The Contributors' Column--August Atlantic

Attempts to fathom the German attitude toward the war have been numerous as the sands of the sea, but few have been as successful, and perhaps none as concise, as Vernon Kellogg brilliant article. It is a notable fact that Professor Kellogg, who belongs to the faculty of Leland Stanford University, is a biologist of national reputation ; no one could have been found better fitted to detect the underlying sophistry of the German’s ‘ neo-Darwinian ’ argument. ‘Headquarters Nights’ forms an opportune and striking sequel to André Chéradame’s exposé of the Pan-German programme.

James Norman Hall, as all Atlantic readers know, was a pioneer on that trail to the European battle-front which his countrymen are now preparing to follow by hundreds of thousands. Soon after the outbreak of the war Hall enlisted in the British army and saw service in Flanders, which he described so pleasantly and accurately in ‘ Kitchener’s Mob,’ written for this magazine after he had been honorably discharged. He returned to America and the civilian’s life, but the fever was in his blood. Returning to France to write a new series of papers for the Atlantic, Hall suddenly enlisted again—this time with the high-hearted band of young American aviators who have spent themselves so freely for France.

It was Sergeant Hall’s intention to write a series of papers, of which this is the first, describing the ticklish business of learning to fly, from its fledgling beginnings. Just as these lines go to press, however, the first news reaches the Atlantic of his tragic encounter with seven enemy aeroplanes, from which he emerged alive, by some miracle, but dangerously wounded in the lungs. Beyond these bare details, no other information is at hand; but it seems that there is still a good chance that our readers may hear the thrilling story of the engagement from Sergeant Hall’s own lips.

On the very day that the newspapers chronicled the desperate encounter, the Atlantic received from him the following letter:—

Yesterday, on the Paris train, I had a conversation with a French lieutenant, a very fine chap. He was just from the front, and I just on the Way there. By happy chance he let fall a remark about having been an observer during the early days of the war. Fie was flying with his pilote in a Voisin biplane, he said, when, owing to a very strong head wind, they were driven over Holland and forced to land. Then he told me that he at last managed to escape, and all the while I was thinking, ‘Now where have I heard about this before?’

Then all at once I remembered. The identical story was published in the Atlantic Monthly! Sure enough, he was the French officer whose story — ‘ Interned in Holland,’ I believe you called it — you printed last year. I read it at the time with very great interest. I remember that the lieutenant said, at the close of it, that he was going to enter the aviation service, this time training to become a ’pilote, and I wondered then if I should ever meet him.

He is a splendid type of Frenchman, rather small but apparently hard as nails, just the kind of man who would take any sort of chances for freedom, who would let no obstacles stand in his way. Oddly enough, his escadrille is located on the same field at the front as the Escadrille Américaine, so I shall doubtless have the pleasure of seeing him quite frequently. He has been at the front as a pilote since last March. There is not the least bit of ‘swank’ about him. It was sheer luck that I happened to ask him a question which led to the remark about Holland.

I ’ve been at P——, the clearing station for aviators on the way to the front,, for nearly a month. I believe I told you, in a former letter, of my decision to transfer from a flying ‘dreadnought’ to an avion de chasse. With all my previous training it was not difficult to master the Nieuport and, later, the Spad biplane. This latter machine is a wonder. The type I am flying now has a 140 h.p. motor and travels at 125 miles an hour. It is so fast that the slightest movement of the controls manages it. There is a yet faster one now being used, which develops 300 h.p. and goes at better than 140 miles an hour. Thus far, however, only a few of the old pilotes at the front have them. The chances are that it will be surpassed before many months, so keen is the competition for the supremacy of the air, and so rapid the enforced development of motors and air-craft. I wish that I dared to tell you the number of casualties during the past month in the French air-service alone. The authentic German casualties are much larger, but on both sides they are very heavy. Every day we get a résumé of the day’s activities in the air: the number of combats, the number of bombing raids, their objectives and the results accomplished, the number of German machines brought down, and, as well, the French losses. Interesting but rather gruesome reading.

During the past two weeks I’ve been doing acrobacy, group-flying, and firing from the air with a machine-gun. Splendid practice, and the acrobacy thrilling enough for a Rodman Law: looping the loop is quite the simplest of the lot. All of them, in fact, are easy to do after the first attempt, which is likely to be a bungling one. The famous vrille, or spinning nose-dive, is done by crossing the controls, cutting off the motor, and then — waiting, The machine darts upward almost vertically until it loses its speed, then falls sidewise, and then dives vertically, turning round and round as though it were on an axis drawn through it from nose to tail. To one in the machine, the earth appears to be spinning like a top, at the same time rushing up to meet you at tremendous speed. To come out of the vrille is just as simple as falling into it. The controls are put ’in the middle,’ as we say. Then one waits again, and in a moment the spinning stops and the machine comes out on an even keel, whereupon one puts on the motor again and goes merrily, albeit somewhat dizzily, on his way. In my first vrille I fell from 1200 to 500 metres — a little farther than I expected to go because I did not have my pallonier straight. I did some quick thinking when, after going through the proper formula, my machine continued to fall.

‘ The Diary of a Coward,’ written by a Dutchman who must remain nameless for obvious reasons, is one of those strange human documents, written in utter disillusionment, which come to the surface of things every now and then and force our attention, even though we bestow it contemptuously. The author prefaces his diary with no bold challenge, such as that with which Rousseau begins his Confessions; yet we feel that the state of mind which he so frankly analyzes is far from being so rare as it might seem at first blush. Was he a coward, after all?

Though Raoul Blanchard, who left, the Chair of Geography at the University of Grenoble to assume the Exchange Professorship at Harvard for 1916—1917, disclaims the right to be called a military expert, he has for years studied the evolution of modern warfare. His access to official reports of the French army, and his firsthand observations on the battlefields of France, combine to make his article an extremely valuable one. L. Simons, a Dutch publicist of note, editor and publisher of the Wereldbibliothek, will be remembered as the author of an earlier Atlantic article, ‘Neutrals and the War,’ which provoked heated discussion both here and in England, where it was the subject of debate in Parliament and the theme of a small literature of dialectics, by its frank presentation of the predicament of the small neutral countries. Sidney Webb, economist, student of labor problems, and Fabian socialist, is perhaps best known to Americans through his brilliant History of Trades-Unionism. To the reading public in general and the Atlantic audience in particular, Agnes Repplier needs no introduction.

Mrs. Asquith, wife of the former Prime Minister, is a member of the talented Tennant family. Her sister, the painter, married Sir Henry M. Stanley. Edward Lewis was for many years minister of a wellknown church at Clapham, London. He will be remembered by a striking article,

‘ The Failure of the Church,’ which he contributed to this magazine in December, 1914. Edgar J. Goodspeed, in civilian life, is a member of the faculty of the University of Chicago. It is no odious comparison to liken the temper of his goodhumored essay to that of Ian Hay’s The First. Hundred Thousand. In this, the year of William Dean Howells’s eightieth birthday, this story pleasantly recalls his ten years’ editorship of the Atlantic, which ended in 1881. We leave it to our readers to judge the extent to which Mr. Howells draws on reminiscence in ‘A Tale Untold.’ In this number appears the last of the series of vignettes which Lisa Ysaye Tarleau, a New York writer, has contributed.

Alice Tisdale, a young American woman, has chosen to share with her husband the pleasures and perils of commercial exploration in the Far East. Her fresh, enthusiastic article, ‘The Adventure of the RedBeards,’ in last December’s Atlantic, drew loud praise from travelers and would-be travelers all over the country. Sigourney Thayer, son of the headmaster of Saint Mark’s School, is a junior at Amherst. David Lubin, an expert of world-wide fame, is delegate from the United States to the International Institute of Agriculture at Rome, which was founded at his suggestion. Jean Kenyon MacKenzie is a missionary in the Cameroon. Adelaide Lund, a new contributor, was born in Iowa, but now lives in Boston.

John Jay Chapman is the father of Victor Chapman, the young American aviator, the tidings of whose heroic death touched and stirred this country. Fabian Franklin, widely known as a publicist and thinker. was for many years associate editor of the New York Evening Post. The name of Winston Churchill, novelist, is a household word; but it is not equally well known that Mr. Churchill is a graduate of Annapolis, and that ever since leaving the Navy, he has followed its fortunes with unflagging interest.

We are tempted to share with our readers this letter, written from a Mediterranean seaport, by a familiar Atlantic contributor:—

‘I’m here again after a week in Italy, where the hospitality shown us was unforgettable and almost cruel. We arrived unexpectedly, being submarined not far from Genoa, I’ve never been torpedoed before, and I ’m very inclined to put. up a votive tablet in our village church. It was terrible yet intensely fascinating in one. I had a boat and about 50 men to look after, and I succeeded in delivering them all safely aboard the destroyer that came to our rescue. I had about four hours in a pretty rough sea, and the time went quickly, as it does when you’ve a good deal to think of. The men were very good,— I was the only officer, — and obeyed me and let me go on with it, as though I had anything beyond a cool head and ordinary common sense therewith to illuminate a difficult situation.

‘Well, I’ve lost most of ‘my clothes and even my tooth-brush and I begin to arrive at the point of view of tramps. Still I’ve begun to collect again and already have the makings of what would require a suit-case. I decline to buy more, for We are going to have another try in a day or two, and ‘once bit twice shy,’ is my latest motto. But I am —I really am beginning to envy you civilians. Still I hope to live and see your people in the field with ours. It was long rather a dream of mine, this notion of our standing shoulder to shoulder. We have the same standards of decency, and believe me they are the best in the world. I have seen them all now, and pretty naked and unashamed at that. By the way— and it rather illustrates my point —we had 60 hospital sisters on our ship and we got them off first, and when they were safe in the lifeboats and had reached water and were away, the whole lot of us gave a mighty cheer and started thinking about our noble selves. What the Boche on the submarine thought of that cheer I’d like to know! Still, we did not lose a single one of the ladies and we’re very glad of it. Now i must eat and gather courage for the next attempt.’

We are under the impression that our contemporary, The Fatherland, has ceased to brighten the news-stands since hostilities began with Germany; but its successor, the sprightly Viereck’s Weekly, goes far to prove that ‘ a rose by any other name,’etc. Under the caption ‘ The Shrew Attempts to Tame Her Husband,’its editor makes acid comment on the article ‘ The Wives of German Americans,”in the June Atlantic;

In the Atlantic Monthly— that curious ghost of a forgotten America — a certain lady who signs herself ‘ M. L. S.’ reveals the secrets of her heart with an abandonment unusual in the current journalism of to-day. ‘M. L. S.”loathes her husband and her son Carl with an intensity which she tries in vain to conceal. Here is an interesting problem for our psychicanalysts. Under what‘complex’ would Freud tabulate her ease? Ostensibly ‘M. L. S.’ despises her husband because he is a Gerniun-American. The real causes of her hatred are probably unknown even to herself.

The writer then takes on himself the Freudian task, and analyzes the ‘case’ with richly satisfying modernity. ‘ Strindberg,’he says, ‘ would have delighted in the situation.’

“I was not really in sympathy with my husband,” calmly explains Mrs, M. L. S.; “his manner toward me began to change.” Of course it did. Any woman so lacking in that sympathetic attribute which the Germans call Herzenstakt, or tactfulness of the heart, cannot retain the affection of her husband.

On it goes, crescendo, toward the climax:

We congratulate Mr. M. L. S. His method of solving a difficult problem proves him to be a man of singular tenderness and forbearance. Under the same circumstances another husband would have been tempted to punish his wife. An Englishman would have given her a sound thrashing. Mr. M. L. S. merely left her.

Was ever Herzenstakt more beautifully exemplified?

That satire is satirical is to many minds incredible. The manufacturer of this bombshell has sharpened his appreciation of the proprieties at the expense of his sense of humor: —


In your June issue, you publish an article under the title of ‘The Assault on Humanism,’by Paul Shorey. In it he uses the expression, ‘That reactionary document, the Constitution of the United Sta cs.’ Such reference to the Constitution can only be interpreted to mean that it is in some way inadequate, or so far antiquated that it should be ‘made over’ or discarded. It is not deferential, nor a championship of it. It is designed to lessen respect for it, particularly the respect of the American youth. It is detractory and derogatory of it, and disloyalty to it. Of course, the Constitution is not satisfactory to the high-speeder direct actionist, But, to say that the Constitution of the United States is a ‘reactionary document’ is a false, defamatory and libelous statement. It is not a reactionary document, and it is and will ever be fully abreast of the spirit and progress of enlightened civilization. Why? Because it rests upon principle, which was, is, and for all time will be equally applicable. It is the most supernal governmental document that was ever the product of the intelligence of man.

Disloyalty to the Constitution of the United States is the most virulent and heinous disloyalty that can ever be on American soil. The publication of such article is disloyalty to it, on the part of the author of the article, the Atlantic Monthly, and its editor. There can be neither excuse nor apology for it. There is no half-way station in loyalty and disloyalty.

The detractors, assailants and enemies of the Constitution are a thousand times more a menace to the welfare of the American people than all foreign foes. I have several times subscribed a solemn oath to support and defend that document. Those who utter or publish one detractory word of the Constitution are traitors to the government of the United States, traitors to the American flag, a thousand-fold traitors to the American people, and merit the anathemas of Moses. If the wiseacres of the title you ascribe to the author of that article are to devote their efforts to submarine attacks on the Constitution, it were as well for their country that they emulate the last example of their ancient predecessor. I have transmitted a copy of this to the North American Review, other publications, and the Postmaster General, with request that the Atlantic Monthly be excluded from the mails for such disloyalty.

Very respectfully,

A passage from the ‘ Diary of a Coward,’ omitted from the Atlantic text because of its extraneousness, is of such intimate interest that we reproduce it here.

Now I am writing you, probably for the last time, I want to tell you some other things in which you may be interested. Perhaps you remember that I learned to know Jeanne’s (his wife’s) family in Zeist. I was twenty-one years old then; she was two years older. We soon began to like each other and we dreamed the most beautiful dreams. But fortune did not favor us. Her parents ridiculed our affair and made fun of her because she had set her heart on a youngster who could not think of marrying within five or six years, on some one who could not even pass a simple examination. (I failed to pass my first University examination in that same period.) But even if I had been a professor in embryo, nothing could ever come of it, they said, because I was not a Catholic. Jeanne, who was not religious herself, insisted, however; thereupon her father forbade her to see me or to write to me. She replied that she did not intend to obey the command. Serious, troublesome scenes followed. In the end her parents conceived the plan of moving to Maastricht. Then we decided to leave. Nothing else was left for us to do. We went to Brussels, Jeanne traveling by way of Rotterdam, and I by way of den Bosch. Two days later we journeyed to Paris. It was undoubtedly a thoughtless act, but we were in love, and we believed that everything would be easy if we only had each other.

From Paris, I wrote my father, explaining everything and urging him to send my share of my mother’s estate. He refused. I could have it when I became of age, but not a day earlier. He urged very strongly that I should come home at once. Jeanne had also written her parents. Their reply was so unfriendly that she did not want me to read it.

Of course I immediately made efforts to get something to do. I visited editorial offices, private schools, large business houses, but everywhere I ran against a stone wall. Within a few weeks we had used the little money that I had taken along. The condition seemed so hopeless that I began to lose courage. Then—and not until then—Jeanne told me that she had foreseen how things would go and that she had therefore borrowed a small amount from her father—without his knowing it. ‘Taken it?’ I asked. Yes. Three thousand gulden. She would return it later. She had not told me before because she knew only too well that I would condemn the act. I was now placed in a serious dilemma: either to return, alone, leaving her, or to remain with her, and use the money.

I was angry and sorry. Under no condition would I leave her. To return the money to her father at once implied starvation. For a while I grumbled and then I gave in. I knew very well that I acted wrongly. But every other choice seemed wrong also. As it was — we remained in Paris and every day — every day— I went out in search of work. But not until six months later did I succeed in getting a temporary appointment as instructor in German and English at a small private school.

Shortly after I had heard of her having taken the money, Jeanne told me that she had made a confession, in the letter to her parents. In the reply which she had destroyed they told her they did not believe her. I had stolen the money, or at least I had urged her to take it. I was a thief and she was a lost woman. Her only chance of salvation lay in leaving me at once. If she would decide to do this, the whole story could perhaps still be hushed up.

Once more she wrote her parents. She told them that I knew nothing about the money, and that I did not even then suspect that she had it. But this letter has never been replied to. You can understand that whatever economy we practiced in our lives, I did not succeed in saving the three thousand gulden which we owed her parents. However, when I reached the age of twentythree, I received my own money from my father. Then Jeanne returned the sum which she had taken a year and a half earlier.

This brought no change in the relation to our parents. The estrangement from our relatives continued. You, dear friend, will surely understand that I am not trying to justify the behavior of either Jeanne or myself. We were both guilty. I wanted you to know the circumstances.

And now good luck to you.

Your friend