Addie and Lissie
THERE are two sisters. One is verging on middle age. She is businesslike, comparatively respectable, and a trifle passee. The other is young, a mere flapper. Her moral outlook is lax, but she is alluring to many. We will call the pair Addle and Lissie.
Addie is a working girl, with a recognized job. If you have goods which you wish to dispose of, you call her in, and she sells them for you. Sometimes her task is easy, sometimes it calls for real spadework. Goods fall roughly into two classes—those which everybody needs and asks for, and those which people do not want in the least, so must be compelled to buy. Here Addie has to exert herself. She is, as I have said, comparatively modest and old-fashioned in her methods ; but she is no sensitive plant. She hits you in the eye ; she shouts after you down the street ; she assails you _from every _hoarding. You hate and loathe her sometimes, but you buy her goods in the end.
That is Addie. Lissie is in a different category alto- gether. She is much cleverer than her elder sister=more subtle and less direct. Supposing your own particular goods are literary. If you write a novel, and begin by asking Addie to sell it for you, she will purchase certain inches of space in the daily or weekly papers, specially allocated for such purposes, and announce therein that your new novel is now on sale at the leading booksellers, price seven-and-sixpence net. She may add, in a burst of enthusiasm, that it presents the best picture of social life in London since Vaility Fair ; but if she does, she will make the assertion as brief as possible, because space costs money. She handles a play in the same way. She gives the names of the theatre, the play, the author (possibly), one or two of the actors, and the hour of open- ing. She might add, if you sanctioned the expense, that it was the best play since Hamlet. In short, Addle is conscientious but a trifle obvious.
Suppose you decide to put yourself into the hands of Lissie instead: Her "angle to the proposition," as they say in America, is quite different. She relies entirely upon the modern science of suggestion. In the case of your novel she would begin by circulating a paragraph to the Press announcing that you had won a prize at a flower show, or had acted as umpire at a bicycle gymkhana, or had been observed lunching with some celebrity at -a West End restaurant. She would add, apparently as an after- thought, that you were " of course " the author of that much-discussed and nearly banned work, Mayfair Mud, now in its fiftieth thousand. Or she would send out a paragraph headed, " A Plucky Young Actres," de- scribing how during a recent performanee of your new play a mouse ran across the stage and up the left stocking of Miss Lotta Guff during her big scene at 'the end of the Second Act ; but that Miss Guff, by the exercise of superhuman self-control, ignored the animal's presence and brought down the curtain amid a storm of applause.
Of course, neither Miss Guff nor the mouse matter in the least : the true purpose of the paragraph is to remind the public that your play can be witnessed any evening at the Nonesuch Theatre, at 8.30. (Mats. Wed., Sat. ; 2.30.) Where Lissie scores over the poor plodding Addie is that the British Public are intensely suspicious of direct advertisement. If you boom a thing hard, they come to the conclusion (perhaps rightly) that there must be some- thing wrong with it. But a mouse—well, that's different. " Plucky little Lotta ! What did you say the name of the play was, my dear ? " Clever Lissie !
So far, Lissie has kept within legitimate bounds. But to-day she is venturing into a more questionable field. She undertakes to boom private individuals—to " sell them to Society "—again quoting from our gifted neigh- bours across the Atlantic.
Supposing a certain Mrs. Ardleigh Classenough goes abroad, or comes home, or gives a party, or parts with her appendix, and commissions Addie to tell the world about it. That unimaginative creature merely purchases space in the social columns of certain newspapers of irreproach- able standing, and publishes the bald facts stated above.
But Lissie, as usual, is different. She begins by pro- viding Mrs. Ardleigh Classenough with a sort of private and personal djinnee called a Press Agent, whose sole duty it is to keep his client in the public eye. This is not always easy, for the public is not interested in people it has never heard of. However, the Press Agent makes the round of the illustrated Society papers, bearing photographs of Mrs. Classenough—Mrs. Classenough arriving at a wedding, or Mrs. Classenough occupying a damp seat at a Highland Gathering, in close proximity to distinguished persons possessed of an actual " news value " of their own. (If you have a news value of your own, you have reached the summit of human ambition. You will not require a Press Agent at all, for the Press itself will send round for your photograph or ring up to inquire where you are dining to-night.) Anyhow, here and there one of the photographs gets in, with some " of course " stuff underneath, and Lissie is justified of her methods.
But Lissie's principal triumph is her discovery that for success in modern life there is no need to have all men speaking well of you. Their censure is just as good— better. It is better to be notorious than unknown, more blessed to be denounced than ignored. If Lissie can get up a public controversy over you, your future is assured, and big business will result. Consider. Within the last few weeks a lady evangelist from the United States became the subject of a strident altercation between two of our more emotional dailies (both possessing a wide circulation) as to whether she ought or ought not to be permitted to land upon our shores. One can- not help suspecting that she found Lissie waiting for her at the ship's gangway—whether by appointment or not is a matter of intriguing conjecture.
In short, Lissie is taking slow but sure possession of our public life and morals. Under her malign influence it is impossible to detect the false from the true. Lissie is a menace. Lissie must go.
By the way, her full name is Publicity. Her com- paratively reputable sister is called Advertisement.