Madam Butterfly Preface



John Philip Long

Preface to the Second Edition


SINCE Cho-Cho-San is to have a reincarnation on the way to the literary
Nirvana, my publishers, who, in this rebirth, represent the Great First
Cause, beg me for a „prelude.“ I had hoped to have the happiness of never
writing a preface (for which the „prelude“ is the publisher’s cunning
disguise), but one disobeys one’s publishers at a certain distinct peril.

Therefore, observe!

Being thus constrained, I had sent them a prelude, indeed. It was, and still
is, a poem of the most obscure and exalted nature, concealed in prose
dithyrambics. But they have detected and scorned it, and it is now returned
with the reproach that eight pages are thus left by my default to be filled
or something will happen to the book and to the public–and to me.

„Now be sensible,“ they say, or words to that flattering effect, „and tell
the plain people plainly how the story was born; how it went out into world
and touched the great universal heart, as ready to be touched as some rare
instrument and as difficult; how it became a play–grand opera (the very
first American story any European composer has set to music, according to
those who are wise in such matters–though I don’t believe it); what the
people have said about it,–et cetera.“

Well, here it is! Since they will not have the insidious poem, they shall
tell it themselves–and have both the blame and the praise. They printed it.
The people read it, and said and wrote things about it–some good, some bad.
But, happily, they who liked Cho-Cho-San were more than they who did not;
and so she laughed and wept her way into some pretty hard hearts, and
lived–not entirely in vain.

And then she went upon the stage and made Miss Bates and herself so famous
that we had to write a bigger play for them. And they beckoned for her
across the sea, where, in London, Signore Puccini saw her, and when she
comes back she will be a song! Sad, sad indeed, but yet a song!

What the people have said to me about her has been almost entirely by way of
question. And the most frequent of these has been whether I, too, was n’t
sorry for Cho. To this I answer, with confusion, Yes. When she wept I wanted
to–if I did n’t; and when she smiled I think I did; but when she laughed I
know I did.

For you will remember that at first she laughed oftener than she wept, and
at last she wept oftener than she laughed–so one could n’t help it.

And where has she gone? I do not know. I lost sight of her, as you did, that
dark night she fled with Trouble and Suzuki from the little, empty, happy
house on Higashi Hill, where she was to have had a honeymoon of nine hundred
and ninety-nine years!

And is she a fancy, or does she live? Both.

And where is Pinkerton? At least not in the United States navy–if the
savage letters I receive from his fellows are true.

Concerning the genesis of the story I know nothing. I think no one ever
does. What process of the mind produces such things? What tumult of the
emotions sets them going? I do not know. Perhaps it is the sum of one’s
fancies of life–not altogether sad, not altogether gay, a thing to be
borne, often for others whom its leaving would mar. Perhaps the sleepless
gods who keep the doors of life did not close them quite upon some other
incarnation? For gods who never sleep may sometimes nod.

Finally, what matter? Here in this book is Cho-Cho-San, born again with all
her little sins anew upon her head. And some of these the scribbler who here
writes knows as well as they who, long since void of sentiment, sit in their
chairs where words are made, and con them, and set them forth, forgetting
that there may be something better had for good will and good searching. But
there are sins one loves. So I love those of Cho. And I would have this
Cho-Cho-San no more perfect than the world has cared to have her.

And this is she. Here is no „revised“ edition. It has all the human, all the
literary faults it had at first–and, may I hope, still its little charm?

So, Messueurs, Mesdames, I beg here, in your presence, that all the Gods of
Luck will smile on this reincarnation!

Gomen nasai. Oitoma itashimasho.

J. L. L.


August 27,1903.

Preface to the Second Edition

 Chapter One   Chapter Two  Chapter Three
 Chapter Four  Chapter Five Chapter Six
 Chapter Seven   Chapter Eight  Chapter Nine
 Chapter Ten   Chapter Eleven   Chapter Twelve 
 Chapter Thirteen   Chapter Fourteen   Chapter Fifteen 
at Cross[cultural]


Madame Butterfly

John Philip Long