THERE is an old story of a woman in London who had seen better days and was reduced by the pressure of circumstances to selling sprats on the streets. She took up her station on the sidewalk, and in the gentlest of voices announced, ‘Sprats! Sprats! I hope nobody will hear me!'
Nothing of this sort will do for the ShopTalker. In the first place, he must be sure that there are no sprats on his trays, only salmon and other fishes of the first water. Then he must speak out loud and clear, in all the confidence of one who knows that his wares are desirable and thathe is doing the public a good turn in crying them. Henceforth, then, let the seller of sprats be remembered only as a horrible example.
This month the Shop-Talker would begin his remarks by reminding all and sundry that the National Education Association will hold one of its colossal meetings in Boston in the first week of duly. The admirable programme of topics for discussion has for the general subject, ‘Education and the democratic awakening.’ One of the sub-topics is defined as ‘The criminal inequalities in educational opportunities.’ It is on this subject that the Shop-Talker would offer some preliminary observations.
He speaks for the Atlantic Monthly Press in saying that the growing list of educational textbooks is designed primarily to reduce these ‘criminal inequalities.’ Such titles as Youth and the New World and The Voice of Science in Nineteenth-Century Literature represent a definite endeavor to bring the spirit of ‘the democratic awakening’ into the classroom, and the spirit of these two hooks is to be found in many others on our educational list. It animates also such books as Mr. Yeomans’s Shackled Youth, dealing more with the tendencies of modern education than with its tools and technique.
But books are best understood in the light of their source; and those who produce them may he expected to do their work more effectively after personal contact with those who use them. Accordingly, we are planning to make the Atlantic office a centre of hospitality for teachers, especially of English, during the sessions of the N.E.A. The visiting teachers and school administrators will not want to leave Boston without seeing the Public Garden. It is to be seen to uncommon advantage from the windows of 8 Arlington Street, and there we propose to set apart certain rooms for the use of N.E.A. delegates, and there the staff of the Atlantic Monthly Press hopes to meet them in considerable numbers. To whatever extent of interest they may be rewarded by making the personal acquaintance of the Atlantic Monthly Press, we are confident that the suggestions and counsels of our visitors will materially further the work we have in hand. The pleasures of talking shop with members of the N.E.A. can by no means be wholly selfish, for the shop of education is theirs even more completely than it is ours, and there is no danger that either a host or a visitor will fall under that condemnation of a bore which defines him as a person who insists upon talking about his affairs when you want to talk about yours.
The Shop-Talker, therefore, transmits most, cordially the intelligence that the Atlantic Monthly Press will keep open house for teachers during the N.E.A. convention, and looks forward to encountering many kindred spirits.
Before leaving the subject of education, the Talker of Shop must let it be known that the Atlantic Monthly Press has recently imported from England copies of the remarkable report on The Teaching of English in England, made in 1921 to the Rt. Hon. H. A. L. Fisher, M, P., President of the Board of Education, by the Departmental Committee appointed by him to ‘inquire into the position of English in Ihe educational system of England.’ The document has already been much discussed in America, but has not been readily accessible to all the teachers and others to whom it should carry its message, recognized wherever it has been received as the most important contribution of recent times to the study of the language and literature of the English-speaking peoples throughout the world. The Atlantic Monthly Press will gladly forward a copy of the pamphlet to any address in the United States on the receipt of fifty cents.
It is to he hoped that all readers of the Atlantic diligently peruse its advertising pages. If they do they will find elsewhere in this issue of the magazine am announcement of the award of jarizes in a short-story competition among college and high-school students in classes which use the Atlantic Monthly as a textbook. The announcement might well be headed. Place aux Dames! All the winners were from the distaff side of the competition. Any other outcome would have been surprising, if only for the reason that the manuscripts submitted by young women and girls seemed far to outnumber those from young men and boys. May it not be that the expanding feminine mind turns more naturally, let us not say to fiction, but to imagination? If it had been a poetry contest, the Shop-Talker cannot help suspecting that very few boys would have competed at all.
The reader of the announcement will probably notice also the interesting geographical distribution of the prize-winners. In the college group their ports of clearance, though not necessarily their home ports, were, respectively, Columbia, Missouri; Troy, New York; and Aberdeen, South Dakota. The school group happened to be more distinctively eastern, for the winning manuscripts hailed from Brooklyn, New York; Norwalk, Connecticut; and Claremont, New Hampshire. In both groups the stories in the mass represented a most gratifying distribution, for it was literally country-wide.
What does not appear in the announcement the judges are said to have whispered to each other—that when any considerable number of stories came from a single school, the effects of an instructor’s influence were clearly visible. This is certainly a point of encouragement for the best possible teaching of English. To the Atlantic itself, it was also encouraging to note how obviously the influence of certain contributors and types of contributions was to be traced in some of the stories submitted. It should be added that the influence of the movies was also observable — which is only to say that neither editors nor film producers should take their functions too lightly.
Mr. A. Edward Newton has recently declared, in a review of Professor Tinker’s Young Boswell in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, that all Johnsonians are Boswelliansin embryo. ‘ Their number is constantly increasing,’ he remarks, ‘and this may be a good time to say that I have often observed that Johnsonians are invariably good fellows.’ So indeed they are, and if Mr. Newton s theory of evolution is correct, all the Boswellians are good fellows, too, if only through having been Johnsonians first. When the two companies get together, what praises of fair weather may be expected! Indeed, the Eighteenth Century has a way of making good fellows of all its devotees. To immerse one’s self in it is very much like donning a costume of earlier days for a fancy-dress party. You may show through to others as the miserable modern you are; but there are happy moments when you feel as if you were really the person you simulate, or so like him that you could deceive the very elect. Mr. Newton does not discover in Professor Tinker himself any replica of Boswell — and perhaps it is just as well for the continuance of a career of academic usefulness in these pedestrian days of ours. But he does exclaim, ‘I hail Professor Tinker as the discoverer of the true Boswell, and I acknowledge him as my leader. Before Boswell there was a lot of trash written about Johnson; before Tinker there was a lot of trash written about Boswell. Now the true James Boswell appears.’
If any of the more frivolous-minded readers of the Atlantic recall such papers as ‘My Wife’s Address-Book’ and ‘ My Wife’s Cheek-Book in comparatively recent issues of ‘The Contributors’ Club,’ they will probably take pleasure in a letter which came not long ago to this office—and gave much pleasure here. The correspondent made cheering remarks about the Atlantic, referred to the possibility of writing for the ‘Contributors’ Club,’ and proceeded: —
‘I wanted to express my sympathy for the man who married the feeble-minded woman, said man writing there about her method of keeping accounts and address-books; suggesting to him that if he was so afflicted it was unkind of him to laugh at her weaknesses, and then going on to suggest some change in the education of the male half of the world so that high-grade morons would not be considered cute and cunning, but rather looked upon as (it material for State institutions. Possibly I felt this matter unduly, because I had just been talking to a clever, beautiful, welleducated girl, still unmarried because she was looking for a clever man, and here was one clever enough to fit into the pages of your revered etcetera, and matched up with something like that!’
To be sure, this letter was followed by another disclaiming any desire to be taken too seriously, and confessing, 1 You see if I did n’t keep my own accounts and files very much on that same system, it would n’t have struck home to me so hard.’
Precisely because these and other papers by the same anonymous author have been found to ‘strike home’ with many representatives of the ‘well-known human race’ they have been assembled in a small, illustrated volume, The Notion-Counter, which made its spring-like appearance under the auspices of the Atlantic Monthly Press on May 1.