Atlantic Shop-Talk

Snows and Books

The snows of yesteryear are one thing and the books of previous seasons are quite another. If with every autumn’s first snowfall of books a ShopTalker knew in his heart that they were mere creatures of a day, that heart would be heavy, and his discourse would reveal the fact. When he finds that the books of which he had something to say a year or two ago are still worth talking about, he feels no need to “put a cheerful courage on,” for that feeling already warms him, and he talks with equal fervor of the present and of the past.

First let him speak of enthusiasms that have survived. He cannot do so without recalling the fact that two years ago the Atlantic Monthly Press was bringing out the Letters of William James, edited by his son, Henry James. It was our belief at the time that this was not a book for a single season, but a piece of biographical literature possessing a human and intellectual interest which would give it an enviable permanence. This confidence has been justified, and the accident that its date of publication was 1920 has not in the least affected its freshness for readers of 1922—and this will be true for many subsequent years.

Only a year ago we were publishing Professor Bliss Perry’s Life and Letters of Henry Lee Higginson. Since then there have been many tokens—of which only one need be cited—to indicate its vitality, of a kind peculiarly welcome to producers of books. An organization called the New England Federation of Harvard Clubs has for some years made a practice of distributing book-prizes to boys in New England schools, public and private. In the academic year that ended last June it awarded its prizes to boys in thirty-three of these schools. The prize in every instance was a copy of Mr. Perry’s book, autographed by the author and bound in full crimson morocco, hand-tooled, stamped with the Harvard seal and the motto: Pro insigni in studiis diligentia et in rebus virtute. Doubtless many of the prize-winners have carried, or will carry, their books to Yale, Princeton, or Williams—Mr. Perry’s college—instead of to Harvard—Major Higginson’s. But the use of the book for this significant purpose was a gratifying endorsement of its enduring value.

Hooks and Eyes

To go even a little farther back into the short history of the Atlantic Monthly Press would be to encounter An American Idyll, by Mrs. Carleton H. Parker, and The Amenities of Book-Collecting, by A. Edward Newton, which have never ceased in their steady finding of new readers. More recent books, like The Little Garden, by Mrs. Francis King, The Mutineers, and The Great Quest, by Charles Boardman Hawes, books for boys which have delighted many older readers, just as Wild Brother, by William Lyman Underwood, a book addressed to adults, has caused multitudes of children to “listen in”—these, and a score of others, might be named in evidence that Atlantic books do not quickly exhaust their newness. Fortunately the process of combining the eyes of all the right readers with the hooks of all the right books cannot be accomplished in any given six months.

New England and National History

A year ago last May The Founding of New England, by James Truslow Adams was published by the Atlantic Monthly Press. A year later its winning of the Pulitzer Prize, awarded by a jury of scholars to the best book on the history of the United States published in 1921, brought it to a prominence which happily confirmed our belief in its unusual merits. Since then (partly— may it be?—because of the prize, and partly by reason of the establishment of a chair of American history at Oxford) it has been receiving high praise in the English reviews of the first authority. Meanwhile more and more American readers are discovering it for themselves.

To these and to the earlier friends of the books, it will be good news that Mr. Adams has just completed a second volume, carrying the history of New England up to the War of the Revolution. W e hope to publish it in 1923.

Another Jury Verdict

The Honorable Theodore Roosevelt has recently written to Mr. Henry B. Beston, author of The Firelight Fairy Book, expressing his admiration for that collection of imaginative tales. In the course of the letter he says: —

What makes me even more willing to advance my opinion is that I do not stand alone. My conclusions are supported by a jury of my peers, for I have given the book as a Christmas gift, not only to my own children, but to other people’s children, and to one of the prominent Senators of the United States. They have universally acclaimed it, and who can question the judgment of such a jury?

This letter is to be used as a “Foreword” to a school edition of The Firelight Fairy Book now in preparation. The demand for it in a form which will widely extend its juvenile audience has been insistent.

The New Books

If so much is said this month about our books of former seasons, it is not at all because the Shop-Talker has nothing to say about the 1922 publications, He has been saying it for the past few months, and will doubtless revert to the topic a month hence. In this issue of the Atlantic it is enough to let the advertising pages speak for the new books. What these paragraphs are intended especially to emphasize is that the latest publications have merely joined hands with a number of older brothers on our list, and that the whole company is marching on together. For ourselves, we hope never to reach the point when our interest in the books we publish ceases with their first editions.

There was once, by the way, a publishing firm in Boston which won the gratitude of authors and of discriminating readers by bringing out a number of excellent books. The firm, however, won from a wag the appellation, or epitaph, “Publishers of First Editions.” After a few years of existence it ceased, many years ago, to be. Mortuary inscriptions, even outside Spoon River, have their value as warnings.

Boswell at Home

Early in September Young Boswell, by Professor Chauncey B. Tinker, was published in England. As these words are written the first reviews in the English journals are beginning to reach us. Of course it is reassuring to find that the book makes the same impression of value and charm in England as here. It is pleasant also to observe the matter-of-fact way in which Professor Tinker is described as an “American Boswellian”—just as one might say an American electrician or pugilist. Why not indeed? The American collector has been so busy for several decades in bringing across the Atlantic the material for specialists in every conceivable field of inquiry that the Americanization of isms and anas has no narrower a limit than—shall we say?—that of Mr. Bok himself.

Sparing the Rod

Mr. R. G. Jones, Superintendent of Schools in Cleveland, Ohio, is evidently a believer in the latest devices in education. The birch rod and the ferule have long disappeared from American pedagogics. The electric switch, as employed by Mr. Jones, suggests infinite possibilities. We might never have heard of this new punitive device had we not sent him a copy of our new educational text, Famous Stories by Famous Authors, which has called forth the following letter to the Atlantic Monthly Press: —

Your new text, Famous Stories by Famous Authors, comprises a splendid selection of stories, and my thirteen-year-old boy bad to have the electric switch turned on him every night to get him to bed until he had finished with them. Be it known he is given to play rather than reading, and I regarded the test put to the book a bit severe.

I hope many, many boys may have the same joy in these stories.