The Contributors' Column

Frank Tannenbaum, by trade a machinist, was sentenced when twenty-one years old to one year’s imprisonment at Blackwell’s Island for unlawful assembly in unemployment agitation. On his release he made certain charges which led to an investigation by the State and to the removal of the warden. Since 1916 he has been an advanced student at Columbia, where he has taken highest honors in economics and history, and has written a thesis on the Philosophy of the Labor Movement, which has received high academic recognition.

These are serious charges which Mr. Tannenbaum brings. In considering them it is well for the reader to realize that, although our prison system has undoubtedly changed for the better, many well-authenticated instances show that a vast amount remains to be done. To illustrate: —

In the Rhode Island State Prison during the year 1918-1919, a prisoner by the name of William F. Herman was strung up by the wrists for periods of two, four, five and six days, hanging from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M., and on days when moving pictures were shown in the prison, until 11 P.M. This punishment was inflicted for talking in the shop. During those hours he was not given toilet, privileges and could n’t wash at any time during the days of punishment. Altogether he was strung up for twenty-one days in one year’s time.
The investigation of Bedford, a woman’s reformatory in New York State, which has just closed, revealed the fact that women had their hands handcuffed behind them, and were suspended from the cell door with their backs bent over and the tips of their toes barely touching the floor.
The Eastern Penitentiary of Pennsylvania is being investigated at present by the State Board, as a prisoner recently died from a beating given him by some of the keepers.
On the 4th, 5th, and 6th of March, 1917, the New York Tribune published a series of articles on the conditions in Clinton Prison, New York, which revealed as brutal and inhuman a situation as can well be depicted.
The investigation of the New Jersey Prison in 1917 showed a very unhappy state of affairs indeed. Mr. Osborne tells of hearing the rattling chains of a prisoner who had been confined there for years. An instance is, we believe, recorded that one of the punishment cells had a ring attached to an iron rod some six inches above the cell floor, to which men used to be suspended in a doubled-over position — the cell being too small for the man to lie down on either side of the ring.
An investigation of the Maryland Penitentiary in 1916 disclosed the fact that some twelve hundred men had been strung up by their wrists to a bar attached to the ceiling within the period of a little over a year.
While serving in the army in Camp Sevier, S.C., the author of the Atlantic’s article saw state prisoners working on the roads with chains and iron balls on their feet, and sleeping in narrow crowded iron cages at night, packed closely together.
A former Texas prison-keeper, who is at present himself a prisoner in the Naval Prison, states that in Texas the men who work in the roadgangs are chained and that the chains about the prisoners’ feet are so made as to make rapid walking or running impossible, as each step that is longer and more rapid than usual twists the chain so as to press a sharp point into the flesh of the foot which is right above the heel, and in this way causes great pain.
The present prison situation in Joliet is not a happy one.

Furthermore, we should say that before this article was printed it was examined by a number of investigators of America’s prison situation. Surely the matter deserves public consideration.

The particulars of our knowledge of Opal Whiteley are set forth in the March Atlantic. Here we shall simply lay stress on the manuscript, which, torn into small fragments by another child, in a fit, of jealous rage, is being pieced together with pains which seem not far from infinite. For five full months Opal Whiteley has been working from eight to twelve hours a day, pruning, piecing, fitting together the pathetic fragments. To the editor, who has been supervising the process, the task has often appeared beyond the girl’s strength. As the work has continued, estimates of the bulk of the manuscript have suffered constant revision; and we are now in possession of a continuous diary consisting of more than 70,000 words all written before the child’s eighth birthday, besides a bulky mass of material telling the story of later years. The manuscript, written on odd pieces of wrapping-paper, bags, etc., is frequently decorated with all sorts of childish border patterns. It is unevenly printed. Punctuation, spacing, and capitalization are absolutely ignored. During all these years the child had no friends of her own age, and the diary was her single confidant.

As our prefatory note says, Beulah Amidon Ratliff wrote this letter to her father, purely as a personal missive. She had gone South as a bride only a few months before, and unfamiliar happenings etched sharp pictures on her mind. ‘Mark Twain’ is the first in a new series of portraits — Americans from 1875 to 1900 — which Gamaliel Bradford has in hand for the Atlantic. The scries includes Henry Adams, Whistler, and Phillips Brooks. His long list of accurate and penetrating portraits of the great figures on both sides in the Civil War, and of noteworthy American women, have made him one of the most happily familiar among our contributors. F. Lyman Windolph is a lawyer of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We print in this number the fourth of the Sketches in Peasant Russia sent, us by Edwin Bonta, an architect of Syracuse, who was engaged in relief work in Russia during the war.

Katherine Wilson, a Western newspaper and magazine writer, is a native of the State of Washington, of pioneer stock, her grandparents on both sides having crossed the plains with ox-teams. ‘It was while a resident of Carmel, California,’ she writes, ‘that I found the material for “A Marginal Acquaintance” in an actual experience.’ Lytton Strachey, an English writer, best known as the author of Eminent Victorians, is at present engaged on a biography of the most eminent of them all — Queen Victoria. The anonymous author of ‘Boys,’ in the March Atlantic, displays in the present contribution an equal understanding of the more elusive characteristics of ‘ Girls.’ Anne Douglas Sedgwick (Mrs. Basil de Sélincourt) is at home again, writing stories, on her Oxfordshire farm.

Lord Dunsany has survived his American lecture tour and has safely returned to his Irish castle. Robert Haven Schauffler’s amusing adventures with his fiddle will soon be published in a volume, under the title which he has chosen for the present paper. Alice Brown, poet, playwright, essayist, and writer of fiction, makes her home in Boston.

Melvin T. Copeland is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Director of the Bureau of Business Research at Harvard University. Frank E. Spaulding, recently returned from an important, educational mission with the A.E.F., and now Superintendent of Schools at Cleveland, Ohio, is about to assume the direction of School Administration at Yale University. Anticipating the emotions likely to be aroused by his estimate of the cost of establishing his proposed educational programme, he writes: —

I realize the difficulty involved in the large amount of money that would have to be raised by taxation to carry out the programme. I purposely did not dwell upon this difficulty. I want rather to get the programme considered on its merits. As a matter of fact, such a programme could be realized only gradually. Hence, the increased taxation involved would come, not all at onee, but as a gradual growth extending over at least five or ten years.
Unquestionably the investment involved in such a programme (and it should be considered as an investment) would be paid back many fold by the beneficiaries. The return in the form of taxes on the increase in wealth would begin in a small measure almost immediately after the beneficiaries . . . had left school and engaged in the world’s work. Such return would increase rapidly from year to year over an indefinite period, probably for not less than twenty-five years.

Frederick P. Keppel, formerly Dean of Columbia College, has served with distinction as an Assistant Secretary of War, and as Director of Foreign Operations of the American Red Cross. G. Lowes Dickinson, for many years a don at Cambridge, England, has long enjoyed a reputation as a master of English prose and a thinker of sincerity and public importance. Our readers will recall his prophetic series of articles which the Atlantic published under the title of ‘The War and the Way Out.’ Count Hermann Keyserling writes us from Hamburg under date of 9 September last; —

Since I wrote my first article for the Atlantic Monthly many of my prophecies have come true, and many perplexing events have happened to myself. I have lived under;the Bolshevist government in Esthonia; had to hide myself in moors and woods for weeks; have seen later the delights of military occupation; and now I am an exile; the new Esthonian government, essentially Bolshevist whatever it calls itself, does not allow of our return home, plans to confiscate our estates without more than nominal compensation, and has already decided, without asking me, to convert my home, with its century-old library, into a schoolhouse. I am afraid I shall never see anything of it all again, and have to begin an entirely new life, probably in Germany, since in that country, even to-day, philosophers are most likely to prosper. There are many things which people on the Entente side do not understand, nor even we as yet.

In an address delivered recently at the University of Berlin, Count Keyserling dealt in severe, if measured, terms with the causes which have brought Germany to her present fallen estate, chief among which he places ‘ the want of the feeling of self-responsibility.’ Herbert Sidebotham is military correspondent of the London Times.

This thoughtful comment on Mr. Clutton-Brock’s receipt for happiness is well worth clipping from a recent letter.

I am writing this letter to make a request which may strike you as being rather ingenuous; and yet, if it were granted, I think that not I alone, but many other people conscious of the same need, would be inexpressibly gratified. I wonder if it would be possible for the author of ‘the Pursuit of Happiness’ in the December Atlantic to make a little harangue at the people who are Just putting in time, in life — whose answer to the question, ‘Is Life worth living?’ would be, ‘Not proven.’
I don’t know whether my range of acquaintance is unique or commonplace, but the commonest type in it is the woman for whom life is going by like time spent in a trolley station, waiting for a car that is indefinitely late, and whose destination is unknown. These women have no dominant interest in life, and no very vital trivial interests; they have no great ambitions, because not one of them possesses any special talent or ability; they are only very mildly cynical, because they would n’t consider it either well-bred or intelligent to go about bawling about the stale, flat, unprofitableness of all the life they get a chance at; but they certainly do feel, though most of them have sense enough to be in general decently reserved on the subject, that it was rather a mean trick to shunt them, willy-nilly, into an existence that offers them no keen interest, only the tamest chance at being useful, and no appreciation for what inconspicuous service they do give.
We have been told, over and over again, that it is weak and foolish to drift; that life can be made worth while to anyone who sets a definite goal, and keeps consistently headed for it; but to my mind it takes more intelligence and will to mark out an arbitrary course and follow it, where one has no guiding inclination or taste, than most men of the highest sort of genius evince. You can’t take an interest at random, any more than you can add a cubit to your stature, or grow whiskers at will; and I know many sorts of superfluous women who are not poor enough, or stupid enough, so that the mere problem of earning a living is a matter of absorbing interest; who are not necessarily blighted beings, because they have remained unmarried — for I believe that, if they had honestly sought matrimony as a goal, they would have arrived there, as it seems to be the least difficult of all the goals that women do set for themselves to arrive at. They are the people who are n’t adjusted to life anywhere, and who therefore do the work they happen to find available, mechanically, without zest, interest, satisfaction, or pride. They feel very dull and futile and foolish and, somehow or other, robbed. They live without getting anything out of life except board and clothes, such as they are, and they die without having lived, and without being missed.
Now who or what is to blame? I think that perhaps the author of ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ could say something of interest and of value to them, because he has already, in his December article, reminded a lot of us of something we need to keep always in mind. Most of us need rather appallingly to have said to us, quite frequently, exactly what he said there; only we are not always fortunate enough to be so spoken to when the need is on us.

This for lovers of Jane Austen, to whom a recent contributor to the Club dedicated a pretty bit of an essay.

But why leave out all Northanger Abbey? Of course I know that Catherine, with her intensely credulous nature, saw German spies in all unfamiliar yokels jogging along the countryside, and imagined bombs in each post-day package. But surely Henry Tilney’s comforting letters from the Front — I insist on his being a chaplain, too; and he would have made an infinitely more comforting one than Edmund Bertram, because he added a sense of humor to his undoubted rectitude — must have assuaged her terrors. And, indeed, had she further alarms, Eleanor’s, ‘My Lady’s,’ counsels would have finally tranquillized her, and enabled her to revisit the Abbey (the war had put matters upon a friendly footing again, you know) to help her sister-in-law in Red Cross work, and listen to the general fighting again his own battles, and pointing out just where the present military blunders had come. Frederick was at the Front, too: one never doubted his courage; while, equally, John Thorpe blustered in some safe job behind the lines. As for Isabella, I am convinced that she joined Mrs. Elton’s wellknown useful work just at the time that Selina was visiting the Vicarage; and her splendid insincerity making a vast impression, she returned in the barouche-landau to pay a long visit at Maple Grove, hoping by exploring to revive her fallen spirits. You have left out Lady Susan, too, and her eloquence of which she was so vain. Surely you heard of the really marvelous work she did in raising money for the various loans?
Ah, please let all of my adored Miss Austen’s characters come to your delightful, re-created Highbury! Excuse me, I should have said ‘our,’ for, surely, we are equal sharers.
Yours very sincerely,

The Atlantic was sixty-two years old last November. How pleasant then to be clapped on the back and to be appealed to as one sport to another.

CLEVELAND, O., January 27, 1920.
I have just written a book entitled Form and Chance in Playing the Ponies, which is now in the hands of the printer. In the main this literary effort contains the following: Observations on the runners as a sport and as a desirable substitute for the exercise of the speculative instinct; How to enjoy the sport thoroughly; Fallacies of progressive systems disclosed; suggestions relative to the study of form and handicapping; The value of a player’s judgment, with results of tabulations showing comparisons of a form player’s various choices, with their positions in the public’s order of preference in twenty-eight hundred races and under the Pari-Mutuals.
Of late I have been following the sport not only to win but also to write of my experiences and observations covering a period of ten years, which might enable the public to gain a better understanding of the sport. Yours respectfully,

Atlantic critics may disagree as to the grace and general correctness of Mrs. Keyes’s attitude ‘on the fence’; but both pros and antis on the suffrage question should welcome an authoritative pronouncement on the matter. A friend sends us this decisive comment: —

I wish that every Atlantic reader could know how greatly one other woman admired and approved of Mrs. Keyes’s article, ‘ On the Fence,’ in the February number. I read it with enthusiasm tempered only by envy. It is precisely what I should have liked to write myself if I had had wisdom enough and skill enough. I wonder if any excepting those who chanced to hear it have been told of a remark that an Atlantic Editor, Mr. Aldrich, made many years ago during a wave of agitation for woman suffrage? He asked an elderly lady of the most dignified sort on which side of the controversy she stood. ‘ I do not stand at all,’ she answered; ‘I am on the fence.’— ‘Then,’ said Mr. Aldrich, I hope you are on the fence in a ladylike way, with both legs on the same side.’
I think anyone who knew Mr. Aldrich can guess upon which side he thought this should be. But the responsibility, please understand, is Mr. Aldrich’s. Far be it from us, at this late day, to explain to a lady the most ladylike way of sitting a fence.

A month or two since, we were assailed by a number of simultaneous inquiries as to a fabled ‘sale’ of the Atlantic. In reply we printed a positive, complete, and unqualified denial.

The queries have now taken another turn. We are continually asked whether by our authority the Atlantic is united, clubbed, or combined with any other periodical which it has selected for its ally. Again, our answer is a positive No. Any periodical, to be sure, has the right to buy the Atlantic and sell it again to readers in conjunction with its own product. But with this practice we ourselves have nothing whatever to do. The Atlantic is as independent in business as in its editorial policy.

One more word and we are done. Now and again our friends and mentors write us demanding through what iniquitous bargain we are controlled (as the case may be) by trusts, or Jesuits, or associated advertisers, or labor unions, or Bolsheviki. The charges are too multifarious to take them up at once; but by way of comment upon the last, we quote (at the kind suggestion of an Ohio reader, Mrs. Lucy Griscom Morgan) these prophetic lines written by the Atlantic’s first editor in his ‘Moosehead Journal,’ and still absolutely valid:

We had no radicals, nor crimes,
Nor lobster-pots, in good old times;
Your traps and nets and hooks we owe
To Messieurs Louis Blanc and Co.
I say to all my sons and daughters,
Shun Red Republican hot waters;
No lobster ever cast his lot
Among the reds, but went to pot:
Your trouble’s in the jaw, you said?
Come, let me just nip off your head,
And, when a new one comes, the pain
Will never trouble you again.