THE PATIENT OBSERVER
And His Friends
New York Dodd, Mead and Company 1911 Copyright, 1910, by The Evening Post Company Copyright, 1910, by P. F. Collier & Son Copyright, 1910, by Harper & Brothers Copyright, 1910, by The Atlantic Monthly Co. Copyright, 1911, by Dodd, Mead and Company
M. G. S.
I Cowards Page 1
II The Church Universal 10
III The Doctors 19
IV Interrogation 29
V The Mind Triumphant 37
VI On Calling White Black 45
VII The Solid Flesh 57
VIII Some Newspaper Traits 67
IX A Fledgling 80
X The Complete Collector—I 92
XI The Everlasting Feminine 100
XII The Fantastic Toe 111
XIII On Living in Brooklyn 119
XIV Palladino Outdone 130
XV The Cadence of the Crowd 138
XVI What We Forget 147
XVII The Children That Lead Us 159
XVIII The Martians 179
XIX The Complete Collector—II 189
XX When a Friend Marries 198
XXI The Perfect Union of the Arts 209
XXII An Eminent American 216
XXIII Behind the Times 227
XXIV Public Liars 238
XXV The Complete Collector—III 249
XXVI The Commuter 257
XXVII Headlines 270
XXVIII Usage 278
XXIX 60 H.P. 285
XXX The Sample Life 296
XXXI The Complete Collector—IV 313
XXXII Chopin's Successors 320
XXXIII The Irrepressible Conflict 327
XXXIV The Germs of Culture 336
Of the papers that go to make up the present volume, the greater number were published as a series in the columns of the New York Evening Post for 1910, under the general title of The Patient Observer. For the eminently laudable purpose of making a fairly thick book, the Patient Observer's frequently recurrent "I," "me," and "mine" have now been supplemented with the experiences and reflections of his friends Harrington, Cooper, and Harding as recorded on other occasions in the New York Evening Post, as well as in the Atlantic Monthly, the Bookman, Collier's, and Harper's Weekly.
It was Harrington who brought forward the topic that men take up in their most cheerful moments. I mean, of course, the subject of death. Harrington quoted a great scientist as saying that death is the one great fear that, consciously or not, always hovers over us. But the five men who were at table with Harrington that night immediately and sharply disagreed with him.
Harding was the first to protest. He said the belief that all men are afraid of death is just as false as the belief that all women are afraid of mice. It is not the big facts that humanity is afraid of, but the little things. For himself, he could honestly say that he was not afraid of death. He defied it every morning when he ran for his train, although he knew that he thereby weakened his heart. He defied it when he smoked too much and read too late at night, and refused to take exercise or to wear rubbers when it rained. All men, he repeated, are afraid of little things. Personally, what he was most intensely and most enduringly afraid of was a revolving storm-door.
Harding confessed that he approaches a revolving door in a state of absolute terror. To see him falter before the rotating wings, rush forward, halt, and retreat with knees trembling, is to witness a shattering spectacle of complete physical disorganisation. Harding said that he enters a revolving door with no serious hope of coming out alive. By anticipation he feels his face driven through the glass partition in front of him, and the crash of the panel behind him upon his skull. Some day, Harding believed, he would be caught fast in one of those compartments and stick. Axes and crowbars would be requisitioned to retrieve his lifeless form.
Bowman agreed with Harding. His own life, Bowman was inclined to believe, is typical of most civilised men, in that it is passed in constant terror of his inferiors. The people whom he hires to serve him strike fear into Bowman's soul. He is habitually afraid of janitors, train-guards, elevator-boys, barbers, bootblacks, telephone-girls, and saleswomen. But his particular dread is of waiters. There have been times when Bowman thought that to punish poor service and set an example to others, he would omit the customary tip. But such a resolution, embraced with the soup, has never lasted beyond the entree. And, as a matter of fact, Bowman said, such a resolution always spoils his dinner. As long as he entertains it, he dares not look his man in the eye. He stirs his coffee with shaking fingers. He is cravenly, horribly afraid.
Bowman is afraid even of new waiters and of waiters he never expects to see again. Surely, it must be safe not to tip a waiter one never expected to see again. "But no," said Bowman, "I should feel his contemptuous gaze in the marrow of my backbone as I walked out. I could not keep from shaking, and I should rush from that place in agony, with the man's derisive laughter ringing in my ears."
The only one of the company who was not afraid of something concrete, something tangible, was Williams. Now Williams is notoriously, hopelessly shy; and when he took up the subject where Bowman had left it, he poured out his soul with all the fervour and abandon of which only the shy are capable. Williams was afraid of his own past. It was not a hideously criminal one, for his life had been that of a bookworm and recluse. But out of that past Williams would conjure up the slightest incident—a trifling breach of manners, a mere word out of place, a moment in which he had lost control of his emotions, and the memory of it would put him into a cold sweat of horror and shame.
Years ago, at a small dinner party, Williams had overturned a glass of water on the table-cloth; and whenever he thinks of that glass of water, his heart beats furiously, his palate goes dry, and there is a horribly empty feeling in his stomach. Once, on some similar occasion, Williams fell into animated talk with a beautiful young woman. He spoke so rapidly and so well that the rest of the company dropped their chat and gathered about him. It was five minutes, perhaps, before he was aware of what was going on. That night Williams walked the streets in an agony of remorse. The recollection of the incident comes back to him every now and then, and, whether he is alone at his desk, or in the theatre, or in a Broadway crowd, he groans with pain. Take away such memories of the past, Williams told us, and he knew of nothing in life that he is afraid of.
Gordon's was quite a different case. The group about the table burst out laughing when Gordon assured us that above all things else in this world he is afraid of elephants. He agreed with Bowman that in the latitude of New York City and under the zooelogic conditions prevailing here, it was a preposterous fear to entertain. Gordon lives in Harlem, and he recognises clearly enough that the only elephant-bearing jungle in the neighbourhood is Central Park, whence an animal would be compelled to take a Subway train to One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, and lie in wait for him as he came home in the twilight. But irrational or no, there was the fact. To be quashed into pulp under one of those girder-like front legs, Gordon felt must be abominable. To make matters worse, Gordon has a young son who insists on being taken every Sunday morning to see the animals; and of all attractions in the menagerie, the child prefers the elephant house. He loves to feed the biggest of the elephants, and to watch him place pennies in a little wooden box and register the deposits on a bell. What Gordon suffers at such times, he told us, can be neither imagined nor described.
My own story was received with sympathetic attention. I told them that the one great terror of my life is a certain man who owes me a fairly large sum of money, borrowed some years ago. Whenever we meet he insists on recalling the debt and reminding me of how much the favour meant to him at the time, and how he never ceases to think of it. Meeting him has become a torture. I do my best to avoid him, and frequently succeed. But often he will catch sight of me across the street and run over and grasp me by the hand and inquire after my health in so hearty, so honest a fashion that I cannot bear to look him in the face. And as he beams on me and throws his arm over my shoulder, I can only blush and shift from one foot to the other and stammer out some excuse for hurrying away. Passers-by stop and admire the man's affection and concern for one who is evidently some poor devil of a relation from the country. One Sunday he waylaid me on Riverside Drive and introduced me to his wife as one of his dearest friends. I mumbled something about its not having rained the entire week, and his wife, who was a stately person in silks, looked at me out of a cold eye. Then and there I knew she decided that I was a person who had something to conceal and probably took advantage of her husband.
No; the more I think of it, the more convinced am I that very few men pass their time in contemplating death, which is the end of all things. Only those people do it who have nothing else to be afraid of, or who, like undertakers and bacteriologists, make a living out of it.
THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL
Harding declares that a solid thought before going to bed sets him dreaming just like a bit of solid food. One night, Harding and I discussed modern tendencies in the Church. As a result Harding dreamt that night that he was reading a review in the Theological Weekly of November 12, 2009.
"Seldom," wrote the reviewer, "has it been our good fortune to meet with as perfect a piece of work as James Brown Ducey's 'The American Clergyman in the Early Twentieth Century.' The book consists of exactly half a hundred biographies of eminent churchmen; in these fifty brief sketches is mirrored faithfully the entire religious life, external and internal, of the American people eighty or ninety years ago. We can do our readers no better service than to reproduce from Mr. Ducey's pages, in condensed form, the lives of half a dozen typical clergymen, leaving the reader to frame his own conception of the magnificent activity which the Church of that early day brought to the service of religion.
"The Rev. Pelatiah W. Jenks, who was called to the richest pulpit in New York in 1912, succeeded within less than three years in building up an unrivalled system of dancing academies and roller-skating rinks for young people. Under him the attendance at the Sunday afternoon sparring exhibitions in the vestry rooms of the church increased from an average of 54 to an average of 650. In spite of the nominal fee charged for the use of the congregation's bowling alleys, the income from that source alone was sufficient to defray the cost of missionary work in all Africa, south of the Zambesi River. Dr. Jenks's highest ambition was attained in 1923 when the Onyx Church's football team won the championship of the Ecclesiastical League of Greater New York. It was in the same year that Dr. Jenks took the novel step of abandoning services in St. Basil's Chapel, now situated in a slum district, and substituting a moving-picture show with vaudeville features. Thereafter the empty chapel was filled to overcrowding on Sundays. To encourage church attendance at Sunday morning services, Dr. Jenks established a tipless barber shop. Two years later, in spite of the murmured protests of the conservative element in his congregation, he erected one of the finest Turkish baths in New York City.
"The Rev. Coningsby Botts, Ph.D., LL.D., D.D., was regarded as the greatest pulpit orator of his day. His Sunday evening sermons drew thousands of auditors. Of Dr. Botts's polished sermons, our author gives a complete list, together with short extracts. We should have to go far to discover a specimen of richer eloquence than the sermon delivered on the afternoon of the third Sunday after Epiphany, in the year 1911, on 'Dr. Cook and the Discovery of the North Pole.' On the second Sunday in Lent, Dr. Botts moved an immense congregation to tears with his sermon, 'Does Radium Cure Cancer?' Trinity Sunday he spoke on 'Zola and His Place in Literature.' The second Sunday in Advent he discussed 'The Position of Woman in the Fiji Islands.' We can only pick a subject here and there out of his other numerous pastoral speeches: 'Is Aviation an Established Fact?' 'The Influence of Blake Upon Dante Gabriel Rossetti,' 'Dalmatia as a Health Resort,' and 'Amatory Poetry Among the Primitive Races.'
"The Rev. Cadwallader Abiel Jones has earned a pre-eminent place in Church history as the man who did most to endow Pittsburg with a permanent Opera House. Our author relates how in the winter of 1916, when the noted impresario Silverman threatened to sell his Opera House for a horse exchange unless 100 Pittsburg citizens would guarantee $5,000 each for a season of twenty weeks, Dr. Jones made a house-to-house canvass in his automobile and went without sleep till the half-million dollars was pledged. He fell seriously ill of pneumonia, but recovered in time to be present at the signing of the contract. Dr. Jones used to assert that there was more moral uplift in a single performance of the 'Mikado' than in the entire book of Psalms. One of his notable achievements was a Christmas Eve service consisting of some magnificent kinetoscope pictures of the Day of Judgment with music by Richard Strauss. Tradition also ascribes to Dr. Jones a saying that the two most powerful influences for good in New York City were Miss Mary Garden and the Eden Musee. But our author thinks the story is apocryphal. He is rather inclined to believe, from the collocation of the two names, that we have here a distorted version of the Biblical creation myth.
"The Fourteenth Avenue Church of Cleveland, Ohio, under its famous pastor, the Rev. Henry Marcellus Stokes, exercised a preponderant influence in city politics from 1917 to 1925. Dr. Stokes was remorseless in flaying the bosses and their henchmen. At least a dozen candidates for Congress could trace their defeat directly to the efforts of the Fourteenth Avenue Church. The successful candidates profited by the lesson, and, during the three years' fight over tariff revision, from 1919 to 1922, they voted strictly in accordance with telegraphic instructions from Dr. Stokes. In the fall of 1921 Dr. Stokes's congregation voted almost unanimously to devote the funds hitherto used for home mission work to the maintenance of a legislative bureau at the State capital. The influence of the bureau was plainly perceptible in the Legislature's favourable action on such measures as the Cleveland Two-Cent Fare bill and the bill abolishing the bicycle and traffic squads in all cities with a population of more than 50,000.
"Our author lays particular stress on the career of the Rev. Dr. Brooks Powderly of New York, who, at the age of thirty-five, was recognized as America's leading authority on slum life. Dr. Powderly's numerous books and magazine articles on the subject speak for themselves. Our author mentions among others, 'The Bowery From the Inside,' 'At What Age Do Stevedores Marry?' 'The Relative Consumption of Meat, Pastry, and Vegetables Among Our Foreign Population,' 'How Soon Does the Average Immigrant Cast His First Vote?' 'The Proper Lighting for Recreation Piers,' and, what was perhaps his most popular book, 'Burglar's Tools and How to Use Them.'
"In running through the appendix to Mr. Ducey's volume," concludes the reviewer, "we come across an interesting paragraph headed, 'A Curious Survival.' It is a reprint of an obituary from the New York Evening Post of August, 1911, dealing with the minister of a small church far up in the Bronx, who died at the age of eighty-one, after serving in the same pulpit for fifty-three years. The Evening Post notice states that while the Rev. Mr. Smith was quite unknown below the Harlem, he had won a certain prestige in his own neighbourhood through his old-fashioned homilies, delivered twice every Sunday in the year, on love, charity, pure living, clean thinking, early marriage, and the mutual duties of parents towards their children and of children towards their parents. 'In the Rev. Mr. Smith,' remarks our author, 'we have a striking vestigial specimen of an almost extinct type.'"
The quarrels of the doctors do not concern me. I have worked out a classification of my own which holds good for the entire profession. All doctors, I believe, may be divided into those who go clean-shaven and those who wear beards. The difference is more than one of appearance. It is a difference of temperament and conduct. The smooth-faced physician represents the buoyant, the romantic, what one might almost call the impressionistic strain in the medical profession. The other is the conservative, the classicist. My personal likings are all for the newer type, but I do not mind admitting that if I were very ill indeed, I should be tempted to send for the physician who wears a Vandyke and smiles only at long intervals.
The reason is that when I am really ill I want some one who believes me. That is something which the clean-shaven doctor seldom does. He is of the breezy, modern school which maintains that nine patients out of ten are only the victims of their own imagination. He greets you in a jolly, brotherly fashion, takes your pulse, and says: "Oh, well, I guess you're not going to die this trip," and he roars, as if it were the greatest joke in the world to call up the picture of such dreadful possibilities. When he prescribes, it is in a half-apologetic, half-quizzical manner, and almost with a wink, as if he were to say, "This is a game, old man, but I suppose it's as honest a way of earning one's living as most ways." While he writes out his directions, he comments: "There is nothing the matter with you, and you will take this powder three times a day with your meals. It is just a case of too much tobacco supplemented by a fertile fancy. Rub your chest with this before you go to bed and avoid draughts. And what you need is not medicine but the active agitation for two hours every day of the two legs which the Lord gave you, and which you now employ exclusively for making your way to and from the railway station. This is for your digestion, and you can have it put up in pills or in liquid form, according to taste. And the next time you feel inclined to call me in, think it over in the course of a ten-mile walk."
Now this may be cheering if somewhat mixed treatment, but it has nothing of that sympathy which the ailing body craves. The case is much worse if your smooth-faced physician happens to be a personal friend. The indifference with which such a man will listen to the most pitiful recital of physical suffering is extraordinary. You may be out on the golf links together, and he has just made an exceptionally fine iron shot from a bad lie and in the face of a lively breeze. He is naturally pleased, and you take courage from the situation. "By the way, Smith," you say, "I have been feeling rather queer for a day or two. There is a gnawing sensation right here, and when I stoop——" "That must have been 180 yards," he says, "but not quite on the green. You don't chew your food enough. Take a glass of hot water before your breakfast—and you had better try your mashie!" Of course, no one likes to talk shop, especially on the golf links. Still you think, if you were a physician and you had a friend who had a gnawing sensation, you would be more considerate. After the game he lights his cigar and orders you not to smoke if the pain in your chest is really what you have described it. "In me," he says, cheerfully, "you get a physician and a horrible example for one price."
But there is one thing that this impressionistic school of medicine has in common with the other kind. Both types are faithful to the funereal type of waiting-room which is one of the signs of the trade. It is a room in which all the arts of the undertaker have seemingly been called upon to bring out the full possibilities of the average New York brownstone "front-parlour." I have often tried to decide whether, in a doctor's waiting-room, night or day was more conducive to thoughts of the grave. At night a lamp flickers dimly in one corner of the long room, and the shadows only deepen those other shadows which lie on the ailing spirit. But this same darkness mercifully conceals the long line of ash-coloured family portraits in gold frames, the ash-coloured carpet and chandelier, and the hideous aggregation of ash-coloured couches and chairs which make up the daylight picture. Why doctors' reception rooms should always so strongly combine the attractiveness of a popular lunch-room on a rainy day with the quiet domestic atmosphere of a county jail, I have never been able to find out, unless the object is to reduce the patient to such a horrible state of depression that the mere summons to enter the doctor's presence makes one feel very much better already. There are times when to be told that one has pneumonia or an incipient case of tuberculosis must be a relief after an hour spent in one of those dreadful ante-chambers.
The literature in a physician's waiting-room is not exhilarating. Usually, there is an extensive collection of periodicals four months old and over. From this I gather that physicians' wives and daughters are persistent but somewhat deliberate readers of current literature. The sense of age about the magazines on a doctor's table is heightened by the absence of the front and back covers. The only way of ascertaining the date of publication is to hunt for the table of contents. That, however, is a task which few able-bodied men in the prime of life are equal to, not to say a roomful of sick people, nervous with anticipation. Most patients under such circumstances set out courageously, but only to lose themselves in the first half-dozen pages of the advertising section. Yet the result is by no means harmful. There is something about the advertising agent's buoyant, insinuating, sympathetic tone that is very restful to the invalid nerves. Harrington tells me that the small suburban house in which he lives, the paint and roofing with which he protects it against the weather, the lawn-mower which he has secured in anticipation of a good crop of grass, and the small stock of poultry he experiments with, were all acquired through advertisements read in doctors' waiting-rooms. Some physicians take in the illustrated weeklies as well as the monthly magazines. In one of the former I found the other day an excellent panoramic view of the second inauguration of President McKinley.
But I am afraid I have wandered somewhat from what I set out to say. I meant to show how different from your clean-shaven doctor is the physician of the conventional beard. There is no trifling with him. He takes himself seriously, and he takes you seriously. His examination is as thorough as the stethoscope can make it; in fact, he listens to your heart-action long enough to make you fear the worst. This is in marked contrast with the smooth-faced doctor, who, as a rule, asks you to show your tongue, and when you obey he does not look at it, but begins to go through his mail, whistling cheerfully. He puts such vital questions as, how far up is your bedroom window at night, and do you ever have a sense of eye-strain after reading too long, and when you reply, he pays no attention. His entire attitude expresses the conviction that either you are not ill at all, or that if you are, you are not in a position to give an intelligent account of yourself. That is not the case with the other physician. He asks precise questions and insists on detailed replies. Nothing escapes him. While you are describing the sensations in the vicinity of your left lung, he will ask quietly whether you have always had the habit of biting your nails.
Under such sympathetic attention the patient's spirits rise. From an apologetic state of mind he passes to a sense of his own importance. Instead of being ashamed of his ailments he tries to describe as many as he can think of. His specific complaint may be a touch of sciatica, but he takes pleasure in recalling a bad habit of breathing through the mouth in moments of excitement, and a tricky memory which often leads him to carry about his wife's letters an entire week before mailing them. The need for a certain amount of self-castigation is implanted in all of us, and it is satisfied in the form of confession. Many people do it as part of their religious beliefs. Others belabour themselves in the physician's office. Men who in the bosom of the family will deny that they read too late at night and smoke too many cigars will call such transgressions to the doctor's attention if he should happen to overlook them. I know of one man suffering from neuralgia of the arm who insisted on telling his doctor that it made him ill to read the advertisements in the subway cars. But the doctor who wears no beard does not invite such confidences.
One day a census enumerator in the employ of the United States government knocked at my door and left a printed list of questions for me to answer. The United States government wished me to state how many sons and daughters I had and whether my sons were males and my daughters females. I was further required to state that not only was I of white descent and that my wife (if I had one) was of white descent, but that our children (if we had any) were also of white descent. I was also called upon to state whether any of my sons under the age of five (if I had any) had ever been in the military or naval service of the United States, and whether my grandfather (if I had one) was attending school on September 30 last. There were other questions of a like nature, but these are all I can recall at present.
Halfway through the schedule I was in a high state of irritation. The census enumerator's visit in itself I do not consider a nuisance. Like most Americans who sniff at the privileges of citizenship, I secretly delight in them. I speak cynically of boss-rule and demagogues, but I cast my vote on Election Day in a state of solemn and somewhat nervous exaltation that frequently interferes with my folding the ballot in the prescribed way. I have never been summoned for jury duty, but if I ever should be, I shall accept with pride and in the hope that I shall not be peremptorily challenged. It needs some such official document as a census schedule to bring home the feeling that government and state exist for me and my own welfare. Filling out the answers in the list was one of the pleasant manifestations of democracy, of which paying taxes is the unpleasant side. The printed form before me embodied a solemn function. I was aware that many important problems depended upon my answering the questions properly. Only then, for instance, could the government decide how many Congressmen should go to Washington, and what my share was of the total wealth of the country, and how I contributed to the drift from the farm to the city, and what was the average income of Methodist clergymen in cities of over 100,000 population.
What, then, if so many of the questions put to me by the United States government seemed superfluous to the point of being absurd? The process may involve a certain waste of paper and ink and time, but it is the kind of waste without which the business of life would be impossible. The questions that really shape human happiness are those to which the reply is obvious. The answers that count are those the questioner knew he would get and was prepared to insist upon getting. Harrington tells me that when he was married he could not help smiling when the minister asked him whether he would take the woman by his side to be his wedded wife. "What," said Harrington, "did he think I was there for? Or did he detect any sign of wavering at the last moment?" What reply does the clergyman await when he asks the rejoicing parents whether they are willing to have their child baptized into the community of the redeemed? What is all ritual, as it has been framed to meet the needs of the human heart, but a preordained order of question and response? In birth and in burial, in joy and in sorrow, for those who have escaped shipwreck and those who have escaped the plague, the practice of the ages has laid down formulae which the soul does not find the less adequate because they are ready-made.
Consider the multiplication-table. I don't know who first hit upon the absurd idea that questions are intended to elicit information. In so many laboratories are students putting questions to their microscope. In so many lawyers' offices are clients putting questions to their attorneys. In so many other offices are haggard men and women putting questions to their doctors. But the number of all these is quite insignificant when compared with the number of questions that are framed every day in the schoolrooms of the world. Wherefore, I say, consider the multiplication-table. A greater sum of human interest has centred about the multiplication-table than about all doctors' and lawyers' and biologists' offices since the beginning of time. Millions of schoolmasters have asked what is seven times eleven and myriads of children's brains have toiled for the answer that all the time has been reposing in the teacher's mind. What is seven times eleven? What is the capital of Dahomey? When did the Americans beat the British at Lexington? What is the meaning of the universe? We shall never escape the feeling that these questions are put only to vex us by those who know the answer.
I said that I am looking forward to be summoned for jury-duty. But I know that the solemn business of justice, like most of the world's business, is made up of the mumbled question that is seldom heard and the fixed reply that is never listened to. The clerk of the court stares at the wall and drones out the ancient formula which begins "Jusolimlyswear," and ends "Swelpyugod," and the witness on the stand blurts out "I do." The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court asks the President-elect whether he will be faithful to the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and the President-elect invariably says that he will. The candidate for American citizenship is asked whether he hereby renounces allegiance to foreign kings, emperors, and potentates, and fervently responds that he does. When I took my medical examination for a life-insurance policy, the physician asked me whether I suffered from asthma, bronchitis, calculus, dementia, erysipelas, and several score other afflictions, and, without waiting for an answer, he wrote "No" opposite every disease.
Whenever I think of the world and the world's opinion, I think of Mrs. Harrington in whom I see the world typified. Now Mrs. Harrington is inconceivable in a scheme where the proper reply to every question is not as thoroughly established as the rule for the proper use of forks at dinner. In the presence of an unfamiliar reply to a familiar question Mrs. Harrington is suspicious and uneasy. She scents either a joke or an insult; and we are all Mrs. Harrington. If you were to ask a stranger whom did he consider the greatest playwright of all times and, instead of Shakespeare or Moliere, he were to say Racine, it would be as if one were to ask him whether he took tea or coffee for breakfast and he said arsenic. It would be as though you asked your neighbour what he thought of a beautiful sunset and he said he did not like it. It would be as if I were to say to Mrs. Harrington, "Well, I suppose I have stayed quite long enough," and she were to say, "Yes, I think you had better be going."
THE MIND TRIUMPHANT
One night after dinner I quoted for Harding the following sentence from an address by President Lowell of Harvard: "The most painful defect in the American College at the present time is the lack of esteem for excellence in scholarship." Thereupon Harding recalled what some one had said on a related subject: "Athleticism is rooted in an exaggerated spirit of intercollegiate rivalry and a publicity run mad."
That night Harding dreamt the following:
From the Harvard "Crimson" for October 8, 1937:
"Twenty-five thousand men, women, and children in the Stadium yesterday broke into a delirium of cheers when the Cambridge team in Early English Literature won its fourth successive victory over Yale. Both sides were trained to the minute, however different the methods of the two head coaches. The Harvard team during the last two weeks had been put on a course of desultory reading from Bede to the closing of the theatres by the Puritans in 1642, while Yale had concentrated on the Elizabethan dramatists and signal practice.
"Harvard won the toss, and Captain Hartley led off with a question on the mediaeval prototypes of Thomas More's 'Utopia.' Brooks of Yale made a snappy reply, and by a dashing string of three questions on the authorship of 'Ralph Roister-Doister,' the sources of Chaucer's 'Nonne's Preeste's Tale,' and the exact site of the Globe Theatre, carried the fight into the enemy's territory. But Harvard held well, and the contest was a fairly even one for twenty minutes. There was an anxious moment towards the end, when Gosse, for Harvard, muffed on the date of the first production of 'The Tempest,' but before Yale could frame another question the whistle blew.
"In the second half, Yale perceptibly weakened. It still showed brilliant flashes of attack, but its defence was poor, especially against Brooks's smashing questions on the Italian influences in Milton's shorter poems. Harvard made its principal gains against Burckhardt, who simply could not solve Winship's posers from Ben Jonson and Beaumont and Fletcher. The Yale coaches finally took him out and sent in Skinner, the best Elizabethan on the scrub team, but it was too late to save the day. There were rumours after the game that Burckhardt had broken training after the Princeton contest by going on a three days' canoe trip up the Merrimac. That, however, does not detract from the glory of Harvard's magnificent triumph."
From the Boston "Herald" of October 9, 1937:
"William J. Burns and Douglas Mitchell, sophomores at Harvard, were arrested last night for creating a disturbance in the dining-room of the Mayflower Hotel by letting loose a South American baboon with a pack of firecrackers attached to its tail. When arraigned before Magistrate Conroy, they declared that they were celebrating Harvard's Early English victory over Yale, and were discharged."
From the Yale "News" of June 12, 1940:
"In the presence of twenty thousand spectators, including the President of the United States, the greater part of his Cabinet, and several foreign ambassadors, Yale's 'varsity eight simply ran away from Harvard in the tenth annual competition in Romance languages and philology. Yale took the lead from the start, and at the end of fifteen minutes was ahead by 16 points to 7.... This splendid victory is due in part to the general superiority of the New Haven eight, but too much credit cannot be given to little Howells, who steered a flawless contest. The Blue made use of the short, snappy English style of text-book, while Harvard pinned its faith to the more deliberate German seminar system. After the contest captains for the following year were elected. Yale chose Bridgman, who did splendid work on Corneille and the poets of the Pleiade, while Harvard's choice fell on Butterworth, probably the best intercollegiate expert on Cervantes. In the evening all the contestants attended a performance of 'The Prince and the Peach' at the Gaiety. It is reported that no less than nine out of the sixteen men have received flattering offers to coach Romance language teams in the leading Western universities."
From the "Daily Princetonian" of February 13, 1933:
"Princeton won the intercollegiate championship yesterday with 63 points to Harvard's 37, Yale's 18, and 7 each for Brown, Williams, and Pennsylvania. Princeton won by her brilliant work in the classics and biology. Firsts were made by Bentley, who did the 220 lines of Homer in 29-3/5 minutes, scanned 100 Alcaics from Horace in 62 seconds flat, and hurdled over nine doubtful readings and seven lacunae in the text of Aristotle's 'Poetics' in 17-1/2 minutes. Two firsts went to Ramsdell, who made only two errors in Protective Colouration and one error in explaining the mutations of the Evening Primrose."
From the editorial columns of the New York "Evening Post" for July 7, 1933, and October 11, 1938:
(1) "Scholastic competitions have ceased to be the means to an end and have become an end in themselves. The passion to win has swept away every other consideration. Professionalism has laid its tainted hand on the sports of our college youth. High-priced professors from the University of Leipzig and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes are engaged to drill our teams to victory. Men who should have long ago taken their Ph.D. have been known deliberately to flunk examinations so as to be eligible for the 'varsity contests. Promising students in the preparatory schools are bribed to enroll with this or that college. The whole problem of summer mathematics reeks to heaven. It is not enough that a student during eight months of the year will put in all his time on invariants and the theory of numbers. Vacation time finds him at some fashionable resort, tutoring the sons of millionaires in multiplication and quadratic equations."
(2) "Thus our so-called student 'activities' are neither active in the true sense, nor fit for students. There has grown up a small clan of intellectual athletes who win victories while thousands of mediocre students, six feet and over and having an average weight of 195 pounds, stand around and cheer. Our student-managers have become men of business, purely. The receipts at the last Harvard-Yale debate on the popular election of United States senators amounted to more than $50,000. The Greek philology team spends three-quarters of its time in touring the country. The Evening Howl prints the pictures of the [Greek: Phi Beta Kappa] members every other day. It is time to call a halt."
ON CALLING WHITE BLACK
If it were not for the deadly hatred that exists between Bob, who will be four years old very soon, and Abdul Hamid II, late Sultan of Turkey, I hardly know what would become of my moral standards. Whenever my sense of right and wrong grows blunted; whenever the inextricable confusion of good and bad in everything about us becomes unusually depressing, I have only to recall how virulent, how inflexible, how certain is Bob's judgment on the character and career of the deposed Ottoman despot.
Bob is Harrington's youngest son. He and Abdul Hamid II first met in the pages of a fat new history of the Turkish Revolution having a white star and crescent on the cover and perhaps half a hundred pictures inside. The book immediately supplanted the encyclopaedia and General Kuropatkin's illustrated memoirs of the Russo-Japanese War, in Bob's affections. Who, he wanted to know, was the swarthy, lean, hook-nosed gentleman in a tasselled cap, who stood up in a carriage to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd. That, Harrington told him, was a bad Sultan, and tried to turn to the next picture, which showed an unhappy-looking Armenian priest casting his first vote for a member of Parliament.
But the boy has for some years been in the stage where every fact laid before him must be backed up with an adequate reason. What does a bad Sultan do, he wished to know. Harrington was puzzled. It seemed a pity to bring Bob into touch with the cruelties and pains of life. But on the other hand here was a chance to inoculate Bob at a very early age with a hatred for tyranny and oppression, and a love for the principles of representative government; and on the whole I am inclined to think Harrington did right. In any case Harrington told the boy that the bad Sultan was in the habit of sending his soldiers to shoot people, and burn down their homes, and take away everything they had to eat, and put all the women into jail. He hesitated over the children. It was out of the question to tell Bob how, by order of the bad Sultan, little children were ripped open before their mothers' eyes, or had their brains dashed out against the walls. The little children, Harrington finally told Bob, were whipped by the bad Sultan's bad soldiers, and had all their toys confiscated.
But that apparently was not enough. Bob wanted to know what else the bad Sultan did to the little children. What else? Harrington's criminal imagination had exhausted itself. He didn't know, and he called upon Bob for suggestions.
"He gives them medicine," said Bob, "and sprays their throats with peroxide, and they cry." Was there any after-thought in that remark, Harrington wondered. Could it be that he had only succeeded in arousing in that active young mind the recognition of a certain family resemblance between himself and Abdul the Damned? For that matter, was it fair to the late Commander of the Faithful to charge his name with a crime he was probably innocent of? But then again, if that particular crime was necessary to the lesson borne in on Bob, why hesitate? So Harrington ponders a moment and decides; yes, even to that level of iniquity had Abdul Hamid II sunk. The atomiser was one of the instruments of torture he made use of. And when the bad Sultan is finally checked in his nefarious career, and dragged off to prison, where he gets nothing but hard bread to eat and filthy water to drink, Bob retains the impression that all this came about because the Young Turks grew tired of having their throats washed with peroxide solutions.
"When I see the bad Sultan," says Bob, "I will punch him, like this," and his fist, shooting out and up, knocks the pipe from Harrington's mouth.
"But aren't you afraid he will hurt you?" his father asks.
"No," says Bob; "I'll run away."
And the boy has been steadfast in his hatred. He meets the Sultan every night just before supper, when he insists on being taken right through the fat, red volume with the star and crescent on the cover; and every time the Sultan's face appears in the pictures, the boy smites it with his fist. Bob goes to his meals with an excellent appetite engendered by his violent encounters with that disreputable monarch.
Abdul Hamid II is in very bad shape from the punishment. Bob has caught him in the act of addressing the English members of the Balkan Committee, and left him only a pair of shoulders and one leg. Of the Sultan driving to the Selamlik every Friday there is visible now only one of the carriage horses and the fragments of a cavalryman. Nor is the physical presentment of Abdul Hamid the only thing that has gone to pieces under Bob's unrelenting hostility. The Sultan's character has been growing worse and worse as night after night the boy insists upon new examples of what bad Sultans do.
To satisfy that inexhaustible demand, Harrington has shouldered Abdul Hamid with all the sins of all the epochs in history. He has made him steep unhappy Christian prisoners in pitch and burn them for torches, and send innocent Frenchmen to the guillotine, and tomahawk the Puritan settlers as they worked in the fields. He has made him responsible for St. Bartholomew's Day, and Andersonville prison. He has robbed the Czar of his just credit by making Abdul Hamid the hero of Bloody Sunday in St. Petersburg. I am not sure but that Harrington has not laid the abnormally high price of meat and eggs at the Sultan's door. There are times when I really feel that Harrington should ask Abdul Hamid's pardon.
But no; he should not beg his pardon. For that is just the point I set out to make. It is a moral tonic to be brought into touch with Bob's opinion of Abdul Hamid, and to get to feel that things are not all a hodge-podge, indifferently good or indifferently bad, as you choose to look at it. In Bob's world there are good things and bad things, and the good is good and the bad is bad. Bob knows nothing of the cant which makes the robber monopolist only the sad victim of forces outside his control. Bob knows nothing of the sentimental twaddle about that interesting class of people who are more sinned against than sinning. Bob, like Nature, indulges in no fine distinctions. When he meets a bad Sultan he punches his head. When he meets a good Sultan, nothing is too good to believe concerning him.
And he accepts the one as naturally as he does the other. He has no moral enthusiasms or enthusiasms of any kind. It is merely an obvious thing to him that right should triumph and wrong should fail. He does not play with his emotions. I remember how, one night, in relating the fall of Abdul Hamid, Harrington had worked himself up to an extraordinary pitch of excitement. Never had that despot been painted in such horrid colours; and after he had told how the palace guards rose against the Constitution, and how the Young Turks marched upon Constantinople, and how the craven tyrant, crying "Don't hurt me, don't hurt me," was dragged from his bed by the good soldiers and clapped into prison, Harrington turned, all aglow, to Bob, and waited for the boy to echo his enthusiasm. But Bob waited till the cell-door clanged behind the Unspeakable Turk, and said: "Now tell me about the giraffe that fell into the water."
I spoke of the good Sultan. Of course there had to be one, and Harrington found him in the same book with the bad Sultan. And when he had studied the somewhat stolid features of Mohammed V for a little while, it was inevitable that Bob should ask what a good Sultan did. Harrington was in difficulties again. It was impossible to explain that at bottom there really is no such thing as a good Sultan; that they are as a rule cruel and immoral, and always expensive; and that at best they are harmless, if somewhat stupid, survivals. But since the very idea of a bad Sultan demands a good one, Harrington tried to satisfy Bob by investing Mohammed V with a large number of negative virtues. "A good Sultan does not shoot people, or burn down houses or throw women into jail or whip little children." The portrait failed to please. Bob's faith demanded something robust to cling to; and in the end he compelled his father to do for the good Sultan the opposite of what he had done for the bad one. Mohammed V stands to-day invested with all the virtues that have been manifested on earth from Enoch to Florence Nightingale.
And yet of the two, Bob and his father, I must say again that it is Bob who has the more truthful and healthy outlook upon life, and it is good for Harrington to rehearse with him the history of the fall of Abdul Hamid II three or four times a week. Bob has no flabby standards. He wastes no time in looking for lighter shades in what is black or dark spots in the white. Bob holds, for instance, that bad soldiers shoot down good people, and that good soldiers shoot down bad people. He is quite as close to the truth as I am, who believe that there is no such thing as a good soldier and that the business of shooting down people, whether good or bad, is a wretched one. For all that, I know there come times when a man must take human life, and in such cases Bob has the advantage over Hamlet and me. Where we falter and speculate and end by making a mess of it all, Bob just punches the bad Sultan's head and passes on to the giraffe that fell into the water.
THE SOLID FLESH
Physical culture as pursued in the home probably benefits a man's body; but the strain on his moral nature is terrific. I go through my morning exercise with hatred for all the world and contempt for myself. Why, for instance, should every system of gymnastics require that a man place himself in the most ridiculous and unnatural postures? A stout, middle-aged man who struggles to touch the floor with the palms of his hands is not a beautiful sight. Equally preposterous is the practice of standing on one leg and stretching the other toward the nape of one's neck. In the confines of a city bedroom such evolutions are not only ungraceful but frequently dangerous. Harrington tells me that every morning when he lunges forward he scrapes the tips of his fingers against the edge of the bed and the tears come into his eyes. When he throws his arms back he hits the gas jet. Harrington's young son, who insists on being present during the ordeal, believes that the entire performance is intended for his amusement, and laughs immoderately. I cannot blame him. Morning exercise is incompatible with the maintenance of parental dignity. Were I a child again I could neither love nor respect a father who placed two chairs at a considerable distance from each other and mounted them horizontally like the human bridge in a melodrama.
I admit, of course, that home exercises have the merit of being cheap. No special apparatus is required. The ordinary household furniture and such heirlooms as are readily available will usually suffice. An onyx clock will do instead of chest weights. Any two volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica will take the place of dumb-bells or Indian clubs. Many a time I have stood still and held a bronze lamp in my outstretched right hand for a minute and then held it in my left hand for half a minute. I know of one man who skipped the rope one hundred times every morning. Within four months he had lost three and a half pounds, and driven the family in the flat below into nervous prostration. I have even been told that there are systems of exercise which show how physical perfection may be attained by scientifically manipulating, for fifteen minutes every day, a couple of fountain pens and a paper cutter. But I cannot reconcile myself to such methods because of the confusion they introduce into the world of common things. A table is no longer something to write upon or to eat upon, but something to lie down upon while one flings out his arms and legs fifty times in four contrary directions. A broom-stick is an instrument for strengthening the shoulder muscles. When I see a transom, I find myself estimating the number of times I could chin it.
The intimate connection between the hygienic life and the temptation to tell lies is a delicate subject to touch upon; but the facts may as well be brought out now as later. People of otherwise irreproachable conduct will lose all sense of truthfulness when they speak of physical culture and fresh air. They will exaggerate the number of inches they keep their bedroom windows raised in midwinter; they will quote ridiculous estimates of the doctors' bills they have saved; they will represent themselves as being in the most incredibly perfect health. I know one sober, intelligent business-man who not only habitually understates, by ten degrees, the temperature of his morning tub, but gives an altogether distorted impression of the alacrity with which he leaps into his bath every morning, and the reluctance with which he leaves it. This same man asserts that he can now walk from the Chambers Street ferry to his office in Wall Street in astonishing time. And not only that, but since he took to walking as much as he could, he has cut down his daily number of cigars to one-fourth (which is untrue). And not only that, but since he has gone in for exercise and fresh air and has given up smoking, his income has increased by at least 50 per cent., owing to his improved health and clearer mental vision. But that again, as I happen to know, is untrue.
But there is another, much more subtle form of prevarication. Smith meets you in the street and remarks upon your flabby appearance. He argues that you ought to weigh twenty-five pounds less than you do, and that a long daily walk will do the trick. "Look at me," he says, "I walk ten miles every day and there isn't an ounce of superfluous flesh on me." And so saying, he slaps his chest and offers to let you feel how hard the muscles are about his diaphragm. Of course, there is no superfluous flesh on Smith. And if he abstained entirely from physical exertion and guzzled heavy German beer all day and dined on turtle soup and roast goose every day, and ate unlimited quantities of pastry, he would still be what he describes as free from superfluous flesh. I call it scraggy. Smith is one of the men set apart by nature to perpetuate the Don Quixote type of beauty, just as I am doomed with the lapse of time to approximate the Falstaffian type. Smith's five sisters and brothers are thin. His father was slight and neurasthenic. His mother was spare and angular. Little wonder the Smith family is fond of walking. Friction and air-resistance in their case are practically nonexistent.
I do not, of course, mean to deny the ancient tradition that a sound body makes a sound mind. But I would only point out that we are just beginning to wake to the truth of the converse proposition, that a sane, equable, easy-going mind keeps the body well. Hence there are really two kinds of exercise, and two kinds of hygiene, a physical kind and a spiritual kind. Which one a man will choose should be left entirely to himself. It is only a question of approaching the same goal from two different directions. Smith is welcome to make himself a better man by exercising his legs three hours a day. But I prefer to sit in an armchair and exercise my soul. Smith comes in refreshed from a half-day's sojourn in the open air, and I come away refreshed from a roomful of old friends talking three at a time amidst clouds of tobacco smoke.
The trouble with so many of the physical-culture devotees is that they tire out the soul in trying to serve it. I am inclined to believe that the beneficent effects of the regular quarter-hour's exercise before breakfast, is more than offset by the mental wear and tear involved in getting out of bed fifteen minutes earlier than one otherwise would. Some one has calculated that the amount of moral resolution expended in New York City every winter day in getting up to take one's cold bath would be enough to decide a dozen municipal elections in favour of the decent candidate, or to send fifty grafting legislators to jail for an average term of three and a half years. The same specialist has worked out the formula that the average married man's usefulness about the house varies inversely with his fondness for violent exercise. Smith's dumb-bell practice, for instance, leaves him no time for hanging up the pictures. After his long Sunday's walk he is invariably too tired to answer his wife's questions concerning the influence of the tariff on high prices.
By this time it will be plain that I am no passionate admirer of the gospel of salvation by hygiene. So many things that the world holds precious have been developed under the most unhygienic conditions. Revolutions for the liberation of mankind have been plotted in unsanitary cellars and dungeons. Religions have taken root and prospered in catacombs. Great poems have been written in stuffy garrets. Great orations have been spoken before sweating crowds in the foul air of overheated legislative chambers. Lovers are said to be fond of dark corners and out-of-the-way places. It is not by accident that children, said to be the most beautiful thing in the world, are so inordinately fond of dirt. Every great truth on its first appearance has been declared a menace to morals and society; in other words, unhygienic. And yet one would imagine that truth, from its habit of going naked, would appeal strongly to the ardent fresh-air practitioner.
SOME NEWSPAPER TRAITS
At Cooper's house last winter I met Professor Grundschnitt of Berlin, who has been making a study of American newspaper methods in behalf of the German government. For some time after the professor's arrival in this country, he told me, he found himself completely at sea. American newspapers, it appeared to him, were written in two languages. One was the English language as he had studied it in the writings of Oliver Goldsmith, John Ruskin, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In America it seemed to be used chiefly by auctioneers, art critics, and immigrants. The other was a dialect, evidently English in origin, but sufficiently removed from the parent stock to be quite unintelligible. The professor spent many painful hours over such sentences as "Jeffries annexes the Brunette Beauty's Angora," and "Sugar Barons hand Uncle Sam a lemon." This dialect, he found, was extensively employed by truck-drivers, playwrights, and college students.
It did not take the professor very long, however, to overcome this initial difficulty. His education proceeded rapidly. One of the first things he learned, so he told me, is that some American newspapers are printed in black ink and some in red. As a rule, the former tell more of the truth, but the latter sell many more copies. On Sunday, which in America is observed much more rigorously than in Europe, the red ink predominates. The professor suggested that this might be a survival of primitive times when the British ancestors of the present-day Americans tattooed themselves in honour of their gods. It is universally accepted that the American business man reads so many papers because he has neither the time nor the energy to read books. But this would seem to be contradicted on Sundays, when every American business man reads two or three times the equivalent of the entire works of William Shakespeare. Herr Grundschnitt was inclined to believe that carrying home the Sunday paper is the most popular form of physical exercise among our people.
A very curious circumstance about the press in all the great American cities, the professor thought, is that every newspaper has a larger circulation than any other three newspapers combined. According to the arithmetical system in use among all civilised peoples, that would be manifestly impossible. But the professor imagines that the methods of calculation by which such results are obtained are the same as those employed by politicians in estimating their majorities on the eve of election day, by millionaires in paying their personal taxes, and by operatic sopranos in figuring out their age. The influence of a newspaper depends, of course, upon its circulation. Such influence is exercised directly in the form of news and editorial comment, and indirectly in the form of wrapping paper.
Still another curious trait about all American newspapers, this learned German found, is that they tell a story backward. This arises from the desire to put the most important thing first; and in this country it is the rule that the thing which happens last is the most important. As an illustration Herr Grundschnitt read the following brief account clipped from one of the principal newspapers in New York city:
"Arthur Wellesley Jones died in the municipal hospital last night as the result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident. The end was peaceful. Mr. Jones was driving his own machine down Fifth Avenue when he ran into a laundry-wagon at Twenty-first Street. He had left his home in New Rochelle an hour before. Mr. Jones was an enthusiastic motorist. In 1905 he won the Smithson cup for heavy cars. In 1903 he was second in the Westchester hill-climbing contest. In 1899 he helped to organise the first road race in New York State. He was in Congress from 1894 to 1898, and was elected to the Legislature in 1889, the same year that his eldest son was born. Two years before that event he married a daughter of Henry K. Smith of Philadelphia. He was graduated from Yale, having prepared for that institution at Andover, where he played right tackle on the football team. As a child he showed a decided taste for mechanics. He was born in 1861."
The daily press in America, the professor went on to say, takes extraordinary interest in visitors from abroad. He referred, as an instance in point, to the recent arrival in New York of a nephew of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. As the ship was being warped into the dock, a young man with a notebook asked the distinguished visitor if it was true that his Holiness, the Dalai Lama, had been found guilty of converting the temple treasures at Lhassa to his own use. Upon receiving a reply in the negative, the young man asked what progress the suffrage movement had made in Tibet. He was told that inasmuch as every woman in Tibet must take care of several husbands instead of one, as among the more civilised nations, women there were not interested in the question of votes. Thereupon the young man asked whether Tibet offered a promising market for automobiles. He was pleased to learn that Tibet, with its extremely sparse population and its very precipitous cliffs, was an ideal place for the automobilist.
These, however, were superficial characteristics. What the professor was anxious to learn was just how the newspapers influence the national life to the remarkable extent they undoubtedly do. He knew, of course, that the Americans are a free people, and that they select their own lawmakers and magistrates. He soon discovered that when the people desire to choose some one to rule over them, they name two, three, or more men for the same office. The newspapers then proceed to accuse these men of the vilest crimes, and the one who comes out least besmirched is declared to be elected. After he has been put into office the people no longer pay attention to him, leaving it to the newspapers to see that he conducts himself properly. When a high official is caught stealing the people rejoice, because it shows that the newspapers are doing their duty.
In the sphere of social relations, Herr Grundschnitt learned, the newspapers are mainly concerned with safeguarding the purity and integrity of the home. Most of them do this by printing full accounts of all murder and divorce trials. The professor told me that he could recall nothing in literature that quite equals the white heat of indignation with which the editor of the Star once spoke of "the festering national sore revealed in the proceedings of the Dives divorce suit, the nauseous details of which the reader will find in all their hideous completeness on the first three pages of the present issue, together with all the photographs ruled out of evidence on the grounds of decency." The press also serves the cause of public morals by holding up to scorn the vices and extravagances of the vulgar rich, whose ill-used millions, as they hasten to point out elsewhere, are nothing more than what any American may look forward to, provided he has courage and energy.
The same ingenious method of promoting virtue by holding up vice to obloquy is pursued in every other field, the learned German told me. The newspapers do not print the names of men who support their wives, but they print the names of men who do not, or who support more than one. They do not publish the photographs of honest bank clerks, but of dishonest ones, and of these only when they have stolen a very large sum. They pay no attention to a clergyman as long as he advocates the brotherhood of man, but they have large headlines about the minister who believes in the moderate use of the Scotch highball. They overlook a college professor's epoch-making researches in American history, and take him up when he comes out in favour of an exclusive diet of raw spinach. From the newspaper point of view, a college professor counts less than a professional gambler; a gambler counts less than an actress; a good actress counts less than a bad one; a bad actress counts less than a prize-fighter; a prize-fighter counts less than a chimpanzee that has been taught to smoke cigarettes; and an educated chimpanzee counts less than a millionaire who suffers from paranoia. By continuously pondering on the horrors of crime and vice as depicted in the newspapers, the American people are roused to such a hatred of evil that some editors receive a salary of $100,000 a year.
Oddly enough, the American people freely criticise their newspapers. One of the commonest charges is that their editors write with great haste and little accurate information. But, Herr Grundschnitt argued, it is unfair to insist that newspapers shall be both forceful and accurate. It is true that the editors who supply the American people with their opinions think fast and write fast, but it is absurd to maintain that as a class they are unreasonably set in their own beliefs. Editors, as a matter of fact, change their opinions every little while. In such cases they usually have no difficulty in proving that, while their present views are right, their previous views were also right. This makes for consistency. Nor is there any reason for maintaining, as is often done, that editors are restive under criticism. The professor declared that there are very few newspapers in the United States that will refuse to print a letter from any one who believes that the paper in question is the only one in town with courage and honesty enough to tell the truth and that it is the best newspaper in the country at the price.
As for the old-fashioned critics who maintain that not even the best newspaper tells more than half the truth, my informant pointed out that every town and village in the United States has at least two daily publications. The conscientious reader who buys both is thus saved from error.
When I rose to say good-night the professor accompanied me to the door, and would not let me go till he had pronounced a final eulogy on the press in general, and the American newspaper in particular. He expatiated on its omnipresence. The printed sheet is with a man when he wakes in the morning, and when he falls asleep at night, and when he is at the breakfast table with his wife. The newspaper breaks up families and reunites other families, though it usually misspells their names. It chastises the rascal, and worries the honest man. It can make a reputation in a day, and destroy a reputation in ten minutes, sending its owner into the grave or upon the vaudeville stage. It teaches Presidents how to rule, women how to win husbands, the Church how to save souls, and middle-aged gentlemen how to reduce weight by exercising ten minutes every day. It knows nearly everything and guesses at the rest. It will say almost anything and publish the rest at advertising rates. Without it, democratic government would be difficult and travelling in the Subway quite impossible. The newspaper is the only institution since the world began that succeeds in being all things to all men for the moderate sum of one cent a day. The only universal things that come cheaper, the professor told me, are birth and death.
A sophomore's soul is not the simple thing that most people imagine. I am thinking now of my nephew Philip and of our last meeting. This time, he was more than usually welcome. I was lonely. The family had just left town for the summer and the house was fearfully empty. I sat there, smoking a cigarette amid the first traces of domestic uncleanliness, when I heard him on the stairs. The dear boy had not changed. Dropping his heavy suitcase anyways, he seized my hand within his own huge paw and squeezed it till the tears came to my eyes. His voice was a young roar. He threw his hat upon the table, thereby scattering a large number of papers about the room, and then sat down upon my own hat, which was lying on the armchair, on top of several July magazines. I had put my hat down on the chair instead of hanging it up, as I should have done, because the family was away and I was alone in the house.
Might he smoke? He was busy with his bull-dog pipe and my tobacco jar before I could say yes. He explained that he was sorry, but he found he could neither read, write, nor think nowadays without his pipe. He admitted that he was the slave of a noxious habit, but it was too late, and he might as well get all the solace he could out of a pretty bad situation. But, as I look at Philip, I cannot help feeling that his fine colour and the sparkle in his blue eyes and his full count of nineteen years make the situation far less desperate than he portrays it. Philip is not a handsome lad, but he will be a year from now. At present he is mostly hands and feet, and his face shows a marked nasal development. Before Philip has completed his junior year, the rest of his features will have reasserted themselves, and the harmony of lineament which was his when he was an infant, as his mother never tires of regretfully recalling, will be restored. Until that time Philip must be content to carry the suggestion of an attractive and eager young bird of prey.
Philip lights pipe after pipe as he dilates on his experiences since last I saw him. The moralising instinct is very weak in me. I cannot find it in my heart to censure Philip's constant mouthing of the pipe. I, too, smoke, and I am not foolish enough to risk my standing with Philip by preaching where I do not practise. Besides, I observe that the boy does not inhale, that his pipe goes out frequently, and that his consumption of matches is much greater than his consumption of tobacco. So I say nothing in reproof of his pipe.
But it is different with his language. Philip, I observe regretfully, is profane. I am not mealy-mouthed myself. There are moments of high emotional tension when silence is the worst form of blasphemy. But Philip is profane without discrimination. His supply of unobjectionable adjectives would be insufficient to meet the needs of the ordinary kindergarten conversation. He uses the same swift epithet to describe certain brands of tobacco, the weather on commencement day, the food at his eating-house, his professors of French and of mathematics, the spirit of the incoming freshman class, and the outlook for "snap" courses during the coming year.
It is not my moral but my aesthetic sense that takes offence, so I ask Philip whether it is the intensity of his feelings that makes it impossible for him to discuss his work or his play without continual reference to the process of perdition and the realm of lost souls; or whether it is habit. No sooner have I put my question than I am sorry. There is nothing the young soul is so afraid of as of satire. It can understand being petted and it can understand being whipped; but the sting behind the smile, the lash beneath the caress, throws the young soul into helpless panic. It feels itself baited and knows not whither it may flee. I have always thought that the worst type of bully is the teacher in school or in college who indulges a pretty talent for satire at the expense of his pupils. It is a cowardly and a demoralising practice. It means not only hitting some one who is powerless to retort, it means confusing the sense of truth in the adolescent mind. Here is some one quite grown up who smiles and means to hurt you, who says good and means bad, who says yes and means no. The young soul stares at you and sees the standards of the universe in chaos about itself.
And I feel all the more guilty in Philip's case because I know that the lad speaks only a mechanical lingo which goes with his bull-dog pipe and the aggressive shade of his neckwear and his socks. The very pain and alarm my question raises in him shows well enough that his soul has kept young and clear amid his world of "muckers" and "grinds" and "cads" and "rotten sneaks," and all the men and things and conditions he is in the habit of depicting in various stages of damnation. "Now, you're making fun of me," says Philip. "We fellows don't know how to pick out words that sound nice, but mean a—I beg your pardon—a good deal more than they say. Anyhow, I suppose, if I try from now on till doomsday I shall never be able to speak like you."
Bless his young sophomore's soul! With that last sentence Philip has seized me hip and thigh and hurled me into an emotional whirlpool, where chills and thrills rapidly succeed each other. Because I am fifteen years older than Philip the boy invests me with a halo and bathes me in adoration. I am fifteen years older than he, I am bald, obscure, and far from prosperous, and there is unmistakably nothing about me to dazzle the youthful imagination. Yet the facts are as I have stated them. Philip likes to be with me, copies me without apparently trying to, and has chosen my profession—so he has often told me—for his own. I am pretty sure that he has made up his mind when he is as old as I am to smoke the same brand of rather mediocre tobacco which I have adopted for practical reasons. I am sometimes tempted to think that Philip, at my age, intends to be as bald as I am.
Hence the alternate thrills and chills. I am by nature restless under worship. The sense of my own inconsequence grows positively painful in the face of Philip's outspoken veneration. There are people to whom such tribute is as incense and honey. But I am not one of them. I have tried to be and have failed. I have argued with myself that, after all, it is the outsider who is the best judge; that we are most often severest upon ourselves; that if Philip finds certain high qualities in me, perhaps there is in me something exceptional. I even go so far as to draw up a little catalogue of my acts and achievements. I can recall men who have said much sillier things than I have ever said, and published much worse stuff than I have ever written. I repeat to myself the rather striking epigram I made at Smith's house last week, and I go back to the old gentleman from Andover who two years ago told me that there was something about me that reminded him of Oliver Wendell Holmes. By dint of much trying I work myself up into something of a glow; but it is all artificial, cerebral, incubated. The exaltation is momentary, the cold chill of fact overtakes me. There is no use in deceiving one's self. Philip is mistaken. I am not worthy.
But that day Philip rallied nobly to the situation. My little remark on strong language had hurt him, but he saw also that I was sorry to have hurt him, and he was sorry for me in turn. "I don't in the least mind your telling me what you think about the way we fellows talk," he said. "That's the advantage of having a man for one's friend, he is not afraid of telling you the truth even if it hurts. And then, if you wish to, you can fight back. You can't do that with a woman."
"Have you found that out for yourself!" I asked him.
He looked at me to see if again I was resorting to irony. But this time he found me sincere.
"Women!" Philip sniffed. "I have found it doesn't pay to talk seriously to a woman. There is really only one way of getting on with them, and that's jollying them. And the thicker you lay it on, the better." He put away his pipe and proffered me a cigarette. "I like to change off now and then. I have these made for me in a little Russian shop I discovered some time ago. They draw better than any cigarette I have ever smoked. Of course, there are women who are serious and all that. There are a lot in the postgraduate department and some in the optional literature courses. But you ought to see them! And such grinds. None of us fellows stands a ghost of a chance with them. They take notes all the time and read all the references and learn them by heart. You can't jolly them. They wouldn't know a joke if you led them up to one and told them what it meant. I think coeducation is all played out, don't you? Home is the only place for women, anyhow. Do you like your cigarette?"
The Patient Observer, it may possibly have been gathered before this, is somewhat of a sentimentalist. He liked his cigarette very well, but through the blue haze he looked at Philip and could not help thinking of the time—only two short years ago—when he, the Patient Observer, with his own eyes saw Philip borrow a dollar from his mother before setting out for an ice-cream parlour in the company of two girl cousins. The Patient Observer has changed little in the last two years; his hair may be a little thinner and his knowledge of doctors' bills a little more complete. But in Philip of to-day he found it hard to recognise the Philip of two years ago. And the marvels of the law of growth which he thus saw exemplified moved the Patient Observer to throw open the gates of pent-up eloquence. He lit his pipe and began to discourse to Philip on the world, on life, and on a few things besides.
And when it was time for both of us to go to bed, Philip stood up and said, "I wish I came every day. You don't know what a bore it is, listening to that drool the 'profs' hand you out up there." His fervent young spirit would not be silent until, with one magnificent gesture, he had swept the tobacco jar to the floor and shattered two electric lamps. Then he went to his room and left me wondering at the vast mysteries that underlie the rough surface of the sophomore's soul.
THE COMPLETE COLLECTOR—I
"I have given up books and pictures," said Cooper. "I now devote myself entirely to collecting samples of the world's wisdom."
"Proverbs, do you mean?" I asked.
"No, but the facts on which proverbs are based. You see, I grew tired of pictures when it got to be a question of bidding against millionaires for the possession of spurious old masters. The break came when Downes proved that my Velasquez was painted in 1896. His own, it turned out, was done in 1820; but even then, you see, he had the advantage over me. So I concentrated on books. But I could not resist the temptation of glancing through my first editions now and then, and the pages began to give way. Then I tried Chinese porcelains. There, again, I had to compete against Downes, who ordered his agent to buy two hundred thousand dollars' worth of Chinese antiquities for the Louis XIV. room in his new Tudor palace. And, besides, this rather disconcerting thing happened: I had as my guest a mandarin who was passing through New York on his way to Europe, and I showed him my collection of jades. 'There was only one collection like this in China some years ago,' I told him. 'Yes,' he replied, 'it was in my house when the foreign troops entered Peking in 1900.' So I decided to sell my porcelains.
"But of course I had, as you say, to collect something, and for a long time I could think of no field in which a cultivated taste and personal effort could make way against the competition of mere brute millions. And then, all at once, I hit upon proverbs. The suggestion came in a rather peculiar fashion. It seems that there was an eccentric old poet on Long Island who spent many years in collecting all sorts of inanimate freaks, odds and ends, and rubbish. When he died they found among his treasures a purse made out of a sow's ear and a whistle made from a pig's tail. I saw my opportunity at once. The eccentric old man, by acquiring two such extraordinary objets d'art had indulged himself in a sneer at the world's proverbial wisdom. I would come to the rescue of our threatened stock of experience by gathering the facts that upheld it. I would make it, besides, more than the selfish hobby of the private collector who gives the world only a very little share of the pleasure he tastes. I would make my collection a museum and a laboratory. Instead of reading about the wise ant and the busy bee people should come and see them in the life. It was the difference between reading about animals in a book and seeing them in the life."
"And have you succeeded?" I asked.
"Beyond all expectations," he replied. "Come, I will take you through my galleries," and he showed the way into the queerest garden I have ever seen. It was as if a menagerie and a museum had been brought together in the open air. Between enclosures and cages which harboured animals of all species, ran long tables supporting glass cases like those used for exhibiting coins or rare manuscripts.
"Now here," he said, stopping before a small chest with a glass top, "here is my collection of straws."
"Straws?" I said.
"Yes. It is small but select. Here, for instance, is the last straw that broke the camel's back. Some one suggests that it must have been a Merry Widow hat, but that's jesting, of course. This again is the straw that showed which way the wind blew and enabled a politician to change sides and get a reputation as a reformer. We will see the politician further on." I noticed then for the first time that the iron-barred cages contained human beings as well as beasts. "Here is a handful of straws which an entire conference of theologians spent three months in splitting. This," pointing to a little mannikin about four inches high, "is the man of straw whose defeat in debate gave one of our United States Senators his brilliant reputation. And this, finally, is a handful of straws out of the pile on which Jack Daw slept when he gave up his bed to buy his wife a looking-glass, or, as some one has suggested, an automobile.
"And now observe the advantages of my method. The student, having been shown the straw that broke the camel's back, will, if he is a cautious student, well drilled in the methods of modern research, demand to see the camel. Well, here it is," and Cooper turned toward a large enclosure where several members of the family Camelidae were peacefully browsing, with the exception of one that lay in a corner with drooping head and closed eyes, apparently lifeless. "It's been hard work, of course, and expensive, keeping a broken-backed camel alive, but, encouraged by such examples of the remarkable vitality of animals as may be seen for instance in the Democratic donkey, I have persisted and succeeded. This rather thin-legged creature near the fence is the camel that tried to pass through the needle's eye, and the one close beside him is the one swallowed by the man who strained at a gnat. Harrington asserts that he has never been able to see how either phenomenon is possible, but the problem is only half as difficult as it appears. For it is evident that if a camel were small enough to pass through the eye of a needle, there would be comparatively little trouble in swallowing him. And, speaking of needles, it has been a constant regret that my collection is still without a needle found in a haystack."
I have not the space to enumerate one tithe of what Cooper showed me. As we hurried past the cages containing numerous specimens of Homo Sapiens, he contented himself with pointing out a physician who had failed to cure himself by psycho-therapeutics; a shoemaker who by sticking to his last failed to become a railroad president, though in the course of time he could tell where every man's shoe pinched; an importer who, in defiance of the Pure Food law, put new wine into old bottles, and labelled them Bordeaux; and a harmless-looking man of middle age, who continued to smile and smile, and had played Iago, Macbeth, and Hamlet's uncle. Before a sturdy-looking man dressed in working-clothes Cooper stopped for a moment and said, "Mr. C. W. Post and Mr. James Farley assure me that this is the rarest item in my collection."
"Who is he?" I asked.
"It is a union labourer who is worthy of his hire," Cooper said.
THE EVERLASTING FEMININE
I am convinced that the easiest business in the world must be the writing of epigrams on Woman. I have been reading, of late, in a new volume of "Maxims and Fables." It came to me with the compliments of the author, in lieu of a small debt which he has kept outstanding for several years. Although the writer contradicts himself on every third or fourth page, I am justified in calling the book a very able bit of work for the reason that the ordinary book on this subject contradicts itself on every other page. No one who glances through this volume will fail to understand why the psychology of Woman should be a favourite subject with very young and very light thinkers. It is the only form of literature that calls for absolutely no equipment in the author. Writing a play, for instance, presupposes some acquaintance with a few plays already written. No one can succeed as a novelist without a fair knowledge of the technique of millinery or a tolerable mastery of stock exchange slang. The writer of scientific articles for the magazines must have fancy, and the writer of advertisements must have poetry and wit. But to produce a book of epigrams on Woman requires nothing but an elementary knowledge of spelling and the courage necessary to put the product on the market.
The secret of the thing is so simple that it would be a pity to keep it from the comparatively few persons who have failed to discover it. It consists entirely in the fact that whatever one says about Woman is true. And not only that, but every statement that can possibly be made on the subject is sure to ring true, which is much better even than being true. On every other subject under the sun there is always one opinion which sounds a little more convincing than every other opinion. There are, for example, people who insist that birds of a feather do not necessarily flock together more frequently than birds of a different feather do; and they will assert that if you step on a worm with real firmness the chances of his turning are much less than if you did not step on him at all. Nevertheless, there is undeniably a truer ring about the assertion that birds do flock together than about the assertion that they do not, and we accept more readily the worm that turns than the worm that remains peaceful under any provocation. But this is not the case with aphorisms about the gentler sex. There, everything sounds as plausible as everything else.
Let me be specific. Right at the beginning of the volume to which I have alluded, I came across the following apothegm: "Long after Woman has obtained the right to vote she will continue to face the wrong way when she steps from a street-car." "How true," I said to myself. Well, a few days later, while glancing through the pages at the end of the volume, my eye fell on the following lines: "Now that Woman is learning to face the right way when she steps from a street-car, she has demonstrated her right to the ballot." "How true." But I had scarcely expressed my approval when it occurred to me that I had read the same thing elsewhere in the book. And when I searched out the earlier passage and compared the two and found that they did not say the same thing, but quite the opposite thing, it did not seem to make a very great difference after all. They both sounded plausible. I recited one sentence aloud and then the other, and they rang equally true; and the more I repeated them the truer they rang.
Delighted with my chance discovery I proceeded to make a thorough study of "Maxims and Fables" with the object of bringing together the author's widely scattered observations on the same topic under their appropriate heads. The work went slowly at first; but after a little while I found I could pick out a maxim and turn almost instinctively to one that directly contradicted it. The occupation is fascinating as well as instructive. It sheds a new light on the conditions of human knowledge and the workings of the human mind. Consider, if you will, the following half-dozen sentences that I succeeded in compiling in less than ten minutes. They all deal with the question of a woman's age:
"A woman is as old as she looks.
"A woman is as old as she says.
"A woman is as old as she would like to be.
"A woman is as old as the only man that counts would have her be.
"A woman is as old as any particular situation requires.
"A woman is as old as her dearest woman friends say she is."
Let any one read these maxims to himself quietly, and admit that not only would each of them impress him as true if found standing by itself, but that they all ring quite as true when taken together. But that is by no means all. It may be shown that if all these propositions are true, taken singly or together, the negative of each and all of these propositions is also true. Thus:
"A woman is seldom as old as she looks.
"A woman is never as old as she says.
"No woman is just the age she would like to be.
"A woman is rarely as old or as young as the one man that counts would have her be.
"Few women are ever of the age that a particular situation requires.
"No woman is as old as her dearest woman friends say she is."
How all these opposites can be equally true, I will not undertake to explain. It is probably inherent in the very nature of the subject. The French, a people wise in experience, knew what they were about when they laid it down that if you have a mystery to solve, you must look for the woman. What they meant was, that, having found a woman, you may make any statements you please about her; the world will accept them unquestioningly and your puzzle will consequently be solved.
Sometimes, however, it has seemed to me that a possible reason for this very curious fact may be found in the established fashion of speaking about men as individuals and about women as a class and a type. And that class or type we saddle with all the faults and virtues of all its individual members. When Smith tells me that his automobile cost him three times as much as I know he has paid for it, I record my impressions by telling Jones as soon as I meet him that the man Smith is an incorrigible liar. But when Mrs. Smith tells me that her family is one of the oldest in Massachusetts, which I have every reason to believe is not so, I invariably say to myself or to some one else, "A woman's appreciation of the truth is like her appreciation of music; she likes it best when she closes her eyes to it."
Or Smith may be a very straightforward man, given to plain-speaking, and when you ask him how he liked your last dinner he may say that in his opinion the wine was better than the conversation. In that case you will probably tell your wife that Smith has shown himself to be an insufferable ass, and that you have decided to cut his acquaintance. But when Mrs. Smith tells you that your expensive dinners are rather beyond what a man of your modest income should go in for, you merely writhe and smile; only on the train the next day you will say to Harrington, "Has it ever occurred to you that a woman loves the truth, not because it is the truth, but because it hurts? Take a cigarette."
For these reasons I would urge every one who can possibly find time, to write a book of maxims about Woman, provided he has not done so already. In the first place, as I have shown, it is an easy and delightful occupation, which, for that very reason, is in danger of becoming overcrowded. But there is another reason for losing no time in the matter. Now and then I have the foreboding that some day in the near future the world may suddenly lose its habit of believing that, where women are concerned, two and two are four and are not four at the same time. And then there will be no more writing of epigrams on Woman. For it is evident that there can be no point to an epigram if its assertions must be qualified. The situation will become impossible when students of psychology, instead of writing, "Woman likes the truth for the same reason that she likes olives—to satisfy a momentary craving," will be compelled to write, "Some women tell the truth, and some women do not," "Some women mean yes when they say no, and some women mean no," "Some women think with their hearts, and some think with their minds." That little word "some" will settle the epigram writer's business, and an interesting form of literature will disappear.
Not that in some respects its disappearance will fail to arouse regret. These books amused very many people in the writing, and they never did very much harm. And it is something to have a universal topic that every one can write on, just as it is stimulating to have a universal appetite like eating, or a universal accomplishment like walking. How many other subjects besides Woman have we on which the schoolboy and the sage can write with equal confidence, fluency, and approach to the truth? Possibly even women will regret that they are no longer the subject of universal comment. Who knows? A woman will forgive injury, but never indifference.