Innocents At Home


Gorky’s written impressions of New York, called The City of Mammon , first appeared in Appleton’s Magazine in August, 1906. It was an exceptionally violent piece of writing, in which Gorky reserved some of his sharpest words for American moralists—“such smug, round, lardy creatures … people who, being born scoundrels, act as if they were the world’s attorneys.” And Manhattan, which at first had seemed so splendid to Gorky, is seen as “a huge jaw with black, uneven teeth. … When you enter it you feel that you have fallen into a stomach of brick and iron which has swallowed up millions of people, and churns, grinds, and digests them.” In later years, he felt differently about New York. He recalled the place fondly, welcomed Americans in his villa in Russia, and spoke of his stay without bitterness.

On the night of April the fifteenth, while Wells roamed the city in search of Gorky, Gorky was at Club A, cordoned from the world by its determined boarders. Mme. Andreyeva was on Staten Island at the home of John Martin, a British-born Fabian Socialist. Gorky joined her there, with all their luggage, the next day, and there they remained for most of their six-month stay in America. John Martin spoke Russian, and when Gorky made an occasional foray back into New York or down to Philadelphia, Martin went along to translate for him.

The forays, though, were few. In New York, public interest in revolution faded. On the twenty-fifth of April, Gorky addressed an audience of about five thousand at the Grand Central Palace, but when he spoke at Carnegie Hall in May, only the twenty-five-cent seats in the top gallery were filled; the dollar seats in the orchestra were empty. In Philadelphia, at the Grand Opera House, Gorky was received with great enthusiasm, and in New York, Mme. Andreyeva was a guest of honor at a party given by Mr. and Mrs. John Dewey; yet the couple felt more at ease with the Martins on Staten Island and with the few friends who came out to call. H. G. Wells spent the last day of his American visit with Gorky. He admired the Russian, finding him “not only a great master of the art I practice, but a splendid personality,” “a big, quiet figure … [with] a large simplicity in his voice and gesture.” In The Future in America , Wells describes the scene and mood of his last visit to the Martins’ home: “After dinner we sat together in the deepening twilight upon a broad veranda that looks out upon one of the most beautiful views in the world, upon serene large spaces of land and sea … upon the glittering clusters of lights and the black and luminous shipping that comes and goes about the Narrows and the Upper Bay. Half masked by a hill contour to the left was the light of the torch of Liberty.” They talked together all night, Mme. Andreyeva translating into French for Wells.

In late May, Gorky and Mme. Andreyeva went north with their hosts to the Martins’ cottage in the Adirondacks, not far from Lake Placid. There Gorky worked on a novel and, often at evening, would climb up in one of the trees around the cottage, chatting with the others from the branches and teaching Russian phrases to Mrs. Martin: Lyubitye drug druga , “Love one another.” On the thirteenth of October, with twenty-five people to see them off, Gorky and Mme. Andreyeva sailed for Italy. They lived in Capri, and then Sorrento, until they returned to Russia a few years after the revolution.

When, that fall, Mark Twain returned to New York from summering in New Hampshire, he had not forgotten Gorky, nor the moral of his visit. Much agitated, he told his young playwright friend, Miss Teller, that she must leave Club A and move uptown, farther away from where he lived, for there was too much gossip about them in New York. “He was,” Miss Teller wrote, “at that time, I remember, two years older than my grandmother.” She refused to move.