The Contributors' Column

Everyone who reads the Atlantic knows Margaret Prescott Montague of West Virginia. ‘Uncle Sain’ is the expression of that intense love of country and of race which is with her an elemental passion. The ‘Elderly Gentleman’ of Jean Kenyon Mackenzie’s narrative may be guessed by the judicious reader. Which of the rest of us, we wonder, can hope for such a biographer. Wilson Follett, an American essayist and critic, is well known to readers of the Atlantic. ‘The Dive,’ his first venture in the field of fiction, we printed last winter.

Agnes Repplier, of Philadelphia, has for a generation adorned American letters. How many of the readers of her Atlantic essays have taken home with them her life of her old friend Dr. White? To have done justice to such a man would be distinction enough, without the dozen volumes upon which her permanent reputation rests. Dorothy Leonard, a young American poet, sends us this sonnet from western New York. Dallas Lore Sharp is Professor of English at Boston University. His muchdebated article, ‘Patrons of Democracy,’ in the November Atlantic, has recently been enlarged, revised, and published in book form by the Atlantic Monthly Press.

Charles Bernard Nordhoff the young California airman, who described, in their season, for our readers his varied and thrilling experiences in the Aviation Service in France is now traveling in the South Seas. Under date of March 12, he writes to the editor from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands: —

I drifted over here ... on my way to an island in the north, an idyllic sort of place from all accounts, where I hope to spend some time among the more or less unspoiled people. . . . This South Pacific is incredibly large, and the difficulties of getting about cannot be exaggerated. . . . My only regret, since I have been on the Islands, is that I did not come here many years ago — the idea of living anywhere else seems absurd to me. I always hated clothes, cold weather, and hypocrisy, none of which exist here in noticeable quantities. . . . To get away from people who talk about money and business is worth a far longer trip than this.

Among the multitudinous ejaculatory comments on Opal’s Journal, a dozen notes ask the editor quite naïvely and pleasantly whether he did not alter or remodel it into its present delectable form. It is a good deal like asking a commercial gentleman whether he did not really ‘raise’ a note to make the figures look a little handsomer; but we will pass over the ingenuousness of the inquiry and say once more, with emphasis, that the diary is printed, word for word, except for change of names and omissions, as the child wrote it, and that the original manuscript has been submitted over and over again to rigid and competent scrutiny. Moreover, for six months past, the author has been in familiar association with the editor, who, week by week, has watched the reconstruction of her story into its exact original form. Alice Brown, poet, playwright, essayist, and writer of fiction, has been an occasional but welcome contributor to the Atlantic for close to thirty years. George E. Clough sends us his first contribution from far-away Manitoba. Annie Winsor Allen has taught and studied girls and boys for a full generation.

Abbie Farwell Brown is a well-known editor and author of both prose and verse, whose home is in Boston. Many of her volumes are for children. Cary Gamble Lowndes, a new contributor, is a banker of Baltimore. Edward Yeomans is a Chicago manufacturer whose striking papers on the teaching of Geography and History we printed in the February and March numbers respectively.

J. Salwyn Schapiro is Professor of History in the College of the City of New York. E. Dana Durand, former Director of the Census, has been Professor of Statistics and Agricultural Economics at the University of Minnesota since 1913. Having served in the U.S. Food Administration under Mr. Hoover during the war, he is now connected with the U.S. Legation at Warsaw, acting as adviser to the Polish Food Ministry. We have not in Poland a more competent observer. James M. Hubbard, a retired Congregationalist minister, was for many years connected with the Youth’s Companion and with the Nation.Raymond B. Fosdick was during the war Chairman of the Commission on Training Camp Activities of the War and Navy Departments, and had general charge of the welfare work for soldiers and sailors, both here and overseas. He was appointed Under-SecretaryGeneral of the League of Nations, by Sir Eric Drummond, in May, 1919, but resigned when it became apparent that the United States was not likely to become an early member of the League. He is now practising law in New York City.

The following highly interesting letter from the Flowery Kingdom reaches this office in the wake of Dr. Clark’s recent paper on ‘The Rising Tide in Japan.’

This year the agitation for universal suffrage is more violent than last year and more persistent. The people engaging in it evidently have more funds than they had before. Then the number of the members of the Diet who are supporting it this year is far larger than it was last year. Some people say that the Kenseikai and Kokuminto, with the disgruntled members of the Seiyukwai, will be able to get their bill passed through the lower house. In that event Parliament will be dissolved. Such threats have been made, I understand, and while, when that has happened before, the government party has always come back with more seats, there is this time the conviction that the government will lose out, because of the wider interest taken in the cause of universal suffrage. In spite of all the newspaper talk and the parades and the speeches, it seems to me that the great masses of the people are as yet little concerned in their rights and privileges. They have too much the attitude of specialists, interested and skilled in their one line and indifferent to all else. The laboring men have waked up to the fact that they will not attain their desires unless they have the vote, and they are the one part of the common people who are taking an active part in the demonstrations. I would like to know where the money is coming from to stage all this agitation. It is not coming from the labor organizations. We know that they have no funds. Maybe it is coming from the pockets of some of the ‘practical politicians.’

I wonder if you have heard anything of the Tokyo Imperial University trouble. In complete contrast to the universal-suffrage agitation, in this case we have an illustration of how greatly free speech and free thought, in fact, have been and are being curtailed. The present cabinet has been praised the world round as being ‘progressive,’ ‘democratic,’ the first one whose leader is a ‘commoner,’ etc., etc.; but since I have been in Japan there has never been a time when the newspapers have been oftener suppressed, or official orders given to stop publishing certain news. One of the assistant professors in the Tokyo University published in the university magazine a translation and criticism of some work of Prince Krapotkin. A student organization of the conservative class of students, led by Dr. Uesugi, started a big commotion over Professor Morito’s fearful daring (?). The educational department got excited and retired Professor Morito from the active list, and also the publisher of the university magazine. Then the police put their fist in it, and hauled the brother up for trial in the courts, on the charge of violation of the press law and for writing things subversive of the constitution. The trial is being conducted in camera. In addition to the lawyers, Dr. Miyake of the magazine Japan and the Japanese, Dr. Yoshino of the University, Dr. Takano, adviser of the Yuaikai, and Professor Isoo Abe of Waseda, have made speeches for the defence. Professor Morito and Professor Ouchi, the publisher, are very popular now. The foolishness of the whole business is apparent when we remember that the works of Krapotkin have been translated into Japanese long ere this, and have been on sale in all the bookstores.

Business is still on the boom in Japan and prices are still rising. The index-price now is 416, with early 1902 as 100. Salaries are being raised all around; the allowances which were given last year are to be made a regular part of the salary. Railroad rates have gone up again, so that now it costs me just twice what it did two years ago. I was interested in looking over the financial reports of some of the big companies for the last six months of the year. The cottonspinning company, Kanegafuchi Mills, whose head was the capitalists’ representative at the International Labor Conference at Washington, and who was so active in asking for special treatment for Japan because it is so backward, paid a 70 per cent dividend. Just think of it, getting back about three fourths of your capital in six months! It looks like infant industries are waxing fat and kicking. Another spinning company in Fukishima declared an 80 per cent dividend. The Nippon Wool Manufacturing Company amassed such large profits that they were able to give a bonus to their employees of 3,000 per cent on monthly wages. Clerks received an amount, equaling 20 to 30 months’ salaries. Generally conditions are still very good, and the boom still continues.

This letter, in sharp contrast to many popular magazine articles, is well worth printing.

AKRON, OHIO,April 4, 1920.
There have come to my attention of late some several articles dealing with the methods for hiring labor of corporations. And in that these generally run so very counter to my experiences in finding work, I am moved to write a few words on conditions as I have found them.
Some weeks ago I found it imperative that I get a job. Having no especial training that would be of value in the world of manufacture or commerce, I realized that it was a job, not a position, that I must seek. There is an old saying, that if you want money, go to where money is. So I came to Akron, for there is work being done, and to be done here. The home factories of the two largest rubber and tire companies in the world, and of several other large rubber factories, assure work if one wishes it.
But is one to be met at the gate by the official hirer, a large pipe in his mouth, to be sworn at and told to move ahead? Is there no hint of common courtesy as the new man makes his acquaintance with the people to whom he would barter his strength and any skill he may acquire? If you believe all you read of conditions in the iron factories, in the Stock Yards and in other lines of trade, we are to expect the worst. I reached Akron on a Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, I went to a large plant. At the gates, a man in the uniform of the company police directed me to the employment office. And no policeman could have been more kindly about it. It was as though he did himself a favor by doing one for me.
But I knew nothing more about tires and tirebuilding than I had learned from a series of blowouts on the road to Indianapolis. For what should I apply? There are five trained men at this factory whose work is the hiring of labor. To one of these I went, and told him of my wants. He answered that they had no opening at the moment; that perhaps I could be given work Monday. But my point is that he was all kindness and courtesy; not gruff, morose and stolid.
So I went to a second company, this time the Goodrich. Here the same attention was given me, and here I was given work. A chance acquaintance had advised that I ask to learn to finish tires, and for this work I applied, and was taken on. But first I was asked of my education and training; then I was given a physical examination, and finally a rooming bureau helped me to find suitable rooms. Further I was told that after twelve weeks in the employ of the company I would receive life insurance to the value of $500, and a sickness and disability insurance that would pay me two-thirds of my wage in case of sickness. All this without charge to me, all without request on my part. Could a man ask more?
But what of wage? I was paid at the rate of fifty cents an hour, eight-hour day, pay and a half for overtime, and double pay for work on Sundays or holidays. And as soon as I could acquire skill enough to enable me to earn more at piece-rates, I would be taken off the fifty-cent rate, and put at piece-work.
Well, it developed after two weeks of work that I was not heavy enough, nor apt enough to be able to qualify soon for piece-work. So my foreman put me on lighter work, where, after two weeks, I am able to earn about six dollars in my shift.
Now I don’t know; things may be as I read they are in other kinds of work. I am inclined to doubt that they are. Labor is too in demand, that corporations can afford to treat men so. But certainly every man is given every reasonable opportunity in the rubber plants of Akron.
Very sincerely,

Echoes of the boarding-school discussion still reach us. Here is an informing bit of comment.

This boarding-school discussion of late in the Atlantic has interested me greatly, and I don’t like to let it pass without saying a word. This past mid-year has just completed my four years at a Massachusetts boarding-school — Mount Hermon, to be explicit. Through many experiences of my own there, I can agree absolutely with Mr. Parmelee and Mr. Cozzens. If you will pardon a personal reference — I have had many times precisely the same experience with my Victrola that Mr. Parmelee mentions. Among several ‘rag’ and ‘jazz’ records which I despised, I had a few good records, which I loved. Although the other fellows never openly ridiculed me for playing them, I always felt that they were laughing behind my back, and consequently I dreaded to show that my tastes were any different from those of the rest of the ‘gang’; possibly I was over-sensitive about it. But that was true, not only of music, but of all the finer things. Being the son of an architect and a student of architecture, I loved art and beautiful things, and tried to absorb and surround myself with them. My painful efforts at decorating my little room after my conception of good taste were scoffed at by my companions, who lived in rooms garnished with magazine-cover girls and rah-rah pennants.
While I am on the subject of boarding-schools, I should like to refer to Mr. Cozzens’s article in the March Atlantic. He mentions the adoption of the ‘self-help’ system at his school, where each student puts in an hour a day at some assigned task, thus appreciably lowering the expense of board and tuition. I am from a school where this idea is carried even further. There, each student is required to do two hours of work a day, a total of thirteen and one half hours a week, the task varying, not from day to day, as at Mr. Cozzens’s school, but from term to term, thus giving every boy a taste of good, hard, monotonous work, which can do no one harm. And, of course, the result of this work is very noticeable in the tuition fee, thus enabling boys of more limited means to enjoy the superior benefits of a private school. The boy who has been through that school has done a little bit of everything: he has dug ditches, tended cows, done garden-work, washed dishes, done house-work, cooked, waited at table, worked in a steam laundry, tended library, done clerical work, and even taught classes in emergencies; and all without interfering with the academic work. That school stands very high in the estimation of the colleges and the College Entrance Board. The graduate of that school is not afraid of work, knows how to work, and, what’s more, has worked. Nothing can offer better training and discipline than genuine labor.

This airy commendation gave us, as any lady might be sure it would, unfeigned pleasure.

You are, largely through your Contributor’s Column, I think, the most human and personal publication that I know. I wonder how many others always read the last of the Column before anything else?
The other night I dreamed a dream. There was a Federated Church luncheon at the Y.M.C.A., and I was there, sitting at an almost empty table, with no one I knew near me. Presently an old gentleman sat down opposite, bowing to me in a very courtly manner as he did so. He looked quite like the picture we usually see of Oliver Wendell Holmes, the round, smooth face, the quizzically humorous mouth, yet with Emerson’s thoughtful brow. He was about sixty, and I can only repeat my first impression, that he was a gentleman, with all possible culture and polish. He spoke to me, some remark about the weather or luncheon, and I answered, blushing, with my heart in my mouth, for I cannot carry on a creditable conversation except with someone who insists on doing all the talking, and this my companion obviously would not do. Moreover, — need I say it? — I was very anxious that he should approve of me.
A miracle happened. He talked, and I talked! When I awoke, I could remember nothing that was said, but I know that for over half an hour we had a ‘feast of reason and a flow of soul’ far more deep and brilliant than any I have ever heard. At last, regretfully, we rose to go. After the best manner of introducing yourself to visitors at church, I told him my name. With another bow, he gave me his card. I read, engraved in neat script, ‘Mr. Atlantic.’ I realized instantly that it was you, my friend, with whom I had lunched, that you really were a vivid, living personality. There the dream ended.
Very sincerely yours,

No reader of the Atlantic will soon forget Madame Ponafidine, and many have inquired of her fate. We have long feared for it, and this letter (dated February 12, 1920) from a lady with the American Missions in Turkey, transmitted through the kindness of Miss Florence Baldwin of New York, confirms the cruelty of our apprehension.

Do you remember my friends in Russia, the Ponafidines? The Bolsheviks killed two of the sons and put Mr. and Mrs. Ponafidine on a little place, and made Mrs. Ponafidine work the ground for a living. Mr. Ponafidine was too old and ill to help. Then they came and killed Mr. Ponafidine, and later killed Mrs. Ponafidine. It seems unbelievable. They were such very charming people and were such good friends of mine. Only one son escaped, and he was away. He is in the ‘White Army,’ and I should think he would feel like fighting till his last breath to stop this terrible condition in Russia.


Unwisdom, it seems to us, dwells in the minds of those who will not listen to their opposites, no matter how broad the gulf between. There is always weakness in ignorance and a man is twice armed who knows his adversary’s point of attack. These commonplaces from the Book of Common Sense are in our mind as we reflect on half-a-dozen letters sharply rebuking the Atlantic for callousness, un-Americanism, pro-Germanism, and general outrageousness in printing two recent articles reflecting on the policies of the United States: one by a Russian philosopher who, during the war, sympathized with the cause of the Entente, the other by a well-known German who, however extreme certain of his statements seem to us, is of the moderate sort. The object of those papers was, of course, to bring home to Americans that their own point of view was not patently right to all the world, as the more self-righteous of us would think, and to make them realize the existence of opinions which, however wrong they may be, are in Europe increasingly believed. It is difficult to be serious with those who believe that the Atlantic would swallow whole Count Keyserling and Dr. Rohrbach, but that these men’s opinions are representative of much that is verily believed in Europe is an unpleasant but important fact.