SOMEWHERE in the activity of a New York critic, author, and playwright, Edmund Wilson has found the opportunity of listening to a most enlightening conversation. Speaking of Evolution, we should like to have heard what the Iguana had to say to Balaam’s ass. ¶In his essay on‘Anonymity,’ E. M. Forster, the gentle and distinguished English novelist, remarks that ‘Anonymous statements have . . . a universal air about them. Absolute truth, the collected wisdom of the universe, seems to be speaking, not the feeble voice of a man.’ ¶In the Anonymous paper that immediately follows, the author, outwardly healthy, yet condemned by the doctors to die within a few months, describes his attitude toward Death, and his ordering of what remains of life, with such knowledge and courage as compose absolute truth.’ ¶Through dark and often stormy experience, Agnes Repplier has accumulated evidence somewhat inimical to that institution occasionally referred to as our ‘national art.’ Frank Brandon hits a stubborn nail on the head, a nail that cannot be hit too often or too hard. In life, as in his true dialogue, Mr. Brandon plays the rôle of a professor. Benfield Pressey has come to understand freshmen and deans while serving as assistant-professor of English at Dartmouth College. For the last four years Mr. Pressey has written the article on English and American literature for the New International Year Book.
Milutin Krunich first contributed to the Atlantic in June 1917, when, as a lieutenant in the Serbian army, he related his brave and dramatic story, ‘ The Graveyard by the Morava.’ Bliss Carman is a poet of Canadian birth, whose pen persuades us that the modern muse trips to as delicate a music as her ancient sister. ¶A master of contemplation, whether his concern be advertising. deafness, or democracy, Earnest Elmo Calkins has recalled his youth in writing the religious history of a boy’s soul. ¶An Atlantic critic, Ellen Duvall opens a new debate with matter sensible, fresh, and pithy. ¶In this number we publish the third paper of Helen Dore Boylston’s trilogy, ‘ Coming of Age.’ Following the war Miss Boylston served through two Albanian revolutions, and was one of the few neutral eyewitnesses of the Albanian-Italian struggle. On her return, she joined the staff of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Readers who have followed Miss Boylston’s earlier career in the September and October issues of the Atlantic will wish to know that she has given up her nursing and is nowdevoting herself to writing.
Formerly an instructor in English at Harvard University, now a member of the Atlantic staff, Theodore Morrison has turned to Shelleyan account a bracing walk along the October sands. Brassil Fitzgerald served in France with the 101st Infantry. ¶English author and critic, Charles Gardner observes that George Eliot is more read in America than in England to-day. Gretchen Warren (Mrs. Fiske Warren) — poet, reader, and lover of the classics — lives in Boston. ¶A Columbia graduate, Hudson Hoagland took his master’s degree in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1924. Mr. Hoagland is now studying for a doctorate in psychology at Harvard.
John R. Commons is a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin, and a director of the American Bureau of Industrial Research. ¶Missionary service in Persia has enabled Elgin E. Groseclose to enter where, otherwise, angels would fear to tread. ¶After conspicuous work as an editorial writer on agriculture and finance, Arthur P. Chew has become a member of the Department of Agriculture. Mr. Chew has diagnosed the trouble which has at times caused our most conservative farmers to see and be ‘red.’
A few months ago the Atlantic ventured to criticize the colossal extravagance incident to the American standard of a car apiece, or something like it. Letters still stream in.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
No longer young enough to be a banker, I have become a candlestick-maker. It is necessary to live on a small income; our outgo has to be carefully planned from month to month.
Our consciences had not yet quieted down after reading the confessions of an automobilist, when some repairs became necessary on our car which would cut badly into a sum of money we were reserving for some clothes. So we became very thoughtful. Ought we to sell the car we bought on the installment plan at a time when I needed it to go from place to place in the work I was then doing, or have we a right to keep it?
We should not suffer without the car. We could afford some things which we now must deny ourselves. I could wear a new suit on Sundays instead of the one that has been cleaned and repaired a number of times. Wife and daughter could wear things of silk that now must be of cotton, except on rare occasions. We could walk to school, to work, to shops, even to the movies. Occasionally we could go by electric to the city on a shopping-expedition, or for a treat that we cannot afford now. A street car would take us near enough to church so that we could go once a Sunday. Our home is very comfortable, with a porch in front and a tree in the back yard, so we should not be shut in. No, we should not suffer if we had no car.
But some things we do because we are the owners of a car. I drive to and from work. My work, which involves climbing stairs a good deal, is very tiring. I can drive home to lunch, breaking the monotony of the mechanical work, and can be refreshed by the influence of my wife and daughter. For this daily pleasure I should have to substitute a lunch from a dinner-pail, and that would take away from my efficiency. In the evening the short drive home is just enough to take the sag out of my steps. If my wife is tired out from her day’s work, I take her for a short spin out in the open. Ten minutes take us miles away on the boulevard. Sometimes, if we have more time, we circle a hill in a neighboring suburban town — a hill that has so many roads curving in and out among palatial mansions with wonderful grounds that again and again we get lost there, much to our delight, always coming out much nearer home than we expect.
On Sundays, even after attending one or more services, picking up friends who otherwise would stay at home, we fill our Ford with friends and lunch, and go — keep going till we get hungry. Then we eat by the roadside, at the beach, or, if we don’t get hungry too soon, in the deep shade of a canon beside a running brook.
How is it possible that my family and friends, just folks, can be such delightful companions? How can we explain that sandwiches and coffee taste so exquisitely delicious? What gives us the pleasure we Lake in sky and trees, in cañons and mountain-tops, in the roaring breakers at the seaside? What makes us so richly enjoy our friends? Whence comes that wonderful appetite and the pleasure in satisfying it?
‘ The ownership of a Ford,’ is the answer.
So then, Mr. Banker, shall I sell the Ford and be reduced to living within the radius of from six to ten city blocks? Or shall I keep the Ford and live, live in the wide, wide world?
Good-bye, dream of silk things for wife and daughter! Come, old suit, be furbished up once more and serve another three months! We ‘ll get into the car and go so that no one sees what, we are wearing!
Can we get lost on Oak Hill to-day, I wonder?
And, Mr. Ashdown, should our recklessness make us go on the rocks, won’t you let us take up a note for thirty days?
An interesting postscript to Leo Crane’s ‘Let Joy Be Unrefined!’ is this clipping kindly sent us by Mary L. Ellis.
WIND RIVER, WIS. — The Shoshone Sun Dance was held on the Wind River reservation July 24 to 27. Mr. Oliver Hower, superintendent of St. Michael’s Mission, was requested by the Shoshone tribal council to ask a special blessing on the dancers at sundown on the second day. One of the old chieftains said to him: —
‘ Your way of worship is not like our tribal way, but we do not pray to the sun or dance to the sun. or to this fire, or to these colored poles, but we pray to the same Great Father you pray to.’
The comradeship of ‘over there.’
JAMAICA PLAIN, MASS.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
To borrow a bit of slang, Helen Dore Boylston was certainly ‘there.’ Her diary, in its first installment in the September Atlantic, carried this reader back to 1918 in one jump. They called it the ‘Yellow Tea Room,’ in Châteauroux, where Base Hospital No. 9 of the A. E. F. was located. So many infirmières américaines came down there, with majors and others, in the evenings, that an American name was given the café. So many came there, after hours of the sort of work Miss Boylston did. After so many backs had been rubbed, so many dressings applied — but what use to speak of it, unless to those who were ‘over there’? The poor benighted ones who condemned Julie Gamelyn and Peter Graham as immoral — how can they know conditions, from this side of ‘Periscope Pond’?
Before a stay in the hospital, one major and his adjutant sat, of evenings, in the garden of the Château of a French village, and listened to the tales of two French nurses who had been through the same trials as the author of the diary. One had the Croix de Guerre, because she transported wounded from a French hospital under the bombardment of the enemy Taubes. They know what conditions were.
To speak of tales in a French garden brings me to Mildred Aldrich — one beautiful afternoon was spent at La Creste, in Huiry, the ‘Hilltop on the Marne,’ talking with the lady who saw a bit of the war from her garden. This was in July of 1919.
Yes, the war may be over — and a source of ennui to most to have to read of it — but it happened!
GEORGE B. STEBBINS
Liberals and Conservatives alike are concerned with finding a way out of Mr. Nixon’s ‘Evangelicals’ Dilemma,’ which appeared in our September issue.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
The Reverend Mr. Nixon’s article, ‘The Evangelicals’ Dilemma,’ is, as you say, such as to earn the sympathy of many. One reader, certainly, found himself interested in Mr. Nixon’s analysis, and grateful to him for his definitions. But why the concluding paragraphs? Why must the Liberals go consciously about it, that they may meet the pragmatic test?
To one, at least, it seems that, historically considered, Christianity has succeeded where it has lived and worked spontaneously; that wherever it has assumed to be ‘a judge and a divider’ it has become self-conscious and ineffective. Martin Luther is a significant figure in the history of the human spirit, up to the point to which a pure and inner conviction brought him, but no further; the like may be said of John Henry Newman.
Why, then, insist that Liberals be conscious of a mission and a ‘task’? Why not be satisfied that they hold precious the truth as they see it, live by it, and leave the future and its justifications to the God in whom they trust?
BAYARD H. CHRISTY
WEST NEW BRIGHTON
STATEN ISLAND, N. Y.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Dr. Nixon’s article in the September Atlantic is to be especially commended for its frank facing of the dilemma of the Liberals. This commendation comes from the enemy’s camp, since I belong to the minority group in the Presbytery of New York. We who are conservative maintain that the history given in Scripture is trustworthy history, and that the facts given in it are adequately certified by the evidence furnished, and we believe that this certified history is the scientific basis of Christianity. The interpretation of these facts — the philosophy concerning them — will always be, however, a sphere of thought more or less fluid. Against us, the Liberals believe that Christianity is dependent on no such basis, and in reality that no such basis exists, and they make out Christianity rather to be a subjective philosophy that can live, even if these supposed facts are discredited. But since this philosophy must, in its very nature, be fluid, changeable, uncertain, all hope of agreement is sure to be disappointed. No man can long agree even with himself, once he sets sail on this flowing stream of thought, no longer bound by an unalterable history.
In our position we face some dilemmas, but does one of them begin to be as appalling as that which confronts our Liberal friends when they first reject the truth of the only possible scientific foundation for our faith?
We can only hope that the terribleness of that dilemma may drive Dr. Nixon and his comrades once more to examine the evidence for the facts of Gospel history.
Opium — and a pair of rubbers.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
One paragraph in ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ — the paragraph that answers that question, ‘What happened after all the natives were converted?' by beginning with the Word as preached by the well-meaning though deadly uninteresting Mr. Rudge and ending with the ravages of the opium traffic — is so irresistibly illogical that it recalls an incident in my early teaching-days at a New England boarding-school.
I must have been curled up in my favorite baywindow, looking at the Boutet de Monvel Jeanne d’Arc, or I should never have overheard this parental outburst, meant only for the ears of the head mistress: —
’And so we decided to put her in school and I’d like to look over this school and see if it suits. W e had her in a day school at home, supposed to be a good private school, and the other pupils abused her awfully. One girl jumped on her spine and punched her in the stomach and she came home in the rain with. only one rubber on. And she caught an awful cold and typhoid fever set in and while she was sick grandma — my mother-in-law — fell downstairs and broke her leg and we had to have two trained nurses. And then we had to take them both to Florida! And before we were through the whole thing cost us fifteen hundred dollars, and as I said to the principal of that school: “If you had only bought Ethel a pair of rubbers or hired a carriage to send her home! Anything would have been cheaper than this.’”
JEANNIE J. CLEMONS
When Boswell walks in Reading.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Can you spare a little space to a misguided unfortunate who has lived happily in the ‘Land of Ain’t’ for nigh half a century? J. H. E.’s entertaining letter in the September Contributors’ Column has served as an active, if irritant, topic of conversation in the clubs and circles of society that he has not penetrated, despite his recent acquaintance with and knowledge of * Pennsylvania Dutch folk.’
Can it be that to his final meed of praise, ‘Above all, they are thrifty,’ he did not add the words, ‘and truthful,’ because of contrast? My reason for this thought is because he tells an interesting— but very ancient — story of an experience that he states he and his wife had, in which the other actors w-ere a caboose, a little boy, and his ‘mom.’ (‘Ain’t, mom, when the little red car goes by it’s all?’) That same story was told by our ancestors the very first day that a train ran through Reading. This gentleman admits having favored this ‘foreign’ city as his place of residence for a period of ten years. For many times ten years we have told this same old story to every carpetbagger who comes. Invariably the result has been the same — in a few days we hear it repeated as a personal experience.
I have passed this same grade-crossing thousands of times since my nurse first poured the story into my infant ears. At every hour of the day and night I have seen trains go by, but I have been less fortunate than your correspondent, for never yet have I seen this little boy and his ‘mom’ patiently standing there all these many years in order that he may ‘say his piece’ to strangers in a very strange city.
I have a very wide acquaintance among these people, who must seem even more ‘quare’ than Lucy Furman’s young women did to the Kentucky mountaineers. They represent every mental and social grade, but none to whom I have spoken has ever heard anyone say, ‘Is you on yet ? ‘ Can it be that this gentleman and his wife associate only with people who have vivid imaginations? ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ cities contain as many kinds of people as do cities in sections of the country where true culture reigns; but here, too, there is an old saying — and in English, mind you — about water seeking its own level.
A CITIZEN OF THE ‘LAND OF AIN’T’
The gentle art of chaperonage.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Have experiences with the Atlantic similar to this one of mine been often related?
A few years ago I took with me on a boat trip, for leisure moments, my copy of the current Atlantic. While I was sitting on deck reading, a man in the party began to discuss with me an article he had just read in his copy of the same magazine. After this we talked of An American Idyll, by Cornelia Parker, then being published, which had charmed us both. From that beginning our friendship continued until we decided to attempt to make an idyll of our lives as the Parkers had done. The success we have made may be judged by the determination of some of my friends to carry a copy of the Atlantic when they go traveling.
My husband has often said that he was first attracted to me because I was reading the Atlantic. Needless to add, we consider this magazine an important part of our home life.
V. H. W.