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many of which I never heard of. I am asking Miss Hewins if she knows them, and if she doesn't I think we'll give them to the reference department."
"To the old boys", said the wise doctor with a smile, for he knew children's books, as he knew all books, with a great knowledge. "We may want a few of them back, to place with a collection of still older books for children in the children's room of the new library", I said. The central library was still in process of building and we were sitting by the fire in Dr. Billings's cozy office in the old Astor Library.
"I want the old boys to feel like coming to that room as well as the children and I want the children to see what books used to be like. All sorts of people like seeing them and they have always been locked away at the Lenox." It was characteristic of Dr. Billings that he made no comment at the time. He just sat there, looking into the fire, but not long afterward a little package of treasures among old books came to my office marked: "I found these at an auction the other day. Would you like them for that collection?"
No single feature of the children's room has excited so much personal interest as the cases of little old children's books presided over by a portrait of an eighteenth century duchess and replicas of the "Cries of London", and surrounded by modern picture books bridged by those eighteenth century lovers of the 1880's, Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott.
Much water has passed under and over many bridges since the first of these books were placed there at the opening of the Library in May, 1911; and because I have had the good fortune to see many dreams come true within this period, I have ventured to postpone any consideration of the pub
lications of the spring of 1925 to open up the subject of round-the-year reviews of children's books. It is the easier to do so because no copy of "The Scarlet Cockerel", the Charles Boardman Hawes prize story, nor of "Sweet Time and the Blue Policeman", a book of children's plays by Stark Young, has yet been received.
If it be true, as a leading publisher states, that "the quality of books for children has increased out of proportion to other classes of books with the possible exception of biography and one other, that there is an increased sale of well selected books, that this is truer of children's books in America than in England today", is it not about time to rate them in terms of their importance to the public libraries, the school libraries, and the households to which they go?
Certain publishers have so decided, and, by a departmental organization of their work corresponding to that made by libraries many years earlier, are rendering valuable and varied service including well selected and annotated lists, intelligent advertising, and better informed salesmen. These publishers have done much, but vastly more needs to be done; for the Trade is still far too much of a bugaboo, not to librarians since they are in daily contact with a public of potential book buyers - but to those who have not yet discovered the secret of choosing children's books for their vitality and standing by until they find their market. American librarians have done yeoman service here.
Children's Book Week has been of inestimable value in calling out timely articles on children's books and children's reading, but far too many of these articles, like the children's books themselves, are crowded into a busy holiday season. It has not yet become an
established custom to find something worth reading about children's books and their authors in every literary review.
"But what is there to write about?" asks someone. "Is anything ever known about the writers of children's books unless they become very famous?" More might be known if more writers would do what Hugh Walpole did in "Jeremy" when he paid his tribute to Mrs. Ewing as an influence in his writing. I wonder if even Hugh Walpole knows that Mrs. Ewing liked to have "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" read aloud to her in her last illness.
"Her appreciation of fun remained as keen as ever, and strange as it may seem", wrote her sister but it doesn't seem strange to me "one of the very few books she liked to have read aloud was Mark Twain's 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'; the dry humor of it,
the natural way in which everything is told from a boy's point of view, and the vivid and beautiful descriptions of river scenery all charmed her."
Reread "Jackanapes", and if you've never read it, "Reka Dom", a story full of pictures of Mrs. Ewing's own
home by the St. John River during the years she spent in New Brunswick. You will not think it strange either, and it will set you wondering how many are the ties that bind writers and artists in the same age, and in distant ages, although they may live in different countries.
Yes, there is much to be said, once we have taken children's books to our heads as well as our hearts. Perhaps I cannot do better than quote from a recent letter of the editor of THE BOOKMAN, since it was in THE BOOKMAN that the first sustained reviewing of children's books appeared: "Why it is that children's books have received so little careful attention in the past is a mystery. Surely, no class of books is so important in the development of the reading habits of a nation. If for this reason alone, they should be studied, criticized, appreciated. Yet they are worthy of attention in themselves. Classics of beauty and romance are numbered among them. The great authors turn to the child mind in moods of gaiety and of fantasy and, in those moods, create a very special type of book that often springs from the deepest inspiration."
"Not pipes," urged Jackanapes; "upon my honor, aunty, not pipes. Only cigars like Mr. Johnson's!" -From "Jackanapes", illustrated by Randolph Caldecott (Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1891)
GETTING INTO SIX FIGURES
By Arnold Patrick
VI: GEORGE BARR MCCUTCHEON
UT on the Wea plains, where "a
grain of wheat springs into a million dollars", in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, George Barr McCutcheon was born. On a farm, too, of parentage partly Scotch, and Scotch by way of Virginia and Kentucky. In these days few books sell as did Mr. McCutcheon's early successes. Three hundred thousand was a good sale, and the famous "Graustark", which he marketed outright for five hundred dollars, has been bound and distributed to the number of a million copies. Nor has his name ever been absent for long from the best seller lists. Last year, with "East of the Setting Sun", another Graustark tale, he was read with delight in thousands of homes.
Mr. McCutcheon is a gentleman of middle age, kindly, fond of golf, temperate, interested in the world at large as well as that of literature. In his New York City apartment, his remarkable library of first editions is his proudest possession. But although he reads those books in their lavish leather cases, he does not fail to keep in touch with current literary happenings, and he may be found several times a week at one or another of the clubs discussing with young and old the books of the season. He enjoys the construction of his romances; yet his favorite among his own works is "Mary Midthorne", a realistic story of Indiana life. It is to this life that he has turned for his newest story, on which he has been at work for many months.
Indiana has produced many writing folk. There Booth Tarkington still has his winter home. There James Whitcomb Riley was born. There George Ade is a gentleman farmer, with vast estates, and Meredith Nicholson indulges in politics and writing. But like most fathers, the elder McCutcheon did not view a career of the pen as entirely satisfactory for his sons. True, he had once himself written a drama of love and intrigue, which was performed by the rural for rural consumption; but this was an act of momentary madness, not a bid for eternal fame. So when George and John took to writing and drawing at an early age, the pater familias was disturbed.
John McCutcheon, the brother, is John T. McCutcheon of Chicago, writer and famous cartoonist. Two more successful brothers it is not easy to find. Yet it was George who was first interested in drawing; in fact, it was George who taught his brother John how to draw. The author of "Graustark" is four years the older. They must have made an interesting pair in those early days on the farm, George doing the chores, and small brother following him around and helping as he could. At eight, George wrote his first romance. It was called "Panther Jim", and it was never finished. Product of an imagination stimulated by yellowbacks smuggled into bedroom and hidden under pillow, it yet had its bearing on future creation. It was the product of the young
mind craving high adventure as it fed on the sight of wide fields and rolling clouds, and listened to the slow drawl of Hoosier folk. It was the first revolt against the drabness of the midwest. It was animated by the same crying out of the soul that was later to produce "Alice Adams" and "Main Street".
The McCutcheon family soon moved to town, to the not-so-small village of Lafayette, Indiana, where the brothers, one ten and the other six, pursued their artistic designs under cover of murky secrecy. The secrecy added doubtless to the enjoyment of creation; for stories written in the cellar by candlelight, with disapproving parents above stairs, are far more thrilling than those indited on the living room table in the midst of an admiring family circle. Approve genius, and it may be stifled; but forbid its progress, and the ultimate result is practically certain. I should err were I to give the impression that the brothers McCutcheon were delicate youths of slender calves and rounding shoulders. They played at games with as much vigor as they drew pictures and dreamed novels. They remember shins barked on the lacrosse field, and arms twisted at football. Later at Purdue University they went out for various athletics, and even after George left college he used to go back to play on scrub teams against the regulars. Those were the days of developing western football, of the famous series of Princeton coaches who ventured to Indiana to teach the sons of the plains the tricks that made great and formidable gridiron heroes.
Being a reporter was frowned on by fathers who saw business as the proper career for sons. Yet George Barr McCutcheon's career started much as did Edna Ferber's; he was for a time Purdue correspondent for the Lafayette "Journal". Then he found college
irksome and left, going to work as a reporter at six dollars a week and living on it. Six dollars a week was good pay in those days, and later. The other night, Will Irwin told me that he worked for John O'Hara Cosgrave on "The Wave" in San Francisco for that sum, writing everything from editorials to London society news. While George McCutcheon was still at work in Lafayette, his brother John went to Chicago and got a job on the "Record". At the time, the other George, Ade, was at work too on the Lafayette "Journal". Presently, however, he followed John to Chicago and was engaged as a cub on the same paper. Reputations are made overnight in the newspaper game, and while George McCutcheon was thinking of short stories and making his way toward the city editor's desk, his brother and his friend became famous.
when word came that a steamer had sunk on Lake Michigan, that lives were being lost and saved, he was the only man there to cover the assignment. The man at the desk had no choice; he sent the cub. The cub wormed his way onto the rescue boat and saw it all. He was the only one of all the city's reporters who did. In the small hours of dawn he came back to his typewriter and pounded out a great story, a scoop story. The next morning over his own signature the "Record" carried it, and everyone asked, "Who is George Ade?" Arrived overnight. It is the old story; but it is George Ade's. The World's Fair found Ade and John T. McCutcheon at work together. Not long after, the "Fables in Slang" came into being, and the great cartoons.