassination of Umberto I in 1900 (who was actually killed by the anarchist Gaetano Bresci), the character, O’Neill writes, “denies he had anything to do with [the assassination]—terrorist group fanatics—true anarchism never justifies bloodshed” (qtd. in Floyd, Eugene 305).

In O’Neill’s first full-length play Bread and Butter (1914), the autobiographical character John Brown’s social philosophy more closely resembles the brand of philosophical anarchism, what Stimer called “egoism,” O’Neill finally claimed as his own than the communist-anarchism of Emma Goldman that Richard Miller touts in Ah, Wilderness! (1933). In the latter play, O’Neill’s only mature comedy, Richard declares that rather than observe the Fourth of July, he’ll “celebrate the day the people bring out the guillotine again and I see Pierpont Morgan being driven by in a tumbril! [sic]” (13). His father replies, “Son, if I didn’t know it was you talking, I’d think we had Emma Goldman with us” (13). In Bread and Butter, John intones the egoist’s line to his father that his unconventional sister’s “duty to herself stands before her duty to you” (142). “Rot! Damned rot!” the elder Brown rejoins, “only believed by a lot of crazy Socialists and Anarchists” (142). John continues with a line that might have come directly from Stimer, who held ownership of the self, what he called “ownness,” above all other considerations: “You consider your children to be your possessions, your property, to belong to you. You don’t think of them as individuals with ideas and desires of their own” (143). O’Neill later applied this parenting strategy to his own wayward son, Shane. “You must find yourself,” was his advice, “and your own self. You’ve got to find the guts in yourself to take hold of your own life. No one can do it for you and no one can help you. You have got to go on alone, without help, or it won’t mean anything to you” (qtd. in Bowen, Curse 267).

Also in Bread and Butter, the master painter character Eugene Grammont, based on the Ash Can School painter Robert Henri, pronounces himself an egoist—as the actual Henri was—by telling John, “Be true to yourself [...]! For that no sacrifice is too great” (148). And finally, when John debates whether to join his roommate Ted in a drink or continue work on his painting, Ted remarks that John is “the slave of a fixed idea today” (157),[6] which again calls Stimer to mind. Throughout The Ego and His Own, Stimer rails against all “fixed ideas” (his term) such as “morality, legality, Christianity, and so forth” (55) in much the same way Ralph Waldo Emerson denounced “foolish consistency.” The significance of O’Neill assigning communist-anarchism to Richard Miller and philosophical anarchism to John Brown is that Miller is the subject of a comedy, and his social philosophy is meant to make him sound a little naive in the idyllic atmosphere of the Miller home; Brown, on the other hand, is the subject of a tragedy, and his philosophy—O’Neill’s—proves impotent against the malignant forces of social convention.

Max Stimer staunchly believed that good and evil do not exist, as one can murder freely so long as it is legal, which makes “morality nothing else than loyalty” (65). O’Neill closely echoes this statement when the anarchist character Olga responds in act 1 of The Personal Equation to a newspaper article attacking her activism: “It seems I’m a dangerous anarchist inciting to murder because I call upon men not to shoot their brother men for a fetish of red, white and blue, a mockery called patriotism” (313). Stimer continues: “according to our theories of penal law, with whose ‘improvement in conformity to the times’ people are tormenting themselves in vain, they want to punish men for this or that ‘inhumanity’; and therein they make the silliness of these theories especially plain by their consistency, hanging the little thieves and letting the big ones run [emphasis mine]” (318). Tucker believed this view implicitly, summing up the argument that, in his own words, “the government is a tyrant living by theft, and therefore has no business to engage in any business” (qtd. in Madison, Critics 207).

O’Neill’s most resonant imaginative enacting of this worldview—the criminal collusion that links government to big business—is his early expressionistic play The Emperor Jones (1920). In it, the main character, Brutus Jones, a former Pullman porter and convicted murderer, betrays his race by taking on the role of a white colonialist and securing through deception the emperorship of a small Caribbean island. While there, Jones is accompanied by a Cockney trader named Smithers. Smithers is greedy, treacherous, and lazy, not coincidentally the three characteristics most commonly associated with blackness by white supremacists; but also, in the context of philosophical anarchism, they reflect the business interests that propel corrupted States (and to the anarchist, all of them are) forward in their respective bids for power. In the following scene, Smithers is about to inform Jones of a native revolt against his sovereignty, and Jones is preparing to flee into the jungle forest with a plan to escape on the other end of the island by boat to Martinique:

SMITHERS: (with curiosity) And I bet you got yer pile o’ money ’id safe some place.

JONES: (with satisfaction) I sho’ has! And it’s in a foreign bank where no pusson don’t ever git it out but me no matter what come. You didn’t s’pose I was holdin’ down dis Emperor job for de glory in it, did you? Sho’! De fuss and glory part of it, dat’s only to turn de heads o’ de low-flung, bush niggers dat’s here. Dey wants de big circus show for deir money I gives it to ’em an’ I gits de money, (with a grin) De long green, dat’s me every time! (then rebukingly) But you ain’t got no kick agin me, Smithers. I’se paid you back all you done for me many times. Ain’t I perfected you and winked at all de crooked tradin’ you been doin’ right out in de broad day Sho’ I has—and me makin’ laws to stop it at de same time! (He chuckles.)

SMITHERS: (grinning) But, meanin’ no ‘arm, you been grabbin’ right and left yourself, ain’t yer? Look at the taxes you’ve put on ‘em! Blimey! You’ve squeezed ’em dry!

JONES: (chuckling) No, dey ain’t all dry yet. I’se still heah, ain’t I? SMITHERS: (smiling at his secret thought) They’re dry right now, you’ll find out. (changing the subject abruptly) And as for me breakin’ laws, you’ve broke ’em all yerself just as fast as yer made ’em.

JONES: Ain’t I de Emperor? De laws don’t go for him. (judicially) You heah what I tells you, Smithers. Pere’s little stealin’ like you does, and dere’s big stealin’ like I does [emphasis added]. For de little stealin’ dey gits you in jail soon or late. For de big stealin’ dey makes you Emperor and puts you in de Hall o’ Fame when you croaks, (reminiscently) If dey’s one thing I learns in ten years on de Pullman ca’s listenin’ to de white quality talk, it’s dat same fact. And when I gits a chance to use it I winds up Emperor in two years. (1035)

The only line of this exchange that survives in the 1933 Hollywood adaptation, with Paul Robeson as Jones, is the rewording of Stimer: “Dere’s little stealin’ like you does, and dere’s big stealin’ like I does.” The idea that it was white businessmen on the Pullman trains who taught him “big stealin’” is omitted. Over the course of his flight into the jungle, Jones encounters a series of bizarre apparitions that lead him down through the history of African oppression. In the end, Jones is tracked by the island natives, who shoot him dead with silver bullets. The violence is not redemptive here; one power monger, out of jealousy and hatred, has simply deposed another.

Over twenty-five years later, in 1946, O’Neill directed these exact sentiments—the absurd legality of “Z>zg stealin”’—toward the leadership of the United States over the full length of the country’s history. The same night he identified himself as a philosophical anarchist while perched on a stool at the stage bar at a rehearsal for The Iceman Cometh, he told the journalist and later O’Neill biographer Croswell Bowen:

Of course, America is due for a retribution. There ought to be a page in the history books of the United States of America of all the unprovoked, criminal, unjust crimes committed and sanctioned by our government since the beginning of our history—and before that, too. There is hardly one thing that our government has done that isn’t some treachery—against the Indians, against the people of the Northwest, against the small farmers. [...] This American Dream stuff gives me a pain [...]. Telling the world about our American Dream! I don’t know what they mean. If it exists, as we tell the whole world, why don’t we make it work in one small hamlet in the United States? If it’s the constitution they mean, ugh, then it’s a lot of words. If we taught history and told the truth, we’d teach school children that the United States has followed the same greedy rut as every other country. We would tell who’s guilty. The list of the guilty ones responsible will include some of our great national heroes. Their portraits should be taken out and burned. [...] The big business leaders in this country! Why do we produce such stupendous, colossal egomaniacs? They go on doing the most monstrous things, always using the excuse that if we don’t the other person will. It’s impossible to satirize them, if you wanted to. (Bowen, “Black Irishman” 83–4)

William O. Reichert, a scholar of political philosophy, points to a deeper rift than the use of force between communist-anarchism and philosophical anarchism in that the latter thinks of the State as a malignant abstraction—a “dream,” “a lot of words”—rather than a palpable threat: “The state, rather than being a real structure or entity, is nothing more than a conception. To destroy the state, then, is to remove this conception from the mind of the individual. [... To the philosophical anarchist] revolution is not political at all” (859). According to Stimer, and later Tucker and the rest of the philosophical anarchists, the best way to do away with outrages such as O’Neill enumerates above is to accept the fact that the State and the business interests and religious hypocrites that support it, even the notion of “mankind” (as in “the betterment of’) are merely phantoms—“spooks,” Stimer calls them. Similarly, the anarchist leader Hartmann in The Personal Equation refers to American notions of “fatherland or motherland” as a “sentimental phantom” (320), and goes on that “the soul of man is an uninhabited house haunted by the ghosts of old ideals. And man in those ghosts still believes!” (321). Much later, in his failed morality play Days Without End (1933),[7] the demon Loving scorns a priest’s and his guilt-ridden alter-ego’s faith in the “old ghostly comforts” of religion, along with the “equally futile ghost” of believing in a “pseudo-Nietzschean savior” (161,159). Here is Stimer applying the same metaphor in a passage that might profitably be put to use for a complete essay on O’Neill’s soul-searching mask play The Great God Brown (1925):

The ghost has put on a body, God has become man, but now man is himself the gruesome spook which he seeks to get behind, to exorcise, to fathom, to bring to reality and speech; man is—spirit. [...] Man has become to himself a ghost, an uncanny spook, to which there is even assigned a distinct seat in the body. (52)

Foreshadowing Nietzsche’s famous conception of “eternal recurrence,” Stimer wrote of himself and the average human being, “What I am is foam and shadow; what I shall be is my true self; To chase after this self, to produce it, to realize it, constitutes the hard task of mortals, who die only to rise again, live only to die, live only to find the true life” (427). When asked whether as an anarchist he could believe in God, O’Neill’s friend Terry Carlin, then making a meager living begging and agitating disingenuously for the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) in San Francisco, told the Indian immigrant author Dahn Gopal Mukerji in one of their many conversations together, “Why not? God is nothing but a phantasm as I am a phantasm myself. [...] It is good to hail a brother phantasm anywhere” (156).

Here we apprehend the most resonant distinction between communistanarchism and philosophical anarchism, though there is prodigious overlap (see Reichert). According to Stimer, the former believe in “revolution” and the latter in “insurrection.” The difference lies in the fact that “revolution” “is accordingly a political or social act,” whereas the latter is a philosophical, perhaps spiritual (in the secular sense), egoistic act:

Can you imagine a state whose citizens one and all think nothing of it? [...] If I leave the established, it is dead and passes into decay. Now, as my object is not the overthrow of an established order but my elevation above it, my purpose and deed are not a political or social but (as directed toward myself and my ownness alone) an egoistic purpose and deed [...]. The revolution commands one to make arrangements, the insurrection demands that he rise or exalt himself. (377, 421)

O’Neill closely echoes this in 1921, remarking that life is often an “unsuccessful struggle, for most of us have something within us which prevents us from accomplishing what we dream and desire. [This is] one reason why I have come to feel so indifferent toward political and social movements of all kinds [emphasis mine]” (qtd. in Alexander, Eugene 33–4). This statement, along with the 1922 comment I mention in the introduction, often strikes scholars as a denial of any socio-philosophical bent on O’Neill’s part, as an admission of his latent nihilism;[8] but from a philosophical anarchist’s perspective, the key word here is “movements,” as movements—socialist, syndicalist-anarchist, communist-anarchist—imply “political” or “social” acts, and hence the “herd.” Notions of “the party,” “the movement,” or “the struggle,” are all treated “indifferently” by philosophical anarchists ranging back to the 1840s—as Stimer caustically phrased it, “Can I change a piece of nonsense into sense by reforming it, or must I drop it outright?” (309).

Outlining the distinction between communist-anarchism and individualist anarchism, Hutchins Hapgood admitted that most of the American anarchists he knew were of the first stripe, but “Terry [Carlin] and [Benjamin] Tucker were exceptions. Terry had no feeling at all for socialism; to him anarchism was hardly more than a moral acid intended to purge away the degrading influence of society upon the individual” (Victorian 199–200). The philosophical anarchist’s proposition that the State, the Church, et al, are malignant abstractions appears in surprising places. The Italian anarchist Marco, a character in John Dos Passos’s 1925 novel Manhattan Transfer, articulates Stimer’s thesis, proclaiming his belief to a couple of fellow immigrants that “police, governments, armies, presidents, kings [...] all that is force. Force is not real; it is an illusion. The working man makes all that himself because he believes it” (38). Stimer’s egoist hero, ironically enough, was Jesus Christ, “because he expected no salvation from a change of conditions, and this whole business [of political discontent in Rome] was indifferent to him [second emphasis mine]” (422). Once Christian doctrine became a “fixed idea,” however, Christ became a pernicious idol. Stimer also considered the daily habit of reading newspapers to inform one’s knowledge of world events as a form of brainwash:

Is not all the stupid chatter of most of our newspapers the babble of fools who suffer from the fixed idea of morality, legality, Christianity, and so forth, and only seem to go about free because the madhouse in which they walk takes in so broad a space? [...] Every day now lays bare the cowardice and vindictiveness of these maniacs, and the stupid populace hurrahs for their crazy measures. (55)

In scene 6 of The Hairy Ape, when the character Robert “Yank” Smith tells the prison inmates of his encounter with Mildred and again swears revenge upon her and her class, one prisoner suggests that Yank should consider joining the anarchist-affiliated I. W.W. labor union, or “Wobblies,” as they were called. The inmate had been reading about them in the Sunday Times, and a description in the paper by a Senator Queen impresses Yank: “‘There is a menace existing in this country today which threatens the vitals of our fair Republic—a foul menace against the very life-blood of the American Eagle [...]. I refer to that devil’s brew of rascals, jailbirds, murderers and cutthroats who libel all honest working men by calling themselves the Industrial Workers of the World; but in light of their nefarious plots, I call them the Industrial Wreckers of the World! ’” (152). Senator Queen is most likely a send-up of Attorney General Mitchell A. Palmer, who staged a series of raids against radicals in 1919 and 1920 in response to a bomb attack on his home (Pfister 137). What makes this passage vital in the play is its effect on the following scene in which Yank encounters the Wobblies first-hand. Yank finds nothing like the “gang of blokes—a tough gang” (152) that the prisoner had over-simplistically and the reactionary press had hyperbolically described. Yank’s disappointment stems from the fact that the members had little resemblance to the group that, as the papers said, “plot with fire in one hand and dynamite in the other” (153). On the contrary, O’Neill portrays them as staid and bureaucratic, expressionistically juxtaposed against Yank’s imposing ferocity. Scene 7 is the most anomalously realistic of the play, and as such, it is arguably the most brilliant. Since the American press had already envisioned an expressionistic view of the organization, O’Neill counters these popular assumptions by making the I.W.W. scene the only truly realistic one in the play.

More to the point, a call for the “Freedom of the press,” to Stimer, is simple, fool-hardy permission-seeking from an abstract authority that has nothing whatever to do with the author: “The press is mine when I recognize outside myself no judge whatever over its utilization,” Stimer boldly insisted, “when my writing is no longer determined by morality or religion or respect for the State laws or the like, but by me and my egoism.” “I write,” he says, as if O’Neill were speaking, “because I want to procure for my thoughts an existence in the world” (194–95,205). O’Neill refused his scripts to suffer even the most minor alterations at the hands of directors, actors, or any other outside influence. Unlike Thornton Wilder, who famously considered his scripts blank checks to actors, O’Neill raised holy hell if one word was misplaced, and his stage directions are notoriously exacting. “If you change the lines again,” he threatened Charles S. Gilpin, the first actor to play Brutus Jones and who later autonomously exchanged the word “nigger” for the euphemistic “Negro” and “colored man,” “I’ll beat the hell out of you!” (qtd. in Sheaffer 35). O’Neill almost never attended any of his performances, he detested nearly every Hollywood adaptation of his plays, and he ignored patriarchal reform groups and city governments that banned him, most consistently in Boston. It is no wonder that O’Neill repressed his cherished masterpiece Long Day s Journey into Night, stipulating that it not be published until twenty-five years after his death and never be produced. What outsider, O’Neill must have asked himself, might bastardize or bowdlerize his most sacred, most personal work?

Vice and immorality, according to Stimer, exist only in the minds of people who oppose them. Urban philanthropists, moral reformers, evangelists, and censors create sinners because without them they would be powerless (476). As such, Stimer points out the State’s inverse logic for censorship, and thus the moral foundation upon which it rests, like this: “He who in the land of censorship evades the censoring of his book acts immorally, and he who submits it to the censorship acts morally” (67). To give a concrete example from O’Neill’s career, the 1924 premiere of O’Neill’s two-act tragedy All Gods Chillun Got Wings sparked one of the most controversial affairs in American theater history. In accordance with municipal law, the producers submitted an application for a city permit to employ children as actors for the opening scene. Only a few hours before the show, however, the city turned them down with the dubious explanation that the children were too young, though they were early adolescents. The next week, a Broadway show was granted a permit to hire an eight-year old, a clear message that the city wished to thwart the contentious O’Neill production. That night, its director James Light read the children’s scene out loud, and the show continued without further interruption (Sheaffer 143). According to O’Neill in a letter to a Princeton University classmate, this solution “enraged the police authorities, who not long after stirred up trouble for Desire Under the Elms”, in spite of the commotion over All Gods Chillun, O’Neill continued, “nothing at all happened, not even a single senile egg” (qtd. in Clark 154n).

Moreover, such divergent organizations as the Societies for the Prevention of Vice and Crime, William Randolph Hearst’s Vew York American newspaper, the Ku Klux Klan, and the municipal government of the City of New York all united against the divisive production at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village. The Playhouse received poison-pen letters, bomb threats, warnings of race riots, and a host of other vile intimidations. The K.K.K. in Long Island threatened to bomb the theater on opening night. “If you open this play,” they warned O’Neill, “the theater will be bombed, and you will be responsible for all the people killed.” Another disturbing threat arrived in the form of a personal communication to O’Neill from the “Grand Kleagle” of the Georgia K.K.K: “You have a son [Shane]. If your play goes on, don’t expect to see him again.” Undaunted, O’Neill scrawled a line across the bottom of the letter and sent it back at once. It read: “Go Fuck yourself!” (qtd. in Sheaffer 140) (The New York Herald set off this uproar when a reporter of theirs got wind that the black actor Paul Robeson and the white actress Mary Blair would co-star in the new O’Neill production. The basis of this outcry by the mainstream press and its largely white readership was that, as Hearst’s New York American followed up the story, “the play requires that the white girl kiss the negro’s hand on stage” [qtd. in Sheaffer 135].)

Great moral implications arise from O’Neill’s act, of course, but they lack a Huck Finn-like struggle with conscience and that Missouri boy’s moral dilemma whether to “go to hell” or turn over the runaway slave Jim to authorities. On the one hand, we applaud O’Neill’s gusto, his unflinching defense of artistic freedom, his defiance against institutionalized racism; on the other, O’Neill and his family would face the condemnation of the press, the State, the reigning morality of the times. And perhaps we should ask in all seriousness about Shane, his son? No equivocating, no second thoughts, no soul-searching—just “go fuck yourself,” that to an active terrorist organization with substantial backing from the establishment. But moral dilemmas exist only if you believe morality exists. The title of one of O’Neill’s earliest experiments in moral courage, The Web (1913), recalls Stimer’s statement that “the web of hypocrisy today hangs on two frontiers”—free will and moral will (68). Drop the second, and the web falls away in tatters.

The third and final distinctive characteristic of philosophical anarchism I will cover is one-on-one instruction, rather than mass media propaganda. It is the main tool of any philosophical anarchist to spread the word that once the “concept” of government and other forms of social coercion are removed, they will atrophy out of existence. As William O. Riechert importantly explains, “the one thing that is certain is that revolution takes place not by a concerted uprising of the masses but through a process of individual social reformation or awakening” (859). Terry Carlin called this practice of mentorship “unconscious propaganda” (Hapgood, An Anarchist 113), as distinct from the more overt “propaganda by deed” John Most preferred. Moralizers, in contrast, find their edification in large groups, as in a university or a church. “A man of good breeding,” Stimer writes in kind, “is one into whom ‘good maxims’ have been instilled and impressed, poured in through a funnel, thrashed in and preached in” (105). After Tucker, O’Neill’s two most significant mentors of philosophical anarchism were Terry Carlin and Hutchins Hapgood, both avid consumers of Tucker’s “advanced literature,” in particular Stimer’s book. The model for the character Larry Slade in The Iceman Cometh, Carlin was an anarchist “hobo hero,” tortured into alcoholism and vagabondage by the effects his philosophy had on his friends and lovers—he lived to the fullest extent Stimer’s uncharacteristically humble credo that “it is possible that I can make little out of myself; but this little is everything, and is better than what I allow to be made out of me by the might of others, by the training of custom, religion, the laws, the State [...]. That I make myself6audible,’ this alone is ‘reason,’ be I ever so irrational; in my making myself heard, and so bearing myself, others as well as myself enjoy me, and at the same time consume me” (238, 461). Carlin, in particular, convinced O’Neill that social reform was a bankrupt goal and admitted later in life,

I once thought that I could help the mob to organize its own freedom. But now I see that we are all the mob, that all human beings are alike, and that all I or anyone can do is to save his own soul, to win his own freedom, and perhaps to teach others to do the same [emphasis mine], not so much through social propaganda as by digging down to a deeper personal culture [...]. To give a man a vote in a so-called free country is like giving a lantern to a blind man. What use is it? We are in this world to destroy our blindness and then see the light. And these fools come and want to make a ghastly mockery of blindness by giving it a vote. (qtd. in Alexander, Tempering 215)

O’Neill’s other major philosophical tutor, Hutchins Hapgood, a founding member of the Provincetown Players, was a journalist and novelist who at the turn of the twentieth century poured out a steady stream of articles that singularly portrayed the lives of Bowery bums, pickpockets, prostitutes, vaudeville stage performers, immigrant laborers, and anarchists; two of his many books include An Anarchist Woman (1909), a portrait of Carlin’s Dionysian lifestyle, and The Spirit of Labor (1907), which deals with the anarchist-syndicalist movement in Chicago (Doris Alexander strongly argues that both of these texts inspired a subplot for The Iceman Cometh [Eugene 41]). Hapgood wrote an observation of Carlin’s downward personal spiral in An Anarchist Woman that might comfortably apply to O’Neill: “to go beyond one’s rejection of the anarchism of the social communist into what is called individualistic anarchism is mere egoistic madness and has as its only value the possible poetry of a unified personal expression. Into this it was that Terry fell, and of course he could find no support for it except in his own soul, which could not bear the strain. No soul could,” he writes, “for, struggle as we may, we are largely social and cannot stand alone” (306). And specifically toward Max Stimer’s brand of egoistic anarchism, O’Neill’s longtime friend Benjamin De Casseres wrote, “Max Stimer’s dream of an emancipated Ego is futile, and his reasons for dreaming it were sublime. He improves on our brains a sublime ideal of human development. It is like the North Star—a great light to steer by, but he who tries to reach it is mad, mad, mad” (282). Hapgood concludes An Anarchist Woman by observing of Carlin’s experiment in anarchism that “this is the test of all social theory: How It Works Out” (308). In a 1925 letter to a friend, Tucker voiced a similar sentiment on the ravages the philosophy can perform on one’s soul, particularly on this last question—what came of it in the end:

‘Nothing’ is the only truthful answer. I aim to contribute a stone to a social edifice, a cathedral if one may call it so, which I expected to be carried to completion, slowly but surely, through the ages. I have contributed that stone [...] But I see now that the cathedral will never be finished, and that portion already built is to tumble into ruins, (qtd. in Hamilton)

In Hapgood’s glance backwards on his own outlaw lifestyle rebelling against his Victorian upbringing in the Midwest, his 1939 autobiography Victorian in the Modern World, he defined his predilection for philosophical anarchism as “a willingness to receive hospitably whatever dawning forces there may be in the submerged; a refusal to deny their possible validity in a more complex society [...]. It is deeply sympathetic with the psychology of the underdog” (277). Carlin’s belief, for his part, as Doris Alexander describes it, was “in the hidden poetry of lost souls” (Eugene 88). Carlin expressed his frustration with art to capture this “hidden poetry” to Hutchins Hapgood, professing that he often “stood dumbfounded before some simple day-labourer with whom I worked. Art does not affect me, as this kind of grand simplicity in life does. [...] How be a mouthpiece for the poor?” (Hapgood, Anarchist Woman 98). “How can art master the master-problem? [...] It takes an eagle to soar with a heavy weight in its grasp” (99). Carlin posed the challenge that O’Neill would take up much later. After a string of successful and unsuccessful attempts at mastering the problem, O’Neill reflected on the alienated worker as dramatic material, stating unequivocally: “they are more direct. In action and utterance. Thus more dramatic. Their lives and sufferings and personalities lend themselves more readily to dramatization. They have not been steeped in the evasions and superficialities which come with social life and intercourse. Their real selves are exposed. They are crude but honest. They are not handicapped by inhibitions” (qtd. in Pfister 110).

Whether college drop-outs, former or practicing prostitutes, war veterans, vagabond sailors, or has-been revolutionaries, O’Neill’s “strange human strays” as he refers to one of them in The Personal Equation, nearly always share these traits, bringing to the “misbegotten” philosophical and psychological depths his middle-class American audiences had never before witnessed. The protagonist of this play, Tom Perkins, is one of O’Neill’s earliest autobiographical avatars, most famously culminating in the figure of Edmund Tyrone in Long Day s Journey into Night. In act 4 of The Personal Equation, when a doctor and nurse diagnose Tom Perkins’s condition after being shot by his father, O’Neill leaves the strong impression that he related to his character’s isolation in the final scene even more as a vegetable than as a political activist when the doctor remarks that Tom “might have been different if he had had the influence of a home. As it is, there’s no trace of who he is or where he came from. He’s one of those strange human strays one sometimes runs across” (373). O’Neill critic Virginia Floyd believes that a connection can be drawn between Tom and his creator {Plays 93)—particularly given O’Neill’s vagabond childhood, his radical politics, and his self-absorbed parents. Further, Travis Bogard (who draws on Nietzsche and Shaw as inspirations for the play’s anarchistic discourse) indicates that the “hopeless hope” concept that drives so many O’Neill plays, most evidently The Straw (1919), Hughie (1942), and The Iceman Cometh, finds its first articulation in The Personal Equation as well (56). After the doctor submits to Olga that Tom will never recover, he adds (with italics added for emphasis): “it is just as well to tell you that there is little hope for his reason—but—there is always a hope!” (375) “I never see the dawn,” Dos Passos’s anarchist in Manhattan Transfer utters with a like sanguinity, “before I don’t say to myself perhaps” (40).

If O’Neill considered human beings of his stripe “strange human strays” and characterized the power brokers engaged in war for profit as “jealous dogs [who growl] over their bones” {Personal Equation 319), Stimer disparages moralizers as “trained dogs” in The Ego and His Own (443); and Terry Carlin employs the same species as a metaphor against “conservative morality,” endowing it with an “organic basis: it has its seat in these vestiges of muscles that would wag our abortive tails, and often wag our abortive tongues!” (qtd. in Alexander, Tempering 214). “Strange human strays” can be viewed as philosophical anarchists attempting to find their “true selves” in Stimer’s sense, without the imposed behavioral requirements of parents or governments. Their lives are meant to be, as Stimer puts it, “squandered” and “consumed” (426–7)—in direct opposition to the “anti-hedonistic, puritanical ethos of capitalism as it reveals itself in the hoarding of money, the possessive retention of feelings and the compulsion to save time” (Carroll 225n)—thus plunging headlong toward the “true self’ and often self-destruction. As one nameless character in Manhattan Transfer rejoins criticism from a feminist companion, “What if I am an egoist? God knows I’ve suffered for it” (139).

Hapgood and Carlin were dyed-in-the-wool “masters of the misbegotten” well before the turn of the twentieth century; but by the 1920s, O’Neill’s reputation surpassed theirs a thousand-fold for this. One telling anecdote from the trio’s time in Provincetown, however, demonstrates early on the extent to which the young playwright could stomach just how submerged his “lost souls” might be. Out on a drinking binge in Provincetown, mainly through the social predilections of Hapgood and Carlin, the group struck up a conversation with a pair of thoroughly drunken laborers. O’Neill’s response was to drink himself, according to Hapgood in an act of “self-preservation,” into oblivion. Hapgood figured that O’Neill, for all the “sympathy” for the misbegotten masses one finds in his plays, “couldn’t endure them” face to face (qtd. in Alexander, Eugene 88). As O’Neill wrote to the then imprisoned Alexander Berkman in a deferential letter, “it is not so hard to write what one feels as truth. It is damned hard to live it!” (qtd. in Gelb 219) The socialist author Mike Gold concurred, harping on his time with O’Neill and Hippolyte Havel at the Hell Hole (the model for the bar in The Iceman Cometh) that “the trouble with bourgeois authors like Eugene O’Neill was that the picturesque always impressed him more than the essential” (qtd. in Pfister 153).

In kind, the brand of radicalism Yank expresses in The Hairy Ape, O’Neill’s most class-conscious play, is less consistent with his creator’s than Doris Alexander argues, when writing that Yank “sees the structure of society as evil, assumes therefore that any social structure will be evil, and so sees salvation in purely destructive terms [...]. The only solution O’Neill sees for mankind is death” (“Eugene O’Neill” 396, 403). If Stimer, according to John Carroll, the editor of a 1971 edition, “did not want to be associated with an ethereal romanticism that seeks through impossible dreams to escape from painful reality” (235n), O’Neill, particularly in The Iceman Cometh, demonstrates the extent to which “pipe dreams,” as he calls them, are life-sustaining prerequisites to the life that is worth living. O’Neill once said: “It is the dream that keeps us fighting, willing—living! [...] Aman wills his own defeat when he pursues the unattainable. But his struggle is his success! [...] But to me he is not depressing; he is exhilarating!” (qtd. in Krasner 142).[9] What is philosophical anarchism, after all, but a pipe dream? In the opening notes to “The Visit of Malatesta,” he describes the anarchist protagonist’s disillusion with the anarchist vision: “that dream was beautiful—but only Utopian dream—not possible until man grows a soul—in a thousand years perhaps” (Floyd, Eugene 301). His sketch of the Malatesta character reads:

He fights against meanness and disillusionment by bursts of passionate detestation of society, goes to extremes, used to believe there could be a transition, almost bloodless, to ideal society because of man’s essential goodness, but now he says there must be complete destruction first, past must be wiped out—those who resist must die, etc.—but then he sinks into exhausted depression—he feels he used to love man but now he despises him, and that is wrong, is a fault in him. (Floyd, Eugene 306)

It is nearly impossible to imagine reigning in the juggernaut of modem violence and bad faith in government and business, in today’s climate more than ever. But one thing is certain: without Eugene O’Neill’s philosophical anarchist pipe dreams—which include, among other tenets examined in this essay, a civilization that deplores violence; an expansion, as Benjamin De Casseres aptly characterized it, of the individual will to throttle “the ghosts in one’s own soul” and accept that “self-emancipation must precede social emancipation” (272); as well as a powerful commitment to schooling others in self-emancipation—Eugene O’Neill of 1906 quite probably would never have risen to exalt himself as ferociously and uncompromisingly as the Eugene O’Neill, three Pulitzers and a Nobel Prize later, lounging heroically at the stage bar in 1946.

Alexander, Doris. Eugene O’Neill’s Creative Struggle: The Decisive Decade, 19241933. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992.

Eugene O’Neill’s Last Plays: Separating Art from Autobiography. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2005.

“Eugene O’Neill as Social Critic.” Cargill 390–407.

The Tempering of Eugene O’Neill. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1962.

Black, Stephen A. Eugene O’Neill: Beyond Mourning and Tragedy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

Bowen, Croswell. “The Black Irishman.” Cargill 64–84.

The Curse of the Misbegotten: A Tale of the House of O’Neill. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959.

Cargill, Oscar, N. Bryllion Fagin, and William J. Fisher, eds. O’Neill and His Plays: Four Decades of Criticism. New York: New York University Press, 1961.

Carroll, John. Introduction and notes. The Ego and His Own. By Max Stimer. 1844.

New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

Clark, Barrett H. Eugene O’Neill: the Man and His Plays. 1926. Rev. ed. New York: Dover, 1947.

De Casseres, Benjamin. “Max Stimer: War-Lord of the Ego.” Forty Immortals. By Benjamin De Casseres. New York: Joseph Lawren, 1926. 277–282.

Dos Passos, John. Manhattan Transfer. 1925. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1953.

Feingold, Michael. “Orderly Anarchisms: The Personal Equation.” The Village Voice. August 16–22,2000. http://www.villagevoice.com/theater/0033,feingold, 17327,11. html.

Floyd, Virginia. The Plays of Eugene O ’Neill: A New Assessment. New York: Ungar, 1985.

, ed. Eugene O ’Neill at Work: Newly Released Ideas for his Plays. New York: Ungar, 1981.

Frazer, Winifred L. E.G. and E.G.O.: Emma Goldman and The Iceman Cometh. University of Florida Humanities Monograph No. 43. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1974.

Gelb, Arthur and Barbara. O ’Neill: Life with Monte Cristo. New York: Applause, 2000.

Hamilton, Charles H. “Introduction: The Evolution of a Subversive Tradition.” http:// uncletaz.com/liberty/evosubtrad.html.

Hapgood, Hutchins. An Anarchist Woman. New York: Duffield and Company, 1909.

A Victorian in the Modern World. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1939.

Huneker, James. Egoists: A Book of Supermen. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909.

Krasner, David. “Eugene O’Neill: American Drama and American Modernism.” A Companion to Twentieth-Century American Drama. Ed. David Krasner. London: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. 142–158.

Madison, Charles A. Critics and Crusaders. New York: Henry Holt, 1947.

“Benjamin R. Tucker: Individualist and Anarchist.” New England Quarterly 16.3 (Sept. 1943): 444–467.

Mukerji, Dahn Gopal. Caste and Outcast. 1923. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002.

O’Neill, Eugene. Ah, Wilderness! Complete Plays 1932–1943. Vol. 3. 1–107.

.Bread and Butter. Complete Plays 1913–1920. Vol. 1. 113–183.

. Complete Plays. Ed. Travis Bogard. 3 vols. New York: Library of America, 1988.

. Days Without End. Complete Plays 1932–1943. Vol. 3. 109–180.

. The Emperor Jones. Complete Plays 1913–1920. Vol. 1. 1029–1061.

. The Hairy Ape. Complete Plays 1920–1931. Vol. 2. 119–163.

. The Personal Equation. Complete Plays 1913–1920. Vol. 1. 309–387.

Pfister, Joel. Staging Depth: Eugene O ’Neill and the Politics of Psychological Discourse. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

Reichert, William O. “Toward a New Understanding of Anarchism.” Western Political Quarterly 20.4 (Dec. 1967): 856–865.

Reilly, Kara. “Dreaming Pipe Dreams Under the Influence of Dionysus: Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy as Inspiration for Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh.” http://www.eoneill.com/library/essays/reilly.htm.

Sheaffer, Louis. O’Neill: Son and Playwright. Boston: Little, Brown, 1968.

Stimer, Max. The Ego and His Own: The Case of the Individual Against Authority.

1844. Trans. Steven T. Byington. Intro. J. L. Walker. New York: Benj. R. Tucker, 1907.

Tornqvist, Egil. “Philosophical and literary paragons.” Cambridge Companion to Eugene O ’Neill. Ed. Michael Manheim. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 18–32.

Yarros, Victor S. “Philosophical Anarchism: Its Rise, Decline, and Eclipse.” American Journal of Sociology 41A (Jan. 1936): 470–483.

[1] Significantly, Winifred L. Frazer uses the title for the first chapter on her book on O’Neill’s use of Goldman and the tum-of-the-twentieth-century anarchist movement in The Iceman Cometh, though she does little but conflate the oppositional anarchisms.

[2] In no way do I wish to contend that Stimer had more conscious influence over O’Neill’s worldview than Nietzsche, O’Neill’s self-professed “literary idol” (Sheaffer 122); Louis Sheaffer justly identifies the distinction between Stimer and Nietzsche in O’Neill’s mind by writing, “where Stimer was a professor wielding a bludgeon, [Nietzsche] was a dancer with a rapier” (122). More to the point, James Huneker submitted that “Nietzsche is the poet of the doctrine, Stimer is its prophet, or, if you will, its philosopher” (352). Egil Tomqvist has provided excellent studies of O’Neill’s use of Nietzschean ideas in his writing. Thematically speaking, O’Neill borrowed the most from The Birth of Tragedy, most obviously applied in The Great God Brown, but also in The Iceman Cometh, and from Thus Spake Zarathustra in Lazarus Laughed (Tomqvist 18–22; see also Reilly). (Stylistically, perhaps, the most apparent literary device O’Neill drew from Nietzsche is his excessive use of the exclamation point.) Nevertheless, the connections between Stimer and O’Neill’s philosophical anarchism demand further attention, which I hope to initiate here. In addition, there is some debate over the extent to which Nietzsche himself was influenced by Stimer’s book, which appeared on almost the same date as his birth. Stimer, according to the philosopher John Carroll, the editor of an edition of The Ego and His Own, had a “probable influence” on Nietzsche:

”[T]he bounds of coincidence are strained by the degree to which Stimer anticipates Nietzsche both in ideas and prose style; too many of their central concerns arc parallel, they have too many key concepts in common—Antichrist, immoralism, priest-morality, irrationalism, and superman/cgoist. Stimcr also wrote about the ‘death of God,’ the enervating curse of democracy, and the State as the new idol; he also developed a psychology implicitly founded on a notion of the ‘unconscious.’ (24)”

I would add the concepts of “squandering” and “consuming” one’s life, the “web” of social hypocrisy, the sense of constructed selves and assumed virtues as “ghosts,” and even “eternal recurrence,” though Stimer never uses the term. As Nietzsche held an “obsessive concern for originality,” according to Carroll, he never mentioned Stimer in any of his writings, but we do know he mentioned the book with the “warmest recommendation” to his good friend Adolf Baumgartner in 1874, who soon after borrowed it from the Basle library (qtd. in Carroll 25).

[3] It is important to acknowledge William O. Reichert’s well-argued contention that “the conviction that violence must be deliberately created in order to carry off a successful social revolution was not a necessary principle in the mind of any reputable American anarchist, whether he be classified as an individualist [Tucker, Stimer, et al] or communist collectivist [Goldman, Berkman]” (856–7). “Not a necessary principle,” however, was not good enough for Benjamin Tucker.

[4] The term “propaganda by deed” is somewhat misused here, as rather than “teaching by example” that the State is unfit to govern justly, it refers specifically to the violent anarchist John Most’s call to destroy, in the mode of Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, the capitalist power base by any means necessary (Madison, Critics 209).

[5] Regardless of Stimer’s supreme rejection of violent retribution no matter the ends—the “propaganda by deed”—Emma Goldman’s radical journal Mother Earth hailed The Ego and His Own as “a work of genius. The most revolutionary book ever written. Its purpose is to destroy the idea of duty and to assert the supremacy of the individual will. It would displace the State by a union of conscious egoists” (qtd. in Frazer 4).

[6] In his stage directions to his first sea play Thirst (1913), O’Neill also refers to the Gentleman’s perspective as a “madfixed idea’” (Complete Plays 1: 44), a subconscious, socially-mandated racism that drives his assumption that the West Indian Mulatto Sailor is guilty of stealing the last remaining water among the castaways on a life raft from a sunken passenger steamer.

[7] Days Without End is thick with the rhetoric of philosophical anarchism, though muddled by an uncharacteristic turn to Catholic faith in the grotesquely melodramatic final scene. In it, O’Neill dramatizes, through his protagonist John Loving, the torturous journey he experienced in his search for a philosophy that might grant him some peace of mind in his quest for the “truth” about the world.

[8] In a note to himself in an early stage of the composition of Days Without End, O’Neill characterized the doppelganger Loving, or at least his original conception of him as an avatar of his brother Jamie, as a “philosophical Nihilist” (qtd. in Alexander, Eugene O’Neill’s Creative Struggle 199). Though the Loving character eventually became a masked demon, rather than a brother or friend to the protagonist John, O’Neill still made him a philosophical Nihilist; in the first scene when Loving jeers at John’s terrible conscience, he says with a “strange defiant note of exultance”\ “There is nothing—nothing to hope for, nothing to fear—neither devils nor gods—nothing at all!” (115). John, on the other hand, more closely resembles O’Neill’s philosophical anarchism when he complains to his uncle, Father Matthew Baird, that Americans “have lost the ideal of the Land of the Free. Freedom demands initiative, courage, the need to decide what life must mean to oneself. They explain away their spiritual cowardice by whining that the time for individualism is past, when it is their courage to possess their own soul which is dead—and stinking!” (158).

[9] Henrik Ibsen, one of O’Neill’s greatest influences and whose five-act verse play Peer Gynt includes Stimerian references, wrote in similar language that “it is the struggle for the ideal that counts, rather than the attainment of it,” a quote Emma Goldman also employed to provide a sanguine note in an otherwise torturous ordeal—her forced deportation from the United States to Russia in 1919 (qtd. in Madison, Critics 237).