The Contributors' Column
THERE are times when every one of us hankers for an island — for some small and happy universe secure from trouble. One sleepless night in I Robert Dean Frisbie (p. 644), a newspaper reporter in San Francisco, read Stevenson’s account of the lagoon at Fakarava. Under the influence of that magical prose, Frisbie stowed his worldly belongings into two suitcases, cashed a check, and went down to the wharves, His home has been in the South Seas ever since. He went first to Tahiti; and then, as civilization encroached, he sought refuge — as a trader — in the smaller atolls of the Pacilic Ocean. But life even on Danger Island (his present habitat) has its tribulations, as we learn in a narrative which will he serialized in successive issues of the Atlantic.
England’s foremost explorer, Sir Francis Younghusband (p. 651) early felt that magnetic attraction which drew him as it drew his great predecessor, ’Chinese Gordon, to Asia. The faith which he carried with him beyond the pale will also serve those who stay at home.
A graduate of the State University of Iowa, Reece Stuart, Jr. (p. 655) has been tor the past four years an editorial writer on the staff of the Des Moines Register.
In 1908 Bronislaw Malinowski (p. 359) received his Doctor’s degree with the highest honors in the Austrian Empire. A Polish scholar, perhaps the world’s greatest authority on primitive man, he has done most of his research in Melanesia and most of his teaching in England.
A Russian exile with the gift of tongues, Lola Kinel (p. 670), in her twenties, was engaged as interpreter between husband and wife. As private secretary to Isadora Duncan and Esscniue. she was witness to the most extraordinary marriage in Bohemia.
Instructor in English at Harvard and Director of the Writers’ Conference at Bread Foal. Vermont, Theodore Morrison (p. 6,6) believes that there is a reasonable approach to peace.
Laurence Binyon (p. 686) is Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, and, out of hours, one of the most lyrical poets in the British Isles.
B. H. Liddell Hart (p. 687) is a military critic and historian whose words carry weight in Europe. Military correspondent of the London Daily Telegraph, it is his business to know the plans in readiness for the next mobilization. During his service in the British Army, Captain Hart invented the Battle Drill system and the Expanding Torrent method of attack (which England has officially adopted since the war).
A Princeton graduate in his middle thirties, Benedict Thielen (p. 696) finds the cliff dwellings of New York or the long sands of Cape Cod equally conducive to his short stories,
J. B. Matthews (p. 705) is an editor and director of the Consumers’ Research, Inc. In 1936 he made a twelve-thousand-mile automobile trip throughout the United States to investigate the actual functioning of consumer-coöperative stores, and thereafter embarked for Europe to compare his American conclusions with what he found abroad.
John A. Chamberlain (p. 716) is a resident of Cleveland who has practised law for some thirty-odd years. His lifelong habit of reading the Bible aloud makes us wonder how many American families still support this ancient tradition.
A Canadian, for many years Head of the Department of Political Economy at McGill University, Stephen Leacock (p. 720) early discovered the wellspring of American laughter.
The winner of the Million Dollar Community Contest is Howard Douglas Dozier (p. 723), an economist who graduated from Vanderbilt University and received his Master’s and Doctor’s degrees from Yale. Atone time professor of economics at Dartmouth College, he now makes his home at Silver Spring, Maryland. W hen notified of the award, Mr. Dozier wrote to the Atlantic as follows: —
It was no mere desire to win a prize, or even a place, that prompted me to draft the plan; it was the experience of a lifetime of effort to earn for my own education and to save for that of my children.
As a youngster with only fifty dollars I onion’d one ofthe best preparatory schools of the Soulh. Later I earned my way through Vanderbilt University, and later still through the Yale Graduate School. At the beginning of no single year in the eleven of my formal training did I have enough money lo see me through both semesters, and often not enough lo last me through the lirst.
This experience, coupled with that incident to the use of life insurance as a medium of saving for the education of my children, brought me to the rather startling realization that there is not now adequate financial machinery for converting current savings for education into capital devoted to education.
The income from the benefactor’s million dollars gave me a hypothetical working capital, and hence elbow room, for blueprinting a plan of saving for education which, in all candor, I believe to be better adapted to that end than any now in actual operation.
Walter Lippmann’s (p. 727) constructive analysis of the Good Society and the influences which corrupt it to-day must have a tonic effect upon those who are worried about the present state of Democracy. Mr. Lippmann’s series began in the Atlantic for September and will be sustained through seven successive numbers. Each chapter is an entity in itself; taken together, they compose a masterly survey of modern government.
Irish poet and playwright, Winifred M. Letts (p. 742) lives in Dublin, whore she takes recreation in ‘the society of children and dogs, weeding.’
Sylvia G. Dreyfus (p. 748) is a patron of the arts who finds her happiest rewards in sculpture and music. A friend of Mr. and Mrs. Serge Koussevitzky, she was privileged to ask those questions for which there is too little opportunity in the Green Room.
Readers of poetry may remember that Josephine Young Case (p. 738), a graduate of Bryn Mawr, made her début in the Atlatic for for August 1935 with her t wo poems, ‘ Legend of t he Unicorn ’ and ‘Smith’s Place.’
W. T. Stace (p. 759) is a professor of philosophy at Princeton University. His last book, The Theory of Knowledge and Existence, aroused widespread discussion in England.
Will someone kindly page Mr. Richard Claughton. It e have received from him certain interesting commentaries concerning Mr. Lippntarin s thesis, and should value the opportunity of his acquaintance. Should he so desire, the anonymity suggested by his nom de guerre wilt be respected.
We know of nobody better qualified to comment, from the producer’s point of view, upon Gilbert Seldes’s critique of the movies than the capable vice president in charge of production of the Twentieth Century-Fox film Corpora-
To the Editor of the Atlantic:—
Mr. Gilbert Seldes is one of the most estimable of our present-day critics, and his article, ‘The Quicksands of the Movies,’ in the October issue, touches the heart of the problems which beset the producers of motion pictures.
But his basic premise that pictures should be made with the thought of posterity is fundamentally wrong.
Motion-picture plays must seek their approval from contemporary audiences. The same could he said of to-day’s stage-play product.
It is all very well for a writer, sitting in an ivory tower, to fashion a play which, if it fails to find acceptance with the amusement-seeking public, will he hailed by posterity asa lasting work of art. It would be suicidal for the producer lo be an accomplice to the writer’s purpose.
Producers are not lacking in the instincts of the critic, but they must he guided by the inescapable fact that they are the stewards of a great financial investment, and unless their pictures catch the fancy of to-day’s public they and the industry they are responsible for will be completely ruined.
Not the producers, and not the critics, but the public Is the ultimate judge of whether a picture is good or bad. And that is the public of to-day, not to-morrow. That public, it must be remembered, is seeking not cultural uplift primarily, but amusement — entertainment.
There’ are pictures of higher artistic value that can succeed; and producers, as Mr, Seldes admits, do try to make them.
Film producers are ever trying to raise the level of entertainment. Practically every stage play of higher merit that succeeds in New York — which in effect is an experimental laboratory — reaches the screen.
DARRYL F. ZANUCK
Beverly Hills, California
A Liberal challenges Air. Sokolsky.
Dear Atlantic, —
May a person whose distinction lies in never having written a book lalk back at George E. Sokolsky when he discusses the Political Burden of Belief? I have no fault to find with his plea for a federal census of employment. It would be fairly accurate as of the date on which the information was given, and might he a valuable guide to the government in its responsibility for its so-called marginal population. It would, however, have much less value than Mr. Sokolsky attributes to it . If a worker were employed on a job which could last only six weeks, I doubt the intellectual honesty of those who would put him down as ‘employed’ and no longer a concern of the government.
I agree with Mr. Sokolsky that the relief rolls constitute a serious menace to the present system. The cost is stupendous and the destruction of morale is inevitable. There is no doubt that a vested interest is being created. It may in time become almost as perilous to the republic as the rest, of our vested interests have been. A person might agree with Mr. Sokolsky’s implication that a lot of the people on relief are not worth saving and still find him all wrong in his method of dealing with the problem.
I think Mr. Sokolsky avoids deliberately the kernel of the quest ion he is discussing. The present system has allowed him to rise. It has made him one of its pets. No tremendous fortune; simply the condition he values most —a comfortable living and an appreciative audience. In other words, it allows him to work. He overlooks the fact that the same system does not allow masses of his fellow citizens the right to work. His remedy is to throw them out, making them support themselves or die. I understand some have died in New Jersey, hut of course that is of small concern. Sacrifices must he made. Eventually the balance will be struck and the labor supply will not be excessive. The ones who remain will not have spirit left to tight over conditions of their labor. They w ill take what they get and be thankful.
As a somewhat bewildered liberal, l should like to state the problem as I see if and ask Mr. Sokolsky and the rest of the critical minds to stop ranting and work toward a solution which will serve the longtime welfare of the republic. As I see it, these people are citizens and entitled to live. Some of them may be lazy and ineffectual and they may like the security of the dole. However. I believe that there are comparatively few who would not prefer a job in private industry at eighty dollars a month to pushing a wheelbarrow for PWA at fifty. If industry and agriculture an1 not able to supply this minimum, I think objectors are unjustified in their unholy opposition to all movements that would put these people to work producing for their own use. There is no justice in discontinuing aid to unfortunate fellow Americans without first providing a demand for their labor at a price that at least will allow them to live.
I am no revolutionist and I think all wars could be solved in advance if men could forget their prejudices and solve their differences in the light of reason. But I fear a revolution because I tear the loss of civil liberties, no mailer which side wins. I think it is time for liberals to stand up and be counted. The die-hard lories will wreck our country with their belligerent doctrine of no change in a world that is changing rapidly.
MRS. JOHN P. BARDEN
The origin of the term Uncle Sam.‘
Dear Atlantic, —
Mr. Stephen Leacock, in his essay ’Imaginary Persons’ (October issue), has been thorough in his research into the origin of John Bull and Brother Jonathan, Not so, however, as regards Uncle Sam. In making the following statement, ‘His [i.e. Uncle Sam’s] actual name was taken out of the letters U. S., which arose with the independence of the United States,’ Mr. Peacock is correct as far as he goes, but makes no mention of the story (or legend) of Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York.
In brief, this is the story. Ebenezer Wilson and his younger brother Samuel owned a brickyard in Troy, in the years following the Hevolution. Both brothers were loved and respected by their fellow Trojans for their kindly and benevolent natures. Samuel especially loved the children of Troy, and his capacious pockets were never without some ‘sweet ‘ or homemade toy for them. Affectionately, his little friends called him their Unde Sam.’
As their wealth increased, the Wilson brothers sold their brick factory and became wholesale butchers. Then came the War of 1812, and the government contracted with their slaughterhouse to provide meat for troops stationed in that district. Soon after, Samuel was appointed Inspector of Prov isions for I he army.
This patriotic ‘I ncle Sam’ Wilson not only fulfilled his own contract loyally, both to the letter and in the spirit, but as Inspector of Provisions saw to it that all other contractors did likewise. As a result, the. ’U. S.’ (United States) which was penciled on all provisions which he inspected became in the eyes of the soldiery a sort of trade-mark a guarantee of excellence.
Those of Sam’s childhood friends who were now serving in the army imagined that the initials ‘ U. S. ’ were an allusion to their pet name for him, ‘Uncle Sam,’ and would accept no other provisions than Uncle Sam’s. To the rest of the army, to those who did not know the real origin of the pseudonym, Uncle Sam’s beef and bread meant government provisions. As a logical sequence, ( ncle Sam soon became a personification of the government.
Phis is the generally accepted story of the origin of Uncle Sam. It may or may not be true. But it has been established definitely that there was a Samuel W ilson, who was briekmaker and butcher and loyal and honest patriot, who ended his days on his estate on Mount Ida.
M. SALMAN LICHTENSTEIN
Two points of view about ‘Harvard’s Homicide.’
Dear Atlantic, —
Eventually I shall probably forgive the Atlantic for publishing ‘Harvard Has a Homicide.’ (In honor |?] of I he Tercentenary?) Bad judgment and bad taste betray even the best once in a lifetime. Perhaps I ’m being so betrayed right now. But here’s my grievance.
I am interested in a Southern mountain social settlement and school where I spent four busy and, I hope, helpful years. It is my pleasure to pass on to the housemothers or the library there the best magazines I get hold of, and that includes the Atlantic whenever I feel able to afford a copy. Recently I sent a dollar for the five-month offer. The three numbers already received have given me my dollar’s worth. But they contain your ‘Harvard Homicide’ and I’m unwilling to send them to Southern mountaineers because they have a reverence for education and a weakness for homicide.
I’d rather not put that story into the hands and heads of high-school boys there who may be dreaming of Harvard, or some lesser institution, as their educational goal. If a student who has had Harvard influences for four years can make a Roman holiday of a ‘killing’ by encouraging a crap game in the room adjoining that where a professor has just been murdered, and by getting ‘liquored up’ while doing so, then why censure the crude mountaineer for being similarly festive? Mountain boys are thoughtful. They would not fail to see this analogy. Harvard men — three in particular—have made my life mean infinitely more than it would have meant without their friendship and their counsel. I resent the word ‘Harvard’ in the title of this story.
The excellence of the October number alone almost persuades me to begin forgiving you now.
Ch iaii/o, Illinois
Dear Atlantic, —
Not since Meredith’s Egoist have I found humor so prankish and amusing as that in ‘Harvard Has a Homicide.’
LEONA HARPER Manitou, Oklahoma
The turkey hen ‘kyoucks’ — it never gobbles.
Dear Atlantic, —
Morgan Barnes’s letter in the Column of the October issue, in which he is awed over the poet io license of Richard Sullivan in permitting mature grasshoppers to Cavort about in early spring when practically all species of ‘hoppers’ are in the egg stage or still quite young, calls to mind an incident which reveals the care exercised by James Whitcomb Riley to avoid the use of incorrect facts in natural history.
The story was told to me by W. S. Blatchley, entomologist and naturalist, who was a close friend of Riley.
One day Riley visited Blatehlcy and asked if ‘whirligig’ beetles could fly. An examination of a specimen in the insect cabinet revealed aborted flight wings, and so Blatehlcy reported that they apparently could not fly. To this report Riley replied, ‘Well, I ’ll have to change a poem 1 have written because I had them flying. ... A little incident that happened a few years ago has made me careful of my natural history.’ he eontinued. ‘Shortly affer the publication of my poem “When the Frost Is on the Punkin” I was approached by a farmer lad who asked if I ever lived on a farm, and when I replied in the negative the boy added: “Well, I didn’t think so, because in your poem you say: —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of Ihe struttin’ turkey-cock.
‘“Well,” said the boy, “it’s only the turkey cock that gobbles; the turkey hen kyoucks.”
‘And so,’ added Riley, ‘ever since that incident I’ve been careful of my natural history.’
I think the first record of this story is in a paper I published in the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science.
J. J. DAVIS, Head
Dept. of Entomology, Purdue University
More about Whitehead’s Harvard.
Dear Mr. Sedgwick, —
I find myself in sympathy with the general drift of Professor Whitehead’s fine article. For me it is largely summed up in the taunt to the Greeks that ’You Greeks are always children.’ At the moment when we think we have fu11y grasped all phases of a question, it is apt to explode right in our midst. It seems to me that the university must keep the attitude of the child — of curiosity, interest, willingness to learn, and above all of asking questions.
The administration of a university is a very practical matter. We are working with constantly changing personnel, ideas, and students. What we are studying is not static, but is. rather, a constantly flowing current. The greatest problem is to pul everything into some sort of order so that we shall not get lost in the brush pile. We have overemphasized departments and there is constant need to break down partitions between them; hut some such scheme of organization is requisite in order to keep those who come to us from confusion.
Learning is an individual matter; but the life of the individual is often remarkably influenced by incidental happenings. These happenings are a part of the action that is going on about us all the time. They affect the university as well as the indiv idual. To me the greatest opportunity for Harvard lies in getting down into the midst of the problems that face the human race, rather than in analyzing them after they have gone by.
ROY LYMAN WILBUR, President
Dear Allantic, —
Mr. Whitehead’s article, ’Harvard: The Future,’ was very Englishly fine: it hit the ball of truth with the proper English on it, which made it whirlingly interesting. Yet at every human celebration that is, adult human — the accent is usually on ’rest,’ and the enjoyment of the retrospect of ‘past’ accomplishment. This brings us to the proper aspect: ‘ Harvard: The Past. For any adult knows that there is more satisfaction in proclaiming what one has done than to plan for a nebulous future.
When Louis Agassiz came to Harvard in 1846 there were 35 Members (the Catalogue calls them ‘Officers’ ) of Instruction and Government, in 1849 the Lawrence Scientific School was ‘moving, sir,’ and there were added 6 Members (not ‘Officers’) to an Association which Dav id Starr Jordan was once pleased to call the ’Agassiz Guild.’
In 1866, twenty years after Agassiz’s coming, there were 57 in the Faculty, or 22 more than in 1846, with such renowned additions to the Agassiz Guild as the following: Frederick H. Hedge, Henry Ingersoll Bow ditch, Josiah Dwight Whitney, Wolcott Gibhs, Ephraim W . Gurney, William Watson Goodwin, and James Bussell Lowell. How can we account for such a rapid acceleration of its growth? Such a brisk growth was miraculous, yet it can be only attributed to the over-mounting membership of the Agassiz Guild and its individual efforts.
No mention is made by Mr. Whitehead of Charles William Eliot, that fine Puritan figure, who rumor hath it was the Maker of present Harvard. Mr. Eliot, in his President’s Report for 1874, wrote that Agassiz’s loss by death was ‘irreparable,’ and went to Europe fruitlessly scouring for his successor.
Mr. Whitehead says perplexedly in his article: ‘ Nothing is more difficult than to distinguish between a loud voice and vigor, or a flow of words and originality, or mental instability and genius.’ For Louis Agassiz nothing could have been easier, for he was principally a geologist and knew his ‘stratums.’ His trouble lay in bringing ‘Individualists’ together and by a little scientific eloquence persuading them to play at ‘Coöperation.’ Yet when he culled the members of the Saturday Club out of the brambly Massachusettian vortex, who can say how ‘difficult ’ it was for him?
Harvard still maintains the glorious prestige which the unheralded Agassiz evolved out of his Museum of Comparative Zoölogy, which institution David Starr Jordan called ‘the first American University.’
Do you belong to that inarticulate ‘minority’ of radio listeners?
Dear Atlantic, —
‘The Art of Pleasing Everybody,’ by Richard Sheridan Ames, in the October number, is a good article and an interesting one, and also a superb example of the Great Human Failing. I qualify as one of that audience which prefers Parsifal to Joe Palooka. I have never written to a radio station, and I probably never will, for one excellent reason. 1 would never buy a pair of oxfords to defray the cost of hearing Arthur Schnabel play Beethoven Sonatas. I buy oxfords when I am in need of a pair of longwearing, well-fitting shoes; and I have found by bitter experience that an advertiser (I do no I speak of one in particular) is the last person in the world to tell me about the wearability of his product. His sponsorship of a good radio programme has no more relationship to the worth of his product than my appreciation for Beethoven is related to my need of shoes.
I believe all ‘discriminating listeners’ have intelligence enough to be discriminating buyers. We know that Mr. Sponsor is interested in whether we bought his product. Therefore what is the use of responding that we like good music?
I prefer to buy a ticket for one of Mr. Schnabel’s recitals, and go there in a good pair of shoes, rather than to listen to him over the radio while my feet hurt. The financial outlay is approximately the same.
Long Island City, New York
Another amateur gold miner.
Dear Atlantic, —
Mr. Mayo’s article in your September issue gave me rather a start, for I, having only this summer discovered the fascinations of gold placer mining, was well on my way to becoming rather smug about it and feeling very unique. I have certainly bored my friends with endless letters attempting to describe my enthusiasm. Now I can say ‘Do read the article by Mr. Mayo in the September Atlantic.’
I have been spending the summer in ideal placer country, (Northwestern Montana. This section, too, is rich in ghost towns and many tales of old-time strikes and rushes. It was here the vigilantes rode and linally ruled.
My brother and a geologist friend are employed in a copper mine, but their recreation has been placer mining, and thus I was initiated. Our placer is an upland placer reached by a narrow, winding, rough road that clings perilously close in spots to a deep ravine, but which linally emerges on a safe plateau. Here there are some old cabins and claims, but also new claims to be staked for those who care to carry the perfect hobby that far. We did, and staked some for ourselves, tramping hours with a tape line, locating old corner posts, discovering witness trees, and posting onr own locations.
We tramped through deep pine woods, across sloshy bogs, by mountain streams and out again on to tiny upland meadows, under the deepest of blue skies and a warm sun, but cooled by a breeze always redolent of pine and sage. No sound to mar the summer stillness, just the wind sifting through the pines, a sound like silk skirts trailing. We have come across beavers busy with their dam. We’ve startled the strange-faced range cattle from their haunts under the deep shade, and have stood transfixed while an outcast bull went slogging by. snorting and rumbling his rage and loneliness. We’ve seen deer poised for flight while their curiosity bade them linger a moment to investigate our queer crashing noises.
We’ve stumbled on an old crumbling log cabin belonging to the ‘sixty timers’ on one wall of which we discovered these words scrawled in charcoal: ‘Oh Daddy it is storming’ — and paused to picture some little lad perhaps, left alone ali day, waiting for Daddy’s return in growing fear and anxiety as the first fine snow swirled down in ominous descent across the storm-dark hills. We’ve come across tree stumps cut ten feet from the ground, which seemed strange until we realized the snow was deep when they were cut. We have seen the plumed white bear grass standing like small sentinels in the forest. We have been accompanied by frisky little black W estern squirrels and the curious camp robber. We have, at dusk, glimpsed a coyote.
We had occasion to know a real old-time prospector, and I watched so many times for the colors to show. It, takes a knack to twirl a pan. I too have my little bottle of gold; value, a few dollars, but worth so much more computed in golden days in the sun and hours of absorbing interest.
SUZANNE GALLAUDET POTTER
A matter of arbitration.
Dear Atlantic, —
‘A’ claims Mr. H. L. Mencken is a level-headed, open-minded conservative.
‘ B’ claims the gentleman is extremely opinionated, with more prejudices than a leopard has spots.
Who has Mencken figured correctly? ‘A’ or ‘B’?