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pear this autumn, and the old house won't know itself.
About once a year, from his farm in Fayetteville, Arkansas, comes to the great city Charles J. Finger, short story writer, children's story writer, romantic biographer, editor of "All's Well". His sturdy appearance and his homespun suits give the office a new tone. His laugh and his ability to tell the unusual anecdote are a blessing. He told me of a recent visit Carl Sandburg paid him in the wilds of Arkansas. Carl never comes to see me any more, when he arrives in New York. Occasionally he used to spare me a breakfast, which is his favorite meal; but I'll forgive him, for he's been exceedingly busy on his Life of Lincoln. Mr. Finger has a new book coming along for autumn publication. It's to be another series of portraits and he's calling it something pleasantly vicious like "Romantic Rascals", "Ribald Rogues", or "Raucous Rakes", I forget which. He told me about Carl's visit, then I found it all written out in his magazine, so I'll let him tell it in his own words:
We had been sitting on a hillside overlooking a great stretch of country, and our talk was mainly of the songs of hoboes and of waterside men. I hummed a tune or two and he pricked it down in some queer notation of his own which was quite incomprehensible to me. Presently, as he talked, I fell to watching the ants on an ant trail at my feet, while listening. In the middle of a sentence Sandburg stopped abruptly, but I did not look up, supposing him to be pondering. There are often chasms in his talk which you must bridge as best you can if you are unable to fly with him. Sometimes he too is elliptic. So I waited. And soon with a note of deep awe in his voice, half-whispering as if some tremendous thing had burst into view, almost indeed in the manner of a man who expressed deep emotion at sight of some sudden calamity or disaster, he said: "My God! Look at that!" Then silence fell.
The shadow of a fear was on me. I looked up, startled; glanced at him and his far-seeing eyes; looked away at the hill;
became more brilliantly beautiful. So near it was, so clear was the light, we saw its sparkling eye, its jetty edged bill, its princely crest. As if all that loveliness was not enough, it burst into triumphant music for us until an answer in song came like an echo. For a full minute it perched in our sight, balancing delicately on the swaying branch, then took to flight, a flash of living fire, darting into the green glade where were fern-fringed boulders, bent upon some high and splendid business.
But there had been an answering rapture. In Sandburg was appreciation of the thing exquisite and fine. But who, except a true poet, can be amazed and astonished day by day?
A most interesting development of recent years is the increasing importance of the south as a book market. As a fiction market, that is; for the classics and religious books have always been in demand. But it seems to
have taken considerable enthusiasm on the part of litterateurs to establish their point that modern fiction is worthwhile reading. A column always interesting both for its quality and its vigorous "booming" of this sort is "The Literary Lantern", run by C. A. Hibbard of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and syndicated to a number of the most influential southern papers. was especially attracted recently by a copy he sent me, signed "Telfair, Jr.", which he had devoted entirely to discussion of this matter under the title, "Thar's Gold in Them Hills". He listed many novels now on the stands by southern writers, more than I had thought there were. McDavid Horton, managing editor of "The State", writes me occasionally from Columbia, South Carolina, where he is the centre of a group influential in southern letters. Other promoters of the cause of the modern novel are John McClure in New Orleans and Mrs. J. K. W. Baker at Shreveport. These editors have all a profound background by which to measure and to judge, and their influence is measurably great. Who knows whether Brentano's and Womrath's are not planning to invade the south?
From Ireland and England, for a visit of ten days which he spent in golfing, riding, rushing about, came Mr. Brian Oswald Donn-Byrne, familiarly known to America as Donn Byrne. He has changed little since he left these shores two years ago. He seems larger, although one would never think of calling anyone in such good condition as Mr. Byrne, fat. He has changed little in his manner of conversation, and he has not lost his brogue, which stands him in such good stead in his books. Everyone who reads these pages must have perused by now his "Messer Marco Polo", and the later
short novels are almost as good. Of these, I like best "Blind Raftery". For this opinion, he frowned on me, since it seems he considers it a trifle too full of sentiment; but I explained to him that here is one sentimental book reviewer that he will have to reckon with when he writes a sentimental book, he will have to expect it to be liked. From his conversation I judge that he is still more interested in bookmakers than he is in authors. His knowledge of the English turf strikes me as little short of marvelous. I like horse races, myself; but one must be a very successful author in order to like them too well. Donn Byrne is now at work on a long novel dealing with the life of St. Paul. It's a great theme, and he seems much excited over it. One other short book will be published before the longer one. He says that his publishers were not more astonished by the shortness of "Messer Marco Polo" than they will be by the length of this new book. Incidentally, one of his publishers has written a new book. Barry Benefield, of the Century Company, is a small, keen gentleman who writes excellent short stories, and should write many more than he does. He has now completed a long novel which, I hear, has already been sold to the movies. It is called "The ChickenWagon Family"; I shall leave the book itself to explain the quixotic title. Publishers will play occasionally. Take the English Putnam's, for example. I don't know whether or not George Grubb is the responsible party; but their publicity sheet always, or often, bears a little bookish joke. I repeat two of them here so that you may judge of their quality:
MOTHER: "William, did you put father's new book in the bath this morning?" SMALL BOY: "Yes, mother, I did. I heard father say last night that it was too dry for him.'
Dr. Richard Burton stopped in town on his way south for annual lectures. He regaled me with stories of how he was always being taken for Sir Richard Burton, and how he had finally been forced to tell one of our most intelligent publishing firms please not to forward to him any more mail addressed to that long deceased author. Mr. Burton is a gay gentleman. Years of teaching and lecturing have only served to develop his sense of humor. He has resigned from his post at the University of Minnesota. Someone sent me from Minneapolis an editorial published by the "Tribune" on his resignation. If I had the space, I should like to print the entire article, for Dr. Burton is one of my sincerest admirations. He, with William Lyon Phelps and one or two others, has made the reading of good literature more countenanced than formerly in these lands. The "Tribune" says, in part:
Not only throughout the city and state, but throughout the entire northwest, regret at the news of Dr. Richard Burton's resignation from the university will be widespread. Much as was the case with the late Dr. Northrop, the personality of Dr. Burton has become identified with that
of the institution. For a whole generation
"Dickie" Burton, as the students always called him, has been one of the rallying points of the university. Old graduates will find it difficult to think the university quite the same when forced to discard the picture of the familiar stampede to the hugely popular lecture room where " Dickie" held forth "Dickie", the boyish, the charming, and the irrepressible, who possessed the secret of turning education into a gay and joyous adventure and who knew how to make the classroom more delightful than the theatre.
It is impossible not to sympathize with Dr. Burton's reason for resigning. As he himself says, after a lifetime of service at a
given institution, a man ought to be entitled to a little leisure. And harassed, as he is, by multitudinous demands for books, articles, essays, and what not, he needs the leisure badly. Certainly he has richly earned his leisure, though that leisure will be diverted merely from teaching activity to literary activity. But those of us who have the best interests of the university at heart, cannot help regretting that he has not two or three lives to live, so that the students might have the privilege of coming in contact with that inimitable personality for at least another generation. Without "Dickie" the university can never be quite the university. Something of its individuality passes out.
Sixty two years old, Vance Thompson, author of "Eat and Grow Thin" and many mystery stories, died suddenly at Nice. He was both author and diplomat, and after his graduation from Princeton spent most of his time in Europe. One of our few literary diplomats, he occupied a unique place in the affections of France. During the war he served as directeur de foyer with their army. The death of Arthur Christopher Benson takes from us a gentle and a much loved figure. A. C. Benson was a great teacher, a fine essayist, a literary man of wide attainments. His father was the late Archbishop of Canterbury. His brother E. F. Benson is well known as a novelist. The late Hugh Benson was another brother. At his death, A. C. Benson was master of Magdalene College. He had been at one time master
of Eton. Under his urbane influence came many of the brilliant young literary Englishmen. His two most loved books are "From a College Window" and "Memories and Friends".
Rockwell Kent, from his mountain fastnesses yes, in Vermont! - has done for the National Association of Book Publishers a poster of much beauty and dignity, which I reproduce here for your delight. It is austere; but
giving me books, while as a matter of fact I have hinted over and over again that there is a certain volume I covet. It is never forthcoming. F. P. A. talks about stockings, and he is immediately flooded with all shapes and sizes. Of course books do come in for review; but the book, no one has ever sent me that! My friends give me neckties, handkerchiefs, even suspenders, but nary a book and I do really like books! More power to the Publishers' Association. I hope their campaign goes on and on until every man, woman and child in America owns a book. Why not a campaign to have hotels put good books beside the Bibles in every room? That's a real idea. Surely the great hotel managements could be made to feel that it's as important for Americans to be cultured, or nearly so, as to be Bible conscious. How about it?
Mary Johnston was in New York City recently on her way to Scotland. She says that life holds nothing better for her than to sit in a square in Edin
MAKE the home burgh and watch the people go by. Miss
exquisite in book manufacture or the entertaining in travel books should miss. The Publishers' Association showed great acumen in securing him to do their poster. I have been following their advice in giving books to brides, because so many of my friends have been getting married that it has been quite impossible to give anything else; and then, what could be better anyway? I made one great error, when I presented a certain friend with an autographed Michael Arlen. Up to that time, it seems, she had not been allowed to read the gentleman. Just why, I'm sure I don't know. Anyway, her husband agreed with me that it was time she did! No one ever thinks of
Johnston is a soft voiced, gracious lady who is much puzzled by modern literary New York City. She has written some of the great best sellers of our time, and good books they are too. Her later books have been magnificent. The not appreciated "Sweet Rocket" was one of the best of them. Glasgow and Miss Johnston, both of the south, strike me as being somewhat alike. Artists, both of them, and interested in writing as artists. On a second reading of two books recently, I appreciated them much more than I did at first. They were "Barren Ground" and "Drums", two finely spun tales, and both from the south. Yes, Chicago must soon give way to the country below the famous line as literary arbiter of the nation. James
Stephens has only just returned to his native pixies and revolutions. Before he went be talked one day to the children at the New York Public Library. I could not go to hear him; but Hervey Allen tells me that it was a fine occasion, for he talked to them simply, and yet as one man to another, with no patronizing tones in his voice at all. His publishers have just issued a selected edition of his poems, with some new things. They have called it "A Poetry Recital". A splendid book it is! Could any poem be lovelier than this stanza:
All, all alone, and all without a part
There have been many novelty books upon the market since the cross word puzzles usurped sanity last winter. Among them, the limerick books have bored me a good deal; but Webster's "Poker Book" is a masterpiece: that is, if you don't disapprove of poker. Personally, I think it a grand game. In Webster's book you have not only humor, but the rules of the game, chips, and many other little accessories. Games are a necessity in life. Yet some people cannot play them. It is their tragedy. They cannot play, perhaps because life became early too serious for them, or perhaps because in childhood they were not taught the necessities of competition, jovial competition. A young author came into the office the other day. Our genial publicity man, who wields a tennis racket with taste, suggested a game. "Can't", was the reply. "If you'll sail with me on the Sound, all right, but if it's one of those things called games, I'm sorry." Well, that's the way with some of us, and it's a pity.
Somehow I feel that to know how to play baseball and tennis, golf, poker, bridge, even mah jong, with grace and skill and a knowledge of sportsmanship, is part of the duty of every intelligent citizen.
Edna Kenton has been editing "The Jesuit Relations" for a one volume edition soon to be published. She tells an amusing story of her library experiences. Have you ever been in one of the small study rooms at the New York Public Library? Take the oriental room, for example. You go in there and you see people reading papers that look for all the world like pieces of Egyptian papyrus. It's fascinating. Well, Edna Kenton says that she worked for months in the same room, along with several other ladies and gentlemen. Finally, one day as she was about to finish, an old gentleman who was working up some data on the Puritans asked her what she was doing. She told him. Then she showed him some of her material, and it moved him very much. The stories of these brave priests would be interesting to anyone, no matter what his creed. He asked her why she was doing it. "I'm not a Roman Catholic", she explained. "This is a piece of editing I'm doing." The old man seemed much relieved; for he was worried for fear she was a propagandist. The conversation had been overheard. Others working in the room joined in. A man preparing a story of the Seventh Day Adventists assured them that he was not an Adventist, the lady preparing a history of the Mormons was not a Mormon, and even the old gentleman so much interested in the Puritans admitted, at last, that he was not puritanical. Miss Kenton is one of the few women I know who still indulge in the art of conversation. She is rather terrifying;