Part 4 out of 5
suppose, who look up to him as an oracle, and so he inevitably
assumes the oracular manner, and speaks as if truth and wisdom
were attiring themselves by his voice. Mr. Emerson has risked the
doing him much mischief by putting him in print,--a trial few
persons can sustain without losing their unconsciousness. But,
after all, a man gifted with thought and expression, whatever his
rank in life and his mode of uttering himself, whether by pen or
tongue, cannot be expected to go through the world without finding
himself out; and, as all such discoveries are partial and
imperfect, they do more harm than good to the character. Mr.
Hosmer is more natural than ninety-nine men out of a hundred, and
is certainly a man of intellectual and moral substance. It would
be amusing to draw a parallel between him and his admirer,--Mr.
Emerson, the mystic, stretching his hand out of cloudland in vain
search for something real; and the man of sturdy sense, all whose
ideas seem to be dug out of his mind, hard and substantial, as he
digs his potatoes, carrots, beets, and turnips out of the earth.
Mr. Emerson is a great searcher for facts, but they seem to melt
away and become unsubstantial in his grasp."
They took that extraordinary creature, Margaret Fuller, seriously,
and they took a vast deal of poor poetry seriously. Because a few
could write, nearly every one in the village seemed to think he or
she could write, and write they did to the extent of a small
library most religiously shelved and worshipped in its own
compartment in the town library.
Genius is egotism; the superb confidence of these men, each in the
sanctity of his own mission, in the plenitude of his own powers,
in the inspiration of his own message, made them what they were.
The last word was Alcott's because he outlived them all, and his
last word was that, great as were those who had taken their
departure, the greatest of them all had fallen just short of
appreciating him, the survivor. A man penetrates every one's
disguise but his own; we deceive no one but ourselves. The insane
are often singularly quick to penetrate the delusions of others;
the man who calls himself George Washington ridicules the claim of
another that he is Julius Caesar.
Between Hawthorne and Thoreau there was little in common. In 1860,
the latter speaks of meeting Hawthorne shortly after his return
from Europe, and says, "He is as simple and childlike as ever."
Of Thoreau, Mrs. Hawthorne wrote in a letter, "This evening Mr.
Thoreau is going to lecture, and will stay with us. His lecture
before was so enchanting; such a revelation of nature in all its
exquisite details of wood-thrushes, squirrels, sunshine, mists and
shadows, fresh vernal odors, pine-tree ocean melodies, that my ear
rang with music, and I seemed to have been wandering through copse
and dingle! Mr. Thoreau has risen above all his arrogance of
manner, and is as gentle, simple, ruddy, and meek as all geniuses
should be; and now his great blue eyes fairly outshine and put
into shade a nose which I thought must make him uncomely forever."
In his own journal Hawthorne said, "Mr. Thoreau dined with us. He
is a singular character,--a young man with much of wild, original
nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated,
it is in a way and method of his own. He is as ugly as sin,
long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic,
though courteous, manners, corresponding very well with such an
exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion,
and becomes him much better than beauty."
Alcott helped build the hut at Walden, and he and Emerson spent
many an evening there in conversation that must have delighted the
gods--in so far as they understood it.
Of Alcott and their winter evenings, Thoreau has said, "One of the
last of the philosophers. Connecticut gave him to the world,--he
peddled first his wares, afterwards, as he declares, his brains;
these he peddles still, prompting God and disgracing man, bearing
for fruit his brain only, like the nut in the kernel. His words
and attitude always suppose a better state of things than other
men are acquainted with, and he will be the last man to be
disappointed as the ages revolve. A true friend of man, almost
the only friend of human progress. He is perhaps the sanest man
and has the fewest crotchets of any I chance to know,--the same
yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow. Ah, such discourse as we had,
hermit and philosopher, and the old settler I have spoken of,--we
three; it expanded and racked my little home;"--to say nothing of
the universe, which doubtless felt the strain.
Referring to the same evening, Alcott said,--probably after a
chastening discussion,--"If I were to proffer my earnest prayer to
the gods for the greatest of all human privileges, it should be
for the gift of a severely candid friend. Intercourse of this kind
I have found possible with my friends Emerson and Thoreau; and the
evenings passed in their society during these winter months have
realized my conception of what friendship, when great and genuine,
owes to and takes from its objects."
Nearly twenty years after Thoreau's death, Alcott, while walking
towards the close of day, said, "I always think of Thoreau when I
look at a sunset."
Emerson was fourteen years older than Thoreau, but between the two
men there existed through life profound sympathy and affection.
Emerson watched him develop as a young man, and delivered the
address at his funeral; for two years they lived in the same
house, and concerning him Emerson wrote in 1863, a year after his
death, "In reading Henry Thoreau's journal, I am very sensible of
the vigor of his constitution. That oaken strength which I noted
whenever he walked or worked, or surveyed wood-lots, the same
unhesitating hand with which a field laborer accosts a piece of
work which I should shun as a waste of strength, Henry shows in
his literary task. He has muscle, and ventures in and performs
feats which I am forced to decline. In reading him I find the same
thoughts, the same spirit that is in me, but he takes a step
beyond and illustrates by excellent images that which I should
have conveyed in a sleepy generalization. 'Tis as if I went into a
gymnasium and saw youths leap and climb and swing with a force
unapproachable, tho these feats are only continuations of my
initial grapplings and jumps." One is reminded of Mrs. Hawthorne's
vivid characterization of the two men as she saw them on the ice
of the Musketaquid twenty years before.
In our reverence for a place where a great man for a time has had
his home, we must not forget that, while death may mark a given
spot, life is quite another matter. A man may be born or may die
in a country, a city, a village, a house, a room, or,--narrower
still,--a bed; for birth and death are physical events, but life
is something quite different. Birth is the welding of the soul to
a given body; death is the dissolution of that connection; life is
the relation of the imprisoned soul to its environment, and the
content of that environment depends largely upon the individual;
it may be as narrow as the village in which he lives, or it may
stretch beyond the uttermost stars. A man may live on a farm, or
he may visit the cities of the earth,--it does not matter much;
his life is the sum total of his experiences, his sympathies, his
loves, of his hopes and ambitions, his dreams and aspirations, his
beliefs and convictions.
To live is to love, and to think, and to dream, and to believe,
and to act as one loves and thinks and dreams and believes, that
is life; and, therefore, no man's life is bounded by physical
confines, no man lives in this place or that, in this house or
that; but every man lives in the world he has conquered for
himself, and no one knows the limits of the domains of another.
The farmer's boy who sows the seed and watches the tender blades
part with volcanic force the surface of the earth, making it to
heave and tremble, who sees the buds and flowers of the spring
ripen into the fruit and foliage of autumn, who follows with
sympathetic vision all the mysterious processes of nature, lives a
broader and nobler life than the merchant who sees naught beyond
the four walls of his counting-room, or the traveller whose
superficial eye marks only the strange and the curious.
In the eyes of those about them Hawthorne "lived" a scant mile
from Emerson; in reality they did not live in the same spheres;
the boundaries of their worlds did not overlap, but, like two
far-separate stars, each felt the distant attraction and admired the
glow of the other, and that was all. The real worlds of Thoreau and
Alcott and Emerson did at times so far overlap that they trod on
common ground, but these periods were so brief and the spaces in
common so small that soon they wandered apart, each circling by
himself in an orbit of his own.
Words at best are poor instruments of thought; the more we use
them the more ambiguous do they become; no man knows exactly what
another means from what he says; every word is qualified by its
context, but the context of every word is eternity. How long shall
we listen to find out what a speaker meant by his opening
sentence?--an hour, a day, a week, a month?--these periods are all
too short, for with every added thought the meaning of the first
is changed for him as well as for us.
"Life" in common speech may mean either mere organic existence or
a metaphysical assumption; we speak of the life of a tree, and the
life of a man, and the life of a soul, of the life mortal and the
life immortal. Who can tell what we have in mind when we talk of
life? No one, for we cannot tell ourselves. We speak of life one
moment with a certain matter in mind, possibly the state of our
garden; in the infinitesimal fraction of a second additional cells
of our brain come into activity, additional areas are excited, and
our ideas scale the walls of the garden and scatter over the face
of the earth. If we attempt to explain, the very process implies
the generation of new ideas and the modification of old, so that
long before the explanation of what we meant by the use of a given
word is finished, the meaning has undergone a change, and we
perceive that what we thought we meant by no means included all
that lurked in the mind.
In every-day speech we are obliged to distinguish by elaborate
circumlocution between a man's place of residence and that larger
and truer life,--his sphere of sympathies. Emerson lived in
Concord, Carlyle in Chelsea; to the casual reader these phrases
convey the impression that the life of Emerson was in some way
identified with and bounded by Concord; that the life of Carlyle
was in some way identified with and bounded by Chelsea; that in
some subtle manner the census of those two small communities
affected the philosophy of the two men; whereas we know that for a
long time the worlds in which they really did move and have their
being so far overlapped that they were near neighbors in thought,
much nearer than they would have been if they had "lived" in the
same village and met daily on the same streets.
The directory gives a man's abode, but tells us nothing,
absolutely nothing, about his life; the number of his house does
not indicate where he lives. It is possible to live in London, in
Paris, in Rome without ever having visited any one of those
places; in truth, millions of people really live in Rome in a
truer sense than many who have their abodes there; of the
inhabitants of Paris comparatively few really live there,
comparatively few have any knowledge of the city, its history, its
traditions, its charms, its treasures, but outside Paris there are
thousands of men and women who spend many hours and days and weeks
of their time in reading, learning, and thinking about Paris and
all it contains,--in very truth living there.
Many a worthy preacher lives so exclusively in Jerusalem that he
knows not his own country, and his usefulness is impaired; many an
artist lives so exclusively in Paris that his work suffers; many
an architect lives so long among the buildings of other days that
he can do nothing of his own. In fact, most men who are devoted to
intellectual, literary, and artistic pursuits live anywhere and
everywhere except at home.
The one great merit of Walt Whitman is that he lived in America
and in the nineteenth century; he did not live in the past; he did
not live in Europe; he lived in the present and in the world about
him, his home was America, his era was his own.
If we have no national literature, it is because those who write
spend the better part of their lives abroad; they may not leave
their own firesides, but all their sympathies are elsewhere, all
their inspiration is drawn from other lands and other times.
We have very little art, very little architecture, very little
music of our own for the same reasons. We have any number of
painters, sculptors, composers, but few of them live at home;
their sympathies are elsewhere; they seem to have little or
nothing in common with their surroundings. Now and then a clear,
fresh voice is heard from out of the woods and fields, or over the
city's din, speaking with the convincing eloquence of immediate
knowledge and first-hand observation; but there are so few of
these voices that they do not amount to a chorus, and a national
literature means a chorus.
All this will gradually change until some day the preacher will
return from Jerusalem, the painter from Paris, the poet from
England, the architect from Rome, and the overwhelming problems
presented by the unparalleled development and opportunities of
America will absorb their attention to the exclusion of all else.
The danger of travel, the danger of learning, the danger of
reading, of profound research and extensive observation, lies in
the fact that some age, city, or country, some man or coterie of
men, may gain too firm a hold, may so absorb the attention and
restrict the imagination that the sense of proportion is lost. It
requires a level head to withstand the allurements of the past,
the fascination of the foreign. Nothing disturbed Shakespeare's
equanimity. Neither Stratford nor London bounded his life. On the
wings of his imagination he visited the known earth and penetrated
beyond the blue skies, he made the universe his home; and yet he
was essentially and to the last an Englishman.
When we stopped before "Orchard House" it was desolate and
forsaken, and the entrance to the "Hillside Chapel," where the
"Concord School of Philosophy and Literature" had its home for
nine years, was boarded up.
Parts of the house had been built more than a century and a half
when Mrs. Alcott bought it in 1857. In her journal for July, 1858,
the author of "Little Women" records, "Went into the new house and
began to settle. Father is happy; mother glad to be at rest; Anna
is in bliss with her gentle John; and May busy over her pictures.
I have plans simmering, but must sweep and dust and wash my
dishpans a while longer till I see my way."
Meanwhile the little women paper and decorate the walls, May in
her enthusiasm filling panels and every vacant place with birds
and flowers and mottoes in old English.
"August. Much company to see the new house. All seem to be glad
that the wandering family is anchored at last. We won't move again
for twenty years" (prophetic soul to name the period so exactly)
"if I can help it. The old people need an abiding place, and now
that death and love have taken two of us away, I can, I hope, soon
manage to take care of the remaining four."
It is one of the ironies of fate that the fame of Bronson Alcott
should hang upon that of his gifted daughter. It was not until she
made her great success with "Little Women" in 1868 that the
outside world began to take a vivid interest in the father. From
that time his lectures and conversations began to pay; he was
seized anew with the desire to publish, and from 1868 until the
beginning of his illness in 1882 he printed or reprinted nearly
his entire works,--some eight or ten volumes; it is no
disparagement to the kindly old philosopher that his books were
bought mainly on the success of his daughter's.
The Summer School of Philosophy was the last ambitious attempt of
a spirit that had been struggling for half a century to teach
The small chapel of plain, unpainted boards, nestling among the
trees on the hillside, has not been opened since 1888. It stands a
pathetic memento to a vision. Twenty years ago the "school" was an
overshadowing reality,--to-day it is a memory, a minor incident in
the progress of thought, a passing phase in intellectual
development. Many eminent men lectured there, and the scope of the
work is by no means indicated by the humble building which
remains; but, while strong in conversation and in the expression
of his own views, Alcott was not cut out for a leader. All reports
indicate that he had a wonderful facility in the off-hand
expression of abstruse thought, but he had no faculty whatsoever
for so ordering and systematizing his thoughts as to furnish
explosive material for belligerent followers; the intellectual
ammunition he put up was not in the convenient form of cartridges,
nor even in kegs or barrels, but just poured out on the ground,
where it disintegrated before it could be used.
Leaning on the gate that bright, warm, summer afternoon, it was
not difficult to picture the venerable, white-haired philosopher
seated by the doorstep arguing eloquently with some congenial
visitor, or chatting with his daughter. One could almost see a
small throng of serious men and women wending their way up the
still plainly marked path to the chapel, and catch the measured
tones of the lecturer as he expounded theories too recondite for
this practical age and generation.
Philosophy is the sarcophagus of truth; and most systems of
philosophy are like the pyramids,--impressive piles of useless
intellectual masonry, erected at prodigious cost of time and labor
to secrete from mankind the truth.
A little farther on we came to the fork in the road where Lincoln
Street branches off to the southeast. Emerson's house fronts on
Lincoln and is a few rods from the intersection with Lexington
Street. Here Emerson lived from 1835 until his death in 1882.
It is singular the fascination exercised by localities and things
identified with great men. It is not enough to simply see, but in
so far as possible we wish to place ourselves in their places, to
walk where they walked, sit where they sat, sleep where they
slept, to merge our petty and obscure individualities for the time
being in theirs, to lose our insignificant selves in the
atmosphere they created and left behind. Is it possible that
subtile** distillations of personality penetrate and saturate
inanimate things, so that aromas imperceptible to the sense are
given off for ages and affect all who come in receptive mood
within their influence? It is quite likely that what we feel when
we stand within the shadow of a great soul is all subjective, that
our emotions are but the workings of our imaginations stirred by
suggestive surroundings; but who knows, who knows?
When this house was nearly destroyed by fire in July, 1872,
friends persuaded Emerson to go abroad with his daughter, and
while they were away, the house was completely restored.
His son describes his return: "When the train reached Concord, the
bells were rung and a great company of his neighbors and friends
accompanied him, under a triumphal arch, to his restored house. He
was greatly moved, but with characteristic modesty insisted that
this was a welcome to his daughter, and could not be meant for
him. Although he had felt quite unable to make any speech, yet,
seeing his friendly townspeople, old and young, in groups watching
him enter his own door once more, he turned suddenly back and
going to the gate said, 'My friends! I know this is not a tribute
to an old man and his daughter returned to their home, but to the
common blood of us all--one family--in Concord.'"
The exposure incidental to the fire seriously undermined Emerson's
already failing health; shortly after he wrote a friend in
Philadelphia, "It is too ridiculous that a fire should make an old
scholar sick; but the exposures of that morning and the
necessities of the following days which kept me a large part of
the time in the blaze of the sun have in every way demoralized me
for the present,--incapable of any sane or just action. These
signal proofs of my debility an decay ought to persuade you at
your first northern excursion to come and reanimate and renew the
failing powers of your still affectionate old friend."
The story of his last days is told by his son, who was also his
"His last few years were quiet and happy. Nature gently drew the
veil over his eyes; he went to his study and tried to work,
accomplished less and less, but did not notice it. However, he
made out to look over and index most of his journals. He enjoyed
reading, but found so much difficulty in conversation in
associating the right word with his idea, that he avoided going
into company, and on that account gradually ceased to attend the
meetings of the Social Circle. As his critical sense became
dulled, his standard of intellectual performance was less
exacting, and this was most fortunate, for he gladly went to any
public occasion where he could hear, and nothing would be expected
of him. He attended the Lyceum and all occasions of speaking or
reading in the Town Hall with unfailing pleasure.
"He read a lecture before his townpeople** each winter as late as
1880, but needed to have one of his family near by to help him out
with a word and assist in keeping the place in his manuscript. In
these last years he liked to go to church. The instinct had always
been there, but he had felt that he could use his time to better
"In April, 1882, a raw and backward spring, he caught cold, and
increased it by walking out in the rain and, through
forgetfulness, omitting to put on his over-coat. He had a hoarse
cold for a few days, and on the morning of April 19 I found him a
little feverish, so went to see him next day. He was asleep on his
study sofa, and when he awoke he proved to be more feverish and a
little bewildered, with unusual difficulty in finding the right
word. He was entirely comfortable and enjoyed talking, and, as he
liked to have me read to him, I read Paul Revere's Ride, finding
that he could only follow simple narrative. He expressed great
pleasure, was delighted that the story was part of Concord's
story, but was sure he had never heard it before, and could hardly
be made to understand who Longfellow was, though he had attended
his funeral only the week before."
It was at Longfellow's funeral that Emerson got up from his chair,
went to the side of the coffin and gazed long and earnestly upon
the familiar face of the dead poet; twice he did this, then said
to a friend near him, "That gentleman was a sweet, beautiful soul,
but I have entirely forgotten his name."
Continuing the narrative, the son says: "Though dulled to other
impressions, to one he was fresh as long as he could understand
anything, and while even the familiar objects of his study began
to look strange, he smiled and pointed to Carlyle's head and said,
'That is my man, my good man!' I mention this because it has been
said that this friendship cooled, and that my father had for long
years neglected to write to his early friend. He was loyal while
life lasted, but had been unable to write a letter for years
before he died. Their friendship did not need letters.
"The next day pneumonia developed itself in a portion of one lung
and he seemed much sicker; evidently believed he was to die, and
with difficulty made out to give a word or two of instructions to
his children. He did not know how to be sick, and desired to be
dressed and sit up in his study, and as we had found that any
attempt to regulate his actions lately was very annoying to him,
and he could not be made to understand the reasons for our doing
so in his condition, I determined that it would not be worth while
to trouble and restrain him as it would a younger person who had
more to live for. He had lived free; his life was essentially
spent, and in what must almost surely be his last illness we would
not embitter the occasion by any restraint that was not absolutely
"He suffered very little, took his nourishment well, but had great
annoyance from his inability to find the words which he wished
for. He knew his friends and family, but thought he was in a
strange house. He sat up in a chair by the fire much of the time,
and only on the last day stayed entirely in bed.
"During the sickness he always showed pleasure when his wife sat
by his side, and on one of the last days he managed to express, in
spite of his difficulty with words, how long and happy they had
lived together. The sight of his grandchildren always brought the
brightest smile to his face. On the last day he saw several of his
friends and took leave of them.
"Only at the last came pain, and this was at once relieved by
ether, and in the quiet sleep this produced he gradually faded
away in the evening of Thursday, April 27, 1882.
"Thirty-five years earlier he wrote one morning in his journal: 'I
said, when I awoke, after some more sleepings and wakings I shall
lie on this mattress sick; then dead; and through my gay entry
they will carry these bones. Where shall I be then? I lifted my
head and beheld the spotless orange light of the morning streaming
up from the dark hills into the wide universe.'"
After a few more sleepings and a few more wakings we shall all lie
dead, every living soul on this broad earth,--all who, at this
mathematical point in time called the present, breathe the breath
of life will pass away; but even now the new generation is
springing into life; within the next hour five thousand bodies
will be born into the world to perpetuate mankind; the whole lives
by the constant renewal of its parts; but the individual, what
becomes of the individual?
The five thousand bodies that are born within the hour take the
place of the something less than five thousand bodies that die
within the hour; the succession is preserved; the life of the
aggregate is assured; but the individual, what becomes of the
individual? Is he immortal, and if immortal whence came he and
whither does he go? if immortal, whence come these new souls which
are being delivered on the face of the globe at the rate of nearly
a hundred a minute? Are they from other worlds, exiled for a time
to this, or are they souls revisiting their former habitation?
Hardly the latter, for more are coming than going.
One midsummer night, while leaning over the rail of an ocean
steamer and watching the white foam thrown up by the prow, the
expanse of dark, heaving water, the vast dome of sky studded with
the brilliant jewels of space, an old man stopped by my side and
we talked of the grandeur of nature and the mysteries of life and
death, and he said, "My wife and I once had three boys, whom we
loved better than life; one by one they were taken from us,--they
all died, and my wife and I were left alone in the world; but
after a time a boy was born to us and we gave him the name of the
oldest who died, and then another came and we gave him the name of
my second boy, and then a third was born and we gave him the name
of our youngest;--and so in some mysterious way our three boys
have come back to us; we feel that they went away for a little
while and returned. I have sometimes looked in their eyes and
asked them if anything they saw or heard seemed familiar, whether
there was any faint fleeting memories of other days; they say
'no;' but I am sure that their souls are the souls of the boys we
And why not? Is it not more than likely that there is but one soul
which dwells in all things animate and inanimate, or rather, are
not all things animate and inanimate but manifestations of the one
soul, so that the death of an individual is, after all, but the
suppression of a particular manifestation and in no sense a
release of a separate soul; so that the birth of a child is but a
new manifestation in physical form of the one soul, and in no
sense the apparition of an additional soul? It is difficult to
think otherwise. The birth and death of souls are inconceivable;
the immortality of a vast and varying number of individual souls
is equally inconceivable. Immortality implies unity, not number.
The mind can grasp the possibility of one soul, the manifestation
of which is the universe and all it contains.
The hypothesis of individual souls first confined in and then
released from individual bodies to preserve their individuality
for all time is inconceivable, since it assumes--to coin a word--
an intersoulular space, which must necessarily be filled with a
medium that is either material or spiritual in its character; if
material, then we have the inconceivable condition of spiritual
entities surrounded by a material medium; if the intersoulular
space be occupied by a spiritual medium, then we have simply souls
surrounded by soul,--or, in the final analysis, one soul, of which
the so-called individual souls are but so many manifestations.
To the assumption of an all-pervading ether which is the physical
basis of the universe, may we not add the suprasumption** of an
all-pervading soul which is the spiritual basis of not only the
ether but of life itself? The seeming duality of mind and matter,
of the soul and body, must terminate somewhere, must merge in
identity. Whether that identity be the Creator of theology or the
soul of speculation does not much matter, since the final result
is the same, namely, the immortality of that suprasumption, the
But the individual, what becomes of the individual in this
assumption of an all-pervading, immortal soul, of which all things
animate and inanimate are but so many activities?
The body, which for a time being is a part of the local
manifestation of the pervading soul, dies and is resolved into its
constituent elements; it is inconceivable that those elements
should ever gather themselves together again and appear in
visible, tangible form. No one could possibly desire they ever
should; those who die maimed, or from sickness and disease, or in
the decrepitude and senility of age, could not possibly wish that
their disordered bodies should appear again; nor could any person
name the exact period of his life when he was so satisfied with
his physical condition that he would choose to have his body as it
then was. No; the body, like the trunk of a fallen tree, decays
and disappears; like ripe fruit, it drops to the earth and
enriches the soil, but nevermore resumes its form and semblance.
The pervading soul, of which the body was but the physical
manifestation, remains; it does not return to heaven or any
hypothetical point in either space or speculation. The dissolution
of the body is but the dissolution of a particular manifestation
of the all-pervading soul, and the immortality of the so-called
individual soul is but the persistence of that, so to speak, local
disturbance in the one soul after the body has disappeared. It is
quite conceivable, or rather the reverse is inconceivable, that
the activity of the pervading soul, which manifests itself for a
time in the body, persists indefinitely after the physical
manifestation has ceased; that, with the cessation of the physical
manifestation, the particular activity which we recognize here as
an individuality will so persist that hereafter we may recognize
it as a spiritual personality. In other words, assuming the
existence of a soul of which the universe and all it contains are
but so many manifestations, it is dimly conceivable that with the
cessation, or rather the transformation, of any particular
manifestation, the effects may so persist as to be forever known
and recognizable,--not by parts of the one soul, which has no
parts, but by the soul itself.
Therefore all things are immortal. Nothing is so lost to the
infinite soul as to be wholly and totally obliterated. The
withering of a flower is as much the act of the all-pervading soul
as the death of a child; but the life and death of a human being
involve activities of the soul so incomparably greater than the
blossoming of a plant, that the immortality of the one, while not
differing in kind, may be infinitely more important in degree. The
manifestation of the soul in the life of the humming-bird is
slight in comparison with the manifestation in the life of a man,
and the traces which persist forever in the case of the former are
probably insignificant compared with the traces which persist in
the case of the latter; but traces must persist, else there is no
immortality of the individual; at the same time there is not the
slightest reason for urging that, whereas traces of the soul's
activity in the form of man will persist, traces of the soul's
activity in lower forms of life and in things inanimate will not
persist. There is no reason why, when the physical barriers which
exist between us and the soul that is within and without us are
destroyed, we should not desire to know forever all that the
universe contains. Why should not the sun and the moon and the
stars be immortal,--as immortal in their way as we in ours, both
immortal in the one all-pervading soul?
"The philosophy of six thousand years has not searched the
chambers and the magazine of the soul. In its experiments there
has always remained, in the last analysis, a residuum it could not
solve," said Emerson in the lecture he called "Over-Soul."
What a pity to use the phrase "Over-Soul," which removes the soul
even farther aloof than it is in popular conception, or which
fosters the belief of an inner and outer, or an inferior and a
superior soul; whereas Emerson meant, as the context shows, the
But, then, who knows what any one else thinks or means? At the
most we only know what others say, what words they use, but in
what sense they use them and the content of thought back of them
we do not know. So far as the problems of life go we are all
groping in the dark, and words are like fireflies leading us
hither and thither with glimpses of light only to go out, leaving
us in darkness and despair.
It is the sounding phrase that catches the ear. "For fools admire
and like all things the more which they perceive to be concealed
under involved language, and determine things to be true which can
prettily tickle the ears and are varnished over with finely
sounding phrase," says Lucretius. We imagine we understand when we
do not; we do not really, truly, and wholly understand Emerson or
any other man; we do not understand ourselves.
We speak of the conceivable and of the inconceivable as if the
words had any clear and tangible meaning in our minds; whereas
they have not; at the best they are of but relative value. What is
conceivable to one man is inconceivable to another; what is beyond
the perception of one generation is matter of fact to the next.
The conceivable is and ever must be bounded by the inconceivable;
the domain of the former is finite, that of the latter is
infinite. It matters not how far we press our speculations, how
extravagant our hypotheses, how distant our vision, we reach at
length the confines of our thought and admit the inconceivable.
The inconceivable is a postulate as essential to reason as is the
conceivable. That the inconceivable exists is as certain as the
existence of the conceivable; it is in a sense more certain, since
we constantly find ourselves in error in our conclusions
concerning the existence of the things we know, while we can never
be in error concerning the existence of things we can never know,
being sure that beyond the confines of the finite there must
necessarily be the infinite.
We may indulge in assumptions concerning the infinite based upon
our knowledge of the finite, or, rather, based upon the inflexible
laws of our mental processes. We may say that there must be one
all-pervading soul, not because we can form any conception
whatsoever of the true nature of such a soul, but because the
alternative hypothesis of many individual souls is utterly
obnoxious to our reason.
To those who urge that it is idle to reason about what we cannot
conceive, it is sufficient answer to say that man cannot help it.
The scientist and the materialist in the ardent pursuit of
knowledge soon experience the necessity of indulging in
assumptions concerning force and matter, the hypothetical ether
and molecules, atoms and vortices, which are as purely
metaphysical as any assumptions concerning the soul. The
distinction between the realist and the idealist is a matter of
temperament. All that separated Huxley from Gladstone was a word;
each argued from the unknowable, but disputed over the name and
attributes of the inconceivable. Huxley said he did not know,
which was equivalent to the dogmatic assertion that he did;
Gladstone said he did know, which was a confession of ignorance
denser than that of agnosticism.
Those men who try not to think or reason concerning the infinite
simply imprison themselves within the four walls of the cell they
construct. It is better to think and be wrong than not to think at
all. Any assumption is better than no assumption, any belief
better than none.
Hypotheses enlarge the boundaries of knowledge. With assumptions
the intellectual prospector stakes out the infinite. In life we
may not verify our premises, but death is the proof of all things.
We stopped at Wright's tavern, where patriots used to meet before
the days of the revolution, and where Major Pitcairn is said--
wrongfully in all probability--to have made his boast on the
morning of the 19th, as he stirred his toddy, that they would stir
the rebels' blood before night.
One realizes that "there is but one Concord" as the carriages of
pilgrims are counted in the Square, and the swarm of young guides,
with pamphlets and maps, importune the chance visitor.
We chose the most persistent little urchin, not that we could not
find our way about so small a village, but because he wanted to
ride, and it is always interesting to draw out a child; his story
of the town and its famous places was, of course, the one he had
learned from the others, but his comments were his own, and the
incongruity of going over the sacred ground in an automobile had
It was a short run down Monument Street to the turn just beyond
the "Old Manse." Here the British turned to cross the North Bridge
on their way to Colonel Barrett's house, where the ammunition was
stored. Just across the narrow bridge the "embattled farmers stood
and fired the shot heard round the world." A monument marks the
spot where the British received the fire of the farmers, and a
stone at the side recites "Graves of two British soldiers,"--
unknown wanderers from home they surrendered their lives in a
quarrel, the merits of which they did not know. "Soon was their
warfare ended; a weary night march from Boston, a rattling volley
of musketry across the river, and then these many years of rest.
In the long procession of slain invaders who passed into eternity
from the battle-field of the revolution, these two nameless
soldiers led the way." While standing by the grave, Hawthorne was
told a story, a tradition of how a youth, hurrying to the
battle-field axe in hand, came upon these two soldiers, one not yet
dead raised himself up painfully on his hands and knees, and how the
youth on the impulse of the moment cleft the wounded man's head with
the axe. The tradition is probably false, but it made its impression
on Hawthorne, who continues, "I could wish that the grave might be
opened; for I would fain know whether either of the skeleton
soldiers has the mark of an axe in his skull. The story comes home
to me like truth. Oftentimes, as an intellectual and moral exercise,
I have sought to follow that poor youth through his subsequent
career and observe how his soul was tortured by the blood-stain,
contracted as it had been before the long custom of war had robbed
human life of its sanctity, and while it still seemed murderous to
slay a brother man. This one circumstance has borne more fruit for
me than all that history tells us of the fight."
There are souls so callous that the taking of a human life is no
more than the killing of a beast; there are souls so sensitive
that they will not kill a living thing. The man who can relate
without regret so profound it is close akin to remorse the killing
of another--no matter what the provocation, no matter what the
circumstances--is next kin to the common hangman.
From the windows of the "Old Manse," the Rev. William Emerson,
grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson, looked out upon the battle,
and he would have taken part in the fight had not his neighbors
held him back; as it was, he sacrificed his life the following
year in attempting to join the army at Ticonderoga, contracting a
fever which proved fatal.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery lies on Bedford Street not far from the
Town Hall. We followed the winding road to the hill where
Hawthorne, Thoreau, the Alcotts, and Emerson lie buried within a
half-dozen paces of one another.
Thoreau came first in May, 1862. Emerson delivered the funeral
address. Mrs. Hawthorne writes in her diary, "Mr. Thoreau died
this morning. The funeral services were in the church. Mr. Emerson
spoke. Mr. Alcott read from Mr. Thoreau's writings. The body was
in the vestibule covered with wild flowers. We went to the grave."
Hawthorne came next, just two years later. "On the 24th of May,
1864 we carried Hawthorne through the blossoming orchards of
Concord," says James T. Fields, "and laid him down under a group
of pines, on a hillside, overlooking historic fields. All the way
from the village church to the grave the birds kept up a perpetual
melody. The sun shone brightly, and the air was sweet and
pleasant, as if death had never entered the world. Longfellow and
Emerson, Channing and Hoar, Agassiz and Lowell, Greene and
Whipple, Alcott and Clarke, Holmes and Hillard, and other friends
whom he loved, walked slowly by his side that beautiful spring
morning. The companion of his youth and his manhood, for whom he
would willingly, at any time, have given up his own life, Franklin
Pierce, was there among the rest, and scattered flowers into the
grave. The unfinished 'Romance,' which had cost him so much
anxiety, the last literary work on which he had ever been engaged,
was laid in his coffin."
Eighteen years later, on April 30, 1882, Emerson was laid at rest
a little beyond Hawthorne and Thoreau in a spot chosen by himself.
A special train came from Boston, but many could not get inside
the church. The town was draped; "even the homes of the very poor
bore outward marks of grief." At the house, Dr. Furness, of
Philadelphia, conducted the services. "The body lay in the front
northeast room, in which were gathered the family and close
friends." The only flowers were lilies of the valley, roses, and
At the church, Judge Hoar, standing by the coffin, spoke briefly;
Dr. Furness read selections from the Scriptures; James Freeman
Clarke delivered the funeral address, and Alcott read a sonnet.
"Over an hour was occupied by the passing files of neighbors,
friends, and visitors looking for the last time upon the face of
the dead poet. The body was robed completely in white, and the
face bore a natural and peaceful expression. From the church the
procession took its way to the cemetery. The grave was made
beneath a tall pine-tree upon the hill-top of Sleepy Hollow, where
lie the bodies of his friends Thoreau and Hawthorne, the upturned
sod being concealed by strewings of pine boughs. A border of
hemlock spray surrounded the grave and completely lined its sides.
The services were very brief, and the casket was soon lowered to
its final resting-place. The grandchildren passed the open grave
and threw flowers into it."
In her "Journal," Louisa Alcott wrote, "Thursday, 27th. Mr.
Emerson died at nine P.M. suddenly. Our best and greatest American
gone. The nearest and dearest friend father ever had, and the man
who has helped me most by his life, his books, his society. I can
never tell all he has been to me,--from the time I sang Mignon's
song under his window (a little girl) and wrote letters _... la_
Bettine to him, my Goethe, at fifteen, up through my hard years,
when his essays on Self-Reliance, Character, Compensation, Love,
and Friendship helped me to understand myself and life, and God
and Nature. Illustrious and beloved friend, good-by!
"Sunday, 30th.--Emerson's funeral. I made a yellow lyre of
jonquils for the church, and helped trim it up. Private service at
the house, and a great crowd at the church. Father read his
sonnet, and Judge Hoar and others spoke. Now he lies in Sleepy
Hollow among his brothers under the pines he loved."
On March 4, 1888, Bronson Alcott died, and two days later Louisa
Alcott followed her father. They lie near together on the ridge a
little beyond Hawthorne. Initials only mark the graves of her
sisters, but it has been found necessary to place a small stone
bearing the name "Louisa" on the grave of the author of "Little
Women." She had made every arrangement for her death, and by her
own wish her funeral was in her father's rooms in Boston, and
attended by only a few of her family and nearest friends.
"They read her exquisite poem to her mother, her father's noble
tribute to her, and spoke of the earnestness and truth of her
life. She was remembered as she would have wished to be. Her body
was carried to Concord and placed in the beautiful cemetery of
Sleepy Hollow, where her dearest ones were already laid to rest.
'Her boys' went beside her as 'a guard of honor,' and stood around
as she was placed across the feet of father, mother, and sister,
that she might 'take care of them as she had done all her life.'"
Louisa Alcott's last written words were the acknowledgment of the
receipt of a flower. "It stands beside me on Marmee's (her mother)
work-table, and reminds me tenderly of her favorite flowers; and
among those used at her funeral was a spray of this, which lasted
for two weeks afterwards, opening bud by bud in the glass on her
table, where lay the dear old 'Jos. May' hymn-book, and her diary
with the pen shut in as she left it when she last wrote there,
three days before the end, 'The twilight is closing about me, and
I am going to rest in the arms of my children.' So, you see, I
love the delicate flower and enjoy it very much."
Reverently, with bowed heads, we stood on that pine-covered ridge
which contained the mortal remains of so many who are great and
illustrious in the annals of American literature. A scant patch of
earth hides their dust, but their fancies, their imaginings, their
philosophy spanned human conduct, emotions, beliefs, and
aspirations from the cradle to the grave.
The warm September day was drawing to a close; the red sun was
sinking towards the west; the hilltop was aflame with a golden
glow from the slanting rays of the declining sun. Slowly we wended
our way through the shadowy hollow below; looking back, the mound
seemed crowned with glory.
Leaving Concord by Main Street we passed some famous homes, among
them Thoreau's earlier home, where he made lead-pencils with the
deftness which characterized all his handiwork; turning to the
left on Thoreau Street we crossed the tracks and took the Sudbury
road through all the Sudburys,--four in number; the roads were
good and the country all the more interesting because not yet
invaded by the penetrating trolley. It would be sacrilegious for
electric cars to go whizzing by the ancient tombs and monuments
that fringe the road down through Sudbury; the automobile felt out
of place and instinctively slowed down to stately and measured
In all truth, one should walk, not ride, through this beautiful
country, where every highway has its historic associations, every
burying-ground its honored dead, every hamlet its weather-beaten
monument. But if one is to ride, the automobile--incongruous as it
may seem--has this advantage,--it will stand indefinitely
anywhere; it may be left by the roadside for hours; no one can
start it; hardly any person would maliciously harm it, providing
it is far enough to one side so as not to frighten passing horses;
excursions on foot may be made to any place of interest, then,
when the day draws to a close, a half-hour suffices to reach the
It was getting dark as we passed beneath the stately trees
bordering the old post-road which leads to the door of the
Here the stages from Boston to Worcester used to stop for dinner.
Here Washington, Lafayette, Burgoyne, and other great men of
Revolutionary days had been entertained, for along this highway
the troops marched and countermarched. The old inn is rich in
The road which leads to the very door of the inn is the old
post-road; the finely macadamized State road which passes a little
farther away is of recent dedication, and is located so as to
leave the ancient hostelry a little retired from ordinary travel.
A weather-beaten sign with a red horse rampant swings at one
corner of the main building.
"Half effaced by rain and shine,
The Red Horse prances on the sign."
For nearly two hundred years, from 1683 to 1860, the inn was owned
and kept by one family, the Howes, and was called by many "Howe's
Tavern," by others "The Red Horse Inn."
Since the publication of Longfellow's "Tales of a Wayside Inn,"
the place has been known by no other name than the one it now
"As ancient is this hostelry
As any in the land may be,
Built in the old Colonial day,
When men lived in a grander way,
With ampler hospitality;
A kind of old Hobgoblin Hall,
Now somewhat fallen to decay,
With weather-stains upon the wall,
And stairways worn, and crazy doors,
And creaking and uneven floors,
And chimneys huge, and tiled and tall."
A portrait of Lyman Howe, the last landlord of the family, hangs
in the little bar-room,
"A man of ancient pedigree,
A Justice of the Peace was he,
Known in all Sudbury as 'The Squire.'
Proud was he of his name and race,
Of old Sir William and Sir Hugh."
And now as of yore
"In the parlor, full in view,
His coat-of-arms, well framed and glazed,
Upon the wall in colors blazed."
The small window-panes which the poet describes as bearing
"The jovial rhymes, that still remain,
Writ near a century ago,
By the great Major Molineaux,
Whom Hawthorne has immortal made,"
are preserved in frames near the mantel in the parlor, one deeply
scratched by diamond ring with name of Major Molineaux and the
date, "June 24th, 1774," the other bears this inscription,--
"What do you think?
Here is good drink,
Perhaps you may not know it;
If not in haste, Do stop and taste,
You merry folk will show it."
A worthy, though not so gifted, successor of the jolly major
rendered the following "true accomp.," which, yellow and faded,
hangs on the bar-room wall:
"Thursday, August 7, 1777"
L s. d.
Super & Loging . . . . . . . 0 1 4
8th. Brakfast, Dinar and 0 1 9
Super and half mug of tody 0 2 6
9th. Lodging, one glass rum half 0 2 6
& Dinar, one mes oats 0 1 4
Super half mug flyp 0 3 0
10th Brakf.--one dram 0 1 8
Dinner, Lodging, horse-keeping 0 2 0
one mug flyp, horse bating 0 3 0
11th. horse keeping 1
13th. glass rum & Diner 1 8
14th. Horse bating 0 0 6
Horse Jorney 28 miles 0 5 10
A true accomp.--total 1 14 6
Dilivered to Capt. Crosby 2 2 6
Alas! the major's inscription and the foregoing "accomp." are
hollow mockeries to the thirsty traveller, for there is neither
rum nor "flyp" to be had; the bar is dry as an old cork; the door
of the cupboard into which the jovial Howes were wont to stick the
awl with which they opened bottles still hangs, worn completely
through by the countless jabs, a melancholy reminder of the
convivial hours of other days. The restrictions of more abstemious
times have relegated the ancient bar to dust, the idle awl to
It is amazing how thirsty one gets in the presence of musty
associations of a convivial character. The ghost of a spree is a
most alluring fellow; it is the dust on the bottle that flavors
the wine; a musty bin is the soul's delight; we drink the vintage
and not the wine.
Drinking is a lost art, eating a forgotten ceremony. The pendulum
has swung from Trimalchio back to Trimalchio. Quality is lost in
quantity. The tables groan, the cooks groan, the guests groan,--
feasting is a nightmare.
Wine is a subject, not a beverage; it is discussed, not drunk; it
is sipped, tasted, and swallowed reluctantly; it lingers on the
palate in fragrant and delicious memory; it comes a bouquet and
departs an aroma; it is the fruition of years, the distillation of
ages; a liquid jewel, it reflects the subtle colors of the
rainbow, running the gamut from a dull red glow to the violet rays
that border the invisible.
But, alas! the appreciation of wine is lost. Everybody serves
wine, no one understands it; everybody drinks it, no one loves it.
From a fragrant essence wine has become a coarse reality,--a
convention. Chablis with the oysters, sherry with the soup,
sauterne with the fish, claret with the roast, Burgundy with the
game,--champagne somewhere, anywhere, everywhere; port, grand, old
ruddy port--that has disappeared; no one understands it and no one
knows when to serve it; while Madeira, that bloom of the vinous
century plant, that rare exotic which ripens with passing
generations, is all too subtle for our untutored discrimination.
And if, perchance, a good wine, like a strange guest, finds its
way to the table, we are at loss how to receive it, how to address
it, how to entertain it. We offend it in the decanting and
distress it in the serving. We buy our wines in the morning and
serve them in the evening to drink the sediment which the more
fastidious wine during long years has been slowly rejecting; we
mix the bright transparent liquid with its dregs and our rough
palates detect no difference. But the lover of wine, the more he
has the less he drinks, until, in the refinement and exaltation of
his taste, it is sufficient to look upon the dust-mantled bottle
and recall the delicious aroma and flavor, the recollection of
which is far too precious to risk by trying anew; he knows that if
a bottle be so much as turned in its couch it must sleep again for
years before it is really fit to drink; he knows how difficult it
is to get the wine out of the bottle clear as ruby or yellow
diamond; he knows that if so much as a speck of sediment gets into
the decanter, to precisely the extent of the speck is the wine
In serving wines, we of the Western world may learn something from
the tea ceremonies of the Japanese,--ceremonies so elaborate that
to our impatient notions they are infinitely tedious, and yet they
get from the tea all the exquisite delight it contains, and at the
same time invest its serving with a halo of form, tradition, and
association. Surely, if wine is to be taken at all, it is as
precious as a cup of tea; and if taken ceremoniously, it will be
What is the use of serving good wine? No one recognizes it,
appreciates it, or cares for it. It is served by the butler and
removed by the footman without introduction, greeting, or comment.
The Hon. Sam Jones, from Podunk, is announced in stentorian tones
as he makes his advent, but the gem of the dinner, the treat of
the evening, the flower of the feast, an Haut Brion of '75, or an
Yquem of '64, or a Johannisberger of '61, comes in like a tramp
without a word. Possibly some one of the guests, whose palate has
not been blunted by coarse living or seared by strong drink, may
feel that he is drinking something out of the ordinary, and he may
linger over his glass, loath to sip the last drop; but all the
others gulp their wine, or leave it--with the indifference of
Good wine is loquacious; it is a great traveller and smacks of
many lands; it is a bon vivant and has dined with the select of
the earth; it recalls a thousand anecdotes; it reeks with
reminiscences; it harbors a kiss and reflects a glance, but it is
a silent companion to those who know it not, and it is quarrelsome
with those who abuse it.
It seemed a pity that somewhere about the inn, deep in some long
disused cellar, there were not a few--just a few--bottles of old
wine, a half-dozen port of 1815, one or two squat bottles of
Madeira brought over by men who knew Washington, an Yquem of '48,
a Margaux of '58, a Johannisberger Cabinet--not forgetting the
"Auslese"--of '61, with a few bottles of Romani Conti and Clos de
Vougeot of '69 or '70,--not to exceed two or three dozen all told;
not a plebeian among them, each the chosen of its race, and all so
well understood that the very serving would carry one back to
colonial days, when to offer a guest a glass of Madeira was a
subtle tribute to his capacity and appreciation.
It is a far cry from an imaginary banquet with Lucullus to the New
England Saturday night supper of pork and beans which was spread
before us that evening. The dish is a survival of the rigid
Puritanism which was the affliction and at the same time the
making of New England; it is a fast, an aggravated fast, a scourge
to indulgence, a reproach to gluttony; it comes Saturday night,
and is followed Sunday morning by the dry, spongy, antiseptic,
absorbent fish-ball as a castigation of nature and as a
preparation for the austere observance of the Sabbath; it is the
harsh, but no doubt deserved, punishment of the stomach for its
worldliness during the week; inured to suffering, the native
accepts the dose as a matter of course; to the stranger it seems
unduly severe. To be sent to bed supperless is one of the terrors
of childhood; to be sent to bed on pork and beans with the
certainty of fishballs in the morning is a refinement of torture
that could have been devised only by Puritan ingenuity.
At the very crisis of the trouble in China, when the whole world
was anxiously awaiting news from Pekin, the papers said that
Boston was perturbed by the reported discovery in Africa of a new
and edible bean.
To New England the bean is an obsession; it is rapidly becoming a
superstition. To the stranger it is an infliction; but, bad as the
bean is to the uninitiated, it is a luscious morsel compared with
the flavorless cod-fish ball which lodges in the throat and stays
there--a second Adam's apple--for lack of something to wash it
If pork and beans is the device of the Puritans, the cod-fish ball
is the invention of the devil. It is as if Satan looked on
enviously while his foes prepared their powder of beans, and then,
retiring to his bottomless pit, went them one better by casting
his ball of cod-fish.
"But from the parlor of the inn
A pleasant murmur smote the ear,
Like water rushing through a weir;
Oft interrupted by the din
Of laughter and of loud applause
"The firelight, shedding over all
The splendor of its ruddy glow,
Filled the whole parlor large and low."
The room remains, but of all that jolly company which gathered in
Longfellow's days and constituted the imaginary weavers of tales
and romances, but one is alive to-day,--the "Young Sicilian."
"A young Sicilian, too, was there;
In sight of Etna born and bred,
Some breath of its volcanic air
Was glowing in his heart and brain,
And, being rebellious to his liege,
After Palermo's fatal siege,
Across the western seas he fled,
In good king Bomba's happy reign.
His face was like a summer night,
All flooded with a dusky light;
His hands were small; his teeth shone white
As sea-shells, when he smiled or spoke."
To the present proprietor of the inn the "Young Sicilian" wrote
the following letter:
Rome, July 4, 1898.
Dear Sir,--In answer to your letter of June 8, I am delighted to
learn that you have purchased the dear old house and carefully
restored and put it back in its old-time condition. I sincerely
hope that it may remain thus for a long, long time as a memento of
the days and customs gone by. It is very sad for me to think that
I am the only living member of that happy company that used to
spend their summer vacations there in the fifties; yet I still
hope that I may visit the old Inn once more before I rejoin those
choice spirits whom Mr. Longfellow has immortalized in his great
poem. I am glad that some of the old residents still remember me
when I was a visitor there with Dr. Parsons (the Poet), and his
sisters, one of whom, my wife, is also the only living member of
those who used to assemble there. Both my wife and I remember well
Mr. Calvin Howe, Mr. Parmenter, and the others you mention; for we
spent many summers there with Professor Treadwell (the Theologian)
and his wife, Mr. Henry W. Wales (the Student), and other visitors
not mentioned in the poem, till the death of Mr. Lyman Howe (the
Landlord), which broke up the party. The "Musician" and the
"Spanish Jew," though not imaginary characters, were never guests
at the "Wayside Inn." I remain,
Luigi Monti (the "Young Sicilian").
But there was a "Musician," for Ole Bull was once a guest at the
"Fair-haired, blue-eyed, his aspect blithe,
His figure tall and straight and lithe,
And every feature of his face
Revealing his Norwegian race."
The "Spanish Jew from Alicant" in real life was Israel Edrehi.
The Landlord told his tale of Paul Revere; the "Student" followed
with his story of love:
"Only a tale of love is mine,
Blending the human and divine,
A tale of the Decameron, told
In Palmieri's garden old."
And one by one the tales were told until the last was said.
"The hour was late; the fire burned low,
The Landlord's eyes were closed in sleep,
And near the story's end a deep
Sonorous sound at times was heard,
As when the distant bagpipes blow,
At this all laughed; the Landlord stirred,
As one awaking from a swound,
And, gazing anxiously around,
Protested that he had not slept,
But only shut his eyes, and kept
His ears attentive to each word.
Then all arose, and said 'Good-Night.'
Alone remained the drowsy Squire
To rake the embers of the fire,
And quench the waning parlor light;
While from the windows, here and there,
The scattered lamps a moment gleamed,
And the illumined hostel seemed
The constellation of the Bear,
Downward, athwart the misty air,
Sinking and setting toward the sun.
Far off the village clock struck one."
Before leaving the next morning, we visited the ancient ballroom
which extends over the dining-room. It seemed crude and cruel to
enter this hall of bygone revelry by the garish light of day. The
two fireplaces were cold and inhospitable; the pen at one end
where the fiddlers sat was deserted; the wooden benches which
fringed the sides were hard and forbidding; but long before any of
us were born this room was the scene of many revelries; the vacant
hearths were bright with flame; the fiddlers bowed and scraped;
the seats were filled with belles and beaux, and the stately
minuet was danced upon the polished floor.
The large dining-room and ballroom were added to the house
something more than a hundred years ago; the little old
dining-room and old kitchen in the rear of the bar still remain,
but--like the bar--are no longer used.
The brass name plates on the bedroom doors--Washington, Lafayette,
Howe, and so on--have no significance, but were put on by the
present proprietor simply as reminders that those great men were
once beneath the roof; but in what rooms they slept or were
entertained, history does not record.
The automobile will bring new life to these deserted hostelries.
For more than half a century steam has diverted their custom,
carrying former patrons from town to town without the need of
half-way stops and rests. Coaching is a fad, not a fashion; it is
not to be relied upon for steady custom; but automobiling bids
fair to carry the people once more into the country, and there
must be inns to receive them.
Already the proprietor was struggling with the problem what to do
with automobiles and what to do for them who drove them. He was
vainly endeavoring to reconcile the machines with horses and house
them under one roof; the experiment had already borne fruit in
some disaster and no little discomfort.
The automobile is quite willing to be left out-doors over night;
but if taken inside it is quite apt to assert itself rather
noisily and monopolize things to the discomfort of the horse.
Stables--to rob the horse of the name of his home--must be
provided, and these should be equipped for emergencies.
Every country inn should have on hand gasoline--this is easily
stored outside in a tank buried in the ground--and lubricating
oils for steam and gasoline machines; these can be kept and sold
in gallon cans.
In addition to supplies there should be some tools, beginning with
a good jack strong enough to lift the heaviest machine, a small
bench and vise, files, chisels, punches, and one or two large
wrenches, including a pipe-wrench. All these things can be
purchased for little more than a song, and when needed they are
needed badly. But gasoline and lubricating oils are absolutely
essential to the permanent prosperity of any well-conducted
CHAPTER FIFTEEN RHODE ISLAND AND CONNECTICUT
CALLING THE FERRY
Next morning, Sunday the 8th, we left the inn at eleven o'clock
for Providence. It was a perfect morning, neither hot nor cold,
sun bright, and the air stirring.
We took the narrow road almost opposite the entrance to the inn,
climbed the hill, threaded the woods, and were soon travelling
almost due south through Framingham, Holliston, Medway, Franklin,
and West Wrentham towards Pawtucket.
That route is direct, the roads are good, the country rolling and
interesting. The villages come in close succession; there are
many quaint places and beautiful homes.
In this section of Massachusetts it does not matter much what
roads are selected, they are all good. Some are macadamized, more
are gravelled, and where there is neither macadam nor gravel, the
roads have been so carefully thrown up that they are good; we
found no bad places at all, no deep sand, and no rough, hard blue
When we stopped for luncheon at a little village not far from
Pawtucket, the tire which had been put on in Boston was leaking
badly. It was the tire that had been punctured and sent to the
factory for repairs, and the repair proved defective. We managed
to get to Pawtucket, and there tried to stop the leak with liquid
preparations, but by the time we reached Providence the tire was
again flat and--as it proved afterwards--ruined.
Had it not been for the tire, Narragansett Pier would have been
made that afternoon with ease; but there was nothing to do but
wire for a new tire and await its arrival.
It was not until half-past three o'clock Monday that the new one
came from New York, and it was five when we left for the Pier.
The road from Providence to Narragansett Pier is something more
than fair, considerably less than fine; it is hilly and in places
quite sandy. For some distance out of Providence it was dusty and
worn rough by heavy travel.
It was seven o'clock, dark and quite cold, when we drew up in
front of Green's Inn.
The season was over, the Pier quite deserted. A summer resort
after the guests have gone is a mournful, or a delightful, place--
as one views it. To the gregarious individual who seeks and misses
his kind, the place is loneliness itself after the flight of the
gay birds who for a time strutted about in gorgeous plumage
twittering the time away; to the man who loves to be in close and
undisturbed contact with nature, who enjoys communing with the
sea, who would be alone on the beach and silent by the waves, the
flight of the throng is a relief. There is a selfish satisfaction
in passing the great summer caravansaries and seeing them closed
and silent; in knowing that the splendor of the night will not be
marred by garish lights and still more garish sounds.
Were it not for the crowd, Narragansett Pier would be an ideal
spot for rest and recreation. The beach is perfect,--hard, firm
sand, sloping so gradually into deep water, and with so little
undertow and so few dangers, that children can play in the water
without attendants. The village itself is inoffensive, the country
about is attractive; but the crowd--the crowd that comes in
summer--comes with a rush almost to the hour in July, and takes
flight with a greater rush almost to the minute in August,--the
crowd overwhelms, submerges, ignores the natural charms of the
place, and for the time being nature hides its honest head before
the onrush of sham and illusion.
Why do the people come in a week and go in a day? What is there
about Narragansett that keeps every one away until a certain time
each year, attracts them for a few weeks, and then bids them off
within twenty-four hours? Just nothing at all. All attractions the
place has--the ocean, the beach, the drives, the country--remain
the same; but no one dares come before the appointed time, no one
dares stay after the flight begins; no one? That is hardly true,
for in every beautiful spot, by the ocean and in the mountains,
there are a few appreciative souls who know enough to make their
homes in nature's caressing embrace while she works for their pure
enjoyment her wondrous panorama of changing seasons. There are
people who linger at the sea-shore until from the steel-gray
waters are heard the first mutterings of approaching winter; there
are those who linger in the woods and mountains until the green of
summer yields to the rich browns and golden russets of autumn,
until the honk of the wild goose foretells the coming cold; these
and their kind are nature's truest and dearest friends; to them
does she unfold a thousand hidden beauties; to them does she
whisper her most precious secrets.
But the crowd--the crowd--the painted throng that steps to the
tune of a fiddle, that hangs on the moods of a caterer, whose
inspiration is a good dinner, whose aspiration is a new dance,--
that crowd is never missed by any one who really delights in the
manifold attractions of nature.
Not that the crowd at Narragansett is essentially other than the
crowd at Newport--the two do not mix; but the difference is one of
degree rather than kind. The crowd at Newport is architecturally
perfect, while the crowd at Narragansett is in the adobe stage,--
that is the conspicuous difference; the one is pretentious and
lives in structures more or less permanent; the other lives in
trunks, and is even more pretentious. Neither, as a crowd, has
more than a superficial regard for the natural charms of its
surroundings. The people at both places are entirely preoccupied
with themselves--and their neighbors. At Newport a reputation is
like an umbrella--lost, borrowed, lent, stolen, but never
returned. Some one has cleverly said that the American girl,
unlike girls of European extraction, if she loses her reputation,
promptly goes and gets another,--to be strictly accurate, she
promptly goes and gets another's. What a world of bother could be
saved if a woman could check her reputation with her wraps on
entering the Casino; for, no matter how small the reputation, it
is so annoying to have the care of it during social festivities
where it is not wanted, or where, like dogs, it is forbidden the
premises. Then, too, if the reputation happens to be somewhat
soiled, stained, or tattered,--like an old opera cloak,--what
woman wants it about. It is difficult to sit on it, as on a wrap
in a theatre; it is conspicuous to hold in the lap where every one
may see its imperfections; perhaps the safest thing is to do as
many a woman does, ask her escort to look out for it, thereby
shifting the responsibility to him. It may pass through strange
vicissitudes in his careless hands,--he may drop it, damage it,
lose it, even destroy it, but she is reasonably sure that when the
time comes he will return her either the old in a tolerable state
of preservation, or a new one of some kind in its place.
Narragansett possesses this decided advantage over Newport, the
people do not know each other until it is too late. For six weeks
the gay little world moves on in blissful ignorance of antecedents
and reputations; no questions are asked, no information
volunteered save that disclosed by the hotel register,--
information frequently of apocryphal value. The gay beau of the
night may be the industrious clerk of the morrow; the baron of the
summer may be the barber of the winter; but what difference does
it make? If the beau beaus and the baron barons, is not the
feminine cup of happiness filled to overflowing? the only
requisite being that beau and baron shall preserve their incognito
to the end; hence the season must be short in order that no one's
identity may be discovered.
At Newport every one labors under the disadvantage of being
known,--for the most part too well known. How painful it must be
to spend summer after summer in a world of reality, where the
truth is so much more thrilling than any possible fiction that
people are deprived of the pleasure of invention and the
imagination falls into desuetude. At Narragansett every one is
veneered for the occasion,--every seam, scar, and furrow is hidden
by paint, powder, and rouge; the duchess may be a cook, but the
count who is a butler gains nothing by exposing her.
The very conditions of existence at Newport demand the exposure of
every frailty and every folly; the skeleton must sit at the feast.
There is no room for gossip where the facts are known. Nothing is
whispered; the megaphone carries the tale. What a ghastly society,
where no amount of finery hides the bald, the literal truth; where
each night the same ones meet and, despite the vain attempt to
deceive by outward appearances, relentlessly look each other
through and through. Of what avail is a necklace of pearls or a
gown of gold against such X-ray vision, such intimate knowledge of
one's past, of all one's physical, mental, and moral shortcomings?
The smile fades from the lips, the hollow compliment dies on the
tongue, for how is it possible to pretend in the presence of those
At Narragansett friends are strangers, in Newport they are
enemies; in both places the quality of friendship is strained. The
two problems of existence are, Whom shall I recognize? and, Who
will recognize me? A man's standing depends upon the women he
knows; a woman's upon the women she cuts. At a summer resort
recognition is a fine art which is not affected by any prior
condition of servitude or acquaintance. No woman can afford to
sacrifice her position upon the altar of friendship; in these
small worlds recognition has no relation whatsoever to friendship,
it is rather a convention. If your hostess of the winter passes
you with a cold stare, it is a matter of prudence rather than
indifference; the outside world does not understand these things,
but is soon made to.
Women are the arbiters of social fate, and as such must be
placated, but not too servilely. In society a blow goes farther
than a kiss; it is a warfare wherein it does not pay to be on the
defensive; those are revered who are most feared; those who nail
to their mast the black flag and show no quarter are the
recognized leaders,--Society is piracy.
Green's Inn was cheery, comfortable, and hospitable; but then the
season had passed and things had returned to their normal routine.
The summer hotel passes through three stages each season,--that of
expectation, of realization, and of regret; it is unpleasant
during the first stage, intolerable during the second, frequently
delightful during the third. During the first there is a period
when the host and guest meet on a footing of equality; during the
second the guest is something less than a nonentity, an humble
suitor at the monarch's throne; during the third the conditions
are reversed, and the guest is lord of all he is willing to
survey. It is conducive to comfort to approach these resorts
during the last stage,--unless, of course, they happen to be those
ephemeral caravansaries which close in confusion on the flight of
the crowd; they are never comfortable.
The best road from Boston to New York is said to be by way of
Worcester, Springfield, and through central Connecticut via
Hartford and New Haven; but we did not care to retrace our wheels
to Worcester and Springfield, and we did want to follow the shore;
but we were warned by many that after leaving the Pier we would
find the roads very bad.
As a matter of fact, the shore road from the Pier to New Haven is
not good; it is hilly, sandy, and rough; but it is entirely
practicable, and makes up in beauty and interest what it lacks in
We did not leave Green's Inn until half-past nine the morning
after our arrival, and we reached New Haven that evening at
exactly eight,--a delightful run of eighty or ninety miles by the
The road is a little back from the shore and it is anything but
straight, winding in and out in the effort to keep near the coast.
Nearly all day long we were in sight of the ocean; now and then
some wooded promontory obscured our view; now and then we were
threading woods and valleys farther inland; now and then the road
almost lost itself in thickets of shrubbery and undergrowth, but
each time we would emerge in sight of the broad expanse of blue
water which lay like a vast mirror on that bright and still
We ferried across the river to New London. At Lyme there is a very
steep descent to the Connecticut River, which is a broad estuary
at that point. The ferry is a primitive side-wheeler, which might
carry two automobiles, but hardly more. It happened to be on the
far shore. A small boy pointed out a long tin horn hanging on a
post, the hoarse blast of which summons the sleepy boat.
There was no landing, and it seemed impossible for our vehicle to
get aboard; but the boat had a long shovel-like nose projecting
from the bow which ran upon the shore, making a perfect
Carefully balancing the automobile in the centre so as not to list
the primitive craft, we made our way deliberately to the other
side, the entire crew of two men--engineer and captain--coming out
to talk with us.
The ferries at Lyme and New London would prove great obstacles to
anything like a club from New York to Newport along this road; the
day would be spent in getting machines across the two rivers.
It was dark when we ran into the city. This particular visit to
New Haven is chiefly memorable for the exceeding good manners of a
boy of ten, who watched the machine next morning as it was
prepared for the day's ride, offered to act as guide to the place
where gasoline was kept, and, with the grace of a Chesterfield,
made good my delinquent purse by paying the bill. It was all
charmingly and not precociously done. This little man was well
brought up,--so well brought up that he did not know it.
The automobile is a pretty fair touchstone to manners for both
young and old. A man is himself in the presence of the unexpected.
The automobile is so strange that it carries people off their
equilibrium, and they say and do things impulsively, and therefore
The odd-looking stranger is ever treated with scant courtesy and
unbecoming curiosity; the strange machine fares no better. The man
or the boy who is not unduly curious, not unduly aggressive, not
unduly loquacious, not unduly insistent, who preserves his poise
in the presence of an automobile, is quite out of the ordinary,--
my little New Haven friend was of that sort.
It is a beautiful ride from New Haven to New York, and to it we
devoted the entire day, from half-past eight until half-past
At Norwalk the people were celebrating the two hundred and
fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the town; the hotel where
we dined may have antedated the town a century or two.
Later in the afternoon, while wheeling along at twenty miles an
hour, we caught a glimpse of a signpost pointing to the left and
reading, "To Sound Beach." The name reminded us of friends who
were spending a few weeks there; we turned back and made them a
Again a little farther on we stopped for gasoline in a dilapidated
little village, and found it was Mianus, which we recalled as the
home of an artist whose paintings, full of charm and tender
sentiment, have spread the fame of the locality and river. It was
only a short run of two or three miles to the orchard and hill
where he has his summer home, and we renewed an acquaintance made
several years before.
It is interesting to follow an artist's career and note the
changes in manner and methods; for changes are inevitable; they
come to high and low alike. The artist may not be conscious that
he no longer sees things and paints things as he did, but time
tells and the truth is patent to others. But changes of manner and
changes of method are fundamentally unlike. Furthermore, changes
of either manner or method may be unconscious and natural, or
conscious and forced.
For the most part, an artist's manner changes naturally and
unconsciously with his environment and advancing years; but in the
majority of instances changes in method are conscious and forced,
made deliberately with the intention--frequently missed--of doing
better. One painter is impressed with the success of another and
strives to imitate, adopts his methods, his palette, his key, his
color scheme, his brush work, and so on;--these conscious efforts
of imitation usually result in failures which, if not immediately
conspicuous, soon make their shortcomings felt; the note being
forced and unnatural, it does not ring true.
A man may visit Madrid without imitating Velasquez; he may live in
Harlem without consciously yielding to Franz Hals; he may spend
days with Monet without surrendering his independence; but these
strong contacts will work their subtle effects upon all
impressionable natures; the effects, however, may be wrought
unconsciously and frequently against the sturdy opposition of an
No painter could live for a season in Madrid without being
affected by the work of Velasquez; he might strive against the
influence, fight to preserve his own eccentric originality and
independence, but the very fact that for the time being he is
confronted with a force, an influence, is sufficient to affect his
own work, whether he accepts the influence reverentially or
rejects it scoffingly.
There is infinitely more hope for the man who goes to Madrid, or
any other shrine, in a spirit of opposition,--supremely
egotistical, supremely confident of his own methods, disposed to
belittle the teaching and example of others,--than there is for
the man who goes to servilely copy and imitate. The disposition to
learn is a good thing, but in all walks of life, as well as in
art, it may be carried too far. No man should surrender his
individuality, should yield that within him which is peculiarly
and essentially his own. An urchin may dispute with a Plato, if
the urchin sticks to the things he knows.
Between the lawless who defy all authority and the servile who
submit to all influences, there are the chosen few who assert
themselves, and at the same time clearly appreciate the strength
of those who differ from them. The urchin painter may assert
himself in the presence of Velasquez, providing he keeps within
the limits of his own originality.
It is for those who buy pictures to look out for the man who
arbitrarily and suddenly changes his manner or method; he is as a
cork tossed about on the surface of the waters, drifting with
every breeze, submerged by every ripple, fickle and unstable; if
his work possess any merit, it will be only the cheap merit of
cleverness; its brilliancy will be simply the gloss of dash.
It requires time to absorb an impression. Distance diminishes the
force of attraction. The best of painters will not regain
immediately his equilibrium after a winter in Florence or in Rome.
The enthusiasm of the hour may bring forth some good pictures, but
the effect of the impression will be too pronounced, the copy will
be too evident. Time and distance will modify an impression and
lessen the attraction; the effect will remain, but no longer
It was so dark we could scarcely see the road as we approached New
How gracious the mantle of night; like a veil it hides all
blemishes and permits only fair outlines to be observed. Details
are lost in vast shadows; huge buildings loom up vaguely towards
the heavens, impressive masses of masonry; the bridges, outlined
by rows of electric lights, are strings of pearls about the throat
of the dusky river. The red, white, and green lights of invisible
boats below are so many colored glow-worms crawling about, while
the countless lights of the vast city itself are as if a
constellation from above had settled for the time being on the
It is by night that the earth communes with the universe. During
the blinding brightness of the day our vision penetrates no
farther than our own great sun; but at night, when our sun has run
its course across the heavens, and we are no longer dazzled by its
overpowering brilliancy, the suns of other worlds come forth one
by one until, as the darkness deepens, the vault above is dotted
with these twinkling lights. Dim, distant, beacons of suns and
planets like our own, what manner of life do they contain? what
are we to them? what are they to us? Is there aught between us
beyond the mechanical laws of repulsion and attraction? Is there
any medium of communication beyond the impalpable ether which
brings their light? Are we destined to know each other better by
and by, or does our knowledge forever end with what we see on a
It was Wednesday evening, September 11, when we arrived in New
York. The Endurance Contest organized by the Automobile Club of
America had started for Buffalo on Monday morning, and the papers
each day contained long accounts of the heartbreaking times the
eighty-odd contestants were having,--hills, sand, mud, worked
havoc in the ranks of the faithful, and by midweek the automobile
stations in New York were crowded with sick and wounded veterans
returning from the fray.
The stories told by those who participated in that now famous run
possessed the charm of novelty, the absorbing fascination of
Once upon a time, two fishermen, who were modestly relating
exploits, paused to listen to three chauffeurs who began
exchanging experiences. After listening a short time, the
fishermen, hats in hand, went over to the chauffeurs and said, "On
behalf of the Ancient and Honorable Order of Fishermen, which from
time immemorial has held the palm for large, generous, and
unrestricted stories of exploits, we confess the inadequacy of our
qualifications, the bald literalness of our narratives, the sober
and unadorned realism of our tales, and abdicate in favor of the
new and most promising Order of Chauffeurs; may the blessing of
Ananias rest upon you."
It is not that those who go down the pike in automobiles intend to
prevaricate, or even exaggerate, but the experience is so
extraordinary that the truth is inadequate for expression and
explanation. It seems quite impossible to so adjust our
perceptions as to receive strictly accurate impressions;
therefore, when one man says he went forty miles an hour, and
another says he went sixty, the latter assertion is based not upon
the exact speed,--for that neither knows,--but upon the belief of
the second man that he went much faster than the other. The exact
speeds were probably about ten and fifteen miles an hour
respectively; but the ratio is preserved in forty and sixty, and
the listening layman is deeply impressed, while no one who knows
anything about automobiling is for a moment deceived. At the same
time, in fairness to guests and strangers within the gates, each
club ought to post conspicuously the rate of discount on
narratives, for not only do clubs vary in their departures from
literal truth, but the narratives are greatly affected by seasons
and events; for instance, after the Endurance Contest the discount
rate in the Automobile Club of America was exceedingly high.
Every man who started finished ahead of the others,--except those
who never intended to finish at all. Each man went exactly as far
as he intended to go, and then took the train, road, or ditch
home. Some intended to go as far as Albany, others to Frankfort,
while quite a large number entered the contest for the express
purpose of getting off in the mud and walking to the nearest
village; a few, a very few, intended to go as far as Buffalo.
At one time or another each made a mile a minute, and a much
higher rate of speed would have been maintained throughout had it
not been necessary to identify certain towns in passing. Nothing
happened to any machine, but one or two required a little oiling,
and several were abandoned by the roadside because their occupants
had stubbornly determined to go no farther. One man who confessed
that a set-screw in his goggles worked loose was expelled from the
club as too matter-of-fact to be eligible for membership, and the
maker of the machine he used sent four-page communications to each
trade paper explaining that the loosening of the set-screw was due
to no defect in the machine, but was entirely the fault of the
driver, who jarred the screw loose by winking his eye.
Each machine surmounted Nelson Hill like a bird,--or would have,
if it had not been for the machine in front. There were those who
would have made the hill in forty-two seconds if they had not
wasted valuable time in pushing. The pitiful feat of the man who
crawled up at the rate of seventeen miles an hour was quite
discounted by the stories of those who would have made it in half
that time if their power had not oozed out in the first hundred
Then there was mud along the route, deep mud. According to
accounts, which were eloquently verified by the silence of all who
listened, the mud was hub deep everywhere, and in places the
machines were quite out of sight, burrowing like moles. Some took
to the tow-path along the canal, others to trolley lines and
Each man ran his own machine without the slightest expert
assistance; the men in over-alls with kits of tools lurking along
the roadside were modern brigands seeking opportunities for
hold-ups; now and then they would spring out upon an unoffending
machine, knock it into a state of insensibility, and abuse it most
unmercifully. A number of machines were shadowed throughout the
run by these rascals, and several did not escape their clutches,
but perished miserably. In one instance a babe in arms drove one
machine sixty-two miles an hour with one hand, the other being
occupied with a nursing-bottle.
There were one hundred and fifty-six dress-suit cases on the run,
but only one was used, and that to sit on during high tide in
Herkimer County, where the mud was deepest.
It would be quite superfluous to relate additional experience
tales, but enough has been told to illustrate the necessity of a
narrative discount notice in all places where the clans gather.
All men are liars, but some intend to lie,--to their credit, be it
said, chauffeurs are not among the latter.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN ANARCHISM
"BULLETINS FROM THE CHAMBER OF DEATH"
During these days the President was dying in Buffalo, though the
country did not know it until Friday.
Wednesday and Thursday the reports were so assuring that all
danger seemed past; but, as it turned out afterwards, there was
not a moment from the hour of the shooting when the fatal
processes of dissolution were not going on. Not only did the
resources of surgery and medicine fail most miserably, but their
gifted prophets were unable to foretell the end. Bulletins of the
most reassuring character turned out absolutely false. After it
was all over, there was a great deal of explanation how it
occurred and that it was inevitable from the beginning; but the
public did not, and does not, understand how the learned doctors
could have been so mistaken Wednesday and so wise Friday; and yet
the explanation is simple,--medicine is an art and surgery far
from an exact science. No one so well as the doctors knows how
impossible it is to predict anything with any degree of assurance;
how uncertain the outcome of simple troubles and wounds to say
nothing of serious; how much nature will do if left to herself,
how obstinate she often proves when all the skill of man is
brought to her assistance.
On Friday evening, and far into the night, Herald Square was
filled with a surging throng watching the bulletins from the
chamber of death. It was a dignified end. There must have been a
good deal of innate nobility in William McKinley. With all his
vacillation and infirmity of political purpose, he must have been
a man whose mind was saturated with fine thoughts, for to the very
last, in those hours of weakness when the will no longer sways and
each word is the half-unconscious muttering of the true self, he
shone forth with unexpected grandeur and died a hero.
Late in the evening a bulletin announced that when the message of
death came the bells would toll. In the midst of the night the
city was roused by the solemn pealing of great bells, and from the
streets below there came the sounds of flying horses, of moving
feet, of cries and voices. It seemed as if the city had been held
in check and was now released to express itself in its own
characteristic way. The wave of sound radiated from each newspaper
office and penetrated the most deserted street, the most secret
alley, telling the people of the death of their President.
Anarchy achieved its greatest crime in the murder of President
McKinley while he held the hand of his assassin in friendly grasp.
Little wonder this country was roused as never before, and at this
moment the civilized world is discussing measures for the
suppression, the obliteration, of anarchists, but we must take
heed lest we overshoot the mark.
Three Presidents--Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley--have been
assassinated, but only the last as the result of anarchistic
teachings. The crime of Booth had nothing to do with anarchy; the
crime of half-witted Guiteau had nothing to do with anarchy; but
the deliberate crime of the cool and self-possessed Czolgoscz was
the direct outcome of the "propaganda of action."
Because, therefore, three Presidents have been assassinated, we
must not link the crimes together and unduly magnify the dangers
of anarchy. At most the two early crimes could only serve to
demonstrate how easy it is to reach and kill a President of the
United States, and therefore the necessity for greater safeguards
about his person is trebly demonstrated. The habit of handshaking,
at best, has little to recommend it; with public men it is a
custom without excuse. The notion that men in public life must
receive and mingle with great masses of people, or run the risk of
being called undemocratic, is a relic of the political dark ages.
The President of the United States is an executive official, not a
spectacle; he ought to be a very busy man, just a plain,
hard-working servant of the people,--that is the real democratic
idea. There is not the slightest need for him to expose himself to
assault. In the proper performance of his duties he ought to keep
somewhat aloof. The people have the right to expect that in their
interest he will take good care of himself.
As for anarchism, that is a political theory that possesses the
minds of a certain number of men, some of them entirely
inoffensive dreamers, and anarchism as a theory can no more be
suppressed by law than can any other political or religious
theory. The law is efficacious against acts, but powerless against
notions. But anarchism in the abstract is one thing and anarchism
in the concrete is another. It is one thing to preach anarchy as
the final outcome of progress, it is quite another thing to preach
anarchy as a present rule of conduct. The distinction must be
observed, for while the law is helpless against theories, it is
potent against the practical application of theories.
In a little book called "Politics for Young Americans," written
with most pious and orthodox intent by the late Charles Nordhoff,
the discussion of government begins with the epigram,--by no means
original with Nordhoff,--"Governments are necessary evils."
Therein lurks the germ of anarchism,--for if evil, why should
governments be necessary? The anarchist is quick to admit the
evil, but denies the necessity; and, in sooth, if government is an
evil, then the sooner it is dispensed with the better.
When Huxley defines anarchy as that "state of society in which the
rule of each individual by himself is the only government the
legitimacy of which is recognized," and then goes on to say, "in
this sense, strict anarchy may be the highest conceivable grade of
perfection of social existence; for, if all men spontaneously did
justice and loved mercy, it is plain that the swords might
advantageously be turned into ploughshares, and that the
occupation of judges and police would be gone," he lends support
to the theoretical anarchist. For if progress means the gradual
elimination of government and the final supremacy of the
individual, then the anarchist is simply the prophet who keeps in
view and preaches the end. If anarchy is an ideal condition, there
always will be idealists who will advocate it.
But government is necessary, and just because it is necessary
therefore it cannot be an evil. Hospitals are necessary, and just
because they are necessary therefore they cannot be evils. Places
for restraining the insane and criminal are necessary, and
therefore not evil.
The weaknesses of humanity may occasion these necessities; but the
evil, if any, is inherent in the constitution of man and not in
the social organization. It is the individual and not society that
has need of government, of hospitals, of asylums, of prisons.
Anarchy does not involve, as Huxley suggests, "the highest
conceivable grade of perfection of social existence." Not at all.
What it does involve is the highest conceivable grade of
individual existence; in fact, of a grade so high that it is quite
beyond conception,--in short, it involves human perfectibility.
Anarchy proper involves the complete emancipation of every
individual from all restraints and compulsions; it involves a
social condition wherein absolutely no authority is imposed upon
any individual, where no requirement of any kind is made against
the will of any member--man, woman, or child; where everything is
left to individual initiation.
So far from such a "state of society" being "the highest
conceivable grade of perfection of social existence," it is not
conceivable at all, and the farther the mind goes in attempting to
grasp it, the more hopelessly dreary does the scheme become.
When men spontaneously do justice and love mercy, as Huxley
suggests, and when each individual is mentally, physically, and
morally sound, as he must be to support and govern himself, then,
and not till then, will it be possible to dispense with
government; but even then it is more conceivable than otherwise
that these perfect individuals would--as a mere division of labor,
as a mere matter of economy--adopt and enforce some rules and
regulations for the benefit of all; it would be necessary to do so
unless the individuals were not only perfect, but also absolutely
of one mind on all subjects relating to their welfare. Can the
imagination picture existence more inane?
But regardless of what the mentally, physically, and morally
perfect individuals might do after attaining their perfection,
anarchy assumes the millennium,--and the millennium is yet a long
way off. If the future of anarchy depends upon the physical,
mental, and moral perfection of its advocates, the outlook is
gloomy indeed, for a theory never had a following more imperfect
in all these respects.
The patent fact that most governments, both national and local,
are corruptly, extravagantly, and badly administered tends to
obscure our judgment, so that we assent, without thinking, to the
proposition that government is an evil, and then argue that it is
a necessary evil. But government is not evil because there are
evils incidental to its administration. Every human institution
partakes of the frailties of the individual; it could not be
otherwise; all social institutions are human, not superhuman.
With progress it is to be hoped that there will be fewer wars,
fewer crimes, fewer wrongs, so that government will have less and
less to do and drop many of its functions,--that is the sort of
anarchy every one hopes for; that is the sort of anarchy the late
Phillips Brooks had in mind when he said, "He is the benefactor of
his race who makes it possible to have one law less. He is the
enemy of his kind who would lay upon the shoulders of arbitrary
government one burden which might be carried by the educated
conscience and character of the community."
But assume that war is no more and armies are disbanded; that
crimes are no more and police are dismissed; that wrongs are no
more and courts are dissolved,--what then?
My neighbor becomes slightly insane, is very noisy and
threatening; my wife and children, who are terrorized, wish him
restrained; but his friends do not admit that he is insane, or,
admitting his peculiarities, insist my family and I ought to put
up with them; the man himself is quite sane enough to appreciate
the discussion and object to any restraint. Now, who shall decide?
Suppose the entire community--save the man and one or two
sympathizing cranks--is clearly of the opinion the man is insane
and should be restrained, who is to decide the matter? and when it
is decided, who is to enforce the decision by imposing the
authority of the community upon the individual? If the community
asserts its authority in any manner or form, that is government.
If every institution, including government, were abolished
to-morrow, the percentage of births that would turn out blind,
crippled, and feeble both mentally and physically, wayward,
eccentric, and insane would continue practically the same, and the
community would be obliged to provide institutions for these
unfortunates, the community would be obliged to patrol the streets
for them, the community would be obliged to pass upon their
condition and support or restrain them; in short, the abolished
institutions--including tribunals of some kind, police, prisons,
asylums--would be promptly restored.
The anarchist would argue that all this may be done by voluntary
association and without compulsion; but the man arrested, or
confined in the insane asylum against his will, would be of a
contrary opinion. The debate might involve his friends and
sympathizers until in every close case--as now--the community
would be divided in hostile camps, one side urging release of the
accused, the other urging his detention. Who is to hold the scale
The fundamental error of anarchists, and of most theorists who
discuss "government" and "the state," lies in the tacit assumption
that "government" and "the state" are entities to be dealt with
quite apart from the individual; that both may be modified or
abolished by laws or resolutions to that effect.