The Contributors' Column--February Atlantic

Reverend Joseph H. Odell, now pastor of the First Congregational Church of Troy, N.Y., has himself been trained in leadership by service as the editor of more than one influential daily newspaper. His sincerity shines from his paper with sufficient clearness, and this letter, which accompanied it to the Atlantic office, is offered more for its intrinsic interest than for its candid corroboration of his expressed attitude.

Herewith [he writes] I submit a volcanic eruption ! My soul has waxed hot within me as I have watched the part played by the Christian ministry during the present crisis. Why, your Atlantic has offered to the poor confused world more spiritual interpretation than all the hierarchies, conclaves, councils, general assemblies, synods, and conferences of the Christian Church in America combined. If this is not so, please correct me.

I do not know how much merit the article has as an article. It has this virtue, however: it is a genuine outburst of indignation, shame, and alarm. No one has yet said what I have written; at least, not aloud. I do not think there is a sentence of affectation in the article — nothing written for the mere sake of writing. If it gets published, I suppose there will be a lot of loud protests; and I, who have probably written more in defense of the ministry than any other clergyman in America, will get soundly trounced as a betrayer. I do not want to humiliate, but to warn, and, above all, to bring the clergy face to face with conscience. Will the article do that?

Laura Spencer Portor (Mrs. Francis Pope), whose name is agreeably familiar to our constituency, is connected with an important woman’s periodical in New York. She gives proof of a versatility of experience as Protean as her talents. This is the first of several tales of fantastic and illuminating adventure. Wilfred A. Joubert, who has lived in many parts of the world as a planter and manager of estates, is laboring, during the war, at the manufacture of aeroplanes.

Miss Katherine Mayo’s interest in the history and performance of the Pennsylvania State Police was first aroused in a sort of roundabout way by her personal cognizance of what she calls ‘the complete breakdown of the sheriff-constable system’ in the case of the peculiarly brutal murder in rural New York, not thirty miles from the metropolis, of a foreman engaged in building a house for a Miss Newell, with whom Miss Mayo makes her home. The identity of some of the murderers was perfectly well known to everybody, but the crime went entirely unpunished. ‘Both county sheriff and village constables, present on the scene, proved utterly unrelated to the emergency, and for reasons perfectly clear.’ The murderers were foreigners. ‘“Knives and guns are their playthings,” said the carpenter-boss. “When they want me, they ’ll get me, just as they got poor Howell. . . . We can’t afford to earn gunmen’s ill-will. There is no protection in the country districts. Sheriffs and constables don’t help us at all.” ... It was impossible,’ continues Miss Mayo, ‘to remain an idle conniver in the toleration of such a disgrace. In Pennsylvania, I heard, the State years ago had honorably acknowledged her duty to protect all her people, in her peace, and to that end had established a rural patrol known as the State Police. Finding but little in print concerning this force, and finding, also, but vague notions of its work afloat, I therefore went to Pennsylvania to study the facts at first hand.’

The results of her explorations she published early in 1917, in her book Justice to All, with an introduction by ex-President Roosevelt, in which he declares the volume to be ’so valuable that it should be in every public library and every school library in the land.’ It is beyond question that the labors of Miss Mayo and her friend and coadjutor, Miss Newell, powerfully assisted by Justice to All (of which Mr. Roosevelt is said to have sent a copy to each member of both houses of the New York Legislature), were largely responsible for the recent action of that body in establishing the State Troopers, modeled upon the Pennsylvania organization. The following details concerning the beginnings of the last-named force are given by Miss Mayo.

December 15, 1905, was the birthday of the Pennsylvania State Police [says Miss Mayo]. On that day the men chosen to compose the new force, coming from the four quarters of the United .States, assembled at the four troop stations and began their training. Officers and men alike were strangers to each other, and strangers to the work they were organized to perform. They had everything to learn, from the principles and details of their new profession to the amount of confidence that they could place in their comrades-in-arms. They had an immense task before them, — two hundred and twentyeight of them were to police the whole rural State, — and they had an incredulous or hostile public opinion to conquer by high deserts.

Of one thing alone they were sure — their deep respect for their squadron commander, Major Groome. They had yet to test him by time and experience, they had yet to learn with what gallant courage and high integrity, with what cloudless loyalty, what absolute justice, what stern soldierly discipline, and what great-hearted sympathy he would both lead and support his men. But each one of them had received his electric first impression; each man had guessed those truths that time would prove; each man had felt his heart thrill and his spirit rise to its best, when the Major, in accepting him as a recruit, had told him the object and standard of the new force. And now each man, even as he cast a questioning eye upon his unknown mates, said in his own heart that he himself in any case would do his level best ‘to make good for the Major.’ In the first few days of association, however, a stout tie had connected them almost all. Ninety per cent of the men were old soldiers, sailors, or marines, honorably discharged, ‘character excellent,’ from the United States service. If they had not served in the same regiment, or on the same ship, they had shared the same campaigns, the same life, the same standards and discipline. And each one knew what it costs to make a man.

Four stiff months they put in, studying hard, before the Major would let them take the field. They must know the law before attempting to execute it. With their scanty numbers and their great territory, they would be very far from any source of sound legal advice when moments of action came. And to build up the high prestige by which alone so small a force could operate successfully, they must never be in the wrong. It meant stiff grinding. It has meant continued study ever since, by means of which the older troopers of the force are to-day far better lawyers than the average rural members of the bar, while not a few have actually gone through the formality of becoming barristers.

It has meant stiff discipline, too, — the stiffest, — and an active standard of morale literally unequaled in any other organization. The Pennsylvania State Police has no guard-house, and knows no second offense. And the most relentless guardians of its Spartan rule are the old troopers themselves. Fellowship in that picked body is a privilege, in their esteem, to be earned with single-hearted devotion and sacrifice, to be defended in its honor, as a gem beyond price. They have advanced their high mark of achievement, notch by notch, as opportunity has opened to their eager eyes. They have never let it fall or suffer stain. Their enemies are their honor, their friends are all honest folk who know them, their proud and ready celebrants are the first men in the land.

William Beebe, Curator of Ornithology of the New York Zoölogical Park, needs no further introduction to the readers of this magazine. Elizabeth Hasanovitch, the young Russian whose disillusionment as to the United States as a land of promise has been so complete, contributes further chapters of her autobiography. The author of the poem, ‘ To N.S., Dead on the Field of Battle,’desires to remain unnamed.

Dr. L. P. Jacks, a frequent contributor to the Atlantic, is the well-known editor of the Hibbert Journal. He has recently published a highly commended biography of his father-in-law, Rev. Stopford Brooke. Robert M. Gay is still Professor of English at Goucher College, Baltimore. R. K. Hack, an earnest student of the classics, is now a member of the classical division of the Harvard Faculty. Herbert Sidebotham is the military expert of the great English provincial daily, the Manchester Guardian, and the expert editor of the Guardian’s History of the War. Arthur Russell Taylor, the creator of Mr. Squem, is a clergyman of York, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Fannie Stearns [Davis] Gifford’s name has long been to readers of the Atlantic, one to conjure with.

Octave Forsant is an inspector of schools in the hapless city of Rheims. In a second paper, to appear in an early number, M. Forsant follows these extracts from the poignant journals of the teachers with narratives, written by the pupils themselves (as part of their school-work), of the terrible things that happened daily before their eyes. If we may judge by the number of anxious inquiries received at this office, our readers will welcome with extraordinary pleasure the resumption of James Norman Hall’s story, made possible by his recovery from the severe wound he received during the performance of his service in the flying corps. Daniel Blumenthal, some time member of the provincial legislature of Alsace-Lorraine, and deputy from the Reichsland in the Reichstag, was Mayor of Colmar in Upper Alsace when the war began. He is now President of the ‘ World League for the Restitution of Alsace-Lorraine,’ with headquarters in New York. Dr. William T. Porter, whose concluding paper appears in this number of the Atlantic, is about to publish through the Atlantic Monthly Press, a volume (Shock at the Front) containing the three papers, in a much extended and enlarged form.

We are again indebted to a teachercorrespondent for the opportunity to offer our readers this further exemplification of her young Russian pupilacquired proficiency in the vernacular.


I was almost paralyzed as the supernatural speaker whose gallant figure and bald head began to shoot beautiful phrases and clauses of the noble English language. His words struck me like a cannon as he began to refer back to foregoing years, what happened to our nation in 1898. At that moment Mr. Johnston looked in my eyes as if he had just come from the Spanish battle front and told us every word that had occurred there. Yet a greater terror ceased my body as be began to tell us what had happened to Poland, a century ago; and also about the Napoleonic battles, and in general the entire European career for the last centuries. I felt that moment that Mr. Johnston must have devoted his whole life with the study of the world’s history. I must deliberately admit that there are Americans who know the European history better than the native European himself. I shall never forget the substantial facts and allusions because they were the exact point ideas to which the nature of his speech referred. One may think that Mr. Johnston found it very easy in making up a speech of that sort, but I am certainly convinced by his historical facts that he is a master of history and a genius in his language. His speech as a whole was full of pep, patriotism, righteousness and true facts that even a German hearing him would be convinced that Prussianism or autocracy is wrong and democracy is right.

Under the heading, ‘ Our Unappreciated Poetry,’ a friend of this magazine, acting on the conviction that, as she informs us, ‘it always helps civilization to advertise the Atlantic,’sends to the Christian Register the following result of an experiment based on the belief that Professor Sharp paper, ‘ The Magical Chance,’ in the October issue, is so full of poetry that the ‘ run ’ from it would be ‘ far superior to most of the free verse that wears that tag. . . . The result,’ she says, ‘ amply justified my expectations and made me wonder if Prof. Sharp might not some day be tempted to emulate Silas Wegg in his poetical pastimes.’

I have seen the evening come over the city,
A night deep with darkness
And wild with a great storm
Blowing salty from the sea.
I have watched the streets grow empty,
Till the shadow feet of Midnight
Echoed as they passed,
And all the doors were shut.
Then I have crept down along the dark wet ways
That were bleak and steep-cut as cliffs,
Where I have heard the beating
Of great wings above the roofs,
The call of wild shrill voices
Along the craggy covings,
And the wash and splash of driving rains
Aslant the walls;
I have tasted brine, spume, and spindrift
On the level of the winds,
Flying through a city’s streets
From far at sea, — ‘one-way’ streets by day,
And so crowded that traffic could barely move
In the one direction;
But here — in the hushed tumult of the storm and night —
I could hear the stones crying out of their walls,
And the beams out of the timbers answering them;
The very cobbles of the pavement having souls
That could not be squared by the chisel,
And tongues that would speak
When the din of the pounding hoofs was past.

This letter forms so natural a complement to Margaret Baldwin’s December paper, that many of our readers will be glad to see it.


Since reading your penetrating words in the Atlantic, I find it impossible to forget them or the thoughts they aroused. Your analysis of the psychic state of the deaf speaks — does it not? — only of those who, like yourself, enjoyed normal hearing for some period of time. What would you say of those of us who have always, or practically so, been without the full aid of this important sense? In early childhood an illness left me with impaired hearing. Since then, I have known sounds, but they have been the grosser and more obvious ones. When you speak of the soft fall of snow on the window-pane, or the hum of a mosquito, I have no image in my mind, for they are sounds which I have never known. All those delicate ones which as you say minister mainly to the spirit. I have always been without. I have heard others say, ‘Listen to the note of that thrush,’ and have tried to reflect their enjoyment, so as not to protrude the fact that I do not hear what they hear.

I feel that I can ask you, what I could not ask a person who has never known deafness, whether we who have been thus cut off all our lives from the subtler sounds, are spiritually incomplete, lacking the stimulus which these experiences would bring? Is this partial depression, or negativeness, a real spiritual lack which can never be made up? You have these experiences to look back on, as a part of your life in the past, and so truly, as long as memory lasts, a part of you. But we, who are sometimes not conscious of what we miss until those around us refer to some delicate sound which they hear or have heard, are we less complete in our inner selves than they? Or is it possible that we, through being shut off from the minor sounds and events, delve more deeply into the spiritual content of those we are aware of, just as a student who, concentrating his mind on his task to the exclusion of all outside affairs, finds the secrets of wisdom far more than the one who is continually distracted by his surroundings.

It is true that, if one is to be a writer, he needs the power of conveying his ideas through suggestion. The deaf person’s imagery would indeed be meagre, were he, like me, unfamiliar with so many sounds which are common and practically unnoticed by most people. But in the ordinary affairs of life, are we incomplete and must we remain so, or is there some philosophical way out, such as you have found in your own dilemma?

We can sympathize with each other, you who have heard fully and now hear no longer, and I who have never fully heard; but I wonder which lot is the happier one. For the delights of memory are often greater than the delights of actual experience: you have your world full of sounds to look back on; while I, who get along with less inconvenience perhaps, continually feel that I have missed some of the sweetness of life, which nothing can replace.

Sincerely yours.

We have called attention once before to improved methods of merchandizing now in vogue among the poets. Why should n’t poetry be poetry, and still be businesslike? A suggestion or two of a practical character comes in our correspondence, which we pass on to other tamers of Pegasus who have families to provide for.

‘I will take your magazine,’ writes one poet, — grounding his proposition on the bedrock of ‘What’s fair for me is fair for thee,’ — ‘ when you accept some of my contributions — not before.’

Per contra, here is an example of the older and more slipshod school.

‘At random,’ writes another, ‘I selected the enclosed poem, as I do not know what subject-matter you prefer for your magazine. Please let me know the character of poetry you prefer, for I have written rather extensively.’

Now, after the prosaic prose which burdens our mails, a little poetic poetry would not come amiss. Yet we hesitate to say so, for to an editor ‘rather extensively’ is a dismaying phrase. Never, dear Poet, suggest that inspiration may again inspire, and that the editor may have another choice. The Sybil, you remember, reduced her supply every time she raised her price; and hers is, of course, the classical example of correct drumming of the trade.

When you quote, quote with care, but when you quote from the traditional books of childhood, you had best have chapter and verse in front of you. We have received the following deserved stricture from one of the younger members of the Atlantic circle: —

To the Editor of the Atlantic Monthly: —


In your number for January, 1918, in an article on Receptacles, you spoke of the Elephant’s Child as one who ‘had to.’ This makes me very sorry, because the one who ‘had to’ was my friend Old Man Kangaroo, who ‘had to’ several times. Yellow Dog Dingo also ‘ had to’ once, but Elephant’s Child never! He had too much curtiosity.

I like the High Adventure. Is n’t there any more?

And his father adds: ‘ 10 years old.’

May we urge our readers to turn to M. Forsant’s papers on keeping school at Rheims, the first of which appears in this number? At the editor’s request, M. Forsant made a small collection of narratives from the diaries of teachers and the themes of pupils, such as we imagine is unique in the humble annals of teaching school. Nothing which we, ourselves, have read emphasizes, quite as these narratives do, the touching truth that the spirit of France cannot die.

The Navy Department asks us to tell our readers that thousands of binoculars, spy-glasses, and telescopes are still needed. They are the eyes of the offensive against submarines, and the present shortage is a serious handicap to our sailors. They should be carefully tagged with the name and address of the owner, and sent to Hon. F. D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Naval Observatory, Washington. Receipt will be acknowledged, and the articles (when possible) returned after the war without charge for the increment of historic interest.

If your Atlantic comes late, please do not think ill of us, but blame the mails ; be patient, and remember that time is merely a mode of thought.