The Editor Speaking

I WANT to speak to you about the magazine and those who write for it. I believe the Atlantic will mean more to you if you realize the stress under which creative writing is achieved today. In the First World War, London and Paris were sanctuaries for authors; Galsworthy and Shaw, Wells, Conrad, Lytton Strachey, Barbusse, and Proust did some of their best writing in the years 1914 1919. But there is no sanctuary for anyone in this global war, and writers having thinner skulls and more vivid imaginations than you and I feel the strain more keenly. Most of our young contributors are in or on their way into the service. Those in the middle distance find it hard to slay put. Many of them have laid aside the pen to devote themselves wholeheartedly to war work.

It takes men of fortitude, women of great intensity, to write with perspective and beauty in these distracting months. When I say this, I think immediately of the five poems by Laurence Binyon, the evocative pages by Thomas Barbour and Katharine Butler Hathaway, the essays of H. M. Tomlinson and Logan Pearsall Smith, which you will find in this and the next issue.


Writing of quality will be hard to find in the immediate future. Yet the need of it is greater than ever. England has found this to be true. Living in a state of siege, with little fuel and on a thin diet, her people have turned increasingly for solace to their books. Don’t tell me they are reading “for escape.” I hate the phrase and it is not accurate. They are reading in England not to escape from life but to find it.

Now our turn has come. If the Atlantic has any reason for being, in this war economy, it is that today, as in past crises, the magazine’s purpose is to restore your peace of mind. My promise to you is simply this: we will bring you the best that is being written in America, in England, and in the outposts.

Our 85th Anniversary is behind us. Now we point to our 100th, and as we move toward the future I believe you will enjoy the harvest of writing we have garnered for the winter ahead.


LATE in July an envelope came to Arlington Street containing four typewritten pages by Dr. Thomas Barbour, Director of the Agassiz Museum at Harvard. The manuscript bore no title, but the writing was so juicy, so full of humor and experience, that the editors accepted it within fortyeight hours. That was the beginning of a book — a book which we now know holds the fruition of Thomas Barbour’s forty years’ experience as a naturalist and traveler. In “Naturalist at Large" we watch his exploration of some of the oldest and dankest caves in the world; we watch him handle snakes—boas and cobras for the museum, and the small reptiles for the snake serum farm which he established in Honduras. Here are his observations on whales, porpoises, flying fish, lizards, and albatross; here in a kind of chuckling understatement are the adventures he went through as he collected them; here are the men he worked with; here are the voyages he took to the distant forests and swamps; here is what Mrs. Barbour meant to his expeditions; here, and always modestly, is the record of the museums at Cambridge, Cuba, Salem, and Panama which have flourished under his magnetic direction. When he uncorked the bottle of his reminiscences, Dr. Barbour gave the Atlantic enough Burgundy to last through this winter and spring.


WHILE much of our civilization is reverting to scorched earth, it is well to recall those poets and teachers whose spirit and poetry still give us strength. The Atlantic has deliberately brought together this series of Prose Portraits which will be published in successive issues this winter: —

A. E. HOUSMAN, by Mark Holstein
DR. ROLFE OF HILL SCHOOL, by Edmund Wilson
AE (Russell), AS SEEN BY HIS SON, Diarrnuid Russell
JOHN COLLIER, by Laura Thompson


DECEMBER marks the 80th Anniversary of O. W. Holmes’s famous paper, “My Hunt After ‘The Captain.’” Mr. Woollcott now tells us the unpublished story of that famous search, and of the gracious Maryland lady who cared for the young wounded Yankee.


DR. ALICE HAMILTON is the most courageous American pioneer in the field of industrial medicine. Her Autobiography, which we shall begin to serialize in the December Atlantic, is a book qualified to stand beside Dr. Cushing’s Leaves from a Surgeon’s Journal and Hans Zinsser’s As I Remember Him. Educated at Farmington, the University of Michigan, and then in the German medical schools, little Miss Hamilton became Jane Addams’s right-hand man. From her headquarters at Hull House, Dr. Hamilton set out to investigate the lead industry, the steel mills, the foundries, and the match factories, — wherever men were suspected to have been poisoned by the work they were doing. She had to trace the sufferer to a hospital or to his home; she had to gain the confidence of our immigrant communities; she had to learn the factory processes from the inside; she had to devise safeguards and then overcome the hostility of the management and state officials. She investigated our great strikes and knew when they were traceable to inhuman conditions. The League of Nations found her work invaluable, and this story of her pioneering holds in it truths which we must apply in the peace to come. A book for reconstruction.


QUIET for the musicians — for Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, whose series of musical interpretations will be resumed with a paper on Mendelssohn; for Nicolas Nabokov, the composer, who is writing about his contemporaries, Stravinsky and Shostakovitch; and for Elford Caughey, harpist in the Boston Symphony, whose poems are now being heard in the Atlantic.


NEW ENGLAND is still capable of producing a prose which the rest of the country can read with delight — and envy. Look at the work of these three: Katharine Butler Hathaway, a daughter of Salem, whose “Little Locksmith” you will long remember; Llewellyn Howland of New Bedford, whose next two papers, “Thumblings” and “Trafalgar,” have a flavor all his own; and Austin Strong, playwright and Centurion, who was born in Samoa (his grandmother was Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson) and to whom Nantucket is now the center of the universe.


WE still await some word from Agnes Keith, author of Land Below the Wind, and last seen in North Borneo. Not for months have we heard from James Norman Hall, who is helping the Fighting French in the South Seas. Will Nora Wain’s new manuscript come in this spring from England? What about Mr. and Mrs. Vogt on their white isle off the coast of Chile? These are our far contributors who give the Atlantic its unexpected color. They won’t fail us.