The Contributors' Club
[IN this place the editors propose to avail themselves of such passages of their correspondence as have a public interest, hoping in this desultory fashion to secure some notable part of that opinion of events, manners, and letters which otherwise goes unuttered in print. They invite all writers who have minds upon any ethical or æsthetic subject briefly to free them here, and while they will not wittingly suffer a personal spite to he wreaked, they will especially welcome the expression of intellectual grudges of every sort. In like manner whoever has a strong predilection worthy the reader’s consideration shall have the right to make it known under this head. New facts of literary or artistic value will also be very acceptable.]
— Have you ever seen the bust of Shelley by W. W. Story ? There are two or three duplicates of it in this country and England, for it is a beautiful and satisfying representation, — beautiful enough to be its own raison d'être if one had never heard of Alastor or Epipsychidion. As to likeness there is no such thing extant in any shape. The only portrait ever taken of Shelley was a profile in pencil, by a young lady who had no knowledge of drawing, but the gift of catching a likeness. When his poems were collected, after his death, the publishers wished for an engraving of him for the frontispiece ; inquiry and search were made, but the only thing to be found was this sketch, which exaggerated the peculiarity of his face, a sudden retreat of the whole lower portion, leaving the sharp, delicate nose prominent and giving the profile a bird-like type. From this, and the recollections of friends who concurred as to the dreamy brow and eyes, and the brown curls, so early streaked with gray, a portrait was constructed, in which the extreme receding of mouth and chin were modified ; this is the model on which all subsequent pictures have been based. Yet all lovers of Shelley and his poetry — and those who love the one love the other — have an image of him in their heart, and Mr. Story has embodied his in this beautiful bust, which adheres to the general characteristics and traditions while taking some license in certain features. “ It is not so much as a likeness of Shelley that I value it, " said the owner of one copy to me, “but as the ideal of a poet.” Anybody who wished to paint an ideal painter would hardly fail to give him the lineaments of Raphael ; so of Shelley for a poet.
Now the same sculptor has just finished and sent home a bust of Keats, a fit and natural companion to the other. There was no difficulty about the likeness in this ease ; the well-known picture of Keats is from life. But another authentic portrait came to light a couple of years ago most unexpectedly. On the niglit of his death, his faithful friend, the painter Severn, was watching by his bedside ; as the agony prolonged itself hour after hour, the watcher grew heavy with sleep, and, to keep his eyelids open, began to draw the dying man. He was able to finish the sketch. More than fifty years went by, and Mr. Severn, a very old man, still lived in Rome ; the winter before last another old man, the school-mate and friend of Keats, Mr. Charles Cowden Clarke, came to Rome and wished to know what had become of the last likeness. Severn could not tell, but was sure that it was among his papers; Mr. Clarke rummaged until he found it. The melancholy, moribund face lies upon the pillow with closed eyes ; the heavy hair, eyebrows, and strongly marked features retain all their character; the expression of repose seems a silent echo of his words, “ Thank God, it has come ! Death and genius illumine the countenance. This Mr. Story, with the sympathetic instinct of genius, has taken as his guide rather than the earlier portrait. He has made a singularly interesting and striking bust ; the head, turned slightly towards the right shoulder, gives a three quarter view of the face to one standing directly before it; it is idealized just in that degree which one desires for a living memory, not for the likeness of a living person. All the details, the loose coat and open collar, are managed with judgment, skill, and a very agreeable absence of elaboration. It is not a higlily-finished, shiny marble ; all that is secondary is subdued with the happiest effect to what should really predominate, and the result is a truly poetic work, of masterly simplicity.
The fortunate owner showed me at the same time an old painting, by Mr. Severn, representing Endymion asleep in the moonlight under the cypresses of the pyramid of Cains Cæstius. It is not much of a picture, though the artist is an R. A., and won a gold medal in days long gone by ; but it would be a cold-hearted critic who could look at it only as a work of art ; it is a work of sentiment and imagination; the shepherd reclines just in the spot where the daisies grow over Keats. One cannot but fancy the poor, throbbing heart soothed in its long rest by the tenderness of the lingering few who knew him in life, and the enthusiasm of the younger generations.
— Did any one but myself note and admire the picture called Yankee Doodle in the American department of the Centennial Exhibition ? So far as I have read the critics they have not prattled of it, and so far as I have heard of the prizes none have been awarded to it. Perhaps I am misinformed on these points; but if I am not, then I maintain strenuously one of two theses, both eminently probable : I maintain that either great injustice has been done, or else that I am no doctor in art. I came upon Yankee Doodle when my legs were weary with leagues of flooring and my eyes with leagues of canvas. It arrested me, aroused me, reposed me, renewed me. I could have set out then on a forced march, and could have leaped there into battle. I longed to hurl my hat aloft, fling my charging yell through the smoke, and tramp forward in the track of the bleeding fifer and the white-haired drummer. I believe there is no man who ever found his way over the wounded and the cannon into an enemy’s fastness, but would feel like giving a cheer to the homely, wayworn, tattered, eager Continentals as they burst onward there in the last rush which overtakes and clutches victory, it may all be imperfect painting ; it may be wanting in this learned line and that fastidious finish ; but it has humanity, character, pathos, passion, nobility. There is a moving concord of realistic outline and of ideal heroism in the plain, grim, much-enduring, earnest faces. They are old Americans, and they are especially old New Englanders, of the red, weather-beaten, country-born type. They are exceedingly rustic, and yet, for the moment at least, sublime. It seemed to me that, here were Solon Shingle and Rip Van Winkle animated with the spirit of John Brown. The grandsire is the most soul-stirring figure that I have ever seen in an American picture. His gray eves are fixed on the enemy’s line ; his drumsticks are grasped and lifted with solemn enthusiasm ; he is waiting for the divine melody, — the shrill battle hymn of his country ; the moment the first note shrieks forth, he will bring down his batons with all his sexagenarian strength ; he means, you would say, to end the combat in a single blow. Meantime his grandson, the spruce little drummer-boy, the pet and the embroidered plaything of the regiment, looks up in wonder at the unaccustomed delay, quite unsuspicious of the veteran’s devout passion. He seems to be demanding, at least with his urchin stare, “ Old man, what are you waiting for?” The entire group is imagined with a fervid sympathy which makes the merely sympathetic spectator concede victory to the combatants, and victory also to the artist. Meantime a painter at my elbow whispers, " It is somewhat too much of a caricature.” No, my delicate pre-Raphaelite, it is not caricature, it is character. There is a type there which represents a people, a time, and a deed. It is a truly American picture, and it stirs an American heart. In all those miles there were not many other paintings, whether native born or foreign born, which could do so much.
— Reminded of Mr. William Morris, the other day, by the new poem Deirdrè, I was again struck by the remarkable difference between that poet’s treatment of mediævalism and Mr. Tennyson’s. In the Idyls of the King, for example, there is the strongest flavor of chivalry, knight-errantry, and old-time Gothic heroism ; with an exquisite discrimination the poet has used certain words that carry with them antique suggestions — Elizabethan words, and some still more Saxon in their sound. But the spirit of Tennyson’s composition is intensely modern ; his groupings, his coloring, his delicate and sometimes dazzling conceits, all breathe of to-day. It seems to me that it is precisely this extraordinary power of combining the past and present which has made his Arthurian poetry so deservedly popular. With the discriminative tact that is so positively a portion of his genius, he has shown us, in these Middle-Age pictures (for such they deserve to be called), only what forms the essence of their picturesqueness. Unpleasant or repellent details are left out, and their gaps are filled up with the softening, harmonizing graces of a peculiarly modern treatment. He shows us the past mellowed by that haze of distance which naturally veils it, only accentuating an object here and there, in his masterly way, to make it stand out more clearly from amid the soft dreaminess of its own obscurity. Mr. Morris, on the other hand, employs his verse as a kind of magic carpet (sometimes coarsely enough woven, it must be admitted), to hurry us instantly among “ the days that are no more.” He is a very pre-Raphaelite person, and he wants us to know it. But Mr. Morris’s pictures lose in coherence what they gain in vividness. He is mediæval with a vengeance — and that is about all. When I have done reading one of his poems, I feel very much as though I had been walking through a bric-à-brac shop of uncommon richness in mediæval furniture and armor. But the dust has half choked me, and I am glad to get out into the open air, even if it is that of 1876. Nearly all modern poets make his mistake when they touch mediæval subjects. Tennyson alone steers beautifully clear of failure. The past lives again at his touch. In the hands of Mr. Morris (and a few others) it only takes a kind of galvanic leap.
— As an author more or less liable myself to the production of American drama, I have followed with interest the controversy long raging — but, I believe, now spent — between Mr. Bret Harte and Mr. Stuart Robson on one side, and the paid bravoes of the New York press on the other, who had combined to assassinate the comedy of the former gentleman. It was painful to know that the corruption in high places had penetrated even to dramatic criticism ; but there was some comfort, too, in the fact : if my meditated melodrama failed, I should know the reason why. Still, while I thanked Messrs. Harte and Robson for their exposure of those rogues, I could not admire their wisdom so much as their courage. I thought it better that one innocent person should escape than that so many guilty should be convicted; for suppose that Mr. Harte should by and by write a comedy so extremely good that the most heartless venality could not help praising it, should we not all be harrowed by the lurking suspicion that the critics’ favor had been bribed? The better Mr. Harte’s comedy was, the more we should insist that its success was due to a claque with sweetened palms — that would be human nature ; just as now, for example, I, who have not seen the Two Men of Sandy Bar, am sure that it failed through the malice of enemies furious at having offered themselves for sale in vain.
But while I think it was imprudent of Mr, Harte to unmask his detractors so pitilessly, I must own to a deep disgust at the disposition I have seen in various places to decry all his work, and especially his performances since he came to the Atlantic States. I observed that one critic could not remember that he had ever done anything but write a comic song, — I suppose the exquisite satire on Chinese cheap labor was meant, — and others have found nothing good in his writings of the last five years. As a brother scribe I have myself watched his career with mingled joy and trepidation. When he first burst upon us, I was glad to have at least one author overrated in this grudging world, where I could think of so much unrecognized merit within a stone’s-throw of my own sequestered study ; and I was also glad to have the public find out that it had overrated him, while I trembled lest he should prove himself as great as he was thought. I was always among the first to drop a crocodile tear upon his failures, — and they have been many and deplorable, — but though I can hate a brother writer as well as the next, I do love literature, and I am bound to own that some of Mr. Harte’s best work, if not most of his best work, has been done since he came hither from California. No man, not overtopped by his unwieldy reputation, could have published such a poem as his Concepcion de Arguelo and not won a very wide and prompt acclaim, yet I suppose the name will hardly be remembered by one in ten of your readers. It is by far the best poem he has written, and scarcely one of his California sketches is better than How Christmas came to Simpson’s Bar. Both of these pieces were written within the last four or five years ; and one of his most recent minor studies is A Jersey Centenarian, which Seems to me the very flower of his humorous style. It comes last in the Tales of the Argonauts, and it bids one take courage, even there. It is about the only thing that shows a disposition in Mr. Harte to study character since he left California, his other pieces being reminiscences of California, or else dismal failures to see the life about him here. I have sometimes wondered if perhaps he had not come to us after that time of life when an artist observes with creative zest, but that little sketch does not allow me to think this ; and I am not going to believe that a writer who has given me so great pleasure is not capable of doing as well or better again. Very likely I shall find him in the next thing he writes gayly striking hands with his worst enemies, and relapsing into bald Dickensese ; he has that habit ; but for all that I do not think he has yet filled the measure of his talent. The failure of his comedy is not necessarily against him. It may be very bad ; but it might be very good, and fail. The stage and the drama are now such different things that I question if Shakespeare himself could write an acceptable play. It seems to me that it is as often the audience as the play which fails.
— Suppose the literary-scientific society of England really desirous of a Divinity. but unable to accept a Trinity or the scholastic system put forward as the only way of life, and weary of waiting for Mr. Huxley to find a Divinity in bathybius. Is it supposable that it has sent Daniel Deronda into the East, a man with the prominent feature of his face inherited, but with habits of thought and prejudices acquired in Gentile associations, not to draw after him the money-changers of the world, but that he may bring back to England a true personal and historic Deity, the divine unity, free alike of ancient superstitions and modern dogmas, to be the English centre of reason as well as of faith and longing ? Is Daniel Deronda a tentative of this sort, or only another version of that ancient “ carpet-bagger,” the Wandering Jew ?
— As an observer, with no preconceived theory, I believe that I see a silent conflict going on among us, between literature properly so called and a body of writing which, while it has much of genius, wit, humor, and poetry about it, is marred or made shapeless by a dead weight of commonplace and sentimentality. Those who practice this sort of writing do not know the difference between it and real literature, because they reject the standards of trained and earnest criticism. Naturally, in so doing they lose all accuracy in measuring the worth of their own performances, and pour out what is the mere lemonade of literature, with the full conviction that it is a life-giving flow of soul. Of course I am not surprised at their complacence, when I see fifty thousand readers sharing the mistake, and loudly calling upon the diluter of ideas for more of the same mixture. Yet I am sure that this state of things is more harmful than appears on the surface.
The genius of true art is the most austere as well as the most genial of spirits. To know and serve it we must keep our finer perceptions keen-eyed and humble. We cannot lose distinctions in art, taking an intention in place of achievement, without vitiating our power of discriminating in other things. Promise without performance in finance and state-craft gets ugly names given to it. I do not wish to deal in ugly names, but I should like to suggest the analogy here. But the writers I refer to, and their apologists, plead that they are too much in earnest to have time to observe artistic laws or improve taste in themselves and others. One of them, in a preface to his new novel, says he does not claim for his books ” the character of beautiful works of art,” but “ is not afraid to inform the reader that these books are written with the honest, earnest purpose of helping him to do right.” This clearly implies a sneer at “beautiful works of art.” But need a man’s purpose be any the less honest and earnest if he tries to do his work as well and beautifully as possible ? This writer wants to have it supposed that there is something superior, something especially religious, in his fixing attention on his purpose and neglecting the execution of it. But religiousness in all branches of life demands that we should do what we have to do in the most thorough way ; and real thoroughness implies beauty ; and beauty in human products implies severe thought and refined art. The writer of that preface of course uses literary art just as far as he can grasp it to make his story attractive. But he finds that his works are not ranked very high for their art, and therefore he assumes that art is not worth thinking much about. But let me ask why these gentlemen compose novels, instead of tracts and sermons ? Tracts and sermons demand less literary art than long fictions, and if sincerity is a thing apart from art, tracts and sermons are more sincere. No ; they write books because they can reach more people, and possibly because they can make more money by them. And they write them in a quick, loose, unfinished way, because that is less difficult than to write them in a mood of devotion to the highest æsthetic as well as the highest ethical ideals. It is a feeble self-deception on their part to assume that they are more virtuous for this reason than the conscientious literary artist who would be glad enough to have his fifty thousand readers, too, but will forego them if he must be false to his ideals in order to get them.
— Reading in a Boston newspaper, the other day, the advertisement of a carpet-store, announcing “ a small collection ot very curious Antique Rugs, illustrating purely Oriental thought,” I rejoiced to think that probably in no other city in the world would so æsthetic a statement be found in the company of the cabalistic abbreviations, “s23STuTh15t,” and I could scarcely believe that I had not fallen upon some fragment of Ruskin, or Hamerton, or Mr. Clarence Cook. But if the advertisements are to talk in this “cultured” way, what will become of the art-critics ? Clearly there is no hope for them but in the probability that every large furniture, carpet, and upholstery store will hereafter be obliged to keep its own artcritic. This will at last make art-criticism what we have all longed to have it : disinterested.
— I was talking not long ago with a lady of a literary turn about Daniel Deronda, and got myself into her good graces by saying that George Eliot’s vast popularity was a mystery to me. She agreed with me that fashion had a great deal to do with it, and said, “ I have drawn up a classification of the novelist’s admirers, which seems to explain her wide influence.” I transcribe this table for you.
First Class. People who exalt George Eliot simply because she’s a woman who writes thoughtful books.
Second Class. Men who wish to ingratiate themselves with women belonging to the first class.
Third Class. People who are disappointed in life, or unwell, and accordingly like her gloomy views. Also happy people who find her bitterness tonic, and young women who go to parties too often and want sadness in their novels, to suit the reaction that comes of sitting up late.
Fourth Class. This contains two varieties : first, those who never read philosophy and like to get a smattering of clumsy philosophie Words in a novel ; and second, those who never read novels, but are attracted by George Eliot’s because they look like philosophy.
Fifth Class. The skippers.
Sixth Class. The intellectual aristocrats, who say that no other novelist introduces persons who know everything and are like the most cultured men and women of the day.
Seventh Class. Myself. (I do truly admire George Eliot’s strength, though I don’t like her books. There are some things so large that they don’t leave much room for likes or dislikes. They shove prejudices aside just as a great steamer displaces more tons of water than a small one can.)
Some of your readers may think this a little frivolous ; but to me it has a peculiar value as coming from a lady, herself a writer, and therefore free from any feminine jealousies.
— Don’t you think that if we could really find out what plain, single-minded, old New England thinks of new New England, or understands it to mean, it would be very amusing ? Now and then I have a glimpse of it. The other day I went to hear the Rev. Mr. -inStreet Church. The place was crowded, mostly with muscular Christians, and the minister hammered hard at his subject : The Nerves and the Soul. My neighbor was a typical New England woman of sixty or thereabouts, thin, dark, cultivated morally but not mentally ; her eyes were sharp, her mouth straight. She confided to me (I had never seen her before) that she hoped “ he would tell us how to cure neuruligy, for ’most everybody suffered from it.”
— I am in great trouble. I shall lose him. He is mortal. In the course of nature he cannot go on for the next fifteen years as he has gone on for the last fifteen. During this eventful period he has kept me and my humble works constantly before the public. He has been worth thousands of dollars to me. When he breaks down, my prosperity is at an end. Is it a wonder I cling to him ? He is not a brilliant man ; it requires no effort for me to understand why other persons consider him rather tedious, and yet there is no author whose writings I read with so much avidity, amusement, and satisfaction. You imagine, perhaps, that I am speaking, and not impartially, of an intimate friend ? Not at all — it is of my Intimate Enemy, my valued Foe, my cherished Hater, my dearly beloved and persistent Scoffer. For fifteen years he has pursued me, through the columns of a newspaper, as remorselessly as if I had squandered his patrimony or done him the deepest wrong one man can do another ; while, in fact, I am unconscious of ever having given him the slightest cause for personal offense. Nevertheless, for fifteen years I have not printed a line of prose or verse in a magazine, or published a book, or even been mentioned incidentally in the book of a brother author, without furnishing my Intimate Enemy with a text for bitterness. It is now more than seven hundred and eighty weeks since he first turned his unflagging attention to me, and he has snuffed me out on an average of once a week. To be sure, his method of doing this might be objected to, by a severe critic, as monotonous ; but I am not that critic. I like my Intimate Enemy always to say the same thing of me. He has made a charming little collection of my imperfect rhymes, — some written before my nineteenth year, and some of more recent origin : six or seven imperfect rhymes in all, — and these he quotes on every occasion. He has quoted them at least two hundred times. He can no more keep them out of his manuscript than Mr. Dick could keep the head of Charles I. out of the “Memorial.” The slightest thing is a sufficient peg on which to hang those ever green rhymes. My Intimate Enemy is capable of materializing the ghost of a peg, so to speak. It I am to issue a work on any subject, say, for instance, on The Celts in America, he instantly has a paragraph to this effect : “ Smith has another book in press. Smith is the man who rhymes boot-jack with handorgan,” etc., etc. If I happen to have a typhoid fever, and my Intimate Enemy happens to hear of it, my convalescence is cheered by “ We understand that Smith is lying quite ill with typhoid fever. It is to be hoped that in future we shall have no more rhymes like bootjack and hand-organ.” Of course this is not as spirituel as Sainte-Beuve at his best; but when did Sainte-Beuve ever cause a book to sell, as my Intimate Enemy always can — when he does n't praise it ? I have frequently been chilled to the marrow by the reflection that he might take it into his head some day to praise something of mine. But he has never done so, except once, when I published an article anonymously; and then I did not mind his commendation - my mortification was not public. Besides, he closed his critique by remarking that “ Smith could not write an article like this. Smith is the man who,” etc., etc. How shall I ever repay my Intimate Enemy for the untiring services he has rendered me ? and what will become of me when that gigantic mind topples over and tumbles into chaos, as it inevitably must ?
In these fifteen years I have penned more than one adoring paragraph about him, but I have always stopped short of printing it ; for, knowing : his shy and sensitive nature, I was afraid that such a tribute would be apt to paralyze his efforts on my behalf. If he ceased his disparagement, my books would cease to sell. My position was one of extreme delicacy : I wanted a succession of golden eggs, and yet I wanted to demolish the goose ! But the time has come when it makes little difference what course I pursue. My Intimate Enemy is not good for another fifteen years. If I am ever to signify my gratitude, I must do it soon ; for, on turning over the pages of a popular cyclopædia, in which by some satirical chance my Intimate Enemy is set down as an author, I have discovered that he is well past the age of discretion ; and all the while I had been picturing him to myself as a rosy, youngish fellow, just learning to write !
— I was glad to have you treat Dr. Holland’s book of essays on Every Day Topics so civilly as you did in your November number, He is a writer whose motives one must always respect, whatever one thinks of his literature and his ideas. Now and then, I think, the last are very good. I remember reading one of his essays in Scribner’s Monthly — I do not know whether he has included it in this volume or not — on the present mode of underpaying authorship in book publication, with which I entirely agreed. He contended there that an author of reputation should enjoy the same sort of cumulative reward from his fame that a great painter does. I suppose comparatively few readers know that the highest and greatest of our authors get no larger percentage on their books after thirty or forty years of renown than any unknown man commands from a publisher willing to risk the expense of putting his book on the market. That is because, as Dr. Holland pointed out, the intellectual quality of a book does not fix its market value, and because the dead material and the cost of mechanical execution do fix it. A book of two hundred and fifty pages by Brown, Jones, or Robinson sells for as great a price as a book by Mr. Longfellow or Dr. Holmes. Fancy Mr. Hunt letting one of his pictures go for the sum that Mr. B., J., or R. would be glad to get ! Or, to make the analogy more complete, fancy his giving a photographic reproduction of one of his paintings for the money a similar reproduction of one of those gentlemen’s works would bring. It is ridiculous, and so is the other case ; but in that case the author is subject to a usage of trade which I do not believe necessarily inexorable. If any new book of three hundred pages is worth a dollar and a half, then I think that a new book of the same size by an author of established fame should be worth at least five dollars. There is no reason why such a discrimination in price should be impracticable, and I believe it will be found entirely practicable when some publisher has the courage to try it.
— One of the most amusing things in recent literature is Mr. Browning’s Balausuon’s Adventure, in which the Alkêstis of Euripides is spoken of as “ that strangest, saddest, sweetest song,” and the greater part of it translated in that spirit. The translation shows that Mr. Browsing is no worse a Greek scholar than his wife, which is saying a good deal ; and that he should have performed it without seeing that the piece was a burlesque is almost inconceivable. Yet such appears to be the case. That the Alkêstis is a satyric drama admits of no doubt. This was discovered independently by Lessing, and although inferior critics after him, Goethe included, undertook to defend the piece as serious, the matter was definitely set at rest in 1834, when Dindorf published from the Vatican Codex a scholion in which we are informed that the Alkêstis was the fourth piece of a tetralogy, the other pieces being a Krêssai, an Alkmaiôn, and a Têlephos. Now we know, even if the scholion did not expressly add that the catastrophe of the play was comical, that the fourth piece of every tetralogy was a satyric drama. Was, after all, Mr. Browning aware of this, and did he merely wish to show us how small a step there is from the ridiculous to the sublime ?
— I am able to enrich the language with a new verb, through my share of the race’s suffering from the train-boy who every fiftieth mile comes through the car and bestrews you, now with prize packages of candy, and now with periodical literature. Weary of repulsing his devotion, I asked if he had, say, Daniel Deronda. He ran confidently through the books on his arm. “ I 've got it,” he said, not finding it, “ and I ’ll bring it in a minute. It ’s lapped out at the other end of the car.”
— Miss Anna Dickinson, I see, again braves her fate with the public on the stage. I do not know how much she may have improved in the theatrical art since I saw her in Boston last winter, but the critics, who have constantly been kinder to her than her own ambition has been, do not yet raise the voice of acclaim. On her first appearance I found the spectacle of her failure so cruel that it was impossible to look at it steadily. And yet, after I came away, I perceived the justice of what had happened. Here was a lady, with all the good motives in the world, aiming to place herself at the very top in an untried art, over the heads of people who had given years or lives of hard work to it. If she had succeeded, it would have been an injustice more cruel than her failure was. But it was not in nature, it was not in the justice which orders these things, that she should succeed. Genius itself succeeds only by arduous self-training : and it is not for the beginner in any art to snatch its honors from its devoted students. On the whole, I consoled myself for Miss Dickinson’s defeat. It was not peculiarly arrogant in her to attempt the highest prize of the theatrical art ; that is what dêbatantes of mature years nearly always do ; but the thing is arrogant in itself. If Miss Dickinson had gone humbly to some accomplished actor, and begged to know in what subordinate walk of the profession she might hope, with anxious and assiduous study, to succeed, and she had tried that and failed, I should have felt sorry for her. But I bear her present defeat with fortitude; and I count it gain whenever this people, in whatever way, gets a knockdown hint to the effect that to do a thing you must learn how ; and that to play on the fiddle it is not merely necessary to take a bow and fiddle with it.
— I have often wondered why women who have been tortured by arithmetic, in the course of their education, do not come forward and demand a champion from the ranks of scientific men who shall enter the lists and slay this dragon of duodecimals. Now that some of the direst evils under which women have suffered have been partly bettered, is it not time to take up the arithmetic ill ? Why should a woman he drilled in repeating decimals, partial payments, extraction of the cube root ? Not one woman in a thousand ever has a problem to solve in these subjects, and if she has she will go to her husband or brother. Even the bravest of women who grapple with dividends and per cents do so only as a luxury, for they invariably want to have their results confirmed by a man of business. But they have been forced to attack much harder parts of the arithmetic than percentage ; and many a fair friend of mine has lost a part of her youthful bloom for the barren satisfaction of getting through some frightful mathematical puzzle about a greyhound and a hare. We ought to reject these problems about hares and greyhounds, if only in prevention of cruelty to animals. But how much more cruel to the women to retain them ! Professor Huxley in his Baltimore address says it is well to have known certain things once in our lives. But it is not well for women to have known those things that I speak of, for mechanical ciphering by aid of a rule is deadening to her intellect. What she wants is such a knowledge of decimals and the proportion between whole numbers and fractions that the mind, by a short process, can frame a rule for itself, or rather can free itself from ruledom. This argument of freedom ought, I think, to interest our women, emancipation being their pet susceptibility. The time which women give to abstruse branches of arithmetic would be much better spent on geometry or the physical sciences. Economy of preliminary studies is the best way to a higher standard of education among women. The time wasted by a young girl in solving partial payment examples would suffice, if well used, to give her a knowledge of the physical laws of the earth and the properties of bodies. This movement might be begun by advertising as below : —
WANTED. A liberally educated scientific man willing to write a simple, logical arithmetic for women, which should not be longer than fifty large-print pages.
WANTED. Intelligent teachers who can look beyond mere routine work, and will denounce the clumsy cyclopædias of arithmetic now in use in most schools,
— Do you know the “ paper without a party " ? There exists a thin but unduly enthusiastic weekly with an ambitious name, which lays claim to that character. The projectors and editors of it thought that the idea of our Western civilization needed for its best fulfillment another idea, — a paper without a party. They were glad to find themselves obscure, devoid of prestige, and without money enough to publish the paper for a year unless well received, because these conditions gave them a chance to test the candor and liberality of the present generation. But evidently the editors were not so much more liberal than other people as they supposed, for at the end of their first year they confess that they have been sustained by their public. The explanation of this is that they have succeeded by failing ; they have, in fact, taken up a party, though it happens to be a small and unpopular, instead of a large and well-established one.
A paper honestly without a party,— I do not mean “ independent ” journals that bestride two political chargers and make money out of the exhibition, but a paper really free from bias,—I admit, might have a use and would be successful if conducted with the greatest ability. But it should confine itself strictly to constructive criticism in politics, and never advocate the election of a particular candidate, as the weekly I am speaking of has done. After all, though, such a paper would not, it seems to me, really represent our civilization. A republic like ours is all party. What we need is to keep this vast organism harmonized, so as to maintain purity in morals and government. Let the voter be as independent as possible ; let him be always a possible party in himself. But without subordination and open cooperation nothing can be accomplished in a state. On the other hand, when a party is the offspring of superseded ideas, it must perish and give place to new growths. Parties, like trees, are apt to begin decaying from within. But we cannot do without the parties any more than we can dispense with the trees.