Over the Teacups


I HAD intended to devote this particular report to an account of my replies to certain questions which have been addressed to me, — questions which I have a right to suppose interest the public, and which, therefore, I was justified in bringing before The Teacups, and presenting to the readers of these articles.

Some may care for one of these questions, and some for another. A good many young people think nothing about life as it presents itself in the far horizon, bounded by the snowy ridges of threescore and the dim peaks beyond that remote barrier. Again, there are numbers of persons who know nothing at all about the Jews; while, on the other hand, there are those who can, or think they can, detect the Israelitish blood in many of their acquaintances who believe themselves of the purest Japhetic origin, and are full of prejudices about the Semitic race.

I do not mean to be cheated out of my intentions. I propose to answer my questioners on the two points just referred to, but I find myself so much interested in the personal affairs of The Teacups that I must deal with them before attacking those less exciting subjects. There is no use, let me say here, in addressing to me letters marked “personal,” “ private,” “ confidential,” and so forth, asking me how I came to know what happened in certain conversations of which I shall give a partial account. If there is a very sensitive phonograph lying about here and there in unsuspected corners, that might account for some part of my revelations. If Delilah, whose hearing is of almost supernatural delicacy, reports to me what she overhears, it might explain a part of the mystery. I do not want to accuse Delilah, but a young person who assures me she can hear my watch ticking in my pocket, when I am in the next room, might undoubtedly tell many secrets, if so disposed. Number Five is pretty nearly omniscient, and she and I are on the best terms with each other. These are all the hints I shall give you at present.

The Teacups of whom the least has been heard at our table are the tutor and the Musician. The Tutor is a modest young man, kept down a little, I think, by the presence of older persons, like the Professor and myself. I have met him several times, of late, walking with different lady Teacups: once with the American Annex; twice with the English Annex; once with the two Annexes together ; once with Number Five.

I have mentioned the fact that the Tutor is a poet as among his claims to our attention. I must add that I do not think any the worse of him for expressing his emotions and experiences in verse. For though rhyming is often a bad sign in a young man, especially if he is already out of his teens, there are those to whom it is as natural, one might almost say as necessary, as it is to a young bird to fly. One does not care to see barnyard fowls tumbling about in trying to use their wings. They have a pair of good, stout drumsticks, and had better keep to them, for the most part. But that feeling does not apply to young eagles, or even to young swallows and sparrows. The Tutor is by no means one of those ignorant, silly, conceited phrase-tinklers, who live on the music of their own jingling syllables and the flattery of their foolish friends. I think Number Five must appreciate him. He is sincere, warm-hearted, — his poetry shows that, — not in haste to be famous, and he looks to me as if he only wanted love to steady him. With one of those two young girls he ought certainly to be captivated, if he is not already. Twice walking with the English Annex, I met him, and they were so deeply absorbed in conversation they hardly noticed me. He has been talking over the matter with Number Five, who is just the kind of person for a confidante.

“ I know I feel very lonely,” he was saying, " and I only wish I felt sure that I could make another person happy. My life would be transfigured if I could find such a one, whom I could love well enough to give my life to her, — for her, if that were needful, — and who felt an affinity for me, if any one could.”

“ And why not your English maiden ? ” said Number Five.

“ What makes you think I care more for her than for her American friend? ” said the Tutor.

“ Why, have n’t I met you walking with her, and didn’t you both seem greatly interested in the subject you were discussing ? I thought, of course, it was something more or less sentimental that you were talking about.”

“ I was explaining that ‘ enclitic de ’ in Browning’s Grammarian’s Funeral. I don’t think there was anything very sentimental about that. She is an inquisitive creature, that English girl. She is very fond of asking me questions, — in fact, both of them are. There is one curious difference between them : the English girl settles down into her answers and is quiet; the American girl is never satisfied with yesterday’s conclusions ; she is always reopening old questions in the light of some new fact or some novel idea. I suppose that people bred from childhood to lean their backs against the wall of the Creed and the church catechism find it hard to sit up straight on the republican stool, which obliges them to stiffen their own backs. Which of these two girls would be the safest choice for a young man ? I should really like to hear what answer you would make if I consulted you seriously, with a view to my own choice, — on the supposition that there was a fair chance that either of them might be won.

“ The one you are in love with,”answered Number Five.

“ But what if it were a case of ‘ How happy could I be with either’ ? Which offers the best chance of happiness,— a marriage between two persons of the same country, or a marriage where one of the parties is of foreign birth? Everything else being equal, which is best for an American to marry, an American or an English girl? We need not confine the question to those two young persons, but put it more generally.”

“ There are reasons on both sides,” answered Number Five. “I have often talked this matter over with The Dictator. This is the way he speaks about it. — English blood is apt to tell well on the stock upon which it is engrafted. Over and over again he has noticed finely grown specimens of human beings, and on inquiry has found that one or both of the parents or grandparents were of British origin. The chances are that the descendants of the imported stock will be of a richer organization, more florid, more muscular, with mellower voices, than the native whose blood has been unmingled with that of new emigrants since the earlier colonial times. — So talks The Dictator. — I myself think the American will find his English wife concentrates herself more readily and more exclusively on her husband, — for the obvious reason that she is obliged to live mainly in him. I remember hearing an old friend of my early days say, ‘ Awoman does not bear transplanting.’ It does not do to trust these old sayings, and yet they almost always have some foundation in the experience of mankind, which has repeated them from generation to generation. Happy is the married woman of foreign birth who can say to her husband, as Andromache said to Hector, after enumerating all the dear relatives she had lost, —

‘ Yet while my Hector still survives, I see
My father, mother, brethren, all in thee! ’

How many a sorrowing wife, exiled from her native country, dreams of the mother she shall see no more! How many a widow, in a strange land, wishes that her poor, worn-out body could be laid among her kinsfolk, in the little churchyard where she used to gather daisies in her childhood ! It takes a great deal of love to keep down the ‘ climbing sorrow ’ that swells up in a woman’s throat when such memories seize upon her, in her moments of desolation. But if a foreign-born woman does willingly give up all for a man, and never looks backward, like Lot’s wife, she is a prize that it is worth running a risk to gain,— that is, if she has the making of a good woman in her; and a few years will go far towards naturalizing her.”

The Tutor listened to Number Five with much apparent interest. “ And now,” he said, “ what do you think of her companion ? ”

“A charming girl for a man of a quiet, easy temperament. The great trouble is with her voice. It is pitched a full note too high. It is aggressive, disturbing, and would wear out a nervous man without his ever knowing what was the matter with him. A good many crazy Northern people would recover their reason if they could live for a year or two among the blacks of the Southern States. But the penetrating, perturbing quality of the voices of many of our Northern women has a great deal to answer for in the way of determining love and friendship. You remember that dear friend of ours who left us not long since ? If there were more voices like hers, the world would be a different place to live in. I do not believe any man or woman ever came within the range of those sweet, tranquil tones without being hushed, captivated, entranced I might almost say, by their calming, soothing influence. Can you not imagine the tones in which those words, ‘ Peace, be still,’ were spoken ? Such was the effect of the voice to which but a few weeks ago we were listening. It is hard to believe that it has died out of human consciousness. Can such a voice be spared from that world of happiness to which we fondly look forward, where we love to dream, if we do not believe with assured conviction, that whatever is loveliest in this our mortal condition shall be with us again as an undying possession ? Your English friend has a very agreeable voice, round, mellow, cheery, and her articulation is charming. Other things being equal, I think you, who are, perhaps, oversensitive, would live from two to three years longer with her than with the other. I suppose a man who lived within hearing of a murmuring brook would find his life shortened if a sawmill were set up within earshot of his dwelling.”

“ And so you advise me to make love to the English girl, do you ? ” asked the Tutor.

Number Five laughed. It was not a loud laugh, — she never laughed noisily ; it was not a very hearty laugh; the idea did not seem to amuse her much.

“ No,” she said, “ I won’t take the responsibility. Perhaps this is a case in which the true reading of Gay’s line would be

How happy could I be with neither.

There are several young women in the world besides our two Annexes.”

I question whether the Tutor had asked those questions very seriously, and I doubt if Number Five thought he was very much in earnest.

One of The Teacups reminded me that I had promised to say something of my answers to certain questions. So I began at once : —

I have given the name of brain-tappers to the literary operatives who address persons whose names are well known to the public, asking their opinions or their experiences on subjects which are at the time of general interest. They expect a literary man or a scientific expert to furnish them materials for symposia and similar articles, to be used by them for their own special purposes. Sometimes they expect to pay for the information furnished them ; at other times, the honor of being included in a list of noted personages who have received similar requests is thought sufficient compensation. The object with which the braintapper puts his questions may be a purely benevolent and entirely disinterested one. Such are some of those which I have received and answered. There are other cases, in which the brain-tapper is acting much as those persons do who stop a physician in the street to ask him a few questions about their livers or stomachs, or other internal arrangements, instead of going to his office and consulting him, expecting to pay for his advice. Others are more like those busy women who, having the generous intention of making a handsome present to their pastor, at as little expense as may be, send to all their neighbors and acquaintances for scraps of various materials, out of which the imposing " bedspread ” or counterpane is to be elaborated.

That is all very well so long as old pieces of stuff are all they call for, but it is a different matter to ask for clippings out of new and uncut rolls of cloth. So it is one thing to ask an author for liberty to use extracts from his published writings, and it is a very different thing to expect him to write expressly for the editor’s or compiler’s piece of literary patchwork.

I have received many questions within the last year or two, some of which I am willing to answer, but prefer to answer at my own time, in my own way, through my customary channel of communication with the public. I hope I shall not be misunderstood as implying any reproach against the inquirers who, in order to get at facts which ought to be known, apply to all whom they can reach for information. Their inquisitiveness is not always agreeable or welcome, but we ought to be glad that there are mousing fact-hunters to worry us with queries to which, for the sake of the public, we are bound to give our attention. Let me begin with my brain-tappers.

And first, as the papers have given publicity to the fact that I, The Dictator of this tea-table, have reached the age of threescore years and twenty, I am requested to give information as to how I managed to do it, and to explain just how they can go and do likewise. I think I can lay down a few rules that will help them to the desired result. There is no certainty in these biological problems, but there are reasonable probabilities upon which it is safe to act.

The first thing to be done is, some years before birth, to advertise for a couple of parents both belonging to long-lived families. Especially let the mother come of a race in which octogenarians and nonagenarians are very common phenomena. There are practical difficulties in following out this suggestion, but possibly the forethought of your progenitors, or that concurrence of circumstances which we call accident, may have arranged this for you.

Do not think that a robust organization is any warrant of long life, nor that a frail and slight bodily constitution necessarily means scanty length of days. Many a strong-limbed young man and many a blooming young woman have I seen failing and dropping away in or before middle life, and many a delicate and slightly constituted person outliving the athletes and the beauties of their generation. Whether the excessive development of the muscular system is compatible with the best condition of general health is, I think, more than doubtful. The muscles are great sponges that suck up and make use of large quantities of blood, and the other organs must be liable to suffer for want of their share.

One of the Seven Wise Men of Greece boiled his wisdom down into two words, μηδϵν ἄγɑν , — nothing too much. It is a rule which will apply to food, exercise, labor, sleep, and, in short, to every part of life. This is not so very difficult a matter if one begins in good season and forms regular habits. But what if I should lay down the rule, Be cheerful; take all the troubles and trials of life with perfect equanimity and a smiling countenance ? Admirable directions ! Your friend, the curly-haired blonde, with florid complexion, round cheeks, the best possible digestion and respiration, the stomach of an ostrich and the lungs of a pearl-diver, finds it perfectly easy to carry them into practice. You, of leaden complexion, with black and lank hair, lean, hollow-eyed, dyspeptic, nervous, find it not so easy to he always hilarious and happy. The truth is that the persons of that buoyant disposition which comes always heralded by a smile, as a yacht driven by a favoring breeze carries a wreath of sparkling foam before her, are born with their happiness ready made. They cannot help being cheerful any more than their saturnine fellow-mortal can help seeing everything through the cloud he carries with him. I give you the precept, then, Be cheerful, for just what it is worth, as I would recommend to you to be six feet, or at least five feet ten, in stature. You cannot settle that matter for yourself, but you can stand up straight, and give your five feet five its full value. You can help along a little by wearing highheeled shoes. So you can do something to encourage yourself in serenity of aspect and demeanor, keeping your infirmities and troubles in the background instead of making them the staple of your conversation. This piece of advice, if followed, may be worth from three to five years of the fourscore which you hope to attain.

If, on the other hand, instead of going about cheerily in society, making the best of everything and as far as possible forgetting your troubles, you can make up your mind to economize all your stores of vital energy, to hoard your life as a miser hoards his money, you will stand a fair chance of living until you are tired of life, — fortunate if everybody is not tired of you.

One of my prescriptions for longevity may startle you somewhat. It is this : Become the subject of a mortal disease. Let half a dozen doctors thump you, and knead you, and test you in every possible way, and render their verdict that you have an internal complaint ; they don’t know exactly what it is, but it will certainly kill you by and by. Then bid farewell to the world and shut yourself up for an invalid. If you are threescore years old when you begin this mode of life, you may very probably last twenty years, and there you are, — an octogenarian. In the mean time, your friends outside have been dropping off, one after another, until you find yourself almost alone, nursing your mortal complaint as if it were your baby, hugging it and kept alive by it, — if to exist is to live. Who has not seen cases like this, — a man or a woman shutting himself or herself up, visited by a doctor or a succession of doctors (I remember that once, in my earlier experience, I was the twenty-seventh physician who had been consulted), always taking medicine, until everybody was reminded of that impatient speech of a relative of one of these invalid vampires who live on the blood of tired-out attendants, “I do wish she would get well — or something ” ? Persons who are shut up in that way, confined to their chambers, sometimes to their beds, have a very small amount of vital expenditure, and wear out very little of their living substance. They are like lamps with half their wicks picked down, and will continue to burn when other lamps have used up all their oil. An insurance office might make money by taking no risks except on lives of persons suffering from mortal disease. It is on this principle of economizing the powers of life that a very eminent American physician — Dr. Weir Mitchell, a man of genius — has founded his treatment of certain cases of nervous exhaustion.

What have I got to say about temperance, the use of animal food, and so forth ? These are questions asked me. Nature has proved a wise teacher, as I think, in my own case. The older I grow, the less use I make of alcoholic stimulants. In fact, I hardly meddle with them at all, except a glass or two of champagne occasionally. I find that by far the best borne of all drinks containing alcohol. I do not suppose my experience can be the foundation of a universal rule. Dr. Holyoke, who lived to be a hundred, used habitually, in moderate quantities, a mixture of cider, water, and rum. I think, as one grows older, less food, especially less animal food, is required. But old people have a right to be epicures, if they can afford it. The pleasures of the palate are among the last gratifications of the senses allowed them. We begin life as little cannibals, — feeding on the flesh and blood of our mothers. We range through all the vegetable and animal products of nature, and I suppose, if the second childhood could return to the food of the first, it might prove a wholesome diet.

What do I say to smoking ? I cannot grudge an old man his pipe, but I think tobacco often does a good deal of harm to the health, — to the eyes especially, to the nervous system generally, producing headache, palpitation, and trembling. I myself gave it up many years ago. Philosophically speaking, I think self-narcotization and self-alcoholization are rather ignoble substitutes for undisturbed self-consciousness and unfettered self-control.

Here is another of those brain-tapping letters, of similar character, which I have no objection to answering at my own time and in the place which best suits me. As the questions must be supposed to be asked with a purely scientific and philanthropic purpose, it can make little difference when and where they are answered. For myself, I prefer our own tea-table to the symposia to which I am often invited. I do not quarrel with those who invite their friends to a banquet to which many strangers are expected to contribute. It is a very easy and pleasant way of giving an entertainment at little cost and with no responsibility. Somebody has been writing to me about “ Oatmeal and Literature,” and somebody else wants to know whether I have found character influenced by diet; also whether, in my opinion, oatmeal is preferable to pie as an American national food.

In answer to these questions, I should say that I have my beliefs and prejudices ; but if I were pressed hard for my proofs of their correctness, I should make but a poor show in the witnessbox. Most assuredly I do believe that body and mind are much influenced by the kind of food habitually depended upon. I am persuaded that a too exclusively porcine diet gives a bristly character to the beard and hair, which is borrowed from the animal whose tissues these stiff-bearded compatriots of ours have too largely assimilated. I can never stray among the village people of our windy capes without now and then coming upon a human being who looks as if he had been split, salted, and dried, like the salt-fish which has built up his arid organism. If the body is modified by the food which nourishes it, the mind and character very certainly will be modified by it also. We know enough of their close connection with each other to be sure of that, without any statistical observations to prove it.

Do you really want to know “ whether oatmeal is preferable to pie as an American national food ” ? I suppose the best answer I can give to your question is to tell you what is my own practice. Oatmeal in the morning, as an architect lays a bed of concrete to form a base for his superstructure. Pie when I can get it; that is, of the genuine sort, for I am not patriotic enough to think very highly of the article named after the Father of his Country, who was first in war, first in peace, — not first in pies, according to my standard.

There is a very odd prejudice against pie as an article of diet. It is common to hear every form of bodily degeneracy and infirmity attributed to this particular favorite food. I see no reason or sense in it. Mr. Emerson believed in pie, and was almost indignant when a fellow-traveller refused the slice he offered him. “ Why, Mr.-,” said he, “ what is pie made for!” If every Green Mountain boy has not eaten a thousand times his weight in apple, pumpkin, squash, and mince pie, call me a dumpling. And Colonel Ethan Allen was one of them, — Ethan Allen, who, as they used to say, could wrench off the head of a wrought nail with his teeth.

If you mean to keep as well as possible, the less you think about your health the better. You know enough not to eat or drink what you have found does not agree with you. You ought to know enough not to expose yourself needlessly to draughts. If you take a “ constitutional,” walk with the wind when you can, and take a closed car against it if you can get one. Walking against the wind is one of the most dangerous kinds of exposure, if you are sensitive to cold. But except a few simple rules such as I have just given, let your health take care of itself as long as it behaves decently. If you want to be sure not to reach threescore and twenty, get a little box of homœopathic pellets and a little book of homœopathic prescriptions. I had a poor friend who fell into that way, and became at last a regular Hahnemaniac. He left a box of his little jokers, which at last came into my hands. The poor fellow had cultivated symptoms as other people cultivate roses or chrysanthemums. What a luxury of choice his imagination presented to him! When one watches for symptoms, every organ in the body is ready to put in its claim. By and by a real illness attacked him, and the box of little pellets was shut up, to minister to his fancied evils no longer.

Let me tell you one thing. I think if patients and physicians were in the habit of recognizing the fact I am going to mention, both would be gainers. The law I refer to must be familiar to all observing physicians, and to all intelligent persons who have observed their own bodily and mental conditions. This is the curve of health. It is a mistake to suppose that the normal state of health is represented by a straight horizontal line. Independently of the wellknown causes which raise or depress the standard of vitality, there seems to be — I think I may venture to say there is — a rhythmic undulation in the flow of the vital force. The “ dynamo ” which furnishes the working powers of consciousness and action has its annual, its monthly, its diurnal waves, even its momentary ripples, in the current it furnishes. There are greater and lesser curves in the movement of every day’s life, — a series of ascending and of descending movements, a periodicity depending on the very nature of the force at work in the living organism. Thus we have our good seasons and our bad seasons, our good days and our bad days, life climbing and descending in long or short undulations, which I have called the curve of health.

From this fact spring a great proportion of the errors of medical practice. On it are based the delusions of the various shadowy systems which impose themselves on the ignorant and half-learned public as branches or “ schools ” of science. A remedy taken at the time of the ascent in the curve of health is found successful. The same remedy taken while the curve is in its downward movement proves a failure.

So long as this biological law exists, so long the charlatan will keep his hold on the ignorant public. So long as it exists, the wisest practitioner will be liable to deceive himself about the effect of what he calls and loves to think are his remedies. Long-continued and sagacious observation will to some extent undeceive him; but were it not for the happy illusion that his useless or even deleterious drugs were doing good service, many a practitioner would give up his calling for one in which he could be more certain that he was really doing good to the subjects of his professional dealings. For myself, I should prefer a physician of a sanguine temperament, who had a firm belief in himself and his methods. I do not wonder at all that the public support a whole community of pretenders who show the portraits of the patients they have " cured.” The best physicians will tell you that, though many patients get well under their treatment, they rarely cure anybody. If you are told also that the best physician has many more patients die on his hands than the worst of his fellow-practitioners, you may add these two statements to your bundle of paradoxes, and if they puzzle you I will explain them at some future time.

[I take this opportunity of correcting a statement now going the rounds of the medical and probably other periodicals. In “The Journal of the American Medical Association,” dated April 26, 1890, published at Chicago, I am reported, in quotation marks, as saying, —

“ Give me opium, wine, and milk, and I will cure all diseases to which flesh is heir.”

In the first place, I never said I will cure, or can cure, or would or could cure, or had cured any disease. My venerated instructor, Dr. James Jackson, taught me never to use that expression. Curo means, I take care of, he used to say, and in that sense, if you mean nothing more, it is properly employed. So, in the amphitheatre of the Ecole de Médecine, I used to read the words of Ambroise Paré, — “ Je le pansay, Dieu le guarist.” (I dressed his wound, and God cured him.) Next, I am not in the habit of talking about “ the diseases to which flesh is heir.” The expression has become rather too familiar for repetition, and belongs to the rhetoric of other latitudes. And, lastly, I have said some plain things, perhaps some sharp ones, about the abuse of drugs and the limited number of vitally important remedies, but I am not so ignorantly presumptuous as to make the foolish statement falsely attributed to me.]

I paused a minute or two, and as no one spoke out, I put a question to the Counsellor.

Are you quite sure that you wish to live to be threescore and twenty years old ?

“ Most certainly I do. Don’t they say that Theophrastus lived to his hundred and seventh, and did n’t he complain of the shortness of life ? At eighty a man has had just about time to get warmly settled in his nest. Do you suppose he does n’t enjoy the quiet of that restingplace ? No more haggard responsibility to keep him awake nights, — unless he prefers to retain his hold on offices and duties from which he can be excused if he chooses. No more goading ambitions, — he knows he has done his best. No more jealousies, if he were weak enough to feel such ignoble stirrings in his more active season. An octogenarian with a good record, and free from annoying or distressing infirmities, ought to be the happiest of men. Everybody treats him with deference. Everybody wants to help him. He is the ward of the generations that have grown up since he was in the vigor of maturity. Yes, let me live to be fourscore years, and then I will tell you whether I should like a few more years or not.”

You carry the feelings of middle age, I said, in imagination, over into the period of senility, and then reason and dream about it as if its whole mode of being were like that of the earlier period of life. But how many things there are in old age which you must live into if you would expect to have any “ realizing sense ” of their significance ! In the first place, you have no coevals, or next to none. At fifty, your vessel is stanch, and you are on deck with the rest, in all weathers. At sixty, the vessel still floats, and you are in the cabin. At seventy, you, with a few fellow-passengers, are on a raft. At eighty, you are on a spar, to which, possibly, one, or two, or three of your coevals are still clinging. After that, you must expect soon to find yourself alone, if you are still floating, with only a life-preserver to keep your old white-bearded chin above the water.

Kindness ? Yes, pitying kindness, which is a bitter sweet in which the amiable ingredient can hardly be said to predominate. How pleasant do you think it is to have an arm offered to you when you are walking on a level surface, where there is no chance to trip ? How agreeable do you suppose it is to have your well-meaning friends shout and screech at you, as if you were deaf as an adder, instead of only being, as you insist, somewhat hard of hearing ? I was a little over twenty years old when I wrote the lines which some of you may have met with, for they have been often reprinted : —

The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has prest
In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb.

The world was a garden to me then ; it is a churchyard now.

“ I thought you were one of those who looked upon old age cheerfully, and welcomed it as a season of peace and contented enjoyment.”

I am one of those who so regard it. Those are not bitter or scalding tears that fall from my eyes upon " the mossy marbles.” The young who left my side early in my life’s journey are still with me in the unchanged freshness and beauty of youth. Those who have long kept company with me live on after their seeming departure, were it only by the mere force of habit; their images are all around me, as if every surface had been a sensitive film that photographed them; their voices echo about me, as if they had been recorded on those unforgetting cylinders which bring back to us the tones and accents that have imprinted them, as the extinct animals left their tracks on the hardened sands. The melancholy of old age has a divine tenderness in it, which only the sad experiences of life can lend a human soul. But there is a lower level, — that of tranquil contentment and easy acquiescence in the conditions in which we find ourselves; a lower level, in which old age trudges patiently when it is not using its wings. I say its wings, for no period of life is so imaginative as that which looks to younger people the most prosaic. The atmosphere of memory is one in which imagination flies more easily and feels itself more at home than in the thinner ether of youthful anticipation. I have told you some of the drawbacks of age ; I would not have you forget its privileges. When it comes down from its aerial excursions, it has much left to enjoy on the humble plane of being. And so you think you would like to become an octogenarian ?

“I should,” said the Counsellor, now a man in the high noon of bodily and mental vigor. “ Four more —yes, five more — decades would not be too much, I think. And how much I should live to see in that time ! I am glad you have laid down some rules by which a man may reasonably expect to leap the eightbarred gate. I won’t promise to obey them all, though.”

Among the questions addressed to me, as to a large number of other persons, are the following. I take them from “ The American Hebrew ” of April 4, 1890. I cannot pretend to answer them all, but I can say something about one or two of them.

“I. Can you, of your own personal experience, find any justification whatever for the entertainment of prejudice towards individuals solely because they are Jews ?

“ II. Is this prejudice not due largely to the religious instruction that is given by the church and Sunday-school ? For instance, the teachings that the Jews crucified Jesus; that they rejected him, and can only secure salvation by a belief in him, and similar matters that are calculated to excite in the impressionable mind of the child an aversion, if not a loathing, for members of ‘ the despised race.’

“ III. Have you observed in the social or business life of the Jew, so far as your personal experience has gone, any different standard of conduct than prevails among Christians of the same social status ?

“ IV. Can you suggest what should be done to dispel the existing prejudice ? ”

As to the first question, I have had very slight acquaintance with the children of Israel. I shared more or less the prevailing prejudices against the persecuted race. I used to read in my hymn-book, — I hope I quote correctly,—

“ See what a living stone
The builders did refuse !
Yet God has built his church thereon.
In spite of envious Jews.”

I grew up inheriting the traditional idea that they were a race lying under a curse for their obstinacy in refusing the gospel. Like other children of New England birth, I walked in the narrow path of Puritan exclusiveness. The great historical church of Christendom was presented to me as Bunyan depicted it: one of the two giants sitting at the door of their caves, with the bones of pilgrims scattered about them, and grinning at the travellers whom they could no longer devour. In the nurseries of old-fashioned Orthodoxy there was one religion in the world, — one religion, and a multitude of detestable, literally damnable impositions, believed in by uncounted millions, who were doomed to perdition for so believing. The Jews were the believers in one of these false religions. It had been true once, but was now a pernicious and abominable lie. The principal use of the Jews seemed to be to lend money, and to fulfil the predictions of the old prophets of their race.

No doubt the individual sons of Abraham whom we found in our ill-favored and ill-savored streets were apt to be unpleasing specimens of the race. It was against the most adverse influences of legislation, of religious feeling, of social repugnance, that the great names of Jewish origin made themselves illustrious; that the philosophers, the musicians, the financiers, the statesmen, of the last centuries forced the world to recognize and accept them. Benjamin, the son of Isaac, a son of Israel, as his family name makes obvious, has shown how largely Jewish blood has been represented in the great men and women of modern days.

There are two virtues which Christians have found it very hard to exemplify in practice. These are modesty and civility. The Founder of the Christian religion appeared among a people accustomed to look for a Messiah, — a special ambassador from heaven, with an authoritative message. They were intimately acquainted with every expression having reference to this divine messenger. They had a religion of their own, about which Christianity agrees with Judaism in asserting that it was of divine origin. It is a serious fact, to which we do not give all the attention it deserves, that this divinely instructed people were not satisfied with the evidence that the young Rabbi who came to overthrow their ancient church and found a new one was a supernatural being. “ We think he was a great Doctor,” said a Jewish companion with whom I was conversing. He meant a great Teacher, I presume, though healing the sick was one of his special offices. Instead of remembering that they were entitled to form their own judgment of the new Teacher, as they had judged of Hillel and other great instructors, Christians, as they called themselves, have insulted, calumniated, oppressed, abased, outraged, “ the chosen race ” during the long succession of centuries since the Jewish contemporaries of the Founder of Christianity made up their minds that he did not meet the conditions required by the subject of the predictions of their Scriptures. The course of the argument against them is very briefly and effectively stated by Mr. Emerson : —

“ This was Jehovah come down out of heaven. I will kill you if you say he was a man.”

It seems as if there should be certain laws of etiquette regulating the relation of different religions to each other. It is not civil for a follower of Mahomet to call his neighbor of another creed a " Christian dog.” Still more, there should be something like politeness in the bearing of Christian sects toward each other, and of believers in the new dispensation toward those who still adhere to the old. We are in the habit of allowing a certain arrogant assumption to our Roman Catholic brethren. We have got used to their pretensions. They may call us “ heretics,” if they like. They may speak of us as “ infidels,” if they choose, especially if they say it in Latin. So long as there is no inquisition, so long as there is no auto da fé. we do not mind the hard words much; and we have as good phrases to give them back : the Man of Sin and the Scarlet Woman will serve for examples. But it is better to be civil to each other all round. I doubt if a convert to the religion of Mahomet was ever made by calling a man a Christian dog. I doubt if a Hebrew ever became a good Christian if the baptismal rite was performed by spitting on his Jewish gabardine. I have often thought of the advance in comity and true charity shown in the title of my late honored friend James Freeman Clarke’s book, “ The Ten Great Religions.” If the creeds of mankind try to understand each other before attempting mutual extermination, they will be sure to find a meaning in beliefs which are different from their own. The old Calvinistic spirit was almost savagely exclusive. While the author of the “Ten Great Religions” was growing up in Boston under the benignant, large-minded teachings of his grandfather, the Reverend James Freeman, the famous Dr. John M. Mason, at New York, was fiercely attacking the noble humanity of “ The Universal Prayer. " “In preaching,” says his biographer, “ he once quoted Pope’s lines as to God’s being adored alike ‘ by saint, by savage, and by sage,’ and pronounced it (in his deepest guttural) ‘ the most damnable lie.’ ”

What could the Hebrew expect when a Christian preacher could use such language about a petition breathing the very soul of humanity ? Happily, the true human spirit is encroaching on that arrogant and narrow-minded form of selfishness which called itself Christianity.

The golden rule should govern us in dealing with those whom we call unbelievers, with heathen, and with all who do not accept our religious views. The Jews are with us as a perpetual lesson to teach us modesty and civility. The religion we profess is not self-evident. It did not convince the people to whom it was sent. We have no claim to take it for granted that we are all right, and they are all wrong. And, therefore, in the midst of all the triumphs of Christianity, it is well that the stately synagogue should lift its walls by the side of the aspiring cathedral, a perpetual reminder that there are many mansions in the Father’s earthly house as well as in the heavenly one ; that civilized humanity, longer in time and broader in space than any historical form of belief, is mightier than any one institution or organization it includes.

Many years ago I argued with myself the proposition which my Hebrew correspondent has suggested. Recognizing the fact that I was born to a birthright of national and social prejudices against “ the chosen people,” — chosen as the object of contumely and abuse by the rest of the world, — I pictured my own inherited feelings of aversion in all their intensity, and the strain of thought under the influence of which those prejudices gave way to a more human, a more truly Christian feeling of brotherhood. I must ask your indulgence while I quote a few verses from a poem of my own, printed long ago under the title “At the Pantomime.”

I was crowded between two children of Israel, and gave free inward expression to my feelings. All at once I happened to look more closely at one of my neighbors, and saw that the youth was the very ideal of the Son of Mary.

A fresh young cheek whose olive hue
The mantling blood shows faintly through ;
Locks dark as midnight, that divide
And shade the neck on either side ;
Soft, gentle, loving eyes that gleam
Clear as a starlit mountain stream ;
So looked that other child of Shem,
The Maiden’s Boy of Bethlehem!
— And thou couldst scorn the peerless blood
That flows unmingled from the Flood. —
Thy scutcheon spotted with the stains
Of Norman thieves and pirate Danes !
The New World’s foundling, in thy pride
Scowl on the Hebrew at thy side,
And lo ! the very semblance there
The Lord of Glory deigned to wear!
I see that radiant image rise,
The flowing hair, the pitying eyes,
The faintly crimsoned cheek that shows
The blush of Sharon’s opening rose, —
Thy hands would clasp his hallowed feet
Whose brethren soil thy Christian seat,
Thy lips would press his garment’s hem
That curl in wrathful scorn for them !
A sudden mist, a watery screen,
Dropped like a veil before the scene ;
The shadow floated from my soul,
And to my lips a whisper stole,—
“Thy prophets caught the Spirit’s flame,
From thee the Son of Mary came,
With thee the Father deigned to dwell,—
Peace be upon thee, Israel! ”

It is not to be expected that intimate relations will be established between Jewish and Christian communities until both become so far rationalized and humanized that their differences are comparatively unimportant. But already there is an evident approximation in the extreme left of what is called liberal Christianity and the representatives of modern Judaism. The life of a man like the late Sir Moses Montefiore reads a lesson from the Old Testament which might well have been inspired by the noblest teachings of the Christian Gospels.

Delilah, and how she got her name.

Est-elle bien gentille, cette petite?

I said one day to Number Five, as our pretty Delilah put her arm between us with a bunch of those tender early radishes that so recall the ῥοδοδάκτνλοϛ Ήώϛ, the rosy-fingered morning of Homer. The little hand which held the radishes would not have shamed Aurora. That hand has never known drudgery, I feel sure.

When I spoke those French words our little Delilah gave a slight, seemingly involuntary start, and her cheeks grew of as bright a red as her radishes. Ah, said I to myself, does that young girl understand French ? It may be worth while to be careful what one says before her.

There is a mystery about this girl. She seems to know her place perfectly, — except, perhaps, when she burst out crying, the other day, which was against all the rules of table-maiden’s etiquette, — and yet she looks as if she had been born to be waited on, and not to perform that humble service for others. We know that once in a while girls with education and well connected take it into their heads to go into service for a few weeks or months. Sometimes it is from economic motives, — to procure means for their education, or to help members of their families who need assistance. At any rate, they undertake the lighter menial duties of some household where they are not known, and, having stooped — if stooping it is to be considered — to lowly duties, no born and bred servants are more faithful to all their obligations. You must not suppose she was christened Delilah. Any of our ministers would hesitate to give such a heathen name to a Christian child.

The way she came to get it was this: The Professor was going to give a lecture before an occasional audience, one evening. When he took his seat with the other Teacups, the American Annex whispered to the other Annex, “ His hair wants cutting, —it looks like fury.”“ Quite so,” said the English Annex. “I wish you would tell him so,— I do, awfully.” “ I ’ll fix it,” said the American girl. So, after the teacups were emptied and the company had left the table, she went up to the Professor. “You read tins lecture, don’t you. Professor ? ” she said. “ I do,” he answered. “ I should think that lock of hair which falls down over your forehead would trouble you,” she said. " It does sometimes,” replied the Professor. “ Let our little maid trim it for you. You ’re equal to that, are n’t you ? ” turning to the handmaiden. “ I always used to cut my father’s hair,” she answered. She brought a pair of glittering shears, and before she would let the Professor go she had trimmed his hair and beard as they had not been dealt with for many a day. Everybody said the Professor looked ten years younger. After that our little handmaiden was always called Delilah, among the talking Teacups.

The Mistress keeps a watchful eye on this young girl. I should not be surprised to find that she was carrying out some ideal, some fancy or whim, — possibly nothing more, but springing from some generous, youthful impulse. Per haps she is working for that little sister at the Blind Asylum. How did she come to understand French ? She did certainly blush, and betrayed every sign of understanding the words spoken about her in that language. Sometimes she sings while at her work, and we have all been struck with the pure, musical character of her voice. It is just such a voice as ought to come from that round white throat. We made a discovery about it the other evening.

The Mistress keeps a piano in her room, and we have sometimes had music in the evening. One of The Teacups, to whom I have slightly referred, is an accomplished pianist, and the two Annexes sing very sweetly together, — the American girl having a clear soprano voice, the English girl a mellow contralto. They had sung several tunes, when the Mistress rang for Avis, — for that is our Delilah’s real name. She whispered to the young girl, who blushed and trembled. “ Don’t be frightened,”said the Mistress encouragingly. “I have heard you singing 4 Too Young for Love,’ and I will get our pianist to play it. The young ladies both know it, and you must join in.”

The two voices, with the accompaniment, had hardly finished the first line when a pure, ringing, almost childlike voice joined the vocal duet. The sound of her own voice seemed to make her forget her fears, and she warbled as naturally and freely as any young bird of a May morning. Number Five came in while she was singing, and when she got through caught her in her arms and kissed her, as if she were her sister, and not Delilah, our table-maid. Number Five is apt to forget herself and those social differences to which some of us attach so much importance. This is the song in which the little maid took part: —


Too young for love ?
Ah, say not so !
Tell reddening rosebuds not to blow!
Wait not for spring to pass away. —
Love’s summer months begin with May!
Too young for love ?
Ah, say not so !
Too young ? Too young ?
Ah, no ! no ! no !
Too young for love ?
Ah, say not so,
While daisies bloom and tulips glow!
June soon will come with lengthened day
To practice all love learned in May.
Too young for love ?
Ah, say not so!
Too young ? Too young ?
Ah, no! no! no!

Oliver Wendell Holmes.