The Contributors' Column
BULLFIGHTING is none of our business, but the street fighting — and worse — in Spain to-day may assume the significance of the French Revolution. Here is a struggle between Right and Left which is being acted for all to see, a drama so characteristic of our time that the spectator, whether in Boston, Buenos Aires, or Bangkok, cannot help thinking, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.’
Megan Laird (p. 513) is an American who studied at the Emma Willard School, graduated from Barnard College in 1929, and then went abroad. With her Italian husband she took up what promised to be a pleasant residence in Barcelona, and there with her own eyes saw what Revolution will do to a placid, open-hearted city.
Charlotte Kellogg (p. 533) was intimately connected with the relief work in Belgium during the war and knows from experience the hope that persists in a stricken people.
A second eyewitness of the agony in Spain is John Elliott (p. 534), Paris correspondent of the New York Herald Tribune. His passport had been turned over to the French authorities for renewal the very day the rumbling broke out on the Peninsula. He had no choice but to smuggle himself across the border and so risked his life by joining the rebels.
Whoever becomes master in Spain, it is clear that Democracy there will not long survive. Shall we, too, catch this contagion of an all-powerful, coercive State, or shall Democracy continue to give the United States the government we need? That is the question which for five years has been troubling Walter Lippmann (p. 543), the question which has led to the preparation of his new and most fundamental book. The series of Mr. Lippmann’s articles — of which this is the third — began in the Atlantic for September.
Thank Heaven for explorers who enrich by their doings the lives of us who have to stay at home. To Constance Withington (p. 555) of Honolulu, Captain Eric de Bisschop, a French navigator, told his story of a three-year cruise he had made in the Pacific aboard his Chinese junk. He set out to prove his theory that the Polynesian race never could have migrated from Malaysia to Oceania. But the Japanese thought his charts and records were — dangerous junk.
What do you like best in the autumn? ‘Riding!’ says Mrs. Winthrop Chanler (p. 565), whose memoir, Roman Spring, was a best seller two years ago. Mrs. Chanler has ridden in the Genesee Valley for more than a quarter of a century. She has hunted in Ireland, she has studied haute école in Paris, and has loved the long, sweeping runs across the Campagna. Her new volume. Autumn in the Valley, will be published on November 9.
Della T. Lutes (p. 574) cooks the best food the Atlantic ever printed. Her stories, which have tickled our readers’ palates for the past year, are now procurable in a delicious little book entitled The Country Kitchen.
President of the University of Chicago, and the youngest and, perhaps, most progressive force in American education. Robert M. Hutchins (p. 582) makes a stimulating reply to Professor Whitehead, whose essay, ‘Harvard: the Future,’ was a leading article in the September Atlantic.
Another headliner — in education — is Robert Hillyer (p. 589), Pulitzer Prize Winner in Poetry, who sends us the bracing and distinguished poem, ‘Letter to a Teacher of English,’ which he read at the Tercentenary Exercises at Harvard. Dr. James B. Munn, to whom his Letter is addressed, is chairman of the Department of English at Harvard.
William Feather (p. 593), a printer and publisher of Cleveland, has drawn up a design for living which should be read and acted upon by business men, architects, contractors, and home lovers.
This past summer Olaus J. Murie (p. 596) conducted a biological survey of the Aleutian islands. He is, incidentally, the world’s greatest authority on the wapiti, vulgarly known as the American elk.
More than five thousand hours of observation, whether of English rivers, pools, or hatcheries, went into the writing of Henry Williamson’s (p. 600) masterly narrative, Solar the Salmon.
Editorial writer, lover of the arts and the classics, Lucien Price (p. 602) has two good books to his credit, Winged Sandals and, more recent, We Northmen.
Formerly of the British Foreign Office, E. H. Carr (p. 607) now occupies the Wilson Chair of International Politics at Aberystwyth, Wales.
An English Quaker with a gifted pen, Janet Whitney (p. 614) has prepared for this Christmas an admirable biography of that great heroine, Elizabeth Fry.
Novelist and short-story writer. Phyllis Bottome (p. 623) is equally at home in Austria and in England.
To the October AtlanticR. S. (p. 629), a New England poet, contributed what is professionally known as ‘a double spread of verse.‘
Gardner Harding (p. 630) has devoted a lifetime in the interest of foreign trade. He has lived and worked in the Far East, been secretary of the National Foreign Trade Council, and has long been respected for the reliability of his advice.
Somewhere between eight and nine thousand entries (the accountants are still dizzy) were submitted in the Million Dollar Community Contest. The size of the competition and the difficulty of the judging make it impossible for us to proclaim the winner in time for publication in this issue. It is expected, however, that the prize paper and the best of those accorded Honorable Mention will be published in the December Atlantic.
It was a foregone conclusion that Professor Whitehead’s vision of the future Harvard (September Atlantic) would arouse particularly keen interest in academic circles. It is a privilege to present the comments of the presidents of two major universities.
Dear Mr. Sedgwick: —
The article : The Future,’ by Alfred North Whitehead, appeals to me as a refreshing breeze for the fevered brows of modern university administrators. While I find myself objecting to his conclusion that the fate of the intellectual civilization of the world rests in the hands of a group of universities from Charlottesville to Baltimore, from Baltimore to Boston, and from Boston to Chicago, I am quite willing to await the verdict of history rather than make definite claims now for those who are trying to be intellectual in such far-off places as California.
Aside from this minor point, I belive that Professor Whitehead has dealt effectively with a number of problems which are of vital concern to the future of higher education. I am not sure of this with respect to all of them, because ordinary people, like myself, have allowed themselves to fall so far behind the philosophers that on occasion we seem to speak different languages. I am sure of this, at least, that vocational subjects such as law, religion, medicine, business, art, governmental activities, engineering, and education ought to be recognized as appropriate and even essential parts of a university curriculum.
For several generations this vocationalism has been encroaching upon orthodoxy in universities, but the ground it has won has never been officially ceded by traditionalists of the old school. There still remains a lurking conviction that professional instruction is something apart from real university education. In openly challenging this concept and offering cogent reasons for so doing. Professor Whitehead has made a practical contribution to academic thought. In general, the Opposition to vocational schools has been in some measure justified, but quite as generally this opposition has been based on prejudice rather than truth. A clear realization of the common ground on which vocational and cultural education may work together is essential to the wise development of modern universities in harmony with changing conditions and in the discharge of the great responsibility that Professor Whitehead envisions.
I hope that Harvard University will be able to answer Professor Whitehead’s concluding question in the affirmative, and I hope also that other universities may participate in that answer. Harvard’s three hundred years do bespeak maturity and the power of leadership, but in this day of scientifically controlled growth it should not be necessary for other centres of culture to await a three-hundredth anniversary before beginning to show at least some fruits. Harvard’s history and achievements are an inspiration and a guide, but not necessarily an invitation to others to mark time until the dawn of their fourth century of experience. After all, years of life are not the sole source of intellectual maturity, either of individuals or of institutions.
ROBERT G. SPROUL.President, University of California
To the Editor of the Atlantic —
Professor Whitehead’s article on the future of Harvard strikes both joy and pain to the heart of anyone engaged professionally in the field of education. To be brought so close to the mystery of the process of learning, to the secret of great teaching, to the essential purpose of a university, is a glorious experience; but in the white light of that revelation how stark and dry, how frivolous and empty, seem many of the procedures by which we strive to capture and embody those essences! If this article were read aloud in every college and university at the beginning of each academic year it might save us from much futility.
But the sermon is also for laymen. A university may indeed help to mould an evolving civilization, but it is also a child of its times, a reflector as well as a source of light. It is capable of being trivialized by its public. However busy and outwardly effective universities and colleges may be, if they are sought by students for trivial reasons, if parents desire from them trivial benefits for their children, if alumni and public judge them by trivial standards, it is hard to prevent their fires from burning low. On the other hand, no gift of millions (and I speak as a college president who sees much use for millions) could so lift and inspire them as the alllatus of such conceptions on the part of their public as Professor Whitehead defines. That destiny of incalculable service to which he challenges American universities to rise is possible only if outside the universities there exists a profound and exacting hunger for something better than the best they have yet achieved.
Very truly yours,
ADA L. COMSTOCK
President, Radcliffe College
Was ’Bread Line’ authentic?
Dear Atlantic, —
I have read with interest the article written by Hugo Johanson, entitled ’Bread Line,’in the August number. Probably because I live in an agricultural community where we never have known what it is to want for food, shelter, and sufficient raiment to wear, it is difficult for me to feature the apparent ability of the above writer to have to live and go through the harrowing circumstances he describes in the above article. I am wondering wheather the writer himself suffered the experiences related in his article, or if he is simply telling the sad story of some poor ignorant being unable to put into words the picture detailed.
The public should know the truth about such conditions. As a rule I think our public press intentionally keeps such information from the public under the assumption that ‘where ignorance is bliss, ’t is folly to be wise.’ Van are to be congratulated on publishing an article like the above.
C.B.CALKINS Stevensville, Montana
N. B. Before the editors undertook to publish ‘Bread line,’Hugo Johanson submitted ample proof that he had indeed undergone the fearful experiences he described.
’My name is Gunsky.‘
I have written a poem about a young girl. My name is Gunsky. I gome from the north of Armenia. I have always wanted to write something about a young girl. That is an idea that seems to me to be very beautiful. When I think of young girls my whole creative consciousness is suffused with a poetic feeling. I have spoken to other Armenians about this feeling that comes over me, but they do not seem to understand what I mean. That is why I feel that perhaps I have something really important to say.
Now I would like to tell you about this feeling that comes over me: it is like someone turning on an electric light in a dark room. Do you understand? One day I felt as though I wanted to write a poem, so I walked down La Brea Avenue. It was raining. There was a furniture store with two unpainted beds in the window. They reminded me of how hungry I was and that I did not have much money. I stopped in front of a fruit stand. I know the proprietor well. His name is Vincentini. He is not a had fellow. Well, I stood there waiting for a poem to come to me. I thought about the colors of the fruit. They were red and yellow. The bananas were long and yellow. The oranges were a warm color. They cheered me as I stood there in the rain. But the poem would not come to me. Then something happened. That electric light turned on! A young girl walked past me. She did not know me. I did not know her. She did not even look in my direction. But this electric light had turned on, I went back to my room, forgetting all about how hungry I was and that I had not had a cigarette for several days, and wrote this poem I am telling you about.
I know it is great because of the way it flowed out of me. I could not have stopped it even if I had tried to. It may seem strange to you how that girl made me write this poem. But I think that great writing is only really great when it is quite simple and natural. If that girl ever sees this poem in your magazine she may not even know she was the one who inspired it.
Maybe you have heard of a writer named William Saroyan who is also an Armenian, He is not very old yet. Well, I hear that he is not very well understood by other Armenians, which is my case as i have related. VinceNTINI, that’s the man who has the fruit stand. tells me this Saroyan boy has sold a number of bis stories to different magazines. So I thought maybe you would like to look at my poem and maybe buy it for your magazine. Would you?
FRANK GUNSKY Hollywood, California
P. S. The poem is not very long.
Three ways of returning to the people money collected from income and inheritance taxes.
The exhaustive research of the Brookings Institution into the cause of the depression has confirmed the opinion of many economists who reached their conclusion by the simpler method of deduction. This opinion is that the primary cause of the depression was the very unequal distribution of wealth and income. To many people the obvious answer is increased income and inheritance taxes, but strangely enough the Institution is opposed to this method, stating that it is unsound.
The reasons given for the unsoundness are, first, that the money collected would not be spent for the things that people want or need most; second, that the projects financed by taxes are usually not themselves taxable, and that as a result the tax burden on private enterprise becomes heavier, and the inevitable result is to retard production.
Upon examination these reasons will be found to be not convincing. There are three simple ways that the money collected from income and inheritance taxes may he returned to the great masses of the people, thereby increasing their purchasing power and the, demand for consumption goods. First, we may decrease those taxes which bear more heavily on the low income group, such as sales taxes. This money would remain in the pockets of the buyers and could unquestionably be used for whatever was most wanted or needed. Secondly, adequate old-age pensions, say up to fifty dollars per month, would undoubtedly be used for the same purposes. While the Townsend proposal of two hundred dollars per month is much too high for the present productive capacity of the country, and its method of raising the money would defeat its own purpose, a pension of fifty dollars per month financed by increased income and inheritance taxes would be a really sound and effective recovery measure. Of this fifty dollars the country is already spending a probable average of ten dollars on the care of the aged.
The third and more commonly thought of method of spending the money would be on public works. In a country which can produce in reasonable abundance, the matter of need does not enter. The criterion for public works should be usefulness and desirability. The mere fact that all public works would not please all the people would be a small price to pay for sound economic recovery. As the standard of living rises it will be found that more of the things we desire can be more efficiently provided by government than by each individual acting for himself.
The fact that public works are not taxable has no bearing on the question. If the depression was actually caused by an unbalance between production and consumption, the very thing that we are trying to do is to retard production and increase consumption, Doubtless income taxes could be raised to the point where no money would be available for investment, but that would be just as foolish as the other extreme that we have been passing through.
The beauty of income taxes is that they can be changed quickly by changing a few figures in existing laws. The government has full control; there is no question of constitutionality; they involve no experiments and require no new boards or bureaus. If we go too far we can easily retrace our steps.
The Institution admits that in the post-war years to 1929 there had been a substantial and steady increase in the percentage of the total national income available for investment; and that if at that stage of our history greater purchasing power had been available in the lower income groups for consumptive purchases, many of our subsequent difficulties might have been avoided.
Is il not a very significant fact that it was in those years immediately preceding 1929 that Mr. Mellon was steadily decreasing income taxes in the higher brackets first? Is it possible that there is no connection between the two sets of circumstances? It would seem that Mr. Mellon’s policy was directly responsible for the excess funds available for investment, and, by the same token, for the depression.
The Brookings cure for the depression is lowerprices. To be effective the decrease in prices must come out of profits, the same place that income taxes would come from. What great difference in result does it make whether the money to be returned to the masses comes from lower prices or from income taxes? The big difference is in the effectiveness of the remedy. Over taxes the government has full and immediate control. It was the government’s attempted control of wages and prices through the NRA that was such a fiasco.
‘To date Brookings has not discussed any methods of ensuring price reductions.’ When the Institution does give us such methods its opposition to income taxes will be on a much sounder basis. In the meantime, and in the emergency which still confronts us, why not use the agency easily at hand?
Page MacKinlay Kantor!
Dear Atlantic, —
I heard about your story about the cecropia moth, and thought maybe you would like to here some more about it. I live in Charleston, West Virginia, and I am eleven years old.
My aunt has a camp up the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia, where she spends most of her time in the summer. One day when I was visiting her, it was just my luck to see one of these moth’s spinning its web on a tree just on the other side of her pourch. It was a green looking worm with rainbow spots all over its back. It spun at least an hour while I watched. Pretty soon it stopped an I came to conclusion that it was all shut up in a little cradle like nest. It is a very interesting worm an I hope all the Atlantic readers read about it.
‘Italicus’ has drawn a considerable response from readers who agreed or disagreed with his provocative analysis of Mussolini’s position vis-à-vis the rest of Europe. To his paper, ‘Italy and Europe,’ which appeared in the AugustAtlantic, ‘Britannicus’ makes reply.
Dear Atlantic, —
In the matter of the League and Abyssinia, Signor ‘Italicus’ shows, I think, a better understanding of Great Britain than some of your earlier contributors. Will you allow a British reader to add something?
It is a mistake to suppose that British public opinion was determined either to any important degree by concern for the Empire or mainly by hostility to Fascism.
As to the Empire, the public, of course, knows nothing of secret acquisitive interests that may (or may not) have influenced the government ; but the vigorous imperialists, Churchill’s party, were on the side of Italy; and the ordinary voter is not much interested in the Empire, and moreover has a pretty complete (and quite unjustified) contempt for Italian military prowess.
As to Fascism, it is true that the British have little liking for dictators, but to suggest that in Britain the League of Nations Union derives its chief support from militant Socialism is absurd.
If Abyssinia had not been a member of the League, it could have been swallowed by Italy without serious opposition on the part of any other state.
Britain’s main motive was, genuinely, concern for collective security. The ordinary Briton did not think of Italian ‘expansion’ as a threat to his wealth; he has, incidentally, no more idea than the ordinary American how rich, compared to the people of other nations, he is; and in this case it was the feelings of the average Briton that determined the action of the government, which would probably have been ready to treat the question of Abyssinia as impassively as it treated the question of Manchuria.
I suppose the temptation to write (I do not, of course, refer to Italicus’) of the Lion rousing itself, and the rest of it, was hard to resist; but a more appropriate picture would have been that of a publicspirited wife insisting to an unathletic husband that he stop an assault in the street.
This is not to say that Britain is more unselfish than other states. Far from it. But it is curious that your contributors should seem so little aware of the great difference between the temper of the British to-day and their temper thirty-five years ago.
Yet the cause is an obvious one: an event unique in British history, as in the history of the world -the war of 1914-1918. From that war Britain emerged as an individual generally emerges from a struggle in which by prolonged, violent, and painful effort he has just contrived to save his life: that is, rather proud of his achievement, but anxious that the experience should on no account be repeated. The old arrogant spirit of Boer War days is dead.
The British want peace, and want it not primarily for the sake of their wealth; but it is true, indeed, that they waver, in division and mental confusion, as to how it is to be secured. Though most of them see that isolation is impossible, many still hanker after it.
If in this matter they are rather less ostrichlike than Americans, it is because for them there is less available sand. Yet most of them do see that peace cannot be assured except through the action of some world authority, and most, moreover, would be willing for the sake of assured peace to sacrifice something both of wealth and of pride. So would the peoples of many other European states. To picture the League as a mere fraud where nationalist ambition masquerades as idealism is shallow, theatrical, and foolish.
If men did not want peace, if they were not prepared to pay any price for it at all, the present state of the world would be less interesting and less pitiable.
What gives poignancy to the tragedy whose progress we are witnessing, and whose consummation will be savored by our descendants, is the fact that most men do want peace: they are ready to give for it something, and not enough.
How do you pronounce ‘sewer’?
Dear Atlantic, —
The contributor of ’Words, Words, Words,’in the Contributors’ Club of your September issue, tells us that Mr. John Walker in 1823 was annoyed at the corrupt pronunciation of the word ‘sewer,’which he maintained should be pronounced ‘shore.”
But in parts of County Antrim we still pronounce sewer ‘shore.’ At my bleach works I often have to set a worker to ‘red out’ or clean a choked ’shore,’and it was not till reading this article that I realized ‘shore’ was the old pronunciation for sewer. In Belfast I would call a sewer a sewer. In Coagh I would call a sewer a ‘shore.’
Old pronunciations and still older words, long since dead in England, still linger on in parts of County Antrim. Some words are too virile to die in the country. That they never appear in books does not worry country folk who read none. This district was well settled at the time of the Crusades, for some time ago I put up on the office window a copy of a record showing how much the parish had had to subscribe to one of those expeditions to the Holy Land.
A trough, such as the water trough from the dam, we call a ‘trow’ (rhyming with ‘how’). I wonder what Mr. Walker has to say on that, or was that already obsolete in his long-gone day?
W. V. COOKE
You can’t get away from them!
Dear Atlantic, —
Under the waving coconut palms and the flowing fronds of bana leaves dancing in the trade winds across my jungle path, I was sauntering to the neighboring thatched village of Vaitongi this afternoon. Chief Ufuti had invited me to his feast, as an honored guest, to assist in the official welcome home to his daughter, who had just returned from eight years’ exposure to California culture. So I sat in the circle of a hundred half-naked natives bedecked with wild-flower garlands, while before me was placed a pile of roast pork, boiled chicken, baked taro, and even a plum pudding with sauce ingeniously secured in a twisted banana leaf.
After everyone had partaken to his satisfaction, baskets were brought out for each to take home all that remained before him. My servant Gofati counted two legs of pork, four tenderloins, pigs’ feet and heads, with vegetables and cakes too numerous to mention. As I arose to go, my eye caught the glint of a suspiciously orange-colored magazine on the shelf of the well-built hut, I stopped to investigate and bless my soul — it was the last month’s Atlantic id
‘Take it along,’ said the chief, whose missionary-school training had taught him to taste the best English literature. ‘We have finished with it and gladly pass it on.’ So Gofati took it and placed the precious pièce de résistance in the basket beside the tenderloins, and together, light-hearted, we trekked our way back through the green jungle amid the gay banners of the coco palms, each of us thinking of the treasures in the basket!
DR. JEROME GOODSPEEU VANZANDT
Payo Pago Station
Tutuila, American Samoa
Dear Atlantic, —
Two weeks ago, I was riding with the chuck wagon of a cattle outfit near the head of the Green River, in the mountains of Wyoming, about forty miles from the nearest post office.
We made a camp next a little log shack in which Miko Black was shot and killed by his partner about two years ago. After the cowpunchers and I had looked at the bullet hole, we found in the meagre furnishings a copy of the Atlantic for July 1934. I do not know whether this rough trapper enjoyed the Atlantic, but it was a feast of reading to me, after a long time with nothing to read but a saddle catalogue.
JEROME C. FISHER Cleveland, Ohio