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´╗┐Title: As We Go
Author: Warner, Charles Dudley, 1829-1900
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "As We Go" ***

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AS WE GO

By Charles Dudley Warner



CONTENTS: (28 short studies)

OUR PRESIDENT
THE NEWSPAPER-MADE MAN
INTERESTING GIRLS
GIVE THE MEN A CHANCE
THE ADVENT OF CANDOR
THE AMERICAN MAN
THE ELECTRIC WAY
CAN A HUSBAND OPEN HIS WIFE'S LETTERS?
A LEISURE CLASS
WEATHER AND CHARACTER
BORN WITH AN "EGO"
JUVENTUS MUNDI
A BEAUTIFUL OLD AGE
THE ATTRACTION OF THE REPULSIVE
GIVING AS A LUXURY
CLIMATE AND HAPPINESS
THE NEW FEMININE RESERVE
REPOSE IN ACTIVITY
WOMEN--IDEAL AND REAL
THE ART OF IDLENESS
IS THERE ANY CONVERSATION
THE TALL GIRL
THE DEADLY DIARY
THE WHISTLING GIRL
BORN OLD AND RICH
THE "OLD SOLDIER"
THE ISLAND OF BIMINI
JUNE



OUR PRESIDENT

We are so much accustomed to kings and queens and other privileged
persons of that sort in this world that it is only on reflection that we
wonder how they became so. The mystery is not their continuance, but how
did they get a start? We take little help from studying the bees
--originally no one could have been born a queen. There must have been
not only a selection, but an election, not by ballot, but by consent some
way expressed, and the privileged persons got their positions because
they were the strongest, or the wisest, or the most cunning. But the
descendants of these privileged persons hold the same positions when they
are neither strong, nor wise, nor very cunning. This also is a mystery.
The persistence of privilege is an unexplained thing in human affairs,
and the consent of mankind to be led in government and in fashion by
those to whom none of the original conditions of leadership attach is a
philosophical anomaly. How many of the living occupants of thrones,
dukedoms, earldoms, and such high places are in position on their own
merits, or would be put there by common consent? Referring their origin
to some sort of an election, their continuance seems to rest simply on
forbearance. Here in America we are trying a new experiment; we have
adopted the principle of election, but we have supplemented it with the
equally authoritative right of deposition. And it is interesting to see
how it has worked for a hundred years, for it is human nature to like to
be set up, but not to like to be set down. If in our elections we do not
always get the best--perhaps few elections ever did--we at least do not
perpetuate forever in privilege our mistakes or our good hits.

The celebration in New York, in 1889, of the inauguration of Washington
was an instructive spectacle. How much of privilege had been gathered and
perpetuated in a century? Was it not an occasion that emphasized our
republican democracy? Two things were conspicuous. One was that we did
not honor a family, or a dynasty, or a title, but a character; and the
other was that we did not exalt any living man, but simply the office of
President. It was a demonstration of the power of the people to create
their own royalty, and then to put it aside when they have done with it.
It was difficult to see how greater honors could have been paid to any
man than were given to the President when he embarked at Elizabethport
and advanced, through a harbor crowded with decorated vessels, to the
great city, the wharves and roofs of which were black with human beings
--a holiday city which shook with the tumult of the popular welcome.
Wherever he went he drew the swarms in the streets as the moon draws the
tide. Republican simplicity need not fear comparison with any royal
pageant when the President was received at the Metropolitan, and, in a
scene of beauty and opulence that might be the flowering of a thousand
years instead of a century, stood upon the steps of the "dais" to greet
the devoted Centennial Quadrille, which passed before him with the
courageous five, 'Imperator, morituri te salutamus'. We had done it--we,
the people; that was our royalty. Nobody had imposed it on us. It was not
even selected out of four hundred. We had taken one of the common people
and set him up there, creating for the moment also a sort of royal family
and a court for a background, in a splendor just as imposing for the
passing hour as an imperial spectacle. We like to show that we can do it,
and we like to show also that we can undo it. For at the banquet, where
the Elected ate his dinner, not only in the presence of, but with,
representatives of all the people of all the States, looked down on by
the acknowledged higher power in American life, there sat also with him
two men who had lately been in his great position, the centre only a
little while ago, as he was at the moment, of every eye in the republic,
now only common citizens without a title, without any insignia of rank,
able to transmit to posterity no family privilege. If our hearts swelled
with pride that we could create something just as good as royalty, that
the republic had as many men of distinguished appearance, as much beauty,
and as much brilliance of display as any traditional government, we also
felicitated ourselves that we could sweep it all away by a vote and
reproduce it with new actors next day.

It must be confessed that it was a people's affair. If at any time there
was any idea that it could be controlled only by those who represented
names honored for a hundred years, or conspicuous by any social
privilege, the idea was swamped in popular feeling. The names that had
been elected a hundred years ago did not stay elected unless the present
owners were able to distinguish themselves. There is nothing so to be
coveted in a country as the perpetuity of honorable names, and the
"centennial" showed that we are rich in those that have been honorably
borne, but it also showed that the century has gathered no privilege that
can count upon permanence.

But there is another aspect of the situation that is quite as serious and
satisfactory. Now that the ladies of the present are coming to dress as
ladies dressed a hundred years ago, we can make an adequate comparison of
beauty. Heaven forbid that we should disparage the women of the
Revolutionary period! They looked as well as they could under all the
circumstances of a new country and the hardships of an early settlement.
Some of them looked exceedingly well--there were beauties in those days
as there were giants in Old Testament times. The portraits that have come
down to us of some of them excite our admiration, and indeed we have a
sort of tradition of the loveliness of the women of that remote period.
The gallant men of the time exalted them. Yet it must be admitted by any
one who witnessed the public and private gatherings of April, 1889, in
New York, contributed to as they were by women from every State, and who
is unprejudiced by family associations, that the women of America seem
vastly improved in personal appearance since the days when George
Washington was a lover: that is to say, the number of beautiful women is
greater in proportion to the population, and their beauty and charm are
not inferior to those which have been so much extolled in the
Revolutionary time. There is no doubt that if George Washington could
have been at the Metropolitan ball he would have acknowledged this, and
that while he might have had misgivings about some of our political
methods, he would have been more proud than ever to be still acknowledged
the Father of his Country.



THE NEWSPAPER-MADE MAN

A fair correspondent--has the phrase an old-time sound?--thinks we should
pay more attention to men. In a revolutionary time, when great questions
are in issue, minor matters, which may nevertheless be very important,
are apt to escape the consideration they deserve. We share our
correspondent's interest in men, but must plead the pressure of
circumstances. When there are so many Woman's Journals devoted to the
wants and aspirations of women alone, it is perhaps time to think of
having a Man's journal, which should try to keep his head above-water in
the struggle for social supremacy. When almost every number of the
leading periodicals has a paper about Woman--written probably by a woman
--Woman Today, Woman Yesterday, Woman Tomorrow; when the inquiry is daily
made in the press as to what is expected of woman, and the new
requirements laid upon her by reason of her opportunities, her entrance
into various occupations, her education--the impartial observer is likely
to be confused, if he is not swept away by the rising tide of femininity
in modern life.

But this very superiority of interest in the future of women is a warning
to man to look about him, and see where in this tide he is going to land,
if he will float or go ashore, and what will be his character and his
position in the new social order. It will not do for him to sit on the
stump of one of his prerogatives that woman has felled, and say with
Brahma, "They reckon ill who leave me out," for in the day of the
Subjection of Man it may be little consolation that he is left in.

It must be confessed that man has had a long inning. Perhaps it is true
that he owed this to his physical strength, and that he will only keep it
hereafter by intellectual superiority, by the dominance of mind. And how
in this generation is he equipping himself for the future? He is the
money-making animal. That is beyond dispute. Never before were there such
business men as this generation can show--Napoleons of finance,
Alexanders of adventure, Shakespeares of speculation, Porsons of
accumulation. He is great in his field, but is he leaving the
intellectual province to woman? Does he read as much as she does? Is he
becoming anything but a newspaper-made person? Is his mind getting to be
like the newspaper? Speaking generally of the mass of business men--and
the mass are business men in this country--have they any habit of reading
books? They have clubs, to be sure, but of what sort? With the exception
of a conversation club here and there, and a literary club, more or less
perfunctory, are they not mostly social clubs for comfort and idle
lounging, many of them known, as other workmen are, by their "chips"?
What sort of a book would a member make out of "Chips from my Workshop"?
Do the young men, to any extent, join in Browning clubs and Shakespeare
clubs and Dante clubs? Do they meet for the study of history, of authors,
of literary periods, for reading, and discussing what they read? Do they
in concert dig in the encyclopaedias, and write papers about the
correlation of forces, and about Savonarola, and about the Three Kings?
In fact, what sort of a hand would the Three Kings suggest to them? In
the large cities the women's clubs, pursuing literature, art, languages,
botany, history, geography, geology, mythology, are innumerable. And
there is hardly a village in the land that has not from one to six clubs
of young girls who meet once a week for some intellectual purpose. What
are the young men of the villages and the cities doing meantime? How are
they preparing to meet socially these young ladies who are cultivating
their minds? Are they adapting themselves to the new conditions? Or are
they counting, as they always have done, on the adaptability of women, on
the facility with which the members of the bright sex can interest
themselves in base-ball and the speed of horses and the chances of the
"street"? Is it comfortable for the young man, when the talk is about the
last notable book, or the philosophy of the popular poet or novelist, to
feel that laughing eyes are sounding his ignorance?

Man is a noble creation, and he has fine and sturdy qualities which
command the admiration of the other sex, but how will it be when that
sex, by reason of superior acquirements, is able to look down on him
intellectually? It used to be said that women are what men wish to have
them, that they endeavored to be the kind of women who would win
masculine admiration. How will it be if women have determined to make
themselves what it pleases them to be, and to cultivate their powers in
the expectation of pleasing men, if they indulge any such expectation, by
their higher qualities only? This is not a fanciful possibility. It is
one that young men will do well to ponder. It is easy to ridicule the
literary and economic and historical societies, and the naive courage
with which young women in them attack the gravest problems, and to say
that they are only a passing fashion, like decorative art and a mode of
dress. But a fashion is not to be underestimated; and when a fashion
continues and spreads like this one, it is significant of a great change
going on in society. And it is to be noticed that this fashion is
accompanied by other phenomena as interesting. There is scarcely an
occupation, once confined almost exclusively to men, in which women are
not now conspicuous. Never before were there so many women who are
superior musicians, performers themselves and organizers of musical
societies; never before so many women who can draw well; never so many
who are successful in literature, who write stories, translate, compile,
and are acceptable workers in magazines and in publishing houses; and
never before were so many women reading good books, and thinking about
them, and talking about them, and trying to apply the lessons in them to
the problems of their own lives, which are seen not to end with marriage.
A great deal of this activity, crude much of it, is on the intellectual
side, and must tell strongly by-and-by in the position of women. And the
young men will take notice that it is the intellectual force that must
dominate in life.



INTERESTING GIRLS

It seems hardly worth while to say that this would be a more interesting
country if there were more interesting people in it. But the remark is
worth consideration in a land where things are so much estimated by what
they cost. It is a very expensive country, especially so in the matter of
education, and one cannot but reflect whether the result is in proportion
to the outlay. It costs a great many thousands of dollars and over four
years of time to produce a really good base-ball player, and the time and
money invested in the production of a society young woman are not less.
No complaint is made of the cost of these schools of the higher
education; the point is whether they produce interesting people. Of
course all women are interesting. It has got pretty well noised about the
world that American women are, on the whole, more interesting than any
others. This statement is not made boastfully, but simply as a market
quotation, as one might say. They are sought for; they rule high. They
have a "way"; they know how to be fascinating, to be agreeable; they
unite freedom of manner with modesty of behavior; they are apt to have
beauty, and if they have not, they know how to make others think they
have. Probably the Greek girls in their highest development under Phidias
were never so attractive as the American girls of this period; and if we
had a Phidias who could put their charms in marble, all the antique
galleries would close up and go out of business.

But it must be understood that in regard to them, as to the dictionaries,
it is necessary to "get the best." Not all women are equally interesting,
and some of those on whom most educational money is lavished are the
least so. It can be said broadly that everybody is interesting up to a
certain point. There is no human being from whom the inquiring mind
cannot learn something. It is so with women. Some are interesting for
five minutes, some for ten, some for an hour; some are not exhausted in a
whole day; and some (and this shows the signal leniency of Providence)
are perennially entertaining, even in the presence of masculine
stupidity. Of course the radical trouble of this world is that there are
not more people who are interesting comrades, day in and day out, for a
lifetime. It is greatly to the credit of American women that so many of
them have this quality, and have developed it, unprotected, in free
competition with all countries which have been pouring in women without
the least duty laid upon their grace or beauty. We, have a tariff upon
knowledge--we try to shut out all of that by a duty on books; we have a
tariff on piety and intelligence in a duty on clergymen; we try to
exclude art by a levy on it; but we have never excluded the raw material
of beauty, and the result is that we can successfully compete in the
markets of the world.

This, however, is a digression. The reader wants to know what this
quality of being interesting has to do with girls' schools. It is
admitted that if one goes into a new place he estimates the agreeableness
of it according to the number of people it contains with whom it is a
pleasure to converse, who have either the ability to talk well or the
intelligence to listen appreciatingly even if deceivingly, whose society
has the beguiling charm that makes even natural scenery satisfactory. It
is admitted also that in our day the burden of this end of life, making
it agreeable, is mainly thrown upon women. Men make their business an
excuse for not being entertaining, or the few who cultivate the mind
(aside from the politicians, who always try to be winning) scarcely think
it worth while to contribute anything to make society bright and
engaging. Now if the girls' schools and colleges, technical and other,
merely add to the number of people who have practical training and
knowledge without personal charm, what becomes of social life? We are
impressed with the excellence of the schools and colleges for women
--impressed also with the co-educating institutions. There is no sight
more inspiring than an assemblage of four or five hundred young women
attacking literature, science, and all the arts. The grace and courage of
the attack alone are worth all it costs. All the arts and science and
literature are benefited, but one of the chief purposes that should be in
view is unattained if the young women are not made more interesting, both
to themselves and to others. Ability to earn an independent living may be
conceded to be important, health is indispensable, and beauty of face and
form are desirable; knowledge is priceless, and unselfish amiability is
above the price of rubies; but how shall we set a value, so far as the
pleasure of living is concerned, upon the power to be interesting? We
hear a good deal about the highly educated young woman with reverence,
about the emancipated young woman with fear and trembling, but what can
take the place of the interesting woman? Anxiety is this moment agitating
the minds of tens of thousands of mothers about the education of their
daughters. Suppose their education should be directed to the purpose of
making them interesting women, what a fascinating country this would be
about the year 1900.



GIVE THE MEN A CHANCE

Give the men a chance. Upon the young women of America lies a great
responsibility. The next generation will be pretty much what they choose
to make it; and what are they doing for the elevation of young men? It is
true that there are the colleges for men, which still perform a good
work--though some of them run a good deal more to a top-dressing of
accomplishments than to a sub-soiling of discipline--but these colleges
reach comparatively few. There remain the great mass who are devoted to
business and pleasure, and only get such intellectual cultivation as
society gives them or they chance to pick up in current publications. The
young women are the leisure class, consequently--so we hear--the
cultivated class. Taking a certain large proportion of our society, the
women in it toil not, neither do they spin; they do little or no domestic
work; they engage in no productive occupation. They are set apart for a
high and ennobling service--the cultivation of the mind and the rescue of
society from materialism. They are the influence that keeps life elevated
and sweet--are they not? For what other purpose are they set apart in
elegant leisure? And nobly do they climb up to the duties of their
position. They associate together in esoteric, intellectual societies.
Every one is a part of many clubs, the object of which is knowledge and
the broadening of the intellectual horizon. Science, languages,
literature, are their daily food. They can speak in tongues; they can
talk about the solar spectrum; they can interpret Chaucer, criticise
Shakespeare, understand Browning. There is no literature, ancient or
modern, that they do not dig up by the roots and turn over, no history
that they do not drag before the club for final judgment. In every little
village there is this intellectual stir and excitement; why, even in New
York, readings interfere with the german;--['Dances', likely referring to
the productions of the Straus family in Vienna. D.W.]--and Boston! Boston
is no longer divided into wards, but into Browning "sections."

All this is mainly the work of women. The men are sometimes admitted, are
even hired to perform and be encouraged and criticised; that is, men who
are already highly cultivated, or who are in sympathy with the noble
feminization of the age. It is a glorious movement. Its professed object
is to give an intellectual lift to society. And no doubt, unless all
reports are exaggerated, it is making our great leisure class of women
highly intellectual beings. But, encouraging as this prospect is, it
gives us pause. Who are these young women to associate with? with whom
are they to hold high converse? For life is a two-fold affair. And
meantime what is being done for the young men who are expected to share
in the high society of the future? Will not the young women by-and-by
find themselves in a lonesome place, cultivated away beyond their natural
comrades? Where will they spend their evenings? This sobering thought
suggests a duty that the young women are neglecting. We refer to the
education of the young men. It is all very well for them to form clubs
for their own advancement, and they ought not to incur the charge of
selfishness in so doing; but how much better would they fulfill their
mission if they would form special societies for the cultivation of young
men!--sort of intellectual mission bands. Bring them into the literary
circle. Make it attractive for them. Women with their attractions, not to
speak of their wiles, can do anything they set out to do. They can
elevate the entire present generation of young men, if they give their
minds to it, to care for the intellectual pursuits they care for. Give
the men a chance, and----

Musing along in this way we are suddenly pulled up by the reflection that
it is impossible to make an unqualified statement that is wholly true
about anything. What chance have I, anyway? inquires the young man who
thinks sometimes and occasionally wants to read. What sort of
leading-strings are these that I am getting into? Look at the drift of
things. Is the feminization of the world a desirable thing for a vigorous
future? Are the women, or are they not, taking all the virility out of
literature? Answer me that. All the novels are written by, for, or about
women--brought to their standard. Even Henry James, who studies the sex
untiringly, speaks about the "feminization of literature." They write
most of the newspaper correspondence--and write it for women. They are
even trying to feminize the colleges. Granted that woman is the superior
being; all the more, what chance is there for man if this sort of thing
goes on? Are you going to make a race of men on feminine fodder? And here
is the still more perplexing part of it. Unless all analysis of the
female heart is a delusion, and all history false, what women like most
of all things in this world is a Man, virile, forceful, compelling, a
solid rock of dependence, a substantial unfeminine being, whom it is some
satisfaction and glory and interest to govern and rule in the right way,
and twist round the feminine finger. If women should succeed in reducing
or raising--of course raising--men to the feminine standard, by
feminizing society, literature, the colleges, and all that, would they
not turn on their creations--for even the Bible intimates that women are
uncertain and go in search of a Man? It is this sort of blind instinct of
the young man for preserving himself in the world that makes him so
inaccessible to the good he might get from the prevailing culture of the
leisure class.



THE ADVENT OF CANDOR

Those who are anxious about the fate of Christmas, whether it is not
becoming too worldly and too expensive a holiday to be indulged in except
by the very poor, mark with pleasure any indications that the true spirit
of the day--brotherhood and self-abnegation and charity--is infusing
itself into modern society. The sentimental Christmas of thirty years ago
could not last; in time the manufactured jollity got to be more tedious
and a greater strain on the feelings than any misfortune happening to
one's neighbor. Even for a day it was very difficult to buzz about in the
cheery manner prescribed, and the reaction put human nature in a bad
light. Nor was it much better when gradually the day became one of Great
Expectations, and the sweet spirit of it was quenched in worry or soured
in disappointment. It began to take on the aspect of a great lottery, in
which one class expected to draw in reverse proportion to what it put in,
and another class knew that it would only reap as it had sowed. The day,
blessed in its origin, and meaningless if there is a grain of selfishness
in it, was thus likely to become a sort of Clearing-house of all
obligations and assume a commercial aspect that took the heart out of
it--like the enormous receptions for paying social debts which take the
place of the old-fashioned hospitality. Everybody knew, meantime, that
the spirit of good-will, the grace of universal sympathy, was really
growing in the world, and that it was only our awkwardness that, by
striving to cram it all for a year into twenty-four hours, made it seem a
little farcical. And everybody knows that when goodness becomes
fashionable, goodness is likely to suffer a little. A virtue overdone
falls on t'other side. And a holiday that takes on such proportions that
the Express companies and the Post-office cannot handle it is in danger
of a collapse. In consideration of these things, and because, as has been
pointed out year after year, Christmas is becoming a burden, the load of
which is looked forward to with apprehension--and back on with nervous
prostration--fear has been expressed that the dearest of all holidays in
Christian lands would have to go again under a sort of Puritan protest,
or into a retreat for rest and purification. We are enabled to announce
for the encouragement of the single-minded in this best of all days, at
the close of a year which it is best not to characterize, that those who
stand upon the social watch-towers in Europe and America begin to see a
light--or, it would be better to say, to perceive a spirit--in society
which is likely to change many things, and; among others, to work a
return of Christian simplicity. As might be expected in these days, the
spirit is exhibited in the sex which is first at the wedding and last in
the hospital ward. And as might have been expected, also, this spirit is
shown by the young woman of the period, in whose hands are the issues of
the future. If she preserve her present mind long enough, Christmas will
become a day that will satisfy every human being, for the purpose of the
young woman will pervade it. The tendency of the young woman generally to
simplicity, of the American young woman to a certain restraint (at least
when abroad), to a deference to her elders, and to tradition, has been
noted. The present phenomenon is quite beyond this, and more radical. It
is, one may venture to say, an attempt to conform the inner being to the
outward simplicity. If one could suspect the young woman of taking up any
line not original, it might be guessed that the present fashion (which is
bewildering the most worldly men with a new and irresistible fascination)
was set by the self-revelations of Marie Bashkirtseff. Very likely,
however, it was a new spirit in the world, of which Marie was the first
publishing example. Its note is self-analysis, searching, unsparing,
leaving no room for the deception of self or of the world. Its leading
feature is extreme candor. It is not enough to tell the truth (that has
been told before); but one must act and tell the whole truth. One does
not put on the shirt front and the standing collar and the knotted cravat
of the other sex as a mere form; it is an act of consecration, of rigid,
simple come-out-ness into the light of truth. This noble candor will
suffer no concealments. She would not have her lover even, still more the
general world of men, think she is better, or rather other, than she is.
Not that she would like to appear a man among men, far from that; but she
wishes to talk with candor and be talked to candidly, without taking
advantage of that false shelter of sex behind which women have been
accused of dodging. If she is nothing else, she is sincere, one might say
wantonly sincere. And this lucid, candid inner life is reflected in her
dress. This is not only simple in its form, in its lines; it is severe.
To go into the shop of a European modiste is almost to put one's self
into a truthful and candid frame of mind. Those leave frivolous ideas
behind who enter here. The 'modiste' will tell the philosopher that it is
now the fashion to be severe; in a word, it is 'fesch'. Nothing can go
beyond that. And it symbolizes the whole life, its self-examination,
earnestness, utmost candor in speech and conduct.

The statesman who is busy about his tariff and his reciprocity, and his
endeavor to raise money like potatoes, may little heed and much
undervalue this advent of candor into the world as a social force. But
the philosopher will make no such mistake. He knows that they who build
without woman build in vain, and that she is the great regenerator, as
she is the great destroyer. He knows too much to disregard the gravity of
any fashionable movement. He knows that there is no power on earth that
can prevent the return of the long skirt. And that if the young woman has
decided to be severe and candid and frank with herself and in her
intercourse with others, we must submit and thank God.

And what a gift to the world is this for the Christmas season! The
clear-eyed young woman of the future, always dear and often an anxiety,
will this year be an object of enthusiasm.



THE AMERICAN MAN

The American man only develops himself and spreads himself and grows "for
all he is worth" in the Great West. He is more free and limber there, and
unfolds those generous peculiarities and largenesses of humanity which
never blossomed before. The "environment" has much to do with it. The
great spaces over which he roams contribute to the enlargement of his
mental horizon. There have been races before who roamed the illimitable
desert, but they traveled on foot or on camelback, and were limited in
their range. There was nothing continental about them, as there is about
our railway desert travelers, who swing along through thousands of miles
of sand and sage-bush with a growing contempt for time and space. But
expansive and great as these people have become under the new conditions,
we have a fancy that the development of the race has only just begun, and
that the future will show us in perfection a kind of man new to the
world. Out somewhere on the Santa Fe route, where the desert of one day
was like the desert of the day before, and the Pullman car rolls and
swings over the wide waste beneath the blue sky day after day, under its
black flag of smoke, in the early gray of morning, when the men were
waiting their turns at the ablution bowls, a slip of a boy, perhaps aged
seven, stood balancing himself on his little legs, clad in
knicker-bockers, biding his time, with all the nonchalance of an old
campaigner. "How did you sleep, cap?" asked a well-meaning elderly
gentleman. "Well, thank you," was the dignified response; "as I always do
on a sleeping-car." Always does? Great horrors! Hardly out of his
swaddling-clothes, and yet he always sleeps well in a sleeper! Was he
born on the wheels? was he cradled in a Pullman? He has always been in
motion, probably; he was started at thirty miles an hour, no doubt, this
marvelous boy of our new era. He was not born in a house at rest, but the
locomotive snatched him along with a shriek and a roar before his eyes
were fairly open, and he was rocked in a "section," and his first
sensation of life was that of moving rapidly over vast arid spaces,
through cattle ranges and along canons. The effect of quick and easy
locomotion on character may have been noted before, but it seems that
here is the production of a new sort of man, the direct product of our
railway era. It is not simply that this boy is mature, but he must be a
different and a nobler sort of boy than one born, say, at home or on a
canal-boat; for, whether he was born on the rail or not, he belongs to
the railway system of civilization. Before he gets into trousers he is
old in experience, and he has discounted many of the novelties that
usually break gradually on the pilgrim in this world. He belongs to the
new expansive race that must live in motion, whose proper home is the
Pullman (which will probably be improved in time into a dustless,
sweet-smelling, well-aired bedroom), and whose domestic life will be on
the wing, so to speak. The Inter-State Commerce Bill will pass him along
without friction from end to end of the Union, and perhaps a uniform
divorce law will enable him to change his marital relations at any place
where he happens to dine. This promising lad is only a faint intimation
of what we are all coming to when we fully acquire the freedom of the
continent, and come into that expansiveness of feeling and of language
which characterizes the Great West. It is a burst of joyous exuberance
that comes from the sense of an illimitable horizon. It shows itself in
the tender words of a local newspaper at Bowie, Arizona, on the death of
a beloved citizen: "'Death loves a shining mark,' and she hit a dandy
when she turned loose on Jim." And also in the closing words of a New
Mexico obituary, which the Kansas Magazine quotes: "Her tired spirit was
released from the pain-racking body and soared aloft to eternal glory at
4.30 Denver time." We die, as it were, in motion, as we sleep, and there
is nowhere any boundary to our expansion. Perhaps we shall never again
know any rest as we now understand the term--rest being only change of
motion--and we shall not be able to sleep except on the cars, and whether
we die by Denver time or by the 90th meridian, we shall only change our
time. Blessed be this slip of a boy who is a man before he is an infant,
and teaches us what rapid transit can do for our race! The only thing
that can possibly hinder us in our progress will be second childhood; we
have abolished first.



THE ELECTRIC WAY

We are quite in the electric way. We boast that we have made electricity
our slave, but the slave whom we do not understand is our master. And
before we know him we shall be transformed. Mr. Edison proposes to send
us over the country at the rate of one hundred miles an hour. This
pleases us, because we fancy we shall save time, and because we are
taught that the chief object in life is to "get there" quickly. We really
have an idea that it is a gain to annihilate distance, forgetting that as
a matter of personal experience we are already too near most people. But
this speed by rail will enable us to live in Philadelphia and do business
in New York. It will make the city of Chicago two hundred miles square.
And the bigger Chicago is, the more important this world becomes. This
pleasing anticipation--that of traveling by lightning, and all being
huddled together--is nothing to the promised universal illumination by a
diffused light that shall make midnight as bright as noonday. We shall
then save all the time there is, and at the age of thirty-five have lived
the allotted seventy years, and long, if not for 'Gotterdammerung', at
least for some world where, by touching a button, we can discharge our
limbs of electricity and take a little repose. The most restless and
ambitious of us can hardly conceive of Chicago as a desirable future
state of existence.

This, however, is only the external or superficial view of the subject;
at the best it is only symbolical. Mr. Edison is wasting his time in
objective experiments, while we are in the deepest ignorance as to our
electric personality or our personal electricity. We begin to apprehend
that we are electric beings, that these outward manifestations of a
subtile form are only hints of our internal state. Mr. Edison should turn
his attention from physics to humanity electrically considered in its
social condition. We have heard a great deal about affinities. We are
told that one person is positive and another negative, and that
representing socially opposite poles they should come together and make
an electric harmony, that two positives or two negatives repel each
other, and if conventionally united end in divorce, and so on. We read
that such a man is magnetic, meaning that he can poll a great many votes;
or that such a woman thrilled her audience, meaning probably that they
were in an electric condition to be shocked by her. Now this is what we
want to find out--to know if persons are really magnetic or sympathetic,
and how to tell whether a person is positive or negative. In politics we
are quite at sea. What is the good of sending a man to Washington at the
rate of a hundred miles an hour if we are uncertain of his electric
state? The ideal House of Representatives ought to be pretty nearly
balanced--half positive, half negative. Some Congresses seem to be made
up pretty much of negatives. The time for the electrician to test the
candidate is before he is put in nomination, not dump him into Congress
as we do now, utterly ignorant of whether his currents run from his heels
to his head or from his head to his heels, uncertain, indeed, as to
whether he has magnetism to run in at all. Nothing could be more
unscientific than the process and the result.

In social life it is infinitely worse. You, an electric unmarried man,
enter a room full of attractive women. How are you to know who is
positive and who is negative, or who is a maiden lady in equilibrium, if
it be true, as scientists affirm, that the genus old maid is one in whom
the positive currents neutralize the negative currents? Your affinity is
perhaps the plainest woman in the room. But beauty is a juggling sprite,
entirely uncontrolled by electricity, and you are quite likely to make a
mistake. It is absurd the way we blunder on in a scientific age. We touch
a button, and are married. The judge touches another button, and we are
divorced. If when we touched the first button it revealed us both
negatives, we should start back in horror, for it is only before
engagement that two negatives make an affirmative. That is the reason
that some clergymen refuse to marry a divorced woman; they see that she
has made one electric mistake, and fear she will make another. It is all
very well for the officiating clergyman to ask the two intending to
commit matrimony if they have a license from the town clerk, if they are
of age or have the consent of parents, and have a million; but the vital
point is omitted. Are they electric affinities? It should be the duty of
the town-clerk, by a battery, or by some means to be discovered by
electricians, to find out the galvanic habit of the parties, their
prevailing electric condition. Temporarily they may seem to be in
harmony, and may deceive themselves into the belief that they are at
opposite poles equidistant from the equator, and certain to meet on that
imaginary line in matrimonial bliss. Dreadful will be the awakening to an
insipid life, if they find they both have the same sort of currents. It
is said that women change their minds and their dispositions, that men
are fickle, and that both give way after marriage to natural inclinations
that were suppressed while they were on the good behavior that the
supposed necessity of getting married imposes. This is so notoriously
true that it ought to create a public panic. But there is hope in the new
light. If we understand it, persons are born in a certain electrical
condition, and substantially continue in it, however much they may
apparently wobble about under the influence of infirm minds and acquired
wickedness. There are, of course, variations of the compass to be
reckoned with, and the magnet may occasionally be bewitched by near and
powerful attracting objects. But, on the whole, the magnet remains the
same, and it is probable that a person's normal electric condition is the
thing in him least liable to dangerous variation. If this be true, the
best basis for matrimony is the electric, and our social life would have
fewer disappointments if men and women went about labeled with their
scientifically ascertained electric qualities.



CAN A HUSBAND OPEN HIS WIFE'S LETTERS?

Can a husband open his wife's letters? That would depend, many would say,
upon what kind of a husband he is. But it cannot be put aside in that
flippant manner, for it is a legal right that is in question, and it has
recently been decided in a Paris tribunal that the husband has the right
to open the letters addressed to his wife. Of course in America an appeal
would instantly be taken from this decision, and perhaps by husbands
themselves; for in this world rights are becoming so impartially
distributed that this privilege granted to the husband might at once be
extended to the wife, and she would read all his business correspondence,
and his business is sometimes various and complicated. The Paris decision
must be based upon the familiar formula that man and wife are one, and
that that one is the husband. If a man has the right to read all the
letters written to his wife, being his property by reason of his
ownership of her, why may he not have a legal right to know all that is
said to her? The question is not whether a wife ought to receive letters
that her husband may not read, or listen to talk that he may not hear,
but whether he has a sort of lordship that gives him privileges which she
does not enjoy. In our modern notion of marriage, which is getting itself
expressed in statute law, marriage is supposed to rest on mutual trust
and mutual rights. In theory the husband and wife are still one, and
there can nothing come into the life of one that is not shared by the
other; in fact, if the marriage is perfect and the trust absolute, the
personality of each is respected by the other, and each is freely the
judge of what shall be contributed to the common confidence; and if there
are any concealments, it is well believed that they are for the mutual
good. If every one were as perfect in the marriage relation as those who
are reading these lines, the question of the wife's letters would never
arise. The man, trusting his wife, would not care to pry into any little
secrets his wife might have, or bother himself about her correspondence;
he would know, indeed, that if he had lost her real affection, a
surveillance of her letters could not restore it.

Perhaps it is a modern notion that marriage is a union of trust and not
of suspicion, of expectation of faithfulness the more there is freedom.
At any rate, the tendency, notwithstanding the French decision, is away
from the common-law suspicion and tyranny towards a higher trust in an
enlarged freedom. And it is certain that the rights cannot all be on one
side and the duties on the other. If the husband legally may compel his
wife to show him her letters, the courts will before long grant the same
privilege to the wife. But, without pressing this point, we hold strongly
to the sacredness of correspondence. The letters one receives are in one
sense not his own. They contain the confessions of another soul, the
confidences of another mind, that would be rudely treated if given any
sort of publicity. And while husband and wife are one to each other, they
are two in the eyes of other people, and it may well happen that a friend
will desire to impart something to a discreet woman which she would not
intrust to the babbling husband of that woman. Every life must have its
own privacy and its own place of retirement. The letter is of all things
the most personal and intimate thing. Its bloom is gone when another eye
sees it before the one for which it was intended. Its aroma all escapes
when it is first opened by another person. One might as well wear
second-hand clothing as get a second-hand letter. Here, then, is a sacred
right that ought to be respected, and can be respected without any injury
to domestic life. The habit in some families for the members of it to
show each other's letters is a most disenchanting one. It is just in the
family, between persons most intimate, that these delicacies of
consideration for the privacy of each ought to be most respected. No one
can estimate probably how much of the refinement, of the delicacy of
feeling, has been lost to the world by the introduction of the
postal-card. Anything written on a postal-card has no personality; it is
banal, and has as little power of charming any one who receives it as an
advertisement in the newspaper. It is not simply the cheapness of the
communication that is vulgar, but the publicity of it. One may have
perhaps only a cent's worth of affection to send, but it seems worth much
more when enclosed in an envelope. We have no doubt, then, that on
general principles the French decision is a mistake, and that it tends
rather to vulgarize than to retain the purity and delicacy of the
marriage relation. And the judges, so long even as men only occupy the
bench, will no doubt reverse it when the logical march of events forces
upon them the question whether the wife may open her husband's letters.



A LEISURE CLASS

Foreign critics have apologized for real or imagined social and literary
shortcomings in this country on the ground that the American people have
little leisure. It is supposed that when we have a leisure class we shall
not only make a better showing in these respects, but we shall be as
agreeable--having time to devote to the art of being agreeable--as the
English are. But we already have a considerable and increasing number of
people who can command their own time if we have not a leisure class, and
the sociologist might begin to study the effect of this leisureliness
upon society. Are the people who, by reason of a competence or other
accidents of good-fortune, have most leisure, becoming more agreeable?
and are they devoting themselves to the elevation of the social tone, or
to the improvement of our literature? However this question is answered,
a strong appeal might be made to the people of leisure to do not only
what is expected of them by foreign observers, but to take advantage of
their immense opportunities. In a republic there is no room for a leisure
class that is not useful. Those who use their time merely to kill it, in
imitation of those born to idleness and to no necessity of making an
exertion, may be ornamental, but having no root in any established
privilege to sustain them, they will soon wither away in this atmosphere,
as a flower would which should set up to be an orchid when it does not
belong to the orchid family. It is required here that those who are
emancipated from the daily grind should vindicate their right to their
position not only by setting an example of self-culture, but by
contributing something to the general welfare. It is thought by many that
if society here were established and settled as it is elsewhere, the rich
would be less dominated by their money and less conscious of it, and
having leisure, could devote themselves even more than they do now to
intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

Whether these anticipations will ever be realized, and whether increased
leisure will make us all happy, is a subject of importance; but it is
secondary, and in a manner incidental, to another and deeper matter,
which may be defined as the responsibility of attractiveness. And this
responsibility takes two forms the duty of every one to be attractive,
and the danger of being too attractive. To be winning and agreeable is
sometimes reckoned a gift, but it is a disposition that can be
cultivated; and, in a world so given to grippe and misapprehension as
this is, personal attractiveness becomes a duty, if it is not an art,
that might be taught in the public schools. It used to be charged against
New Englanders that they regarded this gift as of little value, and were
inclined to hide it under a bushel, and it was said of some of their
neighbors in the Union that they exaggerated its importance, and
neglected the weightier things of the law. Indeed, disputes have arisen
as to what attractiveness consisted in--some holding that beauty or charm
of manner (which is almost as good) and sweetness and gayety were
sufficient, while others held that a little intelligence sprinkled in was
essential. But one thing is clear, that while women were held to strict
responsibility in this matter, not stress enough was laid upon the equal
duty of men to be attractive in order to make the world agreeable. Hence
it is, probably, that while no question has been raised as to the effect
of the higher education upon the attractiveness of men, the colleges for
girls have been jealously watched as to the effect they were likely to
have upon the attractiveness of women. Whether the college years of a
young man, during which he knows more than he will ever know again, are
his most attractive period is not considered, for he is expected to
develop what is in him later on; but it is gravely questioned whether
girls who give their minds to the highest studies are not dropping those
graces of personal attractiveness which they will find it difficult to
pick up again. Of course such a question as this could never arise except
in just such a world as this is. For in an ideal world it could be shown
that the highest intelligence and the highest personal charm are twins.
If, therefore, it should turn out, which seems absurd, that
college-educated girls are not as attractive as other women with less
advantages, it will have to be admitted that something is the matter with
the young ladies, which is preposterous, or that the system is still
defective. For the postulate that everybody ought to be attractive cannot
be abandoned for the sake of any system. Decision on this system cannot
be reached without long experience, for it is always to be remembered
that the man's point of view of attractiveness may shift, and he may come
to regard the intellectual graces as supremely attractive; while, on the
other hand, the woman student may find that a winning smile is just as
effective in bringing a man to her feet, where he belongs, as a
logarithm.

The danger of being too attractive, though it has historic illustration,
is thought by many to be more apparent than real. Merely being too
attractive has often been confounded with a love of flirtation and
conquest, unbecoming always in a man, and excused in a woman on the
ground of her helplessness. It could easily be shown that to use personal
attractiveness recklessly to the extent of hopeless beguilement is cruel,
and it may be admitted that woman ought to be held to strict
responsibility for her attractiveness. The lines are indeed hard for her.
The duty is upon her in this poor world of being as attractive as she
can, and yet she is held responsible for all the mischief her
attractiveness produces. As if the blazing sun should be called to
account by people with weak eyes.



WEATHER AND CHARACTER

The month of February in all latitudes in the United States is uncertain.
The birth of George Washington in it has not raised it in public esteem.
In the North, it is a month to flee from; in the South, at best it is a
waiting month--a month of rain and fickle skies. A good deal has been
done for it. It is the month of St. Valentine, it is distinguished by the
leap-year addition of a day, and ought to be a favorite of the gentle
sex; but it remains a sort of off period in the year. Its brevity
recommends it, but no one would take any notice of it were it not for its
effect upon character. A month of rigid weather is supposed to brace up
the moral nature, and a month of gentleness is supposed to soften the
asperities of the disposition, but February contributes to neither of
these ends. It is neither a tonic nor a soother; that is, in most parts
of our inexplicable land. We make no complaint of this. It is probably
well to have a period in the year that tests character to the utmost, and
the person who can enter spring through the gate of February a better man
or woman is likely to adorn society the rest of the year.

February, however, is merely an illustration of the effect of weather
upon the disposition. Persons differ in regard to their sensitiveness to
cloudy, rainy, and gloomy days. We recognize this in a general way, but
the relation of temper and disposition to the weather has never been
scientifically studied. Our observation of the influence of climate is
mostly with regard to physical infirmities. We know the effect of damp
weather upon rheumatics, and of the east wind upon gouty subjects, but
too little allowance is made for the influence of weather upon the
spirits and the conduct of men. We know that a long period of gloomy
weather leads to suicides, and we observe that long-continued clouds and
rain beget "crossness" and ill-temper, and we are all familiar with the
universal exhilaration of sunshine and clear air upon any company of men
and women. But the point we wish to make is that neither society nor the
law makes any allowance for the aberrations of human nature caused by
dull and unpleasant weather. And this is very singular in this
humanitarian age, when excuse is found for nearly every moral delinquency
in heredity or environment, that the greatest factor of discontent and
crookedness, the weather, should be left out of consideration altogether.
The relation of crime to the temperature and the humidity of the
atmosphere is not taken into account. Yet crime and eccentricity of
conduct are very much the result of atmospheric conditions, since they
depend upon the temper and the spirit of the community. Many people are
habitually blue and down-hearted in sour weather; a long spell of cloudy,
damp, cold weather depresses everybody, lowers hope, tends to melancholy;
and people when they are not cheerful are more apt to fall into evil
ways, as a rule, than when they are in a normal state of good-humor. And
aside from crimes, the vexation, the friction, the domestic discontent in
life, are provoked by bad weather. We should like to have some statistics
as to incompatibility between married couples produced by damp and raw
days, and to know whether divorces are more numerous in the States that
suffer from a fickle climate than in those where the climate is more
equable. It is true that in the Sandwich Islands and in Egypt there is
greater mental serenity, less perturbation of spirit, less worry, than in
the changeable United States. Something of this placidity and resignation
to the ills inevitable in human life is due to an even climate, to the
constant sun and the dry air. We cannot hope to prevent crime and
suffering by statistics, any more than we have been able to improve our
climate (which is rather worse now than before the scientists took it in
charge) by observations and telegraphic reports; but we can, by careful
tabulation of the effects of bad weather upon the spirits of a community,
learn what places in the Union are favorable to the production of
cheerfulness and an equal mind. And we should lift a load of reprobation
from some places which now have a reputation for surliness and
unamiability. We find the people of one place hospitable, lighthearted,
and agreeable; the people of another place cold, and morose, and
unpleasant. It would be a satisfaction to know that the weather is
responsible for the difference. Observation of this sort would also teach
us doubtless what places are most conducive to literary production, what
to happy homes and agreeing wives and husbands. All our territory is
mapped out as to its sanitary conditions; why not have it colored as to
its effect upon the spirits and the enjoyment of life? The suggestion
opens a vast field of investigation.



BORN WITH AN "EGO"

There used to be a notion going round that it would be a good thing for
people if they were more "self-centred." Perhaps there was talk of adding
a course to the college curriculum, in addition to that for training the
all-competent "journalist," for the self-centring of the young. To apply
the term to a man or woman was considered highly complimentary. The
advisers of this state of mind probably meant to suggest a desirable
equilibrium and mental balance; but the actual effect of the self-centred
training is illustrated by a story told of Thomas H. Benton, who had been
described as an egotist by some of the newspapers. Meeting Colonel Frank
Blair one day, he said: "Colonel Blair, I see that the newspapers call me
an egotist. I wish you would tell me frankly, as a friend, if you think
the charge is true." "It is a very direct question, Mr. Benton," replied
Colonel Blair, "but if you want my honest opinion, I am compelled to say
that I think there is some foundation for the charge." "Well, sir," said
Mr. Benton, throwing his head back and his chest forward, "the difference
between me and these little fellows is that I have an EGO!" Mr. Benton
was an interesting man, and it is a fair consideration if a certain
amount of egotism does not add to the interest of any character, but at
the same time the self-centred conditions shut a person off from one of
the chief enjoyments to be got out of this world, namely, a recognition
of what is admirable in others in a toleration of peculiarities. It is
odd, almost amusing, to note how in this country people of one section
apply their local standards to the judgment of people in other sections,
very much as an Englishman uses his insular yardstick to measure all the
rest of the world. It never seems to occur to people in one locality that
the manners and speech of those of another may be just as admirable as
their own, and they get a good deal of discomfort out of their
intercourse with strangers by reason of their inability to adapt
themselves to any ways not their own. It helps greatly to make this
country interesting that nearly every State has its peculiarities, and
that the inhabitants of different sections differ in manner and speech.
But next to an interesting person in social value, is an agreeable one,
and it would add vastly to the agreeableness of life if our widely spread
provinces were not so self-centred in their notion that their own way is
the best, to the degree that they criticise any deviation from it as an
eccentricity. It would be a very nice world in these United States if we
could all devote ourselves to finding out in communities what is likable
rather than what is opposed to our experience; that is, in trying to
adapt ourselves to others rather than insisting that our own standard
should measure our opinion and our enjoyment of them.

When the Kentuckian describes a man as a "high-toned gentleman" he means
exactly the same that a Bostonian means when, he says that a man is a
"very good fellow," only the men described have a different culture, a
different personal flavor; and it is fortunate that the Kentuckian is not
like the Bostonian, for each has a quality that makes intercourse with
him pleasant. In the South many people think they have said a severe
thing when they say that a person or manner is thoroughly Yankee; and
many New Englanders intend to express a considerable lack in what is
essential when they say of men and women that they are very Southern.
When the Yankee is produced he may turn out a cosmopolitan person of the
most interesting and agreeable sort; and the Southerner may have traits
and peculiarities, growing out of climate and social life unlike the New
England, which are altogether charming. We talked once with a Western man
of considerable age and experience who had the placid mind that is
sometimes, and may more and more become, the characteristic of those who
live in flat countries of illimitable horizons, who said that New
Yorkers, State and city, all had an assertive sort of smartness that was
very disagreeable to him. And a lady of New York (a city whose dialect
the novelists are beginning to satirize) was much disturbed by the
flatness of speech prevailing in Chicago, and thought something should be
done in the public schools to correct the pronunciation of English. There
doubtless should be a common standard of distinct, rounded, melodious
pronunciation, as there is of good breeding, and it is quite as important
to cultivate the voice in speaking as in singing, but the people of the
United States let themselves be immensely irritated by local differences
and want of toleration of sectional peculiarities. The truth is that the
agreeable people are pretty evenly distributed over the country, and
one's enjoyment of them is heightened not only by their differences of
manner, but by the different, ways in which they look at life, unless he
insists upon applying everywhere the yardstick of his own locality. If
the Boston woman sets her eyeglasses at a critical angle towards the
'laisser faire' flow of social amenity in New Orleans, and the New
Orleans woman seeks out only the prim and conventional in Boston, each
may miss the opportunity to supplement her life by something wanting and
desirable in it, to be gained by the exercise of more openness of mind
and toleration. To some people Yankee thrift is disagreeable; to others,
Southern shiftlessness is intolerable. To some travelers the negro of the
South, with his tropical nature, his capacity for picturesque attitudes,
his abundant trust in Providence, is an element of restfulness; and if
the chief object of life is happiness, the traveler may take a useful
hint from the race whose utmost desire, in a fit climate, would be fully
satisfied by a shirt and a banana-tree. But to another traveler the
dusky, careless race is a continual affront.

If a person is born with an "Ego," and gets the most enjoyment out of the
world by trying to make it revolve about himself, and cannot
make-allowances for differences, we have nothing to say except to express
pity for such a self-centred condition; which shuts him out of the
never-failing pleasure there is in entering into and understanding with
sympathy the almost infinite variety in American life.



JUVENTUS MUNDI

Sometimes the world seems very old. It appeared so to Bernard of Cluny in
the twelfth century, when he wrote:

        "The world is very evil,
        The times are waning late."

There was a general impression among the Christians of the first century
of our era that the end was near. The world must have seemed very ancient
to the Egyptians fifteen hundred years before Christ, when the Pyramid of
Cheops was a relic of antiquity, when almost the whole circle of arts,
sciences, and literature had been run through, when every nation within
reach had been conquered, when woman had been developed into one of the
most fascinating of beings, and even reigned more absolutely than
Elizabeth or Victoria has reigned since: it was a pretty tired old world
at that time. One might almost say that the further we go back the older
and more "played out" the world appears, notwithstanding that the poets,
who were generally pessimists of the present, kept harping about the
youth of the world and the joyous spontaneity of human life in some
golden age before their time. In fact, the world is old in spots--in
Memphis and Boston and Damascus and Salem and Ephesus. Some of these
places are venerable in traditions, and some of them are actually worn
out and taking a rest from too much civilization--lying fallow, as the
saying is. But age is so entirely relative that to many persons the
landing of the Mayflower seems more remote than the voyage of Jason, and
a Mayflower chest a more antique piece of furniture than the timbers of
the Ark, which some believe can still be seen on top of Mount Ararat.
But, speaking generally, the world is still young and growing, and a
considerable portion of it unfinished. The oldest part, indeed, the
Laurentian Hills, which were first out of water, is still only sparsely
settled; and no one pretends that Florida is anything like finished, or
that the delta of the Mississippi is in anything more than the process of
formation. Men are so young and lively in these days that they cannot
wait for the slow processes of nature, but they fill up and bank up
places, like Holland, where they can live; and they keep on exploring and
discovering incongruous regions, like Alaska, where they can go and
exercise their juvenile exuberance.

In many respects the world has been growing younger ever since the
Christian era. A new spirit came into it then which makes youth
perpetual, a spirit of living in others, which got the name of universal
brotherhood, a spirit that has had a good many discouragements and
set-backs, but which, on the whole, gains ground, and generally works in
harmony with the scientific spirit, breaking down the exclusive character
of the conquests of nature. What used to be the mystery and occultism of
the few is now general knowledge, so that all the playing at occultism by
conceited people now seems jejune and foolish. A little machine called
the instantaneous photograph takes pictures as quickly and accurately as
the human eye does, and besides makes them permanent. Instead of fooling
credulous multitudes with responses from Delphi, we have a Congress which
can enact tariff regulations susceptible of interpretations enough to
satisfy the love of mystery of the entire nation. Instead of loafing
round Memnon at sunrise to catch some supernatural tones, we talk words
into a little contrivance which will repeat our words and tones to the
remotest generation of those who shall be curious to know whether we said
those words in jest or earnest. All these mysteries made common and
diffused certainly increase the feeling of the equality of opportunity in
the world. And day by day such wonderful things are discovered and
scattered abroad that we are warranted in believing that we are only on
the threshold of turning to account the hidden forces of nature. There
would be great danger of human presumption and conceit in this progress
if the conceit were not so widely diffused, and where we are all
conceited there is no one to whom it will appear unpleasant. If there was
only one person who knew about the telephone he would be unbearable.
Probably the Eiffel Tower would be stricken down as a monumental
presumption, like that of Babel, if it had not been raised with the full
knowledge and consent of all the world.

This new spirit, with its multiform manifestations, which came into the
world nearly nineteen hundred years ago, is sometimes called the spirit
of Christmas. And good reasons can be given for supposing that it is. At
any rate, those nations that have the most of it are the most prosperous,
and those people who have the most of it are the most agreeable to
associate with. Know all men by these Presents, is an old legal form
which has come to have a new meaning in this dispensation. It is by the
spirit of brotherhood exhibited in giving presents that we know the
Christmas proper, only we are apt to take it in too narrow a way. The
real spirit of Christmas is the general diffusion of helpfulness and
good-will. If somebody were to discover an elixir which would make every
one truthful, he would not, in this age of the world, patent it. Indeed,
the Patent Office would not let him make a corner on virtue as he does in
wheat; and it is not respectable any more among the real children of
Christmas to make a corner in wheat. The world, to be sure, tolerates
still a great many things that it does not approve of, and, on the whole,
Christmas, as an ameliorating and good-fellowship institution, gains a
little year by year. There is still one hitch about it, and a bad one
just now, namely, that many people think they can buy its spirit by jerks
of liberality, by costly gifts. Whereas the fact is that a great many of
the costliest gifts in this season do not count at all. Crumbs from the
rich man's table don't avail any more to open the pearly gates even of
popular esteem in this world. Let us say, in fine, that a loving,
sympathetic heart is better than a nickel-plated service in this world,
which is surely growing young and sympathetic.



A BEAUTIFUL OLD AGE

In Autumn the thoughts lightly turn to Age. If the writer has seemed to
be interested, sometimes to the neglect of other topics, in the American
young woman, it was not because she is interested in herself, but because
she is on the way to be one of the most agreeable objects in this lovely
world. She may struggle against it; she may resist it by all the
legitimate arts of the coquette and the chemist; she may be convinced
that youth and beauty are inseparable allies; but she would have more
patience if she reflected that the sunset is often finer than the
sunrise, commonly finer than noon, especially after a stormy day. The
secret of a beautiful old age is as well worth seeking as that of a
charming young maidenhood. For it is one of the compensations for the
rest of us, in the decay of this mortal life, that women, whose mission
it is to allure in youth and to tinge the beginning of the world with
romance, also make the end of the world more serenely satisfactory and
beautiful than the outset. And this has been done without any amendment
to the Constitution of the United States; in fact, it is possible that
the Sixteenth Amendment would rather hinder than help this gracious
process. We are not speaking now of what is called growing old gracefully
and regretfully, as something to be endured, but as a season to be
desired for itself, at least by those whose privilege it is to be
ennobled and cheered by it. And we are not speaking of wicked old women.
There is a unique fascination--all the novelists recognize it--in a
wicked old woman; not very wicked, but a woman of abundant experience,
who is perfectly frank and a little cynical, and delights in probing
human nature and flashing her wit on its weaknesses, and who knows as
much about life as a club man is credited with knowing. She may not be a
good comrade for the young, but she is immensely more fascinating than a
semi-wicked old man. Why, we do not know; that is one of the unfathomable
mysteries of womanhood. No; we have in mind quite another sort of woman,
of which America has so many that they are a very noticeable element in
all cultivated society. And the world has nothing more lovely. For there
is a loveliness or fascination sometimes in women between the ages of
sixty and eighty that is unlike any other--a charm that woos us to regard
autumn as beautiful as spring.

Perhaps these women were great beauties in their day, but scarcely so
serenely beautiful as now when age has refined all that was most
attractive. Perhaps they were plain; but it does not matter, for the
subtle influence of spiritualized-intelligence has the power of
transforming plainness into the beauty of old age. Physical beauty is
doubtless a great advantage, and it is never lost if mind shines through
it (there is nothing so unlovely as a frivolous old woman fighting to
keep the skin-deep beauty of her youth); the eyes, if the life has not
been one of physical suffering, usually retain their power of moving
appeal; the lines of the face, if changed, may be refined by a certain
spirituality; the gray hair gives dignity and softness and the charm of
contrast; the low sweet voice vibrates to the same note of femininity,
and the graceful and gracious are graceful and gracious still. Even into
the face and bearing of the plain woman whose mind has grown, whose
thoughts have been pure, whose heart has been expanded by good deeds or
by constant affection, comes a beauty winning and satisfactory in the
highest degree.

It is not that the charm of the women of whom we speak is mainly this
physical beauty; that is only incidental, as it were. The delight in
their society has a variety of sources. Their interest in life is broader
than it once was, more sympathetically unselfish; they have a certain
philosophical serenity that is not inconsistent with great liveliness of
mind; they have got rid of so much nonsense; they can afford to be
truthful--and how much there is to be learned from a woman who is
truthful! they have a most delicious courage of opinion, about men, say,
and in politics, and social topics, and creeds even. They have very
little any longer to conceal; that is, in regard to things that should be
thought about and talked about at all. They are not afraid to be gay, and
to have enthusiasms. At sixty and eighty a refined and well-bred woman is
emancipated in the best way, and in the enjoyment of the full play of the
richest qualities of her womanhood. She is as far from prudery as from
the least note of vulgarity. Passion, perhaps, is replaced by a great
capacity for friendliness, and she was never more a real woman than in
these mellow and reflective days. And how interesting she is--adding so
much knowledge of life to the complex interest that inheres in her sex!
Knowledge of life, yes, and of affairs; for it must be said of these
ladies we have in mind that they keep up with the current thought, that
they are readers of books, even of newspapers--for even the newspaper can
be helpful and not harmful in the alembic of their minds.

Let not the purpose of this paper be misunderstood. It is not to urge
young women to become old or to act like old women. The independence and
frankness of age might not be becoming to them. They must stumble along
as best they can, alternately attracting and repelling, until by right of
years they join that serene company which is altogether beautiful. There
is a natural unfolding and maturing to the beauty of old age. The mission
of woman, about which we are pretty weary of hearing, is not accomplished
by any means in her years of vernal bloom and loveliness; she has equal
power to bless and sweeten life in the autumn of her pilgrimage. But here
is an apologue: The peach, from blossom to maturity, is the most
attractive of fruits. Yet the demands of the market, competition, and
fashion often cause it to be plucked and shipped while green. It never
matures, though it may take a deceptive richness of color; it decays
without ripening. And the last end of that peach is worse than the first.



THE ATTRACTION OF THE REPULSIVE

On one of the most charming of the many wonderfully picturesque little
beaches on the Pacific coast, near Monterey, is the idlest if not the
most disagreeable social group in the world. Just off the shore, farther
than a stone's-throw, lies a mass of broken rocks. The surf comes leaping
and laughing in, sending up, above the curving green breakers and crests
of foam, jets and spirals of water which flash like silver fountains in
the sunlight. These islets of rocks are the homes of the sea-lion. This
loafer of the coast congregates here by the thousand. Sometimes the rocks
are quite covered, the smooth rounded surface of the larger one
presenting the appearance at a distance of a knoll dotted with dirty
sheep. There is generally a select knot of a dozen floating about in the
still water under the lee of the rock, bobbing up their tails and
flippers very much as black driftwood might heave about in the tide.
During certain parts of the day members of this community are off fishing
in deep water; but what they like best to do is to crawl up on the rocks
and grunt and bellow, or go to sleep in the sun. Some of them lie half in
water, their tails floating and their ungainly heads wagging. These
uneasy ones are always wriggling out or plunging in. Some crawl to the
tops of the rocks and lie like gunny bags stuffed with meal, or they
repose on the broken surfaces like masses of jelly. When they are all at
home the rocks have not room for them, and they crawl on and over each
other, and lie like piles of undressed pork. In the water they are black,
but when they are dry in the sun the skin becomes a dirty light brown.
Many of them are huge fellows, with a body as big as an ox. In the water
they are repulsively graceful; on the rocks they are as ungainly as
boneless cows, or hogs that have lost their shape in prosperity. Summer
and winter (and it is almost always summer on this coast) these beasts,
which are well fitted neither for land nor water, spend their time in
absolute indolence, except when they are compelled to cruise around in
the deep water for food. They are of no use to anybody, either for their
skin or their flesh. Nothing could be more thoroughly disgusting and
uncanny than they are, and yet nothing more fascinating. One can watch
them--the irresponsible, formless lumps of intelligent flesh--for hours
without tiring. I scarcely know what the fascination is. A small seal
playing by himself near the shore, floating on and diving under the
breakers, is not so very disagreeable, especially if he comes so near
that you can see his pathetic eyes; but these brutes in this perpetual
summer resort are disgustingly attractive. Nearly everything about them,
including their voice, is repulsive. Perhaps it is the absolute idleness
of the community that makes it so interesting. To fish, to swim, to
snooze on the rocks, that is all, for ever and ever. No past, no future.
A society that lives for the laziest sort of pleasure. If they were rich,
what more could they have? Is not this the ideal of a watering-place
life?

The spectacle of this happy community ought to teach us humility and
charity in judgment. Perhaps the philosophy of its attractiveness lies
deeper than its 'dolce far niente' existence. We may never have
considered the attraction for us of the disagreeable, the positive
fascination of the uncommonly ugly. The repulsive fascination of the
loathly serpent or dragon for women can hardly be explained on
theological grounds. Some cranks have maintained that the theory of
gravitation alone does not explain the universe, that repulsion is as
necessary as attraction in our economy. This may apply to society. We are
all charmed with the luxuriance of a semi-tropical landscape, so
violently charmed that we become in time tired of its overpowering bloom
and color. But what is the charm of the wide, treeless desert, the
leagues of sand and burnt-up chaparral, the distant savage, fantastic
mountains, the dry desolation as of a world burnt out? It is not contrast
altogether. For this illimitable waste has its own charm; and again and
again, when we come to a world of vegetation, where the vision is shut in
by beauty, we shall have an irrepressible longing for these wind-swept
plains as wide as the sea, with the ashy and pink horizons. We shall long
to be weary of it all again--its vast nakedness, its shimmering heat, its
cold, star-studded nights. It seems paradoxical, but it is probably true,
that a society composed altogether of agreeable people would become a
terrible bore. We are a "kittle" lot, and hard to please for long. We
know how it is in the matter of climate. Why is it that the masses of the
human race live in the most disagreeable climates to be found on the
globe, subject to extremes of heat and cold, sudden and unprovoked
changes, frosts, fogs, malarias? In such regions they congregate, and
seem to like the vicissitudes, to like the excitement of the struggle
with the weather and the patent medicines to keep alive. They hate the
agreeable monotony of one genial day following another the year through.
They praise this monotony, all literature is full of it; people always
say they are in search of the equable climate; but they continue to live,
nevertheless, or try to live, in the least equable; and if they can find
one spot more disagreeable than another there they build a big city. If
man could make his ideal climate he would probably be dissatisfied with
it in a month. The effect of climate upon disposition and upon manners
needs to be considered some day; but we are now only trying to understand
the attractiveness of the disagreeable. There must be some reason for it;
and that would explain a social phenomenon, why there are so many
unattractive people, and why the attractive readers of these essays could
not get on without them.

The writer of this once traveled for days with an intelligent curmudgeon,
who made himself at all points as prickly as the porcupine. There was no
getting on with him. And yet when he dropped out of the party he was
sorely missed. He was more attractively repulsive than the sea-lion. It
was such a luxury to hate him. He was such a counter-irritant, such a
stimulant; such a flavor he gave to life. We are always on the lookout
for the odd, the eccentric, the whimsical. We pretend that we like the
orderly, the beautiful, the pleasant. We can find them anywhere--the
little bits of scenery that please the eye, the pleasant households, the
group of delightful people. Why travel, then? We want the abnormal, the
strong, the ugly, the unusual at least. We wish to be startled and
stirred up and repelled. And we ought to be more thankful than we are
that there are so many desolate and wearisome and fantastic places, and
so many tiresome and unattractive people in this lovely world.



GIVING AS A LUXURY

There must be something very good in human nature, or people would not
experience so much pleasure in giving; there must be something very bad
in human nature, or more people would try the experiment of giving. Those
who do try it become enamored of it, and get their chief pleasure in life
out of it; and so evident is this that there is some basis for the idea
that it is ignorance rather than badness which keeps so many people from
being generous. Of course it may become a sort of dissipation, or more
than that, a devastation, as many men who have what are called "good
wives" have reason to know, in the gradual disappearance of their
wardrobe if they chance to lay aside any of it temporarily. The amount
that a good woman can give away is only measured by her opportunity. Her
mind becomes so trained in the mystery of this pleasure that she
experiences no thrill of delight in giving away only the things her
husband does not want. Her office in life is to teach him the joy of
self-sacrifice. She and all other habitual and irreclaimable givers soon
find out that there is next to no pleasure in a gift unless it involves
some self-denial.

Let one consider seriously whether he ever gets as much satisfaction out
of a gift received as out of one given. It pleases him for the moment,
and if it is useful, for a long time; he turns it over, and admires it;
he may value it as a token of affection, and it flatters his self-esteem
that he is the object of it. But it is a transient feeling compared with
that he has when he has made a gift. That substantially ministers to his
self-esteem. He follows the gift; he dwells upon the delight of the
receiver; his imagination plays about it; it will never wear out or
become stale; having parted with it, it is for him a lasting possession.
It is an investment as lasting as that in the debt of England. Like a
good deed, it grows, and is continually satisfactory. It is something to
think of when he first wakes in the morning--a time when most people are
badly put to it for want of something pleasant to think of. This fact
about giving is so incontestably true that it is a wonder that
enlightened people do not more freely indulge in giving for their own
comfort. It is, above all else, amazing that so many imagine they are
going to get any satisfaction out of what they leave by will. They may be
in a state where they will enjoy it, if the will is not fought over; but
it is shocking how little gratitude there is accorded to a departed giver
compared to a living giver. He couldn't take the property with him, it is
said; he was obliged to leave it to somebody. By this thought his
generosity is always reduced to a minimum. He may build a monument to
himself in some institution, but we do not know enough of the world to
which he has gone to know whether a tiny monument on this earth is any
satisfaction to a person who is free of the universe. Whereas every
giving or deed of real humanity done while he was living would have
entered into his character, and would be of lasting service to him--that
is, in any future which we can conceive.

Of course we are not confining our remarks to what are called Christmas
gifts--commercially so called--nor would we undertake to estimate the
pleasure there is in either receiving or giving these. The shrewd
manufacturers of the world have taken notice of the periodic generosity
of the race, and ingeniously produce articles to serve it, that is, to
anticipate the taste and to thwart all individuality or spontaneity in
it. There is, in short, what is called a "line of holiday goods,"
fitting, it may be supposed, the periodic line of charity. When a person
receives some of these things in the blessed season of such, he is apt to
be puzzled. He wants to know what they are for, what he is to do with
them. If there are no "directions" on the articles, his gratitude is
somewhat tempered. He has seen these nondescripts of ingenuity and
expense in the shop windows, but he never expected to come into personal
relations to them. He is puzzled, and he cannot escape the unpleasant
feeling that commerce has put its profit-making fingers into Christmas.
Such a lot of things seem to be manufactured on purpose that people may
perform a duty that is expected of them in the holidays. The house is
full of these impossible things; they occupy the mantelpieces, they stand
about on the tottering little tables, they are ingenious, they are made
for wants yet undiscovered, they tarnish, they break, they will not
"work," and pretty soon they look "second-hand." Yet there must be more
satisfaction in giving these articles than in receiving them, and maybe a
spice of malice--not that of course, for in the holidays nearly every
gift expresses at least kindly remembrance--but if you give them you do
not have to live with them. But consider how full the world is of holiday
goods--costly goods too--that are of no earthly use, and are not even
artistic, and how short life is, and how many people actually need books
and other indispensable articles, and how starved are many fine
drawing-rooms, not for holiday goods, but for objects of beauty.

Christmas stands for much, and for more and more in a world that is
breaking down its barriers of race and religious intolerance, and one of
its chief offices has been supposed to be the teaching of men the
pleasure there is in getting rid of some of their possessions for the
benefit of others. But this frittering away a good instinct and tendency
in conventional giving of manufactures made to suit an artificial
condition is hardly in the line of developing the spirit that shares the
last crust or gives to the thirsty companion in the desert the first pull
at the canteen. Of course Christmas feeling is the life of trade and all
that, and we will be the last to discourage any sort of giving, for one
can scarcely disencumber himself of anything in his passage through this
world and not be benefited; but the hint may not be thrown away that one
will personally get more satisfaction out of his periodic or continual
benevolence if he gives during his life the things which he wants and
other people need, and reserves for a fine show in his will a collected
but not selected mass of holiday goods.



CLIMATE AND HAPPINESS

The idea of the relation of climate to happiness is modern. It is
probably born of the telegraph and of the possibility of rapid travel,
and it is more disturbing to serenity of mind than any other. Providence
had so ordered it that if we sat still in almost any region of the globe
except the tropics we would have, in course of the year, almost all the
kinds of climate that exist. The ancient societies did not trouble
themselves about the matter; they froze or thawed, were hot or cold, as
it pleased the gods. They did not think of fleeing from winter any more
than from the summer solstice, and consequently they enjoyed a certain
contentment of mind that is absent from modern life. We are more
intelligent, and therefore more discontented and unhappy. We are always
trying to escape winter when we are not trying to escape summer. We are
half the time 'in transitu', flying hither and thither, craving that
exact adaptation of the weather to our whimsical bodies promised only to
the saints who seek a "better country." There are places, to be sure,
where nature is in a sort of equilibrium, but usually those are places
where we can neither make money nor spend it to our satisfaction. They
lack either any stimulus to ambition or a historic association, and we
soon find that the mind insists upon being cared for quite as much as the
body.

How many wanderers in the past winter left comfortable homes in the
United States to seek a mild climate! Did they find it in the sleet and
bone-piercing cold of Paris, or anywhere in France, where the wolves were
forced to come into the villages in the hope of picking up a tender
child? If they traveled farther, were the railway carriages anything but
refrigerators tempered by cans of cooling water? Was there a place in
Europe from Spain to Greece, where the American could once be warm
--really warm without effort--in or out of doors? Was it any better in
divine Florence than on the chill Riviera? Northern Italy was blanketed
with snow, the Apennines were white, and through the clean streets of the
beautiful town a raw wind searched every nook and corner, penetrating
through the thickest of English wraps, and harder to endure than
ingratitude, while a frosty mist enveloped all. The traveler forgot to
bring with him the contented mind of the Italian. Could he go about in a
long cloak and a slouch hat, curl up in doorways out of the blast, and be
content in a feeling of his own picturesqueness? Could he sit all day on
the stone pavement and hold out his chilblained hand for soldi? Could he
even deceive himself, in a palatial apartment with a frescoed ceiling, by
an appearance of warmth in two sticks ignited by a pine cone set in an
aperture in one end of the vast room, and giving out scarcely heat enough
to drive the swallows from the chimney? One must be born to this sort of
thing in order to enjoy it. He needs the poetic temperament which can
feel in January the breath of June. The pampered American is not adapted
to this kind of pleasure. He is very crude, not to say barbarous, yet in
many of his tastes, but he has reached one of the desirable things in
civilization, and that is a thorough appreciation of physical comfort. He
has had the ingenuity to protect himself in his own climate, but when he
travels he is at the mercy of customs and traditions in which the idea of
physical comfort is still rudimentary. He cannot warm himself before a
group of statuary, or extract heat from a canvas by Raphael, nor keep his
teeth from chattering by the exquisite view from the Boboli Gardens. The
cold American is insensible to art, and shivers in the presence of the
warmest historical associations. It is doubtful if there is a spot in
Europe where he can be ordinarily warm in winter. The world, indeed, does
not care whether he is warm or not, but it is a matter of great
importance to him. As he wanders from palace to palace--and he cannot
escape the impression that nothing is good enough for him except a
palace--he cannot think of any cottage in any hamlet in America that is
not more comfortable in winter than any palace he can find. And so he is
driven on in cold and weary stretches of travel to dwell among the French
in Algeria, or with the Jews in Tunis, or the Moslems in Cairo. He longs
for warmth as the Crusader longed for Jerusalem, but not short of Africa
shall he find it. The glacial period is coming back on Europe.

The citizens of the great republic have a reputation for inordinate
self-appreciation, but we are thinking that they undervalue many of the
advantages their ingenuity has won. It is admitted that they are
restless, and must always be seeking something that they have not at
home. But aside from their ability to be warm in any part of their own
country at any time of the year, where else can they travel three
thousand miles on a stretch in a well-heated--too much heated--car,
without change of car, without revision of tickets, without encountering
a customhouse, without the necessity of stepping outdoors either for food
or drink, for a library, for a bath--for any item, in short, that goes to
the comfort of a civilized being? And yet we are always prating of the
superior civilization of Europe. Nay, more, the traveler steps into a
car--which is as comfortable as a house--in Boston, and alights from it
only in the City of Mexico. In what other part of the world can that
achievement in comfort and convenience be approached?

But this is not all as to climate and comfort. We have climates of all
sorts within easy reach, and in quantity, both good and bad, enough to
export more in fact than we need of all sorts. If heat is all we want,
there are only three or four days between the zero of Maine and the 80
deg. of Florida. If New England is inhospitable and New York freezing, it
is only a matter of four days to the sun and the exhilarating air of New
Mexico and Arizona, and only five to the oranges and roses of that
semi-tropical kingdom by the sea, Southern California. And if this does
not content us, a day or two more lands us, without sea-sickness, in the
land of the Aztecs, where we can live in the temperate or the tropic
zone, eat strange fruits, and be reminded of Egypt and Spain and Italy,
and see all the colors that the ingenuity of man has been able to give
his skin. Fruits and flowers and sun in the winter-time, a climate to
lounge and be happy in--all this is within easy reach, with the minimum
of disturbance to our daily habits. We started out, when we turned our
backs on the Old World, with the declaration that all men are free, and
entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of an agreeable climate. We
have yet to learn, it seems, that we can indulge in that pursuit best on
our own continent. There is no winter climate elsewhere to compare with
that found in our extreme Southwest or in Mexico, and the sooner we put
this fact into poetry and literature, and begin to make a tradition of
it, the better will it be for our peace of mind and for our children. And
if the continent does not satisfy us, there lie the West Indies within a
few hours' sail, with all the luxuriance and geniality of the tropics. We
are only half emancipated yet. We are still apt to see the world through
the imagination of England, whose literature we adopted, or of Germany.
To these bleak lands Italy was a paradise, and was so sung by poets who
had no conception of a winter without frost. We have a winter climate of
another sort from any in Europe; we have easy and comfortable access to
it. The only thing we need to do now is to correct our imagination, which
has been led astray. Our poets can at least do this for us by the help of
a quasi-international copyright.



THE NEW FEMININE RESERVE

In times past there have been expressed desire and fear that there should
be an American aristocracy, and the materials for its formation have been
a good deal canvassed. In a political point of view it is of course
impossible, but it has been hoped by many, and feared by more, that a
social state might be created conforming somewhat to the social order in
European countries. The problem has been exceedingly difficult. An
aristocracy of derived rank and inherited privilege being out of the
question, and an aristocracy of talent never having succeeded anywhere,
because enlightenment of mind tends to liberalism and democracy, there
was only left the experiment of an aristocracy of wealth. This does very
well for a time, but it tends always to disintegration, and it is
impossible to keep it exclusive. It was found, to use the slang of the
dry-goods shops, that it would not wash, for there were liable to crowd
into it at any moment those who had in fact washed for a living. An
aristocracy has a slim tenure that cannot protect itself from this sort
of intrusion. We have to contrive, therefore, another basis for a class
(to use an un-American expression), in a sort of culture or training,
which can be perpetual, and which cannot be ordered for money, like a
ball costume or a livery.

Perhaps the "American Girl" may be the agency to bring this about. This
charming product of the Western world has come into great prominence of
late years in literature and in foreign life, and has attained a
notoriety flattering or otherwise to the national pride. No institution
has been better known or more marked on the Continent and in England, not
excepting the tramway and the Pullman cars. Her enterprise, her daring,
her freedom from conventionality, have been the theme of the novelists
and the horror of the dowagers having marriageable daughters. Considered
as "stock," the American Girl has been quoted high, and the alliances
that she has formed with families impecunious but noble have given her
eclat as belonging to a new and conquering race in the world. But the
American Girl has not simply a slender figure and a fine eye and a ready
tongue, she is not simply an engaging and companionable person, she has
excellent common-sense, tact, and adaptability. She has at length seen in
her varied European experience that it is more profitable to have social
good form according to local standards than a reputation for dash and
brilliancy. Consequently the American Girl of a decade ago has effaced
herself. She is no longer the dazzling courageous figure. In England, in
France, in Germany, in Italy, she takes, as one may say, the color of the
land. She has retired behind her mother. She who formerly marched in the
van of the family procession, leading them--including the panting
mother--a whimsical dance, is now the timid and retiring girl, needing
the protection of a chaperon on every occasion. The satirist will find no
more abroad the American Girl of the old type whom he continues to
describe. The knowing and fascinating creature has changed her tactics
altogether. And the change has reacted on American society. The mother
has come once more to the front, and even if she is obliged to own to
forty-five years to the census-taker, she has again the position and the
privileges of the blooming woman of thirty. Her daughters walk meekly and
with downcast (if still expectant) eyes, and wait for a sign.

That this change is the deliberate work of the American Girl, no one who
knows her grace and talent will deny. In foreign travel and residence she
has been quick to learn her lesson. Dazzled at first by her own capacity
and the opportunities of the foreign field, she took the situation by
storm. But she found too often that she had a barren conquest, and that
the social traditions survived her success and became a lifelong
annoyance; that is to say, it was possible to subdue foreign men, but the
foreign women were impregnable in their social order. The American Girl
abroad is now, therefore, with rare exceptions, as carefully chaperoned
and secluded as her foreign sisters.

It is not necessary to lay too much stress upon this phase of American
life abroad, but the careful observer must notice its reflex action at
home. The American freedom and unconventionality in the intercourse of
the young of both sexes, which has been so much commented on as
characteristic of American life, may not disappear, but that small
section which calls itself "society" may attain a sort of aristocratic
distinction by the adoption of this foreign conventionality. It is
sufficient now to note this tendency, and to claim the credit of it for
the wise and intelligent American Girl. It would be a pity if it were to
become nationally universal, for then it would not be the aristocratic
distinction of a few, and the American woman who longs for some sort of
caste would be driven to some other device.

It is impossible to tell yet what form this feminine reserve and
retirement will take. It is not at all likely to go so far as the
Oriental seclusion of women. The American Girl would never even seemingly
give up her right of initiative. If she is to stay in the background and
pretend to surrender her choice to her parents, and with it all the
delights of a matrimonial campaign, she will still maintain a position of
observation. If she seems to be influenced at present by the French and
Italian examples, we may be sure that she is too intelligent and too fond
of freedom to long tolerate any system of chaperonage that she cannot
control. She will find a way to modify the traditional conventionalities
so as not to fetter her own free spirit. It may be her mission to show
the world a social order free from the forward independence and smartness
of which she has been accused, and yet relieved of the dull stiffness of
the older forms. It is enough now to notice that a change is going on,
due to the effect of foreign society upon American women, and to express
the patriotic belief that whatever forms of etiquette she may bow to, the
American Girl will still be on earth the last and best gift of God to
man.



REPOSE IN ACTIVITY

What we want is repose. We take infinite trouble and go to the ends of
the world to get it. That is what makes us all so restless. If we could
only find a spot where we could sit down, content to let the world go by,
away from the Sunday newspapers and the chronicles of an uneasy society,
we think we should be happy. Perhaps such a place is Coronado Beach
--that semi-tropical flower-garden by the sea. Perhaps another is the
Timeo Terrace at Taormina. There, without moving, one has the most
exquisite sea and shore far below him, so far that he has the feeling of
domination without effort; the most picturesque crags and castle peaks;
he has all classic legend under his eye without the trouble of reading,
and mediaeval romance as well; ruins from the time of Theocritus to
Freeman, with no responsibility of describing them; and one of the
loveliest and most majestic of snow mountains, never twice the same in
light and shade, entirely revealed and satisfactory from base to summit,
with no self or otherwise imposed duty of climbing it. Here are most of
the elements of peace and calm spirit. And the town itself is quite dead,
utterly exhausted after a turbulent struggle of twenty-five hundred
years, its poor inhabitants living along only from habit. The only new
things in it--the two caravansaries of the traveler--are a hotel and a
cemetery. One might end his days here in serene retrospection, and more
cheaply than in other places of fewer attractions, for it is all Past and
no Future. Probably, therefore, it would not suit the American, whose
imagination does not work so easily backward as forward, and who prefers
to build his own nest rather than settle in anybody else's rookery.
Perhaps the American deceives himself when he says he wants repose; what
he wants is perpetual activity and change; his peace of mind is postponed
until he can get it in his own way. It is in feeling that he is a part of
growth and not of decay. Foreigners are fond of writing essays upon
American traits and characteristics. They touch mostly on surface
indications. What really distinguishes the American from all others--for
all peoples like more or less to roam, and the English of all others are
globe-trotters--is not so much his restlessness as his entire accord with
the spirit of "go-ahead," the result of his absolute breaking with the
Past. He can repose only in the midst of intense activity. He can sit
down quietly in a town that is growing rapidly; but if it stands still,
he is impelled to move his rocking-chair to one more lively. He wants the
world to move, and to move unencumbered; and Europe seems to him to carry
too much baggage. The American is simply the most modern of men, one who
has thrown away the impedimenta of tradition. The world never saw such a
spectacle before, so vast a territory informed with one uniform spirit of
energy and progress, and people tumbling into it from all the world,
eager for the fair field and free opportunity. The American delights in
it; in Europe he misses the swing and "go" of the new life.

This large explanation may not account for the summer restlessness that
overtakes nearly everybody. We are the annual victims of the delusion
that there exists somewhere the ideal spot where manners are simple, and
milk is pure, and lodging is cheap, where we shall fall at once into
content. We never do. For content consists not in having all we want,
nor, in not wanting everything, nor in being unable to get what we want,
but in not wanting that we can get. In our summer flittings we carry our
wants with us to places where they cannot be gratified. A few people have
discovered that repose can be had at home, but this discovery is too
unfashionable to find favor; we have no rest except in moving about.
Looked at superficially, it seems curious that the American is, as a
rule, the only person who does not emigrate. The fact is that he can go
nowhere else where life is so uneasy, and where, consequently, he would
have so little of his sort of repose. To put him in another country would
be like putting a nineteenth-century man back into the eighteenth
century. The American wants to be at the head of the procession (as he
fancies he is), where he can hear the band play, and be the first to see
the fireworks of the new era. He thinks that he occupies an advanced
station of observation, from which his telescope can sweep the horizon
for anything new. And with some reason he thinks so; for not seldom he
takes up a foreign idea and tires of it before it is current elsewhere.
More than one great writer of England had his first popular recognition
in America. Even this season the Saturday Review is struggling with
Ibsen, while Boston, having had that disease, has probably gone on to
some other fad.

Far be it from us to praise the American for his lack of repose; it is
enough to attempt to account for it. But from the social, or rather
society, point of view, the subject has a disquieting aspect. If the
American young man and young woman get it into their heads that repose,
especially of manner, is the correct thing, they will go in for it in a
way to astonish the world. The late cultivation of idiocy by the American
dude was unique. He carried it to an extreme impossible to the youth of
any nation less "gifted." And if the American girl goes in seriously for
"repose," she will be able to give odds to any modern languidity or to
any ancient marble. If what is wanted in society is cold hauteur and
languid superciliousness or lofty immobility, we are confident that with
a little practice she can sit stiller, and look more impassive, and move
with less motion, than any other created woman. We have that confidence
in her ability and adaptability. It is a question whether it is worth
while to do this; to sacrifice the vivacity and charm native to her, and
the natural impulsiveness and generous gift of herself which belong to a
new race in a new land, which is walking always towards the sunrise.

In fine, although so much is said of the American lack of repose, is it
not best for the American to be content to be himself, and let the
critics adapt themselves or not, as they choose, to a new phenomenon?

Let us stick a philosophic name to it, and call it repose in activity.
The American might take the candid advice given by one friend to another,
who complained that it was so difficult to get into the right frame of
mind. "The best thing you can do," he said, "is to frame your mind and
hang it up."



WOMEN--IDEAL AND REAL

We have not by any means got to the bottom of Realism. It matters very
little what the novelists and critics say about it--what it is and what
it is not; the attitude of society towards it is the important thing.
Even if the critic could prove that nature and art are the same thing,
and that the fiction which is Real is only a copy of nature, or if
another should prove that Reality is only to be found in the Ideal,
little would be gained. Literature is well enough in its place, art is an
agreeable pastime, and it is right that society should take up either in
seasons when lawn-tennis and polo are impracticable and afternoon teas
become flavorless; but the question that society is or should be
interested in is whether the young woman of the future--upon whose
formation all our social hopes depend--is going to shape herself by a
Realistic or an Ideal standard. It should be said in parenthesis that the
young woman of the passing period has inclined towards Realism in manner
and speech, if not in dress, affecting a sort of frank return to the
easy-going ways of nature itself, even to the adoption of the language of
the stock exchange, the race-course, and the clubs--an offering of
herself on the altar of good-fellowship, with the view, no doubt, of
making life more agreeable to the opposite sex, forgetting the fact that
men fall in love always, or used to in the days when they could afford
that luxury, with an ideal woman, or if not with an ideal woman, with one
whom they idealize. And at this same time the world is full of doubts and
questionings as to whether marriage is a failure. Have these questionings
anything to do with the increasing Realism of women, and a consequent
loss of ideals?

Of course the reader sees that the difficulty in considering this subject
is whether woman is to be estimated as a work of nature or of art. And
here comes in the everlasting question of what is the highest beauty, and
what is most to be desired. The Greek artists, it seems to be well
established, never used a model, as our artists almost invariably do, in
their plastic and pictorial creations. The antique Greek statues, or
their copies, which give us the highest conceptions of feminine charm and
manly beauty, were made after no woman, or man born of woman, but were
creations of the ideal raised to the highest conception by the passionate
love and long study of nature, but never by faithful copying of it. The
Romans copied the Greek art. The Greek in his best days created the ideal
figure, which we love to accept as nature. Generation after generation
the Greek learned to draw and learned to observe, until he was able to
transmute his knowledge into the forms of grace and beauty which satisfy
us as nature at her best; just as the novelist trains all his powers by
the observation of life until he is able to transmute all the raw
material into a creation of fiction which satisfies us. We may be sure
that if the Greek artist had employed the service of models in his
studio, his art would have been merely a passing phase in human history.
But as it is, the world has ever since been in love with his ideal woman,
and still believes in her possibility.

Now the young woman of today should not be deceived into the notion of a
preferable Realistic development because the novelist of today gets her
to sit to him as his model. This may be no certain indication that she is
either good art or good nature. Indeed she may be quite drifting away
from the ideal that a woman ought to aim at if we are to have a society
that is not always tending into a realistic vulgarity and commonplace. It
is perfectly true that a woman is her own excuse for being, and in a way
she is doing enough for the world by simply being a woman. It is
difficult to rouse her to any sense of her duty as a standard of
aspiration. And it is difficult to explain exactly what it is that she is
to do. If she asks if she is expected to be a model woman, the reply must
be that the world does not much hanker after what--is called the "model
woman." It seems to be more a matter of tendency than anything else. Is
she sagging towards Realism or rising towards Idealism? Is she content to
be the woman that some of the novelists, and some of the painters also,
say she is, or would she prefer to approach that ideal which all the
world loves? It is a question of standards.

It is natural that in these days, when the approved gospel is that it is
better to be dead than not to be Real, society should try to approach
nature by the way of the materialistically ignoble, and even go such a
pace of Realism as literature finds it difficult to keep up with; but it
is doubtful if the young woman will get around to any desirable state of
nature by this route. We may not be able to explain why servile imitation
of nature degrades art and degrades woman, but both deteriorate without
an ideal so high that there is no earthly model for it. Would you like to
marry, perhaps, a Greek statue? says the justly contemptuous critic.

Not at all, at least not a Roman copy of one. But it would be better to
marry a woman who would rather be like a Greek statue than like some of
these figures, without even an idea for clothing, which are lying about
on green banks in our spring exhibitions.



THE ART OF IDLENESS

Idleness seems to be the last accomplishment of civilization. To be idle
gracefully and contentedly and picturesquely is an art. It is one in
which the Americans, who do so many things well, do not excel. They have
made the excuse that they have not time, or, if they have leisure, that
their temperament and nervous organization do not permit it. This excuse
will pass for a while, for we are a new people, and probably we are more
highly and sensitively organized than any other nation--at least the
physiologists say so; but the excuse seems more and more inadequate as we
accumulate wealth, and consequently have leisure. We shall not criticise
the American colonies in Paris and Rome and Florence, and in other
Continental places where they congregate. They know whether they are
restless or contented, and what examples they set to the peoples who get
their ideas of republican simplicity and virtue from the Americans who
sojourn among them. They know whether with all their leisure they get
placidity of mind and the real rest which the older nations have learned
to enjoy. It may not be the most desirable thing for a human being to be
idle, but if he will be, he should be so in a creditable manner, and with
some enjoyment to himself. It is no slander to say that we in America
have not yet found out the secret of this. Perhaps we shall not until our
energies are spent and we are in a state of decay. At present we put as
much energy into our pleasure as into our work, for it is inbred in us
that laziness is a sin. This is the Puritan idea, and it must be said for
it that in our experience virtue and idleness are not commonly
companions. But this does not go to the bottom of the matter.

The Italians are industrious; they are compelled to be in order to pay
their taxes for the army and navy and get macaroni enough to live on. But
see what a long civilization has done for them. They have the manner of
laziness, they have the air of leisure, they have worn off the angular
corners of existence, and unconsciously their life is picturesque and
enjoyable. Those among them who have money take their pleasure simply and
with the least expense of physical energy. Those who have not money do
the same thing. This basis of existence is calm and unexaggerated; life
is reckoned by centimes, not by dollars. What an ideal place is Venice!
It is not only the most picturesque city in the world, rich in all that
art can invent to please the eye, but how calm it is! The vivacity which
entertains the traveler is all on the surface. The nobleman in his palace
if there be any palace that is not turned into a hotel, or a magazine of
curiosities, or a municipal office--can live on a diet that would make an
American workman strike, simply because he has learned to float through
life; and the laborer is equally happy on little because he has learned
to wait without much labor. The gliding, easy motion of the gondola
expresses the whole situation; and the gondolier who with consummate
skill urges his dreamy bark amid the throng and in the tortuous canals
for an hour or two, and then sleeps in the sun, is a type of that rest in
labor which we do not attain. What happiness there is in a dish of
polenta, or of a few fried fish, in a cup of coffee, and in one of those
apologies for cigars which the government furnishes, dear at a cent--the
cigar with a straw in it, as if it were a julep, which it needs five
minutes to ignite, and then will furnish occupation for a whole evening!
Is it a hard lot, that of the fishermen and the mariners of the Adriatic?
The lights are burning all night long in a cafe on the Riva del
Schiavoni, and the sailors and idlers of the shore sit there jabbering
and singing and trying their voices in lusty hallooing till the morning
light begins to make the lagoon opalescent. The traveler who lodges near
cannot sleep, but no more can the sailors, who steal away in the dawn,
wafted by painted sails. In the heat of the day, when the fish will not
bite, comes the siesta. Why should the royal night be wasted in slumber?
The shore of the Riva, the Grand Canal, the islands, gleam with twinkling
lamps; the dark boats glide along with a star in the prow, bearing youth
and beauty and sin and ugliness, all alike softened by the shadows; the
electric lights from the shores and the huge steamers shoot gleams on
towers and facades; the moon wades among the fleecy clouds; here and
there a barge with colored globes of light carries a band of singing men
and women and players on the mandolin and the fiddle, and from every side
the songs of Italy, pathetic in their worn gayety, float to the entranced
ears of those who lean from balconies, or lounge in gondolas and listen
with hearts made a little heavy and wistful with so much beauty.

Can any one float in such scenes and be so contentedly idle anywhere in
our happy land? Have we learned yet the simple art of easy enjoyment? Can
we buy it with money quickly, or is it a grace that comes only with long
civilization? Italy, for instance, is full of accumulated wealth, of art,
even of ostentation and display, and the new generation probably have
lost the power to conceive, if not the skill to execute, the great works
which excite our admiration. Nothing can be much more meretricious than
its modern art, when anything is produced that is not an exact copy of
something created when there was genius there. But in one respect the
Italians have entered into the fruits of the ages of trial and of
failure, and that, is the capacity of being idle with much money or with
none, and getting day by day their pay for the bother of living in this
world. It seems a difficult lesson for us to learn in country or city.
Alas! when we have learned it shall we not want to emigrate, as so many
of the Italians do? Some philosophers say that men were not created to be
happy. Perhaps they were not intended to be idle.



IS THERE ANY CONVERSATION

Is there any such thing as conversation? It is a delicate subject to
touch, because many people understand conversation to be talk; not the
exchange of ideas, but of words; and we would not like to say anything to
increase the flow of the latter. We read of times and salons in which
real conversation existed, held by men and women. Are they altogether in
the past? We believe that men do sometimes converse. Do women ever?
Perhaps so. In those hours sacred to the relaxation of undress and the
back hair, in the upper penetralia of the household, where two or three
or six are gathered together on and about the cushioned frame intended
for repose, do they converse, or indulge in that sort of chat from which
not one idea is carried away? No one reports, fortunately, and we do not
know. But do all the women like this method of spending hour after hour,
day after day-indeed, a lifetime? Is it invigorating, even restful? Think
of the talk this past summer, the rivers and oceans of it, on piazzas and
galleries in the warm evenings or the fresher mornings, in private
houses, on hotel verandas, in the shade of thousands of cottages by the
sea and in the hills! As you recall it, what was it all about? Was the
mind in a vapid condition after an evening of it? And there is so much to
read, and so much to think about, and the world is so interesting, if you
do think about it, and nearly every person has some peculiarity of mind
that would be worth study if you could only get at it! It is really, we
repeat, such an interesting world, and most people get so little out of
it. Now there is the conversation of hens, when the hens are busy and not
self-conscious; there is something fascinating about it, because the
imagination may invest it with a recondite and spicy meaning; but the
common talk of people! We infer sometimes that the hens are not saying
anything, because they do not read, and consequently their minds are
empty. And perhaps we are right. As to conversation, there is no use in
sending the bucket into the well when the well is dry--it only makes a
rattling of windlass and chain. We do not wish to be understood to be an
enemy of the light traffic of human speech. Deliver us from the didactic
and the everlastingly improving style of thing! Conversation, in order to
be good, and intellectually inspiring, and spiritually restful, need not
always be serious. It must be alert and intelligent, and mean more by its
suggestions and allusions than is said. There is the light touch-and-go
play about topics more or less profound that is as agreeable as
heat-lightning in a sultry evening. Why may not a person express the
whims and vagaries of a lambent mind (if he can get a lambent mind)
without being hauled up short for it, and plunged into a heated dispute?
In the freedom of real conversation the mind throws out half-thoughts,
paradoxes, for which a man is not to be held strictly responsible to the
very roots of his being, and which need to be caught up and played with
in the same tentative spirit. The dispute and the hot argument are
usually the bane of conversation and the death of originality. We like to
express a notion, a fancy, without being called upon to defend it, then
and there, in all its possible consequences, as if it were to be an
article in a creed or a plank in a platform. Must we be always either
vapid or serious?

We have been obliged to take notice of the extraordinary tendency of
American women to cultivation, to the improvement of the mind, by means
of reading, clubs, and other intellectual exercises, and to acknowledge
that they are leaving the men behind; that is, the men not in the
so-called professions. Is this intellectualization beginning to show in
the conversation of women when they are together, say in the hours of
relaxation in the penetralia spoken of, or in general society? Is there
less talk about the fashion of dress, and the dearness or cheapness of
materials, and about servants, and the ways of the inchoate citizen
called the baby, and the infinitely little details of the private life of
other people? Is it true that if a group of men are talking, say about
politics, or robust business, or literature, and they are joined by women
(whose company is always welcome), the conversation is pretty sure to
take a lower mental plane, to become more personal, more frivolous,
accommodating itself to quite a different range? Do the well-read,
thoughtful women, however beautiful and brilliant and capable of the
gayest persiflage, prefer to talk with men, to listen to the conversation
of men, rather than to converse with or listen to their own sex? If this
is true, why is it? Women, as a rule, in "society" at any rate, have more
leisure than men. In the facilities and felicities of speech they
commonly excel men, and usually they have more of that vivacious dramatic
power which is called "setting out a thing to the life." With all these
advantages, and all the world open to them in newspapers and in books,
they ought to be the leaders and stimulators of the best conversation.
With them it should never drop down to the too-common flatness and
banality. Women have made this world one of the most beautiful places of
residence to be conceived. They might make it one of the most
interesting.



THE TALL GIRL

It is the fashion for girls to be tall. This is much more than saying
that tall girls are the fashion. It means not only that the tall girl has
come in, but that girls are tall, and are becoming tall, because it is
the fashion, and because there is a demand for that sort of girl. There
is no hint of stoutness, indeed the willowy pattern is preferred, but
neither is leanness suggested; the women of the period have got hold of
the poet's idea, "tall and most divinely fair," and are living up to it.
Perhaps this change in fashion is more noticeable in England and on the
Continent than in America, but that may be because there is less room for
change in America, our girls being always of an aspiring turn. Very
marked the phenomenon is in England; on the street, at any concert or
reception, the number of tall girls is so large as to occasion remark,
especially among the young girls just coming into the conspicuousness of
womanhood. The tendency of the new generation is towards unusual height
and gracious slimness. The situation would be embarrassing to thousands
of men who have been too busy to think about growing upward, were it not
for the fact that the tall girl, who must be looked up to, is almost
invariably benignant, and bears her height with a sweet timidity that
disarms fear. Besides, the tall girl has now come on in such force that
confidence is infused into the growing army, and there is a sense of
support in this survival of the tallest that is very encouraging to the
young.

Many theories have been put forward to account for this phenomenon. It is
known that delicate plants in dark places struggle up towards the light
in a frail slenderness, and it is said that in England, which seems to
have increasing cloudiness, and in the capital more and more months of
deeper darkness and blackness, it is natural that the British girl should
grow towards the light. But this is a fanciful view of the case, for it
cannot be proved that English men have proportionally increased their
stature. The English man has always seemed big to the Continental
peoples, partly because objects generally take on gigantic dimensions
when seen through a fog. Another theory, which has much more to commend
it, is that the increased height of women is due to the aesthetic
movement, which has now spent its force, but has left certain results,
especially in the change of the taste in colors. The woman of the
aesthetic artist was nearly always tall, usually willowy, not to say
undulating and serpentine. These forms of feminine loveliness and
commanding height have been for many years before the eyes of the women
of England in paintings and drawings, and it is unavoidable that this
pattern should not have its effect upon the new and plastic generation.
Never has there been another generation so open to new ideas; and if the
ideal of womanhood held up was that of length and gracious slenderness,
it would be very odd if women should not aspire to it. We know very well
the influence that the heroines of the novelists have had from time to
time upon the women of a given period. The heroine of Scott was, no
doubt, once common in society--the delicate creature who promptly fainted
on the reminiscence of the scent of a rose, but could stand any amount of
dragging by the hair through underground passages, and midnight rides on
lonely moors behind mailed and black-mantled knights, and a run or two of
hair-removing typhoid fever, and come out at the end of the story as
fresh as a daisy. She could not be found now, so changed are the
requirements of fiction. We may assume, too, that the full-blown
aesthetic girl of that recent period--the girl all soul and faded
harmonies--would be hard to find, but the fascination of the height and
slenderness of that girl remains something more than a tradition, and is,
no doubt, to some extent copied by the maiden just coming into her
kingdom.

Those who would belittle this matter may say that the appearance of which
we speak is due largely to the fashion of dress--the long unbroken lines
which add to the height and encourage the appearance of slenderness. But
this argument gives away the case. Why do women wear the present
fascinating gowns, in which the lithe figure is suggested in all its
womanly dignity? In order that they may appear to be tall. That is to
say, because it is the fashion to be tall; women born in the mode are
tall, and those caught in a hereditary shortness endeavor to conform to
the stature of the come and coming woman.

There is another theory, that must be put forward with some hesitation,
for the so-called emancipation of woman is a delicate subject to deal
with, for while all the sex doubtless feel the impulse of the new time,
there are still many who indignantly reject the implication in the
struggle for the rights of women. To say, therefore, that women are
becoming tall as a part of their outfit for taking the place of men in
this world would be to many an affront, so that this theory can only be
suggested. Yet probably physiology would bear us out in saying that the
truly emancipated woman, taking at last the place in affairs which men
have flown in the face of Providence by denying her, would be likely to
expand physically as well as mentally, and that as she is beginning to
look down upon man intellectually, she is likely to have a corresponding
physical standard.

Seriously, however, none of these theories are altogether satisfactory,
and we are inclined to seek, as is best in all cases, the simplest
explanation. Women are tall and becoming tall simply because it is the
fashion, and that statement never needs nor is capable of any
explanation. Awhile ago it was the fashion to be petite and arch; it is
now the fashion to be tall and gracious, and nothing more can be said
about it. Of course the reader, who is usually inclined to find the
facetious side of any grave topic, has already thought of the application
of the self-denying hymn, that man wants but little here below, and wants
that little long; but this may be only a passing sigh of the period. We
are far from expressing any preference for tall women over short women.
There are creative moods of the fancy when each seems the better. We can
only chronicle, but never create.



THE DEADLY DIARY

Many people regard the keeping of a diary as a meritorious occupation.
The young are urged to take up this cross; it is supposed to benefit
girls especially. Whether women should do it is to some minds not an open
question, although there is on record the case of the Frenchman who tried
to shoot himself when he heard that his wife was keeping a diary. This
intention of suicide may have arisen from the fear that his wife was
keeping a record of his own peccadilloes rather than of her own thoughts
and emotions. Or it may have been from the fear that she was putting down
those little conjugal remarks which the husband always dislikes to have
thrown up to him, and which a woman can usually quote accurately, it may
be for years, it may be forever, without the help of a diary. So we can
appreciate without approving the terror of the Frenchman at living on and
on in the same house with a growing diary. For it is not simply that this
little book of judgment is there in black and white, but that the maker
of it is increasing her power of minute observation and analytic
expression. In discussing the question whether a woman should keep a
diary it is understood that it is not a mere memorandum of events and
engagements, such as both men and women of business and affairs
necessarily keep, but the daily record which sets down feelings,
emotions, and impressions, and criticises people and records opinions.
But this is a question that applies to men as well as to women.

It has been assumed that the diary serves two good purposes: it is a
disciplinary exercise for the keeper of it, and perhaps a moral guide;
and it has great historical value. As to the first, it may be helpful to
order, method, discipline, and it may be an indulgence of spleen, whims,
and unwholesome criticism and conceit. The habit of saying right out what
you think of everybody is not a good one, and the record of such opinions
and impressions, while it is not so mischievous to the public as talking
may be, is harmful to the recorder. And when we come to the historical
value of the diary, we confess to a growing suspicion of it. It is such a
deadly weapon when it comes to light after the passage of years. It has
an authority which the spoken words of its keeper never had. It is 'ex
parte', and it cannot be cross-examined. The supposition is that being
contemporaneous with the events spoken of, it must be true, and that it
is an honest record. Now, as a matter of fact, we doubt if people are any
more honest as to themselves or others in a diary than out of it; and
rumors, reported facts, and impressions set down daily in the heat and
haste of the prejudicial hour are about as likely to be wrong as right.
Two diaries of the same events rarely agree. And in turning over an old
diary we never know what to allow for the personal equation. The diary is
greatly relied on by the writers of history, but it is doubtful if there
is any such liar in the world, even when the keeper of it is honest. It
is certain to be partisan, and more liable to be misinformed than a
newspaper, which exercises some care in view of immediate publicity. The
writer happens to know of two diaries which record, on the testimony of
eye-witnesses, the circumstances of the last hours of Garfield, and they
differ utterly in essential particulars. One of these may turn up fifty
years from now, and be accepted as true. An infinite amount of gossip
goes into diaries about men and women that would not stand the test of a
moment's contemporary publication. But by-and-by it may all be used to
smirch or brighten unjustly some one's character. Suppose a man in the
Army of the Potomac had recorded daily all his opinions of men and
events. Reading it over now, with more light and a juster knowledge of
character and of measures, is it not probable that he would find it a
tissue of misconceptions? Few things are actually what they seem today;
they are colored both by misapprehensions and by moods. If a man writes a
letter or makes report of an occurrence for immediate publication,
subject to universal criticism, there is some restraint on him. In his
private letter, or diary especially, he is apt to set down what comes
into his head at the moment, often without much effort at verification.

We have been led to this disquisition into the fundamental nature of this
private record by the question put to us, whether it is a good plan for a
woman to keep a diary. Speaking generally, the diary has become a sort of
fetich, the authority of which ought to be overthrown. It is fearful to
think how our characters are probably being lied away by innumerable pen
scratches in secret repositories, which may some day come to light as
unimpeachable witnesses. The reader knows that he is not the sort of man
which the diarist jotted him down to be in a single interview. The diary
may be a good thing for self-education, if the keeper could insure its
destruction. The mental habit of diarizing may have some value, even when
it sets undue importance upon trifles. We confess that, never having seen
a woman's private diary (except those that have been published), we do
not share the popular impression as to their tenuity implied in the
question put to us. Taking it for granted that they are full of noble
thoughts and beautiful imaginings, we doubt whether the time spent on
them could not be better employed in acquiring knowledge or taking
exercise. For the diary forgotten and left to the next generation may be
as dangerous as dynamite.



THE WHISTLING GIRL

The wisdom of our ancestors packed away in proverbial sayings may always
be a little suspected. We have a vague respect for a popular proverb, as
embodying folk-experience, and expressing not the wit of one, but the
common thought of a race. We accept the saying unquestioning, as a sort
of inspiration out of the air, true because nobody has challenged it for
ages, and probably for the same reason that we try to see the new moon
over our left shoulder. Very likely the musty saying was the product of
the average ignorance of an unenlightened time, and ought not to have the
respect of a scientific and traveled people. In fact it will be found
that a large proportion of the proverbial sayings which we glibly use are
fallacies based on a very limited experience of the world, and probably
were set afloat by the idiocy or prejudice of one person. To examine one
of them is enough for our present purpose.

     "Whistling girls and crowing hens
     Always come to some bad ends."

It would be interesting to know the origin of this proverb, because it is
still much relied on as evincing a deep knowledge of human nature, and as
an argument against change, that is to say, in this case, against
progress. It would seem to have been made by a man, conservative, perhaps
malevolent, who had no appreciation of a hen, and a conservatively poor
opinion of woman. His idea was to keep woman in her place--a good idea
when not carried too far--but he did not know what her place is, and he
wanted to put a sort of restraint upon her emancipation by coupling her
with an emancipated hen. He therefore launched this shaft of ridicule,
and got it to pass as an arrow of wisdom shot out of a popular experience
in remote ages.

In the first place, it is not true, and probably never was true even when
hens were at their lowest. We doubts its Sanscrit antiquity. It is
perhaps of Puritan origin, and rhymed in New England. It is false as to
the hen. A crowing hen was always an object of interest and distinction;
she was pointed out to visitors; the owner was proud of her
accomplishment, he was naturally likely to preserve her life, and
especially if she could lay. A hen that can lay and crow is a 'rara
avis'. And it should be parenthetically said here that the hen who can
crow and cannot lay is not a good example for woman. The crowing hen was
of more value than the silent hen, provided she crowed with discretion;
and she was likely to be a favorite, and not at all to come to some bad
end. Except, indeed, where the proverb tended to work its own
fulfillment. And this is the regrettable side of most proverbs of an
ill-nature, that they do help to work the evil they predict. Some foolish
boy, who had heard this proverb, and was sent out to the hen-coop in the
evening to slay for the Thanksgiving feast, thought he was a justifiable
little providence in wringing the neck of the crowing hen, because it was
proper (according to the saying) that she should come to some bad end.
And as years went on, and that kind of boy increased and got to be a man,
it became a fixed idea to kill the amusing, interesting, spirited,
emancipated hen, and naturally the barn-yard became tamer and tamer, the
production of crowing hens was discouraged (the wise old hens laid no
eggs with a crow in them, according to the well-known principle of
heredity), and the man who had in his youth exterminated the hen of
progress actually went about quoting that false couplet as an argument
against the higher education of woman.

As a matter of fact, also, the couplet is not true about woman; whether
it ought to be true is an ethical question that will not be considered
here. The whistling girl does not commonly come to a bad end. Quite as
often as any other girl she learns to whistle a cradle song, low and
sweet and charming, to the young voter in the cradle. She is a girl of
spirit, of independence of character, of dash and flavor; and as to lips,
why, you must have some sort of presentable lips to whistle; thin ones
will not. The whistling girl does not come to a bad end at all (if
marriage is still considered a good occupation), except a cloud may be
thrown upon her exuberant young life by this rascally proverb. Even if
she walks the lonely road of life, she has this advantage, that she can
whistle to keep her courage up. But in a larger sense, one that this
practical age can understand, it is not true that the whistling girl
comes to a bad end. Whistling pays. It has brought her money; it has
blown her name about the listening world. Scarcely has a non-whistling
woman been more famous. She has set aside the adage. She has done so much
towards the emancipation of her sex from the prejudice created by an
ill-natured proverb which never had root in fact.

But has the whistling woman come to stay? Is it well for woman to
whistle? Are the majority of women likely to be whistlers? These are
serious questions, not to be taken up in a light manner at the end of a
grave paper. Will woman ever learn to throw a stone? There it is. The
future is inscrutable. We only know that whereas they did not whistle
with approval, now they do; the prejudice of generations gradually melts
away. And woman's destiny is not linked with that of the hen, nor to be
controlled by a proverb--perhaps not by anything.



BORN OLD AND RICH

We have been remiss in not proposing a remedy for our present social and
economic condition. Looking backward, we see this. The scheme may not be
practical, any more than the Utopian plans that have been put forward,
but it is radical and interesting, and requires, as the other schemes do,
a total change in human nature (which may be a good thing to bring
about), and a general recasting of the conditions of life. This is and
should be no objection to a socialistic scheme. Surface measures will not
avail. The suggestion for a minor alleviation of inequality, which seems
to have been acted on, namely, that women should propose, has not had the
desired effect if it is true, as reported, that the eligible young men
are taking to the woods. The workings of such a measure are as impossible
to predict in advance as the operation of the McKinley tariff. It might
be well to legislate that people should be born equal (including equal
privileges of the sexes), but the practical difficulty is to keep them
equal. Life is wrong somehow. Some are born rich and some are born poor,
and this inequality makes misery, and then some lose their possessions,
which others get hold of, and that makes more misery. We can put our
fingers on the two great evils of life as it now is: the first is
poverty; and the second is infirmity, which is the accompaniment of
increasing years. Poverty, which is only the unequal distribution of
things desired, makes strife, and is the opportunity of lawyers; and
infirmity is the excuse for doctors. Think what the world would be
without lawyers and doctors!

We are all born young, and most of us are born poor. Youth is delightful,
but we are always getting away from it. How different it would be if we
were always going towards it! Poverty is unpleasant, and the great
struggle of life is to get rid of it; but it is the common fortune that
in proportion as wealth is attained the capacity of enjoying it departs.
It seems, therefore, that our life is wrong end first. The remedy
suggested is that men should be born rich and old. Instead of the
necessity of making a fortune, which is of less and less value as death
approaches, we should have only the privilege of spending it, and it
would have its natural end in the cradle, in which we should be rocked
into eternal sleep. Born old, one would, of course, inherit experience,
so that wealth could be made to contribute to happiness, and each day,
instead of lessening the natural powers and increasing infirmities, would
bring new vigor and capacity of enjoyment. It would be going from winter
to autumn, from autumn to summer, from summer to spring. The joy of a
life without care as to ways and means, and every morning refitted with
the pulsations of increasing youth, it is almost impossible to imagine.
Of course this scheme has difficulties on the face of it. The allotting
of the measure of wealth would not be difficult to the socialists,
because they would insist that every person should be born with an equal
amount of property. What this should be would depend upon the length of
life; and how should this be arrived at? The insurance companies might
agree, but no one else would admit that he belongs in the average.
Naturally the Biblical limit of threescore and ten suggests itself; but
human nature is very queer. With the plain fact before them that the
average life of man is less than thirty-four years, few would be willing,
if the choice were offered, to compromise on seventy. Everybody has a
hope of going beyond that, so that if seventy were proposed as the year
at birth, there would no doubt be as much dissatisfaction as there is at
the present loose arrangement. Science would step in, and demonstrate
that there is no reason why, with proper care of the system, it should
not run a hundred years. It is improbable, then, that the majority could
be induced to vote for the limit of seventy years, or to exchange the
exciting uncertainty of adding a little to the period which must be
accompanied by the weight of the grasshopper, for the certainty of only
seventy years in this much-abused world.

But suppose a limit to be agreed on, and the rich old man and the rich
old woman (never now too old to marry) to start on their career towards
youth and poverty. The imagination kindles at the idea. The money would
hold out just as long as life lasted, and though it would all be going
downhill, as it were, what a charming descent, without struggle, and with
only the lessening infirmities that belong to decreasing age! There would
be no second childhood, only the innocence and elasticity of the first.
It all seems very fair, but we must not forget that this is a mortal
world, and that it is liable to various accidents. Who, for instance,
could be sure that he would grow young gracefully? There would be the
constant need of fighting the hot tempers and impulses of youth, growing
more and more instead of less and less unreasonable. And then, how many
would reach youth? More than half, of course, would be cut off in their
prime, and be more and more liable to go as they fell back into the
pitfalls and errors of childhood. Would people grow young together even
as harmoniously as they grow old together? It would be a pretty sight,
that of the few who descended into the cradle together, but this
inversion of life would not escape the woes of mortality. And there are
other considerations, unless it should turn out that a universal tax on
land should absolutely change human nature. There are some who would be
as idle and spendthrift going towards youth as they now are going away
from it, and perhaps more, so that half the race on coming to immaturity
would be in child asylums. And then others who would be stingy and greedy
and avaricious, and not properly spend their allotted fortune. And we
should have the anomaly, which is so distasteful to the reformer now, of
rich babies. A few babies inordinately rich, and the rest in asylums.

Still, the plan has more to recommend it than most others for removing
poverty and equalizing conditions. We should all start rich, and the
dying off of those who would never attain youth would amply provide
fortunes for those born old. Crime would be less also; for while there
would, doubtless, be some old sinners, the criminal class, which is very
largely under thirty, would be much smaller than it is now. Juvenile
depravity would proportionally disappear, as not more people would reach
non-age than now reach over-age. And the great advantage of the scheme,
one that would indeed transform the world, is that women would always be
growing younger.



THE "OLD SOLDIER"

The "old soldier" is beginning to outline himself upon the public mind as
a distant character in American life. Literature has not yet got hold of
him, and perhaps his evolution is not far enough advanced to make him as
serviceable as the soldier of the Republic and the Empire, the relic of
the Old Guard, was to Hugo and Balzac, the trooper of Italy and Egypt,
the maimed hero of Borodino and Waterloo, who expected again the coming
of the Little Corporal. It takes time to develop a character, and to
throw the glamour of romance over what may be essentially commonplace. A
quarter of a century has not sufficed to separate the great body of the
surviving volunteers in the war for the Union from the body of American
citizens, notwithstanding the organization of the Grand Army of the
Republic, the encampments, the annual reunions, and the distinction of
pensions, and the segregation in Soldiers' Homes. The "old soldier"
slowly eliminates himself from the mass, and begins to take, and to make
us take, a romantic view of his career. There was one event in his life,
and his personality in it looms larger and larger as he recedes from it.
The heroic sacrifice of it does not diminish, as it should not, in our
estimation, and he helps us to keep glowing a lively sense of it. The
past centres about him and his great achievement, and the whole of life
is seen in the light of it. In his retreat in the Home, and in his
wandering from one Home to another, he ruminates on it, he talks of it;
he separates himself from the rest of mankind by a broad distinction, and
his point of view of life becomes as original as it is interesting. In
the Homes the battered veterans speak mainly of one thing; and in the
monotony of their spent lives develop whimseys and rights and wrongs,
patriotic ardors and criticisms on their singular fate, which are
original in their character in our society. It is in human nature to like
rest but not restriction, bounty but not charity, and the tired heroes of
the war grow restless, though every physical want is supplied. They have
a fancy that they would like to see again the homes of their youth, the
farmhouse in the hills, the cottage in the river valley, the lonesome
house on the wide prairie, the street that ran down to the wharf where
the fishing-smacks lay, to see again the friends whom they left there,
and perhaps to take up the occupations that were laid down when they
seized the musket in 1861. Alas! it is not their home anymore; the
friends are no longer there; and what chance is there of occupation for a
man who is now feeble in body and who has the habit of campaigning? This
generation has passed on to other things. It looks upon the hero as an
illustration in the story of the war, which it reads like history. The
veteran starts out from the shelter of the Home. One evening, towards
sunset, the comfortable citizen, taking the mild air on his piazza, sees
an interesting figure approach. Its dress is half military, half that of
the wanderer whose attention to his personal appearance is only
spasmodic.

The veteran gives the military salute, he holds himself erect, almost too
erect, and his speech is voluble and florid. It is a delightful evening;
it seems to be a good growing-time; the country looks prosperous. He is
sorry to be any trouble or interruption, but the fact is--yes, he is on
his way to his old home in Vermont; it seems like he would like to taste
some home cooking again, and sit in the old orchard, and perhaps lay his
bones, what is left of them, in the burying-ground on the hill. He pulls
out his well-worn papers as he talks; there is the honorable discharge,
the permit of the Home, and the pension. Yes, Uncle Sam is generous; it
is the most generous government God ever made, and he would willingly
fight for it again. Thirty dollars a month, that is what he has; he is
not a beggar; he wants for nothing. But the pension is not payable till
the end of the month. It is entirely his own obligation, his own fault;
he can fight, but he cannot lie, and nobody is to blame but himself; but
last night he fell in with some old comrades at Southdown, and, well, you
know how it is. He had plenty of money when he left the Home, and he is
not asking for anything now, but if he had a few dollars for his railroad
fare to the next city, he could walk the rest of the way. Wounded? Well,
if I stood out here against the light you could just see through me,
that's all. Bullets? It's no use to try to get 'em out. But, sir, I'm not
complaining. It had to be done; the country had to be saved; and I'd do
it again if it were necessary. Had any hot fights? Sir, I was at
Gettysburg! The veteran straightens up, and his eyes flash as if he saw
again that sanguinary field. Off goes the citizen's hat. Children, come
out here; here is one of the soldiers of Gettysburg! Yes, sir; and this
knee--you see I can't bend it much--got stiffened at Chickamauga; and
this scratch here in the neck was from a bullet at Gaines Mill; and this
here, sir--thumping his chest--you notice I don't dare to cough much
--after the explosion of a shell at Petersburg I found myself lying on
my-back, and the only one of my squad who was not killed outright. Was it
the imagination of the citizen or of the soldier that gave the impression
that the hero had been in the forefront of every important action of the
war? Well, it doesn't matter much. The citizen was sitting there under
his own vine, the comfortable citizen of a free republic, because of the
wounds in this cheerful and imaginative old wanderer. There, that is
enough, sir, quite enough. I am no beggar. I thought perhaps you had
heard of the Ninth Vermont. Woods is my name--Sergeant Woods. I trust
some time, sir, I shall be in a position to return the compliment.
Good-evening, sir; God bless your honor! and accept the blessing of an
old soldier. And the dear old hero goes down the darkening avenue, not so
steady of bearing as when he withstood the charge of Pickett on Cemetery
Hill, and with the independence of the American citizen who deserves well
of his country, makes his way to the nearest hospitable tavern.



THE ISLAND OF BIMINI

To the northward of Hispaniola lies the island of Bimini. It may not be
one of the spice islands, but it grows the best ginger to be found in the
world. In it is a fair city, and beside the city a lofty mountain, at the
foot of which is a noble spring called the 'Fons Juventutis'. This
fountain has a sweet savor, as of all manner of spicery, and every hour
of the day the water changes its savor and its smell. Whoever drinks of
this well will be healed of whatever malady he has, and will seem always
young. It is not reported that women and men who drink of this fountain
will be always young, but that they will seem so, and probably to
themselves, which simply means, in our modern accuracy of language, that
they will feel young. This island has never been found. Many voyages have
been made in search of it in ships and in the imagination, and Liars have
said they have landed on it and drunk of the water, but they never could
guide any one else thither. In the credulous centuries when these voyages
were made, other islands were discovered, and a continent much more
important than Bimini; but these discoveries were a disappointment,
because they were not what the adventurers wanted. They did not
understand that they had found a new land in which the world should renew
its youth and begin a new career. In time the quest was given up, and men
regarded it as one of the delusions which came to an end in the sixteenth
century. In our day no one has tried to reach Bimini except Heine. Our
scientific period has a proper contempt for all such superstitions. We
now know that the 'Fons Juventutis' is in every man, and that if actually
juvenility cannot be renewed, the advance of age can be arrested and the
waste of tissues be prevented, and an uncalculated length of earthly
existence be secured, by the injection of some sort of fluid into the
system. The right fluid has not yet been discovered by science, but
millions of people thought that it had the other day, and now confidently
expect it. This credulity has a scientific basis, and has no relation to
the old absurd belief in Bimini. We thank goodness that we do not live in
a credulous age.

The world would be in a poor case indeed if it had not always before it
some ideal or millennial condition, some panacea, some transmutation of
base metals into gold, some philosopher's stone, some fountain of youth,
some process of turning charcoal into diamonds, some scheme for
eliminating evil. But it is worth mentioning that in the historical
evolution we have always got better things than we sought or imagined,
developments on a much grander scale. History is strewn with the wreck of
popular delusions, but always in place of them have come realizations
more astonishing than the wildest fancies of the dreamers. Florida was a
disappointment as a Bimini, so were the land of the Ohio, the land of the
Mississippi, the Dorado of the Pacific coast. But as the illusions,
pushed always westward, vanished in the light of common day, lo! a
continent gradually emerged, with millions of people animated by
conquering ambition of progress in freedom; an industrial continent,
covered with a network of steel, heated by steam, and lighted by
electricity. What a spectacle of youth on a grand scale is this!
Christopher Columbus had not the slightest conception of what he was
doing when he touched the button. But we are not satisfied. Quite as far
from being so as ever. The popular imagination runs a hard race with any
possible natural development. Being in possession of so much, we now
expect to travel in the air, to read news in the sending mind before it
is sent, to create force without cost, to be transported without time,
and to make everybody equal in fortune and happiness to everybody else by
act of Congress. Such confidence have we in the power of a "resolution"
of the people and by the people that it seems feasible to make women into
men, oblivious of the more important and imperative task that will then
arise of making men into women. Some of these expectations are only
Biminis of the present, but when they have vanished there will be a
social and industrial world quite beyond our present conceptions, no
doubt. In the article of woman, for instance, she may not become the
being that the convention expects, but there may appear a Woman of whom
all the Aspasias and Helens were only the faintest types. And although no
progress will take the conceit out of men, there may appear a Man so
amenable to ordinary reason that he will give up the notion that he can
lift himself up by his bootstraps, or make one grain of wheat two by
calling it two.

One of the Biminis that have always been looked for is an American
Literature. There was an impression that there must be such a thing
somewhere on a continent that has everything else. We gave the world
tobacco and the potato, perhaps the most important contributions to the
content and the fatness of the world made by any new country, and it was
a noble ambition to give it new styles of art and literature also. There
seems to have been an impression that a literature was something
indigenous or ready-made, like any other purely native product, not
needing any special period of cultivation or development, and that a
nation would be in a mortifying position without one, even before it
staked out its cities or built any roads. Captain John Smith, if he had
ever settled here and spread himself over the continent, as he was
capable of doing, might have taken the contract to furnish one, and we
may be sure that he would have left us nothing to desire in that
direction. But the vein of romance he opened was not followed up. Other
prospectings were made. Holes, so to speak, were dug in New England, and
in the middle South, and along the frontier, and such leads were found
that again and again the certainty arose that at last the real American
ore had been discovered. Meantime a certain process called civilization
went on, and certain ideas of breadth entered into our conceptions, and
ideas also of the historical development of the expression of thought in
the world, and with these a comprehension of what American really is, and
the difficulty of putting the contents of a bushel measure into a pint
cup. So, while we have been expecting the American Literature to come out
from some locality, neat and clean, like a nugget, or, to change the
figure, to bloom any day like a century-plant, in one striking, fragrant
expression of American life, behold something else has been preparing and
maturing, larger and more promising than our early anticipations. In
history, in biography, in science, in the essay, in the novel and story,
there are coming forth a hundred expressions of the hundred aspects of
American life; and they are also sung by the poets in notes as varied as
the migrating birds. The birds perhaps have the best of it thus far, but
the bird is limited to a small range of performances while he shifts his
singing-boughs through the climates of the continent, whereas the poet,
though a little inclined to mistake aspiration for inspiration, and
vagueness of longing for subtlety, is experimenting in a most hopeful
manner. And all these writers, while perhaps not consciously American or
consciously seeking to do more than their best in their several ways, are
animated by the free spirit of inquiry and expression that belongs to an
independent nation, and so our literature is coming to have a stamp of
its own that is unlike any other national stamp. And it will have this
stamp more authentically and be clearer and stronger as we drop the
self-consciousness of the necessity of being American.



JUNE

Here is June again! It never was more welcome in these Northern
latitudes. It seems a pity that such a month cannot be twice as long. It
has been the pet of the poets, but it is not spoiled, and is just as full
of enchantment as ever. The secret of this is that it is the month of
both hope and fruition. It is the girl of eighteen, standing with all her
charms on the eve of womanhood, in the dress and temperament of spring.
And the beauty of it is that almost every woman is young, if ever she
were young, in June. For her the roses bloom, and the red clover. It is a
pity the month is so short. It is as full of vigor as of beauty. The
energy of the year is not yet spent; indeed, the world is opening on all
sides; the school-girl is about to graduate into liberty; and the young
man is panting to kick or row his way into female adoration and general
notoriety. The young men have made no mistake about the kind of education
that is popular with women. The women like prowess and the manly virtues
of pluck and endurance. The world has not changed in this respect. It was
so with the Greeks; it was so when youth rode in tournaments and unhorsed
each other for the love of a lady. June is the knightly month. On many a
field of gold and green the heroes will kick their way into fame; and
bands of young women, in white, with their diplomas in their hands,
star-eyed mathematicians and linguists, will come out to smile upon the
victors in that exhibition of strength that women most admire. No, the
world is not decaying or losing its juvenility. The motto still is,
"Love, and may the best man win!" How jocund and immortal is woman! Now,
in a hundred schools and colleges, will stand up the solemn,
well-intentioned man before a row of pretty girls, and tell them about
Womanhood and its Duties, and they will listen just as shyly as if they
were getting news, and needed to be instructed by a man on a subject
which has engaged their entire attention since they were five years old.
In the light of science and experience the conceit of men is something
curious. And in June! the most blossoming, riant, feminine time of the
year. The month itself is a liberal education to him who is not
insensible to beauty and the strong sweet promise of life. The streams
run clear then, as they do not in April; the sky is high and transparent;
the world seems so large and fresh and inviting. Our houses, which six
months in the year in these latitudes are fortifications of defense, are
open now, and the breath of life flows through them. Even over the city
the sky is benign, and all the country is a heavenly exhibition. May was
sweet and capricious. This is the maidenhood deliciousness of the year.
If you were to bisect the heart of a true poet, you would find written
therein JUNE.





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