The Contributors' Column--October Atlantic

With this issue, the Atlantic’s’ circulation passes the 65,000 mark. We believe that no magazine of like appeal, offering neither the allurement of pictures nor the bait of sensational fiction, has ever published continuous editions of this size either in England or in America. This magazine is not edited for numbers, but that this number is gratifying we do not deny.

The precision and moderation of President Eliot’s paper are so marked that in this period of intemperate invective it would attract widespread attention even if unaccompanied by a name which has become a synonym for fairness and independence. Many of our readers will disagree with this article, but it raises insistent questions.

No one in these United States has studied and charted the swirling currents of our foreign population to better effect than Jane Addams. Through long years of service as head of Hull-House Settlement in Chicago, her heart and understanding have won her a deep knowledge of the ageold traditions, the folk-lore, the tabus, superstitions. inhibitions, which make up the very souls of the transplanted races. Americans of older stock, with their hard, bright civilization of the senses, are apt to forget the potency of these profound, inarticulate forces as guiding elements of everyday life. They would be apt to dismiss the eagerness of Chicago’s slum-folk to see the Devil Baby as a mere manifestation of that morbid curiosity which fills dime museums and side-shows. Miss Addams sees further and clearer.

‘ One old woman,* she tells us, in a letter which unfortunately cannot be incorporated in her article, ‘ actually came from the poorhouse itscll, having heard of the Devil Baby “ through a lady from Polk Street visiting an old friend who has a hed in our ward.” It was no slight achievement for a penniless and crippled old woman to make her escape. She had asked “ a young bar-keep in a saloon across the road” to lend her ten cents, offering as security the fact that she was an old acquaintance at. Hull-House who could not lie refused so slight a loan. She marveled at some length over the goodness of the young man, for she had not had a dime to spend for a drink for the last six months, and he and the conductor had been obliged to lift her into the street car by main strength. She was naturally much elated over the achievement of her escape. To be sure, from the men’s side, they were always walking off in the summer and taking to the road, living like tramps they did, in a way no one from the woman’s side would demean herself to do; but to have left in a street-car like a lady with money to pay her own fare, was quite a different matter, although she was indeed “ clean wore out ” bv the effort. However, it. was clear that she would consider herself well repaid by a sight, of the Devil Baby and that not only the inmates of her own ward, but those in every other ward in the house would be made to “ sit up ” when she got back; it would liven them all up a bit, and she hazarded the guess that, slie would have to tell them about that baby at least a dozen times a day. . . .

‘Our guest recalled with great pride that her grandmother had possessed second sight; that her mother had heard the Banshee three times and that she, herself, had heard it once. All of this gave her a certain proprietary interest in the Devil Baby and I suspected that she cherished a secret hope that, when she should lay her eyes upon him, through her inherited gifts she might be able to reveal the meaning of the strange portent. At the least, it would afford a proof that her family-long faith in such matters was justified. Her misshapen hands lying on her lap fairly trembled with eagerness, as though she were dominated by a subconscious suggestion “ from the dust that sleeps,”a suggestion so simple, so insistent and monotonous that it had victoriously survived its original sphere of conduet..

‘ It may have been because I was still smarting under the recollection of the disappointment we had so wantonly inflicted upon our visitor from the poorhouse that the very next day 1 found myself almost agreeing with her whole-hearted acceptance of the past as of much more importance than the mere present; at least for bah an hour the past seemed endowed also for me with a profounder and more ardent life, and I agreed with Auguste Comte that there is more of past generations in us than of ourselves.

Arthur Bullard, author of ‘ The Diplomacy of the Great War, a book as conspicuous for its fairness as for its deep interest, has had exceptional opportunities to study his thesis on both sides of the Atlantic. Dr. Crothers, as the whole world knows, is pastor of the First Unitarian Church at Cambridge. Henry Dwight Sedgwick, author of a short history of Italy, ; Italy during the Thirteenth Century, and many other volumes of history and belles lettres, will shortly publish another book of essays, including several of those known to our readers, under the title, ’A Plea for Old Maids and Other Essays.’ James Norman Hall, the well-remembered chronicler of ‘ Kitchener’s Mob,’is now in France on a mission for the Atlantic, which, if successful, will bring much good fortune to our readers.


The Great War has been described as 1 months of boredom punctuated by moments of intense fright.' La Motte, whom Atlantic readers already know through her ‘Under Shell-Fire at Dunkirk ' and ' Heroes,’ corroborates the underlying truth of this cliche; and her long months of service in a French military field hospital, situated ten kilometres behind the trenches, give her the right to speak with authority.

A glance at any of Miss La Motte’s articles will show that she has no illusions whatever concerning war. The scales have fallen from her eyes; she sees the struggle as Swift might have seen it. But let her speak for herself: —

' Undoubtedly, up and down the far-reaching kilometres of the Front there has been action, and glorious deeds of valor, courage, devotion, and nobility. Hut. when there is little or no action, there is a stagnant place where is much ugliness. Much ugliness is churned up in the wake of mighty, moving forces. We are witnessing a phase in the evolution of humanity, a phase called war, — but the slow, onward progress stirs up the slime in the shallows, and this is the backwash of war. It is very ugly. There are many little lives foaming in the backwash. They are spewed up, and one glimpses them, weak, hideous, repellent. After the War, they will consolidate again into the thing called Peace.

‘ After this war there will he many other wars, and in the intermissions there will he peace. So it will go on for many generations. By examining the things spewed up in the backwash, we can gauge the progress of humanity. When clean little lives, when clean little souls boil up in ilie backwash, they will consolidate, after the final war, into a Peace that shall endure. But not till then.'

Wilson Follett, who, in association with his wife, contributed to the Atlantic’s pages a paper, fresh and admirable, on Henry James, is now serving as the Atlantic’s reviewer of fiction. Meredith Nicholson has lived half his life close to Lockerbie Street, where for years lie has been one of the most familiar visitors. His friendship for Riley has found true and poetic expression in his novel, ‘ The Poet,’ published a year or more ago.

Though writing from Nebraska, Sherlock Bronson Gass, a member of the faculty of the State University, has infused no spirit of pacifism into his sprightly essay, ‘The Criers of the Musical Shop. It is now twenty years or more since Bliss Carman’s first poem passed the fastidious, though appreciative, censorship with which Mr. Aldrich guarded the Atlantic’s portals. Thus, for a generation of Atlantic readers, he has been a favorite poet. Charlotte Fitzhugh Morris is a new writer, so far as the Atlantic is concerned, while Seymour Deming’s name is associated with radical papers which we have printed from time to time.

When a French soldier joins the colors, a little metal disc, stamped with certain figures, is fastened to his wrist by a slender chain. The gruesome significance of this disc needs no explanation. From the day that his plaque d’identity is given him, the soldier’s personality is submerged beneath his number; lie is forbidden to exist as ail individual. That is why the Atlantic cannot publish the real name of the man who, under the pseudonym of Louis-Octavc Philippe, has told so simply the epic story of France’s marvelous resistance before the gates of Verdun.

Of his history, friends have provided some illuminating details.

' He was a typical middle-class French business man,’ writes one of these, 1 turned soldier during the war. His military class is that of 1904. which makes him about thirty-two years old. I knew him before the war: a good-natured, rather happygo-lucky fellow, heir to a large exporting business in the town of C-. . . . When lie came into my office the last week in November, after having been cured of wounds received in the Battle of the Marne, he was a changed being. It is no exaggeration to say that lie had been literally purified in the fire.

We are also told of the nature of this purification.

‘He was mobilized fhe first day of the war, fought in the baffles about Charleroi, made the whole retreat to the Marne on foot, living on raw beets and grains of wheat most of the way. He fought on the Marne, where lie took part in a real bayonet charge (a much rarer occurrence than some writers would have you suppose), and helped chase the Germans as far north as Rheims, where an exploding shrapnel shell struck him while lying Hat in a temporary trench. He recovered from his wounds, mostly gashes in the hands, arms and legs, and was sent hack to the front early in 1915. Last fall he was decorated with the Croix de Guerre for helping make a raid on a German trench, and, after the Verdun affair, the whole regiment was “cited, so that he wears an honorary cordon across the chest, as well as the Croix de Guerre.’


Of such stuff are the poilus, the citizen-soldiers of France.

Louis-Octave Philippe s story of his experiences at Verdun is transcribed, practically unaltered, from a long letter written to his cousin in Melbourne, Australia.

The scientists whose letters are printed in the paper entitled ’The Laboratory Reacts’ admirably represent the revolution of life and thought which the past three years have wrought in England.

Maud Mortimer is one of that small army of Americans who have felt called upon to do their bit for the cause of France and her Allies. The French field-hospital of the sketches is some five miles from the firingline. Only such patients as may not, without danger, go farther are brought in, stiff with mud and with their wounds that have been dressed temporarily behind the trenches.

The shacks, with their complete furnishings, were presented to the French government, more than a year ago, by an American-born woman on whom the privilege and responsibility of choosing and directing the nurses devolves. The medical staff, orderlies, and most of the surgical instruments and appliances, are supplied by the French government and are directly under the supervision of the Sant-6. The government also replaces badly damaged uniforms. There remains the great question of underclothes. Many of the men brought in can ill afford to re-find these for themselves. The generous donor of the hospital, with the help of friends working for her in America and England, has set herself the task of seeing that the men who pass under her care shall have, not only the best surgical aid and nursing possible, but also that each of them shall be sent on to a basehospital fitted out with socks, shirts, underwear, and cardigans. For the quantity needed of the latter more expensive things there is never money enough.

The hospital can receive from a hundred and forty to a hundred and fifty patients. It consists of sixteen shacks, eight of them wards, the others, severally, operating-room with radiographic cabinet, a salle de pansement. pharmacy, waiting-room, sleeping-quarters eked out by tents for the staff, and a laundry with a lingerie. The latter is ‘ run ’ by two men and a Belgian refugee, through whose clever fingers most of the mending passes. The two men, for whose chivalry no task is ever too arduous or too menial, are a monk, and a mobilized priest whose sweet voice has helped many a wounded comrade to forget his pain, while reliving in gay chansons the joyous days of the capital, or, in familiar ballads, the life of his own countryside. These are but three of the large staff drawn from all walks of life, who, helped by devoted nurses. American, Canadian, English, and French, spend themselves with a zeal beyond all praise.

Should any reader of the Atlantic care to help in this superb work, the Editor will be happy to forward direct any contributions which may be directed in his care. Here, as elsewhere, money is sadly needed, and here certainly it will be used judiciously and at once.

Albert Kinross was a friend of the Atlantic years ago when he was quietly writing for bis living as an English author of stories, novels and essays. Enlisting with the first rush of volunteers, he has served in France, first in the fighting-line and then, owing to his knowledge of French, in the Commissary Department. Later on he was transferred to Salonica, where for a time, at the request of tlie general commanding, he edited the Balkan News, a daily paper published for British soldiers in the trenches. When the newspaper was an assured success, he was transferred again to the Commissary Department and is now, we believe, finally restored to the fighting line as the Allied troops sweep northward from Salonica.

In Air. Nevinson s paper on the Sinn Fein he alluded to John MacDermott as a tram-conductor —an assertion frequently made. Air. MacDermott’s sister, Miss Rose MacDermott, however, writes as follows: —

‘ Sean MacDermott went out organizing Sinn Fein before his schooldays were over, and all his life and works were devoted to Ireland without a single thought for himself or for any other position in life.’