The Contributors' Column
L. Adams Beck, whose tales of the East have been a distinguished feature of the present volume of the Atlantic, writes: —
I cannot express what I have learned from the Orient. Ex Oriente lux is, I believe, a simple statement of truth. I have had many talks with the wise men of the East. A little knowledge and a great love have opened many closed doors.
William Beebe is now on duty at the Tropical Research Station (at Kartabo, British Guiana) of the New York Zoölogical Society, of which station he is Director. A. Clutton-Brock, an English man of letters, lecturer, essayist, and lover of gardens, is art critic of the Times.Frances Lester Warner is connected with the English Composition Department of Wellesley College. Samuel McChord Crothers is minister of the First (Unitarian) Church of Cambridge, Massachusetts. F. Jacquelin Swords sends this first contribution to the Atlantic from New York City. Elizabeth Madox Roberts, a student in the University of Chicago, writes concerning her poems — of which we propose to print others in January — that they are autobiographical, and that the people in them belong to the old Kentucky town which is her home.
The letters of Alice G. Masaryk from her prison in Vienna were written in German and have been translated by Miss Fjeril Hess, of the Young Women’s Christian Association Unit in Czecho-Slovakia, which was responsible for the acquisition, translating, and editing of the letters. Strictly speaking, Professor Masaryk has not been chosen President of the Republic for life; but the new Constitution significantly provides that only the first president may be selected for more than two consecutive terms. The letters referred to in the November Column as having been published recently in Prague were those written by Miss Masaryk to Miss Kotikova. We were in error in stating in the introduction to the letters that Miss Masaryk was in residence at Hull House. She received her training in social work at the University of Chicago Settlement under Mary McDowell. Charles S. Brooks is a familiar American essayist, author of Pippins and Cheese and other volumes full of the flavor of a pleasant and contented leisure. The paper on ‘The Wild West,’ by Edward Townsend Booth, of Plainfield, New Jersey, is based on personal experience.
My first job [he writes] was rough carpentering and concrete work, and lasted until the first cutting of alfalfa, which I weathered as a ‘shocker,’ spike-pitcher, and weigh-master. When the hay was baled and shipped, I found work as an irrigator, and irrigated until the second cutting. I went through the second cutting in the terrific heat of midsummer, and had to rest for ten days at Mount Rainier, where I had interesting experiences traveling as a ‘working stiff’ in overalls and with an untrimmed beard. Finally, I went through the wheat harvest as a shocker.
Harriet A. Smith, as a member of a Red Cross Unit organized to accompany the Near East Relief Commission to Asiatic Turkey, arrived in Urfa in full time to share the discomforts and anxieties of the twomonths’ siege of that city in the spring of this year. The tragedy that followed the raising of the siege is described in the concluding installment of her diary, to appear in January. James Park is a practising attorney of San Antonio, Texas. Laura Spencer Portor; story-teller, essayist, and poet, whose name has long been familiar to our readers, is on the editorial staff of the Woman’s Home Companion.William G. Landon, of Heath, Massachusetts, discusses the problem of the ‘Soaring Hawk’ from the standpoint of one who has had experience as a ‘bird-man.’ Lucy Elliot Keeler is the accomplished librarian of the Fremont (Ohio) Public Library.
Charlotte Kellogg (Mrs. Vernon Kellogg) has recently returned from a trip which took her on the adventurous course that she describes in this paper. Henry Walsworth Kinney, a graduate of Copenhagen University, was long editor of the Hilo Tribune, and later Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Territory of Hawaii. He is now on the staff of an English-language magazine in Tokyo, and correspondent of American papers. Bernhard Knollenberg is a practising lawyer in New York City, associated with the firm of Root, Clark, Buckner and Howland. P. W. Harrison has been for many years working in Arabia, as a member of the staff of the Arabian Mission of the Reformed Church.
Is Boston really the Boston of Legend? Is education there gross to the sense, and culture palpable? A letter in this column a month or two since has evoked widespread testimony, which even the idol-breakers should find conclusive. Here we can adduce but fragments of it.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Twice a year, a Brookline junkman visits me to collect old rubber. In the days when we still had resident grand opera in Boston, he came to me one afternoon in spring. While I waited for him to finish his business, I whistled Verdi. Suddenly I was asked, ‘Do you like opera?’ — ' Wha-at?’ — ' Do you like grand opera? ’ I stepped close to him, so as to lose no syllable. ‘ Do you mind saying that again; what did you ask me?’ — ‘ Why, I asked you if you liked grand opera.’ Assuring him that I ‘liked opera,’ I inquired how he happened to ask me the question. ‘ Oh, I heard you whistling Rigoletto, and I thought that perhaps you went to the opera. You see, in winter I’m assistant stage-manager at the Boston Opera.’
HAROLD W. DANA, M.D.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
May I add two small anecdotes of our beloved Boston to your September tale? The first is peculiarly apropos, for it concerns a policeman.
A friend of mine, desiring to cross Tremont St., gazed anxiously upon the flood of gas-driven vehicles, stepped forward, hesitated on the brink, then stepped timorously back. A burly Hibernian, clad in the majesty of the law and a policeman’s blessed blue, waved his hand encouragingly and shouted, ‘Come on, you doubting Thomas!’
The other experience is my own. I had drifted into Shreve, Crump and Low’s one morning, to pass a quarter of an hour and cheat the flight of time by looking at some antiques, tapestries, and the like. A polite high-school boy followed us about, to answer questions and incidentally, no doubt, to make sure that we did not remove a carved chest or a grandfather’s clock. As we neared the elevator, we stopped to look at some ancient muskets with inlaid stocks, which he said were Swiss. With a mild intention of seeming interested and filling a conversational pause, I said, I suppose William Tell might have used one of these. ’ Fatal error, or happy inspiration! He struggled for a moment with his excellent manners, which hesitated about correcting a lady, then gently reminded me, ‘I think William Tell used a cross-bow.’
After that, the messenger boy reading Dickens and the plainly dresssed business woman who advised me one day to go to see Mr. Sargent’s rhododendrons seemed ‘undeniably to fit.’
C. H. T.
‘A LITERARY POLICEMAN’
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Neither from Gath, nor from Askelon — only from Ohio, the state of Buckeyes and Presidents. Three of our icemen left us in turn — one to enter the Case School of Applied Science, two to enter the University. Can Boston do better? E.
And one Scoffer more: —
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Three anecdotes of Boston culture that I am fond of telling cap H. J. H.’s letter in your September Contributors’ Column. The Cambridge car was crowded one winter’s afternoon, but by squeezing up I made room beside me for a heavy, square, florid, plain woman in an elephant-colored dress. Altogether too plain for a cook, was my mental comment — more like a practical nurse. Her companion, more ladylike, — to use the old-fashioned word, — found a perch on the edge of the seat directly opposite. Strap-hangers swayed before us, the conductor climbed over our feet, the wheels ground on. After she had got her breath, the large lady beside me leaned forward between the strap-hangers, and slightly raising her voice, addressed her friend across the aisle, ‘What do you think of Bergson? ’ The crowning grace of the story to me has always been that, told in Boston, it never struck anyone as funny.
Number two. My friend, peering up through her lorgnette at a decoration over a door in an obscure corner of the Public Library, demanded of a soft-stepping guardian, ‘Can you tell me, please, is that fresco or bas-relief? ’ ‘I don’t know what kind of leaf it is, madam, but I will inquire at the desk,’ was the courteous reply. And the particular joy of this tale was the exclamation of the Boston lady to whom it was told that evening: ‘0 Anna, in our Library? Not really!'
And number three has been my trump card for a dozen years. I was in hospital, and used to watch for our orderly in his white suit, with his beaming Irish mug, reddish-haired, cleanskinned, a merry smile of gleaming teeth, and strong, trusty arms — a very presentment of health. Tim told me he was born in Boston, and had lived there all his life. One day the nurse asked me to save my New York Times picture supplement for Tim, ‘and tell him about the pictures, for he can’t read.’ Can’t read! ! ! Lived in Boston all his life! ' His mother could n’t keep him in school when he was a kid, and as he grew older he was so ashamed that he could n’t read, he would n’t let anyone know. Now his wife says she is going to teach him.’ And my Boston friend greeted this with, ‘If you had n’t told me this, I would n’t believe it.’ S. M. I.
A philosophic anecdote will not be lost on readers of this Column.
On reading Mr. Bartlett’s ‘The Newer Justice’ in your September number, I was strongly reminded of the reply of a professor in the Harvard Law School, to my contention that a certain ruling of the courts, a well-settled precedent, was not just. Said the eminent jurist with a sigh, ‘If you want justice, go to the Divinity School. We study law here.’ W. G. R.
Few Americans there are returning from work abroad, who have not in their minds some such thoughts as these.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Had the editor of the Atlantic received a letter from a certain ‘ admiring reader ’ from Erivan, the Caucasus, he would, unless better informed geographically than many fellow editors, doubtless have reached for his atlas and become interested in the contents of that communication.
This reader was impelled more than once during her six-months’ stay in the shadow of Mount Ararat, as a worker in Near-East Relief, to write a letter to the Atlantic, chiefly in sheer gratitude that postal obstacles seemed always to be overcome by the essential magazine. Though often two months late, it was the only magazine that could be counted on to arrive. But countless demands of fifty thousand hungry orphans and refugees made the pleasures of ‘joy-writing’ out of the question.
However, the last paragraph from the diary of Lieutenant Weeden, who wrote so entertainingly in the September Atlantic of the Sixty-two-day Siege of Urfa, seemed to call for a further word from the Near East. One cannot help wondering if Lieutenant Weeden has yet returned to the America he loves, and which has grown peculiarly dear to him because of his enforced stay at Urfa. If he has not, it would seem a good and wise thing for him to remain at his work in the Near East, because America seems to look better from a distance of six thousand or more miles than close at hand, just at present. If he has returned, does he feel that America is doing and being ‘ all that is just and Christian,’ as he and many other returned workers want her to do and be?
Of course we love our home-land, as we love our dear ones, in spite of their faults. But when our dear ones fall down on some big principle, it hurts. We go on loving them and hope for better things next time. But we love more ardently while hoping than while smarting from the hurt.
A letter sent out by aeroplane from a worker undergoing similar experiences in the siege of Adana says, ‘ I can’t see America keeping this up indefinitely. Something bigger and stronger than anything which has been tried in Turkey yet will have to settle it all.’
Does the Atlantic know what America is going to do to redeem herself in the eyes of the world, and make it possible for those who may choose to be of service in lands more needy than ours, not to feel always on the defensive for the selfishness and ingrown-ness of an America-for-Americans?
CLARA LIVERMORE CARRUTH.
Most of us can see further into a millstone than we can into German minds, but speculative readers will be interested in these extracts from the letters of a distinguished South German professor, before and after our entrance into the war, as concrete examples of German psychology.
September 29, 1914. — It is too ridiculous to read that America likes and reveres the Germany of Beethoven and Goethe and so on; but that it hates the Germany of Bismarck and Moltke and Ballin and Siemens and Krupp; as if the Germans, who have lost 200 years of their development in consequence of the Thirty Years’ War, had no other mission on this planet than to make philosophy and poetry for other nations, which meanwhile conquered all good things of the world for themselves. This is the very naïve idea of the English; and there was the cause of their hatred and ignominious envy of modern Germany! But it is a pity that free Americans follow willingly this selfish and senseless way of thinking!
There is nothing more stupid than this outpouring of wrath and anger against German militarism. . . . The nation in arms — this is no furious blatant militarism; this is the consequence of the sacred conviction of every German, that his nation, which is the most cultured, the most learned, and the best administered in all five continents, that his nation is surrounded by the bitterest envy and hatred of all those nations who sit around him, big and small ones. Therefore the German has to make himself the most feared in the world, for he knows that all love is lost as far as Germany is concerned.
One of the most curious mistakes is the idea, lately uttered so often in England and America, that there is any difference of feeling and of nature between Prussia and the other Germans. This is a hopeless idea! Prussia and Germany are one and the same thing!
July 1, 1915.—The best thing is this: our armies are victorious everywhere. . . . This is the real situation, which in vain the hateful liar press from England, and its victims in America, try to conceal from the masses on both sides of the Atlantic. I say in vain, for the truth is necessarily making its way everywhere. The world will be obliged to acknowledge the strength and the good right [Macht und Recht] of the German Nation, and the sooner it is acknowledged, the better for the world.
May 15,1920. — I think you must have known the position which since more than thirty years I have taken opposite modern Germany, for you knew how . . . I had remained a German of that old type which begins with Herder and Goethe and finds its political expression in the German Democracy of 1848. . . . All my friends in England knew . . . that I had remained the old faithful pupil of Anglo-Saxon Democracy during the war, and my public work for the peace from the beginning has not been unnoticed by them. . . . Therefore I understand entirely your feelings toward Imperialism, Militarism, and Prussianism. I think we have been both on the same line all the time.
A very different note is struck in this letter from a young German woman, who was formerly an instructor at Smith College.
DEAR ’97, —
From the Bulletin, which our dear Emma Porter sent me, I learned that ’97 is to have a reunion on Ivy Day, June 16. I once belonged to you — spent, as you did, the same four years in dear old Smith. As I look back upon all the years spent in America those four years are particularly dear to my heart. For that reason I should like to send you a greeting. It comes from a land that once upon a time had a good reputation everywhere in the world; now it is different. But, dear '97, with my greetings to you I should like to tell you that in this land ever so many men and women are working hard to build up that reputation again.
Knowing the American people as well as I do, I am convinced, as time goes on, more and more will begin to trust our people again, after they begin to realize how misled and misruled they are! Of you ’97 ‘girls,’ — ‘my class,’ — I should like to ask: begin to trust, to believe in some of my countrymen now; give us a chance; in due time the whole nation will stand upright again before the world.
As for me, lam leading a very busy life. If there is any one of you who would like to have an Einblick in my life I shall be delighted to give it.
With good wishes and einen herzlichen deutschen Griiss, I am in thought with you on Ivy Day.
BERTHA J. BARTELMANN SCHACHT.
THE EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
DEAR SIR, —
In a pleasant letter in the Contributors’ Column, Mr. Erich A. O’D. Taylor of Newport, Rhode Island, says: ‘The author of “The Whimsical Goddess” seems to be under the impression that the ’possum is capable of feigning death to escape its enemies, much in the same way as the man in the story feigned death to escape the bear. Such is not the case.’ Mr. Taylor then reviews Fabre’s experiments with beetles and scorpions, demonstrating that these creatures, while apparently feigning death, were really in a state of hypnosis or in a faint brought on by shock or fright. Mr. Taylor also points out that birds can be hypnotized. He infers that the ’possum, while ‘ playing ’possum,’ is not feigning death, but has been rendered unconscious by fear or nervous shock. ‘The shamming of the ’possum,’ he asserts, ‘is no more a trick than that of the bird, beetle, or scorpion, or the fainting of a woman on hearing of her husband’s sudden death.’
The great trouble with Mr. Taylor’s theory is this — it is in conflict with thoroughly established facts. Among these the most important is the fact that the ’possum, while ‘playing ’possum,’ knows what is happening around it. Give it a good opportunity, and it will scramble to its feet and make off. Unlike Fabre’s beetle, which woke up slowly and gradually, like ‘one returning to consciousness after a faint or deep sleep,’ the ’possum ‘wakes up’ cautiously but in full possession of its faculties. In short, it has never lost consciousness at all. Mr. Taylor, in discussing Fabre’s beetle, says that ‘if it was shamming, when the danger had passed it would at once turn over and escape.’ True; and that is exactly what the ’possum will do, if you give it the chance.
If you come upon a ’possum on a fence or on the limb of a tree, it will not ‘ play ’possum ’ no matter how much you prod it or threaten it with your stick. Why? Because if it did so, it would fall from the fence or the limb. If the ’possum’s ‘ playing ’possum ’ were a state of hypnosis or a faint induced by fright, would n’t one discovered on a fence be just as frightened and just as apt to faint as one discovered on the ground?
As for Mr. Taylor’s statement that the ’possum cannot possibly feign death because ‘ in order to imitate something one must have some idea of the thing one would imitate,’ nature provides many illustrations of the fallacy of this reasoning. Thus there are insects which imitate the twig of a tree, not only in form and color, but also in the attitudes they assume. The larva (generally known as inch-worm) of the geometrid moth attaches one end of its body to the branch of a tree and, when disturbed, holds its body stiffly out from the branch at an acute angle, so that it resembles exactly a short twig projecting from the branch. Unquestionably it is imitating a twig; but nobody supposes that the individual larva has reasoned the whole process out and understands exactly what it is doing and why its action may save its life.
Probably the live ’possum’s imitation of a dead ’possum has become through ages of repetition a purely instinctive action; but it is a real imitation, and not a faint or a state of hypnosis or an ‘exhibition of nerves.’
HERBERT R. SASS.
We have recently received from Paris a textual copy of a decision of the courts which shows that, in the paper entitled ‘German Corruption of the Foreign Press,’ by ‘Lysis,’ printed in the June, 1918, Atlantic, we were mistaken in reporting that La Société Européenne de Publicité hadafinancial interest in the German company. The latter, as our article explained, stretched its tentacles like an octopus across many countries; but in a recent law-suit, this French company has been officially exculpated, and we are glad to make this announcement.