The Contributors' Column
A FAMOUS Englishman, when interviewed on leaving the United States, remarked that prohibition was to be encouraged since it gave the people something to talk about. We have heard some talk on the subject, but none so entertaining, so heady, or so comprehensive as this of Cornelia, Her Husband, The Novelist and The Professor, Stuart P. Sherman, professor of English at the University of Illinois, will be remembered from his recent ‘ Conversation with Cornelia’ which appeared in the January Atlantic.Ramsay Traquair it was who had such a decided way with the women last September. In this number, however, Mr. Traquair has mapped a Commonwealth that is irrespective of gender or nation. Ann Alderton is continuing her experiments in cooperation with housekeepers who are attempting in their households to offer employment on a fair business basis. Ellwood Hendrick, chemist, stockbroker, and essayist by turns, has written an illuminating paper on one of the most perceptible of miracles.
It is interesting to observe that Fredoon Kabraji, an East Indian who has contributed to the English reviews, commands not only the Western idiom, but the very spirit of our best contemporary verse. Arthur Mason is a sea captain, home after forty years of roving, who will long remember the ‘feel’ of a fog. ¶Often acutely aware of a boy’s diffidence, we deem it good fortune that brought us these candid and confidential ‘Ideas on Religion.’ Herbert W. Horwill has devoted himself to an age-old question of spiritual economics which would seem to be peculiarly pertinent in these days of criticism and controversy. Charles Boardman Hawes, who died last July, was best known for his stories of the sea and of Yankee ships in far waters. His last book, The Dark Frigate, was published in October, and at the same time an announcement was made by the Atlantic Monthly Press of ‘The Charles Boardman Hawes Prize of two thousand dollars for the best manuscript of an adventure story of the same general character and excellence as the tales contributed to American literature by the late Charles Boardman Hawes.’
An English scholar and traveler, now living in the Canadian West, L. Adams Beck has written several imaginative studies of China and India for the Atlantic.Marie Blake, who in this number contributes her first poem to the Atlantic, is the daughter of Mary Elizabeth Blake, a wellknown Boston poet once friend of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Julia Taft Bayne, a cousin of Chief Justice Taft, has preserved some precious memories of Tad Lincoln and his father as she knew them in the first year of their administration. ¶In the face of disaster in drama and fiction, ‘ marriage yet spreads her proud, full sail for fresh voyages.’ Nathalie S. Colby in her trim paper utters some witty truths, helpful to captain and mate. Charles Seymour, professor of history at Yale, is curator of the University’s collection of personal documents dealing with the diplomacy of the World War.
Bruce Bliven, a journalist of honorable years, has reduced to a lucid exposition the angry and involved facts of a disturbing situation. ¶To the knowledge of an economist and sociologist, H. H. Powers adds a wide acquaintance with European affairs. He has here described the reasons for his reconciliation to the League of Nations, after five years of opposition and observation. Sisley Huddleston, the Paris correspondent of the London Times, is seriously qualified to discuss the present AngloFrench relations. N. V. Tcharykow formerly represented his country as MinisterResident in Rome and, again, as Ambassador in Constantinople.
All letters intended for the Contributors’ Column must be short. Two hundred and fifty words is a reasonable limit and briefer communications are much to be desired.
The principle behind the issue:
DEAR ATLANTIC, — Apropos of George Madden Martin’s article in the February Atlantic, ‘Women and Public Affairs’: —
One day last week I telephoned my three closest friends to come over that evening and have dinner with us. As they were arriving I was called to the telephone and heard ‘drop a nickel, please,’ followed by a vaguely familiar voice which identified itself as that of an old collegemate I had n’t met for twenty years. Passing through Kalamazoo, she had the sudden inspiration to stop off between trains on the chance of seeing me. I delightedly ordered her a taxi, hurried on another plate, and had hardly begun explanation to my friends when the unbidden but most welcome guest arrived and we sat down to dinner.
Though I took pains to include my old friend in the conversation, the talk seemed to run elusively around her — rather, to slide off from a highly polished surface of indifference. The rest of us talked about our children (I discovered that she had n’t any); about our success and nonsuccess with radio; about the new minister; about ‘The Fool,’ which one or two of us had seen. One woman mentioned a story of bitter privation in a letter received from relatives in Germany. We greatly admired a string of green jade beads. I told an anecdote about our exceptionally gifted cat and introduced her forthwith to the company. During dessert we discussed coffee and some of us said we always put salt in, and why. My nearest neighbor mentioned an oil heater she had just installed in her home. At this our out-of-town guest leaned forward eagerly.
‘Speaking of oil,’ she said, ‘what do you think of the Teapot Dome scandal?’ and added, slowly wagging her head, ‘At the devil’s booth are all things sold.’
‘Oh, that reminds me,’ laughed her vis-a-vis, ‘of an examination paper that Joan brought home. The children were writing that stanza of Lowell’s from memory. One of her boys had it: “The Devil’s boots are all thin-soled.”'
(Amid the general laughter the face of my outof-town friend settled into grim resentful lines. Not resentful on her own account, of course! But — to have the ball of edifying conversation snatched from her hands and bounced in child’s play!)
‘Oh hush!’ laughed the lady who had introduced the oil-heater business. ‘This is no laughing matter, I tell you. Besides, I ‘ve got an oil scandal of my own. The thing blew up — exploded-right in my cellar!’ Then off we scudded with her into the thrilling details of that household adventure.
The valiant minority made one more effort to show us the true uses of a dinner party, which simply could n’t, in her notion, be summed up in food and frivolity! Seizing the conversational reins by main force, she discoursed upon the decadence of human society, particularly the imminent peril to the race in the alarmingly large feeble-minded ingredient, including the countless morons running quite as large—and what to do about it! She had us fixed with a glittering eye. We were rapidly sinking into that helpless state you doubtless have experienced on similar occasions, when our most youthful guest slid into the monologue with an ingratiating, deferential voice:
‘Oh I beg pardon, but I heard such an interesting definition of “moron” the other day. It is: “One who is a little more on than off!”’
With glances of gratitude and peals of laughter we hailed our deliverer while an expression of bewilderment and disgust overspread the countenance of the parlor lecturer. Repentantly, but in vain, I tried to engage her in the web spun by our gayly flying shuttle of talk about nothing in particular.
My husband, who had preserved an amused but benevolent neutrality, suggested some music.
‘Oh let’s have the dance programme from the Blackstone,’ said the white-haired lady.
‘At 8:45 Central Standard time,’ solemnly announced the visiting delegate, ‘Professor John Johnson at Johns Hopkins lectures on “Recent Developments in Anthropometric Tests” — I had hoped to hear that lecture.’ (Was that the reason I was favored with this visit?) It was then 8:42. Secretly I twisted a bulb and we tried in vain to get Johns Hopkins. The nearest we could come was Schenectady with a Schubert trio, followed by a ponderous political speech which we remorselessly squelched, to pick up a delightful comedy from Salt Lake City.
My home-town friends departed, certainly somewhat chilled by the frosty good-byes of one who mentally classified them, I suspect, as ‘moroffs.’ The friend of my youth turned on me a look, whether more of sorrow or of anger I could not tell; but it certainly contained the unspoken question, ‘Caroline, how did you get that way? ‘ Then, glancing over my library table, she remarked with subtle inflection:
‘ I see you do still take the Atlantic.'
‘Oh yes,’ I replied.
‘I wonder,’picking up the February number, ‘if by any chance you can have read this article by George Madden Martin on “Women and Public Affairs”?’
A pregnant pause in which I failed to add enlightenment. Then, with tightened lips and illrepressed indignation: ‘I must say, I was most forcibly reminded of that article throughout this evening.’
Her taxi was ordered, she would be leaving in a minute. I had no time to do it gracefully. I sternly ignored my merciful husband’s heliographs not to do it at all. I told her that the blonde one, proprietor of the oil heater, was an active and much respected member of the Republican State Central Committee and the leading philanthropist of our town. That the dark one, of the Devil’s boots, was a natural philosopher and the most internationally minded person I knew — could n’t help being, with seven splendid sons scattered over the face of the earth, one of them Minister of Public Health in Australia. That the young one who contributed the interesting definition of ‘moron’ had lectured that day at the Rotary Club luncheon on Icelandic government and politics, having recently investigated them on the spot; and that she was late at dinner because of jury duty. And I, myself — among the many criticisms frequently and justly leveled at me, had never been one that I lacked a decent interest in public affairs!
‘Then why under heaven,’ exclaimed my astonished, outraged guest, ‘did n’t any of you show one gleam of human intelligence to-night?’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘that depends. You see, I had asked my little friends to come over to play with me. Don’t you ever play?’
‘I don’t fiddle while Rome’s burning! Morons, let me tell you, are no joke!’
I humbly conceded the point. (It was hard to have stubbed one’s conversational toe on such an inconsiderable object!) I said something about a return visit and a lecture from her on eugenics which almost put her into good humor. But I could n’t refrain from letting this remark fall into the taxi beside her:
‘You and G. M. M. should understand that when a group of women don’t and won’t discuss public affairs it may be because they are n’t informed or interested, or — it may be for precisely the opposite reason!’
CAROLINE BARTLETT CRANE.
We wonder if A. K. could have told us what was wrong with the Atlantic’s radiators? We often questioned his confreres with profit — not always to ourselves.
Vermillion, S. D.
DEAR ATLANTIC, — Every now and then you devote a bit of sprightly space to ‘plumbers.’ This is not conclusive evidence that you approve of plumbers, but we gather that at least you are interested in plumbing. Perhaps the Atlantic has pleasantly, and profitably, entertained a plumber, at some time, in his professional capacity. Plumbers and their problems are first-hand fare at our house. One lives with us. We boast of kinship.
Thermometers slipped down to thirty-two below here at Vermillion, S. D., last Sunday morning, and as our plumber, freshly bathed, shaved, brushed, and manicured sat down to his nineo’clock grapefruit the telephone began. (A. K. — the plumber—has refused to hear a telephone ring on Sunday morning for many a year.) I went, apprehensively.
‘It’s the minister,’ I interpreted; ‘his kitchenpipes are frozen and he wants to know what will happen if he starts his kitchen fire.’
The plumber smiled, Carelessly sprinkling sugar over his grapefruit, ‘Tell him to try it and see,’ he advised, without looking up.
I amended the message a bit for courtesy’s sake and sent it on. As I turned to my toast, the telephone rang again.
‘The Blitheringtons are in trouble — broken pipe — leading.’
The plumber grinned pleasantly, buttering his second piece of toast.
‘Tell ‘em to pay their last winter’s bill’: he said it with satisfied decision.
‘ Impossible for him to do anything for you,’ I revised, being sure they would understand.
Another ring before the receiver was up.
‘ Muddleston’s house is flooding — basement a foot deep — quick — what shall I tell them? ‘
He scratched his left ear lightly, munching his toast.
‘Tell ‘em to turn off the water,’ he offered casually.
‘Turn off the water,’ I yelled into the speaking tube.
‘Turn it off where?’ came back.
‘Turn it off where?’ I relayed to his breakfasting omnipotence.
‘Why, where it comes in, of course.’ He reached for the cream.
‘Where it comes in,’ I screamed at the telephone.
‘Where does it come in?’ — helplessly, hopelessly.
‘Where does it come in, A, K? Do look as if you cared a straw.’
He actually laughed. ‘Any man — ‘ he began, then laughed again. ‘The Muddleston’s — let’s see — theirs turns off in the northwest corner — by their cellar-stairs.’ He sipped his coffee. ‘Tell ‘em to turn it halfway,’ he added condescendingly.
So the morning went merrily until he put on his great coat and went out into the biting cold.
MABEL K. RICHARDSON.
M. E. B’s ‘Death as a Dream Experience’ continues to awaken responses from those who have dreamed likewise.
DEAR ATLANTIC, — I have passed through an experience which may be of interest to those of you who are still seeking a positive proof of the existence of personality after death. I am puzzled myself and do not state the following as a conclusive answer to the question.
I was obliged to undergo a minor operation, with which no complications were connected. Having successfully passed through several operations of a more serious nature, this simple one held no terrors for me. When I had become fully conscious I felt amused at what I supposed to have been an ether dream, although because of its vividness it seemed more like an actual experience. I remembered feeling a sensation of extreme and joyous lightness. It is perhaps better expressed by saying that I felt physically unhampered. I had also a distinct sensation of light, as to color.
Then all at once, as a natural course of events, my father who had been dead for fifteen years, spoke to me in his usual loving greeting. I felt overjoyed to see him, but said to him, ‘I have not finished, I do not want to come yet.’ To which he answered, ‘You need not come now, you may wait. Perhaps it will be better so.’
I recalled no other sensations, but the memory of what I have related was more coherent and vivid than the memories of dreams usually are. Further, let me state here that nothing of this kind had occurred to me during any of the previous operations, all of which had taken place after the death of my father.
Two days after the operation the nurse astonished me by saying,
‘You did not know that you nearly passed out in the operating room. In fact, to all appearances you were dead, for your heart stopped beating and they thought you were gone.’
Then it was that I wondered whether this had been a dream or an actual experience.
HELENE MARTHA BOLL.
Is it perhaps just such a feeling of awe as has made ‘ Listening In’ so fascinating, which touched men’s minds when the Atlantic Cable first joined two worlds? The writer was famous in his day as the first American to make a great city clean.
Central Park, New York,
August 6, 1858.
Mr DEAR WIFE, - The Atlantic Telegraph Cable is laid. You know this, of course, as well as I do, but do you realize the immensity of the achievement? It is one of those quietly sublime subjects that grow with their life, and that cannot at once take their full hold on the soul.
I have stood under Niagara, I have faced a storm on the broad Atlantic where there was nothing but darkness and waves on all sides — what is more, I have read of heroic actions: of the self-sacrifice of men for their country; of the still harder love-sacrifice of a woman for the happiness of the man she loved, and I have trembled at the majesty of each; but this stupendous human miracle, in its quiet suggestiveness of the majesty of God’s power in the creation of man, awakens feelings which I cannot describe, and which are too holy for expression by any language of this world.
To think that for ten times the distance which now separates you from me, at a depth where all is dark, and dreary, and motionless, where no living thing has ever been and seen the light again, there has been laid, by human skill, a channel through which London and New York may chat as across a table; that here sorrows from the old world may jostle joys from the new, and life, and thought, and intelligence thrill along this heartstring of the earth, unmindful of the storms which may be raging above, or of the wars and pestilence which may beset its either end: to know and to believe all this is to know and to realize that the God who sent man, naked, into the world, and endowed him with the power to annihilate time and space, gave him a living soul, which, by its work and development has attained a rank which makes its annihilation an impossibility on the part of a being capable of creating it.
What more we are to attain, especially in the world to come where our powers are quickened, and unburdened, who may tell? But who may not, from this development of human greatness, dare to hope!
Excuse my sermon, dearest, but I mean it.
GEORGE E. WARING, JR.
Courage, Reader! Last year there were 3352 monthlies in the United States, and this year there are 3392 alternatives to the Atlantic. And yet, Mr. Langdon Mitchell places a very modest value upon our culture!