The Contributors' Column
Dhan Gopal Mukerji is a Hindu of Brahman parentage. At fourteen, he was consecrated to the priesthood, served in the hereditary temple, renounced the world and entered upon two years of beggary. The pilgrimage over, he returned to his priestly duties but, when he was sixteen, ‘distance summoned him’ and he left the temple for the hills. Study at the University of Calcutta only induced greater restlessness. A traveling scholarship took him to Japan. There Mr. Mukerji broke the ties of his country, his past, and his caste, and sailed for San Francisco. While ‘ working his way’ at the University of California, he fell in with some young I. W. W.’s and with them toiled in the California fields. After securing his degree, this apostle from the East set forth to deliver his message to the West. Then, after a decade came a spiritual summons to return to India. Mr. Mukerji’s reunion with his brother, his appreciation of modern India, and his devotion to the Holy Man, his instructor — these are to constitute a unique serial for the Atlantic. Seldom has there been written so interpretive a study of India. Isabel Cooper was staff artist under Mr. Beebe in the tropical reserve station in British Guiana where she devoted herself to the exquisite work of ‘reproducing the perishable appearances of wild creatures.'
In the February Atlantic some acute generalizations on women and public affairs provoked a discussion that is still being heard. George Madden Martin’s present assertion that American women are using their franchise to endow Uncle Sam with a father’s privilege will, we believe, offer new material for debate. Clarence Edward Andrews, for the pleasure of June voyagers and others, has told a delightful story of a gay but little-known Paris. ¶With striking analogies and fresh words, Willard L. Sperry, Dean of the Theological School in Harvard, has addressed himself to a thumb-worn but essential argument. Florence Converse, poet, novelist, and a member of the Atlantic staff, contributes to this number verse which possesses at once a classical restraint and a modern agility. Seal Thompson, assistant-professor in the department of biblical studies at Wellesley, is a member of the Society of Friends. It will be remembered that this year marks the tercentennial anniversary of that gentle fellowship. Ernest Weekley, whose Etymological Dictionary is a rare compound of independence and common sense, has written an historical account of the ways of words and their shepherds. ¶With ‘Mrs. Nardo,’ Florence J. Clark concludes her series of individual and dimly familiar character studies. For twelve years Miss Clark has been a worker at the Henry Street Settlement of New York City.
It is with a feeling of loss which will be shared by many readers that we publish the last Charles Boardman Hawes story. Mr. Hawes died last July. His final book, The Dark Frigate, appeared posthumously 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.’ ¶In our letter of acceptance, we requested Valeska Bari to tell us something about her earlier work. Her deft reply we quote in part: —
I am afraid that your lack of familiarity with my work does not distinguish you from the rest of mankind. Even my devoted family have never acquainted themselves with my masterpieces on laundries, canneries, newsboys, and other grubby subjects. I have written purposeful things for the State of California and the Government of the United States. . . . I went to Porto Rico for the Federal Children’s Bureau and remained about a year and a half. I wrote a report on the island which contains more facts but probably less truth than the sketch I sent you. . . . I myself fall into the Census classification of ‘native-born of foreign-born parentage’ and I know what assimilation means.
William Whitman 3rd is a young Harvard poet who makes his first appearance in our pages. ¶It is with gratification that the Atlantic publishes President Eliot memorial to ex-President Wilson, an essay portraying those two men who have lent largeness and dignity to our time.
Charles Seymour, professor of History at Yale, and curator of the University collection of documents dealing with the World War, continues his discussion of Wilsonian diplomacy. ¶Recently returned from his fatherland, Kuno Francke, a professor at Harvard, has written with a definite optimism what he calls ‘an intellectual estimate’ of contemporary Germans. Charles E. Stangeland is a political economist who was for some time in the United States diplomatic service. Of late years he has been living in Denmark, where, in collaboration with his wife, Karin Michaëlis, a famous Danish author, he has prepared this paper on the Scandinavian countries.
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.
This genuine criticism may poll a liberal feminine sympathy, now that the home has sometimes become as political as the country store.
Is it too late to venture a few remarks in defense of the American woman and her interest in public affairs?
In the first place the average American woman was quite indifferent as to whether or not she should be given the ballot. There were many advantages connected with it and many disadvantages: we average women felt that if we had the vote we ought to do our best to use it intelligently and that a really thorough grasp of politics and government, such as we ought to have in order to vote wisely, would require more study and time than we could give it.
However, now we have the ballot and what can we do with it? We look about us for a good starting point and what do we find? Remember we are women, with feminine minds and a feminine way of going at our work. By its very nature, our work must be done in a most methodical way. We must put down eggs when they are cheapest, can fruit when it is ripe, clean house spring and fall. We would go at politics in the same way: the feminine mind hates procrastination where work is concerned.
We read with joy the speech of President Coolidge. We agreed with his recommendations and a Congress of women would have lost no time in getting to work on them. When four months have passed without accomplishing anything we are irritated and impatient, particularly as that time has been filled with a disgusting display of childish squabbling.
A Congress of women would never have put over so foolish an act as the Prohibition Amendment knowing from their experience with children that there is no surer way to make a child (or a man) determined to do anything than to forbid him to do it. There are other ways.
If the men in Congress were to act in such away as to merit the respect and confidence of women, the interest of women in politics would increase. As candidates they promise well but when they get to Washington something seems to happen to them: they don’t accomplish what we sent them there to do. We get tired of waiting for them to do something besides talk and at last we lose all interest in them and their doings. . . .
Does n’t some of the fault lie with the men?
E. L. A.
They tell us that it is dangerous to argue with a Virginia lawyer. We won’t.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Apropos of Mr. Harvey Wickham’s letter in regard to eats, I must take issue with his statement that the cat occupies a greater place in literature than does the dog. If I were a betting man, I would wager a ten dollar Confederate note against a million marks — value a year ago — that the dog occupies a much greater place in literature than the cat, and that, for every time a cat is mentioned in literature, the dog is mentioned from five to ten times.
Does Mr. Wickham know that the cat is never mentioned a single time in the Bible, whilst the dog is mentioned repeatedly? In Shakespeare, the cat is mentioned forty-three times — the dog one hundred and seventy-five times.
It is true that in French literature the cat does occupy a prominent position, but in English literature, the feline is seldom mentioned in comparison with the dog.
R. T. W. DUKE, JR.
Ever since February, when ‘M. E. B.’ began her discussion of ‘Death as a Dream Experience,’ the Editor of the Column has been moving in a maze of dreams. This month two more extraordinary scenes have been included, but, after them, must fall the final curtain.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
If it is not too late for the subject I should like to join the Contributors’ Column by relating a dream I once had.
I had not been very well, was sleepless, nervous, and irritable. A friend mixing a dose of bromide, a drug with which I was not familiar, persuaded me after my husband had gone to his office, to lie down and take it. My ignorance of the medicine caused me apprehension. What if I died? Naturally my husband might believe I had committed suicide. In the midst of these thoughts I fell asleep. Suddenly I thought I was dead, and found myself in a very large room filled with people wandering aimlessly around. I realized I had slipped off this mortal coil. I had no sensations of the ‘passing,’ except that just before, a shrill whining sound, like a strong wind shrieking through the shrouds of a vessel, rushed violently through my head.
Suddenly a thought came to me, and going up to a man with a cap on his head, and who seemed to be prominent, I asked ‘Is there any way I can go back?’ ‘No,’ he answered. ‘I want to speak to my husband,’ I went on, ‘just for a moment and I want him to see me and hear an explanation I should make.’ The man shook his head negatively. ‘Just for a moment,’ I pleaded. ‘Well,’he said, ‘ go over in that corner and look.’
I did so and found a staircase, but so high up it was entirely out of my reach. Returning, disappointed, I asked, ‘Does no one ever go back?’ ‘Whenever any one goes back,’ he replied, ‘ the lights on the Fountain go out. For some reason I took it that the Fountain’ was in the presence of God, and inquired; ‘Have you ever seen the Fountain?’ ‘No,’ he responded dejectedly. I was horrified. ‘How long have you been here?' I questioned. ‘Ten years!’ ‘Oh,’ I cried aghast, and, throwing myself on the floor said, ‘On earth we spend our time in idleness and crime.’ ‘Yes,’ said a voice, ‘if we only thought of that before it was too late.’
I was the most surprised person in the world when at this moment I awoke. I could not believe I was alive.
I was spent and exhausted, and it took me more than the day to recover. Why? Had I really made the journey there and back, which accounted for my prostration?
A MERE WOMAN.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
I dreamed that I was dying. I was in bed, lying oil my right side. I was breathing slowly, more and more slowly, and I knew that as the time between breaths increased the moment was near when breathing would cease altogether. I was perfectly comfortable and as I thought of the difference between the real process of dying and my fears I wished I might tell the world. Finally I drew the last breath and was out of the body, hovering over and looking down at it. I noticed the hair, lying on the pillow, and thought it did not look like mine — there was more of it, it was straighter, and streaked with gray as mine was not. The face was in shadow and not noticed in the brief moment I was there. Then I woke, in my own bed.
The dream was so extraordinary that I woke my husband and told it to him. While I was talking the clock struck two. Early in the morning we were wakened by our telephone ringing. My husband answered it. As he came back into the room he said ‘Dear Mrs. G— has gone’; adding, ‘She went between one and two o’clock.’ Mrs. G— was a very close friend of ours.
We knew she was ill but did not think it serious and were greatly shocked. After my first expression of grief I exclaimed, ‘It was her hair that I saw in my dream!’
L. W. M.
In response to the many letters which we have forwarded to the Victim of the American Malady, she has written us: —
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
May I just once and very briefly thank you for all your courtesies to me? It has been helpful to me to see the comments on my Atlantic articles. The consensus of opinions expressed in them suggests that I don’t go far enough with my theme. But am I not right in regarding the Atlantic as something other than a handbook containing rules and formulæ for conduct? Is it not rather more like the Prince’s kiss which can start the Sleeping Beauty and all her household into action without being called upon to stay and boss the job?
I meant to make certain sleepy ones think, but far be it from me to dare to direct their thinking!
And of the various cures which have been offered to the Victim, this would appear to be the simplest: —
HIGHLAND PARK, ILL.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
After reading ‘A Very Personal Experience’ in the April Atlantic, I find myself hot with indignation at the young wife who could be so stupid as not to have seized her opportunity to make both her husband and herself happy companions by entering into the games of golf which the article says were ‘good for him.’ The golf would have been equally good for her and built her up mentally and physically to a point where she would not have developed into a morbid, egotistical woman. Oh, the fun of those hours in the evening of talking over together the games of the day — whether played with her husband or some other companion. She, too, could have napped.
On winter evenings the hard-working husband would not have been sleeping but enthusiastically keeping in form by entering into the putting contests played on the living-room rug.
As for women friends, a golfer is never lacking, for there is no game more sociable. Every tiny New England town has its women golfers and they are likely to be worth knowing.
Nothing is so pitiful—so stupid as the golf widow! Her laziness causes many such uncongenial marriages as illustrated. The added expense of the woman’s game is very little and made up to the American husband by the absence of the doctor’s bills.
The proud ‘right of Englishry’ may not be withheld.
HUBBARD WOODS, ILLINOIS.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
I was surprised to read in Mr. Masterman’s article in your April issue, the statement, ‘for — so far as I can remember — Mr. Asquith is the only Prime Minister of any party who had any claim to be an Englishman, for the last eighty years.’
If Mr. Masterman means by an Englishman an undiluted Englishman, or at least one whose parents were both English, the field is certainly narrowed, though if we deny England credit for a prime minister because one of his parents was Scotch, or Welsh, or Irish, likewise we should deny Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, credit. It is not fair to complain that the Celts are ruling the English (if anyone can tell what the Celts are) if the prime ministers and ministers designated as Celts turn out to be at least half English. Mr. Balfour is generally called a Scot, but his mother was a Cecil, English of the English. Rosebery is called a Scot but his mother was English, a daughter of Earl Stanhope. But if the difference is to be made, Gladstone and Campbell-Bannerman would be ranked as Scotch. Lloyd George would be ranked as Welsh. Bonar Law though born in New Brunswick would be credited to Scotland, as would Lord Aberdeen and Ramsay MacDonald, Palmerston was descended from the Irish branch of the English family of Temples. Baldwin’s father was English, and his mother was Scotch. Let us call Palmerston and Baldwin ‘mixed,’ along with Rosebery and Balfour.
But Peel, who was prime minister from 1844 to 1846, two years within Mr. Masterman’s eighty, was clearly English; so was Lord Derby, so was Lord John Russell, and so was Lord Salisbury. Adding Asquith whom Mr. Masterman admits to be English, we have five prime ministers in eighty years who were, if we go back to parents only, purely English, five who were Scotch, one Disraeli a Jew, and one Lloyd George who was Welsh. Four were of ‘mixed’ English and Scotch blood. In character and ability and numbers, the English seem to hold their own. I am curious to know why Mr. Masterman denies the right of ‘Englishry’ to these four premiers.
The friendship of lonely people is what the Atlantic most covets.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Back in Arizona, where I lived, fifteen miles from the nearest town, a forest ranger stopped to rest his horse. He saw the Atlantic, and fell upon it as one starved. Did I read it? I did. Did I have any other copies? 1 had. Would I lend them? I would. And, three months afterward, he returned the magazines. They fed his soul — as, indeed, they have mine. If you ever realized the utter desolation of a ranger’s life you would know how great a thing reading means to him. I have talked with these rangers, just off their reserve, on leave, on the way to town. Perhaps they had seen no one for weeks, and news was asked at once. And papers and magazines would be scanned to repletion.
I think I owe the editor and the publishers this tribute.
EDWIN B. HILL.