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And for a fine description of friendship between boys, I commend you to "David Blaize" and "David Blaize of King's", stories of English boarding school life filled with real young people. E. F. Benson and Hugh Walpole are to me the masters of the boy story (yes, even more so than Kipling!). I can only stand awed before their talent and exclaim: "How do these men remember what it was like to be a child?" For, surely, it is memory and insight they must depend upon; confidences cannot be wrested from the inarticulate creature which is a boy, and observation alone cannot suffice. But they do know, and they make you suffer and rejoice and discover the world anew with the children of their creation. And what is more, they succeed in depicting many wholesome little fellows who are not prigs, yet who are not everlastingly getting into scrapes like the Penrods and Varmints and the Plupy Shutes! There is a certain dignity of purpose and behavior in these English boys which makes our young Americans seem rather like hoodlums. Is it, perhaps, the influence of a discipline which is a tradition, and the effect, on the other side of the ocean, of substituting more freedom for discipline in home as well as school? Well, there's this consolation — the Britishers aren't one tenth as funny!
"We who are passing 'through the wilderness of this world' find it difficult to realize what an impenetrable wall there is around the town of Boyville", writes William Allen White in his preface to "The Court of Boyville", a collection of short stories which try, nevertheless, to penetrate this wall. "Storm it as we may with the simulation of light-heartedness, bombard it with our heavy guns, loaded with fishinghooks and golf-sticks and skates and base-balls and butterfly-nets, the walls
remain. If once the clanging gates of the town shut upon a youth, he is banished for ever. From afar he may peer over the walls at the games inside, but he may not be of them. Let him try to join them and lo, the games become a mockery and he finds that he is cavorting still outside the walls, while the good citizens inside are making sly sport of him.”
If this be true, then Bertram Smith and Edmund Lester Pearson had X-ray eyes of memory or powerful telescopes of sympathy with which to penetrate this stronghold when they wrote, the former "The Days of Discovery" and "Running Wild", and the latter "The Believing Years". Like Kenneth Grahame, these two authors have an almost uncanny power of recalling the activities and the experience of childhood. And how delightfully they recall them to us who are so likely to have forgotten! They seem to know just what is the secret zest of taking risks and dares; the impulse to "talk big" and the joys of getting as near a good swear as the school law will allow. Do you know what it is like to be "the child in the middle" one who belongs neither to the bigs nor the littles? Do you remember how you vacillated in your ambition between the professions of pirate and lion tamer, and then decided to make it a plumber, thereby effecting a happy compromise? you think your children are silly when they whisper secrets about nothing-atall behind doors and chairs and fat relatives' backs? Didn't you?
Do you remember how the first parlor car looked to you? The first hotel? "In the days when the world was 'so full of a number of things', before any film of indifference had come to cloud one's eyes, every new departure had about it an element of unreality", writes Bertram Smith in
"Running Wild". "Nothing ever looked the same the second time; every new door that one encountered was the threshold of an enchanted castle. Soon enough, it is true, we were caught up by the lagging atmosphere of everyday (which we had left behind) dispelling rosy mists, lopping off battlements, filling up moats, making our castle a very ordinary affair."
I wish there were space to quote at length from this book or to read to you the whole chapter about the Fourth of July in Pearson's book. You will be tempted to do the same to any contemporary within earshot, for to enjoy a good reminiscence one must have good company. These books consti
tute a corking reminiscence full of tidbits that will be a revelation about yourself when young and so, a dissolvent of your obtuseness regarding your children. To understand one generation is to understand all.
In conclusion, I want to call attention to two books which do not really belong here but which should. "The
The other is a tiny book of verse which is a veritable sun of illumination into the secret soul of nursery inhabitants "When We Were Very Young" by A. A. Milne. You may buy it for your children but you will keep it for yourself. If it reforms you in no other particular, it must help you to remember that, when you reprove Johnny for dawdling at his dressing, you may be disturbing him in the midst of a momentous decision:
Shall I go off to South America?
Shall I put out in my ship at sea?
By Letta Eulalia Thomas
WORLD of crystal, burning with multicolored flame
Lighted by arrows from the golden sun
That fall in shattered beauty
Against the shining, silver armor of the earth.
The soft winds touch to music,
Millions of tinkling bells of ice;
There is a whisper of the coming spring
In the light clashing of the branches,
Silver-chained and striving to be free;
Dropping long strips of silver on the mottled snow;
And plays upon the cloudy heights with rosy winds.
FOR RELEASE MONDAY
Autobiographical Disclosures in the Informal Manner By Robert Benchley
With Sketches by Herb Roth
NCOURAGED by the form and subject matter of the Mark Twain autobiography, I have decided to write mine now. There There are fifteen or twenty minutes each day when I have nothing to do,
and I might as well be writing an autobiography as shaving. In fact, I find that I can shave and write an autobiography in the Mark Twain fashion, all in the same fifteen or twenty minutes.
My method is as follows: I sit by an open window in my farmhouse at Lexington Ave. and 49th St., smoking, reading, shaving, anything. Then, when something occurs to me that I think might possibly go into my autobiography, I shout it out the window at my brother-in-law who is puttering
around in the back yard. He takes it down on the back of an envelope or an old laundry list and, when he comes into the house at night, puts these notes away in a big box which he keeps for the purpose. As soon as this box is full of old envelopes with notes on them, it is to be locked and placed in the cornerstone of the new Merchants' National Bank Building, along with a copy of the New York "Times" of even date. When, in the course of seventy or eighty years, the Merchants' Bank Building is torn down to make room for an apartment house, the box is to be opened and the manuscript given to the world in book form. If it causes any hard feeling then, I shall be up in Maine trout fishing and won't hear about it.
Material for the first volume has already accumulated, and is herewith printed for private circulation in THE BOOKMAN. Readers are placed on their honor not to divulge the plot.
moving buttons, etc., would be charged for extra. Stewart protested but the Brooks people were adamant. I told him that I thought that the whole thing was outrageous, and Wilson said that he thought so, too. We went over to Brooks together and saw Mr. Brooks and his brother Mr. Brooks. It was no use. Stewart got a bill for eight dollars over and above the price of the suit which was sixty dollars, making a total of sixty six dollars.
In a conference with my lawyers I told them about the Stewart affair and they said that Stewart could bring action against the Brooks people. I called up Stewart and told him this, but it wasn't Stewart who answered the telephone.
At a dinner given Stewart by the West Side Bowling Association an amusing incident happened. The speaker of the evening was General Leonard Wood. As the guests were coming in, Stewart and I approached General Wood and said: "I guess you wish now that you hadn't worn that funny looking collar, General." The General laughed and said: "I don't remember." This showed that he, as well as Stewart, had a good heart.
EARLY DAYS IN WORCESTER
(Dictated during a light sleep)
WAS born on September 15, 1889 in Worcester, Massachusetts. remember that there was a boy in school named George Dixon. when I went back to Worcester to get some things I had left there up in the attic, I found that George had moved and gone to Utica.
There was an old man in Worcester when I was a boy who sold cornucopias. "Motorcycle Dan", we boys used to call him. One day he called me up on the telephone and said that he had some very good cornucopias in fresh that day and would I like one. I said that I would be right down. So I got Arthur Stone and Walter Woodward and Harrison Prentice and Will Weir and we all three went down to "Motorcycle Dan's'
Will said: "Well, Dan, how about those cornucopias?"
"Well, Mars'," said Dan, "I did have some, but they are all gone."
Will Weir is working in New York now. Arthur Stone is still in Worcester. I saw him when I went back
there last year. Walter Woodward is still in Worcester, but I didn't see him. As I said before, George Dixon is in Utica.*