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detected — more easily demonstrable — than in litera-
ture, because a grand result can be brought at once
under the eye in a picture, but the element is as
truly essential and masterful in one as the other.
The difference between undertaking to paint the
Godhead and the minute delineation of a chasseur —
to the very sparkle of his spur — is the difference
between the work of a man and that of a dandy.



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TOPICS OF THE TIME.



We expect young men, young jiromen, and old
Frenchmen, to write mostly about love; but this
everlasting " harping on my daughter " on the part
of mature fathers of families in England and America
is simple effeminacy. A man who comes into con-
tact with the world as it is, — ^with all its great, social,
religious, and political questions, its saints and its
scamps, its grand realities and shams, its needs and
its strifes, and stiU can find nothing of interest to
write about but petty things and pretty things, and
the relations of young life from which he is forever
removed, — ^may conclude that the element of virility
is seriously lacking in his constitution, and that the
best thing he can do is to wipe his pen, put the stop-
per in his inkstand, lay away his paper, and go into
the millinery business.

The Common Schools.

It seems rather late in our history as a nation to
be discussing the question whether the ^tate is
transcending its legitimate functions in educating its
children ; yet, by the letters which we read in the
newspi^>ers, it appears that there are people who
entertain the question in its affirinative phase, and
who declare that the duty of education attaches only
to the parent In what interest these men write we
do not knowy — ^whether in the interest of their pock-
ets or their religious party. It is exceedingly hard
to give them credit for cither intelligence or candor.
The lessons of history are so plain, the results of
universal education have been so beneficent* the
ignorance that dwells ever3rwhere where education
has been left to the parent and the chtirch is so pat-
ent, and so lamentable in every aspect and result,
that it seems as if no man could rationally and can-
didly come to a conclusion adverse to the American
policy in this matter. The simple &ct that we are
obligjed to pass laws to keep young children out of
factories and bring them to the free schools, shows
how utterly indifferent multitudes of parents are
concerning the education of their diildren, and how
soon the American nation would sink back into the
popular apathy and ignorance which characterize
some of the older peoples of the world.

A State is a great, vital organization, endowed by
the popular mind with a reason for being, and by
the popular will with a policy for self-preservation.
This policy takes in a great variety of details. It
protects commerce by the establishment of light-
houses, the deepening of channels, the establishment
of storm-signals, etc. It ministers in many ways to
the development of the country's internal resources.
It fosters agriculture. It is careful of all its pros-
perities and sources of prosperity. It establishes a
currency. It organizes and superintends an elabo-
rate postal service. It carrkss on all die processes
of a grand organic life. Our own nation governs
itself, and one of the conditions of all good govern-
ment is intelligence at the basis of its policy. An
ignorant people cannot, of course, govern themselves
intelligently; and the State, endowed with its in-
stinct, or its policy, of self-preservation, is, and ought
to be, more sensitive at this point than at any other.



In the minds of the people, the State has the sources
of its life ; and to those sources, by unerring instinct,
our own country has, from the first, looked for its
perpetuity.

There, is no organization of life, individual and '
simple, or associated and complex, in which the
instinct, impulse, or principle of self-preservation is
not the precTominant one. We fought the war of
the Revolution to establish our nationality, and the
war of the Rebellion to maintain it We have spent,
first and last, incalculable blood and treasure to
establish and keep our national life intact, and the
national policy with relation to public schools is
part and parcel of that all-subordinating determina-
tion to secure the perpetuity of the State. Men
make better citizens for being educated. The higher
the popular intellect is raised, the more intelligent
and independent will be its vote. The stronger the
sources of government, tiie stronger the government
If the ^ bayonets that think " are the most potent,
the ballots that think are the most beneficent.

The question, then, which has been raised, toudi-
ing the duty of the State in the matter of p<^Milar
education, is a question which concerns the life and
perpetuity of the State, and is a question, not for a
church, not for a parent, or for any subordinate com-
bination of parents, to decide. It is a question for
the State to decide,— not, of course, frt>m any humani-
tarian point of view, but from its own point df view.
To put the question into form, that question would
read something like this: "Can I, the American
State, afford to intrust to heedless or mercenary
parents, or to any church organization, whidi either
makes or does not make me subordinate to itself
the education of the children of the nation, when
my own existence and best prosperity depend upon
the universality and liberality of that education ?"
There are many other vital questions which the
State might ask in this connection, — for patriotism, as
a sentiment, grows with the beneficence of the insti-
tutions under which it lives. Every victory which
our nation has ever won has been a victory of the
oonmion school. This has been the nursery, not only
of our patriots, but of our soldiers. In the Franco-
Prussian war, the universally educated crossed
swords with the partially educated, and the latter
went to the walL

This matter of leaving education to parents and to
churches is, to use the femiliar but expressive slang
of the street, ** played out'' If the advocates of
this policy could point to a single well-educated
nation on the fece of the globe, whose popular intel-
ligence is the result of that policy, they might have
some daim to be heard ; but no such nation exists.
Where priests and parents have had it all their own
way for generations and centuries, there is to be
found the greatest degree of popular ignorance, and
the men whose votes most seriously menace the
health and permanence of American institutions and
American life are the very men we have imported
from those regions. They are the men whom
designing demagogues can buy and bribe, and lead
whithersoever they will,— men who cannot read
the ballots they deposit, and are as ignorant of



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politics as the horses they drive, or the pigs they
feed.

We have not taken up this subject because we
consider the common schools in danger. They are
not in danger. The State will never relinquish its
policy in this matter. The common school, as an
American institution, will live while America lives.
Not only this, but the signs are tmmistakable that
it is to be more far-reaching in its efforts and results
than it ever has been. Popular education is one of
the primary functions of the State's life. No demo-
cratic government can long exist without it, and our
best people are thoroughly confirmed in this convic-
tion. We have taken up the subject simply to show
that the State cannot *' go back on " its record with-
out the surrender of the policy which grows out of
the instinct of all living organizations for self-pro-
tection and self-preservation. To surrender this
policy would be, not only foolish, but criminal; and
there is not one American institution that American
people would sooner fight for and die for, than
that which secures an educated and intelligent
nationality.

PubUc Halls.

Wh£N Jenny lind came to America twenty-five
years ago, more or less, the resources of the country
were taxed to their utmost to find places for her to
sing in. None of the assembly rooms and audito-
riums of New York dty, in whidi concerts and
lectures are now given, were in existence then. She
sang at Castle Garden and in Tripler Hall, the latter
new at the time, but now forgotten, save by the okL
residents. In the country towns and smaller cities
she often sang in churches. Since that day public
halls have been built by the thousand. The old,
dirty, dingy places in which the low comedian and
the negro minstrel held forth have made room for
music halls, little theaters, and large assembly rooms,
until there is hardly a town containing twenty-five
hundred people that does not possess a good hall,
well lighted and well seated. This revolution really
marks an era in our civilization. It has altered the
character of American entertainments and amuse-
ments, effected great changes in our social life, and
developed social agencies and institutions which
materially modify the character of the people. The
public hall is common ground for social cliques,
political parties, and religious sect^, and they have
so learned to respect each other by coming into con-
tact within its walls, that the nation is much more
sympathetic and homogeneous than it was before the
revolution we have noted took place.

It is now possible for any town to receive the
visits of the best lecturers and the best public artists
of every dass. A great singer appears in New
York, and the lover of music in the country has only
to wait, and the rail will bring her, and the beautiful
hall will receive her, near his own door. Mr. Proc-
tor is as much at home in Cleveland, Utica, Troy,
Worcester, and Andover, as he is in the metropolis.
A brilliant company of actors, after exhausting a
play at Booth% or any of the metropolitan theaters,
will run for months among the little cities of the



country, and find pleasant theaters to play in, and
abundant audiences to receive them. Whole com-
munities are in this way brought into contact with
new influences, and introduced to a new life. Intel-
lect, imagination, taste, and social feeling receive
development and culture. The marked advance in
the musical taste of the country is very largely
attributable to the public halls which have rendered
first-class musical entertainments possible.

In view of the fact that a certain percentage of
the great number of public halls that have been
built have imperfect acoustic qualities, and the fur-
ther fiEu:t that new halls are being put up in various
parts of the country every year, it would seem desir-
able that some one who has had a good 4^ of
experience with halls should tell what he has learned
about them. The writer of this has probably spoken
in five hundred different audience-rooms, and he has
never spoken in one that had an echo, or was diffi-
cult to speak in, which was amphitheatrical in form,
or semicircular in finish. The hard halls, the echo-
ing haUs, the halls with ** bad places '' in them, are
always rectangular, so far as he has observed. A
rectangular hall may be absolutely perfect, as the
old Corinthian Hall in Rodiester is remembered to
have been ; but there seems to be a law of propor-
tion relating to rectangular halls which is not under*
stood by builders. There may be bad halls with
the semicircular finish opposite to the stage or ros-
trum, but we have never seen one.

A great many blunders are made in lighting halls.
Especially is this the case when the stage of the
theater is made to serve as the rostrum of the lecturer.
No audience* can sit comfortably and look at a
light. Yet a lecturer's face should always be well
lig^edy and no lecturer can bear foot-lights blazing
between him and his audience. A light on his stand
is in his way, and in the way of the audience. The
lighting should always be from above and from the
side. A central diandelier above, and just in front
of the stage, and a bracket of lights at either wing,
will light a lecturer's &ce sufficiently, and, if he
reads, his manuscript A hooded light, exactly in
front of his manuscript, not more than five inches
high, which neither he nor his audience can see,
will do good service when other favorable conditions
and provisions are wanting. The more diffused
li^t there is in a hall the better. The angel Gabriel
could not speak effectively where he could neither
see his audience nor be distinctly seen by it. Light
seems to be the medium of communication of mag-
netism and sympathy between the entertainer and
the entertained. Too much vacant space should
never be behind a speaker. A man is often heard
very easily in front of the curtain, who finds it diffi-
cult to fill the hall when the curtain is up and the
stage open fifteen or twenty feet behind him.

There were formerly halls which had the rostrum
between the two doors of entrance. This mistake,
for various reasons, is sometimes made at this day ;
but it is a fatal one. No man should enter a hall
in the faces of an audience, especially in a place
where " reserved seats " are sold ; for of all the
unmitigated nuisances in society, he is the worst who



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THE OLD CABINET.



fimcies that he buys, with a reserved seat, the right
to enter and disturb an audience at any time in the
evening. All noise at, or near, the door of entrance
should be as far as possible from the speaker, the
singer, and the actor. And as we have introduced
the matter of reserved seats, we may as well go



farther and say that no reserved seat should ever be
sold that carries any right beyond the minute when a
performance is announced to begin. The difficulties
of hearing in a hall grow more out of the disturb-
ances made by late comers than from acoustic defects
in the halls of audience.



THE OLD CABINET.



I WAS talking the other day with a man of high
chsuacter and position, but of a nature gentle and
unassuming, rather than sturdy or trenchant. He
was telling me, with great ardor, the best news that
a man can communicate with regard to his children,
namely, that he was sure that his boys, who had
grown old enough for the test, had proved themselves
thorou^ly honest. He did not use the term in any
commonplace or quibbling sense,— it had a full and
vital meaning. The talk turned upon this matter
of honesty, and its extraordinary scarcity. It has
been impressed upon my mind by the drcumstance
that since our casual meetings I was startled one
morning by the announcement, in the newspq>ers,
of his death. I remember that my fnend told
me that in his young days, — long before he
became a clergyman of the Episcopal Church, — he
was engaged in a mercantile business in another
city. It was his place to attend to the paying of
certain charges or duties upon goods, and some-
times it was necessary for hhn to correct mistakes
that had been made in the interests of the firm.
This he did as incident to his office, — ^but he told
me that he knew at the time that if his honesty had
been discovered by the reputable house which em-
ployed him, he would have lost his place. I cannot
say that his own conscientiousness should have car-
ried him farther and made him face the issue with
his employers, because I do not know all the cir-
cumstances. But the story is valuable as illustrate
ing a certain tone which is felt by young persons
employed in many business houses that show an
unspotted record to the world.

— We shall have plenty of self-glorification dur-
ing this Centennial year. A certain amount of it will
be timely in a double sense. It has got to be the
fashion in some classes to underrate the country
of one's birth. This is the result of two things :
conceit and ignorance. Among the most patriotic
Americans that we are acquainted with, are two men
who were bom, one at the top of the map of Europe,
and the other at the foot of it. They have a keener
and more intelligent and grateful sense of the ad-
vantages of America than any Fourth of July parrot
that you ever heard chatter about education, liberty,
and all the other Institutions. They certainly had
wider experience of the comparative advantages of
the New and the Old World than the Americans who
have skimmed over Europe or boarded long enough
in London to catch the Cockney inflection.



A decent amount of glorification, then, — the more
intelUgent, of course, the better, — is no bad thing al
this time.

But the more one knows of the moral and mental
caliber of the men who organize rapine, elevate expe-
diency and mediocrity, scout the personal virtues and
make the laws at the capital of the nation and the
capital of every State in the Union ; the more one
knows of the manner in which our cities are gov-
erned, especially by reformers ; the way justice ia
administered in our courts ; the vulgar, selfish, and
dishonest methods of a large part of the secular and
religions press, — the more, in a word, one knows of
the disease below the surface in all this fidr outward
form, the more one prefers Baunscheidt to Buncombe.

— 'TwAS on a pleasant day, some fifteen years ago»
that an architect by the name of Baunscheidt was
sitting near an open window in his house, in the
little village of Endenich, on the Kreuzberg, near
Bonn. The gout in his arm ceased its twinges for
a while, and he fell asleep. When he woke up, it
was to find that a cloud of gnats had settled upon
the exposed limb. He brushed them away, and that
was the end of the matter, until a few hours after-
ward an eruption appeared ; which after some time
disappeared, and with it the whole, or a great part»
of the pain from which Mr. B. had been suflfering.
Our gouty architect, being of an investigating turn
of mind, set himself to work to discover, if might
be, the connection between the gnats and the cure^
and the result was a small and curious instrument
somewhat resembling an air-gun, by means of whidi
twenty-four needles are shot into the skin of the
patient, after which the oil of ants is applied, an erup-
tion takes place and he is cured, according to the
inventor, of pretty much any one of the usual mortal
ailments.

A New York physician went to see the ingenious
architect at his home on the Kreuzberg, when he toUl
him the tale here told to you. Baunscheidt's " Lebens-
wecker,"if it does not cure everything, has been found
effective in the hands of several American physicians,
in many stubborn cases of rheumatism and neiuralgia.

— And yet, when Mr. James Russell Lowell
lately applied that many-pointed instrument to the
national epidermis, the fiamily and friends of the
patient made a great and ridiculous hubbub ; here^
they said, is a doctor who does not know his busi-
ness ; behold^ cried they, a piece of ignorant and
brutal quackery.



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One teDder-hearted but silly fellow went so far .as
to publish a poetical address to Mr. Lowell, ex>
pressing a sense of injury and surprise that that
high poet should step down from his pedestal and
fall to abusing his country in such a low and unex-
ampled fashion. But he did not give the poet up
entirely ; he might live to see the error of his ways,
and still do something which the gentleman of
the address could conscientiously (and, we suppose,
poetically) approve.

Some minds find it strangely difficult to understand
that the great hater and the great lover can exist as
one person. The carper, the croaker, the man with
the ** melancholy liver complaint," nobody need listen
to. But when the writer of our one great national
poem sounds a note like that of Lowell's in " The
World's Fair, 1876," and "Tempora mutantur,"
only the ignorant can doubt that he has a right to
be beard. But in what age or country were the
prophets not stoned in the streets ?

— Now, here is John Burroughs. Why does not
some one stone him in the streets for daring to
criticise his country in the very face and eyes of the
Centennial? "England," quoth he, "is a mellow
country, and the English people are a mellow peo-
ple. They have hung on the tree of nations a long
time, and will, no doubt, hang as much longer.
* * * We are pitched several degrees higher in
this country. By contrast, things here are loud,
sharp, and garish. Our geography is loud, the man-
ners of the people are loud ; our climate is loud, very
loud, so dry and sharp, and full of violent changes and
contrasts." Hear him I he even speaks disrespect-
fully of our climate ; certainly, that is worse than what
Mr. Lowell says about Tweed. But, behold the wan-
derer's return I How good things looked to him after
even so brief an absence ! " The brilliancy, the room-
iness, the deep transparent blue of the sky, the dear,
sharp outlines, the metropolitan splendor of New
York, and especially of Broadway ; and, as I walked
up that great thoroughfare and noted the familiar
I^ysiognomy and the native nonchalance and inde-
pendence, I experienced the delight that only the
returned traveler can feel, — the instant preference
of one's own country and countrymen over all the
rest of the world."

— It is very refreshing to read descriptions of na-
ture which are neither sentimental nor patronizing.
John Burroughs is one of the half dozen, or less,
American prose writers who are now adding any-
thing vital, by means of books, to the thought and
life of this country. What he says of the writings
of another is true of his own — they give **a new
interest in the fields and woods, a new moral and
intellectual tonic, a new key to the treasure-hoUse
of nature." Much has been said in praise of the
man who can teach us how to make two blades of
grass grow where one has grown before. There
can be no doubt that higher praise is due him who
shows us how to gain something better than hay
from that green blade. The art of happiness seems
in danger of being lost Our religion, which should
be a joy-bringer, is too often a source of misery and
remorse. Perplexity, discontent and pain dog the



steps of the follower of pufe art But we can all
go put of doors, and be happy if we give ourselves
up to the teaching and example of such a master as
the author of "Winter Sunshine." Perhaps, while
out of doors and happy, we may stumble upon a
more genuine art, and a healthier religion.

— ^To return to the subject with which we started —
there is a definition of honesty in Sir Thomas
Wyatt's letters to his son, that widens the word so
that it may well cover the entire conduct of life.
The Honesty which the courtier-poet inculcates is,
"Wisdom, Gentleness, Soberness, desire to do Good,
Friendliness to get the love of many, and Truth
above all the rest A great part," he says, "to
have all these things is to desire to have them.
And although glory and honest name are not the
very ends wherefore these things are to be followed,
yet surely they must needs follow them as light
foUoweth fire, though it were kindled for warmth."
Again, says the poet ; " If you will seem honest, be
honest; or ebe seem as you are. Seek not the
name without the thing; nor let not the name be
the only mark you shoot at : that will follow though
you regard it not; yea! and the more you regard
it, the less. " " Honest name," says Sir Thomas, " is
goodly; but he that hunteth only for that, is like
him diat had rather seem warm than be Avarm, and
edgeth a single coat aboul with a fur." "Seekest
thou great things for th)rself?" says Jeremiah,
" Seek them not" And Emerson in his last book :
"What you are stands over you the while, and
thimders so that I cannot hear what you say to the
contrary."

The subject of originality in literature may be
discussed under three general heads : 1st, acddental
resemblance of thought; 2d, appropriation and
assimilation of thought, conscious or unconscious ;
3d, imitation of form, conscious or unconscious.

It is only the shallow critic who mistakes the
meaning of the phrase original, and is forever
detecting quotation or plagiarism. There are more
parallel passages, and. there is less plagiarism, in
the world than most persons dream of. The
simple fact is, that all truth is one; whoever has
the genius to break through the shells of things and
make his way into their very center and heart,
brings back the same report as his deep -seeing
neighbor. The character of the report varies with the
individual ; but sometimes it happens to vary little



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 130 of 163)