The Contributors' Club
ONE of the most exciting questions that one girl can ask of another is that concerning the number and manner of the offers of marriage she has received. Through such questionings a few general conclusions have been reached, namely, that every female human has one, every ordinarily agreeable female human has from two to four, every extraordinarily agreeable female human from four to eight; also, under rarely favoring conditions of wealth, beauty, esprit, etc., female humans may average twelve; under normal conditions beauty is a slight factor compared with manner. The following fragments of a conversation between three girls, who met together for the purpose of relating some of their experiences, may substantiate these averages: —
“ We must begin,” said Graceanna, pathetically. “ You, Lou, were twentyfive first. Make your story ten minutes long at least, while I am consoling myself with this ‘ bonne bouche.' A new piece of candy can be taken every ten minutes, allowing five minutes for consumption and five for rest. How many offers have you had ? Why are you not married, Lou Parker? ”
“ Because I never had an offer.”
The other girls gave a low whistle of astonishment, driven by this unexpected avowal into masculine demonstration. Lou blushed and looked extremely guilty, and the tears almost came, as she exclaimed, halting between the words, “ Ireally-could-not-help-it,” and then animated by a sudden impulse of self-respect, added, " I don’t think it is nice to have offers. I should not want any man to come near enough to me to love me, unless I loved him.”
“ How can you ever tell that you should like any one until he has told you, right up and down?” asked Maggie, the other friend.
“ We both should feel it, if we did like each other; it would somehow betray itself. My husband must be my only lover.”
“ I don’t believe you ’ll ever have one, and such lofty ideas make ordinary people seem wicked. I feel personally insulted. Why, I have had— Oh, beg pardon, it is not my turn.”
“ Yes, it is,” said Lou, thankful for a chance of escape; " tell all you can.”
“ I have had two whole and two half ones. It seemed too bad to let two of the men make guys of themselves, because one was the brother of a friend at whose house I have capital times; so it would have been very inconvenient. And the other was a minister, and I thought if he got discouraged early, it might affect his preaching; now he takes so many texts from Solomon’s Song that his sermons are poetical, and don't make people feel that they are miserable sinners. Individual love and universal love get mixed up in them, and you can’t tell which is best; if you love an individual you are just as saintly as if you loved the Cosmos alone. So I told them both that I was prejudiced against marrying and hated love-making, and that when I liked a man I would let him know it plainly. ' Then you don’t like me?’ said my little minister. ' No, I don’t,’ I told him. And then we both laughed, and he looked as if he had saved himself from jumping off a precipice. The other — he is a real splendid man—looked me square in the eye, saying, in such a grave way, ' If you mean what you say, Miss Jones, I thank you.’ 'I do,’ said I, as solemnly as an old saint. But now I wish I had let it come to the point, because he is the best of the whole, and it is disgraceful to be twenty-five and not even engaged. He went out to India soon after, so I am sure he did like me.” She drew a long breath, and took the biggest piece of candy.
“ What did the other two do? ” questioned the two girls eagerly.
“ Oh, they were every-day kind of affairs. One was in walking: my gentleman plucked some white-weed and talked nonsense all the way about his peculiar nature, and bow mine suited his; and pulled the flower to pieces, counting, ' Sie liebt mich, sic liebt mich niclit,’ and held it to me as he came to the last petal. ' Nicht, nicht! ’ shouted I, and off I ran, and he after me, asking if I were in earnest, — saying he liebte mich sehr. I told him I was, and then he declared he would kill himself, and in six months he was engaged to some one else; and I found out that three months before that walk he had offered himself to two girls, to one two or three weeks after the first had refused him, and had told both that he should commit suicide. Another offer was by letter, and instead of keeping it as cordial for a despondent mood, 1 burnt it as a surety for a good time in the next world. If I am never married, the reason will not be want of offers.”
“ And if some one should come back from India? ” asked Graceanna.
“ Oh, I might indicate the state of my mind, if I had not grown too old to look sentimental. Now it is your turn.”
“ Well, this is fun, but I wish we had not made such a compact. For my part, I could not help it, — the offers, I mean. I was always surprised. I liked the men, too, but they would provoke me by saying they had misunderstood me, when of course they had, and very much. It made me feel like a naughty child, who don’t know why she is naughty.”
“ Don’t moralize,” said Maggie. " How many? — that is the point.”
“ Ten. Four came the first winter I was in society; the men were fools to think I liked them, because I enjoyed polking with them, and every one li;is since married.”
“You should never have seen them alone,” said Lou, patronizingly.
“I did not see them alone on purpose,” replied Graceanna, indignantly. “ One of them I never spoke to except when other persons were present. One was a widower, and proposed six times after he had seen me, because he thought I would be a good disciplinarian unto his family. One offer was by postal card, and an answer requested by return mail. I lost a handsome opera-glass through another. I went with a party to the theatre, and my friend handed me an opera-glass, which was new, for it still bore the. dealer’s tag; and when I returned it, he whispered that as the same focus gave the same vision to both of us, would I not allow him to view all earthly objects through the same lens of mutual affection. That was so scientific and obscure that I said, ' What? ' And be muttered, 'Take the giver with the gift.’ There we had to remain, side by side, till the play was over, with our eyes fastened on the stage. Oh, I lost, too, a beautiful rosewood dressing-case, filled with perfume bottles and brushes and all sorts of things, because it was intended for mutual service. I sent it back to the fellow, with a case of razors for individual service. Father still teases me about my expensive present. I know some one who now has the dressing-case, for it was too valuable not to be used, and when I go to her house I always use with secret amusement their mutual clothesbrush.
“ One man was nearly the most splendid person I ever knew. I did get so far as to state my requirements, because it is my fixed code that even if I am dead in love I won’t say yes until my lover tells me his past life, has promised me an allowance, freedom to attend my own church, to be strong - minded and have just as many queer friends as I choose, to vote, and also some two or three things in regard to himself. He did promise me all I wanted for myself (should not I have been rich?) but he thought I ought to trust him for himself, and that it was not feminine to ask about his past life. So we parted, for neither of us would yield. Another gentleman I knew was determined to be married. He wrote three letters and sealed them, sending the first to me, that if a negative reply came back, he could mail the second without incurring the trouble of composition, when in an annoyed mood, and then told of it afterwards. Another gentleman imitated the Indian’s custom, by sending me, not a cord of real wood, but a bon-bon imitation of one; requesting that the warmth of the same fire provided by this would-be wood might cheer us both. The other affairs were simple in speech, but manly, just like those you read of in novels, and I can’t bear to think of them. I am so sorry, — that is all.”
“ I know another one you will have tonight,” said Lou. Graceanna searched eagerly for the bottom piece of candy, whilst Maggie cast sundry winks and inquiring glances at the speaker, who quickly bethought herself how to make a sudden detour from her assertion by asking why a kiss was like a sermon “Because it demands an introduction, two heads, and a personal application.”
“ Well,” said Lou, laughing, “ let us draw some generalizations from our personal confessions; and first, I wish to say that self-Conseious girls are to blame for having offers. But those who never think about themselves, for instance, like you two, and who do not think about men as men, but treat them naturally, as they would any one else, and are always jolly, cannot avoid offers, and are no more blameworthy than for having girl friends. Yet I wish you had not received so many. If you only cared more for culture and poor people it would not have happened.”
— Why is it that an American in England is instantly recognized as such, not by the natives only, but by his traveling fellow-citizens as well? On the Continent it is not always so, for I sat with some Britons one whole week at a table d'hôte in the Rhœian Alps and passed for a German who “ could no English; ” and one day a British cad assaulted the Yankee consul at Barcelona with a grin of frantic delight, saying, “ Thank ’Eaven ! ’Ere’s an Englishman ! ” To which the American replied, in a tone that froze the genial current of his expansion, “ Thank Heaven! Here isn’t.” But on the inviolate island, through every disguise of dress, every travesty of voice, your American nationality betrays itself, and even silence is no protection. My first surprise was one bright morning, years ago, when I left my hotel in Liverpool for a stroll through the streets. I had hardly gone a block when an enterprising newsboy rushed up and said, “ 'Ave a morning paper, sir? List of passengers by the Russia. Find yer name in the paper! ” I went pensively back to the tavern, and started for London by the next train. In the course of years I learned the uselessness of attempting to deceive the natives, but still thought it might be possible to elude the recognition of my own countrymen. But this endeavor was equally vain. Last summer I was looking at the pottery in the British Museum. My clothes had been made in Regent Street. My hat I had bought in Piccadilly, and my shoes in Burlington Arcade. My hair had been cut in Portland Place the day before. I carried in my hand a French Baedeker. I was enjoying the majolicas in a cosmopolitan peace of mind, when suddenly I was aware of a dark shadow looming above me. I locked up (for I am mean of stature) and saw an uncouth figure which seemed as if it might have come from the Wabash Bottom without change of ears or linen. He smiled and held out his hand, and said, “ You ’re an American, ain’t ye?” I was a countryman of Washington, and could not deny it; but how did he know it? I asked him, and he laughed: “I dunno. How’d ye know I was? ” Here my veracity failed me, and I made him proud and happy by telling him I thought he was an Italian.
I ask again, Why is it? I think I never made a mistake in my life between an Englishman and an American, and I havn e met many of them in many lands. Yet I find it very difficult to formulate to myself the differences between them. There is scarcely any difference in dress among gentlemen nowadays all over the world. The speech of a Bostonian — qui se respecte — is almost more English than the Englishman’s. But though I have taken young Americans for Frenchmen, for Germans, for Italians, and for Spaniards, I never yet mistook one for an Englishman, nor an Englishman for an American. Even our accent in speaking foreign languages is different from the English. I called once on a friend in Paris, and after a short colloquy with the domestic at the door, departed without leaving my name. When my friend returned, his servant tried to describe the visitor. Was he French? No. English? Oh, no. American? Crois pas. German? Certainly not. At last he said, “ He made upon me the effect of a Hungarian.” I am, as you see, stating a riddle I have no intention of trying to solve. My question is, Why are we, English in blood, in language, in dress, in institutions, less like Englishmen than any other civilized race on the globe, while we differ from them in ways too subtle to be defined? It is useless to talk about “ type.” I saw in an illustrated paper the other day, side by side, portraits of Mr. Schuyler and Mix Baring, secretaries of the American and the British legations at Constantinople. Baring was of the so-called American type, that is, he was thin and dark, with longish hair and drooping mustache. Schuyler was of the so-called English type, with a robust figure, full beard, and thick, short hair. But no one could mistake the nationality of the men. Schuyler was an American, and Baring an Englishman, jusqu'au bout des ongles; though the American looked more thoroughly the man of the world, as he is.
I fancy some recreant cynic lying in wait to say at this point that I am a vulgar-looking American, and that I must not generalize from my individual experience. But if I am, the vast majority of all peoples are vulgar; and why should a vulgar American never, by any chance, be mistaken for a vulgar Englishman, when he is caught in an English street with English clothes, holding his tongue in the English manner? And do not hasten to say that the matter is without importance, for it is a subject of palpitating interest to ex-presidents on their travels, and defaulting cashiers. Shall they not take their ease in their inn, without the risk of getting into the newspapers or into jail?
— What one of your contributors in the October installment of the Club talk says about the incident of the cream, in That Husband of Mine, suggests to me the thought that domestic touches in books are upon the whole the most beautiful as well as most popular part of the work, or at least the part that most conduces to the survival of the work. However it requires a skillful hand to touch the subject of every-day life rightly, and to rescue it from the commonplace, while still leaving it natural. In short, in literary as well as in artistic portrait painting, we need a master-hand. The flood of Sunday-school and “goody” literature, which stands on the level of the common, wooden, staring style of cheap portraiture, is an example of what may become of the tenderest home idyl in “professional” hands. I can remember but a few touches in prominent works of art which illustrate my meaning, but they will serve the purpose well, as almost all occur in novels confessedly of the highest kind. Who can forget those in Middlemarch: the naïve reproach implied in Celia’s exclamation that Dorothea actually did not care to see the baby washed, and that the ceremony did not have any comforting or sedative power over her; and the mild self-denial of the little old maid who secreted her lumps of sugar at tea for her protégés, the street children? In Mrs. Stowe’s Minister’s Wooing, the fussiness and kindliness of the little dressmaker, Miss Prissy, is delicately and truly portrayed; and one sympathizes with her in her solicitude about the minister’s frilled shirts, and her desire to make him one in the rare leisure moments she possesses, all the more because her awe of the “ blessed ” man as a minister is so overwhelming. Again, when the lover has come home, Virginie, the French friend of Mary Scudder, has a really womanly inspiration, and upsets and breaks a water-pitcher in the room above that where the mother is standing guard oyer Jim and Mary, knowing that no “housekeeper’s instincts are proof against the crash of breaking china.” In Mrs. Oliphant’s Salem Chapel there is the minute and nervous care of Susan’s mother about the lamp, and her pathetic anxiety to keep her daughter’s disappearance a secret from the servant by a forlorn attempt to speak naturally to her son who, man-like, is impatient and open, and gives the poor soul neither comfort nor support, though his grief is really deeper and his sense of injury sterner than hers. In a novel of Anthony Trollope’s, — I forget which, — there is related an incident in the former life of a successful judge, living comfortably and luxuriously in one of the ample, respectable, old-fashioned squares in the east of London, whose former pinched circumstances were a contrast to this phase. In the old days of shabby lodgings and uncertain practice, his wife always contrived to skim off the daily pint of milk a tablespoonful of cream for his morning cup, triumphantly reserving the skim-milk for her own; and no one, perhaps, who has not lived on a similar level can realize her intense enjoyment of this trivial arrangement. There is a scene in Trollope’s Last Chronicles of Barsetshire which also appeals to the heart of every woman, and indeed to that of any home-loving person,—the smuggling-in of a basket of eatables into the kitchen of the poor and starving but scholarly clergyman, whose wife is almost hysterical with her efforts to divert his attention, and at the same time thank her benefactress, while the children peep round the doors in their nightclothes, wondering if the “ lady had any sugar-plums in her muff.” I have not given this verbatim, but such is the spirit. Mrs. Whitney has some similar touches in her works, but the “whole thing ” is too domestic in her novels for any figure to stand out as one remembers certain figures doing in some of the Dutch genre paintings. In the few French books I have read, domesticity rather poses, or strikes an attitude, and so wholly loses its value as an element in literature, though in the unique work of Eugénie de Guérin’s journal the very reverse is true, and one finds one’s self subdued by the mingled charm and dignity of the conduct so unconsciously pictured in all its details. Her reading Plutarch by the kitchen fire, on a day when the servants have gone to a local parish fêle, and she is watching the roasting of a joint, is an inimitable scene, and no amount of versified poetry draws the reader so near to her very self. And I think much the same is true of authors, and others whose biographies we have in this century multiplied almost beyond reason, but whom we certainly appreciate better in the light of their real lives than in that of their works. The fact that every human life is more wonderful than any imagined story becomes also a reason or an excuse for the minor portraits of comparatively obscure men, — a class of works with which we have lately become familiar. Unless intolerably ill written, such monographs have the interest of home life, and show us one more phase of human existence in its secret workings. It is of interest to know how average men live, as well as to scan the thoughts of exceptional men; indeed, one need scarcely apologize for the curiosity, but what is to be regretted is that biographers are unluckily apt to pass a plane of conventionality over every individuality, not likely to exalt their subject in the eyes of the public, often sacrificing truth, and always disappointing the reader.
— When Mark Twain wrote his inimitable story of the rich uncle who ruined himself and his family by making huge collections of everything he could think of, from stuffed whales to echoes, he gave a very fair slap at those monomaniacs who have the rage of making collections for collection’s sake. In most cases the collecting mania is as innocent a form of idiocy as any other; it can hurt nothing but the collector’s own pocket; in some cases, indeed, it may have the beneficial effect of partially fill ing the vacuum in his skull. But there is one sort of collector who does real harm: the man who insanely collects valuable stringed instruments, Stradivarius or Amati violins and violas, ’cellos and basses, and then lets them he in their cases in shameful inanition. Now, a valuable Stradivarius is not only a rarity, but it is an instrument which the art of music absolutely needs. The world cannot afford to have such a gem he idle; its value as an authentic specimen of a famous maker’s craft is incomparably less than its intrinsic value as a musical instrument. To take it out of the reach of fine artists, and place it on the shelf in a mere collection, is to commit larceny upon music. It properly belongs to the art of music, and should be honestly devoted to its service. The man who can keep such an instrument in his house merely for the pleasure of looking at it, and of knowing that he owns it, must have a queer conscience. Other collectors are very proper butts for ridicule. The violin collector rises to the sublime height of distinct immorality, and is not a fit subject for anything short of unsparing execration.
— There was getting to be an apprehension— I might say almost an anxiety — in the public mind that and lest there was to be no more about Avis in the Contributors’Club; this was happily relieved by the February number. Now I am so constituted that, having once had it, I find it difficult to get on without this rara Avis. And yet none of your contributors seem to know exactly what it is that so fatally attracts them. It is nothing more nor less than the creation, or discovery, of a new sex, or a no sex, answering to the new pronoun “ um ” that is proposed when yon want to say “ he ” or “ she ” and can’t. This discovery seems to me of the first importance. When the women novelists came into literature we were promised a true revelation of the sex, that has always been misunderstood and misrepresented by men; we were to see woman not only as she is, but in the ideal, “ as she ought to be.” And more has been done than was promised. There is Avis; if it is of any sex, it is of one unknown hitherto: clearly not a man; clearly a protest against being a woman; something, in the phraseology of the day, between a nuance and an odor, say a cold, passionate opal, “ tinct ” with an aspiration. And then we have, in another sexless novel, Hetty of the Strange Story, a being with all the glow and passion of a Saddle Rock oyster, who runs away from her husband, and endeavors to lure him into committing bigamy. This is the second of a new kind. It is a being that no man would have invented. I cannot but regard this discovery of the new sex as psychologically and physiologically profoundly important; itis not to be confounded with the sexual mystification of the dress-reform, or the right of women to chop wood. I await with the liveliest curiosity the next of the No-Sex Series.
— The writer of the paper on Saving versus Spending, in the December Atlantic, cannot expect, although avowedly a layman, that he should not be measured by scientific standards. He may use any term he sees fit, but it is just to expect that the term should express a definite idea. That the word “ saving” conveys to him, in several instances, the idea known to economists as hoarding is clear, not only from his belief (page 692) that the simplest way in which saving can promote future spending is “ by the accumulation and storage for future use of food, clothing, etc.,” but also from his saying (page 691) that “ saving and economy . . . will increase rather than diminish the amount of unsalable articles and the number of the unemployed.” This means a hoarding of capital, or a withdrawal from the labor market. To economists saving is abstinence from personal consumption, with the purpose or result of again employing the savings in production. Nor is the writer any more precise in stating what he calls the economist’s means of saving for future spending, “ productive consumption ” (which is, scientifically, what is consumed by laborers while engaged in production). The term, in the sense in which he uses it, is unknown to modern political economy; but very possibly he may use it to express another idea. He defines it (page 692) as “ employing labor, not directly in the creation of articles for immediate use, but in the creation of articles which will be the cause and means of further production, as in the making of tools and machinery,”etc. Then he instances plows, factories, railways, and steamships. But the author’s idea of productive consumption is not the same on the same page; and the argument of his whole paper rests upon it. Compare the above with this, in the next column (page 692): “The only rational object of productive consumption is the creation of articles of ordinary or unproductive consumption.” The articles of ordinary consumption, ergo, are tools, machinery, factories, and steamships! Is it not right to call the attention of ordinary consumers to what they are digesting? But the writer, when using the term productive consumption, seems to have in mind the economist’s idea of fixed capital, which is the turning of circulating capital into more or less permanent instruments. The parties in the suit are now hoarding versus spending, and the plea of the defendant’s counsel, which will bring a smile to the economist’s face, is that the extent to which permanent instruments, as factories and steamships, can be created is limited by the amount of unproductive consumption (whatever that may mean).
But the writer probably meant to assert that if the rich will buy articles for personal consumption, labor will gain thereby, and be given, more than in any other way, increased employment. This is the fallacy that demand for goods is demand for labor. Suppose $100,000, all the capital of one of the Madeira Islands, wholly engaged in wine-making, and every inhabitant employed. Imagine A to have annually spent $10,000 in this island for wine. This quantity of wine which A bought was produced, I will say, by $7000 of capital and the labor of fifty men. A’s $10,000 in wealth gives him a purchasing power over this product of $7000 of capital and labor of fifty men, — even if it were not wine. And, by continuing this expenditure, the writer would have us believe that A did the most to employ labor. It is not true. Suppose A comes to the island, bringing forty men. These forty cannot find employment, because that which can employ them (capital) is wholly engaged in making wine. As we saw, A had a control over the product of $7000 of capital and the labor of fifty men. Suppose A agreed to give the forty new men, on condition that they catch and cure fish for him, his power (his $10,000 of wealth) over the above capital and labor: A, no longer spending for wine the $7000 of capital and labor of fifty' men, is withdrawn from wine-making; but, at the demand of the forty fishermen, who now command their products, the engine of production is set to giving the forty men provisions, clothes, etc., or whatever they wish to buy with the $10,000 of wages which A has given them. Thus, A not only possesses the cured fish, but also has kept the fifty former wine-makers at work, — although at different work,— and has given employment to forty more, employing two sets of laborers instead of one. Capital distributed among human beings for services gives employment to a far greater number than when used to buy goods which disappear at consumption. Demand for goods is not demand for labor.
Space is wanting here to point out as great a fallacy in the statement that if the rich should “restrict themselves to absolute necessities, the unproductive and . . . the productive consumption of the world would be greatly reduced.”
Moreover, our present trouble comes from an ill-assorted production, and from not only a loss of capital, but also the timidity of capital. Capital (or hats, shoes, clothes, houses, etc.) is that which employs labor. From the expectation of large profits a stream of capital, even from foreign countries, poured into certain industries, such as manufactures and building railways, during and since the war. When the panic came, and we thought of paying for what we were buying, it was found that our means of producing some things were in excess of the demand. But the suddenness of the discovery brought the loss of that capital which had been sunk where it could not be immediately transferred to other industries, as that sunk in railway embankments. And when capitalists had seen those industries in which men had really been making great gains change to sources of ruin and loss, how could they believe that other industries which held out no attractions would turn out as well? What is to he done? Give confidence to timid capital, and help it into the proper channels. Then favor every increase of capital, and do not urge its destruction by spending on personal consumption. The more capital in existence, the more labor can be employed in satisfying our infinite wants.
— To read the silly criticisms which have been printed, and the far sillier ones which are every day uttered in regard to Mr. James’s Daisy Miller would almost convince us that we are as provincial as ever in our sensitiveness to foreign opinion. It is actually regarded as a species of unpardonable incivism for Mr. James, because he lives in London, to describe an under-bred American family traveling in Europe. The fact that he has done so with a touch of marvelous delicacy and truth, that he has produced not .so much a picture as a photograph, is held by many to be an aggravating circumstance. Only the most shiveringly sensitive of our shoddy population are bold enough to deny the truth of this wonderful little sketch. To those best acquainted with Mr. James’s manner (and I believe I have read every word he has printed) Daisy Miller was positively startling in its straightforward simplicity and what I can only call authenticity. It could not have been written — I am almost ready to say it cannot be appreciated — except by one who has lived so long abroad as to be able to look at his own people with the eyes of a foreigner. All poor Daisy’s crimes are purely conventional. She is innocent and good at heart, susceptible of praise and blame; she does not wish even to surprise, much less outrage, the stiffest of her censors. In short, the things she does with such dire effect at Vevay and at Rome would never for an instant be remarked or criticised in Schenectady. They would provoke no comment in Buffalo or Cleveland; they would be a matter of course in Richmond and Louisville. One of the most successful touches in the story is that where Daisy, astonished at being cut by American ladies, honestly avows her disbelief in their disapproval. “ I should not think you would let them be so unkind!” she cries to Winterbourne, conscious of her innocence, and bewildered at the cruelty of a sophisticated world. Yet with such exquisite art is this study managed that the innocence and loveliness of Miss Miller are hardly admitted as extenuating circumstances in her reprehensible course of conduct. She is represented, by a chronicler who loves and admires her, as bringing ruin upon herself and a certain degree of discredit upon her countrywomen, through eccentricities of behavior for which she cannot justly be held responsible. Her conduct is without blemish, according to the rural American standard, and she knows no other. It is the merest ignorance or affectation, on the part of the anglicized Americans of Boston or New York, to deny this. A few dozens, perhaps a few hundreds, of families in America have accepted the European theory of the necessity of surveillance for young ladies, but it is idle to say it has ever been accepted by the country at large. In every city of the nation young girls of good family, good breeding, and perfect innocence of heart and mind, receive their male acquaintances en tête-à-tête, and go to parties and concerts with them, unchaperoned. Of course, I do not mean that Daisy Miller belongs to that category; her astonishing mother at once designates her as pertaining to one distinctly inferior. Who has not met them abroad? From the first word uttered by Miss Daisy to her rampant young brother in the garden at Vevay, “Well, I guess you 'd better be quiet,” you recognize her, and recall her under a dozen different names and forms. She went to dine with you one day at Sceaux, and climbed, with the fearless innocence of a bird, into the great chestnut-tree. She challenged you to take her to Schönbrunn, and amazed your Austrian acquaintances whom you met there, and who knew you were not married. At Naples, one evening — Eheu, fugaces labuntur anni ; it is not worth while to continue the enumeration. It makes you feel melancholy to think she is doing the same acts of innocent recklessness with men as young and as happy, and what the French call as unenterprising, as you were once.
As to the usefulness of this little book, it seems to me as indubitable as its literary excellence. It is too long a question to discuss in this place, whether the freedom of American girls at home is beneficial or sinister in its results. But there is no question whatever as to the effect of their ignorance or defiance of conventionalities abroad. An innocent flirtation with a Frenchman or Italian tarnishes a reputation forever. All the waters of the Mediterranean cannot wash clean the name of a young lady who makes a rendezvous and takes a walk with a fascinating chance acquaintance. We need only refer to the darker miseries which often result from these reckless intimacies. A charming young girl, traveling with a simple-minded mother, a few years ago, in a European capital, married a branded convict who had introduced himself to them, calling himself, of course, a count. In short, an American girl, like Daisy Miller, accompanied by a woman like Daisy’s mother, brought up in the simplicity of provincial life in the United States, has no more chance of going through Europe unscathed in her feelings and her character than an idiot millionaire has of amusing himself economically in Wall Street. This lesson is taught in Mr. James’s story, — and never was necessary medicine administered in a form more delightful and unobtrusive.
The intimacy with the courier is a fact of daily observation on the Continent. A gentleman of my acquaintance, inquiring the other day for a courier he had employed some years before, was told that he was spoiled for any reasonable service by haying been so much with American families, and that one family, after their tour in Europe was ended, had taken him home to South Boston as their guest, and had given a party for him!
— Rev. Joseph Cook lately brought together, in a lecture on Natural and Starvation Wages, some valuable facts, obtained by the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, as to the receipts and expenditures of poor families. From these he has drawn some good inferences, but has left undrawn some conclusions so obvious that it is rather hard to see how he escaped them. Nothing ever printed would more astound the poorer classes of any European nation than the standard of living that is here classed under the general head of starvation. Take, for instance, the shoe-maker’s family described by Mr. Cook, — we are quoting from the Boston Daily Advertiser of December 25, 1878, — whose annual earnings are $552, and whose expenditures are $622. As this is the poorest American-born family be describes, and as it is expressly stated that “ this family is very economical,” we may take it as constituting a typical instance of frugal industry. Yet, when he gives the daily bill of fare of this household, we find that its members have tea or coffee thrice a day, meat sometimes twice, butter twice, cake twice, and pie or pudding once. They have also “buckwheat or griddle cakes occasionally for breakfast.” Would it be possible to find on the continent of Europe a mechanic’s family that would not regard this as luxurious living? Yet the lecturer seems to recognize it as a natural and fitting bill of fare for a household earning $1.50 per day; and when they run in debt to keep up this standard of diet, it seems to be considered that it is society which sins.
More striking yet is another instance given in the same lecture. In another American shoe-maker’s family the father earns $480, a son of sixteen earns $230, and a son of fourteen earns $180, making in all $890. They live within their earnings, spending $822.15; but observe how they do it. “ In Massachusetts the law requires children to be in school up to a certain age; and this family, for instance, would lose $180 by keeping that son under fifteen at school all the while. But if you take out the earnings of that son, this family will fall into debt. Which shall it do, — send the son to school, or incur debt? ” It does not seem to occur to the lecturer that there is any other alternative. Yet when he gives the bill of fare of this household, we find that they too have meat twice or thrice a day, tea or coffee thrice, butter twice, cake twice, and pie or pudding once. For mere provisions, to say nothing of fuel and labor in the kitchen, they spend $450.65. For aught that appears, they could comply with the law, and send their fourteen-year-old boy to school the greater part of the year, for their surplus income ($67.85) plus what could be saved, without injury to health, by a family of five, on tea, coffee, hot biscuit, cake, and pie. Many a well-todo family makes greater sacrifices than this for the sake of physiological laws alone; nay, I have known families to make these sacrifices by way of economy, in order to save money for relieving the distresses of just such households as Mr. Cook describes. This lecturer often pleads in manly fashion for “ the oldfashioned virtues;” let him not forget to plead for the peculiarly old-fashioned virtue of living within one’s means.
— I cannot call myself a professional author. I have published two books: one of them quite successful, the other one reasonably so. It may be added that within the last three years I have uttered through the leading American magazines a number of poems and prose papers which have attracted rather flattering attention; but as yet I have never dared risk my bread and butter on literary cruising. What I have done has been at odd leisure hours between the calls of a lucrative and most exacting profession. The idea of a poem, nebulous, distant, and wavering, will sometimes haunt me for days and even weeks before I find time to test its approachability and manageability. I have lost many promising stories by losing the plot or idea in the clash, turmoil, and worry of business affairs. I have often wondered how professional literators go about their work. Do they go doggedly to their desks, sit down, and feel around in their brains for something (as one sometimes rummages by night in a trunk without a candle), taking up this, that, and the other, until the eligible idea is found ?
It is easy to understand how, now and then, happy plots for stories or subjects for poems may be suddenly generated in the brain of the alert amateur; but the question is, How does your steady grinder at the literary mill keep on hand a stock of raw materials? As soon as one poem is finished, has he a batch of assorted matter upon which he perfunctorily falls to work building another? How does he go about complying with the editorial order: “ Write us a story of five thousand words for the Dilatory Magazine. MS. must reach us by the 25th inst.”? Some of the members of the Contributors’ Club have already favored us with very interesting confessions. As for me, I should relish some insight into the methods of composition and the literary habits of men and women who have made prose and poetry, and traded them for butter and shoes, ribbons and mutton, coal and cough medicine. I am curious to know how the professional operates when, seeing in mid-winter his wood-pile nearly gone or his coal-bin just empty, it becomes necessary to make a beautiful poem or a striking story. Has he nothing to do but sit down by a heap of white paper and fall to grinding?
— Is it at all probable that the poets of the world have destroyed their best poems instead of publishing them? I sometimes suspect that this question might be answered affirmatively. Your true artist is, from his very nature, excessively self - criticising. He understands, and no doubt often too keenly appreciates, the value of minute shades of expression, having been taught by experience that his combinations and ideal delineations frequently present to others a far different form from the one he intended to offer, and which he readily sees therein himself. Many a time I have condemned as worthless a bit of verse into which I had tried to set a pretty conceit or a striking thought; but sometimes, after many days, coming upon these castaways, I have found them exactly what I had intended them to be, and on submitting them to the magazine editors they have been quickly accepted. Quite as many times, too, I have sent away from my desk to these editors poems which seemed to me clearly conceived and nicely executed. After a while they were returned with the seal of critical disapproval upon them, and at once I could see their utter want of idea proper. I had mistaken the power of my phraseology or words. The outlines were too dim, the filling-up too vague. The poems looked to me like an exquisite portrait so nearly faded out that none but the artist himself could see the shadowy face and the almost invisible outlines of shoulders and bust.
— Dropping into the village drug shop the other evening, I found my neighbor the minister playing on the violin. It was a cracked old fiddle, and his touch was none of the lightest; even the deaf gold-fish in the aquarium dashed wildly about, enraged at the execrable noise. But I was startled at the change in the musician himself. He is a lean, bigoted old man, who knows the Bible letter by letter, but the Bible is only a code of laws to him, — laws more inexorable than Draco’s. Yet his music had transformed him; the jingling old tunes had brought a smile to his lips, a tender light to his face. He nodded, glanced cheerfully about with kindling eyes; it had made him, in short, human, which his religion liad failed to do-
“ I did not know that be was a musician,” I said to the druggist, Hurter, when the clergyman had gone out. Hurter is a shrewd, garrulous old fellow, busy from morning until night with his gallipots and gilded jars, whose only recreation is to study the broken hints of human histories that pass before him on the other side of the counter. He pasted the label on a box of pills, tied it up and then pushed back his goggles.
“Yes, he plays,” he said, leaning leisurely on the counter on his elbows. “ Music is his led horse. What do I mean? Well, I was in the army, you know, — a brigadier-general of volunteers. We staff officers who could afford it all had our led horses, which we kept for an engagement or parade. We had each our steady old hack that carried us through every day’s march, as a matter of course. We thought nothing of him. Our pride and affection belonged to the frisky beast that we mounted but seldom, and scarcely knew how to manage. Now, my notion is this,” emphasizing his point by tapping the grain weight on the scales: “ every man jogs along through life with some trade or business which carries him safely through. But Lord bless you, ten chances to one, he cares nothing for that! All his pride lies in some little gift or talent which he fancies he possesses, and can use only on high holy-days. There is Boggs, the broker; everybody knows what a dry, sapless wretch he is when his business is money. But take him as a fisherman, and he is an incomparable good fellow,—genial, enthusiastic, hearty. He is prouder of a string of trout that he has caught than of his half a million of dollars; and he will give the trout away, and he never parted with a penny. Yes, take my word for it, a man is his real, best self only when he can leave his old hack, and get to caracoling on his led horse,”
Hurter was called off just then to weigh out some tannin, and could not finish the opening out of his idea. But I remembered one or two instances which tended to confirm his theory. There is a famous poet in Boston, who, they tell me, is never so happy as when he has his work-bench and box of tools before him. Joseph Jefferson is happiest when he can forget Nick Vedder and Gretchen at his easel. I know a great jurist, of sound scholarship and keen judgment, whose one ambition is to be a man of fashion, and to caper in a ballroom nimbly as Mercutio; and a surgeon, of national reputation, who values the magazine love - stories he writes more than all his professional learning or skill. It is not every man, however, who can have this gallant horse led about for his occasional riding. Sometimes the horse is dead, but it is no less dear. I have not a doubt that every man who reads The Atlantic to-day feels the keenest regret of his life for the something he might have been and never was. He has a poor enough opinion, very likely, of the grocer, or shoe-maker, or sugar dealer which he is But for the artist or author or statesman which was lost to the world! — ah, there is where the pain comes in, and the divine satisfaction along with it, too! This undeveloped talent which we hug to our souls through our life, this fine ability invisible to everybody but ourselves, is only, I suppose, the shadow of a shadow, —Nature’s kind provision to feed and keep up our selfconeeit in the miserable downfalls of life.
The hack is useful in its way, believe me, but the led horse is the more necessary beast of the two for all of us.
—It would be a difficult task to find the origin, this side of the Solar Myth, of all the melodies of Mother Goose, just as it would not be easy to settle the precise text. Still, there can be but little doubt that many of the rhymes are no more than such verses of old songs as fastened themselves in the memory of the nurses of restless children. Doubtless many of the songs have disappeared forever; there are others, however, that may be found in various collections. A few of those which have already been traced by Mr. J. O. Wallinds it may be worth while to note. The familiar lines beginning, “ Three children sliding on the ice,” come from a poem of twentyone stanzas, sung to the tune of Chevy Chace, called Three Children Sliding on the Thames, wherein we read, —
To Wonder of much People ;
'T was Frozen o'er that well 't would bear,
Almost a Country Steeple.”
This extract would seem to indicate the year 1681 as the date of the tragedy, for on the 0th of January in that year Evelyn speaks in his Diary of crossing the Thames on the ice. The next stanza reads as follows: —
Upon a place too Thin ;
That so at last it did fall out,
That they did all tall In.”
The rest of the poem as it is known to us in the familiar version runs thus in the original: —
And ye that have none yet ;
Preserve your children from the Grave,
And teach them at Home to sit.
Or else upon Dry Ground;
Why then it would never have been seen,
If that they had been Drown'd.”
The remaining stanzas possibly deserve copying: —
For fear they should go from him ;
So tie your Children with Severities Clog,
Untie ’em, and you ’ll undo ’em.
And rid them from all Fears ;
God Bless th’ Commons of this Land,
And God Bless some o’ th’ Peers.”
“ One misty, moisty morning when cloudy was the weather,” etc., is a fragment of a song called The Wiltshire Wedding, which begins thus: —
Cloudy was the Weather,
I meeting with an old Man,
was cloathed all in Leather,
With ne'er a Shirt unto his Back,
but wool unto his Skin ;
With how do you do ? and how do you do ?
and how do you do agent ?”
It goes on, the stanzas having been run together in our modern version: —
and on his way he hy’d,
And with a Leather Bottle,
fast Buckl'd by his side :
And with a Cap of Woolen,
which covered Cheek and Chin
With how do you do ? ” etc.
The poem then describes the bard’s brief courtship of
Was going then a Milking,
A Milking Sir, she said,”
and their speedy marriage. Again,
He learnt to play when he was young ;
But all the tunes that he could play
Was ‘ Over the hills and far away,’ ” etc.,
is a modification of part of Jockey’s Lamentation, a really pretty song, of which these are the first two stanzas: —
Betwixt the dawning and the Day,
And Jockey now is full of Care,
For Jenny stole his Heart away :
Altho’ she promised to be true,
Yet she, alas, has prov'd unkind,
That which do make poor Jenny rue,
For Jenny’s fickle as the Wind :
And ’T is o'er the Hills, and far away,
’ T is o'er the Hills, and far away,
’Tis o'er the Hills, and far away,
The Wind has bloicn my Plod away.
As e’er was born in Scotland fair ;
But now poor Jockey is run mad,
For Jenny causes his Despair ;
Jockey was a Piper’s Son,
And fell in love while he was young ;
But all the tunes that he could play,
Was 'T is o'er the Hills, and far away,” etc.
It may be, although this is doubtful, that “ A Frog he would a-wooing go ” is taken from a Ditty on a high Amour at St. James’s, which opens in this way: —
Croakledom hee Croakledom ho ;
Dwelling near St. James’s house,
Cockey mi Chari she ;
Rode to make his Court one day,
In the merry month of May,
When the Sun Shon bright and gay,
Twiddle corne Tweedle twee.”
At any rate, these few examples may serve to indicate what sort of research awaits the future editor of Mother Goose, and it would not be hard to add considerably to this brief selection, which is made from but a single collection of old English songs.