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others varied to worse and worse, till a very scrub lot, said to be ex-
convicts, brought up the rear. They were nearly all little fellows, and
very dark, though here and there a six-footer towered up, or a blond
showed among them. They were joking and laughing together, harmlessly
enough, but I must own that they looked a crew of rather sorry jail-
birds; though whether any run of humanity clad in misfits of our navy
blue and white, and other chance garments, with close-shaven heads, and
sometimes bare feet, would have looked much less like jail-birds I am not
sure. Still, they were not prepossessing, and though some of them were
pathetically young, they had none of the charm of boyhood. No doubt they
did not do themselves justice, and to be herded there like cattle did not
improve their chances of making a favorable impression on the observer.
They were kindly used by our officer and his subordinates, who mixed
among them, and straightened out the confusion they got into at times,
and perhaps sometimes wilfully. Their guards employed a few handy words
of Spanish with them; where these did not avail, they took them by the
arm and directed them; but I did not hear a harsh tone, and I saw no
violence, or even so much indignity offered them as the ordinary trolley-
car passenger is subjected to in Broadway. At a certain bugle-call they
dispersed, when they had finished their bread and coffee, and scattered
about over the grass, or returned to their barracks. We were told that
these children of the sun dreaded its heat, and kept out of it whenever
they could, even in its decline; but they seemed not so much to withdraw
and hide themselves from that, as to vanish into the history of "old,
unhappy, far-off" times, where prisoners of war, properly belong. I
roused myself with a start as if I had lost them in the past.

Our officer came towards us and said gayly, "Well, you have seen the
animals fed," and let us take our grateful leave. I think we were rather
a loss, in our going, to the marines, who seemed glad of a chance to
talk. I am sure we were a loss to the man on guard at the inner gate,
who walked his beat with reluctance when it took him from us, and eagerly
when it brought him back. Then he delayed for a rapid and comprehensive
exchange of opinions and ideas, successfully blending military
subordination with American equality in his manner.

The whole thing was very American in the perfect decorum and the utter
absence of ceremony. Those good fellows were in the clothes they wore
through the fights at Santiago, and they could not have put on much
splendor if they had wished, but apparently they did not wish. They were
simple, straightforward, and adequate. There was some dry joking about
the superiority of the prisoners' rations and lodgings, and our officer
ironically professed his intention of messing with the Spanish officers.
But there was no grudge, and not a shadow of ill will, or of that stupid
and atrocious hate towards the public enemy which abominable newspapers
and politicians had tried to breed in the popular mind. There was
nothing manifest but a sort of cheerful purpose to live up to that
military ideal of duty which is so much nobler than the civil ideal of
self-interest. Perhaps duty will yet become the civil ideal, when the
peoples shall have learned to live for the common good, and are united
for the operation of the industries as they now are for the hostilities.


Shall I say that a sense of something domestic, something homelike,
imparted itself from what I had seen? Or was this more properly an
effect from our visit, on the way back to the hospital, where a hundred
and fifty of the prisoners lay sick of wounds and fevers? I cannot say
that a humaner spirit prevailed here than in the camp; it was only a more
positive humanity which was at work. Most of the sufferers were
stretched on the clean cots of two long, airy, wooden shells, which
received them, four days after the orders for their reception had come,
with every equipment for their comfort. At five o'clock, when we passed
down the aisles between their beds, many of them had a gay, nonchalant
effect of having toothpicks or cigarettes in their mouths; but it was
really the thermometers with which the nurses were taking their
temperature. It suggested a possibility to me, however, and I asked if
they were allowed to smoke, and being answered that they did smoke,
anyway, whenever they could, I got rid at last of those boxes of
cigarettes which had been burning my pockets, as it were, all afternoon.
I gave them to such as I was told were the most deserving among the sick
captives, but Heaven knows I would as willingly have given them to the
least. They took my largesse gravely, as became Spaniards; one said,
smiling sadly, "Muchas gracias," but the others merely smiled sadly; and
I looked in vain for the response which would have twinkled up in the
faces of even moribund Italians at our looks of pity. Italians would
have met our sympathy halfway; but these poor fellows were of another
tradition, and in fact not all the Latin peoples are the same, though we
sometimes conveniently group them together for our detestation. Perhaps
there are even personal distinctions among their several nationalities,
and there are some Spaniards who are as true and kind as some Americans.
When we remember Cortez let us not forget Las Casas.

They lay in their beds there, these little Spanish men, whose dark faces
their sickness could not blanch to more than a sickly sallow, and as they
turned their dull black eyes upon us I must own that I could not "support
the government" so fiercely as I might have done elsewhere. But the
truth is, I was demoralized by the looks of these poor little men, who,
in spite of their character of public enemies, did look so much like
somebody's brothers, and even somebody's children. I may have been
infected by the air of compassion, of scientific compassion, which
prevailed in the place. There it was as wholly business to be kind and
to cure as in another branch of the service it was business to be cruel
and to kill. How droll these things are! The surgeons had their
favorites among the patients, to all of whom they were equally devoted;
inarticulate friendships had sprung up between them and certain of their
hapless foes, whom they spoke of as "a sort of pets." One of these was
very useful in making the mutinous take their medicine; another was liked
apparently because he was so likable. At a certain cot the chief surgeon
stopped and said, "We did not expect this boy to live through the night."
He took the boy's wrist between his thumb and finger, and asked tenderly
as he leaned over him, "Poco mejor?" The boy could not speak to say that
he was a little better; he tried to smile--such things do move the
witness; nor does the sight of a man whose bandaged cheek has been half
chopped away by a machete tend to restore one's composure.

LITERATURE AND LIFE--American Literary Centers

by William Dean Howells


One of the facts which we Americans have a difficulty in making clear to
a rather inattentive world outside is that, while we have apparently a
literature of our own, we have no literary centre. We have so much
literature that from time to time it seems even to us we must have a
literary centre. We say to ourselves, with a good deal of logic, Where
there is so much smoke there must be some fire, or at least a fireplace.
But it is just here that, misled by tradition, and even by history, we
deceive ourselves. Really, we have no fireplace for such fire as we have
kindled; or, if any one is disposed to deny this, then I say, we have a
dozen fireplaces; which is quite as bad, so far as the notion of a
literary centre is concerned, if it is not worse.

I once proved this fact to my own satisfaction in some papers which I
wrote several years ago; but it appears, from a question which has lately
come to me from England, that I did not carry conviction quite so far as
that island; and I still have my work all before me, if I understand the
London friend who wishes "a comparative view of the centres of literary
production" among us; "how and why they change; how they stand at
present; and what is the relation, for instance, of Boston to other such


Here, if I cut my coat according to my cloth, t should have a garment
which this whole volume would hardly stuff out with its form; and I have
a fancy that if I begin by answering, as I have sometimes rather too
succinctly done, that we have no more a single literary centre than Italy
or than Germany has (or had before their unification), I shall not be
taken at my word. I shall be right, all the same, and if I am told that
in those countries there is now a tendency to such a centre, I can only
say that there is none in this, and that, so far as I can see, we get
further every day from having such a centre. The fault, if it is a
fault, grows upon us, for the whole present tendency of American life is
centrifugal, and just so far as literature is the language of our life,
it shares this tendency. I do not attempt to say how it will be when, in
order to spread ourselves over the earth, and convincingly to preach the
blessings of our deeply incorporated civilization by the mouths of our
eight-inch guns, the mind of the nation shall be politically centred at
some capital; that is the function of prophecy, and I am only writing
literary history, on a very small scale, with a somewhat crushing sense
of limits.

Once, twice, thrice there was apparently an American literary centre: at
Philadelphia, from the time Franklin went to live there until the death
of Charles Brockden Brown, our first romancer; then at New York, during
the period which may be roughly described as that of Irving, Poe, Willis,
and Bryant; then at Boston, for the thirty or forty years illumined by
the presence of Longfellow, Lowell, Whittier, Hawthorne, Emerson, Holmes,
Prescott, Parkman, and many lesser lights. These are all still great
publishing centres. If it were not that the house with the largest list
of American authors was still at Boston, I should say New York was now
the chief publishing centre; but in the sense that London and Paris, or
even Madrid and Petersburg, are literary centres, with a controlling
influence throughout England and France, Spain and Russia, neither New
York nor Boston is now our literary centre, whatever they may once have
been. Not to take Philadelphia too seriously, I may note that when New
York seemed our literary centre Irving alone among those who gave it
lustre was a New-Yorker, and he mainly lived abroad; Bryant, who was a
New Englander, was alone constant to the city of his adoption; Willis, a
Bostonian, and Poe, a Marylander, went and came as their poverty or their
prosperity compelled or invited; neither dwelt here unbrokenly, and Poe
did not even die here, though he often came near starving. One cannot
then strictly speak of any early American literary centre except Boston,
and Boston, strictly speaking, was the New England literary centre.

However, we had really no use for an American literary centre before the
Civil War, for it was only after the Civil War that we really began to
have an American literature. Up to that time we had a Colonial
literature, a Knickerbocker literature, and a New England literature.
But as soon as the country began to feel its life in every limb with the
coming of peace, it began to speak in the varying accents of all the
different sections--North, East, South, West, and Farthest West; but not
before that time.


Perhaps the first note of this national concord, or discord, was sounded
from California, in the voices of Mr. Bret Harte, of Mark Twain, of Mr.
Charles Warren Stoddard (I am sorry for those who do not know his
beautiful Idyls of the South Seas), and others of the remarkable group of
poets and humorists whom these names must stand for. The San Francisco
school briefly flourished from 1867 till 1872 or so, and while it endured
it made San Francisco the first national literary centre we ever had, for
its writers were of every American origin except Californian.

After the Pacific Slope, the great Middle West found utterance in the
dialect verse of Mr. John Hay, and after that began the exploitation of
all the local parlances, which has sometimes seemed to stop, and then has
begun again. It went on in the South in the fables of Mr. Joel Chandler
Harris's Uncle Remus, and in the fiction of Miss Murfree, who so long
masqueraded as Charles Egbert Craddock. Louisiana found expression in
the Creole stories of Mr. G. W. Cable, Indiana in the Hoosier poems of
Mr. James Whitcomb Riley, and central New York in the novels of Mr.
Harold Frederic; but nowhere was the new impulse so firmly and finely
directed as in New England, where Miss Sarah Orne Jewett's studies of
country life antedated Miss Mary Wilkins's work. To be sure, the
portrayal of Yankee character began before either of these artists was
known; Lowell's Bigelow Papers first reflected it; Mrs. Stowe's Old Town
Stories caught it again and again; Mrs. Harriet Prescott Spofford, in her
unromantic moods, was of an excellent fidelity to it; and Mrs. Rose Terry
Cooke was even truer to the New England of Connecticut. With the later
group Mrs. Lily Chase Wyman has pictured Rhode Island work-life with
truth pitiless to the beholder, and full of that tender humanity for the
material which characterizes Russian fiction.

Mr. James Lane Allen has let in the light upon Kentucky; the Red Men and
White of the great plains have found their interpreter in Mr. Owen
Wister, a young Philadelphian witness of their dramatic conditions and
characteristics; Mr. Hamlin Garlafid had already expressed the sad
circumstances of the rural Northwest in his pathetic idyls, colored from
the experience of one who had been part of what he saw. Later came Mr.
Henry B. Fuller, and gave us what was hardest and most sordid, as well as
something of what was most touching and most amusing, in the burly-burly
of Chicago.


A survey of this sort imparts no just sense of the facts, and I own that
I am impatient of merely naming authors and books that each tempt me to
an expansion far beyond the limits of this essay; for, if I may be so
personal, I have watched the growth of our literature in Americanism with
intense sympathy. In my poor way I have always liked the truth, and in
times past I am afraid that I have helped to make it odious to those who
believed beauty was something different; but I hope that I shall not now
be doing our decentralized literature a disservice by saying that its
chief value is its honesty, its fidelity to our decentralized life.
Sometimes I wish this were a little more constant; but upon the whole I
have no reason to complain; and I think that as a very interested
spectator of New York I have reason to be content with the veracity with
which some phases of it have been rendered. The lightning-or the flash-
light, to speak more accurately--has been rather late in striking this
ungainly metropolis, but it has already got in its work with notable
effect at some points. This began, I believe, with the local dramas of
Mr. Edward Harrigan, a species of farces, or sketches of character,
loosely hung together, with little sequence or relevancy, upon the thread
of a plot which would keep the stage for two or three hours. It was very
rough magic, as a whole, but in parts it was exquisite, and it held the
mirror up towards politics on their social and political side, and gave
us East-Side types--Irish, German, negro, and Italian--which were
instantly recognizable and deliciously satisfying. I never could
understand why Mr. Harrigan did not go further, but perhaps he had gone
far enough; and, at any rate, he left the field open for others. The
next to appear noticeably in it was Mr. Stephen Crane, whose Red Badge of
Courage wronged the finer art which he showed in such New York studies as
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, and George's Mother. He has been followed
by Abraham Cahan, a Russian Hebrew, who has done portraits of his race
and nation with uncommon power. They are the very Russian Hebrews of
Hester Street translated from their native Yiddish into English, which
the author mastered after coming here in his early manhood. He brought
to his work the artistic qualities of both the Slav and the Jew, and in
his 'Jekl: A Story of the Ghetto', he gave proof of talent which his more
recent book of sketches--'The Imported Bride groom'--confirms. He sees
his people humorously, and he is as unsparing of their sordidness as he
is compassionate of their hard circumstance and the somewhat frowsy
pathos of their lives. He is a Socialist, but his fiction is wholly
without "tendentiousness."

A good many years ago--ten or twelve, at least--Mr. Harry Harland had
shown us some politer New York Jews, with a romantic coloring, though
with genuine feeling for the novelty and picturesqueness of his material;
but I do not think of any one who has adequately dealt with our Gentile
society. Mr. James has treated it historically in Washington Square, and
more modernly in some passages of The Bostonians, as well as in some of
his shorter stories; Mr. Edgar Fawcett has dealt with it intelligently
and authoritatively in a novel or two; and Mr. Brander Matthews has
sketched it, in this aspect, and that with his Gallic cleverness,
neatness, and point. In the novel, 'His Father's Son', he in fact faces
it squarely and renders certain forms of it with masterly skill. He has
done something more distinctive still in 'The Action and the Word', one
of the best American stories I know. But except for these writers, our
literature has hardly taken to New York society.


It is an even thing: New York society has not taken to our literature.
New York publishes it, criticises it, and circulates it, but I doubt if
New York society much reads it or cares for it, and New York is therefore
by no means the literary centre that Boston once was, though a large
number of our literary men live in or about New York. Boston, in my time
at least, had distinctly a literary atmosphere, which more or less
pervaded society; but New York has distinctly nothing of the kind, in any
pervasive sense. It is a vast mart, and literature is one of the things
marketed here; but our good society cares no more for it than for some
other products bought and sold here; it does not care nearly so much for
books as for horses or for stocks, and I suppose it is not unlike the
good society of any other metropolis in this. To the general, here,
journalism is a far more appreciable thing than literature, and has
greater recognition, for some very good reasons; but in Boston literature
had vastly more honor, and even more popular recognition, than
journalism. There journalism desired to be literary, and here literature
has to try hard not to be journalistic. If New York is a literary centre
on the business side, as London is, Boston was a literary centre, as
Weimar was, and as Edinburgh was. It felt literature, as those capitals
felt it, and if it did not love it quite so much as might seem, it always
respected it.

To be quite clear in what I wish to say of the present relation of Boston
to our other literary centres, I must repeat that we have now no such
literary centre as Boston was. Boston itself has perhaps outgrown the
literary consciousness which formerly distinguished it from all our other
large towns. In a place of nearly a million people (I count in the
outlying places) newspapers must be more than books; and that alone says

Mr. Aldrich once noticed that whenever an author died in Boston, the New-
Yorkers thought they had a literary centre; and it is by some such means
that the primacy has passed from Boston, even if it has not passed to New
York. But still there is enough literature left in the body at Boston to
keep her first among equals in some things, if not easily first in all.

Mr. Aldrich himself lives in Boston, and he is, with Mr. Stedman, the
foremost of our poets. At Cambridge live Colonel T. W. Higginson, an
essayist in a certain sort without rival among us; and Mr. William James,
the most interesting and the most literary of psychologists, whose repute
is European as well as American. Mr. Charles Eliot Norton alone survives
of the earlier Cambridge group--Longfellow, Lowell, Richard Henry Dana,
Louis Agassiz, Francis J. Child, and Henry James, the father of the
novelist and the psychologist.

To Boston Mr. James Ford Rhodes, the latest of our abler historians, has
gone from Ohio; and there Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, the Massachusetts
Senator, whose work in literature is making itself more and more known,
was born and belongs, politically, socially, and intellectually. Mrs.
Julia Ward Howe, a poet of wide fame in an elder generation, lives there;
Mr. T. B. Aldrich lives there; and thereabouts live Mrs. Elizabeth Stuart
Phelps Ward and Mrs. Harriet Prescott Spofford, the first of a fame
beyond the last, who was known to us so long before her. Then at Boston,
or near Boston, live those artists supreme in the kind of short story
which we have carried so far: Miss Jewett, Miss Wilkins, Miss Alice
Brown, Mrs. Chase-Wyman, and Miss Gertrude Smith, who comes from Kansas,
and writes of the prairie farm-life, though she leaves Mr. E. W. Howe
(of 'The Story of a Country Town' and presently of the Atchison Daily
Globe) to constitute, with the humorous poet Ironquill, a frontier
literary centre at Topeka. Of Boston, too, though she is of western
Pennsylvania origin, is Mrs. Margaret Deland, one of our most successful
novelists. Miss Wilkins has married out of Massachusetts into New
Jersey, and is the neighbor of Mr. H. M. Alden at Metuchen.

All these are more or less embodied and represented in the Atlantic
Monthly, still the most literary, and in many things still the first of
our magazines. Finally, after the chief publishing house in New York,
the greatest American publishing house is in Boston, with by far the
largest list of the best American books. Recently several firms of
younger vigor and valor have recruited the wasted ranks of the Boston
publishers, and are especially to be noted for the number of rather nice
new poets they give to the light.


Dealing with the question geographically, in the right American way, we
descend to Hartford obliquely by way of Springfield, Massachusetts,
where, in a little city of fifty thousand, a newspaper of metropolitan
influence and of distinctly literary tone is published. At Hartford
while Charles Dudley Warner lived, there was an indisputable literary
centre; Mark Twain lives there no longer, and now we can scarcely count
Hartford among our literary centres, though it is a publishing centre of
much activity in subscription books.

At New Haven, Yale University has latterly attracted Mr. William H.
Bishop, whose novels I always liked for the best reasons, and has long
held Professor J. T. Lounsbury, who is, since Professor Child's death at
Cambridge, our best Chaucer scholar. Mr. Donald G. Mitchell, once
endeared to the whole fickle American public by his Reveries of a
Bachelor and his Dream Life, dwells on the borders of the pleasant town,
which is also the home of Mr. J. W. De Forest, the earliest real American
novelist, and for certain gifts in seeing and telling our life also one
of the greatest.

As to New York (where the imagination may arrive daily from New Haven,
either by a Sound boat or by eight or ten of the swiftest express trains
in the world), I confess I am more and more puzzled. Here abide the
poets, Mr. R. H. Stoddard, Mr. E. C. Stedman, Mr. R. W. Gilder, and many
whom an envious etcetera must hide from view; the fictionists, Mr. R. H.
Davis, Mrs. Kate Douglas Wiggin, Mr. Brander Matthews, Mr. Frank
Hopkinson Smith, Mr. Abraham Cahan, Mr. Frank Norris, and Mr. James Lane
Allen, who has left Kentucky to join the large Southern contingent, which
includes Mrs. Burton Harrison and Mrs. McEnery Stuart; the historians,
Professor William M. Sloane and Dr. Eggleston (reformed from a novelist);
the literary and religious and economic essayists, Mr. Hamilton W.
Mabie, Mr. H. M. Alden, Mr. J. J. Chapman, and Mr. E. L. Godkin, with
critics, dramatists, satirists, magazinists, and journalists of literary
stamp in number to convince the wavering reason against itself that here
beyond all question is the great literary centre of these States. There
is an Authors' Club, which alone includes a hundred and fifty authors,
and, if you come to editors, there is simply no end. Magazines are
published here and circulated hence throughout the land by millions; and
books by the ton are the daily output of our publishers, who are the
largest in the country.

If these things do not mean a great literary centre, it would be hard to
say what does; and I am not going to try for a reason against such facts.
It is not quality that is wanting, but perhaps it is the quantity of the
quality; there is leaven, but not for so large a lump. It may be that
New York is going to be our literary centre, as London is the literary
centre of England, by gathering into itself all our writing talent, but
it has by no means done this yet. What we can say is that more authors
come here from the West and South than go elsewhere; but they often stay
at home, and I fancy very wisely. Mr. Joel Chandler Harris stays at
Atlanta, in Georgia; Mr. James Whitcomb Riley stays at Indianapolis; Mr.
Maurice Thompson spent his whole literary life, and General Lew. Wallace
still lives at Crawfordsville, Indiana; Mr. Madison Cawein stays at
Louisville, Kentucky; Miss Murfree stays at St. Louis, Missouri; Francis
R. Stockton spent the greater part of the year at his place in West
Virginia, and came only for the winter months to New York; Mr. Edward
Bellamy, until his failing health exiled him to the Far West, remained at
Chicopee, Massachusetts; and I cannot think of one of these writers whom
it would have advantaged in any literary wise to dwell in New York. He
would not have found greater incentive than at home; and in society he
would not have found that literary tone which all society had, or wished
to have, in Boston when Boston was a great town and not yet a big town.

In fact, I doubt if anywhere in the world there was ever so much taste
and feeling for literature as there was in that Boston. At Edinburgh (as
I imagine it) there was a large and distinguished literary class, and at
Weimar there was a cultivated court circle; but in Boston there was not
only such a group of authors as we shall hardly see here again for
hundreds of years, but there was such regard for them and their calling,
not only in good society, but among the extremely well-read people of the
whole intelligent city, as hardly another community has shown. New York,
I am quite sure, never was such a centre, and I see no signs that it ever
will be. It does not influence the literature of the whole country as
Boston once did through writers whom all the young writers wished to
resemble; it does not give the law, and it does not inspire the love that
literary Boston inspired. There is no ideal that it represents.

A glance at the map of the Union will show how very widely our smaller
literary centres are scattered; and perhaps it will be useful in
following me to other more populous literary centres. Dropping southward
from New York, now, we find ourselves in a literary centre of importance
at Philadelphia, since that is the home of Mr. J. B. McMasters, the
historian of the American people; of Mr. Owen Wister, whose fresh and
vigorous work I have mentioned; and of Dr. Weir Mitchell, a novelist of
power long known to the better public, and now recognized by the larger
in the immense success of his historical romance, Hugh Wynne.

If I skip Baltimore, I may ignore a literary centre of great promise, but
while I do not forget the excellent work of Johns Hopkins University in
training men for the solider literature of the future, no Baltimore names
to conjure with occur to me at the moment; and we must really get on to
Washington. This, till he became ambassador at the Court of St. James,
was the home of Mr. John Hay, a poet whose biography of Lincoln must rank
him with the historians, and whose public service as Secretary of State
classes him high among statesmen. He blotted out one literary centre at
Cleveland, Ohio, when he removed to Washington, and Mr. Thomas Nelson
Page another at Richmond, Virginia, when he came to the national capital.
Mr. Paul Dunbar, the first negro poet to divine and utter his race,
carried with him the literary centre of Dayton, Ohio, when he came to be
an employee in the Congressional Library; and Mr. Charles Warren
Stoddard, in settling at Washington as Professor of Literature in the
Catholic University, brought somewhat indirectly away with him the last
traces of the old literary centre at San Francisco.

A more recent literary centre in the Californian metropolis went to
pieces when Mr. Gelett Burgess came to New York and silenced the 'Lark',
a bird of as new and rare a note as ever made itself heard in this air;
but since he has returned to California, there is hope that the literary
centre may form itself there again. I do not know whether Mrs. Charlotte
Perkins Stetson wrecked a literary centre in leaving Los Angeles or not.
I am sure only that she has enriched the literary centre of New York by
the addition of a talent in sociological satire which would be
extraordinary even if it were not altogether unrivalled among us.

Could one say too much of the literary centre at Chicago? I fancy, yes;
or too much, at least, for the taste of the notable people who constitute
it. In Mr. Henry B. Fuller we have reason to hope, from what he has
already done, an American novelist of such greatness that he may well
leave being the great American novelist to any one who likes taking that
role. Mr. Hamlin Garland is another writer of genuine and original gift
who centres at Chicago; and Mrs. Mary Catherwood has made her name well
known in romantic fiction. Miss Edith Wyatt is a talent, newly known, of
the finest quality in minor fiction; Mr. Robert Herrick, Mr. Will Payne
in their novels, and Mr. George Ade and Mr. Peter Dump in their satires
form with those named a group not to be matched elsewhere in the country.
It would be hard to match among our critical journals the 'Dial' of
Chicago; and with a fair amount of publishing in a sort of books often as
good within as they are uncommonly pretty without, Chicago has a claim to
rank with our first literary centres.

It is certainly to be reckoned not so very far below London, which, with
Mr. Henry James, Mr. Harry Harland, and Mr. Bret Harte, seems to me an
American literary centre worthy to be named with contemporary Boston.
Which is our chief literary centre, however, I am not, after all, ready
to say. When I remember Mr. G. W. Cable, at Northampton, Massachusetts,
I am shaken in all my preoccupations; when I think of Mark Twain, it
seems to me that our greatest literary centre is just now at Riverdale-


Leaven, but not for so large a lump
Mark Twain
Not lack of quality but quantity of the quality
Our deeply incorporated civilization

LITERATURE AND LIFE--The Standard Household-Effect Company

by William Dean Howells


My friend came in the other day, before we had left town, and looked
round at the appointments of the room in their summer shrouds, and said,
with a faint sigh, "I see you have had the eternal-womanly with you,


"Isn't the eternal-womanly everywhere? What has happened to you?"
I asked.

"I wish you would come to my house and see. Every rug has been up for a
month, and we have been living on bare floors. Everything that could be
tied up has been tied up, everything that could be sewed up has been
sewed up. Everything that could be moth-balled and put away in chests
has been moth-balled and put away. Everything that could be taken down
has been taken down. Bags with draw-strings at their necks have been
pulled over the chandeliers and tied. The pictures have been hidden in
cheese-cloth, and the mirrors veiled in gauze so that I cannot see my own
miserable face anywhere."

"Come! That's something."

"Yes, it's something. But I have been thinking this matter over very
seriously, and I believe it is going from bad to worse. I have heard
praises of the thorough housekeeping of our grandmothers, but the
housekeeping of their granddaughters is a thousand times more intense."

"Do you really believe that?" I asked. "And if you do, what of it?"

"Simply this, that if we don't put a stop to it, at the gait it's going,
it will put a stop to the eternal-womanly."

"I suppose we should hate that."

"Yes, it would be bad. It would be very bad; and I have been turning the
matter over in my mind, and studying out a remedy."

"The highest type of philosopher turns a thing over in his mind and lets
some one else study out a remedy."

"Yes, I know. I feel that I may be wrong in my processes, but I am sure
that I am right in my results. The reason why our grandmothers could be
such good housekeepers without danger of putting a stop to the eternal-
womanly was that they had so few things to look after in their houses.
Life was indefinitely simpler with them. But the modern improvements,
as we call them, have multiplied the cares of housekeeping without
subtracting its burdens, as they were expected to do. Every novel
convenience and comfort, every article of beauty and luxury, every means
of refinement and enjoyment in our houses, has been so much added to the
burdens of housekeeping, and the granddaughters have inherited from the
grandmothers an undiminished conscience against rust and the moth, which
will not suffer them to forget the least duty they owe to the naughtiest
of their superfluities."

"Yes, I see what you mean," I said. This is what one usually says when
one does not quite know what another is driving at; but in this case I
really did know, or thought I did. "That survival of the conscience is a
very curious thing, especially in our eternal-womanly. I suppose that
the North American conscience was evolved from the rudimental European
conscience during the first centuries of struggle here, and was more or
less religious and economical in its origin. But with the advance of
wealth and the decay of faith among us, the conscience seems to be simply
conscientious, or, if it is otherwise, it is social. The eternal-womanly
continues along the old lines of housekeeping from an atavistic impulse,
and no one woman can stop because all the other women are going on. It
is something in the air, or something in the blood. Perhaps it is
something in both."

"Yes," said my friend, quite as I had said already, "I see what you mean.
But I think it is in the air more than in the blood. I was in Paris,
about this time last year, perhaps because I was the only thing in my
house that had not been swathed in cheese-cloth, or tied up in a bag with
drawstrings, or rolled up with moth-balls and put away in chests. At any
rate, I was there. One day I left my wife in New York carefully tagging
three worn-out feather dusters, and putting them into a pillow-case, and
tagging it, and putting the pillow-case into a camphorated self-sealing
paper sack, and tagging it; and another day I was in Paris, dining at the
house of a lady whom I asked how she managed with the things in her house
when she went into the country for the summer. 'Leave them just as they
are,' she said. 'But what about the dust and the moths, and the rust and
the tarnish?' She said, 'Why, the things would have to be all gone over
when I came back in the autumn, anyway, and why should I give myself
double trouble?' I asked her if she didn't even roll anything up and put
it away in closets, and she said: 'Oh, you mean that old American horror
of getting ready to go away. I used to go through all that at home, too,
but I shouldn't dream of it here. In the first place, there are no
closets in the house, and I couldn't put anything away if I wanted to.
And really nothing happens. I scatter some Persian powder along the
edges of things, and under the lower shelves, and in the dim corners, and
I pull down the shades. When I come back in the fall I have the powder
swept out, and the shades pulled up, and begin living again. Suppose a
little dust has got in, and the moths have nibbled a little here and
there? The whole damage would not amount to half the cost of putting
everything away and taking everything out, not to speak of the weeks of
discomfort, and the wear and tear of spirit. No, thank goodness--I left
American housekeeping in America.' I asked her: 'But if you went back?'
and she gave a sigh, and said:

"'I suppose I should go back to that, along with all the rest. Everybody
does it there.' So you see," my friend concluded, "it's in the air,
rather than the blood."

"Then your famous specific is that our eternal-womanly should go and live
in Paris?"

"Oh, dear, not" said my friend. "Nothing so drastic as all that. Merely
the extinction of household property."

"I see what you mean," I said. "But--what do you mean?"

"Simply that hired houses, such as most of us live in, shall all be
furnished houses, and that the landlord shall own every stick in them,
and every appliance down to the last spoon and ultimate towel. There
must be no compromise, by which the tenant agrees to provide his own
linen and silver; that would neutralize the effect I intend by the
expropriation of the personal proprietor, if that says what I mean. It
must be in the lease, with severe penalties against the tenant in case of
violation, that the landlord into furnish everything in perfect order
when the tenant comes in, and is to put everything in perfect order when
the tenant goes out, and the tenant is not to touch anything, to clean
it, or dust it, or roll it up in moth-balls and put it away in chests.
All is to be so sacredly and inalienably the property of the landlord
that it shall constitute a kind of trespass if the tenant attempts to
close the house for the summer or to open it for the winter in the usual
way that houses are now closed and opened. Otherwise my scheme would be
measurably vitiated."

"I see what you mean," I murmured. "Well?"

"Some years ago," my friend went on, "when we came home from Europe, we
left our furniture in storage for a time, while we rather drifted about,
and did not settle anywhere in particular. During that interval my wife
opened and closed five furnished houses in two years."

"And she has lived to tell the tale?"

"She has lived to tell it a great many times. She can hardly be kept
from telling it yet. But it is my belief that, although she brought to
the work all the anguish of a quickened conscience, under the influence
of the American conditions she had returned to, she suffered far less in
her encounters with either of those furnished houses than she now does
with our own furniture when she shuts up our house in the summer, and
opens it for the winter. But if there had been a clause in the lease, as
there should have been, forbidding her to put those houses in order when
she left them, life would have been simply a rapture. Why, in Europe
custom almost supplies the place of statute in such cases, and you come
and go so lightly in and out of furnished houses that you do not mind
taking them for a month, or a few weeks. We are very far behind in this
matter, but I have no doubt that if we once came to do it on any extended
scale we should do it, as we do everything else we attempt, more
perfectly than any other people in the world. You see what I mean?"

"I am not sure that I do. But go on."

"I would invert the whole Henry George principle, and I would tax
personal property of the household kind so heavily that it would
necessarily pass out of private hands; I would make its tenure so costly
that it would be impossible to any but the very rich, who are also the
very wicked, and ought to suffer."

"Oh, come, now!"

"I refer you to your Testament. In the end, all household property would
pass into the hands of the state."

"Aren't you getting worse and worse?"

"Oh, I'm not supposing there won't be a long interval when household
property will be in the hands of powerful monopolies, and many
millionaires will be made by letting it out to middle-class tenants like
you and me, along with the houses we hire of them. I have no doubt that
there will be a Standard Household-Effect Company, which will extend its
relations to Europe, and get the household effects of the whole world
into its grasp. It will be a fearful oppression, and we shall probably
groan under it for generations, but it will liberate us from our personal
ownership of them, and from the far more crushing weight of the moth-
ball. We shall suffer, but--"

"I see what you mean," I hastened to interrupt at this point, "but these
suggestive remarks of yours are getting beyond--Do you think you could
defer the rest of your incompleted sentence for a week?"

"Well, for not more than a week," said my friend, with an air of
discomfort in his arrest.


--"We shall not suffer so much as we do under our present system," said
my friend, completing his sentence after the interruption of a week. By
this time we had both left town, and were taking up the talk again on the
veranda of a sea-side hotel. "As for the eternal-womanly, it will be her
salvation from herself. When once she is expropriated from her household
effects, and forbidden under severe penalties from meddling with those of
the Standard Household-Effect Company, she will begin to get back her
peace of mind, and be the same blessing she was before she began

"That may all very well be," I assented, though I did not believe it, and
I found something almost too fantastical in my friend's scheme. "But
when we are expropriated from all our dearest belongings, what is to
become of our tender and sacred associations with them?"

"What has become of devotion to the family gods, and the worship of
ancestors? Once the graves of the dead were at the door of the living,
so that libations might be conveniently poured out on them, and the
ground where they lay was inalienable because it was supposed to be used
by their spirits as well as their bodies. A man could not sell the
bones, because he could not sell the ghosts, of his kindred. By-and by,
when religion ceased to be domestic and became social, and the service of
the gods was carried on in temples common to all, it was found that the
tombs of one's forefathers could be sold without violence to their
spectres. I dare say it wouldn't be different in the case of our tender
and sacred associations with tables and chairs, pots and pans, beds and
bedding, pictures and bric-a-brac. We have only to evolve a little
further. In fact we have already evolved far beyond the point that
troubles you. Most people in modern towns and cities have changed their
domiciles from ten to twenty times during their lives, and have not paid
the slightest attention to the tender and sacred associations connected
with them. I don't suppose you would say that a man has no such
associations with the house that has sheltered him, while he has them
with the stuff that has furnished it?"

"No, I shouldn't say that."

"If anything, the house should be dearer than the household gear. Yet at
each remove we drag a lengthening chain of tables, chairs, side-boards,
portraits, landscapes, bedsteads, washstands, stoves, kitchen utensils,
and bric-a-brac after us, because, as my wife says, we cannot bear to
part with them. At several times in our own lives we have accumulated
stuff enough to furnish two or three house and have paid a pretty stiff
house-rent in the form of storage for the overflow. Why, I am doing that
very thing now! Aren't you?"

"I am--in a certain degree," I assented.

"We all are, we well-to-do people, as we think ourselves. Once my wife
and I revolted by a common impulse against the ridiculous waste and
slavery of the thing. We went to the storage warehouse and sent three or
four vanloads of the rubbish to the auctioneer. Some of the pieces we
had not seen for years, and as each was hauled out for us to inspect and
decide upon, we condemned it to the auction-block with shouts of
rejoicing. Tender and sacred associations! We hadn't had such light
hearts since we had put everything in storage and gone to Europe
indefinitely as we had when we left those things to be carted out of our
lives forever. Not one had been a pleasure to us; the sight of every one
had been a pang. All we wanted was never to set eyes on them again."

"I must say you have disposed of the tender and sacred associations
pretty effectually, so far as they relate to things in storage. But the
things that we have in daily use?"

"It is exactly the same with them. Why should they be more to us than
the floors and walls of the houses we move in and move out of with no
particular pathos? And I think we ought not to care for them, certainly
not to the point of letting them destroy our eternal-womanly with the
anxiety she feels for them. She is really much more precious, if she
could but realize it, than anything she swathes in cheese-cloth or wraps
up with moth-balls. The proof of the fact that the whole thing is a
piece of mere sentimentality is that we may live in a furnished house for
years, amid all the accidents of birth and death, joy and sorrow, and yet
not form the slightest attachment to the furniture. Why should we have
tender and sacred associations with a thing we have bought, and not with
a thing we have hired?"

"I confess, I don't know. And do you really think we could liberate
ourselves from our belongings if they didn't belong to us? Wouldn't the
eternal-womanly still keep putting them away for summer and taking them
out for winter?"

"At first, yes, there might be some such mechanical action in her; but it
would be purely mechanical, and it would soon cease. When the Standard
Household-Effect Company came down on the temporal-manly with a penalty
for violation of the lease, the eternal-womanly would see the folly of
her ways and stop; for the eternal-womanly is essentially economical,
whatever we say about the dressmaker's bills; and the very futilities of
putting away and taking out, that she now wears herself to a thread with,
are founded in the instinct of saving."

"But," I asked, "wouldn't our household belongings lose a good deal of
character if they didn't belong to us? Wouldn't our domestic interiors
become dreadfully impersonal?"

"How many houses now have character-personality? Most people let the
different dealers choose for them, as it is. Why not let the Standard
Household-Effect Company, and finally the state? I am sure that either
would choose much more wisely than people choose for themselves, in the
few cases where they even seem to choose for themselves. In most
interiors the appointments are without fitness, taste, or sense; they are
the mere accretions of accident in the greater number of cases; where
they are the result of design, they are worse. I see what you mean by
character and personality in them. You mean the sort of madness that let
itself loose a few years ago in what was called household art, and has
since gone to make the junk-shops hideous. Each of the eternal-womanly
was supposed suddenly to have acquired a talent for decoration and a gift
for the selection and arrangement of furniture, and each began to stamp
herself upon our interiors. One painted a high-shouldered stone bottle
with a stork and stood it at the right corner of the mantel on a scarf;
another gilded the bottle and stood it at the left corner, and tied the
scarf through its handle. One knotted a ribbon around the arm of a
chair; another knotted it around the leg. In a day, an hour, a moment,
the chairs suddenly became angular, cushionless, springless; and the
sofas were stood across corners, or parallel with the fireplace, in
slants expressive of the personality of the presiding genius. The walls
became all frieze and dado; and instead of the simple and dignified
ugliness of the impersonal period our interiors abandoned themselves to a
hysterical chaos, full of character. Some people had their doors painted
black, and the daughter or mother of the house then decorated them with
morning-glories. I saw such a door in a house I looked at the other day,
thinking I might hire it. The sight of that black door and its morning-
glories made me wish to turn aside and live with the cattle, as Walt
Whitman says. No, the less we try to get personality and character into
our household effects the more beautiful and interesting they will be.
As soon as we put the Standard Household-Effect Company in possession and
render it a relentless monopoly, it will corrupt a competent architect
and decorator in each of our large towns and cities, and when you hire a
new house these will be sent to advise with the eternal-womanly
concerning its appointments, and tell her what she wants, and what she
will like; for at present the eternal womanly, as soon as she has got a
thing she wants, begins to hate it. The company's agents will begin by
convincing her that she does not need half the things she has lumbered up
her house with, and that every useless thing is an ugly thing, even in
the region of pure aesthetics. I once asked an Italian painter if he did
not think a certain nobly imagined drawing-room was fine, and he said
'SI. Ma troppa roba.' There were too many rugs, tables, chairs, sofas,
pictures; vases, statues, chandeliers. 'Troppa roba' is the vice of all
our household furnishing, and it will be the death of the eternal-womanly
if it is not stopped. But the corrupt agents of a giant monopoly will
teach the eternal-womanly something of the wise simplicity of the South,
and she will end by returning to the ideal of housekeeping as it prevails
among the Latin races, whom it began with, whom civilization began with.
What of a harmless, necessary moth or two, or even a few fleas?"

"That might be all very well as far as furniture and carpets and curtains
are concerned," I said, "but surely you wouldn't apply it to pictures and
objects of art?"

"I would apply it to them first of all and above all," rejoined my
friend, hardily. "Among all the people who buy and own such things there
is not one in a thousand who has any real taste or feeling for them, and
the objects they choose are generally such as can only deprave and
degrade them further. The pictures, statues, and vases supplied by the
Standard Household-Effect Company would be selected by agents with a real
sense of art, and a knowledge of it. When the house-letting and house-
furnishing finally passed into the hands of the state, these things would
be lent from the public galleries, or from immense municipal stores for
the purpose."

"And I suppose you would have ancestral portraits supplied along with the
other pictures?" I sneered.

"Ancestral portraits, of course," said my friend, with unruffled temper.
"So few people have ancestors of their own that they will be very glad to
have ancestral portraits chosen for them out of the collections of the
company or the state. The agents of the one, or the officers of the
other, will study the existing type of family face, and will select
ancestors and ancestresses whose modelling, coloring, and expression
agree with it, and will keep in view the race and nationality of the
family whose ancestral portraits are to be supplied, so that there shall
be no chance of the grossly improbable effect which ancestral portraits
now have in many cases. Yes, I see no flaw in the scheme," my friend
concluded, "and no difficulty that can't be easily overcome. We must
alienate our household furniture, and make it so sensitively and
exclusively the property of some impersonal agency--company or community,
I don't care which--that any care of it shall be a sort of crime; any
sense of responsibility for its preservation a species of incivism
punishable by fine or imprisonment. This, and nothing short of it, will
be the salvation of the eternal-womanly."

"And the perdition of something even more precious than that!"

"What can be more precious?"


"My dear friend," demanded my visitor, who had risen, and whom I was
gradually edging to the door, "do you mean to say there is any
individuality in such things now? What have we been saying about

"Ah, I see what you mean," I said.


As soon as she has got a thing she wants, begins to hate it
Heard praises of the thorough housekeeping of our grandmothers
Yes, I see what you mean

LITERATURE AND LIFE--Staccato Notes of a Vanished Summer

by William Dean Howells


Monday afternoon the storm which had been beating up against the
southeasterly wind nearly all day thickened, fold upon fold, in the
northwest. The gale increased, and blackened the harbor and whitened the
open sea beyond, where sail after sail appeared round the reef of
Whaleback Light, and ran in a wild scamper for the safe anchorages

Since noon cautious coasters of all sorts had been dropping in with a
casual air; the coal schooners and barges had rocked and nodded knowingly
to one another, with their taper and truncated masts, on the breast of
the invisible swell; and the flock of little yachts and pleasure-boats
which always fleck the bay huddled together in the safe waters. The
craft that came scurrying in just before nightfall were mackerel seiners
from Gloucester. They were all of one graceful shape and one size; they
came with all sail set, taking the waning light like sunshine on their
flying-jibs, and trailing each two dories behind them, with their seines
piled in black heaps between the thwarts. As soon as they came inside
their jibs weakened and fell, and the anchor-chains rattled from their
bows. Before the dark hid them we could have counted sixty or seventy
ships in the harbor, and as the night fell they improvised a little
Venice under the hill with their lights, which twinkled rhythmically,
like the lamps in the basin of St. Mark, between the Maine and New
Hampshire coasts.

There was a dash of rain, and we thought the storm had begun; but that
ended it, as so many times this summer a dash of rain has ended a storm.
The morning came veiled in a fog that kept the shipping at anchor through
the day; but the next night the weather cleared. We woke to the clucking
of tackle, and saw the whole fleet standing dreamily out to sea. When
they were fairly gone, the summer, which had held aloof in dismay of the
sudden cold, seemed to return and possess the land again; and the
succession of silver days and crystal nights resumed the tranquil round
which we thought had ceased.


One says of every summer, when it is drawing near its end, "There never
was such a summer"; but if the summer is one of those which slip from the
feeble hold of elderly hands, when the days of the years may be reckoned
with the scientific logic of the insurance tables and the sad conviction
of the psalmist, one sees it go with a passionate prescience of never
seeing its like again such as the younger witness cannot know. Each new
summer of the few left must be shorter and swifter than the last: its
Junes will be thirty days long, and its Julys and Augusts thirty-one, in
compliance with the almanac; but the days will be of so small a compass
that fourteen of them will rattle round in a week of the old size like
shrivelled peas in a pod.

To be sure they swell somewhat in the retrospect, like the same peas put
to soak; and I am aware now of some June days of those which we first
spent at Kittery Point this year, which were nearly twenty-four hours
long. Even the days of declining years linger a little here, where there
is nothing to hurry them, and where it is pleasant to loiter, and muse
beside the sea and shore, which are so netted together at Kittery Point
that they hardly know themselves apart. The days, whatever their length,
are divided, not into hours, but into mails. They begin, without regard
to the sun, at eight o'clock, when the first mail comes with a few
letters and papers which had forgotten themselves the night before. At
half-past eleven the great mid-day mail arrives; at four o'clock there is
another indifferent and scattering post, much like that at eight in the
morning; and at seven the last mail arrives with the Boston evening
papers and the New York morning papers, to make you forget any letters
you were looking for. The opening of the mid-day mail is that which most
throngs with summer folks the little postoffice under the elms, opposite
the weather-beaten mansion of Sir William Pepperrell; but the evening
mail attracts a large and mainly disinterested circle of natives. The
day's work on land and sea is then over, and the village leisure, perched
upon fences and stayed against house walls, is of a picturesqueness which
we should prize if we saw it abroad, and which I am not willing to slight
on our own ground.


The type is mostly of a seafaring brown, a complexion which seems to be
inherited rather than personally acquired; for the commerce of Kittery
Point perished long ago, and the fishing fleets that used to fit out from
her wharves have almost as long ago passed to Gloucester. All that is
left of the fishing interest is the weir outside which supplies, fitfully
and uncertainly, the fish shipped fresh to the nearest markets. But in
spite of this the tint taken from the suns and winds of the sea lingers
on the local complexion; and the local manner is that freer and easier
manner of people who have known other coasts, and are in some sort
citizens of the world. It is very different from the inland New England
manner; as different as the gentle, slow speech of the shore from the
clipped nasals of the hill-country. The lounging native walk is not the
heavy plod taught by the furrow, but has the lurch and the sway of the
deck in it.

Nothing could be better suited to progress through the long village,
which rises and sinks beside the shore like a landscape with its sea-legs
on; and nothing could be more charming and friendly than this village.
It is quite untainted as yet by the summer cottages which have covered so
much of the coast, and made it look as if the aesthetic suburbs of New
York and Boston had gone ashore upon it. There are two or three old-
fashioned summer hotels; but the summer life distinctly fails to
characterize the place. The people live where their forefathers have
lived for two hundred and fifty years; and for the century since the
baronial domain of Sir William was broken up and his possessions
confiscated by the young Republic, they have dwelt in small red or white
houses on their small holdings along the slopes and levels of the low
hills beside the water, where a man may pass with the least inconvenience
and delay from his threshold to his gunwale. Not all the houses are
small; some are spacious and ambitious to be of ugly modern patterns; but
most are simple and homelike. Their gardens, following the example of
Sir William's vanished pleasaunce, drop southward to the shore, where the
lobster-traps and the hen-coops meet in unembarrassed promiscuity. But
the fish-flakes which once gave these inclines the effect of terraced
vineyards have passed as utterly as the proud parterres of the old
baronet; and Kittery Point no longer "makes" a cod or a haddock for the

Three groceries, a butcher shop, and a small variety store study the few
native wants; and with a little money one may live in as great real
comfort here as for much in a larger place. The street takes care of
itself; the seafaring housekeeping of New England is not of the
insatiable Dutch type which will not spare the stones of the highway; but
within the houses are of almost terrifying cleanliness. The other day I
found myself in a kitchen where the stove shone like oxidized silver; the
pump and sink were clad in oilcloth as with blue tiles; the walls were
papered; the stainless floor was strewn with home-made hooked and braided
rugs; and I felt the place so altogether too good for me that I pleaded
to stay there for the transaction of my business, lest a sharper sense of
my unfitness should await me in the parlor.

The village, with scarcely an interval of farm-lands, stretches four
miles along the water-side to Portsmouth; but it seems to me that just at
the point where our lines have fallen there is the greatest concentration
of its character. This has apparently not been weakened, it has been
accented, by the trolley-line which passes through its whole length, with
gayly freighted cars coming and going every half-hour. I suppose they
are not longer than other trolley-cars, but they each affect me like a
procession. They are cheerful presences by day, and by night they light
up the dim, winding street with the flare of their electric bulbs, and
bring to the country a vision of city splendor upon terms that do not
humiliate or disquiet. During July and August they are mostly filled
with summer folks from a great summer resort beyond us, and their lights
reveal the pretty fashions of hats and gowns in all the charm of the
latest lines and tints. But there is an increasing democracy in these
splendors, and one might easily mistake a passing excursionist from some
neighboring inland town, or even a local native with the instinct of
clothes, for a social leader from York Harbor.

With the falling leaf, the barge-like open cars close up into well-warmed
saloons, and falter to hourly intervals in their course. But we are
still far from the falling leaf; we are hardly come to the blushing or
fading leaf. Here and there an impassioned maple confesses the autumn;
the ancient Pepperrell elms fling down showers of the baronet's fairy
gold in the September gusts; the sumacs and the blackberry vines are
ablaze along the tumbling black stone walls; but it is still summer, it
is still summer: I cannot allow otherwise!


The other day I visited for the first time (in the opulent indifference
of one who could see it any time) the stately tomb of the first
Pepperrell, who came from Cornwall to these coasts, and settled finally
at Kittery Point. He laid there the foundations of the greatest fortune
in colonial New England, which revolutionary New England seized and
dispersed, as I cannot but feel, a little ruthlessly. In my personal
quality I am of course averse to all great fortunes; and in my civic
capacity I am a patriot. But still I feel a sort of grace in wealth a
century old, and if I could now have my way, I would not have had their
possessions reft from those kindly Pepperrells, who could hardly help
being loyal to the fountain of their baronial honors. Sir William,
indeed; had helped, more than any other man, to bring the people who
despoiled him to a national consciousness. If he did not imagine, he
mainly managed the plucky New England expedition against Louisbourg at
Cape Breton a half century before the War of Independence; and his
splendid success in rending that stronghold from the French taught the
colonists that they were Americans, and need be Englishmen no longer than
they liked. His soldiers were of the stamp of all succeeding American
armies, and his leadership was of the neighborly and fatherly sort
natural to an amiable man who knew most of them personally. He was
already the richest man in America, and his grateful king made him a
baronet; but he came contentedly back to Kittery, and took up his old
life in a region where he had the comfortable consideration of an
unrivalled magnate. He built himself the dignified mansion which still
stands across the way from the post-office on Kittery Point, within an
easy stone's cast of the far older house, where his father wedded Margery
Bray, when he came, a thrifty young Welsh fisherman, from the Isles of
Shoals, and established his family on Kittery. The Bray house had been
the finest in the region a hundred years before the Pepperrell mansion
was built; it still remembers its consequence in the panelling and
wainscoting of the large, square parlor where the young people were
married and in the elaborate staircase cramped into the little, square
hall; and the Bray fortune helped materially to swell the wealth of the

I do not know that I should care now to have a man able to ride thirty
miles on his own land; but I do not mind Sir William's having done it
here a hundred and fifty years ago; and I wish the confiscations had left
his family, say, about a mile of it. They could now, indeed, enjoy it
only in the collateral branches, for all Sir William's line is extinct.
The splendid mansion which he built his daughter is in alien hands, and
the fine old house which Lady Pepperrell built herself after his death
belongs to the remotest of kinsmen. A group of these, the descendants of
a prolific sister of the baronet, meets every year at Kittery Point as
the Pepperrell Association, and, in a tent hard by the little grove of
drooping spruces which shade the admirable renaissance cenotaph of Sir
William's father, cherishes the family memories with due American


The meeting of the Pepperrell Association was by no means the chief
excitement of our summer. In fact, I do not know that it was an
excitement at all; and I am sure it was not comparable to the presence of
our naval squadron, when for four days the mighty dragon and kraken
shapes of steel, which had crumbled the decrepit pride of Spain in the
fight at Santiago, weltered in our peaceful waters, almost under my

I try now to dignify them with handsome epithets; but while they were
here I had moments of thinking they looked like a lot of whited
locomotives, which had broken through from some trestle, in a recent
accident, and were waiting the offices of a wrecking-train. The poetry
of the man-of-war still clings to the "three-decker out of the foam" of
the past; it is too soon yet for it to have cast a mischievous halo about
the modern battle-ship; and I looked at the New York and the Texas and
the Brooklyn and the rest, and thought, "Ah, but for you, and our need of
proving your dire efficiency, perhaps we could have got on with the
wickedness of Spanish rule in Cuba, and there had been no war!" Under my
reluctant eyes the great, dreadful spectacle of the Santiago fight
displayed itself in peaceful Kittery Harbor. I saw the Spanish ships
drive upon the reef where a man from Dover, New Hampshire, was camping in
a little wooden shanty unconscious; and I heard the dying screams of the
Spanish sailors, seethed and scalded within the steel walls of their own
wicked war-kettles.

As for the guns, battle or no battle, our ships, like "kind Lieutenant
Belay of the 'Hot Cross-Bun'," seemed to be "banging away the whole day
long." They set a bad example to the dreamy old fort on the Newcastle
shore, which, till they came, only recollected itself to salute the
sunrise and sunset with a single gun; but which, under provocation of the
squadron, formed a habit of firing twenty or thirty times at noon.

Other martial shows and noises were not so bad. I rather liked seeing
the morning drill of the marines and the bluejackets on the iron decks,
with the lively music that went with it. The bugle calls and the bells
were charming; the week's wash hung out to dry had its picturesqueness by
day, and by night the spectral play of the search-lights along the waves
and shores, and against the startled skies, was even more impressive.
There was a band which gave us every evening the airs of the latest coon-
songs, and the national anthems which we have borrowed from various
nations; and yes, I remember the white squadron kindly, though I was so
glad to have it go, and let us lapse back into our summer silence and
calm. It was (I do not mind saying now) a majestic sight to see those
grotesque monsters gather themselves together, and go wallowing, one
after another, out of the harbor, and drop behind the ledge of Whaleback
Light, as if they had sunk into the sea.


A deep peace fell upon us when they went, and it must have been at this
most receptive moment, when all our sympathies were adjusted in a mood of
hospitable expectation, that Jim appeared.

Jim was, and still is, and I hope will long be, a cat; but unless one has
lived at Kittery Point, and realized, from observation and experience,
what a leading part cats may play in society, one cannot feel the full
import of this fact. Not only has every house in Kittery its cat, but
every house seems to have its half-dozen cats, large, little, old, and
young; of divers colors, tending mostly to a dark tortoise-shell. With a
whole ocean inviting to the tragic rite, I do not believe there is ever a
kitten drowned in Kittery; the illimitable sea rather employs itself in
supplying the fish to which "no cat's averse," but which the cats of
Kittery demand to have cooked. They do not like raw fish; they say it
plainly, and they prefer to have the bones taken out for them, though
they do not insist upon that point.

At least, Jim never did so from the time when he first scented the odor
of delicate young mackerel in the evening air about our kitchen, and
dropped in upon the maids there with a fine casual effect of being merely
out for a walk, and feeling it a neighborly thing to call. He had on a
silver collar, engraved with his name and surname, which offered itself
for introduction like a visiting-card. He was too polite to ask himself
to the table at once, but after he had been welcomed to the family
circle, he formed the habit of finding himself with us at breakfast and
supper, when he sauntered in like one who should say, "Did I smell fish?"
but would not go further in the way of hinting.

He had no need to do so. He was made at home, and freely invited to our
best not only in fish, but in chicken, for which he showed a nice taste,
and in sweetcorn, for which he revealed a most surprising fondness when
it was cut from the cob for him. After he had breakfasted or supped he
gracefully suggested that he was thirsty by climbing to the table where
the water-pitcher stood and stretching his fine feline head towards it.
When he had lapped up his saucer of water; he marched into the parlor,
and riveted the chains upon our fondness by taking the best chair and
going to sleep in it in attitudes of Egyptian, of Assyrian majesty.
His arts were few or none; he rather disdained to practise any; he
completed our conquest by maintaining himself simply a fascinating
presence; and perhaps we spoiled Jim. It is certain that he came under
my window at two o'clock one night, and tried the kitchen door. It
resisted his efforts to get in, and then Jim began to use language which
I had never heard from the lips of a cat before, and seldom from the lips
of a man. I will not repeat it; enough that it carried to the listener
the conviction that Jim was not sober. Where he could have got his
liquor in the totally abstinent State of Maine I could not positively
say, but probably of some sailor who had brought it from the neighboring
New Hampshire coast. There could be no doubt, however, that Jim was
drunk; and a dash from the water-pitcher seemed the only thing for him.
The water did not touch him, but he started back in surprise and grief,
and vanished into the night without a word.

His feelings must have been deeply wounded, for it was almost a week
before he came near us again; and then I think that nothing but young
lobster would have brought him. He forgave us finally, and made us of
his party in the quarrel he began gradually to have with the large yellow
cat of a next-door neighbor. This culminated one afternoon, after a long
exchange of mediaeval defiance and insult, in a battle upon a bed of rag-
weed, with wild shrieks of rage, and prodigious feats of ground and lofty
tumbling. It seemed to our anxious eyes that Jim was getting the worst
of it; but when we afterwards visited the battle-field and picked up
several tufts of blond fur, we were in a doubt which was afterwards
heightened by Jim's invasion of the yellow cat's territory, where he
stretched himself defiantly upon the grass and seemed to be challenging
the yellow cat to come out and try to put him off the premises.


Ambitious to be of ugly modern patterns
Here and there an impassioned maple confesses the autumn
Houses are of almost terrifying cleanliness
Leading part cats may play in society
Picturesqueness which we should prize if we saw it abroad
Has the lurch and the sway of the deck in it

LITERATURE AND LIFE--Short Stories and Essays

by William Dean Howells

Worries of a Winter Walk
Summer Isles of Eden
Wild Flowers of the Asphalt
A Circus in the Suburbs
A She Hamlet
The Midnight Platoon
The Beach at Rockaway
Sawdust in the Arena
At a Dime Museum
American Literature in Exile
The Horse Show
The Problem of the Summer
Aesthetic New York Fifty-odd Years Ago
From New York into New England
The Art of the Adsmith
The Psychology of Plagiarism
Puritanism in American Fiction
The What and How in Art
Politics in American Authors
"Floating down the River on the O-hi-o"


The other winter, as I was taking a morning walk down to the East River,
I came upon a bit of our motley life, a fact of our piebald civilization,
which has perplexed me from time to time, ever since, and which I wish
now to leave with the reader, for his or her more thoughtful


The morning was extremely cold. It professed to be sunny, and there was
really some sort of hard glitter in the air, which, so far from being
tempered by this effulgence, seemed all the stonier for it. Blasts of
frigid wind swept the streets, and buffeted each other in a fury of
resentment when they met around the corners. Although I was passing
through a populous tenement-house quarter, my way was not hindered by the
sports of the tenement-house children, who commonly crowd one from the
sidewalks; no frowzy head looked out over the fire-escapes; there were no
peddlers' carts or voices in the road-way; not above three or four shawl-
hooded women cowered out of the little shops with small purchases in
their hands; not so many tiny girls with jugs opened the doors of the
beer saloons. The butchers' windows were painted with patterns of frost,
through which I could dimly see the frozen meats hanging like hideous
stalactites from the roof. When I came to the river, I ached in sympathy
with the shipping painfully atilt on the rocklike surface of the brine,
which broke against the piers, and sprayed itself over them like showers
of powdered quartz.

But it was before I reached this final point that I received into my
consciousness the moments of the human comedy which have been an
increasing burden to it. Within a block of the river I met a child so
small that at first I almost refused to take any account of her, until
she appealed to my sense of humor by her amusing disproportion to the
pail which she was lugging in front of her with both of her little
mittened hands. I am scrupulous about mittens, though I was tempted to
write of her little naked hands, red with the pitiless cold. This would
have been more effective, but it would not have been true, and the truth
obliges me to own that she had a stout, warm-looking knit jacket on.
The pail-which was half her height and twice her bulk-was filled to
overflowing with small pieces of coal and coke, and if it had not been
for this I might have taken her for a child of the better classes, she
was so comfortably clad. But in that case she would have had to be
fifteen or sixteen years old, in order to be doing so efficiently and
responsibly the work which, as the child of the worse classes, she was
actually doing at five or six. We must, indeed, allow that the early
self-helpfulness of such children is very remarkable, and all the more so
because they grow up into men and women so stupid that, according to the
theories of all polite economists, they have to have their discontent
with their conditions put into their heads by malevolent agitators.

From time to time this tiny creature put down her heavy burden to rest;
it was, of course, only relatively heavy; a man would have made nothing
of it. From time to time she was forced to stop and pick up the bits of
coke that tumbled from her heaping pail. She could not consent to lose
one of them, and at last, when she found she could not make all of them
stay on the heap, she thriftily tucked them into the pockets of her
jacket, and trudged sturdily on till she met a boy some years older, who
planted himself in her path and stood looking at her, with his hands in
his pockets. I do not say he was a bad boy, but I could see in his
furtive eye that she was a sore temptation to him. The chance to have
fun with her by upsetting her bucket, and scattering her coke about till
she cried with vexation, was one which might not often present itself,
and I do not know what made him forego it, but I know that he did, and
that he finally passed her, as I have seen a young dog pass a little cat,
after having stopped it, and thoughtfully considered worrying it.

I turned to watch the child out of sight, and when I faced about towards
the river again I received the second instalment of my present
perplexity. A cart, heavily laden with coke, drove out of the coal-yard
which I now perceived I had come to, and after this cart followed two
brisk old women, snugly clothed and tightly tucked in against the cold
like the child, who vied with each other in catching up the lumps of coke
that were jolted from the load, and filling their aprons with them; such
old women, so hale, so spry, so tough and tireless, with the withered
apples red in their cheeks, I have not often seen. They may have been
about sixty years, or sixty-five, the time of life when most women are
grandmothers and are relegated on their merits to the cushioned seats of
their children's homes, softly silk-gowned and lace-capped, dear visions
of lilac and lavender, to be loved and petted by their grandchildren.
The fancy can hardly put such sweet ladies in the place of those nimble
beldams, who hopped about there in the wind-swept street, plucking up
their day's supply of firing from the involuntary bounty of the cart.
Even the attempt is unseemly, and whether mine is at best but a feeble
fancy, not bred to strenuous feats of any kind, it fails to bring them
before me in that figure. I cannot imagine ladies doing that kind of
thing; I can only imagine women who had lived hard and worked hard all
their lives doing it; who had begun to fight with want from their
cradles, like that little one with the pail, and must fight without
ceasing to their graves. But I am not unreasonable; I understand and I
understood what I saw to be one of the things that must be, for the
perfectly good and sufficient reason that they always have been; and at
the moment I got what pleasure I could out of the stolid indifference of
the cart-driver, who never looked about him at the scene which interested
me, but jolted onward, leaving a trail of pungent odors from his pipe in
the freezing eddies of the air behind him.


It is still not at all, or not so much, the fact that troubles me; it is
what to do with the fact. The question began with me almost at once, or
at least as soon as I faced about and began to walk homeward with the
wind at my back. I was then so much more comfortable that the aesthetic
instinct thawed out in me, and I found myself wondering what use I could
make of what I had seen in the way of my trade. Should I have something
very pathetic, like the old grandmother going out day after day to pick
up coke for her sick daughter's freezing orphans till she fell sick
herself? What should I do with the family in that case? They could not
be left at that point, and I promptly imagined a granddaughter, a girl of
about eighteen, very pretty and rather proud, a sort of belle in her
humble neighborhood, who should take her grandmother's place. I decided
that I should have her Italian, because I knew something of Italians, and
could manage that nationality best, and I should call her Maddalena;
either Maddalena or Marina; Marina would be more Venetian, and I saw that
I must make her Venetian. Here I was on safe ground, and at once the
love-interest appeared to help me out. By virtue of the law of
contrasts; it appeared to me in the person of a Scandinavian lover, tall,
silent, blond, whom I at once felt I could do, from my acquaintance with
Scandinavian lovers in Norwegian novels. His name was Janssen, a good,
distinctive Scandinavian name; I do not know but it is Swedish; and I
thought he might very well be a Swede; I could imagine his manner from
that of a Swedish waitress we once had.

Janssen--Jan Janssen, say-drove the coke-cart which Marina's grandmother
used to follow out of the coke-yard, to pick up the bits of coke as they
were jolted from it, and he had often noticed her with deep indifference.
At first he noticed Marina--or Nina, as I soon saw I must call her--with
the same unconcern; for in her grandmother's hood and jacket and check
apron, with her head held shamefacedly downward, she looked exactly like
the old woman. I thought I would have Nina make her self-sacrifice
rebelliously, as a girl like her would be apt to do, and follow the
cokecart with tears. This would catch Janssen's notice, and he would
wonder, perhaps with a little pang, what the old woman was crying about,
and then he would see that it was not the old woman. He would see that
it was Nina, and he would be in love with her at once, for she would not
only be very pretty, but he would know that she was good, if she were
willing to help her family in that way.

He would respect the girl, in his dull, sluggish, Northern way. He would
do nothing to betray himself. But little by little he would begin to
befriend her. He would carelessly overload his cart before he left the
yard, so that the coke would fall from it more lavishly; and not only
this, but if he saw a stone or a piece of coal in the street he would
drive over it, so that more coke would be jolted from his load.

Nina would get to watching for him. She must not notice him much at
first, except as the driver of the overladen, carelessly driven cart.
But after several mornings she must see that he is very strong and
handsome. Then, after several mornings more, their eyes must meet, her
vivid black eyes, with the tears of rage and shame in them, and his cold
blue eyes. This must be the climax; and just at this point I gave my
fancy a rest, while I went into a drugstore at the corner of Avenue B to
get my hands warm.

They were abominably cold, even in my pockets, and I had suffered past
several places trying to think of an excuse to go in. I now asked the
druggist if he had something which I felt pretty sure he had not, and
this put him in the wrong, so that when we fell into talk he was very
polite. We agreed admirably about the hard times, and he gave way
respectfully when I doubted his opinion that the winters were getting
milder. I made him reflect that there was no reason for this, and that
it was probably an illusion from that deeper impression which all
experiences made on us in the past, when we were younger; I ought to say
that he was an elderly man, too. I said I fancied such a morning as this
was not very mild for people that had no fires, and this brought me back
again to Janssen and Marina, by way of the coke-cart. The thought of
them rapt me so far from the druggist that I listened to his answer with
a glazing eye, and did not know what he said. My hands had now got warm,
and I bade him good-morning with a parting regret, which he civilly
shared, that he had not the thing I had not wanted, and I pushed out
again into the cold, which I found not so bad as before.

My hero and heroine were waiting for me there, and I saw that to be truly
modern, to be at once realistic and mystical, to have both delicacy and
strength, I must not let them get further acquainted with each other.
The affair must simply go on from day to day, till one morning Jan must
note that it was again the grandmother and no longer the girl who was
following his cart. She must be very weak from a long sickness--I was
not sure whether to have it the grippe or not, but I decided upon that
provisionally and she must totter after Janssen, so that he must get down
after a while to speak to her under pretence of arranging the tail-board
of his cart, or something of that kind; I did not care for the detail.
They should get into talk in the broken English which was the only
language they could have in common, and she should burst into tears, and
tell him that now Nina was sick; I imagined making this very simple, but
very touching, and I really made it so touching that it brought the lump
into my own throat, and I knew it would be effective with the reader.
Then I had Jan get back upon his cart, and drive stolidly on again, and
the old woman limp feebly after.

There should not be any more, I decided, except that one very cold
morning, like that; Jan should be driving through that street, and should
be passing the door of the tenement house where Nina had lived, just as a
little procession should be issuing from it. The fact must be told in
brief sentences, with a total absence of emotionality. The last touch
must be Jan's cart turning the street corner with Jan's figure sharply
silhouetted against the clear, cold morning light. Nothing more.

But it was at this point that another notion came into my mind, so antic,
so impish, so fiendish, that if there were still any Evil One, in a world
which gets on so poorly without him, I should attribute it to his
suggestion; and this was that the procession which Jan saw issuing from
the tenement-house door was not a funeral procession, as the reader will
have rashly fancied, but a wedding procession, with Nina at the head of
it, quite well again, and going to be married to the little brown youth
with ear-rings who had long had her heart.

With a truly perverse instinct, I saw how strong this might be made, at
the fond reader's expense, to be sure, and how much more pathetic, in
such a case, the silhouetted figure on the coke-cart would really be.
I should, of course, make it perfectly plain that no one was to blame,
and that the whole affair had been so tacit on Jan's part that Nina might
very well have known nothing of his feeling for her. Perhaps at the very
end I might subtly insinuate that it was possible he might have had no
such feeling towards her as the reader had been led to imagine.


The question as to which ending I ought to have given my romance is what
has ever since remained to perplex me, and it is what has prevented my
ever writing it. Here is material of the best sort lying useless on my
hands, which, if I could only make up my mind, might be wrought into a
short story as affecting as any that wring our hearts in fiction; and I
think I could get something fairly unintelligible out of the broken
English of Jan and Nina's grandmother, and certainly something novel.
All that I can do now, however, is to put the case before the reader, and
let him decide for himself how it should end.

The mere humanist, I suppose, might say, that I am rightly served for
having regarded the fact I had witnessed as material for fiction at all;
that I had no business to bewitch it with my miserable art; that I ought
to have spoken to that little child and those poor old women, and tried
to learn something of their lives from them, that I might offer my
knowledge again for the instruction of those whose lives are easy and
happy in the indifference which ignorance breeds in us. I own there is
something in this, but then, on the other hand, I have heard it urged by
nice people that they do not want to know about such squalid lives, that
it is offensive and out of taste to be always bringing them in, and that
we ought to be writing about good society, and especially creating
grandes dames for their amusement. This sort of people could say to the
humanist that he ought to be glad there are coke-carts for fuel to fall
off from for the lower classes, and that here was no case for sentiment;
for if one is to be interested in such things at all, it must be
aesthetically, though even this is deplorable in the presence of fiction
already overloaded with low life, and so poor in grades dames as ours.


It may be all an illusion of the map, where the Summer Islands glimmer a
small and solitary little group of dots and wrinkles, remote from
continental shores, with a straight line descending southeastwardly upon
them, to show how sharp and swift the ship's course is, but they seem so
far and alien from my wonted place that it is as if I had slid down a
steepy slant from the home-planet to a group of asteroids nebulous
somewhere in middle space, and were resting there, still vibrant from the
rush of the meteoric fall. There were, of course, facts and incidents
contrary to such a theory: a steamer starting from New York in the raw
March morning, and lurching and twisting through two days of diagonal
seas, with people aboard dining and undining, and talking and smoking and
cocktailing and hot-scotching and beef-teaing; but when the ship came in
sight of the islands, and they began to lift their cedared slopes from
the turquoise waters, and to explain their drifted snows as the white
walls and white roofs of houses, then the waking sense became the
dreaming sense, and the sweet impossibility of that drop through air
became the sole reality.


Everything here, indeed, is so strange that you placidly accept whatever
offers itself as the simplest and naturalest fact. Those low hills, that
climb, with their tough, dark cedars, from the summer sea to the summer
sky, might have drifted down across the Gulf Stream from the coast of
Maine; but when, upon closer inspection, you find them skirted with palms
and bananas, and hedged with oleanders, you merely wonder that you had
never noticed these growths in Maine before, where you were so familiar
with the cedars. The hotel itself, which has brought the Green Mountains
with it, in every detail, from the dormer-windowed mansard-roof, and the
white-painted, green-shuttered walls, to the neat, school-mistressly
waitresses in the dining-room, has a clump of palmettos beside it,
swaying and sighing in the tropic breeze, and you know that when it
migrates back to the New England hill-country, at the end of the season,
you shall find it with the palmettos still before its veranda, and
equally at home, somewhere in the Vermont or New Hampshire July. There
will be the same American groups looking out over them, and rocking and
smoking, though, alas! not so many smoking as rocking.

But where, in that translation, would be the gold braided red or blue
jackets of the British army and navy which lend their lustre and color
here to the veranda groups? Where should one get the house walls of
whitewashed stone and the garden walls which everywhere glow in the sun,
and belt in little spaces full of roses and lilies? These things must
come from some other association, and in the case of him who here
confesses, the lustrous uniforms and the glowing walls rise from waters
as far away in time as in space, and a long-ago apparition of Venetian
Junes haunts the coral shore. (They are beginning to say the shore is
not coral; but no matter.) To be sure, the white roofs are not accounted
for in this visionary presence; and if one may not relate them to the
snowfalls of home winters, then one must frankly own them absolutely
tropical, together with the green-pillared and green-latticed galleries.
They at least suggest the tropical scenery of Prue and I as one remembers
seeing it through Titbottom's spectacles; and yet, if one supplies roofs
of brown-red tiles, it is all Venetian enough, with the lagoon-like
expanses that lend themselves to the fond effect. It is so Venetian,
indeed, that it wants but a few silent gondolas and noisy gondoliers,
in place of the dark, taciturn oarsmen of the clumsy native boats, to
complete the coming and going illusion; and there is no good reason why
the rough little isles that fill the bay should not call themselves
respectively San Giorgio and San Clemente, and Sant' Elena and San
Lazzaro: they probably have no other names!


These summer isles of Eden have this advantage over the scriptural Eden,
that apparently it was not woman and her seed who were expelled, when
once she set foot here, but the serpent and his seed: women now abound in
the Summer Islands, and there is not a snake anywhere to be found. There
are some tortoises and a great many frogs in their season, but no other
reptiles. The frogs are fabled of a note so deep and hoarse that its
vibration almost springs the environing mines of dynamite, though it has
never yet done so; the tortoises grow to a great size and a patriarchal
age, and are fond of Boston brown bread and baked beans, if their
preferences may be judged from those of a colossal specimen in the care
of an American family living on the islands. The observer who
contributes this fact to science is able to report the case of a parrot-
fish, on the same premises, so exactly like a large brown and purple
cockatoo that, seeing such a cockatoo later on dry land, it was with a
sense of something like cruelty in its exile from its native waters.
The angel-fish he thinks not so much like angels; they are of a
transparent purity of substance, and a cherubic innocence of expression,
but they terminate in two tails, which somehow will not lend themselves
to the resemblance.

Certainly the angel-fish is not so well named as the parrot-fish; it
might better be called the ghostfish, it is so like a moonbeam in the
pools it haunts, and of such a convertible quality with the iridescent
vegetable growths about it. All things here are of a weird
convertibility to the alien perception, and the richest and rarest facts
of nature lavish themselves in humble association with the commonest and
most familiar. You drive through long stretches of wayside willows, and
realize only now and then that these willows are thick clumps of
oleanders; and through them you can catch glimpses of banana-orchards,
which look like dishevelled patches of gigantic cornstalks. The fields
of Easter lilies do not quite live up to their photographs; they are
presently suffering from a mysterious blight, and their flowers are not
frequent enough to lend them that sculpturesque effect near to, which
they wear as far off as New York. The potato-fields, on the other hand,
are of a tender delicacy of coloring which compensates for the lilies'
lack, and the palms give no just cause for complaint, unless because they
are not nearly enough to characterize the landscape, which in spite of
their presence remains so northern in aspect. They were much whipped and
torn by a late hurricane, which afflicted all the vegetation of the
islands, and some of the royal palms were blown down. Where these are
yet standing, as four or five of them are in a famous avenue now quite
one-sided, they are of a majesty befitting that of any king who could
pass by them: no sovereign except Philip of Macedon in his least judicial
moments could pass between them.

The century-plant, which here does not require pampering under glass,
but boldly takes its place out doors with the other trees of the garden,
employs much less than a hundred years to bring itself to bloom.
It often flowers twice or thrice in that space of time, and ought to take
away the reproach of the inhabitants for a want of industry and
enterprise: a century-plant at least could do no more in any air, and it
merits praise for its activity in the breath of these languorous seas.
One such must be in bloom at this very writing, in the garden of a house
which this very writer marked for his own on his first drive ashore from
the steamer to the hotel, when he bestowed in its dim, unknown interior
one of the many multiples of himself which are now pretty well dispersed
among the pleasant places of the earth. It fills the night with a heavy
heliotropean sweetness, and on the herb beneath, in the effulgence of the
waxing moon, the multiple which has spiritually expropriated the legal
owners stretches itself in an interminable reverie, and hears Youth come
laughing back to it on the waters kissing the adjacent shore, where other
white houses (which also it inhabits) bathe their snowy underpinning.
In this dream the multiple drives home from the balls of either hotel
with the young girls in the little victorias which must pass its sojourn;
and, being but a vision itself, fore casts the shapes of flirtation which
shall night-long gild the visions of their sleep with the flash of
military and naval uniforms. Of course the multiple has been at the
dance too (with a shadowy heartache for the dances of forty years ago),
and knows enough not to confuse the uniforms.


In whatever way you walk, at whatever hour, the birds are sweetly calling
in the way-side oleanders and the wild sage-bushes and the cedar-tops.
They are mostly cat-birds, quite like our own; and bluebirds, but of a
deeper blue than ours, and redbirds of as liquid a note, but not so
varied, as that of the redbirds of our woods. How came they all here,
seven hundred miles from any larger land? Some think, on the stronger
wings of tempests, for it is not within the knowledge of men that men
brought them. Men did, indeed, bring the pestilent sparrows which swarm
about their habitations here, and beat away the gentler and lovelier
birds with a ferocity unknown in the human occupation of the islands.
Still, the sparrows have by no means conquered, and in the wilder places
the catbird makes common cause with the bluebird and the redbird, and
holds its own against them. The little ground-doves mimic in miniature
the form and markings and the gait and mild behavior of our turtle-doves,
but perhaps not their melancholy cooing. Nature has nowhere anything
prettier than these exquisite creatures, unless it be the long-tailed
white gulls which sail over the emerald shallows of the landlocked seas,
and take the green upon their translucent bodies as they trail their
meteoric splendor against the midday sky. Full twenty-four inches they
measure from the beak to the tip of the single pen that protracts them a
foot beyond their real bulk; but it is said their tempers are shorter
than they, and they attack fiercely anything they suspect of too intimate
a curiosity concerning their nests.

They are probably the only short-tempered things in the Summer Islands,
where time is so long that if you lose your patience you easily find it
again. Sweetness, if not light, seems to be the prevailing human
quality, and a good share of it belongs to such of the natives as are in
no wise light. Our poor brethren of a different pigment are in the large
majority, and they have been seventy years out of slavery, with the full
enjoyment of all their civil rights, without lifting themselves from
their old inferiority. They do the hard work, in their own easy way, and
possibly do not find life the burden they make it for the white man, whom
here, as in our own country, they load up with the conundrum which their
existence involves for him. They are not very gay, and do not rise to a
joke with that flashing eagerness which they show for it at home. If you
have them against a background of banana-stems, or low palms, or feathery
canes, nothing could be more acceptably characteristic of the air and
sky; nor are they out of place on the box of the little victorias, where
visitors of the more inquisitive sex put them to constant question. Such
visitors spare no islander of any color. Once, in the pretty Public
Garden which the multiple had claimed for its private property, three
unmerciful American women suddenly descended from the heavens and began
to question the multiple's gardener, who was peacefully digging at the
rate of a spadeful every five minutes. Presently he sat down on his
wheelbarrow, and then shifted, without relief, from one handle of it to
the other. Then he rose and braced himself desperately against the tool-
house, where, when his tormentors drifted away, he seemed to the soft eye
of pity pinned to the wall by their cruel interrogations, whose barbed
points were buried in the stucco behind him, and whose feathered shafts
stuck out half a yard before his breast.

Whether he was black or not, pity could not see, but probably he was.
At least the garrison of the islands is all black, being a Jamaican
regiment of that color; and when one of the warriors comes down the white
street, with his swagger-stick in his hand, and flaming in scarlet and
gold upon the ground of his own blackness, it is as if a gigantic oriole
were coming towards you, or a mighty tulip. These gorgeous creatures
seem so much readier than the natives to laugh, that you wish to test
them with a joke. But it might fail. The Summer Islands are a British
colony, and the joke does not flourish so luxuriantly, here as some other

To be sure, one of the native fruits seems a sort of joke when you hear
it first named, and when you are offered a 'loquat', if you are of a
frivolous mind you search your mind for the connection with 'loquor'
which it seems to intimate. Failing in this, you taste the fruit, and
then, if it is not perfectly ripe, you are as far from loquaciousness as
if you had bitten a green persimmon. But if it is ripe, it is delicious,
and may be consumed indefinitely. It is the only native fruit which one
can wish to eat at all, with an unpractised palate, though it is claimed
that with experience a relish may come for the pawpaws. These break out
in clusters of the size of oranges at the top of a thick pole, which may
have some leaves or may not, and ripen as they fancy in the indefinite
summer. They are of the color and flavor of a very insipid little
muskmelon which has grown too near a patch of squashes.

One may learn to like this pawpaw, yes, but one must study hard. It is
best when plucked by a young islander of Italian blood whose father
orders him up the bare pole in the sunny Sunday morning air to oblige the
signori, and then with a pawpaw in either hand stands talking with them
about the two bad years there have been in Bermuda, and the probability
of his doing better in Nuova York. He has not imagined our winter,
however, and he shrinks from its boldly pictured rigors, and lets the
signori go with a sigh, and a bunch of pink and crimson roses.

The roses are here, budding and blooming in the quiet bewilderment which
attends the flowers and plants from the temperate zone in this latitude,
and which in the case of the strawberries offered with cream and cake at
another public garden expresses itself in a confusion of red, ripe fruit
and white blossoms on the same stem. They are a pleasure to the nose and
eye rather than the palate, as happens with so many growths of the
tropics, if indeed the Summer Islands are tropical, which some plausibly
deny; though why should not strawberries, fresh picked from the plant in
mid-March, enjoy the right to be indifferent sweet?


What remains? The events of the Summer Islands are few, and none out of
the order of athletics between teams of the army and navy, and what may
be called societetics, have happened in the past enchanted fortnight.
But far better things than events have happened: sunshine and rain of
such like quality that one could not grumble at either, and gales, now
from the south and now from the north, with the languor of the one and
the vigor of the other in them. There were drives upon drives that were
always to somewhere, but would have been delightful the same if they had
been mere goings and comings, past the white houses overlooking little
lawns through the umbrage of their palm-trees. The lawns professed to be
of grass, but were really mats of close little herbs which were not
grass; but which, where the sparse cattle were grazing them, seemed to
satisfy their inexacting stomachs. They are never very green, and in
fact the landscape often has an air of exhaustion and pause which it
wears with us in late August; and why not, after all its interminable,
innumerable summers? Everywhere in the gentle hollows which the coral
hills (if they are coral) sink into are the patches of potatoes and
lilies and onions drawing their geometrical lines across the brown-red,
weedless soil; and in very sheltered spots are banana-orchards which are
never so snugly sheltered there but their broad leaves are whipped to
shreds. The white road winds between gray walls crumbling in an amiable
disintegration, but held together against ruin by a network of maidenhair
ferns and creepers of unknown name, and overhung by trees where the
cactus climbs and hangs in spiky links, or if another sort, pierces them
with speary stems as tall and straight as the stalks of the neighboring
bamboo. The loquat-trees cluster--like quinces in the garden closes, and
show their pale golden, plum-shaped fruit.

For the most part the road runs by still inland waters, but sometimes it
climbs to the high downs beside the open sea, grotesque with wind-worn
and wave-worn rocks, and beautiful with opalescent beaches, and the black
legs of the negro children paddling in the tints of the prostrate

All this seems probable and natural enough at the writing; but how will
it be when one has turned one's back upon it? Will it not lapse into the
gross fable of travellers, and be as the things which the liars who swap
them cannot themselves believe? What will be said to you when you tell
that in the Summer Islands one has but to saw a hole in his back yard and
take out a house of soft, creamy sandstone and set it up and go to living
in it? What, when you relate that among the northern and southern
evergreens there are deciduous trees which, in a clime where there is no
fall or spring, simply drop their leaves when they are tired of keeping
them on, and put out others when they feel like it? What, when you
pretend that in the absence of serpents there are centipedes a span long,
and spiders the bigness of bats, and mosquitoes that sweetly sing in the
drowsing ear, but bite not; or that there are swamps but no streams, and
in the marshes stand mangrove-trees whose branches grow downward into the
ooze, as if they wished to get back into the earth and pull in after them
the holes they emerged from?

These every-day facts seem not only incredible to the liar himself, even
in their presence, but when you begin the ascent of that steep slant back
to New York you foresee that they will become impossible. As impossible
as the summit of the slant now appears to the sense which shudderingly
figures it a Bermuda pawpaw-tree seven hundred miles high, and fruiting
icicles and snowballs in the March air!


Looking through Mrs. Caroline A. Creevey's charming book on the Flowers
of Field, Hill, and Swamp, the other day, I was very forcibly reminded of
the number of these pretty, wilding growths which I had been finding all
the season long among the streets of asphalt and the sidewalks of
artificial stone in this city; and I am quite sure that any one who has
been kept in New York, as I have been this year, beyond the natural time
of going into the country, can have as real a pleasure in this sylvan
invasion as mine, if he will but give himself up to a sense of it.


Of course it is altogether too late, now, to look for any of the early
spring flowers, but I can recall the exquisite effect of the tender blue
hepatica fringing the centre rail of the grip-cars, all up and down
Broadway, and apparently springing from the hollow beneath, where the
cable ran with such a brooklike gurgle that any damp-living plant must
find itself at home there. The water-pimpernel may now be seen, by any
sympathetic eye, blowing delicately along the track, in the breeze of the
passing cabs, and elastically lifting itself from the rush of the cars.
The reader can easily verify it by the picture in Mrs. Creevey's book.
He knows it by its other name of brook weed; and he will have my delight,
I am sure, in the cardinal-flower which will be with us in August. It is
a shy flower, loving the more sequestered nooks, and may be sought along
the shady stretches of Third Avenue, where the Elevated Road overhead
forms a shelter as of interlacing boughs. The arrow-head likes such
swampy expanses as the converging surface roads form at Dead Man's Curve
and the corners of Twenty third Street. This is in flower now, and will
be till September; and St.-John's-wort, which some call the false golden-
rod, is already here. You may find it in any moist, low ground, but the
gutters of Wall Street, or even the banks of the Stock Exchange, are not
too dry for it. The real golden-rod is not much in evidence with us, for
it comes only when summer is on the wane. The other night, however, on
the promenade of the Madison Square Roof Garden, I was delighted to see
it growing all over the oblong dome of the auditorium, in response to the
cry of a homesick cricket which found itself in exile there at the base
of a potted ever green. This lonely insect had no sooner sounded its
winter-boding note than the fond flower began sympathetically to wave and
droop along those tarry slopes, as I have seen it on how many hill-side
pastures! But this may have been only a transitory response to the
cricket, and I cannot promise the visitor to the Roof Garden that he will
find golden-rod there every night. I believe there is always Golden
Seal, but it is the kind that comes in bottles, and not in the gloom of
"deep, cool, moist woods," where Mrs. Creevey describes it as growing,
along with other wildings of such sweet names or quaint as Celandine, and
Dwarf Larkspur, and Squirrel-corn, and Dutchman's breeches, and
Pearlwort, and Wood-sorrel, and Bishop's--cap, and Wintergreen, and
Indian-pipe, and Snowberry, and Adder's-tongue, and Wakerobin, and
Dragon-root, and Adam-and-Eve, and twenty more, which must have got their
names from some fairy of genius. I should say it was a female fairy of
genius who called them so, and that she had her own sex among mortals in
mind when she invented their nomenclature, and was thinking of little
girls, and slim, pretty maids, and happy young wives. The author tells
how they all look, with a fine sense of their charm in her words, but one
would know how they looked from their names; and when you call them over
they at once transplant themselves to the depths of the dells between our
sky-scrapers, and find a brief sojourn in the cavernous excavations
whence other sky-scrapers are to rise.


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