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JOHN FARRAR, Editor
THE POINT OF VIEW
ST. THOMAS CHATTERTON HE religion of literature has always
one of these; and Chatterton is another
the patron saint of the distressed and miserable and hopeless, of those who write without recognition, without reward, without even the bare means of livelihood. The story of Francis Thompson, to whom Chatterton appeared at a crucial moment, is worth retelling in this connection. It is quoted from the conversation of the elder Meynell by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt in the second volume of "My Diaries".
Meynell, it appears, had printed an essay of Thompson's and sent him a check. The check had been returned, since Thompson no longer lived at the address given. Meynell took pains to find the poet, who presently came to see him. "His appearance was then terrible in its destitution. When he came into the room he half opened the door, and then retreated, and did so twice before he got courage to come inside. He was in rags, his feet without stockings showing through his boots,
his coat torn, and no shirt. He seemed in the last stages of physical collapse." Invited to dinner, he talked until about ten o'clock, "when he became uneasy and said he must be going. I asked him what obliged him, and he explained that he was obliged to earn tenpence every day to live. This he did by waiting at the doors of theatres and calling cabs, and by selling matches in the neighborhood of Charing Cross." And then Thompson told Meynell the story of the moment when Chatterton had appeared and saved his life:
"He used, before I knew him," said Meynell, "to sleep at night under the arches of Covent Garden, where every quarter of an hour he was liable to be kicked awake by the police and told to move on. It was in an empty space of ground behind the market where the gardeners throw their rubbish, that, just before, he had resolved on suicide. He then spent all his remaining pence on laudanum, one large dose, and he went there at night to take it. He had swallowed half when he felt an arm laid on his wrist, and looking up he saw Chatterton standing over him and for
"Just the same thing", adds Blunt, "happened to Thompson". for Meynell's check was even then waiting for him, and more than that, the tender care and friendship of the Meynell family.
It always seems to us improbable never more so, perhaps, than in America at this moment that there is really any unrecognized and starving genius left in our eager and kindly world to brood upon thoughts of suicide; yet there may be such; and we can only hope that St. Thomas Chatterton will touch him (or her) upon the arm, and say: "Don't! There will be a check from an editor tomorrow!"
LITERATURE OF THE
HE Detroit "Saturday Night" publishes an editorial titled "Back to the Laundry", calling attention to an open letter "to the public press of America" from the Laundryowners' National Association of La Salle, Illinois. Here is an abbreviated version of the communication written, curiously, not in 1600 or 1700 but in this very enlightened century:
Whereas, many newspaper articles and cartoons, no doubt unintentionally, hold the laundry industry up to scorn and ridicule; and whereas laundry owners spend hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars with the papers: Be it resolved that we earnestly hope that the American spirit of
fair play will prompt the publishers to stop the publication of such material; and that we pledge ourselves to constantly advocate newspaper advertising for laundries.
This amazing paragraph sprang from anger caused by the syndicate publication of an essay dealing with laundries written by one of our most famous humorists. One must not jibe at the laundry, lest perfervid orators spring up on street corners to defend the sanctity of the perfectly tailored sheet. It must not be written down that laundries occasionally stray from the path of cleanliness.
From this idiotic effort at press muzzling, two points may be made. First, that the brazen attempts by various groups in America to control public opinion are real and serious barriers to the freedom of speech. The lack of humor that might prompt undertakers, plumbers, dentists, cross word puzzle fans, or even editors to band together to keep the newspapers clean of fun, might conceivably put "Life" out of business but could not greatly affect the Constitution of the United States. Other organizations, functioning likewise, could wreck a nation. H. L. Mencken is forever laughing at America, along with reformers of one sort or another. As long as Mr. Mencken can laugh at himself he will be a successful editor, and as long as we can laugh at Mr. Mencken, Dr. Frank Crane, and other propagandists, we shall be safe from their wiles.
The other point that the serious minded wielders of sud and iron have overlooked is the advertising value of humor. As many men have been made by a joke as have been ruined by one. Suppose Mr. Ford had attempted to stamp out the Ford car joke. Fancy President Coolidge issuing an edict that stories of his taciturnity must cease. Personality is the result of divergence
m the ordinary. A man who cannot › caricatured is ready for the morgue. .t is reverence for the laundry that should worry the gentlemen of La Salle. It might soon put them out of business.
AN has many regrets. One of the most poignant is that but one life is vouchsafed him. Nearly everyone believes that had he his life to live over, he could crowd into it more usefulness and happiness, to himself and others, than he has been able to put into the one he is living or has lived. There is no chance of it, so he devotes himself to prolonging life, to urging scientists to tell him how it can be done, and to living other lives vicariously. The last he accomplishes by reading biography. That is the reason why literature of this class makes such powerful appeal to us, especially in our mature and late life.
Biography in some form bulks large in all literature, and it appears to be getting more pervasive. A variety that seems now to be finding great favor is verbal portraiture, and the leading artist in this country is Gamaliel Bradford. Canada has an industrious and talented member of the guild who writes under the name of E. Barrington. France, likewise, has a gifted member who calls himself André Maurois.
tive as romance and as absorbing as a psychological novel.
Her chief lien on fame now would seem to be that Boswell loved her and sought to thrust pedantry and Puritanism upon her; that she held Benjamin Constant enthralled for ten years, though she was twice his age and had a husband; and that she made way for Madame de Staël without display of spleen or jealousy.
Probably no autoportrait was ever painted, not excepting even Harriet Martineau's, that more accurately reflected the emotional and intellectual makeup of the possessor than "The Portrait of Mademoiselle de Z. under the name of Zélide". Mr. Scott quotes it in part in his fascinating book. No one can read it without thinking that feminism or other evolutionary machinery has eliminated a type of woman which reached its fullest flower about a century ago.
Madame de Charrière said of herself that with less sensibility she would have had the mind of a great man; with less intelligence, she would have been only a weak woman. Self estimation is one of the most difficult things in the world to do correctly. She was more successful at it than Saint Augustine or Marie Bashkirtseff.
AMY LOWELL AND HERBERT QUICK
"The Divine Lady", E. Barrington's HERBERT QUICK died at sixty
story of Lady Hamilton, and "Ariel: The Life of Shelley" by Maurois were among the great successes of the past year. Now an Englishman, Geoffrey Scott, has published under the title "The Portrait of Zélide" the story of an eighteenth century Dutch belle, Isabella Van Tuyll who became Madame de Charrière, which is as seduc
four, Amy Lowell at fifty one; both were writing with vigor, and at the height of their success. Mr. Quick was editor, author, lawyer, politician, and novelist. His recent trilogy of historical novels of the midwest ranks high in American fiction. His Jake Vandemark is a character not easily forgotten. He was a good writer, a
loyal friend, and an honest and active force in the affairs of the country. With Miss Lowell's death, we lose one of the most vital personalities of current letters. She was strong in mind and purpose, brilliant in technique, with a delicate imagination and a virile power of analysis. Both her prose and her poetry command admiration and respect. Miss Lowell was friend and adviser to many. From one of America's oldest families, she was yet democratic in the best sense of the word. Her house, her library, her garden, she loved and shared freely with her friends. Those friends were loyal and often self sacrificing. Chief among them was Ada Dwyer Russell, Miss Lowell's companion and constant aid, who made possible those last months of hardship and labor when the Keats biography was being finished. We cannot phrase too strongly the affection, gratitude, admiration, and respect felt by the editors of this magazine for Miss Lowell as a friend who was constant and honest in her advice to us and to a host of others in the workshop of American letters.
HE story of "Grass" was there to be got, in that land situated vaguely to the western mind between "The Arabian Nights" and "The Rubaiyat"; it was as if someone had telephoned the city room of a newspaper and said: "There is a fire at the old docks; I thought you'd want to cover it." Then a reporter and a camera man would have set out as gleefully as their sophistication would permit, and an event would have become a story for all the world to read.
Curious events were stirring in that
vague territory off to the East of history. A group of tribes was known to migrate twice a year in search of pasture, across mountains less passable than some which have kept entire nations secret. The size and plan of the migration, the scale of the barrier, and the hardships accepted would have made them worth recording even without the knowledge that this was the story of half the world's beginnings.
So three journalists set out for Persia. One wrote a book, another made thousands of feet of film, and the curious events in the South Persian mountains became a remarkable story. Perhaps the book is not especially notable, for many travelers have written of stranger things they have seen; but the picture is brilliant work. Like much good journalism, it is practically anonymous; one regrets the necessity which leaves out of the record the courage and labor and bold spirit of the people who made it. But when a reporter at a fire is struck by a falling timber, no mention of that appears in the printed story unless it be an item in the list of casualties.
Motion pictures originated as journalistic records. The picture drama followed some time afterward, when the medium had improved and curiosity had ceased to attract large audiences. But screen journalism has survived in news reels, educational pictures, and the like. Its potentialities are huge. Gradually in the libraries of the large producing companies are accumulating films of almost every event of spectacular quality which occurs today. No other period of the world's history has been so minutely recorded that a later generation will be able to detect the obsolescence over a period of a few years in manners, customs, and styles.
Nowadays the camera goes everywhere. But much of the world remains
to be explored by the photographer with an imagination, a bit of courage, and a strong back.
THE REVOLVING CIRCLE
HE attendant who guards the library portals and ushers you in with a click of his counting machine, can furnish an estimate of the reading public commendable for mathematical exactness. But who can, with any degree of accuracy, chart the reactions of that public? At the moment we appear to desire the sophisticated book; we wish to be a trifle highbrow. Yet there are vast quantities of people who read the Elsie books in their youth and have never grown up, who still like school girl sentiment. Their children, it is true, own Dickens, Thackeray, Stevenson; but how earnestly they peruse the classics is a matter for speculation. Recently in a midwest high school it was discovered that reading outside the classroom was confined practically to the true-story type magazine. Even Zane Grey was giving way in the young mind to stories of the regenerating souls of chorus ladies. In spite of this, the present day public is undoubtedly a growing one for the current novel of serious intent.
Yet the cynic may well say that there will be a reversal of form. That one fine morning a new novelist of sweetness and light will spring from a lily bud and that the world will follow blindly his or her dictates, forgetting that it ever dreamed of books "worthwhile" and "stimulating". No race can become perfectly sophisticated without disintegrating completely. The drama is already returning to niceness with the success in New York of such engaging pieces as "Is Zat So?",
"The Poor Nut", and "The Fall Guy". There must be a vanishing point of the blush; when it has vanished, then it will be the fashion to blush again. Even the radio as a fad will pall sooner or later and take its place as a household staple. Books will go on being read, and we cannot expect morons to be eliminated from the world. "A Book for Every Moron" may become a successful publishing slogan. Meanwhile, let the highbrows have their day and rejoice in it. Do not forget, however, that there were always highbrows of one sort or another. Though the Shakespeare and Browning Societies may have given way to psychoanalysis and D. H. Lawrence, who knows but that we may all be forming Chaucer Cosies before the decade passes?
BON VOYAGE, ARLEN!
ICHAEL ARLEN has left us for a
brief period, left us just as his new book is published, left us with a successful play on the boards in Chicago, two more in prospect for the autumn, and the plan for two novels in his head, left us with a pink carnation in his button hole and an engaging smile beneath his mustaches. He was practically without enemies in America, which is a great deal to say for a young gentleman at once so clever and so successful. It argues well for his tact, his intelligence, and his charm. He is a hard worker, is Arlen. "May Fair" is a good book: it has more humor than "The Green Hat", and the stories are better told than the ones in "These Charming People". What he will do in the future, after his sojourn in the motion pictures next year, is problematical; but those who know him feel sure that it will be well considered and the