The Contributors' Club
THE head of a great university has lately ventured publicly to assert that only one thing is essential to culture, and that that one thing is a thorough and elegant mastery of the mother tongue. If we mark well the exact sense of the word essential, and remembering to insist that other knowledge is important. and all knowledge desirable, the truth of the statement may be conceded. The Greeks, the most polished people of antiquity, studied no literature beside their own, and learned no alien tongue for any literary purpose. The French, the most potished people of the present, and the only modern people whose literature is read by all others, possess to a remarkable degree the same self-sufficing characteristic. These two notable facts in the history of civilization support President Eliot in his unexpected and audacious confession. We believe that he is right, whether he speaks of the culture of a nation, or of that of an individual. Nor is the knowledge which he praises merely a grace: it is a means toward soundness of judgment; it is a help to pure reason. Obviously, the man who always chooses words with precision and arranges them with lucidity will argue more accurately than the man who expresses himself vaguely and blindly. “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man,” said Bacon. Yes, if the writing itself is exact, but not so certainly otherwise.
Now, if this knowledge of English is thus essential, why not teach it? Is it a prominent branch of education in our universities? Not at all: not in Harvard and Yale, I am sure; probably in no other. It is a humble attendant on other studies, counting almost as a supernumerary. There are professorships of rhetoric and of English literature, but they are held in light esteem, I believe, by the other chairs of the faculty, and they are allowed to demand but little of a student’s time. Their courses are made so easy that the idle seek them as “optionals.” Only think of their being classed as optionals, when their proper result is an essential! Oh, but the students are supposed to know English when they enter college. Are they? Ask the disgusted professor of rhetoric. He will tell you that in nine tenths of the exercises submitted to him spelling and grammar and construction are all at fault. And to correct this disgraceful ignorance, there are six or eight “compositions” a year. There should be several times as many. In learning to write well there is but one secret of success, and that is frequent, laborious practice, coupled with assiduous correction. I venture to assert that the journeymen printers of our land write more fluently and grammatically, on the average, than the seniors in our universities. Why ? Not through superiority of intellect, certainly; not because they know Greek and Latin and mental philosophy; solely, because the handling of English is their daily work.
Obviously, there must be more writing than there is in our schools and colleges, or we shall continue to lack President Eliot’s essential to culture. Other studies must cede some ground to this one; and to that end there must be fewer enforced courses. Every one who knows the college youth knows that he is harassed with many text-books, and that he ends his four years with but a smattering of various branches of knowledge, having learned no one thing thoroughly. He must have time for his compositions, or he cannot do them well. Nor should he be called on for much original thought, —a frequent error of the professor of rhetoric. No profound or unusual subjects: only such as the student can write about readily; only topics within easy reach for one of his age and information; translations; sketches of personal adventure; renderings, in one’s own words, from wellknown authors; epitomes of professional lectures, or of text-books, even; replies to the effusions of brother students, — such themes as these should be conceded. The object is to bring about much writing, much handling of the mother tongue, much of that practice which makes perfect. The professor of rhetoric should remember that other professors reveal metaphysics, the lessons of history, and the secrets of political economy, and that his business is strictly and exclusively to teach a fluent, correct, and graceful use of English.
But if all this is done, other studies will be neglected. No doubt of it, and of course it is a pity ; but still no doubt we must make a choice. Either a poor instruction in English and a smattering of many things, or a fairly good instruction in English and a smattering of fewer things, — that is our dilemma. But is it worth while to make a nation of good writers? It has certainly been worth while to have Greeks and Frenchmen; the world has judged that they deserved a great deal of attention, “ Ah, my Athenian friends, see what I am doing to win your praise! ” said Alexander, as he plunged into the Granicus.
— A favorable sea occurred, and we witnessed the most extraordinary sport, Hawaiian surf - bathing; and I venture to describe it here, especially as I have never met with a description of it which was not erroneous, and showed clearly that the author did not accurately observe or comprehend it. Senator Wilkes speaks of the bather as coming in on the top of the wave. This would be an utter impossibility; for should the bather once get on the crest of the wave, he would, in spite of all human effort, be thrown forward and submerged immediately.
The wind was light, but immense seas were rolling in through the broad opening into the bay, in front of which was our place of observation. To our left was a broad area covered with large volcanic rocks, extending almost half a mile into the bay. Near shore the tops of many of these appeared above the water, the depth of which gradually increased seaward. As the big seas chased each other in from the open ocean, the west end first reached this rocky bed; and the moment the bottom of the wave met the obstruction its rotary motion was checked, and instantly the comb on the top was formed, so that the foamy crest seemed to run along the top of the wave from west to east, as successive portions of it reached the rocky bottom. By this, also, the easterly portion of the wave was retarded in its progress towards the shore, while to the west it dashed forward in its unchecked career. The effect of this was to bend the wave into a crescent form. To our left, over the rocky bed, perhaps half a dozen of these huge crested waves would be chasing one another, the most advanced being the least perfect in form, till finally they became quite broken down, and dissolved into a vast field of white foam, in the midst of which the great volcanic bowlders showed themselves.
Three bathers appeared, stripped to their breech-cloths, each with his bathing-board, which was some three quarters of an inch thick, about seven feet long, coffin-shaped and rounded at the ends, and chamfered at the edges; it was fifteen inches wide, at the widest, near the forward end, and eleven inches wide at the back end. When I examined them carefully, after the sport was over, I observed that one of these boards was considerably warped; but its owner said that that did not injure it for use. The bathers started out, their boards under their arms, in this seething sea of foam, among the rocks, where only an expert, familiar with the ground, could avoid being dashed to death in a moment; sometimes wading, and sometimes swimming, and sometimes stopping on high rocks to study and take advantage of the situation, till they reached the regular wave formations, when they struck out on their boards, diving under the waves they met, making their way rapidly outward and towards the west end of the breakers. Here they remained floating on their boards, till an unusually large and regular wave approached and commenced breaking, its great foaming crest arching over in front, the milky foam falling upon the front declivity of the wave several feet above its base. This was the condition desired by the surf-bathers. One instantly dashed in, in the front and at the lowest declivity of the advancing wave, and with a few strokes of hands and feet established his position, and then without further effort shot along the base of the wave to the eastward with incredible velocity. Naturally he came towards the shore with the body of the wave as it advanced, but his course was along the foot of the wave and parallel with it so that we only saw that he was running past, with the speed of a swift-winged bird. He nearly kept up with the advance of the breaking crest, which progressed from west to east as successive portions of the bottom of the wave took the ground, as I have above described.
So soon as the bather had secured his position, he gave a spring, and stood on his knees upon the board; and just as he was passing us, when about four hundred feet from the little peninsula where we stood, he gave another spring, and stood upon his feet, now folding his arms upon his breast, and now swinging them about in wild ecstasy in his exhilarating flight. But all this must be enjoyed rapidly; for scarcely a minute elapsed from the time he started till he was far away to the right, where he abandoned the exhausted wave, and with a few vigorous strokes propelled himself into shallow water, when he waded ashore with his board under his arm, and came up to us as calm, at least, as those who had witnessed his wonderful feat.
Not every attempt to take the wave was a success. Several times the bathers seemed to be drawn up the front acclivity of the wave, till brought within the reach of the comb, when the attempt was instantly abandoned; they dived under the wave, and soon came up quite beyond it, and waited for another on which to make the passage.
The bathers themselves were quite unable to explain what it was that propelled them with such astonishing velocity along the foot of the wave. The inclination of the board to climb up the acclivity — if indeed such is the case — when the wave is rolling towards the bather, and so producing a current downward, seems contrary to what we should expect. This propulsion parallel with the wave, I think, occurs only when a comb is breaking on the top of the wave; and then it is that the base of the wave in front is most distinctly defined, while the face of the unbroken swell is very irregular and much deformed. That there is a rapid current rushing along at the foot of the wave at. right angles to its general course I cannot believe. A block of wood thrown in where the bather started would no doubt simply rise up over it and be left behind, again to surmount the succeeding wave; it certainly would not dart off, almost like a flash, and maintain its position in front of the wave. The only solution of the phenomenon which I will venture to suggest is that by placing the bathing-board at a certain angle to the direction of the moving water in the wave an impetus is given to it in a direction not in accord with the impelling force, as by trimming the sails of a ship so that the wind will strike them obliquely the vessel is propelled in a direction different from the course of the wind. If the results are more marked than we should expect from the cause suggested, I may say that we are not sure that we are acquainted with the force and direction of all the currents which accompany a wave of the sea. At all events, I hope that what I have said will induce others to give a more satisfactory explanation of the striking facts which I have detailed. I do not think it will prove more difficult of explanation than is the action of the boomerang from the hands of the Australian native.
— I sometimes think that an interesting chapter might be written on the influence of cities upon undomesticated birds and other animals. Every great human hive has a sub-life of this sort, which has learned to find in turmoil and preoccupation a greater security than in the remotest recesses of the woods and fields. Hence arise changes of habits which are worth noting. It is interesting, too, to trace the distribution of species and their interaction on one another under these new conditions.
Of late, there has been a very lively tilt of champions on the subject of the merits and demerits of our little cockney immigrant, the English sparrow; and the question whether he does or does not drive some species of native birds away from our cities has been discussed in all its hearings; but none of the contestants, I believe, have suggested that he may be the means of bringing other feathered denizens among us. Yet this last is certainly the case.
For a number of months, at least, a pair of sparrow-hawks have adopted as their hunting-ground the populous Corinthian capitals of the east front of the general post-office building in Washington, decidedly the busiest and noisest spot in the city. These birds, ordinarily considered our wildest, as they undoubtedly are one of our most beautiful and graceful, species, have evidently learned that the uproar below has no dangers for them, and that the human forms around and beneath them are after other prey. In truth, very few persons seem to notice them. They will swoop after the skurrying sparrows within a few feet of a constant stream of foot-passengers and rattling vehicles, and between the stories of well-filled rooms of the department building and the private offices opposite. Very often the smaller birds take shelter in the crevices of the marble foliage which crowns the columns, and the hawks follow them. It is curious to watch the chase as it winds from one refuge to another, now a-wing and now a-foot, wile encountering wile, the keen persistence of hunger and sport overcoming the hasty expedients of terror. And all the time the drama of a larger life goes on side by side with it, unnoting.
In this same neighborhood I have noticed for some years an eccentric nighthawk (the “bull-bat” of this latitude), who habitually comes out at midday, or earlier, and flies about with his shrill cry in the most irregular and innovating way, even when the sun is shining brightly. Perhaps he has been repeatedly driven at unseemly hours from his abode in some dusty collection of governmental archives, until his habits have grown a little disorderly. This habitual appearance of the bird in the brighter hours of the day is certainly a citified practice. At least, though fond of watching, shooting, and eating them, I have rarely noticed the habit in the country.
There is also a certain sparsely settled tract of the city, not far from the War Department and Observatory, which supports a wild quadrupedal population, rather meagre in numbers, but probably never wholly exterminated. When the river is frozen over, foxes, rabbits, and other animals cross by night on the ice to the shore at this point, and reluctant pets seeking escape from the heart of the city often reach the same spot. When a thaw comes they are securely bottled in the space between the river and the blocks of buildings, and forced to make the most they can of the scattered gardens, deserted kilns, commons, flats, tow path, and unfinished “ improvements.” I have witnessed a lively and successful fox-hunt in this locality, which made up in zeal for whatever it might lack in system or skill; and dwellers thereabout inform me that they occur quite frequently. Rabbits are killed there every year, and sometimes in rather considerable numbers. I have heard also of the capture of an opossum. It would be instructive to notice what changes the habits of these wild creatures undergo in their new and strange home.
— I do not find Rosamond “shocking” or “obnoxious.” Doubtless, the reason of this lies in the fact that I am a woman. I should be sorry to be a woman and not stand up for my sex. I think a man’s ideal of woman is higher than a woman’s. I think a woman’s ideal of man is higher than a man’s.
The case of Rosamond, which is a typical case, is not shocking, but it is lamentable. If Rosamond had been the conductress of that train, — as in the good time coming she will be, — the conductor, being then only a male passenger, would have become interested in the pretty young conductress as foolishly as, in the other case, she did in him. His imagination would have been kindled as readily as hers was. The only difference would have been that he, being a man, and brought up to face the world and fight its battles, would have gone coolly to work to find out all about that fascinating young conductress, — whether she were married, whether she were engaged, whether she had a rich maiden aunt who was likely to die soon. If the road were clear, he would have given his imagination full swing; otherwise, he would simply have indulged in a mild flirtation, keeping his imagination ready for a more eligible opportunity.
Poor Rosamond, not trained to manage either a railroad train or her imagination, suffered the consequences.
— The paragraph in the Contributors’ Club relating to the story of Rosamond and the Conductor, published in the March number of the Atlantic, caused several of your readers to turn again to the pages that at the first reading had provoked much comment. Contrary to the experience of your July contributor, — presumably of the sterner sex, — I found the ladies inclined to take a harsh view of Rosamond’s conduct, which their brothers lightly passed over as a bit of girlish romance and harmless folly. That such a story could have been written (and well written, too, as the fact that the heroine does not altogether repel and disgust the reader proves) is a striking commentary on American manners and morals. It is our national boast that our girls can be trusted to take care of themselves anywhere, and that the surveillance considered necessary in European countries is with us unnecessary. But the character of Rosamond seems to point to opposite conclusions. We have here a young lady “spending her time in fond and tender feelings towards a man whom she knows absolutely nothing about, and who may be the worst scamp that ever walked.”Beside this hypothetical drawback, there is the real and tangible one, that she has placed her regards on one whom she considers a social inferior. and whose affection, even if she succeeded in winning it, she would be ashamed to acknowledge. By her own admission, she is not a “ silly girl of sixteen,” but a woman who acts deliberately and reflects carefully, “ accustomed to pretty distinct mental conversations,” and, moreover, of a somewhat analytical turn of mind. “ It ’s fun to watch myself and see what I ’ll do.” That it did not turn out such “ fun ” as she anticipated was assuredly no fault of hers. When, at last, she learns that the conductor, of whom she has “ thought almost constantly,” whose note (drawn from him by a most pitiful trick) she had in a “ sudden impulse of tenderness laid softly against her cheek,” is a married man, she feels a “ wild and ungovernable rage, like a passionate child whose toys are rudely snatched away.” Poor Rosamond! Says a somewhat severe critic (feminine), “Rosamond’s only salvation was the fact that her fancy chanced to fall on a gentleman and man of honor, rather than the reverse.” That such experiences are not common we devoutly hope. But who can tell? The Rosamonds are not the ones to divulge their heart troubles. It has been claimed as one of the chief advantages of education and culture that, they assist in disciplining and guiding the affections. Have we overestimated their efficacy in this respect?
— What has become of the mad dogs? In their absence let us calmly consider a few facts, and ask ourselves whether ignorance and superstition have not something to do with increasing their number and magnifying the dangers accompanying their malady. Dogs are sometimes afflicted with a distemper: when young, they frequently have fits, running wild, with glaring eye and frothing mouth; when old, they have attacks of paralysis, and are reduced to a stupid, inactive condition,— both of which ailments have been called rabies. It is a common superstition that should a dog go mad after biting a person the latter will also fall a victim to rabies. Dogs suffering from wounds may take cold, and, inflammation setting in, the nerves become affected, spasms ensue, saliva is emitted, water is avoided, the whole appearance of the animal suggesting “ madness.” Persons taking cold in wounds have suffered in a precisely similar manner. The effect is the same in lock-jaw; only that a wound from a rusty nail may, with inflammation from a cold, produce a stronger affection in the region of the throat. The end of many diseases which afflict humanity is attended with spasms, saliva, and other symptoms of “ hydrophobia.” A few incidents will illustrate: Some years since a man in Dorchester was bitten by a cat, another in Boston by a rat, and several others by rabbits, the bites producing spasmodic symptoms in all the victims. Mad horses and cows have been known, their disorder (frothing at the mouth, etc.) being doubtless caused by a poisonous shrub eaten with hay. A father, bitten by his child, from whose throat he attempted to remove a diphtheritic formation, died from the wound. A blacksmith of lloxbury sprained his ankle while attending to a horse; he look cold, inflammation ensued, then violent spasms and paroxysms at intervals for a week preceding death. The newspapers of 1878 reported that “ last March, in New York, Mr. J. Russell was bitten in the hand by Thomas Kelly, while quarreling with him. Since then, his finger, then his hand, then his arm, were successively amputated.” He finally died from the effects of the bite. Had these animals and persons been bitten by dogs, they would undoubtedly have been reported as victims of rabies.
Last autumn, a young lawyer of New York was ferociously bitten by a large dog, while entering the premises guarded by the faithful animal at night. He took care that he caught no cold in the wound, and therefore no harm came of it. A lady of Cambridge, bitten by a black and tan pet last winter, took similar precaution with like result. A dog trainer of New York, whose intelligent experience was of long standing, did not believe such a disease as canine madness existed. He was bitten, and, while suffering from the wound, his attendants called the malady hydrophobia; it was, in reality, delirium tremens. Watts, of Boston, who has had great experience with dogs, never yet discovered evidence of this so-called disease. It is true that cases have been reported in the medical journals, but generally with a protest from eminent authorities. Oue instance is that of a woman whose malady was hastily set down by the physicians as hydrophobia. They were deceived by a chronic case of hysteric fits. Hunters and sportsmen who have reared numberless dogs, and who have been bitten by them under various conditions, attest that no positive evidence has yet been produced to show that virus ever emanated from a canine’s mouth. The writer, during his life, has been surrounded by different species of dogs; his children and friends, as well as himself, have often been bitten by them, sometimes severely; but by the exercise of every precaution against taking cold no ill results have followed. If a wound be severe, first cauterize it, if possible; however this may be, the application of a poultice of flaxseed and slippery elm saturated with laudanum will remove all irritation.
— A contributor in the March number of The Atlantic desires to know how the professional author works, meaning the writer whose daily bread depends upon production and publication. I am certainly not a distinguished author, — probably not nearly so well known to the public as my fellow-contributor. Twenty years ago I had published three novels in England and America, and seemed likely to be very successful; then I took up a very different profession; but within the past three years I have come back (with genuine pleasure, I must own) to literature; no longer, however, with the early hope of snatching prizes, but with the intention to do faithful work for needful pay. One of my engagements is on a daily paper. For it I produce an article averaging half a column everyday. I also have on hand at all times articles for magazines, both English and American, translations, stories, serial and otherwise, novelettes, and small poems. Besides these I have my “ natural profession,” which is wife and mother. What your contributor wants to know is how I can carry these things all on in my head at once, and by what process I make up my raw material. I do it, I believe, by systematic work, and by avoiding that confusion which causes mental strain. Moreover I live in the country, with pure air and sunshine; liable, of course, to homely interruptions, but those generally brief and of the household kind. In my unmarried days, while a member of a family that had no cause to make itself uncomfortable by early rising, I took — as I think Sir Walter Scott did — a long, dawdling dressing hour in which to arrange the day’s writing. I wrote with all my family around me, joining in general conversation, and ready at any moment to break off. I kept note-books, into which I entered anything — original, suggested, or suggestive — which I thought would work into my story or magazine article, and I kept in my desk some stimulating book, which, if I did not feel up to concert pitch, would generally raise me to it. Nowadays the conditions are changed; with a family breakfast at 7.15 A. M. , husband and boys to send off to counting-room and school in a neighboring city, and the dislocations of domestic service to provide for, I am not likely to enjoy much dolce far niente at my toilette; still, I contrive before rising to get time enough at least to arrange my article for the day. I have always the plot of one novel, one story, and one magazine article sketched out in my mind, and what I hear, read, and see I fit into it. I commonly, too, keep rough note-books with this object. I generally begin to work at nine o’clock, and stop at three P. M. I never write after dinner. During the evening I usually, as I sew, select the next day’s subject, and sketch it in my mind. The following morning I look up my authorities, compose and copy my article, verify what I have written, and lay it aside. I always write rough copy. It is to authorship, I think, what basting is to the sewing-machine. I am then ready to turn to other work. Of the composition of a story I can tell little. I get the germ, and by degrees it forms itself, till it is about as distinct to my mind as a novel picked up and read hastily is to the mind of the ordinary reader; that is, I have clear ideas about the plot, the main points, the best scenes, and the purpose of the story. Then I divide it. into chapters, and work out each one pretty steadily. Each day of course suggests new similes, ideas, developments of minor points, etc., but I keep in the main to the first sketch. I have at all times several subjects for which I lay aside references as I meet with material. One peculiarity I observe about my stories: the names somehow evolve themselves to suit my characters, and if by any accident I am forced to change a name I never recover my familiarity with my personage. The great authors I have known personally have had different ways of managing their work, — most of them far more dilettante than mine; but then they were working for the great prizes in literature, an aim of course much nobler than my own.
— I have a serious complaint to make against a great many of the story and novel writers. It is that they misconceive love in such a way as to vitiate the whole substance of their story. It needs no novelist to tell us that love in its highest form is rare in the world. So all the best things are. But is it so rare as story-tellers in general represent it to be? Perhaps they do nob mean so to represent it; perhaps they think their lovers really love, but if such is their notion they are mistaken. This misrepresentation of love is continually met with in stories. In Mr, Black’s Madcap Violet the two lovers, who are both intended to be above the average in intelligence and sentiment, and who are said to have felt a profound kinship of spirit, act directly in opposition to common sense and to faith in each other. When a third person tells the man that the girl does not love him, he believes her, and gives up the poor girl, who, on her side, with rather more naturalness, thinks she has been mistaken as to his feeling for her ; whence ensues separation, wretchedness, death, madness, and everything that is perfectly unnecessary. It might be objoctet! to me here that love is not a matter of reason; that people act from impulse, not from calm reflection on what is wisest and best to do. But is there no instinct, no intuition, in love? Love is not a rational conviction, true; it may subsist between two people who may often try each other’s affection by many human weaknesses; but the one thing it cannot live without is trust. If Drummond and Violet had known each other as those do who truly love, if they had felt that intimate union of heart and soul which is the essential joy of love, how would it have been possible for them to misunderstand each other, to think for an instant that a third person could tell one more about the other than each already knew far better? Of course, if people in novels loved in the true fashion, there would be fewer stories written ; and to my mind this would be no loss, for when I find the hero and heroine behaving in this manner I simply incline to shut the book, and say, Oh! they did n’t love, then, after all, and there is no further interest in them. Of course, I wish to be understood to speak only of a love avowed and understood. While love is in its beginning or passing through the earliest stages of growth, it may be blown upon by many a chill wind of doubt or misunderstanding, and cheeked or spoiled of its fruition.
— I have been told by Danes and by Norwegians that nothing so annoys them as to be addressed by foreigners in German. They warmly resent what they consider the implied imputation,—that their states are but flyers to the German kite, and their language but a dialect of that of their southern neighbors. Now the resemblance between the two things may be far-fetched, but I never read of foreigners as Monsieur This and Herr That and Signor Theother, of the Duc de X and the Marchese de Y, without experiencing a similar feeling of exasperation in the interests at once of national respect and of literary good sense. No reader of the Revue des Deux Mondes knows foreigners otherwise than as M. le duc de Wellington, or M. Charles Sumner. It is assumed, and with reason, that foreigners appear in French books precisely on the same footing as in Paris drawing-rooms, and it would sound ridiculous enough to a French ear, the conversation being in French, to lug in foreign titles like Herr and Mister; nor, I suppose, would Mr. Taine or the Count of Paris expect to be addressed in England except as Mister and Count. Yet, till the recent conquest of France, not merely French, but all foreigners except Italian singers, were invariably spoken of in English journals with the prefix “M.” Now, however, we hear of Signor Sella, of Herr von Sybel, even of “ Herr ” Tizka; what the Hungarian title may be I do not know, but surely no one in Pesth would address the prime minister with the German Herr. Mr. Freeman somewhere deservedly compliments Lord Macaulay for the respect for his mother tongue, shown in never allowing himself to talk of the Duc (or, still worse, the Duke) de (say) St. Simon. But why should this reasonable and proper zeal for linguistic purity stop with titled personages? Why should we not all say (as, I am glad to see, some already do) Mr. Thiers, Mr. Tourgénieff, Mr. Schmidt? With regard to titles, however, I am of opinion that the rule should be disregarded when, as sometimes happens, our language fails to translate a foreign word. We are all familiar with the procession of the English peerage, duke, marquis, earl, etc., and are aware that a peer’s eldest son bears, “ by courtesy,” his father’s second title. Then we have the word “ prince,” meaning a younger son of a royal family. Now in France this system only partially obtains, and elsewhere not at all. The highest title of the old French nobility is duke, the second marquis, etc., as in England. But the eldest son of a French or German duke is not called Marquis of Somethingelse, but Prince of Thesame. This is also the custom in Germany. But it must be noticed, however, that Prinz is quite a different word from Fürst, which is commonly translated “prince.” Fürst means neither more nor less than First, and is the oldest purely German title, just as earl is a purely English title, being a contraction of the Old English word ealdorman. The Fürst is the first of his family, and consequently his brothers and sons can not be Fürsten too. If, however, before becoming Fürst a person has been a count or baron, his sons all bear this title; Fürst Bismarck’s sons are thus all counts, — “ Grafen.” Now purely titulary Fürsten, like the v. Bismarck, v. Metterniek, v. Blücher, take place, like English and French marquises, after dukes and before counts; hence their title (and that of Russian princes as well) should be translated Marquis, and the title prince be reserved for sovereigns, like the princes of Monaco, Montenegro, and Sehwarzhurg. It was in imitation of these semi-dependent sovereigns that Bonaparte brought the title prince, in this sense, into the French peerage, Talleyrand being made Prince of Benevent, and Ney Prince of Moskwa.
— In reading a recent book review I found myself stopping instinctively at a sentence which ends as follows : “ Such things as . . . ' and such like ’ Ought not to have escaped the careful proofreader.” There is an implication in this which, though quite flattering to the proof-reader, is decidedly less so to the author; for the reviewer seems to assume that although the author might allow certain inelegancies and inaccuracies to find their way into his manuscript, and even to remain uneorrected in his proof, the proof-reader should certainly set them right. I do not care to follow out the odious comparison thus suggested, but the question naturally arises, Has a proof-reader any authority to alter the language of a book which passes through his hands?
It often happens that an author’s absorption in his subject leads him to overlook some minor points which will at once be noted by one who reads the work in a purely professional way. Unquestionably a proof-reader should correct any manifest oversights; and as typemetal has a sort of Procrustean rigidness, so that any necessary adjustments between language and space must be made entirely in the language, the general appearance of a printed page may occasionally require a change in some unempliatic words. Such change can usually be made without any risk of impairing either the precision or the elegance of the passage. Further than this, I hold, no proof-reader has good warrant for going without special directions; and such remarks as that of the reviewer referred to seem to me absurd.
Suppose I sometimes studiously shun the more familiar expressions, and use original forms, even if less polished. Must I run the risk of having the proofreader, with a contemptuous sniff at my poor English, reduce everything to that dead level which I have striven so bard to surmount? Or if I choose to violate some technicality of grammar or rhetoric, for the sake of greater vigor or a clearer impression, should the “careful proofreader ” feel called on to correct (?) me? How pitifully dull some of the characters of fiction would seein if they were not allowed to take liberties with the vernacular now and then!
Let Cæsar bear his own blushing honors, — and his own responsibilities as well. If an author errs, say so. The proof-reader has, at the best, an ample share of hard work and vexation, with little enough of credit.
— Gwen is the title of a new poem, a drama in monologue, as it is called, by the author of The Epic of Hades and Songs of Two Worlds. This new writer is understood to be a younger brother of William Morris, a manufacturer of verse whose most striking quality is not reticence, and the question immediately suggests itself to the reader’s mind, How many Morrises are there who are going to find rhymes for all the old stories that became classic before these new bards touched them? Mr. William Morris played at being Chaucer for a long time, and a number of people, who possibly cared little for the original, have expressed great admiration for the man who climbed up Parnassus in a masquerade dress. After imitating with considerable pains a great poet, whose main charm was his naturalness, this same author devoted his leisure hours to putting the Æneid into archaic English; that is to say, he took a writer who is in the best sense of the word artificial, and gave us a pseudo-natural rendering of his work. One might as well put one of Racine’s tragedies into the Pike dialect, and have done with it.
This newer Morris, having exhausted the other worlds, has come back to this one, and has chosen for his master the immortal Coventry Patmore, who, strange as it must seem to him if he is a modest man, has founded a little private school, attended by the author of Mrs. Jerningham’s Journal and the author of Gwen. Gwen is a bit of verse that sings — at times in blank verse, and again with rhymes of awkward make, of which this is a fair sample:
Since I was light and free,
And of all the burden of pain and wrong
No echo reached to me :
But day by day, upon this breeze-swept hill,
Far from the too great load of human ill,
I lived within the sober walls of home,
Safe-set, nor heard the sound of outward evil come: ”—
that, sings, to repeat, the love of an earl’s son for the daughter of a vicar, who
For all but a foolish pride.”
How far gone the young hero is may be gathered from the following lines : —
In all the bewildering town
Is any as Gwen is, fair
Or comely, or high or pure?
Or when did a countess’s coronet crown
A head with a brighter glory of hair !
Or how could titular rank insure
A mind and a heart so sweet ?”
The story of the poem it is hardly worth while to tell. The two married, but the hero is kept away from his wife, who distrusts him, and, though he returns with a satisfactory excuse, she dies; the sixth act represents his children by another wife finding her grave at a remoter period, so that the play reminds one of Faust, ending, as it does, as they read the grave-stone: —
Father, what means it? ‘and her infant son
Henry, Lord ' — What, my brother’s ? What is this?
It is strange. Quick! I am fainting! . . . Henry! Henry!”
But this is merely introductory; the most serious charge that can be brought against the author of Gwen is that of plagiarism. He has written the following stanzas in this book: —
A gleam of purple passed over the sea,
And glad with the joy of the summer weather
My love turned quickly and looked on me.
Ah, the glad summer weather, the fair summer weather !
Ah, the purple shadow on hill and sea!
And knew the shy secret she fain would hide,
And we went hand in hand through the blossoming heather,
She who now was my sweetheart, and I by her side;
For the shade was the shadow of Love’s wingfeather,
Which bares, as he rises, the secrets we hide.”
How does that compare with the original in Mr. Caiverley’s Fly Leaves? —
I and my Willie (O love, my love):
I need hardly remark it was glorious weather,
And flitterbats wavered alow, above.
(O love, my Willie!) and smelt for flowers :
I must mention again it was gorgeous weather,
Rhymes are so scarce in this world of ours.”
It will be seen that Mr. Morris keeps quite close to this acknowledged parody.
— I lately saw mention of a new life of Goethe, and I wondered if the author were going to tell the truth about the great man a little more plainly than former biographers have done. Mr. Lewes would have us see in his hero not only the great writer, but the truly admirable man; but somehow his book made upon me an impression the contrary of what it was intended to make. I cannot but think Goethe an immense egotist. There is an egotism which is consistent with considerable warmth and heartiness of feeling, and which, so long as its own claims are admitted, is ready to acknowledge those of others; arid there is another kind that goes with a colder nature, and, as in Wordsworth, finds it difficult to allow or take any pleasure in merits which might be brought into comparison with its own. If Goethe’s was not of the former easily tolerable kind, neither was it of the latter narrow, exclusive sort; but though egotism of a larger and apparently more genial nature, it was deep-seated and thorough. There have been moral philosophers who have pronounced self-interest to be the ruling motive of human action, but I do not know that they worked out their theory in actual practice. It seems to me that Goethe acted upon this principle, under another name, with calm consistency from his youth up. He called it self-culture, but what in simple phrase it reduces to is this: that he, Goethe, was resolved to compass the best possible for himself in all circumstances. It is true that he understood the word best in a high sense: it meant for him not the satisfaction of the wants of the lower nature merely, but also the development of every capacity of the intellect; it would have included, moreover, the education of the best sensibilities of the heart, if it had been practically possible to enlarge and train those affections without involving the sacrifice of things desirable for the mind and body. He was disposed to aid the poor and unfortunate; but if it became a question which of two, himself or another, should suffer what he considered substantial harm, no hesitation held him for a moment. I do not think he could ever have shared the emotion which thrills much commoner minds than his at sight or hearing of noble powers spent in unselfish devotion to the welfare of others. He used the world as his oyster, from which to draw a large experience and “enlightenment.”Men and women were very useful to him, and when he was done with them he thanked them kindly ere he let them go. He was great not only in brain, but in that force of character and will which enabled him to subdue and subordinate certain instincts and desires to certain others chosen to be supreme. If the moral and religious instincts had been as strong in him as were the other parts of his nature, he would have been one of the very greatest men the world has seen; and for this reason it is, perhaps, that, taken as a specimen of the complete man which he aspired to be, he seems so lamentable a failure.
— I sometimes think that the conservative element in all branches of thought and action needs to be reduced to order and use by judicious care, no less than the progressive or radical element. It is n’t enough to let the superseded forces alone. You must see that they serve some purpose; and if they don’t fall into line with the march of ideas and measures, they must at least be kept in such condition that they will not hinder the progress of the world. When I say that I am reminded of this fact by certain little housekeeping experiences, by which in my own mind I illustrate the above rather oracular remark, you may recall Samuel Johnson’s Ghost in the Rejected Addresses, where he says, “ A swelling opening is too often succeeded by an insignificant conclusion. Parturient mountains have ere now produced fnuscipular abortions.” But I fortify my apparent anti-climax by the remembrance that the word economy (now used to express human as well as socalled divine science) meant originally housekeeping, and was spelled by our fathers with a capital Œ.
I proceed to my ” insignificant conclusion topically,” as Hamlet would say. I presume there are few houses without a garret or lumber-room, at least some shelved closet, to which are consigned the odds and ends of things which were once highly useful, and many of which are considered still worth keeping, although not of definite or immediate use. There are old bottomless chairs that we may have reseated some day ; old clocks that may be retinkered and set agoing as soon as we can afford it; old babywagons and playthings that may serve Our own or somebody else’s grandchildren; old hats that may fit the heads of exemplary tramps; old rusty keys that may be brightened up and unlock a drawer or trunk bereaved of its customary opener; old vials, old corks, old nails, screws, staples, door-handles, and numberless such accessories of an economical house ; old buttons without clothes, and old clothes without buttons; old magazines that are still good reading, — but the catalogue is endless, as we all know. All these disjecta membra must be kept in orderly boxes or on appropriate shelves, if they are to be used at all. But of all such articles, string is that which most needs constant attention. I am such an absurd economist that I never destroy a bit of string if I can help it, any more than I do a scrap of white paper. I have a foolish passion for paper and string. But string needs wise treatment. String is very refractory and capricious if you put it away loose. String seems almost to have will and vitality, and shows a constant tendency to get into a snarl. It won’t do to put it away anywhere and anyhow. It will wriggle itself out of its corner and make love to some other string, and they will get into intertwisted and knotty confusion, as bad as lovers in the plot of an improper sensational novel. My advice therefore is, Keep your strings separate as much as possible. Roll them on spools or into tight balls. Make celibates of them. Don’t run the risk of needless entanglements and intermarriages. Let them have well-known and decent lodgings. Each scrap will be wanted some day, and wanted in a hurry, — just as you are going off on a journey, perhaps. String must be as free from embarrassing copartnerships as the conscript soldier, who may be called for and marched off any day or hour.
And so, from rats and mice, from mildew and moth, from rust and dust and ravel, from thieves and fire and needless disorder, let us preserve our old servants, who were once useful, or who may still be useful, if we can only avail ourselves of them at the right moment. No, it will never do to let the old disused factors of civilization take care of themselves. The conservatives must be watched and kept in order as rigidly as the radicals.