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The Complete Essays of C. D. Warner by Charles Dudley Warner

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of July.

There are cynics who think it strange that men are willing to dress up in
fantastic uniform and regalia and march about in sun and rain to make a
holiday for their countrymen, but the cynics are ungrateful, and fail to
credit human nature with its trait of self-sacrifice, and they do not at
all comprehend our civilization. It was doubted at one time whether the
freedman and the colored man generally in the republic was capable of the
higher civilization. This doubt has all been removed. No other race
takes more kindly to martial and civic display than it. No one has a
greater passion for societies and uniforms and regalias and banners, and
the pomp of marchings and processions and peaceful war. The negro
naturally inclines to the picturesque, to the flamboyant, to vivid colors
and the trappings of office that give a man distinction. He delights in
the drum and the trumpet, and so willing is he to add to what is
spectacular and pleasing in life that he would spend half his time in
parading. His capacity for a holiday is practically unlimited. He has
not yet the means to indulge his taste, and perhaps his taste is not yet
equal to his means, but there is no question of his adaptability to the
sort of display which is so pleasing to the greater part of the human
race, and which contributes so much to the brightness and cheerfulness of
this world. We cannot all have decorations, and cannot all wear
uniforms, or even regalia, and some of us have little time for going
about in military or civic processions, but we all like to have our
streets put on a holiday appearance; and we cannot express in words our
gratitude to those who so cheerfully spend their time and money in
glittering apparel and in parades for our entertainment.


The vitality of a fallacy is incalculable. Although the Drawer has been
going many years, there are still remaining people who believe that
"things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other." This
mathematical axiom, which is well enough in its place, has been extended
into the field of morals and social life, confused the perception of
human relations, and raised "hob," as the saying is, in political
economy. We theorize and legislate as if people were things. Most of
the schemes of social reorganization are based on this fallacy. It
always breaks down in experience. A has two friends, B and C--to state it
mathematically. A is equal to B, and A is equal to C. A has for B and
also for C the most cordial admiration and affection, and B and C have
reciprocally the same feeling for A. Such is the harmony that A cannot
tell which he is more fond of, B or C. And B and C are sure that A is
the best friend of each. This harmony, however, is not triangular. A
makes the mistake of supposing that it is--having a notion that things
which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other--and he brings
B and C together. The result is disastrous. B and C cannot get on with
each other. Regard for A restrains their animosity, and they
hypocritically pretend to like each other, but both wonder what A finds
so congenial in the other. The truth is that this personal equation, as
we call it, in each cannot be made the subject of mathematical
calculation. Human relations will not bend to it. And yet we keep
blundering along as if they would. We are always sure, in our letter of
introduction, that this friend will be congenial to the other, because we
are fond of both. Sometimes this happens, but half the time we should be
more successful in bringing people into accord if we gave a letter of
introduction to a person we do not know, to be delivered to one we have
never seen. On the face of it this is as absurd as it is for a
politician to indorse the application of a person he does not know for an
office the duties of which he is unacquainted with; but it is scarcely
less absurd than the expectation that men and women can be treated like
mathematical units and equivalents. Upon the theory that they can, rest
the present grotesque schemes of Nationalism.

In saying all this the Drawer is well aware that it subjects itself to
the charge of being commonplace, but it is precisely the commonplace that
this essay seeks to defend. Great is the power of the commonplace. "My
friends," says the preacher, in an impressive manner, "Alexander died;
Napoleon died; you will all die!" This profound remark, so true, so
thoughtful, creates a deep sensation. It is deepened by the statement
that "man is a moral being." The profundity of such startling assertions
cows the spirit; they appeal to the universal consciousness, and we bow
to the genius that delivers them. "How true!" we exclaim, and go away
with an enlarged sense of our own capacity for the comprehension of deep
thought. Our conceit is flattered. Do we not like the books that raise
us to the great level of the commonplace, whereon we move with a sense of
power? Did not Mr. Tupper, that sweet, melodious shepherd of the
undisputed, lead about vast flocks of sheep over the satisfying plain of
mediocrity? Was there ever a greater exhibition of power, while it
lasted? How long did "The Country Parson" feed an eager world with
rhetorical statements of that which it already knew? The thinner this
sort of thing is spread out, the more surface it covers, of course. What
is so captivating and popular as a book of essays which gathers together
and arranges a lot of facts out of histories and cyclopaedias, set forth
in the form of conversations that any one could have taken part in? Is
not this book pleasing because it is commonplace? And is this because we
do not like to be insulted with originality, or because in our experience
it is only the commonly accepted which is true? The statesman or the
poet who launches out unmindful of these conditions will be likely to
come to grief in her generation. Will not the wise novelist seek to
encounter the least intellectual resistance?

Should one take a cynical view of mankind because he perceives this great
power of the commonplace? Not at all. He should recognize and respect
this power. He may even say that it is this power that makes the world
go on as smoothly and contentedly as it does, on the whole. Woe to us,
is the thought of Carlyle, when a thinker is let loose in this world!
He becomes a cause of uneasiness, and a source of rage very often. But
his power is limited. He filters through a few minds, until gradually
his ideas become commonplace enough to be powerful. We draw our supply
of water from reservoirs, not from torrents. Probably the man who first
said that the line of rectitude corresponds with the line of enjoyment
was disliked as well as disbelieved. But how impressive now is the idea
that virtue and happiness are twins!

Perhaps it is true that the commonplace needs no defense, since everybody
takes it in as naturally as milk, and thrives on it. Beloved and read
and followed is the writer or the preacher of commonplace. But is not
the sunshine common, and the bloom of May? Why struggle with these
things in literature and in life? Why not settle down upon the formula
that to be platitudinous is to be happy?


It would be the pity of the world to destroy it, because it would be next
to impossible to make another holiday as good as Christmas. Perhaps
there is no danger, but the American people have developed an unexpected
capacity for destroying things; they can destroy anything. They have
even invented a phrase for it--running a thing into the ground. They
have perfected the art of making so much of a thing as to kill it; they
can magnify a man or a recreation or an institution to death. And they
do it with such a hearty good-will and enjoyment. Their motto is that
you cannot have too much of a good thing. They have almost made funerals
unpopular by over-elaboration and display, especially what are called
public funerals, in which an effort is made to confer great distinction
on the dead. So far has it been carried often that there has been a
reaction of popular sentiment and people have wished the man were alive.
We prosecute everything so vigorously that we speedily either wear it out
or wear ourselves out on it, whether it is a game, or a festival, or a
holiday. We can use up any sport or game ever invented quicker than any
other people. We can practice anything, like a vegetable diet, for
instance, to an absurd conclusion with more vim than any other nation.
This trait has its advantages; nowhere else will a delusion run so fast,
and so soon run up a tree--another of our happy phrases. There is a
largeness and exuberance about us which run even into our ordinary
phraseology. The sympathetic clergyman, coming from the bedside of a
parishioner dying of dropsy, says, with a heavy sigh, "The poor fellow is
just swelling away."

Is Christmas swelling away? If it is not, it is scarcely our fault.
Since the American nation fairly got hold of the holiday--in some parts
of the country, as in New England, it has been universal only about fifty
years--we have made it hum, as we like to say. We have appropriated the
English conviviality, the German simplicity, the Roman pomp, and we have
added to it an element of expense in keeping with our own greatness.
Is anybody beginning to feel it a burden, this sweet festival of charity
and good-will, and to look forward to it with apprehension? Is the time
approaching when we shall want to get somebody to play it for us, like
base-ball? Anything that interrupts the ordinary flow of life,
introduces into it, in short, a social cyclone that upsets everything for
a fortnight, may in time be as hard to bear as that festival of
housewives called housecleaning, that riot of cleanliness which men fear
as they do a panic in business. Taking into account the present
preparations for Christmas, and the time it takes to recover from it, we
are beginning--are we not?--to consider it one of the most serious events
of modern life.

The Drawer is led into these observations out of its love for Christmas.
It is impossible to conceive of any holiday that could take its place,
nor indeed would it seem that human wit could invent another so adapted
to humanity. The obvious intention of it is to bring together, for a
season at least, all men in the exercise of a common charity and a
feeling of good-will, the poor and the rich, the successful and the
unfortunate, that all the world may feel that in the time called the
Truce of God the thing common to all men is the best thing in life.
How will it suit this intention, then, if in our way of exaggerated
ostentation of charity the distinction between rich and poor is made to
appear more marked than on ordinary days? Blessed are those that expect
nothing. But are there not an increasing multitude of persons in the
United States who have the most exaggerated expectations of personal
profit on Christmas Day? Perhaps it is not quite so bad as this, but it
is safe to say that what the children alone expect to receive, in money
value would absorb the national surplus, about which so much fuss is
made. There is really no objection to this--the terror of the surplus is
a sort of nightmare in the country--except that it destroys the
simplicity of the festival, and belittles small offerings that have their
chief value in affection. And it points inevitably to the creation of a
sort of Christmas "Trust"--the modern escape out of ruinous competition.
When the expense of our annual charity becomes so great that the poor are
discouraged from sharing in it, and the rich even feel it a burden, there
would seem to be no way but the establishment of neighborhood "Trusts" in
order to equalize both cost and distribution. Each family could buy a
share according to its means, and the division on Christmas Day would
create a universal satisfaction in profit sharing--that is, the rich
would get as much as the poor, and the rivalry of ostentation would be
quieted. Perhaps with the money question a little subdued, and the
female anxieties of the festival allayed, there would be more room for
the development of that sweet spirit of brotherly kindness, or all-
embracing charity, which we know underlies this best festival of all the
ages. Is this an old sermon? The Drawer trusts that it is, for there
can be nothing new in the preaching of simplicity.


It is difficult enough to keep the world straight without the
interposition of fiction. But the conduct of the novelists and the
painters makes the task of the conservators of society doubly perplexing.
Neither the writers nor the artists have a due sense of the
responsibilities of their creations. The trouble appears to arise from
the imitativeness of the race. Nature herself seems readily to fall into
imitation. It was noticed by the friends of nature that when the
peculiar coal-tar colors were discovered, the same faded, aesthetic, and
sometimes sickly colors began to appear in the ornamental flower-beds and
masses of foliage plants. It was hardly fancy that the flowers took the
colors of the ribbons and stuffs of the looms, and that the same instant
nature and art were sicklied o'er with the same pale hues of fashion.
If this relation of nature and art is too subtle for comprehension, there
is nothing fanciful in the influence of the characters in fiction upon
social manners and morals. To convince ourselves of this, we do not need
to recall the effect of Werther, of Childe Harold, and of Don Juan, and
the imitation of their sentimentality, misanthropy, and adventure, down
to the copying of the rakishness of the loosely-knotted necktie and the
broad turn-over collar. In our own generation the heroes and heroines of
fiction begin to appear in real life, in dress and manner, while they are
still warm from the press. The popular heroine appears on the street in
a hundred imitations as soon as the popular mind apprehends her traits in
the story. We did not know the type of woman in the poems of the
aesthetic school and on the canvas of Rossetti--the red-haired, wide-eyed
child of passion and emotion, in lank clothes, enmeshed in spider-webs
--but so quickly was she multiplied in real life that she seemed to have
stepped from the book and the frame, ready-made, into the street and the
drawing-room. And there is nothing wonderful about this. It is a truism
to say that the genuine creations in fiction take their places in general
apprehension with historical characters, and sometimes they live more
vividly on the printed page and on canvas than the others in their pale,
contradictory, and incomplete lives. The characters of history we seldom
agree about, and are always reconstructing on new information; but the
characters of fiction are subject to no such vicissitudes.

The importance of this matter is hardly yet perceived. Indeed, it is
unreasonable that it should be, when parents, as a rule, have so slight a
feeling of responsibility for the sort of children they bring into the
world. In the coming scientific age this may be changed, and society may
visit upon a grandmother the sins of her grandchildren, recognizing her
responsibility to the very end of the line. But it is not strange that
in the apathy on this subject the novelists should be careless and
inconsiderate as to the characters they produce, either as ideals or
examples. They know that the bad example is more likely to be copied
than to be shunned, and that the low ideal, being easy to, follow, is
more likely to be imitated than the high ideal. But the novelists have
too little sense of responsibility in this respect, probably from an
inadequate conception of their power. Perhaps the most harmful sinners
are not those who send into the world of fiction the positively wicked
and immoral, but those who make current the dull, the commonplace, and
the socially vulgar. For most readers the wicked character is repellant;
but the commonplace raises less protest, and is soon deemed harmless,
while it is most demoralizing. An underbred book--that is, a book in
which the underbred characters are the natural outcome of the author's
own, mind and apprehension of life--is worse than any possible epidemic;
for while the epidemic may kill a number of useless or vulgar people, the
book will make a great number. The keen observer must have noticed the
increasing number of commonplace, undiscriminating people of low
intellectual taste in the United States. These are to a degree the
result of the feeble, underbred literature (so called) that is most
hawked about, and most accessible, by cost and exposure, to the greater
number of people. It is easy to distinguish the young ladies--many of
them beautifully dressed, and handsome on first acquaintance--who have
been bred on this kind of book. They are betrayed by their speech, their
taste, their manners. Yet there is a marked public insensibility about
this. We all admit that the scrawny young woman, anaemic and physically
undeveloped, has not had proper nourishing food: But we seldom think that
the mentally-vulgar girl, poverty-stricken in ideas, has been starved by
a thin course of diet on anaemic books. The girls are not to blame if
they are as vapid and uninteresting as the ideal girls they have been
associating with in the books they have read. The responsibility is with
the novelist and the writer of stories, the chief characteristic of which
is vulgar commonplace.

Probably when the Great Assize is held one of the questions asked will
be, "Did you, in America, ever write stories for children?" What a
quaking of knees there will be! For there will stand the victims of this
sort of literature, who began in their tender years to enfeeble their
minds with the wishy-washy flood of commonplace prepared for them by dull
writers and commercial publishers, and continued on in those so-called
domestic stories (as if domestic meant idiotic) until their minds were
diluted to that degree that they could not act upon anything that offered
the least resistance. Beginning with the pepsinized books, they must
continue with them, and the dull appetite by-and-by must be stimulated
with a spice of vulgarity or a little pepper of impropriety. And
fortunately for their nourishment in this kind, the dullest writers can
be indecent.

Unfortunately the world is so ordered that the person of the feeblest
constitution can communicate a contagious disease. And these people,
bred on this pabulum, in turn make books. If one, it is now admitted,
can do nothing else in this world, he can write, and so the evil widens
and widens. No art is required, nor any selection, nor any ideality,
only capacity for increasing the vacuous commonplace in life. A princess
born may have this, or the leader of cotillons. Yet in the judgment the
responsibility will rest upon the writers who set the copy.


One of the burning questions now in the colleges for the higher education
of women is whether the undergraduates shall wear the cap and gown. The
subject is a delicate one, and should not be confused with the broader
one, what is the purpose of the higher education? Some hold that the
purpose is to enable a woman to dispense with marriage, while others
maintain that it is to fit a woman for the higher duties of the married
life. The latter opinion will probably prevail, for it has nature on its
side, and the course of history, and the imagination. But meantime the
point of education is conceded, and whether a girl is to educate herself
into single or double blessedness need not interfere with the
consideration of the habit she is to wear during her college life. That
is to be determined by weighing a variety of reasons.

Not the least of these is the consideration whether the cap-and-gown
habit is becoming. If it is not becoming, it will not go, not even by an
amendment to the Constitution of the United States; for woman's dress
obeys always the higher law. Masculine opinion is of no value on this
point, and the Drawer is aware of the fact that if it thinks the cap and
gown becoming, it may imperil the cap-and-gown cause to say so; but the
cold truth is that the habit gives a plain girl distinction, and a
handsome girl gives the habit distinction. So that, aside from the
mysterious working of feminine motive, which makes woman a law unto
herself, there should be practical unanimity in regard to this habit.
There is in the cap and gown a subtle suggestion of the union of learning
with womanly charm that is very captivating to the imagination. On the
other hand, all this may go for nothing with the girl herself, who is
conscious of the possession of quite other powers and attractions in a
varied and constantly changing toilet, which can reflect her moods from
hour to hour. So that if it is admitted that this habit is almost
universally becoming today, it might, in the inscrutable depths of the
feminine nature--the something that education never can and never should
change--be irksome tomorrow, and we can hardly imagine what a blight to a
young spirit there might be in three hundred and sixty-five days of

The devotees of the higher education will perhaps need to approach the
subject from another point of view--namely, what they are willing to
surrender in order to come into a distinctly scholastic influence. The
cap and gown are scholastic emblems. Primarily they marked the student,
and not alliance with any creed or vows to any religious order. They
belong to the universities of learning, and today they have no more
ecclesiastic meaning than do the gorgeous robes of the Oxford chancellor
and vice-chancellor and the scarlet hood. From the scholarly side, then,
if not from the dress side, there is much to be said for the cap and
gown. They are badges of devotion, for the time being, to an
intellectual life.

They help the mind in its effort to set itself apart to unworldly
pursuits; they are indications of separateness from the prevailing
fashions and frivolities. The girl who puts on the cap and gown devotes
herself to the society which is avowedly in pursuit of a larger
intellectual sympathy and a wider intellectual life. The enduring of
this habit will have a confirming influence on her purposes, and help to
keep her up to them. It is like the uniform to the soldier or the veil
to the nun--a sign of separation and devotion. It is difficult in this
age to keep any historic consciousness, any proper relations to the past.
In the cap and gown the girl will at least feel that she is in the line
of the traditions of pure learning. And there is also something of order
and discipline in the uniforming of a community set apart for an
unworldly purpose. Is it believed that three or four years of the kind
of separateness marked by this habit in the life of a girl will rob her
of any desirable womanly quality?

The cap and gown are only an emphasis of the purpose to devote a certain
period to the higher life, and if they cannot be defended, then we may
begin to be skeptical about the seriousness of the intention of a higher
education. If the school is merely a method of passing the time until a
certain event in the girl's life, she had better dress as if that event
were the only one worth considering. But if she wishes to fit herself
for the best married life, she may not disdain the help of the cap and
gown in devoting herself to the highest culture. Of course education has
its dangers, and the regalia of scholarship may increase them. While our
cap-and-gown divinity is walking in the groves of Academia, apart from
the ways of men, her sisters outside may be dancing and dressing into the
affections of the marriageable men. But this is not the worst of it.
The university girl may be educating herself out of sympathy with the
ordinary possible husband. But this will carry its own cure. The
educated girl will be so much more attractive in the long-run, will have
so many more resources for making a life companionship agreeable, that
she will be more and more in demand. And the young men, even those not
expecting to take up a learned profession, will see the advantage of
educating themselves up to the cap-and-gown level. We know that it is
the office of the university to raise the standard of the college, and of
the college to raise the standard of the high school. It will be the
inevitable result that these young ladies, setting themselves apart for a
period to the intellectual life, will raise the standard of the young
men, and of married life generally. And there is nothing supercilious in
the invitation of the cap-and-gown brigade to the young men to come up

There is one humiliating objection made to the cap and gown-made by
members of the gentle sex themselves--which cannot be passed by. It is
of such a delicate nature, and involves such a disparagement of the sex
in a vital point, that the Drawer hesitates to put it in words. It is
said that the cap and gown will be used to cover untidiness, to conceal
the makeshift of a disorderly and unsightly toilet. Undoubtedly the cap
and gown are democratic, adopted probably to equalize the appearance of
rich and poor in the same institution, where all are on an intellectual
level. Perhaps the sex is not perfect; it may be that there are slovens
(it is a brutal word) in that sex which is our poetic image of purity.
But a neat and self-respecting girl will no more be slovenly under a
scholastic gown than under any outward finery. If it is true that the
sex would take cover in this way, and is liable to run down at the heel
when it has a chance, then to the "examination" will have to be added a
periodic "inspection," such as the West-Pointers submit to in regard to
their uniforms. For the real idea of the cap and gown is to encourage
discipline, order, and neatness. We fancy that it is the mission of
woman in this generation to show the world that the tendency of woman to
an intellectual life is not, as it used to be said it was, to untidy


This ingenious age, when studied, seems not less remarkable for its
division of labor than for the disposition of people to shift labor on to
others' shoulders. Perhaps it is only another aspect of the spirit of
altruism, a sort of backhanded vicariousness. In taking an inventory of
tendencies, this demands some attention.

The notion appears to be spreading that there must be some way by which
one can get a good intellectual outfit without much personal effort.
There are many schemes of education which encourage this idea. If one
could only hit upon the right "electives," he could become a scholar with
very little study, and without grappling with any of the real
difficulties in the way of an education. It is no more a short-cut we
desire, but a road of easy grades, with a locomotive that will pull our
train along while we sit in a palace-car at ease. The discipline to be
obtained by tackling an obstacle and overcoming it we think of small
value. There must be some way of attaining the end of cultivation
without much labor. We take readily to proprietary medicines. It is
easier to dose with these than to exercise ordinary prudence about our
health. And we readily believe the doctors of learning when they assure
us that we can acquire a new language by the same method by which we can
restore bodily vigor: take one small patent-right volume in six easy
lessons, without even the necessity of "shaking," and without a regular
doctor, and we shall know the language. Some one else has done all the
work for us, and we only need to absorb. It is pleasing to see how this
theory is getting to be universally applied. All knowledge can be put
into a kind of pemican, so that we can have it condensed. Everything
must be chopped up, epitomized, put in short sentences, and italicized.
And we have primers for science, for history, so that we can acquire all
the information we need in this world in a few hasty bites. It is an
admirable saving of time-saving of time being more important in this
generation than the saving of ourselves.

And the age is so intellectually active, so eager to know! If we wish to
know anything, instead of digging for it ourselves, it is much easier to
flock all together to some lecturer who has put all the results into an
hour, and perhaps can throw them all upon a screen, so that we can
acquire all we want by merely using the eyes, and bothering ourselves
little about what is said. Reading itself is almost too much of an
effort. We hire people to read for us--to interpret, as we call it--
Browning and Ibsen, even Wagner. Every one is familiar with the pleasure
and profit of "recitations," of "conversations" which are monologues.
There is something fascinating in the scheme of getting others to do our
intellectual labor for us, to attempt to fill up our minds as if they
were jars. The need of the mind for nutriment is like the need of the
body, but our theory is that it can be satisfied in a different way.
There was an old belief that in order that we should enjoy food, and that
it should perform its function of assimilation, we must work for it, and
that the exertion needed to earn it brought the appetite that made it
profitable to the system. We still have the idea that we must eat for
ourselves, and that we cannot delegate this performance, as we do the
filling of the mind, to some one else. We may have ceased to relish the
act of eating, as we have ceased to relish the act of studying, but we
cannot yet delegate it, even although our power of digesting food for the
body has become almost as feeble as the power of acquiring and digesting
food for the mind.

It is beautiful to witness our reliance upon others. The house may be
full of books, the libraries may be as free and as unstrained of
impurities as city water; but if we wish to read anything or study
anything we resort to a club. We gather together a number of persons of
like capacity with ourselves. A subject which we might grapple with and
run down by a few hours of vigorous, absorbed attention in a library,
gaining strength of mind by resolute encountering of difficulties, by
personal effort, we sit around for a month or a season in a club,
expecting somehow to take the information by effortless contiguity with
it. A book which we could master and possess in an evening we can have
read to us in a month in the club, without the least intellectual effort.
Is there nothing, then, in the exchange of ideas? Oh yes, when there are
ideas to exchange. Is there nothing stimulating in the conflict of mind
with mind? Oh yes, when there is any mind for a conflict. But the mind
does not grow without personal effort and conflict and struggle with
itself. It is a living organism, and not at all like a jar or other
receptacle for fluids. The physiologists say that what we eat will not
do us much good unless we chew it. By analogy we may presume that the
mind is not greatly benefited by what it gets without considerable
exercise of the mind.

Still, it is a beautiful theory that we can get others to do our reading
and thinking, and stuff our minds for us. It may be that psychology will
yet show us how a congregate education by clubs may be the way. But just
now the method is a little crude, and lays us open to the charge--which
every intelligent person of this scientific age will repudiate--of being
content with the superficial; for instance, of trusting wholly to others
for our immortal furnishing, as many are satisfied with the review of a
book for the book itself, or--a refinement on that--with a review of the
reviews. The method is still crude. Perhaps we may expect a further
development of the "slot" machine. By dropping a cent in the slot one
can get his weight, his age, a piece of chewing-gum, a bit of candy, or a
shock that will energize his nervous system. Why not get from a similar
machine a "good business education," or an "interpretation" of Browning,
or a new language, or a knowledge of English literature? But even this
would be crude. We have hopes of something from electricity. There
ought to be somewhere a reservoir of knowledge, connected by wires with
every house, and a professional switch-tender, who, upon the pressure of
a button in any house, could turn on the intellectual stream desired.
--[Prophecy of the Internet of the year 2000 from 110 years ago. D.W.]--
There must be discovered in time a method by which not only information
but intellectual life can be infused into the system by an electric
current. It would save a world of trouble and expense. For some clubs
even are a weariness, and it costs money to hire other people to read and
think for us.


Either we have been indulging in an expensive mistake, or a great foreign
novelist who preaches the gospel of despair is locoed.

This word, which may be new to most of our readers, has long been current
in the Far West, and is likely to be adopted into the language, and
become as indispensable as the typic words taboo and tabooed, which
Herman Melville gave us some forty years ago. There grows upon the
deserts and the cattle ranges of the Rockies a plant of the leguminosae
family, with a purple blossom, which is called the 'loco'. It is sweet
to the taste; horses and cattle are fond of it, and when they have once
eaten it they prefer it to anything else, and often refuse other food.
But the plant is poisonous, or, rather, to speak exactly, it is a weed of
insanity. Its effect upon the horse seems to be mental quite as much as
physical. He behaves queerly, he is full of whims; one would say he was
"possessed." He takes freaks, he trembles, he will not go in certain
places, he will not pull straight, his mind is evidently affected, he is
mildly insane. In point of fact, he is ruined; that is to say, he is
'locoed'. Further indulgence in the plant results in death, but rarely
does an animal recover from even one eating of the insane weed.

The shepherd on the great sheep ranges leads an absolutely isolated life.
For weeks, sometimes for months together, he does not see a human being.
His only companions are his dogs and the three or four thousand sheep he
is herding. All day long, under the burning sun, he follows the herd
over the rainless prairie, as it nibbles here and there the short grass
and slowly gathers its food. At night he drives the sheep back to the
corral, and lies down alone in his hut. He speaks to no one; he almost
forgets how to speak. Day and night he hears no sound except the
melancholy, monotonous bleat, bleat of the sheep. It becomes
intolerable. The animal stupidity of the herd enters into him.
Gradually he loses his mind. They say that he is locoed. The insane
asylums of California contain many shepherds.

But the word locoed has come to have a wider application than to the poor
shepherds or the horses and cattle that have eaten the loco. Any one who
acts queerly, talks strangely, is visionary without being actually a
lunatic, who is what would be called elsewhere a "crank," is said to be
locoed. It is a term describing a shade of mental obliquity and
queerness something short of irresponsible madness, and something more
than temporarily "rattled" or bewildered for the moment. It is a good
word, and needed to apply to many people who have gone off into strange
ways, and behave as if they had eaten some insane plant--the insane plant
being probably a theory in the mazes of which they have wandered until
they are lost.

Perhaps the loco does not grow in Russia, and the Prophet of
Discouragement may never have eaten of it; perhaps he is only like the
shepherd, mainly withdrawn from human intercourse and sympathy in a
morbid mental isolation, hearing only the bleat, bleat, bleat of the
'muxhiks' in the dullness of the steppes, wandering round in his own
sated mind until he has lost all clew to life. Whatever the cause may
be, clearly he is 'locoed'. All his theories have worked out to the
conclusion that the world is a gigantic mistake, love is nothing but
animality, marriage is immorality; according to astronomical calculations
this teeming globe and all its life must end some time; and why not now?
There shall be no more marriage, no more children; the present population
shall wind up its affairs with decent haste, and one by one quit the
scene of their failure, and avoid all the worry of a useless struggle.

This gospel of the blessedness of extinction has come too late to enable
us to profit by it in our decennial enumeration. How different the
census would have been if taken in the spirit of this new light! How
much bitterness, how much hateful rivalry would have been spared! We
should then have desired a reduction of the population, not an increase
of it. There would have been a pious rivalry among all the towns and
cities on the way to the millennium of extinction to show the least
number of inhabitants; and those towns would have been happiest which
could exhibit not only a marked decline in numbers, but the greater
number of old people. Beautiful St. Paul would have held a thanksgiving
service, and invited the Minneapolis enumerators to the feast, Kansas
City and St. Louis and San Francisco, and a hundred other places, would
not have desired a recount, except, perhaps, for overestimate; they would
not have said that thousands were away at the sea or in the mountains,
but, on the contrary, that thousands who did not belong there, attracted
by the salubrity of the climate, and the desire to injure the town's
reputation, had crowded in there in census time. The newspapers, instead
of calling on people to send in the names of the unenumerated, would have
rejoiced at the small returns, as they would have done if the census had
been for the purpose of levying the federal tax upon each place according
to its population. Chicago--well, perhaps the Prophet of the Steppes
would have made an exception of Chicago, and been cynically delighted to
push it on its way of increase, aggregation, and ruin.

But instead of this, the strain of anxiety was universal and heart-
rending. So much depended upon swelling the figures. The tension would
have been relieved if our faces were all set towards extinction, and the
speedy evacuation of this unsatisfactory globe. The writer met recently,
in the Colorado desert of Arizona, a forlorn census-taker who had been
six weeks in the saddle, roaming over the alkali plains in order to
gratify the vanity of Uncle Sam. He had lost his reckoning, and did not
know the day of the week or of the month. In all the vast territory,
away up to the Utah line, over which he had wandered, he met human beings
(excluding "Indians and others not taxed ") so rarely that he was in
danger of being locoed. He was almost in despair when, two days before,
he had a windfall, which raised his general average in the form of a
woman with twenty-six children, and he was rejoicing that he should be
able to turn in one hundred and fifty people. Alas, the revenue the
government will derive from these half-nomads will never pay the cost of
enumerating them.

And, alas again, whatever good showing we may make, we shall wish it were
larger; the more people we have the more we shall want. In this
direction there is no end, any more than there is to life. If
extinction, and not life and growth, is the better rule, what a costly
mistake we have been making!


By Charles Dudley Warner

CONTENTS: (28 short studies)



We are so much accustomed to kings and queens and other privileged
persons of that sort in this world that it is only on reflection that we
wonder how they became so. The mystery is not their continuance, but how
did they get a start? We take little help from studying the bees--
originally no one could have been born a queen. There must have been not
only a selection, but an election, not by ballot, but by consent some way
expressed, and the privileged persons got their positions because they
were the strongest, or the wisest, or the most cunning. But the
descendants of these privileged persons hold the same positions when they
are neither strong, nor wise, nor very cunning. This also is a mystery.
The persistence of privilege is an unexplained thing in human affairs,
and the consent of mankind to be led in government and in fashion by
those to whom none of the original conditions of leadership attach is a
philosophical anomaly. How many of the living occupants of thrones,
dukedoms, earldoms, and such high places are in position on their own
merits, or would be put there by common consent? Referring their origin
to some sort of an election, their continuance seems to rest simply on
forbearance. Here in America we are trying a new experiment; we have
adopted the principle of election, but we have supplemented it with the
equally authoritative right of deposition. And it is interesting to see
how it has worked for a hundred years, for it is human nature to like to
be set up, but not to like to be set down. If in our elections we do not
always get the best--perhaps few elections ever did--we at least do not
perpetuate forever in privilege our mistakes or our good hits.

The celebration in New York, in 1889, of the inauguration of Washington
was an instructive spectacle. How much of privilege had been gathered
and perpetuated in a century? Was it not an occasion that emphasized our
republican democracy? Two things were conspicuous. One was that we did
not honor a family, or a dynasty, or a title, but a character; and the
other was that we did not exalt any living man, but simply the office of
President. It was a demonstration of the power of the people to create
their own royalty, and then to put it aside when they have done with it.
It was difficult to see how greater honors could have been paid to any
man than were given to the President when he embarked at Elizabethport
and advanced, through a harbor crowded with decorated vessels, to the
great city, the wharves and roofs of which were black with human beings
--a holiday city which shook with the tumult of the popular welcome.
Wherever he went he drew the swarms in the streets as the moon draws the
tide. Republican simplicity need not fear comparison with any royal
pageant when the President was received at the Metropolitan, and, in a
scene of beauty and opulence that might be the flowering of a thousand
years instead of a century, stood upon the steps of the "dais" to greet
the devoted Centennial Quadrille, which passed before him with the
courageous five, 'Imperator, morituri te salutamus'. We had done it--we,
the people; that was our royalty. Nobody had imposed it on us. It was
not even selected out of four hundred. We had taken one of the common
people and set him up there, creating for the moment also a sort of royal
family and a court for a background, in a splendor just as imposing for
the passing hour as an imperial spectacle. We like to show that we can
do it, and we like to show also that we can undo it. For at the banquet,
where the Elected ate his dinner, not only in the presence of, but with,
representatives of all the people of all the States, looked down on by
the acknowledged higher power in American life, there sat also with him
two men who had lately been in his great position, the centre only a
little while ago, as he was at the moment, of every eye in the republic,
now only common citizens without a title, without any insignia of rank,
able to transmit to posterity no family privilege. If our hearts swelled
with pride that we could create something just as good as royalty, that
the republic had as many men of distinguished appearance, as much beauty,
and as much brilliance of display as any traditional government, we also
felicitated ourselves that we could sweep it all away by a vote and
reproduce it with new actors next day.

It must be confessed that it was a people's affair. If at any time there
was any idea that it could be controlled only by those who represented
names honored for a hundred years, or conspicuous by any social
privilege, the idea was swamped in popular feeling. The names that had
been elected a hundred years ago did not stay elected unless the present
owners were able to distinguish themselves. There is nothing so to be
coveted in a country as the perpetuity of honorable names, and the
"centennial" showed that we are rich in those that have been honorably
borne, but it also showed that the century has gathered no privilege that
can count upon permanence.

But there is another aspect of the situation that is quite as serious and
satisfactory. Now that the ladies of the present are coming to dress as
ladies dressed a hundred years ago, we can make an adequate comparison of
beauty. Heaven forbid that we should disparage the women of the
Revolutionary period! They looked as well as they could under all the
circumstances of a new country and the hardships of an early settlement.
Some of them looked exceedingly well--there were beauties in those days
as there were giants in Old Testament times. The portraits that have
come down to us of some of them excite our admiration, and indeed we have
a sort of tradition of the loveliness of the women of that remote period.
The gallant men of the time exalted them. Yet it must be admitted by any
one who witnessed the public and private gatherings of April, 1889, in
New York, contributed to as they were by women from every State, and who
is unprejudiced by family associations, that the women of America seem
vastly improved in personal appearance since the days when George
Washington was a lover: that is to say, the number of beautiful women is
greater in proportion to the population, and their beauty and charm are
not inferior to those which have been so much extolled in the
Revolutionary time. There is no doubt that if George Washington could
have been at the Metropolitan ball he would have acknowledged this, and
that while he might have had misgivings about some of our political
methods, he would have been more proud than ever to be still acknowledged
the Father of his Country.


A fair correspondent--has the phrase an old-time sound?--thinks we should
pay more attention to men. In a revolutionary time, when great questions
are in issue, minor matters, which may nevertheless be very important,
are apt to escape the consideration they deserve. We share our
correspondent's interest in men, but must plead the pressure of
circumstances. When there are so many Woman's Journals devoted to the
wants and aspirations of women alone, it is perhaps time to think of
having a Man's journal, which should try to keep his head above-water in
the struggle for social supremacy. When almost every number of the
leading periodicals has a paper about Woman--written probably by a woman
--Woman Today, Woman Yesterday, Woman Tomorrow; when the inquiry is daily
made in the press as to what is expected of woman, and the new
requirements laid upon her by reason of her opportunities, her entrance
into various occupations, her education--the impartial observer is likely
to be confused, if he is not swept away by the rising tide of femininity
in modern life.

But this very superiority of interest in the future of women is a warning
to man to look about him, and see where in this tide he is going to land,
if he will float or go ashore, and what will be his character and his
position in the new social order. It will not do for him to sit on the
stump of one of his prerogatives that woman has felled, and say with
Brahma, "They reckon ill who leave me out," for in the day of the
Subjection of Man it may be little consolation that he is left in.

It must be confessed that man has had a long inning. Perhaps it is true
that he owed this to his physical strength, and that he will only keep it
hereafter by intellectual superiority, by the dominance of mind. And how
in this generation is he equipping himself for the future? He is the
money-making animal. That is beyond dispute. Never before were there
such business men as this generation can show--Napoleons of finance,
Alexanders of adventure, Shakespeares of speculation, Porsons of
accumulation. He is great in his field, but is he leaving the
intellectual province to woman? Does he read as much as she does? Is he
becoming anything but a newspaper-made person? Is his mind getting to be
like the newspaper? Speaking generally of the mass of business men--and
the mass are business men in this country--have they any habit of reading
books? They have clubs, to be sure, but of what sort? With the
exception of a conversation club here and there, and a literary club,
more or less perfunctory, are they not mostly social clubs for comfort
and idle lounging, many of them known, as other workmen are, by their
"chips"? What sort of a book would a member make out of "Chips from my
Workshop"? Do the young men, to any extent, join in Browning clubs and
Shakespeare clubs and Dante clubs? Do they meet for the study of
history, of authors, of literary periods, for reading, and discussing
what they read? Do they in concert dig in the encyclopaedias, and write
papers about the correlation of forces, and about Savonarola, and about
the Three Kings? In fact, what sort of a hand would the Three Kings
suggest to them? In the large cities the women's clubs, pursuing
literature, art, languages, botany, history, geography, geology,
mythology, are innumerable. And there is hardly a village in the land
that has not from one to six clubs of young girls who meet once a week
for some intellectual purpose. What are the young men of the villages
and the cities doing meantime? How are they preparing to meet socially
these young ladies who are cultivating their minds? Are they adapting
themselves to the new conditions? Or are they counting, as they always
have done, on the adaptability of women, on the facility with which the
members of the bright sex can interest themselves in base-ball and the
speed of horses and the chances of the "street"? Is it comfortable for
the young man, when the talk is about the last notable book, or the
philosophy of the popular poet or novelist, to feel that laughing eyes
are sounding his ignorance?

Man is a noble creation, and he has fine and sturdy qualities which
command the admiration of the other sex, but how will it be when that
sex, by reason of superior acquirements, is able to look down on him
intellectually? It used to be said that women are what men wish to have
them, that they endeavored to be the kind of women who would win
masculine admiration. How will it be if women have determined to make
themselves what it pleases them to be, and to cultivate their powers in
the expectation of pleasing men, if they indulge any such expectation, by
their higher qualities only? This is not a fanciful possibility. It is
one that young men will do well to ponder. It is easy to ridicule the
literary and economic and historical societies, and the naive courage
with which young women in them attack the gravest problems, and to say
that they are only a passing fashion, like decorative art and a mode of
dress. But a fashion is not to be underestimated; and when a fashion
continues and spreads like this one, it is significant of a great change
going on in society. And it is to be noticed that this fashion is
accompanied by other phenomena as interesting. There is scarcely an
occupation, once confined almost exclusively to men, in which women are
not now conspicuous. Never before were there so many women who are
superior musicians, performers themselves and organizers of musical
societies; never before so many women who can draw well; never so many
who are successful in literature, who write stories, translate, compile,
and are acceptable workers in magazines and in publishing houses; and
never before were so many women reading good books, and thinking about
them, and talking about them, and trying to apply the lessons in them to
the problems of their own lives, which are seen not to end with marriage.
A great deal of this activity, crude much of it, is on the intellectual
side, and must tell strongly by-and-by in the position of women. And the
young men will take notice that it is the intellectual force that must
dominate in life.


It seems hardly worth while to say that this would be a more interesting
country if there were more interesting people in it. But the remark is
worth consideration in a land where things are so much estimated by what
they cost. It is a very expensive country, especially so in the matter
of education, and one cannot but reflect whether the result is in
proportion to the outlay. It costs a great many thousands of dollars and
over four years of time to produce a really good base-ball player, and
the time and money invested in the production of a society young woman
are not less. No complaint is made of the cost of these schools of the
higher education; the point is whether they produce interesting people.
Of course all women are interesting. It has got pretty well noised about
the world that American women are, on the whole, more interesting than
any others. This statement is not made boastfully, but simply as a
market quotation, as one might say. They are sought for; they rule high.
They have a "way"; they know how to be fascinating, to be agreeable; they
unite freedom of manner with modesty of behavior; they are apt to have
beauty, and if they have not, they know how to make others think they
have. Probably the Greek girls in their highest development under
Phidias were never so attractive as the American girls of this period;
and if we had a Phidias who could put their charms in marble, all the
antique galleries would close up and go out of business.

But it must be understood that in regard to them, as to the dictionaries,
it is necessary to "get the best." Not all women are equally
interesting, and some of those on whom most educational money is lavished
are the least so. It can be said broadly that everybody is interesting
up to a certain point. There is no human being from whom the inquiring
mind cannot learn something. It is so with women. Some are interesting
for five minutes, some for ten, some for an hour; some are not exhausted
in a whole day; and some (and this shows the signal leniency of
Providence) are perennially entertaining, even in the presence of
masculine stupidity. Of course the radical trouble of this world is that
there are not more people who are interesting comrades, day in and day
out, for a lifetime. It is greatly to the credit of American women that
so many of them have this quality, and have developed it, unprotected, in
free competition with all countries which have been pouring in women
without the least duty laid upon their grace or beauty. We, have a
tariff upon knowledge--we try to shut out all of that by a duty on books;
we have a tariff on piety and intelligence in a duty on clergymen; we try
to exclude art by a levy on it; but we have never excluded the raw
material of beauty, and the result is that we can successfully compete in
the markets of the world.

This, however, is a digression. The reader wants to know what this
quality of being interesting has to do with girls' schools. It is
admitted that if one goes into a new place he estimates the agreeableness
of it according to the number of people it contains with whom it is a
pleasure to converse, who have either the ability to talk well or the
intelligence to listen appreciatingly even if deceivingly, whose society
has the beguiling charm that makes even natural scenery satisfactory. It
is admitted also that in our day the burden of this end of life, making
it agreeable, is mainly thrown upon women. Men make their business an
excuse for not being entertaining, or the few who cultivate the mind
(aside from the politicians, who always try to be winning) scarcely think
it worth while to contribute anything to make society bright and
engaging. Now if the girls' schools and colleges, technical and other,
merely add to the number of people who have practical training and
knowledge without personal charm, what becomes of social life? We are
impressed with the excellence of the schools and colleges for women--
impressed also with the co-educating institutions. There is no sight
more inspiring than an assemblage of four or five hundred young women
attacking literature, science, and all the arts. The grace and courage
of the attack alone are worth all it costs. All the arts and science and
literature are benefited, but one of the chief purposes that should be in
view is unattained if the young women are not made more interesting, both
to themselves and to others. Ability to earn an independent living may
be conceded to be important, health is indispensable, and beauty of face
and form are desirable; knowledge is priceless, and unselfish amiability
is above the price of rubies; but how shall we set a value, so far as the
pleasure of living is concerned, upon the power to be interesting? We
hear a good deal about the highly educated young woman with reverence,
about the emancipated young woman with fear and trembling, but what can
take the place of the interesting woman? Anxiety is this moment
agitating the minds of tens of thousands of mothers about the education
of their daughters. Suppose their education should be directed to the
purpose of making them interesting women, what a fascinating country this
would be about the year 1900.


Give the men a chance. Upon the young women of America lies a great
responsibility. The next generation will be pretty much what they choose
to make it; and what are they doing for the elevation of young men? It
is true that there are the colleges for men, which still perform a good
work--though some of them run a good deal more to a top-dressing of
accomplishments than to a sub-soiling of discipline--but these colleges
reach comparatively few. There remain the great mass who are devoted to
business and pleasure, and only get such intellectual cultivation as
society gives them or they chance to pick up in current publications.
The young women are the leisure class, consequently--so we hear--the
cultivated class. Taking a certain large proportion of our society, the
women in it toil not, neither do they spin; they do little or no domestic
work; they engage in no productive occupation. They are set apart for a
high and ennobling service--the cultivation of the mind and the rescue of
society from materialism. They are the influence that keeps life
elevated and sweet--are they not? For what other purpose are they set
apart in elegant leisure? And nobly do they climb up to the duties of
their position. They associate together in esoteric, intellectual
societies. Every one is a part of many clubs, the object of which is
knowledge and the broadening of the intellectual horizon. Science,
languages, literature, are their daily food. They can speak in tongues;
they can talk about the solar spectrum; they can interpret Chaucer,
criticise Shakespeare, understand Browning. There is no literature,
ancient or modern, that they do not dig up by the roots and turn over, no
history that they do not drag before the club for final judgment. In
every little village there is this intellectual stir and excitement; why,
even in New York, readings interfere with the german;--['Dances', likely
referring to the productions of the Straus family in Vienna. D.W.]--and
Boston! Boston is no longer divided into wards, but into Browning

All this is mainly the work of women. The men are sometimes admitted,
are even hired to perform and be encouraged and criticised; that is, men
who are already highly cultivated, or who are in sympathy with the noble
feminization of the age. It is a glorious movement. Its professed
object is to give an intellectual lift to society. And no doubt, unless
all reports are exaggerated, it is making our great leisure class of
women highly intellectual beings. But, encouraging as this prospect is,
it gives us pause. Who are these young women to associate with? with
whom are they to hold high converse? For life is a two-fold affair. And
meantime what is being done for the young men who are expected to share
in the high society of the future? Will not the young women by-and-by
find themselves in a lonesome place, cultivated away beyond their natural
comrades? Where will they spend their evenings? This sobering thought
suggests a duty that the young women are neglecting. We refer to the
education of the young men. It is all very well for them to form clubs
for their own advancement, and they ought not to incur the charge of
selfishness in so doing; but how much better would they fulfill their
mission if they would form special societies for the cultivation of young
men!--sort of intellectual mission bands. Bring them into the literary
circle. Make it attractive for them. Women with their attractions, not
to speak of their wiles, can do anything they set out to do. They can
elevate the entire present generation of young men, if they give their
minds to it, to care for the intellectual pursuits they care for. Give
the men a chance, and----

Musing along in this way we are suddenly pulled up by the reflection that
it is impossible to make an unqualified statement that is wholly true
about anything. What chance have I, anyway? inquires the young man who
thinks sometimes and occasionally wants to read. What sort of leading-
strings are these that I am getting into? Look at the drift of things.
Is the feminization of the world a desirable thing for a vigorous future?
Are the women, or are they not, taking all the virility out of
literature? Answer me that. All the novels are written by, for, or
about women--brought to their standard. Even Henry James, who studies
the sex untiringly, speaks about the "feminization of literature." They
write most of the newspaper correspondence--and write it for women. They
are even trying to feminize the colleges. Granted that woman is the
superior being; all the more, what chance is there for man if this sort
of thing goes on? Are you going to make a race of men on feminine
fodder? And here is the still more perplexing part of it. Unless all
analysis of the female heart is a delusion, and all history false, what
women like most of all things in this world is a Man, virile, forceful,
compelling, a solid rock of dependence, a substantial unfeminine being,
whom it is some satisfaction and glory and interest to govern and rule in
the right way, and twist round the feminine finger. If women should
succeed in reducing or raising--of course raising--men to the feminine
standard, by feminizing society, literature, the colleges, and all that,
would they not turn on their creations--for even the Bible intimates that
women are uncertain and go in search of a Man? It is this sort of blind
instinct of the young man for preserving himself in the world that makes
him so inaccessible to the good he might get from the prevailing culture
of the leisure class.


Those who are anxious about the fate of Christmas, whether it is not
becoming too worldly and too expensive a holiday to be indulged in except
by the very poor, mark with pleasure any indications that the true spirit
of the day--brotherhood and self-abnegation and charity--is infusing
itself into modern society. The sentimental Christmas of thirty years
ago could not last; in time the manufactured jollity got to be more
tedious and a greater strain on the feelings than any misfortune
happening to one's neighbor. Even for a day it was very difficult to
buzz about in the cheery manner prescribed, and the reaction put human
nature in a bad light. Nor was it much better when gradually the day
became one of Great Expectations, and the sweet spirit of it was quenched
in worry or soured in disappointment. It began to take on the aspect of
a great lottery, in which one class expected to draw in reverse
proportion to what it put in, and another class knew that it would only
reap as it had sowed. The day, blessed in its origin, and meaningless if
there is a grain of selfishness in it, was thus likely to become a sort
of Clearing-house of all obligations and assume a commercial aspect that
took the heart out of it--like the enormous receptions for paying social
debts which take the place of the old-fashioned hospitality. Everybody
knew, meantime, that the spirit of good-will, the grace of universal
sympathy, was really growing in the world, and that it was only our
awkwardness that, by striving to cram it all for a year into twenty-four
hours, made it seem a little farcical. And everybody knows that when
goodness becomes fashionable, goodness is likely to suffer a little. A
virtue overdone falls on t'other side. And a holiday that takes on such
proportions that the Express companies and the Post-office cannot handle
it is in danger of a collapse. In consideration of these things, and
because, as has been pointed out year after year, Christmas is becoming a
burden, the load of which is looked forward to with apprehension--and
back on with nervous prostration--fear has been expressed that the
dearest of all holidays in Christian lands would have to go again under a
sort of Puritan protest, or into a retreat for rest and purification.
We are enabled to announce for the encouragement of the single-minded in
this best of all days, at the close of a year which it is best not to
characterize, that those who stand upon the social watch-towers in Europe
and America begin to see a light--or, it would be better to say, to
perceive a spirit--in society which is likely to change many things, and;
among others, to work a return of Christian simplicity. As might be
expected in these days, the spirit is exhibited in the sex which is first
at the wedding and last in the hospital ward. And as might have been
expected, also, this spirit is shown by the young woman of the period, in
whose hands are the issues of the future. If she preserve her present
mind long enough, Christmas will become a day that will satisfy every
human being, for the purpose of the young woman will pervade it. The
tendency of the young woman generally to simplicity, of the American
young woman to a certain restraint (at least when abroad), to a deference
to her elders, and to tradition, has been noted. The present phenomenon
is quite beyond this, and more radical. It is, one may venture to say,
an attempt to conform the inner being to the outward simplicity. If one
could suspect the young woman of taking up any line not original, it
might be guessed that the present fashion (which is bewildering the most
worldly men with a new and irresistible fascination) was set by the self-
revelations of Marie Bashkirtseff. Very likely, however, it was a new
spirit in the world, of which Marie was the first publishing example.
Its note is self-analysis, searching, unsparing, leaving no room for the
deception of self or of the world. Its leading feature is extreme
candor. It is not enough to tell the truth (that has been told before);
but one must act and tell the whole truth. One does not put on the shirt
front and the standing collar and the knotted cravat of the other sex as
a mere form; it is an act of consecration, of rigid, simple come-out-ness
into the light of truth. This noble candor will suffer no concealments.
She would not have her lover even, still more the general world of men,
think she is better, or rather other, than she is. Not that she would
like to appear a man among men, far from that; but she wishes to talk
with candor and be talked to candidly, without taking advantage of that
false shelter of sex behind which women have been accused of dodging. If
she is nothing else, she is sincere, one might say wantonly sincere. And
this lucid, candid inner life is reflected in her dress. This is not
only simple in its form, in its lines; it is severe. To go into the shop
of a European modiste is almost to put one's self into a truthful and
candid frame of mind. Those leave frivolous ideas behind who enter here.
The 'modiste' will tell the philosopher that it is now the fashion to be
severe; in a word, it is 'fesch'. Nothing can go beyond that. And it
symbolizes the whole life, its self-examination, earnestness, utmost
candor in speech and conduct.

The statesman who is busy about his tariff and his reciprocity, and his
endeavor to raise money like potatoes, may little heed and much
undervalue this advent of candor into the world as a social force. But
the philosopher will make no such mistake. He knows that they who build
without woman build in vain, and that she is the great regenerator, as
she is the great destroyer. He knows too much to disregard the gravity
of any fashionable movement. He knows that there is no power on earth
that can prevent the return of the long skirt. And that if the young
woman has decided to be severe and candid and frank with herself and in
her intercourse with others, we must submit and thank God.

And what a gift to the world is this for the Christmas season! The
clear-eyed young woman of the future, always dear and often an anxiety,
will this year be an object of enthusiasm.


The American man only develops himself and spreads himself and grows "for
all he is worth" in the Great West. He is more free and limber there,
and unfolds those generous peculiarities and largenesses of humanity
which never blossomed before. The "environment" has much to do with it.
The great spaces over which he roams contribute to the enlargement of his
mental horizon. There have been races before who roamed the illimitable
desert, but they traveled on foot or on camelback, and were limited in
their range. There was nothing continental about them, as there is about
our railway desert travelers, who swing along through thousands of miles
of sand and sage-bush with a growing contempt for time and space. But
expansive and great as these people have become under the new conditions,
we have a fancy that the development of the race has only just begun, and
that the future will show us in perfection a kind of man new to the
world. Out somewhere on the Santa Fe route, where the desert of one day
was like the desert of the day before, and the Pullman car rolls and
swings over the wide waste beneath the blue sky day after day, under its
black flag of smoke, in the early gray of morning, when the men were
waiting their turns at the ablution bowls, a slip of a boy, perhaps aged
seven, stood balancing himself on his little legs, clad in knicker-
bockers, biding his time, with all the nonchalance of an old campaigner.
"How did you sleep, cap?" asked a well-meaning elderly gentleman." Well,
thank you," was the dignified response; "as I always do on a sleeping-
car." Always does? Great horrors! Hardly out of his swaddling-clothes,
and yet he always sleeps well in a sleeper! Was he born on the wheels?
was he cradled in a Pullman? He has always been in motion, probably; he
was started at thirty miles an hour, no doubt, this marvelous boy of our
new era. He was not born in a house at rest, but the locomotive snatched
him along with a shriek and a roar before his eyes were fairly open, and
he was rocked in a "section," and his first sensation of life was that of
moving rapidly over vast arid spaces, through cattle ranges and along
canons. The effect of quick and easy locomotion on character may have
been noted before, but it seems that here is the production of a new sort
of man, the direct product of our railway era. It is not simply that
this boy is mature, but he must be a different and a nobler sort of boy
than one born, say, at home or on a canal-boat; for, whether he was born
on the rail or not, he belongs to the railway system of civilization.
Before he gets into trousers he is old in experience, and he has
discounted many of the novelties that usually break gradually on the
pilgrim in this world. He belongs to the new expansive race that must
live in motion, whose proper home is the Pullman (which will probably be
improved in time into a dustless, sweet-smelling, well-aired bedroom),
and whose domestic life will be on the wing, so to speak. The Inter-
State Commerce Bill will pass him along without friction from end to end
of the Union, and perhaps a uniform divorce law will enable him to change
his marital relations at any place where he happens to dine. This
promising lad is only a faint intimation of what we are all coming to
when we fully acquire the freedom of the continent, and come into that
expansiveness of feeling and of language which characterizes the Great
West. It is a burst of joyous exuberance that comes from the sense of an
illimitable horizon. It shows itself in the tender words of a local
newspaper at Bowie, Arizona, on the death of a beloved citizen: "'Death
loves a shining mark,' and she hit a dandy when she turned loose on Jim."
And also in the closing words of a New Mexico obituary, which the Kansas
Magazine quotes: "Her tired spirit was released from the pain-racking
body and soared aloft to eternal glory at 4.30 Denver time." We die, as
it were, in motion, as we sleep, and there is nowhere any boundary to our
expansion. Perhaps we shall never again know any rest as we now
understand the term--rest being only change of motion--and we shall not
be able to sleep except on the cars, and whether we die by Denver time or
by the 90th meridian, we shall only change our time. Blessed be this
slip of a boy who is a man before he is an infant, and teaches us what
rapid transit can do for our race! The only thing that can possibly
hinder us in our progress will be second childhood; we have abolished


We are quite in the electric way. We boast that we have made electricity
our slave, but the slave whom we do not understand is our master. And
before we know him we shall be transformed. Mr. Edison proposes to send
us over the country at the rate of one hundred miles an hour. This
pleases us, because we fancy we shall save time, and because we are
taught that the chief object in life is to "get there" quickly. We
really have an idea that it is a gain to annihilate distance, forgetting
that as a matter of personal experience we are already too near most
people. But this speed by rail will enable us to live in Philadelphia
and do business in New York. It will make the city of Chicago two
hundred miles square. And the bigger Chicago is, the more important this
world becomes. This pleasing anticipation--that of traveling by
lightning, and all being huddled together--is nothing to the promised
universal illumination by a diffused light that shall make midnight as
bright as noonday. We shall then save all the time there is, and at the
age of thirty-five have lived the allotted seventy years, and long, if
not for 'Gotterdammerung', at least for some world where, by touching a
button, we can discharge our limbs of electricity and take a little
repose. The most restless and ambitious of us can hardly conceive of
Chicago as a desirable future state of existence.

This, however, is only the external or superficial view of the subject;
at the best it is only symbolical. Mr. Edison is wasting his time in
objective experiments, while we are in the deepest ignorance as to our
electric personality or our personal electricity. We begin to apprehend
that we are electric beings, that these outward manifestations of a
subtile form are only hints of our internal state. Mr. Edison should
turn his attention from physics to humanity electrically considered in
its social condition. We have heard a great deal about affinities. We
are told that one person is positive and another negative, and that
representing socially opposite poles they should come together and make
an electric harmony, that two positives or two negatives repel each
other, and if conventionally united end in divorce, and so on. We read
that such a man is magnetic, meaning that he can poll a great many votes;
or that such a woman thrilled her audience, meaning probably that they
were in an electric condition to be shocked by her. Now this is what we
want to find out--to know if persons are really magnetic or sympathetic,
and how to tell whether a person is positive or negative. In politics we
are quite at sea. What is the good of sending a man to Washington at the
rate of a hundred miles an hour if we are uncertain of his electric
state? The ideal House of Representatives ought to be pretty nearly
balanced--half positive, half negative. Some Congresses seem to be made
up pretty much of negatives. The time for the electrician to test the
candidate is before he is put in nomination, not dump him into Congress
as we do now, utterly ignorant of whether his currents run from his heels
to his head or from his head to his heels, uncertain, indeed, as to
whether he has magnetism to run in at all. Nothing could be more
unscientific than the process and the result.

In social life it is infinitely worse. You, an electric unmarried man,
enter a room full of attractive women. How are you to know who is
positive and who is negative, or who is a maiden lady in equilibrium, if
it be true, as scientists affirm, that the genus old maid is one in whom
the positive currents neutralize the negative currents? Your affinity is
perhaps the plainest woman in the room. But beauty is a juggling sprite,
entirely uncontrolled by electricity, and you are quite likely to make a
mistake. It is absurd the way we blunder on in a scientific age. We
touch a button, and are married. The judge touches another button, and
we are divorced. If when we touched the first button it revealed us both
negatives, we should start back in horror, for it is only before
engagement that two negatives make an affirmative. That is the reason
that some clergymen refuse to marry a divorced woman; they see that she
has made one electric mistake, and fear she will make another. It is all
very well for the officiating clergyman to ask the two intending to
commit matrimony if they have a license from the town clerk, if they are
of age or have the consent of parents, and have a million; but the vital
point is omitted. Are they electric affinities? It should be the duty
of the town-clerk, by a battery, or by some means to be discovered by
electricians, to find out the galvanic habit of the parties, their
prevailing electric condition. Temporarily they may seem to be in
harmony, and may deceive themselves into the belief that they are at
opposite poles equidistant from the equator, and certain to meet on that
imaginary line in matrimonial bliss. Dreadful will be the awakening to
an insipid life, if they find they both have the same sort of currents.
It is said that women change their minds and their dispositions, that men
are fickle, and that both give way after marriage to natural inclinations
that were suppressed while they were on the good behavior that the
supposed necessity of getting married imposes. This is so notoriously
true that it ought to create a public panic. But there is hope in the
new light. If we understand it, persons are born in a certain electrical
condition, and substantially continue in it, however much they may
apparently wobble about under the influence of infirm minds and acquired
wickedness. There are, of course, variations of the compass to be
reckoned with, and the magnet may occasionally be bewitched by near and
powerful attracting objects. But, on the whole, the magnet remains the
same, and it is probable that a person's normal electric condition is the
thing in him least liable to dangerous variation. If this be true, the
best basis for matrimony is the electric, and our social life would have
fewer disappointments if men and women went about labeled with their
scientifically ascertained electric qualities.


Can a husband open his wife's letters? That would depend, many would
say, upon what kind of a husband he is. But it cannot be put aside in
that flippant manner, for it is a legal right that is in question, and it
has recently been decided in a Paris tribunal that the husband has the,
right to open the letters addressed to his wife. Of course in America an
appeal would instantly be taken from this decision, and perhaps by
husbands themselves; for in this world rights are becoming so impartially
distributed that this privilege granted to the husband might at once be
extended to the wife, and she would read all his business correspondence,
and his business is sometimes various and complicated. The Paris
decision must be based upon the familiar formula that man and wife are
one, and that that one is the husband. If a man has the right to read
all the letters written to his wife, being his property by reason of his
ownership of her, why may he not have a legal right to know all that is
said to her? The question is not whether a wife ought to receive letters
that her husband may not read, or listen to talk that he may not hear,
but whether he has a sort of lordship that gives him privileges which she
does not enjoy. In our modern notion of marriage, which is getting
itself expressed in statute law, marriage is supposed to rest on mutual
trust and mutual rights. In theory the husband and wife are still one,
and there can nothing come into the life of one that is not shared by the
other; in fact, if the marriage is perfect and the trust absolute, the
personality of each is respected by the other, and each is freely the
judge of what shall be contributed to the common confidence; and if there
are any concealments, it is well believed that they are for the mutual
good. If every one were as perfect in the marriage relation as those who
are reading these lines, the question of the wife's letters would never
arise. The man, trusting his wife, would not care to pry into any little
secrets his wife might have, or bother himself about her correspondence;
he would know, indeed, that if he had lost her real affection, a
surveillance of her letters could not restore it.

Perhaps it is a modern notion that marriage is a union of trust and not
of suspicion, of expectation of faithfulness the more there is freedom.
At any rate, the tendency, notwithstanding the French decision, is away
from the common-law suspicion and tyranny towards a higher trust in an
enlarged freedom. And it is certain that the rights cannot all be on one
side and the duties on the other. If the husband legally may compel his
wife to show him her letters, the courts will before long grant the same
privilege to the wife. But, without pressing this point, we hold
strongly to the sacredness of correspondence. The letters one receives
are in one sense not his own. They contain the confessions of another
soul, the confidences of another mind, that would be rudely treated if
given any sort of publicity. And while husband and wife are one to each
other, they are two in the eyes of other people, and it may well happen
that a friend will desire to impart something to a discreet woman which
she would not intrust to the babbling husband of that woman. Every life
must have its own privacy and its own place of retirement. The letter is
of all things the most personal and intimate thing. Its bloom is gone
when another eye sees it before the one for which it was intended. Its
aroma all escapes when it is first opened by another person. One might
as well wear second-hand clothing as get a second-hand letter. Here,
then, is a sacred right that ought to be respected, and can be respected
without any injury to domestic life. The habit in some families for the
members of it to show each other's letters is a most disenchanting one.
It is just in the family, between persons most intimate, that these
delicacies of consideration for the privacy of each ought to be most
respected. No one can estimate probably how much of the refinement, of
the delicacy of feeling, has been lost to the world by the introduction
of the postal-card. Anything written on a postal-card has no
personality; it is banal, and has as little power of charming any one who
receives it as an advertisement in the newspaper. It is not simply the
cheapness of the communication that is vulgar, but the publicity of it.
One may have perhaps only a cent's worth of affection to send, but it
seems worth much more when enclosed in an envelope. We have no doubt,
then, that on general principles the French decision is a mistake, and
that it tends rather to vulgarize than to retain the purity and delicacy
of the marriage relation. And the judges, so long even as men only
occupy the bench, will no doubt reverse it when the logical march of
events forces upon them the question whether the wife may open her
husband's letters.


Foreign critics have apologized for real or imagined social and literary
shortcomings in this country on the ground that the American people have
little leisure. It is supposed that when we have a leisure class we
shall not only make a better showing in these respects, but we shall be
as agreeable--having time to devote to the art of being agreeable--as the
English are. But we already have a considerable and increasing number of
people who can command their own time if we have not a leisure class, and
the sociologist might begin to study the effect of this leisureliness
upon society. Are the people who, by reason of a competence or other
accidents of good-fortune, have most leisure, becoming more agreeable?
and are they devoting themselves to the elevation of the social tone, or
to the improvement of our literature? However this question is answered,
a strong appeal might be made to the people of leisure to do not only
what is expected of them by foreign observers, but to take advantage of
their immense opportunities. In a republic there is no room for a
leisure class that is not useful. Those who use their time merely to
kill it, in imitation of those born to idleness and to no necessity of
making an exertion, may be ornamental, but having no root in any
established privilege to sustain them, they will soon wither away in this
atmosphere, as a flower would which should set up to be an orchid when it
does not belong to the orchid family. It is required here that those who
are emancipated from the daily grind should vindicate their right to
their position not only by setting an example of self-culture, but by
contributing something to the general welfare. It is thought by many
that if society here were established and settled as it is elsewhere, the
rich would be less dominated by their money and less conscious of it, and
having leisure, could devote themselves even more than they do now to
intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

Whether these anticipations will ever be realized, and whether increased
leisure will make us all happy, is a subject of importance; but it is
secondary, and in a manner incidental, to another and deeper matter,
which may be defined as the responsibility of attractiveness. And this
responsibility takes two forms the duty of every one to be attractive,
and the danger of being too attractive. To be winning and agreeable is
sometimes reckoned a gift, but it is a disposition that can be
cultivated; and, in a world so given to grippe and misapprehension as
this is, personal attractiveness becomes a duty, if it is not an art,
that might be taught in the public schools. It used to be charged
against New Englanders that they regarded this gift as of little value,
and were inclined to hide it under a bushel, and it was said of some of
their neighbors in the Union that they exaggerated its importance, and
neglected the weightier things of the law. Indeed, disputes have arisen
as to what attractiveness consisted in--some holding that beauty or charm
of manner (which is almost as good) and sweetness and gayety were
sufficient, while others held that a little intelligence sprinkled in was
essential. But one thing is clear, that while women were held to strict
responsibility in this matter, not stress enough was laid upon the equal
duty of men to be attractive in order to make the world agreeable. Hence
it is, probably, that while no question has been raised as to the effect
of the higher education upon the attractiveness of men, the colleges for
girls have been jealously watched as to the effect they were likely to
have upon the attractiveness of women. Whether the college years of a
young man, during which he knows more than he will ever know again, are
his most attractive period is not considered, for he is expected to
develop what is in him later on; but it is gravely questioned whether
girls who give their minds to the highest studies are not dropping those
graces of personal attractiveness which they will find it difficult to
pick up again. Of course such a question as this could never arise
except in just such a world as this is. For in an ideal world it could
be shown that the highest intelligence and the highest personal charm are
twins. If, therefore, it should turn out, which seems absurd, that
college-educated girls are not as attractive as other women with less
advantages, it will have to be admitted that something is the matter with
the young ladies, which is preposterous, or that the system is still
defective. For the postulate that everybody ought to be attractive
cannot be abandoned for the sake of any system. Decision on this system
cannot be reached without long experience, for it is always to be
remembered that the man's point of view of attractiveness may shift, and
he may come to regard the intellectual graces as supremely attractive;
while, on the other hand, the woman student may find that a winning smile
is just as effective in bringing a man to her feet, where he belongs, as
a logarithm.

The danger of being too attractive, though it has historic illustration,
is thought by many to be more apparent than real. Merely being too
attractive has often been confounded with a love of flirtation and
conquest, unbecoming always in a man, and excused in a woman on the
ground of her helplessness. It could easily be shown that to use
personal attractiveness recklessly to the extent of hopeless beguilement
is cruel, and it may be admitted that woman ought to be held to strict
responsibility for her attractiveness. The lines are indeed hard for
her. The duty is upon her in this poor world of being as attractive as
she can, and yet she is held responsible for all the mischief her
attractiveness produces. As if the blazing sun should be called to
account by people with weak eyes.


The month of February in all latitudes in the United States is uncertain.
The birth of George Washington in it has not raised it in public esteem.
In the North, it is a month to flee from; in the South, at best it is a
waiting month--a month of rain and fickle skies. A good deal has been
done for it. It is the month of St. Valentine, it is distinguished by
the leap-year addition of a day, and ought to be a favorite of the gentle
sex; but it remains a sort of off period in the year. Its brevity
recommends it, but no one would take any notice of it were it not for its
effect upon character. A month of rigid weather is supposed to brace up
the moral nature, and a month of gentleness is supposed to soften the
asperities of the disposition, but February contributes to neither of
these ends. It is neither a tonic nor a soother; that is, in most parts
of our inexplicable land. We make no complaint of this. It is probably
well to have a period in the year that tests character to the utmost, and
the person who can enter spring through the gate of February a better man
or woman is likely to adorn society the rest of the year.

February, however, is merely an illustration of the effect of weather
upon the disposition. Persons differ in regard to their sensitiveness to
cloudy, rainy, and gloomy days. We recognize this in a general way, but
the relation of temper and disposition to the weather has never been
scientifically studied. Our observation of the influence of climate is
mostly with regard to physical infirmities. We know the effect of damp
weather upon rheumatics, and of the east wind upon gouty subjects, but
too little allowance is made for the influence of weather upon the
spirits and the conduct of men. We know that a long period of gloomy
weather leads to suicides, and we observe that long-continued clouds and
rain beget "crossness" and ill-temper, and we are all familiar with the
universal exhilaration of sunshine and clear air upon any company of men
and women. But the point we wish to make is that neither society nor the
law makes any allowance for the aberrations of human nature caused by
dull and unpleasant weather. And this is very singular in this
humanitarian age, when excuse is found for nearly every moral delinquency
in heredity or environment, that the greatest factor of discontent and
crookedness, the weather, should be left out of consideration altogether.
The relation of crime to the temperature and the humidity of the
atmosphere is not taken into account. Yet crime and eccentricity of
conduct are very much the result of atmospheric conditions, since they
depend upon the temper and the spirit of the community. Many people are
habitually blue and down-hearted in sour weather; a long spell of cloudy,
damp, cold weather depresses everybody, lowers hope, tends to melancholy;
and people when they are not cheerful are more apt to fall into evil
ways, as a rule, than when they are in a normal state of good-humor. And
aside from crimes, the vexation, the friction, the domestic discontent in
life, are provoked by bad weather. We should like to have some
statistics as to incompatibility between married couples produced by damp
and raw days, and to know whether divorces are more numerous in the
States that suffer from a fickle climate than in those where the climate
is more equable. It is true that in the Sandwich Islands and in Egypt
there is greater mental serenity, less perturbation of spirit, less
worry, than in the changeable United States. Something of this placidity
and resignation to the ills inevitable in human life is due to an even
climate, to the constant sun and the dry air. We cannot hope to prevent
crime and suffering by statistics, any more than we have been able to
improve our climate (which is rather worse now than before the scientists
took it in charge) by observations and telegraphic reports; but we can,
by careful tabulation of the effects of bad weather upon the spirits of a
community, learn what places in the Union are favorable to the production
of cheerfulness and an equal mind. And we should lift a load of
reprobation from some places which now have a reputation for surliness
and unamiability. We find the people of one place hospitable,
lighthearted, and agreeable; the people of another place cold, and
morose, and unpleasant. It would be a satisfaction to know that the
weather is responsible for the difference. Observation of this sort
would also teach us doubtless what places are most conducive to literary
production, what to happy homes and agreeing wives and husbands. All our
territory is mapped out as to its sanitary conditions; why not have it
colored as to its effect upon the spirits and the enjoyment of life? The
suggestion opens a vast field of investigation.


There used to be a notion going round that it would be a good thing for
people if they were more "self-centred." Perhaps there was talk of
adding a course to the college curriculum, in addition to that for
training the all-competent "journalist," for the self-centring of the
young. To apply the term to a man or woman was considered highly
complimentary. The advisers of this state of mind probably meant to
suggest a desirable equilibrium and mental balance; but the actual effect
of the self-centred training is illustrated by a story told of Thomas H.
Benton, who had been described as an egotist by some of the newspapers.
Meeting Colonel Frank Blair one day, he said: "Colonel Blair, I see that
the newspapers call me an egotist. I wish you would tell me frankly, as
a friend, if you think the charge is true." "It is a very direct
question, Mr. Benton," replied Colonel Blair, "but if you want my honest
opinion, I am compelled to say that I think there is some foundation for
the charge." "Well, sir," said Mr. Benton, throwing his head back and
his chest forward, "the difference between me and these little fellows is
that I have an EGO!" Mr. Benton was an interesting man, and it is a fair
consideration if a certain amount of egotism does not add to the interest
of any character, but at the same time the self-centred conditions shut a
person off from one of the chief enjoyments to be got out of this world,
namely, a recognition of what is admirable in others in a toleration of
peculiarities. It is odd, almost amusing, to note how in this country
people of one section apply their local standards to the judgment of
people in other sections, very much as an Englishman uses his insular
yardstick to measure all the rest of the world. It never seems to occur
to people in one locality that the manners and speech of those of another
may be just as admirable as their own, and they get a good deal of
discomfort out of their intercourse with strangers by reason of their
inability to adapt themselves to any ways not their own. It helps
greatly to make this country interesting that nearly every State has its
peculiarities, and that the inhabitants of different sections differ in
manner and speech. But next to an interesting person in social value, is
an agreeable one, and it would add vastly to the agreeableness of life if
our widely spread provinces were not so self-centred in their notion that
their own way is the best, to the degree that they criticise any
deviation from it as an eccentricity. It would be a very nice world in
these United States if we could all devote ourselves to finding out in
communities what is likable rather than what is opposed to our
experience; that is, in trying to adapt ourselves to others rather than
insisting that our own standard should measure our opinion and our
enjoyment of them.

When the Kentuckian describes a man as a "high-toned gentleman" he means
exactly the same that a Bostonian means when, he says that a man is a
"very good fellow," only the men described have a different culture, a
different personal flavor; and it is fortunate that the Kentuckian is not
like the Bostonian, for each has a quality that makes intercourse with
him pleasant. In the South many people think they have said a severe
thing when they say that a person or manner is thoroughly Yankee; and
many New Englanders intend to express a considerable lack in what is
essential when they say of men and women that they are very Southern.
When the Yankee is produced he may turn out a cosmopolitan person of the
most interesting and agreeable sort; and the Southerner may
have traits and peculiarities, growing out of climate and social life
unlike the New England, which are altogether charming. We talked once
with a Western man of considerable age and experience who had the placid
mind that is sometimes, and may more and more become, the characteristic
of those who live in flat countries of illimitable horizons, who said
that New Yorkers, State and city, all had an assertive sort of smartness
that was very disagreeable to him. And a lady of New York (a city whose
dialect the novelists are beginning to satirize) was much disturbed by
the flatness of speech prevailing in Chicago, and thought something
should be done in the public schools to correct the pronunciation of
English. There doubtless should be a common standard of distinct,
rounded, melodious pronunciation, as there is of good breeding, and it is
quite as important to cultivate the voice in speaking as in singing, but
the people of the United States let themselves be immensely irritated by
local differences and want of toleration of sectional peculiarities. The
truth is that the agreeable people are pretty evenly distributed over the
country, and one's enjoyment of them is heightened not only by their
differences of manner, but by the different, ways in which they look at
life, unless he insists upon applying everywhere the yardstick of his own
locality. If the Boston woman sets her eyeglasses at a critical angle
towards the 'laisser faire' flow of social amenity in New Orleans, and
the New Orleans woman seeks out only the prim and conventional in Boston,
each may miss the opportunity to supplement her life by something wanting
and desirable in it, to be gained by the exercise of more openness of
mind and toleration. To some people Yankee thrift is disagreeable; to
others, Southern shiftlessness is intolerable. To some travelers the
negro of the South, with his tropical nature, his capacity for
picturesque attitudes, his abundant trust in Providence, is an element of
restfulness; and if the chief object of life is happiness, the traveler
may take a useful hint from the race whose utmost desire, in a fit
climate, would be fully satisfied by a shirt and a banana-tree. But to
another traveler the dusky, careless race is a continual affront.

If a person is born with an "Ego," and gets the most enjoyment out of the
world by trying to make it revolve about himself, and cannot make-
allowances for differences, we have nothing to say except to express pity
for such a self-centred condition; which shuts him out of the never-
failing pleasure there is in entering into and understanding with
sympathy the almost infinite variety in American life.


Sometimes the world seems very old. It appeared so to Bernard of Cluny
in the twelfth century, when he wrote:

"The world is very evil,
The times are waning late."

There was a general impression among the Christians of the first century
of our era that the end was near. The world must have seemed very
ancient to the Egyptians fifteen hundred years before Christ, when the
Pyramid of Cheops was a relic of antiquity, when almost the whole circle
of arts, sciences, and literature had been run through, when every nation
within reach had been conquered, when woman had been developed into one
of the most fascinating of beings, and even reigned more absolutely than
Elizabeth or Victoria has reigned since: it was a pretty tired old world
at that time. One might almost say that the further we go back the older
and more "played out" the world appears, notwithstanding that the poets,
who were generally pessimists of the present, kept harping about the
youth of the world and the joyous spontaneity of human life in some
golden age before their time. In fact, the world is old in spots--in
Memphis and Boston and Damascus and Salem and Ephesus. Some of these
places are venerable in traditions, and some of them are actually worn
out and taking a rest from too much civilization--lying fallow, as the
saying is. But age is so entirely relative that to many persons the
landing of the Mayflower seems more remote than the voyage of Jason, and
a Mayflower chest a more antique piece of furniture than the timbers of
the Ark, which some believe can still be seen on top of Mount Ararat.
But, speaking generally, the world is still young and growing, and a
considerable portion of it unfinished. The oldest part, indeed, the
Laurentian Hills, which were first out of water, is still only sparsely
settled; and no one pretends that Florida is anything like finished, or
that the delta of the Mississippi is in anything more than the process of
formation. Men are so young and lively in these days that they cannot
wait for the slow processes of nature, but they fill up and bank up
places, like Holland, where they can live; and they keep on exploring and
discovering incongruous regions, like Alaska, where they can go and
exercise their juvenile exuberance.

In many respects the world has been growing younger ever since the
Christian era. A new spirit came into it then which makes youth
perpetual, a spirit of living in others, which got the name of universal
brotherhood, a spirit that has had a good many discouragements and set-
backs, but which, on the whole, gains ground, and generally works in
harmony with the scientific spirit, breaking down the exclusive character
of the conquests of nature. What used to be the mystery and occultism of
the few is now general knowledge, so that all the playing at occultism by
conceited people now seems jejune and foolish. A little machine called
the instantaneous photograph takes pictures as quickly and accurately as
the human eye does, and besides makes them permanent. Instead of fooling
credulous multitudes with responses from Delphi, we have a Congress which
can enact tariff regulations susceptible of interpretations enough to
satisfy the love of mystery of the entire nation. Instead of loafing
round Memnon at sunrise to catch some supernatural tones, we talk words
into a little contrivance which will repeat our words and tones to the
remotest generation of those who shall be curious to know whether we said
those words in jest or earnest. All these mysteries made common and
diffused certainly increase the feeling of the equality of opportunity in
the world. And day by day such wonderful things are discovered and
scattered abroad that we are warranted in believing that we are only on
the threshold of turning to account the hidden forces of nature. There
would be great danger of human presumption and conceit in this progress
if the conceit were not so widely diffused, and where we are all
conceited there is no one to whom it will appear unpleasant. If there
was only one person who knew about the telephone he would be unbearable.
Probably the Eiffel Tower would be stricken down as a monumental
presumption, like that of Babel, if it had not been raised with the full
knowledge and consent of all the world.

This new spirit, with its multiform manifestations, which came into the
world nearly nineteen hundred years ago, is sometimes called the spirit
of Christmas. And good reasons can be given for supposing that it is.
At any rate, those nations that have the most of it are the most
prosperous, and those people who have the most of it are the most
agreeable to associate with. Know all men by these Presents, is an old
legal form which has come to have a new meaning in this dispensation.
It is by the spirit of brotherhood exhibited in giving presents that we
know the Christmas proper, only we are apt to take it in too narrow a
way. The real spirit of Christmas is the general diffusion of
helpfulness and good-will. If somebody were to discover an elixir which
would make every one truthful, he would not, in this age of the world,
patent it. Indeed, the Patent Office would not let him make a corner on
virtue as he does in wheat; and it is not respectable any more among the
real children of Christmas to make a corner in wheat. The world, to be
sure, tolerates still a great many things that it does not approve of,
and, on the whole, Christmas, as an ameliorating and good-fellowship
institution, gains a little year by year. There is still one hitch about
it, and a bad one just now, namely, that many people think they can buy
its spirit by jerks of liberality, by costly gifts. Whereas the fact is
that a great many of the costliest gifts in this season do not count at
all. Crumbs from the rich man's table don't avail any more to open the
pearly gates even of popular esteem in this world. Let us say, in fine,
that a loving, sympathetic heart is better than a nickel-plated service
in this world, which is surely growing young and sympathetic.


In Autumn the thoughts lightly turn to Age. If the writer has seemed to
be interested, sometimes to the neglect of other topics, in the American
young woman, it was not because she is interested in herself, but because
she is on the way to be one of the most agreeable objects in this lovely
world. She may struggle against it; she may resist it by all the
legitimate arts of the coquette and the chemist; she may be convinced
that youth and beauty are inseparable allies; but she would have more
patience if she reflected that the sunset is often finer than the
sunrise, commonly finer than noon, especially after a stormy day. The
secret of a beautiful old age is as well worth seeking as that of a
charming young maidenhood. For it is one of the compensations for the
rest of us, in the decay of this mortal life, that women, whose mission
it is to allure in youth and to tinge the beginning of the world with
romance, also make the end of the world more serenely satisfactory and
beautiful than the outset. And this has been done without any amendment
to the Constitution of the United States; in fact, it is possible that
the Sixteenth Amendment would rather hinder than help this gracious
process. We are not speaking now of what is called growing old
gracefully and regretfully, as something to be endured, but as a season
to be desired for itself, at least by those whose privilege it is to be
ennobled and cheered by it. And we are not speaking of wicked old women.
There is a unique fascination--all the novelists recognize it--in a
wicked old woman; not very wicked, but a woman of abundant experience,
who is perfectly frank and a little cynical, and delights in probing
human nature and flashing her wit on its weaknesses, and who knows as
much about life as a club man is credited with knowing. She may not be a
good comrade for the young, but she is immensely more fascinating than a
semi-wicked old man. Why, we do not know; that is one of the
unfathomable mysteries of womanhood. No; we have in mind quite another
sort of woman, of which America has so many that they are a very
noticeable element in all cultivated society. And the world has nothing
more lovely. For there is a loveliness or fascination sometimes in women
between the ages of sixty and eighty that is unlike any other--a charm
that woos us to regard autumn as beautiful as spring.

Perhaps these women were great beauties in their day, but scarcely so
serenely beautiful as now when age has refined all that was most
attractive. Perhaps they were plain; but it does not matter, for the
subtle influence of spiritualized-intelligence has the power of
transforming plainness into the beauty of old age. Physical beauty is
doubtless a great advantage, and it is never lost if mind shines through
it (there is nothing so unlovely as a frivolous old woman fighting to
keep the skin-deep beauty of her youth); the eyes, if the life has not
been one of physical suffering, usually retain their power of moving
appeal; the lines of the face, if changed, may be refined by a certain
spirituality; the gray hair gives dignity and softness and the charm of
contrast; the low sweet voice vibrates to the same note of femininity,
and the graceful and gracious are graceful and gracious still. Even into
the face and bearing of the plain woman whose mind has grown, whose
thoughts have been pure, whose heart has been expanded by good deeds or
by constant affection, comes a beauty winning and satisfactory in the
highest degree.

It is not that the charm of the women of whom we speak is mainly this
physical beauty; that is only incidental, as it were. The delight in
their society has a variety of sources. Their interest in life is
broader than it once was, more sympathetically unselfish; they have a
certain philosophical serenity that is not inconsistent with great
liveliness of mind; they have got rid of so much nonsense; they can
afford to be truthful--and how much there is to be learned from a woman
who is truthful! they have a most delicious courage of opinion, about
men, say, and in politics, and social topics, and creeds even. They have
very little any longer to conceal; that is, in regard to things that
should be thought about and talked about at all. They are not afraid to
be gay, and to have enthusiasms. At sixty and eighty a refined and well-
bred woman is emancipated in the best way, and in the enjoyment of the
full play of the richest qualities of her womanhood. She is as far from
prudery as from the least note of vulgarity. Passion, perhaps, is
replaced by a great capacity for friendliness, and she was never more a
real woman than in these mellow and reflective days. And how interesting
she is--adding so much knowledge of life to the complex interest that
inheres in her sex! Knowledge of life, yes, and of affairs; for it must
be said of these ladies we have in mind that they keep up with the
current thought, that they are readers of books, even of newspapers--for
even the newspaper can be helpful and not harmful in the alembic of their

Let not the purpose of this paper be misunderstood. It is not to urge
young women to become old or to act like old women. The independence and
frankness of age might not be becoming to them. They must stumble along
as best they can, alternately attracting and repelling, until by right of
years they join that serene company which is altogether beautiful. There
is a natural unfolding and maturing to the beauty of old age. The
mission of woman, about which we are pretty weary of hearing, is not
accomplished by any means in her years of vernal bloom and loveliness;
she has equal power to bless and sweeten life in the autumn of her
pilgrimage. But here is an apologue: The peach, from blossom to
maturity, is the most attractive of fruits. Yet the demands of the
market, competition, and fashion often cause it to be plucked and shipped
while green. It never matures, though it may take a deceptive richness
of color; it decays without ripening. And the last end of that peach is
worse than the first.


On one of the most charming of the many wonderfully picturesque little
beaches on the Pacific coast, near Monterey, is the idlest if not the
most disagreeable social group in the world. Just off the shore, farther
than a stone's-throw, lies a mass of broken rocks. The surf comes
leaping and laughing in, sending up, above the curving green breakers and
crests of foam, jets and spirals of water which flash like silver
fountains in the sunlight. These islets of rocks are the homes of the
sea-lion. This loafer of the coast congregates here by the thousand.
Sometimes the rocks are quite covered, the smooth rounded surface of the
larger one presenting the appearance at a distance of a knoll dotted with
dirty sheep. There is generally a select knot of a dozen floating about
in the still water under the lee of the rock, bobbing up their tails and
flippers very much as black driftwood might heave about in the tide.
During certain parts of the day members of this community are off fishing
in deep water; but what they like best to do is to crawl up on the rocks
and grunt and bellow, or go to sleep in the sun. Some of them lie half in
water, their tails floating and their ungainly heads wagging. These
uneasy ones are always wriggling out or plunging in. Some crawl to the
tops of the rocks and lie like gunny bags stuffed with meal, or they
repose on the broken surfaces like masses of jelly. When they are all at
home the rocks have not room for them, and they crawl on and over each
other, and lie like piles of undressed pork. In the water they are
black, but when they are dry in the sun the skin becomes a dirty light
brown. Many of them are huge fellows, with a body as big as an ox. In
the water they are repulsively graceful; on the rocks they are as
ungainly as boneless cows, or hogs that have lost their shape in
prosperity. Summer and winter (and it is almost always summer on this
coast) these beasts, which are well fitted neither for land nor water,
spend their time in absolute indolence, except when they are compelled to
cruise around in the deep water for food. They are of no use to anybody,
either for their skin or their flesh. Nothing could be more thoroughly
disgusting and uncanny than they are, and yet nothing more fascinating.
One can watch them--the irresponsible, formless lumps of intelligent
flesh--for hours without tiring. I scarcely know what the fascination
is. A small seal playing by himself near the shore, floating on and
diving under the breakers, is not so very disagreeable, especially if he
comes so near that you can see his pathetic eyes; but these brutes in
this perpetual summer resort are disgustingly attractive. Nearly
everything about them, including their voice, is repulsive. Perhaps it
is the absolute idleness of the community that makes it so interesting.
To fish, to swim, to snooze on the rocks, that is all, for ever and ever.
No past, no future. A society that lives for the laziest sort of
pleasure. If they were rich, what more could they have? Is not this the
ideal of a watering-place life?

The spectacle of this happy community ought to teach us humility and
charity in judgment. Perhaps the philosophy of its attractiveness lies
deeper than its 'dolce far niente' existence. We may never have
considered the attraction for us of the disagreeable, the positive
fascination of the uncommonly ugly. The repulsive fascination of the
loathly serpent or dragon for women can hardly be explained on
theological grounds. Some cranks have maintained that the theory of
gravitation alone does not explain the universe, that repulsion is as
necessary as attraction in our economy. This may apply to society. We
are all charmed with the luxuriance of a semi-tropical landscape, so
violently charmed that we become in time tired of its overpowering bloom
and color. But what is the charm of the wide, treeless desert, the
leagues of sand and burnt-up chaparral, the distant savage, fantastic
mountains, the dry desolation as of a world burnt out? It is not
contrast altogether. For this illimitable waste has its own charm; and
again and again, when we come to a world of vegetation, where the vision
is shut in by beauty, we shall have an irrepressible longing for these
wind-swept plains as wide as the sea, with the ashy and pink horizons.
We shall long to be weary of it all again--its vast nakedness, its
shimmering heat, its cold, star-studded nights. It seems paradoxical,
but it is probably true, that a society composed altogether of agreeable
people would become a terrible bore. We are a "kittle" lot, and hard to
please for long. We know how it is in the matter of climate. Why is it
that the masses of the human race live in the most disagreeable climates
to be found on the globe, subject to extremes of heat and cold, sudden
and unprovoked changes, frosts, fogs, malarias? In such regions they
congregate, and seem to like the vicissitudes, to like the excitement of
the struggle with the weather and the patent medicines to keep alive.
They hate the agreeable monotony of one genial day following another the
year through. They praise this monotony, all literature is full of it;
people always say they are in search of the equable climate; but they
continue to live, nevertheless, or try to live, in the least equable; and
if they can find one spot more disagreeable than another there they build
a big city. If man could make his ideal climate he would probably be
dissatisfied with it in a month. The effect of climate upon disposition
and upon manners needs to be considered some day; but we are now only
trying to understand the attractiveness of the disagreeable. There must
be some reason for it; and that would explain a social phenomenon, why
there are so many unattractive people, and why the attractive readers of
these essays could not get on without them.

The writer of this once traveled for days with an intelligent curmudgeon,
who made himself at all points as prickly as the porcupine. There was no
getting on with him. And yet when he dropped out of the party he was
sorely missed. He was more attractively repulsive than the sea-lion. It
was such a luxury to hate him. He was such a counter-irritant, such a
stimulant; such a flavor he gave to life. We are always on the lookout
for the odd, the eccentric, the whimsical. We pretend that we like the
orderly, the beautiful, the pleasant. We can find them anywhere--the
little bits of scenery that please the eye, the pleasant households, the
group of delightful people. Why travel, then? We want the abnormal, the
strong, the ugly, the unusual at least. We wish to be startled and
stirred up and repelled. And we ought to be more thankful than we are

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