The Contributors' Column
NEVER was a case more fairly stated than Dr. L. P. Jacks’s description of that black and blank mystery which each of us confronts. The ringing confidence of his last pages will carry hope far among people to whom such words are as life itself. Dr. Jacks is editor of the Hibbert Journal, and Principal of Manchester College, Oxford. Jane Littell draws from her own experience a solution of the economic problem of matrimony. ¶Through the epistle of E. C. J. there gleams that temperament which abandons security, stakes the whole of life, and suffers despair that it may know the ecstasy of beauty. John Jay Chapman, a father of sons, pictures our American schools with their many symbols of sport, their ‘small Latin and less Greek,’ in a manner painfully realistic to other ambitious parents. ¶That in Kentucky ‘pigs is pigs’ with a vengeance, is the inimitable tale of Olive Tilford Dargan.
Glenn W. Birkett, a dirt farmer of Wisconsin, denounces that paternalistic legislation which has sought to coddle him and his fellow farmers. ¶In the English shires Conrad Aiken has found the ripening atmosphere for his pungent and imaginative verse. ¶Every engineer will stand taller and straighter in his boots for having read Arthur D. Little’s eloquent tribute to the members of the ‘Fifth Estate.’ Mr. Little will be remembered for his stimulating review of ‘Physics and Civilization’ which appeared in the July Atlantic. ¶From her home in Dublin Nora Connolly O’Brien comments on her ‘ Visions’: —
They are real experiences of mine. . . . They came to me when I was awake; they were not like dreams — more like a play in which I had a part. I tried to reason them out in the light of memory, knowing how a sight, taste, or sound will awaken memories of things long forgotten. But they do not come within the range of living memories, as they seem to me when thinking of them to belong to far distant times. ... In ‘Visions’ I wrote only of three of many like experiences and chose them as being the most interesting and the most varied.
I am hoping that you will publish them and that as a result I will get from some of your readers ease from my puzzlement.
Under one of his serviceable pseudonyms, ‘Yussuf Effendi,’ a former Intelligence Officer relates the true account of an excursion which possessed the adventure of our light opera without any of its reassuring makebelieve. ¶The holidays would be incomplete without Margaret Prescott Montague, who has long delighted the Atlantic with her prose and verse. ¶That Christmas is a reality in the Colombian wilderness is the moving narrative of Kenneth Irving Brown. ¶For the comfort of those who are impatient or discouraged with the slow and errant programme of the world, a thoughtful woman has told the memories of her eighty-one years. ¶With fond appreciation Percy Lubbock, English essayist and critic, remembers that luminous understanding between master and scholar which is so essential in fine schooling. ¶The Adams-Jefferson letters have never before been published in their natural juxtaposition. In so arranging them Paul Wilstach was impressed by the deep friendliness of these two ex-Presidents, which had survived so many years of political enmity. Mr. Wilstach reminds us that John Adams’s last words were ‘Jefferson still survives.’ Alexander McAdie’s whimsical description of the perplexities which clog our liquid measures may be trusted to excite mathematicians, metricians, and opponents of the Volstead Act.
The article on the Irish boundary question speaks for itself. For the careful reader it is worth while to quote verbatim Article 12 of the 1921 Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, since it is in this article that the present difficulty resides.
If, before the expiration of the said month, an address is presented to His Majesty by both Houses of the Parliament of Northern Ireland to that effect, the powers of the Parliament and the Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland, and the provisions of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 (including those relating to the Council of Ireland), shall, so far as they relate to Northern Ireland, continue to be of full force and effect, and this instrument shall have effect subject to the necessary modifications.
Provided that if such an address is so presented a Commission consisting of three persons, one to be appointed by the Government of the Irish Free State, one to be appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland, and one who shall be Chairman, to be appointed by the British Government, shall determine, in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland, and for the purposes of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and of this instrument, the boundary of Northern Ireland shall be such as may be determined by such Commission.
Robert Sencourt, a frequent contributor to the English reviews, prepared his present paper in Rome, where he was privileged to meet the Vatican diplomats and to hold audience with the Cardinal Secretary of State. ¶For the last four years Lyman Bryson has served on the staff of the League of Red Cross Societies, during which time he has been traveling, lecturing, and writing in Europe and Asia. Mr. Bryson’s story, ‘The Cyprian,’appeared in the November Atlantic.
This, the gravest aspect of our great national problem, must appeal to the sympathy and sense of justice of every reader: —
October 15, 1924
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
I am an outcast — a social pariah.
The reason for it is a hard one and this is an appeal for advice. What am I to do?
The confession can be put in three words — short, but full of tragedy — I don’t drink. I am unfitted for all social gatherings — at least here in the city where I live.
No one wants me at their ‘parties.’ Bridge and dinner parties, ladies’ luncheons, and tea parties all feel me to be the proverbial wet blanket — or is it a dry one, in this case?
It is n’t that I rant on Prohibition or look disapprovingly at those who don’t feel as I do. I have always been rather flattered by being told that I allow others to do as they see fit. It’s just that I don’t drink. It casts a pall.
The reasons for my not drinking are not whims or life-long convictions. To you I confess I gave it up when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect. Somewhere in me lies a deeprooted love and respect for law.
I don’t dare ever mention this reason — it is concealed in the recesses of my soul as darkly as a deadly sin. It is bad enough not to drink, but to give this, observance of the law, as a reason, would spell everlasting anathema!
Another reason — or reasons — is a love, hate, and dread feeling toward liquor itself; an inherited love of it, a hatred for its effect of even temporarily clouding my mind, and a dread of its power.
Perhaps my principal reason is my bestbeloved, my sixteen-year-old son.
The present generation forces on him a real problem, as great as slavery at the outbreak of the Civil War. Families are divided on it; ours is.
My husband apologizes for me wherever we go! He complains to all our friends and acquaintances of my defection. Seriously, too. He really feels abused. In his milder moments he calls me ‘odd.’
Out and out ‘wet parties’ he goes to alone, with no complaint from me. If, by error, I get into one, anyone who has kept sober when all others were not will extend me his sympathy. They did n’t want me there; I did n’t want to be there.
It is hard to know when to go, or where. Very hard to be made to feel conspicuous. I never comment on my husband’s drinking. He more than comments on my not doing so; mine is the crime. And we are very normal, everyday people, not unusual in any way. But, we are splitting wide asunder on this one question.
Our son sees our struggle. So far, praise be to God, he does n’t drink at all.
What a problem for him to decide, though: whether his father be right, or his mother. He loves us equally. Discussion of this one problem with him is denied me. How can I conscientiously try to convince him his father is a lawbreaker?
What is the solution?
We cannot but appreciate the fair distinctions which are contained in this request. Gladly will we listen to any persuasive spokesman of the ‘Old Faith.’
September 30, 1924
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Reading the Atlantic Monthly has been a habit in our family for several generations. I do not remember that, in the early days, we ever looked to the Atlantic for politics or religion. It was not supposed to ‘meddle’ extensively with either. But we regarded it as a paramount in things of the intellect, and in literature as our critic.
Other times, other manners! To-day we find literary criticism essentially relegated to certain columns of fine print, interspersed with advertisements, outside the Atlantic’s hallowed precincts, as it were. Within these precincts the central position is held by questions of the day. with politics and religion conspicuously in evidence. The magazine has become ‘an organ of affairs.’ This may be all to the good. I am not quite sure there. But I am quite sure that thus far it remains as inevitable in our family as ever.
However, there has come down through the years still another tradition of the Atlantic — this being that it was nothing if not fair. Partisan or prejudiced it could never be, or so we thought. But just now the question is often asked among us: Since the Atlantic is going in for religion, why does it fail to give room for more than one point of view in the present religious crisis? (I have not failed to welcome the south wind which came with healing in its wings last month after Professor Lake’s killing frost, but that is beside the mark.)
In your pages Modernism holds undisputed sway. Its position appears impregnable, indisputable. Its champions speak ‘the great word.’ Over against them from time to time — less, it would almost seem, as opponent than as foil — there will enter for a moment an excited, eccentric, and rather absurd figure named Fundamentalism.
But many are asking, Is it quite fair for Protestants to be set forth thus, implicitly, as divided into Modernists and the ‘singular sect called Fundamentalists’? We who are inside the evangelical churches know of a surety that the great, unbroken army of us. outnumbering both of these groups by far, is neither the one nor the other. And this is understood outside as well. The writers for the Atlantic, who caricature anti-Modernism by way of Fundamentalism, can hardly be ignorant of the fact that the title ‘Fundamentalist,’ perfectly good in itself, was snatched up as soon as coined, and appropriated by a small but noisy group of Verbalists and Literalists who are far from representing the majority of evangelical Christians. One wonders how it chances that these, your writers of experience and discrimination, suppress this, and insist upon attributing to all Christians not Modernist the eccentricities and extremes of one small group?
Can it be because it is easier to demolish an adversary obviously in the wrong than one obviously in the right?
I say obviously in the right advisedly, for, so long as we are considering the Christian Church, there can be no question that those who still hold to the Christ and the Christianity of the New Testament are in duty bound to stand by their colors. If they cannot do that, it is for them to go elsewhere, to seek another religion. And this is what the bolder spirits among Modernists are doing, compelled by their naturalistic logic. The Christian religion, having been built indubitably upon a divine and risen Christ, can no longer have power over them. Faith is vain, and preaching is also vain.
I confess I agree with Dean Inge that the invention of a new religion has been demonstrated to be an impossibility. ‘One might as well try to build a tree,’ so he says. It is life that we want, is it not? ‘Cultural, creative criticism’ will not suffice us. To whom shall we go? we ask with Simon Peter. Thou hast the words of eternal life.
All of which brings me to ask if it might be reasonable, the Atlantic being sympathetic to religious discussion, for a spokesman for the Old Faith to be given a hearing in its pages ere long.
C. A. M.
In attempting to square this problem the counsel of a mathematician is useful.
LONG ISLAND, N. Y.
The question, ‘Shall I Divorce My Wife?’ in the Atlantic for August was rarely presented more unselfishly. One case, however, which I happened to know about, seems slightly less vulnerable, to me. The woman to whom I refer was a friend of my mother’s who had lived with her husband, apparently most happily, for twenty-five years, when suddenly, one night, the railroad agent in the town where she lived announced that her husband and another woman had just departed, on their way to Europe.
Then and there the mother of those children decided that she would not shatter the love her children had for their father; they were merely told that father had gone away on a long trip. For the sake of her children the mother preferred to be a deserted wife, rather than a divorced one. Nothing in a legal way that she could do did she feel would atone for what had been done. He had deserted her and forgotten their children, who really were a mutual responsibility.
The children frequently are the last ones thought of in a divorce proceeding, and though Mr. or Dr. ‘Burnham Hall’ is by no means forgetful of his child his logic seems faulty, in thinking that the child should accompany the mother on the mother’s second adventure. Granting a divorce seems clearly to be what ‘Mrs. Hall’ wants, but can her child learn the ‘sacredness of marriage and motherhood,’ which the father wants her to learn, at the knee of a mother who has broken her own vows and presented her child with two fathers? Will arithmetic and morals square, even in the mind of a young child?
M. B. B.
We shall be glad to discuss this idea with hotel clerks and sextons—and dentists.
October 7, 1924
The October number of the Atlantic yesterday came near undoing me — in fact, psychically, it has left me with a languor induced by laughter (inside as well as out), from which I am willing not quickly to recover. The reference is to William P. Gest’s ‘Font of Liberty.’ Silenus, Bacchus, Socrates, and whosoever knew how to smile audibly in Palestine, what excellent satire, and what true! You should detach it from its honorable entourage, make it up into a pamphlet, and broadcast it over the tables in hotel reading-rooms and in church pews.
May the radiance of its wit and verity long vibrate for you, no less than for
It is a pleasure to present our readers to this remarkable Mrs. Robinson Crusoe.
KOKOMURUKI, WI HARBOR GUADALCANAR, SOLOMON ISLANDS
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
A subscriber to vour paper has asked me to write and give you some details of my life on this island, where I have lived for the last four years.
This island is situated in a remote part of the Solomon Islands, and on account of the severe storms, big seas, and dangerous reefs, ships very seldom venture up here. We hardly ever see a European. My husband is obliged to be away, occasionally for many weeks, and I am here quite alone, with only a watchdog and revolver as a protection.
The natives are very unreliable, and many of them are cannibals. Although they have come in contact with missions, they still maintain their old customs, and the old men will tell you how they used to fight to gain land, and how the man who lost was usually eaten at the end of the day. Women are very scarce, and the native men pay high prices for them. This island was always a taboo to the natives, who declare it was haunted by the evil spirits of their dead enemies. On moonlight nights the natives will sit on the mainland and constantly call over to this island. They ask me if I am not afraid, and I tell them the devil of my country protects me. I never let them see I am afraid, and always make them walk in front of me, and put down any spears or axes they may be carrying.
Alligators are very much in evidence, and often pay visits to this island, and carry off our poultry and dogs. They come on moonlight nights when the tide is high. They come on shore and sit very still with their mouths wide open. Their breath has the odor of bad flesh, and this attracts the animals. Directly an animal approaches, the alligator knocks it senseless with its tail and then carries it away to its haunts. Many natives are taken also.
We live here in a native-constructed house, and it is very cool and comfortable for the tropics. The frame is of hardwood timber, the floor and sides of timber from the betel-nut tree, and the roof of ivory-nut leaf. It is all put together with native vines, and not a nail was used in the whole construction. Such houses last about two years.
Most of our food comes out of tins. Our nearest store is sixty miles away, by vessel. The birds supply us with music and the sun tells us the time. We receive our mail any time a ship happens to call, and mail day is our one and only excitement. We should be grateful for any reading-matter and news of the outside world. It is very lonely when my husband is obliged to be away and my books help me and give me much pleasure. I shall be pleased to give you any information as regards my experiences here.
EDITH E. SVENSEN
A rose by any other name . . .
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
I was very much interested in the article, ‘Meditations of a Mother-in-Law,’ in the September Atlantic.
Whatever the reason, there seems to be a natural antipathy between ‘in-laws.’
I can only speak from the daughter-in-law’s point of view, but I believe that one cause of friction lies in the fact that there is no name in our language for mother-in-law. The name ‘Mother’ is sacred to the mother of each one of us. When we marry we are obliged to give this name that is so dear to us to another, and I believe we all resent it.
I wonder if the readers of the Atlantic could not suggest an appropriate title? I offer the word in our two root-languages. The Latin ‘Mater’ for the mother-in-law, and the AngloSaxon ‘Mother’ for the real mother.
Elected to our Club of Distant Friends.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Since ‘the friendship of lonely people is what the Atlantic most covets,’ in sending my notice of new address I feel I must add a word of appreciation from another far-away corner of the globe to join the T. B. M. in Singapore, the Texas ranger, and the Cant on-Hankow traveler.
My first three copies, January to March of this year, came together as the result of a sudden realization that exile without one’s own copy of the Atlantic was insupportable. (Some day when I’m not so busy making war on mould and rust and moths and cockroaches and while ants and silverfish I may write you on the trials of reading an Atlantic not one’s own, but that is another tale.) We took the three copies with us on our journey to the hills, and read them as we crossed the baking plains of the Punjab in the hottest month of the year.
I was carrying a copy of the Atlantic when we reached our hotel in Naini Tal, a Himalayan station seven thousand feet nearer Heaven than the country we had left. In spite of luggage unmistakably British in its numerical quantity, and the disguise of clothes made by an Indian durzie, the Atlantic served as identification, passport, and introduction. The one other American in the hotel called immediately and looked hungrily at it. She was a New Yorker, and I think more addicted to Vogue, but still the Atlantic is the Atlantic, even to those who do not habitually read it, and when one gets as far from home as Naini Tal, Boston shares the glories of Fifth Avenue.
Other Americans in the community soon appeared. My three copies started on their rounds and were still going when I left, nor were their limits national. One Englishwoman announced her intention of subscribing at once for the sake of more articles by Hans Coudenhove and William Beebe, and most of all there was the satisfaction of seeing my own particular British lion progress from an attitude of critical aloofness, which had avoided all American magazines as ‘popular,’ to neutral interest in the January number, which amounted to enthusiasm by March. He has recently seized the July number before I read it and is filled with the desire to answer — the unmistakable sign of membership in the Atlantic family.
Whenever I travel now I shall be tempted to carry a copy of the Atlantic, It is a social and intellectual letter of credit, serving at once to introduce those who recognize its yellow cover.
I can also recommend it to all American partners in international marriages as the best means of interpreting our national life and thought to an outsider.
E. S. L.
From Australia comes this decisive anecdote.
The superintendent of a Home for Aged Women was making his usual Christmas calls. ‘Good morning, Sister Martin,’he said, addressing a quaintly charming old lady. ‘I see you are happy this morning with a new copy of your dear Atlantic Monthly.’
‘Yes,’she answered. ‘John always told me I could not possibly be happy in Heaven because I should not have the Atlantic Monthly.'
‘No,’agreed the superintendent, ‘you will not have the Atlantic Monthly in Heaven; but you will have Life.'
‘Well,’ came the rather startling answer, ‘I much prefer Punch.'
May we never be swamped by such an ill wind.
MAPLEWOOD, N. J.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
For years I passed your old Park Street sanctums on my way to my Franklin Street office, and never without a glow of reminiscence, for I was brought up on the Atlantic, as a New Hampshire boy.
I recall that I was considerably mystified on one occasion when my father read me that passage from Longfellow: —
When descends on the Atlantic
Storm wind of the equinox.
I assumed that, of course, the magazine was meant instead of the ocean, but I learned better upon inquiry as to why our valued ‘monthly guest’ should be so ‘put upon.’
Incidentally I might remark that the browncovered Atlantic appears to have weathered all publication storms very successfully, thus far.
B. W. PARKER