The Contributors' Column
Madame Balascheff, born Princess Marie Cantacuzene, daughter of Prince Cantacuzene, Russian Minister to Washington during Cleveland’s administration, is the wife of Pierre Balascheff, a prominent party leader in the Duma before the war. For several years following the Revolution she and her five sons did their best to make a new home for themselves on a swampy little duck farm in France. But the odds were too great, and Madame Balascheff is now working for a Parisian notary — eight hours a day in the office, two to four hours copying at home in the evening. Our account is drawn from letters written to an old American friend, Mrs. Foster Stearns of Worcester. William B. Munro is the first appointee to the Jonathan Trumbull Professorship of American History and Government at Harvard University. ¶Editor, critic, and professor, Bliss Perry goes lecturing every autumn so that he may go fishing every spring. ¶To the knowledge of an economist and sociologist H. H. Powers adds a wide acquaintance with European affairs. Formerly professor of economics at Smith College and Cornell, of late years he has been identified with the Bureau of University Travel. Vincent Sheean, who spent last summer in Persia, now sends us from Paris a story redolent of New York. ¶Certain notorious political trials, familiar to us all, are cases in point for F. Lyman Windolph’s discussion of legal ethics. Mr. Windolph is a practising lawyer of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Aquah Laluah is a young African who has studied for several years in Europe. She is a member of an ancient African family and the granddaughter of a native king. ¶English author of seven novels, assistant editor of the New Leader, and an active member of the Independent Labor Party, Mary Agnes Hamilton is a frequent and dark-haired visitor to New York City. ¶Professor emeritus of philosophy, George Herbert Palmer has for nearly two generations been a famous teacher at Harvard University. ¶ ‘ I have always thought it curious,’ writes A. Edward Newton, ' that Samuel Johnson never met Benjamin Franklin: both were living in London at the same time, and both were intimate friends of Strahan’s. . . . One is permitted to wonder what would have happened at a meeting of the wisest and wittiest American that ever lived with the wisest and wittiest Englishman of his time.’
Not till the spring thaws are over can we expect to hear the results of Hilda Rose’s venture into the promised northlands. Last summer she gave up an unequal struggle on a Western stump farm, as recounted in her earlier letters in our two preceding numbers, and moved her family north to the virgin country on the shore of Peace River, Alberta. Once a month a dog sledge brings the mails. Kenneth Griggs Merrill, vice president and manager of a Chicago manufacturing concern, has found an ingenious ‘ way out ’ of the mental doldrums that beset a commercial traveler. ¶A young Russian officer who served in Galicia and in Flanders, Nahum Sabsay first came to this country in 1918, where, after a year spent in shops and factories, he entered the Harvard Mining School. Following graduation he joined the staff of Dr. Augustus Locke of California, whose encouragement and criticism in ‘off hours’ aided Mr. Sabsay in his mastery of English. Dr. Gustav Eckstein is an associate of the Cincinnati College of Medicine. ¶Because — shall we say? — of her environment in a Brooklyn library, Viola C. White has shown herself a poet and essayist of charm.
Charles C. Marshall is an experienced attorney of New York City who has throughout his active life been closely associated with the Anglican Church and has made himself an authority upon canon law. Before its publication his important ‘Letter’ to Governor Smith has been submitted for comment and possible reply to important members, both lay and clerical, of the Church of Rome. ¶An observing and informed critic, Horace J. Fenton levels a searching though not unfriendly gaze at a great institution which should deserve our unlimited confidence. John Reay Watson, an editor and journalist of long training, is a resident of Melbourne, Australia.
The Atlantic’s own opinion of the value of Professor Ripley’s famous book. Main Street and Wall Street, is well known. We are glad to publish in our Bookshelf a review written from another angle by a banker of light and leading, but are still of the opinion that the improvement in the conduct of corporate business to which Colonel Ayres alludes is the result of just such sharp and intelligent criticism as Professor Ripley supplies.
Here is a symposium selected from the many replies to Joseph Wood Krutch’s diagnosis of ‘The Modern Temper,’ which appeared in the February Atlantic. The opinion is almost unanimous that if Science leads to such conclusions as Mr. Krutch’s the world will feel the need of another Guide.
WALLA WALLA, WASHINGTON
It is an awful thing to question an editor’s judgment, but I don’t like the title of an interesting article in the February Atlantic. It is called ‘ The Modern Temper,’ but that does not properly describe it, for it is not representative of the modern temper in general, but only of a particular segment of modern thinking. It ought to be called ‘The Temper of Me and My Friends,’ or perhaps better ‘A New Ecclesiastes,’ for it represents exactly the spirit of the Greek skepticism which manifested itself in the book Ecclesiastes, saturated with pessimism and holding all things to be vanity and vexation of spirit.
The Hebrew writer left a little place for God, for whom your author has no use whatever. He curiously enough sets up an altar to Science, for which alone of all human activities he seems to have great respect. He dismisses lightly art, poetry, literature, history, and religion as the offspring of imagination engendered upon desire, and thinks that Science has a different parentage. Is not Science the offspring of imagination engendered upon curiosity, and in what respect is its parentage more honorable? A deeper study of epistemology might lead to sounder conclusions.
I am glad to have read the article because it illustrates finely how far the mind may go when once it has cut loose from all philosophical moorings. I hope we may have more by the same writer.
A WESTERN READER
When Joseph Wood Krutch, exponent of the ‘Modern Temper,’ hands down a verdict in 1927 that the whole universe is without meaning, I feel he is acting prematurely and on insufficient data.
In spite of the Copernican Theory and Darwin’s Origin of Species, in spite of modern chemistry and psychology, the modern intellect, it seems to me, is comparatively as far from compassing the essence macrocosm as the original cave man. The human imagination balks at the conception of infinity. Space and time are inconceivable for us without a beginning and an end. How, then, can intelligence solve the riddle of the universe, which is hopelessly akin to the problem of infinity? If after thousands of years of speculation and science we are still but a step from total ignorance, in what respect should the modern temper differ from that of 5000 B.C.?
In the face of such absolute mystery I prefer to stand like the first man and live. When my intellectual curiosity says, ‘Is there a meaning in life?’ my intellectual honesty replies, ‘I do not know,’ and in this dilemma I accept Professor James’s memorable advice and ‘Will to Believe’ that life is worth while.
Life on these terms is not robbed of its poetry by modern biology and psychology, as Mr. Krutch affirms. Because we discover a flower has its roots in the mould, is the blossom any less fragrant? Is the fine symmetry and rhythm of an athlete any less worthy of Pindaric Ode because we suddenly discover his biological kinship with the ‘humblest insect that crawls’?
Metabolism in the amœba may be an elemental act of ‘stomach’ in which the organism folds itself about a lump of food, but that does not destroy the human conception of eating which has evolved into the rites of hospitality. Sex in the earthworm may be a primordial function involving physical proximity and secretion, but the mating of birds is just as truly a scientific fact, accompanied by lyrical flights which furnish excellent precedent for the love songs of the troubadours. Perhaps to the Freudian mind of the earthworm the average nightingale is suffering from an acute attack of anachronistic illusions; but the phenomenon certainly cannot be charged off to the account of the Saints or Santa Claus,
In many respects it seems to me Mr. Krutch has examined a square inch of the great canvas of life and then declared the whole picture a mess.
DONALD B. SNYDER
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OHIO
There is more than one reason why you are a favorite with me, but the chief reason is that you make me think. The February number proved especially stimulating. I had had a sudden bereavement which made immediately acute my questioning in search of something to believe. Joseph Wood Krutch’s ‘The Modern Temper’ may seem a queer source of comfort for one seeking light on the subject of personal immortality. On the first reading it was heavily depressing. Then succeeded a feeling of relief to find how much there was with which I could disagree, how much even my inchoate creeds still held to enrich my life compared to the bleak outlook there pictured. Perhaps my reading has been too largely orthodox. If I read more of the modernists I might achieve almost a conservative faith. A lucid statement of a definite position which one can either accept or argue crystallizes one’s own ideas from out the vague and muddy uncertainty in which they were dissolved. For this I am grateful to Mr. Krutch.
Mr. Krutch tells us man is instinctively and emotionally an ethical animal, that man loved an anthropomorphic God made in man’s own image, but that this God has retreated and surrendered control of the universe, that nature’s purpose is not understandable in man’s terms (if indeed she has any purpose), that the realm of ethics has no place in the pattern of nature, that man has developed sensibilities and established values beyond the nature which gave him birth, and must probably remain an ethical animal in a universe which contains no ethical element.
To begin at the conclusion and work backward: if man is, as Mr. Krutch says, a part of the universe of nature, and man is instinctively and emotionally an ethical animal, then ipso facto there is an ethical element in nature. Man is it. Not all of nature’s qualities need be exemplified in every one of her productions. If man is the unimportant creature he is pictured he could not establish values beyond the nature which gave him birth. The more surely he is merely one part of a great universe which spreads beyond him, the more surely he can create and develop nothing alien to that universe.
Man is young. He is learning to talk. It is the first glimpse of a vaster perspective that frightens him in the dawn of his adolescence. That nature is not understandable in man’s terms should not be taken by Mr. Krutch as proof that nature is nonethical. Man may yet learn new terms and a larger understanding of nature than merely the working of the physical phenomena he has recently learned to see. The predicament in which we find ourselves is that of the youth who acquires a little knowledge and becomes self-conscious before he gains wisdom.
Now out of this conception of mankind growing from infancy to maturity I have gained the answer to my own problem, I shall not say to my children that my code is right and any deviation wrong; I shall try instead to instill the feeling of need for some code which shall seem high and noble to them, and trust they may go further than I can in the evolution of man’s understanding of God and the ethics of nature.
ELIZABETH DINWIDDIE HOLLADAY
Further evidence of the interdependence of widely different trades reached us too late to be included in E. E. Calkins’s paper, ‘Business Has Wings,’ which appeared in the March Atlantic. We quote from an editorial of the New York Times. It is to be expected that ‘very short skirts should cause a rise in stocking profits; that huge fur collars on women’s coats set the milliners to making skull caps, and that corsets . . . should leap into display advertising when Paris says that frocks will be fitted. But who would think that because women are wearing no high shoes the cost of building would be affected?’ Such is the case, according to a recent builders’ report. Goat hair was a favorite supply of plasterers some years ago. They still prefer it to the substitutes they have been compelled to use since women have taken to wearing low shoes. When more kid leather was used, there was an ample supply of hair for mixing with plaster, but now, due in part to the absence of high shoes, in part to the fact that many slippers have no leather about them except the sole, goat hair has become a rare product — and the cost of building is affected!
If mathematicians are to be believed, at least a score of them are losing sleep over Carl Christian Jensen’s problem of the Spider and the Fly in his contribution to the January Atlantic. Here is one who speaks for the fraternity.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI MY DEAR MR. JENSEN:
Your reference in your recent article to the defenseless fly and the hungry spider has started a seemingly endless discussion. I puzzled over the matter for several days — consumed reams of paper, wandered aimlessly about, muttered meaningless phrases; my friends looked askance and sadly shook their heads. At last, in desperation, I took the problem to several mathematicians of local repute, — engineers, ‘math’ instructors, a college president, and so on, ad infinitum, — saying that my education had been rudely interrupted while in the throes of calculus, and that the problem undoubtedly called for a solution by some method in that part of the text I had not covered. Without exception they report that the correct answer is forty-two feet.
Frankly, I am in a dilemma — my sanity is being questioned — and I am asking you to get me out of this impossible situation for which I feel that you are responsible. Pray enlighten me as to the method of your solution.
I can easily understand how it is possible to make forty out of forty-two in golf, — that is done quite frequently, — but the application of that principle to a problem of this sort is taking advantage of one’s good nature.
L. EDWARD ATTWOOD
Mr. Jensen’s solution is vexingly simple.
A room is 30 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 12 feet high. On one end wall is a spider. He is I foot from the ceiling and 6 feet from each side wall. On the other end wall is a fly. He is 1 foot from the floor and 6 feet from each side wall. The spider desires to reach the fly in the shortest possible travel, crawling all the way.
This reader, a college professor, has a clue as to where we shall find the ‘Missing Rooms’ lately lamented by John Carter in our February issue.
I have just finished reading ‘The Missing Rooms’ by John Carter in the February number. ‘ Even if we make a lot of money, what can we do with it? Buy a home? Where? . . . Our young men can no longer go West or South. . .
Buy a home? Where? Try — but, on second thought, I won’t tell you! For, as Abraham Cowley remarked nearly three hundred years ago,
I should have then this only fear:
Lest men, when they my pleasures see,
Should hither throng to live like me,
And so make a city here.
I have no doubt that they would ‘hither throng to live like me,’ if what I know, and what Mr. Carter says, are true. Mr. Carter says that ‘a very ordinary sort of city wedding can run to $10,000 without the slightest difficulty’; my house, I know, cost that amount, and is provided with nursery as well as guest chamber; and one of my neighbors has just built a house similarly equipped for $9000.
I will, however, venture to suggest that if young men can no longer go West or South, there is still the North.
And if ‘five thousand dollars a year does not begin to provide the simplest and most ordinary amenities of life,’ and if ‘less than a tenth of the heads of families submitting income-tax returns in New York City have incomes over $5000 a year,’ then I am certain that if I should disclose my residence men would ‘hither throng to live like me.’
For I have far more than the simplest and most ordinary amenities of life on less than five thousand. Why not conclude that perhaps Mr. Carter’s statement that ‘our opportunities lie in the city’ is an error?
As I write this, my house is so quiet that I can hear the clock tick in the next room. Both my children are out playing on a snow-locked street free of automobiles. There is no factory smoke to darken the sky. We have good schools close at hand, playgrounds and athletic fields, a good public library, a private school and a college, three or four factories well situated, and well-lighted streets. We can see the same movies that Mr. Carter can see in the new Paramount Building, we can be bored by the same Abie’s Irish Rose, and we can listen to the singers and players and preachers of New York without spending two hours in the subway.
There is more real culture on some of our farms here in —but I really must refrain from telling you where — than there used to be in many of those old-fashioned homes with quiet evenings around a dim dining-room-table lamp. If, as Mr. Carter says, ‘one can see that this old-fashioned home was poised on the fact of cheap labor,’ the old-fashioned home need not go out of business; for labor is cheaper and more intelligent and quieter than ever before. It slides quietly into my house over a wire. It brings in no muddy shoes, it leaves no sweaty odor behind, and it is never in the bathtub when I want to use it.
I have no smoke-house, no scullery, no sewingroom, no servants’ hall, no drawing-room, no dressing-room, and no dairy, in my house; but in spite of these Missing Rooms, it is still a home.
CARL J. WEBER
‘Home, Sweet Home.'
SOUTH ORANGE, N. J.
Mr. Carter’s article on ‘Missing Rooms’ strikes at the root of many of our domestic difficulties. ‘Home, Sweet Home’ may be doggerel verse, but it expresses a longing which most people feel.
As a friend of mine, himself a cliff dweller in New York, recently expressed it, ‘What can you expect of the children to-day? They are born in a hospital, they live in an apartment, and they will probably be buried from a “funeral parlor.” ’
Oh! for ‘a lodge in a garden of cucumbers.'
C. R. B.
‘Homette, Sweet Homette.'
This warning is directed to those who have to live with the diminutive — in a homette — anywherette.
A CATASTROPHETTE - IN OUTLINETTE
The lady leaped from the bathtubette
Right into the cosy kitchenette.
Alas! the doors behind her mette.
And mashed her to a flat insette!
Such haps will come again — or yette —
Though this sad case is hypothette,
ALICE GRAY TRUSLOW
‘Another Apartment Tragedy.'
Having but one bathroom in a small apartment to accommodate a large family, and finding door to said bathroom locked over time, I enter after departure of family and observe a copy of the Atlantic staring me in the face from among the toothbrushes and cold creams! Now what do you know about that?
JEANNETTE F. HALL
This further elucidation of the Bahai Movement is related to the writer’s earlier letter in the January Atlantic.
GENEVA, N. Y., R. D. #2
In view of the numerous letters of inquiry which I have received, and in order that I may not seem unnecessarily cryptic about the prophets mentioned in my letter to the Reverend Mr. Swisher, I tender the following information.
I had reference to the Bahai Movement, which as a religious and social body claims the solution of certain world problems. It started in Persia in 1844 when the Bab, or gate, announced the imminence of a great world teacher and exhorted the people to prepare for his coming. The response of the bigoted and fanatical Shi’ahs was prompt; they imprisoned the youth, applied the bastinado, slaughtered many of his followers. The Bab carried on the leadership of his flock by such devices as dropping instructions concealed in walnut shells from his prison window into the hands of a follower waiting below. His influence spread alarmingly, with the result that six years after his Declaration the Bab was shot in the public square at Shiraz by a squad of soldiers. He was then thirty-one. At the time foretold by the Bab a prophet appeared who proclaimed Himself the promised Messiah for whom the people of all religions were watching. He was given the title of Baha’u’llah, ‘the Glory of God.’ After many vicissitudes He was permanently imprisoned in the deplorable fortress at Acca, Syria — in the words of the Bible, ‘ the Valley of Achor.’ He was accompanied by a large following of His believers and His family, including the son who was to be known many years later in America as Abdul Baha.
The Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah voices the spirit of the age in His plea for universality. By such unifying and welding agencies as a belief in the oneness of humanity, the common Source of all religions, the abolition of economic extremes, an international tribunal, and the harmony of science and religion, He says that Universal Peace can be attained in this century. The adherents of this religion constitute a fraternity of all races, colors, and creeds, and furnish a sample of that brotherhood which we hope will spread throughout the world.
DORIS H. MCKAY