A Week in Sybaris
IN the Atlantic Monthly for July, 1867, was published a short description of the visit I made to Sybaris, at the head of the Gulf of Tarentum, when I was serving on Garibaldi’s staff. At the close of that article, I explained the reason why I did not then print my journal of “ A Week in Sybaris.” The passages which I copied from it have attracted the attention of some friends, who have been curious to see the rest. Some of these passages, indeed, needed the explanation which other extracts would afford.
The remainder of the journal is therefore printed here. It has the fault which all journals have, that their memoranda are apt to be fullest when one has the most time to write, and that they are therefore most barren just at those points of crisis when the writer really has most to tell. This remark will be found near the beginning of “John Adams’s Journal,” of which it is signally true.
After the passage first copied in the Atlantic for July, the journal proceeds as follows.
The πρó&3958;εvos, Proxenus, as this officer is called, (officer whose business is to care for strangers, quite after the old Athenian system,) was very civil, though a short-metre kind of person, used evidently to affairs in the time of affairs, and to nothing else. He offered Greek at first for talk, as the man had done at the station ; but, finding I preferred Italian, fell into that readily. I am too tired to-night, not to say sleepy, to try to write out much of what he told me, or I told him. He was very expeditious, when he heard about the boat, in sending to her relief. He led me to a good map of the city and harbor which hung on the office wall, and in five minutes had sent a despatch which he said would fit out a tug which would bring the old man and the boys up to the city. I offered to go with them. But he said, no, —that I should be of no use there, — or rather of none which a note from me would not serve as well ; and that, as I must have had a fatiguing night, I should be much better off at my inn. I observed he used the telegraph constantly, even sending his own despatches by his own instrument, at his office desk, — writing as readily so as I do these words. In answer to a question of mine, he said there were delivery offices almost everywhere, and that they hardly ever had occasion to use a special messenger. But, when he wanted to send my note to the tug, and afterwards to send me here, he beckoned to his son, a tall, pleasant-looking boy, who brought me, to show me the way.1
The inn covers a good deal of ground for the number of rooms, but there is not a staircase in it. The whole is of one story, as is every other house I have so far seen in Sybaris.2 The mistress is a jolly-looking person, who for all her jollity seems careful and thoughtful, and desirous to be of service ; and, without worrying me, she has really made me very comfortable. She knocked just now herself, and, in quite a studied speech, said that I was the first American she had ever had here ; that she was wholly unacquainted with our customs, but that she would be much obliged to me if I would indicate to her any improvements which the inns of my own country might suggest to me. The poor soul had been at the pains to look up “ United States ” in some book of travels, and had even written to the Proxenus to ask how she should cook pork and beans for me, and what she should give me instead of salt codfish. He had written her a funny note, which she showed me, in which he said that I should be satisfied with pheasants and quails for a day, and that the next day he would tell her.
Experience of my own country indeed ! There was not a fly in the room where the table d'hote is served, nor is there in this apartment.3 This consists of a pretty, airy sitting-room with a veranda opening from it, and in the next room the bed and its appurtenances. I found on the table pen, ink, and paper, which I never found ready in my own room at the Brevoort; I found in the bedroom a foot-tub, a shower-bath, more towels than I could count, and hot and cold water ready to run for me. I have not smelled a smell since I came into the house, excepting the savory breakfast and dinner which she gave me, and these lovely Italian violets which stand on the writingtable ; and, of course, my cigar on the veranda. But I shall write no more. Now we will see if there are any smooth rose-leaves in the beds of Sybaris.
Friday, 9th Kal. θaργηλ;iώv — Everything seems to be new here. Place, language, and all are changed,— and so my old book for these memoranda gave out last night, and I have had to rummage up another from my stores. Fortunately the traps came up from the boat even before I was awake this morning. One does sleep well in such a bed, —without steam-whistles or cockerels or brass-founders. It was as quiet as the mid-country.
The calendar is as new as the book, (of which the paper is not half as good as the old was). It seems an odd mixture of Italian and Greek, and I do not yet understand it. But I put at the top of the page what the Proxenus tells me to, were it only for practice. This is, he says, the ninth of the Kalends of Thargelion, but he counts it Friday, as I did. For my part, I thought the Greeks had no Kalends ; but it would seem that the Sybarites have.
It has been a rainy day, but I have managed with their convenient arrangements here to do about ten times as much as I should have done at home. If I do not get too sleepy, I will go into a little more detail than I have been apt to do since the campaign began. The peculiarity of this place seems to be, that everybody has plenty of time.
I slept late after the excitement of the night before, and if the lady Myrtis’s nice mattresses are made of rose-leaves, none of the leaves were crumpled. I rang, as I had been bidden, as soon as I woke ; and a ravishing cup of coffee appeared almost on the moment, on the strength of which I dressed slowly, and went down to the table d'hote. Breakfast was very nicely served ; but I do not stop to describe it, because some rainy day I will make a chapter on the cookery of Sybaris, so different from that of our Sicilian allies, — alas ! so different from the taverns of my beloved New England. While I was at breakfast there came in this clever little note in this pretty Greek Hand-schrift from the Proxenus, whose name, it appears, is George : —
Sybaris, 9th Ka. Thar.
COLONEL INGHAM, &c., &c.:—
DEAR SIR, — The report from Pylades, chief of boat-builders, is that your boat will require a new stern-post as well as rudder, and that one whole streak on her larboard side must be renewed. She was ordered to the government works last night, and the men undoubtedly went to work on her this morning.
I shall have the pleasure of calling on you at seven minutes after noon, when I shall be relieved from office duty here. If you have no pleasanter engagement, let me take you in my carriage to see our granite quarries and to bathe. We can do this before dinner. My wife will be very happy if you will join our family party at four.
GEORGE, the Proxenus.
What his other name is, I do not yet know. They seem to sign like English bishops.
I strayed round a little before noon, and made a little sketch of a seat for passengers waiting for the street railroad cars. At twelve I rendered myself on the hotel veranda, and at seven minutes past the Proxenus drove up in a pretty covered buggy, with a nice little trotting mare. He apologized for the cover ; said, if the day had been fine he could have shown me more of the country, but as it rained, why, we must e’en bear it as we could.
We drove first to the granite quarries, which are worked with great precision by a fine-looking set of men, — who have much more of the Lombard, not to say Yankee, look about them in their promptness of movement than I have seen anywhere else in Southern Italy. Then the Proxenus asked me if I were used to swimming as early as this in the season. When I said there were few seasons and few waters in which I did not swim, and that I should greatly enjoy a plunge, he turned his horse’s head, and we drove by a charming up-and-down-hill drive, I should think six miles down the old course of the Crastis River till we came to a signal station, — what one might call Watch Hill, —where was a beautiful view of the gulf, grand bluffs, smooth beaches, and a fine surf for bathers. It almost seemed as if we had been expected. A quaint old fisherman fastened the horse to a fence, provided towels, pointed out two little sheds for undressing, and we had a brisk swim in the surf. How delicious this Mediterranean water is, swept off the Syrtes by that tremendous Euroclydon! I hardly thought yesterday morning that I should be speaking of it so good-naturedly.
Home to dinner. The Proxenussaid his wife would excuse my frockcoat. And at his house, at dinner, and in the garden, and on the veranda, I have stayed ever since, till now. The family was charming, — his wife sweet pretty (reminds you of S—— G——), and seven children, — four boys, three girls,— my friend James, who showed me the way yesterday, being the second son. He and I are great friends, and his father says I may take him from the office any day when I want a guide. The girls have pretty Greek faces, — the youngest about as big as little Fan-fan, only her name is Anna, say nine years old.
As for the dinner, I leave that till I can write the essay on cookery into which the breakfast is to go. But I do not wonder that that old fellow took his cooks with him when he went from here to Athens.
It was not exactly the family party which the note promised. The Chief Justice was there,— who, if I understand, is the cousin of my hostess,— and his pretty wife ; a young man named Joannes Isocrates, whom I accused of being a great-grandson of the orator ; and Philip, the brother of the Proxenus. It was a round table for twelve.. Some of the children had to sit at a side table, and they were very merry there.
The talk was very ready and free, — generally general ; but sometimes I not off into a separate private talk with Kleone — as I shall begin to call George’s wife — and with the Chief Justice’s wife. Her husband calls her Lois. We sat long at table, spending more than half the time over the fruit and coffee. There was no wine. The dessert, however, had been served in another room than that we ate the meats in. We passed from room to room, as we used to when we dined with Howqua, at Canton. And in the new room we did not take the same places as before.
I said in the course of talk, that either they were all very much at leisure here, or that I had taken an unconscionable amount of George’s time. ....
[In the original journal iollows a passage which has been substantially reprinted in the Atlantic, pp. 75, 76, of the last volume.]
The Chief Justice said that he thought George hardly answered my question. He said that their system compelled everybody to do what he could do best, and to a large extent secured this by inviting people to do what they could do best. A messenger in a public office, for instance, is invariably a man who has legs and a tongue, but who has no arms. That is, if such a place is vacant, search is at once made for some person who shall fill this place well ; and if he can show that there is no other place he can fill, on that showing he is almost sure of the appointment. “ We have not a copyingclerk in the Court-House,” said the Chief Justice, " who has two legs. Most of them in fact have no tongues, which is a convenience.” Starting from this, as George had said, it followed that there were no vauriens, and of course the amount of work fell lighter on each. But this is not the whole. Custom in part, statute in part, and in part this terrible verdict which they all so dread, — the verdict of ἁρπaγμós they call it,* — have so wrought on them that they destroy very little which they have once created. “Time will do that for us,” said Philip, laughing. “ My rear wall tumbles down fast enough without my helping the fall.”
I said I remembered that Judge Merrick said that, if the thousand million men now in the world could be set to work in intelligent organized labor, they could in a generation duplicate the present monuments of the race of men. The existing farms, roads, bridges, ships, piers, cities, villages, and all the rest, could be produced in one generation. All the other generations have been spent in men’s cutting each other’s throats, and in destroying what other people have been at work upon.
The Chief Justice said this was undoubtedly true. They tried as far as they could to prevent such waste of life, and to a large extent he thought they succeeded. The solidity of their building is such that they have dwellinghouses which have been occupied as such for two thousand years.
I said that in London they had told me their houses tumbled down in eighty.
“ Exactly,” said the Chief Justice, “ and what a waste that is ! When my father was in London, they were greatly delighted with a system of sewers they had just turned into the Thames. When I was there, they were as much delighted, because they had discovered a method of leading their contents away from the Thames.”
“ When my father was in Boston,”said George, “ they were all very proud to show him their success in digging down their highest hill. When I was there, they were building it up to the old height, to make a reservoir on top of it.”
“ We have come to the conclusion,” said the Chief Justice, “that it is rather dangerous interfering much with nature. That is to say, when a large body of men have nestled down in a region, it was probably about what they wanted. If one of them tries to mend, he is apt to mar. We had a fellow over on the Crastis there, who was stingy about using steam-power ; so he made a great high dam on the river, —and, by Jupiter, Colonel Ingham, five hundred thousand people lost their fish because that fellow chose to spin cotton a ten-millionth part of a drachma cheaper than the rest of mankind.”
“ He got ȧρπaγμós with a vengeance,” growled Philip, who is a little touchy.
“ He got ȧρπaγμós said the Chief Justice, “ and he had to put in fishways. You must take our friend out to see the fish go up his stairways, George. But what happened at Pæstum was worse than that. They had some salt marshes there, — what they called flats. They undertook to fill them up so as to get land in place of water. They got more than they bargained for. They disturbed the natural flow of the currents, and they lost their harbor. Land is plenty in Pæstum now. The last time I was there the population was two owls and four lizards, and there was never a rose within five miles ! ”
I called him back to this universal occupation, resulting in universal leisure. He said I should understand it better after I had been about a little. I said we had difficulty at both ends, — the poorest people did not know how to work, and the richest people were apt not to want to, and did not know what to do. I said I was at one time asked to become secretary of the “ Society for providing Occupation for the Higher Classes.” He said, as to the first they clung to the old apprenticeship system. Every child must be taught to do something. If the parents cannot teach, somebody else does. The other difficulty he had seen in travelling, but he did not believe it was necessary. They have here but few very large fortunes transmitted from father to son. They have no such transmission by will, and unless a man has given away his property before his death the state becomes his executor. Of course, in practice, except in cases of sudden death, people are their own executors. Then they give every man and woman who is over sixty-five a small pension, enough to save anybody from absolute want. They insist on it that this is the most convenient arrangement. They know almost nothing of drunkenness ; and what follows is, that everybody does something somewhere.
As the chief explained this to me, I saw his wife and Philip were laughing about something, and when the learned talk was done Philip made her tell me what it was. It was the story of one of their attempts to save time, which had not succeeded so well. Two or three enterprising fellows, in those arts which rank as the disagreeable necessities, went into partnership, offering to their customers the saving of time gained by getting through the minor miseries together. You sat in a chair to have your hair cut, and a dentist at the same time filled your teeth.4 Then you were permitted at the same time to have any man up who wanted to read his poems to you, and you could hear them as you sat. While the dentist was rolling up the gold, they had a photograph man ready to take your likeness. Lois declared she would show me a likeness of her husband that was so savage she was sure it was taken there. But of course this was running the thing into the ground. It was only an exaggeration, and did not last after the novelty was gone.
I said they certainly had got the right men in the right places in administration, as far as I had seen, bowing to the Proxenus.
He parried the compliment by pretending to think I meant the railroad people, and said I was right there, that they had a very good staff in the transportation department.
I said that we had tried the experiment, in some cases, of placing idiots in charge of the minor railway stations, and to drive the little railway cabs or flies from such stations. He said he had observed this in America, but he should not think it would work well. I said the passengers generally knew what they wanted, — that we had an excellent class of men as train conductors, and that these idiots must be put somewhere. Yes, he said, but that you never could tell what station might be important; that I might depend upon it it was cheaper in the long run to have a man competent for the full conceivable duty of the place, even if we had to pay him something more.
About eight o’clock, I bowed myself out. George walked home with rae, and we had a cigar on the veranda. They raise their own tobacco, in some cross valleys they have running east and west, and the cigars are splendid, — real Vuelta d’ Abajo, I should have thought them.
[The close of this day’s entry has already been printed, Atlantic for July, P. 76.]
Saturday, Ɵaργηi&3974;v, 8th Kal. A fine day. But I find one does not rise very early in the morning.
Spent the morning from nine to twelve with the Chief Justice in court. Business very prompt, very interesting, of which more at another time. I have full notes of all the cases, in the printed briefs which the Judge gave me. At twelve the court closed with absolute promptness. All their public offices of administration work four public hours, as they say. But an office where one calls for information — as the PostOffice, the Public Library, or any of the charities — is open night and day the century round. The Public Library has not been closed, they say, since Herodotus wrote there. They showed me his pen, and the place where he sat. This seems a little mythical. Of course the same people are not on duty. But they say there is no harm in changing clerks on duty. There can be no secrets then, no false accounts, no peculation, and no ruts. At all events, they say, that if a man chooses to go and read at three in the morning, he has a right to; and that the Post-Office is established for the convenience of the citizen, and not for that of the clerks, which certainly seems true.
The Chief Justice, at twelve, said he was at my service ; and at my request he took me to the Public Library, where we spent a couple of hours, — of which at another time. We then called at his house, where we found his wife and daughters just entering their carriage. We did not leave his little wagon, but all drove off together. The object was again a bath, with a chowder and fish dinner at a little extemporized seashore place. The drive was charming, and the bath Elysium. The ladies bathed with us. I complimented Mrs. Lois, as I led her down into the surf, on their punctuality, —saying that they had not kept us waiting an instant. But she hardly understood me. “ Why . should we have kept you ? ” said she.
“ I had a despatch at noon from my husband, proposing that we should all start at two.” And when I asked if they had been waiting, “Why should we have been waiting ?” said she. “We all knew you were not to be at home before two.” The Chief Justice laughed and said: “ People are so used to punctuality here, that Lois, who is a homebody, hardly knows what you are talking about. The truth is, that, if she had kept you thirty seconds, while she went back for her gloves, she would have been afraid of &37937;ρ7#960;aγμós ; and these girls, — why, if one of their watches had been a twenty-thousandth part of a second wrong when the ball fell at noon to-day, I should have had no peace till I had bought such a love of a diamond-mounted little repeater that there is at Archippus’s.” And he laughed at his joke heartily, and the girls said, “ O papa ! ”
Girls and boys, men and women, all swim like fishes, — taught at a very early age. No scholar is permitted to go forward in any school after seven years of age, unless he can swim, just as we require vaccination. “ If you mean to be at the charge of training them,” said the Chief Justice, “it is a pity to have them drowned just when they are fit for anything.” And so we had a brisk, jolly swim, and dressed, and went to old Strepsiades’s little cabin, where were fish baked, fish broiled, fish cooked in every which way conceivable, hot from the coals, and we with the real sea appetite. We lounged round on the bluffs and shore for an hour or two, the girls sketched and Botanized a little, and by another pretty drive we came home. I took a cup of tea with them, came back here to dress, and they then called for me and took me to a pretty dancing-party.
But I am too tired to write it out tonight. Xa&3238;ρε.
Sunday, 7 th Kal. Tharg. — We have a lovely morning. I have this pretty little note from the charming .Kleone, asking me whether I will go to their little parish church or to the more grand cathedral service. Of course I have elected the parish church with them at eleven. Meanwhile, I seize this half-hour to fill out one or two gaps above.
I see I have said nothing about their going and coming. The sidewalks are all well laid; and I have thus far been nowhere, where, on one. side of the way at least, there was not one in perfect order. But I can see that they are very much tempted not to walk; and I think they get their exercise more in rowing, swimming, riding, drill, and so on. This shows itself in the fine chests of boys and girls, men and women. Not only are the public conveyances admirable, and dogcheap,— very rapid too, so that you feel as if you could hardly afford to walk, — but they have any number of little steam dog-carts, which run on the public rail, or, if necessary, on the hard Macadam road. The fuel is naphtha, or what we call petroleum ; the engines are really high-pressure, but the discharge-pipe opens into a chamber kept very cold by freezing mixtures, which you can change at any inn. Philip, who told me about these things, says they are used, not so much as being better than horses, but as an economy for that immense class of people who keep no servants, do not choose to be slaves to a coachman, have no one to care for a horse, or indeed do not want the bother. This little steam wagon stands in a shed at the back of the house. Whoever fills the other lamps fills and trims the wicks of their burners. When you sit down to breakfast, you light the lamps.' And when your breakfast is done, steam is up, and you can drive directly to your store or office. When you get there, it stands a month if you choose, and is a bill of expense to nobody. It gives the roads a very brisk look to see these little things spinning along everywhere.
The party, last night, was charming in the freshness and variety and ease of the whole thing. I hope the host and hostess enjoyed it as much as I did, and they seemed to. How queer the effect of this individuality is when you come to see it in costume ! Of course the whole thing was Greek. You saw that, from the girls’ faces down to the buckles of their slippers. But then the individual right, to which everything I have seen in Sybaris seems dedicated, appeared all through, and fairly made the whole seem like a fancy ball. If I thought of Gell’s Greek costumes, it was only to think how he would have stared if anybody had told him that a hundred and fifty miles from Naples, would he only risk the cutting of his throat by brigands, he might see the thing illustrated so prettily. I danced with-
' Philip has come to take me to church-
[The substance of the diary for Sunday has been printed in the July Atlantic, pp. 79, 80.]
Father Thomas, as they all call him, took me home to his house to dinner. He had one of those little steam wagons which I have described, of which there were sixty-five standing in the grounds around the church. His wife and children went home in a large one. As soon as the doxology was sung and the benediction pronounced, the sexton went round with a lantern and lighted their lamps, and while we stood round talking in the porch, the steam was got up, so that I suppose everybody was off in twenty minutes. Father Thomas said the talk then and there, in the church and in the porch, was one of the most satisfactory parts of the whole service, and was pleased when I quoted μὴ ἐγkataλεíπovt&3949;stήv ἐπiσuvaγωγὴv έώv.5 I said I had never heard the Greek of the Greek Testament read in service before. He said that the people all followed, with entire interest and understanding of it, though it is not as near their Greek as our Bible is to modern English, and probably never would be. For they regard their Greek as being better than the Attic Greek of Demosthenes’s time, — and of course they will not cede an inch towards the Alexandrianisms of late centuries. “ Indeed,” said he, “ the Academy and the Aristarchs are a deal too stiff about it. They are very hard on us theologues, and seem to me absurd.” I said I had been a little dashed in my poor efforts both to speak and to write, instancing the πλήρov of the horse-cars. He caught my idea at once, and said, " You would have said πλήρεs, of course. That is a perfectly fair illustration. Really there are men here who would send you to Coventry 6 for saying πλήρεs,just because that is the Greek of Demosthenes and the New Testament.”
“ But,” said 1, “ it is the Greek of Homer, Hesiod, and your own Herodotus.” “ It is,” said he, “ in the manuscripts which come down through Alexandrian copyists, and of course it is very good Greek. But what I mean
is, there are plenty of sticklers here who would say that πλῄρov was the older form ; and they will show you manuscripts in the library which have
it, I do not know how many million years old.”
Father Thomas’s house is one such as they say there are a great many of, which show their only concession to a community system. With all this intense individualism, one can see that Robert Owen would hang himself here. But Father Thomas says this arrangement works well, and is a great economy both in time and money. Four houses, each with its half-acre garden, standing near each other, there is built, just on the corner where the lots meet, a central house, — μ&3949;σoikìa, they call it, — for the common purposes of the four. There is one kitchen, and they unite in hiring one cook, who gets up all the meals for the four several families in their own homes, according to their several directions. There is one large playroom for the children. I asked if there were one nurse; but he said, not generall}', though families settled that as they chose. What he laid most stress on was one book-room or library for the four. And certainly this was a lovely room. There were four bookcases, — one on each side, — which held severally the books of the four families. All Father Thomas’s were together. But, in the long run, it happened that none of them duplicated the other’s books, so far as they kept them in this room. There would be but one Herodotus, one Dante, one Shakespeare, one French Dictionary, for the four. Then this room made a pleasant place of reunion among the families, without mutual invitation, and without the feeling that you might be boring the others. Indeed, I spent the evening there, — as will appear, if this narrative ever comes down to the evening.
In the afternoon I had a long walk with Father Thomas in his parish. We went first to one of the four cathedrals, where he had the three o’clock service. (There are seven services each Sunday in each cathedral, and a daily service on week-days.) The congregation was from all parts of the town and neighborhood,—many people attending there, he said, who never went to any of the parish churches. The different clergymen take these services in order. I should think there were four or five thousand persons here. The service lasted an hour, and he then took me from place to place with him, showing me, as he said, how people lived. And so I have had, in very short time, insight into a wider range of homes than I have ever had in Europe. Everywhere comfort, and the most curious illustrations of what comfort is.
Their system seems to give more definiteness to the work of the clergy and of the churches than ours does. Thus Father Thomas preaches regularly in the church I was in this morning (Tήs Zωήs aỉωvíov is its name, — the Church of Life Eternal). There gather perhaps a hundred families, from all parts of the city and neighborhood. And, as I understand it, his relations to them are much like those of one of our Congregational ministers to his flock, — say Haliburton’s to his in Cairo, or mine to my people when I was settled in Naguadavick. But this is rather a personal relation between him and these people, who have, so to speak, gravitated towards him. He preaches there usually once every Sunday, and, as I understand it, our practise of exchanging pulpits is wholly unknown. They would be as much surprised, on going into the “ Church of Life Eternal,” to find any minister but Father Thomas, as they would be, on going into court for the trial of a case, to find that the counsel they had engaged had made an “ exchange ” with some other man, who had come to plead in his place. As I have said, the service here seems to be regarded, at law at least, as a secondary part of the matter. This Church of Life Eternal is regarded as in a thousand ways responsible for a whole voμós or territorial district, in one corner of which, indeed, it stands. It is exactly like the theory of our territorial parish ; but they do not use the word “parish,” πaρoikἰa, or rather they use it for a different thing. Everybody in the nomos of “ Life Eternal,” numbering say four hundred families, is under the oversight, not so much of Father Thomas, as of all the committees, visitors, deacons, deaconesses, and people with names unknown to me, who are the workers of this church. “ Under the oversight ” means that this church would be disgraced if there were a typhus-fever district in this nomos, or if a family starved to death here, or if there were a drunken row. It would be considered that the church of the nomos was not doing the thing for which churches are established here.
Father Thomas reminded me that, in the newspaper reports of criminal trials, I always see, next the name of the offender, the name of his nomos, as “St. Paul’s,” “ Old North,” “ South Congregational,” “ Disciples’,” — “ Life Eternal,” said he, “if we had been so unlucky. But none of our people have been before the court for thirty-one years. In consequence,” he said, “if such a misfortune did happen to us, I should not hear the last of it for a month. Every man I met in the street would stop me to sympathize with me ; and I should know that people considered that we had made some bad mistake in our arrangements, if we should have a series of such things happen. Of course, we cannot help people’s throwing themselves away. But it is supposed that, if Christianity means anything, it means that Jesus Christ came to take away the sins of the world ; and this church is regarded as his representative, at least so far as that vulgar or concrete form of sin goes which men call crime.”
I take it this arrangement by which a fixed organization is responsible in every locality for the prevention of poverty and the prevention of crime has a great deal to do with the curious insignificance of their criminal business in the courts.
I am terribly tired, but feel as if I understood them a little better than I did yesterday. Xaîρε.
Monday 6th. — A busy day ; but, warned by yesterday, I have not fagged myself out as I did then. Or, rather, I ought to say, I have taken their advice, instead of living in my own fashion. I am really becoming a Sybarite myself, and therefore sit down here at 9.30 at night, not dead knocked up by the day’s work, as a Yankee would be, and as I was yesterday.
The programme was, breakfast with the boat-builder Pylades; then to go through the schools with Kleone. who takes a good deal of interest in them ; to drive and bathe with Philip’s people ; to dine with the Angelides, — nice people whom I met at the party, Friday,— and with them go to their theatre, where their daughters were to act. All this is over, and I am here at 9.30, as before said.
They make much account of breakfast parties. I noticed on Saturday, that the Chief Justice said he liked to see people before they had begun to go to sleep, and that most people did begin to go to sleep at noon. Here was, at eight o’clock in the morning, a charming party, just evenly divided between men and women, round a large, circular table, in a beautiful room opening on a veranda. The table blazed with flowers, and even with early fruit from the forcing-houses. I took out Kleone, but the talk was general.
[The greater part of this day’s entry has already been printed. See July Atlantic, pp. 80, 81.]
Being so much with Kleone, — spending, indeed, an hour quietly at their house, after our school tramp, and before we went to bathe, — I got a chance to ask her about household administration. I did not know whether things did go as easily as they seemed, or whether, as with most households, when strangers are visiting for a time, they seemed to go easier than they did. But I think there cannot be much deception about it. Kleone is not in the least an actress, and she certainly wondered that I thought there could be so much difficulty. She finally took me out into her kitchen, pantry, and so on, and showed me the whole machine.
I do not understand it a great deal better than I did before. But here are a few central facts. First, no washing of clothes is done in any private house. For every thirty or forty families, there is one laundry,—λovρóv they call it; and the people there send twice a week for the soiled linen, and return it clean at the end of forty-eight hours. Kleone said that these establishments were so small that she knew all the work-people at that near hers ; and if she had any special directions to give, she ran in and told what she wanted. Of course they could have all the mechanism they wanted,—large mangles, steam-dryers, folding-machines, and so on. Next, I should think their public baking establishments must be better than ours. Kleone no more thought of making her own bread than my Polly thinks of making her own candles. “ I can make it,” said she, with a pretty air; “but what ’s the good (τῷ KAλῷ), when I know they do it as well as I ?” For other provant, there is the universal trattoria, system of all Italy, carried on with the neatness and care of individual right, not to say whim, which I find everywhere here.
I took care to ask specially about servants, and the ease or difficulty of finding and of training them. Here Kleone was puzzled. It was evident she had never thought of the matter at all, any more than she had thought of water - supply, or of who kept the streets clean. But, after a good deal of pumping and cross-questioning, I came at some notion of why this was all so easy. In the first place, there is not a very great amount of what we call menial service to be done in establishments where there are no stairs, no washing, no ironing, no baking, no moving, few lamps to fill, little dusting or sweeping (because all roads and streets here are watered), few errands, and little sickness. But Kleone did not in the least wink out of sight the fact that there was regular service to be done, and that it did not do itself. But, as she said, “ as no girl goes to school between fourteen and eighteen, and no boy or girl ever goes to school more than half the time,— as no girl under eighteen or boy under twenty-one is permitted to work in the factories, or indeed anywhere, unless at home,— there is an immense force of young folks who must be doing something, and must be trained to do something. You see,” said Kleone, “ no girl is married before she is eighteen, and perhaps she may not be married before she is twenty-five. From these unmarried women, who are of age after they are eighteen, we may hire servants. And we may receive into outhouses girls under that age, it only we exact no duties of them but those of home. Now, if you will think, " said she, “ in any circle of a hundred people, — say in any family of brothers, sisters, and cousins, — there are enough young people to do all this work you ask about. All we have to do is to exchange a little. That pretty girl who let you in at the door is a cousin of my husband’s, who is making a long three months’ visit here, — glad to come, indeed, for it is a little quiet, I think, at Trœzene, where her people live. I do not pretend to be a notable housekeeper you know; but if I were, I should have any number of girls’ mothers asking me if I would not have them here to stay, and they would do most of my dusting and bed-making for me. Elizabeth, whom I believe you have not seen, is the only person I hire, in the house. She will be married next year, but there are plenty more when she goes.”
Speaking of Sophia’s letting me in at the door, there is a pretty custom about door-bells. To save you from fumbling round of a dark evening, the bellpulls are made from phosphorescent wood, or some of them of glass with a glow-worm on a leaf inside, so that you always see this little knob, and know where to put your hand.
The plays were as good and bright as they could be. The theatre is small, but large enough for ordinary voices and ordinary eyes. There are ever so many of them. Then the actors and actresses were these very people whom I have been meeting, or their children, or their friends. The Chief Justice himself took a little part this evening, and that pretty Lydia, his daughter, sang magnificently. She would be a prima donna assoluta over at Naples yonder. Father Thomas’s daughter is a contralto. She does not sing so well. I do not suppose the Chief is often on the stage; but he was there to-night, just as he might be at a Christmas party in his own house. He said to me, as he walked home with me : “ We are not going to let this thing slip into the hands of a lot of irresponsible people. As it stands, it brings the children pleasantly together ; and they always have their entertainments where their fathers and mothers do.”
A funny thing happened as we left the play. A sudden April shower had sprung up, and so we found the porches and passage-ways lined with close-stacked umbrellas; they looked like muskets in an armory. Every gentleman took one, and those of the ladies who needed. Angelides handed one to me. It proves that the city owns and provides the umbrellas. When I came to the inn, I put mine in the hall, and that was the last I shall see of it. But 1 have inquired, and it seems that, as soon as the rain is over, the agent for this district will come round in a wagon and collect them. If it rain any day when I am here, a waiter from the inn will run and fetch me one. I shall carry it till the rain is over, and then leave it anywhere I choose. The agent for that district will pick it up and place it in the umbrella-stand for the nomos. In case of a sudden shower, as this to-night, it is, of course, their business to supply churches or theatres.
Tuesday, 5th.— Fine again. I have been with the boys a good deal to-day. They took me to one or two of the gymnasiums, to one of the swimmingschools, to the market for their nomos, and afterwards to an up-town market, to the picture-gallery, πivakoθὴkη, and museum of yet another nomos, which they thought was finer than theirs, and to their own sculpture gallery.
[This entry has been copied already in the July Atlantic, pp. 78, 79.]
.... We bathed in the public bath for this nomos, which is not the same as George’s. The boys took me home with them to dine, and George came round here this evening, We have had pleasant talk with some lemon and orange farmers from the country.
I have not said anywhere that their acquajuoliare everywhere in the streets ; and a little acid in the water, with plenty of ice and snow, seems to take away the mania for wine or liquor, just as it does in Naples. The temperance of Naples is due, not to the sour wine people talk of, for the laboring men do not drink that, but to the attractive provision made of other drinks. And it is very much so here. These acquajuoli are just like those in Naples.
But here no street cuts another at right angles. There is always a curve at the corner, with a chord of a full hundred feet. This enables them to have narrower streets, — no street is more than fifty feet between the sidewalks, — and it gives pretty stands for the fruit-sellers and lemonade-sellers at the quadrants. There is iced water free everywhere, and delicious coffee almost free.
[See July Atlantic, p. 79, for the remainder of this entry.]
Wednesday, 4th. — As soon as breakfast was over, I went down to Pylades, the boat-builder. I own it, I am distressed to say that he is exactly in time, and the boat, to all purposes, is repaired. She is a much better boat than she ever was before. They know no such thing as a mechanic being an hour late in his performance of a contract. “The man does not know his business, if he cannot tell when he will be done,” said Pylades to me. And when I asked what would have happened if his men had not finished this job in time, be shook his head and said, ‘ Aρπaγμós I should have taken from a citizen what I could not restore, namely, the time you had to wait beyond my promise.”I said it was very kind in him to count me as a citizen.
As to that, he said, ξεvía, or the duties of hospitality, were even more sacred than those of citizenship ; and he quoted the Greek proverb, which I had noticed on the city seal : Aìσ&3250;vη πúλεωS πOλíτω ἁμaρτía,—“The shame of die city is the fault of the citizen.”
1 cannot see that there is any sort of excuse for my loitering here longer than to-morrow. The paint will be dry and the stores (what a contrast to what I sailed with!) will be on board to-night. Among them all, I believe, they will sink her with oranges and cigars, sent as personal presents to me by my friends.
Andrew took me through some of the registration offices. They carry their statistics out to a charm ; I could not but think how fascinated Dr. Jarvis would be. But they say, and truly enough, that nothing can be well done in administration unless you know the facts. Take railroads, for instance ; if you know exactly how many people are going to come down town from a particular nomos, you can provide for them. But it you do not, they must trust to chance. They know here, and can show you, how many men they have who are twenty-three years and seven days old, or any other age; and every night, of course, they know what is the population of the country in every ward of the whole government.
By appointment, I met the Chief justice as he adjourned the court, and we rode to the Pier for our last bath. Delicious surf!
I asked him about something which Kleone said, which had surprised me. She said no woman was married till she was eighteen, and that she might not be till she was twenty-five. I did not like to question her ; but he tells me everything, and I asked him. He went into the whole history of the matter in his reply, and the system is certainly very curious.
He bade me remember the fundamental importance, as long ago as the laws of Charondas, of marriage in the state. “ The unit, with us,” he said, “ is the ‘one flesh,’ the married man and women. We consider no unmarried man as more than a half, and so with women.” Then he went on to say that they had formerly a hopeless imbroglio of suits, — breach of promise cases, divorce cases, cases of gossip, and so on, which had resulted in the present system ; and, without quoting words, I will try to describe it. Kleone was right. No woman may marry before she is eighteen. They hold it as certain that, before she is twenty-five, she will have met her destiny. They say that, if no gossip, or manoeuvring, or misunderstanding intervene, it is certain that before she is twenty-five, in a simple state of society like this, which places no bar on the free companionship of men and women, the husband appointed for her in heaven will have seen her and made himself known to her. They say that there is no unfair compulsion to his free-will, if they intimate to him that he must do this within a certain time. If it happen that she do not find this man before that age, she must travel away from Sybaris for thirty years, or until she has married abroad. They regard this as exile, which these people, so used to a comfortable life, consider the most horrible of punishments. To tell the truth, I do not wonder. Practically, however, it appears that the punishment is never pronounced. More male children are born into the State than female. This alone indicates that the age of marriage for men must be somewhat higher than that of women. Their custom is, keeping the maximum age of men’s marriage at thirty, for the Statistical Board to issue every three months a bulletin, stating what is the minimum age. Just now it is twenty-three years, one month, and eleven days. If a man does not choose to marry here when he is thirty, he spends thirty years in travel, looking for the wife he has not found at home. But, as I say of the women, practically no one goes.
I said that I thought this was a very stern statute, and that it interfered completely with the right of the individual citizen, which they pretend was at the bottom of their system. The Chief Justice said, in reply, that everybody said so. “ L’Estrange said so to me in England,” “ and Kleber said so to me in Germany, and Chenowith said so to me in America, and Juarez said so to me in Bolivia. But the truth is, that it is absolutely certain that before a woman is twenty-five, and before a man is thirty, each of them has met his destiny or hers. If the two destinies do not run into one, it is because some infernal gossip, or misunderstanding, or ignorance, or other cause, — I care not what, — intervenes. Now,” said he, “you know how hard we are on gossip, since Charondas’s time. ‘ No talebearer shall live.’ What is left is to see that sentiment, or modesty, or self-denial, or the other curse, as above, shall not intervene to defeat the will of Heaven. For in heaven this thing is done. I can assure you,” said he, “ that this calm, steady pressure of an expressed determination that people shall carry out their destiny, saves myriads of people from misunderstanding and misery ; and that, in practice, no individual right is sacrificed. I know it,” he added, after a moment, “ for I am the person who must know it. It is not true that all marriages are made here by the Lord Chancellor,—as Dr. Johnson proposed. But it is true that I send into exile the people who will not marry. How many do you think I have exiled, now, in thirteen years ? ”
I guessed, for a guess’ sake, five hundred.
“Not one,” said the Chief Justice. “No, nor ever seemed to come near it but once. Every three months there is a special day set apart when the Statistical Board shall send me the lists. For a fortnight before the day, there are a great many marriages. When the day comes, I go, Colonel Ingham, into an empty court-room, and sit there for three hours. No officers of court are permitted to be present but myself. Once it happened that when I went in I found a fine young officer, a man whom I knew by sight, sitting there waiting his sentence. I bowed, but said nothing. I took my papers, and asked him if he would come in again at eleven. At half past ten came in a woman whom I had watched since she was a child,— one of those calm, evenbalanced people, who are capable of blessing the world, but are so unselfish that they may be pushed one side into washing dishes for beggars. She had her veil down, but walked to the bench, and laid her card before me. I pointed her a seat, and went on with my writing. As the clock struck eleven, I asked her to excuse me for a moment, and I withdrew. I stayed in my private room an hour. I came back at noon, — and my lieutenant-colonel and my queenly Hebe were both gone. It was the victory of a young love. He had worshipped her since they were at school together, and she him. But some tattling aunt —she died just in time to save herself from the galleys — put in some spoke or other, I know not what, that blocked their wheels ; she had calmly said “ No ” to a hundred men, and he had passed like a blind, deaf man among a thousand women. Both of them were ready to go into exile, rather than surrender the true loyalty of youth. But I had the wit to leave them to each other. They were married that afternoon, and all is well!”
And to-morrow night I shall be jotting my entries here as the sea pitches me up and down in the gulf. When shall I see all these nice friends again ? I feel as if I had known them since we were born. I cannot yet analyze the charm. I believe I do not want to. They certainly do not pretend to be saints. They have rather the complete self-respect of people who do not think of themselves at all. The state cares for the citizen, and for nothing else. There is no thought of conquest ; nay, they court separation from the world outside. But, on the other hand, the citizen cares for the state, — seems to see that he is lost if this majestic administration is not watching over him and defending him. Because the law guards their individual rights, even their individual caprices, there is certainly less tyranny of Mrs. Grundy and of fashion. But yet I never lived among people who had so little to say about their own success,—about “ I said,” " I told him,” or “ my way,” or “ I told my wife.”
When I spoke to the chief one day of their homage to individual right, he said they made the citizen strong because they would make the state strong, and made the state strong that it might make the citizen strong. I quoted Fichte : “ The human race is the individual, of which men and women are the separate members.” “ Fichte got it out of Paul,” said he. “ If you mean to have a sound mind in a sound body, you must have a sound little finger and a clear eye. But you will not have a clear eye, or a sound little finger, unless you have a sound mind in a sound body. Colonel Ingham, Love is the whole ! ”
It has been a pretty bleak evening. I have been running round with George to say good by. Kleone asked me, so prettily, when I would come with MaρiáẟLov. It was half a minute before I reflected that MaρLáẟLov is Greek for Polly !
Thursday, 3d ϴaργηλ. — At the boat at 8.30. The old man was there without the boys.
[See July Atlantic, p. 84.]
Wind N. N. W., strong. I have been pretty blue all day. And the old man is too. It is just 7.30 P. M. The lights of the Castle of Otranto are in sight, and I shall turn in. Xaîρε.
- After I knew the Proxenus better, I told him that this ready and constant use of the telegraph was one of the first of their conveniences I noticed. He said the telegraph was an old affair with them, and he wondered other nations had been so slow in copying it ; that they used it as long ago as what he called their day of horrors, when Sybaris was crushed by the Crotoniates, more than five centuries before Christ. I was amazed at this, but in their public library afterwards I found in Pliny that that defeat was known at Olympia in Greece on the day it happened, and the same statement is in Cicero De Naturâ Deorum. See Pliny, VII. 22. (I), and compare Plutarch in Paulus Æmilius.↩
- Stair-builders are not permitted in the state.↩
- I put my foot in it afterwards by complimenting my hostess on this. She took the remark as a lady at home would have taken my compliment, had I said at breakfast that I had found no fleas nor worse in my bed. In Sybaris they consider the house-fly a disgusting, unclean beast of prey, and do not tolerate it.↩
- The verdict of ȧρπaγμós is given on an indictment brought by the state’s attorney in a criminal court. It means, “ He has taken from a citizen what he cannot restore.”↩
- I believe a part of the plan was to have a chiropodist look at your feet; but at table they did not speak of that.↩
- “ Not forsaking the assembling ourselves together.”↩
- “ To little Trœzene” is their proverb. I do not know what either proverb springs from.↩