The Contributors' Club

I HAVE run over in a most matter-of-fact way, brutally if you please, the indices of the three leading magazines for February. Any idea of comparison of merits is furthest from my mind. In order to remain perfectly unbiased, I shall not read these magazines for a day or so. I simply look at these indices as catalogues of goods, with the names of the makers. All I want to do is to fix the number of people, insiders or outsiders, who contribute to magazines, and to calculate the chances men and women have of earning bread, butter, or fame in this special class of literature.

I find the sum total of all the articles in the three best known magazines, poetry, prose, reviews, etc., to be about sixtyseven. Something, then, like twenty-two articles and a fraction make up a magazine. From there being rather more short bits of poetry than usual in the present batch, twenty-two articles per magazine I deem rather in excess, about twenty being a fair average.

Do these sixty-seven articles represent the brains of exactly that number of individuals? I think they do; for your additions and subtractions will leave that number sixty-seven about intact. The book reviews must have been written by at least four persons for each magazine. But in every magazine there is about the same number of salaried persons, the editor, sub-editor, etc., who regularly contribute their quota to every number of the magazine, the year round. Sixty-seven, then, I think not very much out of the way, — neither too many nor too few. Now, having secured this number sixty-seven as a foundation, let us examine the stones which uphold the literary fabric. My sixty-seven contributions in the three magazines I class into three categories: the Well Known, the Little Known, and the Unknown. I trust it may not be thought that I am guessing at the value of these brains, for without prejudice I believe I am fairly acquainted with the names and writings of the majority of them. I shall want to apply to these contributors exactly the process I should use had their manuscripts been submitted to my paid judgment.

Here are Messieurs et Mesdames A., G., P., Q., D., E., H., O., letters taken entirely at random. Now, I know that G., E., and H. have a good reputation. I believe that they write excellent English. I am positive that their stories, essays, or verses have interested the public for the last five years. I am satisfied that the credit they have obtained is deserved. The chances are ninetyfive in the hundred that their copy can be accepted without any reading at all. The authors may have stumbled over a bad plot, or worked out something not exactly in their vein; still their clearness, elegance, and force will carry them through. I cannot call them outsiders, for they are insiders. As an editor I am glad to have G., E., and H. So much, then, for the Well Known. Now come A., P., O. These are names of more recent date. True, there is great promise in some of them, as good as the best. But in others, the spurt has been too evident, and the trouble is that they do not pull evenly. Here and there come out luminous spots in their pictures, but their drawing is often out of line, and they want the power of blending. They have not as yet put a stamp on their coins. So far the public are not quite ready to pass them from hand to hand. A., P., O., I should have to read over and weigh carefully. Such are the Little Known. Now for Q., D., the Unknown. Blessed be that unknown quantity, though it may take ever so much bother to find it out! Q. may be as limpid as Henry James, Jr., or as turbid as—. D. might be the Balzac of America! A., P., O., Q., and D. are the true outsiders.

Now to my indices. I am going through my sorting process again. Here are no less than thirty-three well-known writers, eighteen little-known, ten unknown, with six articles bearing no signature. As our magazines are issued monthly, my sum total of contributors for the year to the three magazines will be eight hundred and four. The thirty-three well-known brains will represent three hundred and ninety-six articles, or very little less than one half of the whole. Of course, the very same names will not appear over and over again in the same places, but we may be quite positive that the heavier proportion of the Well Known will be kept up all the time. The real fight, then, will be with the eighteen Little Known and the ten Unknown, who are essentially the outsiders. (The anonymous people hardly disturb the equation, for they may be among either the regularly hired writers, the Well Known, the Little Known, or the Unknown.) These twenty-eight Little Known and Unknown will ship annually their three hundred and thirty-six packages to the magazine. Now it is appalling to think of the number of intelligent people in the United States who are trying to get into the places of exactly these three hundred and thirty-six outside contributors.

In making this summary, the result of some thought and experience, I would by no means wish to wet-blanket the incipient magazine writer. Success depends solely on merit. There are no cliques in magazines. All an editor wants is really good goods. With so much offering, as the difficulty of selection increases, the editor has a right to become more exacting. No one is quicker than your editor to appreciate and appropriate. He will go through great heaps of dry shells, vast kitchen müdjens, to find a single implement which shows the power of man’s brain, thought, or ingenuity. The magazine statistician has not as much sympathy for the thirtythree knights who, with spear en jouste and fluttering banderole, have fought their fight with the public and won their spurs, as with those sturdy knaves the twenty - eight outsiders, varlets who as yet only twirl quarter staffs, or at best do their fencing-bout with buttoned foils. Battle on, then, ye patient, hopeful multitude. Who can tell how long it may be before a man (only one perhaps of the twenty-eight in the ten thousand outsiders) will batter down the castle gate with that sledge hammer whose ringing blows will echo throughout the land?

— There seems to be a mystery about the cause of the Cheyenne exodus; but their lot in the Indian Territory must have been a hard one. They were exiles who longed for the land where (to use their own words) their fathers were buried and their children were born. The climate had proved fatal to other Northern tribes, the Modocs having decreased one third since 1873. Beside, there are stories about privation and diseased horse-flesh for food.

We know of their long journey through two great States, crossing both the great continental railroads, fighting whenever overtaken, and evading with wonderful adroitness every effort made to intercept them. Some of their male members retaliated savagely on innocent persons, but four fifths of them, at least, were women and children, who could not have committed the crimes charged against the party.

Near their former home they surrendered. This surrender, they afterwards declared, was based on the promise that they should be allowed to remain where they were born. But after they had been disarmed (as was supposed) and brought near a strong military post, they were coolly informed that they must go back to their hated Southern reservation. Then, in wrath and despair, they broke away and dug holes in the side of a ravine, where they could use their few secreted weapons to fight the United States. But in spite of their splendid pluck, their plight was wretched. Men and women were weeping together in impotent, outraged despair; children were clinging, frozen and famishing, to their gaunt, half-naked, suffering mothers. Pen never drew a more piteous picture.

It did not soften the commandant of Fort Robinson. He surrounded them with several companies of troops, and sent back for cannon. In the end, after two days’ starvation, the valorous threat that he (in perfect safety) would blow their wives and children from the face of the earth brought the Cheyenne braves to the status of captives again.

But as soon as they thawed into human beings once more, their bitter protests against exile recommenced. So this officer cut off their supply of food as a punishment. One is tempted to suspect that he designed to force an outbreak, as an excuse for an economical massacre. At any rate, that is what occurred. After twenty-four hours of this treatment, the Cheyenne men (“fleeing desperadoes,” the dispatches term them) snatched up their children, and, leaping through the windows, dashed out upon the prairie, followed by their wives. Can it be believed that human beings could be found so devilish as to slaughter fathers running with their infants for food and freedom, and murder women and little girls and boys? Yet this was exactly the work which Captain Wessell’s cavalry performed for mile after mile. Officers and privates together poured volley on volley into the poor creatures, and blew out with their pistols the brains of the wounded who writhed on the ground. These monuments of American heroism strewed the entire trail to the hills. Nearly all were shot through the head, obviously in giving the coup de grâce. More than one third of the killed were women and children. Twenty-six were dumped into a hole together. The telegram reported “ one old squaw is dying to-night of six gun-shot wounds.”

A pitiful remnant of the fugitives reached the hills; and these several days later, after frantic doubling and one or two repulses of detachments, were cornered by four companies of United States cavalry. The “ enemy ” consisted of eighteen men and eight women. These eighteen red Spartans held the troops at bay in spite of odds, until “ providentially ” their ammunition gave out. Then the four companies crowded up to the mouth of the little hole that held the Cheyennes and blazed away, while the latter sang their death song.

Three braves, “ all that were left alive,” sprang out in a desperate effort to escape, and of course were mercilessly riddled with bullets. The dead bodies in the pit were mutilated till they bore no semblance to humanity. Only one of the indomitable eighteen was drawn out alive, but frightfully injured. Five wounded women and one unhurt, beside two young girls, were found under the pile of corpses of the “ young bucks,” who had made their bodies shields, in death as in life, for those who looked to them for protection.

— Germany has a new poet. This statement may not appear so very striking when it is considered that the German language seems to have been designed for the especial encouragement of the poetic art; but this new poet is so genuine, so true, that he has at once leaped into eminence amongst a legion of his fellows. A short time ago I read in a German periodical a review of a little volume of poems by Rudolf Baumbach, and the critic, who is not at all given to gushing, accorded it such hearty, unreserved praise that I sent for it at once. On receiving it I read it through at a sitting, and my feeling was far from that of satiety, but rather a wish for more. Of the personality of the author of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellon (Songs of a Wandering Hand-WorksLad), as the modest collection is called, I know nothing; but to judge from his work I should say he was young, of a glad, sunny nature, quickly sympathetic, and rejoicing in life. Even the sombre sides of human experience take on a cheerier tinge when seen through the medium of his song, something as the dark hemlocks of a frowning mountain-side show in the warm summer sunshine. There is not the trace of mawkish sentimentality about him; nothing of the affectation of an imaginary woe; no vacant longing for the indefinite. His pathos is simple and direct, bringing the tears with a sudden start, — a single word the key that unlocks the fountain, which flows only to show a glad rainbow in its spray. A true poet does not spring into being out of nothingness any more than does any other living thing, but is the natural descendant of his great predecessors, whose mental qualities can be traced in his. So in Baumbach we find certain phases of Goethe and Heine, and also not a little of the rollicking audacity of Victor Scheffel. Did this combination merely hold these qualities in suspension, the result would simply be a reflective poet, but Baumbach’s own individuality is thrown into the crucible, fusing all into a new solution which marks the original poet.

Take the element of wandering, — that joyous vagabondism which in some degree seems inherent in every human child who loves his mother earth or nature,—take this element from German poetry, and the wound left would be wellnigh fatal. Goethe is impregnated with it, and it forms Heine’s brightest side; it will keep his memory green when his Wellschmerz becomes as a sealed book to future generations. It is this roving, strolling spirit that sounds the key-note to Baumbach’s song, and he has fitly chosen as a motto for his book these lines from the old German of Magister Martinius, who wrote them down in the year 1498: —

“ I live and Know not how long,
I die and know not when ;
I fare and know not whither I go, —
I wonder that I am merry so.”

The first song begins: —

“ A hand-works-lad a-wandering,
Know I not a sorrow ;
Drink I now from woodland spring,
Rhine wine drink I to-morrow.
Am a very doughty knight,
On cobbler’s steed a-faring ;
With heedless bird my shield bedight,
And the proverb flaring :
Merry blood and thoughts e'er gay,
Away’s away, away ’s away. Amen ! ”

Riding on cobbler’s steed is a German expression for going a-foot, like shanks’s mare in the Yankee vernacular. The songs are remarkable for their conciseness and plain straightforwardness. It would be hard to find a dull line in the book. There is a fresh, morning crispness, a sparkling spontaneity, and a delicate but invigorating aroma, like the breath of the pine woods. The writer has the rare power of painting with a few quick strokes a vivid and perfect picture. Here is an instance from the poem called The Highway (Die Landstrasse): —

“ Garden-houses listen
From fresh young green around :
Fountains bubble and glisten,
Roses in hedges abound.”

Who that has seen on an early summer morning the outskirts of one of those quaint German towns which abound in Thuringia and the Black Forest could fail to recognize it here? Die Lindenwirthin is an excellent example of the roguish vivacity which characterizes the poet’s lighter moods: —

“ Not a drop more in my glass,
Empty hangs my purse, alas,
Longing heart and tongue, —
' That has done to me Shy wine,
The clearest depths of those eyes of thine,
O Linden hostess so young ! ’
“ Smiles and speaks the hostess then :
‘ In the Linden ne'er has been
Chalk nor slate, I 'm thinking.
Hast thou not a penny more ?
Give as pawn thy knapsack o ur,
But keep on a-drhikiug! ’
“So his knapsack gave the lad,
Drank the wine that made him glad,
Then to go was wending.
Hostess speaks with merry laugh :
' Thou hast mantle, hat, and staff;
Drink, and keep a-lending I '
“ For the wine the wanderer-boy
Gave mantle, hat, and staff with joy. ' I go,’ he said in sadness.
' Fare thee well, thou clear, cool wine !
Linden hostess, young and fine,
Thou ’st fed my eyes with gladness I ’
“ Speaks to him the handsome wife :
‘ Thy heart doth leap with youthful life ;
Fawn me that, — don't pother 1 '
What happened then ? 'T is quickly said :
On the hostess’ mouth so red
Warmly pressed another.
“ He who this new song did write
Sang it on a summer night
In a quiet hour.
Before him stood a glass of wine. Beside him sat Dame Hostess mine,
Under the linden in flower.”

But there is another side to our poet, showing moods as tender as this is gay. Note the exquisite pathos of this poem, Reue:—

“ Remorse in breast and heavy with heart-woe,
A boy across the heather green doth go.
“ ‘ Sun, light sun,’ so spoke he, sadly pleading,
' Of all things knowing art thou, all things heeding ;
“ ‘ Oh, give me tidings of the maid so pale
Whom by a stream I left in woodland dale !'
“ Sun speaks : ‘ I saw upon my way of light
Of maids forlorn full many with cheeks all
white ;
“ ‘ But that lost maid whom thou didst leave in woo
I saw not from the heavenly way I go.’
“ And when the moon appears at even-tide,
Then from the moon the boy doth tidings bide :
“ ‘ Sawst thou not upon thy lightsome way
The one whom I so basely did betray ?'
“ Speaks the moon : ‘Well saw I many a maiden
With pain and sorrow all too heavy laden ;
“ ' But she whom once thou leftst betrayed alone,
I saw her not from off my heavenly throne.’
“ Down in the grass speaks the narcissus low :
* Nor sun nor moon can either ever know
“ ‘ Where his pale love a-hidden now doth dwell;
But we the flowers could well the secret tell,—
“ ‘ We flowers, who hide ourselves in earth’s deep
Until the Spring awakes us from our tomb.' ”

One more, ns an example of fine artistic touch: —


“ My knees are stiff and the snow drives down,
And still far distant lies the town.
Grant me, good mother, to enter here
And know for a while your fireside cheer.”
“ You are very welcome,”the old one smiled,,
“ But disturb not the spinniug of yonder child.”
“ Hum and tread,
Twist the thread,
Busy the foot and the fingers, maid ;
Reel on to the spindle the strand so line,
Spin thee a lover to a house of thine.'?
The red fire crackles, the spinning-wheel burrs,
The cat in the corner is drowsy, and purrs ;
The beautiful spinner her light work tends,
And a stolen glance to the stranger sends ;
The old one reads with head so gray
And reads in the Bible, and still doth say :
“ Hum and tread,
Twist the thread,
Busy the foot and the fingers, maid ;
Keel on to the spindle the strand so fine,
Spin thee it lover to a house of thine.”
It seems I 've known all that before,
And still not wandered this pathway o’er ;
Where have I ever this maiden seen
A-plying the wheel with earnest mien ?
Where saw I the old one her Bible hold ?
Where heard I the murmured saying told?
“ Hum and tread,
Twist the thread,
Busy the foot and the fingers, maid ;
Reel on to the spindle the strand so fine,
Spin thee a lover to a house of thine.”
That is — now know I whence it came —
That is the tale of the wise old dame
With whom concealed in the pine woods wild
There sat and spun a king’s fair child.
She spun and drew the fine thread long,
But the old wood-wife e'er sang the song :
“ Hum and tread,
Twist the thread,
Busy the foot and the lingers, maid ;
Reel on to the spindle the strand so fine,
Spin thee a lover to a house of thine.”
I believe at last to the spinner fair
A wandering royal youth comes there,
The hut then turns to a marble hall,
The guests they flock to the wedding ball,
And knights and ladles form a ring
And a torch-light dance to the old tune bring :
“ Hum and tread,
Twist the thread,
Busy the foot and the fingers, maid ;
Reel on to the spindle the strand so fine,
Spin thee a lover to a house of thine.”
A pity that I on the day of my birth
Was wrapped in no purple swathing-girth ;
A pity that I from hence must wend;
The tale perhaps might find its end.
I go, nor venture to turn my eye,
A pang in my heart — and why, oh why ?
Hum and tread,
Twist the thread ;
May Heaven guard thee, lovely maid
Reel on to the spindle the strand so fine,
Spin theo a lover to a house of thine.

It is impossible to render into English the fascinating music of the refrain: —

“ Sehnurro Rädehen,
Drch’ dick Fädchen,
Ruhre den Fuss und die Finger, Madehen;
Roll’ auf die Spindel den Ration fein,
Spinn dir den Freier ins Haus hinein.”

— I own that. I found it difficult, after getting her a valentine, on which were represented some forget-me-nots: —

“ Forget me not. So say these painted flowers :
So say not I, to you or any man.
Together we have spent some pleasant hours,
Now go, sir, and forget me — if you Can.”

— That a Christian and a gentleman are synonyms has long been the boast of Christianity; that is, that the code of the former, perfectly carried out, coincides with all which distinguishes the latter. In more senses than one, the rule is a pretty safe one. There are many to whom Christianity as a body of doctrine is incomprehensible, but the morals of the ten commandments still remain the only possible basis of civilization. The codes of savage nations, in which murder and theft are considered praiseworthy deeds, are confessedly of a lower and earlier order than those that coincide with the Jewish law. No doubt the ideal of honor was unconsciously formed from the Christian ideal, and our present notions of a gentleman are, in truth, largely mediæval. Still, the theory that has resulted in this ideal is now so rooted in Anglo-Saxon society that, divorce honor and religion as much as you will, their dictates remain largely the same. A man “brought up by parents of gentle antecedents and associations, no matter how creedless he may be, will act in every emergency as the best Christian, though the motives of each will doubtless differ. Especially in the matter of truth, honesty, straightforwardness, this man’s instincts may be trusted: he will need no one to tell him that to equivocate is contemptible; to look at an open letter despicable; to put himself into a passion wrong, as well as undignified; to swear and otherwise lose control of his speech vulgar and blamable. He will naturally side with the weak against the strong; despise anything savoring of meanness; refuse to shield himself at the expense of another, or allow another to bear any blame as having counseled or shown him an example in a doubtful direction; in a word, he will act uprightly even in the subtlest matter, and his first impulse will always be generous. Conscience is his guide, under the name of honor. There may be matters where a man might hesitate; for instance, those vexed questions which Mr. Gladstone’s challenge to loyal Catholic Englishmen brought to light —rather unnecessarily — two years ago, as to where a man’s first allegiance was due. Other enthusiasts followed up these test questions with still more crucial ones, as to the lawfulness of murdering an excommunicated sovereign, and the obligation to keep faith with heretics; and this year, Dr. Pusey has raised equally disingenuous subtleties out of their theological graves by starting anew the doctrine that what a man knows under the seal of secrecy (meaning private confession) he knows less than anything else, and may lawfully deny any knowledge of whatsoever. Perhaps these questions, from the first to the last, seem puzzling to some people. Act as a man of honor, and all difficulty disappears. To break one’s word, or to deny one’s lawful relations, is what a gentleman would not, for a moment dream of doing. The “ barbarians, ” from whom we should be proud to descend, and the Arabs of all times, past and present, had a certain code of honor and hospitality which was Christian in all but name; and the Albanian servant who recently gave his master notice, under the plea that he wanted to attack him on the highway, with his band, and therefore warned him to defend himself, was undoubtedly a fine fellow, and robbed his act of thieving of two thirds of its heinousness, if not of its unlawfulness.

— In translating an author, write as he would have done had he written in your language. This is one of the old rules of translators, and appears a very just one. The trouble has been in its application; by quoting it all sorts of vagaries have been justified. At present the tendency of translators is to follow this canon by rendering the matter more literally than they were wont to do of old. As long as ease and freedom are preserved, this practice deserves commendation.

If the matter be verse, the imitation can be pushed a degree further and the metre followed, and if possible made the same as in the original. To this point too little attention has been given. I now refer particularly to Latin and Greek classic authors. Many of the classic metres can be given quite faithfully in our language. The heroic hexameter has been used by Longfellow in several poems, as Evangeline and The Courtship of Miles Standish. Examples of the elegiac combination of this verse with the pentameter occur among our minor poems, and Tennyson has written one or two pieces in “ the metre of Catullus,” and in the Alcaic stanza. The poem in the latter metre is addressed to Milton, and certainly no fault can be found with its melody.

The essential difference between Latin or Greek and English prosody is that the first is founded on quantity, the latter on accent. The laws of quantity assigned a certain value to every syllable: it was long or short in accordance with some fixed law or with no less rigid authority. This “quantity” was quite independent of accent. A syllable which is short is in many cases the very one which receives the accent. Yet in classic versification no regard was paid to the accent; quantity was everything. The consequence is that in classic verse quantity and accent clash in a manner very discordant to our ears. With us, on the contrary, all depends on accent; a syllable is long or short according to the accent only. Thus, in obedience to the old rules of quantity, this word which we have used so often, “ accent,” should be a spondee; both syllables should be long. In English verse it must rank as a trochee: the first syllable, receiving the stress, is long; the second is short.

The spondee, the foot consisting of two long syllables, is a very hard one to introduce into our verse. In one word two adjacent syllables can rarely be accented. Hence to form a spondee or any succession of two long syllables, we must use two words. The first Or last syllable of a polysyllabic word may be half, a monosyllable will do for the other half. No more perfect example of spondees inclosing a dactyl can be found than the homely words, “ man who kept a segar store.” The straight lines indicate long, the curved ones short syllables. In adopting classic metres this rule has not been followed, and really need not be. The spondee is almost opposed to the genius of our verse, yet I would by no means discard it. A foot consisting of one long and one short syllable may, however, in many cases, take its place. In Longfellow’s hexameters, trochees, a long before a short syllable, are continually employed in its place, and harmonize very well with the dactyls.

I have spoken of the clashing of accent and quantity in the classic poets. So much have some critics been disturbed by this that they have pronounced the whole theory of classic versification false, said that it was founded upon accent, and endeavored so to scan it. Edgar A. Poe may be mentioned among these revolutionists; he tried to substitute a new theory for the old, enunciating his ideas on the subject in The Rationale of Verse.

We must, I think, adhere to the old system, and scan the classic verses by quantity. Any other system presents many inconsistencies. We may the more willingly do so as we can then readily imitate them in English, and produce many metres new to our language.

I will illustrate what I have said by a translation of Horace’s Elegy on Quintilius. To my ear the choriambic metre sounds very well in English, and it certainly adds to the interest of a translation to know that in metre as well as matter it is nearly identical with the original.


(Quis desTderio sit pftdoi-ant modus, etc.) Slmme nor limit should be unto oiir gri-i'f find woe
Tor so darling a head : teach us thy saddest song,
0 Melpomene, muse, liquid of voice, for slow,
Slow this measure must glide along.
Lo, Quintilius sleeps ; equal of whom to find
Long may Chastity search ; though she assisted be
By the sister of Faith, Justice whose eyes are blind,
She thy equal shall never see.

Good men all will lament; yet was the loss more

Unto none than to thee, Virgil, my dearest friend. All thy pity is vain ; never will it restore
Him whose life has attained its end.

Though more dulcet your tones than was the lyre sweet
Which when Orpheus struck forests and rocks obeyed,
Vain indeed were the task jver our friend to meet,
Who the terrible world of shade
Once has entered, and passed into the regions drear
Where great Mercury rules, sceptred, with black ened rod.
Very hard is thy lot: patience must dry the tear ;
Tears will never unseal the rod.

— Having positive ideas on the subject of reviews and book notices, I read with interest all that I can on the subject that is printed in our magazine, and I did not pass by the remarks made by a contributor in October. You remember that he said that there is a great deal of choice in reviewers, looking at them from the position of authors and publishers. He thought that the more praiseworthy of them practice “ the art of skillfully stimulating the reader’s curiosity,” rather than of giving a synopsis of the contents of the book, and thus, of course, doing the reader some good by adding to his information.

I will not deny that this view may be correct, though I think that the experience and long practice of some American publishers will show that there is much to be said on the other side. A difference must be made between classes of books, and no one would tliink it right to treat a novel as he would a work on science, or a historical essay. I think that it is the established practice of some publishers to give all possible publicity to the contents of their books, often having long illustrated articles prepared in advance, with the intention of stimulating the reader’s curiosity by giving him information, rather than by keeping it from him.

Is it not, however, a low view of the office of the reviewer that we get when we think of him as an agent for the sale of books? Without doubt, it is a good thing to further the sale of good books, but the critic, to do himself perfect justice, must remember that he is the agent of the reader, not of the author or the publisher. The editor of “ the old Putnam ” was right when he said, years ago, that it is the duty of the reviewer to tell his reader what there is in a book, and to pronounce honest judgment upon it. This has been the mode of all the really great reviewers.

The editor of a critical periodical is in the pay of the reader, and must please his pay-master, or he will fail. The reader says to him, " I am not able to buy all the books that are published, and yet I wish to know what is going on in the literary world, and to be informed of the relative merits of the current books; will you give me an account of them all, with your judgment and that of experts as to their worth, accompanied with sketches of the subject matter of the best of them? ” This is what I say to the reviewer, and I suppose that others do the same. The publisher’s interest is subserved when the reviewer follows such a course, for the reader will be attracted to those books that seem to meet his individual needs; and when once a critic has established his reputation as furnishing reviews that are real guides to buyers, his opinions will possess a money value that will be held as long as his judgments are considered honest.

An author cannot read with self-respect the reviews of his book that are written by a man whom he knows to be a mere agent of his publisher. I can speak freely on this subject, for I write both books and reviews. I know what it is to have snap judgment pronounced upon my own humble productions, and the knowledge makes me all the more careful not to offend in that way myself. I practice what I preach, and as an author I prefer that my reviewers should tell the truth about what I write, and never indulge in denunciation on the one hand, or in fulsome flattery on the other. As I do not write works of the imagination, I do not care how much of the contents of my hooks they give to their readers in advance. Of course, a novel would be damaged by treatment that is proper in other cases.

— Two or three contributors of The Atlantic have lately called attention to the “ grimness of country life.” Sometimes they seem to confine their remarks to New England, but sometimes, again, they apparently include all rural Americans in " our country people. ” One suspects unintentional exaggeration, even with the limitation first given; but, however this may be, there are American country districts to which the doleful descriptions of the contributors do not fully apply. It must be borne in mind that New England (though important beyond all proportion to its area or its population) is not absolutely the whole of the United States, after all. There are regions where Puritanism has not intruded, and where, indeed, the very word is suggestive of no pleasant or respectable associations. One need not go farther south than Maryland to find rural communities (every whit as orderly as any in Massachusetts or Vermont.) where the good old English sports of fox-hunting and partridge-shooting are still habits with many of the farmers, where horseback-riding both for pleasure and for locomotion is not yet a disused custom, and where the influence of past social conditions has not wholly spent itself. In the ante bellum days it was common for families to journey about, visiting, their estates being left in care of overseers and the like; and thus for weeks together an ample country house would be overflowing with both population and enjoyment. This custom has passed away now; but far more attention is paid to the etiquette of visiting than at the North, and calls are more frequent and longer. The meets for fox-hunting also serve sometimes to bring the families of the hunters together, and some seasons the desire to entertain young visitors from the city will give rise to a series of parties and similar entertainments lasting for weeks. Tournaments, though in their decadence, occasionally add somewhat to the pleasure of the community, and each tournament ends with a ball. Many of the villages are provided with amateur theatrical organizations; brass bands have outstripped the telegraph in all directions; canoe races (much like yacht regattas) are common along the bay side; and weddings are scenes of great jollity. Indeed, I am sorry to say that the influence of past days may still be found in the maxim (heard sometimes from old gentlemen who abhor drunkenness on any other occasion) that it is a shame for a man to go home sober on such an occasion. A wedding is the time for a man to be merry, they say.

Of course, this last is not to be commended, but assuredly it is not puritanical. Nor has the gradual fading of sociability since the war, and the concurrent decline of culture and manners, as yet reached a point where grimness can fairly be charged. Certainly, the life of which I speak is dull (except during the season of field sports) to one accustomed to the moving masses and newsy atmosphere of cities; but we may well doubt whether it would be half so dreary to the average thinking mortal as the ceaseless round of perfunctory calls and routine nonsense which wastes, under the name of “ society,” the lives of so many men and women in the national capital itself. I know rational beings who can hardly attend to any work until Lent comes, because of the amount of this sort of thing which they have on hand. Compared with the solid comfort of a pleasant home and a few books, is it not the very hollowest “ vanity and vexation of spirit ” ? What can be “grimmer” than the lot of the cabinet lady, with her five hundred perfunctory calls in arrears? — And such things have been.

— One of your readers, at least, is thoroughly tired of young men who smoke. She finds little relief in reading The Atlantic, since even its heroes are continually appearing on each scene with cigars in one state or another of enjoyment or completion.

Cannot a kindly contributor write something, anything, — for the sake of influence, — though it be fiction, about a young man who does not smoke?

— The present basis of educational reform, or at least of changes in the method of instruction, is to render all subjects attractive. The fashion seems to have come in with sugar-coated pills, capsules, and other agreeable ways of making disagreeable things palatable to people. The public insists upon harnessing the draught-horse of information with the trotting nag of entertainment. Perhaps, however, the result will be that they will neither go very fast, nor carry much of a load. Grammar is the special repugnance of most pupils, and, if we may believe some teachers, the great intellectual obstacle to the right and ready acquirement of the real genius and finest use of language. If it can be made picturesque and attractive, stimulating the pupil’s imagination as well as his memory, by associating it with familiar objects and experiences, this difficulty will be lessened, if not removed. Something has been done, or attempted, in the book called Grammar Land. My method, on exhibition below, somewhat incomplete, but perhaps sufficiently suggestive, may give some useful hints in this direction. My paradigm of verbs will serve to show the scope and design of the plan: —

PRESENT TENSE. (Rather) Singular. I amaranth, Thou artichoke, He Israelite.

Plural. We argument, Ewer, a pitcher, Year 1000, Thereupon.

(VERY) IMPERFECT TENSE. I didactic, Heeded nobody, Weeded a garden.

FUTURE TENSE. Singular. I willow basket, Thou Wilton carpet, Heal the sick.

Plural. Weal and woe, Yule log, They languish. PRESENT INTENSE.

Singular. I due bill, Thou dust brush, He dozen dozen. Plural.

Widow’s mite, You duellist, Th’ ado about nothing.

IMPERATIVE. Singular. Let meander, Letter box. Plural. Lettuce bed, Yeast rising.

The pupil’s mind is by this method carried along and deluded hy the beauty of the imagery; and while thinking that he enjoys only a series of interesting pictures, he is deep in the mysteries of conjugation before he knows it.

— A passage in the recently published table-talk of Prince Bismarck recalls a little-known episode in European politics, in which an American diplomat played a very creditable rôle. The history of this occurrence has never been published, nor have direct allusions to it been made in print till a year or so ago, when a German journalist, Brachvogel by name, gave the bare facts of the case. Bismarck’s reference to it, as quoted in The Fortnightly Review, is as follows: —

“I was intrusted with the office of conferring with Napoleon about the Nuremberg affair [the translator, or printer, should have said Neuchâtel, German Neuenburg]. It must have been in the spring of 1857. I had to ask him what attitude he would assume in relation to the matter. Now I knew that he would declare himself in a favorable sense, and that meant war with Switzerland. . . . Napoleon was very pleasant and friendly. Certainly he could not accede to the king’s wish to be allowed to march through Elsass and Lorraine, as that would cause too much excitement in France; but, for the rest, he fully approved of the undertaking. It could only give him satisfaction, if the democrats were cleared out of their den. So far, then, I had been successful, but I had not calculated upon the change of policy which had meanwhile occurred at Berlin, — probably through taking Austria into account,— and the affair was given up. No war resulted.”

In the time of William of Orange, the direct line of the princes of Neuchâtel became extinct, and the heir at law being a vassal of the French king, the notables of the principality thought fit to settle the succession upon William as the next heir. He, however, died without issue, the heir at law to his titles and possessions being the then Elector of Brandenburg, — no other, in fact, than the ” great elector,” Friedrich Wilhelm. But William did not at all intend that his claims to the sovereignty of the Netherlands and his enormously valuable estates should pass to a foreigner, if he could help it; and to avoid this he had made a will, which was naturally supported by the Dutch authorities, making his cousin of Nassau universal legatee. The Brandenburger, however, succeeded in getting a portion of the private property and the principality, whence the title of the Hohenzollern family, surrendered only in 1857. Up to 1848, the prince, himself living at Berlin, kept at Neuchâtel a vice-prince, who was always a Prussian subject. In this year the populace rose and overcame the governor and his handful of soldiers, proclaiming the principality an inseparable part of Switzerland. After a time a modus vivendi was arrived at by which, on the one hand, the Hohenzollern sovereignty was acknowledged, and, on the other, some arrangement was entered into by which, to all intents and purposes, Neuchâtel became a Swiss canton. With any other person than the weak and vacillating Friedrich Wilhelm IV., such an arrangement would probably have been impracticable; but if what happened in his immediate home caused him completely to lose his head, it was not to be expected that he should be able to attend to matters so far off as these. Accordingly, this anomalous state of things lasted till 1857, but the nobility of the principality, which was the only class injured by the change, thought it would try its hand at a revolution. At first the insurgents were successful, but ultimately were defeated, and the captured leaders were carried off to Bern.

A greater piece of luck for the Swiss government it would be difficult to imagine, and the people then in power resolved to take the utmost possible advantage of it, for the successors of old Nicholas von Diesbach have rarely been unworthy of their great predecessor. So when Friedrich Wilhelm demanded the release of the captured nobles, they demanded a compensation therefor, said compensation to consist in the absolute and complete abandonment of all claim on Neuchâtel. This placed the king in a highly embarrassing position. Desert friends of his own order, — men who had gotten into trouble through devotion to his interests,—he could not; surrender inherited titles and prerogatives, he would not. There was, indeed, a third way out of the difficulty, namely, war; but to this the peace-loving king was by no means inclined. None the less, as it appears, was Bismarck sent to Paris to inquire, some preparations for war were made, and the bold statesmen of Bern, in spite of their bumptiousness, were still somewhat anxious.

It was at this point that the American diplomat appeared upon the scene. Mr. Theodore S. Fay, long a Knickerbocker journalist and novelist, was made envoy to Switzerland in 1853, having previously, for eighteen years, been secretary of legation at Berlin. During this period Mr. Fay had intimately known Humboldt and other members of the king’s literary coterie, and had, on several occasions, been brought unofficially in contact with his majesty himself, and had been treated by him with great consideration. A happy thought now occurred to Mr. Fay, in pursuance of which he went to the head of the Swiss government, and made him the following proposition: He should go to Berlin and see the king (of course as a private person), and should prevail upon him to give his royal word to renounce his claims, provided the nobles were first released. For to give up his claims at the mere threat of the Swiss government would, all parties felt, be quite inconsistent with the dignity of his crown. The proposal being accepted, Mr. Fay at once set out, and after a toilsome journey (there was then no railway to Bern) arrived at his destination. But the difficult part of his mission had really just begun. The king was surrounded by high tory ministers, and they were anxious for war, — a war, that is, which should not bring them into conflict with Austria. Finally, however, Mr. Fay obtained an interview, no third party being present but Baron Manteuffel, the premier. Friedrich Wilhelm was a weak, kindly man, with a horror of bloodshed, and, in addition to this, of a deeply religious turn of mind, especially in his later years. It was by working upon this side of his character that Mr. Fay finally succeeded, in spite of the king’s natural unwillingness and the grunts of the disgusted Manteuffel, in obtaining the promise desired. He then went back to Bern, and the prisoners were released.

So far, so good; but the king did not at once carry out his part of the bargain as was expected, and the envoy, as well as the Swiss government, was for some weeks kept upon the anxious seat. Had the one thrown away its trumps in vain reliance upon the higher cards of the other? But eventually everything came right, and the American envoy was the recipient of an enormous amount of gratitude.