Women and their work

L. Adams Beck—The Lady with the Mask

One of the most interesting personalities in Canada to-day is the subject of the accompanying article. A woman writer who is capable of balancing Occidental breeding and customs so delicately in the Far East that she has won the love and confidence of manyEastern peoples.

N. DE BERTRAND LUGRIN November 1 1925
Women and their work

L. Adams Beck—The Lady with the Mask

One of the most interesting personalities in Canada to-day is the subject of the accompanying article. A woman writer who is capable of balancing Occidental breeding and customs so delicately in the Far East that she has won the love and confidence of manyEastern peoples.

N. DE BERTRAND LUGRIN November 1 1925

L. Adams Beck—The Lady with the Mask

Women and their work

One of the most interesting personalities in Canada to-day is the subject of the accompanying article. A woman writer who is capable of balancing Occidental breeding and customs so delicately in the Far East that she has won the love and confidence of manyEastern peoples.


IN THE gold and black drawing-room of L. Adams Beck there hangs an almost life-size portrait of this noted writer, done by the famous European artist, Antoon van Welie, who has painted most of the celebrities of Europe. It is a most arresting thing-a woman with the sadness of the ages" in her face, bearing in her hand a mask of the same face-her ownwearing a happy smile. The . artist has made a symbol of the _________ picture. The background shows a sphinx, a closed door, and -water running from a carven lion's mouth. The water, runfling for ever, typifies Eternity, . the closed door and sphinx, secret and mystery. Being the inspiration of van Welie, who is a great psychological painter, . the whole thing is very interp estin~ `.`-~

And it exactly fits our purpose just now, for the author herself must remain more or less of a mystery. She dislikes personal publicity. “What can it matter what I myself am?” she asks. “Surely these things have nothing to do with my stories?” So that if we were to say she is grave or gay with the quick change of the sky on an April day; that she has a sense of humor keen and deep as her passion for beauty, these things might or might not be true, but they would not, according to L. Adams Beck, add one jot to the interest of what she writes, so we must respect her wishes and let her remain, if you please, the Lady with the Mask.

An Author’s Garden

BUT say what you like about my home and my books,” she said. “—And Victoria. Because Victoria is helping me to write, and I chose her in the beginning, realizing that she bears the key of the Orient in her golden girdle and that here I should be in touch with just those commingling influences of East and West which are most harmonious.”

She has chosen a sheltered bit of hillside overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca, that far-famed and fabled waterway through which the Greek navigator sailed hundreds of years ago, and which has become to-day the highway to the Orient.

And she has made a garden. Such a garden! Every flower of old England grows there and many lovely things of the native woods. There are velvety green swards, bordered with heavy-headed pink and white carnations; and deep beds, colorful as bubbles with their bloom, flank the drive. Up the massed rocks at the back are Alpines. Tall and gorgeous stand queenly delphiniums and hollyhocks, and around them, like ladies-in-waiting, columbines, their skirts en bouffant, and sedate foxgloves. Japanese irises, delicate

as pastel shades of early sunset, cluster by themselves. In one corner is preserved a grove of native oaks, deep in poppystrewn grass, and there are roses everywhere—against the house itself and trailing along the walls, a very feast of perfume and joyous color.

Up the steps and into a pretty porch.

But do not look behind, or the view of the dazzling sea with its encircling mountains and headlands gleaming with the gold of Scotch broom, will so entrance you that you will not know your ring has been answered by an immaculate Chinaman. From somewhere comes the barking of Jock, the Aberdeen terrier who is his mistress’s devoted companion. And then one is ushered into the drawing-room through the book-room. Sometimes one sits in that room, full of sunshine and books, and windows that look out on a feast of delights. But the drawing-room is most typical of L. Adams Beck.

Breath of the Orient

IT IS a large room, made to accommodate many. For be it known that every fortnight she gives tea and a delightful

causerie to a large circle of her friends. She has gathered about her in this western corner of Empire many thoughtful women profoundly interested in the subjects she puts before them. Nor are all her talks on the Orient. She discourses on a variety of subjects, historic, philosophic, scientific. It is a most delightful privilege to attend these gatherings, for they are invariably thoughtprovoking and inspiring.

On the walls of this gracious room are hung Japanese pictures. One in particular takes prominence: “The Moon and the Badger,” a large and noble brush drawing in black and white. There is the faithful portrait of a great Japanese abbot in his apricot robes, the work of a prince of the blood royal more than a hundred years ago. The furniture is mostly carved Japanese mulberry wood, the hangings are ancient Indian curtains with quaint images of Indian deities. There is an exquisite grey Japanese screen with a rising moon making its path of splendor on the sea. Carved cabinets and tables of Oriental inlay, and a true Japanese alcove, a replica of that altar of beauty found in every Japanese house, where one or two most beautiful things are always placed to be adored. And in this hangs a beautiful scrollpicture of the Buddha’s passing into the Nirvana.

L. Adams Beck has spent much time in India, Ceylon, China, Java,BurmaandJapan. She has even crossed the great Himalayan pass and traveled in Little Tibet among the strange Mongolian peoples.

“And I have mingled with Orientals in all countries,” she said, “I have had long and deep experiences in the East which have revealed to me the true, the lovable side with which so few Europeans care to come in contact, and can therefore form only a one-sided and prejudiced view of the great problems thrust upon us by the awakening of the Oriental peoples to the contact of the West. It is because of this lack of comprehension of the Oriental modes of thought that I was first moved to write. And I have worked to qualify myself by long study. I have had most interesting work with Buddhist priests in translating ancient Buddhist psalms never before read in English and now published in the Wisdom of the East series, and some of my stories have appeared in Japanese vernacular magazines as representing the thought of the people themselves.”

Yet probably it is in India that she is most at home, for all her love of the others. Why not? Are not we ourselves a branch of that great Nordic race which settled in India many thousand years ago and subjugated the lower races, and should there not he a tie of understanding hei tween us? But we have lost sight of this and of the fact that ancient Indian I thought is not merely closely akin to us but has a message which may rouse us like a trumpet call from the devouring materialism of our age. The Indian philosophy of religion is the richest storehouse in the world of psychological wisdom. We have limited ourselves when there should be no limitation, and if we would study Oriental thought, especially that of India, we should realize that expansions of mentality are possible far beyond our present belief. This is the teaching of all L. Adams Beck’s books, especially the last one, The Way of Stars. It is also the teaching of that most remarkable work, lately published by Count Hermann Keyserling, The Travel-Diary of a Philosopher.

The Work of L. Adams Beck

TAKING her five books, The Ninth Vibration, The Key of Dreams, The Perfume of the Rainbow, The Treasure of Ho, and The Way of Stars, and subtracting from them their wonderful descriptive beauty, their dramatic situations, their delicate poetry and the love theme which always animates them, one is left with what the writer wished to instil—an understanding and eager acceptance of much of the strangely beautiful philosphy which we have come to look upon as purely Oriental.

The Ninth Vibration is a collection of stories many of which have appeared in Atlantic Monthly and Asia. They give us a succession of lovely pictures of Chinese, Japanese and Indian people painted with the masterly delicacy which makes for conviction. Very few of the stories have a foundation in fact or legend, nearly all are creations of the author’s versatile and wonderful imagination. Yet nothing is written from guess or hearsay, but from profound knowledge of the thought processes of the Oriental world. She had seen, with the architect of the Taj Mahal, who built his masterpiece to console the broken-hearted Emperor, the vision before its materialization. She has dreamed long dreams in the gardens of Kashmir. She has climbed, like a devout pilgrim, the rocky way to mountain shrines. For her the purdah has disclosed its secrets, and, as with Count Keyserling, Yoga—the true Yoga—is an accepted rite.

The Key of Dreams is the story of a young man who apparently comes under the influence of a dead cousin who had lived and studied in the Orient. The theme ismost unusual. He meets the beautiful Japanese half-caste who had been the temporary wife of his dead cousin, and who fills the same position with himself. But, true to type, L. Adams Beck does not permit this element to dominate, nor the later love affair which centres round an English girl. There are scenes in a Chinese monastery where she has turned a new literary furrow, setting before us the very dream of peace.

A more adventurous story is The Treasure of Ho, which has run through many editions in the United States and England. Here we have China with all its colored mystery, and an exquisite beauty of treatment. The portrait of theterrible Dowager Empress is historical. And John Mallerdean is more human than the hero of The Key of Dreams, as is Miles Seton of The Way of Stars. We can meet both halfway.

A Champion of Understanding

IT IS rather curious that L. Adams Beck’s men are more outstanding studies than her women. But perhaps this is the case with the best women writers. They are at more pains to delineate masculine character. Their own sex holds no mystery for them and they take it for granted. Most women, be they writers or otherwise, are primarily mothers of men.

L. Adams Beck is right. The time has come to lay aside our scornful superiorities where the Orient is concerned and to study it and its thought with patience and reverence. “Light from the East” is an old saying, and it was from the East that the Wise Kings brought their gifts gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts are still there for the taking. ‘

So this Canadian writer is in the front rank of those who to-day are faithfully interpreting the East. Her work has been likened to that of Pierre Lopi, Lafcadio Hearn, Algernon Blackwood and a half dozen others who also are devont students of beauty. But to many of her readers she speaks with an authority greater than that which attends mere perfection of diction and loveliness of simile. Is it that she has the gift of prophecy, and discerns a day when it may concern us more than any other thing to be competent to understand the mentality and spirituality of those great races which every day are drawing nearer and nearer to our lives? Be that as it may, she brings the soul of the East and West j face to face.

At the back of every man’s mind is the conviction that he is greater than his stars, and capable of intellectual and spiritual growth so wide as to be immeasurable. It may be but a dim memory of “when we walked the earth as gods.” It may be a foretaste. But there it is. ¡ And insensibly we long for it. Instinc-

tively we believe it to be attainable. L. Adams Beck’s books strengthen us in this belief.

Along the western coast of the United States and Canada we are faced with one of the most difficult problems with which the world has ever been confronted: the acceptance or rejection of the Asiaticpeoples as citizens of the Dominion and the Republic. If we have advanced in no other thing in the last few years, the world has learned a more beautiful and finished courtesy than ever before. We most earnestly do not wish to^ offend an alien people. From Victoria, the gateway to the Orient in British Columbia. L. Adams Beck wields a clever and diplomatic pen far mightier than the sword to reconcile and adjust and arouse our sympathy with the little-understood Oriental.