The Humors of Advertising

"Indeed, he were a sad sort of Christian, who, stalking abroad through the sunny realm of public advertising, could fail to be warmed by its humors"

My friend, Antonio Ciccone, the eminent confettatore of Little Italy, used often to invite me to put his picture in the paper. "You put peech in pape," he would cry. "Beega peech! Senda man, beega machine. You say, 'Antonio Ciccone, molto religioso, molto caritatevole, besta man.'" And by this I know Antonio for a very perfect advertiser—of that grandest type, the Homeric. He had the splendid Greek conception of the route to reputation; instead of suffering the world to pronounce upon his merits, he would pronounce upon them himself. He no more craved to see himself as others saw him than did Achilles; like Achilles, he desired only that others might see him somewhat as he saw himself.

Now I confess that I have loved Antonio for the boasts he has made. Many a man, finding himself no whit less great than that charming modern ancient of Little Italy, is nevertheless so grievously hemmed in by the caution of his convictions, that he garbs his pride in the staid habiliments of modesty. Such may be dear good souls, and fit for a thousand things, but they will play an ill hand at advertising. Let them learn from Ciccone; also from my gifted fellow townsman, Mr. Joe Chapple, who, frank and unafraid, thus buoyantly declares himself in the public prints:—

"Do you know Joe Chapple,—the boy who came out of the West almost penniless, and has built up a National magazine? Do you know Joe Chapple,—the man who gained his knowledge of human nature on the bumpers of freight trains; trading an old gray horse for his first printing-press; a printer's devil at twelve, an editor at sixteen,—through all phases of social life, up to an invited guest on presidential trains, and as special representative at the Coronation in Westminster Abbey? Presidents, Members of the Cabinet, Supreme Court Judges, Diplomats, United States Senators, Congressmen, and Governors know Joe Chapple. They speak of his work,—and they write for his magazine when no other publication on earth can entice them. It isn't because Chapple is brilliant that he has won this national reputation for himself and his magazine,—it's his quaint originality, his homelike, wholesome goodnature that permeates all he writes. There 's nothing published to-day like The National Magazine—because there is no one just like Joe Chapple."

Over and over I have conned that radiant advertisement, and my merriment, I own, has been not unmingled with envy. I have, perhaps, rather more discretion than Mr. Joe Chapple, but less than a tithe of his valor. Himself he sings, myself I dare not sing. And again I am put to shame by the illustrious English confectioner, who, having trodden the summits of conscious success, exclaims, "I am the Toffee King! I have given to England a great national candy, and I am now offering to America the same Toffee that has made me so famous abroad. Does America propose to welcome me,—to welcome a candy that is so pure that any mother can recommend it to her child? The answer is, 'Yes, by all means!'" As further, though scarce clearer, evidence of the Homeric temper, both Mr. Chapple and the Toffee King have achieved the glowing ideal of Antonio Ciccone: they have "peech in pape."

Yet I would not be misunderstood; I bring no slenderest charge of vanity against those valiant modern Hellenes. Pasteur accepted learned degrees and decorations, not as honors to himself, but as tributes to his beloved France; and thus devotedly, beyond doubt, do Mr. Chapple and the Toffee King lay their laurels upon the respective altars of their very worthy enterprises. For what work comes to its fullest and best in this faithless world of ours, if it be not haloed round with the splendor of a commanding personality? The worker is—or so men fancy—the measure and the limit of the work. Magnify the worker, and in so doing you magnify the work. Look where you will, you shall find the producer acquiring what luminosity he can, that the product may thence take profit. Does he paint? He capriciously dyes his white hair black, save one lock only, which be ties with a jaunty ribbon; he hales unappreciative critics to court; seeing a picture called Carnation, Lily—Lily, Rose, he exclaims, " Darnation silly, silly pose," a quotable saying, if you stop to think of it; and the fame of that painter, going out through all the earth, adds to high art the fine resonance of personal notoriety. Men laugh, but they buy. Has he a realm to rule,—a realm made up of many petty kingdoms, each vain in its own conceit? He declaims the medival doctrine of "divine right," claps scoffers in jail, and thanks to a long-drawn process of audacious and fantastic meddling with literature, art, music, the drama, surgery, yachting, and theology—quite dims the effulgence of local princelings by becoming incomparably the most talked-of individual in all his empire. Men laugh, but they yield. Has he books to sell? Assuming the cast mantle of a famous craftsman, the name of a jovial monk, the unshorn locks of a poet, and the tripod of an oracle, he preaches a new and strange gospel, and with unquestionable good taste permits the portrait of his son, "food, principally grape-nuts," to be printed as an advertisement, which, of course, is just what Fra Pandolf, or the elder Kean, or the Cumæan Sibyl, or the lamented William Morris himself would have done. Men laugh, but they buy. There's money in personality, be it never so whimsical, and to that blazing star the commercial go-cart may very prudently be hitched. Madame Yale, the brilliant lecturer; Max Regis, the bold, bad duelist; John Alexander Dowie, the reincarnated prophet,—these and a thousand others have grasped the blessed truth that personal publicity can be minted, with only the slightest difficulty, into pecuniary success. "Peech in pape" is pelf in purse.

And yet, for obvious reasons, the most delicious type of personal advertising, the matrimonial, unfortunately denies the "pape" the "peech." Oh, for a single photographic glimpse of the little lady of Yokohama who thus lyrically declares herself:—

"I am a beautiful woman. My abundant, undulating hair envelopes me as a cloud. Supple as a willow is my waist. Soft and brilliant is my visage as the satin of the flowers. I am endowed with wealth sufficient to saunter through life hand in hand with my beloved. Were I to meet a gracious lord, kindly, intelligent, well educated, and of good taste, I would unite myself with him for life, and later share with him the pleasure of being laid to rest eternal in a tomb of pink marble."

But methinks—and this I say because I have seen the hill-town folk of New England elaborately gulled through nibbling at matrimonial advertisements—the almond-eyed enchantress was perhaps a wee trifle less charming in person than in pretense. Great Homer nods, at times; also the Homeric advertiser.

But to brandish testimonials, with portraits of important witnesses, and thus to "let another praise thee and not thine own mouth," is ingeniously to remove the discussion from the Homeric, or poetic, to the Aristotelian, or logical, realm. One's "loving friends"—for, and in consideration of, value received—stand forth as witnesses. When Mr. W. T. Stead, fresh from his advocacy of Mr. Wilde the astrologer, proclaims Mr. Pelman, the mender of memories, a noble "benefactor of the human race," or when a "cousin of Wm. J. Bryan" proves, by the healthful lustre of his photograph, that Tierney's Tiny Tablets have made him whole, the great purpose is quite satisfactorily attained, and meanwhile Citizens Pelman, Wilde, and Tierney have lost nothing of their reputation for modest stillness and humility. This ingenious cat's-paw device plucks many a precious chestnut out of the fire; to quote a single commodity, the sale of proprietary medicines is directly proportionate to the quantity and blatancy of the advertising they get, which proves the effectiveness of testimonials to a nicety. Moreover and this, I grieve to say, is a point most advertisers overlook—the testimonial admits of almost infinite adaptation. For instance, when President Harper, in an admirably sane and tempered address, observes that students successfully prepared for college by correspondence institutes are invariably possessed of courage and application, that deliverance of his is jubilantly pounced upon by a dozen correspondence schools of the baser sort (imagine an institution, which, in crying up its course in the art of conversation, says, "You admire the party who you hear spoken of as 'Don't he use elegant language?'") and, by a skillful derangement of context, the original dictum becomes President Harper's avowal that nothing short of pedagogical absent treatment can possibly inculcate courage and application! And when an insatiable moral reformer once so far divested himself of prudence as to call a certain vaudeville theatre "absolutely above reproach,—clean, wholesome, uplifting," the theatrical proprietor, with a delicate appreciation of commercial values, had the reformer's benediction quite exquisitely engrossed and framed and hung up in the foyer of his theatre; and from that very day diverged from the paths of rectitude. Truly a blithe situation: within, a jubilee of vanities,—without, a certificate of ethical impeccability! And again, I have seen a reverend apostle of temperance mischievously trapped into indorsing a patent medicine chiefly compounded of spirits of wine. Indeed, this whole business of sponsoring other men's goods should be carefully marked with bell-buoys, which night and day should cry, "Shoal—'ware shoal"

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