The Contributors' Column
IT is a pleasure to introduce our readers to Carl Christian Jensen, whose autobiography can tell more eloquently than we the true epic of his career. Horn in Denmark in 1888, and educated in the school of experience, he soon took to the sea, eventually landing — penniless and eighteen— in New York. Then followed his second education, that of an American citizen. But it is not as the diary of another immigrant that this story takes on its significance, interesting as are the events which crowd the life of this man still on the threshold of his career. Rather the inspiration of the story comes from its spiritual and intellectual value and the bold vigor of his style. ¶A minister of the Kirk, the Reverend J. M. Witherow spent the past summer visiting and preaching in Canada and the United States. William Bennett Munro, professor of municipal government at Harvard University, is the author of several standard books on government. ¶After a spring visit to these shores, James Norman Hall returned to Tahiti, where in June his son, Conrad Lafcadio Hall (note the dual devotion of the name), was born. ¶In the peach orchards and along the blue ridges of Gettysburg, Elsie Singmaster (Mrs. Harold Lewars) finds the proper stimulus for her stories., ¶Poet and librarian, Viola C. White from the heights of Brooklyn has realized the truth of the philosophy, ‘Every landscape is a state of soul.’
An American, graduated from Harvard, Gaillard Lapsley is a Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Cambridge, where for a generation he has stimulated the understanding of American and English undergraduates. Alexander McAdie, Director of the Blue Hill Observatory at Readville, Massachusetts, is well qualified to measure our heavenly ceiling. ¶Replying to our comment on her story, Margaret Prescott Montague writes: —
I am glad that you think I succeeded in the venture of ’The Golden Moment,’ but was surprised and amused that you should think I was intentionally preaching a temperance sermon on the side. That was entirely outside my thoughts, and I used the drink theme merely as I might have used any other theme that would bring out the story. As a matter of fact, I had very little actively to do with this story, as it very obligingly wrote itself for me, and I had been working on it for three days before I knew how it was going to end. I had in my mind one day the thought that if we could shift our ordinary consciousness just a hair’s breadth a whole new world might emerge. From this thought a story began to develop itself, and I laid aside some other work I was doing and gave it the right of way, writing on it, as I say, for several days before I knew where the story would lead or what the end would be; so that I went on from step to step, almost as unconscious of what was to happen next as the heroine was herself. If I have broken the canons of my art by preaching against strong drink, my conscience is wholly clear in the matter, for I did it unintentionally. It is true that I am for prohibition, but I do not attempt to force my views on other people and have never deliberately written anything in favor of it.
For a quarter of a century the Reverend Samuel McChord Crothers, minister of the First (Unitarian) Church of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been sending us his essays. ¶Y journalist, William Preston Beazell is the assistant managing editor of the New York World. To birds and their cousin, the aeroplane, he has devoted great study, and was personally responsible for the first lay survey of the development of air service in this country, for which be received official commendation.
Associate professor of English at Vanderbilt University, John Crowe Ransom is a poet who writes, teaches, and edits a literary journal in the South. ¶The government of great cities has a vital relationship to the whole question of prohibition, and from his office as mayor of Chicago, William E. Dever speaks with wide and impartial observation. ¶Son of a missionary, Jerome D. Greene, former Secretary to the Rockefeller Foundation and a prominent New York banker, represents the small but no less important constituency, the individual conscience. ¶During the several years that Dr. Mary W. Griscom was working among the medical missions in China, India, and Persia, she made a practice of tasting any dish or drink — once! The material for her paper was gathered from her letters by her friend, Corinne Rockwell Swain. Chauncey Brewster Tinker, professor of English at Yale, is a collector of distinction and a superlative Boswellian. ¶One speaks of Ellis Parker Butler and Pigs Is Pigs in the same breath.
For a complete understanding of the pageantry described by An Onlooker, it may help the reader if we quote from a recent history of Asia: —
In Persia, Ahmad, the last Shah of the Kajar dynasty, was violently deposed, in November 1925, by his powerful minister, Reza Khan. The deposition was not unmerited, as the exShah had spent much of his time in luxurious living outside his dominions. Since then Reza Khan has followed up his action by proclaiming himself the first ruler of a new dynasty, the Pahlavi, thus seeking the revival of an old and once glorious name.
Ian D. Colvin is the leading editorial writer on the London Morning Post, and, we need not add, a Conservative. ¶A Japanese publicist in close touch with affairs, K. K. Kawakami divides his time between Orient and Occident.
Of the multitude of letters that have come in reply to George Martin’s article, ‘Liberty and Sovereignty,’ this would seem to us the most remarkable both for context and for association.
TUNNEL 9 HUGO, OREGON DEAR ATLANTIC, — I have just read your July number, which reached me by a very circuitous route. For two years I have given the Atlantic to my sister, who is a nurse in Pasadena; she passes it on to my aunt in Long Beach, who sends it to my mother, a home missionary’s wife in southwestern Oregon, and she sends it to me, a high-school teacher, a few years out of college, in eastern Oregon. Eastern Oregon, by the way, is as different from Oregon as Southern California is from California. The buckaroos there still wear chaps and carry guns; but not because they see it done in the movies. The nearest movie is fifty miles away, and not much good, at that. As did the Virginian, the buckaroos wear chaps to protect their legs from chafing during a sixteen-hour day in the saddle. They carry a gun as a Middle Western farmer would a pocketknife, as a handy and diversified tool: to kill snakes, shoot sick calves, or end the pain of a crippled horse — or, at times, to protect themselves. But my object is not to write of the cow country. During the summers I have usually engaged in outdoor work, and this year am a tunnel watchman in the Umpqua Mountains. My hours are 5 P.M. to 5 A.M., during which time I sit and wait for trains, and then follow them through the tunnel on foot to see that the timbering has not caught fire. Trains on the S. P are not as frequent as those in the East, so I have a great deal of time to sit. And it was last night, by the light of a small fire of old tunnel lagging, that I read the July number. I think I shall require all my students in history and civics next year to read ‘Liberty and Sovereignty.’ I am a ‘school-teacher,’ was raised in the ‘ rural district of the Middle West,’ and am the son of a ‘Protestant clergyman’; and, incidentally, believe strongly in temperance, although I have, as yet, formed no actuating opinion on prohibition. In fact, I would seem to be a triple-distilled essence of what Martin claims is leading this country to ruin. Being aware of that as I read, I read with especially great interest, taking my time to it. In fact, I made one or two trips through the tunnel at section headings, and, as I walked the half mile and back through the actual ‘heart of the hills. I tried to assimilate his theories and find where they agreed or disagreed with mine. Then, with refreshed mind, I would read some more, and finally finished with the thought that once again the Atlantic had demonstrated that, it is the magazine. As to the philosophy of government which Martin expounds, I agree heartily. Although I had never read Hegel and Austin, my classes and I, in discussion, have always arrived at the conclusion that government, the outward evidence of the State, as written words are the evidence of the thought, finds its authority in the will of a middle-sized independent group. In this country it is the several states. There are larger and smaller groups — the nation and the cities — functioning when individuals can be better served by them, but the one which is really the most dominant one now is the state government. The real State itself is, of course, the people, not the government. It is the thought — and not the words — which is important, and eternally and actually existent, and yet it simply cannot be expressed without words. So some form of government will always be present, but we must not forget that it is ’we, the people,’ and not even the Constitution, who are preëminent.
As to Martin’s blame of the ‘ Protestant clergymen’ for deliberately overthrowing government as organized, he is right to a very great extent. Yet it seems to me that he did not make the base of his argument so wide that it cannot be overthrown. Summed down, his argument is that the drys are treading on dangerous ground because they are treading on the consciences of others, That is true. Every act of importance which one does is an act which hurts the conscience (spiritual feelings) of someone else.
As to the immediate danger to this country from the overthrow of established government by the drys, that seems to be only one phase of a larger question. Every individual in this nation is obsessed with a great desire to do what he wants to do, and this is the natural result of the philosophy of government that the people are the State. Each person wants to obey only the laws which suit him. The buckaroos drink moonshine, the college boy swipes real property, the business man speeds his car, the preacher, in some instances, has endeavored to do away with trial by jury. All are equally to blame, and, until each is willing to sacrifice a little of himself for the larger good of all, this country cannot progress as it should. It is well to try to prevent the preacher from eliminating juries, if juries are a good thing. It is well to punish the collegian, if property is sacred. It is well to fine the speeder, if children’s lives are worth while. Let us do all these things, but let us remember that each is merely part of the whole social problem.
For our delectation Mr. A. Edward Newton has forwarded to us this anonymous letter, evidently penned by one who knows her books.
DEAR MR. NEWTON, —
I have just finished reading your article in the July number of the Atlantic Monthly. You say you do not know why Queen Anne is always called in England ‘good Queen Anne. ’ There is a very good reason. Queen Anne was a convinced and devout Protestant; her father, King James II, who was a bigoted Roman Catholic, made every effort to influence his daughter Anne to change her religion and become a Roman Catholic. James had a lot of power over poor Princess Anne (as she then was), as she and her husband, George of Denmark, lived in London near King James; while his eldest daughter, Mary, was safely away from his pernicious influence in Holland with her husband, William of Orange. When Anne became Queen Anne of Great Britain, one of her first actions was to cause an inquiry to be made into the conditions of living of the Church of England clergy. She found that many Church of England curates were so poor that they were nearly starving. Queen Anne devoted herself to the task of helping to better the condition of the clergy. She founded the Church Charity Fund, known as ‘Queen Anne’s Bounty, ’ which gives extra money to any poor Church of England clergyman whose income is under a certain amount; this fund is still in existence, and many a good clergyman has reason to remember gratefully ‘good Queen Anne.’ It was the Church of England clergy of her day who gave Anne Stuart this nickname, ‘good Queen Anne,’and the populace took it up as a correct description of her, because Queen Anne was known to be really devoted to the National Church. She took more interest in the Church of England than in anything else pertaining to her high position.
These ‘Sermons in Stones’ form an appropriate postscript to Langdon Mitchell’s paper, ‘The New Secession,’ in the August Atlantic.
July 29, 1926
To THE EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC: —
For the amusement of the sanctum, and to divert your editorial minds from the prevailing topic at this season of the year, I am enclosing two inscriptions on tombstones in Charleston which escaped Mr. Mitchell’s observation.
The first is: —
THIS STONE IS ERECTED
AFFECTION MIGHT DIFFUSE ITSELF
IN DISCOURSE OF
THE VIRTUOUS DEAD
BUT SIMPLY TO MARK
THE SPOT ON EARTH
CLAUDIA BUTLER TURNBULL
THE WIFE OF
ROBERT J. TURNBULL.
I hope I am not violating the spirit of the Eighteenth Amendment, or offending Senator Borah, by quoting another, to wit; —
IN MEMORY OF
AGED 55 YEARS.
DIED THE 5TH OF JANUARY, 1787.
A JOVIAL FRIEND AND GENEROUS MIND.
To HOSPITALITY HIS SOUL INCLINED.
W. J. CURTIS
Not for many months has our hornet’s nest of opinion been so shaken as it was by the Returning American who in the August Atlantic cast his candid observations on ‘Home.’ We are glad to reprint some of the offers of praise, help, and criticism which the author has received.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
As the author of ‘Home’ in your August number is not. a married man and I have so many points in common with him I feel we ought to know each other — before he meets someone else. I too am weary of America and want to live in England. Torquay would suit me very well for the country, with occasional visits to the quiet London hotel near Regent Street he speaks of. I also love Chevrolet cars, if he can’t afford Pierce-Arrows; also I can cook and boil tea without scalding it, and will make ‘Home’ seem like ‘Sweet Home’ to him when he comes to it. If he is married or spoken for, would he introduce me to his friend who made $100,000 last year? Or, if he is not crotchety and set in his ideas, the one who made $70,000 might do! I am a little suspicious about the last, however — either he made nothing and is just bragging or he made a great deal more and did n’t want it known. Six figures are what count in my part of the woods, and that gentleman will need looking up. Perhaps he is married by now and wears false teeth.
You see I’m Irish and not afraid to speak my mind, either in telling the author how I would like to meet him or what I think of things I know ain’t so. Maybe if the $70,000 fellow would agree to go to live in the South Seas I could stand him and change my mind. ‘Home’ there is a simple affair and one would not have to pay $36 duties, returning to America, on imported fig leaves.
Please forward this letter to the author, whose answer is of importance to one who waits.
Your appreciative reader,
Another lady, if less circumspect, is quite as sincere.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Would the author of ‘Home’ like to meet a ’loidy,’ object matrimony?
I want to live in England
And with the English stand,
A soda on the table
A whiskey in my hand.
AN AMERICAN COOK
SANDY COVE, N. S.
To the author of Home !
DEAR SIR: —
Will you pardon the form of this address, and accept the thanks of a teacher for your most pertinent paper? I cannot imagine anything more needed. I mean to read it, on the first day of classes, to the one hundred and fifty youths and maidens whom I try to teach in a Philadelphia high school. And I shall keep on the board for several days your epigram, ‘Children love noise, savages do, and some types of the insane.’ I earnestly desire that my students shall consider deeply your ideas about materialism, the radio, simplicity, love of beauty, and so forth.
I am finding in this quiet little Canadian village the English tranquillity of which you speak. For eleven dollars a week, I have beauty, beauty on every side — and, ‘ incidentally,’ a good cook. And I am blessed by having found here what someone calls ‘that divine solitude that purifies and gives rest.’
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
One word — namely, SELFISHNESS — is the answer to ‘Returning American.’
In England selfishness is suppressed in the lower classes for the greater comfort of the upper classes; in America every man is as selfish as he dares to be.
ELIZABETH BURNHAM (Age 70)
August 10, 1926
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
My purpose in writing is to extend condolence to a Returning American, the author of ‘Home.’ Such a state of mind is rather unfortunate. Like a medical specialist he appears to see everyone through the colored lens of his own prejudice.
To the Westerner, or Middle-Westerner, it is always trying to have someone — who gives evidence of not having made surveys west of 85 degrees longitude — hold up a comparatively small area as the barometer of the United States. To select a few thousand people out of New York’s five and three quarters millions, and declare them representative of over one hundred and five millions of people in an area extending over three millions of square miles, is not merely ludicrous, it is misleading.
Because our friend chanced to ride on the train with a nervous engineer; because he and his friends do not wish to listen to the radio when dining, it really is n’t necessary to throw all radios into the sea and deprive the invalids, the secluded, the lonely, of their enjoyment — or to stop all trains.
I can go to New York and enjoy in many reputable downtown hotels a clean, airy, quiet room, equipped with a bath, for as much as or less than the Parisian price which he commends as justifiable. We have no reason for thinking that New York hotels originated the idea of getting all the people will stand for. Long years ago, ‘in the good old days,’ P. T. Barnum accumulated some of this world’s goods by commercializing the idea that ‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’ Twenty-eight-dollar-a-day hotels are kept open for the benefit of people who’ll pay the price.
To one living quietly undisturbed amid the jar of present-day conditions, with acquaintances and friends who are far from wild or savage, who enjoy the simple, beautiful, good things of life in nature, art, and literature, who go to bed at a reasonable hour, rise early, raise children sanely, and live temperately, so much excitement about all of America going wrong seems unwarranted.
Incidentally, I might even consider making a wager with our returning American to the effect that he can’t determine, by their apparel only, the occupation, profession, or address of twenty-five of the first fifty people he meets as he walks down Fifth Avenue this evening.
M. M. WEBSTER
August 16, 1926
I have read with the greatest interest and sympathy the article in the current Atlantic Monthly entitled ‘Home,’by a Returning American. The writer has put his finger on a very sore place in our civilization and one wonders when and where and how the mad orgy will end.
It is a matter of regret that the writer of this excellent article should remain anonymous.
‘The Modernist’s Quest for God,’ which appeared in the Atlantic last February, brought in its wake a shoal of letters, many sympathetic, many pensive and doubtful. To all our readers this letter from the anonymous author will be interesting.
EDITOR OP THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY : —
You have been good enough to forward me numerous and very welcome letters called forth by my article in your February issue entitled ‘The Modernist’s Quest for God.’ May I now trespass on your space to thank my friends, to whom I cannot write personally, for their kindness. It is a heart-warming experience to write an article as essentially controversial as mine and to receive in reply so many letters not one of which breathes the traditional bitterness of theological discussion, or indeed anything but kindness. My first word must, then, be one of thanks.
My second word must be one of explanation. I wrote in the sad belief that there was in Modernism no sure conviction about God, and that for lack of it Fundamentalism on one hand, and atheism, or at least agnosticism, on the other, were made strong. I am not on that account, as some of my friends fear, either a Fundamentalist or an atheist, and never expect to be driven to either point of view.
I wish I could add that out of the riches of their own certitudes my friends had answered my questions. Alas, I cannot. They have on the whole strengthened my feeling that a strong religious faith must have in it some elements of supernatural mysticism, whether this is avowed in words or not. (Certainly such faith is not born out of pragmatic philosophy.) For one who is on psychological grounds rather skeptical of the philosophic value of mysticism this conclusion is not altogether comforting.
Dr. Albion Small, whose recent death we all have reason to deplore, gently chides me for seeking ‘the absolute.’ Well, the passion for what philosophers call the absolute is, I suspect, deep in most of us, but I don’t honestly think that it is the philosophic impossibility of the absolute which led me to the questions I attempted to state in my article.
My heart especially went out to the mother who wondered what I would offer to our children. It is a question which much concerns me, for I too have children of my own. Certainly I cannot positively offer them what she calls ‘Christian liberalism,’ and therefore I am no longer active in the ministry. I can let them know what the Christian liberal believes and why. And for the rest I can tell them that in a world where there is so much beauty, so much to be known, so many to be loved, life is still worth while. I am not wholly convinced by the uncompromising cosmic pessimism of Bertrand Russell’s Worship of a Free Man, but I am quite convinced that he leaves us with some reason still to live and work and love.
THE UNKNOWN AUTHOR