I FLEW South in one of those soft spells in Indian summer. A peripatetic editor lecturing five times in six days. Over Virginia and down along the Piedmont the woods seen from the plane were still bronze and green, and the waterways, unlike the little blue lakes of Connecticut that I passed over on my way to New York, ran red with clay.
In Baltimore, which was my first stop, I heard strong talk about the plight of the privately endowed medical schools. I had been hearing much the same about medical schools only a crow’s flight from my office on Arlington Street. Oversimplified, the problem boils down to this: tuition, $500; yearly cost of educating a medical student, $2200. Multiply the resulting deficit of $1700 by the number of students in the school and you have a headache. This discrepancy hits us at a time when the country is lamentably short of young doctors. The war placed upon us the national responsibility of caring for the wounded and ailing veterans, and the peak of that load will not be reached until the 1970‘s. The supply of doctors has not kept pace with the demand; and when the big research clinics continually draw out of practice men of proven ability, the shortage becomes more noticeable. These are the realities which we need to deal with before we listen to any grandiose scheme of social medicine.
In the Carolinas, where I spoke at two colleges, enlarged the subject to include the need Negro doctors, dentists, and nurses. A Report, were it written today, would the country how few good professional schools there are for Negroes. The solution, as one college president explained, is not to have every Southern state attempt to install — on an inadequate budget —a new medical school of its own; far better, he said, that the states should band together to create three or four first-rate medical units to which each state would contribute its share and to which each would send its most promising students. Then he remarked quizzically, “But your sentimentalists up North would damn this outright because it smelled of segregation. Down here we know the difference between reading a seed catalogue and trying to plant a garden.”
There is no doubt that the dual system of education lays a heavy hand on the budgets of Southern states. In South Carolina I asked about the Negro teachers in the Negro schools. There were, I was told, 6000 of them in the state— 6000 teachers, many of them without a B.A. degree. It pleased me to hear that the faculty of Converse College in Spartanburg are holding classes on Saturday for the Negro teachers in their area — classes which are well attended and whose work is recognized by Columbia toward an eventual degree. This is completely voluntary, no money is involved. But you can see what an impetus it would be for a Negro teacher saving up for a summer session in New York.
In Atlanta, where I talked with my friends on the Atlanta Constitution, I heard facts and figures which showed how fast and how practically the white politicians are responding to the force of the Negro vote. When a candidate receives 90 per cent of that vote, as did the present mayor of New Orleans, he is conscious of a new following and it proves to be good polities and good democracy to do something about Negro housing, swimming pools, and schools.
At Tallahassee the state university where I spoke had reached an exciting point in its growth. Until very recently it had been a girls’ college, one of the best in the South; two years ago it took in a large delegation of GI’s and now it is coeducational, with four thousand girls and two thousand men. The faculty has expanded overnight. The English Department, four members some fifteen years ago, now numbers over forty. Music is a specialty here, and the new Music Building is the most perfectly designed and equipped that I have seen on any campus.
Here again the talk came around to graduate studies, for this school will be granting its first Ph.D.’s three years from now. Southerners are sensitive about the paucity of good graduate schools in their home states, for it has meant that their best scholars have gone North or West to take their Ph.D.’s, and inevitably have been attracted to teaching assignments far from home.
At Winthrop College in Rock Hill, South Carolina, I spent some profitable hours with Hampton Jarrell of the English Department, whose book Wade Hampton and the Negro: The Road Not Taken Univ. of South Carolina Press, $4.00) provided the philosophic cement to fix these rapid impressions of mine. “The Road Not Taken ” is really a measurement of the course we might have taken had Lincoln and men of his persuasion lived on to cope with the Negro adjustment after the war. It shows how Lincoln’s moderation was forgotten in the extremes advocated by Sumner, and how for a decade the Negroes held not political equality but sovereignty in the Carolinas; it shows how this infuriating extremity was checked by the wisdom and character of Wade Hampton, and then how Southern extremists swept away the moderation of his governorship, and how under the leadership of Ren Tillman the door was bolted against the Negro vote. “It has taken us all this time,”said Professor Jarrell, “to get near that road again.”
The suitor from Hannibal
To read of the lecture hazards of Dickens, Emerson, and Mark Twain is to realize that we who travel the road today in Stratoliners which span the distance from Boston to Houston in nine hours (if the weather be clear) stand less buffeting and get more sleep than our predecessors. In one of his love letters to Livy, Mark Twain gives this description of one lecture assignment in upstate New York: —
“I left Buffalo at 4 P.M. yesterday, & went to Dunkirk, & thence out to Fredonia by horse-car (3 miles), rattled my lecture through, took horsecar again & just caught 9.45 P.M. train bound east — sat up & smoked to Salamanca (12:30) stripped & went to bed in a sleeping car two hours & a half, & then got up & came ashore here at 3 o’clock this morning — & had a strong temptation to lie still an hour or two longer & go to Elmira. But I resisted it. By coming through in the night, I saved myself 2 hours extra travel. ”
Elmira was the home of Mark’s fiancée, Olivia (Livy) Langdon, a sheltered, affectionate daughter of a wealthy family. They first met in 1867 on Mark’s return from the voyage in the course of which he had picked up source material for some sidesplitting lectures and his second book, The Innocents Abroad. Mark, now in his thirty-second year, was already well enough known as a humorist to rate a $1600 fee for one talk in San Francisco. To Livy’s parents he was a startling and rather unwelcome suitor, and to Livy— ten years his junior — a formidable wild man who was to be taken literally and to be tamed.
The courtship, with its surprising sobriety, its high moral tone — as when Livy made Sam read Beecher’s sermons — and its lovely flashes when Sam’s irrepressible humor breaks through, is now disclosed for us in The Love Letters of Mark Twain (Harper, $5.00) — letters which were withheld from publication for nearly half a century and which derive additional warmth from the skillful matrix of their editor, Dixon Wecter. Mr. Weeter makes it clear that Sam was no misogynist; as steamboat pilot, gold prospector, and frontier journalist he had his sweethearts, but with a mother and a widowed sister to support, and with a stout sense of financial obligation, Sam couldn’t afford to marry until his thirties. The editor also makes it clear that while Sam could be as funny as the devil on a lecture platform, he came from a curiously undemonstrative family. He never saw his own parents kiss each other. “Our village was not a kissing community,” Sam wrote. So, of the two, once the love was recognized, it was Livy who was the more ardent.
Sam proposed and Livy turned him down. But in her letters she: attempted to “civilize" him and her momentary success drew them closer together. He did read sermons to her; he took the pledge; he smoked less in her presence, and forswore profanity. It was all in the mood, and the mood and its aftermath live again in these letters. When Livy capitulated it was with an affection which really startled Sam: “She poured out her prodigal affections in kisses and caresses, and in a vocabulary of endearments whose profusion was always an astonishment to me. I was born reserved as to endearments of speech, and caresses, and hers broke upon me as the summer waves break upon Gibraltar.”
The lady who traveled far
In her first book, This Is My Story, published in 1937, Eleanor Roosevelt cleared away the brambles of her awkward, lonely girlhood; with pathetic clarity she told of her shyness, of her semi-invalidism (for as a girl she wore braces), and of the Victorian education which so little prepared her for her strenuous maturity. Now in This I Remember (Harper, $4.50) she opens the door into the living room of her maturity. She begins by throwing light on those aspects of Franklin’s character which she knew better than anyone else.
“Because he disliked being disagreeable,” she writes, “he made an effort, to give each person who came in contact with him the feeling that he understood what his particular interest was. ... I know he always gave thought to what people said, but I have never known anyone less really influenced by others.” She says that she was supposed to be a great influence on her husband politically, and she explains the sharp limitations to her influence. She tells us how she helped to encourage Franklin back into public life at a time when his mother would have preferred him to be the invalid squire. With dignity and quiet humor she examines the relationship between her mother-in-law, her husband, and herself. She speaks of her children, the great privileges they enjoyed, and the criticism heaped upon them. She tells why she wanted to earn money and what she did with it (“I left the White Mouse with less cash in my own principal account than I had when I went to Washington”). She speaks of family difficulties and of how the American public never realizes “how much the family of a public man has to pay in lack of privacy for the fact that he is willing to serve his country.”
Every American will delight in being taken behind the scenes in the White House, in hearing how this museum which is also a home is managed. It is exhausting to read of Mrs. Roosevelt’s five Christmases; it is fun to read of the visits of the King and Queen of England, Queen Wilhelmina, Alexander Woollcott, Winston Churchill, and Molotov. These are the Cinderella chapters of the book.
But those which I value more are the chapters in which Mrs. Roosevelt traces her development not as a hostess but as a worrying American. She has always been a worrier, she says, and now in her maturity she shows us the scope and depth of her concerns. She tells of the trips which she began taking in the early days of the Depression when the Quakers invited her to investigate the conditions in the coal mining towns of West Virginia. She tells of the anguish she went through before she could learn to make an acceptable public speech. (“Why did you give that silly little giggle?” Louis Howe used to ask), and of how in her lecture tours she really began to see this country. She tells of how she protested against the proposal that James act as his father’s secretary and of how she was overruled. She tells of her disappointments: the school at Arthurdale was one of them, and the American Youth Congress, which was taken over by the Communists, another. She tells of how she worried about her married children and about her four sons in service and about Franklin’s health. As she matured she traveled the country as he never could. Her strength redoubled, and with it came a power of observation and a greater sureness of sympathy. She was in fact as in title the First Lady, and this prose — not always literary, but always strong and clear — explains why.
The animal I am
Incomparably the funniest sight of the year has been provided by Clare Barnes, Jr., in his picture books, White Collar Zoo and Home Sweet Zoo (Doubleday, $1.00 each). Mr. Barnes, art director for a large Manhattan advertising agency, while rummaging through a bunch of animal photographs was suddenly reminded of people in his office, and that thought was the genesis of a picture book which is hilarious. The parallel is even more devastating when applied to the home. What gives the idea its originality and its laughter is Mr. Barnes’s unerring touch for the perfect caption and the perfect picture. Ingenious flashes of American comedy.