WE cleared our editorial throat a month ago for a few remarks about the October publications of the Atlantic Monthly Press. Since that time good luck has thrown in our way a saying of Vauvenargne’s, which applies with peculiar aptness to Major Higginson, whose Life and Letters, by Professor Bliss Perry, is one of the autumn books about which a great deal might be said. ‘What makes a fine life,’the saying runs, ’is a great thought of youth realized in maturer years.
Henry Lee Higginson, studying music abroad in the fifties, had the great thought of providing for the people of his own city and country orchestral music just as beautiful and uplifting as that which he was hearing in Vienna. In his maturer years, after hard work with a definite object in view, he realized this thought through the foundation of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he maintained for nearly forty years. The French moralist could not have found a better embodiment of the truth contained in his generalization.
If Major Higginson’s contribution to the cause of music in America had been all that he accomplished, it would have been much. But many other good causes — education, the best citizenship, and human betterment in many forms— were close to his heart, and to all of these he made the contribution of a great personality. Fortunately this was expressed through a steady outpouring of highly characteristic letters, filled with the writer’s own generosity, humor, and vigor. His biographer thus found himself provided with a wealth of excellent material that was almost embarrassing.
This was material of a kind which Professor Perry is peculiarly qualified to handle—all the more because he is one of those Bostonians by adoption who can regard the Brahmin annals of New England primarily in their human and broadly American significance. His book is, therefore, addressed to readers in Chicago and San Francisco quite as much as to those in Boston and New York. After all, in life as in fiction, it is only when the local and personal partake a universal quality, that a character commands, or deserves, general attention. Such a character was Major Higginson.
The regular edition of Professor Perry’s, biography will appear in a single volume. For the benefit of collectors and of friends of Major Higginson who will value a more personal memorial, a small limited, ‘large paper’ edition, in two volumes, containing illustrations, portraits, and facsimile letters, not appearing in the one-volume edition, will also be printed. On the day before Christmas it will still be possible to buy the book in the so-called ‘trade edition.’ We should be sorry to believe that this may also be said of the limited edition’ — and mention this feeling for whatever it may suggest.
Wild Brother is the title finally chosen for the extraordinary bear story by William Lyman Underwood, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which we mentioned last month. Its sub-title. Strangest of True Stories from the North Woods, does not at all overstate the claims of this narrative. If there had been photographers in the days of Romulus and Remus, and if the early narrative of those worthies could have been made a matter of pictured records, fact might have supplanted fable in the story of the founding of Rome. Mr. Underwood is a photographer of uncommon skill, and his story of a Maine woods cub and his human foster-sister, Ursula, is so incontestably documented with pictures covering all the episodes in the strange life of a strange pet that what might well appear as fable is established as fact. Picture and text are joined to remarkable purpose in a story both of human kindness and of animal life under unique Conditions. The narrative and the photographs are equally certain to take a distinctive and permanent place in the chronicles of animal lore.
‘The time and the place and the loved one all together,’ is a phrase which may be applied without undue strain to a small volume which the Atlantic Monthly Press will issue in October. Its title is Many Children; its author, Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer; its illustrator, Florence Wyman Ivins; its printer, Mr. D. B. Updike, of the Merrymount Press. Text and picture and format have not often been combined to better purpose. The verses and the designs are concerned wholly with children; and children with any instinct for beauty are sure to respond to the charm of fancy, of rhythm in word and line, which the little book embodies. The adult book-lover — if he may be likened remotely to the kind uncle who cannot be restrained from escorting small nephews to the circus — will share it with ‘the children,’and thoroughly enjoy it himself, especially if he cares for both the outside and the inside of books,
The work of Mrs. Ivins, by the way, has recently been honored by a special exhibition in one of the Class Rooms at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, under the designation of ‘The Children’s World, in Drawings, Woodcuts and Sketches, by Florence Wyman Ivins.’
It happens that Mrs. Ivins has also provided the colored woodcuts which will decorate the reprint of A Visit from St. Nicholas, which Mr. Bruce Rogers and Mr. William Edwin Rudge are producing for publication by the Atlantic Monthly Press. This is something more than a Christmas card. Indeed, it presents the American Christmas classic in a form which will bespeak the permanence of careful preservation.
A fire that consumed, in June, one of the buildings of the Rumford Press, at Concord, New Hampshire, where the three magazines issued from this office, besides many of our books, are printed, caused some delay in the delivery of July periodicals, and might well have played havoc with a number of publications in process of manufacture. As a matter of fact, it made only one appreciable change in our publishing programme. This was the postponement of the publication date of The Little Garden, by Mrs. Francis King, which was to have appeared early in the summer, and now is scheduled for issue with our September books. The silver lining of this particular cloud is found in the fact that many members of the gardening brotherhood — and sisterhood — may find in this latest book by Mrs. King one of those Christmas remembrances (they are none too abundant!) which are equally blessed to receive and to give.
At the other end of the Atlantic a review of Shackled Youth, by Edward Yeomans, will be found. It cannot be amiss to supplement this notice by some words from the author, though they were written without any thought of publication. In a recent letter he says: ‘I am not so much interested in this book’s fortunes as a thing in itself, but because it is a part of a general effort, by various people you and I both know, to keep a clear and steady point of view in the terrible turmoil of modern life. This point of view is not a luxury, but a necessity. It is in the general direction of beauty, which term can be safely extended to include everything worth while — social justice, discipline, music, religion, anything at all.’
If there are those who believe that Mr. Yeomans is a mere voice crying in the wilderness, let them secure such a document as the report of a convention for the Progressive Education Association, held in Dayton, Ohio, last April, just before Shackled Youth made its appearance; or let them take note of such a gathering as the joint meeting, in July, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Progressive Education Association. Through such conferences as these it is made manifest that the very aspirations for the unshackling of youth to which Mr. Yeomans has given so effective a voice are those which are now stirring the organized effort of considerable bodies of men and women in the profession of teaching all over the country. Thus are things wont to go forward. A single book may serve as a light through eastern windows; a ’movement’ spreads — and westward, look, the land is bright.
One of the first substantial reviews of The Founding of New England, by James Truslow Adams, appeared in the Springfield Republican. The reviewer declared that the book, ‘so far as contributions to American historical writing are concerned, is the real joy of the tercentenary period,’ and especially commended the author for attempting to serve no end but historic truth. This review caused Mr. Adams to address to the Republican a letter of appreciation which should really have a wider reading than the columns of any single newspaper can afford. Two paragraphs from it will interest both those who have been reading Mr. Adams’s book and the general company of believers in sound historical writing; —
‘Although, as the writer notes, I have no New England blood, by chance I am quite as much an American as any of the Mayflower descendants, for my first Adams ancestor came to Maryland in 1659, and on my Spanish side my ancestors have been settled in South America since 1558, or sixtytwo years before the celebrated little ship left the shores of England. I have been in all but five states in the Union, have lived in a number of them as well as knocking around other parts of the world, and on the one hand, am conscious of no local prejudice, and, on the other, am devoted to this country and its past. But I believe there are few things more dangerous, nationally and internationally, than falsifying history and misinterpreting the men, movements, and conditions of an earlier time. It not only vitiates the value of history as a guide, but gives a seeming basis for all sorts of false and dangerous movements and prejudices in the present.
‘In writing my book, I tried to hold the scales of justice as even as a fallible man can, and I have been extremely interested in seeing how the public would receive it, not because it is my book, but because it is an attempt to tell the truth. One of my friends, perhaps the ablest student of the Revolutionary period among American scholars, told me recently that he found a decided improvement since the war in the opemnindedness of the average American toward the truth of that period.’
So, indeed, may it be!