The Course of Empire


SANTA FE. The end of a long, long trail and the beginning of another. I am bound to confess that my first sight of the historic city of Santa Fe did not give me the thrill which may have been the experience of those who, eighty years ago, came upon it at the end of a journey which was packed with almost unbelievable hardships. In the early days there were two historic westward trails, both starting at Kansas City, one ending, for a time at least, at Santa Fe, the other with a sight of the Pacific Ocean — which, according to one observer, disappointed, because it did not look larger than any other ocean. There is, no doubt, a certain amount of romance attending the settlement of any new country, but our Mid-Western states were largely political creations, and while of squabbles there were plenty, of romance there was little. But as the early settlers trekked westward, pushing Indian tribes before them, a bivouac became a trading camp, and a trading camp grew into a village, and a village into a city, frequently on the banks of a river, — and some authority has remarked how curious it is that rivers flow, almost invariably, alongside great cities, — until finally the West was won and we settled down to digest our winnings.

To push from Virginia into Kentucky and Tennessee was doubtless difficult enough, but it was a very different matter to push from St. Louis to Kansas City and thence into New Mexico and Utah and finally into California. The pioneers confronted their journey of more than two thousand miles full of hope, and continued it — those who survived — in despair, keeping on, perhaps, because it seemed no more difficult to go on than to turn back. Only in the summer months were the plains of the great West passable, the mountains scalable, and the rivers fordable. The average distance covered each day by the caravans seems to have been from fifteen to twenty miles, deadly difficult miles for the most part, the journey punctuated only too frequently by encounters with Indians, Mexicans, half-breeds, and Mormons. There is record of the slaughter of one hundred and twenty men, women, and children, members of an emigrant party, ordered by a Bishop of the Mormon Church who was subsequently convicted of the crime.

Annoyed by flies, devoured by mosquitoes, their progress was further interrupted by encounters with reptiles and wolves, bears and buffaloes; and, above all, they had to fight disease. But all their troubles could have been borne, perhaps, but for the burning sun of the day and the bitter cold of the night, together with the sufferings from hunger and from thirst. The hardships increased as resistance to them lowered, and were almost unbearable upon the desert. Think of the miles of alkali desert with dust as fine as flour, dust which blistered the lips, burned the eyes, and destroyed the clothes and what remained of the shoes of the weary and exhausted pilgrims. Water! Water! There was water to be had occasionally in plenty, but it was ‘ poison water ’ or ‘ bitter water,’ about as refreshing to man and beast as the water of the Dead Sea.

Of the two historic trails across the continent, the Santa Fe is the older and more dangerous, because nearer to the corrupting influence of Mexico. Known from the earliest times, even before the days of Columbus, it formed a natural highway — if the word may be permitted— between the valley of the Mississippi and the far West. But it must not be supposed that this highway was always well defined and always in the very same place. It was a ‘trail’ merely, in some places very narrow, in others wide enough to be lost in the trackless, treeless prairie which it traversed. It changed from season to season and from year to year as short cuts were taken and abandoned; it was blazed, so far as it was indicated at all, by natural markers: mountains and hills, rivers and springs, and the graves of those who had fallen in their tracks, the bleaching skeletons of animals, and the wreckage of traveling and household gear which, for one reason or another, had been abandoned.

What caused these men, women, and children to set out upon this hazardous adventure? In brief, the desire to improve their condition; to seek better conditions for themselves and their families — to find GOLD. And in these groups of men and women brought together from all lands the passions which arise wherever human beings are assembled found full play, so that there were murders and marriages, births, deaths, and robberies — all the events which go to make up the ‘news’ of our daily grind. How many fell by the wayside? Nobody knew, or cared much, or for long. What proportion of the horses and mules and cows and sheep with which one set out reached their destination? Perhaps only a moiety; it was a matter of luck and skill. At Hangtown, which later changed its name to Placertown, near the end of the California Trail, an egg cost fifty cents, and a chicken, a pound of powder, or a bottle of champagne brought sixteen dollars. A man’s life or a woman’s virtue brought less.

Is it any wonder that, after months of such experiences, the sight of Santa Fe was a sight for sore eyes? And not for the eyes only: it brought relief to every bone and muscle in the body. It is only within comparatively recent years that the odysseys of these groups of adventurers have taken — if indeed they have yet taken — their picturesque and important place in our history.


We do things quickly in this country. Only forty years later, such a toilsome pilgrimage as I have described was no longer necessary. The journey was made by train, of which there were two kinds — emigrant and express. Horrible as was an emigrant train, it was luxurious compared with the covered wagon of a generation before. It is just about fifty years ago that Robert Louis Stevenson was ferried from New York to Jersey City, there to take an emigrant train to California. His short narrative, Across the Plains, is literature, and no writer, I think, of equal skill has attempted to depict the exquisite discomfort of such a train journey from New York to Chicago, Ogden, and San Francisco. A shrewd observer, he complains of the monotony, of the ‘huge sameness’ of the country, and the dullness and sullen lack of manners of our people. ‘At North Platte,’ he says, ‘where we supped that evening, one man asked another to pass the milk jug. . . .

“‘There’s a waiter here!” he [the latter] cried.

‘ “I only asked you to pass the milk,” explained the first. . . .

“‘Pass! Hell! I’m not paid for that business; the waiter’s paid for it. You should use civility at table, and, by God, I’ll show you how!”

‘The other man very wisely made no answer, and the bully went on with his supper as though nothing had occurred.’

I am happy to record that such rudeness is now a thing of the past. In the matter of manners we are, I think, while distinctly inferior to the English, about on a par with other nations. People in the mass are neither interesting nor interested. How should they be, leading, for the most part, as Thoreau has it, ‘ lives of quiet desperation ’?

There is, I suppose, in the express train of to-day as much superiority over the emigrant train of fifty years ago as there was in the emigrant train of that day over the covered wagon. And the expense is not proportioned to the luxury. In the early days it cost about sixty dollars to cross the continent in such a train; and Stevenson says — and I agree — of joining the two sides of the continent together by the railway, ‘If it be romance, if it be contrast, if it be heroism that we require, what was Troy town to this? But, alas! it is not these things that are necessary — it is only Homer.’ If the Song of the Iron Horse was thought worthy of Homer, who shall sing our recent conquest of the air?


Santa Fe is very old, probably the oldest continually inhabited spot in the United States. New Mexico had a prehistoric civilization of which we know little and I nothing. There were mound builders and cliff dwellers long before the Mexicans, working their way north from Old Mexico, found it a desirable spot in which to establish a mission and build up a trading settlement. As a city, it may be that St. Augustine is older, but Santa Fe has all the marks of age. Situated in a depression entirely surrounded by hills, it is protected from the sand storms which render life in some other parts of New Mexico disagreeable, if not impossible. Its climate is said to be pleasant all the year round, and it boasts a society of literary and artistic folk, with which largely — and naturally — I, a tourist, failed to connect. The city is built around a small plaza or square, and it has several good hotels and at least one that is luxurious, under the direction of the ubiquitous Harvey. Many of the buildings in Santa Fe are very old for a ‘new’ country, but adobe houses characteristic of an older generation are now giving way to American types of architecture, and this trend will, unless checked, soon spoil its original character. This would be a great pity, for there is so little that is individual and characteristic in this country that what there is should by all means be retained.

The most interesting building in the city is the old Governor’s Palace, a low-spreading adobe structure, erected early in the seventeenth century, partly destroyed and reerected after the massacre of four or five hundred Mexicans by Pueblo Indians in 1680. Another ‘ massacre’ occurred when the Indians were, in turn, expelled. Much fighting took place in and around Santa Fe between United States troops and Mexicans during the American and Mexican War, until finally the United States flag was raised by General Kearny in 1846, since which time, with the exception of sporadic rows between Mexicans, Indians, half-breeds, and whites, the city has had, happily, no history.

Sixty years ago, I lived in Fort Scott, Kansas; since that time, until I reached Santa Fe, I had seen no Indians except at Wild West shows, nor had I wish to see any. I have no doubt that we treated them abominably: the way only to be expected when a few thousand, or even a million, untutored savages, armed with bows and arrows, attempted to defend themselves and their property — a continent — against superior numbers armed with guns, Bibles, and fire water.

Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutord mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind.

To me, the Indian appears to be a dirty, lazy, and ugly creature, and I believe his reputation for treachery is deserved. He may be none of these things, but I well remember when, in the Centennial year, the news of the defeat and destruction of Custer and his gallant little army by the Sioux confirmed the generally held belief that the only good Indian is a dead Indian.

We, in Philadelphia, have for many years celebrated New Year’s Day in a unique manner. We have what we call a Mummers’ Parade. It is an elaborate spectacle, and immense crowds congregate along its line of march. Parading clubs, many of which have been in existence for years, dress themselves up in every conceivable manner and march to the music of many bands past a reviewing stand. After it is all over, substantial prizes are awarded the clubs which have provided the most original, amusing, or costly spectacle. There is intense rivalry among the clubs, and much ingenuity is shown and money spent. The story goes that some years ago a German prima donna, Frau Lilli Lehmann, was staying at the little old Bellevue (of blessed memory), along the line of march, when, hearing a terrible racket outside her window, she looked out to see a band of wild Indians — as she supposed — dancing a war dance, waving their tomahawks, celebrating, apparently, some bloody victory. It made a great impression upon the diva; she thought she was seeing real savages, and she wrote home about it. In this way is history made, by ‘eyewitnesses.’ The lady was much chagrined when she was told that she had seen only a part of a harmless and picturesque pageant.

Such Indians as these I am quite familiar with; the Indians I saw in Santa Fe — there were a good many about — were different. They were the descendants of Hopi, Pueblo, and Navajo tribes who had suffered from the extortionate attention of our Indian Agents — a race now, happily, almost extinct (like the Indian), who some years ago found it almost as profitable to be appointed Agent to an Indian tribe as it now is to be a Councilman in New York, Philadelphia, or Chicago; the qualifications — ignorance and cupidity — being the same.


But we were eager to take the next step in our journey, and the desert which surrounds Santa Fe contains nothing to break its monotony; the mind becomes relaxed, so that when one of the greatest sights in the world unfolds itself one sees it with a fresh eye. All my life I had wanted to see two things especially: the Grand Canyon of the Colorado and the great trees of California. The Grand Canyon was, as distances are known in the West, not far away, and the Santa Fe Railway manages these things well. Trains are so timed as to arrive at a convenient hour in the morning, and they leave for East and West in the evening, so that one may spend one day or many days and nights in what I believe must be the most fantastically beautiful spot in the world.

Almost everyone who has seen the Grand Canyon has attempted to describe it, in words or in paint; all have failed and will forever fail; highfalutin writing should especially be avoided. The Grand Canyon is a national park (since 1919), through and at the bottom of which flows a river, the Colorado. Geologists tell us (and a geologist, like an astronomer, will say anything) that the action of this river in cutting its way through a hundred miles of stone for millions of years has created a canyon, a gorge, a valley, so immense in size and so beautiful in color as to be unlike anything else in the world. I have seen it described as ‘a mountain chain reversed’; that is to say, if this great work of nature were to be used as a mould and a plaster cast made therein, when it was taken out and set up it would be like a chain of mountains a hundred miles long, from one to ten miles wide, and, in places, one mile high; then all you would have to do would be to paint it in every color you could conceive of, and you would have the Grand Canyon in reverse.

As one stands upon the rim of this Canyon — and a canyon is a gorge with a stream at the bottom of it — one looks across to the opposite rim and, upon a clear day, is amazed when told that it is ten miles distant. You are urged to spend several days at the Canyon, that you may see it at sunrise and at sunset — when it is lit by the moon and when it is filled with clouds or under a blazing sun. But the glimpse of an instant is better than a volume of description. I am susceptible to color, and as I think of the Grand Canyon as I saw it, some months ago, it seems to have been a deep rocky valley ablaze with color in which purple was predominant.

And the river, that thing which lies seemingly motionless at the bottom of the gorge, is — should I not say was? — responsible for all this beauty! I do not believe it. The movement of the river can scarcely be discerned; the water looks like a dirty, narrow, winding road, and it drains three hundred thousand square miles of territory! Did I not say that a geologist will hurl figures at you like a student of the stars? How long, or wide, or deep is the Colorado River? I neither know nor care. I simply do not believe that the river had anything to do with the creation of the Canyon, or that it took millions of years to produce this beauty. I believe that it was done in a day of twenty-four hours. I am, for the moment, a fundamentalist. I believe that God moved upon the face of the water and said: ’Let there be light’ . . . and the dry land appeared, and so on and so on, until finally He saw that the work which He had made was good and He rested on the seventh day. This explanation has the merit of simplicity — it is understandable; no other explanation is.

We had a motor and a guide, and we walked and sat and talked, just as other people did, with this magnificent spectacle spread out before and beneath us. We stopped at another Fred Harvey hotel — I forget the name. It makes no difference; there are several. We ate and drank and slept, and the guide told us that just in front of where we stood there was a sheer drop of three thousand feet, and below that two thousand feet more, and that ‘one or two such drops after dinner are enough to settle the most squeamish stomach.’ This sounds as though it had been said before. It then occurred to me to ask a question: ‘How does one get water up here?’ The answer: It is brought by a train of tank cars every other day during the season from Flagstaff, a hundred and forty-five miles away, at a cost of three hundred dollars.


A few days later I was in Los Angeles. What is one to say to this amazing city? The late Henry E. Huntington said to me some years ago, when I asked him why he placed his wonderful library and picture gallery in San Gabriel, a suburb of Los Angeles: ‘Because I am a foresighted man. I believe that Los Angeles is destined to become the most important city in this country, if not in the world. It can extend in every direction, as far as you like; its front door opens on the Pacific, the ocean of the future. The Atlantic is the ocean of the past. Europe can supply her own wants; we shall supply the wants of Asia. There is nothing that cannot be made and few things that will not grow in Southern California. It has the finest climate in the world: extremes of heat and cold are unknown. These are the reasons for its growth.’ I thought of this remark when I was dining with some friends. My hostess, a charming lady, much younger than I, told me she had been born in Los Angeles. ’I remember,’ she said, ‘when we had a population of ten thousand.’

‘And what is it now?’ I inquired.

‘One million, six hundred thousand,’ was the reply.

A city that has grown as fast as this is like a boy who has suddenly grown to six feet — the city has, in a way, outgrown its strength. It needs filling out; there are many spots filled with sordid and miserable shacks, but they are no worse than similar spots were in New York, — not, indeed, as bad, — on Fifth Avenue, where the magnificent shops and palaces now are. I remember when, fifty years ago, the district above Fifty-ninth Street was a rocky waste, with here and there a disreputable shanty, where nanny goats, tethered by a rope, were expected to thrive, or at least survive, upon a diet of ashes and tin cans. Let those of us who criticize Los Angeles remember this.

Of filling stations there are more than enough. The Sherman Anti-Trust Law has outlived its usefulness — if it ever had any. The greatest economic waste in this country of colossal waste is the oil business. A man who makes two ears of corn grow where only one grew before does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together, says Dean Swift. Very true, but what shall be said of the politician who makes ten service stations grow where one would serve? These horribly garish, smelly, and noisy establishments occupy and temporarily ruin strategic corners everywhere. But can anyone say that these crimes are peculiar to Los Angeles ? In this respect, as in many others, we are setting a bad example to the world, which is quick to follow.

If rapid growth is desirable, — and I am sure it is not, — it should be blamed upon the automobile. Not elsewhere in the world is its use so common: in California it is quite impossible to get along without one. You get an invitation for luncheon, which you accept, and you find you are going seventeen miles out in the country. In some trepidation you tell your hostess you have an engagement for tea. ‘Where?’ she inquires. You tell her and she says, ‘Oh, very well, I’ll send you in my car,’ and you find you have a thirty-mile drive ahead of you. You dash back to your hotel, get into a dinner jacket, and again are whisked out into the country and again into a city, the magnificence of which amazes you. Of the hospitality of California I had heard much, but, as the Queen of Sheba said of the glory of Solomon, ‘the half was not told me.’

We were in Los Angeles so short a time, and out of it so many times, that I lost all count of where I went, but I shall never forget the magnificence of the scene when one night, coming home from a party, our course took us over a very high hill. Beneath us lay Los Angeles, surrounded by its satellites, each glowing with the blaze of what seemed to be millions of electric lights. I was reminded of a night up the Nile, some years ago, when, after spending an hour in the gloom of the Temple of Abu Simbel, I came out into the night to see the dark blue dome of heaven lit with millions of stars. Now, as then, the stars were above us, but beneath us were Los Angeles and her surrounding cities with their gorgeous display of lights sparkling in the clear, dry atmosphere. Sic itur ad astra, ‘Thus to the stars,’ might well have been the motto of Thomas A. Edison. One thinks of the New York Edison, the Boston Edison, the Chicago Edison, the California Edison, and bows — or should — in reverence at the thought of the great inventor. What a testament of beauty to leave the world! ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light — and power, too, and heat.


Hollywood. We think of it as a place of dissipation, filled with movie actors and actresses more or less raising hell all the time. I did not find it so; few people do, I think. Docs any sane man with a knowledge of the world think that the achievements of Douglas Fairbanks or Mary Pickford, or the amazingly versatile Jean Hersholt, are attained by days and nights of dissipation? My guess is that there is as much hard work in Hollywood as in any city of its size in the world — and more disappointment. A suburb of Los Angeles, which is a city of suburbs, Hollywood is a thriving town, largely created by moving-picture interests, to be sure, but having many other interests drawn to it by its beauty and its climate. Two of the most charming and cultivated people I met on my journey lived in Hollywood — in it, but not of it. At a dinner table, at which no wine was served, my host said, ‘I want to pick a crow with you.’

‘Go ahead and pick it,’ said I.

‘You quoted in one of your books Dr. Johnson’s remark about Burton’s Anatomy, that “it was the only book that ever took him out of bed two hours earlier than he wished to rise”; you said it had the effect of putting you to sleep two hours earlier than — something foolish. Now, for an intelligent man to make a remark of that kind — or do I flatter you? . . .’

Sometimes, when in a jam, the truth will serve better than anything else; so I said, ‘I know the book very slightly. I have a good copy of the first edition — 1621, as I remember. It is an ugly, dumpty book, badly printed in small type, with anywhere from three to ten Latin quotations to the page. Gibbon, as you know, conceals his naughty stories in a “learned language”; I suspect your Burton of doing the same. I don’t read Latin and the book exasperates me.’

To which my friend replied: ‘Burton’s Anatomy is to me what Boswell’s Life of Johnson is to you, and some of these days I will send you a book about Burton, that “old great man,” as Charles Lamb used to call him, which may cause you to change your mind.’

To finish this subject while I am on it: some months later I received in the mail a book, Bibliographia Burtoniana, written, as its author says, for devout Burtonians. In this book I discovered that my friend had, with the help of another, edited and published an edition of the Anatomy in which every Latin word had been translated. I immediately bought a copy; it is on my table as I write, and I here and publicly withdraw and renounce my former opinion and pronounce it silly. The book has been handicapped, for this generation at least, by a misleading title. Its author, who called himself ‘Democritus Junior’ (Democritus the Elder was a Greek philosopher who lived four hundred years before Christ; he was a man of ample means, which is a great help to one who sets up as a philosopher, and he spent much of his time in laughing at the frailties and follies of his fellows), in his Anatomy proceeds at great length to give advice to and make fun of the men and women of his day, justifying his remarks by quotations from the ancients. Burton was one of the most learned men of his time, and not wise only, but witty, as a truly wise man should be. He never married — shall this be set down as wisdom or cowardice? ‘A question not to be asked,’ as Falstaff says.

The bookshops of Los Angeles are certainly worthy of a city possessing culture of more than two or, at most, three generations. One might travel far to find a better shop than Dawson’s. It may be that I owe my introduction to it to Gaylord Beaman (I owe so much to him); I should have found it anyway, as I did Jake Zeitlin’s. From Jake I bought a copy of my own book, Mr. Strahan’s Dinner Party, published by the Book Club of California; I wanted to give it to a friend. From Mr. Dawson I bought nothing, but on his shelves I found a slender book, published in London, which I had been looking for for years. It seems curious that I should have found it in far-off Los Angeles. I was not permitted to purchase it, but I found it again, at my hotel, as I also did a copy of The Subtyl Historyes and Fables of Esope, translated by William Caxton, and printed by the famous Grabhorn Press of San Francisco. This archaic publication, admirably printed, and bound in full niger morocco, bore on its flyleaf an inscription signed by every member of Mr. Dawson’s staff, eighteen in all. I should like to print it, but modesty forbids — and I am overtaken by modesty much less frequently than Mr. Samuel Pepys was by liquor. The gush of the ‘ hands ’ and the ‘heads’ which Mr. Dawson has gathered about him suggested to me what, I fancy, must have been the enthusiasm in a sixteenth-century shop when it first became the fashion to sell and buy books.

And it certainly is the fashion in Los Angeles. A few days before my arrival, to do me honor, a large collection of first editions of books recommended by A.E.N. had been placed on sale at Dawson’s, but a lady, Mrs. Edward L. Doheny, — whose husband has just given to the University of Southern California a much-needed library building, — happening in, had bought en bloc the whole collection, so I was invited to see it in that lady’s house. I could not resist the invitation, and as my eyes traveled over her well-filled shelves I found a book, of value, which I had long wanted and lacked in my own collection. I mentioned the fact, quite casually, and nothing more was said, but upon my return to my hotel I found this book, also, on my table, with an inscription which once again modesty prevents my transcribing. Am I wrong in thinking that the influence and example of the late Henry E. Huntington are still — and will ever be — at work in this community?

In Mrs. George M. Millard — whose house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in Pasadena, is one of the loveliest I have ever seen — I found an old friend whom I had last seen in London. In her small museum, so exquisitely arranged and filled with such exquisite bibelots, one can easily lose one’s self — and one’s self-control, as I did.

I was unlucky in finding that my friend, Mr. William Andrews Clark, Jr., had left for Paris, where he spends much time, on the very day that I arrived to pay my respects to one who has been sending me, for many years, his annual Christmas publications. Book lovers, as fortunate as I, know that Mr. Clark’s facsimiles of first editions, famous in English literature, not only are costly and beautiful in themselves, but contain in the essays that accompany them an amount of bibliographical and critical matter which is hardly accessible elsewhere. Hence it is that the Clark reprints of Tamerlane, Gray’s Elegy, The Deserted Village, An Essay on Criticism, Sonnets from the Portuguese, and many another, never fail to bring increasingly high prices when, on rare occasions, they come up at auction. They have another merit: they are splendid examples of the printing of John Henry Nash, of whom I shall say more elsewhere.

Mr. Clark’s library, housed in a small marble temple in the back yard of his beautiful estate, filled me with delight and envy. I say ‘envy’ merely to round out my sentence; I felt nothing of the kind. As Dr. Johnson remarked to Boswell when they were being conducted over Chatsworth, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire,

' My admiration only I express,
No spark of envy lingers in my breast.’

The library is the playhouse of a rich and scholarly man who knows and loves his books. He honors them and they are an honor to him. With his scholarly librarian, Robert E. Cowan, and his assistant, Cora Sanders, I spent some pleasant and profitable hours. Mr. Cowan, always referred to as ‘Sir Robert,’ is an authority on and has a fine collection of Californiana, but I was unable to avail myself of an invitation to see it; this I much regretted. I shall go back — indeed, all during my stay in Los Angeles I found myself promising what I should do on my next visit. California is a beautiful woman — with a history; of no other state is this so true. Of my paper on ‘The Format of the English Novel,’ read before the Zamorano Club (Zamorano was the first printer of California), I shall say nothing, except that the casualties were unimportant.


The Huntington Library and Art Gallery have been so many times described and their priceless books and pictures so many times referred to that praise is not constructive, and I shall venture a criticism which I hope may be. I am in entire sympathy with the reasons which prompted Mr. Huntington to build in Southern California. There, chiefly, he made his fortune, and in San Gabriel, a suburb of and much older than Los Angeles, on his own magnificent estate and only a stone’s throw from his mansion, he erected his library. The West needs books, a great many books. In the East, we have the New York Public Library and the splendid libraries of Harvard and of Yale; we have that ‘shrine frequently called a library’ created by the late Pierpont Morgan and endowed and given to the City of New York by his son; we have the Library of Congress (though what need Congress has for a library no one who knows a Congressman knows; it should be called what it is, the National Library), and we are soon to have the Folger Shakespeare Library, also in Washington. We have, too, the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, the William L. Clements Library in Ann Arbor, not to mention a dozen more relatively small but nevertheless important institutions.

So Mr. Huntington was well advised when he placed his library on the Pacific Coast, but unfortunately he put it in a building which is entirely devoid of architectural merit. It might be a suburban railway station or a model factory; certainly it gives no suggestion of books. The usual entrance not only is unimposing, it is positively ugly. And, unluckily, the Library is only one of several attractions — I use the word ‘attractions’ advisedly — which Mr. Huntington created. There are a Japanese Garden and a Rose Garden and a Cactus Garden and a Picture Gallery, each wonderful in itself, but the whole suggests unlimited wealth rather than taste. And gardens, however magnificent, are not a proper setting for a great library. I have recently seen the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. There everything is beautiful and exquisitely harmonious. The great room is lined with books. The Huntington Library has the books, but they are not in evidence; that important and intangible thing called ‘atmosphere’ is totally lacking. Who that has entered the Morgan Library, or the Bodleian at Oxford, or the Rylands at Manchester,or the great Reading Room of the British Museum, will ever forget his first impression? His impulse is reverently to raise his hat. No such feeling overcomes one in San Marino.

Dr. Max Farrand, Director in Chief, was in the East at the time of my visit, but I was most courteously received by my old friends, Mr. Leslie E. Bliss, the Librarian, and Mr. Robert O. Schad, the Curator of Rare Books. These men I had known years ago in New York, and it was a pleasure to see them again, as it was to renew my acquaintance with Captain Haselden, the Curator of Manuscripts, with whom I had last dined and wined in London. Nor must I forget Maurice Block, the Curator of Art, who devoted an entire afternoon to showing me the pictures in the Art Gallery, which is in the Huntington residence. One and all did everything in their power to make my visit pleasant and profitable.

I had long looked forward to this visit, but I could not overcome a feeling of disappointment. The Library itself contains little or nothing to interest the average citizen of Los Angeles and the average tourist, who throng the exhibition room. What went ye out for to see — the famous Ellesmere Chaucer, or the Book of Privileges granted to Christopher Columbus by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, or a unique Hamlet, or the manuscript of Franklin’s Autobiography, or a Great Bible? Few people are really interested in these things, priceless and wonderful though they are. I realize that it is a difficult matter to exclude people from a public institution which has been over-advertised; perhaps after a time, when the novelty wears off, a smaller and more select attendance will be attained. The Library was not designed for the hoi polloi: it is intended for scholars and students; they use it, to be sure, but they find the custodians overwhelmed by the crowd. And to make the great exhibition room interesting to the casual visitor the items displayed are too miscellaneous in character; they are not mutually selfsupporting and of as much educational value as they should be.

And it must be remembered that the Huntington Library is, not ten miles from a lemon, in Sydney Smith’s phrase, — lemon and orange trees abound, — but several thousand miles from other like institutions; hence the custodians have little opportunity of seeing and learning how other great libraries are administered. They should constantly be sent East, and from time to time to Europe, to consort with their fellows. To expect a librarian to live in Los Angeles and keep up the esprit de corps of his profession is like expecting a man to be brave in the dark. Everyone needs the inspiration of travel — Shakespeare has it, ‘Homekeeping youth have ever homely wits.’ The fact that the library is crowded means nothing; the crowds only exhaust the custodian. They make a heavy draft upon his energies; they do nothing to refresh him. I hope the Trustees will ponder this matter. And there is a portrait of Mr. Huntington, a bas-relief in marble, that looks to be the work of William Blake in one of his least inspired moments, which should immediately be removed and forgotten.


Los Angeles has been settled very largely by farming folk from the southern Middle West; these people, many of them Methodists and Baptists, go to their respective churches not for worship only, but for breaks in the deadly monotony of their lives that might otherwise be unendurable. Temperamentally opposed as I am to the injection of any kind of ‘pep’ into religious services, whether the merrymakings take the form of revivals, camp meetings, or what not, I looked with aversion at a large poster outside a theatre in which religious services were being held on a Sunday evening by a smug evangelist depicted as standing with outstretched hand alongside the legend, ‘He greets sinners with a smile.’ So does a bootlegger.

Still greater was my disgust with the colossal effrontery of Aimee Semple McPherson — almost invariably referred to as Sister Aimee. How much longer will this woman be able to hoodwink the immense congregations, audiences, crowds, which pack her Angelus Temple? Nobody dare prophesy. Yet people say that Sinclair Lewis exaggerates his characters; the fact is that no one would dare put the true Aimee McPherson into a book. Do I not know? Was I not accused by the Treasury Department of an attempt to import into the United States an obscene book which turned out to be a copy of Rabelais, and was it not taken from me and returned to the country of its origin? It can be, and is, printed in this country, but it is a crime to import it.

At Los Angeles I had my first real experience with an interviewer. Early one morning two youths were ushered into my sitting room in the Biltmore — a splendid hotel, by the way. One was obviously a photographer; while he was making ready his apparatus to snap me, the other began: —

‘Mr. Newton, I understand you are a very distinguished man. What are you distinguished for?’

I felt the helplessness of my position and told him that such distinction as I had came from my collection of rare books. His next question floored me: —

‘How many rare books are there — and what are they worth?’

I told him I did n’t know; whereupon, seeing that I knew nothing upon my own subject, I was asked what I thought of the school system of Los Angeles.

I knew nothing about that either. But I knew that I must answer his next question, whatever it might be.

‘What are your favorite California authors?’

Could I tell him that my favorite authors had never heard of California? I could not. Luckily, the name of Frank Norris came to me, and, picking up a copy of McTeague which was lying on the table (it was the gift of Mrs. Doheny), I said, ‘I think this book, McTeague, is the best California book I know. Its author was a genius; this book is one of a trilogy . . .’

‘Look at the camera,’ said the photographer. There was a flash, and presently the interview was over. The next day there was a double-column heading in a newspaper which read: —


Then followed a maze of words which, had I uttered them, would have filled me with shame. A story that John Burns, the famous English Labor leader, once told me came to mind. At the time, the Right Honorable John was a Member of Parliament, the president of the Local Government Board of London; moreover, he was one of the quickest-witted men in the House of Commons. He had thoroughly learned his trade and he had a magnificent voice which had many times directed mobs in Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park. He was on a train bound for Chicago when at Grand Crossing, a suburb, the train stopped and a lot of newspaper men got on board. Their first question was: ‘Mr. Bums, what are your impressions of Chicago?’

‘Good heavens, man, I’ve not seen it!’

‘Still, you must have some impression; you know what Chicago stands for. . .

‘I do. It stands for an amount of vice and corruption happily unknown elsewhere in the civilized world.’ John said plenty more, all of which was duly colored, distorted, and printed in the papers next day. Later, when John was making a speech in some great auditorium, a man got up and, interrupting him, said, ‘Mr. Burns, I am the Chief of Police of this city. You are quoted in the newspapers as saying that “Chicago is a pocket edition of hell.” If you made that remark you must withdraw it, or you cannot continue your speech.’

‘I ask fair play!’ cried John, in a voice of thunder. ‘I have not been correctly quoted; what I said was that HELL IS A POCKET EDITION OF CHICAGO! ’ There was a burst of laughter, and after that no further interruptions.


In front of the Biltmore Hotel is a beautiful public square; the turf is like velvet and the trees magnificent. I went into this square one day to read a batch of letters; one occasioned me to move promptly. It was from my friend John Henry Nash, the great printer of San Francisco, saying that he had received an invitation for us to join him at the William Randolph Hearst palace ranch, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. We were to go by train to San Luis Obispo, where he would meet us, and continue our journey by motor. The Hearst ranch is one of the show places of the world; such a visit would be an experience quite unusual in the life of a modest book collector.

‘Do you think Mr. Hearst will expect us?’ said my wife.

‘No, my dear, I don’t suppose he has ever heard of us; all the same, I am not going to disappoint him. Let us go while the going is good.’

{Next month A. E. N. visits the Hearst ranch)