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Title: The Art of Living
Author: Grant, Robert
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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The Art of Living

                              The Art of

                            _Robert Grant_


                               New York
                       _Charles Scribner’s Sons_

        _Copyright, 1895 and 1899, by Charles Scribner’s Sons_


                              ¶ _Income_

    Part I                                                             1

    Part II                                                           24

                           ¶ The _Dwelling_

    Part I                                                            33

    Part II                                                           53

              ¶ _House-Furnishing_ and the _Commissariat_

    Part I                                                            71

    Part II                                                           85

                             ¶ _Education_

    Part I                                                           100

    Part II                                                          118

                            ¶ _Occupation_

    Part I                                                           129

    Part II                                                          144

                          ¶ The _Use of Time_

    Part I                                                           162

    Part II                                                          181

                        ¶ The _Summer Problem_

    Part I                                                           203

    Part II                                                          218

                          ¶ The _Case of Man_

    Part I                                                           230

    Part II                                                          250

                         ¶ The _Case of Woman_

    Part I                                                           261

    Part II                                                          278

                        ¶ The _Conduct of Life_

    Part I                                                           290

    Part II                                                          309



Rogers, the book-keeper for the past twenty-two years of my friend
Patterson, the banker, told me the other day that he had reared a
family of two boys and three girls on his annual salary of two thousand
two hundred dollars; that he had put one of the boys through college,
one through the School of Mines, brought up one of the girls to be a
librarian, given one a coming-out party and a trousseau, and that the
remaining daughter, a home body, was likely to be the domestic sunshine
of his own and his wife’s old age. All this on two thousand two hundred
dollars a year.

Rogers told me with perfect modesty, with just a tremor of
self-satisfaction in his tone, as though, all things considered,
he felt that he had managed creditably, yet not in the least
suggesting that he regarded his performance as out of the common
run of happy household annals. He is a neat-looking, respectable,
quiet, conservative little man, rising fifty, who, while in the bank,
invariably wears a nankeen jacket all the year round, a narrow black
necktie in winter, and a narrow yellow and red pongee wash tie in
summer, and whose watch is no less invariably right to a second. As I
often drop in to see Patterson, his employer, I depend upon it to keep
mine straight, and it was while I was setting my chronometer the other
day that he made me the foregoing confidence.

Frankly, I felt as though I had been struck with a club. It happened
to be the first of the month. Every visit of the postman had brought
me a fresh batch of bills, each one of which was a little larger than
I had expected. I was correspondingly depressed and remorseful, and
had been asking myself from time to time during the day why it need
cost so much to live. Yet here was a man who was able to give his
daughter a coming-out party and a trousseau on two thousand two hundred
dollars a year. I opened my mouth twice to ask him how in the name of
thrift he had managed to do it, but somehow the discrepancy between
his expenditures and mine seemed such a gulf that I was tongue-tied.
“I suppose,” he added modestly, “that I have been very fortunate in my
little family. It must indeed be sharper than a serpent’s tooth to have
a thankless child.” Gratitude too! Gratitude and Shakespeare on two
thousand two hundred dollars a year. I went my way without a word.

There are various ways of treating remorse. Some take a Turkish bath or
a pill. Others, while the day lasts, trample it under foot, and shut it
out at night with the bed-clothes. Neither course has ever seemed to
me exactly satisfactory or manly. Consequently I am apt to entertain
my self-reproach and reason with it, and when one begins to wonder why
it costs so much to live, he finds himself grappling with the entire
problem of civilization, and presently his hydra has a hundred heads.
The first of the month is apt to be a sorry day for my wife as well
as for me, and I hastened on my return home to tell her, with just a
shadow of reproach in my tone, what Mr. Rogers had confided to me.
Indeed I saw fit to ask, “Why can’t we do the same?”

“We could,” said Barbara.

“Then why don’t we?”

“Because you wouldn’t.”

I had been reflecting in the brief interval between my wife’s first
and second replies that, in the happy event of our imitating Rogers’s
example from this time forth and forever more, I should be able to lay
up over five thousand dollars a year, and that five thousand dollars
a year saved for ten years would be fifty thousand dollars--a very
neat little financial nest egg. But Barbara’s second reply upset my
calculation utterly, and threw the responsibility of failure on me into
the bargain.

“Mr. Rogers is the salt of the earth, a highly respectable man and, if
I am not mistaken, the deacon of a church,” I remarked not altogether
relevantly. “Why should we spend four times as many thousand dollars a
year as he?”

“I wonder,” answered my wife, “if you really do appreciate how your
friend Mr. Rogers lives. I am quite aware that you are talking now for
effect--talking through your hat as the children say--because it’s
the first of the month and you’re annoyed that the bills are worse
than ever, and I understand that you don’t for one moment seriously
entertain the hope that our establishment can be conducted on the same
basis as his. But I should just like to explain to you for once how
people who have only twenty-two hundred dollars a year and are the
salt of the earth do live, if only to convince you that the sooner we
stop comparing ourselves with them the better. I say ‘we’ because in
my moments of depression over the household expenses I catch myself
doing the same thing. Our butcher’s bill for this month is huge, and
when you came in I was in the throes of despair over a letter in the
newspaper from a woman who contends that a good housekeeper in modest
circumstances can provide an excellent dinner for her family of six
persons, including soup, fish, an entrée, meat, pudding, dessert, and
coffee, for fifty-three cents. And she gives the dinner, which at
first sight takes one’s breath away. But after you prune it of celery,
parsley, salted peanuts, raisins, red cabbage, salad, and cheese, all
there is left is bean-soup, cod sounds, fried liver, hot gingerbread,
and apples.”

“I should dine down town, if you set such repasts before me,” I

“Yes,” said Barbara. “And there is a very good point of departure for
illustrating the domestic economies of the Rogers family. Mr. Rogers
does dine down town. Not to avoid the fried liver and cod sounds, for
probably he is partial to them, but because it is cheaper. When you
take what you call your luncheon, and which is apt to include as much
as he eats in the entire course of the day, Mr. Rogers dines; dines
at a restaurant where he can get a modest meal for from fifteen to
twenty-five cents. Sometimes it is pea-soup and a piece of squash-pie.
The next day perhaps a mutton-stew and a slice of watermelon, or boiled
beef and an éclair. Mrs. Rogers and the children have a pick-up dinner
at home, which lasts them very well until night, when they and Rogers
sit down to browned-hash mutton and a head of lettuce, or honey-comb
tripe and corn-cake, and apple-sauce to wind up with.”

“That isn’t so very bad.”

“Why, they have a splendid time. They can abuse their social
acquaintance and discuss family secrets without fear of being overheard
by the servants because they don’t keep any servants to speak of.
Probably they keep one girl. Or perhaps Mr. Rogers had a spinster
sister who helped with the work for her board. Or it may be Mrs. Rogers
kept one while the children were little; but after the daughters were
old enough to do it themselves, they preferred not to keep anybody.
They live extremely happily, but the children have to double up, for
in their small house it is necessary to sleep two in a room if not a
bed. The girls make most of their dresses, and the boys never dream
of buying anything but ready-made clothing. By living in the suburbs
they let one establishment serve for all seasons, unless it be for
the two weeks when Rogers gets his vacation. Then, if nobody has been
ill during the year, the family purse may stand the drain of a stay
at the humblest watering-place in their vicinity, or a visit to the
farm-house of some relative in the country. An engagement with the
dentist is a serious disaster, and the plumber is kept at a respectable
distance. The children go to the public schools, and the only club or
organization to which Mr. Rogers belongs is a benefit association,
which pays him so much a week if he is ill, and would present his
family with a few hundred dollars if he were to die. The son who went
through college must have got a scholarship or taken pupils. The girl
who married undoubtedly made the greater portion of her trousseau with
her own needle; and as to the coming-out party, some of the effects of
splendor and all the delights of social intercourse can be produced
by laying a white drugget on the parlor carpet, the judicious use of
half a dozen lemons and a mould of ice-cream with angel-cake, and by
imposing on the good nature of a friend who can play the piano for
dancing. There, my dear, if you are willing to live like that, we
should be able to get along on from twenty-two to twenty-five hundred
dollars quite nicely.”

My wife was perfectly correct in her declaration that I did not
seriously entertain the hope of being able to imitate Mr. Rogers,
worthy citizen and upright man as I believe him to be. I certainly was
in some measure talking through my hat. This was not the first time
I had brought home a Rogers to confront her. She is used to them and
aware that they are chiefly bogies. I, as she knows, and indeed both
of us, are never in quite a normal condition on the first day of the
month, and are liable, sometimes the one of us and sometimes the other,
to indulge in vagaries and resolutions which by the tenth, when the
bills are paid, seem almost uncalled for or impracticable. One thing
is certain, that if a man earns only twenty-two hundred dollars a
year, and is an honest man withal, he has to live on it, even though
he dines when others take luncheon, and is forced to avoid the dentist
and the plumber. But a much more serious problem confronts the man who
earns four times as much as Rogers, more serious because it involves
an alternative. Rogers could not very well live on less if he tried,
without feeling the stress of poverty. He has lived at hard pan, so to
speak. But I could. Could if I would, as my wife has demonstrated. I
am perfectly right, as she would agree, in being unwilling to try the
experiment; and yet the consciousness that we spend a very large sum of
money every year, as compared with Rogers and others like him, remains
with us even after the bills are paid and we have exchanged remorse for

The moralist, who properly is always with us, would here insinuate,
perhaps, that Rogers is happier than I. But I take issue with him
promptly and deny the impeachment. Rogers may be happier than his
employer Patterson, because Patterson, though the possessor of a
steam-yacht, has a son who has just been through the Keeley cure and a
daughter who is living apart from her husband. But there are no such
flies in my pot of ointment. I deny the superior happiness of Rogers
in entire consciousness of the moral beauty of his home. I recognize
him to be an industrious, self-sacrificing, kind-hearted, sagacious
husband and father, and I admit that the pen-picture which the moralist
could draw of him sitting by the evening lamp in his well-worn
dressing gown, with his well-darned feet adorned by carpet-slippers of
filial manufacture supported by the table or a chair, would be justly
entitled to kindle emotions of respect and admiration. But why, after
all, should Rogers, ensconced in the family sitting-room with the
cat on the hearth, a canary twittering in a cage and scattering seed
in one corner, a sewing-machine in the other, and surrounded by all
the comforts of home, consisting prominently of a peach-blow vase, a
Japanese sun umbrella and engravings of George Washington and Horace
Greeley, be regarded as happier than I in my modern drawing-room in
evening dress? What is there moral in the simplicity of his frayed
and somewhat ugly establishment except the spirit of contentment and
the gentle feelings which sanctify it? Assuming that these are not
lacking in my home, and I believe they are not, I see no reason for
accepting the conclusion of the moralist. There is a beauty of living
which the man with a small income is not apt to compass under present
social conditions, the Declaration of Independence to the contrary
notwithstanding. The doctrine so widely and vehemently promulgated in
America that a Spartan inelegance of life is the duty of a leading
citizen, seems to be dying from inanition; and the descendants of
favorite sons who once triumphed by preaching and practising it are
now outvying those whom they were taught to stigmatize as the effete
civilizations of Europe, in their devotion to creature comforts.

It seems to me true that in our day and generation the desire to live
wisely here has eclipsed the desire to live safely hereafter. Moreover,
to enjoy the earth and the fulness thereof, if it be legitimately
within one’s reach, has come to be recognized all the world over, with
a special point of view for each nationality, as a cardinal principle
of living wisely. We have been the last to recognize it here for the
reason that a contrary theory of life was for several generations
regarded as one of the bulwarks of our Constitution. Never was the
sympathy for the poor man greater than it is at present. Never was
there warmer interest in his condition. The social atmosphere is rife
with theories and schemes for his emancipation, and the best brains of
civilization are at work in his behalf. But no one wishes to be like
him. Canting churchmen still gain some credence by the assertion that
indigence here will prove a saving grace in the world to come; but the
American people, quick, when it recognizes that it has been fooled, to
discard even a once sacred conviction, smiles to-day at the assumption
that the owner of a log cabin is more inherently virtuous than the
owner of a steam-yacht. Indeed the present signal vice of democracy
seems to be the fury to grow rich, in the mad struggle to accomplish
which character and happiness are too often sacrificed. But it may be
safely said that, granting an equal amount of virtue to Rogers and
to me, and that each pays his bills promptly, I am a more enviable
individual in the public eye.

In fact the pressing problem which confronts the civilized world
to-day is the choice of what to have, for so many things have become
necessaries of existence which were either done without or undiscovered
in the days of our grandmothers, that only the really opulent can have
everything. We sometimes hear it said that this or that person has too
much for his own good. The saying is familiar, and doubtless it is true
that luxury unappreciated and abused will cause degeneration; but the
complaint seems to me to be a Sunday-school consoler for those who have
too little rather than a sound argument against great possessions.
Granting that this or that person referred to had the moral fibre of
Rogers or of me, and were altogether an unexceptionable character, how
could he have too much for his own good? Is the best any too good for
any one of us?

The sad part of it is, however, that even those of us who have four
times, or thereabouts, the income of Rogers, are obliged to pick
and choose and cannot have everything. Then is the opportunity for
wisdom to step in and make her abode with us, if she only will. The
perplexity, the distress, and too often the downfall of those who
would fain live wisely, are largely the direct results of foolish or
unintelligent selection on their part. And conversely, is not the
secret of happy modern living, the art of knowing what to have when one
cannot have everything there is?

I coupled just now, in allusion to Rogers and myself, virtue and
punctuality in the payment of bills, as though they were not altogether
homogeneous. I did so designedly, not because I question that prompt
payment is in the abstract a leading virtue, nor because I doubt
that it has been absolutely imperative for Rogers, and one of the
secrets of his happiness; but because I am not entirely sure whether,
after ten years of prompt payment on the first of every month on my
part, I have not been made the sorry victim of my own righteousness,
self-righteousness I might say, for I have plumed myself on it when
comparing myself with the ungodly. Although virtuous action looks for
no reward, the man who pays his bills as soon as they are presented has
the right to expect that he will not be obliged to pay anything extra
for his honesty. He may not hope for a discount, but he does hope and
believe--at least for a time--that beefsteak paid for within thirty
days of purchase will not be taxed with the delinquencies of those who
pay tardily or not at all. Slowly but sadly I and my wife have come to
the conclusion that the butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers of
this great Republic who provide for the tolerably well-to-do make up
their losses by assessing virtue. It is a melancholy conclusion for one
who has been taught to believe that punctual payment is the first great
cardinal principle of wise living, and it leaves one in rather a wobbly
state of mind, not as regards the rank of the virtue in question, but
as regards the desirability of strictly living up to it in practice. I
have heard stated with authority that the leading butchers, grocers,
stable-keepers, drygoods dealers, dress-makers, florists, and plumbers
of our great cities divide the customers on their books into sheep
and goats, so to speak; and the more prompt and willing a sheep, the
deeper do they plunge the knife. Let one establish a reputation for
prompt payment and make a purchase on the twenty-fifth of the month, he
will receive on the first of the following a bill, on the twentieth,
if this be not paid, a bill for “account rendered,” on the first of
the next month a bill for “account rendered, please remit,” and on the
tenth a visit from a collector. On the other hand I have known people
who seem to live on the fat of the land, and to keep the tradesfolk in
obsequious awe of them by force of letting their bills run indefinitely.

Abroad, as many of us know, the status of the matter is very different.
There interest is figured in advance, and those who pay promptly get
a handsome discount on the face of their bills. While this custom
may seem to encourage debt, it is at least a mutual arrangement, and
seems to have proved satisfactory, to judge from the fact that the
fashionable tailors and dress-makers of London and Paris are apt to
demur or shrug their shoulders at immediate payment, and to be rather
embarrassingly grateful if their accounts are settled by the end of a
year. No one would wish to change the national inclination of upright
people on this side of the water to pay on the spot, but the master and
mistress of an establishment may well consider whether the fashionable
tradesmen ought to oblige them to bear the entire penalty of being
sheep instead of goats. With this qualification, which is set forth
rather as a caveat than a doctrine, the prompt payment of one’s bills
seems to be strictly co-ordinate with virtue, and may be properly
described as the corner-stone of wise modern living.

There are so many things which one has to have nowadays in order to
be comfortable that it seems almost improvident to inquire how much
one ought to save before facing the question of what one can possibly
do without. Here the people who are said to have too much for their
own good have an advantage over the rest of us. The future of their
children is secure. If they dread death it is not because they fear
to leave their wives and children unprovided for. Many of them go on
saving, just the same, and talk poor if a railroad lowers a dividend,
or there is not a ready market for their real estate at an exalted
profit. Are there more irritating men or women in the world than the
over-conservative persons of large means who are perpetually harping on
saving, and worrying lest they may not be able to put by for a rainy
day, as they call it, twenty-five per cent. or more of their annual
income? The capitalist, careworn by solicitude of this sort, is the one
fool in creation who is not entitled to some morsel of pity.

How much ought the rest of us to save? I know a man--now you do not
know him, and there is no use in racking your brains to discover who he
is, which seems to be a principal motive for reading books nowadays,
as though we writers had a cabinet photograph in our mind’s eye
whenever we took a pen in hand. I know a man who divides his income
into parts. “All Gaul is divided into three parts,” you will remember
we read in the classics. Well, my friend, whom we will call Julius
Cæsar for convenience and mystification, divides his income, on the
first of January, into a certain number of parts or portions. He and
his wife have a very absorbing and earnest pow-wow over it annually.
They take the matter very seriously, and burn the midnight oil in the
sober endeavor to map and figure out in advance a wise and unselfish
exhibit. So much and no more for rent, so much for servants, so much
for household supplies, so much for clothes, so much for amusements,
so much for charity, so much to meet unlooked-for contingencies, and
so much for investment. By the time the exhibit is finished it is
mathematically and ethically irreproachable, and, what is more, Julius
Cæsar and his wife live up to it so faithfully that they are sure to
have some eight or ten dollars to the good on the morning of December
thirty-first, which they commonly expend in a pair of canvas-back ducks
and a bottle of champagne, for which they pay cash, in reward for their
own virtue and to enable them at the stroke of midnight to submit to
their own consciences a trial balance accurate to a cent.

Now it should be stated that Mr. and Mrs. Julius Cæsar are not very
busy people in other respects, and that their annual income, which
is fifteen thousand dollars, and chiefly rent from improved real
estate in the hands of a trustee, flows on as regularly and surely as
a river. Wherefore it might perhaps be argued, if one were disposed
to be sardonic, that this arithmetical system of life under the
circumstances savors of a fad, and that Julius and his wife take
themselves and their occupation a trifle too seriously, especially as
they have both been known to inform, solemnly and augustly, more than
one acquaintance who was struggling for a living, that it is every
one’s duty to lay up at least one-tenth of his income and give at least
another tenth in charity. And yet, when one has ceased to smile at the
antics of this pair, the consciousness remains that they are right in
their practice of foresight and arithmetical apportioning, and that
one who would live wisely should, if possible, decide in advance how
much he intends to give to the poor or put into the bank. Otherwise he
is morally, or rather immorally, certain to spend everything, and to
suffer disagreeable qualms instead of enjoying canvas-back ducks and a
bottle of champagne on December thirty-first.

As to what that much or little to be given and to be saved shall be,
there is more room for discussion. Julius Cæsar and his wife have
declared in favor of a tenth for each, which in their case means
fifteen hundred dollars given, and fifteen hundred dollars saved,
which leaves them a net income of twelve thousand dollars to spend,
and they have no children. I am inclined to think that if every man
with ten thousand dollars a year and a family were to give away three
hundred dollars, and prudently invest seven hundred dollars, charity
would not suffer so long as at present, and would be no less kind.
Unquestionably those of us who come out on December thirty-first just
even, or eight or nine dollars behind instead of ahead, and would
have been able to spend a thousand or two more, are the ones who find
charity and saving so difficult. Our friends who are said to have too
much for their own good help to found a hospital or send a deserving
youth through college without winking. It costs them merely the trouble
of signing a check. But it behooves those who have only four instead
of forty times as much as Rogers, if they wish to do their share in
relieving the needs of others, to do so promptly and systematically
before the fine edge of the good resolutions formed on the first of
January is dulled by the pressure of a steadily depleted bank account,
and a steadily increasing array of bills. Charity, indeed, is more
difficult for us to practise than saving, for the simplest method of
saving, life insurance, is enforced by the “stand and deliver” argument
of an annual premium. Only he, who before the first crocus thrusts its
gentle head above the winter’s snow has sent his check to the needy,
and who can conscientiously hang upon his office door “Fully insured;
life insurance agents need not apply,” is in a position to face with a
calm mind the fall of the leaf and the December days when conscience,
quickened by the dying year, inquires what we have done for our
neighbor, and how the wife and the little ones would fare if we should
be cut down in the strength of our manhood.

And yet, too, important as saving is, there are so many things which
we must have for the sake of this same wife and the little ones that
we cannot afford to save too much. Are we to toil and moil all our
days, go without fresh butter and never take six weeks in Europe or
Japan because we wish to make sure that our sons and daughters will
be amply provided for, as the obituary notices put it? Some men with
daughters only have a craze of saving so that this one earthly life
becomes a rasping, worrying ordeal, which is only too apt to find an
end in the coolness of a premature grave. My friend Perkins--here is
another chance, identity seekers, to wonder who Perkins really is--the
father of four girls, is a thin, nervous lawyer, who ought to take a
proper vacation every summer; but he rarely does, and the reason seems
to be that he is saddled by the idea that to bring a girl up in luxury
and leave her with anything less than five thousand dollars a year is
a piece of paternal brutality. It seems to me that a father ought in
the first place to remember that some girls marry. I reminded Perkins
of this one day. “Some don’t,” he answered mournfully. “Marriage does
not run in the female Perkins line. The chances are that two of my
four will never marry. They might be able to get along, if they lived
together and were careful, on seven thousand dollars a year, and I
must leave them that somehow.” “Hoot toot,” said I, “that seems to me
nonsense. Don’t let the spectre of decayed gentlewomen hound you into
dyspepsia or Bright’s disease, but give yourself a chance and trust to
your girls to look out for themselves. There are so many things for
women to do now besides marry or pot jam, that a fond father ought to
let his nervous system recuperate now and then.”

“I suppose you mean that they might become teachers or physicians or
hospital nurses or typewriters,” said Perkins. “Declined with thanks.”

“Don’t you think,” I inquired with a little irritation, “that they
would be happier so than in doing nothing on a fixed income, in simply
being mildly cultivated and philanthropic on dividends, in moving to
the sea-side in summer and back again in the autumn, and in dying at
the last of some fashionable ailment?”

“No, I don’t,” said Perkins. “Do you?”

Were I to repeat my answer to this inquiry I should be inviting a
discussion on woman, which is not in place at this stage of our
reflections. Let me say, though, that I am still of the opinion that
Perkins ought to give his nervous system a chance and not worry so much
about his daughters.



Seeing that there are so many things to have and that we cannot have
everything, what are we to choose? I have sometimes, while trudging
along in the sleighing season, noticed that many men, whose income I
believe to be much smaller than mine, were able to ride behind fast
trotters in fur overcoats. The reason upon reflection was obvious to
me. Men of a certain class regard a diamond pin, a fur overcoat, and
a fast horse as the first necessaries of existence after a bed, a
hair-brush and one maid-of-all-work. In other words, they are willing
to live in an inexpensive locality, with no regard to plumbing,
society, or art, to have their food dropped upon the table, and to
let their wives and daughters live with shopping as the one bright
spot in the month’s horizon, if only they, the husbands and fathers,
can satisfy the three-headed ruling ambition in question. The men to
whom I am referring have not the moral or æsthetic tone of Rogers and
myself, and belong to quite a distinct class of society from either of
us. But among the friends of both of us there are people who act on
precisely the same principle. A fine sense of selection ought to govern
the expenditure of income, and the wise man will refrain from buying
a steam-yacht for himself or a diamond crescent for his wife before
he has secured a home with modern conveniences, an efficient staff of
servants, a carefully chosen family physician, a summer home, or an
ample margin wherewith to hire one, the best educational advantages
for his children which the community will afford, and choice social
surroundings. In order to have these comfortably and completely, and
still not to be within sailing distance, so to speak, of a steam-yacht,
one needs to have nowadays--certainly in large cities--an income of
from seven thousand to eleven thousand dollars, according to where one

I make this assertion in the face of the fact that our legislators
all over the country annually decree that from four to five thousand
dollars a year is a fat salary in reward for public service, and that
an official with a family who is given twenty-five hundred or three
thousand is to be envied. Envied by whom, pray? By the ploughman, the
horse-car conductor, and the corner grocery man, may be, but not by
the average business or professional man who is doing well. To be
sure, five thousand dollars in a country town _is_ affluence, if the
beneficiary is content to stay there; but in a city the family man
with only that income, provided he is ambitious, can only just live,
and might fairly be described as the cousin german to a mendicant.
And yet there are some worthy citizens still, who doubtless would be
aghast at these statements, and would wish to know how one is to spend
five thousand dollars a year without extravagance. We certainly did
start in this country on a very different basis, and the doctrine of
plain living was written between the lines of the Constitution. We were
practically to do our own work, to be content with pie and doughnuts
as the staple articles of nutrition, to abide in one locality all the
year round, and to eschew color, ornament, and refined recreation. All
this as an improvement over the civilization of Europe and a rebuke to
it. Whatever the ethical value of this theory of existence in moulding
the national character may have been, it has lost its hold to-day, and
we as a nation have fallen into line with the once sneered-at older
civilizations, though we honestly believe that we are giving and going
to give a peculiar redeeming brand to the adopted, venerable customs
which will purge them of dross and bale.

Take the servant question, for instance. We are perpetually discussing
how we are to do away with the social reproach which keeps native
American women out of domestic service; yet at the same time in
actual practice the demand for servants grows more and more urgent
and wide-spread, and they are consigned still more hopelessly, though
kindly, to the kitchen and servants’ hall in imitation of English
upper-class life. In the days when our Emerson sought to practise the
social equality for which he yearned, by requiring his maids to sit at
his own dinner-table, a domestic establishment was a modest affair of a
cook and a second girl. Now, the people who are said to have too much
for their own good, keep butlers, ladies’ maids, governesses, who like
Mahomet’s coffin hover between the parlor and the kitchen, superfine
laundresses, pages in buttons, and other housekeeping accessories, and
domestic life grows bravely more and more complex. To be sure, too,
I am quite aware that, as society is at present constituted, only a
comparatively small number out of our millions of free-born American
citizens have or are able to earn the seven to eleven thousand dollars
a year requisite for thorough comfort, and that the most interesting
and serious problem which confronts human society to-day is the
annihilation or lessening of the terrible existing inequalities in
estate and welfare.

This problem, absorbing as it is, can scarcely be solved in our time.
But, whatever the solution, whether by socialism, government control,
or brotherly love, is it not safe to assume that when every one shares
alike, society is not going to be satisfied with humble, paltry, or
ugly conditions as the universal weal? If the new dispensation does
not provide a style and manner of living at least equal in comfort,
luxury, and refinement to that which exists among the well-to-do
to-day, it will be a failure. Humanity will never consent to be shut
off from the best in order to be exempt from the worst. The millennium
must supply not merely bread and butter, a house, a pig, a cow, and
a sewing-machine for every one, but attractive homes, gardens, and
galleries, literature and music, and all the range of æsthetic social
adjuncts which tend to promote healthy bodies, delightful manners,
fine sensibilities, and noble purposes, or it will be no millennium.

Therefore one who would live wisely and has the present means, though
he may deplore existing misery and seek to relieve it, does not give
away to others all his substance but spends it chiefly on himself and
his family until he has satisfied certain needs. By way of a house
he feels that he requires not merely a frail, unornamental shelter,
but a carefully constructed, well ventilated, cosily and artistically
furnished dwelling, where his family will neither be scrimped for space
nor exposed to discomforts, and where he can entertain his friends
tastefully if not with elegance. All this costs money and involves
large and recurrent outlays for heating, lighting, upholstery, sanitary
appliances, silver, china, and glass. It is not sufficient for him that
his children should be sure of their own father; he is solicitous,
besides, that they should grow up as free as possible from physical
blemishes, and mentally and spiritually sound and attractive. To
promote this he must needs consult or engage from time to time skilled
specialists, dentists, oculists, dancing and drawing masters, private
tutors, and music-teachers. To enable these same sons and daughters
to make the most of themselves, he must, during their early manhood
and womanhood, enable them to pursue professional or other studies, to
travel, and to mingle in cultivated and well-bred society. He must live
in a choice neighborhood that he may surround himself and his family
with refining influences, and accordingly he must pay from twelve
hundred to twenty-five hundred or three thousand dollars a year for
rent, according to the size and desirability of the premises. Unless he
would have his wife and daughters merely household factors and drudges,
he must keep from three to five or six servants, whose wages vary from
four to six or seven dollars a week, and feed them.

Nor can the athletic, æsthetic, or merely pleasurable needs of a
growing or adolescent household be ignored. He must meet the steady
and relentless drain from each of these sources, or be conscious that
his flesh and blood have not the same advantages and opportunities
which are enjoyed by their contemporaries. He must own a pew, a library
share, a fancy dress costume, and a cemetery lot, and he must always
have loose change on hand for the hotel waiter and the colored railway
porter. The family man in a large city who meets these several demands
to his entire satisfaction will have little of ten thousand dollars
left for the purchase of a trotter, a fur overcoat, and a diamond pin.

The growing consciousness of the value of these complex demands of our
modern civilization, when intelligently gratified, acts at the present
day as a cogent incentive to make money, not for the mere sake of
accumulation, but to spend. Gross accumulation with scant expenditure
has always been sanctioned here; but to grow rich and yet be lavish has
only within a comparatively recent period among us seemed reconcilable
with religious or national principles. Even yet he who many times a
millionaire still walks unkempt, or merely plain and honest, has not
entirely lost the halo of hero worship. But, though the old man is
permitted to do as he prefers, better things are demanded of his sons
and daughters. Nor can the argument that some of the greatest men in
our history have been nurtured and brought up in cabins and away from
refining influences be soundly used against the advisability of making
the most of income, even though we now and then ask ourselves whether
modern living is producing statesmen of equally firm mould. But we
thrill no longer at mention of a log cabin or rail splitting, and the
very name of hard cider suggests rather unpleasantly the corner grocery
store and the pie-permeated, hair-cloth suited New England parlor.

Merely because other nations have long been aware that it was wise and
not immoral to try to live comfortably and beautifully our change of
faith is no less absorbing to us. We confidently expect to win fresh
laurels by our originality, intelligence, and unselfishness in this new
old field. Already have we made such strides that our establishments
on this side of the water make up in genuine comfort what they lack
in ancient manorial picturesqueness and ghost-haunted grace. Each one
of us who is in earnest is asking how he is to make the most of what
he has or earns, so as to attain that charm of refined living which
is civilization’s best flower--living which if merely material and
unanimated by intelligence and noble aims is without charm, but which
is made vastly more difficult of realization in case we are without
means or refuse to spend them adequately.

The _Dwelling_.


Mr. and Mrs. Julius Cæsar, who, as you may remember, divide their
income into parts with mathematical precision, were not as well off
in this world’s goods at the time of their marriage as they are now.
Neither Mr. Cæsar’s father nor Mrs. Cæsar’s grandmother was then
dead, and consequently the newly wedded pair, though set up by their
respective families with a comfortable income, felt that it was
incumbent upon them to practise strict economy. Then it was that Julius
conceived what seemed to them both the happy idea of buying a house
dirt cheap in a neighborhood which was not yet improved, and improving
the neighborhood, instead of paying an exorbitant price for a residence
in a street which was already all it should be.

“Why,” said Julius, “shouldn’t we buy one of those new houses in Sunset
Terrace? They look very attractive, and if we can only induce two
or three congenial couples to join forces with us we shall have the
nucleus of a delightful colony.”

“Besides, everything will be nice and new,” said Mrs. Julius, or Dolly
Cæsar, as her friends know her. “No cockroaches, no mice, no moths, no
family skeletons to torment us. Julius, you are a genius. We can just
as well set the fashion as follow meekly in fashion’s wake.”

So said, so done. Julius Cæsar bent his intellect upon the matter and
soon found three congenial couples who were willing to join forces with
him. Before another twelve months had passed, four baby-wagons--one of
them double-seated--were to be seen on four sunny grass-plots in front
of four attractive, artistic-looking villas on Sunset Terrace. Where
lately sterility, mortar, and weeds had held carnival, there was now an
air of tasteful gentility. Thanks to the example of Dolly Cæsar, who
had an eye and an instinct for such matters, the four brass door-plates
shone like the sun, the paint was spick and span, the four gravel
paths were in apple-pie order, the four grass-plots were emerald from
timely use of a revolving lawn sprinkler, and the four nurse-maids, who
watched like dragons over the four baby-wagons, were neat-looking and
comely. No wonder that by the end of the second year there was not a
vacant house in the street, and that everybody who wished to live in
a fashionable locality was eager for a chance to enter Sunset Terrace.
No wonder, too, that Mr. and Mrs. Julius Cæsar were able, by the end
of the fourth year, to emerge from Sunset Terrace with a profit on the
sale of their villa which made it rent free for the entire period, and
left them with a neat little surplus to boot, and to settle down with
calm minds on really fashionable Belport Avenue, in the stately mansion
devised to them by Mrs. Cæsar’s grandmother.

Now, it must be borne in mind that a Mr. and Mrs. Julius Cæsar
can sometimes do that which a Mr. and Mrs. George J. Spriggs find
difficulty in accomplishing. Spriggs, at the time of his marriage to
Miss Florence Green, the daughter of ex-Assistant Postmaster-General
Homer W. Green, conceived the happy idea of setting up his household
gods in Locust Road, which lies about as far from Belport Avenue in
one direction as Sunset Terrace in the other. Both are semi-suburban.
It also occurred to him at the outset to join forces with three or
four congenial couples, but at the last moment the engagement of one
of the couples in question was broken, and the other three decided to
live somewhere else. To have changed his mind then would have involved
the sacrifice of one hundred dollars paid to bind the bargain to the
landowner. So it seemed best to them on the whole to move in, as they
had to live somewhere.

“It’s just a little bit dreary, isn’t it?” said Florence Spriggs,
pathetically, as she looked out of her bow window at the newly finished
street which was not finished, and at the grass-plot where there was no
grass. “But I sha’n’t be a bit lonely with you, George.”

“I wonder if the color of this house has been changed,” said Spriggs,
presently, as he glanced up at the façade and from that to the other
houses in the block, each of which was vacant. He and Florence had gone
out after dinner to take a stroll and survey the neighborhood which
they hoped to improve.

“Of course it hasn’t! How could it be?” said Florence.

“Somehow it looks a more staring shade of yellow than it did the first
time we saw it. And I don’t fancy altogether the filigree work on the
door, or that Egyptian renaissance scroll set into the eastern wall, do
you, dearest? However, we’re in now and can’t get out, for the title
has passed. I wonder who will buy the other houses?”

They were soon to know. They were alone all winter, but in the
early spring a family moved in on either side of them. The houses
in Locust Road, like those in Sunset Terrace, were of the villa
order, with grass-plots, which were almost lawns, appurtenant. Though
less pleasing than those which had taken the more discerning eye of
Mrs. Julius Cæsar, they were nevertheless comparatively inoffensive
and sufficiently tasteful. Neighbor number one proved to be of an
enterprising and imaginative turn. He changed the color of his villa
from staring yellow to startling crushed strawberry, supplemented his
Egyptian renaissance scroll and filigree with inlaid jewel and frost
work, stationed a cast-iron stag in one corner of the grass-plot and a
cast-iron Diana with a bow in another, and then rested on his laurels.
Neighbor number two was shiftless and untidy. His grass-plot did not
thrive, and the autumn leaves choked his gravel path. His windows were
never washed, his blinds hung askew, and his one maid-of-all-work
preferred the lawn to the laundry as a drying-room. His wife sunned
herself in a wrapper, and he himself in his shirt sleeves. A big
mongrel dog drooled perpetually on the piazza or tracked it with his
muddy feet, and even the baby-wagon wore the appearance of dilapidation
and halted because of a broken spring.

The Spriggses tried to be lenient and even genial with both these
neighbors, but somehow the attempt was not successful. Neighbor number
one became huffy because Spriggs took no notice of his advice that
he embellish his grass-plot with a stone mastiff or an umbrella and
cherub fountain, and neighbor number two took offence because Spriggs
complained that the ventilator on his chimney kept Mrs. Spriggs awake
by squeaking. Mrs. Spriggs did her best to set them both a good example
by having everything as tasteful on the one hand and as tidy on the
other as it should be. In the hope of improving them she even dropped
suggestive hints as to how people ought to live, but the hints were not
taken. What was worse none of the other houses were taken. As Spriggs
pathetically expressed it, the iron stag on the one side and the weekly
wash on the other kept purchasers at bay. He tried to buoy himself up
by believing that a glut in the real estate market was the cause why
the remaining villas in Locust Road hung fire, but this consolation was
taken away from him the following spring when an active buying movement
all along the line still left them without other neighbors. The
unoccupied villas had begun to wear an air of dilapidation, in spite
of their Egyptian renaissance scrolls and the presence of a cast-iron

To crown the situation the baby of neighbor number two caught
diphtheria from being left in its halting wagon by the maid-of-all-work
too near the cesspool on the lawn, and was kissed by the Spriggs baby
before the fact was discovered. If there is one thing more irritating
to the maternal mind than another, it is to have dear baby catch
something from the child of people whom you reprobate. One feels that
the original horrors of the disease are sure to be enhanced through
such a medium. When the only child of the Julius Cæsars died of the
same disease, contracted from a germ inhaled on Belport Avenue, the
parents felt that only destiny was to blame. On the other hand, though
the Spriggs baby recovered, Mrs. Spriggs never quite forgave herself
for what had happened. Before the next autumn Spriggs parted with
his estate on Locust Road for so much less than he had paid for it
that he felt obliged to accept the hospitality of his wife’s father,
ex-Assistant Postmaster-General Green, during the succeeding winter.

The moral of this double-jointed tale is twofold; firstly that the
young householder cannot always count upon improving the neighborhood
in which he sets up his goods and chattels after marriage, and
secondly, that, in case the neighborhood fails to improve, a tenancy
for a year or two is a less serious burden than absolute ownership.
It is extremely pleasant, to be sure, to be able to declare that one
has paid for one’s house, and I am aware that the consciousness of
unencumbered ownership in the roof over one’s head affords one of
the most affecting and effective opportunities for oratory which the
free-born citizen can desire. The hand of many a husband and father
has been stayed from the wine-cup or the gaming-table by the pathetic
thought that he owned his house. As a rule, too, it is cheaper to pay
the interest on a mortgage than to pay rent, and if one is perfectly
sure of being able to improve the neighborhood, or at least save it
from degeneration, it certainly seems desirable to be the landlord of
one’s house, even though it be mortgaged so cleverly that the equity
of redemption is merely a name. But in this age of semi-suburban
development, when Roads and Terraces and Parks and Gates and other
Anglo-European substitutes for streets serve as “springes to catch
woodcocks,” a young couple on real estate ownership bent should have
the discerning eye of a Mrs. Julius Cæsar in order not to fall a prey
to the specious land and lot speculator. If you happen to hit on a
Sunset Terrace, everything is rose color, but to find one’s self an
owner in fee on a Locust Road, next door to crushed strawberry and a
cast-iron stag, will palsy the hopes of the hopeful.

What attractive, roomy, tasteful affairs many of these semi-suburban
villas, which are built nowadays on the new Roads, Terraces, Parks,
Gates, and even Streets, are to be sure. There are plenty of homely
ones too, but it is a simple matter to avoid the Egyptian renaissance
scroll, and the inlaid jewel work and stained-glass bull’s eyes if
one only will. They seem to be affording to many a happy solution of
the ever new and ever old problem, which presents itself to every man
who is about to take a wife, whether it is preferable to live in the
city or the country. These new suburbs, or rather outlying wards of
our large cities, which have been carved out of what, not many years
ago, was real country where cows browsed and woods flourished, must be
very alluring to people who would fain live out of town and still be in
it. When, by stepping on an electric car or taking the train, you can,
within a quarter of an hour, be on your own piazza inhaling fresh air
and privileged to feast your eyes on a half acre or less of greensward
belonging to yourself, there would seem to be strong inducements for
refusing to settle down in a stuffy, smoky, dusty, wire-pestered city
street, however fashionable. Rapid transit has made or is making the
environs of our cities so accessible that the time-honored problem
presents itself under different conditions than formerly. There is no
such thing now as the real country for anybody who is not prepared
to spend an hour in the train. Even then one is liable to encounter
asphalt walks and a Soldier’s monument in the course of a sylvan
stroll. But the intervening territory is ample and alluring.

For one-half the rent demanded for a town house of meagre dimensions in
the middle of a block, with no outlook whatever, new, spacious, airy,
ornamental homes with a plot of land and a pleasing view attached,
are to be had for the seeking within easy living distance from nearly
every large city. When I begin to rhapsodize, as I sometimes do, I am
apt to ask myself why it is that anybody continues to live in town. It
was only the other day that I happened, while driving with my wife in
the suburbs, to call her attention, enthusiastically, to the new house
which Perkins has secured for himself. You may remember that Perkins is
the thin, nervous lawyer with four daughters, who is solicitous as to
what will become of them when he is dead. We drove by just as he came
up the avenue from the station, which is only a three minutes’ walk
from the house. He looked tired--he always does--but there was already
a fresh jauntiness in his tread as though he sniffed ozone. He looked
up at the new house complacently, as well he might, for it is large
enough even for four daughters, and has all the engaging impressiveness
of a not too quaintly proportioned and not too abnormally stained
modern villa, a highly evolved composite of an old colonial mansion, a
Queen Anne cottage, and a French château. Before he reached the front
door, two of his daughters ran out to embrace him and relieve him of
his bag and bundles, and a half-hour later, as we drove back, he was
playing lawn tennis with three of his girls, in a white blazer with
pink stripes and knickerbockers, which gave his thin and eminently
respectable figure a rather rakish air.

“Barbara,” I said to my wife, “why isn’t Perkins doing the sensible
thing? That’s a charming house, double the size he could get for the
same money in town--and the rent is eight hundred or a thousand dollars
instead of fifteen hundred or two thousand. He needs fewer servants
out here, for the parlor-maid isn’t kept on tenterhooks to answer the
door-bell, and there is fresh air to come back to at night, and the
means for outdoor exercise on his own or his neighbor’s lawn, which
for a nervous, thin-chested, sedentary man like Perkins is better than
cod-liver oil. Think what robust specimens those daughters should be
with such opportunities for tennis, golf, skating, and bicycling.

“On Sundays and holidays, if the spirit moves him and his wife and the
girls to start off on an exploring expedition, they are not obliged to
take a train or pound over dusty pavements before they begin; the wild
flowers and autumn foliage and chestnut-burs are all to be had in the
woods and glens within a mile or two of their own home. Or if he needs
to be undisturbed, no noise, no interruption, but nine hours’ sleep
and an atmosphere suited to rest and contemplation on his piazza or
by his cheerful, tasteful fireside. Why isn’t this preferable to the
artificial, restless life of the city?”

“And yet,” said Barbara, “I have heard you state that only a rich man
can afford to live in the country.”

Women certainly delight to store up remarks made in quite another
connection, and use them as random arguments against us.

“My dear Barbara,” said I, “this is not the country. Of course in the
real country, one needs so many things to be comfortable nowadays--a
large house, stables, horses, and what not--it has always seemed to me
that a poor man with social or cultivated instincts had better stay in
town. But have not Perkins and these other semi-suburbanites hit the
happy medium? They have railroads or electric cars at their doors, and
yet they can get real barn-yard smells.”

“I doubt if they can,” said Barbara. “That is, unless they start a
barn-yard for the purpose, and that would bring the health authorities
down upon them at once. If this _were_ the country, I could entirely
thrill at the description you have just given of your friend Mr.
Perkins. The real country is divine; but this is oleomargarine country.
On the other hand, however, I quite agree with you that if Mr. Perkins
is delicate, this is a far healthier place for him than the city, in
spite of the journey in the train twice a day. The houses--his house
in particular--are lovely, and I dare say we all ought to do the same.
He can certainly come in contact with nature--such nature as there is
left within walking distance--easier than city people. But to console
me for not having one of these new, roomy villas, and to prevent you
from doing anything rash, I may as well state a few objections to your
paradise. As to expense, of course there is a saving in rent, and it
is true that the parlor-maid does not have to answer the door-bell
so often, and accordingly can do other things instead. Consequently,
too, Mrs. Perkins and the four girls may get into the habit of going
about untidy and in their old clothes. A dowdy girl with rosy cheeks
and a fine constitution is a pitiable object in this age of feminine
progress. Mr. Perkins will have to look out for this, and he may
require cod-liver oil after all.

“Then there is the question of schools. In many of these semi-suburban
paradises there are no desirable schools, especially for girls, which
necessitates perpetual coming and going on trains and cars, and will
make education a wearisome thing, especially for Mrs. Perkins. She
will find, too, that her servants are not so partial to wild flowers
and chestnut-burs and fresh air as her husband and daughters. Only the
inexperienced will apply, and they will come to her reluctantly, and as
soon as she has accustomed them to her ways and made them skilful, they
will tell her they are not happy, and need the society of their friends
in town.

“Those are a few of the drawbacks to the semi-suburban villa; but
the crucial and most serious objection is, that unless one is very
watchful, and often in spite of watchfulness, the semi-suburbanite
shuts himself off from the best social interests and advantages. He
begins by imagining that there will be no difference; that he will
see just as much of his friends and go just as frequently to balls
and dinner-parties, the concert and the theatre, the educational or
philanthropic meeting. But just that requisite and impending twenty
minutes in the train or electric car at the fag end of the day is
liable to make a hermit of him to all intents and purposes by the
end of the second year. Of course, if one is rich and has one’s own
carriage, the process of growing rusty is more gradual, though none
the less sure. On that very account most people with a large income
come to town for a few months in winter at any rate. There are so
many things in life to do, that even friends with the best and most
loving intentions call once on those who retire to suburban villas
and let that do for all time. To be sure, some people revel in being
hermits and think social entertainments and excitements a mere waste
of time and energy. I am merely suggesting that for those who wish to
keep in close touch with the active human interests of the day, the
semi-suburban villa is somewhat of a snare. The Perkinses will have to
exercise eternal vigilance, or they will find themselves seven evenings
out of seven nodding by their fireside after an ample meal, with all
their social instincts relaxed.”

Undeniably Barbara offered the best solution of this question in her
remark, that those who can afford it spend the spring and autumn in
the country and come to town for the winter months. Certainly, if I
were one of the persons who are said to have too much for their own
good, I should do something of the kind. I might not buy a suburban
villa; indeed, I would rather go to the real country, where there are
lowing kine, and rich cream and genuine barn-yard smells, instead of
electric cars and soldiers’ monuments. There would I remain until it
was time to kill the Thanksgiving turkey, and then I would hie me to
town in order to refresh my mental faculties with city sights and
sounds during the winter-spring solstice, when the lowing kine are
all in the barn, and even one who owns a suburban villa has to fight
his way from his front door through snow-drifts, and listen to the
whistling wind instead of the robin red-breast or tinkling brook.

Patterson, the banker, is surely to be envied in his enjoyment of two
establishments, notwithstanding that the double ownership suggests
again the effete civilizations of Europe, and was once considered
undemocratic. Patterson, though his son has been through the Keeley
cure, and his daughter lives apart from her husband, has a charming
place thirty-five miles from town, where he has many acres and many
horses, cows, and sheep, an expanse of woods, a running stream,
delicious vegetables and fruit; golf links, and a fine country house
with all the modern improvements, including a cosy, spacious library.
Then he has another house--almost a palace--in town which he opens in
the late autumn and occupies until the middle of May, for Patterson, in
spite of some foibles, is no tax dodger.

Yes, to have two houses and live half of the year in town and the
other half in the country, with six to eight weeks at the sea-side
or mountains, so as to give the children salt air and bathing,
or a thorough change, is what most of us would choose in case we
were blessed with too much for our own good. But, unfortunately or
fortunately, most of us with even comfortable incomes cannot have
two houses, and consequently must choose between town and country or
semi-country, especially as the six or eight weeks at the sea-side or
mountains is apt to seem imperative when midsummer comes. According,
therefore, as we select to live in one or the other, it behooves us to
practise eternal vigilance, so that we may not lose our love of nature
and wreck our nerves in the worldly bustle of city life, or become
inert, rusty, and narrow among the lowing kine or in semi-suburban
seclusion. In order to live wisely, we who dwell in the cities
should in our spare hours seek fresh air, sunlight, and intercourse
with nature, and we whose homes are out of town should in our turn
rehabilitate our social instincts and rub up our manners.

Regarding the real country, there is one other consideration of which I
am constantly reminded by a little water-color hanging in my library,
painted by me a few years ago while I was staying with my friend
Henley. It represents a modest but pretty house and a charming rustic
landscape. I call it Henley’s Folly. Henley, who possessed ardent
social instincts, had always lived in town; but he suddenly took it
into his head to move thirty miles into the country. He told me that he
did so primarily for the benefit of his wife and children, but added
that it would be the best thing in the world for him, that it would
domesticate him still more completely, and give him time to read and
cultivate himself. When I went to stay with him six months later, he
was jubilant regarding the delights of the country, and declared that
he had become a genuine farmer. He pished at the suggestion that the
daily journey to and from town was exhausting, and informed me that his
one idea was to get away from the bricks and mortar as early in the
afternoon as possible. Just two years later I heard with surprise, one
day, that the Henleys had sold their farm and were coming back to town.
The reason--confided to me by one of the family--was that his wife
was so much alone that she could not endure the solitude any longer.
“You see,” said my informant, “the nearest house of their friends
was four miles off, and as Henley stayed in town until the last gun
fired, the days he returned home at all, and as he had or invented a
reason for staying in town all night at least once a week, poor Mrs.
Henley realized that the lot of a farmer’s wife was not all roses and
sunshine.” From this I opine that if one with ardent social instincts
would live wisely he should not become a gentleman farmer merely for
the sake of his wife and children.

The _Dwelling_.


Whether we live in the city or the country, it must be apparent to
all of us that a great wave of architectural activity in respect to
dwelling-houses has been spreading over our land during the past twenty
years. The American architect has been getting in his work and showing
what he could do, with the result that the long, monotonous row of
brick or freestone custom-made city houses, and the stereotyped white
country farm-house with green blinds and an ell or lean-to attached,
have given place to a vivid and heterogeneous display of individual
effort. Much of this is fine and some deadly, for the display includes
not merely the generally tasteful and artistic conceptions of our
trained native architects, who have studied in Paris, but the raw
notions of all the builders of custom-made houses who, recognizing
the public desire for striking and original effects, are bent upon
surpassing one another.

Therefore, while we have many examples, both urban and suburban, of
beautiful and impressive house architecture, the new sections of our
cities and suburbs fairly bristle with a multiplicity of individual
experiments in which the salient features of every known type of
architecture are blended fearlessly together. The native architect
who has neither been to Paris nor been able to devote much time to
study has not been limited in the expression of his genius by artistic
codes or conventions. Consequently he has felt no hesitation in using
extinguisher towers, mediæval walls, battlement effects, Queen Anne
cottage lines, Old Colonial proportions, and Eastern imagery in the
same design, and any one of them at any critical juncture when his work
has seemed to him not sufficiently striking for his own or the owner’s

Satisfactory as all this is as evidence of a progressive spirit, and
admitting that many of even these lawless manifestations of talent are
not without merit, it is nevertheless aggressively true that the smug
complacency of the proprietor of the suburban villa, which is hedged
about by a stone rampart of variegated rough stone on an ordinary
building lot, has no justification whatever. Nor has the master of
the castellated, gloomy, half-Moorish, half-mediæval mansion, which
disfigures the fashionable quarter of many of our cities, occasion to
congratulate himself on having paid for a thing of beauty. The number
of our well-trained architects, though constantly increasing, is still
small, especially as compared with the number of people of means who
are eager to occupy a thing of beauty; then, too, even the trained
architect is apt to try experiments for the sake of testing his genius,
on a dog, so to speak--some confiding plutocrat with a love of splendor
who has left everything to him.

The result is that grotesque and eye-distressing monsters of masonry
stand side by side on many of our chief avenues with the most graceful
and finished specimens of native architectural inspiration. As there is
no law which prevents one from building or buying an ugly house, and
as the architect, whose experiment on a dog tortures the public eye,
suffers no penalty for his crime, our national house architecture may
be said to be working out its own salvation at the public expense. It
is the duty of a patriotic citizen to believe that in this, as in other
matters of national welfare, the beautiful gradually will prevail; and
assuredly the many very attractive private residences which one sees
both in the city and the country should tend to make us hopeful.

Why is it that the rich man who would live wisely feels the necessity
for so large a house in the city? Almost the first thing that one who
has accumulated or inherited great possessions does nowadays is to
leave the house where very likely he has been comfortable and move
into a mammoth establishment suggesting rather a palace or an emporium
than a house. Why is this? Some one answers that it is for the sake
of abundant light and extra space. Surely in a handsome house of
twenty-five or thirty feet front there should be light and space enough
for the average family, however fastidious or exacting. In the country,
where one needs many spare rooms for the accommodation of guests, there
are some advantages in the possession of an abnormally large house. But
how is the comfort of the city man enhanced by one, that is, if the
attendant discomforts are weighed in the same scale? It has sometimes
seemed to me that the wealthy or successful man invests in a prodigious
mansion as a sort of testimonial; as though he felt it incumbent on
him to erect a conventional monument to his own grandeur or success,
in order to let the public entertain no doubt about it. But so many
otherwise sensible men have deliberately built huge city houses that
this can scarcely be the controlling motive in all cases. Perhaps, if
asked, they would throw the responsibility on their wives. But it is
even more difficult to understand why a sensible woman should wish one
of the vast houses which our rising architects are naturally eager to
receive orders to construct. A handsome house where she can entertain
attractively, yes: an exquisitely furnished, sunny, corner house by all
means; a house where each child may have a room apart and where there
are plenty of spare rooms, if you like; but why a mammoth cave? She is
the person who will suffer the discomforts to be weighed in the same
scale, for the care will fall on her.

We have in this country neither trained servants nor the housekeeper
system. The wife and mother who is the mistress of a huge establishment
wishes it to be no less a home than her former residence, and her
husband would be the first to demur were she to cast upon others the
burdens of immediate supervision. A moderate-sized modern house is the
cause of care enough, as we all know, and wherefore should any woman
seek to multiply her domestic worries by duplicating or trebling the
number of her servants? To become the manager of a hotel or to cater
for an ocean steamship is perhaps a tempting ambition for one in search
of fortune, but why should a woman, who can choose what she will have,
elect to be the slave of a modern palace with extinguisher towers?
Merely to be able to invite all her social acquaintance to her house
once a year without crowding them? It would be simpler to hire one of
the many halls now adapted for the purpose.

The difficulty of obtaining efficient servants, and the worries
consequent upon their inefficiency, is probably the chief cause of
the rapid growth of the apartment-house among us. The contemporary
architect has selected this class of building for some of his deadliest
conceits. Great piles of fantastically disposed stone and iron tower
up stories upon stories high, and frown upon us at the street-corners
like so many Brobdingnagians. Most of them are very ugly; nevertheless
they contain the homes of many citizens, and the continuous appearance
of new and larger specimens attests their increasing popularity.
Twenty years ago there was scarcely an apartment-house to be seen in
our cities. There was a certain number of hotels where families could
and did live all the year round, but the ten-story monster, with a
janitor, an elevator, steam heat, electric light, and all the alleged
comforts of home, was practically unknown. We have always professed to
be such a home-loving people, and the so-called domestic hearth has
always been such a touchstone of sentiment among us that the exchange
of the family roof for the community of a flat by so many well-to-do
persons certainly seems to suggest either that living cheek by jowl
with a number of other households is not so distasteful as it seems to
the uninitiated, or else that modern housekeeping is so irksome that
women are tempted to swallow sentiment and escape from their trammels
to the comparatively easy conditions of an apartment. It does seem
as though one’s identity would be sacrificed or dimmed by becoming a
tenant in common, and as though the family circle could never be quite
the same thing to one who was conscious that his was only a part of one
tremendous whole. And yet, more and more people seem to be anxious to
share a janitor and front door, and, though the more fastidious insist
on their own cuisine, there are not a few content to entrust even
their gastronomic welfare to a kitchen in common.

It must be admitted, even by those of us who rejoice in our homes,
that there is much to be said in favor of the apartment-house as a
solver of practical difficulties, and that our imaginations are largely
responsible for our antipathy. When once inside a private apartment
of the most desirable and highly evolved kind one cannot but admit
that there is no real lack of privacy, and that the assertion that the
owner has no domestic hearth is in the main incorrect. To be sure the
domain belonging to each suite is comparatively circumscribed; there is
no opportunity for roaming from garret to cellar; no private laundry;
no private backyard; and no private front-door steps; but to all
practical intents one is no less free from intrusion or inspection than
in a private house, and it may also be said that reporters and other
persevering visitors are kept at a more respectful distance by virtue
of the janitor in common on the ground floor. The sentiment in favor of
limited individual possession is difficult to eradicate from sensitive
souls, and rightly, perhaps, many of us refuse to be convinced;
but it remains true that the woman who has become the mistress of
a commodious and well-managed apartment must have many agreeable
quarters of an hour in congratulating herself that perplexities
concerning chores, heating, lighting, flights of stairs, leaks, and a
host of minor domestic matters no longer threaten her peace of mind,
and--greatest boon of all--that she now can manage with two or three
servants instead of five or six.

In this newly developed fondness for flats we are again guilty of
imitating one of the effete civilizations--France this time--where
it has long been the custom for families to content themselves with
a story or two instead of a house; though we can claim the size and
style of architecture of the modern apartment pile as our special
brand upon the adopted institution. The introduction of the custom
here seems to me to be the result of exhaustion of the female nervous
system. The American housewife, weary of the struggle to obtain
efficient servants, having oscillated from all Catholics to all
Protestants, from all Irish to all Swedes and back again, having
experimented with negroes and Chinamen, and returned to pure white,
having tried native help and been insulted, and reverted to the
Celtic race, she--the long-suffering--has sought the apartment-house
as a haven of rest. She--the long-suffering--has assuredly been in a
false position since the Declaration of Independence declared that
all men are created equal, for she has been forced to cherish and
preserve a domestic institution which popular sentiment has refused to
recognize as consistent with the principles of Democracy. Our National
creed, whether presented in the primer or from the platform, has ever
repudiated the idea of service when accompanied by an abatement of
personal independence or confession of social inferiority. Therefore
the native American woman has persistently refused, in the face of high
wages and of exquisite moral suasion, to enter domestic service, and
has preferred the shop or factory to a comfortable home where she would
have to crook the knee and say “Yes, ma’am.”

At the same time the native American woman, ever since “help” in the
sense of social acquaintances willing to accommodate for hire and
dine with the family has ceased to adorn her kitchen and parlor, has
been steadily forced by the demands of complex modern living to have
servants of her own. And where was she to obtain them? Excepting the
negro, only among the emigrants of foreign countries, at first among
the Irish, and presently among the English and Swedes, all of whom,
unharassed by scruples as to a consequent loss of self-respect, have
been prompt to recognize that this field of employment lay open to
them and was undisputed. They have come, and they still come in herds
to our shores, raw and undisciplined, the overflow from their own
countries; and as fast as they arrive they are feverishly snapped up
by the American housewife, who finds the need of servants more and
more imperative; for some one must do the elaborate cooking, some one
must do the fine washing, some one must polish the silver, rub the
brasses, care for the lamps, and dust the bric-à-brac in her handsomest
establishment. And no one but the emigrant, or the son and daughter of
the emigrant, is willing to.

The consequence is that, though the native American woman is as
resolute as ever in her own refusal to be a cook or waitress in a
private family, domestic service exists as an institution no less
completely than it exists in Europe, and practically under the same
conditions, save that servants here receive considerably higher wages
than abroad because the demand is greater than the supply. There is
a perpetual wail in all our cities and suburbs that the supply of
competent cooks, and skilled laundresses and maids is so limited, and
well-trained servants can demand practically their own prices. The
conditions of service, however, are the same. That is, the servant
in the household of the free-born is still the servant; and still
the servant in the household where the mistress, who has prospered,
would originally have gone into service had she not been free-born.
For there is no one more prompt than the American housewife to keep a
servant when she can afford one, and the more she is obliged to keep
the prouder is she, though her nervous system may give way under the
strain. By this I do not mean that the servants here are ill-treated.
On the contrary, the consideration shown them is greater, and the
quarters provided for them are far more comfortable on this side of the
water than abroad. Indeed, servants fare nowhere in the world so well
as in the establishments of the well-to-do people of our large cities.
Their bedrooms are suitable and often tasteful, they are attended by
the family physician if ill, they are not overworked, and very slight
checks are put on their liberty. But they are undeniably servants. The
free-born American mistress does not regard her servants as social
equals. She expects them to stand up if they are sitting down when she
enters the room. She expects them to address her sons and daughters as
Mr. Samuel and Miss Fanny, and to be called in turn Maggie or Albertine
(or Thompson or Jones, _à l’anglaise_) without a prefix. She does her
best, in short, to preserve all the forms and all the deference on
the one hand, and the haughtiness or condescension on the other which
govern the relations between servant and mistress abroad.

From the fact that we need so many more servants than formerly, to care
properly for our establishments, the servant here is becoming more
and more of a machine. That is, she is in nearly the same category
with the electric light and the furnace. We expect him or her to be
as unobtrusive as possible, to perform work without a hitch, and not
to draw upon our sympathies unnecessarily. The mistress of one or
two girls is sure to grow friendly and concerned as to their outside
welfare, but when she has a staff of five or six, she is thankful if
she is not obliged to know anything about them. The letter which
appeared in a New York newspaper some years ago, from an American girl,
in which she declared that she had left service because her master and
his sons handed her their dripping umbrellas with the same air as they
would have handed them to a graven image, was thoroughly in point. The
reason the native American girl will not become a servant, in spite of
the arguments of the rational and godly, is that service is the sole
employment in this country in which she can be told with impunity that
she is the social inferior of any one else. It is the telling which she
cannot put up with. It is one thing to be conscious that the person you
are constantly associated with is better educated, better mannered, and
more attractive than yourself, and it is another to be told at every
opportunity that this is so. In the shop, in the factory, and in other
walks of life, whatever her real superiors may think of her, they must
treat her as a social equal. Even that shrill-voiced, banged, bangled,
impertinent, slangy, vulgar product of our mammoth retail drygoods
system, who seems to believe herself a pattern of ladylike behavior, is
aware in her heart that she does not know how to behave, and yearns to
resemble the well-bred woman whom she daily insults. But the happiness
of her life, and its main-spring, too, lies in the consciousness
that she is free to become the first lady in the land, and that she
herself is to be her sole critic and detractor. Why is she not right
in refusing to sacrifice her independence? Why should she sell her
birthright for a mess of pottage?

An anomalous condition of affairs is presented by this contrast
between the free-born American woman as a mistress and as a revolter
against domestic service, and it seems to me that one of two things
must come to pass. Necessarily we shall continue to have cooks,
waiting-maids, and laundresses; at least our food must be prepared,
our drawing-rooms dusted, and our linen ironed by some one. But either
we shall have to accept and acknowledge the existence among us of a
class, recruited from foreign emigrants and their descendants, which
is tarred with the brush of social proscription in direct violation of
democratic principles, or we must change the conditions of domestic
service--change them so that condescension and servility vanish, and
the contract of service becomes like the other contracts of employment
between man and man, and man and woman.

It is fruitless now to inquire what the free-born American woman
would have done without the foreign emigrant to cook and wash for
her. The question is whether, now that she has her, she is going to
keep her, and keep her in the same comfortable and well-paid but
palpable thraldom as at present. If so, she will be merely imitating
the housewives of the effete civilizations; she will be doing simply
what every English, French, and German woman does and has done ever
since class distinctions began. But in that case, surely, we shall be
no longer able to proclaim our immunity from caste, and our Fourth of
July orators will find some difficulty in showing that other nations
are more effete in this respect than ourselves. Twenty-five years more
of development in our houses, hotels, and restaurants, if conducted
on present lines, will produce an enormous ducking and scraping,
fee-seeking, livery-wearing servant class, which will go far to
establish the claim put forth by some of our critics, that equality
on this side of the water means only political equality, and that our
class distinctions, though not so obvious, are no less genuine than
elsewhere. In this event the only logical note of explanation to send
to the Powers will be that social equality was never contemplated by
the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and that, though it is
true that any man may become President of the United States, there are
as great inequalities in morals, intellect, and manners among sons of
liberty as among the subjects of the Czar. To this the Powers will be
justified in uttering a disappointed and slightly ironical “Oh!” But
perhaps the foreign emigrant will have something to say on the subject.
Perhaps the horde from across the seas, now lured by high wages, will
decrease in numbers, or it may be that their descendants here will
learn through contact with the free-born revolter against domestic
service to revolt too.

What would the free-born American mistress do then? With the free-born
revolter still obdurate, and the foreign emigrant ceasing to emigrate
or recalcitrant, she would be in an unpleasant fix in her elaborate
establishment conducted on effete principles. In this practical
dilemma, rather than in an awakened moral sense, seems to lie our
best hope of regeneration, for it cannot be denied that the free-born
American mistress is doing all she can at present to perpetuate the
foreign idea of domestic service, and it seems probable that so long
as the foreign emigrant is willing to be bribed the true principles
of democracy will be violated. Already the difficulty of obtaining
servants is inducing home-loving families to seek the apartment-house.
A more distinct dearth would speedily change the relations between
mistress and servant into that of contractor and contractee, as in
other employments in this country. It may be that the descendants of
the emigrant will be unable to resist the lure offered them, and that
the free-born mistress will triumph. If so, we shall become no better
and possibly no worse than the effete civilizations we promised to make
blush by the worth of our institutions.

_House-Furnishing_ and the _Commissariat_.


After a man and his wife have made up their minds whether to live in
a town house or suburban villa, they are obliged to consider next
what they will have in the way of furniture, and presently what they
will have for dinner. The consciousness that a house has nothing in
it but the barest fixtures--the gasometer, the water-tanks, and the
electric wires--and that it is for you and your wife to decide exactly
what shall go into it in the way of wall-papers, carpets, upholstery,
and objects of virtu, is inspiring, even though your purse be not
plethoric and your knowledge of æsthetics limited. The thought at once
presents itself that here is the chance of your lifetime to demonstrate
how beautiful and cosy a home may be, and you set eagerly to work to
surpass your predecessors of equal means. It is a worthy ambition to
endeavor to make the matrimonial nest or the home of maturer years
attractive, and if we were to peer back far enough into the past of
even this country, to the time when our great great-grandmothers
set up housekeeping with our great great-grandfathers, we should
find that furnishing was considered a seriously delightful matter,
though not perhaps the almost sacred trust we regard it to-day. I mean
our great great-grandparents who used to live in those charming old
colonial houses, and who owned the mahogany desks with brass handles
and claw feet, the tall clocks, the ravishing andirons, and all the
other old-fashioned furniture which is now so precious and difficult
to find. Distance may lend such enchantment to a spinning-wheel, a
warming-pan, or a spinnet, that one is liable to become hysterical in
praise of them, and a calm, æsthetic mind, outside the limits of an
antique furniture dealer’s store, would be justified in stigmatizing
many of the now cherished effects of our great great-grandparents as
truck; but, on the other hand, who will dispute that they possessed
very many lovely things? They had an eye for graceful shapes in their
sideboards and tables; somehow the curves they imparted to the backs of
their chairs cannot be duplicated now so as to look the same; and the
patterns of the satins, flowered chintzes, and other stuffs which they
used for covers and curtains, exercise a witchery upon us, even as we
see them now frayed and faded, which cannot proceed wholly from the

They had no modern comforts, poor things; no furnaces, no ice-chests,
no set bath-tubs, no running water, no sanitary improvements, no gas
or electric light; and their picturesque kitchen hearths, with great
caldrons and cranes and leather blowers, must have been exceedingly
inconvenient to cook in; but even their most incommodious appliances
were not without artistic charm.

After them came the deluge--the era of horse-hair, the Sahara of
democratic unloveliness, when in every house, in every country town,
the set best room, which was never used by the family, stood like a
mortuary chapel solely for the reception of guests. In the cities,
in the households of the then enlightened, rep--generally green--was
frequently substituted for the sable horse-hair. Then came the days
when a dining-room or drawing-room was furnished in one pervasive
hue--a suit of sables, a brick red, a dark green, or a deep maroon.
Everything matched; the chairs and tables, desks and book-cases were
bought in sets at one fell swoop by the householder of the period who
desired to produce artistic effects. For forty years or so this was the
prevailing fashion, and the limit of purely indigenous expression.

To it presently succeeded the æsthetic phase, borrowed from England.
Then, instead of selecting everything to match, a young or old couple
bought so as just not to match, but to harmonize. All sorts of queer
and subtle shades and tints in wall-papers and fabrics appeared,
principally dallyings with and improvisings upon green, brown, and
yellow; frescos and dados were the rage; and a wave of interest in the
scope and mission of eccentric color spread over the land. Valuable
as this movement was as an educational factor, there was nothing
American in it; or in other words, we were again simply imitative.
The very fact, however, that we were ready to imitate, betokened that
horse-hair and rep had ceased to satisfy national aspiration, and that
we were willing to accept suggestions from without, inasmuch as no
native prophet had arisen. But though the impetus came from abroad,
the awakening was genuine. Since then the desire to furnish tastefully
has been steadily waxing among the more well-to-do portion of the
population. As in the case of architecture, the increasing interest
has called into existence a professional class, which, though still
small and less generally employed than their house-designing brethren,
is beginning to play an important part in the education of the public
taste in internal house decoration and equipment. The idea that any man
or woman may be more fitted than his or her neighbor to choose a carpet
or a wall-paper has been grudgingly admitted, and still irritates the
average house-owner who is ready to furnish. But the masters, and more
conspicuously the mistresses, of the competing superb establishments
in our cities, have learned, from the sad experience of some of their
predecessors, to swallow their individual trust in their own powers of
selection, and to put themselves unreservedly into the clutches of a
professional house decorator.

Furnishing a mammoth establishment from top to bottom with somebody
else’s money, and plenty of it, must be a delightful occupation. There
can be no carking consciousness of price to act as a drag on genius,
and it would seem as though the house decorator who was not interfered
with under these circumstances had a rare chance to show what is
what. When he fails, which is by no means out of the question, he can
ordinarily shift the responsibility on to his employer, for an employer
can rarely resist the temptation of insisting on some one touch to
prove his or her own capacity, and of course it is a simple matter
for the man of art to demonstrate that this one touch has spoiled
everything. The temptation to try to be as original and captivating in
results as possible must be almost irresistible, especially when one’s
elbow is constantly jogged by furniture and other dealers, who are only
too eager to reproduce a Directory drawing-room or any other old-time
splendor. But there is no denying that, whatever his limitations, the
house decorator is becoming the best of educators on this side of the
water, for though we cannot afford or have too much confidence in our
own taste to employ him, our wives watch him like cats and are taking
in his ideas through the pores, if not directly.

There are, it is true, almost as many diverse styles of internal
ornamentation as of external architecture in our modern residences,
for everyone who has, or thinks he has, an aptitude for furnishing is
trying his professional or ’prentice hand, sometimes with startling
results; yet the diversities seem less significant than in the case of
external architecture, or perhaps it may be said that the sum total
of effect is much nearer to finality or perfection. If as a nation we
are deriving the inspiration for the furniture and upholsteries of
our drawing-rooms and libraries from the best French and Dutch models
of a century or more ago, we certainly can boast that the comfortable
features which distinguish our apartments from their prototypes are a
native growth. If as a people we cannot yet point to great original
artistic triumphs, may we not claim the spacious and dignified
contemporary refrigerator, the convenient laundry, the frequently
occurring and palatial bath-room, the health-conducing ventilator-pipe
and sanitary fixtures, and the various electrical and other pipes,
tubes, and appliances which have become a part of every well-ordered
house, as a national cult? To be genuinely comfortable in every-day
life seems to have become the aim all the world over of the individual
seeking to live wisely, and the rest of the world is in our debt for
the many valuable mechanical aids to comfort in the home which have
been invented on this side of the water.

This quest for comfort is being constantly borne in mind also in the
æsthetic sense. We fit our drawing-rooms now to live in as well as to
look at. We expect to sit on our sofas and in our easy chairs; hence
we try to make them attractive to the back as well as to the eye.
Though our wives may still occasionally pull down the window-shades
to exclude a too dangerous sun, they no longer compel us to view our
best rooms from the threshold as a cold, flawless, forbidden land.
The extreme æsthetic tendencies which were rampant twenty years
ago have been toned down by this inclination, among even our most
elaborate house-furnishers, to produce the effect that rooms are
intended for every-day use by rational beings. The ultra-queer colors
have disappeared, and the carpets and wall-papers no longer suggest
perpetual biliousness or chronic nightmare.

I think, too, the idea that a drawing-room can be made bewitchingly
cosey by crowding it with all one’s beautiful and ugly earthly
possessions has been demonstrated to be a delusion. In these days of
many wedding presents, it is difficult for young people to resist
the temptation of showing all they have received. I remember that
Mrs. George J. Spriggs--she was the daughter, you will remember, of
ex-Assistant Postmaster-General Homer W. Green--had seven lamps in her
parlor in Locust Road, three of them with umbrageous Japanese shades.
Her husband explained to me that there had been a run on lamps and
pepper-pots in their individual case.

Now, Mrs. Julius Cæsar would have managed more cleverly. She would have
made the lamp-dealer exchange four or five of the lamps for, say, an
ornamental brass fender, a brass coal-scuttle, or a Japanese tea-tray,
and have made the jeweller substitute some equally desirable table
ornaments for the pepper-pots. And yet, when I made my wedding call on
Mrs. Cæsar, ten years ago, I remember thinking that her drawing-room
was a sort of compromise between a curiosity shop and a menagerie. To
begin with, I stumbled over the head of a tiger skin, which confronted
me as I passed through the _portière_, so that I nearly fell into the
arms of my hostess. It seemed to me that I had stepped into a veritable
bazaar. A large bear skin lay before the fire as a hearth-rug, and
on either side of the grate squatted a large, orientally conceived
china dragon with an open mouth. Here and there, under furniture or in
corners, were gaping frogs in bronze or china. A low plush-covered
table was densely arrayed with small china dogs of every degree.
On another table was spread a number of silver ornaments--a silver
snuff-box, a silver whistle, a silver feather, a silver match-box,
and a silver shoe-buckle--all objects of virtu of apparently antique
workmanship. There were three lamps with ornamental shades--a fluted
china shade, a paper shade in semblance of a full-blown rose, and a
yellow satin shade with drooping fringe. From the low studded ceiling
depended a vast Japanese paper lantern. Sundry and divers china
vases and shepherdesses occupied the mantel-piece and the top of the
book-case, and had overflowed on to a writing-table supplied with
brass ornaments. There were numerous pictures, large and small, on the
walls, under many of which colored china plates had been hung. There
were photographs in frames everywhere. The actual space where I could
stand without knocking over anything was about the size of a hat bath,
and was shut in by a circle of low chairs and divans besprinkled with
æsthetic yellow, green, and pink soft silk cushions. On one of these
divans my hostess was reclining in a Grosvenor gallery tea-gown, so
that she seemed to wallow in cushions, and Julius Cæsar himself was
sunk in the depths of one of the chairs, so near the ground that his
knees seemed to rest on his chin, and one might fairly have taken him
for another china frog of extraordinary proportions. All this in a
comparatively small room where there were several other knick-knacks
which I have omitted to mention. Better this, perhaps, than the
drawing-room of forty years ago, when the visitor’s gaze was bounded by
cold green rep, and he was restrained only by decorum from hurling into
the fire the tidy or antimacassar which tickled his neck, or detached
itself and wriggled down between his back and the back of the chair.

But Mrs. Cæsar’s drawing-room, in her new house on Belport Avenue, has
been furnished from a very different point of view than her first one,
which shows how rapidly tastes change in a progressive society. Mrs.
Cæsar and Julius chose everything themselves this time as they did
before, but they had learned from experience, and from the new work
of the contemporary decorator. There is plenty of unoccupied space
now to show her possessions to advantage, and there are not too many
possessions visible for the size of the parlor; there is neither so
much uniformity of color and design as to weary the eye, nor so much
variety or eccentricity as to irritate it; consequently, the effect on
the visitor is not that he is in a room intended for luxurious display,
but in an exquisitely furnished room adapted for daily use. In other
words, the controlling idea at present, of those who seek to make
their houses charming, seems to be to combine comfort with elegance so
skilfully that while one may realize the latter, one is conscious only
of the former. Though decorators are still experimenting, as probably
they always will be, to attain novel effects, they are disposed to
make use of queer or attenuated hues, Moorish blazonry, stamped
leather, peacock feathers, elephant tusks, stained-glass windows, and
Japanese lacquer-work with much more discretion than a few years ago.
Virgin-white instead of dirt-brown lights up our halls and stair-cases,
and the vast chandeliers which used to dazzle the eye no longer dangle
from the ceiling. Indeed, it seems as though it would be difficult to
make the interior of the homes of our well-to-do class more comfortable
and attractive than they are at present. It may be that some of our
very rich people are disposed to waste their energies in devising and
striving for more consummate elegance, thereby exposing us all to the
charge that we are becoming too luxurious for our spiritual good. But
there can be little question that the ambition to surround one’s self
with as much beauty, consistent with comfort, as one can afford is
desirable, even from the ethical standpoint.

Undeniably our point of view has changed extraordinarily in the last
thirty years in regard to house-furnishing, as in regard to so many
other matters of our material welfare, and there certainly is some
ground for fearing that the pendulum is swinging just at present
too far in the direction opposite to that of high thinking and low
living; but, after all, though the reaction from ugliness has been and
continues to be exuberant, it is as yet by no means wide-embracing. In
fact, our cultivated well-to-do class--though it is well abreast of
the rest of the civilized world in aspiration and not far behind it in
accomplishment, with certain vivifying traits of its own which the old
world societies do not possess or have lost--is still comparatively
small; and there is still so much Stygian darkness outside it in
respect to house-furnishing and home comfort in general, that we can
afford to have the exuberance continue for the present; for there is
some reason to believe that most of the descendants of our old high
thinkers have become high livers, or at least, if low livers, have
ceased to be high thinkers. Mutton-soup for breakfast and unattractive
domestic surroundings seem to comport nowadays with ignoble aims, if
nothing worse; moreover, it must not be forgotten that the plain people
of the present is no longer the plain people of forty years ago, but is
largely the seed of the influx of foreign peasants, chiefly inferior
and often scum, which the sacredness of our institutions has obliged us
to receive.

_House-Furnishing_ and the _Commissariat_.


If we have become cosmopolitan in the matter of domestic comfort and
elegance as regards our drawing-rooms, the same is certainly true of
our dining-rooms, and dinner-tables. But here it seems to me that we
are more justly open to criticism on the score of over-exuberance.
That is, the fairly well-to-do class, for the plain people of foreign
blood, and the low liver of native blood, eat almost as indigestible
food, and quite as rapidly and unceremoniously, as the pie and doughnut
nurtured yeoman of original Yankee stock, who thrived in spite of his
diet, and left to his grandchildren the heritage of dyspepsia which
has become nervous prostration in the present generation. It seems as
though our instincts of hospitality have grown in direct ratio with
our familiarity with and adoption of civilized creature comforts,
and any charge of exuberance may doubtless be fairly ascribed to the
national trait of generosity, the abuse of which is after all a noble
blemish. But, on the other hand, facts remain, even after one has given
a pleasing excuse for their existence, and it may be doubted if a
spendthrift is long consoled by the reflection that his impecuniosity
is due to his own disinclination to stint. May it not truthfully be
charged against the reasonably well-to-do American citizen that he has
a prejudice against thrift, especially where the entertainment of his
fellow man or woman is concerned? The rapid growth of wealth and the
comparative facility of becoming rich during the last half century of
our development, has operated against the practice of small economies,
so that we find ourselves now beset by extravagant traditions which we
hesitate to deviate from for fear of seeming mean. Many a man to-day
pays his quarter of a dollar ruefully and begrudgingly to the colored
Pullman car porter at the end of his journey, when he is “brushed off,”
because he cannot bring himself to break the custom which fixed the
fee. It would be interesting to estimate what the grand total of saving
to the American travelling public would have been if ten instead of
twenty-five cents a head had been paid to the tyrant in question since
he first darkened the situation. If not enough to maintain free schools
for the negro, at least sufficient to compel railroad managements to
give their employees suitable wages instead of letting the easy-going
traveller, who has already paid for the privilege of a reserved seat,
pay a premium on that. The exorbitant fees bestowed on waiters is but
another instance of a tendency to be over-generous, which, once reduced
to custom, becomes the severest kind of tax, in that it is likely to
affect the warmest-hearted people.

This tendency to be needlessly lavish in expenditure is most
conspicuous when we are offering hospitality in our own homes. Among
the viands which we have added to the bills of fare of humanity, roast
turkey and cranberry-sauce, Indian meal, and probably baked beans, are
entitled to conspicuous and honorable mention, but is it not true,
notwithstanding champagne is a foreign wine, that the most prodigious
discovery in the line of food or drink yet made by the well-to-do
people of this country, is the discovery of champagne? Does it not flow
in one golden effervescing stream, varied only by the pops caused by
the drawing of fresh corks, from the Statue of Liberty Enlightening
the World to the Golden Gate? And the circumstance that every pop
costs the entertainer between three and four dollars, seems in no
wise to interrupt the cheery explosions. There are some people who do
not drink champagne or any other wine, from principle, and there are
some with whom it does not agree, but the average individual finds
that the interest of festive occasions is heightened by its presence
in reasonable abundance, and is apt to deplore its total absence with
internal groans. But surely ninety-nine men in our large cities out
of one hundred, who are accustomed to entertain and be entertained,
must be weary of the sight of this expensive tempter at the feast,
which it is so difficult to refuse when set before one, and which is
so often quaffed against better judgment or inclination. The champagne
breakfast, the champagne luncheon, the champagne dinner, and the
champagne supper, with a champagne cocktail tossed in as a stop-gap,
hound the social favorite from January to December, until he is fain
to dream of the Old Oaken Bucket, and sooner or later to drink Lithia
water only.

With perpetual and unremitting champagne as the key-note of social
gatherings, no wonder that the table ornaments and the comestibles
become more splendid. A little dinner of eight or ten is no longer a
simple matter of a cordial invitation and an extra course. The hostess
who bids her contemporaries to dine with her most informally ten days
hence, uses a figure of speech which is innocuous from the fact that it
is known to be a deliberate falsehood. She begins generally by engaging
a cook from outside to prepare the dinner, which must surely wound the
sensibilities of any self-respecting couple the first time, however
hardened to the situation they may become later.

At this stage of my reflections I am interrupted by my wife,
Barbara--for I was thinking aloud--with a few words of expostulation.

“Are you not a little severe? I assume that you are referring now to
people with a comfortable income, but who are not disgustingly rich. Of
course, nowadays, the very rich people keep cooks who can cook for a
dinner-party, cooks at eight dollars or more a week and a kitchen maid;
so it is only the hostess with a cook at four and a half to six dollars
a week and no kitchen maid who is likely to engage an accommodator. But
what is the poor thing to do? Give a wretched, or plain dinner which
may make her hair grow white in a single night? Surely, when a woman
invites friends to her house she does not wish them to go away half
starved, or remembering that they have had disagreeable things to eat.
In that case she would prefer not to entertain at all.”

“The question is,” I answered, “whether it is more sensible to try to
be content with what one has, or to vie with those who are better off.
We do not attempt to dine on gold plate, nor have we a piano decorated
with a five-thousand-dollar painting by one of the great artists, like
Patterson, the banker. Why should we endeavor to compete with his

“The clever thing, of course, is to find a cook for six dollars a week
who can cook for a dinner-party,” answered Barbara, pensively; “and
yet,” she added, “though our cook can, the chances are that nine out
of ten of the people who dine with us think that we hired her for the

“Precisely. Just because the custom has grown so. It is sheer

“After all, my dear, it is a comparatively small matter--a five-dollar

“Pardon me. Five dollars for the cook, because one’s own cook is not
good enough; three or five dollars for an accommodating maid or waiter,
because you cannot trust your chamber-maid to assist your waitress;
eight dollars for champagne, and so on.”

“Do not say ‘your’--mine can.”

“Her, then--the woman of the day. I am trying to show that a small
informal dinner is a cruelly expensive affair for the average man with
a comfortable working income.”

“I admit that a dinner for eight or ten is expensive,” said Barbara.
“It means twenty-five dollars at the lowest, even if you have your
own cook. But what is one to do? You don’t seem to appreciate that a
good plain cook cannot usually prepare dinner-party dishes, and that a
plain dinner is now almost as different from a dinner-party dinner as a
boiled egg is from caviare.”

“Precisely. There is the pity of it. The growth here of the French
restaurant and the taste for rich and elaborate cookery has doubtless
been a good thing in its way, if only that it is now possible to obtain
a tolerably well-cooked meal at most of the hotels in our large cities
and principal watering-places; but why should people of moderate means
and social instincts feel constrained to offer a banquet on every
occasion when they entertain? I for one consider it a bore to have so
much provided when I go out to dinner.”

“You must admit,” said Barbara, “that dinners are not nearly so long
as they were a few years ago. Now, by means of the extra service you
complain of, and by keeping the number of courses down, a dinner ought
not to last longer than an hour and a half, whereas it used to take
two hours and over. In England they are much worse than here. You are
given, for instance, two puddings, one after the other, and ices to

“I agree,” said I, “that we have curtailed the length so that there
is not much to complain of on that score. I think, though, that
comparatively plain dishes well served are quite as apt to please as
the aspics, chartreuses, timbales, and other impressive gallicisms
under which the accommodating party cook is wont to cater to the
palates of informally invited guests. I sometimes think that the very
few of our great great-grandfathers who knew how to live at all must
have had more appetizing tables than we. Their family cooks, from all
accounts, knew how to roast and boil and bake and stew, culinary arts
which somehow seem to be little understood by the chefs of to-day.
Then again, the old-fashioned Delft crockery--blue ships sailing on a
blue sea--was very attractive. Our modern dinner-tables, when arrayed
for a party, have almost too much fuss and feathers. Women worry until
they get cut glass, if it is not given them as a wedding present, and
several sets of costly plates--Sèvres, Dresden, or Crown Derby--are apt
to seem indispensable to housekeepers of comparatively limited means.”

“Cut glass is lovely, and the same plates through seven courses are
rather trying,” said Barbara, parenthetically.

“Of course it is lovely, and I am very glad you have some. But
is not the modern American woman of refined sensibilities just a
little too eager to crowd her table with every article of virtu she
possesses--every ornamental spoon, dish, cup, and candlestick--until
one is unable to see at any one spot more than a square inch of
tablecloth? In the centre of the table she sets a crystal bowl of
flowers, a silver basket of ferns, or a dish of fruit. This is flanked
by apostle or gold-lined spoons, silver dishes of confectionery of
various kinds, silver candlesticks or candelabra fitted with pink or
saffron shades, one or two of which are expected to catch fire, an
array of cut glass or Venetian glass at every plate, and, like as not,
pansies strewn all over the table.”

“The modern dinner-table is very pretty,” responded Barbara. “I don’t
see how it could be improved materially.”

“I dare say, but somehow one can’t help thinking at times that the
effort for effect is too noticeable, and that the real object of
sitting down to dinner in company, agreeable social intercourse, is
consequently lost sight of. If only the very rich were guilty of wanton
display, the answer would be that the rank and file of our well-to-do,
sensible people have very simple entertainments. Unfortunately, while
the very rich are constantly vying to outstrip one another, the
dinner-table and the dinner of the well-to-do American are each growing
more and more complex and elaborate. Perhaps not more so than abroad
among the nobility or people of means; but certainly we have been
Europeanized in this respect to such an extent that, not only is there
practically nothing left for us to learn in the way of being luxurious,
but I am not sure that we are not disposed to convince the rest of the
civilized world that a free-born American, when fully developed, can be
the most luxurious individual on earth.”

Barbara looked a little grave at this. “Everything used to be so ugly
and unattractive a little while ago that I suppose our heads have been
turned,” she answered. “After this I shall make a rule, when we give a
dinner-party, to keep one-half of my table ornaments in the safe as a
rebuke to my vanity. Only if I am to show so much of the tablecloth, I
shall have to buy some with handsome patterns. Don’t you see?”

Perhaps this suggestion that our heads have been turned for the time
being by our national prosperity, and that they will become straight
again in due course of time, is the most sensible view to take of the
situation. There can be no doubt that among well-to-do people, who
would object to be classed in “the smart set,” as the reporters of
social gossip odiously characterize those prominent in fashionable
society in our large cities, the changes in the last thirty years
connected with every-day living, as well as with entertaining, have
all been in the direction of cosmopolitan usage. It is now only a
very old-fashioned or a very blatant person who objects to the use of
evening dress at the dinner-table, or the theatre, as inconsistent
with true patriotism. The dinner-hour has steadily progressed from
twelve o’clock noon until it has halted at seven _post_ meridian, as
the ordinary hour for the most formal meal of the day, with further
postponement to half-past seven or even eight among the fashionable
for the sake of company. The frying-pan and the tea-pot have
ceased to reign supreme as the patron saints of female nutrition,
and the beefsteak, the egg, both cooked and raw, milk and other
flesh-and-blood-producing food are abundantly supplied to the rising
generation of both sexes by the provident parent of to-day. The price
of beef in our large cities has steadily advanced in price until its
use as an article of diet is a serious monster to encounter in the
monthly bills, but the husband and father who is seeking to live
wisely, seems not to be deterred from providing it abundantly.

From this it is evident that if we are unduly exuberant in the pursuit
of creature comforts, it is not solely in the line of purely ornamental
luxuries. If we continue to try our nervous systems by undue exertion,
they are at least better fitted to stand the strain, by virtue of
plenty of nutritious food, even though dinner-parties tempt us now
and then to over-indulgence, or bore us by their elaborateness. Yet
it remains to be seen whether the income of the American husband
and father will be able to stand the steady drain occasioned by the
liberal table he provides, and it may be that we have some lessons in
thrift on this score still in store for us. There is this consolation,
that if our heads have been turned in this respect also, and we are
supplying more food for our human furnaces than they need, the force
of any reaction will not fall on us, but on the market-men, who are
such a privileged class that our candidates for public office commonly
provide a rally for their special edification just before election-day,
and whose white smock-frocks are commonly a cloak for fat though greasy
purses. Yet Providence seems to smile on the market-man in that it has
given him the telephone, through which the modern mistress can order
her dinner, or command chops or birds, when unexpected guests are
foreshadowed. Owing to the multiplicity of the demands upon the time of
both men and women, the custom of going to market in person has largely
fallen into decay. The butcher and grocer send assistants to the house
for orders, and the daily personal encounter with the smug man in
white, which used to be as inevitable as the dinner, has now mainly
been relegated to the blushing bride of from one week to two years’
standing, and the people who pay cash for everything. Very likely we
are assessed for the privilege of not being obliged to nose our turkeys
and see our chops weighed in advance, and it is difficult to answer the
strictures of those who sigh for what they call the good old times,
when it was every man’s duty, before he went to his office, to look
over his butcher’s entire stock and select the fattest and juiciest
edibles for the consumption of himself and family. As for paying cash
for everything, my wife Barbara says that, unless people are obliged to
be extremely economical, no woman in this age of nervous prostration
ought to run the risk of bringing on that dire malady by any such
imprudence, and that to save five dollars a month on a butcher’s
bill, and pay twenty-five to a physician for ruined nerves, is false
political economy.

“I agree with you,” she added, “that we Americans live extravagantly
in the matter of daily food--especially meat--as compared with the
general run of people in other countries; but far more serious than
our appetites and liberal habits, in my opinion, is the horrible waste
which goes on in our kitchens, due to the fact that our cooks are
totally ignorant of the art of making the most of things. Abroad,
particularly on the Continent, they understand how to utilize every
scrap, so that many a comfortable meal is provided from what our
servants habitually cast into the swill-tub. Here there is perpetual
waste--waste--waste, and no one seems to understand how to prevent it.
There you have one never-failing reason for the size of our butchers’
and grocers’ bills.”

I assume that my wife, who is an intelligent person, must be correct
in this accusation of general wastefulness which she makes against the
American kitchen. If so, here we are confronted again with the question
of domestic service from another point of view. How long can we afford
to throw our substance into the swill-tub? If our emigrant cooks do not
understand the art of utilizing scraps and remnants, are we to continue
to enrich our butchers without let or hindrance? It would seem that
if the American housewife does not take this matter in hand promptly,
the cruel laws of political economy will soon convince her by grisly
experience that neither poetry nor philanthropy can flourish in a land
where there is perpetual waste below stairs.



On occasions of oratory in this country, nothing will arouse an
audience more quickly than an allusion to our public school system,
and any speaker who sees fit to apostrophize it is certain to be
fervidly applauded. Moreover, in private conversation, whether with our
countrymen or with foreigners, every citizen is prone to indulge in
the statement, commonly uttered with some degree of emotion, that our
public schools are the great bulwarks of progressive democracy. Why,
then, is the American parent, as soon as he becomes well-to-do, apt to
send his children elsewhere?

I was walking down town with a friend the other day, and he asked me
casually where I sent my boys to school. When I told him that they
attended a public school he said, promptly, “Good enough. I like to see
a man do it. It’s the right thing.” I acquiesced modestly; then, as I
knew that he had a boy of his own, I asked him the same question.

“My son,” he replied slowly, “goes to Mr. Bingham’s”--indicating
a private school for boys in the neighborhood. “He is a little
delicate--that is, he had measles last summer, and has never quite
recovered his strength. I had almost made up my mind to send him to a
public school, so that he might mix with all kinds of boys, but his
mother seemed to think that the chances of his catching scarlet fever
or diphtheria would be greater, and she has an idea that he would make
undesirable acquaintances and learn things which he shouldn’t. So, on
the whole, we decided to send him to Bingham’s. But I agree that you
are right.”

There are many men in the community who, like my friend, believe
thoroughly that every one would do well to send his boys to a public
school--that is, every one but themselves. When it comes to the case
of their own flesh and blood they hesitate, and in nine instances out
of ten, on some plea or other, turn their backs on the principles they
profess. This is especially true in our cities, and it has been more or
less true ever since the Declaration of Independence; and as a proof of
the flourishing condition of the tendency at present, it is necessary
merely to instance the numerous private schools all over the country.
The pupils at these private schools are the children of our people
of means and social prominence, the people who ought to be the most
patriotic citizens of the Republic.

I frankly state that I, for one, would not send my boys to a public
school unless I believed the school to be a good one. Whatever
other motives may influence parents, there is no doubt that many
are finally deterred from sending their boys to a public school by
the conviction that the education offered to their sons in return
for taxes is inferior to what can be obtained by private contract.
Though a father may be desirous to have his boys understand early the
theory of democratic equality, he may well hesitate to let them remain
comparatively ignorant in order to impress upon them this doctrine.
In this age, when so much stress is laid on the importance of giving
one’s children the best education possible, it seems too large a price
to pay. Why, after all, should a citizen send his boys to a school
provided by the State, if better schools exist in the neighborhood
which he can afford to have them attend?

This conviction on the part of parents is certainly justified in many
sections of the country, and when justifiable, disarms the critic who
is prepared to take a father to task for sending his children to a
private school. Also, it is the only argument which the well-to-do
aristocrat can successfully protect himself behind. It is a full suit
of armor in itself, but it is all he has. Every other excuse which he
can give is flimsy as tissue-paper, and exposes him utterly. Therefore,
if the State is desirous to educate the sons of its leading citizens,
it ought to make sure that the public schools are second to none in
the land. If it does not, it has only itself to blame if they are
educated apart from the sons of the masses of the population. Nor is it
an answer to quote the Fourth of July orator, that our public schools
are second to none in the world; for one has only to investigate to
be convinced that, both as regards the methods of teaching and as
regards ventilation, many of them all over the country are signally
inferior to the school as it should be, and the school, both public
and private, as it is in certain localities. So long as school boards
and committees, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, are composed mainly
of political aspirants without experience in educational matters, and
who seek to serve as a first or second step toward the White House,
our public schools are likely to remain only pretty good. So long as
people with axes to grind, or, more plainly speaking, text-books to
circulate, are chosen to office, our public schools are not likely to
improve. So long--and here is the most serious factor of all--so long
as the well-to-do American father and mother continue to be sublimely
indifferent to the condition of the public schools, the public schools
will never be so good as they ought to be.

It must certainly be a source of constant discouragement to the
earnest-minded people in this country, who are interested in education,
and are at the same time believers in our professed national hostility
to class distinctions, that the well-to-do American parent so calmly
turns his back on the public schools, and regards them very much from
the lofty standpoint from which certain persons are wont to regard
religion--as an excellent thing for the masses, but superfluous for
themselves. Of course, if we are going, in this respect also, to model
ourselves on and imitate the older civilizations, there is nothing
to be said. If the public schools are to be merely a semi-charitable
institution for children whose parents cannot afford to separate them
from the common herd, the discussion ceases. But what becomes, then,
of our cherished and Fourth of July sanctified theories of equality and
common school education? And what do we mean when we prate of a common
humanity, and no upper class?

It is in the city or town, where the public school is equal or superior
to the private school, that the real test comes. Yet in these places
well-to-do parents seem almost as indifferent as when they have the
righteous defence that their children would be imperfectly educated,
or breathe foul air, were they to be sent to a public school. They
take no interest, and they fairly bristle with polite and ingenious
excuses for evading compliance with the institutions of their country.
This is true, probably, of three-fifths of those parents, who can
afford, if necessary, to pay for private instruction. And having once
made the decision that, for some reason, a public school education
is not desirable for their children, they feel absolved from further
responsibility and practically wash their hands of the matter. It is
notorious that a very large proportion of the children of the leading
bankers, merchants, professional men, and other influential citizens,
who reside in the so-called court end of our large cities, do not
attend the public schools, and it is equally notorious that the
existence of a well-conducted and satisfactory school in the district
affects the attendance comparatively little. If only this element of
the population, which is now so indifferent, would interest itself
actively, what a vast improvement could be effected in our public
school system! If the parents in the community, whose standards of life
are the highest, and whose ideas are the most enlightened, would as a
class co-operate in the advancement of common education, the charge
that our public schools produce on the whole second-rate acquirements,
and second-rate morals and manners, would soon be refuted, and the
cause of popular education would cease to be handicapped, as it is
at present, by the coolness of the well-to-do class. If the public
schools, in those sections of our cities where our most intelligent and
influential citizens have their homes, are unsatisfactory, they could
speedily be made as good as any private school, were the same interest
manifested by the tax-payers as is shown when an undesirable pavement
is laid, or a company threatens to provide rapid transit before their
doors. Unfortunately, that same spirit of aloofness, which has in the
past operated largely to exclude this element in the nation from
participation in the affairs of popular government, seems to be at the
bottom of this matter. Certainly much progress has been made in the
last twenty years in remedying the political evil, and the public good
appears to demand a change of front from the same class of people on
the subject of common education, unless we are prepared to advocate the
existence and growth of a favored, special class, out of touch with,
and at heart disdainful of, the average citizen.

The most serious enemies of the public schools among well-to-do people
appear to be women. Many a man, alive to the importance of educating
his sons in conformity with the spirit of our Constitution, would like
to send his boys to a public school, but is deterred by his wife. A
mother accustomed to the refinements of modern civilization is apt to
shrink from sending her fleckless darling to consort, and possibly
become the boon companion or bosom friend, of a street waif.

She urges the danger of contamination, both physical and moral, and
is only too glad to discover an excuse for refusing to yield. “Would
you like to have your precious boy sit side by side with a little
negro?” I was asked one day, in horrified accents, by a well-to-do
American mother; and I have heard many fears expressed by others that
their offspring would learn vice, or contract disease, through daily
association with the children of the mass. It is not unjust to state
that the average well-to-do mother is gratified when the public school,
to which her sons would otherwise be sent, is so unsatisfactory that
their father’s patriotism is overborne by other considerations. All
theories of government or humanity are lost sight of in her desire to
shelter her boys, and the simplest way to her seems to be to set them
apart from the rest of creation, instead of taking pains to make sure
that they are suitably taught and protected side by side with the other
children of the community.

Excellent as many of our private schools are, it is doubtful if either
the morals are better, or the liability to disease is less, among the
children who attend them than at a public school of the best class. To
begin with, the private schools in our cities are eagerly patronized by
that not inconsiderable class of parents who hope or imagine that the
social position of their children is to be established by association
with the children of influential people. Falsehood, meanness, and
unworthy ambitions are quite as dangerous to character, when the little
man who suggests them has no patches on his breeches, as when he has,
and unfortunately there are no outward signs on the moral nature,
like holes in trousers, to serve as danger signals to our darlings.
Then again, those of us who occupy comfortable houses in desirable
localities, will generally find on investigation that the average of
the class of children which attend the public school in such a district
is much superior to what paternal or maternal fancy has painted. In
such a district the children of the ignorant emigrant class are not
to be found in large numbers. The pupils consist mainly of the rank
and file of the native American population, whose tendencies and
capacities for good have always been, and continue to be, the basis of
our strength as a people. There is no need that a mother with delicate
sensibilities should send her son into the slums in order to obtain for
him a common school education; she has merely to consent that he take
his chances with the rest of the children of the district in which he
lives, and bend her own energies to make the standards of that school
as high as possible. In that way she will best help to raise the tone
of the community as a whole, and best aid to obliterate those class
distinctions which, in spite of Fourth of July negations, are beginning
to expose us to the charge of insincerity.

When a boy has reached the age of eleven or twelve, another
consideration presents itself which is a source of serious perplexity
to parents. Shall he be educated at home--that is, attend school
in his own city or town--or be sent to one of the boarding-schools
or academies which are ready to open their doors to him and fit
him for college? Here again we are met by the suggestion that the
boarding-school of this type is not a native growth, but an exotic.
England has supplied us with a precedent. The great boarding-schools,
Rugby, Eton, and Harrow, are the resort of the gentlemen of England.
Though termed public schools, they are class schools, reserved and
intended for the education of only the highly respectable. The sons of
the butcher, the baker, and candlestick-maker are not formally barred,
but they are tacitly excluded. The pupils are the sons of the upper and
well-to-do middle classes. A few boarding-schools for boys have been
in existence here for many years, but in the last twenty there has
been a notable increase in their number and importance. These, too, are
essentially class schools, for though ostensibly open to everybody, the
charges for tuition and living are beyond the means of parents with a
small income. Most of them are schools of a religious denomination,
though commonly a belief in the creed for which the institution stands
is not made a formal requisite for admission. The most successful
profess the Episcopalian faith, and in other essential respects are
modelled deliberately on the English public schools.

The strongest argument for sending a boy to one of these schools
is the fresh-air plea. Undeniably, the growing boy in a large city
is at a disadvantage. He can rarely, if ever, obtain opportunities
for healthful exercise and recreation equal to those afforded by a
well-conducted boarding-school. He is likely to become a little man too
early, or else to sit in the house because there is nowhere to play.
At a boarding-school he will, under firm but gentle discipline, keep
regular hours, eat simple food, and between study times be stimulated
to cultivate athletic or other outdoor pursuits. It is not strange that
parents should be attracted by the comparison, and decide that, on
the whole, their boys will fare better away from home. Obviously the
aristocratic mother will point out to her husband that his predilection
for the public school system is answered by the fact that the State
does not supply schools away from the city, where abundant fresh air
and a famous foot-ball field are appurtenant to the institution. Tom
Brown at Rugby recurs to them both, and they conclude that what has
been good enough for generations of English boys will be best for their
own son and heir.

On the other hand, have we Americans ever quite reconciled ourselves
to, and sympathized with, the traditional attitude of English parents
toward their sons as portrayed in veracious fiction? The day of parting
comes; the mother, red-eyed from secret weeping, tries not to break
down; the blubbering sisters throw their arms around the neck of the
hero of the hour, and slip pen-wipers of their own precious making
into his pockets; the father, abnormally stern to hide his emotion,
says, bluffly, “Good-by, Tom; it’s time to be off, and we’ll see you
again at Christmas.” And out goes Tom, a tender fledgeling, into the
great world of the public school, and that is the last of home. His
holidays arrive, but there is no more weeping. He is practically out
of his parents’ lives, and the sweet influence of a good mother is
exercised only through fairly regular correspondence. And Tom is said
to be getting manly, and that the nonsense has nearly been knocked out
of him. He has been bullied and has learned to bully; he has been a
fag and is now a cock. Perhaps he is first scholar, if not a hero of
the cricket or foot-ball field. Then off he goes to college, half a
stranger to those who love him best.

This is fine and manly perhaps, in the Anglo-Saxon sense, but does it
not seem just a little brutal? Are we well-to-do Americans prepared to
give up to others, however exemplary, the conduct of our children’s
lives? Granting that the American private boarding-school is a
delightful institution, where bullying and fags and cocks are not
known, can it ever take the place of home, or supply the stimulus to
individual life which is exercised by wise parental love and precept?
Of course, it is easier, in a certain sense, to send one’s boy to a
select boarding-school, where the conditions are known to be highly
satisfactory. It shifts the responsibility on to other shoulders, and
yet leaves one who is not sensitive, in the pleasing frame of mind
that the very best thing has been done for the young idea. In our busy
American life--more feverish than that of our English kinsfolk whose
institution we have copied--many doubtless are induced to seek this
solution of a perplexing problem by the consciousness of their own lack
of efficiency, and their own lack of leisure to provide a continuous
home influence superior or equal to what can be supplied by headmasters
and their assistants, who are both churchmen and athletes. Many, too,
especially fathers, are firm believers in that other English doctrine,
that most boys need to have the nonsense knocked out of them, and that
the best means of accomplishing this result is to cut them loose from
their mothers’ apron-strings.

It is to be borne in mind in this connection that the great English
public schools are a national cult. That is, everybody above a certain
class sends his sons to one of them. On the other hand, the private
boarding-schools on this side of the water, fashioned after them,
have thus far attracted the patronage of a very small element of the
population. It is their misfortune, rather than their fault, that they
are chiefly the resort of the sons of rich or fashionable people, and
consequently are the most conspicuously class schools in the country.
Doubtless the earnest men who conduct most of them regret that this is
so, but it is one of the factors of the case which the American parent
with sons must face at present. It may be that this is to be the type
of school which is to become predominant here, and that, as in England,
the nation will recognize it as a national force, even though here,
as there, only the sons of the upper classes enjoy its advantages.
That will depend partly on the extent to which we shall decide, as a
society, to promote further class education. At present these schools
are essentially private institutions. They are small; they do not,
like our American colleges, offer scholarships, and thus invite the
attendance of ambitious students without means. Moreover, they are
almost universally conducted on a sectarian basis, or with a sectarian
leaning, which is apt to proselytize, at least indirectly.

While those in charge of them indisputably strive to inculcate every
virtue, the well-to-do American father must remember that his sons
will associate intimately there with many boys whose parents belong to
that frivolous class which is to-day chiefly absorbed in beautiful
establishments, elaborate cookery, and the wholly material vanities
of life, and are out of sympathy with, or are indifferent to, the
earnest temper and views of that already large and intelligent portion
of the community, which views with horror the development among us
of an aristocracy of wealth, which apes and is striving to outdo the
heartless inanities of the Old World. He must remember that a taste for
luxury and sensuous, material aims, even though they be held in check
by youthful devotion to the rites of the church, will prove no less
disastrous, in the long run, to manhood and patriotism, than the lack
of fresh air or a famous foot-ball field.

If, however, the American father chooses to keep his sons at home,
he is bound to do all he can to overcome the physical disadvantages
of city life. Fresh air and suitable exercise can be obtained in the
suburbs of most cities by a little energy and co-operation on the
part of parents. As an instance, in one or two of our leading cities,
clubs of twelve to fifteen boys are sent out three or four afternoons
a week under the charge of an older youth--usually a college or other
student--who, without interfering with their liberty, supervises
their sports, and sees that they are well occupied. On days when the
weather is unsuitable for any kind of game, he will take them to
museums, manufactories, or other places of interest in the vicinity. In
this way some of the watchfulness and discipline which are constantly
operative at a boarding-school, are exercised without injury to home
ties. There is no doubt that, unless parents are vigilant and interest
themselves unremittingly in providing necessary physical advantages,
the boys in a crowded city are likely to be less healthy and vigorous
in body, and perhaps in mind, than those educated at a first-class
boarding-school. It may be, as our cities increase in size, and suburbs
become more difficult of access, that the boarding-school will become
more generally popular; but there is reason to believe that, before it
is recognized as a national institution, sectarian religion will have
ceased to control it, and it will be less imitative of England in its
tone and social attitude. Until then, at least, many a parent will
prefer to keep his boys at home.



“Supposing you had four daughters, like Mr. Perkins, what would you do
with them, educationally speaking?” I said to my wife Barbara, by way
of turning my attention to the other sex.

“You mean what would they do with me? They would drive me into my
grave, I think,” she answered. “Woman’s horizon has become so enlarged
that no mother can tell what her next daughter may not wish to do. I
understand, though, that you are referring simply to schools. To begin
with, I take for granted you will agree that American parents, who
insist on sending their boys to a public school, very often hesitate or
decline point-blank to send their girls.”

“Precisely. And we are forthwith confronted by the question whether
they are justified in so doing.”

Barbara looked meditative for a moment, then she said: “I am quite
aware there is no logical reason why girls should not be treated in the
same way, and yet as a matter of fact I am not at all sure, patriotism
and logic to the contrary notwithstanding, I should send a daughter to
a public school unless I were convinced, from personal examination,
that she would have neither a vulgar teacher nor vulgar associates.
Manners mean so much to a woman, and by manners I refer chiefly to
those nice perceptions of everything which stamp a lady, and which you
can no more describe than you can describe the perfume of the violet.
The objection to the public schools for a girl is that the unwritten
constitution of this country declared years ago that every woman was a
born lady, and that manners and nice perceptions were in the national
blood, and required no cultivation for their production. Latterly, a
good many people interested in educational matters have discovered
the fallacy of this point of view; so that when the name of a woman
to act as the head of a college or other first-class institution for
girls is brought forward to-day, the first question asked is, ‘Is she
a lady?’ Ten years ago mental acquirements would have been regarded
as sufficient, and the questioner silenced with the severe answer
that every American woman is a lady. The public school authorities
are still harping too much on the original fallacy, or rather the
new point of view has not spread sufficiently to cause the average
American school-teacher to suspect that her manners might be improved
and her sensibilities refined. There, that sounds like treason to the
principles of democracy, yet you know I am at heart a patriot.”

“And yet to bring up boys on a common basis and separate the girls by
class education seems like a contradiction of terms,” I said.

“I am confident--at least if we as a nation really do believe in
obliterating class distinctions--that it won’t be long before those
who control the public schools recognize more universally the value
of manners, and of the other traits which distinguish the woman of
breeding from the woman who has none,” said Barbara. “When that time
comes the well-to-do American mother will have no more reason for not
sending her daughters to a public school than her sons. As it is, they
should send them oftener than they do.”

“Of course,” continued Barbara, presently, “the best private schools
are in the East, and a very much larger percentage, both of girls and
boys, attends the public schools in the West than in the East. Indeed,
I am inclined to think that comparatively few people west of Chicago
do not send their children to public schools. But, on the other hand,
there are boarding-schools for girls all over the East which are mainly
supported by girls from the West, whose mothers wish to have them
finished. They go to the public schools at home until they are thirteen
or fourteen, and then are packed off to school for three or four years
in order to teach them how to move, and wear their hair, and spell, and
control their voices--for the proper modulation of the voice has at
last been recognized as a necessary attribute of the well-bred American
woman. As for the Eastern girl who is not sent to the public school,
she usually attends a private day-school in her native city, the
resources of which are supplemented by special instruction of various
kinds, in order to produce the same finished specimen. But it isn’t
the finished specimen who is really interesting from the educational
point of view to-day; that is, the conventional, cosmopolitan, finished
specimen such as is turned out with deportment and accomplishments from
the hands of the English governess, the French Mother Superior, or the
American private school-mistress.

“After making due allowance for the national point of view, I don’t see
very much difference in principle between the means adopted to finish
the young lady of society here and elsewhere. There are thousands of
daughters of well-to-do mothers in this country who are brought up
on the old aristocratic theory that a woman should study moderately
hard until she is eighteen, then look as pretty as she can, and devote
herself until she is married to having what is called on this side of
the Atlantic a good time. To be sure, in France the good time does not
come until after marriage, and there are other differences, but the
well-bred lady of social graces is the well-bred lady, whether it be
in London, Paris, Vienna, or New York, and a ball-room in one capital
is essentially the same as in all the others, unless it be that over
here the very young people are allowed to crowd out everybody else.
There are thousands of mothers who are content that this should be the
limit of their daughter’s experience, a reasonably good education and
perfect manners, four years of whirl, and then a husband, or no husband
and a conservative afternoon tea-drinking spinsterhood--and they are
thankful on the whole when their girls put their necks meekly beneath
the yoke of convention and do as past generations of women all over the
civilized world have done. For the reign of the unconventional society
young woman is over. She shocks now her own countrywoman even more than
foreigners; and though, like the buffalo, she is still extant, she is
disappearing even more rapidly than that illustrious quadruped.”

“Are you not wandering slightly from the topic?” I ventured to inquire.

“Not at all,” said Barbara. “I was stating merely that the Old-World,
New-World young lady, with all her originality and piquancy, however
charming, and however delightfully inevitable she may be, is not
interesting from the educational point of view. Or rather I will
put it in this way: the thoughtful, well-to-do American mother is
wondering hard whether she has a right to be content with the ancient
programme for her daughters, and is watching with eager interest the
experiments which some of her neighbors are trying with theirs. We
cannot claim as an exclusive national invention collegiate education
for women, and there’s no doubt that my sex in England is no less
completely on the war-path than the female world here; but is there a
question that the peculiar qualities of American womanhood are largely
responsible for the awakening wherever it has taken place? My dear,
you asked me just now what a man like Mr. Perkins should do with his
four daughters. Probably Mrs. Perkins is trying to make up her mind
whether she ought to send them to college. Very likely she is arguing
with Mr. Perkins as to whether, all things considered, it wouldn’t
be advisable to have one or two of them study a profession, or learn
to do something bread-winning, so that in case he, poor man--for he
_does_ look overworked--should not succeed in leaving them the five
thousand dollars a year he hopes, they need not swell the category
of the decayed gentlewoman of the day. I dare say they discuss the
subject assiduously, in spite of the views Mr. Perkins has expressed
to you regarding the sacredness of unemployed feminine gentility;
for it costs so much to live that he can’t lay up a great deal, and
there are certainly strong arguments in favor of giving such girls
the opportunity to make the most of themselves, or at least to look
at life from the self-supporting point of view. At first, of course,
the students at the colleges for women were chiefly girls who hoped
to utilize, as workers in various lines, the higher knowledge they
acquired there; but every year sees more and more girls, who expect
to be married sooner or later--the daughters of lawyers, physicians,
merchants--apply for admission, on the theory that what is requisite
for a man is none too good for them; and it is the example of these
girls which is agitating the serenity of so many mothers, and
suggesting to so many daughters the idea of doing likewise. Even the
ranks of the most fashionable are being invaded, though undeniably
it is still the fashion to stay at home, and I am inclined to think
that it is only the lack of the seal of fashion that restrains many
conservative people, like the Perkinses, from educating their daughters
as though they probably would not be married, instead of as though they
were almost certain to be.”

“You may remember that Perkins assured me not long ago, that marriage
did not run in the Perkins female line,” said I.

“All the more reason, then, that his girls should be encouraged to
equip themselves thoroughly in some direction or other, instead of
waiting disconsolately to be chosen in marriage, keeping up their
courage as the years slip away, with a few cold drops of Associated
Charity. Of course the majority of us will continue to be wives and
mothers--there is nothing equal to that when it is a success--but
will not marriage become still more desirable if the choicest girls
are educated to be the intellectual companions of men, and taught
to familiarize themselves with the real conditions of life, instead
of being limited to the rose garden of a harem, over the hedges of
which they are expected only to peep at the busy world--the world of
men, the world of action and toil and struggle and sin--the world
into which their sons are graduated when cut loose from the maternal
apron-strings? We intend to learn what to teach our sons, so that we
may no longer be silenced with the plea that women do not know, and be
put off with a secretive conjugal smile. And as for the girls who do
not marry, the world is open to them--the world of art and song and
charity and healing and brave endeavor in a hundred fields. Become just
like men? Never. If there is one thing which the educated woman of the
present is seeking to preserve and foster, it is the subtle delicacy
of nature, it is the engaging charm of womanhood which distinguishes
us from men. Who are the pupils at the colleges for women to-day?
The dowdy, sexless, unattractive, masculine-minded beings who have
served to typify for nine men out of ten the crowning joke of the
age--the emancipation of women? No; but lovely, graceful, sympathetic,
earnest, pure-minded girls in the flower of attractive maidenhood. And
that is why the well-to-do American mother is asking herself whether
she would be doing the best thing for her daughter if she were to
encourage her to become merely a New-World, Old-World young lady of the
ancient order of things. For centuries the women of civilization have
worshipped chastity, suffering resignation and elegance as the ideals
of femininity; now we mean to be intelligent besides, or at least as
nearly so as possible.”

“In truth a philippic, Barbara,” I said. “It would seem as though Mrs.
Grundy would not be able to hold out much longer. Will you tell me, by
the way, what you women intend to do after you are fully emancipated?”

“One thing at a time,” she answered. “We have been talking of
education, and I have simply been suggesting that no conscientious
mother can afford to ignore or pass by with scorn the claims of higher
education for girls--experimental and faulty as many of the present
methods to attain it doubtless are. As to what women are going to
do when our preliminary perplexities are solved and our sails are
set before a favorable wind, I have my ideas on that score also, and
some day I will discuss them with you. But just now I should like you
to answer _me_ a question. What are the best occupations for sons to
follow when they have left school or college?”

Pertinent and interesting as was this inquiry of Barbara’s, I felt the
necessity of drawing a long breath before I answered it.



The American young man, in the selection of a vocation, is practically
cut off from two callings which are dear to his contemporaries in
other civilized countries--the Army and the Navy. The possibility of
war, with all its horrors and its opportunities for personal renown,
is always looming up before the English, French, German, or Russian
youth, who is well content to live a life of gilded martial inactivity
in the hope of sooner or later winning the cross for conspicuous
service, if he escapes a soldier’s grave. We have endured one war,
and we profoundly hope never to undergo another. Those of us who are
ethically opposed to the slaughter of thousands of human beings in a
single day by cannon, feel that we have geography on our side. Even the
bloodthirsty are forced to acknowledge that the prospects here for a
genuine contest of any kind are not favorable. Consequently, the ardor
of the son and heir, who would like to be a great soldier or a sea
captain, is very apt to be cooled by the representation that his days
would be spent in watching Indians or cattle thieves on the Western
plains, or in cruising uneventfully in the Mediterranean or the Gulf
of Mexico. At all events our standing, or, more accurately speaking,
sitting Army, and our Navy are so small, that the demand for generals
and captains is very limited. Therefore, though we commend to our sons
the prowess of Cæsar, Napoleon, Nelson, Von Moltke, and Grant, we are
able to demonstrate to them, even without recourse to modern ethical
arguments, that the opportunities for distinction on this side of the
water are likely to be very meagre.

Also, we Americans, unlike English parents, hesitate to hold out as
offerings to the Church a younger son in every large family. We have no
national Church; moreover, the calling of a clergyman in this country
lacks the social picturesqueness which goes far, or did go far, to
reconcile the British younger son to accept the living which fell
to his lot through family influence. Then again, would the American
mother, like the conventional mother of the older civilizations, as
represented in biography and fiction, if asked which of all vocations
she would prefer to have her son adopt, reply promptly and fervidly,
“the ministry?”

I put this question to my wife by way of obtaining an answer. She
reflected a moment, then she said, “If one of my boys really felt
called to be a clergyman, I should be a very happy woman; but I
wouldn’t on any account have one of them enter the ministry unless he
did.” This reply seems to me to express not merely the attitude of the
American mother, but also the point of view from which the American
young man of to-day is apt to look at the question. He no longer
regards the ministry as a profession which he is free to prefer, merely
because he needs to earn his daily bread; and he understands, when he
becomes a clergyman, that lukewarm or merely conventional service will
be utterly worthless in a community which is thirsty for inspirational
suggestion, but which is soul-sick of cant and the perfervid
reiteration of outworn delusions. The consciousness that he has no
closer insight into the mysteries of the universe than his fellow-men,
and the fear that he may be able to solace their doubts only by skilful
concealment of his own, is tending, here and all over the civilized
world, to deter many a young man from embracing that profession, which
once seemed to offer a safe and legitimate niche for any pious youth
who was uncertain what he wished to do for a living. Happy he who feels
so closely in touch with the infinite that he is certain of his mission
to his brother-man! But is any one more out of place than the priest
who seems to know no more than we do of what we desire to know most?
We demand that a poet should be heaven-born; why should we not require
equivalent evidence of fitness from our spiritual advisers?

And yet, on the other hand, when the conviction of fitness or mission
exists, what calling is there which offers to-day more opportunities
for usefulness than the ministry? The growing tendency of the Church is
toward wider issues and a broader scope. Clergymen are now encouraged
and expected to aid in the solution of problems of living no less than
those of dying, and to lead in the discussion of matters regarding
which they could not have ventured to express opinions fifty years
ago without exposing themselves to the charge of being meddlesome or
unclerical. The whole field of practical charity, economics, hygiene,
and the relations of human beings to each other on this earth, are
fast becoming the legitimate domain of the Church, and the general
interest in this new phase of usefulness is serving to convince many of
the clergy themselves that the existence of so many creeds, differing
but slightly and unimportantly from one another, is a waste of vital
force and machinery. In this age of trusts, a trust of all religious
denominations for the common good of humanity would be a monopoly which
could pay large dividends without fear of hostile legislation.

In this matter of the choice of a vocation, the case of the ambitious,
promising young man is the one which commends itself most to our
sympathies; and next to it stands that of the general utility man--the
youth who has no definite tastes or talents, and who selects his life
occupation from considerations other than a consciousness of fitness or
of natural inclination. There are here, as elsewhere, born merchants,
lawyers, doctors, clergymen, architects, engineers, inventors, and
poets, who promptly follow their natural bents without suggestion and
in the teeth of difficulties. But the promising young man in search of
a brilliant career, and the general utility man, are perhaps the best
exponents of a nation’s temper and inclination.

In every civilization many promising youths and the general run of
utility men are apt to turn to business, for trade seems to offer the
largest return in the way of money with the least amount of special
knowledge. In this new country of ours the number of young men who have
selected a business career during the last fifty years, from personal
inclination, has been very much greater than elsewhere, and the tone
and temper of the community has swept the general utility man into mere
money making almost as a matter of course. The reasons for this up to
this time have been obvious: The resources and industries of a vast and
comparatively sparsely settled continent have been developed in the
last fifty years, and the great prizes in the shape of large fortunes
resulting from the process have naturally captivated the imagination of
ambitious youth. We have unjustly been styled a nation of shopkeepers;
but it may in all fairness be alleged that, until the last fifteen
years, we have been under the spell of the commercial and industrial
spirit, and that the intellectual faculties of the nation have been
mainly absorbed in the introduction and maintenance of railroads and
factories, in the raising and marketing of grain, in the development
of real estate enterprises, and in trading in the commodities or
securities which these various undertakings have produced.

The resources of the country are by no means exhausted; there are
doubtless more mines to open which will make their owners superbly
rich; new discoveries in the mechanical or electrical field will afford
fresh opportunities to discerning men of means; and individual or
combined capital will continue to reap the reward of both legitimate
and over-reaching commercial acumen. But it would seem as though the
day of enormous fortunes, for men of average brains and luck, in this
country were nearly over, and that the great pecuniary prizes of the
business world would henceforth be gleaned only by extraordinary or
exceptional individuals. The country is no longer sparsely settled;
fierce competition speedily cuts the abnormal profit out of new
enterprises which are not protected by a patent; and in order to be
conspicuously successful in any branch of trade, one will have more and
more need of unusual ability and untiring application.

In other words, though ours is still a new country, it will not be
very long before the opportunities and conditions of a business life
resemble closely those which confront young men elsewhere. As in every
civilized country, trade in some form will necessarily engage the
attention of a large portion of the population. From physical causes,
a vast majority of the citizens of the United States must continue to
derive their support from agriculture and the callings which large
crops of cereals, cotton, and sugar make occasion for. Consequently
business will always furnish occupation for a vast army of young men
in every generation, and few successes will seem more enviable than
those of the powerful and scrupulous banker, or the broad-minded and
capable railroad president. But, on the other hand, will the well-to-do
American father and mother, eager to see their promising sons make the
most of themselves, continue to advise them to go into business in
preference to other callings? And will the general utility man still be
encouraged to regard some form of trade as the most promising outlook,
for one who does not know what he wishes to do, to adopt? He who hopes
to become a great banker or illustrious railway man, must remember that
the streets of all our large cities teem with young men whose breasts
harbor similar ambitions.

Doubtless, it was the expectation of our forefathers that our American
civilization would add new occupations to the callings inherited from
the old world, which would be alluring both to the promising young man
and the youth without predilections, and no less valuable to society
and elevating to the individual than the best of those by which men
have earned their daily bread since civilization first was. As a
matter of fact, we Americans have added just one, that of the modern
stock-broker. To be sure, I am not including the ranchman. It did seem
at one time as though we were going to add another in him--a sort of
gentleman shepherd. But be it that the cattle have become too scarce or
too numerous, be it that the demon of competition has planted his hoofs
on the farthest prairie, one by one the brave youths who went West in
search of fortune, have returned East for the last time, and abandoned
the field to the cowboys and the native settler. The pioneers in this
form of occupation made snug fortunes, but after them came a deluge
of promising or unpromising youths who branded every animal within a
radius of hundreds of miles with a letter of the alphabet. Their only
living monument is the polo pony.

Our single and signal contribution to the callings of the world has
been the apotheosis of the stock-broker. For the last twenty-five
years, the well-to-do father and mother and their sons, in our large
cities, have been under the spell of a craze for the brokerage
business. The consciousness that the refinements of modern living
cannot adequately be supplied in a large city to a family whose income
does not approximate ten thousand dollars a year, is a cogent argument
in favor of trying to grow rich rapidly, and both the promising young
man and the general utility man welcomed the new calling with open
arms. Impelled by the notion that here was a vocation which required
no special knowledge or attainments, and very little capital, which
was pleasant, gentlemanly, and not unduly confining, and which
promised large returns almost in the twinkling of an eye, hundreds and
thousands of young men became brokers--chiefly stock-brokers, but also
cotton-brokers, note-brokers, real-estate-brokers, insurance-brokers,
and brokers in nearly everything. The field was undoubtedly a rich one
for those who first entered it. There was a need for the broker, and
he was speedily recognized as a valuable addition to the machinery of
trade. Many huge fortunes were made, and we have learned to associate
the word broker with the possession of large means, an imposing house
on a fashionable street, and diverse docked and stylish horses.

Of course, the king of all brokers has been the stock-broker, for
to him was given the opportunity to buy and sell securities on his
own account, though he held himself out to his customers as merely a
poor thing who worked for a commission. No wonder that the young man,
just out of college, listened open-mouthed to the tales of how many
thousands of dollars a year so and so, who had been graduated only five
years before, was making, and resolved to try his luck with the same
Aladdin’s lamp. Nor was it strange that the sight of men scarcely out
of their teens, driving down town in fur coats, in their own equipages,
with the benison of successful capitalists in their salutations,
settled the question of choice for the youth who was wavering or did
not know what he wished to do.

It is scarcely an extreme statement that the so-called aristocracy of
our principal cities to-day is largely made up of men who are, or
once were, stock-brokers, or who have made their millions by some of
the forms of gambling which our easy-going euphemism styles modern
commercial aggressiveness. Certainly, a very considerable number
of our most splendid private residences have been built out of the
proceeds of successful ventures in the stock market, or the wheat pit,
or by some other purely speculative operations. Many stars have shone
brilliantly for a season, and then plunged precipitately from the
zenith to the horizon; and much has been wisely said as to the dangers
of speculation; but the fact remains that a great many vast fortunes
owe their existence to the broker’s office; fortunes which have been
salted down, as the phrase is, and now furnish support and titillation
for a leisurely, green old age, or enable the sons and daughters of the
original maker to live in luxury.

Whatever the American mother may feel as to her son becoming a
clergyman, there is no doubt that many a mother to-day would say
“God grant that no son of mine become a stock-broker.” I know
stock-brokers--many indeed--who are whole-souled, noble-natured men,
free from undue worldliness, and with refined instincts. But the
stock-broker, as he exists in the every-day life of our community,
typifies signally the gambler’s yearning to gain wealth by short cuts,
and the monomania which regards as pitiable those who do not possess
and display the gewgaws of feverish, fashionable materialism. There are
stock-brokers in all the great capitals of the world, but nowhere has
the vocation swallowed up the sons of the best people to the extent
that it has done here during the last thirty years. And yet, apart from
the opportunity it affords to grow rich rapidly, what one good reason
is there why a promising young man should decide to buy and sell stocks
for a living? Indeed, not merely decide, but select, that occupation as
the most desirable calling open to him? Does it tend either to ennoble
the nature or enrich the mental faculties? It is one of the formal
occupations made necessary by the exigencies of the business world,
and as such is legitimate and may be highly respectable; but surely it
does not, from the nature of the services required, deserve to rank
high; and really there would seem to be almost as much occasion for
conferring the accolade of social distinction on a dealer in excellent
fish as on a successful stock-broker.

However, alas! it is easy enough to assign the reason why the
business has been so popular. It appears that, even under the flag
of our aspiring nationality, human nature is still so weak that
the opportunity to grow rich quickly, when presented, is apt to
over-ride all noble considerations. Foreign censors have ventured not
infrequently to declare that there was never yet a race so hungry for
money as we free-born Americans; and not even the pious ejaculation of
one of our United States Senators, “What have we to do with abroad?”
is conclusive proof that the accusation is not well founded. In fact:
there seems to be ample proof that we, who sneered so austerely at the
Faubourg St. Germain and the aristocracies of the Old World, and made
Fourth of July protestations of poverty and chastity, have fallen down
and worshipped the golden calf merely because it was made of gold.
Because it seemed to be easier to make money as stock-brokers than in
any other way, men have hastened to become stock-brokers. To be sure
it may be answered that this is only human nature and the way of the
world. True, perhaps; except that we started on the assumption that we
were going to improve on the rest of the world, and that its human
nature was not to be our human nature. Would not the Faubourg St.
Germain be preferable to an aristocracy of stock-brokers?

At all events, the law of supply and demand is beginning to redeem
the situation, and, if not to restore our moral credit, at least
to save the rising generation from falling into the same slough.
The stock-broker industry has been overstocked, and the late young
capitalists in fur overcoats, with benedictory manners, wear anxious
countenances under the stress of that Old World demon, excessive
competition. Youth can no longer wake up in the morning and find
itself the proprietor of a rattling business justifying a steam-yacht
and a four-in-hand. The good old days have gone forever, and there is
weeping and gnashing of teeth where of late there was joy and much
accumulation. There is not business enough for all the promising young
men who are stock-brokers already, and the youth of promise must turn



But though the occupation of broker has become less tempting, the
promising youth has not ceased to look askance at any calling which
does not seem to foreshadow a fortune in a short time. He is only
just beginning to appreciate that we are getting down to hard pan,
so to speak, and are nearly on a level, as regards the hardships of
individual progress, with our old friends the effete civilizations.
He finds it difficult to rid himself of the “Arabian Nights’” notion
that he has merely to clap his hands to change ten dollars into a
thousand in a single year, and to transform his bachelor apartments
into a palace beautiful, with a wife, yacht, and horses, before he
is thirty-five. He shrinks from the idea of being obliged to take
seriously into account anything less than a hundred-dollar bill, and
of earning a livelihood by slow yet persistent acceptance of tens and
fives. His present ruling ambition is to be a promoter; that is, to be
an organizer of schemes, and to let others do the real work and attend
to the disgusting details. There are a great many gentry of this kind
in the field just at present. Among them is, or rather was, Lewis Pell,
as I will call him for the occasion. I don’t know exactly what he is
doing now. But he was, until lately, a promoter.

A handsome fellow was Lewis Pell. Tall, gentlemanly, and
athletic-looking, with a gracious, imposing presence and manner, which
made his rather commonplace conversation seem almost wisdom. He went
into a broker’s office after leaving college, like many other promising
young men of his time, but he was clever enough either to realize
that he was a little late, or that the promoter business offered a
more promising scope for his genius, for he soon disappeared from the
purlieus of the Stock Exchange, and the next thing we heard of him
was as the tenant of an exceedingly elaborate set of offices on the
third floor of a most expensive modern monster building. Shortly after
I read in the financial columns of the daily press that Mr. Lewis
Pell had sold to a syndicate of bankers the first mortgage and the
debenture bonds of the Light and Power Traction Company, an electrical
corporation organized under the laws of the State of New Jersey. Thirty
days later I saw again that he had sailed for Europe in order to
interest London capital in a large enterprise, the nature of which was
still withheld from the public.

During the next two or three years I ran across Pell on several
occasions. He seemed always to be living at the highest pressure,
but the brilliancy of his career had not impaired his good manners
or attractiveness. I refer to his career as brilliant at this time
because both his operations and the consequent style of living which
he pursued, as described by him on two different evenings when I
dined with him, seemed to me in my capacity of ordinary citizen to
savor of the marvellous, if not the supernatural. He frankly gave me
to understand that it seemed to him a waste of time for an ambitious
man to pay attention to details, and that his business was to
originate vast undertakings, made possible only by large combinations
of corporate or private capital. The word combination, which was
frequently on his lips, seemed to be the corner-stone of his system. I
gathered that the part which he sought to play in the battle of life
was to breathe the breath, or the apparent breath, of existence into
huge schemes, and after having given them a quick but comprehensive
squeeze or two for his own pecuniary benefit, to hand them over to
syndicates, or other aggregations of capitalists, for the benefit of
whom they might concern. He confided to me that he employed eleven
typewriters; that he had visited London seven, and Paris three times,
in the last three years, on flying trips to accomplish brilliant deals;
that though his headquarters were in New York, scarcely a week passed
in which he was not obliged to run over to Chicago, Boston, Washington,
Denver, Duluth, or Cincinnati, as the case might be. Without being
boastful as to his profits, he did not hesitate to acknowledge to me
that if he should do as well in the next three years as in the last, he
would be able to retire from business with a million or so.

Apart from this confession, his personal extravagance left no room for
doubt that he must be very rich. Champagne flowed for him as Croton
or Cochituate for most of us, and it was evident from his language
that the hiring of special trains from time to time was a rather less
serious matter than it would be for the ordinary citizen to take a
cab. The account that he gave of three separate entertainments he
had tendered to syndicates--of ten, twelve, and seventeen covers
respectively, at twenty dollars a cover--fairly made my mouth water and
my eyes stick out, so that I felt constrained to murmur, “Your profits
must certainly be very large, if you can afford that sort of thing.”

Pell smiled complacently and a little condescendingly. “I could
tell you of things which I have done which would make that seem a
bagatelle,” he answered, with engaging mystery. Then after a moment’s
pause he said, “Do you know, my dear fellow, that when I was graduated
I came very near going into the office of a pious old uncle of mine who
has been a commission merchant all his life, and is as poor as Job’s
turkey in spite of it all--that is, poor as men are rated nowadays. He
offered to take me as a clerk at one thousand dollars a year, with the
promise of a partnership before I was bald-headed in case I did well.
Supposing I had accepted his offer, where should I be to-day? Grubbing
at an office-desk and earning barely enough for board and lodging. I
remember my dear mother took it terribly to heart because I went into a
broker’s office instead. By the way, between ourselves, I’m building a
steam-yacht--nothing very wonderful, but a neat, comfortable craft--and
I’m looking forward next summer to inviting my pious old uncle to
cruise on her just to see him open his eyes.”

That was three years ago, and to-day I have every reason to believe
that Lewis Pell is without a dollar in the world, or rather, that every
dollar which he has belongs to his creditors. I had heard before his
failure was announced that he was short of money, for the reason that
several enterprises with which his name was connected had been left on
his hands--neither the syndicates nor the public would touch them--so
his suspension was scarcely a surprise. He at present, poor fellow,
is only one of an army of young men wandering dejectedly through the
streets of New York or Chicago in these days of financial depression,
vainly seeking for something to promote.

When the promising youth and the general utility man do get rid of the
“Arabian Nights’” notion, and recognize that signal success here, in
any form, is likely to become more and more difficult to attain, and
will be the legitimate reward only of men of real might, of unusual
abilities, originality, or dauntless industry, some of the callings
which have fallen, as it were, into disrepute through their lack of
gambling facilities, are likely to loom up again socially. It may be,
however, that modern business methods and devices have had the effect
of killing for all time that highly respectable pillar of society of
fifty years ago, the old-fashioned merchant, who bought and sold on
his own behalf, or on commission, real cargoes of merchandise, and
real consignments of cotton, wheat, and corn. The telegraph and the
warehouse certificate have worked such havoc that almost everything
now is bought and sold over and over again before it is grown or
manufactured, and by the time it is on the market there is not a shred
of profit in it for anybody but the retail dealer. It remains to be
seen whether, as the speculative spirit subsides, the merchant is going
to reinstate himself and regain his former prestige. It may already be
said that the promising youth does not regard him with quite so much
contempt as he did.

We have always professed in this country great theoretical respect
for the schoolmaster, but we have been careful, as the nation waxed
in material prosperity, to keep his pay down and to shove him into
the social background more and more. The promising youth could not
afford to spend his manhood in this wise, and we have all really been
too busy making money to think very much about those who are doing
the teaching. Have we not always heard it stated that our schools
and colleges are second to none in the world? And if our schools, of
course our schoolmasters. Therefore why bother our heads about them?
It is indeed wonderful, considering the little popular interest in the
subject until lately, that our schoolmasters and our college professors
are so competent as they are, and that the profession has flourished on
the whole in spite of indifference and superiority. How can men of the
highest class be expected to devote their lives to a profession which
yields little more than a pittance when one is thoroughly successful?
And yet the education of our children ought to be one of our dearest
concerns, and it is difficult to see why the State is satisfied to pay
the average instructor or instructress of youth about as much as the
city laborer or a horse-car conductor receives.

There are signs that those in charge of our large educational
institutions all over the country are beginning to recognize that ripe
scholarship and rare abilities as a teacher are entitled to be well
recompensed pecuniarily, and that the breed of such men is likely to
increase somewhat in proportion to the size and number of the prizes
offered. Our college presidents and professors, those at the head of
our large schools and seminaries, should receive such salaries as will
enable them to live adequately. By this policy not only would our
promising young men be encouraged to pursue learning, but those in the
highest places would not be forced by poverty to live in comparative
retirement, but could become active social figures and leaders. In any
profession or calling under present social conditions only those in the
foremost rank can hope to earn more than a living, varying in quality
according to the degree of success and the rank of the occupation; but
it is to be hoped--and there seems some reason to believe--that the
great rewards which come to those more able and industrious than their
fellows will henceforth, in the process of our national evolution,
be more evenly distributed, and not confined so conspicuously to
gambling, speculative, or commercial successes. The leaders in the
great professions of law and medicine have for some time past declined
to serve the free-born community without liberal compensation, and the
same community, which for half a century secretly believed that only a
business man has the right to grow rich, has begun to recognize that
there are even other things besides litigation and health which ought
to come high. For instance, although the trained architect still meets
serious and depressing competition from those ready-made experimenters
in design who pronounce the first _c_ in the word architect as though
it were an _s_, the public is rapidly discovering that a man cannot
build an attractive house without special knowledge.

In the same class with the law, medicine, and architecture, and
seemingly offering at present a greater scope for an ambitious
young man, is engineering in all its branches. The furnaces, mines,
manufactories, and the hydraulic, electrical, or other plants connected
with the numerous vast mechanical business enterprises of the country
are furnishing immediate occupation for hundreds of graduates of the
scientific or polytechnic schools at highly respectable salaries.
This field of usefulness is certain for a long time to come to offer
employment and a fair livelihood to many, and large returns to those
who outstrip their contemporaries. More and more is the business man,
the manufacturer, and the capitalist likely to be dependent for the
economical or successful development and management of undertakings on
the judgment of scientific experts in his own employment or called in
to advise, and it is only meet that the counsel given should be paid
for handsomely.

Those who pursue literature or art in their various branches in this
country, and have talents in some degree commensurate with their
ambition, are now generally able to make a comfortable livelihood.
Indeed the men and women in the very front rank are beginning to
receive incomes which would be highly satisfactory to a leading lawyer
or physician. Of course original work in literature or art demands
special ability and fitness, but the general utility man is beginning
to have many opportunities presented to him in connection with what
may be called the clerical work of these professions. The great
magazines and publishing houses have an increasing need for trained,
scholarly men, for capable critics, and discerning advisers in the
field both of letter-press and illustration. Another calling which
seems to promise great possibilities both of usefulness and income to
those who devote themselves to it earnestly is the comparatively new
profession of journalism. The reporter, with all his present horrors,
is in the process of evolution; but the journalist is sure to remain
the high-priest of democracy. His influence is almost certain to
increase materially, but it will not increase unless he seeks to lead
public thought instead of bowing to it. The newspaper, in order to
flourish, must be a moulder of opinion, and to accomplish this those
who control its columns must more and more be men of education, force,
and high ideals. Competition will winnow here as elsewhere, but those
who by ability and industry win the chief places will stand high in the
community and command large pay for their services.

An aristocracy of brains--that is to say, an aristocracy composed of
individuals successful and prominent in their several callings--seems
to be the logical sequence of our institutions under present social
and industrial conditions. The only aristocracy which can exist in a
democracy is one of honorable success evidenced by wealth or a handsome
income, but the character of such an aristocracy will depend on the
ambitions and tastes of the nation. The inevitable economic law of
supply and demand governs here as elsewhere, and will govern until such
a time as society may be reconstructed on an entirely new basis. Only
the leaders in any vocation can hope to grow rich, but in proportion as
the demands of the nation for what is best increase will the type and
characteristics of these leaders improve. The doing away with inherited
orders of nobility and deliberate, patented class distinctions, gives
the entire field to wealth. We boast proudly that no artificial
barriers confine individual social promotion; but we must remember at
the same time that those old barriers meant more than the perpetuation
of perfumed ladies and idle gentlemen from century to century. We are
too apt to forget that the aristocracies of the old world signified
in the first place a process of selection. The kings and the nobles,
the lords and the barons, the knights who fought and the ladies for
whom they died, were the master-spirits of their days and generations,
the strong arms and the strong brains of civilized communities. They
stood for force, the force of the individual who was more intelligent,
more capable, and mightier in soul and body than his neighbors, and
who claimed the prerogatives of superiority on that account. These
master-spirits, it is true, used these prerogatives in such a manner as
to crystallize society into the classes and the masses, so hopelessly
for the latter that the gulf between them still is wide as an ocean,
notwithstanding that present nobilities have been shorn of their power
so that they may be said to exist chiefly by sufferance. And yet the
world is still the same in that there are men more intelligent, more
capable, and mightier in soul and body than their fellows. The leaders
of the past won their spurs by prowess with the battle-axe and spear,
by wise counsel in affairs of state, by the sheer force of their
superior manhood. The gentleman and lady stood for the best blood of
the world, though they so often belied it by their actions.

We, who are accustomed to applaud our civilization as the hope of the
world, may well look across the water and take suggestions from the
institutions of Great Britain, not with the idea of imitation, but with
a view to consider the forces at work there. For nearly a century now
the government, though in form a monarchy, has been substantially a
constitutional republic, imbued with inherited traditions and somewhat
galvanized by class distinctions, but nevertheless a constitutional
republic. The nobility still exists as a sort of French roof or
Eastern pagoda to give a pleasing appearance to the social edifice.
The hereditary meaning of titles has been so largely negatived by
the introduction of new blood--the blood of the strongest men of the
period--that they have become, what they originally were, badges
to distinguish the men most valuable to the State. Their abolition
is merely a question of time, and many of the leaders to whom they
are proffered reject them as they would a cockade or a yellow satin
waistcoat. On the other hand, and here is the point of argument,
the real aristocracy of England for the last hundred years has been
an aristocracy of the foremost, ablest, and worthiest men of the
nation, and with few exceptions the social and pecuniary rewards have
been bestowed both by the State and by public appreciation on the
master-spirits of the time in the best sense. Brilliant statesmanship,
wisdom on the bench, the surgeon’s skill, the banker’s sound
discernment, genius in literature and art, when signally contributed by
the individual, have won him fame and fortune.

It may be said, perhaps, that the pecuniary rewards of science and
literature have been less conspicuous than those accorded to other
successes, but that has been due to the inherent practical temperament
and artistic limitations of the Englishman, and can scarcely be an
argument against the contention that English society in the nineteenth
century, with all its social idiosyncrasies, has really been graded on
the order of merit.

The tide of democracy has set in across the water and is running
strongly, and there can be no doubt that the next century is likely to
work great and strange changes in the conditions of society in England
as well as here. The same questions practically are presented to each
nation, except that there a carefully constructed and in many respects
admirable system of society is to be disintegrated. We are a new
country, and we have a right to be hopeful that we are sooner or later
to outstrip all civilizations. Nor is it a blemish that the astonishing
development of our material resources has absorbed the energies of
our best blood. But it now remains to be seen whether the standards
of pure democracy, without traditions or barriers to point the way,
are to justify the experiment and improve the race. The character of
our aristocracy will depend on the virtues and tastes of the people,
and the struggle is to be between aspiration and contentment with low
ambitions. Our original undertaking has been made far more difficult
by the infusion of the worst blood in Christendom, the lees of foreign
nations; but the result of the experiment will be much more convincing
because of this change in conditions.

Who are to be the men of might and heroes of democracy? That will
depend on the demands and aspirations of the enfranchised people.
With all its imperfections, the civilization of the past has fostered
the noble arts and stirred genius to immortalize itself in bronze
and marble, in cathedral spires, in masterpieces of painting and
literature, in untiring scholarship, in fervent labors in law,
medicine, and science. Democracy must care for these things, and
encourage the individual to choose worthy occupations, or society
will suffer. We hope and believe that, in the long run, the standards
of humanity will be raised rather than lowered by the lifting of the
flood-gates which divide the privileged classes from the mass; but
it behooves us all to remember that while demand and supply must be
the leading arbiters in the choice of a vocation, the responsibility
of selection is left to each individual. Only by the example of
individuals will society be saved from accepting the low, vulgar
aims and ambitions of the mass as a desirable weal, and this is the
strongest argument against the doctrines of those who would repress
individuality for the alleged benefit of mankind as a whole. The past
has given us many examples of the legislator who cannot be bribed, of
the statesman faithful to principle, of the student who disdains to be
superficial, of the gentleman who is noble in thought, and speech and
action, and they stand on the roll of the world’s great men. Democracy
cannot afford not to continue to add to this list, and either she must
steel her countenance against the cheap man and his works, or sooner
or later be confounded. Was Marie Antoinette a more dangerous enemy
of the people than the newspaper proprietor who acquires fortune by
catering to the lowest tastes and prejudices of the public, or the
self-made capitalist who argues that every man has his price, and seeks
to accomplish legislation by bribery?

The _Use of Time_.


I brought Rogers home with me again the other day. I do not mean
Rogers in the flesh; but the example of Rogers as a bogy with which to
confound my better half and myself. You may recall that Rogers is the
book-keeper for Patterson the banker, and that he has brought up and
educated a family on a salary of twenty-two hundred dollars a year.

“Barbara,” said I, “we were reflecting yesterday that we never have
time to do the things we really wish to do. Have you ever considered
how Rogers spends his time?”

My wife admitted that she had not, and she dutifully waited for me to
proceed, though I could tell from the expression of her mouth that
she did not expect to derive much assistance from the example of Mr.
Rogers. Therefore I made an interesting pathological deduction to begin

“Rogers does not live on his nerves from one year’s end to the other,
as we do.”

“I congratulate him,” said Barbara, with a sigh.

“And yet,” I continued, “he leads a highly respectable and fairly
interesting life. He gets up at precisely the same hour every morning,
has his breakfast, reads the paper, and is at his desk punctually on
time. He dines frugally, returns to his desk until half-past four or
five, and after performing any errands which Mrs. Rogers has asked him
to attend to, goes home to the bosom of his family. There he exchanges
his coat and boots for a dressing-gown, or aged smoking-jacket, and
slippers, and remains by his fireside absorbed in the evening paper
until tea-time. Conversation with the members of his family beguiles
him for half an hour after the completion of the meal; then he settles
down to the family weekly magazine, or plays checkers or backgammon
with his wife or daughters. After a while, if he is interested in
ferns or grasses, he looks to see how his specimens are growing under
the glass case in the corner. He pats the cat and makes sure that the
canary is supplied with seed. Now and then he brings home a puzzle,
like ‘Pigs in Clover,’ which keeps him up half an hour later than
usual, but ordinarily his head is nodding before the stroke of ten
warns him that his bed-hour has come. And just at the time that the
wife of his employer, Patterson, may be setting out for a ball, he is
tucking himself up in bed by the side of Mrs. Rogers.”

“Poor man!” interjected Barbara.

“He has his diversions,” said I. “Now and again neighbors drop in for
a chat, and the evening is wound up with a pitcher of lemonade and
angel-cake. He and his wife drop in, in their turn, or he goes to a
political caucus. Once a fortnight comes the church sociable, and every
now and then a wedding. From time to time he and Mrs. Rogers attend
lectures. His young people entertain their friends, as the occasion
offers, in a simple way, and on Sunday he goes to church in the morning
and falls to sleep after a heavy dinner in the afternoon. He leads a
quiet, peaceful, conservative existence, unharassed by social functions
and perpetual excitement.”

“And he prides himself, I dare say,” said Barbara, “on the score of its
virtuousness. He saves his nerves and he congratulates himself that
he is not a society person, as he calls it. Your Mr. Rogers may be a
very estimable individual, dear, in his own sphere, and I do think he
manages wonderfully on his twenty-two hundred dollars a year; but I
should prefer to see you lose your nerves and become a gibbering victim
of nervous prostration rather than that you should imitate him.”

“I’m not proposing to imitate him, Barbara,” I answered, gravely. “I
admit that his life seems rather dull and not altogether inspiring,
but I do think that a little of his repose would be beneficial to many
of us whose interests are more varied. We might borrow it to advantage
for a few months in the year, don’t you think so? I believe, Barbara,
that if you and I were each of us to lie flat on our backs for one
hour every day and think of nothing--and not even clinch our hands--we
should succeed in doing more things than we really wish to do.”

“I suppose it’s the climate--they say it’s the climate,” said Barbara,
pensively. “Foreigners don’t seem to be affected in that way. They’re
not always in a hurry as we are, and yet they seem to accomplish
very nearly as much. We all know what it is to be conscious of that
dreadful, nervous, hurried feeling, even when we have plenty of time
to do the things we have to do. I catch myself walking fast--racing,
in fact--when there is not the least need of it. I don’t clinch my
hands nearly so much as I used, and I’ve ceased to hold on to the
pillow in bed as though it were a life-preserver, out of deference to
Delsarte, but when it comes to lying down flat on my back for an hour
a day--every day--really it isn’t feasible. It’s an ideal plan, I dare
say, but the days are not long enough. Just take to-day, for instance,
and tell me, please, when I had time to lie down.”

“You are clinching your hands now,” I remarked.

“Because you have irritated me with your everlasting Mr. Rogers,”
retorted Barbara. She examined, nevertheless, somewhat dejectedly, the
marks of her nails in her palms. “In the morning, for instance, when I
came down to breakfast there was the mail. Two dinner invitations and
an afternoon tea; two sets of wedding-cards, and a notice of a lecture
by Miss Clara Hatheway on the relative condition of primary schools
here and abroad; requests for subscriptions to the new Cancer Hospital
and the Children’s Fresh Air and Vacation Fund; an advertisement of an
after-holiday sale of boys’ and girls’ clothes at Halliday’s; a note
from Mrs. James Green asking particulars regarding our last cook,
and a letter from the President of my Woman’s Club notifying me that
I was expected to talk to them at the next meeting on the arguments
in favor of and against the ownership by cities and towns of gas and
water-works. All these had to be answered, noted, or considered. Then
I had to interview the cook and the butcher and the grocer about the
dinner, give orders that a button should be sewn on one pair of your
trousers and a stain removed from another, and give directions to
the chore-man to oil the lock of the front-door, and tell him to go
post-haste for the plumber to extract the blotting-paper which the
children yesterday stuffed down the drain-pipe in the bath-tub, so
that the water could not escape. Then I had to sit down and read the
newspaper. Not because I had time, or wished to, but to make sure
that there was nothing in it which you could accuse me of not having
read. After this I dressed to go out. I stopped at the florist’s to
order some roses for Mrs. Julius Cæsar, whose mother is dead; at
Hapgood & Wales’s and at Jones’s for cotton-batting, hooks and eyes,
and three yards of ribbon; at Belcher’s for an umbrella to replace
mine, which you left in the cable-cars, and at the library to select
something to read. I arrived home breathless for the children’s
dinner, and immediately afterward I dressed and went to the meeting
of the Executive Committee of the Woman’s Club, stopping on the way
to inquire if Mrs. Wilson’s little boy were better. We started by
discussing a proposed change in our Constitution regarding the number
of black-balls necessary to exclude a candidate, and drifted off on to
‘Trilby.’ It was nearly five when I got away, and as I felt it on my
conscience to go both to Mrs. Southwick’s and Mrs. Williams’s teas,
I made my appearance at each for a few minutes, but managed to slip
away so as to be at home at six. When you came in I had just been
reading to the children and showing them about their lessons. Now I
have only just time to dress for dinner, for we dine at the Gregory
Browns, at half-past seven. We ought to go later to the reception at
Mrs. Hollis’s--it is her last of three and we haven’t been yet--but I
suppose you will say you are too tired. There! will you tell me when I
could have found time to lie down for an hour to-day?”

I was constrained to laugh at my wife’s recital, and I was not able at
the moment to point out to her exactly what she might have omitted from
her category so as to make room for the hour of repose. Nor, indeed, as
I review the events of my own daily life and of the daily lives of my
friends and acquaintances, am I able to define precisely where it could
be brought in. And yet are we not--many of us who are in the thick of
modern life--conscious that our days are, as it were, congested? We
feel sure that so far as our physical comfort is concerned we ought
to be doing less, and we shrewdly suspect that, if we had more time
in which to think, our spiritual natures would be the gainers. The
difficulty is to stop, or rather to reduce the speed of modern living
to the point at which these high-pressure nervous symptoms disappear,
and the days cease to seem too short for what we wish to accomplish.
Perhaps those who take an intense interest in living will never be able
to regain that delightful condition of equipoise, if it ever existed,
which our ancestors both here and across the water are said to have
experienced. Perhaps, too, our ancestors were more in a hurry when they
were alive than they seem to have been now that they are dead; but,
whether this be true or otherwise, we are confidently told by those
who ought to know that we Americans of this day and generation are
the most restless, nervous people under the sun, and live at a higher
pressure than our contemporaries of the effete civilizations. It used
to be charged that we were in such haste to grow rich that there was
no health in us; and now that we are, or soon will be, the wealthiest
nation in the world, they tell us that we continue to maintain the same
feverish pace in all that we undertake or do.

I am not sure that this charge could not be brought against the
Englishman, Frenchman, or German of to-day with almost equal justice,
or, in other words, that it is a characteristic of the age rather than
of our nation; but that conviction would merely solace our pride and
could not assuage “that tired feeling” of which so many are conscious.
At all events, if we do not work harder than our kinsmen across the
sea, we seem to bear the strain less well. It may be the climate,
as my wife has said, which causes our nervous systems to rebel; but
then, again, we cannot change the climate, and consequently must adapt
ourselves to its idiosyncrasies.

Ever since we first began to declare that we were superior to all
other civilizations we have been noted for our energy. The way in
which we did everything, from sawing wood to electing a President, was
conspicuous by virtue of the bustling, hustling qualities displayed.
But it is no longer high treason to state that our national life,
in spite of its bustle, was, until comparatively recently, lacking
in color and variety. The citizen who went to bed on the stroke of
ten every night and did practically the same thing each day from one
year’s end to the other was the ideal citizen of the Republic, and
was popularly described as a conservative and a strong man. His life
was led within very repressed limits, and anything more artistic than
a chromo or religious motto was apt to irritate him and shock his
principles. To be sure, we had then our cultivated class--more narrowly
but possibly more deeply cultivated than its flourishing successor
of to-day--but the average American, despite his civic virtues and
consciousness of rectitude, led a humdrum existence, however hustling
or bustling. There is a large percentage of our population that
continues to live in much the same manner, notwithstanding the wave of
enlightenment which has swept over the country and keyed us all up
to concert pitch by multiplying the number of our interests. I feel a
little guilty in having included Rogers among this number, for I really
know of my own knowledge nothing about his individual home life. It
may be that I have been doing him a rank injustice, and that his home
is in reality a seething caldron of progress. I referred to him as a
type rather than as an individual, knowing as I do that there are still
too many homes in this country where music, art, literature, social
tastes, and intelligent interest in human affairs in the abstract, when
developed beyond mere rudimentary lines, are unappreciated and regarded
as vanities or inanities.

On the other hand, there is nothing more interesting in our present
national evolution than the eager recognition by the intelligent and
aspiring portion of the people that we have been and are ignorant,
and that the true zest of life lies in its many-sidedness and its
possibilities of development along æsthetic, social, and intellectual
as well as moral lines. The United States to-day is fairly bristling
with eager, ambitious students, and with people of both sexes, young
and middle-aged, who are anxiously seeking how to make the most of
life. This eagerness of soul is not confined to any social class,
and is noticeable in every section of the country in greater or less
degree. It is quite as likely to be found among people of very humble
means as among those whose earliest associations have brought them
into contact with the well-to-do and carefully educated. Therefore I
beg the pardon of Rogers in case I have put him individually in the
wrong category. A divine yet cheery activity has largely taken the
place of sodden self-righteousness on the one hand, and analytical
self-consciousness on the other. The class is not as yet very large as
compared with the entire population of the country, but it is growing
rapidly, and its members are the most interesting men and women of the
Republic--those who are in the van of our development as a people.

Overcrowded and congested lives signify at least earnestness and
absorption. Human nature is more likely to aspire and advance
when society is nervously active, than when it is bovine and
self-congratulatory. But nerves can endure only a certain amount of
strain without reminding human beings that strong and healthy bodies
are essential to true national progress. Only recently in this country
have we learned to consider the welfare of the body, and though
we have begun to be deadly in earnest about athletics, the present
generation of workers was, for the most part, brought up on the theory
that flesh and blood was a limitation rather than a prerequisite.
We are doing bravely in this matter so far as the education of our
children is concerned, but it is too late to do much for our own
nerves. Though stagnation is a more deplorable state, it behooves us,
nevertheless, if possible, to rid ourselves of congestion for our
ultimate safety.

An active man or woman stopping to think in the morning may well
be appalled at the variety of his or her life. The ubiquity of the
modern American subconsciousness is something unique. We wish to
know everything there is to know. We are interested not merely in
our own and our neighbors’ affairs--with a knowledge of which so
many citizens of other lands are peacefully contented--but we are
eager to know, and to know with tolerable accuracy, what is going
on all over the world--in England, China, Russia, and Australia.
Not merely politically, but socially, artistically, scientifically,
philosophically, and ethically. No subject is too technical for our
interest, provided it comes in our way, whether it concern the canals
in Mars or the antitoxin germ. The newspaper and the telegraph have
done much to promote this ubiquity of the mind’s eye all over the
world, but the interests of the average American are much wider and
more diversified than those of any other people. An Englishman will
have his hobbies and know them thoroughly, but regarding affairs beyond
the pale of his limited inquiry he is deliberately and often densely
ignorant. He reads, and reads augustly, one newspaper, one or two
magazines--a few books; we, on the other hand, are not content unless
we stretch out feelers in many directions and keep posted, as we call
it, by hasty perusals of almost innumerable publications for fear lest
something escape us. What does the Frenchman--the average intelligent
Frenchman--know or care about the mode of our Presidential elections,
and whether this Republican or that Democrat has made or marred his
political reputation? We feel that we require to inform ourselves not
only concerning the art and literature of France, but to have the names
and doings of her statesmen at our fingers’ ends for use in polite
conversation, and the satisfaction of the remains of the New England
conscience. All this is highly commendable, if it does not tend to
render us superficial. The more knowledge we have, the better, provided
we do not fall into the slough of knowing nothing very well, or hunt
our wits to death by over-acquisitiveness. There is so much nowadays
to learn, and seemingly so little time in which to learn it, we cannot
afford to spread ourselves too thin.

The energy of our people has always been conspicuous in the case of
women. The American woman, from the earliest days of our history,
has refused to be prevented by the limitations of time or physique
from trying to include the entire gamut of human feminine activity in
her daily experience. There was a period when she could demonstrate
successfully her ability to cook, sweep, rear and educate children,
darn her husband’s stockings, and yet entertain delightfully, dress
tastefully, and be well versed in literature and all the current
phases of high thinking. The New England woman of fifty years ago was
certainly an interesting specimen from this point of view, in spite
of her morbid conscience and polar sexual proclivities. But among
the well-to-do women of the nation to-day--the women who correspond
socially to those just described--this achievement is possible only by
taxing the human system to the point of distress, except in the newly
or thinly settled portions of the country, where the style of living is
simple and primitive.

In the East, of course, in the cities and towns the women in question
ceased long ago to do all the housework; and among the well-to-do,
servants have relieved her of much, if not of all of the physical
labor. But, on the other hand, the complexities of our modern
establishments, and the worry which her domestics cause her, make the
burden of her responsibilities fully equal to what they were when she
cooked flap-jacks and darned stockings herself. In other countries
the women conversant with literature, art, and science, who go in for
philanthropy, photography, or the ornamentation of china, who write
papers on sociological or educational matters, are, for the most part,
women of leisure in other respects. The American woman is the only
woman at large in the universe who aims to be the wife and mother of a
family, the mistress of an establishment, a solver of world problems, a
social leader, and a philanthropist or artistic devotee at one and the
same time. Each of these interests has its determined followers among
the women of other civilizations, but nowhere except here does the
eternal feminine seek to manifest itself in so many directions in the
same individual.

This characteristic of our womanhood is a virtue up to a certain point.
The American woman has certainly impressed her theory that her sex
should cease to be merely pliant, credulous, and ignorantly complacent
so forcibly on the world that society everywhere has been affected
by it. Her desire to make the most of herself, and to participate
as completely as possible in the vital work of the world without
neglecting the duties allotted to her by the older civilizations,
is in the line of desirable evolution. But there is such a thing as
being superficial, which is far more to be dreaded than even nervous
prostration. Those absorbed in the earnest struggle of modern living
may perhaps justly claim that to work until one drops is a noble fault,
and that disregard of one’s own sensations and comfort is almost
indispensable in order to accomplish ever so little. But there is
nothing noble in superficiality; and it would seem that the constant
flitting from one interest to another, which so many American women
seem unable to avoid, must necessarily tend to prevent them from
knowing or doing anything thoroughly.

As regards the creature man, the critics of this country have been
accustomed to assert that he was so much absorbed in making money, or
in business, as our popular phrase is, that he had no time for anything
else. This accusation used to be extraordinarily true, and in certain
parts of the country it has not altogether ceased to be true; though
even there the persistent masculine dollar-hunter regards wistfully
and proudly the æsthetic propensities of the female members of his
family, and feels that his labors are sweetened thereby. This is a
very different attitude from the self-sufficiency of half a century
ago. The difficulty now is that our intelligent men, like our women,
are apt to attempt too much, inclined to crowd into each and every day
more sensations than they can assimilate. An Englishwoman, prominent
in educational matters, and intelligent withal, recently expressed her
surprise to my wife, Barbara, that the American gentleman existed.
She had been long familiar with the American woman as a charming,
if original, native product, but she had never heard of the American
gentleman--meaning thereby the alert, thoughtful man of high purposes
and good-breeding. “How many there are!” the Briton went on to say in
the enthusiasm of her surprise. Indeed there are. The men prominent in
the leading walks of life all over this country now compare favorably,
at least, with the best of other nations, unless it be that our intense
desire to know everything has rendered, or may render, us accomplished
rather than profound.

The _Use of Time_.


After all, whether this suggestion of a tendency toward superficiality
be well founded or not, the proper use of time has come to be a more
serious problem than ever for the entire world. The demands of modern
living are so exacting that men and women everywhere must exercise
deliberate selection in order to live wisely. To lay down general
rules for the use of time would be as futile as to insist that every
one should use coats of the same size and color, and eat the same kind
and quantity of food. The best modern living may perhaps be correctly
defined as a happy compromise in the aims and actions of the individual
between self-interest and altruism.

If one seeks to illustrate this definition by example it is desirable
in the first place to eliminate the individuals in the community whose
use of time is so completely out of keeping with this doctrine that it
is not worth while to consider them. Murderers, forgers, and criminals
of all kinds, including business men who practise petty thefts,
and respectable tradesmen who give short weight and overcharge,
instinctively occur to us. So do mere pleasure-seekers, drunkards, and
idle gentlemen. On the same theory we must exclude monks, deliberate
celibates, nuns, and all fanatical or eccentric persons whose conduct
of life, however serviceable in itself as a leaven or an exception,
could not be generally imitated without disaster to society. It would
seem also as though we must exclude those who have yet to acquire
such elemental virtues of wise living as cleanliness, reverence for
the beautiful, and a certain amount of altruism. There is nothing
to learn as to the wise use of time from those whose conceptions of
life are handicapped by the habitual use of slang and bad grammar and
by untidiness; who regard the manifestations of good taste and fine
scholarship as “frills,” and who, though they be unselfish in the
bosoms of their families, take no interest in the general welfare of
the community.

Let me in this last connection anticipate the criticism of the
sentimentalist and of the free-born American who wears a chip on his
shoulder, by stating that time may be as beautifully and wisely spent,
and life be as noble and serviceable to humanity in the home of the
humblest citizen as in that of the well-to-do or rich. Of course
it may. Who questions it? Did I not, in order not even to seem to
doubt it, take back all I hazarded about the manner in which Rogers
spends his time? It _may_ be just as beautifully and wisely spent, and
very often is so. But, on the other hand, I suggest, timorously and
respectfully, that it very often is not, and I venture further to ask
whether the burden is not on democracy to show that the plain life of
the plain people as at present conducted is a valuable example of wise
and improving use of time? The future is to account for itself, and we
all have faith in democracy. We are all plain people in this country.
But just as a passing inquiry, uttered not under my breath, yet without
levity or malice, what is the contribution so far made by plainness as
plainness to the best progress of the world? Absolutely nothing, it
seems to me. Progress has come from the superiority of individuals in
every class of life to the mass of their contemporaries. The so-called
plainness of the plain people too often serves at the present day as
an influence to drag down the aspiring individual to the dead level of
the mass which contents itself with bombastic cheapness of thought and
action. This is no plea against democracy, for democracy has come to
stay; but it is an argument why the best standards of living are more
likely to be found among those who do not congratulate themselves on
their plainness than those who are content to live no better and no
worse than their neighbors. Discontent with self is a valuable Mentor
in the apportionment of time.

Therefore I offer as the most valuable study in the use of time under
modern conditions the men and women in our large cities who are so
far evolved that they are not tempted to commit common crimes, are
well educated, earnest and pleasing, and are keenly desirous to effect
in their daily lives that happy compromise between self-interest and
altruism to which I have referred as the goal of success in the use of
time. Let us consider them from the point of every day in the week and
of the four seasons. In every man’s life his occupation, the calling or
profession by which he earns his bread, must necessarily be the chief
consumer of his time. We Americans have never been an idle race, and
it is rare that the father of a family exposes himself to the charge
of sloth. His work may be unintelligent or bungling, but he almost
invariably spends rather too much than too little time over it. If
you ask him why, he says he cannot help it; that in order to get on
he must toil early and late. If he is successful, he tells you that
otherwise he cannot attend to all he has to do. There is plausibility
in this. Competition is undoubtedly so fierce that only those who
devote themselves heart and soul to any calling are likely to succeed.
Moreover, the consciousness of success is so engrossing and inspiriting
that one may easily be tempted to sacrifice everything else to the game.

But can it be doubted, on the other hand, that the man who refuses to
become the complete slave either of endeavor or success is a better
citizen than he who does? The chief sinners in this respect in our
modern life are the successful men, those who are in the thick of
life doing reasonably well. The man who has not arrived, or who is
beginning, must necessarily have leisure for other things for the
reason that his time is not fully employed, but the really busy worker
must make an effort or he is lost. If he does not put his foot down
and determine what else he will do beside pursuing his vocation every
day in the year except Sunday, and often on Sunday to boot, he may be
robust enough to escape a premature grave, but he will certainly not
make the best use of his life.

The difficulty for such men, of course, is to select what they will do.
There are so many things, that it is easy to understand why the mind
which abhors superficiality should be tempted to shut its ears out of
sheer desperation to every other interest but business or profession.
If every one were to do that what would be the result? Our leading men
would simply be a horde of self-seekers, in spite of the fact that
their individual work in their several callings was conscientious and
unsparing of self. Deplorable as a too great multiplicity of interests
is apt to be to the welfare and advancement of an ambitious man, the
motive which prompts him to endeavor to do many things is in reality a
more noble one, and one more beneficial to society than absorption to
excess in a vocation. The cardinal principle in the wise use of time is
to discover what one can do without and to select accordingly. Man’s
duty to his spiritual nature, to his æsthetic nature, to his family, to
public affairs, and to his social nature, are no less imperative than
his duty to his daily calling. Unless each of these is in some measure
catered to, man falls short in his true obligations. Not one of them
can be neglected. Some men think they can lighten the load to advantage
by disregarding their religious side. Others congratulate themselves
that they never read novels or poetry, and speak disrespectfully of
the works of new schools of art as daubs. A still larger number shirks
attention to political and social problems, and declares bluffly that
if a man votes twice a year and goes to a caucus, when he is sent for
in a carriage by the committee, it is all that can be expected of a
busy man. Another large contingent swathes itself in graceless virtue,
and professes to thank God that it keeps aloof from society people and
their doings. Then we are all familiar with the man who has no time to
know his own family, though, fortunately, he is less common than he
used to be.

If I were asked to select what one influence more than another wastes
the spare time of the modern man, I should be inclined to specify the
reading of newspapers. The value of the modern daily newspaper as a
short cut to knowledge of what is actually happening in two hemispheres
is indisputable, provided it is read regularly so that one can
eliminate from the consciousness those facts which are contradicted
or qualified on the following day. Of course it is indispensable to
read the morning, and perhaps the evening, newspaper in order to
know what is going on in the world. But the persistent reading of
many newspapers, or the whole of almost any newspaper, is nearly as
detrimental to the economy of time as the cigarette habit to health.
Fifteen minutes a day is ample time in which to glean the news, and
the busy man who aspires to use his time to the best advantage may
well skip the rest. There is no doubt that many of our newspapers
contain some of the best thought of the day scattered through their
encyclopædic columns; but there is still less doubt that they are
conducted to please, first of all, those who otherwise would read
nothing. From this point of view they are most valuable educators;
moreover, the character of the newspaper is steadily improving, and
it is evident that those in charge of the best of them are seeking
to raise the public taste instead of writing down to it; but the
fact remains that they at present contain comparatively little which
the earnest man can afford to linger over if he would avoid mental
dissipation of an insidious kind. A newspaper containing only the
news and the really vital thought of the day compressed into short
space is among the successful enterprises of the future which some
genius will perpetuate. How many of us, already, weary of the social
gossip, the sensational personalities, the nauseous details of crime,
the custom-made articles, the Sunday special features, the ubiquitous
portrait, and finally the colored cartoon, would write our names large
on such a subscription-list!

In the matter of books, too, the modern man and woman may well
exercise a determined choice. There is so much printed nowadays
between ornamental covers, that any one is liable to be misled by
sheer bewilderment, and deliberate selection is necessary to save us
from being mentally starved with plenty. We cannot always be reading
to acquire positive knowledge; entertainment and self-oblivion
are quite as legitimate motives for the hard worker as meditated
self-improvement; but whether we read philosophy and history, or the
novel, the poem, and the essay, it behooves us to read the best of its
kind. From this standpoint the average book club is almost a positive
curse. A weekly quota of books appears on our library tables, to be
devoured in seven days. We read them because they come to us by lot,
not because we have chosen them ourselves. There is published in every
year of this publishing age a certain number of books of positive merit
in the various departments of literature and thought, which a little
intelligent inquiry would enable us to discover. By reading fewer
books, and making sure that the serious ones were sound and the light
or clever ones really diverting, the modern man and woman would be
gainers both in time and approbation.

In this connection let me head off again the sentimentalist and
moralist by noting that old friends in literature are often more
satisfying and engaging than new. Those of us who are in the thick of
life are too apt to forget to take down from our shelves the comrades
we loved when we were twenty-one--the essayists, the historians, the
poets, and novelists whose delightful pages are the literature of
the world. An evening at home with Shakespeare is not the depressing
experience which some clever people imagine. One rises from the feast
to go to bed with all one’s æsthetic being refreshed and fortified as
though one had inhaled oxygen. What a contrast this to the stuffy taste
in the roof of the mouth, and the weary, dejected frame of mind which
follow the perusal of much of the current literature which cozening
booksellers have induced the book club secretary to buy.

A very little newspaper reading and a limited amount of selected
reading will leave time for the hobby or avocation. Every man or woman
ought to have one; something apart from business, profession, or
housekeeping, in which he or she is interested as a study or pursuit.
In this age of the world it may well take the form of educational,
economic, or philanthropic investigation, or co-operation, if
individual tastes happen to incline one to such work. The prominence
of such matters in our present civilization is, of course, a magnet
favorable to such a choice. In this way one can, as it were, kill two
birds with one stone, develop one’s own resources and perform one’s
duty toward the public. But, on the other hand, there will be many who
have no sense of fitness for this service, and whose predilections lead
them toward art, science, literature, or some of their ramifications.
The amateur photographer, the extender of books, the observer of birds,
are alike among the faithful. To have one hobby and not three or four,
and to persevere slowly but steadily in the fulfilment of one’s
selection, is an important factor in the wise disposal of time. It is a
truism to declare that a few minutes in every day allotted to the same
piece of work will accomplish wonders; but the result of trying will
convince the incredulous. Indeed one’s avocation should progress and
prevail by force of spare minutes allotted daily and continuously; just
so much and no more, so as not to crowd out the other claimants for
consideration. Fifteen minutes before breakfast, or between kissing the
children good-night and the evening meal, or even every other Saturday
afternoon and a part of every holiday, will make one’s hobby look
well-fed and sleek at the end of a few years.

Perhaps the most difficult side of one’s nature to provide for
adequately is the social side. It is easy enough to make a hermit of
one’s self and go nowhere; and it is easy enough to let one’s self
be sucked into the vortex of endless social recreation until one’s
sensations become akin to those of a highly varnished humming-top. I
am not quite sure which is the worse; but I am inclined to believe
that the hermit, especially if self-righteous, is more detestable in
that he is less altruistic. He may be a more superior person than the
gadfly of society, but ethics no longer sanctions self-cultivation
purely for the benefit of self. Every man and woman who seeks to play
an intelligent part in the world ought to manage to dine out and attend
other social functions every now and then, even if it be necessary
to bid for invitations. Most of us have more invitations than we
can possibly accept, and find the problem of entertaining and being
entertained an exceedingly perplexing one to solve from the standpoint
of time. But in spite of the social proclivities of most of us, there
are still many people who feel that they are fulfilling their complete
duty as members of society if they live lives of strict rectitude far
from the madding crowd of so-called society people, and never darken
the doors of anybody. It is said that it takes all sorts of people to
make up the world, but disciplinarians and spoil-sports of this sort
are so tiresome that they would not be missed were they and their
homilies to be translated prematurely to another sphere.

Those of us, however, who profess a contrary faith, experience
difficulty at times in being true to it, and are often tempted to slip
back into domestic isolation by the feverishness of our social life.
It sometimes seems as though there were no middle way between being
a humming-top and a hermit. Yet nothing is more fatal to the wise
use of time than the acceptance of every invitation received, unless
it be the refusal of every one. Here again moderation and choice are
the only safeguards, in spite of the assurance of friends that it is
necessary to go a great deal in order to enjoy one’s self. In our
cities the bulk of the entertainments of the year happen in the four
winter months; from which many far from frivolous persons argue that
the only way is to dine out every night, and go to everything to which
one is asked during this period, and make up between April 15th and
December 15th for any arrears due the other demands of one’s nature.
This is plausible, but a dangerous theory, if carried to excess. Wise
living consists in living wisely from day to day, without excepting any
season. Three evenings in a week spent away from one’s own fireside may
not be an easy limit for some whose social interests are varied, but
both the married and the single who regret politely in order to remain
tranquilly at home four evenings out of seven, need not fear that they
have neglected the social side of life even in the gayest of seasons.

And here, for the sake of our sometimes dense friend the
moralist--especially the moralist of the press, who raves against
society people from the virtuous limit of an occasional afternoon
tea--let me add that by entertainments and recreation I intend to
include not merely formal balls and dinner-parties, but all the forms
of more or less innocent edification and diversion--teas, reform
meetings, theatres, receptions, concerts, lectures, clubs, sociables,
fairs, and tableaux, by which people all over the country are brought
together to exchange ideas and opinions in good-humored fellowship.

In the apportionment of time the consideration of one’s physical health
is a paramount necessity, not merely for a reasonably long life, but
to temper the mind’s eye so that the point of view remain sane and
wholesome. An overwrought nervous system may be capable of spasmodic
spurts, but sustained useful work is impossible under such conditions.
To die in harness before one’s time may be fine, and in exceptional
cases unavoidable, but how much better to live in harness and do the
work which one has undertaken without breaking down. Happily the
young men and women of the country of the present generation may
almost be said to have athletics and fresh air on the brain. What with
opportunity and precept they can scarcely help living up to the mark in
this respect. The grown-up men and women, absorbed in the struggle of
life, are the people who need to keep a watchful eye upon themselves.
It is so easy to let the hour’s fresh air and exercise be crowded out
by the things which one feels bound to do for the sake of others, and
hence for one’s immortal soul. We argue that it will not matter if we
omit our walk or rest for a day or two, and so we go on from day to
day, until we are brought up with a round turn, as the saying is, and
realize, in case we are still alive, that we are chronic invalids. The
walk, the ride, the drive, the yacht, the bicycle, the search for wild
flowers and birds, the angler’s outing, the excursion with a camera,
the deliberate open-air breathing spell on the front platform of a
street-car, some one of these is within the means and opportunities of
every busy worker, male and female.

For many of us the most begrudged undertaking of all is to find time
for what we owe to the world at large or the State, the State with
a capital S, as it is written nowadays. There is no money in such
bestowals, no private gain or emolument. What we give we give as a
tribute to pure altruism, or, in other words, because as men and women
we feel that it is one of the most important elements in wise living.
It is indisputable that there was never so much disinterested endeavor
in behalf of the community at large as there is to-day, but at the
same time it is true that the agitations and work are accomplished
by a comparatively small number of people. There are probably among
the intelligent, aspiring portion of the population at least five
persons who intend to interest themselves in public affairs, and regard
doing so as essential to a useful life, to every one who puts his
theories into practice. No man or woman can do everything. We cannot
as individuals at one and the same time busy ourselves successfully in
education, philanthropy, political reform, and economic science. But if
every one would take an active, earnest concern in something, in some
one thing, and look into it slowly but thoroughly, this man or woman in
the public schools, this in the methods of municipal government, and
this in the problems of crime or poverty, reforms would necessarily
proceed much faster. Just a little work every other day or every week.
Let it be your hobby if you will, if you have no time for a hobby
too. If five thousand men in every large city should take an active
interest in and give a small amount of time in every week to the school
question, we should soon have excellent public schools; if another five
thousand would devote themselves to the affairs of municipal government
in a similar fashion, would there be so much corruption as at present,
and would so inferior a class of citizens be chosen to be aldermen and
to fill the other city offices? And so on to the end of the chapter.
Is not something of the kind the duty of every earnest man and woman?
Let those who boast of being plain people put this into their pipes and
smoke it. When the self-styled working-classes are prohibited by law
from working more than eight hours, will they contribute of their spare
time to help those who are trying to help them?

American men have the reputation of being considerate husbands and
indulgent fathers; but they have been apt at all events, until
recently, to make permission to spend take the place of personal
comradeship. This has been involuntarily and regretfully ascribed to
business pressure; but fatalistic remorse is a poor substitute for
duty, even though the loved ones eat off gold plate and ride in their
own carriages as a consequence. We Americans who have begotten children
in the last twenty years do not need to be informed that the time
given to the society of one’s wife and family is the most precious
expenditure of all, both for their sakes and our own. But though the
truth is obvious to us, are we not sometimes conscious at the end of
the week that the time due us and them has been squandered or otherwise
appropriated? Those walks and talks, those pleasant excursions from
city to country, or country to city, those quiet afternoons or evenings
at home, which are possible to every man and woman who love each other
and their children, are among the most valuable aids to wise living
and peace of mind which daily existence affords. Intimacy and warm
sympathy, precept and loving companionship, are worth all the indulgent
permission and unexpected cheques in the world. Some people, when
Sunday or a holiday comes, seem to do their best to get rid of their
families and to try to amuse themselves apart from them. Such men
and women are shutting out from their lives the purest oxygen which
civilization affords; for genuine comradeship of husband and wife, and
father or mother and child, purges the soul and tends to clear the
mind’s eye more truly than any other influence.

Lastly and firstly, and in close compact with sweet domesticity and
faithful friendship, stand the spiritual demands of our natures. We
must have time to think and meditate. Just as the flowers need the
darkness and the refreshing dew, the human soul requires its quiet
hours, its season for meditation and rest. Whatever we may believe,
whatever doubts we may entertain regarding the mysteries of the
universe, who will maintain that the aspiring side of man is a delusion
and an unreality? In the time--often merely minutes--which we give
to contemplation and serious review of what we are doing, lies the
secret of the wise plan, if not the execution. To go on helter-skelter
from day to day without a purpose in our hearts resembles playing a
hurdy-gurdy for a living without the hope of pence. The use of Sunday
in this country has changed so radically in the last twenty-five years
that every one is free to spend it as he will, subject to certain
restrictions as to sport and entertainment in public calculated to
offend those who would prefer stricter usages. But whether we choose
to go to church or not, whether our aspirations are fostered in the
sanctuary or the fresh air, the eternal needs of the soul must be
provided for. If we give our spare hours and minutes merely to careless
amusement, we cannot fail to degenerate in nobility of nature, just
as we lose the hue of health when we sully the red corpuscles of the
body with foul air and steam heat. Are we not nowadays, even the plain
people, God bless them, too much disposed to believe that merely to
be comfortable and amused and rested is the sole requirement of the
human soul? It does need rest most of the time in this age of pressure,
Heaven knows, and comfort and amusement are necessary. But may we not,
even while we rest and are comfortable, under the blue sky or on the
peaceful river, if you will, lift up our spirits to the mystery of the
ages, and reach out once more toward the eternal truths? Merely to be
comfortable and to get rested once a week will not bring those truths
nearer. May we not, in the pride of our democracy, afford to turn our
glances back to the pages of history, to the long line of mighty
men kneeling before the altar with their eyes turned up to God, and
the prayer of faith and repentance on their lips? Did this all mean
nothing? Are we so wise and certain and far-seeing that we need not do

The _Summer Problem_.


What is the good American to do with himself or herself in summer?
The busiest worker nowadays admits that a vacation of a fortnight in
hot weather is at least desirable. Philanthropy sends yearly more and
more children on an outing in August, as one of the best contributions
to the happiness and welfare of the poor. The atmosphere of our large
cities in midsummer is so lifeless and oppressive that every one who
can get away for some part of the summer plans to do so, and fathers of
families find themselves annually confronted by a serious problem.

I specify the father of a family because the problem is so much easier
for a single man. The single man, and generally the single woman, can
pack a bag and go to the beach or mountains, or to a hotel within
easy distance from town, without much premeditation. The worst that
can happen to them is that they may become engaged without intention;
besides they can always come home if they are dissatisfied with their
surroundings. But the family man who lives in a large city finds more
and more difficulty every year, as the country increases in population,
in making up his mind how best to provide for the midsummer necessities
of his wife and children. There are several courses of action open to

He can remain in town and keep his family there.

He can remain in town himself and send his family to a distance.

He can hire a house or lodgings by the sea or in the country within
easy reach of town by railroad or steamboat.

He can send his family to a summer hotel at a distance, or take a house
or lodgings at a distance, making occasional flying trips to and from
town, according to his opportunities.

To stay in town and keep one’s family there is a far from disagreeable
experience except in very large cities in unusually hot weather. The
custom of going away from home in summer is one which has grown by
force of imitation. The inclination to change one’s surroundings, and
to give the wife and children a whiff of country or sea or mountain
air for a few weeks in the course of the year is an ambition which
is neither godless nor extravagant. But it is not worth while to set
this necessity up as an idol to be worshipped at the expense of comfort
for the rest of the year, for, after all, our ancestors successfully
reared large families of children, including some of us, without going
away from home in the summer, and “the-can’t-get-aways” in our largest
and most uncomfortable cities still outnumber those who can and do in
the proportion of at least five to one. It costs more to go away than
to stay in town; from which certain native philosophers, who maintain
that any one who spends more than twenty-five hundred dollars on his
family in any one year is not a good American, may argue that those who
have both a summer and a winter home are aristocrats and materialists.
Their argument is not likely to diminish summer travel, to bankrupt the
summer hotels, or to induce the well-to-do American citizen to shut
up his cottage. A change in summer, for a longer or shorter period,
is generally recognized as one of the most healthful and improving
advantages which a father in our civilization can give his family and
himself. On the other hand, to go out of town simply because one’s
neighbors do, when one cannot afford it, is a pitiful performance.

Moreover, the man who does not send his family out of town from
motives of economy, has more than a clean conscience to comfort him.
He can remember that probably one-third of the annual experiments
in summer culture and health-giving recreation, made by his friends
and acquaintance, turn out dire failures, and that another one-third
result in mixed joy and comfort. He can reflect too, if he lives in
the suburbs of a city, or in a town or small city, that, barring a few
exceptionally hot days, he and his family are really very comfortable
at home. Even if his household gods are in a parboiled metropolis, he
will commonly be able to relieve his tedium and physical discomfort by
some form of excursion. All our seaboard cities have their midsummer
Meccas for the multitude in the form of beaches; and even where no
ocean breezes blow, there is usually close at hand verdure, a lake,
a grove, or a river where the philosophical soul can forget the
thermometer, and cease to commiserate with itself on being kept in
town. One’s own bed is never humpy, and the hollows in it are just
fitted to one’s bones or adipose developments. One can eat and drink
in one’s town-house without fear of indigestion or germs. Decidedly
the happiness of staying at home is not much less than the happiness
of passing one, two, or three months at a place where everything is
uncomfortable or nasty, at a cost which one can ill afford, if at all.
Good city milk and succulent city vegetables are luxuries which are
rarely to be found at the ordinary summer resort.

It is difficult to convince one’s family of this in advance. Besides,
man is always to be blessed. We are always hoping that the next summer
will be a grand improvement on those which have gone before, and
generally by the first of May we believe, or at least imagine, that we
have discovered the genuine article--the ideal spot at last. Discovered
it for our families. The American father has the trick of sending
his family out of town for the summer, and staying at home himself.
This had its origin probably in his supposed inability to escape from
business in the teeth of the family craving to see something of the
world outside of their own social acquaintance. Yet he acknowledged the
force of the family argument that with such a large country to explore
it would be a pity not to explore it; and accordingly he said, “Go,
and I will join you if and when I can.” Paterfamilias said this long
ago, and in some instances he has vainly been trying to join them ever
since. There are all sorts of trying in this world, and perhaps his
has not been as determined as some; nevertheless, he has maintained
tolerably well the reputation of trying. The Saturday night trains
and steamboats all over the country are vehicles, from July first to
October first, of an army of fathers who are trying successfully to
join their nearest and dearest at the different summer-resorts of the

To be separated for three months from one’s wife and children, except
for a day or two once a fortnight, is scarcely an ideal domestic
arrangement, in spite of the fact that it is more or less delightful
for the dear ones to meet new people and see new scenes. The American
father may not try very hard to leave his city home, but it must be
admitted that he has been an amiable biped on the score of the summer
question. He has been and is ready to suffer silently for the sake of
his family and his business. But now that he has made up his mind at
last that he prefers to leave his business for the sake of his family
and his own health, the difficulties of sending them to a distance
are more apparent to him. Ten or fifteen years ago it dawned upon him
that the city in summer without his family was not the ideal spot his
fancy had painted, and that the sea-side and country, especially the
former, were, after all, the best place for an overworked, full-grown
man on a summer’s afternoon. It dawned upon him, too, that there was
sea-coast and country close at hand where he could establish his family
and refresh himself at the end of every day’s work. Twenty-five years
ago the marine and attractive suburban environs of our cities were
substantially unappropriated. To-day they bristle with cottages, large
and small, the summer homes of city men. Every available promontory,
island, hill, nook, and crook, which commands a pleasing view or is
visited by cooling breezes is, or soon will be, occupied. What can a
busy man do better, if he can afford it, than buy or hire a cottage,
as humble as you like, to which he can return in the afternoon to the
bosom of his own family, and be comfortable and lazy until morning?

From the domestic point of view this is assuredly the most satisfactory
arrangement for the father, and the American paterfamilias, ever since
the truth dawned upon him, has been prompt in recognizing the fact.
He has builded, too, according to his taste, whim, and individual
idiosyncrasies. A sea-side cottage within easy reach of town includes,
to-day, every variety of shelter from a picturesque villa of the most
super-civilized type to the hulk of a ship fitted up as a camping-out
home. To a large extent, too, the hotel has been discarded in favor
of the domestic hearth, even though the single chimney smokes so that
tears are perpetually in the domestic eye. The well-to-do city man who
comes to town every day appreciates that a hotel is a poor place for
children; consequently the long piazzas, where the terrible infant
forever used to abound, are now trodden chiefly by visitors from a
distance and transients who have escaped from the city for a day in
search of a sea-bath and a clam chowder.

If the summer cottage to which the husband returns at night, is not the
most satisfactory arrangement for the mother, she must blame herself
or the civilization in which she lives. The sole argument in favor of
passing the summer at a hotel is that the wife and mother escapes
thereby the cares of housekeeping, too often so severe during the rest
of the year that the prospect of not being obliged to order dinner for
three months causes her to wake in the night and laugh hysterically.
Formality and conventional ceremony are the lurking enemies of our
American summer life, who threaten to deprive our mothers and daughters
of the rest and vacation from the tension, excitement, and worry
begotten by nine months of active domestic duties. Simplicity of living
ought to be the controlling warm-weather maxim of every household where
the woman at the head of the establishment does the housekeeping, as
nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine women out of ten thousand in
America do.

It may be argued that greater simplicity in living all the year round
would enable the wife and mother to do without a vacation. Possibly.
But unfortunately for her the trend of the tide is all the other way.
Besides, simplicity is such a difficult word to conjure with. Her
interests have become so varied that the wear and tear is quite as
likely to proceed from new mental strivings as from a multiplicity
of sheer domestic duties. At least there seems to be no immediate
prospect that she will be less tired in the spring, however exemplary
her intentions, and it therefore behooves her not to allow the wave of
increasing luxury to bear her on its crest through the summer and land
her in her town-house in October a physical and mental wreck.

The external attractiveness of the modern summer cottage, with its
pleasing angles and comely stains, is easily made an excuse for an
artistic interior and surroundings to match. But artistic beauty
in summer can readily be produced without elaboration, and at
comparatively slight cost, if we only choose to be content with simple
effects. The bewitching charm of the summer girl, if analyzed, proves
to be based on a few cents a yard and a happy knack of combining colors
and trifles. Why need we be solicitous to have all the paraphernalia
of winter-life--meals with many courses, a retinue of servants, wines,
festal attire, and splendid entertainments? While we rejoice that
the promiscuous comradeship of hotel life has largely given place at
Newport, Bar Harbor, Lenox, and our other fashionable watering-places
to the pleasant protection of the cottage home, is it not seriously
deplorable that simplicity is too often lost sight of? To be
comfortable is one thing, to be swathed in luxury or to be tortured by
ceremony all the time is another. It seems strange to many of us, who
cannot choose precisely what we will do and where we will go in summer,
that those who can so often select a mere repetition of mid-winter
social recreation.

There is Patterson the banker for instance, the employer of Rogers. He
can go where he pleases, and he goes to Newport. One can see him any
afternoon driving augustly on Bellevue Avenue or along the ocean drive,
well gloved, well shod, and brilliantly necktied, in his landau beside
Mrs. Patterson. They have been to Newport for years in summer, and
their house, with its beautiful outlook to sea, has doubled and trebled
in value. How do they pass their time? Entertain and let themselves be
entertained. Dinners with formal comestibles, late dances, champagne
luncheons, _paté de fois gras_ picnics on a coach are their daily
associations. Mr. and Mrs. Patterson are close upon sixty themselves,
but they follow--a little more solemnly than formerly, but still
without stint--the same programme, which grows more and more elaborate
with each succeeding year. It was there that their youngest daughter
was married six months ago, with widely heralded splendor, to a
Russian nobleman who speaks beautiful English. May her lot be a happy
one! The son, who went through the Keeley cure, and the elder daughter,
who is separated from her husband, have spent their summers at Newport
from their youth up.

There are comparatively few who have the means to live, or who do live
just like Patterson, but there is many a man of fine instincts and with
a sufficient income to maintain a summer home, who finds himself to-day
oppressed by the incubus of things. He seeks rest, books, fresh air,
the opportunity to enjoy nature--the sea, the foliage, the flowers--and
yet he is harassed by things, the very things he has all winter, with a
garnishment suitable to hot weather. He wishes to be still; and things
keep him moving. He yearns to strip off, if not all his clothing, at
least enough of it to give his lungs and his soul full play; but things
keep him faultlessly dressed. He intends to slake his thirst only from
the old oaken bucket or the milk-pail, and things keep his palate
titillated with champagne and cocktails. Our old-time simplicity in
summer is perhaps no longer possible in the large watering-places. It
is even with considerable satisfaction that we don, and see our wives
and children don, the attractive clothing which has taken the place of
shirt-sleeves and flannel shirts as articles of toilette; but is it not
time to cry halt in our procession toward luxury, if we do not wish to
live on our nerves all the year round?

It is this difficulty in escaping the expenses and the formality of
city life in the summer cottage or at the summer hotel, almost as
much as the fact that the desirable locations near town have all been
taken, which is inclining the American father to send his family
to a distance. After twenty-five years of exploration the outlying
beaches and other favorite resorts near our large cities have become
so thoroughly appropriated that the man who wishes to build or own a
summer home of his own is obliged to look elsewhere. As a consequence
cottages have sprung up all along the line of our coast, from the
farthest confines of Maine to New Jersey, on the shores of the lakes
of the Middle West, and on the Pacific shore. Many of these are
of a simple and attractive character, and generally they stand in
small colonies, large enough for companionship and not too large for
relaxation. With the similar double purpose of obtaining an attractive
summer home at a reasonable price, and of avoiding the stock
watering-place, city families are utilizing also the abandoned farm.
There is not room for us all on the sea-coast; besides those of us
whose winter homes are there are more likely to need inland or mountain
air. There are thousands of beautiful country spots, many of them not
so very far from our homes, where the run-down farm can be redeemed, if
not to supply milk and butter, at least to afford a picturesque shelter
and a lovely landscape during the season when we wish to be out of
doors as much as possible. A very few changes, a very little painting
and refurnishing will usually transform the farm-house itself into
just the sort of establishment which a family seeking rest and quiet
recreation ought to delight in. You may bring mosquito-frames for the
windows if you like, and you must certainly test the well-water. Then
swing your hammock between two apple-trees and thank Providence that
you are not like so many of your friends and acquaintances, working the
tread-mill of society in the dog-days.

Of course most men who have homes of this description at a distance
cannot be with their families all the time. But, on the other hand,
the conviction that a busy man can do better work in ten or eleven
months than in twelve, is gaining ground, and most of us, if we only
choose to, can slip away for at least three weeks. Many of the demands
of modern civilization on the family purse cannot be resisted without
leaving the husband and parent a little depressed; but it seems to me
that a serious item of expense may be avoided, and yet all the genuine
benefits and pleasures of a change of scene and atmosphere be obtained,
if we only dismiss from our minds the idea of living otherwise than
simply. A little house with very little in it, with a modest piazza,
a skiff or sail-boat which does not pretend to be a yacht, a garden
hoe and rake, a camera, books and a hammock, a rod which is not too
precious or costly to break, one nag of plebeian blood and something
to harness him to, rabbits in the barn and sunflowers in the garden, a
walk to sunset hill and a dialogue with the harvest moon--why should
we not set our summer life to such a tune, rather than hanker for the
neighborhood of the big steam-yacht and polo-ground, for the fringe of
the fashionable bathing beach, for the dust of the stylish equipage,
and try in our several ways, and beyond our means, to follow the pace
which is set for us by others?

The _Summer Problem_.


Why? Largely on account of that newly created species, the American
girl. From solicitude for her happiness and out of deference to her
wishes. Many a father and mother would be delighted to pass the summer
on an abandoned farm or in any other spot where it were possible to
live simply and to be cool, comfortable, and lazy, but for fear of
disappointing their young people--principally their daughters, who,
unlike the sons, cannot yet come and go at will. Feminine youth has its
inherent privileges everywhere, but the gentle sway which it exercises
in other civilizations has become almost a sour tyranny here. Was there
ever an American mother who knew anything portrayed in fiction? The
American daughter is commonly presented as a noble-souled, original
creature, whose principal mission in life, next to or incidental to
refusing the man who is not her choice, is to let her own parents
understand what weak, ignorant, foolish, unenlightened persons they
are in comparison with the rising generation--both parents in
some measure, but chiefly and utterly the mother. She is usually
willing to concede that her father has a few glimmering ideas, and
a certain amount of sense--horse business sense, not very elevating
or inspiring--yet something withal. But she looks upon her poor dear
mother as a feeble-minded individual of the first water. What we read
in contemporary fiction in this realistic age is apt to be photographed
from existing conditions. The newly created species of our homes does
not always reveal these sentiments in so many words; indeed she is
usually disposed to conceal from her parents as far as possible their
own shortcomings, believing often, with ostrich-like complacency, that
they have no idea what she really thinks of them. Quite frequently late
in life it dawns upon her that they were not such complete imbeciles as
she had adjudged them, and she revises her convictions accordingly. But
often she lives superior to the end.

It would be an excellent thing for the American girl if her eyes could
be definitely opened to the fact that her parents, particularly her
mother, are much more clever than she supposes, and that they are
really her best counsellors. But on the other hand, is not the American
mother herself chiefly responsible for this attitude of loving
contempt and sweet but unfilial condescension on the part of her own
flesh and blood? It sometimes seems as though we had fallen victims to
our reluctance to thwart our children in any way lest we should destroy
their love for us. But is it much preferable to be loved devotedly as
foolish, weak, and amiable old things, than to be feared a little as
individuals capable of exercising authority and having opinions of our

This yielding, self-abnegating tendency on the part of parents,
and consequent filial tyranny, are especially conspicuous in the
case of that arch despot, the summer girl. I admit her fascination
unreservedly, and am willing to concede that she has run the gauntlet
of criticism hurled at her by the effete civilizations with an
unblemished reputation. Though she may have become a little more
conservative and conventional out of deference to good taste, she is
still able to be lost in caves or stranded on islands with any young
man of her acquaintance without bringing a blush to any cheek except
that of the horror-stricken foreigner. But having admitted this, I
am obliged to charge her with trampling on the prostrate form of her
mother from the first of July to the first of October. She does so to
a certain extent the year round, but the summer is the crowning season
of her despotism.

The first concern of the American father and mother in making plans for
the summer is to go to some place which the children will like, and
the summer girl in particular. This is natural and in keeping with the
unselfish devotion shown by the present generation of parents toward
their children. But it is one thing to endeavor to select a place which
will be satisfactory to one’s eighteen-year-old daughter and another
to be sweetly hectored by that talented young woman into going to some
place selected by her of which you entirely disapprove. And just here
it is that the American mother almost seems to be convicted of the
feebleness of intellect ascribed to her by the newly created species.
You, the father, are just screwing your courage up to say that you will
be blessed if you will go to a summer hotel at Narragansett Pier (or
wherever it is), when your wife, who has been cowed or cajoled by the
despot in the interim, flops completely, as the saying is, and joins
an almost tearful support to the summer girl’s petition. And there you
are. What are you to do? Daughter and mother, the apple of your eye
and the angel of your heart, leagued against you. Resistance becomes
impossible, unless you are ready to incur the reputation of being a
stony-hearted old curmudgeon.

The summer girl invariably wishes to go where it is gay. Her idea of
enjoyment does not admit domesticity and peaceful relaxation. She
craves to be actively amused, if not blissfully excited. It is not
strange that the tastes and sentiments of young persons from seventeen
to twenty-three should differ considerably from those of mothers and
fathers from forty to fifty, and it speaks well for the intelligence
and unselfishness of middle-aged parents and guardians in this country
that they so promptly recognize the legitimate claims of youth, and
even are eager to give young people a chance to enjoy themselves
before the cares of life hedge them in. But have we not gone to the
other extreme? Is it meet that we should regard ourselves as moribund
at fifty, and sacrifice all our own comfort and happiness in order to
let a young girl have her head, and lead a life in summer of which we
heartily disapprove? It is not an exaggeration to state that there is a
growing disposition on the part of the rising hordes of young men and
girls to regard any one in society over thirty-five as a fossil and an
encumbrance, for whom, in a social sense, the grave is yawning. It is
not uncommon to hear a comely matron of forty described as a frump by a
youth scarcely out of his teens, and every old gentleman of thirty-nine
has experienced the tactless pity which fashionable maidens under
twenty-one endeavor to conceal in the presence of his senility.

The summer girl is generally a young person who has been a winter
girl for nine months. I am quite aware that some girls are much more
effective in summer than at any other season, and it may be that in
certain cases they appear to so little advantage in winter that to
attempt to gratify parental inclinations at their expense would be
rank unkindness. But it is safe to allege that the average summer
girl in this country has been doing all she ought to do in the way of
dancing, prancing, gadding, going, working, and generally spending her
vital powers in the autumn, winter, and spring immediately preceding,
and consequently when summer comes needs, quite as much as her
parents, physical, mental, and moral ozone. But what does she prefer
to do? Whither is she bent on leading her father by the nose with
the assistance of her mother? To various places, according to her
special predilection, and the farthest limit of the parental purse.
If possible, to one of the gayest watering-places, where she hopes
to bathe, play tennis, walk, talk, and drive during the day; paddle,
stroll, or sit out during the evening, and dance until twelve o’clock
at night two or three times a week. Else to some much-advertised
mountain cataract or lake resort, to lead a stagnant hotel corridor
and piazza life, in the fond hope of seeing the vividly imagined Him
alight from the stage-coach some Saturday night. Meanwhile she is one
of three-score forlorn girls who haunt the office and make eyes at the
hotel clerk. The summer girl has a mania for the summer hotel. It seems
to open to her radiant possibilities. She kindles at the mention of a
hop in August, and if she is musical, the tinkle of her piano playing
reverberates through the house all day until the other boarders are
driven nearly crazy. In the gloaming after supper she flits off from
the house with her best young man of the moment, and presently her
mother is heard bleating along the piazza, “My Dorothy has gone without
her shawl, and will catch her death a cold.”

And so it goes all summer. When autumn comes and the leaf is about
to fall, and Dorothy returns to town, what has she to show for it?
A little tan and a callous heart, a promised winter correspondence
with the hotel clerk, new slang, some knack at banjo-playing, and
considerable uncertainty in her mind as to whom she is engaged to, or
whether she is engaged at all. And like as not the doctor is sent for
to build her up for the winter with cod-liver oil and quinine. There is
too much ozone at some of these summer hotels.

We cannot hope to do away wholly with either the summer hotel or the
fashionable watering-place by the assertion of parental authority.
Such an endeavor, indeed, would on the whole be an unjust as well as
fruitless piece of virtue. The delightful comradeship between young men
and young women, which is one of our national products, is typified
most saliently by the summer girl and her attendant swains. Naturally
she wishes to go to some place where swains are apt to congregate; and
the swain is always in search of her. Moreover, the summer hotel must
continue to be the summer home of thousands who, for one reason or
another, have no cottage or abandoned farm. My plea is still the same,
however. Why, now that the negro slave is free, and the workingman is
being legislated into peace and plenty, and the wrongs of other women
are being righted, should not the American mother try to burst her
bonds? It would be a much more simple matter than it seems, for, after
all, she has her own blood in her veins, and she has only to remember
what a dogmatic person she herself was in the days of her youth. If the
code of fathers and mothers, instead of that of girls and boys, were in
force at our summer hotels and watering-places, a very different state
of affairs would soon exist; and that, too, without undue interference
with that inherent, cherished, and unalienable right of the American
daughter, the maiden’s choice. We must not forget that though our
civilization boasts the free exercise of the maiden’s choice as one of
the brightest jewels in the crown of republican liberties, the crowded
condition of our divorce courts forbids us to be too demonstrative in
our self-satisfaction.

It would be dire, indeed, to bore the young person, especially the
summer girl. But does it necessarily follow that a summer home or a
summer life indicated by the parent would induce such a disastrous
result? I am advising neither a dungeon, a convent, nor some
excruciatingly dull spot to which no fascinating youth is likely to
penetrate. Verily, even the crowded bathing beach may not corrupt,
provided that wise motherly control and companionship point out the
dangers and protect the forming soul, mind, and manners, instead of
allowing them to be distorted and poisoned by the ups and downs of
promiscuous amatory summer guerilla warfare. But may it not happen,
when the maternal foot is once firmly put down, that the summer
girl will not be so easily bored as she or her mother fears, and
will even be grateful for protection against her own ignorance and
inexperience? Boating, sketching, riding, reading, bicycling, travel,
sewing, and photography are pastimes which ought not to bore her, and
would surely leave her more refreshed in the autumn than continuous
gadding, dancing, and flirtation. To be a member of a small, pleasant
colony, where the days are passed simply and lazily, yet interestingly;
where the finer senses are constantly appealed to by the beauties of
nature and the healthful character of one’s occupations, is a form of
exile which many a summer girl would accommodate herself to gladly
if she only understood what it was like, and understood, moreover,
that the selection of a summer programme had ceased to be one of her
prerogatives. A determined man who wishes to marry will discover the
object of his affections on an abandoned farm or in the heart of the
Maine woods, if he is worth his salt. In these days of many yachts
and bicycles true love can travel rapidly, and there is no occasion
for marriageable girls to select courting-grounds where their lovers
can have close at hand a Casino and other conveniences, including the
opportunity to flirt with their next best Dulcineas.

If the summer-time is the time in which to recuperate and lie fallow,
why should we have so many summer schools? After the grand panjandrum
of Commencement exercises at the colleges is over, there ought to be
a pause in the intellectual activity of the nation for at least sixty
days; yet there seems to be a considerable body of men and women who,
in spite of the fact that they exercise their brains vigorously during
the rest of the year, insist on mental gymnastics when the thermometer
is in the eighties. These schools--chiefly assemblies in the name of
the ologies and osophies--bring together more or less people more or
less learned, from all over the country, to talk at one another and
read papers.

Judging merely from the newspaper accounts of their proceedings, it is
almost invariably impossible to discover the exact meaning of anything
which is uttered, but this may be due to the absence of the regular
reporters on their annual vacations, and the consequent delegation to
tyros of the difficult duty in question. But even assuming that the
utterances of the summer schools are both intelligible and stimulating,
would not the serious-minded men and women concerned in them be better
off lying in a hammock under a wide-spreading beech-tree, or, if this
seems too relaxing an occupation, watching the bathers at Narragansett
Pier? There is wisdom sometimes in sending young and very active boys
to school for about an hour a day in summer, in order chiefly to
know where they are and to prevent them from running their legs off;
but with this exception the mental workers in this country, male and
female, young and old, can afford to close their text-books with a bang
on July 1st, and not peep at them again until September. Philosophy in
August has much the flavor of asparagus in January.

The _Case of Man_.


A not inconsiderable portion of the women of the United States is
inclined to regard man as a necessary evil. Their point of view is
that he is here, and therefore is likely, for the present at least,
to remain a formidable figure in human affairs, but that his ways are
not their ways, that they disapprove of them and him, and that they
intend to work out their lives and salvation as independently of him
as possible. What man in the flush and prime of life has not been made
conscious of this attitude of the modern woman? She is constantly
passing us in the street with the manner of one haughtily and supremely
indifferent. There are women enough still who look patterns of modesty,
and yet let us feel at the same time that we are more or less an object
of interest to them; but this particular type sails by in her trig
and often stylish costume with the air not merely of not seeing us,
but of wishing to ignore us. Her compressed lips suggest a judgment;
a judgment born of meditated conviction which leaves no hope of
reconsideration or exception. “You are all substantially alike,” she
seems to say, “and we have had enough of you. Go your ways and we will
go ours.”

The Mecca of the modern woman’s hopes, as indicated by this point of
view, would appear to be the ultimate disappearance of man from the
face of the earth after the manner of the mastodon and other brutes.
Nor are her hopes balked by physiological barriers. She is prepared
to admit that it is not obvious, as yet, how girls alone are to be
generated and boy babies given the cold maternal shoulder; but she
trusts to science and the long results of time for a victory which will
eliminate sexual relations and all their attendant perplexities and
tragedies from the theatre of human life.

We are not so sanguine as she that the kingdom of heaven is to be
brought to pass in any so simple and purely feminine a fashion. That
is, we men. Perhaps we are fatuous, but we see no reason to doubt that
sexual relations will continue to the crack of doom, in spite of the
perplexities and tragedies consequent upon them; and moreover, that
man will continue to thrive like a young bay-tree, even though she
continues to wear a chip on her tailor-made shoulder. And yet at the
same time we feel sober. It is not pleasant to be regarded as brutes
and to have judgment passed upon us by otherwise attractive women. It
behooves us to scratch our heads and ask ourselves if we can possibly
merit the haughty indifference and thinly disguised contempt which
is entertained toward us. To be weighed in the balance and found
wanting by a serene and beautiful young person is a far from agreeable
experience. There must be something wrong with us, and if so, what is

Of course there was a time--and not so very long ago--when men were
tyrants and kept women under. Nowadays the only thing denied them in
polite circles is to whisk around by themselves after dark, and plenty
of them do that. The law is giving them, with both hands, almost
everything they ask for nearly as rapidly as existing inequalities
are pointed out, and the right of suffrage is withheld from them only
because the majority of women are still averse to exercising it. Man,
the tyrant and highwayman, has thrown up his arms and is allowing woman
to pick his pockets. He is not willing to have her bore a hole in his
upper lip, and drag him behind her with a rope, but he is disposed to
consent to any reasonable legislative changes which she desires to have
made, short of those which would involve masculine disfigurement or
depreciation. It certainly cannot be his bullying qualities which have
attracted her disdain, for he has given in. If woman to-day finds that
the law discriminates unjustly between her and man, she has merely to
ask for relief in sufficient numbers to show that she is not the tool
of designing members of her own sex, in order to obtain it.

Under the spur of these reflections I consulted my wife by way of
obtaining light on this problem. “Barbara, why is it that modern women
of a certain type are so sniffy toward men? You know what I mean; they
speak to us, of course, and tolerate us, and they love us individually
as husbands and fathers; but instead of counting for everything, as we
once did, we don’t seem to count for anything unless it be dollars and
cents. It isn’t merely that you all talk so fast and have so much to
say without regard to us that we often feel left out in the cold, and
even hurt, but there is a stern, relentless look on some of your faces
which makes us feel as though we had stolen the Holy Grail. You must
have noticed it.”

“Oh, yes,” said Barbara, with a smile. “It doesn’t mean very much. Of
course times are not what they were. Man used to be a demigod, now he
is only a----”

Barbara hesitated for a word, so I suggested, “Only a bank.”

“Let us say only a man. Only a man in the eyes of reflective womanhood.
We have caught up and are beginning to think for ourselves. You can’t
expect us to hang on your every word and to fall down and worship
you without reservation as we once did. Man used to be woman’s whole
existence, often to her infinite sorrow, and now he is only part of it,
just as she is only a part of his. You go to your clubs; we go to ours;
and while you are playing cards we read or listen to papers, some of
which are not intelligible to man. But we love you still, even though
we have ceased to worship you. There are a few, I admit, who would
like to do away with you altogether; but they are extremists--in every
revolution, you know, there are fanatics and unreasonable persons--but
the vast majority of us have a tender spot for you in our hearts, and
regard your case in sorrow rather than in anger--and as probably not

“What is the matter with us?”

“Oh, everything. You are a failure fundamentally. To begin with,
your theory of life is founded on compromise. We women--the modern
woman--abhor compromise.”

Although it was obvious that Barbara was trying to tease me, I realized
from her expression that she intended to deal my sex a crucial stab
by the word compromise. I must confess that I felt just a little
uncomfortable under the white light of scorn which radiated from her
eyes, while her general air reminded me for the first time disagreeably
of the type of modern woman to whom I had referred.

“The world progresses by compromise,” I replied, sententiously.

“Yes, like a snail.”

“Otherwise it would stand still. A man thinks so and so; another man
thinks precisely opposite; they meet each other half-way and so much is

“Oh, I know how they do. A man who stands for a principle meets another
man; they argue and bluster for a few minutes, and presently they sit
down and have something to eat or drink, and by the time they separate
the man who stands for a principle has sacrificed all there is of it,
except a tiny scrap or shred, in order not to incommode the man who has
no principles at all; and what is almost worse, they part seemingly
bosom friends and are apt to exchange rhetorical protestations of
mutual esteem. The modern woman has no patience with such a way of
doing things.”

“I suppose,” said I, “that two modern women under similar circumstances
would tear each other all to pieces; there would be nothing to eat or
drink, except possibly tea and wafers, and the floor would be covered
with fragments of skin, hair, and clothing. When they separated one
would be dead and the other maimed for life, and the principle for
which the victor stood would be set back about a century and a half.”

Barbara winced a little, but she said, “What have you men accomplished
all these years by your everlasting compromises? If you were really in
earnest to solve the liquor problem, and the social evil, as you call
it, and all the other abuses which exist in civilized and uncivilized
society, you would certainly have been able to do more than you have.
You have had free scope; we haven’t been consulted; we have stood
aside and let you have your innings; now we merely wish to see what
we can do. We shall make mistakes I dare say; even one or two of us
may be torn to pieces or maimed for life; but the modern woman feels
that she has the courage of her convictions and that she does not
intend to let herself be thwarted or cajoled by masculine theories.
That accounts largely for our apparent sniffiness. I say ‘apparent,’
because we are not really at bottom so contemptuous as we seem--even
the worst of us. I suppose you are right in declaring that the proud,
superior, and beautiful young person of the present day is a little
disdainful. But even she is less severe than she looks. She is simply
a nineteenth-century Joan of Arc protesting against the man of the
world and his works, asking to be allowed to lead her life without
molestation from him in a shrine of her own tasteful yet simple
construction--rooms or a room where she can practise her calling,
follow her tastes, ambitions, or hobbies, pursue her charities, and
amuse herself without being accountable to him. She wishes him to
understand that, though she is attractive, she does not mean to be
seduced or to be worried into matrimony against her will, and that she
intends to use her earnings and her property to pay her own bills
and provide for her own gratification, instead of to defray the debts
of her vicious or easy-going male relations or admirers. There is
really a long back account to settle, so it is not surprising that the
pendulum should swing a little too far the other way. Of course she
is wrong; woman can no more live wholly independent of man than he of
her--and you know what a helpless being he would be without her--and
the modern woman is bound to recognize, sooner or later, that the
sympathetic companionship of women with men is the only basis of true
social progress. Sexual affinity is stronger than the constitutions
of all the women’s clubs combined, as eight out of ten young modern
women discover to their cost, or rather to their happiness, sooner or
later. Some brute of a man breaks into the shrine, and before she knows
it she is wheeling a baby carriage. Even the novelist, with his or
her fertile invention, has failed to discover any really satisfactory
ending for the independent, disdainful heroine but marriage or the
grave. Spinsterhood, even when illumined by a career, is a worthy and
respectable lot, but not alluring.”

It was something to be assured by my wife that the modern woman does
not purpose to abolish either maternity or men, and that, so to speak,
her bark is worse than her bite. Barbara belongs to a woman’s club, so
she must know. We men are in such a nervous state, as a result of what
Barbara calls the revolution, that very likely we are unduly sensitive
and suspicious, and allow our imaginations to fly off at a tangent.
Very likely, too, we are disposed to be a trifle irritable, for when
one has been accustomed for long to sit on or club a person (literally
or metaphorically, according to one’s social status) when she happens
to express sentiments or opinions contrary to ours, it must needs take
time to get used to the idea that she is really an equal, and to adjust
one’s ratiocinations to suit. But even accepting as true the assurance
that the forbidding air of the modern woman does not mean much, and
that she loves us still though she has ceased to worship us, we have
Barbara’s word for it, too, that the modern woman thinks we have made
a mess of it and that man is a failure fundamentally. Love without
respect! Sorrow rather than anger! It sobers one; it saddens one. For
we must admit that man has had free scope and a long period in which
to make the most of himself; and woman has not, which precludes us
from answering back, as it were, which is always more or less of a
consolation when one is brought to bay.

A tendency to compromise is certainly one of man’s characteristics.
Barbara has referred to it as a salient fault--a vice, and perhaps it
is, though it is writ large in the annals of civilization as conducted
by man. We must at least agree that it is not woman’s way, and that she
expects to do without it when we are no more or are less than we are
now. Probably we have been and are too easy-going, and no one will deny
that one ought at all times to have the courage of one’s convictions,
even in midsummer and on purely social occasions; nevertheless it would
have been trying to the nervous system and conducive to the continuance
and increase of standing armies, had we favored the policy of shooting
at sight those whose views on the temperance question differed from
ours, or of telling the host at whose house we had passed the evening
that we had been bored to death.

If one runs over in his mind the Madame Tussaud Gallery of masculine
types, he cannot fail to acknowledge that, in our capacity of lords
of creation and viceregents of Providence, we have produced and
perpetuated a number of sorry specimens. First in the list stands the
so-called man of the world, on account of whom in particular, according
to Barbara, the nineteenth-century Joan of Arc looks askance at our
sex. He is an old stager; he dates back very nearly, if not completely,
to the garden of Eden, and he has always been a bugbear to woman.
It is not necessary to describe him; he has ever stood for simply
carnal interests and appetites, whether as a satyr, a voluptuary, a
wine-bibber, a glutton, a miser, an idler, or a mere pleasure-seeker.
If all the human industries which have owed and still owe their
prosperity to his propensities were to be obliterated, there would be
a large array of unemployed in the morning but a healthier world. The
bully, or prevailer by brute force, the snob, the cynic, the parasite,
the trimmer, and the conceited egotist are others prominent in the
category, without regard to criminals and unvarnished offenders against
whose noxious behavior men have protected themselves by positive law.

On the other hand, our gallery of past types has many figures of which
we have a right to be proud. Unfortunately we are barred again from
comparison or answering back by the taunt that woman has never had a
chance; nevertheless we may claim for what it is worth that, in the
realm of intellect or of the spirit, there have been no women who
have soared so high; seers, poets, law-givers, unfolders of nature’s
secrets, administrators of affairs, healers and scholars have been
chiefly or solely men. If some of us have fraternized with Belial,
others have walked, or sought to walk, with God no less genuinely
and fervently than any woman who ever breathed. In the matter of
spirituality, indeed, some of us in the past having been led to
believe that women knew more about the affairs of the other world
than men, sought to cultivate the spindle-legged, thin-chested, pale,
anæmic Christian as the type of humanity most acceptable to God and
serviceable to society; but we have gone back to the bishop of sturdy
frame and a reasonably healthy appetite as a more desirable mediator
between ourselves and heaven.

From the standpoint of our present inquiry, what man in his various
types has been in the past is less pertinent than what he is at
present. To begin with, certainly the modern man is not a picturesque
figure. He no longer appeals to the feminine or any eye by virtue of
imposing apparel or accoutrements. Foreign army officers and servants
in livery are almost the only males who have not exchanged plumage for
sober woollens, tweeds, or serges, and the varied resplendent materials
and colors by means of which men used to distinguish themselves from
one another and to negative their evil-doings in the eyes of women have
been discarded. All men but one look alike to any woman, and even that
one is liable to be confounded with the rest of mankind when he is more
than half a block away.

Nor is the homogeneous tendency limited to clothes; it includes
manners, morals, and point of view. The extreme types approximate each
other much more closely than formerly, and apart from criminals and
deliberately evil-minded persons, women have some ground for their
insinuation that we are all pretty much alike. Let it be said that this
effect is in one sense a feather in our caps. The nineteenth-century
Joan of Arc to the contrary notwithstanding, the modern man of the
world is a manifest improvement on his predecessor. He is no longer to
be found under the table after dinner as a social matter of course, and
three-bottles-to-a-guest festivities have ceased to be an aristocratic
function. Though on occasions still he will fumble with the latch-key,
he mounts the stairs very little, if at all, after midnight with the
nonchalance of self-congratulatory sobriety, and all those dire scenes
of woman on the staircase with a lighted candle looking down at her
prostrate lord and master belong to an almost dim past. True it may
be that the man of the world fears God no more than formerly, but he
has learned to have a wholesome dread of Bright’s disease, the insane
asylum, and those varied forms of sudden and premature death which are
included under the reportorial head of heart-failure. Mere brutishness
in its various forms is less apparent. The coarse materialist still
swaggers in public places and impudently puffs a cigar in the face of
modesty, but he serves no longer as a model for envious contemporaries
or an object of hero-worship to the rising generation. Good taste, if
nothing better, has checked man’s tendencies to make a beast of himself
in public or in private.

Similarly, also, the type of man to whom we look up most proudly and
confidently to-day is not altogether the same. The model whom we were
urged, and whom we sought of old to imitate, was he who wrestled with
God on the mountain-top, without a thought of earth’s smoke and din and
wretchedness. Human life and its joys and interests served for him as a
homily on vanity, or was regarded as a degradation in comparison with
the revelations obtained by the priest, poet, or devotee of culture
through the vista of aspiring imagination or zeal. The conservative
man of affairs--vigorous, far-seeing, keenly alive to the joys and
interests of this life, strongly sympathetic on the humanitarian side,
a man of the world withal in a reasonable sense--has impressed his
personality on modern society more successfully than any other type.
The priest who cares not for his fellow-man, the poet whose dreams and
visions include no human interest or passion, the devotee of culture
who refines merely to refine, have been superseded, and in their stead
we have the man of the world who is interested in the world and for the

This change in the avowed aims and aspirations of man has not been
without certain apparently melancholy results and manifestations of
which society is feeling the effect at present, and which if allowed to
prevail too far will undo us. The removal of the gaze of the priest,
poet, and devotee of culture from the stars in contempt of earth, and
the substitution of earth-gazing as a method for understanding the
stars, has seemed to cast a damper on human imagination and has thereby
caused many excellent women and some men to weep. If materialism be
the science of trying to get the most out of this life, this is a
material age; but at the same time it should be remembered that man
in this age has ceased for the first time to be either a hypocrite
or a fool. Undoubtedly the process of becoming both sincere and
sensible, especially as it has substituted concern for the ignorant,
the oppressed, and the vicious of this earth about whom we know next to
nothing, in place of Pre-Raphaelite heavenly choirs, alabaster halls,
and saints in glory about whom we thought we knew everything, has been
a little trying for the rest of us as well as for the priests, poets,
and devotees of culture. But the women must not be discouraged; we
shall grow to the situation in time, and even the poets, who seem to be
most down in the mouth at present, will sooner or later find a fresh
well of inspiration by learning to study the reflection of the stars on
the earth instead of looking directly at them. Let them be patient,
though it be to death, and some day through others, if not through
themselves, the immortal verse will flow and the immortal lyre sound

Undoubtedly the modern man is at present a rather trying person to
woman, for woman would have been glad, now that she is coming into her
kingdom, to have him more of a crusader and less of a philosopher. To
behold him lacking in picturesqueness and a philosopher addicted to
compromise into the bargain is almost irritating to her, and she has
certainly some ground for criticism. The man who sits opposite to her
at the breakfast-table, even after he has overcome conservative fears
of nothing to live on and dawdled into matrimony, is a lovable but not
especially exciting person. He eats, works, and sleeps, does most of
the things which he ought to do and leaves undone a commendable number
of the things which he ought not to do, and is a rather respectable
member of society of the machine-made order. He works very hard to
supply her with money; he is kind to her and the children; he gives her
her head, as he calls it; and he acquiesces pleasantly enough in the
social plans which she entertains for herself and him, and ordinarily
he is sleepy in the evening. Indeed, in moments of most serious
depression she is tempted to think of him as a superior chore-man, a
comparison which haunts her even in church. She would like, with one
fell swoop of her broom, to clear the world of the social evil, the
fruit of the grape, tobacco, and playing cards, to introduce drastic
educational reforms which would, by kindergarten methods, familiarize
every one on earth with art and culture, and to bring to pass within
five, or possibly six years, a golden age of absolute reform inspired
and established by woman. Life for her at present means one vast camp
of committee meetings, varied only by frequent cups of tea; and that
steaming beverage continues prominent in her radiant vision of the
coming millennium. No wonder it disconcerts and annoys her to find so
comparatively little enthusiastic confidence in the immediate success
of her fell swoop, and to have her pathway blocked by grave or lazy
ifs and buts and by cold contradictions of fact. No wonder she abhors
compromise; no wonder she regards the man who goes on using tobacco and
playing cards and drinking things stronger than tea as an inert and
soulless creature.

Yet smile as we may at the dull, sorry place the world would be were
the golden age of her intention to come upon us over night like a cold
wave, is she not justified in regarding the average custom-made man
of the day as a highly respectable, well-to-do chore-man who earns
fair wages and goes to sleep at night contented with a good meal and
a pipe? Is he not machine-made? Sincere and wise as he is, now that
his gaze is fixed on the needs of earth, has he not the philosophy of
hygienic comfort and easy-going conservative materialism so completely
on the brain that he is in danger of becoming ordinary instead of just
a little lower than the angels? Let us consider him from this point of
view more in detail.

The _Case of Man_.


The young man of the present era on his twenty-first birthday is
apt to find himself in a very prudent and conservative atmosphere.
The difficulties of getting on are explained to him; he is properly
assured that, though there is plenty of room on the top benches, the
occupations and professions are crowded, if not overcrowded, and that
he must buckle down if he would succeed. It is obvious to him that the
field of adventure and fortune-seeking in foreign or strange places
is practically exhausted. It is open to him, to be sure, to go to
the North Pole in search of some one already there, or to study in a
cage in the jungles of Africa the linguistic value of the howls and
chatterings of wild animals; but these are manifestly poor pickings
compared with the opportunities of the past when a considerable
portion of the globe was still uninvestigated soil, and a reputation
or treasure-trove was the tolerably frequent reward of leaving the
rut of civilized life. It is plainly pointed out to him, too, that to
be florid is regarded as almost a mental weakness in intellectual or
progressive circles. He sees the lawyer who makes use of metaphor,
bombast, and the other arts of oratory, which used to captivate and
convince, distanced in the race for eminence by him who employs a
succinct, dispassionate, and almost colloquial form of statement.
He recognizes that in every department of human activity, from the
investigation of disease-germs to the management of railroads, steady,
undemonstrative marshallings of fact, and cautious, unemotional
deduction therefrom are considered the scientific and only appropriate
method. He knows that the expression of unusual or erratic ideas will
expose him to the stigma of being a crank, a reputation which, once
acquired, sticks like pitch, and that the betrayal of sentiment will
induce conservative people to put him on the suspected list.

All this is imbibed by him as it should be, in the interest of
sincerity and sense. Under the sobering restraint of it the young man
begins to make his way with enthusiasm and energy, but circumspectly
and deliberately. He mistrusts everything that he cannot pick to
pieces on the spot and analyze, and though he is willing to be amused,
beguiled, or even temporarily inspired by appeals to his imagination
or emotions, he puts his doubts or qualms aside next morning at the
behest of business. He wishes to get on. He is determined not to allow
anything to interfere with that, and he understands that that is to
be accomplished partly by hard work and partly by becoming a good
fellow and showing common-sense. This is excellent reasoning until one
examines too closely what is expected of him as a good fellow, and what
is required of him in the name of common-sense.

There have been good fellows in every age, and some of them have
been tough specimens. Our good fellow is almost highly respectable.
He wishes to live as long as he can, and to let others live as long
as they can. His patron saints are his doctor, his bank account,
prudence, and general toleration. If he were obliged to specify the
vice not covered by the statute law which he most abhors, he would
probably name slopping over. He aims to be genial, sympathetic, and
knowing, but not obtrusively so, and he is becomingly suspicious
and reticent regarding everything which cannot be demonstrated on
a chart like an international yacht-race or a medical operation.
He is quietly and moderately licentious, and justifies himself
satisfactorily but mournfully on hygienic grounds or on the plea of
masculine inevitability. He works hard, if he has to, for he wishes
to live comfortably by the time he is forty, and comfort means, as it
ought to mean, an attractive wife, an attractive establishment, and
an attractive income. An imprudent marriage seems to him one of the
most egregious forms of slopping over. If he hears that two of his
contemporaries are engaged, his first inquiry is, “What have they to
live on?” and if the answer is unsatisfactory, they fall a peg or two
in his estimation, and he is likely, the next time he feels mellow
after dinner, to descant on the impropriety of bringing children into
the world who may be left penniless orphans. If he falls in love
himself before he feels that his pecuniary position warrants it, he
tries to shake out the arrow, and, if that fails, he cuts it out
deliberately under antiseptic treatment to avoid blood-poisoning.
All our large cities are full of young men who have undergone this
operation. To lose one’s vermiform appendix is a perilous yet blessed
experience; but this trifling with the human heart, however scientific
the excision, can scarcely be regarded as beneficial unless we are to
assume that it, like the fashionable sac, has become rudimentary.

We see a great many allusions in our comic and satiric weeklies to
marrying for money, but the good fellow of the best type ordinarily
disdains such a proceeding. His self-respect is not offended but hugely
gratified if the young woman with whom he intends to ally himself
would be able immediately or prospectively to contribute a million or
so to the domestic purse; but he would regard a deliberate sale of
himself for cash as a dirty piece of business. On the other hand, he is
very business-like where his heart is engaged, and is careful not to
let his emotions or fancy get the better of him until he can see his
ship--and a well-freighted one at that--on the near horizon. And what
is to become of the young woman in the meantime? To let concealment,
like a worm in the bud, feed on a damask cheek may be more fatal than
masculine arrow extraction; for woman, less scientific in her methods
than man, is less able to avoid blood-poisoning. She doses herself,
probably, with anti-pyrine, burns her Emerson and her Tennyson, and
after a period of nervous prostration devotes herself to charity toward
the world at large with the exception of all good fellows.

The good fellow after he marries continues to be a good fellow. He
adapts himself to the humanitarian necessities of the situation; he
becomes fond and domestic, almost oppressively so, and he is eager
to indulge the slightest wish or fancy of his mate, provided it be
within the bounds of easy-going rationalism. The conjugal pliability
of the American husband is a well-recognized original feature of
our institutions, nevertheless he is apt to develop kinks unless
he be allowed to be indulgent and companionable in his own way. He
works harder than ever, and she for whose sake he is ostensibly
toiling is encouraged to make herself fetching and him comfortable as
progressively as his income will permit. When the toil of the week
is over he looks for his reward in the form of a Welsh-rarebit with
theatrical celebrities, a little game of poker within his means, or,
if he be musical, a small gathering of friends to sing or play, if
possible in a so-called Bohemian spirit. It irks him to stand very
upright or to converse for long, whether in masculine or feminine
society. He likes to sprawl and to be entertained with the latest bit
of humor, but he is willing, on a pleasant Sunday or holiday, to take
exercise in order to perspire freely, and then to lie at ease under
a tree or a bank, pleasantly refreshed with beer and tobacco, and at
peace with the world. He prefers to have her with him everywhere,
except at the little game of poker, and is conscious of an aching void
if she be not at hand to help him recuperate, philosophize, and admire
the view. But he expects her to do what he likes, and expects her to
like it too.

In no age of the world has the reasoning power of man been in better
working order than at present. With all due respect to the statistics
which show that the female is beginning to outstrip the male in
academic competitive examinations, one has only to keep his ears and
eyes open in the workaday world in order to be convinced that man’s
purely mental processes suggest a razor and woman’s a corkscrew.
The manager of corporate interests, the lawyer, the historian, the
physician, the chemist, and the banker seek to-day to probe to the
bottom that which they touch, and to expose to the acid of truth
every rosy theory and seductive prospectus. This is in the line of
progress; but to be satisfied with this alone would speedily reduce
human society to the status of a highly organized racing stable. If man
is to be merely a jockey, who is to ride as light as he can, there
is nothing to be said; but even on that theory is it not possible to
train too fine? With eloquence tabooed as savoring of insincerity,
with conversation as a fine art starved to death, with melody in
music sniffed at as sensational, and fancy in literature condemned as
unscientific, with the loosening of all the bonds of conventionality
which held civilization to the mark in matters of taste and elegance,
and with a general doing away with color and emotion in all the
practical affairs of life out of regard to the gospel of common-sense
and machine-made utility, the jockey now is riding practically in his
own skin.

One has to go back but a little way in order to encounter among
the moving spirits of society a radically different attitude.
Unquestionably the temper of the present day is the result of a
vigorous reaction against false or maudlin sentiment, florid drivel,
and hypocritical posturing; but certainly a Welsh-rarebit at midnight,
with easy-going companions, is a far remove as a spiritual stimulus
from bread eaten in tears at the same hour. As has been intimated,
this exaggeration of commonplaceness will probably right itself in
time, but man’s lack of susceptibility to influences and impressions
which cannot be weighed, fingered, smelt, looked at, or tasted, seems
to justify at present the strictures of the modern woman, who, with
all her bumptiousness, would fain continue to reverence him. Some in
the van of feminine progress would be glad to see the inspiration and
direction of all matters--spiritual, artistic, and social--apportioned
to woman as her sole rightful prerogative, and consequently to see man
become veritably a superior chore-man. Fortunately the world of men
and women is likely to agree with Barbara that mutual sympathy and
co-operation in these matters between the sexes are indispensable to
the healthy development of human society.

But even assuming that women were ready to accept the responsibility
and men were willing to renounce it, I, for one, fear that civilization
would find itself in a ditch rather speedily. All of us--we men, I
mean--recognize the purifying and deterrent influence of woman as
a Mentor and sweet critic at our elbows. We have learned to depend
upon her to prod us when we lag, and to save us from ourselves when
our brains get the better of our hearts. But, after all, woman is a
clinging creature. She has been used to playing second fiddle; and it
is quite a different affair to lead an orchestra. To point the way to
spiritual or artistic progress needs, first of all, a clear intellect
and a firm purpose, even though they alone are not sufficient. Woman is
essentially yielding and impressionable. At the very moment when the
modern Joan of Arc would be doing her best to make the world a better
place, would not eleven other women out of the dozen be giving way to
the captivating plausibility of some emotional situation?

As an instance of what she is already capable of from a social point
of view, now that she has been given her head, may well be cited the
feverish eagerness with which some of the most highly cultivated
and most subtly evolved American women of our large cities vie with
each other for intimacy with artistic foreign lions of their own sex
known to be unchaste. They seem to regard it as a privilege to play
hostess to, or, at least, to be on familiar terms with, actresses,
opera-singers, and other public characters quietly but notoriously
erotic, the plea in each case being that they are ready to forgive,
to forget, and ignore for the sake of art and the artist. Yes, ignore
or forget, if you choose, so far as seeing the artist act or hearing
her sing in public is concerned, where there are no social ceremonies
or intercourse; but let us please remember at the same time that
even those effete nations who believe that the world would be a dull
place without courtesans, insist on excluding such persons from their
drawing-rooms. Indeed there is reason to believe that some of the
artists in question have become hilarious, when out of sight of our
hospitable shores, over the wonders of American social usages among
the pure and cultivated women. Before our young men will cease to
sow wild oats their female relations must cease to run after other
men’s mistresses. Decidedly, the modern Joan of Arc to the contrary
notwithstanding, man cannot afford to abdicate just yet. But he needs
to mend his hedges and to look after his preserves.

The _Case of Woman_.


A great many men, who are sane and reasonable in other matters, allow
themselves, on the slightest provocation, to be worked up into a fever
over the aspirations of woman. They decline to listen to argument,
grow red in the face, and saw the air with their hands, if they do
not pound on the table, to express their views on the subject--which,
by the way, are as out of date and old-fashioned as a pine-tree
shilling. They remind one of the ostrich in that they seem to imagine,
because they have buried their heads in the sand, nothing has happened
or is happening around them. They confront the problem of woman’s
emancipation as though it were only just being broached instead of in
the throes of delivery.

For instance, my friend, Mr. Julius Cæsar, who though a conservative,
cautious man by nature, is agreeably and commendably liberal in other
matters, seems to be able to see only one side of this question. And
one side seems to be all he wishes to see. “Take my wife,” he said
to me the other day; “as women go she is a very clever and sensible
woman. She was given the best advantages in the way of school-training
open to young ladies of her day; she has accomplishments, domestic
virtues, and fine religious instincts, and I adore her. But what does
she know of politics? She couldn’t tell you the difference between a
senator and an alderman, and her mind is practically a blank on the
tariff or the silver question. I tell you, my dear fellow, that if
woman is allowed to leave the domestic hearth and play ducks and drakes
with the right of suffrage, every political caucus will become a retail
drygoods store. If there is one thing which makes a philosopher despair
of the future of the race, it is to stand in a crowded drygoods store
and watch the jam of women perk and push and sidle and grab and covet
and go well-nigh crazy over things to wear. The average woman knows
about clothes, the next world, children, and her domestic duties. Let
her stick to her sphere. A woman at a caucus? Who would see that my
dinner was properly cooked, eh?”

One would suppose from these remarks that the male American citizen
spends his days chiefly at caucuses; whereas, as we all know when we
reflect, he goes perhaps twice a year, if he be a punctilious patriot
like Julius Cæsar, and if not, probably does not go at all. If the
consciousness that his wife could vote at a caucus would act as a spur
to the masculine political conscience, the male American citizen could
well afford to dine at a restaurant on election-days, or to cook his
own food now and then.

Of course, even a man with views like Julius Cæsar would be sorry to
have his wife the slavish, dollish, or unenlightened individual which
she was apt to be before so-called women’s rights were heard of. As
he himself has proclaimed, he adores his wife, and he is, moreover,
secretly proud of her æsthetic presentability. Without being an
advanced woman, Dolly Cæsar has the interests of the day and hour at
her fingers’ ends, can talk intelligently on any subject, whether
she knows anything about it or not, and is decidedly in the van,
though she is not a leader. Julius does not take into account, when
he anathematizes the sex because of its ambitions, the difference
between her and her great-grandmother. He believes his wife to be a
very charming specimen of what a woman ought to be, and that, barring
a few differences of costume and hair arrangement, she is practically
her great-grandmother over again. Fatuous Julius! There is where he is
desperately in error. Dolly Cæsar’s great-grandmother may have been a
radiant beauty and a famous housekeeper, but her brain never harbored
one-tenth of the ideas and opinions which make her descendant so

Those who argue on this matter like Julius Cæsar fail to take into
account the gradual, silent results of time; and this is true of the
results to come as well as those which have accrued. When the suffrage
question is mooted one often hears sober men, more dispassionate men
than Julius--Perkins, for instance, the thin, nervous lawyer and father
of four girls, and a sober man indeed--ask judicially whether it is
possible for female suffrage to be a success when not one woman in a
thousand would know what was expected of her, or how to vote. “I tell
you,” says Perkins, “they are utterly unfitted for it by training and
education. Four-fifths of them wouldn’t vote if they were allowed to,
and every one knows that ninety-nine women out of every hundred are
profoundly ignorant of the matters in regard to which they would cast
their ballots. Take my daughters; fine girls, talented, intelligent
women--one of them a student of history; but what do they know of
parties, and platforms, and political issues in general?”

Perkins is less violently prejudiced than Julius Cæsar. He neither
saws the air nor pounds on the table. Indeed, I have no doubt he
believes that he entertains liberal, unbiassed views on the subject.
I wonder, then, why it never occurs to him that everything which is
new is adopted gradually, and that the world has to get accustomed to
all novel situations. I happened to see Mr. Perkins the first time he
rode a bicycle on the road, and his performance certainly justified
the prediction that he would look like a guy to the end of his days,
and yet he glides past me now with the ease and nonchalance of a
possible “scorcher.” Similarly, if women were given universal suffrage,
there would be a deal of fluttering in the dove-cotes for the first
generation or so. Doubtless four-fifths of womankind would refuse or
neglect to vote at all, and at least a quarter of those who went to the
polls would cast their ballots as tools or blindly. But just so soon as
it was understood that it was no less a woman’s duty to vote than it
was to attend to her back hair, she would be educated from that point
of view, and her present crass ignorance of political matters would be
changed into at least a form of enlightenment. Man prides himself on
his logic, but there is nothing logical in the argument that because a
woman knows nothing about anything now, she can never be taught. If we
have been content to have her remain ignorant for so many centuries,
does it not savor both of despotism and lack of reasonableness to cast
her ignorance in her teeth and to beat her about the head with it now
that she is eager to rise? Decidedly it is high time for the man who
orates tempestuously or argues dogmatically in the name of conservatism
against the cause of woman on such flimsy pleas as these, to cease his
gesticulations and wise saws. The modern woman is a potential reality,
who is bound to develop and improve, in another generation or two, as
far beyond the present interesting type as Mrs. Julius Cæsar is an
advance on her great-grandmother.

On the other hand, why do those who have woman’s cause at heart lay
such formal stress on the right of the ballot as a factor in her
development? There can be no doubt that, if the majority of women
wish to vote on questions involving property or political interests,
they will be enabled to do so sooner or later. It is chiefly now the
conviction in the minds of legislatures that a large number of the
intelligent women of their communities do not desire to exercise the
right of suffrage which keeps the bars down. Doubtless these bodies
will yield one after another to the clamor of even a few, and the
experiment will be tried. It may not come this year or the next, but
many busy people are so certain that its coming is merely a question of
time that they do not allow themselves to be drawn into the fury of the
fray. When it comes, however, it will come as a universal privilege,
and not with a social or property qualification. I mention this
simply for the enlightenment of those amiable members of the sex to
be enfranchised who go about sighing and simpering in the interest of
drawing the line. That question was settled a century ago. The action
taken may have been an error on the part of those who framed the laws,
but it has been settled forever. There would be no more chance of the
passage by the legislature of one of the United States of a statute
giving the right of suffrage to a limited class of women than there
would be of one prescribing that only the good-looking members of that
sex should be allowed to marry.

Many people, who believe that woman should be denied no privilege
enjoyed by man which she really desires to exercise, find much
difficulty in regarding the right of suffrage as the vital end which
it assumes in the minds of its advocates. One would suppose, by the
clamor on the subject, that the ballot would enable her to change her
spots in a twinkling, and to become an absolutely different creation.
Lively imaginations do not hesitate to compare the proposed act of
emancipation with the release of the colored race from bondage. We are
appealed to by glowing rhetoric which celebrates the equity of the case
and the moral significance of the impending victory. But the orators
and triumphants stop short at the passage of the law and fail to tell
us what is to come after. We are assured, indeed, that it will be all
right, and that woman’s course after the Rubicon is crossed will be
one grand march of progress to the music of the spheres; but, barring
a pæan of this sort, we are given no light as to what she intends to
do and become. She has stretched out her hand for the rattle and is
determined to have it, but she does not appear to entertain any very
definite ideas as to what she is going to do with it after she has it.

Unquestionably, the development of the modern woman is one of the most
interesting features of civilization to-day. But is it not true that
the cause of woman is one concern, and the question of woman suffrage
another? And are they not too often confounded, even deliberately
confounded, by those who are willing to have them appear to be
identical? Supposing that to-morrow the trumpet should sound and the
walls of Jericho fall, and every woman be free to cast her individual
ballot without let or hindrance from one confine of the civilized world
to another, what would it amount to after all by way of elucidating
the question of her future evolution? For it must be remembered that,
apart from the question of her development in general, those who are
clamoring for the ballot have been superbly vague so far as to the
precise part which the gentle sex is to play in the political arena
after she gets her rattle. They put their sisters off with the general
assertion that things in the world, politically speaking, will be
better, but neither their sisters nor their brothers are able to get a
distinct notion of the platform on which woman means to stand after she
becomes a voter. Is she going to enter into competition with men for
the prizes and offices, to argue, manipulate, hustle, and do generally
the things which have to be done in the name of political zeal and
activity? Is it within the vista of her ambition to become a member of,
and seek to control, legislative bodies, to be a police commissioner or
a member of Congress? Those in the van decline to answer, or at least
they do not answer. It may be, to be sure, the wisdom of the serpent
which keeps them non-committal, for they stand, as it were, between the
devil and the deep sea in that, though they and their supporters would
perhaps like to declare boldly in favor of competition, or at least
participation, in the duties and honors, they stand in wholesome awe of
the hoarse murmur from the ranks of their sisters, “We don’t wish to be
like men, and we have no intention of competing with them on their own
lines.” Accordingly, the leaders seek refuge in the safe but indefinite
assertion that of course women will never become men, but they have
thus far neglected to tell us what they are to become.

It really seems as though it were time for woman, in general congress
of the women’s clubs assembled, to make a reasonably full and clear
statement of her aims and principles--a declaration of faith which
shall give her own sex and men the opportunity to know precisely
what she is driving at. Her progress for the last hundred years has
been gratifying to the world, with the exception of pig-headed or
narrow-minded men, and civilization has been inestimably benefitted by
the broadening of her intelligence and her interests. But she has now
reached a point where there is a parting of the ways, and the world
would very much like to know which she intends to take. The atmosphere
of the women’s clubs is mysterious but unsuggestive, and consequently
many of us feel inclined to murmur with the poet, “it is clever, but
we don’t know what it means.” Unrepressed nervous mental activity
easily becomes social affectation or tomfoolery, in the absence of a
controlling aim or purpose. To exhaust one’s vitality in papers or
literary teas, merely to express or simulate individual culture or
freedom, may not land one in an insane asylum, but it is about as
valuable to society, as an educating force, as the revolutions of
the handle of a freezer, when the crank is off, are valuable to the
production of ice-cream. For the benefit of such a congress, if haply
it should be called together later, it will not be out of place to
offer a few suggestions as to her future evolution. In this connection
it seems to me imperative to go back to the original poetic conception
of woman as the wife and mother, the domestic helpmate and loving,
self-abnegating companion of man. Unedifying as this formula of
description may seem to the active-minded modern woman, it is obvious
that under existing physiological conditions she must remain the wife
and mother, even though she declines to continue domestic, loving, and
self-abnegating. And side by side with physiological conditions stands
the intangible, ineffable force of sexual love, the poetic, entrancing
ecstasy which no scientist has yet been able to reduce to a myth or to
explode. Schopenhauer, to be sure, would have us believe that it is
merely a delusion by which nature seeks to reproduce herself, but even
on this material basis the women’s clubs find themselves face to face
with an enemy more determined than any Amazon. A maid deluded becomes
the sorriest of club members.

What vision of life is nobler and more exquisite than that of complete
and ideal marital happiness? To find it complete and ideal the modern
woman, with all her charms and abilities, must figure in it, I grant;
the mere domestic drudge; the tame, amiable house-cat; the doting doll,
are no longer pleasing parties of the second part. To admit so much as
this may seem to offer room for the argument that the modern woman of a
hundred years hence will make her of the poet’s dream of to-day appear
no less pitiable; but there we men are ready to take issue. We admit
our past tyranny, we cry “Peccavi,” yet we claim at the same time that,
having taken her to our bosoms as our veritable, loving companion and
helpmate, there is no room left, or very little room left, for more
progress in that particular direction. Her next steps, if taken, will
be on new lines, not by way of making herself an equal. And therefore
it is that we suggest the vision of perfect modern marital happiness
as the leading consideration to be taken into account in dealing with
this question. Even in the past, when woman was made a drudge and
encouraged to remain a fool, the poetry and joy and stimulus of life
for her, as well as for her despot mate, lay in the mystery of love,
its joys and responsibilities. Even then, if her life were robbed of
the opportunity to love and be loved, its savor was gone, however free
she might be from masculine tyranny and coercion. Similarly, after
making due allowance for the hyperbole as to the influence which woman
has on man when he has made up his mind to act to the contrary, there
is no power which works for righteousness upon him comparable to the
influence of woman. There is always the possibility that the woman a
man loves may not be consciously working for righteousness, but the
fact that he believes so is the essential truth, even though he be
the victim of self-delusion. This element of the case is pertinent to
the question whether woman would really try to reform the world, if
she had the chance, rather than to this particular consideration. The
point of the argument is that the dependence of each sex on the other,
and the loving sympathy between them, which is born of dissimilarity,
is the salt of human life. The eternal feminine is what we prize in
woman, and wherever she deflects from this there does her power wane
and her usefulness become impaired. And conversely, the more and the
higher she advances along the lines of her own nature, the better for
the world. Nor does the claim that she has been hampered hitherto, and
consequently been unable to show what her attributes really are, seem
relevant; for it is only when she develops in directions which threaten
to clash with the eternal feminine that she encounters opposition or
serious criticism. And here even the excitability and unreasonableness
of such men as our friend Julius Cæsar find a certain justification.
Their fumes and fury, however unintelligent, proceed from an
instinctive repugnance to the departure or deviation from nature which
they find, or fear to find, in the modern woman. Once let them realize
that there was no danger of anything of the kind, and they would become
gentle as doves, if not all smiles and approval.

There is no more beautiful and refining influence in the world than
that of an attractive and noble woman. Unselfishness, tenderness,
aspiring sentiment, long-suffering devotion, grace, tact, and
quickly divining intelligence are her prerogatives, and she stands
an ever-watchful guardian angel at the shoulder of man. The leading
poetic and elevating associations of life are linked with her name. The
lover’s passion, the husband’s worship, the son’s reverential affection
are inspired by her. The strong man stays his hand and sides with mercy
or honor when his mother speaks within him. In homelier language, she
is the keeper of the hearth and home, the protector and trainer of her
children, the adviser, consoler, and companion of her husband, father,
son, brother, or other masculine associates.

Now, the modern woman, up to this point, has been disposed, on the
whole, to regard this as the part which she is to play in the drama of
life. At least she has not materially deviated from it. Her progress
has been simply in the way of enabling her to play that part more
intelligently and worthily, and not toward usurpation, excepting that
she claims the right to earn her daily bread. Higher education in its
various branches has been the most signal fruit of her struggle for
enlightenment and liberty, and this is certainly in entire keeping with
the eternal feminine, and to-day seems indispensable to her suitable
development. By means of education similar to that lavished upon man
she has been enabled, it is true, to obtain employment of various
kinds hitherto withheld from her, but the positions of professor,
teacher, nurse, artist, and clerk, are amplifications of her natural
aptitudes rather than encroachments. She has, however, finally reached
the stage where she will soon have to decide whether the hearth and
the home or down-town is to be the principal theatre of her activity
and influence. Is she or is she not to participate with man in the
tangible, obvious management of the affairs of the world?

The _Case of Woman_.


The mystic oracles of the women’s clubs do not give a straightforward
answer to this question. Yet there are mutterings, mouthings, and
signs from them which tend to arouse masculine suspicions. To use
a colloquialism, woman fancies herself very much at present, and
she spends considerable time in studying the set of her mind in the
looking-glass. And her serenity is justified. In spite of ridicule,
baiting, and delay for several generations, she has demonstrated her
ability and fitness to do a number of things which we had adjudged her
incapable of doing. She can almost take care of herself in the street
after dark. She has become a most valuable member of committees to
ameliorate the condition of the poor, the sick, and the insane. She has
become the president and professors of colleges founded in her behalf.
The noble and numerous army of teachers, typewriters, salesladies,
nurses, and women doctors (including Christian Scientists), stands as
ample proof of her intention and capacity to strike out for herself.
No wonder, perhaps, that she is a little delirious and mounted in the
head, and that she is tempted to exclaim, “Go to, I will do more than
this. Why should I not practise law, and sell stocks, wheat, corn, and
exchange, control the money markets of the world, administer trusts,
manage corporations, sit in Congress, and be President of the United

The only things now done by man which the modern woman has not yet
begun to cast sheep’s eyes at are labor requiring much physical
strength and endurance, and military service. She is prepared to admit
that she can never expect to be so muscular and powerful in body as
man. But this has become rather a solace than a source of perplexity
to her. Indeed, the women’s clubs are beginning to whisper under their
breath, “Man is fitted to build and hew and cut and lift, and to do
everything which demands brute force. We are not. We should like to
think, plan, and execute. Let him do the heavy work. If he wishes to
fight he may. Wars are wicked, and we shall vote against them and
refuse to take part in them.”

If woman is going in for this sort of thing, of course she needs
the ballot. If she intends to manage corporations and do business
generally, she ought to have a voice in the framing of the laws
which manifest the policy of the state. But to earn one’s living as
a college professor, nurse, typewriter, saleslady, or clerk, or to
sit on boards of charity, education, or hygiene, is a far remove from
becoming bank presidents, merchants, judges, bankers, or members of
Congress. The one affords the means by which single women can earn a
decent and independent livelihood, or devote their energies to work
useful to society; the other would necessitate an absolute revolution
in the habits, tastes, interests, proclivities, and nature of woman.
The noble army of teachers, typewriters, nurses, and salesladies are in
the heels of their boots hoping to be married some day or other. They
have merely thrown an anchor to windward and taken up a calling which
will enable them to live reasonably happy if the right man does not
appear, or passes by on the other side. Those who sit on boards, and
who are more apt to be middle-aged, are but interpreting and fulfilling
the true mission of the modern woman, which is to supplement and modify
the point of view of man, and to extend the kind of influence which
she exercises at home to the conduct of public interests of a certain

Now, some one must keep house. Some one must cook, wash, dust, sweep,
darn, look after the children, and in general grease the wheels of
domestic activity. If women are to become merchants, and manage
corporations, who will bring up our families and manage the home?
The majority of the noble army referred to are not able to escape
from making their own beds and cooking their own breakfasts. If they
occupied other than comparatively subordinate positions they would
have to call Chinatown to the rescue; for the men would decline with
thanks, relying on their brute force to protect them, and the other
women would toss their heads and say “Make your own beds, you nasty
things. We prefer to go to town too.” In fact the emancipation of
women, so far as it relates to usurpation of the work of man, does
not mean much in actual practice yet, in spite of the brave show and
bustle of the noble army. The salesladies get their meals somehow,
and the domestic hearth is still presided over by the mistress of
the house and her daughters. But this cannot continue to be the case
if women are going to do everything which men do except lift weights
and fight. For we all know that our mothers, wives, and sisters,
according to their own affidavits, have all they can do already to
fulfil the requirements of modern life as mothers, wives, and sisters
in the conventional yet modern sense. Many of them tell us that they
would not have time to vote, to say nothing of qualifying themselves
to vote. Indisputably they cannot become men and yet remain women in
the matter of their daily occupations, unless they discover some new
panacea against nervous prostration. The professions are open; the laws
will allow them to establish banks and control corporate interests; but
what is to become of the eternal feminine in the pow-wow, bustle, and
materializing rush and competition of active business life? Whatever
a few individuals may do, there seems to be no immediate or probably
eventual prospect of a throwing off by woman of domestic ties and
duties. Her physical and moral nature alike are formidable barriers in
the way.

Why, then, if women are not going to usurp or share to any great extent
the occupations of men, and become familiar with the practical workings
of professional, business, and public affairs, are they ever likely to
be able to judge so intelligently as men as to the needs of the state?
To hear many people discuss the subject, one would suppose that all
the laws passed by legislative bodies were limited to questions of
ethics and morality. If all political action were reduced to debates
and ballots on the use of liquor, the social evil, and other moral
or humanitarian topics, the claim that women ought to be allowed and
encouraged to vote would be much stronger--that is, assuming that she
herself preferred to use her influence directly instead of indirectly.
But the advocates of female suffrage seem to forget that three-fifths
of the laws passed relate to matters remotely if at all bearing upon
ethics, and involve considerations of public policy from the point of
view of what is best for the interests of the state and the various
classes of individuals which compose it. We do not always remember
in this age of afternoon teas and literary papers that the state is
after all an artificial body, a form of compact under which human
beings agree to live together for mutual benefit and protection.
Before culture, æstheticism, or even ethics can be maintained there
must be a readiness and ability to fight, if the necessity arises, and
a capacity to do heavy work. Moreover, there must be ploughed fields
and ship-yards and grain-elevators and engines and manufactories, and
all the divers forms and phases of industrial and commercial endeavor
and enterprise by which men earn their daily bread. If woman is going
to participate in the material activities of the community she will
be fit to deal with the questions which relate thereto, but otherwise
she must necessarily remain unable to form a satisfactory judgment as
to the merits of more than one-half the measures upon which she would
be obliged to vote. Nor is it an argument in point that a large body
of men is in the same predicament. Two evils do not make a benefit.
There is a sufficient number of men conversant with every separate
practical question which arises to insure an intelligent examination
of it. The essential consideration is, what would the state gain, if
woman suffrage were adopted, except an enlarged constituency of voters?
What would woman, by means of the ballot, add to the better or smoother
development of the social system under which we live?

Unless the eternal feminine is to be sacrificed or to suffer, it
seems to me that her sole influence would be an ethical or moral one.
There are certainly strong grounds for the assumption that she would
point the way to, or at least champion, the cause of reforms which
man has perpetually dilly-dallied with and failed to do battle for.
To be sure, many of her most virtuous endeavors would be likely to be
focussed on matters where indulgences and weaknesses chiefly masculine
were concerned--such as the liquor problem; but an alliance between
her vote and that of the minority of men would probably be a blessing
to the world, even though she showed herself somewhat a tyrant or a
fanatic. Her advocacy of measures calculated to relieve society of
abuses and curses, which have continued to afflict it because men have
been only moderately in earnest for a change, could scarcely fail to
produce valuable results. Perhaps this is enough in itself to outweigh
the ignorance which she would bring to bear on matters which did not
involve ethical or humanitarian principles; and it is indisputably
the most legitimate argument in favor of woman suffrage. The notion
that women ought to vote simply because men do is childish and born
of vanity. On the other hand, if the state is to be a gainer by her
participation in the perplexities of voting, the case takes on a very
different aspect.

I have been assuming that the influence of woman would be in behalf
of ethics, but my wife Barbara assures me that I am thereby begging
the question. She informs me that I have too exalted an idea of
woman and her aims. She has confided to me that, though there is a
number of noble and forceful women in every community, the general
average, though prolific of moral and religious advice to men by way
of fulfilling a sort of traditional feminine duty, is at heart rather
flighty and less deeply interested in social progress than my sex.
This testimony, taken in connection with the reference of Julius Cæsar
to the disillusioning effect of a crowd of women in a drygoods store,
introduces a new element into the discussion. Frankly, my estimate of
women has always been high, and possibly unduly exalted. It may be
I have been deceived by the moral and religious advice offered into
believing that women are more serious than they really are. Reflection
certainly does cause one to recollect that comparatively few women
like to dwell on or to discuss for more than a few minutes any serious
subject which requires earnest thought. They prefer to skim from one
thing to another like swallows and to avoid dry depths. Those in the
van will doubtless answer that this is due to the unfortunate training
which woman has been subjected to for so many generations. True, in a
measure; but ought she not, before she is allowed to vote, on the plea
of bringing benefit to the state as an ethical adviser, to demonstrate
by more than words her ethical superiority?

We all know that women drink less intoxicating liquor than men, and
are less addicted to fleshly excesses. Yet the whole mental temper
and make-up of each sex ought to be taken into account in comparing
them together; and with all the predisposition of a gallant and
susceptible man to say the complimentary thing, I find myself asking
the question whether the average woman does not prefer to jog along
on a worsted-work-domestic-trusting-religious-advice-giving basis,
rather than to grapple in a serious way with the formidable problems
of living. At any rate I, for one, before the right of suffrage is
bestowed upon her, would like to be convinced that she as a sex is
really earnest-minded. If one stops to think, it is not easy to show
that, excepting where liquor, other women, and rigid attendance at
church are concerned, she has been wont to show any very decided bent
for, or interest in, the great reforms of civilization--that is,
nothing to distinguish her from a well-equipped and thoughtful man. It
is significant, too, that where women in this country have been given
the power to vote in local affairs, they have in several instances
shown themselves to be more solicitous for the triumph of a religious
creed or faction than to promote the public welfare.

It is extremely probable, if not certain, that the laws of all
civilized states will eventually be amended so as to give women the
same voice in the affairs of government as men. But taking all the
factors of the case into consideration, there seems to be no pressing
haste for action. Even admitting for the sake of argument that woman’s
apparent lack of seriousness is due to her past training, and that
she is really the admirably earnest spirit which one is lured into
believing her until he reflects, there can assuredly be no question
that the temper and proclivities of the very large mass of women are
not calculated at present to convict man of a lack of purpose by virtue
of shining superiority in persevering mental and moral aggressiveness.
Not merely the drygoods counter and the milliner’s store with their
engaging seductions, but the ball-room, the fancy-work pattern, the
sensational novel, nervous prostration, the school-girl’s giggle, the
tea-pot without food, and a host of other tell-tale symptoms, suggest
that there is a good deal of the old Eve left in the woman of to-day.
And bless her sweet heart, Adam is in no haste to have it otherwise.
Indeed, the eternal feminine seems to have staying qualities which bid
fair to outlast the ages.

The _Conduct of Life_.


Now that more than a century has elapsed since our independence as
a nation was accomplished, and we are sixty million strong, what do
we stand for in the world? What is meant by the word American, and
what are our salient qualities as a people? What is the contribution
which we have made or are making to the progress of society and the
advancement of civilization?

There certainly used to be, and probably there is, no such egregiously
patriotic individual in the world as an indiscriminately patriotic
American, and there is no more familiar bit of rhetoric extant than
that this is the greatest nation on earth. The type of citizen who
gave obtrusive vent to this sentiment, both at home and abroad, is
less common than formerly; nevertheless his clarion tones are still
invariably to be heard in legislative assemblies when any opportunity
is afforded to draw a comparison between ourselves and other nations.
His extravagant and highfalutin boastings have undoubtedly been the
occasion of a certain amount of seemingly lukewarm patriotism on the
part of the educated and more intelligent portion of the American
public, an attitude which has given foreigners the opportunity to
declare that the best Americans are ashamed of their own institutions.
But that apparent disposition to apologize already belongs to a past
time. No American, unless a fool, denies to-day the force of the
national character, whatever he or she may think of the behavior of
individuals; and on the other hand, is it not true that every State
in the Union has a rising population of young and middle-aged people
who have discovered, Congress and the public schools to the contrary
notwithstanding, that we do not know everything, and that the pathway
of national progress is more full of perplexities than our forests
were of trees when Daniel Boone built his log cabin in the wilds of
Kentucky? In short, the period of unintelligent jubilation on one
side, and carping cynicism on the other, have given place to a soberer
self-satisfaction. We cannot--why should we?--forget that our territory
is enormous, and that we soon shall be, if we are not already, the
richest nation on earth; that the United States is the professed asylum
and Mecca of hope for the despondent and oppressed of other countries;
and that we are the cynosure of the universe, as being the most
important exemplification of popular government which the world has
ever seen. At the same time, the claims put forth by our progenitors,
that American society is vastly superior to any other, and that the
effete world of Europe is put to the blush by the civic virtues of
the land of the free and the home of the brave, are no longer urged
except for the purposes of rodomontade. The average American of fifty
years ago--especially the frontiersman and pioneer, who swung his
axe to clear a homestead, and squirted tobacco-juice while he tilled
the prairie--really believed that our customs, opinions, and manner
of living, whether viewed from the moral, artistic, or intellectual
standpoint, were a vast improvement on those of any other nation.

But though most of us to-day recognize the absurdity of such a view,
we are most of us at the same time conscious of the belief that there
is a difference between us and the European which is not imaginary,
and which is the secret of our national force and originality.
International intercourse has served to open our eyes until they
have become as wide as saucers, with the consequence that, in
hundreds of branches of industry and art, we are studying Old World
methods; moreover, the pioneer strain of blood has been diluted by
hordes of immigrants of the scum of the earth. In spite of both these
circumstances, our faith in our originality and in the value of it
remains unshaken, and we are no less sure at heart that our salient
traits are noble ones, than the American of fifty years ago was sure
that we had the monopoly of all the virtues and all the arts. He really
meant only what we mean, but he had an unfortunate way of expressing
himself. We have learned better taste, and we do not hesitate nowadays
to devote our native humor to hitting hard the head of bunkum, which
used to be as sacred as a Hindoo god, and as rife as apple-blossoms in
this our beloved country.

What is the recipe for Americanism--that condition of the system
and blood, as it were, which even the immigrant without an ideal to
his own soul, seems often to acquire to some extent as soon as he
breathes the air of Castle Garden? It is difficult to define it in
set speech, for it seems almost an illusive and intangible quality
of being when fingered and held up to the light. It seems to me to
be, first of all, a consciousness of unfettered individuality coupled
with a determination to make the most of self. One great force of
the American character is its naturalness, which proceeds from a
total lack of traditional or inherited disposition to crook the knee
to any one. It never occurs to a good American to be obsequious. In
vulgar or ignorant personalities this point of view has sometimes
manifested itself, and continues to manifest itself, in swagger or
insolence, but in the finer form of nature appears as simplicity
of an unassertive yet dignified type. Gracious politeness, without
condescension on the one hand, or fawning on the other, is noticeably
a trait of the best element of American society, both among men and
women. Indeed, so valuable to character and ennobling is this native
freedom from servility, that it has in many cases in the past made odd
and unconventional manner and behavior seem attractive rather than a
blemish. Unconventionality is getting to be a thing of the past in this
country, and the representative American is at a disadvantage now, both
at home and abroad, if he lacks the ways of the best social world; he
can no longer afford to ignore cosmopolitan usages, and to rely solely
on a forceful or imposing personality; the world of London and Paris,
of New York and Washington and Chicago, has ceased to thrill, and is
scarcely amused, if he shows himself merely in the guise of a splendid
intellectual buffalo. But the best Americanism of to-day reveals itself
no less distinctly and unequivocally in simplicity bred of a lack of
self-consciousness and a lack of servility of mind. It seems to carry
with it a birthright of self-respect, which, if fitly worn, ennobles
the humblest citizen.

This national quality of self-respect is apt to be associated with
the desire for self-improvement or success. Indeed, it must engender
it, for it provides hope, and hope is the touchstone of energy. The
great energy of Americans is ascribed by some to the climate, and
it is probably true that the nervous temperaments of our people are
stimulated by the atmospheric conditions which surround us; but is it
not much more true that, just as it never occurs to the good American
to be servile, so he feels that his outlook upon the possibilities
of life is not limited or qualified, and that the world is really
his oyster? To be sure, this faith has been fostered by the almost
Aladdin-like opportunities which this great and rich new country of
ours has afforded. But whatever the reason for our native energy and
self-reliance, it indisputably exists, and is signally typical of the
American character. We are distinctly an ambitious, earnest people,
eager to make the most of ourselves individually, and we have attracted
the attention of the world by force of our independent activity of
thought and action. The extraordinary personality of Abraham Lincoln
is undoubtedly the best apotheosis yet presented of unadulterated
Americanism. In him the native stock was free from the foreign
influences and suggestions which affected, more or less, the people of
the East. His origin was of the humblest sort, and yet he presented
most saliently in his character the naturalness, nobility, and aspiring
energy of the nation. He made the most of himself by virtue of unusual
abilities, yet the key-note of their influence and force was a noble
simplicity and farsighted independence. In him the quintessence of the
Americanism of thirty years ago was summed up and expressed. In many
ways he was a riddle at first to the people of the cities of the East
in that, though their soul was his soul, his ways had almost ceased to
be their ways; but he stands before the world to-day as the foremost
interpreter of American ideas and American temper of thought as they
then existed.

In the thirty years since the death of Abraham Lincoln the country has
been inundated with foreign blood. Irish, Germans, English, Poles, and
Scandinavians, mainly of the pauper or peasant class, have landed in
large numbers, settled in one State or another, and become a part of
the population. The West, at the time of the Civil War, was chiefly
occupied by settlers of New England or Eastern stock--pioneers from the
older cities and towns who had sought fortune and a freer life in the
new territory of prairies and unappropriated domain. The population
of the whole country to-day bears many different strains of blood in
its veins. The original settlers have chiefly prospered. The sons of
those who split rails or followed kindred occupations in the fifties,
and listened to the debates between Lincoln and Douglas, are the
proprietors of Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, and Topeka.
Johann Heintz now follows the plough and in turn squirts tobacco-juice
while he tills the prairie; and Louis Levinsky, Paul Petrinoff, and
Michael O’Neil forge the plough-shares, dig in the mine, or work in
the factory side by side with John Smith and any descendant of Paul
Revere who has failed to prosper in life’s battle. But this is not
all. Not merely are the plain people in the dilemma of being unable
to pronounce the names of their neighbors, but the same is getting to
be true of the well-to-do merchants and tradespeople of many of our
cities. The argus-eyed commercial foreigner has marked us for his own,
and his kith and kin are to-day coming into possession of our drygoods
establishments, our restaurants, our cigar stores, our hotels, our
old furniture haunts, our theatres, our jewelry shops, and what not.
One has merely to open a directory in order to find the names in any
leading branch of trade plentifully larded with Adolph Stein, Simon
Levi, Gustave Cohen, or something ending in berger. They sell our
wool; they float our loans; they manufacture our sugar, our whiskey,
and our beer; they influence Congress. They are here for what they can
make, and they do not waste their time in sentiment. They did not come
in time to reap the original harvest, but they have blown across the
ocean to help the free-born American spend his money in the process of
trying to out-civilize Paris and London. As a consequence, the leading
wholesale and retail ornamental industries of New York and of some
of our Western cities are in the grip of individuals whose surnames
have a foreign twang. Of course, they have a right to be here; it is
a free country, and no one can say them nay. But we must take them
and their wives and daughters, their customs and their opinions, into
consideration in making an estimate of who are the Americans of the
present. They have not come here for their health, as the phrase is,
but they have come to stay. We at present, in our social hunger and
thirst, supply the grandest and dearest market of the world for the
disposal of everything beautiful and costly and artistic which the Old
World possesses, and all the shopkeepers of Europe, with the knowledge
of generations on the tips of their tongues and in the corners of their
brains, have come over to coin dowries for their daughters in the land
of the free and the home of the brave. Many of them have already made
large fortunes in the process, and are beginning to con the pages of
the late Ward McAllister’s book on etiquette with a view to social

Despite this infusion of foreign blood, the native stock and the
Anglo-Saxon nomenclature are still, of course, predominant in numbers.
There are some portions of the country where the late immigrant is
scarcely to be found. True also is it that these late-comers, like
the immigrants of fifty years ago, have generally been prompt in
appropriating the independent and energetic spirit typical of our
people. But there is a significant distinction to be borne in mind
in this connexion: The independent energy of the Americans of fifty
years ago, whether in the East or among the pioneers of the Western
frontier, was not, however crude its manifestations, mere bombastic
assertiveness, but the expression of a faith and the expression of
strong character. They were often ignorant, conceited, narrow, hard,
and signally inartistic; but they stood for principle and right as they
saw and believed it; they cherished ideals; they were firm as adamant
in their convictions; and God talked with them whether in the store or
workshop, or at the plough. This was essentially true of the rank and
file of the people, no less true and perhaps more true of the humblest
citizens than of the well-to-do and prominent.

There can be little doubt that the foreign element which is now a part
of the American people represents neither a faith nor the expression
of ideals or convictions. The one, and the largest portion of it, is
the overflow and riff-raff of the so-called proletariat of Europe;
the other is the evidence of a hyena-like excursion for the purposes
of plunder. In order to be a good American it is not enough to become
independent and energetic. The desire to make the most of one’s self
is a relative term; it must proceed from principle and be nourished
by worthy, ethical aims; otherwise it satisfies itself with paltry
conditions, or with easy-going florid materialism. The thieving and
venality in municipal political affairs of the Irish-American, the dull
squalor and brutish contentment of the Russian-Pole, and the commercial
obliquity of vision and earthy ambitions of the German Jew, are factors
in our national life which are totally foreign to the Americanism for
which Abraham Lincoln stood. We have opened our gates to a horde of
economic ruffians and malcontents, ethical bankrupts and social thugs,
and we must needs be on our guard lest their aims and point of view be
so engrafted on the public conscience as to sap the vital principles
which are the foundation of our strength as a people. The danger from
this source is all the greater from the fact that the point of view
of the American people has been changed so radically during the last
thirty years as a secondary result of our material prosperity. We have
ceased to be the austere nation we once were, and we have sensibly
let down the bars in the manner of our living; we have recognized the
value of, and we enjoy, many things which our fathers put from them
as inimical to republican virtue and demoralizing to society. Contact
with older civilizations has made us wiser and more appreciative, and
with this growth of perspective and the acquirement of an eye for
color has come a liberality of sentiment which threatens to debauch us
unless we are careful. There are many, especially among the wealthy and
fashionable, who in their ecstasy over our emancipation are disposed
to throw overboard everything which suggests the old _régime_, and to
introduce any custom which will tend to make life more easy-going and
spectacular. And in this they are supported by the immigrant foreigner,
who would be only too glad to see the land of his adoption made to
conform in all its usages to the land of his birth.

The conduct of life here has necessarily and beneficially been affected
by the almost general recognition that we have not a monopoly of all
the virtues, and by the adoption of many customs and points of view
recommended by cosmopolitan experience. The American people still
believe, however, that our civilization is not merely a repetition
of the older ones, and a duplication on new soil of the old social
tread-mill. That it must be so in a measure every one will admit, but
we still insist, and most of us believe, that we are to point the way
to a new dispensation. We believe, but at the same time when we stop to
think we find some difficulty in specifying exactly what we are doing
to justify the faith. It is easy enough to get tangled up in the stars
and stripes and cry “hurrah!” and to thrust the American eagle down the
throats of a weary universe, but it is quite another to command the
admiration of the world by behavior commensurate with our ambition and
self-confidence. Our forefathers could point to their own nakedness
as a proof of their greatness, but there seems to be some danger that
we, now that we have clothed ourselves--and clothed ourselves as
expensively as possible and not always in the best taste--will forget
the ideas and ideals for which those fathers stood, and let ourselves
be seduced by the specious doctrine that human nature is always human
nature, and that all civilizations are alike. To be sure, an American
now is apt to look and act like any other rational mortal, and there is
no denying that the Atlantic cable and ocean greyhound have brought the
nations of the world much closer together than they ever were before;
but this merely proves that we can become just like the others, only
worse, in case we choose to. But we intend to improve upon them.

To those who believe that we are going to improve upon them it must be
rather an edifying spectacle to observe the doings and sayings of that
body of people in the city of New York who figure in the newspapers of
the day as “the four hundred,” “the smart set,” or “the fashionable
world.” After taking into full account the claims of the sensitive
city of Chicago, it may be truthfully stated that the city of New
York is the Paris of America. There are other municipalities which
are doing their best in their several ways to rival her, but it is
toward New York that all the eyes in the country are turned, and from
which they take suggestion as a cat laps milk. The rest of us are in a
measure provincial. Many of us profess not to approve of New York, but,
though we cross ourselves piously, we take or read a New York daily
paper. New York gives the cue alike to the Secretary of the Treasury
and (by way of London) to the social swell. The ablest men in the
country seek New York as a market for their brains, and the wealthiest
people of the country move to New York to spend the patrimony which
their rail-splitting fathers or grandfathers accumulated. Therefore
it is perfectly just to refer to the social life of New York as
representative of that element of the American people which has been
most blessed with brains or fortune, and as representative of our most
highly evolved civilization. It ought to be our best. The men and
women who contribute to its movement and influence ought to be the
pick of the country. But what do we find? We find as the ostensible
leaders of New York society a set of shallow worldlings whose whole
existence is given up to emulating one another in elaborate and
splendid inane social fripperies. They dine and wine and dance and
entertain from January to December. Their houses, whether in town or
at the fashionable watering-places to which they move in summer, are
as sumptuous, if not more so, than those of the French nobility in its
palmiest days, and their energies are devoted to the discovery of new
expensive luxuries and fresh titillating creature comforts. That such
a body of people should exist in this country after little more than
a century of democratic institutions is extraordinary, but much more
extraordinary is the absorbing interest which a large portion of the
American public takes in the doings and sayings of this fashionable
rump. There is the disturbing feature of the case. Whatever these
worldlings do is flashed over the entire country, and is copied into a
thousand newspapers as being of vital concern to the health and home of
the nation. The editors print it because it is demanded; because they
have found that the free-born American citizen is keenly solicitous to
know “what is going on in society,” and that he or she follows with
almost feverish interest and with open-mouthed absorption the spangled
and jewelled annual social circus parade which goes on in the Paris of
America. The public is indifferently conscious that underneath this
frothy upper-crust in New York there is a large number of the ablest
men and women of the country by whose activities the great educational,
philanthropic, and artistic enterprises of the day have been fostered,
promoted, and made successful; but this consciousness pales into
secondary importance in the democratic mind as compared with realistic
details concerning this ball and that dinner-party where thousands
of dollars are poured out in vulgar extravagance, or concerning the
cost of the wedding-presents, the names and toilettes of the guests,
and the number of bottles of champagne opened at the marriage of some
millionaire’s daughter.

No wonder that this aristocracy of ours plumes itself on its
importance, and takes itself seriously when it finds its slightest
doings telegraphed from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It feels itself
called to new efforts, for it understands with native shrewdness that
the American people requires novelty and fresh entertainment, or it
looks elsewhere. Accordingly it is beginning to be unfaithful to its
marriage vows. Until within a recent period the husbands and wives
of this vapid society have, much to the bewilderment of warm-blooded
students of manners and morals, been satisfied to flirt and produce the
appearance of infidelity, and yet only pretend. Now the divorce court
and the whispered or public scandal bear frequent testimony to the fact
that it is not so fashionable or “smart” as it used to be merely to
make believe.

Was there ever a foreign court, when foreign courts were in their
glory, where men and women were content merely to whisper and giggle
behind a rubber-tree in order to appear vicious? It may be said at
least that some of our fashionables have learned to be men and women
instead of mere simpering marionettes. Still there was originality in
being simpering marionettes: Marital infidelity has been the favorite
excitement of every rotten aristocracy which the world has ever seen.

The _Conduct of Life_.


A manner of life of this description can scarcely be the ideal of
the American people. Certainly neither George Washington, when he
delivered his farewell address, nor Abraham Lincoln, on the occasion
of his second inaugural, looked forward to the evolution of any such
aristocracy as the fulfilment of the nation’s hopes. And yet this
coterie of people has its representatives in all the large cities of
the country, and there is no reason to doubt that in a short time the
example set will be imitated to some extent, at least, and that one
portion of the country will vie with another in extravagant social
vanities and prodigal display on the part of a pleasure-seeking leisure

Most of these people go to church, and, indeed, some of them are
ostensibly regardful of church functions and ceremonies, and, as they
do not openly violate any laws so as to subject themselves to terms of
imprisonment, the patriotic American citizen finds himself able merely
to frown by way of showing his dissatisfaction at this form of high
treason against the morals and aims of democracy. To frown and to be
grateful that one is not like certain pleasure-seeking millionaires
is not much of a comfort, especially when it is obvious that the
ignorant and semi-ignorant mass is fascinated by the extravagances and
worldly manifestations of the individuals in question, and has made
them its heroes on account of their unadulterated millions. Indeed,
the self-respecting, patriotic American citizen finds himself to-day
veritably between Scylla and Charybdis in the matter of the conduct
of life. We are no longer the almost homogeneous nation we were fifty
years ago. There are far greater extremes of wealth and poverty. Our
economic conditions, or at least the conditions which exist in our
principal cities, are closely approximating those which exist in the
cities of the Old World. Outside of our cities the people for the most
part live in respectable comfort by the practice of what passes in
America for economy, which may be defined as a high but ignorant moral
purpose negatived by waste and domestic incompetence. It has always
been true of our beloved country that, though the ship of state has
seemed on the point of floundering from time to time, disaster has
invariably been averted at critical junctures by the saving grace of
the common-sense and right-mindedness of the American people. This is
not so complimentary as it sounds. It really means that the average
sense and intelligence of the public is apt to be in the wrong at the
outset, and to be converted to the right only after many days and much
tribulation. In other words, our safety and our progress have been the
result of a slow and often reluctant yielding of opinion by the mass
to the superior judgment of a minority. This is merely another way of
stating that, where every one has a right to individual opinion, and
there are no arbitrary standards of conduct or of anything else outside
the statute law, the mean is likely to fall far short of what is
best. Our salvation in every instance of national perplexity has been
the effectual working on the public conscience of the leaven of the
best Americanism. A comparatively small proportion of the population
have been the pioneers in thought and suggestion of subsequent ardent
espousals by the entire public. This leaven, in the days when we were
more homogeneous, was made up from all the elements of society; or, in
other words, the best Americanism drew its representatives from every
condition of life; the farmer of the Western prairie was just as likely
to tower above his fellows and become a torch-bearer as the merchant or
mechanic of the city.

If we as a nation have needed a leaven in the past, we certainly have
no less need of one to-day, now that we are in the flush of material
prosperity and consciousness of power. Fortunately we have one. The
public-spirited, nobly independent, earnest, conscientious, ambitious
American exists to-day as indisputably and unmistakably as ever, and
he is a finer specimen of humanity than he used to be, for he knows
more and he poses much less. It is safe to assert, too, that he is
still to be found in every walk of our national life. The existence
of an aggravating and frivolous aristocracy on the surface, and an
ignorant, unæsthetic mass underneath should not blind us to the fact
that there is a sound core to our social system. The hope of the United
States to-day lies in that large minority of the people who are really
trying to solve the problems of life from more than a merely selfish
standpoint. One has merely to think a moment in order to realize
what a really numerous and significant body among us is endeavoring
to promote the cause of American civilization by aspiring or decent
behavior. Our clergymen, our lawyers, our doctors, our architects,
our merchants, our teachers, some of our editors, our bankers, our
scientists, our scholars, and our philanthropists, at once stand out as
a generally sane and earnest force of citizens. The great educational,
charitable, artistic, and other undertakings which have been begun and
splendidly completed by individual energy and liberality since the
death of Abraham Lincoln, bespeak eloquently the temper of a certain
portion of the community. If it be true that the so-called aristocracy
of New York City threatens the repute and sincerity of democracy
by its heartlessness and unworthy attempts to ape the vices of a
fifteenth-century European nobility, New York can fairly retort that
it offers in its working force of well-to-do people the most vital,
interesting, sympathetic, and effective force of men and women in the
nation. If the Paris of America contains the most dangerous element
of society, it also contains an element which is equal to the best
elsewhere, and is more attractive than any. The New York man or woman
who is in earnest is sure to accomplish something, for he or she is
not likely to be handicapped by ignorant provincialism of ethics or art
which plays havoc with many of the good intentions of the rest of the

This versatile and interesting leaven of American society finds its
counterpart, to a greater or less extent, in every section of the
United States, but it is nowhere quite so attractive as in the Paris
of America, for the reason that nowhere does the pulse of life move so
keenly as there, and nowhere is the science of living absorbingly so
well understood. The art of living has there reached a more interesting
phase than in any part of America, if zest in life and the facilities
to make the most of it are regarded as the test.

This may sound worldly. The people of the United States used to
consider it worldly to admire pictures or to listen to beautiful music.
Some think so still. Many a citizen of what was lately the prairie
sits down to his dinner in his shirt-sleeves to-day and pretends to
be thankful that he is neither an aristocrat nor a gold-bug. The next
week, perhaps, this same citizen will vote against a national bankrupt
law because he does not wish to pay his debts, or vote for a bill
which will enable him to pay them in depreciated currency. Many a
clergyman who knows better gives his flock consolingly to understand
that to be absorbed in the best human interests of life is unworthy
of the Christian, and that to be ordinary and unattractive is a
legitimate condition of mind and body. Surely the best Americanism is
the Americanism of the man or woman who makes the most of what this
life affords, and throws himself or herself keenly into the thick of
it. The art of living is the science of living nobly and well, and
how can one live either nobly or well by regarding life on the earth
as a mere log-cabin existence? If we in this country who seek to live
wisely are in danger from the extravagant vanities of the very rich,
we are scarcely less menaced by that narrow spirit of ethical teaching
which tries to inculcate that it does not much matter what our material
surroundings are, and that any progress made by society, except in the
direction of sheer morality, is a delusion and a snare.

Character is the basis and the indispensable requisite of the finest
humanity; without it refinement, appreciation, manners, fancy, and
power of expression are like so many boughs on a tree which is dead.
But, on the other hand, what is more uninspiring than an unadorned
soul? That kind of virtue and morality which finds no interest in the
affairs of this life is but a fresh contribution to the sum of human
incompetence, and but serves to retard the progress of civilization.
The true and the chief reason why there is less misery in the world
than formerly is that men understand better how to live. That
straight-laced type of American, who is content to be moral in his own
narrow way, and to exclude from his scheme of life all those interests
which serve to refine and to inspire, bears the same relation to the
ideal man or woman that a chromo bears to a masterpiece of painting.

We have no standards in this country. The individual is free to express
himself here within the law in any way he sees fit, and the conduct
of life comes always at last to an equation of the individual. Each
one of us when we awake in the morning finds the problem of existence
staring him anew in the face, and cannot always spare the time to
remember that he is an American. And yet Americanism is the sum total
of what all of us are. It will be very easy for us simply to imitate
the civilizations of the past, but if our civilization is to stand for
anything vital, and to be a step forward in the progress of humanity,
we must do more than use the old combinations and devices of society in
a new kaleidoscopic form. Our heritage as Americans is independence,
originality, self-reliance, and sympathetic energy animated by a strong
ethical instinct, and these are forces which can produce a higher and
a broader civilization than the world has yet seen if we choose to
have it so. But it is no longer a matter of cutting down forests and
opening mines, of boasting beside the plough and building cities in
a single year, of fabulous fortunes won in a trice, and of favorite
sons in black broadcloth all the year round. It is a matter of a vast,
populous country and a powerful, seething civilization where the same
problems confront us which have taxed the minds and souls of the Old
World for generations of men. It is for our originality to throw new
light upon them, and it is for our independence to face them in the
spirit of a deeper sympathy with humanity, and free from the canker of
that utter selfishness which has made the prosperity and glory of other
great nations culminate so often in a decadence of degrading luxury and
fruitless culture.

No civilization which regards the blessings and comforts of refined
living as unworthy to be striven for and appropriated can hope to
promote the cause of humanity. On the other hand, we Americans must
remember that purely selfish appropriation and appreciation of
these blessings and comforts has worked the ruin of the most famous
civilizations of the past. Marie Antoinette was more elegant than the
most fashionable woman in New York, and yet that did not save her
from the tumbrel and the axe. The best Americanism of to-day and for
the future is that which shall seek to use the fruits of the earth
and the fulness thereof, and to develop all the manifestations of art
and gentle living in the interest of humanity as a whole. But even
heartless elegance is preferable to that self-righteous commonness
of spirit which sits at home in its shirt-sleeves and is graceless,
ascetic, and unimaginative in the name of God.

                               _THE END_


                             _D. B. Updike
                         The Merrymount Press
                          104 Chestnut Street

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