A Social Survey of the Literary Slums
THERE are few fields that social reformers, armed with instruments of precision, have not entered. They have investigated tenements, country houses, stables, cotton mills, match factories, steel works, slaughterhouses, churches, and universities. There are betterbusiness organizations to raise the standards of business, wholesale and retail. Things sanitary and things industrial and things intimately domestic are looked into by persons trained for the purpose. The individual is not allowed to go his own way. The public is recognized as a party in interest. The world is being made safe for the workingman. Sickness is not a private matter. The guardians of the public health are not content to notice the general facts of morbidity and mortality. They seek the causes. Without regard to the prejudices of the householder, they poke into ash cans and dark closets, measure the width of alleys, test the plumbing, call attention to articles left on the fire escape, make notes on wages, compute the number of hours lost by reason of illness, inquire into the profits of landlords, and ascertain the number of arrests for juvenile delinquency.
But there is one class that has been strangely overlooked by investigators. It is the class of literary workers — the makers of books, magazine articles, poems, plays, and the like. These articles are manufactured in great quantities and are looked upon as necessities by that portion of the community known as the literates. But the hardworking industrialists who produce these wares have hitherto been immune from investigation. Literary people have long been known as ‘the irritable race,’ and their natural irritability has been increased by every attempt to impose nonliterary tests upon them. They have insisted on complete independence. If a work is good from a purely literary standpoint, they say that is enough. Whether it is an offense against good morals or an outrage against good sense makes no difference. The clever author claims the rights of extraterritoriality. Literature sets up its own courts, and claims to be a law unto itself.
But literary artists cannot expect to be let alone any more than the rest, of us. When there is so much salutary curiosity about the number of bacteria in the milk can, the public should not be expected to be indifferent to the dangers that lurk in the inkstand.
I was therefore not surprised to find that a society has been formed to investigate the conditions under which literary work is performed, to safeguard the health of the workers, to study the occupational diseases to which literary people are subject, and to keep consumers informed of the facts. The society is well organized, with national headquarters and regional superintendents and a large and highly respectable advisory committee.
I have before me a pamphlet published by the society, entitled Proposals for a Social Survey of Literary Slums.
Let me say at once that anyone who takes up the circular with the expectation that it will gratify the slumming instinct will be disappointed. Personalities are avoided; there is no directory of objectionable literary characters. The evident aim is scientific, and there is no attempt at the sensational. Indeed a considerable part of the circular is given over to an appeal for funds. This is a necessity in all enterprises of an educational character and tends to stabilize them. One who appeals for funds will never put his proposals in so radical a form as to alarm the large contributor.
Leaving out the financial appeals, I will give some quotations which will show the nature of the new proposals.
‘While so many social agencies are investigating labor conditions, it is not strange that the public should be unaware of a quiet and painstaking work that is going on in the study of literary slums and their effect on the public health. Indeed it is the policy of our association to avoid publicity, and only the urgent need of more funds to carry on our investigation has led us to make any publication at this time. Everyone is aware of the good work which has been done for a number of years by the Consumers’ League. That society works upon the assumption that the consumer has a right to know the conditions under which the goods he buys are manufactured. It makes it its business to supply necessary information and to insist upon proper standards. This is in the interest of both producer and consumer.
’But hitherto nothing has been done for literary workers. We have followed the theories of early-nineteenth-century individualism, rather than the philosophy of the twentieth century with its emphasis on social welfare. Very little attention has been paid to the unemployed or unemployable, or to the plight of the casual worker or to those whose occupation is only seasonal. Such a problem as the juvenile delinquencies of poets has hardly been touched. There is a lack of statistical information on many vital points.
‘More than a hundred years ago Shelley wrote: —
And he took an old cracked lute
And he sang a song that was more of a screech
’Gainst a woman who was a brute.
At that time such a case would be looked upon as one for private commiseration, though even then it must have been evident that what the poet needed was not alms but a candid friend. But by the socially-minded person of our day the case cannot be so easily dismissed. And when a score of poets sit by a ditch and give a combined screech we recognize the fact that we are dealing with a social question. It is necessary to investigate the ditch and examine the old cracked lutes.
’The literary critic of the old school is like the judge at a cattle show who judges according to the points the cattle breeders have agreed upon. But the modern representative of the State comes to the owner of a herd of fancy Jerseys and insists on looking them over. He cares not a fig for the blue ribbons, but insists on applying the tuberculin test.
‘Literary persons, when there is any talk of outside interference with their calling, raise the cry of Victorianism or Puritanism. This is barking up the wrong tree. The Puritan would object to a book because it was unscriptural. The Victorian would object to it because it shocked the proprieties. The social investigator asks, What is its ascertainable effect on the mind of the reader? This is pure fact-finding, and should be carried on without prejudice. No preconceived theory must be allowed to interfere with the experiments. We must be prepared to accept new evidence when it is presented.
‘It used to be supposed that clothing worn by yellow-fever patients carried the disease. Experiment proved that this was not the case. It used to be supposed that unpleasant-looking water was always unwholesome and clear water was safe. Now we send the sparkling water from a suspected spring to be analyzed.
‘A book does something to us. It may put us to sleep, it may infuriate us, it may inspire us, it may depress us, it may make us feel that life is not worth living and that the bottom has dropped out of the universe. The author may say that this is none of his business. He lives for his art, and what happens to us is no concern of his. We answer, You may be right. It may be none of your business, but it is very much our business. When we put food in our mouths, it is not for the encouragement of a temperamental grocer. It is because we think that it is good for us. The food must agree with us and not merely with him.
‘It is the same with what we put into our minds.
Which puts me in a working mood.
That is what I read it for. I do not propose to sacrifice my intellectual health for the sake of another man’s art. My mind may not be of the first order, but it is the only one I have, and I can’t afford to sacrifice it.
‘The case of Typhoid Mary is familiar to all social workers. This excellent woman, who was herself immune, went about innocently diffusing typhoid germs. She was a carrier. In a way she was not to blame for her exceptionally strong constitution, but the fact that she herself enjoyed good health made her all the more a menace to the community.
‘Compare the careful investigation that discovers such a carrier of disease with the way we treat a book that is under suspicion. One person reads a book and declares that it is immoral; then another person reads it to see if it is as bad as it was reported to be; then a large number of persons who have not time to read the book discuss it acrimoniously. Then the emancipated critics say that, if it is suspected of immorality, that is prima facie evidence that it is a work of genius. Then the careful parent says that at any rate it is not the kind of book to be put into the hands of his daughter. Then his daughter tells him that he need n’t worry; she read it last summer, and anyone who is still talking about it is “dated.” Then the discussion begins all over again, with a more recent book as the point of departure.
‘Such antiquated discussions would not be tolerated in any district conference of the Family Welfare Society. Even the most inactive Board of Health would not approve canned goods suspected of containing ptomaines because one of the members admired the picture pasted on the cans. They would test the food in a scientific way instead of waiting for the result of a post-mortem on one of the consumers.
‘A New Testament writer declares that evil communications corrupt good manners. But only careful experimentation can determine to what extent and under what conditions these communications can be made through literature. Cold print is not a good culture medium for certain sins. Just why this is so we have not ascertained — we only note the facts.
‘Thus our experts have made a careful study of two thousand detective stories to ascertain their effect upon the conduct of their readers. The readers investigated were judges, magistrates, bankers, bishops and other clergy who by their own confession were addicted to this kind of literature. Contrary to what might have been expected, there were no reports of crimes against life and property that could be traced to such midnight reading. Our investigations seem to point to the probability that the specific germs of burglary, murder, arson, and piracy are not viable in printed matter. They require personal contacts. At any rate, it is obvious that certain classes of the community have a high degree of immunity.
‘On the other hand, an investigation of the effect of so-called sex novels reveals a real danger. In dealing with it, however, the public should have more expert advice than that usually at the disposal of legislators. The law can only deal with passages that are “shocking.” It is much less dangerous for the moral sensibilities to be shocked than for them to be lulled to sleep by an insidious poison.
‘The real watch and ward must be like that which Edmund Spenser described as kept in the stately House of Temperance.
Day and night duely keeping watch and ward.
Nor wight nor word mote passe out of the gate
But in good order and with dew regard;
Utterers of secrets he from thence debared,
Bablers of folly and blazers of cryme.
‘To be safe, each mind must have its own warder, and it will not do to hand over his work to the chief of police.
‘Leaving each individual free in matters of taste, and refusing to interfere with his personal affairs, our commission confines itself to the matters which concern the public. We wish to ascertain the causes of literary diseases, rather than to deal merely with symptoms. The reading class is dependent on the labor of the writing class. It has a right to know how the other half lives. It must be able to discriminate between literature that is produced under wholesome conditions and that which is the product of the slums.
‘What constitutes a slum? It is not simply a place where poor people live. Poverty can be clean, self-respecting, and healthy. But the poverty of the slums is of a different kind. It is the result of overcrowding. There are too many people herded together, too little light, too little air, too little wholesome food, too little opportunity for recreation. Human beings crowded together are stunted. There is no room for the full development of personality. All sorts of morbidities and abnormalities appear.
‘Nobody plans a slum, and therefore it is hard to get anybody to feel responsibility for it. It is a condition that comes when there is no intelligent planning. Hence the need of socially-minded people to point out actual conditions. It was discovered that some of the worst slums in London and New York were owned by excellent people who were unaware of what was going on. Even churches have been guilty of gross carelessness in this respect.
‘Many persons would be surprised to know how many books there are that are produced under slum conditions. They are the product of minds that are overcrowded, undernourished, and with a shameful lack of ventilation. When a number of slovenly minds are working in close contiguity, the results are deplorable. They have no leisure to grow wise, and quickly lose any desire to do so. Yet they are very prolific.
‘The results of overcrowding and undernourishment are apparent in the history of literature. The reader of the Dunciad — and everyone should read the Dunciad once a year — is familiar with the recriminations of the literary proletariat in the time of Queen Anne. It is evident that literature was recognized as a sweated industry. There were too many poets competing with one another for a precarious living. The notorious slum called Grub Street was literally swarming with young persons who had come to London to live by their wits. There were pennya-liners waiting for such hack work as might be offered by the printers; there were versifiers with a pretty knack of turning off complimentary odes; there were pamphleteers, strong-arm men, literary bravos who could be hired by great men to do their dirty work. Then there were private brawls carried on with much inkshed.
‘The impression we receive is of a feverish struggle for literary existence, a terrible pressure of the poetical population on the means of subsistence.
‘ Pope writes: —
And promise our best friends to write no more,
We wake next morning in a raging fit,
And call for pen and ink to show our wit.
For those who cannot write and those who can
All rhyme and scrawl and scribble to a man.
‘We recall Swift’s familiar lines: —
Lives in a state of war by nature.
Each poet of inferior size
On you shall rail and criticise.
So naturalists observe a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey
And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet in his kind
Is bit by him who comes behind
Who though too little to be seen
Can tease and gall and give the spleen.
Thus, he says, they “lay Grub Street at each other’s door.”
‘The Industrial Revolution changed all that. Grub Street has been improved out of existence. Literature, like everything else, has felt the effect of the factory system and the manifold efficiencies of big business. The industrious writer shares in the benefits of quantity production, standardization of product, better marketing methods, and up-to-date advertising. Without waste motion, he can turn out an unlimited number of short stories with interchangeable parts, and of perfect uniformity. Nothing is left to the curiosity of the reader, who knows just what he is buying. All this is in the interest of intellectual economy.
‘But though the Industrial Revolution has accomplished so much, the evils of overcrowding are still painfully manifest. Wherever too many persons of the same kind crowd together, slum conditions are bound to be created. It does n’t matter what they are trying to do — if there are too many of them they get into each other’s way. In the Middle Ages many of the larger monasteries fell into a slummy condition. Too many people were trying to be good without allowing each other sufficient elbowroom, and they made a mess of it. Theodore Parker used to say to his brother ministers in Boston, “Ministers are like cabbages — they don’t head well when they grow too close together.” Even college professors feel the need of a sabbatical year when they can get away from their own kind.
‘Nowhere are the effects of overcrowding more painful than among literary workers. Their mentality suffers from too close proximity. Under such circumstances their minds do not stand alone. They tend to stick together in a glutinous mass. After a time they come to pride themselves on their intellectual stickiness.
‘From time to time epidemics sweep through the congested districts of literary centres. They are often mistaken for significant movements, and the more nervous intellectuals are alarmed for the future of civilization. But the illiterates and semiliterates who live in the open country go their way as if nothing had happened. Their immunity is very fortunate for the race.
‘Just now there is an epidemic almost exclusively literary — which is characterized by excessively low spirits. The talented writers indulge in the most lugubrious prognostications. Their tone is consistently querulous. They feel in duty bound to resist any tendency to joy, freedom, resiliency. Whether in prose or verse, they take dismal views of the present and of the future. The only comfort they allow themselves is in the thought that the past was probably still worse. They cultivate the sardonic, and refuse any little alleviations that may be suggested by the natural man. What strikes one is the singular synchronism in their emotions. They utter their shrill lamentations as if they were obeying a cheer leader. A single person who felt that way might be interesting, but there are too many of them. These birds of a feather flock together — all moulting at the same time.
‘We have watched these cases with considerable solicitude. Our commission is investigating the environmental influences which tend to depress the spirits of the literary worker. Our agents who have been dealing with child labor have made some valuable suggestions. The great objection to child labor is that, by subjecting nerves and muscles to a premature strain, the victim is deprived of that elastic strength necessary for the varied activities of manhood.
‘It is suggested that many writers are stunted because they have been set to tasks too great for their mental age. Their faculties have not been given time to mature, and they have tried to express what they have not yet experienced. There is evidence of malnutrition. There is gristle where there should be bone. There are many symptoms of intellectual rickets. When the author tries to be more clever than he is, the effort is bound to toll upon him. Many a promising novel has been spoiled by premature publication. The author has not allowed sufficient time for the book to catch up with the jacket. He should be reminded of Lord Chesterfield’s remark that a wise man is as careful to live within his wit as he is to live within his income. Here is a field in which our society is undertaking welfare work. We have opened up a department of preventive literature.
‘Charles Lamb wrote a discriminating essay on the Melancholy of Tailors, but he did not suggest that the melancholy infected the suits they sent out from their shops. But the melancholy of poets gets into their poems, and it is catching. Unlike burglary, which, as we have said, does not seem to be spread through literary media, a tired feeling is easily communicated from the writer to the susceptible reader. Hence the need of isolation.
‘As contributors like to have a little human interest injected into the reports of societies they are prepared to support, we have ventured to insert a letter which we have received from one of our most resourceful case workers. We may remark in passing that she left a position in the English department of a well-known college for women to enter the employ of our society. We hope that a generous public will make it possible to retain her services. She writes: —
‘ My time has been taken up with a young poet who seems worth saving and who was sent to us by one of our friendly visitors. He was naturally of a buoyant disposition, but when composing poetry he was plunged into abysmal gloom. When the writing mood was upon him he would fairly revel in the thought of the futility of effort. His emotions were unstable. At one moment he would be in a verbal paroxysm of grief over the thought, that things are as they are, and the next moment he would be in stony despair over the suspicion that they are n’t that way at all. Nothing pleased him. The shorter the poem, the worse he seemed to feel. He would start as if he were going to cheer up and say something. Then he would stop in the middle of an unpunctuated sentence as if to say, What’s the use? Two or three ejaculations on an otherwise empty page produced the effect of frustrated genius. It was the effect he intended to produce. And yet, as I said, he was naturally a cheerful and companionable young man.
’I made a thorough investigation and found that he had confined his reading to tlie verses of other poets who were in the same condition. It was a case of competitive world-weariness.
‘He was removed from his unfavorable surroundings to a hill farm in Vermont, where he could be under observation and at the same time move about quite freely. The slender volumes which had infected him were taken away. The only book allowed to remain in the house was an old copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. For the first few weeks the poet was irritable, and wandered about trying to think of some disagreeable subject to write about. He exercised his ingenuity by giving a sinister twist to any ordinary theme. This he did by attaching dismal adjectives to normally cheerful nouns. He wrote a poem in free verse, entitled “Coal-black Sunshine.” I remonstrated with him and told him that sunshine is n’t coal-black. It made no difference to him. “That’s what most people think,” he said. “But I’m not writing for the crowd. This is no Pollyanna stuff.”
‘Then he wrote on “The Jealous Earth Turns Green, or the Recurrent Tragedy of Spring”; “When the Tired Arbutus Trails”; “Why the Gentian Is Blind”; “ When the Tainted Well Went Dry.” This last theme seemed to have great possibilities. By first, lamenting its taintedness, and then lamenting its drying up, he got gloomy thoughts coming and going.
‘Being in New England, he thought he would write on “The Deserted Farmhouse.” But all the farmhouses in the vicinity had been transformed into attractive summer cottages and seemed remarkably cheerful. However, he found melancholy satisfaction in thinking of the city he had left behind, and wrote a drab little piece entitled “The Deserted Flat.”He pictured a disillusioned summer boarder sitting under an apple tree and thinking in dry-eyed despair of his deserted flat in the city. He pictured its loneliness and stuffiness on a sweltering August day. To be sure, nobody was in it to suffer, but it was material for melancholy reflections.
‘But in the course of a few weeks, separated from his companions, a change came over him. One day he came from the orchard with the Leaves of Grass in his hands.
‘“Do you know, I was looking for a title for a new book of poems. I thought that Walt would have something for me. I found it, or thought I found it. Here are the lines: —
You degradations, you tussles with passions and appetites.
That sounded good to me. How would this do for a title? ‘ Poverties, Wincings and Sulky Retreats.’ Perhaps the publishers would want a short title. ‘Sulky Retreats. That’s what we sophisticates are in favor of. Or perhaps just ‘Wincings.’ That would look stunning on the title-page.
‘“Then I read on and found that Walt did n’t look at these things as our set does. After giving a list of the degradations, he seems to think that it’s not necessary to wallow around in them. He thinks that we not only ought to get out of them as quickly as possible, but that we can. This is what he says: —
It shall yet march forth, overmastering till all lies beneath me.
It shall stand up, the soldier of ultimate victory.
“‘Then I read on and found that that was what he was driving at all the time. ‘Out of the bulk, the morbid, and the shallow,’ he says, there comes something that is ’electric, antiseptic.’ It’s that antiseptic element that our crowd seems to have missed. Listen to this: —
An uncaught bird is ever hovering,
High in the purer, happier air.
From imperfection’s murkiest cloud
Darts always forth one ray of perfect light.
That see, that know the guiding thread, so fine
Along the mighty labyrinth.
‘“The poet, according to Walt, is not the one who is lost in the mighty labyrinth and sits down to bewail his fate. He is the one who has found the thread and is following it. If that is so, it makes quite a difference. I want to take time to think it out. At any rate, I’m going to scrap ‘Wincings’ and ‘Sulky Retreats.’ I’m going to call my next volume ‘The Soldier of Ultimate Victory.’ Don’t you think that’s a good title?”
Yes,” I said, “if you can live up to it.” Seeing that he was in a more genial mood, I ventured to say: “Now that you’ve got a new line on Whitman, perhaps you might be more sympathetic with Milton’s ideas in regard to the nature of poetry.”
‘I found I had gone too far.
'“We’ve cut out that old Puritan stuff long ago.”
‘ “I was only going to recall to your mind Milton s declaration that poetry is ‘simple, sensuous, and passionate.’”
'“Did he say that poetry ought to be sensual? I didn’t suppose he was as advanced as that.”
“’Milton did n’t say sensual,” I replied, “he said sensuous. He thought poetry made its appeal through the senses. It’s something that you feel and hear and touch and taste and smell. The poet’s senses become avenues of joy. He writes about
On summer eves by haunted stream.
The poet has a power of visualization and has the ability to make us see through his eyes. His words are a sort of incantation. Just look at that bend of the Connecticut where Broad Brook comes in through the meadow. I could see it by myself, I suppose, but I get a great deal more pleasure out of it when I murmur Milton’s lines: —
Shallow brooks and rivers wide;
Towers and battlements it sees
Bosomed high in tufted trees.
There are n’t any towers and battlements here, but look at that farmhouse on the top of the hill on the New Hampshire side — ‘bosomed high in tufted trees.’ How the youthful poet would have enjoyed seeing that!
‘“And the poet enjoys not only familiar sights but familiar sounds. He loves to listen
Whistles o’er the furrowed land
And the milkmaid singeth blithe
And the mower whets his scythe.
And there are times when the smell of newmown hay gets into his verse, and it is none the worse for that. Milton, when he was your age, enjoyed these sensations. He treated poetry as if it were a privilege and not an affliction. Don’t you think there is something in that?”
‘ “Perhaps so,” said the poet hesitatingly, “but in these days we have to be sincere. The public expects it of us.”
“‘Quite so,” I said, “but suppose you stay up here till you get rid of the jangle in your nerves. Some fine morning you will wake up and be sincerely glad that you are alive. If you succeed in expressing your sincere gladness in language that is not sophisticated or fantastical, but in words that are simple, sensuous, and healthfully passionate, the public will be glad, too.”
‘ “But don’t you think if I were as simple as that I might lose my standing among the new poets?”
‘ “Oh,” I said, “people won’t ask whether you are new or not. They will just recognize you as a poet.”
‘Another epidemic which sweeps through congested literary areas is what may be called pseudo-primitivism. It shows marked periodicity and recurs, with variable virulence, at intervals of thirty years. It is in its nature atavistic, being characterized by a relapse into modes of expression once quite natural, but long since outgrown by the more civilized part of mankind. There is a literature that is genuinely primitive. It expresses primitive passions in a simple and unself-conscious way. There is also a literature which deals with a society that is more or less sophisticated. Each has its own place. But the writer whose mind has not had time to mature tries to be primitive and sophisticated at the same time. When a number of primitivistic sophisticates, or sophisticated primitives,get together and encourage each other in their calculated indiscretions, they become disturbers of the peace.
‘Here the experience of our social workers in the slums is of great value. Nowhere can the mental processes of sophisticated primitives be better studied than among the youthful denizens of the slums. Here is a kind of knowingness that is utterly divorced from wisdom. In the crowded streets the play instinct of boys finds its only expression in dodging policemen and risking life in stealing rides on passing vehicles. The victim of such an environment finds an impish pleasure in the forbidden. Humor degenerates into a crooked wit. There is a shallow sophistication of the streets. The qualities which the street boy admires are agility, hardness, toughness, sharpness, and a vivacious insolence. These are the qualities that stand high in the estimation of the gang.
‘When we see literary reputations made by the exhibition of these qualities, we have reason to believe that we are dealing with the gang spirit. A popular literary gangster can go far. He has a scorn for reticence which endears him to his own kind. He would return to Nature, but never in a teachable spirit. He is one more object that Nature must apologize for.
‘While coarse natures harden under the pressure of crowds, more sensitive spirits are distracted. This forms a separate problem. This brings us to something that our commission has much at heart — the guarding of our more promising and sensitive literary workers from what Emerson called “the insanity of towns.” There is a tendency for all industrialists to leave the countryside and flock into the urban centres. This creates social problems. To no class is the lure of the city more perilous than to the man of letters.
‘Our commission is making a study of the effects of city life with its various stresses and strains on literary workers. We have begun with a survey of New York City and shall continue our researches in other centres so far as our funds will allow.
‘A study of current literature produced by clever writers who have crowded into Manhattan Island impresses us with the contrast to the spirit of Diedrich Knickerbocker when he set out to write the history of New York. Knickerbocker began with the creation of the world and came gradually down to his own time. His idea was that Manhattan Island was only a part of the Universe and could only be understood in relation to it.
‘Not so with many of the writers of the present Manhattanese School. To them life in New York seems to be not a normal growth but a series of premature explosions. The firecrackers have short fuses. There is a sensation of jumpiness. There is rapid motion, but no sense of direction. There are all kinds of noises, all kinds of people, all kinds of events. In order to be up to the minute, one must grab the minute before it becomes antiquated. The person who is content to work while it is called to-day must look out lest what he calls to-day may be what his more agile competitors call day before yesterday. One feels as a piece of innocent white paper might feel while being thumped by the keys of the typewriter. The clicks and thumps follow each other rapidly. They probably mean something, but the typist has no time to explain to the paper what it is all about. Perhaps she does n’t know herself. She is taking dictation that is too rapid for her.
‘ The writers whose work conveys the impression of futile hurry and undue nervous strain are not the interpreters of the great city, but its victims. To see a modern city aright, one must be able to look at it as he looks at a great mountain, or a stormy sea — with a certain detachment. He must not be distracted by its varieties or irritated by its noises or bullied by its threats. His must be the “harvest of a quiet eye.” If you wish to enjoy the sublimity of Niagara, the best way is to take your stand on the bank. It is a mistake to think that you can get a better impression by going over the falls in a barrel.’
At this point the writer of the pamphlet remembered once more his official duty and made an urgent plea for annual membership, with especial emphasis on the virtue of promptitude.