by Mary Conger Vanamee
[Harcourt, Brace, $3.00]
Too rarely to please the publishers a manuscript comes to hand whose very warmth and personality stir the emotions in a way to make the most hardened reader clear his throat. Women are more often responsible for this literature of appeal. Such, for instance, was Cornelia Stratton Parker’s memorial to her husband, published more than a decade ago under the title An American Idyll, and such, according to the advance notice, is Mary Vanamee’s biography of her husband, killed in war.
IT is a great refreshment to turn to Vanamee, the life of a minister of Christ, written with a frank and touching charm by his wife. The Reverend Parker Vanamee died when quite young from a wound received in battle. At the beginning of the war his sympathies were on the side of the Germans, but gradually he came to feel that it was necessary for civilization that the Allies should win, and that he had a duty to perform in the premises, He sought no talking berth, would not even accept a chaplaincy, but went forth as a commissioned officer to do actual fighting, without hate, as best he could, for that which he deemed right. Mr. Vanamee in his boyhood and early manhood was apparently a hot-headed, impulsive sort of firebrand. He might easily have become a futile and disappointed individualist, at war with society and with himself. From this he was saved by his marriage. His wife with all delicacy has refrained from speaking of herself in this book except where such reference is absolutely necessary, and even in these instances she has been most modest. Possibly she does not herself realize how much it was she who made her husband that which he became. As one reads one can see, notwithstanding her self-effacement, how the love which these two had for one another civilized, stabilized, and christianized the man, until He was a clear and unflaring torch for God. This appears clearly, and especially in his letters from the front. These, which are among the most worth-while war letters as yet published, make up over a third of the book. Mrs. Vanamee has given us not
merely the life of a man, but also the story of a great and ennobling passion. For this reason her book is, at least to this reviewer, too beautiful, too sincerely lovely, for extended comment.