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Title: Open That Door!
Author: Ingersoll, Robert Sturgis
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Open That Door!" ***

                            OPEN THAT DOOR!


                        ROBERT STURGIS INGERSOLL

                         PHILADELPHIA & LONDON
                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY


                       PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER, 1916

                          PHILADELPHIA, U.S.A.



      I. Walled In
     II. An Open Door
    III. Reading Fiction with an Eye on Life
     IV. History and Your Vote
      V. Clio’s Vintage
     VI. The Poet and the Reader
    VII. The Children of Pan
   VIII. Men Behind Books
     IX. Keeping up with Life

                           *OPEN THAT DOOR!*

                              *CHAPTER I*

                              *WALLED IN*

The brave man carves out his fortune, and every man is the son of his
own works.—CERVANTES

An author is of necessity a rather egotistical sort of a fellow, or else
he would not trumpet abroad his name upon the title-page of a book.  If
we should measure this egotism by the size of the audience to which he
hopes to appeal, we fear that the sponsor of this little book should
make humble apologies in behalf of his phrenological egocentric bump.
He who writes upon how to grow fat, modestly limits his audience to
those who, from pride of appearance, or upon doctor’s orders, desire to
add to their avoirdupois.  There is a similar modesty upon the part of
those who limit their audiences by writing cook-books for the cooks,
temperance appeals for the drunkards, novels for the seminary ladies,
war books for the valiant, peace books for the pacificists.  We
(notwithstanding the fact that he fears to call himself "I" in the first
chapter) acknowledge no such modesty.  Every one wants to get the best
of life.  This general statement is as true as the more specific ones
that every one wants to enjoy his dinner, his work, his family, and his
friends. The desire to obtain satisfaction through the passing of the
years is the prime motive in the actions of the male and the female, the
fat and the thin, the long and the short, the stupid and the wise, the
railroad president and the ditch digger.  It is for this cosmopolitan,
democratic crowd of you and myself and every one else that there is, or
is not, a message in the following pages.

One of the most stimulating thoughts to which mankind is heir is the
realization of the handicaps under which we are all laboring.  This is a
great thought in that it is so universal, so levelling, so powerful in
making us truly appreciate that we are all brothers one unto another.
The millionaire is a slave to his money; another man is embittered by
poverty, a third carries the burden of an unsound body, a fourth of a
selfish nature, a fifth of an unhappy family life, a sixth is
overwhelmed by his own stupidity, a seventh by his sense of duty towards
others, an eighth by a sense of duty towards himself, and so it goes
through the rank and file, the humble and the mighty.  How many of us
take the bit in our teeth, and have a glorious revel in enjoying every
furlong of life’s race-course? To run such a race is a hard task, as
there is always some handicap hanging on our shoulders.  We are afraid
to knock it off.  Oftentimes the burden is terrifically hard for the man
who carries it to define, and yet, when you look into your inmost self
you realize that the precious hours of life are slipping by without your
cramming into them all the good things that you feel should be offered
by a world in which there is the romance of other people’s lives, the
blue of the sky, the play of the sunlight, the success of your rivals.
There seems too often a wall between ourselves and that romance, that
sky, that sunlight and that success.  There is indeed this wall between
us and our ideal.  If we break through it, there is another one that
dares our courage to the assault and capture of our greater, enlarged
ideal.  This is stimulating and comforting, as each man and woman has to
make his own assault; there is no one so lucky as to get the prizes of
life without a fight, and no one so unlucky as to be without the desire,
no matter how deeply it may be buried in his nature, to make that fight.

In what direction are you going, and what are you going to do when you
get there?  Are you plugging against an impassable barrier, or is there
a way through for the man who does his best?  Some lie down in the
traces and quit.  They have three satisfactory meals a day, work that is
not too arduous, a warm bed at night, and, taking it all in all, that is
sufficient; at any rate, they think it better than the attempt to break
down any more walls.  Perhaps they bruised their knuckles at the first:
"George Washington, Thomas Edison, and the other heroes were not afraid
of the blows at the first or at the score that followed, but we all
cannot be great, and I am willing to subside with what is already my
portion."  Yes, that is the attitude of the slackers.  They are in every
walk of life—the stupidly content.

There are many others who say that if they could only lift the mortgage
off their house, or buy an automobile, or get into society, or get
promoted, they could pass untouched through the barrier that crushes
them, and be ready to tackle the second with unheard-of power.  They are
sadly suffering under an illusion.  When you take the spur from a
laggard steed, you do not make him a thoroughbred.

Two thousand years ago Christ told us that unless we become as little
children we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  That was a tremendous
statement, and one of infinite truth. To find the reasons for our
struggles and the means of carrying our burdens we must go to the boy of

He is having a splendid time!  Are you?  From the moment he leaves his
bed with a whoop and a hurrah, until the evening when he sinks to sleep
exhausted but happy, he has lived in a turmoil of adventure, wild
dreams, and imaginings.  The world has been a magic pleasure dome from
which there were countless doors to be opened and beckoning passages to
be explored.  We have our troubles and sulk under their weight, he longs
for them and so invents the game of Cowboys and Indians and glories in
the battle; we become bored with a routine existence, he scorns such an
attitude and fears that he will miss a great excitement if he but close
an eye.  If rainy weather or a particular mother prevents him from
organizing a military campaign, fraught with danger and hardship,
against the enemies in the next block, he stays at home and reads of
battling with dragons.  The world is forever a thing of wonder, a
tremendous feast from which he is forever called before he has had
sufficient courses.  Hungry for life, he cannot find within the
twenty-four half enough hours to fulfil his demands.  A fishing-rod in
his eyes is a magic thing with an incarnate life and power of its own;
the dark pool contains a possible catfish, and what, by all the stars,
could be more wonderful, more inexplicable, more mysterious and awe
inspiring than a bearded catfish!  Every new friend, old or young, is a
peculiar individual of which he must ask a thousand questions to find
out whether he be an engineer, a policeman, or a fireman, or whether he
can spin a top or owns a collection of postage stamps.

What a lesson in the way of life is a lad of ten!  He sees in life an
opportunity, a vast opportunity for everything.  No specialist is
he—within the month he decides that his career shall lie in any one of a
dozen, from that of the man upon the back of the ice wagon, to that of
the President of the United States.

Why are the young so superior to their elders?  Why, indeed, do we have
to cast off our years to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?  Ponce de Leon, in
search of the Fountain of Youth, journeyed from Spain to the New World,
and, weary of the quest, left his body to rot in the American
wilderness.  He need not have gone so far upon his travels, as in the
point of view of the last boy whom he met before embarking from the
shores of Spain there was this very Fountain which he sought.  To break
down all the barriers which hedge us in, to open a thousand doors
entering upon undiscovered countries of ambition and delight, to forget
time, to forget everything but the joy of living, to experience the
thrill of carrying heavy burdens and the overcoming of obstacles, all we
have to do is to see the world through the eyes of the boy of ten.  It
is the youth’s relation to the world as he finds it that makes him
superior to, and a more worthy inheritor of the Kingdom than is his
father.  The former’s outlook is that of perpetual wonderment, of
endless romance, of intensive interest, and wide horizons; the latter’s
too often is that of a blind man in a picture gallery.  A lad lives
acutely, never lets an hour "slip by," is ever willing for an assault
against any battlement, and in that lies the secret of life.

Most things, to be sure, are "easier said than done," but after having
found that the proper door to open is that which leads to the world of
fervid expectancies, experienced by the boy, we may at least _attempt_
to find the key that fits the lock. Perhaps you have already found it!
This is a good personal test—do you feel that your mind is a-tingle with
the music that is played by the world in which you live?

It has been said that you can tell a man by the company he keeps—but
there are far better methods!  Find out his experiences when he walks
along a city street, rubbing elbows with the crowd, dodging motors at
the crossings, with every step he takes passing faces, human faces,
passing windows behind which are woven the webs of human happiness and
grief. What are his innermost sensations? Does he feel the throbbing
pulse of men and women, or is his heart and soul dead and forbidding?
Or else go with him upon a walk into the country—Spring or Fall—Winter
or Summer—his talk and expression will show the stuff that is in him.
Is he alive to the multifarious beauties of color, life, and movement
that are about him, or is he the same gnarled, twisted parody of man
who, when in the office, always thinks himself imposed upon, or in his
home appears a misfit, uncomfortable piece of furniture?

Yes, there is a sublime religion in the joy of jostling your fellows in
the workaday streets, there is a sublime possibility of growth in the
soul of him who, when upon a journey in the country, breathes a deep and
lasting draught of the joyousness of life. And yet, why does this
religion slip from us, why at times do we refuse to grow?  Why do we
lose the tingle of living which is the very essence of the boy’s sense
of life?

One man will tell you that he is in a rut.  He has worked until his
youth is passed, and there is no further chance of promotion.  A second
has lost his money, and he is bitter against the world that took it from
him.  A third misses the companions whom he used to know, and with them
went the color and the value of the world.  A fourth has gambled with
life’s good things: has wasted his body and mind in his lust for women,
wine, or food, or in his greed for gold.  Perhaps, although not
admitted, with the satisfaction of his desires women have lost their
beauty, wine and food their taste, and gold has proved tarnished metal.

What is, at bottom, the matter with them all?  And what is the matter
with the men and women who have had worldly success, who have had all
the exterior things that life could give them, and yet feel that this
Earth is an unsatisfactory sort of pasture in which to graze?  Why
should there be sighs of discontent when above us the sky is blue, and
in the world about us children are born of women, heroic deeds are
accomplished, and tragedies met and defeated by the courage and love of
our human kind?

The answer is in the fact that many of us lose the blessed heritage that
was part of our youth: our sense of wonderment, our breadth of sympathy.
To the youth, every moment of every day meant an awakening to new
things, an introduction to strange, exciting mysteries, whereas there
are no such awakenings for the man who finds not the wonder in the
windows bordering and the faces passing on the crowded city streets, or
feels not, in the country, the subtle magic of Nature’s workings.

You say the world grows stale; it is not the world grown stale that
takes the lustre from life, it is your own sleepiness, the profound
drunkenness of the lazy and the cold heart.  It is the loss of a
personal sympathy with God and man.

A loss of sympathy is a horrible thing.  The loss of that sympathy which
holds your heart engripped, and makes you feel part and parcel of this
great, moving, turbulent, sorrowing thing we call the World, is as
grievous a loss as can befall any man. It is worse than a separation
from money, friends or family—it is the loss of an individual’s personal
stake in the world.  And yet, we see men who have lost and are losing
it.  In them we see die that spark of life which has made them an
integral part of all that lives.  We see smothered the divine fire of
humanity and godliness.  If we consider Nature, including man, as one
great spirit, we feel that those who have lost an embracing sympathy are
apart from that great spirit, are drifting off into the barren deserts
of bewilderment and decay. If we consider men as individual souls
plotting their own destinies, we must see in those who have lost their
intimate touch with the surge of their fellows’ labors, and their
sympathy to the power of beauty, pariahs, true outcasts, apart and

How great is your appetite for life? How great is your willingness to
break the shell of your prison and liquidate your heart?  What prevents
you from throwing open your arms to the universe, accepting and
welcoming the embrace?  The embrace of humanity is a glorious thing!  It
is the nectar of the gods.  Be one with the world, be not a pariah; be
part of the great wave, be not a stagnant pool.

But one hears answers, "I can’t," "I don’t want to," "I’m apart and will
not mingle."  Why can’t you? Why won’t you?  Why are you apart? Is it
because you are old and mummified?  Have you lost your vision, have you
lost your heart, has the world beaten you back, and does life roll too
fast a pace?  Has your understanding become blunted?  Are you a snob
upon a pedestal of derision?  Are your eyes blind to the colors, your
ears deaf to the music, your voice bitter in your companions’ hearing?

Ah, let there be a way out of the prison—there is a door that will lead
you to your youth.  Within a man there is always the spark that can be
made to brighten and to break into living flame.  There is no
understanding so dense, no spirit so sordid that it cannot be stirred to
awaken to that sympathy for man and nature that is the pass word to the
Kingdom of Life.

"The Kingdom of Life."  Those are perhaps hackneyed words, and yet how
many of us seem to be the inheritors of the Kingdom of Death.  Live
bodies find no value in dead souls, so let us make our souls aflame and
attain to a realization of life.  Where is the match to strike the
light, the key to open the door?

Through all the ages there has been a medium through which the hearts of
men have been revealed.  There has been one cauldron into which the
riches of our richest and most godlike minds have been poured.  It is
the melting pot that has purified the sorrows and joys of men, since man
had wit enough to know his pangs and jubilations.  There is a vehicle
which will bring us to a universal sympathy, if not an understanding, of
our human kindred.  There is a powerful tool, welded by man, with which
we can awaken ourselves to an appreciation of our universe, from which
we can obtain consolation in our difficulties, stimulus for our
ambitions, tonic for our depressions.  The medium, the cauldron, the
vehicle, the tool is Literature.

Some men are afraid of books, and some are afraid of life; some do not
understand books, and some do not sympathize with, nor care to
understand life.  Literature is the key to the door of life for those
who wish to open!  There is no wall cramping the ambitions, blinding the
eyes, deafening the ears of those who seek their nutriment in the
spiritual messages and solemn understandings of the greatest minds of
the ages.  The symbol of a man walking down the street with no heart to
feel, nor mind to understand the happenings about him, is the
relationship between two stones.  To our knowledge there is no known
communication between one and the other.  Literature is the great
communicator, the powerful disseminator of sympathies, the magnificent
doorway through which we can pass to other men’s hearts, and obtain
warmth for our own in case ours are cold and comfortless.

God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.  Perhaps there is
not enough, for we all walk in partial darkness, but the tremendous
sunburst that is here to lighten and revive is the lasting, printed
word, handed on from generation to generation.

                              *CHAPTER II*

                             *AN OPEN DOOR*

  This world’s no blot for us,
Nor blank; it means intensely, and means good:
To find its meaning is my meat and drink.

There is the Rub!  Of how many of us can it be said that the World
"means intensely and means good"? Do we unsatisfactorily stutter, and
stumble, and barely exist through the three score years and ten that is
our portion, or do we find in life a splendid activity that gladdens our
heart and fills us full of the thorough-going ecstasy of living?

I have a friend who is a great athlete,—an oarsman, mountain climber,
big game hunter.  He exults in a life of action, of doing big things,
and yet withal, he is a tremendous reader and one of exquisite taste and
wide knowledge in books and authors. I asked him of the value of

"Every time I read a great book," he answered, "I feel as if I had
punched a hole through the wall," and so saying he crashed his large
fist against a buttress of reinforced concrete.  "I feel that my world
has been made larger; where before I had only seen a blank space, now I
see a new world, the world in which the author lived.  I am that much
more alive to my own."

He applied his reading to his daily life, and the world became for him a
richer, more exciting place in which to live.  No one wants to plod
through the world in a blind, sleepy fashion. We all want to live as
keenly, as vitally as possible.  The roots of the present are buried
deep in the past—to appreciate and have understanding of the present you
must appreciate and have understanding of the past—to realize how small
and one-sided is your own point of view, you must appreciate the
thousand and one viewpoints that have appeared through the ages to the
eyes of other men and women.

In beginning to form the habit of reading, the first thing to be
realized is that books are intimately connected with the world in which
we live.  Their true value does not come from the pleasure you
experience during the actual hours in which you are turning the pages,
but (and this point cannot too vividly be borne in mind) in the reaction
of you upon the world and the world upon you after having read them.  If
a book does not influence your point of view towards God, your fellow
men, and your daily tasks and ambitions, you may feel assured either
that the book is one of little worth, or that you have not absorbed its
true meaning.  When you hear someone say that reading is an excellent
way to pass the time, you may feel sure that he knows little about
books.  The poem, the novel, the history, the philosophy are not to pass
the time, they are to make more vital the hours of life.  A book that is
a book becomes part and parcel of your being, and you must of necessity
make it part of your life.

Authors are not for the library, they are for the street, the railroad
train, the office, the open fields.  Read them in the library, or even
in bed, but live them in the city thoroughfares, or country roads or
workaday places in which you make your life.  No man can read the
Journals of that mystic, nature lover, Henry David Thoreau, without
having his next trip to the country one of greater pleasure.  The colors
and the sounds of the fields, the woodlands and the brooks will bring a
new joy to his spirit.  No man can read the novels of some great gobbler
of life, such as eighteenth century Tobias Smollett, without finding the
city life of our twentieth century more human, more satisfying, more
exciting.  No man can seriously read a religious poet such as Whitman or
Wordsworth without becoming more deeply religious, more keenly conscious
of the wonders of God and Man. And the Bible—surely no one can read the
magic beauty and truth in the Prophecies of the Old Testament without
feeling that he has met and talked with giants.  These books bear
directly on life—they make us think, love and experience in a way that
we have never done before.  The world becomes more thoroughly a magic
place in which there are a thousand things to make life one glorious
escapade, through which we may be thankful for the opportunity of

As some people believe reading to be a pleasant method of passing the
time (without realizing that time is in truth passing them), so others
believe that being "well read" is some sort of a social advantage.  It
is difficult to determine which is the more stupid and superficial point
of view, that of regarding books as time-killers or as useful topics of
conversation. The latter is probably the worst, as, in addition to its
superficial aspect, there is its insincerity.  The man or woman who
reads a great book because it is "the thing to do" is not only a weak
follower of fashion but a waster of valuable time.  It is far better
never to have read a book than to have read it stupidly and begrudgingly
with the thought in mind that it will be a feather in your cap to be
able to boast of having read it.  Needless as it may seem to make a
point of this, it is, nevertheless, the idea in the mind of many a man
in college, and many a woman who joins a reading circle.

Some misguided supporters of the study of the ancient classics use as a
plea that "every gentleman should read Greek."  The insincerity of this
defence can only be compared to the sighs of the woman who attempts to
convince her neighbors that the beauty of a sunset appeals to her as it
does to no one else, or the ecstatic murmurings of the young man at the
art exhibition, who is arousing within himself a false enthusiasm, for
some artistic cult that in truth means nothing to him.

We see this type of man or woman all too often.  They are usually
gushing about their latest emotional experience, when in fact they are
incapable of having any.  It is an insincere attempt to be the highest
of the high-brows.  Let us have none of this!  Let us realize that
education and culture are splendid things to be highly prized, but only
in that they make the individual who possesses them a richer, deeper,
more sympathetic person.

A hobby, which has to-day become a fashion, is bird study.  Far be it
from me to disparage the movement seemingly alive in all our suburban
districts, but let us make short shift with those who ogle knowingly
through field glasses, when the motive behind the action is that in
select company it is considered "the thing."

It is a safe warning never to read a book because it is fashionable.
Never read a book because you think it will form an engaging topic of
conversation; always read because you want to derive a sincere
inspiration, an enlarged point of view.  Within a library is encased the
soul of the past, the meaning of the present, the promise of the future.
From it we derive the entire tradition of which we are inheritors, the
deeper movements of which we are a part, the prophecies of the future in
which we and ours will live.  This treasure is more worthy of respect
than to be treated as the devourer of an idle hour, or the means whereby
to keep "in the swim."

The cultured man is a man of broad understanding, of deep sympathies.  A
fisherman who knows his boat, his line and the bay in which he makes his
livelihood may be a cultured man.  He may have derived from his way of
life and the tools of his trade the solemn truths that give him an
understanding of the ways of men and the needs of the human heart; but
another man who has gone through the University, "machinely made,
machinely crammed," may be totally without culture in that he has never
drunk at those well-springs of living which teach the mind the great
underlying sentiments that rule the world.  One may well be educated and
yet uncultured, "well-read" and yet without the vision that may be
derived from books.  It is not the word but the spirit of the word that
must be taken to heart and lived.

Matthew Arnold defined culture as a knowledge of the best that has been
done and said by man—but the one who _opens that door_ must have more
than that knowledge.  It is not enough to cram away facts in the corners
of your brain.  These facts must have a direct bearing upon your life.
To have knowledge of the best that has been written, you must not only
read a great poem but you must allow the thought or fancy to sink into
and become part of your personality; of the best that has been done you
must not only have knowledge of the courage and wisdom of the early
Americans who broke the yoke of Great Britain, but you must apply their
courage and wisdom to your daily life; of the best that has been said
you must not only read one of Abraham Lincoln’s great speeches, but
absorb the quiet spirituality of the man who uttered them, and allow his
personality to become part of yours.

Farcical moving-picture shows and talking-machine rag-time surely have
their place, but can they enter the soul of man as can "the best that
has been written, done and said"?  The plays of Euripides and the words
of Marcus Aurelius have for many centuries given deeper understandings
and wider horizons to a multitude of readers, and it is probable that
the intensity with which they have acted upon the individual is
commensurate with the length of time that they have acted upon the mass.
We do not believe that this can be said of the time-killing "movie" or
the rag-time song of yesterday.

Let us enter the world of living through the world of books.  It is from
the printed page that we can best equip ourselves for a rich life of
value to ourselves, our family and our neighbors.  If you do not believe
it, read some book that the world has acknowledged great.  Having read
it, live it in your eternal self, and you will have passed through the
Open Door.

It is a rainy day at the seashore; I am writing in the reading room of a
summer hotel.  Without, the rain is sweeping across the bathing beach,
the tennis courts are flooded, the golf course, without a doubt, is a
swampy morass.  It is a dreary sight for one who looks through the
window pane. Our little world is upon a vacation, and all but the few
who wish to tramp the beach in raincoats and gum boots must stay
in-doors.  And yet there is happiness, and I believe greater promise of
the morrow.  In one corner of the room there is a stripling of about
thirteen, curled in a chair, absorbed in his book, which from the cover
I know to be "Treasure Island."  He is with Old Pew, John Silver, and
the cut-throat buccaneers. On the morrow the sand-dunes for that boy
will be places of mystery where weird and exciting fairy deeds might
have been accomplished.  The commonplace bathing beach will have new
mysteries, as the waters that splash at his feet are the same that
surround some sunbaked, South Sea Treasure Isle.

At the desk opposite me, a student with furrowed brow reads a calf-skin
volume.  I have noted the title: "The Speeches of Henry Clay."  Perhaps
this fellow is a young lawyer or an aspiring politician.  He wishes to
absorb the ideas of the silver-tongued "Harry of the West," the popular
idol of seventy years ago, and to consider their bearing upon the tariff
questions of to-day.  He must agree with Napoleon Bonaparte: "Read and
reflect on history; it is the only true philosophy."  And there is a
girl reading the poetry of Alfred Noyes, and a bespectacled, bearded old
man with a volume of Pope.  They have both turned to poetry to find the
beauty and truth those poets have seen.  How much will their spirits be
affected, the one by the lyric note of our contemporary singer, the
other by the didactic moralizing of the philosopher wit?

So it goes!  The boy sees visions of pirates and adventure, the old man
dreams dreams and seeks new truth; the young man desires armor for his
life’s battle, the girl finds beauty, a refreshing and invigorating
draught.  It rains to-day but they will all be more richly endowed to
welcome the sun and sea breezes of the morrow.

                             *CHAPTER III*


The world and life’s too big to pass for a dream,
  *      *      *      *      *
    you’ve seen the world—
The beauty and the wonder and the power,
The shapes of things, their colors, lights and shades,
Changes, surprises,—and God made it all!

Our good Brother, Lippo Lippi, has started off two of my chapters, and
it is well that he should, as no artist had a keener appetite for life
than had he.  He grasped all there was of the best in life—color, love,
work—and he enjoyed it.

Librarians, booksellers, and blatant advertisements assure us that we
are a novel-reading public.  The number of copies sold of this and that
best seller are at first sight staggering, and even more so after having
read the book! A certain novel becomes the fashion in the same
inconsequential manner as does an especially uncomfortable type of
collar—another season both are forgotten and something new is taken up.
The writing, publishing and advertising of such books have become a
purely commercialized art upon the part of the authors and booksellers.
"Where are the snows of yesteryear?" sighed François Villon, "Where are
the masterpieces of last summer?" sighs the meditative consumer of
fiction.  Almost every novel which has those qualities which publishers
believe will appeal to an idle, amusement-loving populace is proclaimed
in display advertising as "the greatest novel of the decade," "the great
American novel," or in some other equally false manner.  The author, the
publisher, and even the readers know that such statements are utter
falsities and yet the sale goes up into the hundreds of thousands. I
often wonder what has become of the stupendous number of copies of a
certain book the World was reading some ten years ago.  It is never
mentioned; it is never read; it is seldom seen on anyone’s bookshelves,
yet the material volumes must be lying about somewhere.  Perhaps such
books are indeed as "the snows of yesteryear" and melt away when their
day is done. One who wishes seriously to acquire the riches there are in
books might well make it a rule never to read a novel until it has stood
the test of time.  What, bye the bye, is the use of reading, unless you
mean to get the best out of it?  Walking is better exercise,
conversation more sociable, gambling more risky and therefore more full
of zest!  Any story worth reading this summer must surely be worth
reading five years from now. Life is too short, there are too many great
books that are eminently worth reading, to spend our time wading through
the ruck of tastefully bound, hurriedly illustrated, widely advertised
novels that greet us every season. I repeat—Do not read a book that you
may be in the swing of up-to-date conversation.  If you do, you prove
yourselves the gull of everyone concerned. Let time do your winnowing,
and if after five years the people of taste are still talking of the
book, you may turn to it and probably find something of true merit.  You
may say that with such a plan you will read but few modern novels.
Quite true, there will be but few that stand the test of even five
years, but how much better it is to conserve your energies and time for
reading the great works of fiction that have stood the test of

As in all other reading, novels should awaken you to a new life.  You
should choose those that have the truest effect upon your goings and
comings after you have put them aside.  You must agree that those
treating of an impossible, untrue social condition, as some
money-grabbing manufacturer of stories pretends to see it, will not have
this effect. Neither will those of untrue chivalry and sentiment in
which untrue ladies weep unnatural tears, and untrue heroes do
impossible deeds.  Such trivial falsities merely chew up the all too few
hours allotted mortals upon this good ship, the Earth.  Which then are
those novels that are to be read not for the purpose of passing the
time, but of holding up the time, and of making every minute more real,
more full of meaning,—for that is the function of all great books?

There is a poem of John Keats beginning,

    Lo—I must tell a tale of chivalry;
    For large white plumes are dancing in mine eye.

Perhaps these lines to every one do not carry the same magic beauty and
promise of long-dreamed-of things that they do to me.  The poem was
never finished, and I, for one, deeply regret it, as surely we would
have had a tale to set our hearts afire with the clangor of the mediæval
tournament, or the lone quest of a golden armored knight.

Sir Walter Scott told such tales in prose and his novels are of the
greatest in literature.  Honoré de Balzac told stories of French life in
which there is nothing specially chivalric, nothing in that sense
bewitching, and yet his tales, too, are of the greatest in literature.
The terms Realism and Romanticism are used to describe two different
aspects of art, music and literature.  We will use them in considering
the relation of novels to life.

Balzac is considered the father of modern realism.  This is partly due
to the fact that he presented in a forceful manner the principles upon
which he worked.  He desired to put the life of France, city,
provincial, military and official, within the covers of his books.  It
is interesting to remember that he wrote at a period in which men were
perhaps more interested in the reason and purpose of human life than
they had ever been before.  Those scientific discoveries, which were
finally to lead the way to our present theories of evolution, were
bringing men to a realization that the religious dogmas upon which they
had founded their faith were weakening.  It was difficult for a thinking
man to believe that the world had been made out of whole cloth, but a
few thousand years before.  Science was in the air; faiths were
shattered.  Balzac turned to man to determine anew his nature.  His was
the huge task of presenting man in all his loves and hates, purposes and
motives, works and joys.  He attempted it, and there has been a great
army of writers following in his footsteps.  Their aim has been to give
a realistic cross section of certain aspects of life, allowing the
reader to draw inferences as to its meaning and his personal relation to

This is realism.  It is most unfortunate that in our country the word
has become synonymous with books of a sordid and erotic nature.  Realism
in literature should show us life as it is, and as life is neither all
sordid nor all erotic, neither should literature present only those
aspects.  The function of this type of literature is a great and
important one.

The supreme realist has a God-given power of seeing and feeling the
forces and emotions that make up human living.  He sees and examines
life as if under a microscope, and with this peculiar power he must have
the faculty of expression.  You may ask how we can apply the words
contained in such a novel to our own life?  We all feel that there is a
great advantage in "understanding life."  We try to analyze our own and
our friends’ ways of living.  Let us go to great novels and see what we
find there.

Was it a child who said, when going through the British Museum, that he
liked the sculpture better than the paintings because he could walk
around the sculpture?  He spoke more wisely than he knew.  The same
simile may be applied to the realistic novel. In reading it we may walk
about and examine life.  From day to day, as we live things happen so
rapidly, the world is passing before us so fast that, unless you have a
supreme intellect, it is impossible to examine the pageant but from one
point of view.  You can but look at the front of the picture. It is
flat, there is but little perspective.

The genius with the gift for fiction such as had Tolstoy, Balzac or
Smollett can encase civilization within the covers of a book.  You may
read and understand.  There is something static.  You live a thousand
lives by proxy, you enter a hundred homes and have converse with the
hearts of men and women.  Instead of seeing but the front of things, we
walk behind and take in life from every angle. The characters in the
drama of life are under a microscope through which we are privileged to
look.  Tolstoy presents life as it was in Russia forty years ago, but
human hearts that are cosmopolitan and eternal, Balzac, the France of
the forties, Smollett, England of the eighteenth century.  We learn the
ideals, the struggles, the way of life of different civilizations, of
different ages.

We find that our point of view is a narrow one, that our place in the
Sun is perhaps a very small corner, and our hearts and minds are
enlarged to a deeper sympathy with all men, a finer understanding of all
ideals and practices.

Instead of living in the little village of our own outlook, instead of
weighing all experience and action by our own, we arrive at a higher,
more cosmopolitan point of view.  Whereas we might think that ours is
the only century in which people flock to the cities and live material
lives of rush and money-grabbing, we find the same thing true of
Smollett’s England of one hundred and fifty years ago; instead of
condemning the woman who cannot get along with her husband we have a
broader sympathy for having followed the career of the splendid Anna
Karenina in Tolstoy’s novel of that name.  We break the shell of our
petty selves which has made for so many misunderstandings and
prejudices.  We must not pride ourselves upon our own motives and
civilization, until we have at least made an attempt to understand those
of others.

Since the days when Nathaniel Hawthorne condensed the spiritual aspects
of New England in his immortal "Scarlet Letter," there has been a
scarcity of American novels of any high realistic calibre.  Ernest Poole
has recently done brilliant work in "The Harbor," in which he presents
the ideals that have guided a young man of our day and generation. Yet,
here we are, in a strange world indeed—the greatest spirits hurling
themselves into the strife of ninety-mile-an-hour living, only to be
tossed aside to make way for younger and harder workers, more efficient
thinkers.  The strange growling beast of a great American city, the wide
acres of efficient irrigated farming, with the workers in each, have yet
even partially to be interpreted by the genius of fiction.  When it has
been done by the great seers, we will find answered many questions which
puzzle us to-day.  Not the mirror but the cosmic microscope must be used
as the tool.  It will not be done by one man; it will take a literary
army—let the advance guard come with our generation!

And of Romance—what will we say of the tales which take us away from the
dusty world of every-day duties and responsibilities, into a magic
turmoil of brave deeds and devoted lovers?  We must not forever be
muddling about in the mundane sphere in which we make our bread and
butter—we must at times for wealth and happiness gaze through

    Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

We of the Anglo-Saxon race have a glorious heritage in the Waverley
Novels.  Sometimes, we are told that Sir Walter Scott is becoming a
memory, and that of the past generation; but many feel, and I am of that
number, that the author of "Ivanhoe," "Kenilworth," "Quentin Durward"
and the score of other yarns which have charmed youth and age for now
well-nigh a century has a permanent place in our literature, perhaps
only surpassed by William Shakespeare.  Lucky is the boy or girl who has
grown up, and the older persons who still sojourn with the Knights and
Ladies, the Kings and Queens, the Highland Fairies, the human serfs who
march in an endless, enduring procession through the pages of the Prince
of story tellers. For such readers the Past is hallowed with a magic
circle that defies tawdriness. How pleasant it is for one who lives in a
roaring city to be able by reaching to the book-shelf to forget the
affairs of the day and to live in the pomp and pageantry, the heroics
and devotions of the Past.  The lover of Romance may well say to the
reader of modern realism, "Why read of slums, of offices, and city
suburbs when you may ride out with Prosper l’Gai in Hewlett’s ’Forest
Lovers’ or be partner in countless intrigues of love and swordsmanship
through a dozen of Alexander Dumas’ yarns’?"  Why indeed?—we sometimes

It is a marvellous gift, that of the man who can look back into the past
and make it alive and breathing for the readers of the present.  It is
dangerous to take Dumas and Scott for our guides to true history, as
they have too often twisted the facts in order to spin a good tale, but
as revealers of the atmosphere of history, they are unsurpassed even by
the greatest historians, and if we have the atmosphere we have a rich
and splendid background in which to place the facts.  We may sojourn in
ancient Carthage by reading Flaubert’s "Salammbo," in Rome by
Sienkiewicz’s "Quo Vadis," in Pompeii by Bulwer Lytton’s "The Last Days
of Pompeii," in early England by Scott’s "Ivanhoe."  Even those scornful
individuals who pride themselves upon being "men of the world" have
something to learn if they have only studied their own time as it goes
fleeting past. For facts let us turn to the scientific historians, but
for life to the historic romances.

Let us find justification of each tale, not in its historical accuracy,
but in the fact that "it helps the ear to listen when the horns of
Elf-land blow."  It is for this that we will read them,—that we may
awake refreshed as from a plunge in the springs of Mount Olympus.  If
they do not revivify our jaded senses, and awake our tired vision to the
beauties of character and nature of the world in which we live, we may
lay them aside and be sure that the author does not measure up to the
proper standard. The love of a story is deeply ingrained in the human
heart.  The baby, before he can read, listens, fascinated, to the
paraphrase of some classic fairy tale related by his mother; the
minnesinger of old in the mediæval castle charmed the tired fighters
with tales of greater love and chivalry; the medicine man recounted to
the savage tribe the sagas of their ancestral struggles and triumphs; we
all love to hear the man talk who has been to strange lands and seen
strange peoples.  It is the cry of human nature for accounts of the
doings of men in worlds in which we live not that makes the tremendous
demand for the novels of the day.  Let us remember, however, that the
old story tellers, the medicine men and the mothers with their infants
at their knees told tales that really fed souls in warming the hearts
and awakening the intellects of their eager listeners.  The plumed
knight buckled on his armor with more vigor, and attempted, the next
day, to outdo the deeds of the minnesinger’s hero; the child lived in
fairyland and found a background for his playing and dreaming; the
savage warrior felt more keen to go upon the warpath to uphold the
tradition of his ancestors who were watching him from their places in
the Happy Hunting Ground.

These stories were of the staff of life to their hearers.  How many of
the novels you read bring nothing but the means of wasting an hour?
Grown people to-day must find their stories in books: there do not
frequently come in our way travellers who have been overcome with the
mystery of far-off places; we have no longer medicine men who sing of
the glories of our ancestors; we perforce must turn for our minnesinger
to the printed page.

Let that page be worth while! Insist upon reading a story that means
something; either that gives you a more sympathetic understanding of
your fellow men, or an inspiration and refreshment by allowing a glimpse
through that "magic casement" which opens to the world of Kings and
Princes, Castles and Feudal Keeps, or to the mountain where dwelt the
Giant or to the seas upon which sailed the Pirates of your boyhood.

When novels reveal unknown vistas of beauty and delight, or present
ideas that jog our thoughtless complacency, they are of the stuff that
intensifies and glorifies existence.  They keep a man’s mind from being
commonplace and mongrel.  Let us all be Kentucky thoroughbreds in the
way we look upon the world.  Chafe at your bit, stamp the ground and be
eager to get away at the front when the barrier goes up.  Anyone can be
an "also ran."  A good story is often tonic enough to turn an "also ran"
into a winner!

                              *CHAPTER IV*

                        *HISTORY AND YOUR VOTE*

We are much beholden to Machiavel and others, that write what men do,
and not what they ought to do.—BACON

One of the greatest evils into which a democracy may inadvertently slide
is an indifference upon the part of the populace to the political issues
of the day.  We have upon several occasions in our history passed
through periods of almost unlimited commercial prosperity during which
everyone has been too much absorbed in the pursuit of power and riches
to give a thought to the affairs of government, with the result that our
state and national affairs have lapsed into disgraceful conditions of
inefficiency and moral laxity.  Such periods have paved the way to
corrupt boss rule and throttling machine politics.

Ignorance, which always comes with indifference, and yet is most
pernicious when most active, is another extreme and vital danger.  It
must be evident to every thinking man or woman, that a nation whose
political destinies are in the hands of the people with their almost
universal franchise should be made up of voters who are alive and
thinking.  "Read and reflect on history; it is the only true
philosophy," wrote Napoleon Bonaparte in his instructions pertaining to
the education of his only son, the King of Rome.  The great Emperor must
have realized that his phenomenal success in ruling men and establishing
law had as an important part of its foundation his knowledge of the
affairs of men in the past. Without suggesting that we should all be
Napoleons, it seems true that our political fabric would be infinitely
more stable, if the rank and file of American citizens should feel it a
duty "to read and reflect on history."

With our ever-increasing number of ignorant Southern European
immigrants, who have come from countries where republican forms of
government are practically unknown, it seems that our inherited
tradition of a republican democracy will be undermined through
ignorance, unless, indeed, these new citizens be given an understanding
of our history and the meaning of our systems.

To-day many specious types of radicalism, that are for the most part
pleasant Utopian dreams of the future, standing upon no foundation and
drawing no nutriment from the past, are thundered about most seriously.
In life and in statecraft there is one great teacher,—Experience.  A man
weighs the advisability of a certain step by his past experience, and
this must be the basis of thought when determining matters of political
science.  A reader of American History may find food for thought in
comparing the manner in which the half-baked political theorists of
to-day come to their conclusions with that of the great American
statesmen of the past.  To-day we are opportunists.  Instead of weighing
experience and testing the future, we jump helter-skelter at what seems
of temporary value.  In dreaming of the future you must remember the
past or your dreams are futile.  Emerson somewhere tells us, that when
you are drawn into an argument upon moral values, you should always ask
your opponent whether he has carefully digested his Plato.  If he has
not, you may placidly refuse to continue the altercation, as he to whom
Plato is unknown is unfit to talk with a thinking man upon problems of
higher morality.  I believe that in like manner we could close the
mouths of many trumpeters of social uplift through sumptuary
legislation.  Ask them if they have carefully read their histories.  If
they have not, and probably the accent will be on the "not," you may
safely snub them, by insisting that they turn to the past, before they
have the right to ask people to listen to their talk of the present and
the future.

At the time of the founding of our Republic, in Thomas Jefferson, James
Madison, and Alexander Hamilton we had three supreme _students_ of
government.  Perhaps more than to any other one cause the success of our
"American Experiment" is due to the profound knowledge and scholarly
attainment of those three men.  Upon them rested the responsibility of
founding a government "of the people, for the people, and by the people"
that would neither be subverted by the wiles of a demagogue or the power
of an oligarchy, nor become chaotic through the unrestrained influences
of the proletarian populace. To Jefferson we owe the Declaration of
Independence, to Madison a great part of the thought and the wording of
the Constitution, to Hamilton the body of the Federalist Papers.  Their
thought was not the thought of the minute, but of all time.  In all
their writings we can see their thorough grasp of the faults and virtues
of the governments of almost every nation in past ages.  They knew, as
too few of our public men know, that the future cannot be made out of
whole cloth, but must evolve from the past. They had studied men and the
political needs and powers of men.  The result has been the
establishment of a government that has stood the shock of almost a
century and a half, a period during which almost all other civilized
governments have been the prey not to peaceful but to violent evolution.
Upon the passing of the great Revolutionary triumvirate we were
fortunate in having men of the intellectual calibre of John C. Calhoun,
Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster. They were thinkers as well as great
orators, students of the past as well as guardians of the present.

It is a profitable study to read of the youth of great statesmen.
Almost invariably you will find them as young men such as would to-day
be sneered at as "book-worms."  Napoleon, Pitt, Gladstone, Cavour,
Mirabeau, the great Americans and many, many others before they entered
public life were profound followers of the goddess of learning.  It is
not surprising to find that many of them obtained wisdom and enthusiasm
from the pages of Plutarch’s "Lives of the Ancient Greeks and Romans."
It was in Greece and Rome that we find the origins of most of our laws
and institutions, and in the lives of the men who helped to establish
them we may read of the tests and needs in their development.
Considering the studies of great men it is always amusing to read the
calendar which, upon the request of Mr. Madison, Senior, it is said,
Jefferson arranged for the working hours of James Madison, Junior.
Please note that Madison’s health broke down from overstudy while at
Princeton, and it is not to be wondered at, for here is the schedule:
until eight in the morning he should confine himself to natural
philosophy, morals and religion; from eight until twelve, read law and
condense cases, "never using two words where one will do"; from twelve
to one, read politics in Montesquieu, Locke, Priestley, Malthus, and the
Parliamentary Debates; in the afternoon relieve his mind with history,
and when the evening closes in, regale himself with literature,
criticism, rhetoric, and oratory.

In those days they indeed believed in thoroughly equipping themselves
for public life!

A few years ago there was an agitation afoot in favor of establishing
the systems of the Initiative, Referendum, and Recall.  In the North,
the South, the East, and the West it was hailed by the spellbinders as
the cure-all for corrupt legislation and undesirable laws.  It was
argued that citizens, who did not have enough political acumen to elect
honest and efficient representatives, would have enough to become their
own law-makers.  In the height of the political campaign Nicholas Murray
Butler, the President of Columbia University, published a small book
entitled "Why Should We Change Our Form of Government?"  The author
presented the hazardous risk that our profoundly important
representative system would run of being subverted into a chaotic
absolute democracy by instituting laws that would deprive the executive,
legislative, and judicial departments of their independence and
prestige.  The republican forms would lapse back two thousand years to
those democratic systems of the Grecian states that too invariably paved
the way to the despotism of tyrants or the chaos of mob rule.

The title of the essay was rather startling to those who had been
advocating the new measures without having thoroughly analyzed their
true meaning and import.  The distinguished scholar brought clear
thinking to bear upon the situation, whereas before it had been befogged
in the spread-eagle oratory of demagogues, and the catch-as-catch-can
subtleties of ignorant theorists.  Clear thinking, President Butler’s
and that of others, won the day and the measures are now well-nigh
forgotten.  I mention this as but an instance of the value to our nation
of men who have political and historical knowledge with the ability to
think clearly upon the important points of our social progress.

I heard President Wilson, some months before he entered upon his
distinguished political career, address in an informal manner a group of
University students.  He said in part (my quotation is rather a
paraphrase, as I would not dare to transcribe from memory the words of
the most perfect stylist of our time): "Gentlemen, in many European
countries in times of national crises and disturbances the nation looks
to the Universities and the question is asked, ’What do the young men of
the Universities think?’  In America unfortunately this question is
rarely asked, as all realize that the men at the Universities _do not

This is a bitter arraignment of the intellectual life at our
universities, and if the speaker’s conclusion was correct the same must
to a great degree be said of the intellectual life of our nation.  The
public’s antipathy to broad political matters is the most dangerous vice
that can undermine a republic, and it is the one that is most seriously
affecting ours.  It would be extraordinary, if it were not so pathetic,
the way in which, without taking toll of the experience of the past,
without drawing analogies nor seeking wisdom, we go muddling, blundering
on into the future.

That there is nothing new under the sun is perhaps more true in matters
pertaining to political problems than in any other branch of affairs.
History repeats itself, repeats itself, repeats itself, as if it never
grew tired of begging the world to learn true lessons. In proportion as
the number of our citizens appreciate that truism and sincerely pursue
its corollaries, we will have a sound political condition.

When Aristotle, a wise man in his generation, said that it was in the
nature of human institutions to decay, he knew whereof he spoke.  It is
painfully apparent to the student of history and governments.  What were
the seeds of decay that smouldered and finally undermined the Grecian
democracies, the power of Carthage and of Tyre, the world-embracing
Roman Empire, the Venetian Republic, the Holy Roman Empire, proud Spain
of Charles V, and France of the seventeenth century?  Has the English
Empire run its course to make way for the more vital power of the
Germanic People?  In each and every one of these decadences, if we wish
our national life to retain its pristine spirit, there are lessons to be
learned by the United States of America.  Our experiment has not
necessarily met the test of time.  Our nation is not liable to be the
exception from those that have slid down the path to ruin.  There is a
Germany, despotic yet powerful, that perhaps must some day be met in
mortal combat; if the danger lies not there, perhaps it will be another.
In any case our loins must be girt with power and strength, our
citizenship must be hardy, our political fabric solid.

To retain our virtues, to preserve our national life from decay, is the
responsibility upon the shoulders of our generation.  It is for this
that we must "read and reflect on history" and apply it directly to
life.  What an analogy may be drawn between the Roman Usurpers in the
time of the Empire’s decadence throwing money at the street crowds to
obtain their support, and our modern politicians bidding for the old
soldier vote by passing absurdly extravagant pension bills! This mulct
of the treasury is now on the wane, but is the new power in politics,
the labor unions, going to obtain legislation and favors because it can
poll a large vote upon election day?  Such things are signs of
decadence.  Must we not learn from the French Revolution that its
failure as a constructive force was due to an attempt to legislate
morality into existence—and yet we continue to pass as laws measures
that have truly been dubbed "amendments to the Ten Commandments."  How
many of the great nations and institutions have had their backs broken
through too excessive centralization, yet, to-day there are but few
individuals and no political party that stand in opposition to our
ever-increasing tendency towards federalism, in contradistinction to
community government.  Until the outbreak of the World War, England,
Germany and Russia each had a terrible internal problem: England
attempting to Anglicize Ireland, Russia to Russianize Poland, Germany to
Germanize Alsace and Lorraine. There was this thorn in the side of each
nation: by brute force they were trying to denationalize another
country.  England was failing after three hundred years of wasted men
and resources, Russia was covering a volcano that had smouldered for
generations, after over forty years Germany had as ugly a wound to nurse
as in the beginning.  Yet with these examples, good Americans, with
confident smiles, for three years have been laughing at the Democratic
administration on account of their Mexican policy.  "Conquer Mexico,"
the wiseacres say.  Yes, conquer Mexico the way England has tried and
failed to conquer Ireland!

The political value of history lies in its disclosures of the defects
that have brought on decay, and the stumbling blocks that make trouble.
In reading history we must keep our eyes on the present.  It is
unreasonable to believe that our government is an infallible one, or
that our national existence, maintained with the most stable
governmental authority, combined with the widest possible latitude for
the liberty of men, is any more infallible than the many other systems
that have met with disaster in the past.  The reading of history is
valuable, in that it enables us to have those visions of the future that
will be fruitful in that they are moulded by our experiences in the
past.  Such visions, inculcating power of judgment, are never more
requisite than in these days in which the blind pacifist, the quack
reformer, the misguided theorist, and the wide-promising demagogue are
abroad in the land.  We must study our lessons of the past that we may
spurn those governmental cure-alls evolved, according to Alexander
Hamilton, "in the reveries of those political doctors, whose sagacity
disdains the admonitions of experimental instruction."

American history properly forms the most fruitful subject of study for
Americans, and yet one must have a wide background to obtain the proper
crop.  One must soon be led to the investigation of our legislative,
executive and judicial functions as they developed through the evolution
of constitutional government in England. The democratic models traced to
the Grecian states, the seeds of "sans-culotte" philosophy that
Jefferson and Tom Paine brought from France, the thought of political
scientists such as Plato, Machiavel, Locke, and Montesquieu open fields
in which every reader may learn lessons that will guide his judgment in
the ever-important problems of the day.

A citizenship educated to a knowledge of the past is a bulwark that will
defend the integrity of our nation. Such a citizenship is in truth an
ideal in that it is unobtainable, but it is a splendid ideal and one
that should be our guiding star.  In a government such as ours it is
intolerable that an educated man should cast his vote by habit, and yet
how often do we hear the opinion expressed that such and such a man
would vote the straight Democratic or Republican ticket no matter what
the platform, no matter who the candidate?  This study of political
parties is itself fruitful.  One hundred years ago the Democratic party
was the party of decentralization and "laissez-faire," but to-day, since
the Bryan influence has had such sway, it eclipses the Republican party
as the exponent of centralization and paternalism.  There are, however,
thousands of voters who continue to vote the straight Democratic ticket,
believing that the party stands for the same principles as it did when
their fathers first voted.  This is but an incident of man becoming an
indifferent, incapable political animal.  Too much of such indifference
is a fatal disease to a country of universal franchise.

History has no business in the closet!  "History and your Vote,"
gentlemen,—and now, in several states, you of the fairer sex,—is a
phrase worth remembering upon election day.

                              *CHAPTER V*

                            *CLIO’S VINTAGE*

History after all is the true poetry.—CARLYLE

To the one who drinks of the wisdom of Clio, the Muse of history, there
will come manifold riches other than the accrued satisfaction of
well-weighed political judgment.  A knowledge of history, in its
broadest sense, may well be said to be the essential foundation of all
cultural education. The movements in science, philosophy, music,
literature and the plastic arts are all inseparably intertwined, and
they have as their controlling background the political actions of men
and the economic forces that move peoples.

It is as impossible to thoroughly understand the poetry of Wordsworth,
Shelley or Byron without having an appreciation of the political and
economic events of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Era, as it is to
conceive of the Epics of Homer without the Trojan War.  The music of
Bach and Haydn has as its foundation the reasonableness in religion,
philosophy and political thought of the eighteenth century, as the music
of Wagner and Chopin the unreason and rampant individualism of the early
nineteenth.  The books of the Cromwellian period reflect the
illiberality and severity of the Puritan parliaments: the books of the
Restoration reflect the French upbringing of Charles II.  Wars and
rumors of war, famine and years of plenty, new discoveries and great
invasions make up the life of the world, and it is of this life that
literature and music are made.  We could indefinitely cite instances of
the influence that history has had upon the arts, but in this chapter
let us consider history as an art, history as literature.

No historian who deserves the name should write "dry" histories.  The
greatest historian is he who has an inspired passion for delving into
the past, and the ability to interpret it in its living, human aspects.
The "scientific" student who considers his mission that of arriving at
the precise facts is not an historian but a "dry-as-dust" recorder.  He
is useful, however, in providing the material that will enable the true
historian to cast illuminating spotlights upon the centuries that have
gone before. Mr. William Roscoe Thayer, one of the most distinguished of
our American historical writers, tells us that "Hi’_story_’—let us not
forget—is five-sevenths _story_."  The historians whom we want to read
are those who tell us the dramatic _story_ of the past. Two-sevenths of
their ability should, perhaps, be their infinite patience and
intellectual honesty in gathering, sorting and weighing documents and
other sources of information, but the other five-sevenths must be that
ability which is the genius of the story teller. Someone has said that
every historian must be his own "dry-as-dust," his own bespectacled
investigator of authentic facts,—if the rest of him is an impassioned
teller of tales we have a supreme historian.  Gibbon, before the days of
elaborately prepared source books, before the days of thoroughly indexed
libraries, ransacked the learned treasuries of Europe and Asia Minor for
information; to this infinite patience there was added in his character
the gifts of the artist and the dreamer.  The result, after ceaseless
labor, was the monumental, yet fascinating and comparatively reliable,
"The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," a book that is acknowledged
the acme of historical perfection.

A few months ago, a woman of intellect, a wide traveller, an omnivorous
reader, a mother of a large family, an efficient manager in whatever she
undertook, was asked the name of the book that had made the most
impression upon her life.  Without a moment’s hesitation she replied,
Carlyle’s "History of the French Revolution."  Upon questioning her, we
found that she had read the two large volumes three times, and with each
rereading there had awakened in her the sentiments aroused by the
greatest dramatic tragedy, the most intense human story.

Carlyle was not a scientific historian, he did not write histories for
other historians; he wrote as one whom God directed to put upon pages of
flame the characters, the drama, the magnificent incidents, the
cruelties, the braveries, the cowardices, the heroisms of "the truth
that is stranger than fiction."  It is indeed more interesting to read
of what men have done as depicted by the historian, than what they might
have done as depicted by the second-rate novelist!

If you have not read the "French Revolution," read it at once!  The
author has taken the most dramatic period in modern times and he has
treated it as it deserves.  It has the power of tragedy, whose mission
is, according to Aristotle, "to purify the soul through fear and
terror."  Your soul will be enlightened, you will be made to feel, as
all great history makes you feel, that life is played upon a wondrous
highway, and that the sights and works upon the way are of the sort to
make you live in a trembling condition of wonder and expectancy. The
city crowds will have new meaning: men and women, for having once been
participants in the terrible cataclysm of one hundred and twenty year
ago, are still of the stuff to accomplish strange deeds, and to fulfil
undreamed-of destinies.

Has it occurred to you what a relatively small and insignificant number
of familiar acquaintances we are able in our daily life to have?  How
many men and women do you know who have guided the destinies of nations,
led great armies into the field, or are to meet death in their attempts
to overthrow the tyranny of a despot or a bigot?  In history we may meet
them, and become acquainted with their problems and struggles.  The past
is a select drawing-room into which we all may enter.  We may derive
inspiration from the same wells that prompted the Crusaders to set out
time after time in their well-nigh fatal effort to drive the Moslems
from Jerusalem; we may absorb the spirit that moved Cromwell’s
Ironsides; we may appreciate the pettiness of our own weaknesses and
vexations in comparison with the odds against which some of History’s
heroes have fought and conquered.  It is pleasant to live in the court
of Louis XIV and to talk with kings and princes through the pages of St.
Simon’s "Memoirs"; it is a spiritual tonic and excitement to follow the
careers of the Indian Missionaries through Parkman’s glowing pages!  It
is in truth more downright "fun" than doing most things!

Undoubtedly it is true that Napoleon’s ruthless ambition brought
devastation to the lands that he conquered, and sorrow to the nation
whose young men he led to the cannon’s mouth, and yet I sometimes think
that greater than the Code Napoleon, which he instituted, is the
inspiration that his career has been to the young men of all countries.
How many boys have dreamed their vision of the future when following the
work of the little Corsican, who at the age of twenty-seven led the
armies of France across the Alps to crumple in a series of whirlwind
campaigns the proud power of Austria.  And there was William Pitt, the
Younger, who at twenty-four became Prime Minister of England, one-armed
and half-blind Nelson at Trafalgar Bay, Lincoln, the rail-splitting
President, Olive, Garibaldi, Hampden, and how many another has been a
light that beckons our future soldiers and statesmen?

In every epoch of history we will find new horizons opened that will
enrich and broaden our daily life; in every vital struggle we will find
individuals and peoples who have acted in such a way that we should hope
to be guided by them in our struggles and ambitions; in the failures of
the past we may obtain moral lessons for the present and the future; in
coördinating our forces and forming our judgments we will obtain a
training for our minds which will be of use to every man in carrying out
the enterprises in which he is engaged.

Dr. Johnson well said that the traveller brings from his journeys that
which he brings to them.  It is indeed pitiful to be in Paris and to see
countless American tourists rushing about "seeing Paris."  What a
difference there is between those who bring to the storied city on the
Seine a familiarity with her past, and those who bring nothing but time
and money to spend.  For the first, there are human dramas lurking in
the shadows of Notre Dame; Quasimodo, the strange dwarf in Hugo’s great
romance, still swings on the bells of the belfry; the narrow streets and
turbulent cafes may still contain the instigators of the Reign of Terror
and their shouting mobs of "sans culottes"; Camille Desmoulins may still
be visualized in the Café Royal plucking the leaves to make his tricolor
cockade.  At every turn, in every ancient building, there are rich
historic memories that may feed the traveller who has prepared himself.

And the others, to whom history is a closed book!  How barren and
incompetent are their wanderings in Paris, London, Vienna, or any other
old world city!  To think that one can appreciate the historic gathering
places of the human race without having knowledge of their past is as
absurd as to believe one knows the woods when one cannot appreciate the
beauty and wonder of the wild life that makes of the woods its dwelling
place.  Go among the trees some day with one who has studied and
absorbed "the woodnotes varied"!  Wander about the Quais of Paris, or
the Temple Inns of London, with a man who has read history with a human
interpretation, and consider upon your return the increased wealth, you
carry in your mind!

We cannot all be travellers, but it is always safe to store up material
against a possible future; although I have never read far into the
history of China, and though there is little possibility of my ever
visiting the land of ancient civilizations, I am sure I could derive
much pleasure and obtain a better understanding of our Occident if I
followed a course of reading upon the varied fortunes of the different
dynasties that have ruled the richly storied Eastern nation.

Our history books teach us valuable lessons in the art of living,—and
this is assuredly the most important of the arts!  As a man who brings
something upon his travels besides his pocket-book and luggage comes
home with rich experiences and memories, so does the man who approaches
life with something more than a hungry stomach obtain from life more
than he otherwise would.  The greater variety of experiences we have,
the more we know of the affairs of men, the richer our understanding of
the forces that have ruled the world, the more replete with ecstatic
living is our daily life.  If the best of life is to be won by living in
the world keen and alive to everything that moves, or thinks, or
glitters, a great share of riches must go to the man who has studied and
thought in other realms than those which immediately surround his own
dwelling house.

In Philadelphia I sometimes watch the hurrying crowds of business men go
scurrying underneath the shadow of Independence Hall.  I wonder if these
crowds are in any true sense aware of the important and heroic deeds
that were accomplished in that building.  I am sure that if they did
their movements beneath that shadow would be rich in living experience.
At political conventions, I sometimes wonder whether the delegates are
aware of the vast consequence of the long governmental tradition which
they, as delegates, have been called upon to uphold, and I feel sure
that those who do, fulfil their responsibilities with a quickened sense
of their weight and human moment.

On the observation car of a twentieth-century flyer the road-bed is so
smooth, the rails so even, the power so terrific, that the past as an
industrial development that has cast aside the stage coach, the prairie
schooner, the pony express, makes one alive to the romance of the
present.  Down on the beach of a popular New Jersey summer resort when
the water is dotted black with bobbing civilized bathers, look out over
the waves and wonder at the change of but four hundred years.  In a
moment your mind can travel back to the Spanish castle and see Columbus
begging the gold that would enable him to equip his ships to sail
westward into the unknown sea.  Romance cannot be dead so long as men
work, and strive, and play.

There is an art in reading history as there is an art in writing it.
The writer who tells us of a battle with the same lack of imagination as
the recorder who prepares mortality statistics must be compared to the
reader who crams his mind full of dates and uncoördinated facts without
drawing from them the riches and lessons of experience.  The true
historian and the proper reader of history must find in the past a world
of enlightenment, an enrichment that magnifies, clarifies, and makes
living the present.  It is better to have studied a minute epoch, the
history of your county or town, with a human understanding than to have
unintelligently digested the careers of a hundred heroes, the military
movements in fifty campaigns.

Do not turn from the eight bulky volumes of Gibbon’s masterpiece with
the fear that they are dry and useless, but begin them with the
determination of finding an enlightenment to your vision of inestimable
value in "the art of living."  The dates of battles, the names of
individuals, the data about which life revolved, are only of value in
that they are the framework upon which you can hang the true meaning of
the past—the evolving germ of the present.  The Song of Solomon is not
to be read because it is the Bible, but rather because it is a love song
of which the world can never grow weary; Motley’s "History of the Dutch
Republic" is not to be read because it is recommended in the schools and
colleges, but because in it you will find the unrolling of a human drama
that will quicken your pulse and strengthen your faith in men.

Read the record of the past with the desire of obtaining a deeper
understanding, an enlarged vision, an inspired ideal, a rich experience,
and you will have become proficient in the art of reading history.  You
must have often thought upon the difficulty of determining exactly what
you want. What do you desire life and your exertions to give you?  In
reading history perhaps you will be helped by finding out what Christ
wanted when he died upon the cross, what the Pilgrims wanted when they
left comfort and sailed to strange lands, what Stanley wanted when he
buried himself in darkest Africa.  Clio has had many wooers, from
Thucydides to Carlyle and George Trevelyan, and their offerings form a
treasure trove which must not be neglected.

                              *CHAPTER VI*

                       *THE POET AND THE READER*

I myself but write one or two indicative words for
       the future,

I but advance a moment, only to wheel and hurry
       back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along, without fully
       stopping, turns a casual look upon you, and then
       averts his face,

Leaving it to you to prove and define it,

Expecting the main things from you.

What is poetry to you or me, as we rush to make the trolley car or
suburban train?  To get to the office on time seems the main chance, and
yet returning home in the evening are we so tired that the funny page of
the evening paper fulfils our entire intellectual and spiritual need?
In asking this let me ask another question.  Day in and day out, in work
and play, in sorrow and anxiety, in pleasure and enthusiasm, what is
life worth to you and me?  We Americans are not much given to
philosophizing about life, we prefer to live it.  Whereas the
intelligent Russian argues about the reason for and the meaning of
action, Americans are prone without thought to throw themselves into the
mill of violent living, to go at top speed until the gears break down,
and then sometimes to say with Kipling’s Galley Slave,

    —whate’er comes after, I have lived and toiled with Men!

Our answer to the question "What is the meaning of life?" is simply "The
living of it."  "Work while you work, and play while you play" may be
considered our national motto.  In short, for every minute of our
existence we want to have "sixty seconds’ worth of distance run."  To
live acutely is our pleasure, to work our hearts out and revel in the
doing of it is our end.  It is thus, to use an expressive phrase of the
vernacular, that "we prove something."  And it is this fact which
strengthens the paradox that the American, the man of action and bustle,
must draw his greatest source of living in the realization of the spirit
of singers.

The poet is he who has drunk more deeply at the well of experience than
has his fellow men.  Many a profound poet never writes a verse, for when
a man of temperament is deeply moved he writes a poem within his own
heart. It is for some to transcribe their emotions into words whereby
their feelings may be communicated from one man to another; but it is
for others to be without the gift of verbal expression and the poems
must remain within.  How many times in life is your soul afire with
enthusiasm, drunk with beauty, stricken with sadness, or overflowing
with the meaning or portent of experience?  At those times you are a
poet, whether or not you transcribe the reflection of your heart upon
the written page.  The man who sings within is a singer whether or not
he gives his song verbal utterance.  These hours of poetic ecstasy make
life a thing to be cherished.  The sources of such ecstasy are
manifold—the love of man and woman, or parent and children, religious
communion with the Spirit, comradeship, work, pursuance of duty, speed,
health, beauty, the joy of the builder or artist, attainment to a higher
understanding, sadness, hope,—from such springs come the bubbles of the
wine of life, heartening the cherished hours.  Our greatest poems are
those that have never been written—true experience is poetry, and
experience is an open door to life.

    Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
    Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades
    For ever and for ever when I move.

The poetry found in books is experience, directly or indirectly, through
the agency of verbal expression, transferred to the printed page. The
great writers of poems are those who have undergone spiritual
experiences of greater intensity than those which come within the range
of us lesser mortals.  In their poems we partake of their life, of their
ecstasy in the presence of beauty, of the richness of their imaginings,
of the depth of their spiritual natures.

You and I, when we hear the wood thrush sing, are moved with the music
of the notes, and are possibly carried away into the bosky woods where
the richly patterned bird in his evening song pours his heart to Heaven;
but when Keats hears the melody of the nightingale, his nature so
acutely attuned to the harmony, the message of peace and solitude, is
swept away in such an ecstasy of heartfelt longing for that same peace,
that same solitude, that his own heart pours forth his song, in words no
less musical, in cadences no less rich than the notes of the feathered
songster.  His experience is preserved for us in "The Ode to a
Nightingale" and we may read and derive the same fascination that he

Matthew Arnold somewhere tells us that all great poetry has one or both
of two attributes: "Natural Magic" and "Moral Profundity."  Whatever
these two phrases may mean upon first sight, after examining their true
import it will be appreciated that the greatest English critic did not
consider poetry a thing for the closet, or sentimental matter only to be
read by the melancholy lovelorn to his sentimental maid.  The effect of
the natural magic of a summer’s night, of the sea breaking upon the
wind-swept coast, of the sea gull’s flight, is apparent and valued by
everyone.  What are most holidays other than periods during which we
absorb appearances and sensations, that enter our personalities and
remain part of ourselves during the succeeding year of work? "Natural
Magic" is that which acts upon us as a holiday influence, compounded
perhaps of beauty, mystery, fear or sentiment, which for the moment or
for eternity gives our minds entrance into a realm of new and
pleasurable things.  Read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s "Kubla Khan" and you
will find the essence of natural magic.  You enter a realm, indeed, of
magic and witchery, for

    In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
    A stately pleasure-dome decree:
    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
    Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.

Do those lines charm you?  They charm most of us and the cadence of the
words, the confused picture of Xanadu, have become our own,—riches with
which we would not care to part.

Every time I read them the blunt edge of life is worn off, living
regains its sharpness, I have to an extent experienced an ecstasy, taken
a holiday.

It is hard to define the exhilaration of a canter across the meadows
upon a crisp October day, or the impulse that surges through you as you
look to the ocean breathing the sea breeze, or the sense of religious
comradeship that grips you when in the midst of a crowd, great with a
single purpose,—but this is all of the true stuff of Natural Magic.
Your sensations are not of the minute, but of all time, as they have
vivified your soul and become part and parcel of your personality.

It is so with the poets who sing you a song or breathe a sentiment that
is not oral, not didactic, not purposeful, but of the stuff that thrills
the spirit of man,—their charm is impossible to define, it must be felt,
and for having felt it, your spirit is of a color different from what it
was before.  As Corot’s landscapes painted in the forest of
Fontainebleau are said to express the emotion of the painter when in the
presence of nature, so does the lyric poet of magical gift express his
feelings, lay bare his soul with its emotions and vacillations.  The
sadness and sensuous mystery of Edgar Allan Poe, the marvellous ability
of Tennyson to fit the most exquisite words to the most subtle
incantations of beauty, the thrill of romance in Shakespearean England
as depicted by our contemporary, Alfred Noyes, the appetite for sensuous
delights of Keats, the tuneful, heartfelt songs of the Cavalier
poets—these are of natural magic, of delight to the human soul, of the
spirit of art.

When Shakespeare wrote,

    Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
    In a cowslip’s bell I lie,

he had no moral to expound, he merely sung from his heart with the
beauties of nature and the ways of fairy-land as an open book before
him.  If we wish (and there is no rightful reason why we should not) to
drain the very dregs of living for the richest drops of wine, let us
enrich, make more virile our enjoyment by seeking nourishing draughts of
experience from the poets who have expressed those sweetest joys on
earth in poems that have cleansed the souls of men for generation upon

There is the other phrase of Matthew Arnold, "Moral Profundity."  It is
when we seek wisdom from the poets that we find this attribute.  When
the greatest of them give us their innermost thought, not the record of
experiences, but the essential deductions from all their experiences, we
have their true wisdom.  When Wordsworth in "The Lines Composed a Few
Miles Above Tintern Abbey."  wrote the words,

      Therefore am I still
    .....well pleased to recognize,
    In Nature and the language of the sense,
    The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
    The guide, the guardian, of my heart, and soul
    Of all my moral being;

or when, in his "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality," he wrote,

    Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness,
    And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
      From God, who is our home:

and when Shelley wrote,

    We look before and after,
    And pine for what is not:
    Our sincerest laughter
    With some pain is fraught;
    Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

or when Tennyson, in "Locksley Hall," wrote,

      This is truth the poet sings,
    That a sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.

those men formulated in exquisite language truths that have never been
more intensively expressed.

Probably most readers of poetry have already considered these two
phrases, and those who have, I feel sure, will agree that they are
useful in making for a clearer understanding in our estimation of
values.  To read intelligently, to get the most out of our books, we
should certainly attempt to formulate the various aspects of life the
different poets represent, their relation to the time in which they
live, and their excellencies when they stand before the bar of the
reader’s judgment.

Very few great poets produce poetry of but a single aspect. Shakespeare
wrote the magical fairy jingles and yet created the stupendously
profound character of "woe-entangled Hamlet"; Tennyson composed many a
lilting tune in words, yet as a moralist he presented the most sincere
thought of his generation. When we feel philosophic and thoughtful, we
turn to the poems containing solemn truths; when weary, jaded, and off
color, we turn to the honey of romance, the witcheries of sensuous
beauty,—and regain our lost edge.

A single phrase may have natural magic, and yet may express a thought
for which during years of our life we have been vainly groping.  The
poetry of thoughtful content is probably that which has meant the most
to men, as upon the philosophy of such religious poets as Dante or
Whitman many a man has braced his faith; yet we must remember that much
of the wisdom of sages is expressed in as magical language as we have in
our cherished heritage.

Let us not, however, be academic about our poets, let us not balance one
against the other, let us not be carping about metre, subject matter and
critical phrases, let us go to them for what they can give towards
making this world a more marvellous place in which to dwell.

If Kipling makes you feel the glory of work, of the hard, terrific work
in which we rejoice, if he gives you the call of the road, the
wanderlust, and you hear,

      —the song—how long! how long!
    Pull out on the trail again!

if Bobbie Burns with his songs of Scotia gives you a human sympathy with
mankind, an appreciation that for all his foibles and impossibilities "a
man’s a man for a’ that"; if Byron fills your heart with the divine
discontent that in a sweep of glory lands you above and beyond the
commonplaces of every-day existence; if Wordsworth makes you see Nature
as you have never seen her before, if he makes a meadow of buttercups
appear in a new light, with unsuspected meaning, with hitherto unseen
color and grace; if Keats attunes your heart to a deeper appreciation of
a form, a fragrance, a musical harmony; if Milton’s solemn cadences
inspire you with the depth of that great Puritan’s spirit; if
Shakespeare unbares your own character in revealing the inner springs of
his eternal heroes; if Longfellow in "My Lost Youth" brings back to you
the home of your boyhood, and you see again

    The sheen of the far-surrounding seas,
    And islands that were the Hesperides
      Of all my boyish dreams;—

if you can say with Walt Whitman,

    Logic and sermons never convince;
      The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul;

or if there is a man unknown except for one poem that still stirs you
with the sentiments that you love and honor—if these, I say, have thus
met your requirements, each and all of them are _great_ poets to you,
they have opened a door to a life richer in content, deeper in import,
more vastly worth living.

There is no danger that the poets will ever be in need of readers.  The
musical expression of thought or sentiment is as old and fundamental as
is human nature.  The sailors singing their chants as they pull in their
anchor, the negro laborers whom we have seen singing a song as they
unload the railroad ties, or put the heavy rails in place, the Western
range rider calming the steers, and quieting his own nerves through the
lone night watches, the sagas and harvest songs of simple people in all
lands, are facts that establish the part that poetry plays in the
workings of the human heart.  In reading poetry you will obtain no
credit for upholding a tradition, as the tradition will stand of its own
vitality; but in _not_ reading it you will miss one of the most
bounteous sources of inspiration, you will pass by the richest treasure
house, you will neglect the supreme opportunity for a thorough life that
the art of man has put within your reach.  When you do read, do it for
all time, not for a moment.  If the muse is to give you of her best, you
must feel after sharing her store as did Wordsworth when he heard the
Highland Reaper singing,

    For old, unhappy, far-off things,
    And battles long ago:

as he tells us,

    The music in my heart I bore,
    Long after it was heard no more.

The poem but begins after you have read it—the experiences that come
after are the ones that count.  Let us remember the simile and hold the
music in our hearts as a reservoir of powerful beauty that will carry us
over the stupid, the heavy, the unpoetic bumps of the days’ doings.

                             *CHAPTER VII*

                         *THE CHILDREN OF PAN*

For I’d rather be thy child
And pupil, in the forest wild,
Than be the king of men elsewhere,
And most sovereign slave of care;
To have one moment of thy dawn,
Than share the city’s year forlorn.

The enthusiastic nature poetry of James Thompson, called "The Seasons,"
came as a shock to that inbred lover of the city streets, the taverns
and town activities, Doctor Samuel Johnson.  In these poems, the Doctor
found that natural objects which before had hardly been worthy of
attention were made to appear beautiful. We must believe that after
having read "Spring," "Summer," "Autumn," and "Winter," upon his
infrequent excursions beyond the environs of the great metropolis he saw
new beauties in the hitherto common-place landscapes, responded to the
color in the fields and hedgerows, became interested in fantastic cloud
effects, heard music in the streams, the waterfalls and in the songs of
birds. For how many of us have arisen new sources of joy in Nature’s
beauteous wonderland at the instigation of poets, essayists and
novelists who have seen and read with loving eyes

    Of this fair volume which we World do name.

In an ardent conversation upon the power of certain poets a friend told
me that the Anglo-Saxon world looked at Nature through Wordsworth’s
spectacles.  He maintained that the reaction of nature upon even those
who have never read a poem by this poet was influenced by his poetry;
Wordsworth’s interpretation of Nature had so permeated nineteenth
century religion and literature that it was impossible for even the
casual newspaper reader to escape it.  We do not directly acknowledge
our debt, but the garden clubs, the bird-study societies, the
surburbanite who throughout the year will spend an hour and a half in
the train, in order, on the way to the station in the early morning, to
obtain the pleasures of Nature’s awakening, and her retirement upon his
return at twilight, and the Saturday afternoon golfer who, after holing
his ball, looks beyond the course at the green whispering woods and
rolling hills, expands his chest and murmurs "This is the life," are all
unconsciously paying part tribute to the poet who wrote,

    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
    Little we see in Nature that is ours.

We need a love of nature to-day, as we have never needed it before.  In
the terrific complexity and speed of our external existence we crave the
quiet, internal stimulus to meditation and dreams that comes from the
Great Mother’s intricate, manifold, yet untempestuous method of doing
things. From the close hatches of the city where the noise, the smells,
and the turmoil seem all man-made, we must get away to the fields and
blossoming pastures to find our souls alone with ourselves and the Great
God Pan.  To those who answer the call of the wild, or even the call of
the suburban garden, there come new strength and new conceptions of
beauty, to apply to the work of the world to which we have lent our
hand.  The call is being answered,—man goes back to his own. We see it
on every side: no one in any walk of life seems so humble or satisfied
not to desire some day to own a farm; most summer resorts where there
were formerly many a "flanneled fool" have now become "Adamless Edens,"
for our young men have answered the call of the Red Gods, and have
packed their kits for the trail that leads to the tall timbers of
solitude, of balsam, of camp fires and dreams.

Any book or poem that gives you a keener appreciation of the crimson of
the sumach, the whispers of the wild things, the glory of the sunrise or
of the all-embracing broadmindness of Nature, will have done its part
towards bringing literature into perfect accord with life.  If my friend
speaks truly in saying that Wordsworth has influenced two nations’
outlook upon the world, those poems, laughed at by some for their quiet
simplicity, have indeed arisen to the highest realm of literature and
have become soul of our soul, mind of our mind, flesh of our flesh.

There are others—Wordsworth is not alone in his glory.

Henry David Thoreau, the perfect child of a cross country ramble, is my
favorite.  To write immortal words, it is said that a man must have an
immortal passion, whether it be for beauty, or his God, his neighbor,
his country, his lady, or himself.  Thoreau sunk the love of all else in
his passionate devotion to Nature.  His Journals, kept year by year with
ever a spontaneous freshness, are little else than an ecstatic love song
dedicated to his mate,—the lake, the woods, the fields, the apple
orchards, the winds, the colors, the birds, and all that lived and grew
about his haunts near Walden.  A lover sees a beauty in his lady’s eye
to which all the world is blind, and Thoreau senses a magic in an
awakening Spring to which the senses of us lesser mortals are
comparatively blunt.

His sincerity of appreciation was one with his marvellous power of
observation.  He did not have the scientific attitude of mind as had
that fascinating Frenchman, Fabre, who wrote the biographies of insects
in a way that makes you tremble at the wonders that go into the making
of the life of a fly.  Thoreau would have scorned the aquarium and cage
methods of Fabre, not because of the lack of interest in the results,
but rather on account of his love of Nature, naked, wild, and free.
Upon the shortest ramble he saw myriad happenings, from the unusual
frost crystal upon the web of a spider to the most subtle changing with
the varying temperature of a bird’s note; but it is all discovered
without the microscope, without thought of entomological or
ornithological records.  A man should be afraid to say that the woods
are a dreary place in which to walk upon a winter’s day—let him read a
page from the Winter Journal of our author and he will find that the
book of Nature is never closed for him who has an eye in focus for her
mystic letterings.

I say that Thoreau is my favorite and how could I deny it, since there
is many a winter’s day in the city when I am sick of the asphalt and the
bricks, and yet unable to leave them, that I can turn to any one of his
pages and be carried by his words to my favorite woods or stream, to the
longed-for fields and roadways?  And in other seasons when time is more
prodigal, and nature so bounteous that there seems to be a glut upon the
market, my senses, that might grow befogged, are given a tonic in a
paragraph that makes the drowsy summer atmosphere seem pregnant with
beauty and fascination.  If you are cooped among the chimneys and
elevated trains, Thoreau will bring you to the country—if in the
country, he will multiply the pleasures of your walk, your ride, or
fishing trip.  He stimulates the best of life that is in you, and that
is all we can ask of any literature.

Nature from one point of view or another has always been one of the
chief inspirations of the poets.  If you examine the literature of the
human race since the days when Solomon sang "And the voice of the turtle
is heard through the land," you will find the various aspects of the
seasons, the songs of the individual birds, the beauty and sentiment of
flowers, and even the habits of the different species of fish,
continually reflected in prose and verse.  America has been especially
blest with men we must term literary naturalists.  We have spoken of
Thoreau, but there are also Audubon, Wilson and our elderly
contemporary, John Burroughs.

Wilson and Audubon are especially famous for their magnificent colored
plates of the birds of North America, but I ask all nature lovers to go
to a public library and secure the prose works of these two great
ornithologists. There you will find as interesting reading as will come
to your hand in many a day.  They were both pioneers in science, art and
exploration; both children of nature, more at home in the forest than in
the city; both enthusiastic, thrilled worshippers of their feathered
friends whom they have so brilliantly preserved in their cherished
portfolios.  Because their work was accomplished one hundred years ago,
before our birds were charted and when journeys of scientific
exploration, even into the mountains of Pennsylvania, were made with
almost the same difficulty as is now caused in the exploration of the
most jungled South American river, the naïve spirit of the explorer, of
the elemental pioneer, is in their every page.  There is ever the
surprise, the uncertainty, the joy of life and study among unknown and
untrammelled things.  Theirs was the joy of children who for the first
time discover a blackbird’s nest in the far-off meadow and their joy is
communicated to us; we become children of delight, as when lying upon
bur backs on the edge of a flowery field of clover we watch with
fascination the darts of kingbirds dashing from the top of the nearby
chestnut after the myriad insects.

John Burroughs, whose essays have been a joy upon many an evening and a
stimulating remembrance upon many a tramp, with a similar freshness and
unworldliness carried on the tradition of the earlier men.  From his
fruit farm upon the Hudson he continually sends us messages to forget
our tea parties, our moving pictures, our country clubs, and really to
find ourselves in the discoveries of beauties and life in the growing,
nesting, and flowering things about us. One of the happy thoughts that
we derive from him is the knowledge that to obtain the beneficence to
soul and mind we (poor suburbanites tied to the necessity of earning our
daily bread in the city) need not follow the "Long Trail" to the ends of
the world of the furious globe trotter, Rudyard Kipling, but must only
take store of the things at hand, find the same happiness in the quiet,
civilized, thoroughbred-cattled meadow as we would hope to find up
against a rugged blow in the Northern Seas off the coast of which
"you’ve lost the chart of overside."  You do not have to go so far from
home to know the world.  Thoroughly know the garden that you cultivate,
study all that happens along the hedgerow upon the way to the station,
and you will be richer than he who has racketed with half blind eyes
from the Yukon to Patagonia,

    Or East all the way into Mississippi Bay,
    Or West to the Golden Gate.

In conjunction with the reflection of nature in books, I mentioned our
scaly friends, the fish, without paying due homage to the king of all
philosophic fishermen, Izaak Walton.  How many devotees of the gentle
art of angling have made of their own the wisdom, the beauty, the
thoughtful content of the fisherman’s classic, "The Compleat Angler"?  A
man once said to me that the next best thing to taking a walk was to
read the accounts of Walt Whitman’s rambles upon Timber Creek.  I
answered that upon the days you could not go a-fishing, you had best
read "The Compleat Angler."  I hold to this!  Will not the men who stand
by the trout, the bass, the salmon, the weak fish, or the gallant tuna
and tarpon, and the boys who put their faith in the catfish, the sucker,
the eel, or the perch, fall in together and be one in believing as the
Venerable Izaak believed,

    O the gallant fisher’s life,
    It is the best of any!
    ’Tis full of pleasure, void of strife,
    And ’tis beloved by many;
    Other joys
    Are but toys;
    Only this
    Lawful is;
    For our skill
    Breeds no ill,
    But content and pleasure.

There is many another writer who opens the door to the traveller who
wishes to enrich his enjoyment of Nature as it is to be seen along
life’s highway.  I mention but a few who may give you new worlds for
which you would not trade a mint of silver. Have you ever gone with
Stevenson upon his walking trips?  If not, do so, and perhaps you will
agree with him that it is pleasant to have a companion upon your
journeys; as Lawrence Sterne expresses it: "Let me have a companion of
my way were it but to remark how the shadows lengthen as the sun
declines."  If you prefer to be alone, Hazlitt will tell you that no
companion is necessary, as thoughts need no companions: "I want to see
my vague notions float like the down of the thistle before the breeze,
and not to have them entangled in the briars and thorns of controversy."

Or have you read the books of the Homer of the Insects, the Frenchman I
have mentioned, Fabre?  There is a treat ahead of you—he wrote of the
crawling, burrowing and flying things of his beloved Provence, and if
there is anything in this realm more interesting than his records of
observing the daily lives of the House Fly, the Praying Mantis, and many
another beetle, cricket and creeper, I have yet to find it.  To say that
you must immediately line your room with aquariums, jars, and boxes, in
which to preserve and watch the births, loves and deaths of all the
spiders, whirligigs, and butterflies that come within your reach is
relating the result in its mildest form that this author has had upon
me.  Such books introduce you to a thousandfold intensity of existence,
as every great book must.

Intensive agriculture is heralded as the saving factor of human
progress. Let us make a plea for truly intensive living.  As the crops
that come from a rich, well-cultivated soil are bountiful, so is the
life that is the product of a fertile mind.  A poor crop is a
superficial existence of discontented pleasures and shallow unhappiness;
a rich crop is a life in which the heart and mind are at least attune to
the joy which may be derived from the living of it,—brave when courage
is needed, patient when patience is a virtue.  The word "culture" is
sometimes derided as a synonym for pretentious high-browism, but let us
remember that the farmer respects the word "cultivate," as he knows that
it is necessary if he wishes to make the harvest a season of happiness
and rich reward. A man’s harvest season is his every minute of
existence—his bounty is the depth and pleasure of that existence. Our
future life is or is not a "great perhaps," but our present life is
assuredly a reality.  It is _here_—what are you going to do with it?  If
you can make every day a day of intense interest you have won the
greatest battle!  You have stormed the world’s richest citadel!  The
Children of Pan, who have loved and written of Nature, charm and
transport you to a world of infinite interest.  They offer rich
fertilizer that gives promise of a bumper crop—Open that Door into their

                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                           *MEN BEHIND BOOKS*

Every word man’s lips have uttered
Echoes in God’s Skies.

Books contain the accumulated store of human thought and scientific
attainment—this is a treasure without which there would be no
civilization—yet in addition, we may say that the most potent
inheritance, that books vouchsafe, is the personalities of the great
authors who have inscribed their souls within them. Personal character
affects our lives as does nothing else.  In the back of the mind of
every one there are men and women who, we appreciate, have been the
makers of our souls.  Most often it is a mother or a father, sometimes a
teacher of our youth, or a friend and fellow worker of whose nature we
realize we have absorbed a part. Contact between human personalities is
the most profound mover for good and evil.  A preacher may declaim
against sin for ever and a day, but you know that your great friend who
scorns sin has infinitely more influence upon you. The greatest doers of
good are men and women who lead others by the examples of their own
lives.  It is unfortunately not given to many to come into intimate
personal contact with the most supreme human souls, but fortunate we are
that many have extended their personalities without limit into the
future, by truly encasing themselves in books that will remain as the
leaven and inspiration of all ages and all peoples.

I have a number of volumes upon my shelves that I choose to consider not
as books, but as men.  Instead of printed pages, cloth bindings, and
labels, they are living personalities with whom I can pass an evening.
The reading is over, and I have within me the character of a great human
being. As have my Mother and Father and the old fisherman, whose
knowledge of the sea and storm beaten coast fed my boyish spirit, they
have become part of me.  The greatest books are those that present the
greatest men. It is not the artistry of telling a story or writing a
poem that really counts; the sincerity and intensity with which a man,
whom we may call our "guide, philosopher and friend," is revealed forms
the most cherished treasure of our bookshelf.  In sorrow, in dejection,
in need of mental or spiritual sustenance, when the joy of living is
blunted, when lazy, discouraged or annoyed, you can go to these great
fellows, converse with them and return again to the world with a
bird’s-eye view, an enlarged vision, a quickened spirit.

Have you read Walt Whitman? _There_ is a glorious human being—so
magnificent, so all-embracing in his love, so turbulent, so large in his
personality that to know him, to feed upon him, you must become
submerged in his book, his soul,—"The Leaves of Grass."  Of this volume
containing his poems he himself said,

    This is no book;
    Who touches this, touches a man.

You do indeed touch a man!  A great spirit who saw in all things God; a
Democrat who saw in all men the spark of the divine; a leader who raced
out to the farthest reaches of the soul and beckons and begs you to
follow; a lover who embraced all, the prostitute, the poet, the lowly,
the exultant, Christ himself, in a spirit of human fellowship; a
physical giant who gloried in his sex and makes you consider sacred the
relationship of the sexes; a nurse who brought upon himself paralysis by
caring for the wounded in the Civil War; a prophet who could no more
believe that the spirit of an individual man could die than that it had
never been born.  Perhaps you think I write extravagantly—I do not—I but
attempt to present what the personality of Walt Whitman has meant to me,
and to many, many others.  I but ask that you go to the "Leaves of
Grass," and come in contact with that man to whom so many look and
say—"A great part of myself is you, Walt Whitman!  My life has been
renewed since first I touched your hand."

Tolstoy!  There is another one who believed in humanity and God,—there
is another who has put a huge, rugged, loving soul within books.
Probably no one has so influenced the humanitarianism of our day as did
this bearded old warrior from Russia; but it was the deep human sympathy
of the actual living Tolstoy that moved the world, not the arguments he
deduced nor the warnings he gave.  He was always a moralist,—even in his
masterpiece "Anna Karenina" it is not the story he tells, but the human
love which he reveals that has made the eternal monument.  Afraid of
nothing,—the Czar, convention, hatred, oppression,—he lived his life
according to the dictates of his own conscience, the most punishing
conscience that has ever been the attribute of a master soul.  If you do
not know him, read his short story "Master and Man."  There you will
find enunciated, in a manner as poignant, as powerful, as even that of
the Sermon on the Mount, the doctrine of happiness found in living your
life for others. Selfishness, pride, materialism, the sins that spoil
the world, cannot stand in the way of the burning words of Tolstoy.
Your conscience will receive a stiffening medicine, your sympathies for
the sins and sufferings of your neighbors will deepen to bed rock, and
your life will become proportionately more true, more happy, more
Christian.  Six years ago in the lowly hut near the Caucasus, when the
mighty soul of Tolstoy left the body, the World missed a leader, a
lover, a prophet—but his word still remains, and the doctrine as told by
him of universal betterment through love and human sympathy will reach
mankind whilst there are men left to read, and to communicate.

We all know the poems of Robert Burns, most of us know something of his
life.  His life and character are revealed in his poetry.  He too was a
lover, but a weak rather than a rugged one.  We love him for his very
weakness.  His heart was his strength and his undoing.  He loved until
his heart would break, ruthlessly and impetuously, and of his
sufferings, his remorses, regrets, and forlorn hopes he sang.  In this
cruel world, where might so often makes right, what a benediction it is
to read a poem written from the depth of a simple, sorrowing, yet deeply
human heart upon the suffering that he has caused the "wee sleekit,
cow’rin, tim’rous beastie" in turning up her nest with the plowshare.
As with all the personalities that are "great" in the deepest sense, his
was one that felt a companionship for all that lives upon the earth, and
from his sympathy for the drunken, the heart-broken, and the meadow
mice, and his joy in patriotism, true lovers, and beauteous roses, we
derive a depth of sentiment that needs must mellow our hearts.  A brave
spirit in a weak body had Bobbie Burns—he drank and was unfaithful, but
he felt deeply.  We love him for his depth, we sympathize with him in
his weaknesses.  As a friend he purifies rather than stimulates our
souls, but he is a true friend and a loving one.

François Villon, the greatest ballad singer of all time, the tavern
lover, the vagabond, the heavy-hearted sorrower, the lighted-hearted
laugher, the bosom companion of thieves, cut-throats, chattering
grisettes, old courtesans, rioters, and brawlers of the narrow streets,
Cathedral shadows, Seine banks of mediæval Paris, was another of those
great-hearted human lovers who had the gift of telling his heart secrets
in words of wondrous beauty.  By twentieth century standards Villon’s
actions, thieveries, and suspected murder, would have been neither moral
nor proper, but by the standard of all ages, in all true hearts, his
feelings towards the people among whom he moved will stand the test of
the most austere morality.  He loved all men and women for the best that
was in them, he did not scorn them for the worst.  He was unselfish and
true to his friends, and more than that we cannot desire.  Where there
is hypocrisy there is vice; where there is selfishness there is lack of
Christianity and humanity; our tavern poet, François Villon, had neither
of these, and if you want a friend who will make you see the good in the
bad, the beautiful in the ugly, go to your bookshelf and become
acquainted with the fervid soul of this ancient ballad singer.

When you are too contented, when your mind feels squidgy with good
living, or sultry from the summer heat, go to another man,—George
Gordon, Lord Byron.  They say that Byron (with Scott) is nowadays out of
fashion.  "They" are mistaken. The author of Childe Harold and Don Juan
will never be truly out of fashion, so long as there is a flare in
youthful hearts, a discontent in ambitious minds.  He is the poet of a
great revolt, a kicker at the traces, and then again he is the singer of
the bleeding heart, of lost causes; he hurries you across the seas upon
his speeding bark; he tops the crags of human loneliness and leaves you
desolate.  His songs are of the rollicking wine of life with its
excitements, its depressions, its sentiments of hatred, beauty, joy.
For youth he is the poet of liberty, of intense individualism; for age
the poet of thwarted desires, for everyone he has a chestnut burr to put
beneath dull content; his mockery is for stupidity, dryness, stagnation.
Get under the crust of his effusive egotism and you will meet a sombre,
lonely, sensitive individual, who needs you as a friend and who will be
to you a hypodermic stimulative.

How different a one from this poet is his contemporary, the essayist,
Charles Lamb.  The essays we love the best are those that reveal the
point of view, the little personalities of the writer, and no man of
letters ever had a more magnetic personality, or knew better how to
preserve himself in little literary gems, than did the author of "The
Essays of Elia."  Lamb spent his days in the South Sea Counting House
transferring figures from one great ledger to another.  But his evenings
with his books, his family and his friends!  Ah!—there was a companion!
A booklover whose enthusiasm, for musty duodecimos has become a classic
allusion, a punster whose puns are sometimes good and sometimes bad, but
always original, a relisher of good conversation, a man of many petty
weaknesses, a lover of good food, with a taste for old wine, and with an
infinite appreciation of the fads and foibles of himself and others, he
seems to have been altogether the most lovable individual with whom it
would be possible to scrape up an acquaintance.  Read but one hundred
pages of his essays and he becomes your chuckling, appreciative,
inimitable companion.  Every old book shop, every roast pig, every glass
of rich wine, every threadbare clerk stooping over his ledger—these and
many such will take on fresh and romantic aspects for the friend of

Thomas Carlyle was an historian and philosopher who wrote his name over
every page of his work.  His was the voice and the soul of the Old
Testament prophets, who railed at men from the depths of their bitter
yet anxious hearts.  The Preacher of the Nineteenth Century, when he
spoke the world listened!  Have you read "Sartor Resartus"?  Among his
works this is even the most personal. It is rough and jagged in style,
turbulent and confused in arrangement, but behind it all, or rather
under it all, is revealed the spiritual message to his age.  The message
is Carlyle’s own personality: his bravery, his sincerity, his fine
hatred of muddle-headed thinking, of credulity, of cant; his love and
admiration for the fundamental greatnesses of human nature, his belief
in an omnipotent God.  He wished men to believe, and the thunder he
bellowed in his endeavor still resounds.  His soul was a battery of
twelve-inch guns directed against the forces of ignorance and hypocrisy.
It is to the reading of "Sartor Resartus" that many men point as the
turning stake in their spiritual lives.  It was not in the book that
they found their spiritual bulwarks, but in the soul of the great
Scotchman with whom they came in contact.

There is our own Emerson, whose admiration for Carlyle was probably only
outdone by Carlyle’s admiration for him!  "Self Realization," "The
American Scholar," "Friendship," "Politics"—how many of his essays have
become part and parcel of America’s loftiest thought and action. The
metallic acuteness of his personality was not of the kind with which you
can become familiar, but its very aloofness holds our respect and
devotion.  The austerity of George Washington in public life can only be
compared with the cold distance at which this philosopher holds us, and
yet upon their pedestals we recognize them as men from whom the best in
American character has derived nourishment.  In every sentence of his
every essay, we feel the soul at peace, the intellect enthroned, the
power of will predominant.

A man without friends is a man without life, and I have but told you of
some of my boon companions. Never to have shared in the fellowship of
the great spirits who are preserved for us in books is to cut one’s self
off from the most rewarding of human relationships.  The chums of our
boyhood, our companions at college, too often drift away to distant
parts, or diverge from us in pursuits other than our own; although
remembrances of our times together are sacred and of sweet recalling,
too often they are of the past and renewal forever impossible.  The
friends of our books, however, are forever with us, they cannot die,
they cannot depart, they remain fresh and vigorous, hearty sojourners
upon our road, forever willing to lend a hand over the rocks and bumpy
places.  Without disparaging those with whom I sit before the fire, and
chat, and smoke, I must confess that I value equally with them the
friends of eternal character that exist there in the book-case.  They
lighten the path of life; they are ready for converse when my spirit

Go to the greatest books for your most enduring friends, but upon having
formed their friendship do not leave them in the study, but carry them
within your spirit to your business and the marts of men, and in holding
their confidences burning in your heart you will find yourself a more
thorough human being.

                              *CHAPTER IX*

                         *KEEPING UP WITH LIFE*

Reading is the key which admits us to the whole world of thought and
fancy and imagination, to the company of saint and sage, of the wisest
and wittiest at their wisest and wittiest moments.  It enables us to see
with the keenest eyes, to hear with the finest ears, and to listen to
the sweetest voices of all time.


If in the minds of some readers this little book has helped to break
down the futile distinctions and to show the real relation between the
man who reads and the one who enjoys life, between the thinker and the
man of action, it has done all that the author dared hope.  Let us look
upon our library not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end.  It
is a mistaken ambition to read as many books as possible within a year,
or to attempt religiously to read the complete works of a number of
authors.  The man who buries himself in his library and exists only in
the books therein is an unsocial, stagnant creature; but the one who
reads as a means of attaining to a more productive life among his fellow
men is the one who has gained the true riches of literature.

The world is a world for workers, not idlers.  We live in America in the
twentieth century, and we are of but little use to the general machinery
if our minds are forever sojourning with the mediæval knights or
gossiping in the by-ways of London with Charles Lamb and his
contemporaries. Literature for you and me who live, and toil, and hope
to obtain joy in the doing of it, must be vivifying nourishment to apply
to our living and toiling.  Great books and all true education provide
this nourishment or else they would not be worth the price of a comic

Poetry, fiction, philosophy and history are not alone for old maids and
retired business men who desire comforting, amusing solace to while away
the hours until the race is run, nor alone for college professors and
writers whose business it is to read, abstract, and judge,—they are
truly, have been, and always will be for the minds of men and women who
need and use the spirit of them in their work, their play, their
sorrows, and their joys.

When Francis Bacon wrote "Reading maketh a full man," he did not mean
"full" to imply a great accumulation of facts and dry-as-dust learning.
Bacon was a philosopher, scientist, essayist, of the first order in
each, and yet a leading statesman in his age.  His mind was "full" in
that he had probably as had no other man in England absorbed all the
literature and science of all the centuries that had preceded him; his
was the fulness of the reservoir from which could be drawn an endless
stream of resource with which to undertake new political enterprises, of
strength to maintain his position and of philosophy in the face of
losing it.  He was a literary man in that he knew the literature of the
world, a man of letters—he wrote masterpieces, a man of action—he
virtually ruled Great Britain.  This is the threefold thread of life
that we may all have as our ambition,—the connoisseur, the creative
artist, the productive worker.

After having considered the bearing the reading of books has upon life,
let us consider the bearing that living has upon reading and writing.
Elbert Hubbard carried out this thought in his little book upon William
Morris, the English poet.  Morris, as you may know, was a weaver, a
blacksmith, a wood-carver, a painter, a dyer, a printer, a furniture
manufacturer, a musician, and withal a great poet. Hubbard said:
"William Morris thought literature should be the product of the ripened
mind."  We have looked at Bacon as one whose literary output must have
been the product of a mind that had manfully grappled with worldly
affairs, and here is a further list that the Roycrofter gives us:
"Shakespeare was a theatre manager, Milton a secretary, Bobbie Burns a
farmer, Lamb a bookkeeper, Wordsworth a Government employee, Emerson a
lecturer, Hawthorne a custom-house inspector, and Whitman a clerk."

The professional man of letters, except in rather rare instances, is by
no means the man who erects the most enduring literary monuments.
Literature must come from elemental life to have the true relationship
to the affairs of men.  We could increase Elbert Hubbard’s list to an
almost indefinite length—the author of the Gettysburg address had the
weight of a nation upon his shoulders, Thoreau was more interested in
observing the changing seasons than he was in writing books, Tolstoy was
a soldier, an economist and farmer, Balzac an unsuccessful publisher,
Bunyan a preacher, Pepys a high government official, Oliver Wendell
Holmes a doctor, and countless novelists and poets of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries hard-working, hard-driven newspaper men.

Leisure does not make great literature,—all that is effective must come
from interior or exterior experiences, and acute observations.  The most
effectual reading is that which is done in the light of personal
experience, with one’s eye upon unliterary activity.  There is an
endless chain, of which the links are the subject, the artist, the
reader and his life as reflected by the author’s treatment.  To live in
a world of books and to have as their profession the spinning of other
volumes is the life of too many of our writers.  On the other side of
the shield, we of course see readers whose lives are entirely absorbed
in the volumes they read without an outlet to the practical activities
of existence. How tiresome it is to have a bustling man or woman tell us
that they have not the time or that they are not literary enough to read
great books. They of course, being good Americans, have plenty of time
to go through stacks of worthless novels, and absorb a half dozen
continuous serial stories in our monthly magazines.  I say it is
tiresome, and it is foolish, as with a moment’s thought we can realize
that books are essentially for the man or woman who is most deeply
immersed in life.

Break down the barrier between literature and life?—there is none!  I
have a certain friend who has more to do within the twenty-four hours of
the day than has anyone else I know. Politics, municipal corporations,
railroads—these are apparently his life—absorbed in men and affairs.
And yet if I run across a book that especially appeals to me, I go to
him and ask his ideas upon it.  He has probably read it and with his
greater experience in the actual turmoil of living than I have had, he
can enlighten me with a dozen new points of view upon the book under
consideration.  He interprets it in the light of his experience, as the
author had written in the light of his.

It was said that during President Wilson’s first winter in the White
House, society in Washington was much exercised as to how he passed his
evenings.  It later developed that those evenings in which he was not
absorbed in official business were spent in reading poetry, preferably
Wordsworth, to his family. Washington stood amazed!  Perhaps there is no
truth in this story, but the ingredients are certainly there, which, if
brought into conjunction, would make a true yarn.  The active helmsman
of the ship of state, with innumerable matters weighing upon him,
seeking wisdom and spiritual fibre from a great poet; Washington
society, without much to do, yet frightfully busy, amazed at his wasting
or dreamily passing his hours of possible recreation!

Many another great public man has well appreciated that books are not
for the closet but for life.  Theodore Roosevelt is the apostle of
strenuosity, statesman, ranchman, hunter, and yet a writer upon a wide
range of subjects and an omnivorous reader.  The plays of Shakespeare
were the school books and college education of our rail splitter,
Abraham Lincoln.  A great English liberal, Charles James Fox, would
charm the House of Commons for hours with his oratory, go to Brooks’ and
lose a fortune at cards, and then home to his bed to read the Plays of
Euripides,—probably to absorb wisdom and courage for his thinking and
gaming upon the following evening.  Of the men and women to whom books
mean life, we could go on with our list indefinitely, not only through
the ranks of kings and queens, soldiers and statesmen, financiers and
merchants, but sea captains, mechanics, farmers, clerks, and coal
miners.  In every walk of life we find the true philosophers, the true
adepts in the art of living, seeking sustenance from the printed page.

Go into a public library, and study the faces of those who are reading
there—ambition, inspiration, delight will be expressed by those who have
found _the open door_, the way to riches and plenty.  Observe the homes
of your acquaintances!  Cicero said that books are the soul of a room,
and we may expand this epigram in saying that the use of books in a
family brings all the members into a communion with each other, creating
an atmosphere far removed from that of the home in which books are
infrequent sojourners.

Oh no, it is not the professed gentleman of literature with the pedantic
knowledge and bookish phraseology, but the men and women who seek
explanation of and relief from sorrow, stimulus to higher attainment,
pleasure that mellows activity, to whom the authors are truly the path
of life.  Those whom you see on the elevated trains reading Shakespeare,
the ranchman with his pocket edition of Dickens, the country doctor who
hates to buy an automobile as when driving his old buggy he could read
his Boswell upon his round of visits,—they are the ones to whom the poet
can truly say,

    You will hardly know who I am, or what I mean;
    But I will be health to you nevertheless,
      And filter and fibre your blood.

You need never be afraid of becoming intellectual.  To be sure it is
somewhat the fashion in America to think that a man who reads Meredith
should be a college professor or the editor of a book review—but this is
only a fashion and held to by the most stupid.  It is smart to laugh at
good books and "culture," but it is the same sort of smartness at which
all Europe has been sensibly sneering for a century.  Reading should not
be a profession; those that make it such invariably become world weary,
book weary, at sea in an ocean in which life is necessarily a more vital
thing than they are able to swallow.  Do not give your life over to your
library, but make of it an electric battery with which to vivify life.
It can be done, and is done by the great and the little, the sorrowful
and the joyful, the leading warriors in the battle for civilized

Call upon the supreme minds of past ages to support you in the strife of
this and they will prove stalwart, faithful legions.  Read as is your
need and inclination; not as a duty, not as a feat, but as an
acknowledgment that you are glad to win the best and most helpful of
friends.  Aristotle said that all men desire knowledge.  If knowledge
means deeper human sympathy, a more profound enlightenment, a richer,
happier, more productive life, let each one of us admit that the
attainment of knowledge is in truth our endeavor.  Let us try the
experiment of finding this knowledge in the volumes of the deepest, the
most intensive livers.

Make the book you read to-day play a part in the world of to-morrow, and
you will rise above the reader in the closet who carps and criticizes,
thus cutting himself off from the work of men.  You will disprove all
statements about the lack of practicability of education, the
other-worldiness of books.

                     *      *      *      *      *

There was a boy who wandered out along an unknown highway into a far
country.  The way seemed sombre, foreign and meaningless.  His questions
were unanswered, his desires unsatisfied; there seemed no by-paths into
which he could turn in the hope of finding a solace or a reason for his

A never-ending vista without rhyme or reason lay before him of flat,
uninteresting solitudes, only broken by dark pits or rugged obstructions
which he had either to circle about or climb over or under.  They always
annoyed and provoked him, as there seemed no set plan for meeting such
difficulties, no apparent purpose in wandering on.  He knew, however,
that there was no turning back, he had to stagger, and stumble, and plod
forward, ever forward.

It was the way of life, and it was a meaningless road, a disappointing
journey undertaken with great expectations.

After a deal of suffering, impatience and profound discouragement, he
came upon a great Palace standing in his way.  It was the first that he
had ever seen, and he wondered at it.

With hesitancy he determined to walk about it and to follow the beaten
road, uninteresting but familiar, which he felt must stretch beyond. He
spied, however, a small door at the side of the great barred gate and he
determined to enter and to see what could be found within.  The panel
yielded to his timorous push, and he found himself in a mighty hall
where there were wondrous things!

Many another wanderer had already arrived, and many others were to
follow,—there was a happiness, a purpose, a vitality in life that had
been sadly lacking upon the road of his journeying.  Wisdom, riches, the
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                     *      *      *      *      *

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