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with my Aunt Lucretia, my Aunt Susan, and my grandmother, who was a constant and cheerful giver of cents or of "fractional currency", with which to buy lozenges or sticks of candy in the village. My uncles often looked in on us; I suppose their hours were partly arranged by the working schedule of the "Daily Advertiser". How we could all have found room in that little parlor, I cannot now understand — all this dressmaking in progress, private worsted work of my own or the painting of large newspaper pictures for scrapbooks, in which I think most of the family joined, or the preparation of a toy theatre, while pretty young Brookline ladies came in and out, and a pussycat, the venerated Totty or one of his successors, filled up all interstices of space or time.
It was during those Brookline years that the earlier "Peterkin" papers were written. The first of them all was invented for the younger daughter of Lucretia's old schoolmate, Mrs. Lesley, during a summer stay in the hill country of Princeton, in Massachusetts. Little Meggie was ill. Sitting by her bedside, Aunt Lucretia, as the child called her, told the story of "The Lady Who Put Salt into Her Coffee". have said, the Lady from Philadelphia, who set everything right in these tales, was Mrs. Lesley, this fortunate child's mother. The fourth of the stories was first told at Keene, at the house of Lucretia's other lifelong friend, that Margaret Harding whose reminiscences I have been quoting, now Mrs. White. As the family were starting to take a drive- Keene drives were famous – they had the misadventure the Peterkins experienced on a like occasion: they forgot to unhitch their horse. My aunt immediately constructed a story from this misfortune, to amuse little Eliza White, raising its possibilities to a
ment of Lucretia Hale's life; but I doubt if she ever really knew they were that. She had already given much more time and labor than they ever required at her hand to work which was significant and interesting in relation to that day, and to her own character and temperament; but not much of that work has lasted. "The Queen of the Red Chessmen" has lived out its sixty years. I bought it a year or two ago in a cheap pamphlet in a department store. But the Peterkins have gone on living a continuous and sturdy life; they are more read now than they were ten years ago. Had she not written these stories, she would never have made any contribution to literature which was her very own. The creature of fire and air, the tricksy spirit which only her intimate friends knew lurked behind her gentle and retiring manner, had never before been allowed to spread his wings; he now spread them to some purpose. She had always loved to tell children stories, and they had always loved to hear them. Now her audience was extended, and she found herself, at last, as much at ease in talking to that larger circle of children as to the little brothers and sisters in her mother's nursery, or to all the children who called her Aunt Lucretia. Another reason for the success of these tales is that the habitual condition of mind of
the excellent Peterkins has been shared with them, at times, by every human being on this earth.
The earlier of these stories were published in "Our Young Folks", the adored magazine for children which we all read in those days. She continued writing them for years in the intervals. which her health or her daily occupations allowed; yet, as I have said, I do not think she realized how important they were as a part of her lifework.
When their mother died in 1866, the family left Brookline, and Lucretia's friends must have been electrified to hear that she, the delicate invalid of over forty, was going to Egypt with her sister Susan, to make their brother Charles a visit. She was dreadfully sick on the ocean voyage; the journey to Alexandria, across Europe and the Mediterranean, must have been an arduous one in those days; and the stay with her brother, the agent and consul general of the United States in Egypt, comprised a voyage up the Nile and a horseback journey in Palestine. None of these things appears to have daunted her. She got an immense amount of pleasure out of them, especially during the voyage up the Nile, when her beloved friends Professor and Mrs. Lesley were of the party.
When she came back to America she passed two years in Keene, near her equally dear friends the Whites, and threw herself most heartily into their parish interests. Her travels may have overfatigued her they probably did but they seem to have given her new force in unexpected directions. When she settled in Boston once more, it was to lead an entirely different life from that of her earlier years. Her chief interests now began to be public When the vote for school boards was given to women in Massachusetts, she not only qualified as a voter but
became one of the first women members of the Boston School Committee. I think she served for two consecutive terms. She was a useful member of the Board and an especially welcome one to the teachers, who found in her a constant and a wise friend.
This was the one public office which she filled. But she also spent much time in work for the Society for the Higher Education of Women, in founding cooking schools, and in acting as one of the teachers in Miss Ticknor's excellent correspondence school for women, which we used to call the Study-atHome Society. At different times, indeed, as in the earlier part of her life, she taught classes on various subjects, mainly historical ones. Teaching, like writing, was a family occupation which came easily to her hand.
She usually lived in little apartments, lined with books, and full of cheerfulness. Each one of them seemed to have especial advantages in her eyes. She would have liked to live in one of the earliest settlement houses in Boston; to take rooms there, as in any apartment house, and to be of what use she could, as time went on, to her neighbors. Her brother Edward opposed this plan, and lived to regret it; for a resident without responsibility, in such a house, was exactly what she was fitted to be. As it was, she was always on the most helpful and democratic terms with those people among whom she lived. Her friends were not only agreeable teachers and clever literary people, but the poor and sick and unhappy. She was destined to be the friend of the unlucky, but the lucky wanted to be her friends too. In fact, her talent for friendship almost deserved the name of genius. Her devotion to her friends was returned not only in affection, but in practical and faithful ways which gave ease to her later years.
During these years, she did a good deal of writing. In 1873, she had written a story of the Puritan days called "The Two Letters", printed in "The Atlantic Monthly". Later she wrote, in collaboration with Edwin Lasseter Bynner, a story called "The Uncloseted Skeleton". The novel which she wrote about 1877, called "The Wolf at the Door", for the "No Name Series", a set of anonymous stories published by Roberts Brothers, is often entertaining and interesting, as is much of her work at this time, written largely for the magazines and the newspapers. But her best expression seems to have been in a cross between imagination and satire a most gentle satire, but satire still. And it is only in relation to the Peterkins that it has its full outlet.
As her life drew toward an end, she
encountered the great trial of blindness; and she bore it bravely, as she had borne her other trials. It was a long one, for the progress of her disease was gradual. Little by little, she had to give up the small and pleasant occupations which she loved. Cribbage and solitaire had been dear to her; but now, when a friend sent her the description of a new game of "patience", she answered that she could no longer play patience she must live it. she must live it. But even so gentle a complaint was rare with her.
As her blindness became hopeless and complete, her brilliant mind clouded; but even then she found more to enjoy than to suffer. Up to the end she made new friends and loved to be with the old ones. That end came on June 12, 1900. She was nearly eighty years old.
THE SKETCH BOOK
CHARLES DICKENS AND THE BLUE SUNDAY LAWS
By Earl E. Fisk
T is not my intention to write a long
Laws and the present day overdoing of the "moral uplift", but I have been interested to note how H. L. Mencken, the modern crusader of the antis, hews along the same lines as did Charles Dickens in 1843.
Mr. Mencken in all his recent books has gone to infinite pains to take good cracks at the reformers and the moral uplifters, and in most instances he has undoubtedly voiced the thoughts of the majority of people. In his "Prejudices: Second Series", he states his belief that uplifters and reformers do their nefarious work merely because of love of the chase. While red blooded
tion. No better man could have been chosen for this purpose, nor one more informed on the subject. His own collection of "Carols" is just about complete. But to get back to the Blue Laws. I had read the "Christmas Carol" many times before, but now for the first time I noticed what Dickens had to say on the matter. The part I am referring to is to be found in stave three. The second of the three spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Present, has been showing Scrooge the poor people going to the grocer and baker shops to buy their Christmas dinner. On pages 84, 85, and 86 of the first edition is found the following:
But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye streets, lanes and nameless
men derive their enjoyment from golf, turnings innumerable people, carrying their
hunting, and other sports, these reformers take theirs out in hunting down offenders of the Blue Laws, those improper restrictions upon the liberty of the people which they have had passed to assist them in their hunt and to make up the rules of their game. Mr. Mencken is an extremist who in some instances goes too far, but his tirades provide food for thought; often one finds that he has printed one's own unvoiced opinions.
Among my Christmas presents one year was a facsimile copy of the first edition of Charles Dickens's "Christmas Carol", published by the Atlantic Monthly Press, a beautiful example of fine bookwork. It is edited by my good friend, A. Edward Newton. who contributes a delightful introduc
dinners to the bakers' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in the bakers' doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was an uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some of the dinnercarriers who had jostled with each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humor was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was. God love it, so it was.
In time the bells ceased, and the bakers' were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.
"Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?" asked Scrooge. "There is. My own."
"Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?" asked Scrooge.
"I", cried the Spirit.
"You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day", said Scrooge. 'And it comes to the same thing."
"I seek!" exclaimed the Spirit. "Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family", said Scrooge.
"There are some upon this earth of yours", returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name; who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us."
No further comment is necessary but that in 1843, as in 1925, the Christian Spirit is used to mask bigotry, selfishness, and envy. Reader, do you not agree?
ON NOT INTERVIEWING GEORGE MOORE
By Virginia Rice
"YOU'RE at the age when you like
to meet great men."
George Moore poured himself a glass of wine; the reporter tasted hers and smiled assent. She hoped he would take another glass and still another, and then perhaps in the midst of the unsuspecting diners at Queens Restaurant, out of the vintage would emerge a new and absolutely fresh edition of Impressions and Opinions. Possibly, there would be Confessions. She eyed the white hair and sagging shoulders.
This, superficially speaking, was no more than a polite and what proved to be a good suggestion, but the tone was so ingratiating, so suavely mischievous, that the reporter began to wonder whether the word "melon" had some special connotation in London society.
Mr. Moore twirled his mustache; the corners of his mouth turned up impishly and his pale blue eyes brightened.
"Tell me about yourself", he urged. "Have you ever been in love? Are you in love?"
From George Moore this was not only an unembarrassing but actually a flattering question; he was willing to meet his guest on his own hunting ground. It was as if H. G. Wells had asked for her opinion of the Soviet government. What staggered her, however, was the degree of boyish enthusiasm in his voice and the very evident curiosity.
What had happened to the Young Man who made his confessions sometime in the Eighteen Hundreds? His physique was no longer erect or firm; his hair had turned white; and during rare, unamused moments his mouth drooped. And yet, despite a lapse of thirty odd years, did the essence of that Young Man remain? The reporter suspected it. "He is gay", she thought to herself, "yet underneath it all, he seems harassed and restless."
"Abelard and Heloise' upsets me", Mr. Moore confessed in response to an inquiry as to his sincere estimate of the works of D. H. Lawrence. "In the