The Contributors' Club
THREE terms have now passed at Cambridge [England], and I have found them very pleasant and very profitable. When I first came here, you know, I intended to spend a year, studying principally Latin, Greek, and perhaps Sanskrit, and then to go on to Germany. When I arrived I found that I could have good advantages for Greek and Latin, and that the lectures of the university professor of Sanskrit, Professor Cowell, were open to women, although none had as yet availed themselves of the privilege. For a little while I was undecided, but very soon it seemed best to me to take the classical tripos, as I found I should be admitted to it on my degree without further examination, the whole thing being as yet informal; and also that I should be allowed to take it in two years. In spite of all the work which I have already done in America in the classics, my “coach,” as they call the private tutor here, tells me that I cannot stand among my equals in two years and not probably in three, because my preparation is not such as to give me a fair start. The men come up from the public schools with an immense amount of training in classics, mathematics, or whatever their special subject may be. There is a great deal of reading at sight done, and a great deal of composition, both prose and verse. There is very little, you know, of the former of these exercises done at home, and comparatively little composition. It is one thing to write in Greek unconnected sentences, however difficult, about what Cyrus could, would, or should have done if Clearchus had done something else, and it is quite another thing to be set down to a piece of Macaulay, Burke, or Carlyle, and expected to give it in some kind of Greek or Latin. There was actually a piece from Sartor Resartus set in this year’s tripos. There are two papers in prose composition, two in verse, two in ancient philosophy (of the stiffest kind, — Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero are the staples), one in classical philology, one in ancient history, and six in reading at sight, making in all fourteen three-hour papers. It is no slight ordeal, and I wish I had three years instead of two for it. As it is, I expect to read in the long vacation terms. I should not have changed my mind and taken up this regular course, giving up the idea of Germany altogether, but that I decided, after examining into the matter, that this classical tripos work was just the thing I needed to fit me for the position which I hope some day to fill. I also felt that my lecturers, accustomed to the Cambridge way of doing things, would know more exactly what to advise me and would take a more lively interest in my progress, if I were doing regular work. And so I have quite dropped Sanskrit for the present.
I have been taking about six lectures a week all winter : two in Greek, public, and one private; two in Latin, private, and one in Latin composition with a class. My private lecturers, Mr. ArcherHind and Mr. Verrall, are of Trinity College, both classical lecturers there and considered especially brilliant scholars. Mr. Archer - Hind is now a university examiner, and Mr. Verrall has just been put on for next year. I am rather sorry for this, because I cannot have lectures from him the last term or two, as you are never expected to be coached by one of your examiners. I do not go in next year, but in February, 1880; but an examiner is always on for two years.
I don’t know how much you know about the tripos examinations of the Cambridge University. I knew very little when I came, and perhaps you would like some explanation. They are the examinations for honors. The great number of the students go in for the ordinary or “ poll ” degree, as it is called; you will recognize the derivation. This is not nearly so good as our average B. A. degree. These students are obliged to attend a certain number of lectures and have several examinations to pass,
I believe, during the time they are up here. The men who go in for honor, or triposes as they are called, take their previous examination or “ little-go ” immediately, and then read for three years with no examinations, having almost always private coaching and being obliged to attend very few lectures. But the new system of intercollegiate lectures offers such advantages that I understand in all the triposes except the mathematical one can go through without coaching. To the intercollegiate lectures, with one or two exceptions, women are not yet admitted. It depends on the favor of the colleges where they are held. The university lectures are of comparatively little value. They are almost all open, and some of them are largely attended by ladies,—both students and others,—as, for example, Professor Seelye’s history lectures. But most of them are not good working lectures, and I have not yet been advised to attend one on the classics by my lecturers.
My work this winter has been chiefly reading Greek and Latin literature and doing prose composition. I do not intend to attempt verse. The set subjects for ’80 are the first book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Plato’s Phædo and Philebus, and Cicero’s Academica. I have already read the Phædo very carefully, but I must of course review it thoroughly. I have been lately reading the Academica, and more unsatisfactory stuff it was never my misfortune to have to deal with. In the first place, Latin, with all Cicero’s command over it, is miserably inadequate for philosophical purposes; and in the second place, Cicero’s own ideas are decidedly mixed and his information often incorrect; at least that is the opinion of wiser heads than mine, and to me it seems so. I have not yet taken up the Aristotle, but I expect to find that tough. I have been reading a little ancient philosophy. I have returned to Schwegler for a general textbook, and I have come to the conclusion that it was the fault of his subject that I found him such a pill on German philosophy last year,—for anything more clear and concise I never saw than his outline of the systems of ancient philosophy.
So much for my studies during the past winter. Now, perhaps, you may wish to hear something of my other experiences. I have not been at Newnham Hall, which was too full when I made application, but at a similar institution, Norwich House. This is in many ways a much less desirable place. Newnham was built for a college, but Norwich House is simply a house hired in the town to accommodate the continually increasing number of students. Although it was a boys’ college, still it was always a make-shift, combined out of two or three small houses and added to, and the rooms are small and more or less inconvenient. I will say nothing of the fact that it has no closets, for Newnham Hall, a new and well-built house, has nothing but recesses with curtains hung in front for clothes. What do you think of that for civilization? But I hardly need to ask a native of New England, where the closets are little rooms. There have been about seventeen girls at Norwich House this year, and I have found them very pleasant acquaintances. Among them I have also been so fortunate as to find a few friends. The social atmosphere of the house has indeed quite reconciled me to my stay there. I do not feel certain that I shall like Newnham, where I shall be next year, any better, or so well, with all its advantages. Most of the Norwich House girls are much less advanced than I, and that I have found a certain disadvantage, not that some of them are not cleverer, but we are not on the same ground. They are all going in for the various groups of the Cambridge higher local examinations.
I have become acquainted during the winter with some Cambridge people, connected, as about all the nice Cambridge people are, with the university, and have found many of them very kind and hospitable. I am enjoying my stay there greatly, and am well pleased with the prospect of nearly two years more. The May term, and especially the boat-race week, is a gay season at Cambridge, and I had during this term quite as much outing as was good for my studies.
The Christmas vacation of seven weeks I spent partly in London, but mostly in Cambridge. In London I saw the opening of Parliament, which was not very much, and heard a debate in the House of Commons. I was in London just at the time of the opening of the university to women, and heard a good deal about it from people I met. One distinguished physician said, as I was told, in the debate, that he had one dear daughter, but he would rather see her in her grave than that she should enter the medical profession! The London University has received much commendation, but it should be remembered that Oxford and Cambridge have the question of residence to deal with, and however much we may approve of the theory, the practical application must be matter for careful consideration and experiment. The great majority of the Cambridge men, I know, are watching Girton and Newnham with the greatest interest, and many are lending a helping hand wherever they have the opportunity. Some who are already heavily burdened with their own college work are most generous in giving of their small leisure to these institutions, and I have no doubt that if all goes well, quietly and not at such a very far distant time these colleges will be incorporated with the university. I think there is all the difference in the world between the spirit of the Harvard and that of the Cambridge examinations for women. The people who planned the Harvard examinations wish that institution to hold out against women as long as possible; those who planned the Cambridge examinations wish just the opposite.
— We want a new pronoun. The need of a personal pronoun of the singular number and common gender is so desperate, urgent, imperative, that according to the established theories it should long since have grown on our speech, as the tails grew off the monkeys.
When I was a child, and spake as a child, reckless of grammar and rhetoric, there was no trouble; but, growing mindful of the proprieties of speech, I became conscious of a need, dimly felt at first, and hardly recognized, but ever growing more imperative, until now it calls loudly every time I open my mouth to speak, or take a pen to write. For instance, I am writing a story, and come to the following sentence: “ Then they had a delightful time reviewing the whole transaction, each stoutly defending the course of the other, and severely blaming ” — I pause. “ Himself ” will not do, because one of them is a woman. “Herself” is out of the question, for the other is a man. Once I should have written “themselves,” but now I know better. That sentence can never be finished. I must write it over again, using “ both ” instead of “ each,” and failing to express my exact meaning.
Again, I am writing a business letter. I say, “If there are any further preliminaries to be arranged, let Mr. or Mrs. Smith come out on the ten o’clock train, and we will meet”— Here I stop. Not “him,” for Mrs. Smith might come; not “her,” for it might be her husband. I will not reconstruct my sentence, and say “ them,” when I particularly wish they should not both be present.
And so am I tormented at every turn, my only comfort being the fact that I am not alone in my misery. How often do I see a fellow-mortal pause in the middle of a sentence, groping blindly for the missing word, and then begin over again, or flounder miserably and ungrammatically through to the bitter end !
Why should we not have a new word ? What is the use of such men as Professor Whitney, or Professor Max Müller, or Mr. Richard Grant White, if they cannot help us in a real trouble like this? They are like the entomologists who spend years of patient research in finding out the scientific name of the potato bug, and cannot tell us how to get rid of him. Let the eminent linguists leave the spelling reform and such trifles long enough to coin us a word which shall spare a preacher from saying, as I heard one once, “ Let every brother or sister examine himself or herself, and looking into his or her heart find out his or her besetting sin, and resolutely cast it from him or her.”
I do not believe there is a writer in the country that is not hampered every time he — no, she— There! I ’ve run against the old snag.
— Corot scarcely ever reproduced himself. He is untranslatable. But if it were possible to put him in a book, I have seen a score of his pictures that would bind in charmingly with the Story of Avis. Ten of his works, great and small, landscape and genre, —lyric and epic poetry, — which shed their dreamy beauty over the Cottier Collection, remind me of what a writer in the April Atlantic said of Miss Phelps’s story, in this wise : “That would be a dull and cold reader indeed who should fail to be impressed by the emotional intensity of the tale, its mental refinement,
. . . and the highly poetic quality of its diction.” Reduce this dictum to studio phrase, and it stands for Corot. His landscapes represent the true meaning of such passages in the Story of Avis as these: “Her future, through the budding of that spring, advanced to meet her. She became electrically prescient of it. She throbbed to it as if perplexing magnetisms played upon the lenient May air. . . . Never had she seemed before to be in such harmony with the infinite growing and yearning of nature. . . . She spread the spring showers upon her palette, and dipped her brushes in the rainbow. . . . The air was full of the languors of unseen buds; far and faint upon the shore summoned the rapture of the hidden sea. . . . The imperfectly defined scent of buds faded from an air gone drunk with yielding blossoms.”
Does this appear extravagant or affected? Allowing the genuineness of the feeling, I think that the sober admirers of Miss Phelps’s remarkable work will agree that Corot’s landscapes are a more proper and natural medium for its expression, while conservative taste, or old fogyism, or impenetrability, whichever you choose to call it, sets down both as being equally insane and devoid of meaning. Sentiments and feelings are discovered in the same way as physical laws and asteroids, or mechanical processes. The undiscovered ones exist, but cannot speak. Combinations of colors, or words intended to express them, have to conquer and work their way into the fibre of the masses before the latter can believe in them or derive corresponding sensations therefrom. Painting has an advantage in this conquest, because it is unconstrained and many-sided, like music, and offers a softer cheek to the conservative’s kiss of submission.
Corot is a stranger to many who feel that they are members in the guild of high art, and because they derived their art ideas from the commonplace and realistic schools. His companionship can be won only through his poetic nature. They are a proportionally small class who readily see and appreciate true poetry, even when it is indicated by perfect rhyme and metre; and it is more difficult still to be able to find, and at pleasure to pitch, the poetic key in landscape painting. But once found, how sweet a symphony the landscape sings !
The skeptics come naturally by the suspicion that the suddenly developed admiration of Corot is a craze and half a humbug. They wonder why the young man, who left a draper’s counter at twenty-six, and spent the remaining forty-nine years of his life studying and dreaming in the home of Claude, in the fields and under the soft skies of Italy, or in the sentimental and sunny atmosphere of France, did not achieve complete recognition in all this time, if he had the genius that is now claimed for him. He certainly painted enough pictures. And the art dealers — who had bought on speculation the several hundred paintings which the public did not crave — took advantage of the artist’s death, in February, I875, to make a collective exhibit of them, and by wellknown means to awaken public attention. His reputation mounted, like mercury by summer fervor, high up among the names of Rousseau, Troyon, Diaz, and Millet. It is easy to accord fame to the dead when the public is made to realize that it has been blind and unfeeling; and it is not discreditable to the honest belief in Corot of those who had the selling of these pictures that they have been dealt out with caution and commercial art.
— A short time since there entered an editorial office in New York an intelligent-looking young negro of twenty-one or twenty-two years. His dress and address were prepossessing, and the editor put his pen behind his ear and received the inevitable bundle of MSS. with a sentiment somewhat akin to pleased expectation. “ Here at last,” thought he,
“ is the indication of that which we have long been anticipating. The coming generation of negroes will be like this young chap.” He adhered, however, to his invariable rule never to examine a MS. while the author waits, and after a few words of encouragement bowed his visitor out, and at once (unprecedented and inexcusable promptness!) opened the package which had been laid on the desk. It contained the wretchedest trash that ever courted recognition as poetry.
The editor determined not to snub the young man, so he violated another custom of the office by returning the MSS. at editorial expense, no stamp having been left, and wrote a kindly letter advising careful reading and memorizing of Longfellow, Tennyson, Whittier, and other poets.
A week passed, and the young man again entered with a buoyant step and confident air. He laid down his package and hastened modestly away. Here is his letter of acknowledgment, and following it is one of the poems which resulted from his study of the best models : —
MR. EDITOR, — After didicating my unfeigned gratitude to you for the kind and parental information which you condesended to communicate to me, in your letter of the 17th of Nove (last) by telling me, that I required much study of the best english writers and much genuine literary culture before I could hope to gain admission to the columns of the best publications; I beg you to allow me to trespass upon your inteligent patience once more, by offering to your valuable journal, three more poems, of my humble composition. With great respect, your obedient servant,
NAPOLEON BONAPART BROWN.
THE WIDOWER'S ADIEU.
To return again O never?
Departed from this world of strife
Forever and forever.
Whilst the rivulet murmer to the river ;
No more wilt thou my consort be
Forever and forever.
And where the aspens shiver
And yet from thee I now must be
Forever and forever.
Forget thee I will never
May there be glee beyond thy gloom
Forever and forever.
Upon the tomb where lies my Bella
Welcome my love a sweet repose
Forever and forever.
Where toil shall find thee never
Where thou wilt in heavenly royalty dress
Forever and forever.
A companion thou wert ever,
But now to thee I bid adieu
Forever and forever.
To return again O never ?
Departed from this world of strife
Forever and forever.
— One evening while I was stationed at Lexington, Kentucky, I rode out to see the great crow roost. It was one of the most remarkable sights I ever witnessed. The place was about seven miles from the city, on the Danville pike. The roost was so ancient that the oldest inhabitant could not tell when the crows first commenced coming there. Many years ago the roost was nearer Lexington, but as the trees were cut away the crows moved southward, always seeking the next piece of timber.
At the time of my visit, there were no large forests in the country near the city, and many pieces of timber had to be called into requisition to lodge their black highnesses. Hundreds slept in the open fields for want of a limb on which to perch, and the wrangle over a desirable bed in a tree-top was something fearful to witness. From the amount of cawing and jawing done every evening, one might readily have supposed the question of reconstructing the roost, or moving it altogether, was under discussion.
It has long been a subject of conjecture whether the crows will ever abandon their ancient roost, but judging by the fact that hundreds, not to say thousands, have already given up the trees, and roost on the ground, I am inclined to believe that when there are no more trees in the section all will content themselves with a bed on mother earth.
A gentleman who lived near the roost, and who had a fine locust grove in front of his house, was surprised one evening to see it black with crows. For a time all went well, but the roost became popular, and every evening there was a wrangle to see who would get it. As the desirable place would hold only a few hundreds, and there were some thousands who nightly applied for lodgings, the noise and confusion became intolerable. Sometimes in the middle of the night an overloaded limb would break, and then a battle for new lodgings would ensue, lasting not unfrequently till daylight. Tired out with the din and noise that banished all idea of sleep at night, the gentleman and his son sallied out with shot guns, and slew some hundreds of their annoying visitors. Next morning the crows were all gone, and returned no more to that grove.
It was about four o’clock P. M. when I arrived on the ground, and already the crows had begun to pour in. At sundown they were coining from all directions, and long lines continued entering the woods from every point of the compass until dark. Each flock had its leader or high-flyer, who flew over the tree-tops until he found his roost, when the head of the column alighted, the rest circling round and round, and winding themselves about their chief. Only a few crows would alight on the same tree where the leader alighted, from which fact I judged he was a sort of aristocratic personage, who did not associate with the common herd of crows, and that the birds who slept on his tree were the royal family and crows of high degree. Certain it was that on one tree only two or three old crows sat, who kept up an incessant cawing; and now and then one would quit the tree and fly to an approaching flock, which he would apparently conduct to its proper place in the wood, and then return and report to an old chap who sat on the topmost branch of the highest tree, and who never quitted his station, but kept flapping his wings up and down, constantly grumbling about something. He was a stately and solemn-looking crow, of evident great respectability, and may have been the king of the crows. At times he became greatly excited, hopped about and spoke in a loud voice; at others he cawed gutturally, and if I might be allowed to judge from his motions and manners was somewhat of a tyrant in his management of affairs.
The crows did not seem in the least afraid of us, and were apparently used to human visitors. With my companion I drove up quite close to trees bending beneath their weight, but the birds, usually so shy, did not mind us, until my friend clapped his hands together, imitating the explosion of a pistol; then a scene of the wildest consternation and excitement ensued. Instantly cries arose from all parts of the woods, and thousands of crows flew into the air, circling round and round us, cawing vociferously. At times the noise was so great that although sitting side by side in the buggy we had to speak loudly in order to be heard by each other. Having caused great distress and alarm among our black friends we drove off, and for miles saw flocks in the air still coming in to roost.
The rustle of wings in flying was one of the most peculiar sounds I ever heard: a large flock passing silently over our heads, we paused to listen, and could liken the noise to nothing but the flutter of a million fans, or the rumpling of vast pieces of silk. Although the crows would not abandon their roost, it was a most annoying and unsafe one for them; the boys from the city and adjoining farms frequently going out with dogs and guns to kill them, and slaughtering hundreds of the poor creatures.
On a dark night they would not fly from a torch, and if it was wet and drizzling one could hardly start them up.
A double-barreled shot gun, or an old musket loaded with slugs, when fired off under a large tree would bring down sometimes as many as forty birds.
If started out of their sleep the crows would fly from tree to tree, and seem quite helpless, losing in the night-time apparently all that cunning which characterizes them by daylight. When the firing of guns was continued for any time the birds would fly into the open fields, and there sleep until morning. As soon as day began to break they would quit their roost, and go no one knew where. It has been estimated that a crow will fly a hundred miles for his dinner and return home after tea. I have not the least doubt that many of the crows that slept in Kentucky were denizens of Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. I think it a fair estimate to say that at least one million crows slept at the roost in Kentucky. About the last of March in each year they would leave the roost, and scatter themselves over the Northern States, and return again in the fall.
A gentleman who had observed them closely for many years said that every year they decreased largely in numbers, and he believed the Crows, like the Indians, were slowly passing away, and in time would become a defunct species of bird on the American continent.
— My chief purpose in writing is to express my admiration, my grateful admiration, of the article on Dangerous Tendencies of American Life in the October number. It is full of real knowledge,— thoughtful, penetrative, wise. I should like to know who wrote it. The analysis of the religious feeling is excellent. The writer, however, makes the great mistake of supposing that the case is remediable, — and remediable by teaching! You might as well teach wolves and monkeys. Disfranchise all men not born in the country and all negroes, and rule them with an inflexible but kindly rule; take such measures as would stop emigration; suppress nine in ten of the newspapers; sweep away the present system of public schools, and substitute for them dame schools, in which the three R’s, with sewing, good manners, decency, and deference would be taught, and something might be done, — otherwise nothing.
— Mr. Richard Grant White’s article in the September Atlantic contains some errors. For example, he says of the word bureau, “In England it is still pronounced as a French word, bu-rów; in America it has become thoroughly englished, and is bú-ro. In this respect it is like trait. ... As far as my observation goes, an American never pronounces bureau and trait as if they were French words.” The qualification in the last sentence is a protection for the writer; but the passage is calculated to give an incorrect impression. I know that the French pronunciation of bureau (burów) has long been in use on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Without any trouble of search, I could find an intelligent and educated person reared in that section who had never heard any other pronunciation before leaving it. I do not pretend to say that it is in universal or even general use in every county, but I have assuredly heard it from Eastern Shore lips. It is true that English usages have been less obliterated in this region than in almost any other part of the United States,— even the negroes (though Methodists) generally keeping Easter and Whitsuntide by merry-making and cessation of work. But for all that its inhabitants are Americans within the strictest definition that a Know Nothing ever invented.
Again, “suit of hair” is not a distinctively “Western and Southwestern barbarism.” It is largely, if not generally, in use in Maryland, and perhaps elsewhere in the Atlantic States. For my own part, I confess to an inability to see anything barbarous in it, or even flagrantly inaccurate. A suit of rooms does not cease to be a suit because the rooms are alike. Yet I suspect that a suit of hairs (which is what is really meant) would please Mr. Grant very little more than the present neater form of expression. But, right or wrong, the phrase is quite as truly Eastern as Western.
In the same article we are told that “ the giving of two christening names . . . did not come into vogue in either country until within the present century. ... The new fashion is one of the accompaniments of democracy. It is one of the signs of the rise of the middle class.” Now three names were assuredly used to some extent before the Revolution, in that body of what we may call colonial aristocracy which was naturally the farthest removed from sympathy with democracy, or from participation in the rise of the middle class. Matthew Ward Tilghman was a prominent public man before the outbreak of the Revolution. His is position in Maryland was not unlike that of the elder Adams in Massachusetts. No doubt many others could be cited among the country gentry of those days. I have repeatedly seen names of persons belonging to that class on tombstones, which recorded their death at a ripe age soon after the opening of this century. Richard Tilghman Earle died in 1794 at an advanced age.
Yet again, the triple names could not have originated in accordance with Mr. White’s theory. Johns and Jameses have never been confined to the middle class; as witness the list of British kings and leading Americans of the days when the middle class seldom led. Nor does the fact that people travel more make any difference. However well I may know my neighbor John Anything, I have an imperative need to distinguish between him and another John Anything in addressing a fourth person. This need was never felt more urgently than in the region before spoken of, which has been penetrated by railroads for the first time within a very few years, and the most interesting parts of which are still beyond the reach of the telegraph. The number of families of similar status has always been so few that many names have been duplicated throughout. Sometimes a triple name afforded a solution, even when the addition was applied by no better authority than the popular wish to distinguish. Some of these nicknames are odd enough. Frequently, too, the father’s christening name was (and is) used to designate the son. Thus John Blank of John is readily distinguished from John Blank of James and Richard Blank of Richard. This custom, evincing so great a need for a third name, obtained (as it does still) among that very class of country gentlemen who were as far removed from real democracy as any one well could be, whose names were known to every child in the community, and who seldom left the Eastern Shore for more than a few days, except when, in youth, they went to New England or Old England to be educated.
— I don’t know that anybody has as yet denominated Mr. Mallock a moralist, but it seems to me that since his late contribution to the Nineteenth Century he may very properly be called one. The article referred to is entitled A Familiar Colloquy, and is a bright and lively conversation on art and literature between three ladies and two young men, who have met by chance at the house of a fashionable London lady. The leading and more serious part of the talk is by Gage Stanley; he and his cousin have just returned from the Grosvenor Gallery, and each recounts his impressions. The school of modern British art represented by Burne Jones, Alma Tadema, and Tissot is severely criticised. To Gage Stanley these painters “seem spiritually color-blind. They paint evil with no consciousness of sin, and good with no admiration for virtue.” And further, he says, “Look at Burne Jones’s women. Would they suffer for any one’s sake if they could help it? The only sorrow they know is the languor of exhausted animalism.” Of one of Tissot’s women: “ Look in her eyes. Can you find a thought in them of anything beyond her own pleasure, or perhaps a fretfulness that at this moment she is too weary to be pleased ? " All these paintings, he thinks, are but an exemplification of a change which is gradually affecting the world, —a seeking after personal happiness at the peril of morals. Ruskin is here quoted as showing that a truly great artist is always moral. And the line from one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, —
is given as an appropriate motto for the “ diseased desires ” shown in the whole series of Burne Jones’s paintings. From pictures they turn to discuss poetry, and Swinburne fares as hardly in the hands of Gage Stanley as did Burne Jones. That work which Mr. Henry James Jr. has called “ Gautier’s one disagreeable performance,” and which Swinburne has immortalized with a sonnet, is here styled “ the foulest and the filthiest book that ever man put pen to,” and further denounced at length too great to quote.
In this article more than in anything else Mr. Mallock has written, there is a serious earnestness which cannot be misunderstood, — a crying out against the impure and immoral tendencies of modern art and poetry, and a striving after higher ideals of morality and virtue.
Without theology and faith, morality cannot stand. It is because we have lost faith that our morals are lax; it is faith that theology will have to battle for in the future; and to do this, he says, “it must provide itself with quite new weapons.” Mr. Mallock moralizes in this manner not without a purpose, for if he is not a Roman Catholic, he at least argues for that faith. In fact, all his writings show a desire to demonstrate the insufficiency and immorality of the practical part of all philosophical systems as rules of life, and the all-sufficiency of the Roman Catholic religion.
— In view of the important part the so-called Mormon Problem has played in national politics, it is perhaps a little remarkable that the literature of the Latter Day Saints, apart from that of a controversial nature, has attracted so little attention. Familiarity with their poetry, for instance, may be said to be almost confined within the limits of modern Zion. Religion, as the expression of man’s highest spiritual nature, has in ancient and modern times inspired the muse to some of the loftiest strains. It is but natural, therefore, that we should feel some interest in the poetical outpourings of a religious fervor, — the most remarkable in some respects since the days of Mahomet. We offer the reader a few results of our researches. Taking the Mormon hymn book and opening it at random, let us say at hymn 341, we find the following: —
Away! 'T is conference again,
And Zion’s untold thousands come to
Swell the joyous strain,
To wake the echoes slumbering
Through Utah’s blest domain,
As the saints are marching on victorious.’’
It may be claimed, however, and with justice, that hymnology is not always the highest style of literature, even of a distinctively religious system. We will therefore turn to the poems of John Lyon, an enthusiastic Scotch convert, who may be called the poet laureate of Mormonism. His volume, entitled The Harp of Zion, was published in Edinburgh about twenty-five years ago, but we know of no American reprint of it. We have never seen a copy outside of Salt Lake City, and are unable to say how large a circulation it has in the Gentile world. The following may serve as an example of his style: —
That heaven on earth is now commenced anew !
That Brigham wears the crown of Utah’s star!
That couns’llors rule, and people from afar
Gather in crowds from Ephraim’s promised land,
Where God’s own word shall all the world command !”
The following is an extract from an Epistle to Joseph Linforth, to be found in the same collection: —
Without such crime-inspiring tools
By which the poor are flayed !
Its priests provide with their own hands
For all necessities' demands
By working at their trade.
There each one judges what is right By God’s unerring word ; The couns'lor pays nought for his light, The poor dread not the sword ; But peace still ne'er cease will Where seers and prophets dwell, But rancor and hanker are Gentilism’s Hell ! ”
In the poetry of this latest dispensation, a system boasting of contemporary apostles, seers, prophets, and revelators, personal tributes naturally form an important part. These lines To President Brigham Young, from poems by E. R. Snow, lose none of their interest or sublimity by reason of the prophet’s subsequent death: —
And the weight of your calling can none define ;
Being called of the Lord o'er the Twelve to preside,
And with them o'er the church and the world
In a chariot of fire, you have lost your head !
Lost your head?. Oh, no ; you are left to prove
To the gods your integrity, faith, and love.
For the mantle of Joseph seems to rest
Upon you, while the spirit and power divine
That inspired his heart are inspiring thine.”
To the same sweet singer we are indebted for An Address to Earth. The title is perhaps a little suggestive of Bryant, but I think that the quotation I offer will relieve the poetess of any charge of plagiarism: —
Amid corruption here,
Part of thyself was borne away
To form another sphere.
He gained by right approv'd,
And nearer to the throne of God
His planet upward mov’d.
The ' ten lost tribes ’ away,
Thou, earth, wast severed to provide
The orb on which they stay.”
I have reserved for the last the following strain from the Harp of Zion. It is entitled Mormon Triumph: —
And scattered thrice the saints,
And holy men still scoff it,
A Mormon’s heart ne'er faints, Ha, Ha !
And show them right from wrong ;
For none know truth but Mormons,
Although our word seems strong ! Ha, Ha! ”
— I am a warm friend of the dramatic art. Last spring, after spending over two years in Germany and France, where I had passed scores of delightful evenings in the excellent theatres of those countries, I visited London for the first time. The enjoyment of the English drama naturally took a high place among my anticipated pleasures in the greatest city of the world. I was disappointed. English seemed somehow to have a common, vulgar sound when spoken on the stage. Actors went through their parts in a business-like way, and apparently the chief thing in their minds was a thought of what an utter absurdity it would be for the audience to fancy that it was beholding real life; they seemed to be intent upon producing the impression that they were actors, and not human beings. It was painful to hear how they all spoke cockney. I went to see Toole, who is famed in London as a great low-comedian. With any one but an Englishman his claim to that rank would chiefly rest on his habit of introducing some gag or piece of broad by-play to raise a laugh ; this in turn seemed so to please the actor that he lost no opportunity to drag in the same piece of business throughout the evening. The sorriest part of it all was that the public laughed as heartily at the twentieth repetition of a stale joke as when it was first heard. I was reminded of an ancient English tragedy in which the arch-villain was punished by his coronation with a red-hot iron crown. This produced such a tremendous sensation that in the course of the drama the crown was reheated something like a dozen times, and every villain, together with a few of the virtuous men, came to an end through its means. The stage methods of to-day show that the English public has not yet outgrown its primitive childishness. With nearly all actors there was a constant misplacing of accent, so that whole sentences became almost meaningless. There was hardly a trace of the charming naturalness of German comedy-acting, or of the sparkling vivacity of the French. The English stage gentleman is modeled upon the cad, while the lady has evidently formed her ideal in the London Alhambra. It has frequently been asserted that the presentation of comedy has spoiled the English actor for classic or ideal acting. I believe neither this nor that other talk about the unfitness of the AngloSaxon nature for acting. It would be nearer the truth to say that the presentation of farce and burlesque has spoiled the English actor for realistic comedy. One evening I went to the Haymarket Theatre. The first piece was termed a comedy, and was played off in the usual clownish fashion. Then John Gilbert’s delightful fairy comedy, The Palace of Truth, was given; a charmingly poetical drama, at the same time brimming with rich humor. To my surprise, the same actors who in the sham comedy had so roused my disgust now entered into the spirit of the real comedy with warm, earnest feeling. There was no more trace of misplaced accent; the blank verse was recited smoothly and with understanding; the players showed that they had a thorough appreciation for the poetry of their parts; and humor was no longer buffoonery. This went to prove that the real fault of the English stage was that it was weighted with a load of false traditions prescribing that whatever was intended to be realistic must be shown in a convex mirror and distorted into a burlesque image of nature; and that whenever actors are allowed a chance to raise themselves into regions of idealism, where they are no longer hampered by these traditions, they instantly become natural, their own imagination being more loyal to true dramatic principles than the traditions which trammel them. My first impressions caused me to regard English players as a set of soulless blockheads; but I now saw that it was their training which was at fault, and that they themselves bad the feeling for sentiment and perception of the ideal in art common to the entire Anglo-Saxon race.
Returning home, I found the American theatre encumbered with similar faults. There was the same stagey tone, unlike anything heard in real life, the same misplacing of accent, and although cockney was not prevalent an unpleasant change had come over the English heard behind the foot-lights. It is well known that there are differences in pronunciation in various sections of the United States; that in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and in the West there are marked distinctions in accent. Now the combination system has brought together players from all parts of the country, and it is not uncommon to hear nearly all the different American accents from members of the same company, — or troupe, which is perhaps a better name for these wandering organizations. Nowhere is purer English spoken than in Boston, and it is not pleasant when we hear words like half, laugh, and draft spoken flatly like cat and hat, calm pronounced cam, or the h dropped from words like where, which, and what. I noticed that Madame Janauschek, in spite of her perceptible foreign intonation, spoke better and more agreeable English than almost any member of her very poor supporting company. In France and Germany the stage language is the standard in pronunciation, hut the foreigner who should visit our theatres in the expectation of learning the correct English pronunciation would have a bewildering variety of styles to choose from. The farcical manner of acting is also characteristic of the American stage. Actors are not so completely the slaves of tradition as in England, but, notwithstanding, very few choose to be true and natural, although the success of these few shows a public appreciation of truth to nature. There is very little idea of the value of delicacy of handling, of nice touches, and of fine portrayal of character. Our actors seem to be inspired with mortal fear lest the audience may not perceive how funny they are, so they exaggerate and give coarse, clumsy caricatures of character ; their pictures are broad, crude daubs instead of well-defined, carefully outlined sketches. I recently saw an adaptation of a French play; one of the characters was a habitual newspaper reader, and the actor knew no better way to portray this peculiarity than by lugging around huge armfuls of crumpled newspapers wherever he went. Again, I saw an adaptation of one of Benedix’s German comedies, arranged for two popular comedians. Benedix was a playwright rather than a dramatist, and his works are generally good examples of skillful construction upholstered with very commonplace language. The adaptation was given a “local tone” by garnishing it with American slang and vulgarity, and the home-baked, domestic flavor of the original, which was the chief characteristic and great charm of the piece, was spoiled by the introduction of a deal of extravagant and furniture - smashing business. The two comedians were simply boisterously funny; their impersonations were typical of no human beings ever met with in America or elsewhere, whereas the originals were good pictures of their corresponding German types.
This lack of well-trained actors is a matter that calls for earnest consideration. Study abroad is considered essential for good artists in almost every other profession, and why should not actors do likewise? They should not go to England, but let them spend at least a year in France and another in Germany.
— Dosia is said to have had a great success in Paris, and I bought it, as I always buy a French novel, for a midsummer journey; but I consider myself egregiously cheated. Dosia, in my opinion, amounts to nothing at all. It certainly is not brilliant; neither is it lofty. It is not dramatic; neither is it a cloverscented idyl. It is a Russian story, but so little localized that the scene might have been laid anywhere else without injury to the tale. And this want of background and flavor of the soil is not made up, as in some great writers who believe in “ people, not things,” by vividly painted strong characters, men and women whom you remember. Dosia herself is a very harmless little tomboy; the princess is one of your eminently meritorious women, who calmly entraps Pierre, talks to him about “ les machines de son exploitation agricole,” lends him instructive books, and sends him home with “ un gros bouquin sous le bras. C’est l’usage de la maison.” And Platon, her brother, insufferably priggish, like Miss Warner’s heroes, is so plainly advanced on the very first page as the man and jailer for poor Dosia that you cannot even pretend not to see it. There are no delineations of character, then, and no background; unless indeed we take for that purpose a sort of Russian seesaw, or rather more like what in the Southern States is called a joggingboard, I suppose. In the last chapter all the characters are seated upon this plank in a row, en famille, and, like “un vol d’hirondelles perchées sur un fil télégraphique,” they disappear, hop! hop! As to plot, there is only what strikes an American as an absurdity. Dosia while still a school-girl, having become furiously unhappy one day because her horse has been taken from her, beseeches her cousin to carry her with him when he goes; her cousin being Pierre, who is but little older than she is. Pierre is not especially in love with Dosia, although she is “ jolie comme un eœur,” but consents because she is so unhappy. They start together in his tarantass, driven by a postboy, while it is still daylight, and drive only a short distance through the early evening; by that time they have irretrievably quarreled, the postboy is tartly ordered to return, Dosia’s mother supposes that her madcap daughter had taken a fancy to go a little way with her cousin, and that is the end of the escapade. The end of the escapade? By no means. For if there is any plot in this sketchy book, it is that very escapade. It continually looms up as something terrible, a blot in the past of poor Dosia, dark as Erebus to the solemn Platon, her lover. His sister, the princess, who is somewhat “ emancipated,” and has liberal views, hazards the remark that it was but “ un enfantillage.” But Platon, who knows the whole story and precisely what happened to the very number of breaths, gloomily replies: “ Cependant, pour celui qui l'épousera, eet enfantillage n’est pas sans conséquence.” Even the princess gives in before this view of the case. Farther on, he thinks of her freak as a “ souvenir qu’elle voudrait plus tard pouvoir effacer de sa vie au prix de tous les sacrifices.” He goes out into the garden where she first spoke to her cousin, and gives himself up to “ l’affaissement complet du désespoir.” And, finally, the end is attained only by Dosia’s tearsand-ashes confession that last year she was guilty of “a fault” which would cost her “ the happiness of her life,” namely, a two hours’ ride with her cousin in the tarantass, in the presence of the postboy. “ Aprfès cela, monsieur, je ne suis plus digne de votre estime.” And then, not without a good deal of the air of a man who forgives much, Platon decides to take her.
Some people say they enjoy “ light stories;” but, light or heavy, I think stories should have some taste. We have a good many novels like rice pudding; others are Roman punch; others, liqueurs. Dosia is like white of egg, with the sugar left out.
— In whatever degree the poets of the present day may be found to differ from those of fifty years ago, there is certainly a very slight similarity between the respective verse scribblers of either epoch. The ancient poetaster was a very pronounced character in his way. Of course, he had one quality which is common to so many of his race, and that was a most profound and irreversible conviction regarding the general emptiness of human affairs. Personally, he leaned with considerable fondness toward the possession of such attributes as glossy dark curls, a pale complexion, and a Byronic collar He was usually a most incorrigible wanderer. It was his peculiarity that he never traveled; he was perpetually “ wandering.” Ruins, graveyards, and places somewhat unpopular with the multitude being his principal stopping - points, it was doubtless for this reason that scrip and staff were preferred to the usual modes of conveyance. But it was astonishing and indeed melancholy to observe how slight an amount of mental benefit ever seemed to result from his visits to foreign countries. He appeared to glide amid Venice in a gondola, or ruminate amid the Pisan Campo Santo, or explore the Roman Colosseum, for the sole purpose of stating these facts in his verse with a nonchalant contempt, as matters of no earthly consequence whatever. After his third stanza the reader frequently had a sense of this unhappy writer having been pretty nearly everywhere on the inhabited globe, and having carried away with him from each place the most saturnine if not dyspeptic impressions. His immedicable pain was even proof against a trip to the ruins of Babylon, not to say Ecbatana or Persepolis. He produced in you, although after a somewhat more scholarly fashion, the impression of Charles Reade’s lunatic who so untiringly shrieks forth that “everything is nothing, and nothing is everything.” He had an extraordinary passion for writing his proper nouns with capital letters. Sometimes he would tell his mysterious Lady that when Flattery’s whisper ’mid the dazzling throng should pour its hollow tale in Beauty’s ear, O then, perchance, et cetera, with the proper rhymes for “throng” and “ear.” Sometimes it would be an announcement to the effect that he sped to meet the heartless Foe, whose shafts, however fierce they rang, could deal no anguish by their blow more bitter than Affection’s pang! The pathetic distress of this ill-starred being was in every annual and “ keepsake ” throughout the land. He would be wildly rushing to battle in the“ Maiden’s Garland ” this week, and roaming ’mid climes of the olive and fig in “Fancy’s Nosegay ” the next. Sometimes his Farewell or his Stanzas to —— would be set to music, and young girls in dresses that barely touched the ground, and with a single camellia in their hair, would play the songs before spinners and feel immensely thrilled as they did so. They would think how desperately attractive a creature such and such a poet must be, provided it were really his picture on the title-page of the song, representing a cloaked personage, very tall of stature, and with bowed head and folded arms, perfectly unoccupied in the neighborhood of a sunset and a partly shattered column.
The verse scribbler of to-day is quite often represented by a wholly opposite sort of individual. He is one about whose dress nothing more peculiar manifests itself than an occasional marked seediness. He, too, is broken-hearted, — but from a widely different cause. No special circumstance of feminine scorn or infidelity concerns him. It is with him, as with his predecessor, a case of everything being nothing, and nothing everything; no particular heart - blight is to be blamed for this agreeable impression. Nothing so mild as “affection’s pang” is talked about by our modern poetaster; it is rather “ the wild, keen passion of parting,” with this gentleman, or “ the close-clinging kiss that consumes,” or something equally high-spiced and alliterative. He is always extremely alliterative; and always a little more so, it is observable, when he has nothing at all to say. This latter event being one of considerable frequency, his verses sometimes remind us of those famous lines which begin, —
Boldly by battery besieged Belgrade,”
and so on, until they reach the letter Z. And with all due respect intended toward the ladies of this gentleman’s acquaintance, it would nevertheless often appear as if most of them were, to phrase the matter with mildness, a trifle reckless in their deportment. But then it should be remembered that after all they are constantly depraved in a classic way. A cry often, too, they are mediævally immoral, which of course makes a difference. Their delineator is always either classical or mediæval. He would not, under any circumstances, deal with any subject that has not clinging about it the glamorous mist of at least three hundred years. He is so resolutely Greek, so inflexibly archaic, that one sometimes wonders how he manages ever to do anything so outrageously modern as to jump into a street car or to read a morning paper. He is fond of saying “ I wis” and “ I wot,” and “ therewithal,” and “gat” for “got,” and “straight” for “ straightway.” He thinks it a most desirable thing to have said of you by your critics that you are hopeless, believe in nothing, have been utterly disappointed with the general plan of things, hate the present, and were too evidently not born for it, but that your genius, notwithstanding its bitterness and morbidity, is an unquestionable fact. All these comments our modern poetaster has read regarding certain men who have written remarkable verses in the present day, and he aspires to have the same Said of himself at some future time. Hence those pitiless, red-lipped sirens, whose kisses are a deadly delight; hence those diatribes against the iron implacability of fate; hence those tendencies toward renaissance, and those æsthetic refusals to notice any era later than the sixteenth century.
— After laughing heartily over an incident in Mr. Mallock’s New Republic, where a young man of gentle birth and refined culture was frightened away from asking the hand of a fascinating young country girl by hearing her say that she was ”partial to boiled chicken,” I was not a little surprised to find the following phrase in Hallam’s Middle Ages: “ A solicitude to avoid continual transitions, and to give free scope to the natural association of connected facts, has dictated this arrangement, to which I confess myself partial.” (The italics are my own.) There can be no two opinions about the inelegance and incorrectness of the expression, yet it seems a little odd that even the superrefined society of the New Republic should consider it so utterly damning as to be a crucial test of a person’s gentility, while so guardedly precise a writer as Hallam apparently saw nothing in it that was beneath the dignity of his style.
— In the Contributors’ Club, July Atlantic, 1878, in the article on the Kearsarge Mountain, it is stated that Captain Winslow who commanded the Kearsarge gunboat (famous for its sea fight with the Alabama) was a native of New Hampshire.
Captain John A. Winslow who commanded the Kearsarge was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and educated as a citizen of Boston, Massachusetts.