The Contributors' Column
PURSUING the theme of Lord Moulton’s now famous essay in which he sought to define the domain of Positive Law, the domain of Free Choice, and that larger territory which lies between them, where we are obedient to the ‘unenforceable,’ William P. Gest declares that no such willful boundaries exist in this country; rather we are fenced within a high-barred reform and saddled with ‘a liberty created by law’ — for the most part a galling harness. Students as well as lawyers will recognize the authority of Mr. Gest’s quotations, though for convenience’s sake we have eliminated the references from the text. Samuel Taylor Moore, formerly of the Publicity Department of the American Legion, has written extensively on aviation and other subjects in which veterans are particularly interested. During the war Mr. Moore was an officer in the Balloon Corps. ¶The Jew who defends his race against that national blackball, so often the mark of pride and prejudice, is an important member of a large institution where Jew and Gentile work together in business harmony. ¶A. Cecil Edwards has just resumed his London residence after thirteen years in Persia. His other miniature, ‘Omar’s Grave,’ appeared in the September Atlantic.
When James R. Nichols was a boy, his grandmother told him stories of a revolutionary soldier whom she had known in her childhood. Some of these stories were taken from the soldier’s diary, a hallowed heirloom. This in time descended to Mr. Nichols. From his transcription, we have selected the most characteristic entries. ¶It requires the even-tempered geniality of Edward W. Bok to consider the most offensive subject in the world — age — whether it be middle, ripe, or old. George Villiers, an English poet recently familiar to the Atlantic, here writes in happy accord with childhood and the season. Simeon Strunsky, whose Post-Impressions were formerly a part of a New York evening’s entertainment, is now on the editorial staff of the New York Times. ¶As a practising member of the Philadelphia bar, Walter Gilkyson knows the way of the legal brotherhood from the inside. Mr. Gilkyson’s first novel, Oil, has recently been published by Scribners.
That the Berkshire horizon once bounded the ideal of home and peace is the whimsical memory of Carroll Perry. ¶As editor of the American Lawn Tennis Magazine,Stephen Wallis Merrihew is particularly qualified to discuss tennis writers and tennis-players. Mr. Merrihew is one of the Committee of Seven which is to decide the Tilden case. Ramsay Traquair expresses the hearty wish that the scientist, the artist, and the mystic should untie the apron strings that bind them to the feminine and practical civilization of the United States. Why this civilization is both feminine and practical, Mr. Traquair explained in the Atlantic of last November. ¶With strong and fine old words has the English poet, Wilfrid Gibson, raised a spirit from the dead. James Truslow Adams is an American historian and the author of The Founding of New England and Revolutionary New England (1691-1776), both published by the Atlantic Monthly Press. Mr. Adams is at present engaged on a third volume of Colonial history. ¶From Eastern lore, L. Adams Beck has chosen this story of a lover who suffered a sanitary, although none the less dramatic, sacrifice.
Walter Lippmann, as successor to Frank I. Cobb, is in charge of the editorial page of the New York World.F. E. Haynes, professor of sociology at the University of Iowa, and the author of Social Politics in the United States, here describes the political ideas and ideals suggested by a single name. William Henry Chamberlin is now in his third year of residence at Moscow as correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor. During this time Mr. Chamberlin has seen at close hand the ten men who are steering the Russian State. E. T. Raymond is editor of the London Evening Standard and a student of political forces and personalities.
The gentleness of Friends.
WEST NEW BRIGHTON.
DEAR ATLANTIC, -
It was with the greatest pleasure that I read Miss Thompson’s article on the Friendly days of her youth. My mother was also a Philadelphia Quaker and some of the tales of her youth are like Miss Thompson’s.
My grandfather was a man who followed his own convictions and was very liberal for his day. Yet later when he found a flute on which his young son was learning to play, and which for safe-keeping the lad had hidden among the tablecloths, grandfather confiscated the little instrument and destroyed it. Music of course of any sort was forbidden, as having a pernicious influence on the young.
Once grandfather had burned a borrowed book, some harmless novel of the day, and great was my mother’s fear that he would find Pickwick hidden under the sewing work in her basket. Pickwick had just come out and she was enjoying it greatly. He did find it, and opened it, as was inevitable, at the spot where the greatest freedom of language was set forth, the daughter holding her breath at the possible outcome. He closed the book and laid it down observing, ‘ I do not see, daughter, how thee can get pleasure or profit from such a book.’
He was an ardent Abolitionist and of course had many trials and provocations of spirit, but he never showed his perfectly justifiable irritation beyond a hand clenched tight and a fiery flush on head and face. His Quaker training had taught absolute control. Even when, on a visit of ‘religious concern’ to Delaware, he was tarred and feathered and ridden on a rail by the proslavery men of Salem, he offered no resistance to the insult, but spoke to them gently, and courteously invited them to visit him in Philadelphia.
The Yearly Meeting was truly a fearful time for the housekeepers. They stocked the larder with all sorts of food which could be prepared beforehand and could be counted on to keep, as well as with toothsome and more perishable viands. They set long tables in the dining-room never knowing whether there would be two guests or two dozen. Everybody kept open house and the out-of-town friends ate when they pleased. Every available bed in the house was made up fresh, and mother used to tell how she slept on the covered bathtub, and how John G. Whittier, coming upstairs to the room provided for him, met his young hostess bringing down a mattress on her head to spread on this improvised bedstead.
Speaking of Yearly Meeting reminds one of the tale of Lucretia Mott and a rather bashful stranger from the countryside. Dear Mrs. Mott trying to make him feel at ease asked in her gentle fashion, ‘Thee has never been married, Friend Thomas?’ ‘Oh! frequently, Lucretia,’ he hastened to reply.
In her article Miss Thompson criticizes the grammar of the American Quakers. We do not say ‘ thee’ for ‘ thou,’ and our English Friends do not, and I protest in memory of similar protests made by my mother that we American Quakers do not say ‘thee’ for ‘thy.’ That we elide the word and drop the y, saying ‘ th ‘ hat ‘ for ‘ thy hat ‘ I agree to, just as we all say ‘m’ hat’ instead of ‘my hat.’
If Miss Thompson still uses the ‘plain language’ and will watch herself she will find she does it that way. We all do.
MARY OTIS WILLCOX.
A distinguished appreciation in the domain of good manners.
BISMARCK, N. D.
DEAR MR. EDITOR, -
Lord Moulton’s discourse on ‘ Law and Manners ‘ in the July Atlantic, is a classical presentation of the case against the vice of overprescribing by legislative fiat what one shall or shall not do. We live in a welter of regulatory law. Though it voice the will of the majority it is often a prohibition from without against which we inwardly rebel. If civilization is a growing thing, if human betterment is a reality, if the individual will, and hence the social will, can be educated, then the trend must be toward a narrowing of this domain and an expansion of the domain of good manners. If human progress is a fact there will be an ever increasing obedience to the unenforceable. This progress will voice itself in a common desire to perform duty as earnestly as it demands rights. And when men recognize their duties as they do their rights a social balance is struck which ends the need for defining the boundaries of conduct by positive law. When one sees what he ought to do he has at least made a fair start toward obedience, and having had so much of insight it may be reasonably expected that he will have the accompanying taste to dictate the manner of the doing. Where one’s conduct is a response to the promptings of his knowledge and moral sense and good taste, all the faculties of the mind and all the resources of the spirit must be called in solemn conclave to determine the course. He who obeys the unenforceable is wholly a man if he would be.
In the field of positive law he has no responsibility beyond obedience. But there is a sense in which there is law even in the domain of manners. Take Lord Moulton’s illustration as to the exhibition of gallantry upon the sinking of the Titanic. Did not the exigencies of that moment make a law as definite and positive and inviolable as any ever dictated in imperial Rome? He who would have dared to exercise his freedom against the rule of that moment could not have lived in peace either with himself or with his fellows. In the truest sense good manners are instinctive, yet to lessen our burdens as social beings the conventions have been established, and though each is free to defy them, they are scarcely less positive than are the laws of state. Their penalties are as certain and little less severe. Yet it is in the domain of good manners that the intellectual and spiritual development of man will assert itself. Where men are free to act there is incentive to shape their conduct in the light of duty. This discourse is a distinct contribution to the philosophy of government, and its thought needs to be widely disseminated.
CLYDE L. YOUNG.
FOR MATHEMATICIANS ONLY! We assume no responsibility for spectators who handle these figures.
NEW YORK CITY.
DEAR ATLANTIC, -
Years ago I was a land surveyor in Northern Michigan and I then knew that there were 43,500 square feet in an acre, just as I now know that π is 3.14159 and that there are 29, 1662/3 ounces troy in a ton of 2000 pounds avoirdupois. But last night when I turned the pages of the Atlantic to Mr. McAdie’s article on ‘How Big Is an Acre?’ I could n’t remember the answer. I did remember that a 40-acre tract was a quarter of a mile square and that a quarter of a mile was 1320 feet, from which easily followed that a 660foot square would contain 10 acres. So with a pencil I multiplied 660 by 66 on the margin of page 78 and got the answer 43,560.
Why all this talk of links that are 7.92 inches? Who ever thinks of them? A chain is 66 feet long and is divided, to suit Mr. McAdie’s metricloving-soul, into 100 links so as to save him from having to think of 7.92. Eighty chains equal a mile and a square mile contains 6400 square chains or 640 acres, so that 10 square chains equal one acre.
Mr. McAdie must have been stargazing so much that he thinks in light-years and does not realize that our Anglo-Saxon system of weights and measures is quite simple and workable and is so woven into our land system, our railways, our machines, and our machines for making machines, that it would cost us hundreds of millions of dollars and years of work to change over to a metric system.
I wonder if Mr. McAdie knows that all the standard bolts and nuts in German and French machinery, though given metric values, are in reality made to English inches and fractions thereof.
J. PARKE CHANNING.
CHAUTAUQUA, N. Y.
DEAR ATLANTIC, -
‘How many square feet to the acre?’ It is a query that has faintly stirred within me the memory of early ordeals that, like mumps and measles, have long since yielded to health and happiness. The mensuration tables cited by Mr. McAdie have left no rancor in my heart. There were indeed perches and roods and rods and poles (immeasurably suggestive of fishing paraphernalia); but links and chains — here the curtains of my memory refold, or I would appear to be no longer coping with mathematics but with the moralities and Samson Agonistes at the hands of Mr. Jackson of the S. M. E. afternoon Sunday school.
Nevertheless, from another recess of my mind, there comes the saying of my father before me; if I had (presumably in driving the cows home from pasture) traversed the perimeter of a ‘forty’ (a quadrilateral comprising forty acres, be it known) I should have walked a mile. This, if true, appears to bear a relation to the problem before me! Can it be that I shall circumvent the links and shackles of Mr. McAdie? Another voice whispers to me that there are still, presumably, 5280 feet to the mile. This, too, I shall coördinate!
If, in the pleasant language of all the geometries, a fourth of a mile is a round and even 1320 feet, then it follows that this number squared and divided by forty, should (and in fact fortunately does) give the same answer, 43,560 square feet, as the one at which Mr. McAdie so ingeniously arrives.
Yet what matter to the mind of the usual gentle reader? This will be the first disturbance that his el Flemish and el English, his tierces and butts and hogsheads and scruples have suffered since his own early miseries. Should we not even tenderly cover once again their uncouth proportions, their frowning yet impotent brows? Requiescant in pace!
C. P. CRUMB.
Of the many scores of grateful letters which we have forwarded to Glenn Clark, none rings more true than this.
AUGUST 11, 1924.
DEAR EDITOR, -
I want to thank somebody for Glenn Clark’s article on prayer in the August Atlantic. I had that magazine, and that only, by me a week ago last Saturday, both before and after our baby girl was born. Those two artictes were the first I read after she came. When I had finished the second one, the thought came so strongly to me that there was no message in Kirsopp Lake’s article on that day for me, while ‘The Soul’s Sincere Desire’ was as comforting and reassuring as the promise that had sung in my heart since morning, ‘ For lo, I am with you always, even unto the end.’
I don’t know why I bother you with such confidences, unless it be that when an author shares his most intimate experiences with his readers, it inspires an answering desire to do likewise on the part of those readers.
The jury sitting on Burnham Hall’s case numbers apparently some hundreds of thousands. Judging from a multitude of letters their verdict will not be unanimous.
WOLCOTT, N. Y.
DEAR EDITOR, -
I have just read Burnham Hall’s ‘Shall I Divorce My Wife?’ Your footnote — ‘This paper is, of course, an absolutely true record ‘ I assume, is to be accepted at its face value. Without this concise editorial statement, I should have regarded the article as fiction.— really clever fiction and worthy of publication in the Atlantic, even though overdrawn. But it is fact, you state; and fact, of course, submits to no artistic restraints.
Here we have an anæmic, introspective, hairsplitting old maid in trousers, with whom no normal, red-blooded woman could live a year and retain her self-respect. He is devoid of wholesouled indignation and incapable of self-forgetting generosity; he hems, and haws, and hesitates; he is neither hot nor cold, and, like the Laodiceans, should be spued out.
Were the article a creation of fiction, we should say the author showed bad taste in representing a character as shying at pillorying his wife as an adultress in court, while, for a stipend, pillorying her to the extent of seven and one-half pages, in a magazine of international circulation. Of course, he pillories himself; but of that he is, no doubt, supremely unconscious.
In that case it would be merely bad taste (on the author’s part); but for a human being — to do this thing —
Faugh! You say, ‘We believe that Burnham Hall’s question will unlock a store of understanding and sympathy.’
For his wife? Yes.
ROE L. HENDRICK.
GRAND ISLAND, NEB. DEAR ATLANTIC, - After reading the article by Burnham Hall, ‘Shall I Divorce My Wife?’ I had a distinct feeling of regret that the wife does not desire to be his wife ‘until death do us part,’ and of a certain admiration for a man who remains so loyal under conditions that take from him his wife and child. Would there be any comfort for him in the belief that the child will suffer far less because of bis attitude than many children of divorced parents?
I speak from experience. I was just graduating from high school when my father and mother were divorced. The shock of knowing that the father whom I had run blocks to greet as a child had been unfaithful to mother hurt most intensely. But torment followed in the next few years when some queer twist in mother’s mind, perhaps some likeness of myself to father, more than any other child. possessed, caused her to continually reproach me with having a good mind but no morals, of being like my father. This continued until I sometimes felt that I could laugh at a God who tortured one with high ideals and yet made them forever unattainable. If the Great Potter made the pottery so imperfect, with no possibility of improvement, had He the right to reject and condemn?
If the things mother said were true, then I would be robbed of all hope. It seemed to burn in my brain. Yet at last there came some understanding of why and how the marriage had failed. To-day I would rather take some of father’s ideas of a happy home than mother’s. He would be, with all his faults, more charitable and no less appreciative of fidelity and goodness. The author of the article may some day receive his recompense in the faith of his daughter, for preserving her faith in her mother, and in their lack of bitterness toward each other. As she grows into womanhood, that may mean more than I can say.