A Tourist in Spite of Himself: In Standardland
RUMMAGING in the drawer of a littleused desk some time ago, I came upon an old blank book (not entirely blank) on the second page of which my eye fell upon this statement of my youthful ambitions, which I here give exactly as it was written.
WHEN MY SHIP COMES IN
When my ship comes in I intend to take a trip across the ocean with my wife and children. I am going first to England next to France and after that to Switzerland and Italy. After I have traveled through all these places I intend to go to Egypt and the Holy Land then I am going through India to China and Japan after that to California and all the other places of interest in the United States. When I arrive at home I intend to go into business I don’t quite know what kind it will be but I think it will have something to do with printing or stationary. When I get an old man I intend to retire from business with a large fortune say 200,000 dollars.
Oct. 7th, 1878
Composition no 2.
I have almost achieved the ’large fortune’ on which ‘I intend to retire,’ and the observant reader — if any such there be — will see that after ‘going through India to China and Japan’ it was my purpose to visit California. I am not now as keen as I once was to see India and China and Japan, and
with the exception of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado and California, which I yearn to see, I am willing to forgo ‘all the other places of interest in the United States.’ This is the typical attitude of a Philadelphian, but, if I be a typical Philadelphian, ‘hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me’ — as Shakespeare has it.
‘ You can tell a Harvard man as far as you can see him.’
‘But you can’t tell him much,’ adds a wag.
You can tell a Philadelphian by unmistakable marks which it pains me to enlarge upon. And, lest it should be thought that I have met with some social misfortune, I hasten to say that my family — at least half of it — was distinguished in Philadelphia long before the Revolution, in which event the said family took no part, setting an example which was followed by many of the first families of the town. But this is a digression.
The charge which I bring, reluctantly, against the Philadelphian is this: a stranger entering our gates may bring birth, breeding, intelligence, charm, and money, and yet be permitted to die of sheer loneliness. How ironical that Philadelphia, of all places in the world, should be called the City of Brotherly Love! As one goes west in this great land the unpleasant traits which characterize the Philadelphian disappear, until, I am told, in California they are nonexistent. A friend who has made his home in San Francisco for many years wrote me some time ago: —
In trying to analyze the courtesy, cheerfulness, and expansiveness of these people, I have come to think they derive their charm partly from the air they breathe, partly from the bigness of their surroundings, and partly from the indomitable spirit of their forbears, the Forty-Niners. California has brought into my life more enjoyment than I have known elsewhere. The cautious, calculating, hard-bitten materialism of the East simply does not exist here. The San Franciscan has a feeling of love and kindness, first to life, then to individuals, and then to the many forms of beauty that surround him.
And Alfred A. Knopf, the New York publisher, in a letter to the Publishers’ Weekly in a recent issue, speaking of San Francisco, says: —
It is the most civilized and attractive city in the whole United States. More beautifully situated than any city in the world, San Franciscans deserve to be favored by the gods, for they are people of rare charm who know how to appreciate good food, good music, good wine, and surely good printing. Los Angeles sells more books to-day than San Francisco does, but it has almost twice San Francisco’s population and a public library that is one of the wonders of the world. But Los Angeles is growing fast; people there are concerned about when it will pass Philadelphia and even Chicago in population. They talk so much about business and factory locations, about oil and movies, that they simply have n’t time yet to feel any great need for books. San Francisco, new though it is compared with the East, is older, wiser, and more settled in its ways.
Realizing all this, I have heard California calling me for years — or is it that I hear the voice of my oldest friend, Willie Van Antwerp? What a career he has had! Through Annapolis to Wall Street, in which he became the chief engineer of the greatest power plant in the world — the New York Stock Exchange. A distinguished book collector, an author (The Stock Exchange from Within), he now lives in San Francisco, and one of his friends, amazed to hear me refer to him as ‘Willie,’ the other day said to me, ‘If you know Van Antwerp you owe it to yourself to go to San Francisco; he will put in your hand the keys to the town.’ It was, indeed, my intention to go to the Pacific Coast this past winter, but when Cecil Harmsworth invited me to dine with him in the attic room of the Johnson House in Gough Square, London, how could I refuse? It was a great party: in Johnsonian phrase, ‘it was a dinner to ask a man to’; and ‘Willie’ has been kept waiting — and never knew his loss.
The fact is, for me to move east rather than west is to follow the line of least resistance. There is the pleasant excitement of going to the steamer, of hearing the loud whistle, of seeing a mob of unworthies sent ashore, of reading a sheaf of letters and telegrams, of dispatching a steward to the saloon with flowers, and of looking over a lot of parcels of sweet things which one is too wise to eat. How delightful it all is! When the joy of ‘sailing ’ leaves me, I shall be very old indeed.
‘See America First,’ by all means, for if you don’t see it first you may not see it at all — as in my case. It’s a great country and I’m fortunate to be of it. It is certain that it is a country of magnificent distances, that its scenery is superb, and that certain streets in New York and Chicago are finer than anything in Europe. I remember when what is now Chicago was a smouldering ruin after the fire of 1871, a disaster which, unluckily, Philadelphia has been spared — which accounts for much; and I do not doubt the engineering marvels of the Panama Canal. But as a people we Americans are not interesting; we are, in fact, deadly dull, especially we men, and we are constantly getting worse. It is to escape the horrible monotony of our lives that so many of us get divorced. Divorce is about the only variety we permit ourselves. Those who do not get divorced — and some who do — go abroad as often as they can.
We are a standardized people: it is at once the cause of our greatness and our misfortune. We eat the same food, see the same movies, — for, except in a few of our larger cities, the theatre is nonexistent, — wear the same clothes, read the same books, and, naturally, think the same thoughts — if thoughts they be. Can anything be more deadly than a ‘We’ll all read the same book this month’ Club? — and these clubs abound. Why should I be deprived of the pleasure of making my own choice? I do not always want to read what everyone is reading; many of the best sellers of fifty years ago I have never read, and never intend to — Ben Hur and Alice in Wonderland, for example. Moreover, I do not want everyone to read my favorite books, especially not my favorite essayist. I read for pleasure rather than for profit, and frequently find it pleasanter to loiter down the bypaths of literature, unencumbered, than to march along a crowded turnpike with a heavy knapsack of learning. No, I would not have a group of my best friends select my books for me.
That is our trouble: we are standardized to death. If thirty-six million men can be induced to wear hats of identically the same size and type, — and with national advertising this can be brought about, — each man will save thirty-six cents and each hatter will make thirty-six hundred thousand dollars, and we shall have the means which will enable us to buy thirty-six million radios, and, as each radio will be heard by an average of six people, two hundred and sixteen million people will be able to hear ‘Amos ’n’ Andy’ talking. Telephone calls are practically suspended: everyone is ‘ listening in ’ — I have the word of a high official of the A. T. & T. Company for this. How’s that for standardization?
You go out to spend an evening with a friend: greetings are barely exchanged when someone pushes a lever and twiddles a dial, and from a box or horn, or some concealed device, comes a vile noise out of which emerges a voice, which says, ‘This is Charles Crawford speaking . . . Fleischmann’s yeast will . . . yield dividends of 6 per cent . . . Colgate’s soap is superior . . . sixty miles an hour . . . The General Electric refrigerator . . . will preserve the teeth. . . .’ And finally out of the din you hear music, as though in the next room, and you are listening to a concert. Or someone says, ‘Have you heard the new record of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” just made by Stokowski and his Philadelphia Orchestra?’ — and in a moment Sousa’s magnificent march bursts upon your ear and you can hardly keep your seat. It is wonderful, very wonderful, but it destroys conversation, and good talk is — or, more strictly speaking, used to be — one of the joys of life. The interchange of ideas — but what if the other fellow has no ideas? One cannot very well keep on exchanging ideas with himself.
I can quite understand the desire of many Europeans to come to this country. To the war-worn and the impoverished, it is a land of peace and plenty, it is a land of glorious opportunity; it is not difficult here to make a living. But we have scriptural authority for the statement that man shall not live by bread alone; something else is required, something of the spirit, and in that we are lacking. It is only in America that work, which should be a means to an end, has been mistaken for the end itself. When our ancestors — those of us who have ancestors — came over here, they were, all of them, prepared to work hard and to pray. They worked with an axe in one hand, and a gun in the other, and a Bible in the other. We have no longer any need for a gun, except those of us who are concerned with the manufacture and distribution of bad liquor; we no longer have the confidence our ancestors had in what they called the Word of God; but we still retain the habit of work. I ask myself, and you, why it is that a man who has more money than he can wisely spend continues to work as though — in the words of the old joke about the chorus girl — he does not know where his next limousine car is coming from. These men belong to the class which a few years ago we called ‘captains of industry.’ Actually, the corporals and the second lieutenants are just as good, and when the captains drop dead of heart disease, never having had any idea of what life was about, their places are immediately taken by younger men who do their jobs better.
Some years ago I was going from Jersey City to New York on a ferryboat (it was before the days of the Tube), and my boat, the ferryboat, was almost run down by a fast and beautiful yacht which was making its way down the river to the sea. I knew the yacht, and it so happened that I had that day some business in the office of its owner. I knew, too, that in his absence business went on as usual; so I at once went into one of those magnificent offices in lower New York, and was somewhat surprised to see the owner of the yacht in his shirt sleeves, the sweat rolling down his face (it was a hot August day), working for dear life.
‘Hello,’ I said, ‘what the devil are you doing here?’ Then I told him how his yacht had nearly done for my ferryboat, and remarked further, ’I was perfectly certain, from the speed your boat was going and the fact that it pretty near smashed us, that you were at the wheel.’ ‘I ought to have been,’ my friend replied; ‘I have a big party on board. But just as I was leaving some important matters came up and she had to sail without me.’
‘Why have you not your business better organized?’ I said.
‘I had it organized yesterday, but that’s the trouble with business today — it won’t stay organized.’ I was a small stockholder in that man’s company, and I told him I was glad to observe his industry, kidded him a little, and went on. A few years later that man dropped dead on the golf field — indigestion again. The stock of his company went off a few points on the sad news, rallied when his successor was appointed, a younger and a better man, and has since doubled in value. If that man could return from the Elysian fields, he would be surprised and chagrined to learn that at his death no one missed him. Not his wife — he was never home. Not his children — they never saw him. Not his business associates, who found him arrogant and overbearing.
One more story in the same key. I once called at the office of a big corporation to get some information about business conditions abroad. I talked with an assistant treasurer, who gave me just the information I wanted, and then as I was leaving he said, ‘I wish you would go into the president’s office and say how-d’ye-do. He is very old and takes offense easily. If he hears you have been here and not asked for him, he won’t like it.’
So I went in, and met an old man well up in the eighties; I inquired about his health, which he said was not good. I asked him why he did not relax, put the burden on younger shoulders.
‘Ah, if I could!’ he replied. ‘But this business needs this guiding hand,’holding out an almost palsied member. I shook it and wished him well.
‘What did he say?’ asked the bright assistant treasurer when I got outside.
‘He told me about the business needing his guiding hand.’ At which the younger man laughed and remarked, ‘If the old fool had any idea how little he knows about what is going on he’d die.’
Can you not, in imagination, read the obituary which that assistant treasurer will prepare with glee and give to the papers when that doddering old idiot shall have passed away? ‘How wise he was in counsel, how farseeing, how alert and interested to the day of his death! No detail was too small, no deal too great to engage his attention. He was the first at the office in the morning and the last to leave.’ Do you remember the story of Russell Sage — where is he now? I wonder. Where are the Elysian fields? In fine, we work because we have never taught ourselves to play; it may be too late for the generation to which I belong to learn, but the younger generation will probably have more leisure than has been our lot: may it learn to use it wisely.
I had reached this point in my story when my wife reminded me that I had an engagement to go to a musicale. Now a musicale does not necessarily mean, to me, the highest form of enjoyment, but it was also a birthday party, — Helen’s birthday, — so I went and was promptly rewarded. This is a world of rewards and punishments, and one’s happiness consists in one’s ability to gain the one and escape the other. As I entered, an Englishman with a fine voice, John Goss, was singing a song by Henry Purcell, ‘Composer in ordinary to His Majesty King Charles II,’ to words written almost three hundred years ago. I was so struck by the matching of the words to my mood that I asked the singer to give me a copy. And here it is: —
Man of business, why so muddy?
Thyself from chance thou canst not save,
With all thy care and study.
Look merrily then, look merrily then,
And take thy repose,
For’t is no purpose to look forlorn,
Since the world was bad before thou wast born,
And when it will mend who knows, who knows?
And more to the same effect. There is not enough music in this country. I don’t mean ‘symphonies’ or boys whistling off key; whistling boys we shall have with us always. I mean in our hearts. We go around looking sad and we are sad, we who have more to be thankful for than any other nation. ‘Men of business, why so muddy?’
We do not breed well-rounded men. The one thing for which I admired Roosevelt was his many-sidedness: he was interested and interesting. Besides being a politician he was a reader and a writer, but he was very much more. He knew men and trees and game, big and little. He was, I believe, no fisherman—a fisherman must be quiet; and I fancy he was no yachtsman — to stand at a wheel and occasionally give a tug at a rope was not sufficiently violent exercise for him. He preferred to tug at a man, especially at a man with ‘soft hands and a hard face.’ (Was he not our master phrase-maker?) He preached and lived the strenuous life, and the range of his interest was enormous.
Most of us are interested in just one thing — making a living; meantime we let life go by. If you ask the average American what his recreations are, he will tell you he has none. Sometime, when you have a leisure moment, take up a copy of the English Who’s Who and casually turn its pages, and you may come across some interesting references to the recreations of England’s great men.
George Bernard Shaw says everything interests him except sport. I am altogether of his opinion.
John Buchan says fishing, deerstalking, mountain-climbing, are his recreations, and I know that he writes his excellent mystery stories in bed — he told me so.
Augustine Birrell admits that his recreation is book-hunting. He could hardly have a better.
Thomas Brassey, who owned the yacht Sunbeam, in which he traveled 350,000 miles, was one hundred and one things besides a yachtsman.
Dr. Alphonsus Montague says he amuses himself by talking to intelligent dogs — that is to say, all dogs.
Sir Harry Johnston, who wrote The Gay Dombeys and died recently — his exploits fill half a page. He was an authority on economics and Africa, all parts of it, especially those most people have never heard of, and his recreation was music, if you please, and novelwriting.
Now the sad fact is that we Americans, who have more money than is good for us, — or had until recently, — keep working as we were once obliged to do, whereas the English, who are steeped in debt, keep on playing as they once were able to do when the world was at their feet. ‘It’s a mad world, my masters.’ If England could have some of our industry and we some of her repose! No working men and women ever had as much leisure as our own working classes to-day. I dislike to refer to my own experience as a boy, but to make my point I must do so. Before I was fifteen years of age I got a job in a book store, a very respectable, indeed fashionable, store in Philadelphia; it was kept by a knot of wealthy Quakers, and my pay was three dollars a week. Think of working on a Saturday evening throughout the summer until seven o’clock! And not in a sweatshop, either, though we sweated. For several weeks before Christmas we were expected to work until ten in the evening; we received no extra compensation, but we got thirtyfive cents supper money. To-day all self-respecting shops close at five and do not open at all on Saturday during July and August, and the five-day week will soon be the rule rather than the exception — speed the day when it comes! Henry Ford, who has done more to ‘make the world safe for democracy’ than all the politicians put together, — including the inventor of this silly phrase, — was not a philanthropist when he invented the five-day week, but a wise and farseeing business man.
It is always difficult to say just when a great revolution begins, but I believe that we are taking part in the greatest revolution in history; we know as yet nothing of what is happening in Russia or where that nation will get off. The English revolution began with the discovery of the use of steam, and if you would know what evils it brought with it read Mrs. Gaskell’s Mary Barton: it is an excellent and little-read novel. Think of a woman, the wife of a Unitarian minister, in a novel published eighty years ago, propounding economic theories for which Henry Ford is applauded to-day! Steam was England’s contribution to the world; electricity is ours; the product of this great discovery is, or should be, leisure. And the great question of the day, in this country at least, is not religion or politics, or even Prohibition, as some think, but how shall we use our leisure? What a blessing it is to live in a country and at a time when this is our most pressing question! It is not so in Europe. England is sustained at present by the glory of her past. Germany must put her mind on her knitting for a generation— for several generations; this is as it should be. France is rich, but must watch her step. Italy is the best-governed country in Europe, but may be paying too great a price for it. What shall we say of ourselves ? Only that we should remember our debt is to the continent — not to democracy.
What shall be said in favor of a form of government which requires a gang of corrupt unofficials to make it work? A man is nominated to office because an all-powerful machine thinks that he can be not only elected but controlled. If, in the event, he is controlled, all goes not well, but well enough. If he cannot be controlled, everything stops until his term of office expires.
‘When we ask ourselves what are the differences between the two parties, what are the questions they dispute so warmly, we find it difficult to answer. We cannot discover any real question at issue between them. The questions that once divided them have been pretty much settled by the logic of events — yet the parties liveon,divided by tradition, by difference upon matters of expediency, and by personal rivalries for place and power. When a great political power has settled one issue, it does n’t die, but looks about for another, and between the settlement of the old issue and the discovery of a new one there is usually an interval during which party lines are vaguely drawn and you can hardly tell what principles are at stake.’ Is not this an admirable description of our situation at this moment? It was not, however, intended to be so; it is a historian’s description of the Whig and Tonparties in the age of Queen Anne, two hundred years ago — and we think we are improving on the work of our forefathers!
Our political machine is gaining in power, but is it not losing in the eyes of the world — in our own eyes? When the true history of the Harding administration is written, we shall hang our heads in shame. Compare our present representatives in Washington, not indeed with the great founders of this nation, but with those of fifty or even thirty years ago: what a falling off is there! They are so feeble of intellect as to be beyond the reach of satire. To speak disrespectfully of a Senator is like speaking disrespectfully of the equator: you make a mighty effort and, after it is all over, there the Senator — like the equator — remains for all to see.
Does anyone, not a politician, suppose that democracy is the last word in government ? Is there any greater folly than that of submitting a complicated question to a mob? The best that can be said of a democracy is that it is little worse than an aristocracy. England has ceased to be an aristocracy; the ‘governing class’ is disappearing, and, as with us, the common man is in the saddle; everywhere there is a leveling down rather than a leveling up. We made the original mistake of ’manhood suffrage’ at the outset. It was a great blunder: the vote should have been given only to the man, or woman, who had at least rudimentary intellectual qualifications and who had a financial ‘stake in the country.’ When I see a poor, miserable man or woman, ignorant to the point of imbecility, and think that every so often some problem is submitted to him, or her, the solution of which would tax the intellectual ability of Owen D. Young, I say to myself, ‘How can the world be made safe by this?’ And England has become as bad — nay, worse than we. Each Prime Minister, Tory and Liberal alike, extended the franchise, ostensibly in the interest of better government, but actually to strengthen himself politically, until now everyman, woman, and child has a vote. Is anyone bettered thereby? To ask the question is to answer it: what everyone has is not valued. For this universal democratization, the world — and especially England — blames America. And the more difficult her problems become, the more England dislikes us. The wise conceal their feelings, but occasionally a politician like Churchill, or an author like Kipling, boils over. This is unfortunate for the English and for us, but it can’t be helped.
The fact is that the American is much more like the German than he is like the English, in spite of our common language and the joint inheritance of Shakespeare and Milton. Like the German, we think and work. I wish it were not so, but, feeling as I do, I am reluctant to waste much time at English Speaking Union functions: they are full of sound and sympathy signifying nothing. But I should concern myself with the problems of the individual rather than the nation; as a nation we are rich beyond the dreams of avarice, stupidly generous, and naïve as children.
In matters of art we are deficient. It would seem that an aristocracy is necessary to produce great art. To literature we have contributed one book, Moby Dick — which is indeed not one great book, but two, as my friend Mr. Gleim has pointed out. In painting, sculpture, music, and the drama, we have done nothing. To the Old World we leave the production of philosophers, which is all to the good, bearing in mind Lecky’s remark that ‘the American inventor of the first anæsthetic has probably done more for the real happiness of mankind than all the moral philosophers from Socrates to Mill.’ For the development of the mechanic arts, the whole world is in our debt, and in architecture we are supreme. Our architecture is original and fits our needs; moreover it is magnificent. In Paris they are still copying Mansard, who died in 1666. In London they have destroyed their own characteristic Nash and copied New York, badly beyond belief. Their last big building, Grosvenor House, on a fine site, makes me shudder, it is so bad. We have the merit of being quick to learn and quick to discard. Fifth Avenue is superb, but the noise and confusion of the streets make life there almost unendurable.
By no stretch of the imagination can New York be called an American city, filled as it is with people born in obscure and filthy corners of the world, people who cannot speak our language, who know nothing of our history and care nothing for our ideals. They are merely political cattle, bought by the highest bidder. Is it any wonder that the government of our cities is disgraceful? Heinrich Heine wrote a hundred years ago: ‘I have seen the greatest wonder which the world can show to the astonished spirit. I have seen it, and am still astonished, — forever will there remain fixed indelibly on my memory the stone forest of houses, amid which flows the rushing stream of faces of living men with all their varied passions, and all their terrible impulses of love, of hunger, and of hatred,— I mean London.’ What would he say of New York or Chicago to-day? London is a great nest of villages cemented together by time. Compared to our metropolis, it is quiet and orderly — almost gentle. Its people are the politest in the world, and we, I believe, are the rudest — not, I hope, in our hearts, but in our manners. Give a French taxi-driver a tip of four cents and his ‘Merci, m’sieur’ is instantaneous. Give a tuppenny fare in a London bus and the ‘Thank you’ is automatic; the same when you buy a newspaper or a box of matches. Give a bootblack in New York fifteen cents for a ten-cent shine, and what do you get? The shine.
The American is content to talk and sing about his liberty, while his rights are constantly being curtailed by our politicians. Our criminal class is the only free class: the criminal walks our streets quite unafraid, and the greater his crime, the less likely he is to be punished. This is not due to a lack of laws, but because many of them are unenforced and unenforceable. President Hoover says we are the most lawless people calling itself civilized in the world. Does anyone doubt the truth of this statement? Yet, in spite of our criminal class, — which no reformer supposed would be multiplied tenfold by what we call Prohibition, — we are a nation of idealists. We pass a law which is bound to make criminals by the million and make no provision for jails in which to house them. The words of Walt Whitman recur to me: ’Go on, my dear Americans, whip jour horses to the utmost — excitement! money! politics! — open all your valves and let her go — swing, whirl with the rest — you will soon get under such momentum you can’t stop if you would. Only make provision betimes, old States and new States, for several thousand insane asylums. You are in a fair way to create a whole nation of lunatics.’
Prohibition — a sad mistake, as I believe — was an effort on the part of a group of well-meaning but ignorant people to ’make people good by act of parliament.’ It never has been done. The evils that have flowed from the Eighteenth Amendment are incalculable. Mr. Wickersham and his group, alone, are unable to understand them. But our aims and efforts are largely ignored by the foreign press; only our blunders and disasters are stressed. John D. Rockefeller, the world’s greatest philanthropist, may give ten millions of dollars to relieve the suffering or to promote the happiness of a race or a people he has never seen, and the item of news will be tucked away in some obscure corner of a newspaper, if it be mentioned at all; but let an armored car filled with bandits, with sawed-off shotguns, be driven madly through the streets of Chicago, and the incident is a shot heard round the world — the original shot having long since been forgotten.
And pray do not laugh, dear reader, if I mention among the arts in which we excel two which bore me unutterably but which I like to believe are destined to add to the pleasure and cultivation of hundreds of millions of people — which may, indeed, alter the course of history. I refer to what we call ‘the movies’ — the English, ‘the pictures’ — and the use of the radio either with or without them. Those of us who have enjoyed Disraeli on the screen have seen the art of yesterday. What shall we see to-morrow? What effect will these things have upon the lives of future generations? No man living can tell, but it will be amazing beyond belief. What would we not give to hear and see the great actors of the past, to hear and see the great Lincoln deliver his immortal Gettysburg Address, to hear and see Charles Dickens read his Christmas Carol? By means of pictures war may be stripped of its glamour and revealed in its naked hideousness; a new heaven and a new earth may be created. Up to the present time this has been a priests’ world and a politicians’ world, and a hideous mess they have made of it. We hear much of the horror of the next war. What may not the next peace have in store for us? And may not America point the way? With all our shortcomings we are a kindly, indeed a neighborly people — which no one could say of the French, for example, who will, I suppose, continue to regard us as barbarians. I was once asked by a pretty manicure in Paris if ‘Time is money’ was not the motto on the coat of arms of the United States. Unable to make out whether she was spoofing me or not, I assured her that it was.
In the art of dining we arc sadly deficient. Dining is an amenity; it was carried to excess by the Romans; in our zeal for reform we have destroyed it. It was going fast when Prohibition gave it its coup de grâce. Only a savage can digest a good dinner washed down with ice water, so we now omit the function and, in the interest of efficiency, ‘dine’ standing up in a drug store with someone waiting behind us for our place. In happier days we occasionally enjoyed ‘a large cold bottle and a small hot bird,’ with conversation; now we have conversation out of a can, with canned food and canned music. Little by little we are taking all the joy out of life: we are being ‘reformed’ beyond endurance. That which has been considered good throughout the ages we suddenly discover to be bad. Just now a ‘bland’ diet is highly recommended, guaranteed to add five years to one’s life: —
‘For breakfast, a little stewed fruit, an egg with a piece of dry toast, and a cup of warm (not hot) water. For lunch, a piece of whole-wheat bread or a few crackers, with a glass of milk drunk very slowly. For dinner, a small piece of mutton, well done, chewed to the consistency of paste, without either pepper or salt, with one vegetable, preferably spinach, followed by a salad on which has been squeezed a bit of lemon. For dessert, a small portion of junket; a demi-tasse of decaffeinized coffee, with a cigar from which every trace of nicotine has been removed. One should retire at nine, sleep on a hard mattress covered only by a sheet, rise at four in summer and five in winter, and never contemplate a woman with curves.’
Who would wish to live at such a price? This regimen, however, affords an excellent answer to Saint Paul’s question: ‘O death, where is thy sting?’