The case of the Atlantic Monthly Company against theBoston Posthas been settled on terms satisfactory to theAtlantic,and such as to render unlikely a repetition of the episode which led to the suit.
Such a revolutionary discovery as these Lincoln letters and books can of course only be finally appraised by scrutiny of the originals. The public will have ample opportunity to make their own first-hand investigation when the collection is put on exhibition at the Library of Congress. In the meantime, it is interesting to note the significant fact, proved from three distinct and dispassionate sources, that a generation ago Mr. Frederick W. Hirth, who possessed the collection, was accustomed to speak of it with pride and pleasure. This Mr. Hirth, a great-uncle of Miss Minor’s, died in 1907 in Emporia, Kansas. The chronicler of all things Kansan, Mr. William Allen White, tells us that he himself went to the Hirth funeral and can identify it in his recollection through the Masonic pomp and circumstance of the obsequies. Mr. White knew Mr. Hirth but slightly and did not talk with him concerning his collection, but three other letters in our possession attest our statement.
In Archer B. Gilfillan’s second paper on the joys of sheep herding we get the philosophy as well as the experience of a man with an original recipe for finding life by losing the world. Δ With a quarter of a century’s service in the ministry behind him, and a genius for quickening men’s sympathies and understanding them, Harry Emerson Fosdick may well advise the youth of the country about his chosen profession. Δ Since the seventy-fifth anniversary of the settlement of Lawrence, Kansas, is to be celebrated this year, Mrs. Susan D. Alford’s first-hand description of a stirring episode in American frontier history comes at an appropriate moment. The letter that accompanied her manuscript contained this passage:—
There are few surviving who experienced the hardships of the fifties, and as I am nearing the fourscore mark myself it seemed almost a duty to make my small contribution to the history of those crucial years. I cannot forget that through those cruel years the Atlantic Monthly was always in our home, read and reread, and read again to visiting neighbors.
Our second story from Captain William Outerson shows, like his first, perfect familiarity with the lives and characters of seafarers. His admirers are nautical as well as literary. One sailorman gave his trousers a hitch and inquired why one bell was sounded at 3.45 A.M., whereas the conventional ship’s clock strikes one bell at 4.30, 8.30, and 12.30. The Captain was not to be caught.
Very few sailing ships [he says] struck the half hour on the bells, because there was no need of it. The hours only were struck. One bell was struck at 3.45, morning and afternoon, and at 11.45 at night, merely for the purpose of intimating to the watch on deck that it was time to call the watch below. Seven bells were struck at 7.20 and 11.20 in the morning in order to give the watch below time to get up and dress, eat breakfast or lunch, and have time for a smoke afterward which they would not have had if they had been called at 7.30 or 11.30. It was merely a custom of convenience, and theoretically wrong.
Joseph Wood Krutch’s observations on love and tragedy have turned philosophers into critics and critics into philosophers. Rarely have we published essays more thoughtful or more rewarding to those who love thought for its own sake. Δ With her Latin title and her predilection for pressed flowers, Dorothy Margaret Stuart strikes the classical note of horticulture. Δ Before setting forth to follow in the footsteps of Sir Francis Younghusband and deliver the Asia Lecture before the Royal Geographic Society, Owen Lattimore was a welcome caller at this office. He and Mrs. Lattimore will be at home to their friends in Cambridge this winter. Δ In Irvin H. Myers we uncover a South Dakotan Socrates with dialectics sharpened by practice of the law. John Mason Brown studied under Professor Baker at Harvard in the days of the famous ‘47 Workshop’ and has just returned from a tour of the Moscow theatres. He has also been connected with the Theatre Arts Monthly. Δ The second and concluding installment of Pernet Patterson’s latest story shows this young Virginian building up to an impressive climax where fate and terror are powerfully blended. Δ Two generations at Harvard invariably referred to Le Baron Russell Briggs as ’Dean.’ Radcliffe, on the other hand, knew him only as ‘President.’ Δ Night on the Sahara produces elemental emotions, to which Lord Dunsany gives voice. The Celtic poet and the Arab tribesman have the common denominator of awe in the face of darkness. Δ So far as the women’s colleges are concerned, there is no such thing as ‘playing poor’ — at least in the estimation of William Allan Neilson, President of Smith College.
At least every other day William Martin writes a leading editorial in his Journal de Genève which is promptly quoted the length and breadth of Europe. Living in the shadow of the League of Nations, he is in a strategic position to report on the progress of peace on earth. Δ Over a year ago Herbert W. Horwill described the Revised Church of England Prayer Book in our columns. Recent developments have brought about a number of important changes, which this same British student again interprets. Silvio Trentin used to teach law in a number of Italian universities, besides occupying a seat in the Parliament at Rome. He is now living and writing in France, where his L’ Aventure Italienne, a thoroughly documented attack on the Fascist régime, was published last spring. There is no such thing as an impartial expert on Fascist policy, domestic or foreign, since anyone who knows about it at first hand automatically takes sides. This paper makes the point that under Mussolini Italy departed from her historic attitude of conciliation only to eat humbler pie when England spoke in earnest. This point of view is further substantiated by the recent overtures between Paris and Rome which occurred after this article was written, indicating that the Duce finds he must modify his attitude in that direction also.
There follows a letter which the Atlantic takes seriously. The will has not been wanting through all these years to print personal records of individual adventures, physical and spiritual, practical and philosophic, whimsical and serious. Occasionally we have succeeded in securing such records; more often we have failed. Certainly we hope that the chance reader of this correspondence, recalling things experienced or sincerely felt whose relation will be of interest to our appreciative public, will write of them to the editor of the Atlantic.
DEAR ATLANTIC, — I have just had the good fortune to spend a few days with a friend whose guest room was equipped with bound volumes of the Atlantic running back some twenty years, and with your recent issues fresh in my mind I embarked on a comparison of your pre-war contents with those of to-day. The differences were both striking and significant.
For some time past I have been half aware of a tendency on your part to devote more and more attention to political and financial matters. Was this, I wondered, a quality of the Atlantic itself, or was the magazine simply reflecting the spirit of the times? Your increasing popularity would seem to indicate the latter. Ten and fifteen years ago your intimate casual papers from small-town folk, your articles from lighthearted vagabonds, and later your thrilling accounts of happy-go-lucky adventurers in the Great War, portrayed a type of American that had almost vanished by 1920. That year, I believe, marks the disappearance of the beloved individualistic American, from the lowly hobo to the easy-going paterfamilias. Prosperity and normalcy have given us instead the hustling Babbitt, too delighted with his recent achievements to turn his eye inward.
It is, in short, my growing conviction that the past eight years have been more a period of anxiety than of prosperity. The lucky ones have been rubbing their eyes, wondering if their good fortune had come to stay, and the less fortunate have spent themselves keeping up with the Joneses. Many of our ‘best minds’ have turned away from reflective pursuits and have given themselves over to inventing practical solutions to new problems. Now all this is no doubt as it should be, and I am the last to object if the Atlantic devotes more and more space to proposed reforms of an investment market in which more and more Americans are becoming vitally involved. I am only wondering, though, if the time has not come for a change. Is it even fantastic of me to hope that the overwhelming election of Mr. Hoover indicates that our present scheme of things is at last stabilized and that we can rest on our oars and look about us?
As I steeped myself in those Atlantics of only fifteen years ago, I felt transported to a different world, and even though that world was the one into which many of us were born. I realized that it was futile to hope for its return. But, I ask myself, is it also futile to hope that the world we live in now may take a little holiday and turn its eye inward as well as out? What manner of man or woman is our present representative citizen? A quarter of a century ago, he or she found satisfaction in literature, family life, and social intercourse for its own sake. How does the 1929 counterpart enjoy the automobiling, the golfing, the radioing that have so lately emerged? Do these things bring satisfaction, or are we just a little homesick? A dozen years ago a professor in a small college, writing in the Atlantic, took the fact that he had no dress suit for granted; now alumni funds have tricked him out in ‘plus fours.’ The casual adventurer is so rare that the stowaway on a Zeppelin becomes the hero of two continents. Is the amateur wanderer of yesterday eating his heart out at some desk or workbench, or has be turned into the familiar figure of the ‘thumb tourist’ safely begging rides at the roadside?
I hope these questions are not merely rhetorical, and I wish indeed that some evidence could be found that the individual still does exist in our midst, that paths are still open for self-realization. Perhaps the conventional routine can and does provide satisfaction. Perhaps it is only the big cities that are on the wrong track, and our smaller centres may be as independent as ever. And perhaps I am asking questions to which there is no answer. But still I wonder.
(MRS.) AMELIA JUDSON GIFFORD
Herbert Parrish’s unflattering views on Protestantism are really responsible for the following piece of revivalist reminiscence, which dates back to the pre-Elmer Gantry period in American religious history.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Mr. Parrish’s article on ‘Some Constructive Principles’ in the November Atlantic leaves an impression which can hardly be intended. He says (part III), ‘Protestantism addresses itself too much to the intellect and too little to the emotions.’ If he means intellect apart from intelligence he may be right, but an idea which does not appeal to intelligence does not live long. The constructive principle is lacking, and ideas must either grow or die.
Since he had previously referred in a tone of criticism to Methodists and Baptists who ‘wallow on the ground and bark like dogs,’ to ‘Corybantic religious frenzies of the old-fashioned revivalism,’ and to ‘the orgiastic savagery of the Elmer Gantry period,’ all of which would be highly emotional if true, one is left in doubt as to how he derived his conclusion from his premises. There was very little foundation of fact for the latter. The old camp meeting was a happy gathering of neighbors over a radius of many miles, and almost as much a matchmaking as a religious event.
I have some very pleasing recollections of the old knights-errant of the Christian message who rode the circuits. Their table manners were much those of King Arthur’s court, and if sometimes in their wanderings they stopped to saw a cord or two of hickory wood for a friend in distress, such knightly deed was held in high esteem.
My father’s house was a sort of wayside inn for anyone connected with church work, and one of the most frequent callers was a man of great age who had ridden circuit in his youth in Indiana, He was tall where tall men were common, and his iron-gray hair and beard and heavy brows gave him a severely austere air to strangers. But we children were always glad to see him because of his great laughter and his stories of Indians, bears, and other matters of interest. He was sure to stay for dinner, and we were cautioned to pay no attention to his table habits, He would at times prop both elbows on the table, hold a saucer of tea in both hands, and punctuate his conversation with gusty blowing across the tea. He might be handling a bit of food with knife, fork, or spoon, and blow that. Or with a piece of meat on his fork and his elbows on the table he would alternately blow and make short, sharp gestures with the meat. He never lost anything by that, and we were able to restrain ourselves.
Came a day when we had cucumber pickles, quartered lengthways, on the table. The old gentleman got a quarter on his fork and began blowing that.
My sister started the giggle, and Father turned with a thunderous frown. But before he could speak he was checked.
‘Oh, Doctor,’ exclaimed our friend, chuckling as he held the pickle out toward my father, ‘let ’em laugh! This pickle was already cool!’
M. H. VAN H. BATTENBERG
We all know the issues involved in making chapel compulsory. The Warden of St. Stephen’s College has this to say.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Mr. Sperry’s article on ‘ Compulsory Chapel ’ is excellent as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough — far enough back. The basis for required chapel — at Yale, for instance — was originally that Yale was a college of Christians who believed worship a part, and a vital part, of culture. Chapel was required for precisely the same reason that going to lectures was required. It ministered to the purpose of the institution. The concept of life and learning held at Harvard, and in most other American colleges, has changed. Such a college is no longer a place to which men go desiring and expecting spiritual as well as mental discipline. It is an intellectual shop. Religion seems an individual matter, not a collegiate or corporate matter. That is the nub of the situation. There are colleges which do still believe that religion is a collegiate concern, colleges composed of men of varied communions all of whom know before they enroll that the discipline of regular and reverent worship is expected as a matter of course.
What Dr. Sperry does is generalize. He assumes that all American colleges are and should be alike. Like many Yale men, he thinks all American colleges are or ought to be just like Harvard. Nothing could be further from the fact.
BERNARD IDOINGS BELL
They order these things better at Smith, where feminine common sense — assisted, we may add, by President Neilson — has worked out this ingenious ehapel system.
October 29, 1928
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
We are very much interested in Dean Sperry’s article on Compulsory Chapel’ because we think we have at Smith College a chapel system which combines ‘joy and ‘discipline’ in almost exactly the proportions he advocates. We should very much like to know whether he agrees with us.
About ten years ago the administration abolished compulsory chapel at Smith because they felt about it very much as Dean Sperry feels. The students, however, voted to compel themselves to go to chapel on an average of four times a week. Every year they take a fresh vote and, though there is always a minority who do not believe in being compelled to do anything, the great majority of the college is so well satisfied with the present system that we do not have a ‘chapel problem’ for more than one week in the year. President Neilson has called the system ‘voluntary compulsory chapel.’
The refreshment they get from the simple religious service brings some students to chapel. Others come for the pleasure of meeting their ‘chapel dates’; others out of curiosity as to what the President may have to say. The majority, I suppose, come from a mixture of all three motives. They want to come, but they feel that they would not come unless they made themselves do it. ‘Wordsworth,’ says Dean Sperry, ‘ was right when he said that life means something more than discipline, and that more is joy; a joy which cannot be attained without discipline, but a joy which at the last knows discipline only as the pleasurable memory of transmuted pain.’ By 8.30 in the morning most Smith students have transmuted their pain.
Yours very truly,
MARGARET L. FARRAND
Set a skeptic to catch a skeptic. Here is an agnostic layman who feels that Robert Keable’s honest doubts about the man of history and the God of legend need not have been quite so profound.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
The pathetic figure of Robert Keable, bereft of health, faith, and finally of life by the Great War, should arouse our tenderest sympathies. But even these sympathies, and his plausible — at times delightful — English style, cannot make thoughtful people indifferent to his lack of clear thought and adequate information when he tackles serious matters like the fundamentals of religion. Any writer who asserts in positive dogmatic fashion, without semblance of qualification, that the records of Jesus are less than contemptible as historical fact is playing into the hands of extremists rather than following the most competent and impartial scholarship.
Like Professor Paul Shorey in his able analysis of the extreme evolutionary doctrine of certain psychologists, we might emphasize the results of such unguarded teachings in the field of practical morals, pointing out the loss that liberals would feel were their historic Leader taken from them, or the disappearance of spiritual inspiration experienced by the orthodox when belief in a divine and risen Saviour is weakened. But the ultimate test of truth is truth, not moral effect; so one’s main objection to such teachings is that they are not true. Oh, yes! They may seem true to a small group of radical partisans, but not to the majority of competent and fair-minded scholars, unless some of us are wholly misinformed.
Now let it be immediately and energetically made clear that these remarks are not the spoutings of some outraged orthodox parson, but rather of a most unorthodox, skeptical, agnostic layman. Nor are they derived from what is called ‘conservative’ scholarship (for which the writer has a perhaps unfair lack of respect and confidence), but rather from what seems to be a consensus of reasonable liberal opinion, with even a concession to the radical view. Particularly impressive are these words, quoted from a leading liberal in the course of a most impartial discussion of the Virgin Birth (in which he does not believe): ‘Impressive also is the acknowledged trustworthiness of one, at least, of the narrations. Critics object to Matthew as too greatly influenced by the desire to find fulfillments of prophecy. But more and more sound historical criticism tends to support strongly the trustworthiness of Luke as a historian. The most conspicuous witness here is Harnack, who holds that Luke wrote both the Gospel and the Acts, finished the Acts before the end of Paul’s imprisonment (and therefore the Gospel earlier), and is to be depended on as a careful historian.’
This view, of course, does not leave us an infallible record, wholly free from legend, as reliable in narrating a birth that took place in 4 B.C. as a crucifixion in 29 A.D. (two events a generation apart, one connected with an obscure family and the other with a conspicuous religious leader). A host of difficult problems still remain. But it gives us some apparently sincere and almost contemporary records, not to mention Paul’s earlier letters; we have Mark and Luke, and possibly Matthew, but probably not John (unless Lord Charnwood and his ilk be right). Of course these writers had their sources, their Q, their X, their Y, and their Z. What historians do not? And what should we say about them if we felt that they had written simply from oral tradition without known sources — which, by the way, suggest other written records used by them of which we have at present, no suspicion? This, in fact, is the clear statement of the situation in the opening sentences of Luke’s Gospel.
Descending to mundane affairs, we take this opportunity to report that Philip Cabot’s piece on public utilities lias brought in several pleas for public ownership. We print below a reply from Maurice Scharff, and only wish we could squeeze in another letter which points out that Mr. Hoover’s home town of Palo Alto conducts a municipal gas plant that was purchased from private owners and now pays its own way, yields handsome profits, and charges lower rates than prevail in a neighboring city.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
I have just been reading Professor Cabot’s discussion, in the November issue, of my September article on utilities. I pass over the accusation of Calvinism, and his classification of me as belonging to an ‘ilk.’ (Though I confess ‘ilk’ irks me. I don’t think I deserve it.) And so I come to the extraordinary argument that our system of public utility regulation (so highly praised in the publicity of the utility industry) has led the managers of the holding companies to ‘conceal or divert the real profits so that they shall not appear in the net income’ and to ‘devise some way of manipulating these operating costs so as to get a profit out of them.’ Are we to believe, then, that the abuses which I pointed out as the misdeeds of individual companies, which I thought should be regulated by the industry, are really the settled, conscious policies of the entire industry, to circumvent the system of public regulation?
Finally, Professor Cabot asks the question, ‘Confronted with this dilemma, can you blame a manager if he seeks some way to camouflage the position by introducing some intercompany profit into the operating expenses which, while increasing them and reducing the apparent profit, will in fact keep the profit of the holding company intact?’
Well, yes, I think you can blame him. Or at least you can blame him if, at the same time, he continues to protest that regulation is effective, and that he is laying ‘all of the facts before the public.’
Of course, I don’t believe that the utility holding companies are quite as bad as Professor Cabot’s argument makes them out to be. There are unquestionably serious abuses in some parts of the industry. But there are many young men, and some older men, in the industry who believe as I do, that it is possible to make profits in the industry by actually conducting it in accordance with the principles which it professes; and who would like to see the abuses corrected by action within the industry, before it is permanently and irreparably damaged as a field of business opportunity.
MAURICE R. SCHARFF