The Contributors' Column

It is part of the price we pay for our materialism that we are unable to understand or believe in the future of great idealistic impulses like the Zionist movement. And yet for many years the migration of Jews to the Holy Land has been steadily flowing on ; colonies have been founded on the ancient soil, and a sturdy young generation has grown up, of which Alexander Aaronsohn is a typical example. His parents, Roumanian born, realized, in common with all intelligent Zionists, that the success of the movement depended upon harmonizing Old Testament ideals with modern conditions of life; and they made every effort to put their children in touch with present-day education and thought. A number of years ago Mr. Aaronsohn, as a very young man, was sent to America to study new developments of farming in the Department of Agriculture at Washington, where his intelligence and quick adaptability won the recognition of his superiors. While making no surrender of loyalty to the cause for which his parents had endured so much, he acquired a distinctly New World point of view, which stands out in almost paradoxical contrast to the hoary Asiatic background discernible in his story. To the accuracy of that story friends of the Atlantic who have known Mr. Aaronsohn for years bear abundant testimony.

The Reverend Reinhold Niebuhr, pastor of an Evangelical church in Detroit, is a German-American of the second generation. We believe his article is not only illuminating, but also typical of the general feelings of the sons and daughters of German immigrants who have been painfully misrepresented by the hysteria and perversity of a few unfaithful citizens.

Abraham Flexner has been a lifelong student of education. For years he conducted a private school in Louisville, and succeeded in sending his boys to college, not only better prepared than most of their contemporaries, but a full year younger. It was after this that Dr. Flexner published his book on the shortcomings of the American college, and still later that he joined the staff of the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching. Of late years he has been attached to the Rockefeller Institute, and in the service of both institutions has been employed on many educational missions of the first importance, both here and abroad. In formulating the new (and still heretical) creed of secondary education he has played a foremost part. Sympathetic readers will do well to send for his recent pamphlet published by the Rockefeller Foundation, together with that of President Eliot issued under the same auspices, while those stricken with horror should wait quietly for the reply to Dr. Flexner from the headmaster of Andover, which we hope to print in an early number.

William John Hopkins still loves to sail his boat, to sit in the sun, and write pleasantly of pleasant people. Frederic Lyman Wells is a distinguished psychopathologist attached to the institution at Waverley, Massachusetts. Neither Miss Winifred Kirkland nor Miss Amy Lowell needs introduction to Atlantic readers, while the name of Zephine Humphrey recalls to our audience those wanderings in the borderland dividing Rome from Dorset, Vermont, which in their day aroused almost disquieting interest. Seymour Deming, though you would scarcely recognize him in knickerbockers and walking boots, is that same Radical who, some years ago, published in the Atlantic a burning letter to the Middle Class. Randolph S. Bourne our readers know, too, though it is well to accentuate the fact that he is an American, born of American parents, and that it is long since the first immigrant Bourne stepped upon our shores.

Miss Katherine Keith, if we may trust the Chicago papers, seems to have many persons interested in her welfare. To the Atlantic, when her manuscript was accepted, she was absolutely unknown, and in the completeness of our ignorance we surmised that the name was a discreet nom de guerre. That name has recently been transformed to Mrs. David Adler.

Robert M. Gay is head of the English Department at Goucher College, Baltimore. The Very Reverend Floyd Keeler has until recently been the archdeacon of a Kansan diocese.

Dr. Grenfell, who is always to be found where the most pressing work is to be done, has just returned from active service with the Harvard medical unit in France. His observations on the Red Cross and the R.A.M.C. seem to us very valuable. Warrington Dawson is an American correspondent long resident in Paris, and, knowing his exceptional opportunities, the Atlantic invited a contribution. His paper is the narrative of a singular but true incident.

Marie-Marguérite Fréchette, a Canadian-born niece of our own Mr. Howells, is a painter by profession who has spent much time abroad studying the historical background for an important commission. Of late years she has lived principally in Switzerland, and writes this article out of ample knowledge of the place and people.

Arthur Christopher Benson’s College Window has always looked out upon a world beyond the vision of many of us. Now while the same subjects fill all men’s minds, the Atlantic takes the interesting opportunity of asking Mr. Benson to give his personal reflections on the mighty drama. Henry Sheahan is the son of an Irish father and a French mother, and has in turn been an instructor of English at Harvard University and at the University of Lyons, France. He has just returned from doing his bit as an ambulance driver at Verdun.

Last month we flavored this column with certain extracts from the life of Herbert Tolan, student of Frank Norris, telling how the disciple had shown his admiration for the master by borrowing an entire episode from Blix, refurbishing it slightly and then selling it to the Atlantic as a new story under the title ‘Thirty Fathoms Deep.’ When the deception was discovered we looked up the cheque and found it endorsed both by ‘Herbert Tolan’ and by ‘William N. Taft.’ No further explanation of the ensuing correspondence seems called for.

May 5, 1916
The National Press Club
I telegraphed you this morning, immediately upon receipt of your letter relative to Mr. Tolan, with the enclosed copy of your wire to him. I am sorry that your letter did not reach me in time for a telegraphic reply yesterday.
Your telegram to Mr. Tolan is not exactly clear to me, because I know only that Mr. Tolan sold a story to you. However, I presume that there must be some trouble about the copyright.
My acquaintance with Mr. Tolan has not been extensive, but I have always found him honest and above-board. I knew him first in St. Louis, some four years ago. He turned up here last year and asked me one day if I would identify him so that he could get a check cashed. I did so, endorsing his check, and sometime later he repeated the request. The second check, as I remember it, was from you — probably the check in question. I also gave him a card to the National Press Club, as he said he would like to get his mail there.
Some two months ago I saw him again and he said that he was going to El Paso, Texas, and would try to work down into Mexico. He promised to let me hear from him, but I have had no word since.
If you will let me hear from you further in the matter, I will be glad to do anything I can to clear up the misunderstanding.
Very sincerely yours,

June 1, 1916
The National Press Club
SIR : —
I hereby wish to retract certain statements made to you in my letter of May 5 (I think that was the date) and to admit authorship of the story published in the Atlantic Monthly of June under the title ‘Thirty Fathoms Deep.' In making this admission I, of course, admit that ‘Herbert Tolan’ was a pseudonym.
The idea of ’Thirty Fathoms Deep’ occurred to me, as you have pointed out in the ‘Contributor’s Club,’from a reading of Frank Norris’s book ‘Blix,’ and my repudiation of Herbert Tolan was based on the fear that I had been guilty of plagiarism in writing the story.
However, as my attorney informs me after an examination of the two stories, this is not the case. ‘Thirty Fathoms Deep’ is based merely on an incident in ‘Blix’ — the three paragraph story related by the old diver, not more than 500 words at the outside. The beginning and the ending are entirely dissimilar, as you will admit, and I cannot see the justice of your claim that ‘the language has been reproduced wholesale.’ There are not more than three sentences of ‘Blix’ which are identical with ‘Thirty Fathoms Deep’ (see page 30-31 of Doubleday, Page’s 1903 edition of the Norris novel). Also, I would like to call your attention to another misstatement in your obituary of Herbert Tolan — the one in which you claim that ‘you were not satisfied with the story as first written and sent it back for revision, accepting it in its final form.’ The story was sent back to you the second time, exactly as it was at first and, so far as I can tell from a careful reading of it in the June issue of the Atlantic Monthly has not been changed since.
Mr. R. H. Titherington of Munsey’s. Mr. W. T. Walsh of the Illustrated World. Mr. W. H. Rideing of the Youth’s Companion. Mr. E. F. Strother of World’s Work and many other editors with whom I have had dealings during the past four or five years will, I am certain, bear me out in the assertion that my connections with them have been strictly honest and aboveboard and I should be pleased to give you a number of references of my integrity from prominent business and newspaper men of this city. No one regrets this incident more than I —it certainly means more to my future than it does to that of the Atlantic Monthly — and if you feel that I am guilty of plagiarism to such an extent that you are entitled to the return of the seventy-five dollars paid by you for this story, I shall send it to you without question.
You are, of course, at liberty to publish this letter, if you wish to do so, but I would prefer that, if you use it, you would print it in full. Very truly yours,

The only necessary comment is that when the story originally came to the office, the editor happened to be away. In the second instance he personally accepted it.

All that remains to be added to this ingenuous correspondence is a letter recently received from our lighthearted contemporary Puck.

June 1, 1916
I have just read of your experience with Herbert Tolan, and his plagiarism entitled, ‘Thirty Fathoms Deep.'
It may interest you to know that this man’s real name is William N. Taft, and he is supposed to be connected with the dramatic staff of the Washington Post.
Mr. Tolan’s curious penchant for signing his pen-name to the work of other writers was brought very unpleasantly to our attention last winter when we discovered that his contribution to the Christmas Puck entitled, ‘Another of Those Christmas Stories’ had been lifted wholesale from an old volume of Punch.
We immediately caused Taft to come to New York and his explanation of the literary theft was quite as ingenious as his methods. He informed us that he had been commissioned to do so much writing that he was obliged to delegate some of his work to a colleague in Washington, and that the contribution to Puck, while signed with his pseudonym, had been written by this other person.
We have published two or three other things sent us by Herbert Tolan and we are now beginning to wonder from what particular source they were taken.
It struck me that you might care to have this information at hand.
Very truly yours,
General Manager of Puck.

Our readers will be interested in a few paragraphs borrowed from a letter written by a captain in the Canadian contingent from a casualty clearing station at the front in France. The letter, occasioned by Mrs. Gerould’s ‘ Extirpation of Culture ’ which appeared in the Atlantic for last October, is too long to print entire.


I am not devoid of a sense of humor, part of my business in life being to make people laugh; but with this constant rush of many here to the comic-paper for diversion — from the things brought in on stretchers — it was a deeper satisfaction to me than I can put in words to find in your serious, yet not stodgy, article that which relieved me not by diversion, so much as by expulsion. The bad vapors were driven out. All this is in the nature of a humiliating confession upon my part; for I have thought for a long time that I had built up, on the inside of me, a staunch independence of outward environment such as would hold out in the face of any sort of pressure of any environment. Ordinarily it would have. But I had not counted upon this war. In view of its unusualness and immensity and savagery, I am not ashamed to own that I greatly needed the inner stimulation of just such an article as yours. This article won’t, in all probability, revolutionize things in U. S.; but it is bound to do with others what it has done for me, viz., confirm a good deal of my previous thinking, and make me think things I had not thought before. I lived for fifteen years in U. S., in different parts, though for the past five years I have lived in the bush in Northern Quebec, with my books and my writing. I am quite familiar with ‘American’ life — if there be such a thing,—and my acquaintance with it drove me to the Bush. When the war broke out, I felt the call of blood and bond, and over I came to ‘do my bit,’ even though I am hopelessly lame to the point of being an unsightly cripple; but as I am not at all sensitive about it, I soon found a place of usefulness; and I am writing this in a little tent-hut, on a home-made table, one of the top boards of which has the ominous inscription: ‘Corned Beef — Chicago ’ (our blessed old Bully Beef!). It was here your article found me; and here I have enjoyed reading and rereading it; and here, though my fingers are stiff with the night-cold, I am writing to thank you for it.