The Contributors' Column--January Atlantic

Thomas Whittemore, an archæologist by profession, has for some years past been devoting himself to a mission for the relief of Russia, which has taken him to remote corners of the former Empire, moving among people of every class and kind. Of the Russian writer of the article – if such a cinema of life can be called an article– we know nothing except that she is a professional nurse whose interest in Russian character led her to jot down the talk of the wards as it came to her ears. Many readers will recall Turgenev’s Sportsman’s Sketches, as the vivid pictures of these childlike, gross, and unaffected peasants rise before them. Katharine Fullerton Gerould’s name is sufficiently familiar, and not only to readers of the Atlantic, as one of the most brilliant of contemporary essayists and story-tellers. Reverend Harry Emerson Fosdick is minister of the First. Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J. His paper is, in substance, a report of observations made during a recent six months’ visit to Europe. ’I became rather excited,’he writes, ‘over the revelation of the churches’ failure, which one gets in France by looking through the eyes of the soldiers.’ Henry Seidel Canby, Professor of English at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, and a wellknown essayist and critic and occasional writer of short stories, returned in the early autumn from an extended visit to Europe as a guest of the British Ministry of Information.

’I was in Ireland,’he says,‘all through the excitements of March and April [1918], met and talked with many of the Sinn Fein leaders who are inaccessible to Englishmen, met the Ulster group quite extensively, worked with Sir Horace Plunkett on the final draft of the Convention report, and have been in close touch with him since, and have discussed the situation with Englishmen of every shade of opinion. I have been home only a little while, but long enough, I think, to see that America has wrong conceptions both of Ulster and the South, which is not surprising; and, what is equally important, does not begin to realize the importance of the question for worldpolitics.’

The author of ‘The Photographer of Silver Mountain,’Peter Blackthorn, writes thus to the editor regarding the characters in his story: —

‘ This Silver Mountain group might be men I know. I’m quite sure that Tabby takes shape from my knowledge of an old partner I once had. There is a Logican in every boomcamp. The attempt to take a picture of a powderhouse was once made by a reporter from one of our best papers. Fortunately the wind veered. The muskeg in the North Country has saved thousands at different times. After re-reading the story I find myself unable to tell you whether it is true or not. The men are, and the atmosphere is so honest that it makes me want to go back there.’

Mrs. Agnes B. Chowen sends to the Atlantic from Great Falls, Montana, this record of some of her amusing experiences as a Field Representative of the American Red Cross. Mrs. Grace Hazard Conkling, whose verses have often given pleasure to our readers, is a member of the English Department of Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Of Marcel Nadaud, aviator, playwright, romancer, our readers have been frequently informed. Christopher L. Ward, a graduate of Williams College and the Harvard Law School, has practised law for many years at Wilmington, Delaware. While he has never held or sought public office, he has engaged in many branches of public service. His latest activity has been as an official of the Compulsory Work Bureau of the Delaware Council of Defense.

Robert Nichols is a young English poet, who is now in this country, and whose volume, Ardours and Endurances, should become familiar to Americans. Harold A. Littledale, before enlisting in the British Tank Service, was a well-known newspaper man on the staff of the Evening Post of New York. The attention of the Atlantic was attracted by the award to him of the Pulitzer prize for the best piece of reporting within the year, and these picturesque articles were sent, at the solicitation of the editor. We are happy to believe that Charles Bernard Nordhoff, the young Californian, whose previous papers describing his thrilling experiences in the air have aroused widespread interest, has come safely through to the end of hostilities. Charles D. Stewart, whose first contribution to the Atlantic dates buck half a generation, is the author of The Fugitive Blacksmith and other highly successful works of fiction, as well as of essays, and studies in Natural History.

The group of Englishmen, of varied attainments, who, under the chairmanship of H. G. Wells, have long been making a comprehensive study of the possibilities of a League of Nations, approach their problem with unbiased minds, and from many angles. To each member has been allotted for examination and report one of the major difficulties with which the ’realists’ have long since been confronting the ‘visionaries.’ When the complete report is ready, we shall be glad, in this column, to advise our readers where to secure it. Meanwhile, to study the list of members, beginning with the well-known name of H. G. Wells, is suggestive. Viscount Grey, the world knows as the statesman by whom the best of Great Britain has been consistently represented. Gilbert Murray, Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, and a protagonist of classical education, is one of the best-known publicists of the United Kingdom. J. A. Spender, editor of the Westminster Gazette, represents Liberalism in its fullest and best sense. A. E. Zimmern, a professor of economics, has during the war been attached to the Foreign Office, where he has been engaged in a critical examination of problems of nationality. To the serious investigator we recommend with heartiest confidence his Nationality and Government. (Please do not write to us for this, but to your bookseller.) H. Wickham Steed, long a correspondent in Vienna, is now the responsible foreign editor of the Times. A distinguished authority on the Near East, he has been the consistent champion of the Czechoslovaks against their oppressors. Lionel Curtis, editor of the Round Table, a quarterly devoted to imperialistic questions, got his early practical training as secretary to Lord Milner in South Africa. William Archer, known to Americans as the translator, almost as the discoverer of Ibsen, is well known as a student of public and European questions. About Lord Bryce, we shall not venture to tell our readers.

Victor S. Clark, for several years in charge of the division of Industrial History of the Carnegie Institution, is now a member of the American Board for Historical Research. Dr. Samuel McChord Crothers is too intimately known to readers of the Atlantic to need any word of introduction. Bernard M. Baker’s long study of and familiarity with all questions relating to our merchant, marine led to his selection as one of the original members of the Shipping Board in 1917; but because of his unwillingness to assent in advance to the selection of William Denman as (Chairman, he resigned before the Board organized, and never acted as a member. His valuable counsel has, however, been constantly at the service of the Administration. M.A. DeWolfe Howe, is well known as editor, critic, and essayist; his paper, ‘The Non-Combatant’s Manual of Arms,’was printed in the October Atlantic.

In a recent investigation of the methods of propaganda conducted by the Brewers’ Association, the fact was elicited that Mr. John Koren, at the time of writing a series of papers for the Atlantic, was in receipt of a retainer from this organization. It is not necessary to assure our readers that the fact was unknown to us until it appeared in the public prints; but it may be well to make it quite dear that the papers were written by Mr. Korea, not at his own suggestion, but at our direct instigation. They were not part of any direct propaganda, but were based upon Mr. Koren’s knowledge of the subject, and represented his personal convictions, often vigorously expressed before his connection with the Brewers’ Association. His record, into which the editor of the Atlantic had carefully inquired, marked him as a man of ability and exactitude. Twice he had been sent abroad by the United States Government to make investigations; he had long been a recognized authority on methods of liquor control; he was president of t he American Statistical Association. Finally, he had been chief agent of the Committee of Fifty, whose report has for many years seemed to us perhaps the most illuminating document yet published on the liquor question. The following letter needs no further introduction: —

THE EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC SIR, —

You have seen references to me in the morning paper, involving in some measure the Atlantic. That the Brewers’ Association did not inspire one word of the articles I wrote for you, did not know that they were in preparation, and, therefore, could not influence me in any way, is, of course, the absolute fact. I have never been called upon by this association to write for newspapers and periodicals, and have not published a word that differs from the stand I took in the Atlantic.

It is true that the association paid me a retainer, but purely in a professional capacity. That is, it was at liberty to call on me for statistics and other questions of fact in regard to the liquor question, both here and abroad, and to pass an opinion on current studies of the question or furnish translations of foreign literature. I was not called upon to take part in the political activities and other propaganda work of the association; I knew nothing about them and was not consulted. Indeed, I did not even know its membership, all my dealings being with the secretary, who worked with might and main to pul the brewing interests on a basis of constructive reform in legislation as well as in practice. To that end I endeavored to help him. I have never accepted, nor would, under any circumstances, accept, a retainer for advocating views I did not believe in, but I have not been able to see that it is wrong to receive pay for giving sound advice and for representing the truth as I see it.

May I add that, when you asked me to write for the Atlantic, it did not occur to me that the kind of work I had done for the Brewers’ Association could prevent me from stating my views with perfect objectivity. They were pretty well known, and had been stated and held consistently long before I came into contact with the brewers. I admit that it was an error of judgment not to tell you about this relationship, and if I have unwittingly hurt the Atlantic and its readers, I beg to tender my apologies.

I am,

Yours very truly, JOHN KOREN.

We confess to much personal sympathy with Mr. Stevens’s interesting paper on ‘Democracy in the Navy’; but believers in the ancient, ways differ from it, not unnaturally. Here is a vigorous protest.

DEAR SIR,—

In these days when the unpardonable sin is to be ‘undemocratic,’it is perhaps TO be expected that the old-fashioned term of ‘gentleman’– unless used so as to include all our citizens not in jail — should fall into disfavor; but the article by Mr. Stevens in your November issue, entitled ’Democracy in the Navy’ seems singularly to confuse the issue between ‘discipline’ and ’gentleman.’ What Mr. Stevens considers to be the proper relationship, if any, between an officer and a gentleman is difficult to gather from the illustrations he gives. Was the sergeant who, contrary to regulations, dined with the young subaltern and afterwards boasted of it when drunk, fit to be an officer or a desirable companion for one? Was the American Admiral, who had twelve enlisted men to dine with him, willing to accept their hospitality on equal terms, or could any of the men have refused his invitation without embarrassment? If not, his act was one of obvious condescension, differing only in degree from a command by the Kaiser to attend a court function.

The brutal German officer who struck his sailors in the face was obviously not a gentleman; but if our sailors were slow in making way for the German to dock, did they thereby show good discipline or manners?

Mr. Stevens apparently thinks it impossible for the son of a workman to be a gentleman, since he ridicules an officer whose father was a laborer for saying that only ‘gentlemen’ were fit to be officers in our navy. Possibly the officer in question was a true gentleman in spite of his birth, or perhaps, not being one, he had sufficient intelligence to appreciate his loss. A uniform cannot make or unmake a gentleman.

The fact is, as everyone knows, that there are many gentlemen in the enlisted personnel (although driving one’s own high-power motor-car to a country club does not make a gentleman), and there are, unfortunately, many officers who are not gentlemen. Drawn as our candidates for Annapolis and West Point are from every section of the country and every walk of life, and sometimes appointed by men who do not know the meaning of the word gentleman, it could hardly be otherwise. But does this in the least alter the fact that, other things being equal, gentlemen do make the best officers and should therefore have preference for commissions?

A prime factor in discipline is an impartial altitude in the matter of enforcing penalties and conferring rewards. A gentleman knows how to be severe without being offensive, and friendly without being familiar. This attitude of detachment – of subordinating one’s own likes and dislikes to an abstract rule of conduct, or in other words of recognizing and meeting self-imposed obligations — is one of the chief hall-marks of a gentleman, as it is of good discipline. There are many brave and skillful seamen who, lacking this quality, are unfitted for exercising command.

It is often assumed that the social separation of officers and enlisted men is for the benefit of the former and against the wishes of the latter. Is such the case?

Since it is physically impossible for an officer to associate on terms of social familiarity equally with all his command, would it promote confidence in his impartiality if it were known that certain enlisted men were his boon companions when off duty? Would the ordinary sailor really be happier if certain of his messmates dined with the Admiral?

Possibly Mr. Stevens sympathizes with those Congressmen who find the practise of saluting an officer a humiliating and servile custom. The Bolsheviki felt strongly on this subject, but the practical enforcement of their views did not noticeably improve the discipline or self-respect of the Russian army.

The ‘naval officer’ who corrected ‘a prominent official because he addressed a lot of recruits as ‘young gentlemen’ instead of ‘my lads’ was the better gentleman and disciplinarian of the two. The recruits were not present voluntarily as young gentlemen, but as naval recruits called to the service of their country, and as such entitled to be addressed by the usual term designating their rank. If there were any ‘young gentlemen’ among them, they would be the last to object to being called ‘my lads’ under the circumstances; and if there were any youths who fell happier for being addressed as ‘young gentlemen,’ by that token they were certainly not entitled lo the appellation.

True gentlemen, whether officers or enlisted men, easily recognize one another and are not given to worrying over the fact that their military obligations impose restrictions on their social intercourse when in uniform. The best discipline can never rest on the regulations alone. It will always consist in large part of those very traditions which from long experience and usage have proved helpful, and which to the vulgar or undisciplined mind are so abhorrent. Courtesy is the oil which lubricates the rigid machinery of military routine.

There is a freemasonry between all brave and true men which no organization recognizes more willingly than our navy. Many an officer has risked his life for the humblest sailor, and many a cook has emerged from his galley a hero, and been acclaimed as such. If the time ever comes when our sailors are concerned about being treated as ‘gentlemen’ rather than as ‘seamen,’ — men of the sea, — and when gentlemen are no longer preferred as officers, God help the American Navy. C. B. M.

An anonymous tribute to Professor Sharp’s ‘Duty to Dig,’is interesting as coming from a practical politician to whom any form of manual labor is utterly taboo.

SIR,–

I have just put down ‘The Duty to Dig’ and the November Atlantic. I have no notion who you are, but there is a spirit in you, revealed to me, that may find interest in why the product of your pen pleased one reader.

And you will have to be told who I am, whether you care or do not — a politician, a political job-holder, bred in the bone as it were; which suggests my father. He, a mill-boy in Providence, carried a volunteer gun as far as the Battle of the Wilderness, and left his right arm there. Then Westward Ho! — the picking up of telegraphy by way of reconstruction, the meeting of Annie Rooney, and the production of me; followed by a journey from Wisconsin to Missouri and the purchase of a log-hut surrounded by a little farm. A Poole’s Prairie paradise, a peach-orchard and a cow, — not even a grade Jersey, — all for a sum under $500! The left arm made the milkingstool and most of the cabin furniture as well; and I carried the butter in a pail to the county seat For tea and coffee. The folded right sleeve elicited inquiry and brought out the story. Production ceased. The County Democracy had found a disciple of Jefferson and a Union Veteran all in one — the ticket was made certain. Office-holding followed fast and followed longer — until near the end of my tom-sawyerhood, a congressional nomination traded off for a departmental job at Washington brought me East.

It is due my worthy sire, now years departed, to set against the non-productiveness of politics, his production of soldiers — or my mother’s. Two of her sons are trained West Pointers and two have earned their shoulder-bars since the Lusitania went down—one being wounded. Myself and two others, with families, await the draft.

But to return to my unhappy lot, to politics and to non-productive job-holding. A course of law in Washington finished me so far as schooling could, and with a railroad pass I got as far as Baltimore from the paternal roof. And here’s the point — within the year, before a vote was cast, and without a single friend or political acquaintance even, I found myself a political job-holder. I had answered a ‘help wanted’ newspaper ad., by way of getting out of the $10 per week insurance-office clerkship taken in the emergency that want of funds entailed, and had fallen into the City Hall. When the job-dispensers had finished their inquiries, the ever-reforming press asked in the headlines, insinuatingly, who I was and whence I came. There was no answer. And so to this day — eighteen years thereafter – I remain a non-producer, like my father before me.

The city provides me a costly dwell ng; heats it; lights it; and plants it about with flowers in summer. Hedged in with shrubbery that in turn blossoms and hangs bright with berries, I enjoy seclusion, even in a public park. The spacious lawns and wooded areas of Druid Hill stretch before me — over seven hundred acres; and yet I cannot keep a cow!

But this will interest you. A ‘war-garden’ space, ploughed up in the stable section of the park for negro students, was thought by them too stony and difficult to justify exertion. It went a-begging until July, when I took it over for myself, and between the first and fifteenth my son of ten years shared with me the enthusiasm of planting a garden. The duty I felt, to dig, I taught the little fellow, and only an occasional airplane in the sky caused loss of interest. He planted every bean out of the two quarts with careful spacing, and likewise all of the pieces into which we cut the one-half bushel of potatoes. The space used was small, but the yield of 300 pounds of stringless green beans, by weight, and the 50 quarts of white dried navy beans by measure, has just been followed by the digging of 470 pounds of smooth white murphies. Only the tomatoes had to be taken before maturity and ripening, but the preserve and pickle shelf caught them nevertheless.

And following close upon the final harvest I chance to find the religion of my inner self expressed in the philosophy of Dallas Lore Sharp, whoever he may be! I say religion, because the only accountability to God my mind can sense is the duty to produce, — the duty to function as an aid in the purposes of creation, and after death to continue to function as earth instead of on earth, – a never-ending cycle that constitutes immortality.

Wherefore a sinner, much ashamed, I remain, A. NONYMOUS.

To turn a compliment neatly, a fine Italian hand is needed. A contributor writes, —

DEAR MR. ―, -

My newsdealer on the corner of Sixth Avenue is a little dago of some sort, with imperfect control of the English tongue. When I stopped at his booth a day or two ago to get some magazines, he pointed to the Atlantic and said that there was a ‘piece’ in it by some one of my name. I asked how he had happened to notice it, and he replied, ‘I read that magazine.’

If you put him side by side in your mind with the Boston lady, quoted in the same number of the Atlantic, who described her son in France as ‘suffering’ for lack of the Atlantic and the Transcript, can you not fairly claim that your magazine speaks, as a magazine should, to the ‘public at large’? May it ever grow larger!

Sincerely yours,

M. G. VAN RENSSELAER.