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Title: Humanly Speaking
Author: Crothers, Samuel McChord
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Published November 1912_

       *       *       *       *       *

  By Samuel M. Crothers

    With Portrait.



       *       *       *       *       *












The author wishes to express his thanks to the Editors of the _Atlantic
Monthly_ and the _Century Magazine_ for their courtesy in permitting the
publication in this volume of certain essays which have appeared in
their magazines.


"Humanly speaking, it is impossible." So the old theologian would say
when denying any escape from his own argument. His logical machine was
going at full speed, and the grim engineer had no notion of putting on
the brakes. His was a non-stop train and there was to be no slowing-down
till he reached the terminus.

But in the middle of the track was an indubitable fact. By all the rules
of argumentation it had no business to be there, trespassing on the
right of way. But there it was! We trembled to think of the impending

But the collision between the argument and the fact never happened. The
"humanly speaking" was the switch that turned the argument safely on a
parallel track, where it went whizzing by the fact without the least
injury to either. Many things which are humanly speaking impossible are
of the most common occurrence and the theologian knew it.

It is only by the use of this saving clause that one may safely moralize
or generalize or indulge in the mildest form of prediction. Strictly
speaking, no one has a right to express any opinion about such complex
and incomprehensible aggregations of humanity as the United States of
America or the British Empire. Humanly speaking, they both are
impossible. Antecedently to experience the Constitution of Utopia as
expounded by Sir Thomas More would be much more probable. It has a
certain rational coherence. If it existed at all it would hang together,
being made out of whole cloth. But how does the British Empire hold
together? It seems to be made of shreds and patches. It is full of
anomalies and temporary makeshifts. Why millions of people, who do not
know each other, should be willing to die rather than to be separated
from each other, is something not easily explained. Nevertheless the
British Empire exists, and, through all the changes which threaten it,
grows in strength.

The perils that threaten the United States of America are so obvious
that anybody can see them. So far as one can see, the Republic ought to
have been destroyed long ago by political corruption, race prejudice,
unrestricted immigration and the growth of monopolies. The only way to
account for its present existence is that there is something about it
that is not so easily seen. Disease is often more easily diagnosed than
health. But we should remember that the Republic is not out of danger.
It is a very salutary thing to bring its perils to the attention of the
too easy-going citizens. It is well to have a Jeremiah, now and then, to
speak unwelcome truths.

But even Jeremiah, when he was denouncing the evils that would befall
his country, had a saving clause in his gloomy predictions. All manner
of evils would befall them unless they repented, and humanly speaking he
was of the opinion that they couldn't repent. Said he: "Can the
Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do
good that are accustomed to do evil." Nevertheless this did not prevent
him from continually exhorting them to do good, and blaming them when
they didn't do it. Like all great moral teachers he acted on the
assumption that there is more freedom of will than seemed theoretically
possible. It was the same way with his views of national affairs.
Jeremiah's reputation is that of a pessimist. Still, when the country
was in the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and he was in prison for predicting
it, he bought a piece of real estate which was in the hands of the
enemy. He considered it a good investment. "I subscribed the deed and
sealed it, and called witnesses and weighed him the money in the
balances." Then he put the deeds in an earthen vessel, "that they may
continue many days." For in spite of the panic that his own words had
caused, he believed that the market would come up again. "Houses and
vineyards shall yet be bought in this land." If I were an archæologist
with a free hand, I should like to dig in that field in Anathoth in the
hope of finding the earthen jar with the deed which Hanameel gave to his
cousin Jeremiah, for a plot of ground that nobody else would buy.

It is the moralists and the reformers who have after all the most
cheerful message for us. They are all the time threatening us, yet for
our own good. They see us plunging heedlessly to destruction. They cry,
"Look out!" They often do not themselves see the way out, but they have
a well-founded hope that we will discover a way when our attention is
called to an imminent danger. The fact that the race has survived thus
far is an evidence that its instinct for self-preservation is a strong
one. It has a wonderful gift for recovering after the doctors have given
it up.

The saving clause is a great help to those idealists who are inclined to
look unwelcome facts in the face. It enables them to retain faith in
their ideals, and at the same time to hold on to their intellectual

There are idealists of another sort who know nothing of their struggles
and self-contradictions. Having formed their ideal of what ought to be,
they identify it with what is. For them belief in the existence of good
is equivalent to the obliteration of evil. Their world is equally good
in all its parts, and is to be viewed in all its aspects with serene

Now this is very pleasant for a time, especially if one is tired and
needs a complete rest. But after a while it becomes irksome, and one
longs for a change, even if it should be for the worse. We are floating
on a sea of beneficence, in which it is impossible for us to sink. But
though one could not easily drown in the Dead Sea, one might starve. And
when goodness is of too great specific gravity it is impossible to get
on in it or out of it. This is disconcerting to one of an active
disposition. It is comforting to be told that everything is completely
good, till you reflect that that is only another way of saying that
nothing can be made any better, and that there is no use for you to try.

Now the idealist of the sterner sort insists on criticizing the existing
world. He refuses to call good evil or evil good. The two things are, in
his judgment, quite different. He recognizes the existence of good, but
he also recognizes the fact that there is not enough of it. This he
looks upon as a great evil which ought to be remedied. And he is glad
that he is alive at this particular juncture, in a world in which there
is yet room for improvement.

       *       *       *       *       *

Besides the ordinary Christian virtues I would recommend to any one, who
would fit himself to live happily as well as efficiently, the
cultivation of that auxiliary virtue or grace which Horace Walpole
called "Serendipity." Walpole defined it in a letter to Sir Horace Mann:
"It is a very expressive word, which, as I have nothing better to tell
you, I shall endeavor to explain to you; you will understand it better
by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale
called 'The Three Princes of Serendip.' As their Highnesses traveled,
they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of
things which they were not in quest of.... Now do you understand
_Serendipity_?" In case the reader does not understand, Walpole goes on
to define "Serendipity" as "accidental sagacity (for you must know that
no discovery you _are_ looking for comes under this description)."

I am inclined to think that in such a world as this, where our hold on
all good is precarious, a man should be on the lookout for dangers.
Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for all that is worth having. But
when, prepared for the worst, he goes forward, his journey will be more
pleasant if he has also a "serendipitaceous" mind. He will then, by a
sort of accidental sagacity, discover that what he encounters is much
less formidable than what he feared. Half of his enemies turn out to be
friends in disguise, and half of the other half retire at his approach.
After a while such words as "impracticable" and "impossible" lose their
absoluteness and become only synonyms for the relatively difficult. He
has so often found a way out, where humanly speaking there was none,
that he no longer looks upon a logical dilemma as a final negation of

       *       *       *       *       *

The following essays were written partly at home and partly abroad. They
therefore betray the influence of some of the mass movements of the day.
Anyone with even a little leisure from his own personal affairs must
realize that we are living in one of the most stirring times in human
history. Everywhere the old order is changing. Everywhere there are
confused currents both of thought and feeling.

That the old order is passing is obvious enough. That a new order is
arising, and that it is on the whole beneficent, is not merely a pious
hope. It is more than this: it is a matter of observation to any one
with a moderate degree of "Serendipity."


It sometimes happens that a business man who is in reality solvent
becomes temporarily embarrassed. His assets are greater than his
liabilities, but they are not quick enough to meet the situation. The
liabilities have become mutinous and bear down upon him in a threatening
mob. If he had time to deal with them one by one, all would be well; but
he cannot on the instant mobilize his forces.

Under such circumstances the law allows him to surrender, not to the
mob, but to a friendly power which shall protect the interests of all
concerned. He goes into the hands of a receiver, who will straighten out
his affairs for him. I can imagine the relief which would come to one
who could thus get rid, for a while, of his harassing responsibilities,
and let some one else do the worrying.

In these days some of the best people I know are in this predicament in
regard to their moral and social affairs. These friends of mine have
this peculiarity, that they are anxious to do their duty. Now, in all
generations, there have been persons who did their duty, according to
their lights. But in these days it happens that a new set of lights has
been turned on suddenly, and we all see more duties than we had
bargained for. In the glare we see an army of creditors, each with an
overdue bill in hand. Each demands immediate payment, and shakes his
head when we suggest that he call again next week. We realize that our
moral cash in hand is not sufficient for the crisis. If all our
obligations must be met at once, there will be a panic in which most of
our securities will be sacrificed.

We are accustomed to grumble over the increase in the cost of living.
But the enhancement of price in the necessities of physical life is
nothing compared to the increase in the cost of the higher life.

There are those now living who can remember when almost any one could
have the satisfaction of being considered a good citizen and neighbor.
All one had to do was to attend to one's own affairs and keep within the
law. He would then be respected by all, and would deserve the most
eulogistic epitaph when he came to die. By working for private profit he
could have the satisfaction of knowing that all sorts of public benefits
came as by-products of his activity.

But now all such satisfactions are denied. To be a good citizen you must
put your mind on the job, and it is no easy one. You must be up and
doing. And when you are doing one good thing there will be keen-eyed
critics who will ask why you have not been doing other things which are
much more important; and they will sternly demand of you, "What do you
mean by such criminal negligence?"

What we call the awakening of the social conscience marks an important
step in progress, But, like all progress, it involves hardship to
individuals. For the higher moral classes, the saints and the reformers,
it is the occasion of wholehearted rejoicing. It is just what they have,
all the while, been trying to bring about. But I confess to a sympathy
for the middle class, morally considered, the plain people, who feel the
pinch. They have invested their little all in the old-fashioned
securities, and when these are depreciated they feel that there is
nothing to keep the wolf from the door. After reading a few searching
articles in the magazines they feel that, so far from being excellent
citizens, they are little better than enemies of society. I am not
pleading for the predatory rich, but only for the well-meaning persons
in moderately comfortable circumstances, whose predatoriness has been
suddenly revealed to them.

Many of the most conscientious persons go about with an habitually
apologetic manner. They are rapidly acquiring the evasive air of the
conscious criminal. It is only a very hardened philanthropist, or an
unsophisticated beginner in good works, who can look a sociologist in
the eye. Most persons, when they do one thing, begin to apologize for
not doing something else. They are like a one-track railroad that has
been congested with traffic. They are not sure which train has the right
of way, and which should go on the siding. Progress is a series of
rear-end collisions.

There is little opportunity for self-satisfaction. The old-fashioned
private virtues which used to be exhibited with such innocent pride as
family heirlooms are now scrutinized with suspicion. They are subjected
to rigid tests to determine their value as public utilities.

Perhaps I may best illustrate the need of some receivership by drawing
attention to the case of my friend the Reverend Augustus Bagster.

Bagster is not by nature a spiritual genius; he is only a modern man who
is sincerely desirous of doing what is expected of him. I do not think
that he is capable of inventing a duty, but he is morally
impressionable, and recognizes one when it is pointed out to him. A
generation ago such a man would have lived a useful and untroubled life
in a round of parish duties. He would have been placidly contented with
himself and his achievements. But when he came to a city pulpit he heard
the Call of the Modern. The multitudinous life around him must be
translated into immediate action. His conscience was not merely
awakened: it soon reached a state of persistent insomnia.

When he told me that he had preached a sermon on the text, "Let him that
stole steal no more," I was interested. But shortly after, he told me
that he could not let go of that text. It was a live wire. He had
expanded the sermon into a course on the different kinds of stealing. He
found few things that did not come under the category of Theft.
Spiritual goods as well as material might be stolen. If a person
possessed a cheerful disposition, you should ask, "How did he get it?"

"It seems to me," I said, "that a cheerful disposition is one of the
things where possession is nine tenths of the law. I don't like to think
of such spiritual wealth as ill-gotten."

"I am sorry," said Bagster, "to see that your sympathies are with the
privileged classes."

Several weeks ago I received a letter which revealed his state of

"I believe that you are acquainted with the Editor of the 'Atlantic
Monthly.' I suppose he means well, but persons in his situation are
likely to cater to mere literature. I hope that I am not uncharitable,
but I have a suspicion that our poets yield sometimes to the desire to
please. They are perhaps unconscious of the subtle temptation. They are
not sufficiently direct and specific in their charges. I have been
reading Walt Whitman's 'Song of Joys.' The subject does not attract me,
but I like the way in which it is treated. There is no beating around
the bush. The poet is perfectly fearless, and will not let any guilty
man escape.

        "'O the farmer's joys!
  Ohioans, Illinoisans, Wisconsonese, Kanadians,
  Iowans, Kansans, Oregonese joys.'

"That is the way one should write if he expects
to get results. He should point to each individual
and say, 'Thou art the man.'

"I am no poet,--though I am painfully conscious
that I ought to be one,--but I have written
what I call, 'The Song of Obligations.' I
think it may arouse the public. In such matters
we ought to unite as good citizens. You might
perhaps drop a postal card, just to show where
you stand."


  "O the citizen's obligations.
  The obligation of every American citizen to see that
     every other American citizen does his duty, and
     to be quick about it.
  The janitor's duties, the Board of Health's duties, the
     milkman's duties, resting upon each one of us individually
     with the accumulated weight of every
     cubic foot of vitiated air, and multiplied by the
     number of bacteria in every cubic centimeter of
  The motorman's duties, and the duty of every spry citizen
     not to allow himself to be run over by the motorman.
  The obligation of teachers in the public schools to supply
     their pupils with all the aptitudes and graces
     formerly supposed to be the result of heredity and
  The duty of each teacher to consult daily a card catalogue
     of duties, beginning with Apperception and
     Adenoids and going on to Vaccination, Ventilation,
     and the various vivacious variations on the
     three R's.
  The obligation resting upon the well-to-do citizen not
     to leave for his country place, but to remain in the
     city in order to give the force of his example, in
     his own ward, to a safe and sane Fourth of July.
  The obligation resting upon every citizen to write to
     his Congressman.
  The obligation to speak to one's neighbor who may
     think he is living a moral life, and who yet
     has never written to his Congressman.
  The obligation to attend hearings at the State House.
  The obligation to protest against the habit of employees
     at the State House of professing ignorance
     of the location of the committee-room where
     the hearings are to be held; also to protest against
     the habit of postponing the hearings after one has
     at great personal inconvenience come to the State
     House in order to protest.
  The duty of doing your Christmas shopping early
     enough in July to allow the shop-girls to enjoy
     their summer vacation.
  The duty of knowing what you are talking about, and
     of talking about all the things you ought to know
  The obligation of feeling that it is a joy and a privilege
     to live in a country where eternal vigilance is
     the price of liberty, and where even if you have
     the price you don't get all the liberty you pay for."

I was a little troubled over this effusion, as it seemed to indicate
that Bagster had reached the limit of elasticity. A few days later I
received a letter asking me to call upon him. I found him in a state of
uncertainty over his own condition.

"I want you," he said, "to listen to the report my stenographer has
handed me, of an address which I gave day before yesterday. I have been
doing some of my most faithful work recently, going from one meeting to
another and helping in every good cause. But at this meeting I had a
rare sensation of freedom of utterance. I had the sense of liberation
from the trammels of time and space. It was a realization of moral
ubiquity. All the audiences I had been addressing seemed to flow
together into one audience, and all the good causes into one good cause.
Incidentally I seemed to have solved the Social Question. But now that I
have the stenographic report I am not so certain."

"Read it," I said.

He began to read, but the confidence of his pulpit tone, which was one
of the secrets of his power, would now and then desert him, and he would
look up to me as if waiting for an encouraging "Amen."

"Your secretary, when she called me up by telephone, explained to me the
object of your meeting. It is an object with which I deeply sympathize.
It is Rest. You stand for the idea of poise and tranquillity of spirit.
You would have a place for tranquil meditation. The thought I would
bring to you this afternoon is this: We are here not to be doing, but to

"But of course the thought at once occurs to us, How can we _be_
considering the high cost of the necessaries of life? It will be seen at
once that the question is at bottom an economic one. You must have a
living wage, and how can there be a living wage unless we admit the
principle of collective bargaining. It is because I believe in the
principle of collective bargaining that I have come here to-night to say
to you working-men that I believe this strike is justifiable.

"I must leave to other speakers many interesting aspects of this
subject, and confine myself to the aspect which the committee asked me
to consider more in detail, namely, Juvenile Delinquency in its relation
to Foreign Immigration. The relation is a real one. Statistics prove
that among immigrants the proportion of the juvenile element is greater
than among the native-born. This increase in juvenility gives
opportunity for juvenile delinquency from which many of our American
communities might otherwise be free. But is the remedy to be found in
the restriction of immigration? My opinion is that the remedy is to be
found only in education.

"It is our interest in education that has brought us together on this
bright June morning. Your teacher tells me that this is the largest
class that has ever graduated from this High School, You may well be
proud. Make your education practical. Learn to concentrate, that is the
secret of success. There are those who will tell you to concentrate on a
single point. I would go even further. Concentrate on every point.

"I admit, as the gentleman who has preceded me has pointed out, that
concentration in cities is a great evil. It is an evil that should be
counteracted. As I was saying last evening to the Colonial
Dames,--Washington, if he had done nothing else, would be remembered
to-day as the founder of the Order of the Cincinnati. The figure of
Cincinnatus at the plough appeals powerfully to American manhood. Many a
time in after years Cincinnatus wished that he had never left that
plough. Often amid the din of battle he heard the voice saying to him,
'Back to the Land!'

"It was the same voice I seemed to hear when I received the letter of
your secretary asking me to address this grange. As I left the smoke of
the city behind me and looked up at your granite hills, I said, 'Here is
where they make men!' As I have been partaking of the bountiful repast
prepared by the ladies of the grange, your chairman has been telling me
something about this community. It is a grand community to live in. Here
are no swollen fortunes; here industry, frugality, and temperance reign.
These are the qualities which have given New England its great place in
the councils of the nation. I know there are those who say that it is
the tariff that has given it that place; but they do not know New
England. There are those at this table who can remember the time when
eighty-two ruddy-cheeked boys and girls trooped merrily to the little
red schoolhouse under the hill. In the light of such facts as these, who
can be a pessimist?

"But I must not dwell upon the past; the Boy Scouts of America prepare
for the future. I am reminded that I am not at this moment addressing
the Boy Scouts of America,--they come to-morrow at the same hour,--but
the principle is the same. Even as the Boy Scouts of America look only
at the future, so do you. We must not linger fondly on the days when
cows grazed on Boston Common. The purpose of this society is to save
Boston Common. That the Common has been saved many times before is true;
but is that any reason why we should falter now? 'New occasions teach
new duties.' Let us not be satisfied with a supetficial view. While
fresh loam is being scattered on the surface, commercial interests and
the suburban greed to get home quick are striking at the vitals of the
Common. Citizens of Boston, awake!

"Your pastor had expected to be with you this evening, but he has at the
last moment discovered that he has two other engagements, each of them
of long standing. He has therefore asked me to take his place in this
interesting course of lectures on Church History. The subject of the
lecture for the evening is--and if I am mistaken some one will please
correct me--Ulphilas, or Christianity among the Goths. I cannot treat
this subject from that wealth of historical information possessed by
your pastor; but I can at least speak from the heart. I feel that it is
well for us to turn aside from the questions of the day, for the quiet
consideration of such a character as Ulphilas.

"Ulphilas seems to me to be one of those characters we ought all to know
more about. I shall not weary you by discussing the theology of Ulphilas
or the details of his career. It would seem more fitting that these
things should be left for another occasion. I shall proceed at once to
the main lesson of his life. As briefly as possible let me state the
historical situation that confronted him. It is immaterial for us to
inquire where the Goths were at that time, or what they were doing. It
is sufficient for us to know that the Goths at that time were pagans,
mere heathen. Under those circumstances what did Ulphilas do? He went to
the Goths. That one act reveals his character. If in the remaining
moments of this lecture I can enforce the lesson for us of that one act,
I shall feel that my coming here has not been in vain.

"But some one who has followed my argument thus far may say, 'All that
you have said is true, lamentably true; but what has it to do with the
Advancement of Woman?' I answer, it _is_ the Advancement of Woman."

"How do you make that out?" I asked.

Bagster looked vaguely troubled. "There is no such thing as an isolated
moral phenomenon," he said, as if he were repeating something from a
former sermon; "when you attempt to remedy one evil you find it related
to a whole moral series. But perhaps I did not make the connection
plain. My address doesn't seem to be as closely reasoned as it did when
I was delivering it. Does it seem to you to be cogent?"

"Cogent is not precisely the word I would use. But it seems earnest."

"Thank you," said Bagster. "I always try to be earnest. It's hard to be
earnest about so many things. I am always afraid that I may not give to
all an equal emphasis."

"And now that you have stopped for a moment," I suggested, "perhaps you
would be willing to skip to the last page. When I read a story I am
always anxious to get to the end. I should like to know how your address
comes out,--if it does come out."

Bagster turned over a dozen pages and read in a more animated manner.

"Your chairman has the reputation of making the meetings over which he
presides brisk and crisp. He has given me just a minute and a half in
which to tell what the country expects of this Federation of Young
People. I shall not take all the time. I ask you to remember two
letters--E and N. _What_ does the country expect this Federation to do?
E--everything. _When_ does the country expect you to do it? N--now.
Remember these two letters--E and N. Young people, I thank you for your

"The hour is late. You, my young brother, have listened to a charge in
which your urgent duties have been fearlessly declared to you. When you
have performed these duties, others will be presented to you. And now,
in token of our confidence in you, I give you the right hand of

"And do you know," said Bagster, "that when I reached to give him the
right hand of fellowship, he wasn't there."

We sat in silence for some time. At last he asked, hesitatingly, "What
do you think of it? In your judgment is it organic or functional?"

"I do not think it is organic. I am afraid that your conscience has been
over-functioning of late, and needs a rest. I know a nook in the woods
of New Hampshire, under the shadow of Mount Chocorua, where you might go
for six months while your affairs are in the hands of a receiver. I
can't say that you would find everything satisfactory, even there. The
mountain is not what it used to be. It is decadent, geologically
speaking, and it suffered a good deal during the last glacial period.
But you can't do much about it in six months. You might take it just as
it is,--some things have to be taken that way.

"You will start to-morrow morning and begin your life of temporary
irresponsibility. You will have to give up your problems for six months,
but you may rest assured that they will keep. You will go by Portsmouth,
where you will have ten minutes for lunch. Take that occasion for a
leisurely meal. A card will be handed to you assuring you that 'The bell
will ring one minute before the departure of the train. You can't get
left.' Hold that thought: you can't get left; the railroad authorities
say so."

"Did you ever try it," asked Bagster.

"Once," I answered.

"And did you get left?"

"Portsmouth," I said, "is a beautiful old town. I had always wanted to
see it. You can see a good deal of Portsmouth in an afternoon."

       *       *       *       *       *

The predicament in which my friend Bagster finds himself is a very
common one. It is no longer true that the good die young; they become
prematurely middle-aged. In these days conscience doth make
neurasthenics of us all. Now it will not do to flout conscience, and by
shutting our eyes to the urgencies and complexities of life purchase for
ourselves a selfish calm. Neither do we like the idea of neurasthenia.

My notion is that the twentieth-century man is morally solvent, though
he is temporarily embarrassed. He will find himself if he is given
sufficient time. In the mean time it is well for him to consider the
nature of his embarrassment. He has discovered that the world is "so
full of a number of things," and he is disappointed that he is not as
"happy as kings"--that is, as kings in the fairy books. Perhaps "sure
enough" kings are not as happy as the fairy-book royalties, and perhaps
the modern man is only experiencing the anxieties that belong to his new
sovereignty over the world.

There are tribes which become confused when they try to keep in mind
more than three or four numbers. It is the same kind of confusion which
comes when we try to look out for more than Number One. We mean well,
but we have not the facilities for doing it easily. In fact, we are not
so civilized as we sometimes think.

For example, we have never carried out to its full extent the most
important invention that mankind has ever made--money. Money is a device
for simplifying life by providing a means of measuring our desires, and
gratifying a number of them without confusion.

Money is a measure, not of commodities, but of states of mind. The man
in the street expresses a profound philosophy when he says, "I feel like
thirty cents." That is all that "thirty cents" means. It is a certain
amount of feeling.

You see an article marked "$1.50." You pass by unmoved. The next day you
see it on the bargain counter marked "98 cents," and you say, "Come to
my arms," and carry it home. You did not feel like a dollar and a half
toward it, but you did feel exactly like ninety-eight cents.

It is because of this wonderful measure of value that we are able to
deal with a multitude of diverse articles without mental confusion.

I am asked to stop at the department store and discover in that vast
aggregation of goods a skein of silk of a specified shade, and having
found it bring it safely home. Now, I am not fitted for such an
adventure. Left to my own devices I should be helpless.

But the way is made easy for me. The floorwalker meets me graciously,
and without chiding me for not buying the things I do not want, directs
me to the one thing which would gratify my modest desire. I find myself
in a little place devoted to silk thread, and with no other articles to
molest me or make me afraid. The world of commodities is simplified to
fit my understanding. I feel all the gratitude of the shorn lamb for the
tempered wind.

At the silken shrine stands a Minerva who imparts her wisdom and guides
my choice. The silk thread she tells me is equivalent to five cents.
Now, I have not five cents, but only a five-dollar bill. She does not
act on the principle of taking all that the traffic will bear. She sends
the five-dollar bill through space, and in a minute or two she gives me
the skein and four dollars and ninety-five cents, and I go out of the
store a free man. I have no misgivings and no remorse because I did not
buy all the things I might have bought. No one reproached me because I
did not buy a four-hundred-dollar pianola. Thanks to the great
invention, the transaction was complete in itself. Five cents
represented one choice, and I had in my pocket ninety-nine choices which
I might reserve for other occasions.

But there are some things which, as we say, money cannot buy. In all
these things of the higher life we have no recognized medium of
exchange. We are still in the stage of primitive barter. We must bring
all our moral goods with us, and every transaction involves endless
dickering. If we express an appreciation for one good thing, we are at
once reproached by all the traffickers in similar articles for not
taking over bodily their whole stock in trade.

For example, you have a desire for culture. You haven't the means to
indulge in very much, but you would like a little. You are immediately
beset by all the eager Matthew Arnolds who have heard of your desire,
and they insist that you should at once devote yourself to the knowledge
of the best that has been known and said in the world. All this is very
fine, but you don't see how you can afford it. Isn't there a little of a
cheaper quality that they could show you? Perhaps the second best would
serve your purpose. At once you are covered with reproaches for your

You had been living a rather prosaic life and would like to brighten it
up with a little poetry. What you would really like would be a modest
James Whitcomb Riley's worth of poetry. But the moment you express the
desire the University Extension lecturer insists that what you should
take is a course of lectures on Dante. No wonder that you conclude that
a person in your circumstances will have to go without any poetry at

It is the same way with efforts at social righteousness. You find it
difficult to engage in one transaction without being involved in others
that you are not ready for. You are interested in a social reform that
involves collective action. At once you are told that it is socialistic.
You do not feel that it is any worse for that, and you are quite willing
to go on. But at once your socialistic friends present you with the
whole programme of their party. It is all or nothing. When it is
presented in that way you are likely to become discouraged and fall back
on nothing.

Now, if we had a circulating medium you would express the exact state of
your desires somewhat in this way: "Here is my moral dollar. I think I
will take a quarter's worth of Socialism, and twelve and a half cents'
worth of old-time Republicanism, and twelve and a half cents of genuine
Jeffersonian democracy, if there is any left, and a quarter's worth of
miscellaneous insurgency. Let me see, I have a quarter left. Perhaps I
may drop in to-morrow and see if you have anything more that I want."

The sad state of my good friend Bagster arises from the fact that he
can't do one good thing without being confused by a dozen other things
which are equally good. He feels that he is a miserable sinner because
his moral dollar is not enough to pay the national debt.

But though we have not yet been able adequately to extend the notion of
money to the affairs of the higher life, there have been those who have
worked on the problem.

That was what Socrates had in mind. The Sophists talked eloquently about
the Good, the True, and the Beautiful; but they dealt in these things in
the bulk. They had no way of dividing them into sizable pieces for
everyday use. Socrates set up in Athens as a broker in ideas. He dealt
on the curb. He measured one thing in terms of another, and tried to
supply a sufficient amount of change for those who were not ashamed to
engage in retail trade.

Socrates draws the attention of Phædrus to the fact that when we talk of
iron and silver the same objects are present to our minds, "but when any
one speaks of justice and goodness, there is every sort of disagreement,
and we are at odds with one another and with ourselves."

What we need to do he says is to have an idea that is big enough to
include all the particular actions or facts. Then, in order to do
business, we must be able to divide this so that it may serve our
convenience. This is what Socrates called Philosophy.

"I am a great lover," he said, "of the processes of division and
generalization; they help me to speak and think. And if I find any man
who is able to see unity and plurality in nature, him I follow, and walk
in his steps as if he were a god."

Even in the Forest of Arden life was not so simple as at first it
seemed. The shepherd's life which "in respect of itself was a good life"
was in other respects quite otherwise. Its unity seemed to break up into
a confusing plurality. Honest Touchstone, in trying to reconcile the
different points of view, blurted out the test question, "Hast any
philosophy in thee, Shepherd?" After Bagster has communed with Chocorua
for six months, I shall put that question to him.



"You here, Bagster?" I exclaimed, as in the Sistine Chapel I saw an
anxious face gazing down into a mirror in which were reflected the
dimmed glories of the ceiling. There was an anxiety as of one who was
seeking the Truth of Art at the bottom of the well.

One who is in the habit of giving unsolicited advice is likely to take
for granted that his advice has been acted upon, even though experience
should teach him that this is seldom the case. I had sagely counseled
Bagster to go to the New Hampshire woods, in order to recuperate after
his multifarious labors. I was therefore surprised to find him playing
truant in Rome.

My salutation did not at first cause him to look up. He only made a
mysterious sign with his hand. It was evidently a gesture which he had
recently learned, and was practiced as a sort of exorcism.

"I am not going to sell you cameos or post cards," I explained.

When he recognized a familiar face, Bagster forgot all about the Last
Judgment, and we were soon out-of-doors and he was telling me about

"I meant to go to Chocorua as you suggested, but the congregation
advised otherwise, so I came over here. It seemed the better thing to
do. Up in New Hampshire you can't do much but rest, but here you can
improve your taste and collect a good deal of homiletic material. So
I've settled down in Rome. I want to have time to take it all in."

"Do you begin to feel rested?" I asked.

"Not yet. It's harder work than I thought it would be. There's so much
to take in, and it's all so different. I don't know how to arrange my
material. What I want to do, in the first place, is to have a realizing
sense of being in Rome. What's the use of being here unless you are here
in the spirit?

"What I mean is that I should like to feel as I did when I went to Mount
Vernon. It was one of those dreamy autumn days when the leaves were just
turning. There was the broad Potomac, and the hospitable Virginia
mansion. I had the satisfying sense that I was in the home of
Washington. Everything seemed to speak of Washington. He filled the
whole scene. It was a great experience. Why can't I feel that way about
the great events that happened down there?"

We were by this time on the height of the Janiculum near the statue of
Garibaldi. Bagster made a vague gesture toward the city that lay beneath
us. There seemed to be something in the scene that worried him. "I can't
make it seem real," he said. "I have continually to say to myself, 'That
is Rome, Italy, and not Rome, New York.' I can't make the connection
between the place and the historical personages I have read about. I
can't realize that the Epistle to the Romans was written to the people
who lived down there. Just back of that new building is the very spot
where Romulus would have lived if he had ever existed. On those very
streets Scipio Africanus walked, and Cæsar and Cicero and Paul and
Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus and Belisarius, and Hildebrand and
Michelangelo, and at one time or another about every one you ever heard
of. And how many people came to get emotions they couldn't get anywhere
else! There was Goethe. How he felt! He took it all in. And there was
Shelley writing poetry in the Baths of Caracalla. And there was Gibbon."

"But we can't all expect to be Shelleys or even Gibbons," I suggested.

"I know it," said Bagster, ruefully. "But if one has only a little
vessel, he ought to fill it. But somehow the historical associations
crowd each other out. When I left home I bought Hare's 'Walks in Rome.'
I thought I would take a walk a day as long as they lasted. It seemed a
pleasant way of combining physical and intellectual exercise. But do you
know, I could not keep up those walks. They were too concentrated for my
constitution. I wasn't equal to them. Out in California they used to
make wagers with the stranger that he couldn't eat a broiled quail every
day for ten days. I don't see why he couldn't, but it seemed that the
thought of to-morrow's quail, and the feeling that it was compulsory,
turned him against what otherwise might have been a pleasure. It's so
with the 'Walks.' It's appalling to think that every morning you have to
start out for a constitutional, and be confronted with the events of the
last twenty-five centuries. The events are piled up one on another.
There they are, and here you are, and what are you going to do about

"I suppose that there isn't much that you can do about them," I

"But we ought to do what we can," said Bagster. "When I do have an
emotion, something immediately turns up to contradict it. It's like
wandering through a big hotel, looking for your room, when you are on
the wrong floor. Here you are as likely as not to find yourself in the
wrong century. In Rome everything turns out, on inquiry, to be something
else. There's something impressive about a relic if it's the relic of
one thing. But if it's the relic of a dozen different kinds of things
it's hard to pick out the appropriate emotion. I find it hard to adjust
my mind to these composite associations."

"Now just look at this," he said, opening his well-thumbed Baedeker:
"'Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (Pl. D. 4), erected on the ruins of
Domitian's temple of Minerva, the only mediæval Gothic church in Rome.
Begun A.D., 1280; was restored and repainted in 1848-55. It contains
several admirable works of art, in particular Michelangelo's Christ.'"

"It's that sort of thing that gets on my nerves. The Virgin and Minerva
and Domitian and Michelangelo are all mixed together, and then
everything is restored and repainted in 1848. And just round the corner
from Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is the Pantheon. The inscription on the
porch says that it was built by Agrippa, the son-in-law of Augustus. I
try to take that in. But when I have partially done that, I learn that
the building was struck by lightning and entirely rebuilt by the Emperor

"That information comes like the call of the conductor to change cars,
just as one has comfortably settled down on the train. We must forget
all about Agrippa and Augustus, and remember that this building was
built by Hadrian. But it turns out that in 609 Boniface turned it into a
Christian church. Which Boniface? The Pantheon was adorned with bronze
columns. If you wish to see them you must go to St. Peter's, where they
are a part of the high altar. So Baedeker says, but I'm told that isn't
correct either. When you go inside you see that you must let by-gones be
by-gones. You are confronted with the tomb of Victor Emmanuel and set to
thinking on the recent glories of the House of Savoy. Really to
appreciate the Pantheon you must be well-posted in nineteenth-century
history. You keep up this train of thought till you happen to stumble on
the tomb of Raphael. That, of course, is what you ought to have come to
see in the first place.

"When you look at the column of Trajan you naturally think of Trajan,
you follow the spiral which celebrates his victories, till you come to
the top of the column; and there stands St. Peter as if it were _his_
monument. You meditate on the column of Marcus Aurelius, and look up and
see St. Paul in the place of honor.

"I must confess that I have had difficulty about the ruins. Brick,
particularly in this climate, doesn't show its age. I find it hard to
distinguish between a ruin and a building in the course of construction.
When I got out of the station I saw a huge brick building across the
street, which had been left unfinished as if the workmen had gone on
strike. I learned that it was the remains of the Baths of Diocletian.
Opening a door I found myself in a huge church, which had a long history
I ought to have known something about, but didn't.

"Now read this, and try to take it in: 'Returning to the Cancelleria, we
proceed to the Piazza Campo de' Fiori, where the vegetable market is
held in the morning, and where criminals were formerly executed. The
bronze statue of the philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burned here as
a heretic in 1600, was erected in 1889. To the east once lay the Theatre
of Pompey. Behind it lay the Porticus of Pompey where Cæsar was
murdered, B.C. 44.'

"It economizes space to have the vegetable market and the martyrdom of
Giordano Bruno and the assassination of Julius Cæsar all close together.
But they are too close. The imagination hasn't room to turn round.
Especially as the market-women are very much alive and cannot conceive
that any one would come into the Piazza unless he intended to buy
vegetables. Somehow the great events you have read about don't seem to
have impressed themselves on the neighborhood. At any rate, you are
conscious that you are the only person in the Piazza Campo de' Fiori who
is thinking about Giordano Bruno or Julius Cæsar; while the price of
vegetables is as intensely interesting as it was in the year 1600 A.D.
or in 44 B.C.

"How am I to get things in their right perspective? When I left home I
had a pretty clear and connected idea of history. There was a logical
sequence. One period followed another. But in these walks in Rome the
sequence is destroyed. History seems more like geology than like logic,
and the strata have all been broken up by innumerable convulsions of
nature. The Middle Ages were not eight or ten centuries ago; they are
round the next block. A walk from the Quirinal to the Vatican takes you
from the twentieth century to the twelfth. And one seems as much alive
as the other. You may go from schools where you have the last word in
modern education, to the Holy Stairs at the Lateran, where you will see
the pilgrims mounting on their knees as if Luther and his protest had
never happened. Or you can, in five minutes, walk from the Renaissance
period to 400 B.C.

"When I was in the theological seminary I had a very clear idea of the
difference between Pagan Rome and Christian Rome. When Constantine came,
Christianity was established. It was a wonderful change and made
everything different. But when you stroll across from the Arch of Titus
to the Arch of Constantine you wonder what the difference was. The two
things look so much alike. And in the Vatican that huge painting of the
triumph of Constantine over Maxentius doesn't throw much light on the
subject. Suppose the pagan Maxentius had triumphed over Constantine,
what difference would it have made in the picture?

"They say that seeing is believing, but here you see so many things that
are different from what you have always believed. The Past doesn't seem
to be in the past, but in the present. There is an air of
contemporaneousness about everything. Do you remember that story of
Jules Verne about a voyage to the moon? When the voyagers got a certain
distance from the earth they couldn't any longer drop things out of the
balloon. The articles they threw out didn't fall down. There wasn't any
down; everything was round about. Everything they had cast out followed
them. That's the way Rome makes you feel about history. That which
happened a thousand years ago is going on still. You can't get rid of
it. The Roman Republic is a live issue, and so is the Roman Empire, and
so is the Papacy.

"The other day they found a ruined Arch of Marcus Aurelius in Tripoli,
and began to restore it. New Italy is delighted at this confirmation of
its claims to sovereignty in North Africa. The newspapers treat Marcus
Aurelius as only a forerunner of Giolitti. By the way, I never heard of
Giolitti till I came over here. But it seems that he is a very great
man. But when ancient and modern history are mixed up it's hard to do
any clear thinking. And when you do get a clear thought you find out
that it isn't true. You know Dr. Johnson said something to the effect
that that man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain
force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose feelings would not grow
warmer among the ruins of Rome. Marathon is a simple proposition. But
when one is asked to warm his enthusiasm by means of the Roman
monuments, he naturally asks, 'Enthusiasm over what?' Of course, I don't
mean to give up. I'm faint though pursuing. But I'm afraid that Rome is
not a good place to rest in."

"I'm afraid not," I said, "if you insist on keeping on thinking. It is
not a good place in which to rest your mind."


I think Bagster is not the first person who has found intellectual
difficulty here. Rome exists for the confusion of the sentimental
traveler. Other cities deal tenderly with our preconceived ideas of
them. There is one simple impression made upon the mind. Once out of the
railway station and in a gondola, and we can dream our dream of Venice
undisturbed. There is no doge at present, but if there were one we
should know where to place him. The city still furnishes the proper
setting for his magnificence. And London with all its vastness has, at
first sight, a familiar seeming. The broad and simple outlines of
English history make it easy to reconceive the past.

But Rome is disconcerting. The actual refuses to make terms with the
ideal. It is a vast storehouse of historical material, but the
imagination is baffled in the attempt to put the material together.

When Scott was in Rome his friend "advised him to wait to see the
procession of Corpus Domini, and hear the Pope

  Saying the high, high mass
  All on St. Peter's day.

He smiled and said that these things were more poetical in the
description than in reality, and that it was all the better for him
not to have seen it before he wrote about it."

Sir Walter's instinct was a true one. Rome is not favorable to
historical romance. Its atmosphere is eminently realistic. The
historical romancer is flying through time as the air-men fly through
space. But the air-men complain that they sometimes come upon what
they call "air holes." The atmosphere seems suddenly to give way under
them. In Rome the element of Time on which the imagination has been
flying seems to lose its usual density. We drop through a Time-hole,
and find ourselves in an inglorious anachronism.

I am not sure that Bagster has had a more difficult time than his
predecessors, who have attempted to assort their historical material.
For in the days before historical criticism was invented, the history
of Rome was very luxuriant. "Seeing Rome" was a strenuous undertaking,
if one tried to be intelligent.

There was an admirable little guide-book published in the twelfth
century called "Mirabilia Urbis Romæ." One can imagine the old-time
tourist with this mediæval Baedeker in hand, issuing forth, resolved
to see Rome in three days. At the end of the first day his courage
would ooze away as he realized the extent of his ignorance. With a
hurried look at the guide-book and a glance at the varied assortment
of ruins, he would try to get his bearings. All the worthies of sacred
and profane history would be passing by in swift procession.

"After the sons of Noah built the tower of confusion, Noah with all
his sons came to Italy. And not far from the place where Rome now is
they founded a city in his name, where he brought his travail and life
to an end." To come to the city of Noah was worth a long journey. Just
think of actually standing on the spot where Shem, Ham, and Japhet
soothed the declining years of their father! It was hard to realize
it all. And it appears that Japhet, always an enterprising person,
built a city of his own on the Palatine Hill. There is the Palatine,
somewhat cluttered up with modern buildings of the Cæsars, but
essentially, in its outlines, as Japhet saw it.

But there were other pioneers to be remembered. "Saturn, being
shamefully entreated by his son Jupiter," founded a city on the
Capitoline Hill. One wonders what Shem, Ham, and Japhet thought of
this, and whether their sympathies were with Jupiter who was seeking
to get a place in the sun.

It is hard to understand the complicated politics of the day. At any
rate, a short time after, Hercules came with a band of Argives and
established a rival civic centre. In the meantime, Janus had become
mixed up with Roman history and was working manfully for the New
Italy. On very much the same spot "Tibris, King of the Aborigines"
built a city, which must be carefully distinguished from those before

All this happened before Romulus appeared upon the scene. One with a
clear and comprehensive understanding of this early history might
enjoy his first morning's walk in Rome. But to the middle-aged pilgrim
from the West Riding of Yorkshire, who had come to Rome merely to see
the tomb of St. Peter, it was exhausting.

But perhaps mediæval tradition did not form a more confusing
atmosphere than the sentimental admiration of a later day. In the
early part of the nineteenth century a writer begins a book on Rome in
this fashion: "I have ventured to hope that this work may be a guide
to those who visit this wonderful city, which boasts at once the
noblest remains of antiquity, and the most faultless works of art;
which possesses more claims to interest than any other city; which has
in every age stood foremost in the world; which has been the light of
the earth in ages past, the guiding star through the long night of
ignorance, the fountain of civilization to the whole Western world,
and which every nation reverences as the common nurse, preceptor, and

This notion of Rome as the venerable parent of civilization, to be
approached with tenderly reverential feelings, was easier to hold a
hundred years ago than it is to-day. There was nothing to contradict
it. One might muse on "the grandeur that was Rome," among picturesque
ruins covered with flowering weeds. But now a Rome that is obtrusively
modern claims attention. And it is not merely that the modern world is
here, but that our view of antiquity is modernized. We see it, not
through the mists of time, but as a contemporary might.

When Ferrero published his history we were startled by his realistic
treatment. It was as if we were reading a newspaper and following the
course of current events. Cæsar and Pompey and Cicero were treated as
if they were New York politicians. Where we had expected to see
stately figures in togas we were made to see hustling real-estate
speculators, and millionaires, and labor leaders, and ward
politicians, who were working for the prosperity of the city and,
incidentally, for themselves. It was all very different from our
notions of classic times which we had imbibed from our Latin lessons
in school. But it is the impression which Rome itself makes upon the

One afternoon, among the vast ruins of Hadrian's Villa, I tried to
picture the villa as it was when its first owner walked among the
buildings which his whim had created. The moment Hadrian himself
appeared upon the scene, antiquity seemed an illusion. How
ultra-modern he was, this man whom his contemporaries called "a
searcher out of strange things"! These ruins could not by the mere
process of time become venerable, for they were in their very nature
novelties. They were the playthings of a very rich man. There they lie
upon the ground like so many broken toys. They are just such things as
an enormously rich man would make to-day if he had originality enough
to think of them. Why should not Hadrian have a Vale of Tempe and a
Greek theatre and a Valley of Canopus, and ever so many other things
which he had seen in his travels, reproduced on his estate near

An historian of the Empire says: "The character of Hadrian was in the
highest degree complex, and this presents to the student a series of
apparently unreconciled contrasts which have proved so hard for many
modern historians to resolve. A thorough soldier and yet the
inaugurator of a peace policy, a 'Greekling' as his Roman subjects
called him, and saturated with Hellenic ideas, and yet a lover of
Roman antiquity; a poet and an artist, but with a passion for
business and finance; a voluptuary determined to drain the cup of
human experience and, at the same time, a ruler who labored
strenuously for the well-being of his subjects; such were a few of the
diverse parts which Hadrian played."

It is evident that the difficulty with the historians who find these
unreconciled contrasts is that they try to treat Hadrian as an
"ancient" rather than as a modern. The enormously rich men who are at
present most in the public eye present the same contradictions.
Hadrian was a thorough man of the world. There was nothing venerable
about him, though much that was interesting and admirable.

Now what a man of the world is to a simple character like a saint or a
hero, that Rome has been to cities of the simpler sort. It has been a
city of the world. It has been cosmopolitan. "Urbs et orbis" suggests
the historic fact. The fortunes of the city have become inextricably
involved in the fortunes of the world.

A part of the confusion of the traveler comes from the fact that the
Roman city and the Roman world are not clearly distinguished one from
the other. The New Testament writer distinguishes between Jerusalem as
a geographical fact and Jerusalem as a spiritual ideal. There has
been, he says, a Jerusalem that belongs to the Jews, but there is also
Jerusalem which belongs to humanity, which is free, which is "the
mother of us all."

So there has been a local Rome with its local history. And there has
been the greater Rome that has impressed itself on the imagination of
the world. Since the destruction of Carthage the meaning of the word
"Roman" has been largely allegorical. It has stood for the successive
ideas of earthly power and spiritual authority.

Rome absorbed the glory of deeds done elsewhere. Battles were fought
in far-off Asia and Africa. But the battlefield did not become the
historic spot. The victor must bring his captives to Rome for his
triumph. Here the pomp of war could be seen, on a carefully arranged
stage, and before admiring thousands. It was the triumph rather than
the battle that was remembered. All the interest culminated at this
dramatic moment. Rome thus became, not the place where history was
made, but the place where it was celebrated. Here the trumpets of
fame perpetually sounded.

This process continued after the Empire of the Cæsars passed away. The
continuity of Roman history has been psychological. Humanity has "held
a thought." Rome became a fixed idea. It exerted an hypnotic influence
over the barbarians who had overcome all else. The Holy Roman Empire
was a creation of the Germanic imagination, and yet it was a real
power. Many a hard-headed Teutonic monarch crossed the Alps at the
head of his army to demand a higher sanction for his own rule of
force. When he got himself crowned in the turbulent city on the Tiber
he felt that something very important had happened. Just how important
it was he did not fully realize till he was back among his own people
and saw how much impressed they were by his new dignities.

Hans Christian Andersen begins one of his stories with the assertion,
"You must know that the Emperor of China is a Chinaman and that all
whom he has about him are Chinamen also." The assertion is so logical
in form that we are inclined to accept it without question. Then we
remember that in Hans Christian Andersen's day, and for a long time
before, the Emperor of China was not a Chinaman and the great
grievance was that Chinamen were the very people he would not have
about him.

When we speak of the Roman Catholic Church, we jump at the conclusion
that it is the church of the Romans and that the people of Rome have
had the most to do with its extension. This theory has nothing to
recommend it but its extreme verbal simplicity. As a matter of fact,
Rome has never been noted for its pious zeal. Such warmth as it has
had has been imparted to it by the faithful who have been drawn from
other lands; as, according to some theorists, the sun's heat is kept
up by a continuous shower of meteors falling into it.

To-day, the Roman Church is more conscious of its strength in
Massachusetts than it is near the Vatican. At the period when the
Papacy was at its height, and kings and emperors trembled before it in
England and in Germany, the Popes had a precarious hold on their own
city. Rome was a religious capital rather than a religious centre. It
did not originate new movements. Missionaries of the faith have not
gone forth from it, as they went from Ireland. It is not in Rome that
we find the places where the saints received their spiritual
illuminations, and fought the good fight, and gathered their
disciples. Rome was the place to which they came for judgment, as Paul
did when he appealed to Cæsar. Here heretics were condemned, and here
saints, long dead, were canonized. Neither the doctrines nor the
institutions of the Catholic Church originated here. Rome was the
mint, not the mine. That which received the Roman stamp passed current
throughout the world.

In the political struggle for the New Italy, Rome had the same
symbolic character. Mazzini was never so eloquent as when portraying
the glories of the free Rome that was to be recognized, indeed, as the
mother of us all. The Eternal City, he believed, was to be the
regenerating influence, not only for Europe but for all the world. All
the romantic enthusiasm of Garibaldi flamed forth at the sight of
Rome. All other triumphs signified nothing till Rome was the
acknowledged capital of Italy. Silently and steadily Cavour worked
toward the same end. And at last Rome gathered to herself the glory
of the heroes who were not her own children.

If we recognize the symbolic and representative character of Roman
history, we can begin to understand the reason for the bewilderment
which comes to the traveler who attempts to realize it in imagination.
Roman history is not, like the tariff, a local issue. The most
important events in that history did not occur here at all, though
they were here commemorated. So it happens that every nation finds
here its own, and reinforces its traditions. In the Middle Ages, the
Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela, found much to interest him. In
Rome were to be found two brazen pillars of Solomon's Temple, and
there was a crypt where Titus hid the holy vessels taken from
Jerusalem. There was also a statue of Samson and another of Absalom.

The worthy Benjamin doubtless felt the same thrill that I did when
looking up at the ceiling of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. I was
told that it was gilded with the first gold brought from America. The
statement, that the church was founded on this spot because of a
vision that came to Pope Liberius in the year 305 A.D., left me
unmoved. It was of course a long time ago; but then, I had no mental
associations with Pope Liberius, and there was no encyclopædia at hand
in which I might look him up. Besides, "the church was reërected by
Sixtus III in the year 432, and was much altered in the twelfth
century." But the gold on the ceiling was a different matter. That was
romantically historical. It came from America in the heroic age. I
thought of the Spanish galleons that brought it over, and of Columbus
and Cortés and Alvarado. After that, to go into the Church of Santa
Maria Maggiore was like taking a trip to Mexico.

In the course of my daily walks, I passed the Church of Santa
Pudenziana, said to be the oldest in Rome, and recently modernized. It
is on the spot where Pudens, the host of St. Peter, is said to have
lived with his daughters Praxedis and Pudentiana. This is interesting,
but the English-speaking traveler is likely to pass by Pudaentiana's
church, and seek out the church of her sister St. Praxed. And this not
for the sake of St. Praxed or her father Pudens or even of his guest
St. Peter, but for the sake of a certain English poet who had visited
the church once.

Close to the Porta San Paolo is the great tomb of the Roman magnate,
Gaius Cestius, which was built before the birth of Christ. One can
hardly miss seeing it, because it is near one of the most sacred
pilgrimage places of Rome, the grave of John Keats.

Each traveler makes his own Rome; and the memories which he takes away
are the memories which he brought with him.


As for my friend Bagster, now that he has come to Rome, I hope he may
stay long enough to allow it to produce a more tranquilizing effect
upon him. When he gives up the attempt to take it all in by an
intellectual and moral effort, he may, as the saying is, "relax."

There is no other place in which one may so readily learn the meaning
of that misused word "urbanity." Urbanity is the state of mind adapted
to a city, as rusticity is adapted to the country. In each case the
perfection of the adaptation is evidenced by a certain ease of manner
in the presence of the environment. There is an absence of fret and
worry over what is involved in the situation. A countryman does not
fret over dust or mud; he knows that they are forms of the good earth
out of which he makes his living. He may grumble at the weather, but
he is not surprised at it, and he is ready to make the best of it.

This adaptation to nature is easy for us, for we are rustics by
inheritance. Our ancestors lived in the open, and kept their flocks
and were mighty hunters long before towns were ever thought of. So
when we go into the woods in the spring, our self-consciousness leaves
us and we speedily make ourselves at home. We take things for granted,
and are not careful about trifles. A great many things are going on,
but the multiplicity does not distract us. We do not need to

For we have primal sympathies which are very good substitutes for
intelligence. We do not worry because nature does not get on faster
with her work. When we go out on the hills on a spring morning, as our
forbears did ten thousand years ago, it does not fret us to consider
that things are going on very much as they did then. The sap is
mounting in the trees; the wild flowers are pushing out of the sod;
the free citizens of the woods are pursuing their vocations without
regard to our moralities. A great deal is going on, but nothing has
come to a dramatic culmination.

Our innate rusticity makes us accept all this in the spirit in which
it is offered to us. It is nature's way and we like it, because we are
used to it. We take what is set before us and ask no questions. It is
spring. We do not stop to inquire as to whether this spring is an
improvement on last spring or on the spring of the year 400 B.C. There
is a timelessness about our enjoyment. We are not thinking of events
set in a chronological order, but of a process which loses nothing by
reason of repetition.

Our attitude toward a city is usually quite different. We are not at
our ease. We are querulous and anxious, and our interest takes a
feverish turn. For the cities of our Western world are new-fangled
contrivances which we are not used to, and we are worried as we try to
find out whether they will work. These aggregations of humanity have
not existed long enough to seem to belong to the nature of things. It
is exciting to be invited to "see Seattle grow," but the exhibition
does not yield a "harvest of a quiet eye." If Seattle should cease to
grow while we are looking at it, what should we do then?

But with Rome it is different. Here is a city which has been so long
in existence that we look upon it as a part of nature. It is not
accidental or artificial. Nothing can happen to it but what has
happened already. It has been burned with fire, it has been ravaged by
the sword, it has been ruined by luxury, it has been pillaged by
barbarians and left for dead. And here it is to-day the scene of eager
life. Pagans, Christians, reformers, priests, artists, soldiers,
honest workmen, idlers, philosophers, saints, were here centuries ago.
They are here to-day. They have continuously opposed each other, and
yet no species has been exterminated. Their combined activities make
the city.

When one comes to feel the stirring of primal sympathies for the
manifold life of the city, as he does for the manifold life of the
woods, Rome ceases to be distracting. The old city is like the
mountain which has withstood the hurts of time, and remains for us,
"the grand affirmer of the present tense."



Stopping at some selected spot on the mountain road, the stage-driver
will direct the stranger's attention to a projecting mass of rock
which bears some resemblance to a human countenance. There is the "Old
Man of the Mountains," or the "Old Woman," as the case may be.

If the stranger be of a docile disposition he will see what he is told
to see. But he will be content with the vague suggestion and will not
push the analogy too far. The similitude is strictly confined to the
locality. It is enough if from a single point the mountain seems
almost human. From any other point it will seem to be merely

A similar caution is necessary in regard to the resemblances between a
nation and an individual. When we talk of a national character or
temperament, we are using an interesting and bold figure of speech.
We speak of millions of people as if they were one. Of course, a
nation is not one kind of person; it is composed of many kinds of
persons. These persons are diverse in character. All Scotchmen are not
canny, nor all Irishmen happy-go-lucky. Those who know a great many
Chinamen are acquainted with those who are idealists with little taste
for plodding industry. It is only the outsider who is greatly
impressed by the family resemblance. To the more analytic mind of the
parent each child is, in a most remarkable degree, different from the

When we take such typical characters as John Bull and Brother Jonathan
as representing actual Englishmen or Americans, we put ourselves in
the way of contradiction. They are not good likenesses. An English
writer says: "As the English, a particularly quick-witted race, tinged
with the colors of romance, have long cherished a false pride in their
reputed stolidity, and have accepted with pleasant equanimity the
figure of John Bull as their national signboard, though he does not
resemble them, so Americans plume themselves on the thought that they
are dying of nervous energy."

There is much truth in this. One may stand at Charing Cross and watch
the hurrying crowds and only now and then catch sight of any one who
suggests the burly John Bull of tradition. The type is not a common
one, at least among city dwellers.

But when we attribute a temperament to a nation, we do not necessarily
mean that all the people are alike. We only mean that there are
certain ways of thinking and feeling that are common to those who have
had the same general experience. The national temperament is
manifested not so much in what the people are as in what they admire
and instinctively appreciate.

Let us accept the statement that the English are a quick-witted and
romantic people who have accepted with pleasant equanimity the
reputation for being quite otherwise. Why should they do this? Why
should they take pride in their reputed stolidity rather than in their
actual cleverness. Here is a temperamental peculiarity that is worth
looking into.

John Bull may be a myth, but Englishmen have been the mythmakers. They
have for generations delighted in picturing him. He represents a
combination of qualities which they admire. Dogged, unimaginative,
well-meaning, honest, full of whimsical prejudices, and full of common
sense, he is loved and honored by those who are much more brilliant
than he.

John Bull is not a composite photograph of the inhabitants of the
British Isles. He is not an average man. He is a totem. When an Indian
tribe chooses a fox or a bear as a totem, they must not be taken too
literally. But the symbol has a real meaning. It indicates that there
are some qualities in these animals that they admire. They have proved
valuable in the tribal struggle for existence.

Those who belong to the cult of John Bull take him as the symbol of
that which has been most vital and successful in the island story.
England has had more than its share of men of genius. It has had its
artists, its wits, its men of quick imagination. But these have not
been the builders of the Empire, or those who have sustained it in the
hours of greatest need. Men of a slower temper, more solid than
brilliant, have been the nation's main dependence. "It's dogged as
does it." On many a hard-fought field men of the bull-dog breed have
with unflinching tenacity held their own. In times of revolution they
have maintained order, and never yielded to a threat. Had they been
more sensitive they would have failed. Their foibles have been easily
forgiven and their virtues have been gratefully recognized.

When we try to form an idea of that which is most distinctive in the
American temperament, we need not inquire what Americans actually are.
The answer to that question would be a generalization as wide as
humanity. They are of all kinds. Among the ninety-odd millions of
human beings inhabiting the territory of the United States are
representatives of all the nations of the Old World, and they bring
with them their ancestral traits.

But we may ask, When these diverse peoples come together on common
ground, what sort of man do they choose as their symbol? There is a
typical character understood and appreciated by all. In every
caricature of Uncle Sam or Brother Jonathan we can detect the
lineaments of the American frontiersman.

James Russell Lowell, gentleman and scholar that he was, describes a
type of man unknown to the Old World:--

  "This brown-fisted rough, this shirt-sleeved Cid,
  This backwoods Charlemagne of Empires new.
  Who meeting Cæsar's self would slap his back,
  Call him 'Old Horse' and challenge to a drink."

Mr. Lowell bore no resemblance to this brown-fisted rough. He would
not have slapped Cæsar on the back, and he would have resented being
himself greeted in such an unconventional fashion. Nevertheless he was
an American and was able to understand that a man might be capable of
such improprieties and at the same time be a pillar of the State. It
tickled his fancy to think of a fellow citizen meeting the imperial
Roman on terms of hearty equality.

  "My lungs draw braver air, my breast dilates
  With ampler manhood, and I face both worlds."

Dickens, with all his boisterous humor and democratic sympathies, could
not interpret Jefferson Brick and Lafayette Kettle and the other
expansive patriots whom he met on his travels. Their virtues were as a
sealed book to him. Their boastful familiarity was simply odious.

To understand Lowell's exhilaration one must enter into the spirit of
American history. It has been the history of what has been done by
strong men who owed nothing to the refinements of civilization. The
interesting events have taken place not at the centre, but on the
circumference of the country. The centrifugal force has always been the
strongest. There has been no capital to which ambitious youths went up
to seek their fortune. In each generation they have gone to the frontier
where opportunities awaited them. There they encountered, on the rough
edges of society, rough-and-ready men in whom they recognized their
natural superiors. These men, rude of speech and of manner, were
resourceful, bold, far-seeing. They were conscious of their power. They
were laying the foundations of cities and of states and they knew it.
They were as boastful as Homeric heroes, and for the same reason. There
was in them a rude virility that found expression in word as well as in

Davy Crockett, coon-hunter, Indian fighter, and Congressman, was a great
man in his day. It does not detract from his worth that he was well
aware of the fact. There was no false modesty about this backwoods
Charlemagne. He wrote of himself, "If General Jackson, Black Hawk, and
me were to travel through the United States we would bring out, no
matter what kind of weather, more people to see us than any other three
people now living among the fifteen millions now inhabiting the United
States. And what would it be for? As I am one of the persons mentioned I
would not press the question further. What I am driving at is this. When
a man rises from a low degree to a place he ain't used to, such a man
starts the curiosity of the world to know how he got along."

Davy Crockett understood the temper of his fellow citizens. A man who
rises by his own exertions from a low position to "a place he ain't used
to" is not only an object of curiosity, but he elicits enthusiastic
admiration. Any awkwardness which he exhibits in the position which he
has achieved is overlooked. We are anxious to know how he got along.

Every country has its self-made men, but usually they are made to feel
very uncomfortable. They are accounted intruders in circles reserved for
the choicer few. But in America they are assured of a sympathetic
audience when they tell of the way they have risen in the world. There
is no need for them to apologize for any lack of early advantages, for
they are living in a self-made country. We are in the habit of giving
the place of honor to the beginner rather than to the continuer. For the
finisher the time is not ripe.


The most vivid impressions of Americans have always been anticipatory.
They have felt themselves borne along by a resistless current, and that
current has, on the whole, been flowing in the right direction. They
have never been confronted with ruins that tell that the land they
inhabit has seen better days. Yesterday is vague; To-day may be
uncertain; To-morrow is alluring; and the Day after to-morrow is
altogether glorious. George Herbert pictured religion as standing on
tiptoe waiting to pass to the American strand. Not only religion but
every other good thing has assumed that attitude of expectant curiosity.

Even Cotton Mather could not avoid a tone of pious boastfulness when he
narrated the doings of New England. Everything was remarkable. New
England had the most remarkable providences, the most remarkable painful
preachers, the most remarkable heresies, the most remarkable witches.
Even the local devils were in his judgment more enterprising than those
of the old country. They had to be in order to be a match for the New
England saints.

The staid Judge Sewall, after a study of the prophecies, was of the
opinion that America was the only country in which they could be
adequately fulfilled. Here was a field large enough for those future
battles between good and evil which enthralled the Puritan imagination.
To be sure, it would be said, there isn't much just now to attract the
historian whose mind dwells exclusively on the past. But to one who dips
into the future it is thrilling. Here is the battlefield of Armageddon.
Some day we shall see "the spirits of devils working miracles, which go
forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather
them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Just _when_ that
might take place might be uncertain but _where_ it would take place was
to them more obvious.

In the days of small things the settlers in the wilderness had large
thoughts. They felt themselves to be historical characters, as indeed
they were. They were impressed by the magnitude of the country and by
the importance of their relation to it. Their language took on a cosmic

Ethan Allen could not have assumed a more masterful tone if he had had
an Empire at his back instead of undisciplined bands of Green Mountain
Boys. Writing to the Continental Congress, he declares that unless the
demands of Vermont are complied with "we will retire into the fastnesses
of our Green Mountains and will wage eternal warfare against Hell, the
Devil, and Human Nature in general." And Ethan Allen meant it.

The love of the superlative is deeply seated in the American mind. It is
based on no very careful survey of the existing world. It is a
conclusion to which it is easy to jump. I remember one week, traveling
through the Mississippi Valley, stopping every night in some town that
had something which was advertised as the biggest in the world. On
Friday I reached a sleepy little village which seemed the picture of
contented mediocrity. Here, thought I, I shall find no bigness to molest
me or make me afraid. But when I sat down to write a letter on the hotel
stationery I was confronted with the statement, "This is the biggest
little hotel in the State."

When one starts a tune it is safer to start it rather low, so as not to
come to grief on the upper notes. In discussing the American temperament
it is better to start modestly. Instead of asking what excellent
qualities we find in ourselves, we should ask what do other nations most
dislike in us. We can then have room to rise to better things. There is
a family resemblance between the worst and the best of any national
group. Kipling, in his lines "To an American," may set the tune for us.
It is not too high. His American is boastful, careless, and irrationally

  "Enslaved, illogical, elate,
    He greets the embarrassed gods, nor fears
  To shake the iron hand of Fate
    Or match with Destiny for beers."

A person who would offer to shake hands with Fate is certainly lacking
in a fine sense of propriety. His belief in equality makes him
indifferent to the note of distinction. "He dubs his dreary brethren
kings." Of course they are not kings, but that makes no difference. It
makes little difference whether anything corresponds to the name he
chooses to give to it. For there is

       "A cynic devil in his blood
  That bids him mock his hurrying soul."

This impression of a mingling of optimism, cynicism, and hurry is one
which is often made upon those who are suddenly plunged into American
society. In any company of Americans who are discussing public affairs
the stranger is struck by what seems the lack of logical connection
between the statements of facts and the judgments passed upon them. The
facts may be most distressing and yet nobody seems much distressed,
still less is any one depressed. The city government is in the hands of
grafters, the police force is corrupt, the prices of the necessaries of
life are extortionate, the laws on the statute book are not enforced,
and new laws are about to be enacted that are foolish in the extreme.
Vast numbers of undesirable aliens are coming into the country and
bringing with them ideas that are opposed to the fundamental principles
of the republic. All this is told with an air of illogical elation. The
conversation is interspersed with anecdotes of the exploits of
good-natured rascals. These are received with smiles or tolerant
laughter. Everyone seems to have perfect confidence that the country is
a grand and glorious place to live in, and that all will come out well
in the end.

Is this an evidence of a cynic humor in the blood, or is it a
manifestation of childish optimism? Let us frankly answer that it may be
one or the other or both. There are cynics and sentimentalists who are
the despair of all who are seriously working for better citizenship. But
the chances are that the men to whom our stranger was listening were
neither cynics nor sentimentalists, but idealists who had the American

Among those who laughed good-naturedly over the temporary success of the
clever rascal may have been those who had been giving their energies to
the work of prevention of just such misdeeds. They are reformers with a
shrewd twinkle in their eyes. They take a keen intellectual pleasure in
their work, and are ready to give credit to any natural talent in their
antagonist. If they are inclined to take a cheerful view of the whole
situation it is because they are in the habit of looking at the
situation as a whole. The predominance of force is actually on their
side and they see no reason to doubt the final result. They have learned
the meaning of the text, "Fret not thyself because of evildoers." In
fact the evildoer may not have done so much harm as one might think. Nor
is he really such a hopeless character. There is good stuff in him, and
he yet may be used for many good purposes. They laugh best who laugh
last, and their good-natured laughter was anticipatory. There are forces
working for righteousness which they have experienced. On the whole
things are moving in the right direction and they can afford to be

This is the kind of experience which comes to those who are habitually
dealing with crude materials rather than with finished products. They
cannot afford to be fastidious; they learn to take things as they come
and make the best of them. The doctrine that things are not as they seem
is a cheerful one, to a person who is accustomed to dealing with things
which turn out to be better than at first they seemed. The unknown takes
on a friendly guise and awakens a pleasant curiosity. That is the
experience of generations of pioneers and prospectors. They have found
a continent full of resources awaking men of courage and industry. The
opportunities were there; all that was needed was the ability to
recognize them when they appeared in disguise.


And the human problem has been the same as the material one. Europe has
sent to America not the finished products of her schools and her courts,
but millions of people for whom she had no room. They were in the rough;
they had to be made over into a new kind of citizen. This material has
often been of the most unpromising appearance. It has often seemed to
superficial observers that little could be made of it. But the attempt
has been made. And those who have worked with it, putting skill and
patience into their work, have been agreeably surprised. They have come
to see the highest possibilities in the commonest lumps of clay.

The satisfaction that is taken in the common man is not in what he
is at the present moment, but in what he has shown himself capable of
becoming. Give him a chance and all the graces may be his. The American
idealist admits that many of his fellow citizens may be rather dreary
brethren, but so were many of the kings of whom nothing is remembered
but their names and dates. Only now and then is one seen who is every
inch a king. But such a person is a proof of what may be accomplished.
It may take a long time for the rank and file to catch up with their
leaders. But where the few are to-day the many will be to-morrow; for
they are all travelling the same road.

The visitor in the United States, especially if he has spent his time in
the great cities of the East, may go away with the idea that democracy
is a spent force. He will see great inequalities in wealth and position.
He will be struck by the fact that autocratic powers are wielded which
would not be tolerated in many countries of Europe. He will notice that
it is very difficult to give direct expression to the will of the

But he will make a mistake if he attributes these things to the growth
of an aristocratic sentiment. They are a part of an evolution that is
thoroughly democratic. The distinctive thing in an aristocracy is not
the fact that certain people enjoy privileges. It lies in the fact that
these privileged people form a class that is looked upon as superior. An
aristocratic class must not only take itself seriously; it must be taken
seriously by others.

In America there are groups of persons more successful than the average.
They are objects of curiosity, and, if they are well-behaved, of
respect. Their comings and goings are chronicled in the newspapers, and
their names are familiar. But it does not occur to the average man that
they are anything more than fortunate persons who emerged from the
crowd, and who by and by may be lost in the crowd again. What they have
done, others may do when their time comes. The inequalities are
inequalities of circumstance and not of nature.

The commonplace American follows unworthy leaders and has admiration for
cheap success. But he cherishes no illusions in regard to the objects of
his admiration. They have done what he would like to do, and what he
hopes to be able to do sometime. He thinks of the successful men as
being of the same kind with himself. They are more fortunate, that is


The same temperamental quality is seen in the American idealist.
His attitude toward his spiritual leaders is seldom that of meek
discipleship. It is rather that of frank, outspoken comradeship. No
mysterious barrier separates the great man from the common man. One has
more, the other has less, that is all.

The men who have cherished the finest ideals have insisted that these
should be shared by the multitude. In a newspaper of sixty years ago
there is this contemporary character sketch: "Ralph Waldo Emerson is
the most erratic and capricious man in America. He is emphatically a
democrat of the world, and believes that what Plato thought, another man
may think. What Shakespeare sang, another man may know as well. As for
emperors, kings, queens, princes, or presidents, he looks upon them as
children in masquerade. He has no patience with the chicken-hearted who
refer to mouldy records or old almanacs to ascertain if they may say
that their souls are their own. Mr. Emerson is a strange compound of
contradictions. Always right in practice, and sometimes in theory. He is
a sociable, accessible, republican sort of man, and a great admirer of

Could any better description be given of the kind of man whom Americans
delight to honor? This "sociable, accessible, republican sort of man"
happened to be endowed with gifts denied in such full measure to his
countrymen. But they were gifts which they understood and appreciated.
He was one of them, and expressed and interpreted their habitual
thought. Luther used to declare that no one who had never had trials and
temptations could understand the Holy Scriptures. And one might say that
no one who had never taken part in a town meeting, or listened to the
talk of neighbors at the country store, or traveled in an "accommodation
train" in the Middle West, can fully understand Emerson.

Critics have often written of the optimism of Emerson as if he were one
of those who did not perceive the darker side of things. Nothing could
be more untrue to his temper of mind. Emerson was cheerful, but he never
pretended that the world was an altogether cheerful place to live in.
Indeed, it distinctly needed cheering up, and that, according to him, is
what we are here for.

It might be possible to make out a list of matters of fact treated by
Emerson and his friend Carlyle. They would be essentially the same. When
it came to hard facts, one was as unflinching in his recognition as the
other. There was nothing smug in Emerson's philosophy. He never took an
apologetic attitude nor attempted to minimize difficulties. There was no
attempt to justify the ways of God to man. But while agreeing in regard
to the facts the friends differed as to their conclusions. In reading
Carlyle one seems to stand at the end of a world struggle that has
proved unavailing. Everything has been tried, and everything has failed.
Alas! Alas!

Emerson sees the same facts, but he seems to be standing at the
beginning. The moral world is still without form and void, but the
creative spirit is brooding upon it. "Sweet is the genesis of things."
Emerson is pleased with the world, not because he thinks its present
condition is very good, but because he sees so much room for it to
become better. It is a most promising experiment. It furnishes an
abundance of the raw materials of righteousness.

Nor does he flatter himself that the task of betterment is an easy one,
or that the end is in sight. It is not a world where wishes, even good
wishes, are fulfilled without effort. There are inexorable laws not of
our making. The whims of good people are not respected.

  "For Destiny never swerves
     Nor yields to man the helm."

The struggle is stem and unrelenting. It taxes all our energies. And
yet it is exhilarating. There is a moral quick-wittedness which sees
the smile behind the threatening mask of Fate. Destiny is after all a
good comrade for the brave and the self-reliant.

  "He forbids to despair,
     His cheeks mantle with mirth,
   And the unimagined good of man
     Is yeaning at the birth."

The riddle of existence is seen not from the Old World point of view,
but from that of the new. It is of the nature of a surprise. The Sphinx
of Emerson is not carved in stone. It is not silent and motionless,
waiting for answers that do not come.

It is the American Sphinx leading in a game of hide-and-seek. The
mystery of existence baffles us, not because there is no answer, but
because there are so many. They are infinite in number, and all of them
are true. They wait for the mind large enough to harbor them in all
their variety, and serene enough not to be annoyed because their
contradictions are not at once reconciled.

The catalogue of ills may be never so long, but it fails to depress one
who sees everything in the making.

  "I heard a poet answer
    Aloud and cheerfully,
  'Say on, sweet Sphinx! thy dirges
    Are pleasant songs to me.'

       *      *       *       *       *

  "Uprose the merry Sphinx,
    And crouched no more in stone;
  She melted into purple cloud.
    She silvered in the moon."

This conception of the merry Sphinx may seem strange to the dyspeptic
philosopher pondering on the inscrutableness of the universe. But the
prospectors in the mining camps of the Far West, and the builders of new
cities understand what Emerson meant. Their experience of the ups and
downs of fortune has taught them how to find pleasure in uncertainty.
You never can tell how anything will turn out till you try. That's the
fun of it. They are quite ready to believe that the same thing holds
good in the higher life.

Or take the lines on "Worship." How can Worship be personified?
Emerson's picture is not that of a patriarch on bended knee; it is that
of a vigorous youth picking himself up after he has been knocked down by
his antagonist.

  "This is he, who, felled by foes,
   Sprung harmless up, refreshed by blows."

Religion is a kind of spiritual resilience. It is that which makes a man
come back with new vigor to his work after his first failure. It is the
ability to make a new beginning.

In Emerson the American hurry is transformed into something of spiritual
significance. A new commandment is given to the good man--Be quick! Keep

  "Trenchant Time behoves to hurry,

       *       *       *       *       *

  O wise man, hearest thou the least part,
  Seest them the rushing metamorphosis,

  Dissolving all that fixture is,
  Melts things that be to things that seem."

Morality and religion must be speeded up if they are to do any useful
work in this swift world.

If the ideals of the saints and reformers were criticized, so were those
of the scholars. Matthew Arnold's definition of culture was that of a
man of books. It was the knowledge of the best that had been said and
known in the past. Emerson's lines entitled "Culture" begin with a
characteristic question and end with an equally characteristic
affirmation. The question is--

  "Can rules or tutors educate
   The semigod whom we await?"

The affirmation is that the man of culture is one who

            "to his native centre fast,
      Shall into Future fuse the Past,
  And the world's flowing fates in his own mould recast."

According to this definition Abraham Lincoln, with his slight knowledge
of the best things of the past, but with the power to fuse such
knowledge as he had and to recast it in his own mould, was a man of
culture. And all true Americans would agree with him.

Emerson, like the "sociable, accessible, republican sort of man" that he
was, was the foe of special privilege. The best things were, in his
judgment, the property of all. He would take religion from the custody
of the priests, and culture from the hands of schoolmasters, and restore
them to their proper place, among the inalienable rights of man. They
were simply forms of the pursuit of happiness of which the Declaration
of Independence speaks. It is a right of which no potentates can justly
deprive the citizen.

Above all, he would protest against everything which tends to deprive
anyone of the happiness of the forward look. There was a cheerful
confidence that the great forces are on our side. Now and then the
clouds gather and obscure the vision, but:

  "There are open hours
   When God's will sallies free
   And the dull idiot may see
   The flowing fortunes of a thousand years."

This is the American doctrine of "Manifest Destiny" spiritually


But one need not go so far back as Emerson to see the higher reaches of
the American temperament. Perhaps in no one have they been revealed with
more distinctness than in William James. There are those who consider it
dispraise of a philosopher to suggest that his work has local color.
However that may be, William James thought as an American as certainly
as Plato thought as a Greek. His way of philosophizing was one that
belonged to the land of his birth.

He was as distinctly American as was Daniel Boone. Daniel Boone was no
renegade taking to the woods that he might relapse into savagery. He was
a civilized man who preferred to be the maker of civilization rather
than to be its victim. He preferred to blaze his own way through the
forest. When he saw the smoke of a neighbor's chimney it was time for
him to move on. So William James was led by instinct from the crowded
highways to the dim border-lands of human experience. He preferred to
dwell in the debatable lands. With a quizzical smile he listened to the
dignitaries of philosophy. He found their completed systems too stuffy.
He loved the wildernesses of thought where shy wild things hide--half
hopes, half realities. They are not quite true now,--but they may be by
and by.

As other men are interested in the actual, so he was interested in the
possible. The possibilities are not so highly finished as the facts that
have been proved, but there are a great many more of them, and they are
much more important. There are more things in the unexplored forest than
in the clearing at its edge. Truth to him was not a field with metes
and bounds. It was a continent awaiting settlement. First the bold
pathfinders must adventure into it. Its vast spaces were infinitely
inviting, its undeveloped resources were alluring. And not only did
the path-finder interest him but the path-loser as well. But for his
heedless audacity the work of exploration would languish. Was ever a
philosopher so humorously tender to the intellectual vagabonds, the
waifs and strays of the spiritual world!

Their reports of vague meanderings in the border-land were listened
to without scorn. They might be ever so absent-minded and yet have
stumbled upon something which wiser men had missed. No one was more
keen to criticize the hard-and-fast dogmas of the wise and prudent or
more willing to learn what might, by chance, have been revealed unto
babes. The one thing he demanded was space. His universe must not be
finished or inclosed. After a rational system had been formulated and
declared to be the Whole, his first instinct was to get away from it.
He was sure that there must be more outside than there was inside.
"The 'through-and-through' universe seems to suffocate me with its
infallible, impeccable all-pervasiveness. Its necessity with no
possibilities, its relations with no subjects, make me feel as if
I had entered into a contract with no reserved rights."

Formal philosophy seemed to him to be "too buttoned-up and
white-chokered and clean-shaven a thing to speak for the vast,
slow-breathing, unconscious Kosmos with its dread abysses and its
unknown tides. The freedom we want is not the freedom, with a string
tied to its leg and warranted not to fly away, of that philosophy. Let
it fly away, we say, from _us_. What then?"

To this American there must be a true democracy among the faculties of
the mind. The logical understanding must not be allowed to put on
priggish airs. The feelings have their rights also. "They may be as
prophetic and as anticipatory of truth as anything else we have." There
must be give and take; "what hope is there of squaring and settling
opinions unless Absolutism will hold parley on this common ground and
admit that all philosophies are hypotheses, to which all our faculties,
emotional as well as logical, help us, and the truest of which will in
the final integration of things be found in possession of the men whose
faculties on the whole had the best divining power?"

Do not those words give us a glimpse of the American mind in its natural
working. Its genius is anticipatory. It is searching for a common ground
on which all may meet. It puts its trust not in the thinker who can put
his thoughts in the most neat form, but the man whose faculties have _on
the whole the best divining power_.

To listen to William James was to experience an illogical elation--and
to feel justified in it. He was an unsparing critic of things as they
are, but his criticism left us in no mood of depression. Our interest is
with things as they are going to be. The universe is growing. Let us
grow with it.



When, as a child, I learned the Westminster Catechism by heart I found
the Ten Commandments easy to remember. There was something
straightforward in these prohibitions. Once started in the right
direction one could hardly stray from the path. But I stumbled over the
question, in regard to certain Commandments, "What are the reasons

That a commandment should be committed to memory seemed just. I was
prepared to submit to the severest tests of verbal accuracy. But that
there should be "reasons annexed," and that these also should be
remembered, seemed to my youthful understanding a grievance. It made the
path of the obedient hard. To this day there is a haziness about the
"reasons" that contrasts with the sharp outlines of the commandments.

I fancy that news-gatherers have the same experience. They are diligent
in collecting items of news and reporting them to the world, but it is a
real hardship to them to have to give any rational account of these bits
of fact. They tell what is done in different parts of the world, but
they forget to mention "the moving why they did it." The consequence is
that, in this age of instantaneous communication, we know what is going
on in other countries, but it seems very irrational. The rational
elements have been lost in the process of transmission.

There has, for example, been no lack of news cabled across the Atlantic
in regard to the nominations for President of the United States. The
European reader is made aware that a great deal of strong feeling has
been evoked, and strong language used. When a picturesque term of
reproach has been hurled by one candidate at another it is promptly
reported to a waiting world. But the "reasons annexed" are calmly
ignored. The consequence is that the reader is confirmed in his
exaggerated idea of the nervous irritability of the American people.
There seems to be a periodicity in their seizures. At intervals of four
years they indulge in an orgy of mutual recrimination, and then suddenly
return to their normal state of money-getting. It is all very
unaccountable. Doubtless the most charitable explanation is the climate.

It was after giving prominence to an unusually vivid bit of political
vituperation that a conservative London newspaper remarked, "All this is
characteristically American, but it shocks the unaccustomed ears of

As I read the rebuke I felt positively ashamed of my country and its
untutored ways. I pictured Europe as a dignified lady of mature years
listening to the screams issuing from her neighbor's nursery. She had
not been used to hearing naughty words called out in such a loud tone of
voice. Instead of discussing their grievances calmly, they were actually
calling one another names.

It was therefore with a feeling of chastened humility that I turned to
the columns devoted to the more decorous doings of Europe. Here I should
find examples worthy of consideration. They are drawn from the homes of
ancient civility. Would that our rude politicians might be brought under
these refining influences and learn how to behave!

But alas! When we drop in upon our neighbors, unannounced, things are
sometimes not so tidy as they are on the days "at home." The hostess is
flustered and evidently has troubles of her own. So, as ill-luck would
have it, it is with Dame Europe's household. The visitor from across the
Atlantic is surprised at the obstreperousness of the more vigorous
members of the family. Evidently a great many interesting things are
going on, but the standard of deportment is not high.

While the unaccustomed ears of Europe were shocked at the shrill cries
from the rival conventions at Chicago and Baltimore, there was equal
turbulence in the Italian Parliament at Rome. There were shouts and
catcalls and every sign of uncontrollable violence. What are the
"reasons annexed" to all this uproar? I do not know. In Budapest such
unparliamentary expressions as "swine," "liar," "thief," and "assassin"
were freely used in debate. An honorable member who had been expelled
for the use of too strong language, returned to "shoot up" the House.
The chairman, after dodging three shots, declared that he must
positively insist on better order.

In the German Reichstag a member threatens the Kaiser with the fate of
Charles the First, if he does not speedily mend his ways. He suggests as
a fit Imperial residence the castle where the Mad King of Bavaria was
allowed to exercise his erratic energies without injury to the
commonweal. At the mention of Charles the First the chamber was in an
uproar, and amid a tumult of angry voices the session was brought to a

In Russia, unseemly clamor is kept from the carefully guarded ears of
the Czar. There art conspires with nature to produce peace. We read of
the Czar's recent visit to his ancient capital: "The police during the
previous night made three thousand arrests. The Czar and Czarina drove
through the city amid the ringing of bells, and with banners flying."

On reading this item the American reader plucks up heart. If, during the
Chicago convention, the police had made three thousand arrests the
sessions might have been as quiet as those of the Duma.

Even the proceedings of the British House of Commons are disappointing
to the pilgrim in search of decorum. The Mother of Parliaments has
trouble with her unruly brood.

We enter the sacred precincts as a Member rises to a point of order.

"I desire to ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the honorable
gentleman is entitled to allude to Members of the House as miscreants."

The Speaker: "I do not think the term 'miscreant' is a proper
Parliamentary expression."

This is very elementary teaching, but it appears that Mr. Speaker is not
infrequently compelled to repeat his lesson. It is "line upon line and
precept upon precept."

The records of the doings of the House contain episodes which would be
considered exciting in Arizona. We read: "For five minutes the Honorable
George Lansbury defied the Speaker, insulted the Prime Minister, and
scorned the House of Commons. He raved in an ecstasy of passion;
challenging, taunting, and defying." The trouble began with a statement
of Mr. Asquith's. "Then up jumped Mr. Lansbury, his face contorted with
passion, and his powerful rasping voice dominating the whole House.
Shouting and waving his arms, he approached the Government Front Bench
with a curious crouching gait, like a boxer leaving his corner in the
ring. One or two Liberals on the bench behind Mr. Asquith half rose, but
the Prime Minister sat stolidly gazing above the heads of the
opposition, his arms folded, and his lips pursed. Mr. Lansbury had
worked himself up into a state of frenzy and, facing the Prime Minister,
he shouted, 'You are beneath my contempt! Call yourself a gentleman! You
ought to be driven from public life.'"

I cannot remember any scene like this in Disraeli's novels. The House of
Commons used to be called the best club in Europe. But that, says the
Conservative critic, was before the members were paid.


But certain changes, like the increased cost of living, are going on
everywhere. The fact seems to be that all over the civilized world there
is a noticeable falling-off in good manners in public discussion. It is
useless for one country to point the finger of scorn at another, or to
assume an air of injured politeness. It is more conducive to good
understanding to join in a general confession of sin. We are all
miserable offenders, and there is little to choose between us. The
conventionalities which bind society together are like the patent glue
we see advertised on the streets. A plate has been broken and then
joined together. The strength of the adhesive substance is shown by the
way it holds up a stone of considerable weight attached to it. The plate
thus mended holds together admirably till it is put in hot water.

I have no doubt but that a conservative Chinese gentleman would tell you
that since the Republic came in there has been a sad falling-off in the
observance of the rules of propriety as laid down by Confucius. The
Conservative newspapers of England bewail the fact that there has been a
lamentable change since the present Government came in. The arch
offender is "that political Mahdi, Lloyd George, whose false prophecies
have made deluded dervishes of hosts of British workmen, and who has
corrupted the manners of Parliament itself."

This wicked Mahdi, by his appeals to the passions of the populace, has
destroyed the old English reverence for Law.

I do not know what may be the cause, but the American visitor does
notice that the English attitude towards the laws of the realm is not so
devout as he had been led to expect. We have from our earliest youth
been taught to believe that the law-abidingness of the Englishman was
innate and impeccable. It was not that, like the good man of whom the
Psalmist speaks, he meditated on the law day and night. He didn't need
to. Decent respect for the law was in his blood. He simply could not
help conforming to it.

And this impression is confirmed by the things which the tourist goes to
see. The stately mansions embowered in green and guarded by immemorial
oaks are accepted as symbolic of an ordered life. The multitudinous
rooks suggest security which comes from triumphant legality. No
irresponsible person shoots them. When one enters a cathedral close he
feels that he is in a land that frowns on the crudity of change. Here
everything is a "thousand years the same." And how decent is the
demeanor of a verger!

When the pilgrim from Kansas arrives at an ancient English inn he feels
that he must be on his good behavior. Boots in his green apron is a
lesson to him. He is not like a Western hotel bell-boy on the way to
becoming something else. He knows his place. Everybody, he imagines, in
this country knows his place, and there is no unseemly crowding and
pushing. And what stronger proof can there be that this is a land where
law is reverenced than the demeanor of a London policeman. There is no
truculence about him, no show of physical force. He is so mild-eyed and
soft of speech that one feels that he has been shielded from rude
contact with the world. He represents the Law in a land where law is
sacred. He is instinctively obeyed. He has but to wave his hand and
traffic stops.

When the traveler is told that in the vicinity of the House of Commons
traffic is stopped to allow a Member to cross the street, his admiration
increases. Fancy a Congressman being treated with such respect! But the
argument which, on the whole, makes the deepest impression is the
deferential manners of the tradesmen with their habit of saying, "Thank
you," apropos of nothing at all. It seems an indication of perpetual
gratitude over the fact that things are as they are.

But when one comes to listen to the talk of the day one is surprised to
find a surprising lack of docility. I doubt whether the Englishman has
the veneration for the abstract idea of Law which is common among
Americans. Indeed, he is accustomed to treat most abstractions with
scant courtesy. There is nothing quite corresponding to the average
American's feeling about a decision of the Supreme Court. The Law has
spoken, let all the land keep silent. It seems like treason to criticize
it, like anarchy to defy it.

Tennyson's words about "reverence for the laws ourselves have made"
needs to be interpreted by English history. It is a peculiar kind of
reverence and has many limitations. A good deal depends on what is meant
by "ourselves." An act of Parliament does not at once become an object
of reverence by the members of the opposition party. It was not, they
feel, made by _them_, it was made by a Government which was violently
opposed to them and which was bent on ruining the country.

It is only after a sufficient time has elapsed to allow for the partisan
origin to be forgotten, and for it to become assimilated to the habits
of thought and manner of life of the people that it is deeply respected.
The English reverence is not for statute law, but for the common law
which is the slow accretion of ages. A new enactment is treated like the
new boy at school. He must submit to a period of severe hazing before he
is given a place of any honor.

To the American when an act of Congress has been declared
constitutional, a decent respect for the opinion of mankind seems to
suggest that verbal criticism should cease. The council of perfection is
that the law should be obeyed till such time as it can be repealed or
explained away. If it should become a dead letter, propriety would
demand that no evil should be spoken of it. Since the days of Andrew
Jackson the word "nullification" has had an ugly and dangerous sound.

But to the Englishman this attitude seems somewhat superstitious. The
period of opposition to a measure is not ended when it has passed
Parliament and received the royal assent. The question is whether it
will receive the assent of the people. Can it get itself obeyed? If it
can, then its future is assured for many generations. But it must pass
through an exciting period of probation.

If it is a matter that arouses much feeling the British way is for some
one to disobey and take the consequences. Passive resistance--with such
active measures as may make the life of the enforcers of the law a
burden to them--is a recognized method of political and religious

In periods when the national life has run most swiftly this kind of
resistance to what has been considered the tyranny of lawmakers has
always been notable. Emerson's "the chambers of the great are jails" was
literally true of the England of the seventeenth century. Every one who
made any pretension to moral leadership was intent on going to jail in
behalf of some principle or another.

John Bunyan goes to jail rather than attend the parish church, George
Fox goes to jail rather than take off his hat in the presence of the
magistrate. Why should he do so when there was no Scripture for it? When
it was said that the Scripture had nothing to say about hats, he was
ready with his triumphant reference to Daniel III, 21, where it is said
that the three Hebrew children wore "their coats, their hosen, their
hats and their other garments" in the fiery furnace. If Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego wore their hats before Nebuchadnezzar and kept
them on even in the fiery furnace, why should a free-born Englishman
take his hat off in the presence of a petty Justice of the Peace?
Fervent Fifth Monarchy men were willing to die rather than acknowledge
any king but King Jesus who was about to come to reign. Non-juring
bishops were willing to go to jail rather than submit to the judgment of
Parliament as to who should be king in England. Puritans and Covenanters
of the more logical sort refused to accept toleration unless it were
offered on their own terms. They had been a "persecuted remnant" and
they proposed to remain such or know the reason why.

Beneath his crust of conformity the Briton has an admiration for these
recalcitrant individuals who will neither bow the knee to Baal nor to
his betters. He likes a man who is a law unto himself. Though he has
little enthusiasm for the abstract "rights of man," he is a great
believer in "the liberty of prophesying." The prophet is not without
honor, even while he is being stoned.

Just at this time things are moving almost as rapidly as they did in the
seventeenth century. There is the same clash of opinion and violence of
party spirit. All sorts of non-conformities struggle for a hearing. One
is reminded of that most stirring period, which is so delightful to read
about, and which must have been so trying for quiet people to live

A host of earnest and wide-awake persons are engaged in the task of
doing what they are told not to do. Their enthusiasm takes the form of
resistance to some statute made or proposed.

The conscientious women who throw stones through shop windows, and lay
violent hands on cabinet ministers, do so, avowedly, to bring certain
laws into disrepute. They go on hunger-strikes, not in order to be
released from prison, but in order to be treated as political prisoners.
They insist that their methods should be recognized as acts of
legitimate warfare. They may be extreme in their actions, but they are
not alone in their theory.

The Insurance Law, by which all workers whose wages are below a certain
sum are compulsorily insured against sickness and the losses that follow
it, is just going into effect. Its provisions are necessarily
complicated, and its administration must at first be difficult. The
Insurance-Law Resisters are organized to nullify the act. Its enormities
are held up before all eyes, and it is flouted in every possible way.
According to this law, a lady is compelled to pay three-pence a week
toward the insurance fund for each servant in her employ. Will she pay
that three-pence? No! Though twenty acts of Parliament should declare
that it must be done, she will resist. As for keeping accounts, and
putting stamps in a book, she will do nothing of the kind. What is it
about a stamp act that arouses such fierceness of resistance?

High-born ladies declare that they would rather go to jail than obey
such a law. At a meeting at Albert Hall the Resisters were addressed by
a duchess who was "supported by a man-servant." What can a mere Act of
Parliament do when confronted by such a combination as that? Passive
resistance takes on heroic proportions when a duchess and a man-servant
confront the Law with haughty immobility.

In the mean time, Mr. Tom Mann goes to jail, amid the applause of
organized labor, for advising the British soldier not to obey orders
when he is commanded to fire on British working-men.

Mr. Tom Mann is a labor agitator, while Mr. Bonar Law is the leader of
the Conservative party; but when it comes to legislation which he does
not like, Mr. Bonar Law's language is fully as incendiary. He is not
content with opposing the Irish Home Rule Bill: he gives notice that
when it has become a law the opposition will be continued in a more
serious form. The passage of the bill, he declares, will be the signal
for civil war. Ulster will fight. Parliament may pass the Home Rule
Bill, but when it does so its troubles will have just begun. Where will
it find the troops to coerce the province?

One of the most distinguished Unionist Members of Parliament, addressing
a great meeting at Belfast says, "You are sometimes asked whether you
propose to resist the English army? I reply that even if this Government
had the wickedness (which, on the whole, I believe), it is wholly
lacking in the nerve required to give an order which in my deliberate
judgment would shatter for years the civilization of these islands." If
the Government does not have the nerve to employ its troops, "It will be
for the moon-lighters and the cattle-maimers to conquer Ulster
themselves, and it will be for you to show whether you are worse men, or
your enemies better men, than the forefathers of you both. But I note
with satisfaction that you are preparing yourselves by the practice of
exercises, and by the submission to discipline, for the struggle which
is not unlikely to test your determination. The Nationalists are
determined to rule you. You are determined not to be ruled. A collision
of wills so sharp may well defy the resources of a peaceful solution....
On this we are agreed, that the crisis has called into existence one of
those supreme issues of conscience amid which the ordinary landmarks of
permissible resistance to technical law are submerged."

When one goes to the Church to escape from these sharp antagonisms, he
is confronted with huge placards giving notice of meetings to protest
against "The Robbery of God." The robber in this case is the Government,
which proposes to disendow, as well as disestablish, the Church in
Wales. Noble lords denounce the outrage. Mr. Lloyd George replies by
reminding their lordships that their landed estates were, before the
dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, Church property. If
they wish to make restitution of the spoil which their ancestors took,
well and good. But let them not talk about the robbery of God, while
their hands are "dripping with the fat of sacrilege."

The retort is effective, but it does not make Mr. Lloyd George beloved
by the people to whom it is addressed. Twitting on facts has always been
considered unmannerly.


When we hear the acrimonious discussions and the threats of violence, it
is well to consider the reason for it all. I think the reason is one
that is not discreditable to those concerned. These are not ordinary
times, and they are not to be judged by ordinary standards. England is
at the present time passing through a revolution, the issues of which
are still in doubt. Revolutionary passions have been liberated by the
rapid course of events. "Every battle of the warrior is with confused
noise." The confused noise may be disagreeable to persons of sensitive
nerves, but it is a part of the situation.

When we consider the nature of the changes that have been made in the
last few years, and the magnitude of those which are proposed, we do not
wonder at the tone of exasperation which is common to all parties.

It is seldom that a constitutional change, like that which deprived the
House of Lords of powers exercised for a thousand years, has been made
without an appeal to arms. But there was no civil war. Perhaps the old
fashion of sturdy blows would have been less trying to the temper.

A revolution is at the best an unmannerly proceeding. It cannot be
carried on politely, because it involves not so much a change of ideas
and methods as a change of masters. A change of ideas may be discussed
in an amiable and orderly way. The honorable gentlemen who have the
responsibility for the decision are respectfully asked to revise their
opinions in the light of new evidence which, by their leave, will be

But a change of masters cannot be managed so inoffensively. The
honorable gentlemen are not asked to revise their opinions. They are
told that their opinions are no longer important. The matter is severely
personal. The statement is not, "We do not believe in your ideas"; it
is, "We do not believe in _you_."

When political discussion takes this turn, then there is an end to the
amenities suited to a more quiet time. It is no longer a question as to
which is the better cause, but as to which is the better man.

Mr. Asquith, who has retained in this revolutionary period the manners
of the old school, recently said in his reply to a delegation of his
opponents, "When people are on opposite sides of a chasm they may be
courteous to one another, and regret the impossibility of their shaking
hands, or doing more than wave a courteous gesture across so wide a

These are the words of a gentleman in politics, and express a beautiful
ideal. But they hardly describe the present situation. As to waving a
courteous salutation to the people on the other side,--that depends on
who the people are. If you know them and have been long familiar with
their good qualities, the courteous salutation is natural. They are, as
you know, much better than their opinions.

But it is different when they are people whom you do not know, and with
whom you have nothing in common. You suspect their motives, and feel a
contempt for their abilities. They are not of your set. The word
"gentleman" is derived from the word _gens_. People of the same _gens_
learn to treat each other in a considerate way. Even when they differ
they remember what is due to gentle blood and gentle training.

It is quite evident that the challenge of the new democracy to the old
ruling classes has everywhere produced exasperation. It is no longer
easy to wave courteous salutations across the chasms which divide
parties. Political discussion takes a rude turn. It is no longer
possible to preserve the proprieties. We may expect the minor moralities
to suffer while the major moralities are being determined by hard

Good manners depend on the tacit understanding of all parties as to
their relations to one another. Nothing can be more brutal than for one
to claim superiority, or more rude than for another to dispute the
claim. Such differences of station should, if they exist, be taken for

Relations which were established by force may, after a time, be made so
beautiful that their origin is forgotten. There must be no display of
unnecessary force. The battle having been decided, victor and vanquished
change parts. It pleases the conqueror to sign himself, "Your obedient
servant," and to inquire whether certain terms would be agreeable. Of
course they would be agreeable. So says the disarmed man looking upward
to his late foe, now become his protector.

And the conqueror with grave good will takes up the burden which
Providence has imposed upon him. Is not the motto of the true knight,
_Ich dien_? Such service as he can render shall be given ungrudgingly.

Now, this is not hypocrisy. It may be Christianity and Chivalry and all
sorts of fine things. It is making the best of an accepted situation.
When relations which were established by force have been sanctioned by
custom, and embodied in law, and sanctified by religion, they form a
soil in which many pleasant things may grow. In the vicinity of Vesuvius
they will tell you that the best soils are of volcanic origin.

Hodge and Sir Lionel meet in the garden which one owns, and in which the
other digs with the sweat of his brow. There is kindly interest on the
one hand, and decent respect on the other. But all this sense of ordered
righteousness is dependent on one condition. Neither must eat of the
fruit of the tree of knowledge that grows in the midst of the garden. A
little knowledge is dangerous, a good deal of knowledge may be even more
dangerous, to the relations which custom has established.

What right has Sir Lionel to lay down the law for Hodge? Why should not
Hodge have a right to have his point of view considered? When Hodge
begins seriously to ponder this question his manners suffer. And when
Sir Lionel begins to assert his superiority, instead of taking it for
granted, his behavior lacks its easy charm. It is very hard to explain
such things in a gentlemanly way.

Now, the exasperation in the tone of political discussion in Great
Britain, as elsewhere in the world, is largely explained by the fact
that all sorts of superiorities have been challenged at the same time.
Everywhere the issue is sharply made. "Who shall rule?"

Shall Ireland any longer submit to be ruled by the English? The Irish
Nationalists swear by all the saints that, rather than submit, they will
overthrow the present Government and return to their former methods of

If the Home Rule Bill be enacted into law, will Ulster submit to be
ruled by a Catholic majority? The men of Ulster call upon the spirits of
their heroic sires, who triumphed at the Boyne, to bear witness that
they will never yield.

Will the masses of the people submit any longer to the existing
inequalities in political representation? No! They demand immediate
recognition of the principle, "One man, one vote." The many will not
allow the few to make laws for them.

Will the women of England kindly wait a little till their demands can be
considered in a dignified way? No! They will not take their place in the
waiting-line. Others get what they want by pushing; so will they.

Will the Labor party be a little less noisy and insistent in its
demands? All will come in time, but one Reform must say to another,
"After you." Hoarse voices cry, "We care nothing for etiquette, we must
have what we demand, and have it at once. We cannot stand still. If we
are pushing, we are also pushed from behind. If you do not give us what
we ask for, the Socialists and the Syndicalists will be upon you." There
is always the threat of a General Strike. Laborers have hitherto been
starved into submission. But two can play at that game.


This is not the England of Sir Roger de Coverley with its cheerful
contentment with the actual, and its deference for all sorts of
dignitaries. It is not, in its present temper, a model of propriety.
But, in my judgment, it is all the more interesting, and full of hope.
To say that England is in the midst of a revolution is not to say that
some dreadful disaster is impending. It only means that this is a time
when events move very rapidly, and when precedents count for little. But
it is a time when common sense and courage and energy count for a great
deal; and there is no evidence that these qualities are lacking. I
suspect that the alarmists are not so alarmed as their language would
lead us to suppose. They know their countrymen, and that they have the
good sense to avoid most of the collisions that they declare to be

I take comfort in the philosophy which I glean from the top of a London
motor-bus. From my point of vantage I look down upon pedestrian humanity
as a Superman might look down upon it. It seems to consist of a vast
multitude of ignorant folk who are predestined to immediate
annihilation. As the ungainly machine on which I am seated rushes down
the street, it seems admirably adapted for its mission of destruction.
The barricade in front of me, devoted to the praise of BOVRIL, is just
high enough to prevent my seeing what actually happens, but it gives a
bloodcurdling view of catastrophes that are imminent. I have an
impression of a procession of innocent victims rushing heedlessly upon
destruction. Three yards in front of the onrushing wheels is an old
gentleman crossing the street. He suddenly stops. There is, humanly
speaking, no hope for him. Two nursemaids appear in the field of danger.
A butcher's boy on a bicycle steers directly for the bus. He may be
given up for lost. I am not able to see what becomes of them, but I am
prepared for the worst. Still the expected crunch does not come, and the
bus goes on.

Between Notting Hill Gate and Charing Cross I have seen eighteen persons
disappear in this mysterious fashion. I could swear that when I last saw
them it seemed too late for them to escape their doom.

But on sober reflection I come to the conclusion that I should have
taken a more hopeful view if I had not been so high up; if, for example,
I had been sitting with the driver where I could have seen what happened
at the last moment.

There was much comfort in the old couplet:--

  "Betwixt the saddle and the ground,
  He mercy sought and mercy found."

And betwixt the pedestrian and the motor-bus, there are many chances of
safety that I could not foresee. The old gentleman was perhaps more spry
than he looked. The nursemaids and the butcher's boy must assuredly have
perished unless they happened to have their wits about them. But in all
probability they did have their wits about them, and so did the driver
of the motor-bus.



When we think of a thorough-going conservative we are likely to picture
him as a stay-at-home person, a barnacle fastened to one spot. We take
for granted that aversion to locomotion and aversion to change are the
same thing. But in thinking thus we leave out of account the inherent
instability of human nature. Everybody likes a little change now and
then. If a person cannot get it in one way, he gets it in another. The
stay-at-home gratifies his wandering fancy by making little alterations
in his too-familiar surroundings. Even the Vicar of Wakefield in the
days of his placid prosperity would occasionally migrate from the blue
bed to the brown. A life that had such vicissitudes could not be called

When you read the weekly newspaper published in the quietest hill-town
in Vermont, you become aware that a great deal is going on. Deacon Pratt
shingled his barn last week. Miss Maria Jones had new shutters put on
her house, and it is a great improvement. These revolutions in
Goshenville are matters of keen interest to those concerned. They
furnish inexhaustible material for conversation.

The true enemy to innovation is the traveler who sets out to see
historic lands. His natural love of change is satiated by rapid change
of locality. But his natural conservatism asserts itself in his
insistence that the places which he visits shall be true to their own
reputations. Having journeyed, at considerable expense, to a celebrated
spot, he wants to see the thing it was celebrated for, and he will
accept no substitute. From his point of view the present inhabitants are
merely caretakers who should not be allowed to disturb the remains
intrusted to their custody. Everything must be kept as it used to be.

The moment any one packs his trunk and puts money in his purse to visit
lands old in story he becomes a hopeless reactionary. He is sallying
forth to see things not as they are, but as they were "once upon a
time." He is attracted to certain localities by something which happened
long ago. A great many things may have happened since, but these must be
put out of the way. One period of time must be preserved to satisfy his
romantic imagination. He loves the good old ways, and he has a curiosity
to see the bad old ways that may still be preserved. It is only the
modern that offends him.

The American who, in his own country, is in feverish haste to improve
conditions, when he sets foot in Europe becomes the fanatical foe to
progress. The Old World, in his judgment, ought to look old. He longs to
hear the clatter of wooden shoes. If he had his way he would have laws
enacted forbidding peasant folk to change their ancient costumes. He
would preserve every relic of feudalism. He bitterly laments the
division of great estates. A nobleman's park with its beautiful idle
acres, its deer, its pheasants, and its scurrying rabbits, is so much
more pleasant to look at than a succession of market-gardens. Poachers,
game-keepers, and squires are alike interesting, if only they would
dress so that he could know them apart. He is enchanted with thatched
cottages which look damp and picturesque. He detests the model dwellings
which are built with a too obvious regard for sanitation. He seeks
narrow and ill-smelling streets where the houses nod at each other, as
if in the last stages of senility, muttering mysterious reminiscences of
old tragedies. He frequents scenes of ancient murders, and places where
bandits once did congregate. He leaves the railway carriage, to cross a
heath where romantic highwaymen used to ask the traveler to stand and
deliver. He is indignant to find electric lights and policemen. A heath
ought to be lonely, and fens ought to be preserved from drainage.

He seeks dungeons and instruments of torture. The dungeons must be
underground, and only a single ray of light must penetrate. He is much
troubled to find that the dungeon in the Castle of Chillon is much more
cheerful than he had supposed it was. The Bridge of Sighs in Venice
disappoints him in the same way. Indeed, there are few places mentioned
by Lord Byron that are as gloomy as they are in the poetical

The traveler is very insistent in his plea for the preservation of
battlefields. Now, Europe is very rich in battlefields, many of the most
fertile sections having been fought over many times. But the ravages of
agriculture are everywhere seen. There is no such leveler as the
ploughman. Often when one has come to refresh his mind with the events
of one terrible day, he finds that there is nothing whatever to remind
him of what happened. For centuries there has been ploughing and
harvesting. Nature takes so kindly to these peaceful pursuits that one
is tempted to think of the battle as merely an episode.

Commerce is almost as destructive. Cities that have been noted for their
sieges often turn out to be surprisingly prosperous. The old walls are
torn down to give way to parks and boulevards. Massacres which in their
day were noted leave no trace behind. One can get more of an idea of the
Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve by reading a book by one's fireside
than by going to Paris. For all one can see there, there might have been
no such accident.

Moral considerations have little place in the traveler's mind. The
progressive ameliorations that have taken place tend to obscure our
sense of the old conflicts. A reform once accomplished becomes a part of
our ordinary consciousness. We take it for granted, and find it hard to
understand what the reformer was so excited about.

As a consequence, the chief object of an historical pilgrimage is to
discover some place where the old conditions have not been improved
away. The religious pilgrim does not expect to find the old prophets,
but he has a pious hope of finding the abuses which the prophets

I have in mind a clergyman who, in his own home, is progressive to a
fault. He is impatient of any delay. He is all the time seeking out the
very latest inventions in social and economic reforms. But several years
ago he made a journey to the Holy Land, and when he came back he
delivered a lecture on his experiences. A more reactionary attitude
could not be imagined. Not a word did he say about the progress of
education or civil-service reform in Palestine. There was not a
sympathetic reference to sanitation or good roads. The rights of women
were not mentioned. Representative government seemed to be an
abomination to him. All his enthusiasm was for the other side. He was
for Oriental conservatism in all its forms. He was for preserving every
survival of ancient custom. He told of the delight with which he watched
the laborious efforts of the peasants ploughing with a forked stick. He
believed that there had not been a single improvement in agriculture
since the days of Abraham.

The economic condition of the people had not changed for the better
since patriarchal times, and one could still have a good idea of a
famine such as sent the brothers of Joseph down into Egypt. Turkish
misgovernment furnished him with a much clearer idea of the publicans,
and the hatred they aroused in the minds of the people, than he had ever
hoped to obtain. In fact, one could hardly appreciate the term
"publicans and sinners" without seeing the Oriental tax-gatherers. He
was very fortunate in being able to visit several villages which had
been impoverished by their exactions. The rate of wages throws much
light on the Sunday-School lessons. A penny a day does not seem such an
insufficient minimum wage to a traveler, as it does to a stay-at-home
person. On going down from Jerusalem to Jericho he fell among thieves,
or at least among a group of thievish-looking Bedouins who gave him a
new appreciation of the parable of the Samaritan. It was a wonderful
experience. And he found that the animosity between the Jews and the
Samaritans had not abated. To be sure, there are very few Samaritans
left, and those few are thoroughly despised.

The good-roads movement has not yet invaded Palestine, and we can still
experience all the discomforts of the earlier times. Many a time when he
took his life in his hands and wandered across the Judæan hills, my
friend repeated to himself the text, "In the days of Shamgar the son of
Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the people
walked through by-ways."

To most people Shamgar is a mere name. But after you have walked for
hours over those rocky by-ways, never knowing at what moment you may be
attacked by a treacherous robber, you know how Shamgar felt. He becomes
a real person. You are carried back into the days when "there was no
king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

The railway between Joppa and Jerusalem is to be regretted, but
fortunately it is a small affair. There are rumors of commercial
enterprises which, if successful, would change the appearance of many of
the towns. Fortunately they are not likely to be successful, at least in
our day. The brooding spirit of the East can be trusted to defend itself
against the innovating West. For the present, at least, Palestine is a
fascinating country to travel in.

A traveler in Ceylon and India writes to a religious paper of his
journey. He says, "Colombo has little to interest the tourist, yet it is
a fine city." One who reads between the lines understands that the fact
that it is a fine city is the cause of its uninterestingness. His
impression of Madura was more satisfactory. There one can see the
Juggernaut car drawn through the streets by a thousand men, though it is
reluctantly admitted that the self-immolation of fanatics under the
wheels is no longer allowed. "The Shiva temple at Madura is the more
interesting as its towers are ornamented with six thousand idols."

The writer who rejoiced at the sight of six thousand idols in Madura,
would have been shocked at the exhibition of a single crucifix in his
meeting-house at home.

I confess that I have not been able to overcome the Tory prejudice in
favor of vested interests in historical places. If one has traveled
to see "the old paths which wicked men have trodden," it is a
disappointment to find that they are not there. I had such an experience
in Capri. We had wandered through the vineyards and up the steep, rocky
way to the Villa of Tiberius. On the top of the cliff are the ruins of
the pleasure-house which the Emperor in his wicked old age built for
himself. Was there ever a greater contrast between an earthly paradise
and abounding sinfulness? Here, indeed, was "spiritual wickedness in
high places." The marvelously blue sea and all the glories of the Bay of
Naples ought to have made Tiberius a better man; but apparently they
didn't. We were prepared for the thrilling moment when we were led to
the edge of the cliff, and told to look down. Here was the very place
where Tiberius amused himself by throwing his slaves into the sea to
feed the fishes. Cruel old monster! But it was a long time ago. Time
had marvelously softened the atrocity of the act, and heightened its
picturesque character. If Tiberius must exhibit his colossal inhumanity,
could he have anywhere in all the world chosen a better spot? Just think
of his coming to this island and, on this high cliff above the azure
sea, building this palace! And then to think of him on a night when the
moon was full, and the nightingales were singing, coming out and hurling
a shuddering slave into the abyss!

When we returned to the hotel, our friend the Professor, who had made a
study of the subject, informed us that it was all a mistake. The stories
of the wicked doings of Tiberius in Capri were malicious slanders. The
Emperor was an elderly invalid living in dignified retirement. As for
the slaves, we might set our minds at rest in regard to them. If any of
them fell over the cliff it was pure accident. We must give up the idea
that the invalid Emperor pushed them off.

All this was reassuring to my better nature, and yet I cherished a
grudge against the Professor. For it was a stiff climb to the Villa of
Tiberius, and I wanted something to show for it. It was difficult to
adjust one's mind to the fact that nothing had happened there which
might not have happened in any well-conducted country house.

I like to contrast this with our experience in Algiers. We knew
beforehand what Algiers was like in the days of its prime. It had been
the nest of as desperate pirates as ever infested the seas. For
generations innocent Christians had been carried hither to pine in
doleful captivity. But the French, we understood, had built a miniature
Paris in the vicinity and were practicing liberty, fraternity, and
equality on the spot dedicated to gloomily romantic memories. We feared
the effect of this civilization. We had our misgivings. Perhaps Algiers
might be no longer worth visiting.

Luckily our steamer was delayed till sunset. We were carefully
shepherded, so that we hardly noticed the French city. We were hurried
through the darkness into old Algiers. Everything was full of sinister
suggestion. The streets were as narrow and perilous as any which Haroun
Al Raschid explored on his more perilous nights. Here one could believe
the worst of his fellow men. Suspicion and revenge were in the air. We
were not taking a stroll, we were escaping from something. Mysterious
muffled figures glided by and disappeared through slits in the walls.
There were dark corners so suggestive of homicide that one could hardly
think that any one with an Oriental disposition could resist the
temptation. In crypt-like recesses we could see assassins sharpening
their daggers or, perhaps, executioners putting the finishing touches on
their scimitars. There were cavernous rooms where conspirators were
crouched round a tiny charcoal fire. Groups of truculent young Arabs
followed us shouting objurgations, and accepting small coins as ransom.
We had glimpses of a mosque, the outside of a prison, and the inside of
what once was a harem. On returning to the steamer one gentleman fell
overboard and, swimming to the shore, was rescued by a swarthy ruffian
who robbed him of his watch and disappeared in the darkness. When the
victim of Algerian piracy stood on the deck, dripping and indignant, and
told his tale of woe, we were delighted. Algiers would always be
something to remember. It was one of the places that had not been

I am afraid that the sunlight might have brought disillusion. Some of
the stealthy figures which gave rise to such thrilling suspicions may
have turned out to be excellent fathers and husbands returning from
business. As it is, thanks to the darkness, Algiers remains a city of
vague atrocities. It does not belong to the commonplace world; it is of
such stuff as dreams, including nightmares, are made of.

It is not without some compunction of conscience that I recall two
historical pilgrimages, one to Assisi, the other to Geneva. Assisi I
found altogether rewarding, while in Geneva I was disappointed. In each
case my object was purely selfish, and had nothing in common with the
welfare of the present inhabitants. I wanted to see the city of St.
Francis and the city of John Calvin.

In Assisi one may read again the Franciscan legends in their proper
settings. I should like to think that my pleasure in Assisi arose from
the fact that I saw some one there who reminded me of St. Francis. But
I was not so fortunate. If one is anxious to come in contact with the
spirit of St. Francis, freed from its mediæval limitations, a visit to
Hull House, Chicago, would be more rewarding.

But it was not the spirit of St. Francis, but his limitations, that we
were after. Assisi has preserved them all. We see the gray old town on
the hillside, the narrow streets, the old walls. We are beset by swarms
of beggars. They are not like the half-starved creatures one may see in
the slums of northern cities. They are very likable. They are natural
worshipers of my Lady Poverty. They have not been spoiled by commonplace
industrialism or scientific philanthropy. One is taken back into the
days when there was a natural affinity between saints and beggars. The
saints would joyously give away all that they had, and the beggars would
as joyously accept it. After the beggars had used up all the saints had
given them, the saints would go out and beg for more. The community, you
say, would be none the better. Perhaps not. But the moment you begin to
talk about the community you introduce ideas that are modern and
disturbing. One thing is certain, and that is that if Assisi were more
thrifty, it would be less illuminating historically.

St. Francis might come back to Assisi and take up his work as he left
it. But I sought in vain for John Calvin in Geneva. The city was too
prosperous and gay. The cheerful houses, the streets with their
cosmopolitan crowds, the parks, the schools, the university, the little
boats skimming over the lake, all bore witness to the well-being of
to-day. But what of yesterday? The citizens were celebrating the
anniversary of Jean Jacques Rousseau. I realized that it was not
yesterday but the day before yesterday that I was seeking. Where was the
stern little city which Calvin taught and ruled? The place that knew him
knows him no more.

Disappointed in my search for Calvin, I sought compensation in Servetus.
I found the stone placed by modern Calvinists to mark the spot where the
Spanish heretic was burned. On it they had carved an inscription
expressing their regret for the act of intolerance on the part of the
reformer, and attributing the blame to the age in which he lived. But
even this did not satisfy modern Geneva. The inscription had been
chipped away in order to give place I was told, to something more
historically accurate.

But whether Calvin was to blame, or the sixteenth century, did not seem
to matter. The spot was so beautiful that it seemed impossible that
anything tragical could ever have happened here. A youth and maiden were
sitting by the stone, engaged in a most absorbing conversation. Of one
thing I was certain, that the theological differences between Calvin and
Servetus were nothing to them. They had something more important to
think about--at least for them.


After a time one comes to have a certain modesty of expectation. Time
and Space are different elements, and each has its own laws. At the
price of a steamship ticket one may be transported to another country,
but safe passage to another age is not guaranteed. It is enough if some
slight suggestion is given to the imagination. A walk through a pleasant
neighborhood is all the pleasanter if one knows that something memorable
has happened there. If one is wise he will not attempt to realize it to
the exclusion of the present scene. It is enough to have a slight flavor
of historicity.

It was this pleasure which I enjoyed in a ramble with a friend through
the New Forest. The day was fine, and it would have been a joy to be
under the greenwood trees if no one had been before us. But the New
Forest had a human interest; for on such a day as this, William Rufus
rode into it to hunt the red deer, and was found with an arrow through
his body. And to this day no man knows who killed William Rufus, or why.
Though, of course, some people have their suspicions.

Many other things may have happened in the New Forest in the centuries
that have passed, but they have never been brought vividly to my
attention. So far as I was concerned there were no confusing incidents.
The Muse of History told one tragic tale and then was silent.

On the other side of the Forest was the Rufus stone marking the spot
where the Red King's body was found. At Brockenhurst we inquired the
way, which we carefully avoided. The road itself was an innovation, and
was infested with motor-cars, machines unknown to the Normans. The Red
King had plunged into the Forest and quickly lost himself; so would we.
There were great oaks and wide-spreading beeches and green glades such
as one finds only in England. It was pleasant to feel that it all
belonged to the Crown. I could not imagine a county council allowing
this great stretch of country to remain in its unspoiled beauty through
these centuries.

We took our frugal lunch under a tree that had looked down on many
generations. Then we wandered on through a green wilderness. We saw no
one but some women gathering fagots. I was glad to see that they were
exercising their ancestral rights in the royal domain. They looked
contented, though I should have preferred to have their dress more

All day we followed William Rufus through the Forest. I began to feel
that I had a real acquaintance with him, having passed through much the
same experience. The forest glades have been little changed since the
day when he hunted the red deer. Nature is the true conservative, and
repeats herself incessantly.

Toward evening my friend pointed out the hill at the foot of which was
the Rufus stone. It was still some two miles away. Should we push on to

What should we see when we got there? The stone was not much. There was
a railing round it as a protection against relic-hunters. And there was
an inscription which, of course, was comparatively modern. That settled
it. We would not go to the stone with its modern inscription. The
ancient trees brought us much nearer to William Rufus. Besides, there
was just time, if we walked briskly, to catch the train at Brockenhurst.


A week which stands out in my memory as one of perfect communion with
the past was spent with another English friend in Llanthony Abbey, in
the Vale of Ewyas, in the Black Mountains of Wales. We had gone prepared
for camping with a tent of ethereal lightness, which was to protect us
from the weather.

For the first night we were to tarry amid the ruins of the
twelfth-century abbey, some parts of which had been roofed over and used
as an inn. When we arrived, the rain was falling in torrents. Soon after
supper we took our candles and climbed the winding stone stairs to our
rooms in the tower. The stones were uneven and worn by generations of
pious feet. Outside we could see the ruined nave of the church, with all
the surrounding buildings. We were in another age.

Had the sun shined next morning we should have gone on our gypsy
journey, and Llanthony Abbey would have been only an incident. But for
five days and five nights the rain descended. We could make valiant
sallies, but were driven back for shelter. Shut in by "the tumultuous
privacy of storm," one felt a sense of ownership. Only one book could be
obtained, the "Life and Letters" of Walter Savage Landor. I had always
wanted to know more of Landor and here was the opportunity.

A little over a hundred years ago he came to the vale of Ewyas and
bought this estate, and hither he brought his young bride. They occupied
our rooms, it appeared. In 1809, Landor writes to Southey, "I am about
to do what no man hath ever done in England, plant a wood of cedars of
Lebanon. These trees will look magnificent on the mountains of
Llanthony." He planted a million of them, so he said. How eloquently he
growled over those trees! He prophesied that none of them would live.

After reading, I donned my raincoat and started out through the driving
storm to see how Landor's trees were getting on. It seemed that it was
only yesterday that they were planted. It was worth going out to see
what had become of them. They were all gone. I felt that secret
satisfaction which all right-minded persons feel on being witnesses to
the fulfilment of prophecy.

And then there was the house which Landor started to build when he and
his wife were living in our tower. "I hope," he writes, "before the
close not of the next but of the succeeding summer, to have one room to
sit in with two or three bedrooms." Then he begins to growl about the
weather and the carpenters. After a while he writes again of the house:
"It's not half finished and has cost me two thousand pounds. I think
seriously of filling it with straw and setting fire to it. Never was
anything half so ugly."

I inquired about the house and was told that it was not far away on the
hillside, and was yet unfinished. I was pleased with this, and meant to
go up and see it when the spell of bad weather of which Landor
complained had passed by.

Beside Landor there was only one other historic association which one
could enjoy without getting drenched--that was St. David. In wading
across the barnyard, I encountered "Boots," an intelligent young man
though unduly respectful. He informed me that the old building just
across from the stable was the cell of St. David.

I was not prepared for this. All I knew was that St. David was the
patron saint of Wales and had a cathedral and a number of other churches
dedicated to him. Without too grossly admitting my ignorance, I tried to
draw out from my mentor some further biographical facts that my
imagination might work on during my stay. He thought that St. David was
some relation to King Arthur, but just what the relation was, and
whether he was only a relative by marriage, he didn't know. It wasn't
very much information, but I was profoundly grateful to him.

I have since read a long article on St. David in the "Cambrian
Plutarch." The author goes into the question of the family relations
between King Arthur and St. David with great thoroughness, but what
conclusion he comes to is not quite evident. He thinks that the people
are wrong who say that St. David was a nephew, because he was fifty
years older than Arthur. That would make him more likely his uncle.
But as he admits that King Arthur may possibly be another name for the
constellation Ursa Major, it is difficult to fix the dates exactly.
At any rate, the "Cambrian Plutarch" is sure that King Arthur was a
Welshman and a credit to the country--and so was St. David. The author
was as accurate in regard to the dates as the nature of his subject
would allow. He adds apologetically, "It will appear that the life of
St. David is rather misplaced with respect to chronological order. But
as he was contemporary with all those whose lives have already been
given, the anachronism, if such it may be called, can be of no great

That is just the way I feel about it. After living for a whole week
in such close contact with the residence of St. David, I feel a real
interest in him. Just who he was and when he lived, if at all, is a
matter of no great importance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet there are limits to the historical imagination. It must have
something to work on, even though that something may be very vague. We
must draw the line somewhere in our pursuit of antiquity. A relic may be
too old to be effective. Instead of gently stimulating the imagination
it may paralyze it. What we desire is not merely the ancient but the
familiar. The relic must bring with it the sense of auld lang-syne. The
Tory squire likes to preserve what has been a long time in his family.
The traveler has the same feeling for the possessions of the family of

The family-feeling does not go back of a certain point. I draw the line
at the legendary period when the heroes have names, and more or less
coherent stories are told of their exploits, People who had a local
habitation, but not a name, seem to belong to Geology only. For all
their flint arrow-heads, or bronze instruments, I cannot think of them
as fellow men.

It was with this feeling that I visited one of the most ancient places
of worship in Ireland, the tumulus at Newgrange. It was on a day filled
with historic sight-seeing. We started from Drogheda, the great
stronghold of the Pale in the Middle Ages, and the scene of Cromwell's
terrible vengeance in 1649. Three miles up the river is the site of the
Battle of the Boyne. It was one of the great indecisive battles of the
world, it being necessary to fight it over again every year. The Boyne
had overflowed its banks, and in the fields forlorn hay-cocks stood like
so many little islands. We stopped at the battle monument and read its
Whiggish inscription, which was scorned by our honest driver. We could
form some idea of how the field appeared on the eventful day when King
William and King James confronted each other across the narrow stream.
Then the scene changed and we found ourselves in Mellefont Abbey, the
first Cistercian monastery in Ireland, founded by St. Malachy, the
friend of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. King William and King James were at
once relegated to their proper places among the moderns, while we went
back to the ages of faith.

Four miles farther we came to Monasterboice, where stood two great
Celtic crosses. There are two ruined churches and a round tower. Here
was an early religious establishment which existed before the times of
St. Columba.

This would be enough for one day's reminiscence, but my heart leaped up
at the sight of a long green ridge. "There is the hill of Tara!"

Having traversed the period from King William to the dwellers in the
Halls of Tara, what more natural than to take a further plunge into the

We drive into an open field and alight near a rock-strewn hill. Candles
are given us and we grope our way through narrow passages till we come
to the centre of the hill. Here is a chamber some twenty feet in height.
On the great stones which support the roof are mystic emblems. On the
floor is a large stone hollowed out in the shape of a bowl. It suggests
human sacrifices. My guide did not encourage this suggestion. There was,
he thought, no historical evidence for it. But it seemed to me that if
these people ever practised such sacrifices this was the place for them.
A gloomier chamber for weird rites could not be imagined.

Who were the worshipers? Druids or pre-Druids? The archæologists tell us
that they belonged to the Early Bronze period. Now Early Bronze is a
good enough term for articles in a museum, but it does not suggest a
human being. We cannot get on terms of spiritual intimacy with the Early
Bronze people. We may know what they did, but there is no intimation of
"the moving why they did it." What spurred them on to their feats of
prodigious industry? Was it fear or love? First they built their chapel
of great stones and then piled a huge hill on top of it. Were they still
under the influence of the glacial period and attempting to imitate the
wild doings of Nature? The passage of the ages does not make these men
seem venerable, because their deeds are no longer intelligible.
Mellefont Abbey is in ruins, but we can easily restore it in
imagination. We can picture the great buildings as they were before the
iconoclasts destroyed them. The prehistoric place of worship in the
middle of the hill is practically unchanged. But the clue to its meaning
is lost.

I could not make the ancient builders and worshipers seem real. It was
a relief to come up into the sunshine where people of our own kind had
walked, the Kings of Tara and their harpers, and St. Patrick and St.
Malachy and Oliver Cromwell and William III. After the unintelligible
symbols on the rocks, how familiar and homelike seemed the sculptures on
the Celtic crosses. They were mostly about people, and people whom we
had known from earliest childhood. There were Adam and Eve, and Cain
slaying Abel, and the Magi. They were members of our family.

But between us and the builders of the under-ground chapel there was a
great gulf. There was no means of spiritual communication across the
abyss. A scrap of writing, a bit of poetry, a name handed down by
tradition, would have been worth all the relics discovered by

There is justification for the traveler's preference for the things he
has read about, for these are the things which resist the changes of
time. Only he must remember that they are better preserved in the book
than in the places where they happened. The impression which any
generation makes on the surface of the earth is very slight. It cannot
give the true story of the brief occupancy. That requires some more
direct interpretation.

The magic carpet which carries us into any age not our own is woven by
the poets and historians. Without their aid we may travel through Space,
but not through Time.


In the college world it is a point of honor for the successive classes
to treat each other with contumely. The feud between freshman and
sophomore goes on automatically. Only when one has become a senior may
he, without losing caste, recognize a freshman as a youth of promise,
and admit that a sophomore is not half bad. Such disinterested criticism
is tolerated because it is evidently the result of the mellowing
influence of time.

The same tendency is seen in literary and artistic judgments. It is
never good taste to admit the good taste of the generation that
immediately precedes us. Its innocent admirations are flouted and its
standards are condemned as provincial. For we are always emerging from
the dark ages and contrasting their obscurity with our marvelous light.
The sixteenth century scorned the fifteenth century for its manifold
superstitions. Thomas Fuller tells us that his enlightened contempories
in the seventeenth century treated the enthusiasms of the sixteenth
century with scant respect. The price of martyrs' ashes rises and falls
in Smithfield market. At a later period Pope writes,--

  "We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow:
  Our wiser sons, perhaps, will think us so."

He need not have put in the "perhaps."

The nineteenth century had its fling at the artificiality of the
eighteenth century, and treated it with contempt as the age of
doctrinaires. And now that the twentieth century is coming to the age of
discretion, we hear a new term of reproach, Mid-Victorian. It expresses
the sum of all villainies in taste. For some fifty years in the
nineteenth century the English-speaking race, as it now appears, was
under the sway of Mrs. Grundy. It was living in a state of most
reprehensible respectability, and Art was tied to the apron-strings of
Morality. Everybody admired what ought not to be admired. We are only
now beginning to pass judgment on the manifold mediocrity of this era.

All this must, for the time, count against Dickens; for of all the
Victorians he was the midmost. He flourished in that most absurd period
of time--the time just before most of us were born. And how he did
flourish! Grave lord chancellors confessed to weeping over Little Nell.
A Mid-Victorian bishop relates that after administering consolation to
a man in his last illness he heard him saying, "At any rate, a new
'Pickwick Paper' will be out in ten days."

Everywhere there was a wave of hysterical appreciation. Describing his
reading in Glasgow, Dickens writes: "Such pouring of hundreds into a
place already full to the throat, such indescribable confusion, such
rending and tearing of dresses, and yet such a scene of good humor, I
never saw the slightest approach to.... Fifty frantic men got up in all
parts of the hall and addressed me all at once. Other frantic men made
speeches to the wall. The whole B family were borne on the top of a wave
and landed with their faces against the front of the platform. I read
with the platform crammed with people. I got them to lie down upon it,
and it was like some impossible tableau, or gigantic picnic,--one pretty
girl lying on her side all night, holding on to the legs of my table."

In New York eager seekers after fiction would "lie down on the pavement
the whole of the night before the tickets were sold, generally taking up
their position about ten." There would be free fights, and the police
would be called to quell the riot.

Such astonishing actions on the part of people who were unfortunate
enough to live in the middle of the nineteenth century put us on our
guard. It could not have been a serious interest in English literature
that evoked the mob spirit. Dickens must have been writing the kind of
books which these people liked to hear read. We remember with some
misgivings that in the days of our youth we wept over Little Nell, just
as the lord chancellor did. The question which disturbs us is, Ought we
to have done so?

Let us by a soft answer turn away the wrath of the critic. Doubtless we
ought not to have done so. Our excuse is that, at the time, we could not
help it. We may make the further plea, common to all soft-hearted
sinners, that if we hadn't wept, other people would, so that no great
harm was done, after all.

But letting bygones be bygones, and not seeking to justify the
enthusiasms of the nineteenth century, one may return to Dickens as to
the home of one's childhood. How do the old scenes affect us? Does the
charm remain? When thus we return to Dickens, we are compelled to
confess the justice of the latter-day criticism. In all his writings he
deals with characters and situations which are wholly obvious; at least
they are obvious after he deals with them. Not only is he without the
art which conceals art, but, unlike some novelists of more recent fame,
he is without the art that conceals the lack of art He produces an
impression by the crude method of "rubbing it in." There are no
subtleties to pique our curiosity, no problems left us for discussion,
no room for difference of opinion. There is no more opportunity for
speculation than in a one-price clothing store where every article is
marked in plain figures. To have heartily disliked Mr. Pecksniff and to
have loved the Cheeryble Brothers indicates no sagacity on our part. The
author has distinctly and repeatedly told us that the one is an odious
hypocrite and that the others are benevolent to an unusual degree. Our
appreciation of Sam Weller does not prove that we have any sense of
humor save that which is common to man. For Mr. Weller's humor is a
blessing that is not in disguise. It is a pump which needs no priming.
There is no denying that the humor, the pathos, and the sentiment of
Dickens are obvious.

All this, according to certain critics, goes to prove that Dickens lacks
distinction, and that the writing of his novels was a commonplace
achievement. This judgment seems to me to arise from a confusion of
thought. The _perception_ of the obvious is a commonplace achievement;
the _creation_ of the obvious, and making it interesting, is the work of
genius. There is no intellectual distinction in the enjoyment of "The
Pickwick Papers"; to write "The Pickwick Papers" would be another

It is only in the last quarter of a century that English literature has
been accepted not as a recreation, but as a subject of serious study.
Now, the first necessity for a study is that it should be "hard." Some
of the best brains in the educational world have been enlisted in the
work of giving a disciplinary value to what was originally an innocent
pleasure. It is evident that one cannot give marks for the number of
smiles or tears evoked by a tale of true love. The novel or the play
that is to hold its own in the curriculum in competition with
trigonometry must have some knotty problem which causes the harassed
reader to knit his brows in anxious thought.

In answer to this demand, the literary craftsman has arisen who takes
his art with a seriousness which makes the "painful preacher" of the
Puritan time seem a mere pleasure-seeker. Equipped with instruments of
precision drawn from the psychological laboratory, he is prepared to
satisfy our craving for the difficult By the method of suggestion he
tries to make us believe that we have never seen his characters before,
and sometimes he succeeds. He deals in descriptions which leave us with
the impression of an indescribable something which we should recognize
if we were as clever as he is. As we are not nearly so clever, we are
left with a chastened sense of our inferiority, which is doubtless good
for us. And all this groping for the un-obvious is connected with an
equally insistent demand for realism. The novel must not only be as real
as life, but it must be more so. For life, as it appears in our ordinary
consciousness, is full of illusions. When these are stripped off and the
residuum is compressed into a book, we have that which is at once
intensely real and painfully unfamiliar.

Now, there is a certain justification for this. A psychologist may show
us aspects of character which we could not see by ourselves, as the
X-rays will reveal what is not visible to the naked eye. But if the
insides of things are real, so also are the outsides. Surfaces and forms
are not without their importance.

It may be said in extenuation of Dickens that the blemish of obviousness
is one which he shared with the world he lived in. It would be too much
to say that all realities are obvious. There is a great deal that we do
not see at the first glance; but there is a great deal that we do see.
To reproduce the freshness and wonder of the first view of the obvious
world is one of the greatest achievements of the imagination.

The reason why the literary artist shuns the obvious is that there is
too much of it. It is too big for the limited resources of his art. In
the actual world, realities come in big chunks. Nature continually
repeats herself. She hammers her facts into our heads with a persistency
which is often more than a match for our stupidity. If we do not
recognize a fact to-day, it will hit us in the same place to-morrow.

We are so used to this educational method of reiteration that we make it
a test of reality. An impression made upon us must be repeated before it
has validity to our reason. If a thing really happened, we argue that it
will happen again under the same conditions. That is what we mean by
saying that we are under the reign of law. There is a great family
resemblance between happenings.

We make acquaintance with people by the same method. The recognition of
identity depends upon the ability which most persons have of appearing
to be remarkably like themselves. The reason why we think that the
person whom we met to-day is the same person we met yesterday is that he
_seems_ the same. There are obvious resemblances that strike us at once.
He looks the same, he acts the same, he has the same mannerisms, the
same kind of voice, and he answers to the same name. If Proteus, with
the best intention in the world, but with an unlimited variety of
self-manifestations, were to call every day, we should greet him always
as a stranger. We should never feel at home with so versatile a person.
A character must have a certain degree of monotony about it before we
can trust it. Unexpectedness is an agreeable element in wit, but not in
friendship. Our friend must be one who can say with honest Joe Gargery,
"It were understood, and it are understood, and it ever will be similar,

But in the use of this effective method of reiteration there is a
difference between nature and a book. Nature does not care whether she
bores us or not: she has us by the buttonhole, and we cannot get away.
Not so with a book. When we are bored, we lay it down, and that brings
the interview to an end. It is from the fear of our impatience that most
writers abstain from the natural method of producing an impression.

And they are quite right. It is only now and then that an audience will
grant an extension of time to a speaker in order that he may make his
point more clear. They would rather miss the point. And it is still more
rare for the reader to grant a similar extension in order that the
author may tell again what he has told before. It is much easier to shut
up a book than to shut up a speaker.

The criticism of Dickens that his characters repeat themselves quite
misses the mark. As well object to an actor that he frequently responds
to an encore. If indicted for the offense, he could at least insist that
the audience be indicted with him as accessory before the fact.

Dickens tells us that when he read at Harrogate, "There was a remarkably
good fellow of thirty or so who found something so very ludicrous in
Toots that he could not compose himself at all, but laughed until he sat
wiping his eyes with his handkerchief, and whenever he felt Toots coming
again he began to laugh and wipe his eyes afresh."

"Whenever he felt Toots coming again"--there you have the whole
philosophy of the matter. The young fellow found Toots amusing when he
first laid eyes on him. He wanted to see him again, and it must always
be the same Toots.

It is useless to cavil at an author because of the means by which he
produces his effects. The important thing is that he does produce an
effect. That the end justifies the means may be a dangerous doctrine in
ethics, but much may be said for it in literature. The situation is like
that of a middle-aged gentleman beset by a small boy on a morning just
right for snowballing. "Give me leave, mister?" cries the youthful
sharpshooter. The good-natured citizen gives leave by pulling up his
coat-collar and quickening his pace. If the small boy can hit him, he is
forgiven, if he cannot hit him, he is scorned. The fact is that Dickens
with a method as broad and repetitious as that of Nature herself does
succeed in hitting our fancy. That is, he succeeds nine times out of

It is the minor characters of Dickens that are remembered. And we
remember them for the same reason that we remember certain faces which
we have seen in a crowd. There is some salient feature or trick of
manner which first attracts and then holds our attention. A person must
have some tag by which he is identified, or, so far as we are concerned,
he becomes one of the innumerable lost articles. There are persons who
are like umbrellas, very useful, but always liable to be forgotten. The
memory is an infirm faculty, and must be humored. It often clings to
mere trifles. The man with the flamboyant necktie whom you saw on the
8.40 train may also be the author of a volume of exquisite lyrics; but
you never saw the lyrics, and you did see the necktie. In the scale of
being, the necktie may be the least important parcel of this good man's
life, but it is the only thing about him which attracts your attention.
When you see it day after day at the same hour you feel that you have a
real, though perhaps not a deep, acquaintance with the man behind it. It
is thus we habitually perceive the human world. We see things, and infer
persons to correspond. One peculiarity attracts us. It is not the whole
man, but it is all of him that is for us. In all this we are very

We may read an acute character study and straightway forget the person
who was so admirably analyzed; but the lady in the yellow curl-papers is
unforgettable. We really see very little of her, but she is real, and
she would not be so real without her yellow curl-papers. A
yellow-curl-paper-less lady in the Great White Horse Inn would be as
unthinkable to us as a white-plume-less Henry of Navarre at Ivry.

In ecclesiastical art the saints are recognized by their emblems. Why
should not the sinners have the same means of identification? Dickens
has the courage to furnish us these necessary aids to recollection.
Micawber, Mrs. Gummidge, Barkis, Mr. Dick, Uriah Heep, Betsy Trotwood,
Dick Swiveiler, Mr. Mantalini, Harold Skimpole, Sairey Gamp, always
appear with their appropriate insignia. We should remember that it is
for our sakes.

According to the canons of literary art, a fact should be stated clearly
once and for all. It would be quite proper to mention the fact that
Silas Wegg had a wooden leg; but this fact having been made plain, why
should it be referred to again? There is a sufficient reason based on
sound psychology. If the statement were not repeated, we should forget
that Mr. Wegg had a wooden leg, and by and by we should forget Silas
Wegg himself. He would fade away among the host of literary gentlemen
who are able to read "The Decline and Fall," but who are not able to
keep themselves out of the pit of oblivion. But when we repeatedly see
Mr. Wegg as Mr. Boffin saw him, "the literary gentleman _with_ a wooden
leg," we feel that we really have the pleasure of his acquaintance.
There is not only perception of him, but what the pedagogical people
call apperception. Our idea of Mr. Wegg is inseparably connected with
our antecedent ideas of general woodenness.

Again, we are introduced to "a large, hard-breathing, middle-aged man,
with a mouth like a fish, dull, staring eyes, and sandy hair standing
upright on his head, so that he looked as if he had been choked and had
at that moment come to." This is Mr. Pumblechook. He does not emerge
slowly like a ship from below the horizon. We see him all at once, eyes,
mouth, hair, and character to match. It is a case of falling into
acquaintance at first sight. We are now ready to hear what Mr.
Pumblechook says and see what he does. We have a reasonable assurance
that whatever he says and does it will be just like Mr. Pumblechook.

We enter a respectable house in a shady angle adjoining Portman Square.
We go out to dinner in solemn procession. We admire the preternatural
solidity of the furniture and the plate. The hostess is a fine woman,
"with neck and nostrils like a rocking-horse, hard features and majestic
headdress." Her husband, large and pompous, with little light-colored
wings "more like hairbrushes than hair" on the sides of his otherwise
bald head, begins to discourse on the British Constitution. We now know
as much of Mr. Podsnap as we shall know at the end of the book. But it
is a real knowledge conveyed by the method that gives dinner-parties
their educational value. We forgive Dickens his superfluous discourse on
Podsnappery in general. For his remarks are precisely of the kind which
we make when the party is over, and we sit by the fire generalizing and
allegorizing the people we have met.

That Mr. Thomas Gradgrind was unduly addicted to hard facts might have
been delicately insinuated in the course of two hundred pages. We might
have felt a mild pleasure in the discovery which we had made, and then
have gone our way forgetting what manner of man he was. What is
Gradgrind to us or we to Gradgrind? Dickens introduces him to us in all
his uncompromising squareness--"square coat, square legs, square
shoulders, nay, his very neckcloth is trained to take him by the throat
with an unaccommodating grasp." We are made at once to see "the square
wall of a forehead which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes
found commodious cellarage in the two dark caves overshadowed by the
wall." Having taken all this in at a glance, there is nothing more to be
done in the development of the character of Mr. Gradgrind. He takes his
place among the obvious facts of existence. But in so much as we were
bound to find him out sometime, shall we quarrel with Dickens because we
were enabled to do so in the first chapter?

Nor do the obvious exaggerations of Dickens arising from the exuberance
of his fancy interfere with the sense of reality. A truth is not less
true because it is in large print. We recognize creatures who are
prodigiously like ourselves, and we laugh at the difference in scale.
Did not all Lilliput laugh over the discovery of Gulliver? How they
rambled over the vast expanse of countenance, recognizing each
feature--lips, cheek, nose, chin, brow. "How very odd," they would say
to themselves, "and how very like!"

It is to the wholesome obviousness of Dickens that we owe the atmosphere
of good cheer that surrounds his characters. No writer has pictured more
scenes of squalid misery, and yet we are not depressed. There is bad
weather enough, but we are not "under the weather." There are characters
created to be hated. It is a pleasure to hate them. As to the others,
whenever their trials and tribulations abate for an instant, they
relapse into a state of unabashed contentment.

This is unusual in literature, for most literary men are saddest when
they write. The fact is that happiness is much more easy to experience
than to describe, as any one may learn in trying to describe a good time
he has had. One good time is very much like another good time. Moreover,
we are shy, and dislike to express our enthusiasm. We wouldn't for the
world have any one know what simple creatures we are and how little it
takes to make us happy. So we talk critically about a great many things
we do not care very much about, and complain of the absence of many
things which we do not really miss. We feel badly about not being
invited to a party which we don't want to go to.

We are like a horse that has been trained to be a "high-stepper." By
prancing over imaginary difficulties and shying at imaginary dangers he
gives an impression of mettlesomeness which is foreign to his native

The story-teller is on the lookout for these eager attitudes. He cannot
afford to let his characters be too happy. There is a literary value in
misery that he cannot afford to lose.

That "the course of true love never did run smooth" is an assertion of
story-tellers rather than of ordinary lovers. The fact is that nothing
is so easy as falling in love and staying there. It is a very common
experience, so common that it attracts little attention. The course of
true love usually runs so smoothly that there is nothing that causes
remark. It is not an occasion of gossip. Two good-tempered and healthy
persons are obviously made for each other. They know it, and everybody
else knows it, and they keep on knowing it, and act, as Joe Gargery
would say, "similar, according."

The trouble is that the literary man finds that this does not afford
exciting material for a best seller. So he must invent hazards to make
the game interesting to the spectators. In a story the course of true
love must not run smooth or no one would read it. The old-time romancer
brought his young people through all sorts of misadventures. When all
the troubles he could think of were over, he left them abruptly at the
church door, murmuring feebly to the gentle reader, "they were happy
ever after."

The present-day novelist is offended at this ending. "How absurd!" he
says. "They are still in the early twenties. The world is all before
them, and they have time to fall into all sorts of troubles which the
romanticist has not thought of. Middle age is just as dangerous a period
as youth, and matrimony has its pitfalls. Let me take up the story and
tell you how they didn't live happily ever afterwards, but, on the
contrary, had a cat-and-dog life of it."

Now I would pardon the novelist if he were perfectly honest and were to
say, "Ladies and gentlemen, I am trying to interest you. I have not the
skill to make a story of placid happiness interesting. So I will do the
next best thing. I will tell you a story of a different kind. It is the
picture of a kind of life that is easier to make readable."

In making such a confession he would be in good company. Even
Shakespeare, with all his dramatic genius, confessed that he could not
avoid monotony in his praise of true love. Its ways were ways of
pleasantness, but did not afford much incentive to originality.

  "Since all alike my songs and praises be
  To one, of one, still such, and ever so.
  Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
  Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
  Therefore my verse to constancy confined,
  One thing expressing, leaves out difference.
  'Fair, kind, and true' is all my argument,
  'Fair, kind, and true' varying to other words;
  And in this change is my invention spent."

But the novelist, when he takes himself too seriously as the man who is
to show us "life as it is," is not content to acknowledge his
limitations. When he pictures a situation in which there is nothing but
a succession of problems and misunderstandings, he asks us to admire his
austere faithfulness. Faithful he may be to his Art, as he understands
it, but he is not faithful to reality, unless he is able to make us see
ordinary people in the act of enjoying themselves.

The most obvious thing in life is that people are seldom as unhappy as
their circumstances would lead us to expect. Nobody is happy all the
time, and if he were, nobody is enough of a genius to make his
undeviating felicity interesting. But a great many people are happy most
of the time, and almost everybody has been happy at some time or other.
It may have been only a momentary experience, but it was very real, and
he likes to think about it. He is excessively grateful to any one who
recalls the feeling. The point is that the aggregate of these good times
makes a considerable amount of cheerfulness.

Dickens does not attempt the impossible literary feat of showing us one
person who is happy all the time, but he does what is more obvious, he
makes us see a great many people who have snatches of good cheer in the
midst of their humdrum lives. He lets us see another obvious fact, that
happiness is more a matter of temperament than of circumstance. It is
not given as a reward of merit or as a mark of distinguished
consideration. There is one perennial fountain of pleasure. Any one can
have a good time who can _enjoy himself_. Dickens was not above
celebrating the kind of happiness which comes to the natural man and the
natural boy through what we call the "creature comforts." He could
sympathize with the unadulterated self-satisfaction of little Jack
Horner when

  "He put in his thumb
  And pulled out a plum,
  And said, 'What a great boy am I!'"

The finding of the plum was not a matter of world-wide importance, but
it was a great pleasure for Jack Horner, and he did not care who knew

What joy Mr. Micawber gets out of his own eloquence! We cannot begrudge
him this unearned increment. We sympathize, as, "much affected, but
still intensely enjoying himself, Mr. Micawber folded up his letter and
handed it with a bow to my aunt as something she might like to keep."

And R. Wilfer, despite his meagre salary, and despite Mrs. Wilfer,
enjoys himself whenever he gets a chance. When he goes to Greenwich with
Bella he finds everything as it should be. "Everything was delightful.
The Park was delightful; the punch was delightful, the dishes of fish
were delightful; the wine was delightful." If that was not happiness,
what was it?

Said R. Wilfer: "Supposing a man to go through life, we won't say with a
companion, but we will say with a tune. Very good. Supposing the tune
allotted to him was the 'Dead March' in 'Saul.' Well. It would be a very
suitable tune for particular occasions--none more so--but it would be
difficult to keep time with it in the ordinary run of domestic

It is a matter of common observation that those who have allotted to
them the most solemn music do not always keep time with it. In the
"ordinary run of domestic transactions" they find many little
alleviations. In the aggregate these amount to a considerable blessing.
The world may be rough, and many of its ways may be cruel, but for all
that it is a joyful sensation to be alive, and the more alive we are,
the better we like it. All of which is very obvious, and it is what we
want somebody to point out for us again and again.


To spoil a child is no easy task, for Nature is all the time working in
behalf of the childish virtues and veracities, and is gently correcting
the abnormalities of education. Still it can be done. The secret of it
is never to let the child alone, and to insist on doing for him all that
he would otherwise do for himself--and more.

In that "more" lies the spoiling power. The child must be early made
acquainted with the feeling of satiety. There must be too much of
everything. If he were left to himself to any extent, this would be an
unknown experience. For he is a hungry little creature, with a growing
appetite, and naturally is busy ministering to his own needs. He is
always doing something for himself, and enjoys the exercise. The little
egoist, even when he has "no language but a cry," uses that language to
make known to the world that he wants something and wants it very much.
As his wants increase, his exertions increase also. Arms and legs,
fingers and toes, muscles and nerves and busy brain are all at work to
get something which he desires. He is a mechanic fashioning his little
world to his own uses. He is a despot who insists on his divine right to
rule the subservient creatures around him. He is an inventor devising
ways and means to secure all the ends which he has the wit to see. That
these great works on which he has set his heart end in self is obvious
enough, but we forgive him. Altruism will come in its own time.

In natural play a boy will be a horse or a driver. Either occupation
gives him plenty to do. But the role of an elderly passenger, given a
softly cushioned seat and deposited respectfully at the journey's end,
he rejects with violent expressions of scorn. It is ignominious. He will
be a policeman or robber or judge or executioner, just as the exigencies
of the game demand. These are honorable positions worthy of one who
belongs to the party of action. But do not impose upon him by asking him
to act the part of the respectable citizen who is robbed and who does
nothing but telephone for the police. He is not fastidious and will take
up almost anything that is suggested, if it gives him the opportunity of
exerting himself. The demand for exertion is the irreducible minimum.

Now to spoil all this fine enthusiasm you must arrange everything in
such a manner that the eager little worker shall find everything done
before he has time to put his hand to it. There must be no alluring
possibilities in his tiny universe. The days of creation, when "the sons
of God shouted for joy," must be passed before he is ushered in. He must
be presented only with accomplished facts. There must be nothing left
for him to make or discover. He must be told everything. All his designs
must be anticipated, by nurses and parents and teachers. They must give
him whatever good things they can think of before he has time to desire
them. From the time when elaborate mechanical toys are put into his
reluctant hands, it is understood that he is to be amused, and need not
amuse himself His education is arranged for him. His companions are
chosen for him. There is nothing for him to do, and if there were, there
is no incentive for him to do it. In the game of life he is never
allowed to be the horse. It is his fate to be the passenger.

A child is spoiled when he accepts the position into which fond, foolish
parents thrust him. Being a passenger on what was presumably intended to
be a pleasure excursion, he begins to find fault as soon as the journey
becomes a little wearisome. He must find fault, because that is the only
thing left for him to find. Having no opportunity to exercise his
creative faculties, he becomes a petulant critic of a world he can
neither enjoy nor understand. Taking for granted that everything should
be done for him, he is angry because it is not done better. His
ready-made world does not please him--why should it? It never occurs to
him that if he does not like it he should try and make it better.

Unfortunately, the characteristics of the spoiled child do not vanish
with childhood or even with adolescence. A university training does not
necessarily transform petulance into ripe wisdom. Literary ability may
only give fluent expression to a peevish spirit.

Among the innumerable children of an advanced civilization there are
those who have been spoiled by the petting to which they have been
subjected. Life has been made so easy for them that when they come upon
hard places which demand sturdy endurance they break forth into angry
complaints. They have been given the results of the complicated
activities of mankind, without having done their share in the common
tasks. They have not through personal endeavor learned how much
everything costs. They are not able, therefore, to pay cheerfully for
any future good. If it is not given to them at once they feel that they
have a grievance. For friendly coöperation they are not prepared. They
must have their own way or they will not play the game. Their fretful
complaints are like those of the children in the old-time market-places:
"We have piped unto you and you have not danced, we have mourned unto
you and you have not lamented."

There is a fashionable attitude of mind among many who pride themselves
on their acute intellectualism. It manifests itself in a supercilious
compassion for the efforts and ambitions of the man of action. He, poor
fellow, is well-meaning, but unilluminated. He is eager and energetic
because he imagines that he is accomplishing something. If he were a
serious thinker he would see that all effort is futile. We are here in
an unintelligible world, a world of mighty forces, moving we know not
whither. We are subject to passions and impulses which we cannot resist.
We are never so helpless as when we are in the midst of human affairs.
We have great words which we utter proudly. We talk of Civilization,
Christianity, Democracy, and the like. What miserable failures they all
are. Civilization has failed to produce contentment. It has failed to
secure perfect justice between man and man, or to satisfy the hungry
with bread. Christianity after all these centuries of preaching leaves
mankind as we see it to-day--an armed camp, nation fighting nation,
class warring against class. The democratic movement about which we hear
so much is equally unsuccessful. After its brilliant promises it leaves
us helpless against the passion and stupidity of the mob. Popular
education adds to the tribulations of society. It rapidly increases the
number of the discontented. The half-educated are led astray by quacks
and demagogues who flourish mightily. The higher technical education
increases that intellectual proletariat which Bismarck saw to be a
peril. Science, which once was hailed as a deliverer, is now perceived
to bring only the disillusioning knowledge of our limitations. The
bankruptcy of Science follows closely upon the bankruptcy of Faith.
Mechanical inventions, instead of decreasing the friction of life,
enormously increase it. We are destined to be dragged along by our own
machines which are to go faster and faster. Philanthropy increases the
number of the unfit. The advances of medicine are only apparent, while
statistics show that tuberculosis, a disease of early life, decreases,
cancer and diseases of later life increase.

As for the general interest in social amelioration, that is the worst
sign of all. "Coming events cast their shadows before," and we may see
the shadow of the coming Revolution. Is there any symptom of decadence
more sure than when the moral temperature suddenly rises above normal?
Watch the clinical charts of Empire. In the period of national vigor the
blood is cool. But the time arrives when the period of growth has
passed. Then a boding sense comes on. The huge frame of the patient is
feverish. The social conscience is sensitive. All sorts of soft-hearted
proposals for helping the masses are proposed. The world rulers become
too tenderhearted for their business. Then comes the end.

Read again the history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. How
admirable were the efforts of the "good emperors," and how futile!
Consider again the oft-repeated story of the way the humanitarianism of
Rousseau ushered in the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

With such gloomy forebodings do the over-civilized thinkers and writers
try to discourage the half-civilized and half-educated workers, who are
trying to make things better. How shall we answer the prophets of ill?

Not by denying the existence of the evils they see, or the possibility
of the calamities which they fear. What we object to is the mental
attitude toward the facts that are discovered. The spoiled child, when
it discovers something not to its liking, exaggerates the evil, and
indulges its ill-temper.

The well-trained man faces the evil, studies it, measures it, and then
sets to work. He is well aware that nothing human is perfect, and that
to accomplish one thing is only to reveal another thing which needs to
be done. There must be perpetual readjustment, and reconsideration. What
was done yesterday must be done over again to-day in a somewhat
different way. But all this does not prove the futility of effort. It
only proves that the effort must be unceasing, and that it must be more
and more wisely directed.

He compares, for example, Christianity as an ideal with Christianity as
an actual achievement. He places in parallel columns the maxims of
Jesus, and the policies of Christian nations and the actual state of
Christian churches. The discrepancy is obvious enough. But it does not
prove that Christianity is a failure; it only proves that its work is

A political party may adopt a platform filled with excellent proposals
which if thoroughly carried out would bring in the millennium. But it is
too much to expect that it would all be accomplished in four years. At
the end of that period we should not be surprised if the reformers
should ask for a further extension of time.

The spoiled children of civilization eliminate from their problem the
one element which is constant and significant--human effort. They forget
that from the beginning human life has been a tremendous struggle
against great odds. Nothing has come without labor, no advance has been
without daring leadership. New fortunes have always had their hazards.

Forgetting all this, and accepting whatever comforts may have come to
them as their right, they are depressed and discouraged by their vision
of the future with its dangers and its difficulties. They habitually
talk of the civilized world as on the brink of some great catastrophe
which it is impossible to avoid. This gloomy foreboding is looked upon
as an indication of wisdom.

It should be dismissed, I think, as an indication of childish unreason,
unworthy of any one who faces realities. It is still true that "the
morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the
day is the evil thereof."

The notion that coming events cast shadows before is a superstition. How
can they? A shadow must be the shadow of something. The only events that
can cast a shadow are those which have already taken place. Behind them
is the light of experience, shining upon actualities which intercept its

The shadows which affright us are of our own making. They are
projections into the future of our own experiences. They are sharply
denned silhouettes, rather than vague omens. When we look at them
closely we can recognize familiar features. We are dealing with cause
and effect. What is done foreshadows what remains to be done. Every act
implies some further acts as its results. When a principle is recognized
its practical applications must follow. When men begin to reason from
new premises they are bound to come to new conclusions.

It is evident that in the last half-century enough discoveries have been
made to keep us busy for a long time. Every scientific advance upsets
some custom and interferes with some vested interest. You cannot
discover the truth about tuberculosis without causing a great deal of
trouble to the owners of unsanitary dwellings. Some of them are widows
whose little all is invested in this kind of property. The health
inspectors make life more difficult for them.

Scholarly research among ancient manuscripts is the cause of destructive
criticism. The scholar with the most peaceable intentions in the world
disturbs some one's faith. His discovery perhaps involves the
reconstruction of a whole system of philosophy.

A law is passed. The people are pleased with it, and then forget all
about it. But by and by a conscientious executive comes into office who
thinks it his duty to enforce the law. Such accidents are liable to
happen in the most good-humored democracy. When he tries to enforce it
there is a burst of angry surprise. He is treated as a revolutionist who
is attacking the established order. And yet to the moderately
philosophic observer the making of the law and its enforcement belong to
the same process. The difficulty is that though united logically they
are often widely separated chronologically.

The adjustment to a new theory involves changes in practice. But the
practical man who has usually little interest in new theories is
surprised and angry when the changes come. He looks upon them as
arbitrary interferences with his rights.

Even when it is admitted that when considered in a large way the change
is for the better, the question arises, Who is to pay for it? The
discussion on this point is bound to be acrimonious, as we are not
saints and nobody wants to pay more than his share of the costs of
progress. Even the price of liberty is something which we grumble over.

You have noticed how it is when a new boulevard is laid in any part of
the city. There is always a dispute between the municipality and the
abutters. Should the abutters be assessed for betterments or should they
sue for damages? Usually both actions are instituted. The cost of such
litigation should be included in the price which the community pays for
the improvement.

If people always knew what was good for them and acted accordingly, this
would be a very different world, though not nearly so interesting. But
we do not know what is good for us till we try; and human life is spent
in a series of experiments. The experiments are costly, but there is no
other way of getting results. All that we can say to a person who
refuses to interest himself in these experiments, or who looks upon all
experiments as futile which do not turn out as he wished, is that his
attitude is childish. The great commandment to the worker or thinker
is,--Thou shalt not sulk.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sulking is no more admirable in those of great reputation than it is in
the nursery. Thackeray declared that, in his opinion, "love is a higher
intellectual exercise than hate." And looked at as an exercise of mental
power courage must always be greater than the most highly
intellectualized form of fear or despair.

I cannot take with perfect seriousness Matthew Arnold's oft-quoted

  "Achilles ponders in his tent,
  The kings of modern thought are dumb.
  Silent they are, though not content,
  And wait to see the future come.
  They have the grief men had of yore,
  But they contend and cry no more."

If that is ever the attitude of the best minds, it is only a momentary
one of which they are quickly ashamed. Achilles sulked in his tent when
he was pondering not a big problem, but a small grievance. The kings of
modern thought who are described seem like kings out of a job. We are
inclined to turn from them to the intellectual monarchs _de facto_. They
are the ones who take up the hard job which the representatives of the
old régime give up as hopeless. For when the king has abdicated and
contends no more--Long live the King!

The real thinkers of any age do not remain long in a blue funk. They
always find something important to think about. They always point out
something worth doing. They cannot passively wait to see the future
come. They are too busy making it.

Matthew Arnold struck a truer note in Rugby Chapel. The true leaders of
mankind can never be mere intellectualists. There must be a union of
intellectual and moral energy like that which he recognized in his
father. To the fainting, dispirited race,--

  "Ye like angels appear,
  Radiant with ardour divine,
  Beacons of hope, ye appear!
  Languor is not in your heart,
  Weakness is not in your word,
  Weariness not on your brow;
  Ye alight in our van: at your voice
  Panic, despair, flee away."

When those whom we have looked upon as our intellectual leaders grow
disheartened, we must remember that a lost leader does not necessarily
mean a lost cause. When those whom we had called the kings of modern
thought are dumb, we can find new leadership. "Change kings with us,"
replied an Irish officer after the panic of the Boyne; "change kings
with us, and we will fight you again."


_From a Real-Estate Dealer to a Realistic Novelist_

Dear Sir:--

I have been for some time interested in your projects for the
improvement of literature. When I saw your name in the newspapers, I
looked you up in "Who's Who," and found that your rating is excellent
What pleased me was the bold way you attacked the old firms which have
been living on their reputations. The way you showed up Dickens,
Thackeray & Co. showed that you know a thing or two. As for W. Scott and
the other speculators who have been preying on the credulity of the
public, you gave them something to think about. You showed conclusively
that instead of dealing in hard facts, they have been handing out
fiction under the guise of novels.

Our minds run in the same channel: you deal in reality and I deal in
realty, but the principle is the same. I inclose some of the literature
which I am sending out. You see, I warn people against investing in
stocks and bonds. These are mere paper securities, which take to
themselves wings and fly away. But if you can get hold of a few acres of
dirt, there you are. When a panic comes along, and Wall Street goes to
smash, you can sit on your front porch in South Canaan without a care.
You have your little all in something real.

You followed the same line of argumentation. You showed that there was
nothing imaginative about your work. You could give a warranty deed for
every fact which you put on the market. I was so pleased with your
method that I bought a job lot of your books, so that I could see for
myself how you conducted your business. Will you allow me, as one in the
same line, to indulge in a little criticism? I am afraid that you are
making the same mistake I made when I first went into real estate. I was
so possessed with the idea of the value of land that I became "land
poor." It strikes me that a novelist may become reality poor in the same
way; that is, by investing in a great many realities that are not worth
what he pays for them.

You see, there is a fact which we do not mention in our circulars. There
is a great deal of land lying out of doors. _Some_ land is in great
demand, and the real trick is to find out what that land is. You can't
go out on the plains of Wyoming and give an acre of land the same value
which an acre has in the Wall Street district. I speak from experience,
having tried to convince the public that if the acres are real, the
values I suggested must be real also. People wouldn't believe me, and I
lost money.

And the same thing is true about improvements. They must be related to
the market value of the land on which they are placed. A forty-story
building at Goshenville Corners would be a mistake. There is no call for

This is the mistake which I fear you have been making. Your novel is a
carefully prepared structure, and must have cost a great deal, but it is
built on ground which is not worth enough to justify the investment. It
has not what we call "site value." You yourself declare that you have no
particular interest in the characters you describe at such length. All
that you have to say for them is that they are real. It is as if I were
to put up an expensive apartment-house on a vacant lot I have at North
Ovid. North Ovid is real, and so would be the apartment-house; but what
of it?

There are ninety millions of people in this country, all with characters
which might be carefully studied, if we had time. But we haven't the
time. So we have to choose our intimates. We prefer to know those who
seem to us most worth knowing. You should remember that the novelist has
no monopoly on realism. The newspapers are full of all sorts of
realities. The historian is a keen competitor.

Do you know that when I went to the bookstore to get your works I fell
in with a book on Garibaldi by a man named Trevelyan. When I got home I
sat down with it and couldn't let it go. Garibaldi was all the time
doing things, which you never allow your characters to do because you
think they would not be real. He was acting in the most romantic and
heroic manner possible. And his Thousand trooped after him as gayly as
if they were in a melodrama. And yet I understand that Garibaldi was a
real person, and that his exploits can be authenticated.

The competition in your line of business is fierce. You try to hold the
reader's attention to the states of mind of a few futile persons who
never did anything in particular that would make people want to know
them exhaustively. And then along comes the historian who tells all
about some one who does things they are interested in.

You can't wonder at the result. People who ought to be interested in
fiction are carried away by biography, and the chances are that some of
them will never come back. When they once get a taste for highly spiced
intellectual victuals, you can't get them to relish the breakfast food
you set before them. It seems to them insipid.

I know what you will say about Garibaldi. He was not your kind. You
wouldn't touch such a character if it was offered to you at a bargain.
After looking over that expedition to Sicily you would say that there
was nothing in it for you. The motives weren't complicated enough. It
was just plain heroics. You don't care so much for passions as for
problems. You want something to analyze.

Well, what do you say to Cavour? When I was deep in Garibaldi I found I
couldn't understand what he was driving at without knowing something
about Cavour who was always mixed up with what was going on in that
section of the world.

So I took up a Life of Cavour by a man named Thayer. It's the way I
have; one thing suggests another. Once I went up to Duluth and invested
in some corner lots on Superior Street. That suggested Superior City,
just across the river. The two towns were running each other down at a
great rate just then, so I stopped at West Superior to see what it had
to say for itself. The upshot of the matter was that I sized up the
situation about like this. A big city has _got_ to grow up at the head
of Lake Superior. If Duluth grows as much as it thinks it will, it's
bound to take in Superior. And if Superior grows as much as it thinks it
will, it can't help taking in Duluth. So I concluded that the best thing
for me was to take a flier in both.

When I saw what a big proposition the Unification of Italy was, I knew
that there was room for the development of some mighty interesting
characters before they got through with the business. So I plunged into
the Life of Cavour, and I've never regretted it.

Talk about problems! That hero of yours in your last book--I know you
don't believe in heroes,--at any rate, the leading man--was an innocent
child walking with his nurse along Easy Street, when compared with
Cavour. Cavour had fifty problems at the same time, and all of them were
insoluble to every one except himself.

His project, as I have just told you, was the unification of Italy. But
he hadn't any regulated monopoly in the business. A whole bunch of
unifiers were ahead of him; each one of them was trying to unify Italy
in his own way. They were all working at cross-purposes.

Now Cavour didn't try, as you might have expected, to reconcile these
people. He saw that it couldn't be done. He didn't mind their hating one
another; when they got too peaceable he would make an occasion for them
to hate him. He kept them all irreconcilably at work, till, in spite of
themselves, they got to working together. And when they began to do
that, Cavour would encourage them in it. As long as they were all
working for Italy he didn't care what they thought of each other or of
him. He had his eye on the main chance--for Italy.

I notice that in your novel, when your man got into trouble he threw up
the sponge. That rather turned me against him and I wished I hadn't
wasted so much time on his affairs. That wasn't the way with Thayer's
hero. One of the largest deals Cavour ever made was with Napoleon III,
who at that time had the reputation of being the biggest promoter of
free institutions in Europe. He was a regular wizard in diplomacy.
Whatever he said went. You see they hadn't realized then that he was
doing business on borrowed capital.

Well, Napoleon agreed to underwrite, for Cavour, the whole project of
Italian Unity. Everybody thought it was going through all right, when
suddenly Napoleon, from a place called Villafranca, wired that the deal
was off.

That floored Cavour. He was down and out. He couldn't realize ten cents
on the dollar on his securities. If he had been like your man, Thayer
would have had to bring his book to an end with that chapter. He would
have left the reader plunged in gloom.

Cavour was mad for awhile and went up to Switzerland to cool off. Thayer
describes the way he went up to a friend's house, near Lake Geneva, with
his coat on his arm. "Unannounced, he strode into the drawing-room,
threw himself into an easy-chair, and asked for a glass of iced water."

Then he poured out his wrath over the Villafranca incident, but he
didn't waste much time over that. In a few moments he was
enthusiastically telling of the new projects he had formed. "We must not
look back, but forward," he told his friends. "We have followed one
road. It is blocked. Very well, we will follow another."

That's the kind of man Cavour was. You forgot that he was a European
statesman. When you saw him with his coat off, drinking ice-water and
talking about the future, you felt toward him just as you would toward a
first-rate American who was of Presidential size.

Now, I'm not saying that there's any more realism to the square inch in
a Life of Cavour than in a Life of Napoleon III. It would take as much
labor on the part of a biographer to tell what Napoleon III really was
as to tell what Cavour really was--perhaps more. But you come up against
the law of supply and demand. You can't get around that. There isn't
much inquiry for Napoleon, now that his boom is over.

The way Thayer figured it was, I suppose, something like this. It would
take eight or ten years to assemble the materials for a first-rate
biography such as he wished to make. If he chose Napoleon there would be
steady deterioration in the property, and when the improvements were put
on there would be no demand. If he put the same work on Cavour, he would
get the unearned increment. I think he showed his sense.

Of course the biographer has the advantage of you in one important
particular. He knows how his story is coming out In a way, he's betting
on a certainty. Now you, as I judge, don't know how your story is coming
out, and if it doesn't come out, all you have to do is to say that is
the way you meant it to be. You cut off so many square feet of reality,
and let it go at that. Now that is very convenient for you, but from the
reader's point of view, it's unsatisfactory. It mixes him up, and he
feels a grudge against you whenever he thinks how much better he might
have spent his time than in following a plot that came to nothing. You
see you are running up against that same law of supply and demand. There
are so many failures in the world that the market is overstocked with
them. There is a demand for successes.

When I was in an old house which I took on the foreclosure of a mortgage
the other day, I came upon a little old novel, of a hundred years ago.
It was the sentimental kind that you despise. It was called "Alonzo and
Melissa," which was enough to condemn it in your eyes. But the preface
seemed to me to have some sense.

The author says: "It is believed that this story contains no indecorous
stimulants, nor is it filled with inexplicated incidents imperceptible
to the understanding. When anxieties have been excited by involved and
doubtful events, they are afterwards elucidated by their consequences.
In this the writer believes that he has generally copied Nature."

I have a feeling that those inexplicated incidents in your novel might
have been elucidated by their consequences if you had chosen a person
whose actions were of the kind to have some important consequences. In
tying up to an inconsequential person you lost that chance.

I don't mean to discourage you, because I believe you have it in you to
make a novel that would be as interesting as half the biographies that
are written. But you must learn a trick from the successful biographers,
and not invest in second-rate realities. The best is none too good. You
have to exercise judgment in your initial investment.

Now, if I were going to build a realistic novel, and had as much skill
in detail as you have, and as much intellectual capital to invest, I
would go right down to the business centre, so to speak, and invest in a
really valuable piece of reality; and then I would develop it. The first
investment might seem pretty steep, but it would pay in the end. If you
could get a big man, enthusiastic over a big cause, in conflict with big
forces, and bring in a lot of worth-while people to back him up, and
then bring the whole thing to some big conclusion, you would have a
novel that would be as real as the biographies I have been reading, and
as interesting. I think it would be worth trying.

Respectfully yours,


P.S. If you don't feel that you can afford to make such a heavy
investment as I have suggested, why don't you put your material into a
short story?


Our talk last night set me to thinking. It was the first time during all
the years of our acquaintance that I had ever heard you speak in a
discouraged tone. You have always been healthy to a fault, and your
good-humor has been contagious. Especially has it been pleasant to hear
you talk about the country and its Manifest Destiny.

I remember, some years ago, how merrily you used to laugh about the
"calamity-howler," whose habitat at that time was Kansas. The farmers of
Kansas were not then as prosperous as they are now. When several bad
years came together they didn't like it, and began to make complaints.
Their raucous cries you found very amusing.

The calamity-howler, being ignorant of the laws of political economy and
of the conditions of progress, did not take his calamities in the spirit
in which they were offered to him by the rest of the country. He did not
find satisfaction in the thought that other people were prosperous
though he was not. Instead of acting reasonably and voting the straight
ticket from motives of party loyalty, he raised all sorts of irrelevant
issues. He treated Prosperity as if it were a local issue, instead of a
plank in the National Platform.

Now, all this was opposed to your good-natured philosophy of progress.
You were eminently practical, and it was a part of your creed never to
"go behind the returns." As to Prosperity, it was "first come, first
served." In this land of opportunity the person who first sees an
opportunity should take it, asking no questions as to why he came by it.
It is his by right of discovery.

You were always a great believer in the good old American doctrine of
Manifest Destiny. This was a big country and destined to grow bigger. To
you bigness was its own excuse for being. Optimism was as natural as
breathing. It was manifest destiny that cities and corporations and
locomotives and armies and navies and national debts and daily
newspapers, with their Sunday supplements, and bank clearances and
tariffs and insurance companies and the price of living should go up. It
was all according to a beautiful natural law, "as fire ascending seeks
the sun." Besides these things, it was manifest destiny that other
things not so good should grow bigger also,--graft and slums and foolish
luxury. They were all involved in the increasing bigness of things.

Sometimes you would grumble about them, but in a good-natured way, as
one who recognized their inevitability. Just as you said, boys will be
boys, so you said, politicians will be politicians, and business is
business. If one is living in a growing country he must not begrudge the
cost of the incidentals.

In your talk there was a cheerful cynicism which amazed the
slower-witted foreigner. You talked of the pickings and stealings of
your elected officers as you would of the pranks of a precocious
youngster. It was all a part of the day's growth. Yet you were really
public-spirited. You would have sprung to arms in a moment if you had
thought that your country was in danger or that its institutions were
being undermined.

Your good-natured tolerance was a part of your philosophy of life. It
was bound up in your triumphant Americanism. You were a hero-worshipper,
and you delighted in "big men." The big men who gained the prizes were
efficient and unscrupulous and unassuming; that is, they never assumed
to be better than their neighbors. They looked ahead, they saw how
things were going, and went with them. And on the whole, things, you
believed, were going well. Though they were not scrupulously just, these
big men were generous, and were willing to give away what they had
acquired. Though grasping, they were not avaricious. They grasped things
with the strong prehensile grasp of the infant, rather than with the
clutch of the miser. They took them because they were there, and not
because they had any well-defined idea as to whether they belonged to
them or not.

These big men were very likable. They were engrossed in big projects,
and they were doing necessary work in the development of the country.
They naturally took the easiest and most direct methods to get at
results. They would not go out of the way to corrupt a legislature any
more than they would go out of the way to find a range of mountains. But
if the mountain stood in the way of the railroad, they would go through
it regardless of expense. If the legislature was in their way, they
would deal with it as best they could. They were willing to pay what it
cost to accomplish a purpose which they believed was good.

Their attitude toward the Public was one which you did not criticize,
for it seemed to you to be reasonable. The Public was an abstraction,
like Nature. We are all under the laws of Nature. But Nature doesn't
mind whether we consciously obey or not. She goes her way, and we go
ours. We get all she will let us have. So with the Public. The Public
was not regarded as a person or as an aggregate of persons, it was the
potentiality of wealth. They never thought of the Public as being
starved or stunted, or even as being seriously inconvenienced because of
what they took from it, any more than they thought of Nature being the
poorer because of the electricity which they induced to run along their
wires. A public franchise was a plum growing on a convenient tree. A
wise man would wait till it was ripe and then, when no one was looking,
would pick it for himself The whole transaction was a trial of wits
between rival pickers. A special privilege, according to this view,
involved no special obligations; it was a reward for special abilities.
Once given, it was property to be enjoyed in perpetuity.

This was the code of ethics which you, in common with multitudes of
American citizens, accepted. You have yourself prospered. Indeed, things
had gone so well with you in this best of all countries that any
fundamental change seemed unthinkable.

But that a change has come seems evident from your conversation last
night. All that fine optimism which your friends have admired seemed to
have deserted you. There was a querulous note which was strangely out of
keeping with your usual disposition. It was what you have been
accustomed to stigmatize as un-American. When you discussed the present
state of the country, you talked--you will pardon me for saying it--for
all the world like a calamity-howler.

The country, you said, is in a bad way, and it must be awakened from its
lethargy. After a period of unexampled prosperity and marvelous
development, something has happened. Just what it is you don't really
know, but it's very alarming. Instead of working together for
Prosperity, the people are listening to demagogues, and trying all sorts
of experiments, half of which you are sure are unconstitutional. The
captains of industry who have made this the biggest country in the world
are thwarted in their plans for further expansion.

There are people who are criticizing the courts, and there are courts
which are criticizing business enterprises that they don't understand.
There are so-called experts--mere college professors--who are tinkering
the tariff. There are over-zealous executives who are currying favor
with the crowd by enforcing laws which are well enough on the statute
books, but which were never meant to go further. As if matters were not
bad enough already, there are demagogues who are stirring up class
feeling by proposing new laws. Party loyalty is being undermined, and
the new generation doesn't half understand the great issues which have
been settled for all time. It is rashly interested in new issues. For
the life of you, you say, you can't understand what these issues are.

New and divisive questions which lead only to faction are propounded so
that the voters are confused. The great principle of Representative
Government, on which the Republic was founded, is being attacked.
Instead of choosing experienced men to direct public policy, there is an
appeal to the passions of the mob. The result of all this agitation is
an unsettlement that paralyzes business. The United States is in danger
of losing the race for commercial supremacy. Germany will forge ahead of
us. Japan will catch us. Socialism and the Yellow Peril will be upon us.
The Man on Horseback will appear, and what shall we do then?

I did not understand whether you looked for these perils to come
together, or whether they were to appear in orderly succession. But I
came to the conclusion that either the country is in a bad way, or you
are. You will pardon me if I choose the latter alternative, for I too am
an optimistic American, and I like to choose the lesser of two evils. If
there is an attack of "hysteria," I should like to think of it as
somewhat localized, rather than having suddenly attacked the whole

Now, my opinion is that the American people were never minding their own
business more good-humoredly and imperturbably than at the present
moment. They have been slowly and silently making up their minds, and
now they are beginning to express a deliberate judgment. What you take
to be the noise of demagogues, I consider to be the sober sense of a
great people which is just finding adequate expression.

You seem to be afraid of an impending revolution, and picture it as a
sort of French Revolution, a destructive overturn of all existing
institutions. But may not the revolution which we are passing through be
something different,--a great American revolution, which is being
carried through in the characteristic American fashion?

Walt Whitman expresses the great characteristic of American history:
"Here is what moves in magnificent masses careless of particulars."

It is this mass movement, slow at first, but swift and irresistible when
the mass has come to consciousness of its own tendency, which has always
confounded astute persons who have been interested only in particulars.
It is a movement like that of the Mississippi at flood-time. The great
river flows within its banks as long as it can. But the time comes when
the barriers are too frail to hold back the mighty waters. Then the
river makes, very quickly, a channel for itself. You cannot understand
what has happened till you take into account the magnitude of the river

Now, the successful man of affairs, who has been intent on the incidents
of the passing day, is often strangely oblivious of the mass movements.
You, for example, are disturbed by the unrest which is manifest, and you
look for some one whom you can blame for the disturbance. But perhaps no
one is to blame.

I think that what is happening may be traced to a sufficient cause. We
are approaching the end of one great era in American history and we are
preparing, as best we may, for a new era. The consciousness of the
magnitude of the change has come to us rather suddenly. One big job
which has absorbed the energies and stimulated the ambition of Americans
for three hundred years is practically finished. Some work still remains
to be done on it, but it no longer demands the highest ability. The end
is in sight.

This work has been the settlement of a vast territory, lying between the
Atlantic and Pacific, with a population of white men. It was a task so
big in itself that it fired the imagination and developed that peculiar
type of character which we call American. In its outlines the task was
so broad and simple that it could be comprehended by the most ordinary
intelligence. It was so inevitable that it impressed upon all those
engaged in it the belief in Manifest Destiny.

What has been treated by incompetent critics as mere boastfulness has
in reality been practical sagacity and foresight. Sam Slick was only
expressing a truth when he said, "The Yankees see further than most
folks." This was not because of any innate cleverness but because of
their advantage in position. Americans have had a more unobstructed view
of the future than had the people of the overcrowded Old World. The
settlers on the shores of the Atlantic had behind them a region which
belonged to them and their children. They soon became aware of the
riches of this hinterland and of its meaning for the future. This vast
region must be settled. Roads must be built over the mountains, the
forests must be felled, mines must be opened up, farms must be brought
under the plow, great cities must be built by the rivers and lakes,
there must be schools and churches and markets established where now the
tribes of Indians roam. The surplus millions of Europe must be
transported to this wilderness.

It was a big task and yet a simple one. The movement was as obvious as
that of Niagara--Niagara is wonderful but inevitable. A great deal of
water flowing over a great deal of rock, that is all there is of it. The
destiny of America was equally obvious from the beginning. Here was a
great deal of land which was destined to be inhabited by a great many
people. It didn't matter very much what kind of people they were so that
they were healthy and industrious. The greatness of the country was
assured if only there were enough of them.

From the very first the future greatness of the land was seen by
open-eyed explorers. They all were able to appreciate it. Captain John
Smith does not compare Virginia with Great Britain; he compares it to
the whole of Europe. After mentioning the natural resources of each
country, he declares that the new land had all these and more, and
needed only men to develop them. And Captain John Smith's forecast has
proved to be correct.

In the first half of the last century, a party of twenty young men from
Cambridge, Massachusetts, started on what at that time was a great
adventure, the overland journey to Oregon. The preface to Wyeth's
"Oregon Expedition" throws light on the ideas of those who were not
statesmen or captains of industry, but only plain American citizens
sharing the vision which was common.

"The spot where our adventurer was born and grew up had many peculiar
and desirable advantages over most others in the County of Middlesex.
Besides rich pasturage, numerous dairies, and profitable orchards, it
possessed the luxuries of well-cultivated gardens of all sorts of
culinary vegetables, and all within three miles of Boston Market House,
and two miles of the largest live-cattle market in New England." Besides
these blessings there is enumerated "a body of water commonly called
Fresh Pond."

"But Mr. Wyeth said, 'All this availeth me nothing, so long as I read
books in which I find that by going only about four thousand miles
overland, from the shore of our Atlantic to the shore of the Pacific,
after we have there entrapped and killed the beavers and otters, we
shall be able, after building vessels for the purpose, to carry our most
valuable peltry to China and Cochin China, our sealskins to Japan, and
our superfluous grain to various Asiatic ports, and lumber to the
Spanish settlements on the Pacific; and to become rich by underworking
and underselling the people of Hindustan; and, to crown all, to extend
far and wide the traffic in oil, by killing tame whales on the spot,
instead of sailing around the stormy region of Cape Horn.'

"All these advantages and more were suggested to divers discontented and
impatient young men. Talk to them of the great labor, toil, risk, and
they would turn a deaf ear to you; argue with them and you might as well
reason with a snowstorm."

If you would understand the driving power of America, you must
understand "the divers discontented and impatient young men" who in each
generation have found in the American wilderness an outlet for their
energies. In the rough contacts with untamed Nature they learned to be
resourceful. Emerson declared that the country went on most
satisfactorily, not when it was in the hands of the respectable Whigs,
but when in the hands of "these rough riders--legislators in
shirt-sleeves--Hoosier, Sucker, Wolverine, Badger--or whatever hard-head
Arkansas, Oregon, or Utah sends, half-orator, half-assassin, to
represent its wrath and cupidity at Washington."

The men who made America had an "excess of virility." "Men of this
surcharge of arterial blood cannot live on nuts, herb-tea, and elegies;
cannot read novels and play whist; cannot satisfy all their wants at the
Thursday Lecture and the Boston Athenæum. They pine for adventure and
must go to Pike's Peak; had rather die by the hatchet of the Pawnee than
sit all day and every day at the counting-room desk. They are made for
war, for the sea, for mining, hunting, and clearing, and the joy of
eventful living."

In Emerson's day there was ample scope for all these varied energies on
the frontier. "There are Oregons, Californias, and Exploring Expeditions
enough appertaining to America to find them in files to gnaw and
crocodiles to eat."

But it must have occurred to some one to ask, "What will happen when the
Oregons and Californias are filled up?" Well, the answer is, "See what
is happening now." Instead of settling down to herb-tea and elegies,
Young America, having finished one big job, is looking for another. The
noises which disturb you are not the cries of an angry proletariat, but
are the shouts of eager young fellows who are finding new opportunities.
They have the same desire to do big things, the same joy in eventful
living, that you had thirty years ago. Only the tasks that challenge
them have taken a different form.

When you hear the words "Conservation," "Social Service," "Social
Justice," and the like, you are apt to dismiss them as mere fads. You
think of the catchwords of ineffective reformers whom you have known
from your youth. But the fact is that they represent to-day the
enthusiasms of a new generation. They are big things, with big men
behind them. They represent the Oregons and Californias toward which
sturdy pioneers are moving, undeterred by obstacles.

The live questions to-day concern not the material so much as the moral
development of the nation. For it is seen that the future welfare of the
people depends on the creation of a finer type of civic life. Is this
still to be a land of opportunity? Ninety millions of people are already
here. What shall be done with the next ninety millions? That wealth is
to increase goes without saying. But how is it to be distributed? Are we
tending to a Plutocracy, or can a real Democracy hold its own? Powerful
machinery has been invented. How can this machinery be controlled and
used for truly human ends? We have learned the economies that result
from organization. Who is to get the benefit of these economies?

So long as such questions were merely academic, practical persons like
yourself paid little attention to them. Now they are being asked by
persons as practical as yourself who are intent on 'getting results.'
And what is more, they employ the instruments of precision furnished by
modern science.

You have been pleased over the millions of dollars which have been
lavished on education. The fruits of this are now being seen. Hosts of
able young men have been studying Government and Sociology and Economics
and History. These have been the most popular courses in all our
colleges. And they have been studied in a new way. The old formulas and
the old methods have been fearlessly criticized. New standards of
efficiency have been presented. The scientific method has been extended
to the sphere of moral relations. It has been demonstrated to these
young men that the resources of the country may be indefinitely
increased by the continuous application of trained intelligence to
definite ends. The old Malthusian doctrine has given way before applied
science. The population may be doubled and the standard of living
increased at the same time, if we plan intelligently. The expert can
serve the public as efficiently as he has served private interests, if
only the public can be educated to appreciate him, and persuaded to
employ him.

This is what the "social unrest" means in America. It is not the unrest
of the weak and the unsuccessful. It is the unrest of the strong and
ambitious. You cannot still it by talking about prosperity: of course we
are prosperous, after a fashion, but it is a fashion that no longer
pleases us. We want something better and we propose to get it. What
disturbs you is the appearance in force of a generation that has turned
its attention to a new set of problems, and is attempting to solve them
by scientific methods. It is believed that there is a Science of
Government as well as an Art of Politics. The new generation has a
respect, born of experience, for the expert. It seeks the man who knows
rather than the clever manager. It demands of public servants not simply
that they be honest, but that they be efficient.

Its attitude to the political boss is decidedly less respectful than
that to which you were accustomed. You looked upon him as a remarkably
astute character, and you attributed to him an uncanny ability to
forecast the future. These young men have discovered that his ability is
only a vulgar error. Remove the conditions created by public
indifference and ignorance, and he vanishes. In restoring power to the
people, they find that a hundred useful things can be done which the
political wiseacres declared to be impossible.

When I consider the new and vigorous forces in American life I cannot
agree with your apprehensions; but there is one thing which you said
with which I heartily agree. You said that you wished we might settle
down to sound and constructive work, and get rid of the "muck-raker."

I agree with you that the muck-raker stands in the way of large plans
for betterment. But it might be well to refresh our minds in regard to
what is really meant by the man with the muck-rake. He is not the man
who draws our attention to abuses which can be abolished by determined
effort. He is the man who apologizes for abuses that are profitable to
himself. He prefers his petty interests to any ideal good. His character
was most admirably drawn by Bunyan:--

"The Interpreter takes them apart again, and has them first into a room
where was a man that could look no way but downwards, with a muck-rake
in his hand. There stood also one over his head with a celestial crown
in His hand, and proffered him that crown for his muck-rake, but the man
did neither look up nor regard, but raked to himself the straws, the
small sticks, and the dust of the floor.

"'Then,' said Christiana, 'I persuade myself that I know somewhat the
meaning of this; for this is the figure of a man of this world, is it
not, good sir?'

"'Thou hast said right,' said he....

"'Then,' said Christiana, 'O deliver me from this muck-rake.'

"'That prayer,' said the Interpreter, 'has lain by till it is almost
rusty. "Give me not riches," is scarce the prayer of one in ten

The man with the muck-rake, then, is one who can look no way but
downward, and is so intent on collecting riches for himself that he does
not see or regard any higher interests. I agree with you that if we are
to have any constructive work in American society the first thing is to
get rid of the man with the muck-rake, and to put in his place the Man
with a Vision.


The Riverside Press



       *       *       *       *       *


Being some familiar correspondence of PETER HARDING, M.D.

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