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hunting and fishing, in club-houses and society, he
may manage to pass away his time ; but he will
hardly be happy. It seems to be necessary to
health that the powers of a man be trained upon
some object, and steadily held there day after day,
year after year, while vitality lasts. There may
come a time in old age when the fund of vital-
ity will have sunk so low that he can follow no con-
secutive labor without such a draft upon his forces
that sleep cannot restore them. Then, and not
before, he should stop work. But, so long as a man
has vitality to spare upon work, it must be used, or
it will become a source of grievous, harassing dis-
content. The man will not know what to do with
himself; and when he has reached such a point as
that, he is unconsciously digging a grave for him-
self, and fashioning his own coffin. Life needs a
steady channel to run in— regular habits of work
and of sleep. It needs a steady, stimulating aim —
a trend toward something. An aimless life can
never be happy, or, for a long period, healthy. Said
a rich widow to a gentleman, still laboring beyond
his needs : ** Don't stop ; keep at it.** The words
that were in her heart were : " If my husband had
not stopped, he would be alive to-day." And what
she thought was doubtless true. A greater shock
can hardly befall a man who has been active than
that which he experiences when, having relinquished
his pursuits, he finds unused time and unused vital-
ity hanging upon his idle hands and mind. The
current of his life is thus thrown into eddies, or
settled into a sluggish pool, and he begins to die.

We have, and have had, in our own dty some
notable examples of business continued through a
long life with unbroken health and capacities to the
last. Mr. Astor, who has just passed away, un-
doubtedly prolonged his life by his steady adherence



to business. There is no doubt that he lived longer
and was happier for his continued work. If he had
settled back upon the consciousness of assured
wealth, and taken the ease that was so thoroughlj
warranted by his large possessions, he would un-
doubtedly have died years ago. Commodore Van-
derbilt, now more than eighty years old, is a nota-
ble instance of healthy powers, continued by use-
How long does any one suppose he would live if
his work were taken from his hands, and his care
from his mind ? His life goes on in a steady drift,
and he is as able now to manage vast business enter-
prises as when he was younger. Thefe was never
a time apparently when his power was greater than
it is to-day. Our Nestor among American editors
and poets, though an octogenarian, not only mingles
freely in society, makes public speeches, and looks
after his newspaper, but writes verses, and is carry-
ing on grand literary enterprises. Many people
wonder why such men continue to work when they
might retire upon their money and their latirels;
but they are working, not only for happiness, bnt
for life. Mr. Stewart is treading in the same path,
and wisely.

The great difficulty with us all is that we do not
play enough. The play toward which men in bua-
ness look for their reward should never be taken in
a lump, but should be scattered all along their
career. It should be enjoyed every day, every
week. The man who looks forward to it wants it
now. Play, like wit in literature, should never be a
grand dish, but a spice ; and a man who does not
take his play with his work never has it. Play
ceases to be play to a man when it ceases to be
relaxation from daily work. As the grand business
of life, play is the hardest work a man can do.

Besides the motives of continued life and haj^
ness to which we* have called attention in this article,
there is another of peculiar force in America, which
binds us to labor while we live. If we look across
the water, we shall find that nearly all the notable
men die in the harness. The old men are the great
men in Parliament and Cabinet. Yet it is true that
a man does not so wholly take himself out of lifie in
Europe as in America when he relinquishes busi-
ness. A rich man in Europe can quit active affurs,
and still have the consideration due to his talents,
his wealth, and his social position. Here, a man has
only to ** count himself out " of active pursuits, to
count himself out of the world. A man out of work
is a dead man, even if he is the possessor of mOl-
ions. The world walks straight over him and his
memory. One reason why a rich and idle man is
happier in Europe than at home is that he has the
countenance of a class of respectable men and -
women living upon their vested incomes. A man
may be respectable in Europe without work. After
a certain fashion, he can be so here ; but, after all,
the fact that he has ceased to be active in affiiirs of
business and politics makes him of no account. He
loses his influence, and goes for nothing, except a
relic with a hat on, to be bowed to. So there is no
way for us but to ** keep at it ;" get all the play we
need as we go on ; drive at something, so long ts



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TOPICS OF THE TIME.



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the hand is strong and steady, and not to think of
rest this side of the narrow bed, where the sleep
will be too deep for dreams, and the waking will
open into infinite leisure.

The Reconstruction of National Morality.

A TIME of war is alwajrs a time of cormption.
The earnest public is absorbed by public questions
and public movements. Values are shifting and
unsettled. Contracts are made in haste, and their
execution escapes, in the distractions of the time,
that scrutiny and criticism which they secure in
calmer periods. There are ten thousand chances for
undetected frauds at such a time which do not exist
in the reign of peace. All the selfish elements of
human nature spring into unwonted activity, and
the opportunities for large profits and sudden wealth
are made the most of. This is the case in all climes
and countries. America does not monopolize the
greed and mendacity of the world. Even in des-
potic Russia, with Siberia in the near distance and
harsher punishments closer at hand, the contractor
cannot keep his fingers from his country's gold.
Rank growths of extravagance spring into life ; arti-
ficial wants are nourished; the old economies go
out, and the necessities of a new style of living force
men into schemes of profit from which they would
shrink under other circumstances. The public con-
science becomes debauched, and the public tone of
morality debased.

Upon results like these the uncorrupted men look
with dismay or despair. Where is it all to end?
The nation is sick from heart to hand ; how can it
be cured ? The answer is now, happily, not far to
seek. A ring of rogues gets the metropolis into its
hands. They rule it in their own interests. Their
creatures are in every office. They reach their
power out upon the State. With uncounted money,
every dollar of which they have stolen, they control
elections, bribe legislators, and buy laws that shall
protect them and their plunder. They build club-
houses, summer resorts, steamboats— all that can
minister to their sensual delights, and find multi-
tudes to fawn upon their power and pick up the
crumbs of patronage that fall from their tables. But
the day of reckoning comes to them, and the boast-
ful leader who defiantly asks, " What are you going
to do about it?'' runs away. All these men are
wanderers, self-exiled. Nay, they are prisoners to
all intents and purposes — shut out from the only
world which has any interest for them. There is
not a man in Sing Sing who is not nearer home,
who is any more shut away fit>m home, than Tweed
and his fellow-conspirators. Corruption, once the
courted goddess of New York city, is not to-day in
the fashion. So much, at least, has been done.

If we look out upon the country, we shall find
the process of reformation going on. A gigantic



interest, baleful in every aspect, pits itself against
the demands of the Government for revenue. Men
who have held good positions in business circles
stand confessed as cheats, tricksters, scoundrels.
The whisky rings that have defrauded the Govern-
ment in untold millions are falling to pieces under
the steady pressure of exposure, and stand revealed
in all their shameful shamelessness. They appear
before the bar of law and pubUc opinion and plead
guilty in squads— almost in battalions. And still
the work goes on. Still, in the nature and tendency
of things, it must go on, till all these festering cen-
ters of corruption are cauterized and healed. So
with the Canal Ring, and so with corporation rings
of all sorts all over the country. The tendencies of
the time are toward reform. The attention of the
country is crowded back from illegitimate sources
of profit upon personal economy and healthy indus-
try. It is seen, at least, that corruption does not
pay, and that, in the end, it is sure of exposure.

There is another set of evils that have grown nat-
urally out of the influences of the war. Petty pecu-
lations have abounded. Wages have been reduced,
and those employers in responsible positions, whose
style of living has been menaced or rendered impos-
sible by the reduction of their means, have been
over-tempted to steal, or to attempt speculation with
moneys held and handled in trust Thief after thief
is exposed, many of them men whose honesty has
been undoubted, until all who are obliged to trust
their interests in the hands of others tremble with
apprehension. But this is one of those thmgs which
will naturally pass away. Every exposure is a ter-
rible lesson — not only to employers, but to the
employed. The former will be careful to spread
fewer temptations in the way of their trusted helpers,
by holding them to a closer accountability, and the
latter will learn that every step outside the bounds of
integrity is sure of detection in the end ; that the
path of faithfulness is the only possible path of safety
and of peace. This is not the highest motive to
correct action, it is true, but it will answer for those
who are tempted to steal, and who are not actuated
by a better.

It will be evident that we are not alarmed or dis-
couraged by the exposures of rascality in high
places and low, which greet our eyes in almost
every morning's newspaper. These exposures are
the natural product of healthy reaction, the prelimi-
nary steps toward the national cure. So long as
firaud, peculation, and defection exist, the faster these
exposures come the better. Every exposure is a
preacher of righteousness, an evangel of reform.
The more dangerous all rascality and infidelity to
trust can be made to appear, the better for society.
In any cutaneous disease, the more we see of it the
better. It is before it appears, or when it is sunk
frt>m the surface, that it is most dangerous to the
sources of life and the springs of cure.



^»»



Vol. XI.— 57.



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THE OLD CABINET.



THE OLD CABINET.



On Decoration day some unknown person is sure
to ornament the Washington Monument in Union
Square with wreaths, and rows of funny little flower-
pots. But, on the Centennial 22d of February, and
the first 22d which was celebrated as a true national
holiday, by act of Congress and proclamation of the
President, we looked in vain for the wreaths and
the flower-pots, nor had we the presence of mind or
bravery to fling one single votive rosebud over the
iron ndling, to rest at the foot of that majestic and
benignant horseman.

Instead of which we are moved to improve the
occasion.

George Washington was a conspicuous and beau-
tiful instance of a man who minded his own business.
Suppose that an intelligent person living in one of
the European centers of civilization had been asked,
about the year 1 770, what man then over thirty-seven
years of age was most likely to be the tjrpical
great-and-good man of the modem world ! Would
he have singled out the Virginia militia officer, at
that time busying himself with the care of his plan-
tation on the Potomac, and whatever social duties
and delights, or whatever polite politics were conven-
ient and appropriate? The strong point about
Washington was, that the duty or the pleasure, the
ceremony or the self-sacrifice that lay in his way, he
enjoyed or performed without shirking, and to the
very best of his ability. He did not, as a youth, lie
awake o* nights wondering ** what he would be when
he grew up to be a man." When he became a man
he showed neither imagination nor genius, but he had
one of the traits of genius, namely, concentration.
He put his mind upon his present occupation, with-
out looking back or looking ahead. He engineered,
fought the Indians, rode horseback, wrote letters,
went fox-hunting, attended church, proposed to
young women, conducted campaigns, and governed
the United States,— each at the proper time, and
each with sincerity of purpose and assiduity. We
do not hear of his swearing often; but when he did,
it was thoroughly and effiectively done. If he seems
not to have been as successful in the matter of mat-
rimonial proposals as in other occupations, we must
remember that the centennially revived old wives'
tales of early and Indiscreet refusals of Washington
by the said old wives themselves, must be taken
with a few grains of deferential allowance.

The discussion about the reading of the Bible in
the public schools will, it is to be hoped, do this
good, if no other, — namely, draw attention to the sub-
ject of Bible-reading in general. The Bible is read
altogether too much. Of course, it is not read too
much by people who do not read it enough, or who
do not read it at all, or who know how to read it a
great deal, and to edification. But there is not
another good book in the world with which so many
Christian people bore themselves, and bore their
neighbors. Some people read and read the Bible



till its beaudes and consolations have little or no
efiect upon their minds or souls. In fact, the Bible
has been made so trite, that only by indirection and
at rare intervals are we apt to get clear impressioos
of its incomparable wealth of poetry, passion, and
religion. We knew a good soul who used to read
the Bible literally " on his knees ;" who read it three
times a day; who read the genealogies witb the
same steadiness of purpose as the Psalms or the
Beatitudes, and who confessed that he got less gCMxi
out of the book than when he became a kind of
heathen and stopped reading it almost altogether.
The experience of this person suggests an intelli-
gent middle course, whici we leave it to the parsons
to point out

As for the poetry of the Bible, it would seem that
the hardest test to which the greatest of the so-
called secular poets can be brought is that of com-
parison with the Hebrew bards. Even in transla-
tion the Bible poets hold their own.

As for the passion of the Bible, — the strong, per-
vading, unsurrendering human love, — it bums with
a purity and intensity that make the fire of onr
modern so-called passionate singers a pale and
sickly flame. Where else in the world is there such
love poetry as that of ** Solomon's Song?"

As to the religion of the Bible, compared, for
instance, with the religion of the Vedas, we beg
leave to refer to an interesting little book published
by Macmillan & Co., entitled "The Sacred Poetry
of the Early Religions." It contains two lectures,
one on the Vedas and the other on the Psalms,
delivered in St. Paul's Cathedral by Dean Church,
the object of the lecturer being to show the iaOnre
of the earliest sacred poets of India to discern God,
to approach Him in any way except in an exterior
and unintimate manner ; and, on the other hand, the
confident, discerning approach of the Hebrew poets
to Him whom they worshiped as God of Gods, — and
the general superiority of the Psalms in insight
and moral tone. "To pass," says Dean Church,
"from the Veda to the Psalms is to pass at one
bound from poetry, heightened certainly by a relig-
ious sentiment, to religion itself, in its most serious
mood and most absorbing fgrm ; tasking, indeed, all
that poetry can furnish to meet its imperious snd
diversified demands for an instrument of expression ;
but in its essence far beyond poetry. It is passing
at one bound from ideas, at best vague, wavering,
uncertain of themselves, to the highest ideas wbidi
can be formed by the profoundest and most culti-
vated reason, about God and the soul, its law, its
end, its good."

It is a question whether our ears have not become
in these days somewhat unaccustomed to the subder
and more lasting kinds of poetic melody. The tend-
ency of the •poets of the present is toward the pro-
duction of melody by an extraordinary insistence
upon rhythm. Much is made of the recurrent



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THE OLD CABINET.



891



stroke of the wire; and little of the vibration
between the strokes. The custom now is to
*« mark the time " very distinctly. Swinbume^s lyr-
ics are probably the finest flower of this particular
method, although Tennyson went before, and has
almost, if not quite, matched the younger poet in
his special lyri<^ department. Swinburne prefers
this method, even in his blank verse ; and the reader
is kept on the jump from the first to the last page of
his longest poems. His poetry is, in this respect, like
the singing at the negro camp-meetings, where the
whole congregation beat time with their feet The
negroes, by the way, are very fond of •* marking the
time " distinctly in all their music Blind Tom's
piano-playing is an example.

There is something irresistible in the rhythmic
movement when used by poets like Tennyson and
Swinburne. The Xjcxz verse of these and other
modem masters of the method gives the ripple of
waters, the roll of drums, the beat of the hammer on
the blacksmith's anvil, the ringing of bells, the gal-
lop of horses, the thunder of battle, the rattle of rain
and hail ; it records moods and produces impressions
that could be recorded or produced in no other way.
But rhythm is easily overdone. It is not the high-
est part of even the mechanics of verse. And yet,
as we have said, it is the habit of the living genera-
tion and the tendency of the times. Tennyson, it
may be suggested, has created a melody of his own
that depends very little upon the charm of rhythm ;
but even his most music^ notes have not the bird-
like melodious quality that we find in Keats, Shelley,
and Wordsworth.

In using the term bird-like, we hit upon what is
perhaps the secret of the matter. The tendency
toward rhythm, and toward elaborate and experi-
mental forms of verse, may be an outgrowth or a part
of the modern artistic self-consciousness. There is
a lack of spontaneity, and a recourse to artistic elab-
oration. Rhythm is that portion of the art farthest
from the purely poetic and spontaneous. A young
poet would have to journey far away from the most
potent contemporary influences in order to bring
back again the free, delicious minstrelsy which seems
to have deserted the language, — from influences not
only emanating from the elder living poets, but from
the more subtile spirit of the times by which the
elder poets have themselves been fashioned.



The proverb which says that the absent are always
wrong has a new application and a new force among
us moderns who breathe the atmosphere of criticism.
With us the absent are intellectually wrong. The
stress that is upon us to form "opinions " upon all
subjects is felt in other directions. It is a necessity
that the opinion should be creditable. We must
shine ; our neighbor must not outshine us ; and in
conversation we must be careful lest, by too favora-
ble an expression with regard to our absent friend,
we are committed to an opinion of him, especially
of his intellectual or artistic caliber, which would be
compromising to our own intellectual standing. Our



friend writes books, or writes criticisms, or paints
pictures, or decorates, or himself is given to the
verbal expression of opinions. His name is men-
tioned, perhaps with praise ; we agree, but there is
a shrug of the shoulders that shows an anxiety not
to go 'too for. We are not anxious to explain our
standing with relation to people obviously on a lowet
intellectual plane, our car-driving or carpenteririg
acquaintance. It is only with relation to our equals
or our superiors that this anxiety is shown to avoid
intellectual self-compromise.

— In some the trait of which we speak is developed
and given wider scope.

A modest and deferential person finds his pleas-
ure in conversation greatly impaired by a tone which
many people habitually assume. It is a tone of
superiority and depreciation with regard, not directly
to the person present (although that is implied), but
to pretty much all other persons and things brought
forward as topics of discourse. This tone, we are
inclined to think, is more apt to show itself in so-
called literary or art atmospheres, and in its modem
aggravated form is (like the trait noticed above, of
finding the absent intellectually wrong) an ofi^pring
of the over-critical spirit of the times. Hardly any
one who breathes these "atmospheres" is totally
exempt from it ; but in some it amounts to an invet-
erate habit. Doubtless, all thoughtful minds are
subject now and then to the high Emersonian mood
of exaltation above all human and artistic grandeurs,
— moods in which no men that are or were, no pict-
tires, no books, come fully up to the mark. It is,
however, of course the best evidence of a small mind
when the mood degenerates into a function.

But the modest man finds it hard to console him-
self for the continual shocks and disappointments
received in conversation with a superior person of the
kind mentioned, by any philosophical consideration.
One of the necessities of his nature is a generous
sympathy with, and deference toward, the person to
whom he happens to be talking. He cannot meet
the pooh-poohs of his friend with the immediate
reflection that perhaps, after all, the latter is not a
greater man than Michael Angelo or John Milton.
When, at mention of one of these famous persons,
his firiend betrays a gentle and seductive ennui, the
first feeling of the modest person is apt to be one of
shame at his own lack of insight and originality.
Here, he says, is an unconventional and valuable
opinion , my friend will justly look upon me as a
Philistine. Sooner or later the modest and sensitive
person recovers his intellectual integrity, and has a
keen sense of irritation and indignation. But by
that time the other man is half way down the
street.

Our only object in these remarks is to offer a sug-
gestion for the benefit of the sufferer. There is one
way of dealingwith the superior person. Tum his
own weapon upon him ; smile indulgently upon his
admirations ; make him blush at every inadvertent
committal in favor of any man, method, or principle ;
patronize and pooh-pooh him out of his very house
and home.



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S92



HOME AND SOCIETY,



HOME AND SOCIETY.



Centennial Cookery.

HINTS FOR "tea PARTIES," ETC

When we hold our " Centennial tea parties " and
"Lady Washington suppers," we know that we
must not grace our tables with impossible lilies
and tulips, and flufTy little frozen chickens o^ ice-
cream, with Gelatines, and Mayonaises, and Mac6-
doines; with p4t^ de foie gras or & la Finan-
d^re, or apples ^ la Parisienne. We do not wish
to set before the revivified Father and Mother of
their country strange dishes, which might disagree
with their antiquated digestive organs. We want
to know just what will please their venerable appe-
tites, and at the same time not permit them to sus-
pect how £eLr their big child has departed from their
simple ways.

For the assistance of anzlous caterers, we shall
quote a little from a volume entitled ''American
Cookery, or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish,
Poultry, and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of
making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Cus-
tards and Preserves, and all kinds of Cakes, from
the Imperial Plumb to plain Cake. Adapted to this
country and All Grades of Life. By Amelia Sim-
mcnst an American Orphan ; " printed in Hartford
in 1796. This book of much title is said by the
authoress, in her preface, to be <* an original work in
this country ; " so we may fairly conclude its pages to
have been made up from the manuscript receipts
handed carefully from mother to daughter for many
years before, and hence properly representative of



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 158 of 163)