Abbildungen der Seite

and worthy. As to the argument that national anthems are, as poets, "born, not made," it must be remembered that at least two of the best that ever were written were in fact "written to order".

There has been a revival of prosecutions of publishers for issuing reputedly "obscene" literature, with varying results. Amid a flood of injudicious babble, pro and contra, two facts stand forth conspicuous. One is, that it is disgraceful and should be intolerable to have the terrorism of censorship held over the literary world by self-appointed meddlers who are usually conspicuous for ignorance and absurdity of judgment, but who, under one of the amazing anomalies of our governmental system, are invested with a quasi-official and peculiarly arbitrary power. The other is that there are now being written and printed entirely too many books impossible of justification on grounds not of morality but of common decency. Prudery is generally prurience, and is detestable; but equally detestable is filth written for filth's sake, even though it be spuriously labelled "art". "Clear your mind of cant," exhorted Ursa Major; and the urging is as pertinent today as it was a century and a half ago. We all know that there are many books in which sexual intimacies and aberrations are portrayed and discussed with clinical frankness, yet which have no unclean purpose and which it is simply ridiculous to ban as "obscene"; some of them, such as the masterpieces of Hawthorne and Daudet, being imbued with the noblest of moral inspirations, and others, from Petronius to Maupassant, being written faithfully to depict and record the manners of the times. We know, too, just as well, that there are books being printed now-as in years past-with no such purpose or excuse for being, but solely for their appeal to lubricity. To discriminate between the two classes, and to protect the one in the freedom of letters while suppressing the other as a public nuisance, must be recognized as one of the most difficult and important of tasks, which it would be scandalous to entrust to an irresponsible and arbitrary 'prentice hand, yet which needs to be performed for the sake of literature and art as well as of social and personal morals.

While New York and other communities are agitated over conflicting schemes for war memorials which differ chiefly in degrees of fantasticality and bad taste, "they order this matter better in France. In the Forest of Compiègne, on the spot where the Armistice was signed, is being placed a simple slab of stone, bearing this inscription:


Here, on the 11th November, 1918, Succumbed the Criminal Pride of the German Empire, Beaten by the Free Peoples Whom It Desired to Enslave.

That is all; but it is enough, and not too much. There is not a thought nor a suggestion in it that is not unimpeachably true, or that is lacking in perfect tact and taste. It is a model worthy of study and emulation by everyone who commemorates or in any way writes of or speaks of the Great War; for it is a transcript of the legend indelibly inscribed in the minds and hearts of the civilized world.

It is not easy to restrain a certain impulse toward at least a semi-cynical amusement at the performance of the young man who at first entirely rejected his father's legacy of a million dollars, on the Socialist ground that the possession of such a fortune, and certainly its transmission to him who had had no part in creating it, could not be justified on moral grounds; and that anyway it would be a burden to him to take care of it. After a period of heart-searching and meditation he appears to have decided to keep a considerable part of it, but to give the bulk of it to a radical and Socialist organization, "for Public Service"; which organization is not expected to demur at the acceptance of "tainted money". With all possible recognition of the altruistic nobility of the young man, there persists in coming to mind the old story of the young woman who "got religion" so strenuously that she felt that the costly jewels she was wearing were devices of the Evil One to drag her down to hell, and accordingly gave them all to her sister.


THE LITTLE CORNER NEVER CONQUERED. By John van Schaick, Jr. New York: The Macmillan Company.

The War Council of the American Red Cross first sent a commission to Europe in June, 1917, with Grayson M. P. Murphy, a successful New York banker, who had shortly before been commissioned as Major in the United States Reserve Corps and placed on General Pershing's Staff, at its head. One of the most noteworthy facts about the non-military war-work seems to have been that the very ablest civilians in the country were needed for such duties and were assigned to them. The versatile American business man, requisitioned for unfamiliar service under strange conditions, cheerfully rolled up his shirtsleeves, plunged into the maelstrom of conflicting organizations, foreign politics, and red tape, and by virtue of his tact, efficiency, and tireless labor, energized the whole mass. Of course, the American official, in whatever branch of service he might be, was in an especially favorable position for influencing the course of events. As representing the country looked upon as the savior of the hard-pressed Allies, he naturally called forth all the unselfishness and courtesy of the devoted Englishmen and Frenchmen with whom he worked. But in general he seems to have made extraordinarily good use of his opportunity.

Major Murphy was no exception to this rule. His policy, from the first, was to cooperate with existing organizations, to avoid conflicts and duplications, to be universally and systematically helpful. "Remember," he said to his staff, "that these people who have been doing relief work in Europe since the beginning of the war know a lot more about it than we do. Play the game with them. We have to remember that these people over there are very tired and very sensitive. I want you to pocket your pride and not get into arguments. If a Red Cross man is high and mighty with a single hotel waiter, he will hurt the whole Red Cross. . I don't know a thing about it. I've got to depend on you fellows to put it over."

On August 20, Major Murphy directed that a department for Belgium be organized. The head of this department, which was soon turned into an independent commission, was the able and devoted Colonel Ernest P. Bicknell, and the assistant chief was John van Schaick, Jr., the author of this book. The new commission had its headquarters at Le Havre, the seat of the Belgian Government, which exercised authority over that little corner of Belgium which was never conquered. The book thus gives a valuable view of what was in many ways the most interesting portion of the front, supplementing what we know of occupied Belgium during the war.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The statistics of what the commission accomplished are in themselves impressive. The work of military relief alone included the establishment, equipment, and maintenance of hospitals, canteens, and centers of recreation; the provision of rest areas for Belgian nurses; supplies for hospitals and canteens; gifts and extra comforts for soldiers; and cash donations to hospital, canteen, and recreational organizations. Considerably over a million dollars was spent in these ways. In addition to this, upwards of $364,000 was expended upon civil hospitals. An especially fascinating story is that of the relief of the children-an account varied by many personal narratives. To this work the sum of $1,159,553 was devoted. The organization of the relief of refugees-a work having many pathetic and inspiring aspects-was difficult and laborious. It comprised the removal of refugees from dangerous or congested areas; provision of housing, relief supplies and medical service; improvement of living conditions; clothing for discharged Belgian soldiers; assistance to returning refugees; and contributions to other organizations and to the Belgian Government for relief activities. The expenditure in this case was about a million and a half. For general supervision, a little over $93,000 was spent. The grand total for relief work in Belgium amounted to $4,327,089. Never interfering, always ready in its response to the most diverse demands, the Belgian Commission had a hand in every sort of relief work and ensured its


Besides giving a comprehensive report of the work of the commission, the author presents somewhat lifelike sketches of notable personalities-notably of the noble King and Queen of Belgium and of the energetic and original Dr. Antoine De Page, the man who made the famous Ocean Hospital. It is to pages like these that historians of the future will turn when they wish to distinguish the facts of character from myth and popular tradition.

RANDOM MEMORIES. By Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

There is much in these pleasant reminiscences to make one think of the author of Evangeline and Hiawatha-a sort of unimpassioned love of nature and art and humankind, a charm closely allied to moderation and sanity. There is nothing very remarkable in the book, nothing commonplace. It satisfies one continually because it all seems to be so natural and adequate an expression of personality. One is in the society of a friend who has nothing to conceal, relates everything with a touch of appreciation and with more than a touch of good sense, withholds nothing except through the fear of becoming tiresome, and does not try to hide even his limitations. The book makes one feel that one has had a good talk with the author. No literary mannerisms have come between. The absence of a confidential tone increases one's confidence. It is agreeable thus to deal with a personality that has no secrets, no poses, no particular desire to impress, and which for these reasons does impress

one the more. The style is almost the prose style of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, lacking a certain formality.

As to the poet himself, while there is much pleasant chat about him and his friends, the passage about him that sticks best in one's memory is one relating to what may be called his excess of moderation. "One of my great regrets in life," writes the author, "is that my father would not let me go with Agassiz on his expedition to Brazil and his exploration of the Amazon. Agassiz had offered me the post of artist to the expedition, and I had been wild to go, but I was not yet of age, and my father was very much opposed to it, fearing I could not stand the climate, so I reluctantly gave it up. It was certainly one of the lost chances of my life. That was very characteristic of my father; he always thought it wisest not to do a thing. He had none of the adventurous spirit. "To stay at home is best,' he wrote. He hated excess or extremes. He disliked extreme cold or extreme heat, and believed in the juste milieu in everything. Not for him, therefore, the extreme heights or depths of the tragic poets." This is a rather revealing criticism and it is given additional point by the fact that but for his father's influence Ernest Longfellow would have chosen to become a soldier rather than an artist.

There is not a little criticism of a simple and similarly revealing sort scattered through the volume. One may instance the quite adequate remarks about those two extraordinary and contentious books written respectively by Charles and Henry Adams. "I once passed a rainy Sunday at The Glades," says Mr. Longfellow, in passing, "a summer colony, where two Adamses, Jack and Charles, sat all the afternoon on the piazza in rockingchairs, and whatever one said the other contradicted flatly." The author's comments, moreover, upon art and some of its modern varieties, while in no way subtle, have that quality of evident good sense plus something more in the way of charm or fitness or forbearance which is characteristic of the whole narrative.

Next to the matter relating to the elder Longfellow and his circle, one may place in the scale of interest the author's description of Thomas Couture, the French artist under whom Ernest Longfellow studied for two summers. Here is true portrayal, revealing unusual traits without unduly playing up eccentricities, giving life to a personality. But there are genuine touches of life and character on every page. One of Mr. Longfellow's reminiscences is of such psychological and human interest that it was coveted by Henry James as material for a story; and the author's anecdotes range from things of this sort to mere "quips and cranks", puns as delightful as those in which Oliver Wendell Holmes used to revel, and quaint stories that are good enough to bear many retellings. Through it all runs a vein of seriousness and decorum, and an evident sincerity that lends significance even to little matters. There is a sober evaluation of all the author's experiences, a mature appreciation, scarcely verging upon enthusiasm, of what he found best in society, in art, and in travel, which is really more agreeable than any amount of smart comment.

« ZurückWeiter »