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Title: The Complete Essays of Charles Dudley Warner
Author: Warner, Charles Dudley
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By Charles Dudley Warner






CONTENTS: (25 Short Studies)



The Drawer will still bet on the rose. This is not a wager, but only a
strong expression of opinion. The rose will win. It does not look so now.
To all appearances, this is the age of the chrysanthemum. What this gaudy
flower will be, daily expanding and varying to suit the whim of fashion,
no one can tell. It may be made to bloom like the cabbage; it may spread
out like an umbrella--it can never be large enough nor showy enough to
suit us. Undeniably it is very effective, especially in masses of
gorgeous color. In its innumerable shades and enlarging proportions, it
is a triumph of the gardener. It is a rival to the analine dyes and to
the marabout feathers. It goes along with all the conceits and fantastic
unrest of the decorative art. Indeed, but for the discovery of the
capacities of the chrysanthemum, modern life would have experienced a
fatal hitch in its development. It helps out our age of plush with a
flame of color. There is nothing shamefaced or retiring about it, and it
already takes all provinces for its own. One would be only
half-married--civilly, and not fashionably--without a chrysanthemum
wedding; and it lights the way to the tomb. The maiden wears a bunch of
it in her corsage in token of her blooming expectations, and the young
man flaunts it on his coat lapel in an effort to be at once effective and
in the mode. Young love that used to express its timid desire with the
violet, or, in its ardor, with the carnation, now seeks to bring its
emotions to light by the help of the chrysanthemum. And it can express
every shade of feeling, from the rich yellow of prosperous wooing to the
brick-colored weariness of life that is hardly distinguishable from the
liver complaint. It is a little stringy for a boutonniere, but it fills
the modern-trained eye as no other flower can fill it. We used to say
that a girl was as sweet as a rose; we have forgotten that language. We
used to call those tender additions to society, on the eve of their event
into that world which is always so eager to receive fresh young life,
“rose-buds”; we say now simply “buds,” but we mean chrysanthemum buds.
They are as beautiful as ever; they excite the same exquisite interest;
perhaps in their maiden hearts they are one or another variety of that
flower which bears such a sweet perfume in all literature; but can it
make no difference in character whether a young girl comes out into the
garish world as a rose or as a chrysanthemum? Is her life set to the note
of display, of color and show, with little sweetness, or to that retiring
modesty which needs a little encouragement before it fully reveals its
beauty and its perfume? If one were to pass his life in moving in a
palace car from one plush hotel to another, a bunch of chrysanthemums in
his hand would seem to be a good symbol of his life. There are aged
people who can remember that they used to choose various roses, as to
their color, odor, and degree of unfolding, to express the delicate
shades of advancing passion and of devotion. What can one do with this
new favorite? Is not a bunch of chrysanthemums a sort of
take-it-or-leave-it declaration, boldly and showily made, an offer
without discrimination, a tender without romance? A young man will catch
the whole family with this flaming message, but where is that sentiment
that once set the maiden heart in a flutter? Will she press a
chrysanthemum, and keep it till the faint perfume reminds her of the
sweetest moment of her life?

Are we exaggerating this astonishing rise, development, and spread of the
chrysanthemum? As a fashion it is not so extraordinary as the hoop-skirt,
or as the neck ruff, which is again rising as a background to the lovely
head. But the remarkable thing about it is that heretofore in all nations
and times, and in all changes of fashion in dress, the rose has held its
own as the queen of flowers and as the finest expression of sentiment.
But here comes a flaunting thing with no desirable perfume, looking as if
it were cut with scissors out of tissue-paper, but capable of taking
infinite varieties of color, and growing as big as a curtain tassel, that
literally captures the world, and spreads all over the globe, like the
Canada thistle. The florists have no eye for anything else, and the
biggest floral prizes are awarded for the production of its
eccentricities. Is the rage for this flower typical of this fast and
flaring age?

The Drawer is not an enemy to the chrysanthemum, nor to the sunflower,
nor to any other gorgeous production of nature. But it has an
old-fashioned love for the modest and unobtrusive virtues, and an abiding
faith that they will win over the strained and strident displays of life.
There is the violet: all efforts of cultivation fail to make it as big as
the peony, and it would be no more dear to the heart if it were
quadrupled in size. We do, indeed, know that satisfying beauty and
refinement are apt to escape us when we strive too much and force nature
into extraordinary display, and we know how difficult it is to get mere
bigness and show without vulgarity. Cultivation has its limits. After we
have produced it, we find that the biggest rose even is not the most
precious; and lovely as woman is, we instinctively in our admiration put
a limit to her size. There being, then, certain laws that ultimately
fetch us all up standing, so to speak, it does seem probable that the
chrysanthemum rage will end in a gorgeous sunset of its splendor; that
fashion will tire of it, and that the rose, with its secret heart of
love; the rose, with its exquisite form; the rose, with its capacity of
shyly and reluctantly unfolding its beauty; the rose, with that odor--of
the first garden exhaled and yet kept down through all the ages of sin
--will become again the fashion, and be more passionately admired for its
temporary banishment. Perhaps the poet will then come back again and
sing. What poet could now sing of the “awful chrysanthemum of dawn”?


The Drawer has no wish to make Lent easier for anybody, or rather to
diminish the benefit of the penitential season. But in this period of
human anxiety and repentance it must be said that not enough account is
made of the moral responsibility of Things. The doctrine is sound; the
only difficulty is in applying it. It can, however, be illustrated by a
little story, which is here confided to the reader in the same trust in
which it was received. There was once a lady, sober in mind and sedate in
manner, whose plain dress exactly represented her desire to be
inconspicuous, to do good, to improve every day of her life in actions
that should benefit her kind. She was a serious person, inclined to
improving conversation, to the reading of bound books that cost at least
a dollar and a half (fifteen cents of which she gladly contributed to the
author), and she had a distaste for the gay society which was mainly a
flutter of ribbons and talk and pretty faces; and when she meditated, as
she did in her spare moments, her heart was sore over the frivolity of
life and the emptiness of fashion. She longed to make the world better,
and without any priggishness she set it an example of simplicity and
sobriety, of cheerful acquiescence in plainness and inconspicuousness.

One day--it was in the autumn--this lady had occasion to buy a new hat.
From a great number offered to her she selected a red one with a dull red
plume. It did not agree with the rest of her apparel; it did not fit her
apparent character. What impulse led to this selection she could not
explain. She was not tired of being good, but something in the jauntiness
of the hat and the color pleased her. If it were a temptation, she did
not intend to yield to it, but she thought she would take the hat home
and try it. Perhaps her nature felt the need of a little warmth. The hat
pleased her still more when she got it home and put it on and surveyed
herself in the mirror. Indeed, there was a new expression in her face
that corresponded to the hat. She put it off and looked at it. There was
something almost humanly winning and temptatious in it. In short, she
kept it, and when she wore it abroad she was not conscious of its
incongruity to herself or to her dress, but of the incongruity of the
rest of her apparel to the hat, which seemed to have a sort of
intelligence of its own, at least a power of changing and conforming
things to itself. By degrees one article after another in the lady’s
wardrobe was laid aside, and another substituted for it that answered to
the demanding spirit of the hat. In a little while this plain lady was
not plain any more, but most gorgeously dressed, and possessed with the
desire to be in the height of the fashion. It came to this, that she had
a tea-gown made out of a window-curtain with a flamboyant pattern.
Solomon in all his glory would have been ashamed of himself in her

But this was not all. Her disposition, her ideas, her whole life, was
changed. She did not any more think of going about doing good, but of
amusing herself. She read nothing but stories in paper covers. In place
of being sedate and sober-minded, she was frivolous to excess; she spent
most of her time with women who liked to “frivol.” She kept Lent in the
most expensive way, so as to make the impression upon everybody that she
was better than the extremest kind of Lent. From liking the sedatest
company she passed to liking the gayest society and the most fashionable
method of getting rid of her time. Nothing whatever had happened to her,
and she is now an ornament to society.

This story is not an invention; it is a leaf out of life. If this lady
that autumn day had bought a plain bonnet she would have continued on in
her humble, sensible way of living. Clearly it was the hat that made the
woman, and not the woman the hat. She had no preconception of it; it
simply happened to her, like any accident--as if she had fallen and
sprained her ankle. Some people may say that she had in her a concealed
propensity for frivolity; but the hat cannot escape the moral
responsibility of calling it out if it really existed. The power of
things to change and create character is well attested. Men live up to or
live down to their clothes, which have a great moral influence on manner,
and even on conduct. There was a man run down almost to vagabondage,
owing to his increasingly shabby clothing, and he was only saved from
becoming a moral and physical wreck by a remnant of good-breeding in him
that kept his worn boots well polished. In time his boots brought up the
rest of his apparel and set him on his feet again. Then there is the
well-known example of the honest clerk on a small salary who was ruined
by the gift of a repeating watch--an expensive timepiece that required at
least ten thousand a year to sustain it: he is now in Canada.

Sometimes the influence of Things is good and sometimes it is bad. We
need a philosophy that shall tell us why it is one or the other, and fix
the responsibility where it belongs. It does no good, as people always
find out by reflex action, to kick an inanimate thing that has offended,
to smash a perverse watch with a hammer, to break a rocking-chair that
has a habit of tipping over backward. If Things are not actually
malicious, they seem to have a power of revenging themselves. We ought to
try to understand them better, and to be more aware of what they can do
to us. If the lady who bought the red hat could have known the hidden
nature of it, could have had a vision of herself as she was transformed
by it, she would as soon have taken a viper into her bosom as have placed
the red tempter on her head. Her whole previous life, her feeling of the
moment, show that it was not vanity that changed her, but the
inconsiderate association with a Thing that happened to strike her fancy,
and which seemed innocent. But no Thing is really powerless for good or


Have we yet hit upon the right idea of civilization? The process which
has been going on ever since the world began seems to have a defect in
it; strength, vital power, somehow escapes. When you’ve got a man
thoroughly civilized you cannot do anything more with him. And it is
worth reflection what we should do, what could we spend our energies on,
and what would evoke them, we who are both civilized and enlightened, if
all nations were civilized and the earth were entirely subdued. That is
to say, are not barbarism and vast regions of uncultivated land a
necessity of healthful life on this globe? We do not like to admit that
this process has its cycles, that nations and men, like trees and fruit,
grow, ripen, and then decay. The world has always had a conceit that the
globe could be made entirely habitable, and all over the home of a
society constantly growing better. In order to accomplish this we have
striven to eliminate barbarism in man and in nature:

Is there anything more unsatisfactory than a perfect house, perfect
grounds, perfect gardens, art and nature brought into the most absolute
harmony of taste and culture? What more can a man do with it? What
satisfaction has a man in it if he really gets to the end of his power to
improve it? There have been such nearly ideal places, and how strong
nature, always working against man and in the interest of untamed
wildness, likes to riot in them and reduce them to picturesque
destruction! And what sweet sadness, pathos, romantic suggestion, the
human mind finds in such a ruin! And a society that has attained its end
in all possible culture, entire refinement in manners, in tastes, in the
art of elegant intellectual and luxurious living--is there nothing
pathetic in that? Where is the primeval, heroic force that made the joy
of living in the rough old uncivilized days? Even throw in goodness, a
certain amount of altruism, gentleness, warm interest in unfortunate
humanity--is the situation much improved? London is probably the most
civilized centre the world has ever seen; there are gathered more of the
elements of that which we reckon the best. Where in history, unless some
one puts in a claim for the Frenchman, shall we find a Man so nearly
approaching the standard we have set up of civilization as the
Englishman, refined by inheritance and tradition, educated almost beyond
the disturbance of enthusiasm, and cultivated beyond the chance of
surprise? We are speaking of the highest type in manner, information,
training, in the acquisition of what the world has to give. Could these
men have conquered the world? Is it possible that our highest
civilization has lost something of the rough and admirable element that
we admire in the heroes of Homer and of Elizabeth? What is this London,
the most civilized city ever known? Why, a considerable part of its
population is more barbarous, more hopelessly barbarous, than any wild
race we know, because they are the barbarians of civilization, the refuse
and slag of it, if we dare say that of any humanity. More hopeless,
because the virility of savagery has measurably gone out of it. We can do
something with a degraded race of savages, if it has any stamina in it.
What can be done with those who are described as “East-Londoners”?

Every great city has enough of the same element. Is this an accident, or
is it a necessity of the refinement that we insist on calling
civilization? We are always sending out missionaries to savage or
perverted nations, we are always sending out emigrants to occupy and
reduce to order neglected territory. This is our main business. How would
it be if this business were really accomplished, and there were no more
peoples to teach our way of life to, and no more territory to bring under
productive cultivation? Without the necessity of putting forth this
energy, a survival of the original force in man, how long would our
civilization last? In a word, if the world were actually all civilized,
wouldn’t it be too weak even to ripen? And now, in the great centres,
where is accumulated most of that we value as the product of man’s best
efforts, is there strength enough to elevate the degraded humanity that
attends our highest cultivation? We have a gay confidence that we can do
something for Africa. Can we reform London and Paris and New York, which
our own hands have made?

If we cannot, where is the difficulty? Is this a hopeless world? Must it
always go on by spurts and relapses, alternate civilization and
barbarism, and the barbarism being necessary to keep us employed and
growing? Or is there some mistake about our ideal of civilization? Does
our process too much eliminate the rough vigor, courage, stamina of the
race? After a time do we just live, or try to live, on literature warmed
over, on pretty coloring and drawing instead of painting that stirs the
soul to the heroic facts and tragedies of life? Where did this virile,
blood-full, throbbing Russian literature come from; this Russian painting
of Verestchagin, that smites us like a sword with the consciousness of
the tremendous meaning of existence? Is there a barbaric force left in
the world that we have been daintily trying to cover and apologize for
and refine into gentle agreeableness?

These questions are too deep for these pages. Let us make the world
pleasant, and throw a cover over the refuse. We are doing very well, on
the whole, considering what we are and the materials we have to work on.
And we must not leave the world so perfectly civilized that the
inhabitants, two or three centuries ahead, will have nothing to do.


Of all the contrivances for amusement in this agreeable world the
“Reception” is the most ingenious, and would probably most excite the
wonder of an angel sent down to inspect our social life. If he should
pause at the entrance of the house where one is in progress, he would be
puzzled. The noise that would greet his ears is different from the deep
continuous roar in the streets, it is unlike the hum of millions of
seventeen-year locusts, it wants the musical quality of the spring
conventions of the blackbirds in the chestnuts, and he could not compare
it to the vociferation in a lunatic asylum, for that is really subdued
and infrequent. He might be incapable of analyzing this, but when he
caught sight of the company he would be compelled to recognize it as the
noise of our highest civilization. It may not be perfect, for there are
limits to human powers of endurance, but it is the best we can do. It is
not a chance affair. Here are selected, picked out by special invitation,
the best that society can show, the most intelligent, the most
accomplished, the most beautiful, the best dressed persons in the
community--all receptions have this character. The angel would notice
this at once, and he would be astonished at the number of such persons,
for the rooms would be so crowded that he would see the hopelessness of
attempting to edge or wedge his way through the throng without tearing
off his wings. An angel, in short, would stand no chance in one of these
brilliant assemblies on account of his wings, and he probably could not
be heard, on account of the low, heavenly pitch of his voice. His
inference would be that these people had been selected to come together
by reason of their superior power of screaming. He would be wrong.

--They are selected on account of their intelligence, agreeableness, and
power of entertaining each other. They come together, not for exercise,
but pleasure, and the more they crowd and jam and struggle, and the
louder they scream, the greater the pleasure. It is a kind of contest,
full of good-humor and excitement. The one that has the shrillest voice
and can scream the loudest is most successful. It would seem at first
that they are under a singular hallucination, imagining that the more
noise there is in the room the better each one can be heard, and so each
one continues to raise his or her voice in order to drown the other
voices. The secret of the game is to pitch the voice one or two octaves
above the ordinary tone. Some throats cannot stand this strain long; they
become rasped and sore, and the voices break; but this adds to the
excitement and enjoyment of those who can scream with less inconvenience.
The angel would notice that if at any time silence was called, in order
that an announcement of music could be made, in the awful hush that
followed people spoke to each other in their natural voices, and
everybody could be heard without effort. But this was not the object of
the Reception, and in a moment more the screaming would begin again, the
voices growing higher and higher, until, if the roof were taken off, one
vast shriek would go up to heaven.

This is not only a fashion, it is an art. People have to train for it,
and as it is a unique amusement, it is worth some trouble to be able to
succeed in it. Men, by reason of their stolidity and deeper voices, can
never be proficients in it; and they do not have so much practice--unless
they are stock-brokers. Ladies keep themselves in training in their
ordinary calls. If three or four meet in a drawing-room they all begin to
scream, not that they may be heard--for the higher they go the less they
understand each other--but simply to acquire the art of screaming at
receptions. If half a dozen ladies meeting by chance in a parlor should
converse quietly in their sweet, ordinary home tones, it might be in a
certain sense agreeable, but it would not be fashionable, and it would
not strike the prevailing note of our civilization. If it were true that
a group of women all like to talk at the same time when they meet (which
is a slander invented by men, who may be just as loquacious, but not so
limber-tongued and quick-witted), and raise their voices to a shriek in
order to dominate each other, it could be demonstrated that they would be
more readily heard if they all spoke in low tones. But the object is not
conversation; it is the social exhilaration that comes from the wild
exercise of the voice in working off a nervous energy; it is so seldom
that in her own house a lady gets a chance to scream.

The dinner-party, where there are ten or twelve at table, is a favorite
chance for this exercise. At a recent dinner, where there were a dozen
uncommonly intelligent people, all capable of the most entertaining
conversation, by some chance, or owing to some nervous condition, they
all began to speak in a high voice as soon as they were seated, and the
effect was that of a dynamite explosion. It was a cheerful babel of
indistinguishable noise, so loud and shrill and continuous that it was
absolutely impossible for two people seated on the opposite sides of the
table, and both shouting at each other, to catch an intelligible
sentence. This made a lively dinner. Everybody was animated, and if there
was no conversation, even between persons seated side by side, there was
a glorious clatter and roar; and when it was over, everybody was hoarse
and exhausted, and conscious that he had done his best in a high social

This topic is not the selection of the Drawer, the province of which is
to note, but not to criticise, the higher civilization. But the inquiry
has come from many cities, from many women, “Cannot something be done to
stop social screaming?” The question is referred to the scientific branch
of the Social Science Association. If it is a mere fashion, the
association can do nothing. But it might institute some practical
experiments. It might get together in a small room fifty people all let
loose in the ordinary screaming contest, measure the total volume of
noise and divide it by fifty, and ascertain how much throat power was
needed in one person to be audible to another three feet from the
latter’s ear. This would sift out the persons fit for such a contest. The
investigator might then call a dead silence in the assembly, and request
each person to talk in a natural voice, then divide the total noise as
before, and see what chance of being heard an ordinary individual had in
it. If it turned out in these circumstances that every person present
could speak with ease and hear perfectly what was said, then the order
might be given for the talk to go on in that tone, and that every person
who raised the voice and began to scream should be gagged and removed to
another room. In this room could be collected all the screamers to enjoy
their own powers. The same experiment might be tried at a dinner-party,
namely, to ascertain if the total hum of low voices in the natural key
would not be less for the individual voice to overcome than the total
scream of all the voices raised to a shriek. If scientific research
demonstrated the feasibility of speaking in an ordinary voice at
receptions, dinner-parties, and in “calls,” then the Drawer is of opinion
that intelligible and enjoyable conversation would be possible on these
occasions, if it becomes fashionable not to scream.


Is it true that cultivation, what we call refinement, kills
individuality? Or, worse than that even, that one loses his taste by
over-cultivation? Those persons are uninteresting, certainly, who have
gone so far in culture that they accept conventional standards supposed
to be correct, to which they refer everything, and by which they measure
everybody. Taste usually implies a sort of selection; the cultivated
taste of which we speak is merely a comparison, no longer an individual
preference or appreciation, but only a reference to the conventional and
accepted standard. When a man or woman has reached this stage of
propriety we are never curious any more concerning their opinions on any
subject. We know that the opinions expressed will not be theirs, evolved
out of their own feeling, but that they will be the cut-and-dried results
of conventionality.

It is doubtless a great comfort to a person to know exactly how to feel
and what to say in every new contingency, but whether the zest of life is
not dulled by this ability is a grave question, for it leaves no room for
surprise and little for emotion. O ye belles of Newport and of Bar
Harbor, in your correct and conventional agreement of what is proper and
agreeable, are you wasting your sweet lives by rule? Is your compact,
graceful, orderly society liable to be monotonous in its gay repetition
of the same thing week after week? Is there nothing outside of that
envied circle which you make so brilliant? Is the Atlantic shore the only
coast where beauty may lounge and spread its net of enchantment? The
Atlantic shore and Europe? Perhaps on the Pacific you might come back to
your original selves, and find again that freedom and that charm of
individuality that are so attractive. Some sparkling summer morning, if
you chanced to drive four-in-hand along the broad beach at Santa Barbara,
inhaling, the spicy breeze from the Sandwich Islands, along the curved
shore where the blue of the sea and the purple of the mountains remind
you of the Sorrentine promontory, and then dashed away into the canon of
Montecito, among the vineyards and orange orchards and live-oaks and
palms, in vales and hills all ablaze with roses and flowers of the garden
and the hothouse, which bloom the year round in the gracious sea-air,
would you not, we wonder, come to yourselves in the sense of a new life
where it is good form to be enthusiastic and not disgraceful to be
surprised? It is a far cry from Newport to Santa Barbara, and a whole
world of new sensations lies on the way, experiences for which you will
have no formula of experience. To take the journey is perhaps too heroic
treatment for the disease of conformity--the sort of malaria of our
exclusive civilization.

The Drawer is not urging this journey, nor any break-up of the social
order, for it knows how painful a return to individuality may be. It is
easier to go on in the subordination of one’s personality to the strictly
conventional life. It expects rather to record a continually perfected
machinery, a life in which not only speech but ideas are brought into
rule. We have had something to say occasionally of the art of
conversation, which is in danger of being lost in the confused babel of
the reception and the chatter of the dinner-party--the art of listening
and the art of talking both being lost. Society is taking alarm at this,
and the women as usual are leaders in a reform. Already, by reason of
clubs-literary, scientific, economic--woman is the well-informed part of
our society. In the “Conversation Lunch” this information is now brought
into use. The lunch, and perhaps the dinner, will no longer be the
occasion of satisfying the appetite or of gossip, but of improving talk.
The giver of the lunch will furnish the topic of conversation. Two
persons may not speak at once; two persons may not talk with each other;
all talk is to be general and on the topic assigned, and while one is
speaking, the others must listen. Perhaps each lady on taking her seat
may find in her napkin a written slip of paper which shall be the guide
to her remarks. Thus no time is to be wasted on frivolous topics. The
ordinary natural flow of rejoinder and repartee, the swirling of talk
around one obstacle and another, its winding and rippling here and there
as individual whim suggests, will not be allowed, but all will be
improving, and tend to that general culture of which we have been
speaking. The ladies’ lunch is not to be exactly a debating society, but
an open occasion for the delivery of matured thought and the acquisition
of information.

The object is not to talk each other down, but to improve the mind,
which, unguided, is apt to get frivolous at the convivial board. It is
notorious that men by themselves at lunch or dinner usually shun grave
topics and indulge in persiflage, and even descend to talk about wine and
the made dishes. The women’s lunch of this summer takes higher ground. It
will give Mr. Browning his final estimate; it will settle Mr. Ibsen; it
will determine the suffrage question; it will adjudicate between the
total abstainers and the halfway covenant of high license; it will not
hesitate to cut down the tariff.

The Drawer anticipates a period of repose in all our feverish social
life. We shall live more by rule and less by impulse. When we meet we
shall talk on set topics, determined beforehand. By this concentration we
shall be able as one man or one woman to reach the human limit of
cultivation, and get rid of all the aberrations of individual assertion
and feeling. By studying together in clubs, by conversing in monotone and
by rule, by thinking the same things and exchanging ideas until we have
none left, we shall come into that social placidity which is one dream of
the nationalists--one long step towards what may be called a prairie
mental condition--the slope of Kansas, where those who are five thousand
feet above the sea-level seem to be no higher than those who dwell in the
Missouri Valley.


We are all more or less devoted to ‘liberte’, ‘egalite’, and considerable
‘fraternite’, and we have various ways of showing it. It is the opinion
of many that women do not care much about politics, and that if they are
interested at all in them, they are by nature aristocrats. It is said,
indeed, that they care much more about their dress than they do about the
laws or the form of government. This notion arises from a misapprehension
both of the nature of woman and of the significance of dress.

Men have an idea that fashions are haphazard, and are dictated and guided
by no fixed principles of action, and represent no great currents in
politics or movements of the human mind. Women, who are exceedingly
subtle in all their operations, feel that it is otherwise. They have a
prescience of changes in the drift of public affairs, and a delicate
sensitiveness that causes them to adjust their raiment to express these
changes. Men have written a great deal in their bungling way about the
philosophy of clothes. Women exhibit it, and if we should study them more
and try to understand them instead of ridiculing their fashions as whims
bred of an inconstant mind and mere desire for change, we would have a
better apprehension of the great currents of modern political life and

Many observers are puzzled by the gradual and insidious return recently
to the mode of the Directoire, and can see in it no significance other
than weariness of some other mode. We need to recall the fact of the
influence of the centenary period upon the human mind. It is nearly a
century since the fashion of the Directoire. What more natural,
considering the evidence that we move in spirals, if not in circles, that
the signs of the anniversary of one of the most marked periods in history
should be shown in feminine apparel? It is woman’s way of hinting what is
in the air, the spirit that is abroad in the world. It will be remembered
that women took a prominent part in the destruction of the Bastile,
helping, indeed, to tear down that odious structure with their own hands,
the fall of which, it is well known, brought in the classic Greek and
republican simplicity, the subtle meaning of the change being expressed
in French gowns. Naturally there was a reaction from all this towards
aristocratic privileges and exclusiveness, which went on for many years,
until in France monarchy and empire followed the significant leadership
of the French modistes. So strong was this that it passed to other
countries, and in England the impulse outlasted even the Reform Bill, and
skirts grew more and more bulbous, until it did not need more than three
or four women to make a good-sized assembly. This was not the result of,
a whim about clothes, but a subtle recognition of a spirit of
exclusiveness and defense abroad in the world. Each woman became her own
Bastile. Men surrounded it and thundered against it without the least
effect. It seemed as permanent as the Pyramids. At every male attack it
expanded, and became more aggressive and took up more room. Women have
such an exquisite sense of things--just as they have now in regard to big
obstructive hats in the theatres. They know that most of the plays are
inferior and some of them are immoral, and they attend the theatres with
head-dresses that will prevent as many people as possible from seeing the
stage and being corrupted by anything that takes place on it. They object
to the men seeing some of the women who are now on the stage. It
happened, as to the private Bastiles, that the women at last recognized a
change in the sociological and political atmosphere of the world, and
without consulting any men of affairs or caring for their opinion, down
went the Bastiles. When women attacked them, in obedience to their
political instincts, they collapsed like punctured balloons. Natural
woman was measurably (that is, a capacity of being measured) restored to
the world. And we all remember the great political revolutionary
movements of 1848.

Now France is still the arbiter of the modes. Say what we may about
Berlin, copy their fashion plates as we will, or about London, or New
York, or Tokio, it is indisputable that the woman in any company who has
on a Paris gown--the expression is odious, but there is no other that in
these days would be comprehended--“takes the cake.” It is not that the
women care for this as a mere matter of apparel. But they are sensitive
to the political atmosphere, to the philosophical significance that it
has to great impending changes. We are approaching the centenary of the
fall of the Bastile. The French have no Bastile to lay low, nor, indeed,
any Tuileries to burn up; but perhaps they might get a good way ahead by
demolishing Notre Dame and reducing most of Paris to ashes. Apparently
they are on the eve of doing something. The women of the world may not
know what it is, but they feel the approaching recurrence of a period.
Their movements are not yet decisive. It is as yet only tentatively that
they adopt the mode of the Directoire. It is yet uncertain--a sort of
Boulangerism in dress. But if we watch it carefully we shall be able to
predict with some assurance the drift in Paris. The Directoire dress
points to another period of republican simplicity, anarchy, and the rule
of a popular despot.

It is a great pity, in view of this valuable instinct in women and the
prophetic significance of dress, that women in the United States do not
exercise their gifts with regard to their own country. We should then
know at any given time whether we are drifting into Blaineism, or
Clevelandism, or centralization, or free-trade, or extreme protection, or
rule by corporations. We boast greatly of our smartness. It is time we
were up and dressed to prove it.


There appears to be a great quantity of conceit around, especially
concerning women. The statement was recently set afloat that a well-known
lady had admitted that George Meredith understands women better than any
writer who has preceded him. This may be true, and it may be a wily
statement to again throw men off the track; at any rate it contains the
old assumption of a mystery, practically insoluble, about the gentler
sex. Women generally encourage this notion, and men by their gingerly
treatment of it seemed to accept it. But is it well-founded, is there any
more mystery about women--than about men? Is the feminine nature any more
difficult to understand than the masculine nature? Have women, conscious
of inferior strength, woven this notion of mystery about themselves as a
defense, or have men simply idealized them for fictitious purposes? To
recur to the case cited, is there any evidence that Mr. Meredith
understands human nature--as exhibited in women any better than human
nature--in men, or is more consistent in the production of one than of
the other? Historically it would be interesting to trace the rise of this
notion of woman as an enigma. The savage races do not appear to have it.
A woman to the North American Indian is a simple affair, dealt with
without circumlocution. In the Bible records there is not much mystery
about her; there are many tributes to her noble qualities, and some
pretty severe and uncomplimentary things are said about her, but there is
little affectation of not understanding her. She may be a prophetess, or
a consoler, or a snare, but she is no more “deceitful and desperately
wicked” than anybody else. There is nothing mysterious about her first
recorded performance. Eve trusted the serpent, and Adam trusted Eve. The
mystery was in the serpent. There is no evidence that the ancient
Egyptian woman was more difficult to comprehend than the Egyptian man.
They were both doubtless wily as highly civilized people are apt to be;
the “serpent of old Nile” was in them both. Is it in fact till we come to
mediaeval times, and the chivalric age, that women are set up as being
more incomprehensible than men? That is, less logical, more whimsical,
more uncertain in their mental processes? The play-writers and essayists
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries “worked” this notion
continually. They always took an investigating and speculating attitude
towards women, that fostered the conceit of their separateness and veiled
personality. Every woman was supposed to be playing a part behind a mask.
Montaigne is always investigating woman as a mystery. It is, for
instance, a mystery he does not relish that, as he says, women commonly
reserve the publication of their vehement affections for their husbands
till they have lost them; then the woful countenance “looks not so much
back as forward, and is intended rather to get a new husband than to
lament the old.” And he tells this story:

“When I was a boy, a very beautiful and virtuous lady who is yet living,
and the widow of a prince, had, I know not what, more ornament in her
dress than our laws of widowhood will well allow, which being reproached
with as a great indecency, she made answer ‘that it was because she was
not cultivating more friendships, and would never marry again.’” This
cynical view of woman, as well as the extravagantly complimentary one
sometimes taken by the poets, was based upon the notion that woman was an
unexplainable being. When she herself adopted the idea is uncertain. Of
course all this has a very practical bearing upon modern life, the
position of women in it, and the so-called reforms. If woman is so
different from man, to the extent of being an unexplainable mystery,
science ought to determine the exact state of the case, and ascertain if
there is any remedy for it. If it is only a literary creation, we ought
to know it. Science could tell, for instance, whether there is a
peculiarity in the nervous system, any complications in the nervous
centres, by which the telegraphic action of the will gets crossed, so
that, for example, in reply to a proposal of marriage, the intended “Yes”
 gets delivered as “No.” Is it true that the mental process in one sex is
intuitive, and in the other logical, with every link necessary and
visible? Is it true, as the romancers teach, that the mind in one sex
acts indirectly and in the other directly, or is this indirect process
only characteristic of exceptions in both sexes? Investigation ought to
find this out, so that we can adjust the fit occupations for both sexes
on a scientific basis. We are floundering about now in a sea of doubt. As
society becomes more complicated, women will become a greater and greater
mystery, or rather will be regarded so by themselves and be treated so by

Who can tell how much this notion of mystery in the sex stands in the way
of its free advancement all along the line? Suppose the proposal were
made to women to exchange being mysterious for the ballot? Would they do
it? Or have they a sense of power in the possession of this conceded
incomprehensibility that they would not lay down for any visible insignia
of that power? And if the novelists and essayists have raised a mist
about the sex, which it willingly masquerades in, is it not time that the
scientists should determine whether the mystery exists in nature or only
in the imagination?


The Drawer has never undervalued clothes. Whatever other heresies it may
have had, however it may have insisted that the more a woman learns, the
more she knows of books, the higher her education is carried in all the
knowledges, the more interesting she will be, not only for an hour, but
as a companion for life, it has never said that she is less attractive
when dressed with taste and according to the season. Love itself could
scarcely be expected to survive a winter hat worn after Easter. And the
philosophy of this is not on the surface, nor applicable to women only.
In this the highest of created things are under a law having a much wider
application. Take as an item novels, the works of fiction, which have
become an absolute necessity in the modern world, as necessary to divert
the mind loaded with care and under actual strain as to fill the vacancy
in otherwise idle brains. They have commonly a summer and a winter
apparel. The publishers understand this. As certainly as the birds
appear, comes the crop of summer novels, fluttering down upon the stalls,
in procession through the railway trains, littering the drawing-room
tables, in light paper, covers, ornamental, attractive in colors and
fanciful designs, as welcome and grateful as the girls in muslin. When
the thermometer is in the eighties, anything heavy and formidable is
distasteful. The housekeeper knows we want few solid dishes, but salads
and cooling drinks. The publisher knows that we want our literature (or
what passes for that) in light array. In the winter we prefer the boards
and the rich heavy binding, however light the tale may be; but in the
summer, though the fiction be as grave and tragic as wandering love and
bankruptcy, we would have it come to us lightly clad--out of stays, as it

It would hardly be worth while to refer to this taste in the apparel of
our fiction did it not have deep and esoteric suggestions, and could not
the novelists themselves get a hint from it. Is it realized how much
depends upon the clothes that are worn by the characters in the novels
--clothes put on not only to exhibit the inner life of the characters,
but to please the readers who are to associate with them? It is true that
there are novels that almost do away with the necessity of fashion
magazines and fashion plates in the family, so faithful are they in the
latest millinery details, and so fully do they satisfy the longing of all
of us to know what is chic for the moment. It is pretty well understood,
also, that women, and even men, are made to exhibit the deepest passions
and the tenderest emotions in the crises of their lives by the clothes
they put on. How the woman in such a crisis hesitates before her
wardrobe, and at last chooses just what will express her innermost
feeling! Does she dress for her lover as she dresses to receive her
lawyer who has come to inform her that she is living beyond her income?
Would not the lover be spared time and pain if he knew, as the novelist
knows, whether the young lady is dressing for a rejection or an
acceptance? Why does the lady intending suicide always throw on a
waterproof when she steals out of the house to drown herself? The
novelist knows the deep significance of every article of toilet, and
nature teaches him to array his characters for the summer novel in the
airy draperies suitable to the season. It is only good art that the cover
of the novel and the covers of the characters shall be in harmony. He
knows, also, that the characters in the winter novel must be adequately
protected. We speak, of course, of the season stories. Novels that are to
run through a year, or maybe many years, and are to set forth the
passions and trials of changing age and varying circumstance, require
different treatment and wider millinery knowledge. They are naturally
more expensive. The wardrobe required in an all-round novel would
bankrupt most of us.

But to confine ourselves to the season novel, it is strange that some one
has not invented the patent adjustable story that with a slight change
would do for summer or winter, following the broad hint of the
publishers, who hasten in May to throw whatever fiction they have on hand
into summer clothes. The winter novel, by this invention, could be easily
fitted for summer wear. All the novelist need do would be to change the
clothes of his characters. And in the autumn, if the novel proved
popular, he could change again, with the advantage of being in the latest
fashion. It would only be necessary to alter a few sentences in a few of
the stereotype pages. Of course this would make necessary other slight
alterations, for no kind-hearted writer would be cruel to his own
creations, and expose them to the vicissitudes of the seasons. He could
insert “rain” for “snow,” and “green leaves” for “skeleton branches,”
 make a few verbal changes of that sort, and regulate the thermometer. It
would cost very little to adjust the novel in this way to any season. It
is worth thinking of.

And this leads to a remark upon the shocking indifference of some
novelists to the ordinary comfort of their characters. In practical life
we cannot, but in his realm the novelist can, control the weather. He can
make it generally pleasant. We do not object to a terrific thunder-shower
now and then, as the sign of despair and a lost soul, but perpetual
drizzle and grayness and inclemency are tedious to the reader, who has
enough bad weather in his private experience. The English are greater
sinners in this respect than we are. They seem to take a brutal delight
in making it as unpleasant as possible for their fictitious people. There
is R--b--rt ‘lsm--r’, for example. External trouble is piled on to the
internal. The characters are in a perpetual soak. There is not a dry rag
on any of them, from the beginning of the book to the end. They are sent
out in all weathers, and are drenched every day. Often their wet clothes
are frozen on them; they are exposed to cutting winds and sleet in their
faces, bedrabbled in damp grass, stood against slippery fences, with hail
and frost lowering their vitality, and expected under these circumstances
to make love and be good Christians. Drenched and wind-blown for years,
that is what they are. It may be that this treatment has excited the
sympathy of the world, but is it legitimate? Has a novelist the right to
subject his creations to tortures that he would not dare to inflict upon
his friends? It is no excuse to say that this is normal English weather;
it is not the office of fiction to intensify and rub in the unavoidable
evils of life. The modern spirit of consideration for fictitious
characters that prevails with regard to dress ought to extend in a
reasonable degree to their weather. This is not a strained corollary to
the demand for an appropriately costumed novel.


It cannot for a moment be supposed that the Drawer would discourage
self-culture and refinement of manner and of speech. But it would not
hesitate to give a note of warning if it believed that the present
devotion to literature and the pursuits of the mind were likely, by the
highest authorities, to be considered bad form. In an intellectually
inclined city (not in the northeast) a club of ladies has been formed for
the cultivation of the broad ‘a’ in speech. Sporadic efforts have
hitherto been made for the proper treatment of this letter of the
alphabet with individual success, especially with those who have been in
England, or have known English men and women of the broad-gauge variety.
Discerning travelers have made the American pronunciation of the letter a
a reproach to the republic, that is to say, a means of distinguishing a
native of this country. The true American aspires to be cosmopolitan, and
does not want to be “spotted”--if that word may be used--in society by
any peculiarity of speech, that is, by any American peculiarity. Why, at
the bottom of the matter, a narrow ‘a’ should be a disgrace it is not
easy to see, but it needs no reason if fashion or authority condemns it.
This country is so spread out, without any social or literary centre
universally recognized as such, and the narrow ‘a’ has become so
prevalent, that even fashion finds it difficult to reform it. The best
people, who are determined to broaden all their ‘a’ ’s, will forget in
moments of excitement, and fall back into old habits. It requires
constant vigilance to keep the letter ‘a’ flattened out. It is in vain
that scholars have pointed out that in the use of this letter lies the
main difference between the English and the American speech; either
Americans generally do not care if this is the fact, or fashion can only
work a reform in a limited number of people. It seems, therefore,
necessary that there should be an organized effort to deal with this
pronunciation, and clubs will no doubt be formed all over the country, in
imitation of the one mentioned, until the broad a will become as common
as flies in summer. When this result is attained it will be time to
attack the sound of ‘u’ with clubs, and make universal the French sound.
In time the American pronunciation will become as superior to all others
as are the American sewing-machines and reapers. In the Broad A Club
every member who misbehaves--that is, mispronounces--is fined a nickel
for each offense. Of course in the beginning there is a good deal of
revenue from this source, but the revenue diminishes as the club
improves, so that we have the anomaly of its failure to be
self-supporting in proportion to its excellence. Just now if these clubs
could suddenly become universal, and the penalty be enforced, we could
have the means of paying off the national debt in a year.

We do not wish to attach too much importance to this movement, but rather
to suggest to a continent yearning for culture in letters and in speech
whether it may not be carried too far. The reader will remember that
there came a time in Athens when culture could mock at itself, and the
rest of the country may be warned in time of a possible departure from
good form in devotion to language and literature by the present attitude
of modern Athens. Probably there is no esoteric depth in literature or
religion, no refinement in intellectual luxury, that this favored city
has not sounded. It is certainly significant, therefore, when the
priestesses and devotees of mental superiority there turn upon it and
rend it, when they are heartily tired of the whole literary business.
There is always this danger when anything is passionately pursued as a
fashion, that it will one day cease to be the fashion. Plato and Buddha
and even Emerson become in time like a last season’s fashion plate. Even
a “friend of the spirit” will have to go. Culture is certain to mock
itself in time.

The clubs for the improvement of the mind--the female mind--and of
speech, which no doubt had their origin in modern Athens, should know,
then, that it is the highest mark of female culture now in that beautiful
town to despise culture, to affect the gayest and most joyous ignorance
--ignorance of books, of all forms of so-called intellectual development,
and all literary men, women, and productions whatsoever! This genuine
movement of freedom may be a real emancipation. If it should reach the
metropolis, what a relief it might bring to thousands who are, under a
high sense of duty, struggling to advance the intellectual life. There is
this to be said, however, that it is only the very brightest people,
those who have no need of culture, who have in fact passed beyond all
culture, who can take this position in regard to it, and actually revel
in the delights of ignorance. One must pass into a calm place when he is
beyond the desire to know anything or to do anything.

It is a chilling thought, unless one can rise to the highest philosophy
of life, that even the broad ‘a’, when it is attained, may not be a
permanence. Let it be common, and what distinction will there be in it?
When devotion to study, to the reading of books, to conversation on
improving topics, becomes a universal fashion, is it not evident that one
can only keep a leadership in fashion by throwing the whole thing
overboard, and going forward into the natural gayety of life, which cares
for none of these things? We suppose the Constitution of the United
States will stand if the day comes--nay, now is--when the women of
Chicago call the women of Boston frivolous, and the women of Boston know
their immense superiority and advancement in being so, but it would be a
blank surprise to the country generally to know that it was on the wrong
track. The fact is that culture in this country is full of surprises, and
so doubles and feints and comes back upon itself that the most diligent
recorder can scarcely note its changes. The Drawer can only warn; it
cannot advise.


No language that is unfortunately understood by the greater portion of
the people who speak English, thousands are saying on the first of
January--in 1890, a far-off date that it is wonderful any one has lived
to see--“Let us have a new deal!” It is a natural exclamation, and does
not necessarily mean any change of purpose. It always seems to a man that
if he could shuffle the cards he could increase his advantages in the
game of life, and, to continue the figure which needs so little
explanation, it usually appears to him that he could play anybody else’s
hand better than his own. In all the good resolutions of the new year,
then, it happens that perhaps the most sincere is the determination to
get a better hand. Many mistake this for repentance and an intention to
reform, when generally it is only the desire for a new shuffle of the
cards. Let us have a fresh pack and a new deal, and start fair. It seems
idle, therefore, for the moralist to indulge in a homily about annual
good intentions, and habits that ought to be dropped or acquired, on the
first of January. He can do little more than comment on the passing show.

It will be admitted that if the world at this date is not socially
reformed it is not the fault of the Drawer, and for the reason that it
has been not so much a critic as an explainer and encourager. It is in
the latter character that it undertakes to defend and justify a national
industry that has become very important within the past ten years. A
great deal of capital is invested in it, and millions of people are
actively employed in it. The varieties of chewing gum that are
manufactured would be a matter of surprise to those who have paid no
attention to the subject, and who may suppose that the millions of mouths
they see engaged in its mastication have a common and vulgar taste. From
the fact that it can be obtained at the apothecary’s, an impression has
got abroad that it is medicinal. This is not true. The medical profession
do not use it, and what distinguishes it from drugs-that they also do not
use--is the fact that they do not prescribe it. It is neither a narcotic
nor a stimulant. It cannot strictly be said to soothe or to excite. The
habit of using it differs totally from that of the chewing of tobacco or
the dipping of snuff. It might, by a purely mechanical operation, keep a
person awake, but no one could go to sleep chewing gum. It is in itself
neither tonic nor sedative. It is to be noticed also that the gum habit
differs from the tobacco habit in that the aromatic and elastic substance
is masticated, while the tobacco never is, and that the mastication leads
to nothing except more mastication. The task is one that can never be
finished. The amount of energy expended in this process if capitalized or
conserved would produce great results. Of course the individual does
little, but if the power evolved by the practice in a district school
could be utilized, it would suffice to run the kindergarten department.
The writer has seen a railway car--say in the West--filled with young
women, nearly every one of whose jaws and pretty mouths was engaged in
this pleasing occupation; and so much power was generated that it would,
if applied, have kept the car in motion if the steam had been shut
off--at least it would have furnished the motive for illuminating the car
by electricity.

This national industry is the subject of constant detraction, satire, and
ridicule by the newspaper press. This is because it is not understood,
and it may be because it is mainly a female accomplishment: the few men
who chew gum may be supposed to do so by reason of gallantry. There might
be no more sympathy with it in the press if the real reason for the
practice were understood, but it would be treated more respectfully. Some
have said that the practice arises from nervousness--the idle desire to
be busy without doing anything--and because it fills up the pauses of
vacuity in conversation. But this would not fully account for the
practice of it in solitude. Some have regarded it as in obedience to the
feminine instinct for the cultivation of patience and self-denial
--patience in a fruitless activity, and self-denial in the eternal act of
mastication without swallowing. It is no more related to these virtues
than it is to the habit of the reflective cow in chewing her cud. The cow
would never chew gum. The explanation is a more philosophical one, and
relates to a great modern social movement. It is to strengthen and
develop and make more masculine the lower jaw. The critic who says that
this is needless, that the inclination in women to talk would adequately
develop this, misses the point altogether. Even if it could be proved
that women are greater chatterers than men, the critic would gain
nothing. Women have talked freely since creation, but it remains true
that a heavy, strong lower jaw is a distinctively masculine
characteristic. It is remarked that if a woman has a strong lower jaw she
is like a man. Conversation does not create this difference, nor remove
it; for the development of a lower jaw in women constant mechanical
exercise of the muscles is needed. Now, a spirit of emancipation, of
emulation, is abroad, as it ought to be, for the regeneration of the
world. It is sometimes called the coming to the front of woman in every
act and occupation that used to belong almost exclusively to man. It is
not necessary to say a word to justify this. But it is often accompanied
by a misconception, namely, that it is necessary for woman to be like
man, not only in habits, but in certain physical characteristics. No
woman desires a beard, because a beard means care and trouble, and would
detract from feminine beauty, but to have a strong and, in appearance, a
resolute under-jaw may be considered a desirable note of masculinity, and
of masculine power and privilege, in the good time coming. Hence the
cultivation of it by the chewing of gum is a recognizable and reasonable
instinct, and the practice can be defended as neither a whim nor a vain
waste of energy and nervous force. In a generation or two it may be laid
aside as no longer necessary, or men may be compelled to resort to it to
preserve their supremacy.


It does not seem to be decided yet whether women are to take the Senate
or the House at Washington in the new development of what is called the
dual government. There are disadvantages in both. The members of the
Senate are so few that the women of the country would not be adequately
represented in it; and the Chamber in which the House meets is too large
for women to make speeches in with any pleasure to themselves or their
hearers. This last objection is, however, frivolous, for the speeches
will be printed in the Record; and it is as easy to count women on a vote
as men. There is nothing in the objection, either, that the Chamber would
need to be remodeled, and the smoking-rooms be turned into Day Nurseries.
The coming woman will not smoke, to be sure; neither will she, in coming
forward to take charge of the government, plead the Baby Act. Only those
women, we are told, would be elected to Congress whose age and position
enable them to devote themselves exclusively to politics. The question,
therefore, of taking to themselves the Senate or the House will be
decided by the women themselves upon other grounds--as to whether they
wish to take the initiative in legislation and hold the power of the
purse, or whether they prefer to act as a check, to exercise the high
treaty-making power, and to have a voice in selecting the women who shall
be sent to represent us abroad. Other things being equal, women will
naturally select the Upper House, and especially as that will give them
an opportunity to reject any but the most competent women for the Supreme
Bench. The irreverent scoffers at our Supreme Court have in the past
complained (though none do now) that there were “old women” in gowns on
the bench. There would be no complaint of the kind in the future. The
judges would be as pretty as those who assisted in the judgment of Paris,
with changed functions; there would be no monotony in the dress, and the
Supreme Bench would be one of the most attractive spectacles in
Washington. When the judges as well as the advocates are Portias, the law
will be an agreeable occupation.

This is, however, mere speculation. We do not understand that it is the
immediate purpose of women to take the whole government, though some
extravagant expectations are raised by the admission of new States that
are ruled by women. They may wish to divide--and conquer. One plan is,
instead of dual Chambers of opposite sexes, to mingle in both the Senate
and the House. And this is more likely to be the plan adopted, because
the revolution is not to be violent, and, indeed, cannot take place
without some readjustment of the home life. We have at present what
Charles Reade would have called only a right-handed civilization. To
speak metaphorically, men cannot use their left hands, or, to drop the
metaphor, before the government can be fully reorganized men must learn
to do women’s work. It may be a fair inference from this movement that
women intend to abandon the sacred principle of Home Rule. This
abandonment is foreshadowed in a recent election in a small Western city,
where the female voters made a clean sweep, elected an entire city
council of women and most of the other officers, including the police
judge and the mayor. The latter lady, by one of those intrusions of
nature which reform is not yet able to control, became a mother and a
mayor the same week. Her husband had been city clerk, and held over; but
fortunately an arrangement was made with him to stay at home and take
care of the baby, unofficially, while the mayor attends to her public
duties. Thus the city clerk will gradually be initiated into the duties
of home rule, and when the mayor is elected to Congress he will be ready
to accompany her to Washington and keep house. The imagination likes to
dwell upon this, for the new order is capable of infinite extension. When
the State takes care of all the children in government nurseries, and the
mayor has taken her place in the United States Senate, her husband, if he
has become sufficiently reformed and feminized, may go to the House, and
the reunited family of two, clubbing their salaries, can live in great

All this can be easily arranged, whether we are to have a dual government
of sexes or a mixed House and Senate. The real difficulty is about a
single Executive. Neither sex will be willing to yield to the other this
vast power. We might elect a man and wife President and Vice-President,
but the Vice-President, of whatever sex, could not well preside over the
Senate and in the White House at the same time. It is true that the
Constitution provides that the President and Vice-President shall not be
of the same State, but residence can be acquired to get over this as
easily as to obtain a divorce; and a Constitution that insists upon
speaking of the President as “he” is too antiquated to be respected. When
the President is a woman, it can matter little whether her husband or
some other woman presides in the Senate. Even the reformers will hardly
insist upon two Presidents in order to carry out the equality idea, so
that we are probably anticipating difficulties that will not occur in

The Drawer has only one more practical suggestion. As the right of voting
carries with it the right to hold any elective office, a great change
must take place in Washington life. Now for some years the divergence of
society and politics has been increasing at the capital. With women in
both Houses, and on the Supreme Bench, and at the heads of the
departments, social and political life will become one and the same
thing; receptions and afternoon teas will be held in the Senate and
House, and political caucuses in all the drawing-rooms. And then life
will begin to be interesting.


The shyness of man--meaning the “other sex” referred to in the woman’s
journals--has often been noticed in novels, and sometimes in real life.
This shyness is, however, so exceptional as to be suspicious. The shy
young man may provoke curiosity, but he does not always inspire respect.
Roughly estimated, shyness is not considered a manly quality, while it is
one of the most pleasing and attractive of the feminine traits, and there
is something pathetic in the expression “He is as shy as a girl;” it may
appeal for sympathy and the exercise of the protective instinct in women.
Unfortunately it is a little discredited, so many of the old plays
turning upon its assumption by young blades who are no better than they
should be.

What would be the effect upon the masculine character and comfort if this
shyness should become general, as it may in a contingency that is already
on the horizon? We refer, of course, to the suggestion, coming from
various quarters, that women should propose. The reasonableness of this
suggestion may not lie on the surface; it may not be deduced from the
uniform practice, beginning with the primitive men and women; it may not
be inferred from the open nature of the two sexes (for the sake of
argument two sexes must still be insisted on); but it is found in the
advanced civilization with which we are struggling. Why should not women
propose? Why should they be at a disadvantage in an affair which concerns
the happiness of the whole life? They have as much right to a choice as
men, and to an opportunity to exercise it. Why should they occupy a
negative position, and be restricted, in making the most important part
of their career, wholly to the choice implied in refusals? In fact,
marriage really concerns them more than it does men; they have to bear
the chief of its burdens. A wide and free choice for them would, then,
seem to be only fair. Undeniably a great many men are inattentive,
unobserving, immersed in some absorbing pursuit, undecided, and at times
bashful, and liable to fall into union with women who happen to be near
them, rather than with those who are conscious that they would make them
the better wives. Men, unaided by the finer feminine instincts of choice,
are so apt to be deceived. In fact, man’s inability to “match” anything
is notorious. If he cannot be trusted in the matter of worsted-work, why
should he have such distinctive liberty in the most important matter of
his life? Besides, there are many men--and some of the best who get into
a habit of not marrying at all, simply because the right woman has not
presented herself at the right time. Perhaps, if women had the open
privilege of selection, many a good fellow would be rescued from
miserable isolation, and perhaps also many a noble woman whom chance, or
a stationary position, or the inertia of the other sex, has left to bloom
alone, and waste her sweetness on relations, would be the centre of a
charming home, furnishing the finest spectacle seen in this uphill world
--a woman exercising gracious hospitality, and radiating to a circle far
beyond her home the influence of her civilizing personality. For,
notwithstanding all the centrifugal forces of this age, it is probable
that the home will continue to be the fulcrum on which women will move
the world.

It may be objected that it would be unfair to add this opportunity to the
already, overpowering attractions of woman, and that man would be put at
an immense disadvantage, since he might have too much gallantry, or not
enough presence of mind, to refuse a proposal squarely and fascinatingly
made, although his judgment scarcely consented, and his ability to
support a wife were more than doubtful. Women would need to exercise a
great deal of prudence and discretion, or there would be something like a
panic, and a cry along the male line of ‘Sauve qui peut’; for it is
matter of record that the bravest men will sometimes run away from danger
on a sudden impulse.

This prospective social revolution suggests many inquiries. What would be
the effect upon the female character and disposition of a possible,
though not probable, refusal, or of several refusals? Would she become
embittered and desperate, and act as foolishly as men often do? Would her
own sex be considerate, and give her a fair field if they saw she was
paying attention to a young man, or an old one? And what effect would
this change in relations have upon men? Would it not render that sporadic
shyness of which we have spoken epidemic? Would it frighten men,
rendering their position less stable in their own eyes, or would it
feminize them--that is, make them retiring, blushing, self-conscious
beings? And would this change be of any injury to them in their necessary
fight for existence in this pushing world? What would be the effect upon
courtship if both the men and the women approached each other as wooers?
In ordinary transactions one is a buyer and one is a seller--to put it
coarsely. If seller met seller and buyer met buyer, trade would languish.
But this figure cannot be continued, for there is no romance in a bargain
of any sort; and what we should most fear in a scientific age is the loss
of romance.

This is, however, mere speculation. The serious aspect of the proposed
change is the effect it will have upon the character of men, who are not
enough considered in any of these discussions. The revolution will be a
radical one in one respect. We may admit that in the future woman can
take care of herself, but how will it be with man, who has had little
disciplinary experience of adversity, simply because he has been
permitted to have his own way? Heretofore his life has had a stimulus.
When he proposes to a woman, he in fact says: “I am able to support you;
I am able to protect you from the rough usage of the world; I am strong
and ambitious, and eager to take upon myself the lovely bondage of this
responsibility. I offer you this love because I feel the courage and
responsibility of my position.” That is the manly part of it. What effect
will it have upon his character to be waiting round, unselected and
undecided, until some woman comes to him, and fixes her fascinating eyes
upon him, and says, in effect: “I can support you; I can defend you. Have
no fear of the future; I will be at once your shield and your backbone. I
take the responsibility of my choice.” There are a great many men now,
who have sneaked into their positions by a show of courage, who are
supported one way and another by women. It might be humiliating to know
just how many men live by the labors of their wives. And what would be
the effect upon the character of man if the choice, and the
responsibility of it, and the support implied by it in marriage, were
generally transferred to woman?


The condescension to literature and to the stage is one of the notable
characteristics of this agreeable time. We have to admit that literature
is rather the fashion, without the violent presumption that the author
and the writer have the same social position that is conferred by money,
or by the mysterious virtue there is in pedigree. A person does not lose
caste by using the pen, or even by taking the not-needed pay for using
it. To publish a book or to have an article accepted by a magazine may
give a sort of social distinction, either as an exhibition of a certain
unexpected capacity or a social eccentricity. It is hardly too much to
say that it has become the fashion to write, as it used to be to dance
the minuet well, or to use the broadsword, or to stand a gentlemanly mill
with a renowned bruiser. Of course one ought not to do this
professionally exactly, ought not to prepare for doing it by study and
severe discipline, by training for it as for a trade, but simply to toss
it off easily, as one makes a call, or pays a compliment, or drives
four-in-hand. One does not need to have that interior impulse which
drives a poor devil of an author to express himself, that something to
say which torments the poet into extreme irritability unless he can be
rid of it, that noble hunger for fame which comes from a consciousness of
the possession of vital thought and emotion.

The beauty of this condescension to literature of which we speak is that
it has that quality of spontaneity that does not presuppose either a
capacity or a call. There is no mystery about the craft. One resolves to
write a book, as he might to take a journey or to practice on the piano,
and the thing is done. Everybody can write, at least everybody does
write. It is a wonderful time for literature. The Queen of England writes
for it, the Queen of Roumania writes for it, the Shah of Persia writes
for it, Lady Brassey, the yachtswoman, wrote for it, Congressmen write
for it, peers write for it. The novel is the common recreation of ladies
of rank, and where is the young woman in this country who has not tried
her hand at a romance or made a cast at a popular magazine? The effect of
all this upon literature is expansive and joyous. Superstition about any
mystery in the art has nearly disappeared. It is a common observation
that if persons fail in everything else, if they are fit for nothing
else, they can at least write. It is such an easy occupation, and the
remuneration is in such disproportion to the expenditure! Isn’t it indeed
the golden era of letters? If only the letters were gold!

If there is any such thing remaining as a guild of authors, somewhere on
the back seats, witnessing this marvelous Kingdom Come of Literature,
there must also be a little bunch of actors, born for the stage, who see
with mixed feelings their arena taken possession of by fairer if not more
competent players. These players are not to be confounded with the
play-actors whom the Puritans denounced, nor with those trained to the
profession in the French capital.

In the United States and in England we are born to enter upon any
avocation, thank Heaven! without training for it. We have not in this
country any such obstacle to universal success as the Theatre Francais,
but Providence has given us, for wise purposes no doubt, Private
Theatricals (not always so private as they should be), which domesticate
the drama, and supply the stage with some of the most beautiful and best
dressed performers the world has ever seen. Whatever they may say of it,
it is a gallant and a susceptible age, and all men bow to loveliness, and
all women recognize a talent for clothes. We do not say that there is not
such a thing as dramatic art, and that there are not persons who need as
severe training before they attempt to personate nature in art as the
painter must undergo who attempts to transfer its features to his canvas.
But the taste of the age must be taken into account. The public does not
demand that an actor shall come in at a private door and climb a steep
staircase to get to the stage. When a Star from the Private Theatricals
descends upon the boards, with the arms of Venus and the throat of Juno,
and a wardrobe got out of Paris and through our stingy Custom-house in
forty trunks, the plodding actor, who has depended upon art, finds out,
what he has been all the time telling us, that all the world’s a stage,
and men and women merely players. Art is good in its way; but what about
a perfect figure? and is not dressing an art? Can training give one an
elegant form, and study command the services of a man milliner? The stage
is broadened out and re-enforced by a new element. What went ye out for
to see?

A person clad in fine raiment, to be sure. Some of the critics may growl
a little, and hint at the invasion of art by fashionable life, but the
editor, whose motto is that the newspaper is made for man, not man for
the newspaper, understands what is required in this inspiring histrionic
movement, and when a lovely woman condescends to step from the
drawing-room to the stage he confines his descriptions to her person, and
does not bother about her capacity; and instead of wearying us with a
list of her plays and performances, he gives us a column about her
dresses in beautiful language that shows us how closely allied poetry is
to tailoring. Can the lady act? Why, simpleminded, she has nearly a
hundred frocks, each one a dream, a conception of genius, a vaporous
idea, one might say, which will reveal more beauty than it hides, and
teach the spectator that art is simply nature adorned. Rachel in all her
glory was not adorned like one of these. We have changed all that. The
actress used to have a rehearsal. She now has an “opening.” Does it
require nowadays, then, no special talent or gift to go on the stage? No
more, we can assure our readers, than it does to write a book. But homely
people and poor people can write books. As yet they cannot act.


Christmas is supposed to be an altruistic festival. Then, if ever, we
allow ourselves to go out to others in sympathy expressed by gifts and
good wishes. Then self-forgetfulness in the happiness of others becomes a
temporary fashion. And we find--do we not?--the indulgence of the feeling
so remunerative that we wish there were other days set apart to it. We
can even understand those people who get a private satisfaction in being
good on other days besides Sunday. There is a common notion that this
Christmas altruistic sentiment is particularly shown towards the
unfortunate and the dependent by those more prosperous, and in what is
called a better social position. We are exhorted on this day to remember
the poor. We need to be reminded rather to remember the rich, the lonely,
not-easy-to-be-satisfied rich, whom we do not always have with us. The
Drawer never sees a very rich person that it does not long to give him
something, some token, the value of which is not estimated by its cost,
that should be a consoling evidence to him that he has not lost
sympathetic touch with ordinary humanity. There is a great deal of
sympathy afloat in the world, but it is especially shown downward in the
social scale. We treat our servants--supposing that we are society
--better than we treat each other. If we did not, they would leave us. We
are kinder to the unfortunate or the dependent than to each other, and we
have more charity for them.

The Drawer is not indulging in any indiscriminate railing at society.
There is society and society. There is that undefined something, more
like a machine than an aggregate of human sensibilities, which is set
going in a “season,” or at a watering-place, or permanently selects
itself for certain social manifestations. It is this that needs a
missionary to infuse into it sympathy and charity. If it were indeed a
machine and not made up of sensitive personalities, it would not be to
its members so selfish and cruel. It would be less an ambitious scramble
for place and favor, less remorseless towards the unsuccessful, not so
harsh and hard and supercilious. In short, it would be much more
agreeable if it extended to its own members something of the
consideration and sympathy that it gives to those it regards as its
inferiors. It seems to think that good-breeding and good form are
separable from kindliness and sympathy and helpfulness. Tender-hearted
and charitable enough all the individuals of this “society” are to
persons below them in fortune or position, let us allow, but how are they
to each other? Nothing can be ruder or less considerate of the feelings
of others than much of that which is called good society, and this is why
the Drawer desires to turn the altruistic sentiment of the world upon it
in this season, set apart by common consent for usefulness. Unfortunate
are the fortunate if they are lifted into a sphere which is sapless of
delicacy of feeling for its own. Is this an intangible matter? Take
hospitality, for instance. Does it consist in astonishing the invited, in
overwhelming him with a sense of your own wealth, or felicity, or family,
or cleverness even; in trying to absorb him in your concerns, your
successes, your possessions, in simply what interests you? However
delightful all these may be, it is an offense to his individuality to
insist that he shall admire at the point of the social bayonet. How do
you treat the stranger? Do you adapt yourself and your surroundings to
him, or insist that he shall adapt himself to you? How often does the
stranger, the guest, sit in helpless agony in your circle (all of whom
know each other) at table or in the drawing-room, isolated and separate,
because all the talk is local and personal, about your little world, and
the affairs of your clique, and your petty interests, in which he or she
cannot possibly join? Ah! the Sioux Indian would not be so cruel as that
to a guest. There is no more refined torture to a sensitive person than
that. Is it only thoughtlessness? It is more than that. It is a want of
sympathy of the heart, or it is a lack of intelligence and broad-minded
interest in affairs of the world and in other people. It is this
trait--absorption in self--pervading society more or less, that makes it
so unsatisfactory to most people in it. Just a want of human interest;
people do not come in contact.

Avid pursuit of wealth, or what is called pleasure, perhaps makes people
hard to each other, and infuses into the higher social life, which should
be the most unselfish and enjoyable life, a certain vulgarity, similar to
that noticed in well-bred tourists scrambling for the seats on top of a
mountain coach. A person of refinement and sensibility and intelligence,
cast into the company of the select, the country-house, the radiant,
twelve-button society, has been struck with infinite pity for it, and
asks the Drawer to do something about it. The Drawer cannot do anything
about it. It can only ask the prayers of all good people on Christmas Day
for the rich. As we said, we do not have them with us always--they are
here today, they are gone to Canada tomorrow. But this is, of course,
current facetiousness. The rich are as good as anybody else, according to
their lights, and if what is called society were as good and as kind to
itself as it is to the poor, it would be altogether enviable. We are not
of those who say that in this case, charity would cover a multitude of
sins, but a diffusion in society of the Christmas sentiment of goodwill
and kindliness to itself would tend to make universal the joy on the
return of this season.


The Drawer would like to emphasize the noble, self-sacrificing spirit of
American women. There are none like them in the world. They take up all
the burdens of artificial foreign usage, where social caste prevails, and
bear them with a heroism worthy of a worse cause. They indeed represent
these usages to be a burden almost intolerable, and yet they submit to
them with a grace and endurance all their own. Probably there is no
harder-worked person than a lady in the season, let us say in Washington,
where the etiquette of visiting is carried to a perfection that it does
not reach even in New York, Boston, or Philadelphia, and where woman’s
effort to keep the social fabric together requires more expenditure of
intellect and of physical force than was needed to protect the capital in
its peril a quarter of a century ago. When this cruel war is over, the
monument to the women who perished in it will need to be higher than that
to the Father of his Country. Merely in the item of keeping an account of
the visits paid and due, a woman needs a bookkeeper. Only to know the
etiquette of how and when and to whom and in what order the visits are to
be paid is to be well educated in a matter that assumes the first
importance in her life. This is, however, only a detail of bookkeeping
and of memory; to pay and receive, or evade, these visits of ceremony is
a work which men can admire without the power to imitate; even on the
supposition that a woman has nothing else to do, it calls for our humble
gratitude and a recognition of the largeness of nature that can put aside
any duties to husband or children in devotion to the public welfare. The
futile round of society life while it lasts admits of no rival. It seems
as important as the affairs of the government. The Drawer is far from
saying that it is not. Perhaps no one can tell what confusion would fall
into all the political relations if the social relations of the capital
were not kept oiled by the system of exchange of fictitious courtesies
among the women; and it may be true that society at large--men are so
apt, when left alone, to relapse--would fall into barbarism if our
pasteboard conventions were neglected. All honor to the self-sacrifice of

What a beautiful civilization ours is, supposed to be growing in
intelligence and simplicity, and yet voluntarily taking upon itself this
artificial burden in an already overtaxed life! The angels in heaven must
admire and wonder. The cynic wants to know what is gained for any
rational being when a city-full of women undertake to make and receive
formal visits with persons whom for the most part they do not wish to
see. What is gained, he asks, by leaving cards with all these people and
receiving their cards? When a woman makes her tedious rounds, why is she
always relieved to find people not in? When she can count upon her ten
fingers the people she wants to see, why should she pretend to want to
see the others? Is any one deceived by it? Does anybody regard it as
anything but a sham and a burden? Much the cynic knows about it! Is it
not necessary to keep up what is called society? Is it not necessary to
have an authentic list of pasteboard acquaintances to invite to the
receptions? And what would become of us without Receptions? Everybody
likes to give them. Everybody flocks to them with much alacrity. When
society calls the roll, we all know the penalty of being left out. Is
there any intellectual or physical pleasure equal to that of jamming so
many people into a house that they can hardly move, and treating them to
a Babel of noises in which no one can make herself heard without
screaming? There is nothing like a reception in any uncivilized country.
It is so exhilarating! When a dozen or a hundred people are gathered
together in a room, they all begin to raise their voices and to shout
like pool-sellers in the noble rivalry of “warious langwidges,” rasping
their throats into bronchitis in the bidding of the conversational ring.
If they spoke low, or even in the ordinary tone, conversation would be
possible. But then it would not be a reception, as we understand it. We
cannot neglect anywhere any of the pleasures of our social life. We train
for it in lower assemblies. Half a dozen women in a “call” are obliged to
shout, just for practice, so that they can be heard by everybody in the
neighborhood except themselves. Do not men do the same? If they do, it
only shows that men also are capable of the higher civilization.

But does society--that is, the intercourse of congenial people--depend
upon the elaborate system of exchanging calls with hundreds of people who
are not congenial? Such thoughts will sometimes come by a winter fireside
of rational-talking friends, or at a dinner-party not too large for talk
without a telephone, or in the summer-time by the sea, or in the cottage
in the hills, when the fever of social life has got down to a normal
temperature. We fancy that sometimes people will give way to a real
enjoyment of life and that human intercourse will throw off this
artificial and wearisome parade, and that if women look back with pride,
as they may, upon their personal achievements and labors, they will also
regard them with astonishment. Women, we read every day, long for the
rights and privileges of men, and the education and serious purpose in
life of men. And yet, such is the sweet self-sacrifice of their nature,
they voluntarily take on burdens which men have never assumed, and which
they would speedily cast off if they had. What should we say of men if
they consumed half their time in paying formal calls upon each other
merely for the sake of paying calls, and were low-spirited if they did
not receive as many cards as they had dealt out to society? Have they not
the time? Have women more time? and if they have, why should they spend
it in this Sisyphus task? Would the social machine go to pieces--the
inquiry is made in good faith, and solely for information--if they made
rational business for themselves to be attended to, or even if they gave
the time now given to calls they hate to reading and study, and to making
their household civilizing centres of intercourse and enjoyment, and paid
visits from some other motive than “clearing off their list”? If all the
artificial round of calls and cards should tumble down, what valuable
thing would be lost out of anybody’s life?

The question is too vast for the Drawer, but as an experiment in
sociology it would like to see the system in abeyance for one season. If
at the end of it there had not been just as much social enjoyment as
before, and there were not fewer women than usual down with nervous
prostration, it would agree to start at its own expense a new experiment,
to wit, a kind of Social Clearing-House, in which all cards should be
delivered and exchanged, and all social debts of this kind be balanced by
experienced bookkeepers, so that the reputation of everybody for
propriety and conventionality should be just as good as it is now.


Many people suppose that it is the easiest thing in the world to dine if
you can get plenty to eat. This error is the foundation of much social
misery. The world that never dines, and fancies it has a grievance
justifying anarchy on that account, does not know how much misery it
escapes. A great deal has been written about the art of dining. From time
to time geniuses have appeared who knew how to compose a dinner; indeed,
the art of doing it can be learned, as well as the art of cooking and
serving it. It is often possible, also, under extraordinarily favorable
conditions, to select a company congenial and varied and harmonious
enough to dine together successfully. The tact for getting the right
people together is perhaps rarer than the art of composing the dinner.
But it exists. And an elegant table with a handsome and brilliant company
about it is a common conjunction in this country. Instructions are not
wanting as to the shape of the table and the size of the party; it is
universally admitted that the number must be small. The big
dinner-parties which are commonly made to pay off social debts are
generally of the sort that one would rather contribute to in money than
in personal attendance. When the dinner is treated as a means of
discharging obligations, it loses all character, and becomes one of the
social inflictions. While there is nothing in social intercourse so
agreeable and inspiring as a dinner of the right sort, society has
invented no infliction equal to a large dinner that does not “go,” as the
phrase is. Why it does not go when the viands are good and the company is
bright is one of the acknowledged mysteries.

There need be no mystery about it. The social instinct and the social
habit are wanting to a great many people of uncommon intelligence and
cultivation--that sort of flexibility or adaptability that makes
agreeable society. But this even does not account for the failure of so
many promising dinners. The secret of this failure always is that the
conversation is not general. The sole object of the dinner is talk--at
least in the United States, where “good eating” is pretty common, however
it may be in England, whence come rumors occasionally of accomplished men
who decline to be interrupted by the frivolity of talk upon the
appearance of favorite dishes. And private talk at a table is not the
sort that saves a dinner; however good it is, it always kills it. The
chance of arrangement is that the people who would like to talk together
are not neighbors; and if they are, they exhaust each other to weariness
in an hour, at least of topics which can be talked about with the risk of
being overheard. A duet to be agreeable must be to a certain extent
confidential, and the dinner-table duet admits of little except
generalities, and generalities between two have their limits of
entertainment. Then there is the awful possibility that the neighbors at
table may have nothing to say to each other; and in the best-selected
company one may sit beside a stupid man--that is, stupid for the purpose
of a ‘tete-a-tete’. But this is not the worst of it. No one can talk well
without an audience; no one is stimulated to say bright things except by
the attention and questioning and interest of other minds. There is
little inspiration in side talk to one or two. Nobody ought to go to a
dinner who is not a good listener, and, if possible, an intelligent one.
To listen with a show of intelligence is a great accomplishment. It is
not absolutely essential that there should be a great talker or a number
of good talkers at a dinner if all are good listeners, and able to “chip
in” a little to the general talk that springs up. For the success of the
dinner does not necessarily depend upon the talk being brilliant, but it
does depend upon its being general, upon keeping the ball rolling round
the table; the old-fashioned game becomes flat when the balls all
disappear into private pockets. There are dinners where the object seems
to be to pocket all the balls as speedily as possible. We have learned
that that is not the best game; the best game is when you not only depend
on the carom, but in going to the cushion before you carom; that is to
say, including the whole table, and making things lively. The hostess
succeeds who is able to excite this general play of all the forces at the
table, even using the silent but not non-elastic material as cushions, if
one may continue the figure. Is not this, O brothers and sisters, an evil
under the sun, this dinner as it is apt to be conducted? Think of the
weary hours you have given to a rite that should be the highest social
pleasure! How often when a topic is started that promises well, and might
come to something in a general exchange of wit and fancy, and some one
begins to speak on it, and speak very well, too, have you not had a lady
at your side cut in and give you her views on it--views that might be
amusing if thrown out into the discussion, but which are simply
impertinent as an interruption! How often when you have tried to get a
“rise” out of somebody opposite have you not had your neighbor cut in
across you with some private depressing observation to your next
neighbor! Private talk at a dinner-table is like private chat at a parlor
musicale, only it is more fatal to the general enjoyment. There is a
notion that the art of conversation, the ability to talk well, has gone
out. That is a great mistake. Opportunity is all that is needed. There
must be the inspiration of the clash of minds and the encouragement of
good listening. In an evening round the fire, when couples begin, to
whisper or talk low to each other, it is time to put out the lights.
Inspiring interest is gone. The most brilliant talker in the world is
dumb. People whose idea of a dinner is private talk between
seat-neighbors should limit the company to two. They have no right to
spoil what can be the most agreeable social institution that civilization
has evolved.


Is it possible for a person to be entirely naturalized?--that is, to be
denationalized, to cast off the prejudice and traditions of one country
and take up those of another; to give up what may be called the
instinctive tendencies of one race and take up those of another. It is
easy enough to swear off allegiance to a sovereign or a government, and
to take on in intention new political obligations, but to separate one’s
self from the sympathies into which he was born is quite another affair.
One is likely to remain in the inmost recesses of his heart an alien, and
as a final expression of his feeling to hoist the green flag, or the
dragon, or the cross of St. George. Probably no other sentiment is, so
strong in a man as that of attachment to his own soil and people, a
sub-sentiment always remaining, whatever new and unbreakable attachments
he may form. One can be very proud of his adopted country, and brag for
it, and fight for it; but lying deep in a man’s nature is something, no
doubt, that no oath nor material interest can change, and that is never
naturalized. We see this experiment in America more than anywhere else,
because here meet more different races than anywhere else with the
serious intention of changing their nationality. And we have a notion
that there is something in our atmosphere, or opportunities, or our
government, that makes this change more natural and reasonable than it
has been anywhere else in history. It is always a surprise to us when a
born citizen of the United States changes his allegiance, but it seems a
thing of course that a person of any other country should, by an oath,
become a good American, and we expect that the act will work a sudden
change in him equal to that wrought in a man by what used to be called a
conviction of sin. We expect that he will not only come into our family,
but that he will at once assume all its traditions and dislikes, that
whatever may have been his institutions or his race quarrels, the moving
influence of his life hereafter will be the “Spirit of ‘76.”

What is this naturalization, however, but a sort of parable of human
life? Are we not always trying to adjust ourselves to new relations, to
get naturalized into a new family? Does one ever do it entirely? And how
much of the lonesomeness of life comes from the failure to do it! It is a
tremendous experiment, we all admit, to separate a person from his race,
from his country, from his climate, and the habits of his part of the
country, by marriage; it is only an experiment differing in degree to
introduce him by marriage into a new circle of kinsfolk. Is he ever
anything but a sort of tolerated, criticised, or admired alien? Does the
time ever come when the distinction ceases between his family and hers?
They say love is stronger than death. It may also be stronger than
family--while it lasts; but was there ever a woman yet whose most
ineradicable feeling was not the sentiment of family and blood, a sort of
base-line in life upon which trouble and disaster always throw her back?
Does she ever lose the instinct of it? We used to say in jest that a
patriotic man was always willing to sacrifice his wife’s relations in
war; but his wife took a different view of it; and when it becomes a
question of office, is it not the wife’s relations who get them? To be
sure, Ruth said, thy people shall be my people, and where thou goest I
will go, and all that, and this beautiful sentiment has touched all time,
and man has got the historic notion that he is the head of things. But is
it true that a woman is ever really naturalized? Is it in her nature to
be? Love will carry her a great way, and to far countries, and to many
endurances, and her capacity of self-sacrifice is greater than man’s; but
would she ever be entirely happy torn from her kindred, transplanted from
the associations and interlacings of her family life? Does anything
really take the place of that entire ease and confidence that one has in
kin, or the inborn longing for their sympathy and society? There are two
theories about life, as about naturalization: one is that love is enough,
that intention is enough; the other is that the whole circle of human
relations and attachments is to be considered in a marriage, and that in
the long-run the question of family is a preponderating one. Does the
gate of divorce open more frequently from following the one theory than
the other? If we were to adopt the notion that marriage is really a
tremendous act of naturalization, of absolute surrender on one side or
the other of the deepest sentiments and hereditary tendencies, would
there be so many hasty marriages--slip-knots tied by one justice to be
undone by another? The Drawer did not intend to start such a deep
question as this. Hosts of people are yearly naturalized in this country,
not from any love of its institutions, but because they can more easily
get a living here, and they really surrender none of their hereditary
ideas, and it is only human nature that marriages should be made with
like purpose and like reservations. These reservations do not, however,
make the best citizens or the most happy marriages. Would it be any
better if country lines were obliterated, and the great brotherhood of
peoples were established, and there was no such thing as patriotism or
family, and marriage were as free to make and unmake as some people think
it should be? Very likely, if we could radically change human nature. But
human nature is the most obstinate thing that the International
Conventions have to deal with.


He was saying, when he awoke one morning, “I wish I were governor of a
small island, and had nothing to do but to get up and govern.” It was an
observation quite worthy of him, and one of general application, for
there are many men who find it very difficult to get a living on their
own resources, to whom it would be comparatively easy to be a very fair
sort of governor. Everybody who has no official position or routine duty
on a salary knows that the most trying moment in the twenty-four hours is
that in which he emerges from the oblivion of sleep and faces life.
Everything perplexing tumbles in upon him, all the possible vexations of
the day rise up before him, and he is little less than a hero if he gets
up cheerful.

It is not to be wondered at that people crave office, some salaried
position, in order to escape the anxieties, the personal
responsibilities, of a single-handed struggle with the world. It must be
much easier to govern an island than to carry on almost any retail
business. When the governor wakes in the morning he thinks first of his
salary; he has not the least anxiety about his daily bread or the support
of his family. His business is all laid out for him; he has not to create
it. Business comes to him; he does not have to drum for it. His day is
agreeably, even if sympathetically, occupied with the troubles of other
people, and nothing is so easy to bear as the troubles of other people.
After he has had his breakfast, and read over the “Constitution,” he has
nothing to do but to “govern” for a few hours, that is, to decide about
things on general principles, and with little personal application, and
perhaps about large concerns which nobody knows anything about, and which
are much easier to dispose of than the perplexing details of private
life. He has to vote several times a day; for giving a decision is really
casting a vote; but that is much easier than to scratch around in all the
anxieties of a retail business. Many men who would make very respectable
Presidents of the United States could not successfully run a retail
grocery store. The anxieties of the grocery would wear them out. For
consider the varied ability that the grocery requires-the foresight about
the markets, to take advantage of an eighth per cent. off or on here and
there; the vigilance required to keep a “full line” and not overstock, to
dispose of goods before they spoil or the popular taste changes; the
suavity and integrity and duplicity and fairness and adaptability needed
to get customers and keep them; the power to bear the daily and hourly
worry; the courage to face the ever-present spectre of “failure,” which
is said to come upon ninety merchants in a hundred; the tact needed to
meet the whims and the complaints of patrons, and the difficulty of
getting the patrons who grumble most to pay in order to satisfy the
creditors. When the retail grocer wakens in the morning he feels that his
business is not going to come to him spontaneously; he thinks of his
rivals, of his perilous stock, of his debts and delinquent customers. He
has no “Constitution” to go by, nothing but his wits and energy to set
against the world that day, and every day the struggle and the anxiety
are the same. What a number of details he has to carry in his head
(consider, for instance, how many different kinds of cheese there are,
and how different people hate and love the same kind), and how keen must
be his appreciation of the popular taste. The complexities and annoyances
of his business are excessive, and he cannot afford to make many
mistakes; if he does he will lose his business, and when a man fails in
business (honestly), he loses his nerve, and his career is ended. It is
simply amazing, when you consider it, the amount of talent shown in what
are called the ordinary businesses of life.

It has been often remarked with how little wisdom the world is governed.
That is the reason it is so easy to govern. “Uneasy lies the head that
wears a crown” does not refer to the discomfort of wearing it, but to the
danger of losing it, and of being put back upon one’s native resources,
having to run a grocery or to keep school. Nobody is in such a pitiable
plight as a monarch or politician out of business. It is very difficult
for either to get a living. A man who has once enjoyed the blessed
feeling of awaking every morning with the thought that he has a certain
salary despises the idea of having to drum up a business by his own
talents. It does not disturb the waking hour at all to think that a
deputation is waiting in the next room about a post-office in Indiana or
about the codfish in Newfoundland waters--the man can take a second nap
on any such affair; but if he knows that the living of himself and family
that day depends upon his activity and intelligence, uneasy lies his
head. There is something so restful and easy about public business! It is
so simple! Take the average Congressman. The Secretary of the Treasury
sends in an elaborate report--a budget, in fact--involving a complete and
harmonious scheme of revenue and expenditure. Must the Congressman read
it? No; it is not necessary to do that; he only cares for practical
measures. Or a financial bill is brought in. Does he study that bill? He
hears it read, at least by title. Does he take pains to inform himself by
reading and conversation with experts upon its probable effect? Or an
international copyright law is proposed, a measure that will relieve the
people of the United States from the world-wide reputation of sneaking
meanness towards foreign authors. Does he examine the subject, and try to
understand it? That is not necessary. Or it is a question of tariff. He
is to vote “yes” or “no” on these proposals. It is not necessary for him
to master these subjects, but it is necessary for him to know how to
vote. And how does he find out that? In the first place, by inquiring
what effect the measure will have upon the chance of election of the man
he thinks will be nominated for President, and in the second place, what
effect his vote will have on his own reelection. Thus the principles of
legislation become very much simplified, and thus it happens that it is
comparatively so much easier to govern than it is to run a grocery store.


It is fortunate that a passion for display is implanted in human nature;
and if we owe a debt of gratitude to anybody, it is to those who make the
display for us. It would be such a dull, colorless world without it! We
try in vain to imagine a city without brass bands, and military
marchings, and processions of societies in regalia and banners and
resplendent uniforms, and gayly caparisoned horses, and men clad in red
and yellow and blue and gray and gold and silver and feathers, moving in
beautiful lines, proudly wheeling with step elate upon some responsive
human being as axis, deploying, opening, and closing ranks in exquisite
precision to the strains of martial music, to the thump of the drum and
the scream of the fife, going away down the street with nodding plumes,
heads erect, the very port of heroism. There is scarcely anything in the
world so inspiring as that. And the self-sacrifice of it! What will not
men do and endure to gratify their fellows! And in the heat of summer,
too, when most we need something to cheer us! The Drawer saw, with
feelings that cannot be explained, a noble company of men, the pride of
their city, all large men, all fat men, all dressed alike, but each one
as beautiful as anything that can be seen on the stage, perspiring
through the gala streets of another distant city, the admiration of
crowds of huzzaing men and women and boys, following another company as
resplendent as itself, every man bearing himself like a hero, despising
the heat and the dust, conscious only of doing his duty. We make a great
mistake if we suppose it is a feeling of ferocity that sets these men
tramping about in gorgeous uniform, in mud or dust, in rain or under a
broiling sun. They have no desire to kill anybody. Out of these
resplendent clothes they are much like other people; only they have a
nobler spirit, that which leads them to endure hardships for the sake of
pleasing others. They differ in degree, though not in kind, from those
orders, for keeping secrets, or for encouraging a distaste for strong
drink, which also wear bright and attractive regalia, and go about in
processions, with banners and music, and a pomp that cannot be
distinguished at a distance from real war. It is very fortunate that men
do like to march about in ranks and lines, even without any
distinguishing apparel. The Drawer has seen hundreds of citizens in a
body, going about the country on an excursion, parading through town
after town, with no other distinction of dress than a uniform high white
hat, who carried joy and delight wherever they went. The good of this
display cannot be reckoned in figures. Even a funeral is comparatively
dull without the military band and the four-and-four processions, and the
cities where these resplendent corteges of woes are of daily occurrence
are cheerful cities. The brass band itself, when we consider it
philosophically, is one of the most striking things in our civilization.
We admire its commonly splendid clothes, its drums and cymbals and
braying brass, but it is the impartial spirit with which it lends itself
to our varying wants that distinguishes it. It will not do to say that it
has no principles, for nobody has so many, or is so impartial in
exercising them. It is equally ready to play at a festival or a funeral,
a picnic or an encampment, for the sons of war or the sons of temperance,
and it is equally willing to express the feeling of a Democratic meeting
or a Republican gathering, and impartially blows out “Dixie” or “Marching
through Georgia,” “The Girl I Left Behind Me” or “My Country, ‘tis of
Thee.” It is equally piercing and exciting for St. Patrick or the Fourth
of July.

There are cynics who think it strange that men are willing to dress up in
fantastic uniform and regalia and march about in sun and rain to make a
holiday for their countrymen, but the cynics are ungrateful, and fail to
credit human nature with its trait of self-sacrifice, and they do not at
all comprehend our civilization. It was doubted at one time whether the
freedman and the colored man generally in the republic was capable of the
higher civilization. This doubt has all been removed. No other race takes
more kindly to martial and civic display than it. No one has a greater
passion for societies and uniforms and regalias and banners, and the pomp
of marchings and processions and peaceful war. The negro naturally
inclines to the picturesque, to the flamboyant, to vivid colors and the
trappings of office that give a man distinction. He delights in the drum
and the trumpet, and so willing is he to add to what is spectacular and
pleasing in life that he would spend half his time in parading. His
capacity for a holiday is practically unlimited. He has not yet the means
to indulge his taste, and perhaps his taste is not yet equal to his
means, but there is no question of his adaptability to the sort of
display which is so pleasing to the greater part of the human race, and
which contributes so much to the brightness and cheerfulness of this
world. We cannot all have decorations, and cannot all wear uniforms, or
even regalia, and some of us have little time for going about in military
or civic processions, but we all like to have our streets put on a
holiday appearance; and we cannot express in words our gratitude to those
who so cheerfully spend their time and money in glittering apparel and in
parades for our entertainment.


The vitality of a fallacy is incalculable. Although the Drawer has been
going many years, there are still remaining people who believe that
“things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” This
mathematical axiom, which is well enough in its place, has been extended
into the field of morals and social life, confused the perception of
human relations, and raised “hob,” as the saying is, in political
economy. We theorize and legislate as if people were things. Most of the
schemes of social reorganization are based on this fallacy. It always
breaks down in experience. A has two friends, B and C--to state it
mathematically. A is equal to B, and A is equal to C. A has for B and
also for C the most cordial admiration and affection, and B and C have
reciprocally the same feeling for A. Such is the harmony that A cannot
tell which he is more fond of, B or C. And B and C are sure that A is the
best friend of each. This harmony, however, is not triangular. A makes
the mistake of supposing that it is--having a notion that things which
are equal to the same thing are equal to each other--and he brings B and
C together. The result is disastrous. B and C cannot get on with each
other. Regard for A restrains their animosity, and they hypocritically
pretend to like each other, but both wonder what A finds so congenial in
the other. The truth is that this personal equation, as we call it, in
each cannot be made the subject of mathematical calculation. Human
relations will not bend to it. And yet we keep blundering along as if
they would. We are always sure, in our letter of introduction, that this
friend will be congenial to the other, because we are fond of both.
Sometimes this happens, but half the time we should be more successful in
bringing people into accord if we gave a letter of introduction to a
person we do not know, to be delivered to one we have never seen. On the
face of it this is as absurd as it is for a politician to indorse the
application of a person he does not know for an office the duties of
which he is unacquainted with; but it is scarcely less absurd than the
expectation that men and women can be treated like mathematical units and
equivalents. Upon the theory that they can, rest the present grotesque
schemes of Nationalism.

In saying all this the Drawer is well aware that it subjects itself to
the charge of being commonplace, but it is precisely the commonplace that
this essay seeks to defend. Great is the power of the commonplace. “My
friends,” says the preacher, in an impressive manner, “Alexander died;
Napoleon died; you will all die!” This profound remark, so true, so
thoughtful, creates a deep sensation. It is deepened by the statement
that “man is a moral being.” The profundity of such startling assertions
cows the spirit; they appeal to the universal consciousness, and we bow
to the genius that delivers them. “How true!” we exclaim, and go away
with an enlarged sense of our own capacity for the comprehension of deep
thought. Our conceit is flattered. Do we not like the books that raise us
to the great level of the commonplace, whereon we move with a sense of
power? Did not Mr. Tupper, that sweet, melodious shepherd of the
undisputed, lead about vast flocks of sheep over the satisfying plain of
mediocrity? Was there ever a greater exhibition of power, while it
lasted? How long did “The Country Parson” feed an eager world with
rhetorical statements of that which it already knew? The thinner this
sort of thing is spread out, the more surface it covers, of course. What
is so captivating and popular as a book of essays which gathers together
and arranges a lot of facts out of histories and cyclopaedias, set forth
in the form of conversations that any one could have taken part in? Is
not this book pleasing because it is commonplace? And is this because we
do not like to be insulted with originality, or because in our experience
it is only the commonly accepted which is true? The statesman or the poet
who launches out unmindful of these conditions will be likely to come to
grief in her generation. Will not the wise novelist seek to encounter the
least intellectual resistance?

Should one take a cynical view of mankind because he perceives this great
power of the commonplace? Not at all. He should recognize and respect
this power. He may even say that it is this power that makes the world go
on as smoothly and contentedly as it does, on the whole. Woe to us, is
the thought of Carlyle, when a thinker is let loose in this world! He
becomes a cause of uneasiness, and a source of rage very often. But his
power is limited. He filters through a few minds, until gradually his
ideas become commonplace enough to be powerful. We draw our supply of
water from reservoirs, not from torrents. Probably the man who first said
that the line of rectitude corresponds with the line of enjoyment was
disliked as well as disbelieved. But how impressive now is the idea that
virtue and happiness are twins!

Perhaps it is true that the commonplace needs no defense, since everybody
takes it in as naturally as milk, and thrives on it. Beloved and read and
followed is the writer or the preacher of commonplace. But is not the
sunshine common, and the bloom of May? Why struggle with these things in
literature and in life? Why not settle down upon the formula that to be
platitudinous is to be happy?


It would be the pity of the world to destroy it, because it would be next
to impossible to make another holiday as good as Christmas. Perhaps there
is no danger, but the American people have developed an unexpected
capacity for destroying things; they can destroy anything. They have even
invented a phrase for it--running a thing into the ground. They have
perfected the art of making so much of a thing as to kill it; they can
magnify a man or a recreation or an institution to death. And they do it
with such a hearty good-will and enjoyment. Their motto is that you
cannot have too much of a good thing. They have almost made funerals
unpopular by over-elaboration and display, especially what are called
public funerals, in which an effort is made to confer great distinction
on the dead. So far has it been carried often that there has been a
reaction of popular sentiment and people have wished the man were alive.
We prosecute everything so vigorously that we speedily either wear it out
or wear ourselves out on it, whether it is a game, or a festival, or a
holiday. We can use up any sport or game ever invented quicker than any
other people. We can practice anything, like a vegetable diet, for
instance, to an absurd conclusion with more vim than any other nation.
This trait has its advantages; nowhere else will a delusion run so fast,
and so soon run up a tree--another of our happy phrases. There is a
largeness and exuberance about us which run even into our ordinary
phraseology. The sympathetic clergyman, coming from the bedside of a
parishioner dying of dropsy, says, with a heavy sigh, “The poor fellow is
just swelling away.”

Is Christmas swelling away? If it is not, it is scarcely our fault. Since
the American nation fairly got hold of the holiday--in some parts of the
country, as in New England, it has been universal only about fifty
years--we have made it hum, as we like to say. We have appropriated the
English conviviality, the German simplicity, the Roman pomp, and we have
added to it an element of expense in keeping with our own greatness. Is
anybody beginning to feel it a burden, this sweet festival of charity and
good-will, and to look forward to it with apprehension? Is the time
approaching when we shall want to get somebody to play it for us, like
base-ball? Anything that interrupts the ordinary flow of life, introduces
into it, in short, a social cyclone that upsets everything for a
fortnight, may in time be as hard to bear as that festival of housewives
called housecleaning, that riot of cleanliness which men fear as they do
a panic in business. Taking into account the present preparations for
Christmas, and the time it takes to recover from it, we are
beginning--are we not?--to consider it one of the most serious events of
modern life.

The Drawer is led into these observations out of its love for Christmas.
It is impossible to conceive of any holiday that could take its place,
nor indeed would it seem that human wit could invent another so adapted
to humanity. The obvious intention of it is to bring together, for a
season at least, all men in the exercise of a common charity and a
feeling of good-will, the poor and the rich, the successful and the
unfortunate, that all the world may feel that in the time called the
Truce of God the thing common to all men is the best thing in life. How
will it suit this intention, then, if in our way of exaggerated
ostentation of charity the distinction between rich and poor is made to
appear more marked than on ordinary days? Blessed are those that expect
nothing. But are there not an increasing multitude of persons in the
United States who have the most exaggerated expectations of personal
profit on Christmas Day? Perhaps it is not quite so bad as this, but it
is safe to say that what the children alone expect to receive, in money
value would absorb the national surplus, about which so much fuss is
made. There is really no objection to this--the terror of the surplus is
a sort of nightmare in the country--except that it destroys the
simplicity of the festival, and belittles small offerings that have their
chief value in affection. And it points inevitably to the creation of a
sort of Christmas “Trust”--the modern escape out of ruinous competition.
When the expense of our annual charity becomes so great that the poor are
discouraged from sharing in it, and the rich even feel it a burden, there
would seem to be no way but the establishment of neighborhood “Trusts” in
order to equalize both cost and distribution. Each family could buy a
share according to its means, and the division on Christmas Day would
create a universal satisfaction in profit sharing--that is, the rich
would get as much as the poor, and the rivalry of ostentation would be
quieted. Perhaps with the money question a little subdued, and the female
anxieties of the festival allayed, there would be more room for the
development of that sweet spirit of brotherly kindness, or all-embracing
charity, which we know underlies this best festival of all the ages. Is
this an old sermon? The Drawer trusts that it is, for there can be
nothing new in the preaching of simplicity.


It is difficult enough to keep the world straight without the
interposition of fiction. But the conduct of the novelists and the
painters makes the task of the conservators of society doubly perplexing.
Neither the writers nor the artists have a due sense of the
responsibilities of their creations. The trouble appears to arise from
the imitativeness of the race. Nature herself seems readily to fall into
imitation. It was noticed by the friends of nature that when the peculiar
coal-tar colors were discovered, the same faded, aesthetic, and sometimes
sickly colors began to appear in the ornamental flower-beds and masses of
foliage plants. It was hardly fancy that the flowers took the colors of
the ribbons and stuffs of the looms, and that the same instant nature and
art were sicklied o’er with the same pale hues of fashion. If this
relation of nature and art is too subtle for comprehension, there is
nothing fanciful in the influence of the characters in fiction upon
social manners and morals. To convince ourselves of this, we do not need
to recall the effect of Werther, of Childe Harold, and of Don Juan, and
the imitation of their sentimentality, misanthropy, and adventure, down
to the copying of the rakishness of the loosely-knotted necktie and the
broad turn-over collar. In our own generation the heroes and heroines of
fiction begin to appear in real life, in dress and manner, while they are
still warm from the press. The popular heroine appears on the street in a
hundred imitations as soon as the popular mind apprehends her traits in
the story. We did not know the type of woman in the poems of the
aesthetic school and on the canvas of Rossetti--the red-haired, wide-eyed
child of passion and emotion, in lank clothes, enmeshed in spider-webs
--but so quickly was she multiplied in real life that she seemed to have
stepped from the book and the frame, ready-made, into the street and the
drawing-room. And there is nothing wonderful about this. It is a truism
to say that the genuine creations in fiction take their places in general
apprehension with historical characters, and sometimes they live more
vividly on the printed page and on canvas than the others in their pale,
contradictory, and incomplete lives. The characters of history we seldom
agree about, and are always reconstructing on new information; but the
characters of fiction are subject to no such vicissitudes.

The importance of this matter is hardly yet perceived. Indeed, it is
unreasonable that it should be, when parents, as a rule, have so slight a
feeling of responsibility for the sort of children they bring into the
world. In the coming scientific age this may be changed, and society may
visit upon a grandmother the sins of her grandchildren, recognizing her
responsibility to the very end of the line. But it is not strange that in
the apathy on this subject the novelists should be careless and
inconsiderate as to the characters they produce, either as ideals or
examples. They know that the bad example is more likely to be copied than
to be shunned, and that the low ideal, being easy to, follow, is more
likely to be imitated than the high ideal. But the novelists have too
little sense of responsibility in this respect, probably from an
inadequate conception of their power. Perhaps the most harmful sinners
are not those who send into the world of fiction the positively wicked
and immoral, but those who make current the dull, the commonplace, and
the socially vulgar. For most readers the wicked character is repellant;
but the commonplace raises less protest, and is soon deemed harmless,
while it is most demoralizing. An underbred book--that is, a book in
which the underbred characters are the natural outcome of the author’s
own, mind and apprehension of life--is worse than any possible epidemic;
for while the epidemic may kill a number of useless or vulgar people, the
book will make a great number. The keen observer must have noticed the
increasing number of commonplace, undiscriminating people of low
intellectual taste in the United States. These are to a degree the result
of the feeble, underbred literature (so called) that is most hawked
about, and most accessible, by cost and exposure, to the greater number
of people. It is easy to distinguish the young ladies--many of them
beautifully dressed, and handsome on first acquaintance--who have been
bred on this kind of book. They are betrayed by their speech, their
taste, their manners. Yet there is a marked public insensibility about
this. We all admit that the scrawny young woman, anaemic and physically
undeveloped, has not had proper nourishing food: But we seldom think that
the mentally-vulgar girl, poverty-stricken in ideas, has been starved by
a thin course of diet on anaemic books. The girls are not to blame if
they are as vapid and uninteresting as the ideal girls they have been
associating with in the books they have read. The responsibility is with
the novelist and the writer of stories, the chief characteristic of which
is vulgar commonplace.

Probably when the Great Assize is held one of the questions asked will
be, “Did you, in America, ever write stories for children?” What a
quaking of knees there will be! For there will stand the victims of this
sort of literature, who began in their tender years to enfeeble their
minds with the wishy-washy flood of commonplace prepared for them by dull
writers and commercial publishers, and continued on in those so-called
domestic stories (as if domestic meant idiotic) until their minds were
diluted to that degree that they could not act upon anything that offered
the least resistance. Beginning with the pepsinized books, they must
continue with them, and the dull appetite by-and-by must be stimulated
with a spice of vulgarity or a little pepper of impropriety. And
fortunately for their nourishment in this kind, the dullest writers can
be indecent.

Unfortunately the world is so ordered that the person of the feeblest
constitution can communicate a contagious disease. And these people, bred
on this pabulum, in turn make books. If one, it is now admitted, can do
nothing else in this world, he can write, and so the evil widens and
widens. No art is required, nor any selection, nor any ideality, only
capacity for increasing the vacuous commonplace in life. A princess born
may have this, or the leader of cotillons. Yet in the judgment the
responsibility will rest upon the writers who set the copy.


One of the burning questions now in the colleges for the higher education
of women is whether the undergraduates shall wear the cap and gown. The
subject is a delicate one, and should not be confused with the broader
one, what is the purpose of the higher education? Some hold that the
purpose is to enable a woman to dispense with marriage, while others
maintain that it is to fit a woman for the higher duties of the married
life. The latter opinion will probably prevail, for it has nature on its
side, and the course of history, and the imagination. But meantime the
point of education is conceded, and whether a girl is to educate herself
into single or double blessedness need not interfere with the
consideration of the habit she is to wear during her college life. That
is to be determined by weighing a variety of reasons.

Not the least of these is the consideration whether the cap-and-gown
habit is becoming. If it is not becoming, it will not go, not even by an
amendment to the Constitution of the United States; for woman’s dress
obeys always the higher law. Masculine opinion is of no value on this
point, and the Drawer is aware of the fact that if it thinks the cap and
gown becoming, it may imperil the cap-and-gown cause to say so; but the
cold truth is that the habit gives a plain girl distinction, and a
handsome girl gives the habit distinction. So that, aside from the
mysterious working of feminine motive, which makes woman a law unto
herself, there should be practical unanimity in regard to this habit.
There is in the cap and gown a subtle suggestion of the union of learning
with womanly charm that is very captivating to the imagination. On the
other hand, all this may go for nothing with the girl herself, who is
conscious of the possession of quite other powers and attractions in a
varied and constantly changing toilet, which can reflect her moods from
hour to hour. So that if it is admitted that this habit is almost
universally becoming today, it might, in the inscrutable depths of the
feminine nature--the something that education never can and never should
change--be irksome tomorrow, and we can hardly imagine what a blight to a
young spirit there might be in three hundred and sixty-five days of

The devotees of the higher education will perhaps need to approach the
subject from another point of view--namely, what they are willing to
surrender in order to come into a distinctly scholastic influence. The
cap and gown are scholastic emblems. Primarily they marked the student,
and not alliance with any creed or vows to any religious order. They
belong to the universities of learning, and today they have no more
ecclesiastic meaning than do the gorgeous robes of the Oxford chancellor
and vice-chancellor and the scarlet hood. From the scholarly side, then,
if not from the dress side, there is much to be said for the cap and
gown. They are badges of devotion, for the time being, to an intellectual

They help the mind in its effort to set itself apart to unworldly
pursuits; they are indications of separateness from the prevailing
fashions and frivolities. The girl who puts on the cap and gown devotes
herself to the society which is avowedly in pursuit of a larger
intellectual sympathy and a wider intellectual life. The enduring of this
habit will have a confirming influence on her purposes, and help to keep
her up to them. It is like the uniform to the soldier or the veil to the
nun--a sign of separation and devotion. It is difficult in this age to
keep any historic consciousness, any proper relations to the past. In the
cap and gown the girl will at least feel that she is in the line of the
traditions of pure learning. And there is also something of order and
discipline in the uniforming of a community set apart for an unworldly
purpose. Is it believed that three or four years of the kind of
separateness marked by this habit in the life of a girl will rob her of
any desirable womanly quality?

The cap and gown are only an emphasis of the purpose to devote a certain
period to the higher life, and if they cannot be defended, then we may
begin to be skeptical about the seriousness of the intention of a higher
education. If the school is merely a method of passing the time until a
certain event in the girl’s life, she had better dress as if that event
were the only one worth considering. But if she wishes to fit herself for
the best married life, she may not disdain the help of the cap and gown
in devoting herself to the highest culture. Of course education has its
dangers, and the regalia of scholarship may increase them. While our
cap-and-gown divinity is walking in the groves of Academia, apart from
the ways of men, her sisters outside may be dancing and dressing into the
affections of the marriageable men. But this is not the worst of it. The
university girl may be educating herself out of sympathy with the
ordinary possible husband. But this will carry its own cure. The educated
girl will be so much more attractive in the long-run, will have so many
more resources for making a life companionship agreeable, that she will
be more and more in demand. And the young men, even those not expecting
to take up a learned profession, will see the advantage of educating
themselves up to the cap-and-gown level. We know that it is the office of
the university to raise the standard of the college, and of the college
to raise the standard of the high school. It will be the inevitable
result that these young ladies, setting themselves apart for a period to
the intellectual life, will raise the standard of the young men, and of
married life generally. And there is nothing supercilious in the
invitation of the cap-and-gown brigade to the young men to come up

There is one humiliating objection made to the cap and gown-made by
members of the gentle sex themselves--which cannot be passed by. It is of
such a delicate nature, and involves such a disparagement of the sex in a
vital point, that the Drawer hesitates to put it in words. It is said
that the cap and gown will be used to cover untidiness, to conceal the
makeshift of a disorderly and unsightly toilet. Undoubtedly the cap and
gown are democratic, adopted probably to equalize the appearance of rich
and poor in the same institution, where all are on an intellectual level.
Perhaps the sex is not perfect; it may be that there are slovens (it is a
brutal word) in that sex which is our poetic image of purity. But a neat
and self-respecting girl will no more be slovenly under a scholastic gown
than under any outward finery. If it is true that the sex would take
cover in this way, and is liable to run down at the heel when it has a
chance, then to the “examination” will have to be added a periodic
“inspection,” such as the West-Pointers submit to in regard to their
uniforms. For the real idea of the cap and gown is to encourage
discipline, order, and neatness. We fancy that it is the mission of woman
in this generation to show the world that the tendency of woman to an
intellectual life is not, as it used to be said it was, to untidy habits.


This ingenious age, when studied, seems not less remarkable for its
division of labor than for the disposition of people to shift labor on to
others’ shoulders. Perhaps it is only another aspect of the spirit of
altruism, a sort of backhanded vicariousness. In taking an inventory of
tendencies, this demands some attention.

The notion appears to be spreading that there must be some way by which
one can get a good intellectual outfit without much personal effort.
There are many schemes of education which encourage this idea. If one
could only hit upon the right “electives,” he could become a scholar with
very little study, and without grappling with any of the real
difficulties in the way of an education. It is no more a short-cut we
desire, but a road of easy grades, with a locomotive that will pull our
train along while we sit in a palace-car at ease. The discipline to be
obtained by tackling an obstacle and overcoming it we think of small
value. There must be some way of attaining the end of cultivation without
much labor. We take readily to proprietary medicines. It is easier to
dose with these than to exercise ordinary prudence about our health. And
we readily believe the doctors of learning when they assure us that we
can acquire a new language by the same method by which we can restore
bodily vigor: take one small patent-right volume in six easy lessons,
without even the necessity of “shaking,” and without a regular doctor,
and we shall know the language. Some one else has done all the work for
us, and we only need to absorb. It is pleasing to see how this theory is
getting to be universally applied. All knowledge can be put into a kind
of pemican, so that we can have it condensed. Everything must be chopped
up, epitomized, put in short sentences, and italicized. And we have
primers for science, for history, so that we can acquire all the
information we need in this world in a few hasty bites. It is an
admirable saving of time-saving of time being more important in this
generation than the saving of ourselves.

And the age is so intellectually active, so eager to know! If we wish to
know anything, instead of digging for it ourselves, it is much easier to
flock all together to some lecturer who has put all the results into an
hour, and perhaps can throw them all upon a screen, so that we can
acquire all we want by merely using the eyes, and bothering ourselves
little about what is said. Reading itself is almost too much of an
effort. We hire people to read for us--to interpret, as we call it
--Browning and Ibsen, even Wagner. Every one is familiar with the
pleasure and profit of “recitations,” of “conversations” which are
monologues. There is something fascinating in the scheme of getting
others to do our intellectual labor for us, to attempt to fill up our
minds as if they were jars. The need of the mind for nutriment is like
the need of the body, but our theory is that it can be satisfied in a
different way. There was an old belief that in order that we should enjoy
food, and that it should perform its function of assimilation, we must
work for it, and that the exertion needed to earn it brought the appetite
that made it profitable to the system. We still have the idea that we
must eat for ourselves, and that we cannot delegate this performance, as
we do the filling of the mind, to some one else. We may have ceased to
relish the act of eating, as we have ceased to relish the act of
studying, but we cannot yet delegate it, even although our power of
digesting food for the body has become almost as feeble as the power of
acquiring and digesting food for the mind.

It is beautiful to witness our reliance upon others. The house may be
full of books, the libraries may be as free and as unstrained of
impurities as city water; but if we wish to read anything or study
anything we resort to a club. We gather together a number of persons of
like capacity with ourselves. A subject which we might grapple with and
run down by a few hours of vigorous, absorbed attention in a library,
gaining strength of mind by resolute encountering of difficulties, by
personal effort, we sit around for a month or a season in a club,
expecting somehow to take the information by effortless contiguity with
it. A book which we could master and possess in an evening we can have
read to us in a month in the club, without the least intellectual effort.
Is there nothing, then, in the exchange of ideas? Oh yes, when there are
ideas to exchange. Is there nothing stimulating in the conflict of mind
with mind? Oh yes, when there is any mind for a conflict. But the mind
does not grow without personal effort and conflict and struggle with
itself. It is a living organism, and not at all like a jar or other
receptacle for fluids. The physiologists say that what we eat will not do
us much good unless we chew it. By analogy we may presume that the mind
is not greatly benefited by what it gets without considerable exercise of
the mind.

Still, it is a beautiful theory that we can get others to do our reading
and thinking, and stuff our minds for us. It may be that psychology will
yet show us how a congregate education by clubs may be the way. But just
now the method is a little crude, and lays us open to the charge--which
every intelligent person of this scientific age will repudiate--of being
content with the superficial; for instance, of trusting wholly to others
for our immortal furnishing, as many are satisfied with the review of a
book for the book itself, or--a refinement on that--with a review of the
reviews. The method is still crude. Perhaps we may expect a further
development of the “slot” machine. By dropping a cent in the slot one can
get his weight, his age, a piece of chewing-gum, a bit of candy, or a
shock that will energize his nervous system. Why not get from a similar
machine a “good business education,” or an “interpretation” of Browning,
or a new language, or a knowledge of English literature? But even this
would be crude. We have hopes of something from electricity. There ought
to be somewhere a reservoir of knowledge, connected by wires with every
house, and a professional switch-tender, who, upon the pressure of a
button in any house, could turn on the intellectual stream desired.
--[Prophecy of the Internet of the year 2000 from 110 years ago. D.W.]
--There must be discovered in time a method by which not only information
but intellectual life can be infused into the system by an electric
current. It would save a world of trouble and expense. For some clubs
even are a weariness, and it costs money to hire other people to read and
think for us.


Either we have been indulging in an expensive mistake, or a great foreign
novelist who preaches the gospel of despair is locoed.

This word, which may be new to most of our readers, has long been current
in the Far West, and is likely to be adopted into the language, and
become as indispensable as the typic words taboo and tabooed, which
Herman Melville gave us some forty years ago. There grows upon the
deserts and the cattle ranges of the Rockies a plant of the leguminosae
family, with a purple blossom, which is called the ‘loco’. It is sweet to
the taste; horses and cattle are fond of it, and when they have once
eaten it they prefer it to anything else, and often refuse other food.
But the plant is poisonous, or, rather, to speak exactly, it is a weed of
insanity. Its effect upon the horse seems to be mental quite as much as
physical. He behaves queerly, he is full of whims; one would say he was
“possessed.” He takes freaks, he trembles, he will not go in certain
places, he will not pull straight, his mind is evidently affected, he is
mildly insane. In point of fact, he is ruined; that is to say, he is
‘locoed’. Further indulgence in the plant results in death, but rarely
does an animal recover from even one eating of the insane weed.

The shepherd on the great sheep ranges leads an absolutely isolated life.
For weeks, sometimes for months together, he does not see a human being.
His only companions are his dogs and the three or four thousand sheep he
is herding. All day long, under the burning sun, he follows the herd over
the rainless prairie, as it nibbles here and there the short grass and
slowly gathers its food. At night he drives the sheep back to the corral,
and lies down alone in his hut. He speaks to no one; he almost forgets
how to speak. Day and night he hears no sound except the melancholy,
monotonous bleat, bleat of the sheep. It becomes intolerable. The animal
stupidity of the herd enters into him. Gradually he loses his mind. They
say that he is locoed. The insane asylums of California contain many

But the word locoed has come to have a wider application than to the poor
shepherds or the horses and cattle that have eaten the loco. Any one who
acts queerly, talks strangely, is visionary without being actually a
lunatic, who is what would be called elsewhere a “crank,” is said to be
locoed. It is a term describing a shade of mental obliquity and queerness
something short of irresponsible madness, and something more than
temporarily “rattled” or bewildered for the moment. It is a good word,
and needed to apply to many people who have gone off into strange ways,
and behave as if they had eaten some insane plant--the insane plant being
probably a theory in the mazes of which they have wandered until they are

Perhaps the loco does not grow in Russia, and the Prophet of
Discouragement may never have eaten of it; perhaps he is only like the
shepherd, mainly withdrawn from human intercourse and sympathy in a
morbid mental isolation, hearing only the bleat, bleat, bleat of the
‘muxhiks’ in the dullness of the steppes, wandering round in his own
sated mind until he has lost all clew to life. Whatever the cause may be,
clearly he is ‘locoed’. All his theories have worked out to the
conclusion that the world is a gigantic mistake, love is nothing but
animality, marriage is immorality; according to astronomical calculations
this teeming globe and all its life must end some time; and why not now?
There shall be no more marriage, no more children; the present population
shall wind up its affairs with decent haste, and one by one quit the
scene of their failure, and avoid all the worry of a useless struggle.

This gospel of the blessedness of extinction has come too late to enable
us to profit by it in our decennial enumeration. How different the census
would have been if taken in the spirit of this new light! How much
bitterness, how much hateful rivalry would have been spared! We should
then have desired a reduction of the population, not an increase of it.
There would have been a pious rivalry among all the towns and cities on
the way to the millennium of extinction to show the least number of
inhabitants; and those towns would have been happiest which could exhibit
not only a marked decline in numbers, but the greater number of old
people. Beautiful St. Paul would have held a thanksgiving service, and
invited the Minneapolis enumerators to the feast, Kansas City and St.
Louis and San Francisco, and a hundred other places, would not have
desired a recount, except, perhaps, for overestimate; they would not have
said that thousands were away at the sea or in the mountains, but, on the
contrary, that thousands who did not belong there, attracted by the
salubrity of the climate, and the desire to injure the town’s reputation,
had crowded in there in census time. The newspapers, instead of calling
on people to send in the names of the unenumerated, would have rejoiced
at the small returns, as they would have done if the census had been for
the purpose of levying the federal tax upon each place according to its
population. Chicago--well, perhaps the Prophet of the Steppes would have
made an exception of Chicago, and been cynically delighted to push it on
its way of increase, aggregation, and ruin.

But instead of this, the strain of anxiety was universal and
heart-rending. So much depended upon swelling the figures. The tension
would have been relieved if our faces were all set towards extinction,
and the speedy evacuation of this unsatisfactory globe. The writer met
recently, in the Colorado desert of Arizona, a forlorn census-taker who
had been six weeks in the saddle, roaming over the alkali plains in order
to gratify the vanity of Uncle Sam. He had lost his reckoning, and did
not know the day of the week or of the month. In all the vast territory,
away up to the Utah line, over which he had wandered, he met human beings
(excluding “Indians and others not taxed “) so rarely that he was in
danger of being locoed. He was almost in despair when, two days before,
he had a windfall, which raised his general average in the form of a
woman with twenty-six children, and he was rejoicing that he should be
able to turn in one hundred and fifty people. Alas, the revenue the
government will derive from these half-nomads will never pay the cost of
enumerating them.

And, alas again, whatever good showing we may make, we shall wish it were
larger; the more people we have the more we shall want. In this direction
there is no end, any more than there is to life. If extinction, and not
life and growth, is the better rule, what a costly mistake we have been


By Charles Dudley Warner

CONTENTS: (28 short studies)



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

        “The world is very evil,
        The times are waning late.”

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


By Charles Dudley Warner




It was in the time of the Second Empire. To be exact, it was the night of
the 18th of June, 1868; I remember the date, because, contrary to the
astronomical theory of short nights at this season, this was the longest
night I ever saw. It was the loveliest time of the year in Paris, when
one was tempted to lounge all day in the gardens and to give to sleep
none of the balmy nights in this gay capital, where the night was
illuminated like the day, and some new pleasure or delight always led
along the sparkling hours. Any day the Garden of the Tuileries was a
microcosm repaying study. There idle Paris sunned itself; through it the
promenaders flowed from the Rue de Rivoli gate by the palace to the
entrance on the Place de la Concorde, out to the Champs-Elysees and back
again; here in the north grove gathered thousands to hear the regimental
band in the afternoon; children chased butterflies about the flower-beds
and amid the tubs of orange-trees; travelers, guide-book in hand, stood
resolutely and incredulously before the groups of statuary, wondering
what that Infant was doing with, the snakes and why the recumbent figure
of the Nile should have so many children climbing over him; or watched
the long facade of the palace hour after hour, in the hope of catching at
some window the flutter of a royal robe; and swarthy, turbaned Zouaves,
erect, lithe, insouciant, with the firm, springy step of the tiger,
lounged along the allees.

Napoleon was at home--a fact attested by a reversal of the hospitable
rule of democracy, no visitors being admitted to the palace when he was
at home. The private garden, close to the imperial residence, was also
closed to the public, who in vain looked across the sunken fence to the
parterres, fountains, and statues, in the hope that the mysterious man
would come out there and publicly enjoy himself. But he never came,
though I have no doubt that he looked out of the windows upon the
beautiful garden and his happy Parisians, upon the groves of
horse-chestnuts, the needle-like fountain beyond, the Column of Luxor, up
the famous and shining vista terminated by the Arch of the Star, and
reflected with Christian complacency upon the greatness of a monarch who
was the lord of such splendors and the goodness of a ruler who opened
them all to his children. Especially when the western sunshine streamed
down over it all, turning even the dust of the atmosphere into gold and
emblazoning the windows of the Tuileries with a sort of historic glory,
his heart must have swelled within him in throbs of imperial exaltation.
It is the fashion nowadays not to consider him a great man, but no one
pretends to measure his goodness.

The public garden of the Tuileries was closed at dusk, no one being
permitted to remain in it after dark. I suppose it was not safe to trust
the Parisians in the covert of its shades after nightfall, and no one
could tell what foreign fanatics and assassins might do if they were
permitted to pass the night so near the imperial residence. At any rate,
everybody was drummed out before the twilight fairly began, and at the
most fascinating hour for dreaming in the ancient garden. After sundown
the great door of the Pavilion de l’Horloge swung open and there issued
from it a drum-corps, which marched across the private garden and down
the broad allee of the public garden, drumming as if the judgment-day
were at hand, straight to the great gate of the Place de la Concorde, and
returning by a side allee, beating up every covert and filling all the
air with clamor until it disappeared, still thumping, into the court of
the palace; and all the square seemed to ache with the sound. Never was
there such pounding since Thackeray’s old Pierre, who, “just to keep up
his drumming, one day drummed down the Bastile”:

     At midnight I beat the tattoo,
     And woke up the Pikemen of Paris
     To follow the bold Barbaroux.

On the waves of this drumming the people poured out from every gate of
the garden, until the last loiterer passed and the gendarmes closed the
portals for the night. Before the lamps were lighted along the Rue de
Rivoli and in the great square of the Revolution, the garden was left to
the silence of its statues and its thousand memories. I often used to
wonder, as I looked through the iron railing at nightfall, what might go
on there and whether historic shades might not flit about in the ghostly

Late in the afternoon of the 18th of June, after a long walk through the
galleries of the Louvre, and excessively weary, I sat down to rest on a
secluded bench in the southern grove of the garden; hidden from view by
the tree-trunks. Where I sat I could see the old men and children in that
sunny flower-garden, La Petite Provence, and I could see the great
fountain-basin facing the Porte du Pont-Tournant. I must have heard the
evening drumming, which was the signal for me to quit the garden; for I
suppose even the dead in Paris hear that and are sensitive to the throb
of the glory-calling drum. But if I did hear it,--it was only like an
echo of the past, and I did not heed it any more than Napoleon in his
tomb at the Invalides heeds, through the drawn curtain, the chanting of
the daily mass. Overcome with fatigue, I must have slept soundly.

When I awoke it was dark under the trees. I started up and went into the
broad promenade. The garden was deserted; I could hear the plash of the
fountains, but no other sound therein. Lights were gleaming from the
windows of the Tuileries, lights blazed along the Rue de Rivoli, dotted
the great Square, and glowed for miles up the Champs Elysees. There were
the steady roar of wheels and the tramping of feet without, but within
was the stillness of death.

What should I do? I am not naturally nervous, but to be caught lurking in
the Tuileries Garden in the night would involve me in the gravest peril.
The simple way would have been to have gone to the gate nearest the
Pavillon de Marsan, and said to the policeman on duty there that I had
inadvertently fallen asleep, that I was usually a wide-awake citizen of
the land that Lafayette went to save, that I wanted my dinner, and would
like to get out. I walked down near enough to the gate to see the
policeman, but my courage failed. Before I could stammer out half that
explanation to him in his trifling language (which foreigners are
mockingly told is the best in the world for conversation), he would
either have slipped his hateful rapier through my body, or have raised an
alarm and called out the guards of the palace to hunt me down like a

A man in the Tuileries Garden at night! an assassin! a conspirator! one
of the Carbonari, perhaps a dozen of them--who knows?--Orsini bombs,
gunpowder, Greek-fire, Polish refugees, murder, emeutes, REVOLUTION!

No, I’m not going to speak to that person in the cocked hat and
dress-coat under these circumstances. Conversation with him out of the
best phrase-books would be uninteresting. Diplomatic row between the two
countries would be the least dreaded result of it. A suspected
conspirator against the life of Napoleon, without a chance for
explanation, I saw myself clubbed, gagged, bound, searched (my minute
notes of the Tuileries confiscated), and trundled off to the
Conciergerie, and hung up to the ceiling in an iron cage there, like

I drew back into the shade and rapidly walked to the western gate. It was
closed, of course. On the gate-piers stand the winged steeds of Marly,
never less admired than by me at that moment. They interested me less
than a group of the Corps d’Afrique, who lounged outside, guarding the
entrance from the square, and unsuspicious that any assassin was trying
to get out. I could see the gleam of the lamps on their bayonets and hear
their soft tread. Ask them to let me out? How nimbly they would have
scaled the fence and transfixed me! They like to do such things. No,
no--whatever I do, I must keep away from the clutches of these cats of

And enough there was to do, if I had been in a mind to do it. All the
seats to sit in, all the statuary to inspect, all the flowers to smell.
The southern terrace overlooking the Seine was closed, or I might have
amused myself with the toy railway of the Prince Imperial that ran nearly
the whole length of it, with its switches and turnouts and houses; or I
might have passed delightful hours there watching the lights along the
river and the blazing illumination on the amusement halls. But I ascended
the familiar northern terrace and wandered amid its bowers, in company
with Hercules, Meleager, and other worthies I knew only by sight,
smelling the orange-blossoms, and trying to fix the site of the old
riding-school where the National Assembly sat in 1789.

It must have been eleven o’clock when I found myself down by the private
garden next the palace. Many of the lights in the offices of the
household had been extinguished, but the private apartments of the
Emperor in the wing south of the central pavilion were still illuminated.
The Emperor evidently had not so much desire to go to bed as I had. I
knew the windows of his petits appartements--as what good American did
not?--and I wondered if he was just then taking a little supper, if he
had bidden good-night to Eugenie, if he was alone in his room, reflecting
upon his grandeur and thinking what suit he should wear on the morrow in
his ride to the Bois. Perhaps he was dictating an editorial for the
official journal; perhaps he was according an interview to the
correspondent of the London Glorifier; perhaps one of the Abbotts was
with him. Or was he composing one of those important love-letters of
state to Madame Blank which have since delighted the lovers of
literature? I am not a spy, and I scorn to look into people’s windows
late at night, but I was lonesome and hungry, and all that square round
about swarmed with imperial guards, policemen, keen-scented Zouaves, and
nobody knows what other suspicious folk. If Napoleon had known that there
was a


I suppose he would have called up his family, waked the drum-corps, sent
for the Prefect of Police, put on the alert the ‘sergents de ville,’
ordered under arms a regiment of the Imperial Guards, and made it
unpleasant for the Man.

All these thoughts passed through my mind, not with the rapidity of
lightning, as is usual in such cases, but with the slowness of
conviction. If I should be discovered, death would only stare me in the
face about a minute. If he waited five minutes, who would believe my
story of going to sleep and not hearing the drums? And if it were true,
why didn’t I go at once to the gate, and not lurk round there all night
like another Clement? And then I wondered if it was not the disagreeable
habit of some night-patrol or other to beat round the garden before the
Sire went to bed for good, to find just such characters as I was
gradually getting to feel myself to be.

But nobody came. Twelve o’clock, one o’clock sounded from the tower of
the church of St. Germain l’Auxerrois, from whose belfry the signal was
given for the beginning of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew--the same
bells that tolled all that dreadful night while the slaughter went on,
while the effeminate Charles IX fired from the windows of the Louvre upon
stray fugitives on the quay--bells the reminiscent sound of which, a
legend (which I fear is not true) says, at length drove Catharine de
Medici from the Tuileries.

One o’clock! The lights were going out in the Tuileries, had nearly all
gone out. I wondered if the suspicious and timid and wasteful Emperor
would keep the gas burning all night in his room. The night-roar of Paris
still went on, sounding always to foreign ears like the beginning of a
revolution. As I stood there, looking at the window that interested me
most, the curtains were drawn, the window was opened, and a form appeared
in a white robe. I had never seen the Emperor before in a night-gown, but
I should have known him among a thousand. The Man of Destiny had on a
white cotton night-cap, with a peaked top and no tassel. It was the most
natural thing in the land; he was taking a last look over his restless
Paris before he turned in. What if he should see me! I respected that
last look and withdrew into the shadow. Tired and hungry, I sat down to
reflect upon the pleasures of the gay capital.

One o’clock and a half! I had presence of mind enough to wind my watch;
indeed, I was not likely to forget that, for time hung heavily on my
hands. It was a gay capital. Would it never put out its lights, and cease
its uproar, and leave me to my reflections? In less than an hour the
country legions would invade the city, the market-wagons would rumble
down the streets, the vegetable-man and the strawberry-woman, the
fishmongers and the greens-venders would begin their melodious cries, and
there would be no repose for a man even in a public garden. It is
secluded enough, with the gates locked, and there is plenty of room to
turn over and change position; but it is a wakeful situation at the best,
a haunting sort of place, and I was not sure it was not haunted.

I had often wondered as I strolled about the place in the daytime or
peered through the iron fence at dusk, if strange things did not go on
here at night, with this crowd of effigies of persons historical and more
or less mythological, in this garden peopled with the representatives of
the dead, and no doubt by the shades of kings and queens and courtiers,
‘intrigantes’ and panders, priests and soldiers, who live once in this
old pile--real shades, which are always invisible in the sunlight. They
have local attachments, I suppose. Can science tell when they depart
forever from the scenes of their objective intrusion into the affairs of
this world, or how long they are permitted to revisit them? Is it true
that in certain spiritual states, say of isolation or intense nervous
alertness, we can see them as they can see each other? There was I--the
I catalogued in the police description--present in that garden, yet so
earnestly longing to be somewhere else that would it be wonderful if my
‘eidolon’ was somewhere else and could be seen?--though not by a
policeman, for policemen have no spiritual vision.

There were no policemen in the garden, that I was certain of; but a
little after half-past one I saw a Man, not a man I had ever seen before,
clad in doublet and hose, with a short cloak and a felt cap with a white
plume, come out of the Pavillon de Flore and turn down the quay towards
the house I had seen that afternoon where it stood--of the beautiful
Gabrielle d’Estrees. I might have been mistaken but for the fact that,
just at this moment, a window opened in the wing of the same pavilion,
and an effeminate, boyish face, weak and cruel, with a crown on its head,
appeared and looked down into the shadow of the building as if its owner
saw what I had seen. And there was nothing remarkable in this, except
that nowadays kings do not wear crowns at night. It occurred to me that
there was a masquerade going on in the Tuileries, though I heard no
music, except the tinkle of, it might be, a harp, or “the lascivious
pleasing of a lute,” and I walked along down towards the central
pavilion. I was just in time to see two ladies emerge from it and
disappear, whispering together, in the shrubbery; the one old, tall, and
dark, with the Italian complexion, in a black robe, and the other young,
petite, extraordinarily handsome, and clad in light and bridal stuffs,
yet both with the same wily look that set me thinking on poisons, and
with a grace and a subtle carriage of deceit that could be common only to
mother and daughter. I didn’t choose to walk any farther in the part of
the garden they had chosen for a night promenade, and turned off


There, on the bench of the marble hemicycle in the north grove, sat a row
of graybeards, old men in the costume of the first Revolution, a sort of
serene and benignant Areopagus. In the cleared space before them were a
crowd of youths and maidens, spectators and participants in the Floral
Games which were about to commence; behind the old men stood attendants
who bore chaplets of flowers, the prizes in the games. The young men wore
short red tunics with copper belts, formerly worn by Roman lads at the
ludi, and the girls tunics of white with loosened girdles, leaving their
limbs unrestrained for dancing, leaping, or running; their hair was
confined only by a fillet about the head. The pipers began to play and
the dancers to move in rhythmic measures, with the slow and languid grace
of those full of sweet wine and the new joy of the Spring, according to
the habits of the Golden Age, which had come again by decree in Paris.
This was the beginning of the classic sports, but it is not possible for
a modern pen to describe particularly the Floral Games. I remember that
the Convention ordered the placing of these hemicycles in the garden, and
they were executed from Robespierre’s designs; but I suppose I am the
only person who ever saw the games played that were expected to be played
before them. It was a curious coincidence that the little livid-green man
was also there, leaning against a tree and looking on with a half sneer.
It seemed to me an odd classic revival, but then Paris has spasms of
that, at the old Theatre Francais and elsewhere.

Pipes in the garden, lutes in the palace, paganism, Revolution--the
situation was becoming mixed, and I should not have been surprised at a
ghostly procession from the Place de la Concorde, through the western
gates, of the thousands of headless nobility, victims of the axe and the
basket; but, thank Heaven, nothing of that sort appeared to add to the
wonders of the night; yet, as I turned a moment from the dancers, I
thought I saw something move in the shrubbery. The Laocoon? It could not
be. The arms moving? Yes. As I drew nearer the arms distinctly moved,
putting away at length the coiling serpent, and pushing from the pedestal
the old-men boys, his comrades in agony. Laocoon shut his mouth, which
had been stretched open for about eighteen centuries, untwisted the last
coil of the snake, and stepped down, a free man. After this it did not
surprise me to see Spartacus also step down and approach him, and the two
ancients square off for fisticuffs, as if they had done it often before,
enjoying at night the release from the everlasting pillory of art. It was
the hour of releases, and I found myself in a moment in the midst of a
“classic revival,” whimsical beyond description. Aeneas hastened to
deposit his aged father in a heap on the gravel and ran after the Sylvan
Nymphs; Theseus gave the Minotaur a respite; Themistocles was bending
over the dying Spartan, who was coming to life; Venus Pudica was waltzing
about the diagonal basin with Antinous; Ascanius was playing marbles with
the infant Hercules. In this unreal phantasmagoria it was a relief to me
to see walking in the area of the private garden two men: the one a
stately person with a kingly air, a handsome face, his head covered with
a huge wig that fell upon his shoulders; the other a farmer-like man,
stout and ungracious, the counterpart of the pictures of the intendant
Colbert. He was pointing up to the palace, and seemed to be speaking of
some alterations, to which talk the other listened impatiently. I
wondered what Napoleon, who by this time was probably dreaming of Mexico,
would have said if he had looked out and seen, not one man in the garden,
but dozens of men, and all the stir that I saw; if he had known, indeed,
that the Great Monarch was walking under his windows.

I said it was a relief to me to see two real men, but I had no reason to
complain of solitude thereafter till daybreak. That any one saw or
noticed me I doubt, and I soon became so reassured that I had more
delight than fear in watching the coming and going of personages I had
supposed dead a hundred years and more; the appearance at windows of
faces lovely, faces sad, faces terror-stricken; the opening of casements
and the dropping of billets into the garden; the flutter of disappearing
robes; the faint sounds of revels from the interior of the palace; the
hurrying of feet, the flashing of lights, the clink of steel, that told
of partings and sudden armings, and the presence of a king that will be
denied at no doors. I saw through the windows of the long Galerie de
Diane the roues of the Regency at supper, and at table with them a dark,
semi-barbarian little man in a coat of Russian sable, the coolest head in
Europe at a drinking-bout. I saw enter the south pavilion a tall lady in
black, with the air of a royal procuress; and presently crossed the
garden and disappeared in the pavilion a young Parisian girl, and then
another and another, a flock of innocents, and I thought instantly of the
dreadful Parc aux Cerfs at Versailles.

So wrought upon was I by the sight of this infamy that I scarcely noticed
the incoming of a royal train at the southern end of the palace, and
notably in it a lady with light hair and noble mien, and the look in her
face of a hunted lioness at bay. I say scarcely, for hardly had the royal
cortege passed within, when there arose a great clamor in the inner
court, like the roar of an angry multitude, a scuffling of many feet,
firing of guns, thrusting of pikes, followed by yells of defiance in
mingled French and German, the pitching of Swiss Guards from doorways and
windows, and the flashing of flambeaux that ran hither and thither. “Oh!”
 I said, “Paris has come to call upon its sovereign; the pikemen of Paris,
led by the bold Barbaroux.”

The tumult subsided as suddenly as it had risen, hushed, I imagined, by
the jarring of cannon from the direction of St. Roch; and in the quiet I
saw a little soldier alight at the Rue de Rivoli gate--a little man whom
you might mistake for a corporal of the guard--with a wild,
coarse-featured Corsican (say, rather, Basque) face, his disordered
chestnut hair darkened to black locks by the use of pomatum--a face
selfish and false, but determined as fate. So this was the beginning of
the Napoleon “legend”; and by-and-by this coarse head will be idealized
into the Roman Emperor type, in which I myself might have believed but
for the revelations of the night of strange adventure.

What is history? What is this drama and spectacle, that has been put
forth as history, but a cover for petty intrigue, and deceit, and
selfishness, and cruelty? A man shut into the Tuileries Garden begins to
think that it is all an illusion, the trick of a disordered fancy. Who
was Grand, who was Well-Beloved, who was Desired, who was the Idol of the
French, who was worthy to be called a King of the Citizens? Oh, for the
light of day!

And it came, faint and tremulous, touching the terraces of the palace and
the Column of Luxor. But what procession was that moving along the
southern terrace? A squad of the National Guard on horseback, a score or
so of King’s officers, a King on foot, walking with uncertain step, a
Queen leaning on his arm, both habited in black, moved out of the western
gate. The King and the Queen paused a moment on the very spot where Louis
XVI. was beheaded, and then got into a carriage drawn by one horse and
were driven rapidly along the quays in the direction of St. Cloud. And
again Revolution, on the heels of the fugitives, poured into the old
palace and filled it with its tatterdemalions.

Enough for me that daylight began to broaden. “Sleep on,” I said, “O real
President, real Emperor (by the grace of coup d’etat) at last, in the
midst of the most virtuous court in Europe, loved of good Americans,
eternally established in the hearts of your devoted Parisians! Peace to
the palace and peace to its lovely garden, of both of which I have had
quite enough for one night!”

The sun came up, and, as I looked about, all the shades and concourse of
the night had vanished. Day had begun in the vast city, with all its roar
and tumult; but the garden gates would not open till seven, and I must
not be seen before the early stragglers should enter and give me a chance
of escape. In my circumstances I would rather be the first to enter than
the first to go out in the morning, past those lynx-eyed gendarmes. From
my covert I eagerly watched for my coming deliverers. The first to appear
was a ‘chiffonnier,’ who threw his sack and pick down by the basin,
bathed his face, and drank from his hand. It seemed to me almost like an
act of worship, and I would have embraced that rag-picker as a brother.
But I knew that such a proceeding, in the name even of egalite and
fraternite would have been misinterpreted; and I waited till two and
three and a dozen entered by this gate and that, and I was at full
liberty to stretch my limbs and walk out upon the quay as nonchalant as
if I had been taking a morning stroll.

I have reason to believe that the police of Paris never knew where I
spent the night of the 18th of June. It must have mystified them.


Truthfulness is as essential in literature as it is in conduct, in
fiction as it is in the report of an actual occurrence. Falsehood
vitiates a poem, a painting, exactly as it does a life. Truthfulness is a
quality like simplicity. Simplicity in literature is mainly a matter of
clear vision and lucid expression, however complex the subject-matter may
be; exactly as in life, simplicity does not so much depend upon external
conditions as upon the spirit in which one lives. It may be more
difficult to maintain simplicity of living with a great fortune than in
poverty, but simplicity of spirit--that is, superiority of soul to
circumstance--is possible in any condition. Unfortunately the common
expression that a certain person has wealth is not so true as it would be
to say that wealth has him. The life of one with great possessions and
corresponding responsibilities may be full of complexity; the subject of
literary art may be exceedingly complex; but we do not set complexity
over against simplicity. For simplicity is a quality essential to true
life as it is to literature of the first class; it is opposed to parade,
to artificiality, to obscurity.

The quality of truthfulness is not so easily defined. It also is a matter
of spirit and intuition. We have no difficulty in applying the rules of
common morality to certain functions of writers for the public, for
instance, the duties of the newspaper reporter, or the newspaper
correspondent, or the narrator of any event in life the relation of which
owes its value to its being absolutely true. The same may be said of
hoaxes, literary or scientific, however clear they may be. The person
indulging in them not only discredits his office in the eyes of the
public, but he injures his own moral fibre, and he contracts such a habit
of unveracity that he never can hope for genuine literary success. For
there never was yet any genuine success in letters without integrity. The
clever hoax is no better than the trick of imitation, that is, conscious
imitation of another, which has unveracity to one’s self at the bottom of
it. Burlesque is not the highest order of intellectual performance, but
it is legitimate, and if cleverly done it may be both useful and amusing,
but it is not to be confounded with forgery, that is, with a composition
which the author attempts to pass off as the production of somebody else.
The forgery may be amazingly smart, and be even popular, and get the
author, when he is discovered, notoriety, but it is pretty certain that
with his ingrained lack of integrity he will never accomplish any
original work of value, and he will be always personally suspected. There
is nothing so dangerous to a young writer as to begin with hoaxing; or to
begin with the invention, either as reporter or correspondent, of
statements put forward as facts, which are untrue. This sort of facility
and smartness may get a writer employment, unfortunately for him and the
public, but there is no satisfaction in it to one who desires an
honorable career. It is easy to recall the names of brilliant men whose
fine talents have been eaten away by this habit of unveracity. This habit
is the greatest danger of the newspaper press of the United States.

It is easy to define this sort of untruthfulness, and to study the moral
deterioration it works in personal character, and in the quality of
literary work. It was illustrated in the forgeries of the marvelous boy
Chatterton. The talent he expended in deception might have made him an
enviable reputation,--the deception vitiated whatever good there was in
his work. Fraud in literature is no better than fraud in archaeology,
--Chatterton deserves no more credit than Shapiro who forged the Moabite
pottery with its inscriptions. The reporter who invents an incident, or
heightens the horror of a calamity by fictions is in the case of Shapiro.
The habit of this sort of invention is certain to destroy the writer’s
quality, and if he attempts a legitimate work of the imagination, he will
carry the same unveracity into that. The quality of truthfulness cannot
be juggled with. Akin to this is the trick which has put under proper
suspicion some very clever writers of our day, and cost them all public
confidence in whatever they do,--the trick of posing for what they are
not. We do not mean only that the reader does not believe their stories
of personal adventure, and regards them personally as “frauds,” but that
this quality of deception vitiates all their work, as seen from a
literary point of view. We mean that the writer who hoaxes the public, by
inventions which he publishes as facts, or in regard to his own
personality, not only will lose the confidence of the public but he will
lose the power of doing genuine work, even in the field of fiction. Good
work is always characterized by integrity.

These illustrations help us to understand what is meant by literary
integrity. For the deception in the case of the correspondent who invents
“news” is of the same quality as the lack of sincerity in a poem or in a
prose fiction; there is a moral and probably a mental defect in both. The
story of Robinson Crusoe is a very good illustration of veracity in
fiction. It is effective because it has the simple air of truth; it is an
illusion that satisfies; it is possible; it is good art: but it has no
moral deception in it. In fact, looked at as literature, we can see that
it is sincere and wholesome.

What is this quality of truthfulness which we all recognize when it
exists in fiction? There is much fiction, and some of it, for various
reasons, that we like and find interesting which is nevertheless
insincere if not artificial. We see that the writer has not been honest
with himself or with us in his views of human life. There may be just as
much lying in novels as anywhere else. The novelist who offers us what he
declares to be a figment of his own brain may be just as untrue as the
reporter who sets forth a figment of his own brain which he declares to
be a real occurrence. That is, just as much faithfulness to life is
required of the novelist as of the reporter, and in a much higher degree.
The novelist must not only tell the truth about life as he sees it,
material and spiritual, but he must be faithful to his own conceptions.
If fortunately he has genius enough to create a character that has
reality to himself and to others, he must be faithful to that character.
He must have conscience about it, and not misrepresent it, any more than
he would misrepresent the sayings and doings of a person in real life. Of
course if his own conception is not clear, he will be as unjust as in
writing about a person in real life whose character he knew only by
rumor. The novelist may be mistaken about his own creations and in his
views of life, but if he have truthfulness in himself, sincerity will
show in his work.

Truthfulness is a quality that needs to be as strongly insisted on in
literature as simplicity. But when we carry the matter a step further, we
see that there cannot be truthfulness about life without knowledge. The
world is full of novels, and their number daily increases, written
without any sense of responsibility, and with very little experience,
which are full of false views of human nature and of society. We can
almost always tell in a fiction when the writer passes the boundary of
his own experience and observation--he becomes unreal, which is another
name for untruthful. And there is an absence of sincerity in such work.
There seems to be a prevailing impression that any one can write a story.
But it scarcely need be said that literature is an art, like painting and
music, and that one may have knowledge of life and perfect sincerity, and
yet be unable to produce a good, truthful piece of literature, or to
compose a piece of music, or to paint a picture.

Truthfulness is in no way opposed to invention or to the exercise of the
imagination. When we say that the writer needs experience, we do not mean
to intimate that his invention of character or plot should be literally
limited to a person he has known, or to an incident that has occurred,
but that they should be true to his experience. The writer may create an
ideally perfect character, or an ideally bad character, and he may try
him by a set of circumstances and events never before combined, and this
creation may be so romantic as to go beyond the experience of any reader,
that is to say, wholly imaginary (like a composed landscape which has no
counterpart in any one view of a natural landscape), and yet it may be so
consistent in itself, so true to an idea or an aspiration or a hope, that
it will have the element of truthfulness and subserve a very high
purpose. It may actually be truer to our sense of verity to life than an
array of undeniable, naked facts set down without art and without

The difficulty of telling the truth in literature is about as great as it
is in real life. We know how nearly impossible it is for one person to
convey to another a correct impression of a third person. He may describe
the features, the manner, mention certain traits and sayings, all
literally true, but absolutely misleading as to the total impression. And
this is the reason why extreme, unrelieved realism is apt to give a false
impression of persons and scenes. One can hardly help having a whimsical
notion occasionally, seeing the miscarriages even in our own attempts at
truthfulness, that it absolutely exists only in the imagination.

In a piece of fiction, especially romantic fiction, an author is
absolutely free to be truthful, and he will be if he has personal and
literary integrity. He moves freely amid his own creations and
conceptions, and is not subject to the peril of the writer who admittedly
uses facts, but uses them so clumsily or with so little conscience, so
out of their real relations, as to convey a false impression and an
untrue view of life. This quality of truthfulness is equally evident in
“The Three Guardsmen” and in “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Dumas is as
conscientious about his world of adventure as Shakespeare is in his
semi-supernatural region. If Shakespeare did not respect the laws of his
imaginary country, and the creatures of his fancy, if Dumas were not true
to the characters he conceived, and the achievements possible to them,
such works would fall into confusion. A recent story called “The
Refugees” set out with a certain promise of veracity, although the reader
understood of course that it was to be a purely romantic invention. But
very soon the author recklessly violated his own conception, and when he
got his “real” characters upon an iceberg, the fantastic position became
ludicrous without being funny, and the performances of the same
characters in the wilderness of the New World showed such lack of
knowledge in the writer that the story became an insult to the
intelligence of the reader. Whereas such a romance as that of “The MS.
Found in a Copper Cylinder,” although it is humanly impossible and
visibly a figment of the imagination, is satisfactory to the reader
because the author is true to his conception, and it is interesting as a
curious allegorical and humorous illustration of the ruinous character in
human affairs of extreme unselfishness. There is the same sort of
truthfulness in Hawthorne’s allegory of “The Celestial Railway,” in
Froude’s “On a Siding at a Railway Station,” and in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s

The habit of lying carried into fiction vitiates the best work, and
perhaps it is easier to avoid it in pure romance than in the so-called
novels of “every-day life.” And this is probably the reason why so many
of the novels of “real life” are so much more offensively untruthful to
us than the wildest romances. In the former the author could perhaps
“prove” every incident he narrates, and produce living every character he
has attempted to describe. But the effect is that of a lie, either
because he is not a master of his art, or because he has no literary
conscience. He is like an artist who is more anxious to produce a
meretricious effect than he is to be true to himself or to nature. An
author who creates a character assumes a great responsibility, and if he
has not integrity or knowledge enough to respect his own creation, no one
else will respect it, and, worse than this, he will tell a falsehood to
hosts of undiscriminating readers.


Perhaps the most curious and interesting phrase ever put into a public
document is “the pursuit of happiness.” It is declared to be an
inalienable right. It cannot be sold. It cannot be given away. It is
doubtful if it could be left by will.

The right of every man to be six feet high, and of every woman to be five
feet four, was regarded as self-evident until women asserted their
undoubted right to be six feet high also, when some confusion was
introduced into the interpretation of this rhetorical fragment of the
eighteenth century.

But the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness has never been
questioned since it was proclaimed as a new gospel for the New World. The
American people accepted it with enthusiasm, as if it had been the
discovery of a gold-prospector, and started out in the pursuit as if the
devil were after them.

If the proclamation had been that happiness is a common right of the
race, alienable or otherwise, that all men are or may be happy, history
and tradition might have interfered to raise a doubt whether even the new
form of government could so change the ethical condition. But the right
to make a pursuit of happiness, given in a fundamental bill of rights,
had quite a different aspect. Men had been engaged in many pursuits, most
of them disastrous, some of them highly commendable. A sect in Galilee
had set up the pursuit of righteousness as the only or the highest object
of man’s immortal powers. The rewards of it, however, were not always
immediate. Here was a political sanction of a pursuit that everybody
acknowledged to be of a good thing.

Given a heart-aching longing in every human being for happiness, here was
high warrant for going in pursuit of it. And the curious effect of this
‘mot d’ordre’ was that the pursuit arrested the attention as the most
essential, and the happiness was postponed, almost invariably, to some
future season, when leisure or plethora, that is, relaxation or gorged
desire, should induce that physical and moral glow which is commonly
accepted as happiness. This glow of well-being is sometimes called
contentment, but contentment was not in the programme. If it came at all,
it was only to come after strenuous pursuit, that being the inalienable

People, to be sure, have different conceptions of happiness, but whatever
they are, it is the custom, almost universal, to postpone the thing
itself. This, of course, is specially true in our American system, where
we have a chartered right to the thing itself. Other nations who have no
such right may take it out in occasional driblets, odd moments that come,
no doubt, to men and races who have no privilege of voting, or to such
favored places as New York city, whose government is always the same,
however they vote.

We are all authorized to pursue happiness, and we do as a general thing
make a pursuit of it. Instead of simply being happy in the condition
where we are, getting the sweets of life in human intercourse, hour by
hour, as the bees take honey from every flower that opens in the summer
air, finding happiness in the well-filled and orderly mind, in the sane
and enlightened spirit, in the self that has become what the self should
be, we say that tomorrow, next year, in ten or twenty or thirty years,
when we have arrived at certain coveted possessions or situation, we will
be happy. Some philosophers dignify this postponement with the name of

Sometimes wandering in a primeval forest, in all the witchery of the
woods, besought by the kindliest solicitations of nature, wild flowers in
the trail, the call of the squirrel, the flutter of birds, the great
world-music of the wind in the pine-tops, the flecks of sunlight on the
brown carpet and on the rough bark of immemorial trees, I find myself
unconsciously postponing my enjoyment until I shall reach a hoped-for
open place of full sun and boundless prospect.

The analogy cannot be pushed, for it is the common experience that these
open spots in life, where leisure and space and contentment await us, are
usually grown up with thickets, fuller of obstacles, to say nothing of
labors and duties and difficulties, than any part of the weary path we
have trod.

Why add the pursuit of happiness to our other inalienable worries?
Perhaps there is something wrong in ourselves when we hear the complaint
so often that men are pursued by disaster instead of being pursued by

We all believe in happiness as something desirable and attainable, and I
take it that this is the underlying desire when we speak of the pursuit
of wealth, the pursuit of learning, the pursuit of power in office or in
influence, that is, that we shall come into happiness when the objects
last named are attained. No amount of failure seems to lessen this
belief. It is matter of experience that wealth and learning and power are
as likely to bring unhappiness as happiness, and yet this constant lesson
of experience makes not the least impression upon human conduct. I
suppose that the reason of this unheeding of experience is that every
person born into the world is the only one exactly of that kind that ever
was or ever will be created, so that he thinks he may be exempt from the
general rules. At any rate, he goes at the pursuit of happiness in
exactly the old way, as if it were an original undertaking. Perhaps the
most melancholy spectacle offered to us in our short sojourn in this
pilgrimage, where the roads are so dusty and the caravansaries so ill
provided, is the credulity of this pursuit. Mind, I am not objecting to
the pursuit of wealth, or of learning, or of power, they are all
explainable, if not justifiable,--but to the blindness that does not
perceive their futility as a means of attaining the end sought, which is
happiness, an end that can only be compassed by the right adjustment of
each soul to this and to any coming state of existence. For whether the
great scholar who is stuffed with knowledge is happier than the great
money-getter who is gorged with riches, or the wily politician who is a
Warwick in his realm, depends entirely upon what sort of a man this
pursuit has made him. There is a kind of fallacy current nowadays that a
very rich man, no matter by what unscrupulous means he has gathered an
undue proportion of the world into his possession, can be happy if he can
turn round and make a generous and lavish distribution of it for worthy
purposes. If he has preserved a remnant of conscience, this distribution
may give him much satisfaction, and justly increase his good opinion of
his own deserts; but the fallacy is in leaving out of account the sort of
man he has become in this sort of pursuit. Has he escaped that hardening
of the nature, that drying up of the sweet springs of sympathy, which
usually attend a long-continued selfish undertaking? Has either he or the
great politician or the great scholar cultivated the real sources of

The pursuit of happiness! It is not strange that men call it an illusion.
But I am well satisfied that it is not the thing itself, but the pursuit,
that is an illusion. Instead of thinking of the pursuit, why not fix our
thoughts upon the moments, the hours, perhaps the days, of this divine
peace, this merriment of body and mind, that can be repeated and perhaps
indefinitely extended by the simplest of all means, namely, a disposition
to make the best of whatever comes to us? Perhaps the Latin poet was
right in saying that no man can count himself happy while in this life,
that is, in a continuous state of happiness; but as there is for the soul
no time save the conscious moment called “now,” it is quite possible to
make that “now” a happy state of existence. The point I make is that we
should not habitually postpone that season of happiness to the future.

No one, I trust, wishes to cloud the dreams of youth, or to dispel by
excess of light what are called the illusions of hope. But why should the
boy be nurtured in the current notion that he is to be really happy only
when he has finished school, when he has got a business or profession by
which money can be made, when he has come to manhood? The girl also
dreams that for her happiness lies ahead, in that springtime when she is
crossing the line of womanhood,--all the poets make much of this,--when
she is married and learns the supreme lesson how to rule by obeying. It
is only when the girl and the boy look back upon the years of adolescence
that they realize how happy they might have been then if they had only
known they were happy, and did not need to go in pursuit of happiness.

The pitiful part of this inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness
is, however, that most men interpret it to mean the pursuit of wealth,
and strive for that always, postponing being happy until they get a
fortune, and if they are lucky in that, find at the end that the
happiness has somehow eluded them, that; in short, they have not
cultivated that in themselves that alone can bring happiness. More than
that, they have lost the power of the enjoyment of the essential
pleasures of life. I think that the woman in the Scriptures who out of
her poverty put her mite into the contribution-box got more happiness out
of that driblet of generosity and self-sacrifice than some men in our day
have experienced in founding a university.

And how fares it with the intellectual man? To be a selfish miner of
learning, for self-gratification only, is no nobler in reality than to be
a miser of money. And even when the scholar is lavish of his knowledge in
helping an ignorant world, he may find that if he has made his studies as
a pursuit of happiness he has missed his object. Much knowledge increases
the possibility of enjoyment, but also the possibility of sorrow. If
intellectual pursuits contribute to an enlightened and altogether
admirable character, then indeed has the student found the inner springs
of happiness. Otherwise one cannot say that the wise man is happier than
the ignorant man.

In fine, and in spite of the political injunction, we need to consider
that happiness is an inner condition, not to be raced after. And what an
advance in our situation it would be if we could get it into our heads
here in this land of inalienable rights that the world would turn round
just the same if we stood still and waited for the daily coming of our


Is the divorce of Literature and the Stage complete, or is it still only
partial? As the lawyers say, is it a ‘vinculo’, or only a ‘mensa et
thoro?’ And if this divorce is permanent, is it a good thing for
literature or the stage? Is the present condition of the stage a
degeneration, as some say, or is it a natural evolution of an art
independent of literature?

How long is it since a play has been written and accepted and played
which has in it any so-called literary quality or is an addition to
literature? And what is dramatic art as at present understood and
practiced by the purveyors of plays for the public? If any one can answer
these questions, he will contribute something to the discussion about the
tendency of the modern stage.

Every one recognizes in the “good old plays” which are occasionally
“revived” both a quality and an intention different from anything in most
contemporary productions. They are real dramas, the interest of which
depends upon sentiment, upon an exhibition of human nature, upon the
interaction of varied character, and upon plot, and we recognize in them
a certain literary art. They can be read with pleasure. Scenery and
mechanical contrivance may heighten the effects, but they are not
absolute essentials.

In the contemporary play instead of character we have “characters,”
 usually exaggerations of some trait, so pushed forward as to become
caricatures. Consistency to human nature is not insisted on in plot, but
there must be startling and unexpected incidents, mechanical devices, and
a great deal of what is called “business,” which clearly has as much
relation to literature as have the steps of a farceur in a clog-dance.
The composition of such plays demands literary ability in the least
degree, but ingenuity in inventing situations and surprises; the text is
nothing, the action is everything; but the text is considerably improved
if it have brightness of repartee and a lively apprehension of
contemporary events, including the slang of the hour. These plays appear
to be made up by the writer, the manager, the carpenter, the costumer. If
they are successful with the modern audiences, their success is probably
due to other things than any literary quality they may have, or any truth
to life or to human nature.

We see how this is in the great number of plays adapted from popular
novels. In the “dramatization” of these stories, pretty much everything
is left out of the higher sort that the reader has valued in the story.
The romance of “Monte Cristo” is an illustration of this. The play is
vulgar melodrama, out of which has escaped altogether the refinement and
the romantic idealism of the stirring romance of Dumas. Now and then, to
be sure, we get a different result, as in “Olivia,” where all the pathos
and character of the “Vicar of Wakefield” are preserved, and the effect
of the play depends upon passion and sentiment. But as a rule, we get
only the more obvious saliencies, the bones of the novel, fitted in or
clothed with stage “business.”

Of course it is true that literary men, even dramatic authors, may write
and always have written dramas not suited to actors, that could not well
be put upon the stage. But it remains true that the greatest dramas,
those that have endured from the Greek times down, have been (for the
audiences of their times) both good reading and good acting plays.

I am not competent to criticise the stage or its tendency. But I am
interested in noticing the increasing non-literary character of modern
plays. It may be explained as a necessary and justifiable evolution of
the stage. The managers may know what the audience wants, just as the
editors of some of the most sensational newspapers say that they make a
newspaper to suit the public. The newspaper need not be well written, but
it must startle with incident and surprise, found or invented. An
observer must notice that the usual theatre-audience in New York or
Boston today laughs at and applauds costumes, situations, innuendoes,
doubtful suggestions, that it would have blushed at a few years ago. Has
the audience been creating a theatre to suit its taste, or have the
managers been educating an audience? Has the divorce of literary art from
the mimic art of the stage anything to do with this condition?

The stage can be amusing, but can it show life as it is without the aid
of idealizing literary art? And if the stage goes on in this
materialistic way, how long will it be before it ceases to amuse
intelligent, not to say intellectual people?


In the minds of the public there is a mystery about the practice of
medicine. It deals more or less with the unknown, with the occult, it
appeals to the imagination. Doubtless confidence in its practitioners is
still somewhat due to the belief that they are familiar with the secret
processes of nature, if they are not in actual alliance with the
supernatural. Investigation of the ground of the popular faith in the
doctor would lead us into metaphysics. And yet our physical condition has
much to do with this faith. It is apt to be weak when one is in perfect
health; but when one is sick it grows strong. Saint and sinner both warm
up to the doctor when the judgment Day heaves in view.

In the popular apprehension the doctor is still the Medicine Man. We
smile when we hear about his antics in barbarous tribes; he dresses
fantastically, he puts horns on his head, he draws circles on the ground,
he dances about the patient, shaking his rattle and uttering
incantations. There is nothing to laugh at. He is making an appeal to the
imagination. And sometimes he cures, and sometimes he kills; in either
case he gets his fee. What right have we to laugh? We live in an
enlightened age, and yet a great proportion of the people, perhaps not a
majority, still believe in incantations, have faith in ignorant
practitioners who advertise a “natural gift,” or a secret process or
remedy, and prefer the charlatan who is exactly on the level of the
Indian Medicine Man, to the regular practitioner, and to the scientific
student of mind and body and of the properties of the materia medica.
Why, even here in Connecticut, it is impossible to get a law to protect
the community from the imposition of knavish or ignorant quacks, and to
require of a man some evidence of capacity and training and skill, before
he is let loose to experiment upon suffering humanity. Our teachers must
pass an examination--though the examiner sometimes does not know as much
as the candidate,--for misguiding the youthful mind; the lawyer cannot
practice without study and a formal admission to the bar; and even the
clergyman is not accepted in any responsible charge until he has given
evidence of some moral and intellectual fitness. But the profession
affecting directly the health and life of every human body, which needs
to avail itself of the accumulated experience, knowledge, and science of
all the ages, is open to every ignorant and stupid practitioner on the
credulity of the public. Why cannot we get a law regulating the
profession which is of most vital interest to all of us, excluding
ignorance and quackery? Because the majority of our legislature,
representing, I suppose, the majority of the public, believe in the
“natural bone-setter,” the herb doctor, the root doctor, the old woman
who brews a decoction of swamp medicine, the “natural gift” of some
dabbler in diseases, the magnetic healer, the faith cure, the mind cure,
the Christian Science cure, the efficacy of a prescription rapped out on
a table by some hysterical medium,--in anything but sound knowledge,
education in scientific methods, steadied by a sense of public
responsibility. Not long ago, on a cross-country road, I came across a
woman in a farmhouse, where I am sure the barn-yard drained into the
well, who was sick; she had taken a shop-full of patent medicines. I
advised her to send for a doctor. She had no confidence in doctors, but
said she reckoned she would get along now, for she had sent for the
seventh son of a seventh son, and didn’t I think he could certainly cure
her? I said that combination ought to fetch any disease except
agnosticism. That woman probably influenced a vote in the legislature.
The legislature believes in incantations; it ought to have in attendance
an Indian Medicine Man.

We think the world is progressing in enlightenment; I suppose it is--inch
by inch. But it is not easy to name an age that has cherished more
delusions than ours, or been more superstitious, or more credulous, more
eager to run after quackery. Especially is this true in regard to
remedies for diseases, and the faith in healers and quacks outside of the
regular, educated professors of the medical art. Is this an exaggeration?
Consider the quantity of proprietary medicines taken in this country,
some of them harmless, some of them good in some cases, some of them
injurious, but generally taken without advice and in absolute ignorance
of the nature of the disease or the specific action of the remedy. The
drug-shops are full of them, especially in country towns; and in the far
West and on the Pacific coast I have been astonished at the quantity and
variety displayed. They are found in almost every house; the country is
literally dosed to death with these manufactured nostrums and
panaceas--and that is the most popular medicine which can be used for the
greatest number of internal and external diseases and injuries. Many
newspapers are half supported by advertising them, and millions and
millions of dollars are invested in this popular industry. Needless to
say that the patented remedies most in request are those that profess a
secret and unscientific origin. Those most “purely vegetable” seem most
suitable to the wooden-heads who believe in them, but if one were
sufficiently advertised as not containing a single trace of vegetable
matter, avoiding thus all possible conflict of one organic life with
another organic life, it would be just as popular. The favorites are
those that have been secretly used by an East Indian fakir, or
accidentally discovered as the natural remedy, dug out of the ground by
an American Indian tribe, or steeped in a kettle by an ancient colored
person in a southern plantation, or washed ashore on the person of a
sailor from the South Seas, or invented by a very aged man in New Jersey,
who could not read, but had spent his life roaming in the woods, and
whose capacity for discovering a “universal panacea,” besides his
ignorance and isolation, lay in the fact that his sands of life had
nearly run. It is the supposed secrecy or low origin of the remedy that
is its attraction. The basis of the vast proprietary medicine business is
popular ignorance and credulity. And it needs to be pretty broad to
support a traffic of such enormous proportions.

During this generation certain branches of the life-saving and
life-prolonging art have made great advances out of empiricism onto the
solid ground of scientific knowledge. Of course I refer to surgery, and
to the discovery of the causes and improvement in the treatment of
contagious and epidemic diseases. The general practice has shared in this
scientific advance, but it is limited and always will be limited within
experimental bounds, by the infinite variations in individual
constitutions, and the almost incalculable element of the interference of
mental with physical conditions. When we get an exact science of man, we
may expect an exact science of medicine. How far we are from this, we see
when we attempt to make criminal anthropology the basis of criminal
legislation. Man is so complex that if we were to eliminate one of his
apparently worse qualities, we might develop others still worse, or throw
the whole machine into inefficiency. By taking away what the
phrenologists call combativeness, we could doubtless stop prize-fight,
but we might have a springless society. The only safe way is that taught
by horticulture, to feed a fruit-tree generously, so that it has vigor
enough to throw off its degenerate tendencies and its enemies, or, as the
doctors say in medical practice, bring up the general system. That is to
say, there is more hope for humanity in stimulating the good, than in
directly suppressing the evil. It is on something like this line that the
greatest advance has been made in medical practice; I mean in the
direction of prevention. This involves, of course, the exclusion of the
evil, that is, of suppressing the causes that produce disease, as well as
in cultivating the resistant power of the human system. In sanitation,
diet, and exercise are the great fields of medical enterprise and
advance. I need not say that the physician who, in the case of those
under his charge, or who may possibly require his aid, contents himself
with waiting for developed disease, is like the soldier in a besieged
city who opens the gates and then attempts to repel the invader who has
effected a lodgment. I hope the time will come when the chief practice of
the physician will be, first, in oversight of the sanitary condition of
his neighborhood, and, next, in preventive attendance on people who think
they are well, and are all unconscious of the insidious approach of some
concealed malady.

Another great change in modern practice is specialization. Perhaps it has
not yet reached the delicate particularity of the practice in ancient
Egypt, where every minute part of the human economy had its exclusive
doctor. This is inevitable in a scientific age, and the result has been
on the whole an advance of knowledge, and improved treatment of specific
ailments. The danger is apparent. It is that of the moral specialist, who
has only one hobby and traces every human ill to strong liquor or
tobacco, or the corset, or taxation of personal property, or denial of
universal suffrage, or the eating of meat, or the want of the
centralization of nearly all initiative and interest and property in the
state. The tendency of the accomplished specialist in medicine is to
refer all physical trouble to the ill conduct of the organ he presides
over. He can often trace every disease to want of width in the nostrils,
to a defective eye, to a sensitive throat, to shut-up pores, to an
irritated stomach, to auricular defect. I suppose he is generally right,
but I have a perhaps natural fear that if I happened to consult an
amputationist about catarrh he would want to cut off my leg. I confess to
an affection for the old-fashioned, all-round country doctor, who took a
general view of his patient, knew his family, his constitution, all the
gossip about his mental or business troubles, his affairs of the heart,
disappointments in love, incompatibilities of temper, and treated the
patient, as the phrase is, for all he was worth, and gave him visible
medicine out of good old saddle-bags--how much faith we used to have in
those saddle-bags--and not a prescription in a dead language to be put up
by a dead-head clerk who occasionally mistakes arsenic for carbonate of
soda. I do not mean, however, to say there is no sense in the retention
of the hieroglyphics which the doctors use to communicate their ideas to
a druggist, for I had a prescription made in Hartford put up in Naples,
and that could not have happened if it had been written in English. And I
am not sure but the mysterious symbols have some effect on the patient.

The mention of the intimate knowledge of family and constitutional
conditions possessed by the old-fashioned country doctor, whose main
strength lay in this and in his common-sense, reminds me of another great
advance in the modern practice, in the attempt to understand nature
better by the scientific study of psychology and the occult relations of
mind and body. It is in the study of temper, temperament, hereditary
predispositions, that we may expect the most brilliant results in
preventive medicine.

As a layman, I cannot but notice another great advance in the medical
profession. It is not alone in it. It is rather expected that the lawyers
will divide the oyster between them and leave the shell to the
contestants. I suppose that doctors, almost without exception, give more
of their time and skill in the way of charity than almost any other
profession. But somebody must pay, and fees have increased with the
general cost of living and dying. If fees continue to increase as they
have done in the past ten years in the great cities, like New York,
nobody not a millionaire can afford to be sick. The fees will soon be a
prohibitive tax. I cannot say that this will be altogether an evil, for
the cost of calling medical aid may force people to take better care of
themselves. Still, the excessive charges are rather hard on people in
moderate circumstances who are compelled to seek surgical aid. And here
we touch one of the regrettable symptoms of the times, which is not by
any means most conspicuous in the medical profession. I mean the tendency
to subordinate the old notion of professional duty to the greed for
money. The lawyers are almost universally accused of it; even the
clergymen are often suspected of being influenced by it. The young man is
apt to choose a profession on calculation of its profit. It will be a bad
day for science and for the progress of the usefulness of the medical
profession when the love of money in its practice becomes stronger than
professional enthusiasm, than the noble ambition of distinction for
advancing the science, and the devotion to human welfare.

I do not prophesy it. Rather I expect interest in humanity, love of
science for itself, sympathy with suffering, self-sacrifice for others,
to increase in the world, and be stronger in the end than sordid love of
gain and the low ambition of rivalry in materialistic display. To this
higher life the physician is called. I often wonder that there are so
many men, brilliant men, able men, with so many talents for success in
any calling, willing to devote their lives to a profession which demands
so much self-sacrifice, so much hardship, so much contact with suffering,
subject to the call of all the world at any hour of the day or night,
involving so much personal risk, carrying so much heart-breaking
responsibility, responded to by so much constant heroism, a heroism
requiring the risk of life in a service the only glory of which is a good
name and the approval of one’s conscience.

To the members of such a profession, in spite of their human infirmities
and limitations and unworthy hangers-on, I bow with admiration and the
respect which we feel for that which is best in this world.


It seems somehow more nearly an irreparable loss to us than to “H. H.”
 that she did not live to taste her very substantial fame in Southern
California. We should have had such delight in her unaffected pleasure in
it, and it would have been one of those satisfactions somewhat adequate
to our sense of fitness that are so seldom experienced. It was my good
fortune to see Mrs. Jackson frequently in the days in New York when she
was writing “Ramona,” which was begun and perhaps finished in the
Berkeley House. The theme had complete possession of her, and chapter
after chapter flowed from her pen as easily as one would write a letter
to a friend; and she had an ever fresh and vigorous delight in it. I have
often thought that no one enjoyed the sensation of living more than Mrs.
Jackson, or was more alive to all the influences of nature and the
contact of mind with mind, more responsive to all that was exquisite and
noble either in nature or in society, or more sensitive to the
disagreeable. This is merely saying that she was a poet; but when she
became interested in the Indians, and especially in the harsh fate of the
Mission Indians in California, all her nature was fused for the time in a
lofty enthusiasm of pity and indignation, and all her powers seemed to be
consecrated to one purpose. Enthusiasm and sympathy will not make a
novel, but all the same they are necessary to the production of a work
that has in it real vital quality, and in this case all previous
experience and artistic training became the unconscious servants of Mrs.
Jackson’s heart. I know she had very little conceit about her
performance, but she had a simple consciousness that she was doing her
best work, and that if the world should care much for anything she had
done, after she was gone, it would be for “Ramona.” She had put herself
into it.

And yet I am certain that she could have had no idea what the novel would
be to the people of Southern California, or how it would identify her
name with all that region, and make so many scenes in it places of
pilgrimage and romantic interest for her sake. I do not mean to say that
the people in California knew personally Ramona and Alessandro, or
altogether believe in them, but that in their idealizations they
recognize a verity and the ultimate truth of human nature, while in the
scenery, in the fading sentiment of the old Spanish life, and the romance
and faith of the Missions, the author has done for the region very much
what Scott did for the Highlands. I hope she knows now, I presume she
does, that more than one Indian school in the Territories is called the
Ramona School; that at least two villages in California are contending
for the priority of using the name Ramona; that all the travelers and
tourists (at least in the time they can spare from real-estate
speculations) go about under her guidance, are pilgrims to the shrines
she has described, and eager searchers for the scenes she has made famous
in her novel; that more than one city and more than one town claims the
honor of connection with the story; that the tourist has pointed out to
him in more than one village the very house where Ramona lived, where she
was married--indeed, that a little crop of legends has already grown up
about the story itself. I was myself shown the house in Los Angeles where
the story was written, and so strong is the local impression that I
confess to looking at the rose-embowered cottage with a good deal of
interest, though I had seen the romance growing day by day in the
Berkeley in New York.

The undoubted scene of the loves of Ramona and Alessandro is the Comulos
rancho, on the railway from Newhall to Santa Paula, the route that one
takes now (unless he wants to have a lifelong remembrance of the ground
swells of the Pacific in an uneasy little steamer) to go from Los Angeles
to Santa Barbara. It is almost the only one remaining of the
old-fashioned Spanish haciendas, where the old administration prevails.
The new railway passes it now, and the hospitable owners have been
obliged to yield to the public curiosity and provide entertainment for a
continual stream of visitors. The place is so perfectly described in
“Ramona” that I do not need to draw it over again, and I violate no
confidence and only certify to the extraordinary powers of delineation of
the novelist, when I say that she only spent a few hours there,--not a
quarter of the time we spent in identifying her picture. We knew the
situation before the train stopped by the crosses erected on the
conspicuous peaks of the serrated ashy--or shall I say purple--hills that
enfold the fertile valley. It is a great domain, watered by a swift
river, and sheltered by wonderfully picturesque mountains. The house is
strictly in the old Spanish style, of one story about a large court, with
flowers and a fountain, in which are the most noisy if not musical frogs
in the world, and all the interior rooms opening upon a gallery. The real
front is towards the garden, and here at the end of the gallery is the
elevated room where Father Salvierderra slept when he passed a night at
the hacienda,--a pretty room which has a case of Spanish books, mostly
religious and legal, and some quaint and cheap holy pictures. We had a
letter to Signora Del Valle, the mistress, and were welcomed with a sort
of formal extension of hospitality that put us back into the courtly
manners of a hundred years ago. The Signora, who is in no sense the
original of the mistress whom “H. H.” describes, is a widow now for seven
years, and is the vigilant administrator of all her large domain, of the
stock, the grazing lands, the vineyard, the sheep ranch, and all the
people. Rising very early in the morning, she visits every department,
and no detail is too minute to escape her inspection, and no one in the
great household but feels her authority.

It was a very lovely day on the 17th of March (indeed, I suppose it had
been preceded by 364 days exactly like it) as we sat upon the gallery
looking on the garden, a garden of oranges, roses, citrons, lemons,
peaches--what fruit and flower was not growing there?--acres and acres of
vineyard beyond, with the tall cane and willows by the stream, and the
purple mountains against the sapphire sky. Was there ever anything more
exquisite than the peach-blossoms against that blue sky! Such a place of
peace. A soft south wind was blowing, and all the air was drowsy with the
hum of bees. In the garden is a vine-covered arbor, with seats and
tables, and at the end of it is the opening into a little chapel, a
domestic chapel, carpeted like a parlor, and bearing all the emblems of a
loving devotion. By the garden gate hang three small bells, from some old
mission, all cracked, but serving (each has its office) to summon the
workmen or to call to prayer.

Perfect system reigns in Signora Del Valle’s establishment, and even the
least child in it has its duty. At sundown a little slip of a girl went
out to the gate and struck one of the bells. “What is that for?” I asked
as she returned. “It is the Angelus,” she said simply. I do not know what
would happen to her if she should neglect to strike it at the hour. At
eight o’clock the largest bell was struck, and the Signora and all her
household, including the house servants, went out to the little chapel in
the garden, which was suddenly lighted with candles, gleaming brilliantly
through the orange groves. The Signora read the service, the household
responding--a twenty minutes’ service, which is as much a part of the
administration of the establishment as visiting the granaries and
presses, and the bringing home of the goats. The Signora’s apartments,
which she permitted us to see, were quite in the nature of an oratory,
with shrines and sacred pictures and relics of the faith. By the shrine
at the head of her bed hung the rosary carried by Father Junipero,--a
priceless possession. From her presses and armoires, the Signora, seeing
we had a taste for such things, brought out the feminine treasures of
three generations, the silk and embroidered dresses of last century, the
ribosas, the jewelry, the brilliant stuffs of China and Mexico, each
article with a memory and a flavor.

But I must not be betrayed into writing about Ramona’s house. How
charming indeed it was the next morning,--though the birds in the garden
were astir a little too early,--with the thermometer set to the exact
degree of warmth without languor, the sky blue, the wind soft, the air
scented with orange and jessamine. The Signora had already visited all
her premises before we were up. We had seen the evening before an
enclosure near the house full of cashmere goats and kids, whose antics
were sufficiently amusing--most of them had now gone afield; workmen were
coming for their orders, plowing was going on in the barley fields,
traders were driving to the plantation store, the fierce eagle in a big
cage by the olive press was raging at his detention. Within the house
enclosure are an olive mill and press, a wine-press and a great
storehouse of wine, containing now little but empty casks,--a dusky,
interesting place, with pomegranates and dried bunches of grapes and
oranges and pieces of jerked meat hanging from the rafters. Near by is a
cornhouse and a small distillery, and the corrals for sheep shearing are
not far off. The ranches for cattle and sheep are on the other side of
the mountain.

Peace be with Comulos. It must please the author of “Ramona” to know that
it continues in the old ways; and I trust she is undisturbed by the
knowledge that the rage for change will not long let it be what it now


No doubt one of the most charming creations in all poetry is Nausicaa,
the white-armed daughter of King Alcinous. There is no scene, no picture,
in the heroic times more pleasing than the meeting of Ulysses with this
damsel on the wild seashore of Scheria, where the Wanderer had been
tossed ashore by the tempest. The place of this classic meeting was
probably on the west coast of Corfu, that incomparable island, to whose
beauty the legend of the exquisite maidenhood of the daughter of the king
of the Phaeacians has added an immortal bloom.

We have no difficulty in recalling it in all its distinctness: the bright
morning on which Nausicaa came forth from the palace, where her mother
sat and turned the distaff loaded with a fleece dyed in sea-purple,
mounted the car piled with the robes to be cleansed in the stream, and,
attended by her bright-haired, laughing handmaidens, drove to the banks
of the river, where out of its sweet grasses it flowed over clean sand
into the Adriatic. The team is loosed to browse the grass; the garments
are flung into the dark water, then trampled with hasty feet in frolic
rivalry, and spread upon the gravel to dry. Then the maidens bathe, give
their limbs the delicate oil from the cruse of gold, sit by the stream
and eat their meal, and, refreshed, mistress and maidens lay aside their
veils and play at ball, and Nausicaa begins a song. Though all were fair,
like Diana was this spotless virgin midst her maids. A missed ball and
maidenly screams waken Ulysses from his sleep in the thicket. At the
apparition of the unclad, shipwrecked sailor the maidens flee right and
left. Nausicaa alone keeps her place, secure in her unconscious modesty.
To the astonished Sport of Fortune the vision of this radiant girl, in
shape and stature and in noble air, is more than mortal, yet scarcely
more than woman:

        “Like thee, I saw of late,
   In Delos, a young palm-tree growing up
   Beside Apollo’s altar.”

When the Wanderer has bathed, and been clad in robes from the pile on the
sand, and refreshed with food and wine which the hospitable maidens put
before him, the train sets out for the town, Ulysses following the
chariot among the bright-haired women. But before that Nausicaa, in the
candor of those early days, says to her attendants:

        “I would that I might call
     A man like him my husband, dwelling here
     And here content to dwell.”

Is there any woman in history more to be desired than this sweet,
pure-minded, honest-hearted girl, as she is depicted with a few swift
touches by the great poet?--the dutiful daughter in her father’s house,
the joyous companion of girls, the beautiful woman whose modest bearing
commands the instant homage of man. Nothing is more enduring in
literature than this girl and the scene on the--Corfu sands.

The sketch, though distinct, is slight, little more than outlines; no
elaboration, no analysis; just an incident, as real as the blue sky of
Scheria and the waves on the yellow sand. All the elements of the picture
are simple, human, natural, standing in as unconfused relations as any
events in common life. I am not recalling it because it is a conspicuous
instance of the true realism that is touched with the ideality of genius,
which is the immortal element in literature, but as an illustration of
the other necessary quality in all productions of the human mind that
remain age after age, and that is simplicity. This is the stamp of all
enduring work; this is what appeals to the universal understanding from
generation to generation. All the masterpieces that endure and become a
part of our lives are characterized by it. The eye, like the mind, hates
confusion and overcrowding. All the elements in beauty, grandeur, pathos,
are simple--as simple as the lines in a Nile picture: the strong river,
the yellow desert, the palms, the pyramids; hardly more than a horizontal
line and a perpendicular line; only there is the sky, the atmosphere, the
color-those need genius.

We may test contemporary literature by its confortuity to the canon of
simplicity--that is, if it has not that, we may conclude that it lacks
one essential lasting quality. It may please;--it may be ingenious
--brilliant, even; it may be the fashion of the day, and a fashion that
will hold its power of pleasing for half a century, but it will be a
fashion. Mannerisms of course will not deceive us, nor extravagances,
eccentricities, affectations, nor the straining after effect by the use
of coined or far-fetched words and prodigality in adjectives. But, style?
Yes, there is such a thing as style, good and bad; and the style should
be the writer’s own and characteristic of him, as his speech is. But the
moment I admire a style for its own sake, a style that attracts my
attention so constantly that I say, How good that is! I begin to be
suspicious. If it is too good, too pronouncedly good, I fear I shall not
like it so well on a second reading. If it comes to stand between me and
the thought, or the personality behind the thought, I grow more and more
suspicious. Is the book a window, through which I am to see life? Then I
cannot have the glass too clear. Is it to affect me like a strain of
music? Then I am still more disturbed by any affectations. Is it to
produce the effect of a picture? Then I know I want the simplest harmony
of color. And I have learned that the most effective word-painting, as it
is called, is the simplest. This is true if it is a question only of
present enjoyment. But we may be sure that any piece of literature which
attracts only by some trick of style, however it may blaze up for a day
and startle the world with its flash, lacks the element of endurance. We
do not need much experience to tell us the difference between a lamp and
a Roman candle. Even in our day we have seen many reputations flare up,
illuminate the sky, and then go out in utter darkness. When we take a
proper historical perspective, we see that it is the universal, the
simple, that lasts.

I am not sure whether simplicity is a matter of nature or of cultivation.
Barbarous nature likes display, excessive ornament; and when we have
arrived at the nobly simple, the perfect proportion, we are always likely
to relapse into the confused and the complicated. The most cultivated
men, we know, are the simplest in manners, in taste, in their style. It
is a note of some of the purest modern writers that they avoid
comparisons, similes, and even too much use of metaphor. But the mass of
men are always relapsing into the tawdry and the over-ornamented. It is a
characteristic of youth, and it seems also to be a characteristic of
over-development. Literature, in any language, has no sooner arrived at
the highest vigor of simple expression than it begins to run into
prettiness, conceits, over-elaboration. This is a fact which may be
verified by studying different periods, from classic literature to our
own day.

It is the same with architecture. The classic Greek runs into the
excessive elaboration of the Roman period, the Gothic into the
flamboyant, and so on. We, have had several attacks of architectural
measles in this country, which have left the land spotted all over with
houses in bad taste. Instead of developing the colonial simplicity on
lines of dignity and harmony to modern use, we stuck on the
pseudo-classic, we broke out in the Mansard, we broke all up into the
whimsicalities of the so-called Queen Anne, without regard to climate or
comfort. The eye speedily tires of all these things. It is a positive
relief to look at an old colonial mansion, even if it is as plain as a
barn. What the eye demands is simple lines, proportion, harmony in mass,
dignity; above all, adaptation to use. And what we must have also is
individuality in house and in furniture; that makes the city, the
village, picturesque and interesting. The highest thing in architecture,
as in literature, is the development of individuality in simplicity.

Dress is a dangerous topic to meddle with. I myself like the attire of
the maidens of Scheria, though Nausicaa, we must note, was “clad
royally.” But climate cannot be disregarded, and the vestment that was so
fitting on a Greek girl whom I saw at the Second Cataract of the Nile
would scarcely be appropriate in New York. If the maidens of one of our
colleges for girls, say Vassar for illustration, habited like the
Phaeacian girls of Scheria, went down to the Hudson to cleanse the rich
robes of the house, and were surprised by the advent of a stranger from
the city, landing from a steamboat--a wandering broker, let us say, clad
in wide trousers, long topcoat, and a tall hat--I fancy that he would be
more astonished than Ulysses was at the bevy of girls that scattered at
his approach. It is not that women must be all things to all men, but
that their simplicity must conform to time and circumstance. What I do
not understand is that simplicity gets banished altogether, and that
fashion, on a dictation that no one can trace the origin of, makes that
lovely in the eyes of women today which will seem utterly abhorrent to
them tomorrow. There appears to be no line of taste running through the
changes. The only consolation to you, the woman of the moment, is that
while the costume your grandmother wore makes her, in the painting, a guy
in your eyes, the costume you wear will give your grandchildren the same
impression of you. And the satisfaction for you is the thought that the
latter raiment will be worse than the other two--that is to say, less
well suited to display the shape, station, and noble air which brought
Ulysses to his knees on the sands of Corfu.

Another reason why I say that I do not know whether simplicity belongs to
nature or art is that fashion is as strong to pervert and disfigure in
savage nations as it is in civilized. It runs to as much eccentricity in
hair-dressing and ornament in the costume of the jingling belles of
Nootka and the maidens of Nubia as in any court or coterie which we
aspire to imitate. The only difference is that remote and unsophisticated
communities are more constant to a style they once adopt. There are
isolated peasant communities in Europe who have kept for centuries the
most uncouth and inconvenient attire, while we have run through a dozen
variations in the art of attraction by dress, from the most puffed and
bulbous ballooning to the extreme of limpness and lankness. I can only
conclude that the civilized human being is a restless creature, whose
motives in regard to costumes are utterly unfathomable.

We need, however, to go a little further in this question of simplicity.
Nausicaa was “clad royally.” There was a distinction, then, between her
and her handmaidens. She was clad simply, according to her condition.
Taste does not by any means lead to uniformity. I have read of a commune
in which all the women dressed alike and unbecomingly, so as to
discourage all attempt to please or attract, or to give value to the
different accents of beauty. The end of those women was worse than the
beginning. Simplicity is not ugliness, nor poverty, nor barrenness, nor
necessarily plainness. What is simplicity for another may not be for you,
for your condition, your tastes, especially for your wants. It is a
personal question. You go beyond simplicity when you attempt to
appropriate more than your wants, your aspirations, whatever they are,
demand--that is, to appropriate for show, for ostentation, more than your
life can assimilate, can make thoroughly yours. There is no limit to what
you may have, if it is necessary for you, if it is not a superfluity to
you. What would be simplicity to you may be superfluity to another. The
rich robes that Nausicaa wore she wore like a goddess. The moment your
dress, your house, your house-grounds, your furniture, your scale of
living, are beyond the rational satisfaction of your own desires--that
is, are for ostentation, for imposition upon the public--they are
superfluous, the line of simplicity is passed. Every human being has a
right to whatever can best feed his life, satisfy his legitimate desires,
contribute to the growth of his soul. It is not for me to judge whether
this is luxury or want. There is no merit in riches nor in poverty. There
is merit in that simplicity of life which seeks to grasp no more than is
necessary for the development and enjoyment of the individual. Most of
us, in all conditions; are weighted down with superfluities or worried to
acquire them. Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just
baggage enough.

The needs of every person differ from the needs of every other; we can
make no standard for wants or possessions. But the world would be greatly
transformed and much more easy to live in if everybody limited his
acquisitions to his ability to assimilate them to his life. The
destruction of simplicity is a craving for things, not because we need
them, but because others have them. Because one man who lives in a plain
little house, in all the restrictions of mean surroundings, would be
happier in a mansion suited to his taste and his wants, is no argument
that another man, living in a palace, in useless ostentation, would not
be better off in a dwelling which conforms to his cultivation and habits.
It is so hard to learn the lesson that there is no satisfaction in
gaining more than we personally want.

The matter of simplicity, then, comes into literary style, into building,
into dress, into life, individualized always by one’s personality. In
each we aim at the expression of the best that is in us, not at imitation
or ostentation.

The women in history, in legend, in poetry, whom we love, we do not love
because they are “clad royally.” In our day, to be clad royally is
scarcely a distinction. To have a superfluity is not a distinction. But
in those moments when we have a clear vision of life, that which seems to
us most admirable and desirable is the simplicity that endears to us the
idyl of Nausicaa.


The most painful event since the bombardment of Alexandria has been what
is called by an English writer the “invasion” of “American Literature in
England.” The hostile forces, with an advanced guard of what was regarded
as an “awkward squad,” had been gradually effecting a landing and a
lodgment not unwelcome to the unsuspicious natives. No alarm was taken
when they threw out a skirmish-line of magazines and began to deploy an
occasional wild poet, who advanced in buckskin leggings, revolver in
hand, or a stray sharp-shooting sketcher clad in the picturesque robes of
the sunset. Put when the main body of American novelists got fairly
ashore and into position the literary militia of the island rose up as
one man, with the strength of a thousand, to repel the invaders and sweep
them back across the Atlantic. The spectacle had a dramatic interest. The
invaders were not numerous, did not carry their native tomahawks, they
had been careful to wash off the frightful paint with which they usually
go into action, they did not utter the defiant whoop of Pogram, and even
the militia regarded them as on the whole “amusin’ young ‘possums” and
yet all the resources of modern and ancient warfare were brought to bear
upon them. There was a crack of revolvers from the daily press, a lively
fusillade of small-arms in the astonished weeklies, a discharge of
point-blank blunderbusses from the monthlies; and some of the heavy
quarterlies loaded up the old pieces of ordnance, that had not been
charged in forty years, with slugs and brickbats and junk-bottles, and
poured in raking broadsides. The effect on the island was something
tremendous: it shook and trembled, and was almost hidden in the smoke of
the conflict. What the effect is upon the invaders it is too soon to
determine. If any of them survive, it will be God’s mercy to his weak and
innocent children.

It must be said that the American people--such of them as were aware of
this uprising--took the punishment of their presumption in a sweet and
forgiving spirit. If they did not feel that they deserved it, they
regarded it as a valuable contribution to the study of sociology and race
characteristics, in which they have taken a lively interest of late. We
know how it is ourselves, they said; we used to be thin-skinned and
self-conscious and sensitive. We used to wince and cringe under English
criticism, and try to strike back in a blind fury. We have learned that
criticism is good for us, and we are grateful for it from any source. We
have learned that English criticism is dictated by love for us, by a warm
interest in our intellectual development, just as English anxiety about
our revenue laws is based upon a yearning that our down-trodden millions
shall enjoy the benefits of free-trade. We did not understand why a
country that admits our beef and grain and cheese should seem to seek
protection against a literary product which is brought into competition
with one of the great British staples, the modern novel. It seemed
inconsistent. But we are no more consistent ourselves. We cannot
understand the action of our own Congress, which protects the American
author by a round duty on foreign books and refuses to protect him by
granting a foreign copyright; or, to put it in another way, is willing to
steal the brains of the foreign author under the plea of free knowledge,
but taxes free knowledge in another form. We have no defense to make of
the state of international copyright, though we appreciate the
complication of the matter in the conflicting interests of English and
American publishers.

Yes; we must insist that, under the circumstances, the American people
have borne this outburst of English criticism in an admirable spirit. It
was as unexpected as it was sudden. Now, for many years our international
relations have been uncommonly smooth, oiled every few days by
complimentary banquet speeches, and sweetened by abundance of magazine
and newspaper “taffy.” Something too much of “taffy” we have thought was
given us at times for, in getting bigger in various ways, we have grown
more modest. Though our English admirers may not believe it, we see our
own faults more clearly than we once did--thanks, partly, to the faithful
castigations of our friends--and we sometimes find it difficult to
conceal our blushes when we are over-praised. We fancied that we were
going on, as an English writer on “Down-Easters” used to say, as “slick
as ile,” when this miniature tempest suddenly burst out in a revival of
the language and methods used in the redoubtable old English periodicals
forty years ago. We were interested in seeing how exactly this sort of
criticism that slew our literary fathers was revived now for the
execution of their degenerate children. And yet it was not exactly the
same. We used to call it “slang-whanging.” One form of it was a blank
surprise at the pretensions of American authors, and a dismissal with the
formula of previous ignorance of their existence. This is modified now by
a modest expression of “discomfiture” on reading of American authors
“whose very names, much less peculiarities, we never heard of before.”
 This is a tribunal from which there is no appeal. Not to have been heard
of by an Englishman is next door to annihilation. It is at least
discouraging to an author who may think he has gained some reputation
over what is now conceded to be a considerable portion of the earth’s
surface, to be cast into total obscurity by the negative damnation of
English ignorance. There is to us something pathetic in this and in the
surprise of the English critic, that there can be any standard of
respectable achievement outside of a seven-miles radius turning on
Charing Cross.

The pathetic aspect of the case has not, however, we are sorry to say,
struck the American press, which has too often treated with unbecoming
levity this unaccountable exhibition of English sensitiveness. There has
been little reply to it; at most, generally only an amused report of the
war, and now and then a discriminating acceptance of some of the
criticism as just, with a friendly recognition of the fact that on the
whole the critic had done very well considering the limitation of his
knowledge of the subject on which he wrote. What is certainly noticeable
is an entire absence of the irritation that used to be caused by similar
comments on America thirty years ago. Perhaps the Americans are reserving
their fire as their ancestors did at Bunker Hill, conscious, maybe, that
in the end they will be driven out of their slight literary
entrenchments. Perhaps they were disarmed by the fact that the acrid
criticism in the London Quarterly Review was accompanied by a cordial
appreciation of the novels that seemed to the reviewer characteristically
American. The interest in the tatter’s review of our poor field must be
languid, however, for nobody has taken the trouble to remind its author
that Brockden Brown--who is cited as a typical American writer, true to
local character, scenery, and color--put no more flavor of American life
and soil in his books than is to be found in “Frankenstein.”

It does not, I should suppose, lie in the way of The Century, whose
general audience on both sides of the Atlantic takes only an amused
interest in this singular revival of a traditional literary animosity--an
anachronism in these tolerant days when the reading world cares less and
less about the origin of literature that pleases it--it does not lie in
the way of The Century to do more than report this phenomenal literary
effervescence. And yet it cannot escape a certain responsibility as an
immediate though innocent occasion of this exhibition of international
courtesy, because its last November number contained some papers that
seem to have been irritating. In one of them Mr. Howells let fall some
chance remarks on the tendency of modern fiction, without adequately
developing his theory, which were largely dissented from in this country,
and were like the uncorking of six vials in England. The other was an
essay on England, dictated by admiration for the achievements of the
foremost nation of our time, which, from the awkwardness of the eulogist,
was unfortunately the uncorking of the seventh vial--an uncorking which,
as we happen to know, so prostrated the writer that he resolved never to
attempt to praise England again. His panic was somewhat allayed by the
soothing remark in a kindly paper in Blackwood’s Magazine for January,
that the writer had discussed his theme “by no means unfairly or
disrespectfully.” But with a shudder he recognized what a peril he had
escaped. Great Scott!--the reference is to a local American deity who is
invoked in war, and not to the Biblical commentator--what would have
happened to him if he had spoken of England “disrespectfully”!

We gratefully acknowledge also the remark of the Blackwood writer in
regard-to the claims of America in literature. “These claims,” he says,
“we have hitherto been very charitable to.” How our life depends upon a
continual exhibition by the critics of this divine attribute of charity
it would perhaps be unwise in us to confess. We can at least take
courage that it exists--who does not need it in this world of
misunderstandings?--since we know that charity is not puffed up, vaunteth
not itself, hopeth all things, endureth all things, is not easily
provoked; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be
knowledge, it shall vanish; but charity never faileth. And when all our
“dialects” on both sides of the water shall vanish, and we shall speak no
more Yorkshire or Cape Cod, or London cockney or “Pike” or “Cracker”
 vowel flatness, nor write them any more, but all use the noble simplicity
of the ideal English, and not indulge in such odd-sounding phrases as
this of our critic that “the combatants on both sides were by way of
detesting each other,” though we speak with the tongues of men and of
angels--we shall still need charity.

It will occur to the charitable that the Americans are at a disadvantage
in this little international “tiff.” For while the offenders have
inconsiderately written over their own names, the others preserve a
privileged anonymity. Any attempt to reply to these voices out of the
dark reminds one of the famous duel between the Englishman and the
Frenchman which took place in a pitch-dark chamber, with the frightful
result that when the tender-hearted Englishman discharged his revolver up
the chimney he brought down his man. One never can tell in a case of this
kind but a charitable shot might bring down a valued friend or even a
peer of the realm.

In all soberness, however, and setting aside the open question, which
country has most diverged from the English as it was at the time of the
separation of the colonies from the motherland, we may be permitted a
word or two in the hope of a better understanding. The offense in The
Century paper on “England” seems to have been in phrases such as these:
“When we began to produce something that was the product of our own soil
and of our own social conditions, it was still judged by the old
standards;” and, we are no longer irritated by “the snobbishness of
English critics of a certain school,” “for we see that its criticism is
only the result of ignorance simply of inability to understand.”

Upon this the reviewer affects to lose his respiration, and with “a gasp
of incredulity” wants to know what the writer means, “and what standards
he proposes to himself when he has given up the English ones?” The
reviewer makes a more serious case than the writer intended, or than a
fair construction of the context of his phrases warrants. It is the
criticism of “a certain school” only that was said to be the result of
ignorance. It is not the English language nor its body of enduring
literature--the noblest monument of our common civilization--that the
writer objected to as a standard of our performances. The standard
objected to is the narrow insular one (the term “insular” is used purely
as a geographical one) that measures life, social conditions, feeling,
temperament, and national idiosyncrasies expressed in our literature by
certain fixed notions prevalent in England. Probably also the expression
of national peculiarities would diverge somewhat from the “old
standards.” All we thought of asking was that allowance should be made
for this expression and these peculiarities, as it would be made in case
of other literatures and peoples. It might have occurred to our critics,
we used to think, to ask themselves whether the English literature is not
elastic enough to permit the play of forces in it which are foreign to
their experience. Genuine literature is the expression, we take it, of
life-and truth to that is the standard of its success. Reference was
intended to this, and not to the common canons of literary art. But we
have given up the expectation that the English critic “of a certain
school” will take this view of it, and this is the plain reason--not
intended to be offensive--why much of the English criticism has ceased to
be highly valued in this country, and why it has ceased to annoy. At the
same time, it ought to be added, English opinion, when it is seen to be
based upon knowledge, is as highly respected as ever. And nobody in
America, so far as we know, entertains, or ever entertained, the idea of
setting aside as standards the master-minds in British literature. In
regard to the “inability to understand,” we can, perhaps, make ourselves
more clearly understood, for the Blackwood’s reviewer has kindly
furnished us an illustration in this very paper, when he passes in
patronizing review the novels of Mr. Howells. In discussing the character
of Lydia Blood, in “The Lady of the Aroostook,” he is exceedingly puzzled
by the fact that a girl from rural New England, brought up amid
surroundings homely in the extreme, should have been considered a lady.
He says:

“The really ‘American thing’ in it is, we think, quite undiscovered
either by the author or his heroes, and that is the curious confusion of
classes which attributes to a girl brought up on the humblest level all
the prejudices and necessities of the highest society. Granting that
there was anything dreadful in it, the daughter of a homely small farmer
in England is not guarded and accompanied like a young lady on her
journeys from one place to another. Probably her mother at home would be
disturbed, like Lydia’s aunt, at the thought that there was no woman on
board, in case her child should be ill or lonely; but, as for any
impropriety, would never think twice on that subject. The difference is
that the English girl would not be a young lady. She would find her
sweetheart among the sailors, and would have nothing to say to the
gentlemen. This difference is far more curious than the misadventure,
which might have happened anywhere, and far more remarkable than the fact
that the gentlemen did behave to her like gentlemen, and did their best
to set her at ease, which we hope would have happened anywhere else. But
it is, we think, exclusively American, and very curious and interesting,
that this young woman, with her antecedents so distinctly set before us,
should be represented as a lady, not at all out of place among her
cultivated companions, and ‘ready to become an ornament of society the
moment she lands in Venice.”

Reams of writing could not more clearly explain what is meant by
“inability to understand” American conditions and to judge fairly the
literature growing out of them; and reams of writing would be wasted in
the attempt to make our curious critic comprehend the situation. There is
nothing in his experience of “farmers’ daughters” to give him the key to
it. We might tell him that his notion of a farmer’s daughters in England
does not apply to New England. We might tell him of a sort of society of
which he has no conception and can have none, of farmers’ daughters and
farmers’ wives in New England--more numerous, let us confess, thirty or
forty years ago than now--who lived in homely conditions, dressed with
plainness, and followed the fashions afar off; did their own household
work, even the menial parts of it; cooked the meals for the “men folks”
 and the “hired help,” made the butter and cheese, and performed their
half of the labor that wrung an honest but not luxurious living from the
reluctant soil. And yet those women--the sweet and gracious ornaments of
a self-respecting society--were full of spirit, of modest pride in their
position, were familiar with much good literature, could converse with
piquancy and understanding on subjects of general interest, were trained
in the subtleties of a solid theology, and bore themselves in any company
with that traditional breeding which we associate with the name of lady.
Such strong native sense had they, such innate refinement and courtesythe
product, it used to be said, of plain living and high thinking--that,
ignorant as they might be of civic ways, they would, upon being
introduced to them, need only a brief space of time to “orient”
 themselves to the new circumstances. Much more of this sort might be said
without exaggeration. To us there is nothing incongruous in the
supposition that Lydia Blood was “ready to become an ornament to society
the moment she lands in Venice.”

But we lack the missionary spirit necessary to the exertion to make our
interested critic comprehend such a social condition, and we prefer to
leave ourselves to his charity, in the hope of the continuance of which
we rest in serenity.


In a Memorial Day address at New Haven in 1881, the Hon. Richard D.
Hubbard suggested the erection of a statue to Nathan Hale in the State
Capitol. With the exception of the monument in Coventry no memorial of
the young hero existed. The suggestion was acted on by the Hon. E. S.
Cleveland, who introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives in
the session of 1883, appropriating money for the purpose. The propriety
of this was urged before a committee of the Legislature by Governor
Hubbard, in a speech of characteristic grace and eloquence, seconded by
the Hon. Henry C. Robinson and the Hon. Stephen W. Kellogg. The
Legislature appropriated the sum of five thousand dollars for a statue in
bronze, and a committee was appointed to procure it. They opened a public
competition, and, after considerable delay, during which the commission
was changed by death and by absence,--indeed four successive governors,
Hubbard, Waller, Harrison, and Lounsbury have served on it,--the work
was awarded to Karl Gerhardt, a young sculptor who began his career in
this city. It was finished in clay, and accepted in October, 1886, put in
plaster, and immediately sent to the foundry of Melzar Masman in
Chicopee, Massachusetts.

Today in all its artistic perfection and beauty it stands here to be
revealed to the public gaze. It is proper that the citizens of
Connecticut should know how much of this result they owe to the
intelligent zeal of Mr. Cleveland, the mover of the resolution in the
Legislature, who in the commission, and before he became a member of it,
has spared neither time nor effort to procure a memorial worthy of the
hero and of the State. And I am sure that I speak the unanimous sentiment
of the commission in the regret that the originator of this statue could
not have seen the consummation of his idea, and could not have crowned it
with the one thing lacking on this occasion, the silver words of
eloquence we always heard from his lips, that compact, nervous speech,
the perfect union of strength and grace; for who so fitly as the lamented
Hubbard could have portrayed the moral heroism of the Martyr-Spy?

This is not a portrait statue. There is no likeness of Nathan Hale
extant. The only known miniature of his face, in the possession of the
lady to whom he was betrothed at the time of his death, disappeared many
years ago. The artist was obliged, therefore, to create an ideal figure,
aided by a few fragmentary descriptions of Hale’s personal appearance.
His object has been to represent an American youth of the period, an
American patriot and scholar, whose manly beauty and grace tradition
loves to recall, to represent in face and in bearing the moral elevation
of character that made him conspicuous among his fellows, and to show
forth, if possible, the deed that made him immortal. For it is the deed
and the memorable last words we think of when we think of Hale. I know
that by one of the canons of art it is held that sculpture should rarely
fix a momentary action; but if this can be pardoned in the Laocoon, where
suffering could not otherwise be depicted to excite the sympathy of the
spectator, surely it can be justified in this case, where, as one may
say, the immortality of the subject rests upon a single act, upon a
phrase, upon the attitude of the moment. For all the man’s life, all his
character, flowered and blossomed into immortal beauty in this one
supreme moment of self-sacrifice, triumph, defiance. The ladder of the
gallows-tree on which the deserted boy stood, amidst the enemies of his
country, when he uttered those last words which all human annals do not
parallel in simple patriotism,--the ladder I am sure ran up to heaven,
and if angels were not seen ascending and descending it in that gray
morning, there stood the embodiment of American courage, unconquerable,
American faith, invincible, American love of country, unquenchable, a new
democratic manhood in the world, visible there for all men to take note
of, crowned already with the halo of victory in the Revolutionary dawn.
Oh, my Lord Howe! it seemed a trifling incident to you and to your
bloodhound, Provost Marshal Cunningham, but those winged last words were
worth ten thousand men to the drooping patriot army. Oh, your Majesty,
King George the Third! here was a spirit, could you but have known it,
that would cost you an empire, here was an ignominious death that would
grow in the estimation of mankind, increasing in nobility above the
fading pageantry of kings.

On the 21st of April, 1775, a messenger, riding express from Boston to
New York with the tidings of Lexington and Concord, reached New London.
The news created intense excitement. A public meeting was called in the
court-house at twilight, and among the speakers who exhorted the people
to take up arms at once, was one, a youth not yet twenty years of age,
who said, “Let us march immediately, and never lay down our arms until we
have obtained our independence,”--one of the first, perhaps the first, of
the public declarations of the purpose of independence. It was Nathan
Hale, already a person of some note in the colony, of a family then not
unknown and destined in various ways to distinction in the Republic. A
kinsman of the same name lost his life in the Louisburg fight. He had
been for a year the preceptor of the Union Grammar School at New London.
The morning after the meeting he was enrolled as a volunteer, and soon
marched away with his company to Cambridge.

Nathan Hale, descended from Robert Hale who settled in Charlestown in
1632, a scion of the Hales of Kent, England, was born in Coventry,
Connecticut, on the 6th of June, 1755, the sixth child of Richard Hale
and his wife Elizabeth Strong, persons of strong intellect and the
highest moral character, and Puritans of the strictest observances.
Brought up in this atmosphere, in which duty and moral rectitude were the
unquestioned obligations in life, he came to manhood with a character
that enabled him to face death or obloquy without flinching, when duty
called, so that his behavior at the last was not an excitement of the
moment, but the result of ancestry, training, and principle. Feeble
physically in infancy, he developed into a robust boy, strong in mind and
body, a lively, sweet-tempered, beautiful youth, and into a young manhood
endowed with every admirable quality. In feats of strength and agility he
recalls the traditions of Washington; he early showed a remarkable
avidity for knowledge, which was so sought that he became before he was
of age one of the best educated young men of his time in the colonies. He
was not only a classical scholar, with the limitations of those days;
but, what was then rare, he made scientific attainments which greatly
impressed those capable of judging, and he had a taste for art and a
remarkable talent as an artist. His father intended him for the ministry.
He received his preparatory education from Dr. Joseph Huntington, a
classical scholar and the pastor of the church in Coventry, entered Yale
College at the age of sixteen, and graduated with high honors in a class
of sixty, in September, 1773. At the time of his graduation his personal
appearance was notable. Dr. Enos Monro of New Haven, who knew him well in
the last year at Yale, said of him,

   “He was almost six feet in height, perfectly proportioned, and in
   figure and deportment he was the most manly man I have ever met.
   His chest was broad; his muscles were firm; his face wore a most
   benign expression; his complexion was roseate; his eyes were light
   blue and beamed with intelligence; his hair was soft and light brown
   in color, and his speech was rather low, sweet, and musical. His
   personal beauty and grace of manner were most charming. Why, all
   the girls in New Haven fell in love with him,” said Dr. Munro, “and
   wept tears of real sorrow when they heard of his sad fate. In dress
   he was always neat; he was quick to lend a hand to a being in
   distress, brute or human; was overflowing with good humor, and was
   the idol of all his acquaintances.”

Dr. Jared Sparks, who knew several of Hale’s intimate friends, writes of

   “Possessing genius, taste, and order, he became distinguished as a
   scholar; and endowed in an eminent degree with those graces and
   gifts of Nature which add a charm to youthful excellence, he gained
   universal esteem and confidence. To high moral worth and
   irreproachable habits were joined gentleness of manner, an ingenuous
   disposition, and vigor of understanding. No young man of his years
   put forth a fairer promise of future usefulness and celebrity; the
   fortunes of none were fostered more sincerely by the generous good
   wishes of his superiors.”

It was remembered at Yale that he was a brilliant debater as well as
scholar. At his graduation he engaged in a debate on the question,
“Whether the education of daughters be not, without any just reason, more
neglected than that of the sons.” “In this debate,” wrote James
Hillhouse, one of his classmates, “he was the champion of the daughters,
and most ably advocated their cause. You may be sure that he received the
plaudits of the ladies present.”

Hale seems to have had an irresistible charm for everybody. He was a
favorite in society; he had the manners and the qualities that made him a
leader among men and gained him the admiration of women. He was always
intelligently busy, and had the Yankee ingenuity,--he “could do anything
but spin,” he used to say to the girls of Coventry, laughing over the
spinning wheel. There is a universal testimony to his alert intelligence,
vivacity, manliness, sincerity, and winningness.

It is probable that while still an under-graduate at Yale, he was engaged
to Alice Adams, who was born in Canterbury, a young lady distinguished
then as she was afterwards for great beauty and intelligence. After
Hale’s death she married Mr. Eleazer Ripley, and was left a widow at the
age of eighteen, with one child, who survived its father only one year.
She married, the second time, William Lawrence, Esq., of Hartford, and
died in this city, greatly respected and admired, in 1845, aged
eighty-eight. It is a touching note of the hold the memory of her young
hero had upon her admiration that her last words, murmured as life was
ebbing, were, “Write to Nathan.”

Hale’s short career in the American army need not detain us. After his
flying visit as a volunteer to Cambridge, he returned to New London,
joined a company with the rank of lieutenant, participated in the siege
of Boston, was commissioned a captain in the Nineteenth Connecticut
Regiment in January, 1776, performed the duties of a soldier with
vigilance, bravery, and patience, and was noted for the discipline of his
company. In the last dispiriting days of 1775, when the terms of his men
had expired, he offered to give them his month’s pay if they would remain
a month longer. He accompanied the army to New York, and shared its
fortunes in that discouraging spring and summer. Shortly after his
arrival Captain Hale distinguished himself by the brilliant exploit of
cutting out a British sloop, laden with provisions, from under the guns
of the man-of-war “Asia,” sixty-four, lying in the East River, and
bringing her triumphantly into slip. During the summer he suffered a
severe illness.

The condition of the American army and cause on the 1st of September,
1776, after the retreat from Long Island, was critical. The army was
demoralized, clamoring in vain for pay, and deserting by companies and
regiments; one-third of the men were without tents, one-fourth of them
were on the sick list. On the 7th, Washington called a council of war,
and anxiously inquired what should be done. On the 12th it was determined
to abandon the city and take possession of Harlem Heights. The British
army, twenty-five thousand strong, admirably equipped, and supported by a
powerful naval force, threatened to envelop our poor force, and finish
the war in a stroke. Washington was unable to penetrate the designs of
the British commander, or to obtain any trusty information of the
intentions or the movements of the British army. Information was
imperatively necessary to save us from destruction, and it could only be
obtained by one skilled in military and scientific knowledge and a good
draughtsman, a man of quick eye, cool head, tact, sagacity, and courage,
and one whose judgment and fidelity could be trusted. Washington applied
to Lieutenant-Colonel Knowlton, who summoned a conference of officers in
the name of the commander-in-chief, and laid the matter before them. No
one was willing to undertake the dangerous and ignominious mission.
Knowlton was in despair, and late in the conference was repeating the
necessity, when a young officer, pale from recent illness, entered the
room and said, “I will undertake it.” It was Captain Nathan Hale.
Everybody was astonished. His friends besought him not to attempt it. In
vain. Hale was under no illusion. He silenced all remonstrances by saying
that he thought he owed his country the accomplishment of an object so
important and so much desired by the commander-in-chief, and he knew no
way to obtain the information except by going into the enemy’s camp in
disguise. “I wish to be useful,” he said; “and every kind of service
necessary for the public good becomes honorable by being necessary. If
the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service, its claims to the
performance of that service are imperious.”

The tale is well known. Hale crossed over from Norwalk to Huntington Cove
on Long Island. In the disguise of a schoolmaster, he penetrated the
British lines and the city, made accurate drawings of the fortifications,
and memoranda in Latin of all that he observed, which he concealed
between the soles of his shoes, and returned to the point on the shore
where he had first landed. He expected to be met by a boat and to cross
the Sound to Norwalk the next morning. The next morning he was captured,
no doubt by Tory treachery, and taken to Howe’s headquarters, the mansion
of James Beekman, situated at (the present) Fiftieth Street and First
Avenue. That was on the 21st of September. Without trial and upon the
evidence found on his person, Howe condemned him to be hanged as a spy
early next morning. Indeed Hale made no attempt at defense. He frankly
owned his mission, and expressed regret that he could not serve his
country better. His open, manly bearing and high spirit commanded the
respect of his captors. Mercy he did not expect, and pity was not shown
him. The British were irritated by a conflagration which had that morning
laid almost a third of the city in ashes, and which they attributed to
incendiary efforts to deprive them of agreeable winter quarters. Hale was
at first locked up in the Beekman greenhouse. Whether he remained there
all night is not known, and the place of his execution has been disputed;
but the best evidence seems to be that it took place on the farm of
Colonel Rutger, on the west side, in the orchard in the vicinity of the
present East Broadway and Market Street, and that he was hanged to the
limb of an apple-tree.

It was a lovely Sunday morning, before the break of day, that he was
marched to the place of execution, September 22d. While awaiting the
necessary preparations, a courteous young officer permitted him to sit in
his tent. He asked for the presence of a chaplain; the request was
refused. He asked for a Bible; it was denied. But at the solicitation of
the young officer he was furnished with writing materials, and wrote
briefly to his mother, his sister, and his betrothed. When the infamous
Cunningham, to whom Howe had delivered him, read what was written, he was
furious at the noble and dauntless spirit shown, and with foul oaths tore
the letters into shreds, saying afterwards “that the rebels should never
know that they had a man who could die with such firmness.” As Hale stood
upon the fatal ladder, Cunningham taunted him, and tauntingly demanded
his “last dying speech and confession.” The hero did not heed the words
of the brute, but, looking calmly upon the spectators, said in a clear
voice, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
 And the ladder was snatched from under him.

My friends, we are not honoring today a lad who appears for a moment in a
heroic light, but one of the most worthy of the citizens of Connecticut,
who has by his lofty character long honored her, wherever patriotism is
not a mere name, and where Christian manhood is respected. We have had
many heroes, many youths of promise, and men of note, whose names are our
only great and enduring riches; but no one of them all better
illustrated, short as was his career, the virtues we desire for all our
sons. We have long delayed this tribute to his character and his deeds,
but in spite of our neglect his fame has grown year by year, as war and
politics have taught us what is really admirable in a human being; and we
are now sure that we are not erecting a monument to an ephemeral
reputation. It is fit that it should stand here, one of the chief
distinctions of our splendid Capitol, here in the political centre of the
State, here in the city where first in all the world was proclaimed and
put into a political charter the fundamental idea of democracy, that
“government rests upon the consent of the people,” here in the city where
by the action of these self existing towns was formed the model, the town
and the commonwealth, the bi-cameral legislature, of our constitutional
federal union. If the soul of Nathan Hale, immortal in youth in the air
of heaven, can behold today this scene, as doubtless it can, in the midst
of a State whose prosperity the young colonist could not have imagined in
his wildest dreams for his country, he must feel anew the truth that
there is nothing too sacred for a man to give for his native land.

Governor Lounsbury, the labor of the commission is finished. On their
behalf I present this work of art to the State of Connecticut.

Let the statue speak for itself.


By Charles Dudley Warner


Thirty years ago and more those who read and valued good books in this
country made the acquaintance of Mr. Warner, and since the publication of
“My Summer In a Garden” no work of his has needed any other introduction
than the presence of his name on the title-page; and now that reputation
has mellowed into memory, even the word of interpretation seems
superfluous. Mr. Warner wrote out of a clear, as well as a full mind, and
lucidity of style was part of that harmonious charm of sincerity and
urbanity which made him one of the most intelligible and companionable of
our writers.

It is a pleasure, however, to recall him as, not long ago, we saw him
move and heard him speak in the ripeness of years which brought him the
full flavor of maturity without any loss of freshness from his humor or
serenity from his thought. He shared with Lowell, Longfellow, and Curtis
a harmony of nature and art, a unity of ideal and achievement, which make
him a welcome figure, not only for what he said, but for what he was; one
of those friends whose coming is hailed with joy because they seem always
at their best, and minister to rather than draw upon our own capital of
moral vitality.

Mr. Warner was the most undogmatic of idealists, the most winning of
teachers. He had always some thing to say to the ethical sense, a word
for the conscience; but his approach was always through the mind, and his
enforcement of the moral lesson was by suggestion rather than by
commandment. There was nothing ascetic about him, no easy solution of the
difficulties of life by ignoring or evading them; nor, on the other hand,
was there any confusion of moral standards as the result of a confusion
of ideas touching the nature and functions of art. He saw clearly, he
felt deeply, and he thought straight; hence the rectitude of his mind,
the sanity of his spirit, the justice of his dealings with the things
which make for life and art. He used the essay as Addison used it, not
for sermonic effect, but as a form of art which permitted a man to deal
with serious things in a spirit of gayety, and with that lightness of
touch which conveys influence without employing force. He was as deeply
enamored as George William Curtis with the highest ideals of life for
America, and, like Curtis, his expression caught the grace and
distinction of those ideals.

It is a pleasure to hear his voice once more, because its very accents
suggest the most interesting, high-minded, and captivating ideals of
living; he brings with him that air of fine breeding which is diffused by
the men who, in mind as in manners, have been, in a distinctive sense,
gentlemen; who have lived so constantly and habitually on intimate terms
with the highest things in thought and character that the tone of this
really best society has become theirs. Among men of talent there are
plebeians as well as patricians; even genius, which is never vulgar, is
sometimes unable to hide the vulgarity of the aims and ideas which it
clothes with beauty without concealing their essential nature. Mr. Warner
was a patrician; the most democratic of men, he was one of the most
fastidious in his intellectual companionships and affiliations. The
subjects about which he speaks with his oldtime directness and charm in
this volume make us aware of the serious temper of his mind, of his deep
interest in the life of his time and people, and of the easy and natural
grace with which he insisted on facing the fact and bringing it to the
test of the highest standards. In his discussion of “Fashions in
Literature” he deftly brings before us the significance of literature and
the signs which it always wears, while he seems bent upon considering
some interesting aspects of contemporary writing.

And how admirably he has described his own work in his definition of
qualities which are common to all literature of a high order: simplicity,
knowledge of human nature, agreeable personality. It would be impossible
in briefer or more comprehensive phrase to sum up and express the secret
of his influence and of the pleasure he gives us. It is to suggest this
application of his words to himself that this preparatory comment is

When “My Summer In a Garden” appeared, it won a host of friends who did
not stop to ask whether it was a piece of excellent journalism or a bit
of real literature. It was so natural, so informal, so intimate that
readers accepted it as matter of course, as they accepted the blooming of
flowers and the flitting of birds. It was simply a report of certain
things which had happened out of doors, made by an observing neighbor,
whose talk seemed to be of a piece with the diffused fragrance and light
and life of the old-fashioned garden. This easy approach, along natural
lines of interest, by quietly putting himself on common ground with his
reader, Mr. Warner never abandoned; he was so delightful a companion that
until he ceased to walk beside them, many of his friends of the mind did
not realize how much he had enriched them by the way. This charming
simplicity, which made it possible for him to put himself on intimate
terms with his readers, was the result of his sincerity, his clearness of
thought, and his ripe culture: that knowledge of the best which rids a
man forever of faith in devices, dexterities, obscurities, and all other
substitutes for the lucid realities of thinking and of character.

To his love of reality and his sincere interest in men, Mr. Warner added
natural shrewdness and long observation of the psychology of men and
women under the stress and strain of experience. His knowledge of human
nature did not lessen his geniality, but it kept the edge of his mind
keen, and gave his work the variety not only of humor but of satire. He
cared deeply for people, but they did not impose on him; he loved his
country with a passion which was the more genuine because it was exacting
and, at times, sharply critical. There runs through all his work, as a
critic of manners and men, as well as of art, a wisdom of life born of
wide and keen observation; put not into the form of aphorisms, but of
shrewd comment, of keen criticism, of nice discrimination between the
manifold shadings of insincerity, of insight into the action and reaction
of conditions, surroundings, social and ethical aims on men and women.
The stories written in his later years are full of the evidences of a
knowledge of human nature which was singularly trustworthy and

When all has been said, however, it remains true of him, as of so many of
the writers whom we read and love and love as we read, that the secret of
his charm lay in an agreeable personality. At the end of the analysis, if
the work is worth while, there is always a man, and the man is the
explanation of the work. This is pre-eminently true of those writers
whose charm lies less in distinctively intellectual qualities than in
temperament, atmosphere, humor-writers of the quality of Steele,
Goldsmith, Lamb, Irving. It is not only, therefore, a pleasure to recall
Mr. Warner; it is a necessity if one would discover the secret of his
charm, the source of his authority.

He was a New Englander by birth and by long residence, but he was also a
man of the world in the true sense of the phrase; one whose ethical
judgment had been broadened without being lowered; who had learned that
truth, though often strenuously enforced, is never so convincing as when
stated in terms of beauty; and to whom it had been revealed that to live
naturally, sanely, and productively one must live humanly, with due
regard to the earthly as well as to heavenly, with ease as well as
earnestness of spirit, through play no less than through work, in the
large resources of art, society, and humor, as well as with the ancient
and well-tested rectitudes of the fathers.

The harmonious play of his whole nature, the breadth of his interests and
the sanity of his spirit made Mr. Warner a delightful companion, and kept
to the very end the freshness of his mind and the spontaneity of his
humor; life never lost its savor for him, nor did his style part with its
diffused but thoroughly individual humor. This latest collection of his
papers, dealing with a wide range of subjects from the “Education of the
Negro” to “Literature and the Stage,” with characteristic comments on
“Truthfulness” and “The Pursuit of Happiness,” shows him at the end of
his long and tireless career as a writer still deeply interested in
contemporary events, responsive to the appeal of the questions of the
hour, and sensitive to all things which affected the dignity and
authority of literature. In his interests, his bearing, his relations to
the public life of the country, no less than in his work, he held fast to
the best traditions of literature, and he has taken his place among the
representative American men of Letters.



If you examine a collection of prints of costumes of different
generations, you are commonly amused by the ludicrous appearance of most
of them, especially of those that are not familiar to you in your own
decade. They are not only inappropriate and inconvenient to your eye, but
they offend your taste. You cannot believe that they were ever thought
beautiful and becoming. If your memory does not fail you, however, and
you retain a little honesty of mind, you can recall the fact that a
costume which seems to you ridiculous today had your warm approval ten
years ago. You wonder, indeed, how you could ever have tolerated a
costume which has not one graceful line, and has no more relation to the
human figure than Mambrino’s helmet had to a crown of glory. You cannot
imagine how you ever approved the vast balloon skirt that gave your
sweetheart the appearance of the great bell of Moscow, or that you
yourself could have been complacent in a coat the tails of which reached
your heels, and the buttons of which, a rudimentary survival, were
between your shoulder-blades--you who are now devoted to a female figure
that resembles an old-fashioned churn surmounted by an isosceles

These vagaries of taste, which disfigure or destroy correct proportions
or hide deformities, are nowhere more evident than in the illustrations
of works of fiction. The artist who collaborates with the contemporary
novelist has a hard fate. If he is faithful to the fashions of the day,
he earns the repute of artistic depravity in the eyes of the next
generation. The novel may become a classic, because it represents human
nature, or even the whimsicalities of a period; but the illustrations of
the artist only provoke a smile, because he has represented merely the
unessential and the fleeting. The interest in his work is archaeological,
not artistic. The genius of the great portrait-painter may to some extent
overcome the disadvantages of contemporary costume, but if the costume of
his period is hideous and lacks the essential lines of beauty, his work
is liable to need the apology of quaintness. The Greek artist and the
Mediaeval painter, when the costumes were really picturesque and made us
forget the lack of simplicity in a noble sumptuousness, had never this
posthumous difficulty to contend with.

In the examination of costumes of different races and different ages, we
are also struck by the fact that with primitive or isolated peoples
costumes vary little from age to age, and fashion and the fashions are
unrecognized, and a habit of dress which is dictated by climate, or has
been proved to be comfortable, is adhered to from one generation to
another; while nations that we call highly civilized, meaning commonly
not only Occidental peoples, but peoples called progressive, are subject
to the most frequent and violent changes of fashions, not in generations
only, but in decades and years of a generation, as if the mass had no
mind or taste of its own, but submitted to the irresponsible ukase of
tailors and modistes, who are in alliance with enterprising manufacturers
of novelties. In this higher civilization a costume which is artistic and
becoming has no more chance of permanence than one which is ugly and
inconvenient. It might be inferred that this higher civilization produces
no better taste and discrimination, no more independent judgment, in
dress than it does in literature. The vagaries in dress of the Western
nations for a thousand years past, to go back no further, are certainly
highly amusing, and would be humiliating to people who regarded taste and
art as essentials of civilization. But when we speak of civilization, we
cannot but notice that some of the great civilizations; the longest
permanent and most notable for highest achievement in learning, science,
art, or in the graces or comforts of life, the Egyptian, the Saracenic,
the Chinese, were subject to no such vagaries in costume, but adhered to
that which taste, climate, experience had determined to be the most
useful and appropriate. And it is a singular comment upon our modern
conceit that we make our own vagaries and changeableness, and not any
fixed principles of art or of utility, the criterion of judgment, on
other races and other times.

The more important result of the study of past fashions, in engravings
and paintings, remains to be spoken of. It is that in all the
illustrations, from the simplicity of Athens, through the artificiality
of Louis XIV and the monstrosities of Elizabeth, down to the undescribed
modistic inventions of the first McKinley, there is discoverable a
radical and primitive law of beauty. We acknowledge it among the Greeks,
we encounter it in one age and another. I mean a style of dress that is
artistic as well as picturesque, that satisfies our love of beauty, that
accords with the grace of the perfect human figure, and that gives as
perfect satisfaction to the cultivated taste as a drawing by Raphael.
While all the other illustrations of the human ingenuity in making the
human race appear fantastic or ridiculous amuse us or offend our taste,
--except the tailor fashion-plates of the week that is now,--these few
exceptions, classic or modern, give us permanent delight, and are
recognized as following the eternal law of beauty and utility. And we
know, notwithstanding the temporary triumph of bad taste and the public
lack of any taste, that there is a standard, artistic and imperishable.

The student of manners might find an interesting field in noting how, in
our Occidental civilizations, fluctuations of opinions, of morals, and of
literary style have been accompanied by more or less significant
exhibitions of costumes. He will note in the Precieux of France and the
Euphuist of England a corresponding effeminacy in dress; in the frank
paganism of the French Revolution the affectation of Greek and Roman
apparel, passing into the Directoire style in the Citizen and the
Citizeness; in the Calvinistic cut of the Puritan of Geneva and of New
England the grim severity of their theology and morals. These examples
are interesting as showing an inclination to express an inner condition
by the outward apparel, as the Quakers indicate an inward peace by an
external drabness, and the American Indian a bellicose disposition by red
and yellow paint; just as we express by red stripes our desire to kill
men with artillery, or by yellow stripes to kill them with cavalry. It is
not possible to say whether these external displays are relics of
barbarism or are enduring necessities of human nature.

The fickleness of men in costume in a manner burlesques their shifty and
uncertain taste in literature. A book or a certain fashion in letters
will have a run like a garment, and, like that, will pass away before it
waxes old. It seems incredible, as we look back over the literary history
of the past three centuries only, what prevailing styles and moods of
expression, affectations, and prettinesses, each in turn, have pleased
reasonably cultivated people. What tedious and vapid things they read and
liked to read! Think of the French, who had once had a Villon,
intoxicating themselves with somnolent draughts of Richardson. But, then,
the French could match the paste euphuisms of Lyly with the novels of
Scudery. Every modern literature has been subject to these epidemics and
diseases. It is needless to dwell upon them in detail. Since the great
diffusion of printing, these literary crazes have been more frequent and
of shorter duration. We need go back no further than a generation to find
abundant examples of eccentricities of style and expression, of crazes
over some author or some book, as unaccountable on principles of art as
many of the fashions in social life.--The more violent the attack, the
sooner it is over. Readers of middle age can recall the furor over
Tupper, the extravagant expectations as to the brilliant essayist
Gilfillan, the soon-extinguished hopes of the poet Alexander Smith. For
the moment the world waited in the belief of the rising of new stars, and
as suddenly realized that it had been deceived. Sometimes we like
ruggedness, and again we like things made easy. Within a few years a
distinguished Scotch clergyman made a fortune by diluting a paragraph
written by Saint Paul. It is in our memory how at one time all the boys
tried to write like Macaulay, and then like Carlyle, and then like
Ruskin, and we have lived to see the day when all the girls would like to
write like Heine.

In less than twenty years we have seen wonderful changes in public taste
and in the efforts of writers to meet it or to create it. We saw the
everlastingly revived conflict between realism and romanticism. We saw
the realist run into the naturalist, the naturalist into the animalist,
the psychologist into the sexualist, and the sudden reaction to romance,
in the form of what is called the historic novel, the receipt for which
can be prescribed by any competent pharmacist. The one essential in the
ingredients is that the hero shall be mainly got out of one hole by
dropping him into a deeper one, until--the proper serial length being
attained--he is miraculously dropped out into daylight, and stands to
receive the plaudits of a tenderhearted world, that is fond of nothing so
much as of fighting.

The extraordinary vogue of certain recent stories is not so much to be
wondered at when we consider the millions that have been added to the
readers of English during the past twenty-five years. The wonder is that
a new book does not sell more largely, or it would be a wonder if the
ability to buy kept pace with the ability to read, and if discrimination
had accompanied the appetite for reading. The critics term these
successes of some recent fictions “crazes,” but they are really sustained
by some desirable qualities--they are cleverly written, and they are for
the moment undoubtedly entertaining. Some of them as undoubtedly appeal
to innate vulgarity or to cultivated depravity. I will call no names,
because that would be to indict the public taste. This recent phenomenon
of sales of stories by the hundred thousand is not, however, wholly due
to quality. Another element has come in since the publishers have
awakened to the fact that literature can be treated like merchandise. To
use their own phrase, they “handle” books as they would “handle” patent
medicines, that is, the popular patent medicines that are desired because
of the amount of alcohol they contain; indeed, they are sold along with
dry-goods and fancy notions. I am not objecting to this great and wide
distribution any more than I am to the haste of fruit-dealers to market
their products before they decay. The wary critic will be very careful
about dogmatizing over the nature and distribution of literary products.
It is no certain sign that a book is good because it is popular, nor is
it any more certain that it is good because it has a very limited sale.
Yet we cannot help seeing that many of the books that are the subject of
crazes utterly disappear in a very short time, while many others,
approved by only a judicious few, continue in the market and slowly
become standards, considered as good stock by the booksellers and
continually in a limited demand.

The English essayists have spent a good deal of time lately in discussing
the question whether it is possible to tell a good contemporary book from
a bad one. Their hesitation is justified by a study of English criticism
of new books in the quarterly, monthly, and weekly periodicals from the
latter part of the eighteenth century to the last quarter of the
nineteenth; or, to name a definite period, from the verse of the Lake
poets, from Shelley and Byron, down to Tennyson, there is scarcely a poet
who has attained world-wide assent to his position in the first or second
rank who was not at the hands of the reviewers the subject of mockery and
bitter detraction. To be original in any degree was to be damned. And
there is scarcely one who was at first ranked as a great light during
this period who is now known out of the biographical dictionary. Nothing
in modern literature is more amazing than the bulk of English criticism
in the last three-quarters of a century, so far as it concerned
individual writers, both in poetry and prose. The literary rancor shown
rose to the dignity almost of theological vituperation.

Is there any way to tell a good book from a bad one? Yes. As certainly as
you can tell a good picture from a bad one, or a good egg from a bad one.
Because there are hosts who do not discriminate as to the eggs or the
butter they eat, it does not follow that a normal taste should not know
the difference.

Because there is a highly artistic nation that welcomes the flavor of
garlic in everything, and another which claims to be the most civilized
in the world that cannot tell coffee from chicory, or because the ancient
Chinese love rancid sesame oil, or the Esquimaux like spoiled blubber and
tainted fish, it does not follow that there is not in the world a
wholesome taste for things natural and pure.

It is clear that the critic of contemporary literature is quite as likely
to be wrong as right. He is, for one thing, inevitably affected by the
prevailing fashion of his little day. And, worse still, he is apt to make
his own tastes and prejudices the standard of his judgment. His view is
commonly provincial instead of cosmopolitan. In the English period just
referred to it is easy to see that most of the critical opinion was
determined by political or theological animosity and prejudice. The rule
was for a Tory to hit a Whig or a Whig to hit a Tory, under whatever
literary guise he appeared. If the new writer was not orthodox in the
view of his political or theological critic, he was not to be tolerated
as poet or historian, Dr. Johnson had said everything he could say
against an author when he declared that he was a vile Whig. Macaulay, a
Whig, always consulted his prejudices for his judgment, equally when he
was reviewing Croker’s Boswell or the impeachment of Warren Hastings. He
hated Croker,--a hateful man, to be sure,--and when the latter published
his edition of Boswell, Macaulay saw his opportunity, and exclaimed
before he had looked at the book, as you will remember, “Now I will dust
his jacket.” The standard of criticism does not lie with the individual
in literature any more than it does in different periods as to fashions
and manners. The world is pretty well agreed, and always has been, as to
the qualities that make a gentleman. And yet there was a time when the
vilest and perhaps the most contemptible man who ever occupied the
English throne,--and that is saying a great deal,--George IV, was
universally called the “First Gentleman of Europe.” The reproach might be
somewhat lightened by the fact that George was a foreigner, but for the
wider fact that no person of English stock has been on the throne since
Saxon Harold, the chosen and imposed rulers of England having been
French, Welsh, Scotch, and Dutch, many of them being guiltless of the
English language, and many of them also of the English middle-class
morality. The impartial old Wraxall, the memorialist of the times of
George III, having described a noble as a gambler, a drunkard, a
smuggler, an appropriator of public money, who always cheated his
tradesmen, who was one and sometimes all of them together, and a
profligate generally, commonly adds, “But he was a perfect gentleman.”
 And yet there has always been a standard that excludes George IV from the
rank of gentleman, as it excludes Tupper from the rank of poet.

The standard of literary judgment, then, is not in the individual,--that
is, in the taste and prejudice of the individual,--any more than it is in
the immediate contemporary opinion, which is always in flux and reflux
from one extreme to another; but it is in certain immutable principles
and qualities which have been slowly evolved during the long historic
periods of literary criticism. But how shall we ascertain what these
principles are, so as to apply them to new circumstances and new
creations, holding on to the essentials and disregarding contemporary
tastes; prejudices, and appearances? We all admit that certain pieces of
literature have become classic; by general consent there is no dispute
about them. How they have become so we cannot exactly explain. Some say
by a mysterious settling of universal opinion, the operation of which
cannot be exactly defined. Others say that the highly developed critical
judgment of a few persons, from time to time, has established forever
what we agree to call masterpieces. But this discussion is immaterial,
since these supreme examples of literary excellence exist in all kinds of
composition,--poetry, fable, romance, ethical teaching, prophecy,
interpretation, history, humor, satire, devotional flight into the
spiritual and supernatural, everything in which the human mind has
exercised itself,--from the days of the Egyptian moralist and the Old
Testament annalist and poet down to our scientific age. These
masterpieces exist from many periods and in many languages, and they all
have qualities in common which have insured their persistence. To
discover what these qualities are that have insured permanence and
promise indefinite continuance is to have a means of judging with an
approach to scientific accuracy our contemporary literature. There is no
thing of beauty that does not conform to a law of order and beauty--poem,
story, costume, picture, statue, all fall into an ascertainable law of
art. Nothing of man’s making is perfect, but any creation approximates
perfection in the measure that it conforms to inevitable law.

To ascertain this law, and apply it, in art or in literature, to the
changing conditions of our progressive life, is the business of the
artist. It is the business of the critic to mark how the performance
conforms to or departs from the law evolved and transmitted in the
long-experience of the race. True criticism, then, is not a matter of
caprice or of individual liking or disliking, nor of conformity to a
prevailing and generally temporary popular judgment. Individual judgment
may be very interesting and have its value, depending upon the capacity
of the judge. It was my good fortune once to fall in with a person who
had been moved, by I know not what inspiration, to project himself out of
his safe local conditions into France, Greece, Italy, Cairo, and
Jerusalem. He assured me that he had seen nothing anywhere in the wide
world of nature and art to compare with the beauty of Nebraska.

What are the qualities common to all the masterpieces of literature, or,
let us say, to those that have endured in spite of imperfections and
local provincialisms?

First of all I should name simplicity, which includes lucidity of
expression, the clear thought in fitting, luminous words. And this is
true when the thought is profound and the subject is as complex as life
itself. This quality is strikingly exhibited for us in Jowett’s
translation of Plato--which is as modern in feeling and phrase as
anything done in Boston--in the naif and direct Herodotus, and, above
all, in the King James vernacular translation of the Bible, which is the
great text-book of all modern literature.

The second quality is knowledge of human nature. We can put up with the
improbable in invention, because the improbable is always happening in
life, but we cannot tolerate the so-called psychological juggling with
the human mind, the perversion of the laws of the mind, the forcing of
character to fit the eccentricities of plot. Whatever excursions the
writer makes in fancy, we require fundamental consistency with human
nature. And this is the reason why psychological studies of the abnormal,
or biographies of criminal lunatics, are only interesting to pathologists
and never become classics in literature.

A third quality common to all masterpieces is what we call charm, a
matter more or less of style, and which may be defined as the agreeable
personality of the writer. This is indispensable. It is this personality
which gives the final value to every work of art as well as of
literature. It is not enough to copy nature or to copy, even accurately,
the incidents of life. Only by digestion and transmutation through
personality does any work attain the dignity of art. The great works of
architecture, even, which are somewhat determined by mathematical rule,
owe their charm to the personal genius of their creators. For this reason
our imitations of Greek architecture are commonly failures. To speak
technically, the masterpiece of literature is characterized by the same
knowledge of proportion and perspective as the masterpiece in art.

If there is a standard of literary excellence, as there is a law of
beauty--and it seems to me that to doubt this in the intellectual world
is to doubt the prevalence of order that exists in the natural--it is
certainly possible to ascertain whether a new production conforms, and
how far it conforms, to the universally accepted canons of art. To work
by this rule in literary criticism is to substitute something definite
for the individual tastes, moods, and local bias of the critic. It is
true that the vast body of that which we read is ephemeral, and justifies
its existence by its obvious use for information, recreation, and
entertainment. But to permit the impression to prevail that an
unenlightened popular preference for a book, however many may hold it, is
to be taken as a measure of its excellence, is like claiming that a
debased Austrian coin, because it circulates, is as good as a gold stater
of Alexander. The case is infinitely worse than this; for a slovenly
literature, unrebuked and uncorrected, begets slovenly thought and
debases our entire intellectual life.

It should be remembered, however, that the creative faculty in man has
not ceased, nor has puny man drawn all there is to be drawn out of the
eternal wisdom. We are probably only in the beginning of our evolution,
and something new may always be expected, that is, new and fresh
applications of universal law. The critic of literature needs to be in an
expectant and receptive frame of mind. Many critics approach a book with
hostile intent, and seem to fancy that their business is to look for what
is bad in it, and not for what is good. It seems to me that the first
duty of the critic is to try to understand the author, to give him a fair
chance by coming to his perusal with an open mind. Whatever book you
read, or sermon or lecture you hear, give yourself for the time
absolutely to its influence. This is just to the author, fair to the
public, and, above all, valuable to the intellectual sanity of the critic
himself. It is a very bad thing for the memory and the judgment to get
into a habit of reading carelessly or listening with distracted
attention. I know of nothing so harmful to the strength of the mind as
this habit. There is a valuable mental training in closely following a
discourse that is valueless in itself. After the reader has unreservedly
surrendered himself to the influence of the book, and let his mind
settle, as we say, and resume its own judgment, he is in a position to
look at it objectively and to compare it with other facts of life and of
literature dispassionately. He can then compare it as to form, substance,
tone, with the enduring literature that has come down to us from all the
ages. It is a phenomenon known to all of us that we may for the moment be
carried away by a book which upon cool reflection we find is false in
ethics and weak in construction. We find this because we have standards
outside ourselves.

I am not concerned to define here what is meant by literature. A great
mass of it has been accumulated in the progress of mankind, and,
fortunately for different wants and temperaments, it is as varied as the
various minds that produced it. The main thing to be considered is that
this great stream of thought is the highest achievement and the most
valuable possession of mankind. It is not only that literature is the
source of inspiration to youth and the solace of age, but it is what a
national language is to a nation, the highest expression of its being.
Whatever we acquire of science, of art, in discovery, in the application
of natural laws in industries, is an enlargement of our horizon, and a
contribution to the highest needs of man, his intellectual life. The
controversy between the claims of the practical life and the intellectual
is as idle as the so-called conflict between science and religion. And
the highest and final expression of this life of man, his thought, his
emotion, his feeling, his aspiration, whatever you choose to call it, is
in the enduring literature he creates. He certainly misses half his
opportunity on this planet who considers only the physical or what is
called the practical. He is a man only half developed. I can conceive no
more dreary existence than that of a man who is past the period of
business activity, and who cannot, for his entertainment, his happiness,
draw upon the great reservoir of literature. For what did I come into
this world if I am to be like a stake planted in a fence, and not like a
tree visited by all the winds of heaven and the birds of the air?

Those who concern themselves with the printed matter in books and
periodicals are often in despair over the volume of it, and their actual
inability to keep up with current literature. They need not worry. If all
that appears in books, under the pressure of publishers and the ambition
of experimenters in writing, were uniformly excellent, no reader would be
under any more obligation to read it than he is to see every individual
flower and blossoming shrub. Specimens of the varieties would suffice.
But a vast proportion of it is the product of immature minds, and of a
yearning for experience rather than a knowledge of life. There is no more
obligation on the part of the person who would be well informed and
cultivated to read all this than there is to read all the colored
incidents, personal gossip, accidents, and crimes repeated daily, with
sameness of effect, in the newspapers, some of the most widely circulated
of which are a composite of the police gazette and the comic almanac. A
great deal of the reading done is mere contagion, one form or another of
communicated grippe, and it is consoling and even surprising to know that
if you escape the run of it for a season, you have lost nothing
appreciable. Some people, it has been often said, make it a rule never to
read a book until it is from one to five years old, By this simple device
they escape the necessity of reading most of them, but this is only a
part of their gain. Considering the fact that the world is full of books
of the highest value for cultivation, entertainment, and information,
which the utmost leisure we can spare from other pressing avocations does
not suffice to give us knowledge of, it does seem to be little less than
a moral and intellectual sin to flounder about blindly in the flood of
new publications. I am speaking, of course, of the general mass of
readers, and not of the specialists who must follow their subjects with
ceaseless inquisition. But for most of us who belong to the still
comparatively few who, really read books, the main object of life is not
to keep up with the printing-press, any more than it is the main object
of sensible people to follow all the extremes and whims of fashion in
dress. When a fashion in literature has passed, we are surprised that it
should ever have seemed worth the trouble of studying or imitating. When
the special craze has passed, we notice another thing, and that is that
the author, not being of the first rank or of the second, has generally
contributed to the world all that he has to give in one book, and our
time has been wasted on his other books; and also that in a special kind
of writing in a given period--let us say, for example, the
historico-romantic--we perceive that it all has a common character, is
constructed on the same lines of adventure and with a prevailing type of
hero and heroine, according to the pattern set by the first one or two
stories of the sort which became popular, and we see its more or less
mechanical construction, and how easily it degenerates into commercial
book-making. Now while some of this writing has an individual flavor that
makes it entertaining and profitable in this way, we may be excused from
attempting to follow it all merely because it happens to be talked about
for the moment, and generally talked about in a very undiscriminating
manner. We need not in any company be ashamed if we have not read it all,
especially if we are ashamed that, considering the time at our disposal,
we have not made the acquaintance of the great and small masterpieces of
literature. It is said that the fashion of this world passeth away, and
so does the mere fashion in literature, the fashion that does not follow
the eternal law of beauty and symmetry, and contribute to the
intellectual and spiritual part of man. Otherwise it is only a waiting in
a material existence, like the lovers, in the words of the Arabian
story-teller, “till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and the
Sunderer of Companies, he who layeth waste the palaces and peopleth the

Without special anxiety, then, to keep pace with all the ephemeral in
literature, lest we should miss for the moment something that is
permanent, we can rest content in the vast accumulation of the tried and
genuine that the ages have given us. Anything that really belongs to
literature today we shall certainly find awaiting us tomorrow.

The better part of the life of man is in and by the imagination. This is
not generally believed, because it is not generally believed that the
chief end of man is the accumulation of intellectual and spiritual
material. Hence it is that what is called a practical education is set
above the mere enlargement and enrichment of the mind; and the possession
of the material is valued, and the intellectual life is undervalued. But
it should be remembered that the best preparation for a practical and
useful life is in the high development of the powers of the mind, and
that, commonly, by a culture that is not considered practical. The
notable fact about the group of great parliamentary orators in the days
of George III is the exhibition of their intellectual resources in the
entire world of letters, the classics, and ancient and modern history.
Yet all of them owed their development to a strictly classical training
in the schools. And most of them had not only the gift of the imagination
necessary to great eloquence, but also were so mentally disciplined by
the classics that they handled the practical questions upon which they
legislated with clearness and precision. The great masters of finance
were the classically trained orators William Pitt and Charles James Fox.

In fine, to return to our knowledge of the short life of fashions that
are for the moment striking, why should we waste precious time in chasing
meteoric appearances, when we can be warmed and invigorated in the
sunshine of the great literatures?


By Charles Dudley Warner

Our theme for the hour is the American Newspaper. It is a subject in
which everybody is interested, and about which it is not polite to say
that anybody is not well informed; for, although there are scattered
through the land many persons, I am sorry to say, unable to pay for a
newspaper, I have never yet heard of anybody unable to edit one.

The topic has many points of view, and invites various study and comment.
In our limited time we must select one only. We have heard a great deal
about the power, the opportunity, the duty, the “mission,” of the press.
The time has come for a more philosophical treatment of it, for an
inquiry into its relations to our complex civilization, for some ethical
account of it as one of the developments of our day, and for some
discussion of the effect it is producing, and likely to produce, on the
education of the people. Has the time come, or is it near at hand, when
we can point to a person who is alert, superficial, ready and shallow,
self-confident and half-informed, and say, “There is a product of the
American newspaper”? The newspaper is not a willful creation, nor an
isolated phenomenon, but the legitimate outcome of our age, as much as
our system of popular education. And I trust that some competent observer
will make, perhaps for this association, a philosophical study of it. My
task here is a much humbler one. I have thought that it may not be
unprofitable to treat the newspaper from a practical and even somewhat
mechanical point of view.

The newspaper is a private enterprise. Its object is to make money for
its owner. Whatever motive may be given out for starting a newspaper,
expectation of profit by it is the real one, whether the newspaper is
religious, political, scientific, or literary. The exceptional cases of
newspapers devoted to ideas or “causes” without regard to profit are so
few as not to affect the rule. Commonly, the cause, the sect, the party,
the trade, the delusion, the idea, gets its newspaper, its organ, its
advocate, only when some individual thinks he can see a pecuniary return
in establishing it.

This motive is not lower than that which leads people into any other
occupation or profession. To make a living, and to have a career, is the
original incentive in all cases. Even in purely philanthropical
enterprises the driving-wheel that keeps them in motion for any length of
time is the salary paid the working members. So powerful is this
incentive that sometimes the wheel will continue to turn round when there
is no grist to grind. It sometimes happens that the friction of the
philanthropic machinery is so great that but very little power is
transmitted to the object for which the machinery was made. I knew a
devoted agent of the American Colonization Society, who, for several
years, collected in Connecticut just enough, for the cause, to buy his
clothes, and pay his board at a good hotel.

It is scarcely necessary to say, except to prevent a possible
misapprehension, that the editor who has no high ideals, no intention of
benefiting his fellow-men by his newspaper, and uses it unscrupulously as
a means of money-making only, sinks to the level of the physician and the
lawyer who have no higher conception of their callings than that they
offer opportunities for getting money by appeals to credulity, and by
assisting in evasions of the law.

If the excellence of a newspaper is not always measured by its
profitableness, it is generally true that, if it does not pay its owner,
it is valueless to the public. Not all newspapers which make money are
good, for some succeed by catering to the lowest tastes of respectable
people, and to the prejudice, ignorance, and passion of the lowest class;
but, as a rule, the successful journal pecuniarily is the best journal.
The reasons for this are on the surface. The impecunious newspaper cannot
give its readers promptly the news, nor able discussion of the news, and,
still worse, it cannot be independent. The political journal that relies
for support upon drippings of party favor or patronage, the general
newspaper that finds it necessary to existence to manipulate stock
reports, the religious weekly that draws precarious support from puffing
doubtful enterprises, the literary paper that depends upon the approval
of publishers, are poor affairs, and, in the long run or short run, come
to grief. Some newspapers do succeed by sensationalism, as some preachers
do; by a kind of quackery, as some doctors do; by trimming and shifting
to any momentary popular prejudice, as some politicians do; by becoming
the paid advocate of a personal ambition or a corporate enterprise, as
some lawyers do: but the newspaper only becomes a real power when it is
able, on the basis of pecuniary independence, to free itself from all
such entanglements. An editor who stands with hat in hand has the respect
accorded to any other beggar.

The recognition of the fact that the newspaper is a private and purely
business enterprise will help to define the mutual relations of the
editor and the public. His claim upon the public is exactly that of any
manufacturer or dealer. It is that of the man who makes cloth, or the
grocer who opens a shop--neither has a right to complain if the public
does not buy of him. If the buyer does not like a cloth half shoddy, or
coffee half-chicory, he will go elsewhere. If the subscriber does not
like one newspaper, he takes another, or none. The appeal for newspaper
support on the ground that such a journal ought to be sustained by an
enlightened community, or on any other ground than that it is a good
article that people want,--or would want if they knew its value,--is
purely childish in this age of the world. If any person wants to start a
periodical devoted to decorated teapots, with the noble view of inducing
the people to live up to his idea of a teapot, very good; but he has no
right to complain if he fails.

On the other hand, the public has no rights in the newspaper except what
it pays for; even the “old subscriber” has none, except to drop the paper
if it ceases to please him. The notion that the subscriber has a right to
interfere in the conduct of the paper, or the reader to direct its
opinions, is based on a misconception of what the newspaper is. The claim
of the public to have its communications printed in the paper is equally
baseless. Whether they shall be printed or not rests in the discretion of
the editor, having reference to his own private interest, and to his
apprehension of the public good. Nor is he bound to give any reason for
his refusal. It is purely in his discretion whether he will admit a reply
to any thing that has appeared in his columns. No one has a right to
demand it. Courtesy and policy may grant it; but the right to it does not
exist. If any one is injured, he may seek his remedy at law; and I should
like to see the law of libel such and so administered that any person
injured by a libel in the newspaper, as well as by slander out of it,
could be sure of prompt redress. While the subscribes acquires no right
to dictate to the newspaper, we can imagine an extreme case when he
should have his money back which had been paid in advance, if the
newspaper totally changed its character. If he had contracted with a
dealer to supply him with hard coal during the winter, he might have a
remedy if the dealer delivered only charcoal in the coldest weather; and
so if he paid for a Roman Catholic journal which suddenly became an organ
of the spiritists.

The advertiser acquires no more rights in the newspaper than the
subscriber. He is entitled to use the space for which he pays by the
insertion of such material as is approved by the editor. He gains no
interest in any other part of the paper, and has no more claim to any
space in the editorial columns, than any other one of the public. To give
him such space would be unbusiness-like, and the extension of a
preference which would be unjust to the rest of the public. Nothing more
quickly destroys the character of a journal, begets distrust of it, and
so reduces its value, than the well-founded suspicion that its editorial
columns are the property of advertisers. Even a religious journal will,
after a while, be injured by this.

Yet it must be confessed that here is one of the greatest difficulties of
modern journalism. The newspaper must be cheap. It is, considering the
immense cost to produce it, the cheapest product ever offered to man.
Most newspapers cost more than they sell for; they could not live by
subscriptions; for any profits, they certainly depend upon
advertisements. The advertisements depend upon the circulation; the
circulation is likely to dwindle if too much space is occupied by
advertisements, or if it is evident that the paper belongs to its favored
advertisers. The counting-room desires to conciliate the advertisers; the
editor looks to making a paper satisfactory to his readers. Between this
see-saw of the necessary subscriber and the necessary advertiser, a good
many newspapers go down. This difficulty would be measurably removed by
the admission of the truth that the newspaper is a strictly business
enterprise, depending for success upon a ‘quid pro quo’ between all
parties connected with it, and upon integrity in its management.

Akin to the false notion that the newspaper is a sort of open channel
that the public may use as it chooses, is the conception of it as a
charitable institution. The newspaper, which is the property of a private
person as much as a drug-shop is, is expected to perform for nothing
services which would be asked of no other private person. There is
scarcely a charitable enterprise to which it is not asked to contribute
of its space, which is money, ten times more than other persons in the
community, who are ten times as able as the owner of the newspaper,
contribute. The journal is considered “mean” if it will not surrender its
columns freely to notices and announcements of this sort. If a manager
has a new hen-coop or a new singer he wishes to introduce to the public,
he comes to the newspaper, expecting to have his enterprise extolled for
nothing, and probably never thinks that it would be just as proper for
him to go to one of the regular advertisers in the paper and ask him to
give up his space. Anything, from a church picnic to a brass-band concert
for the benefit of the widow of the triangles, asks the newspaper to
contribute. The party in politics, whose principles the editor advocates,
has no doubt of its rightful claim upon him, not only upon the editorial
columns, but upon the whole newspaper. It asks without hesitation that
the newspaper should take up its valuable space by printing hundreds and
often thousands of dollars’ worth of political announcements in the
course of a protracted campaign, when it never would think of getting its
halls, its speakers, and its brass bands, free of expense. Churches, as
well as parties, expect this sort of charity. I have known rich churches,
to whose members it was a convenience to have their Sunday and other
services announced, withdraw the announcements when the editor declined
any longer to contribute a weekly fifty-cents’ worth of space. No private
persons contribute so much to charity, in proportion to ability, as the
newspaper. Perhaps it will get credit for this in the next world: it
certainly never does in this.

The chief function of the newspaper is to collect and print the news.
Upon the kind of news that should be gathered and published, we shall
remark farther on. The second function is to elucidate the news, and
comment on it, and show its relations. A third function is to furnish
reading-matter to the general public.

Nothing is so difficult for the manager as to know what news is: the
instinct for it is a sort of sixth sense. To discern out of the mass of
materials collected not only what is most likely to interest the public,
but what phase and aspect of it will attract most attention, and the
relative importance of it; to tell the day before or at midnight what the
world will be talking about in the morning, and what it will want the
fullest details of, and to meet that want in advance,--requires a
peculiar talent. There is always some topic on which the public wants
instant information. It is easy enough when the news is developed, and
everybody is discussing it, for the editor to fall in; but the success of
the news printed depends upon a pre-apprehension of all this. Some
papers, which nevertheless print all the news, are always a day behind,
do not appreciate the popular drift till it has gone to something else,
and err as much by clinging to a subject after it is dead as by not
taking it up before it was fairly born. The public craves eagerly for
only one thing at a time, and soon wearies of that; and it is to the
newspaper’s profit to seize the exact point of a debate, the thrilling
moment of an accident, the pith of an important discourse; to throw
itself into it as if life depended on it, and for the hour to flood the
popular curiosity with it as an engine deluges a fire.

Scarcely less important than promptly seizing and printing the news is
the attractive arrangement of it, its effective presentation to the eye.
Two papers may have exactly the same important intelligence, identically
the same despatches: the one will be called bright, attractive, “newsy”;
the other, dull and stupid.

We have said nothing yet about that, which, to most people, is the most
important aspect of the newspaper,--the editor’s responsibility to the
public for its contents. It is sufficient briefly to say here, that it is
exactly the responsibility of every other person in society,--the full
responsibility of his opportunity. He has voluntarily taken a position in
which he can do a great deal of good or a great deal of evil, and he,
should be held and judged by his opportunity: it is greater than that of
the preacher, the teacher, the congressman, the physician. He occupies
the loftiest pulpit; he is in his teacher’s desk seven days in the week;
his voice can be heard farther than that of the most lusty fog-horn
politician; and often, I am sorry to say, his columns outshine the
shelves of the druggist in display of proprietary medicines. Nothing else
ever invented has the public attention as the newspaper has, or is an
influence so constant and universal. It is this large opportunity that
has given the impression that the newspaper is a public rather than a
private enterprise.

It was a nebulous but suggestive remark that the newspaper occupies the
borderland between literature and common sense. Literature it certainly
is not, and in the popular apprehension it seems often too erratic and
variable to be credited with the balance-wheel of sense; but it must have
something of the charm of the one, and the steadiness and sagacity of the
other, or it will fail to please. The model editor, I believe, has yet to
appear. Notwithstanding the traditional reputation of certain editors in
the past, they could not be called great editors by our standards; for
the elements of modern journalism did not exist in their time. The old
newspaper was a broadside of stale news, with a moral essay attached.
Perhaps Benjamin Franklin, with our facilities, would have been very near
the ideal editor. There was nothing he did not wish to know; and no one
excelled him in the ability to communicate what he found out to the
average mind. He came as near as anybody ever did to marrying common
sense to literature: he had it in him to make it sufficient for
journalistic purposes. He was what somebody said Carlyle was, and what
the American editor ought to be,--a vernacular man.

The assertion has been made recently, publicly, and with evidence
adduced, that the American newspaper is the best in the world. It is like
the assertion that the American government is the best in the world; no
doubt it is, for the American people.

Judged by broad standards, it may safely be admitted that the American
newspaper is susceptible of some improvement, and that it has something
to learn from the journals of other nations. We shall be better employed
in correcting its weaknesses than in complacently contemplating its

Let us examine it in its three departments already named,--its news,
editorials, and miscellaneous reading-matter.

In particularity and comprehensiveness of news-collecting, it may be
admitted that the American newspapers for a time led the world. I mean in
the picking-up of local intelligence, and the use of the telegraph to
make it general. And with this arose the odd notion that news is made
important by the mere fact of its rapid transmission over the wire. The
English journals followed, speedily overtook, and some of the wealthier
ones perhaps surpassed, the American in the use of the telegraph, and in
the presentation of some sorts of local news; not of casualties, and
small city and neighborhood events, and social gossip (until very
recently), but certainly in the business of the law courts, and the
crimes and mishaps that come within police and legal supervision. The
leading papers of the German press, though strong in correspondence and
in discussion of affairs, are far less comprehensive in their news than
the American or the English. The French journals, we are accustomed to
say, are not newspapers at all. And this is true as we use the word.
Until recently, nothing has been of importance to the Frenchman except
himself; and what happened outside of France, not directly affecting his
glory, his profit, or his pleasure, did not interest him: hence, one
could nowhere so securely intrench himself against the news of the world
as behind the barricade of the Paris journals. But let us not make a
mistake in this matter. We may have more to learn from the Paris journals
than from any others. If they do not give what we call news--local news,
events, casualties, the happenings of the day,--they do give ideas,
opinions; they do discuss politics, the social drift; they give the
intellectual ferment of Paris; they supply the material that Paris likes
to talk over, the badinage of the boulevard, the wit of the salon, the
sensation of the stage, the new movement in literature and in politics.
This may be important, or it may be trivial: it is commonly more
interesting than much of that which we call news.

Our very facility and enterprise in news-gathering have overwhelmed our
newspapers, and it may be remarked that editorial discrimination has not
kept pace with the facilities. We are overpowered with a mass of
undigested intelligence, collected for the mast part without regard to
value. The force of the newspaper is expended in extending these
facilities, with little regard to discriminating selection. The burden is
already too heavy for the newspaper, and wearisome to the public.

The publication of the news is the most important function of the paper.
How is it gathered? We must confess that it is gathered very much by
chance. A drag-net is thrown out, and whatever comes is taken. An
examination into the process of collecting shows what sort of news we are
likely to get, and that nine-tenths of that printed is collected without
much intelligence exercised in selection. The alliance of the associated
press with the telegraph company is a fruitful source of news of an
inferior quality. Of course, it is for the interest of the telegraph
company to swell the volume to be transmitted. It is impossible for the
associated press to have an agent in every place to which the telegraph
penetrates: therefore the telegraphic operators often act as its
purveyors. It is for their interest to send something; and their judgment
of what is important is not only biased, but is formed by purely local
standards. Our news, therefore, is largely set in motion by telegraphic
operators, by agents trained to regard only the accidental, the
startling, the abnormal, as news; it is picked up by sharp prowlers about
town, whose pay depends upon finding something, who are looking for
something spicy and sensational, or which may be dressed up and
exaggerated to satisfy an appetite for novelty and high flavor, and who
regard casualties as the chief news. Our newspapers every day are loaded
with accidents, casualties, and crimes concerning people of whom we never
heard before and never shall hear again, the reading of which is of no
earthly use to any human being.

What is news? What is it that an intelligent public should care to hear
of and talk about? Run your eye down the columns of your journal. There
was a drunken squabble last night in a New York groggery; there is a
petty but carefully elaborated village scandal about a foolish girl; a
woman accidentally dropped her baby out of a fourth-story window in
Maine; in Connecticut, a wife, by mistake, got into the same railway
train with another woman’s husband; a child fell into a well in New
Jersey; there is a column about a peripatetic horse-race, which exhibits,
like a circus, from city to city; a laborer in a remote town in
Pennsylvania had a sunstroke; there is an edifying dying speech of a
murderer, the love-letter of a suicide, the set-to of a couple of
congressmen; and there are columns about a gigantic war of half a dozen
politicians over the appointment of a sugar-gauger. Granted that this
pabulum is desired by the reader, why not save the expense of
transmission by having several columns of it stereotyped, to be
reproduced at proper intervals? With the date changed, it would always,
have its original value, and perfectly satisfy the demand, if a demand
exists, for this sort of news.

This is not, as you see, a description of your journal: it is a
description of only one portion of it. It is a complex and wonderful
creation. Every morning it is a mirror of the world, more or less
distorted and imperfect, but such a mirror as it never had held up to it
before. But consider how much space is taken up with mere trivialities
and vulgarities under the name of news. And this evil is likely to
continue and increase until news-gatherers learn that more important than
the reports of accidents and casualties is the intelligence of opinions
and thoughts, the moral and intellectual movements of modern life. A
horrible assassination in India is instantly telegraphed; but the
progress of such a vast movement as that of the Wahabee revival in Islam,
which may change the destiny of great provinces, never gets itself put
upon the wires. We hear promptly of a landslide in Switzerland, but only
very slowly of a political agitation that is changing the constitution of
the republic. It should be said, however, that the daily newspaper is not
alone responsible for this: it is what the age and the community where it
is published make it. So far as I have observed, the majority of the
readers in America peruses eagerly three columns about a mill between an
English and a naturalized American prize-fighter, but will only glance at
a column report of a debate in the English parliament which involves a
radical change in the whole policy of England; and devours a page about
the Chantilly races, while it ignores a paragraph concerning the
suppression of the Jesuit schools.

Our newspapers are overwhelmed with material that is of no importance.
The obvious remedy for this would be more intelligent direction in the
collection of news, and more careful sifting and supervision of it when
gathered. It becomes every day more apparent to every manager that such
discrimination is more necessary. There is no limit to the various
intelligence and gossip that our complex life offers--no paper is big
enough to contain it; no reader has time enough to read it. And the
journal must cease to be a sort of waste-basket at the end of a telegraph
wire, into which any reporter, telegraph operator, or gossip-monger can
dump whatever he pleases. We must get rid of the superstition that value
is given to an unimportant “item” by sending it a thousand miles over a

Perhaps the most striking feature of the American newspaper, especially
of the country weekly, is its enormous development of local and
neighborhood news. It is of recent date. Horace Greeley used to advise
the country editors to give small space to the general news of the world,
but to cultivate assiduously the home field, to glean every possible
detail of private life in the circuit of the county, and print it. The
advice was shrewd for a metropolitan editor, and it was not without its
profit to the country editor. It was founded on a deep knowledge of human
nature; namely, upon the fact that people read most eagerly that which
they already know, if it is about themselves or their neighbors, if it is
a report of something they have been concerned in, a lecture they have
heard, a fair, or festival, or wedding, or funeral, or barn-raising they
have attended. The result is column after column of short paragraphs of
gossip and trivialities, chips, chips, chips. Mr. Sales is contemplating
erecting a new counter in his store; his rival opposite has a new sign;
Miss Bumps of Gath is visiting her cousin, Miss Smith of Bozrah; the
sheriff has painted his fence; Farmer Brown has lost his cow; the eminent
member from Neopolis has put an ell on one end of his mansion, and a
mortgage on the other.

On the face of it nothing is so vapid and profitless as column after
column of this reading. These “items” have very little interest, except
to those who already know the facts; but those concerned like to see them
in print, and take the newspaper on that account. This sort of inanity
takes the place of reading-matter that might be of benefit, and its
effect must be to belittle and contract the mind. But this is not the
most serious objection to the publication of these worthless details. It
cultivates self-consciousness in the community, and love of notoriety; it
develops vanity and self-importance, and elevates the trivial in life
above the essential.

And this brings me to speak of the mania in this age, and especially in
America, for notoriety in social life as well as in politics. The
newspapers are the vehicle of it, sometimes the occasion, but not the
cause. The newspaper may have fostered--it has not created--this hunger
for publicity. Almost everybody talks about the violation of decency and
the sanctity of private life by the newspaper in the publication of
personalities and the gossip of society; and the very people who make
these strictures are often those who regard the paper as without
enterprise and dull, if it does not report in detail their weddings,
their balls and parties, the distinguished persons present, the dress of
the ladies, the sumptuousness of the entertainment, if it does not
celebrate their church services and festivities, their social meetings,
their new house, their distinguished arrivals at this or that
watering-place. I believe every newspaper manager will bear me out in
saying that there is a constant pressure on him to print much more of
such private matter than his judgment and taste permit or approve, and
that the gossip which is brought to his notice, with the hope that he
will violate the sensitiveness of social life by printing it, is far away
larger in amount than all that he publishes.

To return for a moment to the subject of general news. The characteristic
of our modern civilization is sensitiveness, or, as the doctors say,
nervousness. Perhaps the philanthropist would term it sympathy. No doubt
an exciting cause of it is the adaptation of electricity to the
transmission of facts and ideas. The telegraph, we say, has put us in
sympathy with all the world. And we reckon this enlargement of nerve
contact somehow a gain. Our bared nerves are played upon by a thousand
wires. Nature, no doubt, has a method of hardening or deadening them to
these shocks; but nevertheless, every person who reads is a focus for the
excitements, the ills, the troubles, of all the world. In addition to his
local pleasures and annoyances, he is in a manner compelled to be a
sharer in the universal uneasiness. It might be worth while to inquire
what effect this exciting accumulation of the news of the world upon an
individual or a community has upon happiness and upon character. Is the
New England man any better able to bear or deal with his extraordinary
climate by the daily knowledge of the weather all over the globe? Is a
man happier, or improved in character, by the woful tale of a world’s
distress and apprehension that greets him every morning at breakfast?
Knowledge, we know, increases sorrow; but I suppose the offset to that
is, that strength only comes through suffering. But this is a digression.

Not second in importance to any department of the journal is the
reporting; that is, the special reporting as distinguished from the more
general news-gathering. I mean the reports of proceedings in Congress, in
conventions, assemblies, and conferences, public conversations, lectures,
sermons, investigations, law trials, and occurrences of all sorts that
rise into general importance. These reports are the basis of our
knowledge and opinions. If they are false or exaggerated, we are ignorant
of what is taking place, and misled. It is of infinitely more importance
that they should be absolutely trustworthy than that the editorial
comments should be sound and wise. If the reports on affairs can be
depended on, the public can form its own opinion, and act intelligently.
And; if the public has a right to demand anything of a newspaper, it is
that its reports of what occurs shall be faithfully accurate,
unprejudiced, and colorless. They ought not, to be editorials, or the
vehicles of personal opinion and feeling. The interpretation of, the
facts they give should be left to the editor and the public. There should
be a sharp line drawn between the report and the editorial.

I am inclined to think that the reporting department is the weakest in
the American newspaper, and that there is just ground for the admitted
public distrust of it. Too often, if a person would know what has taken
place in a given case, he must read the reports in half a dozen journals,
then strike a general average of probabilities, allowing for the personal
equation, and then--suspend his judgment. Of course, there is much
excellent reporting, and there are many able men engaged in it who
reflect the highest honor upon their occupation. And the press of no
other country shows more occasional brilliant feats in reporting than
ours: these are on occasions when the newspapers make special efforts.
Take the last two national party conventions. The fullness, the accuracy,
the vividness, with which their proceedings were reported in the leading
journals, were marvelous triumphs of knowledge, skill, and expense. The
conventions were so photographed by hundreds of pens, that the public
outside saw them almost as distinctly as the crowd in attendance. This
result was attained because the editors determined that it should be,
sent able men to report, and demanded the best work. But take an opposite
and a daily illustration of reporting, that of the debates and
proceedings in Congress. I do not refer to the specials of various
journals which are good, bad, or indifferent, as the case may be, and
commonly colored by partisan considerations, but the regular synopsis
sent to the country at large. Now, for some years it has been inadequate,
frequently unintelligible, often grossly misleading, failing wholly to
give the real spirit and meaning of the most important discussions; and
it is as dry as chips besides. To be both stupid and inaccurate is the
unpardonable sin in journalism. Contrast these reports with the lively
and faithful pictures of the French Assembly which are served to the
Paris papers.

Before speaking of the reasons for the public distrust in reports, it is
proper to put in one qualification. The public itself, and not the
newspapers, is the great factory of baseless rumors and untruths.
Although the newspaper unavoidably gives currency to some of these, it is
the great corrector of popular rumors. Concerning any event, a hundred
different versions and conflicting accounts are instantly set afloat.
These would run on, and become settled but unfounded beliefs, as private
whispered scandals do run, if the newspaper did not intervene. It is the
business of the newspaper, on every occurrence of moment, to chase down
the rumors, and to find out the facts and print them, and set the public
mind at rest. The newspaper publishes them under a sense of
responsibility for its statements. It is not by any means always correct;
but I know that it is the aim of most newspapers to discharge this
important public function faithfully. When this country had few
newspapers it was ten times more the prey of false reports and delusions
than it is now.

Reporting requires as high ability as editorial writing; perhaps of a
different kind, though in the history of American journalism the best
reporters have often become the best editors. Talent of this kind must be
adequately paid; and it happens that in America the reporting field is so
vast that few journals can afford to make the reporting department
correspond in ability to the editorial, and I doubt if the importance of
doing so is yet fully realized. An intelligent and representative
synopsis of a lecture or other public performance is rare. The ability to
grasp a speaker’s meaning, or to follow a long discourse, and reproduce
either in spirit, and fairly, in a short space, is not common. When the
public which has been present reads the inaccurate report, it loses
confidence in the newspaper.

Its confidence is again undermined when it learns that an “interview”
 which it has read with interest was manufactured; that the report of the
movements and sayings of a distinguished stranger was a pure piece of
ingenious invention; that a thrilling adventure alongshore, or in a
balloon, or in a horse-car, was what is called a sensational article,
concocted by some brilliant genius, and spun out by the yard according to
his necessities. These reports are entertaining, and often more readable
than anything else in the newspaper; and, if they were put into a
department with an appropriate heading, the public would be less
suspicious that all the news in the journal was colored and heightened by
a lively imagination.

Intelligent and honest reporting of whatever interests the public is the
sound basis of all journalism. And yet so careless have editors been of
all this that a reporter has been sent to attend the sessions of a
philological convention who had not the least linguistic knowledge,
having always been employed on marine disasters. Another reporter, who
was assigned to inform the public of the results of a difficult
archeological investigation, frankly confessed his inability to
understand what was going on; for his ordinary business, he said, was
cattle. A story is told of a metropolitan journal, which illustrates
another difficulty the public has in keeping up its confidence in
newspaper infallibility. It may not be true for history, but answers for
an illustration. The annual November meteors were expected on a certain
night. The journal prepared an elaborate article, several columns in
length, on meteoric displays in general, and on the display of that night
in particular, giving in detail the appearance of the heavens from the
metropolitan roofs in various parts of the city, the shooting of the
meteors amid the blazing constellations, the size and times of flight of
the fiery bodies; in short, a most vivid and scientific account of the
lofty fireworks. Unfortunately the night was cloudy. The article was in
type and ready; but the clouds would not break. The last moment for going
to press arrived: there was a probability that the clouds would lift
before daylight and the manager took the risk. The article that appeared
was very interesting; but its scientific value was impaired by the fact
that the heavens were obscured the whole night, and the meteors, if any
arrived, were invisible. The reasonable excuse of the editor would be
that he could not control the elements.

If the reporting department needs strengthening and reduction to order in
the American journal, we may also query whether the department of
correspondence sustains the boast that the American, newspaper is the
best in the world. We have a good deal of excellent correspondence, both
foreign and domestic; and our “specials” have won distinction, at least
for liveliness and enterprise. I cannot dwell upon this feature; but I
suggest a comparison with the correspondence of some of the German, and
with that especially of the London journals, from the various capitals of
Europe, and from the occasional seats of war. How surpassing able much of
it is!

How full of information, of philosophic observation, of accurate
knowledge! It appears to be written by men of trained intellect and of
experience,--educated men of the world, who, by reason of their position
and character, have access to the highest sources of information.

The editorials of our journals seem to me better than formerly, improved
in tone, in courtesy, in self-respect,--though you may not have to go far
or search long for the provincial note and the easy grace of the
frontier,--and they are better written. This is because the newspaper has
become more profitable, and is able to pay for talent, and has attracted
to it educated young men. There is a sort of editorial ability, of
facility, of force, that can only be acquired by practice and in the
newspaper office: no school can ever teach it; but the young editor who
has a broad basis of general education, of information in history,
political economy, the classics, and polite literature, has an immense
advantage over the man who has merely practical experience. For the
editorial, if it is to hold its place, must be more and more the product
of information, culture, and reflection, as well as of sagacity and
alertness. Ignorance of foreign affairs, and of economic science, the
American people have in times past winked at; but they will not always
wink at it.

It is the belief of some shrewd observers that editorials, the long
editorials, are not much read, except by editors themselves. A cynic says
that, if you have a secret you are very anxious to keep from the female
portion of the population, the safest place to put it is in an editorial.
It seems to me that editorials are not conned as attentively as they once
were; and I am sure they have not so much influence as formerly. People
are not so easily or so visibly led; that is to say, the editorial
influence is not so dogmatic and direct. The editor does not expect to
form public opinion so much by arguments and appeals as by the news he
presents and his manner of presenting it, by the iteration of an idea
until it becomes familiar, by the reading-matter selected, and by the
quotations of opinions as news, and not professedly to influence the
reader. And this influence is all the more potent because it is indirect,
and not perceived-by the reader.

There is an editorial tradition--it might almost be termed a
superstition--which I think will have to be abandoned. It is that a
certain space in the journal must be filled with editorial, and that some
of the editorials must be long, without any reference to the news or the
necessity of comment on it, or the capacity of the editor at the moment
to fill the space with original matter that is readable. There is the
sacred space, and it must be filled. The London journals are perfect
types of this custom. The result is often a wearisome page of words and
rhetoric. It may be good rhetoric; but life is too short for so much of
it. The necessity of filling this space causes the writer, instead of
stating his idea in the shortest compass in which it can be made
perspicuous and telling, to beat it out thin, and make it cover as much
ground as possible. This, also, is vanity. In the economy of room, which
our journals will more and more be compelled to cultivate, I venture to
say that this tradition will be set aside. I think that we may fairly
claim a superiority in our journals over the English dailies in our habit
of making brief, pointed editorial paragraphs. They are the life of the
editorial page. A cultivation of these until they are as finished and
pregnant as the paragraphs of “The London Spectator” and “The New-York
Nation,” the printing of long editorials only when the elucidation of a
subject demands length, and the use of the space thus saved for more
interesting reading, is probably the line of our editorial evolution.

To continue the comparison of our journals as a class, with the English
as a class, ours are more lively, also more flippant, and less restrained
by a sense of responsibility or by the laws of libel. We furnish, now and
again, as good editorial writing for its purpose; but it commonly lacks
the dignity, the thoroughness, the wide sweep and knowledge, that
characterizes the best English discussion of political and social topics.

The third department of the newspaper is that of miscellaneous
reading-matter. Whether this is the survival of the period when the paper
contained little else except “selections,” and other printed matter was
scarce, or whether it is only the beginning of a development that shall
supply the public nearly all its literature, I do not know. Far as our
newspapers have already gone in this direction, I am inclined to think
that in their evolution they must drop this adjunct, and print simply the
news of the day. Some of the leading journals of the world already do

In America I am sure the papers are printing too much miscellaneous
reading. The perusal of this smattering of everything, these scraps of
information and snatches of literature, this infinite variety and medley,
in which no subject is adequately treated, is distracting and
debilitating to the mind. It prevents the reading of anything in full,
and its satisfactory assimilation. It is said that the majority of
Americans read nothing except the paper. If they read that thoroughly,
they have time for nothing else. What is its reader to do when his
journal thrusts upon him every day the amount contained in a fair-sized
duodecimo volume, and on Sundays the amount of two of them? Granted that
this miscellaneous hodge-podge is the cream of current literature, is it
profitable to the reader? Is it a means of anything but superficial
culture and fragmentary information? Besides, it stimulates an unnatural
appetite, a liking for the striking, the brilliant, the sensational only;
for our selections from current literature are, usually the “plums”; and
plums are not a wholesome-diet for anybody. A person accustomed to this
finds it difficult to sit down patiently to the mastery of a book or a
subject, to the study of history, the perusal of extended biography, or
to acquire that intellectual development and strength which comes from
thorough reading and reflection.

The subject has another aspect. Nobody chooses his own reading; and a
whole community perusing substantially the same material tends to a
mental uniformity. The editor has the more than royal power of selecting
the intellectual food of a large public. It is a responsibility
infinitely greater than that of the compiler of schoolbooks, great as
that is. The taste of the editor, or of some assistant who uses the
scissors, is in a manner forced upon thousands of people, who see little
other printed matter than that which he gives them. Suppose his taste
runs to murders and abnormal crimes, and to the sensational in
literature: what will be the moral effect upon a community of reading
this year after year?

If this excess of daily miscellany is deleterious to the public, I doubt
if it will be, in the long run, profitable to the newspaper, which has a
field broad enough in reporting and commenting upon the movement of the
world, without attempting to absorb the whole reading field.

I should like to say a word, if time permitted, upon the form of the
journal, and about advertisements. I look to see advertisements shorter,
printed with less display, and more numerous. In addition to the use now
made of the newspaper by the classes called “advertisers,” I expect it to
become the handy medium of the entire public, the means of ready
communication in regard to all wants and exchanges.

Several years ago, the attention of the publishers of American newspapers
was called to the convenient form of certain daily journals in South
Germany, which were made up in small pages, the number of which varied
from day to day, according to the pressure of news or of advertisements.
The suggestion as to form has been adopted bit many of our religious,
literary, and special weeklies, to the great convenience of the readers,
and I doubt not of the publishers also. Nothing is more unwieldy than our
big blanket-sheets: they are awkward to handle, inconvenient to read,
unhandy to bind and preserve. It is difficult to classify matter in them.
In dull seasons they are too large; in times of brisk advertising, and in
the sudden access of important news, they are too small. To enlarge them
for the occasion, resort is had to a troublesome fly-sheet, or, if they
are doubled, there is more space to be filled than is needed. It seems to
me that the inevitable remedy is a newspaper of small pages or forms,
indefinite in number, that can at any hour be increased or diminished
according to necessity, to be folded, stitched, and cut by machinery.

We have thus rapidly run over a prolific field, touching only upon some
of the relations of the newspaper to our civilization, and omitting many
of the more important and grave. The truth is that the development of the
modern journal has been so sudden and marvelous that its conductors find
themselves in possession of a machine that they scarcely know how to
manage or direct. The change in the newspaper caused by the telegraph,
the cable, and by a public demand for news created by wars, by
discoveries, and by a new outburst of the spirit of doubt and inquiry, is
enormous. The public mind is confused about it, and alternately
overestimates and underestimates the press, failing to see how integral
and representative a part it is of modern life.

“The power of the press,” as something to be feared or admired, is a
favorite theme of dinner-table orators and clergymen. One would think it
was some compactly wielded energy, like that of an organized religious
order, with a possible danger in it to the public welfare. Discrimination
is not made between the power of the printed word--which is
limitless--and the influence that a newspaper, as such, exerts. The power
of the press is in its facility for making public opinions and events. I
should say it is a medium of force rather than force itself. I confess
that I am oftener impressed with the powerlessness of the press than
otherwise, its slight influence in bringing about any reform, or in
inducing the public to do what is for its own good and what it is
disinclined to do. Talk about the power of the press, say, in a
legislature, when once the members are suspicious that somebody is trying
to influence them, and see how the press will retire, with what grace it
can, before an invincible and virtuous lobby. The fear of the combination
of the press for any improper purpose, or long for any proper purpose, is
chimerical. Whomever the newspapers agree with, they do not agree with
each other. The public itself never takes so many conflicting views of
any topic or event as the ingenious rival journals are certain to
discover. It is impossible, in their nature, for them to combine. I
should as soon expect agreement among doctors in their empirical
profession. And there is scarcely ever a cause, or an opinion, or a man,
that does not get somewhere in the press a hearer and a defender. We will
drop the subject with one remark for the benefit of whom it may concern.
With all its faults, I believe the moral tone of the American newspaper
is higher, as a rule, than that of the community in which it is


By Charles Dudley Warner

This is a very interesting age. Within the memory of men not yet come to
middle life the time of the trotting horse has been reduced from two
minutes forty seconds to two minutes eight and a quarter seconds. During
the past fifteen years a universal and wholesome pastime of boys has been
developed into a great national industry, thoroughly organized and almost
altogether relegated to professional hands, no longer the exercise of the
million but a spectacle for the million, and a game which rivals the
Stock Exchange as a means of winning money on the difference of opinion
as to the skill of contending operators.

The newspapers of the country--pretty accurate and sad indicators of the
popular taste--devote more daily columns in a week’s time to chronicling
the news about base-ball than to any other topic that interests the
American mind, and the most skillful player, the pitcher, often college
bred, whose entire prowess is devoted to not doing what he seems to be
doing, and who has become the hero of the American girl as the Olympian
wrestler was of the Greek maiden and as the matador is of the Spanish
senorita, receives a larger salary for a few hours’ exertion each week
than any college president is paid for a year’s intellectual toil. Such
has been the progress in the interest in education during this period
that the larger bulk of the news, and that most looked for, printed about
the colleges and universities, is that relating to the training, the
prospects and achievements of the boat crews and the teams of base-ball
and foot-ball, and the victory of any crew or team is a better means of
attracting students to its college, a better advertisement, than success
in any scholastic contest. A few years ago a tournament was organized in
the North between several colleges for competition in oratory and
scholarship; it had a couple of contests and then died of inanition and
want of public interest.

During the period I am speaking of there has been an enormous advance in
technical education, resulting in the establishment of splendid special
schools, essential to the development of our national resources; a growth
of the popular idea that education should be practical,--that is, such an
education as can be immediately applied to earning a living and acquiring
wealth speedily,--and an increasing extension of the elective system in
colleges,--based almost solely on the notion, having in view, of course,
the practical education, that the inclinations of a young man of eighteen
are a better guide as to what is best for his mental development and
equipment for life than all the experience of his predecessors.

In this period, which you will note is more distinguished by the desire
for the accumulation of money than far the general production of wealth,
the standard of a fortune has shifted from a fair competence to that of
millions of money, so that he is no longer rich who has a hundred
thousand dollars, but he only who possesses property valued at many
millions, and the men most widely known the country through, most talked
about, whose doings and sayings are most chronicled in the journals,
whose example is most attractive and stimulating to the minds of youth,
are not the scholars, the scientists, the men of, letters, not even the
orators and statesmen, but those who, by any means, have amassed enormous
fortunes. We judge the future of a generation by its ideals.

Regarding education from the point of view of its equipment of a man to
make money, and enjoy the luxury which money can command, it must be more
and more practical, that is, it must be adapted not even to the higher
aim of increasing the general wealth of the world, by increasing
production and diminishing waste both of labor and capital, but to the
lower aim of getting personal possession of it; so that a striking social
feature of the period is that one-half--that is hardly an overestimate
--one-half of the activity in America of which we speak with so much
enthusiasm, is not directed to the production of wealth, to increasing
its volume, but to getting the money of other people away from them. In
barbarous ages this object was accomplished by violence; it is now
attained by skill and adroitness. We still punish those who gain property
by violence; those who get it by smartness and cleverness, we try to
imitate, and sometimes we reward them with public office.

It appears, therefore, that speed,-the ability to move rapidly from place
to place,--a disproportionate reward of physical over intellectual
science, an intense desire to be rich, which is strong enough to compel
even education to grind in the mill of the Philistines, and an inordinate
elevation in public consideration of rich men simply because they are
rich, are characteristics of this little point of time on which we stand.
They are not the only characteristics; in a reasonably optimistic view,
the age is distinguished for unexampled achievements, and for
opportunities for the well-being of humanity never before in all history
attainable. But these characteristics are so prominent as to beget the
fear that we are losing the sense of the relative value of things in this

Few persons come to middle life without some conception of these relative
values. It is in the heat and struggle that we fail to appreciate what in
the attainment will be most satisfactory to us. After it is over we are
apt to see that our possessions do not bring the happiness we expected;
or that we have neglected to cultivate the powers and tastes that can
make life enjoyable. We come to know, to use a truism, that a person’s
highest satisfaction depends not upon his exterior acquisitions, but upon
what he himself is. There is no escape from this conclusion. The physical
satisfactions are limited and fallacious, the intellectual and moral
satisfactions are unlimited. In the last analysis, a man has to live with
himself, to be his own companion, and in the last resort the question is,
what can he get out of himself. In the end, his life is worth just what
he has become. And I need not say that the mistake commonly made is as to
relative values,--that the things of sense are as important as the things
of the mind. You make that mistake when you devote your best energies to
your possession of material substance, and neglect the enlargement, the
training, the enrichment of the mind. You make the same mistake in a less
degree, when you bend to the popular ignorance and conceit so far as to
direct your college education to sordid ends. The certain end of yielding
to this so-called practical spirit was expressed by a member of a
Northern State legislature who said, “We don’t want colleges, we want
workshops.” It was expressed in another way by a representative of the
lower house in Washington who said, “The average ignorance of the country
has a right to be represented here.” It is not for me to say whether it
is represented there. Naturally, I say, we ought by the time of middle
life to come to a conception of what sort of things are of most value. By
analogy, in the continual growth of the Republic, we ought to have a
perception of what we have accomplished and acquired, and some clear view
of our tendencies. We take justifiable pride in the glittering figures of
our extension of territory, our numerical growth, in the increase of
wealth, and in our rise to the potential position of almost the first
nation in the world. A more pertinent inquiry is, what sort of people
have we become? What are we intellectually and morally? For after all the
man is the thing, the production of the right sort of men and women is
all that gives a nation value. When I read of the establishment of a
great industrial centre in which twenty thousand people are employed in
the increase of the amount of steel in the world, before I decide whether
it would be a good thing for the Republic to create another industrial
city of the same sort, I want to know what sort of people the twenty
thousand are, how they live, what their morals are, what intellectual
life they have, what their enjoyment of life is, what they talk about and
think about, and what chance they have of getting into any higher life.
It does not seem to me a sufficient gain in this situation that we are
immensely increasing the amount of steel in the world, or that twenty
more people are enabled on account of this to indulge in an unexampled,
unintellectual luxury. We want more steel, no doubt, but haven’t we wit
enough to get that and at the same time to increase among the producers
of it the number of men and women whose horizons are extended, who are
companionable, intelligent beings, adding something to the intellectual
and moral force upon which the real progress of the Republic depends?

There is no place where I would choose to speak more plainly of our
national situation today than in the South, and at the University of the
South; in the South, because it is more plainly in a transition state,
and at the University of the South, because it is here and in similar
institutions that the question of the higher or lower plane of life in
the South is to be determined.

To a philosophical observer of the Republic, at the end of the hundred
years, I should say that the important facts are not its industrial
energy, its wealth, or its population, but the stability of the federal
power, and the integrity of the individual States. That is to say, that
stress and trial have welded us into an indestructible nation; and not of
less consequence is the fact that the life of the Union is in the life of
the States. The next most encouraging augury for a great future is the
marvelous diversity among the members of this republican body. If nothing
would be more speedily fatal to our plan of government than increasing
centralization, nothing would be more hopeless in our development than
increasing monotony, the certain end of which is mediocrity.

Speaking as one whose highest pride it is to be a citizen of a great and
invincible Republic to those whose minds kindle with a like patriotism, I
can say that I am glad there are East and North and South, and West,
Middle, Northwest, and Southwest, with as many diversities of climate,
temperament, habits, idiosyncrasies, genius, as these names imply. Thank
Heaven we are not all alike; and so long as we have a common purpose in
the Union, and mutual toleration, respect, and sympathy, the greater will
be our achievement and the nobler our total development, if every section
is true to the evolution of its local traits. The superficial foreign
observer finds sameness in our different States, tiresome family likeness
in our cities, hideous monotony in our villages, and a certain common
atmosphere of life, which increasing facility of communication tends to
increase. This is a view from a railway train. But as soon as you observe
closely, you find in each city a peculiar physiognomy, and a peculiar
spirit remarkable considering the freedom of movement and intercourse,
and you find the organized action of each State sui generis to a degree
surprising considering the general similarity of our laws and
institutions. In each section differences of speech, of habits of
thought, of temperament prevail. Massachusetts is unlike Louisiana,
Florida unlike Tennessee, Georgia is unlike California, Pennsylvania is
unlike Minnesota, and so on, and the unlikeness is not alone or chiefly
in physical features. By the different style of living I can tell when I
cross the line between Connecticut and New York as certainly as when I
cross the line between Vermont and Canada. The Virginian expanded in
Kentucky is not the same man he was at home, and the New England Yankee
let loose in the West takes on proportions that would astonish his
grandfather. Everywhere there is a variety in local sentiment, action,
and development. Sit down in the seats of the State governments and study
the methods of treatment of essentially the common institutions of
government, of charity and discipline, and you will be impressed with the
variety of local spirit and performance in the Union. And this, diversity
is so important, this contribution of diverse elements is so necessary to
the complex strength and prosperity of the whole, that one must view with
alarm all federal interference and tendency to greater centralization.

And not less to be dreaded than monotony from the governmental point of
view, is the obliteration of variety in social life and in literary
development. It is not enough for a nation to be great and strong, it
must be interesting, and interesting it cannot be without cultivation of
local variety. Better obtrusive peculiarities than universal sameness. It
is out of variety as well as complexity in American life, and not in
homogeneity and imitation, that we are to expect a civilization
noteworthy in the progress of the human race.

Let us come a little closer to our subject in details. For a hundred
years the South was developed on its own lines, with astonishingly little
exterior bias. This comparative isolation was due partly to the
institution of slavery, partly to devotion to the production of two or
three great staples. While its commercial connection with the North was
intimate and vital, its literary relation with the North was slight. With
few exceptions Northern authors were not read in the South, and the
literary movement of its neighbors, such as it was, from 1820 to 1860,
scarcely affected it. With the exception of Louisiana, which was
absolutely ignorant of American literature and drew its inspiration and
assumed its critical point of view almost wholly from the French, the
South was English, but mainly English of the time of Walter Scott and
George the Third. While Scott was read at the North for his knowledge of
human nature, as he always will be read, the chivalric age which moves in
his pages was taken more seriously at the South, as if it were of
continuing importance in life. In any of its rich private libraries you
find yourself in the age of Pope and Dryden, and the classics were
pursued in the spirit of Oxford and Cambridge in the time of Johnson. It
was little disturbed by the intellectual and ethical agitation of modern
England or of modern New England. During this period, while the South
excelled in the production of statesmen, orators, trained politicians,
great judges, and brilliant lawyers, it produced almost no literature,
that is, no indigenous literature, except a few poems and--a few humorous
character-sketches; its general writing was ornately classic, and its
fiction romantic on the lines of the foreign romances.

From this isolation one thing was developed, and another thing might in
due time be expected. The thing developed was a social life, in the
favored class, which has an almost unique charm, a power of being
agreeable, a sympathetic cordiality, an impulsive warmth, a frankness in
the expression of emotion, and that delightful quality of manner which
puts the world at ease and makes life pleasant. The Southerners are no
more sincere than the Northerners, but they have less reserve, and in the
social traits that charm all who come in contact with them, they have an
element of immense value in the variety of American life.

The thing that might have been expected in due time, and when the call
came--and it is curious to note that the call and cause of any
renaissance are always from the outside--was a literary expression fresh
and indigenous. This expectation, in a brief period since the war, has
been realized by a remarkable performance and is now stimulated by a
remarkable promise. The acclaim with which the Southern literature has
been received is partly due to its novelty, the new life it exhibited,
but more to the recognition in it of a fresh flavor, a literary quality
distinctly original and of permanent importance. This production, the
first fruits of which are so engaging in quality, cannot grow and broaden
into a stable, varied literature without scholarship and hard work, and
without a sympathetic local audience. But the momentary concern is that
it should develop on its own lines and in its own spirit, and not under
the influence of London or Boston or New York. I do not mean by this that
it should continue to attract attention by peculiarities of dialect-which
is only an incidental, temporary phenomenon, that speedily becomes
wearisome, whether “cracker” or negro or Yankee--but by being true to the
essential spirit and temperament of Southern life.

During this period there was at the North, and especially in the East,
great intellectual activity and agitation, and agitation ethical and
moral as well as intellectual. There was awakening, investigation,
questioning, doubt. There was a great deal of froth thrown to the
surface. In the free action of individual thought and expression grew
eccentricities of belief and of practice, and a crop of so-called “isms,”
 more or less temporary, unprofitable, and pernicious. Public opinion
attained an astonishing degree of freedom,--I never heard of any
community that was altogether free of its tyranny. At least extraordinary
latitude was permitted in the development of extreme ideas, new,
fantastic, radical, or conservative. For instance, slavery was attacked
and slavery was defended on the same platform, with almost equal freedom.
Indeed, for many years, if there was any exception to the general
toleration it was in the social ostracism of those who held and expressed
extreme opinions in regard to immediate emancipation, and were
stigmatized as abolitionists. There was a general ferment of new ideas,
not always fruitful in the direction taken, but hopeful in view of the
fact that growth and movement are better than stagnation and decay. You
can do something with a ship that has headway; it will drift upon the
rocks if it has not. With much foam and froth, sure to attend agitation,
there was immense vital energy, intense life.

Out of this stir and agitation came the aggressive, conquering spirit
that carried civilization straight across the continent, that built up
cities and States, that developed wealth, and by invention, ingenuity,
and energy performed miracles in the way of the subjugation of nature and
the assimilation of societies. Out of this free agitation sprang a
literary product, great in quantity and to some degree distinguished in
quality, groups of historians, poets, novelists, essayists, biographers,
scientific writers. A conspicuous agency of the period was the lecture
platform, which did something in the spread and popularization of
information, but much more in the stimulation of independent thought and
the awakening of the mind to use its own powers.

Along with this and out of this went on the movement of popular education
and of the high and specialized education. More remarkable than the
achievements of the common schools has been the development of the
colleges, both in the departments of the humanities and of science. If I
were writing of education generally, I might have something to say of the
measurable disappointment of the results of the common schools as at
present conducted, both as to the diffusion of information and as to the
discipline of the mind and the inculcation of ethical principles; which
simply means that they need improvement. But the higher education has
been transformed, and mainly by the application of scientific methods,
and of the philosophic spirit, to the study of history, economics, and
the classics. When we are called to defend the pursuit of metaphysics or
the study of the classics, either as indispensable to the discipline or
to the enlargement of the mind, we are not called on to defend the
methods of a generation ago. The study of Greek is no longer an exercise
in the study of linguistics or the inspection of specimens of an obsolete
literature, but the acquaintance with historic thought, habits, and
polity, with a portion of the continuous history of the human mind, which
has a vital relation to our own life.

However much or little there may be of permanent value in the vast
production of northern literature, judged by continental or even English
standards, the time has came when American scholarship in science, in
language, in occidental or oriental letters, in philosophic and
historical methods, can court comparison with any other. In some branches
of research the peers of our scholars must be sought not in England but
in Germany. So that in one of the best fruits of a period of intellectual
agitation, scholarship, the restless movement has thoroughly vindicated

I have called your attention to this movement in order to say that it was
neither accidental nor isolated. It was in the historic line, it was fed
and stimulated by all that had gone before, and by all contemporary
activity everywhere. New England, for instance, was alert and progressive
because it kept its doors and windows open. It was hospitable in its
intellectual freedom, both of trial and debate, to new ideas. It was in
touch with the universal movement of humanity and of human thought and
speculation. You lose some quiet by this attitude, some repose that is
pleasant and even desirable perhaps, you entertain many errors, you may
try many useless experiments, but you gain life and are in the way of
better things. New England, whatever else we may say about it, was in the
world. There was no stir of thought, of investigation, of research, of
the recasting of old ideas into new forms of life, in Germany, in France,
in Italy, in England, anywhere, that did not touch it and to which it did
not respond with the sympathy that common humanity has in the universal
progress. It kept this touch not only in the evolution and expression of
thought and emotion which we call literature (whether original or
imitative), but in the application of philosophic methods to education,
in the attempted regeneration of society and the amelioration of its
conditions by schemes of reform and discipline, relating to the
institutions of benevolence and to the control of the vicious and
criminal. With all these efforts go along always much false
sentimentality and pseudo-philanthropy, but little by little gain is made
that could not be made in a state of isolation and stagnation.

In fact there is one historic stream of human thought, aspiration, and
progress; it is practically continuous, and with all its diversity of
local color and movement it is a unit. If you are in it, you move; if you
are out of it, you are in an eddy. The eddy may have a provincial
current, but it is not in the great stream, and when it has gone round
and round for a century, it is still an eddy, and will not carry you
anywhere in particular. The value of the modern method of teaching and
study is that it teaches the solidarity of human history, the continuance
of human thought, in literature, government, philosophy, the unity of the
divine purpose, and that nothing that has anywhere befallen the human
race is alien to us.

I am not undervaluing the part, the important part, played by
conservatism, the conservatism that holds on to what has been gained if
it is good, that insists on discipline and heed to the plain teaching of
experience, that refuses to go into hysterics of enthusiasm over every
flighty suggestion, or to follow every leader simply because he proposes
something new and strange--I do not mean the conservatism that refuses to
try anything simply because it is new, and prefers to energetic life the
stagnation that inevitably leads to decay. Isolation from the great
historic stream of thought and agitation is stagnation. While this is
true, and always has been true in history, it is also true, in regard to
the beneficent diversity of American life, which is composed of so many
elements and forces, as I have often thought and said, that what has been
called the Southern conservatism in respect to beliefs and certain social
problems, may have a very important part to play in the development of
the life of the Republic.

I shall not be misunderstood here, where the claims of the higher life
are insisted on and the necessity of pure, accurate scholarship is
recognized, in saying that this expectation in regard to the South
depends upon the cultivation and diffusion of the highest scholarship in
all its historic consciousness and critical precision. This sort of
scholarship, of widely apprehending intellectual activity, keeping step
with modern ideas so far as they are historically grounded, is of the
first importance. Everywhere indeed, in our industrial age,--in a society
inclined to materialism, scholarship, pure and simple scholarship for its
own sake, no less in Ohio than in Tennessee, is the thing to be insisted
on. If I may refer to an institution, which used to be midway between the
North and the South, and which I may speak of without suspicion of bias,
an institution where the studies of metaphysics, the philosophy of
history, the classics and pure science are as much insisted on as the
study of applied sciences, the College of New Jersey at Princeton, the
question in regard to a candidate for a professorship or instructorship,
is not whether he was born North or South, whether he served in one army
or another or in neither, whether he is a Democrat or a Republican or a
Mugwump, what religious denomination he belongs to, but is he a scholar
and has he a high character? There is no provincialism in scholarship.

We are not now considering the matter of the agreeableness of one society
or another, whether life is on the whole pleasanter in certain conditions
at the North or at the South, whether there is not a charm sometimes in
isolation and even in provincialism. It is a fair question to ask, what
effect upon individual lives and character is produced by an industrial
and commercial spirit, and by one less restless and more domestic. But
the South is now face to face with certain problems which relate her,
inevitably, to the moving forces of the world. One of these is the
development of her natural resources and the change and diversity of her
industries. On the industrial side there is pressing need of institutions
of technology, of schools of applied science, for the diffusion of
technical information and skill in regard to mining and manufacturing,
and also to agriculture, so that worn-out lands may be reclaimed and good
lands be kept up to the highest point of production. Neither mines,
forests, quarries, water-ways, nor textile fabrics can be handled to best
advantage without scientific knowledge and skilled labor. The South is
everywhere demanding these aids to her industrial development. But just
in the proportion that she gets them, and because she has them, will be
the need of higher education. The only safety against the influence of a
rolling mill is a college, the only safety against the practical and
materializing tendency of an industrial school is the increased study of
whatever contributes to the higher and non-sordid life of the mind. The
South would make a poor exchange for her former condition in any amount
of industrial success without a corresponding development of the highest
intellectual life.

But, besides the industrial problem, there is the race problem. It is the
most serious in the conditions under which it is presented that ever in
all history confronted a free people. Whichever way you regard it, it is
the nearest insoluble. Under the Constitution it is wisely left to the
action of the individual States. The heavy responsibility is with them.
In the nature of things it is a matter of the deepest concern to the
whole Republic, for the prosperity of every part is vital to the
prosperity of the whole. In working it out you are entitled, from the
outside, to the most impartial attempt to understand its real nature, to
the utmost patience with the facts of human nature, to the most profound
and most helpful sympathy. It is monstrous to me that the situation
should be made on either side a political occasion for private ambition
or for party ends.

I would speak of this subject with the utmost frankness if I knew what to
say. It is not much of a confession to say that I do not. The more I
study it the less I know, and those among you who give it the most
anxious thought are the most perplexed, the subject has so many
conflicting aspects. In the first place there is the evolution of an
undeveloped race. Every race has a right to fair play in the world and to
make the most of its capacities, and to the help of the more favored in
the attempt. If the suggestion recently made of a wholesale migration to
Mexico were carried out, the South would be relieved in many ways, though
the labor problem would be a serious one for a long time, but the
“elevation” would be lost sight of or relegated to a foreign missionary
enterprise; and as for results to the colored people themselves, there is
the example of Hayti. If another suggestion, that of abandoning certain
States to this race, were carried out, there is the example of Hayti
again, and, besides, an anomaly introduced into the Republic foreign to
its traditions, spirit, aspirations, and process of assimilation, alien
to the entire historic movement of the Aryan races, and infinitely more
dangerous to the idea of the Republic than if solid Ireland were dumped
down in the Mississippi valley as an independent State.

On the other hand, there rests upon you the responsibility of maintaining
a civilization--the civilization of America, not of Hayti or of Guatemala
which we have so hardly won. It is neither to be expected nor desired
that you should be ruled by an undeveloped race, ignorant of law,
letters, history, politics, political economy. There is no right anywhere
in numbers or unintelligence to rule intelligence. It is a travesty of
civilization. No Northern State that I know of would submit to be ruled
by an undeveloped race. And human nature is exactly in the South what it
is in the North. That is one impregnable fact, to be taken as the basis
of all our calculations; the whites of the South will not, cannot, be
dominated, as matters now stand, by the colored race.

But, then, there is the suffrage, the universal, unqualified suffrage.
And here is the dilemma. Suffrage once given, cannot be suppressed or
denied, perverted by chicane or bribery without incalculable damage to
the whole political body. Irregular methods once indulged in for one
purpose, and towards one class, so sap the moral sense that they come to
be used for all purposes. The danger is ultimately as great to those who
suppress or pervert as it is to the suppressed and corrupted. It is the
demoralization of all sound political action and life. I know whereof I
speak. In the North, bribery in elections and intimidation are fatal to
public morality. The legislature elected by bribery is a bribable body.

I believe that the fathers were right in making government depend upon
the consent of the governed. I believe there has been as yet discovered
no other basis of government so safe, so stable as popular suffrage, but
the fathers never contemplated a suffrage without intelligence. It is a
contradiction of terms. A proletariat without any political rights in a
republic is no more dangerous than an unintelligent mob which can be used
in elections by demagogues. Universal suffrage is not a universal
panacea; it may be the best device attainable, but it is certain of abuse
without safeguards. One of the absolutely necessary safeguards is an
educational qualification. No one ought anywhere to exercise it who
cannot read and write, and if I had my way, no one should cast a ballot
who had not a fair conception of the effect of it, shown by a higher test
of intelligence than the mere fact of ability to scrawl his name and to
spell out a line or two in the Constitution. This much the State for its
own protection is bound to require, for suffrage is an expediency, not a
right belonging to universal humanity regardless of intelligence or of

The charge is, with regard to this universal suffrage, that you take the
fruits of increased representation produced by it, and then deny it to a
portion of the voters whose action was expected to produce a different
political result. I cannot but regard it as a blunder in statesmanship to
give suffrage without an educational qualification, and to deem it
possible to put ignorance over intelligence. You are not, responsible for
the situation, but you are none the less in an illogical position before
the law. Now, would you not gain more in a rectification of your position
than you would lose in other ways, by making suffrage depend upon an
educational qualification? I do not mean gain party-wise, but in
political morals and general prosperity. Time would certainly be gained
by this, and it is possible in this shifting world, in the growth of
industries and the flow of populations, that before the question of
supremacy was again upon you, foreign and industrial immigration would
restore the race balance.

We come now to education. The colored race being here, I assume that its
education, with the probabilities this involves of its elevation, is a
duty as well as a necessity. I speak both of the inherent justice there
is in giving every human being the chance of bettering his condition and
increasing his happiness that lies in education--unless our whole theory
of modern life is wrong--and also of the political and social danger
there is in a degraded class numerically strong. Granted integral
membership in a body politic, education is a necessity. I am aware of the
danger of half education, of that smattering of knowledge which only
breeds conceit, adroitness, and a consciousness of physical power,
without due responsibility and moral restraint. Education makes a race
more powerful both for evil and for good. I see the danger that many
apprehend. And the outlook, with any amount of education, would be
hopeless, not only as regards the negro and those in neighborhood
relations with him, if education should not bring with it thrift, sense
of responsibility as a citizen, and virtue. What the negro race under the
most favorable conditions is capable of remains to be shown; history does
not help us much to determine thus far. It has always been a long pull
for any race to rise out of primitive conditions; but I am sure for its
own sake, and for the sake of the republic where it dwells, every
thoughtful person must desire the most speedy intellectual and moral
development possible of the African race. And I mean as a race.

Some distinguished English writers have suggested, with approval, that
the solution of the race problem in this country is fusion, and I have
even heard discouraged Southerners accept it as a possibility. The result
of their observation of the amalgamation of races and colors in Egypt, in
Syria, and Mexico, must be very different from mine. When races of
different color mingle there is almost invariably loss of physical
stamina, and the lower moral qualities of each are developed in the
combination. No race that regards its own future would desire it. The
absorption theory as applied to America is, it seems to me, chimerical.

But to return to education. It should always be fitted to the stage of
development. It should always mean discipline, the training of the powers
and capacities. The early pioneers who planted civilization on the
Watauga, the Holston, the Kentucky, the Cumberland, had not much broad
learning--they would not have been worse if they had had more but they
had courage, they were trained in self-reliance, virile common sense, and
good judgment, they had inherited the instinct and capacity of
self-government, they were religious, with all their coarseness they had
the fundamental elements of nobility, the domestic virtues, and the
public spirit needed in the foundation of states. Their education in all
the manly arts and crafts of the backwoodsman fitted them very well for
the work they had to do. I should say that the education of the colored
race in America should be fundamental. I have not much confidence in an
ornamental top-dressing of philosophy, theology, and classic learning
upon the foundation of an unformed and unstable mental and moral
condition. Somehow, character must be built up, and character depends
upon industry, upon thrift, upon morals, upon correct ethical
perceptions. To have control of one’s powers, to have skill in labor, so
that work in any occupation shall be intelligent, to have self-respect,
which commonly comes from trained capacity, to know how to live, to have
a clean, orderly house, to be grounded in honesty and the domestic
virtues,--these are the essentials of progress. I suppose that the
education to produce these must be an elemental and practical one, one
that fits for the duties of life and not for some imaginary sphere above

To put it in a word, and not denying that there must be schools for
teaching the teachers, with the understanding that the teachers should be
able to teach what the mass most needs to know--what the race needs for
its own good today, are industrial and manual training schools, with the
varied and practical discipline and arts of life which they impart.

What then? What of the ‘modus vivendi’ of the two races occupying the
same soil? As I said before, I do not know. Providence works slowly. Time
and patience only solve such enigmas. The impossible is not expected of
man, only that he shall do today the duty nearest to him. It is easy, you
say, for an outsider to preach waiting, patience, forbearance, sympathy,
helpfulness. Well, these are the important lessons we get out of history.
We struggle, and fume, and fret, and accomplish little in our brief hour,
but somehow the world gets on. Fortunately for us, we cannot do today the
work of tomorrow. All the gospel in the world can be boiled down into a
single precept. Do right now. I have observed that the boy who starts in
the morning with a determination to behave himself till bedtime, usually
gets through the day without a thrashing.

But of one thing I am sure. In the rush of industries, in the race
problem, it is more and more incumbent upon such institutions as the
University of the South to maintain the highest standard of pure
scholarship, to increase the number of men and women devoted to the
intellectual life. Long ago, in the middle of the seventeenth century,
John Ward of Stratford-on-Avon, clergyman and physician, wrote in his
diary: “The wealth of a nation depends upon its populousness, and its
populousness depends upon the liberty of conscience that is granted to
it, for this calls in strangers and promotes trading.” Great is the
attraction of a benign climate and of a fruitful soil, but a greater
attraction is an intelligent people, that values the best things in life,
a society hospitable, companionable, instinct with intellectual life,
awake to the great ideas that make life interesting.

As I travel through the South and become acquainted with its magnificent
resources and opportunities, and know better and love more the admirable
qualities of its people, I cannot but muse in a fond prophecy upon the
brilliant part it is to play in the diversified life and the great future
of the American Republic. But, North and South, we have a hard fight with
materializing tendencies. God bless the University of the South!


By Charles Dudley Warner

This December evening, the imagination, by a law of contrast, recalls
another December night two hundred and seventy years ago. The circle of
darkness is drawn about a little group of Pilgrims who have come ashore
on a sandy and inhospitable coast. On one side is a vexed and wintry sea,
three thousand miles of tossing waves and tempest, beyond which lie the
home, the hedgerows and cottages, the church towers, the libraries and
universities, the habits and associations of an old civilization, the
strongest and dearest ties that can entwine around a human heart,
abandoned now definitely and forever by these wanderers; on the other
side a wintry forest of unknown extent, without highways, the lair of
wild beasts, impenetrable except by trails known only to the savages,
whose sudden appearance and disappearance adds mystery and terror to the
impression the imagination has conjured up of the wilderness.

This darkness is symbolic. It stands for a vaster obscurity. This is an
encampment on the edge of a continent, the proportions of which are
unknown, the form of which is only conjectured. Behind this screen of
forest are there hills, great streams, with broad valleys, ranges of
mountains perhaps, vast plains, lakes, other wildernesses of illimitable
extent? The adventurers on the James hoped they could follow the stream
to highlands that looked off upon the South Sea, a new route to India and
the Spice Islands. This unknown continent is attacked, it is true, in
more than one place. The Dutch are at the mouth of the Hudson; there is a
London company on the James; the Spaniards have been long in Florida, and
have carried religion and civilization into the deserts of New Mexico.
Nevertheless, the continent, vaster and more varied than was guessed, is
practically undiscovered, untrodden. How inadequate to the subjection of
any considerable portion of it seems this little band of ill-equipped
adventurers, who cannot without peril of life stray a league from the bay
where the “Mayflower” lies.

It is not to be supposed that the Pilgrims had an adequate conception of
the continent, or of the magnitude of their mission on it, or of the
nation to come of which they were laying the foundations. They did the
duty that lay nearest to them; and the duty done today, perhaps without
prescience of its consequences, becomes a permanent stone in the edifice
of the future. They sought a home in a fresh wilderness, where they might
be undisturbed by superior human authority; they had no doctrinarian
notions of equality, nor of the inequality which is the only possible
condition of liberty; the idea of toleration was not born in their age;
they did not project a republic; they established a theocracy, a church
which assumed all the functions of a state, recognizing one Supreme
Power, whose will in human conduct they were to interpret. Already,
however, in the first moment, with a true instinct of self-government,
they drew together in the cabin of the “Mayflower” in an association--to
carry out the divine will in society. But, behold how speedily their
ideas expanded beyond the Jewish conception, necessarily expanded with
opportunity and the practical self-dependence of colonies cut off from
the aid of tradition, and brought face to face with the problems of
communities left to themselves. Only a few years later, on the banks of
the Connecticut, Thomas Hooker, the first American Democrat, proclaimed
that “the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the
people,” that “the choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people,
by God’s own allowance,” that it is the right of the people not only to
choose but to limit the power of their rulers, and he exhorted, “as God
has given us liberty to take it.” There, at that moment, in Hartford,
American democracy was born; and in the republican union of the three
towns of the Connecticut colony, Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield, was
the germ of the American federal system, which was adopted into the
federal constitution and known at the time as the “Connecticut

It were not worth while for me to come a thousand miles to say this, or
to draw over again for the hundredth time the character of the New
England Pilgrim, nor to sketch his achievement on this continent. But it
is pertinent to recall his spirit, his attitude toward life, and to
inquire what he would probably do in the circumstances in which we find

It is another December night, before the dawn of a new year. And this
night still symbolizes the future. You have subdued a continent, and it
stands in the daylight radiant with a material splendor of which the
Pilgrims never dreamed. Yet a continent as dark, as unknown, exists. It
is yourselves, your future, your national life. The other continent was
made, you had only to discover it, to uncover it. This you must make

We have finished the outline sketch of a magnificent nation. The
territory is ample; it includes every variety of climate, in the changing
seasons, every variety of physical conformation, every kind of production
suited to the wants, almost everything desired in the imagination, of
man. It comes nearer than any empire in history to being self-sufficient,
physically independent of the rest of the globe. That is to say, if it
were shut off from the rest of the world, it has in itself the material
for great comfort and civilization. And it has the elements of motion, of
agitation, of life, because the vast territory is filling up with a
rapidity unexampled in history. I am not saying that isolated it could
attain the highest civilization, or that if it did touch a high one it
could long hold it in a living growth, cut off from the rest of the
world. I do not believe it. For no state, however large, is sufficient
unto itself. No state is really alive in the highest sense whose
receptivity is not equal to its power to contribute to the world with
which its destiny is bound up. It is only at its best when it is a part
of the vital current of movement, of sympathy, of hope, of enthusiasm of
the world at large. There is no doctrine so belittling, so withering to
our national life, as that which conceives our destiny to be a life of
exclusion of the affairs and interests of the whole globe, hemmed in to
the selfish development of our material wealth and strength, surrounded
by a Chinese wall built of strata of prejudice on the outside and of
ignorance on the inside. Fortunately it is a conception impossible to be

There is something captivating to the imagination in being a citizen of a
great nation, one powerful enough to command respect everywhere, and so
just as not to excite fear anywhere. This proud feeling of citizenship is
a substantial part of a man’s enjoyment of life; and there is a certain
compensation for hardships, for privations, for self-sacrifice, in the
glory of one’s own country. It is not a delusion that one can afford to
die for it. But what in the last analysis is the object of a government?
What is the essential thing, without which even the glory of a nation
passes into shame, and the vastness of empire becomes a mockery? I will
not say that it is the well-being of every individual, because the term
well-being--the ‘bien etre’ of the philosophers of the eighteenth
century--has mainly a materialistic interpretation, and may be attained
by a compromise of the higher life to comfort, and even of patriotism to
selfish enjoyment.

That is the best government in which the people, and all the people, get
the most out of life; for the object of being in this world is not
primarily to build up a government, a monarchy, an aristocracy, a
democracy, or a republic, or to make a nation, but to live the best sort
of life that can be lived.

We think that our form of government is the one best calculated to attain
this end. It is of all others yet tried in this world the one least felt
by the people, least felt as an interference in the affairs of private
life, in opinion, in conscience, in our freedom to attain position, to
make money, to move from place to place, and to follow any career that is
open to our ability. In order to maintain this freedom of action, this
non-interference, we are bound to resist centralization of power; for a
central power in a republic, grasped and administered by bosses, is no
more tolerable than central power in a despotism, grasped and
administered by a hereditary aristocrat. Let us not be deceived by names.
Government by the consent of the people is the best government, but it is
not government by the people when it is in the hands of political bosses,
who juggle with the theory of majority rule. What republics have most to
fear is the rule of the boss, who is a tyrant without responsibility. He
makes the nominations, he dickers and trades for the elections, and at
the end he divides the spoils. The operation is more uncertain than a
horse race, which is not decided by the speed of the horses, but by the
state of the wagers and the manipulation of the jockeys. We strike
directly at his power for mischief when we organize the entire civil
service of the nation and of the States on capacity, integrity,
experience, and not on political power.

And if we look further, considering the danger of concentration of power
in irresponsible hands, we see a new cause for alarm in undue federal
mastery and interference. This we can only resist by the constant
assertion of the rights, the power, the dignity of the individual State,
all that it has not surrendered in the fundamental constitution of the
Republic. This means the full weight of the State, as a State, as a
political unit, in the election of President; and the full weight of the
State, as a State, as a political unit, without regard to its population,
in the senate of the United States. The senate, as it stands, as it was
meant to be in the Constitution, is the strongest safeguard which the
fundamental law established against centralization, against the tyranny
of mere majorities, against the destruction of liberty, in such a
diversity of climates and conditions as we have in our vast continent. It
is not a mere check upon hasty legislation; like some second chambers in
Europe, it is the representative of powers whose preservation in their
dignity is essential to the preservation of the form of our government

We pursue the same distribution of power and responsibility when we pass
to the States. The federal government is not to interfere in what the
State can do and ought to do for itself; the State is not to meddle with
what the county can best do for itself; nor the county in the affairs
best administered by the town and the municipality. And so we come to the
individual citizen. He cannot delegate his responsibility. The government
even of the smallest community must be, at least is, run by parties and
by party machinery. But if he wants good government, he must pay as
careful attention to the machinery,--call it caucus, primary, convention,
town-meeting,--as he does to the machinery of his own business. If he
hands it over to bosses, who make politics a trade for their own
livelihood, he will find himself in the condition of stockholders of a
bank whose directors are mere dummies, when some day the cashier packs
the assets and goes on a foreign journey for his health. When the citizen
simply does his duty in the place where he stands, the boss will be
eliminated, in the nation, in the State, in the town, and we shall have,
what by courtesy we say we have now, a government by the people. Then all
the way down from the capital to the city ward, we shall have vital
popular government, free action, discussion, agitation, life. What an
anomaly it is, that a free people, reputed shrewd and intelligent, should
intrust their most vital interests, the making of their laws, the laying
of their taxes, the spending of their money, even their education and the
management of their public institutions, into the keeping of political
bosses, whom they would not trust to manage the least of their business
affairs, nor to arbitrate on what is called a trial of speed at an
agricultural fair.

But a good government, the best government, is only an opportunity.
However vast the country may become in wealth and population, it cannot
rise in quality above the average of the majority of its citizens; and
its goodness will be tested in history by its value to the average man,
not by its bigness, not by its power, but by its adaptability to the
people governed, so as to develop the best that is in them. It is
incidental and imperative that the country should be an agreeable one to
live in; but it must be more than that, it must be favorable to the
growth of the higher life. The Puritan community of Massachusetts Bay,
whose spirit we may happily contrast with that of the Pilgrims whose
anniversary we celebrate, must have been as disagreeable to live in as
any that history records; not only were the physical conditions of life
hard, but its inquisitorial intolerance overmatched that which it escaped
in England. It was a theocratic despotism, untempered by recreation or
amusement, and repressive not only of freedom of expression but of
freedom of thought. But it had an unconquerable will, a mighty sense of
duty, a faith in God, which not only established its grip upon the
continent but carried its influence from one ocean to the other. It did
not conquer by its bigotry, by its intolerance, its cruel persecuting
spirit, but by its higher mental and spiritual stamina. These lower and
baser qualities of the age of the Puritans leave a stain upon a great
achievement; it took Massachusetts almost two centuries to cast them off
and come into a wholesome freedom, but the vital energy and the
recognition of the essential verities inhuman life carried all the
institutions of the Puritans that were life-giving over the continent.

Here in the West you are near the centre of a vast empire, you feel its
mighty pulse, the throb and heartbeat of its immense and growing
strength. Some of you have seen this great civilization actually grow on
the vacant prairies, in the unoccupied wilderness, on the sandy shores of
the inland seas. You have seen the trails of the Indian and the deer
replaced by highways of steel, and upon the spots where the first
immigrants corralled their wagons, and the voyagers dragged their canoes
upon the reedy shore, you have seen arise great cities, centres of
industry, of commerce, of art, attaining in a generation the proportions
and the world-wide fame of cities that were already famous before the
discovery of America.

Naturally the country is proud of this achievement. Naturally we magnify
our material prosperity. But in this age of science and invention this
development may be said to be inevitable, and besides it is the necessary
outlet of the energy of a free people. There must be growth of cities,
extension of railways, improvement of agriculture, development of
manufactures, amassing of wealth, concentration of capital, beautifying
of homes, splendid public buildings, private palaces, luxury, display.
Without reservoirs of wealth there would be no great universities,
schools of science, museums, galleries of art, libraries, solid
institutions of charity, and perhaps not the wide diffusion of culture
which is the avowed aim of modern civilization.

But this in its kind is an old story. It is an experiment that has been
repeated over and over. History is the record of the rise of splendid
civilizations, many of which have flowered into the most glorious
products of learning and of art, and have left monuments of the proudest
material achievements. Except in the rapidity with which steam and
electricity have enabled us to move to our object, and in the discoveries
of science which enable us to relieve suffering and prolong human life,
there is nothing new in our experiment. We are pursuing substantially the
old ends of material success and display. And the ends are not different
because we have more people in a nation, or bigger cities with taller
buildings, or more miles of railway, or grow more corn and cotton, or
make more plows and threshing-machines, or have a greater variety of
products than any nation ever had before. I fancy that a pleased visitor
from another planet the other day at Chicago, who was shown an assembly
much larger than ever before met under one roof, might have been
interested to know that it was also the wisest, the most cultivated, the
most weighty in character of any assembly ever gathered under one roof.
Our experiment on this continent was intended to be something more than
the creation of a nation on the old pattern, that should become big and
strong, and rich and luxurious, divided into classes of the very wealthy
and the very poor, of the enlightened and the illiterate. It was intended
to be a nation in which the welfare of the people is the supreme object,
and whatever its show among nations it fails if it does not become this.
This welfare is an individual matter, and it means many things. It
includes in the first place physical comfort for every person willing and
deserving to be physically comfortable, decent lodging, good food,
sufficient clothing. It means, in the second place, that this shall be an
agreeable country to live in, by reason of its impartial laws, social
amenities, and a fair chance to enjoy the gifts of nature and Providence.
And it means, again, the opportunity to develop talents, aptitudes for
cultivation and enjoyment, in short, freedom to make the most possible
out of our lives. This is what Jefferson meant by the “pursuit of
happiness”; it was what the Constitution meant by the “general welfare,”
 and what it tried to secure in States, safe-guarded enough to secure
independence in the play of local ambition and home rule, and in a
federal republic strong enough to protect the whole from foreign
interference. We are in no vain chase of an equality which would
eliminate all individual initiative, and check all progress, by ignoring
differences of capacity and strength, and rating muscles equal to brains.
But we are in pursuit of equal laws, and a fairer chance of leading happy
lives than humanity in general ever had yet. And this fairer chance would
not, for instance, permit any man to become a millionaire by so
manipulating railways that the subscribing towns and private stockholders
should lose their investments; nor would it assume that any Gentile or
Jew has the right to grow rich by the chance of compelling poor women to
make shirts for six cents apiece. The public opinion which sustains these
deeds is as un-American, and as guilty as their doers. While abuses like
these exist, tolerated by the majority that not only make public opinion,
but make the laws, this is not a government for the people, any more than
a government of bosses is a government by the people.

The Pilgrims of Plymouth could see no way of shaping their lives in
accordance with the higher law except by separating themselves from the
world. We have their problem, how to make the most of our lives, but the
conditions have changed. Ours is an age of scientific aggression, fierce
competition, and the widest toleration. The horizon of humanity is
enlarged. To live the life now is to be no more isolated or separate, but
to throw ourselves into the great movement of thought, and feeling, and
achievement. Therefore we are altruists in charity, missionaries of
humanity, patriots at home. Therefore we have a justifiable pride in the
growth, the wealth, the power of the nation, the state, the city. But the
stream cannot rise above its source. The nation is what the majority of
its citizens are. It is to be judged by the condition of its humblest
members. We shall gain nothing over other experiments in government,
although we have money enough to buy peace from the rest of the world, or
arms enough to conquer it, although we rear upon our material prosperity
a structure of scientific achievement, of art, of literature
unparalleled, if the common people are not sharers in this great
prosperity, and are not fuller of hope and of the enjoyment of life than
common people ever were before.

And we are all common people when it comes to that. Whatever the
greatness of the nation, whatever the accumulation of wealth, the worth
of the world to us is exactly the worth of our individual lives. The
magnificent opportunity in this Republic is that we may make the most
possible out of our lives, and it will continue only as we adhere to the
original conception of the Republic. Politics without virtue,
money-making without conscience, may result in great splendor, but as
such an experiment is not new, its end can be predicted. An agreeable
home for a vast, and a free, and a happy people is quite another thing.
It expects thrift, it expects prosperity, but its foundations are in the
moral and spiritual life.

Therefore I say that we are still to make the continent we have
discovered and occupied, and that the scope and quality of our national
life are still to be determined. If they are determined not by the narrow
tenets of the Pilgrims, but by their high sense of duty, and of the value
of the human soul, it will be a nation that will call the world up to a
higher plane of action than it ever attained before, and it will bring in
a new era of humanity. If they are determined by the vulgar successes of
a mere material civilization, it is an experiment not worth making. It
would have been better to have left the Indians in possession, to see if
they could not have evolved out of their barbarism some new line of

The Pilgrims were poor, and they built their huts on a shore which gave
such niggardly returns for labor that the utmost thrift was required to
secure the necessaries of life. Out of this struggle with nature and
savage life was no doubt evolved the hardihood, the endurance, that
builds states and wins the favors of fortune. But poverty is not commonly
a nurse of virtue, long continued, it is a degeneration. It is almost as
difficult for the very poor man to be virtuous as for the very rich man;
and very good and very rich at the same time, says Socrates, a man cannot
be. It is a great people that can withstand great prosperity. The
condition of comfort without extremes is that which makes a happy life. I
know a village of old-fashioned houses and broad elm-shaded streets in
New England, indeed more than one, where no one is inordinately rich, and
no one is very poor, where paupers are so scarce that it is difficult to
find beneficiaries for the small traditionary contribution for the church
poor; where the homes are centres of intelligence, of interest in books,
in the news of the world, in the church, in the school, in politics;
whence go young men and women to the colleges, teachers to the illiterate
parts of the land, missionaries to the city slums. Multiply such villages
all over the country, and we have one of the chief requisites for an
ideal republic.

This has been the longing of humanity. Poets have sung of it; prophets
have had visions of it; statesmen have striven for it; patriots have died
for it. There must be somewhere, some time, a fruitage of so much
suffering, so much sacrifice, a land of equal laws and equal
opportunities, a government of all the people for the benefit of all the
people; where the conditions of living will be so adjusted that every one
can make the most out of his life, neither waste it in hopeless slavery
nor in selfish tyranny, where poverty and crime will not be hereditary
generation after generation, where great fortunes will not be for vulgar
ostentation, but for the service of humanity and the glory of the State,
where the privileges of freemen will be so valued that no one will be
mean enough to sell his vote nor corrupt enough to attempt to buy a vote,
where the truth will at last be recognized, that the society is not
prosperous when half its members are lucky, and half are miserable, and
that that nation can only be truly great that takes its orders from the
Great Teacher of Humanity.

And, lo! at last here is a great continent, virgin, fertile, a land of
sun and shower and bloom, discovered, organized into a great nation, with
a government flexible in a distributed home rule, stiff as steel in a
central power, already rich, already powerful. It is a land of promise.
The materials are all here. Will you repeat the old experiment of a
material success and a moral and spiritual failure? Or will you make it
what humanity has passionately longed for? Only good individual lives can
do that.


By Charles Dudley Warner

The Declaration of Independence opens with the statement of a great and
fruitful political truth. But if it had said:--“We hold these truths to
be self-evident: that all men are created unequal; that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it would also have stated
the truth; and if it had added, “All men are born in society with certain
duties which cannot be disregarded without danger to the social state,”
 it would have laid down a necessary corollary to the first declaration.
No doubt those who signed the document understood that the second clause
limited the first, and that men are created equal only in respect to
certain rights. But the first part of the clause has been taken alone as
the statement of a self-evident truth, and the attempt to make this
unlimited phrase a reality has caused a great deal of misery. In
connection with the neglect of the idea that the recognition of certain
duties is as important as the recognition of rights in the political and
social state--that is, in connection with the doctrine of laissez faire
--this popular notion of equality is one of the most disastrous forces in
modern society.

Doubtless men might have been created equal to each other in every
respect, with the same mental capacity, the same physical ability, with
like inheritances of good or bad qualities, and born into exactly similar
conditions, and not dependent on each other. But men never were so
created and born, so far as we have any record of them, and by analogy we
have no reason to suppose that they ever will be. Inequality is the most
striking fact in life. Absolute equality might be better, but so far as
we can see, the law of the universe is infinite diversity in unity; and
variety in condition is the essential of what we call progress--it is, in
fact, life. The great doctrine of the Christian era--the brotherhood of
man and the duty of the strong to the weak--is in sharp contrast with
this doctrinarian notion of equality. The Christian religion never
proposed to remove the inequalities of life or its suffering, but by the
incoming of charity and contentment and a high mind to give individual
men a power to be superior to their conditions.

It cannot, however, be denied that the spirit of Christianity has
ameliorated the condition of civilized peoples, cooperating in this with
beneficent inventions. Never were the mass of the people so well fed, so
well clad, so well housed, as today in the United States. Their ordinary
daily comforts and privileges were the luxuries of a former age, often
indeed unknown and unattainable to the most fortunate and privileged
classes. Nowhere else is it or was it so easy for a man to change his
condition, to satisfy his wants, nowhere else has he or had he such
advantages of education, such facilities of travel, such an opportunity
to find an environment to suit himself. As a rule the mass of mankind
have been spot where they were born. A mighty change has taken place in
regard to liberty, freedom of personal action, the possibility of coming
into contact with varied life and an enlarged participation in the
bounties of nature and the inventions of genius. The whole world is in
motion, and at liberty to be so. Everywhere that civilization has gone
there is an immense improvement in material conditions during the last
one hundred years.

And yet men were never so discontented, nor did they ever find so many
ways of expressing their discontent. In view of the general amelioration
of the conditions of life this seems unreasonable and illogical, but it
may seem less so when we reflect that human nature is unchanged, and that
which has to be satisfied in this world is the mind. And there are some
exceptions to this general material prosperity, in its result to the
working classes. Manufacturing England is an exception. There is nothing
so pitiful, so hopeless in the record of man, not in the Middle Ages, not
in rural France just before the Revolution, as the physical and mental
condition of the operators in the great manufacturing cities and in the
vast reeking slums of London. The political economists have made England
the world’s great workshop, on the theory that wealth is the greatest
good in life, and that with the golden streams flowing into England from
a tributary world, wages would rise, food be cheap, employment constant.
The horrible result to humanity is one of the exceptions to the general
uplift of the race, not paralleled as yet by anything in this country,
but to be taken note of as a possible outcome of any material
civilization, and fit to set us thinking whether we have not got on a
wrong track. Mr. Froude, fresh from a sight of the misery of industrial
England, and borne straight on toward Australia over a vast ocean,
through calm and storm, by a great steamer,--horses of fire yoked to a
sea-chariot,--exclaims: “What, after all, have these wonderful
achievements done to elevate human nature? Human nature remains as it
was. Science grows, but morality is stationary, and art is vulgarized.
Not here lie the ‘things necessary to salvation,’ not the things which
can give to human life grace, or beauty, or dignity.”

In the United States, with its open opportunities, abundant land, where
the condition of the laboring class is better actually and in possibility
than it ever was in history, and where there is little poverty except
that which is inevitably the accompaniment of human weakness and crime,
the prevailing discontent seems groundless. But of course an agitation so
widespread, so much in earnest, so capable of evoking sacrifice, even to
the verge of starvation and the risk of life, must have some reason in
human nature. Even an illusion--and men are as ready to die for an
illusion as for a reality--cannot exist without a cause.

Now, content does not depend so much upon a man’s actual as his relative
condition. Often it is not so much what I need, as what others have that
disturbs me. I should be content to walk from Boston to New York, and be
a fortnight on the way, if everybody else was obliged to walk who made
that journey. It becomes a hardship when my neighbor is whisked over the
route in six hours and I have to walk. It would still be a hardship if he
attained the ability to go in an hour, when I was only able to accomplish
the distance in six hours. While there has been a tremendous uplift all
along the line of material conditions, and the laboring man who is sober
and industrious has comforts and privileges in his daily life which the
rich man who was sober and industrious did not enjoy a hundred years ago,
the relative position of the rich man and the poor man has not greatly
changed. It is true, especially in the United States, that the poor have
become rich and the rich poor, but inequality of condition is about as
marked as it was before the invention of labor-saving machinery, and
though workingmen are better off in many ways, the accumulation of vast
fortunes, acquired often in brutal disregard of humanity, marks the
contrast of conditions perhaps more emphatically than it ever appeared
before. That this inequality should continue in an era of universal
education, universal suffrage, universal locomotion, universal
emancipation from nearly all tradition, is a surprise, and a perfectly
comprehensible cause of discontent. It is axiomatic that all men are
created equal. But, somehow, the problem does not work out in the desired
actual equality of conditions. Perhaps it can be forced to the right
conclusion by violence.

It ought to be said, as to the United States, that a very considerable
part of the discontent is imported, it is not native, nor based on any
actual state of things existing here. Agitation has become a business. A
great many men and some women, to whom work of any sort is distasteful,
live by it. Some of them are refugees from military or political
despotism, some are refugees from justice, some from the lowest
conditions of industrial slavery. When they come here, they assume that
the hardships they have come away to escape exist here, and they begin
agitating against them. Their business is to so mix the real wrongs of
our social life with imaginary hardships, and to heighten the whole with
illusory and often debasing theories, that discontent will be engendered.
For it is by means of that only that they live. It requires usually a
great deal of labor, of organization, of oratory to work up this
discontent so that it is profitable. The solid workingmen of America who
know the value of industry and thrift, and have confidence in the relief
to be obtained from all relievable wrongs by legitimate political or
other sedate action, have no time to give to the leadership of agitations
which require them to quit work, and destroy industries, and attack the
social order upon which they depend. The whole case, you may remember,
was embodied thousands of years ago in a parable, which Jotham, standing
on the top of Mount Gerizim, spoke to the men of Shechem:

“The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said
unto the olive-tree, ‘Reign thou over us.’

“But the olive-tree said unto them, ‘Should I leave my fatness wherewith
by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?’

“And the trees said to the fig-tree, ‘Come thou and reign over us.’

“But the fig-tree said unto them, ‘Should I forsake my sweetness and my
good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?’

“Then said the trees unto the vine, ‘Come thou and reign over us.’

“And the vine said unto them, ‘Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God
and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?’

“Then said the trees unto the bramble, ‘Come thou and reign over us.’

“And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth ye anoint me king over
you, then come and put your trust in my shadow; and if not, let fire come
out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’”

In our day a conflagration of the cedars of Lebanon has been the only
result of the kingship of the bramble.

In the opinion of many, our universal education is one of the chief
causes of the discontent. This might be true and not be an argument
against education, for a certain amount of discontent is essential to
self-development and if, as we believe, the development of the best
powers of every human being is a good in itself, education ought not to
be held responsible for the evils attending a transitional period. Yet we
cannot ignore the danger, in the present stage, of an education that is
necessarily superficial, that engenders conceit of knowledge and power,
rather than real knowledge and power, and that breeds in two-thirds of
those who have it a distaste for useful labor. We believe in education;
but there must be something wrong in an education that sets so many
people at odds with the facts of life, and, above all, does not furnish
them with any protection against the wildest illusions. There is
something wanting in the education that only half educates people.

Whether there is the relation of cause and effect between the two I do
not pretend to say, but universal and superficial education in this
country has been accompanied with the most extraordinary delusions and
the evolution of the wildest theories. It is only necessary to refer, by
way of illustration, to the greenback illusion, and to the whole group of
spiritualistic disturbances and psychological epidemics. It sometimes
seems as if half the American people were losing the power to apply
logical processes to the ordinary affairs of life.

In studying the discontent in this country which takes the form of a
labor movement, one is at first struck by its illogical aspects. So far
as it is an organized attempt to better the condition of men by
association of interests it is consistent. But it seems strange that the
doctrine of individualism should so speedily have an outcome in a
personal slavery, only better in the sense that it is voluntary, than
that which it protested against. The revolt from authority, the assertion
of the right of private judgment, has been pushed forward into a
socialism which destroys individual liberty of action, or to a state of
anarchy in which the weak would have no protection. I do not imagine that
the leaders who preach socialism, who live by agitation and not by labor,
really desire to overturn the social order and bring chaos. If social
chaos came, their occupation would be gone, for if all men were reduced
to a level, they would be compelled to scratch about with the rest for a
living. They live by agitation, and they are confident that government
will be strong enough to hold things together, so that they can continue

The strange thing is that their followers who live by labor and expect to
live by it, and believe in the doctrine of individualism, and love
liberty of action, should be willing to surrender their discretion to an
arbitrary committee, and should expect that liberty of action would be
preserved if all property were handed over to the State, which should
undertake to regulate every man’s time, occupation, wages, and so on. The
central committee or authority, or whatever it might be called, would be
an extraordinary despotism, tempered only by the idea that it could be
overturned every twenty-four hours. But what security would there be for
any calculations in life in a state of things in expectation of a
revolution any moment? Compared with the freedom of action in such a
government as ours, any form of communism is an iniquitous and meddlesome
despotism. In a less degree an association to which a man surrenders the
right to say when, where, and for how much he shall work, is a despotism,
and when it goes further and attempts to put a pressure on all men
outside of the association, so that they are free neither to work nor to
hire the workmen they choose, it is an extraordinary tyranny. It almost
puts in the shade Mexican or Russian personal government. A demand is
made upon a railway company that it shall discharge a certain workman
because and only because he is not a member of the union. The company
refuses. Then a distant committee orders a strike on that road, which
throws business far and wide into confusion, and is the cause of heavy
loss to tens of thousands who have no interest in any association of
capital or labor, many of whom are ruined by this violence. Some of the
results of this surrender of personal liberty are as illegal as

The boycott is a conspiracy to injure another person, and as such
indictable at common law. A strike, if a conspiracy only to raise wages
or to reduce hours of labor, may not be indictable, if its object cannot
be shown to be the injury of another, though that may be incidentally its
effect. But in its incidents, such as violence, intimidation, and in some
cases injury to the public welfare, it often becomes an indictable
offense. The law of conspiracy is the most ill-defined branch of
jurisprudence, but it is safe to say of the boycott and the strike that
they both introduce an insupportable element of tyranny, of dictation, of
interference, into private life. If they could be maintained, society
would be at the mercy of an irresponsible and even secret tribunal.

The strike is illogical. Take the recent experience in this country. We
have had a long season of depression, in which many earned very little
and labor sought employment in vain. In the latter part of winter the
prospect brightened, business revived, orders for goods poured in to all
the factories in the country, and everybody believed that we were on the
eve of a very prosperous season. This was the time taken to order
strikes, and they were enforced in perhaps a majority of cases against
the wishes of those who obeyed the order, and who complained of no
immediate grievance. What men chiefly wanted was the opportunity to work.
The result has been to throw us all back into the condition of stagnation
and depression. Many people are ruined, an immense amount of capital
which ventured into enterprises is lost, but of course the greatest
sufferers are the workingmen themselves.

The methods of violence suggested by the communists and anarchists are
not remedial. Real difficulties exist, but these do not reach them. The
fact is that people in any relations incur mutual obligations, and the
world cannot go on without a recognition of duties as well as rights. We
all agree that every man has a right to work for whom he pleases, and to
quit the work if it does not or the wages do not suit him. On the other
hand, a man has a right to hire whom he pleases, pay such wages as he
thinks he can afford, and discharge men who do not suit him. But when men
come together in the relation of employer and employed, other
considerations arise. A man has capital which, instead of loaning at
interest or locking up in real estate or bonds, he puts into a factory.
In other words, he unlocks it for the benefit partly of men who want
wages. He has the expectation of making money, of making more than he
could by lending his money. Perhaps he will be disappointed, for a common
experience is the loss of capital thus invested. He hires workmen at
certain wages. On the strength of this arrangement, he accepts orders and
makes contracts for the delivery of goods. He may make money one year and
lose the next. It is better for the workman that he should prosper, for
the fund of capital accumulated is that upon which they depend to give
them wages in a dull time. But some day when he is in a corner with
orders, and his rivals are competing for the market, and labor is scarce,
his men strike on him.

Conversely, take the workman settled down to work in the mill, at the
best wages attainable at the time. He has a house and family. He has
given pledges to society. His employer has incurred certain duties in
regard to him by the very nature of their relations. Suppose the workman
and his family cannot live in any comfort on the wages he receives. The
employer is morally bound to increase the wages if he can. But if,
instead of sympathizing with the situation of his workman, he forms a
combination with all the mills of his sort, and reduces wages merely to
increase his gains, he is guilty of an act as worthy of indictment as the
strike. I do not see why a conspiracy against labor is not as illegal as
a conspiracy against capital. The truth is, the possession of power by
men or associations makes them selfish and generally cruel. Few employers
consider anything but the arithmetic of supply and demand in fixing
wages, and workingmen who have the power, tend to act as selfishly as the
male printers used to act in striking in an establishment which dared to
give employment to women typesetters. It is of course sentimental to say
it, but I do not expect we shall ever get on with less friction than we
have now, until men recognize their duties as well as their rights in
their relations with each other.

In running over some of the reasons for the present discontent, and the
often illogical expression of it, I am far from saying anything against
legitimate associations for securing justice and fair play. Disassociated
labor has generally been powerless against accumulated capital. Of
course, organized labor, getting power will use its power (as power is
always used) unjustly and tyrannically. It will make mistakes, it will
often injure itself while inflicting general damage. But with all its
injustice, with all its surrender of personal liberty, it seeks to call
the attention of the world to certain hideous wrongs, to which the world
is likely to continue selfishly indifferent unless rudely shaken out of
its sense of security. Some of the objects proposed by these associations
are chimerical, but the agitation will doubtless go on until another
element is introduced into work and wages than mere supply and demand. I
believe that some time it will be impossible that a woman shall be forced
to make shirts at six cents apiece, with the gaunt figures of starvation
or a life of shame waiting at the door. I talked recently with the driver
of a street-car in a large city. He received a dollar and sixty cents a
day. He went on to his platform at eight in the morning, and left it at
twelve at night, sixteen hours of continuous labor every day in the week.
He had no rest for meals, only snatched what he could eat as he drove
along, or at intervals of five or eight minutes at the end of routes. He
had no Sunday, no holiday in the year.

Between twelve o’clock at night and eight the next morning he must wash
and clean his car. Thus his hours of sleep were abridged. He was obliged
to keep an eye on the passengers to see that they put their fares in the
box, to be always, responsible for them, that they got on and off without
accident, to watch that the rules were enforced, and that collisions and
common street dangers were avoided. This mental and physical strain for
sixteen consecutive hours, with scant sleep, so demoralized him that he
was obliged once in two or three months to hire a substitute and go away
to sleep. This is treating a human being with less consideration than the
horses receive. He is powerless against the great corporation; if he
complains, his place is instantly filled; the public does not care.

Now what I want to say about this case, and that of the woman who makes a
shirt for six cents (and these are only types of disregard of human souls
and bodies that we are all familiar with), is that if society remains
indifferent it must expect that organizations will attempt to right them,
and the like wrongs, by ways violent and destructive of the innocent and
guilty alike. It is human nature, it is the lesson of history, that real
wrongs, unredressed, grow into preposterous demands. Men are much like
nature in action; a little disturbance of atmospheric equilibrium becomes
a cyclone, a slight break in the levee ‘a crevasse with immense
destructive power.

In considering the growth of discontent, and of a natural disregard of
duties between employers and employed, it is to be noted that while wages
in nearly all trades are high, the service rendered deteriorates, less
conscience is put into the work, less care to give a fair day’s work for
a fair day’s wages, and that pride in good work is vanishing. This may be
in the nature of retaliation for the indifference to humanity taught by a
certain school of political economists, but it is, nevertheless, one of
the most alarming features of these times. How to cultivate the sympathy
of the employers with the employed as men, and how to interest the
employed in their work beyond the mere wages they receive, is the double

As the intention of this paper was not to suggest remedies, but only to
review some of the causes of discontent, I will only say, as to this
double problem, that I see no remedy so long as the popular notion
prevails that the greatest good of life is to make money rapidly, and
while it is denied that all men who contribute to prosperity ought to
share equitably in it. The employed must recognize the necessity of an
accumulated fund of capital, and on the other hand the employer must be
as anxious to have about him a contented, prosperous community, as to
heap up money beyond any reasonable use for it. The demand seems to be
reasonable that the employer in a prosperous year ought to share with the
workmen the profits beyond a limit that capital, risk, enterprise, and
superior skill can legitimately claim; and that on the other hand the
workmen should stand by the employer in hard times.

Discontent, then, arises from absurd notions of equality, from natural
conditions of inequality, from false notions of education, and from the
very patent fact, in this age, that men have been educated into wants
much more rapidly than social conditions have been adjusted, or perhaps
ever can be adjusted, to satisfy those wants. Beyond all the actual
hardship and suffering, there is an immense mental discontent which has
to be reckoned with.

This leads me to what I chiefly wanted to say in this paper, to the cause
of discontent which seems to me altogether the most serious, altogether
the most difficult to deal with. We may arrive at some conception of it,
if we consider what it is that the well-to-do, the prosperous, the rich,
the educated and cultivated portions of society, most value just now.

If, to take an illustration which is sufficiently remote to give us the
necessary perspective, if the political economists, the manufacturers,
the traders and aristocracy of England had had chiefly in mind the
development of the laboring people of England into a fine type of men and
women, full of health and physical vigor, with minds capable of expansion
and enjoyment, the creation of decent, happy, and contented homes, would
they have reared the industrial fabric we now see there? If they had not
put the accumulation of wealth above the good of individual humanity,
would they have turned England into a grimy and smoky workshop,
commanding the markets of the world by cheap labor, condemning the mass
of the people to unrelieved toil and the most squalid and degraded
conditions of life in towns, while the land is more and more set apart
for the parks and pleasure grounds of the rich? The policy pursued has
made England the richest of countries, a land of the highest refinement
and luxury for the upper classes, and of the most misery for the great
mass of common people. On this point we have but to read the testimony of
English writers themselves. It is not necessary to suppose that the
political economists were inhuman. They no doubt believed that if England
attained this commanding position, the accumulated wealth would raise all
classes into better conditions. Their mistake is that of all peoples who
have made money their first object. Looked at merely on the material
side, you would think that what a philanthropic statesman would desire,
who wished a vigorous, prosperous nation, would be a strong and virile
population, thrifty and industrious, and not mere slaves of mines and
mills, degenerating in their children, year by year, physically and
morally. But apparently they have gone upon the theory that it is money,
not man, that makes a state.

In the United States, under totally different conditions, and under an
economic theory that, whatever its defects on paper, has nevertheless
insisted more upon the worth of the individual man, we have had, all the
same, a distinctly material development. When foreign critics have
commented upon this, upon our superficiality, our commonplaceness, what
they are pleased to call the weary level of our mediocrity, upon the
raging unrest and race for fortune, and upon the tremendous pace of
American life, we have said that this is incident to a new country and
the necessity of controlling physical conditions, and of fitting our
heterogeneous population to their environment. It is hardly to be
expected, we have said, until, we have the leisure that comes from easy
circumstances and accumulated wealth, that we should show the graces of
the highest civilization, in intellectual pursuits. Much of this
criticism is ignorant, and to say the best of it, ungracious, considering
what we have done in the way of substantial appliances for education, in
the field of science, in vast charities, and missionary enterprises, and
what we have to show in the diffused refinements of life.

We are already wealthy; we have greater resources and higher credit than
any other nation; we have more wealth than any save one; we have vast
accumulations of fortune, in private hands and in enormous corporations.
There exists already, what could not be said to exist a quarter of a
century ago, a class who have leisure. Now what is the object in life of
this great, growing class that has money and leisure, what does it
chiefly care for? In your experience of society, what is it that it
pursues and desires? Is it things of the mind or things of the senses?
What is it that interests women, men of fortune, club-men, merchants, and
professional men whose incomes give them leisure to follow their
inclinations, the young men who have inherited money? Is it political
duties, the affairs of state, economic problems, some adjustment of our
relations that shall lighten and relieve the wrongs and misery everywhere
apparent; is the interest in intellectual pursuits and art (except in a
dilettante way dictated for a season by fashion) in books, in the wide
range of mental pleasures which make men superior to the accidents of
fortune? Or is the interest of this class, for the most part, with some
noble exceptions, rather in things grossly material, in what is called
pleasure? To come to somewhat vulgar details, is not the growing desire
for equipages, for epicurean entertainments, for display, either refined
or ostentatious, rivalry in profusion and expense, new methods for
killing time, for every imaginable luxury, which is enjoyed partly
because it pleases the senses, and partly because it satisfies an ignoble
craving for class distinction?

I am not referring to these things as a moralist at all, but simply in
their relation to popular discontent. The astonishing growth of luxury
and the habit of sensual indulgence are seen everywhere in this country,
but are most striking in the city of New York, since the fashion and
wealth of the whole country meet there for display and indulgence,--New
York, which rivals London and outdoes Paris in sumptuousness. There
congregate more than elsewhere idlers, men and women of leisure who have
nothing to do except to observe or to act in the spectacle of Vanity
Fair. Aside from the display of luxury in the shops, in the streets, in
private houses, one is impressed by the number of idle young men and
women of fashion.

It is impossible that a workingman who stands upon a metropolitan street
corner and observes this Bacchanalian revel and prodigality of expense,
should not be embittered by a sense of the inequality of the conditions
of life. But this is not the most mischievous effect of the spectacle. It
is the example of what these people care for. With all their wealth and
opportunities, it seems to him that these select people have no higher
object than the pleasures of the senses, and he is taught daily by
reiterated example that this is the end and aim of life. When he sees the
value the intelligent and the well-to-do set upon material things, and
their small regard for intellectual things and the pleasures of the mind,
why should he not most passionately desire those things which his more
fortunate neighbors put foremost? It is not the sight of a Peter Cooper
and his wealth that discontents him, nor the intellectual pursuits of the
scholar who uses the leisure his fortune gives him for the higher
pleasures of the mind. But when society daily dins upon his senses the
lesson that not manhood and high thinking and a contented spirit are the
most desirable things, whether one is rich or poor, is he to be blamed
for having a wrong notion of what will or should satisfy him? What the
well-to-do, the prosperous, are seen to value most in life will be the
things most desired by the less fortunate in accumulation. It is not so
much the accumulation of money that is mischievous in this country, for
the most stupid can see that fortunes are constantly shifting hands, but
it is the use that is made of the leisure and opportunity that money

Another observation, which makes men discontented with very slow
accumulation, is that apparently, in the public estimation it does not
make much difference whether a man acquires wealth justly or unjustly. If
he only secures enough, he is a power, he has social position, he grasps
the high honors and places in the state. The fact is that the toleration
of men who secure wealth by well known dishonest and sharp practices is a
chief cause of the demoralization of the public conscience.

However the lines social and political may be drawn, we have to keep in
mind that nothing in one class can be foreign to any other, and that
practically one philosophy underlies all the movements of an age. If our
philosophy is material, resulting in selfish ethics, all our energies
will have a materialistic tendency. It is not to be wondered at,
therefore, that, in a time when making money is the chief object, if it
is not reckoned the chief good, our education should all tend to what is
called practical, that is, to that which can be immediately serviceable
in some profitable occupation of life, to the neglect of those studies
which are only of use in training the intellect and cultivating and
broadening the higher intelligence. To this purely material and
utilitarian idea of life, the higher colleges and universities everywhere
are urged to conform themselves. Thus is the utilitarian spirit eating
away the foundations of a higher intellectual life, applying to
everything a material measure. In proportion as scholars yield to it,
they are lowering the standard of what is most to be desired in human
life, acting in perfect concert with that spirit which exalts money
making as the chief good, which makes science itself the slave of the
avaricious and greedy, and fills all the world with discontented and
ignoble longing. We do not need to be told that if we neglect pure
science for the pursuit of applied science only, applied science will
speedily be degraded and unfruitful; and it is just as true that if we
pursue knowledge only for the sake of gain, and not for its own sake,
knowledge will lose the power it has of satisfying the higher needs of
the human soul. If we are seen to put only a money value on the higher
education, why should not the workingman, who regards it only as a
distinction of class or privilege, estimate it by what he can see of its
practical results in making men richer, or bringing him more pleasure of
the senses?

The world is ruled by ideas, by abstract thought. Society, literature,
art, politics, in any given age are what the prevailing system of
philosophy makes them. We recognize this clearly in studying any past
period. We see, for instance, how all the currents of human life changed
upon the adoption of the inductive method; no science, no literature, no
art, practical or fine, no person, inquiring scholar, day laborer,
trader, sailor, fine lady or humblest housekeeper, escaped the influence.
Even though the prevailing ethics may teach that every man’s highest duty
is to himself, we cannot escape community of sympathy and destiny in this
cold-blooded philosophy.

No social or political movement stands by itself. If we inquire, we shall
find one preponderating cause underlying every movement of the age. If
the utilitarian spirit is abroad, it accounts for the devotion to the
production of wealth, and to the consequent separation of classes and the
discontent, and it accounts also for the demand that all education shall
be immediately useful. I was talking the other day with a lady who was
doubting what sort of an education to give her daughter, a young girl of
exceedingly fine mental capacity. If she pursued a classical course, she
would, at the age of twenty-one, know very little of the sciences. And I
said, why not make her an intellectual woman? At twenty-one, with a
trained mind, all knowledges are at one’s feet.

If anything can correct the evils of devotion to money, it seems to me
that it is the production of intellectual men and women, who will find
other satisfactions in life than those of the senses. And when labor sees
what it is that is really most to be valued, its discontent will be of a
nobler kind.


By Charles Dudley Warner

At the close of the war for the Union about five millions of negroes were
added to the citizenship of the United States. By the census of 1890 this
number had become over seven and a half millions. I use the word negro
because the descriptive term black or colored is not determinative. There
are many varieties of negroes among the African tribes, but all of them
agree in certain physiological if not psychological characteristics,
which separate them from all other races of mankind; whereas there are
many races, black or colored, like the Abyssinian, which have no other
negro traits.

It is also a matter of observation that the negro traits persist in
recognizable manifestations, to the extent of occasional reversions,
whatever may be the mixture of a white race. In a certain degree this
persistence is true of all races not come from an historic common stock.

In the political reconstruction the negro was given the ballot without
any requirements of education or property. This was partly a measure of
party balance of power; and partly from a concern that the negro would
not be secure in his rights as a citizen without it, and also upon the
theory that the ballot is an educating influence.

This sudden transition and shifting of power was resented at the South,
resisted at first, and finally it has generally been evaded. This was due
to a variety of reasons or prejudices, not all of them creditable to a
generous desire for the universal elevation of mankind, but one of them
the historian will judge adequate to produce the result. Indeed, it might
have been foreseen from the beginning. This reconstruction measure was an
attempt to put the superior part of the community under the control of
the inferior, these parts separated by all the prejudices of race, and by
traditions of mastership on the one side and of servitude on the other. I
venture to say that it was an experiment that would have failed in any
community in the United States, whether it was presented as a piece of
philanthropy or of punishment.

A necessary sequence to the enfranchisement of the negro was his
education. However limited our idea of a proper common education may be,
it is a fundamental requisite in our form of government that every voter
should be able to read and write. A recognition of this truth led to the
establishment in the South of public schools for the whites and blacks,
in short, of a public school system. We are not to question the sincerity
and generousness of this movement, however it may have halted and lost
enthusiasm in many localities.

This opportunity of education (found also in private schools) was hailed
by the negroes, certainly, with enthusiasm. It cannot be doubted that at
the close of the war there was a general desire among the freedmen to be
instructed in the rudiments of knowledge at least. Many parents,
especially women, made great sacrifices to obtain for their children this
advantage which had been denied to themselves. Many youths, both boys and
girls, entered into it with a genuine thirst for knowledge which it was
pathetic to see.

But it may be questioned, from developments that speedily followed,
whether the mass of negroes did not really desire this advantage as a
sign of freedom, rather than from a wish for knowledge, and covet it
because it had formerly been the privilege of their masters, and marked a
broad distinction between the races. It was natural that this should be
so, when they had been excluded from this privilege by pains and
penalties, when in some States it was one of the gravest offenses to
teach a negro to read and write. This prohibition was accounted for by
the peculiar sort of property that slavery created, which would become
insecure if intelligent, for the alphabet is a terrible disturber of all
false relations in society.

But the effort at education went further than the common school and the
primary essential instruction. It introduced the higher education.
Colleges usually called universities--for negroes were established in
many Southern States, created and stimulated by the generosity of
Northern men and societies, and often aided by the liberality of the
States where they existed. The curriculum in these was that in colleges
generally,--the classics, the higher mathematics, science, philosophy,
the modern languages, and in some instances a certain technical
instruction, which was being tried in some Northern colleges. The
emphasis, however, was laid on liberal culture. This higher education was
offered to the mass that still lacked the rudiments of intellectual
training, in the belief that education--the education of the moment, the
education of superimposed information, can realize the theory of
universal equality.

This experiment has now been in operation long enough to enable us to
judge something of its results and its promises for the future. These
results are of a nature to lead us seriously to inquire whether our
effort was founded upon an adequate knowledge of the negro, of his
present development, of the requirements for his personal welfare and
evolution in the scale of civilization, and for his training in useful
and honorable citizenship. I am speaking of the majority, the mass to be
considered in any general scheme, and not of the exceptional individuals
--exceptions that will rapidly increase as the mass is lifted--who are
capable of taking advantage to the utmost of all means of cultivation,
and who must always be provided with all the opportunities needed.

Millions of dollars have been invested in the higher education of the
negro, while this primary education has been, taking the whole mass,
wholly inadequate to his needs. This has been upon the supposition that
the higher would compel the rise of the lower with the undeveloped negro
race as it does with the more highly developed white race. An examination
of the soundness of this expectation will not lead us far astray from our

The evolution of a race, distinguishing it from the formation of a
nation, is a slow process. We recognize a race by certain peculiar
traits, and by characteristics which slowly change. They are acquired
little by little in an evolution which, historically, it is often
difficult to trace. They are due to the environment, to the discipline of
life, and to what is technically called education. These work together to
make what is called character, race character, and it is this which is
transmitted from generation to generation. Acquirements are not
hereditary, like habits and peculiarities, physical or mental. A man does
not transmit to his descendants his learning, though he may transmit the
aptitude for it. This is illustrated in factories where skilled labor is
handed down and fixed in the same families, that is, where the same kind
of labor is continued from one generation to another. The child, put to
work, has not the knowledge of the parent, but a special aptitude in his
skill and dexterity. Both body and mind have acquired certain
transmissible traits. The same thing is seen on a larger scale in a whole
nation, like the Japanese, who have been trained into what seems an art

It is this character, quality, habit, the result of a slow educational
process, which distinguishes one race from another. It is this that the
race transmits, and not the more or less accidental education of a decade
or an era. The Brahmins carry this idea into the next life, and say that
the departing spirit carries with him nothing except this individual
character, no acquirements or information or extraneous culture. It was
perhaps in the same spirit that the sad preacher in Ecclesiastes said
there is no “knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.”

It is by this character that we classify civilized and even
semi-civilized races; by this slowly developed fibre, this slow
accumulation of inherent quality in the evolution of the human being from
lower to higher, that continues to exist notwithstanding the powerful
influence of governments and religions. We are understood when we speak
of the French, the Italian, the Pole, the Spanish, the English, the
German, the Arab race, the Japanese, and so on. It is what a foreign
writer calls, not inaptly, a collective race soul. As it is slow in
evolution, it is persistent in enduring.

Further, we recognize it as a stage of progress, historically necessary
in the development of man into a civilized adaptation to his situation in
this world. It is a process that cannot be much hurried, and a result
that cannot be leaped to out of barbarism by any superimposition of
knowledge or even quickly by any change of environment. We may be right
in our modern notion that education has a magical virtue that can work
any kind of transformation; but we are certainly not right in supposing
that it can do this instantly, or that it can work this effect upon a
barbarous race in the same period of time that it can upon one more
developed, one that has acquired at least a race consciousness.

Before going further, and in order to avoid misunderstanding, it is
proper to say that I have the firmest belief in the ultimate development
of all mankind into a higher plane than it occupies now. I should
otherwise be in despair. This faith will never desist in the effort to
bring about the end desired.

But, if we work with Providence, we must work in the reasonable ways of
Providence, and add to our faith patience.

It seems to be the rule in all history that the elevation of a lower race
is effected only by contact with one higher in civilization. Both reform
and progress come from exterior influences. This is axiomatic, and
applies to the fields of government, religion, ethics, art, and letters.

We have been taught to regard Africa as a dark, stolid continent,
unawakened, unvisited by the agencies and influences that have
transformed the world from age to age. Yet it was in northern and
northeastern Africa that within historic periods three of the most
powerful and brilliant civilizations were developed,--the Egyptian, the
Carthaginian, the Saracenic. That these civilizations had more than a
surface contact with the interior, we know. To take the most ancient of
them, and that which longest endured, the Egyptian, the Pharaohs carried
their conquests and their power deep into Africa. In the story of their
invasions and occupancy of the interior, told in pictures on temple
walls, we find the negro figuring as captive and slave. This contact may
not have been a fruitful one for the elevation of the negro, but it
proves that for ages he was in one way or another in contact with a
superior civilization. In later days we find little trace of it in the
home of the negro, but in Egypt the negro has left his impress in the
mixed blood of the Nile valley.

The most striking example of the contact of the negro with a higher
civilization is in the powerful medieval empire of Songhay, established
in the heart of the negro country. The vast strip of Africa lying north
of the equator and south of the twentieth parallel and west of the upper
Nile was then, as it is now, the territory of tribes distinctly described
as Negro. The river Niger, running northward from below Jenne to near
Timbuctoo, and then turning west and south to the Gulf of Guinea, flows
through one of the richest valleys in the world. In richness it is
comparable to that of the Nile and, like that of the Nile, its fertility
depends upon the water of the central stream. Here arose in early times
the powerful empire of Songhay, which disintegrated and fell into tribal
confusion about the middle of the seventeenth century. For a long time
the seat of its power was the city of Jenne; in later days it was

This is not the place to enlarge upon this extraordinary piece of
history. The best account of the empire of Songhay is to be found in the
pages of Barth, the German traveler, who had access to what seemed to him
a credible Arab history. Considerable light is thrown upon it by a recent
volume on Timbuctoo by M. Dubois, a French traveler. M. Dubois finds
reason to believe that the founders of the Songhese empire came from
Yemen, and sought refuge from Moslem fanaticism in Central Africa some
hundred and fifty years after the Hejira. The origin of the empire is
obscure, but the development was not indigenous. It seems probable that
the settlers, following traders, penetrated to the Niger valley from the
valley of the Nile as early as the third or fourth century of our era. An
evidence of this early influence, which strengthened from century to
century, Dubois finds in the architecture of Jenne and Timbuctoo. It is
not Roman or Saracenic or Gothic, it is distinctly Pharaonic. But
whatever the origin of the Songhay empire, it became in time Mohammedan,
and so continued to the end. Mohammedanism seems, however, to have been
imposed. Powerful as the empire was, it was never free from tribal
insurrection and internal troubles. The highest mark of negro capacity
developed in this history is, according to the record examined by Barth,
that one of the emperors was a negro.

From all that can be gathered in the records, the mass of the negroes,
which constituted the body of this empire, remained pagan, did not
become, except in outward conformity, Mohammedan and did not take the
Moslem civilization as it was developed elsewhere, and that the
disintegration of the empire left the negro races practically where they
were before in point of development. This fact, if it is not overturned
by further search, is open to the explanation that the Moslem
civilization is not fitted to the development of the African negro.

Contact, such as it has been, with higher civilizations, has not in all
these ages which have witnessed the wonderful rise and development of
other races, much affected or changed the negro. He is much as he would
be if he had been left to himself. And left to himself, even in such a
favorable environment as America, he is slow to change. In Africa there
has been no progress in organization, government, art.

No negro tribe has ever invented a written language. In his exhaustive
work on the History of Mankind, Professor Frederick Ratzel, having
studied thoroughly the negro belt of Africa, says “of writing properly so
called, neither do the modern negroes show any trace, nor have traces of
older writing been found in negro countries.”

From this outline review we come back to the situation in the United
States, where a great mass of negroes--possibly over nine millions of
many shades of colors--is for the first time brought into contact with
Christian civilization. This mass is here to make or mar our national
life, and the problem of its destiny has to be met with our own. What can
we do, what ought we to do, for his own good and for our peace and
national welfare?

In the first place, it is impossible to escape the profound impression
that we have made a mistake in our estimate of his evolution as a race,
in attempting to apply to him the same treatment for the development of
character that we would apply to a race more highly organized. Has he
developed the race consciousness, the race soul, as I said before, a
collective soul, which so strongly marks other races more or less
civilized according to our standards? Do we find in him, as a mass
(individuals always excepted), that slow deposit of training and
education called “character,” any firm basis of order, initiative of
action, the capacity of going alone, any sure foundation of morality? It
has been said that a race may attain a good degree of standing in the
world without the refinement of culture, but never without virtue, either
in the Roman or the modern meaning of that word.

The African, now the American negro, has come in the United States into a
more favorable position for development than he has ever before had
offered. He has come to it through hardship, and his severe
apprenticeship is not ended. It is possible that the historians centuries
hence, looking back over the rough road that all races have traveled in
their evolution, may reckon slavery and the forced transportation to the
new world a necessary step in the training of the negro. We do not know.
The ways of Providence are not measurable by our foot rules. We see that
slavery was unjust, uneconomic, and the worst training for citizenship in
such a government as ours. It stifled a number of germs that might have
produced a better development, such as individuality, responsibility, and
thrift,--germs absolutely necessary to the well-being of a race. It laid
no foundation of morality, but in place of morality saw cultivated a
superstitious, emotional, hysterical religion. It is true that it taught
a savage race subordination and obedience. Nor did it stifle certain
inherent temperamental virtues, faithfulness, often highly developed, and
frequently cheerfulness and philosophic contentment in a situation that
would have broken the spirit of a more sensitive race. In short, under
all the disadvantages of slavery the race showed certain fine traits,
qualities of humor and good humor, and capacity for devotion, which were
abundantly testified to by southerners during the progress of the Civil
War. It has, as a race, traits wholly distinct from those of the whites,
which are not only interesting, but might be a valuable contribution to a
cosmopolitan civilization; gifts also, such as the love of music, and
temperamental gayety, mixed with a note of sadness, as in the Hungarians.

But slavery brought about one result, and that the most difficult in the
development of a race from savagery, and especially a tropical race, a
race that has always been idle in the luxuriance of a nature that
supplied its physical needs with little labor. It taught the negro to
work, it transformed him, by compulsion it is true, into an industrial
being, and held him in the habit of industry for several generations.
Perhaps only force could do this, for it was a radical transformation. I
am glad to see that this result of slavery is recognized by Mr. Booker
Washington, the ablest and most clear-sighted leader the negro race has
ever had.

But something more was done under this pressure, something more than
creation of a habit of physical exertion to productive ends. Skill was
developed. Skilled labor, which needs brains, was carried to a high
degree of performance. On almost all the Southern plantations, and in the
cities also, negro mechanics were bred, excellent blacksmiths, good
carpenters, and house-builders capable of executing plans of high
architectural merit. Everywhere were negroes skilled in trades, and
competent in various mechanical industries.

The opportunity and the disposition to labor make the basis of all our
civilization. The negro was taught to work, to be an agriculturist, a
mechanic, a material producer of something useful. He was taught this
fundamental thing. Our higher education, applied to him in his present
development, operates in exactly the opposite direction.

This is a serious assertion. Its truth or falsehood cannot be established
by statistics, but it is an opinion gradually formed by experience, and
the observation of men competent to judge, who have studied the problem
close at hand. Among the witnesses to the failure of the result expected
from the establishment of colleges and universities for the negro are
heard, from time to time, and more frequently as time goes on, practical
men from the North, railway men, manufacturers, who have initiated
business enterprises at the South. Their testimony coincides with that of
careful students of the economic and social conditions.

There was reason to assume, from our theory and experience of the higher
education in its effect upon white races, that the result would be
different from what it is. When the negro colleges first opened, there
was a glow of enthusiasm, an eagerness of study, a facility of
acquirement, and a good order that promised everything for the future. It
seemed as if the light then kindled would not only continue to burn, but
would penetrate all the dark and stolid communities. It was my fortune to
see many of these institutions in their early days, and to believe that
they were full of the greatest promise for the race. I have no intention
of criticising the generosity and the noble self-sacrifice that produced
them, nor the aspirations of their inmates. There is no doubt that they
furnish shining examples of emancipation from ignorance, and of useful
lives. But a few years have thrown much light upon the careers and
characters of a great proportion of the graduates, and their effect upon
the communities of which they form a part, I mean, of course, with regard
to the industrial and moral condition of those communities. Have these
colleges, as a whole,--[This sentence should have been further qualified
by acknowledging the excellent work done by the colleges at Atlanta and
Nashville, which, under exceptionally good management, have sent out
much-needed teachers. I believe that their success, however, is largely
owing to their practical features.--C.D.W.]--stimulated industry,
thrift, the inclination to settle down to the necessary hard work of the
world, or have they bred idleness, indisposition to work, a vaporous
ambition in politics, and that sort of conceit of gentility of which the
world has already enough? If any one is in doubt about this he can
satisfy himself by a sojourn in different localities in the South. The
condition of New Orleans and its negro universities is often cited. It is
a favorable example, because the ambition of the negro has been aided
there by influence outside of the schools. The federal government has
imposed upon the intelligent and sensitive population negro officials in
high positions, because they were negroes and not because they were
specially fitted for those positions by character or ability. It is my
belief that the condition of the race in New Orleans is lower than it was
several years ago, and that the influence of the higher education has
been in the wrong direction.

This is not saying that the higher education is responsible for the
present condition of the negro.

Other influences have retarded his elevation and the development of
proper character, and most important means have been neglected. I only
say that we have been disappointed in our extravagant expectations of
what this education could do for a race undeveloped, and so wanting in
certain elements of character, and that the millions of money devoted to
it might have been much better applied.

We face a grave national situation. It cannot be successfully dealt with
sentimentally. It should be faced with knowledge and candor. We must
admit our mistakes, both social and political, and set about the solution
of our problem with intelligent resolution and a large charity. It is not
simply a Southern question. It is a Northern question as well. For the
truth of this I have only to appeal to the consciousness of all Northern
communities in which there are negroes in any considerable numbers. Have
the negroes improved, as a rule (always remembering the exceptions), in
thrift, truthfulness, morality, in the elements of industrious
citizenship, even in States and towns where there has been the least
prejudice against their education? In a paper read at the last session of
this Association, Professor W. F. Willcox of Cornell University showed by
statistics that in proportion to population there were more negro
criminals in the North than in the South. “The negro prisoners in the
Southern States to ten thousand negroes increased between 1880 and 1890
twenty-nine per cent., while the white prisoners to ten thousand whites
increased only eight per cent.” “In the States where slavery was never
established, the white prisoners increased seven per cent. faster than
the white population, while the negro prisoners no less than thirty-nine
per cent. faster than the negro population. Thus the increase of negro
criminality, so far as it is reflected in the number of prisoners,
exceeded the increase of white criminality more in the North than it did
in the South.”

This statement was surprising. It cannot be accounted for by color
prejudice at the North; it is related to the known shiftlessness and
irresponsibility of a great portion of the negro population. If it could
be believed that this shiftlessness is due to the late state of slavery,
the explanation would not do away with the existing conditions. Schools
at the North have for a long time been open to the negro; though color
prejudice exists, he has not been on the whole in an unfriendly
atmosphere, and willing hands have been stretched out to help him in his
ambition to rise. It is no doubt true, as has been often said lately,
that the negro at the North has been crowded out of many occupations by
more vigorous races, newly come to this country, crowded out not only of
factory industries and agricultural, but of the positions of servants,
waiters, barbers, and other minor ways of earning a living. The general
verdict is that this loss of position is due to lack of stamina and
trustworthiness. Wherever a negro has shown himself able, honest,
attentive to the moral and economic duties of a citizen, either
successful in accumulating property or filling honorably his station in
life, he has gained respect and consideration in the community in which
he is known; and this is as true at the South as at the North,
notwithstanding the race antagonism is more accentuated by reason of the
preponderance of negro population there and the more recent presence of
slavery. Upon this ugly race antagonism it is not necessary to enlarge
here in discussing the problem of education, and I will leave it with the
single observation that I have heard intelligent negroes, who were
honestly at work, accumulating property and disposed to postpone active
politics to a more convenient season, say that they had nothing to fear
from the intelligent white population, but only from the envy of the

The whole situation is much aggravated by the fact that there is a
considerable infusion of white blood in the negro race in the United
States, leading to complications and social aspirations that are
infinitely pathetic. Time only and no present contrivance of ours can
ameliorate this condition.

I have made this outline of our negro problem in no spirit of pessimism
or of prejudice, but in the belief that the only way to remedy an evil or
a difficulty is candidly and fundamentally to understand it. Two things
are evident: First, the negro population is certain to increase in the
United States, in a ratio at least equal to that of the whites. Second,
the South needs its labor. Its deportation is an idle dream. The only
visible solution is for the negro to become an integral and an
intelligent part of the industrial community. The way may be long, but he
must work his way up. Sympathetic aid may do much, but the salvation of
the negro is in his own hands, in the development of individual character
and a race soul. This is fully understood by his wisest leaders. His
worst enemy is the demagogue who flatters him with the delusion that all
he needs for his elevation is freedom and certain privileges that were
denied him in slavery.

In all the Northern cities heroic efforts are made to assimilate the
foreign population by education and instruction in Americanism. In the
South, in the city and on plantation, the same effort is necessary for
the negro, but it must be more radical and fundamental. The common school
must be as fully sustained and as far reaching as it is in the North,
reaching the lowest in the city slums and the most ignorant in the
agricultural districts, but to its strictly elemental teaching must be
added moral instructions, and training in industries and in habits of
industry. Only by such rudimentary and industrial training can the mass
of the negro race in the United States be expected to improve in
character and position. A top-dressing of culture on a field with no
depth of soil may for a moment stimulate the promise of vegetation, but
no fruit will be produced. It is a gigantic task, and generations may
elapse before it can in any degree be relaxed.

Why attempt it? Why not let things drift as they are? Why attempt to
civilize the race within our doors, while there are so many distant and
alien races to whom we ought to turn our civilizing attention? The answer
is simple and does not need elaboration. A growing ignorant mass in our
body politic, inevitably cherishing bitterness of feeling, is an
increasing peril to the public.

In order to remove this peril, by transforming the negro into an
industrial, law-abiding citizen, identified with the prosperity of his
country, the cordial assistance of the Southern white population is
absolutely essential. It can only be accomplished by regarding him as a
man, with the natural right to the development of his capacity and to
contentment in a secure social state. The effort for his elevation must
be fundamental. The opportunity of the common school must be universal,
and attendance in it compulsory. Beyond this, training in the decencies
of life, in conduct, and in all the industries, must be offered in such
industrial institutions as that of Tuskegee. For the exceptional cases a
higher education can be easily provided for those who show themselves
worthy of it, but not offered as an indiscriminate panacea.

The question at once arises as to the kind of teachers for these schools
of various grades. It is one of the most difficult in the whole problem.
As a rule, there is little gain, either in instruction or in elevation of
character, if the teacher is not the superior of the taught. The learners
must respect the attainments and the authority of the teacher. It is a
too frequent fault of our common-school system that, owing to inadequate
pay and ignorant selections, the teachers are not competent to their
responsible task. The highest skill and attainment are needed to evoke
the powers of the common mind, even in a community called enlightened.
Much more are they needed when the community is only slightly developed
mentally and morally. The process of educating teachers of this race, fit
to promote its elevation, must be a slow one. Teachers of various
industries, such as agriculture and the mechanic arts, will be more
readily trained than teachers of the rudiments of learning in the common
schools. It is a very grave question whether, with some exceptions, the
school and moral training of the race should not be for a considerable
time to come in the control of the white race. But it must be kept in
mind that instructors cheap in character, attainments, and breeding will
do more harm than good. If we give ourselves to this work, we must give
of our best.

Without the cordial concurrence in this effort of all parties, black and
white, local and national, it will not be fruitful in fundamental and
permanent good. Each race must accept the present situation and build on
it. To this end it is indispensable that one great evil, which was
inherent in the reconstruction measures and is still persisted in, shall
be eliminated. The party allegiance of the negro was bid for by the
temptation of office and position for which he was in no sense fit. No
permanent, righteous adjustment of relations can come till this policy is
wholly abandoned. Politicians must cease to make the negro a pawn in the
game of politics.

Let us admit that we have made a mistake. We seem to have expected that
we could accomplish suddenly and by artificial Contrivances a development
which historically has always taken a long time. Without abatement of
effort or loss of patience, let us put ourselves in the common-sense, the
scientific, the historic line. It is a gigantic task, only to be
accomplished by long labor in accord with the Divine purpose.

        “Thou wilt not leave us in the dust;
        Thou madest man, he knows not why,
        He thinks he was not made to die;
        And thou hast made him; thou art just.

        “Oh, yet we trust that somehow good
        Will be the final goal of ill,
        To pangs of nature, sins of will,
        Defects of doubt, and taints of blood.

        “That nothing walks with aimless feet,
        That not one life shall be destroyed,
        Or cast as rubbish to the void,
        When God hath made the pile complete.”


By Charles Dudley Warner

The problem of dealing with the criminal class seems insolvable, and it
undoubtedly is with present methods. It has never been attempted on a
fully scientific basis, with due regard to the protection of society and
to the interests of the criminal.

It is purely an economic and educational problem, and must rest upon the
same principles that govern in any successful industry, or in education,
and that we recognize in the conduct of life. That little progress has
been made is due to public indifference to a vital question and to the
action of sentimentalists, who, in their philanthropic zeal; fancy that a
radical reform can come without radical discipline. We are largely
wasting our energies in petty contrivances instead of striking at the
root of the evil.

What do we mean by the criminal class? It is necessary to define this
with some precision, in order to discuss intelligently the means of
destroying this class. A criminal is one who violates a statute law, or,
as we say, commits a crime. The human law takes cognizance of crime and
not of sin. But all men who commit crime are not necessarily in the
criminal class. Speaking technically, we put in that class those whose
sole occupation is crime, who live by it as a profession, and who have no
other permanent industry. They prey upon society. They are by their acts
at war upon it, and are outlaws.

The State is to a certain extent responsible for this class, for it has
trained most of them, from youth up, through successive detentions in
lock-ups, city prisons, county jails, and in State prisons, and
penitentiaries on relatively short sentences, under influences which tend
to educate them as criminals and confirm them in a bad life. That is to
say, if a man once violates the law and is caught, he is put into a
machine from which it is very difficult for him to escape without further
deterioration. It is not simply that the State puts a brand on him in the
eyes of the community, but it takes away his self-respect without giving
him an opportunity to recover it. Once recognized as in the criminal
class, he has no further concern about the State than that of evading its
penalties so far as is consistent with pursuing his occupation of crime.

To avoid misunderstanding as to the subject of this paper, it is
necessary to say that it is not dealing with the question of prison
reform in its whole extent. It attempts to consider only a pretty well
defined class. But in doing this it does not say that other aspects of
our public peril from crime are not as important as this. We cannot relax
our efforts in regard to the relations of poverty, drink, and unsanitary
conditions, as leading to crime. We have still to take care of the
exposed children, of those with parentage and surroundings inclining to
crime, of the degenerate and the unfortunate. We have to keep up the
warfare all along the line against the demoralization of society. But we
have hereto deal with a specific manifestation; we have to capture a
stronghold, the possession of which will put us in much better position
to treat in detail the general evil.

Why should we tolerate any longer a professional criminal class? It is
not large. It is contemptibly small compared with our seventy millions of
people. If I am not mistaken, a late estimate gave us less than fifty
thousand persons in our State prisons and penitentiaries. If we add to
them those at large who have served one or two terms, and are generally
known to the police, we shall not have probably more than eighty thousand
of the criminal class. But call it a hundred thousand. It is a body that
seventy millions of people ought to take care of with little difficulty.
And we certainly ought to stop its increase. But we do not. The class
grows every day. Those who watch the criminal reports are alarmed by the
fact that an increasing number of those arrested for felonies are
discharged convicts. This is an unmistakable evidence of the growth of
the outlaw classes.

But this is not all. Our taxes are greatly increased on account of this
class. We require more police to watch those who are at large and preying
on society. We expend more yearly for apprehending and trying those
caught, for the machinery of criminal justice, and for the recurring
farce of imprisoning on short sentences and discharging those felons to
go on with their work of swindling and robbing. It would be good economy
for the public, considered as a taxpayer, to pay for the perpetual keep
of these felons in secure confinement.

And still this is not the worst. We are all living in abject terror of
these licensed robbers. We fear robbery night and day; we live behind
bolts and bars (which should be reserved for the criminal) and we are in
hourly peril of life and property in our homes and on the highways. But
the evil does not stop here. By our conduct we are encouraging the growth
of the criminal class, and we are inviting disregard of law, and
diffusing a spirit of demoralization throughout the country.

I have spoken of the criminal class as very limited; that is, the class
that lives by the industry of crime alone. But it is not isolated, and it
has widespread relations. There is a large portion of our population not
technically criminals, which is interested in maintaining this criminal
class. Every felon is a part of a vast network of criminality. He has his
dependents, his allies, his society of vice, all the various machinery of
temptation and indulgence.

It happens, therefore, that there is great sympathy with the career of
the lawbreakers, many people are hanging on them for support, and among
them the so-called criminal lawyers. Any legislation likely to interfere
seriously with the occupation of the criminal class or with its increase
is certain to meet with the opposition of a large body of voters. With
this active opposition of those interested, and the astonishing
indifference of the general public, it is easy to see why so little is
done to relieve us of this intolerable burden. The fact is, we go on
increasing our expenses for police, for criminal procedure, for jails and
prisons, and we go on increasing the criminal class and those affiliated
with it.

And what do we gain by our present method? We do not gain the protection
of society, and we do not gain the reformation of the criminal. These two
statements do not admit of contradiction. Even those who cling to the
antiquated notion that the business of society is to punish the offender
must confess that in this game society is getting the worst of it.
Society suffers all the time, and the professional criminal goes on with
his occupation, interrupted only by periods of seclusion, during which he
is comfortably housed and fed. The punishment he most fears is being
compelled to relinquish his criminal career. The object of punishment for
violation of statute law is not vengeance, it is not to inflict injury
for injury. Only a few persons now hold to that. They say now that if it
does little good to the offender, it is deterrent as to others. Now, is
our present system deterrent? The statute law, no doubt, prevents many
persons from committing crime, but our method of administering it
certainly does not lessen the criminal class, and it does not adequately
protect society. Is it not time we tried, radically, a scientific, a
disciplinary, a really humanitarian method?

The proposed method is the indeterminate sentence. This strikes directly
at the criminal class. It puts that class beyond the power of continuing
its depredations upon society. It is truly deterrent, because it is a
notification to any one intending to enter upon that method of living
that his career ends with his first felony. As to the general effects of
the indeterminate sentence, I will repeat here what I recently wrote for
the Yale Law Journal:

   It is unnecessary to say in a law journal that the indeterminate
   sentence is a measure as yet untried. The phrase has passed into
   current speech, and a considerable portion of the public is under
   the impression that an experiment of the indeterminate sentence is
   actually being made. It is, however, still a theory, not adopted in
   any legislation or in practice anywhere in the world.

   The misconception in regard to this has arisen from the fact that
   under certain regulations paroles are granted before the expiration
   of the statutory sentence.

   An indeterminate sentence is a commitment to prison without any
   limit. It is exactly such a commitment as the court makes to an
   asylum of a man who is proved to be insane, and it is paralleled by
   the practice of sending a sick man to the hospital until he is

   The introduction of the indeterminate sentence into our criminal
   procedure would be a radical change in our criminal legislation and
   practice. The original conception was that the offender against the
   law should be punished, and that the punishment should be made to
   fit the crime, an ‘opera bouffe’ conception which has been abandoned
   in reasoning though not in practice. Under this conception the
   criminal code was arbitrarily constructed, so much punishment being
   set down opposite each criminal offense, without the least regard to
   the actual guilt of the man as an individual sinner.

   Within the present century considerable advance has been made in
   regard to prison reform, especially with reference to the sanitary
   condition of places of confinement. And besides this, efforts of
   various kinds have been made with regard to the treatment of
   convicts, which show that the idea was gaining ground that criminals
   should be treated as individuals. The application of the English
   ticket-of-leave system was one of these efforts; it was based upon
   the notion that, if any criminal showed sufficient evidence of a
   wish to lead a different life, he should be conditionally released
   before the expiration of his sentence. The parole system in the
   United States was an attempt to carry out the same experiment, and
   with it went along the practice which enabled the prisoner to
   shorten the time of his confinement by good behavior. In some of
   the States reformatories have been established to which convicts
   have been sent under a sort of sliding sentence; that is, with the
   privilege given to the authorities of the reformatory to retain the
   offender to the full statutory term for which he might have been
   sentenced to State prison, unless he had evidently reformed before
   the expiration of that period. That is to say, if a penal offense
   entitled the judge to sentence the prisoner for any period from two
   to fifteen years, he could be kept in the reformatory at the
   discretion of the authorities for the full statutory term. It is
   from this law that the public notion of an indeterminate sentence is
   derived. It is, in fact, determinate, because the statute
   prescribes its limit.

   The introduction of the ticket-of-leave and the parole systems, and
   the earning of time by good behavior were philanthropic suggestions
   and promising experiments which have not been justified by the
   results. It is not necessary at this time to argue that no human
   discretion is adequate to mete out just punishment for crimes; and
   it has come to be admitted generally, by men enlightened on this
   subject, that the real basis for dealing with the criminal rests,
   firstly, upon the right of society to secure itself against the
   attacks of the vicious, and secondly, upon the duty imposed upon
   society, to reform the criminal if that is possible. It is patent
   to the most superficial observation that our present method does not
   protect society, and does not lessen the number of the criminal
   class, either by deterrent methods or by reformatory processes,
   except in a very limited way.

   Our present method is neither economic nor scientific nor
   philanthropic. If we consider the well-defined criminal class
   alone, it can be said that our taxes and expenses for police and the
   whole criminal court machinery, for dealing with those who are
   apprehended, and watching those who are preying upon society, yearly
   increase, while all private citizens in their own houses or in the
   streets live inconstant terror of the depredations of this class.
   Considered from the scientific point of view, our method is
   absolutely crude, and but little advance upon mediaeval conditions;
   and while it has its sentimental aspects, it is not real
   philanthropy, because comparatively few of the criminal class are
   permanently rescued.

   The indeterminate sentence has two distinct objects: one is the
   absolute protection of society from the outlaws whose only business
   in life is to prey upon society; and the second is the placing of
   these offenders in a position where they can be kept long enough for
   scientific treatment as decadent human beings, in the belief that
   their lives can be changed in their purpose. No specific time can
   be predicted in which a man by discipline can be expected to lay
   aside his bad habits and put on good habits, because no two human
   beings are alike, and it is therefore necessary that an indefinite
   time in each case should be allowed for the experiment of

   We have now gone far enough to see that the ticket-of-leave system,
   the parole system as we administer it in the State prisons (I except
   now some of the reformatories), and the good conduct method are
   substantially failures, and must continue to be so until they rest
   upon the absolute indeterminate sentence. They are worse than
   failures now, because the public mind is lulled into a false
   security by them, and efforts at genuine prison reform are defeated.

   It is very significant that the criminal class adapted itself
   readily to the parole system with its sliding scale. It was natural
   that this should be so, for it fits in perfectly well with their
   scheme of life. This is to them a sort of business career,
   interrupted now and then only by occasional limited periods of
   seclusion. Any device that shall shorten those periods is welcome
   to them. As a matter of fact, we see in the State prisons that the
   men most likely to shorten their time by good behavior, and to get
   released on parole before the expiration of their sentence, are the
   men who make crime their career. They accept this discipline as a
   part of their lot in life, and it does not interfere with their
   business any more than the occasional bankruptcy of a merchant
   interferes with his pursuits.

   It follows, therefore, that society is not likely to get security
   for itself, and the criminal class is not likely to be reduced
   essentially or reformed, without such a radical measure as the
   indeterminate sentence, which, accompanied, of course, by scientific
   treatment, would compel the convict to change his course of life, or
   to stay perpetually in confinement.

   Of course, the indeterminate sentence would radically change our
   criminal jurisprudence and our statutory provisions in regard to
   criminals. It goes without saying that it is opposed by the entire
   criminal class, and by that very considerable portion of the
   population which is dependent on or affiliated with the criminal
   class, which seeks to evade the law and escape its penalties. It is
   also opposed by a small portion of the legal profession which gets
   its living out of the criminal class, and it is sure to meet the
   objection of the sentimentalists who have peculiar notions about
   depriving a man of his liberty, and it also has to overcome the
   objections of many who are guided by precedents, and who think the
   indeterminate sentence would be an infringement of the judicial

   It is well to consider this latter a little further. Our criminal
   code, artificial and indiscriminating as it is, is the growth of
   ages and is the result of the notion that society ought to take
   vengeance upon the criminal, at least that it ought to punish him,
   and that the judge, the interpreter of the criminal law, was not
   only the proper person to determine the guilt of the accused, by the
   aid of the jury, but was the sole person to judge of the amount of
   punishment he should receive for his crime. Now two functions are
   involved here: one is the determination that the accused has broken
   the law, the other is gauging within the rules of the code the
   punishment that, each individual should receive. It is a
   theological notion that the divine punishment for sin is somehow
   delegated to man for the punishment of crime, but it does not need
   any argument to show that no tribunal is able with justice to mete
   out punishment in any individual case, for probably the same degree
   of guilt does not attach to two men in the violation of the same
   statute, and while, in the rough view of the criminal law, even, one
   ought to have a severe penalty, the other should be treated with
   more leniency. All that the judge can do under the indiscriminating
   provisions of the statute is to make a fair guess at what the man
   should suffer.

   Under the present enlightened opinion which sees that not punishment
   but the protection of society and the good of the criminal are the
   things to be aimed at, the judge’s office would naturally be reduced
   to the task of determining the guilt of the man on trial, and then
   the care of him would be turned over to expert treatment, exactly as
   in a case when the judge determines the fact of a man’s insanity.

   If objection is made to the indeterminate sentence on the ground
   that it is an unusual or cruel punishment, it may be admitted that
   it is unusual, but that commitment to detention cannot be called
   cruel when the convict is given the key to the house in which he is
   confined. It is for him to choose whether he will become a decent
   man and go back into society, or whether he will remain a bad man
   and stay in confinement. For the criminal who is, as we might say,
   an accidental criminal, or for the criminal who is susceptible to
   good influences, the term of imprisonment under the indeterminate
   sentence would be shorter than it would be safe to make it for
   criminals under the statute. The incorrigible offender, however,
   would be cut off at once and forever from his occupation, which is,
   as we said, varied by periodic residence in the comfortable houses
   belonging to the State.

   A necessary corollary of the indeterminate sentence is that every
   State prison and penitentiary should be a reformatory, in the modern
   meaning of that term. It would be against the interest of society,
   all its instincts of justice, and the height of cruelty to an
   individual criminal to put him in prison without limit unless all
   the opportunities were afforded him for changing his habits
   radically. It may be said in passing that the indeterminate
   sentence would be in itself to any man a great stimulus to reform,
   because his reformation would be the only means of his terminating
   that sentence. At the same time a man left to himself, even in the
   best ordered of our State prisons which is not a reformatory, would
   be scarcely likely to make much improvement.

   I have not space in this article to consider the character of the
   reformatory; that subject is fortunately engaging the attention of
   scientific people as one of the most interesting of our modern
   problems. To take a decadent human being, a wreck physically and
   morally, and try to make a man of him, that is an attempt worthy of
   a people who claim to be civilized. An illustration of what can be
   done in this direction is furnished by the Elmira Reformatory, where
   the experiment is being made with most encouraging results, which,
   of course, would be still better if the indeterminate sentence were
   brought to its aid.

   When the indeterminate sentence has been spoken of with a view to
   legislation, the question has been raised whether it should be
   applied to prisoners on the first, second, or third conviction of a
   penal offense. Legislation in regard to the parole system has also
   considered whether a man should be considered in the criminal class
   on his first conviction for a penal offense. Without entering upon
   this question at length, I will suggest that the convict should, for
   his own sake, have the indeterminate sentence applied to him upon
   conviction of his first penal offense. He is much more likely to
   reform then than he would be after he had had a term in the State
   prison and was again convicted, and the chance of his reformation
   would be lessened by each subsequent experience of this kind. The
   great object of the indeterminate sentence, so far as the security
   of society is concerned, is to diminish the number of the criminal
   class, and this will be done when it is seen that the first felony a
   man commits is likely to be his last, and that for a young criminal
   contemplating this career there is in this direction
   “no thoroughfare.”

   By his very first violation of the statute he walks into
   confinement, to stay there until he has given up the purpose of such
   a career.

   In the limits of this paper I have been obliged to confine myself to
   remarks upon the indeterminate sentence itself, without going into
   the question of the proper organization of reformatory agencies to
   be applied to the convict, and without consideration of the means of
   testing the reformation of a man in any given case. I will only add
   that the methods at Elmira have passed far beyond the experimental
   stage in this matter.

The necessary effect of the adoption of the indeterminate sentence for
felonies is that every State prison and penitentiary must be a
reformatory. The convict goes into it for the term of a year at least
(since the criminal law, according to ancient precedent, might require
that, and because the discipline of the reformatory would require it as a
practical rule), and he stays there until, in the judgment of competent
authority, he is fit to be trusted at large.

If he is incapable of reform, he must stay there for his natural life. He
is a free agent. He can decide to lead an honest life and have his
liberty, or he can elect to work for the State all his life in criminal

When I say that every State prison is to be a reformatory, I except, of
course, from its operation, those sentenced for life for murder, or other
capital offenses, and those who have proved themselves incorrigible by
repeated violations of their parole.

It is necessary now to consider the treatment in the reformatory. Only a
brief outline of it can be given here, with a general statement of the
underlying principles. The practical application of these principles can
be studied in the Elmira Reformatory of New York, the only prison for
felons where the proposed system is carried out with the needed
disciplinary severity. In studying Elmira, however, it must be borne in
mind that the best effects cannot be obtained there, owing to the lack of
the indeterminate sentence. In this institution the convict can only be
detained for the maximum term provided in the statute for his offense.
When that is reached, the prisoner is released, whether he is reformed or

The system of reform under the indeterminate sentence, which for
convenience may be called the Elmira system, is scientific, and it must
be administered entirely by trained men and by specialists; the same sort
of training for the educational and industrial work as is required in a
college or an industrial school, and the special fitness required for an
alienist in an insane asylum. The discipline of the establishment must be
equal to that of a military school.

We have so far advanced in civilization that we no longer think of
turning the insane, the sick, the feebleminded, over to the care of men
without training chosen by the chance of politics. They are put under
specialists for treatment. It is as necessary that convicts should be
under the care of specialists, for they are the most difficult and
interesting subjects for scientific treatment. If not criminals by
heredity, they are largely made so by environment; they are either
physical degenerates or they are brutalized by vice. They have lost the
power of distinguishing right from wrong; they commonly lack will-power,
and so are incapable of changing their habits without external influence.
In short, the ordinary criminal is unsound and diseased in mind and body.

To deal with this sort of human decadent is, therefore, the most
interesting problem that can be offered to the psychologist, to the
physiologist, to the educator, to the believer in the immortality of the
soul. He is still a man, not altogether a mere animal, and there is
always a possibility that he may be made a decent man, and a law-abiding,
productive member of society.

Here, indeed, is a problem worthy of the application of all our knowledge
of mind and of matter, of our highest scientific attainments. But it is
the same problem that we have in all our education, be it the training of
the mind, the development of the body, or the use of both to good ends.
And it goes without saying that its successful solution, in a reformatory
for criminals, depends upon the character of the man who administers the
institution. There must be at the head of it a man of character, of
intellectual force, of administrative ability, and all his subordinate
officers must be fitted for their special task, exactly as they should be
for a hospital, or a military establishment, for a college, or for a
school of practical industries. And when such men are demanded, they will
be forthcoming, just as they are in any department in life, when a
business is to be developed, a great engineering project to be
undertaken, or an army to be organized and disciplined.

The development of our railroad system produced a race of great railroad
men. The protection of society by the removal and reform of the criminal
class, when the public determines upon it, will call into the service a
class of men fitted for the great work. We know this is so because
already, since the discussion of this question has been current, and has
passed into actual experiment, a race of workers and prison
superintendents all over the country have come to the front who are
entirely capable of administering the reform system under the
indeterminate sentence. It is in this respect, and not in the erection of
model prisons, that the great advance in penology has been made in the
last twenty years. Men of scientific attainment are more and more giving
their attention to this problem as the most important in our
civilization. And science is ready to take up this problem when the
public is tired and ashamed of being any longer harried and bullied and
terrorized over by the criminal class.

The note of this reform is discipline, and its success rests upon the law
of habit. We are all creatures of habit, physical and mental. Habit is
formed by repetition of any action. Many of our physical habits have
become automatic. Without entering into a physiological argument, we know
that repetition produces habit, and that, if this is long continued, the
habit becomes inveterate. We know also that there is a habit, physical
and moral, of doing right as well as doing wrong. The criminal has the
habit of doing wrong. We propose to submit him to influences that will
change that habit. We also know that this is not accomplished by
suppressing that habit, but by putting a good one in its place.

It is true in this case that nature does not like a vacuum. The thoughts
of men are not changed by leaving them to themselves, they are changed by
substituting other thoughts.

The whole theory of the Elmira system is to keep men long enough under a
strict discipline to change their habits. This discipline is administered
in three ways. They are put to school; they are put at work; they are
prescribed minute and severe rules of conduct, and in the latter training
is included military drill.

The school and the workshop are both primarily for discipline and the
formation of new habits. Only incidentally are the school and the
workshop intended to fit a man for an occupation outside of the prison.
The whole discipline is to put a man in possession of his faculties, to
give him self-respect, to get him in the way of leading a normal and
natural life. But it is true that what he acquires by the discipline of
study and the discipline of work will be available in his earning an
honest living. Keep a man long enough in this three-ply discipline, and
he will form permanent habits of well-doing. If he cannot and will not
form such habits, his place is in confinement, where he cannot prey upon

There is not space here to give the details of the practices at Elmira.
They are easily attainable. But I will notice one or two objections that
have been made. One is that in the congregate system men necessarily
learn evil from each other. This is, of course, an evil. It is here,
however, partially overcome by the fact that the inmates are kept so busy
in the variety of discipline applied to them that they have little or no
time for anything else. They study hard, and are under constant
supervision as to conduct. And then their prospect of parole depends
entirely upon the daily record they make, and upon their radical change
of intention. At night they are separated in their cells. During the day
they are associated in class, in the workshop, and in drill, and this
association is absolutely necessary to their training. In separation from
their fellows, they could not be trained. Fear is expressed that men will
deceive their keepers and the board which is to pass upon them, and
obtain parole when they do not deserve it. As a matter of fact, men under
this discipline cannot successfully play the hypocrite to the experts who
watch them. It is only in the ordinary prison where the parole is in use
with no adequate discipline, and without the indefinite sentence, that
deception can be practiced. But suppose a man does play the hypocrite so
as to deceive the officers, who know him as well as any employer knows
his workmen or any teacher knows his scholars, and deceives the
independent board so as to get a parole. If he violates that parole, he
can be remanded to the reformatory, and it will be exceedingly difficult
for him to get another parole. And, if he should again violate his
parole, he would be considered incorrigible and be placed in a life

We have tried all other means of protecting society, of lessening the
criminal class, of reforming the criminal. The proposed indeterminate
sentence, with reformatory discipline, is the only one that promises to
relieve society of the insolent domination and the terrorism of the
criminal class; is the only one that can deter men from making a career
of crime; is the only one that offers a fair prospect for the reformation
of the criminal offender.

Why not try it? Why not put the whole system of criminal jurisprudence
and procedure for the suppression of crime upon a sensible and scientific


By Charles Dudley Warner

This is the first public meeting of the National Institute of Arts and
Letters. The original members were selected by an invitation from the
American Social Science Association, which acted under the power of its
charter from the Congress of the United States. The members thus
selected, who joined the Social Science Association, were given the
alternative of organizing as an independent institute or as a branch of
the Social Science Association.

At the annual meeting of the Social Science Association on September 4,
1899, at Saratoga Springs, the members of the Institute voted to organize
independently. They formally adopted the revised constitution, which had
been agreed upon at the first meeting, in New York in the preceding
January, and elected officers as prescribed by the constitution.

The object is declared to be the advancement of art and literature, and
the qualification shall be notable achievements in art or letters. The
number of active members will probably be ultimately fixed at one
hundred. The society may elect honorary and associate members without
limit. By the terms of agreement between the American Social Science
Association and the National Institute, the members of each are ‘ipso
facto’ associate members of the other.

It is believed that the advancement of art and literature in this country
will be promoted by the organization of the producers of literature and
art. This is in strict analogy with the action of other professions and
of almost all the industries. No one doubts that literature and art are
or should be leading interests in our civilization, and their dignity
will be enhanced in the public estimation by a visible organization of
their representatives, who are seriously determined upon raising the
standards by which the work of writers and artists is judged. The
association of persons having this common aim cannot but stimulate
effort, soften unworthy rivalry into generous competition, and promote
enthusiasm and good fellowship in their work. The mere coming together to
compare views and discuss interests and tendencies and problems which
concern both the workers and the great public, cannot fail to be of
benefit to both.

In no other way so well as by association of this sort can be created the
feeling of solidarity in our literature, and the recognition of its
power. It is not expected to raise any standard of perfection, or in any
way to hamper individual development, but a body of concentrated opinion
may raise the standard by promoting healthful and helpful criticism, by
discouraging mediocrity and meretricious smartness, by keeping alive the
traditions of good literature, while it is hospitable to all discoverers
of new worlds. A safe motto for any such society would be Tradition and
Freedom--‘Traditio et Libertas’.

It is generally conceded that what literature in America needs at this
moment is honest, competent, sound criticism. This is not likely to be
attained by sporadic efforts, especially in a democracy of letters where
the critics are not always superior to the criticised, where the man in
front of the book is not always a better marksman than the man behind the
book. It may not be attained even by an organization of men united upon
certain standards of excellence. I do not like to use the word authority,
but it is not unreasonable to suppose that the public will be influenced
by a body devoted to the advancement of art and literature, whose
sincerity and discernment it has learned to respect, and admission into
whose ranks will, I hope, be considered a distinction to be sought for by
good work. The fashion of the day is rarely the judgment of posterity.
You will recall what Byron wrote to Coleridge: “I trust you do not permit
yourself to be depressed by the temporary partiality of what is called
‘the public’ for the favorites of the moment; all experience is against
the permanency of such impressions. You must have lived to see many of
these pass away, and will survive many more.”

The chief concern of the National Institute is with the production of
works of art and of literature, and with their distribution. In the
remarks following I shall confine myself to the production and
distribution of literature. In the limits of this brief address I can
only in outline speak of certain tendencies and practices which are
affecting this production and this distribution. The interests involved
are, first, those of the author; second, those of the publisher; third,
those of the public. As to all good literature, the interests of these
three are identical if the relations of the three are on the proper
basis. For the author, a good book is of more pecuniary value than a poor
one, setting aside the question of fame; to the publisher, the right of
publishing a good book is solid capital,--an established house, in the
long run, makes more money on “Standards” than on “Catchpennies”; and to
the public the possession of the best literature is the breath of life,
as that of the bad and mediocre is moral and intellectual decadence. But
in practice the interests of the three do not harmonize. The author, even
supposing his efforts are stimulated by the highest aspirations for
excellence and not by any commercial instinct, is compelled by his
circumstances to get the best price for his production; the publisher
wishes to get the utmost return for his capital and his energy; and the
public wants the best going for the least money.

Consider first the author, and I mean the author, and not the mere
craftsman who manufactures books for a recognized market. His sole
capital is his talent. His brain may be likened to a mine, gold, silver,
copper, iron, or tin, which looks like silver when new. Whatever it is,
the vein of valuable ore is limited, in most cases it is slight. When it
is worked out, the man is at the end of his resources. Has he expended or
produced capital? I say he has produced it, and contributed to the wealth
of the world, and that he is as truly entitled to the usufruct of it as
the miner who takes gold or silver out of the earth. For how long? I will
speak of that later on. The copyright of a book is not analogous to the
patent right of an invention, which may become of universal necessity to
the world. Nor should the greater share of this usufruct be absorbed by
the manufacturer and publisher of the book. The publisher has a clear
right to guard himself against risks, as he has the right of refusal to
assume them. But there is an injustice somewhere, when for many a book,
valued and even profitable to somebody, the author does not receive the
price of a laborer’s day wages for the time spent on it--to say nothing
of the long years of its gestation.

The relation between author and publisher ought to be neither complicated
nor peculiar. The author may sell his product outright, or he may sell
himself by an agreement similar to that which an employee in a
manufacturing establishment makes with his master to give to the
establishment all his inventions. Either of these methods is fair and
businesslike, though it may not be wise. A method that prevailed in the
early years of this century was both fair and wise. The author agreed
that the publisher should have the exclusive right to publish his book
for a certain term, or to make and sell a certain number of copies. When
those conditions were fulfilled, the control of the property reverted to
the author. The continuance of these relations between the two depended,
as it should depend, upon mutual advantage and mutual good-will. By the
present common method the author makes over the use of his property to
the will of the publisher. It is true that he parts with the use only of
the property and not with the property itself, and the publisher in law
acquires no other title, nor does he acquire any sort of interest in the
future products of the author’s brain. But the author loses all control
of his property, and its profit to him may depend upon his continuing to
make over his books to the same publisher. In this continuance he is
liable to the temptation to work for a market, instead of following the
free impulses of his own genius. As to any special book, the publisher is
the sole judge whether to push it or to let it sink into the stagnation
of unadvertised goods.

The situation is full of complications. Theoretically it is the interest
of both parties to sell as many books as possible. But the author has an
interest in one book, the publisher in a hundred. And it is natural and
reasonable that the man who risks his money should be the judge of the
policy best for his whole establishment. I cannot but think that this
situation would be on a juster footing all round if the author returned
to the old practice of limiting the use of his property by the publisher.
I say this in full recognition of the fact that the publishers might be
unwilling to make temporary investments, or to take risks. What then?
Fewer books might be published. Less vanity might be gratified. Less
money might be risked in experiments upon the public, and more might be
made by distributing good literature. Would the public be injured? It is
an idea already discredited that the world owes a living to everybody who
thinks he can write, and it is a superstition already fading that capital
which exploits literature as a trade acquires any special privileges.

The present international copyright, which primarily concerns itself with
the manufacture of books, rests upon an unintelligible protective tariff
basis. It should rest primarily upon an acknowledgment of the author’s
right of property in his own work, the same universal right that he has
in any other personal property. The author’s international copyright
should be no more hampered by restrictions and encumbrances than his
national copyright. Whatever regulations the government may make for the
protection of manufactures, or trade industries, or for purposes of
revenue on importations, they should not be confounded with the author’s
right of property. They have no business in an international copyright
act, agreement, or treaty. The United States copyright for native authors
contains no manufacturing restrictions. All we ask is that foreign
authors shall enjoy the same privileges we have under our law, and that
foreign nations shall give our authors the privileges of their local
copyright laws. I do not know any American author of any standing who has
ever asked or desired protection against foreign authors.

This subject is so important that I may be permitted to enlarge upon it,
in order to make clear suggestions already made, and to array again
arguments more or less familiar. I do this in the view of bringing before
the institute work worthy of its best efforts, which if successful will
entitle this body to the gratitude and respect of the country. I refer to
the speedy revision of our confused and wholly inadequate American
copyright laws, and later on to a readjustment of our international

In the first place let me bring to your attention what is, to the vast
body of authors, a subject of vital interest, which it is not too much to
say has never received that treatment from authors themselves which its
importance demands. I refer to the property of authors in their
productions. In this brief space and time I cannot enter fully upon this
great subject, but must be content to offer certain suggestions for your

The property of an author in the product of his mental labor ought to be
as absolute and unlimited as his property in the product of his physical
labor. It seems to me idle to say that the two kinds of labor products
are so dissimilar that the ownership cannot be protected by like laws. In
this age of enlightenment such a proposition is absurd. The history of
copyright law seems to show that the treatment of property in brain
product has been based on this erroneous idea. To steal the paper on
which an author has put his brain work into visible, tangible form is in
all lands a crime, larceny, but to steal the brain work is not a crime.
The utmost extent to which our enlightened American legislators, at
almost the end of the nineteenth century, have gone in protecting
products of the brain has been to give the author power to sue in civil
courts, at large expense, the offender who has taken and sold his

And what gross absurdity is the copyright law which limits even this poor
defense of author’s property to a brief term of years, after the
expiration of which he or his children and heirs have no defense, no
recognized property whatever in his products.

And for some inexplicable reason this term of years in which he may be
said to own his property is divided into two terms, so that at the end of
the first he is compelled to re-assert his ownership by renewing his
copyright, or he must lose all ownership at the end of the short term.

It is manifest to all honest minds that if an author is entitled to own
his work for a term of years, it is equally the duty of his government to
make that ownership perpetual. He can own and protect and leave to his
children and his children’s children by will the manuscript paper on
which he has written, and he should have equal right to leave to them
that mental product which constitutes the true money value of his labor.
It is unnecessary to say that the mental product is always as easy to be
identified as the physical product. Its identification is absolutely
certain to the intelligence of judges and juries. And it is apparent that
the interests of assignees, who are commonly publishers, are equal with
those of authors, in making absolute and perpetual this property in which
both are dealers.

Another consideration follows here. Why should the ownership of a bushel
of wheat, a piece of silk goods, a watch, or a handkerchief in the
possession of an American carried or sent to England, or brought thence
to this country, be absolute and unlimited, while the ownership of his
own products as an author or as a purchaser from an author is made
dependent on his nationality? Why should the property of the manufacturer
of cloths, carpets, satins, and any and every description of goods, be
able to send his products all over the world, subject only to the tariff
laws of the various countries, while the author (alone of all known
producers) is forbidden to do so? The existing law of our country says to
the foreign author, “You can have property in your book only if you
manufacture it into salable form in this country.” What would be said of
the wisdom or wild folly of a law which sought to protect other American
industries by forbidding the importation of all foreign manufactures?

No question of tariff protection is here involved. What duty shall be
imposed upon foreign products or foreign manufactures is a question of
political economy. The wrong against which authors should protest is in
annexing to their terms of ownership of their property a protective
tariff revision. For, be it observed, this is a subject of abstract
justice, moral right, and it matters nothing whether the author be
American, English, German, French, Hindoo, or Chinese,--and it is very
certain that when America shall enact a simple, just, copyright law,
giving to every human being the same protection of law to his property in
his mental products as in the work of his hands, every civilized nation
on earth will follow the noble example.

As it now stands, authors who annually produce the raw material for
manufacturing purposes to an amount in value of millions, supporting vast
populations of people, authors whose mental produce rivals and exceeds in
commercial value many of the great staple products of our fields, are the
only producers who have no distinct property in their products, who are
not protected in holding on to the feeble tenure the law gives them, and
whose quasi-property in their works, flimsy as it is, is limited to a few
years, and cannot with certainty be handed down to their children. It
will be said, it is said, that it is impossible for the author to obtain
an acknowledgment of absolute right of property in his brain work. In our
civilization we have not yet arrived at this state of justice. It may be
so. Indeed some authors have declared that this justice would be against
public policy. I trust they are sustained by the lofty thought that in
this view they are rising above the petty realm of literature into the
broad field of statesmanship.

But I think there will be a general agreement that in the needed revisal
of our local copyright law we can attain some measure of justice. Some of
the most obvious hardships can be removed. There is no reason why an
author should pay for the privilege of a long life by the loss of his
copyrights, and that his old age should be embittered by poverty because
he cannot have the results of the labor of his vigorous years. There is
no reason why if he dies young he should leave those dependent on him
without support, for the public has really no more right to appropriate
his book than it would have to take his house from his widow and
children. His income at best is small after he has divided with the

No, there can certainly be no valid argument against extending the
copyright of the author to his own lifetime, with the addition of forty
or fifty years for the benefit of his heirs. I will not leave this
portion of the topic without saying that a perfectly harmonious relation
between authors and publishers is most earnestly to be desired, nor
without the frank acknowledgment that, in literary tradition and in the
present experience, many of the most noble friendships and the most
generous and helpful relations have subsisted, as they ought always to
subsist, between the producers and the distributors of literature,
especially when the publisher has a love for literature, and the author
is a reasonable being and takes pains to inform himself about the
publishing business.

One aspect of the publishing business which has become increasingly
prominent during the last fifteen years cannot be overlooked, for it is
certain to affect seriously the production of literature as to quality,
and its distribution. Capital has discovered that literature is a product
out of which money can be made, in the same way that it can be made in
cotton, wheat, or iron. Never before in history has so much money been
invested in publishing, with the single purpose of creating and supplying
the market with manufactured goods. Never before has there been such an
appeal to the reading public, or such a study of its tastes, or supposed
tastes, wants, likes and dislikes, coupled also with the same shrewd
anxiety to ascertain a future demand that governs the purveyors of spring
and fall styles in millinery and dressmaking. Not only the contents of
the books and periodicals, but the covers, must be made to catch the
fleeting fancy. Will the public next season wear its hose dotted or

Another branch of this activity is the so-called syndicating of the
author’s products in the control of one salesman, in which good work and
inferior work are coupled together at a common selling price and in
common notoriety. This insures a wider distribution, but what is its
effect upon the quality of literature? Is it your observation that the
writer for a syndicate, on solicitation for a price or an order for a
certain kind of work, produces as good quality as when he works
independently, uninfluenced by the spirit of commercialism? The question
is a serious one for the future of literature.

The consolidation of capital in great publishing establishments has its
advantages and its disadvantages. It increases vastly the yearly output
of books. The presses must be kept running, printers, papermakers, and
machinists are interested in this. The maw of the press must be fed. The
capital must earn its money. One advantage of this is that when new and
usable material is not forthcoming, the “standards” and the best
literature must be reproduced in countless editions, and the best
literature is broadcast over the world at prices to suit all purses, even
the leanest. The disadvantage is that products, in the eagerness of
competition for a market, are accepted which are of a character to harm
and not help the development of the contemporary mind in moral and
intellectual strength. The public expresses its fear of this in the
phrase it has invented--“the spawn of the press.” The author who writes
simply to supply this press, and in constant view of a market, is certain
to deteriorate in his quality, nay more, as a beginner he is satisfied if
he can produce something that will sell without regard to its quality. Is
it extravagant to speak of a tendency to make the author merely an
adjunct of the publishing house? Take as an illustration the publications
in books and magazines relating to the late Spanish-American war. How
many of them were ordered to meet a supposed market, and how many of them
were the spontaneous and natural productions of writers who had something
to say? I am not quarreling, you see, with the newspapers who do this
sort of thing; I am speaking of the tendency of what we have been
accustomed to call literature to take on the transient and hasty
character of the newspaper.

In another respect, in method if not in quality, this literature
approaches the newspaper. It is the habit of some publishing houses, not
of all, let me distinctly say, to seek always notoriety, not to nurse and
keep before the public mind the best that has been evolved from time to
time, but to offer always something new. The year’s flooring is threshed
off and the floor swept to make room for a fresh batch. Effort eventually
ceases for the old and approved, and is concentrated on experiments. This
is like the conduct of a newspaper. It is assumed that the public must be
startled all the time.

I speak of this freely because I think it as bad policy for the publisher
as it is harmful to the public of readers. The same effort used to
introduce a novelty will be much better remunerated by pushing the sale
of an acknowledged good piece of literature.

Literature depends, like every other product bought by the people, upon
advertising, and it needs much effort usually to arrest the attention of
our hurrying public upon what it would most enjoy if it were brought to
its knowledge.

It would not be easy to fix the limit in this vast country to the
circulation of a good book if it were properly kept before the public.
Day by day, year by year, new readers are coming forward with curiosity
and intellectual wants. The generation that now is should not be deprived
of the best in the last generation. Nay more, one publication, in any
form, reaches only a comparatively small portion of the public that would
be interested in it. A novel, for instance, may have a large circulation
in a magazine; it may then appear in a book; it may reach other readers
serially again in the columns of a newspaper; it may be offered again in
all the by-ways by subscription, and yet not nearly exhaust its
legitimate running power. This is not a supposition but a fact proved by
trial. Nor is it to be wondered at, when we consider that we have an
unequaled homogeneous population with a similar common-school education.
In looking over publishers’ lists I am constantly coming across good
books out of print, which are practically unknown to this generation, and
yet are more profitable, truer to life and character, more entertaining
and amusing, than most of those fresh from the press month by month.

Of the effect upon the literary product of writing to order, in obedience
to a merely commercial instinct, I need not enlarge to a company of
authors, any more than to a company of artists I need to enlarge upon the
effect of a like commercial instinct upon art.

I am aware that the evolution of literature or art in any period, in
relation to the literature and art of the world, cannot be accurately
judged by contemporaries and participants, nor can it be predicted. But I
have great expectations of the product of both in this country, and I am
sure that both will be affected by the conduct of persons now living. It
is for this reason that I have spoken.


By Charles Dudley Warner




The county of Franklin in Northwestern Massachusetts, if not rivaling in
certain ways the adjoining Berkshire, has still a romantic beauty of its
own. In the former half of the nineteenth century its population was
largely given up to the pursuit of agriculture, though not under
altogether favorable conditions. Manufactures had not yet invaded the
region either to add to its wealth or to defile its streams. The villages
were small, the roads pretty generally wretched save in summer, and from
many of the fields the most abundant crop that could be gathered was that
of stones.

The character of the people conformed in many ways to that of the soil.
The houses which lined the opposite sides of the single street, of which
the petty places largely consisted, as well as the dwellings which dotted
the country, were the homes of men who possessed in fullness many of the
features, good and bad, that characterized the Puritan stock to which
they belonged. There was a good deal of religion in these rural
communities and occasionally some culture. Still, as a rule, it must be
confessed, there would be found in them much more of plain living than of
high thinking. Broad thinking could hardly be said to exist at all. By
the dwellers in that region Easter had scarcely even been heard of;
Christmas was tolerated after a fashion, but was nevertheless looked upon
with a good deal of suspicion as a Popish invention. In the beliefs of
these men several sins not mentioned in the decalogue took really, if
unconsciously, precedence of those which chanced to be found in that
list. Dancing was distinctly immoral; card-playing led directly to
gambling with all its attendant evils; theatre-going characterized the
conduct of the more disreputable denizens of great cities. Fiction was
not absolutely forbidden; but the most lenient regarded it as a great
waste of time, and the boy who desired its solace on any large scale was
under the frequent necessity of seeking the seclusion of the haymow.

But however rigid and stern the beliefs of men might be, nature was there
always charming, not only in her summer beauty, but even in her wildest
winter moods. Narrow, too, as might be the views of the members of these
communities about the conduct of life, there was ever before the minds of
the best of them an ideal of devotion to duty, an earnest all-pervading
moral purpose which implanted the feeling that neither personal success
nor pleasure of any sort could ever afford even remotely compensation for
the neglect of the least obligation which their situation imposed. It was
no misfortune for any one, who was later to be transported to a broader
horizon and more genial air, to have struck the roots of his being in a
soil where men felt the full sense of moral responsibility for everything
said or done, and where the conscience was almost as sensitive to the
suggestion of sin as to its actual accomplishment.

It was amidst such surroundings that Charles Dudley Warner was born on
the 12th of September, 1829. His birthplace was the hill town of
Plainfield, over two thousand feet above the level of the sea. His
father, a farmer, was a man of cultivation, though not college-bred. He
died when his eldest son had reached the age of five, leaving to his
widow the care of two children. Three years longer the family continued
to remain on the farm. But however delightful the scenery of the country
might be, its aesthetic attractions did not sufficiently counterbalance
its agricultural disadvantages. Furthermore, while the summers were
beautiful on this high table land, the winters were long and dreary in
the enforced solitude of a thinly settled region. In consequence, the
farm was sold after the death of the grandfather, and the home broken up.
The mother with her two children, went to the neighboring village of
Charlemont on the banks of the Deerfield. There the elder son took up his
residence with his guardian and relative, a man of position and influence
in the community, who was the owner of a large farm. With him he stayed
until he was twelve years old, enjoying all the pleasures and doing all
the miscellaneous jobs of the kind which fall to the lot of a boy brought
up in an agricultural community.

The story of this particular period of his life was given by Warner in a
work which was published about forty years later. It is the volume
entitled “Being a Boy.” Nowhere has there been drawn a truer or more
vivid picture of rural New England. Nowhere else can there be found such
a portrayal of the sights and sounds, the pains and pleasures of life on
a farm as seen from the point of view of a boy. Here we have them all
graphically represented: the daily “chores” that must be looked after;
the driving of cows to and from the pasture; the clearing up of fields
where vegetation struggled with difficulty against the prevailing stones;
the climbing of lofty trees and the swaying back and forth in the wind on
their topmost boughs; the hunting of woodchucks; the nutting excursions
of November days, culminating in the glories of Thanksgiving; the romance
of school life, over which vacations, far from being welcomed with
delight, cast a gloom as involving extra work; the cold days of winter
with its deep or drifting snows, the mercury of the thermometer clinging
with fondness to zero, even when the sun was shining brilliantly; the
long chilling nights in which the frost carved fantastic structures on
the window-panes; the eager watching for the time when the sap would
begin to run in the sugar-maples; the evenings given up to reading, with
the inevitable inward discontent at being sent to bed too early; the
longing for the mild days of spring to come, when the heavy cowhide boots
could be discarded, and the boy could rejoice at last in the covering for
his feet which the Lord had provided. These and scores of similar
descriptions fill up the picture of the life furnished here. It was
nature’s own school wherein was to be gained the fullest intimacy with
her spirit. While there was much which she could not teach, there was
also much which she alone could teach. From his communion with her the
boy learned lessons which the streets of crowded cities could never have

At the age of twelve this portion of his education came to an end. The
family then moved to Cazenovia in Madison county in Central New York,
from which place Warner’s mother had come, and where her immediate
relatives then resided. Until he went to college this was his home. There
he attended a preparatory school under the direction of the Methodist
Episcopal Church, which was styled the Oneida Conference Seminary. It was
at this institution that he fitted mainly for college; for to college it
had been his father’s dying wish that he should go, and the boy himself
did not need the spur of this parting injunction. A college near his home
was the excellent one of Hamilton in the not distant town of Clinton in
the adjoining county of Oneida. Thither he repaired in 1848, and as he
had made the best use of his advantages, he was enabled to enter the
sophomore class. He was graduated in 1851.

But while fond of study he had all these years been doing something
besides studying. The means of the family were limited, and to secure the
education he desired, not only was it necessary to husband the resources
he possessed, but to increase them in every possible way. Warner had all
the American boy’s willingness to undertake any occupation not in itself
discreditable. Hence to him fell a full share of those experiences which
have diversified the early years of so many men who have achieved
success. He set up type in a printing office; he acted as an assistant in
a bookstore; he served as clerk in a post-office. He was thus early
brought into direct contact with persons of all classes and conditions of

The experience gave to his keenly observant mind an insight into the
nature of men which was to be of special service to him in later years.
Further, it imparted to him a familiarity with their opinions and hopes
and aspirations which enabled him to understand and sympathize with
feelings in which he did not always share.

During the years which immediately followed his departure from college,
Warner led the somewhat desultory and apparently aimless life of many
American graduates whose future depends upon their own exertions and
whose choice of a career is mainly determined by circumstances. From the
very earliest period of his life he had been fond of reading. It was an
inherited taste. The few books he found in his childhood’s home would
have been almost swept out of sight in the torrent, largely of trash,
which pours now in a steady stream into the humblest household. But the
books, though few, were of a high quality; and because they were few they
were read much, and their contents became an integral part of his
intellectual equipment. Furthermore, these works of the great masters,
with which he became familiar, set for him a standard by which to test
the value of whatever he read, and saved him even in his earliest years
from having his taste impaired and his judgment misled by the vogue of
meretricious productions which every now and then gain popularity for the
time. They gave him also a distinct bent towards making literature his
profession. But literature, however pleasant and occasionally profitable
as an avocation, was not to be thought of as a vocation. Few there are at
any period who have succeeded in finding it a substantial and permanent
support; at that time and in this country such a prospect was practically
hopeless for any one. It is no matter of surprise, therefore, that
Warner, though often deviating from the direct path, steadily gravitated
toward the profession of law.

Still, even in those early days his natural inclination manifested
itself. The Knickerbocker Magazine was then the chosen organ to which all
young literary aspirants sent their productions. To it even in his
college days Warner contributed to some extent, though it would doubtless
be possible now to gather out of this collection but few pieces which,
lacking his own identification, could be assigned to him positively. At a
later period he contributed articles to Putnam’s Magazine, which began
its existence in 1853. Warner himself at one time, in that period of
struggle and uncertainty, expected to become an editor of a monthly which
was to be started in Detroit. But before the magazine was actually set on
foot the inability of the person who projected it to supply the necessary
means for carrying it on prevented the failure which would inevitably
have befallen a venture of that sort, undertaken at that time and in that
place. Yet he showed in a way the native bent of his mind by bringing out
two years after his graduation from college a volume of selections from
English and American authors entitled “The Book of Eloquence.” This work
a publisher many years afterward took advantage of his later reputation
to reprint.

This unsettled period of his life lasted for several years. He was
resident for a while in various places. Part of the time he seems to have
been in Cazenovia; part of the time in New York; part of the time in the
West. One thing in particular there was which stood in the way of fixing
definitely his choice of a profession. This was the precarious state of
his health, far poorer then than it was in subsequent years. Warner,
however, was never at any period of his life what is called robust. It
was his exceeding temperance in all things which enabled him to venture
upon the assumption and succeed in the accomplishment of tasks which men,
physically far stronger than he, would have shrunk from under-taking,
even had they been possessed of the same abilities. But his condition,
part of that time, was such that it led him to take a course of treatment
at the sanatorium in Clifton Springs. It became apparent, however, that
life in the open air, for a while at least, was the one thing essential.
Under the pressure of this necessity he secured a position as one of an
engineering party engaged in the survey of a railway in Missouri. In that
occupation he spent a large part of 1853 and 1854. He came back from this
expedition restored to health. With that result accomplished, the duty of
settling definitely upon what he was to do became more urgent. Among
other things he did, while living for a while with his uncle in
Binghamton, N. Y., he studied law in the office of Daniel S. Dickinson.

In the Christmas season of 1854 he went with a friend on a visit to
Philadelphia and stayed at the house of Philip M. Price, a prominent
citizen of that place who was engaged, among other things, in the
conveyancing of real estate. It will not be surprising to any one who
knew the charm of his society in later life to be told that he became at
once a favorite with the older man. The latter was advanced in years, he
was anxious to retire from active business. Acting under his advice,
Warner was induced to come to Philadelphia in 1855 and join him, and to
form subsequently a partnership in legal conveyancing with another young
man who had been employed in Mr. Price’s office. Thus came into being the
firm of Barton and Warner. Their headquarters were first in Spring Garden
Street and later in Walnut Street. The future soon became sufficiently
assured to justify Warner in marriage, and in October, 1856, he was
wedded to Susan Lee, daughter of William Elliott Lee of New York City.

But though in a business allied to the law, Warner was not yet a lawyer.
His occupation indeed was only in his eyes a temporary makeshift while he
was preparing himself for what was to be his real work in life.
Therefore, while supporting himself by carrying on the business of
conveyancing, he attended the courses of study at the law department of
the University of Pennsylvania, during the academic years of 1856-57 and
1857-58. From that institution he received the degree of bachelor of law
in 1858--often misstated 1856--and was ready to begin the practice of
his, profession.

In those days every young man of ability and ambition was counseled to go
West and grow up with the country, and was not unfrequently disposed to
take that course of his own accord. Warner felt the general impulse. He
had contemplated entering, in fact had pretty definitely made up his mind
to enter, into a law partnership with a friend in one of the smaller
places in that region. But on a tour, somewhat of exploration, he stopped
at Chicago. There he met another friend, and after talking over the
situation with him he decided to take up his residence in that city. So
in 1858 the law-firm of Davenport and Warner came into being. It lasted
until 1860. It was not exactly a favorable time for young men to enter
upon the practice of this profession. The country was just beginning to
recover from the depression which had followed the disastrous panic of
1857; but confidence was as yet far from being restored. The new firm did
a fairly good business; but while there was sufficient work to do, there
was but little money to pay for it. Still Warner would doubtless have
continued in the profession had he not received an offer, the acceptance
of which determined his future and changed entirely his career.

Hawley, now United States Senator from Connecticut, was Warner’s senior
by a few years. He had preceded him as a student at the Oneida Conference
Seminary and at Hamilton College. Practicing law in Hartford, he had
started in 1857, in conjunction with other leading citizens, a paper
called the Evening Press. It was devoted to the advocacy of the
principles of the Republican party, which was at that time still in what
may be called the formative state of its existence. This was a period in
which for some years the dissolution had been going on of the two old
parties which had divided the country. Men were changing sides and were
aligning themselves anew according to their views on questions which were
every day assuming greater prominence in the minds of all. There was
really but one great subject talked about or thought about. It split into
opposing sections the whole land over which was lowering the grim, though
as yet unrecognizable, shadow of civil war. The Republican party had been
in existence but a very few years, but in that short time it had
attracted to its ranks the young and enthusiastic spirits of the North,
just as to the other side were impelled the members of the same class in
the South. The intellectual contest which preceded the physical was
stirring the hearts of all men. Hawley, who was well aware of Warner’s
peculiar ability, was anxious to secure his co-operation and assistance.
He urged him to come East and join him in the conduct of the new
enterprise he had undertaken.

Warner always considered that he derived great benefit from his
comparatively limited study and practice of law; and that the little time
he had given up to it had been far from being misspent. But the opening
which now presented itself introduced him to a field of activity much
more suited to his talents and his tastes. He liked the study of law
better than its practice; for his early training had not been of a kind
to reconcile him to standing up strongly for clients and causes that he
honestly believed to be in the wrong. Furthermore, his heart, as has been
said, had always been in literature; and though journalism could hardly
be called much more than a half-sister, the one could provide the support
which the other could never promise with certainty. So in 1860 Warner
removed to Hartford and joined his friend as associate editor of the
newspaper he had founded. The next year the war broke out. Hawley at once
entered the army and took part in the four years’ struggle. His departure
left Warner in editorial charge of the paper, into the conduct of which
he threw himself with all the earnestness and energy of his nature, and
the ability, both political and literary, displayed in its columns gave
it at once a high position which it never lost.

At this point it may be well to give briefly the few further salient
facts of Warner’s connection with journalism proper. In 1867 the owners
of the Press purchased the Courant, the well-known morning paper which
had been founded more than a century before, and consolidated the Press
with it. Of this journal, Hawley and Warner, now in part proprietors,
were the editorial writers. The former, who had been mustered out of the
army with the rank of brevet Major-General, was soon diverted from
journalism by other employments. He was elected Governor, he became a
member of Congress, serving successively in both branches. The main
editorial responsibility for the conduct of the paper devolved in
consequence upon Warner, and to it he gave up for years nearly all his
thought and attention. Once only during that early period was his labor
interrupted for any considerable length of time. In May, 1868, he set out
on the first of his five trips across the Atlantic. He was absent nearly
a year. Yet even then he cannot be said to have neglected his special
work. Articles were sent weekly from the other side, describing what he
saw and experienced abroad. His active connection with the paper he never
gave up absolutely, nor did his interest in it ever cease. But after he
became connected with the editorial staff of Harpers Magazine the
contributions he made to his journal were only occasional and what may be
called accidental.

When 1870 came, forty years of Warner’s life had gone by, and nearly
twenty years since he had left college. During the latter ten years of
this period he had been a most effective and forcible leader-writer on
political and social questions, never more so than during the storm and
stress of the Civil War. Outside of these topics he had devoted a great
deal of attention to matters connected with literature and art. His
varied abilities were fully recognized by the readers of the journal he

But as yet there was little or no recognition outside. It is no easy
matter to tell what are the influences, what the circumstances, which
determine the success of a particular writer or of a particular work.
Hitherto Warner’s repute was mainly confined to the inhabitants of a
provincial capital and its outlying and dependent towns. However
cultivated the class to which his writings appealed--and as a class it
was distinctly cultivated--their number was necessarily not great. To the
country at large what he did or what he was capable of doing was not
known at all. Some slight efforts he had occasionally put forth to secure
the publication of matter he had prepared. He experienced the usual fate
of authors who seek to introduce into the market literary wares of a new
and better sort. His productions did not follow conventional lines.
Publishers were ready to examine what he offered, and were just as ready
to declare that these new wares were of a nature in which they were not
inclined to deal.

But during 1870 a series of humorous articles appeared in the Hartford
Courant, detailing his experiences in the cultivation of a garden. Warner
had become the owner of a small place then almost on the outskirts of the
city. With the dwelling-house went the possession of three acres of land.
The opportunity thus presented itself of turning into a blessing the
primeval curse of tilling the soil, in this instance not with a hoe, but
with a pen. These articles detailing his experiences excited so much
amusement and so much admiration that a general desire was manifested
that they should receive a more permanent life than that accorded to
articles appearing in the columns of newspapers, and should reach a
circle larger than that to be found in the society of the Connecticut
capital. Warner’s previous experience had not disposed him to try his
fortunes with the members of the publishing fraternity. In fact he did
not lay so much stress upon the articles as did his readers and friends.
He always insisted that he had previously written other articles which in
his eyes certainly were just as good as they, if not better.

It so chanced that about this time Henry Ward Beecher came to Hartford to
visit his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe. Warner was invited to meet him.
In the course of the conversation the articles just mentioned were
referred to by some one of those present. Beecher’s curiosity was aroused
and he expressed a desire to see them. To him they were accordingly sent
for perusal. No sooner had he run through them than he recognized in them
the presence of a rare and delicate humor which struck a distinctly new
note in American literature. It was something he felt which should not be
confined to the knowledge of any limited circle. He wrote at once to the
publisher James T. Fields, urging the production of these articles in
book form. Beecher’s recommendation in those days was sufficient to
insure the acceptance of any book by any publisher. Mr. Fields agreed to
bring out the work, provided the great preacher would prefix an
introduction. This he promised to do and did; though in place of the
somewhat more formal piece he was asked to write, he sent what he called
an introductory letter.

The series of papers published under the title of “My Summer in a Garden”
 came out at the very end of 1870, with the date of 1871 on the
title-page. The volume met with instantaneous success. It was the subject
of comment and conversation everywhere and passed rapidly through several
editions. There was a general feeling that a new writer had suddenly
appeared, with a wit and wisdom peculiarly his own, precisely like which
nothing had previously existed in our literature. To the later editions
of the work was added an account of a cat which had been presented to the
author by the Stowes. For that reason it was given from the Christian
name of the husband of the novelist the title of Calvin. To this John was
sometimes prefixed, as betokening from the purely animal point of view a
certain resemblance to the imputed grimness and earnestness of the great
reformer. There was nothing in the least exaggerated in the account which
Warner gave of the character and conduct of this really remarkable member
of the feline race. No biography was ever truer; no appreciation was ever
more sympathetic; and in the long line of cats none was ever more worthy
to have his story truly and sympathetically told. All who had the fortune
to see Calvin in the flesh will recognize the accuracy with which his
portrait was drawn. All who read the account of him, though not having
seen him, will find it one of the most charming of descriptions. It has
the fullest right to be termed a cat classic.

With the publication of “My Summer in a Garden” Warner was launched upon
a career of authorship which lasted without cessation during the thirty
years that remained of his life. It covered a wide field. His interests
were varied and his activity was unremitting. Literature, art, and that
vast diversity of topics which are loosely embraced under the general
name of social science--upon all these he had something fresh to say, and
he said it invariably with attractiveness and effect. It mattered little
what he set out to talk about, the talk was sure to be full both of
instruction and entertainment. No sooner had the unequivocal success of
his first published work brought his name before the public than he was
besieged for contributions by conductors of periodicals of all sorts; and
as he had ideas of his own upon all sorts of subjects, he was constantly
furnishing matter of the most diverse kind for the most diverse

As a result, the volumes here gathered together represent but a limited
portion of the work he accomplished. All his life, indeed, Warner was not
only an omnivorous consumer of the writings of others, but a constant
producer. The manifestation of it took place in ways frequently known to
but few. It was not merely the fact that as an editor of a daily paper he
wrote regularly articles on topics of current interest to which he never
expected to pay any further attention; but after his name became widely
known and his services were in request everywhere, he produced scores of
articles, some long, some short, some signed, some unsigned, of which he
made no account whatever. One looking through the pages of contemporary
periodical literature is apt at any moment to light upon pieces, and
sometimes upon series of them, which the author never took the trouble to
collect. Many of those to which his name was not attached can no longer
be identified with any approach to certainty. About the preservation of
much that he did--and some of it belonged distinctly to his best and most
characteristic work--he was singularly careless, or it may be better to
say, singularly indifferent.

If I may be permitted to indulge in the recital of a personal experience,
there is one incident I recall which will bring out this trait in a
marked manner. Once on a visit to him I accompanied him to the office of
his paper. While waiting for him to discharge certain duties there, and
employing myself in looking over the exchanges, I chanced to light upon a
leading article on the editorial page of one of the most prominent of the
New York dailies. It was devoted to the consideration of some recent
utterances of a noted orator who, after the actual mission of his life
had been accomplished, was employing the decline of it in the
exploitation of every political and economic vagary which it had entered
into the addled brains of men to evolve. The article struck me as one of
the most brilliant and entertaining of its kind I had ever read; it was
not long indeed before it appeared that the same view of it was taken by
many others throughout the country. The peculiar wit of the comment, the
keenness of the satire made so much of an impression upon me that I
called Warner away from his work to look at it. At my request he hastily
glanced over it, but somewhat to my chagrin failed to evince any
enthusiasm about it. On our way home I again spoke of it and was a good
deal nettled at the indifference towards it which he manifested. It
seemed to imply that my critical judgment was of little value; and
however true might be his conclusion on that point, one does not enjoy
having the fact thrust too forcibly upon the attention in the familiarity
of conversation. Resenting therefore the tone he had assumed, I took
occasion not only to reiterate my previously expressed opinion somewhat
more aggressively, but also went on to insinuate that he was himself
distinctly lacking in any real appreciation of what was excellent. He
bore with me patiently for a while. “Well, sonny,” he said at last,
“since you seem to take the matter so much to heart, I will tell you in
confidence that I wrote the piece myself.” I found that this was not only
true in the case just specified, but that while engaged in preparing
articles for his own paper he occasionally prepared them for other
journals. No one besides himself and those immediately concerned, ever
knew anything about the matter. He never asserted any right to these
pieces, he never sought to collect them, though some of them exhibited
his happiest vein of humor. Unclaimed, unidentified, they are swept into
that wallet of oblivion in which time stows the best as well as the worst
of newspaper production.

The next volume of Warner’s writings that made its appearance was
entitled “Saunterings.” It was the first and, though good of its kind,
was by no means the best of a class of productions in which he was to
exhibit signal excellence. It will be observed that of the various works
comprised in this collective edition, no small number consist of what by
a wide extension of the phrase may be termed books of travel. There are
two or three which fall strictly under that designation. Most of them,
however, can be more properly called records of personal experience and
adventure in different places and regions, with the comments on life and
character to which they gave rise.

Books of travel, if they are expected to live, are peculiarly hard to
write. If they come out at a period when curiosity about the region
described is predominant, they are fairly certain, no matter how
wretched, to achieve temporary success. But there is no kind of literary
production to which, by the very law of its being, it is more difficult
to impart vitality. Paradoxical as it may seem, it is perfectly true that
the greatest hinderance to their permanent interest is the information
they furnish. The more full, specific and even accurate that is, the more
rapidly does the work containing it lose its value. The fresher knowledge
conveyed by a new, and it may be much inferior book, crowds out of
circulation those which have gone before. The changed or changing
conditions in the region traversed renders the information previously
furnished out of date and even misleading. Hence the older works come in
time to have only an antiquarian interest. Their pages are consulted only
by that very limited number of persons who are anxious to learn what has
been and view with stolid indifference what actually is. Something of
this transitory nature belongs to all sketches of travel. It is the one
great reason why so very few of the countless number of such works,
written, and sometimes written by men of highest ability, are hardly
heard of a few years after publication. Travels form a species of
literary production in which great classics are exceedingly rare.

From this fatal characteristic, threatening the enduring life of such
works, most of Warner’s writings of this sort were saved by the method of
procedure he followed. He made it his main object not to give facts but
impressions. All details of exact information, everything calculated to
gratify the statistical mind or to quench the thirst of the seeker for
purely useful information, he was careful, whether consciously or
unconsciously, to banish from those volumes of his in which he followed
his own bent and felt himself under no obligation to say anything but
what he chose. Hence these books are mainly a record of views of men and
manners made by an acute observer on the spot, and put down at the moment
when the impression created was most vivid, not deferred till familiarity
had dulled the sense of it or custom had caused it to be disregarded.
Take as an illustration the little book entitled “Baddeck,” one of the
slightest of his productions in this field. It purports to be and is
nothing more than an account of a two weeks’ tour made to a Cape Breton
locality in company with the delightful companion to whom it was
dedicated. You take it up with the notion that you are going to acquire
information about the whole country journeyed over, you are beguiled at
times with the fancy that you are getting it. In the best sense it may be
said that you do get it; for it is the general impression of the various
scenes through which the expedition leads the travelers that is left upon
the mind, not those accurate details of a single one of them which the
lapse of a year might render inaccurate. It is to the credit of the work
therefore than one gains from it little specific knowledge. In its place
are the reflections both wise and witty upon life, upon the characters of
the men that are met, upon the nature of the sights that are seen.

This is what constitutes the enduring charm of the best of these pictures
of travel which Warner produced. It is perhaps misleading to assert that
they do not furnish a good deal of information. Still it is not the sort
of information which the ordinary tourist gives and which the cultivated
reader resents and is careful not to remember. Their dominant note is
rather the quiet humor of a delightful story-teller, who cannot fail to
say something of interest because he has seen so much; and who out of his
wide and varied observation selects for recital certain sights he has
witnessed, certain experiences he has gone through, and so relates them
that the way the thing is told is even more interesting than the thing
told. The chief value of these works does not accordingly depend upon the
accidental, which passes. Inns change and become better or worse.
Facilities for transportation increase or decrease. Scenery itself alters
to some extent under the operation of agencies brought to bear upon it
for its own improvement or for the improvement of something else. But
man’s nature remains a constant quantity. Traits seen here and now are
sure to be met with somewhere else, and even in ages to come. Hence works
of this nature, embodying descriptions of men and manners, always retain
something of the freshness which characterized them on the day of their

Of these productions in which the personal element predominates, and
where the necessity of intruding information is not felt as a burden,
those of Warner’s works which deal with the Orient take the first rank.
The two--“My Winter on the Nile” and “In the Levant”--constitute the
record of a visit to the East during the years 1875 and 1876.

They would naturally have of themselves the most permanent value,
inasmuch as the countries described have for most educated men an abiding
interest. The lifelike representation and graphic characterization which
Warner was apt to display in his traveling sketches were here seen at
their best, because nowhere else did he find the task of description more
congenial. Alike the gorgeousness and the squalor of the Orient appealed
to his artistic sympathies. Egypt in particular had for him always a
special fascination. Twice he visited it--at the time just mentioned and
again in the winter of 1881-82. He rejoiced in every effort made to
dispel the obscurity which hung over its early history. No one, outside
of the men most immediately concerned, took a deeper interest than he in
the work of the Egyptian Exploration Society, of which he was one of the
American vice-presidents. To promoting its success he gave no small share
of time and attention. Everything connected with either the past or the
present of the country had for him an attraction. A civilization which
had been flourishing for centuries, when the founder of Israel was a
wandering sheik on the Syrian plains or in the hill-country of Canaan;
the slow unraveling of records of dynasties of forgotten kings; the
memorials of Egypt’s vanished greatness and the vision of her future
prosperity these and things similar to these made this country, so
peculiarly the gift of the Nile, of fascinating interest to the modern
traveler who saw the same sights which had met the eyes of Herodotus
nearly twenty-five hundred years before.

To the general public the volume which followed--“In the Levant”--was
perhaps of even deeper interest. At all events it dealt with scenes and
memories with which every reader, educated or uneducated, had
associations. The region through which the founder of Christianity
wandered, the places he visited, the words he said in them, the acts he
did, have never lost their hold over the hearts of men, not even during
the periods when the precepts of Christianity have had the least
influence over the conduct of those who professed to it their allegiance.
In the Levant, too, were seen the beginnings of commerce, of art, of
letters, in the forms in which the modern world best knows them. These,
therefore, have always made the lands about the eastern Mediterranean an
attraction to cultivated men and the interest of the subject accordingly
reinforced the skill of the writer.

There are two or three of these works which can not be included in the
class just described. They were written for the specific purpose of
giving exact information at the time. Of these the most noticeable are
the volumes entitled “South and West” and the account of Southern
California which goes under the name of “Our Italy.” They are the outcome
of journeys made expressly with the intent of investigating and reporting
upon the actual situation and apparent prospects of the places and
regions described. As they were written to serve an immediate purpose,
much of the information contained in them tends to grow more and more out
of date as time goes on; and though of value to the student of history,
these volumes must necessarily become of steadily diminishing interest to
the ordinary reader. Yet it is to be said of them that while the pill of
useful information is there, it has at least been sugar-coated. Nor can
we afford to lose sight of the fact that the widely-circulated articles,
collected under the title of “South and West,” by the spirit pervading
them as well as by the information they gave, had a marked effect in
bringing the various sections of the country into a better understanding
of one another, and in imparting to all a fuller sense of the community
they possessed in profit and loss, in honor and dishonor.

It is a somewhat singular fact that these sketches of travel led Warner
incidentally to enter into an entirely new field of literary exertion.
This was novel-writing. Something of this nature he had attempted in
conjunction with Mark Twain in the composition of “The Gilded Age,” which
appeared in 1873. The result, however, was unsatisfactory to both the
collaborators. Each had humor, but the humor of each was fundamentally
different. But the magazine with which Warner had become connected was
desirous that he should prepare for it an account of some of the
principal watering-places and summer resorts of the country. Each was to
be visited in turn and its salient features were to be described. It was
finally suggested that this could be done most effectively by weaving
into a love story occurrences that might happen at a number of these
places which were made the subjects of description. The principal
characters were to take their tours under the personal conduct of the
novelist. They were to go to the particular spots selected North and
South, according to the varying seasons of the year. It was a somewhat
novel way of, visiting resorts of this nature; there are those to whom it
will seem altogether more agreeable than would be the visiting of them in
person. Hence appeared in 1886 the articles which were collected later in
the volume entitled “Their Pilgrimage.”

Warner executed the task which had been assigned him with his wonted
skill. The completed work met with success--with so much success indeed
that he was led later to try his fortune further in the same field and
bring out the trilogy of novels which go under the names respectively of
“A Little Journey in the World,” “The Golden House,” and “That Fortune.”
 Each of these is complete in itself, each can be read by itself; but the
effect of each and of the whole series can be best secured by reading
them in succession. In the first it is the story of how a great fortune
was made in the stock market; in the second, how it was fraudulently
diverted from the object for which it was intended; and in the third, how
it was most beneficially and satisfactorily lost. The scene of the last
novel was laid in part in Warner’s early home in Charlemont. These works
were produced with considerable intervals of time between their
respective appearances, the first coming out in 1889 and the third ten
years later. This detracted to some extent from the popularity which they
would have attained had the different members followed one another
rapidly. Still, they met with distinct success, though it has always been
a question whether this success was due so much to the story as to the
shrewd observation and caustic wit which were brought to bear upon what
was essentially a serious study of one side of American social life.

The work with which Warner himself was least satisfied was his life of
Captain John Smith, which came out in 18881. It was originally intended
to be one of a series of biographies of noted men, which were to give the
facts accurately but to treat them humorously. History and comedy,
however, have never been blended successfully, though desperate attempts
have occasionally been made to achieve that result. Warner had not long
been engaged in the task before he recognized its hopelessness. For its
preparation it required a special study of the man and the period, and
the more time he spent upon the preliminary work, the more the humorous
element tended to recede. Thus acted on by two impulses, one of a light
and one of a grave nature, he moved for a while in a sort of diagonal
between the two to nowhere in particular; but finally ended in treating
the subject seriously.

In giving himself up to a biography in which he had no special interest,
Warner felt conscious that he could not interest others. His forebodings
were realized. The work, though made from a careful study of original
sources, did not please him, nor did it attract the public. The attempt
was all the more unfortunate because the time and toil he spent upon it
diverted him from carrying out a scheme which had then taken full
possession of his thoughts. This was the production of a series of essays
to be entitled “Conversations on Horseback.” Had it been worked up as he
sketched it in his mind, it would have been the outdoor counterpart of
his “Backlog Studies.” Though in a measure based upon a horseback ride
which he took in Pennsylvania in 1880, the incidents of travel as he
outlined its intended treatment would have barely furnished the slightest
of backgrounds. Captain John Smith, however, interfered with a project
specially suited to his abilities and congenial to his tastes. That he
did so possibly led the author of his life to exhibit a somewhat hostile
attitude towards his hero. When the biography was finished, other
engagements were pressing upon his attention. The opportunity of taking
up and completing the projected series of essays never presented itself,
though the subject lay in his mind for a long time and he himself
believed that it would have turned out one of the best pieces of work he
ever did.

It was unfortunate. For to me--and very likely to many others if not to
most--Warner’s strength lay above all in essay-writing. What he
accomplished in this line was almost invariably pervaded by that genial
grace which makes work of the kind attractive, and he exhibited
everywhere in it the delicate but sure touch which preserves the just
mean between saying too much and too little. The essay was in his nature,
and his occupation as a journalist had developed the tendency towards
this form of literary activity, as well as skill in its manipulation.
Whether he wrote sketches of travel, or whether he wrote fiction, the
scene depicted was from the point of view of the essayist rather than
from that of the tourist or of the novelist. It is this characteristic
which gives to his work in the former field its enduring interest. Again
in his novels, it was not so much the story that was in his thoughts as
the opportunity the varying scenes afforded for amusing observations upon
manners, for comments upon life, sometimes good-natured, sometimes
severe, but always entertaining, and above all, for serious study of the
social problems which present themselves on every side for examination.
This is distinctly the province of the essayist, and in it Warner always
displayed his fullest strength.

We have seen that his first purely humorous publication of this nature
was the one which made him known to the general public. It was speedily
followed, however, by one of a somewhat graver character, which became at
the time and has since remained a special favorite of cultivated readers.
This is the volume entitled “Backlog Studies.” The attractiveness of this
work is as much due to the suggestive social and literary discussions
with which it abounds as to the delicate and refined humor with which the
ideas are expressed. Something of the same characteristics was displayed
in the two little volumes of short pieces dealing with social topics,
which came out later under the respective titles of “As We Were Saying,”
 and “As We Go.” But there was a deeper and more serious side of his
nature which found utterance in several of his essays, particularly in
some which were given in the form of addresses delivered at various
institutions of learning. They exhibit the charm which belongs to all his
writings; but his feelings were too profoundly interested in the subjects
considered to allow him to give more than occasional play to his humor.
Essays contained in such a volume, for instance, as “The Relation of
Literature to Life” will not appeal to him whose main object in reading
is amusement. Into them Warner put his deepest and most earnest
convictions. The subject from which the book just mentioned derived its
title lay near to his heart. No one felt more strongly than he the
importance of art of all kinds, but especially of literary art, for the
uplifting of a nation. No one saw more distinctly the absolute necessity
of its fullest recognition in a moneymaking age and in a money-making
land, if the spread of the dry rot of moral deterioration were to be
prevented. The ampler horizon it presented, the loftier ideals it set up,
the counteracting agency it supplied to the sordidness of motive and act
which, left unchecked, was certain to overwhelm the national spirit--all
these were enforced by him again and again with clearness and
effectiveness. His essays of this kind will never be popular in the sense
in which are his other writings. But no thoughtful man will rise up from
reading them without having gained a vivid conception of the part which
literature plays in the life of even the humblest, and without a deeper
conviction of its necessity to any healthy development of the character
of a people.

During the early part of his purely literary career a large proportion of
Warner’s collected writings, which then appeared, were first published in
the Atlantic Monthly. But about fourteen years before his death he became
closely connected with Harper’s Magazine. From May, 1886, to March, 1892,
he conducted the Editor’s Drawer of that periodical. The month following
this last date he succeeded William Dean Howells as the contributor of
the Editor’s Study. This position he held until July, 1898. The scope of
this department was largely expanded after the death of George William
Curtis in the summer of 1892, and the consequent discontinuance of the
Editor’s Easy Chair. Comments upon other topics than those to which his
department was originally devoted, especially upon social questions, were
made a distinct feature. His editorial connection with the magazine
naturally led to his contributing to it numerous articles besides those
which were demanded by the requirements of the position he held. Nearly
all these, as well as those which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, are
indicated in the bibliographical notes prefixed to the separate works.

There were, however, other literary enterprises in which he was
concerned; for the calls upon him were numerous, his own appetite for
work was insatiable, and his activity was indefatigable. In 1881 he
assumed the editorship of the American Men of Letters series. This he
opened with his own biography of Washington Irving, the resemblance
between whom and himself has been made the subject of frequent remark.
Later he became the editor-in-chief of the thirty odd volumes which make
up the collection entitled “The World’s Best Literature.” To this he
contributed several articles of his own and carefully allotted and
supervised the preparation of a large number of others. The labor he put
upon the editing of this collection occupied him a great deal of the time
from 1895 to 1898.

But literature, though in it lay his chief interest, was but one of the
subjects which employed his many-sided activity. He was constantly called
upon for the discharge of civic duties. The confidence felt by his
fellow-citizens in his judgment and taste was almost equal to the
absolute trust reposed in his integrity. The man who establishes a
reputation for the possession of these qualities can never escape from
bearing the burdens which a good character always imposes. If any work of
art was ordered by the state, Warner was fairly certain to be chosen a
member of the commission selected to decide upon the person who was to do
it and upon the way it was to be done. By his fellow-townsmen he was made
a member of the Park Commission. Such were some of the duties imposed;
there were others voluntarily undertaken. During the latter years of his
life he became increasingly interested in social questions, some of which
partook of a semi-political character. One of the subjects which engaged
his attention was the best method to be adopted for elevating the
character and conduct of the negro population of the country. He
recognized the gravity of the problem with which the nation had to deal
and the difficulties attending its solution. One essay on the subject was
prepared for the meeting held at Washington in May, 1900, of the American
Social Science Association, of which he was president. He was not able to
be there in person. The disease which was ultimately to strike him down
had already made its preliminary attack. His address was accordingly read
for him. It was a subject of special regret that he could not be present
to set forth more fully his views; for the debate, which followed the
presentation of his paper, was by no means confined to the meeting, but
extended to the press of the whole country. Whether the conclusions he
reached were right or wrong, they were in no case adopted hastily nor
indeed without the fullest consideration.

But a more special interest of his lay in prison reform. The subject had
engaged his attention long before he published anything in connection
with it. Later one of the earliest articles he wrote for Harper’s
Magazine was devoted to it. It was in his thoughts just before his death.
He was a member of the Connecticut commission on prisons, of the National
Prison Association, and a vice-president of the New York Association for
Prison Reform. A strong advocate of the doctrine of the indeterminate
sentence, he had little patience with many of the judicial outgivings on
that subject. To him they seemed opinions inherited, not formed, and in
most cases were nothing more than the result of prejudice working upon
ignorance. This particular question was one which he purposed to make the
subject of his address as president of the Social Science Association, at
its annual meeting in 1901. He never lived to complete what he had in

During his later years the rigor of the Northern winter had been too
severe for Warner’s health. He had accordingly found it advisable to
spend as much of this season as he could in warmer regions. He visited at
various times parts of the South, Mexico, and California. He passed the
winter of 1892-93 at Florence; but he found the air of the valley of the
Arno no perceptible improvement upon that of the valley of the
Connecticut. In truth, neither disease nor death entertains a prejudice
against any particular locality. This fact he was to learn by personal
experience. In the spring of 1899, while at New Orleans, he was stricken
by pneumonia which nearly brought him to the grave. He recovered, but it
is probable that the strength of his system was permanently impaired, and
with it his power of resisting disease. Still his condition was not such
as to prevent him from going on with various projects he had been
contemplating or from forming new ones. The first distinct warning of the
approaching end was the facial paralysis which suddenly attacked him in
April, 1900, while on a visit to Norfolk, Va. Yet even from that he
seemed to be apparently on the full road to recovery during the following

It was in the second week of October, 1900, that Warner paid me a visit
of two or three days. He was purposing to spend the winter in Southern
California, coming back to the East in ample time to attend the annual
meeting of the Social Science Association. His thoughts were even then
busy with the subject of the address which, as president, he was to
deliver on that occasion. It seemed to me that I had never seen him when
his mind was more active or more vigorous. I was not only struck by the
clearness of his views--some of which were distinctly novel, at least to
me--but by the felicity and effectiveness with which they were put.

Never, too, had I been more impressed with the suavity, the
agreeableness, the general charm of his manner. He had determined during
the coming winter to learn to ride the wheel, and we then and there
planned to take a bicycle trip during the following summer, as we had
previously made excursions together on horseback. When we parted, it was
with the agreement that we should meet the next spring in Washington and
fix definitely upon the time and region of our intended ride. It was on a
Saturday morning that I bade him good-by, apparently in the best of
health and spirits. It was on the evening of the following Saturday
--October 20th--that the condensed, passionless, relentless message which
the telegraph transmits, informed me that he had died that afternoon.

That very day he had lunched at a friend’s, where were gathered several
of his special associates who had chanced to come together at the same
house, and then had gone to the office of the Hartford Courant. There was
not the slightest indication apparent of the end that was so near. After
the company broke up, he started out to pay a visit to one of the city
parks, of which he was a commissioner. On his way thither, feeling a
certain faintness, he turned aside into a small house whose occupants he
knew, and asked to sit down for a brief rest, and then, as the faintness
increased, to lie undisturbed on the lounge for a few minutes. The few
minutes passed, and with them his life. In the strictest sense of the
words, he had fallen asleep. From one point of view it was an ideal way
to die. To the individual, death coming so gently, so suddenly, is shorn
of all its terrors. It is only those who live to remember and to lament
that the suffering comes which has been spared the victim. Even to them,
however, is the consolation that though they may have been fully prepared
for the coming of the inevitable event, it would have been none the less
painful when it actually came.

Warner as a writer we all know. The various and varying opinions
entertained about the quality and value of his work do not require notice
here. Future times will assign him his exact position in the roll of
American authors, and we need not trouble ourselves to anticipate, as we
shall certainly not be able to influence, its verdict. But to only a
comparatively few of those who knew him as a writer was it given to know
him as a man; to still fewer to know him in that familiarity of intimacy
which reveals all that is fine or ignoble in a man’s personality. Scanty
is the number of those who will come out of that severest of ordeals so
successfully as he. The same conclusion would be reached, whether we were
to consider him in his private relations or in his career as a man of
letters. Among the irritable race of authors no one was freer from petty
envy or jealousy. During many years of close intercourse, in which he
constantly gave utterance to his views both of men and things with
absolute unreserve, I recall no disparaging opinion ever expressed of any
writer with whom he had been compared either for praise or blame. He had
unquestionably definite and decided opinions. He would point out that
such or such a work was above or below its author’s ordinary level; but
there was never any ill-nature in his comment, no depreciation for
depreciation’s sake. Never in truth was any one more loyal to his
friends. If his literary conscience would not permit him to say anything
in favor of something which they had done, he usually contented himself
with saying nothing. Whatever failing there was on his critical side was
due to this somewhat uncritical attitude; for it is from his particular
friends that the writer is apt to get the most dispassionate
consideration and sometimes the coldest commendation. It was a part of
Warner’s generous recognition of others that he was in all sincerity
disposed to attribute to those he admired and to whom he was attached an
ability of which some of them at least were much inclined to doubt their
own possession.

Were I indeed compelled to select any one word which would best give the
impression, both social and literary, of Warner’s personality, I should
be disposed to designate it as urbanity. That seems to indicate best the
one trait which most distinguished him either in conversation or writing.
Whatever it was, it was innate, not assumed. It was the genuine outcome
of the kindliness and broad-mindedness of his nature and led him to
sympathize with men of all positions in life and of all kinds of ability.
It manifested itself in his attitude towards every one with whom he came
in contact. It led him to treat with fullest consideration all who were
in the least degree under his direction, and converted in consequence the
toil of subordinates into a pleasure. It impelled him to do unsought
everything which lay in his power for the success of those in whom he
felt interest. Many a young writer will recall his words of encouragement
at some period in his own career when the quiet appreciation of one meant
more to him than did later the loud applause of many. As it was in
public, so it was in private life. The generosity of his spirit, the
geniality and high-bred courtesy of his manner, rendered a visit to his
home as much a social delight as his wide knowledge of literature and his
appreciation of what was best in it made it an intellectual



This paper was prepared and delivered at several of our universities as
introductory to a course of five lectures which insisted on the value of
literature in common life--some hearers thought with an exaggerated
emphasis--and attempted to maintain the thesis that all genuine, enduring
literature is the outcome of the time that produces it, is responsive to
the general sentiment of its time; that this close relation to human life
insures its welcome ever after as a true representation of human nature;
and that consequently the most remunerative method of studying a
literature is to study the people for whom it was produced. Illustrations
of this were drawn from the Greek, the French, and the English
literatures. This study always throws a flood of light upon the meaning
of the text of an old author, the same light that the reader
unconsciously has upon contemporary pages dealing with the life with
which he is familiar. The reader can test this by taking up his
Shakespeare after a thorough investigation of the customs, manners, and
popular life of the Elizabethan period. Of course the converse is true
that good literature is an open door into the life and mode of thought of
the time and place where it originated.


I hade a vision once--you may all have had a like one--of the stream of
time flowing through a limitless land. Along its banks sprang up in
succession the generations of man. They did not move with the stream-they
lived their lives and sank away; and always below them new generations
appeared, to play their brief parts in what is called history--the
sequence of human actions. The stream flowed on, opening for itself
forever a way through the land. I saw that these successive dwellers on
the stream were busy in constructing and setting afloat vessels of
various size and form and rig--arks, galleys, galleons, sloops, brigs,
boats propelled by oars, by sails, by steam. I saw the anxiety with which
each builder launched his venture, and watched its performance and
progress. The anxiety was to invent and launch something that should
float on to the generations to come, and carry the name of the builder
and the fame of his generation. It was almost pathetic, these puny
efforts, because faith always sprang afresh in the success of each new
venture. Many of the vessels could scarcely be said to be launched at
all; they sank like lead, close to the shore. Others floated out for a
time, and then, struck by a flaw in the wind, heeled over and
disappeared. Some, not well put together, broke into fragments in the
bufleting of the waves. Others danced on the flood, taking the sun on
their sails, and went away with good promise of a long voyage. But only a
few floated for any length of time, and still fewer were ever seen by the
generation succeeding that which launched them. The shores of the stream
were strewn with wrecks; there lay bleaching in the sand the ribs of many
a once gallant craft.

Innumerable were the devices of the builders to keep their inventions
afloat. Some paid great attention to the form of the hull, others to the
kind of cargo and the loading of it, while others--and these seemed the
majority--trusted more to some new sort of sail, or new fashion of
rudder, or new application of propelling power. And it was wonderful to
see what these new ingenuities did for a time, and how each generation
was deceived into the belief that its products would sail on forever. But
one fate practically came to the most of them. They were too heavy, they
were too light, they were built of old material, and they went to the
bottom, they went ashore, they broke up and floated in fragments. And
especially did the crafts built in imitation of something that had
floated down from a previous generation come to quick disaster. I saw
only here and there a vessel, beaten by weather and blackened by time
--so old, perhaps, that the name of the maker was no longer legible; or
some fragments of antique wood that had evidently come from far up the
stream. When such a vessel appeared there was sure to arise great dispute
about it, and from time to time expeditions were organized to ascend the
river and discover the place and circumstances of its origin. Along the
banks, at intervals, whole fleets of boats and fragments had gone ashore,
and were piled up in bays, like the driftwood of a subsided freshet.
Efforts were made to dislodge these from time to time and set them afloat
again, newly christened, with fresh paint and sails, as if they stood a
better chance of the voyage than any new ones. Indeed, I saw that a large
part of the commerce of this river was, in fact, the old hulks and
stranded wrecks that each generation had set afloat again. As I saw it in
this foolish vision, how pathetic this labor was from generation to
generation; so many vessels launched; so few making a voyage even for a
lifetime; so many builders confident of immortality; so many lives
outlasting this coveted reputation! And still the generations, each with
touching hopefulness, busied themselves with this child’s play on the
banks of the stream; and still the river flowed on, whelming and wrecking
the most of that so confidently committed to it, and bearing only here
and there, on its swift, wide tide, a ship, a boat, a shingle.

These hosts of men whom I saw thus occupied since history began were
authors; these vessels were books; these heaps of refuse in the bays were
great libraries. The allegory admits of any amount of ingenious
parallelism. It is nevertheless misleading; it is the illusion of an idle
fancy. I have introduced it because it expresses, with some whimsical
exaggeration--not much more than that of “The Vision of Mirza”--the
popular notion about literature and its relation to human life. In the
popular conception, literature is as much a thing apart from life as
these boats on the stream of time were from the existence, the struggle,
the decay of the generations along the shore. I say in the popular
conception, for literature is wholly different from this, not only in its
effect upon individual lives, but upon the procession of lives upon this
earth; it is not only an integral part of all of them, but, with its
sister arts, it is the one unceasing continuity in history. Literature
and art are not only the records and monuments made by the successive
races of men, not only the local expressions of thought and emotion, but
they are, to change the figure, the streams that flow on, enduring, amid
the passing show of men, reviving, transforming, ennobling the fleeting
generations. Without this continuity of thought and emotion, history
would present us only a succession of meaningless experiments. The
experiments fail, the experiments succeed--at any rate, they end--and
what remains for transmission, for the sustenance of succeeding peoples?
Nothing but the thought and emotion evolved and expressed. It is true
that every era, each generation, seems to have its peculiar work to do;
it is to subdue the intractable earth, to repel or to civilize the
barbarians, to settle society in order, to build cities, to amass wealth
in centres, to make deserts bloom, to construct edifices such as were
never made before, to bring all men within speaking distance of each
other--lucky if they have anything to say when that is accomplished--to
extend the information of the few among the many, or to multiply the
means of easy and luxurious living. Age after age the world labors for
these things with the busy absorption of a colony of ants in its castle
of sand. And we must confess that the process, such, for instance, as
that now going on here--this onset of many peoples, which is transforming
the continent of America--is a spectacle to excite the imagination in the
highest degree. If there were any poet capable of putting into an epic
the spirit of this achievement, what an epic would be his! Can it be that
there is anything of more consequence in life than the great business in
hand, which absorbs the vitality and genius of this age? Surely, we say,
it is better to go by steam than to go afoot, because we reach our
destination sooner--getting there quickly being a supreme object. It is
well to force the soil to yield a hundred-fold, to congregate men in
masses so that all their energies shall be taxed to bring food to
themselves, to stimulate industries, drag coal and metal from the bowels
of the earth, cover its surface with rails for swift-running carriages,
to build ever larger palaces, warehouses, ships. This gigantic
achievement strikes the imagination.

If the world in which you live happens to be the world of books, if your
pursuit is to know what has been done and said in the world, to the end
that your own conception of the value of life may be enlarged, and that
better things may be done and said hereafter, this world and this pursuit
assume supreme importance in your mind. But you can in a moment place
yourself in relations--you have not to go far, perhaps only to speak to
your next neighbor--where the very existence of your world is scarcely
recognized. All that has seemed to you of supreme importance is ignored.
You have entered a world that is called practical, where the things that
we have been speaking of are done; you have interest in it and sympathy
with it, because your scheme of life embraces the development of ideas
into actions; but these men of realities have only the smallest
conception of the world that seems to you of the highest importance; and,
further, they have no idea that they owe anything to it, that it has ever
influenced their lives or can add anything to them. And it may chance
that you have, for the moment, a sense of insignificance in the small
part you are playing in the drama going forward. Go out of your library,
out of the small circle of people who talk of books, who are engaged in
research, whose liveliest interest is in the progress of ideas, in the
expression of thought and emotion that is in literature; go out of this
atmosphere into a region where it does not exist, it may be into a place
given up to commerce and exchange, or to manufacturing, or to the
development of certain other industries, such as mining, or the pursuit
of office--which is sometimes called politics. You will speedily be aware
how completely apart from human life literature is held to be, how few
people regard it seriously as a necessary element in life, as anything
more than an amusement or a vexation. I have in mind a mountain district,
stripped, scarred, and blackened by the ruthless lumbermen, ravished of
its forest wealth; divested of its beauty, which has recently become the
field of vast coal-mining operations. Remote from communication, it was
yesterday an exhausted, wounded, deserted country. Today audacious
railways are entering it, crawling up its mountain slopes, rounding its
dizzy precipices, spanning its valleys on iron cobwebs, piercing its
hills with tunnels. Drifts are opened in its coal seams, to which iron
tracks shoot away from the main line; in the woods is seen the gleam of
the engineer’s level, is heard the rattle of heavily-laden wagons on the
newly-made roads; tents are pitched, uncouth shanties have sprung up,
great stables, boarding-houses, stores, workshops; the miner, the
blacksmith, the mason, the carpenter have arrived; households have been
set up in temporary barracks, children are already there who need a
school, women who must have a church and society; the stagnation has
given place to excitement, money has flowed in, and everywhere are the
hum of industry and the swish of the goad of American life. On this
hillside, which in June was covered with oaks, is already in October a
town; the stately trees have been felled; streets are laid out and graded
and named; there are a hundred dwellings, there are a store, a
post-office, an inn; the telegraph has reached it, and the telephone and
the electric light; in a few weeks more it will be in size a city, with
thousands of people--a town made out of hand by drawing men and women
from other towns, civilized men and women, who have voluntarily put
themselves in a position where they must be civilized over again.

This is a marvelous exhibition of what energy and capital can do. You
acknowledge as much to the creators of it. You remember that not far back
in history such a transformation as this could not have been wrought in a
hundred years. This is really life, this is doing something in the world,
and in the presence of it you can see why the creators of it regard your
world, which seemed to you so important, the world whose business is the
evolution and expression of thought and emotion, as insignificant. Here
is a material addition to the business and wealth of the race, here
employment for men who need it, here is industry replacing stagnation,
here is the pleasure of overcoming difficulties and conquering obstacles.
Why encounter these difficulties? In order that more coal may be procured
to operate more railway trains at higher speed, to supply more factories,
to add to the industrial stir of modern life. The men who projected and
are pushing on this enterprise, with an executive ability that would
maintain and manoeuvre an army in a campaign, are not, however,
consciously philanthropists, moved by the charitable purpose of giving
employment to men, or finding satisfaction in making two blades of grass
grow where one grew before. They enjoy no doubt the sense of power in
bringing things to pass, the feeling of leadership and the consequence
derived from its recognition; but they embark in this enterprise in order
that they may have the position and the luxury that increased wealth will
bring, the object being, in most cases, simply material
advantages--sumptuous houses, furnished with all the luxuries which are
the signs of wealth, including, of course, libraries and pictures and
statuary and curiosities, the most showy equipages and troops of
servants; the object being that their wives shall dress magnificently,
glitter in diamonds and velvets, and never need to put their feet to the
ground; that they may command the best stalls in the church, the best
pews in the theatre, the choicest rooms in the inn, and--a consideration
that Plato does not mention, because his world was not our world--that
they may impress and reduce to obsequious deference the hotel clerk.

This life--for this enterprise and its objects are types of a
considerable portion of life--is not without its ideal, its hero, its
highest expression, its consummate flower. It is expressed in a word
which I use without any sense of its personality, as the French use the
word Barnum--for our crude young nation has the distinction of adding a
verb to the French language, the verb to barnum--it is expressed in the
well-known name Croesus. This is a standard--impossible to be reached
perhaps, but a standard. If one may say so, the country is sown with
seeds of Croesus, and the crop is forward and promising. The interest to
us now in the observation of this phase of modern life is not in the
least for purposes of satire or of reform. We are inquiring how wholly
this conception of life is divorced from the desire to learn what has
been done and said to the end that better things may be done and said
hereafter, in order that we may understand the popular conception of the
insignificant value of literature in human affairs. But it is not aside
from our subject, rather right in its path, to take heed of what the
philosophers say of the effect in other respects of the pursuit of

One cause of the decay of the power of defense in a state, says the
Athenian Stranger in Plato’s Laws--one cause is the love of wealth, which
wholly absorbs men and never for a moment allows them to think of
anything but their private possessions; on this the soul of every citizen
hangs suspended, and can attend to nothing but his daily gain; mankind
are ready to learn any branch of knowledge and to follow any pursuit
which tends to this end, and they laugh at any other; that is the reason
why a city will not be in earnest about war or any other good and
honorable pursuit.

The accumulation of gold in the treasury of private individuals, says
Socrates, in the Republic, is the ruin of democracy. They invent illegal
modes of expenditure; and what do they or their wives care about the law?

“And then one, seeing another’s display, proposes to rival him, and thus
the whole body of citizens acquires a similar character.

“After that they get on in a trade, and the more they think of making a
fortune, the less they think of virtue; for when riches and virtue are
placed together in the balance, the one always rises as the other falls.

“And in proportion as riches and rich men are honored in the state,
virtue and the virtuous are dishonored.

“And what is honored is cultivated, and that which has no honor is

“And so at last, instead of loving contention and glory, men become
lovers of trade and money, and they honor and reverence the rich man and
make a ruler of him, and dishonor the poor man.

“They do so.”

The object of a reasonable statesman (it is Plato who is really speaking
in the Laws) is not that the state should be as great and rich as
possible, should possess gold and silver, and have the greatest empire by
sea and land.

The citizen must, indeed, be happy and good, and the legislator will seek
to make him so; but very rich and very good at the same time he cannot
be; not at least in the sense in which many speak of riches. For they
describe by the term “rich” the few who have the most valuable
possessions, though the owner of them be a rogue. And if this is true, I
can never assent to the doctrine that the rich man will be happy: he must
be good as well as rich. And good in a high degree and rich in a high
degree at the same time he cannot be. Some one will ask, Why not? And we
shall answer, Because acquisitions which come from sources which are just
and unjust indifferently are more than double those which come from just
sources only; and the sums which are expended neither honorably nor
disgracefully are only half as great as those which are expended
honorably and on honorable purposes. Thus if one acquires double and
spends half, the other, who is in the opposite case and is a good man,
cannot possibly be wealthier than he. The first (I am speaking of the
saver, and not of the spender) is not always bad; he may indeed in some
cases be utterly bad, but as I was saying, a good man he never is. For he
who receives money unjustly as well as justly, and spends neither justly
nor unjustly, will be a rich man if he be also thrifty. On the other
hand, the utterly bad man is generally profligate, and therefore poor;
while he who spends on noble objects, and acquires wealth by just means
only, can hardly be remarkable for riches any more than he can be very
poor. The argument, then, is right in declaring that the very rich are
not good, and if they are not good they are not happy.

And the conclusion of Plato is that we ought not to pursue any occupation
to the neglect of that for which riches exist--“I mean,” he says, “soul
and body, which without gymnastics and without education will never be
worth anything; and therefore, as we have said not once but many times,
the care of riches should have the last place in our thoughts.”

Men cannot be happy unless they are good, and they cannot be good unless
the care of the soul occupies the first place in their thoughts. That is
the first interest of man; the interest in the body is midway; and last
of all, when rightly regarded, is the interest about money.

The majority of mankind reverses this order of interests, and therefore
it sets literature to one side as of no practical account in human life.
More than this, it not only drops it out of mind, but it has no
conception of its influence and power in the very affairs from which it
seems to be excluded. It is my purpose to show not only the close
relation of literature to ordinary life, but its eminent position in
life, and its saving power in lives which do not suspect its influence or
value. Just as it is virtue that saves the state, if it be saved,
although the majority do not recognize it and attribute the salvation of
the state to energy, and to obedience to the laws of political economy,
and to discoveries in science, and to financial contrivances; so it is
that in the life of generations of men, considered from an ethical and
not from a religious point of view, the most potent and lasting influence
for a civilization that is worth anything, a civilization that does not
by its own nature work its decay, is that which I call literature. It is
time to define what we mean by literature. We may arrive at the meaning
by the definition of exclusion. We do not mean all books, but some books;
not all that is written and published, but only a small part of it. We do
not mean books of law, of theology, of politics, of science, of medicine,
and not necessarily books of travel, or adventure, or biography, or
fiction even. These may all be ephemeral in their nature. The term
belles-lettres does not fully express it, for it is too narrow. In books
of law, theology, politics, medicine, science, travel, adventure,
biography, philosophy, and fiction there may be passages that possess, or
the whole contents may possess, that quality which comes within our
meaning of literature. It must have in it something of the enduring and
the universal. When we use the term art, we do not mean the arts; we are
indicating a quality that may be in any of the arts. In art and
literature we require not only an expression of the facts in nature and
in human life, but of feeling, thought, emotion. There must be an appeal
to the universal in the race. It is, for example, impossible for a
Christian today to understand what the religious system of the Egyptians
of three thousand years ago was to the Egyptian mind, or to grasp the
idea conveyed to a Chinaman’s thought in the phrase, “the worship of the
principle of heaven”; but the Christian of today comprehends perfectly
the letters of an Egyptian scribe in the time of Thotmes III., who
described the comical miseries of his campaign with as clear an appeal to
universal human nature as Horace used in his ‘Iter Brundusium;’ and the
maxims of Confucius are as comprehensible as the bitter-sweetness of
Thomas a Kempis. De Quincey distinguishes between the literature of
knowledge and the literature of power. The definition is not exact; but
we may say that the one is a statement of what is known, the other is an
emanation from the man himself; or that one may add to the sum of human
knowledge, and the other addresses itself to a higher want in human
nature than the want of knowledge. We select and set aside as literature
that which is original, the product of what we call genius. As I have
said, the subject of a production does not always determine the desired
quality which makes it literature. A biography may contain all the facts
in regard to a man and his character, arranged in an orderly and
comprehensible manner, and yet not be literature; but it may be so
written, like Plutarch’s Lives or Defoe’s account of Robinson Crusoe,
that it is literature, and of imperishable value as a picture of human
life, as a satisfaction to the want of the human mind which is higher
than the want of knowledge. And this contribution, which I desire to be
understood to mean when I speak of literature, is precisely the thing of
most value in the lives of the majority of men, whether they are aware of
it or not. It may be weighty and profound; it may be light, as light as
the fall of a leaf or a bird’s song on the shore; it may be the thought
of Plato when he discourses of the character necessary in a perfect
state, or of Socrates, who, out of the theorem of an absolute beauty,
goodness, greatness, and the like, deduces the immortality of the soul;
or it may be the lovesong of a Scotch plowman: but it has this one
quality of answering to a need in human nature higher than a need for
facts, for knowledge, for wealth.

In noticing the remoteness in the popular conception of the relation of
literature to life, we must not neglect to take into account what may be
called the arrogance of culture, an arrogance that has been emphasized,
in these days of reaction from the old attitude of literary
obsequiousness, by harsh distinctions and hard words, which are paid back
by equally emphasized contempt. The apostles of light regard the rest of
mankind as barbarians and Philistines, and the world retorts that these
self-constituted apostles are idle word-mongers, without any sympathy
with humanity, critics and jeerers who do nothing to make the conditions
of life easier. It is natural that every man should magnify the circle of
the world in which he is active and imagine that all outside of it is
comparatively unimportant. Everybody who is not a drone has his
sufficient world. To the lawyer it is his cases and the body of law, it
is the legal relation of men that is of supreme importance; to the
merchant and manufacturer all the world consists in buying and selling,
in the production and exchange of products; to the physician all the
world is diseased and in need of remedies; to the clergyman speculation
and the discussion of dogmas and historical theology assume immense
importance; the politician has his world, the artist his also, and the
man of books and letters a realm still apart from all others. And to each
of these persons what is outside of his world seems of secondary
importance; he is absorbed in his own, which seems to him all-embracing.
To the lawyer everybody is or ought to be a litigant; to the grocer the
world is that which eats, and pays--with more or less regularity; to the
scholar the world is in books and ideas. One realizes how possessed he is
with his own little world only when by chance he changes his profession
or occupation and looks back upon the law, or politics, or journalism,
and sees in its true proportion what it was that once absorbed him and
seemed to him so large. When Socrates discusses with Gorgias the value of
rhetoric, the use of which, the latter asserts, relates to the greatest
and best of human things, Socrates says: I dare say you have heard men
singing--at feasts the old drinking-song, in which the singers enumerate
the goods of life-first, health; beauty next; thirdly, wealth honestly
acquired. The producers of these things--the physician, the trainer, the
money-maker--each in turn contends that his art produces the greatest
good. Surely, says the physician, health is the greatest good; there is
more good in my art, says the trainer, for my business is to make men
beautiful and strong in body; and consider, says the money-maker, whether
any one can produce a greater good than wealth. But, insists Gorgias, the
greatest good of men, of which I am the creator, is that which gives men
freedom in their persons, and the power of ruling over others in their
several states--that is, the word which persuades the judge in the court,
or the senators in the council, or the citizens in the assembly: if you
have the power of uttering this word, you will have the physician your
slave, and the trainer your slave, and the moneymaker of whom you talk
will be found to gather treasures, not for himself, but for those who are
able to speak and persuade the multitude.

What we call life is divided into occupations and interest, and the
horizons of mankind are bounded by them. It happens naturally enough,
therefore, that there should be a want of sympathy in regard to these
pursuits among men, the politician despising the scholar, and the scholar
looking down upon the politician, and the man of affairs, the man of
industries, not caring to conceal his contempt for both the others. And
still more reasonable does the division appear between all the world
which is devoted to material life, and the few who live in and for the
expression of thought and emotion. It is a pity that this should be so,
for it can be shown that life would not be worth living divorced from the
gracious and ennobling influence of literature, and that literature
suffers atrophy when it does not concern itself with the facts and
feelings of men.

If the poet lives in a world apart from the vulgar, the most lenient
apprehension of him is that his is a sort of fool’s paradise. One of the
most curious features in the relation of literature to life is this, that
while poetry, the production of the poet, is as necessary to universal
man as the atmosphere, and as acceptable, the poet is regarded with that
mingling of compassion and undervaluation, and perhaps awe, which once
attached to the weak-minded and insane, and which is sometimes expressed
by the term “inspired idiot.” However the poet may have been petted and
crowned, however his name may have been diffused among peoples, I doubt
not that the popular estimate of him has always been substantially what
it is today. And we all know that it is true, true in our individual
consciousness, that if a man be known as a poet and nothing else, if his
character is sustained by no other achievement than the production of
poetry, he suffers in our opinion a loss of respect. And this is only
recovered for him after he is dead, and his poetry is left alone to speak
for his name. However fond my lord and lady were of the ballad, the place
of the minstrel was at the lower end of the hall. If we are pushed to say
why this is, why this happens to the poet and not to the producers of
anything else that excites the admiration of mankind, we are forced to
admit that there is something in the poet to sustain the popular judgment
of his in utility. In all the occupations and professions of life there
is a sign put up, invisible--but none the less real, and expressing an
almost universal feeling--“No poet need apply.” And this is not because
there are so many poor poets; for there are poor lawyers, poor soldiers,
poor statesmen, incompetent business men; but none of the personal
disparagement attaches to them that is affixed to the poet. This popular
estimate of the poet extends also, possibly in less degree, to all the
producers of the literature that does not concern itself with knowledge.
It is not our care to inquire further why this is so, but to repeat that
it is strange that it should be so when poetry is, and has been at all
times, the universal solace of all peoples who have emerged out of
barbarism, the one thing not supernatural and yet akin to the
supernatural, that makes the world, in its hard and sordid conditions,
tolerable to the race. For poetry is not merely the comfort of the
refined and the delight of the educated; it is the alleviator of poverty,
the pleasure-ground of the ignorant, the bright spot in the most dreary
pilgrimage. We cannot conceive the abject animal condition of our race
were poetry abstracted; and we do not wonder that this should be so when
we reflect that it supplies a want higher than the need for food, for
raiment, or ease of living, and that the mind needs support as much as
the body. The majority of mankind live largely in the imagination, the
office or use of which is to lift them in spirit out of the bare physical
conditions in which the majority exist. There are races, which we may
call the poetical races, in which this is strikingly exemplified. It
would be difficult to find poverty more complete, physical wants less
gratified, the conditions of life more bare than among the Oriental
peoples from the Nile to the Ganges and from the Indian Ocean to the
steppes of Siberia. But there are perhaps none among the more favored
races who live so much in the world of imagination fed by poetry and
romance. Watch the throng seated about an Arab or Indian or Persian
story-teller and poet, men and women with all the marks of want, hungry,
almost naked, without any prospect in life of ever bettering their sordid
condition; see their eyes kindle, their breathing suspended, their tense
absorption; see their tears, hear their laughter, note their excitement
as the magician unfolds to them a realm of the imagination in which they
are free for the hour to wander, tasting a keen and deep enjoyment that
all the wealth of Croesus cannot purchase for his disciples. Measure, if
you can, what poetry is to them, what their lives would be without it. To
the millions and millions of men who are in this condition, the bard, the
story-teller, the creator of what we are considering as literature, comes
with the one thing that can lift them out of poverty, suffering--all the
woe of which nature is so heedless.

It is not alone of the poetical nations of the East that this is true,
nor is this desire for the higher enjoyment always wanting in the savage
tribes of the West. When the Jesuit Fathers in 1768 landed upon the
almost untouched and unexplored southern Pacific coast, they found in the
San Gabriel Valley in Lower California that the Indians had games and
feasts at which they decked themselves in flower garlands that reached to
their feet, and that at these games there were song contests which
sometimes lasted for three days. This contest of the poets was an old
custom with them. And we remember how the ignorant Icelanders, who had
never seen a written character, created the splendid Saga, and handed it
down from father to son. We shall scarcely find in Europe a peasantry
whose abject poverty is not in some measure alleviated by this power
which literature gives them to live outside it. Through our sacred
Scriptures, through the ancient storytellers, through the tradition which
in literature made, as I said, the chief continuity in the stream of
time, we all live a considerable, perhaps the better, portion of our
lives in the Orient. But I am not sure that the Scotch peasant, the
crofter in his Highland cabin, the operative in his squalid
tenement-house, in the hopelessness of poverty, in the grime of a life
made twice as hard as that of the Arab by an inimical climate, does not
owe more to literature than the man of culture, whose material
surroundings are heaven in the imagination of the poor. Think what his
wretched life would be, in its naked deformity, without the popular
ballads, without the romances of Scott, which have invested his land for
him, as for us, with enduring charm; and especially without the songs of
Burns, which keep alive in him the feeling that he is a man, which impart
to his blunted sensibility the delicious throb of spring-songs that
enable him to hear the birds, to see the bits of blue sky-songs that make
him tender of the wee bit daisy at his feet--songs that hearten him when
his heart is fit to break with misery. Perhaps the English peasant, the
English operative, is less susceptible to such influences than the Scotch
or the Irish; but over him, sordid as his conditions are, close kin as he
is to the clod, the light of poetry is diffused; there filters into his
life, also, something of that divine stream of which we have spoken, a
dialect poem that touches him, the leaf of a psalm, some bit of
imagination, some tale of pathos, set afloat by a poor writer so long ago
that it has become the common stock of human tradition-maybe from
Palestine, maybe from the Ganges, perhaps from Athens--some expression of
real emotion, some creation, we say, that makes for him a world, vague
and dimly apprehended, that is not at all the actual world in which he
sins and suffers. The poor woman, in a hut with an earth floor, a reeking
roof, a smoky chimney, barren of comfort, so indecent that a gentleman
would not stable his horse in it, sits and sews upon a coarse garment,
while she rocks the cradle of an infant about whom she cherishes no
illusions that his lot will be other than that of his father before him.
As she sits forlorn, it is not the wretched hovel that she sees, nor
other hovels like it--rows of tenements of hopeless poverty, the
ale-house, the gin-shop, the coal-pit, and the choking factory--but:

       “Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
        Stand dressed in living green”

for her, thanks to the poet. But, alas for the poet there is not a
peasant nor a wretched operative of them all who will not shake his head
and tap his forehead with his forefinger when the poor poet chap passes
by. The peasant has the same opinion of him that the physician, the
trainer, and the money-lender had of the rhetorician.

The hard conditions of the lonely New England life, with its religious
theories as sombre as its forests, its rigid notions of duty as difficult
to make bloom into sweetness and beauty as the stony soil, would have
been unendurable if they had not been touched with the ideal created by
the poet. There was in creed and purpose the virility that creates a
state, and, as Menander says, the country which is cultivated with
difficulty produces brave men; but we leave out an important element in
the lives of the Pilgrims if we overlook the means they had of living
above their barren circumstances. I do not speak only of the culture
which many of them brought from the universities, of the Greek and Roman
classics, and what unworldly literature they could glean from the
productive age of Elizabeth and James, but of another source, more
universally resorted to, and more powerful in exciting imagination and
emotion, and filling the want in human nature of which we have spoken.
They had the Bible, and it was more to them, much more, than a book of
religion, than a revelation of religious truth, a rule for the conduct of
life, or a guide to heaven. It supplied the place to them of the
Mahabharata to the Hindoo, of the story-teller to the Arab. It opened to
them a boundless realm of poetry and imagination.

What is the Bible? It might have sufficed, accepted as a book of
revelation, for all the purposes of moral guidance, spiritual
consolation, and systematized authority, if it had been a collection of
precepts, a dry code of morals, an arsenal of judgments, and a treasury
of promises. We are accustomed to think of the Pilgrims as training their
intellectual faculties in the knottiest problems of human responsibility
and destiny, toughening their mental fibre in wrestling with dogmas and
the decrees of Providence, forgetting what else they drew out of the
Bible: what else it was to them in a degree it has been to few peoples
many age. For the Bible is the unequaled record of thought and emotion,
the reservoir of poetry, traditions, stories, parables, exaltations,
consolations, great imaginative adventure, for which the spirit of man is
always longing. It might have been, in warning examples and commands,
all-sufficient to enable men to make a decent pilgrimage on earth and
reach a better country; but it would have been a very different book to
mankind if it had been only a volume of statutes, and if it lacked its
wonderful literary quality. It might have enabled men to reach a better
country, but not, while on earth, to rise into and live in that better
country, or to live in a region above the sordidness of actual life. For,
apart from its religious intention and sacred character, the book is so
written that it has supremely in its history, poetry, prophecies,
promises, stories, that clear literary quality that supplies, as
certainly no other single book does, the want in the human mind which is
higher than the want of facts or knowledge.

The Bible is the best illustration of the literature of power, for it
always concerns itself with life, it touches it at all points. And this
is the test of any piece of literature--its universal appeal to human
nature. When I consider the narrow limitations of the Pilgrim households,
the absence of luxury, the presence of danger and hardship, the harsh
laws--only less severe than the contemporary laws of England and
Virginia--the weary drudgery, the few pleasures, the curb upon the
expression of emotion and of tenderness, the ascetic repression of
worldly thought, the absence of poetry in the routine occupations and
conditions, I can feel what the Bible must have been to them. It was an
open door into a world where emotion is expressed, where imagination can
range, where love and longing find a language, where imagery is given to
every noble and suppressed passion of the soul, where every aspiration
finds wings. It was history, or, as Thucydides said, philosophy teaching
by example; it was the romance of real life; it was entertainment
unfailing; the wonder-book of childhood, the volume of sweet sentiment to
the shy maiden, the sword to the soldier, the inciter of the youth to
heroic enduring of hardness, it was the refuge of the aged in failing
activity. Perhaps we can nowhere find a better illustration of the true
relation of literature to life than in this example.

Let us consider the comparative value of literature to mankind. By
comparative value I mean its worth to men in comparison with other things
of acknowledged importance, such as the creation of industries, the
government of States, the manipulation of the politics of an age, the
achievements in war and discovery, and the lives of admirable men. It
needs a certain perspective to judge of this aright, for the near and the
immediate always assume importance. The work that an age has on hand,
whether it be discovery, conquest, the wars that determine boundaries or
are fought for policies, the industries that develop a country or affect
the character of a people, the wielding of power, the accumulation of
fortunes, the various activities of any given civilization or period,
assume such enormous proportions to those engaged in them that such a
modest thing as the literary product seems insignificant in comparison;
and hence it is that the man of action always holds in slight esteem the
man of thought, and especially the expresser of feeling and emotion, the
poet and the humorist. It is only when we look back over the ages, when
civilizations have passed or changed, over the rivalries of States, the
ambitions and enmities of men, the shining deeds and the base deeds that
make up history, that we are enabled to see what remains, what is
permanent. Perhaps the chief result left to the world out of a period of
heroic exertion, of passion and struggle and accumulation, is a sheaf of
poems, or the record by a man of letters of some admirable character.
Spain filled a large place in the world in the sixteenth century, and its
influence upon history is by no means spent yet; but we have inherited
out of that period nothing, I dare say, that is of more value than the
romance of Don Quixote. It is true that the best heritage of generation
from generation is the character of great men; but we always owe its
transmission to the poet and the writer. Without Plato there would be no
Socrates. There is no influence comparable in human life to the
personality of a powerful man, so long as he is present to his
generation, or lives in the memory of those who felt his influence. But
after time has passed, will the world, will human life, that is
essentially the same in all changing conditions, be more affected by what
Bismarck did or by what Goethe said?

We may without impropriety take for an illustration of the comparative
value of literature to human needs the career of a man now living. In the
opinion of many, Mr. Gladstone is the greatest Englishman of this age.
What would be the position of the British empire, what would be the
tendency of English politics and society without him, is a matter for
speculation. He has not played such a role for England and its neighbors
as Bismarck has played for Germany and the Continent, but he has been one
of the most powerful influences in molding English action. He is the
foremost teacher. Rarely in history has a nation depended more upon a
single man, at times, than the English upon Gladstone, upon his will, his
ability, and especially his character. In certain recent crises the
thought of losing him produced something like a panic in the English
mind, justifying in regard to him, the hyperbole of Choate upon the death
of Webster, that the sailor on the distant sea would feel less safe--as
if a protecting providence had been withdrawn from the world. His mastery
of finance and of economic problems, his skill in debate, his marvelous
achievements in oratory, have extorted the admiration of his enemies.
There is scarcely a province in government, letters, art, or research in
which the mind can win triumphs that he has not invaded and displayed his
power in; scarcely a question in politics, reform, letters, religion,
archaeology, sociology, which he has not discussed with ability. He is a
scholar, critic, parliamentarian, orator, voluminous writer. He seems
equally at home in every field of human activity--a man of prodigious
capacity and enormous acquirements. He can take up, with a turn of the
hand, and always with vigor, the cause of the Greeks, Papal power,
education, theology, the influence of Egypt on Homer, the effect of
English legislation on King O’Brien, contributing something noteworthy to
all the discussions of the day. But I am not aware that he has ever
produced a single page of literature. Whatever space he has filled in his
own country, whatever and however enduring the impression he has made
upon English life and society, does it seem likely that the sum total of
his immense activity in so many fields, after the passage of so many
years, will be worth to the world as much as the simple story of Rab and
his Friends? Already in America I doubt if it is. The illustration might
have more weight with some minds if I contrasted the work of this great
man--as to its answering to a deep want in human nature--with a novel
like ‘Henry Esmond’ or a poem like ‘In Memoriam’; but I think it is
sufficient to rest it upon so slight a performance as the sketch by Dr.
John Brown, of Edinburgh. For the truth is that a little page of
literature, nothing more than a sheet of paper with a poem written on it,
may have that vitality, that enduring quality, that adaptation to life,
that make it of more consequence to all who inherit it than every
material achievement of the age that produced it. It was nothing but a
sheet of paper with a poem on it, carried to the door of his London
patron, for which the poet received a guinea, and perhaps a seat at the
foot of my lord’s table. What was that scrap compared to my lord’s
business, his great establishment, his equipages in the Park, his
position in society, his weight in the House of Lords, his influence in
Europe? And yet that scrap of paper has gone the world over; it has been
sung in the camp, wept over in the lonely cottage; it has gone with the
marching regiments, with the explorers--with mankind, in short, on its
way down the ages, brightening, consoling, elevating life; and my lord,
who regarded as scarcely above a menial the poet to whom he tossed the
guinea--my lord, with all his pageantry and power, has utterly gone and
left no witness.


By Charles Dudley Warner

In accordance with the advice of Diogenes of Apollonia in the beginning
of his treatise on Natural Philosophy--“It appears to me to be well for
every one who commences any sort of philosophical treatise to lay down
some undeniable principle to start with”--we offer this:

        All men are created unequal.

It would be a most interesting study to trace the growth in the world of
the doctrine of “equality.” That is not the purpose of this essay, any
further than is necessary for definition. We use the term in its popular
sense, in the meaning, somewhat vague, it is true, which it has had since
the middle of the eighteenth century. In the popular apprehension it is
apt to be confounded with uniformity; and this not without reason, since
in many applications of the theory the tendency is to produce likeness or
uniformity. Nature, with equal laws, tends always to diversity; and
doubtless the just notion of equality in human affairs consists with
unlikeness. Our purpose is to note some of the tendencies of the dogma as
it is at present understood by a considerable portion of mankind.

We regard the formulated doctrine as modern. It would be too much to say
that some notion of the “equality of men” did not underlie the
socialistic and communistic ideas which prevailed from time to time in
the ancient world, and broke out with volcanic violence in the Grecian
and Roman communities. But those popular movements seem to us rather
blind struggles against physical evils, and to be distinguished from
those more intelligent actions based upon the theory which began to stir
Europe prior to the Reformation.

It is sufficient for our purpose to take the well-defined theory of
modern times. Whether the ideal republic of Plato was merely a convenient
form for philosophical speculation, or whether, as the greatest authority
on political economy in Germany, Dr. William Roscher, thinks, it “was no
mere fancy”; whether Plato’s notion of the identity of man and the State
is compatible with the theory of equality, or whether it is, as many
communists say, indispensable to it, we need not here discuss. It is true
that in his Republic almost all the social theories which have been
deduced from the modern proclamation of equality are elaborated. There
was to be a community of property, and also a community of wives and
children. The equality of the sexes was insisted on to the extent of
living in common, identical education and pursuits, equal share in all
labors, in occupations, and in government. Between the sexes there was
allowed only one ultimate difference. The Greeks, as Professor Jowett
says, had noble conceptions of womanhood; but Plato’s ideal for the sexes
had no counterpart in their actual life, nor could they have understood
the sort of equality upon which he insisted. The same is true of the
Romans throughout their history.

More than any other Oriental peoples the Egyptians of the Ancient Empire
entertained the idea of the equality of the sexes; but the equality of
man was not conceived by them. Still less did any notion of it exist in
the Jewish state. It was the fashion with the socialists of 1793, as it
has been with the international assemblages at Geneva in our own day, to
trace the genesis of their notions back to the first Christian age. The
far-reaching influence of the new gospel in the liberation of the human
mind and in promoting just and divinely-ordered relations among men is
admitted; its origination of the social and political dogma we are
considering is denied. We do not find that Christ himself anywhere
expressed it or acted on it. He associated with the lowly, the vile, the
outcast; he taught that all men, irrespective of rank or possessions, are
sinners, and in equal need of help. But he attempted no change in the
conditions of society. The “communism” of the early Christians was the
temporary relation of a persecuted and isolated sect, drawn together by
common necessities and dangers, and by the new enthusiasm of
self-surrender. [“The community of goods of the first Christians at
Jerusalem, so frequently cited and extolled, was only a community of use,
not of ownership (Acts iv. 32), and throughout a voluntary act of love,
not a duty (v. 4); least of all, a right which the poorer might assert.
Spite of all this, that community of goods produced a chronic state of
poverty in the church of Jerusalem.” (Principles of Political Economy. By
William Roscher. Note to Section LXXXI. English translation. New York:
Henry Holt & Co. 1878.)]--Paul announced the universal brotherhood of
man, but he as clearly recognized the subordination of society, in the
duties of ruler and subject, master and slave, and in all the domestic
relations; and although his gospel may be interpreted to contain the
elements of revolution, it is not probable that he undertook to
inculcate, by the proclamation of “universal brotherhood,” anything more
than the duty of universal sympathy between all peoples and classes as
society then existed.

If Christianity has been and is the force in promoting and shaping
civilization that we regard it, we may be sure that it is not as a
political agent, or an annuller of the inequalities of life, that we are
to expect aid from it. Its office, or rather one of its chief offices on
earth, is to diffuse through the world, regardless of condition or
possessions or talent or opportunity, sympathy and a recognition of the
value of manhood underlying every lot and every diversity--a value not
measured by earthly accidents, but by heavenly standards. This we
understand to be “Christian equality.” Of course it consists with
inequalities of condition, with subordination, discipline, obedience; to
obey and serve is as honorable as to command and to be served.

If the religion of Christ should ever be acclimated on earth, the result
would not be the removal of hardships and suffering, or of the necessity
of self-sacrifice; but the bitterness and discontent at unequal
conditions would measurably disappear. At the bar of Christianity the
poor man is the equal of the rich, and the learned of the unlearned,
since intellectual acquisition is no guarantee of moral worth. The
content that Christianity would bring to our perturbed society would come
from the practical recognition of the truth that all conditions may be
equally honorable. The assertion of the dignity of man and of labor is,
we imagine, the sum and substance of the equality and communism of the
New Testament. But we are to remember that this is not merely a “gospel
for the poor.”

Whatever the theories of the ancient world were, the development of
democratic ideas is sufficiently marked in the fifteenth century, and
even in the fourteenth, to rob the eighteenth of the credit of
originating the doctrine of equality. To mention only one of the early
writers,--[For copious references to authorities on the spread of
communistic and socialistic ideas and libertine community of goods and
women in four periods of the world’s history--namely, at the time of the
decline of Greece, in the degeneration of the Roman republic, among the
moderns in the age of the Reformation, and again in our own day--see
Roscher’s Political Economy, notes to Section LXXIX., et seq.]
--Marsilio, a physician of Padua, in 1324, said that the laws ought to be
made by all the citizens; and he based this sovereignty of the people
upon the greater likelihood of laws being better obeyed, and also being
good laws, when they were made by the whole body of the persons affected.

In 1750 and 1753, J. J. Rousseau published his two discourses on
questions proposed by the Academy of Dijon: “Has the Restoration of
Sciences Contributed to Purify or to Corrupt Manners?” and “What is the
Origin of Inequality among Men, and is it Authorized by Natural Law?”
 These questions show the direction and the advance of thinking on social
topics in the middle of the eighteenth century. Rousseau’s Contrat-Social
and the novel Emile were published in 1761.

But almost three-quarters of a century before, in 1690, John Locke
published his two treatises on government. Rousseau was familiar with
them. Mr. John Morley, in his admirable study of Rousseau, [Rousseau. By
John Morley. London: Chapman & Hall. 1873--I have used it freely in the
glance at this period.]--fully discusses the latter’s obligation to
Locke; and the exposition leaves Rousseau little credit for originality,
but considerable for illogical misconception. He was, in fact, the most
illogical of great men, and the most inconsistent even of geniuses. The
Contrat-Social is a reaction in many things from the discourses, and
Emile is almost an entire reaction, especially in the theory of
education, from both.

His central doctrine of popular sovereignty was taken from Locke. The
English philosopher said, in his second treatise, “To understand
political power aright and derive it from its original, we must consider
what state all men are naturally in; and that is a state of perfect
freedom to order their actions and dispose of their persons and
possessions as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature,
without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man--a state
also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal,
no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident than
that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all
the advantages of nature and the use of the same faculties, should also
be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection, unless
the Lord and Master of them all should by any manifest declaration of His
will set one above another, and confer on him by an evident and clear
appointment an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.” But a state
of liberty is not a state of license. We cannot exceed our own rights
without assailing the rights of others. There is no such subordination as
authorizes us to destroy one another. As every one is bound to preserve
himself, so he is bound to preserve the rest of mankind, and except to do
justice upon an offender we may not impair the life, liberty, health, or
goods of another. Here Locke deduces the power that one man may have over
another; community could not exist if transgressors were not punished.
Every wrongdoer places himself in “a state of war.” Here is the
difference between the state of nature and the state of war, which men,
says Locke, have confounded--alluding probably to Hobbes’s notion of the
lawlessness of human society in the original condition.

The portion of Locke’s treatise which was not accepted by the French
theorists was that relating to property. Property in lands or goods is
due wholly and only to the labor man has put into it. By labor he has
removed it from the common state in which nature has placed it, and
annexed something to it that excludes the common rights of other men.

Rousseau borrowed from Hobbes as well as from Locke in his conception of
popular sovereignty; but this was not his only lack of originality. His
discourse on primitive society, his unscientific and unhistoric notions
about the original condition of man, were those common in the middle of
the eighteenth century. All the thinkers and philosophers and fine ladies
and gentlemen assumed a certain state of nature, and built upon it, out
of words and phrases, an airy and easy reconstruction of society, without
a thought of investigating the past, or inquiring into the development of
mankind. Every one talked of “the state of nature” as if he knew all
about it. “The conditions of primitive man,” says Mr. Morley, “were
discussed by very incompetent ladies and gentlemen at convivial
supper-parties, and settled with complete assurance.” That was the age
when solitary Frenchmen plunged into the wilderness of North America,
confidently expecting to recover the golden age under the shelter of a
wigwam and in the society of a squaw.

The state of nature of Rousseau was a state in which inequality did not
exist, and with a fervid rhetoric he tried to persuade his readers that
it was the happier state. He recognized inequality, it is true, as a word
of two different meanings: first, physical inequality, difference of age,
strength, health, and of intelligence and character; second, moral and
political inequality, difference of privileges which some enjoy to the
detriment of others-such as riches, honor, power. The first difference is
established by nature, the second by man. So long, however, as the state
of nature endures, no disadvantages flow from the natural inequalities.

In Rousseau’s account of the means by which equality was lost, the
incoming of the ideas of property is prominent. From property arose civil
society. With property came in inequality. His exposition of inequality
is confused, and it is not possible always to tell whether he means
inequality of possessions or of political rights. His contemporary,
Morelly, who published the Basileade in 1753, was troubled by no such
ambiguity. He accepts the doctrine that men are formed by laws, but holds
that they are by nature good, and that laws, by establishing a division
of the products of nature, broke up the sociability of men, and that all
political and moral evils are the result of private property. Political
inequality is an accident of inequality of possessions, and the
renovation of the latter lies in the abolition of the former.

The opening sentence of the Contrat-Social is, “Man is born free, and
everywhere he is a slave,” a statement which it is difficult to reconcile
with the fact that every human being is born helpless, dependent, and
into conditions of subjection, conditions that we have no reason to
suppose were ever absent from the race. But Rousseau never said, “All men
are born equal.” He recognized, as we have seen, natural inequality. What
he held was that the artificial differences springing from the social
union were disproportionate to the capacities springing from the original
constitution; and that society, as now organized, tends to make the gulf
wider between those who have privileges and those who have none.

The well-known theory upon which Rousseau’s superstructure rests is that
society is the result of a compact, a partnership between men. They have
not made an agreement to submit their individual sovereignty to some
superior power, but they have made a covenant of brotherhood. It is a
contract of association. Men were, and ought to be, equal cooperators,
not only in politics, but in industries and all the affairs of life. All
the citizens are participants in the sovereign authority. Their
sovereignty is inalienable; power may be transmitted, but not will; if
the people promise to obey, it dissolves itself by the very act--if there
is a master, there is no longer a people. Sovereignty is also
indivisible; it cannot be split up into legislative, judiciary, and
executive power.

Society being the result of a compact made by men, it followed that the
partners could at any time remake it, their sovereignty being
inalienable. And this the French socialists, misled by a priori notions,
attempted to do, on the theory of the Contrat-Social, as if they had a
tabula rasa, without regarding the existing constituents of society, or
traditions, or historical growths.

Equality, as a phrase, having done duty as a dissolvent, was pressed into
service as a constructor. As this is not so much an essay on the nature
of equality is an attempt to indicate some of the modern tendencies to
carry out what is illusory in the dogma, perhaps enough has been said of
this period. Mr. Morley very well remarks that the doctrine of equality
as a demand for a fair chance in the world is unanswerable; but that it
is false when it puts him who uses his chance well on the same level with
him who uses it ill. There is no doubt that when Condorcet said, “Not
only equality of right, but equality of fact, is the goal of the social
art,” he uttered the sentiments of the socialists of the Revolution.

The next authoritative announcement of equality, to which it is necessary
to refer, is in the American Declaration of Independence, in these words:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to
secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their
just power from the consent of the governed.” And the Declaration goes
on, in temperate and guarded language, to assert the right of a people to
change their form of government when it becomes destructive of the ends

Although the genesis of these sentiments seems to be French rather than
English, and equality is not defined, and critics have differed as to
whether the equality clause is independent or qualified by what follows,
it is not necessary to suppose that Thomas Jefferson meant anything
inconsistent with the admitted facts of nature and of history. It is
important to bear in mind that the statesmen of our Revolution were
inaugurating a political and not a social revolution, and that the
gravamen of their protest was against the authority of a distant crown.
Nevertheless, these dogmas, independent of the circumstances in which
they were uttered, have exercised and do exercise a very powerful
influence upon the thinking of mankind on social and political topics,
and are being applied without limitations, and without recognition of the
fact that if they are true, in the sense meant by their originators, they
are not the whole truth. It is to be noticed that rights are mentioned,
but not duties, and that if political rights only are meant, political
duties are not inculcated as of equal moment. It is not announced that
political power is a function to be discharged for the good of the whole
body, and not a mere right to be enjoyed for the advantage of the
possessor; and it is to be noted also that this idea did not enter into
the conception of Rousseau.

The dogma that “government derives its just power from the consent of the
governed” is entirely consonant with the book theories of the eighteenth
century, and needs to be confronted, and practically is confronted, with
the equally good dogma that “governments derive their just power from
conformity with the principles of justice.” We are not to imagine, for
instance, that the framers of the Declaration really contemplated the
exclusion from political organization of all higher law than that in the
“consent of the governed,” or the application of the theory, let us say,
to a colony composed for the most part of outcasts, murderers, thieves,
and prostitutes, or to such states as today exist in the Orient. The
Declaration was framed for a highly intelligent and virtuous society.

Many writers, and some of them English, have expressed curiosity, if not
wonder, at the different fortunes which attended the doctrine of equality
in America and in France. The explanation is on the surface, and need not
be sought in the fact of a difference of social and political level in
the two countries at the start, nor even in the further fact that the
colonies were already accustomed to self-government.

The simple truth is that the dogmas of the Declaration were not put into
the fundamental law. The Constitution is the most practical state
document ever made. It announces no dogmas, proclaims no theories. It
accepted society as it was, with its habits and traditions; raising no
abstract questions whether men are born free or equal, or how society
ought to be organized. It is simply a working compact, made by “the
people,” to promote union, establish justice, and secure the blessings of
liberty; and the equality is in the assumption of the right of “the
people of the United States” to do this. And yet, in a recent number of
Blackwood’s Magazine, a writer makes the amusing statement, “I have never
met an American who could deny that, while firmly maintaining that the
theory was sound which, in the beautiful language of the Constitution,
proclaims that all men were born equal, he was,” etc.

An enlightening commentary on the meaning of the Declaration, in the
minds of the American statesmen of the period, is furnished by the
opinions which some of them expressed upon the French Revolution while it
was in progress. Gouverneur Morris, minister to France in 1789, was a
conservative republican; Thomas Jefferson was a radical democrat. Both of
them had a warm sympathy with the French “people” in the Revolution; both
hoped for a republic; both recognized, we may reasonably infer, the
sufficient cause of the Revolution in the long-continued corruption of
court and nobility, and the intolerable sufferings of the lower orders;
and both, we have equal reason to believe, thought that a fair
accommodation, short of a dissolution of society, was defeated by the
imbecility of the king and the treachery and malignity of a considerable
portion of the nobility. The Revolution was not caused by theories,
however much it may have been excited or guided by them. But both Morris
and Jefferson saw the futility of the application of the abstract dogma
of equality and the theories of the Social Contract to the reconstruction
of government and the reorganization of society in France.

If the aristocracy were malignant--though numbers of them were far from
being so--there was also a malignant prejudice aroused against them, and
M. Taine is not far wrong when he says of this prejudice, “Its hard, dry
kernel consists of the abstract idea of equality.”--[The French
Revolution. By H. A. Taine. Vol. i., bk. ii., chap. ii., sec. iii.
Translation. New York: Henry Holt & Co.]--Taine’s French Revolution is
cynical, and, with all its accumulation of material, omits some facts
necessary to a philosophical history; but a passage following that quoted
is worth reproducing in this connection: “The treatment of the nobles of
the Assembly is the same as the treatment of the Protestants by Louis
XIV. . . . One hundred thousand Frenchmen driven out at the end of the
seventeenth century, and one hundred thousand driven out at the end of
the eighteenth! Mark how an intolerant democracy completes the work of an
intolerant monarchy! The moral aristocracy was mowed down in the name of
uniformity; the social aristocracy is mowed down in the name of equality.
For the second time an abstract principle, and with the same effect,
buries its blade in the heart of a living society.”

Notwithstanding the world-wide advertisement of the French experiment, it
has taken almost a century for the dogma of equality, at least outside of
France, to filter down from the speculative thinkers into a general
popular acceptance, as an active principle to be used in the shaping of
affairs, and to become more potent in the popular mind than tradition or
habit. The attempt is made to apply it to society with a brutal logic;
and we might despair as to the result, if we did not know that the world
is not ruled by logic. Nothing is so fascinating in the hands of the
half-informed as a neat dogma; it seems the perfect key to all
difficulties. The formula is applied in contempt and ignorance of the
past, as if building up were as easy as pulling down, and as if society
were a machine to be moved by mechanical appliances, and not a living
organism composed of distinct and sensitive beings. Along with the spread
of a belief in the uniformity of natural law has unfortunately gone a
suggestion of parallelism of the moral law to it, and a notion that if we
can discover the right formula, human society and government can be
organized with a mathematical justice to all the parts. By many the dogma
of equality is held to be that formula, and relief from the greater evils
of the social state is expected from its logical extension.

Let us now consider some of the present movements and tendencies that are
related, more or less, to this belief:

I. Absolute equality is seen to depend upon absolute supremacy of the
state. Professor Henry Fawcett says, “Excessive dependence on the state
is the most prominent characteristic of modern socialism.” “These
proposals to prohibit inheritance, to abolish private property, and to
make the state the owner of all the capital and the administrator of the
entire industry of the country are put forward as representing socialism
in its ultimate and highest development.”--[“Socialism in Germany and the
United States,” Fortnightly Review, November, 1878.]

Society and government should be recast till they conform to the theory,
or, let us say, to its exaggerations. Men can unmake what they have made.
There is no higher authority anywhere than the will of the majority, no
matter what the majority is in intellect and morals. Fifty-one ignorant
men have a natural right to legislate for the one hundred, as against
forty-nine intelligent men.

All men being equal, one man is as fit to legislate and execute as
another. A recently elected Congressman from Maine vehemently repudiated
in a public address, as a slander, the accusation that he was educated.
The theory was that, uneducated, he was the proper representative of the
average ignorance of his district, and that ignorance ought to be
represented in the legislature in kind. The ignorant know better what
they want than the educated know for them. “Their education [that of
college men] destroys natural perception and judgment; so that cultivated
people are one-sided, and their judgment is often inferior to that of the
working people.” “Cultured people have made up their minds, and are hard
to move.” “No lawyer should be elected to a place in any legislative
body.”--[Opinions of working-men, reported in “The Nationals, their
Origin and their Aims,” The Atlantic Monthly, November, 1878.]

Experience is of no account, neither is history, nor tradition, nor the
accumulated wisdom of ages. On all questions of political economy,
finance, morals, the ignorant man stands on a par with the best informed
as a legislator. We might cite any number of the results of these
illusions. A member of a recent House of Representatives declared that we
“can repair the losses of the war by the issue of a sufficient amount of
paper money.” An intelligent mechanic of our acquaintance, a leader among
the Nationals, urging the theory of his party, that banks should be
destroyed, and that the government should issue to the people as much
“paper money” as they need, denied the right of banks or of any
individuals to charge interest on money. Yet he would take rent for the
house he owns.

Laws must be the direct expression of the will of the majority, and be
altered solely on its will. It would be well, therefore, to have a
continuous election, so that, any day, the electors can change their
representative for a new man. “If my caprice be the source of law, then
my enjoyment may be the source of the division of the nation’s
resources.”--[Stahl’s Rechtsphilosophie, quoted by Roscher.]

Property is the creator of inequality, and this factor in our artificial
state can be eliminated only by absorption. It is the duty of the
government to provide for all the people, and the sovereign people will
see to it that it does. The election franchise is a natural right--a
man’s weapon to protect himself. It may be asked, If it is just this, and
not a sacred trust accorded to be exercised for the benefit of society,
why may not a man sell it, if it is for his interest to do so?

What is there illogical in these positions from the premise given?
“Communism,” says Roscher, [Political Economy, bk. i., ch. v., 78.]--“is
the logically not inconsistent exaggeration of the principle of equality.
Men who hear themselves designated as the sovereign people, and their
welfare as the supreme law of the state, are more apt than others to feel
more keenly the distance which separates their own misery from the
superabundance of others. And, indeed, to what an extent our physical
wants are determined by our intellectual mold!”

The tendency of the exaggeration of man’s will as the foundation of
government is distinctly materialistic; it is a self-sufficiency that
shuts out God and the higher law.--[“And, indeed, if the will of man is
all-powerful, if states are to be distinguished from one another only by
their boundaries, if everything may be changed like the scenery in a play
by a flourish of the magic wand of a system, if man may arbitrarily make
the right, if nations can be put through evolutions like regiments of
troops, what a field would the world present for attempts at the
realizations of the wildest dreams, and what a temptation would be
offered to take possession, by main force, of the government of human
affairs, to destroy the rights of property and the rights of capital, to
gratify ardent longings without trouble, and to provide the much-coveted
means of enjoyment! The Titans have tried to scale the heavens, and have
fallen into the most degrading materialism. Purely speculative dogmatism
sinks into materialism.” (M. Wolowski’s Essay on the Historical Method,
prefixed to his translation of Roscher’s Political Economy.)]--We need to
remember that the Creator of man, and not man himself, formed society and
instituted government; that God is always behind human society and
sustains it; that marriage and the family and all social relations are
divinely established; that man’s duty, coinciding with his right, is, by
the light of history, by experience, by observation of men, and by the
aid of revelation, to find out and make operative, as well as he can, the
divine law in human affairs. And it may be added that the sovereignty of
the people, as a divine trust, may be as logically deduced from the
divine institution of government as the old divine right of kings.
Government, by whatever name it is called, is a matter of experience and
expediency. If we submit to the will of the majority, it is because it is
more convenient to do so; and if the republic or the democracy vindicate
itself, it is because it works best, on the whole, for a particular
people. But it needs no prophet to say that it will not work long if God
is shut out from it, and man, in a full-blown socialism, is considered
the ultimate authority.

II. Equality of education. In our American system there is, not only
theoretically but practically, an equality of opportunity in the public
schools, which are free to all children, and rise by gradations from the
primaries to the high-schools, in which the curriculum in most respects
equals, and in variety exceeds, that of many third-class “colleges.” In
these schools nearly the whole round of learning, in languages, science,
and art, is touched. The system has seemed to be the best that could be
devised for a free society, where all take part in the government, and
where so much depends upon the intelligence of the electors. Certain
objections, however, have been made to it. As this essay is intended only
to be tentative, we shall state some of them, without indulging in
lengthy comments.

( 1. ) The first charge is superficiality--a necessary consequence of
attempting too much--and a want of adequate preparation for special
pursuits in life.

( 2. ) A uniformity in mediocrity is alleged from the use of the same
text-books and methods in all schools, for all grades and capacities.
This is one of the most common criticisms on our social state by a
certain class of writers in England, who take an unflagging interest in
our development. One answer to it is this: There is more reason to expect
variety of development and character in a generally educated than in an
ignorant community; there is no such uniformity as the dull level of

( 3. ) It is said that secular education--and the general schools open to
all in a community of mixed religions must be secular--is training the
rising generation to be materialists and socialists.

( 4. ) Perhaps a better-founded charge is that a system of equal
education, with its superficiality, creates discontent with the condition
in which a majority of men must be--that of labor--a distaste for trades
and for hand-work, an idea that what is called intellectual labor (let us
say, casting up accounts in a shop, or writing trashy stories for a
sensational newspaper) is more honorable than physical labor; and
encourages the false notion that “the elevation of the working classes”
 implies the removal of men and women from those classes.

We should hesitate to draw adverse conclusions in regard to a system yet
so young that its results cannot be fairly estimated. Only after two or
three generations can its effects upon the character of a great people be
measured: Observations differ, and testimony is difficult to obtain. We
think it safe to say that those states are most prosperous which have the
best free schools. But if the philosopher inquires as to the general
effect upon the national character in respect to the objections named, he
must wait for a reply.

III. The pursuit of the chimera of social equality, from the belief that
it should logically follow political equality; resulting in extravagance,
misapplication of natural capacities, a notion that physical labor is
dishonorable, or that the state should compel all to labor alike, and in
efforts to remove inequalities of condition by legislation.

IV. The equality of the sexes. The stir in the middle of the eighteenth
century gave a great impetus to the emancipation of woman; though,
curiously enough, Rousseau, in unfolding his plan of education for
Sophie, in Emile, inculcates an almost Oriental subjection of woman--her
education simply that she may please man. The true enfranchisement of
woman--that is, the recognition (by herself as well as by man) of her
real place in the economy of the world, in the full development of her
capacities--is the greatest gain to civilization since the Christian era.
The movement has its excesses, and the gain has not been without loss.
“When we turn to modern literature,” writes Mr. Money, “from the pages in
which Fenelon speaks of the education of girls, who does not feel that
the world has lost a sacred accent--that some ineffable essence has
passed out from our hearts?”

How far the expectation has been realized that women, in fiction, for
instance, would be more accurately described, better understood, and
appear as nobler and lovelier beings when women wrote the novels, this is
not the place to inquire. The movement has results which are unavoidable
in a period of transition, and probably only temporary. The education of
woman and the development of her powers hold the greatest promise for the
regeneration of society. But this development, yet in its infancy, and
pursued with much crudeness and misconception of the end, is not enough.
Woman would not only be equal with man, but would be like him; that is,
perform in society the functions he now performs. Here, again, the notion
of equality is pushed towards uniformity. The reformers admit structural
differences in the sexes, though these, they say, are greatly exaggerated
by subjection; but the functional differences are mainly to be
eliminated. Women ought to mingle in all the occupations of men, as if
the physical differences did not exist. The movement goes to obliterate,
as far as possible, the distinction between sexes. Nature is, no doubt,
amused at this attempt. A recent writer--[“Biology and Woman’s Rights,”
 Quarterly Journal of Science, November, 1878.]--, says: “The ‘femme
libre’ [free woman] of the new social order may, indeed, escape the
charge of neglecting her family and her household by contending that it
is not her vocation to become a wife and a mother! Why, then, we ask, is
she constituted a woman at all? Merely that she may become a sort of
second-rate man?”

The truth is that this movement, based always upon a misconception of
equality, so far as it would change the duties of the sexes, is a
retrograde.--[“It has been frequently observed that among declining
nations the social differences between the two sexes are first
obliterated, and afterwards even the intellectual differences. The more
masculine the women become, the more effeminate become the men. It is no
good symptom when there are almost as many female writers and female
rulers as there are male. Such was the case, for instance, in the
Hellenistic kingdoms, and in the age of the Caesars. What today is called
by many the emancipation of woman would ultimately end in the dissolution
of the family, and, if carried out, render poor service to the majority
of women. If man and woman were placed entirely on the same level, and if
in the competition between the two sexes nothing but an actual
superiority should decide, it is to be feared that woman would soon be
relegated to a condition as hard as that in which she is found among all
barbarous nations. It is precisely family life and higher civilization
that have emancipated woman. Those theorizers who, led astray by the dark
side of higher civilization, preach a community of goods, generally
contemplate in their simultaneous recommendation of the emancipation of
woman a more or less developed form of a community of wives. The grounds
of the two institutions are very similar.” (Roscher’s Political Economy,
p. 250.) Note also that difference in costumes of the sexes is least
apparent among lowly civilized peoples.]--One of the most striking
features in our progress from barbarism to civilization is the proper
adjustment of the work for men and women. One test of a civilization is
the difference of this work. This is a question not merely of division of
labor, but of differentiation with regard to sex. It not only takes into
account structural differences and physiological disadvantages, but it
recognizes the finer and higher use of woman in society.

The attainable, not to say the ideal, society requires an increase rather
than a decrease of the differences between the sexes. The differences may
be due to physical organization, but the structural divergence is but a
faint type of deeper separation in mental and spiritual constitution.
That which makes the charm and power of woman, that for which she is
created, is as distinctly feminine as that which makes the charm and
power of men is masculine. Progress requires constant differentiation,
and the line of this is the development of each sex in its special
functions, each being true to the highest ideal for itself, which is not
that the woman should be a man, or the man a woman. The enjoyment of
social life rests very largely upon the encounter and play of the subtle
peculiarities which mark the two sexes; and society, in the limited sense
of the word, not less than the whole structure of our civilization,
requires the development of these peculiarities. It is in diversity, and
not in an equality tending to uniformity, that we are to expect the best
results from the race.

V. Equality of races; or rather a removal of the inequalities, social and
political, arising in the contact of different races by intermarriage.

Perhaps equality is hardly the word to use here, since uniformity is the
thing aimed at; but the root of the proposal is in the dogma we are
considering. The tendency of the age is to uniformity. The facilities of
travel and communication, the new inventions and the use of machinery in
manufacturing, bring men into close and uniform relations, and induce the
disappearance of national characteristics and of race peculiarities. Men,
the world over, are getting to dress alike, eat alike, and disbelieve in
the same things: It is the sentimental complaint of the traveler that his
search for the picturesque is ever more difficult, that race distinctions
and habits are in a way to be improved off the face of the earth, and
that a most uninteresting monotony is supervening. The complaint is not
wholly sentimental, and has a deeper philosophical reason than the mere
pleasure in variety on this planet.

We find a striking illustration of the equalizing, not to say leveling,
tendency of the age in an able paper by Canon George Rawlinson, of the
University of Oxford, contributed recently to an American periodical of a
high class and conservative character.--[“Duties of Higher towards Lower
Races.” By George Rawlinson. Princeton Re-view. November, 1878. New
York.]--This paper proposes, as a remedy for the social and political
evils caused by the negro element in our population, the miscegenation of
the white and black races, to the end that the black race may be wholly
absorbed in the white--an absorption of four millions by thirty-six
millions, which he thinks might reasonably be expected in about a
century, when the lower type would disappear altogether.

Perhaps the pleasure of being absorbed is not equal to the pleasure of
absorbing, and we cannot say how this proposal will commend itself to the
victims of the euthanasia. The results of miscegenation on this
continent--black with red, and white with black--the results morally,
intellectually, and physically, are not such as to make it attractive to
the American people.

It is not, however, upon sentimental grounds that we oppose this
extension of the exaggerated dogma of equality. Our objection is deeper.
Race distinctions ought to be maintained for the sake of the best
development of the race, and for the continuance of that mutual reaction
and play of peculiar forces between races which promise the highest
development for the whole. It is not for nothing, we may suppose, that
differentiation has gone on in the world; and we doubt that either
benevolence or self-interest requires this age to attempt to restore an
assumed lost uniformity, and fuse the race traits in a tiresome

Life consists in an exchange of relations, and the more varied the
relations interchanged the higher the life. We want not only different
races, but different civilizations in different parts of the globe.

A much more philosophical view of the African problem and the proper
destiny of the negro race than that of Canon Rawlinson is given by a
recent colored writer,--[“Africa and the Africans.” By Edmund W. Blyden.
Eraser’s Magazine, August, 1878.]--an official in the government of
Liberia. We are mistaken, says this excellent observer, in regarding
Africa as a land of a homogeneous population, and in confounding the
tribes in a promiscuous manner. There are negroes and negroes. “The
numerous tribes inhabiting the vast continent of Africa can no more be
regarded as in every respect equal than the numerous peoples of Asia or
Europe can be so regarded;” and we are not to expect the civilization of
Africa to be under one government, but in a great variety of States,
developed according to tribal and race affinities. A still greater
mistake is this:

“The mistake which Europeans often make in considering questions of negro
improvement and the future of Africa is in supposing that the negro is
the European in embryo, in the undeveloped stage, and that when,
by-and-by, he shall enjoy the advantages of civilization and culture, he
will become like the European; in other words, that the negro is on the
same line of progress, in the same groove, with the European, but
infinitely in the rear . . . . This view proceeds upon the assumption
that the two races are called to the same work, and are alike in
potentiality and ultimate development, the negro only needing the element
of time, under certain circumstances, to become European. But to our mind
it is not a question between the two races of inferiority or superiority.
There is no absolute or essential superiority on the one side, or
absolute or essential inferiority on the other side. It is a question of
difference of endowment and difference of destiny. No amount of training
or culture will make the negro a European. On the other hand, no lack of
training or deficiency of culture will make the European a negro. The two
races are not moving in the same groove, with an immeasurable distance
between them, but on parallel lines. They will never meet in the plane of
their activities so as to coincide in capacity or performance. They are
not identical, as some think, but unequal; they are distinct, but
equal--an idea that is in no way incompatible with the Scripture truth
that God hath made of one blood all nations of men.”

The writer goes on, in a strain that is not mere fancy, but that involves
one of the truths of inequality, to say that each race is endowed with
peculiar talents; that the negro has aptitudes and capacities which the
world needs, and will lack until he is normally trained. In the grand
symphony of the universe, “there are several sounds not yet brought out,
and the feeblest of all is that hitherto produced by the negro; but he
alone can furnish it.”--“When the African shall come forward with his
peculiar gifts, they will fill a place never before occupied.” In short,
the African must be civilized in the line of his capacities. “The present
practice of the friends of Africa is to frame laws according to their own
notions for the government and improvement of this people, whereas God
has already enacted the laws for the government of their affairs, which
laws should be carefully ascertained, interpreted, and applied; for until
they are found out and conformed to, all labor will be ineffective and

We have thus passed in review some of the tendencies of the age. We have
only touched the edges of a vast subject, and shall be quite satisfied if
we have suggested thought in the direction indicated. But in this limited
view of our complex human problem it is time to ask if we have not pushed
the dogma of equality far enough. Is it not time to look the facts
squarely in the face, and conform to them in our efforts for social and
political amelioration?

Inequality appears to be the divine order; it always has existed;
undoubtedly it will continue; all our theories and ‘a priori’
speculations will not change the nature of things. Even inequality of
condition is the basis of progress, the incentive to exertion.
Fortunately, if today we could make every man white, every woman as like
man as nature permits, give to every human being the same opportunity of
education, and divide equally among all the accumulated wealth of the
world, tomorrow differences, unequal possession, and differentiation
would begin again. We are attempting the regeneration of society with a
misleading phrase; we are wasting our time with a theory that does not
fit the facts.

There is an equality, but it is not of outward show; it is independent of
condition; it does not destroy property, nor ignore the difference of
sex, nor obliterate race traits. It is the equality of men before God, of
men before the law; it is the equal honor of all honorable labor. No more
pernicious notion ever obtained lodgment in society than the common one
that to “rise in the world” is necessarily to change the “condition.” Let
there be content with condition; discontent with individual ignorance and
imperfection. “We want,” says Emerson, “not a farmer, but a man on a
farm.” What a mischievous idea is that which has grown, even in the
United States, that manual labor is discreditable! There is surely some
defect in the theory of equality in our society which makes domestic
service to be shunned as if it were a disgrace.

It must be observed, further, that the dogma of equality is not satisfied
by the usual admission that one is in favor of an equality of rights and
opportunities, but is against the sweeping application of the theory made
by the socialists and communists. The obvious reply is that equal rights
and a fair chance are not possible without equality of condition, and
that property and the whole artificial constitution of society
necessitate inequality of condition. The damage from the current
exaggeration of equality is that the attempt to realize the dogma in
fact--and the attempt is everywhere on foot--can lead only to mischief
and disappointment.

It would be considered a humorous suggestion to advocate inequality as a
theory or as a working dogma. Let us recognize it, however, as a fact,
and shape the efforts for the improvement of the race in accordance with
it, encouraging it in some directions, restraining it from injustice in
others. Working by this recognition, we shall save the race from many
failures and bitter disappointments, and spare the world the spectacle of
republics ending in despotism and experiments in government ending in


By Charles Dudley Warner

   Delivered before the Alumni of Hamilton College, Clinton, N. Y.,
   Wednesday, June 26, 1872

Twenty-one years ago in this house I heard a voice calling me to ascend
the platform, and there to stand and deliver. The voice was the voice of
President North; the language was an excellent imitation of that used by
Cicero and Julius Caesar. I remember the flattering invitation--it is the
classic tag that clings to the graduate long after he has forgotten the
gender of the nouns that end in ‘um--orator proximus’, the grateful voice
said, ‘ascendat, videlicet,’ and so forth. To be proclaimed an orator,
and an ascending orator, in such a sonorous tongue, in the face of a
world waiting for orators, stirred one’s blood like the herald’s trumpet
when the lists are thrown open. Alas! for most of us, who crowded so
eagerly into the arena, it was the last appearance as orators on any

The facility of the world for swallowing up orators, and company after
company of educated young men, has been remarked. But it is almost
incredible to me now that the class of 1851, with its classic sympathies
and its many revolutionary ideas, disappeared in the flood of the world
so soon and so silently, causing scarcely a ripple in the smoothly
flowing stream. I suppose the phenomenon has been repeated for twenty
years. Do the young gentlemen at Hamilton, I wonder, still carry on their
ordinary conversation in the Latin tongue, and their familiar vacation
correspondence in the language of Aristophanes? I hope so. I hope they
are more proficient in such exercises than the young gentlemen of twenty
years ago were, for I have still great faith in a culture that is so far
from any sordid aspirations as to approach the ideal; although the young
graduate is not long in learning that there is an indifference in the
public mind with regard to the first aorist that amounts nearly to
apathy, and that millions of his fellow-creatures will probably live and
die without the consolations of the second aorist. It is a melancholy
fact that, after a thousand years of missionary effort, the vast majority
of civilized men do not know that gerunds are found only in the singular

I confess that this failure of the annual graduating class to make its
expected impression on the world has its pathetic side. Youth is
credulous--as it always ought to be--and full of hope--else the world
were dead already--and the graduate steps out into life with an ingenuous
self-confidence in his resources. It is to him an event, this
turning-point in the career of what he feels to be an important and
immortal being. His entrance is public and with some dignity of display.
For a day the world stops to see it; the newspapers spread abroad a
report of it, and the modest scholar feels that the eyes of mankind are
fixed on him in expectation and desire. Though modest, he is not
insensible to the responsibility of his position. He has only packed away
in his mind the wisdom of the ages, and he does not intend to be stingy
about communicating it to the world which is awaiting his graduation.
Fresh from the communion with great thoughts in great literatures, he is
in haste to give mankind the benefit of them, and lead it on into new
enthusiasm and new conquests.

The world, however, is not very much excited. The birth of a child is in
itself marvelous, but it is so common. Over and over again, for hundreds
of years, these young gentlemen have been coming forward with their
specimens of learning, tied up in neat little parcels, all ready to
administer, and warranted to be of the purest materials. The world is not
unkind, it is not even indifferent, but it must be confessed that it does
not act any longer as if it expected to be enlightened. It is generally
so busy that it does not even ask the young gentlemen what they can do,
but leaves them standing with their little parcels, wondering when the
person will pass by who requires one of them, and when there will happen
a little opening in the procession into which they can fall. They
expected that way would be made for them with shouts of welcome, but they
find themselves before long struggling to get even a standing-place in
the crowd--it is only kings, and the nobility, and those fortunates who
dwell in the tropics, where bread grows on trees and clothing is
unnecessary, who have reserved seats in this world.

To the majority of men I fancy that literature is very much the same that
history is; and history is presented as a museum of antiquities and
curiosities, classified, arranged, and labeled. One may walk through it
as he does through the Hotel de Cluny; he feels that he ought to be
interested in it, but it is very tiresome. Learning is regarded in like
manner as an accumulation of literature, gathered into great storehouses
called libraries--the thought of which excites great respect in most
minds, but is ineffably tedious. Year after year and age after age it
accumulates--this evidence and monument of intellectual activity--piling
itself up in vast collections, which it needs a lifetime even to
catalogue, and through which the uncultured walk as the idle do through
the British Museum, with no very strong indignation against Omar who
burned the library at Alexandria.

To the popular mind this vast accumulation of learning in libraries, or
in brains that do not visibly apply it, is much the same thing. The
business of the scholar appears to be this sort of accumulation; and the
young student, who comes to the world with a little portion of this
treasure dug out of some classic tomb or mediaeval museum, is received
with little more enthusiasm than is the miraculous handkerchief of St.
Veronica by the crowd of Protestants to whom it is exhibited on Holy Week
in St. Peter’s. The historian must make his museum live again; the
scholar must vivify his learning with a present purpose.

It is unnecessary for me to say that all this is only from the
unsympathetic and worldly side. I should think myself a criminal if I
said anything to chill the enthusiasm of the young scholar, or to dash
with any skepticism his longing and his hope. He has chosen the highest.
His beautiful faith and his aspiration are the light of life. Without his
fresh enthusiasm and his gallant devotion to learning, to art, to
culture, the world would be dreary enough. Through him comes the
ever-springing inspiration in affairs. Baffled at every turn and driven
defeated from a hundred fields, he carries victory in himself. He belongs
to a great and immortal army. Let him not be discouraged at his apparent
little influence, even though every sally of every young life may seem
like a forlorn hope. No man can see the whole of the battle. It must
needs be that regiment after regiment, trained, accomplished, gay, and
high with hope, shall be sent into the field, marching on, into the
smoke, into the fire, and be swept away. The battle swallows them, one
after the other, and the foe is yet unyielding, and the ever-remorseless
trumpet calls for more and more. But not in vain, for some day, and every
day, along the line, there is a cry, “They fly! they fly!” and the whole
army advances, and the flag is planted on an ancient fortress where it
never waved before. And, even if you never see this, better than
inglorious camp-following is it to go in with the wasting regiment; to
carry the colors up the slope of the enemy’s works, though the next
moment you fall and find a grave at the foot of the glacis.

What are the relations of culture to common life, of the scholar to the
day-laborer? What is the value of this vast accumulation of higher
learning, what is its point of contact with the mass of humanity, that
toils and eats and sleeps and reproduces itself and dies, generation
after generation, in an unvarying round, on an unvarying level? We have
had discussed lately the relation of culture to religion. Mr. Froude,
with a singular, reactionary ingenuity, has sought to prove that the
progress of the century, so-called, with all its material alleviations,
has done little in regard to a happy life, to the pleasure of existence,
for the average individual Englishman. Into neither of these inquiries do
I purpose to enter; but we may not unprofitably turn our attention to a
subject closely connected with both of them.

It has not escaped your attention that there are indications everywhere
of what may be called a ground-swell. There is not simply an inquiry as
to the value of classic culture, a certain jealousy of the schools where
it is obtained, a rough popular contempt for the graces of learning, a
failure to see any connection between the first aorist and the rolling of
steel rails, but there is arising an angry protest against the conditions
of a life which make one free of the serene heights of thought and give
him range of all intellectual countries, and keep another at the spade
and the loom, year after year, that he may earn food for the day and
lodging for the night. In our day the demand here hinted at has taken
more definite form and determinate aim, and goes on, visible to all men,
to unsettle society and change social and political relations. The great
movement of labor, extravagant and preposterous as are some of its
demands, demagogic as are most of its leaders, fantastic as are many of
its theories, is nevertheless real, and gigantic, and full of a certain
primeval force, and with a certain justice in it that never sleeps in
human affairs, but moves on, blindly often and destructively often, a
movement cruel at once and credulous, deceived and betrayed, and
revenging itself on friends and foes alike. Its strength is in the fact
that it is natural and human; it might have been predicted from a mere
knowledge of human nature, which is always restless in any relations it
is possible to establish, which is always like the sea, seeking a level,
and never so discontented as when anything like a level is approximated.

What is the relation of the scholar to the present phase of this
movement? What is the relation of culture to it? By scholar I mean the
man who has had the advantages of such an institution as this. By culture
I mean that fine product of opportunity and scholarship which is to mere
knowledge what manners are to the gentleman. The world has a growing
belief in the profit of knowledge, of information, but it has a suspicion
of culture. There is a lingering notion in matters religious that
something is lost by refinement--at least, that there is danger that the
plain, blunt, essential truths will be lost in aesthetic graces. The
laborer is getting to consent that his son shall go to school, and learn
how to build an undershot wheel or to assay metals; but why plant in his
mind those principles of taste which will make him as sensitive to beauty
as to pain, why open to him those realms of imagination with the
illimitable horizons, the contours and colors of which can but fill him
with indefinite longing?

It is not necessary for me in this presence to dwell upon the value of
culture. I wish rather to have you notice the gulf that exists between
what the majority want to know and that fine fruit of knowledge
concerning which there is so widespread an infidelity. Will culture aid a
minister in a “protracted meeting”? Will the ability to read Chaucer
assist a shop-keeper? Will the politician add to the “sweetness and
light” of his lovely career if he can read the “Battle of the Frogs and
the Mice” in the original? What has the farmer to do with the “Rose
Garden of Saadi”?

I suppose it is not altogether the fault of the majority that the true
relation of culture to common life is so misunderstood. The scholar is
largely responsible for it; he is largely responsible for the isolation
of his position, and the want of sympathy it begets. No man can influence
his fellows with any power who retires into his own selfishness, and
gives himself to a self-culture which has no further object. What is he
that he should absorb the sweets of the universe, that he should hold all
the claims of humanity second to the perfecting of himself? This effort
to save his own soul was common to Goethe and Francis of Assisi; under
different manifestations it was the same regard for self. And where it is
an intellectual and not a spiritual greediness, I suppose it is what an
old writer calls “laying up treasures in hell.”

It is not an unreasonable demand of the majority that the few who have
the advantages of the training of college and university should exhibit
the breadth and sweetness of a generous culture, and should shed
everywhere that light which ennobles common things, and without which
life is like one of the old landscapes in which the artist forgot to put
sunlight. One of the reasons why the college-bred man does not meet this
reasonable expectation is that his training, too often, has not been
thorough and conscientious, it has not been of himself; he has acquired,
but he is not educated. Another is that, if he is educated, he is not
impressed with the intimacy of his relation to that which is below him as
well as that which is above him, and his culture is out of sympathy with
the great mass that needs it, and must have it, or it will remain a blind
force in the world, the lever of demagogues who preach social anarchy and
misname it progress. There is no culture so high, no taste so fastidious,
no grace of learning so delicate, no refinement of art so exquisite, that
it cannot at this hour find full play for itself in the broadest fields
of humanity; since it is all needed to soften the attritions of common
life, and guide to nobler aspirations the strong materialistic influences
of our restless society.

One reason, as I said, for the gulf between the majority and the select
few to be educated is, that the college does not seldom disappoint the
reasonable expectation concerning it. The graduate of the carpenter’s
shop knows how to use his tools--or used to in days before superficial
training in trades became the rule. Does the college graduate know how to
use his tools? Or has he to set about fitting himself for some
employment, and gaining that culture, that training of himself, that
utilization of his information which will make him necessary in the
world? There has been a great deal of discussion whether a boy should be
trained in the classics or mathematics or sciences or modern languages. I
feel like saying “yes” to all the various propositions. For Heaven’s sake
train him in something, so that he can handle himself, and have free and
confident use of his powers. There isn’t a more helpless creature in the
universe than a scholar with a vast amount of information over which he
has no control. He is like a man with a load of hay so badly put upon his
cart that it all slides off before he can get to market. The influence of
a man on the world is generally proportioned to his ability to do
something. When Abraham Lincoln was running for the Legislature the first
time, on the platform of the improvement of the navigation of the
Sangamon River, he went to secure the votes of thirty men who were
cradling a wheat field. They asked no questions about internal
improvements, but only seemed curious whether Abraham had muscle enough
to represent them in the Legislature. The obliging man took up a cradle
and led the gang round the field. The whole thirty voted for him.

What is scholarship? The learned Hindu can repeat I do not know how many
thousands of lines from the Vedas, and perhaps backwards as well as
forwards. I heard of an excellent old lady who had counted how many times
the letter A occurs in the Holy Scriptures. The Chinese students who
aspire to honors spend years in verbally memorizing the classics
--Confucius and Mencius--and receive degrees and public advancement upon
ability to transcribe from memory without the error of a point, or
misplacement of a single tea-chest character, the whole of some books of
morals. You do not wonder that China is today more like an herbarium than
anything else. Learning is a kind of fetish, and it has no influence
whatever upon the great inert mass of Chinese humanity.

I suppose it is possible for a young gentleman to be able to read--just
think of it, after ten years of grammar and lexicon, not to know Greek
literature and have flexible command of all its richness and beauty, but
to read it!--it is possible, I suppose, for the graduate of college to be
able to read all the Greek authors, and yet to have gone, in regard to
his own culture, very little deeper than a surface reading of them; to
know very little of that perfect architecture and what it expressed; nor
of that marvelous sculpture and the conditions of its immortal beauty;
nor of that artistic development which made the Acropolis to bud and
bloom under the blue sky like the final flower of a perfect nature; nor
of that philosophy, that politics, that society, nor of the life of that
polished, crafty, joyous race, the springs of it and the far-reaching,
still unexpended effects of it.

Yet as surely as that nothing perishes, that the Providence of God is not
a patchwork of uncontinued efforts, but a plan and a progress, as surely
as the Pilgrim embarkation at Delfshaven has a relation to the battle of
Gettysburg, and to the civil rights bill giving the colored man
permission to ride in a public conveyance and to be buried in a public
cemetery, so surely has the Parthenon some connection with your new State
capitol at Albany, and the daily life of the vine-dresser of the
Peloponnesus some lesson for the American day-laborer. The scholar is
said to be the torch-bearer, transmitting the increasing light from
generation to generation, so that the feet of all, the humblest and the
loveliest, may walk in the radiance and not stumble. But he very often
carries a dark lantern.

Not what is the use of Greek, of any culture in art or literature, but
what is the good to me of your knowing Greek, is the latest question of
the ditch-digger to the scholar--what better off am I for your learning?
And the question, in view of the interdependence of all members of
society, is one that cannot be put away as idle. One reason why the
scholar does not make the world of the past, the world of books, real to
his fellows and serviceable to them, is that it is not real to himself,
but a mere unsubstantial place of intellectual idleness, where he dallies
some years before he begins his task in life. And another reason is that,
while it may be real to him, while he is actually cultured and trained,
he fails to see or to feel that his culture is not a thing apart, and
that all the world has a right to share its blessed influence. Failing to
see this, he is isolated, and, wanting his sympathy, the untutored world
mocks at his super-fineness and takes its own rough way to rougher ends.
Greek art was for the people, Greek poetry was for the people; Raphael
painted his immortal frescoes where throngs could be lifted in thought
and feeling by them; Michael Angelo hung the dome over St. Peter’s so
that the far-off peasant on the Campagna could see it, and the maiden
kneeling by the shrine in the Alban hills. Do we often stop to think what
influence, direct or other, the scholar, the man of high culture, has
today upon the great mass of our people? Why do they ask, what is the use
of your learning and your art?

The artist, in the retirement of his studio, finishes a charming,
suggestive, historical picture. The rich man buys it and hangs it in his
library, where the privileged few can see it. I do not deny that the
average rich man needs all the refining influence the picture can exert
on him, and that the picture is doing missionary work in his house; but
it is nevertheless an example of an educating influence withdrawn and
appropriated to narrow uses. But the engraver comes, and, by his
mediating art, transfers it to a thousand sheets, and scatters its sweet
influence far abroad. All the world, in its toil, its hunger, its
sordidness, pauses a moment to look on it--that gray seacoast, the
receding Mayflower, the two young Pilgrims in the foreground regarding
it, with tender thoughts of the far home--all the world looks on it
perhaps for a moment thoughtfully, perhaps tearfully, and is touched with
the sentiment of it, is kindled into a glow of nobleness by the sight of
that faith and love and resolute devotion which have tinged our early
history with the faint light of romance. So art is no longer the
enjoyment of the few, but the help and solace of the many.

The scholar who is cultured by books, reflection, travel, by a refined
society, consorts with his kind, and more and more removes himself from
the sympathies of common life. I know how almost inevitable this is, how
almost impossible it is to resist the segregation of classes according to
the affinities of taste. But by what mediation shall the culture that is
now the possession of the few be made to leaven the world and to elevate
and sweeten ordinary life? By books? Yes. By the newspaper? Yes. By the
diffusion of works of art? Yes. But when all is done that can be done by
such letters-missive from one class to another, there remains the need of
more personal contact, of a human sympathy, diffused and living. The
world has had enough of charities. It wants respect and consideration. We
desire no longer to be legislated for, it says; we want to be legislated
with. Why do you never come to see me but you bring me something? asks
the sensitive and poor seamstress. Do you always give some charity to
your friends? I want companionship, and not cold pieces; I want to be
treated like a human being who has nerves and feelings, and tears too,
and as much interest in the sunset, and in the birth of Christ, perhaps
as you. And the mass of uncared-for ignorance and brutality, finding a
voice at length, bitterly repels the condescensions of charity; you have
your culture, your libraries, your fine houses, your church, your
religion, and your God, too; let us alone, we want none of them. In the
bear-pit at Berne, the occupants, who are the wards of the city, have had
meat thrown to them daily for I know not how long, but they are not tamed
by this charity, and would probably eat up any careless person who fell
into their clutches, without apology.

Do not impute to me quixotic notions with regard to the duties of men and
women of culture, or think that I undervalue the difficulties in the way,
the fastidiousness on the one side, or the jealousies on the other. It is
by no means easy to an active participant to define the drift of his own
age; but I seem to see plainly that unless the culture of the age finds
means to diffuse itself, working downward and reconciling antagonisms by
a commonness of thought and feeling and aim in life, society must more
and more separate itself into jarring classes, with mutual
misunderstandings and hatred and war. To suggest remedies is much more
difficult than to see evils; but the comprehension of dangers is the
first step towards mastering them. The problem of our own time--the
reconciliation of the interests of classes--is as yet very ill defined.
This great movement of labor, for instance, does not know definitely what
it wants, and those who are spectators do not know what their relations
are to it. The first thing to be done is for them to try to understand
each other. One class sees that the other has lighter or at least
different labor, opportunities of travel, a more liberal supply of the
luxuries of life, a higher enjoyment and a keener relish of the
beautiful, the immaterial. Looking only at external conditions, it
concludes that all it needs to come into this better place is wealth, and
so it organizes war upon the rich, and it makes demands of freedom from
toil and of compensation which it is in no man’s power to give it, and
which would not, if granted over and over again, lift it into that
condition it desires. It is a tale in the Gulistan, that a king placed
his son with a preceptor, and said, “This is your son; educate him in the
same manner as your own.” The preceptor took pains with him for a year,
but without success, whilst his own sons were completed in learning and
accomplishments. The king reproved the preceptor, and said, “You have
broken your promise, and not acted faithfully.”

He replied, “O king, the education was the same, but the capacities are
different. Although silver and gold are produced from a stone, yet these
metals are not to be found in every stone. The star Canopus shines all
over the world, but the scented leather comes only from Yemen.” “‘Tis an
absolute, and, as it were, a divine perfection,” says Montaigne, “for a
man to know how loyally to enjoy his being. We seek other conditions, by
reason we do not understand the use of our own; and go out of ourselves,
because we know not how there to reside.”

But nevertheless it becomes a necessity for us to understand the wishes
of those who demand a change of condition, and it is necessary that they
should understand the compensations as well as the limitations of every
condition. The dervish congratulated himself that although the only
monument of his grave would be a brick, he should at the last day arrive
at and enter the gate of Paradise before the king had got from under the
heavy stones of his costly tomb. Nothing will bring us into this
desirable mutual understanding except sympathy and personal contact. Laws
will not do it; institutions of charity and relief will not do it.

We must believe, for one thing, that the graces of culture will not be
thrown away if exercised among the humblest and the least cultured; it is
found out that flowers are often more welcome in the squalid
tenement-houses of Boston than loaves of bread. It is difficult to say
exactly how culture can extend its influence into places uncongenial and
to people indifferent to it, but I will try and illustrate what I mean by
an example or two.

Criminals in this country, when the law took hold of them, used to be
turned over to the care of men who often had more sympathy with the crime
than with the criminal, or at least to those who were almost as coarse in
feeling and as brutal in speech as their charges. There have been some
changes of late years in the care of criminals, but does public opinion
yet everywhere demand that jailers and prison-keepers and executioners of
the penal law should be men of refinement, of high character, of any
degree of culture? I do not know any class more needing the best direct
personal influence of the best civilization than the criminal. The
problem of its proper treatment and reformation is one of the most
pressing, and it needs practically the aid of our best men and women. I
should have great hope of any prison establishment at the head of which
was a gentleman of fine education, the purest tastes, the most elevated
morality and lively sympathy with men as such, provided he had also will
and the power of command. I do not know what might not be done for the
viciously inclined and the transgressors, if they could come under the
influence of refined men and women. And yet you know that a boy or a girl
may be arrested for crime, and pass from officer to keeper, and jailer to
warden, and spend years in a career of vice and imprisonment, and never
once see any man or woman, officially, who has tastes, or sympathies, or
aspirations much above that vulgar level whence the criminals came.
Anybody who is honest and vigilant is considered good enough to take
charge of prison birds.

The age is merciful and abounds in charities-houses of refuge for poor
women, societies for the conservation of the exposed and the reclamation
of the lost. It is willing to pay liberally for their support, and to
hire ministers and distributors of its benefactions. But it is beginning
to see that it cannot hire the distribution of love, nor buy brotherly
feeling. The most encouraging thing I have seen lately is an experiment
in one of our cities. In the thick of the town the ladies of the city
have furnished and opened a reading-room, sewing-room, conversation-room,
or what not, where young girls, who work for a living and have no
opportunity for any culture, at home or elsewhere, may spend their
evenings. They meet there always some of the ladies I have spoken of,
whose unostentatious duty and pleasure it is to pass the evening with
them, in reading or music or the use of the needle, and the exchange of
the courtesies of life in conversation. Whatever grace and kindness and
refinement of manner they carry there, I do not suppose are wasted. These
are some of the ways in which culture can serve men. And I take it that
one of the chief evidences of our progress in this century is the
recognition of the truth that there is no selfishness so supreme--not
even that in the possession of wealth--as that which retires into itself
with all the accomplishments of liberal learning and rare opportunities,
and looks upon the intellectual poverty of the world without a wish to
relieve it. “As often as I have been among men,” says Seneca, “I have
returned less a man.” And Thomas a Kempis declared that “the greatest
saints avoided the company of men as much as they could, and chose to
live to God in secret.” The Christian philosophy was no improvement upon
the pagan in this respect, and was exactly at variance with the teaching
and practice of Jesus of Nazareth.

The American scholar cannot afford to live for himself, nor merely for
scholarship and the delights of learning. He must make himself more felt
in the material life of this country. I am aware that it is said that the
culture of the age is itself materialistic, and that its refinements are
sensual; that there is little to choose between the coarse excesses of
poverty and the polished and more decorous animality of the more
fortunate. Without entering directly upon the consideration of this
much-talked-of tendency, I should like to notice the influence upon our
present and probable future of the bounty, fertility, and extraordinary
opportunities of this still new land.

The American grows and develops himself with few restraints. Foreigners
used to describe him as a lean, hungry, nervous animal, gaunt,
inquisitive, inventive, restless, and certain to shrivel into physical
inferiority in his dry and highly oxygenated atmosphere. This
apprehension is not well founded. It is quieted by his achievements the
continent over, his virile enterprises, his endurance in war and in the
most difficult explorations, his resistance of the influence of great
cities towards effeminacy and loss of physical vigor. If ever man took
large and eager hold of earthly things and appropriated them to his own
use, it is the American. We are gross eaters, we are great drinkers. We
shall excel the English when we have as long practice as they. I am
filled with a kind of dismay when I see the great stock-yards of Chicago
and Cincinnati, through which flow the vast herds and droves of the
prairies, marching straight down the throats of Eastern people. Thousands
are always sowing and reaping and brewing and distilling, to slake the
immortal thirst of the country. We take, indeed, strong hold of the
earth; we absorb its fatness. When Leicester entertained Elizabeth at
Kenilworth, the clock in the great tower was set perpetually at twelve,
the hour of feasting. It is always dinner-time in America. I do not know
how much land it takes to raise an average citizen, but I should say a
quarter section. He spreads himself abroad, he riots in abundance; above
all things he must have profusion, and he wants things that are solid and
strong. On the Sorrentine promontory, and on the island of Capri, the
hardy husbandman and fisherman draws his subsistence from the sea and
from a scant patch of ground. One may feast on a fish and a handful of
olives. The dinner of the laborer is a dish of polenta, a few figs, some
cheese, a glass of thin wine. His wants are few and easily supplied. He
is not overfed, his diet is not stimulating; I should say that he would
pay little to the physician, that familiar of other countries whose
family office is to counteract the effects of over-eating. He is
temperate, frugal, content, and apparently draws not more of his life
from the earth or the sea than from the genial sky. He would never build
a Pacific Railway, nor write a hundred volumes of commentary on the
Scriptures; but he is an example of how little a man actually needs of
the gross products of the earth.

I suppose that life was never fuller in certain ways than it is here in
America. If a civilization is judged by its wants, we are certainly
highly civilized. We cannot get land enough, nor clothes enough, nor
houses enough, nor food enough. A Bedouin tribe would fare sumptuously on
what one American family consumes and wastes. The revenue required for
the wardrobe of one woman of fashion would suffice to convert the
inhabitants of I know not how many square miles in Africa. It absorbs the
income of a province to bring up a baby. We riot in prodigality, we vie
with each other in material accumulation and expense. Our thoughts are
mainly on how to increase the products of the world; and get them into
our own possession.

I think this gross material tendency is strong in America, and more
likely to get the mastery over the spiritual and the intellectual here
than elsewhere, because of our exhaustless resources. Let us not mistake
the nature of a real civilization, nor suppose we have it because we can
convert crude iron into the most delicate mechanism, or transport
ourselves sixty miles an hour, or even if we shall refine our carnal
tastes so as to be satisfied at dinner with the tongues of ortolans and
the breasts of singing-birds.

Plato banished the musicians from his feasts because he would not have
the charms of conversation interfered with. By comparison, music was to
him a sensuous enjoyment. In any society the ideal must be the banishment
of the more sensuous; the refinement of it will only repeat the continued
experiment of history--the end of a civilization in a polished
materialism, and its speedy fall from that into grossness.

I am sure that the scholar, trained to “plain living and high thinking,”
 knows that the prosperous life consists in the culture of the man, and
not in the refinement and accumulation of the material. The word culture
is often used to signify that dainty intellectualism which is merely a
sensuous pampering of the mind, as distinguishable from the healthy
training of the mind as is the education of the body in athletic
exercises from the petting of it by luxurious baths and unguents. Culture
is the blossom of knowledge, but it is a fruit blossom, the ornament of
the age but the seed of the future. The so-called culture, a mere
fastidiousness of taste, is a barren flower.

You would expect spurious culture to stand aloof from common life, as it
does, to extend its charities at the end of a pole, to make of religion a
mere ‘cultus,’ to construct for its heaven a sort of Paris, where all the
inhabitants dress becomingly, and where there are no Communists. Culture,
like fine manners, is not always the result of wealth or position. When
monseigneur the archbishop makes his rare tour through the Swiss
mountains, the simple peasants do not crowd upon him with boorish
impudence, but strew his stony path with flowers, and receive him with
joyous but modest sincerity. When the Russian prince made his landing in
America the determined staring of a bevy of accomplished American women
nearly swept the young man off the deck of the vessel. One cannot but
respect that tremulous sensitiveness which caused the maiden lady to
shrink from staring at the moon when she heard there was a man in it.

The materialistic drift of this age--that is, its devotion to material
development--is frequently deplored. I suppose it is like all other ages
in that respect, but there appears to be a more determined demand for
change of condition than ever before, and a deeper movement for
equalization. Here in America this is, in great part, a movement for
merely physical or material equalization. The idea seems to be well-nigh
universal that the millennium is to come by a great deal less work and a
great deal more pay. It seems to me that the millennium is to come by an
infusion into all society of a truer culture, which is neither of poverty
nor of wealth, but is the beautiful fruit of the development of the
higher part of man’s nature.

And the thought I wish to leave with you, as scholars and men who can
command the best culture, is that it is all needed to shape and control
the strong growth of material development here, to guide the blind
instincts of the mass of men who are struggling for a freer place and a
breath of fresh air; that you cannot stand aloof in a class isolation;
that your power is in a personal sympathy with the humanity which is
ignorant but discontented; and that the question which the man with the
spade asks about the use of your culture to him is a menace.


By Charles Dudley Warner

One of the worst characteristics of modern fiction is its so-called truth
to nature. For fiction is an art, as painting is, as sculpture is, as
acting is. A photograph of a natural object is not art; nor is the
plaster cast of a man’s face, nor is the bare setting on the stage of an
actual occurrence. Art requires an idealization of nature. The amateur,
though she may be a lady, who attempts to represent upon the stage the
lady of the drawing-room, usually fails to convey to the spectators the
impression of a lady. She lacks the art by which the trained actress, who
may not be a lady, succeeds. The actual transfer to the stage of the
drawing-room and its occupants, with the behavior common in well-bred
society, would no doubt fail of the intended dramatic effect, and the
spectators would declare the representation unnatural.

However our jargon of criticism may confound terms, we do not need to be
reminded that art and nature are distinct; that art, though dependent on
nature, is a separate creation; that art is selection and idealization,
with a view to impressing the mind with human, or even higher than human,
sentiments and ideas. We may not agree whether the perfect man and woman
ever existed, but we do know that the highest representations of them in
form--that in the old Greek sculptures--were the result of artistic
selection of parts of many living figures.

When we praise our recent fiction for its photographic fidelity to nature
we condemn it, for we deny to it the art which would give it value. We
forget that the creation of the novel should be, to a certain extent, a
synthetic process, and impart to human actions that ideal quality which
we demand in painting. Heine regards Cervantes as the originator of the
modern novel. The older novels sprang from the poetry of the Middle Ages;
their themes were knightly adventure, their personages were the nobility;
the common people did not figure in them. These romances, which had
degenerated into absurdities, Cervantes overthrew by “Don Quixote.” But
in putting an end to the old romances he created a new school of fiction,
called the modern novel, by introducing into his romance of
pseudo-knighthood a faithful description of the lower classes, and
intermingling the phases of popular life. But he had no one-sided
tendency to portray the vulgar only; he brought together the higher and
the lower in society, to serve as light and shade, and the aristocratic
element was as prominent as the popular. This noble and chivalrous
element disappears in the novels of the English who imitated Cervantes.
“These English novelists since Richardson’s reign,” says Heine, “are
prosaic natures; to the prudish spirit of their time even pithy
descriptions of the life of the common people are repugnant, and we see
on yonder side of the Channel those bourgeoisie novels arise, wherein the
petty humdrum life of the middle classes is depicted.” But Scott
appeared, and effected a restoration of the balance in fiction. As
Cervantes had introduced the democratic element into romances, so Scott
replaced the aristocratic element, when it had disappeared, and only a
prosaic, bourgeoisie fiction existed. He restored to romances the
symmetry which we admire in “Don Quixote.” The characteristic feature of
Scott’s historical romances, in the opinion of the great German critic,
is the harmony between the artistocratic and democratic elements.

This is true, but is it the last analysis of the subject? Is it a
sufficient account of the genius of Cervantes and Scott that they
combined in their romances a representation of the higher and lower
classes? Is it not of more importance how they represented them? It is
only a part of the achievement of Cervantes that he introduced the common
people into fiction; it is his higher glory that he idealized his
material; and it is Scott’s distinction also that he elevated into
artistic creations both nobility and commonalty. In short, the essential
of fiction is not diversity of social life, but artistic treatment of
whatever is depicted. The novel may deal wholly with an aristocracy, or
wholly with another class, but it must idealize the nature it touches
into art. The fault of the bourgeoisie novels, of which Heine complains,
is not that they treated of one class only, and excluded a higher social
range, but that they treated it without art and without ideality. In
nature there is nothing vulgar to the poet, and in human life there is
nothing uninteresting to the artist; but nature and human life, for the
purposes of fiction, need a creative genius. The importation into the
novel of the vulgar, sordid, and ignoble in life is always unbearable,
unless genius first fuses the raw material in its alembic.

When, therefore, we say that one of the worst characteristics of modern
fiction is its so-called truth to nature, we mean that it disregards the
higher laws of art, and attempts to give us unidealized pictures of life.
The failure is not that vulgar themes are treated, but that the treatment
is vulgar; not that common life is treated, but that the treatment is
common; not that care is taken with details, but that no selection is
made, and everything is photographed regardless of its artistic value. I
am sure that no one ever felt any repugnance on being introduced by
Cervantes to the muleteers, contrabandistas, servants and serving-maids,
and idle vagabonds of Spain, any more than to an acquaintance with the
beggar-boys and street gamins on the canvases of Murillo. And I believe
that the philosophic reason of the disgust of Heine and of every critic
with the English bourgeoisie novels, describing the petty, humdrum life
of the middle classes, was simply the want of art in the writers; the
failure on their part to see that a literal transcript of nature is poor
stuff in literature. We do not need to go back to Richardson’s time for
illustrations of that truth. Every week the English press--which is even
a greater sinner in this respect than the American--turns out a score of
novels which are mediocre, not from their subjects, but from their utter
lack of the artistic quality. It matters not whether they treat of
middle-class life, of low, slum life, or of drawing-room life and lords
and ladies; they are equally flat and dreary. Perhaps the most inane
thing ever put forth in the name of literature is the so-called domestic
novel, an indigestible, culinary sort of product, that might be named the
doughnut of fiction. The usual apology for it is that it depicts family
life with fidelity. Its characters are supposed to act and talk as people
act and talk at home and in society. I trust this is a libel, but, for
the sake of the argument, suppose they do. Was ever produced so insipid a
result? They are called moral; in the higher sense they are immoral, for
they tend to lower the moral tone and stamina of every reader. It needs
genius to import into literature ordinary conversation, petty domestic
details, and the commonplace and vulgar phases of life. A report of
ordinary talk, which appears as dialogue in domestic novels, may be true
to nature; if it is, it is not worth writing or worth reading. I cannot
see that it serves any good purpose whatever. Fortunately, we have in our
day illustrations of a different treatment of the vulgar. I do not know
any more truly realistic pictures of certain aspects of New England life
than are to be found in Judd’s “Margaret,” wherein are depicted
exceedingly pinched and ignoble social conditions. Yet the characters and
the life are drawn with the artistic purity of Flaxman’s illustrations of
Homer. Another example is Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd.”
 Every character in it is of the lower class in England. But what an
exquisite creation it is! You have to turn back to Shakespeare for any
talk of peasants and clowns and shepherds to compare with the
conversations in this novel, so racy are they of the soil, and yet so
touched with the finest art, the enduring art. Here is not the realism of
the photograph, but of the artist; that is to say, it is nature

When we criticise our recent fiction it is obvious that we ought to
remember that it only conforms to the tendencies of our social life, our
prevailing ethics, and to the art conditions of our time. Literature is
never in any age an isolated product. It is closely related to the
development or retrogression of the time in all departments of life. The
literary production of our day seems, and no doubt is, more various than
that of any other, and it is not easy to fix upon its leading tendency.
It is claimed for its fiction, however, that it is analytic and
realistic, and that much of it has certain other qualities that make it a
new school in art. These aspects of it I wish to consider in this paper.

It is scarcely possible to touch upon our recent fiction, any more than
upon our recent poetry, without taking into account what is called the
Esthetic movement--a movement more prominent in England than elsewhere. A
slight contemplation of this reveals its resemblance to the Romantic
movement in Germany, of which the brothers Schlegel were apostles, in the
latter part of the last century. The movements are alike in this: that
they both sought inspiration in mediaevalism, in feudalism, in the
symbols of a Christianity that ran to mysticism, in the quaint, strictly
pre-Raphael art which was supposed to be the result of a simple faith. In
the one case, the artless and childlike remains of old German pictures
and statuary were exhumed and set up as worthy of imitation; in the
other, we have carried out in art, in costume, and in domestic life, so
far as possible, what has been wittily and accurately described as
“stained-glass attitudes.” With all its peculiar vagaries, the English
school is essentially a copy of the German, in its return to
mediaevalism. The two movements have a further likeness, in that they are
found accompanied by a highly symbolized religious revival. English
aestheticism would probably disown any religious intention, although it
has been accused of a refined interest in Pan and Venus; but in all its
feudal sympathies it goes along with the religious art and vestment
revival, the return to symbolic ceremonies, monastic vigils, and
sisterhoods. Years ago, an acute writer in the Catholic World claimed
Dante Gabriel Rossetti as a Catholic writer, from the internal evidence
of his poems. The German Romanticism, which was fostered by the Romish
priesthood, ended, or its disciples ended, in the bosom of the Roman
Catholic Church. It will be interesting to note in what ritualistic
harbor the aestheticism of our day will finally moor. That two similar
revivals should come so near together in time makes us feel that the
world moves onward--if it does move onward--in circular figures of very
short radii. There seems to be only one thing certain in our Christian
era, and that is a periodic return to classic models; the only stable
standards of resort seem to be Greek art and literature.

The characteristics which are prominent, when we think of our recent
fiction, are a wholly unidealized view of human society, which has got
the name of realism; a delight in representing the worst phases of social
life; an extreme analysis of persons and motives; the sacrifice of action
to psychological study; the substitution of studies of character for
anything like a story; a notion that it is not artistic, and that it is
untrue to nature, to bring any novel to a definite consummation, and
especially to end it happily; and a despondent tone about society,
politics, and the whole drift of modern life. Judged by our fiction, we
are in an irredeemably bad way. There is little beauty, joy, or
light-heartedness in living; the spontaneity and charm of life are
analyzed out of existence; sweet girls, made to love and be loved, are
extinct; melancholy Jaques never meets a Rosalind in the forest of Arden,
and if he sees her in the drawing-room he poisons his pleasure with the
thought that she is scheming and artificial; there are no happy marriages
--indeed, marriage itself is almost too inartistic to be permitted by our
novelists, unless it can be supplemented by a divorce, and art is
supposed to deny any happy consummation of true love. In short, modern
society is going to the dogs, notwithstanding money is only three and a
half per cent. It is a gloomy business life, at the best. Two learned but
despondent university professors met, not long ago, at an afternoon
“coffee,” and drew sympathetically together in a corner. “What a world
this would be,” said one, “without coffee!” “Yes,” replied the other,
stirring the fragrant cup in a dejected aspect “yes; but what a hell of a
world it is with coffee!”

The analytic method in fiction is interesting, when used by a master of
dissection, but it has this fatal defect in a novel--it destroys
illusion. We want to think that the characters in a story are real
persons. We cannot do this if we see the author set them up as if they
were marionettes, and take them to pieces every few pages, and show their
interior structure, and the machinery by which they are moved. Not only
is the illusion gone, but the movement of the story, if there is a story,
is retarded, till the reader loses all enjoyment in impatience and
weariness. You find yourself saying, perhaps, What a very clever fellow
the author is! What an ingenious creation this character is! How brightly
the author makes his people talk! This is high praise, but by no means
the highest, and when we reflect we see how immeasurably inferior, in
fiction, the analytic method is to the dramatic. In the dramatic method
the characters appear, and show what they are by what they do and say;
the reader studies their motives, and a part of his enjoyment is in
analyzing them, and his vanity is flattered by the trust reposed in his
perspicacity. We realize how unnecessary minute analysis of character and
long descriptions are in reading a drama by Shakespeare, in which the
characters are so vividly presented to us in action and speech, without
the least interference of the author in description, that we regard them
as persons with whom we might have real relations, and not as bundles of
traits and qualities. True, the conditions of dramatic art and the art of
the novel are different, in that the drama can dispense with
delineations, for its characters are intended to be presented to the eye;
but all the same, a good drama will explain itself without the aid of
actors, and there is no doubt that it is the higher art in the novel,
when once the characters are introduced, to treat them dramatically, and
let them work out their own destiny according to their characters. It is
a truism to say that when the reader perceives that the author can compel
his characters to do what he pleases all interest in them as real persons
is gone. In a novel of mere action and adventure, a lower order of
fiction, where all the interest centres in the unraveling of a plot, of
course this does not so much matter.

Not long ago, in Edinburgh, I amused myself in looking up some of the
localities made famous in Scott’s romances, which are as real in the mind
as any historical places. Afterwards I read “The Heart of Midlothian.” I
was surprised to find that, as a work of art, it was inferior to my
recollection of it. Its style is open to the charge of prolixity, and
even of slovenliness in some parts; and it does not move on with
increasing momentum and concentration to a climax, as many of Scott’s
novels do; the story drags along in the disposition of one character
after another. Yet, when I had finished the book and put it away, a
singular thing happened. It suddenly came to me that in reading it I had
not once thought of Scott as the maker; it had never occurred to me that
he had created the people in whose fortunes I had been so intensely
absorbed; and I never once had felt how clever the novelist was in the
naturally dramatic dialogues of the characters. In short, it had not
entered my mind to doubt the existence of Jeanie and Effie Deans, and
their father, and Reuben Butler, and the others, who seem as real as
historical persons in Scotch history. And when I came to think of it
afterwards, reflecting upon the assumptions of the modern realistic
school, I found that some scenes, notably the night attack on the old
Tolbooth, were as real to me as if I had read them in a police report of
a newspaper of the day. Was Scott, then, only a reporter? Far from it, as
you would speedily see if he had thrown into the novel a police report of
the occurrences at the Tolbooth before art had shorn it of its
irrelevancies, magnified its effective and salient points, given events
their proper perspective, and the whole picture due light and shade.

The sacrifice of action to some extent to psychological evolution in
modern fiction may be an advance in the art as an intellectual
entertainment, if the writer does not make that evolution his end, and
does not forget that the indispensable thing in a novel is the story. The
novel of mere adventure or mere plot, it need not be urged, is of a lower
order than that in which the evolution of characters and their
interaction make the story. The highest fiction is that which embodies
both; that is, the story in which action is the result of mental and
spiritual forces in play. And we protest against the notion that the
novel of the future is to be, or should be, merely a study of, or an
essay or a series of analytic essays on, certain phases of social life.

It is not true that civilization or cultivation has bred out of the world
the liking for a story. In this the most highly educated Londoner and the
Egyptian fellah meet on common human ground. The passion for a story has
no more died out than curiosity, or than the passion of love. The truth
is not that stories are not demanded, but that the born raconteur and
story-teller is a rare person. The faculty of telling a story is a much
rarer gift than the ability to analyze character and even than the
ability truly to draw character. It may be a higher or a lower power, but
it is rarer. It is a natural gift, and it seems that no amount of culture
can attain it, any more than learning can make a poet. Nor is the
complaint well founded that the stories have all been told, the possible
plots all been used, and the combinations of circumstances exhausted. It
is no doubt our individual experience that we hear almost every day--and
we hear nothing so eagerly--some new story, better or worse, but new in
its exhibition of human character, and in the combination of events. And
the strange, eventful histories of human life will no more be exhausted
than the possible arrangements of mathematical numbers. We might as well
say that there are no more good pictures to be painted as that there are
no more good stories to be told.

Equally baseless is the assumption that it is inartistic and untrue to
nature to bring a novel to a definite consummation, and especially to end
it happily. Life, we are told, is full of incompletion, of broken
destinies, of failures, of romances that begin but do not end, of
ambitions and purposes frustrated, of love crossed, of unhappy issues, or
a resultless play of influences. Well, but life is full, also, of
endings, of the results in concrete action of character, of completed
dramas. And we expect and give, in the stories we hear and tell in
ordinary intercourse, some point, some outcome, an end of some sort. If
you interest me in the preparations of two persons who are starting on a
journey, and expend all your ingenuity in describing their outfit and
their characters, and do not tell me where they went or what befell them
afterwards, I do not call that a story. Nor am I any better satisfied
when you describe two persons whom you know, whose characters are
interesting, and who become involved in all manner of entanglements, and
then stop your narration; and when I ask, say you have not the least idea
whether they got out of their difficulties, or what became of them. In
real life we do not call that a story where everything is left
unconcluded and in the air. In point of fact, romances are daily
beginning and daily ending, well or otherwise, under our observation.

Should they always end well in the novel? I am very far from saying that.
Tragedy and the pathos of failure have their places in literature as well
as in life. I only say that, artistically, a good ending is as proper as
a bad ending. Yet the main object of the novel is to entertain, and the
best entertainment is that which lifts the imagination and quickens the
spirit; to lighten the burdens of life by taking us for a time out of our
humdrum and perhaps sordid conditions, so that we can see familiar life
somewhat idealized, and probably see it all the more truly from an
artistic point of view. For the majority of the race, in its hard lines,
fiction is an inestimable boon. Incidentally the novel may teach,
encourage, refine, elevate. Even for these purposes, that novel is the
best which shows us the best possibilities of our lives--the novel which
gives hope and cheer instead of discouragement and gloom. Familiarity
with vice and sordidness in fiction is a low entertainment, and of
doubtful moral value, and their introduction is unbearable if it is not
done with the idealizing touch of the artist.

Do not misunderstand me to mean that common and low life are not fit
subjects of fiction, or that vice is not to be lashed by the satirist, or
that the evils of a social state are never to be exposed in the novel.
For this, also, is an office of the novel, as it is of the drama, to hold
the mirror up to nature, and to human nature as it exhibits itself. But
when the mirror shows nothing but vice and social disorder, leaving out
the saving qualities that keep society on the whole, and family life as a
rule, as sweet and good as they are, the mirror is not held up to nature,
but more likely reflects a morbid mind. Still it must be added that the
study of unfortunate social conditions is a legitimate one for the author
to make; and that we may be in no state to judge justly of his exposure
while the punishment is being inflicted, or while the irritation is
fresh. For, no doubt, the reader winces often because the novel reveals
to himself certain possible baseness, selfishness, and meanness. Of this,
however, I (speaking for myself) may be sure: that the artist who so
represents vulgar life that I am more in love with my kind, the satirist
who so depicts vice and villainy that I am strengthened in my moral
fibre, has vindicated his choice of material. On the contrary, those
novelists are not justified whose forte it seems to be to so set forth
goodness as to make it unattractive.

But we come back to the general proposition that the indispensable
condition of the novel is that it shall entertain. And for this purpose
the world is not ashamed to own that it wants, and always will want, a
story--a story that has an ending; and if not a good ending, then one
that in noble tragedy lifts up our nature into a high plane of sacrifice
and pathos. In proof of this we have only to refer to the masterpieces of
fiction which the world cherishes and loves to recur to.

I confess that I am harassed with the incomplete romances, that leave me,
when the book is closed, as one might be on a waste plain at midnight,
abandoned by his conductor, and without a lantern. I am tired of
accompanying people for hours through disaster and perplexity and
misunderstanding, only to see them lost in a thick mist at last. I am
weary of going to funerals, which are not my funerals, however chatty and
amusing the undertaker may be. I confess that I should like to see again
the lovely heroine, the sweet woman, capable of a great passion and a
great sacrifice; and I do not object if the novelist tries her to the
verge of endurance, in agonies of mind and in perils, subjecting her to
wasting sicknesses even, if he only brings her out at the end in a
blissful compensation of her troubles, and endued with a new and sweeter
charm. No doubt it is better for us all, and better art, that in the
novel of society the destiny should be decided by character. What an
artistic and righteous consummation it is when we meet the shrewd and
wicked old Baroness Bernstein at Continental gaming-tables, and feel that
there was no other logical end for the worldly and fascinating Beatrix of
Henry Esmond! It is one of the great privileges of fiction to right the
wrongs of life, to do justice to the deserving and the vicious. It is
wholesome for us to contemplate the justice, even if we do not often see
it in society. It is true that hypocrisy and vulgar self-seeking often
succeed in life, occupying high places, and make their exit in the
pageantry of honored obsequies. Yet always the man is conscious of the
hollowness of his triumph, and the world takes a pretty accurate measure
of it. It is the privilege of the novelist, without introducing into such
a career what is called disaster, to satisfy our innate love of justice
by letting us see the true nature of such prosperity. The unscrupulous
man amasses wealth, lives in luxury and splendor, and dies in the odor of
respectability. His poor and honest neighbor, whom he has wronged and
defrauded, lives in misery, and dies in disappointment and penury. The
novelist cannot reverse the facts without such a shock to our experience
as shall destroy for us the artistic value of his fiction, and bring upon
his work the deserved reproach of indiscriminately “rewarding the good
and punishing the bad.” But we have a right to ask that he shall reveal
the real heart and character of this passing show of life; for not to do
this, to content himself merely with exterior appearances, is for the
majority of his readers to efface the lines between virtue and vice. And
we ask this not for the sake of the moral lesson, but because not to do
it is, to our deep consciousness, inartistic and untrue to our judgment
of life as it goes on. Thackeray used to say that all his talent was in
his eyes; meaning that he was only an observer and reporter of what he
saw, and not a Providence to rectify human affairs. The great artist
undervalued his genius. He reported what he saw as Raphael and Murillo
reported what they saw. With his touch of genius he assigned to
everything its true value, moving us to tenderness, to pity, to scorn, to
righteous indignation, to sympathy with humanity. I find in him the
highest art, and not that indifference to the great facts and deep
currents and destinies of human life, that want of enthusiasm and
sympathy, which has got the name of “art for art’s sake.” Literary
fiction is a barren product if it wants sympathy and love for men. “Art
for art’s sake” is a good and defensible phrase, if our definition of art
includes the ideal, and not otherwise.

I do not know how it has come about that in so large a proportion of
recent fiction it is held to be artistic to look almost altogether upon
the shady and the seamy side of life, giving to this view the name of
“realism”; to select the disagreeable, the vicious, the unwholesome; to
give us for our companions, in our hours of leisure and relaxation, only
the silly and the weak-minded woman, the fast and slangy girl, the
intrigante and the “shady”--to borrow the language of the society she
seeks--the hero of irresolution, the prig, the vulgar, and the vicious;
to serve us only with the foibles of the fashionable, the low tone of the
gay, the gilded riffraff of our social state; to drag us forever along
the dizzy, half-fractured precipice of the seventh commandment; to bring
us into relations only with the sordid and the common; to force us to sup
with unwholesome company on misery and sensuousness, in tales so utterly
unpleasant that we are ready to welcome any disaster as a relief; and
then--the latest and finest touch of modern art--to leave the whole
weltering mass in a chaos, without conclusion and without possible issue.
And this is called a picture of real life! Heavens! Is it true that in
England, where a great proportion of the fiction we describe and loathe
is produced; is it true that in our New England society there is nothing
but frivolity, sordidness, decay of purity and faith, ignoble ambition
and ignoble living? Is there no charm in social life--no self-sacrifice,
devotion, courage to stem materialistic conditions, and live above them?
Are there no noble women, sensible, beautiful, winning, with the grace
that all the world loves, albeit with the feminine weaknesses that make
all the world hope? Is there no manliness left? Are there no homes where
the tempter does not live with the tempted in a mush of sentimental
affinity? Or is it, in fact, more artistic to ignore all these, and paint
only the feeble and the repulsive in our social state? The feeble, the
sordid, and the repulsive in our social state nobody denies, nor does
anybody deny the exceeding cleverness with which our social disorders are
reproduced in fiction by a few masters of their art; but is it not time
that it should be considered good art to show something of the clean and
bright side?

This is pre-eminently the age of the novel. The development of variety of
fiction since the days of Scott and Cooper is prodigious. The prejudice
against novel-reading is quite broken down, since fiction has taken all
fields for its province; everybody reads novels. Three-quarters of the
books taken from the circulating library are stories; they make up half
the library of the Sunday-schools. If a writer has anything to say, or
thinks he has, he knows that he can most certainly reach the ear of the
public by the medium of a story. So we have novels for children; novels
religious, scientific, historical, archaeological, psychological,
pathological, total-abstinence; novels of travel, of adventure and
exploration; novels domestic, and the perpetual spawn of books called
novels of society. Not only is everything turned into a story, real or so
called, but there must be a story in everything. The stump-speaker holds
his audience by well-worn stories; the preacher wakes up his congregation
by a graphic narrative; and the Sunday-school teacher leads his children
into all goodness by the entertaining path of romance; we even had a
President who governed the country nearly by anecdotes. The result of
this universal demand for fiction is necessarily an enormous supply, and
as everybody writes, without reference to gifts, the product is mainly
trash, and trash of a deleterious sort; for bad art in literature is bad
morals. I am not sure but the so-called domestic, the diluted, the
“goody,” namby-pamby, unrobust stories, which are so largely read by
school-girls, young ladies, and women, do more harm than the “knowing,”
 audacious, wicked ones,--also, it is reported, read by them, and written
largely by their own sex. For minds enfeebled and relaxed by stories
lacking even intellectual fibre are in a poor condition to meet the
perils of life. This is not the place for discussing the stories written
for the young and for the Sunday-school. It seems impossible to check the
flow of them, now that so much capital is invested in this industry; but
I think that healthy public sentiment is beginning to recognize the truth
that the excessive reading of this class of literature by the young is
weakening to the mind, besides being a serious hindrance to study and to
attention to the literature that has substance.

In his account of the Romantic School in Germany, Heine says, “In the
breast of a nation’s authors there always lies the image of its future,
and the critic who, with a knife of sufficient keenness, dissects a new
poet can easily prophesy, as from the entrails of a sacrificial animal,
what shape matters will assume in Germany.” Now if all the poets and
novelists of England and America today were cut up into little pieces
(and we might sacrifice a few for the sake of the experiment), there is
no inspecting augur who could divine therefrom our literary future. The
diverse indications would puzzle the most acute dissector. Lost in the
variety, the multiplicity of minute details, the refinements of analysis
and introspection, he would miss any leading indications. For with all
its variety, it seems to me that one characteristic of recent fiction is
its narrowness--narrowness of vision and of treatment. It deals with
lives rather than with life. Lacking ideality, it fails of broad
perception. We are accustomed to think that with the advent of the
genuine novel of society, in the first part of this century, a great step
forward was taken in fiction. And so there was. If the artist did not use
a big canvas, he adopted a broad treatment. But the tendency now is to
push analysis of individual peculiarities to an extreme, and to
substitute a study of traits for a representation of human life.

It scarcely need be said that it is not multitude of figures on a
literary canvas that secures breadth of treatment. The novel may be
narrow, though it swarms with a hundred personages. It may be as wide as
life, as high as imagination can lift itself; it may image to us a whole
social state, though it pats in motion no more persons than we made the
acquaintance of in one of the romances of Hawthorne. Consider for a
moment how Thackeray produced his marvelous results. We follow with him,
in one of his novels of society, the fortunes of a very few people. They
are so vividly portrayed that we are convinced the author must have known
them in that great world with which he was so familiar; we should not be
surprised to meet any of them in the streets of London. When we visit the
Charterhouse School, and see the old forms where the boys sat nearly a
century ago, we have in our minds Colonel Newcome as really as we have
Charles Lamb and Coleridge and De Quincey. We are absorbed, as we read,
in the evolution of the characters of perhaps only half a dozen people;
and yet all the world, all great, roaring, struggling London, is in the
story, and Clive, and Philip, and Ethel, and Becky Sharpe, and Captain
Costigan are a part of life. It is the flowery month of May; the scent of
the hawthorn is in the air, and the tender flush of the new spring
suffuses the Park, where the tide of fashion and pleasure and idleness
surges up and down-the sauntering throng, the splendid equipages, the
endless cavalcade in Rotten Row, in which Clive descries afar off the
white plume of his ladylove dancing on the waves of an unattainable
society; the club windows are all occupied; Parliament is in session,
with its nightly echoes of imperial politics; the thronged streets roar
with life from morn till nearly morn again; the drawing-rooms hum and
sparkle in the crush of a London season; as you walk the midnight
pavement, through the swinging doors of the cider-cellars comes the burst
of bacchanalian song. Here is the world of the press and of letters; here
are institutions, an army, a navy, commerce, glimpses of great ships
going to and fro on distant seas, of India, of Australia. This one book
is an epitome of English life, almost of the empire itself. We are
conscious of all this, so much breadth and atmosphere has the artist
given his little history of half a dozen people in this struggling world.

But this background of a great city, of an empire, is not essential to
the breadth of treatment upon which we insist in fiction, to broad
characterization, to the play of imagination about common things which
transfigures them into the immortal beauty of artistic creations. What a
simple idyl in itself is Goethe’s “Hermann and Dorothea”! It is the
creation of a few master-touches, using only common material. Yet it has
in it the breadth of life itself, the depth and passion of all our human
struggle in the world-a little story with a vast horizon.

It is constantly said that the conditions in America are unfavorable to
the higher fiction; that our society is unformed, without centre, without
the definition of classes, which give the light and shade that Heine
speaks of in “Don Quixote”; that it lacks types and customs that can be
widely recognized and accepted as national and characteristic; that we
have no past; that we want both romantic and historic background; that we
are in a shifting, flowing, forming period which fiction cannot seize on;
that we are in diversity and confusion that baffle artistic treatment; in
short, that American life is too vast, varied, and crude for the purpose
of the novelist.

These excuses might be accepted as fully accounting for our failure--or
shall we say our delay?--if it were not for two or three of our literary
performances. It is true that no novel has been written, and we dare say
no novel will be written, that is, or will be, an epitome of the manifold
diversities of American life, unless it be in the form of one of Walt
Whitman’s catalogues. But we are not without peculiar types; not without
characters, not without incidents, stories, heroisms, inequalities; not
without the charms of nature in infinite variety; and human nature is the
same here that it is in Spain, France, and England. Out of these
materials Cooper wrote romances, narratives stamped with the distinct
characteristics of American life and scenery, that were and are eagerly
read by all civilized peoples, and which secured the universal verdict
which only breadth of treatment commands. Out of these materials, also,
Hawthorne, child-endowed with a creative imagination, wove those
tragedies of interior life, those novels of our provincial New England,
which rank among the great masterpieces of the novelist’s art. The master
artist can idealize even our crude material, and make it serve. These
exceptions to a rule do not go to prove the general assertion of a
poverty of material for fiction here; the simple truth probably is that,
for reasons incident to the development of a new region of the earth,
creative genius has been turned in other directions than that of
fictitious literature. Nor do I think that we need to take shelter behind
the wellworn and convenient observation, the truth of which stands in
much doubt, that literature is the final flower of a nation’s

However, this is somewhat a digression. We are speaking of the tendency
of recent fiction, very much the same everywhere that novels are written,
which we have imperfectly sketched. It is probably of no more use to
protest against it than it is to protest against the vulgar realism in
pictorial art, which holds ugliness and beauty in equal esteem; or
against aestheticism gone to seed in languid affectations; or against the
enthusiasm of a social life which wreaks its religion on the color of a
vestment, or sighs out its divine soul over an ancient pewter mug. Most
of our fiction, in its extreme analysis, introspection and
self-consciousness, in its devotion to details, in its disregard of the
ideal, in its selection as well as in its treatment of nature, is simply
of a piece with a good deal else that passes for genuine art. Much of it
is admirable in workmanship, and exhibits a cleverness in details and a
subtlety in the observation of traits which many great novels lack. But I
should be sorry to think that the historian will judge our social life by
it, and I doubt not that most of us are ready for a more ideal, that is
to say, a more artistic, view of our performances in this bright and
pathetic world.


By Charles Dudley Warner

To revisit this earth, some ages after their departure from it, is a
common wish among men. We frequently hear men say that they would give so
many months or years of their lives in exchange for a less number on the
globe one or two or three centuries from now. Merely to see the world
from some remote sphere, like the distant spectator of a play which
passes in dumb show, would not suffice. They would like to be of the
world again, and enter into its feelings, passions, hopes; to feel the
sweep of its current, and so to comprehend what it has become.

I suppose that we all who are thoroughly interested in this world have
this desire. There are some select souls who sit apart in calm endurance,
waiting to be translated out of a world they are almost tired of
patronizing, to whom the whole thing seems, doubtless, like a cheap
performance. They sit on the fence of criticism, and cannot for the life
of them see what the vulgar crowd make such a toil and sweat about. The
prizes are the same dreary, old, fading bay wreaths. As for the soldiers
marching past, their uniforms are torn, their hats are shocking, their
shoes are dusty, they do not appear (to a man sitting on the fence) to
march with any kind of spirit, their flags are old and tattered, the
drums they beat are barbarous; and, besides, it is not probable that they
are going anywhere; they will merely come round again, the same people,
like the marching chorus in the “Beggar’s Opera.” Such critics, of
course, would not care to see the vulgar show over again; it is enough
for them to put on record their protest against it in the weekly
“Judgment Days” which they edit, and by-and-by withdraw out of their
private boxes, with pity for a world in the creation of which they were
not consulted.

The desire to revisit this earth is, I think, based upon a belief,
well-nigh universal, that the world is to make some progress, and that it
will be more interesting in the future than it is now. I believe that the
human mind, whenever it is developed enough to comprehend its own action,
rests, and has always rested, in this expectation. I do not know any
period of time in which the civilized mind has not had expectation of
something better for the race in the future. This expectation is
sometimes stronger than it is at others; and, again, there are always
those who say that the Golden Age is behind them. It is always behind or
before us; the poor present alone has no friends; the present, in the
minds of many, is only the car that is carrying us away from an age of
virtue and of happiness, or that is perhaps bearing us on to a time of
ease and comfort and security.

Perhaps it is worth while, in view of certain recent discussions, and
especially of some free criticisms of this country, to consider whether
there is any intention of progress in this world, and whether that
intention is discoverable in the age in which we live.

If it is an old question, it is not a settled one; the practical
disbelief in any such progress is widely entertained. Not long ago Mr.
James Anthony Froude published an essay on Progress, in which he examined
some of the evidences upon which we rely to prove that we live in an “era
of progress.” It is a melancholy essay, for its tone is that of profound
skepticism as to certain influences and means of progress upon which we
in this country most rely. With the illustrative arguments of Mr.
Froude’s essay I do not purpose specially to meddle; I recall it to the
attention of the reader as a representative type of skepticism regarding
progress which is somewhat common among intellectual men, and is not
confined to England. It is not exactly an acceptance of Rousseau’s notion
that civilization is a mistake, and that it would be better for us all to
return to a state of nature--though in John Ruskin’s case it nearly
amounts to this; but it is a hostility in its last analysis to what we
understand by the education of the people, and to the government of the
people by themselves. If Mr. Froude’s essay is anything but an exhibition
of the scholarly weapons of criticism, it is the expression of a profound
disbelief in the intellectual education of the masses of the people. Mr.
Ruskin goes further. He makes his open proclamation against any
emancipation from hand-toil. Steam is the devil himself let loose from
the pit, and all labor-saving machinery is his own invention. Mr. Ruskin
is the bull that stands upon the track and threatens with annihilation
the on-coming locomotive; and I think that any spectator who sees his
menacing attitude and hears his roaring cannot but have fears for the

There are two sorts of infidelity concerning humanity, and I do not know
which is the more withering in its effects. One is that which regards
this world as only a waste and a desert, across the sands of which we are
merely fugitives, fleeing from the wrath to come. The other is that doubt
of any divine intention in development, in history, which we call
progress from age to age.

In the eyes of this latter infidelity history is not a procession or a
progression, but only a series of disconnected pictures, each little era
rounded with its own growth, fruitage, and decay, a series of incidents
or experiments, without even the string of a far-reaching purpose to
connect them. There is no intention of progress in it all. The race is
barbarous, and then it changes to civilized; in the one case the strong
rob the weak by brute force; in the other the crafty rob the unwary by
finesse. The latter is a more agreeable state of things; but it comes to
about the same. The robber used to knock us down and take away our
sheepskins; he now administers chloroform and relieves us of our watches.
It is a gentlemanly proceeding, and scientific, and we call it
civilization. Meantime human nature remains the same, and the whole thing
is a weary round that has no advance in it.

If this is true the succession of men and of races is no better than a
vegetable succession; and Mr. Froude is quite right in doubting if
education of the brain will do the English agricultural laborer any good;
and Mr. Ruskin ought to be aided in his crusade against machinery, which
turns the world upside down. The best that can be done with a man is the
best that can be done with a plant-set him out in some favorable
locality, or leave him where he happened to strike root, and there let
him grow and mature in measure and quiet--especially quiet--as he may in
God’s sun and rain. If he happens to be a cabbage, in Heaven’s name don’t
try to make a rose of him, and do not disturb the vegetable maturing of
his head by grafting ideas upon his stock.

The most serious difficulty in the way of those who maintain that there
is an intention of progress in this world from century to century, from
age to age--a discernible growth, a universal development--is the fact
that all nations do not make progress at the same time or in the same
ratio; that nations reach a certain development, and then fall away and
even retrograde; that while one may be advancing into high civilization,
another is lapsing into deeper barbarism, and that nations appear to have
a limit of growth. If there were a law of progress, an intention of it in
all the world, ought not all peoples and tribes to advance pari passu, or
at least ought there not to be discernible a general movement, historical
and contemporary? There is no such general movement which can be
computed, the law of which can be discovered--therefore it does not
exist. In a kind of despair, we are apt to run over in our minds empires
and pre-eminent civilizations that have existed, and then to doubt
whether life in this world is intended to be anything more than a series
of experiments. There is the German nation of our day, the most
aggressive in various fields of intellectual activity, a Hercules of
scholarship, the most thoroughly trained and powerful--though its
civilization marches to the noise of the hateful and barbarous drum. In
what points is it better than the Greek nation of the age of its
superlative artists, philosophers, poets--the age of the most joyous,
elastic human souls in the most perfect human bodies?

Again, it is perhaps a fanciful notion that the Atlantis of Plato was the
northern part of the South American continent, projecting out towards
Africa, and that the Antilles are the peaks and headlands of its sunken
bulk. But there are evidences enough that the shores of the Gulf of
Mexico and the Caribbean Sea were within historic periods the seat of a
very considerable civilization--the seat of cities, of commerce, of
trade, of palaces and pleasure--gardens--faint images, perhaps, of the
luxurious civilization of Baia! and Pozzuoli and Capri in the most
profligate period of the Roman empire. It is not more difficult to
believe that there was a great material development here than to believe
it of the African shore of the Mediterranean. Not to multiply instances
that will occur to all, we see as many retrograde as advance movements,
and we see, also, that while one spot of the earth at one time seems to
be the chosen theatre of progress, other portions of the globe are
absolutely dead and without the least leaven of advancing life, and we
cannot understand how this can be if there is any such thing as an
all-pervading and animating intention or law of progress. And then we are
reminded that the individual human mind long ago attained its height of
power and capacity. It is enough to recall the names of Moses, Buddha,
Confucius, Socrates, Paul, Homer, David.

No doubt it has seemed to other periods and other nations, as it now does
to the present civilized races, that they were the chosen times and
peoples of an extraordinary and limitless development. It must have
seemed so to the Jews who overran Palestine and set their shining cities
on all the hills of heathendom. It must have seemed so to the Babylonish
conquerors who swept over Palestine in turn, on their way to greater
conquests in Egypt. It must have seemed so to Greece when the Acropolis
was to the outlying world what the imperial calla is to the marsh in
which it lifts its superb flower. It must have seemed so to Rome when its
solid roads of stone ran to all parts of a tributary world--the highways
of the legions, her ministers, and of the wealth that poured into her
treasury. It must have seemed so to followers of Mahomet, when the
crescent knew no pause in its march up the Arabian peninsula to the
Bosporus, to India, along the Mediterranean shores to Spain, where in the
eighth century it flowered into a culture, a learning, a refinement in
art and manners, to which the Christian world of that day was a stranger.
It must have seemed so in the awakening of the sixteenth century, when
Europe, Spain leading, began that great movement of discovery and
aggrandizement which has, in the end, been profitable only to a portion
of the adventurers. And what shall we say of a nation as old, if not
older than any of these we have mentioned, slowly building up meantime a
civilization and perfecting a system of government and a social economy
which should outlast them all, and remain to our day almost the sole
monument of permanence and stability in a shifting world?

How many times has the face of Europe been changed--and parts of Africa,
and Asia Minor too, for that matter--by conquests and crusades, and the
rise and fall of civilizations as well as dynasties? while China has
endured, almost undisturbed, under a system of law, administration,
morality, as old as the Pyramids probably--existed a coherent nation,
highly developed in certain essentials, meeting and mastering, so far as
we can see, the great problem of an over-populated territory, living in a
good degree of peace and social order, of respect for age and law, and
making a continuous history, the mere record of which is printed in a
thousand bulky volumes. Yet we speak of the Chinese empire as an instance
of arrested growth, for which there is no salvation, except it shall
catch the spirit of progress abroad in the world. What is this progress,
and where does it come from?

Think for a moment of this significant situation. For thousands of years,
empires, systems of society, systems of civilization--Egyptian, Jewish,
Greek, Roman, Moslem, Feudal--have flourished and fallen, grown to a
certain height and passed away; great organized fabrics have gone down,
and, if there has been any progress, it has been as often defeated as
renewed. And here is an empire, apart from this scene of alternate
success and disaster, which has existed in a certain continuity and
stability, and yet, now that it is uncovered and stands face to face with
the rest of the world, it finds that it has little to teach us, and
almost everything to learn from us. The old empire sends its students to
learn of us, the newest child of civilization; and through us they learn
all the great past, its literature, law, science, out of which we sprang.
It appears, then, that progress has, after all, been with the shifting
world, that has been all this time going to pieces, rather than with the
world that has been permanent and unshaken.

When we speak of progress we may mean two things. We may mean a lifting
of the races as a whole by reason of more power over the material world,
by reason of what we call the conquest of nature and a practical use of
its forces; or we may mean a higher development of the individual man, so
that he shall be better and happier. If from age to age it is
discoverable that the earth is better adapted to man as a dwelling-place,
and he is on the whole fitted to get more out of it for his own growth,
is not that progress, and is it not evidence of an intention of progress?

Now, it is sometimes said that Providence, in the economy of this world,
cares nothing for the individual, but works out its ideas and purposes
through the races, and in certain periods, slowly bringing in, by great
agencies and by processes destructive to individuals and to millions of
helpless human beings, truths and principles; so laying stepping-stones
onward to a great consummation. I do not care to dwell upon this thought,
but let us see if we can find any evidence in history of the presence in
this world of an intention of progress.

It is common to say that, if the world makes progress at all, it is by
its great men, and when anything important for the race is to be done, a
great man is raised up to do it. Yet another way to look at it is, that
the doing of something at the appointed time makes the man who does it
great, or at least celebrated. The man often appears to be only a favored
instrument of communication. As we glance back we recognize the truth
that, at this and that period, the time had come for certain discoveries.
Intelligence seemed pressing in from the invisible. Many minds were on
the alert to apprehend it. We believe, for instance, that if Gutenberg
had not invented movable types, somebody else would have given them to
the world about that time. Ideas, at certain times, throng for admission
into the world; and we are all familiar with the fact that the same
important idea (never before revealed in all the ages) occurs to separate
and widely distinct minds at about the same time. The invention of the
electric telegraph seemed to burst upon the world simultaneously from
many quarters--not perfect, perhaps, but the time for the idea had
come--and happy was it for the man who entertained it. We have agreed to
call Columbus the discoverer of America, but I suppose there is no doubt
that America had been visited by European, and probably Asiatic, people
ages before Columbus; that four or five centuries before him people from
northern Europe had settlements here; he was fortunate, however, in
“discovering” it in the fullness of time, when the world, in its
progress, was ready for it. If the Greeks had had gunpowder,
electro-magnetism, the printing press, history would need to be
rewritten. Why the inquisitive Greek mind did not find out these things
is a mystery upon any other theory than the one we are considering.

And it is as mysterious that China, having gunpowder and the art of
printing, is not today like Germany.

There seems to me to be a progress, or an intention of progress, in the
world, independent of individual men. Things get on by all sorts of
instruments, and sometimes by very poor ones. There are times when new
thoughts or applications of known principles seem to throng from the
invisible for expression through human media, and there is hardly ever an
important invention set free in the world that men do not appear to be
ready cordially to receive it. Often we should be justified in saying
that there was a widespread expectation of it. Almost all the great
inventions and the ingenious application of principles have many
claimants for the honor of priority.

On any other theory than this, that there is present in the world an
intention of progress which outlasts individuals, and even races, I
cannot account for the fact that, while civilizations decay and pass
away, and human systems go to pieces, ideas remain and accumulate. We,
the latest age, are the inheritors of all the foregoing ages. I do not
believe that anything of importance has been lost to the world. The
Jewish civilization was torn up root and branch, but whatever was
valuable in the Jewish polity is ours now. We may say the same of the
civilizations of Athens and of Rome; though the entire organization of
the ancient world, to use Mr. Froude’s figure, collapsed into a heap of
incoherent sand, the ideas remained, and Greek art and Roman law are part
of the world’s solid possessions.

Even those who question the value to the individual of what we call
progress, admit, I suppose, the increase of knowledge in the world from
age to age, and not only its increase, but its diffusion. The intelligent
schoolboy today knows more than the ancient sages knew--more about the
visible heavens, more of the secrets of the earth, more of the human
body. The rudiments of his education, the common experiences of his
everyday life, were, at the best, the guesses and speculations of a
remote age. There is certainly an accumulation of facts, ideas,
knowledge. Whether this makes men better, wiser, happier, is indeed

In order to maintain the notion of a general and intended progress, it is
not necessary to show that no preceding age has excelled ours in some
special, development. Phidias has had no rival in sculpture, we may
admit. It is possible that glass was once made as flexible as leather,
and that copper could be hardened like steel. But I do not take much
stock in the “lost arts,” the wondering theme of the lyceums. The
knowledge of the natural world, and of materials, was never, I believe,
so extensive and exact as it is today. It is possible that there are
tricks of chemistry, ingenious processes, secrets of color, of which we
are ignorant; but I do not believe there was ever an ancient alchemist
who could not be taught something in a modern laboratory. The vast
engineering works of the ancient Egyptians, the remains of their temples
and pyramids, excite our wonder; but I have no doubt that President
Grant, if he becomes the tyrant they say he is becoming, and commands the
labor of forty millions of slaves--a large proportion of them office
--holders--could build a Karnak, or erect a string of pyramids across New

Mr. Froude runs lightly over a list of subjects upon which the believer
in progress relies for his belief, and then says of them that the world
calls this progress--he calls it only change. I suppose he means by this
two things: that these great movements of our modern life are not any
evidence of a permanent advance, and that our whole structure may tumble
into a heap of incoherent sand, as systems of society have done before;
and, again, that it is questionable if, in what we call a stride in
civilization, the individual citizen is becoming any purer or more just,
or if his intelligence is directed towards learning and doing what is
right, or only to the means of more extended pleasures.

It is, perhaps, idle to speculate upon the first of these points--the
permanence of our advance, if it is an advance. But we may be encouraged
by one thing that distinguishes this period--say from the middle of the
eighteenth century--from any that has preceded it. I mean the
introduction of machinery, applied to the multiplication of man’s power
in a hundred directions--to manufacturing, to locomotion, to the
diffusion of thought and of knowledge. I need not dwell upon this
familiar topic. Since this period began there has been, so far as I know,
no retrograde movement anywhere, but, besides the material, an
intellectual and spiritual kindling the world over, for which history has
no sort of parallel. Truth is always the same, and will make its way, but
this subject might be illustrated by a study of the relation of
Christianity and of the brotherhood of men to machinery. The theme would
demand an essay by itself. I leave it with the one remark, that this
great change now being wrought in the world by the multiplicity of
machinery is not more a material than it is an intellectual one, and that
we have no instance in history of a catastrophe widespread enough and
adequate to sweep away its results. That is to say, none of the
catastrophes, not even the corruptions, which brought to ruin the ancient
civilizations, would work anything like the same disaster in an age which
has the use of machinery that this age has.

For instance: Gibbon selects the period between the accession of Trajan
and the death of Marcus Aurelius as the time in which the human race
enjoyed more general happiness than they had ever known before, or had
since known. Yet, says Mr. Froude, in the midst of this prosperity the
heart of the empire was dying out of it; luxury and selfishness were
eating away the principle that held society together, and the ancient
world was on the point of collapsing into a heap of incoherent sand. Now,
it is impossible to conceive that the catastrophe which did happen to
that civilization could have happened if the world had then possessed the
steam-engine, the printing-press, and the electric telegraph. The Roman
power might have gone down, and the face of the world been recast; but
such universal chaos and such a relapse for the individual people would
seem impossible.

If we turn from these general considerations to the evidences that this
is an “era of progress” in the condition of individual men, we are met by
more specific denials. Granted, it is said, all your facilities for
travel and communication, for cheap and easy manufacture, for the
distribution of cheap literature and news, your cheap education, better
homes, and all the comforts and luxuries of your machine civilization, is
the average man, the agriculturist, the machinist, the laborer any better
for it all? Are there more purity, more honest, fair dealing, genuine
work, fear and honor of God? Are the proceeds of labor more evenly
distributed? These, it is said, are the criteria of progress; all else is

Now, it is true that the ultimate end of any system of government or
civilization should be the improvement of the individual man. And yet
this truth, as Mr. Froude puts it, is only a half-truth, so that this
single test of any system may not do for a given time and a limited area.
Other and wider considerations come in. Disturbances, which for a while
unsettle society and do not bring good results to individuals, may,
nevertheless, be necessary, and may be a sign of progress. Take the
favorite illustration of Mr. Froude and Mr. Ruskin--the condition of the
agricultural laborer of England. If I understand them, the civilization
of the last century has not helped his position as a man. If I understand
them, he was a better man, in a better condition of earthly happiness,
and with a better chance of heaven, fifty years ago than now, before the
“era of progress” found him out. (It ought to be noticed here, that the
report of the Parliamentary Commission on the condition of the English
agricultural laborer does not sustain Mr. Froude’s assumptions. On the
contrary, the report shows that his condition is in almost all respects
vastly better than it was fifty years ago.) Mr. Ruskin would remove the
steam-engine and all its devilish works from his vicinity; he would
abolish factories, speedy travel by rail, new-fangled instruments of
agriculture, our patent education, and remit him to his ancient
condition--tied for life to a bit of ground, which should supply all his
simple wants; his wife should weave the clothes for the family; his
children should learn nothing but the catechism and to speak the truth;
he should take his religion without question from the hearty, fox-hunting
parson, and live and die undisturbed by ideas. Now, it seems to me that
if Mr. Ruskin could realize in some isolated nation this idea of a
pastoral, simple existence, under a paternal government, he would have in
time an ignorant, stupid, brutal community in a great deal worse case
than the agricultural laborers of England are at present. Three-fourths
of the crime in the kingdom of Bavaria is committed in the Ultramontane
region of the Tyrol, where the conditions of popular education are about
those that Mr. Ruskin seems to regret as swept away by the present
movement in England--a stagnant state of things, in which any wind of
heaven would be a blessing, even if it were a tornado. Education of the
modern sort unsettles the peasant, renders him unfit for labor, and gives
us a half-educated idler in place of a conscientious workman. The disuse
of the apprentice system is not made good by the present system of
education, because no one learns a trade well, and the consequence is
poor work, and a sham civilization generally. There is some truth in
these complaints. But the way out is not backward, but forward. The fault
is not with education, though it may be with the kind of education. The
education must go forward; the man must not be half but wholly educated.
It is only half-knowledge like half-training in a trade that is

But what I wish to say is, that notwithstanding certain unfavorable
things in the condition of the English laborer and mechanic, his chance
is better in the main than it was fifty years ago. The world is a better
world for him. He has the opportunity to be more of a man. His world is
wider, and it is all open to him to go where he will. Mr. Ruskin may not
so easily find his ideal, contented peasant, but the man himself begins
to apprehend that this is a world of ideas as well as of food and
clothes, and I think, if he were consulted, he would have no desire to
return to the condition of his ancestors. In fact, the most hopeful
symptom in the condition of the English peasant is his discontent. For,
as skepticism is in one sense the handmaid of truth, discontent is the
mother of progress. The man is comparatively of little use in the world
who is contented.

There is another thought pertinent here. It is this: that no man, however
humble, can live a full life if he lives to himself alone. He is more of
a man, he lives in a higher plane of thought and of enjoyment, the more
his communications are extended with his fellows and the wider his
sympathies are. I count it a great thing for the English peasant, a solid
addition to his life, that he is every day being put into more intimate
relations with every other man on the globe.

I know it is said that these are only vague and sentimental notions of
progress--notions of a “salvation by machinery.” Let us pass to something
that may be less vague, even if it be more sentimental. For a hundred
years we have reckoned it progress, that the people were taking part in
government. We have had a good deal of faith in the proposition put forth
at Philadelphia a century ago, that men are, in effect, equal in
political rights. Out of this simple proposition springs logically the
extension of suffrage, and a universal education, in order that this
important function of a government by the people may be exercised

Now we are told by the most accomplished English essayists that this is a
mistake, that it is change, but no progress. Indeed, there are
philosophers in America who think so. At least I infer so from the fact
that Mr. Froude fathers one of his definitions of our condition upon an
American. When a block of printer’s type is by accident broken up and
disintegrated, it falls into what is called “pi.” The “pi,” a mere chaos,
is afterwards sorted and distributed, preparatory to being built up into
fresh combinations. “A distinguished American friend,” says Mr. Froude,
“describes Democracy as making pi.” It is so witty a sarcasm that I
almost think Mr. Froude manufactured it himself. Well, we have been
making this “pi” for a hundred years; it seems to be a national dish in
considerable favor with the rest of the world--even such ancient nations
as China and Japan want a piece of it.

Now, of course, no form of human government is perfect, or anything like
it, but I should be willing to submit the question to an English traveler
even, whether, on the whole, the people of the United States do not have
as fair a chance in life and feel as little the oppression of government
as any other in the world; whether anywhere the burdens are more lifted
off men’s shoulders.

This infidelity to popular government and unbelief in any good results to
come from it are not, unfortunately, confined to the English essayists. I
am not sure but the notion is growing in what is called the intellectual
class, that it is a mistake to intrust the government to the ignorant
many, and that it can only be lodged safely in the hands of the wise few.
We hear the corruptions of the times attributed to universal suffrage.
Yet these corruptions certainly are not peculiar to the United States: It
is also said here, as it is in England, that our diffused and somewhat
superficial education is merely unfitting the mass of men, who must be
laborers, for any useful occupation.

This argument, reduced to plain terms, is simply this: that the mass of
mankind are unfit to decide properly their own political and social
condition; and that for the mass of mankind any but a very limited mental
development is to be deprecated. It would be enough to say of this, that
class government and popular ignorance have been tried for so many ages,
and always with disaster and failure in the end, that I should think
philanthropical historians would be tired of recommending them. But there
is more to be said.

I feel that as a resident on earth, part owner of it for a time,
unavoidably a member of society, I have a right to a voice in determining
what my condition and what my chance in life shall be. I may be ignorant,
I should be a very poor ruler of other people, but I am better capable of
deciding some things that touch me nearly than another is. By what logic
can I say that I should have a part in the conduct of this world and that
my neighbor should not? Who is to decide what degree of intelligence
shall fit a man for a share in the government? How are we to select the
few capable men that are to rule all the rest? As a matter of fact, men
have been rulers who had neither the average intelligence nor virtue of
the people they governed. And, as a matter of historical experience, a
class in power has always sought its own benefit rather than that of the
whole people. Lunacy, extraordinary stupidity, and crime aside, a man is
the best guardian of his own liberty and rights.

The English critics, who say we have taken the government from the
capable few and given it to the people, speak of universal suffrage as a
quack panacea of this “era of progress.” But it is not the manufactured
panacea of any theorist or philosopher whatever. It is the natural result
of a diffused knowledge of human rights and of increasing intelligence.
It is nothing against it that Napoleon III. used a mockery of it to
govern France. It is not a device of the closet, but a method of
government, which has naturally suggested itself to men as they have
grown into a feeling of self-reliance and a consciousness that they have
some right in the decision of their own destiny in the world. It is true
that suffrage peculiarly fits a people virtuous and intelligent. But
there has not yet been invented any government in which a people would
thrive who were ignorant and vicious.

Our foreign critics seem to regard our “American system,” by the way, as
a sort of invention or patent right, upon which we are experimenting;
forgetting that it is as legitimate a growth out of our circumstances as
the English system is out of its antecedents. Our system is not the
product of theorists or closet philosophers; but it was ordained in
substance and inevitable from the day the first “town meeting” assembled
in New England, and it was not in the power of Hamilton or any one else
to make it otherwise.

So you must have education, now you have the ballot, say the critics of
this era of progress; and this is another of your cheap inventions. Not
that we undervalue book knowledge. Oh, no! but it really seems to us that
a good trade, with the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments back of it,
would be the best thing for most of you. You must work for a living
anyway; and why, now, should you unsettle your minds?

This is such an astounding view of human life and destiny that I do not
know what to say to it. Did it occur to Mr. Froude to ask the man whether
he would be contented with a good trade and the Ten Commandments? Perhaps
the man would like eleven commandments? And, if he gets hold of the
eleventh, he may want to know something more about his fellow-men, a
little geography maybe, and some of Mr. Froude’s history, and thus he may
be led off into literature, and the Lord knows where.

The inference is that education--book fashion--will unfit the man for
useful work. Mr. Froude here again stops at a half-truth. As a general
thing, intelligence is useful in any position a man occupies. But it is
true that there is a superficial and misdirected sort of education, so
called, which makes the man who receives it despise labor; and it is also
true that in the present educational revival there has been a neglect of
training in the direction of skilled labor, and we all suffer more or
less from cheap and dishonest work. But the way out of this, again, is
forward, and not backward. It is a good sign, and not a stigma upon this
era of progress, that people desire education. But this education must be
of the whole man; he must be taught to work as well as to read, and he
is, indeed, poorly educated if he is not fitted to do his work in the
world. We certainly shall not have better workmen by having ignorant
workmen. I need not say that the real education is that which will best
fit a man for performing well his duties in life. If Mr. Froude, instead
of his plaint over the scarcity of good mechanics, and of the Ten
Commandments in England, had recommended the establishment of industrial
schools, he would have spoken more to the purpose.

I should say that the fashionable skepticism of today, here and in
England, is in regard to universal suffrage and the capacity of the
people to govern themselves. The whole system is the sharp invention of
Thomas Jefferson and others, by which crafty demagogues can rule. Instead
of being, as we have patriotically supposed, a real progress in human
development, it is only a fetich, which is becoming rapidly a failure.
Now, there is a great deal of truth in the assertion that, whatever the
form of government, the ablest men, or the strongest, or the most cunning
in the nation, will rule. And yet it is true that in a popular
government, like this, the humblest citizen, if he is wronged or
oppressed, has in his hands a readier instrument of redress than he has
ever had in any form of government. And it must not be forgotten that the
ballot in the hands of all is perhaps the only safeguard against the
tyranny of wealth in the hands of the few. It is true that bad men can
band together and be destructive; but so they can in any government.
Revolution by ballot is much safer than revolution by violence; and,
granting that human nature is selfish, when the whole people are the
government selfishness is on the side of the government. Can you mention
any class in this country whose interest it is to overturn the
government? And, then, as to the wisdom of the popular decisions by the
ballot in this country. Look carefully at all the Presidential elections
from Washington’s down, and say, in the light of history, if the popular
decision has not, every time, been the best for the country. It may not
have seemed so to some of us at the time, but I think it is true, and a
very significant fact.

Of course, in this affirmation of belief that one hundred years of
popular government in this country is a real progress for humanity, and
not merely a change from the rule of the fit to the rule of the cunning,
we cannot forget that men are pretty much everywhere the same, and that
we have abundant reason for national humility. We are pretty well aware
that ours is not an ideal state of society, and should be so, even if the
English who pass by did not revile us, wagging their heads. We might
differ with them about the causes of our disorders. Doubtless, extended
suffrage has produced certain results. It seems, strangely enough, to
have escaped the observation of our English friends that to suffrage was
due the late horse disease. No one can discover any other cause for it.
But there is a cause for the various phenomena of this period of shoddy,
of inflated speculation, of disturbance of all values, social, moral,
political, and material, quite sufficient in the light of history to
account for them. It is not suffrage; it is an irredeemable paper
currency. It has borne its usual fruit with us, and neither foreign nor
home critics can shift the responsibility of it upon our system of
government. Yes, it is true, we have contrived to fill the world with our
scandals of late. I might refer to a loose commercial and political
morality; to betrayals of popular trust in politics; to corruptions in
legislatures and in corporations; to an abuse of power in the public
press, which has hardly yet got itself adjusted to its sudden accession
of enormous influence. We complain of its injustice to individuals
sometimes. We might imagine that something like this would occur.

A newspaper one day says: “We are exceedingly pained to hear that the
Hon. Mr. Blank, who is running for Congress in the First District, has
permitted his aged grandmother to go to the town poorhouse. What renders
this conduct inexplicable is the fact that Mr. Blank is a man of large

The next day the newspaper says: “The Hon. Mr. Blank has not seen fit to
deny the damaging accusation in regard to the treatment of his

The next day the newspaper says: “Mr. Blank is still silent. He is
probably aware that he cannot afford to rest under this grave charge.”

The next day the newspaper asks: “Where’s Blank? Has he fled?”

At last, goaded by these remarks, and most unfortunately for himself, Mr.
Blank writes to the newspaper and most indignantly denies the charge; he
never sent his grandmother to the poorhouse.

Thereupon the newspaper says: “Of course a rich man who would put his own
grandmother in the poorhouse would deny it. Our informant was a gentleman
of character. Mr. Blank rests the matter on his unsupported word. It is a
question of veracity.”

Or, perhaps, Mr. Blank, more unfortunately for himself, begins by making
an affidavit, wherein he swears that he never sent his grandmother to the
poorhouse, and that, in point of fact, he has not any grandmother

The newspaper then, in language that is now classical, “goes for” Mr.
Blank. It says: “Mr. Blank resorts to the common device of the rogue
--the affidavit. If he had been conscious of rectitude, would he not have
relied upon his simple denial?”

Now, if an extreme case like this could occur, it would be bad enough.
But, in our free society, the remedy would be at hand. The constituents
of Mr. Blank would elect him in triumph. The newspaper would lose public
confidence and support and learn to use its position more justly. What I
mean to indicate by such an extreme instance as this is, that in our very
license of individual freedom there is finally a correcting power.

We might pursue this general subject of progress by a comparison of the
society of this country now with that of fifty years ago. I have no doubt
that in every essential this is better than that, in manners, in
morality, in charity and toleration, in education and religion. I know
the standard of morality is higher. I know the churches are purer. Not
fifty years ago, in a New England town, a distinguished doctor of
divinity, the pastor of a leading church, was part owner in a distillery.
He was a great light in his denomination, but he was an extravagant
liver, and, being unable to pay his debts, he was arrested and put into
jail, with the liberty of the “limits.” In order not to interrupt his
ministerial work, the jail limits were made to include his house and his
church, so that he could still go in and out before his people. I do not
think that could occur anywhere in the United States today.

I will close these fragmentary suggestions by saying that I, for one,
should like to see this country a century from now. Those who live then
will doubtless say of this period that it was crude, and rather
disorderly, and fermenting with a great many new projects; but I have
great faith that they will also say that the present extending notion,
that the best government is for the people, by the people, was in the
line of sound progress. I should expect to find faith in humanity greater
and not less than it is now, and I should not expect to find that Mr.
Froude’s mournful expectation had been realized, and that the belief in a
life beyond the grave had been withdrawn.


By Charles Dudley Warner

England has played a part in modern history altogether out of proportion
to its size. The whole of Great Britain, including Ireland, has only
eleven thousand more square miles than Italy; and England and Wales alone
are not half so large as Italy. England alone is about the size of North
Carolina. It is, as Franklin, in 1763, wrote to Mary Stevenson in London,
“that petty island which, compared to America, is but a stepping-stone in
a brook, scarce enough of it above water to keep one’s shoes dry.”

A considerable portion of it is under water, or water-soaked a good part
of the year, and I suppose it has more acres for breeding frogs than any
other northern land, except Holland. Old Harrison says that the North
Britons when overcome by hunger used to creep into the marshes till the
water was up to their chins and there remain a long time, “onlie to
qualifie the heats of their stomachs by violence, which otherwise would
have wrought and beene readie to oppresse them for hunger and want of
sustinance.” It lies so far north--the latitude of Labrador--that the
winters are long and the climate inhospitable. It would be severely cold
if the Gulf Stream did not make it always damp and curtain it with
clouds. In some parts the soil is heavy with water, in others it is only
a thin stratum above the chalk; in fact, agricultural production could
scarcely be said to exist there until fortunes made in India and in other
foreign adventure enabled the owners of the land to pile it knee-deep
with fertilizers from Peru and elsewhere. Thanks to accumulated wealth
and the Gulf Stream, its turf is green and soft; figs, which will not
mature with us north of the capes of Virginia, ripen in sheltered nooks
in Oxford, and the large and unfrequent strawberry sometimes appears upon
the dinner-table in such profusion that the guests can indulge in one

Yet this small, originally infertile island has been for two centuries,
and is today, the most vital influence on the globe. Cast your eye over
the world upon her possessions, insular and continental, into any one of
which, almost, England might be dropped, with slight disturbance, as you
would transfer a hanging garden. For any parallel to her power and
possessions you must go back to ancient Rome. Egypt under Thotmes and
Seti overran the then known world and took tribute of it; but it was a
temporary wave of conquest and not an assimilation. Rome sent her laws
and her roads to the end of the earth, and made an empire of it; but it
was an empire of barbarians largely, of dynasties rather than of peoples.
The dynasties fought, the dynasties submitted, and the dynasties paid the
tribute. The modern “people” did not exist. One battle decided the fate
of half the world--it might be lost or won for a woman’s eyes; the flight
of a chieftain might settle the fate of a province; a campaign might
determine the allegiance of half Asia. There was but one compact,
disciplined, law-ordered nation, and that had its seat on the Tiber.

Under what different circumstances did England win her position! Before
she came to the front, Venice controlled, and almost monopolized, the
trade of the Orient. When she entered upon her career Spain was almost
omnipotent in Europe, and was in possession of more than half the Western
world; and besides Spain, England had, wherever she went, to contend for
a foothold with Portugal, skilled in trade and adventure; and with
Holland, rich, and powerful on the sea. That is to say, she met
everywhere civilizations old and technically her superior. Of the ruling
powers, she was the least in arts and arms. If you will take time to fill
out this picture, you will have some conception of the marvelous
achievements of England, say since the abdication of the Emperor Charles

This little island is today the centre of the wealth, of the solid
civilization, of the world. I will not say of art, of music, of the
lighter social graces that make life agreeable; but I will say of the
moral forces that make progress possible and worth while. Of this island
the centre is London; of London the heart is “the City,” and in the City
you can put your finger on one spot where the pulse of the world is
distinctly felt to beat. The Moslem regards the Kaaba at Mecca as the
centre of the universe; but that is only a theological phrase. The centre
of the world is the Bank of England in Leadenhall Street. There is not an
occurrence, not a conquest or a defeat, a revolution, a panic, a famine,
an abundance, not a change in value of money or material, no depression
or stoppage in trade, no recovery, no political, and scarcely any great
religious movement--say the civil deposition of the Pope or the Wahhabee
revival in Arabia and India--that does not report itself instantly at
this sensitive spot. Other capitals feel a local influence; this feels
all the local influences. Put your ear at the door of the Bank or the
Stock Exchange near by, and you hear the roar of the world.

But this is not all, nor the most striking thing, nor the greatest
contrast to the empires of Rome and of Spain. The civilization that has
gone forth from England is a self-sustaining one, vital to grow where it
is planted, in vast communities, in an order that does not depend, as
that of the Roman world did, upon edicts and legions from the capital.
And it must be remembered that if the land empire of England is not so
vast as that of Rome, England has for two centuries been mistress of the
seas, with all the consequences of that opportunity--consequences to
trade beyond computation. And we must add to all this that an
intellectual and moral power has been put forth from England clear round
the globe, and felt beyond the limits of the English tongue.

How is it that England has attained this supremacy--a supremacy in vain
disputed on land and on sea by France, but now threatened by an equipped
and disciplined Germany, by an unformed Colossus--a Slav and Tartar
conglomerate; and perhaps by one of her own children, the United States?
I will mention some of the things that have determined England’s
extraordinary career; and they will help us to consider her prospects. I

I. The Race. It is a mixed race, but with certain dominant qualities,
which we call, loosely, Teutonic; certainly the most aggressive, tough,
and vigorous people the world has seen. It does not shrink from any
climate, from any exposure, from any geographic condition; yet its choice
of migration and of residence has mainly been on the grass belt of the
globe, where soil and moisture produce good turf, where a changing and
unequal climate, with extremes of heat and cold, calls out the physical
resources, stimulates invention, and requires an aggressive and defensive
attitude of mind and body. The early history of this people is marked by
two things:

( 1 ) Town and village organizations, nurseries of law, order, and
self-dependence, nuclei of power, capable of indefinite expansion,
leading directly to a free and a strong government, the breeders of civil

( 2 ) Individualism in religion, Protestantism in the widest sense: I
mean by this, cultivation of the individual conscience as against
authority. This trait was as marked in this sturdy people in Catholic
England as it is in Protestant England. It is in the blood. England never
did submit to Rome, not even as France did, though the Gallic Church held
out well. Take the struggle of Henry II. and the hierarchy. Read the
fight with prerogative all along. The English Church never could submit.
It is a shallow reading of history to attribute the final break with Rome
to the unbridled passion of Henry VIII.; that was an occasion only: if it
had not been that, it would have been something else.

Here we have the two necessary traits in the character of a great people:
the love and the habit of civil liberty and religious conviction and
independence. Allied to these is another trait--truthfulness. To speak
the truth in word and action, to the verge of bluntness and offense--and
with more relish sometimes because it is individually obnoxious and
unlovely--is an English trait, clearly to be traced in the character of
this people, notwithstanding the equivocations of Elizabethan diplomacy,
the proverbial lying of English shopkeepers, and the fraudulent
adulteration of English manufactures. Not to lie is perhaps as much a
matter of insular pride as of morals; to lie is unbecoming an Englishman.
When Captain Burnaby was on his way to Khiva he would tolerate no
Oriental exaggeration of his army rank, although a higher title would
have smoothed his way and added to his consideration. An English official
who was a captive at Bokhara (or Khiva) was offered his life by the Khan
if he would abjure the Christian faith and say he was a Moslem; but he
preferred death rather than the advantage of a temporary equivocation. I
do not suppose that he was a specially pious man at home or that he was a
martyr to religious principle, but for the moment Christianity stood for
England and English honor and civilization. I can believe that a rough
English sailor, who had not used a sacred name, except in vain, since he
said his prayer at his mother’s knee, accepted death under like
circumstances rather than say he was not a Christian.

The next determining cause in England’s career is:

II. The insular position. Poor as the island was, this was the
opportunity. See what came of it:

( 1 ) Maritime opportunity. The irregular coastlines, the bays and
harbors, the near islands and mainlands invited to the sea. The nation
became, per force, sailors--as the ancient Greeks were and the modern
Greeks are: adventurers, discoverers--hardy, ambitious, seeking food from
the sea and wealth from every side.

( 2 ) Their position protected them. What they got they could keep;
wealth could accumulate. Invasion was difficult and practically
impossible to their neighbors. And yet they were in the bustling world,
close to the continent, commanding the most important of the navigable
seas. The wealth of Holland was on the one hand, the wealth of France on
the other. They held the keys.

( 3 ) The insular position and their free institutions invited refugees
from all the Continent, artisans and skilled laborers of all kinds.
Hence, the beginning of their great industries, which made England rich
in proportion as her authority and chance of trade expanded over distant
islands and continents. But this would not have been possible without the
third advantage which I shall mention, and that is:

III. Coal. England’s power and wealth rested upon her coal-beds. In this
bounty nature was more liberal to the tight little island than to any
other spot in Western Europe, and England took early advantage of it. To
be sure, her coal-field is small compared with that of the United
States--an area of only 11,900 square miles to our 192,000. But Germany
has only 1,770; Belgium, 510; France, 2,086; and Russia only in her
expansion of territory leads Europe in this respect, and has now 30,000
square miles of coal-beds. But see the use England makes of this
material: in 1877, she took out of the ground 134,179,968 tons. The
United States the same year took out 50,000,000 tons; Germany,
48,000,000; France, 16,000,000; Belgium, 14,000,000. This tells the story
of the heavy industries.

We have considered as elements of national greatness the race itself, the
favorable position, and the material to work with. I need not enlarge
upon the might and the possessions of England, nor the general
beneficence of her occupation wherever she has established fort, factory,
or colony. With her flag go much injustice, domineering, and cruelty;
but, on the whole, the best elements of civilization.

The intellectual domination of England has been as striking as the
physical. It is stamped upon all her colonies; it has by no means
disappeared in the United States. For more than fifty years after our
independence we imported our intellectual food--with the exception of
politics, and theology in certain forms--and largely our ethical guidance
from England. We read English books, or imitations of the English way of
looking at things; we even accepted the English caricatures of our own
life as genuine--notably in the case of the so-called typical Yankee. It
is only recently that our writers have begun to describe our own life as
it is, and that readers begin to feel that our society may be as
interesting in print as that English society which they have been all
their lives accustomed to read about. The reading-books of children in
schools were filled with English essays, stories, English views of life;
it was the English heroines over whose woes the girls wept; it was of the
English heroes that the boys declaimed. I do not know how much the
imagination has to do in shaping the national character, but for half a
century English writers, by poems and novels, controlled the imagination
of this country. The principal reading then, as now--and perhaps more
then than now--was fiction, and nearly all of this England supplied. We
took in with it, it will be noticed, not only the romance and gilding of
chivalry and legitimacy, such as Scott gives us, but constant instruction
in a society of ranks and degrees, orders of nobility and commonalty, a
fixed social status, a well-ordered, and often attractive, permanent
social inequality, a state of life and relations based upon lingering
feudal conditions and prejudices. The background of all English fiction
is monarchical; however liberal it may be, it must be projected upon the
existing order of things. We have not been examining these foreign social
conditions with that simple curiosity which leads us to look into the
social life of Russia as it is depicted in Russian novels; we have, on
the contrary, absorbed them generation after generation as part of our
intellectual development, so that the novels and the other English
literature must have had a vast influence in molding our mental
character, in shaping our thinking upon the political as well as the
social constitution of states.

For a long time the one American counteraction, almost the only, to this
English influence was the newspaper, which has always kept alive and
diffused a distinctly American spirit--not always lovely or modest, but
national. The establishment of periodicals which could afford to pay for
fiction written about our society and from the American point of view has
had a great effect on our literary emancipation. The wise men whom we
elect to make our laws--and who represent us intellectually and morally a
good deal better than we sometimes like to admit--have always gone upon
the theory, with regard to the reading for the American people, that the
chief requisite of it was cheapness, with no regard to its character so
far as it is a shaper of notions about government and social life. What
educating influence English fiction was having upon American life they
have not inquired, so long as it was furnished cheap, and its authors
were cheated out of any copyright on it.

At the North, thanks to a free press and periodicals, to a dozen reform
agitations, and to the intellectual stir generally accompanying
industries and commerce, we have been developing an immense intellectual
activity, a portion of which has found expression in fiction, in poetry,
in essays, that are instinct with American life and aspiration; so that
now for over thirty years, in the field of literature, we have had a
vigorous offset to the English intellectual domination of which I spoke.
How far this has in the past molded American thought and sentiment, in
what degree it should be held responsible for the infidelity in regard to
our “American experiment,” I will not undertake to say. The South
furnishes a very interesting illustration in this connection. When the
civil war broke down the barriers of intellectual non-intercourse behind
which the South had ensconced itself, it was found to be in a colonial
condition. Its libraries were English libraries, mostly composed of old
English literature. Its literary growth stopped with the reign of George
III. Its latest news was the Spectator and the Tatler. The social order
it covered was that of monarchical England, undisturbed by the fiery
philippics of Byron or Shelley or the radicalism of a manufacturing age.
Its chivalry was an imitation of the antiquated age of lords and ladies,
and tournaments, and buckram courtesies, when men were as touchy to
fight, at the lift of an eyelid or the drop of the glove, as Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, and as ready for a drinking-bout as Christopher North. The
intellectual stir of the North, with its disorganizing radicalism, was
rigorously excluded, and with it all the new life pouring out of its
presses. The South was tied to a republic, but it was not republican,
either in its politics or its social order. It was, in its mental
constitution, in its prejudices, in its tastes, exactly what you would
expect a people to be, excluded from the circulation of free ideas by its
system of slavery, and fed on the English literature of a century ago. I
dare say that a majority of its reading public, at any time, would have
preferred a monarchical system and a hierarchy of rank.

To return to England. I have said that English domination usually carries
the best elements of civilization. Yet it must be owned that England has
pursued her magnificent career in a policy often insolent and brutal, and
generally selfish. Scarcely any considerations have stood in the way of
her trade and profit. I will not dwell upon her opium culture in India,
which is a proximate cause of famine in district