The Contributors' Column
Is Heredity the most important item in one’s character? By the laws of nature it takes two people to make one. What is your ancestry? From which ancestor do you get your special character?
|Generation||Number of ancestors in each generation||Total number of ancestors|
Which particular trait of yours do you ascribe to your two-millionth ancestor in the twentieth generation preceding yours?
Make it easier. Which do you ascribe to your two-thousandth ancestor in the tenth generation preceding yours, who might have come over in the Mayflower?
When you think that in the twenty generations preceding those already counted each of your ancestors in that last generation had another two million odd ancestors of his or her own, you begin to wonder just wherein your particular claim to special heredity differs from your neighbors.
These questions, with the very suggestive ancestral table, come to us from Mr. Edwin H. Brown, and in this number of the Atlantic Vernon Kellogg devotes a paper to answering them. Atlantic readers have known Mr. Kellogg not only as a distinguished biologist, but as a profound observer of life in many fields. Formerly professor of biology in Leland Stanford University, he became Herbert Hoover’s right hand man in the Committee for Relief in Belgium. More recently he has returned from a mission to Poland under the A.R.A. to become executive secretary and chairman of the division of educational relations of the National Research Council at Washington.
Seal Thompson, who is a member of the department of Bible study at Wellesley, is a Quaker. During a year spent as a teacher in Yen Cheng College, the women’s college of Peking University, she wrote these letters to her friends. Ferdinand Reyher is a newspaper man who was a correspondent in Germany and in the Balkans prior to our entrance into the war. Poet, missionary, and essayist, Jean Kenyon Mackenzie contributes to the Atlantic this month her first short story. Alice Meynell, the English poet, is widely known as the author of some of the most spiritual lyrics in the language.
To analyze and to put into intelligent unity the many elements that are making American literature of to-day and to-morrow is the task that Stuart P. Sherman undertakes in his paper. He is a philosopher, a student of life, and professor of English at the University of Illinois. Edward Yeomans is a Chicago manufacturer who has written many thoughtful essays upon education. He is the author of the volume, Shackled Youth, published by the Atlantic Monthly Press.
Lucy Furman of the Hindman School has already published several vivid chapters of life among the Kentucky mountains. A volume of these stories will be brought out soon by the Atlantic Monthly Press. Lovers of biography, who have seen the other ’American Portraits’ need no introduction to Gamaliel Bradford. We recommend to all parents the poem, ‘To Rebecca, Growing Up,’ which Fannie Stearns Gifford sends us. She is an old Atlantic contributor, the author of ‘Soul! — Soul!’ which appeared in the August Atlantic.Herbert Ravenel Sass knows the treacheries of the woods through his own experience, though by profession he is a journalist of South Carolina. The opinion of the President of Amherst College, Alexander Meiklejohn, carries weight in academic circles. At our invitation he sends us his paper on college games.
Whatever the Russian peasant ultimately decides, that shall be done in Russia. This is the theme of the most searching analysis of Russia we have yet read. Formerly professor of economics in Wellesley, Louis Levine has just returned from eight mouths’ travel and observation in Russia, as correspondent of the Chicago Daily News. Ten years’ study of religious conditions in Europe has given Kenneth D. Miller the material from which he writes ‘Revolutionizing Religion in Europe.’ At present he is preaching in the Czech language in the Jan Hus Church in New York City. C. H. Bretherton is a member of the staff of the Irish Times. He writes also for the Morning Post, ‘ not reports of events,’ he tells us, ‘ but criticisms of them and forecasts, pessimistic, but, so far, painfully correct.’ He knows Ireland possibly better than anyone who is not a native of it and perhaps better than most natives, although he never set foot in it until 1918. From the early part of that year until the close of 1919, he had charge of all the British Government contracts in Ireland and was constantly traveling through the country, supervising contracts and placing new ones. He writes, ‘wherever there was a sewingmachine or a loom or a circular saw, there was I, trying to get stuff made for the British and American armies.’ Mr. Arthur Moore has served as correspondent of the London Times in the Balkans, in Russia, in Mesopotamia, in Palestine, and in Persia. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and author of The Orient Express, a brilliant book of Eastern travel. Mr. Moore, who has journeyed to Kabul from Peshawar by way of Jelalabad and Nimla, attended from the Khyber Pass by an escort provided by the Afghan Foreign Minister, is the first nonofficial British visitor to the Afghan capital.
We have seen pages in the Atlantic, telling of war and famine, that ‘froze one’s blood.’ We have never known them before to warm one’s toes.
DEAR ATLANTIC, ―
You may be amused to hear of a lowly use to which your pages were put this summer. On a point of rocks jutting out to sea we had a room with five windows and an outside door giving on the ocean. These stood wide, day and night, through tumult of wind and wave no less than through rippling quiet. We chose an open fire and many clothes rather than to shut anything. One night of fascinating aurora that held us late, gazing at the green streamers radiating from the lambent disc, it was really cold; so the August Atlantic, without apology, was heated through and through before the wood fire and tucked into bed against cold toes. It did the trick as well as ever it supplied the brain. Thank you anew.
LEONORA B. HALSTED.
Memphis, it seems, has something to live up to — or to live down. Here Jazz first was.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
The word ‘Blues,’ used to designate a certain type of song, seems to have excited a great deal of speculation as to its origin, and amateur philologists have advanced all sorts of explanations — all of them I believe incorrect.
‘Blues’ songs were originated in Memphis, Tennessee, by W. C. Handy, a negro musician. Handy is a typically southern negro musician, with a more than average education, and a decided flair for harmonization.
I remember a few years ago, when I was living in a small town near Memphis, we young men would bring out ‘Handy’s Band’ for our big dances. We were very extravagant, for he used to charge us a hundred dollars and traveling expenses; but in youth — there is nothing too good for us.
The first of the ‘Blues’ was ‘The Memphis Blues,’ or ‘ Mr. Crump,’ as Handy first named it. Mr. Crump was, and is, an important political personage in Memphis, and Handy probably thought to show his admiration by composing words and music to honor ‘Papa Crump,’ as he was called in the song. The name ‘Memphis Blues’ was taken from that of a social-military organization of that name, for whose dances Handy probably played a great many times. Handy then produced the ‘Beale Street Blues’ which were named after the Broadway of the negro capital of America, ‘Beale Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee.’
Certainly — positively, and most assuredly, the word ‘Blues’ did not originate from an attempt to portray a feeling of melancholy, and an attempt to connect it with the German word Blau, while ingenious enough, is also rather ingenuous.
The peculiar harmony of the ‘Blues’ is typically negro, and can be heard in their religious songs, their levee chants, and in all their spontaneous musical productions.
Perhaps their peculiar harmonies, the sliding of their voices up and down the scale, go back to a trait described some issues back in the Atlantic, by a writer from German East Africa who told how natives, singing, would throw their voices into a falsetto, which they described as singing in the small voice.
We of the South love the ‘Blues.’ Since childhood we have heard their harmonies and when we dance or dine their playing gives us the satisfaction that Bach gives to musicians — at least when they are writing about their musical reactions.
We are glad to chronicle, in view of the Atlantic’s recent papers on ‘Opium,’ that the International Opium Commission has met and that Great Britain formulated and presented a world-scheme for the control of traffic in the drug.
It is mortifying to add that America, like Turkey and Persia, did not see fit to be represented.
This comes from reading the Atlantic — and especially George Moore — in the middle of housework.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
It was immediately after breakfast this morning — I was washing the dishes — when — what was it that I intended to read last night — what was — oh yes!
As I am a totally irresponsible young person, I sideswiped my hands on a tea-towel and, putting a pot of hot coffee on Susan, the tea-wagon, I trundled her into the living-room where I plumped down into a comfortable chair. Then I picked up the Atlantic and flicked the pages open to ‘A Conversation in Ebury Street.’
Such a conversation! Farewell, my poor wondering breakfast dishes, farewell housewifely virtues (too few at best!), au revoir Madame Grundy and Father Time! '. . . a living thing, that wheedles, cajoles, interests, charms, lures one’s thoughts from daily concerns and projects. . . .’
Somewhere in America the clock is striking twelve—which means lunch-time, and a very young lawyer husband with an amazing appetite.
Oh well — where was I? Oh yes, I am dining out — in Ebury street! You were saying, Mr. Husband . . . ?
Very sincerely yours,
MARIAN RUSSELL LOGAN.
We think the memoir writers are right. Domestic details really tell us more of the evolution of Europe — or the revolution — than do statistics. We append the following true tales, as proofs. Only those who know from bitter experience the social gulf that lies between vous and the ceremonial third person can truly appraise the following: —
At dinner one evening this summer, in Paris, we were discussing some of the social changes wrought by the war. Madame Z— contributed this.
‘ Arriving one morning this summer in the village where my family used to own a ‘pretty property,’ and where I now have a modest piedâ-terre, I ran into Germaine, my foster-sister, just descending also from my train. She, and her mother before her, had been for many years faitliful servitors in my mother’s household. Since the war she has married, and now she owns a ‘pretty property’ at St.-M. At the station there was but one conveyance, a handsome Panhard. Germaine came quickly over to me, to ask whether I would permit her to offer me a place in her car.
‘ “But willingly,” I cried. “I should much prefer to ride. The walk is long and it is very hot.”
‘As we rolled along she said, “I have a great favor to ask of Madame. If I should call on Madame, would Madame return my visit?”
‘ “Certainly — I used to go to see you in your little house and I shall of course go to see you in your big house.”
‘ “ I have another even greater favor to ask of Madame. Might I say ‘vous’ to Madame?”
' “ But, as much as you like! I don’t mind at all.”
' “There is just one more thing: might I say in the village that I say ‘vous’ to Madame?” ’
Shall woman abandon a career for marriage, reject marriage for a career, or try to combine them both? Mary Spencer Nimick contributes an interesting suggestion in a letter commenting on Mrs. Howes’s article ‘Accepting the Universe,’ which appeared in the April Atlantic.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Is it any wonder that women lack incentives when their attention and ambition are of necessity divided? Every girl has, sooner or later, unless she marries happily very early in life, to face an inward struggle with herself, a bitter struggle which asks why she was created and what is her purpose or her use in this world. She must reason out the veracity of ideas on which society has fed her ever since she can remember. Either she must renounce the idea of marriage and throw her whole soul into some chosen career, or refusing to give up the ideal of her girlhood, she must hopefully await its consummation.
You who have talent and joy in your work may deplore your waiting sister, but she exists, exists in large numbers too, and her incentive to work is meagre. She merely wants to mark time, not to march ahead to professional achievement.
Mrs. Howes suggests that ‘a deliberate, purposeful making over of conditions of women’s work’ would permit married women to join the ranks of working women and that as women then entered ‘the field as fully and as freely as men,’ ‘commensurate rewards and opportunities, incentives and achievements’ could be expected. Granted that the enlistment of more married women would help conditions of work for all women, there is still that dissatisfied unit among us of women working half-heartedly, working with their souls longing for the fullfillment of life’s ideal.
I, therefore, would appeal to the mothers of the rising generations to change the old order of things and thereby to win over the world’s attitude toward women. In the upbringing of your sons, you lay stress on the ideal of choosing a career, and making a success of it. Why not place the emphasis similarly for your daughters? Why not inspire them to wish to achieve perfection in a profession? Why not teach them that the end-all and be-all of life is, not to be married, but to be honorable, useful citizens of the world, whether in the capacity of paid workers or of wives?
Then at last would society also think more of the importance of a woman’s nobleness than of her finding a husband. In such a healthy atmosphere, the onus of social condemnation having been removed, every girl would be happier and her desire to benefit the working conditions of women and to enlarge their opportunities, would be whole-hearted and sincere. Marriage would still interrupt careers and would be just as welcome, but the unhappy period of struggling indecision between that ‘ persistent, vicious alternative, marriage or career,’ would most surely have disappeared.
Perhaps it is unsympathetic to hope that implanting the idea of a career may be only a partial success lest, in this new world of feminine professionals, there be none to inherit and enjoy?
Here is a suggestion from Oriental India for those fathers who are blest or afflicted with large families.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Out here in India our dusky Aryan brother looks upon the strange manners of the white man with courteous gravity, and affects to regard the atrocities committed upon his language (or languages) as quite inconsequential. We, for our part, would return him the civility at all times if we could. But sometimes the training of our comparatively recent civilization breaks down. We laugh.
Here is a letter received by an official in Madras.
‘ Honoured Sir, —
‘Having heard of your almighty mercy and loving tenderness to us worms, I tell you my circumstances. By the grace of God and your Lordship I have seven children, all babes and sucklings. Besides this abominable litter I have many male and female relations. What have I done that I should be blessed with such cersed trials. As your Lordship is our Father and Mother, I would request that you take this worm, and wife, and suckles and relations both male and female and provide for us from your bounty at a remuneration of Rs. 20/ — a month.
‘ Your faithful worm and beast,
' Despicable brute and unwilling father of babes!!’
This might be termed, perhaps, a conspiracy of courtesy.