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

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Perhaps the most curious and interesting phrase ever put into a public
document is "the pursuit of happiness." It is declared to be an
inalienable right. It cannot be sold. It cannot be given away. It is
doubtful if it could be left by will.

The right of every man to be six feet high, and of every woman to be five
feet four, was regarded as self-evident until women asserted their
undoubted right to be six feet high also, when some confusion was
introduced into the interpretation of this rhetorical fragment of the
eighteenth century.

But the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness has never been
questioned since it was proclaimed as a new gospel for the New World.
The American people accepted it with enthusiasm, as if it had been the
discovery of a gold-prospector, and started out in the pursuit as if the
devil were after them.

If the proclamation had been that happiness is a common right of the
race, alienable or otherwise, that all men are or may be happy, history
and tradition might have interfered to raise a doubt whether even the new
form of government could so change the ethical condition. But the right
to make a pursuit of happiness, given in a fundamental bill of rights,
had quite a different aspect. Men had been engaged in many pursuits,
most of them disastrous, some of them highly commendable. A sect in
Galilee had set up the pursuit of righteousness as the only or the
highest object of man's immortal powers. The rewards of it, however,
were not always immediate. Here was a political sanction of a pursuit
that everybody acknowledged to be of a good thing.

Given a heart-aching longing in every human being for happiness, here was
high warrant for going in pursuit of it. And the curious effect of this
'mot d'ordre' was that the pursuit arrested the attention as the most
essential, and the happiness was postponed, almost invariably, to some
future season, when leisure or plethora, that is, relaxation or gorged
desire, should induce that physical and moral glow which is commonly
accepted as happiness. This glow of well-being is sometimes called
contentment, but contentment was not in the programme. If it came at
all, it was only to come after strenuous pursuit, that being the
inalienable right.

People, to be sure, have different conceptions of happiness, but whatever
they are, it is the custom, almost universal, to postpone the thing
itself. This, of course, is specially true in our American system, where
we have a chartered right to the thing itself. Other nations who have no
such right may take it out in occasional driblets, odd moments that come,
no doubt, to men and races who have no privilege of voting, or to such
favored places as New York city, whose government is always the same,
however they vote.

We are all authorized to pursue happiness, and we do as a general thing
make a pursuit of it. Instead of simply being happy in the condition
where we are, getting the sweets of life in human intercourse, hour by
hour, as the bees take honey from every flower that opens in the summer
air, finding happiness in the well-filled and orderly mind, in the sane
and enlightened spirit, in the self that has become what the self should
be, we say that tomorrow, next year, in ten or twenty or thirty years,
when we have arrived at certain coveted possessions or situation, we will
be happy. Some philosophers dignify this postponement with the name of

Sometimes wandering in a primeval forest, in all the witchery of the
woods, besought by the kindliest solicitations of nature, wild flowers in
the trail, the call of the squirrel, the flutter of birds, the great
world-music of the wind in the pine-tops, the flecks of sunlight on the
brown carpet and on the rough bark of immemorial trees, I find myself
unconsciously postponing my enjoyment until I shall reach a hoped-for
open place of full sun and boundless prospect.

The analogy cannot be pushed, for it is the common experience that these
open spots in life, where leisure and space and contentment await us, are
usually grown up with thickets, fuller of obstacles, to say nothing of
labors and duties and difficulties, than any part of the weary path we
have trod.

Why add the pursuit of happiness to our other inalienable worries?
Perhaps there is something wrong in ourselves when we hear the complaint
so often that men are pursued by disaster instead of being pursued by

We all believe in happiness as something desirable and attainable, and I
take it that this is the underlying desire when we speak of the pursuit
of wealth, the pursuit of learning, the pursuit of power in office or in
influence, that is, that we shall come into happiness when the objects
last named are attained. No amount of failure seems to lessen this
belief. It is matter of experience that wealth and learning and power
are as likely to bring unhappiness as happiness, and yet this constant
lesson of experience makes not the least impression upon human conduct.
I suppose that the reason of this unheeding of experience is that every
person born into the world is the only one exactly of that kind that ever
was or ever will be created, so that he thinks he may be exempt from the
general rules. At any rate, he goes at the pursuit of happiness in
exactly the old way, as if it were an original undertaking. Perhaps the
most melancholy spectacle offered to us in our short sojourn in this
pilgrimage, where the roads are so dusty and the caravansaries so ill
provided, is the credulity of this pursuit. Mind, I am not objecting to
the pursuit of wealth, or of learning, or of power, they are all
explainable, if not justifiable,--but to the blindness that does not
perceive their futility as a means of attaining the end sought, which is
happiness, an end that can only be compassed by the right adjustment of
each soul to this and to any coming state of existence. For whether the
great scholar who is stuffed with knowledge is happier than the great
money-getter who is gorged with riches, or the wily politician who is a
Warwick in his realm, depends entirely upon what sort of a man this
pursuit has made him. There is a kind of fallacy current nowadays that a
very rich man, no matter by what unscrupulous means he has gathered an
undue proportion of the world into his possession, can be happy if he can
turn round and make a generous and lavish distribution of it for worthy
purposes. If he has preserved a remnant of conscience, this distribution
may give him much satisfaction, and justly increase his good opinion of
his own deserts; but the fallacy is in leaving out of account the sort of
man he has become in this sort of pursuit. Has he escaped that hardening
of the nature, that drying up of the sweet springs of sympathy, which
usually attend a long-continued selfish undertaking? Has either he or
the great politician or the great scholar cultivated the real sources of

The pursuit of happiness! It is not strange that men call it an
illusion. But I am well satisfied that it is not the thing itself, but
the pursuit, that is an illusion. Instead of thinking of the pursuit,
why not fix our thoughts upon the moments, the hours, perhaps the days,
of this divine peace, this merriment of body and mind, that can be
repeated and perhaps indefinitely extended by the simplest of all means,
namely, a disposition to make the best of whatever comes to us? Perhaps
the Latin poet was right in saying that no man can count himself happy
while in this life, that is, in a continuous state of happiness; but as
there is for the soul no time save the conscious moment called "now," it
is quite possible to make that "now" a happy state of existence. The
point I make is that we should not habitually postpone that season of
happiness to the future.

No one, I trust, wishes to cloud the dreams of youth, or to dispel by
excess of light what are called the illusions of hope. But why should
the boy be nurtured in the current notion that he is to be really happy
only when he has finished school, when he has got a business or
profession by which money can be made, when he has come to manhood? The
girl also dreams that for her happiness lies ahead, in that springtime
when she is crossing the line of womanhood,--all the poets make much of
this,--when she is married and learns the supreme lesson how to rule by
obeying. It is only when the girl and the boy look back upon the years
of adolescence that they realize how happy they might have been then if
they had only known they were happy, and did not need to go in pursuit of

The pitiful part of this inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness
is, however, that most men interpret it to mean the pursuit of wealth,
and strive for that always, postponing being happy until they get a
fortune, and if they are lucky in that, find at the end that the
happiness has somehow eluded them, that; in short, they have not
cultivated that in themselves that alone can bring happiness. More than
that, they have lost the power of the enjoyment of the essential
pleasures of life. I think that the woman in the Scriptures who out of
her poverty put her mite into the contribution-box got more happiness out
of that driblet of generosity and self-sacrifice than some men in our day
have experienced in founding a university.

And how fares it with the intellectual man? To be a selfish miner of
learning, for self-gratification only, is no nobler in reality than to be
a miser of money. And even when the scholar is lavish of his knowledge
in helping an ignorant world, he may find that if he has made his studies
as a pursuit of happiness he has missed his object. Much knowledge
increases the possibility of enjoyment, but also the possibility of
sorrow. If intellectual pursuits contribute to an enlightened and
altogether admirable character, then indeed has the student found the
inner springs of happiness. Otherwise one cannot say that the wise man
is happier than the ignorant man.

In fine, and in spite of the political injunction, we need to consider
that happiness is an inner condition, not to be raced after. And what an
advance in our situation it would be if we could get it into our heads
here in this land of inalienable rights that the world would turn round
just the same if we stood still and waited for the daily coming of our


Is the divorce of Literature and the Stage complete, or is it still only
partial? As the lawyers say, is it a 'vinculo', or only a 'mensa et
thoro? And if this divorce is permanent, is it a good thing for
literature or the stage? Is the present condition of the stage a
degeneration, as some say, or is it a natural evolution of an art
independent of literature?

How long is it since a play has been written and accepted and played
which has in it any so-called literary quality or is an addition to
literature? And what is dramatic art as at present understood and
practiced by the purveyors of plays for the public? If any one can
answer these questions, he will contribute something to the discussion
about the tendency of the modern stage.

Every one recognizes in the "good old plays" which are occasionally
"revived" both a quality and an intention different from anything in
most contemporary productions. They are real dramas, the interest of
which depends upon sentiment, upon an exhibition of human nature, upon
the interaction of varied character, and upon plot, and we recognize in
them a certain literary art. They can be read with pleasure. Scenery
and mechanical contrivance may heighten the effects, but they are not
absolute essentials.

In the contemporary play instead of character we have "characters,"
usually exaggerations of some trait, so pushed forward as to become
caricatures. Consistency to human nature is not insisted on in plot, but
there must be startling and unexpected incidents, mechanical devices, and
a great deal of what is called "business," which clearly has as much
relation to literature as have the steps of a farceur in a clog-dance.
The composition of such plays demands literary ability in the least
degree, but ingenuity in inventing situations and surprises; the text is
nothing, the action is everything; but the text is considerably improved
if it have brightness of repartee and a lively apprehension of
contemporary events, including the slang of the hour. These plays appear
to be made up by the writer, the manager, the carpenter, the costumer.
If they are successful with the modern audiences, their success is
probably due to other things than any literary quality they may have, or
any truth to life or to human nature.

We see how this is in the great number of plays adapted from popular
novels. In the "dramatization" of these stories, pretty much everything
is left out of the higher sort that the reader has valued in the story.
The romance of "Monte Cristo" is an illustration of this. The play is
vulgar melodrama, out of which has escaped altogether the refinement and
the romantic idealism of the stirring romance of Dumas. Now and then, to
be sure, we get a different result, as in "Olivia," where all the pathos
and character of the "Vicar of Wakefield" are preserved, and the effect
of the play depends upon passion and sentiment. But as a rule, we get
only the more obvious saliencies, the bones of the novel, fitted in or
clothed with stage "business."

Of course it is true that literary men, even dramatic authors, may write
and always have written dramas not suited to actors, that could not well
be put upon the stage. But it remains true that the greatest dramas,
those that have endured from the Greek times down, have been (for the
audiences of their times) both good reading and good acting plays.

I am not competent to criticise the stage or its tendency. But I am
interested in noticing the increasing non-literary character of modern
plays. It may be explained as a necessary and justifiable evolution of
the stage. The managers may know what the audience wants, just as the
editors of some of the most sensational newspapers say that they make a
newspaper to suit the public. The newspaper need not be well written,
but it must startle with incident and surprise, found or invented.
An observer must notice that the usual theatre-audience in New York or
Boston today laughs at and applauds costumes, situations, innuendoes,
doubtful suggestions, that it would have blushed at a few years ago. Has
the audience been creating a theatre to suit its taste, or have the
managers been educating an audience? Has the divorce of literary art
from the mimic art of the stage anything to do with this condition?

The stage can be amusing, but can it show life as it is without the aid
of idealizing literary art? And if the stage goes on in this
materialistic way, how long will it be before it ceases to amuse
intelligent, not to say intellectual people?


In the minds of the public there is a mystery about the practice of
medicine. It deals more or less with the unknown, with the occult, it
appeals to the imagination. Doubtless confidence in its practitioners is
still somewhat due to the belief that they are familiar with the secret
processes of nature, if they are not in actual alliance with the
supernatural. Investigation of the ground of the popular faith in the
doctor would lead us into metaphysics. And yet our physical condition
has much to do with this faith. It is apt to be weak when one is in
perfect health; but when one is sick it grows strong. Saint and sinner
both warm up to the doctor when the judgment Day heaves in view.

In the popular apprehension the doctor is still the Medicine Man. We
smile when we hear about his antics in barbarous tribes; he dresses
fantastically, he puts horns on his head, he draws circles on the ground,
he dances about the patient, shaking his rattle and uttering
incantations. There is nothing to laugh at. He is making an appeal to
the imagination. And sometimes he cures, and sometimes he kills; in
either case he gets his fee. What right have we to laugh? We live in an
enlightened age, and yet a great proportion of the people, perhaps not a
majority, still believe in incantations, have faith in ignorant
practitioners who advertise a "natural gift," or a secret process or
remedy, and prefer the charlatan who is exactly on the level of the
Indian Medicine Man, to the regular practitioner, and to the scientific
student of mind and body and of the properties of the materia medica.
Why, even here in Connecticut, it is impossible to get a law to protect
the community from the imposition of knavish or ignorant quacks, and to
require of a man some evidence of capacity and training and skill, before
he is let loose to experiment upon suffering humanity. Our teachers must
pass an examination--though the examiner sometimes does not know as much
as the candidate,--for misguiding the youthful mind; the lawyer cannot
practice without study and a formal admission to the bar; and even the
clergyman is not accepted in any responsible charge until he has given
evidence of some moral and intellectual fitness. But the profession
affecting directly the health and life of every human body, which needs
to avail itself of the accumulated experience, knowledge, and science of
all the ages, is open to every ignorant and stupid practitioner on the
credulity of the public. Why cannot we get a law regulating the
profession which is of most vital interest to all of us, excluding
ignorance and quackery? Because the majority of our legislature,
representing, I suppose, the majority of the public, believe in the
"natural bone-setter," the herb doctor, the root doctor, the old woman
who brews a decoction of swamp medicine, the "natural gift" of some
dabbler in diseases, the magnetic healer, the faith cure, the mind cure,
the Christian Science cure, the efficacy of a prescription rapped out on
a table by some hysterical medium,--in anything but sound knowledge,
education in scientific methods, steadied by a sense of public
responsibility. Not long ago, on a cross-country road, I came across a
woman in a farmhouse, where I am sure the barn-yard drained into the
well, who was sick; she had taken a shop-full of patent medicines.
I advised her to send for a doctor. She had no confidence in doctors,
but said she reckoned she would get along now, for she had sent for the
seventh son of a seventh son, and didn't I think he could certainly cure
her? I said that combination ought to fetch any disease except
agnosticism. That woman probably influenced a vote in the legislature.
The legislature believes in incantations; it ought to have in attendance
an Indian Medicine Man.

We think the world is progressing in enlightenment; I suppose it is--inch
by inch. But it is not easy to name an age that has cherished more
delusions than ours, or been more superstitious, or more credulous, more
eager to run after quackery. Especially is this true in regard to
remedies for diseases, and the faith in healers and quacks outside of the
regular, educated professors of the medical art. Is this an
exaggeration? Consider the quantity of proprietary medicines taken in
this country, some of them harmless, some of them good in some cases,
some of them injurious, but generally taken without advice and in
absolute ignorance of the nature of the disease or the specific action of
the remedy. The drug-shops are full of them, especially in country
towns; and in the far West and on the Pacific coast I have been
astonished at the quantity and variety displayed. They are found in
almost every house; the country is literally dosed to death with these
manufactured nostrums and panaceas--and that is the most popular medicine
which can be used for the greatest number of internal and external
diseases and injuries. Many newspapers are half supported by advertising
them, and millions and millions of dollars are invested in this popular
industry. Needless to say that the patented remedies most in request are
those that profess a secret and unscientific origin. Those most "purely
vegetable" seem most suitable to the wooden-heads who believe in them,
but if one were sufficiently advertised as not containing a single trace
of vegetable matter, avoiding thus all possible conflict of one organic
life with another organic life, it would be just as popular. The
favorites are those that have been secretly used by an East Indian fakir,
or accidentally discovered as the natural remedy, dug out of the ground
by an American Indian tribe, or steeped in a kettle by an ancient colored
person in a southern plantation, or washed ashore on the person of a
sailor from the South Seas, or invented by a very aged man in New Jersey,
who could not read, but had spent his life roaming in the woods, and
whose capacity for discovering a "universal panacea," besides his
ignorance and isolation, lay in the fact that his sands of life had
nearly run. It is the supposed secrecy or low origin of the remedy that
is its attraction. The basis of the vast proprietary medicine business
is popular ignorance and credulity. And it needs to be pretty broad to
support a traffic of such enormous proportions.

During this generation certain branches of the life-saving and life-
prolonging art have made great advances out of empiricism onto the solid
ground of scientific knowledge. Of course I refer to surgery, and to the
discovery of the causes and improvement in the treatment of contagious
and epidemic diseases. The general practice has shared in this
scientific advance, but it is limited and always will be limited within
experimental bounds, by the infinite variations in individual
constitutions, and the almost incalculable element of the interference of
mental with physical conditions. When we get an exact science of man, we
may expect an exact science of medicine. How far we are from this, we
see when we attempt to make criminal anthropology the basis of criminal
legislation. Man is so complex that if we were to eliminate one of his
apparently worse qualities, we might develop others still worse, or throw
the whole machine into inefficiency. By taking away what the
phrenologists call combativeness, we could doubtless stop prize-fight,
but we might have a springless society. The only safe way is that taught
by horticulture, to feed a fruit-tree generously, so that it has vigor
enough to throw off its degenerate tendencies and its enemies, or, as the
doctors say in medical practice, bring up the general system. That is to
say, there is more hope for humanity in stimulating the good, than in
directly suppressing the evil. It is on something like this line that
the greatest advance has been made in medical practice; I mean in the
direction of prevention. This involves, of course, the exclusion of the
evil, that is, of suppressing the causes that produce disease, as well as
in cultivating the resistant power of the human system. In sanitation,
diet, and exercise are the great fields of medical enterprise and
advance. I need not say that the physician who, in the case of those
under his charge, or who may possibly require his aid, contents himself
with waiting for developed disease, is like the soldier in a besieged
city who opens the gates and then attempts to repel the invader who has
effected a lodgment. I hope the time will come when the chief practice
of the physician will be, first, in oversight of the sanitary condition
of his neighborhood, and, next, in preventive attendance on people who
think they are well, and are all unconscious of the insidious approach
of some concealed malady.

Another great change in modern practice is specialization. Perhaps it
has not yet reached the delicate particularity of the practice in ancient
Egypt, where every minute part of the human economy had its exclusive
doctor. This is inevitable in a scientific age, and the result has been
on the whole an advance of knowledge, and improved treatment of specific
ailments. The danger is apparent. It is that of the moral specialist,
who has only one hobby and traces every human ill to strong liquor or
tobacco, or the corset, or taxation of personal property, or denial of
universal suffrage, or the eating of meat, or the want of the
centralization of nearly all initiative and interest and property in the
state. The tendency of the accomplished specialist in medicine is to
refer all physical trouble to the ill conduct of the organ he presides
over. He can often trace every disease to want of width in the nostrils,
to a defective eye, to a sensitive throat, to shut-up pores, to an
irritated stomach, to auricular defect. I suppose he is generally right,
but I have a perhaps natural fear that if I happened to consult an
amputationist about catarrh he would want to cut off my leg. I confess
to an affection for the old-fashioned, all-round country doctor, who took
a general view of his patient, knew his family, his constitution, all the
gossip about his mental or business troubles, his affairs of the heart,
disappointments in love, incompatibilities of temper, and treated the
patient, as the phrase is, for all he was worth, and gave him visible
medicine out of good old saddle-bags--how much faith we used to have in
those saddle-bags--and not a prescription in a dead language to be put up
by a dead-head clerk who occasionally mistakes arsenic for carbonate of
soda. I do not mean, however, to say there is no sense in the retention
of the hieroglyphics which the doctors use to communicate their ideas to
a druggist, for I had a prescription made in Hartford put up in Naples,
and that could not have happened if it had been written in English. And
I am not sure but the mysterious symbols have some effect on the patient.

The mention of the intimate knowledge of family and constitutional
conditions possessed by the old-fashioned country doctor, whose main
strength lay in this and in his common-sense, reminds me of another great
advance in the modern practice, in the attempt to understand nature
better by the scientific study of psychology and the occult relations of
mind and body. It is in the study of temper, temperament, hereditary
predispositions, that we may expect the most brilliant results in
preventive medicine.

As a layman, I cannot but notice another great advance in the medical
profession. It is not alone in it. It is rather expected that the
lawyers will divide the oyster between them and leave the shell to the
contestants. I suppose that doctors, almost without exception, give more
of their time and skill in the way of charity than almost any other
profession. But somebody must pay, and fees have increased with the
general cost of living and dying. If fees continue to increase as they
have done in the past ten years in the great cities, like New York,
nobody not a millionaire can afford to be sick. The fees will soon be a
prohibitive tax. I cannot say that this will be altogether an evil, for
the cost of calling medical aid may force people to take better care of
themselves. Still, the excessive charges are rather hard on people in
moderate circumstances who are compelled to seek surgical aid. And here
we touch one of the regrettable symptoms of the times, which is not by
any means most conspicuous in the medical profession. I mean the
tendency to subordinate the old notion of professional duty to the greed
for money. The lawyers are almost universally accused of it; even the
clergymen are often suspected of being influenced by it. The young man
is apt to choose a profession on calculation of its profit. It will be a
bad day for science and for the progress of the usefulness of the medical
profession when the love of money in its practice becomes stronger than
professional enthusiasm, than the noble ambition of distinction for
advancing the science, and the devotion to human welfare.

I do not prophesy it. Rather I expect interest in humanity, love of
science for itself, sympathy with suffering, self-sacrifice for others,
to increase in the world, and be stronger in the end than sordid love of
gain and the low ambition of rivalry in materialistic display. To this
higher life the physician is called. I often wonder that there are so
many men, brilliant men, able men, with so many talents for success in
any calling, willing to devote their lives to a profession which demands
so much self-sacrifice, so much hardship, so much contact with suffering,
subject to the call of all the world at any hour of the day or night,
involving so much personal risk, carrying so much heart-breaking
responsibility, responded to by so much constant heroism, a heroism
requiring the risk of life in a service the only glory of which is a good
name and the approval of one's conscience.

To the members of such a profession, in spite of their human infirmities
and limitations and unworthy hangers-on, I bow with admiration and the
respect which we feel for that which is best in this world.


It seems somehow more nearly an irreparable loss to us than to "H. H."
that she did not live to taste her very substantial fame in Southern
California. We should have had such delight in her unaffected pleasure
in it, and it would have been one of those satisfactions somewhat
adequate to our sense of fitness that are so seldom experienced. It was
my good fortune to see Mrs. Jackson frequently in the days in New York
when she was writing "Ramona," which was begun and perhaps finished in
the Berkeley House. The theme had complete possession of her, and
chapter after chapter flowed from her pen as easily as one would write a
letter to a friend; and she had an ever fresh and vigorous delight in it.
I have often thought that no one enjoyed the sensation of living more
than Mrs. Jackson, or was more alive to all the influences of nature and
the contact of mind with mind, more responsive to all that was exquisite
and noble either in nature or in society, or more sensitive to the
disagreeable. This is merely saying that she was a poet; but when she
became interested in the Indians, and especially in the harsh fate of the
Mission Indians in California, all her nature was fused for the time in a
lofty enthusiasm of pity and indignation, and all her powers seemed to be
consecrated to one purpose. Enthusiasm and sympathy will not make a
novel, but all the same they are necessary to the production of a work
that has in it real vital quality, and in this case all previous
experience and artistic training became the unconscious servants of Mrs.
Jackson's heart. I know she had very little conceit about her
performance, but she had a simple consciousness that she was doing her
best work, and that if the world should care much for anything she had
done, after she was gone, it would be for "Ramona." She had put herself
into it.

And yet I am certain that she could have had no idea what the novel would
be to the people of Southern California, or how it would identify her
name with all that region, and make so many scenes in it places of
pilgrimage and romantic interest for her sake. I do not mean to say that
the people in California knew personally Ramona and Alessandro, or
altogether believe in them, but that in their idealizations they
recognize a verity and the ultimate truth of human nature, while in the
scenery, in the fading sentiment of the old Spanish life, and the romance
and faith of the Missions, the author has done for the region very much
what Scott did for the Highlands. I hope she knows now, I presume she
does, that more than one Indian school in the Territories is called the
Ramona School; that at least two villages in California are contending
for the priority of using the name Ramona; that all the travelers and
tourists (at least in the time they can spare from real-estate
speculations) go about under her guidance, are pilgrims to the shrines
she has described, and eager searchers for the scenes she has made famous
in her novel; that more than one city and more than one town claims the
honor of connection with the story; that the tourist has pointed out to
him in more than one village the very house where Ramona lived, where she
was married--indeed, that a little crop of legends has already grown up
about the story itself. I was myself shown the house in Los Angeles
where the story was written, and so strong is the local impression that I
confess to looking at the rose-embowered cottage with a good deal of
interest, though I had seen the romance growing day by day in the
Berkeley in New York.

The undoubted scene of the loves of Ramona and Alessandro is the Comulos
rancho, on the railway from Newhall to Santa Paula, the route that one
takes now (unless he wants to have a lifelong remembrance of the ground
swells of the Pacific in an uneasy little steamer) to go from Los Angeles
to Santa Barbara. It is almost the only one remaining of the old-
fashioned Spanish haciendas, where the old administration prevails. The
new railway passes it now, and the hospitable owners have been obliged to
yield to the public curiosity and provide entertainment for a continual
stream of visitors. The place is so perfectly described in "Ramona" that
I do not need to draw it over again, and I violate no confidence and only
certify to the extraordinary powers of delineation of the novelist, when
I say that she only spent a few hours there,--not a quarter of the time
we spent in identifying her picture. We knew the situation before the
train stopped by the crosses erected on the conspicuous peaks of the
serrated ashy--or shall I say purple--hills that enfold the fertile
valley. It is a great domain, watered by a swift river, and sheltered by
wonderfully picturesque mountains. The house is strictly in the old
Spanish style, of one story about a large court, with flowers and a
fountain, in which are the most noisy if not musical frogs in the world,
and all the interior rooms opening upon a gallery. The real front is
towards the garden, and here at the end of the gallery is the elevated
room where Father Salvierderra slept when he passed a night at the
hacienda,--a pretty room which has a case of Spanish books, mostly
religious and legal, and some quaint and cheap holy pictures. We had a
letter to Signora Del Valle, the mistress, and were welcomed with a sort
of formal extension of hospitality that put us back into the courtly
manners of a hundred years ago. The Signora, who is in no sense the
original of the mistress whom "H. H." describes, is a widow now for
seven years, and is the vigilant administrator of all her large domain,
of the stock, the grazing lands, the vineyard, the sheep ranch, and all
the people. Rising very early in the morning, she visits every
department, and no detail is too minute to escape her inspection, and no
one in the great household but feels her authority.

It was a very lovely day on the 17th of March (indeed, I suppose it had
been preceded by 364 days exactly like it) as we sat upon the gallery
looking on the garden, a garden of oranges, roses, citrons, lemons,
peaches--what fruit and flower was not growing there?--acres and acres of
vineyard beyond, with the tall cane and willows by the stream, and the
purple mountains against the sapphire sky. Was there ever anything more
exquisite than the peach-blossoms against that blue sky! Such a place of
peace. A soft south wind was blowing, and all the air was drowsy with
the hum of bees. In the garden is a vine-covered arbor, with seats and
tables, and at the end of it is the opening into a little chapel, a
domestic chapel, carpeted like a parlor, and bearing all the emblems of a
loving devotion. By the garden gate hang three small bells, from some
old mission, all cracked, but serving (each has its office) to summon the
workmen or to call to prayer.

Perfect system reigns in Signora Del Valle's establishment, and even the
least child in it has its duty. At sundown a little slip of a girl went
out to the gate and struck one of the bells. "What is that for?" I asked
as she returned. "It is the Angelus," she said simply. I do not know
what would happen to her if she should neglect to strike it at the hour.
At eight o'clock the largest bell was struck, and the Signora and all her
household, including the house servants, went out to the little chapel in
the garden, which was suddenly lighted with candles, gleaming brilliantly
through the orange groves. The Signora read the service, the household
responding--a twenty minutes' service, which is as much a part of the
administration of the establishment as visiting the granaries and
presses, and the bringing home of the goats. The Signora's apartments,
which she permitted us to see, were quite in the nature of an oratory,
with shrines and sacred pictures and relics of the faith. By the shrine
at the head of her bed hung the rosary carried by Father Junipero,--a
priceless possession. From her presses and armoires, the Signora, seeing
we had a taste for such things, brought out the feminine treasures of
three generations, the silk and embroidered dresses of last century, the
ribosas, the jewelry, the brilliant stuffs of China and Mexico, each
article with a memory and a flavor.

But I must not be betrayed into writing about Ramona's house. How
charming indeed it was the next morning,--though the birds in the garden
were astir a little too early,--with the thermometer set to the exact
degree of warmth without languor, the sky blue, the wind soft, the air
scented with orange and jessamine. The Signora had already visited all
her premises before we were up. We had seen the evening before an
enclosure near the house full of cashmere goats and kids, whose antics
were sufficiently amusing--most of them had now gone afield; workmen were
coming for their orders, plowing was going on in the barley fields,
traders were driving to the plantation store, the fierce eagle in a big
cage by the olive press was raging at his detention. Within the house
enclosure are an olive mill and press, a wine-press and a great
storehouse of wine, containing now little but empty casks,--a dusky,
interesting place, with pomegranates and dried bunches of grapes and
oranges and pieces of jerked meat hanging from the rafters. Near by is a
cornhouse and a small distillery, and the corrals for sheep shearing are
not far off. The ranches for cattle and sheep are on the other side of
the mountain.

Peace be with Comulos. It must please the author of "Ramona" to know
that it continues in the old ways; and I trust she is undisturbed by the
knowledge that the rage for change will not long let it be what it now


No doubt one of the most charming creations in all poetry is Nausicaa,
the white-armed daughter of King Alcinous. There is no scene, no
picture, in the heroic times more pleasing than the meeting of Ulysses
with this damsel on the wild seashore of Scheria, where the Wanderer had
been tossed ashore by the tempest. The place of this classic meeting was
probably on the west coast of Corfu, that incomparable island, to whose
beauty the legend of the exquisite maidenhood of the daughter of the king
of the Phaeacians has added an immortal bloom.

We have no difficulty in recalling it in all its distinctness: the bright
morning on which Nausicaa came forth from the palace, where her mother
sat and turned the distaff loaded with a fleece dyed in sea-purple,
mounted the car piled with the robes to be cleansed in the stream, and,
attended by her bright-haired, laughing handmaidens, drove to the banks
of the river, where out of its sweet grasses it flowed over clean sand
into the Adriatic. The team is loosed to browse the grass; the garments
are flung into the dark water, then trampled with hasty feet in frolic
rivalry, and spread upon the gravel to dry. Then the maidens bathe, give
their limbs the delicate oil from the cruse of gold, sit by the stream
and eat their meal, and, refreshed, mistress and maidens lay aside their
veils and play at ball, and Nausicaa begins a song. Though all were
fair, like Diana was this spotless virgin midst her maids. A missed ball
and maidenly screams waken Ulysses from his sleep in the thicket. At the
apparition of the unclad, shipwrecked sailor the maidens flee right and
left. Nausicaa alone keeps her place, secure in her unconscious modesty.
To the astonished Sport of Fortune the vision of this radiant girl, in
shape and stature and in noble air, is more than mortal, yet scarcely
more than woman:

"Like thee, I saw of late,
In Delos, a young palm-tree growing up
Beside Apollo's altar."

When the Wanderer has bathed, and been clad in robes from the pile on the
sand, and refreshed with food and wine which the hospitable maidens put
before him, the train sets out for the town, Ulysses following the
chariot among the bright-haired women. But before that Nausicaa, in the
candor of those early days, says to her attendants:

"I would that I might call
A man like him my husband, dwelling here
And here content to dwell."

Is there any woman in history more to be desired than this sweet, pure-
minded, honest-hearted girl, as she is depicted with a few swift touches
by the great poet?--the dutiful daughter in her father's house, the
joyous companion of girls, the beautiful woman whose modest bearing
commands the instant homage of man. Nothing is more enduring in
literature than this girl and the scene on the--Corfu sands.

The sketch, though distinct, is slight, little more than outlines; no
elaboration, no analysis; just an incident, as real as the blue sky of
Scheria and the waves on the yellow sand. All the elements of the
picture are simple, human, natural, standing in as unconfused relations
as any events in common life. I am not recalling it because it is a
conspicuous instance of the true realism that is touched with the
ideality of genius, which is the immortal element in literature, but as
an illustration of the other necessary quality in all productions of the
human mind that remain age after age, and that is simplicity. This is
the stamp of all enduring work; this is what appeals to the universal
understanding from generation to generation. All the masterpieces that
endure and become a part of our lives are characterized by it. The eye,
like the mind, hates confusion and overcrowding. All the elements in
beauty, grandeur, pathos, are simple--as simple as the lines in a Nile
picture: the strong river, the yellow desert, the palms, the pyramids;
hardly more than a horizontal line and a perpendicular line; only there
is the sky, the atmosphere, the color-those need genius.

We may test contemporary literature by its confortuity to the canon of
simplicity--that is, if it has not that, we may conclude that it lacks
one essential lasting quality. It may please;--it may be ingenious--
brilliant, even; it may be the fashion of the day, and a fashion that
will hold its power of pleasing for half a century, but it will be a
fashion. Mannerisms of course will not deceive us, nor extravagances,
eccentricities, affectations, nor the straining after effect by the use
of coined or far-fetched words and prodigality in adjectives. But,
style? Yes, there is such a thing as style, good and bad; and the style
should be the writer's own and characteristic of him, as his speech is.
But the moment I admire a style for its own sake, a style that attracts
my attention so constantly that I say, How good that is! I begin to be
suspicious. If it is too good, too pronouncedly good, I fear I shall not
like it so well on a second reading. If it comes to stand between me and
the thought, or the personality behind the thought, I grow more and more
suspicious. Is the book a window, through which I am to see life? Then
I cannot have the glass too clear. Is it to affect me like a strain of
music? Then I am still more disturbed by any affectations. Is it to
produce the effect of a picture? Then I know I want the simplest harmony
of color. And I have learned that the most effective word-painting, as
it is called, is the simplest. This is true if it is a question only of
present enjoyment. But we may be sure that any piece of literature which
attracts only by some trick of style, however it may blaze up for a day
and startle the world with its flash, lacks the element of endurance.
We do not need much experience to tell us the difference between a lamp
and a Roman candle. Even in our day we have seen many reputations flare
up, illuminate the sky, and then go out in utter darkness. When we take
a proper historical perspective, we see that it is the universal, the
simple, that lasts.

I am not sure whether simplicity is a matter of nature or of cultivation.
Barbarous nature likes display, excessive ornament; and when we have
arrived at the nobly simple, the perfect proportion, we are always likely
to relapse into the confused and the complicated. The most cultivated
men, we know, are the simplest in manners, in taste, in their style.
It is a note of some of the purest modern writers that they avoid
comparisons, similes, and even too much use of metaphor. But the mass of
men are always relapsing into the tawdry and the over-ornamented. It is
a characteristic of youth, and it seems also to be a characteristic of
over-development. Literature, in any language, has no sooner arrived at
the highest vigor of simple expression than it begins to run into
prettiness, conceits, over-elaboration. This is a fact which may be
verified by studying different periods, from classic literature to our
own day.

It is the same with architecture. The classic Greek runs into the
excessive elaboration of the Roman period, the Gothic into the
flamboyant, and so on. We, have had several attacks of architectural
measles in this country, which have left the land spotted all over with
houses in bad taste. Instead of developing the colonial simplicity on
lines of dignity and harmony to modern use, we stuck on the pseudo-
classic, we broke out in the Mansard, we broke all up into the
whimsicalities of the so-called Queen Anne, without regard to climate or
comfort. The eye speedily tires of all these things. It is a positive
relief to look at an old colonial mansion, even if it is as plain as a
barn. What the eye demands is simple lines, proportion, harmony in mass,
dignity; above all, adaptation to use. And what we must have also is
individuality in house and in furniture; that makes the city, the
village, picturesque and interesting. The highest thing in architecture,
as in literature, is the development of individuality in simplicity.

Dress is a dangerous topic to meddle with. I myself like the attire of
the maidens of Scheria, though Nausicaa, we must note, was "clad
royally." But climate cannot be disregarded, and the vestment that was
so fitting on a Greek girl whom I saw at the Second Cataract of the Nile
would scarcely be appropriate in New York. If the maidens of one of our
colleges for girls, say Vassar for illustration, habited like the
Phaeacian girls of Scheria, went down to the Hudson to cleanse the rich
robes of the house, and were surprised by the advent of a stranger from
the city, landing from a steamboat--a wandering broker, let us say, clad
in wide trousers, long topcoat, and a tall hat--I fancy that he would be
more astonished than Ulysses was at the bevy of girls that scattered at
his approach. It is not that women must be all things to all men, but
that their simplicity must conform to time and circumstance. What I do
not understand is that simplicity gets banished altogether, and that
fashion, on a dictation that no one can trace the origin of, makes that
lovely in the eyes of women today which will seem utterly abhorrent to
them tomorrow. There appears to be no line of taste running through the
changes. The only consolation to you, the woman of the moment, is that
while the costume your grandmother wore makes her, in the painting, a guy
in your eyes, the costume you wear will give your grandchildren the same
impression of you. And the satisfaction for you is the thought that the
latter raiment will be worse than the other two--that is to say, less
well suited to display the shape, station, and noble air which brought
Ulysses to his knees on the sands of Corfu.

Another reason why I say that I do not know whether simplicity belongs to
nature or art is that fashion is as strong to pervert and disfigure in
savage nations as it is in civilized. It runs to as much eccentricity in
hair-dressing and ornament in the costume of the jingling belles of
Nootka and the maidens of Nubia as in any court or coterie which we
aspire to imitate. The only difference is that remote and
unsophisticated communities are more constant to a style they once adopt.
There are isolated peasant communities in Europe who have kept for
centuries the most uncouth and inconvenient attire, while we have run
through a dozen variations in the art of attraction by dress, from the
most puffed and bulbous ballooning to the extreme of limpness and
lankness. I can only conclude that the civilized human being is a
restless creature, whose motives in regard to costumes are utterly

We need, however, to go a little further in this question of simplicity.
Nausicaa was "clad royally." There was a distinction, then, between her
and her handmaidens. She was clad simply, according to her condition.
Taste does not by any means lead to uniformity. I have read of a commune
in which all the women dressed alike and unbecomingly, so as to
discourage all attempt to please or attract, or to give value to the
different accents of beauty. The end of those women was worse than the
beginning. Simplicity is not ugliness, nor poverty, nor barrenness, nor
necessarily plainness. What is simplicity for another may not be for
you, for your condition, your tastes, especially for your wants. It is a
personal question. You go beyond simplicity when you attempt to
appropriate more than your wants, your aspirations, whatever they are,
demand--that is, to appropriate for show, for ostentation, more than your
life can assimilate, can make thoroughly yours. There is no limit to
what you may have, if it is necessary for you, if it is not a superfluity
to you. What would be simplicity to you may be superfluity to another.
The rich robes that Nausicaa wore she wore like a goddess. The moment
your dress, your house, your house-grounds, your furniture, your scale of
living, are beyond the rational satisfaction of your own desires--that
is, are for ostentation, for imposition upon the public--they are
superfluous, the line of simplicity is passed. Every human being has a
right to whatever can best feed his life, satisfy his legitimate desires,
contribute to the growth of his soul. It is not for me to judge whether
this is luxury or want. There is no merit in riches nor in poverty.
There is merit in that simplicity of life which seeks to grasp no more
than is necessary for the development and enjoyment of the individual.
Most of us, in all conditions; are weighted down with superfluities or
worried to acquire them. Simplicity is making the journey of this life
with just baggage enough.

The needs of every person differ from the needs of every other; we can
make no standard for wants or possessions. But the world would be
greatly transformed and much more easy to live in if everybody limited
his acquisitions to his ability to assimilate them to his life. The
destruction of simplicity is a craving for things, not because we need
them, but because others have them. Because one man who lives in a plain
little house, in all the restrictions of mean surroundings, would be
happier in a mansion suited to his taste and his wants, is no argument
that another man, living in a palace, in useless ostentation, would not
be better off in a dwelling which conforms to his cultivation and habits.
It is so hard to learn the lesson that there is no satisfaction in
gaining more than we personally want.

The matter of simplicity, then, comes into literary style, into building,
into dress, into life, individualized always by one's personality. In
each we aim at the expression of the best that is in us, not at imitation
or ostentation.

The women in history, in legend, in poetry, whom we love, we do not love
because they are "clad royally." In our day, to be clad royally is
scarcely a distinction. To have a superfluity is not a distinction.
But in those moments when we have a clear vision of life, that which
seems to us most admirable and desirable is the simplicity that endears
to us the idyl of Nausicaa.


The most painful event since the bombardment of Alexandria has been what
is called by an English writer the "invasion" of "American Literature in
England." The hostile forces, with an advanced guard of what was
regarded as an "awkward squad," had been gradually effecting a landing
and a lodgment not unwelcome to the unsuspicious natives. No alarm was
taken when they threw out a skirmish-line of magazines and began to
deploy an occasional wild poet, who advanced in buckskin leggings,
revolver in hand, or a stray sharp-shooting sketcher clad in the
picturesque robes of the sunset. Put when the main body of American
novelists got fairly ashore and into position the literary militia of the
island rose up as one man, with the strength of a thousand, to repel the
invaders and sweep them back across the Atlantic. The spectacle had a
dramatic interest. The invaders were not numerous, did not carry their
native tomahawks, they had been careful to wash off the frightful paint
with which they usually go into action, they did not utter the defiant
whoop of Pogram, and even the militia regarded them as on the whole
"amusin' young 'possums" and yet all the resources of modern and ancient
warfare were brought to bear upon them. There was a crack of revolvers
from the daily press, a lively fusillade of small-arms in the astonished
weeklies, a discharge of point-blank blunderbusses from the monthlies;
and some of the heavy quarterlies loaded up the old pieces of ordnance,
that had not been charged in forty years, with slugs and brickbats and
junk-bottles, and poured in raking broadsides. The effect on the island
was something tremendous: it shook and trembled, and was almost hidden in
the smoke of the conflict. What the effect is upon the invaders it is
too soon to determine. If any of them survive, it will be God's mercy to
his weak and innocent children.

It must be said that the American people--such of them as were aware of
this uprising--took the punishment of their presumption in a sweet and
forgiving spirit. If they did not feel that they deserved it, they
regarded it as a valuable contribution to the study of sociology and race
characteristics, in which they have taken a lively interest of late.
We know how it is ourselves, they said; we used to be thin-skinned and
self-conscious and sensitive. We used to wince and cringe under English
criticism, and try to strike back in a blind fury. We have learned that
criticism is good for us, and we are grateful for it from any source.
We have learned that English criticism is dictated by love for us, by a
warm interest in our intellectual development, just as English anxiety
about our revenue laws is based upon a yearning that our down-trodden
millions shall enjoy the benefits of free-trade. We did not understand
why a country that admits our beef and grain and cheese should seem to
seek protection against a literary product which is brought into
competition with one of the great British staples, the modern novel. It
seemed inconsistent. But we are no more consistent ourselves. We cannot
understand the action of our own Congress, which protects the American
author by a round duty on foreign books and refuses to protect him by
granting a foreign copyright; or, to put it in another way, is willing to
steal the brains of the foreign author under the plea of free knowledge,
but taxes free knowledge in another form. We have no defense to make of
the state of international copyright, though we appreciate the
complication of the matter in the conflicting interests of English and
American publishers.

Yes; we must insist that, under the circumstances, the American people
have borne this outburst of English criticism in an admirable spirit.
It was as unexpected as it was sudden. Now, for many years our
international relations have been uncommonly smooth, oiled every few days
by complimentary banquet speeches, and sweetened by abundance of magazine
and newspaper "taffy." Something too much of "taffy" we have thought was
given us at times for, in getting bigger in various ways, we have grown
more modest. Though our English admirers may not believe it, we see our
own faults more clearly than we once did--thanks, partly, to the faithful
castigations of our friends--and we sometimes find it difficult to
conceal our blushes when we are over-praised. We fancied that we were
going on, as an English writer on "Down-Easters" used to say, as "slick
as ile," when this miniature tempest suddenly burst out in a revival of
the language and methods used in the redoubtable old English periodicals
forty years ago. We were interested in seeing how exactly this sort of
criticism that slew our literary fathers was revived now for the
execution of their degenerate children. And yet it was not exactly the
same. We used to call it "slang-whanging." One form of it was a blank
surprise at the pretensions of American authors, and a dismissal with the
formula of previous ignorance of their existence. This is modified now
by a modest expression of "discomfiture" on reading of American authors
"whose very names, much less peculiarities, we never heard of before."
This is a tribunal from which there is no appeal. Not to have been heard
of by an Englishman is next door to annihilation. It is at least
discouraging to an author who may think he has gained some reputation
over what is now conceded to be a considerable portion of the earth's
surface, to be cast into total obscurity by the negative damnation of
English ignorance. There is to us something pathetic in this and in the
surprise of the English critic, that there can be any standard of
respectable achievement outside of a seven-miles radius turning on
Charing Cross.

The pathetic aspect of the case has not, however, we are sorry to say,
struck the American press, which has too often treated with unbecoming
levity this unaccountable exhibition of English sensitiveness. There has
been little reply to it; at most, generally only an amused report of the
war, and now and then a discriminating acceptance of some of the
criticism as just, with a friendly recognition of the fact that on the
whole the critic had done very well considering the limitation of his
knowledge of the subject on which he wrote. What is certainly noticeable
is an entire absence of the irritation that used to be caused by similar
comments on America thirty years ago. Perhaps the Americans are
reserving their fire as their ancestors did at Bunker Hill, conscious,
maybe, that in the end they will be driven out of their slight literary
entrenchments. Perhaps they were disarmed by the fact that the acrid
criticism in the London Quarterly Review was accompanied by a cordial
appreciation of the novels that seemed to the reviewer characteristically
American. The interest in the tatter's review of our poor field must be
languid, however, for nobody has taken the trouble to remind its author
that Brockden Brown--who is cited as a typical American writer, true to
local character, scenery, and color--put no more flavor of American life
and soil in his books than is to be found in "Frankenstein."

It does not, I should suppose, lie in the way of The Century, whose
general audience on both sides of the Atlantic takes only an amused
interest in this singular revival of a traditional literary animosity--an
anachronism in these tolerant days when the reading world cares less and
less about the origin of literature that pleases it--it does not lie in
the way of The Century to do more than report this phenomenal literary
effervescence. And yet it cannot escape a certain responsibility as an
immediate though innocent occasion of this exhibition of international
courtesy, because its last November number contained some papers that
seem to have been irritating. In one of them Mr. Howells let fall some
chance remarks on the tendency of modern fiction, without adequately
developing his theory, which were largely dissented from in this country,
and were like the uncorking of six vials in England. The other was an
essay on England, dictated by admiration for the achievements of the
foremost nation of our time, which, from the awkwardness of the eulogist,
was unfortunately the uncorking of the seventh vial--an uncorking which,
as we happen to know, so prostrated the writer that he resolved never to
attempt to praise England again. His panic was somewhat allayed by the
soothing remark in a kindly paper in Blackwood's Magazine for January,
that the writer had discussed his theme "by no means unfairly or
disrespectfully." But with a shudder he recognized what a peril he had
escaped. Great Scott!--the reference is to a local American deity who is
invoked in war, and not to the Biblical commentator--what would have
happened to him if he had spoken of England "disrespectfully"!

We gratefully acknowledge also the remark of the Blackwood writer in
regard-to the claims of America in literature. "These claims," he says,
"we have hitherto been very charitable to." How our life depends upon a
continual exhibition by the critics of this divine attribute of charity
it would perhaps be unwise in us to confess. We can at least take
courage that it exists--who does not need it in this world of
misunderstandings?--since we know that charity is not puffed up, vaunteth
not itself, hopeth all things, endureth all things, is not easily
provoked; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be
knowledge, it shall vanish; but charity never faileth. And when all our
"dialects" on both sides of the water shall vanish, and we shall speak no
more Yorkshire or Cape Cod, or London cockney or "Pike" or "Cracker"
vowel flatness, nor write them any more, but all use the noble simplicity
of the ideal English, and not indulge in such odd-sounding phrases as
this of our critic that "the combatants on both sides were by way of
detesting each other," though we speak with the tongues of men and of
angels--we shall still need charity.

It will occur to the charitable that the Americans are at a disadvantage
in this little international "tiff." For while the offenders have
inconsiderately written over their own names, the others preserve a
privileged anonymity. Any attempt to reply to these voices out of the
dark reminds one of the famous duel between the Englishman and the
Frenchman which took place in a pitch-dark chamber, with the frightful
result that when the tender-hearted Englishman discharged his revolver up
the chimney he brought down his man. One never can tell in a case of
this kind but a charitable shot might bring down a valued friend or even
a peer of the realm.

In all soberness, however, and setting aside the open question, which
country has most diverged from the English as it was at the time of the
separation of the colonies from the motherland, we may be permitted a
word or two in the hope of a better understanding. The offense in The
Century paper on "England" seems to have been in phrases such as these:
"When we began to produce something that was the product of our own soil
and of our own social conditions, it was still judged by the old
standards;" and, we are no longer irritated by "the snobbishness of
English critics of a certain school," "for we see that its criticism is
only the result of ignorance simply of inability to understand."

Upon this the reviewer affects to lose his respiration, and with "a gasp
of incredulity" wants to know what the writer means, "and what standards
he proposes to himself when he has given up the English ones?" The
reviewer makes a more serious case than the writer intended, or than a
fair construction of the context of his phrases warrants. It is the
criticism of "a certain school" only that was said to be the result of
ignorance. It is not the English language nor its body of enduring
literature--the noblest monument of our common civilization--that the
writer objected to as a standard of our performances. The standard
objected to is the narrow insular one (the term "insular" is used purely
as a geographical one) that measures life, social conditions, feeling,
temperament, and national idiosyncrasies expressed in our literature by
certain fixed notions prevalent in England. Probably also the expression
of national peculiarities would diverge somewhat from the "old
standards." All we thought of asking was that allowance should be made
for this expression and these peculiarities, as it would be made in case
of other literatures and peoples. It might have occurred to our critics,
we used to think, to ask themselves whether the English literature is not
elastic enough to permit the play of forces in it which are foreign to
their experience. Genuine literature is the expression, we take it, of
life-and truth to that is the standard of its success. Reference was
intended to this, and not to the common canons of literary art. But we
have given up the expectation that the English critic "of a certain
school" will take this view of it, and this is the plain reason--not
intended to be offensive--why much of the English criticism has ceased to
be highly valued in this country, and why it has ceased to annoy. At the
same time, it ought to be added, English opinion, when it is seen to be
based upon knowledge, is as highly respected as ever. And nobody in
America, so far as we know, entertains, or ever entertained, the idea of
setting aside as standards the master-minds in British literature.
In regard to the "inability to understand," we can, perhaps, make
ourselves more clearly understood, for the Blackwood's reviewer has
kindly furnished us an illustration in this very paper, when he passes in
patronizing review the novels of Mr. Howells. In discussing the
character of Lydia Blood, in "The Lady of the Aroostook," he is
exceedingly puzzled by the fact that a girl from rural New England,
brought up amid surroundings homely in the extreme, should have been
considered a lady. He says:

"The really 'American thing' in it is, we think, quite undiscovered
either by the author or his heroes, and that is the curious confusion of
classes which attributes to a girl brought up on the humblest level all
the prejudices and necessities of the highest society. Granting that
there was anything dreadful in it, the daughter of a homely small farmer
in England is not guarded and accompanied like a young lady on her
journeys from one place to another. Probably her mother at home would be
disturbed, like Lydia's aunt, at the thought that there was no woman on
board, in case her child should be ill or lonely; but, as for any
impropriety, would never think twice on that subject. The difference is
that the English girl would not be a young lady. She would find her
sweetheart among the sailors, and would have nothing to say to the
gentlemen. This difference is far more curious than the misadventure,
which might have happened anywhere, and far more remarkable than the fact
that the gentlemen did behave to her like gentlemen, and did their best
to set her at ease, which we hope would have happened anywhere else. But
it is, we think, exclusively American, and very curious and interesting,
that this young woman, with her antecedents so distinctly set before us,
should be represented as a lady, not at all out of place among her
cultivated companions, and 'ready to become an ornament of society the
moment she lands in Venice."

Reams of writing could not more clearly explain what is meant by
"inability to understand" American conditions and to judge fairly the
literature growing out of them; and reams of writing would be wasted in
the attempt to make our curious critic comprehend the situation. There
is nothing in his experience of "farmers' daughters" to give him the key
to it. We might tell him that his notion of a farmer's daughters in
England does not apply to New England. We might tell him of a sort of
society of which he has no conception and can have none, of farmers'
daughters and farmers' wives in New England--more numerous, let us
confess, thirty or forty years ago than now--who lived in homely
conditions, dressed with plainness, and followed the fashions afar off;
did their own household work, even the menial parts of it; cooked the
meals for the "men folks" and the "hired help," made the butter and
cheese, and performed their half of the labor that wrung an honest but
not luxurious living from the reluctant soil. And yet those women--the
sweet and gracious ornaments of a self-respecting society--were full of
spirit, of modest pride in their position, were familiar with much good
literature, could converse with piquancy and understanding on subjects of
general interest, were trained in the subtleties of a solid theology, and
bore themselves in any company with that traditional breeding which we
associate with the name of lady. Such strong native sense had they, such
innate refinement and courtesythe product, it used to be said, of plain
living and high thinking--that, ignorant as they might be of civic ways,
they would, upon being introduced to them, need only a brief space of
time to "orient" themselves to the new circumstances. Much more of this
sort might be said without exaggeration. To us there is nothing
incongruous in the supposition that Lydia Blood was "ready to become an
ornament to society the moment she lands in Venice."

But we lack the missionary spirit necessary to the exertion to make our
interested critic comprehend such a social condition, and we prefer to
leave ourselves to his charity, in the hope of the continuance of which
we rest in serenity.


In a Memorial Day address at New Haven in 1881, the Hon. Richard D.
Hubbard suggested the erection of a statue to Nathan Hale in the State
Capitol. With the exception of the monument in Coventry no memorial of
the young hero existed. The suggestion was acted on by the Hon. E. S.
Cleveland, who introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives in
the session of 1883, appropriating money for the purpose. The propriety
of this was urged before a committee of the Legislature by Governor
Hubbard, in a speech of characteristic grace and eloquence, seconded by
the Hon. Henry C. Robinson and the Hon. Stephen W. Kellogg. The
Legislature appropriated the sum of five thousand dollars for a statue in
bronze, and a committee was appointed to procure it. They opened a
public competition, and, after considerable delay, during which the
commission was changed by death and by absence,--indeed four successive
governors, Hubbard, Waller, Harrison, and Lounsbury have served on it,--
the work was awarded to Karl Gerhardt, a young sculptor who began his
career in this city. It was finished in clay, and accepted in October,
1886, put in plaster, and immediately sent to the foundry of Melzar
Masman in Chicopee, Massachusetts.

Today in all its artistic perfection and beauty it stands here to be
revealed to the public gaze. It is proper that the citizens of
Connecticut should know how much of this result they owe to the
intelligent zeal of Mr. Cleveland, the mover of the resolution in the
Legislature, who in the commission, and before he became a member of it,
has spared neither time nor effort to procure a memorial worthy of the
hero and of the State. And I am sure that I speak the unanimous
sentiment of the commission in the regret that the originator of this
statue could not have seen the consummation of his idea, and could not
have crowned it with the one thing lacking on this occasion, the silver
words of eloquence we always heard from his lips, that compact, nervous
speech, the perfect union of strength and grace; for who so fitly as the
lamented Hubbard could have portrayed the moral heroism of the Martyr-

This is not a portrait statue. There is no likeness of Nathan Hale
extant. The only known miniature of his face, in the possession of the
lady to whom he was betrothed at the time of his death, disappeared many
years ago. The artist was obliged, therefore, to create an ideal.
figure, aided by a few fragmentary descriptions of Hale's personal
appearance. His object has been to represent an American youth of the
period, an American patriot and scholar, whose manly beauty and grace
tradition loves to recall, to represent in face and in bearing the moral
elevation of character that made him conspicuous among his fellows, and
to show forth, if possible, the deed that made him immortal. For it is
the deed and the memorable last words we think of when we think of Hale.
I know that by one of the canons of art it is held that sculpture should
rarely fix a momentary action; but if this can be pardoned in the
Laocoon, where suffering could not otherwise be depicted to excite the
sympathy of the spectator, surely it can be justified in this case,
where, as one may say, the immortality of the subject rests upon a single
act, upon a phrase, upon the attitude of the moment. For all the man's
life, all his character, flowered and blossomed into immortal beauty in
this one supreme moment of self-sacrifice, triumph, defiance. The ladder
of the gallows-tree on which the deserted boy stood, amidst the enemies
of his country, when he uttered those last words which all human annals
do not parallel in simple patriotism,--the ladder I am sure ran up to
heaven, and if angels were not seen ascending and descending it in that
gray morning, there stood the embodiment of American courage,
unconquerable, American faith, invincible, American love of country,
unquenchable, a new democratic manhood in the world, visible there for
all men to take note of, crowned already with the halo of victory in the
Revolutionary dawn. Oh, my Lord Howe! it seemed a trifling incident to
you and to your bloodhound, Provost Marshal Cunningham, but those winged
last words were worth ten thousand men to the drooping patriot army.
Oh, your Majesty, King George the Third! here was a spirit, could you but
have known it, that would cost you an empire, here was an ignominious
death that would grow in the estimation of mankind, increasing in
nobility above the fading pageantry of kings.

On the 21st of April, 1775, a messenger, riding express from Boston to
New York with the tidings of Lexington and Concord, reached New London.
The news created intense excitement. A public meeting was called in the
court-house at twilight, and among the speakers who exhorted the people
to take up arms at once, was one, a youth not yet twenty years of age,
who said, "Let us march immediately, and never lay down our arms until we
have obtained our independence,"--one of the first, perhaps the first, of
the public declarations of the purpose of independence. It was Nathan
Hale, already a person of some note in the colony, of a family then not
unknown and destined in various ways to distinction in the Republic.
A kinsman of the same name lost his life in the Louisburg fight. He had
been for a year the preceptor of the Union Grammar School at New London.
The morning after the meeting he was enrolled as a volunteer, and soon
marched away with his company to Cambridge.

Nathan Hale, descended from Robert Hale who settled in Charlestown in
1632, a scion of the Hales of Kent, England, was born in Coventry,
Connecticut, on the 6th of June, 1755, the sixth child of Richard Hale
and his wife Elizabeth Strong, persons of strong intellect and the
highest moral character, and Puritans of the strictest observances.
Brought up in this atmosphere, in which duty and moral rectitude were the
unquestioned obligations in life, he came to manhood with a character
that enabled him to face death or obloquy without flinching, when duty
called, so that his behavior at the last was not an excitement of the
moment, but the result of ancestry, training, and principle. Feeble
physically in infancy, he developed into a robust boy, strong in mind and
body, a lively, sweet-tempered, beautiful youth, and into a young manhood
endowed with every admirable quality. In feats of strength and agility
he recalls the traditions of Washington; he early showed a remarkable
avidity for knowledge, which was so sought that he became before he was
of age one of the best educated young men of his time in the colonies.
He was not only a classical scholar, with the limitations of those days;
but, what was then rare, he made scientific attainments which greatly
impressed those capable of judging, and he had a taste for art and a
remarkable talent as an artist. His father intended him for the
ministry. He received his preparatory education from Dr. Joseph
Huntington, a classical scholar and the pastor of the church in Coventry,
entered Yale College at the age of sixteen, and graduated with high
honors in a class of sixty, in September, 1773. At the time of his
graduation his personal appearance was notable. Dr. Enos Monro of New
Haven, who knew him well in the last year at Yale, said of him

"He was almost six feet in height, perfectly proportioned, and in
figure and deportment he was the most manly man I have ever met.
His chest was broad; his muscles were firm; his face wore a most
benign expression; his complexion was roseate; his eyes were light
blue and beamed with intelligence; his hair was soft and light brown
in color, and his speech was rather low, sweet, and musical. His
personal beauty and grace of manner were most charming. Why, all
the girls in New Haven fell in love with him," said Dr. Munro, "and
wept tears of real sorrow when they heard of his sad fate. In dress
he was always neat; he was quick to lend a hand to a being in
distress, brute or human; was overflowing with good humor, and was
the idol of all his acquaintances."

Dr. Jared Sparks, who knew several of Hale's intimate friends, writes of

"Possessing genius, taste, and order, he became distinguished as a
scholar; and endowed in an eminent degree with those graces and
gifts of Nature which add a charm to youthful excellence, he gained
universal esteem and confidence. To high moral worth and
irreproachable habits were joined gentleness of manner, an ingenuous
disposition, and vigor of understanding. No young man of his years
put forth a fairer promise of future usefulness and celebrity; the
fortunes of none were fostered more sincerely by the generous good
wishes of his superiors."

It was remembered at Yale that he was a brilliant debater as well as
scholar. At his graduation he engaged in a debate on the question,
"Whether the education of daughters be not, without any just reason, more
neglected than that of the sons." "In this debate," wrote James
Hillhouse, one of his classmates, "he was the champion of the daughters,
and most ably advocated their cause. You may be sure that he received
the plaudits of the ladies present."

Hale seems to have had an irresistible charm for everybody. He was a
favorite in society; he had the manners and the qualities that made him a
leader among men and gained him the admiration of women. He was always
intelligently busy, and had the Yankee ingenuity,--he "could do anything
but spin," he used to say to the girls of Coventry, laughing over the
spinning wheel. There is a universal testimony to his alert
intelligence, vivacity, manliness, sincerity, and winningness.

It is probable that while still an under-graduate at Yale, he was engaged
to Alice Adams, who was born in Canterbury, a young lady distinguished
then as she was afterwards for great beauty and intelligence. After
Hale's death she married Mr. Eleazer Ripley, and was left a widow at the
age of eighteen, with one child, who survived its father only one year.
She married, the second time, William Lawrence, Esq., of Hartford, and
died in this city, greatly respected and admired, in 1845, aged eighty-
eight. It is a touching note of the hold the memory of her young hero
had upon her admiration that her last words, murmured as life was ebbing,
were, "Write to Nathan."

Hale's short career in the American army need not detain us. After his
flying visit as a volunteer to Cambridge, he returned to New London,
joined a company with the rank of lieutenant, participated in the siege
of Boston, was commissioned a captain in the Nineteenth Connecticut
Regiment in January, 1776, performed the duties of a soldier with
vigilance, bravery, and patience, and was noted for the discipline of his
company. In the last dispiriting days of 1775, when the terms of his men
had expired, he offered to give them his month's pay if they would remain
a month longer. He accompanied the army to New York, and shared its
fortunes in that discouraging spring and summer. Shortly after his
arrival Captain Hale distinguished himself by the brilliant exploit of
cutting out a British sloop, laden with provisions, from under the guns
of the man-of-war "Asia," sixty-four, lying in the East River, and
bringing her triumphantly into slip. During the summer he suffered a
severe illness.

The condition of the American army and cause on the 1st of September,
1776, after the retreat from Long Island, was critical. The army was
demoralized, clamoring in vain for pay, and deserting by companies and
regiments; one-third of the men were without tents, one-fourth of them
were on the sick list. On the 7th, Washington called a council of war,
and anxiously inquired what should be done. On the 12th it was
determined to abandon the city and take possession of Harlem Heights.
The British army, twenty-five thousand strong, admirably equipped, and
supported by a powerful naval force, threatened to envelop our poor
force, and finish the war in a stroke. Washington was unable to
penetrate the designs of the British commander, or to obtain any trusty
information of the intentions or the movements of the British army.
Information was imperatively necessary to save us from destruction, and
it could only be obtained by one skilled in military and scientific
knowledge and a good draughtsman, a man of quick eye, cool head, tact,
sagacity, and courage, and one whose judgment and fidelity could be
trusted. Washington applied to Lieutenant-Colonel Knowlton, who summoned
a conference of officers in the name of the commander-in-chief, and laid
the matter before them. No one was willing to undertake the dangerous
and ignominious mission. Knowlton was in despair, and late in the
conference was repeating the necessity, when a young officer, pale from
recent illness, entered the room and said, "I will undertake it." It was
Captain Nathan Hale. Everybody was astonished. His friends besought him
not to attempt it. In vain. Hale was under no illusion. He silenced
all remonstrances by saying that he thought he owed his country the
accomplishment of an object so important and so much desired by the
commander-in-chief, and he knew no way to obtain the information except
by going into the enemy's camp in disguise. "I wish to be useful," he
said; "and every kind of service necessary for the public good becomes
honorable by being necessary. If the exigencies of my country demand a
peculiar service, its claims to the performance of that service are

The tale is well known. Hale crossed over from Norwalk to Huntington
Cove on Long Island. In the disguise of a schoolmaster, he penetrated
the British lines and the city, made accurate drawings of the
fortifications, and memoranda in Latin of all that he observed, which he
concealed between the soles of his shoes, and returned to the point on
the shore where he had first landed. He expected to be met by a boat and
to cross the Sound to Norwalk the next morning. The next morning he was
captured, no doubt by Tory treachery, and taken to Howe's headquarters,
the mansion of James Beekman, situated at (the present) Fiftieth Street
and First Avenue. That was on the 21st of September. Without trial and
upon the evidence found on his person, Howe condemned him to be hanged as
a spy early next morning. Indeed Hale made no attempt at defense. He
frankly owned his mission, and expressed regret that he could not serve
his country better. His open, manly bearing and high spirit commanded
the respect of his captors. Mercy he did not expect, and pity was not
shown him. The British were irritated by a conflagration which had that
morning laid almost a third of the city in ashes, and which they
attributed to incendiary efforts to deprive them of agreeable winter
quarters. Hale was at first locked up in the Beekman greenhouse.
Whether he remained there all night is not known, and the place of his
execution has been disputed; but the best evidence seems to be that it
took place on the farm of Colonel Rutger, on the west side, in the
orchard in the vicinity of the present East Broadway and Market Street,
and that he was hanged to the limb of an apple-tree.

It was a lovely Sunday morning, before the break of day, that he was
marched to the place of execution, September 22d. While awaiting the
necessary preparations, a courteous young officer permitted him to sit in
his tent. He asked for the presence of a chaplain; the request was
refused. He asked for a Bible; it was denied. But at the solicitation
of the young officer he was furnished with writing materials, and wrote
briefly to his mother, his sister, and his betrothed. When the infamous
Cunningham, to whom Howe had delivered him, read what was written, he was
furious at the noble and dauntless spirit shown, and with foul oaths tore
the letters into shreds, saying afterwards "that the rebels should never
know that they had a man who could die with such firmness." As Hale
stood upon the fatal ladder, Cunningham taunted him, and tauntingly
demanded his "last dying speech and confession." The hero did not heed
the words of the brute, but, looking calmly upon the spectators, said in
a clear voice, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my
country." And the ladder was snatched from under him.

My friends, we are not honoring today a lad who appears for a moment in a
heroic light, but one of the most worthy of the citizens of Connecticut,
who has by his lofty character long honored her, wherever patriotism is
not a mere name, and where Christian manhood is respected. We have had
many heroes, many youths of promise, and men of note, whose
names are our only great and enduring riches; but no one of them all
better illustrated, short as was his career, the virtues we desire for
all our sons. We have long delayed this tribute to his character and his
deeds, but in spite of our neglect his fame has grown year by year, as
war and politics have taught us what is really admirable in a human
being; and we are now sure that we are not erecting a monument to an
ephemeral reputation. It is fit that it should stand here, one of the
chief distinctions of our splendid Capitol, here in the political centre
of the State, here in the city where first in all the world was
proclaimed and put into a political charter the fundamental idea of
democracy, that "government rests upon the consent of the people," here
in the city where by the action of these self existing towns was formed
the model, the town and the commonwealth, the bi-cameral legislature, of
our constitutional federal union. If the soul of Nathan Hale, immortal
in youth in the air of heaven, can behold today this scene, as doubtless
it can, in the midst of a State whose prosperity the young colonist could
not have imagined in his wildest dreams for his country, he must feel
anew the truth that there is nothing too sacred for a man to give for his
native land.

Governor Lounsbury, the labor of the commission is finished. On their
behalf I present this work of art to the State of Connecticut.

Let the statue speak for itself.


By Charles Dudley Warner


Thirty years ago and more those who read and valued good books in this
country made the acquaintance of Mr. Warner, and since the publication of
"My Summer In a Garden" no work of his has needed any other introduction
than the presence of his name on the title-page; and now that reputation
has mellowed into memory, even the word of interpretation seems
superfluous. Mr. Warner wrote out of a clear, as well as a full mind,
and lucidity of style was part of that harmonious charm of sincerity and
urbanity which made him one of the most intelligible and companionable of
our writers.

It is a pleasure, however, to recall him as, not long ago, we saw him
move and heard him speak in the ripeness of years which brought him the
full flavor of maturity without any loss of freshness from his humor or
serenity from his thought. He shared with Lowell, Longfellow, and Curtis
a harmony of nature and art, a unity of ideal and achievement, which make
him a welcome figure, not only for what he said, but for what he was; one
of those friends whose coming is hailed with joy because they seem always
at their best, and minister to rather than draw upon our own capital of
moral vitality.

Mr. Warner was the most undogmatic of idealists, the most winning of
teachers. He had always some thing to say to the ethical sense, a word
for the conscience; but his approach was always through the mind, and his
enforcement of the moral lesson was by suggestion rather than by
commandment. There was nothing ascetic about him, no easy solution of
the difficulties of life by ignoring or evading them; nor, on the other
hand, was there any confusion of moral standards as the result of a
confusion of ideas touching the nature and functions of art. He saw
clearly, he felt deeply, and he thought straight; hence the rectitude of
his mind, the sanity of his spirit, the justice of his dealings with the
things which make for life and art. He used the essay as Addison used
it, not for sermonic effect, but as a form of art which permitted a man
to deal with serious things in a spirit of gayety, and with that
lightness of touch which conveys influence without employing force. He
was as deeply enamored as George William Curtis with the highest ideals
of life for America, and, like Curtis, his expression caught the grace
and distinction of those ideals.

It is a pleasure to hear his voice once more, because its very accents
suggest the most interesting, high-minded, and captivating ideals of
living; he brings with him that air of fine breeding which is diffused by
the men who, in mind as in manners, have been, in a distinctive sense,
gentlemen; who have lived so constantly and habitually on intimate terms
with the highest things in thought and character that the tone of this
really best society has become theirs. Among men of talent there are
plebeians as well as patricians; even genius, which is never vulgar, is
sometimes unable to hide the vulgarity of the aims and ideas which it
clothes with beauty without concealing their essential nature. Mr.
Warner was a patrician; the most democratic of men, he was one of the
most fastidious in his intellectual companionships and affiliations.
The subjects about which he speaks with his oldtime directness and charm
in this volume make us aware of the serious temper of his mind, of his
deep interest in the life of his time and people, and of the easy and
natural grace with which he insisted on facing the fact and bringing it
to the test of the highest standards. In his discussion of "Fashions in
Literature" he deftly brings before us the significance of literature and
the signs which it always wears, while he seems bent upon considering
some interesting aspects of contemporary writing.

And how admirably he has described his own work in his definition of
qualities which are common to all literature of a high order: simplicity,
knowledge of human nature, agreeable personality. It would be impossible
in briefer or more comprehensive phrase to sum up and express the secret
of his influence and of the pleasure he gives us. It is to suggest this
application of his words to himself that this preparatory comment is

When "My Summer In a Garden" appeared, it won a host of friends who did
not stop to ask whether it was a piece of excellent journalism or a bit
of real literature. It was so natural, so informal, so intimate that
readers accepted it as matter of course, as they accepted the blooming of
flowers and the flitting of birds. It was simply a report of certain
things which had happened out of doors, made by an observing neighbor,
whose talk seemed to be of a piece with the diffused fragrance and light
and life of the old-fashioned garden. This easy approach, along natural
lines of interest, by quietly putting himself on common ground with his
reader, Mr. Warner never abandoned; he was so delightful a companion that
until he ceased to walk beside them, many of his friends of the mind did
not realize how much he had enriched them by the way. This charming
simplicity, which made it possible for him to put himself on intimate
terms with his readers, was the result of his sincerity, his clearness of
thought, and his ripe culture: that knowledge of the best which rids a
man forever of faith in devices, dexterities, obscurities, and all other
substitutes for the lucid realities of thinking and of character.

To his love of reality and his sincere interest in men, Mr. Warner added
natural shrewdness and long observation of the psychology of men and
women under the stress and strain of experience. His knowledge of human
nature did not lessen his geniality, but it kept the edge of his mind
keen, and gave his work the variety not only of humor but of satire. He
cared deeply for people, but they did not impose on him; he loved his
country with a passion which was the more genuine because it was exacting
and, at times, sharply critical. There runs through all his work, as a
critic of manners and men, as well as of art, a wisdom of life born of
wide and keen observation; put not into the form of aphorisms, but of
shrewd comment, of keen criticism, of nice discrimination between the
manifold shadings of insincerity, of insight into the action and reaction
of conditions, surroundings, social and ethical aims on men and women.
The stories written in his later years are full of the evidences of a
knowledge of human nature which was singularly trustworthy and

When all has been said, however, it remains true of him, as of so many of
the writers whom we read and love and love as we read, that the secret of
his charm lay in an agreeable personality. At the end of the analysis,
if the work is worth while, there is always a man, and the man is the
explanation of the work. This is pre-eminently true of those writers
whose charm lies less in distinctively intellectual qualities than in
temperament, atmosphere, humor-writers of the quality of Steele,
Goldsmith, Lamb, Irving. It is not only, therefore, a pleasure to recall
Mr. Warner; it is a necessity if one would discover the secret of his
charm, the source of his authority.

He was a New Englander by birth and by long residence, but he was also a
man of the world in the true sense of the phrase; one whose ethical
judgment had been broadened without being lowered; who had learned that
truth, though often strenuously enforced, is never so convincing as when
stated in terms of beauty; and to whom it had been revealed that to live
naturally, sanely, and productively one must live humanly, with due
regard to the earthly as well as to heavenly, with ease as well as
earnestness of spirit, through play no less than through work, in the
large resources of art, society, and humor, as well as with the ancient
and well-tested rectitudes of the fathers.

The harmonious play of his whole nature, the breadth of his interests and
the sanity of his spirit made Mr. Warner a delightful companion, and kept
to the very end the freshness of his mind and the spontaneity of his
humor; life never lost its savor for him, nor did his style part with its
diffused but thoroughly individual humor. This latest collection of his
papers, dealing with a wide range of subjects from the "Education of the
Negro" to "Literature and the Stage," with characteristic comments on
"Truthfulness" and "The Pursuit of Happiness," shows him at the end of
his long and tireless career as a writer still deeply interested in
contemporary events, responsive to the appeal of the questions of the
hour, and sensitive to all things which affected the dignity and
authority of literature. In his interests, his bearing, his relations to
the public life of the country, no less than in his work, he held fast to
the best traditions of literature, and he has taken his place among the
representative American men of Letters.



If you examine a collection of prints of costumes of different
generations, you are commonly amused by the ludicrous appearance of most
of them, especially of those that are not familiar to you in your own
decade. They are not only inappropriate and inconvenient to your eye,
but they offend your taste. You cannot believe that they were ever
thought beautiful and becoming. If your memory does not fail you,
however, and you retain a little honesty of mind, you can recall the fact
that a costume which seems to you ridiculous today had your warm approval
ten years ago. You wonder, indeed, how you could ever have tolerated a
costume which has not one graceful line, and has no more relation to the
human figure than Mambrino's helmet had to a crown of glory. You cannot
imagine how you ever approved the vast balloon skirt that gave your
sweetheart the appearance of the great bell of Moscow, or that you
yourself could have been complacent in a coat the tails of which reached
your heels, and the buttons of which, a rudimentary survival, were
between your shoulder-blades--you who are now devoted to a female figure
that resembles an old-fashioned churn surmounted by an isosceles

These vagaries of taste, which disfigure or destroy correct proportions
or hide deformities, are nowhere more evident than in the illustrations
of works of fiction. The artist who collaborates with the contemporary
novelist has a hard fate. If he is faithful to the fashions of the day,
he earns the repute of artistic depravity in the eyes of the next
generation. The novel may become a classic, because it represents human
nature, or even the whimsicalities of a period; but the illustrations of
the artist only provoke a smile, because he has represented merely the
unessential and the fleeting. The interest in his work is
archaeological, not artistic. The genius of the great portrait-painter
may to some extent overcome the disadvantages of contemporary costume,
but if the costume of his period is hideous and lacks the essential lines
of beauty, his work is liable to need the apology of quaintness. The
Greek artist and the Mediaeval painter, when the costumes were really
picturesque and made us forget the lack of simplicity in a noble
sumptuousness, had never this posthumous difficulty to contend with.

In the examination of costumes of different races and different ages, we
are also struck by the fact that with primitive or isolated peoples
costumes vary little from age to age, and fashion and the fashions are
unrecognized, and a habit of dress which is dictated by climate, or has
been proved to be comfortable, is adhered to from one generation to
another; while nations that we call highly civilized, meaning commonly
not only Occidental peoples, but peoples called progressive, are subject
to the most frequent and violent changes of fashions, not in generations
only, but in decades and years of a generation, as if the mass had no
mind or taste of its own, but submitted to the irresponsible ukase of
tailors and modistes, who are in alliance with enterprising manufacturers
of novelties. In this higher civilization a costume which is artistic
and becoming has no more chance of permanence than one which is ugly and
inconvenient. It might be inferred that this higher civilization produces
no better taste and discrimination, no more independent judgment, in
dress than it does in literature. The vagaries in dress of the Western
nations for a thousand years past, to go back no further, are certainly
highly amusing, and would be humiliating to people who regarded taste and
art as essentials of civilization. But when we speak of civilization, we
cannot but notice that some of the great civilizations; the longest
permanent and most notable for highest achievement in learning, science,
art, or in the graces or comforts of life, the Egyptian, the Saracenic,
the Chinese, were subject to no such vagaries in costume, but adhered to
that which taste, climate, experience had determined to be the most
useful and appropriate. And it is a singular comment upon our modern
conceit that we make our own vagaries and changeableness, and not any
fixed principles of art or of utility, the criterion of judgment, on
other races and other times.

The more important result of the study of past fashions, in engravings
and paintings, remains to be spoken of. It is that in all the
illustrations, from the simplicity of Athens, through the artificiality
of Louis XIV and the monstrosities of Elizabeth, down to the undescribed
modistic inventions of the first McKinley, there is discoverable a
radical and primitive law of beauty. We acknowledge it among the Greeks,
we encounter it in one age and another. I mean a style of dress that is
artistic as well as picturesque, that satisfies our love of beauty, that
accords with the grace of the perfect human figure, and that gives as
perfect satisfaction to the cultivated taste as a drawing by Raphael.
While all the other illustrations of the human ingenuity in making the
human race appear fantastic or ridiculous amuse us or offend our taste,
--except the tailor fashion-plates of the week that is now,--these few
exceptions, classic or modern, give us permanent delight, and are
recognized as following the eternal law of beauty and utility. And we
know, notwithstanding the temporary triumph of bad taste and the public
lack of any taste, that there is a standard, artistic and imperishable.

The student of manners might find an interesting field in noting how, in
our Occidental civilizations, fluctuations of opinions, of morals, and of
literary style have been accompanied by more or less significant
exhibitions of costumes. He will note in the Precieux of France and the
Euphuist of England a corresponding effeminacy in dress; in the frank
paganism of the French Revolution the affectation of Greek and Roman
apparel, passing into the Directoire style in the Citizen and the
Citizeness; in the Calvinistic cut of the Puritan of Geneva and of New
England the grim severity of their theology and morals. These examples
are interesting as showing an inclination to express an inner condition
by the outward apparel, as the Quakers indicate an inward peace by an
external drabness, and the American Indian a bellicose disposition by red
and yellow paint; just as we express by red stripes our desire to kill
men with artillery, or by yellow stripes to kill them with cavalry. It
is not possible to say whether these external displays are relics of
barbarism or are enduring necessities of human nature.

The fickleness of men in costume in a manner burlesques their shifty and
uncertain taste in literature. A book or a certain fashion in letters
will have a run like a garment, and, like that, will pass away before it
waxes old. It seems incredible, as we look back over the literary
history of the past three centuries only, what prevailing styles and
moods of expression, affectations, and prettinesses, each in turn, have
pleased reasonably cultivated people. What tedious and vapid things they
read and liked to read! Think of the French, who had once had a Villon,
intoxicating themselves with somnolent draughts of Richardson. But,
then, the French could match the paste euphuisms of Lyly with the novels
of Scudery. Every modern literature has been subject to these epidemics
and diseases. It is needless to dwell upon them in detail. Since the
great diffusion of printing, these literary crazes have been more
frequent and of shorter duration. We need go back no further than a
generation to find abundant examples of eccentricities of style and
expression, of crazes over some author or some book, as unaccountable on
principles of art as many of the fashions in social life.--The more
violent the attack, the sooner it is over. Readers of middle age can
recall the furor over Tupper, the extravagant expectations as to the
brilliant essayist Gilfillan, the soon-extinguished hopes of the poet
Alexander Smith. For the moment the world waited in the belief of the
rising of new stars, and as suddenly realized that it had been deceived.
Sometimes we like ruggedness, and again we like things made easy. Within
a few years a distinguished Scotch clergyman made a fortune by diluting a
paragraph written by Saint Paul. It is in our memory how at one time all
the boys tried to write like Macaulay, and then like Carlyle, and then
like Ruskin, and we have lived to see the day when all the girls would
like to write like Heine.

In less than twenty years we have seen wonderful changes in public taste
and in the efforts of writers to meet it or to create it. We saw the
everlastingly revived conflict between realism and romanticism. We saw
the realist run into the naturalist, the naturalist into the animalist,
the psychologist into the sexualist, and the sudden reaction to romance,
in the form of what is called the historic novel, the receipt for which
can be prescribed by any competent pharmacist. The one essential in the
ingredients is that the hero shall be mainly got out of one hole by
dropping him into a deeper one, until--the proper serial length being
attained--he is miraculously dropped out into daylight, and stands to
receive the plaudits of a tenderhearted world, that is fond of nothing so
much as of fighting.

The extraordinary vogue of certain recent stories is not so much to be
wondered at when we consider the millions that have been added to the
readers of English during the past twenty-five years. The wonder is that
a new book does not sell more largely, or it would be a wonder if the
ability to buy kept pace with the ability to read, and if discrimination
had accompanied the appetite for reading. The critics term these
successes of some recent fictions "crazes," but they are really sustained
by some desirable qualities--they are cleverly written, and they are for
the moment undoubtedly entertaining. Some of them as undoubtedly appeal
to innate vulgarity or to cultivated depravity. I will call no names,
because that would be to indict the public taste. This recent phenomenon
of sales of stories by the hundred thousand is not, however, wholly due
to quality. Another element has come in since the publishers have
awakened to the fact that literature can be treated like merchandise.
To use their own phrase, they "handle" books as they would "handle"
patent medicines, that is, the popular patent medicines that are desired
because of the amount of alcohol they contain; indeed, they are sold
along with dry-goods and fancy notions. I am not objecting to this great
and wide distribution any more than I am to the haste of fruit-dealers to
market their products before they decay. The wary critic will be very
careful about dogmatizing over the nature and distribution of literary
products. It is no certain sign that a book is good because it is
popular, nor is it any more certain that it is good because it has a very
limited sale. Yet we cannot help seeing that many of the books that are
the subject of crazes utterly disappear in a very short time, while many
others, approved by only a judicious few, continue in the market and
slowly become standards, considered as good stock by the booksellers and
continually in a limited demand.

The English essayists have spent a good deal of time lately in discussing
the question whether it is possible to tell a good contemporary book from
a bad one. Their hesitation is justified by a study of English criticism
of new books in the quarterly, monthly, and weekly periodicals from the
latter part of the eighteenth century to the last quarter of the
nineteenth; or, to name a definite period, from the verse of the Lake
poets, from Shelley and Byron, down to Tennyson, there is scarcely a poet
who has attained world-wide assent to his position in the first or second
rank who was not at the hands of the reviewers the subject of mockery and
bitter detraction. To be original in any degree was to be damned. And
there is scarcely one who was at first ranked as a great light during
this period who is now known out of the biographical dictionary. Nothing
in modern literature is more amazing than the bulk of English criticism
in the last three-quarters of a century, so far as it concerned
individual writers, both in poetry and prose. The literary rancor shown
rose to the dignity almost of theological vituperation.

Is there any way to tell a good book from a bad one? Yes. As certainly
as you can tell a good picture from a bad one, or a good egg from a bad
one. Because there are hosts who do not discriminate as to the eggs or
the butter they eat, it does not follow that a normal taste should not
know the difference.

Because there is a highly artistic nation that welcomes the flavor of
garlic in everything, and another which claims to be the most civilized
in the world that cannot tell coffee from chicory, or because the ancient
Chinese love rancid sesame oil, or the Esquimaux like spoiled blubber and
tainted fish, it does not follow that there is not in the world a
wholesome taste for things natural and pure.

It is clear that the critic of contemporary literature is quite as likely
to be wrong as right. He is, for one thing, inevitably affected by the
prevailing fashion of his little day. And, worse still, he is apt to
make his own tastes and prejudices the standard of his judgment. His
view is commonly provincial instead of cosmopolitan. In the English
period just referred to it is easy to see that most of the critical
opinion was determined by political or theological animosity and
prejudice. The rule was for a Tory to hit a Whig or a Whig to hit a
Tory, under whatever literary guise he appeared. If the new writer was
not orthodox in the view of his political or theological critic, he was
not to be tolerated as poet or historian, Dr. Johnson had said
everything he could say against an author when he declared that he was a
vile Whig. Macaulay, a Whig, always consulted his prejudices for his
judgment, equally when he was reviewing Croker's Boswell or the
impeachment of Warren Hastings. He hated Croker,--a hateful man, to be
sure,--and when the latter published his edition of Boswell, Macaulay saw
his opportunity, and exclaimed before he had looked at the book, as you
will remember, "Now I will dust his jacket." The standard of criticism
does not lie with the individual in literature any more than it does in
different periods as to fashions and manners. The world is pretty well
agreed, and always has been, as to the qualities that make a gentleman.
And yet there was a time when the vilest and perhaps the most
contemptible man who ever occupied the English throne,--and that is
saying a great deal,--George IV, was universally called the "First
Gentleman of Europe." The reproach might be somewhat lightened by the
fact that George was a foreigner, but for the wider fact that no person
of English stock has been on the throne since Saxon Harold, the chosen
and imposed rulers of England having been French, Welsh, Scotch, and
Dutch, many of them being guiltless of the English language, and many of
them also of the English middle-class morality. The impartial old
Wraxall, the memorialist of the times of George III, having described a
noble as a gambler, a drunkard, a smuggler, an appropriator of public
money, who always cheated his tradesmen, who was one and sometimes all of
them together, and a profligate generally, commonly adds, "But he was a
perfect gentleman." And yet there has always been a standard that
excludes George IV from the rank of gentleman, as it excludes Tupper from
the rank of poet.

The standard of literary judgment, then, is not in the individual,--that
is, in the taste and prejudice of the individual,--any more than it is in
the immediate contemporary opinion, which is always in flux and reflux
from one extreme to another; but it is in certain immutable principles
and qualities which have been slowly evolved during the long historic
periods of literary criticism. But how shall we ascertain what these
principles are, so as to apply them to new circumstances and new
creations, holding on to the essentials and disregarding contemporary
tastes; prejudices, and appearances? We all admit that certain pieces of
literature have become classic; by general consent there is no dispute
about them. How they have become so we cannot exactly explain. Some say
by a mysterious settling of universal opinion, the operation of which
cannot be exactly defined. Others say that the highly developed critical
judgment of a few persons, from time to time, has established forever
what we agree to call masterpieces. But this discussion is immaterial,
since these supreme examples of literary excellence exist in all kinds of
composition,--poetry, fable, romance, ethical teaching, prophecy,
interpretation, history, humor, satire, devotional flight into the
spiritual and supernatural, everything in which the human mind has
exercised itself,--from the days of the Egyptian moralist and the Old
Testament annalist and poet down to our scientific age. These
masterpieces exist from many periods and in many languages, and they all
have qualities in common which have insured their persistence.
To discover what these qualities are that have insured permanence and
promise indefinite continuance is to have a means of judging with an
approach to scientific accuracy our contemporary literature. There is no
thing of beauty that does not conform to a law of order and beauty--poem,
story, costume, picture, statue, all fall into an ascertainable law of
art. Nothing of man's making is perfect, but any creation approximates
perfection in the measure that it conforms to inevitable law.

To ascertain this law, and apply it, in art or in literature, to the
changing conditions of our progressive life, is the business of the
artist. It is the business of the critic to mark how the performance
conforms to or departs from the law evolved and transmitted in the long-
experience of the race. True criticism, then, is not a matter of caprice
or of individual liking or disliking, nor of conformity to a prevailing
and generally temporary popular judgment. Individual judgment may be
very interesting and have its value, depending upon the capacity of the
judge. It was my good fortune once to fall in with a person who had been
moved, by I know not what inspiration, to project himself out of his safe
local conditions into France, Greece, Italy, Cairo, and Jerusalem. He
assured me that he had seen nothing anywhere in the wide world of nature
and art to compare with the beauty of Nebraska.

What are the qualities common to all the masterpieces of literature, or,
let us say, to those that have endured in spite of imperfections and
local provincialisms?

First of all I should name simplicity, which includes lucidity of
expression, the clear thought in fitting, luminous words. And this is
true when the thought is profound and the subject is as complex as life
itself. This quality is strikingly exhibited for us in Jowett's
translation of Plato--which is as modern in feeling and phrase as
anything done in Boston--in the naif and direct Herodotus, and, above
all, in the King James vernacular translation of the Bible, which is the
great text-book of all modern literature.

The second quality is knowledge of human nature. We can put up with the
improbable in invention, because the improbable is always happening in
life, but we cannot tolerate the so-called psychological juggling with
the human mind, the perversion of the laws of the mind, the forcing of
character to fit the eccentricities of plot. Whatever excursions the
writer makes in fancy, we require fundamental consistency with human
nature. And this is the reason why psychological studies of the
abnormal, or biographies of criminal lunatics, are only interesting to
pathologists and never become classics in literature.

A third quality common to all masterpieces is what we call charm, a
matter more or less of style, and which may be defined as the agreeable
personality of the writer. This is indispensable. It is this
personality which gives the final value to every work of art as well as
of literature. It is not enough to copy nature or to copy, even
accurately, the incidents of life. Only by digestion and transmutation
through personality does any work attain the dignity of art. The great
works of architecture, even, which are somewhat determined by
mathematical rule, owe their charm to the personal genius of their
creators. For this reason our imitations of Greek architecture are
commonly failures. To speak technically, the masterpiece of literature
is characterized by the same knowledge of proportion and perspective as
the masterpiece in art.

If there is a standard of literary excellence, as there is a law of
beauty--and it seems to me that to doubt this in the intellectual world
is to doubt the prevalence of order that exists in the natural--it is
certainly possible to ascertain whether a new production conforms, and
how far it conforms, to the universally accepted canons of art. To work
by this rule in literary criticism is to substitute something definite
for the individual tastes, moods, and local bias of the critic. It is
true that the vast body of that which we read is ephemeral, and justifies
its existence by its obvious use for information, recreation, and
entertainment. But to permit the impression to prevail that an
unenlightened popular preference for a book, however many may hold it,
is to be taken as a measure of its excellence, is like claiming that a
debased Austrian coin, because it circulates, is as good as a gold stater
of Alexander. The case is infinitely worse than this; for a slovenly
literature, unrebuked and uncorrected, begets slovenly thought and
debases our entire intellectual life.

It should be remembered, however, that the creative faculty in man has
not ceased, nor has puny man drawn all there is to be drawn out of the
eternal wisdom. We are probably only in the beginning of our evolution,
and something new may always be expected, that is, new and fresh
applications of universal law. The critic of literature needs to be in
an expectant and receptive frame of mind. Many critics approach a book
with hostile intent, and seem to fancy that their business is to look for
what is bad in it, and not for what is good. It seems to me that the
first duty of the critic is to try to understand the author, to give him
a fair chance by coming to his perusal with an open mind. Whatever book
you read, or sermon or lecture you hear, give yourself for the time
absolutely to its influence. This is just to the author, fair to the
public, and, above all, valuable to the intellectual sanity of the critic
himself. It is a very bad thing for the memory and the judgment to get
into a habit of reading carelessly or listening with distracted
attention. I know of nothing so harmful to the strength of the mind as
this habit. There is a valuable mental training in closely following a
discourse that is valueless in itself. After the reader has unreservedly
surrendered himself to the influence of the book, and let his mind
settle, as we say, and resume its own judgment, he is in a position to
look at it objectively and to compare it with other facts of life and of
literature dispassionately. He can then compare it as to form,
substance, tone, with the enduring literature that has come down to us
from all the ages. It is a phenomenon known to all of us that we may for
the moment be carried away by a book which upon cool reflection we find
is false in ethics and weak in construction. We find this because we
have standards outside ourselves.

I am not concerned to define here what is meant by literature. A great
mass of it has been accumulated in the progress of mankind, and,
fortunately for different wants and temperaments, it is as varied as the
various minds that produced it. The main thing to be considered is that
this great stream of thought is the highest achievement and the most
valuable possession of mankind. It is not only that literature is the
source of inspiration to youth and the solace of age, but it is what a
national language is to a nation, the highest expression of its being.
Whatever we acquire of science, of art, in discovery, in the application
of natural laws in industries, is an enlargement of our horizon, and a
contribution to the highest needs of man, his intellectual life. The
controversy between the claims of the practical life and the intellectual
is as idle as the so-called conflict between science and religion. And
the highest and final expression of this life of man, his thought, his
emotion, his feeling, his aspiration, whatever you choose to call it, is
in the enduring literature he creates. He certainly misses half his
opportunity on this planet who considers only the physical or what is
called the practical. He is a man only half developed. I can conceive
no more dreary existence than that of a man who is past the period of
business activity, and who cannot, for his entertainment, his happiness,
draw upon the great reservoir of literature. For what did I come into
this world if I am to be like a stake planted in a fence, and not like a
tree visited by all the winds of heaven and the birds of the air?

Those who concern themselves with the printed matter in books and
periodicals are often in despair over the volume of it, and their actual
inability to keep up with current literature. They need not worry. If
all that appears in books, under the pressure of publishers and the
ambition of experimenters in writing, were uniformly excellent, no reader
would be under any more obligation to read it than he is to see every
individual flower and blossoming shrub. Specimens of the varieties would
suffice. But a vast proportion of it is the product of immature minds,
and of a yearning for experience rather than a knowledge of life. There
is no more obligation on the part of the person who would be well
informed and cultivated to read all this than there is to read all the
colored incidents, personal gossip, accidents, and crimes repeated daily,

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