The Contributors' Column--April Atlantic

Ralph E. Cropley is a New Yorker who keeps on dry land only in order to earn his bread. How widely at variance his life is from the ordinary behind-a-desk experience may be inferred from his letter.

Since Thursday [he writes], instead of being a hard-headed business man, my real self has been on the rampage. And that real self of mine, which, in order to live, I have constantly to lay low with a belaying-pin, is a dreamer. It is said that the reindeer, at least once in his life, traverses the primeval forest until he stands before the open sea and waist (?) deep feels the beat of the waves on his chest. It’s his instinct, this call of the sea. And that’s my trouble exactly. Friday and Saturday the ring of the ’phone has come from the bridge; the rhythmical pound of the addressograph machine has vibrated in my being like the thump of a ship’s engine, and the dear old New Orleans French bookkeeper of mine unfortunately has the visage of a deep-sea mariner I know. Friday night I spent on a ship in dry dock, and that, if anything, aggravated my malady.

Hetty Lawrence Hemenway, now Mrs. Auguste Richard, is a young writer, a Bostonian by birth, whose striking first story, ‘Four Days’ (since published in book form), was printed in the Atlantic for May 1917. Edwin Austin Abbey, 2d, nephew of the famous illustrator whose name he bears, was killed in the Canadian service, at the battle of Vimy Ridge, only three days after the entrance into the war of his own country, under whose flag he had longed to fight for a cause he knew to be right and just. Young Abbey, a graduate of St. Mark’s School and of the University of Pennsylvania, had just come to the early maturity of his powers as a civil engineer, when he felt the call of sacrifice.

Those adventures which happen only to the adventurous seldom fall to the experience of so delightful a chronicler as Laura Spencer Porter, author, editor, and liver of an interesting life. Laurence Binyon is an English poet whose verse is already familiar to readers of the Atlantic. It is needless to say that the letter which we print under the title, ‘ Youth,’ was written in the precise circumstances which it describes. The writer, lately a junior at Harvard, and well under the draft age, is now completing his aerial education in France. John Cotton Dana, librarian of the Free Public Library of Newark, N.J., and a moving spirit of the Carteret Book Club, is a recognized authority on the subject of which he presents a novel and interesting phase. For many years it has been a work of supererogation to introduce the venerable John Burroughs to the Atlantic constituency. James S. Metcalfe has long been the dramatic critic of Life, in which capacity he has waged fearless and unrelenting warfare against the prevailing tendency toward commercialization of the stage, and against the chief protagonists of that tendency. Henry Seidel Canby, essayist and critic and occasional writer of short stories, and Professor of English at the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, is now engaged in war work in Europe. Katherine Mayo contributes another true story of the activities of the Pennsylvania State Police, and Elizabeth Hasanovitz, the concluding chapter of her autobiography.

Peter Sat by the Fire Warming Himself made an impression far beyond the ordinary scope of the successful article. Whether the indictment, in its broad application, was true or false, certainly it touched the spark to the powder-house. The extent and the deep sincerity of feeling aroused is very interesting, indicating, as it does, the supersensitiveness of our contemporary world to spiritual things. From a small multitude of formal replies, we have chosen for publication, in its entirety, a vigorous paper by the Reverend George Parkin Atwater, rector of the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, at Akron, Ohio, which appears in this number. But we must make mention also of the correspondence which has reached us in such masses as greatly to embarrass our facilities for reply.

A large number of ‘ letters to the Editor’ denied Dr. Odell’s contention almost flatly. It is worth noting, however, that the adverse critics, almost without exception, are drawn from the ranks of the clergy. Many other priests and ministers, together with the immense majority of lay correspondents, represent themselves as in full sympathy with Dr. Odell’s position. Most of the letters, candid and outspoken as become the occasion, are quite free from virulence, but there are vivid exceptions. To illustrate the advantage of forbearing to transgress the amenities, we may quote from a single example of vituperation. An excited censor morum remarks that this magazine ‘is not an agency of the truth but of falsehood, falsehood in its most insidious form’; and after this fair start, attacks the article with the observation that ‘A deeper-dyed or more deliberate perversion of truth has rarely appeared in print, though the author so patently overplays his hand as to expose, what Dr. George F. Pentecost has referred to as, “his jaundiced heart.” It thus suits the sinister and materialistic purposes of the Atlantic Monthly, as almost any scintillating tissue of lies concerning Christianity would be sure to do.’

Happily the ’scintillating tissue’ hides Dr. Odell’s ‘jaundiced heart’ from less penetrating observers and the enormous preponderance of the letters confirms his thesis. In the selection which we are printing, we have tried, however, to show a catholic variety of opinion.

From a Christian Science ‘Reader.’

Surely such an undigested lumping of the true with the false, such a woodenly unsympathetic interpretation of history, such a betrayal of the very instinct for cooperation which the church is simultaneously damned for lacking, such blind and unconstructive vituperation, albeit couched in masterly English, should not go unchallenged.

From a retired Unitarian minister.

I sincerely hope that Mr. Odell’s brave words, with the ring of the true prophet in them, may wake slumbering souls, sit ting likewise by the fire to warm themselves, to what the world demands of its leaders and teachers to-day,—an unqualified, royal allegiance to the great allied movement in defense of truth, manhood, and democracy.

From a Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed Elder, of 40 years’ standing.

Dr. Odell’s ringing contribution is surely one of the most thought-inspiring papers that you have printed in a long time. . . . I have attended at least one service every Sunday since we declared war, and in many different churches in different places. Three times only has the clergyman asked for victory to our arms, and even in these three instances the petition was brief and almost colorless. Every other prayer has been confined, when the war was referred to at all, to petitions for the physical and moral well-being of our men, and for a ‘satisfactory’ peace — satisfactory, so far as appeared, to the Germans as well as ourselves.

From one for twenty-six years the wife of a clergyman.

Of course it [Dr. Odell’s article] will stir up the brethren and many indignant denials and protests will be forthcoming. For of all respectable and self-satisfied institutions the typical Protestant parish easily takes first place. The Christianity it stands for is of the timid and tamed kind — domesticated. It has become so thoroughly respectable and commonplace that it cannot be expected to dream dreams or see visions or make ventures. And the average minister looks tamed and goes through life warming himself at the fire of tame Christianity without the hope of a future conversion and strengthening of character as in Peter’s case. ... It would be a great thing if the Protestant churches would face these signs of the times in an honest and brave way as we face and remedy other matters in life. Instead, they meander along with their ministers warming themselves by the fire and playing a timid and negative part in the solemn drama of religion.

From a Massachusetts Unitarian.

May I be allowed to tell you how fine I think Mr. Odell’s article is. I am a staunch Unitarian — at least, I was before the war; but since then I have been all at sea as to where I stand, for the Unitarian denomination has failed utterly in this war. . . . I should like to have been in Mr. Odell’s parish lately, and I am sure the young men of his church never hesitated about duty, because he . . . had the vision!

From Marietta, Georgia.

Startling falsities do not appeal to me in the least. . . . I do not doubt that magazines find such articles excellent advertising matter; and by using them they cater to a deteriorated mental and spiritual make-up. . . . Some laymen may have loftier thgts [sic] than some clergymen. But the man who has written this article is not one of them.

From an Anglican ‘priest.’

It may be all right for you to think that Joseph H. Odell is worthy to sit in judgment on the Anglican Communion and her clergy, but I do not, and I don’t care a snap what he thinks about us or why he has such an exalted opinion of himself and his fellow laymen (!).

From a minister in St. Louis.

I cannot resist thanking you for the Atlantic article. ... It is a legitimate satisfaction in these days for a minister to thank God that he is not as so many other ministers. I certainly thank God for men of your temper. I could not stand straighter in my place than I have, but I shall stand more hopefully and happily for your glorious leadership.

From a Congregational Minister in Massachusetts.

And did you expect to be excoriated as a betrayer of your clerical brethren for your Atlantic article? Well, here’s one of them whose heart sings, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow,’ for every word of it. Do so some more.

From an Episcopal clergyman in Washington.

Your article has done us all good; only next time do not merely ‘curse,’ but construct, for I feel sure that behind your paper there lies an illuminating vision.

From Des Moines, la.

A thousand thanks, dear Dr. Odell, for your ringing words in the Atlantic. They were terribly needed and gloriously said.

From New Milford, Conn,

I believe that if is not only the right and privilege, but also the duty, of every American who has found in your article the very expression of his own thoughts, which your genius has so wonderfully made clear, to give you testimony of their appreciation. As I have listened to our good Congregational sermons Sunday after Sunday, I have asked myself why we could not have our soul stirred by some interpretation of this terrible drama, instead of the usual exposition of ’ In returning and in rest ye shall be saved.’ as you so aptly put it.

From, a Chairman of the National Security League.

I am writing to testify to my belief that your article will do much good. With notable exceptions, the attitude of the Church has been the support of pacificism, and hence indirectly of proGermanism. Your outburst is like a glorious breath of bracing air in the prevailing sultry conditions.

From a professional educator.

The ministry of America needs a VOICE. The ark of the Covenant has halted before your door.

. . . You are to be the Cardinal Mercier of the American pulpit. Step forth in the habiliments of John the Baptist,— of Knox and Luther, of Paul and Garibaldi,—and cease not your vigil or abate your cry. . . . The clergy of to-day are not looking for the STAR, they are too busy moulding denominational mud pies inside their dusty and decadent parochial stockade. . . . We have waited—ODELL has spoken. Troy has harbored a Seer. Speak again — O thou Cardinal Mercier of America. May God convoy your steps with angels and commission the wings to speed your message!

From a college president in the South.

I wish to give myself the pleasure of thanking you for this most timely—and I am sad to say most just — article. Would to Heaven every minister and priest and layman too, in our land, would take your message to heart and go to work in its spirit.

From the Editor of an important MidWestern newspaper.

Just a line to tell you how I admired your indignant outburst in the Atlantic. It had to be a clergyman to say it, and you said it right. Our clergy may in time come to understand that the issue is Christ vs. a strange, materialistic, megalomaniacal devil, and that there can be no neutrals in such warfare.

From a physician in Pennsylvania.

Thank you! Thank you, sir! Thank you very much! Some of us have come to look on the Church as the eliminated non-essential in this upheaval and the clergy as

The people, all the people,

They that live up in the steeple —

All alone.

From an official of the New York Y.M.C.A.

I want to congratulate you on that glorious article . . . and to thank you for it. Do you really expect ‘a lot of loud protests’ from your fellow clergy? I think not. Rather should there come commendation, and, I believe, will. ... I wish every man and woman in America could read your article. . . . May your strong message to the spiritual leaders of our beloved land meet with a ready response and great good come from your earnest appeal.

From Savannah, Ga.

At last! at last a man with spine enough to look facts straight in the eye, and honesty and force of language enough to express his heart. . . . Preaching seems to have become a profession only, not a conviction, and most of the spirituality to be found in churches comes out of the pewrenters’ pocket-books. Thank you, indeed, for your ringing and surgical words in the latest Atlantic. The probation of the world is here!

From the President of a Teachers’ Training School.

I have just read your article in the Atlantic. Why did n’t you do it? Are n’t you one of them?

From the rector of a large Philadelphia parish.

Please allow me to express my hearty appreciation of your splendid article inthe . . . Atlantic.

. . . Among the expected ‘lot of loud protests,’ let this be an upholding hand by one who is in thorough accord with the attitude which you have taken in regard to the grave remission of duty on the part of the Church in the present world-crisis.

From a Congregational minister in Brooklyn.

Many thanks for your splendid article in the A. M. It has what it deserves; the place of honor in this February issue, and says what I have tried to say, and have at least painfully pondered.

From Spartansburg, S.C.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your soul-stirring article. It will do great good, though the Church cannot recall the lost opportunity. 1 have preached since Germany’s army entered Belgium that the neutral countries have been without Christian conscience.

From a Baptist minister in Ohio.

I have just read with deepest interest and the greatest of pleasure your article in the Atlantic. It stirred my heart to the core, and I cannot refrain from expressing my deep appreciation of your words.

From a Methodist minister in Cleveland.

May I thank you for that siraight-from-theshoulder article in the current Atlantic. A little group of men under forty scattered through the Middle West have been trying hard to get that sort of message over in connection with Red Cross and Y.M.C.A. addresses, as well as in our sermons. But this howitzer discharge will certainly wake men up everywhere, and you will probably have some very interesting reactions.

From Shepherdstown, W. Va.

I cannot keep from sending you this note to express to you the joy we have experienced in realizing that some one has at last risen up and is speaking as you have.

But space fails us. Many of these letters have been so illuminating and so thoroughly worth reading, that we are truly sorry not to open our columns wide to the complete correspondence.

Reverend Thomas Tiplady is the chaplain of a British regiment which has seen service in more than one theatre of the war. A volume of his war sketches, The Cross at the Front, has been received with great public favor. ‘The Cross at Neuve Chapelle,’like the sketches in the earlier volume, was written within sound of the guns. Amory Hare is a Philadelphian poet who has more than once contributed to the Atlantic. In his fifth paper M. Chéradame vigorously attacks the widely accepted belief that the war is to be won on the Western front. Advocates of both military schools may well profit by consideration of his arguments. All of M. Chéradame’s papers may be obtained in pamphlet form from the publishers. The author of the letters from a Destroyer in Active Service is an American naval officer who, since the outbreak of the war, has been serving abroad. Charles Bernard Nordhoff, a young Californian, and writei of the ‘Letters from France’ in the October (1917) and January (1918) issues of this magazine, is now a full-fledged aviator in service on the Western front. Herbert Sidebotham, military critic of the Manchester Guardian, contributes a forcible paper which is, in a sense, confirmatory of some branches of M. Chéradame’s arguments.

Echoes of Mrs. Gerould’s agreeable paper on Gospel hymns are still reverberating. A friendly correspondent reminds us of this finished example of the elder style, taken from a volume of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. One can hear it droned to the music of the parlor organ.

The Choctaw and the Cherokee,
The Kickapoo and Kaw,
Likewise the Pottawatomie —
Oh, teach them all Thy law! . . .

That pleasant householder whose interpretation of the Furnace gave so much amusement to the Club a month or two ago, and who in this issue exhibits his sympathetic understanding of the eternal plumber, writes disconsolately on a wintry day to the expectant editor,—

I had hoped to be in town before this, but here I am. My furnace now eats wood and has to be fed about once in two hours, otherwise























It gives point to our plea that everybody who cares to see the Atlantic should subscribe, to announce that the March number, of which a supposedly ample supply was printed, was completely sold out on the 4th of the month.